I heard an interview with Detroit Tigers starter Justin Verlander before Game 1 where he was talking about what the fans wanted to see from him. It was something about fans wanting to see him pump fastballs past hitters instead of nibbling the corners, and that would be his approach. Well, maybe the long layoff hurt him and the Tigers, or maybe he should avoid worrying about what fans want in terms of pitching advice, as the Tigers got thumped in Game 1 of the World Series.
Meanwhile, Pablo Sandoval hit three homers in a row, two off of the mighty Verlander, as he joined Reggie Jackson, Babe Ruth and Albert Pujols as the only hitters to hit three homers in a World Series game.
It’s been a crazy postseason in baseball, and anything can happen, but this was a great start for the Giants.
When you think of the history New York Yankees, the most storied franchise in baseball history, most fans will immediately think about the long line of sluggers and great hitters, with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Don Mattingly and Derek Jeter leading the way. When you think of the great Yankee pitchers, it’s hard to come up with a list that matches the hitters, but one name that always jumps out is Whitey Ford.
Most baseball fans recognize Ford as a Hall of Fame pitcher, but some of his accomplishments still don’t get the attention they deserve given the notoriety of teammates like Mickey Mantle. For example, with 236 wins, Ford is the all-time leader in wins in a Yankee uniform. His first 20-win season came in 1961 when he finished 25-4 record and won the Cy Young Award. But that’s also the season when the entire nation was glued to the home run chase between Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.
You don’t have to explain this to die-hard Yankee fans however, as Ford was the best pitcher on one of the greatest dynasties in baseball history. In two separate stretches he pitched game one of the World Series four years in a row! Overall he was 10-8 after 22 starts World Series starts. Nobody has won or started more World Series games.
When you look at his career, there are a couple of fascinating things that jump out. Ford has the best all-time winning percentage (.690) among all pitchers with at least 300 career decisions. Ford had a lifetime ERA of 2.75 and his worst ERA was 3.24. Since the advent of the Live Ball Era in 1920, Ford’s lifetime ERA is the lowest. One interesting record involved his excellent move to first base, as he set a record in 1961 for not allowing a stolen base over 243 consecutive innings.
Ford served in the Korean War, so he was a veteran like many of the greats from the 40s, 50s and 60s. He once joked, “Army life was rough. Would you believe it, they actually wanted me to pitch three times a week.”
As a member of those iconic Yankee teams with greats like Mantle, Ford will always be beloved by Yankee fans. For them he’ll always be the Chairman of the Board. But he’s also one of the greatest left handed pitchers in history.
And he didn’t even need performance-enhancing drugs to do it either.
Even though Jeter’s accomplishment won’t garner more attention than Alex Rodriguez’s 600th career home run blast, it should. That’s because as far as we know, Jeter didn’t have to cheat in order to reach his milestone. Not like A-Rod, who sheepishly admitted that he needed help to accomplish what he did.
I never understood why some outside of New York choose to hate Jeter. It’s fine if you want to root against the Yankees, but Jeter embodies everything good about the game of baseball. He always hustles, he has always been fundamentally sound and he’s never disrespected the game. Performance-enhancing drugs? Not Jeter.
At 36, he certainly isn’t the player he once was – not even after posting a career high in batting average last year at .334. He doesn’t exhibit the same range defensively as he once did and his speed looks a tad diminished. But in a day and age where so many young players do something stupid on the base paths or don’t understand what team baseball is all about, it’s hard not to love a guy like Jeter – someone who actually understands that getting on base is often more important than hitting the long ball. And how many times has No. 2 come up in a clutch situation and deliver? Far too many times to count.
Some have begun to talk about whether or not Jeter has meant more to the Yankees than Ruth did, but why go there? Let’s just take the time to celebrate his accomplishment – a legitimate accomplishment.
Alex Rodriguez became the youngest player to hit 600 home runs when he launched a Shaun Marcum 2-0 pitch over the centerfield wall during the Yankees’ game with the Blue Jays on Wednesday afternoon.
Excuse me while I wet myself.
The blast broke a string of 12 games in which A-Rod was so overcome with pressure that he managed to hit only .177 with no home runs. While I can’t prove that pressure was the thing that was holding him back, rumor has it he hasn’t slept in nearly 10 nights and has often been seen shaking uncontrollably at the mere mention that he has to perform. (All right, so I can’t prove that either.)
A-Rod now joins an elite club that includes Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey Jr. (630) and Sammy Sosa (609) to have accomplished the feat.
Too bad only four of those seven players didn’t need to enlist the help of performance-enhancing drugs in order to reach the milestone.
So way to go, A-HoleRod. Congratulations, or something.
It’s been a surreal year for Alex Rodriguez. It began with disgrace, as he joined the club of major league players implicated in the never-ending steroids scandal. He was never a fan favorites in New York, and now he had sunk to a new low. His reputation would be forever tarnished.
Yet after watching A-Rod’s postseason performance so far, this may be the best thing that ever happened to him. Last night, A-Rod rose to the occasion again to provide a dramatic home run to save the day for the Yankees in Game 2.
• To be honest, for all his remarkable numbers, A-Rod has never inspired legend quite like a Williams or Ruth, a Bonds or a Mantle. Yet through five postseason games, he now has three home runs that have either tied or put the Yankees ahead. One off Joe Nathan and another off Brian Fuentes, two pretty darn good closers, too. Here’s the reaction from The LoHud Yankees Blog:
• His story of exorcising October demons has almost become old hat. Four times he has been asked the same questions and four times he has continued to repeat what he said in St. Pete. “I know you guys are probably looking for something profound. I’m just in a good place. I’m seeing the ball and I’m hitting it. That’s about it.” Rodriguez now has an RBI in each of the first five postseason games, setting a new Yankee record. Here’s audio from Rodriguez:
• Burnett said he, Phil Hughes, Phil Coke and Joba Chamberlain were in the clubhouse watching the 11th inning unfold. People would never believe the scene they made after Rodriguez hit the tying homer. “We were like little kids,” Burnett said, “jumping around and hugging.”
• In the dugout, Mark Teixeira couldn’t fathom that Rodriguez had done it. Again. “I just kept yelling, ‘He did it again! He did it again!” Teixeira said. “I just couldn’t believe it.”
It’s amazing what a great athlete can do when he just focuses on the job at hand. A-Rod has admitted to being so self-absorbed that he put tremendous pressure on himself. The scandal seems to have forced A-Rod to grow up and develop a more mature approach to the game. If he keeps this up and the Yankees win the World Series, this will be one of the fastest and most dramatic image turnarounds we’ve ever seen in sports.