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Showing posts from July, 2020

This Weekend in Baseball History

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July 31st, 2018: Masahiro Tanaka outpitches one-time Yankee prospect Yefri Ramirez in a 6-3 victory over the Orioles. The big hit was a three-run homer by Miguel Andujar. July 31st, 2008:  Manny Ramirez goes from the Red Sox to the Dodgers as part of a three-team trade, that also sends Jason Bay of the Pirates to Fenway. In the birth of the phenomenon called Mannywood, Ramirez hits .396 the rest of the way with 17 homers in 53 games and leads the Dodgers to the NL West title. July 31st, 2007: The Yankees tie a franchise record with eight home runs as they crush the White Sox 16-3. Hideki Matsui hits a pair, while Bobby Abreu, Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Jorge Posada, Johnny Damon and Shelley Duncan join the power surge. July 31st, 2005: Jason Giambi crushes a pair of home runs, giving him 14 for July -- the most by a Yankee in a single month since Mickey Mantle in July 1961. The second blast was the 300th of his career.  But the day's biggest hit belongs to Tony Womack, whose wa

If Your Birthday is July 30th...

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...you share it with Clint Hurdle. Once a can't miss prospect with the Royals, he saved his best for Kansas City's first pennant winning season, 1980. He turned to managing in the late '80s, with jobs in the Mets system, then joined the Rockies as a hitting coach and, from 2002, manager. He led Colorado to the 2007 NL pennant, but was fired less than two years later. Next stop was Pittsburgh, where he led the Pirates to three straight wild card appearances during the 2010s. Joining him in today's cake and candles parade: Scott Diamond , whose last name should have assured him of a better baseball career. He compiled a 19-27 record as a starting pitcher for the Twins from 2011-'13. Calvin Murray , a failed 1st round draft pick by the Giants in 1993. While not related to Hall of Famer Eddie, his nephew is making a name for himself in football: Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray. Tom Pagnozzi  succeeded Tony Pena as the Cardinals everyday catcher in 1990 and went on to w

Hello, Anaheim

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Anthony Rendon made a splash Tuesday night at his new home ballpark. Playing his first game as an Angel in Anaheim, the former Nat homered, walked twice and scored a pair of runs in a 10-2 win over the Mariners. Coming off a winter when his place on the free agent market was overshadowed by Gerrit Cole, Rendon's seven year, $245 million deal didn't generate as many headlines. But his potential impact could be huge for Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and company as they try to close the gap separating from AL West powers Houston and Oakland.

Return of the Polar Bear

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After a miserable opening weekend where he went 1-for-11 with five strikeouts and no walks, Pete Alonso finally flashed the form that made him 2019's NL Rookie of the Year. He crushed a 4th inning pitched into (and bouncing out from) the Monster Seats at Fenway Monday night -- doubling the Mets lead to 4-0, as they cruised to their first easy win of the season. While it's too early to consider the fourth game of a season a turnaround -- even one designed to run 60 games -- the Mets will always recall how therapeutic those game three and four wins were in erasing a sluggish start to the 1986 World Series.

Gleyber Day: 2020 Edition

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Gleyber Torres was the offensive key to the Yankees Sunday win in Washington. His fourth inning single broke up Patrick Corbin's no-hitter attempt; three innings later, his solo homer wiped away Corbin's shutout bid and ended his day. Then, in the 8th, he singled in the go-ahead run that gave the Yanks their 3-2 victory. Three big hits, at arguably the three biggest moment of the game -- as the Yanks two out of three at the home park of the reigning World Champs. That impressive by anyone's standards. Now, remember we are talking about a 23 year old in his third major league season -- and the youngest regular in the Yankees lineup. Talk all you want about the brilliance of the AL's young, talented group of middle infielders: Carlos Correia, Franciso Lindor, Marcus Semien and Xander Bogaerts. Gleyber Torres has earned a prominent place in that conversation,

This Weekend in Baseball History

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July 24th, 1999: Chili Davis is the batting star as the Yankees rout the Indians 21-1 -- their biggest winning margin in 46 years! The Yanks DH has five hits and six RBIs. July 24th, 1990: It all came up fours for Vince Coleman of The Cardinals. The speedster puts up some spectacular numbers, with four hits (two triples, a single and a home run), four stolen bases (including stealing home) and four runs scored – as well as a tumbling catch in left field to end the game as the Cards defeat the Cubs 9 – 4 at Busch Stadium. July 24th, 1988: The Mets retire Tom Seaver's number 41, for the future Hall of Famer, who went 198 - 124 in his 12 Shea Stadium seasons. He's the first Mets player to be so honored -- joining former managers Casey Stengel and Gil Hodges. July 24th, 1979: Carl Yastrzemski belts his 400th career home run off the A's Mike Morgan. Dwight Evans also homered for Boston in a 7-3 win at Fenway Park. July 24th, 1978: A day after his "One's a born

Let's Play 60

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Four months later, amidst an unshakable pandemic, it's play ball for real. Or at least as real as a sport can be without fans in the stands and the media kept at a distance. Not 162 games, or even half that, a 60-game sprint begins with some stars in new places. Others will sit things out due to family and health concerns. Several return after injuries wrecked their 2019's. And another group will need more time to heal from illness or injury. We have contenders and pretenders -- and a bunch of teams in the middle. There are favorites and underdogs, some likely to be upended by fresh faces and veterans on career years. If 2020 comes down to resources and preparedness, pencil the Yankees and Dodgers in for the World Series. Miguel Andujar is healthy again, which is bad news for opposing pitchers. Whether he plays 3rd base, left field or is the DH, that sizzling bat hasn't lost any of its pop. Another returnee is pitcher Jordan Montgomery. 2017's stan

If Your Birthday is July 22nd...

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...you share it with Jake Barrett , a righthanded relief pitcher who appeared in parts of three seasons (2016-'18) with the Diamondbacks, and a pair of games last May with the Yankees. Fortunately, I was at one of them, and caught him in action against the Twins on May 4th. Barrett shares his birthday with a far more famous Yankee reliever.  Sparky Lyle : the lefty who won the 1977 Cy Young Award and was famous for riding in from the bullpen in a Datsun subcompact -- whose ad slogan "Datsun Saves" was redubbed in his honor as "Sparky Saves." After coming to the Yankees in a lopsided trade for a Danny Cater, Lyle twice led the AL in saves (1972 and '76). Dave Steib , the Blue Jays ace during the '80s won 176 games during his career and was a seven-time all star. Ryan Vogelsong , who struggled for over a decade in the majors, before blossoming into a first-rate starter for the 2011 and 2012 Giants -- where he capped his year going 3-0 in the post-

Back with the Braves

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Matt Adams is making a return visit in his trip around the National League. The power hitting 1st baseman/outfielder hit 20 homers but batted just .226 (with a .276 OBP) in a part time role for the Nationals last season -- who didn't mind letting him leave as free agent. Those less than impressive stats, combined with career-long defensive issues, saw Adams go unsigned most of the winter before landing a minor league deal with the Mets. I caught him in the March 11th game at Port St. Lucie. But with Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso now a fixture at 1st, Dominic Smith, a more than capable backup, both Robinson Cano and JD Davis able to fill in there for a few days, and Yoenis Cespedes expected to be the primary DH, Adams didn't stand much of a chance to make it to Flushing. Opting out of that deal, he officially signed Monday with the Braves. But, even after passing on Yasiel Puig after he tested positive for the virus, that club doesn't offer much of a path to everyday

Too Bad the Game Didn't Count

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Copping a theatrical term, if Sunday night's performance by the Yankees was a dress rehearsal, the critics are going to love this show. Aaron Judge, no longer bothered by that pesky rib, blasted two home runs, one to Monument Park. Giancarlo Stanton nearly reached the top of the left field bleachers. Luke Voit also left the yard, while Gary Sanchez seemingly wanted to send one to his in-laws who live in Yonkers, launching a ball into the second deck in left that had NASCAR like acceleration. Tack on five shutout innings by the healthy-again Jordan Montgomery, and the Yankees 6 - 0 Sunday night exhibition win was a thing of beauty. It was the kind of a game to gave Brian Cashman reason to smile. His big bats came up big; his most important young starting pitcher impressed. The defense was tight. The club looked ready. But, come Thursday, they'll still be 0 - 0 with 60 games to go.

This Weekend in Baseball History

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July 17th, 2000: Chris Richard of the Cardinals homers on the first pitch he ever sees in the majors -- connecting off Mike Lincoln during St. Louis' 8-3 win over the Twins at the Metrodome. July 17th, 1993: Frank Tanana joins Rick Reuschel, as the only pitchers to give up home runs to both Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds -- as the Giants' left fielder plates the only run in a 3-1 loss to the Mets at Candlestick Park. Hank Aaron connected off Tanana for career home run number 748 back in 1976, when Frank was with the Angels and Hank, the Brewers. July 17th, 1990: Bo Jackson crushes three home runs off the Yankees' Andy Hawkins -- in the first, third, and fifth innings of the Royals' 10-7 victory at Yankee Stadium. But there could have been even more -- Jackson leaves the game after dislocating his shoulder trying catch a 6th inning fly ball by Deion Sanders -- who also played in both MLB and the NFL. July 17th, 1990: The Twins become the first team ever to pull off two

Throwback Thursday: Yankee Stadium, September 1981

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Time to dial it back to another radically shortened season. It's September 24th, 1981 in the Bronx, with the Yankees -- already assured of a place in the playoffs by having the division's best record before the two month-long strike -- hosting the Orioles. My friends and I got there early, in time to watch batting practice. The Yankees are on the field here, as are a couple of Orioles -- notice the guy in the black jacket with orange accents. And below, it's finally game time. What shaped up as a great pitching matchup didn't quite pan out -- while the Orioles Jim Palmer (seen on the mound facing Graig Nettles) threw a complete game, holding the Yankees to a run and four hits, his opponent Ron Guidry was lifted after two innings and took the loss in Baltimore's 5-1 victory. What else do you notice? With some help from to baseball-reference.com, I know it's Palmer pitching to Nettles, with Bobby Murcer on deck. Doug DeCinces is playing 3rd base for

If Your Birthday is July 14th...

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...you share it with Carson Kelly . Coming off a productive first full season as a major league regular, the Diamondbacks catcher banged 18 homers and threw out 32 percent of opposing baserunners trying to steal. His production helped make the winter 2019 package deal with the Cardinals for Paul Goldschmidt appear a bit less one-sided. Also on our cake and candles list: Lucas Giolito , who showed he'll be a mainstay of the White Sox pitching staff for years to come. He won 14 last season including a pair of complete game shutouts. Rob Brantley , the light hitting backup catcher who appeared in one game for the 2019 Phillies after earlier stints with the Marlins and White Sox. Tim Hudson , who won 222 games over 17 big league seasons, most notably with the A's and Braves. 2000 was his signature year, when he won 20 for Oakland and finished second for the AL Cy Young Award. Robin Ventura , who played his entire big league career under the bright lights of big cities: a

Cespedes is Confident

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Yoenis Cespedes -- who hasn't played a full season since 2016 – is telling reporters that he will be part of the Mets lineup when they open against the Braves on the 24 th . That's certainly encouraging since the Cuban-born slugger hasn't played even 100 games in a season since 2016.  And it's better news than Mets fans were getting during February and March when Cespedes wasn't ready to play in Grapefruit League games. If he's even 80 percent of the force he was when he helped lead the Mets to the post-season in 2015 and '16, the Amazins could have one of the best lineups in the National League. Start with sweet-swinging Jeff McNeal, Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso, hard-hitting JD Davis, Michael Conforto, Wilson Ramos and the improving Amed Rosario. Then, tack on Robinson Cano, if he can get off to even an ordinary start. Let's see if #52 is in Luis Rojas' lineup Saturday night when the Mets and Yankees play their first summer exhibitio

Testing Positive

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The list of players testing positive for COVID 19 continues to grow -- with a big name being added on Saturday, Aroldis Chapman . Added to the list, subtracted from the Yankees, who are now in danger of starting the 60-game season without their closer. While the defending AL East champs still sport Zack Britton, Tommy Kahnle and Adam Ottavino to nail down late inning leads, Chapman remains their most intimidating weapon. Instead, he joins teammates DJ LeMahieu and Luis Cessa in quarrantine. Not the kind of news Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman wanted to deal with opening day only 10 days away.

This Weekend in Baseball History

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July 10th, 2001: Cal Ripken , who'll retire at season's end, earns MVP honors with a home run, as the American League wins the All Star Game 4-1 at Safeco Field in Seattle. July 10th, 1999: The Mets come from behind in the bottom of the 9th inning, on Matt Franco's bases loaded, two-out, two RBI pinch single to slip past the Yankees 9-8. That snaps a Yankee streak of winning in 124 consecutive games when leading after eight innings. July 10th, 1973: Jon Matlack fires a one-hit shutout as the Mets blank the Astros 1-0 at Shea Stadium. Tommy Helms' 6th inning single is all that stands between the lefthander and history. Matlack walked two and struck out seven -- including the last three batters of the game. (Duffy Dyer drove in the game's only run, on a 2nd inning single that scored Rusty Staub.) July 10th, 1962: John F. Kennedy becomes the first president to toss the ceremonial first pitch at an All Star Game. JFK didn't have to travel far -- the game,

Throwback Thursday: Future Yankees in Trenton (2015 )

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A lot of up and coming talent was on display when I was at the Trenton Thunder game on April 19th, 2015. Three future Yankees you'll likely recognize even in a different set of pinstripes. That's Aaron Judge up top. Luis Severino in the middle and Gary Sanchez below. That's pretty close to an organization hitting the lottery. Three prospects who, in the years ahead, turned into mainstays of the big league club. Of course, fans love to dream -- but what a kick it is to then see these kids turn into impact players. But that's not all: Jake Cave, now a Twins backup outfielder; Greg Bird, whose Yankee career was sidetracked by injury after an impressive start; Tyler Wade, now a Yankee utilityman; and Mason Williams, who had brief runs with the Yanks, Reds and Orioles, have all seen time in the major leagues. That's what I call building from within.

If Your Birthday is July 8th...

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...you share it with Josh Harrison . A Pirates mainstay for most of the the 2010s, he's looking to rebound with the Phillies after a brief and unproductive stay last season in Detroit. Capable of playing any infield or outfield spot, he's battling another longtime veteran, and his onetime Pittsburgh teammate, Neil Walker for a spot on Joe Girardi's bench this summer. Also on today's cake and candles list: Jaime Garcia , who enjoyed three productive season with the Cardinals -- and came within two outs of a perfect game in 2011 against Milwaukee, but never became a consistent winner. After several years bouncing around several teams -- including an unproductive 2017 stop with the Yankees -- he was out of baseball last year. Terry Puhl spent 14 of his 15 big league seasons with the Astros, where he reached his peak hitting over .500 in that classic 1980 NLCS battle with the eventual World Champion Phillies. He's remained in the game as a coach, working

First Summer Camp Homer

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Late in Monday night's intrasquad game, Thairo Estrada homered off Tommy Kahlne for the only score of the night. Let's give the second year infielder credit -- he crushed the pitch, lining it into the lower left field seats. Yet, like everything else as baseball ramps up, it was different. No one was manning left field -- and Estrada's ball bounced off a seat and landed back on the eerily quiet field. I'll admit it, it was nice to tune in and see something resembled baseball. Players I knew, working in a familiar field. Everything else was different: no fans, and the YES Network broadcasters working from home or the studio. It was a casual broadcast, in some ways paralleling late February or early March games from Florida. Although with just 17 days before the opener in Washington, it was more businesslike. In the midst of a pandemic, there was no friendly chat with Aaron Boone; no Yankee celebrities such as Lou Piniella dropping by the booth. It was subdued and ra

Troubling Sign

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The generally uptempo news from the first weekend of baseball "summer camp" was marred by two storylines: Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees being hit by a line drive off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton -- which, while disturbing, wasn't strictly related to Covid-19. More troubling were the stream of reports of players testing positive for the virus. From Miguel Sano to Scott Kingery, then DJ LeMahieu and Luis Cessa, familiar names were being sidelined. The scariest report came out of Atlanta, where Braves 1st baseman Freddie Freeman not only had the virus, but was experiencing symptoms. Saturday night, his wife Chelsea posted on Instagram that he "has had body aches, headaches, chills and a high fever since Thursday. He’s someone who literally never gets sick and this virus hit him like a ton of bricks." We're still two and a half weeks away from opening day. And since baseball will not be operating under the same bubble-and-isolation plan the NBA will use,

This Weekend in Baseball History

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July 3rd, 2013: CC Sabathia earns his 200th career win as the Yankees beat the Twins 3-2 at Target Field, 3-2. The 32 year-old southpaw continues his nearly six-year winning streak over Minnesota, a span when we went 11-0 record over 12 starts. July 3rd, 2009: Albert Pujols' 8th-inning grand slam makes the difference in the Cardinals' 7-4 victory over the Reds. The 10th bases loaded homer of his career moves him past the beloved Stan Musial for the St. Louis club record. July 3rd, 1994: The Indians retire the number 14 worn by Hall of Famer Larry Doby, the first black player in the American League -- 47 years to the date when owner Bill Veeck purchased the 23 year-old from the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League. July 3rd, 1977: Mike Schmidt's first career inside-the-park home run -- leading off the bottom of the 8th against Larry Demery -- is a highlight of the Phillies 11-7 victory over the Pirates at Veterans Stadium. July 3rd, 1972: Hank Aaron's th

Throwback Thursday: July 4th, 2013 in Syracuse

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The decision was logical, inevitable, yet still incredibly sad. There will no minor league baseball this summer. A huge part of smaller town America is placed on hold until at least 2021 -- and in some places, perhaps forever. Empty ballparks, an eerie quiet. The grass will still be green and the sky remains blue, but no memories will be made and no new fans minted -- especially difficult for a sport that bad needs outreach, a new spark to rekindle enthusiasm. Or maybe just tilt the attention spans of potential fans back from video games, soccer or the NBA. We're in Syracuse, now the home of the Mets top farm club, but in 2013, the Triple A affiliate of the Washington Nationals. What could be a more American tradition than a 4th of July doubleheader against their International League rivals, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs? This year will be different. No mascots. No autographs.  The grass will still be green and the sky remains blue, but in places such as Syracuse, Sacramento and Spri

If Your Birthday is July 1st...

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...you share it with Twins DH Nelson Cruz . The late blooming slugger spent time in the Mets, A's and Brewers farm systems before becoming a star with the Rangers at age 28. Turning 40 today, he's crushed 22 or more homers in each of the last 12 seasons and enters 2020 with 401 (alongside a .277 lifetime average). Charlie Blackmon also waited until his late 20s for his career to kick into high gear. The wildly bearded outfielder has put together six straight quality seasons in Colorado, highlighted by 2018 when he led the National League in batting and doubles. The lifetime .304 hitter enters this pandemic shortened season under a question mark, as one of three Rockies players who tested positive last week for COVID 19. Pitcher Michael Wacha joins the Mets this season, and with Noah Syndergaard out all year after Tommy John Surgery, he'll have a spot in Luis Rojas's rotation. Even with a job virtually assured, he'll have something to prove -- over seven