April 2015

Top Ten Subway Series Moments

With the 18th edition of the Subway Series starting tonight, we look at the ten most memorable moments since 1997

Mariano Rivera, the last player to ever wear 42, recorded his 500th save against the New York Mets in 2009 (Getty Images)

Written by Jake Elman

April in New York means hockey playoffs, basketball playoffs, and preparation for which disappointing quarterback will be joining the New York Jets shortly…yet, no one really cares about any of that right now. It’s Subway Series time, and for the first time in a long time, this series actually means something; both teams are contenders out of the gate, and the title of New York is on the line again. This isn’t a series just for pride anymore, and after a silly attempt at putting the Subway Series all in one week over the past two years (it was not a good idea, despite what some fans will tell you), there’s legitimate excitement all around the Big Apple.

It’s hard to believe, but 2015 marks the 18th year of the regular season Subway Series; this matchup, in fact, kicked off ten days (June 16th, 1997) after I was born, and it started with the Yankees’ dominant offense being shutout. So, some things haven’t changed it seems. In the past 18 years, we’ve had some fantastic moments from the Subway Series, but which were the absolute best?

Well, that’s what we’re here to count down. Whether it be regular season or from the World Series, a game in the Bronx or a game in Flushing, anything from the past 18 years is eligible for this list. Without further waiting, let’s take a look at what I believe to be the top moments from the Subway Series in the past two decades.

10. Yankees mess with the Johan

Nine earned runs, three innings, and a 15-0 loss…no, that’s not the statline of your MLB 15: The Show created player. Rather, that was the statline of Mets ace Johan Santana on June 14, 2009, in a blowout loss to the New York Yankees. For fans on both sides, this was an extremely memorable series, as we’ll see below, but this was the finishing touch; Santana was lit up badly by the Yankees, including giving up a two-run home run to Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui, and his ERA went from 2.39 to 3.29 in the process. Not at all a good start from the two-time Cy Young winner, that’s for sure.

9. Koo bests Johnson

Do you remember Koo Dae-Sung? I didn’t really remember him, but all of the memories came back when I saw what he did in May 2005. Facing Yankees ‘ace’ (don’t let anyone fool you, Mike Mussina was the true ace of those teams) but still extremely intimidating Randy Johnson, the 35 year old Koo hit a double and then scored on a sacrifice bunt. The last time Koo had hit before facing Johnson, according to the left-hander, was in high school. What a legendary moment from a player that appeared in only 33 games during his illustrious MLB career.

8. Doc’s return to Shea

It’s not much of a memorable moment to some, but the five solid innings by Yankee starter Dwight ‘Doc’ Gooden in July 2000 make this list for one reason only: it was the first time Doc Gooden had pitched at Shea Stadium since he was with the Mets. Gooden, who had pitched for both Houston and Tampa before coming back to New York, went five innings while allowing two runs in a 4-2 Bombers win. It wasn’t a perfect start, but it was definitely an emotional one and Doc got his team the win.

7. Jeter leads off with a bang

Our only moment on this list solely from the 2000 World Series between these two teams, now-retired Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter led off the game with a home run to swing the momentum back in the direction of the Bronx Bombers. There’s a reason why the future Captain won the World Series MVP award for this Fall Classic…

6. David Wright’s closes the door on Sandman

Ah, it’s hard to forget this signature moment of the 2006 Miracle Mets season. In only his second year starting at third, Mets star David Wright hit a walk off single against Rivera to give his team a 7-6 victory. It wasn’t quite David versus Goliath, but it surely was a bright moment in the then-young career of Sir Wright.

Do you remember Dae-Sung Koo? It may be hard to recall the Korean import, but many Met fans will never forget his double and subsequent scoring on Yankees ace Randy Johnson (NY Daily News)

5. Piazza vs. Clemens

Ah, one of baseball’s premier rivalries that featured blood and guts galore…well, just blood, though I’m sure Mets catcher Mike Piazza would have loved to rip out Roger Clemens’ guts like a zombie from The Walking Dead (sorry, brother). Anyways, we should all know the story by now: Clemens domed Piazza in the summer of 2000, then there was the whole bat incident in the World Series, Piazza goes deep against Clemens in 2002, and then the beef kind of lost its relevancy. Seeing as some of you probably got very excited when you heard the word blood, here’s the aforementioned bat incident.

4. Dave Mlicki starts it off right

With all of the great names on the old Mets and Yankee teams — Roger Clemens, Andy Pettite, Al Leiter, David Wells, Rick Reed — you’d think that the first pitcher to throw a shutout in the Subway Series would be a premier name, right? Well, it was veteran Dave Mlicki who threw that first shutout, he of the 8-12, 4.00 ERA season in 1997. In fact, Mlicki did it in the Subway Series’ first ever game, shutting down the Yankees by a final score of 6-0.

3. Mo joins the 500 club

Thirteen years after his first save, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera joined the 500 save club with a four out closing of the New York Mets. Like most of Rivera’s other outings, the opposing hitters were fooled by the cutter, as Sandman struck out two and forced Alex Cora into a game-ending groundout. Not bad, old man.

2. Carlos Delgado breaks the Bombers

June 2008 is going to be remembered by every Met fan for what was, essentially, the beginning of the end. It’s a time where Mets manager and former New York Yankee Willie Randolph was fired and Jerry Manuel was named his replacement, a move that began a streak of mediocrity and inconsistency…but, June 2008 was also a time where Carlos Delgado, the oft-criticized Mets first baseman, finally began to show why the team had so much faith in him as their veteran leader. In the first game of a double header in the Bronx, Delgado recorded two home runs nine RBI in the Mets’ 15-6 rout of their crosstown rivals.

June of 2008

1. Luis Castillo drops the ball…literally

Michael Kay said it best…A-Rod becomes the hero with a pop up.

What are your favorite moments from the Subway Series? Make sure to chime in on the conversation by tweeting me at @JakeElman

The Best and Worst of John Sterling

Yankees radio play by play man John Sterling has had some interesting home run calls over the years, but which stand out the most?

Sterling, 76, has been the Yankees’ radio announcer since 1989 and has never missed a game (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Written by Jake Elman

Well, we’re ten games into the Major League Baseball season, and the New York Yankees are 4-6. To some, it’s not a surprise, and to some, the team is actually overachieving. I don’t know if I’d go that far, because I thought the Yankees were better than people were giving them credit for, but it’s definitely been an interesting start to the season so far.

To start (no pun intended), Alex Rodriguez has been the team’s best hitter. Look, we all knew that expectations for Alex Rodriguez entering this season were lower than the approval rating of The Phantom Menace, and for good reason: Rodriguez missed all of last season due to suspension, and he hasn’t been a truly solid player since 2011 or even 2010. Yet, Rodriguez is off to a .344/.432/.781 start with four home runs and eleven runs batted in…not bad, old man.

One of the best parts about Rodriguez’s hot start isn’t just the fact that every baseball fan that doesn’t root for the New York Yankees is losing, but also that we get to hear John Sterling’s home run call for A-Rod again. Sterling, who has been the Yankees’ radio announcer since 1989, ends every Rodriguez home run with a call of “It’s an A-Bomb…from A-Rod” and I like to mimic it on my Twitter, in large part because it seems to annoy the A-Rod hating baseball fan.

There’s a lot of people out there that seem not to like Sterling, and I honestly can see why. He makes plenty of mistakes behind the mic, and some of his home run calls are…less than stellar. But, that’s a large part of why so many people do enjoy Sterling’s work: his signature home run calls for every player. It doesn’t matter if you’re Curtis Granderson or Colin Curtis — Sterling will find a way to make a home run call for you, and it adds a certain…uniqueness to the game.

But, which are the best and worst home run calls from John Sterling? Keep in mind, I’ve left off many calls, but this isn’t an all-time list of every call that Sterling has done (if you are interested in something like that, though, there’s a Yankee blog that’s been collecting as many of John Sterling’s home run calls as humanly possible. How could we forget Nick Green’s home run call?) and this list is not in order. I may put player A’s call above player B, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy the call more. Think of this as a non-ordered list, but it’s only ordered in terms of sub-headings.

So, without further waiting, let’s get right into the best and worst of John Sterling.

The Best:

3B/DH Alex Rodriguez — “It’s an A-Bomb…from A-Rod! Alexander the Great conquers again!”

Well, we may as well start off with the one that helped inspire the creation of this article. You know, despite all of his flaws, I still remain and will always be a huge fan of Alex Rodriguez, and this home run call was one of the things that helped endear me to him. We have two instances of history (the Atomic Bomb and Alexander the Great) being used in conjunction with a baseball hitter in a way that, actually, makes sense. Nice one, John.

OF/DH Shane Spencer — “Shane Spencer, the Home Run Dispenser!”

This was a call I didn’t get to hear too much, seeing as Spencer played for the Yankees when I was a small child, but I’ve always had a thing for this call. There’s just something about the execution of this call, and the rhyme with Spencer and dispenser, that makes this one of Sterling’s best calls over the years.

OF Bernie Williams — “Bernie goes boom! Bern baby, Bern!”

This one’s easy. Not only is it a pun on the song ‘Disco Inferno‘, but there’s some great alliteration here and it’s just an overall fun call. Plus, the ‘bern, baby, Bern’ part is pretty catchy, and I enjoy it a lot.

3B Chase Headley — “You can bank on Chase! Headley is deadly!”

I love this home run call, even if we haven’t even heard it for a full year. When the Yankees acquired Chase Headley last season from the San Diego Padres, I had a feeling that Sterling would go for a Headley is deadly pun, but the bank on Chase part is an excellent addition. As you’ll see below, some of Sterling’s more recent calls haven’t been anywhere close to good, but this one is great.

1B/OF Eric Hinske — “Hinske with your best shot!”

There’s not much to say here, other than I love the Pat Benatar pun; the call, of course, is a reference to Benatar’s hit “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” from 1980. Again, not bad, John.

The Worst:

1B Lance Berkman — “Sir Lancelot rides to the rescue!  C’est lui!  C’est lui!”

What. I’m linking this just so you can see how ridiculous this is.

2B/SS Stephen Drew — “Stephen Drew! How do you do? He sends a Drewskie to the fans!”

What a terrible call. A Drewskie? That may be one of the worst calls I’ve ever heard, and this is coming from someone who loves John Sterling. I was joking about it on Twitter this week, but Sterling’s call really should have been something along the lines of, “Stephen Drew that one up perfectly!” or something with a play on words with Drew. But Drewskie? What?

OF Chris Young — “Chris Young, younger than springtime! Chris Young, forever young!”

No. No. No. No! No. What kind of call is this?

3B Yangervis Solarte — “Never Nervous Yangervis! Solarte, woh woh…Solarte, woh woh woh.”

Please make this stop. Please. Then, you realize that Sterling sings part of that call. Please, I can’t take any more of these awful calls.

Honestly, some of the more recent Yankees have had the really bad calls, because I can live with some of Sterling’s older calls. Let’s be real for a second…I would much rather have Sterling’s call for Gary Sheffield (The Master Sheff! A Sheff Special!) than Stephen Drew’s call, and I loathed Sheffield’s call.

The eh:

LF/DH Hideki Matsui — “It’s a thrilla by Godzilla! The Sayonara Kid does it again!”

As a kid, I flat out loved this call. Some years later, and after having heard it so many times, this falls under the eh section because of the second part. The Sayanora Kid? I would have preferred Sterling just stick with the thrilla by Godzilla part, but it’s not an awful call. I get that Matsui is Japanese, and Sterling likes to show where players come from, but this is too much.

C Russell Martin — “Russell shows muscle.  Monsieur Martin est la.”

Again, this is another call that isn’t bad, but would have been perfectly fine if Sterling cut it off after the first sentenced. I like the Russell shows muscle part, but then Sterling has to add the French…we get it, Martin is from Canada and can speak French.

 

The Greatest:

1B Mark Teixeira — “Mark sends a Teix message! You’re on the Mark, Teixeira!”

Yes, this may shock some people, but this is probably my favorite John Sterling home run call. Everything that you want from a Sterling call is here; you have the pun, the play on words, and it’s said in such a fluid way time after time that you can’t help but repeat it when you hear it. This used to be tied with Alex Rodriguez’s home run call, but this call has just grown on me so much over the past few years that I can’t help but put it there.

So, is John Sterling an amazing radio play-by-play man? Well, I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I will say that it’s always a pleasure to listen to him and his…unique home run calls. Hopefully, Sterling can get back to making some better calls, because some of the recent ones have been pretty bad…I need to go get the Chris Young and Stephen Drew ones out of my head soon.

But hey, I can’t hate too much on someone that has called every New York Yankees game since 1989, meaning he never missed one of Derek Jeter’s hits or Mariano Rivera’s saves. If that’s not dedication to your trade, then I don’t know what is. I guess you can’t predict baseball sometimes…

What are some of your favorite John Sterling home run calls? Make sure to chime in on the conversation by tweeting me at @JakeElman.

 

Can Hamilton Reinvent Baseball?

In a time where offense is supposedly dying, is Billy Hamilton’s speed the key to changing the game?

Hamilton, 24, already has seven stolen bases through his team’s first five games (David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports)

Written by Jake Elman

Offense is dying, they say. The game of baseball is becoming even more boring with the lack of monstorous home runs, they say. Well, if you’re someone who thinks baseball is becoming ‘even more boring’ in a time where offense is dropping, I recommend you turn your attention to Cincinnati.

Before we became a society that loved upper deck home runs and shots that would go further than the eye could see, baseball loved small ball and when I say that, I don’t mean shifts and sabermetrics. Home runs were cool and all — sexy, if you will — but there were few things better than pure strategy, where your leadoff hitter would get on base, steal second, steal third, and advance home on a base hit by the next batter. The art of strategy has definitely been revived over the past few years with the addition of shifts, sabermetrics, and LOOGYs, but stolen bases seemed to be a dying art.

Sure, there were players like Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Reyes, and Juan Pierre that would consistently come close to swiping 70 bases a year, but we were in the age of power. Instead of your leadoff hitter being a guy that would get on, steal second and third, and find his way home, there were teams that instead chose to put a hitter in the leadoff spot who would get on base and set the table for the rest of the order. Yankees manager Joe Girardi, for example, had outfielder Nick Swisher hit leadoff during parts of the 2011 season due to an injury to shortsop Derek Jeter instead of, say, Brett Gardner or Curtis Granderson (two much faster players than Swisher) because Swisher had a .374 OBP in 2011.

In the six games leading off, Swisher hit .316, but I still find it interesting that so many teams went with pure OBP over speed at the leadoff position. That definitely played a role in the decrease of stolen bases, and remember, it was only three years ago that Padres shortstop Evereth Cabrera stole a measley 44 bases to lead the National League. What happened to all of the stealing?

Anyways, it looks the art of stolen bases is back, thanks to Cincinnati Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton. After stealing 56 bases last year, but also being caught 23 times, Hamilton has stolen 7 bases in 7 attempts in his first five games this year. Though Hamilton’s hitting remains low, as he’s currently hitting .222/.364/.222 to start the season, the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up has improved his patience (four walks to four strikeouts after a 34-117 ratio last year) and is looking like the type of feared leadoff hitter we all expected him to be for Bryan Price’s Reds.

For what it’s worth, when I say feared leadoff hitter, just watch what he did in the opening series against Pittsburgh on a pitch-out.

I’m sorry, Josh Harrison. That is the baseball equivalent of having your ankles broken.

Hamilton is the first player since Vince Coleman in 1987 to steal six bases in his first three games, and Coleman finished with 109 stolen bases. Now, that number has jumped up to seven in five games, When Rickey Henderson stole 130 bases for the 1982 ‘Billy Ball’ Oakland Athletics, he had five through seven games, so Hamilton is on pace to beat the stolen base king. What’s caused this change in Hamilton’s game?

“It’s something me and Hatch [coach Billy Hatcher] have been working together with since I’ve been here. It’s different from last year,” Hamilton told MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon earlier this week. “We have Joey [Votto], who is hot right now. I feel like now, I don’t have to steal right away. I don’t have to steal on the first pitch or second pitch. I can wait around a little bit and go whenever the right time is so I feel confident over there.”

With offense in the drought that it is, maybe Hamilton’s stolen base prowess is going to help revive the stolen base game to a level we haven’t seen in years. The same way that we’re seeing heavier cleanup hitter bunt when they have the entire left side of the infield open, there’s a chance we’ll see more players take more chances on the basepaths.

With all of the brilliantly fast players there are in Major League Baseball right now, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see more and more players follow in Hamilton’s footsteps and record anywhere from 35 to 55 stolen bases a season. It may sound like a high number range, but players are going to have to compensate for the offensive power outage we’re in right now.

Now, is Hamilton going to break Henderson’s record? I don’t necessarily think so, but I do think Hamilton is going to be baseball’s first player to steal 80 bases in a single season since…both Vince Coleman and Rickey Henderson back in 1988.

Do you think that Hamilton’s success with stolen bases to start the season can ‘reinvent’ baseball and help fix the offensive drought? Make sure to chime in on the conversation by tweeting me at @JakeElman

No Love In L.A.

After an arbitrator ruled that Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton would not be suspended for a relapse, Hamilton’s employer had some choice words for the former MVP

Hamilton, 33, will not be suspended by Major League Baseball for his recent relapse (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Hamilton, 33, will not be suspended by Major League Baseball for his recent relapse (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Written by Jake Elman

Sometimes, with a television show, you’ll have what’s called a ‘wham episode.’ With a wham episode, something, or some things, happen that will make your jaw drop in shock, your fists clench in nervousness, and your brain start going crazy at things that could occur in the near future due to events in the wham episode. The recent season finale for AMC’s The Walking Dead, for example, could be considered a wham episode, what with the return of a certain character and what they see upon their reunion with character B; if you were a fan of Breaking Bad, also on AMC, one of my favorite wham episodes from the entire series was the episode ‘Blood Money’…yeah, you know what episode that is!

Anyways, my love of AMC shows aside, Friday was as close to a wham episode as we’ve had in Major League Baseball that we’ve had in a long time. Not only was Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Ervin Santana suspended 80 games for testing positive for steroids, but it was announced that Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton, a six-time All-Star and the 2010 American League MVP, would not be suspended for a recent relapse; Hamilton, of course, struggled with a drug addiction for several years and was once baseball’s poster boy for clean living.

The initial concern was that Hamilton, in his relapse, had violated the league’s drug agreement, but that’s apparently not the case. According to an arbitrator, Hamilton would not be suspended because the Joint Drug Agreement only calls for discipline if the player (a) refuses to submit to evaluations and followup tests; (b) “consistently fails to participate in mandatory sessions with his assigned health care professional”; (c) his health care professional tells Major League Baseball that the player is not cooperating; or (d) the player tests positive for a drug of abuse. So, by turning himself in, Hamilton was able to avoid any of these, and now he’s going to work on atoning for his mistake.

That sounds all good and fine, right? Well, not quite. Hamilton’s employer, the Los Angeles Angels, seemed to be expecting an incoming suspension, or at least some type of discipline, as evidenced by statements put out by the front office on Friday.

“The Angels have serious concerns about Josh’s conduct, health and behavior and we are disappointed that he has broken an important commitment which he made to himself, his family, his teammates and our fans. We are going to do everything possible to assure he receives proper help for himself and for the well-being of his family,” Angels general manager Jerry DiPoto said in a statement on Friday morning. Some have taken issue with that statement, but I don’t think it’s as bad as people are making it out to be.

DiPoto is disappointed that Hamilton relapsed, and I am as well. Could he have maybe said it in a somewhat kinder way? Sure, but when it comes to people relapsing on drugs or alcohol, disappointment is often a very common feeling, and he even said that the Angels are going to help and support Hamilton despite his relapse. With that being the case, I can’t say DiPoto said anything that bad. But, the same doesn’t go for Angels president John Carpino, who said the following:

“It defies logic that Josh’s reported behavior is not a violation of his current program.”

You know, John, I’m glad that’s your concern when one of your players just relapsed after years of being clean. I get that baseball is a business, but the fact you’d talk like that about one of your players — and to the press, no less — is appalling. If Carpino wanted to say it behind closed doors, fine, I can’t control that or be upset at what happens there. But to the press? This makes all of the Yankee officials bashing Alex Rodriguez look like the Joe Torre-Derek Jeter relationship in comparison.

I mean, we’re talking about a player that failed six drug tests in a three year span and has seen so many lows and highs the past decade and a half, and your priority is the lack of logic in Hamilton’s non-suspension? Way to tell Josh that you care about your player’s health, John.

Of course, Hamilton has been a disappointment in his first two seasons in Los Angeles, only hitting .255/.316/.426 with 31 homers and 123 RBI since the start of 2013. Factor that in with his relapse, and the Angels would love to see him suspended so that he’s off the hook for some money he’s owed. I get it, but they do realize that this is still a human being, right? This isn’t even tough love; this is an organization prioritizing money and contracts over the health of an employee, one who is still battling a deadly disease.

When was the last time you saw a team be this frustrated that a player wasn’t suspended? You would think that a team like the Angels, one that could realistically be World Series contenders in 2015, would be happy that Hamilton isn’t suspended and would then turn their attention to getting him healthy, right? Instead, we have an organization that is seemingly appalled at Major League Baseball’s decision not to suspend their slugging outfielder.

Should Josh Hamilton have been suspended? No, because a better punishment for him is Hamilton living with the fact that he relapsed. Now, you may be saying that me saying that is just as harsh, if not harsher, than the comments made by the Angels’ front office, but the difference is that I have no affiliation with Hamilton and I didn’t want to see him suspended. All I want from Josh Hamilton, truth be told, is for him to stay clean — I don’t care if he retires tomorrow as long as he manages to stay clean and serene.

But, it’s hard to stay clean and serene when you have people close to you doubting your ability to be healthy and wanting you to fail. Hopefully, Josh Hamilton can get clean again, and if he can’t get it done in Los Angeles, then I’m sure there are plenty of other teams that would want Josh Hamilton, the baseball player, and Josh Hamilton, the person.

Do you think that the comments made by the Angels’ front office were out of line? Make sure to chime in on the conversation by tweeting me at @JakeElman.