Results tagged ‘ Division Series ’

Yanks to honor Teixeira before regular-season finale

The Yankees will honor Mark Teixeira in a ceremony prior to their 3:05 p.m. game Sunday, Oct. 2, against the Orioles. Teixeira, 36, will retire as a player at the end of the 2016 season.

He joined the Yankees as a free agent Jan. 6, 2009 when he signed an eight-year contract. In that time, Teixeira has batted .248 with 530 runs, 183 doubles, five triples, 203 home runs, 615 RBI, 472 walks, a .343 on-base percentage and .820 OPS in 948 regular-season games and 3,494 at-bats. The Yankees’ record during Tex’s tenure is 542-406 (.572).

With the Yankees, he earned three Gold Gloves (2009-10, ’12) and a Silver Slugger (2009), and was named to two American League All-Star teams (2009, ’15). As part of the Yankees’ World Series-winning team in 2009, Teixeira finished second in American League Most Valuable Player Award voting. He led the AL with 122 RBI (including a league-leading 31 go-ahead RBI) and tied for the league lead with 39 home runs. He also hit an 11th-inning “walk-off” home run to win Game 2 of the AL Division Series against the Twins.

In franchise history, Teixeira is tied with Roger Maris for 15th place in home runs, trailing only Lou Gehrig (493), Don Mattingly (222) and Jason Giambi (209) among players whose primary position was first base. Along with Maris, Babe Ruth and Alex Rodriguez, Tex was one of four Yankees all-time to hit at least 30 home runs in each of his first three seasons with the club.

Originally drafted by Texas as the fifth overall pick of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft, Teixeira has played 14 seasons in the majors with the Rangers (2003-07), Braves (2007-08), Angels (2008) and Yankees (2009-present) and batted .268 with 1,096 runs, 406 doubles, 18 triples, 406 home runs, 1,291 RBI, 914 walks, a .360 on-base percentage and an .869 OPS in 1,852 games and 6,908 at-bats. He is a three-time All-Star (also 2005), five-time Gold Glove winner (also 2005-06) and three-time Silver Slugger winner (also 2004-05).

Only four switch-hitters in baseball history have more home runs than Teixeira (Mickey Mantle-536, Eddie Murray-504, Chipper Jones-468 and former teammate Carlos Beltran-419) and only four players have more home runs since his debut in 2003 (Albert Pujols-519, David Ortiz-479, Miguel Cabrera-441, Adam Dunn-417).

A Maryland native who now lives on Greenwich, Conn., Teixeira has been actively involved in charitable endeavors throughout his career, including participation on the Board of Directors of Harlem RBI, supporting a scholarship fund at his alma mater, Georgia Tech, and creating a scholarship at his high school, Mt. St. Joseph, in the name of his friend Nick Liberatore, who passed away in a car accident while the two were in school together.

YU members eligible for postseason Pre-on-sale

Yankees Universe members will be permitted to purchase subject to availability a maximum number of eight tickets to each potential game to be played at Yankee Stadium during the 2013 American League postseason: the Wild Card Game, the Division Series and the League Championship Series.

When purchasing tickets you will be required to enter a predetermined password for each game for which you would like to purchase tickets. Please make certain that you enter your password as it appears, as the password is case sensitive. The password can only be used beginning at your designated Pre-on-sale time. If you have any questions regarding your predetermined password, please call (212) YANKEES.

The purchase opportunity begins at 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, and ends at 10 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 22. Click the “Buy Tickets Thursday at 4 PM ET” link you received in the e-mail and click the T next to the game you want to attend on the page.

To complete a transaction, you will be required to either create a new Ticketmaster account or login using your “My Ticketmaster” account. If you already have a “My Ticketmaster” account, please use your existing “My Ticketmaster” account and associated e-mail address and password to login. If you are not sure of your “My Ticketmaster” account login and password, please contact Ticketmaster or follow the Ticketmaster online instructions for “Forgot Password.”

The Yankees recommend that you have a Ticketmaster account and Ticketmaster password before you attempt to purchase the limited number of tickets available during the Pre-on-sale. Please be advised that your “My Ticketmaster’ account is different from your “My Yankees Account.” Your “My Ticketmaster” password is different from the password you receive to participate in the Pre-on-sale and your password to login to your “My Yankees Account.”

For guests with visual impairments who may have difficulties navigating the Pre-on-sale purchasing process via, please contact the Yankees’ Office of Disabled Services at (718) 579-4510 (voice) or (718) 579-4595 (TTY).

All ticket purchases are subject to availability as determined by the Yankees in their sole and absolute discretion at the time of purchase. Orders exceeding the assigned respective ticket limits will be canceled without contact from Ticketmaster or the Yankees.

Yanks raise bar in march to postseason play

The Yankees have set their sights on higher ground than finishing in first place in the American League East. Before Sunday’s game, manager Joe Girardi cited the best record in the league for home-field advantage in the first two rounds of postseason play as a goal. That seemed in their range certainly until they went out and played a relatively sloppy game against the Athletics, who came off the canvas impressively on the day after a demoralizing, 14-inning loss.

Despite the 5-4 loss Sunday, the Yankees maintained their one-game lead in the AL East but were still at least one game behind the AL West-leading Rangers for the top mark in the league. Home-field advantage in the World Series will belong to the National League entry thanks to its All-Star Game triumph, but the Yankees are trying to guarantee playing more games at Yankee Stadium in the Division Series and Championship Series.

To do that they have to play better than they did Sunday when they looked more like the team suffering from a hangover instead of the A’s, who are still in the playoff picture. Oakland spit up a 3-0 lead but fought back to gain control of the game by the sixth inning with the aid of a tainted run.

Actually, there were a couple of tainted runs along the way for the A’s, but the one that hurt was the tiebreaker in the sixth which was created in part by one of two errors by Eduardo Nunez, who reverted to early-season form. Josh Donaldson, who reached base on a wild throw by Nunez that inning, eventually came around to score on a two-out single by Cliff Pennington.

With Derek Jeter relegated more to designated hitter duty while playing with a bone bruise in his left ankle, Girardi has gone with Nunez at shortstop to utilize his speed on offense. But on a day like Sunday when Nunez went 0-for-4 two errors stand out even more. An alternative to Nunez would be Jayson Nix, but Girardi seemed inclined to stay with Nunez.

Donaldson and Pennington also combined for one of those tainted runs in the second inning when Nunez should have been credited with an assist. He made a strong throw to first base after fielding a grounder by Donaldson, but umpire Larry Vanover called the runner safe, which was not verified by video replays.

“That’s the hardest play for me to see from the dugout, but I thought he was out by a step,” Girardi said. “I didn’t see the replay, but I could hear the crowd reaction. That usually tells you what the replay showed.”

Two batters later, Pennington homered, so the blown call at first base loomed huge.

Yanks starter Hiroki Kuroda hasn’t had a lot of run support this year, but he did Sunday. The Yankees came back from 0-3 to make the score 4-3 in the fourth that led to an early exit by A’s starter A.J. Griffin. Kuroda had wild-pitched a run home in the first inning and threw another one in the fifth that preceded an RBI single by Yeonis Cespedes. It was a decidedly uneven outing for Kuroda, who has been in many ways the Yankees’ most reliable starter.

The Yankees got all their runs in the fourth inning, two on Nick Swisher’s 22nd home run, one on a double by Raul Ibanez and one on an infield out by Nunez. Swish has a six-game hitting streak during which he is batting .409 with two home runs and seven RBI in 22 at-bats, and Ibanez has 5-for-8 (.625) with two doubles, two home runs and four RBI since lifting himself out of a 0-for-18 slump.

Jeter had two singles to push his hitting streak to 17 games in which he is batting .372 in 78 at-bats. Ichiro Suzuki had 1-for-5 and is batting .600 in 25 at-bats in a six-game hitting streak. The Yankees had a seven-game winning streak halted but were 7-2 on the homestand and move on to a soft spot on the schedule with a trip to Minneapolis and Toronto against last-place clubs.

“I am careful about saying you should win against such teams,” Girardi said. “The Twins won a game and scored 10 runs at Detroit.”

If the Yankees want to reach the goal Girardi has set for them, they need to play tough against every team they face.

Yanks can’t get to 100 in W column

The Yankees’ 5-2 loss at Tropicana Field Monday night means that they cannot win 100 games this year. They needed to sweep the Rays in the season-ending, three-game set to get into three figures in victories for the 20th time in franchise history.

It is no big deal because the Yankees have done everything they wanted to do, which was to win the American League East and finish with the best record in the league that will give them home field advantage in the Division Series and League Championship Series. Reaching 100 in the W column would have been a nice topping on the season but one that was not necessary.

Not that Yankees fans ever like to see them lose, but falling to Tampa Bay combined with the Red Sox’ loss at Baltimore means the Rays have pulled into a tie for the wild card berth with Boston, which has squandered a nine-game lead in those standings since Sept. 4. If the teams should remain tied after Tuesday night’s game, there could be pressure on Yankees manager Joe Girardi to field a representative lineup for the last game of the season if the wild-card slot is still on the line.

Girardi made it clear before the Yankees left for St. Petersburg, Fla., that he was starting Bartolo Colon Tuesday night and that Wednesday night’s finale would be handled by the bullpen. He has no reason to do anything differently. Girardi’s first responsibility is to the Yankees. He used a lot of regulars last weekend against the Red Sox and last week and Monday night against the Rays. He is under no obligation for the integrity of the game to do something that might hurt his team’s chances in postseason play, which begins Friday night.

The Red Sox and the Rays had a 162-game schedule and 18 games apiece against the Yankees to stay close to them. Boston in particular has no gripe. The Red Sox got into this fix by themselves and should not expect any kind of helping hand from the Yankees now.

Ripken interviews Jeter on TBS

Yankees fans prefer their television coverage of the team’s games on YES or Channel 9, but they may want to tune into TBS Sunday. The Sunday MLB on TBS pregame show this weekend will feature a special preview of an interview of Derek Jeter by Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., a studio analyst for the cable outlet.

The clip will provide a glimpse into a candid conversation between the shortstop legends during a half-hour edition of MLB on Deck airing at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. This summer, Jeter allowed a TV crew to follow him around for an HBO special that was cablecast after he got his 3,000th career hit July 9. Now there is this sit-down with Ripken, The full interview of Jeter by Ripken will be aired during TBS’ exclusive coverage of all four Division Series and the National League Championship Series.

This is no surprise, really. Jeter has long been an admirer of Ripken and his work ethic. I recall during Jeter’s rookie season of 1996 the first time he was with the Yankees at Camden Yards. Four hours before the first pitch of that night’s game, Ripken was taking part in an early batting practice session. After getting in his swings, Riken went out to his shortstop position and fielded ground ball after ground ball as several teammates got in their extra BP session.

All the while, Jeter in street clothes observed all this from the top step of the visitors’ dugout. I raced downstairs to get a comment from him. He turned to me and said, “So that’s how you get to be Cal Ripken, huh?”

I told Ripken that story, which was a cogent description of the dedication it takes to be a great player, the day he was elected to the Hall of Fame. “Derek is one of my favorite people,” Ripken said. “I’m sure there are plenty of other young players who have said the same thing about him.”

Yanks out of sorts game after clincher

Manager Joe Girardi vowed Thursday night to keep the Yankees competitive one day after the team clinched the American League East title. Girardi emphasized that the Yankees still have something to play for, and he will not throw out phantom lineups over the last seven games of the regular season.

“I’m just not playing guys 12 days in a row is what I’m not going to do,” Girardi said. “So I’m not taking my foot off the gas. And I don’t expect our guys to, either. Because you want to be playing well and you want to be feeling good about yourself going into the playoffs and you want home-field advantage.”

That is still the carrot out there for the Yankees, to finish with the best record in the league, which would give them home field advantage in the Division Series and League Championship Series. Home-field advantage in the World Series will go to the National League representative because that league won the All-Star Game at Phoenix.

The skipper will continue to rest his regulars down the stretch. Thursday night’s lineup did not include Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson or Russell Martin. Mark Teixeira was the designated hitter rather than playing first base. A batting order minus such players is not unusual the game after a team clinches.

But it was not long before it began to resemble an old-fashioned hangover game back in the days when players whose teams clinched got, shall we say, over-served at the bar. Derek Jeter made two errors and Nick Swisher one in a sloppy effort behind Bartolo Colon, who was shelled for seven runs (five earned) and seven hits in three innings driving his season ERA to 4.02. Colon was a feel-good story for much of the summer but is winless in nine starts since July 30 and is not a lock to be in the postseason rotation.

With Tampa Bay out to a 13-0 lead by the fifth inning, both sides began substituting freely to make it resemble a spring training game rather than one with playoff ramifications. The Rays, eventual 15-8 winners, are still in the hunt for the AL wild-card slot, trailing the Red Sox by two games.

The blowout allowed Girardi to give September call-ups Andrew Brackman and Dellin Betances a taste of the big leagues. Brackman gave up no runs, one hit and one walk in 1 2/3 innings. Betances struggled with command. He walked four batters and hit one in allowing two runs in two-thirds of an inning.

Set to join the Yankees Friday for their Rookies Program will be pitchers Manny Banuelos, Adam Warren and David Phelps. They will participate in batting practice, scouting meetings and all non-game activities.

In addition, CC Sabathia’s quest for a 20-victory season is over. CC made three tries for No. 20 without success. Girardi wants him fresh to start the opener of the Division Series and will have him throw a simulated game Monday when the team is in St. Petersburg, Fla., for the final series of the regular season.

No relief for Hughes, except from bullpen

Maybe what the Yankees should have done Thursday night was to fool around with the readings from the radar gun that are flashed on the video board after each pitch. Instead of a reading of, say, 89 mph, flash 93. Instead of 90, 94. Instead of 87, 91. Then, Phil Hughes might have felt a lot stronger than he actually showed.

Hughes’ velocity – or lack thereof – has been a Yankees topic since spring training. I happen to agree with manager Joe Girardi that it is overblown, not Hughes’ fastball but all the talk about it. I am with Joe that location and pitch selection mean more than miles per hour. Fact is, Hughes has been little better than a .500 pitcher for quite some time.

The problem with all this yakking about velocity is that it is in Hughes’ head. It is only natural for him to wonder why he can’t hit 94 anymore. Forget about the fact that before 2010 Hughes was known to be a slow starter whose readings on jugs guns early in the year were always tepid. After an 18-victory season that was considered breakthrough, the expectations are that Hughes has suddenly turned into Nolan Ryan.

In actuality, this is a continuance of a rather lengthy stretch of mediocrity for Hughes, who was 11-2 with a 3.65 ERA in the first half last year and earned a spot on the American League All-Star staff. Hughes ended up being the losing pitcher in that game at Anaheim and then had a very ordinary second half, posting a 7-6 record with a 4.90 ERA.

After working a seven shutout innings of four-hit ball against the Twins in the Division Series, Hughes was pounded for 11 earned runs and 14 hits in 8 2/3 innings (11.42 ERA) in losing both his starts against the Rangers in the AL Championship Series.

Now this. The Orioles, who despite their positive start this season have not exactly torn the cover off the ball, shoved Hughes around for five earned runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings Thursday night, which marked the third consecutive start that the righthander did not pitch long enough to qualify for a victory even if the Yankees had somehow managed to get a lead.

One consolation was that Hughes’ ERA actually dropped, from 16.50 to 13.94. The other is that the Yankees eventually tied the score in the ninth, so he got a no-decision.

Even some of Baltimore’s outs were smoked. Center fielder Curtis Granderson and right fielder Nick Swisher climbed walls to catch potential extra-base hits. Of Hughes’ 70 pitches, 51 were strikes, which may sound impressive until you realize that all hits are considered strikes.

Tremendous trio

When Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera made their 2011 debuts Thursday, they also continued to make history. The Elias Sports Bureau reported that they are the first trio of teammates in Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League to play together in each of 17 consecutive seasons, extending the record they established in 2010.

Jeter, Posada and Rivera have been teammates since 1995. Mo is the senior member of the trio. He came up in May of ’95 and pitched in 19 games, including 10 as a starter. He gained nation-wide attention for his outstanding work in that year’s first Division Series against the Mariners (0 runs, 3 hits, 8 strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings).

Jeter played in 15 games in May and June as a replacement for injured shortstop Tony Fernandez and hit .250 in 48 at-bats. Posada played behind the plate in only one inning of one game as a September call-up and did not bat.

The previous pro sports record for consecutive seasons by three teammates was 15 by the Brewers’ trio of Jim Gantner, Paul Molitor and Robin Yount from 1978 through 1992. Tied for the second longest trio of Yankees who played 13 years together: Bill Dickey, Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing from 1930 through 1942 and Whitey Ford, Elston Howard and Mickey Mantle from 1955 through 1967.

Andy Pettitte: He always took the ball

The day I arrived at what was the last spring training the Yankees had at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 1995, then manager Buck Showalter drove up to me in a golf cart on the sidelines of the main field and said, “Hop in; I want you to see someone.”

He drove to me to one of the back fields where two pitchers were warming up. I have long forgotten who one of them was, but the one I remember was Andy Pettitte. He wasn’t as cut as he would later become; he still had some love handles, but one pitch after the other sunk with stinging action.

Showalter, who grew up in the Florida panhandle and attended Mississippi State University, had an affinity for Southern players. Still does, probably, so I said to him, “Okay, which is it? Louisiana or Arkansas?”

“Texas,” Buck said. “You can’t quote me on this, but this guy might win 15 games for us this year.”

“Pretty tall order for a rookie,” I said.

Showalter missed on his prediction. Pettitte won 12 games, not 15, but he helped stabilize a rotation snagged by an injury to Jimmy Key, who finished second to David Cone, then with the Royals, in the previous year’s American League Cy Young Award race, and was a key ingredient in the Yankees’ reaching post-season play for the first time in 15 years, as the newfangled wild card.

Pettitte’s victory total was second on the staff only to another former Cy Young Award winner, Jack McDowell, who was 15-10. Pettitte’s 12-9 record and 4.17 ERA was not overwhelming, but it was good enough for him to finish third in the AL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award voting behind winner Marty Cordova of the Twins and runner-up Garret Anderson of the Angels, a couple of outfielders.

The lefthander started Game 2 of the Division Series against the Mariners at Yankee Stadium and was not involved in the decision, a 7-5 Yankees victory on a two-run home run in the 15th inning by Jim Leyritz that gave them a 2-0 lead in the series before they went 0-for-Seattle.

With Showalter gone after turning down a two-year contract offer from George Steinbrenner, Pettitte had to prove himself all over again to a new manager, Joe Torre, in 1996. It wasn’t easy, either. Torre at first thought Pettitte, a deeply religious person, was a bit soft. Yet start after start, Pettitte kept the Yankees in games, and he ended up winning 21 of them and becoming a Cy Young Award candidate, although he finished second in the voting to the Blue Jays’ Pat Hentgen.

Pettitte never came closer to winning that award, but even better he won over Torre with 8 1/3 gutty innings of shutout ball in Game 5 of the World Series at Atlanta, a 1-0 Yankees victory that put them up 3-2 and in position to take the Series two nights later, which they did. From that point on, Torre never questioned Pettitte’s toughness again.

Here is what Joe said about Andy the other day:

“Andy took the ball every five days, and if he had it his way, he’d get it more often than that. What’s really unusual about him is that a lot of times pitchers are more consumed with themselves. Andy was probably the consummate team player, especially for a pitcher. He was so concerned not only about the day he pitched but he always had his arm around a young guy in between starts.
“He has been a huge favorite of mine because he’s such a stand up guy, and he hasn’t changed from day one. He was a great teammate, and I think that’s why he won so many games. The guys that play behind him understand how intense he is, and it becomes contagious.
“I think the impact he had on the teams we had in the mid-to-late 1990’s was enormous even though he was never the guy in the spotlight. He liked the fact that he wasn’t the No. 1 guy even though I trusted him like a No. 1 guy. But he didn’t have an ego that dictated he needed all that attention.
“He did a great job of channeling his energy into competing, and he was about as consistent a performer as anybody in terms of getting your money’s worth. He glued our staff together. When you’re performing with the same people year-in and year-out, it’s always nice to have that security blanket. He was certainly that guy on the pitching staff.”

For other managers, the Astros’ Jimy Williams and Phil Garner and the Yankees’ Joe Girardi, Pettitte proved just as reliable in a career he brought to a halt this week. There were no tears at Friday’s announcement. Pettitte thought long and hard about this decision, and when he said “My heart isn’t in it anymore,” that’s all he needed to say. Once a player no longer has the stomach for the game, it is time to go.

That Game 5 of the 1996 World Series four nights after the Braves handed his head to him in Game 1 remains the centerpiece of Pettitte’s Yankees career, but there were plenty of other times when he gave the Yankees everything they needed from a pitcher.

He was the Most Valuable Player of the 2001 AL Championship Series when he won both his starts and held a Seattle team that had won 116 games during the regular season to four runs in 14 1/3 innings. Even in defeat, Pettitte could be magnificent, such as the Game 6 showdown with the Marlins’ Josh Beckett in the 2003 World Series, Andy’s last start for the Yankees before signing as a free agent with his hometown Houston club.

Three years later, Pettitte was back with the Yankees reunited with Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada and helped ring in the new Yankee Stadium by winning the clinching games of all three post-season series in 2009 as the team achieved its 27th championship. Last year, he was a Cy Young Award candidate for half the season before a groin injury cost him at least a dozen starts. Now he is the first of the “Core Four” to call it quits.

“Andy was a great teammate and a wonderful guy,” Rivera said. “He was a fighter and all about winning, and he was respected by every person in the clubhouse.”

“I’m really sad that Andy is going to retire,” Posada said.”He was so much more than a teammate to me; he was one of my closest friends.  I admire everything that he has accomplished as a Yankee, but Andy was someone who always put the team first.  I’m going to miss him deeply.”

Added Jeter: “It has been a pleasure to play with Andy for all these years, and the Yankees have been fortunate to have him representing the organization both on and off the field. More importantly, it has been an honor to get to know him as a person, and I consider him family. I wish for nothing but happiness for him and his family, as I know how important they are to him.”

Of course, it didn’t take long for Hall of Fame talk about Pettitte to sprout. Let’s give it the five-year wait before getting serious about that. Pettitte has a lot going for him – a won-loss record more than 100 games over .500 at 240-138, a post-season record 19 victories, and winning five rings in eight World Series overall. He also has some things going against him – allowing more hits than innings pitched, a rather high ERA (3.88) and three more dangerous capital letters, HGH, which he admitted to using after his name surfaced in the Mitchell Report.

His path to Cooperstown won’t be smooth. Over the next few years, the ballot will contain the names of starting pitchers superior to him in terms of statistics – Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, even Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina.

“I’ve never considered myself a Hall of Famer,” Pettitte said. “I guess I’ve gotten close to having those kinds of credentials or guys wouldn’t be talking about it.”

The writers who do the voting will be talking about him for a while. But to Yankees fans, Pettitte will always be in their personal Halls of Fame for his competitiveness and remarkable consistency.


Another holiday list

As each year comes to a close, baseball writers center on their annual responsibility of voting for the Hall of Fame. Ballots are mailed out to writers Dec. 1 and due back in the hands to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America by a Dec. 31 postmark.

So it is not just Santa Claus who makes a list and checks it twice come the Christmas season.

As secretary-treasurer of the BBWAA, I have conducted the election since 1995, the year Mike Schmidt was elected. I will be busy with Hall of Fame business the next few days but will find time to share some thoughts with Yankees fans about the election. Results will be announced at 2 p.m. Wednesday on,, and the MLB Network.

The ballot contains 33 names this year, eight of whom spent a portion of their careers with the Yankees, including two of the most popular figures in the franchise’s history, first basemen Don Mattingly and Tino Martinez. Others on the ballot who spent time with the Yankees are pitchers Kevin Brown, Al Leiter and Lee Smith, outfielders Tim Raines and Raul Mondesi and first baseman John Olerud.

Mattingly has been on the ballot for 10 years and has never done better than 28 percent of the vote going back to his first year. To gain entry into Cooperstown, 75 percent is required. Mattingly was at 16.1 percent last year. Martinez, his successor at first base for the Yankees, is a first-time candidate this year. It is doubtful writers will find Tino’s candidacy all that compelling, any more than they did another Yankees fan favorite Paul O’Neill two years ago. Martinez’s goal should be to get five percent of the vote necessary to stay on the ballot, which players must do to stay in contention for the full 15 years of eligibility. O’Neill failed to do that and was dropped after one year.

Brown, whose time with the Yankees was filled with controversy, had a fine career, but New York fans rarely saw him at his best except when he pitched against the Yankees for the Rangers. Yankees fans know Brown for breaking his pitching hand in anger and his implosion on the mound in Game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship, the franchise’s worst moment.

Leiter started and ended his career with the Yankees but had his best seasons with the Blue Jays, Marlins and Mets. His 162-132 record and 3.80 ERA does not spell immortality.

Raines, on the other hand, is an interesting case. He came to the Yankees after years with the Expos and White Sox and was a key role player on the World Series title teams of 1996, ’98 and ’99. With 2,605 hits and 808 stolen bases, Raines has some Hall of Fame numbers, but after three years on the ballot he has done no better than 30 percent.

Smith, Olerud and Mondesi had limited time in pinstripes. Olerud and Mondesi are on the ballot for the first time and are not likely to get the five percent of the vote necessary to stay on the ballot. Smith, who pitched in only eight games for the Yankees in 1993, once held the major-record for saves with 478 but has yet to attract even half the vote in eight previous elections.

The favorites this time around are second baseman Roberto Alomar and pitcher Bert Blyleven, each of whom came close last year. Blyleven was on 74.2 percent of the ballots cast and missed by five votes. Alomar missed by eight votes at 397, or 73.7 percent.

The only player not to get elected when eligible the year after getting more than 70 percent in the vote was pitcher Jim Bunning. He was on 74 percent of the ballots in 1988 and missed by four votes. The next year, however, with a thicker ballot consisting of first-year inductees Johnny Bench and Carl Yastrzemski and fellow pitching greats Gaylord Perry and Fergie Jenkins, Bunning lost 34 votes and dropped 11 percent in his final year on the ballot. He was eventually elected by the Veterans Committee in 1996.
The most accomplished of the new names are first basemen Jeff Bagwell and Rafael Palmeiro and outfielders Juan Gonzalez and Larry Walker. Palmeiro and Gonzalez will have a rough time.

Despite being only the fourth player in history to get more than 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, Palmeiro is a long shot because of his positive test for anabolic steroids in 2005, the same year he testified before Congress that he had never taken them. Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray, the only other members of both the 3,000 Hit and 500 Home Run Clubs were elected in their first years of eligibility.

Gonzales, a two-time AL Most Valuable Player, showed up in the Mitchell Report as a steroids user, which could hurt his chances for a big vote. After all, Mark McGwire with his 587 home runs has been on the ballot for four years and is hovering at 23 percent.

Bagwell, who had an amazing career (.297, 449 home runs, 1,529 RBI, 1,517 runs, .408 on-base percentage, .540 slugging percentage), never failed a drug test but faced suspicions of possible performance-enhancing aid after he felt in love with the weight room in the mid-1990s. Walker, like Bagwell a National League MVP, had some very good years in Montreal and then some monster years in Colorado. Will the Coors Field effect hurt his chances?

See, this voting stuff isn’t easy. After thorough study, I finally filled out my ballot.

Checks went to Alomar, Bagwell, Blyleven, Walker, Mattingly, Raines, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff and Jack Morris.

My take on Bagwell was that he is innocent until proved guilty. Larkin is following a path not dissimilar to another NL MVP middle infielder who took a few years to get to Cooperstown, Ryne Sandberg. Ask any Yankees fan who watched the 1995 Division Series about Edgar Martinez, who was simply one of the greatest right-handed hitters I ever saw. McGriff, who came through the Yankees system but was traded away, slugged 493 homers the clean way and made a major difference on the only Atlanta Braves team to win a World Series. Morris was the ace of every staff for which he pitched, including three teams that won the World Series – the 1984 Tigers, ’91 Twins and ’92 Blue Jays.

Let the arguments begin. I’ll be back after the election.