July 2013

Yankees to honor Mo Sept. 22 at Stadium

As Mariano Rivera continues his farewell tour on the current trip to Los Angeles, San Diego and Chicago, don’t think for a minute that the Yankees haven’t forgotten they reluctantly have to bid farewell to the game’s greatest closer also.

The Yankees announced Wednesday that they will hold a special ceremony to honor baseball’s all-time saves leader Sunday, Sept. 22, at Yankee Stadium prior to the inter-league game against the Giants. The Yankees will have three more home games after that date Sept. 24-26 against the Rays before ending the season with a three-game series at Houston Sept. 27-29.

Further details about the ceremony for Mo will be announced at a later date. Fans interested in purchased tickets should visit Yankees.com/ExitSandman.

No action for Yanks as trade deadline passes

The non-waiver trading deadline came and went at 4 p.m. Eastern Wednesday without the Yankees making a swap. Despite rumors throughout the day regarding Phillies infielder Michael Young, who reportedly waived the no-trade clause in his contract to clear a possible deal to the Yankees, nothing came of it.

“We had a lot of conversations with a lot of organizations,” general manager Brian Cashman said on a conference telephone call with Yankees beat writers, “but we didn’t get anything that would lead us to deal. We will have to contend with what we have right now unless we find ways to improve it. It wasn’t a deep market at all, and obviously what I was offering wasn’t enough.”

So for the time being, the addition of outfielder Alfonso Soriano will have to suffice. Cashman alluded to the impending return from the disabled list of outfielder Curtis Granderson maybe as early as Friday night at San Diego will serve as a major addition akin to a big trade. Cash is also holding out hope that corner infielder Kevin Youkilis, who is recovering from back surgery, may be back sometime in September.

The GM was less optimistic about a return of catcher Francisco Cervelli, who has soreness in his right elbow while recuperating from a broken right thumb and will be examined by Dr. James Andrews, the noted orthopedist, this week.

“None of this information is positive,” Cashman said. “We’re running out of time and it’s looking like he’s done for the year.”

No decision for Pettitte as Dodgers rally late

For his sixth straight start, Andy Pettitte was scored upon in the first inning, one of those “uh-oh” moments for Yankees fans. That turned out a minor blemish for the lefthander in what proved a solid outing Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.

Pettitte was not able to get his record (7-8) back to .500 because the score was 2-2 when he was lifted for a pinch hitter in the eighth inning. Andy allowed eight hits but did not walk a batter and struck out three in seven innings. As is often the case with starting pitchers, the early innings can post problems as they search for a rhythm.

Cuban phenom Yasiel Puig jolted Pettitte with one out in the first inning with a booming double to center field. He crossed to third base on a fly ball to right field and scored on a two-out single through the middle by Hanley Ramirez, one of the hottest hitters in the majors (.383).

Lyle Overbay got the run back leading off the second inning with a home run off Zack Greinke, the third jack in 24 career at-bats against the righthander. Juan Uribe matched that, however, with his sixth home run, a 441-foot bomb into the second deck in left field off a hanging 0-2 curve by Pettitte in the bottom half.

Ichiro Suzuki saved Pettitte a run in the third with a tracer’s bullet of a throw home that nailed Ramirez trying to score from second base with two out on a single to right by A.J. Ellis. Catcher Chris Stewart completed the play with a quick tag on Ramirez’s left thigh before his foot touched the plate. That was the first of five straight scoreless innings for Pettitte, who gave his teammates a chance to stay in the game.

The Yankees drew even in the fourth on another RBI by Overbay. A wild pitch by Greinke that allowed Alfonso Soriano, who led off the inning with a double down the left field line, to move up to third base helped set up the run. With the infield back, all Overbay had to do was make contact, which he did with a grounder to the left side as Soriano crossed the plate.

Pettitte’s work turned out to be most encouraging sign for the Yankees, who had only one hit after Soriano’s double. Ichiro doubled to left with one out in the seventh, but Greinke struck out Jayson Nix and retired Stewart on a ground ball.

It was a bullpen game after that, and the Dodgers won it, 3-2, in the bottom of the ninth on a two-out single by Mark Ellis off Shawn Kelley (3-1). It scored Andre Ethier, who had singled with one down and got a big stolen base two pitches before Ellis dropped a single into left-center. Ronald Belisario and Kenley Jansen (4-3) pitched a perfect inning apiece. David Robertson did the same for the Yankees in the eighth before Kelley took over in the ninth.

Aware that the Yankees had no left-handed bat on the bench, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly used his hard-throwing righthanders out of the pen. With five straight games on National League soil and no designated hitter in play, that situation hurts the Yankees. There is a chance Curtis Granderson could rejoin the Yankees at the end of the week when they move on to San Diego, which will surely help. Keep your fingers crossed.

Lots of history with Yankees and Dodgers

There was a time when a matchup of the Yankees and the Dodgers in games that count could only occur during the World Series, which happened more often than with any two major league clubs. The Yanks and Dodgers opposed each other in 11 World Series with the Yankees winning eight of them.

Only the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics, who have played for the NBA title 12 times, have had more championship series than the Yankees and the Dodgers. For the record, the most such matchups in the NHL have been seven by two sets of teams – the Montreal Canadiens against the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings against the Toronto Maple Leafs – and in the NFL six between the New York Giants and the Chicago Bears. In the Super Bowl alone, the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers played each other three times.

Inter-league play has changed all that for the Yankees and the Dodgers. The two-game series at Dodger Stadium that began Tuesday night marks the fourth in-season encounter by the long-time postseason rivals. The Yankees took two of three games twice before at Dodger Stadium in 2010 and 2004. The only time they have faced each other at Yankee Stadium was June 19 this year in a rainout-forced, separate-admission doubleheader that the teams split.

When the Dodgers left New York that night, their record was 30-40, which had them in last place in the National League West and eight games out of first. Los Angeles has gone 26-8 since then and started play Tuesday night in first place in its division with a 2 ½-game lead. In the 34-game stretch, the Dodgers made up 10 ½ games in the standings. Conversely, the Yankees were 39-33 after the twin bill and in third place in the American League East and 3 ½ games out of first. They have gone 16-18 since and are now in fourth place and 7 ½ games from the top.

In postseason play, the Yankees have a 37-29 record in games – 22-10 at Yankee Stadium, 12-11 at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn and 3-8 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The Yanks won each of the first five times the clubs met in the World Series, in 1941, ’47, ’49, ’52 and ’53 before the Dodgers finally won in 1955.

The Yankees’ 1956 Series victory was highlighted by Don Larsen’s perfect game in Game 5, the only no-hitter in World Series history. The Yankees are 2-2 in Series against the Dodgers since their move to Los Angeles in 1958. The Yanks were swept in 1963, just one of three times in 40 World Series appearances that they did not win a game (also in 1922 against the Giants and in 1976 against the Reds). The Yankees’ back-to-back World Series titles in 1977 and ’78 mark the most recent instance of back-to-back World Series victories over the same team, the first such occurrence since the Yanks defeated the Dodgers in 1952-53).

Some other nuggets about the two legendary teams:

Babe Ruth’s last job in professional baseball was as a Brooklyn Dodgers coach in 1938. Ruth, who wore uniform No. 3 with the Yankees, donned No. 35 with the Dodgers.

The Dodgers won their only championship in Brooklyn history when left-ander Johnny Podres beat the Yankees, 2-0, in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series at Yankee Stadium.

The Dodgers and Yankees staged an exhibition game May 7, 1959 at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles to benefit Roy Campanella, the former Dodgers catcher who had been paralyzed in an auto accident prior to the 1958 season. This game drew 93,103, the largest crowd ever to see a baseball game until an exhibition game in 2008 between the Dodgers and the Red Sox.

Of the six World Series championships in team history, the only one clinched by the Dodgers on their home field was in 1963, when lefthander Sandy Koufax pitched a 2-1 victory in Game 4 to clinch the sweep of the Yankees.

The Colonel and Lou to get their due

Two of the most important figures in the legendary history of the Yankees – Col. Jacob Ruppert and Lou Gehrig – will be the center of attention during the National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend.

Ruppert, the team’s owner from 1915 until his death in January 1939, will be inducted into the Hall in ceremonies Sunday with two other deceased electees by the Pre-Integration Era Veterans Committee, 19th century catcher Deacon White and early 20th century umpire Hank O’Day.

Gehrig, who was elected to the Hall of Fame by acclamation in 1939, will be among 12 former Hall of Famers who were never officially inducted in ceremonies at Cooperstown and will have their plaques read by current Hall of Famers as part of Sunday’s event at the Clark Sports Center.

On Saturday at Doubleday Field, the Hall will pay tribute to the late Blue Jays radio voice Tom Cheeks with the Ford C. Frick Award for major contributions to baseball broadcasting and longtime Philadelphia reporter and columnist Paul Hagen with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.

On the same program, the Hall will also honor Legendary Entertainment chief executive officer Thomas Tull, whose studio produced the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 as well as the honoring of Dr. Frank Jobe, who pioneered the surgical procedure now known as “Tommy John Surgery.” John, who pitched in 26 major-league seasons and was a two-time 20-game winner during his eight years with the Yankees, will also be featured.

Former Yankees Whitey Ford, Wade Boggs, Goose Gossage, Rickey Henderson, Phil Niekro and Gaylord Perry are among the 40 living Hall of Famers who will participate in both days’ ceremonies.

Ruppert, heir to one of New York’s most successful breweries and a four-term United States congressman, purchased the Yankees in January 1915 with partner Tillinghast L’Hommedieu Huston. Under Ruppert’s stewardship, the Yankees went from being an annual American League also-ran into an annual powerhouse. In his 24 seasons as owner, the Yankees won the first 10 of their 40 pennants and the first seven of their 27 World Series championships. It was Ruppert who put the pinstripes in the Yankees’ uniform, purchased the contract of Babe Ruth from the Red Sox and built the original Yankee Stadium.

Representing Ruppert, who never married, at the ceremony will be his great grandniece, Anne Vernon.

Click this link to view the Yankees on Demand special about Col. Jacob Ruppert.

Gehrig’s 15-season career with the Yankees occurred entirely during Ruppert’s ownership. Lou was forced into retirement because of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease that since has borne his name, in 1939.

Although Gehrig is usually listed in the Hall of Fame class of 1939, he was never formally inducted. George Sisler, Eddie Collins and Willie Keeler were inducted that summer when the museum first opened. Gehrig was still an active player and did not retire until season’s end.

At the Winter Meetings in December in Cincinnati, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voted to suggest that Gehrig be inducted immediately and not wait until the next election, which was not until 1942. The Hall accepted the BBWAA’s suggestion, but since the induction ceremonies had already taken place Gehrig was never officially inducted through any ceremony. He died in 1941.

Induction Weekend ceremonies were not held annually during the early 1940s because of travel restrictions during World War II. The Hall will rectify that this year by reading the plaques of Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby (who was elected by the BBWAA in 1942) and 10 Veterans Committee electees in 1945 none of whom was ever officially inducted.

Cal Ripken Jr., who broke Gehrig’s record of 2,130 consecutive games in 1995 and pushed it to 2,632 before ending it in 1998 in a game at Camden Yards against the Yankees, will read the Gehrig plaque.

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Col. Jacob Ruppert (2nd from left, standing) with Joe McCarthy, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri and (seated) Joe DiMaggio (AP Photo)

Hall of Fame board vice chairman Joe Morgan will read the plaque of his fellow second baseman, Hornsby.

Handling the plaque-reading duties for the other Hall of Famers will be Carlton Fisk for Roger Bresnahan, Orlando Cepeda for Dan Brouthers, Bert Blyleven for Fred Clarke, Wade Boggs for Jimmy Collins, Billy Williams for Ed Delahanty, Jim Rice for Hugh Duffy, Ozzie Smith for Hughie Jennings, Andre Dawson for Mike “King” Kelly, Tony Gwynn for Jim O’Rourke and Tommy Lasorda for Wilbert Robinson.

Prior to Saturday’s Awards Presentation on the stage at Doubleday Field, the Hall will honor the 75th anniversary of Abbott & Costello’s Who’s On First? routine and the 125th anniversary of Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s poem Casey at the Bat at a special 3:30 p.m. pre-show program. A live performance of Who’s On First? by Gil “Bud” Palmer and Lou Sciara, noted for their portrayal of the classic comedy duo, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, will be followed by Hall of Fame director of research Tim Wiles’ recitation of Casey At The Bat. Gates open at 3 p.m. and admission is free.

After the Awards Presentation, the fourth annual Hall of Fame Parade of Legends will feature the Hall of Famers riding down Main Street in trucks provided by the Ford Motor Company en route to a private reception at the Museum.

MLB Network will televise the Awards Presentation at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, July 28 prior to the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, which will be cablecast live on MLB Network beginning at 1:30 p.m. Greg Amsinger and 2004 J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Peter Gammons will be the co-hosts.

Yanks can’t handle Garza this time

The Rangers got an immediate dividend in their trade for Matt Garza Wednesday night at the expense of the Yankees. Garza had trouble with the Yankees (1-4, 4.48 ERA) in his years with the Rays, but in his first start against the Bombers in four years the only one who hurt him was himself.

The run off Garza in Texas’ 3-1 victory was not earned, although it was his two-base error with a bad throw to first base on an infield single by Brett Gardner in the sixth inning that led to the run that scored on a single by Robinson Cano. But that would be it for the Yankees, who were back to hitting only singles – five of them – as they got only two runners past first base after the first inning. It was back in the first inning that the Yankees had a chance to go some damage against Garza. Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki each singled, but Garza came back to strike out Cano and Lyle Overbay and get Vernon Wells on a ground ball.

The momentum the Yankees felt after Tuesday night’s somewhat miraculous victory ebbed quickly, which can happen when a pitcher is on his game as was Garza (7-1), who pitched into the eighth inning with no walks and five strikeouts.

Andy Pettitte (7-8) took the loss, a tough one. He gave up eight hits but only two runs, both driven in by A.J. Pierzynski on a two-out single in the first inning and his 10th home run in the sixth. Give Pettitte credit. It was not a fat pitch to Pierzynski for the homer but a 1-2 slider that the Rangers’ designated hitter caught just above his shoelaces and got up into the humid Texas air.

Pettitte had two strikeouts with both coming in succession in the second inning that pushed him past Sandy Koufax and tied him with former teammate Kevin Brown for 39th place on the career list with 2,397. For the fifth consecutive game, Pettitte was scored upon in the first inning, but he pitched well enough to win.

David Murphy provided an insurance run with a home run off Shawn Kelley in the eighth. Texas manager Ron Washington elected to have lefthander Neal Cotts, who had gotten the last two outs of the Yankees eighth, to face the left-handed Cano and Overbay in the ninth. Cotts retired both before Washington brought in his closer Joe Nathan, who blew Tuesday night’s game.

The move looked questionable when Wells greeted Nathan with a single that brought the potential tying run to the plate in Eduardo Nunez, who hit a game-tying triple off Nathan the night before. No such luck this time as Nunez made the final out on a soft liner to shortstop.

Gardner had two hits and a stolen base, the 154th of his career, which shot him past Mickey Mantle into eighth place on the Yankees’ all-time list.

I’ll be heading for Cooperstown, N.Y., Thursday for the National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend and will file reports on the induction of former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and the ceremonies honoring former Yankees pitcher Tommy John and Dr. Frank Jobe and Lou Gehrig, who will finally officially be part of an induction ceremony. More on that in my next report.

Cash responds to A-Rod’s quest for 2nd opinion

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman issued a statement Wednesday regarding reports that Alex Rodriguez had Dr. Michael Gross, an orthopedic surgeon from Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, review the MRI on the third baseman’s left quadriceps muscle.

“I heard via a text message this afternoon from Alex Rodriguez that he had retained a doctor to review his medical situation. In media reports, we have since learned that the doctor in question has acknowledged that he did not examine Mr. Rodriguez and that he was not retained to do a comprehensive medical examination of Mr. Rodriguez. Contrary to the Basic Agreement, Mr. Rodriguez did not notify us at any time that he was seeking a second opinion from any doctor with regard to his quad strain.

“As you know, it is the Yankees’ desire to have Alex return to the lineup as soon as possible. And we have done everything to try and accomplish this.

“As early as Friday, July 12, when I suggested to Alex that we move his rehab from Tampa to Triple-A Scranton [at Buffalo], Alex complained for the first time of ‘tightness’ in his quad and therefore refused to consent to the transfer of his assignment. Again, last Sunday, Alex advised that he had stiffness in his quad and should not play Sunday or Monday. We sent Alex to New York-Presbyterian Hospital for an MRI which evidenced a Grade 1 strain.

“As always, we will follow the rules and regulations set forth in the Basic Agreement, and will again re-evaluate Alex in Tampa [Thursday] as our goal is to return him to the lineup as soon as he is medically capable of doing so.”

Yanks ride rollercoaster to victory

The momentum swings in Tuesday night’s game resembled the rollercoaster at the Six Flags Over Texas amusement park across the highway from Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Yankees went up to a 3-0 lead, then down to a 4-3 deficit and then up again to a 5-4 victory.

Just a week after getting a save in the All-Star Game where Mariano Rivera served as his setup man, Joe Nathan sustained only his second blown save in 33 opportunities this year as the Yanks staged a dramatic rally that sent Texas to its first loss in 52 games this season when the Rangers were leading after eight innings.

To finish things off, Rivera returned to his normal role and got his 32nd save of the season and 640th of his career with a 1-2-3 ninth featuring two strikeouts, a perfect end to an absolutely startling comeback for the Yankees, who appeared down for the count against the Rangers’ impressive bullpen.

Texas relievers recorded 10 consecutive outs before Nathan walked Vernon Wells with one out in the ninth. Nathan further improved the Yankees’ condition with a wild pitch that not only advanced Wells to second base but also forced the Rangers to bring their outfielders in shallower for a possible play at the plate.

Eduardo Nunez benefitted from the altered defense with a drive to the wall in left-center for an RBI triple, the Yanks’ first hit since the fourth inning. The run scored by Wells ended a streak of 25 2/3 scoreless innings by the Texas pen dating to July 11. Brent Lillibridge then atoned for an earlier damaging error with a single to left that scored Nunez with what proved the winning run.

Phil Hughes has had somewhat surprising success at Rangers Ballpark despite its being a hitters’ paradise. Tuesday night it appeared that success would continue as the Yankees gave Hughes an early lead and he was doing a good job at protecting it. For five innings anyway.

Everything fell apart for Hughes, however, in the sixth. An error by Lillibridge at third base with one out opened the door for the Rangers, who came back from being down 3-0 to take a 4-3 lead. Adrian Beltre followed the error with a double for Texas’ first run. Hughes got the second out on a fly to center by A.J. Pierzynski but gave up a single to Elvis Andrus that got Texas to 3-2.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi made a quick hook of Hughes (80 pitches) for lefthander Boone Logan, who faced left-handed batting Mitch Moreland, who drove a home run over the center field fence. Only one of the three runs charged to Hughes was earned as his ERA at Rangers Ballpark fell to 1.90 over 23 2/3 innings.

The Yankees also had an exceptional defensive game with second baseman Robinson Cano making one of his patented across-the-body throws to first on a far-ranging play to his right in the seventh and center fielder Brett Gardner belly-flopping in right-center to haul down a drive by Andrus.

Yankees get off the singles treadmill

Drastic times call for drastic measures. The Yankees’ lineup Tuesday night against Rangers righthander Alexi Ogando did not contain Travis Hafner. Surprised? Probably not. The only surprising thing about is that Hafner is a designated hitter only who bats left-handed. If not in the batting order against a right-handed starting pitcher, then when?

Yankees manager Joe Girardi didn’t hesitate to answer when questioned by reporters at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. “He’s just not being productive,” the skipper said.

The numbers do not lie. After a torrid April in which he batted .318 with six home runs and 17 RBI in 66 at-bats, Hafner cooled off to the point since then of hitting .172 with six homers and 20 RBI in 186 at-bats. Pronk’s batting average is down to .210 while his OPS is below .700 (.699), not a good neighborhood for someone whose contribution is limited to his offense.

Disregarding platoon notions, Girardi went with right-handed-batting Vernon Wells as the DH with another righty swinger, recent Triple A Scranton callup Melky Mesa, in left field. The move had an early payoff when Mesa jump-started the Yankees in a two-run third inning that ended the Yankees’ 14-inning shutout string.

Mesa’s leadoff double, a hard liner to the gap in left-center, was the Yankees’ first extra-base hit in 24 innings coming after 21 consecutive singles. After going so long without extra-base power, the Yankees got another double immediately, by Austin Romine, for their first run of the game. Singles by Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki got home a second run, but Robinson Cano defused the rally by grounding into a double play.

Still, the Yankees ended a 22-inning scoring drought against Texas pitching. According to Baseball Reference.com, the Rangers (after shutting out the Yankees on three hits Monday night and with their June 27 victory at Yankee Stadium with Derek Holland pitching a 2-0, two-hitter) were the first team to throw consecutive shutouts with three or fewer hits in each game against the Yankees since the Red Sox June 21-22, 1916. The Elias Sports Bureau reported that those games were a complete-game no-hitter by Rube Foster and a complete game three-hitter by Babe Ruth, both at Fenway Park.

Wells joined the doubles parade with a leadoff two-bagger in the fourth, his first extra-base hit in 24 at-bats since July 12. He displayed some alert running skills by crossing to third on a flyout to medium center field by Eduardo Nunez and beating a play at home to score on a fielder’s-choice grounder to second base by Brent Lillibridge.

Nova did his job, rest of the Yanks didn’t

The Yankees were looking to Ivan Nova to continue his hot hand Monday night on a 99-degree night at Rangers Ballpark In Arlington. Nova has worked himself back into the rotation nicely in recent weeks and seemed up to the responsibility to bounce his club back from a tough loss the night before and a long, somber flight through the wee hours.

And Nova did his job, too, a good one despite less than commanding stuff that he has displayed lately. That is a sign of a maturing pitcher, someone who can get outs on a night when the curve isn’t as sharp nor the fastball as zippy.

Nova was not the problem Monday night. Yu Darvish was. Coming off the disabled list from a trapezius strain, Darvish got right back to where he left off two weeks ago with 6 1/3 innings of two-hit, shutout pitching in the Rangers’ 3-0 victory.

The Yankees did not get a hit until the fifth inning, a bloop single by Lyle Overbay, and added only two more singles (by Overbay and Ichiro Suzuki) the rest of the way. They have now gone 21 innings without an extra-base hit. Robinson Cano was 0-for-4 as his 12-game hitting streak came to an end.

With so tight a margin for error, Nova did remarkably well. He walked three batters, two of whom scored, and gave up a long home run to Nelson Cruz in the seventh, his last inning. The righthander pitched well enough to win but no pitcher can chalk up a ‘W’ if his teammates do not score. The Yankees were shut out for the eighth time this season.

In five appearances since coming off the DL, Nova is 2-2 with a 2.72 ERA in 36 1/3 innings. He was clearly one of the few highlights for the Yankees in the game. Third baseman Luis Cruz made the defensive play of the night with a running, back-to-the-infield catch along the left field line to rob Mitch Moreland of a hit in the third inning.

Brett Gardner tried to wear out Rangers closer Joe Nathan in the ninth by leading off the inning with a 14-pitch at-bat that unfortunately ended in an out on a fly to center. Ichiro’s hit followed, but Nathan struck out Cano and retired Overbay on a fly to deep center for his 31st save as Texas halted a four-game losing streak.