Results tagged ‘ Greg Maddux ’

Yanks go Cy, Cy, Cy for third time

The Yankees are amid a stretch of facing three former Cy Young Award winners in a row. They faced the Tigers’ Max Scherzer Monday night (and beat him, 2-1), were paired against David Price Tuesday night and are scheduled against Justin Verlander Wednesday night.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this marks third time in franchise history that the Yankees have faced former Cy Young-winning starting pitchers in three consecutive games. The most recent period was June 8-10, 2001 when they went 1-2 against the Braves’ Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux. They also went 1-2 spanning the All-Star break in 1999, losing July 11 at Shea Stadium to the Mets’ Orel Hershiser, then going 1-1 July 15-16 against Atlanta’s Glavine and Maddux at Yankee Stadium.

Each of the Yankees’ last 15 games has been decided by two or fewer runs. They are 9-6 over that stretch. According to Elias, it is the club’s longest such streak of games with a final margin of no more than two runs. The previous high was 12 straight games by the old Highlanders from Sept. 10-20, 1904. Elias also noted that it is the longest such streak in the majors since a 16-game run by the 1975 Orioles in 1975. At 37-25 (.597), the Yankees have the majors’ best record in games decided by two or fewer runs.

The Nationals claimed left-handed reliever Matt Thornton off waivers from the Yankees. Thornton, who was 0-3 with a 2.55 ERA in 46 games totaling 24 2/3 innings, could have been taken back by the Yankees, but by letting him go they free up some $4 million for next year’s payroll. The Yankees recalled lefthander Rich Hill from Triple A Scranton to take Thornton’s place. Manager Joe Girardi said that lefthander David Huff and Hill will inherit Thornton’s lefty specialist role.

Torre steps into immortality

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — The annual pilgrimage to baseball’s mythical birthplace never ceases in its appeal. It provides the chance to reflect on all that is good about the game as the Hall of Fame opens its doors to a new class of immortals.

And what a class in 2014! Former Yankees manager Joe Torre has more than 300 friends and relatives scattered all over this area to witness his induction Sunday alongside fellow managers Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa as well as pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, the longtime Braves teammates, and first baseman Frank Thomas, one of two players with that name in town.

The other Frank Thomas, who was with the original Mets of 1962, is also here signing autographs on Main Street with Hall of Famers and non-Hall of Famers like Darryl Strawberry and Pete Rose. Also John Rocker, although I must say I have no idea why anyone would want his autograph.

Torre was feted Saturday night by the Yankees and Major League Baseball at a private party in a local brewery. Commissioner Bud Selig and Yankees managing partner Hal Steinbrenner spoke glowingly of Torre’s contributions to the game and the franchise. Joe was gracious in his remarks, a sort of test run for the big speech he will on stage at the Clark Sports Center Sunday.

The city is abuzz with former Yankees here and there, including Hall of Famers Whitey Ford, Dave Winfield, Phil Niekro, Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson and Goose Gossage. (Yogi Berra, not feeling well after a recent fall, canceled at the last minute. His boyhood friend from St. Louis, Joe Garagiola, also could not travel here to accept his Buck O’Neill Award Saturday at Doubleday Field but sent a taped message.)

Others here to witness Joe’s induction include actor-comedian Billy Crystal, Yanks chief operating officer Lonn Trost, Gene Michael, Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry, Lee Mazzilli and others. Among the Hall of Famers who have longstanding relationships with Torre are Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax, plus Tim McCarver, last year’s Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting.

This year’s Frick Award winner, Eric Nadel, the Brooklyn-born Texas Rangers radio voice, gave a lusty speech at Saturday’s ceremony. There was also a wonderful acceptance speech by New Yorker magazine’s ageless (93 actually) Roger Angell, this year’s J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner for baseball writing.

This is perfect company for Torre, whose 12 seasons at the helm of the Yankees continued the franchise’s connection with success. He turned around the attitudes of many a Yankees hater from 1996 through 2007. His ascension into the Hall’s gallery is long overdue.

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.

Andy Pettitte: He always took the ball

The day I arrived at what was the last spring training the Yankees had at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 1995, then manager Buck Showalter drove up to me in a golf cart on the sidelines of the main field and said, “Hop in; I want you to see someone.”

He drove to me to one of the back fields where two pitchers were warming up. I have long forgotten who one of them was, but the one I remember was Andy Pettitte. He wasn’t as cut as he would later become; he still had some love handles, but one pitch after the other sunk with stinging action.

Showalter, who grew up in the Florida panhandle and attended Mississippi State University, had an affinity for Southern players. Still does, probably, so I said to him, “Okay, which is it? Louisiana or Arkansas?”

“Texas,” Buck said. “You can’t quote me on this, but this guy might win 15 games for us this year.”

“Pretty tall order for a rookie,” I said.

Showalter missed on his prediction. Pettitte won 12 games, not 15, but he helped stabilize a rotation snagged by an injury to Jimmy Key, who finished second to David Cone, then with the Royals, in the previous year’s American League Cy Young Award race, and was a key ingredient in the Yankees’ reaching post-season play for the first time in 15 years, as the newfangled wild card.

Pettitte’s victory total was second on the staff only to another former Cy Young Award winner, Jack McDowell, who was 15-10. Pettitte’s 12-9 record and 4.17 ERA was not overwhelming, but it was good enough for him to finish third in the AL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award voting behind winner Marty Cordova of the Twins and runner-up Garret Anderson of the Angels, a couple of outfielders.

The lefthander started Game 2 of the Division Series against the Mariners at Yankee Stadium and was not involved in the decision, a 7-5 Yankees victory on a two-run home run in the 15th inning by Jim Leyritz that gave them a 2-0 lead in the series before they went 0-for-Seattle.

With Showalter gone after turning down a two-year contract offer from George Steinbrenner, Pettitte had to prove himself all over again to a new manager, Joe Torre, in 1996. It wasn’t easy, either. Torre at first thought Pettitte, a deeply religious person, was a bit soft. Yet start after start, Pettitte kept the Yankees in games, and he ended up winning 21 of them and becoming a Cy Young Award candidate, although he finished second in the voting to the Blue Jays’ Pat Hentgen.

Pettitte never came closer to winning that award, but even better he won over Torre with 8 1/3 gutty innings of shutout ball in Game 5 of the World Series at Atlanta, a 1-0 Yankees victory that put them up 3-2 and in position to take the Series two nights later, which they did. From that point on, Torre never questioned Pettitte’s toughness again.

Here is what Joe said about Andy the other day:

“Andy took the ball every five days, and if he had it his way, he’d get it more often than that. What’s really unusual about him is that a lot of times pitchers are more consumed with themselves. Andy was probably the consummate team player, especially for a pitcher. He was so concerned not only about the day he pitched but he always had his arm around a young guy in between starts.
 
“He has been a huge favorite of mine because he’s such a stand up guy, and he hasn’t changed from day one. He was a great teammate, and I think that’s why he won so many games. The guys that play behind him understand how intense he is, and it becomes contagious.
 
“I think the impact he had on the teams we had in the mid-to-late 1990’s was enormous even though he was never the guy in the spotlight. He liked the fact that he wasn’t the No. 1 guy even though I trusted him like a No. 1 guy. But he didn’t have an ego that dictated he needed all that attention.
 
“He did a great job of channeling his energy into competing, and he was about as consistent a performer as anybody in terms of getting your money’s worth. He glued our staff together. When you’re performing with the same people year-in and year-out, it’s always nice to have that security blanket. He was certainly that guy on the pitching staff.”

For other managers, the Astros’ Jimy Williams and Phil Garner and the Yankees’ Joe Girardi, Pettitte proved just as reliable in a career he brought to a halt this week. There were no tears at Friday’s announcement. Pettitte thought long and hard about this decision, and when he said “My heart isn’t in it anymore,” that’s all he needed to say. Once a player no longer has the stomach for the game, it is time to go.

That Game 5 of the 1996 World Series four nights after the Braves handed his head to him in Game 1 remains the centerpiece of Pettitte’s Yankees career, but there were plenty of other times when he gave the Yankees everything they needed from a pitcher.

He was the Most Valuable Player of the 2001 AL Championship Series when he won both his starts and held a Seattle team that had won 116 games during the regular season to four runs in 14 1/3 innings. Even in defeat, Pettitte could be magnificent, such as the Game 6 showdown with the Marlins’ Josh Beckett in the 2003 World Series, Andy’s last start for the Yankees before signing as a free agent with his hometown Houston club.

Three years later, Pettitte was back with the Yankees reunited with Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada and helped ring in the new Yankee Stadium by winning the clinching games of all three post-season series in 2009 as the team achieved its 27th championship. Last year, he was a Cy Young Award candidate for half the season before a groin injury cost him at least a dozen starts. Now he is the first of the “Core Four” to call it quits.

“Andy was a great teammate and a wonderful guy,” Rivera said. “He was a fighter and all about winning, and he was respected by every person in the clubhouse.”

“I’m really sad that Andy is going to retire,” Posada said.”He was so much more than a teammate to me; he was one of my closest friends.  I admire everything that he has accomplished as a Yankee, but Andy was someone who always put the team first.  I’m going to miss him deeply.”

Added Jeter: “It has been a pleasure to play with Andy for all these years, and the Yankees have been fortunate to have him representing the organization both on and off the field. More importantly, it has been an honor to get to know him as a person, and I consider him family. I wish for nothing but happiness for him and his family, as I know how important they are to him.”

Of course, it didn’t take long for Hall of Fame talk about Pettitte to sprout. Let’s give it the five-year wait before getting serious about that. Pettitte has a lot going for him – a won-loss record more than 100 games over .500 at 240-138, a post-season record 19 victories, and winning five rings in eight World Series overall. He also has some things going against him – allowing more hits than innings pitched, a rather high ERA (3.88) and three more dangerous capital letters, HGH, which he admitted to using after his name surfaced in the Mitchell Report.

His path to Cooperstown won’t be smooth. Over the next few years, the ballot will contain the names of starting pitchers superior to him in terms of statistics – Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, even Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina.

“I’ve never considered myself a Hall of Famer,” Pettitte said. “I guess I’ve gotten close to having those kinds of credentials or guys wouldn’t be talking about it.”

The writers who do the voting will be talking about him for a while. But to Yankees fans, Pettitte will always be in their personal Halls of Fame for his competitiveness and remarkable consistency.

 

No reward to CC for 21 Ws

Yankees fans have reason to be upset that CC Sabathia did not win the American League Cy Young Award that was given instead by the Baseball Writers’ Association to the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez. Heck, the big guy didn’t even finish second as the Rays’ David Price was the runner-up.

One of the arguments made last year when the Royals’ Zack Greinke won in the AL with only 16 victories and the Giants’ Tim Lincecum in the National League with merely 15 was that there were no 20-game winners, so the field was much more open.

That was not the case this year. Sabathia was 21-7 and had plenty of other good numbers, too, including a 3.18 ERA, which is not shabby for a guy pitching in the AL East and hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. That Hernandez won despite posting a record of 13-12 seems absurd until you look a bit deeper into his season and not just at the statistics that a lot of people believe are too esoteric but to which the increasing numbers-conscious are devoted.

Hernandez led the league in ERA (2.27) and innings (249 2/3) and was second in strikeouts (232), only one behind league leader Jered Weaver of the Angels. These are not intangible stats. They are pretty tangible, one might even say traditional.

Think of how Hernandez felt last year. He went 19-5 and couldn’t beat out Greinke. Hernandez said Thursday from his home in Venezuela that he did not know how to gauge this year’s balloting after what happened last year. “Are they going to tell me that I didn’t win enough games this year but that I won too many last year?” he asked me.

I told him one year to the next is different, which I still believe even though the recent voting indicates a trend may be developing. I hope not. The day when victories aren’t considered the important part of the pitching equation is the day you might as well stop keeping score. I mean, if pitching victories don’t mean anything, why are they still kept? Imagine trying to tell the Major League Players Association that pitching victories won’t be totaled any more? Good luck explaining that to the union.

It is interesting that the list of pitchers who have 300 or more career victories are all in the Hall of Fame except for those not yet eligible, whose names are Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson. It would seem that winning a lot of games is a big deal, huh?

This is all coming from someone who thought Hernandez was the best pitcher he saw this year. No knock on CC, who I probably would have voted for had I been on the committee, but look what Hernandez did in his three starts against the Yankees: 3-0, 0.35 ERA. That is not a misprint. He allowed 1 run, 16 hits and 8 walks with 31 strikeouts in 26 innings.

The only reason he did not pitch 27 innings for a third complete game against the Yankees was that Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu did not let him finish the Aug. 20 game at the Stadium while working on a four-hit shutout with 11 Ks. Writers in the press box can recall my reaction to that. I was beside myself, howling that Wakamatsu’s move was akin to grabbing the brush from Picasso before he could complete his painting. It was absolute disregard for artistic endeavor, and the manager deserved to be fired, which he eventually was.

Remember, though, that was a night Hernandez won, not one of the many games in which he pitched splendidly and either lost or got hung with a no-decision because of such scant run support by an offense that scratched out an average of 3.2 runs per game. The Mariners’ run support for Hernandez was 2.4 per game. Seattle scored two runs or fewer in 15 of his 34 starts. He was 2-10 with a 2.84 ERA in those games. In his nine no decisions, Hernandez pitched to a 1.92 ERA.

I kept in mind that in 1972 Steve Carlton won the NL Cy Young Award with a 27-10 record for a Phillies club whose overall mark was 59-97 and also averaged only 3.2 runs per game. The point of view of Sabathia supporters, of which there were three who gave him first-place approval on the ballot, came Tuesday from none other than this year’s NL winner, Roy Halladay, who had the same victory total as CC.

“Obviously, Felix’s numbers are very, very impressive,” Doc said. “But I think, ultimately, you look at how guys are able to win games. Sometimes the run support isn’t there, but you sometimes just find ways to win games. I think the guys that are winning and helping their teams deserve a strong look, regardless of how good Felix’s numbers are. It definitely could go either way; it’s going to be interesting. But I think when teams bring guys over, they want them to, ultimately at the end of the day, help them win games.”

It is hard to argue with that logic.

Cy Young holiday for Halladay

No American League club was happier to see Roy Halladay cross over into the National League this year than the Yankees. The one bad thing for the Yanks about Halladay going from the Blue Jays to the Phillies was that it triggered Philadelphia trading Cliff Lee back to the AL with the Mariners.

But it was good riddance for Halladay, who regularly thumped the Yankees to the tune of 18-7 with a 2.98 ERA, seven complete games (including three shutouts) and 195 strikeouts in 38 appearances (36 starts) covering 253 1/3 innings. Halladay did not find the new Yankee Stadium to his liking. He was 1-1 with a 6.16 ERA there in 2009 after having gone 7-4 with a 2.97 ERA in the old Stadium.

Halladay had a remarkable first season in the NL this year and was rewarded Tuesday by winning the Cy Young Award. He became the fifth pitcher to win the award in both leagues, having won in the AL with Toronto in 2003, and the 16th multiple winner.

The righthander was in Mexico on vacation when he received word of his election. I had the opportunity to tell him how popular he is in press boxes throughout North America because it is an extremely pleasurable experience to watch him pitch. He is a pro’s pro with no wasted motion and a focus that is sadly lacking among starting pitchers of this period.

“That’s very satisfying to hear,” the man called “Doc” said. “I hope the fans feel the same way.”

Halladay was the 13th unanimous choice in NL voting as he received all 32 first-place votes from two writers in each league city to score a perfect 224 points, based on a tabulation system that rewards seven points for first place, four for second, three for third, two for fourth and one for fifth. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America expanded the Cy Young Award ballot from three to five pitchers this year.

Halladay, 33, posted a 21-10 record with a 2.44 ERA in 33 starts and led the league in victories, innings (250 2/3), complete games (9) and shutouts (4) and was second in strikeouts (219). He pitched a perfect game May 29 at Miami in a 1-0 victory over the Marlins. Balloting takes place prior to the start of post-season play, so his no-hitter over the Reds in Game 1 of the NL Division Series was not a factor in the voting.

Cardinals righthander Adam Wainwright (20-11, 2.42 ERA), who finished third in 2009, was the runner-up with 122 points based on 28 votes for second, three for third and one for fifth. Rockies righthander Ubaldo Jimenez (19-8, 2.88 ERA) was third with 90 points. Halladay, Wainwright and Jimenez were the only pitchers named on all the ballots. Righthanders Tim Hudson (17-9, 2.83 ERA) of the Braves and Josh Johnson (11-6, 2.30 ERA) of the Marlins rounded out the top five. In all, 11 pitchers received votes.

Halladay joined the company of Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Gaylord Perry as Cy Young Award winners in both leagues. Clemens won six in the AL (1986, ’87 and ’91 with the Red Sox; 1997 and ’98 with the Blue Jays; 2001 with the Yankees) and one in the NL (2004 with the Astros). Johnson won four in the NL (1999 through 2002 with the Diamondbacks) and one in the AL (1995 with the Mariners). Martinez won two in the AL (1999 and 2000 with the Red Sox) and one in the NL (1997 with the Expos). Perry won one in the AL (1972 with the Indians) and one in the NL (1978 with the Padres).

Unanimous winners in the NL were Sandy Koufax all three times he won and Greg Maddux twice among his four victories, along with Johnson, Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Rick Sutcliffe, Dwight Gooden, Orel Hershiser and Jake Peavy. There has been a unanimous winner in the AL eight times: Clemens, Martinez and Johan Santana twice each, Denny McLain and Ron Guidry.

It marked the seventh time a Phillies pitcher won the award, including Carlton four times. The other winners from Philadelphia were John Denny and Steve Bedrosian. In addition to Koufax, Maddux, Carlton, Clemens, Martinez, Johnson, Perry, Gibson, McLain and Santana, other pitchers to have won the award more than once were Tom Seaver and Jim Palmer three times each, Bret Saberhagen, Tom Glavine and Tim Lincecum twice apiece.

Halladay is in pretty heady company and deserves to be.

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