Home Run Derby 2016: Miles of power

Petco Park is still buzzing with the results of tonight’s Home Run Derby. And rightly so, it was certainly something to be honored and remembered. Yesterday, all the selected All-Star Game players invaded San Diego, met with the press, talked to fans, and generally prepared themselves for the next few days.

Today, the players donned the ugly (sorry, but they are) special retro-style mustard, orange, and brown uniforms designed for the batting practice day — or Monday before the ASG. According to a local news source: “The jerseys worn by the Home Run Derby participants are patterned after the brown and yellow color combination worn by the Padres from 1969-84. The National League participants will wear primarily brown jerseys, with yellow lettering, highlighted by orange, and yellow sleeves. The American League participants will wear primarily yellow jerseys, with brown lettering, highlighted by orange, and brown sleeves.” Nice thought. It just wasn’t up there on my list of great ASG jerseys.

During this supposed “batting practice” is the designated time for the Home Run Derby. We return to the bracket formula introduced last year with a few familiar faces and past HR Derby winners. Of course, the biggest plus of this contest of power is that MLB partners with mobile company T-Mobile to raise money for charity. Yankee infielder Didi Gregorius spent the HR Derby in Times Square to help T-Mobile’s promotion of their VR experience of the Derby. T-Mobile promised $500,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of America and local youth baseball initiatives to be selected by the winner. Plus, all Derby participants will donate $10,000 to a charity of their choice.

Legend, Hall of Famer, and former Yankee (and Padre, to be fair) Dave Winfield threw out the ceremonial first pitch to kick things off for tonight’s festivities. And the first bracket round began. Mark Trumbo (Orioles) bested Corey Seager (Dodgers) out of the gate with 16 to 15 homers; Robinson Cano (Mariners) fell far short of Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins) at 7 to 24; Adam Duvall (Reds) narrowly beat hometown representative Wil Myers (Padres) 11-10; and last year’s HR Derby champ Todd Frazier (representing the White Sox this year) edged out Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies) 13-12.

A special honor every year is the great kids on the field who get to catch the ball that don’t make it over the walls of the stadium for the coveted home runs. This year’s boys and girls were part of the Pitch Hit Run Competition. Fun fact: PHR can boast a couple of current players as part of its alumni (Royals’ 1st baseman Eric Hosmer and one of the Yankees’ 1st basemen on the DL Chris Parmelee).

So they reset the brackets for Round 2. First up, the power-hitting duo of Trumbo vs. Stanton. And Stanton still came out stronger at 17-14. Stanton continued to prove he was not just in his element tonight, but that he literally was made to do this all night. Frazier continued his surge to defend his title edging out Duvall 16-15.

It was a power-match made in heaven for that final round. Frazier vs. Stanton. And it was just one of those things to watch these sluggers power out some of the most amazing hits ever powered out of Petco Park. And still Stanton dominated, shutting down Frazier’s final round attempt with his 20 monster homers to Frazier’s still rather impressive 13.

Some links for your viewing pleasure: participant introduction, Stanton’s 2nd round featured 6 runs hit over 480 feet, Cano’s 6th home run (452 feet) being caught by a fan, Myer’s brother Beau on pitching to him tonight, and the one that won Stanton his honor.

So because, let’s face it, the entire night was all about Giancarlo Stanton. So here’s some random facts about tonight and his power. He hit a total of 61 home runs, his average homer was hit 446ft, he hit 20 of the hardest hit home runs tonight, and he had the 10 longest hit one and 18 of the 19 longest home runs. Can we safely say that Petco Park is no longer a “pitcher’s park”? At least when Miami is in town…

Also, random nerd post…

This means Stanton literally hit over 5 miles worth of home runs. To be fair, Frazier hit over 3, and Trumbo and Duvall over 2. But still that’s a long collection of hits.

Also, as part of All-Star Week activities, the inaugural T-Mobile Jr. Home Run Derby national finals took place this past Saturday. Eight kids in each of the under-12 and under-14 age division participated in the event to showcase the future talent. Who knows? Maybe one of these kids will be in the HR Derby in a decade or so.

Checking in with the Yankees in San Diego: Carlos Beltran’s 9th ASG appearace this year further lends credence to all the Hall of Fame murmuring that seems to be surrounding his outstanding year so far this season. First, it’s well-deserved — both the ASG honor and the HoF chatter. He has the numbers for both, but sometimes 5 years between changed sympathies. Beltran began his legacy by being a good guy and a great player. I don’t see any reason it won’t be the same when the BBWAA vote with his name on the ballot.

Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller are taking their Dynamic Duo, enjoying their time in San Diego. This is Betances 3rd ASG appearance (his 3rd in 3 consecutive years, by the way) and Miller’s 1st. Both are connecting with family and friends to enjoy the experience.

The starting rosters are set for tomorrow night’s game. All three Yankees are in the reserves, which means they may or may not get playing time. To be fair, most players do make it at least a partial inning. So I would expect to see some Yankee away grays at some point tomorrow night, especially on the mound.

Go Yankees!

Game 63: NYY vs. SEA — To remembering like it was yesterday & grinding out a win

May 30, 1995, a Tuesday. The Yankees were in Seattle at the old Kingdome to play the Mariners. A young recent call-up got his first major league hit, batted 9th in the line-up, and went 2-for-3 with a walk. His father looking on from the crowd, cheering with gusto for every play, every moment.

June 10, 2014, a Tuesday. The Yankees are in Seattle at the newish Safeco Stadium to play the Mariners. A well-known veteran infielder playing his last season gets his 3,372nd hit, bats 2nd in the line-up, and goes 2-for-3 with a walk. His parents looking on from the crowd, cheering with gusto for every play, every moment.

It’s been just over 19 years since his first hit, and it still reads like the same old story. And tonight, before the game, the Mariners paid tribute to their piece of the Derek Jeter storied career. Current Mariners Felix Hernandez and (recent Yankee) Robinson Cano as well as Mariner Alumni Edgar Martinez and Jay Buhner were on hand to present Jeter with a chair from the Mariners’ old stadium (the Kingdome), a customized base, a watch (on which Cano personally engraved a message), and a $5,000 donation to Turn 2.

After a little reminiscing, it was play ball. The Yankees, being the away team of course, batted first. And it was Jeter to strike first with a single, advancing to 2nd on Teixeira’s single. Carlos Beltran’s double scored Jeter, and Brian McCann’s single scored Teixeira. So the Yankees were up 2-0 after just the 1st half of the 1st inning.

Vidal Nuno took the mound for the Yankees. And honestly, tonight’s outing for Nuno was one of the best I’ve seen from him in a long time. His 92 pitches took him 5.2 innings, allowing just 4 hits, a walk, and a run, striking out 2 Seattle batters. Seattle halved the Yankees’ lead right in the 1st inning as Cano doubled and then scored on a single.

Nuno was actually on point for the win until “Old Reliable” faltered a bit but then recovered because of the Yankee bats (a sentence I certainly don’t say often enough right now). It’s always amazed me that a pitcher can blow a save and then go on for the win. To me, it shows the oddity that are current score keeping and statistical methods that don’t seem to accurate reflect what happened in the game or in the player’s performance.

Old Reliable, if you’ve been following this blog for the last couple of months, is Dellin Betances, who came on in Nuno’s relief in the 6th, and then faltered slightly in the 7th inning. Betances hit a batter who advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a single to tie up the game.

But the Yankees answered back in the top of the 8th. It was Jeter again to start the ball rolling (so to speak) with a ground-rule double. He would then score the winning run on Jacoby Ellsbury’s single. Adam Warren’s 8th and David Robertson’s 9th kept that 3-2 Yankee win intact and delivered a memorable, hard-earned, and much-needed win for the Yankees. This was thanks in part to a truly stellar defense. Whatever seemed to be lacking in Kansas City, certainly was rediscovered sometime over the rainout and landing in Seattle.

Seattle’s really an unexpected place for a legendary career to begin, but perhaps that’s part of what makes Jeter’s career legendary. Legends are never expected. They don’t craft a perfect story or embrace their immortality from the start. No, they are birthed through unpredictability and grit and hidden until they suddenly cannot be hidden any longer. Perhaps, like the emerald that lends itself to a popular Seattle nickname (“the Emerald City”), legends have to be mined and cut and polished before even being recognizable. But once they are, they sparkle with a brightness that cannot be overlooked, holding all who behold its greatness in awe. They say legends aren’t born but made. I think legends always have an undeniable quality and potential for greatness, but they didn’t just sit in potential. They became the greatness because they just couldn’t be anything less.

Go Yankees!

Game 26: SEA vs. NYY — A very rainy, very boo-y Tuesday loss

I really do wish I was one of those people who was comfortable blaming the weather for why their team played miserably. I mean, it was a very cold, damp, rainy, messy night in the Bronx. Not that there were many people that braved the elements for a baseball game tonight, and those that were in attendance warmed themselves under bulky coats, plastic ponchos, and the occasional umbrella, while most roamed the Stadium’s many covered areas.

And there was a lot of booing tonight, and none of that had to do with the weather. A good majority of that was for the former Yankee Robinson Cano, having defected to the Mariners in the off-season. (By the way, Cano made an appearance on Jimmy Fallon last night to prepare himself and fans for the booing, and it’s hysterical.) Every time, he made a play, stepped up to bat, struck out, singled, whatever, there they were — booing. But like I said, it was just some die-hard fans in attendance tonight, and they acted how die-hard fans usually act, responding to what they see as acts of loyalty or betrayal. If Cano hadn’t been a huge part of the Yankee roster for so long, I don’t think fans would feel as betrayed. After all, you only “get booed if you’re good”. Nobody’s going to boo those players who flitted through the organization and didn’t have much impact on the team or perhaps left on good terms with the team and the fans (Swisher and Ibanez leap to mind).

But it wasn’t really the kind of tight game one might have hoped for in the wake of the player drama and the weather.

The Yankees struck first offensively. With 2 outs in the 2nd inning, Mark Teixeira smacked a solo home run. And Brian Roberts led the 3rd inning off with a walk, moved to 2nd on Brett Gardner’s single, and ended up at 3rd on Beltran’s fly out. He would then score on a throwing error by the Mariner’s catcher trying to get Gardner at 2nd. And as a last-ditch effort at offense in the 9th inning, Ichiro Suzuki singled, moved to 3rd on Roberts’ double, and scored on Gardner’s single.

But that wasn’t enough. The Yankees totaled just 3 runs on 8 hits, while the Mariners seemed to accumulate 6 runs off their 15 hits.

So CC Sabathia took the mound, 98 pitches, 5 innings (plus 2 batters in the 6th), 9 hits, 4 runs, 2 hit-by-pitch, and 6 strikeouts. Actually, Sabathia was decently sharp through his first 4 innings. And then he seemed to collapse in the 5th inning. The lead-off batter hit a single; it was originally ruled and out, challenged by the Mariners, and overturned as the runner was awarded a single. It would pay off for Seattle. Two singles and no outs later, the Mariners had the bases loaded before Sabathia finally struck out a batter. A ground out scored the Mariners’ first run, before a double pushed in 2 more runs and a single drove in one more.

After Sabathia allowed two runners on base in the 6th, Dellin Betances came on in relief and got out of the jam for the inning. In the 7th, with 2 outs, another Seattle runner scored broadening the Mariners’ lead. Despite 4 strikeouts over his 1.2 inning, Preston Claiborne was brought in to relieve Betances, but he promptly allowed 2 singles, one would score another run. Chris Leroux’s 9th inning kept Seattle from adding to the score, but the damage was done. By the end of the game, the Mariners won 6-3.

And in other bad news, Michael Pineda, currently on suspension for the NeckTar incident last week, was throwing simulated games down in Tampa when he felt a strain in his back. An MRI revealed a grade 1 strain of teres major muscle (the upper back/shoulder area), and they shut him down for 3-4 weeks. So, in addition to the remainder of his suspension, the Yankees are further without Pineda until end of May at the earliest.

Jacoby Ellsbury was scratched from the game tonight with soreness in his right hand, but he’s considered day-to-day as there isn’t anything broken or sprained or strained, just sore.

And it doesn’t look so good for tomorrow’s game as far as weather goes. So, I’m starting to think this whole night’s really just testing my level of positivity. So what can I say that’s positive… so there’s still so many games left to play in the season. A cliché, perhaps, but when you’re not feeling very positive, you’ll grasp at whatever positive-looking straws you can find. That, and if I really think about it, very little about tonight felt like I was watching the Yankees play to their true capacity. And that alone makes me feel a whole lot better, because if any time won’t settle for less-than standards, it’s the Yankees. Okay, and they’re still in 1st place in the AL East.

Go Yankees!

Chess pieces moving around the board

Time to recycle your #24 and #14 shirts. Robinson Cano is on his way to Seattle, and Curtis Granderson is headed to another borough.

That’s right. While Granderson was almost assumed to be off to another team, Cano’s departure is a little off-putting for most Yankee fans who rightly assumed this home-grown player would be part of the next generation of Yankee legends. The Yankees extended offers to Cano, but nothing at the level he was looking for and ended up getting at Seattle. Cano’s people were asking for a 10-year deal of some sort, but most of the major teams weren’t interested in offering a 32-year-old player 10 guaranteed years of play time as part of their club. Somehow, Seattle deemed this a good idea for the future of their club and have thus offered Cano $240 million for 10 years.

Granderson’s deal with the Mets have him for 4 years, $60 million, which is great for New Yorker fans of Granderson, who can just catch the 7 train out to Queens to watch him play next year. A 4-year deal makes sense for a player who will be 33 in March. At the end of those 4 years, Granderson could have his pick of teams to play for as DH or part-time outfielder to finish out his career.

Best of luck to both of them on their new endeavors!

Without a hefty contract to pay out to Cano, this leaves the Yankees with some flexibility as far as who else they can pick up, something that undoubtedly needs to be placed on that pitching staff. There are, of course, other needs to fill, but there’s still some time and there’s still a ton of free agents up for grabs.

In that vein, the Yankees signed a deal with infielder Kelly Johnson, who is primarily a 2nd baseman, for a year. This is a great pick-up for the Yankees as far as a utility man, especially in lieu of some recent “releases” of sorts in that area.

But the really big sign (or rather re-sign) is Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda was signed to a 1-year $16 million deal plus bonuses and an interpreter. Personally, I remember Kuroda in Spring Training as one of the few veteran players who played every inning, every pitch as if it were October baseball. It was very impressive to watch then, and it was equally impressive to watch that determination pour over into the regular season. Kuroda certainly embodies the Yankee spirit — that excellence, that integrity, that team work, and that famous drive to win.

And while all the chess pieces are just beginning to be moved around the board, the pieces are falling into place. It will be interesting to see where the roster is once February 24 (and even more so when April 1) rolls around. Even last year, where it seemed like so many of the pieces were already in place, with all the recurring injuries, the pieces certainly didn’t fall right until closer to August.

See that’s the tough part about the off-season and contracts; it’s always a gamble. Even if it seems like a good bet, it’s still a gamble. Even if you sign the absolute best free agents to carry your team off to the World Series, you’re never guaranteed a team. And a team isn’t something you can buy, mistakes that teams (even past Yankee teams) have made. But it takes veteran players and a great manager to pull together a team, something I think the Yankees have in spades.

Go Yankees!

{NOTE: Almost immediately after I first posted this, Twitter blew up with the announcement that the Yankees signed Carlos Beltran to a 3-year deal. Stay tuned Monday for more Beltran news.}

On a spending spree, off with their beards…

Pretty much right after I clicked “publish” yesterday, the Yankees continued to make some announcements that certainly would have made yesterday’s post, especially due to all the contract lingo. They have non-tendered Jayson Nix, Matt Daley, and David Adams, which means they have released them to pursue other contract options (which can still technically include the Yankees). None of them have been major producers for the 40-man roster, but all have their moments, points of development, and youth that could definitely come in handy when negotiating a contract for the next season.

Today, the Yankees announced a press conference this Thursday in which they will officially sign catcher Brian McCann to his contract and unveil his number with the pinstripes. A friend recently mentioned that he will have to get used to wearing that catcher’s mask without the cushion (and warmth in those early spring months) of his trademark scruffy beard. All players know that being a Yankee means “clean-cut, clean-shaven”, and this has deterred some players (including recently a very notable, very bearded pitcher) from signing with the Bronx Bombers. Honestly, this seems like a rather superficial (not to mention vain) reason not to sign with a team that’s willing to invest their money in your career, as hair does this miraculous thing and grow on its own when you don’t cut it.

And the biggest news story has to be that the Yankees officially signed Jacoby Ellsbury for a 7-year, $153 million deal, with an 8th year option. Yet another Red Sox refugee to Yankee pinstripes. Ellsbury has played center field for the Red Sox since the beginning of his career and turned down their qualifying offer earlier this fall. Now, this doesn’t mean that Gardner is somehow out in the cold as Girardi has a way of working out an overly-packed roster for the overall benefit of the team. Much like Gardner, Ellsbury is known for his speed around the bases, stealing 52 last year alone (1st in the AL). The addition of Ellsbury actually signals a newer rotation for the “experienced” players that were in the outfield due to injuries last year (Soriano, Ichiro, and Wells), which could mean that the Yankees will now return to a rotating DH.

In smaller contract news: Curtis Granderson met with the Mets and had salmon (not joking), the Mariners might be interested in Robinson Cano (not joking), Phil Hughes signed with the Twins (still not joking), Alex Rodriguez’s arbitration could be over with a final decision by January 1 (not joking), and they cancelled Christmas (okay, that’s the bad joke). I think Hughes signing with a smaller-market team could certainly help his ERA and overall pitching career, as a change of scenery is often all that’s needed to put some fire into a player (think: Ichiro, Soriano, or even Raul Ibanez). Granderson and Cano are exploring their first time on the free agent market, and while personally I wish to see #14 and #24 back in pinstripes for 2014, the realistic side of me knows that there’s still a long way to go for both players (especially to bridge the gulf of Cano’s negotiations). And the Yankees will know whether they have a 3rd baseman for 2014 by the new year, and that’s really what’s holding up most of the larger contract signings for now.

Well, I say that because it’s the Yankees. They’re signing two very large contracts for McCann and Ellsbury before the end of the year, but to most people (especially those of us who remember the spending spree of 2008-9 grabbing Teixeira, Sabathia, and AJ Burnett), this seems like a “cheap year” for them. It’s amazing how relative all the contract talk seems.

I should note that today it’s been hard to keep up with my Twitter feed on the trade/contract news, which sort of flies in the face of my original assumption that it was going to be a little slow this off-season. It also forces me to push back some planned blog posts on Yankees history until there isn’t a million news stories. They say that “no news is good news”, but not to a blogger. No news means I have to be creative and original and can’t just comment and opine about current events. Of course, on days like today, I kind of wish I could have just been a little creative.

I guess part of me kind of loves that the Yankees just recruited to of its rivals to work for them — McCann from the (great 90’s rival) Braves and Ellsbury from the (forever infamous rival) Red Sox. There is a certain amount of justification and satisfaction. Of course, who doesn’t want to play in New York? Oh yeah, the bearded ones…

Go Yankees!

Giving thanks for family

Maybe it’s because Thanksgiving is tomorrow, but I was thinking today about all the ways the Yankees give back to their community. I know they do that every year, very publicly through HOPE Week. And I know they work with other major local outreaches and organizations to meet the needs of their City.

In fact, they’re organizing a Holiday Food Drive this December to help those less-fortunate this holiday season. If you’re in the NYC area, you can bring a canned food-style donation (canned veggies, pasta, oatmeal, canned sauces, etc. — no rice or bottled water) to Yankee Stadium on December 18, 10 am – 3 pm. Those with larger donations (weighing at least 30 lbs.) will also receive 2 vouchers for Yankees tickets for select games during the 2014 season. More information can be found on their website here.

Most players will be spending the holidays with their families. Some players will be celebrating on a larger scale. Robinson Cano, the WBC MVP, will in a parade in the Dominican Republic celebrating with the rest of the championship DR team from the World Baseball Classic this past spring. This also works in Cano’s favor because so much of his family is still in the DR.

And really, family is what this time of year’s all about anyway. Whether you’re celebrating Hanukkah or Thanksgiving (or some hybrid I think has been dubbed “Thanksgiv-ukkah”), I do hope you enjoy your time with family.

I can already hear some eye rolls, but here’s a thought for you. If baseball is a metaphor for life, then your family is your team. You may not always like whose on first (sorry, I had to) or that guy who’s locker space is steadily creeping into yours because of his tendency for fan mail, or that other guy who sings to Rhianna every morning and can’t carry a tune to save his life. But they’re family. This means when someone else tries to hurt them by intentionally throwing a ball at their head, you send Papa Bear out there to take the other guy out if necessary. The only people allowed to mess with your family is you. Why? Because they’re your family, your team. And you deal with those problems with “can’t carry a tune” guy or “fan mail” guy or whatever in-house like a family, like a team.

So enjoy your team… I mean, family, whether you have a 40-man roster or a small pick-up game tomorrow.

Go Yankees! (And Happy Thanksgiving/Hanukkah/Thankgivukkah/Thursday!)

{Note: I’m taking a full Thanksgiving holiday break, so I’ll be back Monday, December 2.}

Derek Jeter: Publisher

Yes, Derek Jeter is adding yet another title to his continuously expanding empire. Today, he announced a partnership with established New York publishers Simon & Schuster to start his own niche publishing press aptly dubbed “Jeter Publishing”. Jeter Publishing is to predominantly publish nonfiction books for adults, children’s picture books middle-grade fiction and books for young children who are just learning to read, with plans for expansion to other media forms someday in the future. One of the first titles planned is a kids’ guide to baseball that can be updated annually and allow for a more personalized look into the sport. Jeter himself wants to be hands-on in the approach to this new venture, lending his name and stamp of approval only to those he deems worth of his own personal standard of excellence. (The New York Times article on the announcement can be read here.)

The MVP awards were also announced today. The Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera won his second consecutive AL MVP Award, and the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen took his first NL MVP Award home tonight. While I don’t think anyone was surprised by the results, it should be noted that the Yankees’ only candidate, Robinson Cano, came in 5th place to Cabrera. Congratulations to both players on their well-deserved awards.

Past Yankee MVP award winners: Lou Gehrig (1936), Joe DiMaggio (1939, 1941, 1947), Joe Gordon (1942), Spud Chandler (1943), Phil Rizzuto (1950), Yogi Berra (1951, 1954, 1955), Mickey Mantle (1956, 1957, 1962), Roger Maris (1960, 1961), Elston Howard (1963), Thurman Munson (1976), Don Mattingly (1985), and Alex Rodriguez (2005, 2007). Rodriguez also won the award in 2003 with the Rangers, and Ichiro Suzuki won the award in 2001 with the Mariners. It should be noted that the Yankees in total have 22 MVP awards, the highest in the entire league. (Coming in 2nd is the Cardinals with 17, thanks in large part to 3-time winners Musial and Pujols.) Can’t wait to see a Yankee up there again. Maybe next year, fellas?

Also, like many of you, we’ve been praying for the people in the Philippines devastated by Typhoon Haiyan recently. Major League Baseball is joining in the relief effort with UNICEF and the Red Cross and donating $200,000. MLB is encouraging all fans of the sport to do their part to partner with one of these or any of the legitimate relief organizations on the ground in the Philippines. The situation is overwhelming and the people are desperate for basic necessities like clean water and food. Relief efforts have been hampered by further storms in the area and even an earthquake, so every little bit counts. (USAToday posted a great collection of reliable charities and how you can help and donate.)

Three very different stories on a very different Thursday. But then again, when is the off-season ever normal?

Go Yankees!