Results tagged ‘ Cy Young Award ’
The Yankees have the Diamondbacks to thank for Yankee Stadium being the site of the American League Wild Card Game Tuesday night. It was a lost weekend for the Yankees in Baltimore as the Orioles completed a three-game sweep Sunday with a 9-4 victory that put the Yanks’ season record at 87-75.
They would have had to make a plane ride to Houston for the Wild Card Game if the Astros had won their season finale at Phoenix. A two-run home run by Paul Goldschmidt in the bottom of the seventh inning unlocked a 3-3 score and sent the D-backs on the way to a 5-3 victory. So the Astros, who ended the regular season with an 86-76 record, will be the visiting team in Tuesday night’s AL Wild Card Game.
Houston was guaranteed the wild card berth when the Angels lost to the Rangers, who clinched the AL West title with an 88-74 mark.
The Yankees have designated Masahiro Tanaka to start Tuesday night against the Astros’ dangerous Dallas Keuchel, who led the league in victories (20), innings (232) and WHIP (1.017) and is among the favorites for the AL Cy Young Award. Keuchel faced the Yankees twice this year, won both games and did not allow a run in 16 innings. This will be the first time in his career that Keuchel will start on only three days’ rest.
While much has been made of the fact that Keuchel is far better at Minute Maid Park (15-0, 1.46 ERA) than on the road (5-8, 3.77 ERA), it must be noted that in his only start at Yankee Stadium the bearded lefthander pitched seven shutout innings with three hits, no walks and nine strikeouts in a 15-1 Houston blowout.
In his only start against the Astros this season June 27 at Houston, Tanaka blew a 6-0 lead and was stung for six runs and seven hits, including three home runs, in five innings (10.80 ERA) in a game the Yankees came back to win, 9-6.
If the Yankees ever get back into first place in the American League East, it will have to be after they leave Toronto. The Blue Jays ensured they will hold the top spot in the division over the duration of the series at Rogers Centre with a 4-2 victory Monday night.
Toronto boosted its division lead to 3 1/2 games (3 in the loss column), which means that even if the Yankees were to win Tuesday and Wednesday nights they would still be in second place upon leaving Canada.
The Yankees ran into David Price, every bit the ace Matt Harvey is to the Mets and moreso. Unlike Harvey, whom the Mets pulled after five innings Sunday night and paid for it when the Yankees pummeled his successors, Price went seven innings and shut out the Bombers on two hits and a walk with seven strikeouts.
There was a time in the eighth inning when it resembled what happened to the Mets in the sixth inning Sunday night at Citi Field as the first three Yankees batters reached base against the shaky Toronto bullpen and put a run across. The turning point may have been a called third strike on Brett Gardner on a pitch at the top of the letters that was borderline to say the least.
Brett Cecil followed that with strikeouts of Alex Rodriguez and Brian McCann, which sent the Yankees packing. They got a two-out home run from Greg Bird in the ninth inning off closer Roberto Osuna (17th save) but nothing more in dropping the first game of the series.
In essence, the game came apart for the Yankees in the bottom of the first inning when the Blue Jays scored three times off Adam Warren, who recovered nicely but only after the horses had left the barn. Warren started the game with a single, a hit batter and another single for one run, a wild pitch and an infield out for a second run and a double by Justin Smoak for a third run.
That was more than sufficient support for Price, who had merely one challenging inning among his seven. An errant throw by second baseman Cliff Pennington, a single by Jacoby Ellsbury and a walk to Gardner loaded the bases with one out before Price recovered to strike out Rodriguez and retire McCann on a fly ball to center field.
Those were the first two of 14 consecutive outs by Price, who improved his American League Cy Young Award resume with a 17-5 record, including 8-1 with a 1.95 ERA in 69 1/3 innings since joining the Blue Jays in a trade from the Tigers. That is the definition of an ace, which is something the Mets and Harvey have to learn.
It took six tries, but the Yankees finally guaranteed themselves another winning season at Yankee Stadium. At the same time, they saved some face in a long, exasperating weekend against the front-running Blue Jays.
Sunday’s 5-0 triumph behind a determined Masahiro Tanaka was the Yankees’ 41st victory at the Stadium this year, which extended their stretch of consecutive winning seasons at home to 24 (since 1992). It is the longest current winning streak in the major leagues and the most since the Yankees’ big-league record of 47 winning seasons at home from 1918 through 1964.
It ended a five-game losing streak at the Stadium and followed a twin killing Saturday in a miserably long day. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before the game that the team needed a well-pitched game more than anything, and Tanaka gave him all he could have wanted and more.
The Japanese righthander shut down the Blue Jays on four hits and no walks over seven innings and 108 pitches. Tanaka has given up only one earned run in 16 innings against Toronto’s powerful lineup this year.
“Location” was Girardi’s response for why Tanaka has done so well against a Blue Jays team that leads the American League in runs and home runs. “He was down in the zone all day. He had a good splitter, a good slider and worked in a cutter as well.”
Tanaka also helped himself with a pickoff play at second base that nailed Kevin Pillar, who had doubled with one out in the second inning. It was a rough weekend for Pillar, who was 1-for-13 at the plate and ran into his teammate, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who is out indefinitely due to a small crack in his left shoulder blade.
There were contributions all around in the Yankees’ victory that moved them back to 3 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays in the AL East and ended a personal seven-game winning streak by former National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey.
Dustin Ackley, who joined the Yankees in a trade from Seattle only to land on the disabled list because of a back ailment, knocked in three runs with a sacrifice fly in the second and his first home run in pinstripes, a two-run shot in the fourth.
Girardi decided to start Ackley at first base when he found out that Greg Bird, who has played there primarily since the season-ending injury to Mark Teixeira, had faced a knuckleball pitcher only once in the minor leagues. Ackley, on the other hand, had some success against Dickey and continued it Sunday. In 13 career at-bats against Dickey, Ackley is batting .462 with two home runs.
“The simple approach is better,” Ackley said of hitting knuckleball pitchers. “He was running the ball inside. I just looked for the first good one over the plate. The important thing is to get out in front and not stay back and let the knuckleball move too much.”
Alex Rodriguez, who was honored by the Yankees in a pregame ceremony for his 3,000th hit earlier in the season, showed some hustle in the second scoring from third base on a sacrifice fly by Didi Gregorius. A-Rod also drove in a run with a two-out double in the eighth that ended Dickey’s outing.
Brett Gardner, who had a huge day at the plate Saturday (4-for-9, three home runs, seven RBI) took a 0-for-4 collar Sunday but made two outstanding running catches in left field to take away potential extra-base hits from Justin Smoak in the seventh and Matt Hague in the ninth.
“Everybody is relieved that we are going on the road [to Tampa Bay] with confidence,” Ackley said.
So where was that all that high-powered offense that was expected from the American League’s two most prolific run scoring teams Friday night? The Yankees and the Blue Jays mustered only one run each as the game was pushed into extra innings.
Credit the Yankees’ Nathan Eovaldi and the Jays’ R.A. Dickey with keeping the combustible lineups under control. Solo home runs by Toronto’s Josh Donaldson in the first inning and the Yanks’ Mark Teixeira in the second was all the scoring accomplished in regulation.
It was another solo home run — by Jose Bautista with one out in the 10th off Brandon Pinder — that was the difference in the third consecutive 2-1 game played by the Yankees and the second loss. The other setback was Wednesday night to the Red Sox and Steven Wright, like Dickey a knuckleball pitcher. That flutterball has stymied the Yankees’ offense.
Eovaldi kept his six-game winning streak intact but could not add to it. Same with Dickey, who had won his three previous starts. Since his last loss June 16, Eovaldi has pitched to a 2.87 ERA over 53 1/3 innings in lowering his season ERA from 5.12 to 4.15. In 10 starts this season at Yankee Stadium, the righthander is 4-0 with a 3.41 ERA in 58 innings. He gave the Yankees 6 1/3 quality innings Friday night in allowing five hits and two walks with three strikeouts.
Dickey remains the one former Cy Young Award winner the Yankees have had trouble with this year, and they will face another one Saturday in lefthander David Price, who was recently obtained in a trade from the Tigers. Dickey pitched seven innings and scattered six hits and two walks with three strikeouts.
The Yankees are 6-2 this year in games started by former Cy Young Award winners, who have a combined ERA of 5.48 in those games. Dickey started both of those games the Yankees lost and posted a 1.27 ERA in those starts over 21 1/3 innings.
The loss sliced the Yankees’ lead in the American League East to 3 1/2 games over the Blue Jays, who are nonetheless five games back in the loss column. That is the nail in the coffin in pennant races because a loss cannot be made up so long as the team you are trailing keeps winning.
Still, the Yankees wasted a good pitching effort and used their back end of the bullpen combo of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller in a game they failed to win. It was not the way they wanted to start what may be a critical weekend.
It has been a bottoms-up situation for the Yankees’ batting order in recent games. Monday night, the six-through-nine hitters in the Yankees’ starting lineup were a combined 7-for-14 (.500) with four runs, one doubles, one triple, one home run, four RBI and two walks in the 6-2 victory over the Rangers at Arlington, Texas.
Sunday, the 6-9 hitters drove in all seven runs in the Yankees’ 7-2 victory over the Twins at Minneapolis. Over the past two games, 6-9 in the order are batting a combined .393 (11-for-28) with eight runs, one double, one triple, three homers, 11 RBI and two walks. For the season, the seven-through-nine hitters (not counting pitchers in inter-league competition) rank fifth in the American League with a .649 OPS (on-base plus slugging averages) and have the second most home runs (28).
Third baseman Chase Headley has been as hot as the weather this month. In 17 games in July, Headley is batting .369 (24-for-65) with 11 runs, six doubles, one home run, and 11 RBI in 65 at-bats. He has reached base safely in 15 of the 17 games, has a .400 on-base percentage and raised his batting average 22 points to .268. . . Shortstop Didi Gregorius has also been hot. Derek Jeter’s successor homered and drove in a career-high four runs Monday in his second three-hit game over the past five in which he is 8-for-15 (.533) with three runs, one homer and six RBI to raise his season batting average from .234 to .248. The home run ended a homer-less stretch of 103 at-bats.
Yankees closer Andrew Miller has converted all 23 of his save opportunities this year, which is the longest streak of consecutive saves to begin a stint with the Yankees since saves became an official statistic in 1969 and tied for third longest for any team, equaling those of Huston Street with the Padres in 2012 and LaTroy Hawkins with the Twins over the 2000 and ’01 seasons. The longest is 44 straight saves by Brad Lidge with the Phillies over the 2008 and ’09 seasons. Second is Guillermo “Willie” Hernandez with 32 for the Tigers in 1984, the year he won both the AL Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards.
Alex Rodriguez, who turned 40 Monday, hit his sixth career home run on his birthday to set a major league record. He had shared the previous mark of five with Todd Helton, Chipper Jones, Derrek Lee and Al Simmons. A-Rod also became only the fourth player to homer in his teens and his 40s. The others were Ty Cobb (who played from 1905-28) Rusty Staub (1963-85) and Gary Sheffield (1988-2009). Since 1914, Rodriguez is the ninth right-handed batter (10th occasion) to hit at least 24 home runs in his age-39 season or older, and the first since Frank Thomas in 2007 (26 at age 39). The only player to hit as many as 30 homers at 39 or older was Hank Aaron, who hit 40 in 1973 when he was 39. Nine of A-Rod’s past 14 hits have been home runs, including each of his past four hits.
In his previous quests for landmark hits such as his 500th and 600th home runs, Alex Rodriguez went days without achieving them as at-bat after at-bat piled up. Not so with his 3,000th hit, however.
A-Rod wasted no time in becoming the 29th member of the major leagues’ 3,000 Hit Club Friday night when he hit the first pitch he saw from Detroit’s Justin Verlander for an opposite-field home run with two out in the bottom of the first inning. Rodriguez’s first big-league hit was 21 years ago as a rookie with the Mariners.
His 3,000th hit was also his 667th career home run. The only players other than A-Rod with 3,000 hits and more than 600 home runs are Hall of Famers Henry Aaron and Willie Mays.
Rodriguez joined former teammate Derek Jeter as the only players to reach the 3,000-hit plateau wearing Yankees uniforms. Four other 3,000 Hit Club members played for the Yankees during their careers: Paul Waner, Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson and Wade Boggs.
A-Rod also became the third player whose 3,000th hit was a home run. The others were Boggs with Tampa Bay in 1999 and Jeter against the Rays at Yankee Stadium in 2011. Rodriguez acknowledged the fans’ applause with a curtain call.
That A-Rod’s 3,000th hit came against a pitcher the caliber of Verlander, a former American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner, was not a surprise. Rodriguez, a three-time AL MVP, entered the game with a .357 batting average and four home runs in 28 career at-bats against Verlander.
Michael Pineda had a chance to make history Sunday, but the pitch count police did him in. Rather than rant on like an old man about how pitchers are being babied to death these days, let me just say quickly what they can do with pitch counts. Shove ’em.
Here was Pineda using high fastballs, swirling sliders and freeze-frame changeups to embarrass one Baltimore hitter after another before a Mothers Day crowd of 39,059 at Yankee Stadium. Five of his first six outs were by strikeout. Over the fifth and sixth innings, he punched out six hitters in a row. The righthander added two more Ks in the seventh to bring his total to 16.
The fans, naturally, were loving it with their typical hand-clapping reaction to every two-strike pitch, a tradition that began at the Stadium June 17, 1978 when Ron Guidry set the franchise record with 18 strikeouts against the Angels. Pineda had a very good chance at breaking that mark or at least tying it. His pitch count, however, stood at 111. That was enough for manager Joe Girardi, who by the way was the catcher in the only other two games in which a Yankees pitcher struck out 16 batters — David Wells and David Cone, both in 1997.
So out came Pineda, depriving the crowd of an opportunity for an historic moment. Quite a few headed for the exits what with the Yankees comfortably in front at that point by five runs. The drama had exited the game with Pineda.
Girardi said he was unaware wha the club record was and that even if he did it would not have mattered. Considering how early in the season it is and that Pineda has a history of arm miseries in his brief career the call to the bullpen was the choice to make.
“Maybe if he was coming off a serious injury, it might have been a different story,” Girardi said.
A manager cannot worry about records. I get that. The idea is to win the game, which the Yankees did, 6-2, to take the series and boost their lead in the American League East to three games over second-place Tampa Bay where they will open a four-game set Monday night.
Personally, I could not help but be disappointed. When a pitcher is on the way Pineda was Sunday, one cannot help but want to see more, particularly if he is in range of a major achievement. After all, he was within four strikeouts of the all-time mark for a nine-inning game by Roger Clemens (twice) and Kerry Wood.
I was reminded of a game I watched on television one night early in the 2007 season. Jake Peavy, then with the Padres, had 16 Ks through seven innings against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix. I was all prepared to watch him go for the record when Bud Black, then in his first year as San Diego’s manager, yanked him. Black, a former pitcher, yet!
Later that year when Peavy was named the National League Cy Young Award, I chatted with him by phone as the representative of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and asked him about that game.
“I’m with you, man,” Peavy told me. “I argued like crazy to stay in the game, but Skip hit me with that ‘It’s too early in the year’ stuff.”
That game was played April 25. Sunday was May 10. But another big difference is eight years. Major League Baseball is married to the pitch count these days and challenging it only marks you as a dinosaur.
Still, there is no evidence I see that holding pitchers back protects them from arm problems. There are more pitchers on the disabled list and lining up for Tommy John surgery than every before. In his 18-strikeout game, Guidry threw 138 pitches. He went on to win the American League Cy Young Award that year, pitched for 10 more years and nearly won a second Cy in 1985 but was runner-up to the Royals’ Bret Saberhagen.
Pineda was no more aware of the record than was Girardi and made no argument to stay in the game. He must have used the word “happy” two dozen times after the game to describe how he felt. Think of how often he might have said it if he were allowed to take a shot at the Yankees’ record book.
The way Pineda was pitching it is hard to remember that he was actually behind in the score early on. He hung a 2-2 slider to J.J. Hardy, who drove it to left field for his first home run this season. That was in the second inning when Pineda also struck out the side, which he did again in the fifth. By then, the Yankees had moved in front after a four-run fourth inning against Bud Norris.
Carlos Beltran, who is starting to swing the bat better, got the Yankees even with his first home run of the year coming in his 100th at-bat. A walk to Chase Headley and singles by Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees the lead. Jacoby Ellsbury extended the advantage with a two-run double.
There was no stopping Pineda now. Fortified by more offense later on — a home run by Brian McCann in the fifth and an RBI double by Gregorius in the seventh — Pineda just proceeded to attack Orioles hitters.
“I felt great; everything was working,” Pineda said. “I was happy to do this on Mothers Day because I know my Mom was watching in the Dominican.”
She is not the only person watching. Pineda has become one of the dominant pitchers in the league with a 5-0 record and 2.72 ERA. He has stepped up big-time to help the rotation deal with the loss to injury of Masahiro Tanaka. Pineda was asked if he feels that he is now the Yankees’ ace.
“I’m not focusing on that,” he said. “I just want to keep helping this team win.”
Dellin Betances struck out one batter in the seventh and one in the eighth. It maked only the third time Yankees pitchers had 18 strikeouts in a nine-inning game. In addition to the Guidry game, they did it July 26, 2011 at Seattle.
Pineda tied Cone’s club mark for strikeouts in a game by a righthander, but I sure would have liked to see him try to go for the all-time record.
That the Yankees seem to have righted themselves could not have come at a better time. The Mets, the hottest team in the major leagues with an 11-game winning streak, a 10-0 home record and an overall best mark of 13-3, come to Yankee Stadium Friday night for the first round of the 2015 Subway Series.
While the Mets were winning all 10 of their games at Citi Field thus far, the Yankees went on a 10-game trek through Baltimore, St. Peterburg and Detroit and emerged with seven victories and showed exceptional pitching, timely hitting and much improved fielding.
After dropping two of three games to the Orioles, the Yankees swept a three-game series from the Rays and took three of four games from a Tigers team that had the best record in the majors at the start of the set and might have been knocked out of first place in the American League Central if the Royals could win Thursday night against the White Sox. Similarly, a Red Sox loss Thursday night would have thrust the Yankees into a first-place tie in the AL East.
All this sounded impossible a week and a half ago when the Yankees seemed adrift with an abundance of hitting, pitching and fielding lapses. They started the trip with a woeful 2-4 record and come home with a strapping 9-7 mark.
Granted, they ran into a Tampa Bay club that is already heavily laden with injuries, but the Detroit team the Yankees faced has one of the most ferocious lineups in the game and yet was held to nine runs in four games, an average of 2.3 runs per game by the Tigers, who began the series averaging 6.4 runs per game.
The Yankees’ 13-4 victory Wednesday night when they jumped on former AL Cy Young Award winner David Price for six runs in the first inning contained more runs by them than the Tigers scored in the entire series. Former two-time AL Most Valuable Player Miguel Cabrera was tamed with a 2-for-13 showing.
The Yankees followed that blowout with a tight pitching duel in Thursday’s frosty Comerica Park (33 degrees at first pitch) between Masahiro Tanaka and Anibal Sanchez. Neither was involved in the decison as the score was 1-1 in the seventh inning, the last for each starter.
Tanaka gave up a first-inning run on a sacrifice fly by Victor Martinez and held the Tigers to two hits, both doubles by J.D. Martinez, one out into the seventh with two walks and six strikeouts. The Yankees’ offense wasn’t much better. They had merely three hits. Their runs, both scored by Jacoby Ellsbury, came on a balk by Sanchez and an infield out.
The winning decision went to Dellin Betances (3-0), who snuffed out a rally in the seventh with two critical outs and added a scoreless eighth with two strikeouts. Andrew Miller followed with a no-hit, two-strikeout ninth inning to go 6-for-6 in saves.
Behind the pitchers was outstanding defense from a team that made 11 errors over its first eight games. The Yankees in their past eight games have committed only one error. Third baseman Chase Headley made two sparkling, back-handed plays that robbed hits and in one case in the seventh inning saved a run.
Playing a day game gave the Yankees the opportunity to get back home the same evening and not in the wee hours of the following morning, so they could enjoy a deserved night of rest before the job ahead of them against their resurgent neighbors from Queens.
Following the path of last year’s honoring of Joe Torre, Goose Gossage, Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neill with plaques in Monument Park, the Yankees in the coming season will do likewise for Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Willie Randolph. Joining Torre, whose No. 6 was retired last year, the uniform numbers of Williams (51), Posada (20) and Pettitte (46) will be put away for good.
Williams will be honored Sunday, May 24, before the Yankees’ 8:05 p.m. game against the Rangers. Randolph will be feted during Old-Timers’ Day festivities Saturday, June 20, prior to the Yankees’ 7:15 p.m. game against the Tigers. Posada will take his place in Monument Park Aug. 22 and Pettitte Aug. 23.
Williams played his entire 16-season major league career with the Yankees (1991-2006) and batted .297. In franchise history, the former center fielder ranks third in doubles (449), fifth in hits, sixth in games played (2,076) and runs scored (1,366) and seventh in home runs (287) and RBI (1,257). The five-time American League All-Star (1997-2001), four-time Gold Glove winner (1997-2000) and Silver Slugger Award recipient (2002) won the AL batting title in 1998 with a .339 average.
A four-time World Series champion in pinstripes (1996, ‘98, ‘99, 2000), Williams is the Yanks’ all-time postseason leader in home runs (22) and RBI (80), ranks second in playoff runs scored (83), hits (128) and doubles (29) and third in games played (121). He was named the 1996 AL Championship Series MVP after batting .474 with six runs, two home runs and six RBI in 19 at-bats in the Yankees’ five-game series victory over the Orioles. In Game 1 of the 1999 ALCS against the Red Sox, Williams hit a 10th-inning, game-winning home run.
Posada also spent his whole major-league career – 17 seasons – with the Yankees from 1995-2011 and batted .273 with 900 runs, 379 doubles, 275 home runs and 1,065 RBI in 1,829 games. As a player on five World Series title teams (1996, ‘98, ‘99, 2000, ‘09), Posada finished his career among baseball’s all-time postseason leaders in games played (second, 125), doubles (third, 23) and hits (fourth, 103). His 119 postseason games behind the plate are the most all time. In 2011, the Puerto Rico native became the first big leaguer to catch at least one game with the same team in 17 straight seasons (1995-2011) since the Reds’ Johnny Bench did so over the same stretch of seasons from 1967-83.
A five-time AL All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner (each in 2000-03, ’07), Posada twice finished in the top 10 in AL Most Valuable Player balloting (third in 2003 and sixth in 2007). He is one of eight players to appear in at least one game with the Yankees in each of 17 different seasons, along with Derek Jeter (20), Mariano Rivera (19), Yogi Berra (18), Mickey Mantle (18), Frankie Crosetti (17), Bill Dickey (17) and Lou Gehrig (17). Along with Jeter and Rivera, Posada is part of the first trio of teammates in MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL history to appear in a game together in each of 17 straight seasons, a feat they accomplished from 1995-2011.
Pettitte was selected by the Yankees in the 22nd round of the 1990 First-Year Player Draft and pitched in 15 seasons with the club (1995-2003, ‘07-10 and ‘12-13). As a Yankee, Pettitte posted a 219-127 record with a 3.94 ERA and 2,020 strikeouts in 447 games (438 starts). The lefthander, who is the franchise leader in strikeouts (2,020), is tied with Whitey Ford for most games started and trails in victories and innings pitched only to Ford (236; 3,171) and Red Ruffing (231; 3,168) in club history. Pettitte made at least one start in each of his 15 seasons with the Yankees, tying Ruffing for second-most all-time in franchise history behind Ford (16 seasons). The three-time AL All-Star (1996, 2001 and ‘10) is the only pitcher drafted by the Yankees to win 200 games in the majors. Pettitte was the runner-up to the Blue Jays’ Pat Hentgen for the AL Cy Young Award in 1996.
In 40 postseason starts for the Yankees, Pettitte was 18-10 with a 3.76 ERA and is the club’s all-time playoff leader in victories, starts, innings pitched and strikeouts (167). He appeared in eight World Series (seven with the Yankees and one with the Astros) and earned clinching victories in Game 4 at San Diego in 1998 and Game 6 against the Phillies in 2009. He was also on Yankees staffs that won World Series championships in 1996, ‘99 and 2000. In 2001, Pettitte was ALCS MVP after going 2-0 with a 2.51 ERA in two starts against the Mariners.
Randolph played in 13 seasons for the Yankees from 1976-88 and hit .275 with 1,027 runs, 259 doubles, 58 triples, 48 home runs, 549 RBI and 251stolen bases in 1,694 games. He appeared in 1,688 games at second base with the team, more than any other player at the position in Yankees history, and ranks third on the organization’s all-time list in steals. The five-time AL All-Star (1976-77, ‘80-81 and ‘87) was also the 1980 AL Silver Slugger winner in the award’s inaugural season. Randolph played in 37 postseason games with the Yankees from 1977-81 and hit a game-tying home run in Game 1 of the 1977 World Series against the Dodgers. He and Ron Guidry were named co-captains of the Yankees March 4, 1986.
In addition to his 13 playing seasons with the Yankees, Randolph spent 11 seasons coaching for the organization. He was the club’s third base coach from 1994-2003 and bench coach in 2004.
The 2015 Hall of Fame election was one for the ages. For the first time in 60 years and for only the fourth time in the history of the voting that dates to 1936, as many as four players got the nod from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in this year’s election. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio are a classy quartet and proved so in Wednesday’s press conference at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
Johnson and Martinez were particularly amusing discussing their time pitching at Yankee Stadium as opposing players. The “Big Unit,” of course, also wore the pinstripes for two seasons, although he readily admitted those were not the finest hours of his career. However, he conceded that he had a whale of a time.
“I won 34 games over those two seasons, but I didn’t pitch as well as people wanted,” Johnson said. “But to be able to sit down in the dugout and talk to Yogi Berra about the old days, to have Whitey Ford ask me to sign a jersey and then sit down and chat about pitching, what could have been better? To get to know Reggie Jackson really well and begin a long friendship, it was great. Reggie texted me [Tuesday] and said, ‘How did you get more votes than me?’ That’s Reggie.”
Johnson, who won five Cy Young Awards and was the co-Most Valuable Player of one of the most exciting World Series ever played (in 2001 for the Diamondbacks against the Yankees), has stronger memories of pitching against the Yankees than for them. He recalled the first time he was scheduled to pitch at the Stadium for the Mariners in 1992 he was followed into the park by Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver, then a Yankees broadcaster.
“I played college ball at the University of Southern California under the legendary coach Ron Dedeaux, who always referred to a player on the team as ‘Tiger,’ probably because he couldn’t remember names,” Johnson said. “So ‘Tiger’ became a sore of alumni sign. I was coming into the Stadium that day and I heard someone shout to me, ‘Tiger, Tiger.’ I knew it had to be a USC alum, and sure enough it was Tom Seaver. He wanted to know why I was carrying my own bags on a night when I was pitching. We became good friends after that. How can you not cherish such memories?”
“You were lucky,” Martinez chimed in. “You have no idea what it was like to pitch at Yankee Stadium for the Red Sox.”
Martinez was one of those Boston players Yankees fans loved to hate. The more abuse they could heap on him the better, but the diminutive righthander was never bothered by it. He eventually made New York his baseball home as well later with the Mets but saw a major difference between the two fan bases.
“I learned a lot while coming over to New York as a visitor with the Red Sox and also coming later on and dressing in the uniform of the Mets,” Martinez said. “In Queens, fans are wild, they’re happy. They settle for what they have. The Yankees fans do not. It’s ‘Win or nothing. Win or nothing.’
“Yankees fans were really good at trying to intimate you. As the opposition, they wanted to intimidate you. But deep in their heart, they appreciate baseball. They appreciate everything that you do. They recognize greatness. And they’re gonna boo you and they’re gonna call you, ‘Who’s your daddy?’ They’re going to chant until you just go away.”
I pointed out at the press conference a footnote that Martinez is the first pitcher under six feet in height to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 41 years since Whitey went in with his teammate and pal, Mickey Mantle, in 1974. I added that today Pedro stands as tall as the 6-foot-10 Johnson.
They were equals in effectiveness. Johnson’s 4,875 career strikeouts are second only to Nolan Ryan’s 5,714 and the most by any lefthander. The Unit’s five Cy Young Awards are two shy of Roger Clemens’ record, and his four in a row with Arizona from 1999-2002 matched a similar run by Greg Maddux, who was elected to the Hall last year, from 1992-95. Martinez led his league in earned run average five times and had a career 2.93 ERA, remarkable considering the era of offensive explosiveness in which he pitched.
And was there ever a pitcher in baseball who excelled equally as a starter and a reliever more than Smoltz? As a starter, he won a Cy Young Award (1996), and as a closer he won a Rolaids Relief Award (2002). He had moved to the bullpen while recovering from elbow surgery. Talk all you want about Dennis Eckersley, but he did not have the career as a starter than Smoltz did. And after three years as the Braves’ closer Smoltz returned to the Atlanta rotation and led the National League in victories in 2006.
This was a unique pitcher, and as I told John on the phone Tuesday when I notified him of his election as the BBWAA secretary-treasurer, “Unique players go to the Hall of Fame, and they go in right away.”
He told me that he was relieved and mentioned a breakfast we had together at the Stadium one Sunday last summer with David Cone and Lee Mazzilli and the talk was about the Hall of Fame. “I had just seen what that induction weekend was all about as a broadcaster for MLB Network as I watched my old buddies [Maddux and Tom Glavine] give their speeches,” Smoltz said. “I just wanted to low-key it after that and not get too caught up in it. So it’s quite a special feeling right now.”
Smoltz was courted by the Yankees as a free agent after the 2001 season, but he chose instead to stay in Atlanta. Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson took the new class of elected players to dinner Wednesday night at ‘21’ in midtown Manhattan. That is precisely the place the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner would have wined and dined Smoltz to seal a deal to come to the Bronx.
Biggio grew up on Long Island and played football and basketball at Kings Park High School in Suffolk County. He was a Yankees fan whose favorite player was Thurman Munson. Yogi was a coach with the Astros during his estrangement period from the Yankees and encouraged Houston officials to move Biggio from behind the plate to second base where his career took off.
Among his 3,060 career hits were 668 doubles, the fifth highest total in history and the most by a right-handed batter. Think of it, more than the likes of Honus Wagner, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron or Paul Molitor, now that is distinctive.
Idelson visited with Yogi in New Jersey over the past weekend, and the first words out of the legendary catcher’s mouth was, “Is my man Biggio going to make it?”
That was the day before we counted the ballots and discovered that we could tell Yogi a resounding “Yes.”