We’re going to go in a little different direction today with the blog: Much less of the usual analysis and opinion and more of the trip down memory lane type of day. Generally that’ll happen when the Yankees are currently playing a double A team with Manny Machado at shortstop. Seriously, I heard Rob Manfred say MLB may be looking to get big league franchises in Portland or Louisville – how about getting one in Baltimore first.
Back to Memory Lane: 10 years ago today my friends, was a big day in Yankee history (or so we thought at the time) and I was there to witness it first-hand. I was hopeful that it would be one of many memorable days at a Yankee game for me…
I was at the Stadium in ’87 when the Yankees came back from a 9-0 deficit against the Red Sox with Clemens on the mound for a 12-11 win – the biggest comeback in franchise history at the time.
I was at the Stadium when Derek Jeter hit a fly ball that was caught by Jeffrey Maier. Ironically, I was in the upper deck in right field, so I never saw what happened as it was directly below my seats.
I was at Don Mattingly day, when Bernie Williams hit a game winning HR and I got to meet Bernie after the game – still have the autographed ticket stub. It’s good to know people. I’m kind of a big deal.
Hell, I was there when Jack McDowell flipped off the Stadium crowd as he walked off the mound. That was funny on numerous levels.
No, my friends, June 3rd, 2008 wasn’t anywhere near those levels of cool, although we were told it would be. Ten years ago today was Joba Chamberlain’s first start as a Yankee.
Don’t laugh: Let’s not forget how dominant Joba was as a reliever in 2007: In 24 innings, he allowed only 18 baserunners and 1 earned run while striking out 34. The high 90’s fastball and fall off the table curve were something to see.
He started 2008 off similarly, but the talk started to heat up about getting him into the starting rotation. As former first round draft pick who (supposedly) also had a good change up and two seam sinking fastball, he’d be more valuable to the team if he threw 220 innings per year rather than 65, “Joba Rules” (cough) aside. To be fair, that call is usually the correct call. Starting pitchers are in fact, significantly more valuable than relievers.
But as we all know, it did not work. And as someone who was there, I can tell you it was pretty obvious it wasn’t going to work.
Because it wasn’t a guy who had a bad day. It was a guy who had a 97 mph fastball and knee buckling curve deciding to nibble around the corners at 89 – 91 mph. He looked and threw like a 42 year old who lost his stuff and was trying to get by with crap. And it was indeed, crap.
The Yankees lost that day, 9-3 to Toronto who had some guy named Halladay pitching. Joba threw (I use the term loosely) 2 and a third, walked 4 and gave up two runs which became typical for him for the rest of ’08. He walked off the mound to a standing ovation from the stadium crowd. Yes, seriously. Ironically, Dan Giese pitched pretty well in relief of Joba but took the loss. The game got out of hand when the Yankees put some guy named Edwar Ramirez in the game.
Anyway, we all know how the story ends. No need to re-hash the Yankees brass decision makers, or Joba’s career which although disappointing, was pretty good. 10 years in the big leagues and over $10 million in earnings is a career of which one should be proud.
It’s more that day I remember now. Some more of the particulars:
- Yankee Stadium III was under construction, so as my (now wife) and I were tailgating at the top of a parking deck we realized where we were eating and drinking was just going to be a spot of air soon.
- We paid $65 per seat, pretty low in the upper deck by third base. We saw a game later that season in Camden Yards in almost exactly the same seat location – they were $22 each. I’m frightened to know what that seat costs today at Stadium III.
- The game program has an article about the YES network’s new announcer, David Cone. The article contains a quote from Cone, who said at the time “As opposed to crunching numbers or being a statistician, I try to read the body language of the pitcher-catcher relationship.” My oh my, how we’ve grown David.
- The game program also has a pull out poster of Bobby Abreu. Do not laugh, part II: Abreu was a better player and a better Yankee than you think he was. In his two and a half seasons with the Yankees he had a higher OPS+ than Jeter, Matsui, Damon, Cano and Sheffield.
- I kept score that day. Remember keeping score?!?! Holla! My scorecard is remarkably clean for 9-3 game, incidentally. But the thing I noticed is how many “should be, but probably won’t be” Hall of Famers were in the game. A-Rod, Giambi, Cano for the Yankees and Scott Rolen and Roy Halladay for Toronto played that day and should all be in the Hall of Fame at some point, but probably won’t be for one reason or another.
And no, it isn’t a great memory that allows me to recall all of this. It’s that I still have the ticket stubs and game program, because I thought we might be watching the beginning of a special career.
Hey, not every game ends with a McDowell middle finger moment.