Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jorge Posada: A True Yankee Classic

Associated Press
Jorge Posada, one of the toughest, grittiest yet most humble Yankee to ever wear the pinstripes, officially announced his retirement this morning and the sentiment of his announcement is bittersweet. While it is extremely hard for all us fanatics to see Jorge's career come to an end, I think we all know in our hearts and minds that perhaps it was time. And there is no shame in that; he says his farewell after having an incredible career--arguably a Hall of Fame career--and while his final season in 2011 came with several bumps in the road, all-in-all Jorge gave us the very best of himself every time he hit the field.

 And when I say that perhaps it was time for Jorge to retire, it's not because I believe he is done; in fact, I think that Jorge could easily play two more years as a back-up catcher or a DH. I really do believe that. But if Jorge did play, it would be with another team, and with as much integrity and respect as this man always carries himself with on the field, I just don't think his heart would ever be where it always was with the Yankees. It wasn't simply playing baseball that Jorge loved, but it was playing in the Bronx.

 "I didn't see [playing for another team] in me," Jorge said to YES Network's Michael Kay after the press conference. "I didn't see myself playing in another uniform. I wanted to stay in a Yankees uniform; pinstripes forever."

 So, as Jorge enters the second chapter of his life with his beautiful wife Laura and their two children, Jorge Jr. and Paulina, I find it so much more easy to accept his transition by focusing on his greatness. And if you don't believe that Jorge Posada should be considered a great Yankee, you haven't been paying much attention for the past 17 years. Let the stats speak for themselves:
  • 5-Time World Series champion ('96, '98-'00, '09)
  • 5-Time All-Star ('00-'03, '07)
  • 5-Time Silver Slugger Award winner ('00-'03, '07)
  • 2-Time Top 10 AL MVP candidate ('03-3rd place, '07-6th place)
  • 5th catcher all-time to reach 275 homeruns, 1500 hits, 1000 RBIs and 350 doubles
  • Ranks second only to Yogi Berra in career home runs by a Yankee catcher (Berra - 358)
  • Ranks 3rd in career runs, hits and RBIs by a Yankee catcher with 900, 1668 and 1,065, respectively (Only Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey rank higher)
  • Ranked highest in home runs, RBIs and hits than any other MLB catcher from 2000-2011
And while the stats are an undeniable account of Jorge's greatness, they don't begin to tell the true story of what he's meant to the pinstripes. Jorge represented honor, strength, intelligence and a keen understanding of the game. He played the game with heart because it was what he loved to do. He played the game with grit because that is what is always expected by the Yankees organization and its fan base. He played the game with pride because that was the only way to honor the great Yankee catchers that came before him.

“Jorge has bled the pinstripes for a long, long time," Alex Rodriguez said in a statement. "And he played with a passion that certainly rubbed off on his teammates. To play the number of games that he did, at the level he did, year in and year out, at the toughest position on the field, is a credit to his commitment to his craft. He left everything out on the field, and that’s what made him special."

I'll always remember the grand moments that Jorge gave us over the years, and there were many. The 2-run triple that scored Bernie Williams and Hideki Matsui in the 2003 ALCS game 7 against the Red Sox; the tag on Jeremy Giambi during the "Flip Play" in the 2001 ALDS game 3; the home run that put the Yankees ahead for good in game 3 of the 2009 ALDS against Minnesota; hitting the first home run at the new Yankee Stadium; going back-to-back days hitting a grand slam on June 12th and 13th in 2010; hitting the 2-run single that secured the Yankees AL East title last year. These are all incredible memories from an incredible player.

Like many of you fanatics, I am a Yankee fan who not only appreciates the history of the team and organization, but always appreciates the players that come along to keep the Yankee tradition alive. Jorge was such a player. And while it will be very difficult not seeing him in the uniform, it is also gratifying to know that he left the game his way and on his terms. And deservedly so; he's earned his place in Yankees history, in baseball history and in all our hearts.

"The passion that he had for the game...he showed me a lot," Mariano Rivera said to YES Network's Bob Lorenz. "That's why I care for him. That's why I thank God for him."

And so do we. No matter what is to become of Jorge's newest chapter, we will always love and appreciate him for everything he gave us in his 17 years in the pinstripes.

Thank God for Jorge Posada. A true Yankee classic!

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Yankees Sign Kuroda; Trade Montero, Noesi for Pineda

So much for a quiet offseason.

As per Wallace Matthews of ESPN NewYork.com, the Yankees made two big moves yesterday--one that most fans in Yankeeland might have expected; the other that I'm sure probably comes to many as a complete shock.

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Jesus Montero, the Yankees young, prodiginal power-hitting slugger and Hector Noesi, one of the Yankees top pitching prospects who proved his mettle in the Bronx late last season, were traded to the Seattle Mariners for pitcher Michael Pineda, the 6-foot 7-inch phenom who turns 23 years old next week.

About an hour later, the Yankees added another big arm to their rotation, signing former Dodger Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal worth $10 million. The deal is contingent on Kuroda passing a physical.

This is a big disappointment to many fanatics who fell in love with Montero after his stellar showing with the Bombers last season. In 18 games, Montero batted .328 with four home runs, four doubles, 20 hits and 12 RBIs. He also had a perfect post-season going 2-for-2 and scoring a run in the ALDS against the Detroit Tigers.

But it has always been my contention that Montero would at some point be traded for stellar pitching. Groomed as a catcher, he doesn't have good defensive numbers behind the plate and I always felt that he was too young to assume the role of a DH which is the position he would have been slated for. It was clear that the Yankees thought highly of Montero as they refused to use him in many trade offers, so it's obvious that the team and Brian Cashman think very highly of Pineda.
Otto Greule/Getty Images

The Dominican-born soon-to-be former Seattle Mariner pitched a 9-10 record in 28 games with a 3.74 ERA and 173 strikeouts in his first major league season last year. Pineda's showing was impressive enough that he was selected to the All-Star game and came in fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. Pineda's top pitch is his fastball which reaches the mid to high 90's, a hard slider with good tilt and a changeup that he throws in the high 80's. Don't be surprisd if this kid pitches second in the rotation behind CC Sabathia.
Associated Press

Kuroda posted a 13-16 record and 3.07 ERA last season with 161 strikeouts in 32 starts. The righty has three pitches: a fastball that sits in the low 90's, a slider that reaches about the mid 80's and a split fastball that tops out at about 87 mph. The Yankees being able to sign Kuroda to a one year deal at $10 million was a bargain compared to what they would have given up in payroll to Edwin Jackson who they were still in talks with. Jackson was rumored to be looking for a multi-year deal at $15 million per.

So on this Friday the 13th, a day for bad luck and superstitions, the Yankees pull off moves that could possibly make them the team to beat in the AL East. With all their pitching questions answered, what's left is probably the re-signing of Eric Chavez, hopefully.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Monday, January 9, 2012

Barry Larkin Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame

 Associated Press photo
Barry Larkin, the 19-year All-Star shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame today. The announcement was made this afternoon on MLB Network.

This was Larkin's third year of eligibility on the HOF ballot. Last year, he received 361 of the possible 581 votes, giving him a tally of 62% of the 75% needed for induction. This time around, Larkin received an admirable 86% of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America.

In Larkin's 19 seasons with the Reds, he recorded  a 2.95 ERa with 198 home runs, 960 RBIs and 2,340 hits. For his career, Larkin stole 379 bases, and became the first shortstop to enter baseball's 30-30 club with 36 stolen bases and 33 home runs in 1996. He is an 11-time All-Star and only the second life-long Red behind Johnny Bench to be inducted to the Hall.

"I was so excited about [this]," Larkin said on MLB Network after the announcement. "And just to hear that phone ring...is amazing!"

There were many in the baseball world who were disappointed that Larkin was not elected last year. There had been much comparison of Larkin to other players and shortstops like his Reds teammate Ozzie Davis who are already in the Hall. Although it seemed inevitable that he would get in eventually, some argued that compared to his counterparts, perhaps Larkin should have gone in on his first ballot.

Now that the wait is over, Larkin can look forward to the induction ceremony which will be held in Cooperstown, NY during the July 20-23 weekend. It's sure to be a great moment for one of the greatest shortstops ever.

"I am so phenomenally proud to be inducted to the Hall," Larkin said.

Congratulations Barry!

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Saturday, January 7, 2012

It's Official: Jorge Posada Will Retire

Via inquisitr.com
Wow. The Core Four continues to dwindle down. I will have my own farewell post to Jorge after I've taken this in; you guys know how emotional I get with this stuff. But for now, here is the article from ESPNNewYork.com:

The "Core Four" is down to two.

New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada is planning to retire, a source told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney.
Posada, shortstop Derek Jeter, closer Mariano Rivera and left-handed pitcher Andy Pettitte compiled the core group that helped the Yankees win five World Series championships between 1996-2009.
Pettitte retired after the 2010 season.

Posada hit .235 with 14 home runs and 44 RBIs last season.

After Posada's final game last October, he was asked what playing for the Yankees had meant to him -- and he broke down in tears, before walking away from reporters.

Posada probably could have continued his career somewhere as a designated hitter and padded his career numbers of 275 home runs, 1,065 RBIs and 936 walks. But Posada always cherished the privilege and responsibility of being the Yankees catcher.

He viewed Thurman Munson as an idol, and converted from second base to catcher after being drafted by the Yankees in the 24th round of the 1990 draft.
Swinging with pine tar on his hands, and without batting gloves, he was a five-time All-Star, caught David Wells' perfect game in 1998, and played in 125 games in October. He is a borderline Hall of Fame candidate, but his legacy as a Yankee probably means more to him.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Monday, January 2, 2012

Let's Talk About A-Rod

Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post
Okay, I'm starting the New Year with a bold prediction, fanatics: 2012 should be a great season for Alex Rodriguez. There, I said it. You can call me a crazed A-Rod fan; a nut-job who is defying all of the projections that have already been made regarding him in 2012. Call me anything you want until you hear the method behind my madness. It's not something that you can put together using stats or game analysis, rather by paying attention to the self-depricating means by which A-Rod puts a monster season together.

Now, if I were writing this two years ago after the 2009 season, I would never make this statement. After winning the American League MVP Award in '03, '05 and '07, and after pretty much carrying the Yankees to their 27th World Championship, I began to believe that an odd-numbered season meant a great season for A-Rod. But that theory was dispelled in 2011; the worst season of his career.

The nagging right knee injury, jammed thumb and faulty left shoulder all conspired to produce a 99-game, 16 home run and 62 RBI record that was nowhere in the vicinity of the A-Rod standard. And forget about the postseason, although, I give Alex credit for trying his best to battle through these injuries that were obviously more of a hinderance than he or the team let on.

Via zuneblaster.com
So embarrassed and humbled by this past season, Alex has reportedly dedicated himself to getting back into tip-top shape and returning to his old form,

"I know Yankee fans were disappointed last year," Alex told The New York Post, "But [they] won't be next year."

Here, here, Alex!! And I believe you.

Alex had a strong start in 2011, hitting .284 in April with 18 RBIs and 5 homers. And as solid as these numbers were, they were but a mere continuance of the fantastic Spring Training numbers he posted. By the way, I was down in Spring Training last year for a home game against the Pirates and I can tell you that of all the Yankees players, Alex stood out for me. There was something about his demeanor; he seemed extremely focused, almost to the point where he looked angry. And I loved it! The aloof, sometimes awkward superstar was dogged and unrelenting in his movement and it showed in his game.

And why was he so focused? Spring Training doesn't count, let's be honest, but I believe that Alex was still reeling from the ALCS loss to Texas in '10. Texas completely dominated the Yankees in every aspect of the game: offense, defense and managerial. And of course, Alex would be the guy left "holding the bag," striking out looking at the plate, and recording the final out.

There lies the madness. This is how A-Rod functions. He wallows to his lowest depth and then uses it as motivation. We've seen this so often, fanatics. Having his best season, an AL MVP season, in '07 after falling to the bottom of Joe Torre's lineup in the playoffs in '06; his prior MVP season in '05 after the humiliating loss to the Red Sox in the ALCS of '04; his ferocious comeback in '09 with the first pitch, first hit three-run homer against the Orioles after returning from hip surgery and the infamous steroid admission, and again, leading the Yankees to the championship. A-Rod functions off of misery and finds a way to turn things around.

So yes, I believe that this may be the season of A-Rod. With all of the "stuff" that has happened throughout his career, even in seasons where his numbers weren't so A-Rodesque, he's never had as ineffective a season as his last. This makes for the perfect comeback storm. He has more to pr ove than any other player on the team, and not just to the fans but to himself. His interview with The Post sounded to me like Alex had really taken some time to reflect so that he could admit his failures and declare war on them. Weight loss, an extended, more stringent workout regimen are the immediate plan, but I believe even moreso, that Alex has comes to terms with his age and will tweek what he was able to do in years past to compliment that.

Getty Images
Am I a little too optimistic on A-Rod? Maybe. But I've said this before and I'll say it now: I still believe in Alex Rodriguez! Healthy and focused, bitter with an axe to grind, he can set everything back on its proper course and send the Yankees back to the promised land. If I'm wrong, so be it. But if he ends the 2012 season as a two-time champion and four-time AL MVP, I will tell you all that I told you so.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper