October 2012

A Small Piece of History

October 24, 2012 – Now that the Yankees have played their final postseason game in 2012, the entries on this blog will provide the back-stories to the features, articles and Q&A pieces that I will be writing for Yankees publications. As I’ve done in the past, I will also be writing about the many experiences that that I am afforded as the director of publications for the New York Yankees.

At this time, I am working with my staff to plan out eight big issues of Yankees Magazine for 2013 along with the 2013 New York Yankees Official Yearbook, the 2013 New York Yankees Official Spring Training Program and the 2012 New Era Pinstripe Bowl Official Game Program. I am also in the process of setting up several interviews while figuring out which feature stories I will be writing.

Before I preview any 2013 content, I will share an experience that I had in Detroit during the ALCS.

A few hours before Game 3, I went to Nemo’s in downtown Detroit for lunch. Sports Illustrated rated the famous hamburger spot, which opened its doors in 1965, the third-best sports bar in America in 2005. The burgers were as good as advertised, and the mahogany bars and old newspaper covers that adored the wooden walls made for an old-school atmosphere that brought me back in time.

After lunch, I walked across the street to the corner of Trumbull Street and Michigan Avenue, where Tiger Stadium stood from 1912 through the time it was demolished in 2007. Today, the site in which the storied ballpark lived, consists of a baseball diamond and a large overgrown field.

Since I never got the chance to watch a game at Tiger Stadium, I was excited to get a glimpse of where it once stood.

To my surprise, a section of the Tiger Stadium’s main gate is still in place. The gate is made of a concrete pillars and an iron fence. As I peered through the gate onto the field, it dawned on me that I actually was looking at an actual piece of the original Tiger Stadium.

Before I left the site, I noticed that one of the concrete pillars was slowly breaking into apart, and so I grabbed a small (one inch by one inch) piece of concrete and placed it in my jacket pocket.

My chunk of Tiger Stadium might not be the most impressive piece of memorabilia that was ever taken from the old ballpark but I feel lucky to have something that came from one of the longest-standing sporting venues in American history.

–Alfred Santasiere III

End of the Road for 2012 Yankees

October 18, 2012 – The Yankees 2012 campaign has come to an end.

In the history of sports, there’s never been a season-ending loss that wasn’t disappointing, and the Yankees game 4 defeat to the Detroit Tigers was no different.

When a Yankees season ends without a championship, the level of disappointment felt by the organization and it’s fan base is greater than it is with any other team in North America.

The big disappointment in not winning the World Series comes from even bigger expectations. The Yankees have won more championships than any team in professional sports, and with more significant injuries than they’ve had to deal with in a decade (or longer), the Yankees still won the ultra competitive American League East and then defeated the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS.

Often times, when the Yankees don’t win the World Series, their accomplishments are forgotten. But consider this fact: The Yankees were one of four teams to make it as far as they did. They advanced to baseball’s version of The Final Four, and I can’t imagine any college basketball program — even the most storied teams — not raising a banner if they made it that far.

I’m not suggesting that the Yankees celebrate this postseason run, because they are the most storied sports franchise in the world, and they’ll wait to celebrate something far more significant when that time comes.

But for now, I’m tipping my hat to the Steinbrenners and to a group of players, coaches, executives and front office staff who persevered through a challenging season, and who won a lot of baseball games along the way.

I would also like to congratulate the Detroit Tigers, who are a talented team led by a classy manager in Jim Leyland.

Finally, if there’s one thing I know about the Yankees organization, it’s that they always find a way to make the improvements necessary to bring a stronger team to Spring Training each season. That is evidenced by the fact that they’ve been in the postseason 17 times in the last 18 years, and that doesn’t happen without an unmatched commitment to being the best.

Spring Training will be here before long, and the Yankees will be in a position to best their 2012 performance.

–Alfred Santasiere III

Yankees Turn to Their Stopper in Game 4

October 18, 2012 – Game 4 of the ALCS is finally underway — after it was postponed due to inclement weather last night.

The Yankees will try to stave of elimination on a beautiful afternoon in Detroit. The sun is out, and the game-time temperature was 59 degrees.

There’s a gusty wind blowing toward the outfield, and for a Yankees lineup that has struggled to drive the ball this postseason, maybe the tailwind will give them the boost they need.

I think the Yankees will also get a lift from what they were able to do in the ninth inning of Game 3. Although the Yankees didn’t complete the comeback, they brought the game to within one run after only mustering two hits (singles by Ichiro) off of Justin Verlander through the first eight innings.

Eduardo Nunez led off the inning and hit a solo home run, which essentially chased the game’s best pitcher from the game.

After the game, Verlander spoke about Nunez’ gritty approach, which culminated with the blast to left field.

“Nunez put together one of the best at-bats I’ve ever seen,” Verlander said. “He really impressed me, especially considering the situation his team was in.”

After Verlander left the game, the Yankees collected two singles off of Phil Coke, which put the ace’s gem in serious jeopardy.

How will that rally carry over to today?

It will give the Yankees hitters some much-needed confidence at a time when everyone with a voice or with a pen is counting them out. The Yankees proved again on Tuesday night that they are a battle-tested team, and that they are not going to fall without a fight. That will have an impact on both teams today.

More than the all of that, I like the Yankees chances in Game 4 because CC Sabathia is on mound. For his entire tenure in New York, Sabathia has been the team’s stopper. Since 2009, Sabathia has collected more wins following his team’s loosing steaks than any other Yankee. Sabathia is 7-1 in his postseason career with Yankees. He has struck out 75 batters in those games while only walking 27, and his 3.03 ERA speaks for itself.

–Alfred Santasiere III

Hanging Tough

October 16, 2012 – Unfortunately for the Yankees, tonight looks like a microcosm of their season.

After going toe-to-toe with Justin Verlander for three innings, Phil Hughes was removed from the game in the fourth inning, and as the case was after they lost Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte, and most recently, Derek Jeter, the Yankees will be forced to overcome an unlucky twist of fate.

So far in 2012, they’ve answered the bell every time they lost a key player.

The relievers who have taken over for Hughes have resembled Yankees starting pitchers during this postseason in that they’ve kept the team in the game. In a combined three innings of work, David Phelps, Clay Rapada, Cody Eppley and Boone Logan have not allowed an earned run. (Quintin Berry reached base on an error in the fifth and scored the Tigers second run).

Boone was especially good in the bottom of the sixth when he got Miguel Cabrera to ground into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded. Clearly, the Triple Crown winner could have blown the game wide open, but Logan came up big.

Now, the Yankees hitters are faced with the task of doing the same against Verlander.

–Alfred Santasiere III

Toe-to-Toe

October 16, 2012 — Phil Hughes hasn’t been flawless through three innings, but he’s matching Justin Verlander in the only statistical category that matters — runs.

Neither pitcher has allowed the opposition to score yet.

Hughes fought his way out of a first and third jam in the third inning, and it showed a level of grit and toughness that should serve as inspiration to his teammates.

After Hughes gave up a walk to Miguel Cabrera, he came back to get the Tigers cleanup hitter Prince Fielder to fly out to center field, which was no easy task.

But even in the Cabrera at-bat, Hughes didn’t give in without a fight. Hughes threw several well-placed pitches in the eight pitch at-bat, and he refused to give the Triple Crown winner a good pitch to hit.

–Alfred Santasiere III

As Game 3 Begins, Yanks Are Very Much Alive in ALCS

October 16, 2012 – The Yankees will take on the Detroit Tigers tonight at chilly Comerica Park in downtown Detroit. When I arrived at the ballpark at about 4 pm, the sun was out, and the temperature was in the mid-’50s. Since then, night has fallen and the air has gotten significantly colder. As the game approaches, it’s 50 degrees in the Motor City.

As the whole baseball world is aware of, the Yankees have their work cut out for them tonight and for as long as the ALCS is being played.

The Tigers have a two games to none series lead, and they are set to play three straight games on their home turf. Of course, Detroit will also be sending the most dominant pitcher in the game over the last few years to the hill tonight in Justin Verlander. The Tigers lead, their home field advantage and the presence of Verlander are three factors that can not be discounted, but the Yankees are confident that they can come back in the series, and I feel that they have good reason to believe in themselves.

For starters, tonight’s Yankees pitcher, Phil Hughes, may be over shadowed by Verlander, but he is a bone fide winner. Hughes has already taken the ball this postseason, and he proved (for the second time in this career) that he can come up big in the biggest games. Hughes only gave up one run in 6 2/3 innings against Baltimore after winning 16 games in the regular season.

CC Sabathia’s words about Hughes in this afternoon’s press conference at Comerica Field cemented my belief that the Yankees have a great chance to win tonight’s game.

“Phil has matured this season,” Sabathia said. “He’s not just going out and throwing the ball. He definitely has a plan, and he’s hitting spots. He’s worked his slider in there over the last six or seven starts, and he’s been able to make adjustments.”

Secondly, while Verlander has the potential to shut down the opposition on any given night, he has also been very beatable in October. His career postseason record is 5-3, and he owns a 4.19 ERA.

The Yankees will throw a guy at the Tigers tomorrow night who has been one of the best postseason pitchers of the decade. If Sabathia has a chance to bring the series even, I believe he will.

But, for now, the Yankees must beat Verlander.

–Alfred Santasiere III

Yanks Rotation is Reason for Optimism

October 14, 2012 – Hiroki Kuroda’s official line for Game 2 of the ALCS states that he gave up three runs in 7 2/3 innings of work — but he was a lot better than that.

With two outs in the eighth, Kuroda gave up a single to Austin Jackson, and as the lead base runner Omar Infante over ran second base, Nick Swisher threw a strike to Robinson Cano. After watching replay after replay of the action at second base, it appeared that Cano tagged Infante before he touched second base. The umpire at second base called Infante safe and Kuroda was lifted from the game.

After Kuroda was pulled, Boone Logan allowed a single that brought a run to the plate, and Joba Chamberlain did the same. After giving up one run during the entire time he was in the game, Kuroda saw two more Tigers reach the dish.

Regardless of the controversial call and collateral damage that it caused in the eighth inning, every starter the Yankees have put on the mound this postseason have put together a quality start — and on several nights, they’ve given up less than three runs.

Because of the consistency of the Yankees starting pitching, they have a legitimate chance to come back from their two-game deficit in the ALCS. If Phil Hughes, CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte pitch remotely close to the way they’ve pitched thus far, the Yankees will be in all three games in Detroit.

With a few hot bats and a few lucky breaks, this series very well could come back to New York with the Yankees in a good position.

Without the Yankees strong rotation, I would not be nearly as optimistic as I am a day before flying out to Detroit.

–Alfred Santasiere III

Special Performance for Hiroki Kuroda in ALCS Game 2

October 14, 2012 — Hiroki Kuroda’s bid for a perfect game ended in the sixth inning of today’s ALCS Game 2, when leadoff hitter Jhonny Peralta singled. But, although Kuroda is no-longer pursuing baseball immortality, his work today is still inspiring.

On the heels of the Yankees most difficult loss of the season, Kuroda has gone out and limited the Tigers to one baserunner in six innings. He’s made it look easy, and that is no minor accomplishment considering that Detroit’s lineup features a leadoff hitter in Austin Jackson who batted .300 during the regular season, the first triple-crown winner since 1967 in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder who batted .313 with 30 home runs and 108 RBI in 2012.

For the second time this postseason, Kuroda is keeping Yankees hitters in a game in which they are being stymied, and save for the hit the Tigers got in the sixth, the righthander hasn’t been challenged.

–Alfred Santasiere III

Hiroki Kuroda Taming Tigers in ALCS Game 2

October 14, 2012 — The Yankees have gotten great performances from their starting pitchers in every one of the six postseason games they’ve played thus far in 2012, but so far in Game 2 of the ALCS, Hiroki Kuroda has put together the most dominating stretch yet.

Kuroda has faced nine Tigers over three frames, and he has struck out seven of them. If that’s not impressive enough, consider that the two batters who made contact, didn’t drive the ball with much authority. Quintin Berry hit a weak fly ball to centerfield, and Jhonny Peralta grounded out to third base.

Kuroda has gotten ahead of the count on six of the first nine batters, and from my vantage point in the press box, it seems like the the seven Tigers who went down on strikes didn’t come close to making contact on the last pitch of their respective at-bats.

Stay tuned!

–Alfred Santasiere III

Inspiration in the Face of Injury

October 14, 2012 – After a ninth-inning rally in last night’s ALCS Game that was nothing short of incredible, the contest ended in a way that was equally as incredible.

In the ninth inning, which the Yankees entered trailing 4-0, Ichiro hit a two-run blast, and with a two-out long-ball, Raul Ibanez became the first player in major league history to hit three home runs in the ninth inning or later in the same postseason.

Those theatrics made for what I believe was the most exciting inning of the season, but less than an hour later, the Yankees suffered their worst moment of 2012, or maybe in several years.

In the top of the twelfth inning, Derek Jeter broke his ankle while attempting to field a ground ball. As all Yankees fans are aware of by now, Jeter will not take the field until Spring Training of 2013, and the Yankees are faced with the task of trying to get to the World Series without their captain.

I feel as if the normal emotions following sporting events are happiness or disappointment, but, save for a few times, I can’t remember feeling a sense of sadness because of something that took place on the field.

Last night, I was saddened by the turn of events, but I was also tremendously proud that Derek Jeter is the face of the team I work for.

When the realization that Jeter’s 2012 season — in which he led all of baseball in hits at the age of 38 — had ended with him being carried off the field, I was more sad than I was disappointed. You never want to see someone who has played the game as hard as Jeter (or anyone else in this generation) and who has picked his teammates up countless times suffer an injury that will force him to watch his club play their most important games. To me, that is a sad reality.

But when I heard Joe Girardi’s postgame press conference, I was filled with pride.

More specifically, when Girardi described the scene at the shortstop position, where Jeter was laying on the ground in pain, I was reminded of how fierce of a competitor the shortstop is.

Girardi said that Jeter insisted that he walk off the field on his own power, because he didn’t want the Yankee Stadium crowd to witness him getting carried into the dugout.

That anecdote resonated with me. Even with a broken ankle, Jeter wanted to give Yankees fans his best. There’s not many players who would have been mindful of that while dealing with what must have been excruciating pain. That is one of the many things that makes Jeter not only one of the single greatest baseball players in history, but one of it’s great warriors and most spectacular people. That moment can’t be summed up with statistics, but it was just as awe-inspiring as any game-winning home run.

In the face of some very unlucky fate, the Yankees organization and its fans should be thankful that Derek Jeter is ours. He’s a once in a lifetime player and person.

–Alfred Santasiere III

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 38 other followers