Results tagged ‘ Rafael Palmeiro ’

Safeco a friendly place for Mo and Tex

The 10-game, 11-day trip to the West Coast that began Thursday night at Seattle starts a soft spot on the Yankees’ schedule. Of the Yankees’ next 11 series leading into the All-Star break, six will be against teams currently under .500, including three of the next four with the Mariners, Angels and Dodgers – nine of 12 games. The other three are in Oakland.

This will be the Yanks’ only visit to Safeco Field this year. They have won eight of their last 13 games there since the start of the 2010. The Yankees’ .594 winning percentage based on a 38-26 record is the highest all time for any American League club at Safeco Field. The Bombers have had four consecutive non-losing road season series against the Mariners.

Mariano Rivera has converted 17 of 18 career save opportunities at Safeco Field, with his only blown save coming Sept. 18, 2009 when current teammate Ichiro Suzuki hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Mo leads the AL in saves (21), second-most in the majors behind the Pirates’ Jason Grilli (22).

Rivera converted each of his first 18 chances this season, prior to blowing his first and only save May 28 against the Mets at Citi Field. It marked his second-longest streak of converted save chances to start a season behind a 28-game stretch in 2008. He got his 21st save Tuesday against the Indians in the Yankees’ 58th game. That is the second-fewest number of team games needed for Rivera to reach 21 saves behind 2004 (52nd game). He reached the 20-saves plateau for the 16th time in his career, breaking a tie with Trevor Hoffman for the most such seasons in baseball history.

Mark Teixeira has 15 career home runs at Safeco Field, which is tied with Eric Chavez, now of the Diamondbacks, for second most there by someone who never played for the Mariners. The leader in that category is Rafael Palmeiro with 17.

With a two-run home run Wednesday, Travis Hafner has hit 38 home runs in games started by CC Sabathia, the most any player in games the lefthander has started. Teixeira is next with 29.

Earlier this week, All-Star selections were made in the Class A Florida State League and South Atlantic League. Catcher Gary Sanchez and right-handed pitcher Shane Green of Tampa were selected to play for the North Division. Chosen for the Southern Division from Charleston were right-handed pitchers Rafael De Paula and Gabe Encinas, left-handed pitcher Dietrich Enns and catcher Peter O’Brien. De Paula was named the Southern Division starting pitcher.

Phil responds to competition

Something a coach told me years ago has always stayed with me. “There’s nothing like a little competition,” he said.

That’s one thing about baseball. Even in an era of guaranteed contracts, each player is always playing for his job. There always seems to be somebody right behind your back waiting for a chance to take your place.

Perhaps that thought hit Phil Hughes this week when the Yankees recalled Ivan Nova from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to pitch the evening portion of Saturday’s dual-admission doubleheader against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Nova pitched well, too, which was no surprise considering he was the team’s second leading winner at the time he was optioned to make roster space for Hughes, who has been only okay since returning from the disabled list.

Perhaps it was just coincidence, but in his first mound appearance since Nova worked himself back into the rotation mix Hughes resembled the pitcher he was in 2010 when he won 18 games. Hughes had his most muscular fastball of the season and seemed to pitch with a renewed purpose Tuesday night at Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field.

Granted, the White Sox don’t exactly throw Murderers’ Row out there, but even they got a couple of runs off Cy Young Award candidate CC Sabathia Monday night. Not against Hughes, though. Phil limited the Chisox to three singles through six innings before rain halted play. He did not walk a batter and struck out four while throwing an economic 65 pitches.

Hughes could have probably given the Yankees another inning or two except for the weather brains at the Cell who ordered the field covered before the game in preparation for thunderstorm activity that did not surface for hours. If not for the 45-minute delay despite not a drop of rain before the first pitch, the teams might have avoided another delay when the rain finally arrived with a vengeance in the middle of the seventh inning and finished off Hughes’ night. And everyone else’s as the Yankees posted a rain-shortened, 6-0 victory.

Derek Jeter, star of the current HBO documentary about his quest for 3,000 hits, got the ball rolling in the first inning for the Yankees with a leadoff single for career hit No. 3,021 that pushed him past Rafael Palmeiro and into 24th place on the all-time list. Jeter, who scored on a two-out double by Robinson Cano, got another hit in the third, a double, for No. 3,022, which left him one hit behind No. 23, Hall of Famer Lou Brock.

Mark Teixeira moved to the top of another career list when his two home runs that brought his season total to 31, one behind American League leader Juan Bautista of the Blue Jays. Tex won a 10-pitch duel with White Sox starter John Danks in the third inning and homered from the right side of the plate.

Batting left-handed against White Sox reliever Jason Frasor in the seventh, Teixeira turned around a 94-mph fastball for another home run. It marked the 12th time Tex has homered from each side of the plate in the same game, which established a major-league record. Teixeira had previously been tied for the mark with Hall of Famer Eddie Murray and Chili Davis.

Teixeira reached the 30-homer plateau for his seventh consecutive season and his third with the Yankees. He is only the fourth player to surpass 30 in each of his first three seasons with the Yankees, joining Babe Ruth, Roger Maris and Alex Rodriguez.

The long ball was a major part of the Yanks’ offense as Russell Martin cracked his 11th home run of the season and his first in 22 games and 82 at-bats since June 29.

While it is a bit early to talk about the year 2012, the Yankees have agreed to play exhibition games at 1:10 p.m. April 1 and at 7:10 p.m. April 2 next year at the Marlins’ new ballpark in Miami. The Yankees are old hands at this. As far back as 1965, they opened the old Houston Astrodome with an exhibition game.

About 25,000 tickets will be available for the April 1 game and 30,000 for the April 2 game. The Marlins’ 2012 season-ticket holders will have the first opportunity to purchase tickets to the two exhibition games. A limited number of tickets will go on sale to the general public next spring. The ballpark, located near downtown Miami, is around three-quarters complete, according to the Marlins.

Manny slinks away

The stunning news that Manny Ramirez is retiring from baseball comes appropriately while the Yankees and the Red Sox are playing each other in a series at Fenway Park. Ramirez was a big part of this rivalry for the better part of eight seasons.

His career came to an end Friday and, unfortunately, with another steroids-related issue that will stain his legacy. Just looking at the career statistics Manny left behind, a spot in the Hall of Fame should be assured for this eccentric but nonetheless remarkable hitter who despite the reputation as a sort of man-child turned into Albert Einstein once he entered a batter’s box.

Reports that Ramirez had failed yet another drug test allegedly resulted in his abrupt departure from the sport rather than face another suspension. Manny was set down for 50 games in 2009 for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. A second offense comes with a suspension of 100 games, so Manny probably figured what’s the point in hanging around to place one-third of a season for a Tampa Bay team that started the schedule with six straight losses while he went 1-for-17.

Make no mistake, however, that this is a big smudge on Ramirez’s hopes for Cooperstown. Look at the voting totals for Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro to see how voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America feel about whether PED users belong on plaques in the Hall of Fame gallery.

This is all very early, of course. Ramirez is not eligible for the Hall of Fame until the 2017 ballot. A lot can happen before then. But consider that Palmeiro tested positive once and McGwire was never tested but admitted he used anabolic steroids and figure out how voters may view Ramirez, who appears to have tested positive twice.

For Yankees fans, Ramirez was the Red Sox player they loved to hate, except for those from his old neighborhood of Washington Heights in upper Manhattan who came to Yankee Stadium to cheer Manny on. He loved playing against the Yanks, as his record against them attests. He batted .322 with 55 home runs in 861 at-bats against Yankees pitching, including .321 with 29 homers at the Stadium.

He was one of the greatest players to come out of New York City and should have joined the other Hall of Famers who came out of the five boroughs, such as Willie Keeler, Waite Hoyt, Lou Gehrig, Frankie Frisch, Hank Greenberg, Phil Rizzuto, Whitey Ford and Sandy Koufax.

Ramirez was also an icon in Boston as the Most Valuable Player of the 2004 World Series when the Red Sox won their first championship in 86 years and in Los Angeles where “Mannywood” was celebrated at Dodger Stadium in 2008.

And now it has all come to an end, quietly and shamefully.

Another holiday list

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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