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The new ballot for the Hall of Fame’s era-based veteran’s committee selection process has been announced, and several compelling candidates are included on the list.

Will Ron Santo's supporters be clicking their heels after the Hall of Fame's Golden Era committee convenes in December?

Among the 10 names selected to appear on the “Golden Era” ballot, Ron Santo is by far the most deserving. The case for Santo has been made countless times, and most agree his body of work warrants election. Unfortunately, those presiding over the Hall of Fame’s selection process haven’t cooperated. As a result, if the third baseman does finally take his rightful place in Cooperstown, it will be posthumously. Regardless of the circumstances, Santo’s enshrinement would still be a cause for celebration, not only for his family, but all of baseball. As one of the best third baseman to play the game, excluding Santo dings the Hall’s credibility a bit, so the time has come to right that wrong.

Whether or not he receives the necessary 3/4 support from the 16-man panel, Santo’s inclusion on the ballot doesn’t bode well for Ken Boyer, a contemporary third baseman who always seemed to be one step behind his counterpart from the Cubs (Boyer’s last gold glove was 1963, the year before Santo reeled off five in a row). Considering the shadow cast by Santo, both during their playing days and now in the voting process, Boyer’s chances of election are pretty slim.

Another cause célèbre on this year’s veterans’ ballot is Gil Hodges, who, like Santo, has garnered considerable sentimental support over the years. However, as a first baseman, Hodges’ resume is not as substantial, even if you include his managerial success with the Mets. Of course, Hodges was always more of a likeable figure than Santo, which perhaps helps to explain why he garnered significantly more support from the BBWAA (a peak of 63.4% vs. Santo’s 43.1%). Playing in seven World Series probably didn’t hurt either.

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Last night’s epic game six was so compelling, that tonight’s game seven almost seems anti-climatic. As is sometimes the case when the World Series goes the distance, it is the sixth game that proves to be the most memorable (see 1975, 1985, 1986, and 2002 for a handful of examples). So, before settling in to see if baseball can serve up a suitable encore for its season finale, it seems appropriate that we take one last look back at what was truly one of the most remarkable games in World Series history. For Cardinals’ fans it will be a raucous stroll down memory lane, while the Rangers’ faithful might want to cover to their eyes, but for those who love the game of baseball, game six will take a lofty place in World Series lore.

So Close, Yet So Far…

After being one strike away from winning the World Series, this wild pitch added 18 more years to the Red Sox' curse.

After 50 seasons without a championship, the fourth longest streak for any team since its inception, the Texas Rangers were tantalizingly close to finally tasting World Series champagne. On not one, but two occasions, the Rangers came within one strike of tossing their gloves up in the air and piling on top of each other somewhere around the pitcher’s mound. Instead, they were forced to watch the Cardinals celebrate on the field.

Will the Rangers be able to recover? Only twice before had a team come within one strike of winning the World Series only to see the lead slip away. Most famously, the Red Sox suffered that cruel fate on Bob Stanley’s wild pitch in game six of the 1986 World Series, and it took them another 18 years to finally get the last out. The 1992 Blue Jays rebounded much more quickly, however. After Tom Henke surrendered a game tying single to Otis Nixon on an 0-2 count, his teammates picked him up by rallying to win the game, and the World Series, in the 11th inning.

Saving The Best For Last?

In addition to the two leads squandered by Neftali Feliz and Scott Feldman in the ninth and tenth, respectively, Alexi Ogando was also tagged with a blown save in the sixth inning. As a result, the Rangers became only the second team in World Series history to suffer three blown saves in the same game. If Texas’ fans are looking for a good omen, the only other team to “accomplish” that feat was the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates, who actually won the very same deciding game seven in which they continued to let the lead slip away.

Of course, the Rangers would not have had the opportunity to keep blowing saves if the Cardinals’ bullpen hadn’t been just as bad. In fact, poor pitching out of the bullpen has been a theme of the entire series, which is a little bit ironic when you consider both teams advanced to the World Series on the strength of their relief pitching. In the series, the Cardinals’ and Rangers’ relievers have posted ERAs of 5.16 and 7.58, respectively, so perhaps both teams would be better off if the bullpen phone stopped working?

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Even though the value of wins has been somewhat discredited by the modern focus on sabermetrics, amassing 20 victories in one season remains a notable milestone for a starting pitcher.

Since 1901, 476 different pitchers have started at least one game for the Yankees, but only 35 have made it to the 20-win mark. Included among that group is CC Sabathia, who recorded 21 victories in 2010. Apparently not content with one such season, the Yankees’ ace has been at it again in 2011. As a result, the big lefty takes the mound tonight with the chance to make it back-to-back years with 20 victories.

Multiple 20-Win Seasons by Yankees’ Starters

Pitcher Seasons   Pitcher Seasons
Bob Shawkey 4   Carl Mays 2
Lefty Gomez 4   Herb Pennock 2
Red Ruffing 4   Russ Ford 2
Vic Raschi 3   Spud Chandler 2
Jack Chesbro 3   Tommy John 2
Mel Stottlemyre 3   Waite Hoyt 2
Ron Guidry 3   Whitey Ford 2
Andy Pettitte 2   CC Sabathia ?

Source: Baseball-reference.com

The Yankees have had 15 different pitchers win 20 games in at least two seasons, so if Sabathia is able to notch a victory in one of his final three starts, he’ll join a list that includes Hall of Famers like Red Ruffing, Lefty Gomez, and Whitey Ford. What’s more, by winning 20 games in consecutive seasons, Sabathia would become a member of even more select fraternity that includes only 10 pinstriped hurlers.

Consecutive 20-Win Seasons by Yankees’ Starters

    Combined Totals
Pitcher Years IP W SO ERA WHIP
Jack Chesbro 1903-1904 779 1/3 62 386 2.22 1.027
Russ Ford 1910-1911 581    48 367 1.95 1.017
Bob Shawkey 1919-1920 529    40 248 2.59 1.212
Carl Mays 1920-1921 648 2/3 53 162 3.05 1.236
Waite Hoyt 1927-1928 529 1/3 45 153 3.01 1.200
Lefty Gomez 1931-1932 508 1/3 45 326 3.47 1.302
Red Ruffing 1936-1939 1008    82 455 3.29 1.278
Vic Raschi 1949-1951 789 2/3 63 443 3.53 1.354
Mel Stottlemyre 1968-1969 581 2/3 41 253 2.65 1.155
Tommy John 1979-1980 541 2/3 43 189 3.19 1.217

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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Over at Bronx Banter, I took a look back at the history of Yankees’ September call-ups, but because Jesus Montero’s arrival has been so widely anticipated, it’s probably more apt to consider his first game along side every pinstripe debut, not just the ones that have occurred during the season’s last month.

Is a new era dawning with the promotion of Jesus Montero (Photo: Getty Images)?

When Montero sees his first pitch in the major leagues, he will become the 275th position player since 1919 to debut as a Yankee. Included on that list are all of the Yankees’ home grown standouts, ranging from past legends like Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle to modern stars like Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Robinson Cano. However, names like Joe Lucey, Chicken Hawks, Tom Shopay, and Mike Figga are just as prevalent. Obviously, the Yankees hope Montero will fall more in line with the former group.

Although all eyes will be on Montero in his debut, it’s worth noting that first impressions mean little when it comes to projecting long-term contributions. For every Joe DiMaggio who breaks in with three hits, there is a Charlie Silvera who does the same. Similarly, just because a rookie takes a collar in his first game doesn’t mean he will be overmatched. Although that may have been the case for a player like Benny Bengough, it certainly didn’t apply to Derek Jeter.

In honor of Montero’s much heralded arrival, listed below are the most triumphant and deflating first games played by a Yankee making his major league debut.

Best/Worst Debuts Ranked by Hits, Since 1919

Player Date Opp PA R H TB RBI BB
Mike Pagliarulo 7/7/1984 MIN 5 2 3 5 1 0
Charlie Silvera 9/29/1948 PHA 4 0 3 5 0 0
Hank Bauer 9/6/1948 PHA 5 1 3 3 1 0
Ralph Houk 4/26/1947 WSH 4 0 3 4 0 1
Joe DiMaggio 5/3/1936 SLB 6 3 3 5 1 0
Dixie Walker 4/28/1931 WSH 7 1 3 5 1 0
                 
Player Date Opp AB R H TB RBI BB
Derek Jeter 5/29/1995 SEA 5 0 0 0 0 0
J.T. Snow 9/20/1992 KCR 5 0 0 0 0 0
Randy Velarde 8/20/1987 SEA 5 0 0 0 0 0
Frankie Crosetti 4/12/1932 PHA 5 0 0 0 0 0
Benny Bengough 5/18/1923 SLB 5 0 0 0 0 0

Source: baseball-reference.com

Top-/Bottom-Five Debuts Ranked by WPA, Since 1919

Player Date Opp PA WPA
Derek Jeter 5/29/1995 SEA 5 -0.231
Jay Buhner 9/11/1987 TOR 4 -0.224
Mickey Klutts 7/7/1976 KCR 3 -0.185
Roger Holt 10/4/1980 DET 5 -0.166
J.T. Snow 9/20/1992 KCR 5 -0.148
         
Player Date Opp PA WPA
Jim Leyritz 6/8/1990 BAL 1 0.322
Steve Balboni 4/22/1981 DET 3 0.237
Billy Martin 4/18/1950 BOS 2 0.206
Dell Alston 5/17/1977 OAK 1 0.172
Thurman Munson 8/8/1969 OAK 4 0.162

Source: baseball-reference.com

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Twenty years ago, the Yankees and Indians endured miserable seasons that ranked among the worst in each franchise’s respective history (sixth lowest winning percentage for New York and second lowest for Cleveland). However, on October 4, three games before the merciful end of a forgettable season, the two teams participated in a memorable moment that launched a Hall of Fame career.

Jim Thome celebrates his first major league home run, a game winner versus the Yankees on October 4, 1991 (Photo: Cleveland Plain Dealer).

Jim Thome broke into the majors as a skinny, 20-year old, third baseman. Despite being selected in the 13th round of the 1989 draft, he quickly emerged as a top prospect by posting prolific numbers in ever level of the minors. Finally, in 1991, Thome was rewarded with a September call up, but in his first 20 games, the lefty showed few signs of his reported potential. In the final week of the season, however, the Indians’ heralded rookie finally began to give a glimpse of what the future had in store. Over those final seven games, Thome posted a line of .481/.500/.741.

Included among Thome’s last season surge was his first major league home run, a two run blast hit against Yankees’ closer Steve Farr in the top of the ninth. The homer, which gave the Indians a 3-2 victory, sailed into the empty wings of the right field upper deck. Although a sparse crowd witnessed James (as the New York Times called him the next day) Thome’s first blast, the lefty slugger would provide plenty of encores over the next 20 seasons.

The Road to 600

HR # Date Tm Opp Pitcher
1 10/4/1991 CLE @NYY Steve Farr
100 5/14/1997 CLE @TEX Bobby Witt
200 4/15/2000 CLE TEX Mark Clark
300 6/5/2002 CLE @MIN Eric Milton
400 6/14/2004 PHI CIN Jose Acevedo
500 9/16/2007 CHW LAA Dustin Moseley
600 8/15/2011 MIN @DET Daniel Schlereth

Source: baseball-reference.com

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated atTheYankeeAnalysts.)

Bobby Abreu’s game winning home run off Mariano Rivera was shocking for two reasons. Not only has the great Rivera been seldomly beaten by the long ball (64 surrendered since 1995), but Abreu entered the game with only four round trippers all season. As John Sterling would say, you can’t predict baseball.

Granderson looks dejectedly after his caught stealing thwarted a potential Yankees' comeback (Photo: AP).

If the events in the top of the ninth were surprising, only a gaping mouth could describe what happened in the bottom half. With Mark Teixeira at the plate as the winning run, Curtis Granderson was picked off first by Jordan Walden. Adding insult to injury, Granderson was fooled by one of the oldest tricks in the book: the much maligned fake-to-third/throw-to-first. After two failed attempts to catch Granderson, Walden’s third try proved to be a charm as the Yankees’ centerfielder guessed wrong and left on the right hander’s first move. The result was a caught stealing and the Yankees left to wonder what might have been.

Although Joe Girardi tried to defend the move as an aggressive attempt to tie the game, there was no justification for Granderson’s blunder. Considering the risk, as well as Teixeira’s propensity for extra base hits (50 of 107 hits have been for extra bases), the advantage of Granderson advancing to second, particularly with two strikes already on the batter, was minimal. Nonetheless, because it was just a regular season game (although, should the Yankees lose the wild card to the Angels, the play will take on added infamy), and, more importantly, Granderson has played so well all season, the lapse in judgment was relatively overlooked after the game. Just imagine, however, if the error was committed in a much more important game…like game seven of the World Series?

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The Yankees blew into the Windy City like a cyclone and swept the fading White Sox in Chicago for the first time since 1976. During the four games, the Bronx Bombers outscored the White Sox 34-11, but what made the series even more remarkable was the Yankees did not walk a single batter, making them only the third team (joining the 1905 and 1968 Boston Red Sox) since 1901 to record a four game sweep without issuing a free pass.

Even without limiting the criteria to a single series, going four straight games without issuing a walk is still an extremely rare event for a major league pitching staff. Since 1919, only 13 teams have accomplished the feat, and only two teams were able to carry the streak forward (over the same span, 16 teams have thrown four or more consecutive shutouts).

Most Consecutive Games without Issuing a Walk, Since 1919

Team Strk Start End G W L IP ERA Opp
NYY 9/5/2002 9/10/2002 6 5 1 54 2.17 DET,BAL
LAD 7/31/1965 8/4/1965 5 2 3 42.1 3.61 STL,MLN
NYY 8/1/2011 8/4/2011 4 4 0 36 2.75 CHW
OAK 9/8/2000 9/11/2000 4 3 1 36 0.75 TBD
KCR 9/29/1992 10/2/1992 4 2 2 35 2.57 CAL,MIN
PHI 6/4/1976 6/7/1976 4 2 2 34 4.50 SFG,LAD
BOS 8/5/1968 8/8/1968 4 4 0 37 1.22 CHW
STL 8/9/1949 8/13/1949 4 3 1 36 2.00 CIN,PIT
CIN 7/21/1933 7/23/1933 4 3 1 36 1.75 BRO,PIT
CIN 8/4/1932 8/6/1932 4 2 2 34.2 1.30 BSN
BRO 5/30/1931 5/31/1931 4 3 0 38 3.32 NYG,BSN
STL 8/19/1927 8/23/1927 4 4 0 36 1.00 BSN,PHI
PIT 8/10/1921 8/12/1921 4 3 1 38 3.55 BRO,CHC

Source: Baseball-reference.com

The last batter walked by the Yankees was Nick Markakis, who worked a free pass off Freddy Garcia during Sunday’s game against the Orioles. Since then, the team has reeled off 42 1/3 consecutive innings without surrendering a walk. Although impressive, neither total comes close to the top marks since 1919, both of which belong to the 2002 Yankees.

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Hideki Irabu, the first Japanese born player to wear pinstripes, was found dead in his Los Angeles’ home on Thursday, the victim of an apparent suicide.

At his introductory press conference, Irabu tries on the pinstripes he always wanted wear.

When Irabu first came to the United States, he was billed as the Japanese Roger Clemens, but his career yielded more punch lines than punch outs. That’s why it’s easy to forget he was once one of the most coveted international free agents in recent memory.

In the winter of 1997, the San Diego Padres were granted the right to exclusively negotiate with Irabu, who, as a member of the Chiba Lotte Marines, was considered by many to be the best pitcher in Japan. However, Irabu had other plans. He only wanted to play for the Yankees. After much wrangling between the Marines, Padres and Yankees, Irabu was finally able to strong arm his way to New York. At the time, it seemed like a match made in heaven. One of the best international pitchers was bringing his star to Broadway. What could possibly go wrong?

During the All Star break, the Yankees decided that it was time to summon Irabu to the Bronx. Over 51,000 fans packed the Stadium to see his debut on July 10, 1997, and I was lucky enough to be one of them. With the exception of Opening Day and the inaugural interleague series against the Mets, it was the largest crowd of the season, and despite being just a regular season game, the level of anticipation rivaled October.

This was more than I ever dreamed about or imagined for this night. The support of the team is something I can’t compare. I wouldn’t sell what I was able to feel today for anything.”– Hideki Irabu, quoted in the New York Daily News, July 11, 1997

Over 6 2/3 innings, Irabu struck out nine Tigers, each one sending the Stadium crowd into an increasing state of delirium. After the game, which was an anti-climatic 10-3 victory, the excitement was still palpable. Although the Yankees had failed to get the real Roger Clemens during the offseason, it appeared as if they had found the next best thing. Then reality set in. Over his next seven starts, which were interrupted by a stint in the minors, Irabu posted an ERA of 8.72. Soon thereafter, he was demoted to the bullpen and then left off the playoff roster. As quickly as he burst on the scene, Irabu’s star had been extinguished.

Over 50,000 fans packed the Stadium for Irabu's debut on July 10, 1997.

Well, that’s not really true. Following his dismal debut, it would have been easy for Irabu to crawl into a shell, but instead, the right hander rebounded with a strong season in 1998. What’s more, for a stretch during that historic season, Irabu was actually the best pitcher on the team.  In fact, in May, the same month in which David Wells threw a perfect game, Irabu was named the best pitcher in the American League. Although his second half was marred by poor performance, Irabu was still an important part of one of the best teams in baseball history.

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated atTheYankeeAnalysts.)

Some of Brian Cashman's best decisions have involved trades he didn't make.

The trade deadline has resulted in some of the most lopsided deals in history, but that doesn’t mean evey swap made under the gun has to have a winner and loser.  Each year, there are just as many deadline deals that are prudent as ones that are impetuous, but what about the trades that don’t get made? Sometimes, by not pulling an itchy trigger, a general manager can make his team a deadline winner even without making a single transaction.

During his Yankee tenure, Brian Cashman has not been very active during the trade deadline. In fact, when he has made a major in-season deal, it has often come earlier in the year when the pressure of the deadline was off in the distance. What Cashman has been very good at, however, is avoiding impetuous deals that would have a negative impact on the future more than help in the present.

In his first year as GM, Cashman inherited a strong team and built it into a powerhouse with additions like Chuck Knoblauch and Orlando Hernandez. However, despite compiling a record setting winning percentage over the first four months, the Yankees were still front and center amid several rumors at the deadline. In particular, it was reported that the team was close to securing Randy Johnson for a package including Hideki Irabu and a combination of prospects like Ramiro Mendoza, Mike Lowell, Ricky Ledee and Homer Bush.

Although it’s hard to imagine that Johnson would have had a negative impact on the Yankees, an improvement would have been impossible.  Granted, if the deal had been made, the Yankees may not have had to face Johnson in the 2001 World Series, but it’s also possible they wouldn’t have gotten there without the likes of Roger Clemens and David Justice, two players later acquired using players rumored to be in the mix for Johnson.

In 1999, the Yankees reportedly considered trading Andy Pettitte for Roberto Hernandez.

In 1999, Andy Pettitte was having one of his most difficult seasons in the big leagues. During the first half, the normally reliable lefty compiled a 5-7 record with a 5.59 ERA, leading to speculation that the Yankees might trade him before the deadline. One of the more prominent reports involved the Yankees trading Pettitte to the Phillies for two prospects who would then be flipped to Tampa for Roberto Hernandez. Had that trade been made, there not only wouldn’t have been a core four, but it’s also possible the Yankees wouldn’t have had four championships to celebrate. Because of Cashman’s ability to resist the pressure from above to trade Pettitte, the Yankees were able to enjoy 85 more wins, including nine in the post season, from the homegrown left hander.

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On July 5, the Seattle Mariners beat the Oakland Athletics 4-2. They haven’t won since.

With Sunday’s 12-8 loss to the Red Sox, the Mariners established a franchise high 15-game losing streak, topping the old mark that was set in September 1992. In order to set the major league record for consecutive losses, however, Seattle would have to continue losing for more than another week. In 1961, the Philadelphia Phillies lost 23 straight games, which matched a similar stretch by the Pirates in 1890, so the Mariners still have a lot of work to do. A more realistic goal might be the Baltimore Orioles’ American League record of 21 consecutive defeats, which was established at the beginning of the 1988 season.

Longest Losing Streaks, Since 1876

Team Strk Start Strk End Games
Phillies 7/29/1961 8/20/1961 23
Orioles 4/4/1988 4/28/1988 21
Expos 5/13/1969 6/7/1969 20
Athletics 8/7/1943 8/24/1943 20
Athletics 7/21/1916 8/8/1916 20
Pirates 8/12/1890 9/2/1890 20
Red Sox 5/1/1906 5/24/1906 20
Royals 7/28/2005 8/19/2005 19
Tigers 7/29/1975 8/15/1975 19
Braves 5/17/1906 6/8/1906 19
Reds 9/5/1914 9/23/1914 19

Source: Baseball-reference.com

The Mariners make their first and only trip to the Bronx for a three-game series starting on Monday, so the Yankees will be in a position to either extend Seattle’s misery or suffer the embarassment  of helping them get of the schneid. If the latter occurs,  it would be the second time the Yankees’ franchise has had a lengthy losing streak snapped at their expense. On September 8, 1926, the Boston Red Sox picked up a 5-2 victory at the Stadium, ending their 17-game losing streak. That year, the Yankees still wound up winning the pennant, so if the 2011 team endures a similar fate, they can at least take solace in that fact.

In honor of the Mariners’ ignominious “achievement”, the longest losing streaks by each franchise are presented in the graphic below.

Longest Franchise Losing Streaks, Since 1876 (click to enlarge)

Note: White Sox lost 15 consecutive games from end of 1967 to start of 1968; Angels lost 13 consecutive games from end of 1988 to start of 1989; the Cubs lost 16 consecutive games from end of 1996 to start of 1997.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

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