Sunday, March 24, 2013

Baseball "Heroes"

As children, we are inundated with images of professional sports players and entertainers, images that create a perspective that these people should be idolized and revered.  In the 21st century this has become commonplace with our youth as professional ballplayers are held up as role models and the pinnacle of success.  Although baseball on television wasn't as prevalent in the 1980's when I was growing up as it is today, we still held up our favorite players as heroes.  Don Mattingly filled that role for me and in some respects I still look at him as a role model, which isn't necessarily bad as he has had a multitude of success both as a player and as a manager.  Even to this day, my screen name on this blog is dm23HOF, which can be explained at a later date.

In early August of 1991, my parents took me to a game at the old Tiger Stadium.  We lived near Toledo, Ohio, which was home of the Tiger's Triple-A affiliate: The Toledo Mud Hens.  Growing up an hour from Detroit it was hard not being a fan of the Tigers, but my father was a die-hard Yankee fan as his baseball idol growing up was Mickey Mantle.  That passion for the Yankees was passed down to me and has now been passed on to a 3rd generation with my sons and daughter.  So on that day in August, we traveled the hour north to see my two favorite baseball teams.  For those of you in the know, you realize that the Yankees weren't a very good team in 80's and weren't any better in 1991 (the Yanks finished that season 71-91, 5th in the AL East).  The Tigers were still good after winning a World Series title in 1984 having players such as Cecil Fielder, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Mike Henneman, and a Hall-of-Fame manager by the name of Sparky Anderson.  The Yankees...well they were basically Don Mattingly and a bunch of no-namers with a manager named Stump Merrill.  A side-note: Bernie Williams DID play 85 games that year.

That day was hot, and so were the bats for both teams as they each recorded 10 hits.  Mattingly recorded his 21st double of the season, but his batting average slipped below .300 to .299 as he went 1-4 with 1 RBI plating Rookie Bernie Williams.  The Tigers won that day 7-6 as Lou Whitaker's home run in the 6th inning was the difference even with a 3-run 8th by the Yanks.  My family saw a really well-played baseball game in a hallowed hall between my 2 favorite teams.  Two weeks from that game I would turn 12 years old, so a bright-eyed 11-year old was in baseball heaven at the conclusion of that game.  To top this off, I had brought my most prized possession along with me just in case I was able to get close enough to "Donnie Baseball": his 1984 Topps Rookie Card.  Getting autographs on baseball cards isn't a big deal anymore, but in the 80's and 90's kids lived for that kind of stuff.  So my parents, probably begrudgingly, allowed me to await outside the players' entrance at the stadium in hopes of a glimpse of my hero.

An hour passed and several Yankee players made their way passed a large group of people looking for autographs and pictures of their favorites.  Steve Sax, Jesse Barfield, Matt Nokes, Randy Velarde, Kevin Maas, Steve Farr, Jimmy Leyritz...they all passed by me one-by-one and still no Mattingly sighting.  Those guys all got on the team bus parked on Trumbull Avenue.  All of a sudden there was a cheer from the crowd as my childhood hero, Don Mattingly, mustache and all walked out of the door from Tiger Stadium and made a bee-line for an awaiting taxi.  About twenty kids, including myself headed towards the metal cattle-guard nearest his taxi yelling out "Donnie Baseball...can you sign my ball (card, hat...insert memorabilia here)"...and he signed every last one of them.  I was next up with my Rookie Card and just as he reached for it, his handler moved him along apologizing to the rest of us as "Mr. Mattingly has a very busy schedule..."

Representation of my most prized possession
Of course I was crushed.  I had waited an "entire" hour for my idol and was that close only to be turned away.  Don got in the yellow cab and the vehicle started heading down the street in very congested traffic.  My parents who were a few yards behind all the kids came up to see if I had gotten my card signed.  I'm sure I looked heartbroken as my mother immediately said "Oh no, what happened?" I told her I was next to get my card signed and the next thing I know, my mother is rushing down Trumbull Avenue with my prized possession raised above her head yelling "Mr. need to sign my son's baseball card."  I was so unbelievably embarrassed that I wanted to die.  We have all lived through embarrassing parent-kid moments, but this one took the cake...I mean, this guy was my hero!  After a few minutes, I could no longer see my mom and we could only wait to see what had transpired.  Ten minutes later, my mother returned to the stadium doors to an absolutely humiliated son.  As she reached us, she yelled out: "I got it!"  Apparently she had run an entire 4 blocks in downtown Detroit and finally caught Don Mattingly's taxi at a redlight.  She had banged on the window of the taxi until Don opened the window just enough for her to slide the baseball card in and have it signed.  Wow...what an amazing day...I had gone from crushed to the happiest kid on Planet Earth.  My childhood idol had down such a great thing for me, but I was still embarrassed by what my mom had done!

Several years later that card was stolen from me out of a house I lived in during college.  That card was still my most prized possession, but not because Don Mattingly had signed it.  What I didn't realize back in 1991 was that baseball players are not really heroes...they are just grown men playing a game for a pretty good living.  What Donnie Baseball did for me that day was not out of the goodness of his heart, in fact he was practically held hostage by my mother.  No that day, one of my true heroes in life, my mother, saw her first-born son about to weep outside of Tiger Stadium and did something extraordinary.  She probably would have run 20 blocks if it meant getting a stupid baseball card signed by her kid's favorite player if only to see a smile on my face.  Baseball players aren't heroes, they aren't idols, in some cases that aren't even good people.  What I do know is that having that card stolen hurt me very deeply, because my mother, one of my all-time heroes had shown me such astounding love and it reminded me of it every day.

WBC To Pay Mark Teixeira While He Is On DL

The World Baseball Classic announced that they will cover salaries while they are on the disabled list if they got hurt playing in the WBC. That means that the WBC will pay somewhere around $7-8 million dollars or more of Mark Teixera's salary depending on how long he is on the disabled list. This lessens the blow a little bit I guess since we will use that money to pay Vernon Wells in 2013.

Youtube: The Return Of Derek Jeter

I just thought this was a pretty cool video that has me pumped for April 1st when the games really start counting again. Enjoy!

Yankees/Angels Agree On Money In Vernon Wells Deal

Update 8:07 The World Baseball Classic will pay around $7-8 million of Mark Teixeira's salary while he is on the disabled list since his injury happened while playing for Team USA. This is essentially what they will be paying Vernon Wells for 2013. Not the best allocation of the resources but what can you do?

The Yankees and Angels have agreed upon the basic structure of the trade including the money part of the deal. The Angels will reportedly pay AT LEAST $32 million of the $42 million owed to Vernon Wells but Buster Olney reports that the Yankees will pay Vernon $13 million over the next two seasons. Either way I cannot say I am happy about this even if we give up absolutely nothing for him. The league still has to approve this deal but this deal is basically all done but the paperwork. Welcome to the Bronx Vernon.

Opening Day Starting Lineup W/ Vernon Wells

So the ink was barely dry on the paper of my last post trying to predict the Opening Day starting lineup w/o Derek Jeter and now I feel compelled to do another since we are on the cusp of acquiring Vernon Wells. Wells does sort of balance the lineup from a lefty and righty aspect but that is about it. I am the eternal optimist so I am going to look at his stellar spring training and hope for the best. Now about that starting lineup...

1. Brett Gardner (L)
2. Eduardo Nunez (R)
3. Robinson Cano (L)
4. Kevin Youkilis (R)
5. Travis Hafner (L)
6. Vernon Wells (R)
7. Ichiro Suzuki (L)
8. Francisco Cervelli (R)
9. Juan Rivera (L)

New York Yankees 2013 Betting Odds

I personally do not bet on the Yankees, whether for or against, but I know a lot of people do so I wanted to share this Youtube video I stumbled upon last night. I would not put much stock into this honestly, especially when they say the best Yankees prospect is a catcher that is two years away and don't bother to mention Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, or Slade Heathcott, but it is what it is. Enjoy! Or bash... either way.

Yankees Walk Off The Rays 7-6

Kevin Youkilis continued his torrid pace of smashing baseballs today after hitting four balls hard yesterday by hitting a no doubter home run in his first plate appearance against Jeremy Hellickson.

Eduardo Nunez hit an RBI triple in the third inning scoring Brett Gardner and losing his helmet around the bases in what could be a sneak preview of the Yankees offense in 2013. Speed could kill a lot of teams this season by the hands of the Yankees.

Francisco Cervelli threw out another base runner this spring, this time throwing out Yunel Escobar in the 4th inning by a mile. It is too bad the next batter Jose Molina would reach on a Kevin Youkilis error allowing the Rays second run of the ball game. The error would prove costly as two more runners would score in the inning on a Desmond Jennings double. With this offense the Yankees cannot give away too many runs like this, even if they are unearned. Cervelli would throw out another in the 4th accounting for two of the three outs in the inning with his arm.

The Yankees put together a nice inning in the bottom of the 8th while being down 5-4 as Eduardo Nunez reached base and stole second base. Ichiro moved him over with a ground out and Kevin Youkilis hit his second two run home run of the day to put the Yankees up 6-5.

David Aardsma blew a meaningless save in the 9th inning allowing the tying run to score with two outs and two strikes. Preston Claiborne had an impressive 2/3 of an inning in the top of the 10th to preserve the tie. Ronnier Mustelier would hit a walk off game winning home run in the bottom of the 10th to give the Yankees the victory 7-6.

Yankees are off tomorrow so enjoy the rest.

Yanks on verge of trading for Vernon Wells

According to the NY Post the Yankees are closing in on a trade for Angels OF Vernon Wells.  Wells is owed $21 Million per year for the next 2 seasons but the Angels are likely to eat a large portion of that.  Buster Olney just tweeted that the Yankees share of the contract ill be about $13 Million over the 2 years. Excuse me, but I just threw up in my mouth!

The Yankees lineup has been absolutely decimated with injuries as it was announced today that Derek Jeter will likely join Teixeira, Granderson & ARod on the Disabled List to start the season.  The lineup looks terrible with all of the injuries coupled with the lack of upgrades in the off-season. BUT, this trade for Wells looks like a desperation move that will just make it even harder to get under the $189 Million Tax threshold net year. Vernon hit a dismal .230/.279/.403/.682 last year which was right in line with the .218/.248/.412/.660 line he put up in 2011.  That is a .258 On Base Percentage over the last 2 seasons spanning 791 Plate Appearances!! .258!! Is there no one on the current roster who can get on base more than that?

When will this leadership team ever go with some youth or some new blood? If Wells was free and didn't cost anything it would be worth a flier but for this production the Yanks are going to pay $13 Million?!? I don't get it. Sure Wells will provide an occasional HR and he might be a tad better than the Francisco, Mustelier, Mesa group they currently have but if bringing in this guy blocks us from making other moves next season because of the $189M mandate then it will be a disgrace.

Yankees Close To Trading For Vernon Wells

4:37 pm The Yankees and Angels are "crossing the T's and dotting the I's" and this deal will  get done as early as today. Vernon Wells has already expressed a willingness to waive his full no trade clause to go to New York. The Yankees will have to give up a "low low low level prospect" in the deal. The only hang up now is just how much the Yankees will have to pay for Vernon Wells services in 2013 and 2014.

I am seeing a bunch of tweets about the Yankees being close to a trade that would bring Vernon Wells from the Angels to the Yankees.... Stay tuned.

Wells is signed for the 2013 and 2014 season and is owed $42 million over those two years. One would think that the Angels would have to eat almost all of it to make this happen. I think Brain Cashman is really confused because this is the wrong Angels right handed right fielder that wants to be on the Yankees for the next two seasons he was supposed to sign Torri Hunter, not Vernon Wells.

It is worth mentioning that Vernon Wells has not has a terrible spring. In 41 plate appearances Vernon has put up a triple slash of .361/.390/.722 with an OPS of 1.112. Vernon Wells has also hit four home runs this spring and 11 RBI's with two stolen bases in three chances. I know that this is Spring Training but those numbers are still quite impressive nonetheless. Maybe we have another Ichiro resurgence?

Predicting The Opening Day Starting Lineup w/o Jeter

Derek Jeter will not start for the Yankees on Opening Day for the first time since 2001 when Luis Sojo started for him while he was nursing a strained quad injury. With Jeter on the DL, or he will be by the end of the day today if I had to guess, the lineup is looking less and less potent these days. Let's look at what I think the Yankees lineup will look like on Opening Day against left handed pitcher Jon Lester and the Boston Red Sox on April 1st.

LF - Brett Gardner (L)
SS - Eduardo Nunez (R)
2B - Robinson Cano (L)
3B - Kevin Youkilis (R)
DH - Travis Hafner (L)
RF - Ichiro Suzuki (L)
CF - Melky Mesa (R)
1B - Juan Rivera (L)
C - Francisco Cervelli (R)

Derek Jeter Sidelined W/ Sore Ankle

Derek Jeter is sidelined with a sore ankle once again and will not start the next two days. Opening Day now seems incredibly unrealistic and he seems to be headed for the DL to open the season. Another one bites the dust but the good news is he can be activated on April 6th after only missing the first four Yankees games rather than missing the entire 15 days due to back dated DL rules.

New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays 3/24

The New York Yankees will host the Tampa Bay Rays in their latest Spring Training game as part of their Grapefruit League schedule. The Yankees will send prospect Adam Warren to the mound to face off against the division rivals. The game will be televised on YES, MLB Network, and MLB TV at 1:05 pm ET.

Brett Gardner CF
Eduardo Nunez SS
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Kevin Youkilis 3B
Travis Hafner DH
Juan Rivera 1B
Ben Francisco LF
Francisco Cervelli C
Jayson Nix 2B

Mariano Rivera Battling Severe Headaches

The Yankees closer Mariano Rivera has been battling severe headaches for the last few weeks and went for tests on Friday. The headaches have not been affecting his pitching at all because he is still the scoreless frame, bat breaking, strike out machine that he always has been. Mariano went for a CAT scan and had blood work and the doctors diagnosed him with migraine headaches. Mariano Rivera still expects to pitch an inning today so this must, thankfully, not be a big deal.

Jeter Will Not Play Minor League Game Today

Derek Jeter will not play in a minor league game today. Whether the weather, which is not that great this morning, or the quick turnaround and a 10:00 am game was the reason we are unsure but Jeter will not play today. I believe if it was ankle related we would have heard about it by now so I am not worried about this whatsoever.

Derek Jeter's Day In The Minor Leagues Yesterday

Derek Jeter had four at bats in a minor league game yesterday going 0-4 with four ground outs seeing a total of 12 pitches. Here are videos of all four of his at bats. Enjoy!!

Derek Jeter's 1st at bat
Derek Jeter's 2nd at bat
Derek Jeter's 3rd at bat
Derek Jeter's 4th at bat

Spring Training 3/24/13 Lineup

Brett Gardner CF
Eduardo Nunez SS
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Kevin Youkilis 3B
Travis Hafner DH
Juan Rivera 1B
Ben Francisco LF
Francisco Cervelli C
Jayson Nix 2B

RHP Adam Warren

Some Notes

-- Derek Jeter will not play in a minor league game today. It's a scheduled day off.

-- Yesterday Brett Gardner was pulled from the game in the 5th inning with the stomach flu. He's back in the lead-off spot for today's game.

Baseball Cards: Luis Sojo

The latest share out of my personal baseball card collection is the Tampa Yankees manager Luis Sojo. He is the winning-est manager in the history of the Florida State League and is now showcased here for you on this lazy Sunday. Enjoy.