Results tagged ‘ Derek Jeter ’
It may be a very long time before the Yankees see a keystone combination with the combined offensive productivity of Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano of the not so long ago. Two games into the 2016 season, however, there has been much to enjoy about the combined efforts of this year’s shortstop-second base combo of Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro.
The pair have done more damage at the bottom of the lineup than those at the top for the Yankees. Castro, who had a two-run double in Tuesday’s Opening Day loss, probably had the most important hit Wednesday night as the Yankees came off the canvas for a 16-6 romp of the Astros. After Michael Pineda nearly gave up all of a 6-1 lead as Houston closed to 6-5 in the top of the second, Castro crushed a three-run home run in the bottom of the inning to put the Yankees back in command.
It was a four-hit, five-RBI night for Castro, who was acquired from the Cubs in an offseason trade for pitcher Adam Warren. After watching Stephen Drew struggle to hit .200 last year, it has been a treat so far to see a Yankees second baseman handle the bat so well. In addition to his three-run bomb, Castro knocked in two more runs with singles in the six-run first inning and the three-run seventh. In only his second season at second base after being moved there from shortstop last year, Castro has looked comfortable in the field as well.
Gregorius, who settled in nicely as Jeter’s successor in 2015 after a shaky start, has broken out of the gate much better this year. He hit an impressive home run Tuesday and followed that with three singles Wednesday night. From the 8-9 holes, Castro and Gregorius are batting a combined .563 with two doubles, two home runs and eight RBI in 16 at-bats. Contrast that with the 1-2-3 hitters for the Yankees, who have combined for one hit in 22 at-bats (.045).
With Castro’s double and Gregorius’ home run Tuesday, it marked the first time since at least 1913 that the Yankees’ starting middle infield pairing both had extra-base hits and RBIs on Opening Day. The YES Network reported that Castro and Gregorius, both 26, are the Yankees’ youngest regular starting middle infield pairing since 1977 with second baseman Willie Randolph, 22, and shortstop Bucky Dent, 25, who played together for three-plus seasons.
Gregorius became the third Yankees shortstop to homer on Opening Day. Jeter did it three times, all of which came on the road — April 2, 1996 at Cleveland, April 5, 1999 at Oakland and April 1, 2002 at Baltimore. Dent went deep April 9, 1981 at Yankee Stadium against Texas.
It would be too much to ask Castro and Gregorius to duplicate some of the seasons Jeter and Cano had together, but so far so good.
Mark Teixeira is the Yankees’ 2015 nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet. Wednesday, Sept. 16, marks the 14th annual Roberto Clemente Day, which was established by Major League Baseball to honor Clemente’s legacy and to recognize officially the 30 club finalists for the award given annually to a major league player who best represents the game through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.
Teixeira, who is sidelined for the remainder of the season due to a right shinbone fracture, has been involved in charitable endeavors throughout his major-league career. In 2006, the first baseman and his wife, Leigh, established the Mark Teixeira Charitable Fund, an initiative that awarded several scholarships to students from multiple high schools in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.
Three years later, Teixeira served as spokesman for the National Foundation for Cancer Research through the organization’s “Help Strike Out Sun Damage” program. He endowed a scholarship at his alma mater, Mt. St. Joseph High School in Baltimore, to honor his friend, Nick Liberatore, who died in a car accident while the two were in school together. Tex also established the Mark C. Teixeira Athletic Scholarship Fund at Georgia Tech, where he attended college.
Teixeira has been an avid supporter of Harlem RBI, a nonprofit organization in East Harlem, that provides more than 1,700 boys and girls with year-round academic, sports and enrichment programs. In 2010, he became a member of their board of directors and made a donation of $100,000 to the organization’s college preparation program. In 2011, he was honored at Harlem RBI’s “Bid for Kids” gala, which helped raise $2.25 million.
Since then, Teixeira has chaired the event each of the last four years as it has raised a combined $14.8 million. In 2011, he donated $1 million to Harlem RBI and launched his own “Dream Team 25” campaign to call on his fans to raise additional funds for its partnership with DREAM charter school to construct a 450-seat public charter school facility, community center, 87 units of low-income housing and a rebuilt public park. The project is designed to serve as a model for urban development.
In addition, Teixeira, who is the co-chair of the Harlem RBI’s $20 million Capital Campaign and the chair of its Home Run Leadership Council, continues to work with MLB to connect fellow players in support of local RBI programs around the country.
Teixeira has made personal visits to the Harlem facility, reading to students and providing baseball instruction to them. Notably, since Teixeira joined the organization, Harlem RBI has expanded its efforts to reach Mott Haven in the South Bronx, with special attention on the Paterson Houses. This year he organized Yankees teammates Alex Rodriguez and Brett Gardner to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge along with Harlem RBI youth.
The Yankees will recognize Teixeira’s nomination for this year’s Roberto Clemente Award with an on-field ceremony Thursday, Sept. 24, prior to their 7:05 p.m. game against the White Sox.
Beginning on Roberto Clemente Day, fans are encouraged to participate in the process of selecting the winner of the award by visiting ChevyBaseball.com, which is powered by MLB Advanced Media, to vote for one of the 30 Club nominees. Voting ends Friday, Oct. 9, and participating fans will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip to the 2015 World Series, where the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet will be announced.
The concept of honoring players for their philanthropic work was created in 1971 as the Commissioner’s Award but was renamed the Roberto Clemente Award in 1973 in honor of the Hall of Fame right fielder and 15- time All-Star who died in a plane crash New Year’s Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
Yankees players who have received the Clemente Award were Ron Guidry in 1984, Don Baylor in 1985 and Derek Jeter in 2009. Others who played for the Yankees but won the award while with other clubs were Phil Niekro with the Braves in 1980, Dave Winfield with the Twins in 1994, Al Leiter with the Mets in 2000 and Carlos Beltran with the Cardinals in 2013. Leiter’s broadcast partner in the YES Network booth, Ken Singleton, won the award in 1982 with the Orioles.
Among the other winners are Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Brooks Robinson, Al Kaline, Willie Stargell, Lou Brock, Rod Carew, Gary Carter, Cal Ripken Jr., Barry Larkin, Ozzie Smith, Kirby Puckett and Tony Gwynn.
What the Yankees needed on Andy Pettitte Day Sunday at Yankee Stadium was, well, Andy Pettitte.
Another nostalgic ceremony to retire Pettitte’s No. 46 and install a plaque in Monument Park honoring his pitching career with the Yankees was barely over when CC Sabathia gave up a two-run home run to Indians first baseman Carlos Santana in the first inning in what turned out an ominous day for the big lefthander.
There was no one warming up in the bullpen in the third inning when Sabathia had to come out of the game because of an injury to his surgical right knee. Yankees manager Joe Girardi had to rely on a couple of Scranton shuttle guys, Nick Rumbelow and Branden Pinder, to get through the middle innings.
A chant of “Andy Pettitte” from the bleachers sprung up several times from fans with fond memories of his grim determination on the mound over an 18-season major league career, all but three of them with the Yankees, that included an additional 276 1/3 innings of postseason work that produced a 19-11 record and four World Series championships.
“I just don’t remember ever going out there and feeling like I’m going to step on this mound and absolutely dominate this team because I am so good,” Pettitte told the crowd earlier. “I know some of the great players have felt like that. Every game at the big-league level, mentally, I had to be into it every pitch. It seemed like if I let my focus down for one inning, it was going to be a three-run inning. I needed every ounce of focus and energy to be successful.”
The Yankees had coaxed Pettitte out of retirement once before, in 2012. Too bad they could not do it again Sunday.
The only work for Pettitte Sunday was getting through a well-constructed speech in which he thanked his family, former teammates, the Steinbrenner family and even us writers, whom he said treated him fairly over the years.
Joining him on the field for the pregame ceremony were fellow Core Four partners Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Saturday’s honoree Jorge Posada as well as other former teammates Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, David Cone, Scott Brosius, Tino Martinez and Hideki Matsui; former trainer Gene Monahan; former executive Gene Michael; Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and former manager Joe Torre; managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and vice president Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.
“We experienced some amazing wins, some heartbreaking losses,” Pettitte added. “Through it all, this place has become home to me and my family.”
Sabathia was supposed to be Pettitte’s successor as the senior voice on the pitching staff, but he has been slowed down by a knee that has been operated on twice and which was drained twice over the past two months. Sabathia admitted to Girardi that he felt discomfort while warming up but did not say anything until he was interrogated by his manager on the mound.
“It has been a watch for us all year long as we knew it would be,” Girardi said. “For him to say something on the mound it had to be pretty sore.”
Sabathia, who was to undergo an MRI exam late Sunday, has not been himself most of the season. He is 4-9 with a 5.27 ERA, and his record could be worse if the Yankees had not come back from trailing in games to get him off the hook eight times, including Sunday when they tied the score in the seventh inning on a two-run double by Carlos Beltran.
A comeback victory was not forthcoming, however, as Francisco Lindor finished off his second straight three-hit game with a solo home run off Dellin Betances in the eighth inning that held up for a 4-3 victory for the Indians, who were 5-2 against the Yankees this year.
It was almost as painful a game for the Stadium crowd of 46,945 to watch as it was for Sabathia. This was an absolute walkathon with Yankees pitchers combining for 10 walks (four by Sabathia) and the Indians for six. Despite all those free base runners the Yankees allowed, the score stayed close because the Tribe was 1-for-10 (.100) with runners in scoring position and left 11 on base, which would have been more if the Yanks had not turned four double plays.
Sabathia’s injury, which general manager Brian Cashman said would likely put him on the 15-day disabled list, botches plans the Yankees had of going to a six-man rotation with the return from the DL of Michael Pineda, who is scheduled to start Wednesday at the Stadium against the Astros.
The idea was to give an additional day of rest to all the starters, but that will have to go on hold for now. The Yankees could return Adam Warren to the rotation, but as well as he has pitched in relief they are reluctant to do that. The more likely choice for a sixth starter would be Bryan Mitchell, who was on the seven-day concussion list after being struck in the face by a batted ball Aug. 17. Cashman said Mitchell may pitch a simulated game this week.
All these pitching woes and the possibility the Yankees could drop out of first place put a damper on the special day for Pettitte, who might have been a big help had he been able to don a unifiorm.
Andy Pettitte’s Monument Park plaque
ANDREW EUGENE PETTITTE
NEW YORK YANKEES 1995-2003, 2007-2010, 2012-2013
A FIVE-TIME WORLD CHAMPION AND THREE-TIME ALL-STAR, PETTITTE WAS A MODEL OF CONSISTENCY IN THE YANKEES ROTATION FOR 15 SEASONS, GOING 219-127 (.633) AND TYING THE FRANCHISE RECORD OF 438 STARTS.
KNOWN FOR HAVING ONE OF BASEBALL’S BEST PICKOFF MOVES, PETTITTE WILL BE MOST REMEMBERED FOR HIS EXTENSIVE OCTOBER RÉSUMÉ, AS HE WENT 18-10 WITH A 3.76 ERA IN 40 POSTSEASON STARTS WITH THE CLUB. IN 2009, HE BECAME THE FIRST PITCHER TO START AND WIN
THE CLINCHING GAME IN EACH OF THREE SERIES IN A SINGLE POSTSEASON.
THE LEFTHANDER RETIRED WITH THE THIRD HIGHEST WIN TOTAL IN FRANCHISE HISTORY, AND HE IS THE CLUB’S ALL-TIME STRIKEOUT LEADER, WITH 2,020. TWICE A 20-GAME WINNER, PETTITTE FINISHED HIS CAREER AS THE FIRST PLAYER TO PITCH MORE THAN 15 SEASONS IN THE MAJORS WITHOUT EVER HAVING A LOSING RECORD.
DEDICATED BY THE NEW YORK YANKEES
AUGUST 23, 2015
During Saturday’s ceremony at Yankee Stadium for former All-Star catcher Jorge Posada, whose uniform No. 20 was retired and who received a plaque in Monument Park, I got a text from my son Corey, who was watching on television from his home on Long Island.
“Watching this makes me feel very old!”
Corey is only 33. If he thought he felt old, how about me? I met Posada at his first spring training camp with the Yankees 20 years ago. There is a photo in the office of my Queens apartment of me presenting the James P. Dawson Award to Posada as the outstanding rookie in training camp for 1997 before a spring training game at Tampa, the year before there was a major league franchise in that area.
And now there was Posada, still trim but his wavy black hair turning grey, standing behind a podium surrounded by former teammates, Yankees dignitaries and his family drinking in praise from a sellout crowd in the Bronx talking about a career that does not seem all that long ago.
One of the feelings that these celebrations at the Stadium convey is the passage of time. Posada was an integral part of a period in Yankees history that was indeed glorious and to people of Corey’s generation a dominant part of their personal scrapbook, the way previous generations venerated the careers of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle, Bobby Murcer, Thurman Munson, Ron Guidry and Don Mattingly.
“I can’t believe I’m standing up here right now,” Posada told the crowd. “And I can tell you, I’ve never been nervous on a baseball field. Being here seems surreal. I can honestly tell you, this is one of the happiest days of my life.”
His partners in the Core Four — Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, who will be honored Sunday — were in attendance as well as former teammates Bernie Williams, David Cone, Hideki Matsui and Paul O’Neill; former manager Joe Torre; former trainer Gene Monahan; former player, coach, manager and executive Gene Michael and general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.
Posada was truly moved at being considered part of the legacy of great Yankees catchers that began with Bill Dickey and continued through Berra, Elston Howard and Munson, whose widow, Diane, was also on the field. Posada kept a baseball card of Munson in his locker throughout his playing career.
“I never saw myself as part of that group,” Posada said. “Just a lot of respect for the guys. It’s just being there with them now is such a great honor. I’m never going to forget this day.”
Berra, hobbled by painful knees, was unable to attend but sent Posada a personal message that was displayed and narrated on the video board in center field.
“You were a really good ball player for a long time,” Berra wrote. “I’m proud of you, kid.”
Posada could not help but appreciate the irony that he had resisted at first the Yankees’ suggestion that he convert to catcher from second base, his natural position, while in the minor leagues in 1991. He recalled a conversation he had with Mark Newman, then the Yankees’ director of player personnel.
“He said, you have a great arm. You’re going to be very strong because your legs are very strong. You haven’t been catching, so you’re going to be very durable. Your knees are not [worn out]. They haven’t caught.’ And he said, ‘It’s the fastest way to get to the big leagues.’ When he said that, that was it. That was it for me. I wanted to get to the big leagues. That’s all I wanted.”
Posada went on to play 17 seasons behind the plate, all for the Yankees, and batted .273 with 275 home runs and 1,065 RBI. He was a five-time All-Star, won five Silver Slugger Awards and wore four World Series rings. Only twice did the Yankees fail to reach postseason play in Posada’s time. He played in 125 postseason games, including 29 in the World Series.
Posada evoked DiMaggio when he said, “Today, I must say I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee.”
He was all Georgie when he said, “Ever since I can remember, all I wanted to ever do was play baseball. Honestly, I didn’t have a Plan B.”
That was a break for all of us, no matter how old it made us feel Saturday.
Jorge Posada’s Plaque
JORGE RAFAEL DE POSADA VILLETA
NEW YORK YANKEES
1995 – 2011
A MEMBER OF FIVE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TEAMS AND A FIVE-TIME SILVER SLUGGER AWARD- WINNER, POSADA WAS A HOMEGROWN YANKEE, PLAYING ALL 17 OF HIS MAJOR LEAGUE SEASONS IN PINSTRIPES.
CONTINUING THE LEGACY OF GREAT YANKEES CATCHERS, HE APPEARED IN 1,829 CAREER GAMES, COMPILING A .273 BATTING AVERAGE, WITH 275 CAREER HOME RUNS, 1,065 RBI, AND A .374 ON-BASE PERCENTAGE.
THE FIVE-TIME ALL-STAR SET CAREER HIGHS WITH 30 HOME RUNS AND 101 RBI IN 2003, FINISHING THIRD IN AL MVP VOTING AND MATCHING YOGI BERRA’S SINGLE-SEASON RECORD FOR MOST HOME RUNS BY A YANKEES CATCHER.
IN 2007, POSADA HAD A HISTORIC SEASON, BATTING .338, WITH 20 HOME RUNS, 90 RBI, 42 DOUBLES, AND A .426 ON-BASE PERCENTAGE.
DEDICATED BY THE NEW YORK YANKEES
AUGUST 22, 2015
The Yankees will stage a special pregame ceremony celebrating Alex Rodriguez’s 3,000th career hit prior to their 1:05 p.m. game Sunday, Sept. 13, against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. Gates will open two hours before the first pitch at 11 a.m. and fans are encouraged to arrive early and be in their seats by 12:30 p.m.
Rodriguez became the 29th player in Major League Baseball history to reach the 3,000-hit plateau with a first-inning solo home run June 19 off the Tigers’ Justin Verlander. He is the third player hit a home run as his 3,000th career hit, along with Wade Boggs in 1999 and Derek Jeter in 2011.
A-Rod also joined Jeter as the only players in franchise history to reach 3,000 hits while playing for the Yankees and the only ones to reach the plateau at the Stadium, original or current. With the hit, Rodriguez became one of only three players to collect at least 3,000 career hits and 600 home runs. The others are Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.
The Yankees and Alex Rodriguez had a good day Friday on the eve of the Fourth of July. They amicably resolved their potential dispute regarding the designated hitter’s entitlement to bonus monies under the provision of his player contract covering historical statistical accomplishments.
As part of the resolution jointly announced Friday by Major League Baseball and the Major League Players Association, Rodriguez and the Yankees have agreed that $3.5 million in charity contributions will be made by the club, with $1 million going to the following charities that have long enjoyed the support of one or both: the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, the Boys & Girls Club of Tampa, Fla., and Pitch In For Baseball; and $2.5 million going to the MLB Urban Youth Foundation, which will use the money to further programs and initiatives aimed at increasing youth participation in baseball, particularly in cities.
Commissioner Rob Manfred will determine the initiatives to be supported by the $2.5 million contribution after consulting with Rodriguez and taking into consideration the focus of his past charitable contributions.
In addition, Zack Hample, the fan who retrieved Alex Rodriguez’s 3,000th hit June 19, presented the ball to A-Rod at a press conference before Friday night’s game. The Yankees also donated $150,000 to Pitch In For Baseball, a charity which Hample has supported since 2009 that is dedicated to maximizing the ability to play baseball in under-served communities.
Founded in 2005, Pitch In For Baseball (PIFB) collects and redistributes new and gently-used baseball and softball equipment to communities in need across the globe. To date, PIFB has distributed equipment and uniforms to more than 80 countries worldwide and more than 450 communities around the United States, which has impacted more than 500,000 children in need. Based in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, PIFB is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. To learn more about Pitch In For Baseball, visit http://www.pifb.org.
With a solo home run in the first inning of the Yankees-Tigers game at Yankee Stadium Friday, June 19, Rodriguez became the 29th player all-time to reach the 3,000 hits plateau. He was the second player to record his 3,000th career hit with the Yankees, joining Derek Jeter, who did it July 9, 2011 against the Rays. They are the only individuals to have reached the plateau at the Stadium – original or current.
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.
In terms of profile and temperament, Bernie Williams and New York would not seem a comfortable fit. The city that never sleeps was the incubator that gave the culture such over-the-top performers from Cagney to Streisand to DeNiro, not to mention such flamboyant out-of-town athletes who conquered the Big Apple’s hard core, from Dempsey to Mantle to Namath.
But Bernie Williams? Bob Sheppard, the late majestic voice of Yankee Stadium, noted that even the syllables of Williams’ name failed to conjure up images of greatness. Except for his Puerto Rican heritage, which he shared with many Bronx residents, Williams did not appear to have much in common with the population of the borough that the Yankees call home which traditionally has revered players who thrive on being the center of attention.
Towards the end of the 2005 season when his tenure with the Yankees was drawing to a close, fans at the Stadium finally stood up and took notice at Williams on a regular basis with standing ovations before and after each of his plate appearances. Bernie Williams was at center stage at last. The outpouring of affection was a belated tribute by Yankees fans for all Williams meant to the franchise in one of the most significant periods of its glorious history.
And the penultimate experience occurs Sunday night when a packed Stadium will shower Williams with an abundance of affection as the Yankees will honor him with a plaque in Monument Park and officially retire his uniform No. 51. No player has worn that number since Williams’ last season 10 years ago, even the two who had worn it with distinction in Seattle, Randy Johnson and Ichiro Suzuki. After coming to the Yankees in trades from the Mariners, Johnson wore No. 41 and Suzuki No. 31.
While other teammates drew greater cheers and headlines over the years, Williams was the calming center of a team that went from spit to shinola in the 1990’s to complete a resounding history of baseball in the Bronx. The quiet, contemplative, switch-hitting center fielder batted cleanup in lineups that produced four World Series championships, including three in a row, over the last five years of the 20th century and the first year of the 21st.
Of all the players who took part in the Yankees’ extraordinary run during that period, Williams was the only one who was there when it all began, when the club started to make strides toward decency in 1992 and improved to such an extent that by the middle of the decade was on the verge of yet another dynastic era.
Yes, that Bernie Williams, whose way with a guitar rivaled that of his handling of bat and glove. Williams’ love of the guitar was so strong that he was just as much in awe of meeting Les Paul and Paul McCartney as he was shaking hands with Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra. Yet it is in the latter’s company that Williams will always hold a special place in Yankees lore.
It is a past as eventful as any in franchise history. Williams’ rankings on the Yankees’ career lists include third in doubles (449), singles (1,545) and intentional walks (97); fourth in at-bats (7,869); fifth in plate appearances (9,053), hits (2,336), bases on balls (1,069), times on base (3,444) and sacrifice flies( 64); sixth in games (2,076), total bases (3,756), extra-base hits (791) and runs (1,366) and seventh in home runs (287) and runs batted in (1,257). He is one of only 10 players who played 16 or more seasons only with the Yankees. The others are Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Frankie Crosetti, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter.
Not bad for an unassuming man who was often the cruel butt of jokes by veteran teammates when he came into the majors in 1991. “Bambi” was the nickname Mel Hall, Steve Sax, Jesse Barfield and others hung on Williams, a suggestion that his non-confrontational demeanor and love for classical guitar music somehow made him unfit for the rigors of professional sports.
As it turned out, Williams not only turned the other cheek but also left the gigglers in the dust. He carved out for himself a career that is superior to all his old tormentors and one that just might make him a serious candidate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame some day.
Williams batted .297 over those 16 seasons, with a .381 on-base average and .477 slugging percentage. He won a batting title, four Gold Gloves for fielding, a Silver Slugger for hitting and was named to five All-Star teams.
Even more impressive are Williams’ post-season numbers. He ranks second in most major offensive categories – games (121), at-bats (465), runs (83), hits (128), total bases (223), singles (77) and total bases (202). In each case, Williams is second to long-time teammate Derek Jeter. Williams is also the runner-up in post-season home runs (22) to Manny Ramirez and walks (77) to Chipper Jones.
Williams is the only player in post-season history to hit home runs from both sides of the plate in one game, and he did it twice, in the 1995 American League Division Series against the Mariners and in the 1996 AL Division Series against the Rangers. Also in ‘96, he was the Most Valuable Player of the AL Championship Series victory over the Orioles.
The World Series victory over the Braves that followed remained a key moment in Williams’ career. Years later, he noted, “The World Series gives you confidence. Whenever a team goes through adversity, every player who has been to the World Series knows that this is the beauty of the game, how great it is. We don’t just play for the money or the records. There’s a reason to be the best. We realized it [in ‘96], not just because we won it, but the way we won it. We were down by two games, and we went down to Atlanta and swept the Braves. That taught us a lot about the game, what it means.”
Williams was distraught in the 1997 post-season when he was 2-for-17 in the ALDS loss to the Indians, a setback that seemed to galvanize the Yankees as they came back to win three straight World Series. They were memorable seasons for Williams, who won his batting title in 1998 with a .339 average to go with 26 home runs and 97 RBI and had an even better year in ‘99, batting .342 with 25 home runs and 115 RBI. His best overall season was in 2000, batting .307 with 30 home runs and 121 RBI.
Not even Yankees scout Fred Ferreira, with the recommendation of Roberto Rivera, who signed Williams to a contract Sept. 13, 1985, his 17th birthday, could have foreseen such a career, particularly in the heady atmosphere of center field at the Stadium that had been patrolled by Earle Combs, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Bobby Murcer and Mickey Rivers.
Bernabe Figueroa Williams was born in San Juan in 1968 and grew up in Vega Alta, P.R., where he played high school ball with future two-time AL MVP Juan Gonzalez. Williams’ parents also instilled in him a love for music, which proved a sustaining force at times when his baseball career became over-challenging.
One of the oddities of Williams’ time with the Yankees was that he was frequently the only player in the batting order who did not have a special song played for him when he came to bat, a practice that became prominent at ballparks in the ‘90s. Williams’ interest in music was so intense that he considered listening to a “theme song” before a plate appearance a distraction.
During Williams’ rise through the minors, the Yankees weren’t quite sure how to use him. Despite being fleet afoot, Williams lacked the larcenous behavior to be an effective base stealer, which made him less than an attractive leadoff hitter despite an excellent on-base percentage. His legs helped him run down any fly ball, but his throwing arm was never particularly strong or accurate
But in the early ‘90s, the Yankees were in no position to be over picky about prospects. When injuries cut into the playing time of outfielders Roberto Kelly and Danny Tartabull, Williams was summoned to the majors and the slow apprenticeship began. Brought along slowly by managers Stump Merrill and Buck Showalter, Williams came into his own in 1993 and took control of center field at Yankee Stadium, the most sacred patch of ground in the majors, for the next 10 years.
His breakthrough year was 1995 when Williams batted .307 with 18 home runs and 82 RBI and followed that by hitting .429 with two home runs and five RBI in 21 at-bats in the grueling, five-game ALDS loss to the Mariners, an exciting series that helped “sell” the new concept of an expanded round of playoffs.
Joe Torre arrived the next season, and while some of Williams’ eccentricities had the new manager shaking his head on occasion was won over by his almost childlike enthusiasm.
“I don’t think there is anything about Bernie that could surprise me – take that as a plus or a minus,” Torre told MLB.com last year. “That’s just his personality, just him, basically. He’s very different in that he is not your typical baseball player. That’s probably why he was a little more sensitive than other players.”
But with that sensitivity also came with Williams a sense of loyalty. Despite being wooed by the Red Sox and the Diamondbacks when he was eligible for free agency after the 1998 season, Williams contacted Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and the sides worked out a seven-year contract for $87 million that kept Bernie in pinstripes.
Williams had been hopeful he could have played for the Yankees in 2007, but there was no longer a role for him. So the soft-spoken center fielder, now 46, enjoys a satisfying retirement and continues to write music. His 2003 CD, “The Journey Within,” drew praise from the likes of McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon.
“Don’t let your job define who you are,” Williams once said. “Your relationships will define who you are. No matter what you do in life, you are going to be in a position to make an impact on somebody’s life. In my experience with the Yankees, these are a few of the thing that I have learned. You’ve got to have a plan of action, you have to stay focused on the things you can control, and don’t get discouraged or distracted by the things you cannot control.”
Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner both reached base to begin the Yankees’ game against the Blue Jays Tuesday night, and they both scored. So what else is new? Ellsbury and Gardner have been the most effective top-of-the-order hitters in the majors.
Remember last year when manager Joe Girardi tried numerous lineups to figure out the best way to utilize each’s skills? For quite a spell, Girardi used Gardner in the leadoff spot and Ellsbury in the 3-hole with since-retired Derek Jeter positioned between them. That gave Ellsbury RBI opportunities but was a deterrent to his stealing bases with the meat of the order right behind him.
For the times Ellsbury batted leadoff, Girard put Gardner at the bottom of the order. Almost never did the two of them together. Part of that was the resistance to moving Jeter lower in the order, but the major factor was that Girardi was uncomfortable having two left-handed hitters back to back.
One of the best 1-2 combos at the top of the order that I recall was that of Vince Coleman and Willie McGee with the Cardinals in the 1980s. What made it easy for Whitey Herzog to leave them where they were each game is that they were both switch hitters.
Yet Ellsbury and Gardner have proved not to be the sort of left-handed batters that are overly vulnerable to left-handed pitching. Ellsbury entered this season with a .294 career batting average overall and .292 against lefties and Gardner .266 overall and .260 against lefties.
So there was not a great risk in experimenting with the two side by side atop the order. If anything, it has worked perfectly. Let managers bring in lefties late in the game against them. Heading into Tuesday night’s game, Ellsbury was hitting .419 in 31 at-bats against lefthanders and Gardner .400 in 25 at-bats vs. lefties.
Tuesday night’s starter for the Blue Jays was righthander Marco Estrada, a reliever getting a shot in the rotation, and Ellsbury and Gardner wasted no time in driving the pitcher crazy. Ellsbury ran his hitting streak to eight games with a single through the middle. He got a workout on several hit-and-run trots as Gardner fouled off Estrada offerings to extend the at-bat to 11 pitches. Brett’s last swing of the at-bat produced a liner to right-center on another hit-and-run play that got Ellsbury to third base with Gardner hustling all the way into second for a double.
The Yanks’ table setters did their job for Alex Rodriguez, who responded in kind with a double to left field for a 2-0 lead. A-Rod was caught off second on a tapper to the mound by Mark Teixeira that thwarted any continued scoring that inning.
Yankees fans have been patient with Carlos Beltran in hopes of seeing the player that had put together a Hall of Fame-bound career with the Royals, Astros, Mets, Giants and Cardinals. He was eager to play for the Yankees when he joined the club last year but had his season reduced by a third because of an elbow injury that required surgery.
A healthy Beltran has gotten off to a sluggish rather than a slugger start for the Yankees in 2015, which is why it was so important to see him get a clutch hit Wednesday night in the finale of the Yankees-Orioles series at Camden Yards.
Beltran, who took a .152 batting average into his third-inning plate appearance against Baltimore righthander Bud Norris, thrust the Yankees into the lead with a two-out, two-run double. The ball was smoked by Beltran, who was batting left-handed, and came within inches of a home rub as the ball hit near the top of the wall in right-center field.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi has kept Beltran in the 3-hole in the lineup despite his slow start because of the confidence he has in a player with so strong a track record. Beltran got the opportunity when the Yankees rallied with two out behind a double by Jacoby Ellsbury and a walk to Chase Headley.
Alex Rodriguez expanded the Yankees’ lead to 3-1 with a long home run to left field with one out in the fourth. When A-Rod touched the plate, it was his 1,923rd run scored, which tied him with former teammate Derek Jeter for 10th place on the all-time list.