Friday, August 19, 2016

Lehman High grad plays for the Mets

By Rich Mancuso

BRONX, NEW YORK- There were so many family and friends at Citi Field to see T.J. Rivera last Wednesday night as the long journey to the Major Leagues was here. The New York Mets in need of offense made the decision to bring the 27-year-old Bronx native to the big club and it was a rapid roster move.

Manager Terry Collins said, GM Sandy Alderson quickly told him after the Mets loss Tuesday night to the last place Arizona Diamondbacks,  that T.J. Is on the way. Collins only comment to his GM was, “Great.”

And so with that, the long journey for T.J. Rivera, who played ball with the Throgs Neck Little League, and as an all-city star with the Lehman High School Lions, culminated with his insertion in the starting lineup last Wednesday night at third base with hopes of generating some runs for a Mets team that is last in runs.

Collins also has a right handed hitter with a predominant left handed bench. More so, Rivera has been the hottest hitter at Triple-A Las Vegas in the friendly confines of the Pacific Coast League. But this is not the PCL, and Rivera is aware of that after leading the league in hitting and placing third in RBI, with 80.
His high school coach, Adam Droz, was the one person Rivera did not greet and get the congratulation hand shake. Rivera did get  numerous text messages and the two will meet eventually in this Mets’ current home stand.

Droz purchased his ticket and watched from the first base side, in the vicinity of Rivera’s proud mom and dad. He, more than anyone knew how proud the moment was for his former outfielder and occasional infielder.

“This was a day he wanted and I am so proud of him,” Droz said prior to game time. Rivera was quickly rushed into the routine of learning the signals, meeting most of his teammates that were also with him in the spring down in Port St. Lucie Florida, so that adjustment was easy.

It was the moment and anxiety of being where he always wanted to be.

“It’s just unreal right now,” said Rivera prior to game time. “It still hasn’t hit me fully. You start to wonder if this year is going to be the year you get the call but you try to put that behind you. And grind away at the season.”

His father Tommy is a Mets fan, and T.J. is a Yankee fan from the Bronx. Rivera could hear his dad rooting loud, just like he did when playing for the Throggs Neck Little League. Though this time, he was behind home plate at Citi Field as his son fielded third base with no problems.

Then it was Rivera’s turn, his first at bat in the Major Leagues. The journey after Lehman included time at Wallace Community College with former Mets catcher Mackey Sasser, and at Troy University. He was not drafted but the Mets scouting bureau knew he was good enough and signed Rivera to a minor league deal.

From there it was a matter of time and getting better at Double-A Binghampton and the last two years in Las Vegas, and before that through the other Mets minor league affiliates including the Brooklyn Cyclones of the New York Penn League.

Collins said, Rivera will get playing time at third base until the injured Jose Reyes returns within the next week, and maybe some time in the outfield where that right handed bat is a necessity for the Mets.

So there was Rivera, his first at bat in the second inning with two outs. He received a nice ovation, obvious from the friends and family, but there are Mets fans who have also been awaiting his arrival for some hopeful and needed punch in the lineup. With two outs he fouled off a few and then a ground ball out, pitcher to third and to first.

“Trying to clear my mind,” Rivera said. “A lot of things going through your mind. All the work you put in and just try to have a good at bat. The atmosphere and all the fans, you try and block those things out and have some fun.”
But it is a different type of fun now for Rivera. The Bronx and his days playing wiffle ball, talking baseball, and now representing his neighborhood and home borough are memories. Rivera is now here to hopefully be a major contributor for the New York Mets.

And the first hit, it came in the 10th inning, a leadoff single to center off the Diamondbacks’ Daniel Hudson.

“After I got my first hit,” Rivera said, “I felt I was at my high point. I have had great family and coaches. They have been with me through the beginning trying to learn the game. They pushed me to be great and be here. All the credit goes to them.”

He was asked, who will be the recipient of being granted the ball from the first hit? “I don’t know,” Rivera said. “Probably my Dad.” It now becomes more of a question as to how long Rivera stays with the big club. The Mets need the offense in their pursuit of a NL wild card spot, and Rivera has to learn the Major League pitching which is quite different from the PCL.

It will be an adjustment period, but Rivera has always learned to be in that position. Big league rosters expand from 25- to 40 come September 1, so there is every reason to believe if Rivera hits he will not get that brief cup of coffee of the big leagues.

Then, T.J. Rivera said it again: “Just seeing a Bronx kid making it.” He is here and the journey for now is complete until further notice.

Comment Rich Mancuso:  Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Sports: ’96 #Yankees Owe Great Deal to ’76 #Bombers

BronxVoice Sports: ’96 #Yankees Owe Great Deal to ’76 #Bombers: By Ray Negron No one will ever forget 1996.  It was the year that we were introduced to the greatness of Derek Jeter, the grace...

’96 #Yankees Owe Great Deal to ’76 #Bombers

By Ray Negron

No one will ever forget 1996. 

It was the year that we were introduced to the greatness of Derek Jeter, the gracefulness of Bernie Williams, the power of Tino Martinez, King Leyritz’s homerun, Doc’s no-hitter, Strawberry being saved from the minors by the Boss to get some very timely hits, and of course Girardi’s leadership. And who could forget Cone’s strength, Wetland at the end of every game teaching a young Mariano Rivera the way a closer does the job, Cecil Fielder's power, Charlie Haze’s grit, Wade Bogg’s leadership, Pat Kelly always ready and yes it just wouldn’t work without the warrior Paul O'Neill. It was a great team put together by Gene Michael, Brian Cashman, Bob Watson, Mark Newman, Billy Connors and Joe Torre and his staff led by Don Zimmer, Jose Cardenal, Mel Stottlemyre and Tony Cloninger.

However, two other coaches stood out for me, Willie Randolph and Chris Chambliss. Both unsung heroes of that staff but two coaches who more than anybody on that staff, knew how to win the George Steinbrenner way. They understood the Boss’ mentality and were able to make the players understand that there was a method to his madness. In a very dignified way they did more than their job without stepping on any of the other coaches, and more importantly the manager’s toes. Egos can be touchy in baseball and they understood that. People forget that these two great guys were a very big part of the Boss’ first AL championship team of 1976.

As a rookie in 1976, Willie helped to hold the infield together and was a natural leader that the great Yankee manager Billy Martin would love. Chris Chambliss would save the season by hitting perhaps the biggest homerun in Yankee history. They lead as players in 1976 to make the manager’s job that much easier, just as they would in 1996 as coaches. Two guys that understood the Boss and Billy Martin and the true will to win in 1976 and were able to teach this new group of young Yankees in 1996 that very thing. Every day they were teaching and instilling the Yankee way. They did a great job. It takes a whole organization and a lot of money to run any big business but it also takes the bloodlines of being a Yankee to help become a winner. Randolph and Chambliss were winners and were able to pass it on the Steinbrenner way.

This weekend New York honored the 1996 Yankees for their great championship season. I was there to cheer them on and be very proud that in a small way I was a part of that. I also walked across the street to where the old stadium was to honor Catfish, Thurman, Billy, Bucky, Mick the Quick, Nettles Sweet Lou, Dock Ellis, Chicken, Dirt and all the 1976 Yankees.

I will never forget Frank Sinatra and Cary Grant sitting in the Boss’ suite acting like excited little boys as Chambliss’s homerun cleared the right-field wall. Of all of the celebrations, 1976 was the one Championship that I thought made the Boss the happiest, probably because it was the first championship and how dramatic that homerun would be. One championship is not better than another, it's like saying which kid do you like best. Please enjoy what happened in 1996 but let's not ever forget the Boss’ first championship team and the people that helped get us there.

A special thanks to “Teenager” (Willie Randolph) and “Snatcher” (Chris Chambliss) for connecting the bloodlines and of course to Billy and the Boss- the two guys who loved the Yankees the most.

Ray Negron is a special adviser to the owner of the NY Yankees

Monday, August 8, 2016

Tonguing your way to better #health

Your Health: Does your tongue have something to say?: By Randi Press You may not give your tongue much thought, but chances are your doctor does. In Chinese medicine they believe that t...

BronxVoice Sports: Was A-Rod, Yankees break up mutual?

BronxVoice Sports: Was A-Rod, Yankees break up mutual?: Will A-Rod reach 700 HRs somewhere else? By Rich Mancuso Alex Rodriguez was emotional Sunday morning in the press conference room a...

BronxVoice Sports: Was A-Rod, Yankees break up mutual?

BronxVoice Sports: Was A-Rod, Yankees break up mutual?: Will A-Rod reach 700 HRs somewhere else? By Rich Mancuso Alex Rodriguez was emotional Sunday morning in the press conference room a...

Was A-Rod, Yankees break up mutual?

Will A-Rod reach 700 HRs somewhere else?

By Rich Mancuso

Alex Rodriguez was emotional Sunday morning in the press conference room at Yankee Stadium. GM Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi followed and were grateful for his 12-years in pinstripes- one that was complicated and never lacked in drama. 

Next Friday the saga ends in the Bronx. This Alex Rodriguez era, at least in pinstripes, comes to a conclusion and it is not difficult to understand what transpired here. It was never a marriage and more of an affair with the Yankees.

Blame the steroid era as a reason this born to be baseball star, Alex Rodriguez became the most controversial individual who needed the supplements to put him in the annals with Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and other greats who played the game without the use of body enhancement supplements.

In essence, as much as one can realize the accomplishments, Alex Rodriguez may be at peace but was always a fraud because he played the game of baseball as the cheater and not the player.

Hal Steinbrenner was not there, and it was A-Rod and the Yankees boss who came to an agreement that puts a conclusion to a 22-year playing career and a never ending saga in the Bronx. It will be different when A-Rod joins management in spring training next year in a player development role.

And it was always about how much Alex Rodriguez, as he said, “Loved the game,” and like a marriage it worked to his advantage, that is until A-Rod decided, as was his admission later on to not play the game the right way.

So, now, with a playing career supposedly coming to an end, next Friday night in the Bronx when the Yankees welcome Tampa Bay, A-Rod will play in his last game.

“We’ll talk to him and see how he wants to end here,” said Girardi about the next few and final days of Alex Rodriguez as an active player in Yankees pinstripes. That will no longer be an issue for Girardi as to why or when Alex Rodriguez will be in the lineup again.

But Girardi did say, “He has the right to change his mind.” Meaning, if A-Rod gets home and says that his mind has changed about getting that 700th home run, “I’m not sure what’s going to happen. This is hard for any athlete.”

Consider that this legacy will not end the way it should, and whether it be good or bad with four home runs shy of 700, Alex Rodriguez will not be a part of Yankees history in that elite club. The 700 home run club in the Bronx still belongs to “The Babe” from another time and era.

Did the Yankees put an end to the A-Rod era before 700, or was his exit the continued revamping of a roster that is getting younger, more so that needed to get younger?

And is the the end for real? There was no word of retirement, instead the world heard was, the Yankees gave Alex Rodriguez a release from the remaining, of what at the time was the biggest contract in sports and for a baseball player.

This was a marriage that was meant to be in the Bronx, perhaps never meant to be. And now, with the final few days at hand, how does the baseball world and the New York Yankees say this so-called goodbye to who many call, one of the all-time greats who played the game?

Cashman said about the career of A-Rod, “Exciting. One with ups and downs but always got back up.” And the Yankees became the team that had the ups and downs with their star player. There were the threats of lawsuits, the courtrooms and breach of contract.

The year-long suspension from steroid abuse became a distant memory last year. Alex Rodriguez had a comeback year, he played the game and went with the plan. And for the most part this season, even with limited or no playing time, you never heard A-Rod say the wrong thing.

In the end, even in the Bronx on Sunday morning, he was again the team player and handled it the right way,

But had Alex Rodriguez played the game the right way with the Yankees, and for most of his career there would be more talk of joining an elite 700 home run club. There would be talk of him being a legitimate and great all-time New York Yankee.

However, it did not work out that way and in a few more days, and perhaps with a couple of more appearances at the plate, the final legacy of Alex Rodriguez will be determined.

Rodriguez said with emotion, he was grateful to take on another opportunity with the Yankees. “Sure, of course, I can still play baseball,” he said. It was a tough day he said and a proud day, and he never thought that a career would span for 22-years.

And if he indeed does play again, it won’t be with the Yankees but mentoring the youngsters that are ahead opens up a new chapter. Saying goodbye he said is hard to do, but how much will baseball miss Alex Rodriguez remains to be seen.

As for the game Sunday afternoon, the Yankees since this trading away of Chapman, Miller, Nova and Beltran, and with the retirement announcement of Mark Teixeira, finished the homestand at 3-2 and went 5-2 in the season series over the central division leading Cleveland Indians with their 3-2 win.

Maybe with A-Rod now out of the picture, and with this revamped roster, the Yankees have this feel for the youth movement that is coming to the Bronx. It was not working the way it was, though winning more games at this juncture does not matter.

The Yankees feel they are still in the race for a wild card, and a five game deficit to them is not out of the question of doing something with 51 games remaining.

A-Rod was not in the clubhouse after their win and Girardi was going to speak with his soon to be released player. The roster will add another player after next Friday to replace A-Rod who will go home to Miami and be with his two daughters as he collects the remaining of his $27 million and moves on to be an adviser next spring. He said the last month of not playing and producing was “painful and embarrassing.”

However, it was more embarrassing for the Yankees and all his colleagues who played the game without cheating, even though skeptics say that a majority of players were doing what A-Rod did during the steroid era and were never implicated.

But, there is something remaining that has to be accomplished. Four more home run but don’t count on that happening in Yankees pinstripes. 

Comment Rich Mancuso:  Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso