Good morning everyone. I hope you all had a great weekend and an enjoyable Thanksgiving. If you haven’t worked since Wednesday, this is one of the tougher Mondays of the year to get through. If that’s the case for you, at least the MLB hot stove is ablaze with plenty of news to keep you distracted. The Mets made a bunch of signings and may be near a deal for Max Scherzer. The Rangers just inked Marcus Semien. Kevin Gausman is headed to Toronto. And other big names could agree to deals before the CBA expires this week. Whew.
Hopefully, a new CBA can be hammered out in reasonable time. Otherwise, the inevitable lockout will really stink. So for as long as there’s little to no MLB news after this week, we’ll need some of your most creative questions to keep the mailbag fresh week-to-week. Send them to viewsfrom314 at gmail dot com. We’ll pick and answer our favorites each Monday. Here are this week’s:
In this time of quarantine, one of the things we’ve used to distract ourselves is that “you can only pick three” game going around on various social media sites. It’s a silly time waster and ultimately meaningless as none of us will ever have to “pick three” of our favorite forms of entertainment or whatever, but here’s one set of my top three, with others to follow: regular season games.
First up on the list, at least chronologically speaking, is September, 18, 1995. This random September game against the Blue Jays was the first Yankee game I ever attended. There is very little I remember from it, frankly, aside from about where our seats were–lower level, third base line–that I took the above picture with my dad, that there was some guy next to us yelling about how long and dull the game was (he wasn’t wrong, apparently, as there was no scoring till late) and that Willie Randolph, the third base coach at the time, should be the next Yankee manager.
In terms of on the field performance, I don’t remember David Cone pitching as well as he did. All that I remember is Don Mattingly hitting a ball that almost got out over the wall in right field but didn’t and he got thrown out at second because he had kinda started trotting already.
Regardless of what I do and don’t remember, I was a budding baseball fan at the time and my love for the game only increased from then on.
A side note: is it coincidence that the ‘314’ sign is very visible in this picture? Absolutely. But is it more fun to pretend it was a sign of things to come? Absolutely.
Next, again chronologically speaking, we move to August 4, 2007. This game stands out despite it being one of the few I left early. Why did I leave early? Because it was about 950 degrees in the upper deck that day and by the 7th, my friend and I were fried. But why does the game stand out? Because in the first inning, Alex Rodriguez hit his 500th career home run.
He had been stuck on the 499 mark for a while and even though we all knew it would come, I didn’t think it would during the game I attended. When the ball went into the air, my friend and I were both up on our feet, jumping, screaming in unison, “GO! GO! GO! GO!” We waved our arms frantically towards the left field fence, went still and silent for a second as the ball passed over the wall, then screamed again, jumping and hugging as it landed in the seats.
To this day, it’s the only milestone game I’ve been to and probably the only one I’ll ever go to (statistically speaking); luckily, it was a milestone for one of my favorite players ever. That I got to share it with a good friend, someone whom I’ve known since 10th grade and ended up in my wedding party, made it all the better.
Last, but not least, we have a record-setting game: August 25, 2011. In this game, the Yankees hit three grand slams, one each by Robinson Cano, Russell Martin, and Curtis Granderson. Though they won 22-8, they were, at one point, down 7-1 because, and I’m quoting my own recap here “Phil Hughes couldn’t get out of the third and Cory Wade gave up a two run homer.”
I remember driving home from work, turning the radio off because I was so frustrated by the game. As soon as I got home, though, things changed. The final grand slam, the one by Curtis Granderson, came as I was clearing the dinner table and I remember laughing in the kitchen, amused by the absurdity of the situation–another grand slam.
There might be other games I’m note recalling here, but these were the first three that came to mind when thinking of a ‘pick three’ scenario. What are your ‘pick three’ regular season games? Leave them in the comments and let’s Remember Some Games.
25 years ago, two Yankees teammates went neck-and-neck for the American League batting title. It took until the very last lineup turn to determine if Don Mattingly or Dave Winfield would wear the crown. This year, DJ LeMahieu and Gio Urshela are in a similar position. Although there are still 39 more games on the schedule, it’s fun to think about the possibility of two teammates having some friendly competition until the very end of the regular season.
After last night, LeMahieu (.338) had a slight edge on Urshela (.337). Of course, Urshela doesn’t quite qualify for the batting title yet, though he will barring injury. In order to be eligible, the rules dictate that a batter must have 3.1 plate appearances per team game, or 502 over a 162 game season. Urshela is just short right now, at 364 in 123 games (2.96). If he averages 3.54 plate appearances per game the rest of the way, he’ll qualify.
Prior to the season, thinking that LeMahieu and Urshela could battle for the title was ludicrous. And yet, here we are. It’s no shock that LeMahieu is here; he’s a former batting champion after all. When he was with Colorado, LeMahieu won the 2016 crown with a .348 avareage. Meanwhile, Urshela being a good hitter is completely newfound ground. And really, he wasn’t even in the batting title conversation until a week or so ago.
Of course, LeMahieu and Urshela aren’t only competing against each other in the American League. Entering last night, Michael Brantley (.328) and Rafael Devers (.327) weren’t too far off. If one of LeMahieu or Urshela holds off the field, we could be in for the first all-New York batting crown season. The Mets’ Jeff McNeil currently sits atop of the National League race. That said, it wouldn’t be the first cross-city title.
The last time a Yankee won the batting title was in 1998, when Bernie Williams (.339) beat Mo Vaughn (.337). Before that, Paul O’Neill’s .359 mark in the strike shortened 1994 topped the junior circuit. And of course, prior to Williams and O’Neill, Mattingly topped the 1984 leadboard. A Yankee has topped the league six other times, but let’s reflect on the last day of the 1984 season for a moment.
Entering the last game of 1984, Winfield led Mattingly .341 to .340. Even though Mattingly recorded three hits to Winfield’s one through seven innings of play, Donnie Baseball hadn’t won the crown just yet. Both were due up in the eighth inning, and Winfield could have been the victor if he recorded a hit and Mattingly went down. Instead, Mattingly grounded a single to right (friendly hometown scoring, though) and Winfield was subsequently retired. The final: Mattingly .343, Winfield .340.
Could we see a redux of 1984 in 2019? The safe bet would be that Urshela cools off a bit while LeMahieu remains at or near the top of the leaderboard. After all, LeMahieu’s been here before and Urshela hasn’t. But it’s no fun to pour cold water on the idea of a photo finish! It’s not like Urshela hasn’t proven his doubters wrong time and time again this year.
Given the Yankees significant division lead, it’s nice to have a story line like this to follow as the long season winds down. That isn’t to say there’s nothing else to watch for – but we can only agonize over the postseason rotation and recovery of injured players for so long. At it’s core, baseball is a game and the point of it is to entertain us. Hopefully, LeMahieu and Urshela provide us with some excitement and go down to the wire for the batting crown.