Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Iron Rod Leads Yankees to Burn Atlanta; Teófilo Stevenson, 1952-2012

The Yankees went down to Georgia.  They were looking for a series to steal.

Mission accomplished: We've taken the 1st 2 games of this Interleague series with the Atlanta Braves.

On Monday night, Ivan Nova was Supernova again, tossing 7 shutout innings, allowing just 5 hits and 1 walk (8-2).

Joe Girardi then used 4 pitchers to get the last 6 outs: Cody Eppley, Clay Rapada, Cory Wade and Boone Logan. (Rafael Soriano was unavailable, due to a blister on his hand.)

This reminds me of what Dos Equis' beer's "The Most Interesting Man in the World" said about wingmen: "It doesn't take more than one man to talk to one woman." And it doesn't take more than one man to pitch two innings of relief.  I've come to settle for and 8th inning man and a 9th inning man -- but 4 in 2? Joe, throw out the damn binder!

At any rate, the big blow was, yet again, by Raul Ibanez, his 10th of the season, off Randall Delgado (4-6). Yankees 3, Braves 0.

Last night, the Braves took a 4-0 lead and held it into the top of the 8th. Then the Yankees loaded the bases with one out. Lately, that's been a problem. Actually, hitting with any runners in scoring position (RISP) has been a problem.

Alex Rodriguez stepped to the plate. BOOM. Grand slam. Tie game.

Robinson Cano came up next, and singled. And then Nick Swisher hit one out to forge the final score of 6-4.

WP: CC Sabathia (8-3).  SV: Soriano (10, his blister clearly no longer a factor).  LP: Jonny Venters (3-3).

The series concludes tonight at 7.  Hiroki Kuroda starts for the Yankees, and Tim Hudson, formerly of the Oakland Athletics' underachieving "Big Three," starts for the Braves.

Oddly, Hudson is the only one of the Big Three who doesn't yet have a World Series ring. The other two have them, but not with the A's: Mark Mulder got his with the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals, and Barry Zito with the 2010 San Francisco Giants -- although it could be said that he was just along for the ride.

(UPDATE: Hudson would get one with the 2014 Giants.)


For both A-Rod and Swish, it was the 10th home run of the season.  For Swish, it was the 195th home run of his career.  For A-Rod, it was the 639th.

But more than that, it was A-Rod's 23rd career home run with the bases loaded. His 23rd career grand slam.

That ties the all-time record held by one of the Yankee-est Yankees of them all, Lou Gehrig.

The Iron Horse himself. Now, giving A-Rod the Gehrig nickname "The Pride of the Yankees" would not be a good idea. And calling him "Iron Rod" might have some sketchy connotations.

But when you tie, and put yourself in a position to break, a record set by Lou Gehrig, as Gehrig himself would say (he said it a couple of times in his farewell address), "That's something." After all, as Michael Kay would say, "These are not just great names, these are iconic names, not just in Yankee history, but in baseball history."

Gehrig is the greatest player ever to play the position of 1st base.  How long before we accept the fact that A-Rod has now played 9 seasons at 3rd base, and start to consider him ahead of Mike Schmidt as the greatest player ever to play that position? Because, let's face it, it's hard to think of him as a shortstop anymore.

No, Lisa Swan of the blog Subway Squawkers didn't pay me anything to write this. Why do you ask?

Next-best on the all-time grand slam list is Eddie Murray, who hit 20, spread across both leagues. Willie McCovey holds the National League record, with 18.

It's easy to forget that A-Rod now has some serious career numbers. He has 2,837 hits, making him the player most likely to become the next to join the 3,000 Hit Club. Derek Jeter is the active hit leader, with 3,169. Among active players, Omar Vizquel is next, with 2,851, but he's 45 and he's not going to make it to 3,000. Johnny Damon has 2,742, and has an outside shot at it.

A-Rod has 1,922 career runs batted in. He tied Jimmie Foxx for 8th on the all-time list. Ahead of him: 1. Hank Aaron, 2,297; 2. Babe Ruth, 2,213; 3. Cap Anson, 2,075; 4. Barry Bonds, 1,996; 5. Gehrig, 1,995, missed 2,000 RBIs and 500 homers because of his fatal illness; 6. Stan Musial, 1,951; and 7. Ty Cobb, 1,938.

We've been focusing so much on whether A-Rod could become the all-time home run leader -- he now trails only Bonds (762), Aaron (755), Ruth (714) and Willie Mays (660) -- that we haven't even noticed his climb up the RBI leaders ladder.

Indeed, how many of us even knew who the all-time RBI leader was? How many of us have even considered who it might be? When Hank broke that record of the Babe, nobody noticed. It was on May 1, 1975, by which point he was back "home" in Milwaukee with the Brewers. They hosted the Detroit Tigers at Milwaukee County Stadium, where Aaron had once starred with the Braves, and won 17-3. Aaron was the designated hitter and batted 5th, and went 4-for-4 that night, getting the record-breaker in the 3rd, singling home Sixto Lezcano, off Vern Ruhle. He also doubled home Robin Yount in the 5th.

When Aaron hit his 715th homer the year before at Atlanta, there was a paid attendance of 53,775, the biggest baseball crowd Atlanta has ever had. When he collected his 2,214th RBI, only 8,395 were on hand on a Thursday night in Milwaukee.

A-Rod will turn 37 next month. He needs 163 hits to get to 3,000. He should get it early next season.

He needs 129 home runs to become the all-time leader. To break it before his current contract runs out in 2017, he would need to average about 23 home runs per season.

He needs 376 RBIs to become the all-time leader. To break it before his contract runs out, he would need to average about 67 RBIs per season.

3,000 hits shouldn't be too much trouble. 2,298 RBIs might be "easier" than 763 homers.

If he does get close to Aaron at 2,297, I hope the Yankees hype it. RBIs have never really gotten the credit they deserve, despite such advocates as Branch Rickey, Hank Greenberg, Ted Williams and Frank Robinson.

And Alex Rodriguez could end up with more of them than anybody. Ever.


Teófilo Stevenson died 2 days ago. Because he was Cuban, he never got to fight for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. He could have won it.

He was born Teófilo Stevenson on March 29, 1952 in Puerto Padre, Cuba. His father was an immigrant from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. The father was big, and took boxing lessons, but got sick of it. The son was boxing by age 9, and was a 6-foot-5 national champion in Cuba by 1969.

He won Gold Medals in the heavyweight division at the Olympics in 1972 in Munich, in 1976 in Montreal, and in 1980 in Moscow. He also won them at the Pan American Games in 1975 in Mexico City and in 1979 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

All 3 times he won the Olympic gold, he was named a Merited Master of Sport of the USSR, one of the few non-Soviet athletes ever to receive it. Being a sports hero of a Communist country had its privileges.
El Campeón y El Caballo

But because Fidel Castro didn't believe in professional sport, Teófilo was never permitted to try his hand at pro boxing. He was 36 in 1980, and competing against men little more than half his age. We'll never know how he would have done against 1970s Heavyweight Champions Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Leon Spinks and Larry Holmes, or even against contenders like Jimmy Ellis, Jerry Quarry, Oscar Bonavena, Ken Norton, Ron Lyle and Earnie Shavers. Or against the fictional Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed.

He suffered a heart attack 2 days ago. He was 60, and was survived by 2 children.

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