Results tagged ‘ Joe Torre ’

Rain falls on Mattingly’s parade

If only the weather had cooperated. Tuesday night was supposed to be special for Don Mattingly, who would have made his first appearance on the field at Yankee Stadium since he retired as a player after the 1995 season. He came back along with former manager Joe Torre in September 2010 for the unveiling of the plaque for the late owner George Steinbrenner but not in uniform.

“Donnie Baseball” was expected to receive a very warm welcome from Yankees fans even if he was wearing Dodgers blue as their manager in the club’s first regular-season game in the Bronx. A persistent rain forced the postponement of the game, however, which will be made up as part of a split-admission doubleheader Wednesday. It is hoped that a good sized crowd is on hand for that first game, so Mattingly can receive the ovation he richly deserves.

He is that rarity (think Yogi Berra, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera) as a Yankees player than even Yankees haters liked. Mattingly wore the pinstripes proudly for 14 seasons as a player and was a loyal coach as well. He was a candidate for the managerial position after Torre left but lost the job to current skipper Joe Girardi, a situation Mattingly now considers a “blessing.”

“They treated me fairly, I thought,” Mattingly said of the Yankees’ front office. “Things work out for a reason. That would have been really bad timing for me. Terrible. I was going through some personal stuff that would have been miserable trying to manage for the first time and have that going on. So, that was a blessing in disguise. Coming to L.A. has been great, and obviously there’s been a lot of turmoil this year, but I love what I’m doing and I like being in L.A.”

Mattingly was going through a divorce at the time and ended up joining Torre with the Dodgers as bench coach. When Joe stepped down from the manager’s job two years ago, Mattingly succeeded him. Unfortunately, injuries have played a huge part in the Dodgers’ disappointing season, a situation for which his Yankees counterpart can relate. Girardi has had 13 players do 16 stints on the disabled list. Mattingly has had 15 players on the DL.

About coming back to New York, Mattingly said, “It’s not just the building, it’s the people. Seeing the guys in the clubhouse and around the Stadium, it’s a good feeling.”

Mattingly feels fortunate that he has been involved with two clubs with storied histories. He grew up in Evansville, Ind., where the Cardinals and the Reds were the clubs people listed to mostly on the radio. The Yankees were a dynasty from long ago to Mattingly until he finally arrived at the Stadium as a player.

“I’m always excited when we come back to New York,” he said. “I don’t quite understand the relationship [with the fans], to be honest. I came from a small town and just played. They seemed to appreciate that. That was nice for me because all I had to do was play.”

Mattingly had hoped to be a part of a Yankees-Dodgers World Series (they have opposed each other in October a record 11 times) in 2009, but Los Angeles lost to Philadelphia in the NL Championship Series.

“I didn’t really know much about the Yankees until I got here,” he said. “It starts in spring training. Mickey [Mantle] was still alive and came to camp. You’d see Whitey [Ford] and Yogi. You don’t understand the history until you get here. Now I’m in another place that it steeped in history, going back to Jackie [Robinson] breaking the color line, bringing baseball to the West Coast and having strong ties to the community. All the Rookie of the Year winners over the years that shows the commitment to players coming through the system, fighting for a championship year after year, it is very similar to the Yankees.”

“Donnie is one of the greatest Yankees that’s ever played,” Girardi said. “He’s one of the greatest teammates that has ever put on that uniform. I know I’ve always loved him and appreciated what he has done, and I know the fans have seen a lot more than I have. I think it’ll be a great day for him.”

It will just have to wait for one more day.

The only tickets valid for the 1:05 p.m. game Wednesday are tickets dated June 18. The game originally scheduled for June 19 remains scheduled for a 7:05 p.m. start. YES will cablecast the 1:05 p.m. game. Channel 9 will telecast the 7:05 p.m. game.

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Boston Marathon tragedy close to home for Youkilis

Kevin Youkilis prepared to enjoy Monday’s open date for the Yankees. Instead, it became a busy day of making dozens of telephone calls to make sure friends and relatives of his in the Boston area were safe following the horrific events along the finish line of the Boston Marathon along Boylston Street.

“Sick to my stomach,” was Youkilis’ reaction to the two bombings that killed at least three people and injured hundreds of others. “It ate me up a lot.”

Youkilis played in Boston over nine seasons with the Red Sox and is married to a local girl, the former Julie Brady, sister of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Youkilis is quite familiar with the special feeling Massachusetts residents have for Patriots Day, a civic holiday that is unlike any other.

“I was on that finish line one year,” Youkilis said. “I would have been across the street and in plain view of where the first bomb went off. My father-in-law’s office is in that area. Luckily, he was not in his office.”

Few people are that day. Schools, post offices and most businesses are closed as the city fills up with people to cheer on the runners in the nation’s oldest marathon. The Red Sox were home for their 11 a.m. game against the Rays, which traditionally gets the day off to a festive start.

“It’s an amazing day,” Youkilis said. “Actually, players have a hard time getting to the park because they close off so many streets. It’s the most exciting day of the year in Boston. There is such a positive attitude. You see all those people cheering the people running whom they don’t even know. So many runners are out there for charity. My wife and her sister have run in the Marathon before. I texted everyone I knew up there just to make sure they were safe.”

The Yankees released a prepared statement, which read, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and the families who were affected by the bombings and our respect and admiration go out to the police, medical personnel and first responders who acted so heroically. We stand united with the participants, volunteers, staff and spectators of the Boston Marathon and the people of Boston. While we do not comment on safety and security measures at Yankee Stadium, this has always been our top priority and the public can be assured we are working with all levels of law enforcement and our own security personnel to ensure a safe environment.”

To honor the Boston community, the Yankees will stage a moment of silence prior to Tuesday night’s game against the Diamondbacks at the Stadium. The Fenway Park favorite, “Sweet Caroline,” will be played between the third and fourth innings. The song has a New York connection since it was written and performed by Brooklyn-bred Neil Diamond, but it has a special connotation in Boston as an eighth-inning anthem at Fenway. Diamond wrote the song in tribute to Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, a Boston native.

“It is important that we recognize that we are behind the people of Boston,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

The “Sweet Caroline” tribute will be similar to the “New York, New York” salute that Fenway Park fans stood for and sang when the Yankees first played there following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. I remember how Joe Torre, then the manager, fought back tears when trying to describe his emotions of that night.

“Who would have ever thought you would hear people in Boston heartily singing that song in the Red Sox ballpark?” Joe told me later. “It shows that we really are a unified nation.”

A-Rod benched for ALDS Game 5

Desperate situations call for desperate measures. Staring at a possible postseason elimination game Friday at Yankee Stadium in Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Orioles, Yankees manager Joe Girardi constructed a lineup without Alex Rodriguez. The die was cast in the previous two games when Girardi lifted Rodriguez in the late innings for pinch hitters Raul Ibanez in Game 3 and Eric Chavez in Game 4. For Game 5, A-Rod will be one of Girardi’s potential pinch hitters.

There is no getting around the fact that this is a major comedown for someone who won three American League Most Valuable Player Awards and is among the career leaders in home runs (fifth with 647), RBI (seventh with 1,950), extra-base hits (ninth with 1,189), total bases (ninth with 5,414) and runs scored (10th with 1,898).

This is hardly unprecedented in Yankees history. In Game 5 of the 1996 World Series at Atlanta, then Yankees manager Joe Torre had right-handed batting Cecil Fielder at first base and Charlie Hayes at third base against right-handed pitcher John Smoltz, over left-swinging Tino Martinez and Wade Boggs, respectively. The move paid off as Fielder had three hits and drove in the only run of the game as the Yankees took a 3-2 lead in the Series that they won in Game 6 back home.

As affectionately as Yankees fans feel about Martinez and fully acknowledging that Boggs was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, neither player was of the stature of Rodriguez. Girardi is managing the A-Rod of today, however, and not the one who won MVP Awards in pinstripes in 2005 and 2007 or the one who was a postseason star when the Yankees last won a World Series three years ago.

The reality of the 2012 ALDS is that Rodriguez has 2-for-16 (.125) with nine strikeouts. All of the Ks are against right-handed pitching, against whom A-Rod is hitless in 11 at-bats. So it can hardly have come as a surprise to anyone that such a decision was made. That said, A-Rod is not the only culprit in this series.

Curtis Granderson (.063, nine strikeouts), Nick Swisher (.133) and Robinson Cano (.111) have not lit up the skies, either.

The Yankees’ Game 4 loss also hurt in that with a Game 5 of the ALDS they have to use CC Sabathia and not have him ready to start Game 1 of the ALCS if they had won Thursday night. If the Yankees should win Game 5, they would not be able to use Sabathia in the ALCS until Game 3 Tuesday night at Detroit against Justin Verlander, who would be starting on regular rest while CC would be on short rest.

Ibanez finished what he did not start

All that concern before Game 3 of the American League Division Series about where Alex Rodriguez was batting in the order obscured the fact that Raul Ibanez was not in the lineup against a right-handed starter. Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to have Eric Chavez play third base and use Rodriguez at designated hitter and keep Ibanez on the bench.

Oh, man, did that hunch pay off for Girardi and the Yankees. Ibanez, who only eight days earlier became the first Yankees player to hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning and a walk-off RBI in extra innings in the same game, trumped that Wednesday night. This time, he not only homered to tie the score in the ninth but also in the 12th to win it.

This one will have the Elias Sports Bureau researchers up all night in their Fifth Avenue office trying to determine if what Ibanez did in the Yankees’ 3-2 victory over the Orioles was unprecedented in the history of postseason play. My guess is they will discover that the answer is yes. We already know that Ibanez is the first player to hit two home runs in a postseason game that he did not start.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter had identified Ibanez as a threat off the bench he had hoped to avoid when discussing his late-inning pitching maneuvers in Game 2. Ibanez’s performance in Game 3 justified Showalter’s concern. Ibanez, pinch hitting for A-Rod yet, sent the game into extras with a ninth-inning home run off Orioles closer Jim Johnson, whom the Yankees continue to rough up.

The Yankees mugged Johnson for five runs in the ninth inning of Game 1 at Baltimore in a non-save situation. This time it was a blown save for Johnson, the major-league leader in saves with 51 in the regular season.

Ibanez’s drive into the right field stands off a 1-0 fastball (at 94 miles per hour, no less) took a potential losing decision away from Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda, who deserved a better fate after allowing only two runs (on solo homers by Ryan Flaherty and Manny Machado, the O’s 8-and 9-hole hitters) in 8 1/3 strong innings. Ibanez was the Yankees’ best pinch hitter this season with a .320 average, two home runs and seven RBI in 25 at-bats and kept that distinction intact with Wednesday night’s feat.

Not even having to face a lefthander, Brian Matusz, fazed Ibanez in the 12th. He didn’t even wait as he swung at the first pitch – a 91-mph cut fastball – and thrust the Yankees into a 2-games-to-1 lead in the best-of-5 series.

Pinch hitting for Rodriguez was a gutty decision for Girardi, although one that could hardly have been second-guessed. A-Rod was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in the game and is 1-for-12 (.083) with seven punchouts in the series. Ibanez is now 3-for-5 (.600) with two home runs in the ALDS.

Girardi looked at Ibanez the way Casey Stengel once did at Johnny Mize and Joe Torre once did at Darryl Strawberry. Mize and Strawberry were left-handed sluggers whose aim at the cozy right-field porch at Yankee Stadium gave many opposing managers cause for alarm, the same feeling Showalter had when thinking about Ibanez.

As unusual as it was to see Derek Jeter sitting in the Yankees dugout as his teammates took the field in the ninth inning, the more amazing aspect was that he was able to play at all after the third inning. The Captain aggravated a nagging bone bruise in his left ankle running out a triple in the bottom of that inning.

He gutted his way through the eighth before Girardi decided to keep a hobbling player on the field was too great a risk in what was then a one-run game. In his eighth-inning at-bat, Jeter nearly fell down when landing on his left ankle on the follow-through of a swing and miss.

The startling finish was something the Orioles are not accustomed to. Extra innings have been joyful ones for the Orioles, who had won 16 consecutive such games before Wednesday night. The only two extra-inning games Baltimore lost in the regular season were against the Yankees on back-to-back nights April 10 and 11 at Camden Yards.

In the April 10 game, the deciding hit was a two-run double by Raul Ibanez.

A-Rod stays in 3-hole; Hughes to start Game 4

Yankees manager Joe Girardi had no real surprises in his lineup for Wednesday night’s Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium. All the critics who expected Alex Rodriguez to be removed from the 3-hole were probably not satisfied to see him there once again, albeit as the designated hitter rather than at third base.

Even that was not a surprise. Eric Chavez got the start at third basically because he is one of the few Yankees hitters who has good numbers against Baltimore starter Miguel Gonzalez, who held them to a .196 batting average in two Stadium starts during the regular season. Chavez had 3-for-6 (.500) with one home run and two RBI against Gonzalez.

The argument against Rodriguez batting third can be pretty compelling. He has 1-for-9 (.111) with five strikeouts in the series. Not very good, I grant you. However, he was robbed of an RBI hit in the first inning of Game 1 by second baseman Roberto Andino’s lucky grab of a line drive headed for center field that instead became a double play.

Anyone who recalls the way Girardi flummoxed on a nightly basis about his batting order when A-Rod was on the disabled list in July and August should not be stunned to see him pretty much leave things alone. Girardi has a thing about not stacking his left-handed hitters, which if he bats Robinson Cano third and drops Rodriguez to sixth he would be doing with four consecutive left-handed hitters.

And it is important to note that Cano, Curtis Granderson and switch hitters Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher (both of whom bat left-handed against right-handed pitchers) entered Game 3 a combined 0-for-21 against Gonzalez.

Too much has been made in the press about the situation in 2006 when then Yankees manager Joe Torre dropped Rodriguez into the 8-hole when he was slumping in that year’s ALDS. The situation then had more to do with Torre’s not notifying A-Rod about the move before posting the lineup card, a severe breach of clubhouse etiquette on the manager’s part.

Girardi was not with the Yankees in 2006 (he was managing the Marlins), but his explanation seemed to reflect on that instance.

“I think whenever you move a player, it has a chance not only to affect the player but also the whole team, too,” Girardi said. “There are different things you have to worry about. Sometimes moving one player causes you to move two or three or maybe even four because our lineup is built around somewhat protecting our left-handed hitters from matchups. That’s a concern, too.”

Another Girardi decision that may be a topic of debate among fans is his notifying Phil Hughes that he would be the Game 4 starting pitcher regardless of the outcome of Game 3. There has been speculation in the media that Girard should bring CC Sabathia on short rest to start Game 4 if the Yankees should lose Game 3 and fall behind, 2-1, in the best-of-5 series.

I think Joe is right. Look at it this way. If the Yankees lose Game 3, they would need to win two more games to take the series. So they are going to need Hughes to start one of those games. It is not a good idea to have Andy Pettitte, 40 and not far removed from a broken leg, start Game 5 on short rest. So if you need Hughes to be in the rotation, what difference does it make if it is Game 4 or Game 5? There is no point in putting in Hughes’ mind that he is not capable of winning an important game.

Piniella, Torre pay respects at Hall of Fame

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Former Yankees managers Lou Piniella and Joe Torre were among the baseball people who came to the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Induction Weekend. I kidded them that they must be rehearsing for when their time comes for induction. In another two years, both will likely be on the Veterans Committee’s ballot from the Expansion Era for their careers as managers.

Lou was here for both of Sunday’s inductees, Barry Larkin and the late Ron Santo. Larkin was the shortstop on Piniella’s Reds team that won the 1990 World Series in a sweep of the Athletics. During his time as manager of the Cubs, Piniella also became a friend of Santo, the former third baseman who later was a fixture at Wrigley Field as a broadcaster.

Santo died last year, and his widow, Vicki, gave a moving acceptance speech. How she got through it without breaking down was amazing to me. She painted a brilliant picture of the man who was as identified with the Cubs as former teammates Ernie Banks and Billy Williams, who were on hand for the ceremony. They were among the 45 Hall of Famers who attended the ceremony, including Yankees favorites Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Dave Winfield, Phil Niekro and Rickey Henderson.

Larkin told a story about how Piniella addressed the Reds in 1990 before the start of spring training and explained to them that he did not like losing and that he did not intend for this team to lose. Cincinnati won its first nine games that season and went wire to wire to win the National League West, the division the Reds were in before the NL Central was created with realignment in 1994. They defeated the Pirates in the NL Championship Series before sweeping the A’s in the World Series, so Lou kept his promise about not losing.

Larkin was that baseball rarity that played his entire career for his hometown team. I could think of only three other Hall of Famers who did that, and all were Yankees – Lou Gehrig, Phil Rizzuto and Whitey Ford. Gehrig grew up on the West Side of Manhattan, the Scooter in Brooklyn and Ford in the Queens neighborhood of Astoria, and each spent his entire playing career in the Bronx.

I remember when Paul O’Neill was traded to the Yankees from the Reds in 1993, and a lot of people said that he would have trouble playing in New York. O’Neill, who was also on that ’90 Reds team and like Larkin had grown up in Cincinnati, told me once that he never had any doubts that he would do well in New York. He was not unfamiliar with the city because his sister, Molly, then the food critic for the New York Times, lived there for many years.

“There was a lot more pressure on me playing for the Reds because it was my hometown,” Paulie said. “I never felt that kind of pressure in New York. The fans in New York welcomed me and got behind me early on. I enjoyed the New York experience a lot more than Cincinnati.”

Torre came up for Saturday’s program at Doubleday Field for former teammate Tim McCarver, who was honored with the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting alongside Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun as the J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner for baseball writing. Joe and Timmy were teammates with the Cardinals and have remained good friends over the years.

Among the people McCarver credited for his playing career, which covered four decades from 1959 through 1980, was Hall of Fame catcher Bill Dickey, a career Yankee. McCarver said that in those pre-draft years of the 1950s that he almost signed with the Yankees because he was so impressed by Dickey but wound up signing with the Cardinals.

“Bill Dickey gave me the greatest piece of advice I ever received for a catcher,” McCarver said. “He told me, ‘Be a pitcher’s friend.’ And I am happy to say that a couple of Hall of Famers who are up on this stage with me have been lifelong friends, Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton.”

Old Timers remind fans of good times

Old Timers’ Day never gets old, if you know what I mean. The Yankees were the first team to celebrate their history with an annual reunion that began in 1947 to honor Babe Ruth, and they are the last team to bring back stories players from their past every year on a scheduled date.

The Yankees’ great tradition lends itself perfectly to such an exercise. It seems as if everyone invited back had a part in producing one of the 27 World Series championships, some of them more than others but no one more so than Yogi Berra.

The practice of Old Timers’ Days with other clubs gained popularity in the 1960s, but by the 1990s nearly every team, including such other tradition-rich franchises as the Dodgers, Giants and Cardinals stopped doing them regularly. The Red Sox did a nice job of inviting back many of the players from their past to celebrate Fenway Park’s centennial back in April, but that was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. For the Yankees, it is an annual get together that is the result of the hard work of vice president for marketing Debbie Tymon and her staff.

Yogi was clearly the focus Sunday as the introductions wound down to those so close to him in his long connection with the team, such as old pal Whitey Ford; former American League president Bobby Brown, who roomed with Yogi during their years together as players in the late 1940s and early ‘50s, and Don Larsen, whom Berra navigated through a perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, the only no-hitter in Series history.

Every Yankees era was represented: the 1950s with Berra, Ford, Brown, Larsen, Jerry Coleman and Bob Turley; the 1960s with Hector Lopez, Luis Arroyo, Bobby Richardson, Ralph Terry, Joe Pepitone, Al Downing, Jake Gibbs and Mel Stottlemyre; the 1970s with Reggie Jackson, Bucky Dent, Brian Doyle, Mickey Rivers, Ron Guidry, Lou Piniella, Willie Randolph, Roy White and Ron Blomberg; the 1980s with Tommy John, Goose Gossage and Rickey Henderson; the 1990s with Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, David Cone, Cecil Fielder, Charlie Hayes, Darryl Strawberry, Jesse Barfield, Pat Kelly, Bernie Williams and Joe Torre.

It was the first invitation for Stump Merrill, who has served in numerous capacities for the organization the past 38 years, including manager in the lean times of 1990 and ’91. It was Stump who helped convert a Puerto Rican second baseman named Jorge Posada into an All-Star catcher.

“I can’t kick about waiting 38 years,” Stump said, laughing. “Last year, they invited Geno for the first time in 49 years!”

Long-time trainer Gene Monahan, who retired after the 2011 season, was also back at Yankee Stadium Sunday for the one day every year that could be renamed Good Times Day.

Sunday marks 66th Old Timers’ Day at Stadium

Nearly 50 former players, managers and coaches of the Yankees plus the widows of five of the most prominent team alumni will be on hand at the 66th annual Old-Timers’ Day Sunday, July 1, at Yankee Stadium.

Ceremonies are scheduled to begin at 11:15 a.m. with the traditional Old-Timers’ game to follow, both of which will be aired exclusively on the YES Network. The Yankees will then play the White Sox at 2:05 p.m., also on YES. General public gates will open to ticket-holding guests at 10 a.m. Fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 11 a.m. for the festivities.

The Old Timers are headlined by several members of past Yankees’ World Series championship clubs, including Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Goose Gossage, Rickey Henderson and Reggie Jackson. Former Yankees and current YES Network broadcasters David Cone, Paul O’Neill and Lou Piniella will also be part of the program.

Also invited back are former Yankees managers Joe Torre and Stump Merrill. For Merrill, who currently serves as a Special Assistant to the General Manager, it will mark his first Old-Timers’ Day appearance. Gene Monahan, who retired at the end of the 2011 season after serving as a trainer in the Yankees organization for 49 years, will also make his Old-Timers’ Day debut.

Joining the Hall of Famers and former Yankees on the baselines will be the widows of five legendary Yankees—Arlene Howard, widow of Elston Howard; Helen Hunter, widow of Jim “Catfish” Hunter; Jill Martin, widow of Billy Martin; Diana Munson, widow of Thurman Munson and Kay Murcer, widow of Bobby Murcer.

Here is the full list of those scheduled to attend:

Luis Arroyo, Jesse Barfield, Yogi Berra, Ron Blomberg, Dr. Bobby Brown, Homer Bush, Jerry Coleman, David Cone, Bucky Dent, Al Downing, Brian Doyle, Cecil Fielder, Whitey Ford, Oscar Gamble, Jake Gibbs, Joe Girardi, Goose Gossage, Ron Guidry, Charlie Hayes, Rickey Henderson, Sterling Hitchcock, Arlene Howard, Helen Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Tommy John, Pat Kelly, Don Larsen, Graeme Lloyd, Hector Lopez, Jill Martin, Tino Martinez, Lee Mazzilli, Stump Merrill, Gene Monahan, Diana Munson, Kay Murcer, Matt Nokes, Paul O’Neill, Joe Pepitone, Lou Piniella, Willie Randolph, Bobby Richardson, Mickey Rivers, Aaron Small, Mel Stottlemyre, Darryl Strawberry, Tanyon Sturtze, Ralph Terry, Joe Torre, Bob Turley, Roy White, Bernie Williams.

Nothing chicken-hearted about Yanks’ tough loss

For a while there, it looked as if Frank Francisco would not get into Friday night’s game. He is the Mets closer with the big mouth, the guy who before the Subway Series called the Yankees “chickens,” as quoted in the New York Post. Some of the Mets had fun with this, playing “The Chicken Dance” and other poultry-related tunes in the clubhouse before the game.

To their credit, the Yankees did not overreact to the charge, which Francisco based on his belief that the Yankee complain about everything. That’s rich. He plays for a team that tried to stick their own hero, third baseman David Wright, with an error on an official scoring change in an effort to get R.A. Dickey a no-hitter. Even Dickey was embarrassed by such a bush maneuver. Thank goodness Joe Torre, Major League Baseball’s vice president for baseball operations, upheld the original ruling.

The chances that Francisco would get into the game looked pretty slim after the Mets broke out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning and were up, 6-2, through seven. But Robinson Cano’s two-run home run in the eighth off Miguel Batista made it a two-run game, creating a save opportunity for Francisco.

The righthander had also said that he looked forward to striking out the side against them, which he apparently he did once some years ago. Francisco did manage to chalk up his 18th save in the Mets’ 6-4 victory, but there was nothing chicken-livered about the Yankees’ at-bats that inning.

Francisco got a huge boost from his center fielder, Andres Torres, who made a sensational running catch to rob Russell Martin of a potential extra-base hit at the start of the inning. The play loomed large when Francisco walked pinch hitter Raul Ibanez and gave up a lightning bolt of a single to left by Derek Jeter.

The one strikeout Francisco got that inning was indeed impressive, locking up Curtis Granderson on a 95-mph fastball. Francisco hit 95 on the gun twice more against Mark Teixeira, who made the last out on a pop to shortstop.

The Yankees’ third straight inter-league loss this week was particularly bitter because of the opponent, but Yankees fans can come away with some satisfaction that their team did not go down quietly. Plenty of other clubs might have folded up after trailing by five runs in the first inning, especially when opposing pitcher Jonathan Niese was throwing so well.

They used their greatest ally – the long ball – to make a game of it. Solo shots by Alex Rodriguez in the sixth and Andruw Jones in the seventh plus Cano’s bomb in the eighth had the Mets reeling after they had failed to knock out Pettitte, who tagged on five shutout innings after the first.

Wright doubled in the Mets’ only run after that first inning, and he was doubled up after a diving catch by Jones off a Scott Hairston liner in the seventh. Yes, it was a tough loss for the Yankees, but they did not complain about it.

Bernie to manage in All-Star Futures Game

Former Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams will be back in baseball action during All-Star Game Week when he will serve as manager of the World Team against Hall of Famer George Brett, who will manage the U.S. Team, in the Futures Game July 8 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, two days before the All-Star Game.

“I am very excited to be managing the World Team in the Futures Game,” Williams said. “This game has grown in stature so much through the years, and it is remarkable how many of the young men who have played and starred in this game have become stars in the game today. That will be the case with hopefully many of the players I will have the honor of managing in Kansas City.”

Williams was a member of four World Series-winning teams in his 16-season career with the Yankees. The Puerto Rico native was a four-time Gold Glove Award winner and has more RBI (80) than any player in postseason history.

The Royals have not been the host club for an All-Star Game since 1973, which was the same year that Brett made his major league debut. The former third baseman won three batting titles in three separate decades and ranks 16th on the all-time hits list (3,154). Brett, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1999, has spent 19 seasons as KC’s vice president of baseball operations.
Brett, a 13-time All-Star, also managed the Futures Game in 2005, and said last month that he’s looking forward to being a part of the All-Star Game again.

“I’m excited to share the city and stadium I love with today’s All-Stars and baseball fans around the world,” said Brett, who played in 13 All-Star Games. “It’s an honor to be a part once again of the Midsummer Classic and baseball’s special celebration.”

The switch-hitting Williams batted .297 with 287 home runs. He won won the American League batting title with a .339 mark in 1998. Williams has not managed at any level. He said that he played for two of the best in Joe Torre and Buck Showalter. Torre even let Williams manage one game down the stretch as part of a tradition in which he allowed players to sit in his seat.

“I got to help make out the lineup and go to the mound and make the pitching changes, and make some decisions like to hit and run or lay down a bunt,” Bernie said. “It was a lot of fun, but I also saw how hard it was to manage, where you have to be following every pitch, but also thinking ahead a couple of innings and worrying about every player on the other bench. So, I have a great appreciation of what it takes to manage every single day.”

Brett and Williams will have plenty of help from experienced coaches. Brett will be assisted by minor-league Duane Espy, Tony Franklin, Mike Jirschele and Jim Pankovits. The pitching coach for the U.S. team will be Tom Filer, who works in that capacity for Triple-A Indianapolis.

Williams will have minor-league managers Arnie Beyeler, Steve Buechele, Darren Bush and Turner Ward on his staff, along with Double A Akron hitting coach Rouglas Odor and Triple A Columbus pitching coach Ruben Niebla.

Williams has said that he may consider managing at some point in the future, but for now he is busy pursuing his musical passions as both a touring and recording guitarist. The Futures Game, a one-day celebration of the game’s coming generation, provided an opportunity to get back into the game.

“Being from Puerto Rico, I have a special appreciation how the game of baseball has grown to truly be a global game,” he said. “I know I will have the honor of managing players from many different countries. What really made me want to do this was after being invited, I was told that the players who will be playing in this game grew up following players like me in my era. While it makes me feel old, it also brought a smile to my face. This is a great showcase of the stars of tomorrow, and I am just thrilled to be a part of it and look forward to spending a couple of days with these kids.”


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