The Speed of the Game

It’s Friday night and I’m standing in left-center at Teufel Field. It’s the bottom of the first inning and there are runners on first and second with one out and the fourth hitter for the opposing team is at the plate with a 1-1 count (thank you, speed up rules). Our pitcher sets on the mound, rears his arm back, and arcs the ball towards home plate. The batter swings and sends a sinking line drive in my direction, slightly to my left. Eyes squinted in the less-than-idea lighting, I sprint towards the ball charging forward, sliding at the last second, securing the second out before popping up and trying (and failing) to double up the runner at second. This play could’ve happened at least three times in the amount of time it took me to write this and for you to read it. The game is fast, and that’s just slow-pitch softball. On Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, I got even more education on the speed of the game.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For the first time, I sat in the Legends seats–Section 14B, Row 2. As someone who played ball growing up and has watched and attended countless games, viewed from all over various in-stadium locations, I certainly knew how quick the game could be, but being so close hammered the point home (rudely at times, like Abraham Almonte’s screaming foul liner that buzzed our collective tower).  From Didi Gregorius‘s speed to the velocity of the pitches delivered by Luis Severino, Danny Salazar, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Miller, “fast” was the best way to describe yesterday.

With regards to that ‘micro-level’ speed, sitting so close to the action only furthered my appreciation for just how incredibly difficult baseball can be. The way hitters can react quickly enough to not just hit the ball, but hit it with authority, driving it all over the place, never ceases to amaze me. The way infielders can react to sharp ground balls and calmly field them is a near marvel; that they can seemingly flick their wrists and throw the ball harder than I could overhand is another feat that leaves me speechless. Because the players aren’t zooming around the field like they would be in basketball, hockey, soccer, or football, we don’t necessarily think of baseball as a speed sport, but it is unavoidably so.

On the ‘macro-level’ of speed, there was the pregame ceremony for Jorge Posada. As I watched him receive his plaques and gifts, I couldn’t believe almost four calendar years have passed since Jorge suited up for the Yankees. While his former teammates lined the infield grass, I remembered playing Wiffle Ball with friends in my front yard, imitating the batting stances of the men I was looking at–Derek Jeter, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Posada himself… Obviously, many years have passed since then, but the memory didn’t–and still doesn’t–seem all that distant. Like the thrown and batted balls, like the lighting-fast pitches, the memories of players passed reminds us that the game moves quickly no matter how you look at it. We could all do well to slow down and appreciate it, from the tiny bursts of speed on the basepaths, to the (hopefully) magnificent careers blossoming in front of us.

Game 122: Jorge Posada Day

Jorge Posada is not my all-time favorite Yankee but he is definitely in the top three. A switch-hitting catcher with power, patience, and a fiery attitude? How did anyone not like the guy? Posada is one of the four best catchers in franchise history, and, among all catchers in MLB history, he ranks third in walks (936), eighth in homers (275), ninth in OBP (.374), 15th in OPS+ (121), and 17th in WAR (48.4).

I don’t know if Posada will ever get into the Hall of Fame, he’s a borderline candidate, but he is going into Monument Park this afternoon. The Yankees are retiring his uniform No. 20 and will also honor Posada with a plaque. He helped the team to five World Series titles — he was a key contributor to four of them — and holds several franchise records, including games caught (1,518). Simply put, he is one of the best catchers in both Yankees and baseball history.

The Yankees want fans in their seats by noon for the pre-game ceremony, but, knowing how these things go, the ceremony itself probably won’t start until 12:15pm or 12:30pm ET. Will Derek Jeter make his second appearance at Yankee Stadium since retiring? I have to think so. The whole gang will probably be there. The weather’s great and it should be a really fun day.

As for the regularly scheduled afternoon game, here is the Indians’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. DH Brian McCann
  5. 1B Greg Bird
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. C John Ryan Murphy
    RHP Luis Severino

This afternoon’s game is scheduled to begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. The Posada ceremony will only be on YES, I believe. MLB Network usually doesn’t carry that stuff. For shame. Enjoy the ceremony and the game, folks.

Injury Updates: Michael Pineda (forearm) will rejoin the rotation Wednesday, Joe Girardi announced. Barring something unexpected, the team will do with a six-man rotation. Predictable … Bryan Mitchell (face) has passed all concussion tests and will throw a bullpen session tomorrow. Geez, sounds like he might be back fairly soon, huh?

Roster Moves: The Yankees have called up Branden Pinder and designated Chris Capuano for assignment, the team announced. Pinder was sent down ten days ago, so the Yankees brought him back as soon as possible.

Saturday Links: Postseason Schedule, Tulowitzki, Patches, Prospects, Online Streaming

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees and Indians continue their four-game series later this afternoon. Here are a few links worth checking out while you wait for first pitch.

Postseason schedule announced

MLB announced the 2015 postseason scheduled this week. Unlike the last two years, I can post this information and not feel like I am wasting a bunch of time. The full schedule can be found right here. Here are the dates potentially relevant to the Yankees:

  • Tiebreaker Game: Monday, October 5th (if necessary to determine division winner, second wildcard spot, etc.)
  • AL Wildcard Game: Tuesday, October 6th
  • ALDS: Thursday, October 8th through Wednesday, October 14th (best of five)
  • ALCS: Friday, October 16th through Saturday, October 24th (best of seven)
  • World Series: Tuesday, October 27th through Wednesday, November 4th (best of seven)

As always, the best-of-three LDS round includes off-days between Games Two and Three and between Games Four and Five. The best-of-seven LCS round and World Series have off-days between Games Two and Three and between Games Five and Six. The World Series will bleed into November unless there is a four-game sweep. There hasn’t been a World Series game in November since 2010. The Yankees won the 2009 World Series on November 4th, as you surely remember.

Cashman preferred Tulowitzki to Jeter

Here’s a fun anecdote. According to Sports Illustrated, Brian Cashman told Derek Jeter he would rather have Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop while in contract talks during the 2010-11 offseason. Here’s the full blurb:

“Who would you rather have playing shortstop this year than me?” Jeter asked Cashman.

“Do you really want me to answer that?” Cashman replied. Jeter told him to go ahead, and he listed Tulowitzki, then the Rockies’ shortstop who was in the midst of his first All-Star campaign. “We’re not paying extra money for popularity,” he added, “We’re paying for performance.”

Jeter was 36 at the time and coming off the worst season of his career. He and the Yankees eventually agreed to a new three-year contract with $51M, though reportedly ownership stepped in to wrap things up. SI has a profile of Cashman in this week’s issue that has yet to make its way online.

Hey, as far as I’m concerned, Cashman did nothing wrong. He asked Jeter if wanted an answer, Jeter said yes, and Cashman gave him an honest answer. There needed to be a bad guy in those contract negotiations just to give the Yankees some sort of leverage. They couldn’t go in there kissing Jeter’s behind and willing to pay anything. I would have rather had Tulo instead of Jeter too.

FanGraphs’ midseason prospect update

Over at FanGraphs, Kiley McDaniel posted an updated look at the top prospects in baseball. Dodgers 3B Corey Seager sits in the top spot and is followed by Twins OF Byron Buxton and Phillies SS J.P. Crawford. The Yankee shave three players among McDaniel’s top 26 prospects: RHP Luis Severino (9th), OF Aaron Judge (22nd), and SS Jorge Mateo (25th). I doubt you’ll see Mateo ranked that highly anywhere else this year or heading into next year. McDaniel seems to really believe in him.

Posada & Pettitte Day patches

Later today, the Yankees will honor Jorge Posada by retiring his No. 20. Then tomorrow they’ll do the same for Andy Pettitte and retire No. 46. Both are very deserving in my opinion. It blows my mind anyone would try to argue otherwise. Anyway, in honor of their special days, the Yankees will wear Posada and Pettitte patches on their hats. Here they are:

Jorge Posada Andy Pettitte patch

The Pettitte patch is A+ work. Posada … I’ll give it a C. Good idea, not the best execution. Pettitte’s stare was kinda his trademark and it makes for a good patch. Posada doesn’t have that signature pose or image or whatever. (Maybe it’s this?) Still pretty cool. I’m really looking forward to seeing the ceremonies the next two days.

MLB, MLBPA announce new domestic violence policy

MLB and the MLBPA announced their new domestic violence policy yesterday. The press release is right here (PDF link). It covers domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. In a nutshell, the Commissioner’s Office will investigate, the player will be placed on leave for up to seven days, and commissioner Rob Manfred can impose any discipline he chooses. There is no minimum or maximum suspension, and discipline is not dependent on whether there are charges or a conviction. After the Ray Rice situation and everything else going on in the NFL, MLB and the MLBPA did a good job getting an agreement worked out. Manfred has the ability to be heavy-handed from the start.

Some online streaming to start next season

According to John Ourand and Eric Fisher, MLB and FOX have agreed to a deal making games available for in-market online streaming. There’s a catch: it only covers FOX affiliates. So Yankees fans in New York won’t be able to watch YES online just yet. FOX holds local broadcast rights to 15 teams, so this does cover half the league. That’s a start.

Part of the hold up with other broadcast networks is MLB’s requirement that MLBAM’s operation be in control to ensure the video security and quality, as well as a 4% rights fee. It’ll end up costing regional networks like YES and SNY a couple million bucks to make games available online in-market, say Ourand and Fisher. Hopefully the other networks hammer out a deal soon. It’s 2015. I’d like to be able to watch the Yankees on something other than my TV.

Update: Turns out the Yankees are covered by the FOX streaming deal. How about that? FOX owns a big stake in YES, remember. They bought in a few years ago.

In new book, Posada opens up about bitterness towards Yankees at end of career

(Posada)
Count ’em. (Posada)

Like many all-time greats before and after him, the end of Jorge Posada‘s playing career was not pretty. Posada hit .235/.315/.398 (92 wRC+) in 387 plate appearances as a 39-year-old in 2011, down from the .248/.357/.454 (119 wRC+) batting line he put up in 2011. By catcher standards, Jorge remained remarkably productive in his mid-to-late-30s. That’s why he’s a borderline Hall of Famer.

Posada’s time as a full-time catcher started to come to an end back in 2008. He caught only 30 games that year due to shoulder surgery, caught 100 games in 2009, then only 83 games in 2010. The Yankees signed Russell Martin and moved Posada to DH full-time for the 2011 season. Jorge once said he thought the team’s decision to move him from second base to catcher in the minors was the “worst decision ever,” and now two decades later he was being moved out from behind the plate.

In his upcoming book “The Journey Home: My Life in Pinstripes,” Posada opens up about just how bitter he was following the club’s decision to move him to DH, and about the way the end of his career played out in general. Sherryl Connelly has some snippets.

“I’ll put this as plainly as a I can,” writes the man who caught 1,574 games for the Bronx Bombers, “When you take me out from behind the plate, you’re taking away my heart and my passion.”

“I knew that my role with the club was changing, but I don’t think that anyone making those decisions knew how much the things being done hurt me,” he confesses.

“To have even that taken away from me without adequate explanation, hurt me and confused me,” he writes.

From the sound of it, the Yankees simply decided to move Posada out from behind the plate without consulting him. That seems a little harsh even though we all know Jorge would have fought the move. The only way the Yankees were going to get him to stop catching was by taking the equipment away from him.

It’s important to remember the Yankees didn’t just move Posada to DH for the hell of it. Yes, his defense was terrible, but they were also looking out for his health. Posada had concussion issues later in his career, including one in September 2010 that Jorge himself said was “scary, I have to admit.” He described the test results as “not good.”

Still, Posada was hurt by the decision to move him off catcher, and once his offensive production became untenable in 2011, he was upset about being moved down in the lineup. Joe Girardi penciled Posada into the ninth spot in the lineup for a nationally televised game against the Red Sox in August, which upset Jorge, who refused to play.

“I felt like I wasn’t being treated right, that people weren’t always being as straightforward with me as I wanted them to be or treating me as I deserved to be treated, and I exploded.

“I’d just put up with enough.”

Posada claims he was truly regretful and expressed that to management but “those sentiments were never returned.”

I think Girardi’s a really good manager, but I also think he handled that situation poorly. It’s easy to understand why Posada was upset when he found out he would bat ninth for the first time in years on a nationally televised game against the Red Sox. I don’t think Girardi did it to intentionally embarrass Posada, but it was still a bad move. Does that mean refusing to play was the right move? No. Neither side handled it well.

Posada also discusses his relationship with Girardi in the book and how Girardi was different than Joe Torre, who Jorge considered his “father on the field.” Apparently a turning point was Girardi’s decision to communicate daily lineup decisions via text — he’d simply text “catcher” or “DH” to let Posada know where he was playing on a given day. Girardi still does that to this day because, well, it’s 2015 and people communicate via text. Still, Posada felt it hurt their relationship.

While Jorge was upset with the way the end of his career played out, it hasn’t fractured any sort of relationship with the organization. Posada has yet to appear at an Old Timers’ Day but has been back at Yankee Stadium several times in recent years, most notably throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the 2012 home opener and being on hand for farewell ceremonies for Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera. Heck, he was in the YES booth this past weekend. He’s also been to Spring Training as a guest instructor.

The Yankees will retire No. 20 in Posada’s honor later this year and I think it is absolutely, 100% deserved. He’s one of the best players in franchise history and was a linchpin during the club’s four most recent World Series titles. I’m disappointed to hear Posada was so upset with the Yankees towards the end of his career — the Yankees brought some of that on themselves, for sure — but I’m happy this is all in the past and two sides have what appears to be a good relationship these days.

Sunday Links: Captain’s Camp, Baker, Burton, Posada, NYCFC

The Captain's Campers. (Tyler Wade on Twitter)
The Captain’s Campers. (Tyler Wade on Twitter)

The Yankees are playing the Phillies this afternoon but there is no video broadcast of the game. Hard to believe not being able to watch a Spring Training game is the exception these days, not the rule. It wasn’t all that long ago when watching a spring game was a pipe dream. Anyway, I have some miscellaneous links and notes to pass along.

Denbo Creates “Captain’s Camp” For Top Prospects

Here’s a great story from Brendan Kuty. New player development head Gary Denbo created a six-week program this offseason called Captain’s Camp, which is designed to promote “quality character, accountability and respect for the game” in the team’s top prospects. The Yankees invited 15 of their top prospects to the first annual Captain’s Camp in Tampa back in January, and they took part in all sorts of team-building exercises, including visiting a children’s hospital.

“It kind of gave me an idea of what they want. How I should eat in the off-season to get ready for a long season. We got to talk to some big league guys who have done it before. They told us their personal experiences with it. You try to take a little bit from each person,” said Jacob Lindgren. Derek Jeter, Tino Martinez, and Scott Rolen were among those who voluntarily came to the camp to meet and speak with the prospects. (Rolen and Denbo know each other from their time with the Blue Jays.) This is really great. Between this and some coaching/development personnel moves, Denbo’s done nice work since replacing Mark Newman in October.

Based on the photo and the article, the 15 prospects include Lindgren, Jake Cave, Ian Clarkin, Greg Bird, Eric Jagielo, Aaron Judge, Gosuke Katoh, Leonardo Molina, Alex Palma, Nick Rumbelow, Luis Torrens, Matt Tracy, and Tyler Wade. So two are still unknown. The other two are Luis Severino and Jorge Mateo.

Baker, Burton Among Article XX(B) Free Agents

According to MLBTR, righties Scott Baker and Jared Burton are among this year’s Article XX(B) free agents as players signed to minor league contracts despite having more than six years of service time. The Yankees must pay Baker and Burton a $100,000 bonus at the end of Spring Training if they aren’t added to the 25-man active roster (or MLB disabled list). This isn’t a surprise, the Yankees knew both players would be Article XX(B) free agents when they signed them.

Burton’s minor league contract includes four opt-out dates throughout the season, which indicates the Yankees are prepared to pay him the $100,000 to send him to the minors. Chris Capuano‘s injury means Baker just might make the Opening Day roster as the long man and seventh reliever. The guy the Yankees can send out there and run into the ground for as many innings as necessary to spare the rest of the bullpen, then designate for assignment when Capuano is healthy a few weeks into the season. We’ll see how that last bullpen spot shakes out as the spring progresses.

Posada Memoir Coming In May

Jorge Posada has a memoir coming out! Keith Kelly says the memoir, which is titled “The Journey Home,” will hit bookstores on May 12. There will be both an English and Spanish version. It is described as a “father-son book” based Posada’s relationship with his father, Jorge Sr., and Joe Torre, who he “always regarded as a second father,” as well as his two children, Jorge and Paulina. It doesn’t sound like this will be sort of juicy behind-the-scenes tell-all story, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be worth reading.

The Yankees Stadium field earlier this week. (NY Daily News)
The Yankees Stadium field earlier this week. (NY Daily News)

Teixeira, Others Not Happy With Soccer Games At Yankee Stadium

As you know, the Yankees will share Yankee Stadium with the expansion New York City Football Club of Major League Soccer this summer. In fact, NYCFC is playing their first game at Yankee Stadium this afternoon. The MLS season runs through October and NYCFC will play a total of 17 games in the Bronx. More than one Yankees player is less than thrilled about the wear and tear on the field.

“It’ll definitely cause an issue, but it’s nothing that we can control, so we can’t worry about it … It’s terrible for a field. Grass, dirt, everything gets messed up,” said Mark Teixeira to Dan Barbarisi. Brendan Ryan told Barbarisi he’s going to change the way he approaches ground balls because of potential bad soccer-related hops. “I’m going to be selling out to go get that ball (and limit the bounces), and I’m going to err on that side much more.”

The Yankees have insisted they have a world class grounds crew and therefore have no concern about the condition of the field since it was first announced NYCFC would call Yankee Stadium home. Team president Randy Levine doubled down after Teixeira’s comments, telling Ken Davidoff the team is “very confident that both playing surfaces, through all of our planning, will be perfectly playable throughout the year.” Well, we’re going to find out one way or the other very soon.

Yankees to retire Nos. 20, 46, 51 this season, honor Willie Randolph with plaque in Monument Park

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Gosh. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

After about 24 hours of rumors, the Yankees have made it official this afternoon. Nos. 20, 46, and 51 will be retired this season in honor of Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, and Bernie Williams, the team announced. Willie Randolph will also be honored with a plaque in Monument Park. The Yankees didn’t say anything about Derek Jeter in the press release. His day is probably coming in 2016.

Here are the dates for the individual ceremonies this summer:

  • Williams: Sunday, May 24th
  • Randolph: Saturday, June 20th (Old Timers’ Day)
  • Posada: Saturday, August 22nd
  • Pettitte: Sunday, August 23rd

We heard Pettitte’s number was being retired yesterday, when his son Josh spilled the beans. Earlier today we heard Posada and Williams were “likely” to have their numbers retired as well. The Yankees retired Joe Torre’s No. 6 last year, and when they made the official announcement, they said Bernie would be honored in some way this season. Now we know the details.

It goes without saying Posada, Bernie, and Pettitte are all deserving of having their numbers retired. All three are borderline Hall of Famers — Williams has already fallen off the ballot, however, and I think Posada has a better chance of getting in than Pettitte, personally — and were linchpins during the most recent Yankees dynasty. They’re all homegrown, they were all star-caliber performers … what’s not to love about that?

(Getty)
(Getty)

As for Randolph, it’s about damn time he is being honored. He was a catalyst atop New York’s lineup from 1976-88 and is the franchise’s all-time leader in games (1,694) and WAR (53.6) by a second baseman. As I wrote during Retro Week two weeks ago, Randolph’s path to greatness was unique for his era — he was an on-base guy and a defense-first player — but he was he was great nonetheless. The team isn’t retiring his old No. 30 but a plaque is a fine honor.

Once Jeter’s No. 2 is inevitably retired in a year or two, the Yankees will have officially closed the book on the most recent dynasty and honored all the deserving members in some way. Mariano Rivera and Torre had their numbers retired the last two years and both Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neill received plaques in Monument Park last year. Once No. 2 is taken out of circulation, it figures to be a while until another number is retired or another plaque is added to Monument Park.

Nos. 51, 20, and 46 will be the 18th, 19th, and 20th retired numbers in team history, respectively. Nos. 1 (Billy Martin), 3 (Babe Ruth), 4 (Lou Gehrig), 5 (Joe DiMaggio), 6 (Torre), 7 (Mickey Mantle), 8 (Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey), 9 (Roger Maris), 10 (Phil Rizzuto), 15 (Thurman Munson), 16 (Whitey Ford), 23 (Don Mattingly), 32 (Elston Howard), 37 (Casey Stengel), 42 (Rivera and Jackie Robinson), 44 (Reggie Jackson), 49 (Ron Guidry) are all retired.