Game 141: KC vs. NYY — It’s Derek Jeter Day in the Bronx

I guess you could say that the best part of this picture perfect day was the pre-game festivities because the game itself wasn’t much to talk about. Everyone went into today knowing it was going to be “Derek Jeter Day” at Yankee Stadium, but a proclamation from New York City mayor Bill de Blasio made it “Derek Jeter Day” all over the five boroughs — certainly an honor deserved from someone who has contributed much to the city for the better part of the last two decades.

The ceremony began with long-time Yankee broadcasters John Sterling (radio) and Michael Kay (TV) taking turns announcing the special guests and introducing the gifts, emceeing the entire “not-a-farewell-tour” stop in the Bronx. Representing the very large family of the retiring shortstop were his maternal grandmother (escorted by Girardi); his parents; and (escorted by Sabathia) his sister (and Turn 2’s president) and his adorable nephew (who once again stole the show with his own tip of the cap). Then came the familiar faces — Rob Manfred (baseball’s newly elected commissioner), Harold Reynolds, Reggie Jackson, former trainer Gene Monahan, Hideki Matsui, Joe Torre, David Cone, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Tim Raines, and Gerald Williams. (And for those wondering, Andy Pettitte was away on a trip with his sons and regrettably couldn’t be in New York for the event.)

(Also, many of these guests were part of a pre-game press conference where they paid their tributes to Jeter. Here is some of what they said.)

Following all those introductions, the Yankees invited alumni and current Jeter’s Leaders onto the field, streaming in from center field to the infield to stand with the other guests. One person commented that this is truly where Jeter’s legacy is felt because of the active involvement of the Turn 2 Foundation in the lives of kids (and former kids) and their communities in Kalamazoo, New York, and Tampa. A video of Turn 2 was shown on the big board, showing that impact and how its Leaders are effectively changing their world.

After a “highlights” reel was shown, the man of the day himself jogged his way out to the infield to greet every one of the special guest and wave to the cheering crowd and to the opposing dugout where the Royals clambered over the barrier to give Jeter his due with their own standing ovation (complete with cell phone cameras).

Once the cheering died down (something that really never happened fully until the middle of the game a few hours later), it ramped back up again as Jeter was “surprised” by a handful of very special guests. First were Cal Ripken and Dave Winfield. Then as a tie in with the campaign from the All-Star Game (#RE2PECT), astronauts Steve Swanson, Reid Wiseman, and Alex Gerst tipped their caps from the International Space Station about 200 miles above Earth. This could only be topped by the founder of the #RE2PECT campaign himself — Michael Jordan.

Then came the gifts. Joan Steinbrenner (George’s widow) presented the proclamation from the mayor. Current trainer Steve Donohue rolled out a new version of the massage therapy machine Jeter always joked about “stealing” when he retired; no “stealing” necessary now. Yankees’ CIO Felix Lopez walked out a framed art that had all 14 patches Jeter has won in his All-Star Games, with the patch of his retiring logo the Yankees are wearing this month in the center. Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal presented Jeter with the Yankees’ donation to Turn 2 in the amount of $222,222.22. And Hal Steinbrenner, his wife Christina, and a handful of Steinbrenner grandchildren gave Jeter a custom-made Waterford Crystal, etched with the retiring logo and an engraved message from the Yankees.

And then Jeter addressed the crowd, speaking mainly to the fans. It was rather reminiscent of the speech he gave on Closing Day of the Old Yankee Stadium just a few years ago. He has been a fan-favorite (even outside of New York) because he does remember that the fans are an integral part of baseball. In this era where it seems so easy for professional athletes to be so involved in their sport or their endorsements or their personal lives, it’s nice that someone remembers that without the fans, they don’t have a job. It’s the fans that buy the tickets, the concessions, the jerseys, the things they endorse; and it’s the fans that cheer or jeer from the seats.

(You can view the entire speech here or the transcript here. Also, this is a link to the entire 42 minutes of the pre-game ceremony.)

And then it was “play ball”…

I’m going to be as diplomatic and positive about this as I possibly can. It wasn’t a good game. And it’s not just on the Yankees’ side of thing. No, the Royals weren’t good either. And it’s only by some really sloppy defensive errors that anyone actually won today. The Royals just landed on the less fuzzy side of today’s lollipop. But let’s face it, the entire lollipop was awfully fuzzy.

Shane Greene got the start today and barely eked out 5 innings. For being so good in so many of his starts this year, it’s been rather disappointing to see his struggles have been more consistent than his success as of late. 90 pitches took him those 5 innings, but it was really the first few innings that tried and tired the young pitcher. He allowed 5 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs (though none were technically earned), and struck out 4 Kansas City batters.

In the 2nd, back-to-back singles put runners on base, but 2 outs later, it was looking better for Greene. But a little dribbler back to the mound had Greene really miss the easy out at 1st and scored a runner. Then in the 3rd, the lead-off batter reached on a fielding error (Beltran couldn’t hold onto the ball), stole 2nd base, and scored on a single. That was 2 unearned runs. But runs, be it earned or unearned, always count toward a win, like they did for the Royals today.

Adam Warren took the 6th and 7th innings in relief of Greene, keeping the Royals planted there, while waiting for the offense to wake up. Shawn Kelley’s 8th followed Warren’s pattern, even getting himself out of a bit of a jam in anticipation of a rally sometime soon. Then Outman and Rogers split the 9th, but that offensive rally never came. The Yankees ended up with 9 baserunners via 4 hits, 4 walks, and an error, but nothing to show for it. The Royals took yet another “unearned win” today with their score of 2-0, taking the series 2-1 and the overall match-up between the teams this year 4-3 (the first time they’ve won a season series against the Yankees since 1999, or so I was told).

Yes, it was a shame that on “Derek Jeter Day” the Yankees couldn’t come up with a win. But it’s the way it is.

I mean, there’s still a nice chunk of the season left to play and a postseason race to catch-up in… so it’s still a lot of “play ball” without completely saying goodbye to the Captain just yet.

Go Yankees!

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