Results tagged ‘ Jorge Posada ’

Politics does not belong in 9/11

For Bobby Valentine to politicize Sept.11, 2001 is amazingly in awful taste. The greatest single tragedy in the history of New York City should not be something that somehow got thrown into the Yankees-Mets rivalry.

Valentine’s comments on WFAN Radio Wednesday, the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, had absolutely no basis in fact. His suggestion that the Yankees were derelict in devoting time and funds to the recovery efforts in the aftermath of the destruction of the Twin Towers was astoundingly off-base.

I covered that story on a daily basis during that time when I was the national baseball columnist for the Hartford Courant and was well aware of what representatives of both clubs did to show their support of the recovery efforts. There is no question that Valentine, then the manager of the Mets, flung himself into those efforts.

The parking lot at Shea Stadium was set up as a supply station immediately after the attacks because the Mets were out of town. Valentine and many Mets players, including current Yankees broadcaster Al Leiter, spent hours of their own time loading and unloading supplies from and on to trucks. And it was Mets shortstop Rey Ordonez who came up with the idea of wearing hats bearing logos of the New York Police Department, Fire Department and Emergency Services.

I was also at Shea the night baseball was first played after the attacks and watched one of the most moving ceremonies before the Mets and the Braves took the field after embracing each other in the center of the diamond. Mike Piazza’s game-winning home run off Atlanta reliever Steve Karsay became one of the game’s most significant moments.

That said, the Yankees certainly did their part as well. I remember Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, Chuck Knoblauch, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Jorge Posada and other players visiting firehouses and hospitals all over the city. The Yankees also had an emotional ceremony prior to the first game at Yankee Stadium after the attacks.

Somehow Valentine missed all that. Here is what he said on the radio Wednesday:

“Let it be said that during the time from 9/11 to 9/21, the Yankees were AWOL. You couldn’t find a Yankee on the streets of New York City. You couldn’t find a Yankee down at Ground Zero, talking to the guys who were working 24/7. Many of them didn’t live here, and so it wasn’t their fault. And many of them did not partake in all that, so there was some of that jealousy going around. Like, ‘Why are we so tired? Why are we wasted? Why have we been to the funerals and the firehouses, and the Yankees are getting all the credit for bringing baseball back?’ And I said, ‘This isn’t about credit, guys. This is about doing the right thing.’ ”

How hypocritical. As the Yankees proceeded past the end of the regular season into postseason play all the way to the World Series, they brought attention to New York’s recovery while the Mets’ season was over. We all remember the lump we had in our throats when President Bush threw that strike of a ceremonial first pitch at the Stadium. But it was not about the Yankees any more than it was about the Mets. It was about people of all stripes working together to bind the city’s and the nation’s wounds.

“Bobby Valentine should know better than to point fingers on a day like today,” Yankees president Randy Levine said. “[Sept. 11] is a day of reflection and prayer. The Yankees, as has been well documented, visited Ground Zero, the Armory, the Javits Center, St. Vincent’s Hospital and many other places during that time. We continue to honor the 9/11 victims and responders. On this day, he would have been better to have kept his thoughts to himself rather than seeking credit, which is very sad to me.”

Yankees add pitcher, drop Francisco

The cleaver finally came down on Ben Francisco, the least productive of Yankees hitters this season. Francisco, who was used at designated hitter and in the outfield, was designated for assignment Sunday as the Yankees needed to create roster space for pitcher David Huff, whom they claimed off waivers from the Indians. Francisco batted .114 with one home run and one RBI in 44 at-bats and never seemed to get untracked.

Huff gives the Yankees another lefthander to work out of the bullpen with Boone Logan and as a long reliever, which may be important these days with starters Hiroki Kuroda (bruised right calf) and David Phelps (bruised right forearm) on the mend. Huff has an unsightly 15.00 ERA in three appearances this season. Yankees fans may recall that Huff was beaned by a line drive to the box by Alex Rodriguez in a 2010 game at Yankee Stadium.

He told reporters before Sunday’s game at St. Petersburg, Fla., “The last time I talked to you guys was the day I almost had my head taken off. I’m just super excited to be here, and I’ve got to embrace it.”

The Yankees’ 4-3, 11-inning victory Saturday night in which they trailed, 3-1, with two outs in the ninth inning was the first time they won a game in which they had two outs and the potential tying run not yet at bat since a 9-8 walk-off victory June 5, 2008 over the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, won on a pinch-hit home run by Jason Giambi. It was also the Yankees’ second victory this season when trailing after eight innings. They had just one such triumph last year (1-58) in the next-to-last game of the season Oct. 2 against the Red Sox at the Stadium.

The return of Brennan Boesch from Triple A Scranton gives the Yankees their best pinch hitter back. They are hitting only .167 with two home runs and five RBI in 24 at-bats in the pinch. Boesch as a pinch hitter is 3-for-9 (.333) with one of the homers and four of the RBI. His most recent pinch hit was an RBI double as part of Saturday’s ninth-inning rally.

Of the Yankees’ 60 home runs, 20 have tied the game or given them a lead with six of those coming in the seventh inning or later. Lyle Overbay’s 11th-inning, go-ahead homer was the first extra-inning jack by a Yankees hitter to give them the lead in a road game since April 11, 2012 by Nick Swisher at Baltimore. Overbay became the second Yankee to do so at Tropicana Field, joining Jorge Posada Sept. 14, 2010, a 10th-inning solo shot off Dan Wheeler in an 8-7 victory.

Mo sets club durability record

Mariano Rivera’s first appearance of the 2013 season Thursday night set a club record for years with the Yankees. This marks Mo’s 19th season in pinstripes, which breaks the tie he had shared with Yogi Berra (1946-63), Mickey Mantle (1951-68) and Derek Jeter (1995-2012). Once Jeet comes off the disabled list, of course, he will go back into a tie with Rivera.

Next in line with 17 seasons with the Yankees are Lou Gehrig (1923-39), Bill Dickey (1928-43, ’46), Frankie Crosetti (1932-48) and Jorge Posada (1995-2011). With 16 seasons apiece are Whitey Ford (1950, ’53-67) and Bernie Williams (1991-2006).

Rivera’s save to preserve the 4-2 victory over the Red Sox for Andy Pettitte also made it 18 years in a row (1996-2013) in which Mo has saved at least one game, tying the major-league record with John Franco.

In the major-league opener Sunday night between the Astros and the Rangers, Houston center fielder Justin Maxwell hit two triples to become one of only six players in history to triple twice in a season opener. One of them was the Yankees’ Tommy Henrich in 1950, his final season. “Old Reliable,” as Henrich was known, had more triples (8) than doubles (6) or home runs (6) that year. Henrich hit 73 triples over his 11-season career (he lost three full seasons to military service during World War II) and led the league twice, with 14 in 1948 and 13 in 1947.

Ichiro outwits Wieters for Yanks’ first run

It is a good thing for the Yankees that Orioles catcher Matt Wieters never had Stump Merrill for a catching instructor. Merrill, who served in the Yankees’ organization for decades as a minor-league manager as well as the big club’s skipper in 1991 and ’92, was a former catcher who worked with backstops in spring training and the minors for many years. It was Stump who helped the transition from second base to catcher for a young guy named Jorge Posada.

I spent a lot of time talking baseball with Stump. One of his pet peeves was when catchers let base runners outfox them on tag plays at the plate. Stump used to say that it made no sense to chase a runner if the catcher missed the tag at first swipe and the runner missed the plate.

“Just sit on the plate and let the runner come to you,” Merrill said of his strategy. “If he wants to score, he has to try and get to the plate at some time.”

One of Merrill’s pupils over the years in the Yankees’ system was Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who is as smart about the game as there is in baseball. Buck’s catcher could have used that lesson Monday night in the first inning of Game 2 of the American League Division Series.

Fortunately for the Yankees, Wieters played into Ichiro Suzuki’s hands by lunging to tag the wiry outfielder, who used an assortment of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly moves to elude his pursuer and score the first run.

Suzuki appeared to be a dead duck as he tried to come home from first base on a double into the right field corner by Robinson Cano. Ichiro weaved his way around Wieters, then waited for the catcher to make a move toward him and reacted by swerving away from the catcher to slap a tag on the plate before he was tagged.

Anyone who has ever seen Suzuki’s stretching exercises realizes that he is half elastic. Trying to tag him in that spot was a waste of time. Had Wieters merely squatted on the plate, the game would have still been scoreless.

Yanks tie club mark with 4 homers in one inning

The Yankees got a break with the third of their four home runs in the second inning Monday night. There was no question about the legitimacy of the drives by Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, but the blow by Russell Martin. . .well.

Cano started the onslaught with his 31st homer, a shot into the net protecting Monument Park in center field. After a one-out single by Nick Swisher, Granderson launched a 1-2 pitch from Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz into the second deck in right field inside the foul pole for his 41st homer. Martin next hit an opposite-field fly ball that landed above the auxiliary scoreboard.

It required a review by the umpires before Martin’s 21st home run became official. I found it hard to believe that four sets of eyes didn’t seen what my set did, which was that the ball struck the outstretched arm of a fan leaning over the top of the scoreboard. Fortunately for the Yankees, the umps saw it the way they did.

It all proved inconsequential because the Yankees kept scoring – five more times for a total of nine runs, the most they have had in one inning since July 30 last year when they scored 12 in the first against the Orioles. A sacrifice fly by Alex Rodriguez, a two-run double by Cano and a two-run homer by Mark Teixeira (No. 24) in his first game back in three weeks from a left calf strain had them rolling to a 9-0 lead.

The four home runs tied the franchise record, accomplished twice before June 30, 1977 at Toronto and June 21, 2005 at Yankee Stadium against the Rays. Cliff Johnson hit three home runs in the ’77 game, an 11-5 Yankees victory, two in the eighth inning, along with Thurman Munson and Lou Piniella. In the ’05 game, a 20-11 Yankees victory, Gary Sheffield hit one of his two home runs in the eighth inning, along with A-Rod, Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada.

Well, now, isn’t that grand?

The Yankees have had a grand old time this year hitting grand slams. They lead the major leagues in home runs with the bases loaded with nine, which is one shy of the franchise record established in 1987 and equaled in 2010 and ’11. The Yanks have led the majors in grand slams in each of the previous two seasons and have combined for a big-league high of 29 over the past three seasons. That is more than double the next best teams; the Red Sox, Marlins, Cardinals and Rays have 13 apiece.

Nick Swisher’s salami Monday night was his second this year as he joined Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson with multiple slams. The Elias Sports Bureau reports that this is the second time in franchise history that three different players have had multiple grand slams. The other year was 2010 when Alex Rodriguez had three and Cano and Jorge Posada two each.

Rodriguez is on the disabled list because of a fractured bone in his left hand. His teammates have picked up the slack in his absence. Eric Chavez, Jayson Nix and Casey McGehee have combined as third basemen in A-Rod’s time away to bat .375 with seven home runs in 64 at-bats.

The Yankees have seven players on the roster with at least 200 career home runs (Rodriguez, Swisher, Chavez, Andruw Jones, Mark Teixeira, Raul Ibanez and Derek Jeter). According to Elias, the only other team in major league history with as many 200-homer men on the same roster was the Yankees’ 2008 team with Posada, Jeter, Rodriguez, Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Ivan Rodriguez and Richie Sexson. The Yankees can break the mark this year if Granderson gets three more home runs. The center fielder has 30 this season and 197 for his career.

Stats LLC pointed out that the two pickoffs by David Phelps in Monday night’s victory over Texas were a first for a Yankees righthander in one game since Scott Kamieniecki June 18, 1991 at Toronto.

Injured starters should stay on turn

A couple of scary incidents during the Subway Series involving Yankees starting pitchers have proved not long-lasting. Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte were both hit by batted balls over the weekend against the Mets, but it appears that they will be able to stay on turn in the rotation.

Kuroda was struck in the left ankle Friday night by a line drive by David Murphy with the ball ricocheting to third baseman Alex Rodriguez for the last out of the seventh inning. That was also the final out for Kuroda, who limped off the mound and was seen leaving the clubhouse several hours later on crutches. He was able to go through his normal between-starts throwing regimen, however, and is expected to start Wednesday night at Atlanta.

Pettitte pulled a pitching no-no Sunday by reaching with his bare hand for a chopper toward the mound by Scott Hairston in the sixth inning. It was a stylish maneuver by Pettitte because the ball was actually behind him. It was also painful. Pettitte sustained a bruise that left him with a purple mark below the left index finger but no broken bones. He told reporters at Turner Field that he sees no reason why he shouldn’t make his next assignment Saturday at Washington, D.C.

Russell Martin’s game winning home run Sunday marked the Yankees’ second walk-off victory this season and their first game-ending homer since Sept. 8, 2010, against the Orioles, by Nick Swisher. The span of 641 days was the longest amount of time between walk-off homers for the Yankees since a span of 650 games between Sept. 18, 1991 (Roberto Kelly against the Brewers) and June 29, 1993 (Wade Boggs against the Tigers).

It was Martin’s fourth home run in the past six games, as many as he had over his first 44 games. Russell was the first Yankees catcher with a walk-off home run since Jorge Posada May 16, 2006, against the Rangers. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Martin became the second Yankees catcher since 1950 to homer twice in a game with one a walk-off. The other was Yogi Berra Sept. 16, 1955 against the Red Sox.

Brett reflective in congratulating Jeter

Derek Jeter continues to pass Hall of Famers as he climbs up the all-time hits list. The Captain’s leadoff single Sunday at Oakland was career hit No. 3,155 as he jumped past George Brett to take over 14th place.

Brett issued a statement, which was not only congratulatory and appreciate of Jeter’s standing but also somewhat somberly reflective of his own.

“I’m always kind of bummed out when guys pass you because you had your own place in the records book for a while, and I had that one there for a while,” he said. “But a guy like Derek comes around and passes you, really, I think it all depends on the type of person that did it. I have the upmost respect for him.

“I’ve only met him one time, very briefly, but for a guy to play as long as he has in New York, and I’ve never heard one bad thing said about the guy, he’s definitely a team player, he’s a clutch player. He has been the backbone of this organization for a long, long time and when a guy like that passes you, I’d like to shake his hand and look him in the eye and say congratulations.”

That is a major compliment from Brett, whose heyday with the Royals was back in the 1970s and ‘80s when they were as fierce a rival of the Yankees as the Red Sox in any era. They faced each other in four of five American League Championship Series from 1976-80 with the Yanks taking the pennant three times.

I have come to know George very well from our time together at the annual induction weekend at Cooperstown, and I know his feelings about Jeter and his close pal, Jorge Posada, are genuine. At the same time, there was a sense from Brett that falling down that list is tough to take. I think we can all understand that.

I remember when I covered mostly National League ball in the 1980s, and it seemed that Pete Rose was breaking one of Stan Musial’s records every year. Musial was always gracious in his comments about Rose, yet there was a tinge of remorse when Rose replaced “The Man” as the player with the most hits in NL history.

Stan took his time giving his thoughts that night and said to writers, “I know records are meant to be broken, guys, but I must admit that I really liked this one.”

Elston Howard, historic Yankee

Jorge Posada’s appearance at Yankee Stadium Friday to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the home opener led to some discussion in the press box about how the former All-Star catcher might do five years from now when he will be eligible for the Hall of Fame ballot. I suspect he will get some decent support but ultimately will fall short, although I would be very happy to be wrong about that.

It made me think about Elston Howard, another perennial All-Star catcher for the Yankees as well as the 1963 American League Most Valuable Player. Howard never did get elected, but to his credit he remained on the ballot for the full 15 years of eligibility. And in thinking about Howard, it so happens that Saturday marked the 57th anniversary of his first major-league game, which was a significant day in Yankees history because he was the first African-American player in the club’s history.

Howard broke in with the Yanks April 14, 1955 at Boston’s Fenway Park. It was the team’s second game of that season. They had clobbered the Washington Senators, 19-1, the day before in the home opener, but Howard did not get into the game. He didn’t start the game against the Red Sox, either.

Remember, Yogi Berra was the Yankees’ regular catcher in those days and that year would win his third AL MVP Award. Howard was primarily an outfielder at that time (he would later play some at first base) and caught in only nine games in 1955 – four as a starter.

Yankees manager Casey Stengel inserted Howard into the game as a defensive replacement for left fielder Irv Noren in the sixth inning. Howard batted against Boston righthander Willard Nixon, the winning pitcher in the Red Sox’ 8-4 victory, got his first hit and run batted in when he singled in Mickey Mantle from second base in the eighth inning.

Howard played in the first of his 10 World Series that year and unfortunately made the final out of Game 7 on a grounder to Brooklyn Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese. Ellie and Pee Wee share a dubious distinction as the players who were on the losing side most often in World Series play – six times. Howard did get to play on four World Series champions whereas Reese only had that 1955 ring.

Berra and Howard shared catching duties in 1958, ’59 and ’60 before Ellie took over as the regular in 1961 and hit .348 while Yogi went into a left field platoon with Hector Lopez. In 1963, Howard had career highs in home runs (28) and RBI (85) and batted .287 to earn MVP honors.

As it turned out, Howard’s last game was also at Fenway Park – Game 7 of the 1967 World Series. The Yankees had traded him to Boston Aug. 3 that year, and he played a big part in the Red Sox’ “Impossible Dream” season as they won their first pennant in 21 years but lost to the Cardinals in seven games in the World Series.

Ellie eventually returned to the Yankees as a long-time coach before his death in 1980 at the age of 51. His uniform No. 32 was retired in 1984 on the same day the Yankees also retired No. 9 for his old teammate, Roger Maris.

Posada family handles first-pitch chores

It was a family affair as Jorge Posada threw out the ceremonial first pitch Friday at the Yankees’ home opener. Posada, who was honored Thursday night with the Pride of the Yankees Award at the team’s 33rd annual Welcome Home Dinner Thursday night at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers, trotted to the mound at Yankee Stadium with his son, Jorge Luis, while his father, Jorge Sr., positioned himself at his son’s former spot behind the plate.

With the Yankees’ starting lineup standing behind him encircling the mound and the remainder of the team standing in front of the dugout, Posada threw a ball probably too high for a strike but definitely over the plate to his father, who used a regular fielder’s glove instead of a catcher’s mitt to haul it in. The appreciative crowd on a sun-splashed afternoon cheered mightily with a chant of “Come back, Jorge” coming from the right field upper deck.

Posada turned to his teammates after his toss, and the first player he hugged was his successor at catcher, Russell Martin. Mariano Rivera was the first former teammate to greet Posada as he came off the field and then manager Joe Girardi, who had preceded him as the Yankees’ regular catcher.

“It seems a bit strange because I don’t consider him an old timer,” Girardi said.

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