Little did I know a weekend trip to visit some friends just outside of D.C. would lead to me witnessing my first no-hitter. While out at happy hour on Friday, we were asked if we’d be interested in some extra tickets for Saturday’s game. With no definitive plans lined up for the next day we decided to give it a go. What a wise decision that turned out to be.
I’d be lying if I told you I knew Max Scherzer was pitching the night before. Hell, I didn’t even know the Nationals were playing the Pirates. My love for the Mets is pretty well documented at this point. But Mets or no Mets, there isn’t a baseball game I won’t go to. Although the Nationals are considered the Mets biggest rival given their current stature as “the team to beat” in the NL East, I have no real animosity towards them, yet. The Braves and Phillies are still the teams that bring out the worst in me. I guess most of that has to do with the fact that the two teams have never been contenders in the same season. That will probably change in the years to come, but not yet.
While most of our crew decided to extend the tailgate/pregame well into the 7th inning (really got their monies worth), I at least had the one other real baseball fan in the group to soak the day in with. It’s always important to have someone else who will have the same sort of appreciation for these type of events on hand. The first few innings moved along like any other ordinary game. The only real action that jumped out to me was a home run that Bryce Harper mashed into center field. You could literally hear the crack of his bat echo throughout the stadium. Love him or hate him, that guy can flat-out rake the baseball.
With two outs in the top of the sixth I finally noticed all the zeros on the scoreboard. I usually roll my eyes at pitchers comments when they claim to be unaware they were in the midst of throwing a no-hitter until the final few innings. I just assume things like that would be on your mind from the moment that first batter steps into the box. After all, we keep track of everything in baseball. I guess I was just too caught up in conversation to realize what was happening earlier. Or maybe that was just the subconscious Mets fan in me assuming things like this just don’t actually come to fruition.
Baseball is a funny game with plenty of odd superstitions both the players and fans alike follow. One of them being the unwritten rule that you don’t openly talk about or acknowledge the potential of a perfect game/no-hitter being completed. But I couldn’t help myself. I said something along the lines of “I don’t want to jinx it or anything, but Scherzer has a perfect game going.” I was immediately greeted with a turn of the head and a dead eyed stare of disapproval for what I just said. No words were spoken initially and none needed to be said. Her face said it all. Can’t say I blame her. My reaction probably would’ve been the same if she had done that to me.
From that point on I put aside any rooting interest and was cheering for the perfect game. I’m one of those guys that as soon as I get the alert on my phone about a no-hitter in action I immediately find a TV and throw on the MLB network to watch the live look in. Each inning brought about more tension as fans went from sitting, to the edge of their seats to rising to their feet with each two-strike count. The Nationals continued to tack on runs as they rode a 6-0 lead into the latter innings. With the games outcome never really in doubt, all eyes were on Scherzer and his bid for perfection.
In the ninth inning the entire crowd was on their feet in anticipation. Each foul ball brought a unison groan followed by a sigh of relief. After two rather easy outs, Jose Tabata stepped up to bat. Tabata battled Scherzer, fouling off several pitches while working his way to a 2-2 count after seeing seven pitches. Things got interesting on the eighth pitch. Scherzer spun a backdoor curveball that was hovering inside the plate that Tabata took off his protective gear covered elbow. I’ve watched the replay quite a few times and it looks pretty clear to me that he leaned into the pitch. Needless to say, the crowd (myself included) was not happy. I was angry I would no longer be seeing a perfect game and I was left doubting we would see the completion of a no-hitter. That just felt like one of those disaster turn of events that had me convinced the following batter, Josh Harrison, would break up the no-no.
Luckily, I was wrong. Harrison gave the ball a ride that put a bit of a scare into the crowd as Michael Taylor tracked it down just short of the warning track in left field for the final out. A collective roar erupted. Now I was nowhere near the level of the die-hard Nationals fans who were in a state of jubilation (very similar to my reaction to Johan Santana’s I watched in the bar a few years ago) but I certainly partook in my fair share as we embraced after watching our first in-person no-hitter.
I’ve been lucky enough to witness quite a few special moments at baseball games. This one is right up there behind only Derek Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium as my favorite non-Mets related moment. No-hitter’s, especially in an era where pitchers struggle to get through six innings, are a rare occurrence. I hope it’s not the case, but that could very well be the only one I see in-person throughout my lifetime. Hopefully I’ll get to witness a no-hitter, or preferably a perfect game, at Citi Field. Fingers crossed it’s not the Mets on the receiving end of it though.
Side notes: I thought it was awesome to learn that Scherzer’s parents were in attendance from Missouri and he was able to treat his dad to an early fathers day gift. I always love those type of secondary story lines. Also, what was the deal with that chocolate syrup celebration? Is this a new trend that I’m only learning about now? I’m sure the equipment manager really appreciated this. Forget the water jug, whipped cream pies, bucket of sunflower seeds or chocolate syrup – go find a couple of cold ones from the fridge and let Scherzer down a few Stone Cold Steve Austin style.
New York City might be big enough for two professional baseball teams, but only one franchise, and in most cases one player, will control the back pages. Last season that man was Derek Jeter. Now that his farewell tour has ended, I wasn’t sure if it ever would, there are two men who will fill that void. Matt Harvey and Alex Rodriguez are poised for a back page battle in their 2015 returns. But as was the case in ‘Highlander’ – there can be only one.
In 2013, Harvey took the league, and city, by storm. You could find him featured in ESPN Magazine: The Body Issue, participating in skits for ‘The Tonight Show’, on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Us Weekly (featuring his breakup with super model Annie V) and sitting courtside at Knicks/Rangers games. Oh, then there was the fact the he started the 2013 All-Star game at Citi Field. Almost forgot about his on the field dominance. Simply put, he was everywhere.
Unfortunately, Harvey’s rise to stardom was derailed by a season-ending elbow injury that led to Tommy John Surgery. Even while he missed the entire 2014 season recovering he grabbed more attention than his active teammates. Now, much of that has to do with the lackluster season the Mets put together. Nonetheless, Harvey has become a walking headline. Every interview, comment, appearance or tweet he made has become back page news.
Harvey’s combination of talent and brash have him on the cusp of taking the throne as King of NY. All eyes will be on him this spring as he returns to the mound.
Then there’s A-ROD. He is one of, if not the, most captivating figure in sports. Given where he stands in today’s media landscape, it’s easy to forget that A-ROD was once one of the most popular players in the game. That was long before he donned the pinstripes. As a young phenomenon he was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career and was on pace to break every record in the book. He earned the largest contract in professional sports history (he would later receive a second deal to top that). His little black book is filled with a “who’s who” of women in Hollywood. Then steroids came into the picture. Accusations occurred, denials were initially made and then apologies were ultimately issued.
A-ROD went on to become a World Series hero and all was forgiven. Or was it? Accusations of PED once again began to occur. A lot of them. Denials were once again made. Then a suspension was handed down. A big one (The largest in baseball history). And once again, an apology was issued. This time in the form of a handwritten note.
Here’s an excerpt:
“I accept the fact that many of you will not believe my apology or anything that I say at this point. I understand why and that’s on me. It was gracious of the Yankees to offer me the use of Yankee Stadium for this apology but I decided the next time I am in Yankee Stadium, I should be in pinstripes doing my job.”
People love to see the mighty crumble. As bad as that may sound, it’s true. Think about every featured story on the news, magazine covers or website homepages. More times than not you won’t be seeing any feel good stories. It’s almost always regarding someones downfall. Hence why these A-ROD scandals have been so widely reported. Sure, his story has become kind of repetitive. He’s almost like watching a rerun on TV. You’ve already seen the episode. But you enjoyed it so much the first time around that you decided to watch it again. Sound familiar?
I don’t care how many monuments the Yankees give out this season. A-ROD is the only Yankee story people care about.
The media aren’t the only ones excited for A-ROD’s return. Earlier this week Harvey himself said “If he is that dedicated and wants to come back then more power to him for going up to the organization like that, it shows a lot,” Harvey told the NY Post. “It will be exciting to see what he can do.”
No one epitomized a baseball player better than Derek Jeter. But I found myself becoming bored with him during those dog days of summer last season. I craved that polarizing figure. Someone who has a bit of a flair to him. I missed Matt Harvey. And at times, I can’t believe I’m saying this, I missed A-ROD..
Both The Mets and Yankees are projected to be in the playoff hunt this year, but neither are considered favorites. It’s been a while since these two were on roughly an even playing field. While winning is crucial in NY, it is considered almost equally as important to win those back pages. A-ROD, for both his on and (mostly) off the field actions, could be the Yankees only hope in this battle. While Matt Harvey will try to solidify himself as the new face of baseball in NY.
From the moment we stepped foot into the stadium the “Der-ek Jet-er” chants had begun; it didn’t take long to realize just how electric this crowd would be all night long. A good portion of Yankee games sellout throughout the season, but you know it’s a special game when everyone is in their seats a half hour before first pitch.
Jeter was given a standing ovation before the game even started when he accepted a donation on behalf of the Yankees to his charity. Then another when he took the field to warmup. Then another after a scoreboard message played a thank you tribute. Then another when his farewell Gatorade commercial aired. Then another when he took his position on the field. Then another when his farewell Nike commercial aired. Then another when he came out onto the on-deck circle. Then another when he finally stepped into the batter’s box. If you didn’t get the hint by now, there was very little sitting at this game.
It became apparent rather quickly that Jeter would once again relish in the moment. In his first at-bat, he roped a deep line drive to left center field, missing a home run by a mere few feet. That left many of us wondering if that would be the highlight of his final game. Jeter hasn’t exactly torn the cover off the baseball this season, would that be his final hit at the stadium?
After the first inning, the game went into cruise control through the seventh. The most entertainment came from the Jumbotron. In between innings former players and coaches would share with their favorite Jeter moments. It was truly remarkable that one man could be in the middle of so many memorable moments in this storied franchise’s history. I applauded for each and every one of these, except for one. When the 2000 World Series highlight reel began, when the Yankees beat my beloved Mets and Jeter was named series MVP, it reminded me of the love/hate relationship I’ve had with Jeter for all these years.
Hate is a strong word, but there were plenty of times when I truly felt hatred towards Jeter. I’m 27-years-old, meaning my baseball memories pretty much started alongside Jeter’s career. In that time, I have seen the Mets make the playoffs all of three times, compared to the Yankees 17. The Mets have become known for public relation blunders, lack of accountability and most notably, heartbreak. Jeter, on the other hand, has stood for the polar opposite.
The man has never made slipped up in the public eye before. Even when a story broke of Jeter giving one night stands a parting gift basketball it was somehow spun in a positive light for the coveted bachelor. It’s hard to walk five feet in Yankee Stadium without seeing a “Yeah Jeets!” shirt or a fan shouting the term of endearment. When it came to accountability? Fuhgeddaboudit. Despite being second only to Bill Belichick in giving the most vanilla interviews, he always stands pact at his locker accepting both the praise and blame following each and every game. You will never hear him throw blame elsewhere; all of it falls on the Captain’s shoulders.
When it comes to heartbreak, Jeter has given the fans very little. He has been a part of 13 division titles, seven American League Championships and won five World Series titles. Sure this is a team sport, and he isn’t solely responsible for those accomplishments, but he played a damn big part in each and every one of them.
Needless to say, my feelings towards him have walked a fine line between hate and envy. I digress, back to last night…
Jeter stepped up with the stage set for a big moment in the seventh. With the bases loaded and the game tied the crowd was, you guessed it, on their feet. Although Jeter didn’t come through with a hit, he did put the ball in play forcing an error on a fielder’s choice, allowing the Yankees to take the lead. This might not have felt like a significant play, but I felt summed up a big portion of Jeter’s career that you won’t find on any stat sheet. He was involved in a game-changing moment. Sure it wasn’t a home run or bases clearing double, but he made something happen on a measly weak ground ball that could prove to be the game-winner. Typical Jeter.
When David Robertson took the mound in the ninth to close out the game, the crowd was more than happy for it to end this way. My friends and I might have been the only four people in the stadium rooting for the Orioles to tie it up. Jeter was due up third in the bottom of the ninth, who wouldn’t want to see him bat one more time? After Robertson surrendered the first home run, we cheered, when he gave up the game-tying home run….we really cheered. At this point, we HAD to be the only non-Oriole fans high-fiving each other. The guys behind us were not amused. One friend quickly stated his bottom of the ninth prediction:
“Single, bunt him over to second, Jeter single to win it.”
We kind of laughed this statement off and gave each other the “imagine?” look in response. Even Jeter can’t be that lucky to have it end like that.
Well, wouldn’t you know it, Jose Pirela started the inning off with a single. Alright, now we’re looking at each other like we might be onto something. Gardner steps up and lays down a perfect sacrifice bunt. At this point, I think the whole crowd was in a state of disbelief that Jeter would be coming to the plate in this situation. It just seemed too good to be true. In true Jeter fashion, he lined a single into right field and drove in Pirela for the winning run.
I mean, wow. Words cannot even begin to describe the emotion running through the stadium at that very moment. The same guys that we aggravated an inning earlier by our blown save celebration were now shaking my buddies in disbelief for predicting this exact scenario.
Jeter was mobbed by teammates and the Yankees used their flair for the dramatics – revealing the presence of Joe Torre, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Tino Martinez and Mariano Rivera on the Jumbotron, one-by-one, as they waited to greet Jeter. I would say the crowd gave Jeter one last standing ovation, but the truth is I don’t think the fans ever stopped standing or applauding from the moment they arrived.
This went on well after the on-field celebration ended as No. 2 faded away into the dugout, forever.
It was truly a fairytale ending for Jeter, something straight out of Hollywood. You would’ve sworn this game was scripted the way it all unfolded. Jeter might have been the luckiest man on the face of the earth last night, but my friends and I were a close second.
With the 2014 Subway Series getting underway tonight, it had me thinking back on all the great moments over the years. Although the series has lost some of its lust in recent years, it’s always fun when the Mets and Yankees meet.
These are my top 5 Subway Series moments (2000 World Series excluded):
5) “Mr. Koo” steals the show – May 21, 2005 Mets 7 Yankees 1 Shea Stadium
Dae-Sung Koo, better known as “Mr. Koo” to Mets fans, provided one of the more entertaining moments in Subway Series history. The left-handed reliever pitched the seventh inning with the Mets leading 2-0. In the bottom half of the inning, manager Bobby Valentine decided to let Koo hit. In his only other career at bat, Koo went down looking at three straight pitches.
This time he was due to face Randy Johnson, arguably the most intimidating left-handed pitcher in history. Koo, then shocked the city. He connected and took a ball deep to center field for a stand up double, but that was only the beginning. Jose Reyes then bunted for a single and Koo hustled to score all the way from second base with a nifty slide at the plate. This brought about plenty of smiles and laughter from the Mets bench and fans alike.
My favorite part of that story is when it was later revealed that the jacket he wore on the bases still had weighted baseball in it. That would be the last at bat of his short-lived career.
4) First ever Subway Series game – June 16, 1997 Mets 6 Yankees 0 Yankee Stadium
When inter league play was first introduced, there were mixed emotion across baseball. Purist opposed the idea, wanting to keep the World Series as the only time teams from opposite leagues would meet. But I think most of those opinions were changed when the games were wildly popular and well received among fans.
There was a buzz in the city as the Mets visited Yankee stadium for the very first match up. Journeyman starter Dave Mlicki was on the mound and made it a one man show. Mlicki threw a complete game shutout, as the Mets won the first ever subway series game in dominant fashion behind Mlicki’s curveball.
(Video is only footage of the last out of the game, Mlicki striking out Derek Jeter with his signature curveball)
3) Matt Franco beats Mariano Rivera – July 10, 1999 Mets 9 Yankees 8 Shea Stadium
In 1999, the Yankees were right in the middle of their dynasty reign. Mariano Rivera had now established himself as the best closer in the game and seemed to never blow a save. While the Mets were just starting to come together, as this scrappy bunch was on their way to making the franchise relevant once again.
With the Mets trailing by a run in the bottom of the ninth, it appeared the game was over as Mr. Sandman came on close things out. But the Mets put a rally together and loaded the bases for pinch-hitter Matt Franco. He was able to put a line drive into right field scoring Ricky Henderson and Edgardo Alfonso to win the game in walk-off fashion. Although the Mets would go on to win a few games against Rivera over the years, this was the first and by far the most memorable.
This is my personal favorite Subway Series moment. I remember watching that game and feeling a mixture of shock and enjoyment that the Mets were able to beat the great Mariano Rivera.
2) Luis Castillo drops the ball – June 12, 2009 Yankees 9 Mets 8 Yankee Stadium
Ah yes, the Luis Castillo dropped fly ball. It was one of those games that everyone seems to remember what they were doing and where they watched this memorable blunder. With 2 outs in the 9th inning, closer Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod) got Alex Rodriguez to pop up for what looked to be the final out of the game. In what could only happen to the Mets, Castillo began to look nervous as he circled underneath the ball and inevitably dropped it. With the runners hustling, the Yankees were able to not only tie, but win the game.
This play will live forever in the blooper reels.
1) Roger Clemens beams Mike Piazza – July 8, 2000 Yankees 4 Mets 2 Yankee Stadium
I’ve been to quite a few Subway Series games in my time, there have probably been only a handful of years where I didn’t attend at least one game, but this was by far the most memorable one. What people tend to forget was the sheer dominance that Mike Piazza had against Roger Clemens, going 7-12 with two home runs leading up to this game. Simply put, Piazza owned “The Rocket”.
Clemens, was notorious throughout his career for being a head hunter. He never hesitated to brush a batter off the plate and putting one right underneath their chin when he desired. In this case he took it too far, Clemens struck Piazza right on the bill of his helmet that left Piazza in a dazed and confused state around home plate.
Yankee stadium was full of commotion the moment Piazza went down. Conflicting chants, arguments and fights broke out. It was probably the only time I felt like I was at something other than a baseball game, hard to explain just what it was like to be in the crowd that night.
Might not be for the best of reasons, but nonetheless, this is certainly the most memorable moment from the Subway Series.
Of course this wasn’t the last moment between these two, but we’ll leave that story for another day.
As if things couldn’t get any worse for the Yankees rotation, after the injury to Ivan Nova and suspension of Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia has continued to struggle. Not only are they not improving, Sabathia took a big step backwards with his last start.
On Sunday against the Rays, Sabathia lasted just 3 2/3 innings, allowing 5 ER on 10 hits. That’s a stat line that just isn’t going to cut it, especially when you are expected to be a top of the rotation starter. Sabathia now sits with a 3-4 record and 5.75 ERA on the year.
When Manager Joe Girardi came to take the ball from Sabathia in the fourth inning, he was given an unfamiliar greeting from the fans. Sabathia, who has long been a fan favorite and ace of this team, was showered with boos from the stands. After the game he addressed that:
“I would’ve booed myself, too,” Sabathia said. “I’m just as tough on myself, too, as any other fan. I wouldn’t want to come to the ballpark and watch that.”
The day has finally come Yankee fans, Robinson Cano makes his much anticipated return to The Bronx tonight. In quite the role reversal, the Yankees were outbid for the prized free agent this off season, as Cano took the money and ran to Seattle.
Cano was a bit of an Enigma during his tenure with the Yankees. He was undoubtedly the best all-around player on this Yankee squad for the past few seasons. But for whatever reason, he never reached the popularity of his fellow teammates. Cano was certainly well received among the fans overall, but he never truly received the complete love of the fan base.
As much as Cano will be remembered for his sweet swing, fans will also remember his lack of hustle. Too many times did Yankee fans see Cano barely step foot out of the batter’s box on a ground ball, or make a nonchalant effort defensively, it was enough to make any fan pull their hair out at times. Part of that is just Cano’s style, as he does things with such ease and grace, that it appears as if he isn’t even trying, but there are certainly times when that wasn’t the case and he was giving very little effort. It drove me nuts watching him on certain plays and I’m not even a Yankees fan. I can only imagine what was going through the heads of diehard fans every time they saw him giving a half ass effort. Continue reading
After watching the opening round of the MLB postseason, I have come to two conclusions:
1) It is nowhere near as fun without a New York team in the playoffs
2) These crowds are louder and more exciting than anything we’ve seen in New York in years
Now, you can make the argument that there was simply a lack of success this season, giving NY little to cheer about all year-long. But if that’s your argument, I don’t think you have attended a game in either Citi Field or the New Yankee Stadium since there opening. New York was once the most feared city for any opposing team to visit, crowds were well-known for their knowledge and notorious for the “Bronx Cheer”, but those glory days seem to have disappeared in the ruins of Shea and Old Yankee Stadium.
Watching crazed fans from cities such as Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit and St. Louis have me filled with envy of the energy their crowds have provided. Pittsburgh fans, who were riding high after waiting 22 years to return to postseason play, tormented Reds starter Johnny Cueto in the wild card game with “Cuettttoooo” chants that clearly affected his performance. It is gamesmanship like that from the fans that was once seen on a regular basis in New York. Vin Scully once referred to the mound of old Yankee Stadium as “The loneliest place on earth” for opposing pitchers. That fear may still exist to some extent on reputation, but not on actuality when the game begins.
Maybe it’s the thousand’s of dollars you must spend to sit in the lower bowl areas, that have priced the die-hard fan out of the stadium. It is not unusual to see these coveted seats half empty on a given night, with the patrons that are there barely aware of what is occurring on the field. The other half are sitting cozy in a luxury suite somewhere, munching away on a lobster roll or sushi (if you are ordering Sushi at a baseball game, we probably aren’t friends). It is hard to blame these fans for not sitting on the edge of their seat, when they are basically sitting on leather recliners. These luxurious accommodations are great, they really are, but they have diminished the atmosphere that once existed.
I know the feeling is that “winning will solve all problems” but I don’t think that is the case. In just 2009, when the Yankees won their last World Series, there was a notable difference in that crowd. The majestic feeling no longer existed and fans were loud at times, but nothing to what we have become accustomed to from the storied franchise. New York is simply not a feared place for players to visit anymore, we now we have too much of a “corporate” feel with true fans struggling to be heard from the rafters.
Yankee Stadium, in its heyday, was the loudest and most intimidating baseball stadium I had ever seen. The sound level was second to none and the fans would make opposing players tremble from the atmosphere they provided . Shea Stadium, was well-known to “rock” during big games in its history. Players and fans a like would literally feel the rafters moving from under their feet as crowds erupted like no other with each key play. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love both new stadiums, they are each as beautiful a ballpark as there is out there. Although I do not miss the overly narrow seats, hour-long bathroom lines and dirty facilities, I would do anything to bring back the magic that existed in those crowds, from those stadiums.