Archive for Days of Yore
The greatest hitter and the greatest pitcher many of us will ever see were on the ballot, but that didn’t matter. The BBWAA elected a total of zero players to Hall of Fame this year, the first time that’s happened since 1996. Craig Biggio led the voting with 68.2%, but players must receive 75% for enshrinement. Tim Raines (52.2%), Roger Clemens (37.6%), Don Mattingly (13.2%), Bernie Williams (3.3%), Kenny Lofton (3.2%), David Wells (0.9%), Mike Stanton (0%), and Rondell White (0%) represent the crop of former Yankees on the ballot. Players receiving less than 5% of the vote drop off the ballot next year. Full voting results are available at the BBWAA’s official site.
Given the overwhelmingly deep ballot, it’s pretty ridiculous no players will be inducted this year. Beyond Barry Bonds and Clemens you have absolute no-brainers like Mike Piazza (greatest hitting catcher of all-time!), Craig Biggio, and Jeff Bagwell. I count no fewer than 15 players on the ballot who, at the very least, deserve serious consideration for the Hall. My personal and mythical ballot, seen on Twitter and included in this YES Network feature, was ten players deep. It would have been a dozen had the ballots not been capped at ten. Never really got that rule.
More than anything, this year’s lack of inductees confirms the voting has become more about the writers than the players. The Hall of Fame is a museum and an archive of the game first and foremost. We can’t exclude the parts people don’t like just because. There’s zero evidence (zero!) guys like Bonds, Clemens, and Piazza used PEDs. No failed drug tests, nothing. Suspicion does not equal guilt, yet the ballot this year shows the BBWAA is treating these players as guilty until proven innocent. How someone would go about proving they didn’t use something, a PED or otherwise, is beyond me. Nevermind that the burden of proof falls on those making the accusations.
Anyway, the already overcrowded ballot will get even more crowded next winter when players like Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, and former Yankee Mike Mussina will be Hall of Fame eligible for the first time. If they don’t change the rule and allow writers to vote for more than ten players in a given year, the voting process is going to be a cluttered nightmare in the coming years. For now, we get an empty 2013 class and a nine-month reprieve until the next ballot is announced and the same inane arguments begin again.
Former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert has been elected to the Hall of Fame by the Pre-Integration Committee, the Hall announced. Ruppert owned the club from 1915-1939, so he was at the helm for the Babe Ruth acquisition and the construction of the original Yankee Stadium. The Yankees won nine pennants and six World Series championships under his watch.
The BBWAA announced the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot today, which is headlined by first-timers Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa, Craig Biggio, and former Yankee Roger Clemens. David Wells and Mike Stanton are also among the first-timers while Don Mattingly is entering his 13th year of eligibility and Bernie Williams is entering his second.
We’ve now entered the PED thunderdome with guys like Bonds, Sosa, and Clemens becoming eligible, and if Mark McGwire’s six years on the ballot are any indication, they’re going to have to wait a while for induction. Hell, there’s zero evidence linking Jeff Bagwell to PEDs and he only received 56% of the vote last year. I count no fewer than eight guys I would definitely vote for plus at least six others I’m on the fence with. The ballots are going to be very crowded the next few years.
Former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert is among this year’s Pre-Integration Era Hall of Fame candidates. Ruppert, who made his fortune through his family’s brewing company, owned the club from 1915-1939 and was behind both the purchase of Babe Ruth and the construction of the original Yankee Stadium. The team won nine pennants and six World Series championships under his watch.
Voting will be conducted by the 16-person panel and take place during the Winter Meetings in Nashville next month. Here’s more on this year’s ballot and more on the Pre-Integration Era Hall of Fame in general, if you’re interested.
We all need some positive vibes this afternoon, so let’s take a quick look back at something that happened nine years ago today. I’m talking about this…
And finally this…
Aaron Boone had three hits in his previous 27 at-bats prior to that. All it takes is one swing.
Last weekend I had the privilege of attending the Yanks-Sox game with a couple of first-timers. Not only had they never been to the current Yankee Stadium, but they’d never been to any Yankee Stadium. They were quite curious about the various aspects of the new park, and how it all looked at the old park. It made me nostalgic for the Stadium across the street, of course. That’s the park I grew up with. But it also got me thinking about the old Yankee Stadium.
It’s hard to imagine any park looking quite like the one in which the Yankees played before the 1970s renovations. The dimensions were, by the modern standard, incomprehensible. Imagine you’re Alex Rodriguez and you hit one right on the sweet spot. It soars out to left-center and lands 390 feet from the plate — but is in the field of play.
(Or, better yet, imagine his 500th home run. That also would have been in the field of play, thanks to a 461-foot fence in center.)
True, the Yankees typically pound their homers to right. Back in the day the Stadium still had that short porch — it was actually a little shorter down the line, though it was a bit deeper in right-center — so it would have still played to the Yankees’ primary strength. But it’s hard to imagine the Yankees hitting many of their homers anywhere near right field.
Of course, there were righties who hit for power at Yankee Stadium. Joe DiMaggio led the league in home runs in 1937 while playing more than half of his game at Yankee Stadium. He hit 27 of his 46 homers on the road, sure, but that’s still 19 at home. He also produced a near .300 ISO at home, and an overall 1.061 OPS. Apparently that cavernous right field didn’t hold him back a bit.
(I haven’t seen the stat anywhere, and I’m sure he went opposite field plenty, but I have to wonder how many of DiMaggio’s homers were inside the parkers.)
A park so oddly shaped could certainly benefit a team. We’ve already seen the Yankees amass players who can park pitches over the right field porch. Imagine a lineup that balances those players with ones that can poke the ball into that enormous right-center field gap. In-his-prime Ichiro, for example, would have been great for that kind of gap hitting.
Modern field technology would make such a park even more attractive. While I wouldn’t want to remove the monuments from center field, there wouldn’t be any career-changing sprinklers in the outfield. Basically we’d have the old-time layout with modern technology. I’d be game for that.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be room in today’s game for a park as oddly shaped as the old Yankee Stadium. Which is a shame. Sure, it might be difficult to lure pull-heavy right handed power hitters, but it’s not as though the Yankees attract, or even seek, many of them anyway. (A-Rod, for example, had superb opposite-field power). I’d love to see modern teams play in a Stadium like that.
With a victory over Washington yesterday afternoon the Yankees swept their third straight series, extending their winning streak to nine games. After an uninspiring start to the season, this is just the jolt that they needed. They now come home with the best winning percentage in the AL, and the second best win percentage in the majors. The best part: the streak is still going.
The current win streak harkens back just three years to 2009, when the Yankees also got off to a relatively poor start. After losing a pair of two-game series to Boston and Tampa Bay, the Yanks sat at 13-15. They got the ball rolling the next game, when Alex Rodriguez hit a three-run homer on his first swing of the season and CC Sabathia shut out the Orioles. They won that series, but then lost the first game against Toronto. After that, however, they started to turn around the season.
Against Toronto, Minnesota, and Baltimore they rattled off nine straight wins, improving to 24-17. After the losses to Boston and Tampa Bay they were 5.5 games back in the East. Two weeks later, after the nine-game streak, they were just 1.5 games back in the East and had moved a whopping four games ahead of Tampa Bay. There were fits and starts after that, but that win streak got them moving in the right direction. A seven-game streak in late June turned them around for good.
Yet that might not have been the most season-altering streak in recent memory. In 2005 the Yankees got off to their now infamous 11-19 start. They were nine games back in the East at that point, but things would turn around quickly. Tino Martinez fueled the ensuing 10-game winning streak, going 12 for 38 with a double and eight home runs on his way to 19 RBI. The Yankees went from nine back in the East to five back. Though it took two months for them to finally reach first place, it’s the win streak that got them moving.
The Yankees started this current streak in quite a different position. They were already 31-25 before it started, and were just a half game back in the AL East. That’s because they rattled off a five-game win streak in late May, after dropping to .500 against Kansas City. So while the streak is only at nine, it’s really 19 of 23. The best part about this stretch is that during it they’ve played just three teams below .500: Kansas City, Oakland, and Detroit. The entire nine-game streak has been against teams above .500.
In 2005 and 2009, the Yankees absolutely needed those streaks. In 2005 they were at a low point and needed an immediate turnaround. In 2009 the expectations were so high that the constant losses to Boston stung that much more. During those streaks they made up lost ground and got themselves back in the picture. This year is a bit different. They had started playing well before the streak, and this surge sent them to to the top. If the aftereffect is anything like those years, though, we can expect dominance from here on out.
Once upon a time, the Yankees had a surplus of starting pitching. So much so that they traded one of the only 16 pitchers to make at least 32 starts in each of the last three seasons to the Pirates for a pair of fringe prospects and $13M in salary relief. New York’s rotation has been inconsistent and adequate at best while A.J. Burnett has toiled in relative obscurity in Pittsburgh. Contending is a pipe dream, but Burnett recently told both Brian Costa and Andy McCullough that he’s enjoying his new surroundings.
“It’s completely different,” he said. “I can go out there and do what I want, how I want, when I want to. If I want to turn around upside down, I can do it — as long as I throw a strike. It was always the pressure I put on myself to do so good. And now, I’m just out there, just doing it.”
Like every other ex-Yankee, Burnett takes advantage of the freedom to don some horrible facial hair. He traded a college fund for a uniform number and keeps fishing poles at his locker in PNC Park while his 2009 World Series ring is tucked away at home. He still talks to CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, David Robertson, and others regularly but also acknowledges that he prefers the levity of his new situation.
“I’d get 3-0 on the first batter, and you’d hear a bunch of people,” he added. “My first start, I walked the bases loaded here. I can’t even imagine what [Yankee Stadium] would have sounded like over there, and there was maybe like two words that came out of the crowd here. So it’s just different.”
Burnett owns an unsightly 4.78 ERA in six starts for the Pirates, but most of that stems from a 2.2-inning, 12-run disaster against the Cardinals a few weeks ago. He’s allowed no more than two runs or thrown fewer than six innings in any of his other five starts, including seven shutout innings against St. Louis in his first appearance of the year. As you know, he missed the first few weeks of the season after fouling a ball off his face in Spring Training and fracturing his orbital bone. His 3.46 FIP is by far his best since a 3.45 mark with the Blue Jays in 2008, the year before he came to New York.
Do the Yankees miss Burnett? Despite their sketchy rotation, I don’t believe so. Burnett helped the Yankees win a World Championship and if you do that, you’re cool with me. That doesn’t mean you get to keep your job forever though. He was good for innings but not much else these last two years and the move to the easier league seems to have served him well at this point of his career. It doesn’t sound like A.J. misses the Yankees but not in a mean-spirited way. Things here had run their course.
“I had my good times there, though” said Burnett. “I don’t regret it at all. I don’t. I regret not performing better.”
While watching the Twins and Yankees play on Wednesday night, I took stock of the field and shook my head at the Twins’ uniforms. Minnesota sometimes sports these alternate road jerseys with grey pants, and the team looked as though they were more prepared for a Spring Training game than a regular season affair.
The Twins though aren’t the only team with solid color tops. All across baseball, either as part of a marketing effort or to vary up the styles, clubs have added alternate uniforms. The Angels were sporting solid red tops over the weekend; the Blue Jays wear something that’s, well, very blue; and the Red Sox too have solid red or blue tops for home or away games, respectively. Call me old fashioned — or a Yankee fan — but I much prefer the solid look.
The Yankees, meanwhile, have not broken with tradition. Except for one game during which MLB honored the Negro Leagues, the Bombers have steadfastly refused to discard their now-famous home pinstripes or road greys. The uniform may have looked a little different in the earlier decades of the 20th Century but for over 50 years, since the Yanks ditched the alternate road jersey in 1943, the club has adhered to tradition through thick, thin and whatever MLB marketing gimmick crossed its path.
That is, they’ve adhered to this tradition until today. When the Yankees and Red Sox take the field in a few hours at Fenway Park, they will be dressed in modern garb updated to resemble the 1912 team. It’s Throwback Day for the Yanks for the first time in franchise history. It’s finally okay to tinker with obdurate tradition as long as the club is honoring that tradition, and I like it.
For the game today, the Yanks will sport the cap atop this post. It’s an updated look on the 1912 original. This one, from New Era, is a bit different from the 1910-1911 Cooperstown Cap. The interlocking NY is the modern version and not the compressed version from the past. The colors though — a grey cap with a navy blue bill — are sleek.
The jersey, above, are similar yet different. Gone is the New York in block letters across the front, and the interlocking logo looks a bit more historic. The serifs on the letters are more pronounced and wider, and there will be no names or numbers on the back. It’s a look straight of the time when the AL ball club had yet to settle on an identity. They weren’t quite the Highlanders as many believe today, but they weren’t yet fully embraced as the Yankees yet. (The club will also be sporting appropriate stir-ups with the high-sock look.)
I enjoy this nod toward tradition. It’s not garish; it’s not ruining the Yankee brand or the Yankee legacy. It’s a glimpse of history in 2012. And at least the Yankees of 1912 had that identifiable logo and branding. The Red Sox throwback hat is, on the other hand, such a hilarious beauty that you’ll just have to see it for yourself.
As Yankee fans in the early 21st Century, we have it good. Anyone who grew up in the 1980s barely remembers the team when they were bad, and fans who came of age during the last 17 seasons know only the good. In fact, most Yankee fans alive today know only the good. In the team’s history there are only three distinct periods of bad: the Don Mattingly years, the New York Highlander years and that time from the end of the Mick’s playing days until 1976.
That second era of bad Yankee years started in around 1965 when my dad was a teenager. After losing the 1964 World Series, the Yanks finished 6th, 10th, 9th, 5th and 5th again, and they lost Mickey Mantle, a generation-defining great. For those who came of age, then, during that late 1960s/early 1970s period, this Dan Barry piece in The Times should ring true. He came of age during one of those rare moments in Yankee history when the team bad. When he was 8, the Yanks finished in last place; when I was 7 the 1990 Yankees accomplished the same feat.
Today, we forgot those eras when another team ruled New York. In the early 20th Century, the Giants captured the town while the 1969 Mets and 1986 Mets were the feel-good stories those years. Today and for most of the past two decades, it’s always been about the Yanks. Maybe one day, they’ll be a so-called second division team, but it’s tough to say when. They just keeping winning, and those of us who remember the mid-1960s or early 1990s think of those seasons, rightly so, as blips on the long-running Yankee radar of greatness.