The news on Wednesday surrounding Bob Sheppard’s health was sparse but promising. A few news outlets reported that Sheppard, while planning to miss Opening Day, would be back this season as soon as his health and wife allow it.
Well, George Vecsey of The Times went one step futher, and yesterday, he published an excellent column about the Voice of the Yankees. The lede is fantastic: Vecsey calls Sheppard’s house only to have Bob answer the phone. I would probably flip out if Bob Sheppard were to answer the phone in that very distinct voice.
Sheppard, Vecsey notes, was very sick last year. He couldn’t talk; he had to go the hopsital; and he eventually found himself down to 103 pounds. At 97 — Sheppard’s reported age — that is quite the health scare.
The Yankees say they believe Sheppard will return in July even though Bob’s aiming for June. The team may opt to keep him on the DL until the All Star Game just to make sure he’s healthy. As Vecsey writes, Bob Sheppard is Yankee Stadium:
Robert Leo Sheppard has been a highlight of any trip to the big ballyard in the Bronx since opening day, April 17, 1951, when he announced the name of Joe DiMaggio right after the youngster playing right field, Mickey Mantle. Roger or Reggie or Bernie might not hit a home run on any given day, but Sheppard would deliver the starting lineups, in a voice that would make everybody else in the joint sound like we were Archie or Edith Bunker speaking some other language…
The players want to make the majors just to hear Sheppard announce their names. Reggie Jackson still hasn’t gotten over hearing Sheppard, on a busman’s holiday, do a guest inning in Anaheim, Calif., back in the late ’70s. Reggie, in the on-deck circle, nearly flipped, hearing that voice 3,000 miles from home.
Lonn Trost, the Yanks’ COO, summed it up best: “If there was a scale of importance, Bob would be at the top. We feel uncomfortable without Bob and we hope he is with us for another 118 years.”
Only one more week until the minor league season starts, which of course means the return of DotF. Until then I’ll just whet your appetite with some random notes from around the netweb.
- Via Chad Jennings and the Baby Bombers comes word that the Yanks have released a few minor leaguers, most notably RHP’s Guillermo Villalona-Bryan, Nick Peterson and Elvys Quezada. Bryan was High-A Tampa’s Opening Day starter last year, over the likes of IPK and George Kontos, while Peterson’s claim to fame is holding down Short Season Staten Island’s closer job in 2006 until Mark Melancon showed up. With Quezada now gone, only Eric Duncan, Tim Battle, Steven White, Mike Gardner and Jeff Karstens remain from the Yanks’ 2003 draft crop.
- Jennings also has some great quotes from Alan Horne, who’s dominated this spring while working primarily on his slider and changeup, easily his third and fourth pitches. He could be putting himself in position for a monster season.
- I’ve finally settled on this year’s “Watch” subject, but an assist goes out to longtime reader Greg G. That’s all you’ll get for now, this year’s Watch will be unveiled next Wednesday.
- TJ rehabbers JB Cox and Chris Garcia have been throwing in minor league games this spring; Cox has looked particularly impressive, although Garcia struck out the side in his first inning back. Humberto Sanchez won’t see game action until May because he’s recovering from a knee surgery he had last fall in addition to his TJ recovery. Cox, Garcia and Melancon will all start the year with Tampa to take advantage of the warm weather, and I suspect that’s where Sanchez will go once he’s ready. Cox will head to Scranton once it warms up, and Melancon could pitch his way to Double-A Trenton by June. Garcia should stay on Florida’s west coast all year.
- Things aren’t going so well for Kevin Whelan. He left the Arizona Fall League early because of a sore elbow, and now he’s likely to start the year on the DL because of a sore shoulder. Whelan’s got sick stuff and a considerable ceiling, and there’s no reason for the Yanks to rush him back with all the relievers they have at Triple-A.
- Mike Ashmore has been doing a great job of breaking down BA’s list of the Yanks’ top 30 prospects list. I don’t know how much does it, but I applaud Mike’s ability to keep his site updated so frequently with such in-depth content.
- Some quick draft notes: Pepperdine RHP Brett Hunter is going be out until at least mid-April with a dreaded forearm strain (a common precursor to TJ), which will certainly affect his draft stock. Hunter has touched triple-digits in the past, and was ranked the the second best college righthander in the draft (behind Aaron Crow) by BA. Keep an eye on his condition as the draft gets closer. Personal cheeseball Gerrit Cole continues to just dominate California prepsters; this kid is as good as it gets.
- Speaking of Crow, check out his last three starts here, here and here. I was dead wrong when I said he was over-rated a few weeks back, that’s first overall pick type stuff right there.
- Last bit of college talk, I promise. How’s this for some pitching: San Diego freshman Kyle Blair set the school record with 16 K against Hawaii Hilo, only to have ace Brian Matusz tie that record three games later. Number three start Josh Romanski then threw a no-no two days after that. Crazy.
- Have you checked out Saber-Scouting yet? It’s great new site that mixes the world of sabermetrics (boo) with traditional scouting (yay), and is written by guys that actually know what the hell they’re talking about. Check out their scouting report on uber-stud Kyle Gibson.
- Did you see NoMaas’ Dr. Phil graphic? Instant classic.
Last, but certainly not least, please consider pledging for The Big Three K’s Craniosynostosis if you haven’t already. It’s our good deed for the year, and it’s a worthy cause and takes almost no effort on your part. Thanks in advance.
Kat O’Brien notes that Jeff Karstens will start the season on the DL after straining his groin today. Having recently recovered from a similar injury, I can tell you that those take a while to heal. Meanwhile, I guess this means that either Darrell Rasner or Kei Igawa will win a spot in the bullpen. I think the Yanks would be better off with Ohlendorf or Patterson, but the tradition of having a long man — while seemingly foolish — seems to be carrying the day. We’ll know more soon. · (20) ·
The last regular season home opener at Yankee Stadium will be filled with all the pomp and circumstance we would expect. The West Point Glee Club will sing the national anthem, and two F-18 Hornets will fly over the Stadium. The icing on the cake — or the straw that stirs the drink — however will be Reggie. Mr. October is set to throw out the first pitch. · (15) ·
In an exclusive by RAB favorite George King, former Yankee bullpen catcher and A-Rod confidante vouches for Alex’s good name. “In four years I was with him 24 hours a day, and not one time did I ever hear, see or get wind of anything having to do with performance enhancing drugs, steroids, HGH, anything,” Borzello said. And this, folks, is what we’ve come to. Because a bitter and jealous Jose Canseco writes it in a book that had to struggle to find a publisher, friends now feel the need to clear A-Rod’s name. Canseco won’t offer up any proof of what he writes; whatever happened to innocent before proven guilty? · (8) ·
The three of us here at RAB try our best to make the site as fun and informative as possible, and judging by how popular it’s become, it’s safe to say that we’ve done a pretty good job. Usually we take that popularity and use it to rub our egos while wallowing in our own self-righteousness, but it’s about time we did something constructive with it.
Craniosynostosis is a birth defect characterized by the premature closure of sutures in an infant’s head, which causes an abnormally shaped skull and in severe cases, places excessive and damaging amounts of pressure on a growing child’s brain. One in every 2,000 children are affected, with males being affected three times more than females. Jorge Jr., son of Yankee great Jorge Posada, was diagnosed with craniosynostosis when he was just ten days old, and has since undergone five surgeries to the correct the condition.
The Jorge Posada Foundation was launched in 2000 with the goal of providing emotional and financial support to families with children affected by craniosynostosis, as well as to provide funding for research and create further awareness of the condition. Since it’s inception, The Jorge Posada Foundation has raised millions of dollars and provided immeasurable support to those in need, but there’s still so much more that can be done. And that’s where we come in.
This season we’re going to hold a pledge drive where readers of RAB agree to donate an amount of money (set by them) for each strikeout recorded by The Big Three. At the end of the year we’ll collect the pledges and donate all of the money to The Jorge Posada Foundation in the name of “The Readers of River Ave. Blues.” So say that Hughes, Joba and IPK combine to rack up 500 strikeouts on the season, and a reader agrees to donate five cents per strikeout, then 500 K x $0.05 = a $25 donation. That’s it, piece of cake. Any denomination is welcome, and all donations are fully tax deductible.
If you’re interested in pledging, shoot me a line at mike (at) riveraveblues (dot) com. Please put “Pledge Drive” or something to that effect in the subject line, and be sure to provide an email address that I’ll be able to contact you at for the forseeable future. I’ll keep track of the pledges throughout the season, and contact everyone when the time comes. PayPal transfers seem to work best, but we’ll also accept donations in the form of money order or personal check. Until we get a better system figured out we’re going to have to do this on the honor system, so please, serious pledges only.
Eventually we’ll get a permanent link up on the site somewhere where you can read about what we’re doing whenever you please. We’re not going to have any strict limitations on this, so if you get the urge to pledge in August for the rest of the season, that’s fine. If you want to pledge but not have your contribution exceed a set amount, that’s fine too. We’ll get it to work so that everyone wins. The more pledges the merrier, and this gives all of us another reason to root hard for The Big Three.
Jorge’s been there for the Yankees and their fans since 1995, so it’s time to be there for him. Come join us in fighting this terrible condition, and if nothing else, do it for Jorge Jr.
In fifteen minutes, the last televised Spring Training game and the final home game in Tampa begins. The Yanks will face off against the Pirates before heading down to Miami for two games against the Marlins in Dolphin Stadium. Sadly, those will probably be the two best-attended games of the season for the Marlins.
Before today’s game, the Yanks will rename Legends Field to honor George M. Steinbrenner, and Andy Pettitte will probably make his 2008 debut in game four of the season against the Devil Rays in Tampa Bay. While Brett Gardner heads to AAA after an impressive spring, Kei Igawa pitches for his spot on the Yankee roster this afternoon.
The game is on YES and MLB.tv. Gameday is available here if you want to follow along. The next game thread hits on Opening Day. I can’t wait.
It seems that Hideki Matsui has gone and gotten married to an unnamed 25-year-old Japanese civilian. What makes this story so strange is that Matsui, one of Japan’s most famous bachelors, presented his bride as a black-and-white sketches today. It seems that he won the marriage bet he had going with Bobby Abreu and Derek Jeter. What are the chances this is an early April Fool’s joke? · (10) ·
Click to enlarge this image for a side-by-side comparison of the new and old Yankee Stadiums. (Courtesy of flickr user mfbyrne_pa)
As the new Yankee Stadium arises in the Bronx, we know a lot about the outside. In pictures, we’ve seen the new Stadium go up. Today, we learn that the entryway with the gold-etched lettering now features a few glass windows. From the outside, at least, the stadium in progress is quite the scene.
The inside is, of course, a different story all together. As shots from MLB.com show, the inside is far from complete, and the field, the last part of the project, is a mess of machinery and mud. In fact, throughout the whole process, information on the inside of the Stadium and its internal configuration has been hard to find. We know that the tier level seats will be more recessed at the new stadium. But what about the field and the sight lines? How do those compare?
This week, while digging around flickr, I came across the image at the top of the post. As the large version shows, the new field will have different dimensions from the old. The new stadium will still feature a 408-foot drive to centerfield and a 318-foot left field foul line. Right field moves in two feet to 312, and the power alleys appear to be 392 in left-center and 371 in right-center as opposed to 399 and 385.
While these dimensions are purely preliminary and could very well change, the new stadium, as it is displayed above, strikes me as a hitter’s park. Luckily, Phil Hughes and Chien-Ming Wang love those groundballs. (Check out this image from Baseball-Fever.com for an overlay of the old field on top of the new one.)
Meanwhile, the images, which seem to come from here and here, suggest that the front of the tier levels will be significantly more recessed than they are now. No longer will the upper reaches of the stadium hang over the loge and field level seats. Rather, most will be open-air seats. But a few changes will be made to help the stadium retain some intimacy.
Notably, foul territory behind the plate will be reduced. Again, the stadium will play as a hitter’s park with the fans much closer to the action. With these changes as well as a 53,000-seat capacity and a wider seating bowl, the last row of the tier level could be as much as 54 feet closer to the action. That’s a significant improvement even as it comes at the expense of the tier box seats (or, as they’ll be called, the Terrace Level seats).
Right now, everything here should be taken with a grain of salt. These are unofficial figures from folks who are, by and large, estimating what the field will look like. Until the Yankees unveil the final figures, we won’t know for sure. But we’re beginning to see the trade-offs. Some seats will be better than they are now; some will be worse. As much as I don’t want to see Yankee Stadium go because of the history, the nostalgia and the memories, I’m a bit excited to at least explore the new ballpark. I shudder to think, however, of the day the wrecking ball comes.