Nine years ago today…

We all need some positive vibes this afternoon, so let’s take a quick look back at something that happened nine years ago today. I’m talking about this…

And this…

And finally this…

Aaron Boone had three hits in his previous 27 at-bats prior to that. All it takes is one swing.

Open Thread: Aaron BOONE!

That one doesn’t need an introduction. It’s probably the best individual Yankees moment of my lifetime, and Boone will never have to buy himself dinner in New York again. Here is your open thread for the night. The ESPN Sunday Night Game features the Reds at the Braves (Cueto vs. Jurrjens), but talk about whatever your want. Have at it.

The Ultimate Small Sample Size

"This might send the Yankees to the World Series!" (AP/Charles Krupa)

It can only take one game – one play, even – to make a career. With a single pitch, throw, hit or game, a player can lock in their legacy forever. The funny thing is, the play that makes the player can be absolutely nothing like the rest of his career.  I don’t think this is Yankees or even baseball specific. Olli Jokinen, once a New York Ranger, will always be remembered by Rangers fans for the shot he missed in the shootout in the last game of the regular season last year, knocking the Rangers out of the playoffs and allowing the Philadelphia Flyers to go on their Stanley Cup run, even though they were bested by the Chicago Blackhawks in the finals. Jokinen had been, by most hockey measures, at least a half-decent player all his career. The one-play legacy is the ultimate example of small sample size, the very thing that we basement-blogging nerds rage against. Small sample size is the worst enemy of most statistics. Alex Rodriguez batting .156 looks pretty terrible before you find out that’s only in eight games. Francisco Cervelli batted .360 with a .848 OPS….in April 2010.

Think about it. As Yankee fans, we’ll always remember Aaron Boone’s game 7 home run off Tim Wakefield.  Boone played major league baseball for thirteen years, and out of all those years (4329 career plate appearances), he showed up in a hundred games or more for only half of them. He was traded for in the middle of 2003 and appeared in only 54 regular season games with the Yankees. He never hit over 30 home runs. He never batted over .300. His career batting numbers are .263/.326/.425 with a 94 OPS+. There is absolutely nothing notable here.  He was a Randy Winn or a Josh Towers. But then, of course, he came up in the eleventh inning of the ALCS Game 7 after pinch running in the eighth, and now no one will ever forget him. The ad on his baseball reference page even features the play.  My favorite part about the Aaron Boone home run is that we lost that World Series against Josh Beckett’s Marlins, and this never, ever comes up in the Aaron Boone discussion. That memorable home run, viewed through the lens of contemporary Yankees success mentality (World Series or bust!) was ultimately futile. It did nothing aside from give Yankees fans one more year to rub “the Curse of the Bambino” in Boston’s face. Little did we know what awaited us next year….

Just like Boone’s single plate appearance lifted him from forgettable bench player to historical Yankee figure, one play can make fans think a good ballplayer is worth absolutely nothing. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to go into detail about Luis Castillo given my audience, but he dropped a routine pop-up in an effectively meaningless summer game, allowing the Yankees to score two runs, win the game, and eventually win the World Series. Okay, maybe the two things weren’t connected, but Castillo’s error lead to an exaggeration in his vilification (which was already prevalent) by Mets fans and a massive increase of ribbing by everyone else in baseball. When Castillo was released not too long ago, even Sandy Alderson was quoted over at ESPN saying, “I don’t think there’s any question that there’s some linkage between his situation and a perception of the Mets that has existed to this point. That’s something that was taken into account. At some point, you have to make an organizational decision that goes beyond just an ability to play or not play.” As Mets blog Amazin Avenue, pointed out, Castillo was certainly good enough to be on the Mets: his career .290/.368/.351 is solid, and the 2009 where he hit .301 is closer to his norm than the .234 he hit in 2010. It’s worth noting that he also only played in 84 games last year due to a lingering foot injury caused by a nasty bone bruise.  Castillo’s not a bad baseball player, but the fact that everyone knows him for one error makes him seem far, far worse than he actually is.

Bill Buckner. Bucky Dent. Armando Galarraga. Dallas Braden. These names have plays – or in the case of the two pitchers, games – that stand out in their careers. Despite throwing an almost-perfect game (for our purposes, it was perfect on Galarraga’s end), the Tigers wouldn’t even carry him on their roster in 2011, and he’s now pitching for Arizona. Braden’s 4.00 FIP and 4.20 ERA are not as remotely impressive as the perfect game he threw on Mother’s Day. It’s these kind of events that highlight the unpredictability of baseball and, even more so, remind both us as fans that anyone can do anything – but when you’re trying to build the best baseball team you can or blame a losing streak on someone, it’s probably worth looking at the long-term numbers and not just remembering the best or worst play you can think of.

Open Thread: Boone calls it a career

Ex-Yankee Aaron Boone called it a career today, retiring at age-36 and a year after having open heart surgery. He’ll join ESPN as a television analyst, and for his sake I hope he does better than Tino Martinez did.

Boone came to the Yankees at the 2003 trade deadline in exchange for prospects Brandon Claussen and Charlie Manning, plus some cash. The aging Robin Ventura was hitting just .251-.355-.392 with a .326 wOBA at the time of the trade, though the in-his-prime Boone didn’t improve on those numbers at all, hitting .254-.302-.418 with a .322 wOBA in pinstripes. By the time the ALCS rolled around, Boone found himself on the bench regularly while Enrique Wilson started at third. Despite all that, he made his mark in pinstripes, and will forever be remembered in Yankee lore for that one special moment.

After Boone tore up his knee in a pickup basketball game during the offseason, the Yankees went ahead and acquired Alex Rodriguez from the Rangers. Boone’s time in pinstripes was brief, but it certainly did not lack impact. I wonder how long it’ll be before we see him at Old Timer’s Day.

* * *

Here’s your open thread for tonight. Both the Knicks and Nets are playing, plus there’s the Olympics. You know what to do, so have it.

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP

Six years later, Boone’s shot still resonates


As we await Game 1 of the 2009 ALCS, tonight marks the anniversary of the Yanks’ last American League title. Six years ago, Aaron Boone, an unlikely hero, launched a Tim Wakefield offering into the left field stands to to win one of the best Game 7’s of all time. While I enjoyed the game from the den at my grandparents’ house in Florida, my dad and sister were at Yankee Stadium. My sister, currently in Nicaragua where she will have to watch los playoffs in Spanish, offered up to share her memories of the game. So a guest post by Victoria Kabak on Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS…

During the Octobers that I was 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17 years old, my family employed an elaborate rotation system to determine who went to which playoff games and with which other family member. Sometimes I wasn’t so lucky—the Yanks’ sweeping the 1999 World Series was a mixed blessing, as Ben and I were supposed to go to Game 5 (we each have a framed laser copy of the tickets, but it’s not quite the same).

But sometimes I did get lucky. It was with my dad, sitting on the main level in foul territory in left field, that I witnessed Roger Clemens pick up a piece of a broken bat and hurl it at Mike Piazza in 2000. Ben and I watched Jeter back flip into the stands in the 2001 ALDS against Oakland. All of these times I remember the palpable fervor of the crowd, especially as everyone exited the stadium at the end of the game, barely moving down the ramps and spontaneously erupting into cheers and chants.

Never did I experience a mania that came anywhere close to what I experienced six years ago today. I was 16 and it would appear that luck was on my side for that postseason family rotation. Again with my dad, I sat in the Tier Reserve down the third base line to watch the Yankees and the Red Sox determine who would play in the World Series and who would go home. The game had been going on for over four hours. The series had been going on for seven games. I would either go to school the next day tired and happy, or I would go tired and sad, with the prospect of five and a half boring months without baseball.

The game had already been an exciting one, with a less-than-stellar outing from Roger Clemens, a more-than-stellar relief appearance by Moose, and Pedro Martinez’s blowing the Sox’s three-run lead in the bottom of the 8th. Whatever happened after the 9th inning would be very exciting to one team’s fans. The feeling in the crowd was truly electric.

In the 11th it was really time for the Yanks to wrap it up. Probably the least desirable batter was at the plate—Aaron Boone. I’m sure my dad and I groused, wishing someone else – anyone else – was up.

Of course, as it happens, this is baseball we’re talking about here and the impossible is possible. Aaron Boone, in the peak moment of his career, sent the ball sailing into the seats behind left field. I had the most fleeting sense of worry as I could feel the upper deck literally moving up and down, palpitating below my feet. As the celebration continued, I called my mom, who was watching the game alone at home. I have no idea what, if anything, she said to me, but I know what she heard: a crowd of Yankee fans going wild.

Even though Boone’s homerun came after midnight, on October 17, it is an omen of the highest order that the Yanks are beginning their final push toward the Fall Classic on the sixth anniversary of the day Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS began—the sixth anniversary of a seemingly impossible occurrence. I only hope that the Terrace can shake the way Tier Reserve did.

Facing heart surgery, Boone out for 2009

Since cementing his place in Yankee lore with a dramatic home run in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, Aaron Boone hasn’t had much of a baseball career. After tearing his knee in a pick-up basketball game that would alter the course of Yankee history, Boone has played just 420 games over five years and has been a non-entity in baseball.

In that time, he has played for the Indians, Marlins and Nationals. He’s hit just .250/.317/.383 with 34 home runs and 162 RBIs in 1286 ABs. It’s almost as though he made a deal with the baseball devil. For hitting that home run off of Tim Wakefield, Boone would never again be the solid, if unspectacular, Major Leaguer he was before arriving in the Bronx. Only recently, in fact, did he learn to embrace that career-defining moment.

Today, Boone announced that he will miss the entire 2009 season as he faces surgery for a faulty heart valve. Whether Boone will attempt a comeback in 2010 as he nears age 37 is unknown. Right now, he, as he should be, is focused on his current health scare.

Hopefully, he’ll be okay. His home run was an era-defining and era-ending moment for millions of young Yankee fans, and we’re all rooting for Boone to pull through.