I just can’t stop grinning.
When Bob Marley sang the simple instructions, “Smile, you’re in Jamaica,” he sure understated himself.
I used my income tax refund check to go to Jamaica to watch my brother get married and serve him as his best man. I saw my family increase in size and spent eight days in a tropical paradise filled with sun, swimming, sailing, sand, and the surf.
It was a much needed break too. The semester ended the day before departure and my beloved Yankees were in the dumps. Yankee fans across Twitter and the MLBlogosphere were gaining that hard crust of cynicism; some even began to give up. But I held on to hope. I had to. Baseball is summer and to me, the Yankees are baseball.
How thankful was I, however, that the Steinbrenner blackout could not reach me for a few days. When the Yanks played on ESPN, the game was there. I watched. I cheered. I kept smiling.
Day after day I read the headlines and results. The distantly familiar vocabulary of “back-to-back” and “win-streak” began to creep into the Yankeeology lexicon. The expansive depression of the Nick Swisher homerless-at-home debacle ended. Mark Teixiera got his groove back. CC started to pitch — exceptionally well. Joba made it through an inning without giving up a run. Andy went deep. Francisco Cervelli walked into the hearts of New York fans.
We have things to talk about other than fist pumps. We have more to smile at and cheer for on the nightly Twittercasts than the imposter Michael Kay account’s improper, but ridiculously hysterical, comments. We have baseball. We have whip cream pies and the Tex-Rod connection. We have kangaroo courts and bench depth.
And the smiles haven’t stopped.
So yes, Mister Marley. I will smile. But not just because I was in Jamaica, but because my beloved Yankees are back to business.
This truly was, the best vacation ever.
I’ve been away for a while. School has been horrendous this semester and priorities are priorities. I will make a more regular return after I get back from Jamaica later this month.
Until then, I have much to say, but I’ll keep things brief for now:
1. A-Rod returns tomorrow; let’s hope it brings big changes for the overall performance of this team. This may finally be A-Rod’s chance to step up into a leadership role.
2. Jeter’s deterioration is being noted; I hope to never see him in another uniform, but he may want to consider some other fielding options. Cashman and co need to start shopping for an understudy.
3. We always do better with a healthy Jorge; come back soon.
4. What happened to our stellar pitching? C’mon guys, you can’t blame Girardi for this mess. Wang is not Joe’s fault. CC’s underperforming is not Joe’s fault. AJ and Pettitte are doing decent, but nowhere near what we need them to be doing.
5. Joba is doing precisely what he was projected to do, but c’mon, why pull him after 12 consecutive Ks? That was dumb.
6. Bullpen — WAKE UP! PLEASE! You are better than this.
7. Swisher is in a slump, but then again, who isn’t? He’s still the best offseason acquisition we’ve gotten so far. Make sure you go to http://www.voteswisher.com and put him in the ASG lineup.
8. We’re only a fraction of the way through the season, there is plenty of time to turn this around and be the Yankees team of old. We need the boys to get pumped, this has to be just as depressing to them as it is to us (aside from the whole them getting millions and us paying to watch them play thing). Maybe someone needs to charge the mound and pop Beckett in the piehole — or kick Jerry Meals in the taint for being a horrible ump.
9. Manny is being Manny. I feel bad for Dodger fans. I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt, the same way I did for Alex. Unfortunately, Alex didn’t come up hot for a current drug test, it was a past one that was questionably brought out by his hack-journalist stalker, S-Rob.
10. Make sure to add me on TWITTER. There is a group of Yankee fans/bloggers who frequently share our thoughts on Yankee games through the process. Sometimes we get live reviews, sometimes TV reviews, others watch on MLB’s gameday. Join the fun! http://www.twitter.com/roshkoch
Thank you everyone for the gift of landing me on the top 50 fan blogs at … NUMBER ELEVEN? I was totally not expecting that, especially in light of my complete lack of Spring Training game coverage. You guys are all the best. I’ve been receiving quite a bit of interesting feedback on my other most recent entry “It Just Feels Dirty…” and I must say that your comments have made me laugh, made me guffaw, and even made me think.
I’ll get into the non-baseball adventures soon, if you so wish, but for now allow me to introduce to you my dedication for number 11:
Who? Brett Gardner. Remember that name. Fans of non-Yankee AL teams are going to start to spit at the sound of his name soon.
If you would have asked me who I thought would be the starting center fielder for the Yanks in 2009, I would have confidently told you Melky Cabrera. His canon arm is a huge defensive plus and I had hoped that his off-season work with Kevin Long and winterball in the Dominican would have risen him to the form I was accustomed to seeing of the Melk-Man.
However, when Melky was sent down to AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre, New York fans were treated to an extended look at Brett Gardner. Who couldn’t crack a smile as Gardner quickly made himself a baserunning threat. Let’s face it, New York hasn’t had a speed freak like Gardner in a looooooooong time.
Through his pair of big league stays, Gardner was still able to generate enough waves in minor league play. On February 28, Gardner was named Kevin Lawn Player of the Year by the yankees organization.
Though not even in his first full rookie season, Gardner has already been written into the history books. On September 21, 2008, Gardner scored the final run of Major League Baseball in Yankee Stadium history as a pinch runner for Jason Giambi, scoring on a sacrifice fly by Cano in the seventh inning of an eventual 7-3 win for the Yankees over the Baltimore Orioles.
Gardner appeared in 94 games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
in 2008, batting .296 (101-for-341) with 12 doubles, 11 triples, three
home runs, 32 RBI and 37 stolen bases. He led all Yankees minor
leaguers in stolen bases and tied for fourth in batting average.
In two stints with the Yankees in 2008, Gardner combined to bat
.228 (29-for-117) with five doubles, two triples, 16 RBI and 13 stolen
bases in 42 games (17 starts).
He became just the third Yankee since
1938 to steal five bases within his first nine Major League games,
joining Mickey Rivers and Bobby Abreu (credit: Elias).
“That’s just my game, that’s just my job,” Gardner said. “If I didn’t
do that, I wouldn’t be here right now. I wouldn’t be in Minor League
camp either. I’d have a desk job somewhere. That’s the main part of my
game and that’s why I am where I am.”
season, he was named to Baseball America’s Triple-A All-Star team and
was tabbed by the publication as having the International League’s
“Best Strikezone Judgment” as well as being the IL’s “Best Baserunner.”
“This dude comes running around first base like a bolt of lightning,
and it’s like, ‘Wow,'” said teammate Nick Swisher. “This dude is
“That is his game, and I love that,” Swisher said. “I try to push him
every day. He’s that scrappy guy — one of those guys that if he gets
on the basepaths, he’s going to kill you. I love the way he plays. He
grinds out every at-bat, he grinds out every day.”
Gardner continues to pester his opponents in an impressive spring training campaign makred with a .417 AVG and a .500 OBP. In only 5 games, Gardner has collected 2 steals and has hustled out several extra bases thanks to his speed — a commodity the Yankees desperately need after losing Bobby Abreu to free-agency.
“He leads off the game and gets on base, and he already puts the
pitcher in defensive mode,” said pitcher Ian Kennedy, who played with
Gardner at Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
“You have to think about him always at first base. He’s going to steal
— it doesn’t matter what pitch. He’s one of those guys that’s a pest.
You love to have him on your team, because he’s always going to make
“Obviously, I know what’s at stake,” Gardner said. “I’m just coming out
here to work hard and try to get better every day, and have some good
quality at-bats and prove to them that I’m ready to compete at this
“I feel like my strengths are my defense and baserunning, and being able to get on base and make things happen.”
Gardner’s speed has not gone unnoticed, either.
“That’s fun to watch, any time you have that type of speed. I mean, we
have a guy in [Brett] Gardner that’ll be fun. That’s probably the most
you can have, watching those guys run,”
said teammate Alex Rodriguez.
“He’s an exciting player. He creates havoc,” said Yankees skipper, Joe Girardi. “He can be a pest, and we like that.”
All quotes are from interviews or press conferences by MLB.com beat report Bryan Hoch and Yankees.com.
You can read Bryan’s blog over at http://bombersbeat.mlblogs.com
My brother was always a big fan of Don Mattingly. How can you blame
him? Mattingly is a class act with a lot of talent who should be
inducted into the Hall of Fame. He had character. He played with an
intensity second to none.
As a Koch boy, you were raised to be a
Yankee fan. The Yankees are what we knew, who we loved, and what
defines the pinnacle of excellence in baseball. I have always been fond of my Bronx Bombers.
However, there was a certain player who
never played for Yankees that I became a big fan of. I have the two
Starting Lineups they made for him. I have a small album of his
baseball cards, even still today.
may be about the only word that could accurately describe what this eight year old felt
the day that an envelope arrived in the mail. Inside the envelope was
a hand written letter on the back of a pink “while you were out” slip
and an autographed baseball card of my favorite player.
time when baseball cards were an industry, and a highly successful one
at that, I had grown up in a home that also housed such a sports cards
and memorabilia store. While my friends would have to wait in lines
hours long to get autographs from these megastars and heroes, I only
had to send my hero a letter.
For his kindness and humility in
responding to a kid who couldn’t have been much more than eight years
old, I will always remember Kevin Seitzer.
Let me tell you about my childhood hero.
the 1997 season, Kevin Seitzer retired from baseball with a .295 BA in
12 seasons of major league service. He had offers from several teams,
however he wanted to coach his two sons and spend time with his family.
After spending four years in the majors, Seitzer accumulated a
batting average of .318 and was called up to the Kansas City Royals in
September of ’86. He so impressed the Royals that they gave him the
full time First Base gig in 1987.
His rookie season offensive
numbers were staggering. He went .323 with 15 home runs, 83 RBIs and
207 hits, tying a major league record for the year.
He was thirteenth on a list of rookies who collected 200 hits or more.
He would have been a shoe in for the Rookie of the Year nod if it
hadn’t been for a certain Oakland A’s player who belted out 49 home
runs, Mark Mcguire. He was voted to the All Star game that year.
1988 he swapped sides of the infield with George Brett and became their
everyday third baseman. He was well known for his patience and his
batting eye, which kept his on-base percentage to over .400. He was
never known as a power hitter, but his eye helped him to be one of the
best placement hitters of the late 80’s.
the remainder of his tenure with the Royals, he saw a continuing
decline in his offensive stats until his release in spring training of
’92. Although he was released, his average had never dipped below .265
and he had become one of the top offensive producers in Royals history.
Leaving Kansas City was hard for Seitzer, who had spent 9 years within the organization.
“Well, let’s put it this way. If your mom and
dad told you that you weren’t in the family anymore and to pack your
bags – that’s about how it felt,” said Seitzer in a July 4, 2007 interview with Scout.com. “It was a crusher man, because you sign
with somebody, you spend that long with them, and they were family.
They were your employer and they were everything, and you felt like you
were part of the whole family. And then when they let you go, man its
rough, and that was the worst one. Guys change teams all the time, and
the first one is the worst one, lets put it that way.”
spent the rest of his career bouncing around Milwaukee, Oakland, and
finally Cleveland. After losing confidence in his hitting ability
during the middle of his career, Seitzer found his groove, finishing
his career with three .300+ seasons and a final year in Cleveland
posting a .268 in 64 games as a spot starter and pinch hitter.
1995, he was again selected to the AL All Star team, although his best
year was in ’96 when he posted an average of .326, with 187 hits, 85
runs, 87 walks to 79 strike outs, with a total on base percentage of
He posted some incredible
numbers during his major league career. He tasted the post season in in
’96 and in ’97, his final season, played in seven games of the World
Series, and was voted to two allstar games.
In 2007, Seitzer
was hired by the Arizona Dimaondbacks as a hitting coach. In 2009, he
became Kansas City’s Hitting Coach, bringing him back to the
organization where he began his career, and hoped to someday end it.
As an 8 year old following baseball, those numbers all meant nothing to me. I just knew that he was a pretty good ball player who was kind enough to send a letter to a kid who sent him one first, and to sign and return my baseball card.
an adult, the numbers are impressive, but to see a father who could put
his career aside to spend time with his children is heart warming. To
know that he is a man who is not afraid to share his faith in
inspiring. To see him continue to serve baseball through his training
facility, and now as a coach at the major league level, is admirable.
To me, Kevin Seitzer will always be a hero.
Information for this blog is courtesy of:
When the Yankees announced the acquisition of Nick Swisher from a trade with the Chicago White Sox for Wilson Betemit, I was curious. With the impending loss of Bobby Abreu to free agency, I was looking for any way that the Bombers would bring back the patient hitter. I figured Swisher would play first and Bobby would be brought back to platoon with Damon and Nady. (Photo: Getty Images)
I was excited at the prospect of having baseball’s most patient hitter in 2008 in a lineup with Abreu (another of baseball’s top three most patient hitters) and the Yankee elite. I was stoked on Swish’s almost immaculate defense guarding the right corner bag. I was excited for another switch hitter to be in the every day lineup.
I was, as is now apparent, wrong.
Instead, Brian Cashman ignored my pleas and signed Mark Teixiera for first base, ultimately letting Abreu join our west coast nemesis (The Yankee devils HAVE to hate Angels) for a steal.
No one is going to complain about Tex being on the team. I’m glad he’s here (and not in Boston). He will make Mattingly proud, for sure. His bat and glove will fill both offensive and defensive voids for the next several years.
So now we come back to a dilemma. Forget about Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner for a few minutes and look at the contest being fought for Bobby’s Right Field Roost between Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady.
I’m pretty unoriginal when it comes to making strong arguments based on anything but stats, so here are a few factors for Joe Girardi to consider when making his decision for the everyday right fielder position.
THE EVIDENCE THAT DEMANDS A VERDICT:
Nady hit 25 HR’s last yea; Swisher hit 24. But in six full seasons, Nady has only hit 87 HRs. In only four full seasons, Swisher has amassed 104 homers.
But in batting average, we see Nady’s .280 career AVG (.303 in ’08) overcome Swisher’s dissapointing .244 (.218 in ’08). Nady also struck out less, had a higher OBP, and pulled in more RBIs. He also had many more hits (but somehow less runs?)
Swisher stole 3 bases last season, Nady stole two. Whoever is going to replace Bobby needs to be able to gank some bags. Bobby stole around 20.
Both have commendable defensive percentages. Swisher has a near immaculate career record of .990 (.975, 5E in OF in ’08) to Nady’s .984 (.985, 4E, in OF in ’08). Bobby Abreu carries a career .984 (.993, 2E OF in ’08).
ADVANTAGE: YANKEES (You can’t go wrong any which way here.)
The White Sox have won a world series this decade. The Pirates, well, they existed this decade. Kind of.
Nady was born in 1978 and is 30. The much younger Nick Swisher was born
in 1980 and is 28. The free agent market dictates that Nick Swisher,
being in his twenties, is automatically better than the 30-something
year old Nady.
Swisher throws left handed and bats as a switch hitter. Nady is right
handed all the way around. Being right handed in right field makes for
an awkward throwing situation.
Nick Swisher has a website. Xavier Nady, does not. Hey Nady, get with the
20th century 21st century.
Two words: Swish’s Wishes. You cannot get much cooler than that.
Nady used a pink bat on mother’s day to promote breast cancer
awareness. Nick Swisher dyed his facial hair. Nady had a weapon that he
can carry over to the Yankees. Swisher had to lose his pink with the
ADVANTAGE: NADY (unless Swisher grows a pink moustache.)
Swisher has only played in the almighty American League (A’s, White Sox). Nady has played almost his entire career in the National League (Padres, Mets, Pirates). Yuck. The National League is gross.
Nady’s agent is Scott Boras. He’s a jerk.
I believe the evidence here is overwhelming. It is time to put Nick Swisher in the corner pocket and let him play every day baseball. Keep Nady around for damage control when/if someone goes down. You never know when Matsui’s knee may implode or Johnny Damon needs to be put in protective custody from his hairdresser, who is obviously trying to kill him.
This is a blog I never wanted to write, but I feel it is important to address. For those of you who may have read my early winter rantings, you know that I made predictions — many of which ended up being wrong.
I hate being wrong.
That being said, I think it is time to address our biggest American League threat, and no, I’m not talking about those bums from Beanville. Let’s take a trip across the country to the pollution capital of the United States, Los Angeles. Because our number one threat in 2009 is those stinkin’ Angels.
I’ll give you three reasons why we need to keep our eyes on these guys not only for this year, but for the next few years.
#1 – The Angels in the Outfield.
Sorry for the cliche’, but seriously. What more of an offensive threat to boast in your outfield than Vladimir Guerro, Torii Hunter, and our former Bobby Abreu?
We should be familiar with Bobby’s abilities already, but for those of you just now tuning in we have one of the most patient hitters in baseball. Bobby can make a pitcher throw many times. He isn’t afraid of taking a walk. (73 times in 2008). He knows how to steal (22). He has a career .300 average (.296) and he plays very cautiously, which gives him full season endurance (156 games). Bobby is a very talented player, an offensive force, and will make a great #2 or #3 hitter.
Before coming to the Angels last season, Torii Hunter wasn’t much to worry about. The Minnesota Twins were never a real threat to anyone. They had their streaks, mostly built on the back of Hunter’s bat. (I’m editorializing pretty hard here, I know.) But put a potent hitter on this Angels team and you have a reason to swallow the lump in your throat. In 146 games, he collected 551 AB and 153 H, giving him a hearty .278 BA. All total, he carried 60 extra base hits, 21 of which got him around the bases. Oh, and there’s the whole 1.000 FPCT.
I can’t even say his name with conjuring up images of burning villages, but this dangerous trio is led by 32 year old Vladimir Guerrero. The 12-year veteran is like Yogi Berra — he’ll swing at, and typical hammer off, anything. He is difficult to pitch to. I recall a scene where a pitcher attempted to walk him, so Vlad stepped across the plate and cranked the ball into the field anyway. He is a career .323 hitter (.303) who brought in less than 100 RBIs off of his 164 H for only the second full season in his career(91).
But these three men do not stand alone as an offensive threat. Chone Figgans and Howie Kendrick. I get chills thinking about these five members of a very potent Angel lineup that has dominated the American League over the span of the past few years. It is no wonder, to me, why the Angels did not persue some of the more costly free agents. They have no need to. Which brings me to my second point.
#2 – They Go Deep
And I’m not talking about just the offensive hitting ability either. Take a look at the Depth Chart. RIDICULOUS. It’s like a circus of talent, competing for every position.
Infield depth has three guys, Izturis, Wood, and Quinlan, with a great deal of talent being availible to back up at every infield base position with a near perfect FPCT and mostly respectable batting averages (.269, .200, .262).
The offensive weakness may come from their catchers, but they have two guys have can handle the backstop with Napoli and Mathis (.273, .194). Napoli is yet another 20+ HR guy, of which the Angels have too many (4).
The outfield has protection for their big three if an unfortunate injury would occur. G. Matthews and Juan Rivera have acceptable BA’s and can fill in as needed and help to platoon either Vlad or Bobby in the corners with the DH role.
I’m not even going to address their pitching. It is sufficient and deep. The Angels are an island unto themselves with their throwing programs. Their farm system has made them almost entirely self sufficient and will be a model many other teams follow for the future.
#3 – 3-7
The Yankees and the Angels played each other ten times. Of those ten times, the Yankees only mustered up three wins. If the Yanks could have pulled those seven losses, the post season would have been written differently. But the fact remains that in that ten game series, the Yankees were outplayed by the Angels. the lineups look different now, so only time will tell how 2009 plays out.
Those are the reasons why I see the Angels as the team to beat for the New York Yankees. The rest of the AL West is still weak, despite a growing strength this year. 2009 will undoubtedly be a great year for baseball.
I, for one, really enjoy reading what the players are doing, in a philanthropic sense, with their big pay checks. For me, it eases my ire that some lucky jerks get to make multi-million dollars each year to play baseball.
I understand the hard work that goes in to making a career out of a sport, but nonetheless, it is nice to see some “paying it forward” going on.
The Yankees take a lot of flak from people across the country for their big pay days, but a good number of current, and former, Yankees are quick to share.
Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixiera both gave back to their alma maters in the forms of cold hard cash.
Teixiera signed a girthy 8-year $180M contract with the Yankees two days before Christmas. This past week, Tex made an appearance in conjunction with a $500K donation to Georgia Tech University.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Teixeira has donated to Georgia
Tech every year since he was the Rangers’ first-round selection in
2001, but the $500,000 pledge marked his largest offering yet.
Rodriguez, on the other hand, dropped a weighty $3.9M donation to Miamu University for their baseball facilities back in 2002, during the time period he admittedly used performance enhancing substances.
Well known as the highest paid baseball player in history, Rodriguez was honored for his contribution by the school at the annual “Dinner on the Diamond” event at the university. The UM facility now bears the name “Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field” and will be home to the Hurricanes baseball team.
A-Rod and Tex aren’t the only cheerful givers. Yankees captain Derek Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation has raised over $8M from its various events to help disadvantaged children in New York, Western Michigan, and Tampa, Florida.
Long time catcher, Jorge Posada, also has charitible work. The Jorge Posada Foundation, named after his son, is an endowment to help families with children diagnosed with Craniosynotosis in affording necessary surgeries, as well as help fund research for hospitals in this particular field. The Posadas have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to various hospitals and individuals to help others in need.
Nick Swisher is another individual with a generous heart now covered in pinstripes. Swish is involved in more organizations than I could count. He spends time hanging out with kids, gives money to medical and educational organizations, supports the troops overseas. and even once dyed his goatee pink for Breast Cancer Awareness on Mother’s Day. Although, he won’t be doing that with the Yankees and their “high and tight” folicle policies.
Bobby Abreu was another frequent contributor through his Abreu’s Amigos and Abreu’s Finest Charity Wines. In 2001, during his stint with the Philadelphia Phillies, Bobby was awarded the Honorary Chairman of the American Red Cross Blood Drive. He was honored as the Phillies recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award in 2004.
Another big giver is lead-off hitter Johnny Damon, who in 2008 was the Yankees recipient of the Roberto Clemente award with proceeds going to the Children’s Health Fund. He has also worked with Wounded Warrior Project in bringing relief to wounded veterans. Damon, like his new teammate Nick Swisher, has also donated his long hair (from days with the Red Sox) to charitable causes.
But the Evil Empire needs an Emporer and George M Steinbrenner III is there to lead the charge. The multi-billionaire has donated so much money to various charities and civic programs that Legends Field was renamed Steinbrenner Field by the Town and County Councils. They are also opening a Tampa area school that is named after “The Boss.”
There may be a lot of money floating around the Bronx, but there is a lot of money going even further toward making this world a better place to be.
Information courtesy of:
A-Rod speaks at University of Miami
A-Rod has Teixeira’s Support
Turn 2 Foundation
Jorge Posada Foundation
Damon Yankees’ Clemente Nominee
This Purist Bleeds Pinstripes: There’s Some Good in the World
* found this article after I wrote out everything here. Tons more info in here too. Get away from the steroid crap and read about some heroes!