Results tagged ‘ mariano rivera ’
Since no current or former Yankees are born on today’s date, I thought it would be an appropriate time to review the Pinstripe Birthday Blog’s five favorite moments of the Yankees 2011 season.
Number 1 – Derek Jeter getting his 3000th hit – Those who’ve read this blog over the three-plus years it has been live know my feelings for the Yankee Captain. I’ve watched Yankee baseball closely for over fifty years and can honestly say that no other player has given me more great memories as a Yankee fan than Mr. Jeter has. He’s a class act. So when the Yankee front office started blabbing to the media about their closed-door negotiations to re-sign the shortstop over the past winter and then when that same New York press started piling on Jeter for his slow start this past season at the plate, I was pretty upset. On July 9, during an afternoon game against Tampa at Yankee Stadium, Jeter once again proved why he is one of the most admired and loved Yankees in franchise history. When that game started, he had needed two hits to reach the 3,000 mark and he went out and got five. And after weeks of listening to and reading idiots write about how Jeter was now just a Punch & Judy singles hitter, Derek’s hallmark hit was a deep home run, pulled to left field. A great moment for a great Yankee. (The answer to today’s Pinstripe Birthday Trivia Question is – Jeter had 162 hits during the 2011 regular season.)
Number 2 – Mariano Rivera getting his 602nd save – Yankee fans have been especially blessed over the past decade and a half because in addition to Jeter, we’ve watched the very best closer in the history of baseball get the last crucial outs in hundreds of Yankee games. On September 19th of this past season, Mo was called in to pitch the ninth inning of an afternoon game against the Twins at the Stadium. He was given a two-run lead and proceeded to pitch a perfect final inning with the record-setting third out coming on a called third strike on Twin first baseman Chris Parmelee. The save was the 602nd of Rivera’s unbelievable career, sending him past Trevor Hoffman to the top spot on the All-Time career Saves list.
Number 3 – Jorge Posada playing in his last Yankee game – This one was bittersweet because you know it breaks Posada’s heart to realize he will almost certainly never take another at-bat in Yankee pinstripes. I was afraid his farewell tour was headed for a disastrous ending when he refused to play in the Boston game after Girardi demoted him in the lineup. But cooler heads prevailed and Jorge sucked it up and reminded everyone why he has become one of the most beloved Yankees of his era. If his solid hitting performance during the Yankees 2011 ALDS versus Texas turns out to have been his Yankee swan song, all I can say is; Hip Hip Jorge! You have been a great Yankee!
Number 4 – The emergence of Ivan Nova – I have to admit that as the 2011 spring training season opened, I did not think this kid was quite ready for prime time but he certainly proved me wrong. He was pretty much phenomenal the whole year and really showed the mettle of a professional when after he was unfairly demoted early in the season, he just kept pitching.
Number 5 (tie) – The emergence of David Robertson – After being spoiled for a decade and a half watching the most dominating closer in baseball do his stuff game after game, I found myself wondering if it was actually possible that his successor was already wearing Yankee pinstripes. That’s how good David Robertson looked on the mound in 2011.
Number 5 (tie) – Curtis Granderson’s outstanding season – I have watched and followed Yankee baseball pretty closely for a very long time and I do not remember a player who conquered a weakness in his game as dominantly as Granderson has overcome his inability to hit left-handers. In my opinion, he was the Yankee MVP of 2011 as he helped fill the power deficit caused by A-Rod’s frequents absences from the lineup, especially against southpaw pitching.
Even though the Yankees failed to get past the Detroit Tigers in the first round of the 2011 playoffs, that season will always be one of my favorites. That’s because I got to see Derek Jeter become the first Yankee ever to get 3,000 hits while wearing the pinstripes and I got to see the great Rivera break the career record for saves.
The best closer ever. Those really are the only four words you need to describe “Mo’s” career with the Yankees. Someone may come along who is better but in my fifty-plus years of being an avid Major League baseball fan, I’ve seen nobody end games as successfully as this guy has for the past seventeen seasons. And the amazing thing is that he’s done it with one pitch, a cut fastball. Yankee fans have watched Rivera’s cutter break a remarkable number of big league bats over the years. The pitch has such late and significant movement that it is almost impossible for even the most skilled big league hitters to get the meaty part of their bat on the ball. I heard Jim Kaat try to explain it during one Yankee broadcast by explaining that Mariano had very long fingers, which helped him get more spin on the cutter than most other pitchers who threw it. Add in his flawless mechanics which enable him to precisely replicate his elegant delivery pitch after pitch and you have the formula for closing perfection that dances to the tune of “Enter Sandman.”
It has been an absolute thrill to be able to watch this guy pitch for New York all these years. In addition to his pitching prowess, Rivera is a great fielder and has been called the best athlete on the Yankee team. The late Bobby Murcer used to say that Mo was the fastest runner and the best outfielder on the Yankees. He is also a soft spoken leader of the team who considers it a privilege to wear the Pinstripes. When interviewed after the Yankee’s 2009 World Series victory, during which he finished all four Yankee victories, Mo indicated he wanted to pitch five more seasons. That was two seasons and 77 saves ago. He turns 42 years-old today. Mo’s 44 saves in 2011 represented the eighth time he has exceeded the 40-save mark in his career. He’s now in the final year of his contract and if recent columns in the sports pages of the New York tabloids are to be believed, there seems to be a chance that Rivera will retire after the 2012 campaign. God I hope not. My advice to all Yankee fans is to watch, enjoy and most of all appreciate this guy as much as you can during his remaining time in pinstripes.
If you’re a Yankee fan, one of the great moments you have engrained into your memory is the on-field celebration that ensued after Charley Hayes caught that foul pop for the third and final out of the 1996 World Series. John Wetteland was in the middle of that celebration. He had just earned his fourth save of that Series and was about to be named Series MVP. That performance followed a regular season in which the right-hander had led the AL with 43 saves and made the All Star team.
Wettland, who was born on today’s date in 1966 in San Mateo, CA, was an indispensable Yankee that year and I can recall being completely blown away when just one month later, the Yankees let him become a free agent. The right-hander continued to perform as one of the game’s top closers after he signed with Texas and saved another 150 games during the final four seasons of his big league career. That Yankee front office decision to let Wetteland walk and hand the closer role to a young Mariano Rivera seemed so risky at the time. It doesn’t anymore, does it?
Wetteland shares his August 21 birthday with this former Yankee first baseman.
December 30th is one of the few days of the year on which no Yankee,
past or present was born. So last year on this date, I presented this
“Top Ten Yankees of the Decade” post. This year, I thought I’d condense
that a bit and discuss who the five players are who’ve contributed the
most to Yankee baseball over the past five years.
1. Derek Jeter - this list has to start with “The Captain.” Despite
his first-ever mediocre year in 2010 and the needless and very
derogatory comments made about him by the Yankee front office during
his just-completed contract negotiation, Jeter remains the classiest
act in all of baseball and is still the straw that stirs this Yankee
team. I’m predicting he will be back better than ever in 2011.
2. Robinson Cano – His awesome 2010 regular season performance and
the fact that he finally put together some offense in a postseason has
convinced me that this guy has the entire package necessary to be
baseball’s best second baseman for at least the next five years.
3. Mariano Rivera – The only reason he is not number two on my list
is the inability of the rest of New York’s pitching staff to get him
any save situations in this year’s ALCS against Texas. The best closer
4. Alex Rodriguez – Has become the all-time greatest third baseman
in Yankee franchise history but his recent injuries and longer term
power outages may be evidence of the magic of performance enhancing
pharmaceuticals happening right before our eyes.
5. You decide who belongs in this slot and let the rest of our
readers know by posting your answer in the “comments” section below.
Candidates include Pettitte, Sabathia, Matsui, Teixeira, Damon, Posada,