Results tagged ‘ Jimmie Foxx ’

Girardi has many reasons to savor 500th victory

Joe Girardi’s 500th managerial victory will be easy for him to remember because so many things went well for the Yankees. When two teams with six-game winning streaks collide, something has got to give, but all the American League East leading Yanks gave the National League East leading Nationals Friday night was trouble.

In their 7-2 victory, the Yankees got another strong start from Phil Hughes, they got big hits with runners in scoring position, had a hit with the bases loaded and came within one out of winning a game without hitting a home run. Curtis Granderson ruined that possibility when he slammed his 20th homer with two down in the ninth, but that was fine for Girardi.

The manager was even able to work David Robertson into the mix by using him in a non-save situation in the ninth. Robbie showed some rust by allowing a run on a pair of doubles, but it was nice to see him back in a game for the first time in more than a month.

Hughes scattered six hits and two walks with nine strikeouts over six innings to win his third straight start. It was a one-run game while Hughes was on the mound in a duel with Nationals lefthander Gio Gonzalez, who is 8-3 this season but sustained his fourth straight loss to the Yankees as his career record against them fell to 1-5.

Actually, Gonzalez was out of the game by the time the Yankees broke it open. Manager Davey Johnson lifted Gonzalez, who seemed none too happy about it, after he gave up a leadoff single to Andruw Jones in the seventh. The Yanks then roughed up relievers Brad Lidge and Mike Gonzalez for four runs.

Derek Jeter got the bases-loaded hit, a single. Another run scored on a wild throw by shortstop Ian Desmond. Granderson doubled in two more runs. The Yankees had 4-for-8 (.500) with runners in scoring position. Cody Eppley and Clay Rapada provided a shutout inning of relief apiece before Robertson worked the ninth.

The 2-1 lead Hughes worked with was supplied by RBI singles from Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher. For A-Rod, the RBI was career No. 1,924, which tied him with Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx for sixth place on the all-time list. In the fifth spot is another Hall of Famer, Stan Musial, at 1,951. And just the other day, Rodriguez matched Lou Gehrig’s grand slam mark of 23. A-Rod is running elbows with an awful lot of Hall of Famers these days.

Hughes, whose record improved to 7-5, has pitched to a 1.29 ERA over his past three starts, all victories. Going back further, over his past eight starts since May 6, Hughes is 6-1 with a 3.27 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings. The righthander has lowered his ERA over that stretch from 7.48 to 4.50. Hughes also ran his career record in inter-league play to 4-1 with a 3.55 ERA.

It was the Yankees’ first game at Nationals Park. They are 19-18 in their debut games at new stadiums in the expansion era dating to 1961.

Jeet, A-Rod reach milestones on same play

Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez combined on a couple of milestones in the first inning of Saturday night’s Subway Series game as the Yankees jumped out to a 1-0 lead against the Mets.

Jeter ended a 0-for-17 slump with a leadoff single to center off Mets righthander Dillon Gee, who had trouble with the rubber on the mound and balked Jeter to second. After Curtis Granderson lined out to first baseman Ike Davis, Rodriguez hit a ground single through the middle to score Jeter.

It was A-Rod’s 1,917th run batted in of his career, which tied him with Hall of Famer Eddie Murray for seventh place on the all-time list since RBI became an official statistic in 1920. Rodriguez is only seven RBI behind another Hall of Famer, Jimmie Foxx, in sixth place.

The run for Jeter was career No. 1,800, which placed him above Hall of Famer Ted Williams into 17th place on the all-time list. Next up is No. 16 Carl Yastrzemski, yet another Hall of Famer, with 1,816.

Once a player gets to those levels on these lists, nearly everyone they pass is a Hall of Famer. Except for Pete Rose, that is.

Andy back from ‘vacation’

A year ago, no one with the Yankees or anywhere else could have convinced Andy Pettitte to keep on pitching. He was certain following an injury-disturbed second half of the 2010 season that it was time to hang up his glove and spikes.

The Yankees were hoping against hope that Pettitte would think it over, particularly after Cliff Lee rejected their seven-year, free-agent offer and signed instead with the Phillies. This left a gaping hole in the rotation, one that the fit Pettitte would have easily filled.

But no. Family came first, an honorable position. Andy wanted to go home to Deer Park, Texas, for good and watch his children grow up. The Yankees would have to make do with aging cast-offs Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon to fill the gap in the starting unit.

There would be no turnaround for Pettitte that might have mirrored pal Roger Clemens’ famous about-face when he retired from the Yankees after the 2003 World Series only to rejoin his left-handed partner in Houston where Andy landed after filing for free agency. For their part, Garcia and Colon accomplished more than anything the Yankees expected last year, but any chance that Pettitte could change his mind remained in the Yankees’ thinking.

The decision announced Thursday by Pettitte that he would accept a minor-league deal from the Yankees for non-guaranteed money of $2.5 million came as a shock to most Yankees fans (it certainly did me), but there have been indications that the big lefty was leaning in that direction for some time.

Pettitte was essentially fighting his emotions. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman confirmed that he had discussed a contract with Pettitte last December. Still no go was Andy’s reply. But when he put that uniform on again last month as a spring-training instructor, well, he was a goner.

Back up close to the game, Pettitte’s competitive instincts were aroused. It is a big step for him but a relatively small risk for the Yankees. For them, it is completely a win-win situation. There is no doubt that Pettitte is still in outstanding physical shape. Now he needs the time to get back into pitching shape.

The timetable for a Pettitte return would likely be early May, by which time the Yankees could use a boost in the rotation. Let’s face it; every year something happens that makes a club wish it had someone of Pettitte’s caliber in reserve. Take last season, for example, when Phil Hughes’ arm went soft, and Colon helped save the first half for the Yankees.

Make no mistake; what Pettitte is attempting is not easy. Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg may be the best example of what taking a year away from the game can do. Due to personal reasons, Ryno sat out the 1995 season after 14 years with the Cubs and returned in 1996 at age 36 to bat .244 with 25 home runs and 92 RBI, surprisingly good numbers for a player who had been away from the game for a whole season. But an off year in ’97 (12 homers and 64 RBI in 447 at-bats) was a signal to him that he was no longer the same player and he retired.

It was not uncommon during World War II for players to un-retire and return to the major-league rosters decimated by the draft, the most notable of whom was Hall of Fame first baseman Jimmie Foxx, who was little more than a glorified pinch hitter for the Cubs and Phillies.

Yogi Berra tried to come back as a player with the Mets in 1965, the year after he had managed the Yankees into the World Series and was fired after they lost to the Cardinals. Yogi admitted to manager Casey Stengel that he could not catch up with the fastball anymore and retired after four games and nine at-bats to become the Mets’ full-time first base coach.

What Yankees fans remember is that the last time they saw Pettitte he was still effective at getting out batters. His problem was trying to avoid groin and back flare-ups that are part of the aging process. One of the most popular players in recent Yankees history will try to reverse that process, and it will be fun for the rest of us to see if he can do it.

Yanks got last licks on Ted

There were reminisces aplenty about Tuesday’s 50th anniversary of Ted Williams’ final at-bat in the major leagues in which he hit a home run, career No. 521, which at the time was the third highest total in history behind only Babe Ruth (714) and Jimmie Foxx (534). A lot has changed in half a century. Teddy Ballgame now stands in a three-way tie with Willie McCovey and Frank Thomas for 18th place, and Barry Bonds (762) and Hank Aaron (755) have long since passed the Babe.

As for what Williams did his last time up in the big leagues, thousands of words have been written about the grand style in which he ended his career by lofting one into the right field seats at Fenway Park. That is all well and good, but for me that is just the usual batch of Red Sox Nation tripe.

I have a personal beef about the whole matter from the mindset of a pre-teen who got stood up by the guy they called the “Splendid Splinter.” He wasn’t much of a splinter by then, nor at 42 did he fit his other nickname, “The Kid,” and from my point of view he damn sure wasn’t splendid.

Here’s why. Do you know what little piece of information all those Boston boors leave out of their Teddy’s last at-bat stories? How about this: nobody in the yard knew it was Williams’ last at-bat until after the game. That’s right. The Red Sox still had three more games to play, at Yankee Stadium, but after the game Williams told the writers that he wasn’t going to New York. The Yankees had already clinched the American League pennant, the Red Sox had been dead meat for a month, so there was no point in his making the trip.

Now doesn’t take a bit of the bite out of that story. I mean, it would have rung truer if he had told the press before the game that he wasn’t playing any more. To Red Sox fans, this was the perfect ending to a Hall of Fame career by admittedly one of the game’s greatest hitters. But to Yankees fans holding tickets to games that weekend, it was a big gyp. The only allure of the series was to see Williams bow out, not watch Carroll Hardy in left field.

My uncle, Bill Gallagher, had gotten tickets for the Friday night game Sept. 30, 1960, and we talked about Williams on the ride to the Stadium. I was really into baseball in those days and was amazed at how vital the two great aging stars of that time, Williams and Stan Musial, still were. Musial, in fact, would play three more seasons, and I would get to see him three home runs in one game at the Polo Grounds in 1963 when he was 42.

God bless Casey Stengel, then in his last year as manager of the Yankees. Although the Yankees were already set for the World Series, ‘ol Case started his regular lineup. Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and the rest. The Red Sox? No Ted Williams. What?

Unlike today’s 24/7 media whirlwind, information from out of town came slowly in those days. A man sitting in the seat next to Uncle Bill said that he heard that Williams decided not to accompany the team to town. Truth be told, I had not been much of a Yankees fan to that point in my life, but I cheered my head off for them that night. To make matters worse, the Red Sox almost won the game.

What follows comes from my old, pencil-scribbled scorecard, boys and girls (I still score in pencil).

Bill Monbouquette, a wonderful guy whom I would get to know more than 20 years later when he was the pitching coach for the Mets, was Boston’s best pitcher and took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth, but he was replaced by lefthander Tom Brewer after Bobby Richardson led off with a single. Brewer gave up a single to Gil McDougald, and the Yankees had a rally going.

Tony Kubek, another terrific person I would get to know years later, flied out, but Hector Lopez and Maris followed with singles to tie the score and put runners on first and third. Mantle had come out of the game earlier, and his spot in the lineup was taken by Bob Cerv, the thickly-built, right-handed hitter.

Boston manager Pinky Higgins brought in a right-handed pitcher I had never heard of, but a year later he would almost be a household name – Tracy Stallard, the guy who gave up Maris’ 61st home run. On this night, Stallard would be done in by his second baseman, a September callup named Marlan Coughtry. Thanks to him, I learned something important about the game – the need to remain calm in a crisis.

Cerv hit a grounder to Coughtry, who considering Cerv’s lack of speed should have thrown to second base to start a double play. Instead, he decided to tag Maris in the base path and then throw to first. Maris, who never got enough credit for being a heads-up player, put on the brakes and went into reverse. Coughtry took the bait. Lopez broke for the plate. The rookie tagged Maris eventually for the second out but in hesitating lost any chance to get the third out as Lopez scored the winning run.

Talk about a satisfying finish! It made me forget all about Ted Williams, who insulted baseball fans in New York so that he could have all his Beantown acolytes wax poetic about his going deep in his last big-league plate appearance.

A-Rod alone as 100-RBI leader

History was made at Yankee Stadium Monday. The old Yankee Stadium was rich with history, and the new building will undoubtedly have its share of historic moments. This one came in the sixth inning when Alex Rodriguez hit a sacrifice fly off Orioles lefthander Brian Matusz.

Two innings earlier, Rodriguez hit his 22nd home run of the season and 605th of his career, but it was the sac fly that gave him 100 runs batted in for the season, the 14th time he has reached the century mark in RBI. What’s so special about that? No major-league player had ever done that before.

Rodriguez got to 100 in dramatic fashion in 2009, a season in which he missed 38 games, mostly at the start while recovering from hip surgery. Going into the Yankees’ last game of the regular season Oct. 4 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., A-Rod needed seven RBI to get to 100. He got them all in a wild, 10-run sixth inning when he hit a three-run home run and a grand slam.

Getting to 100 this year was nowhere near as astonishing for Rodriguez, who tied the game twice for the Yankees only to have A.J. Burnett, the winning pitcher of that final game in 2009, give back the lead in the next inning each time.

Many of the numbers-minded seam heads that want to rewrite baseball history with their fancy new statistics do not put much of a premium on RBI anymore. They are, of course, wrong. Runs scored and runs batted in remain the two most important stats in the game. The day you can win a ballgame by a score of zero to minus one is when I will concede that scoring runs or driving them in is overrated.

For all the measuring sticks of great offensive players, isn’t it odd that you find the best players among the RBI leaders year after year? It is the 13th consecutive season of 100 RBI or more for Rodriguez. The only other players to do that were a couple of Hall of Famers named Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx. That’s pretty heady company. When it comes to the total of 100-RBI seasons, however, Alex Rodriguez is in a company of one.

A-Rod’s consecutive streak ended early. After his breakout season of 1996 with the Mariners when he batted .358 with 36 home runs and 123 RBI, Rodriguez slid back slightly in 1997, batting .300 with 23 homers and 84 RBI. In 1998, he knocked in 124 runs, and he has been putting up triple digits ever since, with a high of 156 for the Yankees in 2007 when he won his third American League Most Valuable Player Award.

As Alex himself pointed out, it would have been better if the record had occurred in a victory. The Orioles improved to 20-13 under Buck Showalter with the 4-3 victory. The Yankees had pushed Baltimore around all season winning 10 of their previous 12 meetings, but all were without Showalter in the dugout or second baseman Brian Roberts in the lineup.

Roberts, who was sidelined for three months with a strained abdominal muscle, had three hits and drove in two runs, including the game-winner in the seventh inning. It made Matusz a winner for the first time in four starts against the Yankees despite putting up a 2.41 ERA in the other three starts.

Say this for Burnett. He did allow himself to be smitten by flattery. His manager, Joe Girardi, said he thought the struggling Burnett pitched well.

“I appreciate the kind words,” Burnett said, “but I didn’t get the job done. When your team scores, you have to come back with shutdown innings, and I didn’t do that either time.”

After A-Rod’s homer made the score 1-1 in the fourth, Burnett gave up a run the next inning on a two-out single by Roberts. The same thing happened after the Yankees tied the score again at 3 with two runs in the sixth. Another two-out single by Roberts off Burnett thrust the Orioles back into the lead. The Yankees would get no more runs as Burnett was saddled with his 13th loss, which he clearly felt he deserved.

Why Joe D. had to wait

I need to take issue with a discussion on YES between Michael Kay and Ken Singleton on Sunday’s telecast of the Yankees-White Sox game. It is not a criticism but rather an explanation or, better put, an attempt at one.

Former White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas, a two-time American League Most Valuable Player, was honored Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field and had his uniform No. 35 retired. In reviewing Thomas’ career, Kay and Singleton fittingly talked about his credentials as a candidate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. There was even a text-message question to viewers on the topic.

Thomas retired after the 2008 season and will be eligible for consideration by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on the 2014 ballot. I have no dispute here about Thomas’ legitimacy as a candidate for first-ballot election. Interestingly, the result of the text poll was 71 percent yes and 29 percent no, which means that according to texters the “Big Hurt” is not first-ballot worthy, since 75 percent of ballots cast is required for election.

But in the discussion about the writers’ vote, Kay and Singleton save some examples of first-ballot electees and questioned why Joe DiMaggio isn’t among them. At one point, Singleton said, “What were the writers thinking?”

Well, here goes. First off, the rules were different when DiMaggio, an obvious choice for the Hall of Fame if there ever was one, first went on the ballot, which was 1953. He had retired after the 1951 season when he was only 37 years old (the 1952 ballot had already been formed by the time of the announcement, which is why he was not on it).

Unlike today, there was no five-year waiting period before a player become eligible for the ballot. DiMaggio went on the ballot one year after he retired. Remember, no one had been elected on the first ballot up to that time since the original class of 1936 (Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson). Lou Gehrig was elected by acclamation by the BBWAA in 1939.

According to veteran writers I talked to over the years, it was not uncommon for voters at that time to dismiss first-year candidates out of the thinking that the player might un-retire. There was no five-percent rule at the time, either, which came about in the mid 1980s requiring candidates to get at least five percent of the vote to stay on the ballot.

There was apparently some feeling at the time that DiMaggio, still in his 30s, might get himself back in shape and return to the Yankees. This was a period not too far removed from World War II when former players, most notably Jimmie Foxx, did precisely that.

In fact, that is one of the reasons the five-year rule came into being in 1954, which was DiMaggio’s second year on the ballot. Joe D. was actually the first test case. The writers allowed anyone who had received more than 100 votes on a previous ballot to be grand-fathered onto the ballot without having to wait five years. The only player to which that applied was DiMaggio, who came close to being elected in 1954 (69.4 percent) before making it in 1955 (88.8).

Another rule of thought in voting in those years was that players had to “wait their turn.” One writer once told me that he could not vote for DiMaggio while Joe Cronin and Hank Greenberg, who preceded Joe D. to the majors by quite a few years (10 for Cronin, six for Greenberg) were not yet in. They were elected in 1956, the year after the “Yankee Clipper.”

I am by no means saying that I agree with the thinking of that time, only that it was different. I am fairly confident that if DiMaggio did not go on the ballot until 1957 in satisfying the five-year waiting period he would have been elected on the first ballot. As it was, he got into the Hall two years earlier than that.