Teixeira channels Roy Hobbs

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One Final Tex Message: A jubilant Mark Teixeira rounds the bases celebrating an emotional walkoff grand slam with two outs in the ninth to beat the Red Sox. AP Photo via Getty Images

Picture the setting. It’s the bottom of the ninth. The New York Knights are trailing the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0. They’re one out away from losing the pennant. The rest is the perfect ending to a fairy tale with a two out rally allowing a injured Roy Hobbs facing his younger self.

A tall lefty with a blazing fastball, Youngberry enters to face the flawed aging rookie superstar. Hobbs nearly takes him deep just missing down the right field line only to see his symbolic bat he made as a kid, Wonderboy break. A emotional moment takes place between him and the bat boy Bobby.

“Pick me out a winner, Bobby,” Hobbs tells him.

Then Bobby unveils his own homemade bat called Savor Special. Made similarly to how a younger Hobbs made his following a storm where a lightning bolt cut a tree in half. The moment where Bobby presents the bat to Hobbs is one of my favorite scenes from The Natural. The look from both. There is a happiness and excitement over a kid’s game even with the stakes so high.

Either Hobbs delivers the knockout blow and wins the pennant for Pop or the sinister Judge buys Pop out and celebrates with crooked gambler Gus and Harriet Bird clone Memo.

Down to his final strike, the plate umpire notices blood coming through Hobbs’ jersey. He asks, “Roy, are you okay?” To which Hobbs replies, “Let’s play some ball.” The Pirates catcher picks up on it and puts down the number 1 sign for Youngberry.

In the novel, Hobbs strikes out and the game ends. But in the movie, that can’t happen. It’s not storybook. A flawed Hobbs, who has the silver bullet removed at the hospital for pregnant woman after Memo put something in his drink, knows he is risking his life. The doctor warns him that it wouldn’t be wise to play. But Hobbs needs to. He knows it’s his final game. A last chance to be a heroic figure and win one for Pop after they lost three in a row without him. The Judge notes that as he tries to pay off Hobbs with another “key person” part of his contingency plan. He leaves an envelope with $20,000.

Of course, Hobbs pays a visit to The Judge and returns the envelope which causes a stir. Gus calls him a loser. As they argue, Memo pulls a gun and fires a shot after Gus says, “I like the action.” Hobbs then replies, “Then let it ride.” Then comes the gun shot. She then cries and says she hates him. That’s how much not playing and having Gus stake them to a lot of money and buying into a company meant to her. This is Pop’s niece. Someone he refers to as “a jinx.”

Hobbs struggles throughout the game to get his timing back striking out badly twice. When his former girlfriend Iris pens a letter with her son at the game having an usher get it to Hobbs in the dugout, it reveals the truth. That it’s his son watching from the stands. An emotional Hobbs looks around at the crowd in the dugout. As that happens, a Knight tries to stretch a single into a double but gets pegged at second to end the seventh.

They have one last chance. Following a Knight just beating a long throw from third by jarring the ball loose, the Pirates’ ace gives up another hit putting runners on the corners. It sets the stage for Hobbs’ final at bat. One last chance to be the hero or goat according to the annoying Max Mercy. Poetically, Hobbs fouls off a pitch through the press box shattering the glass where Mercy is perched. This movie is all about symbolism. The acting is top notch and the characters are excellent. It is my favorite baseball movie and ranks second all-time in sports behind Hoosiers.

Down to the final strike, Hobbs steps back in bloody uniform and all. Youngberry delivers a heater that Hobbs crushes. You can hear the radio announcer saying, “It’s still going…He did it! He did it! Hobbs did it! The Knights have won the pennant!”

The best part is when he came up, a lightning bolt struck. As the ball carries, it hits the lights turning an epic scene into fireworks as a stunned Judge and his cronies watch helplessly. Hobbs touches all the bases and is mobbed by teammates. The scene then darkens and shifts to a father having a catch with his boy on a farm with his wife. Just the way it once was for him with his Dad.

So, what does all this have to do with Mark Teixeira hitting a dramatic walkoff grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the ninth off the beleaguered Boston bullpen to give the Yankees an exciting 5-3 win at Yankee Stadium? Just this. It’s Teixeira’s final season. It’s been a tough year for the once great first base slugger who has been tremendous throughout his career which has included the final eight years spent in the Bronx, including a World Series title in ’09.

There haven’t been many magical moments for Teixeira in his last year. When he decided this would be it at a press conference, injuries were a factor. Still an above average defensive first baseman, he just can’t stay healthy. The thing is he hit over 30 home runs last year before an injury ended his season. So, he didn’t look done. But injuries have a way of changing things for older players. Case in point, a now retired A-Rod.

Not everyone has a happy ending. But on Wednesday night in the Bronx, Teixeira gave Yankee fans something to remember. Most notably, he gave himself one final big moment he will never forget. The Red Sox were ready to celebrate clinching the AL East on the field. Toronto had already lost to Baltimore. But if Boston held the 3-0 lead in the ninth, they would’ve gotten to celebrate some on the field before popping the cork in the locker room, which they still did.

It was bad enough that Boston basically ended the Yankees’ season with that four-game sweep at Fenway Park. A Yankee loss combined with an Oriole win would’ve officially eliminated the Yankees. However, they showed tremendous character rallying off Jekyll & Hyde closer Craig Kimbrel. He didn’t have it giving up a base hit and walking three including a bases loaded RBI walk to Brian McCann that made it 3-1.

That was enough for manager John Farrell, who pulled Kimbrel for Joe Kelly. A flame thrower who can hit 100 on the radar gun and has a good breaking ball. The last time Farrell replaced Kimbrel with Kelly, it worked. It almost did again with Kelly striking out Starlin Castro on three pitches and then getting Didi Gregorius to pop out to third for the infield fly rule. He had one man left to get. Up stood Teixeira.

Watching the final half inning on TV, I was hoping for Teixeira as well as wanting to see the Yankees finally pull one out and not strand runners. They’ve left a village on the base paths all season. The Red Sox were one out away from getting out of it. But then Teixeira took a hard swing and connected for a deep drive to right center. The ball kept carrying and carrying until Jackie Bradley, Jr. ran out of room. It was gone. Teixeira did it! He did it!

You may as well have cued Randy Newman’s theme from The Natural. Something WFAN’s Steve Somers made sure to do. When it comes to production, nobody is as good as The Schmoozer. Always dripping with sarcasm but also using the well produced clips to provide even more entertainment to the listener.

Seeing an emotional Teixeira mobbed by excited teammates and get a Gatorade bath was awesome. You felt good for the guy. He is up to 15 homers with dingers in consecutive games. Something that hasn’t been a frequent occurrence. He believed it was his last home run. If it was, what a way to go out.

Here’s hoping he’s got at least one more Tex Message against the Orioles this final weekend. Teixeira channeling Roy Hobbs. That’s what makes baseball great.

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The Yankees are clueless

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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.