Results tagged ‘ Hank Aaron ’

Yanks to honor A-Rod’s 3,000th hit Sept. 13

The Yankees will stage a special pregame ceremony celebrating Alex Rodriguez’s 3,000th career hit prior to their 1:05 p.m. game Sunday, Sept. 13, against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. Gates will open two hours before the first pitch at 11 a.m. and fans are encouraged to arrive early and be in their seats by 12:30 p.m.

Rodriguez became the 29th player in Major League Baseball history to reach the 3,000-hit plateau with a first-inning solo home run June 19 off the Tigers’ Justin Verlander. He is the third player hit a home run as his 3,000th career hit, along with Wade Boggs in 1999 and Derek Jeter in 2011.

A-Rod also joined Jeter as the only players in franchise history to reach 3,000 hits while playing for the Yankees and the only ones to reach the plateau at the Stadium, original or current. With the hit, Rodriguez became one of only three players to collect at least 3,000 career hits and 600 home runs. The others are Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.

Last shall be first with Yanks’ lineup lately

It has been a bottoms-up situation for the Yankees’ batting order in recent games. Monday night, the six-through-nine hitters in the Yankees’ starting lineup were a combined 7-for-14 (.500) with four runs, one doubles, one triple, one home run, four RBI and two walks in the 6-2 victory over the Rangers at Arlington, Texas.

Sunday, the 6-9 hitters drove in all seven runs in the Yankees’ 7-2 victory over the Twins at Minneapolis. Over the past two games, 6-9 in the order are batting a combined .393 (11-for-28) with eight runs, one double, one triple, three homers, 11 RBI and two walks. For the season, the seven-through-nine hitters (not counting pitchers in inter-league competition) rank fifth in the American League with a .649 OPS (on-base plus slugging averages) and have the second most home runs (28).

Third baseman Chase Headley has been as hot as the weather this month. In 17 games in July, Headley is batting .369 (24-for-65) with 11 runs, six doubles, one home run, and 11 RBI in 65 at-bats. He has reached base safely in 15 of the 17 games, has a .400 on-base percentage and raised his batting average 22 points to .268. . . Shortstop Didi Gregorius has also been hot. Derek Jeter’s successor homered and drove in a career-high four runs Monday in his second three-hit game over the past five in which he is 8-for-15 (.533) with three runs, one homer and six RBI to raise his season batting average from .234 to .248. The home run ended a homer-less stretch of 103 at-bats.

Yankees closer Andrew Miller has converted all 23 of his save opportunities this year, which is the longest streak of consecutive saves to begin a stint with the Yankees since saves became an official statistic in 1969 and tied for third longest for any team, equaling those of Huston Street with the Padres in 2012 and LaTroy Hawkins with the Twins over the 2000 and ’01 seasons. The longest is 44 straight saves by Brad Lidge with the Phillies over the 2008 and ’09 seasons. Second is Guillermo “Willie” Hernandez with 32 for the Tigers in 1984, the year he won both the AL Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards.

Alex Rodriguez, who turned 40 Monday, hit his sixth career home run on his birthday to set a major league record. He had shared the previous mark of five with Todd Helton, Chipper Jones, Derrek Lee and Al Simmons. A-Rod also became only the fourth player to homer in his teens and his 40s. The others were Ty Cobb (who played from 1905-28) Rusty Staub (1963-85) and Gary Sheffield (1988-2009). Since 1914, Rodriguez is the ninth right-handed batter (10th occasion) to hit at least 24 home runs in his age-39 season or older, and the first since Frank Thomas in 2007 (26 at age 39). The only player to hit as many as 30 homers at 39 or older was Hank Aaron, who hit 40 in 1973 when he was 39. Nine of A-Rod’s past 14 hits have been home runs, including each of his past four hits.

Betances does his part in AL All-Star victory

CINCINNATI — American League manager Ned Yost of the Royals came through for Dellin Betances. Aware that Betances never got out of the AL bullpen at last year’s All-Star Game at Minneapolis, Yost told the righthander the seventh inning would be all his Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park.

Betances did his part in the AL’s 6-3 victory that guaranteed home field advantage in the World Series to the league, although that did not help Yost last year as his Royals lost Game 7 at home to the Giants. Blame that on Madison Bumgarner.

The Yankees’ set-up reliever got through the seventh unscathed, much like he has during the regular season. Working with a 5-2 lead thanks to a two-run rally in the top of the inning that was fueled in part by teammate Mark Teixeira, Betances retired Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford on a ground ball to second base. After walking Cubs rookie outfielder Kris Bryant, Betances came back to strike out Giants second baseman Joe Panick, the former St. John’s University standout, and set down Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock on a grounder to third.

In the top of the seventh, Teixeira grounded out to the left side that pushed the Orioles’ Manny Machado to third base from where he scored on a fly ball by the Rangers’ Prince Fielder. Teixeira had a rougher time in the ninth inning as he made the final out of the game striking out on a 103-mph fastball by the Reds’ Aroldis Chapman.

Brett Gardner, the Yankees’ other representative in the game, also had a tough night. He was called out on strikes in both of his at-bats, in the fifth inning against the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and in the eighth against former Yankees teammate Mark Melancon, now the closer for the Pirates.

It was also announced during the All-Star festivities the Franchise Four for each of the 30 clubs in a vote of fans. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America took part in setting up the ballot of eight players from each franchise (full disclosure: I was the BBWAA voter assigned to the Yankees).

It should come as no surprise that the Yanks’ Franchise Four were the team’s Mount Rushmore: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. It is pretty hard to break through that quartet. Younger fans may wonder about Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera considering all the club records they have, but the other four men helped shape the franchise and are among the most decorated players in baseball history.

For the record, the eight players on the Yankees’ ballot in addition to the four were Jeter, Rivera, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford. Believe me, it was hard to leave players like Bill Dickey and Don Mattingly off that list. This was one of those promotions where the Yankees were hurt because of the richness of their history.

There was a nice moment before the game where the four men voted the game’s greatest living players came onto the field — Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Sandy Koufax and Willie Mays. I had three of those players on my ballot but chose Yogi over Koufax in a close call. Some might say that Berra belonged there more than Bench, but even Yogi told me once that he thinks JB was the best catcher who ever lived.

Jeter passes Wagner for most hits by a shortstop

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

It was just a dribbler that the Cleveland third baseman, Lonnie Chisenhall, attempted without success to field bare-handed in the sixth inning Saturday as Derek Jeter crossed first base with his 3,431st career hit.

That single moved Jeter into sixth place on the all-time hit parade ahead of the major leagues’ first great shortstop, Honus Wagner. This was a very big deal.

DJ has passed quite a few legends on the hit list this year, Hall of Famers such as Eddie Collins, Paul Molitor and Carl Yastrzemski. But Honus Wagner? Now you are talking actual royalty.

Wagner, who was known as “The Flying Dutchman,” goes back to the game’s early days. He broke into the National League in 1897 with the old Louisville Colonels, a club that was absorbed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1900, and played in the very first World Series, in 1903. Wagner was a great star of the dead-ball era, an athletic master at shortstop and one of the game’s best hitters. He won eight batting titles and finished with a career .328 average.

Wagner was a charter member of the Hall of Fame. He was elected in the original class of 1936 with Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson. Wagner accepted his position as a role model to youth and famously demanded a trading card sponsored by a tobacco company be removed from circulation so adamantly opposed was he to tobacco usage. The few cards from that 1909 set remain the most precious pieces of memorabilia among collectors.

Years after his retirement as a player Wagner was a coach for the Pirates. Players did not wear numbers on their uniforms when he played but did by the time he coached. His No. 33 has long been retired by the Pirates.

By passing the old Dutchman, Jeter now has more hits than anyone who ever played shortstop. The only players ahead of him on the career hit list are mostly outfielders — Pete Rose (who also played first, second and third base but not shortstop), Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial (also a first baseman) and Tris Speaker.

This was not lost on the Captain, who knows his baseball history and did not have to be told who Wagner was anymore than any of the other greats he has passed.

“He’s the last one on the list that ever played shortstop, so this one really hit home,” Jeter said. “To have the most hits of any player at one position is pretty special.”

Jeter is 83 hits behind Speaker and probably does not have enough time left (46 games) to make a run for fifth place. But being No. 6 on this list is an enormous accomplishment, not to mention appropriate. After all, 6 is the official scorers’ designation for a shortstop.

Jeter moves up on All-Star lists

Derek Jeter’s election as the American League’s starting shortstop in next week’s All-Star Game at Target Field in Minneapolis marks the ninth time in his career that he has been voted in the fan balloting to start the game. He received 3,928,422 votes, which raised his career total to 47,433,242, second only to Ken Griffey Jr., the all-time leader with 50,045,065 total votes.

This year will mark the 14th All-Star appearance for Jeter as he passed former teammate Mariano Rivera and Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio into third place on the franchise list behind two other Hall of Famers, Mickey Mantle (20) and Yogi Berra (18).

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jeter is the only active player to be named to the All-Star Game with his current team at least 14 times. The record for All-Star Games by a player for only one team is 24 by Hall of Famer Stan Musial with the Cardinals. Hank Aaron was on 25 All-Star Game rosters — 24 with the Braves and one with the Brewers. Willie Mays played in 23 All-Star Games with the Giants and one with the Mets. The AL record is 19 games by Ted Williams with the Red Sox and Cal Ripken Jr. with the Orioles.

The other two Yankees on the AL squad are newcomers to the process, pitchers Masahiro Tanaka and Dellin Betances. This will be the first time the Yankees have had two rookies attending the All-Star Game.

These are all good choices, but I think more consideration should have been given to David Robertson and Brett Gardner. Rivera used to be an automatic choice. D-Rob isn’t at Mo’s level yet, but he has easily been one of the best closers in the league and leads AL pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings. Gardner got lost in the abundance of outfielders, but he has been the Yankees’ steadiest offensive player and remains the league’s top defensive left fielder.

Gardner got hits in his first two at-bats Monday night at Cleveland and has reached base safely in 22 straight games with a plate appearance since June 13. It is the longest such streak for the Yankees since Robinson Cano reached base safely in 26 straight games in 2012 from June 20 to July 20. It also matches Gardner’s longest such streak from 2009. He has hit safely in 18 of those 22 games.

Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki with three singles apiece Sunday at Minnesota became the third pair of teammates each in their 40s in major-league history to get at least three hits in the same game, joining the 1928 Philadelphia Athletics’ Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker and the 2006 San Francisco Giants’ Barry Bonds and Moises Alou. Elias also pointed out that notes Saturda, Jeter and Suzuki became the first pair of 40-year-old teammates with a stolen base in the same game since Bonds and Omar Vizquel for the Giants in 2007.

Prior to Monday night’s game at Progressive Field, the Indians organization paid tribute to the team’s late TV/radio personality Mike Hegan, who died last Christmas Day of a heart condition at the age of 71. Hegan was originally signed by the Yankees in 1961 and played for them in two separate stints. He was the son of former Indians All-Star catcher Jim Hegan, who later was a bullpen coach with the Yankees.

Mike Hegan spent 12 seasons in the majors and had some distinctions. With the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969, he hit the first home run for that franchise and made the AL All-Star team. The Pilots lasted only one season in Seattle and moved in 1970 to Milwaukee and became the Brewers.

Hegan was a member of the Oakland A’s team that won the first of three straight World Series in 1972 before returning to the Yankees. Mike was the last player to bat in the original Yankee Stadium Sept. 30, 1973 in a loss to the Tigers. By the time the Yankees opened the renovated Stadium, Hegan was back in Milwaukee. I was working in Detroit in the 1970s and was at Tiger Stadium covering the Sept. 3, 1976 game when Hegan hit for the cycle.

After his playing days, Hegan went into the broadcast booth with the Brewers for 12 seasons before returning to his hometown Cleveland and working Indians games for 23 seasons. A heart ailment forced him into retirement after the 2012 season.

Jeter re-ups for 20th big-league season

Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte may be leaving the Yankees but not Derek Jeter. The captain signed a one-year contract for $12 million Friday and intends to be healthy for the 2014 season.

Jeter, 39, is a career .312 hitter with the ninth highest total of hits (3,316), among which are 525 doubles, 65 triples and 256 home runs. DJ has scored 1,876 runs, driven in 1,261 and stolen 348 bases in 2,602 games over 19 major-league seasons, all with the Yankees (1995-2013). A five-time World Series champion (1996, 1998-2000, ’09), 13-time All-Star (1998-2002, ’04, ’06-12) and five-time Gold Glove Award winner (2004-06, ’09-10), Jeter will become the longest-tenured player in franchise history with his first game played in 2014, breaking the record he currently shares with Rivera.

In 2013, Jeter batted .190 with eight runs, one double, one home run and seven RBI in 17 games (13 starts at shortstop, four at designated hitter) and 63 at-bats. He missed 145 games during four stints on the disabled list. Prior to last season, he had been on the DL only five times and missed just 82 games.

Jeter is a five-time Silver Slugger Award recipient (2006-09, ’12) with eight career 200-hit seasons, including a majors-leading 216 hits in 2012. Prior to last season, Jeter had a 17-season streak (1996-2012) of at least 150 hits per season, matching Hank Aaron (1955-71) for the longest such stretch in major-league history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Jeter, who was named the 11th captain in team history June 3, 2003, is the Yankees’ all-time leader in hits, games, stolen bases, at-bats, singles (2,470) and hit by pitches (164). He also ranks second in doubles (Lou Gehrig-534), third in runs (Babe Ruth -1,959, Gehrig-1,888) and ninth in homers. No active player has appeared in more games for his current team than DJ, who is 10th all-time in games played among big leaguers who have spent their entire careers with one club.

Additionally, Jeter is one of just two players in Major League history, along with Willie Mays, to record at least 3,000 hits, 250 home runs, 300 stolen bases and 1,200 RBI in their careers.

Born in Pequannock, N.J., and raised in Kalamazoo, Mich., Jeter was selected by the Yankees in the first round of the 1992 First-Year Player Draft (sixth pick overall). In 1996, he established the “Turn 2” Foundation to create and support signature programs and activities that motivate young people to turn away from drugs and alcohol and “Turn 2” healthy lifestyles. As a result of Turn 2’s programs and his other good works off the field, Jeter was honored by Major League Baseball with the 2009 Roberto Clemente Award, which is given annually to the player who combines a dedication to giving back to the community with outstanding skills on the baseball field.

Orioles come out swinging in showdown opener

Any concern the Yankees had about the condition of Robinson Cano’s left hip abated when he made a dazzling play at second base to rob Nick Markakis of a base hit in the first inning Thursday night at Baltimore. Unfortunately, it was the only out the Yankees got for a while because the next four guys all got hits off David Phelps and scored.

Cano was sore after Tuesday night’s game at St. Petersburg, Fla., and was the designated hitter Wednesday night. He was back at second base Thursday night and appeared his old self. Fans were probably delighted to see him dive for Markakis’ ball after he failed to dive for a ball that became a game-winning hit Tuesday night against the Rays.

A packed house at Camden Yards on a night honoring Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. on the 16th anniversary of his breaking Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games was ecstatic over the first-inning outburst against Phelps. After three straight singles produced one run, Matt Wieters clouted his 19th home run into the second row down the left field line for three more. Wieters has had a hit in all 15 games the Orioles and Yankees have played against each other this year.

Phelps gave up another home run, a solo shot by Robert Andino, Baltimore’s 9-hole hitter, in the fourth, which turned out to be the righthander’s last inning. Yankees manager Joe Girardi did not hesitate to go to the bullpen early as he treated this game as if were a playoff game. Phelps just did not have it. He allowed five earned runs, six hits, two walks and a balk with three strikeouts in four innings.

Cano gave the Orioles a scare in the top of the fourth when he hit a line drive off the right elbow of Jason Hammel. The ball ricocheted into left field for a single. Hammel, making his first start in seven weeks after recovering from right knee surgery, remained in the game. He allowed a two-out, RBI single by Curtis Granderson that inning and pitched one batter into the sixth before Orioles manager Buck Showalter lifted him after a walk. Reliever Randy Wolf threw a double-play ball that helped the Orioles get out of the inning without damage.

This was career game No. 2,500 for Alex Rodriguez, who is the fourth active player to reach the mark, joining teammate Derek Jeter earlier this season, Omar Vizquel and Jim Thome. Only two players had more hits (2,876) and extra-base hits (1,185) through 2,500 games than A-Rod – Stan Musial (3,176 hits, 1,233 extra-base hits) and Hank Aaron (3,044 hits, 1,200 extra-base hits).

That Wise guy is the center of attention again

If the Yankees start hitting with runners in scoring position and with the bases loaded more regularly, they might just run away and hide in the American League East. The Yanks entered play Tuesday night against the Indians with a three-game lead in the division despite hitting a combined .220 in 592 at-bats with runners in scoring position and .176 in 74 at-bats with the bags full.

Despite those horrendous figures, the Yankees rank fifth in the league in runs. They lead the majors in home runs, which is a chief factor in their winning ways, along with a pitching staff that ranks fifth in the AL with a 3.65 ERA and a bullpen that is second in the majors with a 2.63 ERA.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi is tired of talking about the team’s problems in the clutch and is confident that the numbers will even out. If that ever happens, watch out!

All that came to mind in the second inning when the Yankees got three consecutive hits with runners in scoring position, including one with the bases loaded. That is not a typographical error.

And on top of that, all the hits came after two were out. DeWayne Wise, who earned another start in left field after his fine game Monday night (triple, home run, three RBI), set up the situation with a single to right that moved Nick Swisher, who had reached base on a fielder’s choice, to third base.

Instead of getting stuck there as has often been the case in such situations for the Yankee this year, Swish came trotting home on a single to center by Chris Stewart. Birthday boy Derek Jeter, who turned 38, singled off the leg of Tribe pitcher Justin Masterson, which loaded the bases. No ducks left on the pond this time as Curtis Granderson singled home Wise and Stewart.

It was the sort of rally the Yankees could use on a more consistent basis instead of relying so often on the long ball. That was one reason Girardi put Wise in the lineup again, to make use of his speed, a facet in short supply with regular left fielder Brett Gardner on the disabled list the past two months.

Wise became the center of attention in the game with a tumbling catch or non-catch as it turned out into the left field stands in the seventh inning for the final out with a runner at third base. Wise disappeared into the seats as he reached for the ball. Third base umpire Mike DiMuro made the out call, even though it was unclear whether Wise ever had control of the ball. It appeared to have hit off the heel of his glove, but he and the ball were soon out of sight.

“Truthfully, the ball popped out,” Wise said afterward. “He never asked to see the ball. It was a tough angle for the umpire. I wasn’t going to argue with him. That’s why I got back up and ran on to the field and headed for the dugout.”

Fans in the area apparently tried to put the ball in Wise’s glove as he lay prone but failed to do so. Wise returned to the dugout with an empty glove.

“He disappeared into the stands, and I believed that the ball was in his glove when he came out of the stands,” DiMuro said. “In hindsight, I should have asked him to show me the ball since he fell into the stands and out of my line of vision.”

DiMuro added after the game that he had seen the replay and “It’s obvious that the ball fell out of his glove.”

Wise is having a good series with the umpires. On his triple Monday night, video replays showed that he was actually out at third base. The catch loomed large when the Indians, held scoreless for eight innings by a very strong Phil Hughes, scored four runs in the ninth off Cory Wade and needed Rafael Soriano to save the 6-4 victory.

How fitting such a play as the best catch Wise never made should come on Jeter’s birthday. Diving into the left field stands is one of the captain’s specialties. Jeter had 2-for-5 to improve his birthday batting average to .327 with two doubles and three RBI in 11 games and 49 at-bats. The only players to accumulate more hits prior to turning 38 were Ty Cobb (3,666) and Hank Aaron (3,272). He has 13 more hits than all-time leader Pete Rose (3,170) at the time of his 38th birthday.

Danya Varano, Honorary Bat Girl

Dayna Varano, the Yankees’ winner of the Honorary Bat Girl Contest, will be honored Thursday night when the team concludes a three-game series against the Royals at Yankee Stadium. A cancer patient from Wayne, N.J., Dayna will be the Yankees’ on-field guest during batting practice and assist in the delivery of the lineup card to the plate prior to throwing out the game’s ceremonial first pitch.

Major League Baseball and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s largest breast cancer organization, announced the winners of the 2011 Honorary Bat Girl Contest, a campaign to recognize baseball fans that have been affected by breast cancer and demonstrated a commitment to fighting the disease.

Dayna is one of the 30 winners, one for each major league club, among more than 1,500 entrants that were selected by more than a half-million fan votes on http://www.HonoraryBatGirl.com, a Web site powered by MLB.com, and a panel of celebrity judges.

Among those on the panel were cancer survivors such as Yankees radio broadcaster Suzyn Waldman; Billye Aaron, Komen Global Ambassador for breast cancer and wife of Hall of Famer Hank Aaron; Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker, Founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure; actress Gabrielle Union and Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester. Other panelists included Angels pitcher Jered Weaver, whose mother is a breast cancer survivor; Twins designated hitter Jim Thome, whose mother passed away from lung cancer, and former pitcher and MLB Network analyst Mitch Williams, whose late mother had breast cancer.

On Valentine’s Day 2007, while already battling a brain tumor, Dayna was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer. Amid countless surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, Dayna has continued her efforts in educating and counseling those affected by the disease. She is a chairperson for the Young Survival Coalition in NYC, an organization dedicated to offering resources and outreach to young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. Dayna has also helped collect more than 10,000 toys for children who have either lost a parent to cancer or have a surviving parent that is experiencing financial hardship.

The Honorary Bat Girl program was introduced in 2009 to raise additional awareness and support for the annual Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer initiative celebrated on Mother’s Day. In three years, nearly 4,000 testimonials have been submitted and more than six million fan votes have been cast. Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer is a joint partnership between MLB, its licensed partners and Susan G. Komen for the Cure to raise awareness about the breast cancer cause, while also raising funds to support breast cancer research.

On Mother’s Day this past Sunday, hundreds of players used pink bats by Louisville Slugger, the official bat of MLB, stamped with the MLB breast cancer awareness logo and wore the symbolic pink ribbons on their uniforms along with pink wrist bands. Commemorative dugout lineup cards were also colored pink. Game-used Louisville Slugger pink bats from Mother’s Day games will be auctioned exclusively on MLB.com at a later date to raise additional funds for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which is now the world’s largest breast cancer organization and the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer with more than $1.9 billion invested to date. For more information about Susan G. Komen for the Cure, breast health or breast cancer, visit komen.org or call 1-877 GO KOMEN.

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 bbwaa.com, baseballhall.org, MLB.com 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.