Reflecting on Spring Training 2012

    Friday, March 9, 2012, 11:28 AM [General]

    It’s no secret. I’m not only a YES employee. I have been rooting for the Yankees my entire life. It’s like Sy Sperling. Not only is he the President of Hair Club for Men, he’s also a client. I guess I can be a client their as well, but bald is beautiful, sorry Sy. 

    I have never hidden the fact that I am a fan and I never will. Some will say that it isn’t professional because my subjectivity would be skewed because I am a fan. In my personal opinion, I think my views are honed in 100 percent more because I have been following this team since I was a zygote. It’s in my DNA. When they took an ultrasound they saw the interlocking NY. My passion for covering the team I grew up rooting for is unparalleled. 

    Back in 1996, I had just entered the work force. I was a production assistant for MSNBC. We were having our launch party on the same night as Game 6. Yes, that Game 6. The Joe-Girardi-shake-the-stadium-triple Game 6 against the Braves. It was a tough decision to make on my part. Do I go show my face as a new employee at the launch party of a brand new network, or do I head to the bar to watch the Yankees with all of my childhood friends with a chance for them to end an 18-year championship drought? The answer to that question is both. I showed my face for an hour at the party, and then took off. I hopped into my red Pontiac Sunfire (insert joke here) left the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City and pointed my car towards my hometown of South River.      

    I got to the light at the corner of the Old Bridge Turnpike and Prospect Street just as Mariano Rivera was striking out Javy Lopez to end the eighth with an emphatic Sterling, “STRUCK HIM OUT SWINGING” call. I got to the South River Pub for the beginning of the bottom of the eighth and about a half hour later, my closest friends and family and I were celebrating the first Yankees World Series win since 1978. 

    I told you all of that to tell you this. I just returned from Spring Training. It was another great trip. The weather was sparkling. The days were over 80 and sunny. We didn’t see one drop of rain and the nights cooled off to a fantastic 55-60 degrees. You had the best of both worlds. During the day you were in Florida and at night you had a bit of a chill to make you feel like you were still home.

    I watch how hard these guys work at their craft. They REALLY do. After a full day of rounds of BP, one of the newest Yankees, Raul Ibanez, went back into the netted cages under the stadium and took MORE BP. Hitting off a tee first and then went against a live arm some more. Mark Teixeira did the same thing. This is a guy who has hit 30 home runs and driven in more than 100 RBIs for the past eight years. By the way, wherever he went, it was on the hop. He was hustling from place to place. If you think it was just to get by autograph seekers you are wrong. He was still hustling in the player-friendly confines heading to the clubhouse. 

    Fans seeking signatures sometimes get the wind knocked out of them by these guys not stopping for a second to sign an autograph. You have to realize something, and remember, this is coming from a fan: These guys are at work. These guys are trying to squeeze as much as they can out of the sunlight. They are not purposely figuratively punching you in the jejunum. Let’s be honest. It wouldn’t be one autograph. There are hundreds of people lined up over at Field No. 2 when the BP groups come out. They cannot sign for 45 minutes. They are working. You can’t take this stuff to heart. If they have time during a break in BP before a game, they do sign. 

    Joe Girardi with Matt SmithThe first day I was there I saw it in Clearwater. Joe Girardi actually signed a poster of a young Yankees fan who passed away. You may remember him from Twitter. Steven E. Smith. His father, Matt, was holding the sign and Girardi scaled the dugout to sign it and then invited Matt onto the field to watch BP with the manager behind the cage. Most of the players came over to shake his hand. Girardi kept the poster and will send it back when the whole team has put their signature on it. 

    It does happen. Joe Girardi is a classy guy. You’ll learn more about him in Kevin Kernan’s book coming out shortly, Girardi: No Ordinary Joe. It comes out April 1 and you can order it now at   

    There is a reason why you love this team. There is a reason why you go to games to see them do what they do so well. It’s because of the tireless work they put into their craft. So the next time you get bent out of shape because you didn’t get an autograph, think about that big hit one of these guys gets in a clutch spot to get a big win during the season. It’s because he was working on his game, and not on his signature.

    Follow Chris Shearn on Twitter: @ChrisShearnYES

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Remembering a friend

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011, 11:27 AM [General]

    September 11, 2001

    The mere thought, utterance, or in this case typing that day out floods every fiber of my being with the same range of emotions that coursed through my body on that catastrophic day. A lot of innocent people were lost. Including a friend from my hometown of South River, N.J., Christopher Dincuff. He was in the North Tower, the first building that was hit at 8:46 a.m. He was in that building for 102 minutes, above the impact zone, until it collapsed.

    I didn't find out he was missing until I finally finished my 14 hour shift at MSNBC, covering every second of the horror, at 8 p.m.

    Chris was a senior in high school, I was a freshman. In the DNA helix of high school hierarchy, seniors and freshman rarely talked or hung out together. It was, and probably still is an unwritten code. However, Chris and I shared a love of sports and we talked about our teams often while taking breathers at basketball practice.

    I remember one Saturday afternoon, Dinc (as he was known by all of his friends) was bummed because our coach scheduled an afternoon practice that was going to interfere with his beloved Villanova Wildcats schedule. Chris was an absolute fanatic when it came to his Wildcats. As luck would have it, he was beaming with happiness that day, because the basketball scheduling gods decided to air the Villanova-St. John's game on tape delay. He proclaimed the news like he had just won the lottery. That is no exaggeration either. His smile as all of his friends have said countless amounts of times, would light up a room. The gym was especially bright that day.

    The other day I remember quite vividly was running into him at a South River homecoming game after he graduated from Villanova. What, you thought he was going to Georgetown? He graduated a Wildcat and decided to chase after his dream in sports broadcasting. He was working in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., with a Minor League baseball team. I wanted to get into sports broadcasting as well. So when I found out Chris was getting his feet wet in the business, I had a viable fellow South River graduate who was out there doing it. It gave me hope, it really inspired me. I thought, if Chris is out there doing it, I can do this too.

    Now besides being a huge Villanova Wildcats fan, Dinc also had a love affair with our hometown, South River, and his many close friends. Being 3,000 miles away from everyone he loved and barely being able to make ends meet was not what he had in mind. So, after a year, Chris packed up from California and moved home and changed careers getting into the business world. Despite the fact he switched careers, Chris didn't know, in fact, he never found out, how big of an inspiration he was to me. I will never forget that homecoming concession stand conversation and what it meant to me. I don't think I would be sitting here writing this blog without having him as my glimmer of hope.

    So back to 8 p.m., September 11, 2001. I walked into the Meadowlands Hilton not knowing what to expect next. There was no going home. Routes 3, 17, 46, and the New Jersey Turnpike were all closed. I checked in at the front desk, walked towards the bar and that is when my cell phone rang. It was my mother and that is when I found out Chris was still missing. I was basically walking in a fog. I didn't know what to feel, or what to think. When I got up to my room, I looked out of my window and saw blue and red lights as far as my eyes could see, up and down the turnpike and Route 3. That image amongst many others is scarred into my memory banks for the rest of my life. The weight of the destruction of the day wouldn't really hit me until I was able to go home a couple of days later.

    I remember the memorial service that was held for Chris at St. Thomas Church in Old Bridge, N.J. I just remember the throngs of people. The church, which is gigantic, was at capacity, so the cafeteria behind the pews had to be opened to accommodate everyone. Garth Smalley, Chris' next door neighbor growing up, and best friend, did his best to keep it together as he eulogized the kid he used to talk to window to window at their houses growing up.

    Nothing can bring Chris back to this earth, but through our hearts and minds all of the people that were lost that day will continue to live on through us.

    I want to take this opportunity to thank him for inspiring me. I want to thank him for letting me know my dreams could come true.

    It has been said that time heals all wounds. There is some truth to that statement. However, the wounds from that day run deep. Nothing can erase the jagged emotional scars that were inflicted that day.

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Jeter, he's got an Edge

    Thursday, July 7, 2011, 11:57 AM [General]

    Derek Jeter does have an edge. In every possible way. Including the one he got in Blazing Copper.

    The homegrown Yankee is inching closer and closer to a magical milestone.

    Think about it for a second. Just 27 players in the history of the game have 3,000 hits. By the way, none of them are named Ruth, DiMaggio, Gehrig, Mantle or any Yankee in the history of the organization. So yes, this isn't only 3,000, this is the first Yankee that will complete the quest of Holy Grail-esque proportions. He is already a first-ballot Hall of Famer. This just improves the resume even more.

    • 1996 Rookie of the Year
    • 12 All-Star Appearances (including this year)
    • 2000 All-Star MVP
    • 2000 World Series MVP
    • 5 Gold Gloves
    • 5 World Championships
    • Career Postseason .309 20 HR 57 RBI

    So why all the negativity? Why as Jeter approaches his storied milestone is he treated like a juror from the Casey Anthony trial?

    Because of his contract negotiations? Really? You want to go there? This is a guy who has done everything right his entire career. A guy that never found the front or back pages unless he was winning a game or a championship. A guy that your kids could actually look up to as a role model, as a hero.

    All of you who think Jeter handled his contract situation poorly, put yourself in his shoes for a second. He looks to his right while he is on the field and sees Alex Rodriguez. A guy who opted out of his contract, and the Yankees brought him back and he is going to be taken care of handsomely until he is 42 years of age. None of you could tell me that you would have sit back and just taken what the team was prepared to give you to be a "team player."

    Think about it. You've done everything you've done for the organization and instead of just being taken care of, you are told test the market. Put yourself in Jeter's shoes. What would YOU have done? If any one of you sit there and say you would have just been a "team player" you are lying through your collective teeth.

    Another reason for the negativity is his decreasing production. I will say this. If after 3,000 he is still not producing, Jeter should ask to be moved down in the lineup. He is the captain of this team, he always says he wants to win, that would be the right thing to do.

    Jeter doesn't deserve the treatment he is getting from fans and the media. There is no such thing as patience here in New York. I grew up here. I'm impatient. I get it. That's why kids come up from the Minors, get hit around, or go hitless for a couple games, and they want them shipped out.

    You don't have patience for Derek Jeter? I know you don't. I saw all I needed to see on Twitter when I used to be a member. Six games into the season, people who supposedly know baseball were calling him Captain Double Play or Captain Ground Out. Awful. Two days ago I read this, "He did get six at-bats, just no more hits. But at least Jeter made his chase for 3,000 hits feel a little more like a parade than a funeral procession." Sickening. How could you even look at that after typing it and let that be printed? This is a record and a player that should be celebrated while he is still running out to shortstop. He is a Yankee legend. When he hustles out to short, or hustles a ground ball out, you should nudge your son or daughter and say, "That's how you play the game."

    You always hear it on the radio, Yankees fans are the most knowledgeable, right? They are supposed to be the best fans on the planet, right? I have news for you. If Derek Jeter was a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, he would walk to the plate on a red carpet every night, not a line of hot coals.

    0 (0 Ratings)

    United as One

    Monday, May 2, 2011, 1:36 PM [General]

    Waking up to the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden today was the greatest juxtaposition of emotions for me. It was elation because our military’s hard work finally paid off, and it was sadness because hearing of the event just took me back to that awful day. It’s a day when so many innocent people lost their lives. I lost a high school friend, and he was also part of my inspiration to do what I am doing today.

    I experienced that entire day working for MSNBC. I got into work that morning around 5:55. The Giants played on Monday Night Football against the Broncos the night before and got destroyed. I wasn’t in the best of moods. I drove in from Hoboken, and as dawn was breaking I looked over my shoulder at the skyline of the city as I drove into Secaucus. I had seen it so many times before, but every time I looked it just kept getting better. It always gave me the feeling that I was home. I had no idea that would be the last time I was going to be able to drink in that awesome sight.

    MSNBC got rid of the Sports Department. I was the only one left. So my Senior Producer turned to me to put together a Michael Jordan comeback piece. I forget what comeback it was for him. He did it so much I lost track, but I was excited to be working on a topic that drove my passion to be involved in television.

    I was in the Imus in the Morning control room working on getting some internet grabs of other athletes who made comebacks when the first tower was hit. None of us knew what happened. Did a pilot have a heart attack? Did something malfunction on the plane? Needless to say we were all in shock. Everyone was told to stop what they were working on and concentrate on the developing situation. As the tape producer on duty, I felt like Paul Revere running down the halls telling everyone to drop what they were doing. In many ways I was getting this information to associate producers in their edit rooms for the first time.

    It was a short time later that I was positioned in our tape playback area. I had a tape rolling on Chopper 4’s feed which was circling the towers. Then it happened. The second plane hit. No one else saw it but me. Everyone was screaming a bomb went off in the building. I saw the plane on Chopper 4’s feed, come over the river and nail the second building. No one believed me until I showed them on video tape not too long after it hit.

    Then they came down. First it was the South Tower, then the North Tower. I was naïve. I thought the firefighters would just get up there and put everything out and we would move on from there. Those brave and courageous firefighters who were going up flights of stairs with their equipment, while frightened masses were on their way down, hopefully on their way to safety. 

    I can still see them crumbling to the ground. Live. I remember thinking about all those people who were probably lost. I remember thinking all they did that day was go to work. All they did was board flights hoping to get to a meeting, or to visit loved ones.

    The day ended for me around 9 o’clock. I couldn’t get home. Route 3, Route 17, the bridges, tunnels and the New Jersey Turnpike were all closed. I can remember looking out of my hotel room and seeing just a stretch of flashing red and blue lights as far as the eye could see. When I got to the hotel I talked to my parents. That’s when I learned about my friend Chris from high school and part of my inspiration to get into broadcasting. He was in the first tower and didn’t get out.

    He was a senior when I was a freshman. He took the time after being in the field after he graduated college to let me in on how the sports broadcasting industry was difficult, challenging, yet rewarding. I’ll never forget that day. It stuck with me and pushed me to get to where I am. It showed me if a kid from my hometown could do it, so can I.  

    After learning about Chris, and being in a state of shock, the President came on that night and addressed the nation. The hotel bar was packed. I remember people of all races, colors, and creeds huddling together as one. As Americans. I can’t begin to tell you, after all the pain and hurt that we all felt that day that was the best feeling in the world. We were truly united as one.

    It’s a shame thought that it takes an event such as that day or last night to bring us together as a country. When it comes down to it we are all we have. We shouldn’t be bickering amongst ourselves, when there is so much hatred in the world toward us and our way of life.

    We like to celebrate our individual heritages all the time. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but we have to take into consideration that no matter where our families came from we are not separate. We are all one under one flag, and we are all chasing the American dream.

    We have Italian Americans, African Americans, Polish Americans, Hungarian Americans, Mexican Americans, Indian Americans and every other ethnic group that has come to our great country to form this great melting pot of success. The one common denominator in all of this is that we are all Americans. It’s my hope that some day we all just look at ourselves as one nation, one people, under one flag and that common denomination of Americans. Our differences are what divide us, but it’s our common ground, being Americans, that brings us together.   

    September 11th 2001, just saying that date out loud, almost 10 years later, still feels like someone wound up and hit me as hard as they could in the solar plexus. It’s a day we’ll never forget. Those images are forever burned into my memory banks. The pain from that day will never subside. Those tears that continue to shed year after year will never dry. 

    Now we have May 1st, 2011. It’s a day we will always remember as well. It’s a day that will echo justification for generations to come for the nearly 10 years of bravery, courage and sacrifice of our Armed Forces. Their blood, sweat, and the tears for those who we have lost have not been in vain. This is only another battle we have won. We have not won the war. Also, this has been a concerted effort of not just one president, but three. This hiding under a rock -- at sometimes literally -- coward, has been at this since Bill Clinton was in office. President Obama first placed calls to his two predecessors before spreading the news elsewhere. It had to be a relief for all three men. This is not about being a Democrat, Republican, or Independent. This is about being an American.

    God Bless our troops who continue to fight. If you see someone wearing the uniform go shake their hand. They are putting not only their own life, but the lives of their families on the line every single day.

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Integrity of the game

    Monday, April 18, 2011, 2:14 PM [General]

    This is the definition of integrity on adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

    This is how cheat is defined courtesy of a person who acts dishonestly, deceives, or defrauds.

    Okay now put your thinking caps on and re-read those two definitions. What is the common denominator in both? Honesty.

    So riddle me this. If Pete Rose is being left out of the Hall of Fame because he damaged the 'integrity' of the game, (which I agree with by the way) how in the world can we put anyone who took performance enhancing drugs into the Hall of Fame?

    Isn't that cheating? Isn't that a form of damaging the integrity of the game?

    Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote a very thought provoking column on why he thinks Barry Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame. You should check it out it's a great read. In fact, here is the link.

    In the article Sherman states that he is going to vote for Bonds when the ballot comes out in the Winter of 2012. It's his right, he has a Hall of Fame vote. Joel isn't good at what he does, he is excellent at what he does, but I am going to step in and politely disagree with him. He writes that he is basing his vote on everything Bonds did up until the 1998 season. That's when he said he told a circle of friends that he was going to start juicing because inferior players were using PED's and gaining more fame and making more money than him.

    I'm not going to regurgitate the entire article. It is definitely worth your time though.

    Well with that logic, can we end Pete Rose's career when he started betting on baseball? Well we don't really know if we can do that, because we don't really know when Pete started his problem. And how could we be so sure that we know when these players who have admitted it started doing them as well? Want proof? How about Manny Ramirez retiring for being on the block for another illegal substance suspension.

    Sherman makes a very credible and interesting argument, but these players who took PED's 'cheated' the game of baseball and pelted the 'integrity' of the game with rotten eggs with the same verocity of Rose's gambling problems.

    Remember, the common denominator in both of these cases. We go back to the root of the definitions of integrity and cheat. They go hand in hand like pork and beans, cereal and milk, peanut butter and jelly, Kool-Aid and sugar. You get the point.

    Think about this for a second. Can you put Bonds' plaque next to Hank Aaron? Is the all-time home run record on his plaque? Is there any mention of performance-enhancing drugs on it? It's a slippery slope.

    If Rose is banned for life for being dishonest with us, so should all of these guys who duped us into thinking they were larger than life, taking away from past heroes who were clean.

    Follow Chris Shearn on Twitter: @ChrisShearnYES

    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    Have you ever...?

    Saturday, April 2, 2011, 10:57 AM [General]

    Have you ever held a glove to your face? A freshly-oiled, brand new Rawlings with the autograph in the heel? Besides hot dogs, peanuts, and Cracker Jacks, I don't know if there's a more distinctive smell when it comes to baseball. Have you ever run onto the field not touching the foul lines for fear of jinxing your entire game? It's the pinnacle of being 'Stupidstitious', but superstitions are omnipresent when it comes to athletes. Have you ever chewed on your glove strings in between pitches hoping that the next ball hit into play was coming to you? It is a healthier alternative to chewing tobacco. Have you ever turned a double play to end an inning to end the oppositions' threat? Have you ever come up with the winning run 90 feet away and hit the game winning hit to send your teammates down the first base line to mob you? Have you ever pitched a complete game at any level and felt the sense of accomplishment when it was over? Have you ever woke up the day after said complete game and couldn't lift your arm, but the pain never felt so good?

    If you've answered yes to any or all of these questions, you are now in heaven. Baseball is back. If you aren't playing it any more the next best thing is living vicariously through your favorite players on your favorite teams.

    I found it perfect that Wednesday I was watching Field of Dreams, and Thursday I was at my field of dreams in the Bronx. I grew up listening to Messer, White, and Rizzuto. Now I am a part of the network that covers the Yankees. It's pretty heady stuff for me. I was a New Jersey kid who always wanted to play for the Yankees; I guess covering them is the next best thing. Sometimes I am guilty of getting caught up in the moment, and turning into a 12-year-old every time I step on the field, but I can't help it. It's what this team, it's what that field, it's what this game means to me.

    One of the best moments in my baseball life had nothing to do with getting the game winning hit, pitching a complete game, or making a great play on defense. The best moment in my baseball life, my "Field of Dreams" moment, was when I coached my younger brother's Little League All Star team. I was 21 at the time, my dad was an assistant coach, and he was 48. He caught on a semi-pro team in his younger years. He has letters in the attic somewhere from the Braves, Mets, Cardinals, and Yankees. They all scouted him while he played semi-pro. He actually tried out at the old Yankee Stadium and hit a home run over the old reserve scoreboard. Unfortunately, dad broke his ankle in three places playing football at Lafayette University the fall before his try out. He still couldn't run at the time, and the Yankees passed. The fact that he was called by the Yankees while on vacation with my mom in Wildwood, to come to a tryout at the stadium is still mind boggling to me.

    My younger brother is built like my dad and he was basically born to catch. He caught a lot of games during the season, so during practices I would give him a break from catching batting practice. My dad, with baseball constantly running through his veins, put on the gear and caught the BP that I pitched. I cannot begin to tell you what that feeling was like. Words can't describe it.  I was on the mound and staring into my dad's eyes, through the mask, with full gear on. I threw my first warm up pitch and it popped his mitt and that moment has been frozen in my memory ever since. The day generations came together and I pitched to my dad. It wasn't a game. It was only practice, but that is and always will be my favorite memory from being a part of the game of baseball. It's also the reason I cry like a baby at the end of Field of Dreams when Kevin Costner says, "Hey...Dad.  You wanna have a catch?" Gets me every time.

    I want to hear from you. I want to know: What is your favorite baseball memory? Respond to me here and I will mention it in our next Off the Wall Podcast and I will re-post them in my next blog. Happy Baseball Season everyone! Enjoy it and remember to pace yourself. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from Field of Dreams as I bid you adieu for now.

    "The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again."  -Terrence Mann, Field of Dreams

    "I never got to bat in the major leagues. I would have liked to have had that chance. Just once. To stare down a big league pitcher. To stare him down, and just as he goes into his windup, wink. Make him think you know something he doesn't. That's what I wish for. Chance to squint at a sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it. To feel the tingling in your arm as you connect with the ball. To run the bases - stretch a double into a triple, and flop face-first into third, wrap your arms around the bag.  That's my wish, Ray Kinsella." -Archibald "Moonlight" Graham, Field of Dreams

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Who's got next?

    Sunday, March 6, 2011, 11:20 AM [General]

    For this generation of Yankees fans, they were their version of the Beatles. The Beatles were dubbed the Fab Four; the Yankees had the Core Four. They were four homegrown baseball studs who built this Yankees dynasty from the inside out. Floating around like protons and neutrons in the nucleus of the five championship teams were Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and of course, the Captain, Derek Jeter. With the retirement of Pettitte, the Core Four is now down to the Big Three. And with Posada in the last year of his contract, it’s time to start thinking of the next batch of youngsters that could comprise the sequel.

    So who are some potential candidates to try to fill the VERY big shoes of their predecessors? You know, the four pairs of shoes that are filled with a combined 20 World Series Rings? No pressure. Let’s discuss.

    The first name that comes to mind is Robinson Cano. He is coming off a career season (29 homers, 109 RBI, 103 runs scored, 57 walks, .381 on-base percentage, .914 OPS -- all career bests) and he is the lone homegrown successor in the infield right now. He’ll be 29 on Oct. 22.

    The next name that comes to mind is Phil Hughes. He turns 25 on June 24 and is also coming off a career year. Hughes has been handled with kid gloves, but this year the gloves will be completely off. His leash was a bit longer last year, and it allowed him to put up a career best 18 wins. In a year filled with doubt in the rotation, Hughes could silence critics and make a play for a spot in the nucleus with another solid season. In Sunday morning’s meeting with Joe Girardi, the manager was asked about his perception of Hughes. Girardi said, “I don’t look at him as being a veteran, but I don’t look at him as being a young kid either. I’ve seen him since 2007 when I was a broadcaster. He understands what he has to do and what it takes and how you have to make adjustments. In a sense, you don’t consider him a young kid anymore.”

    There you have it: confirmation that the gloves are off. 

    Let’s move to the outfield now. It can’t be Nick Swisher. It can’t be Curtis Granderson. So it has to be Brett Gardner. I know I will take some heat for putting Gardner in this mix, but part of my job is putting my thoughts out there and standing behind them. It doesn’t mean I’m right, but I feel a little bit more confident now that Girardi said what I already feel about Gardner. “The things he brings to the table are unique. Speed, the ability to steal 50-plus bases, to hit for high average or high on-base percentage and play great defense. I mean, he is extremely important to us.”

    Gardner may not have the pop in his bat that Yankees fans desire, but he brings intangibles that are, as Girardi described, “extremely important” to the Yankees' plans. Another one of those intangibles is his patience at the plate, to which the skipper said, “It’s just in some guys’ DNA. Our organization preaches it in the Minor Leagues coming up to be patient and get a good pitch to hit, and he’s taken really well to it.”

    Next up is a bunch of kids that “Could Be” considered in the mix of the Nucleus, The Next Generation. Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos on the pitching end of the equation, and their receivers are the other candidates getting some consideration, Jesus Montero and Austin Romine.

    It is way too early to tell on these “Baby Bombers,” but there is a reason for excitement surrounding them, especially with the soon-to-be 20-year-old Banuelos, who was electric in his two innings against the Red Sox on Wednesday. He was hitting 94 on the gun and featuring an 80-82 mph changeup and a knee-buckling curveball. As eye-popping as he has been, though, Girardi warned that it’s only been three innings, and it’s only Spring Training. But even though Girardi is cautiously optimistic about his teenage lefty, he did heap some praise on the kid, saying, “The one thing you don’t know is how a guy is going to handle the situation once he gets here, being so young. Is he going to overthrow? Is he going to throw strikes? Is he going to be able to execute his pitches? He’s showing he’s capable of all of those things, and the surroundings haven’t fazed him.” He went onto say, “To be able to have the stuff he has at 19 and to be able to pitch here is shocking.”

    Do any of these guys deserve to me mentioned in the same breath as the guys who were basically the Lords of the Rings? No. Not yet. They have a lot of work to do to get to that level. But it’s very possible. Yes, the future seems to be bright on the “homegrown” front.

    4.1 (2 Ratings)

    Sabathia has a day to forget

    Saturday, March 5, 2011, 6:22 PM [General]

    This is the third straight year where the second Spring Training start has been one to forget for CC Sabathia.  The latest cause for amnesia came today, lasting just 2 2/3 innings against the Nationals at “The Boss."  In said forgettable start, he allowed five runs on six hits; he walked two, and struck out only one.

    Sabathia explained why afterwards in the clubhouse saying, “I couldn’t get a count to get a strikeout pitch.  I couldn’t find the plate.  I was all over the place.  My change up was flat and cutting back over the plate, it was just one of those days.”

    You would think lucky for him it’s just March 5th.  He left the game and still got a decent ovation; more than a golf clap.  Through the grapevine though -- the grapevine being Twitter -- I saw that fans were moaning and groaning in the stands about the Yankees' number one starter struggling. 

    In case you’re wondering if it bothers Sabathia, it does.  He said, “Of course it does.  To go out and give up five runs in 2 2/3 innings, but what can I do?  I’ll just keep working and be ready to go on the 31st.”  Yes, opening day is still 25 days away.  There's plenty of time for Sabathia to work out the kinks that he experienced today.  He went onto say, “I’m not going to lose any sleep though.  Maybe a couple years ago I would have taken it home with me, but I just called my wife and she started laughing.”  Laughter erupted amongst the beat writers with that line.  Sabathia continued, “She said last year it was Pittsburgh, this year it’s Washington.”  CC kept working us with this one, “You should have come over to the Minor League complex and saw what I did last year.  It was much worse than today.”

    Did CC Sabathia have a very forgettable day today?  Absolutely, but there is no doubt in my mind we are in for another season to remember from the big lefty. 

    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    Cervelli's run of bad luck

    Saturday, March 5, 2011, 11:51 AM [General]

    A baseball player would sign for a 4-4 day in a heartbeat. Francisco Cervelli is 4-4. However, his 4-4 is not what a player battling for a roster spot on this team needs to endure. Cervelli has been to four Spring Training camps, and for four straight seasons something has slowed him down.

    In 2008, he broke his wrist on a play at the plate; pneumonia slowed him down in 2009; in 2010 he suffered a concussion after being drilled in the head with a pitch; and his latest spring disappointment, fouling a ball off of his foot and breaking it. This latest time was the worst time for something like this to happen. The incumbent backup catcher was in a battle for the job this year with up-and-comers Austin Romine and Jesus Montero. Now, with the seasoned Cervelli out of the mix, it’s open season for the youngsters.

    Romine will get some time today as a backup backstop to Montero against the Nationals. Jack Curry told us in yesterday’s Diamond Daily that Joe Girardi said Romine and Montero are still battling for the job. Girardi himself made the jump from Double-A to the Majors and likes both youngsters.

    Cervelli walked into the clubhouse this morning with the help of crutches. He had a boot on his broken left foot, but even though his situation seems bleak, he was still flashing that smile that seems to be on his face at all times. A perma-grin, if you will. That’s permanent grin to you and me.

    The soon-to-be 25-year-old (his birthday is tomorrow) was saddened when he heard the news yesterday but was nothing but positive this morning when he met the media.  He will meet with the doctor tomorrow and will know more about the injury in about two weeks. He didn’t know how long it would take him to get back after the boot comes off, but while it’s on he said he will still be working on his upper body. He will be at the ballpark everyday. He also said he was going to throw.

    One reporter quipped, “You can throw with that thing?” Cervelli replied, “I don’t know, but I’ll find a way.” He was also asked if he thought his job was going to be there when he got back. His answer, “I hope. I’ll fight again. That’s it. This is me. I have to fight every year for something. I’m not going to cry if somebody takes my job. I’m just going to charge back.” (Note: As I am writing this part of the story, “The Boss’s” sound system starts blaring Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” Just thought it was worth mentioning.)

    Cervelli is also benefitting from having his family here. He talked to his mother when he received the news yesterday. He has a support group to get him through, which will make the mental process of this latest setback a little easier to bear, but as far as being able to compete for the backup job? That is over, for now. There is no doubt, though, that Cervelli will work as hard as he did in the offseason to try to get back to the Bronx this season.

    Follow Chris Shearn on Twitter

    3.2 (1 Ratings)

    Day 3: Red Sox vs. Yankees

    Friday, March 4, 2011, 3:50 PM [General]

    The clubhouse didn't open until 1:55 this afternoon because of the night game with the Red Sox. Bartolo Colon is your starter and Manny Banuelos will be chucking in the game as well. I can't wait to see Banuelos. I've been hearing about this kid for two years now.

    As we enter the clubhouse, Mr. Auriemma and I walk back to “snack room.” There is a TV in there as well as snacks. Playing on said television was “Coming to America.” This is what we hear blaring through the speakers:

    "You may remember him as Joe the barber from the What's Going Down episode of That's My Mama. Welcome to the stage, Jackson Heights own, Mr. Randy Watson! Randy Watson!”

    It was a great way to start the day at "The Boss." Here's something else cool that happened on the way in to the stadium. I found a heads-up quarter. One of those state quarters. The state on the back, Iowa. "Is this heaven? No, it's Iowa." Pretty cool to find that right outside the "field" where "dreams" start to materialize.

    I just thought you might like to hear about how the day started. Anyway, now onto what all of you foaming at the mouths, rabid Yankees fans want to hear, the latest from Tampa's Magical Mystery Tour '11. We were able to get three interviews in the hour that the clubhouse was opened. The first guy we talked to was Brooklyn-born Dellin Betances. How cool is it that this kid can fulfill the dreams of pretty much every kid in the country? Growing up and being able to play for the team he followed and playing with players he idolized. That is just flat-out cool. He is expected to start the season at Double-A Trenton, but he could end up helping out the club at some point during the year.

    Then we talked to a youngster who is in the mix for the fourth or fifth spot in the rotation, Ivan Nova. Nova is benefitting from the experience he gained with the big club last season. He is off to a good start. He hasn't allowed a run in two outings. He's thrown five innings, given up three hits and struck out two. He is battling for those spots with Sergio Mitre, Colon and Freddy Garcia. Mitre and Nova were joking around in the clubhouse before we did our interview. It may be a competition, but it's a friendly competition.

    We tried to talk to Garcia, but he couldn't do an interview at the time we asked him. He is all business though. He strides through the clubhouse with a purpose. He wears a scowl on his face that seems to say, "I don't want anyone or anything to get in my way." He said on Thursdsay after his first start that if he loses the job, it's his own fault.

    We also talked to Jesus Montero, a guy who was on the bubble as far as being on the big club March 31 in the Bronx. That bubble may have burst because Francisco Cervelli has a broken foot. It’s such a shame for Cervelli. The third time in four years he has been injured at Spring Training. First a broken wrist against Tampa. Then getting beaned in the head last year, prompting his Gazoo helmet, now this. It's just heartbreaking to see it happen to such a great kid who worked very hard this offseason. Montero's Minor League numbers speak for themselves. In four seasons he hit .314 with 58 homers and 258 RBIs. Barring an injury, or a jump by Austin Romine, Montero will be Bronx bound.

    We are waiting outside the clubhouse to possibly get a chance to talk to Phil Hughes, Nick Swisher, or Curtis Granderson. TTFN (ta ta for now).

    Follow Chris Shearn on Twitter: @ChrisShearnYES

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Tampa Day 2

    Thursday, March 3, 2011, 12:59 PM [General]

    Day one in Tampa was chronicled in my Christmas in March blog about my unforgettable day with Roger Maris' kids. Day two was my first trip out to George M. Steinbrenner Field. Most of the team is away playing the Tampa Bay Rays, but a lot of the big names stayed home. Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira took batting practice.

    The Yankees have a trio of special young pitchers. All of their last names begin with the letter ‘B,” prompting some Twitter favorites to nickname them the "Killer B's." In order for them to achieve this moniker in my eyes, they will have to make the big club and prove themselves in the Bronx, so until then I will refer to them as the "Could B's." Those three pitchers are Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos, and Andrew Brackman. I interacted with 67 percent of the "Could B's" today. I saw Andrew Brackman's bullpen session and let me tell you, when the 6-11 Brackman gets his entire frame into a pitch, man does it sizzle. I also interviewed Banuelos.

    Patrick Teale, editor of and Pinstripes Plus the magazine, who has been on “Yankees Batting Practice Today” throughout the past couple of seasons, first brought Banuelos to my attention at the beginning of last season. I credit Patrick for being on top of his game with the information on the then 18 year old with amazing stuff and command. We were lucky enough to be able to interview Banuelos. Betances was on the road trip and couldn't be reached for comment. As Buster Olney likes to say on Twitter, "Heard this": when Banuelos pitches, teammates, coaches and fans all stop and watch in awe of what this kid is bringing to the table. Banuelos, who has been a Yankee fan since he was a child, gets to face the Red Sox Friday night here at "The Boss" and I cannot wait to see him in action.

    I also had the opportunity to talk to Mark Prior, who as we all know is trying to come back from two shoulder surgeries. He is looking to make this club and experience some of the success his former Cubs tag -team partner Kerry Wood (or "Woodsie" as he called him) had last year.

    It's been a great two days so far. I am looking forward to the rest of my time down here in Tampa, bringing you the sights and sounds from Spring Training '11.

    Follow Chris Shearn on Twitter: @ChrisShearnYES

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Christmas in March

    Thursday, March 3, 2011, 10:10 AM [General]

    You know the feeling you used to get on Christmas Eve when you were a kid? You know what I’m talking about, especially the kids that are still experiencing it right now. Heck I still get that way living vicariously through my daughter. You get that nervous excitement. You can't wait to doze off, because you knew the next time you opened your eyes, surrounding your Christmas tree was an array of joy to last you not only for the next year, but for a lifetime. Now, if you bottled that feeling up and put it on a store shelf, how cool would that be to experience that euphoria every day? Christmas joy in a bottle, pretty neat idea huh?

    I drank that Christmas joy when I arrived to Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday.

    Let me explain. Usually, as we all know, Christmas Eve occurs December 24. In 2011, I will be the beneficiary of being able to be a part of two Christmas Eves. Not only will I get to see the one in December (God willing), I also got a little taste yesterday. Yesterday was Christmas Day, making Tuesday March 1, the day I arrived in Tampa, Christmas Eve. The prequel, or for your Star Wars fans, Christmas Eve, Episode I.

    The feeling going to sleep on Tuesday night was the same feeling I used to get as a kid wondering what would be under the tree when I woke up. The difference, though, was that I knew what was under the tree, an interview with four of Roger Maris' children down in Gainesville, Fla. It is the 50th anniversary of the magical season of 1961. The year Roger Maris, "Against All Odds" as it reads on his plaque in Monument Park, broke Babe Ruth's single-season home run record. A record which most baseball fans believe should still stand in the record books today.

    Randy, Kevin, Rich, and Susan Maris were some of the nicest people I have ever encountered in my life. They treated us like family, even though it was the first time we met. Randy spent the entire day with us, followed by Susan, Kevin, and Rich. I talked their ears off about baseball, about the high school team they coach, but mostly about their dad. We talked for two hours on camera, the longest interview I have ever conducted in my life. I was captivated by every word spoken by these descendents of a deity in my eyes. They would never boast that way. Neither would their father.

    I wasn't around when Roger Maris played. I wasn't around when he went through that stressful season in 1961. His children were too young to remember that glorious season. Susan, the first born, was just four at the time. Through their hearts, and minds, and through what their father told them over the years until his untimely death in 1985, I had a chance to experience that magical season.

    There is more to Roger Maris than baseball though. I also got to experience Roger Maris the man and father. The same greatness Maris displayed on the baseball diamond, he displayed on the diamond of life. He was a man of decency, integrity and humility.

    The Hall of Fame's motto is, "Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, Connecting Generations." How can the man who hit 61 home runs and went to seven World Series in 12  seasons, making every team he played on better, not be in a place with that motto? He put together back-to-back MVPs in 1960 and 1961, (and could have won it in 1962 as well) his first two seasons with the Yankees.  All going through the ringer with the press.  Do you know UPI voted him "Flop of the Year" in 1962?  He had 33 homers and 100 RBI.  This is a season we revere players for having now and he gets voted "Flop of the Year." 
    He was a guy who constantly played through injuries, including a broken hand in 1965 that was misdiagnosed. Maris didn't turn to performance enhancing drugs to help him recover quicker. That wasn't available to him. Even if it was, he wouldn't have turned to something that would have cheated the game of baseball. Roger Maris IS a Hall of Famer.

    Before you go look up his stats to try to discount me, do your due diligence. Don't just look at the numbers. Read about what his Cardinals teammates said about him. Look deeper than his .260 lifetime average. Roger Maris was the definition of clutch. A stat that number crunchers get all a flutter nowadays is "close and late." Put this in your collective pipe and smoke it. In 1961 in the last two innings of games, with the tying or winning runs on base, Roger Maris hit .411. In 1962, he hit .375. In 1963, he hit .440! In 1964, .426. Look up clutch in the dictionary. If there isn't a picture of Maris there, cut one out and put it there.

    Before his death in 1986, Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg was tired of people saying Maris didn't belong in Cooperstown.  He said his detractors always said, "All he ever did was hit 61 home runs."  To which Greenberg replied, "All he ever did?  That's like saying all Jonas Salk did was discover a vaccine for polio."

    Roger Maris should be in the Hall of Fame. Plain and simple. Maris is more than 61. He is more than .260. If you want to preserve history, honor excellence, and connect generations, you do it by honoring a man who played the game the way it should be played. A man who through injuries and pressure displayed the courage and character you would hope to find in our heroes of today.

    Follow Chris Shearn on Twitter: @ChrisShearnYES

    0 (0 Ratings)

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