Results tagged ‘ Baseball Writers' Association of America ’

AL reliever award to be named after Rivera

Mariano Rivera’s legacy received some more added cache Wednesday with the announcement by Major League Baseball that from now on the American League Relief Pitcher of the Year Award will be named after him. The corresponding award in the National League will be named after Trevor Hoffman, who was the first reliever to reach the 600-save plateau and whose record of 601 Mo obliterated by running the number to 652.

The new award replaces the Delivery Man of the Year Award that was presented to one reliever every year instead of one in each league as was done previously with the Rolaids Fireman of the Year Award. Rivera won the Delivery Man of the Year Award three times and the Fireman of the Year Award five times. Hoffman was a two-time Rolaids Award winner.

Those awards were based strictly on statistics. The Rivera and Hoffman Awards will be a vote of nine former relief artists. In addition to Rivera and Hoffman, the other committee members will be Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage as well as former closers Lee Smith, John Franco and Billy Wagner.

The committee members may vote up to three pitchers in order of preference with a tabulation system awarding five points for first place, three for second and one for third, similar to that of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year Awards.

Other MLB awards named after former players include the Henry Aaron Award for offensive performance and the Edgar Martinez Award for the top designated hitter in the AL. The BBWAA’s Most Valuable Player Award trophy is named for former commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. The writers’ pitching award is named for Cy Young.

“Both Mariano and Trevor represented our sport magnificently on and off the mound and earned the universal respect of our fans in their legendary careers,” commissioner Bud Selig said. “I believe it is important to redefine an existing award in honor of their contributions to baseball, and I am delighted that many of the most respected relievers decorated relievers in history will select the winners.”

Tanaka honored as top rookie with Dawson Award

Masahiro Tanaka, the Japanese pitcher that the Yankees signed to a seven-year contract during the off-season, has already made a strong impression. The righthander who has earned a spot in the club’s 2014 rotation was named this year’s recipient of the James P. Dawson Award as the outstanding rookie in Yankees camp.

The award has been presented annually since 1956, three years after Dawson, a 45-year veteran of the New York Times, died while covering spring training at the age of 57. Dawson joined the Times as a copy boy in 1908 when he was 12 years old. The award is voted upon each year by beat writers who cover the Yankees.

Tanaka, 25, had a 2-0 record with a 2.14 ERA (21.0IP, 5ER) in five exhibition appearances, including three starts, that totaled 21 innings and led the squad with 26 strikeouts. He allowed 15 hits and three walks. Last year Tanaka was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA (212.0IP, 30ER, 183K) and 183 strikeouts in 28 appearances (27 starts) covering 212 innings with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan. Tanaka was signed Jan. 22 by the Yankees via the posting system from the Golden Eagles to a seven-year deal.

Two former winners of the honor, Tony Kubek in 1957 and Tom Tresh in 1962, went on to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. What about Derek Jeter, the 1996 Jackie Robison Rookie of the Year Award winner? He lost out that year to another foreign-born right-handed pitcher, Mark Hutton of Australia.

The Dawson Award first was presented to outfielder Norm Siebern by manager Casey Stengel in St. Petersburg, Fla., at the conclusion of spring training in 1956. In conjunction with the award, Tanaka will receive a watch from Betteridge Jewelers.

Yankees keep their manager for four more years

Well, that was quick. All things considered, the Yankees were fortunate to keep their manager in place in a relatively quick period of time during an off-season that promises to be busy. Surely a fourth year on the contract extension was a deal doer. Other clubs – notably the Cubs, Nationals and Reds – as well as a television network or two may have had designs on Girardi, but four-year contracts at seven figures per annum are hard to come by, so the Yankees were able to retain the guy they wanted to continue running the club before his current pact was to expire Oct. 31.

Girardi was deserving of the extension. Even with the World Series championship of 2009 at the top of his accomplishments, Joe’s effort with the 2013 Yankees may have been his best work. It certainly was his most arduous. With the abundance of injuries the Yankees had to deal with, just running out a healthy lineup every day was an ordeal for the manager.

Much was made in the media of Girardi’s Illinois background and ties to the Cubs as a fan while growing up and as a catcher as a player being a temptation for him to go off to Wrigley Field. On a conference phone hookup Wednesday, Girardi emphasized it was a family decision. Mom and the kids were A-OK with the Yankees and New York. The Girardi’s have made solid roots in Westchester County.

And let us not forget that Joe Girardi despite all the Cubs history has become a part of Yankees history as well. He fits in very well come Old Timers’ Day as a player who was part of three World Series championship clubs as a player (1996, ’98-99) as well as his one as a manager. He pointed out that in his conversation with the family that getting to manage in the same place for 10 years, which would be the case if Girardi fulfills the whole contract, is pretty special.

Over his first six years as Yankees manager the club has led the major leagues in home runs (1,236), ranked second in runs (4,884) and seventh in hits (8,836) and batting average (.265). The Yankees have also committed the fewest errors (484) over the span with a majors-best .986 team fielding percentage.

In 2013, Girardi did a good job getting the beaten-up Yankees to an 85-77 finish and third-place tie in the American League East with the Orioles. He got his 500th win as Yankees manager May 10 at Kansas City. The club made just 69 errors in 2013, the third-lowest total in the majors and tying the franchise record for fewest in a season (also 2010). Their .988 fielding percentage set a franchise record, fractionally better than their .988 mark in 2010.

In 2009, Girardi became the ninth Yankees manager to win a World Series, and just the fourth to do so in his postseason managerial debut, joining Casey Stengel (1949), Ralph Houk (1961) and Bob Lemon (1978). Girardi also joined Houk and Billy Martin as the only men to win World Series for the club as players and managers.

Girardi was named the 32nd manager of the Yankees Oct. 30, 2007, becoming the 17th Yankees manager to have played for the club and the fourth former Yankees catcher to skipper the team, joining Bill Dickey, Houk and Yogi Berra.

In 2006, Girardi was named National League Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America after guiding the Marlins to a 78-84 record in his first season as a big league manager. With the award, he matched the Astros’ Hal Lanier (1986) and the Giants’ Dusty Baker (1993) as the only managers to win the honor in their managerial debuts.

In 15 major-league seasons as a catcher, Girardi played for the Cubs (1989-92 and 2000-02), Rockies (1993-95), Yankees (1996-99) and Cardinals (2003) and batted .267 with 454 runs, 186 doubles, 36 home runs and 422 RBI in 4,127 at-bats over 1,277 games. He had a .991 career fielding percentage and threw out 27.6 percent of potential base stealers. Girardi was named to the National League All-Star team in 2000 with the Cubs.

With the Yankees, Girardi was behind the plate for Dwight Gooden’s hitter May 14, 1996 against the Mariners and David Cone’s perfect game July 18, 1999 against the Expos. In World Series Game 6 against the Braves in 1996, Girardi tripled in the game’s first run in a three-run third inning off Greg Maddux as the Yankees clinched their first championship since 1978 with a 3-2 victory. He has a .566 winning percentage with a 642-492 record as a manager and is 21-17 in postseason play.

Putting Ichiro’s feat in perspective

There is no question that what Ichiro Suzuki has done is an amazing accomplishment. Banging out 4,000 hits in a professional baseball career is nothing short of astounding. Yet in his case some perspective is in order. Those who are already comparing Ichiro to the major leagues’ only 4,000-hit batters, Pete Rose and Ty Cobb, are not entirely accurate.

Suzuki’s 4,000 hits are a combined total, that of 2,722 here in the major leagues and 1,278 in Japan’s Pacific League. That is why his achievement is more in line with Henry Aaron and Stan Musial than with Rose and Cobb, who surpassed 4,000 hits entirely in the majors, Rose with 4,256 and Cobb with 4,189.

Aaron and Musial also had more than 4,000 hits if you count what they did in the minor leagues. Aaron had 3,771 career hits. Add his 324 hits in the minors and you get 4,095 (and that’s not counting what he had in the Negro Leagues, a number no one is quite sure of). Musial had 3,630 career hits. Add his 371 hits in the minors and you get 4,001.

Like it or not, Ichiro falls into their category.

Why? All he has to do is look at his American League Rookie of the Year trophy for the answer. If he was considered a rookie when he broke into the majors with the Mariners in 2001, then the statistics Suzuki piled up in Japan were not considered equal to the major-league standard. That is the opinion of Major League Baseball.

You can argue left and right about whether that is fair or not, but the fact is that if Ichiro was considered a rookie in 2001 then the hits he had in Japan are akin to what minor league records are in North America.

This issue was first broached in 1995 when Dodgers pitcher Hideo Nomo began the migration of Asian players to the majors. As the secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and responsible for conducting the annual awards voting, I contacted the commissioner’s office for a clarification of Nomo’s status. Did he or did he not qualify for the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award?

Yes, I was told, which was not good news for Chipper Jones that year. He finished second to Nomo in the voting. The reasoning used was that players who entered the majors from the Negro Leagues in the late 1940s and early 1950s were considered rookies in the majors even though they had been professionals playing in organized leagues, and that Asian players entering the majors fit the same profile. That opened the door for Kazuhiro Sasaki and Ichiro to also win Rookie of the Year honors in 2000 and 2001, respectively, the same way that Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe, Sam Jethroe, Willie Mays, Joe Black and Junior Gilliam won the award five decades earlier.

Not all the writers agreed with this viewpoint. Some still don’t. I remember how upset Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner was in 2003 when Hideki Matsui finished second to Royals shortstop Angel Berroa for AL Rookie of the Year. Two writers on that committee later admitted that they did not believe Matsui should have been considered a rookie and left him off their ballots.

Steinbrenner called me personally to complain about the balloting. I told him the two writers’ prejudice was expressed after the fact. How could I know when counting the ballots what was on the minds of every voter? I told him that if those writers had told me of their opinions beforehand I would have excused them from voting and replaced them. On Rookie of the Year ballots, it clearly states that players from foreign leagues who are in their first year of play in the American or National League are considered rookies.

What I am getting at is that it is a bit murky about how we should treat the statistics that Nomo, Ichiro and Matsui put up in Japan in comparison to their major-league achievements. In no way am I undermining what Ichiro has done. I have already written stories in two prominent Japanese publications that Ichiro is on a fast track to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

What Suzuki has done in the States is phenomenal — 10 straight seasons of 200 or more hits and the all-time record for hits in a single season (262 in 2004), breaking the previous mark of Hall of Fame first baseman George Sisler of the old St. Louis Browns that stood for 83 years. Despite that, Ichiro cannot fairly be placed in the same category with Rose and Cobb, but I would take being compared with the Hammer and the Man any day of the week.

RIP: Killer Kane, a baseball writer’s best friend

The Yankees lost one of the most colorful characters in their extended family last week with the passing of Bill “Killer” Kane at the age of 75. Kane served two separate terms as the Yankees’ travel director in the 1970s and ‘80s and in that role especially was a baseball writer’s best friend.

Killer told me that he probably was fired by principal owner George Steinbrenner more than any other Yankees employee – and rehired more often, too. Although they butted heads on a regular basis, Steinbrenner valued Kane’s devotion to the Yankees in a variety of positions. Kane, who was born in Brooklyn and was a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, got his start with the Yankees as a statistician for longtime broadcaster Mel Allen.

In those days, writers traveled on teams’ charter flights on a regular basis, a practice that ended in the early 1990s. I was the last newspaper reporter to travel regularly on the Yankees’ plane in 1991, four years after Kane’s last season as travel director.

I dealt with a lot of those guys over the years but none was better than Killer. On getaway games, the bus to the airport was always scheduled to leave 90 minutes after the last out. Writers with tight deadlines really had to scramble to make that bus. After hitting the clubhouse for postgame quotes, there would be a mad dash to get back to the pressbox to compose writethru stories and then pack up your gear to make the bus.

If a game had a wild finish that forced writers to do extra work, Killer always understood and would hold the bus. He would make up some excuse to the players about something being wrong with the carburetor or some other fib. The players did not take kindly to this and would they ever let us have it when we finally climbed onto the bus. But Killer had our backs, and we appreciated everything he did for us.

My favorite Killer story goes back to the Winter Meetings of 1984 at Houston. I was with the Bergen Record then, and my boss’ decision to cover the meetings was after the deadline to apply for credentials and hotel accommodations. I was able to get a credential but could not get into the main hotel and was booked in one several blocks away.

Killer and I turned out to be on the same commercial flight to Houston. He told me had a car and would drive me to my hotel. As we got into the downtown area, he said to me, “Never mind the other hotel; I’ll get you in the Grand Hyatt with us.”

After talking things over with the front desk, Killer gave me a key and told me I had a room for Saturday and Sunday but that I would have to move to another room Monday. I said okay and did not ask any questions. The only other thing he said to me was, “Whatever you do, don’t eat anything they may have spread out for that room.”

I was not quite sure what that meant until I got into the room. It was a luxury suite with two bedrooms, two baths and an enormous living room. On the coffee table in the main room was a spread of various fruits, vegetables and cheeses, plus several bottles of whiskey and a magnum of champagne. I called Killer’s room and told him they must have made a mistake at the front desk.

“It’s no mistake,” he said. “That’s George’s suite. But he’s not coming until Monday. By that time, I’ll have you in another room. Don’t sweat it.”

Steinbrenner was not a big fan of the Winter Meetings. He considered it an unnecessary junket and wanted nothing to do with the golf outings and other extracurricular activities that baseball executives took part in during the week-long meetings. The Yankees always had the smallest contingent at the meetings with George showing up for one or maybe two days to do business and then leave.

Saturday went well, but I was awakened Sunday morning with a phone call.

“Jack, it’s Killer,” Kane said. “You’ve got to get out of there. You got about an hour. George just landed at the airport.”

Fortunately, it was about an hour’s ride from Houston International to downtown, so I had time. I never took anything out of suitcase in the first place, so I just threw my laundry in the bag, packed up my writing gear and went down to the lobby. I could not find Killer anywhere, so I had a bellman put my stuff in layaway until I got another room. While I was tipping the bellman, Steinbrenner walked through the front door.

A close call, I thought, but everything was cool now. Then I realized that I had not erased the messages from my phone in the suite. I finally tracked Killer down and, sure enough, he had another room for me. I left the suite spotless, I told Killer.

“Yeah,” he said, “except George wants to know how come he keeps getting phone calls for O’Connell?”

Some years later when the New York Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America roasted Steinbrenner at our annual Pre-Dinner Dinner, I told that story and was glad to see that George enjoyed it. Killer wasn’t so sure. “Be careful, Jack,” he called out from the crowd, “I might get fired again.”

I paid my respects at the wake for him Sunday in the Tremont section of the Bronx where I gave him many lifts home after BBWAA events. He was one of a kind and it was my good fortune to have known him.

The Colonel and Lou to get their due

Two of the most important figures in the legendary history of the Yankees – Col. Jacob Ruppert and Lou Gehrig – will be the center of attention during the National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend.

Ruppert, the team’s owner from 1915 until his death in January 1939, will be inducted into the Hall in ceremonies Sunday with two other deceased electees by the Pre-Integration Era Veterans Committee, 19th century catcher Deacon White and early 20th century umpire Hank O’Day.

Gehrig, who was elected to the Hall of Fame by acclamation in 1939, will be among 12 former Hall of Famers who were never officially inducted in ceremonies at Cooperstown and will have their plaques read by current Hall of Famers as part of Sunday’s event at the Clark Sports Center.

On Saturday at Doubleday Field, the Hall will pay tribute to the late Blue Jays radio voice Tom Cheeks with the Ford C. Frick Award for major contributions to baseball broadcasting and longtime Philadelphia reporter and columnist Paul Hagen with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.

On the same program, the Hall will also honor Legendary Entertainment chief executive officer Thomas Tull, whose studio produced the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 as well as the honoring of Dr. Frank Jobe, who pioneered the surgical procedure now known as “Tommy John Surgery.” John, who pitched in 26 major-league seasons and was a two-time 20-game winner during his eight years with the Yankees, will also be featured.

Former Yankees Whitey Ford, Wade Boggs, Goose Gossage, Rickey Henderson, Phil Niekro and Gaylord Perry are among the 40 living Hall of Famers who will participate in both days’ ceremonies.

Ruppert, heir to one of New York’s most successful breweries and a four-term United States congressman, purchased the Yankees in January 1915 with partner Tillinghast L’Hommedieu Huston. Under Ruppert’s stewardship, the Yankees went from being an annual American League also-ran into an annual powerhouse. In his 24 seasons as owner, the Yankees won the first 10 of their 40 pennants and the first seven of their 27 World Series championships. It was Ruppert who put the pinstripes in the Yankees’ uniform, purchased the contract of Babe Ruth from the Red Sox and built the original Yankee Stadium.

Representing Ruppert, who never married, at the ceremony will be his great grandniece, Anne Vernon.

Click this link to view the Yankees on Demand special about Col. Jacob Ruppert.

Gehrig’s 15-season career with the Yankees occurred entirely during Ruppert’s ownership. Lou was forced into retirement because of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease that since has borne his name, in 1939.

Although Gehrig is usually listed in the Hall of Fame class of 1939, he was never formally inducted. George Sisler, Eddie Collins and Willie Keeler were inducted that summer when the museum first opened. Gehrig was still an active player and did not retire until season’s end.

At the Winter Meetings in December in Cincinnati, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voted to suggest that Gehrig be inducted immediately and not wait until the next election, which was not until 1942. The Hall accepted the BBWAA’s suggestion, but since the induction ceremonies had already taken place Gehrig was never officially inducted through any ceremony. He died in 1941.

Induction Weekend ceremonies were not held annually during the early 1940s because of travel restrictions during World War II. The Hall will rectify that this year by reading the plaques of Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby (who was elected by the BBWAA in 1942) and 10 Veterans Committee electees in 1945 none of whom was ever officially inducted.

Cal Ripken Jr., who broke Gehrig’s record of 2,130 consecutive games in 1995 and pushed it to 2,632 before ending it in 1998 in a game at Camden Yards against the Yankees, will read the Gehrig plaque.

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Col. Jacob Ruppert (2nd from left, standing) with Joe McCarthy, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri and (seated) Joe DiMaggio (AP Photo)

Hall of Fame board vice chairman Joe Morgan will read the plaque of his fellow second baseman, Hornsby.

Handling the plaque-reading duties for the other Hall of Famers will be Carlton Fisk for Roger Bresnahan, Orlando Cepeda for Dan Brouthers, Bert Blyleven for Fred Clarke, Wade Boggs for Jimmy Collins, Billy Williams for Ed Delahanty, Jim Rice for Hugh Duffy, Ozzie Smith for Hughie Jennings, Andre Dawson for Mike “King” Kelly, Tony Gwynn for Jim O’Rourke and Tommy Lasorda for Wilbert Robinson.

Prior to Saturday’s Awards Presentation on the stage at Doubleday Field, the Hall will honor the 75th anniversary of Abbott & Costello’s Who’s On First? routine and the 125th anniversary of Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s poem Casey at the Bat at a special 3:30 p.m. pre-show program. A live performance of Who’s On First? by Gil “Bud” Palmer and Lou Sciara, noted for their portrayal of the classic comedy duo, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, will be followed by Hall of Fame director of research Tim Wiles’ recitation of Casey At The Bat. Gates open at 3 p.m. and admission is free.

After the Awards Presentation, the fourth annual Hall of Fame Parade of Legends will feature the Hall of Famers riding down Main Street in trucks provided by the Ford Motor Company en route to a private reception at the Museum.

MLB Network will televise the Awards Presentation at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, July 28 prior to the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, which will be cablecast live on MLB Network beginning at 1:30 p.m. Greg Amsinger and 2004 J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Peter Gammons will be the co-hosts.

DL bug finally reaches Yanks’ bullpen

The bullpen had been the one area of the Yankees’ roster unstained by injury in the first month of the season. That situation has changed.

The Yankees placed righthander Joba Chamberlain on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 28, because of a right oblique strain. They called up righthander Preston Claiborne from Triple A Scranton where he had three saves in three opportunities with a 3.48 ERA and 10 strikeouts in eight relief appearances totaling 10 1/3 innings. To create room on the 40-man roster, the Yankees designated righthander Cody Eppley for assignment.

In addition, David Robertson is also ailing with soreness in the area behind his left knee. The righthander was not available for Friday night’s opener of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium against the Athletics.

Without Chamberlain and Robertson, Yankees manager Joe Girardi will have to maneuver his bullpen differently in the late innings. Even relying on matchups won’t help much considering that Claiborne, recent call-up Vidal Nuno and Adam Warren have limited experience. Girardi said he may have to rely on veteran Shawn Kelley more in late-inning spots.

Friday night marked the 1,000th managerial game over seven seasons for Girardi, who had a 574-425 (.575) overall record – 496-341 (.593) in 837 games in six seasons with the Yankees (2008-present) and 78-84 (.481) in one season with the Marlins (2006) when he was received the National League Manager of the Year Award from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Regardless of Friday night’s outcome, Girardi will have the best winning percentage among all managers with at least 1,000 games at the helm since Hall of Famer Earl Weaver compiled a 1,480-1,060 (.583) mark over a 17-year managerial career (1968-82 and ‘85-86), all with the Orioles. Among active managers, Girardi ranks second in winning percentage behind the Rockies’ Walt Weiss (17-11, .607), who is in his first season as a skipper, and ahead of the Nationals’ Davey Johnson (1,301-1,009, .563).

Friday night was also an anniversary for Robinson Cano, who made his major-league debut on this date eight years ago. The Elias Sports Bureau reports that Cano has more career hits (1,495) for the Yankees than any other player in franchise history through his first eight calendar years in the big leagues. Cano has played more games (1,241) with the Yanks than the other 12 position players on their active roster combined (1,074).

Baylor named to Colorado Sports Hall of Fame

Former Yankees outfielder and designated hitter Don Baylor, now the hitting coach for the Diamondbacks, was not at the series finale Thursday night at Yankee Stadium because he was in Denver to be inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in a banquet at the Denver Marriott City Center.

Stan Williams, who pitched for the Yankees and served them as a pitching coach, was also part of the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013 along with Steve Atwater (football), Adam Foote (hockey), Don Cockroft (football) and Steve Jones (golf).

Baylor, 63, was named the first manager in Rockies history Oct. 27, 1992 and posted a 440-469 (.484) record over six seasons. In 1995, he earned National League Manager of the Year honors from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America after leading Colorado to its first postseason berth in franchise history as the NL wild card.

Baylor spent three seasons (1983-85) with the Yankees during a 19-year career in the majors that included an American League Most Valuable Player performance in 1979 with the Angels.

Ichiro enjoys support from Yankees fans

Considering what the American League East standings look like, the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry could use a little boost. It got it Friday night with Ichiro Suzuki’s first game at Yankee Stadium wearing the pinstripes. The sellout crowd of 49,571 responded to every move the hit maker made during the game, another sound drubbing of Boston, 10-3. The Yankees are 6-1 this year against the Red Sox, who are last in the division and trail the Bombers by 11 1/2 games.

“Usually when I came here [with the Mariners], the fans were all over me the whole game,” Ichiro said. “But the fans tonight were awesome. They cheered for me all night. I hope that continues.”

Right from the start, Suzuki enjoyed the fans’ reaction. The Bleacher Creatures’ roll call did present a problem in his mind, but he was able to doff his cap in response.

“I wanted to take my hat off and acknowledge them,” he said. “But I was worried that if I tipped my cap while a ball was hit to me and I couldn’t catch it that those cheers would turn to boos.”

Suzuki’s contributions were modest, but they were there. He had one hit in four at-bats, a single in the fourth inning before Russell Martin homered. Ichiro was also on base in the eighth after hitting into a fielder’s choice and scored another run on Curtis Granderson’s grand slam. Raul Ibanez also homered in the first inning with a runner on first base.

That was the difference in the game. Both sides hit three home runs, but the trio socked by the Sox off Phil Hughes were all with the bases empty – Dustin Pedroia in the first, Carl Crawford in the third and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the fourth.

“You can usually live with those,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of the solo home runs.

The long ball has haunted Hughes all season. He gave up home runs in each of his first 12 starts of the season, but that pace slowed. The three home runs Hughes allowed Friday night equaled the total the righthander had allowed over his previous five starts. For the season, Hughes has given up 25 home runs in 121 1/3 innings.

All those home runs might have given Suzuki the idea that perhaps he, too, might take advantage of the Stadium’s cozy dimensions in right field. Anyone who has witnessed Ichiro taking batting practice is aware he can go deep, but just like Wade Boggs he has been fearful that he might ruin his stroke by trying to hit home runs.

Suzuki has a great respect for the game. He has been to the National Baseball Hall of Fame four times. When I contacted him in my role with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in 2001 to notify him that he was voted the AL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award winner, he answered the call from an office in the Cooperstown, N.Y., museum while on a visit there.

So it was hardly a surprise to hear him talk about one of baseball’s greatest rivalries.

“For a long time, the Yankees organization expects to win, and the players are accustomed to winning,” Suzuki said. “That is the mentality here. To have played my first game here with them against the Red Sox was special. There is an expression in Japan that on nights like this you grab your cheek to see if it is real and that you are not dreaming.”

In the United States, we pinch ourselves in the same situation. The cultures came together for Ichiro Suzuki Friday night.

Commissioner, union boss support Cano

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Commissioner Bud Selig and Michael Weiner, executive director of the Major League Players Association, were in complete agreement on one issue Tuesday. Both executives felt that fans here overdid it in their persistent booing of Robinson Cano during Monday night’s Home Run Derby at Kauffman Stadium.

Cano was taken to task by local fans for not including Billy Butler, the Royals’ representative on the American League squad, for the AL’s quartet in the Home Run Derby. Cano is captain of the AL team and Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp for the National League. Cano was booed whenever his face appeared on the video board and throughout his at-bat in the first round when he failed to hit a home run.

“I felt badly about Robinson Cano,” Selig said. “He picked the people he thought were deserving and did a good job. I really felt bad for him.”

“I don’t think anyone could quarrel with the players he took,” Weiner said. “They had the three most home runs in the competition.”

Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder won the event. Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista and Angels outfielder Mark Trumbo had the second and third highest totals, respectively. Even with Cano getting shut out, the AL out-homered the NL, 61-21.

Selig and Weiner spoke at the annual All-Star Game meeting of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America at the Kansas City Marriott County Club Plaza Hotel on a variety of topics on which they did not always agree except for the Cano situation.

Cano was not criticized by Butler, who said he did not fault the Yankees second baseman nor did he feel snubbed. KC fans, on the other hand, took it personally. Cano said he understood why the fans were upset and that part of being a Yankee is to get used to being booed on the road.

What fans here did not realize is that Cano had to name the Home Run Derby team before the AL squad was complete. Cano, Fielder and Bautista were voted into the starting lineup in the fans’ ballot, and Cano was told by a league official that Trumbo would be on the team. Butler was not named to the team until several days after Cano had to submit his list. He had inquired about two other stars, Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton and Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, but both declined to participate.

“Fans have the right to express their opinion,” Weiner said, “but it seemed to me that it was more than the traditional booing.”

ESPN, which cablecast the event, did not help matters, either. Cameras were focused on Cano for what seemed an inordinate amount of time, almost as if the network encouraged fans to boo him.

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