Melky & Hinske get their rings

Via Dave O’Brien (with a h/t to Chad Jennings), Eric Hinske and Melky Cabrera both received their World Series rings yesterday, courtesy of Jerry Hairston Jr. Hairston, who was able to fly in for Tuesday’s ceremony because the Padres had an off day, picked up his ring as well as Hinske’s and Melky’s. As luck would have it, the Braves are in San Diego this week, so the three former teammates met up before last night’s game for the exchange. “Jerry shook our hands and hugged us,” said Hinske, “and said they told him to tell us, ‘This is from the team and we wish you could have been there.’”

It’s a shame Hinske and particularly the Melkman couldn’t make it back to New York for the ceremony, but I’m glad they were able to get their rings from a fellow 2009 Yankee instead of through the mail. That’s pretty cool. Make sure you click through the O’Brien link for the photo.

I just can’t let go of high expectations for Hughes

Despite Alex Rodriguez‘s and Jorge Posada‘s torrid Aprils, the Yankees had plenty of problems at the beginning of 2007. Their pitching situation got so bad that Carl Pavano had to start Opening Day. Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina presented quality options behind him, but the final rotation spots went to Kei Igawa and Darrell Rasner. Jeff Karstens and Chase Wright made starts in early April, thought they weren’t much better. Finally, for a start on April 26, the Yankees recalled Phil Hughes from AAA.

Photo credit: Julie Jacobson/AP

At the time RAB was just two months old. Yet in that time we’d already made our excitement over Phil Hughes well known. For many of us he was the first prospect we followed all the way through the minors. For others, he represented something we hadn’t seen from the Yankees in many, many years: a Top 5 pitching prospect. Even though Hughes was just 20 years old, the expectations for him were through the roof. In retrospect, it was a bit much to pin on a player who had thrown just 153.1 professional innings at that point.

To express our excitement, Mike and I combined to write a massive Hughes post, by far the longest post in our young site’s history at the time. Mike spend the first half writing about how Hughes ended up on the Yankees, from his selection as the No. 23 overall pick in 2004 to the Yankees’ pitching problems that forced his call-up. In the second half I compared Hughes to a number of high-profile minor league pitchers. By the end I assumed everyone was as pumped for Hughes as we were.

From there it was an up and down act for Hughes. He didn’t dazzle in his debut, nor did he get lit up. In his second start, as we all remember, he was working on a no-hitter when he popped his hamstring. He was decent upon his return in 2007, but then something happened during the off-season and Hughes didn’t return the same pitcher in 2008. He spent most of the year on the DL and then in minors. In 2009 he was the sixth starter, though he struggled most of the time. He did finally find himself in the bullpen, giving us hope for this season.

The Yankees skipped Hughes the first time through the rotation, so tonight marks his season debut. I know I should have learned from my previous behavior. I should understand that Hughes might not pitch well tonight. It’s just one game, after all, and Hughes’s first real appearance of the year at that. Yet if he does fail, I’ll still feel that disappointment. No, I won’t boo him, but it will still feel like a big letdown. That’s how big the expectations were for Hughes back in 2007. I don’t know why, but I haven’t been able to let go of those.

For an example of the cognitive divide I’m experiencing:

A reasonable expectation: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

My ridiculous expectation: 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

Do other fans place lofty, even unrealistic expectations on their favorite players? It’s pretty unreasonable to do so, but sometimes we just can’t help ourselves. For some reason, I just can’t quit expecting the world from Hughes.

Ticket sales for 2010 outpacing ’09

As the Yankees begin their second season in a new ballpark with lower ticket prices and a World Series title to defend, fans are flocking to the Bronx for a chance to watch a game or 81. According to a report from the Associated Press, ticket sales for 2010 are outpacing 2009, and Yankee officials say they may soon need to cut off season-ticket sales to keep some seats open for individual game purchases.

Earlier this week, Hal Steinbrenner said that the Yankees have outsold last year by 2000 full season ticket packages. So far, the team has sold the equivalent of 37,000 season ticket plans while, in 2009, they had sold 35,000 before the stadium had hosted Opening Day. The team eventually sold 2000 more tickets last year, and Steinbrenner anticipates cutting off season ticket sales shortly.

The team averaged 45,918 fans per game last year in a stadium with a capacity that nears 50,000, and team officials believe that high prices were to blame for the empty seats. This year, as the AP notes, the team has slashed the price tag on the most expensive options:

New York renamed 538 seats along the foul lines Champions Suite, removing them from the Legends Suite and cutting off access from the duplex Legends Suite Club. The reclassified seats sell for $350-$550 for individual games, while the 1,357 remaining seats in the Legends Suite are $450-$1,600 for individual games, down from $500 to $2,625.

New York also cut 3,400 tickets behind home plate in the lower deck from $325 to $235-$250 per game as part of season plans. “The big change here was giving our fans yet another option as far as tickets,” Steinbrenner said.

I’m curious to see how these numbers translate into final attendance figures for the Yankees. In old Yankee Stadium‘s last year, the team drew a record 4.29 million fans with an average of 53,069 per game. In the new park, the Yankees still claim a capacity of 52,325 including standing room, but the team averaged just 45,918 fans last year for a total attendance of 3.79 million. Tuesday’s crowd of 49,293 was the largest regular season crowd in the new park’s short history. Wednesday’s game drew just 42,372.

For the Yanks to draw 4 million fans again, they’ll have to average 49,382 fans per game in the new house, and until standing room tickets are available for every game, that mark seems unattainable. For now, though, we should be happy that the Yankees are both lowering ticket prices and selling so many seats. The gaudy economic experiment of the new stadium may not have been as smashing a success as the Yanks had originally hoped, but the team has found a gold mine of money no matter. People will, after all, come out to watch a winner.

Photo of the 2009 ticket above comes to us from the incomparable Amanda Rykoff.

MLB celebrating Jackie Robinson Day

Today marks the 63rd anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, making him the first African American player in Major League Baseball since the 1880s. There’s plenty to say about Jackie and the effect he had on MLB. Thankfully, Matt at Fack Youk says it, and says it well. Not only does he touch on how Robinson’s promotion led other teams to do the same, but he also notes the Yankees’ reluctance to follow suit. They eventually did, promoting eventual MVP Elston Howard in 1955.

When you’re done with Matt’s article, head over to The New York Times, where Harvey Araton has penned an article on Robinson’s connection to the only remaining player sporting No. 42, Mariano Rivera.

It helps to have an Army medic nearby when you’re choking

At some point or another, chances are someone taught you the Heimlich maneuver. That, however, does not mean that you can perform it properly. Toby Weiss, wife of Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hewbrew Institute of Riverdale, found that out first hand at Yankee Stadium yesterday. When she began choking on her steak the people around her tried to help, but no one could dislodge the hunk of meat from her throat. Thankfully, John Stone, staff sergeant with the Connecticut National Guard, was nearby. Once he saw Ms. Weiss turn blue he stepped in, performed the maneuver, and got her to spit up the steak.

Said Weiss afterwards, “I’m a big Yankee fan, but I really didn’t want to die in Yankee Stadium.”