Game 68: Old Timers’ Day

Willie's Day. (Presswire)
Willie’s Day. (Presswire)

Today is one of my favorite days of the season: Old Timers’ Day. It’s not just Old Timers’ Day either — the Yankees will also honor Willie Randolph with a plaque in Monument Park today, something that is long overdue. He’s arguably the best second baseman in franchise history, after all. One of the three best at the very least.

The full roster of Old Timers can be found right here. No Derek Jeter, no Jorge Posada, no Andy Pettitte, and no Mariano Rivera. Lame. No Hideki Matsui or Mike Mussina either. Even lamer. Still plenty of all-time greats though. I’m looking forward to seeing Bernie Williams, Wade Boggs, Charlie Hayes, and Johnny Damon the most for some reason. I mean, I want to see all of ’em, but those four in particular.

Here are the Old Timers’ Game lineups, via the Yankees on Twitter:

Old Timers' Day Lineups

Now, the bad news: the weather kinda stinks today. It was raining this morning into the early afternoon, though things cleared up not too long ago and the forecast says it will stay clear for Old Timers festivities. Then it’s supposed to start raining again later tonight. The baseball gods will clear things up and make sure they get the ceremonies in. I’m sure of it.

The Old Timers’ Day stuff starts at 4pm ET and will be shown on YES. No, it is not streamed online anywhere as far as I know. At least not legally. Tonight’s game against the Tigers will follow at 7pm ET and will also be shown on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. The lineups haven’t been announced yet. That’ll happen closer to game time. For now, enjoy the Old Timers’ Day fun.

Update (3:39pm): The lineups for tonight’s game are out already. Here is the Tigers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. LF Chris Young
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

Enjoy the day, folks.

Injury Update: Mason Williams (shoulder) went for an MRI today, Joe Girardi told reporters. They don’t have the results yet. Williams jammed his shoulder diving back into first base on a pickoff throw last night.

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Sunday Links: Harper, McCann, Old Timers’ Day, Draft

(Mike McGinnis/Getty)
(Mike McGinnis/Getty)

The Yankees and Orioles wrap up their three-game series later this afternoon. Until then, here are some miscellaneous links to help you pass the time.

Future Yankee Bryce Harper?

It was inevitable. When the Nationals visited the Bronx to play the Yankees last week, Bryce Harper was asked about his hardly imminent free agency and whether he would consider signing with the Yankees. Harper grew up a Yankees fan because of his father, a big Mickey Mantle fan, and famously said he wants to “play in the pinstripes” in his 2009 Sports Illustrated feature.

“I enjoy playing for the Nationals,” said Harper to Dan Martin last week, astutely avoiding the question about the Yankees. “We try to win a World Series, just like every other team. If I could bring that back to DC, bring that back to the city, that’s what I want to do. I’ve said it for a long, long time. That’s something that I want to do … We have such a great team here. I look at every single day as a new day. I go in and have the same mentality. DC is a great place to play. It’s a monumental town.”

Harper won’t be a free agent until after the 2018 season, when he will still be only 26 years old. He’s already one of the best players in the game and figures to be in position to smash contract records when he hits the open market a la Alex Rodriguez in 2000. Sure, the Nationals have one of the wealthiest owners in sports and could sign Harper to an extension at some point, but Giancarlo Stanton set the bar at $325M, and I’m sure Scott Boras will look to top that with Harper. (Stanton signed his deal at roughly the same service time level Harper will be at after the season.)

It both is and is not too early to look ahead to Harper’s free agency. It is early because geez, it’s still three and a half years away, but it isn’t because Harper is so talented and will be such a hot commodity. He’s a can’t your eyes off him superstar in every way. Buster Olney (subs. req’d) recently wrote it “would be shocking if Harper isn’t wearing a Yankees uniform on Opening Day in 2019,” in fact. Most of the team’s huge contracts will be off the books by then and the Yankees will be in position to go huge for Harper, who might command 12 years and $400M+ come 2018.

(Jason O. Watson/Getty)
(Jason O. Watson/Getty)

How McCann stopped popping up

During his first season with the Yankees, Brian McCann was a pop-up machine, hitting weak fly ball after weak fly ball, which resulted in a disappointing .232/.286/.406 (96 wRC+) line with a .231 BABIP. All those weak fly balls were easy outs, hence the low BABIP. McCann has been one of the team’s best hitters this season though, coming into the weekend with a .264/.327/.447 (122 wRC+) line that is right in line with the 121 wRC+ he put up during his healthy seasons with the Braves from 2009-13.

How did McCann improve this year? He stopped popping up, as Eno Sarris explains. McCann credits former hitting coach Kevin Long for some mechanical adjustments late last season. “Last year, for whatever reason, my hands weren’t taking a direct route to the ball,” said McCann to Eno. McCann averaged about 4.0% infield pop-ups from 2006-03, but that jumped to 5.0% last year, and it doesn’t take into account all the weak fly balls to the outfield. This year he’s down to a 0.8% pop-up rate (!), one of the lowest in the game. Fewer pop-ups, more hard contact, better McCann.

Old Timers’ Day attendees announced

Earlier this week the Yankees announced the list of former players, coaches, and personnel who will attend Old Timers’ Day next Saturday. Here is the full list. No Derek Jeter, no Jorge Posada, no Andy Pettitte, and no Mariano Rivera. Also no Mike Mussina or Hideki Matsui either this year. Lame. Oh well, it’ll still be fun. The Yankees will honor Willie Randolph with a plaque in Monument Park that night as well.

Several 2015 draft picks en route to Tampa

According to his Twitter feed, LHP Jeff Degano (2nd round) traveled to Florida earlier this week, which usually indicates he has a deal in place and will sign soon. Bryan Hoch and Jeff Hartsell say 3B Donny Sands (8th) and LHP James Reeves (10th) will turn pro as well. Also, RHP Kolton Montgomery (16th) and 1B Kale Sweeney (29th) told ABC 4 Sports and Norm Sanders, respectively, they are signing with the Yankees and will report to Tampa. The team’s mini-camp for draftees actually started Thursday, so these guys are probably already in uniform working out.

And finally, scouting director Damon Oppenheimer confirmed to Chad Jennings the Yankees will sign RHP Alex Robinett (32nd). Robinett is a second lieutenant and a staff ace at West Point, and will have to finish his military commitment after playing this summer. “Hopefully we can keep him in some kind of baseball shape when he’s able to finish that commitment and come back after serving his country,” said Oppenheimer. Earlier this season Cardinals righty Mitch Harris became the first military academy graduate to play in MLB in nearly a century.

Law’s team-by-team draft breakdowns

Keith Law posted his AL and NL draft reviews earlier this week (subs. req’d). He didn’t hand out grades or anything like that, just said which picks he liked and didn’t like. Law says the Yankees “wanted a bat with their first pick, but all the candidates went before them,” which is what I wondered the other day. He also says Degano has “first-round stuff, but slipped because he hadn’t pitched in more than two years due to Tommy John surgery and will turn 23 this fall,” and that RHP Drew Finley (3rd) “was a steal.” The Yankees reportedly had interest in Finley for their supplemental first round pick, the 30th selection, but they were able to get him with the 92th pick. Neat.

Also make sure you check out Draft to the Show’s review of New York’s draft class.

Saturday Links: Leyritz, Tommy John Surgery, Tulowitzki

The Yankees and Royals continues their series with a dreaded Saturday night game (man I hate those) later today. Until then, here are some miscellaneous links to help you pass the time.

Jim Leyritz invited to Old Timers’ Day

For the very first time, Jim Leyritz has been invited to Old Timers’ Day, according to George King and Steve Serby. Apparently Leyritz ran into Jennifer Steinbrenner over the winter and that got the ball rolling. “I don’t want to think the Yankees define who I am, but I spent 11 years there, it was my family. To be back and part of that family, I can’t tell you what it means to me. I am so pleased it’s finally happening,” said Leyritz.

Leyritz hit one of the biggest home runs in franchise history in Game Four of the 1996 World Series, when he tied the game with a three-run shot off Mark Wohlers in the top of the eighth. That homer altered the course of two franchises. Of course, Leyritz has had ugly off-the-field issues since the end of his playing career, most notably facing DUI and manslaughter charges following an accident in 2010. He was acquitted and ended up serving one year probation, plus he settled a civil suit with the family of the woman who was killed for six figures.

Yankees lend their arms to Tommy John surgery research

Over the last year or so, the Yankees have been bit by the Tommy John surgery bug like just about every other team. Last April they lost Ivan Nova to the zipper, Masahiro Tanaka is trying to avoid surgery for his partial ligament tear, and a few days ago Chase Whitley suffered an elbow injury that may require Tommy John surgery. Top prospects Ty Hensley and Domingo German had their elbows rebuilt earlier this year as well.

In an effort to help find a way to reduce torn elbow ligaments, the Yankees and several other teams have participated in biomechanical research conducted by MLB and American Sports Medicine Institute, according to Mike Vorkunov. Here are the details:

Last March, in eight spring training camps around baseball, including the Phillies and Yankees, 80 pitchers — 40 with no history of ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction and 40 with one — were stamped with 23 reflective markers and threw 10 fastballs at full effort as 10 cameras tracked and analyzed their movement.

It was the first attempt by Major League Baseball, the players association and ASMI to learn if there was a bio-mechanical underpinning to pitchers that eventually had to have Tommy John surgery and those that had avoided it to that point.

The study found no link. The results were hardly dispositive and the research itself was just an initial step for the group.

Another study — this one spanning five years — started this spring and will monitor pitchers with five organizations fresh out of the draft. The Mets are participating in that but it’s unclear if the Yankees are as well. “That the elbow ligament, when it tears, is the end result of multiple processes. We’re not going to find one unifying theory. My guess is it’s multiple factors,” said Dr. Gary Green, MLB’s chief medical officer. The league is also looking into less invasive ways to repair a partial tear, like Tanaka’s. Check out the article, some interesting stuff in there.

Tul-oh no! (Victor Decolongon/Getty)
(Victor Decolongon/Getty)

Tulowitzki will not request a trade from Rockies

Well this is interesting. Troy Tulowitzki told Thomas Harding will not request a trade from the Rockies after meeting with his agent a few days ago. “Whatever happens on the Rockies’ end happens, but for me to sit here and try to force my way out of here, that’s not the case,” said Tulowitzki. “I don’t think it’s fair to my teammates and the relationships I’ve built here to take that route.” (Tulowitzki left last night’s game with a quad injury, by the way.)

I’m not normally a conspiracy theorist, but I get the feeling there is much more going on here behind the scenes. Perhaps Tulowitzki asked the Rockies for a trade but agreed to not make it public, not only to avoid bad PR, but to also avoid killing the team’s leverage in trade talks. If other clubs know Tulowitzki demanded a trade out of Colorado, they’re going to make nothing but low-ball offers. The Rockies’ hands would be tied. The Yankees supposedly don’t have interest in trading for Tulowitzki, but, either way, my guess is this will not be the last time his name pops up in some sort of trade rumor.

Surprise! Infield shift usage is up in 2015

This should come as no surprise. According to Pat Graham, use of the infield shift is up considerably around baseball this year. It’s up nearly 33% (!) in fact. The Rockies and Diamondbacks, two teams with new GMs after not being known as very stat savvy in recent years, have increased their shift usage the most from 2014 to 2015. The Yankees used the shift as much as any team in baseball last year and the same is true this year. They seem to get burned by it constantly, but who really knows? Shift usage and success is very tough to evaluate based on the little freely available data we have.

Game 74: Old Timers’ Day

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Speaking from experience, Old Timers’ Day is an event best experienced live and in person. Television doesn’t do it justice. There are so many great players — all-time greats in some cases, a few of the best players the game has ever seen — and fan favorites all in one place. It’s really amazing to watch from a seat in the ballpark.

Of course, the Yankees are pretty much the only franchise in sports that can pull off an event like this. Old Timers’ Day will be extra special this year because, following the baseline introductions, the Yankees will dedicate a plaque in honor of Goose Gossage to Monument Park. Tino Martinez’s plaque was unveiled yesterday and later this summer Paul O’Neill and Joe Torre will be honored.

The full roster of Old Timers can be seen right here. Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon will be among those making their debuts and I’m sure they’ll get huge ovations, especially Matsui. Jorge Posada is still holding out and will not make his Old Timers’ Day debut today. Bummer. Mike Mussina is skipping this year too. Another bummer. Still plenty of awesome players and favorites to go around though.

The ceremony and baseline introductions start at approximately 11:30pm ET. All of it can be seen on YES. The Yankees and Orioles are scheduled to play their game at 2:05pm ET. There is no lineup yet, so I’ll update the post once it’s made available. Enjoy the ceremonies and the game.

Update (11:53am): Here is the Orioles lineup and here is the Yankees lineup for this afternoon’s game:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. DH Carlos Beltran
  7. 3B Kelly Johnson
  8. 2B Yangervis Solarte
  9. RF Ichiro Suzuki
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui will make Old Timers’ Day debuts this year

Both Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui will make their Old Timers’ Day debuts later this month, the Yankees announced. That’s going to be a lot of fun. Former right-hander John Montefusco will make his Old Timers’ debut as well. The full roster of Old Timers can be seen right here. The usual cast of characters will be there.

Old Timer’s Day is June 22nd this year, so not this coming Sunday, the following Sunday. The Yankees will be unveiling the second of four new Monument Park plaques that day, this one in honor of Goose Gossage. Tino Martinez’s plaque will be unveiled one day earlier. Plaques for Paul O’Neill and Joe Torre are coming later this summer. Torre is having his number retired as well.

Sunday Night Open Thread

The 67th annual Old Timers’ Day went off without a hitch this afternoon; in fact it went so well that the Old Timers’ Game lasted five innings. I can’t remember it ever lasting more than three innings, but apparently all the Old Timers’ felt good and time was plentiful, so they just kept going. That was pretty fun. Pat Kelly can still hit a little bit. I wonder if he has the arm for third base these days? Anyway, a slideshow of Old Timers’ Day photos are above. Enjoy.

Here’s your open thread for the night. The Rangers and Cardinals are your ESPN Sunday Night Game (Tepesch vs. Wainwright), and that’s really it. Talk about that game or anything else here. Have at it.

Game 75: Old Timers’ Day

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

There isn’t another team in sports that can pull off an event like Old Timers’ Day, at least not on the same scale as the Yankees. Hall of Famers, bench players, solid regulars, and a whole bunch of World Champions will be on the field today as the team celebrates its history. The awesomeness of Old Timers’ Day doesn’t translate well across television — it really is an event everyone should experience in person at least once. I highly recommend it.

The full roster of Old Timers can be found right here. Among the first timers are Orlando Hernandez, John Flaherty, and Andy Phillips. I am most looking forward to seeing El Duque again; hopefully he pitches in the Old Timers’ Game. Jorge Posada will not be making his debut this summer, but it’ll happen eventually. I am definitely looking forward to it.

The ceremony and baseline introductions start at 11:15am ET with the Old Timers’ Game to follow. All of that can be seen on YES. The Yankees and Rays are scheduled to start at 2:05pm ET, which you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and TBS nationally. Enjoy all of it.

Update (11:34am): Here is the lineup for Yankees-Rays, which is identical to yesterday’s:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Ichiro Suzuki
  3. 2B Robinson Cano
  4. DH Travis Hafner
  5. 1B Lyle Overbay
  6. LF Zoilo Almonte
  7. SS Jayson Nix
  8. 3B David Adams
  9. C Chris Stewart

The roster move has not been announced yet, but Ivan Nova will be summoned from Triple-A to start the game. The rotation was thrown out of whack by Tuesday’s rainout.

Injury Updates: Mark Teixeira (wrist) was checked out by the doctor yesterday but has not yet been cleared to resume any kind of activity. They’ll re-evaluate again soon and go from there.

Roster Move (12:04pm): Thomas Neal has been optioned to Triple-A Scranton to clear a spot for Nova. He went 2-for-11 (.182) in four games with New York after being called up last week, but Almonte has since zoomed passed him on the outfield depth chart. The Yankees currently have a 13-man pitching staff and a three-man bench, but it seems likely Nova will be sent down following the spot start.