March 2009

Spring Training is way too long

spring_450.jpgBy Joe Auriemma
Years ago, once the baseball season
ended, the players would shut down completely in the offseason. Most of
these Major Leaguers had jobs to make extra income. I know most people
can’t even fathom the thought that Hall of Famers, Yogi Berra and Phil
Rizzuto used to work at a men’s shop in Newark, just to try and support
their family, but it’s true. This was a time in which players needed a
lot of Spring Training action to get back in shape and ready for the
marathon that is the baseball season.

Nowadays, most players
don’t have to worry about a second job and treat baseball as a year-round profession. By the time most of them report to camp in February,
they are already in shape. To be fair, a lot of these player do shut
down for at least a month after the season is over to rest, but even
the pitchers now throw in the offseason to keep up their arm strength.

This spring season was longer because of the World Baseball Classic games, and when it’s all
said and done the Yankees are going to play 37 exhibition games. That
is literally almost a quarter of a 162-game schedule. That’s also not
including the time in which they report to camp just to work out the
first week-and-a-half.

I spoke with John Flaherty and Jim Kaat
about the Spring Training season down in Tampa, Fla., and both agreed that the
Grapefruit/Cactus campaign is way too long. Flaherty told me that most position players are
ready to go by March 15. If that’s the case, there is almost three more
weeks until the regular season actually starts after the time frame in
which Flaherty told me position players are fully ready for the season.

I
tried to get the pitcher’s perspective on the spring season when I spoke
with Kaat. He told me that even though pitchers need more time
to strengthen out their arms and stretch out their innings, he
concluded that the spring schedule is ridiculous. One thought that he
had was make the Spring schedule only 15-17 games in the month of March
and just have the pitchers report maybe a week earlier than the
position players. Most of these pitchers take the time to stretch out
their innings over at the team’s Minor League complexes anyway in
extended Spring Training games.

As for getting a good look at
potential fringe players that managers have to put on their final
rosters, I think teams can see them in the
shortened spring schedule, simulated games, Minor League games and at
practice during the month of March.

I, like most fans, are just
ready to get this baseball season going now. I’ve been ready for the
last two weeks and I think from the reaction of a lot of the players,
they have been more than ready too.

Ready to Rock!

arod_hardrock_250.jpgBy Jon Lane
Prior to Thursday’s workouts will be a pretty cool unveiling of the new Hard Rock Cafe at Yankee Stadium. Bernie Williams will be on hand along with rock legends Ace Frehley (KISS), Scott Ian and Frank Bello (Anthrax), Darryl “DMC” McDaniels (RUN DMC) and Anton Figg (Late Show Band). The restaurant/bar will officially open for business with what’s being billed as a Celebratory Guitar Smash.

The new Hard Rock Cafe Yankee Stadium is located at Gate 6 of the new facility. Williams is releasing his second CD “Moving Forward” and will be playing “Take Me
Out to the Ballgame” with children from the Bronx-based Renaissance
EMS, which received Hard Rock guitars at the Cafe ground-breaking last
spring, when Alex Rodriguez signed a huge Hard Rock guitar dressed in pinstripes.

Williams was a great ballplayer and is a fabulous musician. His first project, “The Journey Within,” is fantastic. As far as the Hard Rock, you can’t go wrong here. Rock and roll and Yankees memorabilia under one roof? Money. The food is pretty good too; I’d recommend the hot wings or the burger.

This from MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch: The Hard Rock is rumored to be staying open until 1 a.m. after Yankees home games. Nice!

Meanwhile, in Dunedin ….

jeter_250.jpgBy Jon Lane
It’s 1-0 Yankees in the top of fifth thanks to a Mark Teixeira single. Andy Pettitte has whiffed five and as of this writing retired seven straight batters. Apparently, the veteran left-hander is already in midseason form. He won’t pull a Mike Mussina, winning 20 games coming off a down season, but he’ll be much better than last year as a No. 4 starter.

You’ll get to see Pettitte in person, or on the tube, when he splits Saturday’s exhibition game with A.J. Burnett. The YES Network will air it live at 1 p.m.

The photo to your left isn’t Pettitte, but it’s a cool shot of Derek Jeter. His range is supposedly diminished, but can anyone duplicate his patented leaping snap throw to first base? I think not.

3:07 p.m. Think Mark Teixeira is ready for the season? His RBI double put the Yankees ahead 2-1 in the seventh and he’s accounted for both of the Yankees’ runs so far.

Teixeira is 2-for-3 and is batting .408. Pettitte pitched 6.2 strong innings, allowing five hits, one run (earned), no walks, seven strikeouts and one wild pitch while throwing 92 pitches.

3:15 p.m. Angel Berroa doubled home a run to provide the Yankees some insurance, but was gunned down as third base attempt to stretch it into a triple. Still, he continues to make his case that he and not Ramiro Pena, should head north.

3:35 p.m. That’s a wrap from Dunedin. Edwar Ramirez froze Jose Bautista for strike three to secure a 3-1 Yankees win. One step closer to coming home.

Down the stretch they come

stadium_350.jpgBy Jon Lane
T-minus seven days until the start of the Yankees’ 2009 regular season in Baltimore on April 6. However, the team breaks camp on Wednesday and will be in the Bronx Thursday for a workout at their plush new digs. Me and my YESNetwork.com colleagues will be there to document the latest news and initial impressions of the new Yankee Stadium. The next night, the palace receives the first of two dry runs when the Yankees play the Chicago Cubs in an exhibition affair (YES HD, 7 p.m.)

First, the Yankees play another Spring Training game today in Dunedin, Fla., against the Blue Jays. This is their lineup:

Derek Jeter SS
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Hideki Matsui DH
Nick Swisher RF
Robinson Cano 2B
Cody Ransom 3B
Jose Molina C
Brett Gardner CF

Pitching: Andy Pettitte, Damaso Marte, Brian Bruney, Jose Veras , Edwar Ramirez.

_______________________

gardner_150.jpgGardner made news this past weekend when he was formally named the Yankees’ starting center fielder. Joe Girardi made it clear that this will not be a platoon situation between Gardner and Melky Cabrera. Gardner will be playing every day until further notice, thus his chance to follow in the steps of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Bobby Murcer, Mickey Rivers and Bernie Williams – at least until Austin Jackson is proclaimed Major League ready.

Gardner’s been a great story. He’s a spunky 5-10 package who was a walk-on at the College of Charleston. His big-league debut was inauspicious: .153 (9-for-59) in 17 games last season before he was demoted. And while he owns a paltry .228 average (29-for-127) in 42 games, he batted .294 (20-for-68) from August 15 until the end of the 2008 season.

This spring, Gardner hit .385 (20-for-52), with two doubles, two triples, three home runs, six RBIs, with a .448 OBP and was 5-for-7 in stolen base attempts. By way of comparison, Cabrera’s line through Sunday was .340 (18-for-53), 3 doubles, 1 triple, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 2-for-3 in SB attempts, .417 OBP, but his regression (.249 in 2008, including an August demotion) was virtually impossible to ignore.

Gardner provides elements not seen around the Yankees in recent years and his lefty bat adds balance to the lineup, but don’t count out Cabrera. He’ll make the team as a valuable reserve outfielder who can spell Johnny Damon, Xavier Nady or even Gardner (who could shift to one of the corners) late in games with an arm that can be the difference between winning and losing. He’s also only 24, so whether it’s with the Yankees or elsewhere as midseason trade bait, Cabrera still has a chance to prove that last season was an aberration.

_______________________

Girardi said he’s thinking of eschewing a long reliever in favor of Jonathan Albaladejo. Why? Nothing against Albaladejo, who’s had a fine spring, but even elite starters get shelled early and there’s that innings limit on Joba Chamberlain. The rest of the bullpen will be feeling the heat, literally and figuratively, once the weather warms up. Brett Tomko, Dan Giese or Alfredo Aceves are better suited to eating innings and keeping the Yankees in the game should they face an early deficit.

_______________________

pena_250.jpgDon’t look now, but Ramiro Pena has a realistic shot of making the team as the utility infielder who helps hold the fort until Alex Rodriguez returns. Pena’s glove has been world class since Day 1, but his bat showed tremendous improvement this spring. His chief competition, veteran Angel Berroa, is batting .358, compared to Pena’s .321, but you cannot underestimate the value of a slick glove, especially at shortstop. And giving a homegrown prospect a taste of the Majors bodes will for his future, too.

Bill Madden cites Pena’s progress and Derek Jeter’s declining range to his left. Also, I covered Pena and fellow prospect Jesus Montero at last summer’s Futures Game, when Pena showed off his defensive skills and discussed overcoming a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

According to Peter Abraham, Girardi said no decisions on these roster spots have been made yet and this could carry into the Cubs series.

Friday night fun

By Jon Lane
It’s Reds vs. Yankees tonight at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. For the play-by-play, dial into WCBS 880-AM.

For more YESNetwork.com exclusives, Joe Auriemma and his crew are down there and will wrap up their Spring Training coverage this weekend. The Yankees, though, have another five days left in Florida before they head home for a workout next Thursday at the new Yankee Stadium followed by exhibition games Friday night and Saturday afternoon against the Cubs (both games will air on YES). Then it all begins April 6 in Baltimore when CC Sabathia makes the Yankees’ first start of the 2009 season.

Speaking of the new Stadium, those who believe hitting the road is their best route to the Bronx, you’ll interested in this: BaseballParking.com has information on a parking garage that offers spaces that can be reserved for up to the entire home season. The daily charge will be $19.

Tonight’s lineups
YANKEES
Derek Jeter SS
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Hideki Matsui DH
Jorge Posada C
Robinson Cano 2B
Xavier Nady RF
Cody Ransom 3B
Brett Gardner CF

Pitching: CC Sabathia, Mariano Rivera, Damaso Marte and Jon Albaladejo.

This is in all likelihood the Yankees’ Opening Day lineup … is Rivera human? He’s retired 12 of the 13 hitters he’s faced this spring while throwing 30 of 43 pitches for strikes.

REDS
Darnell McDonald CF
Jerry Hairston Jr SS
Brandon Phillips 2B
Laynce Nix RF
Jonny Gomes DH
Adam Rosales 3B
Jacque Jones 1B
Ramon Hernandez C
Norris Hopper LF

Pitching: Aaron Harang, Daniel Ray Herrera, Mike Lincoln, Josh Roenicke and Pedro Viola.

I like this Reds team. Yeah, it comes off a 74-88 2008, but a program is being built around young players like Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Edinson Volquez (he came to Cincinnati in the Josh Hamilton trade), Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto … Harang experienced a severe decline last season, falling from winning 16 games two straight years to 6-17 with a 4.78 ERA … last week, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty refuted an ESPN report that Harang was on the block … should Harang be named Opening Day starter April 6 against the Mets, he’ll be the first Reds hurler to start four consecutive Opening Day games since Jose Rijo from 1992-95. Don’t count on it. Volquez (17-6, 3.21) is their horse.

Thoughts from Phillies-Yankees in Clearwater

By Joe Auriemma

The press box is packed here at Bright House Field, so I decided to go to an empty radio room to do my work today. While sitting there alone and editing my videos, in walks a man with a very familiar voice and he asks if I would mind if he sat next to me. It’s Harry Kalas, the Hall of Fame Phillies Broadcaster. All I keep thinking in my mind is him saying, “The career 500th home run for Michael Jack Schmidt!,” in his patented voice. I’m sure most of you have heard the familiar voice if you don’t know the name. The funny thing is that his voice is the same as if he was announcing the game. What a thrill!

Back to the game, Joe Girardi did something that I really think is a good move for this lineup. Derek Jeter is today’s leadoff hitter . Jeter has led off 448 games in his career with a .315 average, 359 runs scored and a .389 on-base percentage. Now I know most of you would say that Jeter is getting a little bit older, and might not have the average or on-base percentage he has had in previous seasons, but I really think that a move like this in the lineup, might get him to see more pitches and give him an opportunity to come to the plate more often. I also think that Jeter, who did hit .300 last season, is going to have a more Jeterian year in 2009.

Hideki Matsui, showing why the Yankees are opting to use him as their cleanup hitter most of the time until A-Rod comes back, hit a two run dinger to right. Matsui is another one of those players that was and is a question mark coming into 2009 after an injury-riddled 2008. Right now it looks as if his pop is back and he’s ready to drive in some runs this season.

Joba Chamberlain gave up back-to-back jacks to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard that may have given him whiplash with how quickly each left the park. The two pitches he gave up the home runs on were very flat. As the game has progressed, he has regained his command and is starting to look sharp.

Cody Ransom hit a solo home run in the top of the 4th inning to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead. Joe Girardi told me in our Q&A the other day that Ransom has been great this spring. In fact here is the exact quote:

Great spring. Very athletic player. He’s swung
the bat really well and we’ve still moved him around because Alex is
eventually going to be back. I feel comfortable putting him anywhere
and he brings a little thunder in his bat as well.”

I’ll be back with more from Clearwater. I might go bug Ken Singleton and Bob Lorenz for a half an inning and report back on how they are doing.

2:38 PM

I’m back from the booth after bothering Bob (the
official YES blobber) and Ken Singleton. I was in there while they were
talking to Joe Girardi. While talking to Girardi, Joba was pulled from
the game. His final line, 4.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 2 HR. Not
really his best showing, but he has had a decent spring.

Phil
Coke came into the game. Coke, who Chris Shearn interviewed earlier
this week, is back in the game after a very bad left thigh contusion.
This is his first appearance since taking that line drive off of his
leg. Coke looked good. He faced the terrific lefty second baseman Chase
Utley. It was a battle and the count got to 3-2, when Joe Girardi told
Bob Lorenz and Ken Singleton that he would call an offspeed pitch in
the 3-2 situation and wouldn’t you know it, Phil Coke struck out Utley
on the 3-2 offspeed pitch. Great stuff from the booth.

3:05 PM

Brian Bruney now in the game here in the Top of the 7th inning. Bruney needs to have a good outing. Coming into this game he has 8.1 innings pitched this spring with a 7.56 ERA, (7 earned runs). He’s also allowed eight hits, struck out 10 while walking six and has given up three home runs. This is a pitcher that they have slotted in as a possible 8th inning bridge to Mariano Rivera. The Yankees have put a lot of stock in Bruney being a big time reliever for them.

He just allowed a lead off double to Matt Stairs.

3:14 PM

Bruney, after giving up that leadoff double, got out of the jam. This is a good sign for the Yankees. Like I said before, the Yankees need this guy to be good this season.

3:17 PM

Nick Swisher just went yard. Chris Shearn had an interview with him on Monday and he is the clubhouse clown according to his teammates. I know there was a lot of talk about possibly moving this guy in the offseason and there is still rumblings that he may be moved. I think that would be a big mistake. From what I’ve seen down here, Swisher adds some fun and life into the clubhouse. In fact, he even said in his interview with Chris that the clubhouse was, “A little stuffy,” when he got here.

Not only does he add a little pop to the lineup, but he does get on-base a lot. Our own Steven Goldman thinks he should be the everyday right fielder over Xavier Nady, now while I don’t agree with him there, I definitely think he is a terrific piece to this 2009 team.

3:52 PM

The Yankees win this one 10-2 over the Phillies from Clearwater. Some final thoughts from the game.

  • The Jeter move to the leadoff spot was a very favorable move in its trial period today.

  • Chamberlain didn’t have his best outing. He gave up back-to-back home runs to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Once again, and something that’s been a knock of Joba’s starting career up to this point is that he runs up his pitch count very quickly. Today he only threw 4.1 Innings, but still managed to earn the victory.

  • Phil Coke and Brian Bruney stepped up and pitched well today in key situations. Finally, with rumblings of Melky Cabrera or Nick Swisher possibly being traded, both smacked a home run today.

  • That’s it from the ballpark. Be sure to catch all of the video interviews from today and another edition of The Diamond Daily.  

Back in Clearwater

brighthouse_350.jpgBy Jon Lane
Down the home stretch of their Grapefruit League schedule, the Yankees are back in Clearwater, Fla., for another game against the Phillies (YES HD, 1 p.m.). Joe Auriemma and Chris Shearn are at Bright House Field, where bright and early, Auriemma sat down for exclusive interviews with Brad Lidge, Miguel Cairo and Ryan Howard. You’ll find these conversations with members of the reigning World Champions, as well as a chat with YES’ own Ken Singleton and a lot more, on YESNetwork.com later this afternoon.

Yankees Lineup
Derek Jeter SS
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Hideki Matsui DH
Nick Swisher RF
Robinson Cano 2B
Cody Ransom 3B
Jose Molina C
Melky Cabrera CF

Pitching: Joba Chamberlain, Phil Coke, Brian Bruney, Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez and Jon Albaladejo.

After a brutal beginning to Spring Training, Chamberlain (2-0, 3.48 ERA) is in a groove. The last time he faced the Phillies he held them to two hits over three scoreless innings in a 12-0 Yankees victory on March 16.

Cabrera has picked up his game too and is batting .295, but Brett Gardner (.409) is riding an eight-game hitting streak (8-for-18). All indications are that Gardner will be in center field Opening Day, but you never know.

This feature on Mark Teixeria, written by Howard Bryant, is a must-read. As Bryant writes, Teixeira is “the latest to try to climb the baseball equivalent of Mount Everest: playing in New York as the top-dollar free agent and coming through on the other side.” It’s a mission where many others, including Alex Rodriguez, have failed.

9:42 a.m. Joe Girardi made the inevitable official when he named CC Sabathia the Yankees’ starter for Opening Day April 6 in Baltimore. Sabathia will also christen the new Yankee Stadium when he takes the mound for the building’s first regular season game on April 16.

Chamberlain will start the sixth game of the season April 12 in Kansas City. 

Meanwhile, Girardi will be tinkering with the idea of Derek Jeter leading off and Johnny Damon batting second, an idea Damon endorsed.

1:28 p.m. With one swing, Hideki Matsui staked Chamberlain to a 2-0 lead. With two swings, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard each went yard of the right-hander to tie the game at two. Let the Joba back-to-the-pen cries resume.

1:36 p.m. Great point by play-by-play man Bob Lorenz. Unless the Yankees are blown away, it’s not a wise idea to trade Melky Cabrera yet. Should Brett Gardner lose his hitting stroke, or Johnny Damon be felled by injury, you never know when you may need him. If Cabrera isn’t on the Major League roster, there’s a strong chance the Yankees will lose him because he’s out of options, so why not keep him in reserve and see where his value lies come July?

The Blob, incidentally, is a unique read.

2:09 p.m. Cody Ransom goes yard in the fourth to put the Yankees back on top 3-2. Peter Abraham offered a suggestion to John Sterling for a home run call: “Pay the Ransom!” Here’s one from me: “Handsome Cody Ransom!”

How nasty is Chamberlain’s breaking ball, BTW? Ryan Howard, who homered off him earlier, was left fooled.

2:24 p.m. Through 4 1/2 innings here’s how the revamped top of the order is doing:

Jeter: 2-for-3, two runs scored
Damon: 1-for-3 with with an RBI single that pushed the Yankees’ lead to 4-2.

My colleague, Joe Auriemma, has more on why this can work. Jeter has hit from the top spot before and has enjoyed success.

2:30 p.m. Chamberlain was pulled with one out in the fifth after putting two runners on and with his pitch count in the high 70s. This has been his biggest bugaboo. The Yankees want to see him working quicker innings and there’s a way to go about it. Throughout the spring, Chamberlain has picked the brain of A.J. Burnett, who while in Toronto learned how to pitch effectively and economically from a pretty good source, Roy Halladay.

2:45 p.m. Bad news courtesy of Newsday: Longtime Yankees public address announcer Bob Sheppard is not expected to work Opening Day at the new Yankee Stadium. Sheppard, in his late 90s and the Yankees’ P.A. since 1951, missed the entire 2008 season recovering from a bronchial infection. His wife, Mary, tells Neil Best that warmer weather hopefully may ease her husband’s return.

2:49 p.m. Cabrera works his way back from an 0-2 count to poke an RBI single to right field. Girardi wants to make a decision on who will start in center field by the weekend. While it’s expected to be Gardner, Cabrera is looking like he’ll earn a role on this team.

3 p.m. Edwar Ramirez and his change-up made mince meat out of the heart of the Phillies’ order. I wrote this earlier this spring: When he’s bad, he’s really bad, but when he’s good, he’s real good.

3:28 p.m. This game is officially in the silly stage. Yankees lead 10-2 thanks to a home run from Cabrera. To his credit, the Melk Man didn’t bury his head in his locker after Gardner’s hot start to the spring.

Pettitte starts Minor League game against Clearwater

pettitte_250.jpgBy Joe Auriemma
The Yankees may have had an off day today, but Andy Pettitte needed to get his work in.

Pettitte and Jose Molina played in a Minor League game with the Class-A Tampa Yankees against the Clearwater Phillies. Pettitte had a solid outing, but the real key was getting his work in and stretching him out. His final line for the game; 5.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 1 ER, 3 K, 1 BB, 2 WP, 83 pitches – 63 strikes.

That doesn’t sound like the most glamorous final line, but he did pitch well with a lot of errors behind him. In the second inning when he gave up all five runs, there were three errors in the field and he finished the inning by throwing only 17 pitches, 16 for strikes.

“I felt good with everything,” Pettitte said. “Obviously you always wish you could have better command. I did leave some cutters in the middle of the plate. You know they’d get hit pretty hard at the big-league level. All in all, it was good, I got through it. It stretched me out. I got up six times. I felt good.”

When Pettitte was asked about his strength he said, “I feel like I’m getting there. I felt great at 65 (pitches) and I was gassed when I was done, so it’s amazing how that works. You throw 15 to 20 extra pitches and get a little tired. The next one we’ll try and get right at 100 (pitches).”

When Pettitte was asked about the passing of Yankees legendary executive Arthur Richman, he said he was sad to hear about the news. He was a regular guy and got to spend a lot of time with him at the ball park.

Musings from Brian Cashman
Brian Cashman met the media before Pettitte’s start and discussed Jorge Posada’s comeback. He said that it was a pretty significant surgery Posada had and so far, so good. Cashman went on to say that he has worked hard to get to this point.

Posada has looked good up until this point, meaning that the Yankees will probably not have to carry three catchers as an insurance policy, leaving another spot open to create a deeper bench. His arm has looked good since my arrival here in Tampa and from looks of it, they are going to have Posada back behind the plate for many games this season.

After Pettitte’s start and after the FoxSports.com story broke about Melky Cabrera being shopped around, Cashman didn’t discuss the rumors at all. He told the media it was still an open competition and that there were going to be discussions before camp broke to see about the roster spots and who has won the job.

Cashman also followed suit and talked about Richman saying, “It’s a sad day here. A friend is gone. He loved baseball.”

Report: Yankees shopping Cabrera

By Jon Lane
FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Yankees are open to moving outfielder Melky Cabrera, who he writes would be a perfect fit for the White Sox. A trade of Cabrera, 24 and out of options, would create opportunities to give more at-bats to Nick Swisher, who is behind Xavier Nady on the depth chart but can play all three outfield positions as well as first base.

Joe Auriemma is in Tampa, Fla., covering Andy Pettitte’s Minor League start, where he and reporters are hoping to get a word with general manager Brian Cashman. Stay logged on for Joe’s full report and a Diamond Daily recap of the day’s events.

3:12 p.m.
From Joe Auriemma down in Tampa:

Cashman was non-committal about the Cabrera report, stating there were no talks going on. He’ll be meeting with team brass to discuss whether to bring either Cabrera or Gardner — or both — up north. What wasn’t mentioned was the fact that Cabrera is out of options. If the Yankees try to demote him to Triple-A, he’ll be a free agent and available for a team, like the White Sox, to sign him.

When asked about the battle for center field, Cashman replied with a smile, “It’s a very nice competition.”

Andy Pettitte’s pitching line: 5 1/3 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks, 2 WP, 83 pitches (63 strikes). Errors were his downfall in the second inning, when 16 of his 17 pitches were strikes. The veteran left-hander admitted to feeling gassed but is shooting to throw 100 pitches in his next start.

More from Joe later.

Yankees lose two family members

By Jon Lane
Peter Abraham was first to report the passings of two respected members of the Yankees family: Johnny Blanchard and Arthur Richman.

Blanchard was a key component of that famed Yankees team of 1961 (also my father’s all-time favorite team). After Yogi Berra moved from behind the plate to left field the year before, Elston Howard took over the starting catcher’s job, which left Blanchard relegated to a bench player. But in just 243 at-bats, Blanchard hit .305 with 21 home runs and 54 RBIs. In the Yankees’ World Series win over the Cincinnati Reds, he batted .400 with homers in Games 3 and 5, and played in five Fall Classics while setting a Major League record with 10 pinch-hit at-bats.

Blanchard was one of my dad’s favorites (Mickey Mantle topped his list). Each time Blanchard stepped to the plate my dad would look to right field, because that’s where he knew it was going.

Richman was the team’s senior advisor of media relations who spent more than 50 years in baseball and suggested to George Steinbrenner that he hire Joe Torre as manager. Beginning in 1997, my first year covering the Yankees for New York Sportscene and later Yankees Magazine, Richman was a tremendous influence in my career. He always greeted me with a smile and was quick to share advice. He was beloved by everyone he encountered in and out of Yankee Stadium and I personally will never forget him.

2:06 p.m. The Yankees released the following statement on Arthur Richman:

NEW YORK YANKEES ANNOUNCE PASSING OF LONGTIME BASEBALL AMBASSADOR ARTHUR RICHMAN

It is with deep sadness that the New York Yankees announce the passing of longtime baseball writer and executive Arthur Richman. He passed away peacefully in his sleep at his home in New York City early this morning with his wife, Martha Richman, and friends by his side. He was 83 years old.

Mr. Richman’s baseball career spanned seven decades, including stops as an executive with the New York Mets and most recently the New York Yankees. He began his career in 1942 as a copy boy at the New York Daily Mirror and worked there for 21 years, authoring one of New York’s most popular columns, “The Armchair Manager.”

The Mirror folded in 1963, and Mr. Richman quickly took a position in the front office of the New York Mets, where he worked for 25 years. In 1989, Mr. Richman went to work for the Yankees, holding the positions of Senior Vice President and Senior Advisor in the club’s media relations department for nearly two decades.

“Arthur Richman made baseball and the New York Yankees an enormous part of his life, and I am grateful for his contributions both personally and professionally,” Yankees Principal Owner/Chairperson George M. Steinbrenner said. “He was a trusted friend and advisor to me, and someone the world of baseball will find impossible to replace. I extend my deepest sympathies to his wife Martha and to the countless others who were fortunate enough to call him a friend.”

Services will be held on Thursday, March 26 at 11:45 a.m. at Riverside Memorial Chapel on 180 W. 76th Street in New York City. He is survived by his wife, Martha. Mr. Richman was predeceased by his brother Milton, an award winning sportswriter and editor for United Press International.

The family asks that any memorial gifts be sent in Arthur’s name to the “Catch 25 Foundation,” established by New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi. Donations will be dedicated specifically towards the area of the foundation that focuses on Alzheimer’s Disease research and support.

For more information on the foundation, visit JoeGirardi.com. Donations can be sent to Catch 25 Foundation, 220 West Huron, Suite 2001, Chicago, IL, 60654.

4 p.m.
Mike Francesa pays tribute to Blanchard and Richman. Watch it here:

5:11 p.m.
Former Yankees teammates and managers reflect on the passing of Johnny Blanchard

“This is a sad day. Johnny was a good friend and a great teammate. He was proud of being a Yankee and always fun to be around. We’ll miss him.”
Yogi Berra (teammate 1955, ’59-63, Manager 1964)

“He was a great guy. He loved people and did a lot for charity. I’ll never forget the year Yogi, Elston and Blanch all hit over 20 homers. He was a key member of that 1961 team and had two clutch homers for us against the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series. I remember we were both signed by the same scout, Joe McDermott. I felt a lot of pride knowing that.  He will be missed.”
Moose Skowron (teammate, 1955, ’59-62)

“He was a great teammate, friend and a true gentleman. He loved the game. Tony Kubek and I were just in New York and spent some time with Johnny. He was a great friend and I’ll miss him tremendously.”
Bobby Richardson (teammate, 1955, ’59-65)

“Johnny was a funny guy and a great storyteller. He was always happy. Everyone loved him and loved being around him. He was one heck of a hitter, too.”
Bob Turley (teammate 1955, ’59-62)

“Johnny was a true Yankee, there’s no doubt about that. Everyone liked him. He would do anything it took to help win a ballgame. He would catch, pinch-hit or go play the outfield if it meant the team had a better chance to win.”
Ralph Houk (Manager 1961-63)