Results tagged ‘ Yankees ’

Rivera knee surgery went better than expected

ATLANTA –- Surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Mariano Rivera’s right knee went off better than expected on Tuesday when no repairable damage was found in the meniscus in the damaged knee, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

That was good news.

“The less you have to do, the better off you are,” Girardi said before Tuesday’s rematch against the Braves at Turner Field. “I’d think that’s good news. I’m sure Mo is anxious to get going.”

The 42-year-old Rivera tore the ACL and reportedly damaged the meniscus in his right knee while shagging fly balls in the outfield May 3 before a game in Kansas City.

He would have had the surgery sooner, but doctors discovered a blood clot in his right calf after the knee injury and he had to take blood-thinning medication to eradicate the clot. When that was fully dissolved he was able to undergo the knee surgery, which was performed in New York by Dr. David Altchek, the Mets’ team physician.

“He got it repaired,” Girardi said. “It’s another step toward him coming back. We’re all expecting to see Mo next year. I don’t think we’re going to see him pitch again this year.”

Rivera, the Major League all-time leader with 608 regular-season saves and 42 more in the playoffs, tweeted on Tuesday afternoon that the surgery had gone fine.

“My surgery was a success, it went perfectly,” he wrote. “I am looking forward to beginning my rehab soon. Thanks as always for your prayers.”

Girardi said there was no timeline for Rivera’s return. Rivera had said in the days after sustaining the injury that he wasn’t going to end his career on a sour injury note and would work hard to return next season.

“A lot of guys, it’s whatever their bodies allow them to do,” Girardi said. “They can give you a timetable, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be before or after. I think we expect him next year.”

Gardner mum on injury status

ATLANTA –- If Yankees left-fielder Brett Gardner knows what the outcome will be of the examinations this week on his strained right elbow, he wasn’t saying in the clubhouse prior to Tuesday night’s rematch against the Braves at Turner Field.

He saw Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion on Monday and is scheduled to be examined by Reds orthopedic physician Timothy Kremchek for a third stab at it on Thursday. Surgery is certainly a possibility, delaying his return until well into the second half of the season.

“I prefer not to talk about what Andrews said at this point,” Gardner said. “I’m going to see Kremchek on Thursday and I’ll tell you guys what the decision is after that. I want to get all the information together before I say anything. Hopefully it will be positive and we’ll go from there.”

Gardner has been on the disabled list since making a diving catch at Yankee Stadium against the Twins on April 17. He’s tried to recoup twice, but has shut it down both times. The elbow injury is particularly bothering him when he takes his swings at the plate.

He played in nine games and was batting .321 at the time of the injury. Gardner said that the goal undoubtedly is to play again sometime this year.

“That’s what the hope is. That’s what it certainly is in my mind,” Gardner said. “I’ve done everything I can do and the training staff has done everything it can possibly do over the last seven weeks to get me back out on the field. It hasn’t worked out the way we thought, but hopefully I’ll be back soon.” 


Dark cloud hovers over 1984 Padres

PHOENIX — When Braves Minor League manager Luis Salazar was recently struck in the face by a line drive and lost his left eye, it was another strange hit to the 1984 Padres, the first team in club history to win the National League pennant and ascend to the World Series. They lost in five games to the Tigers.

Salazar was a back up infielder, displaced at third base by an aging Craig Nettles, who was obtained in a trade with the Yankees just prior to the start of that regular season. This year, Salazar was standing in the dugout during a Spring Training game in Florida and didn’t know what hit him.

There is a dark cloud hovering over the ’84 Padres team and this was just the latest incident.

Starting pitcher Eric Show and second baseman Alan Wiggins died young, Show, at 37 of a drug overdose, Wiggins at 32, from AIDs linked to the injection of drugs.

Then there is the cancer cluster. Dave Dravecky lost his left (throwing) arm to cancer. Coach Jack Krol died of cancer related to his constant use of chewing tobacco. And Tony Gwynn, the NL batting champion that season and an eight-time winner in his 20-year career, is battling cancer for the same reason.

Phil Collier, the beat writer for the San Diego Union who covered that team, was diagnosed that year with prostate cancer and eventually died from it. Wayne Lockwood and Barry Lorge, both columnists for the Union back then, are also gone. Wayne had Parkinson’s and Barry died of cancer. Bob Chandler, a now retired Padres play-by-play announcer, is a prostate cancer survivor. I was the beat writer for the San Diego Tribune that season and I’ve survived colon cancer — not once, but twice. In another ironic twist, I’ve been blind in my left eye since a childhood accident.

Ray Kroc, the McDonald’s founder and club owner who saved the team for San Diego, had a major stroke and died before the start of that season. The Padres wore an “RAK” patch on their shoulders all that year to honor him. His wife and successor, Joan, died in 2003 because of a brain tumor.

With apologies to the 1998 Padres team that also went to World Series where they were swept by the Yankees, the postseason in ’84 is still the most exciting week of Major League Baseball ever played in San Diego. It was staged at the old ballpark in Mission Valley before it was expanded and enclosed for football in front of raucous crowds of almost 60,000 for every game.

It included the Padres’ come-from-behind victory over the Cubs in what was the final best-of-five NL Championship Series.

Steve Garvey won Game 4 in Mission Valley with a two-run walk off homer in the bottom of the ninth. In Game 5 there was Tim Flannery’s grounder that skidded through the legs of Leon Durham, the first baseman whose glove had been accidentally doused in Gatorade by Ryne Sandberg, the NL’s MVP that season. The Padres even split the first two World Series games, winning Game 2 at home over a Tigers team that won 111 games — including the postseason — and was clearly one for the ages. Unfortunately they lost the next three at old Tiger Stadium.

To those among the survivors — Dick Williams and Jack McKeon, Tim Lollar and Andy Hawkins, Steve Garvey and Puff Nettles, Goose Gossage and Garry Templeton, Kevin McReynolds and Carmelo Martinez, Craig Lefferts and the first Greg Harris, Ballard Smith and Dick Freeman, and of course, Bruce Bochy, Terry Kennedy and Tim Flannery — stay well and healthy.

And to Louie a speedy recovery. May the wind always be at your backs.

Pettitte retired, but he won’t be out of the news

It was just a coincidence, Andy Pettitte, said on Friday, that he decided to formally retire shortly after a federal judge ruled that lawyers for Roger Clemens will be able to cross exam the left-handed pitcher this summer when the Rocket soars into court.

Pettitte won’t throw off a Major League mound for the Yankees this season, but he will be front and center as a key witness when Clemens goes to trial, which is slated to begin in Washington on July 6.

During his lengthy retirement media conference at Yankee Stadium, Pettitte said that the pending Clemens trial had “zero” effect on his decision. The question seemed to be the giant elephant in the room.

“I would hope that anyone or any of you guys who have followed me through that whole situation would know that it has not had any effect, zero in my decision,” Pettitte responded when the question was finally asked 20 minutes into the conference. “I would never let that interfere with those life decisions I’m [making] for me and my family. That has literally had no impact on my decision, no impact on my life.”

Clemens, who is charged with lying to Congress about his use of performance-enhancing drugs, was questioned by United States District Judge Reggie Walton on Wednesday about a possible conflict of interest involving one of his attorneys — Rusty Hardin. The bombastic Houston lawyer also advised Pettitte for a short time after the pair of pitchers were named in the Mitchell Report as PED users in December 2007. Clemens waived his rights about the conflict and another attorney will cross examine Pettitte.
Pettitte said he used human growth hormone. In a deposition before the famous Congressional hearing in February 2008, Pettitte admitted that transgression and said he had knowledge that Clemens also used HGH when the two were teammates. Pettitte was excused from the hearing. Clemens was advised not to testify. When he insisted and did so under oath he said that Pettitte “misremembered” the incident. It was one of the numerous times the Justice Dept. has charged that Clemens committed perjury that day.

Pettitte said he was at the end of line in his 16-year career anyway, that he could have physically continued to pitch, but “didn’t have his heart in it.” He missed almost the entire second half of the 2010 season because of a severely pulled groin and his absence alone certainly contributed to the Yankees barely losing the American League East title to the Rays. But it probably wouldn’t have been prudent for him to appear at the Clemens trial during the middle of the 2011 season. At 39, he can take the year off, get through the turmoil and perhaps give it another shot.

“I’ve been thinking about that, too,” Pettitte said. “I believe I’m done. I would not be doing what I’m doing right now if I didn’t think I was done. And I don’t know what I’m going to feel like two months from now, three months from now. I can tell you one thing: I am not going to play again this season.  I can tell you that 100 percent. But I guess you can never say never. I don’t think I’d be scared if I went through this whole season and I had a hurt in my stomach saying I wanted to pitch.  Maybe I’ll try it again.  But I don’t plan on pitching again. I think that me taking the mound every fifth day is over.”

Just when we thought Major League Baseball’s steroid era was behind us, it’s going to rear its ugly head again this year. First Barry Bonds will go to trial in San Francisco on March 21 for perjury in a case that is so old it defies the imagination. Bonds is charged with lying about his PED use in grand jury testimony regarding the BALCO case that was given in late 2003. Clemens will then go to trial in the nightcap a few months later. That’s only the top hitter and arguably the top pitcher of the era. Both will be on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2013.

Pettitte took the honorable path, publicly apologized for his mistake and then went on with his life and career. With a 240-138 regular season record and 19 postseason wins, he has Hall of Fame credentials similar to those of Hall of Famer Whitey Ford, another famous Yankees left-hander who had a 236-106 record and 10 postseason victories, all in the World Series.

That decision is for 2016 when Pettitte’s name will first appear on the ballot. No matter. Though he won’t be on the mound, he’ll certainly be back in the news in a big way again this summer.

Garv, Boss my picks on new Hall of Fame ballot

I don’t vote for the 12 people who are on the latest Veterans edition of the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. That will have to wait until early next month when the annual list is sent out to eligible members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

But if I was on the 16-member Expansion era committee, which is charged with voting by the Dec. 6 Winters Meetings in Orlando, Fla., the choices would be easy: I’d go with the Garv and the Boss.

Why Steve Garvey never made it during his 15 years on the Writer’s ballot has always been a mystery to me. I voted for him every time, although he always finished somewhere in the middle of the pack. Despite his obvious impact on Major League Baseball, this is George Steinbrenner’s first time on a ballot considered by any configuration of the Vets committee with the express purpose of voting for owners.

The Garv: National League MVP in 1974, All-Star MVP in 1974 when he won his spot as a write in, NL Championship Series MVP twice — once in 1978 for the Dodgers and again in ’84 with the Padres when he had the single best offensive NLCS game I’ve ever seen: 4-for-5, 5 RBIs, and a walk-off, two-run homer to win Game 4 in San Diego against the Cubs. Still an NL record 1,207 consecutive games played. Need I go on?

The Boss: Made free agency what it is today with his signings of Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson and Goose Gossage from 1976-78. Under his sometimes chaotic guidance the Yankees won seven World Series and 11 American League pennants after he bought the club in 1973. The rest of what today constitutes the American League East has won the Fall Classic a TOTAL of five times during that same period — Toronto and Boston twice each, Baltimore once. If the Hall is about numbers, those are incredible numbers.

This is not to say there aren’t plenty of other worthy people on the new Vet ballot. Marvin Miller and Pat Gillick should also be elected. I’ve also always thought that Ron Guidry and Ted Simmons have been seriously overlooked.

But if I were among the august Gang of 16 my first choices would be the Garv and the Boss. To garner the necessary 75 percent they each need 12 of the 16 votes. I’ll be waiting.

A-Rod must fight pressure to reach 762

Alex Rodriguez will certainly reach the 600-homer plateau, whether it’s tonight, tomorrow or next week. The real question is whether A-Rod can ultimately catch and pass Barry Bonds, the all-time home run leader at 762?

The fact that A-Rod has gone 12 games, 46 at bats and 51 plate appearances since he hit 599 doesn’t auger well. It’s by far the longest drought of the six players who went before him. It took Willie Mays 22 at bats at 39 in 1970 to go from 599-600. It took Ken Griffey Jr. 18 at bats at 38 in 2008.  Bonds, Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714) and Sammy Sosa (609) took less.

“The way I’m swinging now, it’s probably going to take a while — everybody get comfortable,” the Yankees third baseman said on Saturday night.

It goes without saying that the longer it takes now, the more grueling it’s going to be later. A-Rod just turned 35 and has seven years to go on his Yankees contract that ends in 2017 at 42. That means he’ll have to average about 23 homers a year between now and then to do it.

Bonds, the Giants slugger, was 43 and playing on surgically repaired knees when he passed Aaron on Aug. 7, 2007, at AT&T Park. It took him three days from the night he tied the record in San Diego to the night he broke it against the Nationals.

Bonds, who has was born on July 24, hit 195 of his homers during the seasons in which he turned 38 to 43. And that doesn’t count the 73 he hit in 2001. His last 40-homer year was 45 at 39 in 2004. He last played in 2007. 

Aaron hit 163 homers from the ages of 37-42. His last 40-homer season was at 39 for the Braves in 1973, the year before he broke Ruth’s record. He retired in 1976.

A-Rod may have already peaked. His last 40-homer  season was 54 the year he turned 32 in 2007. Since then he’s been on a steady decline: 35 in ’08, 30 in ’09 when he missed the first month because of hip surgery, and currently 16. He’ll need a barrage of homers the last two months of this season to  hit 30 again, a mark he’s either reached or surpassed every year since 1998.

The good news for Rodriguez is that he’ll need less homers at an advanced baseball age to break the all-time record than Aaron and Bonds did before him. The bad news is that he has a nagging hip injury that somewhere down the road ultimately may lead to more surgery.

“If he stays healthy enough, if he plays the game the way he always has,
he has a great shot at it,” Bonds said about A-Rod’s chances of passing
him. “He just needs to stay focused. There are a lot of reporters
around all the time. You’ve got to separate yourself from that. You want
to do well for your teammates on top of everything else that’s swirling
around. A home run, base hit, whatever. To win the game for your team
is the most important thing.”

On the field, this is what Bonds had to overcome: He missed the last six weeks of the 1994 season because of the strike, part of the ’99 season with an elbow injury, almost all of the ’05 season because of the knee injuries, and walked a record 2,558 times. Despite all that and a plethora of off-field pressures and problems, he broke the record.

As far as A-Rod is concerned, the health issue is the first caveat. Let’s add this second: He better learn to deal with the media attention and the accruing pressure or he’s certainly not going to make it. If it’s taking him this long to get to 600, when he gets to 762 he doesn’t realize what he’ll be facing.


Winter Classic was a must see; Yankee Stadium next?

Going back to the old six-team league, I am a hockey nut of the worst order. As I told my good friend and colleague Ian Browne today via Twitter as the Winter Classic played itself out at Fenway Park: Give me a hockey game and baseball game every day. Sprinkle in a few Bruce concerts. I’ll even take U2. Then I’m a happy man. He agreed on all accounts.

The Flyers-Bruins tilt ended much like a Stanley Cup finals clinching game — the wave of energy in the old ballpark reaching its crescendo just as the Bruins hit their apex, old-timer Mark Recchi scoring with two minutes left in regulation and  Marco Strum scoring less than two minutes into overtime for the 2-1 win. Both teams then lined up on the frozen outdoor pond to shake hands — a playoff series-ending custom that I’ve always thought was one of the best in all of sports.

I’ve covered or attended games in 11 Stanley Cup finals, including my Rangers win over the Canucks in 1994. I’ve seen four of them end on overtime goals. With apologies to baseball, there is no more pathos than a championship series that ends on that kind of note. Baseball has its walk-off wins, but that’s only reserved for the home team once a game reaches the bottom of the ninth.

In the hockey postseason, two teams play until one team gives and I’ve seen games that have gone on for three or four 20-minute overtime sessions. Every shot, pass and hit puts fans on the edge. The hockey playoffs goes four grueling best-of-seven rounds. You watch the players’ faces. See the bruises, grim looks and determination as one game runs into another. There really is nothing like it.

I’m not the only one who believes this. I’m not the only baseball guy who loves pucks. There are also numerous hockey guys who love baseball. I’ve had long chats about ball with Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland and the Great One, Wayne Gretzsky, among others. I’ve had long chats about hockey with Angels manager Mike Scioscia and the great now retired left-hander Tom Glavine, who played the game. Sciosicia grew up outside of Philly as a Flyers fan. Fancy that.

The marriage of iconic baseball parks with the Winter Classic the last two years has brought out the best of what both sports have to offer: Like baseball, hockey relies on its history. Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford throwing out the first pitch of the World Series is mirrored by Bobby Orr and Bobby Clarke facing off on Friday as the ceremonial first puck was dropped.

It’s great winter offseason publicity for baseball and has given hockey a wonderful national shot in the arm. Next year I’m thinking Rangers-Islanders at Yankee Stadium with 50,000 fans chanting “Potvin Sucks” as the locals still do quizzically at every game played at Madison Square Garden. That would be something to behold.

In the meantime, I’ll be out in Glendale on Saturday to see the resurgent Coyotes play the Red Wings. It’s my sixth game at the very poorly named Arena this season.

Told you. I’m a hockey nut!

Pettitte starting to look like Hall of Fame candidate

As we entered the 2009 baseball season I never thought I’d mention the words Andy Pettitte and Hall of Fame in the same sentence. But the Yankee left-hander’s 4-0 performance in the postseason and his 2-0 exclamation point in the World Series has me starting to think in those terms.

Pettitte, now 37, hasn’t determined whether he’s coming back next season.

“I’m not sure,” Pettitte said in the din of the clubhouse celebration after the Yanks clinched their 27th World Series title by vanquishing the Phillies. “I’ll need to get home
and talk to my family. I’ll need to talk to the Yankees and find out
where they’re at, and then I can probably start trying to figure out
what I’d like to do.”

Even if he doesn’t come back, his resume after 15 seasons has to warrant some serious HOF consideration. Pettitte already has a 229-135 record for a .629 regular season-winning percentage. His 18 postseason wins — five of them in the World Series — are the most in Major League history. John Smoltz, who had 15 postseason wins for the Atlanta Braves, only recorded two of them in the Fall Classic. With 213 wins and 154 saves, Smoltz is considered a very formidable Hall of Fame candidate, although his Braves won the World Series only once in five chances.

Pettitte also compares favorably to Yankee Hall of Famer Whitey Ford, another left-hander who was elected with a record of 236-106 and a .690 winning percentage in 17 regular seasons. The man also nicknamed “Chairman of the Board” had a record 10 victories in 11 World Series. Ford played in an era when the pennant winners in each league went directly to the World Series. There were no qualifying rounds. Ford’s Yankees won six of them.

Pettitte has now played in the World Series eight times, seven with the Yankees and one with the Astros. He’s won five, all with the Yankees. That’s no mean feat, considering the fact that in his era a team must get through three grueling rounds of playoffs to be crowned champions. This year, he won the clincher in each round against the Twins, Angels and Phillies.

Ford, 10-8, in the World Series, only started 22 postseason games. Pettitte has started 40 and he’s 18-9. Sandy Koufax, one of the premier left-handers in baseball history, won 165 games in 12 seasons with the Dodgers and added four wins in eight World Series appearances, seven of them starts. Koufax is the rare exception to the rule: a pitcher who was elected to the Hall based on six great seasons, the last six of his injury-prone career.

As a Hall-of-Fame voter, it’s a no-brainer that Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera will be first ballot electees to the Hall of Fame. Barring injury, Jeter will become the first Yankee with 3,000 hits and he’s already the leading shortstop all-time in that category.  Rivera is second behind Trevor Hoffman with 526 regular-season saves. But he’s light years ahead of Hoffman in both postseason statistics and opportunities, with eight wins, 39 saves and a 0.74 ERA. Two of those wins and 11 of those saves have come in the World Series.

Of course, any discussion of Pettitte for the Hall will have to include consideration of his admitted use of human growth hormone (HGH). But Ford scuffed and doctored baseballs with the help of Elston Howard, one of his catchers. So where does a voter draw the line?

Off those great Yankees teams in Ford’s era — 1950-67 — Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra are also in the Hall of Fame. From this era, circa 1995-2009, I’m now inclined to consider Pettitte in the same breath as Jeter and Rivera.


A-Rod set to have breakout postseason

I’m going to go out on a limb here and tell you that while the Yankees are are piling up the regular-season wins and are so far meeting expectations, Alex Rodriguez is in place to have a monster postseason.

By any stretch of the imagination his regular season has been very representative: a .285 batting average, 28 homers, 93 RBIs, a .403 on base percentage, a .524 slugging percentage and a .927 OPS when the latter two statistics are combined. That would be a fine season for anyone, but A-Rod was not inserted into the lineup until May 8 because of a hip injury that may (or may not) require off-season surgery.

Not coincidentally, the Yanks’ turnaround began when A-Rod came back. On May 7, they were 13-15, 5 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the American League East. Since then, they are 88-41, having clinched the East. Going into play today, they own a 9 1/2-game lead on the Red Sox, a massive 15-game turnaround.

Consider the fact that on July 19, 1978, the Yanks trailed Boston by 14 games. What ensued was the most memorable comeback in Yankees’ history that ended with the Bucky Dent, one-game playoff at Fenway Park that broke more than a few hearts because the Beantowners had blown a certain division title.

Of course, those Yankees won their second consecutive World Series, defeating the Dodgers in six games in both cases. That’s the rubric now that all Yankee teams are judged upon, which certainly was not always the case. If their 101-win season does not translate into their 27th World Series title, the season will be considered wildly disappointing.

That’s where A-Rod comes in. He’s had a quiet season off the field. He is no longer the focal point of the lineup that boasts Derek Jeter with 207 hits at the top of it and Robinson Cano with his 202 hits near the bottom of it. When A-Rod returned to the cleanup spot, Mark Teixeira started seeing a lot of pitches. He has 38 homers and a league-leading 120 RBIs. On May 7, Teixeria had five home runs and 15 RBIs.

The point is, this postseason A-Rod doesn’t have to be the guy. He can fly under the radar and is under no pressure to perform save for the head games he plays on himself. Yes, the Yanks have only won one playoff series since he arrived in 2004 and have won none since the ignoble collapse to Boston that postseason when they were three outs away from a sweep only to lose that series in seven games. In his five postseason series with the Yankees, he’s had four homers and nine RBIs.

But I hark back to the young A-Rod, whose Seattle team lost to the Yanks in the 2000 AL Championship Series. He hit .409 (9-for-22) in the six-games with two homers, five RBIs and 17 total bases, looking like what he is — the best overall player in baseball. So another good postseason series is certainly buried in there somewhere. My prediction is that he finds it this postseason. For the Yanks, there couldn’t be a better time for that happen.