That eerie feeling

I wasn’t sure what to title this. Something’s been on my mind the whole month. I just haven’t been able to properly express it. So, I feel obligated to do it in this space here.

I’ll start by saying I’ve lost a friend before. It happened six years ago. Death is something we all experience. Some handle it well while others well, don’t. We all grieve in our own ways. I’ll never forget the phone call I got about our close friend who tragically passed on. I won’t rehash the details because to this day, they remain sketchy. In respect for his lovely family who we all have gotten to know, something positive did come out of it. Proof that shining stars exist.

Since that sad tragic day on May 21, 2010, I’ve known other people who passed away. The only difference is it didn’t involve immediate family members. I guess when it’s a friend or someone we know, it’s different. At least for me, I’ve discovered it. There is more hurt and pain inside. Something I can’t explain. If it’s a close personal friend, it’s understandable. But if it’s someone we knew by face, it still weighs heavily. Especially when you knew they were a good person.

Sometimes, you just know. I’m very good at reading people. On July 31 of this year, our block lost someone like that. Her name was Deanna Rose Gioia. She was 35 and had just given birth to a beautiful 2-month old daughter named Adrianna Rose. I found out through Facebook of a childhood friend who also lives on our block. When I first saw it, my initial reaction was, ‘Oh no. Not her.’ I didn’t want to believe it. When you hear such awful news, that’s a natural reaction.

This was someone I liked when I was younger. Someone who delivered the newspapers following in the footsteps of her older brother Joe. We went to the same high school. He was the reason I began delivering the Staten Island Advance as a teenager. That eerie feeling of knowing his younger sister was really gone hit me hard. Especially when I read about her family’s story. It was the stuff of fairy tale. Deanna had worked at the same store as her future Husband when they were younger. They lost touch but then got reacquainted by chance. As if it were destiny.

Reading their story touched me. Knowing that their daughter wouldn’t have a Mom to help raise her made me feel very sad. I was raised by two great parents who always had and still have my best interests. They’ve always supported me in everything I do. Even when I’ve struggled.

Simply put, you can’t replace a Mom. Believe me. I know. My Mom still texts me every day and calls me frequently. She still worries about my well being all these years later. Good parents never stop caring. I consider myself and younger brother Justin lucky. Even though they separated after 28 years and our Mom remarried, we still are a family. It took a long time to get over the heartache and pain of being apart. That is never easy.

I’ve noticed something special. Often when tragedies occur, it brings out the best in people. Everyone comes together and rallies as a community. The opposite of what’s going on with our country. If we just all treated each other the way we want to be treated and with respect, we’d be a better and stronger society.

In the following article that appeared in The Advance, Deanna’s husband Richard set up a GoFundme page to help him raise his daughter Adrianna Rose. There have been so many who have donated to help their family in need. Like most, I gave what I could. Thus far, they’ve raised over $75,000.

Reading first hand accounts of Deanna, it was like I thought. She was someone who cared deeply for others. She became a registered nurse who worked at Staten Island University Hospital. Her sudden death was a shock to our neighborhood. Seeing how much she helped others is a testament to the kind of person she was.

It’s unfortunate that her daughter will never get the chance to be raised by her Mom. However, when you see all the unselfishness from people who have contributed, it speaks very highly. All hope is not lost.

It’s still eerie for me passing their car and house. The somber and chilly feeling never goes away. The same can be echoed for my close friend who has been gone for six years. I still can’t believe it. He didn’t even make it to 21. Yet was the most gifted, talented and heart worthy person I knew. Futuristic in every sense. He may not be around in the present sense but his spirit is still alive. I can feel it every time we hear his fantastic beats he created at our friend’s place. A true shining star.

What I’ve learned is that Shining Stars truly exist. They’re the special ones who are always there for you no matter what. They last forever.

 

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The Yankees are clueless

A Rod 13

Since Sunday’s announcement that Alex Rodriguez would be “retiring” on Friday night against the Rays, the consensus is that the Yankees should let him play and go out the right way. That’s not what’s happening.

Instead, we get this cheesy reveal that A-Rod will only play two more games. The final one at storied Fenway Park against the Red Sox Thursday and then the final home game at The Stadium Friday.

For a diehard baseball fan who’s followed this team since the mid-80’s rooting for Don Mattingly, it just isn’t ideal. Basically, Hal Steinbrenner told Rodriguez this is it. Then he can pack his bags and go home to Miami after Friday’s sendoff in the Bronx.

What a farce. While they will let the equally anemic Mark Teixeira play out the year as he continues to fail in big situations such as leaving the bases loaded with two out in a annoying 5-3 loss to the hated Red Sox, Rodriguez is pushed out the door intentionally.

Seeing the knowledgeable Sahhhxxx fans at Fenway chant, “We Want A-Rod” in the ninth as the Yanks rallied off overrated closer Craig Kimbrel with four walks and without a hit cutting it to two runs, clueless manager Joe Girardi sent Teixeira up against Matt Barnes. He was playing the percentage.

Anyone with a pulse knew Teixeira has been the opposite of clutch. He’s 36 and age and injuries have caught up to him. No shame there. As the Yanks rallied, the chants continued for A-Rod. Instead, he sat on the top of the dugout with teammates and shared a chuckle. Obviously enjoying the fandom.

Maybe Boston fans realize what this is is about. Too bad Yankee management is clueless. They prefer to let A-Rod play two games and then poof. What’s the harm in playing him in say four games and at least taking a swing at 700? Sure. It’s about as realistic as me scoring a date with Erin Heatherton. But at least he could go out swinging.

That Teixeira would keep the bat on the shoulder and watch a Barnes’ heater hit the outside corner on a 2-2 count summed up a season’s frustration. This team just doesn’t get it. They have to hold a grudge on a player who helped them win their only world championship since 2000. You know. The 27th in franchise history in which Rodriguez ripped five of his six home runs against the Twins and Angels while driving in 18 with the Yanks prevailing in six over the Phillies in the World Series.

It’s a travesty. A-Rod has made so much money for the Yankees, it’s sad. Sure. There have been eye rolling moments with controversy surrounding his admission to taking steroids between ’01-03 following that awful leak by that joke of a government to Sports Illustrated. Then the PED scandal prior to ’09 that was revealed later leading to a full 162-game suspension in 2014.

But then Rodriguez made a successful comeback slugging a team-leading 33 dingers and knocking in 86 with a .250 batting average to get the club into the playoffs. They lost the wildcard against Houston. But without his contribution and Teixeira’s, there’s no October home gate for the Dumb and Dumber tandem of Hal and that no good clown Randy Levine.

Even Girardi and Brian Cashman are in on it. If it were up to me, I’d fire them all. Sure. They finally woke up and did the right thing going with a much needed youth movement. Cashman did quite well picking up top prospects Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield and Gleyber Torres for the combination of closers Aroldis Chapman (Cubs) and Andrew Miller (Indians).

All it took was a humiliation at the hands of the lowly Rays that finally made the two bozos that run the organization to realize the postseason wasn’t realistic. How sad. Especially Levine, who defiantly said they wouldn’t sell a month ago. How this joker still has a job is beyond comprehension. I would send him a one-way ticket to Siberia. He’s everything wrong with sports. Clueless. Unnecessary.

When you have Red Sox fans acknowledging the moment with the 41-year old Rodriguez even with Kimbrel failing to get the save, it speaks volumes. Say what you will about their idiotic players who danced after Teixeira took a called strike three. Say what you will about how biased the media is when it comes to David “Big Papi” Ortiz, who hasn’t been as controversial despite the reveal that he was also on the list of 104 players who used performance enhancers. He gets to go out on his own terms and has had a very curious productive year at 40. You hope it’s clean.

One thing about the Red Sox fans is their passion. They get the rivalry with the Yankees. They know this is it for A-Rod. A player their team was very close to acquiring before Major League Baseball and particularly the MLBPA rejected it. They know the lightning rod has been a huge part of The Rivalry. He isn’t favorite rivals Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera. However, he still is an all-time great even if you wonder how many of the 696 home runs were accomplished without the assistance of juice.

The Red Sox need every game. They’re locked in a three-team battle with the Orioles and Blue Jays with the AL East and wildcard at stake. That’s why John Farrell wisely pulled a wild Kimbrel for Barnes, who got the job done against Teixeira.

When you have the home crowd wanting to see A-Rod pinch-hit, it tells a different story. They understand it’s the end for him. All he gets is two games. Will he even be available for pinch-hitting duty tomorrow? At this point, you may as well believe in the tooth fairy.

So, it will end in three days. Just not how it should. All due to the clowns that run a once proud franchise that badly needs change at the top as much as on the field. Only we won’t get it. Remember that if they fail in the future.

Yankees force A-Rod into retirement

A-Rod

When the news conference started at 11 AM earlier today, Alex Rodriguez took his medicine well. Forced by the Yankees organization to give up a kid’s sport he loved, the former three-time American League Most Valuable Player agreed to a new role following the season.  His final game will be this Friday, Aug. 12 against the Tampa Rays at Yankee Stadium.

The announcement that the Yankees will be releasing A-Rod following Friday’s game comes as no surprise. The writing was on the wall. With manager Joe Girardi refusing to even play him against lefties, it was painfully obvious that his days were numbered. It still comes off bad that they won’t even let the 41-year old slugger finish the season. What’s the difference between Mark Teixeira retiring after the season and Rodriguez being forced out? Judge for yourself:

Teixeira 80 GP 280 AB .200 BA 10 HR 28 RBI  .631 OPS

Rodriguez 62 GP 216 AB .204 BA 9 HR 29 RBI .609 OPS

Not surprisingly, the production is basically the same. Both aging veterans are at the end of the line. The only difference being is that Teixeira still plays a solid first base defensively while Rodriguez is only a designated hitter. The other notable is Teixeira is finishing out an eight-year contract while Rodriguez still is owed $27 million for the remainder of 2016 and 2017. The Yanks have agreed to pay him in full.

Rodriguez’ role will change for 2017. He will be cast a special adviser and instructor next season. An interesting title considering his experience on and off the field. Four home runs shy of 700, he’s decided to give up the chase to become only the fourth major league player to ever hit that milestone. A feat accomplished by Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762).

“No athlete ever ends his career, or her career, the way you want to,” an emotional Rodriguez told a packed media room while shedding tears. “We all want to keep playing, but it doesn’t work that way. Accepting the end gracefully is part of being a professional athlete. Saying goodbye may be the hardest part of the job, but that’s what I’m doing today.”

The sad aspect is this is the same controversial player who had a successful return after missing the entire 2014 season due to a suspension for his role in the Biogenesis performance enhancers scandal. Astonishingly, Rodriguez led the Yankees with 33 homers and drove in 86 runs to help lead the team to the wildcard. Ironically, Teixeira was also a key contributor with 31 dingers in 111 games before his season was cut short. A year later, they’re both done.

Of course, A-Rod is the same player who filed a lawsuit against the Yankees for withholding information on a hip injury back in 2012. He also tried to sue to the Player’s Association over losing his entire 2014. He admitted that he used steroids between 2001-03 due to a Sports Illustrated story prior to the ’09 season. His name was one of 104 players which was leaked to SI. Most of the list was concealed by the government. How curious that Rodriguez’ name was leaked. Strange coincidence. Hardly. He was targeted by Major League Baseball.

In sharp contrast, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz has not had his name smeared despite also being on the list. Big Papi is playing out his final season with overwhelming support from hypocritical ESPN and fans. He is more revered. Probably due to his calm demeanor. But still, it is a bit ridiculous that his farewell tour is universally celebrated. As great a player as he’s been for Boston helping lead them to three world championships, he too took illegal substances. That came before he became a big star.

If we are going to hold every baseball cheat accountable, then there shouldn’t be a double standard. The bottom line is many well known stars used PED’s. That included Bonds, who passed Mark McGwire’s single season record of 70 with 73. Of course, McGwire also cheated as did Sammy Sosa when they raced each other in 1998 with McGwire out-slugging Sosa 70-66 with both surpassing Roger Maris’ 61 set in 1961.

The real culprit was former commissioner Bud Selig. He turned a blind eye to rampant steroid use following the return of baseball in ’95. The 1994 strike shortened season hurt its relationship with fans. A potential memorable season ended due to Donald Fehr. A year where Matt Williams and Ken Griffey, Jr. were chasing history. Williams led the majors with 43 home runs and Griffey was at 40. Tony Gwynn also was seeking to become the first player since Ted Williams to hit .400. The former Padres’ all-time great led the majors with a .394 batting average when the season was canceled.

With baseball back in a big way by the mid-90’s, they ran a successful campaign of Chicks Dig The Long Ball. The home run was never more popular. Everyone loved it including the media who fed into the Summer of ’98. The same journalists who praised McGwire and Sosa with great press and even selling books turned on them once the BALCO scandal was revealed in 2002. Other big names included Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi, Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmiero, whose defiant testimony before Congress that he “had never used steroids” was caught red handed. The scandal also took down American gold medalist track and field athlete Marion Jones.

Maybe if they had been paying closer attention, none of this would’ve happened. The point being is that A-Rod is far from the only guilty person who used performance enhancers during a memorable and controversial 22-year career. His 696 home runs rank fourth all-time. His 2,084 RBI’s are third trailing only Ruth and Aaron.

As for his thoughts on concluding his career this way, “It was the Yankee’s decision, and I’m at peace with it,” he said. “I thought I would have a strong finish and a strong year next year, but again, that wasn’t in the cards.”

Rodriguez is a 14-time All-Star who won 10 Silver Sluggers. As bad as he handled the first part of his Yankees career is how well he’s handled the final chapter. He’s been professional and respectful to his team, teammates and fans. He’s gone out of his way to sign bats for sick children and give back to the community. While he’s handled this with class, the same cannot be said for the Yankees.

Can you imagine George Steinbrenner doing this to a accomplished player who brought in so much revenue for the team and new ballpark? They don’t win a 27th World Series without Rodriguez’ six home runs and 18 RBI’s. Hal Steinbrenner and Randy Levine remain dark shadows that linger despite the organization’s youth movement.

It should’ve been handled differently. What would have been wrong with letting him play out the year and then releasing him? Rodriguez has been credited by Didi Gregorius for his offensive improvement. Ironically, Gregorius hit a home run on his own Bobblehead Day. He’s been the Yanks’ best position player. Gregorius has 13 homers and 49 RBI’s with a .288 average.

Rodriguez’ positive influence on young players can’t be overstated. He knows the game and what it takes to become a successful hitter. Love or hate him, he’s had a great Yankee career. Of his 696 career home runs, 351 have come in Pinstripes. That included the most homers in a single season by a right-handed hitter when he slugged 54 to go with 156 RBI’s during ’07 for his third and final AL MVP.

When it officially ends, it’ll be awkward. That was created by the Yankees. You do wonder if in two years, Rodriguez will consider a comeback and try to reach 700. Only time shall tell.

Alex Rodriguez to have press conference tomorrow at 11 AM

A-Rod

A couple of days following Mark Teixeira’s emotional announcement that he would retire at the end of the season, it looks like something similar could happen tomorrow for Alex Rodriguez. The Yankee slugger who is four home runs shy of 700 will have a press conference tomorrow at 11 AM. Unlike Teixeira, it’ll probably be to announce his release. Is it the end?

A year removed from a great comeback season in 2015 that saw him pace the Yankees in home runs (33) and place second in runs batted in (86) behind Brian McCann, it’s been a tough 2016 for Rodriguez. The recently turned 41-year old has been limited to 62 games. In 216 at bats, he has nine home runs and 29 RBI’s with a .204 batting average.

On a rebuilding team emphasizing a youth movement, A-Rod has become the odd man out in Joe Girardi’s lineup. He was already only getting limited plate appearances against lefties. Now, he’s basically been reduced to an emergency pinch-hitter. A sad sight for Yankee fans. His .252 on-base percentage and .356 slugging are his lowest since he debuted with the Mariners as an 18-year old in 1994.

While it’s true Rodriguez is at the end of the road, Girardi hasn’t handled him well. Especially considering what A-Rod contributed to last year’s team which made the wildcard before losing to the Astros. At least Teixeira still plays. He only has one more home run and two less RBI’s in 78 games (272 AB).

The Yankee skipper has treated Rodriguez with kid gloves. A player of his caliber should have been given more at bats. Any player needs reps. Even one of the all-time greats whose body has broken down. Of course, the brilliant career of A-Rod will always be controversial due to steroids and performance enhancers. Through no fault but his own, Rodriguez’ use of illegal drugs tarnished a lock down Hall of Fame career.

After Brian Cashman acquired Rodriguez from the Rangers for Robinson Cano, he won two more AL MVP’s. That included a league-leading 54 dingers and a career best 156 RBI’s with an AL best 143 runs at age 31 in ’07. He also won MVP in ’05 hitting .321 with 48 home runs, 130 RBI’s, 21 stolen bases and 124 runs with a 1.031 OPS.

Rodriguez still has $21 million left from a record 10-year, $252.87 million contract that runs thru 2017. The Yankees would owe him the remainder even if he’s released. With him at 696 career homers, would he really hang it up four away from 700? That doesn’t seem like A-Rod, who’s always been prideful and loves the game.

Retirement is probably the last option. The question is this. Whatever happens tomorrow, is there a team willing to take a chance on Rodriguez? That’s the million dollar question.

For his career, Rodriguez is a lifetime .295 hitter with 696 homers and 2,084 RBI’s. He’s recorded 3,114 career hits over a 22-year major league career. A 14-time All-Star with six top three MVP finishes including three MVP’s (’03 Texas, ’05 Yankees, ’07 Yankees), he led the Bronx Bombers to a record 27th world championship in 2009 hitting six home runs and driving in 18. Five homers and a dozen RBI’s came in series wins over the Twins and Angels.

Teixeira to announce retirement

Mark Teixeira will announce his retirement at the end of the season. The Yankee first baseman has had a tough year. Injuries have limited him to 77 games, 10 home runs and 27 runs batted in with a .198 batting average in 268 at bats.

Signed by general manager Brian Cashman before 2009, Teixeira has had a very good career as a Yankee. Four times, he’s gone over 30 homers including slugging 31 last year in 111 games. Part of the Yanks’ 27th world championship in ’09, he led the team in home runs (39) and RBI’s (122) in his first season in Pinstripes. He finished second in MVP losing out to Joe Mauer.

Though the Yankees never reached another World Series, the signings of Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, Johnny Damon and A.J. Burnett resulted in a world championship. Cashman also traded for Nick Swisher, who also had a great season slugging 29 homers. Sabathia won 19 games and Burnett won 13.Andy Pettite won 14. Phil Hughes helped set up Mariano Rivera in a strong bullpen featuring the return of Joba Chamberlain and future closer David Robertson.

The last great Yankee team included Core Four members Pettite, Derek Jeter (.334-18-66), Jorge Posada and Rivera. It also featured Alex Rodriguez, who had his one big postseason slugging three home runs against the Angels to lead the Yanks to the pennant. He also hit two versus the Twins in the ALDS and one against the defending champion Phillies, who the Yankees beat in six. Hideki Matsui won the World Series MVP hitting .615 with three homers and eight RBI’s.

It also included future perennial second base All-Star Robinson Cano. A second baseman who could go down as one of the best in major league history.

Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner were also part of a deep Yankee bench that also included Francisco Cervelli. Three former players who all came through the farm system starting in Staten Island.

The 36-year old Teixeira will hold a press conference at 3 PM. He’ll announce he’ll retire following the season.  In eight seasons spent in the Bronx after starting his career in Texas, then Atlanta and the Angels, Teixeira has totaled 201 home runs and 605 RBI’s.