Results tagged ‘ Randy Johnson ’
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Randy Johnson’s two seasons with the Yankees may not have been the finest hours of his remarkable career, but he has fond memories from his time in the Bronx.
Johnson was 34-19 with a 4.37 ERA combined for the Yankees in 2005 and ’06 but was roughed up in two American League Division Series starts (0-1, 6.92 ERA). To his credit, he did pitch with a shoulder ailment much of his second Yankees season when he had a 5.00 ERA.
“I still remember getting a phone call from George Steinbrenner welcoming me to play for the New York Yankees,” Johnson said in his induction speech Sunday at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. “I also enjoyed playing for Joe Torre.”
The former Yankees manager, who was elected to the Hall in 2014, was among 49 former Hall of Famers seated on the platform for the ceremony honoring Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio.
Johnson took note of another returning Hall of Famer, Reggie Jackson, when he said, “Look behind me and you can see the best who ever played this game. I had the honor of playing against many of these gentlemen. Some I watched on TV. But it would have have really been fun to face you, Reggie.”
I had a brief chat with Johnson over the weekend, and he told me that he had no regrets about his Yankees experience.
“I actually enjoyed it,” Johnson said. “I remember being able to sit in the dugout and talk pitching with Whitey Ford. How can you not love that?”
No sooner had the words come out of Johnson’s mouth, but Whitey and his wife, Joan, walked out onto the veranda of the Otesaga Hotel. That ended our conversation. The “Big Unit” went right over to the “Chairman of the Board” and spent the rest of the afternoon with him.
Craig Biggio, who grew up on Long Island and played college ball at Seton Hall, had kind words for Yogi Berra in his speech. Yogi was a coach with the Astros when Biggio broke into the majors in 1988 to begin a 20-season career, all in Houston, his adopted home town.
“Yogi was the smartest baseball man I ever knew,” Biggio said. “I know he is known for his Yogisms, but he had a solid knowledge of the game. When I was at Seton Hall, he and [then owner] John McMullen came to scout me. How many owners bring a Hall of Famer to watch some college kid play?”
Unfortunately, Yogi was unable to attend the ceremony.
I ran into Phil Niekro at the Saturday night reception in the Hall of Fame gallery, and he told me a story I had never heard before. On the last day of the 1985 season for the Yankees, Niekkro won his 300th game with a complete-game shutout of the Blue Jays in Toronto. The famed knuckleballer actually threw just one knuckler the whole game — the last pitch — and had the Jays off balance with an array of fastballs and changeups.
“We get back to Yankee Stadium after the flight from Toronto,” Niekro said, “and there in the players’ parking lot is a brand new, white Chrysler LeBaron convertible with a license plate reading ‘300WINS.’ I said to my teammates on the bus, ‘Hey, is there anyone else on this team that has 300 wins?’ It turned out to be a gift from George Steinbrenner. I was shocked. It was a good car, too. The problem was that I could not keep the license plate. It was stolen twice, once in Cleveland the year I played there and once in Atlanta when I went back to the Braves. But I loved that car.”
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — One of the many distinctions Mickey Mantle had in his legendary career was that for 45 years he was the only player who wore No. 7 to have his number retired. That changed this year when the Astros retired No. 7 in honor of Craig Biggio, who will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday alongside Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz.
I chatted with Biggio, a native New Yorker from Smithtown, Long Island, who has made Houston his home, on the veranda of the Otesaga Hotel here about that situation. I asked him if he wore the number because of Mantle.
“No,” he said. “Actually, I sort of got the number by accident.”
Biggio recalled that in his second spring-training camp he asked for a number lower than the 67 he wore the previous year as a late-season callup.
“I had worn No. 44 when I played baseball and football in high school and hoped to get that number again,” Biggio said. “But the equipment manager said I was too thin to wear a double number. So I asked him if I could have ‘4.’ The problem was that another infielder had that number — Steve Lombardozzi, who was senior to me and had played on a World Series championship team [1987 Twins]. So they gave me No. 7, the only single digit that was available at the time.
“The irony is that Lombardozzi was cut just before we broke camp, and I made the team. I could have taken ‘4,’ but since I made the team wearing ‘7’ in camp, I figured I better keep it.”
Biggio would have made Mickey proud. He was an All-Star at three positions (catcher, second base, center field) and banged out 3,060 hits, of which 668 were doubles, the fifth highest total in history and the most by a right-handed batter. The only players in front of him are left-handed hitting Tris Speaker (792), Stan Musial (725) and Ty Cobb (724) and switch hitter Pete Rose (746). The active leader among right-handed batters is Angels first baseman Albert Pujols with 574. Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez has 532.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum will salute the ballplayers who served during World War II and honor the contributions of a modern baseball pioneer’s legacy with two special recognitions during the annual Awards Presentation at Hall of Fame Weekend Saturday, July 25, in Cooperstown, N.Y.
The Hall will recognize all the players who served in World War II, with United States Navy Secretary Ray Mabus speaking on behalf of all military branches as America marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. More than 500 major leaguers joined the military during World War II, including Hall of Famers such as Bob Feller, who enlisted in the Navy just days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941; and Hank Greenberg, who re-enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942 after being drafted and serving in the Army in 1941 before being honorably discharged Dec. 5, 1941.
Thirty-six Hall of Famers – more than 11 percent of all Hall of Fame members – served during World War II, including eight players with the Yankees: Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon, Johnny Mize, Phil Rizzuto, Red Ruffing and Enos Slaughter. Other Hall of Famers with Yankees connections who served during WWII were executives Larry MacPhail and Lee MacPhail and manager Bob Lemon.
The rest of the Hall of Fame roster of World War II veterans were Feller, Greenberg, Luke Appling, Al Barlick, Willard Brown, Nestor Chylak, Mickey Cochrane, Leon Day, Larry Doby, Bobby Doerr, Charlie Gehringer, Billy Herman, Monte Irvin, Ralph Kiner, Ted Lyons, Stan Musial, Pee Wee Reese, Robin Roberts, Jackie Robinson, Red Schoendienst, Duke Snider, Warren Spahn, Bill Veeck, Ted Williams and Early Wynn.
The Museum will also pay tribute to the legacy and contributions of former Reds, Cardinals and Senators outfielder Curt Flood, whose test of the reserve clause via the United States Supreme Court in 1970 laid the groundwork for the advent of free agency several years later. Major League Players Association executive director Tony Clark will speak on behalf of Flood’s challenge of the system and contributions to the Supreme Court case that led to free agency.
A three-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove Award winner in center field, Flood petitioned the Court to allow him to choose his employer instead of being subject to a trade. Flood sat out the 1970 season. That year the Court ruled against Flood in a 5-to-3 decision. His efforts inspired pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally to pick up the fight five years later when they challenged the reserve clause through the players’ right to binding arbitration in 1975. Flood passed away in 1997.
These two special recognitions will join the Museum’s annual presentation of the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcast excellence and the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing. Dick Enberg, the television voice of the Padres, will receive the Frick Award. Tom Gage, who covered the Tigers for the Detroit News for 36 seasons, has been selected the Spink Award winner by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Now in its fifth year, the Awards Presentation takes place at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, July 25, at historic Doubleday Field, the day before the 2015 Induction Ceremony.
Admission for the Awards Presentation is free. The one-hour ceremony precedes the Hall of Fame Parade of Legends, featuring Hall of Fame members in a Main Street parade through Cooperstown.
The Class of 2015 at the Hall of Fame features Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martínez and John Smoltz, who were all elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA in January. More than 50 Hall of Famers are scheduled to be in Cooperstown to honor the Class of 2015 at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, July 26, at the Clark Sports Center, which is one mile south of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
For more information on Hall of Fame Weekend, please visit http://www.baseballhall.org/visit/hall-of-fame-weekend.
The 2015 Hall of Fame election was one for the ages. For the first time in 60 years and for only the fourth time in the history of the voting that dates to 1936, as many as four players got the nod from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in this year’s election. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio are a classy quartet and proved so in Wednesday’s press conference at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
Johnson and Martinez were particularly amusing discussing their time pitching at Yankee Stadium as opposing players. The “Big Unit,” of course, also wore the pinstripes for two seasons, although he readily admitted those were not the finest hours of his career. However, he conceded that he had a whale of a time.
“I won 34 games over those two seasons, but I didn’t pitch as well as people wanted,” Johnson said. “But to be able to sit down in the dugout and talk to Yogi Berra about the old days, to have Whitey Ford ask me to sign a jersey and then sit down and chat about pitching, what could have been better? To get to know Reggie Jackson really well and begin a long friendship, it was great. Reggie texted me [Tuesday] and said, ‘How did you get more votes than me?’ That’s Reggie.”
Johnson, who won five Cy Young Awards and was the co-Most Valuable Player of one of the most exciting World Series ever played (in 2001 for the Diamondbacks against the Yankees), has stronger memories of pitching against the Yankees than for them. He recalled the first time he was scheduled to pitch at the Stadium for the Mariners in 1992 he was followed into the park by Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver, then a Yankees broadcaster.
“I played college ball at the University of Southern California under the legendary coach Ron Dedeaux, who always referred to a player on the team as ‘Tiger,’ probably because he couldn’t remember names,” Johnson said. “So ‘Tiger’ became a sore of alumni sign. I was coming into the Stadium that day and I heard someone shout to me, ‘Tiger, Tiger.’ I knew it had to be a USC alum, and sure enough it was Tom Seaver. He wanted to know why I was carrying my own bags on a night when I was pitching. We became good friends after that. How can you not cherish such memories?”
“You were lucky,” Martinez chimed in. “You have no idea what it was like to pitch at Yankee Stadium for the Red Sox.”
Martinez was one of those Boston players Yankees fans loved to hate. The more abuse they could heap on him the better, but the diminutive righthander was never bothered by it. He eventually made New York his baseball home as well later with the Mets but saw a major difference between the two fan bases.
“I learned a lot while coming over to New York as a visitor with the Red Sox and also coming later on and dressing in the uniform of the Mets,” Martinez said. “In Queens, fans are wild, they’re happy. They settle for what they have. The Yankees fans do not. It’s ‘Win or nothing. Win or nothing.’
“Yankees fans were really good at trying to intimate you. As the opposition, they wanted to intimidate you. But deep in their heart, they appreciate baseball. They appreciate everything that you do. They recognize greatness. And they’re gonna boo you and they’re gonna call you, ‘Who’s your daddy?’ They’re going to chant until you just go away.”
I pointed out at the press conference a footnote that Martinez is the first pitcher under six feet in height to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 41 years since Whitey went in with his teammate and pal, Mickey Mantle, in 1974. I added that today Pedro stands as tall as the 6-foot-10 Johnson.
They were equals in effectiveness. Johnson’s 4,875 career strikeouts are second only to Nolan Ryan’s 5,714 and the most by any lefthander. The Unit’s five Cy Young Awards are two shy of Roger Clemens’ record, and his four in a row with Arizona from 1999-2002 matched a similar run by Greg Maddux, who was elected to the Hall last year, from 1992-95. Martinez led his league in earned run average five times and had a career 2.93 ERA, remarkable considering the era of offensive explosiveness in which he pitched.
And was there ever a pitcher in baseball who excelled equally as a starter and a reliever more than Smoltz? As a starter, he won a Cy Young Award (1996), and as a closer he won a Rolaids Relief Award (2002). He had moved to the bullpen while recovering from elbow surgery. Talk all you want about Dennis Eckersley, but he did not have the career as a starter than Smoltz did. And after three years as the Braves’ closer Smoltz returned to the Atlanta rotation and led the National League in victories in 2006.
This was a unique pitcher, and as I told John on the phone Tuesday when I notified him of his election as the BBWAA secretary-treasurer, “Unique players go to the Hall of Fame, and they go in right away.”
He told me that he was relieved and mentioned a breakfast we had together at the Stadium one Sunday last summer with David Cone and Lee Mazzilli and the talk was about the Hall of Fame. “I had just seen what that induction weekend was all about as a broadcaster for MLB Network as I watched my old buddies [Maddux and Tom Glavine] give their speeches,” Smoltz said. “I just wanted to low-key it after that and not get too caught up in it. So it’s quite a special feeling right now.”
Smoltz was courted by the Yankees as a free agent after the 2001 season, but he chose instead to stay in Atlanta. Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson took the new class of elected players to dinner Wednesday night at ‘21’ in midtown Manhattan. That is precisely the place the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner would have wined and dined Smoltz to seal a deal to come to the Bronx.
Biggio grew up on Long Island and played football and basketball at Kings Park High School in Suffolk County. He was a Yankees fan whose favorite player was Thurman Munson. Yogi was a coach with the Astros during his estrangement period from the Yankees and encouraged Houston officials to move Biggio from behind the plate to second base where his career took off.
Among his 3,060 career hits were 668 doubles, the fifth highest total in history and the most by a right-handed batter. Think of it, more than the likes of Honus Wagner, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron or Paul Molitor, now that is distinctive.
Idelson visited with Yogi in New Jersey over the past weekend, and the first words out of the legendary catcher’s mouth was, “Is my man Biggio going to make it?”
That was the day before we counted the ballots and discovered that we could tell Yogi a resounding “Yes.”
For a while there Wednesday, it appeared that Masahiro Tanaka might have pitched a tainted no-hitter. The Cubs’ only hit through the first six innings off the Japanese righthander came in the second inning on a bunt single by Junior Lake, which originally had been called an out but was a single after a replay review.
Except for Lake himself, the happiest guy in the yard about the hit may have been Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who did not have to wrestle with himself later in the game about keeping Tanaka in an early-season game with a mounting pitch count working on a no-hitter. Managers do not like to put stress on pitchers this early in the schedule, but pulling a pitcher during a no-hitter is something they know fans dislike.
It all became academic when Anthony Rizzo dumped a bunt single down the third base line leading off the seventh inning against an over-shift. I for one was glad to see some hitter take what the defense is giving him in this year when over-shifting in the infield has become so prevalent.
It drove me crazy in the Yankees’ sixth inning when Brian McCann led off and made no attempt to hit the ball to the left side where one player was stationed. I know, I know, hitters do not want to mess up their swing by going the other way, but in a low-scoring game why not go for the easy hit and get a really started?
The over-shift was first employed in the late 1940s by Indians shortstop-manager Lou Boudreau against Ted Williams. The Splinter stubbornly refused to change his swing and always tried to hit through the shift, but he was Teddy Ballgame, a career .344 hitter and six-time American League batting champion. These guys that won’t attempt to cross up the defense are good hitters, but they are not Ted Williams. How many outs are hitters going to make on ground balls to right field before they wake up?
I have been harping on this since Jason Giambi was with the Yankees and have kept it up watching Mark Teixeira make outs into the shift. A Chicago writer told me that Rizzo has bunted for hits against the shift three times already this year. Good for him, not that it do him much good Wednesday because the Cubs did not get anyone else on base that inning. Another challenge by Cubs manager Rick Renteria on an out at first base was not reversed.
Tanaka certainly had no-hit stuff. Two bunt singles were all the Cubs could muster against Tanaka, who walked one batter and struck out 10 in his eight innings to improve his record to 2-0 with a 2.05 ERA.
“He had outstanding command of his splitter and slider and threw some curves to get ahead in the count,” Girardi said. “He was tremendous.”
The Cubs got only three runners as far as second base and none beyond. Shawn Kelley pitched the ninth and earned his fourth save.
The only run the Yankees would need came in the first inning on Carlos Beltran’s fourth home run. The Yankees added a run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Dean Anna and another in the fifth in an unusual way.
With Brett Gardner at third base and one out, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a dribbler in front of the plate. Cubs catcher John Baker collided with Ellsbury while fielding the ball and was called for interference as he threw the ball to first base while Gardner crossed the plate.
Plate umpire Jim Reynolds originally sent Gardner back to third base and instructed Ellsbury to stay on first base before Girardi came out of the dugout to point out a seldom-seen rule. In such cases, the manager has the option to take the completed play. That meant Ellsbury was out at first base and Gardner scored.
Girardi remembered a game in 1990 when he was catching for the Cubs and the Pirates’ Bobby Bonilla hit a three-run home run. Girardi was called for interfering with Bonilla’s swing but was told the home run counted because the Pittsburgh manager had the option to accept the play.
“Had there been no outs, I might have let the call stand,” Girardi said, “but with one out, I thought it would be better to take the run.”
It certainly was not needed by Tanaka, whose 28 strikeouts are the most for any Yankees pitcher in his first three career starts, surpassing by three the total Al Leiter had in 1987. Leiter was in the YES television booth for Wednesday’s game. Tanaka also became the first Yankees starter to pitch at least eight innings while striking out at least 10 batters and allowing two or fewer hits since Randy Johnson July 26, 2005 at the Stadium against the Red Sox (8 innings, 2 hits, 11 strikeouts).
As I suggested after Sunday’s game ended just before 1 a.m. EDT in Boston, the Yankees would likely arrive in Arlington, Texas, sometime around dawn. Well, how does 5:30 a.m. CDT sound? Pretty close to dawn, right? It was almost 7 o’clock before the Yankees reached their hotel on the same morning they had a game scheduled against the Rangers 12 hours later.
Is this any way to run a professional sport?
Listen, we all love ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. It’s a cool way to end the weekend to settle in front of the flat-screen set and take in some ball. But the price some teams pay takes into question why that cable network can’t use some common sense in picking the games. Surely any Yankees-Red Sox matchup is a potential ratings winner, but did no one notice that one of those teams had a four-hour flight waiting afterward? Did no one entertain the idea that extra innings was a possibility?
Major League Baseball sold its soul to television years ago, so my complaint will fall on deaf ears. For several years, the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game before the All-Star break featured the Mariners at home, which forced Ken Griffey Jr. and Randy Johnson to fly all night from Seattle to get to the All-Star workout day in the host city on next to no sleep.
The minute Sunday night’s Yanks-Red Sox game was chosen for SNB, the commissioner’s office should have stepped in. The players gripe about the schedule all the time, yet every contract year the collective bargaining agreement is reached without this issue being settled so that players are not subjected to such a travel nightmare.
I’d like to see some TV executives face Yu Darvish in 99-degree weather on little sleep.
As the start of the American League Division Series between the Yankees and the Orioles being delayed for the second straight day suggests, weather more and more plays a factor in baseball’s postseason. Remember last year’s rainout of Game 1 of the Yankees-Tigers ALDS wiped out the start for pitchers CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander.
It is a sign of the times. Not to get overly nostalgic, but consider this. Monday marked the 56th anniversary of Don Larsen’s perfect game for the Yankees against the Dodgers in the World Series at Yankee Stadium. The momentous event occurred in Game 5. That same date Oct. 8 this year was for Game 2 of the ALDS.
The 1956 World Series ended with a Yankees victory at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field Oct. 10. If the World Series goes the distance in 2012, the date of Game 7 will be Nov. 1. The weather can only get worse as the postseason continues to expand.
The Yankees’ five runs in the ninth inning in Game 1 at Camden Yards marked the fourth time they scored that many runs in the ninth inning of a postseason game. All the other times were also on the road. They scored seven runs in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1936 World Series against the Giants at the Polo Grounds and six runs apiece in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the ’36 Series and in Game 4 of the 1999 AL Championship Series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
At 40 years, 3 months, 24 days, Andy Pettitte was the fourth oldest pitcher to start a postseason game for the Yankees. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Yankees pitchers who were older than Pettitte were Roger Clemens (45 in 2007), Randy Johnson (43 in 2006) and David Wells (40 years, 4 months in October 2003). Wells was only a week younger than Pettitte.
Monday night’s Game 2 assignment was Pettitte’s 43rd postseason start. The total for the entire Baltimore staff was 10. It was also Pettitte’s 16th start in Game 2 of a postseason series, the most in history. Tom Glavine is second with 11.
Pitcher Dellin Betances was reinstated from the 60-day disabled list in order to participate in Arizona Fall League. To make room on 40-man roster, pitcher Cory Wade was designated for assignment.
Ichiro Suzuki got right into the swing of things for the Yankees Monday night. Accorded a standing ovation from grateful Mariners fans when he came to bat for the first time as a Yankee in the second inning at Safeco Field, Ichiro lashed a single to center field. Soon after that, he stole second base.
Speed has been an element largely lacking in the Yankees’ offense since mid April when Brett Gardner went on the disabled list because of a wrist injury. Gardner being lost for the rest of the season following surgery prompted Yankees general manager Brian Cashman to make the move for Ichiro. If he proves to have plenty of life left in those 38-year-old legs, Suzuki can be a major addition to the Yankees.
Ichiro wore uniform No. 51 for 12 seasons with the Mariners but recognized that the number is identified strongly with Bernie Williams on the Yankees. The number is not retired, but it has not been given to another player since Williams departed after the 2006 season. Suzuki has chosen to wear No. 31 with the Yankees. Probably the former Yankee mostly associated with that number is Hall of Famer Dave Winfield.
This is the second time a former Mariners player who wore No. 51 in Seattle could not get the number after being traded to the Yankees. The other was pitcher Randy Johnson. Williams was still playing for the Yankees when the Big Unit pitched for them in 2005 and ’06 and had to wear No. 41 instead.
With Ichiro joining Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees are the first team to have three players with more than 2,500 hits since 1928 when the Philadelphia Athletics had Eddie Collins, Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker. The year before that, the A’s had Collins, Cobb and Zack Wheat.
Despite all the attention focused on Suzuki Monday night, it was another Japanese-born Yankee who grabbed the spotlight. Hiroki Kuroda tamed the Mariners on one run, three hits and one walk with nine strikeouts in seven innings to win his fourth straight decision. The righthander over his past 11 starts is 7-1 with a 2.49 ERA in 76 innings to lower his season ERA from 4.56 to 3.34.
The Yankees’ 4-1 victory over the Mariners and Kevin Millwood ended the four-game losing streak from Oakland. The Yanks were more like themselves with 11 hits, including A-Rod’s 15th home run of the season and career No. 644. Rodriguez also doubled. Mark Teixeira had two doubles and a single and drove in a run. The other runs were driven home by Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones.
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.
Yankees fans have reason to be upset that CC Sabathia did not win the American League Cy Young Award that was given instead by the Baseball Writers’ Association to the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez. Heck, the big guy didn’t even finish second as the Rays’ David Price was the runner-up.
One of the arguments made last year when the Royals’ Zack Greinke won in the AL with only 16 victories and the Giants’ Tim Lincecum in the National League with merely 15 was that there were no 20-game winners, so the field was much more open.
That was not the case this year. Sabathia was 21-7 and had plenty of other good numbers, too, including a 3.18 ERA, which is not shabby for a guy pitching in the AL East and hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. That Hernandez won despite posting a record of 13-12 seems absurd until you look a bit deeper into his season and not just at the statistics that a lot of people believe are too esoteric but to which the increasing numbers-conscious are devoted.
Hernandez led the league in ERA (2.27) and innings (249 2/3) and was second in strikeouts (232), only one behind league leader Jered Weaver of the Angels. These are not intangible stats. They are pretty tangible, one might even say traditional.
Think of how Hernandez felt last year. He went 19-5 and couldn’t beat out Greinke. Hernandez said Thursday from his home in Venezuela that he did not know how to gauge this year’s balloting after what happened last year. “Are they going to tell me that I didn’t win enough games this year but that I won too many last year?” he asked me.
I told him one year to the next is different, which I still believe even though the recent voting indicates a trend may be developing. I hope not. The day when victories aren’t considered the important part of the pitching equation is the day you might as well stop keeping score. I mean, if pitching victories don’t mean anything, why are they still kept? Imagine trying to tell the Major League Players Association that pitching victories won’t be totaled any more? Good luck explaining that to the union.
It is interesting that the list of pitchers who have 300 or more career victories are all in the Hall of Fame except for those not yet eligible, whose names are Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson. It would seem that winning a lot of games is a big deal, huh?
This is all coming from someone who thought Hernandez was the best pitcher he saw this year. No knock on CC, who I probably would have voted for had I been on the committee, but look what Hernandez did in his three starts against the Yankees: 3-0, 0.35 ERA. That is not a misprint. He allowed 1 run, 16 hits and 8 walks with 31 strikeouts in 26 innings.
The only reason he did not pitch 27 innings for a third complete game against the Yankees was that Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu did not let him finish the Aug. 20 game at the Stadium while working on a four-hit shutout with 11 Ks. Writers in the press box can recall my reaction to that. I was beside myself, howling that Wakamatsu’s move was akin to grabbing the brush from Picasso before he could complete his painting. It was absolute disregard for artistic endeavor, and the manager deserved to be fired, which he eventually was.
Remember, though, that was a night Hernandez won, not one of the many games in which he pitched splendidly and either lost or got hung with a no-decision because of such scant run support by an offense that scratched out an average of 3.2 runs per game. The Mariners’ run support for Hernandez was 2.4 per game. Seattle scored two runs or fewer in 15 of his 34 starts. He was 2-10 with a 2.84 ERA in those games. In his nine no decisions, Hernandez pitched to a 1.92 ERA.
I kept in mind that in 1972 Steve Carlton won the NL Cy Young Award with a 27-10 record for a Phillies club whose overall mark was 59-97 and also averaged only 3.2 runs per game. The point of view of Sabathia supporters, of which there were three who gave him first-place approval on the ballot, came Tuesday from none other than this year’s NL winner, Roy Halladay, who had the same victory total as CC.
“Obviously, Felix’s numbers are very, very impressive,” Doc said. “But I think, ultimately, you look at how guys are able to win games. Sometimes the run support isn’t there, but you sometimes just find ways to win games. I think the guys that are winning and helping their teams deserve a strong look, regardless of how good Felix’s numbers are. It definitely could go either way; it’s going to be interesting. But I think when teams bring guys over, they want them to, ultimately at the end of the day, help them win games.”
It is hard to argue with that logic.