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Archive for June, 2015

My 2015 Yankee Stadium Adventure

This weekend was incredible. Not only was I in New York City (something went from in the universe; I swear I’m meant to live there) but I got to see two games at Yankee Stadium – one great, and one kind of terrible.

My travel companion was Michelle, an old friend/neighbor from Ohio. She drove the 5 hours from Ohio to Maryland on Friday, and Saturday morning we made the 4 hour trip to NYC. I had traffic in all the places in I didn’t expect – like getting onto the freeway near my house, and later crossing into NJ – and no traffic where I expected it – like going through the Lincoln Tunnel or across Manhattan on 42nd Street.

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   Here we are approaching the Lincoln Tunnel

Because Saturday’s game was Old Timer’s Day, fans were encouraged to be in their seats by 4pm. Since we arrived at our Midtown hotel just before 4pm, we were obviously a little late to the game. Amazingly, we didn’t miss a whole lot.

First, I have to mention my appreciation for the owner of Pinstripe Collectibles across from the stadium. I went in to ask about a jersey, and rather than sell me a an adult jersey for $100+, the owner convinced me to buy a child’s size for only $55. At 5’6” (let’s just say average weight) I’m not a petite woman, but the jersey still fits. And with a $40 Visa git card I saved from Christmas, my child size Rodriguez jersey was $15.

Saturday June 20: Tigers 3, Yankees 14
W: Nathan Eovaldi L: Alfredo Simon S: Bryan Mitchell

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      Hey there, Yankee Stadium…and rain.

The weather was the worst part of this Detroit ass-kicking. For most of the game, there was a fine misty rain, although never enough to delay the game. Concession stands probably ran out of napkins from fans wiping off their seats, and I can’t remember another June game when I wore a hoodie.

Old Timer’s Day: It’s always cool to see former players and members of the Yankees family back at the stadium, and this was the second year I was fortunate enough to be there. The most memorable, without a doubt, was Mel Stottlemyre. As if the surprise of honoring him with a plaque in Monument Park wasn’t enough, his speech really tugged at the heartstrings. To see a man, who’s battling cancer, stand there and say “If I never make it to another Old Timer’s Day” and reference coaching in Heaven… I’m not sure who the entire stadium wasn’t crying their eyes out because I almost did.

Yankees Museum: Somehow, I missed this gem last year. If you haven’t seen it yet – go. It’s free with your ticket and well worth the time. As luck would have it, the Yankees brought the plaques for both Stottlemyre and Willie Randolph (also honored) into the museum. Michelle and I were able to see the actual plaques right in front of us before they were hung in Monument Park.

As for the game, Nathan Eovaldi could not have had a worse night than he did his previous start in Miami when he gave up 8 runs on 36 pitches and couldn’t make it through the first inning. Saturday night he walked off the field to applause after allowing 6 hits and 2 runs in 6 innings pitched, walking just one and striking out 4. I think Yankee fans let out a collective sigh of relief after bracing for the worst.

In the bottom of the 2nd, Didi Gregorius hit a beautiful homerun, his 2nd in as many days and 4th of the year, over the right field wall. There were a few questionable defensive plays between Saturday and Sunday, but I think he’s settling in. He had another deep hit to center later in the game that looked like it would fall in for a hit, but incredible fielding by Anthony Gose shattered that dream.

Yankee fans know and appreciate him, but Brett Gardner should really get more recognition across MLB. He is a tremendous outfielder, and an outfield that with him and Jacoby Ellsbury is almost drool-worthy. Saturday’s Yankee outfield consisted of Chris Young, Gardner, and Carlos Beltran. Obviously, Gardy is the defensive strength of the three, and he proved that by robbing hard hitting Yoenis Cespedes and J.D. Martinez of hits.

Speaking of Yoenis Cespedes, the dude is built like a beast. I’ve never seen him in person before, but even from the bleachers it’s obvious the guy is 5’10” and 210lbs of solid muscle.

And on the subject of outfielders, Carlos Beltran is a source of constant frustration for me when it comes to his defense. Last year, I screamed the F word at Kelly Johnson because of his ineptitude at third, and I nearly did the same seeing Beltran attempt to field in right. He won a few points with me by hitting two homeruns in the game, and just for good measure he hit one from each side of the plate.

The Yankees have called up about a million players from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and one in particular for Saturday was Bryan Mitchell. I’m not really sure what it is about him, but I like him. It could be just because he was up last year and familiar, but whatever the reason it’s good to see one of the kids come up and perform well as he did in 3 innings of solid work (4 hits, 1 run, 2 strikeouts, and no walks).

The best part of the game (at least for me) was Alex Rodriguez’s monster night at the plate. I arrived one day after his 3,000th career hit, but saw his next two hits Saturday night. His 3,001st hit looked a lot like the 3,000th – except that it was a 3-run homerun (career number 668) to left field instead of a solo shot to right as it was the night before. (Ironically, this happened right after I said “I’ve never seen Alex hit a homerun in a game before.”) In his 3 at bats he totaled 2 hits, 2 runs, and 5 RBI. Considering that a year ago I didn’t know if I would ever see Alex Rodriguez play another baseball game – for any team – this was as great of a performance as I could have asked for.

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It’s just rain… You all didn’t have to leave...

Sunday June 21: Tigers 12, Yankees 4

W: Anibal Sanchez L: Masahiro Tanaka

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We’re back! And we’re 3 strong today!

Sunday Michelle and I were joined by another old friend, Sadie (now living in Queens) and the game was almost the complete opposite of Saturday in every possible way. The good guys didn’t win but it was hot and the sun was shining! Of the bleachers are in direct sunlight, which we anticipated – but we didn’t expect our sunscreen to be confiscated by Yankee Stadium security. And you just can’t do that to pale people!!

This is the second year in a row I’ve went to a Sunday game with Masahiro Tanaka pitching, and both years the Yankees have lost – badly. Victor Martinez hit one homerun and J.D. Martinez hit two homeruns off Tanaka (3 total in the game), while several other hits and 2 walks combined for a total 7 runs credited to Tanaka. Oof!

When Tanaka finally got the hook, he was relieved by Danny Burawa, who made his major league debut. From our seats, we can see when a pitcher is throwing in the bullpen, but we can’t see who. Sunday, we could hear the ball crashing into the catcher’s glove after each pitch – leading me to wonder who in the bullpen can possibly throw that hard? Enter Burawa, who consistently threw pitches faster than 95mph. He did not have a great MLB debut giving up 3 hits and 4 runs, but what a first impression with that speed!

In the 3rd inning I witnessed a miracle when Mark Teixeira beat the shift (!) for a single. Not to be outdone in miracles, Stephen Drew hit not one but TWO homeruns in the game. The second one came right as I said to my friends “Stephen Drew will not be on this team next year.” Impressive timing.

Honorable mention goes to Alex Rodriguez, because he’s my favorite. In a fairly weak offensive game for the Yankees, Rodriguez had just one hit, bringing his career total after this series to 3,003. I mention this because a Twitter friend (and fellow member of Team A-Rod) reminded me that even if I missed hit 3,000, every hit from this point on is historic – and that’s absolutely true. He’s still playing, and he’s playing well. Who knows when this journey will end for him, but we keep counting each hit and marking every milestone until the day he’s done. And when that time comes, we can look back and fully appreciate what he’s accomplished in his career.

One more quick note: during the 7th inning stretch Yankee Stadium witnessed an on-screen proposal. Luckily, she said yes! I would hate to see how much it cost to propose in such a dramatic way (but how cool!!), and if she had said no… Yikes.

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People even leave on sunny days? What is this??

Now I enter a stretch of almost a month before I attend another MLB game unless something happens between now and then. For now, I’ll count down the days until the end of July when I see the Braves play the Orioles in Baltimore, and I’m sure there will be plenty of baseball news between now and then.

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On the Verge of 3,000

Steroids don’t give a person super-human vision. Steroids won’t help a batter differentiate between balls worth hitting, and those to let pass. Steroids won’t help the timing required to hit a baseball at exactly the right time. Steroids won’t slow down baseballs that are being thrown at nearly 100mph.

Steroids will boost muscle and will help you turn hits into homeruns. Steroids, which are known to cause damage to the bodies of those who take them, will not help a player’s career longevity; it will probably shorten it.

When 3,000 happens, there should be no debate over whether “it counts” or not.

Recording 3,000 career hits takes more than homeruns and steroids. It takes many, many years of consistently hitting well to reach that milestone. And hitting takes talent beyond what steroids can provide.

The historic hit will likely happen tonight at Yankee Stadium against Justin Verlander. Less than 12 hours after it happens, I’ll be leaving for New York to see Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees play.

This trip was planned many months ago based only on my schedule. When the hotel was booked and game tickets were bought, there was still a lot of doubt about what A-Rod could accomplish this season. I wasn’t even sure he would play daily – let alone be tied for 2nd on the team in games played at the end of June (62).

Being an A-Rod fan for the better part of two decades, my biggest wish for this season was for him to come back and have a respectable year post-suspension.

I never expected him to be (arguably) the biggest asset this team has. I didn’t expect him to be at the top of every offensive category. I didn’t expect any fanfare (even if I felt he deserved it) if he reached 660, or 2,000, or 3,000.

I did expect to be the only idiot cheering for him, but am very happy there is a whole army of A-Rod fans out there with me.

Unless something really strange happens tonight, I will be one day late to witness hit #3,000 – on a trip planned totally by coincidence. I’ve jokingly said to several people “He’s put me through a lot of crap all these years – I deserve to be there when he hits 3,000!” but this season has been an even bigger reward as an A-Rod fan.

He’s almost 40 years old but let’s be honest – he’s still kicking ass, even if he’s “only” the DH. He’s doing and saying all the right things on the field and off. He’s emerging from that cloud of constant suspicion and proving what I’ve known for so many years – he’s a damn good baseball player, and he’s going down in history, asterisks or not. And with every milestone passed, and every stat compiled, there are a few more people who appreciate his career.

It’s been a long time since I first started watching that young shortstop in Seattle, and a year ago I didn’t know if I’d ever see him step onto a baseball field again. There will never be a baseball player who will ever top Alex Rodriguez as my all time favorite, and I’m so lucky to have seen him accomplish so much in his career. Steroids cannot produce the amount of baseball talent and intellect he’s been blessed with.

I’m still holding on to the tiniest bit of hope that he gets that historic hit when I’m there on Saturday, but I’m not holding my breath. This season has been so incredible already, and my biggest wish has already been fulfilled.

Last Minute Yankees-Orioles game in Baltimore

For the second time this season, the Yankees came to Baltimore for a series with the Orioles. Also for the second time this season, I was about to miss the Yankees while they were in town.

Long story short, this weekend was packed full of prior commitments I could not break – some scheduled as far back as February. The only day I had the slightest chance of flexibility was Sunday, and at first I only considered breaking my commitment for the possibility of Alex Rodriguez recording his 3,000th career hit during that game (we know now, of course, that he still sits at 2,995).

Ironically enough, it ended up being my Yankees hating, Orioles loving husband who convinced me to go. While I was debating back-and-forth whether or not I should even try to go to the game, he was searching ticket prices – and found quite a deal. Two seats in left field lower reserve that normally sell for $55 were available for $11. When a deal like that comes along, you’ve just got to take it.

As for the game itself, it was nothing exciting and just baseball as usual. Both teams had good plays and bad, with the eventual victory coming to the Yankees with a final score of 5-3. With every game I attend, I try to find something memorable or significant about the game. There were no history-making moments in this game, but a few players who stood out.

Adam Warren

This was the second MLB game I attended this season, and the second game Warren started. He is not the most exciting pitcher on the Yankees, but I have to take a minute to appreciate what he brings to the team. This year, he has shown he has the ability to be an effective starter. His stats won’t blow your mind, but he can pitch decently and for both of these games, I felt confident having him on the mound. Last year, he showed he was reliable out of the bullpen, and is more than likely headed there again in the near future. Analysts and fans can debate whether Warren is better in the rotation or the bullpen, but the point is…he can do both! He’s not the first pitcher to work as both a starter and a reliever and he won’t be the last, but the Yankees are lucky tohave some flexibility with where the can use Adam Warren.

Chasen Shreve

To be honest, the name and strange haircut caught my attention first. I didn’t know what to expect with Shreve but the truth is, I’ve been really impressed so far this season. He’s only 24 and has a few years of team control ahead of him, and I could see him developing into a really great pitcher. I hope that growth happens in pinstripes, but for the time being, I’m glad I got to see him pitch in a game (even though I knew Girardi would not leave him in a full two innings, although he’s capable).

Mike Wright

The rookie starting pitcher for the Orioles is one of several players who have been drafted out of East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. This past May, my brother-in-law Mike Prunka graduated from ECU where he reported on many of the baseball players at the school (he’s now a sports reporter/editor in NC). Wright was drafted before Mike started covering the baseball team (2011), but he did cover other players who’ve also been drafted such as Jeff Hoffman (Blue Jays in 2014), and follows any ECU grad. He actually knew before I did that Wright was called up specifically to start Sunday’s game for the Orioles.

Nolan Reimold

This is a guy I’ve been hearing about for a few years now even though he’s struggled to establish his place with a major league club (drafted by the Orioles, played for the Blue Jays and Diamondbacks, and returned to the Orioles on a minor league contract this year). Most non-Orioles fans may not have even heard of him, but he is one of the biggest sports stars to come out of Mercer county, PA… Which most of you have probably never heard of. My connection to Mercer county is through my husband’s family. His mom grew up in Greenville, PA. Two of her brothers still live there and know the Reimold family. My husband Will attended Thiel College (also in Greenville) before coming back to Maryland to go to law school. Because of the personal connection to the area, we’ve been hearing about Reimold for awhile and hoping for his success. We were all very excited to hear he signed with the Orioles, and even more excited to finally see him play at Camden Yards this weekend. He had an average day, but played well enough for Will to yell “Mercer county pride!” from our seats. Of the three MLB autographs we have, Reimold’s is the only one in a place we see every day.

Next up on the agenda are two games in the Bronx – this Saturday night for Old Timer’s Day and Sunday afternoon against the Detroit Tigers. There’s a chance for a lot of excitement this weekend: If the current pitching rotation remains through this week, I should be able to see Masahiro Tanaka pitch. We are still waiting for that allusive 3,000th hit from Alex Rodriguez, which could possibly happen during either of those games. I look forward to sharing stories from those games soon!

About the Number 2,000

There’s a lot of talk (at least among Yankee fans, and some baseball fans who chose to acknowledge it) about Alex Rodriguez being on the verge of 3,000 career hits. When that happens – and it will – he will become the 29th player in all of baseball history to reach this milestone.

What’s talked about a little less, but an even bigger milestone, is reaching 2,000 career RBIs. He currently sits at 1,999 career RBI and when the next one comes – and it will, maybe as early as tonight – he will become just the 4th player in all of major league history to reach that milestone. Think about that. Only four other men in history have recorded 2,000 RBI in their baseball careers. All four of them – Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Cap Anson – are all members of the Hall of Fame.

What will it mean when Alex Rodriguez hits 2,000 RBI? Of course there will be mention of prior steroid use and asterisks (yawn) but is it really that easy to simply attribute 2,000 RBI to PEDs?

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Let’s assume for argument’s sake that Rodriguez’s 2,000th RBI comes on a solo homerun – his 666th career homerun. (Wouldn’t the world love that?) If we assume all those homeruns were the result of PED usage and subtract them from his RBI total, he would still have 1,334 RBI and rank 96th on the career RBI list. It’s quite a drop from 4th place all time, but placing in the top 100 of all baseball players in the history of the game is, in my opinion, a respectable accomplishment.

How does that compare to other major steroid users? The three names that immediately come to my mind are Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and of course Jose Canceso. Consider each one individually:

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Sosa ranks highest among the three in career RBI with 1,667 (27th all time). Without his career total 609 HR, he would still have 1,058 career RBI (tied for 240th all time). Not awful.

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McGwire is next on the list with 1,414 career RBI (70th all time). Without his 583 career HR, he would be left with only 831 career RBI and be tied for 427th place all time. (Oof!)

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Canseco has the lowest career RBI total at 1,407, and without his 462 career HR, he would have 945 career RBI (tied for 331th place all time). Fun fact: David Wright currently has 331 career RBI.

So when A-Rod knocks in his 2,000th career run – whether it happens tonight, tomorrow, or sometime next week – just refer back to some of these numbers. Personal thoughts on PEDs aside, it’s interesting to see what a dramatic difference in stats there would be if we assume all four of these players hit 100% of their homeruns thanks to chemicals (and counting each homerun as 1 RBI each). Only one player would drop less than 100 places on the all time list and still rank in the top 100 of all players in baseball history.

And if you’re curious… Without including homeruns –
Alex Rodriguez would drop 92 places on the all time list
Sammy Sosa would drop 213 places on the all time list
Jose Canseco would drop 258 places on the all time list
Mark McGwire would drop 357 places on the all time list.

All stats from http://www.baseball-reference.com

How Bad is Stephen Drew…?

Stephen Drew – we all know him, and we all love to hate him.

There are any number of reasons fans can list for why the hate him – he’s blocking prospects, he’s an automatic out in the lineup, the money used to sign him could have been better spent, etc.

We had a similar frustration at 2B when Brian Roberts (former Oriole, former respectable second baseman) signed with the Yankees as a free agent.

Roberts played 91 games for the Yankees in 2014. As of today, Drew has played 92 games for the Yankees between 2014-2015. At this point, I feel it’s fair to compare one disaster to the other – even if Drew’s role has been much more variable than Roberts’ was.

First, there’s the money.

Roberts became a free agent after the Orioles decided not to sign him after the 2013 season (that probably should have been a warning sign). For the 2014 season, Roberts agreed to a one-year deal worth $2 million (up to $4.6 million) with the Yankees. He only made it through 91 games and was released on August 9. In October, he announced his retirement from MLB.

Drew signed a one-year deal worth $10 million with the Red Sox, which the Yankees inherited when they traded Kelly Johnson to Boston in exchange for Drew. Prior to this season, the Yankees re-signed Drew to a one-year $5 million deal.

Verdict: Even if Roberts didn’t make it through an entire season (or even 100 games), I still think he carried less financial risk. A contract worth $2 million – or even $4.6 million if he had met the requirements to earn the full amount – is pocket change for most MLB teams, especially the Yankees. At $2 million, you can afford to drop a liability in August.

Next, there’s the offense.

In a 14 year career, Roberts played in 1,418 games and posted a lifetime batting average of .276 and an OBP .347. During his season with the Yankees, his stats dipped slightly to a .237 average and .300 OPS.

Drew has played for 10 seasons (so far), appearing in 1,067 games to date, has a career average .253 and OBP of .319. While those numbers are slightly below Roberts’ career average, they are quickly declining. So far in 2015, Drew has a .157 average and .225 OBP. In 2014, Drew posted an average of about .160 (.176 BOS, .150 NYY) and OBP of about .250 (.255 BOS, .219 NYY).

Verdict: It would take great effort to bat worse than Stephen Drew.

Finally, the fielding.

Roberts played all 91 games he was with the Yankees at second base, and in that time committed 10 errors, resulting in a .974 fielding percentage. In his entire career at 2B, Roberts made 81 errors (over 14 years) and ended his career with a .986 fielding percentage.

Drew has only played in 74 games at 2B (all with the Yankees, 2014-2015), with 7 errors and a .973 fielding percentage. For most of his career, Drew was a shortstop – with 84 errors and a .979 fielding percentage in his 10 year career.

It is worth noting that Roberts settled into 2B very early in his career; after his rookie season, he only played shortstop twice. On the other hand, Stephen Drew did not play a single game at 2B until his ninth Major League season. Some consideration must be made to an adjustment late in his career.

Verdict: Very close to a tie and up to debate. Unsurprisingly, Roberts is the better fielder at 2B, but even at their natural positions over the course of their careers, Roberts is still the better fielder.

It’s unfortunate Brian Roberts’ last season was so bad (he knew it, and we knew it too) particularly because he had a good career before that and was a solid part of the Orioles for his entire career. At the same time, I admire Stephen Drew’s effort and willingness to adjust to a new position late in his career, even if it’s been…difficult.

So what is the best option for Stephen Drew at this point? Quite simply, it’s not my decision to make. What I can see from comparing last year and this year is that we’re really not a whole lot better off with Stephen Drew than we were with Brian Roberts – and we willingly signed Drew to play for us again this season.

Do I think Drew has nothing left to offer baseball? Not necessarily – but I don’t think he should be in the starting lineup if his performance continues to be so underwhelming. He is a veteran who has played for several different teams, and I do think his experience can be valuable to younger players. I’m just not sure young players watching his awful batting and decent glove is valuable to their baseball educations.

Final verdict: Stephen Drew’s contract is not a total disaster, but it’s definitely not the long term solution. While he’s disappointing to watch, I think Drew can play a decent enough second base to get through the season. At this point, the Yankees need to seriously think about the future at second base and decide who will be standing there. One thing’s for sure – barring some miracle this season, Stephen Drew should not be a Yankee in 2016.