Tag Archives: Cal Ripken

Derek Jeter Farewell Tour Kicks off at Minute Maid Park

The salute to the retirement of Derek Jeter whistle stop tour kicked off the other night at Minute Maid Park prior to a game between the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees.

In a way it is almost fitting that such a tour would kick off at the site of a former train station.

The season long farewell to Derek Jeter whistle stop tour kicked off at Minute Maid Park located at the former home of Houston's Union Station. Photo R. Anderson
The season long farewell to Derek Jeter whistle stop tour kicked off at Minute Maid Park located at the former home of Houston’s Union Station.
Photo R. Anderson

For those who perhaps had not heard Derek Jeter, the long time New York Yankee shortstop, is retiring at the end of the year to pursue whatever it is that a long-time Yankee does after hanging up his bat and glove for the final time.

So much like last year, when Mariano Rivera was having a year-long retirement salute, each of the teams to host Jeter and the Yankees this season will present gifts as a sign of appreciation for what he has done for the game of baseball.

Aside from being the player that they should have drafted way back when, Derek Jeter really does not have any ties to the Astros. There are other stops on the farewell tour where teams have even less of a “connection” to Jeter.

But just like clockwork each stop will feature pregame ceremonies with gifts and “grip and grin” photo ops for the fans of “insert city name here” to pay their last respects to Derek Jeter.

Derek Jeter never wore the Astros uniform but the captain in pinstripes was bestowed gifts the other night anyway. Photo R. Anderson
Derek Jeter never wore the Astros uniform but the captain in pinstripes was bestowed gifts the other night anyway.
Photo R. Anderson

Gifts given by the Astros to kick off the bon voyage included custom made pinstripe boots, a cowboy hat and some golf clubs.

As far as the Astros go they have the distinction of being the last stop on the Mariano Rivera farewell tour last year and the first stop on the Jeter bye bye bonanza this year.

On the surface I have no trouble with teams saluting players.

In fact, I am going to see two former Astros, Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt, honored before the game tomorrow night.

While I am sure there will be some gifts given to them it will only be a one ballpark stop and will not feature a prolonged tour through the rest of the Major League Baseball ballparks.

Also, unlike the farewell to Jeter, the Berkman and Oswalt retirements will be occurring in front of the hometown crowd.

Despite being traded from the Astros a few years back, Berkman and Oswalt are scheduled to sign one-day contracts, say a few words and then ride off into the sunset as retired ballplayers for the team where they spent the bulk of their careers.

Lance Berkman spent Opening Day last season as a member of the Texas Rangers playing against his old team in Houston. Berkamn along with Roy Oswalt will retire together as Astros tomorrow night in front of the home town crowd. Photo R. Anderson
Lance Berkman spent Opening Day last season as a member of the Texas Rangers playing against his old team in Houston. Berkman along with Roy Oswalt will retire together as Astros tomorrow night in front of the home town crowd.
Photo R. Anderson

I am a huge fan of the one day contract sign and retire approach as it allows fans to say a final goodbye to long time players while also giving the players closure on their career.

In fact I think the baseball collective bargaining agreement should be written to ensure that all retiring ballplayers are given a one-day contract to retire with the team where they spent the bulk of their careers.

I am less of a fan of the season long farewell tours where teams are “strongly encouraged” to honor players who may have spent very little time in that particular visiting ballpark.

Most players do not have a year-long farewell tour as the majority of players do not get to choose when to hang up the cleats.

In Lance Berkman’s case he retired after his body told him in the off season that it could not handle the strain of another season. In reality it had been a few years since Berkman had played healthy all year so the signs were still.

Oswalt finally called it a career after a few subpar seasons where the “Wizard of Os” didn’t have as much zip on his pitches as he once did.

But aside from getting honored by the team where they played the bulk of their careers tomorrow night there were no gifts showered down from opposing teams to usher in the retirements of Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman.

And there certainly were not Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt jerseys for sale in opposing team’s Ballparks as was the case this week at Minute Maid Park with Jeter merchandise available at the Astros team store.

Don’t get me wrong, Derek Jeter was a fine ballplayer who never seemed to get caught up in any of the performance enhancing drug scandals or any other issues that would tarnish his reputation or the reputation of the Yankees or Major League Baseabll.

One need only look to Jeter’s former infield partner, Alex Rodriquez, to see a player who seemed to do things the wrong way.

By all accounts Derek Jeter is one of those players for the kids in Little League to look up to and immolate but does that rise to the level of making his jerseys available in every ballpark and bestowing lavish thank gifts on him? I am not sure.

Like Derek Jeter, Cal Ripken, Jr. spent his entire career with the same team. Like Cal Ripken, Jr. Jeter is likely a first time ballot Hall of Famer. Photo R. Anderson
Like Derek Jeter, Cal Ripken, Jr. spent his entire career with the same team. Like Cal Ripken, Jr. Jeter is likely a first time ballot Hall of Famer.
Photo R. Anderson

Cal Ripken, Jr. was another player who like Jeter did things the right way on and off the field. Like Jeter, Ripken spent his entire career with the same team which is becoming more and more of a rarity.

But even as much as I like Cal Ripken I still have issues with a season long farewell tour.

That does not mean that you cannot respect the player for being an ambassador for the sport.

Opposing fans should even feel that they can give a little cheer when said player is up to bat but creating an environment where teams are left to one up each other when it comes to bestowing gifts on opposing players is a trend that needs to go.

The Yankees last home game this year will be against the Orioles. In the spirit of season long tributes perhaps Cal Ripken, who spent his entire career with the Orioles, will be on hand in some way to send Jeter off into the sunset.

Barring a playoff run for the Yankees Jeter will end is career at Fenway Park against the Yankees’ bitter rival the Boston Red Sox. I can only imagine the parting gift that they will give him.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go look for my Berkman jersey for the game tomorrow night.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Tom Hanks was Wrong, Sometimes There is Crying in Baseball

In the 1992 movie a League of Their Own Tom Hanks’ character admonishes one of his female baseball players for crying in the dugout by saying the often quoted phrase, “there’s no crying in baseball.”

On Thursday night in Yankee Stadium there was in fact crying allowed in baseball as New York Yankees’ closer Mariano Rivera said goodbye with class, composure and a few tears on a teammate’s shoulder.

I did not watch the moment when it happened live as the Yankees game against the Tampa Bay Rays was not televised in my market.

But when I woke up Friday morning to check out the game highlights from the night before there was a link to video of the moment Mariano left the mound for the last time.

I figured the video was worth watching since the teaser said that Derek Jeter and Andy Petittie were the ones to take Mariano out of the game which by itself is unusual. I figured it would be nice to see the tribute before heading off to work.

With all apologies to Tom Hanks who famously said that "there is no crying in baseball," I maintain there are times when it is allowed. Photo R. Anderson
With all apologies to Tom Hanks who famously said that “there is no crying in baseball,” I maintain there are times when it is allowed.
Photo R. Anderson

In hindsight I was not prepared for the video.

Once Mariano’s teammates arrived on the mound and it was clear that this was the last time that he would leave the mound in Yankee Stadium the emotions finally erupted and as he buried his head in his teammate’s shoulder the tears began to fall from his eyes.

The television broadcasters did the right thing and did not speak over the moment as broadcasters often try to do since they are taught to fill every moment of dead air.

But in that nearly eight minutes of dead air emotions rang true and the human element of sports was allowed to shine through.

Mariano went through the dugout and hugged each of his teammates before getting pushed out for one last curtain call as the hometown crowd cheered for him one final time.

Of course Mariano was not alone in shedding tears. There were people shedding tears throughout Yankee Stadium as the moment unfolded. And as I was watching the video I found myself shedding tears as well which certainly caught me by surprise.

Like most of baseball I am not a fan of the Yankees. As I have stated before there were certain Yankee players such as Don Mattingly that I rooted for growing up but by and large the Yankees were always the team that stood in the way of my Orioles and Rays reaching the postseason so it was hard to root for them. I also did not care for the free spending of the Yankees who seemed to treat the other 29 teams as their farm teams and cherry picked free agents from other teams year after year to build their super rosters.

But the moment on the mound Thursday night was not about a Yankee player or any other team for that matter. It was about a man who had given his all taking a curtain call and knowing that there would never be another moment like that.

As was the case during this year’s All Star game players from both teams and the entire crowd gave Mariano Rivera a standing ovation and a tip of the cap for a career played free of controversy in an era that needed players to look up to.

So as I watched the video I too was caught up in the emotion of the moment and had some tears flow. I later learned I was not alone in the show of emotions after the fact as the host of one of the sports talk shows I listen to on the radio admitted that he too had been brought to tears by the moment.

The closest baseball comparison to Mariano’s moment that I can think of in my lifetime was when Cal Ripken, Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Cal Ripken, Jr Photo R. Anderson
Cal Ripken, Jr
Photo R. Anderson

The baseball schedule had been arranged so that the record breaking moment would take place at the Orioles home ballpark so that the Oriole nation could share in the celebration.

Much like Mariano Rivera, Cal Ripken, Jr. played the game the right way and spent his whole career with the team that drafted him.

I do not think I cried when Ripken broke the record, but I do recall it being a moment of extreme happiness as the player I had followed for as long as I could remember broke what many thought would be an untouchable record.

So like that night so many years before when all eyes were on Cal Ripken, Jr., Thursday night belonged to Mariano Rivera and the fans who wanted to say goodbye.

In the end the Rays won the game 4-0 completing the sweep of the Yankees and keeping a one-game lead for the top spot in the Wildcard.

While the night did not end with Mariano Rivera earning a save, he showed the world that watched it live and those that caught the highlight later online that even grown men can cry now and then on the baseball diamond and that is totally acceptable.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have something in my eye.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Fan Votes for All-Star Game a Bad Idea

As we cope with the fact that the year is entering its seventh month despite feelings of Christmas being only yesterday here at Triple B the arrival of July means two things.

First, it is another reminder that I have lived in Texas far too long as it was a first week of July move that brought me to the state that only recognizes one lone star.

The second thing that July means is that the Major League Baseball All-Star Game is upon us. This year’s game will be July 16 in New York.

And unlike other All-Star games in sports, the MLB game has the feeling that it is being played to win by both sides. Of course some added incentive to win was added a few years back when home field advantage in the World Series was given to the league that won the All-Star game.

While I enjoy the home run derby and the All-Star game itself there is one particular aspect of the Baseball All-Star game season that I can do without.

That element of All-Star Game party foul is the fan vote. I know I will get lots of grief for saying this but I do not believe that the fans should be voting for the All-Star participants.

Sure, people will say that as a reporter I am being unfair to the common fan by saying that only members of the media and league officials should have a vote but let us examine what the fan vote portion of the All-Star voting really entails.

Unlike say the election for the President of the United States where a registered voter is allowed to cast a single ballot there are no such restrictions for MLB balloting. In fact, excessive voting is encouraged by the 30 teams who offer various prizes for filling out excessive amounts of ballots.

That boys and girls is called buying votes no matter how you slice it. And yes I am not trying to say that electing representatives to the All-Star game is more important than electing the President. Sadly I would not be surprised if more people vote in the All-Star race than the general elections to decide who will run the country though.

As an aside, as we approach July 4th when the founding fathers declared America’s independence and envisioned the framework of democracy I really think they expected more participation by the people in that process. The fact that voter turnout is so dismal means that those who do not vote really have no right to complain in the outcome of any election since they chose to not use their right to make a choice.

But enough about civics and responsible citizenship. Let us cast our gaze once more at the ballot process for the MLB All-Star game.

As part of the ballot stuffing certain power voters submit hundreds if not thousands of ballots. Of course it stands to reason that they are voting for their home town favorites so it becomes a battle of which team has the most active fan base in selecting some of the leaders of the voting pack.

So instead of an All-Star game where the most talented individuals at a given position are selected to represent both their team and their league, the All-Star Game becomes like high school with only the popular kids getting in to the party.

Granted, sometimes the most popular player is also the best player at that position but there has been a long history of players with better stats getting left out.

Cal Ripken Jr. had a Hall of Fame worthy career but some late career All-Star Game selections seemed based more on past performance than current stats. Photo R. Anderson
Cal Ripken Jr. had a Hall of Fame worthy career but some late career All-Star Game selections seemed based more on past performance than current stats.
Photo R. Anderson

Let us use Cal Ripken, Jr. as an example. As noted numerous times, Cal Ripken, Jr. was my favorite player to follow growing up along with Don Mattingly. Few could argue that Cal Ripken, Jr. was a great ballplayer and every bit deserving of induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first ballot.

But as happens with all of us as we age we are not as productive as we once were. So despite declining skills Cal Ripken, Jr. still was selected to All-Star games late in his career when he was still widely popular but no longer the best player at his position.

There are examples of players on the disabled list getting a large amount of votes for inclusion as well. Derek Jeter has not taken the field all season long yet he is included on the All-Star Ballot. There are also players who have been released or optioned down to the Minor Leagues still on the ballot.

At least one member of the Houston Astros roster will travel to New York for the All Star Game. Does that mean that they are having an All-Star caliber year? Not necessary. It just means the rules say every team will have one player there to show support. Photo R. Anderson
At least one member of the Houston Astros roster will travel to New York for the All Star Game. Does that mean that they are having an All-Star caliber year? Not necessary. It just means the rules say every team will have one player there to show support.
Photo R. Anderson

Another wrinkle in the All-Star game is the rule that all 30 teams need to have at least one representative selected.

This rule helps ensure that no team feels left out and harkens to the age where everyone gets a participation ribbon so that no one is left out.

And yes there are good players on bad teams but am I really to believe that a player on say the Astros who have about 30 wins is playing at an All-Star level?

Granted there is probably not a perfect solution for balloting due to the fluid nature of the game and the ballots being released two months before the game. But, The fact remains I do not feel that allowing fans to vote as often as they can based on their ability to pick up enough ballots at the ballpark makes a mockery of the whole process.

For those people still wanting to get their votes in and take place in the mockery the polls close on July 4th this year.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I will not be filling out an All-Star ballot but I will start to plan my menu for the All-Star game tailgate.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson