Today’s news is powered by the trailer to the Scrabble documentary “Word Wars” (Yes, I know everyone in the trailer quite well. No, I don’t get any face time in the movie.):
Here’s a little Yankee trivia question to start the date: Paul Zuvella (mentioned later on in the column) is the last name alphabetically in the Yankees’ all-time player register. Who is the first? (answer at bottom of column)
- The Post’s Joel Sherman is quite certain of the best player he’s ever seen:
. . . (Mariano) Rivera has played just barely more than 1,000 innings in his whole career. And I know he has played mainly one inning at a time. And I also know I am biased because I have seen pretty much every pitch of that career. I was, for example, in the park on May 17, 1996 when he recorded his first major league save and again Sunday night when he reached 500 as I write about in this column.
But I actually don’t consider seeing so much of Rivera’s work a bias as much as a privilege. I have loved watching someone so great at what he does so often. Rivera has everything you would want in the best player you have seen checklist: He is a genius as a player. He has been incredibly consistent at that genius. That genius extends into the postseason. He has been incredibly durable. He elevates the play of those around him.
[My take: In this era of steroids, videotape and maple bats, Rivera is a wonder.]
- The MLB.com Yankee beat writer opines on the roster upon Jose Molina’s return:
All indications are that the Yankees will not carry three catchers because of the way their roster is constructed right now, so it will probably mean that Cervelli will have to go down to Triple-A when Molina is ready to return.
There’s no shame in that. He’s 23 and, while he’s enjoyed some success in the big leagues, there is more development that can take place. He should head down and feel good about what he accomplished, but it wasn’t like he was going to steal the job. Molina is a legitimate big league backup catcher and the Yankees are paying him well to do that.
[My take: Much as many of us have baseball crushes on Frankie, its probably best for him to get regular ABs at the Triple-A level rather than ride the pine in NY.]
- MLB.COM has a nice article on Rivera earning his 500th career save.
- Jim Kaat weighs in on Mighty Mo:
. . . to get 500 saves as a New York Yankee in the fire of a pennant race every year and every game, and add the extra load of all the postseason, saves makes “MO” stand out as the greatest closer of all time. I remember when that talk started several years ago when he hadn’t reached 300 saves yet and I said, “Let’s wait and let him achieve what he’s going to achieve and then crown him.”
Now, he’s achieved it. . . .
To accomplish what Mo has with almost exclusively one pitch, the pitch we have come to know as a cutter — even though it really is what I always called a pure slider — and throw it at one speed in one location makes what he’s done even more remarkable. High and tight to left-handed batters, in on their belt buckle, breaking bat after bat of even the best hitters. It’s the reason right-handed batters had more success against him because that pitch was always moving toward the sweet spot of their bat not into the handle like the leftys. Over time he added a “two-seamer” which broke the opposite way and an occasional change-up, but it was the cutter that he will always be known for. He even learned how to “back door” it against leftys, making it cut across the outside corner of the plate and “front door” it to rightys, cutting at the last instant across the inside edge of the plate which is a dangerous pitch to throw. Miss by a couple inches over the plate and it’s a fairly easy pitch for big-league hitters to hit.
- You can join in an on-line chat with Mark Teixeira at MLB.COM at 3 PM today.
- Pro baseball’s only ambidextrous pitcher, Pat Venditte, turns 24 today. Venditte was recently promoted to the Class-A Advanced Tampa Yankees.
- Tony Fernandez turns 47 today. Fernandez compiled a lackluster .245/.322/.346 line with only 6 SBs as the Yanks SS in ’95. The Yanks decided to give the ’96 starting SS job to one Derek Jeter.
- Jerry Kenney turns 64 today. Kenney was a very weak-hitting (50 XBH in 1,575 PAs) third baseman for the sad-sack Yankee teams of ’69 to ’72. He DID provide some value as part of a trade (along with John Ellis, Charlie Spikes and Rusty Torres) for Jerry Moses and Graig Nettles in November ’72.
- Happy 65th birthday to Ron Swoboda. Swoboda was best known as a Met, but finished up his career as a part-time OF for the Yanks from ’71 to ’73.
- On this date in 1934, Lou Gehrig has three triples at Washington. However, the game is rained out after four 1/2 innings, depriving Gehrig of a record.
- On this date in 1961, Whitey Ford (14 – 2) tops the Senators 5 – 1 to give the 2nd place Yankees their 22nd win of the month. Roger Maris drives in three runs and Mickey Mantle lines a shot over CF Willie Tasby that rebounds for an inside-the-park home run. Ford becomes the first pitcher in American League history to win eight games in one month.
- On this date in 1977, Cliff Johnson becomes the 2nd player in three days to hit a pair of homers in an inning. He hits three consecutive home runs, including two in the 8th inning, as the Yankees rout the Blue Jays 11 – 5.
- On this date in 1986, the Yankees trade OF Ken Griffey Sr. to the Braves for OF Claudell Washington and SS Paul Zuvella.
Trivia answer: pitcher Jim Abbott