Results tagged ‘ Most Valuable Player ’

Matsui gets early trip to Cooperstown

Former Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui will be among players representing all 30 major-league teams May 24 at the Memorial Day Weekend’s 2014 Hall of Fame Classic at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Phil Niekro, who earned his 300th career victory during his time pitching for the Yankees, will be one of six Hall of Fame members who will serve as managers and coaches for the sixth annual Classic. Roberto Alomar, Andre Dawson, Rollie Finges, Eddie Murray and Ozzie Smith will also participate in the event.

To date, the lineup for the 2014 Hall of Fame Classic features players who combined to collect two Most Valuable Player Awards, three World Series MVPs, two All-Star Game MVPs, 56 All-Star Game selections and 18 Gold Glove Awards.

In addition to Matsui and former Yankees pitcher Carl Pavano, the rosters include Livan Hernandez, Jeff Conine, Brad Lidge, David Eckstein, Luis Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, Steve Garvey and Jim Thome. Roster additions will be announced throughout the spring.

The Cooperstown Game Day Parade starts at 12 noon leading up to the Home Run Derby at 1 p.m. followed by the Classic at 2:05 p.m.

Tickets for the Hall of Fame Classic are $12.50 for first and third base seats and $11 for general admission outfield seats. Tickets are currently available via phone or online.

Two ticket packages for the Hall of Fame Classic and Night at the Museum are now available, but limited in quantity:

Classic Connection will feature Hall of Fame Classic ticket and a one-day museum admission pass for $12.50, a savings of $19.50 off the regular rate. Legendary Twinbill features a Hall of Fame Classic ticket, a one-day museum admission pass and a ticket to A Night at the Museum for $50.

Call 877-726-9028 or order online at baseballhall.org.

Bernie will riff for Hall’s 75th anniversary next year

Longtime Yankees favorite and Latin Grammy Award-nominated recording artist Bernie Williams has joined the lineup of performers for next year’s celebration concert to honor the 75th anniversary of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Williams played on four World Series championship teams for the Yankees and was the Most Valuable Player of their American League Championship Series triumph over the Orioles in 1996. The six-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner is enjoying a post-baseball career as a guitarist and songwriter and has had two No. 1 singles on Billboard’s contemporary jazz charts.

Among the selections Williams will perform will be “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” from his 2009 album, Moving Forward, with the world-renowned Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, which will serve as the house band for the 75th anniversary concert Aug. 2, 2014 at Cooperstown, N.Y.

“I am honored to be performing with the Boston Pops in celebrating the Hall of Fame’s 75th anniversary next year,” Williams said. “The event will be a great celebration of baseball and music, so I hope you’ll plan to join us in Cooperstown next August.”

The concert will be produced by LGH19 Productions and will be part of a 12-month musical celebration that includes an ongoing silent auction to benefit the Hall of Fame. VIP tickets may be purchased on the official concert website – http://www.cooperstownconcert.com. Additional information may be found on http://www.bernie51.com.

Perfect finish: Mo vs. Puig (guess who won?)

How painful it must have been for Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, winner of nine Gold Gloves at first base during his playing days with the Yankees, to watch his club make so many fielding mistakes in the day game of Wednesday’s split-admission doubleheader. The Dodgers made four errors, two coming on a bizarre play by relief pitcher Ronald Belisario in the seventh inning as the Yankees took charge with three runs en route to a 6-4 victory.

Dodgers second baseman Skip Shumacher twice bobbled ground balls by Robinson Cano, but neither error was costly. The seventh-inning double blunder by Belisario was another story. With runners on first and second and one out, Vernon Wells hit a soft popup between the plate and the mound. Belisario appeared to let the ball drop in hopes of getting a double play. He kicked the ball instead for the first error, then tried to recover and threw wildly for a second error and a run scored.

Ichiro Suzuki, who was all over this game, lofted a single down the left field line that gave the Yankees a four-run lead, which proved important an inning later when Hanley Ramirez, who had four hits for the Dodgers, smoked a two-run home run off Preston Claiborne.

In a pitching match-up of two Asians, Yankees righthander Hiroki Kuroda (Japan) and Dodgers lefthander Hyun-Jin Ryu (South Korea), Ichiro stole the show. He ended a 115-at-bat homerless streak in the sixth with a leadoff dinger off Ryu. After getting that two-run single, Suzuki saved a run with a leaping catch on the warning track of a drive by Adrian Gonzalez that almost surely would have scored Yasiel Puig, who had led off the inning with a double.

“I knew the ball was not going to be a home run, that it was still in the park,” Ichiro said of the Gonzalez drive. “The only question for me was which way I would turn because the ball was hit right over my head.”

Ichiro turned to his right, leaped and reached for the ball all in one motion. His 3-for-4 day at the plate continued a hot stretch that began on the West Coast trip. Suzuki has 10 hits in his past 22 at-bats, a .455 run that has raised his season batting average to .274. The Yankees’ left-handed hitters did a good job against Ryu. Their other two runs were the result of a double in the second inning by Lyle Overbay.

“Ichiro has been swinging the bat extremely well,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He has the ability to get hot. When we got Lyle, we didn’t anticipate his getting so many at-bats against left-handed pitching, but we have really needed him.”

After David Robertson did one of his Houdini acts in the eighth (walk two batters, get the next two out), Mariano Rivera went for his 25th save in the ninth, and no one was leaving Yankee Stadium until they saw him go for the third out against Puig. Mo fell behind 2-0 in the count before coming back to strike him out.

Puig made quite an impression in his first game at the Stadium. He had two hits and in each case attempted to stretch a single into a double, once successfully and once not. But his aggressiveness was noted and appreciated, not the least of which by Rivera.

“I like to see young boys played hard like that,” he said. “That is the way he played to get to the major leagues and the way he should play in the major leagues.”

Rivera stopped short of saying he could appreciate the drama of the ninth inning: the worldly veteran closer against the up-and-coming youngster, any more than he did Sunday at Anaheim when he faced three-time Most Valuable Player Albert Pujols with the bases loaded to get the final out of that game.

“I cannot think about that because I have a job to do in either case,” Rivera said. “It is important for me to concentrate on getting the job done.”

And nobody does it better.

Yankees to celebrate Matsui’s career July 28

Hideki Matsui was a big hit with Yankees fans from the moment he stepped foot in Yankee Stadium and hit a grand slam in his debut Opening Day in 2003. The Yankees will pay tribute to the Japanese slugger’s illustrious career in ceremonies July 28 before the 1:05 p.m. game against the Rays, the club for which Matsui ended his time in the major leagues last year.

In order to retire officially as a member of the Yankees organization, Matsui will sign a one-day, minor league contract that day. His parents are also expected to attend the game.

The first 18,000 fans at the game will receive a Hideki Matsui bobblehead – which portrays the slugger with his 2009 World Series Most Valuable Player trophy. In honor of Matsui, who wore uniform No. 55 with the Yankees, the day’s events are to take place on the Yankees’ originally scheduled 55th home game of the 2013 season.

Matsui was also recently honored by the Yomiuri Giants – whom he played for 10 seasons from 1993-2002 – in a ceremony May 5 at the Tokyo Dome. During that event, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe presented Matsui with the People’s Honor Award, the country’s most prestigious award bestowed on those who have made significant achievements in their careers and are beloved by the public.

Matsui, whose nickname in Japan was “Godzilla,” played 10 seasons in the majors, the first seven with the Yankees from 2003-09 in which he batted .292 with 536 runs, 196 doubles, 11 triples, 140 home runs and 597 RBI in 3,348 at-bats. He was originally signed by the Yankees as a free agent Jan. 14, 2003, following his 10-year career in Tokyo with the Yomiuri Giants.

The two-time All-Star (2003-04) did not miss a game over his first three years with the Yankees. His 518 consecutive games remains the longest streak to start a major-league career. Matsui also drove in at least 100 runs four times, including each of his first three seasons.

In his final game with the Yankees Nov. 4, 2009, Matsui had 3-for-4 with a home run and six RBI in their World Series-clinching Game 6 victory over the Phillies at the Stadium. He tied the single-game World Series RBI record of Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson in 1960 and Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols in 2011 and sealed his unanimous selection as World Series MVP.

Matsui spent a season apiece with the Angels, Athletics and Rays after leaving the Yankees and finished his career with a .282 batting average, 175 home runs and 760 RBI.

“He is extremely deserving of this honor,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “When I think of Hideki, I think of a great player and a great teammate. Even when he was having some problems with his legs in his later years, he would come up with big hits, none bigger than the ones he had in the 2009 World Series.”

Hard to believe: A Subway Series without Jeter

It is fair to say that Monday was the first day this year when Derek Jeter was conspicuously absent. That is not to say that the Captain isn’t missed. No matter how well Jayson Nix and before he got hurt Eduardo Nunez have played shortstop in his absence, neither player has exactly made the Yankees’ fan base forget all about Jeter.

However, the Yankees have played such an invigorating brand of ball over the first 50 games of the season that Jeter’s loss while recovering from left ankle surgery has been muted to a degree.

Now comes the Subway Series and, oh boy, where is Derek?

Jeter has been every bit the face of this annual inter-league competition. He and Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte are the only players still active with the Yankees who were part of the first regular-season series between the New York clubs in 1997. Manager Joe Girardi also goes back to ’97 as the Yankees’ regular catcher. In fact, he got three of the Yankees’ nine hits in that first game when Mets righthander Dave Mlicki silenced a sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium by pitching a 6-0 shutout over the Yankees and Pettitte. Jeter struck out to end the game, which was really the last time the Mets had the upper hand in the series.

DJ and Mo are the only players who have been part of the Subway Series on a continuous basis since then. Pettitte spent three seasons in Houston, and Girardi went back to Chicago and later started his managerial career in Miami. Rivera missed last year’s annual grudge match because of right knee surgery, and Jeter will miss this week’s slate of games at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium.

It felt weird coming to Flushing and not chatting it up with Jeet about the series. He always tried to downplay it but then would take the field and play as if he wanted to knock the Mets’ block off. He often did, too.

In 84 games and 380 at-bats in his career against the Mets, Jeter has batted .368 with a .421 on-base average and a .548 slugging percentage for a .948 OBP with 66 runs, 19 doubles, 2 triples, 13 home runs and 43 RBI. He found Shea Stadium to his liking (.321, 6 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs, 18 RBI in 34 games and 137 at-bats) but not so much Citi Field (.233, 2 doubles, 2 RBI in seven games and 30 at-bats).

And, of course, Jeter was the Most Valuable Player of the real Subway Series, the 2000 World Series in which the Yankees beat the Mets in five games, by hitting .409 with 2 doubles, 1 triple, 2 home runs and 2 RBI. It is hard to imagine these two teams playing on the same field together without Jeter being a part of it, but that will be the case the next four nights.

Matsui receives top honor in Japan

Former Yankees outfielder and designated hitter Hideki Matsui joined some elite company in his home land Sunday when he received the People’s Honor Award from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Tokyo Dome. Matsui was honored alongside former Yomiuri Giants manager Shigeo Nagashima for the award that is given to those who have made significant achievements in their careers and are beloved by the public.

“I played for excellent teams, with excellent teammates, for excellent managers in front of excellent fans,” Matsui said. “I did my best to lift up, even a little bit, the game of baseball that is so beloved by the people of Japan.”

Japanese home run king Sadaharu Oh, the first recipient of the award when it was created in 1977 by the late Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, attended the ceremony. Others previously honored included the acclaimed film director Akira Kurosawa (Rashomon and Seven Samurai) and the Japanese women’s national soccer team that won the World Cup in 2011.

Matusi, who earned the nickname “Godzilla” for his home run prowess in Japan, played for 10 seasons in the major leagues, the first seven with the Yankees for whom he starred on the 2009 championship team and was Most Valuable Player of the World Series for batting .615 with three home runs and eight RBI in 13 at-bats. Matsui hit .292 with 140 home runs and had four 100-plus RBI seasons with the Yankees before playing one season each for the Angels, Athletics and Rays.

Baylor named to Colorado Sports Hall of Fame

Former Yankees outfielder and designated hitter Don Baylor, now the hitting coach for the Diamondbacks, was not at the series finale Thursday night at Yankee Stadium because he was in Denver to be inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in a banquet at the Denver Marriott City Center.

Stan Williams, who pitched for the Yankees and served them as a pitching coach, was also part of the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013 along with Steve Atwater (football), Adam Foote (hockey), Don Cockroft (football) and Steve Jones (golf).

Baylor, 63, was named the first manager in Rockies history Oct. 27, 1992 and posted a 440-469 (.484) record over six seasons. In 1995, he earned National League Manager of the Year honors from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America after leading Colorado to its first postseason berth in franchise history as the NL wild card.

Baylor spent three seasons (1983-85) with the Yankees during a 19-year career in the majors that included an American League Most Valuable Player performance in 1979 with the Angels.

Yanks finally get a lead

The Yankees caught a break in the first inning Thursday night in cutting down a runner at the plate despite some lack of hustle on the play. The Red Sox had runners on first and second with two out and Jonny Gomes at bat against Andy Pettitte. The lefthander threw a wild pitch past catcher Francisco Cervelli, who retrieved the ball near the stands behind the plate but was a bit lackadaisical in picking it up.

Pettitte walked toward the plate but did not rush in to cover. Shane Victorino, who had been on second base, advanced to third but seeing the Yankees’ battery moving in slow motion decided not to stop there and bolted for the plate. Fortunately, Cervelli saw this and got back in gear. The catcher ran toward the plate and flung his body forward like a linebacker to place the tag on Victorino, who did the Yankees a favor by sliding in hands first instead of feet first. It might have been a different outcome had Victorino utilized the traditional slide.

The Yankees got their first lead of the season in the second inning on a two-out, two-run single by Lyle Overbay. It followed a rulebook double by Eduardo Nunez to right-center. Nunez lost his helmet while running to second base. I wonder if we will see more of that this year now that players are wearing larger but lighter-weight helmets.

Pettitte atoned for his hesitant play earlier with snappy fielding in the third. He handled two pepper shots adroitly, converting one into a double play.

Fox’s Ken Rosenthal reported that former American League Most Valuable Player Vlad Guerrero had signed a contract with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League. Guerrero, 38, was the Orioles’ designated hitter in 2011, his last year in the majors, and hit .290 with 13 home runs and 63 RBI, but became a free agent and did not play in 2012. He won the MVP Award in 2004 with the Angels.

Could it be that Guerrero is trying to attract interest from the New York clubs? The Mets have need for outfielders, but Vlad has played only three games in the outfield since 2009. He might be hoping the Yankees might feel the need for a right-handed DH if Ben Francisco does not pan out.

Yankees fans have their own debate

Hours before the Presidential debate at Hofstra, Yankees fans had plenty to debate about the team’s lineup for American League Championship Series Game 3 at Detroit’s Comerica Park. No Alex Rodriguez. No Nick Swisher. Eduardo Nunez is playing shortstop. Where do we begin?

Well, the starting point is that the Yankees are down 0-2 in the series with no Derek Jeter, the next three games (they hope; it could be only two) in the other club’s yard and the reigning AL Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner on the mound Tuesday night. How’s that for backs against the wall?

Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided that the lack of production from A-Rod and Swish in the postseason needed to be replaced by something different. Brett Gardner, who has had three at-bats since April, was inserted in left field and the leadoff spot with Ichiro Suzuki moving to right field and batting second.

Gardner joins Ichiro and Curtis Granderson to give the Yankees their swiftest outfield, which is important at spacious Comerica and a fly-ball pitcher, Phil Hughes, starting for them. Despite hitting two home runs during the regular season off Verlander, Rodriguez has been struggling big-time right-handing pitching in the postseason, which has resulted in Girardi lifting him for pinch hitters twice and benching him in the final game of the AL Division Series.

Using Eric Chavez at third base allows Girardi to get another left-handed batter, Raul Ibanez, the postseason batting star for the Yankees, in the lineup as the designated hitter. Nunez at short is definitely a gamble. He is a liability on defense, but the Yankees need a boost in offense (they were held scoreless in 21 of 22 innings in the first two games).

Let’s face it; the whole lineup is a gamble. When you are in the situation the Yankees are, rolling the dice is all that is left.

Not a happy birthday for the Skipper

Joe Girardi, who certainly did not have a good time on his 48th birthday, was understandably upset with the second straight bad call by a umpire on the bases Sunday night. The problem with much of his argument in the case of ALCS Game 2 was that the Yankees did not score at all. The two runs the Tigers scored after the missed call in the eighth inning surely hurt, but they did not cost the Yankees the game. No team can win a game, zero to minus-one.

The Yankees fell behind 0-2 in the ALCS with a 3-0 loss, which was not the scenario they would want heading into Game 3 Tuesday night at Detroit against Justin Verlander, the 2011 American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner and a Cy Young Award candidate in 2012 as well.

The Yanks need a big game from Phil Hughes like the strong effort he gave them in Game 4 of the AL Division Series against the Orioles to get back into this series. That will not be enough, however. The Yankees have gotten above-average work from their starting pitchers during the postseason. Hiroki Kuroda was the latest example Sunday. He flirted with a perfect game for five innings, and those two runs in the eighth that were charged to his record were definitely tainted.

Yankees starters in the seven postseason games have pitched to a 2.33 ERA in 54 innings, but their record is a combined 2-2 with three no-decisions, due primarily to scant run support. The Yankees have scored 11 runs from the ninth inning on in postseason play but only nine runs in innings one through eight. They have been shut out in the first eight innings of both games in the ALCS and were flat-out shut out in Game 2.

It was not the sort of game the Yankees wanted the day after losing their captain, Derek Jeter, for the rest of the year to an ankle injury. Jayson Nix did a nice job in the field at shortstop but was 0-for-3 at the plate. I am not singling him out by any means. If the Yankees need Jayson Nix to save their season, they are in more trouble than they think they are.

Robinson Cano, who was at the center of the two baseline calls the past two games at Yankee Stadium, had his hitless streak reach 26 at-bats, the longest in postseason history, and only five of those outs have gone to the outfield. In Game 1, Cano was called out on a rally-killing double play in the second inning when replays indicated he beat the throw.

With the margin of error so miniscule, plays such as the one in the eighth inning Sunday become magnified, to the point that a manager got himself ejected. Kuroda got the first two outs on strikeouts before Omar Infante singled to center. Austin Jackson followed with a single to right. Nick Swisher, detecting that Infante had made a wide turn around second but had changed his mind about going to third, threw behind the runner. Second base umpire Jeff Nelson ruled that Infante was safe getting back to second, but replays clearly showed that Cano had tagged Infante near his chest before he touched the bag. The Tigers added tag-on runs with singles by rookie Avisail Garcia off Boone Logan and Triple Crown champ Miguel Cabrera off Joba Chamberlain.

“I don’t have a problem with Jeff’s effort because he hustled to get to the play,” Girardi said. “But in this day and age when we have instant replay available to us, it has got to change. These guys are under tremendous amounts of pressure. It is a tough call for him because the tag is underneath and it’s hard for him to see. And it takes more time to argue and get upset than you get the call right. Too much is at stake. We play 235 days to get to this point, and two calls go against us. We lose it by one run [Saturday] night.

“I’m not saying if Robby Cano is safe, that it changes the game. The outcome may be the same, but I like to take my chances. There is more pressure on the pitchers when it is 1 0 in the eighth inning and your club is hitting than 3 0. It’s a lot easier for a reliever to relax. He knows if he makes one mistake, it is still 3 1. The technology is available. That’s what our country has done. We have evolved technology to make things better.”

All right, the argument about using instant replay more often should be continued, and the issue should be taken seriously. What the Yankees need now more than instant replay is to get some clutch hits or they can forget reaching the World Series.

“We have to make some adjustments,” Girardi said. “We have to take what they give us and find a way to put balls in play when runners are on, and get runners in, and get them over, and do the things that you need to do to score runs.”

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