[Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac]
Over at Grantland, Ben Lindbergh weighs in on Masahiro Tanaka’s first start and concludes:
Although on the surface the box score seems like a confirmation of Yankees fans’ worst fears, it’s possible to put a positive spin on Tanaka’s inaugural outing in 2015. Aside from his voluntary renouncement of the four-seamer, Tanaka’s stuff seemed almost the same as it was before we were worried about his elbow. He stills throws hard enough to get swings and misses with his off-speed stuff. And while Tanaka doesn’t have a great sinker, his forsaken four-seamer was worse. It’s probably too much to hope for addition by subtraction, but if Tanaka’s partially torn ligament doesn’t hurt his command,1 the new Tanaka should be a useful starter (if not an ace) for as long as his ligament lasts, even if he nibbles too much to go deep into games. Tanaka has already defied one of our fears — and his own — by avoiding surgery and surviving the spring UCL reaping so far. Now he has a chance to chart the non-fastballs frontier.
[Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg]
“You know,” he says, “this team… it all flows from me. I’ve got to keep it all going. I’m the straw that stirs the drink. It all comes back to me. Maybe I should say me and Munson… but really he doesn’t enter into it. He’s being so damned insecure about the whole thing. I’ve overheard him talking about me.”
“You mean he talks loud to make sure you can hear him?”
“Yeah. Like that. I’ll hear him telling some other writer that he wants it to be known that he’s the captain of the team, that he knows what’s best. Stuff like that. And when anybody knocks me, he’ll laugh real loud so I can hear it….”
Reggie looks down at Ford’s sweater. Perhaps he is wishing the present Yankees could have something like Ford and Martin and Mantle had. Community. Brotherhood. Real friendship.
“Maybe you ought to just go to Munson,” I suggest. “Talk it out right up front.”
But Reggie shakes his head.
“No,” he says. “He’s not ready for it yet. He doesn’t even know he feels like he does. He isn’t aware of it yet.”
“You mean if you went and tried to be open and honest about he’d deny it.”
Jackson nods his head. “Yeah. He’d say, ‘What? I’m not jealous. There aren’t any problems.’ He’d try to cover up, but he ought to know he can’t cover up anything from me. Man, there is no way…. I can read these guys. No, I’ll wait, and eventually he’ll be whipped. There will come that moment when he really knows I’ve won… and he’ll want to hear everything is all right… and then I’ll go to him, and we will get it right.
Reggie makes a fist, and clutches Ford’s sweater: “You see, that is the way I am. I’m a leader, and I can’t lie down… but ‘leader’ isn’t the right word… it’s a matter of PRESENCE… Let me put it this way: no team I am on will ever be humiliated the way the Yankees were by the Reds in the World Series! That’s why Munson can’t intimidate me. Nobody can. You can’t psych me. You take me one-on-one in the pit, and I’ll whip you…. It’s an attitude, really… It’s the way the manager looks at you when you come into the room… It’s the way the coaches and the batboy look at you… The way your name trickles through the crowd when you wait in the batter’s box… It’s all that… The way the Yankees were humiliated by the Reds? You think that doesn’t bother Billy Martin? He’s no fool. He’s smart. Very smart. And he’s a winner. Munson’s tough, too. He is a winner, but there is just nobody who can do for a club what I can do… There is nobody who can put meat in the seats [fans in the stands] the way I can. That’s just the way it is… Munson thinks he can be the straw that stirs the drink, but he can only stir it bad.”
Head on over to the Village Voice and check out this brief history of the Mayor’s Trophy game by none other than our chum, Diane Firstman:
The Mayor’s Trophy Game actually dates back to 1946, when the New York Giants and Yankees agreed to play a best-of-three exhibition during the season to benefit sandlot baseball programs, with the winner to receive a trophy from Mayor William O’Dwyer. The best-of-three format lasted one more year before switching to a single-game event each season, with the Yankees opposing either the Giants or Dodgers until both teams left for the West Coast after 1957.
The series was revived in 1963, the Mets’ second year of operation. The Yankees, coming off their thirteenth World Series appearance in sixteen years and twentieth championship since 1923, were the most successful professional franchise in American sports, playing in one of the most recognizable stadiums in the world. They meant business on the field, and their fans expected nothing less than a pennant each year.
The Mets, on the other hand, were lovably inept. As an expansion team in their second season, their roster was littered with other teams’ castoffs and players either way past their prime or never having experienced one. The loss of the Giants and Dodgers left a huge hole in the New York baseball scene, and for a certain segment of fans, the Mets were the logical replacement to root for. Their fans skewed younger, and this “New Breed” of New York baseball fan developed the tradition of bringing homemade banners fashioned from bedsheets to the Mets’ first home stadium, the Polo Grounds.
[Photo Credit: Ray Stubblebine/AP]
PEOPLE HATE HIM. Boy, wow, do they hate him. At first they loved him, and then they were confused by him, and then they were irritated by him, and now they straight-up loathe.
More often than not, the mention of Alex Rodriguez in polite company triggers one of a spectrum of deeply conditioned responses. Pained ugh. Guttural groan. Exaggerated eye roll. Hundreds of baseball players have been caught using steroids, including some of the game’s best-known and most beloved names, but somehow Alex Rodriguez has become the steroid era’s Lord Voldemort. Ryan Braun? Won an MVP, got busted for steroids, twice, called the tester an anti-Semite, lied his testes off, made chumps of his best friends, including Aaron Rodgers, and still doesn’t inspire a scintilla of the ill will that follows Rodriguez around like a nuclear cloud.
Schadenfreude is part of the reason. Rodriguez was born with an embarrassment of physical riches — power, vision, energy, size, speed — and seemed designed specifically for immortality, as if assembled in some celestial workshop by baseball angels and the artists at Marvel Comics. He then had the annoyingly immense good fortune to come of age at the exact moment baseball contracts were primed to explode. Months after he was old enough to rent a car he signed a contract worth $252 million. Seven years later: another deal worth $275 million. Add to that windfall another $500 million worth of handsome, and people were just waiting. Fans will root for a megarich athlete who’s also ridiculously handsome (body by Rodin, skin like melted butterscotch, eyes of weaponized hazelness), but the minute he stumbles, just ask Tom Brady, they’ll stand in line to kick him in his spongy balls.
Rodriguez’s defenders (and employees) are quick to say: Sheesh, the guy didn’t murder anybody. But he did. A-Rod murdered Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod brutally kidnapped and replaced the virginal, bilingual, biracial boy wonder, the chubby-cheeked phenom with nothing but upside. A-Rod killed the radio star, and his fall from grace disrupted the whole symbology and mythopoesis of what it means to be a superhero athlete in modern America.
[Image Via: Mark Murphy]
At some point this year, whether in spring training, on opening day or later in the regular season, Refsnyder is likely to be introduced to Yankees fans for the first time, and some of them may look at him with the same bemused expression that the players and coaches at those California showcases wore.
Amy Mihyang Ginther with her birth mother, Park Jeong-hee, at Park’s home in Gimcheon, South Korea.Why a Generation of Adoptees Is Returning to South KoreaJAN. 14, 2015
Refsnyder is a top Yankees prospect, a gifted hitter who has been invited to his first major league spring training this month and hopes to soon become the team’s starting second baseman. He was adopted from South Korea by parents with German and Irish backgrounds, as was his older sister, Elizabeth, who was a talented softball player in college.
While you’re at it, check out Mike Axisa’s recent appreciation of Willie Randolph.
[Photo Credit: Dan Farrell/N.Y. Daily News]
[Photo Credit: Kathy Willens/AP]
David Robertson has been a good Yankee. Aesthetically appealing plus a good performer.
Now, do they pony-up big dollars to give him a 3 or 4 year deal?
A friend of mine sent me the following, his informal guide to baseball jersey numbers.
1. Tall, lanky, slick fielding outfielder ..left-handed hitting.. Good speed but a bad base stealer. Or, a light hitting shortstop. (not a second baseman).
2. Under 5 foot 10, middle infielder that plays third on occasion; switch-hitting. Plays successfully for multiple teams never eclipsing 90 games in one season.
3. Outfielder, good glove in the early part of their career. Most likely a Left-handed thrower, so an average arm at best.
4. Third baseman or shortstop, fairly light hitting. One or two gold gloves in the course of a double-digit year career.
5. Third baseman, not a shortstop. Hits over .275
6. Weak hitter.Second baseman. Over 6 foot but under 180 pounds. Right-handed hitter only.
7. Great swing, but an underachiever. Two or three disproportionately great years, then at 275 hitter with 70 or so RBIs per year.
8. A catcher, absolutely no foot speed. right-handed hitter. Calls a good game.
9. hard-hitting hard driving red ass.
10. A versatile number… could be a shortstop or a first baseman, either way a non-power hitter. This should’ve been Derek Jeter’s number.
11. Tall, thin, switch hitter, 227 lifetime hitter with less than 20 home runs lifetime.
12. Another versatile number..most likely an overweight back up first baseman who has multiple years of double-digit home runs but never hits above 264.
13. Third baseman, rocket arm, multiple teams. Right hand hitter. Hits in the clutch.
14. Right-handed hitter and Batter.. Left fielder, possibly a first baseman. Slow footed. Most likely a red ass.. Low on home runs relative to high RBI total
15. Catcher, right-handed hitter. Multiple gold gloves.
16 Right-handed pitcher. Ace of the staff.
17, left-handed outfielder. Decent speed. Hits long home runs but not many of them. Good arm, most likely a platoon player.
18. Tall thin utility player either infield or outfield, definitely a right-handed hitter. Multiple teams.
19. Versatile; could be a left-handed hitting outfielder that hits in the 290s or a left-handed pitcher who hides the ball well.
20. First base, solid Fielder, 90 RBIs per. 25 home runs plus over multiple seasons.
21. Outfielder, Throws right with a cannon.. bats right. Or, outfielder, hits left, 104 games per year in the outfield 41 as a pinch hitter 19 home runs 58 RBIs.
22. Leadoff hitter or, center fielder, switch hitter. Fast, base stealer. Weak arm but excellent glove .
23. Team leader, left-handed hitter, right field or first base.
24. Right-handed hitter, outfielder, strikes out a lot. Big career numbers. Good glove good arm low batting average.
25. Divergent–either a left-handed pitcher that throws soft or right-handed DH.
26. Left-handed relief. great breaking stuff, maybe a left hand specialist. Does not break 88 on the gun.
27. Platoon outfielder, right-handed hitter. 271 average 69 RBI 18 home runs.
28. Right-handed hitting right-handed throwing first baseman. Overweight. Long solid career.
29. Left-handed starting pitcher, throws hard in the early part of his career, reemerges as a more complete pitcher. 15 years in the league.
30. Hard one to pin down position wise. Definitely a position player however. Most likely a right-handed hitter and thrower.
31. Outfielder, big arm, right-handed. Above-average home run hitter with big RBI numbers..
32. Power hitter, left-hand hitting right-hand throwing. Plays first base because there’s no other place for him. Two all-star teams. Good clubhouse guy.
33. Power hitter. Outfielder. Possibly a right-handed pitcher.
34. Someone who throws “country hardball”; right-hander. Either starter or reliever.
35. Backup catcher. Defensive replacement type. 226 batting average 14 year career.
36. Overweight right-handed pitcher.
37. Tall lanky fire-balling left-handed pitcher.
38. Right-handed middle relief pitcher.
39. Side arming right-handed closer over 6 foot four.
40. Right-handed starting pitcher who wears a mustache.
41. Hard-nosed player, outfielder or right-handed pitcher.
42. Jackie Robinson.
43. Ed Whitson.
44. I think you know the answer.
45. Bob Gibson.
46. Lumbering pitcher. Hard Thrower. Closer.
47. Lanky left-handed reliever. Throws over-the-top. 8th inning guy.
48. Similar to 36 but older and more overweight.
49. Left-handed fireball, ace of the staff. However, if he’s a righty, he’s a knuckleballer.
50. Big tall right-handed really pitcher from the south. Wears glasses. Bad attitude.
All right, I’ll settle for one more inside-out line-drive double to deep right —the Jeter Blue Plate that’s been missing of late. It still astounds me—Derek’s brilliance as a hitter has always felt fresh and surprising, for some reason—and here it comes one more time. The pitch is low and inside, and Derek, pulling back his upper body and tucking in his chin as if avoiding an arriving No. 4 train, now jerks his left elbow and shoulder sharply upward while slashing powerfully down at and through the ball, with his hands almost grazing his belt. His right knee drops and twists, and the swing, opening now, carries his body into a golf-like lift and turn that sweetly frees him while he watches the diminishing dot of the ball headed toward the right corner. What! You can’t hit like that—nobody can! Do it again, Derek.
It’s sobering to think that in just a few weeks Derek Jeter won’t be doing any of this anymore, and will be reduced to picturing himself in action, just the way the rest of us do. On the other hand, he’s never complained, and he’s been so good at baseball that he’ll probably be really good at this part of it too.
I wonder what the Yanks can expect to get out of their two veterans. I like ‘em both. But who knows how often they’ll be on the field this summer.
[Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/N.Y. Daily News]
ESPN has an interesting article on their New York blog about the Yanks’ increasing tendency to employ the infield shift, something that has Joe Madden and the Tampa Bay Rays particularly worried…
[Photo Credit: Flying Squid Media]
Tino Martinez over Roy White…or any number of other Yankees? Welp, that’s show biz for you.
This is one of those slow news day, hot-talk-radio items, that doesn’t really interest me, but since it’s going around, figure I’d post it:
In his new autobiography, “The Closer,” Rivera writes about how much affection he has for his former teammate, but adds, “This guy has so much talent I don’t know where to start… There is no doubt that he is a Hall-of-Fame caliber (player). It’s just a question of whether he finds the drive you need to get there. I don’t think Robby burns to be the best… You don’t see that red-hot passion in him that you see in most elite players.”
As for his favorite second baseman, Rivera says Red Sox Dustin Pedroia is “at the top of the list” of players he admires, adding: “Nobody plays harder, gives more, wants to win more. He comes at you hard for twenty-seven outs. It’s a special thing to see.”
He later writes, “If I have to win one game, I’d have a hard time taking anybody over Dustin Pedroia as my second baseman.”