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Archive for December, 2009

This Moment in (Blogging) History

December 29, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings

This has been an interesting decade to be a baseball writer.

Once upon a time, in a storied era of American history, sportswriters were the creme de la creme of all writers. New York City had dozens of newspapers and even smaller cities boasted multiple papers, often with multiple editions per day. Newspapers were the morning drive radio, and the evening TV news, and CNN and ESPN. Those now-iconic words, “Extra, extra, read all about it,” indicated some big news had happened that wasn’t in the previous edition of the paper you read already that day. Wire services carried the stories of the top writers to newspapers all over the country. Writing was the thing.

The biggest celebrities and and stories of the day were sports figures and the games they played. The Hollywood blockbuster film didn’t yet exist. The first commercial radio license in the USA was granted in 1920, and the first “gold record” for a music album wasn’t awarded until 1941. Think of Jim Thorpe in the 1912 Olympics. The Kentucky Derby has been run since 1875. Jack Dempsey won his first boxing heavyweight title in 1919. And there was baseball, baseball, baseball.

So the best-known writers were the sportswriters, in particular the baseball writers.

But time has marched forward (more…)

DVD Review: The 2009 World Series Film

December 28, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom, Yankee Fan Memories

Title: 2009 New York Yankees: The Official World Series Film
Produced by: Major League Baseball

The first thing I noticed about this DVD is that it’s really good to be the winner. The clips you see that cycle through in the menu while you wait for your boyfriend to finish folding his laundry so you can watch the DVD together? They are all of the Yankees. The only Phillies player you see is the hapless schmuck chasing Damon from second to third. Even Damaso Marte gets a full slo-mo clip, which is better than you can say for Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard, or Chase Utley. This is probably a reflection of the fact that MLB Productions knows darn well that these DVDs are bought by the fans of the winners, and they cater to them. These are the fruits of victory, after all, and I plan to enjoy them all winter.

Yes, in many ways this is less a “World Series film” than it is a Yankees celebration, and given the title of the “film,” and watching the actual DVD, it’s no surprise that it’s very Yankee-heavy. Not only is there a much longer and more extensive recap of the Yankees’ regular season than the Phillies’, but the Yankees’ ALDS and ALCS exploits are sketched in somewhat more fully than the Phils’. In fact, the names of the Phillies’ opponents aren’t even given and the highlights shown from the NLDS and NLCS are more of a montage, not even giving the scores of the games.

I didn’t mind this as an entertainment experience, but part of me feels like if you gloss over too much, the DVDs really can’t serve as much of a historical record. (more…)

And now, Baseball Gift GETTING…

December 25, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom

The group of folks I have Christmas Eve dinner with aren’t the types to say grace, so I said it to myself while I was filling wontons by hand. My personal “grace” went something like this:

Dear God, Creator, Universe, thank you for this winter holiday that brings all friends and family together every year to enjoy the bounty of each other’s company and good food and drink. Thank you for this season of celebration.

And thank you for bringing the World Championship to the New York Yankees, and for this winter season of celebration throughout which we can enjoy the reign of joy of our team. Thank you for the blessings of Hideki Matsui’s bat and for exorcising Alex Rodriguez’s demons and for making our new stadium into a home.

Amen.

So this year my friends pooled their money and got me the gigantic DVD collection of all 65 World Series films!

(I also got this year’s DVD of the 2009 championship, and the 8 DVD set of all the actual games, which will be a lot of fun to watch since I was present at most of the games but haven’t seen the broadcasts of them.)

But back to the complete collection of World Series films. I am thinking I’ll review each year separately, or at least the top 20? But rather than just working my way through chronologically, I thought it might be fun to look first at the years you all nominate as your favorites first.

So please reply to this post with what year(s) you think I should see first and why! (You don’t have to leave a real name and email address if you don’t want to, it just has to look plausible to the software.)

Reviews will come soon!

Baseball Gift Giving: Your Suggestions

December 03, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom

So, I find myself with three baseball-loving people to buy gifts for in particular this year, my father, my brother, and my nephew (my brother’s 4-year-old son). Since the Yankees have just won the World Series, there’s NO END of World Series tchotchke I can buy them. Or at least, for my dad and brother, whereas my nephew declared this summer that he is a Red Sox fan. Yes, the young one has decided he must strike his own baseball-fan identity. My brother is a saint for treating his son with absolute tolerance and openness over this declaration, although that didn’t mean he didn’t lay on the pro-yankee stance pretty thick when we went to the Stadium in August. (Actually, it was my father who laid it on the thickest… and by the end of the day my nephew had actually decided to buy a yankees hat for himself, although that didn’t mean he gave up on the Red Sox either…)

Anyway, I know the likelihood of all members of the family giving each other the World Series DVD and such are high. I want to avoid duplicating.

So, what are your suggestions for gifts for each age group, dear readers? baseball-related, but not necessarily Yankees or World Series related. What are you getting for your loved ones? (Hoping of course that they don’t read this blog so they won’t see…)

Comment below please! (A name and email are required to comment, but they don’t have to be real.)

(P.S. There are also plenty of baseball-loving women in my family. But I tend to find other common enthusiasms with them to share, whereas baseball is the big one for the guys.)

Talking Baseball with Baseballisms

November 12, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings

Joe over at Baseballisms interviewed me recently about The 50 Greatest Yankee Games, a book I really would like to revise now that there is another championship to add to the tally…

He recaps the interview in text here: http://baseballisms.com/podcast-author-cecilia-tan.html and then you can listen to the podcast of it, which runs about an hour I think.

We could have seriously talked for two more hours. I told the tales of Jack Chesbro, Bill Bevens, Ralph Terry… gee, do you think I like pitchers? And we talked about the “Jeter flip” game and much more.

I’ll go back for another round later this off season to talk about the Red Sox!

World Series Victory recap video

November 10, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Uncategorized

There’s a lot of great postseason footage and coverage out there to look at. But I really liked this short video from the Star-Ledger. Let’s see if I can get embedding to work: (more…)

2009 Champions

November 05, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

The Yankees’ road to their 27th World Championship was a little like what I went through today to finally witness their crowning, requiring all the resources of technology and media at my disposal in order to follow the game.

When the first pitch was thrown, I was somewhere above 30,000 feet, probably over the Washington DC area. I was hoping it would be a typical postseason game, with lots of slow pitching, visits to the mound, hitters taking pitches and working the counts, because then maybe by the time I could get a signal there would still be plenty of game left.

We landed early! I flipped my phone out of airplane mode the moment the wheels touched down and as we taxied I saw on the MLB “At Bat” app that there had been no score, and it was only the second inning!! Unbelievable. Matsui was at the plate facing Pedro with a man on and no one out. I quickly swapped to Safari to open MLB.com’s Live pitch-by-pitch for mobile devices. Matsui looked like he was putting up a battle. On pitch-by-pitch it looks a lot like FOX Trax, where the pitches appear as little circles in a box that represents the strike zone. Green circles are balls, red circles are strikes and fouls.

Blue circles are balls hit into play. Every 15 seconds the browser refreshes and one or two new circles appears. The screen went blank as it refreshed, then BLAM, the blue circle appeared right in the middle of the strike zone. 89 mph fastball… I had to scroll down just a little to see the results: “Hideki Matsui homered. Derek Jeter scored.” corwin and I began fist pumping. Then it was time to actually deplane. (more…)

2009 World Series: Game 5 Recap, sort of

November 03, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Yankee Fan Memories

So, I’ve been sitting here for more than half an hour staring at the computer screen instead of writing my game recap. It isn’t that the Yankees lost tonight, it’s… well, yeah, okay, it is. They lost.

No, I’m not having flashbacks to them losing four in row to the Red Sox in 2004. No, I’m not terribly surprised that Cliff Lee was better than A.J. Burnett. The offense had lots of fight in them.

It’s just, plain and simple, they lost. And I know if they lose twice more, this is going to be a really long winter.

I told myself after the Game Seven loss in 2001 that “it wasn’t that bad.” That I should be proud of all they did in the face of adversity. That that World Series had been a great, unbelievable, amazing experience to be part of, win or lose. The latter two things were true, but that first one? It really was that bad. I cried for a week.

I’m older and tougher now, aren’t I? No. Baseball makes perpetual ten-year-olds out of all of us. (more…)

2009 World Series: Game 4 Recap

November 02, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

If it weren’t for Chase Utley’s ownage of CC Sabathia, the Yankees might have been going for a sweep of the Phils tonight. As it is, they now hold a 3-1 lead in the series, and in all eight previous World Series in which the Bombers took a 3-1 series lead, they won the whole shebang.

The game got started off hot for the Yankees as Jeter singled and Damon doubled, and it looked like all the dire predictions made based on about how bad Blanton’s career numbers were against the Yankees were going to come true. Teixeira grounded out for an RBI for first blood, bringing A-Rod the the plate.

A-Rod took a fastball right in the back, incensing the Yankees bench. It was A-Rod’s third plunking in two days, and he said to the umpire “I think that was pretty obvious.” (Teixeira has now been hit twice, too… more on that later.) The umpires then warned both benches against retaliation, although Sabathia was told he could pitch inside and that the umpires “could tell” if he had intent to hit a batter. I’m not sure I believe that, but in any case, the plunking became a non-issue. Jorge Posada then hit a deep sac fly to bring in a second run, but Blanton had sent his message and settled down.

Blanton would retire the next ten men in a row while hardly seeming to break a sweat. (more…)

2009 World Series: Game 3 Recap

November 01, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

Well, sometimes predictions in baseball pan out. Citizens Bank Park was advertised as a homer haven, and six balls left the yard tonight, three from each team. Sometimes they don’t, as who could have predicted that Andy Pettitte would have the same number of RBIs in the World Series as Ryan Howard?

For a while it looked like Pettitte might not even last long enough to get an at bat. Through two innings he had thrown 52 pitches and struggled with his control.
(more…)

2009 World Series Game Two Recap

October 30, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Uncategorized

The moment Mark Teixeira’s home run left the field, the party atmosphere at Yankee Stadium was restored. Up until then the atmosphere was tense and the crowd, which had been largely clammed up by the cold weather and Cliff Lee’s dominant pitching the night before, continued to be uncharacteristically quiet in the face of Pedro Martinez. Only once had the “Who’s Your Daddy” chant greeted him in the first three innings.

I decided to start my night off right, which meant getting a good luck hug from Mickey Rivers outside Stan’s Sports World, where he was autographing. (more…)

2009 World Series Game One

October 29, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Yankee Fan Memories

Well, tonight’s game can be summarized in two words. Cliff Lee.

There, quickest game recap ever!

Well, okay, I suppose I can tell you some other things. There was soaking rain all day in New York, but it stopped around four o’clock and both teams were able to take batting practice outdoors. Worry about the weather pushed the planned Jay-Z/Alicia Keys duet to Game Two. I sought out Freddy the Fan and banged the pan for luck, but ultimately it was for naught.

The crowd was fired up at the start of the game, with the loudest, most intense Roll Call I have ever heard. Definitely the Bleacher Creatures have stepped up their game for the postseason. And the flashbulbs for the first pitch were positively blinding.

It was pretty much downhill from there, though. Lee’s complete dominance of the Yankees lineup (except for Derek Jeter, who went 3-for-4 with a double and a run scored) combined with CC Sabathia struggling with control took the crowd out of it early. So did Chase Utley’s first home run (of two), and the fact that in the bottom of the first a rather raw drizzle began to fall which kept up throughout the game. It lasted just as long as Lee, who pitched the complete 9 innings, giving up one unearned run in the ninth.

The bullpen continues to struggle. Matsui and Swisher also continue to struggle but then again so did everyone against Lee (except Jeter). A-Rod struck out three times, but hopefully that doesn’t get into his head. If he turns back into a pumpkin, the Yankees’ fairy tale is over.

I’m looking forward to a lively night tomorrow, though. No rain, and Pedro Martinez will be on the mound, which will surely rile the crowd into a frenzy. Here’s hoping for a better report tomorrow!

World Series Magic

October 27, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings, Yankee Fan Memories

It’s time to talk about signs and magic. In other words, do the Yankees have fate on their side? Every championship year seems to have its thread strung with some gems that presage special things happening.

In 1996 the magic moments were things like Dwight Gooden pitching a no-hitter after all the adversity he had gone through personally, and with his father on the verge of heart surgery. Of course, we have the perfect games in 1998 and 1999 from Wells and Cone.

This season had a plethora of special moments if we count the fifteen walk-off wins (which I certainly do!), and how about Melky hitting for the cycle? The first Yankee to do it since Tony Fernandez, who you may have forgotten but he was the starting shortstop before the arrival of a certain rookie named Derek Jeter. Jeter taking the lead in the all-time hits list certainly ranks up there, too.

And then there is New Stadium mojo to be taken into account. The Yankees were in the doldrums from 1965 until the renovation of the old Yankee Stadium, after which the Yankees returned to the postseason three straight years and won back to back World Series in 1977 and 1978. In 1996 they had a new stadium, too, in Tampa, as Legends Field debuted as a miniature of the big ballpark in the Bronx. And now, of course, we have the brand new cathedral. Will the ghosts come across the street?

And then we have the White House factor. Since the original Yankee Stadium was demolished, each time the Yankees have gone to the World Series, if a Republican was in office, they lost, but if a Democrat was in office, they won. Barack Obama is even an AL fan, a follower of the White Sox. Will the pattern keep up?

Only time will tell.

Year     Par  President
1976  L  Rep  Ford
1977  W  Dem  Carter
1978  W  Dem  Carter
1981  L  Rep  Reagan
1996  W  Dem  Clinton
1998  W  Dem  Clinton
1999  W  Dem  Clinton
2000  W  Dem  Clinton
2001  L  Rep  Bush II
2003  L  Rep  Bush II
2009  ?  Dem  Obama

ALCS Game 6: The 2009 Pennant is Won!

October 26, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

There was a party atmosphere in the Bronx prior to ALCS Game 6, as fans psyched themselves up to hopefully see their Yankees punch a ticket to the World Series for the first time in six years. “Tonight’s the night!” “Please let Pettitte have his stuff. Just let him have his stuff.” “The real fans are here tonight! The real Yankee people are here tonight!”

We arrived early to the game, two full days early, actually, given that Saturday night was a washout. We were a few blocks from the Stadium and just starting to look for a place to park when the announcement came over XM that the game had been called. We took a friend out to dinner instead, while torrential rains and lightning dominated the skies, and then this morning dawned clear and dry. There was a beautiful sunset just before we headed into El Molino Rojo, a Dominican Restaurant a few blocks from the Stadium, and by the time we came out, night had fallen and the crowds were thick on the streets heading for the game. There was no wind to speak of on a perfect autumn night.

“The real Yankee people” were chanting and cheering before the game even began. I’d never heard umpire introductions so lustily booed.

I was tickled to see Chuck Mangione play the National Anthem. After all, the last time I saw him play the anthem before a Yankees game, Dave Righetti went and pitched a no-hitter. (more…)

ALCS Game 5: Pitching, Pitching, Pitching

October 23, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings, Yankee Fan Memories

It was a game in which 280 pitches were thrown, but it was the very last one that decided it.

It was a game in which no pitcher was happy. In tonight’s game, Phil Hughes took the loss, and in postgame interviews put all the blame on his own shoulders, but the Yankees’ six-run uprising in the seventh inning was made necessary by A.J. Burnett’s dismal start out of the gate, and possible by Mike Scioscia yanking his protesting starter with two outs in the seventh only to see his bullpen melt down.

At first blush, it looks like Lackey was the one who was going to struggle. Derek Jeter, suffering from a cold but ever eager to play, singled on the first pitch of the game. Two pitches later, Johnny Damon pulled a ground ball to right for another base hit. But Lackey bore down, caught Teixeira looking, got A-Rod to pop up harmlessly, and then Matsui to ground weakly to first.

Then it was Burnett’s turn on the hill. He walked Chone Figgins on five pitches to start the game, then gave up four consecutive hits within the space of seven more pitches, and not a soft one in the bunch. That’s right, it took only 12 pitches for it to be 4-0 Angels. (more…)

ALCS Game 4: Yankees 10, Angels 1

October 21, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

He has homered in three straight postseason games.

He has now tied the record for consecutive postseason games with an RBI at eight. Sharing that record currently with Ryan Howard and Lou Gehrig.

He has 11 RBIs thus far this postseason and a combined ALDS/ALCS average of .407.

He is having the time of his life.

He is Alex Rodriguez, who has finally learned the Jeter knack of being a world beater, just going up there and relishing the chance to do something big.

Jeter is human. So are all the Yankees. Jeter himself got picked off first after a nice Jeterian hit into right to lead off the game. Oops. Jorge Posada forgot how many outs there were and ran off the field, leaving home plate unprotected with a man on third. Nick Swisher got picked off second, according to replays, although the umpire blew the call. The umpires are human, too. Tim McClelland, the veteran ump who called George Brett out for too much pine tar several decades ago, blew two calls at third base tonight, one for the Yankees (ruling only Posada out when both he and Cano had been tagged out) and one against them (Swisher for leaving the bag too early on a sac fly when he actually left right on time).

But right now Alex feels like Superman and the whole team is enjoying the ride on his cape.

One of the Yankees who was scuffling this October, Melky Cabrera, had a big game, going 3-for-3 with a walk, a run scored, and four RBIs. He got himself going with a bunt base hit in the third, then had a two-RBI single in the third, walked and scored on Damon’s homer in the 8th, and capped off the night with a two-RBI double in the ninth.

It’s nice to see Johnny break out with homers on back to back days, as well. Earlier in the postseason he didn’t seem to have his good swing going, but he stayed in the game by taking some balls the other way into left. Now he seems to be heating up. Now if only Teixeira will follow suit. He had only one hit tonight, after striking out twice against Kazmir, but in the first inning, the second to last pitch of the at bat he pulled deep into the left field seats, just foul.

Right now the only two players I am still worrying about are Swisher, who still doesn’t seem to be seeing the ball that well, despite working a walk in the third, and Posada, who still seems a little preoccupied, although he had a nice night at the plate, including a double and two walks, and a stolen base. Yes, you read that right, a stolen base… which makes me wonder if he missed a sign (or if Matsui did). Matsui was the only Yankee in tonight’s lineup who did not join the party, never reaching base in any fashion and ending up with the hat trick. He saw the ball well off John Lackey in Game 1, though, so hopefully he will again Thursday night.

I have tickets for the games this weekend should it come to that, but honestly I hope they just wrap things up in Anaheim on Thursday. The last trip to the World Series, in 2003, feels like a long time ago. Time to write some new history books, isn’t it, guys?

P.S. My full recap of tonight’s game will appear in the morning in the Baseball Early Bird newsletter. But it was an easy one to recap. Sabathia had it (8 IP, 1 solo homer, 5 Ks), and Kazmir didn’t (4+, 4 BB, 4 ER) and neither did anyone else in the La-La-Land bullpen, really, as the Yankees got at least one hit off each pitcher, and only Darren Oliver earned no runs. A-Rod and Damon hit homers, Melky had 4 RBIs, Jeter tallied two more hits, and what started out a tight game became a lopsided beating.

ALCS Game 2 Recap: Lucky Thirteen

October 18, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

Well, I jinxed myself when in my recap of Game 1 of the ALCS I mentioned that a low-scoring pitchers’ duel is so easy to summarize. So of course Game 2 had to be a crazy extra-innings classic full of missed opportunities and twists of fate.

It began with A. J. Burnett and lefty Joe Saunders. Burnett’s fastball was moving, and Saunders’ power sinker was getting ground balls. They each gave up two runs. Saunders blinked first, when Nick Swisher worked a two-out walk. It’s a good sign for the Yankees when Swisher walks, and perhaps it means he is getting back on track for the postseason. He came around to score immediately when Robinson Cano hit a triple that split Abreu and Hunter perfectly. The next inning Derek Jeter hit another postseason homer, another into the right field porch. Burnett’s armor cracked in the fifth. With the weather radar showing imminent pouring rain on the way, the Yankees wanted to get through the fifth with the lead, but Maicer Izturis led off with a double, then scored on a one-out single by Erick Aybar. Aybar himself came around as a result of Burnett’s struggles, first stealing a bag, then moving up on a walk, and scoring on a wild pitch.

The game would stay 2-2 for a long time. (more…)

ALCS Game 1: Angels at Yankees

October 16, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Yankee Fan Memories

The Yankees rode their big horse all the way to the ninth inning, and then handed the ball to the best postseason reliever of all time, while the Angels handed them two gift runs that would be all the ballclub from the Bronx would need to go up 1-0 in the ALCS. The rain stayed away, and although it was a cold weather game, only the wind was really a factor.

Jeter got the scoring started in the first, with one of his patented Jeterian hits to right field. He moved to third when Johnny Damon went the other way to drop a single into left in front of former Yankee Juan Rivera. Mike Scoscia looked like he wanted to bust a vein when Rivera threw the ball in badly, allowing Damon to go to second. John Lackey bore down and got a harmless pop off the bat of Teixeira, but then came Alex Rodriguez.

With his resurgent play this postseason, corwin and I have taken to saying “Here comes that man again,” every time he comes to the plate. Because more often than not, he does something good. This time it was a sac fly to center, scoring Jeter and bringing Matsui to the plate. Matsui popped up, too, but the wind was whipping, perhaps leading to some confusion as the ball dropped untouched on the infield. Damon scored all the way from second to make it 2-0.

The Angels got a run in the fourth when Vlad Guerrero cracked a ball that should have landed in the bullpen, but the wind knocked it down so that it fell on the warning track for a double instead. (My brother texted me from the cheesesteak line at the Stadium to say he thought it was blowing at least 20 mph.) Kendry Morales brought him in with a base hit, but that would be the only run that CC Sabathia would allow. By the end of the night, the Halos tallied only four hits total, Vlad’s double the only extra base hit. CC walked only one and struck out six.

Overall, the heart of the Angels’ order was 2 for 11 on the night with one walk, with Torii Hunter almost beating out a throw to first that had Scoscia out of the dugout to argue. The ball was fielded in front of the mound by Sabathia, who fired to Teixeira, who only got the ball by virtue of a textbook split stretch, where only his tippy toe was touching the bag. Replays on FOX showed the tippy toe. (Tippy toe is a technical term, you know.)

Lackey was good, too, but not as good with his defense faltering behind him. Damon led off the fifth with a double, another hit to the opposite field, and then Matsui knocked him in. In the sixth, with two outs, Melky worked a walk, then moved to second on Lackey’s own throwing error when he threw a pickoff away. Jeter brought him in right away with an RBI hit that ended Lackey’s night. He threw 114 pitches in 5.2 innings, 4 runs, 2 earned, striking out three and walking three.

Meanwhile, CC’s pitch count was at only 80 pitches after six, 98 pitches after seven. The Yankees had a long inning in the seventh, mounting a faux rally as pitcher Scott Bulger walked two and hit a batter to load the bases, only to come back and strike out Nick Swisher. (Swisher has looked off throughout this postseason so far, in that he seems to be swinging at bad pitches–ones he would normally take.) All through the long inning, CC stayed on the bench, his hands in his jacket pockets, waiting to go back out for the 8th. He had a 1-2-3 eighth, ending the night with 115 pitches.

The only reason I would question why it might have been better to go to Hughes in the eighth is that the Yankees plan to pitch Sabathia in game 4 on three days rest, so why push him to his limit? But perhaps it was better to just make sure this one was in the bag.

Which was what Mo Rivera did in his 80th postseason appearance. It took him a batter to shake off the rust, walking Torii Hunter to lead off the inning, but the next three batters went down relatively easily, in yet another postseason save.

Now if only the rain will hold off for Saturday’s game, too, and hopefully the Yankees will have the same result.

Bottom of the Ninth

October 13, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings

You could start a club this winter for elite closers whose blown saves sent their teams to early ends. Jonathan Papelbon, Huston Street, and Joe Nathan can start a therapy group. Or maybe they just need one more to make a golf foursome.

What people are forgetting is that Mariano Rivera could join that group. Rivera’s hall of fame credentials and consistency over so many years have softened the sharp facts that he, too, has several high profile blown saves in his career.

Take a look at 1997. It was his first year as closer. After spending 1996 being the 7th and 8th inning guy in the “Mo and Wett Show,” Mariano moved into the closing role when the Yankees let World Series hero John Wettland (who was always a heart-attack closer) move on. At that point, there was no dynasty yet, just a World Championship in 1996, the first since the 1970s, and the team could have faded back into the doldrums of mismanagement that had crippled them for so long. Instead, they managed to win the Wild Card and then faced Cleveland in the ALDS.

Going into game four, the Yankees held a 2-1 series lead and needed just one more win to advance, and they held a 2-1 lead in the game going into the 8th (more…)

ALDS Game 3: Yankees @ Twins Sweep

October 11, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

It’s over in Minnesota. The grounds crew is digging up home plate at the Metrodome to carry it over to Target Field, which will be the Twins’ new home come spring. But tonight it was Yankee cleats that crossed it most often.

In the end the only real surprise in the Yankees/Twins division series was that there were so few surprises. The biggest of them all was that the Twins, who are normally known for being such sound, fundamental baseball players, committed some baserunning gaffes. Tonight’s pivotal play involved Nick Punto.

Punto has been a revelation this series. He batted .444 and was a bulldog at taking pitches and working walks. But in this pitchers’ duel, in which Andy Pettitte and Carl Pavano traded zeroes for five full innings, every little thing could be big. In the sixth the Twins scored first, as they did in all three games in the series. This time it was the Twins who benefited from a blatantly bad umpiring call, when Orlando Cabrera stared at strike three right down Broadway, shown both on the WTBS Pitchtrax and MLB.com’s Gameday. But instead of watching the pitch, home plate umpire Mark Wegner was watching Denard Span run to second base. Jorge Posada held the pitch as long as he could without edging into outright protest, then lobbed it back to Pettitte, disgusted. A strikeout would have ended the inning. Instead Cabrera walked on the next pitch, and then Joe Mauer brought Span in on a single, before Michael Cuddyer struck out to end the inning.

But as in the previous two games in the series, as soon as the Twins scored, the Yankees answered. This time two Yankees in particular answered, as Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada both hit solo shots off Pavano in the seventh to make it 2-1 New York. In the end, Pavano pitched well, giving up only five hits (including the two homers), walking none and striking out nine in 7 innings. Pettitte went 6.1, striking out seven, giving up three hits and walking one. Pavano threw 95 pitches, 64 for strikes, while Pettitte threw 81 pitches, 58 for strikes.

Going into the eighth down a run, Punto led off the inning with a double in the left-center gap. If the Twins played small ball, their chance of tying the score with a runner in scoring position and no one out was very good. But Punto got greedy. When Denard Span hit a bounced up the middle, Punto rounded third as if he might score, despite his base coach emphatically trying to give him the stop sign. Derek Jeter snared the ball behind second and threw to Posada, and Punto frantically scrambled back to third. But Posada threw a strike to A-Rod who put the tag on the diving Punto to snuff the threat. WTBS captured the hair-pulling reactions in the Twins dugout.

It was the Twins’ last real threat, while New York tacked on two more insurance runs in the top of the ninth as Ron Mahay, Jon Rausch, and Sergio Mijares each walked a batter, and closer Joe Nathan was forced to come in and clean up the mess. He let up two singles, and two runs, before striking out Nick Swisher and Melky Cabrera.

After Mariano Rivera recorded a four out save to nail down the victory, the Yankees headed to their clubhouse for another round of champagne showers, while the Twins filtered out of their dugout one by one. The last man there was Nathan, but instead of heading to the clubhouse, he went to the mound and scooped up a handful of dirt to take home.

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