Remember the dates - Cano, Nova and Montero edition

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011, 12:24 AM [General]

    Everyone has dates in history they recall for certain reasons. For the international scouting department of the Yankees, it is fair to say they might have memories of the following dates:

    January 5, 2001, July 15, 2004 and July 2, 2006.

    Those are random dates and perhaps even somebody you know has that as their birthday. Those dates also represent when Robinson Cano, Ivan Nova and Jesus Montero became part of the Yankee organization in the international signing market.

    Cano was the first to sign, becoming a Yankee on the first day of 2001 as the Yankees were three-time defending champions. That day several other players signed as free agents, including Bobby Bonilla, who signed a deal with the Cardinals that lasted 93 games.

    Nova was second to become a Yankee, signing on the first Thursday after the 2004 All-Star break. That day saw the Yankees with a 56-31 record and was the last day of Fred McGriff's career.

    Montero was the last to sign when he agreed to become a Yankee on July 2, 2006. On the day, he signed, Alex Rodriguez hit a grand slam off Alay Soler, whom the Mets signed as an international free agent about a month and a half after Nova. Rodriguez also hit a three-run home run off then unknown Heath Bell on a Sunday night that saw the Yankees four games out of first place.

    Since Cano signed during the winter, he had an early advantage in the race to the majors. While second base was manned by Alfonso Soriano from 2001-2003, Cano was becoming the type of prospect that Montero eventually became even as Soriano nearly became a 40-40 man during 2002.

    Though the average was low in the Gulf Coast League, his 113 games for Greensboro in the South Atlantic League were good with a .276, 14 home run and 66 RBI performance. That was enough to promote him to Tampa and eventually Trenton in 2003 and during 2004 where his .301 average earned a promotion to Columbus.

    In 2005, Cano's .333 average at Triple-A and the combination of a floundering and flawed major league team made it an easy call to give him a look in the majors. That look became a full-time second baseman, who is seemingly making his case to be one of the best Yankee second baseman ever.

    While Cano's major league career was starting to take shape with a .342 average in 2006, Nova's was starting. It began decently in the Gulf Coast League, but then hit some bumps during 2007 with Charleston of the South Atlantic League and again in 2008 with Tampa of the Florida State League.

    During those two years, Nova was a combined 14-21 and allowed 289 hits in nearly 250 innings. It was hardly the stuff worth keeping and the Padres gave him a shot by taking him in the Rule 5 draft but an 8.31 spring training ERA led him back to the Yankees, offering a second what if?

    The first what if is what if Texas picked Cano over Joaquin Arias when Alex Rodriguez was sent to the Yankees in Feb. 2004. The second is what if Nova pitched well in spring training for a San Diego team that had nearly lost 100 games.

    Since Nova didn't pitch well for the Padres, he was returned to the Yankees and while Cano was putting together a .320 average, Nova was going 5-4 with a 2.36 ERA in 12 starts for Trenton. That was good enough to earn a promotion to Scranton-Wilkes Barre. It didn't go well at first but the combination of being 12-3 and Javier Vazquez being ineffective opened the door for Nova.

    At first, he had the typical rookie struggles and that somewhat carried over into the first part of this year. Then a month in the minors seemed to turn on the lightbulb of thinking that "I never want to go back there again" because since returning, Nova has been insanely good.

    How good? This good - He has won 11 straight decisions and 15 of 19 overall. He is 7-0 with a 3.45 ERA since returning and his last loss was June 3 in Anaheim where he actually pitched decently.

    Montero was the last to enter the Yankee system and is the third what if? What if the Mariners accepted the trade that included Montero for Cliff Lee instead of opting for Texas' offer?

    Since the Mariners did not, Montero's path that began with a .280 average in the 2007 Gulf Coast League season could continue. The first glimpse of Montero was during 2008 when he batted .326 for Charleston and appeared in the Futures Game at Yankee Stadium.

    Had Montero been advanced past the South Atlantic League, the Yankees would have had a need for him even more, especially with Jose Molina doing the bulk of the catching until Ivan Rodriguez was acquired to replace the injured Jorge Posada.

    Montero was even better in 2009, hitting .356 in Tampa and then .317 in Trenton before getting injured. It was good enough to be promoted to Scranton where he hit 39 home runs over the next two years before getting the call to join the Yankees last week.

    Their three paths varied but wound up at the same destination - Labor Day weekend at Yankee Stadium in four straight Yankee victories that featured contributions from each one. This time, the order was different.

    First, Nova pitched seven dominant innings in a one-run game. That made him the third-winningest Yankee rookie since 1950 behind Bob Grim and Stan Bahnsen. It also gave him the second-longest winning streak by a Yankee in the last 30 years with the other being Roger Clemens in 2001.

    Second, Cano delivered a big two-run double Saturday. That made him a 100-RBI and a five-time 40 double and 100 RBI player, putting him in the same company as Bob Meusel and Lou Gehrig. Then two days later, he slugged his seventh grand slam (third of 2011).

    The grand slam put him in a tie with Tony Lazzeri for the most among Yankee second baseman and gave him a .348 average in his last 27 games.

    Finally, Montero hit two home runs and they weren't Yankee Stadium home runs. They were Alex Rodriguez locked in home runs, meaning from the right-handed hitter, they were long drives that landed well into the right field seats. That made Montero the first Yankee to hit his first two home runs in the same game since Shane Spencer 13 years ago Kansas City.

    And if these events continue happening for several years, the international scouting department will raise a toast every year on those three dates.

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    Three Slams are Better than Two

    Friday, August 26, 2011, 1:16 AM [General]

    The Yankees get a hit 27 percent of the time. During the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth inning, they had a hit 62.3 percent of the time.

    By going 15-for-23 in those innings, the Yankees actually topped themselves by hitting grand slams. When Russell Martin hit the second grand slam, the Yankees were in the process of announcing the last time two had been hit in the same game.

    That actually was a game I remember. It was September 14, 1999 in Toronto in the eighth and ninth when Bernie Williams and Paul O'Neill pulled it off in rallying the Yankees from five runs down for a 10-6 victory.

    The other time that happened was June 29, 1987 at Toronto. Dave Winfield hit a grand slam off Tom Henke for the go-ahead runs in a 15-14 victory and Don Mattingly hit one off John Cerutti in the third.

    Before that, Tony Lazzeri hit two off a pitcher named Woody Upchurch at Shibe Park on May 24, 1936. The only difference was that game in Philadelphia was a 25-2 win. That was Lazzeri's famous 11 RBI game and the last four innings of Upchurch's career.

    That was irrelevant until Curtis Granderson hit the third grand slam, which also was his 36th home run and pushed him from 99 to 103 RBI.

    Nobody knew it until the scoreboard flashed the fact. And when they discussed it they truly were amazed at their accomplishment. Many times, players feign interest but afterwards, their interest was authentic.

    "The fact that we as a team have done something that all the teams that have played this game have never done before, especially on the offensive side, that’s pretty neat," Granderson said. "The guys on this team have been doing an amazing job. I think it speaks again to what this offense can do. Anyone and everyone can deliver at any time."

    And it was, it was the classic five'o clock lightning in the style of the 1927 Yankees. Those Yankees scored 20 runs once but had this habit of scoring late in the afternoon.

    Chances are the Yankees literally achieved the same thing. The game started at 2:34 and did not end 7:05, which would have put some of historic display between five and six.

    In terms of comebacks, remember the Yankees were down 7-1 going into the fifth. Their comeback was the biggest since the 14-13 game against Texas won by Jorge Posada home run in the ninth inning on May 16, 2006.

    That night Russell Martin was 10 games into his major league career with the Dodgers with two multi-hit games under his belt. He was about a month shy of the first of his three games with four RBI and that would represent his career high until Martin hit the grand slam.

    The grand slam was part of Martin's 5-for-5 day, that spiked his batting average from .232 to .243. It also was the first time a Yankee catcher went 5-for-6 since Elston Howard.

    Howard did it on April 18, 1959 at Fenway Park in a 16-7 win.

    His day consisted of a base hit off Canadian Ted Bowsfield, who had won three times against the 1958 Yankees. It also consisted of a base hit off Dave Sisler, who father George had five games with at least five hit, with three occuring during August 1921.

    Howard's day also consisted off two base hits off Bill Monboquette, who coached the Yankees in the mid-1980s. His fifth hit occurred off Leo Kiely.

    You get the idea and the kicker is that since the All-Star break, the Yankees have had three wins with at least 15 runs and neither starting pitcher has gotten a win. Twice it was Phil Hughes, who had pitched in games that Yankees scored 39 runs for him but lasted 6 2/3 innings combined. The other was A.J. Burnett's infamous game in Chicago when he was armed with a 13-1 lead.

    Bottom line is that the Yankees had a really good round of batting practice, at least when they saw strikes. When they didn't they drew 13 walks, which for anyone is insane.

    Like the players said, you probably won't see it again. It's like that Seinfeld episode that involves this exchange between Kramer and O'Neill:

    KRAMER: Sure, well I promised you would hit him two home runs.

    O'NEILL: Say what?

    KRAMER: You know, Klick!. A couple of dingers.

    O'NEILL: You promised a kid in the hospital that I would hit two home runs?

    KRAMER: Yeah, well, no good?

    O'NEILL: Yeah. That's no good. It's terrible. You don't hit home runs like that. It's hard to hit home runs. And where the heck did you get two from?

    KRAMER: Well Two is better than one.

    And in the Yankees' case, three grand slams were better than two.

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    So About that two-seam fastball

    Wednesday, August 24, 2011, 2:38 AM [General]

    A weird thing happened last night concerning Bartolo Colon.

    It was not the fact that the reality might be setting in for someone who last pitched over 100 innings six years ago.

    It was not that the Oakland Athletics bombed him because they didn’t, though the line of five runs and nine hits is never what anyone is hoping for.

    It was the pitch selection of the evening that was bizarre. For most of the year, Colon thrived on the two-seam fastball as a pitch to compliment a four-seam fastball but last night that pitch rarely appeared.

    Look up "Bartolo Colon, two-seam fastball" and here is first the result that appear:

    1 – New York Times – 5/30 – Colon makes quick work of Athletics.

    You might remember that game if you stayed up late because that was the night Colon threw a four-hitter. During that game, he threw 34 two-seam fastballs, which is about an average amount based on the breakdown from each start listed below.

    In his first start against Toronto on April 20, Colon threw 36 two-seamers and the average velocity was 90.2. Next was a start against the White Sox that featured 35 at an average speed of 91.8.

    Colon remained in the rotation in May and began the month with a no-decision in Detroit. The Tigers saw 47 two-seam fastballs, averaging 91.1 mph.

    In Texas was where Colon’s first hiccup occurred on a night he allowed a similar line of five runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings. During that weekend that saw Ivan Nova pitch into the eighth and Derek Jeter hit a home run, Colon threw 18 two-seam fastballs that averaged 90.4.

    Colon rebounded slightly but took a tough loss to the Red Sox on May 13 while throwing 33 for an average of 91.3 mph. In Baltimore five days later, Colon scattered three hits in eight shutout innings, using that pitch 27 times and averaging 90.8.

    Five days later was the second hiccup against the Blue Jays. He gave up six runs and seven hits in six innings while throwing the two-seam fastball 19 times at an average of 91.3.

    Then the aforementioned start in Oakland. That night in his first complete game since July 5, 2006, he threw that pitch 34 times for an average of 90.4 and here are what they were saying about him (quotes from AP recap and NY Times story)

    "He’s really exceeding our expectations," Mark Teixeira said. "He’s been huge for us. If we didn’t have him in our rotation, we’d be scrambling right now."

    On the final day of that road trip in Anaheim, Colon won his second straight start by throwing the pitch 49 times at an average of 91.5 in 5 1/3 innings.

    Next was the hamstring injury on June 11. In bad weather, Colon had a two-hit shutout going for 6 2/3 innings aided by 37 two-seamers that averaged 91.

    Colon returned July 2 against the Mets and had another shutout going. That pitch was thrown 30 times at an average of 90.8 while he allowed five hits.

    Then the downward trend began. It began July 7 against Tampa Bay, though his five runs and 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings went slightly unnoticed because of Derek Jeter’s chase for 3,000 hits.

    That night he threw the pitch 21 times, averaged 90.7.

    Next was the first start of the second half in Toronto. It was difficult to gauge because Colon just got two outs while allowing three earned runs and six hits. In a 16-7 loss, he threw the pitch 16 times for an average of 90.3 mph.

    After those two hiccups, Colon pitched decently in a tough 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay on July 19 and here’s the interesting part. If you thought the 21 to the Rays 12 days prior was odd, how do you feel about the eight he threw for an average of 90.9?

    Next up was a no-decision against Oakland on July 24. Colon allowed and eight hits in six innings while increasing his usage of the pitch to 21 times, one fewer than the slider. The pitch averaged 90.9.

    July concluded with a respectable showing against the Orioles of two runs and five hits in five innings. It also featured a return to first half numbers in two-seam usage as he threw it 33 times for an average of 91.4.

    Then came August and it began with a start in Boston where Colon could not get past the fifth. The pitch was thrown 24 times and averaged 93.

    Six days later, he faced the Angels and did not get a decision as he allowed two runs and five hits in six innings. The two-seam was thrown 32 times at an average of 91.

    Last week, he pitched in Kansas City. He allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings while throwing the pitch 30 times at 91.5.

    Last night, that was not the case. It wasn’t that way because for some reason Colon threw that pitch just twice and was beaten on his slider with the long solo home run to rookie Brandon Allen.

    At times, there are various reasons why a pitcher would abandon a pitch. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel right coming out of the hands, other times it doesn’t feel right in the bullpen before a game.

    Based on Colon’s brief and somewhat vague comments, those were not factors. What factored into abandoning it was that the Royals hit a pair of home runs off the pitch last week.

    The next logical question is confidence in the pitch. Colon stated that he believes in it but if he believes it why reduce the times throwing it from 30 to two.

    Is it saving those pitches for future use or is it a slight acknowledgement of not having pitched this much since 2005?

    Those answers will be revealed at a later date, much like the answers to the question of how long can this last when Colon was getting fastball after fastball for outs.

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    Burnett cracks the August win code

    Tuesday, August 16, 2011, 12:50 AM [General]

    If it seems like every five or six days that A.J. Burnett is pitching in front of an angry mob hidden behind computer or mobile screens - that is because he is.

    His inconsistency of maddening degrees often makes like it seems there is a referendum on the ballot in the voting booth and if the fans had their say the measure of keeping him in the rotation would be voted down.

    Burnett finally won a game in August. That is a confounding stat if there ever was one, especially pitching on a team that wins as much as the Yankees and this was his first August win since beating the Yankees on August 19, 2008 as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.

    That night he faced a Yankee lineup that included Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu, Xavier Nady, Ivan Rodriguez and Hideki Matsui. That night also showed another example of his frustrating inconsistency since he pitched eight innings, struck out 13, walked one, allowed a run and five hits while improving to then a respectable 24-13 in August.

    It also was one of six double-digit strikeout games authored by Burnett during his 18-win season. Since signing the contract based on performances such as that night, Burnett has four double-digit strikeout games in 91 starts - three in 2009.

    And the night of last August win, here is what some of the Yankees had to say about Burnett, their future confounding number two starter.

    "He’s a real good pitcher. I hope he opts out of his deal." - Johnny Damon

    "Give him credit, he was 0-2 on everybody throwing in the high- to mid-90s and he had a snake for a breaking ball." Alex Rodriguez

    And this is what Burnett said after pitching that game for manager Cito Gaston.

    "It was just on tonight. "I told Cito, I'd like to have that hook every night. It would be nice."

    "I was just really focused on executing my pitches after that first inning," he said. "I wasn't going to allow another one to leave the strike zone and have them capitalize on it."

    Last night's line of three runs, 10 hits (all singles) in 5 2/3 innings against a team such as the Royals isn’t going to wow anyone. It won't impress and nor should it simply because many think against a superior team in the playoffs that runs would be more.

    It was the 19th such occasion of allowing 10 hits and sixth instance with the Yankees. So if you go on the fact that he has made 302 starts, that means every 16th start will be one that he allows 10 hits in.

    Of course, there’s nowhere to turn with Burnett even if you smoke some of Brian Cashman’s objective pipe. He’s there in the rotation for better or worse and there will be occasional really good, but that doesn’t mask the angry mob effect towards him.

    At this point, you just have to hope for the best from the Yankee bats, especially against a sub-par opponent and maybe if the Yankees luck out against a good team, Burnett will have that flash of outstanding stuff that he has shown some of the time (see August 2009 vs. Red Sox, Game Two of 2009 World Series).

    But since those nights have rarely shown up, log on to twitter on a night like last night. When you do so, search A.J. Burnett and see what comes up.

    Here’s a sampling of what you might find:

    1 – I hate A.J. Burnett more than anybody in sports smh (shaking my head)

    2 – AJ Burnett getting a winning only underscores the overvalue of wins. He did not win this ballgame.

    3 – AJ  Burnett won in August, next up debt crisis

    4 – About time AJ Burnett won a game, especially an August game

    5 – It’s like watching four to six innings of Kyle Farnsworth in a row – with worse hair.

    6 – AJ Burnett almost made six innings tonight, what a trooper

    7 – AJ Burnett coughs up the lead, but he will keep the paycheck

    8 – AJ Burnett better not see the bottom of the sixth inning or my TV won’t be seeing it either.

    9 – I’m not a Yankee fan and I can’t stand watching AJ Burnett pitch

    10 – Enough with AJ Burnett, Yankees would be better off releasing him and eating his contract.

    11 – Kei Igawa > AJ Burnett

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    Connecting the Historical Dots in Yankees-Red Sox

    Thursday, August 4, 2011, 9:12 PM [General]

    There’s something about a summer series between the Red Sox and Yankees that is more appealing, more intense than ones in the spring. Sure it’s nice to see the rivalry right out of the gate, but there’s a difference now. This year it seems that way because both teams have found themselves the way we expected them to be and most players have found themselves performance-wise than earlier this year.

    There’s also something fun about facts about the players who will play such key roles in these games and their connections to each other that make it so interesting.

    For example, besides being one of the AL’s best outfielders in average, slugging and home runs Jacoby Ellsbury is the first Native American Navajo to reach the major leagues. Only three Native Americans exist are in the majors and one is injured pitcher Joba Chamberlain and the other is Kyle Lohse.

    Ellsbury also is one of 124 players from Oregon who have played in the majors. The most notable rivalry contributors from Oregon are Johnny Pesky and Scott Brosius.

    Besides having a pole named after him in Fenway Park, Pesky had two four-hit games in 1946 – the year the Red Sox lost to the Cardinals in seven games. Like this year, they faced the Yankees in an August series. This time, the gap was double-digits between the teams and Pesky’s four base hits off Tiny Bonham and Johnny Murphy were footnotes in a 7-5 loss.

    Two years later when the Red Sox lost to the Indians in an AL playoff the race was much tighter. When the Red Sox left the Bronx on August 11, the Yankees were behind three teams and 3 ½ out. A month later nothing had changed other than the Athletics dropping eight games out. Finally, on October 2, 1948 Pesky helped eliminate the Yankees by scoring on Ted Williams’ two-run home run off Tommy Byrne and on Stan Spence’s double off Joe Page.

    Pesky’s other chance in the rivalry when games meant something for both teams was in 1949, which is chronicled in David Halberstam’s book “The Summer of 49”. Though the Red Sox lost the pennant on the final weekend, Pesky helped get it there with an 8-for-14 showing in three tight ballgames that turned a two-game deficit into a one-game lead for the Red Sox. In the makeup game of Sept. 26, 1949, Pesky contributed to the four-run eighth that decided things by reaching on a Stuffy Stirnweiss error and scored the go-ahead on Bobby Doerr’s bunt.

    As for Brosius, he spent three years in the rivalry manning third base from 1998-2001 and the man he succeeded there was none other than Wade Boggs. In the four years he spent in pinstripes, the Yankees won the AL East by a combined 42 games. The closest besides the poor Sept. 2000 was a four-game difference during 1999, which happened to be the first of three times the teams met in a postseason series. During his four years with the Yankees, Brosius had five three-hit games – all in Boston – with his most notable being a four-RBI night on June 19, 2000 in a 22-1 win.

    Dustin Pedroia is from Arizona State and it’s the same baseball program that produced 97 other hitters, including Reggie Jackson. Jackson’s notable contributions to the rivalry besides his confrontation with Billy Martin in 1977 was a game-ending two-run home run off Reggie Cleveland in the bottom of the ninth on Sept. 14, 1977 that put the Yankees up by 3 ½ over third-place Boston or his three-run home run a year later off Tom Burgmeier during the second inning of the second game of the weekend Boston massacre. Those were two of 25 home runs Jackson hit in Fenway and two of 51 hit in 832 at-bats off Red Sox pitchers.

    Pedroia is probably the best Sun Devil hitter to play for the Red Sox, edging out the likes of Kevin Romine and Marty Barrett. His intro to the rivalry occurred during a late-September series in the Bronx when the division was decided by the Yankees. His first noteworthy achievements were his 8-for-14 in a June series which represented his first time with consecutive three-hit games and turned his average from .308 to .336. In the Bronx, his most notable hit was an eighth-inning grand slam off David Robertson in an 11-3 Red Sox rout on August 27, 2008, which was Boston’s last victory at old Yankee Stadium.

    Adrian Gonzalez is new to the rivalry but if you were at the Stadium you saw his laser shows in batting practice and those have translated to a .357 average (.235 off Yankee pitching). Gonzalez is from San Diego, a city that has produced numerous players including Graig Nettles and Ted Williams.

    Nettles joined the Yankees in 1973 and stayed there until 1983. His career began with two home runs in two games off Red Sox pitching when he connected of Luis Tiant and Marty Pattin. Of course those meant little since the Yankees began the Steinbrenner era by getting outscored 25-10.

    As for his contributions in the 1978 sweep in Fenway, the Yankees concluded it with a 7-4 win on September 10 and Nettles had three hits and drove in two runs in the first inning. One of his best individual showings occurred July 1, 1983 at the Stadium in a 12-8 win. Nettles drove in four runs starting with a solo home run off Dennis Eckersley, followed by a RBI double off Eckersley and capped by a two-run single off Mark Clear.

    Nettles was born on August 20, 1944 – two months after D-Day. Williams was in the Marines as a naval aviator in 1944 and was awaiting orders when the Pacific Theater ended in 1945. Those years kept from him adding to his total of 30 home runs at Yankee Stadium and 401 hits (91 home runs, 298) off Yankee pitching in a career that lasted until 1960 and included a .406 average in 1941.

    In 1941, Williams batted .485 (16-for-33) at Yankee Stadium and .471 in 22 games (32-for-68) off Yankee pitching. 

    He was a pinch hitter in his first game against the Yankees, then went 4-for-9 May 11-12 in Fenway, putting him at .383. From May 23-25 at the Stadium, he was 7-for-11 with five RBI and that put his average back at. 383. On May 30, he played a doubleheader at Fenway and went 4-for-7, putting his average at .429. In a three-game series in the Bronx July 1-2, he was “cold,” going just 3-for-9 but he was still over .400 at .401 actually. 

    A month later August 6-7, he was 4-for-10, getting a two-run home run off Lefty Gomez in a 9-5 win at Fenway which put his average at .408. After a four-game series in Washington, Williams came to New York and if you had tickets to the August 11 game, you might have left disappointed because Yankee pitchers walked him four times. And his 2-for-4 showing those days put him at .411.  On Sept 3-7, Williams went 6-for-12 in a four-game series, leaving the Bronx with a .413 average. He saw the Yankees again for two games Sept. 20-21 in Boston and went 3-for-7, including a two-run home run off Tiny Bonham.

    Kevin Youkilis is among a handful of Jewish ballplayers to have played over the years.

    That list includes Sandy Koufax, Hank Greenberg and Al Rosen. Rosen was the one who made the most contributions to the Yankees when he was team president in 1978-1970.  Ron Blomberg also was a Yankee and his noteworthy achievement was being the first DH.

    Like Koufax, Youkilis went to the University of Cincinnati, which also produced Miller Huggins, who managed the Yankees from April 15, 1918 until September 19, 1929.

    Huggins was 11-6 in his first year managing against the Red Sox, who were a championship team with Babe Ruth that won the first four games in the season series. After going 20-16 without Ruth against the Red Sox, Huggins was 13-9 in 1920. He was even better in 1921 with 15 wins in 22 games, including a 10-1 mark at the Polo Grounds.

    After going 9-13 in 1922, Huggins kicked off the Yankee Stadium era with a 14-8 showing in 1923 that included April 18 when Ruth hit the stadium’s first home run, a three-run shot off Howard Ehmke. In 1924 when they lost the pennant to Washington they still won 17 of 22 against the Red Sox.

    After a 13-9 showing in 1925, the Yankees returned to the World Series the next three years, helped by going 51-15 in those seasons. Huggins was 15-5 against the Sox in 1929 with his final game coming on Sept. 1 when Ruth hit his 40th home run and Tom Zachary pitched a 14-hitter and improved to 10-0.

    David Ortiz has 34 home runs off Yankee pitching in 597 at-bats, which translates to once every 17.5 at-bats, which is pretty good but not as good as Williams’ rate of one home run per 12.1 at-bats off the Yankees. Ortiz’s path to becoming a Yankee killer began in Santo Domingo Dominican Republic. Santo Domingo has a population over three million and is the birthplace of hundreds of major leaguers.

    Besides Ortiz some of the most notable to the rivalry have been Melky Cabrera, whom you might remember for 2006 catch that robbed Manny Ramirez of a home run in a 2-1 Yankee win.

    It also is the birthplace of Ramirez who probably was one of the game’s best right-handed hitters in recent memory and his career began the same weekend as Jim Abbott’s no-hitter against the Indians in September 1993. It’s also the birthplace of Joaquin Arias, who is famous for being the player the Rangers chose instead of Robinson Cano when they dealt Alex Rodriguez.

    As for Ortiz, in getting to this point, it started when the Mariners signed him in 1992 and one of his earliest minor league teammates was Derek Lowe during the Arizona Summer League season of 1995. Lowe pitched in two games, striking out 11 in 9 2/3 innings while Ortiz hit .332 in 184 at-bats.

    A year later with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers of the Midwest League, Ortiz was a teammate of Damaso Marte, whom the Yankees probably could use to get him out. Marte was a starting pitcher at that point, going 8-6 with a 4.49 ERA in 26 starts. Ortiz did not finish 1996 in Seattle as he was traded to Minnesota for Dave Hollins on August 29, 1996 when the Red Sox and Yankees were separated by 5 ½ games.

    Carl Crawford is new to this rivalry and is hitting .125 off the Yankees after joining the Red Sox in free agency. Crawford is from Houston, a city that has produced Britt Burns, who won 70 games but none with the Yankees after developing a hip problem. It also produced Bubba Crosby, who hit a game-ending home run on Sept. 18, 2005 off Baltimore. It also produced David Murphy, whose first home run was in 2006 at Yankee Stadium.

    It also produced Calvin Schiraldi, who was on the 1986 Red Sox. During 1986, he made 25 relief appearances and then 62 in 1987.  His final appearance in the rivalry was Sept. 28, 1986 when he gave up a game-ending two-run home run to Mike Easler. Three months later, he was traded to the Cubs for Lee Smith, who pitched for the final month of 1993 with the Yankees after being acquired from Joe Torre’s Cardinals.

    Jarrod Saltalamacchia was a Braves’ first-round pick in 2003 and made his major league debut on his 22nd birthday in 2007 in a game that current Yankee Andruw Jones had an RBI. Also connecting him to the Yankees was that two months later, he was moved to Texas for Mark Teixeira. He also was born in West Palm Beach, which is where Dante Bichette was born in 1963. Eventually Bichette had a son and became friends with Joe Girardi, who was pleased when the Yankees drafted Dante Jr. this year.

    Josh Reddick has played less than 60 games and is from Savannah, Georgia. He was born there in 1987 and 35 years earlier Bucky Dent was born there.

    Dent’s birth certificate says Russell Earl O’Dey but in Boston there’s a transitional verb that replaces his middle name. Everyone knows about his home run in the 1978 AL East playoff game but another notable event for Dent occurred within the rivalry.

    One was the night of June 5, 1990 when Dent’s 89-game tenure as Yankee manager came to end with a 9-8 loss at Fenway. Dent had to watch such things like Andy Hawkins getting just one out and allowing five runs. Then he witnessed Randy Velarde’s two-run game-tying home run that scored Deion Sanders. Then for the final curtain, he saw Eric Plunk make an error on Jody Reed’s sacrifice bunt that scored Boggs with the winning run in the eighth.

    Marco Scutaro was born a few days after Carlton Fisk willed his home run over the “Green Monster” in 1975. The location was San Felipe, Venezuela, which makes him the only major leaguer born there. Connecting him to the Yankees is a three-run game-ending home run off Mariano Rivera on April 15, 2007.

    Scutaro’s minor league career began in 1996 with the Columbus Red Stixx in the South Atlantic League. The manager was Joel Skinner, who played for the Yankees from 1986-1988 and then was traded to Cleveland for Mel Hall. Hall’s claim to fame in the rivalry is his game-ending home run on May 27, 1991 off Jeff Reardon, whose career ended in 1994 as a Yankee.

    At some point, Jason Varitek will play. Varitek played college ball at Georgia Tech and is one of 45 major leaguers from that program. Varitek’s Georgia Tech career resulted in him becoming a first-round pick of Seattle in 1994 and preceded that of Teixeira, who was Texas’ first-round selection seven years later.

    Varitek has appeared in 169 games in the rivalry. His first was May 22, 1998 in a 5-4 Red Sox and his first of 125 career hits off Yankee pitching was an RBI double during a four-run seventh inning off Ramiro Mendoza. Of course, Varitek’s most noteworthy role in the rivalry was his telling Rodriguez to bleep off and triggering a brawl. What’s amusing about that is if Seattle did not trade him he would become Rodriguez’s Mariner teammate since he was triple-A Tacoma in 1997, though it’s unlikely since he was blocked by Dan Wilson at the time.

    Mike Aviles will also appear at some point and this will be his first taste of the rivalry since he was acquired last Saturday from Kansas City. His Yankee connection is being from Concordia College in the Hudson Valley, which produced Dell Alston who played 25 games for the Yankees in 1977-78.

    Aviles is one of many major leaguers, who call New York City a birthplace. Among them are someone named Lou Gehrig. Gehrig appeared in 312 games against the Red Sox and not surprisingly his .352 average, 314 RBI are his most against any other time. What is interesting that his 404 hits are one fewer than what he did against Chicago while playing nine more games against the Red Sox.

    Gehrig’s first introduction to the rivalry was in a four-game series at Fenway Park. With the Yankees having secured the pennant, Gehrig was able to see some late action and his first trip to Fenway was sensational as he was 9-for-19 with seven RBI, putting his average from .286 to .423. Gehrig had three seasons with an unthinkable 170 RBI or more (1927, 1930 and 1931).

    In 1927, 20 were in Fenway and 37 against the Red Sox. Among the notable ones were a two-home run six RBI showing on April 17, which saw Gehrig hit a three-run home run off Jack Russell and future teammate Danny MacFayden.

    In 1930, 19 of his 32 RBI off the Sox were in Fenway. Nearly half were July 31 in a 14-13 Yankee win when Gehrig was 3-for-3 with eight RBI. Half were on a seventh inning grand slam off Ed Durham.

    In 1931, he had 25 RBI off Boston pitching, though just eight in Boston. His best RBI total occurred in a 14-4 win at Braves Field on August 30. That day included a two-run home run off Ed Morris.

    Another notable New Yorker that participated in the rivalry was Eddie Lopat. Lopat was born on the lower east side, went to DeWitt Clinton High School in Bedford Park.

    His first year in the rivalry was 1948 and three years later he was joined by Astoria’s Whitey Ford, who spent 16 years and won 24 of 55 appearances against the Red Sox. His first was a 4 2/3 inning relief stint in 1950 and his last occurred during the start of 1967, which was Boston’s famous impossible dream season. Ford pitched well on the afternoon of April 14, 1967 but Billy Rohr - a pitcher nobody had seen before – pitched a one-hitter. It was close to being a no-hitter but Elston Howard broke it up with a single, making it quite the Yankee Stadium opener.

    The highlight of the game was Carl Yastrzemski’s catch against Tom Tresh, a call that was immortalized in a record about the "Impossible Dream" by Ken Coleman this way:

    "[Tresh's] drive to left over the head of Carl Yastrzemski left a rising trail of blue vapor... At the crack of the bat, Yaz broke back, being guided by some uncanny inner radar. Running as hard as a man fleeing an aroused nest of bees, Yaz dove in full stride and reached out with the glove hand in full extension, almost like Michelangelo's Adam stretching out for the hand of God. At the apex of his dive, Yaz speared the ball, and for one moment of time that would never register on any clock, stood frozen in the air as if he were Liberty keeping the burning flame aloft.

    It is the players who keep the burning flame aloft of the rivalry with memorable moments and games. Somewhere there are future Yankees and Red Sox participating in the game and ready to be connected in some way.

     

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