The holidays are a great time to reflect on the year gone by. The solitude that accompanies shoveling out your driveway and cursing the plow and Mother Nature allows for ample time to put the pieces in place for some of those reflections.
With that in mind, 2010 brought those of us in the Yankee Universe some joy, but mostly heartache. Here’s a quick recap of some of the stories, headlines, and cyberlines that made the year.
STORY OF THE YEAR
I had a tough time narrowing this one down. Thus, I broke it down into three sections, for the three stories that encapsulated the Yankee year.
1) George Steinbrenner’s death: Mr. Steinbrenner’s health had been in question almost from the moment he collapsed at Otto Graham’s funeral in 2003. His death nine days after turning 80 was a huge loss for the organization, and a huge loss for baseball. It cast a pall over the rest of the season, but strangely, not in the way that Mickey Mantle’s death in 1995 or Joe DiMaggio’s death in ’99 did.
The coverage centered around the typical elements: his purchase of the team from CBS and the return on investment, the seven championships won during his ownership tenure, the managerial changes, the bombast, the Dave Winfield investigation, his suspension, his return, and lastly, how sons Hank and Hal — mainly Hal, now — will fill the void.
Had Bob Sheppard not died two days before Mr. Steinbrenner, I wonder if this wouldn’t have been a bigger story.
2) Whiff Lee: The Yankees almost had Cliff Lee twice in the 2010 calendar year. On July 9, the Yankees and Mariners had a deal in place that would have had Lee switching dugouts at Safeco Field, but it fell through due to the Mariners’ rejection of a couple of Yankee prospects included in the deal. In the offseason, the consensus, especially after Lee’s playoff domination, was that the Yankees and Rangers would get into a bidding war for Lee’s services, but that the Yankees’ dollars would prevail over the Rangers’ proximity and Texas’s lack of a state income tax. That was, until all hell broke loose and and he signed a 5-year, $120 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies on Dec. 15. All I can hear is Lee, in the voice of Mr. Garrison from South Park, launching into “Merry F—ing Christmas” as an ode to Yankees and Rangers fans far and wide. Context is a little different than what Mr. Garrison was going for, but the tone is similar.
Jayson Stark had a tremendous column on how the deal went down. This column ignited the conspiracy theorist in me. Why didn’t the New York media pick up on this and start throwing around theories that Lee, his agent Darek Braunecker, and the Phillies had concocted this evil, sinister plan a year ago, much like LeBron James and Chris Bosh discussed joining the Miami Heat as far back as the 2008 Beijing Olympics? The answer to that last question is that it would have been poor journalism. However, for a provocative column, that would have gotten a few readers riled up.
The lesson, apparently, not everyone wants to play in New York. But the Yankees re-signed Sergio Mitre and picked up Pedro Feliciano, who should be good for about 95 appearances next season. And Alfredo Aceves is due back, so they’re all set.
Adding insult to injury: the Red Sox are now fully staffed, and stacked. They’ve traded for Adrian Gonzalez, signed Carl Crawford, and fortified their bullpen with Bobby Jenks’s man-boobs and Dan Wheeler, leaving the Yankees reeling like Rocky Balboa in the first fight with Clubber Lang. Not good times for Mr. Brian Cashman. Not good times at all.
3) Derek Jeter’s Contract Drama: The non-story that was a story because people get paid to write about this stuff, and we’re the suckers that buy the papers, listen to the talk shows and read the blogs, tweets, etc. The Jeter Contract story makes this list because it fits the criterion of a story of the year. It dragged out the whole damn year.
Honorable Mention: Colin Cowherd’s FUBAR reasoning behind AJ Burnett’s struggles.
THE SIGN OF THE YEAR THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS NEAR
Sometimes you can take stock in radio interviews, sometimes you can’t. Three weeks ago, I was driving to the mall on a Saturday, and I happened upon Jody Mac interviewing Wally Matthews on 1050 ESPN New York. Matthews was recounting a conversation he had with Brian Cashman in the wake of the Cliff Lee debacle. Matthews said, “One of the last things I said to him was, ‘Please tell me you’re not considering Carl Pavano.’” To which Cashman replied, “I’m not ruling anything out.”
Imagine this: Sabathia, Hughes, Burnett, Pavano, Chamberlain.
After losing out on Lee, Greinke, and Brandon Webb, who knows what will happen in the next few months? The last time Cashman said he was prepared to go into the season with what we have, it was the 2004 offseason, and he was referring to Bubba Crosby as the Yankees’ center fielder. Less than a week later, he signed Johnny Damon. The only thing that will appease fans at this point is pulling off some kind of miracle trade with Seattle that will bring Felix Hernandez to the Bronx.
BEST YANKEE BOOK THAT’S NOT REALLY A YANKEE BOOK
It actually came out in 2008, and I don’t know how I didn’t hear about this until I received it as a Christmas gift from my mom. “Babe Ruth: Remembering the Bambino in Stories, Photos & Memorabilia” by Julia Ruth Stevens, his daughter, is a fantastic coffee-table book. I’ve already spent a couple of hours just looking at the pictures and some of the pull-out replica pieces of memorabilia, including tickets from the 1922 World Series.
As much as I love the iPad, books like these make a sound argument for Traditional Media.
GAME OF THE YEAR
I know I’ll get some groans over this one. (What, no Game 1 of the ALCS?) But this game had everything: lead changes, clutch hitting, clutch defense, and a surprise ending. Jorge Posada’s home run that led off the 11th inning hit the restaurant in center field at the Trop. It left his bat like it was shot of a Howitzer. If it didn’t hit the restaurant it would have traveled another 50-75 feet easy, as writers on the scene confirmed the ball had barely begun its descent when it made contact with the plexiglass.
In the bottom half, Carl Crawford led off with a single and failed to tag to second on a deep fly ball to center by Evan Longoria, a shot that even Mariano Rivera thought was gone when it left the bat. Crawford subsequently stole second and tried to tag on a shallow fly ball to right field by Matt Joyce. Why Crawford was trying to advance to third is still unknown, but Greg Golson, flat-footed, gunned him down at third to end the game. Just a fantastic play. For me, it was the most exciting game of the year.
And yes, we were contractually obligated to throw a game-related Award into the mix.
BEST SPORTSWRITER SPAT
Emma Span did a great job of hitting the Bill Simmons-Charles Pierce spat in her recent column detailing the rampant sexism in Simmons’ “Book of Basketball“. Thus, the Murray Chass-Tom Verducci brouhaha is this year’s selection.
For background, Chass was upset that Marvin Miller didn’t receive the requisite number of votes for Hall of Fame induction. While I agree that this is an injustice and does a disservice to the Hall of Fame, in no way would I use this blog as a forum to take potshots at gentlemen I respect, scribes and broadcasters with whom I used to share press box space. Yet our friend Mr. Chass has done that repeatedly, adding to his curmudgeon persona.
Chass singled out Verducci — erroneously, as it turned out — as one of the voters who denied Miller, firing stinging commentary of Verducci’s coverage of baseball labor when he covered the subject as part of his duties at Newsday and the Long Island Daily. Granted, at that time, Verducci was in his mid-20s and Chass was still a veteran of covering New York Baseball going back to the Highlanders and the Brooklyn Robins. But still, even now, more than 20 years later, it’s poor form to so publicly deride another New York writer.
Verducci fired back:
Former players association executive director Marvin Miller issued an apology to me on Tuesday for telling a blogger that he “was told” that I was one of the five members of the Hall of Fame Expansion Era committee who did not vote for Miller in closed balloting on Monday. The published hearsay from Miller was wrong. I did vote for Miller.
The ultimate irony: Chass, famously anti-blog, attributed as a “blogger”. A tremendous Eff You cyberpunch.
MAINSTREAMER OF THE YEAR
Mark Feinsand, NY Daily News.
Consistent, accurate, and just flat-out good. Completed his ninth year on the beat, his fourth with the NYDN. Topped it off by being named President of the New York Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Like me, he’s also a long-suffering Islanders fan.
BLOG POST OF THE YEAR
Jon De Rosa’s November 14, 2015. Nothing else to say about this but pure creative genius.
BLOG POST OF THE YEAR – NON-BRONX BANTER EDITION
It’s also the non-Murray Chass edition. This was a little bit tougher, because the blogosphere stretches into the mainstream now.
I went with this one, from our good friends at the Pinstriped Bible. I chose this because Cliff nails some important points on Jesus Montero that can give us hope going into 2011, and because I’m now kicking myself that we didn’t give Frankie Piliere — whose work is referenced in the column &151; a shot to write for us at YES when he e-mailed me numerous times regarding a Farm System column.
For Cliff, yes, you get an award from your friends. This is us saying Thanks. And for Frankie, glad to see you’re rocking it at FanHouse.
Got beef? Did I miss anything? Hit ‘em up in Comments.