Results tagged ‘ John Smoltz ’
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.
With David Phelps filling in momentarily for disabled CC Sabathia in the rotation, the Yankees needed to find length for the bullpen and did so Monday with the signing of Derek Lowe, who joined the team at Yankee Stadium Monday and was available for the night game against Texas.
The righthander, 39, was 8-10 with a 5.52 ERA in 21 starts and 119 innings for the Indians before he was designated for assignment Aug. 2 and released Aug. 10. Lowe’s career mark is 174-156 with 85 saves and a 4.01 ERA in 655 games, including 377 starts, over 16 major-league seasons with the Mariners, Red Sox, Dodgers, Braves and Indians. He is one of three pitchers to have won at least 160 games and saved at least 80, along with Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley and John Smoltz.
“He’s a guy in our bullpen who can give us distance,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He has done well in a lot of different roles.”
Lowe has made 278 career relief appearances, going 18-22 with a 2.95 ERA in 381 innings and holding opponents to a .248 batting average. In his career, Lowe has compiled a 3.54 combined ERA from Aug. 1 through the end of the regular season, nearly three-quarters of a run lower than his combined ERA to start the season through July 31 (4.22).
The most successful period of Lowe’s career came during his eight seasons in Boston. He and catcher Jason Varitek were acquired July 31, 1997 from the Mariners in a lopsided traded that only cost the Red Sox relief pitcher Heathcliff Slocumb. Lowe was 70-55 with 85 saves and a 3.72 ERA for the Red Sox. He pitched a no-hitter April 27, 2002 against Tampa Bay during a season when he was converted to a starter and was 21-8 with a 2.58 ERA. Two years earlier, Lowe led the American League in saves with 42 as Boston’s closer. He was named to AL All-Star squads in 2000 at Atlanta and 2002 at Milwaukee.
Lowe has made 23 postseason appearances, including 12 starts, and has a 5-7 record with one save and a 3.21 ERA in 95 1/3 innings. When the Red Sox ended their 86-year drought and won the World Series in 2004, Lowe was the winning pitcher in the clinching game of all three of their postseason series – Game 3 of the AL Division Series sweep of the Angels, Game 7 of the AL Championship Series against the Yankees and Game 4 of the World Series sweep of the Cardinals.
Truthfully, that was many years ago. In recent seasons, Lowe has struggled. He led the National League in losses last year when he was 9-17 for the Braves. Over the past two seasons, Lowe has a 17-27 record with a 5.24 ERA. As with Ichiro Suzuki, the Yankees are hoping that a return to a contending club might rejuvenate Lowe, who has never been on the disabled list.
During a conference call this week to talk about the All-Star Game voting for the July 10 event at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium, Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. and former National League Cy Young Award winner John Smoltz commented on Derek Jeter’s runaway lead for the American League shortstop starting berth.
Ripken will be featured with former Yankees pitcher David Wells and Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley on TBS’ All-Star Game Selection show at 1 p.m. Sunday when the All-Star squads will be announced. Smoltz will team with Brian Anderson on TBS’ coverage of that day’s game between the Yankees and White Sox at Yankee Stadium.
Jeter, who turned 38 this week, has received more than four million votes going into the All-Star balloting, which ends at midnight, topped only by the leading total of Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton. Ripken was 40 when he made his last All-Star Game appearance in his final season of 2001 at Safeco Field in Seattle where he homered and was named Most Valuable Player.
“When you get up in age, you’re scrutinized at a higher level,” Ripken said. “You can’t be [an All-Star] just on reputation. You have to go out there and still play the game. When we look at players now, you compare Derek Jeter with a younger Derek Jeter. When we start comparing players to themselves, it’s unfair. All the talk last year about [Jeter] losing a step, not being there defensively and losing some power offensively, I’m sure he internalized that and worked harder in the offseason. He’s a fantastic player and has been for a long time.”
“I’m a big believer that age is just a number and sometimes we get carried away with guys not having success later in their careers,” Smoltz said. “He plays in a great place and he knows how to play the game. The Yankees are being rewarded with a player who has a lot of pride and does not rest on his laurels with the career that he has had.”
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.
Center fielder Curtis Granderson is the Yankees’ 2010 nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet. He is one of the 30 nominees, one from each club, which are finalists for the national award that is given annual to the major league player who combines a dedication to giving back to the community with outstanding skills on the baseball field.
Wednesday marked the ninth annual Roberto Clemente Day, which was established by Major League Baseball to honor his legacy and officially recognize nominees of the award named for the 12-time All-Star and Hall of Famer who died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. The award pays tribute to Clemente’s achievements and character by recognizing talented current players who understand the value of helping others.
Granderson established the Grand Kids Foundation in 2008, an organization that focuses on improving opportunities for inner-city youth in the areas of education and youth baseball. The foundation recently partnered with the 2010 ING New York City Marathon to create “Team Granderson,” a charitable team that helps raise money and promote awareness for stronger educational programs for inner-city youth. He has also participated in various public service announcements, including the White House’s anti-obesity campaign and as a spokesman for the New York Public Library’s summer reading program.
This marks Granderson’s third Roberto Clemente Award nomination. He was also the Tigers’ nominee in 2007 and 2009. Last year, he won the Jefferson Award for Public Service from All Stars Helping Kids as a top athlete who has given back to his community and the Major League Players Association’s Marvin Miller Award, as voted by major-league players, for his work on and off the field that inspires others to higher levels of achievement.
The Yankees recognized Granderson’s nomination for this year’s Clemente Award on the field at Yankee Stadium before Wednesday’s game against the Orioles. Yankees shortstop and captain Derek Jeter was last year’s Clemente Award winner. Other Yankees winners were pitcher Ron Guidry in 1984 and outfielder Don Baylor in 1985. YES broadcasters Al Leiter and Ken Singleton also won the award, Leiter in 2000 with the Mets and Singleton in 1982 with the Orioles.
Fans are encouraged to take part in the process of selecting the award winner by visiting http://www.chevy.com/clemente, powered by MLB.com, from now until Oct. 8 to vote for one of the nominees. Participants will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip to the 2010 World Series where the national winner of the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet will be announced.
The winner of the fan poll will receive one vote among those cast by the selection panel consisting of Vera Clemente, the Hall of Famer’s widow; commissioner Bud Selig; MLB Network analyst and former Roberto Clemente Award winner Harold Reynolds; MLB Network analyst, TBS broadcaster and former Roberto Clemente Award winner John Smoltz; Hall of Famer and ESPN broadcaster Joe Morgan; former All-Star catcher and FOX broadcaster Tim McCarver; and MLB.com senior correspondent Hal Bodley.
Dodgers manager Joe Torre must have been stunned to see Andy Pettitte throw the ball all over the infield in the third inning Sunday night.
The ESPN Sunday Night Baseball crew of Joe Morgan, Orel Hershiser and Jon Miller rattled on about the Yankees showing inexperience dealing with the bunting game that is more prevalent in the National League, which was a lot of nonsense. The Yankees only happen to have beaten NL competition more than any team in World Series history.
Besides, Sunday night’s finale of the series at Dodger Stadium was the Yankees’ 18th and last inter-league game of the year and the 12th consecutive game against an NL club. It is not as if they haven’t seen a pitcher bunt before.
You can be sure Torre knows better. His relationship with Pettitte was cemented in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series at Atlanta when the lefthander pitched 8 1/3 innings of a 1-0 victory over the Braves that gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead in games heading back to Yankee Stadium where they would win Game 6 and clinch the Series. Prior to that performance, Torre had viewed Pettitte somewhat skeptically telling friends he thought the pitcher was “soft.”
Baseball people of Torre’s generation don’t know what to make of a player like Pettitte who has deep religious convictions. Such players are often labeled “God squanders” and have their competitive grit questioned. Torre might have viewed Pettitte in that light at one time, but not after Game 5 in ’96. Not ever again. In fact, when the Yankees toyed with the idea of trading Pettitte to Philadelphia during the 1999 season, Torre campaigned hard with the front office to keep Pettitte in pinstripes.
Go back to that Game 5 in Atlanta, and one of the critical innings was the bottom of the sixth in which Pettitte’s defensive ability helped him snuff out a rally. Clinging to a one-run lead, Pettitte gave up singles to opposing pitcher John Smoltz and Marquis Grissom with none out. Mark Lemke attempted to sacrifice the runners over, but Pettitte pounded on the bunt and quickly threw to Charlie Hayes at third base to cut down Smoltz, the lead runner. Pettitte then handled a shot to the box by Chipper Jones and turned to second to start an inning-ending double play.
So you can imagine what might have been going through Torre’s mind Sunday night watching Pettitte commit two throwing errors on bunt fielding plays in the third. Reed Johnson was on second base after a leadoff double when Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw bunted in front of the plate. Pettitte tried for the lead runner at third, but Alex Rodriguez, who had charged for the bunt, was back pedaling to the bag and could not lunge for the throw that was wide to his left and ended up down the left field line, allowing Reed to score.
Rafael Furcal then bunted for a hit and got one. A third consecutive bunt came from Ronnie Belliard. Pettitte fielded the ball, but his throw to first on the sacrifice was into the runner and eluded second baseman Robinson Cano, who originally was charged with an error which the official score correctly amended later by assigning it to Pettitte. A run scored on that play, and Furcal was able to get to third from where he scored on a sacrifice fly by Andre Ethier.
A surprisingly sloppy inning by one of Joe Torre’s favorite players turned his reunion weekend with the Yankees in the Dodgers’ favor temporarily. The Yankees’ four-run uprising in the ninth against Jonathan Broxton, in a non-save situation, featured major contributions by Curtis Granderson, Chad Huffman and Colin Curtis, three Yankees never managed by Torre.
Huffman drove in two runs and Curtis one. A big mistake was by James Loney, the Dodgers first baseman who lost precious time stepping on the bag on Curtis’ grounder and was late throwing home as Granderson scored the tying run. Can’t these NL players handle balls in the infield?
The Yankees got their first look at Target Field, the Twins’ new home in downtown Minneapolis, and it was a soggy one. Had Tuesday night’s game been at the Metrodome, there would not have been a rain delay.
Playing outdoors in Minnesota has its consequences with regard to climate, but the concern has been more for cold weather at the beginning and end of the baseball season. This has been a relatively mild spring in the Twin Cities. In fact, the game-time temperature Tuesday night was 88 degrees. The rain delay that hit at the start of the sixth inning was the first experienced at the new facility.
But come October, if the Twins reach post-season play, we shall see how brutal autumn can be in that area. I recall the weather the night of Oct. 27, 1991 for Game 7 of the World Series between the Twins and the Braves. It was 35 degrees and windy with periods of rain and sleet. There is no way the game could have been played outdoors. Inside the Metrodome, it was 68 degrees and dry with Jack Morris and John Smoltz dealing. The 1-0, 10-inning Minnesota victory was one of the greatest Games 7 in Series history.
The Yankees also found out that Target Field plays about as large as the place they just left, the Mets’ Citi Field in Flushing. The Yankees had 29 hits in the three-game series, but none of them left the yard that extended their streak of homer-less road games to six. They failed to go deep in their last three games at Detroit’s spacious Comerica Park May 11-13.
The Twins have hit 28 home runs in 23 road games, an average of 1.22 homers per game, but only 10 in 21 home games, an average of 0.48 homers per game. Twins catcher Joe Mauer, the reigning American League MVP, still has not homered at Target Field. The park has yielded 1.38 home runs per game, third lowest in the AL to Oakland’s Coliseum (0.89) and Seattle’s Safeco Field (1.00). The Metrodome allowed 2.30 home runs per game in 2009.
The warmth and humidity Tuesday night did nothing to make Target Field more offense-friendly. The Yankees and Twins were in a scoreless game when play was halted. The suspended game will be resumed Wednesday.