Category Archives: Baseball

The Curse Is Over!


by Kimberly Pena

One of the greatest post seasons that this generation will ever see has come to an end and the conclusion was nothing short of incredible. The Chicago Cubs ended America’s longest championship drought with their first World Series win in 108 years. They ended their magical season in dramatic fashion by roaring back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Cleveland Indians in a nerve-wracking Game Seven.

“Game Seven,” for many sports fans, is one of the most anticipated and greatest words ever spoken in sports. All hands are on deck and every rule in the book is off the table. Both managers will do everything in their power to assure victory, even if it means that they have to make bizarre decisions that they would never make in the regular season. That is how pivotal Game Seven is: winner takes all.

Game Seven was filled with that and more. The game began with a bang as Dexter Fowler became the first player in MLB history to hit a lead-off home run to begin a Game Seven. Later on the game, Cubs manager Joe Maddon made a questionable move in the fifth inning when he removed pitcher Kyle Hendricks from the game after a harmless two-out walk. Prior to the walk, Hendricks was absolutely dominating the Indian’s offense and had an 5-1 cushion. With the new pitcher in, John Lester was a bit erratic and threw a wild pitch, which led to two runs across the board. One of those runners got on from an infield hit against Lester, cutting the lead to 5-3.

The Cubs would eventually get one of those runs back by a home run from the veteran catcher David Ross. The game was really beginning at that point. In the eighth inning, with two outs and a runner on base, Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman came in the game to get the final out of the inning. However, an obvious fatigue, Chapman was not able to get the job done as he allowed a dramatic game tying two-run home run from the bat of Indians’s outfielder Rajai Davis, tying the game 6-6.

The game remained tied heading into the 10th inning. But before the inning began, there was a 17-minute rain delay, allowing the Cubs to recompose themselves after the momentum swung to the side of the Indians. During the delay, Jason Heyward gave a pep-talk to the Cubs, reminding them of who they are.

“I had to let them know that we had 103 wins because we had overcome every bit of adversity that we’ve had thrown at us to this point,” said Heyward to reporters. “We needed 114 wins, and I told them, everybody in this room could go out and get this 114th. It was a venting thing for me, letting these guys know to keep that fire.”

His talk did seem to resonate as the team would take a 7-6 lead in the top of the 10th from the bat of the eventual World Series MVP Ben Zobrist. Miguel Montero would tack on an insurance run and the eventual game-winning run.

With one out away from World Series galore, Mike Montgomery pitching with a one-run lead allowed a weak ground ball to third baseman Kris Bryant, who threw across the infield to first baseman Anthony Rizzo, sealing the team’s first ever World Series championship in over a century. Something that 108 different Cubs’s teams were not able to accomplish, this 2016 group was able to do. The city of Chicago jolted of excitement and had the party of a century, uniting the city once again.

“Just blow for blow, everybody playing their heart out,” said MVP Zobrist. “The Indians never gave up either, and I can’t believe we’re finally standing, after 108 years, finally able to hoist the trophy.”

The series was highlighted by bullpen dominance and sub par hitting with runners in scoring position. Both teams depended heavily on their bullpens as neither team’s starter were able to pitch past the sixth inning. Left handed pitcher Andrew Miller was Cleveland’s secret weapon; meanwhile, flame thrower Aroldis Chapman was the Cubs.  Both pitchers threw a combination of 15 and 1/3 of an inning with each pitcher throwing seven and 2/3 of an inning.

The organization is hoping with this monkey off their back, the team can hold up to this caliber of excellence and potentially create a dynasty. With the youth and strong talent that the team has, it is not something too big to dream of for the Chicago hopefuls. With the World Series loss, the Cleveland Indians became the new team with the longest drought without a World Series championship (68 years).

With their present looking just perfect, the Chicago Cubs cannot look anywhere but up. The curse is over, the drought is done with and the Chicago Cubs are the World Series Champions.

New Baseball Team May not Actually Help The New Britain Economy


by Kimberly Pena 

NEW BRITAIN- Mayor Erin Stewart is hoping with the new baseball team in town, it will revitalize the city once again. However, economical experts seem to believe the New Britain Bees will not cause an economic boom as hoped for.

Donn M. Johnson, a Interim Chair of Economics and a professor of Sports Economics at Quinnipiac University, suggests that bringing a new team to a town does little to none economical improvement.

According to Johnson, if the people who are going to the games are largely local then it is just arranging the way town citizens use their money. For example, the eight dollars used to buy a game ticket could instead be used to buy a small pizza from a local business owner. The only thing being changed is where the eight dollars are being spent.

“Benefits are going largely to owners, not really to the community,” said Johnson. “Not much will change within the town.”

If those attending the games are out of town, then it probably could lead to some potential change to the New Britain economy. However, minor league teams affiliated with Major League baseball usually do not attract many out of town citizens to the games, so for the situation to be any different for an Atlantic League Baseball team, who are not associated with Major League baseball, seems unlikely, said Johnson.

Mayor Erin Stewart seems to think otherwise. She believes bringing in the new team would continue on New Britain’s strong legacy of baseball.

“Every year, minor league baseball draws hundreds of thousands of residents, families, and visitors to the games at New Britain stadium,” said Stewart. “I wanted to make sure that tradition continues.”

The moves came after the Yard Goats, formerly known as the Rock Cats, announced on June 2014 that they would be relocating themselves to Hartford. The team left behind unpaid utility bills of up to $150,000.

According to the Hartford Courant, the team has not reimbursed the town for the gas, electricity, water and sewer bills it used up in its final season in New Britain. The bills due are as followed: $80,582.62 to Eversource, $47,907.37 to TransCanada, $8,635.85 to Connecticut Natural Gas and $12,245.37 for water and sewer use.

Yard Goats officials said they will keep their end of the deal and pay the bills out in the upcoming four months.

With the Rock Cats already behind her, Stewart plans to use the Bees as a way to fill the void that the Rock Cats left.

The lease that the town negotiated with the team officials was approved just last year. The organization will pay $150,000 a year in rent, pay all the electricity and utility bills and the team will receive all the parking revenue.

Under the terms, the team is guaranteed to stay in their new home for the next 20 years.

The agreement comes with great pleasure to New Britain Bees General Manager, Patrick Day, who was named team GM just last December. He appreciates the baseball history that New Britain offers and believes that the Bees are a perfect fit.

“Its history that New Britain has had, its always been a successful market,” said Day.
Day also said the team currently has 12 full-time employees in the front office and when the summers comes along, up to 200 part-time workers could be employed.

However, according to Johnson, these are not the type of jobs one would like to have for their town to improve the economy. He says usually those who take on those part-time jobs are young people and students who know it is not a lifetime employment and are willing to be paid minimum wage.

“No one is getting rich from this,” said Johnson.

But team officials are happy the way the town citizens have responded and are looking forward to the beginning of this new journey.

The team is already off to a positive start in ticket sales, as they have sold close to 500 full season tickets, says Day. A full season ticket is worth $500 and a single game ticket is worth eight dollars. Parking costs five dollars.

For further information, email, call 860-826-BEES (2337), or visit

Tebow Signs Deal with Mets

by Tyler Roaix

Tim Tebow just cant seem to find a sport that suites him. He made his triumphant return to the sports world on September when he signed a deal with, none other than, the New York Mets. The minor league deal means Tebow will make his professional baseball debut in the Instructional League on Sept. 19th, in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

The Mets have come out and said this had nothing to do with publicity. “While I and the organization, I think, are mindful of the novel nature of this situation, this decision was strictly driven be baseball,” said Sandy Alderson, general manager of the Mets. “This was not something driven by marketing considerations or anything of the sort. We are extremely intrigued with the  potential that Tim has. He has demonstrated over his athletic career that he is a tremendous athlete, has a great character, a competitive spirit.”

Tebow himself has tried to downplay the publicity of the deal.

“I would consider success giving everything I have,” Tebow said. “I would consider success putting in the work and looking back on this opportunity and this journey 10, 15, 20 years from now and saying that I gave everything I had, I did everything I could do to be the best that I could be. I don’t necessarily view success or failure as how many rings or championships or promotions you get.”

Truth be told, it’s hard to me to sit here and buy into anything Tebow, Alderson and the Mets are actually selling. First off, Tim Tebow has played organized baseball since his junior year of high school in 2005.

No professional franchise, in any sport, would ever in their right mind offer a contract to someone who hasn’t actually played the sport in over a decade.

Maybe if they knew they were going to make money. The former Heisman trophy winner’s contract includes a $100,000 signing bonus, which is at least 10 times the amount a real prospect actually gets. If I am Alderson and the Mets, it would be easy to think the promotional benefits alone will quickly make up for whatever they pay him.

Tebow is, in fact, one of the most famous athletes in recent memory. Along with the Heisman, Tebow won two national championships at Florida. His NFL career was not as successful, but wherever he went fans followed. Tebow is also famous for his role at ESPN, as a college football analyst.

That leads into what might be the most ridiculous part of this contract. Tebow’s responsibilities at ESPN will not be affected at all by his baseball career because, the contract allows him to take a couple days off every week to take his seat at the analysts desk.

This part of the deal resulted in a lot of backlash from the sports world. Many players feel as though if Tebow was fully committed to a career in baseball, he would leave ESPN so he could focus 100 percent on baseball. Former pitcher Dallas Braden has been one of those to speak out against the deal.

“Wonder how the kid who doesn’t get to go to instructs feels about Tebow breaking down a defense as opposed to taking hacks or fly balls,” said Braden.

It is still up in the air as to what Tebow’s future looks like in baseball. The Mets may send him to the Arizona Fall League or a winter league, if they feel as though he is ready.

But the only way that I really understood any part of this deal is the fact that it is the Mets simply trying to bring in attention and, in turn, revenue. If I’m a Mets player or fan, I’m taking a hard look at the team and questioning just what on Earth they are doing.


The New York Yankees Forcing Themselves into the Playoff Picture



by Kimberly Pena

When you see the Yankees as of late compared to earlier in this season, it is like night and day. The Yankees began the season with an 8-14 record and for most of the season couldn’t maintain themselves over .500. In the month of August, there was a huge change in the Yankees level of play as they went on to a 17-11 record, their best month to date.

At the All Star break, the Yankees were at 44-44, 7.5 games out of first place and 5.5 out of the Wild Card race. The Yankees as of September 11 face their smallest deficit as they sit four games out of first place and two games out of the postseason berth.

With 17 of their last 18 games against teams from the American League East, as the Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox are also in the playoff mix, the Bronx Bombers have the pen to their own script right in front of them.

The Yankees recently swept, at the time, the first place Blue Jays to give notice to the teams in front of them that the Yankees are not going down without a fight.

Manager Joe Girardi claims to have never given up on the season even after the front office traded All Star players like Carlos Beltran, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman in the non-waiver trade deadline and the release of Alex Rodriguez in August.

“I told you we expected to win from day one,” Manager Girardi said. “Everything is in front of us. Would I like to be 15 games up? Yeah. But, hey, we have a shot and in this game that’s what you look forward to.”

A month ago it didn’t look like the Yankees had a shot. Baseball analysts counted the team out, believing it was nearly impossible for the team to make a run and that the organization should think about next season.

It seemed as if the Yankees were going to take that route when in August they called up minor league players Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge to give Yankee fans a taste of what the future would like in New York. But the move actually seemed to revitalize the team and their season.

Sanchez, now the Yankees regular catcher, had a torrid start to his MLB career. In his first 23 games, Sanchez hit for a .400 average, smashed 11 home runs and 21 runs batted in. Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge were the first rookie duo in MLB history to hit back-to-back home runs in their MLB debuts. The Baby Bronx Bombers gave the Yankees the energy they needed to make a push to the playoffs and play their best baseball of the season.

The Yankees before them seem to agree. Closer Dellin Betances can sense the new feel in the clubhouse and is enjoying every second of it.

“These young guys keep doing it,” says Betances. “These young guys are bringing all the energy and the other guys are feeding off of them. You know obviously we are just trying to win as many ballgames as we can. We are playing fun baseball and hopefully we can continue to do this.”

Although the road has been bumpy, the Yankees have come back all the way from the dead to let the baseball world know that they are alive and well. Like one of the Yankees greats, Yogi Berra said, ”It ain’t over till it’s over.”

And that might be the case for this year’s New York Yankees.

The A-Rod I’ll Remember


by Kimberly Pena & Tyler Roaix

In 1994, an 18-year-old kid from Miami named Alex Rodriguez broke into spring camp with the Seattle Mariners in an attempt to make the team. Almost immediately after stepping onto a Major League Baseball field, he became a household name. Within two years, he was an All-Star; within five, a regular 40-homer player. By the turn of the century, many were already putting him into the Hall of Fame discussion.

On August 12, 2016, Rodriguez played his final game as a New York Yankee after an incredible 12 years in New York. Considering the 41-year-old’s lack of playing time and declining production after a resurgent effort in 2015, this may very well be the end of the A-Rod era entirely. For A-Rod, he was prepared to leave the game he fell in love with as a child.

“I do want to be remembered as someone who was madly in love with the game of baseball, someone who loves it at every level,” said Rodriguez. “Someone who loves to learn it, play it, teach it, coach it. And also, I’m going to be hopefully remembered as someone who tripped and fell a lot, but someone that kept getting up.”

Rodriguez has led a very controversial 22-year baseball career, his lowest moment being when he was infamously suspended for the entire 2014 season following the Biogenesis investigation — the longest suspension ever served in Major League Baseball history. But his story did not end there.

In his 2015 campaign, in an attempt to redeem himself and earn back the love from the fans of New York, A-Rod wrote his own Cinderella story. He smashed 33 home runs and had 86 runs batted in. He was the most consistent hitter for the Yankees all season long, helping the team reach the playoffs after a two-year-long absence. It seemed as though he knew that the theme of that season was his redemption, because that is exactly what he did. His incredible leadership and production seemed to make Yankees fans forget all of his wrongdoings, at least temporarily.

For each reason you list off as to why you loved him, it would be just as easy to throw out a reason on why you hated him. Alex Rodriguez was a great player, even one of the best ever, depending on who you ask. But no matter how many incredible stats he put up, his use of steroids will always question the legitimacy of his legacy in baseball.

Steroids were not the only instance where Rodriguez’s character was called into question. His wife divorced him in 2008 after he was seen entering a hotel room in Toronto with a stripper. During a game against the Blue Jays, he yelled “I got it,” while running by two Toronto players who were converging on a popup. Then, of course, the brawl of the century with former Red Sox’s catcher Jason Varitek. The list goes on and on.

But what will his lasting legacy be? For one of the most polarizing players in the history of sports, that is a very difficult question to answer. Will he be remembered for his unquestionable talent or for his lies?

It is funny to think about how different of an answer this would be if Rodriguez had not had a great season in 2015 after his year-long suspension.

From the perspective of a Yankees fan, it is hard not to respect just how good Alex Rodriguez was for the team. Since 2004, his first year with New York, A-Rod racked up 351 home runs and 1096 RBIs. Highlighted by two MVP Awards, Rodriguez has been nothing short of outstanding in terms of on the field play while wearing pinstripes.

That’s why for me, the story of Alex Rodriguez will always be that of untaught talent over the lies and the cheating. To put it simple, Alex Rodriguez is one of the most gifted baseball players we will ever see. It is very rare when a player comes along and can single-handedly change the way we think about a certain sport. Alex Rodriguez was that guy.

Rodriguez will always be in that dreaded category of players who maybe look like Hall-of-Famers on paper but cheated their way through the sport with the use of performance enhancing drugs. However, much like Barry Bonds, I would like to think that Rodriguez’s steroid use does not mask the fact that he was still incredibly talented on his own. It was obvious from the start that he was going to be someone special that you would never see again.

I will always think of Alex Rodriguez as the man who hit 696 career home runs — 18 homeruns shy of Babe Ruth’s home run record. The man who led the Yankees to the 2009 World Series championship, someone who loved the fans almost as much as he loved playing the game. That’s the Alex Rodriguez I will always remember.

Blue Devils Drop Series Opener Against LIU Brooklyn

by Daniel Bates

The Central Connecticut baseball team dropped their series opener to Long Island University Brooklyn 2-0 on Friday afternoon. The Blue Devils were held to only six hits on the day as LIU’s Baylor LaPointe threw a complete game shutout.

“We weren’t able to capitalize and put pressure on them and on the couple occasions that we did, we didn’t have the right guy up,” explained CCSU Head Coach Charlie Hickey. “But, it’s game one, we have three more starting tomorrow and we’ll come out and play as hard as we can.”

With the loss, CCSU slips to 15-21 overall and 7-10 in Northeast Conference play, while LIU improves their record to 11-22 overall and 5-6 in the NEC.

The Blackbirds kept consistent pressure on the Blue Devils all game long. LIU loaded the bases in the top of the first, but senior pitcher Casey Brown worked his way out to escape the inning without allowing a run.

LIU broke through and scored the first run of the game in the top of the fourth, following Charles Misiano’s RBI single up the middle. A great diving stop by sophomore second baseman Dean Lockery ended the inning, allowing the Blue Devils to limit the damage to just one run.

“He’s one of our best players and we expect him to do that stuff,” said Hickey.

The game was interrupted with two outs in the top of the sixth due to a lightning delay. Before play was stopped, Harrison Preschel had doubled and Andrew Turner walked to put runners in scoring position for LIU. Following an almost 30 minute delay, right fielder Joe Mercadante hit a two out single to left, to drive in Preschel and increase the lead to 2-0.

The Blue Devils made a late push in the bottom of the ninth; scraping together back-to-back singles to threaten the LIU lead. Senior Corey Lerche and sophomore Nick Garland recorded base hits to place runners on first and second, but LaPointe finished the Blue Devils off with a game-winning strikeout to seal the win.

Senior Matt Martinez finished two-for-three at the plate on the day and was the only Blue Devil to reach third base, when he did so in the bottom of the third inning. Martinez, Lerche and Garland combined for all six of the Blue Devil’s hits in the contest, each with two respectively.

Brown threw seven innings, allowing two runs on nine hits. He struck out five, and walked one.

LaPointe improved to 4-5 on the year, throwing nine innings of no-run ball, giving up 6 hits, with four strikeouts and one walk.

The Blackbirds finished the game with a total of 11 hits. Mercadante and Misiano each had two hits and a run batted in, leading the offense for LIU.

The Blue Devils are on the road next week as they take on Albany on Tuesday and face Northeastern in a weekend series.

Baseball’s Hot Streak Continues

by Dillon Meehan

Central Connecticut’s baseball team appears to building on the success they had last week, winning three out of four games for the second weekend in a row.

It has been a strange season for the Blue Devils, who started out rather slow.  After losing 14 of their first 22 games, CCSU has bounced back, winning six of their last eight.

For most teams, playing at home usually guarantees a win, but New Britain has not been kind to the Blue Devils who are 4-9 on the season and were 1-8 before this weekend.  CCSU has done the majority of their damage on the road, where they are 7-4.

CCSU (13-16, 6-6 NEC) only lost their final game of the weekend series against Mount St. Mary’s (4-23, 2-10 NEC).

Over the four games, the Blue Devils outscored the Mountaineers 31-8, including a massive 19-4 on Friday.

Ryan Costello was the player of the game. The sophomore infielder had three hits, including a grand slam, and five RBIs on the day. It has been a breakout season for Costello, who hit his second home run on Friday. The sophomore has 34 hits in 29 games, which ranks second on the team; he also has tallied 18 RBIs and scored 19 runs, both of which are team highs.

The Blue Devils continued to take care of business on Saturday by sweeping the double-header. CCSU narrowly won the first game 2-0, with senior Corey Lerche singling home both runs, the first coming in the opening inning and the second coming all the way in the sixth.

Junior Andrew Hinkley threw a complete game shutout, all while allowing only four hits and striking out three batters.

The Blue Devils won their second game of the doubleheader handily with another shutout, by a score of 6-0.

Freshman Mike Appel got his first win of the season, having pitched an impressive two-hit shutout while striking out three batters.

The Blue Devils got the scoring started early in the first when sophomore Dean Lockery knocked in two runners with a single in the second inning.  Lockery has built on his impressive freshman season. The infielder leads the team in both hits and batting average and is tied for third in the team with 11 RBIs.

The Blue Devils batted in another two runs in both the third and fifth inning, to extend their lead to six, and pull out their second shutout win.

The Blue Devils will be on the road for the next week. Fans can catch them next week when they play Siena on Tuesday, April 19.

Baseball Splits Weekend Series With Defending Conference Champs


by Brian O’Neill

Friday afternoon’s gloomy and wet weather didn’t stop the Blue Devils from kicking off a four-game weekend series with Bryant.

In the first game of the series, the Blue Devils fell to the Bulldogs by a score of 15-5 before splitting the Saturday doubleheader with a 2-1 victory in the first game and an 8-0 shutout loss in the second. The team finished the weekend with a comeback 2-run double in the bottom of the ninth to take Sunday’s game 7-6.

“It’s [Bryant] a pretty good team in that dugout,” coach Charlie Hickey said. “They’ve been NEC champions the last two years. They’ve sort of had a little bit of a rebuilding mode with their pitching staff, but they’re a quality team. They’re probably the best team in our conference.”

In their first in-conference home game, the Blue Devils came hot out of the gate with Central’s starting pitcher, Austin Salnitis, striking out the first two batters and forcing the third into a fly out. Offensively, the Blue Devils racked up three runs on three hits in the first, with Ian Glassman, Dominic Severino and Ryan Costello each picking up an RBI. Adding to the offense, leadoff hitter Franklin Jennings stole his 14th base of the season, putting him in first place in the NEC.

After the hot start in the first, the Blue Devils’ bats went cold, recording just two hits from the second inning to the eighth. It wasn’t long until Bryant’s offense found their rhythm, picking up a run in the third and fourth to pull within one, before a seven-run outburst in the fifth, including a three-run home run from Brandon Bingel.

Adding on another two runs in the sixth and four in the ninth, the Blue Devils found themselves on the wrong side of a blowout, down 15-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

Using the bottom of the ninth to give some lesser used players a look, freshman Nick Plachno roped a single into center field, kicking off a four-hit, two-run inning for Central, with Nick Coro and John Lippincott credited with RBIs in the inning. The late game surge brought the final score to 15-5.

“Combined with a rough two weeks in terms of some injuries where we’ve had to rebuild from the ground up, starting four freshman today, and not that that’s awful, but when you start doing that after 20 games, it’s a little bit to get used to,” Hickey said after the loss. “We’ve had three of our top seven pitchers go down to injuries, and that left us shorthanded today. I don’t know if we could’ve contained them all along, but we were winning 3-0, then all the sudden, a close game became a big game, and our offense isn’t built with an older more experienced team like Bryant.”

A strong start in the first game on Saturday by Brett Susi followed by a dominate relief appearance from Kevin Connolly led Central to a 2-1 win in the second game of the series. But the Central bats went cold in game two, getting shutout on just three hits, falling 8-0.

Like Friday’s game, Central had an early 3-0 lead over Bryant, but gave up five runs over the last three innings to find themselves down one heading into the bottom of the ninth. Singles from Costello and Dean Lockery were followed by a double to left field from pinch-hitter Mitch Guilmette to give Central to 7-6 win.

“This is a long weekend,” said Hickey. “We’re going to play 32 innings, and you’ve gotta keep battling and keep playing because it’s a battle of pitching staffs. And you’ve gotta keep approaching it and keep playing the game down to every out.”

After splitting their four game series versus Mount St. Mary’s last weekend, the Blue Devils host Fairleigh Dickinson for another four game series this weekend, starting with a 3 p.m. game on Friday.

Farewell Captain

by Sean Begin

The very first time I watched baseball was in 1998. It was the first sport I ever got into. No one in my family had any interest in it, my curiosity was piqued by a family friend.

So when I decided to pick a team to root for, the decision was easy. It was ’98. The Yankees were the best team in baseball all season long. They couldn’t stop winning. As a nine-year-old, that was reason enough for me to root for them.

“Who roots for a loser?” said nine-year-old me.

Fast forward to Sunday, when Derek Jeter swung a bat for the last time: an infield chopper to third that resulted in a single and an RBI. Quite Jeter-ian, to borrow the phrase.

I have never known a Yankees team without Derek Jeter. I’ve been spoiled, really, getting to watch him play. I imagine it’s how people felt watching Ted Williams or Mickey Mantle retire.

It’s been a season filled with cheap gifts and donations to Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation — a season-long love fest for Jeter that’s made me sort of sick. But, as he walked off the field Sunday afternoon, I understood why he did it.

The game is always bigger than the people who play it. But Jeter is one of those once-in-a-generation players that seems to elevate himself above it.

Yes, he was never the most defensively gifted shortstop. Yes, he struggled when ranging to his right. No, he didn’t win a major offensive award, although looking back, it’s pretty obvious he should have been named MVP on 1999.

A quick note about that season: Jeter finished sixth in MVP voting in ’99 behind Ivan Rodriguez, Pedro Martinez, Roberto Alomar, Manny Ramirez and Rafael Palmeiro. He had a better WAR than every player on that list except Pedro. He was also the only one to break 200 hits. But this did come at a time when the steroid-filled long ball dominated the sport.

So, no: Jeter was never exceptional on a year-to-year basis. Even during his prime, he probably wasn’t the best shortstop in the game. But, unlike his peers Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra, Jeter managed longevity.

And, he managed to keep his image clean — often more important in New York than the play on the field. Yeah, he dated. A lot. If that’s the worst thing you can say about Jeter, I guess he did all right.

Where Jeter really stands above most of the former baseball greats, though, was the position he took as a leader on the team. He worked tirelessly year in and year out. And to kids growing up watching baseball in the 1990s, he was the player to look up to.

Just ask Xander Bogaerts, a young shortstop for the Red Sox who wears number two on his jersey in honor of Jeter. He was there with David Ortiz when the Red Sox presented Jeter with his going away gifts in his final game in Fenway Park.

And for me, a young kid who fell in love with one of America’s oldest sports, who picked a team because all they did was win, Jeter was the one who showed me what passion really is.

So thanks for the memories, Jeter. Thanks for great moments on the field and the funnier moments off of them. Thanks for caring more about the fans and the game than anything else.

Despite a Lost Season, an Ace Makes a Return

by Sean Begin

Masahiro Tanaka signed with the New York Yankees in January for seven years and $155 million. His contract includes an opt out clause after the 2017 season meaning at a minimum the Yankees could start him for four years.

At 25 years old this would give the Yankees control of some his best years of pitching, with a chance to again sign him long term before the 2018 season. Then came the worst start of his young career, when he gave up 10 hits and five runs over 6.2 innings to the Cleveland Indians on July 8.

The next day, Tanaka was in New York for an MRI, eventually being placed on the disabled list with elbow inflammation. The injury was essentially a slight tear to his ulnar collateral ligament, the ligament most often associated with Tommy John surgery.

Rather than undergo the now widely-used procedure, Tanaka and Yankee’s doctors decided to rest and rehabilitate his elbow, hopefully avoiding surgery. Tanaka left the team having posted a 12-4 record with a 2.51 ERA, among the league leaders in both categories. He also struck out 135 batters while walking just 19.

As the summer wore on, Tanaka rested. Eventually he began light tossing before moving on to simulated games and full bullpen sessions. And on Sunday, he returned to the mound for the first time since July.

And he actually looked good.

He threw just 70 pitches but went 5.1 innings, with four strikeouts and zero walks, spreading around five hits and surrendering a single run. His pitches looked as sharp as they did before the injury.

This doesn’t mean Tanaka is out of hot water though. St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright went down a similar route. In an article by the NY Times’ Tyler Kepner, Wainwright explains how he first felt elbow discomfort in middle school.

Then, in middle school, he was diagnosed with a partial-UCL tear, which he rehabbed over surgery. It happened again while he was in AAA. But after another successful rehab, Wainwright pitched six years in the major, culminating in his All-Star 2010 season.

Wainwright had to have Tommy John surgery after that season, sidelining him for all of 2011 but he returned strong and has been an All-Star the last two years.

“You don’t want to have surgery unless you have to,” Wainwright said in the Kepner article. “We’ve been given ligaments and tendons that are much better than repaired ligaments and tendons. Any time they’re drilling holes in bones and putting things in, there’s risk involved. So don’t get it unless you need it.”

So, what does this mean for Tanaka and the Yankees?

Well, if the rehab proves as successful as Wainwright’s, it means the Yankees only lost Tanaka for two months of his rookie season. Had he had surgery, he’d be gone until 2016, essentially losing his first two years.

If Tanaka can follow Wainwright and pitch six more years, it’d be through those first four years of his contract until his opt out clause kicks in. And if something goes wrong further down the road, there’s still the option of surgery, which has an almost universal success rate.

So while the Yankees season may lie dead in the water at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles, Tanaka provided one last important spark, one last look at the potential of the 2015 Yankees rotation.