Open Thread: The spoils for the victors

Take a good, long look at that beauty. That’s what you get when you win the World Series.

The Yankees and the Balfour jewelry company teamed up to bring the team a hand-crafted ring made of natural-finished white gold. The NY logo is diamond-clustered, and it rises up from a diamond-lined baseball diamond. On one side, Yankee Stadium is engraved on the ring while the other features the Yankees logo and a nod to tradition and unity.

In addition to the new rings the Yanks handed out today, Balfour and the Bombers announced an upcoming museum exhibit set for Opening Day 2011. The jeweler is going to produce replicas from all 27 World Series rings in franchise history and display them along with information about the details of each. This bling-filled display will go up at Yankee Stadium next year.

Meanwhile, Joe, Mike and I hit up Opening Day today to watch the Yanks beat the Angels 7-5 in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated. We’ll have our extended recap up later tonight. For now, I have pictures. The full set of my photos from the ring ceremony is available here on flickr. Below are a few of my favorites.

Mariano admires the ring

Number 42

A-Rod salutes the crowd

A-Rod Waves

A group hug with Hideki

Group Hug

After the jump, I’ve embedded the full slide show. Use this thread as your open thread. In local action, the Mets and the Rockies play at 8:40 p.m., and there’s a new episode of LOST tonight. Have it. Be good to each other. [Read more…]

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On the brink of the start, thinking of repeating

Precisely five months ago to the day, the New York Yankees downed the Philadelphia Phillies on a Wednesday night to claim the 27th World Series championship in franchise history. Today, the title defense begins, and no one wants to see the Yankees repeat more than the 25 men who make up the 2010 Yankees.

Over the last month, as the Yanks have played through their Grapefruit League schedule, we’ve previewed the individual pieces that make up the 2010 club. We haven’t, however, offered up an overview of the team. Instead of running through the typical tropes — the Yankees need to stay healthy, the team has to hope that its aging core can stave off the inevitable decline — let’s just enjoy the day.

The last time the Yankees had a chance to repeat when Opening Day rolled around was in 2001. It was the middle of my senior year in high school, and in a pre-Sept. 11 world, the Yankees were flying high as back-to-back-to-back World Series champions. That team knew that Paul O’Neill would probably be playing his final year in pinstripes and that Tino Martinez would perhaps wind up elsewhere in favor of soon-to-be free agent Jason Giambi. We didn’t care though because the Yankees had beaten the Mets just a few months before. They were kings of New York and lords of baseball.

Today, we’re back there again after nearly a decade away. The rest of baseball hates us; Boston’s fans are itching at the chance to stick to the World Champion Yankees tonight; and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s always great being on top.

The next six months are going to be a marathon of baseball. We’ll see, yet again, the ins and outs of the regular season. We’ll see the team win some games, lose games. We’ll nitpick pitching changes and offensive decisions. We’ll bemoan the at-bats given to Marcus Thames or the innings giving to some bad reliever at the expense of the Next Big Thing down in Scranton. We’ll scream at Derek Jeter when he squares around to bunt, and we’ll sigh in exasperation as Brett Gardner takes a mighty hack and hits a pop up. We’ll watch A-Rod strike out; we’ll see Mariano Rivera blow a save or two. We’ll see Bad A.J. and Good A.J., Home Run Javy and Untouchable Javy. It’s all just the nature of the game, and it’s all baseball.

In ten hours, the title defense begins. In ten hours, Josh Beckett will deliver a pitch to Derek Jeter, probably a fastball, probably a pitch Jeter will take, and baseball — honest to goodness regular season, this time it counts baseball — will be back. I can’t wait.

An ode to Opening Day

Well, beat the drum and hold the phone – the sun came out today!
We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field.

There’s an old saying in baseball. It goes a little something like this: Life begins on Opening Day.

That is a statement 100 percent true. This afternoon at around 4:07 p.m., weather permitting, Jeremy Guthrie will deal the first pitch of the Yankees’ season to Derek Jeter, and that countdown to game 162, to October, to a possible parade begins.

Every year, Opening Day is a special time for me. We spend the winter going over the what if’s. Who’s going to sign where? Who’s going to start? Who’s going to relieve? Who plays center field? Who overpaid? Who underpaid? Who wins the hardware? Who finds himself on the wrong end of a scandal?

It makes for great conversation, but it’s not baseball. For six months now, the Yankees haven’t played a game that counted. They closed out the season last year on Sept. 28, 2008 with a ten-inning loss to the Red Sox. For the first time since I was 11, the Yanks failed to play a game in October, and the team went out with a whimper.

Now we’re perched on the edge of a brand new day. Every one, every team, every pitcher is at 0, and the promise of a new season is fresh in the air. No one is facing an uphill climb to the pennant. No one is facing a firesale, a declining season, a disappointing performance. Everyone is just waiting for it to count again.

For the Yankees and their fans, the start of the season has come to mean expectation. Since Luis Gonzalez’s bloop fell beyond the reach of Derek Jeter on a warm November evening in Arizona seven and a half years ago, the Yanks have had the weight of baseball expectations on them. They’ve spent more money than any team since 2001 and have nothing but one AL pennant to show for it. Every year, they land the Next Big Thing and are picked to win it all. When they fall short, it’s a disappointment.

This year, though, it’s different. The Yanks, all $209 million of them, are underdogs. Sure, they have Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. Sure, they have a multi-billion-dollar ballpark that offers riches for the richest and more money for the Yanks’ coffers. But they’ve been picked by many to finish third in a very competitive division. Before the season starts, the Yanks, used to lofty expectations, are being told not to expect much. That’s okay with me. It’s makes watching the games that more fun this year.

As 4 o’clock rolls around this afternoon, I’ll be wrapping up a class. I’ll head home, flip on the TV, and there will be baseball. There will be the Yanks in their road grays taking on the Orioles. It will be one of 162, and it will be a glorious rebirth of baseball, the game that kills us or elates us on a nightly basis, the game we love. It will be the two finest words in April. It will be Opening Day.

Got a beat-up glove, a homemade bat, and brand-new pair of shoes;
You know I think it’s time to give this game a ride.

Game 1: The birthday present that keeps on giving

Yankee Stadium has never looked better. For more lego stadiums, check out Home Run Derby.

On Saturday, I celebrated my birthday. Two days later, Major League Baseball is giving me the best present for which any obsessed Yankee fan could hope: Opening Day.

Today, Chien-Ming wang turns 28. His birthday present? An Opening Day start.

There’s really nothing like Opening Day when everything says zero, and everyone has their hopes and dreams. It’s the day when we know spring is here even if the weather tells us otherwise. It’s the day when we know summer will be on the way soon.

It’s the day when the clock starts ticking. No longer are we left debating trades that were and weren’t made. No longer are we left sitting here wondering about missed opportunities and an invasion of midges. No longer are we left scrutinizing meaningless spring training stats and wondering what kind of manager Joe Girardi will be in New York. Today is the day when everything starts all over again.

For the Yankees, it’s a new year, a new team and a new look. A lot of the names we’ve heard about made their ways to the Bronx last season. We saw 70 innings of Phil Hughes, three starts of Ian Kennedy and some mighty impressive 8th inning work by one Joba Chamberlain. Ross Ohlendorf, in a late-season call-up, showed off a heavy sinker and a tendency to throw strikes. This year, all four begin the season in the Bronx.

Of course, the old guns are back too. Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera returned to the Bronx while Alex Rodriguez locked up a deal that makes him a Yankee for life. In fact, at some point this September, A-Rod will probably find himself a Yankee for longer than he was in Seattle or Texas.

And then we turn to the Cathedral in the Bronx. As the Yankees take the field today, they will do so for their final home opener in Yankee Stadium. It’s a bittersweet day to be sure.

For the Yanks, they have their work cut out for them today. They haven’t lost on Opening Day since 2004 when the Devil Rays beat them in Japan. At home, they’ve been perfect since April 11, 1997 when Aaron Small and the A’s outlasted Jeff Nelson and the Yankees 3-1 in 12 innings.

Today, the Yanks face Roy Halladay while Chien-Ming Wang pitchers for the Yankees. Two of the game’s most winningest pitchers over the last three season square off. Someone’s gotta give. The game starts at 1:05 p.m. on YES and ESPN.

Time, they say, begins on Opening Day. To me, life begins on Opening Day. It’s a day for promises and hope that after 162 games, there will still be more to play. Let’s get this season started.

Lineup
Damon LF
Jeter SS
Abreu RF
Rodriguez 3B
Giambi 1B
Cano 2B
Posada C
Matsui DH
Cabrera CF

Wang P

Notes: Please pledge to join the RAB Big Three K’s Craniosyntosis fund drive. We’ve raised a total of $3.17 per Big Three strike out so far…Please take a minute to read the RAB Commenting Guidelines…While Bob Sheppard is out, Derek Jeter will still be announced by the Voice of the Yankees. Jeter recorded Sheppard saying his name last year. That’s smart thinking by the captain.

Update 12:14 p.m.: ESPN is reporting that the first pitch will be pushed back to 2 p.m. due to rain in the New York area. Tomorrow is a scheduled off day, but the rain is supposed to continue on and off throughout the next few days.

Update 2:10 p.m.: The game is still delayed. We may not see baseball in New York until Wednesday.

We really do live for this

I remember the year I needed a note to go to Opening Day.

It was 1995, and I was 12. I had never been to Opening Day before, and I really wanted to go. I had just lived the last eight and a half months without baseball, and I vividly remember my mom telling me on the morning of August 12, 1994 that baseball was going on strike. While at the time, I didn’t understand the financial implications of the labor battles, I knew that my life would be without baseball for an excruciatingly long period of time.

When April 1995 rolled around and the MLBPA and owners announced a strike settlement, I spent days lobbying my parents. “Please can we go to Opening Day?” I’d ask numerous times a day. Finally, as the delayed Opening Day crept closer and closer, my parents told me that yes, we could go to Opening Day.

April 26 — Opening Day 1995 — was a Wednesday, and my sixth grade class had plans to go see our high school’s dress rehearsal for Anything Goes, the annual musical. I would have to leave the production toward the end, and for that, I needed a note. Dressed in full Yankee regalia in honor of Opening Day, I snuck out of school early that day as my dad took me and my sister, then 7, to our first Opening Day game.

The game was a blast. The crowd of 50,425, still sore at the players for their eight-month walk-out and the owners for canceling the 1994 World Series that could have seen the Yanks face off against a very potent Montreal Expos team, was rowdy from the get-go. That day would be only the day until the ALDS that the Yanks would break the 50,000+ attendance mark. Those were the days.

The game itself lived up to all my Opening Day expectations. I witnessed the pomp and circumstance of Bob Sheppard, then a sprightly 84, announcing the lineup. There was Buck Showalter in his trademark jacket. Wade Boggs, Jim Leyritz, Paul O’Neill, Danny Tartabull, Don Mattingly, Mike Stanley, Bernie Williams, Tony Fernandez and Pat Kelly lined up along the first base line while Jimmy Key warmed up in the bullpen. As the National Anthem began, all was right in my world.

The Yanks won that day, 8-6. Tartabull homered in the second inning to deep left-center, and the Yanks never looked back. Jimmy Key went 5 innings, giving up 3 runs on 7 hits, but Kenny Rogers was worse. For the Rangers, he threw 3 innings and gave up 4 earned runs before Johnny Oates yanked him from the game. Bernie hit a home run; Pat Kelly went 3 for 4; and John Wetteland threw a perfect ninth for the save.

Since that day, I’ve been to a few more Opening Days. In 2002, still recovering from that heartbreaking loss in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, I trekked down from college outside of Philadelphia to Baltimore to catch the Yankees and Roger Clemens lose badly to the Orioles.

Last season, my first full baseball season back in New York after four years of college and ten months spent living in Washington, DC, I sat in the left field bleachers as Carl Pavano became the most infamous Yankee Opening Day starter of all time. When Alex Rodriguez‘s 8th inning home run to left center cleared the fence, little did I know that a historic MVP season would unfold in front of New York only to cumulate in a dramatic opt-out during the final outs of the World Series and a subsequent reconciliation. The Yanks won that one, beating Scott Kazmir and the Devil Rays 9-5.

So here we are again. It’s Opening Day 2008, and the baseball slate is wiped clean. We have a glorious schedule of 162 games ahead of us. We have summer nights at a jam-packed Yankee Stadium and tense late-season games in Fenway Park. We have full seasons from the much-heralded young guns, a swan song for a baseball Cathedral and a July filled with an All Star spectacle.

This is Opening Day, and this is what makes baseball great.

The RAB Opening Day PS3 MLB ’08 The Show giveaway contest

What would Opening Day be without a giveaway contest? Nothing. So here at RAB, we’re presenting the Opening Day PS3 MLB’08 The Show Giveaway Contest. And this time, we’ll run a tighter ship than we did with the photo caption contest last year.

The Prize: Copies of MLB ’08 The Show for PlayStation 3. Even if you don’t have a PS3, enter for the fun of it.

The Contest: Predict the New York Yankee firsts for the 2008 season. In the comments to this post, enter by taking your best guess at who will record following firsts for the Yankee season:

Hit (and what you think that hit will be)
Run
RBI
Extra-Base Hit
Stolen Base
Home Run
Strike Out
Walk
Error

Winning Pitcher
Save
Losing Pitcher

The Fine Print: Each answer is worth one point, and the top three finishers will each win a prize. In the event of a tie, we have up to five copies of the video game to award. In order to be eligible to win this contest, you must leave a valid e-mail address in the e-mail field on the comment submission form. One entry per person please. This contest is open until 1:05 p.m. Eastern time on Monday, March 31, 2008.