Monday, October 1, 2012


NO EXCUSES: YANKS NEED

TO STEP IT UP

 

TO MANY FANS, ONLY A FULL ROUND OF OCTOBER BASEBALL QUALIFIES AS 'PLAYOFFS'

 

 
 
By ALAN K. STOUT
Yankees Commentary
 
I’ve had some fun and engaging conversations over the past few days with people on Facebook regarding the state of the Yankees and the American League playoffs. And those that know me best know that, come October, I’m always up for talking some Yanks.

(Well, I suppose that is also true during the other 11 months of the year.)

Anyway, here’s a synopsis of my thoughts. As always, I’d love to hear yours …

I really like the new MLB wildcard system because it gives a greater reward to the teams that win their divisions. But, under the new system, I don’t consider securing a wildcard spot to be the same as clinching a “playoff” spot. Headlines in New York are saying the Yanks are in the playoffs. Really? Securing your place in a one-game showdown to advance to the ALDS is now considered making the playoffs? Maybe I’ve been spoiled for the past 17 years, but I can’t get too excited about that. It’s nice to know that even if you don’t win the division, you’ve still got a shot at moving forward, but the playoffs – in my opinion - don’t start until the Divisional Series. Every kid does not get a trophy. And based on the calls I’ve heard being made into WFAN, it seems most Yankee fans agree. The “The Yankees are in the playoffs” talk is being scoffed at.

If winning the Wild Card leads to moving on to the ALDS, fine. Whatever  it takes. The Yanks have won the Wild Card four times and, on one occasion, in 2010, moved on to the ALCS. But that was under the old format, where winning the Wild Card - with only one Wild Card team in each league - automatically put you in the ALDS. You were, indeed, in the playoffs.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d certainly rather take a shot in a one-game elimination game than pack up and go home, and it does keep more teams alive down to the final days of the season, but I don’t consider “the playoffs” to start until the ALDS. The three-tier tournament (ALDS, ALCS, World Series) is – to me– the playoffs. If the Yanks don’t make it to the ALDS, they didn’t make the playoffs. No disrespect to teams or fans that want to celebrate a Wild Card berth, but it just doesn’t mean as much as it did for the past 17 years. You could still be going home after just one extra game.

Mike Francesa of WFAN, who I pretty much always agree with, says the Yankees are a “flawed team” this year with quite a few question marks, but adds that he enjoys that about them. I agree. Maybe they’ve limped to the finish line, but they have hung in there and battled. I like these guys.

One thing, however, that I will not do for the Yanks, should they reach the ALDS, is make excuses. I will give them a pass on the division lead eroding over the past two and a half months. You can’t lose your No. 2 starter, your No. 3 hitter and your No. 4 hitter for huge chunks of the season and not see a drop-off. I truly believe that if Andy doesn’t get hurt, he wins 15 games this year - not 5 - and the Yanks would have clinched the East a few days ago. It’d be over. And you can’t take A-Rod and Texiera out of the lineup for 79 games and not see a drop-off. With those guys in the lineup, I also think you tack on a few more wins this year and the Yanks would have clinched the East a few days ago. And remember, CC was also on the DL twice. Those aren't excuses. They are facts.

 BUT THAT IS OVER.

Everybody, except for Mo, is back. Andy is back. A-Rod is back. Tex is coming back tonight. Even Gardner is back. The team on the field tonight is the team the Yanks had on Opening Day, with the exception of a future Hall of Famer (Ichiro) in the outfield. No talk about being old and dinged up. All teams are dinged up after 159 games. Soriano - though not as lights-out as Mo – had a fine season. He filled the role of closer just fine. All hands are on deck. If they win, it’s because they built a good team. If they lose, it’s because the team they built was not good enough. The team they have heading into the postseason is the team they wanted on the field in the postseason.
No excuses.
Just  pitch.  

Just hit.

Just win.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


'The Banner' and our 'Chosen' nickname for Don Mattingly



By ALAN K. STOUT
COMMENTARY


If you were a fan of the New York Yankees in the 1980s, your favorite player was probably Don Mattingly. He won an American League batting title, an American League MVP award, he played first base better than few ever had, and even though he was surrounded by All-Stars such as Dave Winfield and Rickey Henderson, he was the heart and soul of the Yankees.

He was The Captain.

At the time, Mattingly hadn't yet received the nickname for which he is best known, " Donnie Baseball." That title, given to him by the great Kirby Puckett, really didn't come until a few years later. My friends and I, however, already had our own nickname for Don Mattingly.

We called him "The Chosen One."

In 1986, a movie starring Eddie Murphy was released called "The Golden Child." And the slogan for the film - seen on all of its promotional materials - was "Eddie Murphy is The Chosen One." I thought it was pretty cool, as did my friends, most of whom were also huge Yankees fans. One friend started referring to Mattingly as "The Chosen One," and it immediately stuck. We all started calling him that. We even had a Mattingly poster hanging up in my parents' basement, where we always hung out, and I decided to cut "The Chosen One" words off of a movie poster for "The Golden Child" and put them right on the Mattingly poster.


We loved it.


The original "modified" Don Mattingly poster which hung in my parents' basement.  

Sometimes, we simply referred to Mattingly as "Chosen." If we were watching a game, and Mattingly got a big hit, one of us would yell "Chosen!" And towards the end of the '80s, when the quality of the Yankee team declined and players like Winfield and Henderson were traded away, the nickname seemed even more fitting. Donnie was our guy. For about five years, from 1989-1992, he was the only great Yankee left. And though a bad back had depleted some of his skills, he was still, to us, "The Chosen One."

We used to go to Yankee games all the time during those years. We loved the Yanks, we loved being at Yankee Stadium, and even though the team was lousy, there was always Donnie. At one point, I recall thinking how it might be pretty cool if Mattingly could somehow know about our nickname for him. I thought, if nothing else, he'd get a kick out of it, and Lord knows he probably could have used a little bit of levity with a Yankee team that was certainly not going to the playoffs. And so, I had an idea: "Let's make a huge 'Don Mattingly Is The Chosen One' banner and take it to a game."

One of our friends who was a talented artist agreed make the banner, and he did a great job. It looked good, and as planned, we started taking it to Yankee games. And that's when this story gets amusing. The very first time we took it, we hung it from one of the high upper decks at the Stadium, and I'll never forget seeing a couple of guys on the Yankees pointing up to it during batting practice and chuckling. They made sure Donnie saw it, too, and that alone was worth the effort. At that moment, we knew that Don Mattingly was aware that there were at least a couple of fans out there who had their own nickname for him, and it appeared he'd gotten a kick out of it.


My friends and I hang "The Chosen One" banner at Yankee Stadium



But the saga of what we now call "The Banner" was just beginning.

At one game to which we took the banner, Mattingly homered, and as he was rounding the bases, they put the banner up on the huge video screen in centerfield. Everybody in the stadium saw it, and we later heard that it was also on TV.


'The Banner' appears on the centerfield scoreboard as Don Mattingly rounds the bases


In 1997, the year Mattingly officially announced his retirement, my friend called and, in and excited tone, said he needed to see me right away. When I later caught up with him, he smiled and handed me a copy of the 1997 New York Yankees Official Yearbook. Inside, there was a special tribute section to Mattingly. And ... a picture of the banner.

We couldn't believe it.



'The Banner' as it appears in the 1997 New York Yankees Yearbook

Years later, the YES Network, which is owned and operated by the Yankees, began producing hour-long documentaries on great Yankees players. Each is called a "Yankeeography," and of course, they did one on Mattingly. And in his "Yankeeography," there was a segment on how beloved he was by the fans. And there it was ... a shot of the banner.



'The Banner' also appeared in Don Mattingly's "Yankeeography"

As you'd imagine, my friends and I always got a kick out of these things. I still have the banner, and after seeing it on the huge video screen at Yankee Stadium, seeing it in the Yankees Yearbook and on a "Yankeeography," we thought we'd seen it all. Until this week, when I was reading a new book  titled "Donnie Baseball: The Definitive Biography of Don Mattingly."  And on page 125, Mattingly himself actually talks about the banner, and how he did indeed find it very amusing.

Don Mattingly talks about 'The Banner' is a new biography about his life in baseball. (Click to enlarge)

I don't know if you could imagine what it felt like to be reading a book about your favorite baseball player of all-time and to come across such a passage. It was unreal. More than 23 years after we first took it to Yankee Stadium, Don Mattingly still remembers our banner, and is obviously aware that in addition to "Donnie Baseball" he still has another nickname, at least among a small group of fans.

To us, Don Mattingly was, is, and will always be "The Chosen One."



















































Monday, October 10, 2011

Yankee Stadium: "The Moat" must go

















Today on Facebook, we are launching a new page. Titled, "The Moat at Yankee Stadium is a Pathetic Embarrassment," its goal is to force the ownership and upper-management of the New York Yankees to do something about godawful select-seating at the new ballpark which has sucked the life out of the Stadium and has destroyed the greatest home-field advantage in baseball.

We are tired of seeing all of the empty "Moat" seats at Yankee Stadium, even during important post-season games. And please, don't tell us that "the seats are sold." We don't care if people that bought those seats are in luxury suites under the stands eating prime rib and watching the game on high-def flat screens. We want the Yankees front office to find a way to get people back into the seats for the games. We want our ballpark to look just like every other ballpark, with engaged and enthusiastic fans sitting behind the dugouts and behind home plate, cheering on the team.

Two suggestions:

1. The Yankees could have a special promotional "Moat Picture Day" at the Stadium early next season, where common-folk fans who actually know who Jesus Montero and Ivan Nova are can be photographed in "The Great Hall" prior to a game. Those photos could then be made into large, life-sized cardboard cutouts and placed into "The Moat" during other games. At least we might be able to fool some of the TV cameras and not be embarrassed every time the Yankees are on television.

2. This one might make more sense and be a lot more do-able: Simply turn the area of "The Moat" into a lower-level box seats area, the same as it was at the old Yankee Stadium and that same as it is every other stadium in Major League Baseball. Keep the prices high if you must, though we think $200 should be the maximum. Keep the waitresses, too, if you'd like. But get rid of the suites underneath "The Moat" and just make them concession stands. Create a reason for people to want to be in their seat. (For most fans, the fact that there is a New York Yankees baseball game taking place would be more than enough, but that's apparently not good enough for most of your clientele.) Also, open the area to foot traffic for the entire stadium before the games. Let kids walk down there during BP to try to get a closer look at the players. Don't make people feel ostracized and inferior. Fix the vile and elitist environment that you have created at the Stadium and, for God's sake, find a way to have people in their seats during the ballgame. Watch a Yankees/Red Sox game at Fenway Park - where you couldn't get another human being in there with a shoehorn -and try to replicate the atmosphere. And if you can't do that, simply get out a videotape of a game at the old Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees have the best fans in baseball and the largest fan-base. They are knowledgeable, passionate and loyal. We love the new stadium and we fill it with 45,000 people a night. But please do something about the pathetic and embarrassing "Moat." It's been three years now and the problem is not going away.

It is a disgrace.

Do you agree? If so, please "Like" our page on Facebook at:

http://www.facebook.com/themoatmustgo

Friday, October 7, 2011

Bats - not arms - cost Yankees ALDS












By Alan K. Stout
COMMENTARY

The 2011 American League Divisional Series between the Yankees and Tigers ended last night, with the Yankees losing the decisive Game 5 by a score of 3-2 at Yankee Stadium. I blogged last week about how I felt the team was playing with "house money" in the post-season this year, because I really didn't feel as if they had enough starting pitching to battle through MLB's often brutal three-tier playoff tournament. I was not alone, as it seemed few people were picking the Yanks to win. But after watching the games, we now know the Yankees pitching was not the problem.

It was the bats that cost them the ALDS.

A-Rod hit .111.

Texiera hit .167.

Swisher hit . 211

That - more than anything - killed the Yankees.

The starting pitching really wasn't bad at all. The Yankees were in every game that they lost and, with the exception of Game 2 - when they were no-hit for six innings -they had plenty of chances. They left tons of men on base. They did not get the big hits. And they lost three games by a total of four runs.

Most of the blame falls on the 4-5-6 guys in the lineup. Overall, the Yanks hit .260 in the series and had 45 hits, which isn't bad for the playoffs and certainly not bad considering they got nothing from the heart of the order. Yet already, some of the idiots on sports-talk radio are saying that Girardi was "too tight" as he managed the team in Game 5 and implied that he managed with fear. Bullshit. The only reason he took Nova out in the second was because he got hurt. And while I did think he was a little bit quick in yanking Hughes, the only move he made that I didn't really feel good about was bringing in Sabathia. There was just something about CC's body language on the mound that didn't look right to me. He looked tired, and the one run he did cough up did come back to haunt the Yanks. But let's not get carried away and start piling on Joe Girardi. His starter gave up two runs in the first inning and then got hurt, and he still pieced together a game in which Detroit ended up with only one more run. If some of the big bats got a few hits, we'd be talking about what a brilliant job Girardi did in patching the game together.

Another easy and not-so-smart thing to do today is to start bitching about how the Yankees are "old." It's an easy cop-out after a tough loss, but it's an exaggeration. Go around the entire diamond in your mind, and you'll realize that we've got a guy at shortstop and a guy at third base that are in their mid-30s, but other than that, this is not really an old team. We also have an above average bullpen and some nice young talent on the roster. Other than trying to improve the starting rotation, there is no need to "blow the whole thing up." They need to keep Sabathia and try to get a strong No. 2. That's it. I also might consider letting Swisher walk, but I'm not sure what's out there on the market to replace him. He is a very good regular season player hitting in the six hole, but he seems to be very streaky and vanishes in October. Cashman needs to figure that one out.

One other thing I realized in watching the ALDS is that the Yankees, when facing another team's ace pitcher, never seem to win. Just once, it'd be nice to see the big thumpers smack somebody like Verlander around in a playoff game, but that never, ever seems to happen. And with the way the heart of the order hit in this series, it would be very hard to imagine them getting a couple of wins off of some of the other pitchers they would have faced in the ALCS or World Series. But ... we'll never know.

Again, it was the bats that cost the Yankees the ALDS, not the the arms. And while I'd usually say there are many reasons that a team loses a post-season series, and that it's usually just too difficult to nail it down to just one, I can do just that in this case. One reason. Three stats:

A-Rod - .111.

Texiera - .167.

Swisher - .211

Enough said.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Yankees playing with 'house money' in playoffs


By ALAN K. STOUT
COMMENTARY

I'm having some odd feelings today as the Yankees prepare to play in Game 1 of the American League Divisional Series. I'm excited and very jacked up to watch tonight's game, and I've got a ticket for Game 2 tomorrow night and will be Bronx-bound. This will be my first post-season game at the new Yankee Stadium, and I plan to make my voice heard.

But for the first time in my life as a Yankee fan, as we enter the playoffs, I feel like we're playing with "house money," with not as much pressure to win it all. Yes, I know we've got a huge payroll and we've got several big stars on the roster, but the starting rotation that the Yankees are taking into this October might be the most questionable post-season staff they've ever had. Sabathia is as good anyone, but after that, well ... we all know the deal. Burnett, who started the season as our No. 2 guy, has been banished to a bullpen mop-up role for the playoffs. Our No. 2 guy, Nova, is one of my favorite players, but Game 2 can be a huge game in a playoff series, and the fact is we will be handing the ball to a rookie.

The last time the Yankees won the World Series, back in 2009, our No. 3 starter was Andy Pettite, who won Game 3 and Game 6. This year, the ball goes to scrap-heap castoff Freddie Garcia, who had a nice season and has had some post-season success, but who wasn't even named the No. 3 guy until yesterday. Sabathia will go on three days rest in the ALDS, but should the Yanks advance to the ALCS and World Series, we really don't even know who will get the ball in Game 4. Colon? He wasn't even kept on the roster for the ALDS.

This brings me back to my "house money" comment. Today, I heard on several sports-talk radio shows that the Philadelphia Phillies are the "heavy, heavy, heavy favorites" to win the World Series. Well, of course they are. I think we knew that in March. With their starting rotation, anything other than a World Championship in Philadelphia would be a catastrophic disappointment. Some people I heard on the radio today don't even think the Yanks will get by Detroit in the first round, and certainly not by Texas should they play them in the ALCS.

And so it's "house money" for the Yankees. Not much respect. Not as much pressure. No expectations, outside of their own clubhouse and amongst their fans, for a World Championship. The Yankees, who some didn't even think would make the playoffs, are underdogs.

Look, I'm not trying to be overly dramatic. It would be foolish to try to paint a team with a payroll like the Yankees have as the "little-engine-that-could." Their offense is as good as anyone's and they hit a ton of home-runs. If a game gets into a slug-fest, I'll take my chances on the Yanks anytime. But post-season games aren't usually slug-fests. If they were, the team the Yankees put on the field from 2004-2007 - with guys like Sheffield and Giambi in the middle of the lineup and Bernie Williams batting ninth - might have won a World Championship. But they didn't really have the pitching. And maybe the 2011 Yankees don't either.

And so, it's "house money." We play to win. We want to win. We think we can win. But if we don't win, it is not - as it would be in Philly - a catastrophic disappointment. Looking back, there were so many things that made the 2009 World Championship special:

1. The new Yankee Stadium opened that year.
2. It was George Steinbrenner's last World Series.
3. It was Johnny Damon's and Hideki Matsui's last season in New York.
4. A-Rod hit the series-crushing blow against Philadelphia in Game 4, which helped dethrone the reigning World Champs.
5. I hate Philadelphia fans. They were cocky and obnoxious going into that series - as always - and actually thought that by waving towels at their ballpark it could actually intimidate a team from New York. They said they "wanted the Yankees," and they got them. And they pretty much got their ass kicked.

And so, even should the Yankees lose to Philadelphia this year, we still won the one that I really, really wanted. And historically, we have actually beaten them twice in the World Series, as there was also a four-game sweep in 1950. And, again, they have been proclaimed the "heavy, heavy, heavy favorites" by everyone. So I am going to enjoy this post-season with little pressure. I love the 2011 Yankees. I love the fact they've got quite a few young guys on the team, and I'm going to savor, relish and enjoy watching Rivera, Jeter and Posada on the big post-season stage once again. You never know when it will be the last time for those guys, and watching them take a shot at this thing almost every October for the past 15 years has been a privilege.

The drive for #28 begins tonight.

We live for this.

And to me, what makes it even more fun, is that this one is on the house.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Actions, not steroids, should keep Manny Ramirez out of Cooperstown


By Alan K. Stout
COMMENTARY

When word came down today that Manny Ramirez had unexpectedly retired, and that he had done so mostly because he had failed yet another test for performance enhancing drugs, the talk immediately steered towards whether or not his badly stained reputation would hurt his chances of being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. I watched a pretty good discussion of the topic on the MLB Network and heard some others on ESPN Radio, and the general consensus among some very smart baseball people is that Ramirez - despite his incredible talent - will never receive the honor.

I would tend to agree. But Ramirez's use of PEDs is only a part of the reason I'd never put him in the Hall of Fame. I'd keep him out because he didn't always use his talent - a talent that made him one of the most feared hitters of his time. I'd keep him out because he often shortchanged his fans and his teammates. I'd keep him out because, at times, he was a complete bum of a baseball player.

Unfortunately, in all of the discussions I'd heard today, that seemed to had been forgotten. All of the talk was about how great of a player Manny was, and how the juice had brought him down, and how that will probably keep him out of Cooperstown. But if you ask some diehard Red Sox fans, or baseball fans in general, their memory might be a little more clear. I'm sure they remember how Ramirez played himself - or, more accurately, un-played himself - right out of Beantown.

Ramirez was making nearly $19 million dollars from the Red Sox for the 2008 season and the team had an option to retain him in 2009 for $20 million. They had the same option for 2010. But that wasn't good enough for Ramirez, who wanted to be a free agent at the end of the year. Only a trade, however, would put him on the market. So what did Manny do? He essentially stopped playing. And he acted like a fool.

There was a heated altercation with teammate Kevin Youkilis, a ballplayer's ballplayer who always plays the game hard. And there was even a physical altercation between Ramirez and an elderly Red Sox traveling secretary. The two were arguing over the secretary's inability to fill Ramirez's large game-day request for 16 tickets to the game, and Ramirez pushed the 64-year-old man to the ground. In late July, according to Boston.com, after sitting out a game against the Mariners with a sore knee, Ramirez was slated to start against the Yankees. Several minutes before the game, however, he informed the team he would not be playing. During the series Ramirez was sent to an area hospital for MRIs on both his knees, where the results showed no damage. When back in action, Ramirez frequently failed to run out ground balls. And in one of those games against the arch-rival Yankees, Red Sox manager Terry Francona simply asked Ramirez to pinch-hit in a big spot in the 9th inning. Facing Mariano Rivera, the usually aggressive Ramirez never took the bat off his shoulders, taking three straight strikes down the plate.

That's what Ramirez did in the middle of a pennant race. That's how he went about earning his $19 million. That's how he went about repaying the loyal Red Sox fans who had come to accept his zany "Manny being Manny" ways. That's how he played before thousands of adoring young kids at Fenway Park who wore his name on their backs. That's how he played for his teammates.

He quit on them. And he disgraced the game.

Soon - within days of all of this - Manny had gotten his way. He was traded to the Dodgers, where he went on a hitting tear and was rewarded with a two-year $45 million dollar contract. He returned the favor by being suspended for the first 50 games of the 2009 season for failing a drug test. Previously, it was reported that he also allegedly failed a test in 2003 and was included in the infamous "Mitchell Report." And now, in 2011, he's failed yet another.

This, many say, will keep Ramirez out of the Hall of Fame. But to those with a better memory, his actions in Boston in the summer of 2008 provide for an even greater blackmark on his career. Other great players have been linked to PEDs. None, however, ever appeared to not be trying their best to help their team win ballgames.

And for that alone, Manny's door to Cooperstown should be forever closed.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Yankees trip to Cincinnatti






Date: June 20, 21 and 22
(Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday)
Place: The Great American Ballpark - Cincinnati, Ohio

TRIP INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
* Roundtrip Bus Transportation
* Beer, Soda and Food
* Two games - Monday and Tuesday night
* Excellent seats for both games – Section 113
($60 Field Level Box Seats)

Hotel Accommodations:
Millennium Hotel
* 3 blocks from stadium
* Walking distance from Cincinnati Zoo and other attractions
(Rooms based on double-occupancy: two full beds per room)

PRICE $350.00 for all of the above
Contact John Chernesky – 287-9701

NO EXCUSES: YANKS NEED TO STEP IT UP   TO MANY FANS, ONLY A FULL ROUND OF OCTOBER BASEBALL QUALIFIES AS 'PLAYOFFS'    ...