"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

José Altuve, 1998, and the Blank Check

I was adrift in the spring of 1998. I lived in a small apartment with unpacked boxes in each room and usually nothing but last night’s leftovers in the refrigerator. I once spilled some powdered laundry detergent on the carpet by the front door and it stayed there for two months. I was twenty-eight years old, but I might’ve passed for nineteen. I was adrift.

But that was the spring when I met John Sterling and Michael Kay. The internet was still a brave new world back then, and I discovered that New York’s WFAN was proudly streaming their content 24 hours a day, long before we used the word streaming, and long before Major League Baseball began policing the web. And so each afternoon I’d make sure to be home by 4:00pm so that I could sit down at my computer, log into AOL, and listen to the Yankee game.

It was magic. I sat in my empty apartment three thousand miles away from the Bronx, but night after night I had a virtual seat in the Stadium. And night after night, they just kept winning.

I wasn’t a complete recluse, by the way. On Friday, June 5th, a group of teachers went out after school to celebrate a birthday. Her name was Leslie, and her classroom was two doors down from mine. She needed a lift back to school at the end of the evening, and she laughed when I told her I needed to switch to sports radio to check the Yankee score. (A 5-1 win over the then-Florida Marlins.) She playfully slapped my hand away from the dial, but it wouldn’t be until the next night that I’d hold her hand for real. Next month we’ll celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary.

I didn’t listen to as many games the rest of that summer, but the magic never faded. It was young love. Derek Jeter was still a kid, Mariano Rivera was in just his second season as closer, and Chuck Knoblauch could still make the throw to second base. The wins piled up and soon enough Boston wasn’t chasing New York, the Yankees were chasing the ’54 Indians and the ’27 Yankees.

Even before the eventual World Series win, that ’98 season was baseball nirvana, a once-in-a-lifetime experience following a team that was so special that I knew I’d never see its like again. But only 24 years later, here we are.

The 2022 Yankees carried a 51-18 record into this weekend’s series with the Houston Astros, the same mark as the ’98 squad after 69 games. Just as with that ’98 group, this year’s team already seems to be running unopposed in the American League East, having enjoyed a double-digit lead for more than a week.

The Astros, then, were the perfect opponent at the perfect time. No team right now — not the Red Sox, not the Blue Jays, not the Rays — is a greater antagonist than the Astros, and no player is a greater villain than Houston’s José Altuve. Fans in the Bronx boo Alex Bregman out of duty, but the treatment reserved for Altuve is special. He isn’t greeted with derision, but with a palpable hatred that far exceeds anything hurled at Pedro Martínez or Kevin Youkilis or anyone else. The boos rain down each time he comes to the plate, and instead of amusing themselves with the wave, the fans fill any lull in the game with regular chants of “Fuck Altuve.” Sometimes when the Astros aren’t even in town.

If it were only because he cheated in 2017, the animosity would’ve faded a bit, as it has with Bregman. But it’s because he cheated then, stole an MVP from Aaron Judge, stole a World Series appearance from the city, and then continued to break Yankee hearts for the next five years. If Altuve ends up in Cooperstown one day, it will be in large part because of the damage he’s done against the Yankees, ignoring the steady stream of verbal abuse the likes of which few athletes have ever had to endure and uncorking one devastating home run after another. The rational part of my brain admires him for all that, but there isn’t much place for rational thought when the Astros come to town. I despise him.

It wasn’t a surprise, then, that Altuve played his part to perfection over the weekend, doubling twice, homering twice, and scoring four runs. The surprise on Thursday night was that when the Astros took a 6-3 lead into the ninth inning, it was the much maligned Aaron Hicks who saved the day. His game-tying three-run home run rocked the Stadium, shook my living room, and reminded everyone in Yankees Twitter that Hicks does, in fact, deserve his roster spot.

Three batters later the Yankees had runners on first and second as Judge walked to the plate. Cascading chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P!” washed over him as he watched three Ryan Stanek splitters miss the zone before jumping on the fourth one and lashing it into the corner to bring home the winning run and add another highlight to his historic season.

Justin Verlander led the Astros to a 3-1 win on Friday night to even the series, and then things started to get crazy. Cristian Javier, a kid making his twenty-ninth career start, held the Yankees hitless for seven innings before giving way to Hector Neris and Ryan Pressly who got the final six outs to wrap up a combined no-hitter. Combined no-no’s have suddenly become more common than standard no-hitters, but they don’t hold much weight with me. I was more irritated by the loss than the history.

And then Sunday happened. Facing the mighty José Urquidy, the Yankee bats were silent once again. The Bronx Bombers were hitless through the first six innings. Combined with the nine innings from the day before and the ninth inning on Friday, that made sixteen consecutive hitless innings, the longest stretch for any team since divisional play began in 1961.

Sure, the history was bothering me a bit at this point, but the present was much more pressing. If you don’t regularly peruse the Yankee corners of Twitter, you might (or might not) be surprised to know that even during this wonderful season there’s still an awful lot of angst out there. Some are still ready to fire Brian Cashman for passing on Carlos Correa, others are still certain that Aaron Boone only has the job because of the home run he hit in the 2003 ALCS, and still others regularly clamor for the release of Joey Gallo and Aaron Hicks. It’s a dark place, and the reality of a series loss to the Astros or, heaven forbid — a second consecutive hitless afternoon — introduced into that black hole of delusion would likely cause the entire internet to explode.

Thankfully Giancarlo Stanton saved the universe when he stepped to the plate in the seventh inning and swatted a ball over the wall in center field, his third dinger of the series and seventeenth of the season. It was only one hit, and the Yankees still trailed 3-1, but there was hope for the first time all day. As I texted with a friend about avoiding another no-hitter, the response came back quickly: “Fuck this, Yanks are gonna win this game.”

Just an inning later D.J. LeMahieu launched another bomb into the seats in left with a runner on and the game was tied at three. The unhittable Clay Holmes turned the Astros away in the top of the ninth, and the Yankees seemed set to close things out in the bottom half when the resurgent Gleyber Torres walked with one out, stole second, and advanced to third when the catcher’s throw sailed into the outfield. Thursday night’s hero, Aaron Hicks, needed only to put his bat on the ball to get Torres home, but he struck out. When Torres turned his ankle on his way back to third and crumpled into a heap, Houston gratefully accepted the third out on the strangest strike-him-out, tag-him-out double play you’ll ever see.

Michael King somehow managed to keep the Astros from scoring in the tenth, and in the bottom half the Yankees once again found themselves with a runner on third and one out. Pinch hitter Matt Carpenter (I wouldn’t mind a left-right platoon at third, by the way) was walked intentionally, LeMahieu struck out, and Aaron Judge came to the plate with two outs and the game standing on third base.

Part of the appeal of the 1998 Yankees was that no single player’s statistics leapt off the page. This year’s group, however, revolves around Judge, the best player in baseball this season. You can’t read an article about these Yankees without being reminded that Judge “bet on himself” this spring when he turned down the security of the Yankees’ nine-figure contract offer, preferring to play the season out and see what free agency might bring.

It’s a tired observation, but it’s hard to imagine that things could’ve gone better for Judge. I can’t imagine that anyone in the free agent era has had a better walk year than what Judge is putting together this season. At this point I’m actually surprised when any ball he hits doesn’t find the seats, and he’s become the team’s everyday center fielder, just because he can. Aside from everything he does between the lines, he’s become not just the clear leader of this team but one of the most iconic players in the sport.

When he sits down across the table from Cashman this November, it won’t be a negotiation, but a coronation. Whether or not the season ends with another parade down the Canyon of Heroes, whether or not he hits sixty home runs, whether or not he wins the MVP, Aaron Judge has proved his point. Cashman would be wise to slide a blank check across the table along with the keys to the franchise. At the press conference that afternoon, with Aaron Boone at one end of the table and Derek Jeter at the other, Judge will be introduced as the sixteenth captain in the history of the New York Yankees. The terms of the deal won’t matter because he will have earned whatever he wants.

All of this was true before he came to the plate in the late afternoon on Sunday with his team tied with their darkest nemesis. Before he swung and missed at a slider from Seth Martínez, and before he put a smooth swing on the next slider and sent it soaring out of the shadows and into the light. Before he turned to his teammates and shrugged as the ball landed among the masses in the left field stands, before he had to be reminded to circle the bases, and before he danced the final few steps of the route and landed on home plate to close out a 6-3 Yankee win and split of one of the stranger four-game series you’ll ever see.

Categories:  1: Featured  Game Recap  Hank Waddles  Yankees

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1 Bronx Boy in NC   ~  Jun 27, 2022 9:16 am

Love your take, Hank.

Now: Knuckle down time. It's an old pattern for them to gut their way through a tough series, then lose focus when a tomato can like the A's comes up next.

In this year's succession of "the team from a few years ago woulda failed here" moments, this is the latest chance to flip the old narrative.

2 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 27, 2022 10:39 am

Bless, you Hank. Thanks for this.

3 BronxToCT   ~  Jun 27, 2022 4:13 pm

It's been far too long since I checked out the Banter - shame on me. But this piece was a perfect re-introduction - thank you. There are certain seasons that hold a special place for me as well, starting in 1976 when I was a brand-new grad student in Boston and watched Chambliss hit his pennant-winning HR while my new girlfriend was in the next room, not understanding what it meant to me, but willing to share in my joy. I was at yesterday's game: incredibly hot and filled with anxious fans ("that's 14 innings w/out a hit" etc.) Yes, extraordinary hatred for Altuve coming for all parts of the Stadium (some comments quite nasty - some just funny), and yes, crazy amounts of love for Judge. The cheers for any other player don't come close. Quite the game.

4 RIYank   ~  Jun 27, 2022 6:25 pm

There ya go.

5 RIYank   ~  Jun 27, 2022 7:06 pm


6 RIYank   ~  Jun 27, 2022 7:13 pm

Holy Jesus.
The A's.

Well, you can't predict baseball.

7 rbj   ~  Jun 27, 2022 7:17 pm

That’s definitely not good.

8 Shaun P.   ~  Jun 27, 2022 7:21 pm

[0] Beautiful piece, Hank.

[6] [7] Lot of game left!

9 Springdeeds   ~  Jun 27, 2022 7:54 pm

whats everyone think of the announcers at the moment? on the radio, which ive always loved, im finding john and suzyn to be missing too many plays. on yes, ive never minded michael kay the way some do-- i think hes quite a decent play by play announcer actually, but maybin and beltran and flaherty and paul sometimes are really hard to listen to. ryan rucco is miserable as a fill in. david cone the only one i enjoy. maybe getting grumpy?

10 rbj   ~  Jun 27, 2022 8:32 pm

I give Maybin and Beltran considerable slack. Rookies at broadcasting.

11 Hank Waddles   ~  Jun 27, 2022 8:48 pm

I like Michael Kay, probably at least partly due to what I alluded to in the post above. Al Leiter and David Cone have always been my favorite analysts. Leiter would give so much insight into pitching, and Coney is just fun. I also like Flaherty. The others not so much. Paul O’Neil is okay, but I’m still bothered about his take the other day when they showed the conflict between Billy and Reggie in the Fenway dugout forty years ago. (He praised Billy for knowing that Reggie was the type of player who needed to be embarrassed.)

I don’t dislike Ma and Pa Kettle on radio, I’ve just come to accept that they’re going to miss some things. At least once a game John will go into his home run call for a ball that lands on the warning track, and more than a few times this year he’s declared a ball gone after it’s either been caught or hit the wall. And even though he’s never done television, he often announces as if his listeners see what he sees. “And there’s a pop-up…” and we’ll have no idea if it’s in the middle of the infield or headed to the stands.

But that’s just how is. I listen to games on SiriusXM if I’m driving around, and they always give the home town feed. Vin Scully isn’t out there anymore. Listening to the Tampa Bay announcers the other day, they let a full at bat go by without telling which Yankee was hitting. It’s a shame.

12 rbj   ~  Jun 27, 2022 9:04 pm

This is much better.

13 rbj   ~  Jun 27, 2022 9:11 pm

Mike Illitch had a very good Tigers team. World Series worthy. Starting pitching, offense, decent defense, but wjhen Todd Jones is your closer . . .

14 Shaun P.   ~  Jun 27, 2022 9:36 pm

[12] As I said, a lot of game left.

[9] Like rbj, I also give the broadcasting rookies a lot of slack. I have enjoyed both Maybin (more so) and Beltran (slightly less so). Kay is fine; I discovered WFAN broadcasting over the Internet for free in August 1999 after having moved to Boston and like Hank, I have a soft spot for Kay from then. And I enjoy Ryan Ruocco - I like the vibe he brings. Flaherty is solid and Coney is just the best. I would pay money for Fox etc to dump that useless piece of trash John Smoltz from calling the postseason and replace him with Cone. A fan can dream.

I have also come to admire John and Suzyn after years of being frustrated by them. They are far from being the objective greatest announcers but so what? They are the greatest at what they are - and as the dad of a teenage daughter who only listens to baseball when I am driving her someplace, I love that in her mind, the Yankees having a female radio analyst is just normal. So what if they thought Miguel Cairo at first was a godsend? And so many calls get missed? Bygones.

Lastly... I loved Paul O'Neill, baseball player. But I have grown a tired of him as an announcer. It's also really hard for me to separate his work in the booth from his political views, and I struggle to listen when he is on. It makes me sad.

15 Boatzilla   ~  Jun 27, 2022 9:36 pm

[0] Wow. Loved your opening piece, Hank. The vivid details and love story made it special.

[9]I like Beltran, a lot. He needs to work on the verbal tics "ya know" but he is a non-native English speaker, so I give him plenty of slack on that. Great voice and I feel he says a lot with few words.

Cam is OK, good insights, but he also needs to learn that less is more. I think he will, as rbj indicates.

Nice game. I kind of had the feeling they would find away to win this one.

16 RIYank   ~  Jun 28, 2022 4:33 am

[8] You were right.

I'm with Shaun -- I like listening to John and Suzyn, even though John is not so great at the actually-describing-the-game part of his job. And like rbi I'm also happy cutting the ex-player new guys slack, but... although I like the sound of Beltran's voice, I think he's not going to make it. Too many times he's just filling silence, with blank tautologies or homilies.
Although, hm. Does he really do that more than Suzyn does? Maybe not. So if Carlos hangs around a few years, maybe I'll find that tolerable and he'll just make me comfortable.

But Shaun, about Paulie's political views... I hate to ask, but, how do you feel about Mo???

17 RIYank   ~  Jun 28, 2022 6:46 am

Oops, my "rbj" got autocorrected to "rbi"!

18 Hank Waddles   ~  Jun 28, 2022 11:14 am

Good points about the rhythm needed for an analyst, and an understanding the play-by-play has to have room to do his job. I'd imagine that comes in time. I've noticed plenty of times when Maybin is making an observation, usually a good one, but doesn't pause for action on the field. He'll finish, then Kay will have to go back and clean things up: "That was a single to left for Judge, and it's 1-0 on Rizzo."

But I vividly remember that Bret Boone was in the booth for the 2003 ALCS, and he never had much to say. I wondered why he was even there. And then when his brother hit one of the biggest home runs in baseball history, Bret STILL had nothing to say. Not a word. Sure, he might've been a little jealous -- he was one of the best players in baseball (ahem, PEDs) and his little brother had just homered his team into the World Series.

Anyway, it'll be interesting to watch these new guys figure all this out.

Oh, one thing about Beltrán -- did anyone else find it interesting that he admitted his championship with the Astros was tainted?

19 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jun 28, 2022 11:30 am

Thanks for that, Hank, that was lovely!

And Mazel Tov to you and the Missus!

20 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jun 28, 2022 11:33 am

[11] Agreed one hundred percent about Leiter and Coney. Especially Al, for some reason. I just loved his personality. I bit goofier, warmer, more playful than Coney (whose sense of humor tends more wry, which I like as well).

I can't put my finger on it but Leiter to me seemed the perfect balance of all the things I value in color guy (or gal).

21 RIYank   ~  Jun 28, 2022 6:15 pm

Hey why isn't Taillon starting? I missed the beginning.

22 Hank Waddles   ~  Jun 28, 2022 6:39 pm

No reason for concern — they’re just pushing the rotation back to give everyone an extra day.

23 rbj   ~  Jun 28, 2022 6:43 pm

Trevino batting fifth. Huh.

24 RIYank   ~  Jun 28, 2022 6:56 pm

I'm going to the day game tomorrow. I guess I'm indifferent between Taillon and Sevy.

25 RIYank   ~  Jun 28, 2022 6:56 pm

Oh, and I'm hoping Gleyber is back -- the word is *maybe* tomorrow, definitely playing in Houston.

26 Ara Just Fair   ~  Jun 28, 2022 7:00 pm

Whoo-hoo. I love a new Yankees thread. Thanks, Hank. Nice write-up. I always imagined you as a wise old man. You've only got me by 5 years! lol...
Go Yankees!

27 Ara Just Fair   ~  Jun 28, 2022 7:37 pm

Also, fuck altuve.

28 RIYank   ~  Jun 28, 2022 8:44 pm

This is getting tense.

29 RIYank   ~  Jun 28, 2022 8:46 pm

It's so nice to have a great infield.

30 Hank Waddles   ~  Jun 28, 2022 9:12 pm

Well, that was more interesting than I’d have liked. But it’s a win!

31 Hank Waddles   ~  Jun 28, 2022 9:14 pm

Michael is wondering about the earned run charged to Holmes, but I think there must be something quirky about catcher’s interference. The other night Stanton got an RBI when he got that catcher’s interference with the bases loaded, which seemed wrong to me.

32 Hank Waddles   ~  Jun 28, 2022 9:18 pm

Now they’re saying it was unearned. Good for Holmes’s ERA, but bad for that long streak of games without allowing an unearned run. Kind of a tough way for that to end.

33 RIYank   ~  Jun 29, 2022 7:27 am

Oh, it's true, the batter does get an RBI when a run scores on CI.


But definitely not an Earned Run -- runs scored because of errors are never earned.

34 rbj   ~  Jun 29, 2022 7:36 am

What’s with all the CIs these days? David Pinto muses that the players are taller and thus have longer reaches, while catchers set up closer.


35 Hank Waddles   ~  Jun 29, 2022 9:24 am

[33] That’s what’s weird to me. Players don’t get RBIs for runs scored on errors either, but Stanton did.

36 Springdeeds   ~  Jun 29, 2022 11:15 am

Headed to the game by myself today-- decided last minute to get cheapest ticket I could and walk around the stadium.

37 rbj   ~  Jun 29, 2022 2:33 pm

Yay, non solo homers.

38 Hank Waddles   ~  Jun 29, 2022 6:09 pm

Here's something interesting. The Yankees aren't playing well lately, and yet they keep winning. I don't mention this as cause for concern, but we've seen starters with bad outings (Taillon has an ERA of around six over his last six starts, but he's 3-0 in those starts), Judge has been slumping (but beat the Astros twice), and Stanton only hits home runs (but he's hitting them at opportune times). I guess my point is this -- analytics be damned, this team just wins. When I saw that they were down 3-0 in the first inning, I wasn't concerned in the least. This team just wins.

39 RIYank   ~  Jun 29, 2022 8:02 pm

[36] Hey I was there too! With my brother. I wonder if we saw each other.

40 rbj   ~  Jun 30, 2022 5:16 pm

Sound seems a bit off tonight.

41 rbj   ~  Jun 30, 2022 6:23 pm


42 Hank Waddles   ~  Jun 30, 2022 7:49 pm

Really wonder why he didn't send Hicks to the plate instead of to first, or maybe use Carpenter. Seems like the obvious choice with a right-hander on the mound and the short porch in right. Oh, well.

43 BobbyB   ~  Jul 1, 2022 5:56 pm

It’s getting tiring not knowing where you can watch the game -tonight, you can’t.

44 rbj   ~  Jul 1, 2022 6:20 pm

Rain delay, big weather blob over Cleveland. I’d postpone and do a DH tomorrow.

45 rbj   ~  Jul 1, 2022 6:43 pm

And that’s what they’ve done.

46 rbj   ~  Jul 2, 2022 11:44 am

Double crap.

47 rbj   ~  Jul 2, 2022 12:20 pm

Much better

48 rbj   ~  Jul 2, 2022 1:11 pm

I approve of two out RISP hits.

49 rbj   ~  Jul 2, 2022 1:32 pm

Double digits

50 rbj   ~  Jul 2, 2022 1:46 pm

And we’ll need the big lead.

51 rbj   ~  Jul 2, 2022 2:29 pm

Belly to belly

52 rbj   ~  Jul 2, 2022 7:19 pm

Ah, insurance.

53 rbj   ~  Jul 2, 2022 8:21 pm

Double header sweep.

54 RIYank   ~  Jul 3, 2022 6:10 am

Thanks for carrying the entire double-header alone yesterday, rbj.
I'm deep in Red Sox Nation this weekend, on Cape Cod, and missed the games, but I just enjoyed both recaps and also the recap of the Sox in Wrigley.

55 rbj   ~  Jul 3, 2022 12:44 pm

Why is Judge sitting with an off day tomorrow?

Why are the Yankees off on Memorial Day and Fourth of July? Weird scheduling.

56 rbj   ~  Jul 3, 2022 3:13 pm

Hooray bad base running.

57 rbj   ~  Jul 3, 2022 3:25 pm

Boo bad throwing.

58 rbj   ~  Jul 3, 2022 3:28 pm

Yay bad catching

59 rbj   ~  Jul 3, 2022 3:38 pm


60 RIYank   ~  Jul 4, 2022 7:08 pm

So, one fun thing about Cape Cod was: Cape Cod League baseball!
I saw a few innings of the Falmouth Commodores at the Cotuit Kettleers.
Highly recommended!

61 RIYank   ~  Jul 5, 2022 6:24 pm

Well, Jameson is dealing.

62 RIYank   ~  Jul 5, 2022 6:50 pm

Was dealing.

63 rbj   ~  Jul 5, 2022 7:32 pm

Definitely not good.

64 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Jul 5, 2022 7:42 pm

[0] Late to this but that was a great read as usual, Hank. Thanks!
This Pirates stadium really is a gem, and really highlights what an airport hangar the New YS is (at least on tv, I ain't been there yet..)

65 Boatzilla   ~  Jul 5, 2022 8:53 pm

Chapman's in. That mean's they've given up on winning this game.

66 Boatzilla   ~  Jul 5, 2022 8:54 pm

[64] Definitely not an airline hanger, more like a Monument of Greed with expensive bad food.

67 RIYank   ~  Jul 6, 2022 6:20 pm

[66] Some of it is actually expensive good food!
But all stadiums have expensive food. And, anyplace to get food in NY is gonna cost more than any parallel place to get food in Pittsburgh.
The only thing I really don't like about YS is the heavy catering to the super expensive seats. (And when I went, those seats were practically the only empty ones in the place -- I assume Goldman Sachs didn't have any clients to entertain that afternoon.)

68 rbj   ~  Jul 6, 2022 6:49 pm

Possible 8:15 start.

69 RIYank   ~  Jul 6, 2022 7:07 pm

I'm watching the Sox-Rays in the mean time. Boston brought up a sizzling hot prospect, Brayan Bello, for the start. But he gave up four runs in the first three innings. I feel in the long run his ERA will be better than 12 though.

70 RIYank   ~  Jul 6, 2022 7:32 pm


71 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Jul 6, 2022 7:44 pm

Those Gallo and Kiner-Falefa at bats were primo garbage..

72 RIYank   ~  Jul 6, 2022 7:57 pm

Indeed, our performance with RISP has been pretty abysmal.

73 rbj   ~  Jul 6, 2022 8:29 pm


74 RIYank   ~  Jul 6, 2022 8:29 pm

Plays are working for the Yankees! The hit-and-run, and then the Pirates' "infield in" strategy worked great for DJ!

75 RIYank   ~  Jul 6, 2022 8:31 pm

Crud. I guess DJ though Reynolds had a chance at the ball.

76 rbj   ~  Jul 6, 2022 8:56 pm

Huh, Gallo has just earned another month of playing time.

77 RIYank   ~  Jul 6, 2022 8:59 pm

Well, good on 'im.

78 RIYank   ~  Jul 7, 2022 4:59 am

Good trade.
I don't know who we got for Manny B, but it was a good trade.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver