Fifteen years ago, I was ten years old. I was in fifth grade, and while I had been going to Yankee Stadiums since I was three, never had the Yanks made the playoffs during my lifetime.
The next year — 1994 — it seemed like baseball life would change. As August rolled around, the Yanks had a sizable lead in the AL East and were just 3.5 games worse than the MLB-best Montreal Expos. When the strike hit and the season ended, I experienced my first bout of baseball disappointment. It would be more shocking than in 1995 when the Yanks blew a 2-0 lead to fall to Seattle in the ALDS. In 1995, I was just happy to get there.
Since then, in October, I’ve seen, at the Stadium and at home, the Yankees win a World Series, lose a Divisional Series in heart-breaking fashion, win three more World Series, come oh-so-close to an emotional World Series victory, lose to the Angels, lose to the Marlins, lose to the Red Sox, lose to the Angels again, lose to the Tigers and lose to the Indians. For all the joys of victory, there is nothing more agonizing that the elimination game. As the outs fall off the board, that pit in your stomach just grows and grows until you don’t want to be around anyone else and you just want to wallow in your baseball-induced pity.
Tonight, while a regular season, was like that. While the Yankees and Mike Mussina were well on their way to defeating the Blue Jays, 540 miles away, the Indians couldn’t stop the Boston Red Sox from clinching. The Yanks scored just three runs tonight en route to a win, but for all that, they could have scored 300. It wouldn’t matter. For the first time since 1993 — for the first time since the Internet became a way of life and the iPod hit the scene — the Yanks will not playing baseball in October. It hurts.
What hurts even more, though, is that the Yankees are now the fifth best AL team but just 0.5 games behind the White Sox. As the Twins and White Sox battle it out, the Yankees could wind up the fourth best team in the American League. That’s not bad for a team missing its future Hall of Fame catcher, its All Star starting pitcher, and its regular DH for much of the season. That’s not bad for a team that witnessed a near worst-case scenario emerge in regards to its young pitchers, center fielder and second baseman. When these players make good on their abilities, when the Yanks put the right other pieces in place around them, the future will look very bright.
We can look forward to that future, but for now, we have a storyline to follow over the last five games of the season. Through five innings tonight, Mike Mussina was utterly brilliant, and he walked away from the game with his 19th victory of the season. It is the first time since 1996 when a 27-year-old Mussina won 19 games that Moose has reached that level. When he starts the final game of the season, all eyes will be on Moose as the old dog tries for one last new trick.
There’s nuttin’ but six Game 7′s left for the Yanks this year; if they win out while the Sox lose out, we’re looking at a one game playoff to decide to Wildcard team. It sounds impossible, but it’s not. Just improbable.
The ghosts seems to be back for last joyride, maybe they’ll bring us a little September magic.
1. Damon, LF Gardner, CF
2. Jeter, SS Damon, LF
3. Abreu, RF
4. A-Rod, 3B
5. Giambi, 1B
6. Nady, DH
7. Cano, 2B
8. Molina, C Ransom, SS
9. Gardner, CF Molina, C
And looking for his third career 19-win season, and first since 1996, Mikey Mussina.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that the Yanks have one more thing on their side tonight. I’ll be stuck at work mad late, and I forgot to set my DVR. That means only one thing: Moose will finally add that perfect game to his already sterling resume.
Update (6:38pm): Lineup change, the Cap’n's hand is bothering him, presumably from the HBP the other night. Explains Sunday’s 0-for-5er too.
Prior to Sunday evening’s game, the Yankees announced stringent security measures in place for would-be vandals. Today, the AP reported that 18 fans were arrested for taking pieces of the Stadium on Sunday night. All things considered, 18 arrests out of over 54,000 fans reflects well on the crowd. Despite the circumstances, Yankee fans were remarkably well behaved on Sunday night. · (9) ·
One of the notable stories from yesterday was the absence of Joe Torre and Don Mattingly from the pre-game ceremonies on Sunday. Since they’re both with the Dodgers, it’s understandable why they did not appear in person. Donnie got mentioned along with the first basemen, though not announced by Kay or Sterling, and Torre’s name wasn’t uttered. Yet there was another Yankee from the dynasty years who went unnoticed last night: Roger Clemens. Why would the Yankees snub a player who is only one year removed from his last stint in Pinstripes?
They were afraid the fans would boo him.
“They didn’t want boos to be the last memory of Roger at the Stadium,” a source familiar with preparations for the last game told the Daily News.
While I’m not one for blindly trusting an anonymous Daily News source, this seems likely. Most people I know aren’t too fond of Clemens right now, be it because of his breakdown late last year, or because of his grandstanding amid steroid accusations and perjury charges. So there had to be legitimate concern over the reception he’d receive from fans.
When asked, Brian Cashman wiped his hands of the situation:
“Roger was a great Yankee and did a tremendous job here and we’re proud of the work he did here,” general manager Brian Cashman said Monday. “I can’t speak to why he wasn’t involved in the video tribute. I wasn’t part of any meetings.
“There’s a lot of controversy surrounding him right now, but that doesn’t change the kind of person he was when he was here. He’s special in my book, whether they showed a video clip of him or not.”
Team spokesman Howard Rubenstein also attempted to defuse the situation, saying that the snub of Torre and Clemens was not intentional:
“A lot of great Yankees were not mentioned,” Yankee spokesman Howard Rubenstein said of Clemens and Torre. “There was no slight intended and perhaps both of them should have been mentioned during the celebration.”
Sorry, but I’m not buying that one bit. To lump Clemens and Torre in with Yankees not mentioned just isn’t fair. Say what you will about Clemens, and I know there will be differing opinions, but you can’t just say that some people weren’t mentioned as an explanation for Joe Torre. And yes, perhaps both should have gotten a mention for their contributions to multiple World Championships.
Honestly, do you think that the fans would have booed had Clemens been present, or even recognized? I’m not sure that would have been the case. Fans might hold contempt towards the man, but Sunday night was not one rife for booing. I assume fans would have clapped out of respect for the man and his achievements. Booing would have just been out of place.
The 2008 draft was a rough one for our Yankees, yet we didn’t come away empty-handed. Using the power of the almighty dollar, they lured RHP Brett Marshall, their 6th round pick, away from college. While he doesn’t have the ceiling of first-round non-signee Gerrit Cole, Marshall has considerable upside. Baseball Intellect’s Alex Eisenberg gives us a look at Marshall’s mechanics. As with all amateur mechanics evaluations, don’t take his word as gospel. I do like Eisenberg’s analysis, though, mainly because he doesn’t claim to have the answer to any of Marshall’s mechanical issues. He just gives us the skinny, along with some animated images. So give it a click. · (22) ·
Eight innings down; one to go. (All photos by Benjamin Kabak. All links in the post go to flickr.)
It wasn’t just another night in the ballpark with my dad. It was the end of an era, and the Stadium went out in style.
I didn’t expect to find myself at the final game at Yankee Stadium. My family didn’t get tickets earlier this year, and as the season wore on and it seemed more and more likely that Sunday’s game would be the last of the year, we were resigned to saying our good bye’s sooner. But when this week rolled around, I lobbied my family to get tickets. After all the years, we’ve spent going to games — my dad went to his first game in 1958 and my sister and I were both three when we attended our first Yankee games — how could we miss this last one?
We couldn’t get four seats together, and instead, my dad and I ended up sitting in Tier Reserve 4, Row M, Seats 3 and 4 while my mom and sister sat in the Tier Boxes beyond first base. The view from the tier, with the field stretching out below, was as good as it always is.
My dad and I arrived at Yankee Stadium shortly after 4 p.m. with the goal of watching Yankee batting practice. We had enough time to walk up 161th St. where on one side we saw a new stadium trying hard to be Yankee Stadium and an old station offering up its thanks. A Baseball Cathedral, one building often referred to on Sunday as the “best venue in sports,” stood facing its reluctant future.
Back inside the stadium, the crowd for Monument Park snaked up the left field ramp all the way to the Tier level and back a good ten or fifteen sections. The fans were there to pay their last respects.
As the pre-game warmups went on, we saw the old Yankee guard make its appearance. David Wells took pictures of the crowd, and reporters clustered around Paul O’Neill. Reggie talked to Rudy, and Bob Sheppard, prerecorded just a few days ago, welcomed the crowd one final time. The Yanks wouldn’t have it any other way.
With the Countdown Clock set at one, the Yanks unveiled their very first league champion pennant before trotting out the regular Old Timers. The dugout, needless to say, was quite crowded, but it quickly emptied out. We saw everyone from Cora Rizzuto to Scott Bro. Jorge, in uniform, wistfully reminded us of the season’s lost opportunities.
Yogi provided the crowd with an iconic image, and Bobby Murcer earned the love of the crowd. The start of the night was a more recent Yankee. When Number 51 trotted out to his familiar spot, the crowd roared, “Ber-nie! Ber-nie! Ber-nie!” He was back.
Prior to the start of the game, I witnessed what was the best commentary on the night. A fan with a giant wooden saw attempted to abscond with a large chunk of the stadium. Luckily, security didn’t stop him, and the saw proved rather ineffectual. It made for some great laughs. Behind us, some fans had put up a sign honoring the stadium.
The game progressed apace with Andy Pettitte throwing a ball for the last first pitch. We saw the B win the last Great Subway Race while the D took home the season crown. The countdown clock never hit zero and instead landed on forever because, as Michael Kay explained, there will forever be a Yankee Stadium.
After the Yankees announced a total stadium attendance of 151,959,005, the grounds crew forced the Y.M.C.A. on us yet again. Following one of the youngest Yankees, though, came the oldest: Bob Sheppard read a poem about the Stadium to the crowd. He was as much a star of the night as anyone else, and considering that Bob Sheppard is synonymous with Yankee Stadium, it was a fitting tribute to both the man and the building.
As the stadium crew ensured the team could sell numerous game-used bases, the hour grew late. Strands of Metallica filled the air, and in jogged Mariano Rivera one more time to throw three more outs. By 11:43, it was all over, and the Yanks were hugging on the field.
The ceremony didn’t end there. With the team around him, Derek Jeter, the last Yankee to bat at Yankee Stadium, addressed the crowd, and the team set off on its valedictory lap. As the witching hour came and went, the Yanks even ensured a familiar name would make an appearance. A recording of Eddie Layton playing “Good Night, Sweetheart” filled the air. No one could tickle those ivories quite like Eddie.
The Babe said good night as we waved our tearful farewells to the stadium. And while we joked about taking everything under the sun on the way down stairs, it was tough to walk through that turnstile. I could feel the stadium pulling me back in. “Don’t go,” it was saying. “I’m 85, and you’re all forgetting about me.” Now, all I have are the photos, the countless memories and a refrigerator magnet.
Pondering the field, one final time.
Our last family portrait at Yankee Stadium. September 22, 2008.
For more photos, you can browse my Flickr set or click through for a slideshow.
I’m still working on putting together a post about the final game. I took a lot of pictures, and the whole evening was very emotional. Plus, there’s this Civil Procedure reading too. I’ll have the photo post ready to go in the morning for you. In the meantime…
In the clearest indication of where the Yanks’ organization may be headed this off-season, Hal Steinbrenner unequivocally said that the team wants Brian Cashman back as the General Manager. Kat O’Brien has the story:
The Yankees want Brian Cashman back as their general manager next year, and have told him so, Yankees co-chairman Hal Steinbrenner told Newsday in a phone interview Monday.
“He knows that we’re with him, that we want him back,” Steinbrenner said.
Cashman confirmed that to Newsday in a phone interview, saying: “Yes, we’ve talked. They’ve mentioned that during the season.”
Steinbrenner said conversations took place among himself, brother and co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner, father and principal owner George Steinbrenner and Cashman when the Yankees played in Tampa earlier this month. Hal Steinbrenner said: “We did talk in Tampa. We didn’t talk about dollars, but we talked about time frame, length.
Interestingly, O’Brien’s sources hedge their bets when it comes to Cashman’s ultimate decision. While the Yanks want him back, it’s no sure thing that he wants to come back. “I think obviously, it’s quickly approaching that type of decision,” Cashman said to O’Brien. “There’s no doubt about it. I’ll sit down with my family — with the Yankee family and my family. We’ll do what’s best for everyone involved. I love what I do. We’ll just have to see what happens.”
In the end, I think Cashman will come back. I think the Yanks will offer him a very lucrative deal, and I don’t think Cashman can just give up 22 years of organizational ties. I think this story lays out what we’ve all thought for a long time: Hal is more in charge than the backpage editors of The Daily News and The New York Post would have you believe, and if that is indeed the case, I think we’ll see Brian Cashman return.
We’re Cashman supporters here. But we know he has his detractors. Those opponents, though, appear to come largely from outside the organization, and the people making the decisions for the Yankees recognize what they have in Brian Cashman. To give up on him now, in the middle of his restocking plan, would be folly.
While they had the tying and winning runs in scoring position, the Red Sox couldn’t top the Indians tonight, and the Yankees live to fight another day. As David Pinto relates, the game was not without controversy as an ump got in the way of the ball, thus costing the Red Sox a key run. The Yanks are now six out in the Wild Card with six left to play. Stranger things haven’t really happened. · (24) ·
It’s a quiet night in Yankeeland as the players and fans have spent the day reflecting on last night’s Yankee Stadium finale. But just because the Yanks are off doesn’t mean baseball stops.
Across town, as the Mets look to close out Shea Stadium, the team has entered their annual September swoon. Already out of first place, they’re playing the Cubs with their October hopes on the line. In Atlanta, the Phillies are looking to hold on to their slim NL East lead. In Cleveland, the Red Sox are searching for that one win to clinch a playoff berth while we’re hoping the improbable can happen.
Meanwhile, we’re always have CC. Jon Heyman chimes in with yet another Yankee-filled column, and this one’s a doozy. He says it’ll take “crazy” money for CC to come to the AL and the Bronx. Funny thing about the Yanks is that they just happen to have crazy money lying around in piles. Heyman also believes that Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte will be gone but that Mike Mussina will retire.
He also mentions two other items of note: The Yanks have all but given up on Melky Cabrera and will be looking for a center fielder this off-season. Second, Robinson Cano remains the Yanks’ biggest trade chip, and it is Heyman’s view and his view only that the Yanks could explore trade options. Considering the younger/better mantra the Yanks are attempting to adopt, I don’t see the team moving Cano.
So as the evening wears on, and baseball heads to a finish, use this thread for an open thread. Speculate on the Yanks. Check in on the pennant races. Nothing is off-topic.