Results tagged ‘ Michael Kay ’

Mariners complete sweep behind rookie lefty

If the Yankees thought they were catching a break Thursday night by not having to face Felix Hernandez they were sadly mistaken. Mariners rookie Roenis Elias gave them all they could handle.

Hernandez had been scheduled to start Thursday night, but with the rainout Wednesday night Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon chose to keep his rotation on schedule and went ahead and started Elias, 25, a lefthander who defected to Mexico from Cuba three years ago.

“We knew the kid had good stuff,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Elias. “Our reports showed he is something special.”

They got visual evidence of that Thursday night. Elias mixed a fastball clocked in the mid-90s with a hard-breaking curve and a knee-bracing changeup.

Hiroki Kuroda, who lost his second straight start, had a decent outing but had trouble finishing off hitters in the early going. Robinson Cano doubled in a run in the first inning, but Kuroda got out of further trouble thanks to center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who made a diving catch to rob Kyle Seager of a potential, run-scoring, extra-base hit.

Watching Ellsbury reminded me of a conversation I had at dinner a couple of night ago with YES voice Michael Kay, who said that he appreciates Ellsbury a lot more now that he is watching him on an every-day basis. I agreed. Some players can get overlooked, but if you see them every day you become more aware of how much they bring to a club on a daily basis. I used to view Tino Martinez that way years ago.

Ellsbury kept it up in the first inning by driving a 2-1 pitch to right field for his first home run with the Yankees. What happened next was a harbinger of what was to come from Elias, who then struck out Derek Jeter, Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano.

Elias continued to mow down the Yankees and finished with 10 strikeouts and only two walks through seven innings. The only other run he allowed was not earned due to an error by Cano, who lost an easy out by flipping the ball to unsuspecting shortstop Brad Miller. That extended the sixth inning in which Brian McCann singled in a run.

The Yankees also gave the Mariners a gift run in the third because of an error by Jeter. Cano got his second RBI with a fielder’s choice in the third. Kuroda couldn’t shut the door in the fourth when the Mariners went ahead to stay on an RBI single by Miller and a run-scoring double by Michael Saunders.

Seattle had only one hit over the next five innings as Kuroda found his groove albeit a bit late and the Yankees got excellent relief from Matt Thornton, Adam Warren and Shawn Kelley. The Yankees’ offense ran into the same type of pitching as well and could not avoid suffering a sweep in the abbreviated, two-game series.

Kind of a perfect Sunday

I stopped in Sheppard’s Place, the media dining room behind the press box, to have breakfast Sunday with my pals Lee Mazzilli, John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman. At the table next to us were David Cone and David Wells, the former pitchers turned broadcasters.

Cone was at Yankee Stadium as part of the YES crew with Michael Kay and Paul O’Neill. Wells was here as Dick Stockton’s partner on the TBS telecast of the Yankees-Angels game. The two Davids, of course, pitched perfect games with the Yankees, Wells in 1998 against the Twins and Cone in 1999 against the old Expos (now the Nationals). Sterling broadcast them on the radio. Waldman was then covering for WFAN and I for the Hartford Courant.

O’Neill played right field in both those games. He also was the Reds’ right fielder in 1988 when Tom Browning pitched a perfect game against the Dodgers. Paulie is the only player in major-league history to have been on the winning side of three perfect games.

Also at the Stadium Sunday was the guy who was O’Neill’s opposite, the only player to have been on the losing side of three perfect games. Alfredo Griffin, the Angels’ first base coach, was a former shortstop who spent 18 seasons in the big leagues. He was the Dodgers’ shortstop in the Browning perfecto and also in the one the Expos’ Dennis Martinez pitched against Los Angeles in 1991. Griffin had been the shortstop for the Blue Jays in 1981 when the Indians’ Len Barker threw a perfect game against Toronto.

Another piece of trivia about that Browning perfect game: Vin Scully, the voice of the Dodgers, broadcast 19 no-hitters in his legendary career. It would have been an even 20, but he was not with the Dodgers for the Browning game because he was covering another game that night on assignment for NBC when it did national coverage Saturday afternoons and Monday nights.

How perfect is all that?

Alumni of both teams in the house

Yankees relief pitcher Luis Ayala and catcher Gustavo Molina, who started the season with the Yankees but is now at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes Barre, brought to 111 the total of players who have spent time with both the Yankees and the Mets. Several of those former players were on hand Friday night at the first Subway Series of 2011 at Yankee Stadium.

David Cone and Al Leiter, who wore both uniforms during their career and opposed each other in the 2000 World Series, were in the YES booth working the cablecast with Michael Kay. Lee Mazzilli, coordinator for special projects with the Yankees, was also on duty as he is for every home game. Enjoying the game in one of the suites were Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden.

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.

Reggie remembers old times

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said it was a strange Old Timers’ Day Saturday at Yankee Stadium, and I had to agree with him except for different reasons.

“Obviously, two great Yankees are missing, so it will feel different,” Girardi said.

When I think of Old Timers’ Day, George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard do not come to mind. I do not recall the Boss being a central figure on that day, apart from the 1978 stunner when Billy Martin was announced as the future Yankees manager for 1980 not long after he had been fired.

Other than that, it seemed to be one day he stepped back and let the players of a bygone era have another day in the sun. Sheppard used to do the same as the Old Timers’ introductions were done on the field, for many years by Mel Allen and Frank Messer and more recently John Sterling and Michael Kay, who handled the duty again Saturday with Bob Wolff and Keith Olbermann providing comment on the exhibition game.

The ceremony Saturday, however, incorporated both Yankees icons who died last week. The Steinbrenner family was not present because they were attending a private service for the patriarch back home in Tampa, Fla. The day had a touch of elegance with the introduction of Mary Sheppard, Bob’s widow, among the celebrities.

Also absent from the proceedings was Yogi Berra, who took a tumble down the front steps of his home in Montclair, N.J., and could not participate. He broke no bones but suffered a nasty gash on his nose and some other bruises. “He appreciates all the well wishes and hopes to be up and about very soon,” was the statement from the Berra family.

Reggie Jackson, another Hall of Famer, almost didn’t come, either, but thankfully, he changed his mind.

“I’d rather not be here today,” Reggie said. “I’d rather pass. People in the leadership of the club thought I should be here.”

Yankees president Randy Levine urged Reggie to attend, and Mr. October put the day in perspective. Jackson knew both men well. His relationship with Sheppard was always cordial.

“Bob Sheppard was John Wooden-like just as John Wooden was Bob Sheppard-like in that you not only felt better when they were around but they had a similar concern for their fellow man, their family and their God,” Jackson said. “Bob worked with me on my Hall of Fame acceptance speech. He also told me on the day I received my [Monument Park] plaque that I could not keep my speech under two minutes. We made a 25-cent bet. I did the speech in 1 minute, 48 seconds, and Bob paid me the quarter. He was that voice in the sky. If they did make a movie about God and needed someone to do his voice, it would have to be Bob Sheppard.

Reggie’s relationship with Steinbrenner was to say the least complicated. They feuded a great deal during Jackson’s five seasons with the Yankees but developed a bond over the past 15 years that was severed so suddenly last week.

Recalling those “Bronx Zoo” years when George and Billy and Reggie provided more soap operas than a year’s worth of daytime television, Graig Nettles recalled, “I said, ‘Every boy wants to run away to the circus, and every boy wants to play major league baseball. With the Yankees, you can do both.’ George didn’t like that at the time. Each one wanted to be the boss and get all the attention. The writers would go past us to talk to George and Billy, but Reggie would trip some of them so they’d talk to him. That kept the rest of us out of the headlines. George put together the kind of team that could handle the chaos. Some later teams couldn’t handle it.”

“It was pretty tough when I heard about it,” Reggie said of Steinbrenner’s death. “I had just talked to him on his birthday [July 4]. It was a wonderful conversation. He was always positive. I knew his health wasn’t the same and the strength wasn’t there, but there was good conversation. So when I heard the news I just got caught off guard. I just got quiet for a couple of days.”

I tried to track Reggie down the day of the All-Star Game. I knew he was around somewhere. Frankly, he usually draws attention to himself at these events, but he was nowhere to be found.

“At the All-Star Game, I was supposed to be in the red carpet parade and on the field for some interviews,” he said. “I sat and watched the game for a few innings with [Angels owner] Arte Moreno and then with the commissioner. I didn’t want to say anything then because I could not have held it together very well.”

Jackson had trouble keeping his composure Saturday as well. He swelled up several times in talking about the Boss.

“He meant so much to so many people,” Reggie said. “His drive and desire to win brought the penultimate to the organization, the city of New York and the game of baseball. All his efforts were focused on winning regardless of the cost. Players see the difference in being a Yankee. Coming to New York, I had the career and success I did because of all the great players around me.

“How else could a .260 hitter [.263 actually] with more than 2,500 strikeouts [2,597] do some of the things I did. It was because of the way this ballclub was put together by Mr. Steinbrenner. We may have sprayed the ball around the fairway a lot, but we were putting it in the cup. If he said it once he said it a hundred times that letting me go was the biggest mistake he made. There are players who are tied with owners, and I am proud to be tied to him.”