Results tagged ‘ Don Mattingly ’

Baseball mourns shocking death of Jose Fernandez

Major League Baseball awakened Sunday to the tragic news that Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, one of the most talented and popular young players in the game, was among three young men who were killed in a boating accident in Miami Beach. Fernandez was only 24 years old but had already put his stamp on baseball.

I remember when he was the National League winner of the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award in 2013. In my role as secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, I conduct the telephone conference calls of the award winner to the writers. Working mostly in the American League, I did not know much about Fernandez other than his pitching record and that he was born in Cuba. I asked MLB publicist Mike Teevan if we needed a translator on the call.

“Are you kidding?” Mike said. “He speaks better English than we do.”

Fernandez, who I found out came to the United States as a 15-year-old and went to high school in Tampa, turned out to be an absolute delight that night both on the MLB Network cablecast of the awards show and the conference call. It was the beginning of a fine career for the righthander who came back from Tommy John surgery in 2014 to go 6-1 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts last year and have an All-Star season this year (16-8, 2.86 ERA). His career record was 38-17 with a 2.58 ERA.

Former Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly, now manager of the Marlins, was near tears when he spoke of Fernandez Sunday at Marlins Park where the scheduled game against the Braves was canceled.

“When I think of Jose, it’s going to be thinking of that little kid,” Mattingly said. “I see such a little boy in him with the way he played. There was just joy with him when he played. When he pitched, I think that’s what the guys would say, too, as mad as he would make you with some of the stuff he’d do, you’d see that little kid you see when you watch kids play Little League or something like that. That’s the joy that Jose played with and the passion he felt about playing. That’s what I think about.”

The Yankees released the following statement:

“On behalf of Hal Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees, we offer our deepest condolences to Jose Fernandez’s family and loved ones, and to the entire Miami Marlins organization he so joyfully and proudly represented.”

The only negative note in Fernandez’s career was a dust-up he had in 2013 with Yankees catcher Brian McCann, who was with the Braves at the time. Fernandez did an animated bat flip after he hit a home run and took a long stroll around the bases, which McCann reacted to by getting into his face. Fernandez apologized for his behavior, and he and McCann eventually became friends.

“Beyond devastating,” McCann said. “I woke up this morning and saw the news. It’s sickening. One of those competitors you loved competing against because you knew he was going to bring his best. He was one of the best pitchers in the game. What he did in a short amount of time was incredible.”

Yankees infielder Donovan Solano was a teammate of Fernandez in Miami. “When I played over there, we were very close,” Solano said. “[Adeiny] Hechavarria, Jose and me were very close; all the Latins over there were very close. I know his family; his mom, his grandma, his uncle. I’m so sad. I’m just so sorry for the family. I’m still in shock from the news.”

So are we all.

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.

Wild night at Dodger, er, Yankee Stadium

The Yankees find fans all over the map as they travel around North America during the season. The boosters are akin to Notre Dame’s famed subway alumni.

I recall a game at Anaheim in the early 1990s when Don Mattingly came off the bench at whacked a pinch-hit, three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning that pushed the Yankees into the lead of a game they eventually won. As Mattingly rounded the bases, the cheers from the Big A’s stands were so loud you would have sworn you were in the Bronx, which is about as far from Orange County, California, as you can get.

Whatever the venue, be it Baltimore’s Camden Yards, certainly Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field or even Boston’s Fenway Park, pockets of Yankees fans abound in the stands. Well, a collection of boisterous Dodgers fans gave the Yankees at taste of their own medicine Monday night at Yankee Stadium in the opener of a three-game, inter-league series.

A cluster of Dodgers fans filled a sizeable portion of the seats along the third base to left field line. The group went even so far as to mimic the roll call of the Yankees’ bleacher creatures but by calling out the names of the Dodgers instead. When the Dodgers rallied for a run right off the bat in the first inning, it seemed more like Dodger Stadium than Yankee Stadium.

Yankees fans finally responded with loud boos when fans near the left field foul pole unveiled a blue “LA” banner amid a three-run rally by the Dodgers.

There is plenty of history between these clubs. After all, they have been paired in 11 World Series, the most of any two teams. When the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn prior to 1958, they faced the Yanks seven times in the Series and won only once, in 1955. Since they made Southern California home, the Dodgers split four Series against the Yankees, winning in 1963 and ’81 and losing in 1977 and ’78.

Unfortunately, the Yankees did not give their fans much reason to retaliate in the 8-2 loss that caused them to lose ground in the Wild Card race. The Yanks remained two games behind the Orioles and dropped a game behind the Tigers for the second Wild Card berth.

It was a rough night for the Baby Bombers. Right fielder Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez made errors that led to runs. Starting pitcher Bryan Mitchell could not get out of the third inning, although four of the six runs against him were not earned, due to the two errors. Tyler Austin wore the golden sombrero with four strikeouts. The most effective Yankees pitcher was lefthander Richard Bleier, who tossed four shutout innings of hitless relief. He walked one batter, hit one and struck out three.

The Yankees’ runs came on two long home runs. Starlin Castro’s 21st dinger of the season landed in the second deck in left field in the second inning. Judge bashed a 432-foot bomb into the left-center field bleachers in the fifth. The Dodgers countered with late-inning home runs by Yasiel Puig and Justin Turner, to the absolute delight of the Dodgers Blue crowd than drowned out Yankees Universe at least for one night.

Second verse same as the first

Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez became the first rookie in major league history to win the Player of the Week Award in consecutive weeks Monday as he was named American League Player of the Week again for the period ending Aug. 28.

Sanchez batted .522 with seven runs, three doubles, five home runs and nine RBI over six games and 23 at-bats to claim his second straight weekly honor. He was the first player to win the award in successive weeks since the White Sox’ Albert Belle in 1998 (July 6-12 and July 13-19). Sanchez is the fourth Yankees player to win consecutive awards. The others were Don Mattingly in 1987 (July 6-12 and July 13-19), Dave Winfield in 1983 (Aug. 1-7 and Aug. 8-14) and Graig Nettles in 1974 (April 8-14 and April 15-21). Sanchez has already won the award as often as the only other Yankees catcher honored, Thurman Munson, another two-time winner.

Sanchez finished the period first in extra-base hits (eight), slugging percentage (1.304) and total bases (30); tied for first in home runs; second in batting average, on-base percentage (.607) and RBI; tied for third in runs; tied for fourth in hits and tied for sixth in doubles and walks (five).

Sanchez began his award-winning week last Monday night with a two-homer game against the Mariners at Seattle’s Safeco Field, his second career two-homer game after also hitting two jacks Aug. 16 against the Blue Jays. The Dominican Republic native became the first player in franchise history with two multi-homer games within his first 19 career games.

Saturday against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium, Sanchez hit his third home run in three days and the 11th of his career. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the right-handed-swinging, 23-year-old Triple A call-up became the first Yankees player since Tino Martinez (April 5-15, 2005) to club nine home runs in a 10-game span, dating back to Aug. 16.

In his 23rd career game, Sanchez became the quickest player in major league history to hit his first 11 home runs. Additionally, his 11-homer month extended his Yankees rookie record for home runs in a calendar month. The Brewers’ Ryan Braun was the previous bug-league rookie to launch 11 homers in a calendar month, in July of his 2007 National League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award-winning season.

Sanchez was the AL Player of the Week for Aug. 8-15 when he had a slash line of .524/.600/1.190 with four runs, two doubles, four homers, six RBI, four walks and one stolen base in 25 plate appearances.

Teammate Starlin Castro (.370, 6 R, 3 HR, 6 RBI) was also in contention for last week’s award, along with Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson (.391, 9 R, 3 HR, 10 RBI); Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 13 IP, 11 K), Orioles third baseman Manny Machado (.394, 13 H, 3 HR, 7 RBI); Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia (.600, .643 OBP, 15 H, 2 SB); Red Sox pitcher David Price (2-0, 1.29 ERA, 14 IP, 15 K); Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (.435, .739 SLG, 10 H, 4 2B) and Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano (.462, 5 R, 12 H, 2 HR).

A former teammate of Sanchez was also honored Monday. Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s Jonathan Holder was named International League Pitcher of the Week for Aug. 22-28 after posting two saves and striking out 16-of-20 batters over three scoreless appearances in which the righthander allowed two hits in six innings. In Sunday’s victory over Rochester that clinched a postseason berth for the RailRiders, Holder struck out 12-of-13 batters in four scoreless innings, including 11 K’s in a row. In 12 appearances at Triple-A, Holder is 2-0 with six saves and a 0.89 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings.

Yankees hope Angel Stadium is heaven sent

After dropping the final two games of the recent homestand, the Yankees need to take advantage of a sliding Angels club to get back into contention. The Yankees, who open a three-game set at Anaheim Friday night, swept the Angels in a four-game series at Yankee Stadium June 6-9, the Bombers’ first four-game sweep of the Halos since July 21-24, 1994.

The Yankees are 16-5 in the last 21 games between the teams since June 16, 2013 and have won or split their last eight season series against the Angels since 2009 with a 35-24 record in that span. The Yanks are 4-3 in their past seven games at Angel Stadium ut 9-12 in Orange County since 2010. Their 16-30 record at the Big ‘A’ since 2005 is their worst (.348) at any American League yard in that span. The Yankees have lost 12 of 15 series in Anaheim since 2005, including seven straight series losses from July 21, 2005 through July 12, 2009.

Rookie catcher Gary Sanchez, who batted cleanup Wednesday afternoon, was moved into the 3-hole Friday night. Sanchez has three home runs in his past two games and four homers over his past four games. He had multiple hits in all three games against the Blue Jays in which he had 7-for-10 with three runs, three homers, five RBI and two walks. In his past seven games, Sanchez has a slash line of .481/.517/1.037 with seven runs, five homers and eight RBI in 27 at-bats.

Batting cleanup Wednesday for the first time in his career, Sanchez hit a solo home run. At 23 years, 259 days old, he was only the third Yankees player since 1975 to start in the cleanup spot before turning 24, joining Jay Buhner (23 years, 52 days) Oct. 4, 1987 against the Orioles and Don Mattingly (23years, 102 days) July 31, 1984 against the Brewers. The YES Network noted that Sanchez was the youngest Yankees player to homer out of the No. 4 spot in the starting lineup since Bobby Murcer (23 years, 101 days) Aug. 29, 1969.

In the cleanup spot Friday night was Brian McCann as the designated hitter. McCann entered play having hit safely in 15 consecutive road games and batting .350 with five homers and nine RBI in 60 at-bats during the streak, the longest by a Yankees player since the franchise record 44-gamer on the road by Derek Jeter from Aug. 20, 2006 through May 28, 2007.

Rookie right fielder Aaron Judge has a slash line of .389/.450/.778 with three runs, one double, two homers and four RBI in his first five major league games totaling 18 at-bats.

Teixeira’s battered body told him it was time

Upon reflection of when his playing days were nearing an end, Yankees manager Joe Girardi recalled praying that it would be revealed to him when to retire. Then he hurt his back. The daily struggle to stay healthy was all he needed to know that the time to walk away had come.

It is never easy for a gifted athlete who has known success at a high level. Many of them need to have the uniform torn off them before they can admit it is over. Mark Teixeira was not like that. He was more like Girardi.

“My body can’t do it anymore,” Teixeira said before Friday night’s game at Yankee Stadium. “It has been a struggle to stay on the field the last three or four years.”

That is why Teixeira called a late-afternoon press conference where he announced that he will retire at the end of this season. With the Yankees in a period of transition, he did not want to be a distraction. Tex has dealt with neck and knee issues all year. In recent seasons, he has seen more of the trainer’s room that he would like.

I remember Don Mattingly telling me years ago when back issues pushed him towards retirement that it took so much more energy and work to get into the shape needed for the 162-game grind of the Major League Baseball schedule that he knew it was time to walk away, as difficult as that was to do.

“Every kid playing whiffle ball in the backyard or playing Little League, you dream of being a major league baseball player,” Teixeira said. “After 14 years it’s time for me to do something else and after this season I’m going to retire and do something else. I got to live out my dream and had more success than I could ever imagined, but it felt like it was the right time to step away from the game. I want to finish this season on a high note.”

Teixeira, who had a big game Wednesday night only to be on the sidelines again Thursday night because of a sore knee, talked it over with Girardi and told him how he was leaning.

“Are you sure,” Girardi said to Teixeira. “At this point in a season, players are banged up and think along those lines.”

Teixeira assured Girardi he was certain about his decision and then added, “I’ll do whatever you need me to do. What would that be?”

Girardi answered, “Play first base.”

So Teixeira was back in the lineup Friday night. He intends to play out the season as much as his aching knee and neck allow. Tex has been playing with a cartilage tear in his right knee since early June. His neck sprain is a chronic condition.

It was just a year ago that a trimmed-down Teixeira belted 31 home runs and was in the discussion for American League Most Valuable Player consideration entering August, but a foul ball off his knee caused more damage that originally thought that ended his season prematurely.

He has struggled offensively much of this season and entered play Friday night batting .198 with 10 home runs and 27 RBI. Tex has picked it up lately. He has reached safely in six consecutive plate appearances and eight of his past nine. He was on base in nine of 13 plate appearances in his three Subway Series games against the Mets. Over his past eight games, Teixeira has had a slash line of .333/.484/.542 with five runs, two doubles, one home run and four RBI in 24 at-bats.

His 400th career double Tuesday night at Citi Field made him the first switch-hitter in major league history with 400 career doubles and 400 career home runs. His 404 homers rank fifth on the switch hitter list behind Mickey Mantle (536), Eddie Murray (504), Chipper Jones (468) and former Yankees teammate Carlos Beltran (415).

Teixeira grew up a Murray fan in Annapolis, Md., and was encouraged to switch-hit by his father, whom he thanked in a tearful address. “I need to let you know,” he said. “The Teixeira’s are cryers.”

He thanked the Rangers, who drafted him in the first round and signed him in 2001, and Buck Showalter, his manager in Texas who showed patience after Teixeira started his career with 15 hitless at-bats but finished the season with 26 home runs. He called second stop Atlanta his second home since he attended Georgia Tech and married a Georgia girl. He thanked the Angels for “two fabulous months” in 2008 and giving him his first taste of postseason play.

But it was his time with the Yankees that he loved most. Signing an eight-year contract prior to the 2009 season, he finished second in the MVP race that year with a 39-homer, 122-RBI output for the most recent Yankees team to win the World Series.

“2009 was a whirlwind, winning the World Series in the first year of the new Stadium,” Teixeira said. “I probably didn’t appreciate it as much at the time because you think you’ll win three or four more.”

The only personal achievement Teixeira mentioned was the pride he had in having eight seasons of more than 30 homers and 100 RBI.

Yet all that seemed so far away as the injuries piled up. And with free agency lurking after season’s end, Teixeira decided this was the moment to call it a career once the schedule is finished.

“Being a free agent at season’s end, and being 36, retirement is always in the back of your mind,” he said. “If I have to grind through the season not being healthy, I’d rather be somewhere else. I did not want to be a distraction. I would miss my kids way too much to be in some training room in Detroit not knowing if I can play while they’re in Little League or a play or something.”

With the Yankees in this period of transition, there is always the possibility a contending team might be interested in a player who won five Gold Glove and three Silver Slugger Awards and was a three-time All-Star.

“There has been no conversation about a trade, but I want to retire as a Yankee,” Teixeira said. “There is something about the Yankees. When you play against them you want to beat them or play well at Yankee Stadium. It was an unbelievable blessing to get to wear the pinstripes every day.”

Tex also had a message to Yankees fans: “They are the greatest fans in the world. I was far from perfect, but I appreciated your support. I gave you everything I had. It wasn’t always enough, but I tried very hard and am proud to have such fans rooting for the Yankees.”

And soon he will be among them.

“I’ll be watching,” Teixeira said. “I’ll be a Yankees fan forever.”

Barbato top rookie in Yankees camp

Pitcher Johnny Barbato was the recipient of the 2016 James P. Dawson Award, given annually to the outstanding rookie in the Yankees’ spring training camp.

Barbato, 23, had a record of 0-1 with two saves and a 1.74 ERA in 10 relief appearances covering 10 1/3 innings in Grapefruit League play. The righthander allowed seven hits and one walk with 12 strikeouts. Over five minor league seasons, Barbato has an 18-15 record with 36 saves, a 3.55 ERA and 326 strikeouts in 179 career appearances (20 starts) totaling 317 innings. The Miami, Fla., native was acquired from the Padres in a Dec. 29, 2014 trade for pitcher Shawn Kelley. Barbato was originally a sixth-round selection by the Padres in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.

The award was established in honor of James P. Dawson (1896-1953), who began a 45-year career with The New York Times as a copy boy in 1908. Eight years later, he became boxing editor and covered boxing and baseball until his death during spring training in 1953.

Two winners of the honor, Tony Kubek in 1957 and Tom Tresh in 1962, went on to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award. The Dawson Award first was presented to Norm Siebern by manager Casey Stengel in St. Petersburg, Fla., at the conclusion of spring training in 1956. Other prominent Dawson Award winners over the years include Roy White (1966), Willie Randolph (1976), Don Mattingly (1983), Al Leiter (1988), Jorge Posada (1997), Alfonso Soriano (2001), Hideki Matsui (2003), Brett Gardner (2009) and Masahiro Tanaka (2015).

Yankees beat writers vote on the winner. In conjunction with the award, Barbato will receive a watch from Betteridge Jewelers.

Beltran thrives in playoff atmosphere

No matter what happens Sunday, the Yankees are guaranteed to depart Toronto in first place in the American League East. They assured themselves of that by following Friday night’s exhilarating come-from-behind victory with a thoroughly commanding triumph Saturday that let the Blue Jays know they are in for a fight.

Masahiro Tanaka, in what was probably the most important start of his brief career in North America, gave the Yankees precisely what they needed Saturday with a route-going performance, his first complete game of the season and fourth of his career. The Yankees beat Toronto at its own game with home runs by Carlos Beltran (No. 12) and Mark Teixeira (No. 31) doing in Marco Estrada, who had shut them out for 6 1/3 innings last Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

This series has been a turnaround set for the Yankees, who have out-homered the Jays, 3-0, and beat two of the pitchers who shut them down last weekend.

Another sellout crowd at Rogers Centre of 46,630 had little to cheer about as the Yankees increased their lead in the division to 1 1/2 games (three in the loss column). The large crowds have conveyed a playoff atmosphere, which may be why Beltran has played so huge a role in the first two games.

After all, Beltran is among the greatest postseason players in major league history. In 51 postseason games and 180 at-bats, Beltran has batted .333 with 45 runs, 13 doubles, one triple, 16 home runs, 40 runs batted and 11 stolen bases. His OPS (on-base average plus slugging percentage) in postseason play is an incredible 1.128.

It began back in 2004 when a late-season trade sent him from Kansas City to Houston where he hit eight home runs in 12 games combined in the National Leage Division Series and NL Championship Series.

Mets fans glumly recall that Beltran took a 3-2 breaking ball from then rookie Adam Wainwright for the final out of the 2006 NLCS against the Cardinals, who went on to win their first World Series in 24 years in a five-game victory over the Tigers. What Mets fans tend to forget is that Beltran batted .296 with three homers and four RBI against St. Louis.

Playing for the Cardinals in 29 postseason games over the 2012 and ’13 seasons, Beltran hit .306 with nine doubles, one triple, five home runs and 21 RBI. He finally got to the World Series in 2013 and hit .294 with three RBI, but the Cards lost in six games to the Red Sox.

If the Yankees can get to postseason play this year, they can thank Beltran for what he has done the past two games. His three-run, pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning Friday night off Aaron Sanchez was a game-winner, and Beltran got the Yankees off on a positive note Saturday with a first-inning solo homer off Estrada.

Beltran’s homer Friday night was the Yankees’ first go-ahead, pinch-hit homer when trailing in the eighth inning or later since Jorge Posada hit a pinch-hit three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth Sept. 9, 2009 against the Rays at Yankee Stadium. The previous Yankees player to hit a go-ahead pinch-hit homer on the road in the eighth inning or later was Don Mattingly July 24, 1994 at Anaheim, a three-run shot that erased a 4-2 deficit.

Beltran, who also doubled Saturday, extended his hitting streak to 10 games during which he has batted .375 in 32 at-bats. During Beltran’s 16-game on-base streak (since July 26), he is batting .346 with 10 runs, six doubles, five home runs, nine RBI and eight walks in 60 plate appearances.

It was still a 1-0 game in the fifth when it appeared the game was getting out of hand for Tanaka. He loaded the bases on two walks sandwiched around an opposite-field single by 9-hole hitter Ben Revere with the power portion of the Jays’ batting order coming up.

The crowd got excited when Josh Donaldson lifted a high fly to left field but had to settle for a game-tying sacrifice fly. Tanaka bore down to strike out Jose Bautista on a nasty splitter and retire the equally dangerous Edwin Encarnacion on a soft infield fly.

Tanaka’s effort was rewarded the next inning when Teixeira, getting a day off the field as the designated hitter, lauched a home run to right field. Rookie Greg Bird played first base and got his first major-league hit, a single to left in the eighth, after Teixeira got his second RBI on a single that scored Chris Young, pinch running for Beltran, who had doubled with one out. John Ryan Murphy doubled and scored on a single by Jacoby Ellsbury in the ninth.

Tanaka was masterful the rest of the way as he set down 15 of Toronto’s last 16 batters to give a weary bullpen a needed blow.

Cashman: Retire captaincy with Jeter

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman believes that once Derek Jeter retires, the captaincy of the Yankees should retire as well.

Speaking to the Taylor Hooton Foundation’s fifth annual “Give A Hoot” benefit in a luxury suite at Yankee Stadium Sunday, Cash was asked who should succeed Jeter as team captain after his retirement.

Cashman’s response was “I’m not that big on captains myself. More than one player can lead by example. DJ has had this remarkable career, and I think when this great player retires the captaincy should go with him, but that’s not my call.”

Actually, the Yankees once went more than 35 years without a captain and during that time the team won 12 World Series titles. Lou Gehrig had been the Yankees’ captain for 13 years when he was forced into retirement due to illness in 1939. Then manager Joe McCarthy proclaimed that the Yankees would never again have another captain.

The idea of another Yankees captain was not broached seriously until after George Steinbrenner purchased the club in 1973. Three years later, he recommended Thurman Munson for the role. Told in a meeting of what McCarthy had said 37 years earlier, the Boss said, “I am sure Mr. McCarthy would change his mind if he had met Mr. Munson.”

The catcher served in the role until his death in Aug. 2, 1979. Jeter has been the Yankees’ captain the past 11 years. The previous team captain was Don Mattingly, who retired after the 1995 season. Other former Yankees captains in the Steinbrenner years were Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry and Graig Nettles.

As Cashman pointed out, it is not his call. An owner or a manager or a group of players could well start a campaign for a captain at any time. I am with the GM on this one. You never say never, but I would not mind waiting another 37 years. Jeter’s shoes are just as great to fill as were Gehrig’s.

O’Neill finds deserving spot in Monument Park

Paul and Nevalee O'Neill unveil Monument Park plaque (USA Today photo)

Paul and Nevalee O’Neill unveil Monument Park plaque (USA Today photo)

Chants of “Paul O-Neill” returned to Yankee Stadium Saturday as the popular right fielder dubbed “The Warrior” by the late George Steinbrenner was honored on the field before the game to mark the dedication of a plaque that will hang in Monument Park, the 29th in that special gallery.

I do not know how many people thought such a day was possible back in 1993 when O’Neill joined the Yankees. Several National League scouts I talked to that spring wondered if O’Neill had the temperament for New York or that he was too temperamental to succeed under the glare of the city and its omnipresent media.

Gene Michael, the general manager at the time, swapped two-time All-Star outfielder Roberto Kelly for O’Neill, who had a .259 career batting average at the time and was known for his clashes with former manager Lou Piniella in Cincinnati. Michael certainly got the last laugh, didn’t he?

O’Neill absolutely blossomed in New York. Coming under the influence of Don Mattingly and Wade Boggs, O’Neill became a more selective hitter and in his second season with the Yankees won the American League batting title with a .359 average. He would go on to bat .303 over his nine seasons in New York and was a central figure in the Yankees’ four World Series titles in 1996, ’98, ’99 and 2000.

During the pre-game ceremony, O’Neill mentioned his daughter, Allie, was born the day before spring training began in 1996, “and to this believes she is the reason for our first championship.”

O’Neill was in the middle of those glorious seasons. There was his running catch on an aching hamstring for the final out of Game 5 of the 1996 World Series; his playing the clinching Game 4 of the ’99 Series 18 hours after the death of his father, Charlie; his 10-pitch at bat in drawing a walk off Mets closer Alfonso Benitez to start the game-tying rally in Game 1 of the 2000 Series, etc.

And, of course, Game 5 of the 2001 World Series, his last game at the Stadium, which he recalled in his speech.

“Now to you fans, a remarkable thing Nov. 1, 2001, Game 5 of the World Series out in right field and 50,000 people singing my name,” he said. “I want to thank you for one of the special nights of my life. Thank you, fans of New York.”

O’Neill’s sons, Andy and Aaron, were also on the field with their mother, Nevalee, and his mother, Virginia. Also participating were Michael, former trainer Gene Monahan, Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre and former teammates David Cone, Tino Martinez, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera.

Two other former teammates, captain Derek Jeter and manager Joe Girardi, also made presentations to O’Neill on behalf of the team and the organization. Jeter presented a framed version of the plaque and Girardi a career milestone diamond ring with No. 21 in the center.

“The best thing that happened to all of us was playing for the New York Yankees,” O’Neill said.

The plaque reads:

PAUL ANDREW O’NEILL
“THE WARRIOR”

NEW YORK YANKEES
1993 – 2001

AN INTENSE COMPETITOR AND TEAM LEADER, O’NEILL WAS BELOVED FOR HIS RELENTLESS PURSUIT OF PERFECTION.

IN NINE SEASONS WITH THE YANKEES, HE WON FOUR WORLD SERIES AND MADE FOUR ALL-STAR TEAMS, COMPILING A .303 BATTING AVERAGE WITH 185 HOME RUNS AND 858 RBI.

WAS ALSO KNOWN FOR HIS STRONG ARM AND RELIABLE GLOVE IN RIGHT FIELD.

WON 1994 AL BATTING CROWN WITH A .359 AVERAGE.

DEDICATED BY THE
NEW YORK YANKEES
AUGUST 9, 2014

Fans responded to O’Neill’s energy, his blatant disdain for making an out, the all-out, full-throttle effort he gave on a daily basis.

Brandon McCarthy, who pitched well but ended up the losing pitcher in the Indians’ 3-0 victory, paid homage to O’Neill after the game. McCarthy was struck in the left foot by a batted ball but remained in the game. Asked if he thought he might have to come out of the game, McCarthy said, “This is Paul O’Neill Day, not a game to leave early day.”

I remember talking to O’Neill back when people were questioning whether this Ohio Buckeye could handle the pressure of New York where his sister, Molly, was already well known as a food writer for the New York Times.

“What a lot of folks didn’t realize is that it was actually easier for me in New York that it was in Cincinnati,” O’Neill said. “It’s tough to play in your home town. Right from the start, I was accepted here by the fans. I hope I gave back to them as much as they gave to me.”

I would say he did.

Paul O'Neill, Gene Michael, Gene Monahan, Joe Torre, Tino Martinez, David Cone, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada

Paul O’Neill, Gene Michael, Gene Monahan, Joe Torre, Tino Martinez, David Cone, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada