Archive for category New York Yankees

Farewell Captain

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I knew this day was coming, but I still wasn’t prepared.

On Wednesday, the captain of the New York Yankees Derek Jeter announced that the 2014 season would be his final, ending one of the greatest careers in MLB history. The face of the Yankees for almost two decades will walk away from the game he loves and will be the final player from the World Series dynasty still playing, cutting all ties from the Yankees golden years. For me its the final connection to the Yankees I grew up with.

Growing up in the 90’s, Derek Jeter was the Yankees for me. Watching him along with Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte, creating what would come to be known as the “Core Four”, they became synonymous with championships for me. Winning 4 championships out of 5 years and making it back to the fall classic in 2001 and 2003 set a early example in all of their young careers making them young leaders on the Yankees. But even with older players and conflicting egos over the years, everyone knew that Jeter was their leader. He just had that aurora around him from day one. The type of player everyone he competed with and against had to respect and work towards becoming like. A constant professional. And he had the toughest market to play in wrapped around his finger.

Looking on my Facebook timeline and my Twitter feed on Wednesday, all I could see was my friends and family paying tribute to Jeter by bringing up old stories and moments of his that they hold dear to there hearts. Most of them are around the ages of 20-30 so we don’t know the Yankees without Derek Jeter. We all grew up idolizing Derek, wanting to wear the number 2 in little league and play shortstop just like him. He taught us to play the game he loved the right way when others cheated and lied their way to the top.

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One of the most impressive things about Derek Jeter to me is how he never let his ego get too out of control and never got into any controversy or trouble. Especially when some of his teammates are Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, and Jason Giambi. He has always been viewed as the face of baseball the way it should be played. Every game, every at bat he would give 100%, always hustling to first base whether it is into the gap in left center or a short dribbler to third.

Derek will go into the hall with one of the more impressive resumes in MLB history. He’s a five time World Series champion, winning the World Series MVP in 2000, a 13 time All-Star. He’s also won the Silver Slugger Award five times, the Gold Glove Award five times, and the Hank Aaron Award twice. He won the AL Rookie of the Year in 1996 and the Roberto Clemente Award in 2009. He is the all time leader for hits at the shortstop position in MLB history, he is the Yankees’ all-time career leader in hits (3,316), games played (2,602), stolen bases (348), and at bats (10,614). He also is the only Yankee to reach the 3,000 hit club and was the Yankees 14th captain in their storied history. Quite the career indeed.

As productive as he was on the field, he was just as an impact off the field serving as one of the best ambassadors for the game during the Steroid era, arguably one of the darkest periods in any professional sport in some time. Serving as the face of baseball for years and one of the few consistently great players who remained clean during the games ramped drug abuse among players. Jeter created the Turn 2 Foundation, a charitable organization, in 1996, to help children and teenagers avoid drug and alcohol addiction.

Derek Jeter has been my favorite player for as long as I’ve watched baseball. Watching him and the Yankees play in the playoffs year after year, racking up championships and making mesmerizing plays seemingly every game has been a privilege for me. For not just Yankee fans but for all baseball fans, make sure you really watch every at bat, every across the body jump throw, every moment Derek gives us this year and fully enjoy it because we only have a small number of them left.

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Moments like his walk off home run in game 4 of the 2001 World Series against Arizona crowning him “Mr. November”, or like the flip play against Oakland in the 2001 ALDS, or Derek diving into the crowd to catch a foul ball against Boston. Derek has given millions of baseball fans countless memories they can take with them the rest of their lives and showed us how the game of baseball was suppose to be played.

Simply put, Derek Jeter is everything a Yankee and a ball player should be.

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Life Without Mo

In one instant in Kansas City while taking batting practice, one of the Yankees biggest fears came true. A future without Mariano Rivera.

As Rivera always does every game, he went out to shag fly balls hit in batting practice to get in a workout. Unfortunately approaching the warning track going for a ball his right leg gave out and falling awkwardly to the dirt the collective hearts of all of the Yankee faithful skipped a beat. As Mo rolled around on the ground in the out field everyone watching could tell it wasn’t good. Alex Rodriguez watching from home plate said what every Yankees fan was, oh my god, oh my god.

All Yankees fans have realized that Rivera’s time on the mound was ticking. The all time saves leader and living legend would eventually hang up his cleats and the Yankees would not have the automatic save machine that would make games 8 innings for the opposition. We will get a taste of that this year.

The Yankees have been prepared for this day for a while now. Their first option that they were looking ahead past Mariano’s eventual departure was signing Reliever Rafael Soriano from Tampa Bay. The closer for the Rays in 2010, Soriano racked up 45 saves and finished 8th in the AL Cy Young Award voting all while catching the eye of the Yankees. That offseason the Yankees signed Soriano to a 3 year $35 million deal to be the Yankees 8th inning man and possibly become the eventual replacement to Rivera. However things have not gone according to plan for Soriano. Struggling in his first year and winding up on the DL for a good part of the year, Soriano was demoted from his 8th inning job and replaced with David Robertson who took advantage of the opportunity making the all-star team for the first time and posting a 1.13 ERA with 100 strikeouts. Now it appears that Robertson is in line to become the new Yankees closer while Soriano may take over the 8th inning role.

Despite how horrible the situation seems for the Yankees right now it could be a whole lot worse. They could not have reliable options to fill his place for the time being like Robertson and Soriano and have a offense as potent as the Yankees can be when they are firing on all cylinders as they should. This may not take they Yankees completely out of the conversation for the World Series, but it sure doesn’t help their chances of returning this year.

Mariano has said that he completely intends on pitching next year and returning as the Yankees closer to finish out his career the way a first ballot Hall of Famer should. If anyone can come back from such a devastating injury as he has suffered, its Mo. The 42 year old who still pitches as well as he did in 1996 setting up for John Wetteland for the world champion Yankees. The man who still is as shut down as he has ever been. The Yankees have prepared for this possibly happening with two very qualified candidates for the position in the future but when Rivera is healthy this is still his job. So don’t count Mo out as he has proven time and time again why he it the greatest of all time and I expect he will next year.

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One Last Hip-Hip For Jorge

Now from the core four we are down to the terrific two (Sounded better in my head).

On tuesday morning a teary eyed Jorge Posada announced his retirement from the game of baseball, a career that spans 17 years all wearing pinstripes for the New York Yankees. Posada, a member of the “core four” along with Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and already retired Andy Pettitte, were some of the key pieces for the Yankees from 1996 to the present overtime earning 5 championships.

Jorge’s first game in the MLB was in 1995 but he was sent down to AAA before the postseason so he could not be apart of the 1996 World Series. In 1997 Jorge was named the backup catcher to then starter Joe Girardi and eventually would begin to split time with Girardi. Joe Girardi began to grow into a mentor for Posada, until after the 1999 season when Girardi left New York to play for Chicago Cubs when Posada took over starting at catcher. Over the next few years, Posada flourished into one of the games best and most consistant catchers in the MLB. Posada won a Silver Slugger Award for catcher every year from 2000 to 2003 as well as starting for the American League in the All-Star Game in 2002 and 2003. From 2000 to 2007 Jorge consistently put up numbers that top the league not just for catchers, but for all players.

After the 2007 season, Jorge became an unrestricted free agent and could sign with any team that would make an offer. One of the biggest offer Jorge would receive would be from the Yankees cross town rivals, the New York Mets, offering him a five year contract. Tempted by the contract Posada turned the Mets down and resigned with the Yankees for a four year, $52 million contract, taking less money to stay in the Bronx. Jorge returned to the Yankees in 2008 and him and the rest of the core four won another World Series Championship in 2009.

In 2011 Jorge was moved away from starting catcher to be the DH where he struggled, hitting .230 which lead to manager Joe Girardi removing Jorge from the everyday starting lineup. Jorge was very vocal about being displeased with his recent playing time and when in the lineup batting 8th in the order. As the season progressed a rumor began to spread around that Jorge would retire during the season due to his displeasure of his role on this Yankee team. But Jorge held it together and played the season out with the Yankees, coming off the bench several times and eventually getting himself back into the lineup on occasion. Durring the Postseason against the Detroit Tigers, Posada got six hits (including a triple), four runs, and four walks in 14 at-bats as the starting DH for a .429 batting average and a .579 on-base percentage. After the series ended with the Yankees being eliminated from the postseason Jorge sat in his locker and fielded questions about his future with the team and the possibility that this may be the last time he ever puts on a Yankees uniform and he started to get teary eyed realizing that his future was uncertain. Over the offseason, Jorge was offered several contracts from other teams and he considered continuing his career away from the Yankees but he just could not.

Jorge Posada finished his career batting .273, hitting 275 home runs, batting in 1,065 RBI’s, appearing in 5 All-Star Games, winning 5 Silver Slugger Awards, and most importantly won 4 World Series Championships. All of his stats are great but what he ment to the Yankees goes far beyond statistics.

Posada was one of the most stable and reliable players the Yankees could have hoped for at one of the most important positions in the field. Being a leader in the clubhouse along with Jeter gave the team an identity of professionalism that he showed every time he went out on the field. Jorge didn’t have to put up MVP numbers all the time, he was consistently good putting up numbers that topped hitting stats for catchers all throughout his career. Batting in the heart of the Yankees order for years he was a stable rock that the Yankees could depend on. In his career he has caught pitchers such as Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, David Wells, David Cone, Mike Mussina, and hundreds of Mariano Rivera’s record 603 saves. Not to mention the success of his charity, Jorge Posada Foundation to help find a cure for the disease, Craniosynostosis which his son suffers from, and support families with children affected by the condition. Jorge has made an impact on and off the field.

Growing up watching the Yankees in the late 1990’s and now through the 2000’s, Posada was one of those players who you would just always expect to see behind the plate and batting 6th or 7th in the lineup day in and day out. It will be very odd for years to come to now see someone else behind the plate wearing the traditional Yankees pinstripes catching for CC or Rivera but Yankee fans are going to have to get use to seeing players that they have made huge impacts on the Yankees success over the past 15 years.

As players like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera get older, the end of the road for the members of the “core four” is within sight and the Yankees organization and their fans will have to prepare for life without them. Whether the players leave and join another team or retire, there will be a day when someone else will be lining up at shortstop or catcher and the numbers 2, 20 and 42 will be retired in monument park.

I believe in the future a place in Cooperstown will await Jorge wearing a New York Yankees cap as he has done his entire career adding that to his already impressive resume putting him in the long list of great Yankee catchers where he belongs. Forever in Pinstripes.

But for now lets celebrate and remember the career of one of the great Yankees catchers to put on the pinstripes and one last time,

Hip-Hip…JORGE!!!!

by Andrew Isaac

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