Author: Jim Monaghan

The NY Media has found a new target – Derek Jeter

By Jim Monaghan

The final week of the regular season played out like a Hollywood script for Derek Jeter. First came the walkoff single against the Orioles in his final game in Yankee Stadium, and then came the three-day lovefest in, of all places, Boston’s Fenway Park where the Yankee legend was greeted with the kind of cheers and “DER-EK JEE-TER” chants usually reserved for Yankees home games.

Photo courtesy Getty Images

Photo courtesy Getty Images

From the moment back in February when Jeter announced his retirement via a post on his Facebook page – “First of all, everyone said they didn’t even know I had a Facebook page” – the tributes came pouring in. The cynics started to wonder if Jeter was being credited with inventing and/or saving the game of baseball.

The final weekend in Boston was positively surreal. Sure, there were Yankees fans everywhere, but there were also a lot of Red Sox fans leading those cheers. Gone were the days of the “Nomar’s better” chants…heck, Jeter and the rest of us might have even forgotten about the “Pokey’s better” days of 2004.

And then came October 1.

The guy who had been so reserved in his comments to the media – has any player ever use so many words in a post-game interview to really say so little? – was now offering athletes a chance to speak out, albeit in a highly-controlled manner. “I do think fans deserve more than ‘no comments’ or ‘I don’t knows.'” Jeter was “in the process of building a place where athletes have the tools they need to share what they really think and feel. We want to have a way to connect directly with our fans, with no filter.”

David Waldstein’s article in The New York Times revealed that “The website will have editorial oversight. Gary Hoenig, a former editorial director of ESPN Publishing and an editor of ESPN the Magazine, will be the editorial director. The website will be backed financially, in part, by Thomas Tull, whose production company was behind ’42,’ a film about Jackie Robinson.”

Cue the media backlash. Writers who’d spent the better part of the past two decades singing Jeter’s praises suddenly had their opening, and they ran with it.

John Harper from the New York Daily News offered this.

Steve Politi from the Newark Star Ledger was equally miffed.

Politi explained his lack of enthusiasm for Jeter’s venture saying, “Here’s my problem: After a lifetime spent guarding every detail, big and small, about his life it’s a tad hypocritical to ask current athletes to bare their souls on his website. What’s next? Joe Girardi encouraging other managers to throw out their research and just ‘go with their gut?'”

The crowning touch came from New York Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica.

Lupica’s column contained a couple of not-so-veiled very crude references to female anatomy that were, among other things, completely devoid of the class that Jeter showed throughout his career.

Jeter’s been seemingly EVERYWHERE lately. An appearance on the Today Show, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and an online twitter chat of all things.

And Jeter Publishing is off to a roaring start.

Derek Jeter came into professional baseball with a plan – play the game the right way, and don’t give the media a reason to take something you say and run with it. He’s clearly treating the next step in his professional life with another carefully laid-out plan. That Players’ Tribune twitter page and website were registered in November 2011; the domain for his Jeter Publishing website was also set up about a year ago. He managed to fly completely under the radar with both until he decided to make it public.

We all know that any content published by athletes via Jeter’s site (Russell Wilson is the first to contribute something) is going to be heavily edited. Big freaking deal. The media backlash – less than 72 hours after Jeter’s career came to a close – is ridiculous and can be summed up in four words.

Leave DJ Alone

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Jim Monaghan can be heard Monday through Friday mornings on the WDHA Morning Jolt from 6-10AM & Sundays from 7-10AM with “All Mixed Up.” He’s also an instructor at Professional Baseball Instruction in Upper Saddle River. Follow him on twitter – @Monaghan21.

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A Red Sox fan’s farewell to Derek Jeter

By Jim Monaghan

If you’ve listened to me on the radio for any amount of time, you know I’m not a fan of the New York Yankees. Red Sox executive Larry Luchino dubbed them the “Evil Empire” some years back; I’ve been known to say things far less complimentary.

Photo courtesy Reuters

Photo courtesy Reuters

Derek Jeter‘s Hall-of-Fame career will come to an end Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park in what will otherwise be a completely meaningless baseball game for both the Yankees and the Red Sox.

Both teams are out of the playoffs, and the lineups for the two previous games of this series have looked like something you’d see in the late innings of a mid-March spring training game when the starters have long since left the field and showered.

Red Sox principal owner John Henry put Friday night’s lineup into perspective with an all-too-appropriate seven-word tweet.

So with all that said, allow me to get the snark out of the way first.

I agree with much of what Keith Olbermann said this past week about Derek Jeter. In case you somehow managed to miss what Olbermann said, go here and here.

Derek Jeter isn’t going to go down in baseball history as the “Greatest Yankee of All Time.” There are at least five ahead of him you may have actually heard of – Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra. I’d even go so far as to offer up Don Mattingly as a better-than-Jeter candidate. You may have some others as well to throw into the mix.

Derek Jeter isn’t the “Greatest Yankee Shortstop of All Time.” That Rizzuto character was pretty good, you know.

And for awhile, you could make the argument that Derek Jeter wasn’t even the best shortstop on his own team once that Alex Rodriguez fellow – remember him? – joined the Yankees.

Photo courtesy New York Times

Photo courtesy New York Times

Team leader? It was blatantly obvious that Jeter didn’t make Rodriguez’s transition to New York any easier. Truth be told, given my own feelings about Rodriguez I probably would have done the same thing, but as I said right from the start, this is the snarky part.

Team player? One could argue that the Captain could have and should have gone to manager Joe Girardi any number of times this year and asked to be moved out of the two-hole in the lineup as it became painfully evident that he wasn’t producing well enough to be in the first third of the order.

Photo courtesy Associated Press

Photo courtesy Associated Press

And don’t even get me started on the whole “Derek Jeter Farewell Tour sponsored by Steiner Sports.” My first thought on Thursday night when Jeter’s teammates dumped a bucket of Gatorade (with the “2” in place of the usual logo) on him was, “Wonder how much Steiner will be charging for THAT jersey?”

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of capitalism, and I’ve never once begrudged an athlete his mega-contract. But these last two weeks of the season have been more like a QVC Network production than a final well-deserved victory lap for a player of Jeter’s stature. Anyone want to buy a rake?

The “flip” play against Oakland in the playoffs? I don’t care how many times Joe Torre makes the claim, but I refuse to believe that the Yankees actually practiced that play. One could make the argument that the Captain was actually out of position. And if Jeremy Giambi had slid…. But I digress.

Photo courtesy Associated Press

Photo courtesy Associated Press

That playoff home run against the Orioles in 1996? It would clearly have been overturned under the current replay rules.

Photo courtesy New York Times

Photo courtesy New York Times

The patented jump throw? I’m old enough to remember a guy named Bobby Wine making similar plays for the Phillies back in the mid-60’s. But again, I digress.

Mr. November? As a Red Sox fan, I’ll always have Jetes’ performance in Games 4 through 7 of the 2004 American League Championship Series to look back on.

** SNARK OVER **

Derek Jeter will play the last game of his Hall-of-Fame career Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park. It will cap off what has been a three-day love fest from Red Sox fans. And while details haven’t been announced, you just know that Red Sox Executive Vice President Dr. Charles Steinberg and his staff will be pulling out all the stops to honor Jeter. And deservedly so.

Photo courtesy MLB.com

Photo courtesy MLB.com

Plain and simple, Derek Jeter is everything I want a baseball player to be. And yes, he played hard…and he stayed cool.

He respected his teammates, his opponents, and more importantly, the Game of Baseball. In the PED era of players routinely putting up video game numbers, Jeter’s name was never on the list of the usual suspects, even as some of his own teammates treated the clubhouse like a chemistry lab.

He battled his way through each and every at bat of his career. He may never have put up enough league-leading numbers to satisfy the likes of the Keith Olbermanns of the world, but he certainly had his share of big base hits, and I lost count of how many of those came at the expense of the Red Sox over the years. Derek Jeter could beat you with his bat, his glove, and his legs. And as someone who probably watched or listened to 90% of Jeter’s career, I can say with confidence that he never stopped trying to beat the opponent no matter what the score was.

For years, I led the “if he played anywhere other than New York he’d be considered just another very good player” crowd when it came to assessing Captain Intangibles. But as the final weeks of Jeter’s career have unfolded, I’ve started to appreciate Jeter in a whole new way. I’ve also discovered a sense of melancholy that I wasn’t expecting.

Some of that came from knowing that Jeter is going through that phase of his life as described by Jackie Robinson when he said, “Athletes die twice.” Derek Jeter’s athletic mortality is playing out in front of our eyes. In many ways, I think it’s reminding me of my own mortality.

Photo courtesy New York Times

Photo courtesy New York Times

The image of Jeter heading out to shortstop once last time following Thursday night’s game and crouching down with his hands covering his face, clearly filled with emotion, is one that will stay for me forever. Jeter said more in that moment about his love for the game he played so eloquently for nearly 20 years than he could have said in a month of post-game press conferences.

My 13-year old son wants to play baseball for a living. It’s all he talks about. Like any of the tens of thousands of kids who call themselves Red Sox fans, he wants to call Fenway Park “home” some day, and he absolutely despises the Yankees.

Photo courtesy New York Times

Photo courtesy New York Times

But when Jeter dropped that single into right field in the final home game of his career to drive in the winning run against the Orioles, my son found himself filled with emotions he wasn’t expecting for the only Yankees shortstop he’s ever seen in his brief lifetime. “This is really the end of an era,” he said in one of those moments that may be the first time he’s felt a part of his own childhood dying.

Derek-Jeter-nephew-tips-capSo yes, Keith Olbermann and Derek Jeter’s naysayers may indeed have a lot of valid points. And I warn you now that we’re going to deal with the whole over-the-top Jeter Love Fest again in five years when Cooperstown surely comes calling.

But this Red Sox fan is also hopefully objective enough to acknowledge one of the all-time greats.

#RE2PECT, indeed.

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Jim Monaghan can be heard Monday through Friday mornings on the WDHA Morning Jolt from 6-10AM & Sundays from 7-10AM with “All Mixed Up.” He’s also an instructor at Professional Baseball Instruction in Upper Saddle River. Follow him on twitter – @Monaghan21.

A Red Sox fan offers Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda some advice

By Jim Monaghan

The last time we saw New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda was back in April, standing on the mound at Fenway Park as the home plate umpire was inspecting him for a suspicious-looking substance on his neck which, of course, turned out to be pine tar.

Pineda was immediately thrown out of the game and pine tar – and its use by pitchers – became a big topic for awhile.

Pineda is starting for the Yankees tonight in Baltimore and in the spirit of “can’t we all just get along?” I have put together some helpful hints for him tonight.

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Jim Monaghan can be heard Monday through Friday mornings on the WDHA Morning Jolt from 6-10AM & Sundays from 7-10AM with “All Mixed Up.” He’s also an instructor at Professional Baseball Instruction in Upper Saddle River. Follow him on twitter – @Monaghan21.

Pine tar – if everyone’s using it, what’s the big fuss?

By Jim Monaghan

Note – the following contains material originally published on RedSoxLife.com.

Michael Pineda 4-23-14 pine tar

Photo courtesy of NBCsports.com

In the 2nd inning of the Yankees-Red Sox game on April 23rd, Boston manager John Farrell called time and approached the home plate umpire. After a few words, Gerry Davis approached the mound where Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda was waiting. After checking Pineda’s throwing hand and glove, he asked the right hander to turn around. It was then that Davis noticed something on Pineda’s neck. After touching it with his hand, Davis announced it was pine tar and threw Pineda out of the game.

“I could see it from the dugout,” Farrell said after the game. “It was confirmed by a number of camera angles in the ballpark. And given the last time we faced him, I felt like it was a necessity to say something.”

Michael  Pineda 4-10-14 pine tar

Photo courtesy of WEEI.com

Farrell’s reference was to a game between the two teams on April 10 when Pineda was noticed to have a substance that appeared to be wet on his throwing hand, something that was caught on camera by both the Yankees and Red Sox television crews. That substance disappeared an inning later before the Red Sox could bring it to an umpire’s attention, and following the game Pineda tried to claim it was dirt.

Farrell said something in his post-game press conference that night that Pineda might want to be more discreet about putting something on his pitching hand, and Major League Baseball was said to have had a conversation with Pineda about the incident.

As the scene was unfolding with Davis & Pineda, Yankee broadcasters John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman launched into a tirade about how this could eventually backfire on the Red Sox because of their own pitchers’ use of something on the ball, most notably Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. The drama played out on social media and on call-in shows in both New York and Boston over the next few days.

Jon  Lester - resinYou may recall that shortly after Lester’s dominant outing in the Red Sox 8-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the 2013 World Series, the allegations started flying – LESTER WAS UP TO SOME FUNNY BUSINESS WITH HIS GLOVE!

Whether prompted by the parent club or not, Cardinals minor leaguer Tyler Melling tweeted out a photo of Lester (the tweet was almost immediately deleted by Melling) that showed what appeared to be some kind of green substance on the thumb of Lester’s glove.

In response to the predicted reaction, Boston manager Farrell said, “If you know Jon Lester, he sweats like a pig and he needs resin. And you know what? He keeps it in his glove. Other guys will keep it on their arm. Other guys will keep it on their pant leg. So that’s my response to the allegations. The one thing that seemed very odd is that it shows up in a lime green color. I don’t know how that can happen.”

In looking at various video clips and gifs that were subsequently posted on the Internet, it was obvious that Lester was indeed going to his glove for something. For his part, Lester acknowledged that the green substance looked “like a giant booger” while maintaining that all he’s ever used is resin.  Before each game, one of the umpires places a resin bag on the mound for pitchers to use.  Why Lester felt he had to put the same substance in his glove is probably up for discussion.

The fact is, use of a substance such as pine tar or resin by pitchers is commonplace, especially in colder weather. And while it’s technically illegal for players to use pine tar for anything other than helping with gripping a bat, it’s usage by pitchers is also well-known throughout the game leading some to believe that there is almost tacit approval of the practice. One former MLB pitcher told me, “I usually used pine tar. Using something in the cold weather really helps with the grip.”

I also spoke with a former MLB catcher who added, “When it’s cold out, 99% of pitchers use something for a grip. Always have…always will.”

One former minor league pitcher learned about using some kind of sticky substance from a former MLB pitcher. “I used pine tar most of the time (I was pitching), hot or cold weather. Better grip creates better rotation, thus better movement.” And another former minor league pitcher added that he would use pine tar, leaving it mostly on the end of the lace off the pinkie finger of his glove. “It gave me a better grip in the cold, and (when it wasn’t cold) I felt I got a better bite on my sinker.”

Opinions on whether a little pine tar on a pitcher’s fingers adds movement to a pitch vary. Speaking on the subject a few nights ago on the MLB Network, former Braves elite pitcher John Smoltz said he didn’t feel that it did anything to help the baseball move in a way it’s not supposed to.  And know that umpires are well aware of the ball moving in an unnatural way.  Remember, they see pretty much exactly what the hitter sees.

Pitchers aren’t the only ones with a little extra in their gloves, either. A former minor league infielder once told me he used pine tar in his glove to help the ball stay in, as well as to help stiffen the glove (he liked to have a nice wide pocket). And former Red Sox utility player Lou Merloni, now a co-host on WEEI’s Mut & Merloni midday show, has repeatedly said on the air that he used pine tar on occasion for a better grip when throwing the ball; he also said that he knew of some catchers who had a little something extra in their mitts for the same reason.

As for how hitters feel about it, most of the former professional hitters I’ve spoken with said they accept it as a part of the game. Their sentiments were echoed by Farrell who added this in his post-game comments following Game One of the 2013 World Series – “I know talking to our own hitters, they want to be sure that a pitcher has got a complete grip of the baseball. Last night and in this series, there are pitchers on both sides that are going to be mid to upper 90s‑type velocity. If a hitter in the batter box has a little more comfort knowing the pitcher has a good grip, then maybe they’re a little more at ease as well.”

So it would appear that Michael Pineda broke one of baseball’s many unwritten rules – use it, but for crying out loud be a little discreet, wouldya? The common hiding places are well-known – a piece of lace hanging from the pinky finger of a glove, under the bill of a player’s cap, inside the belt…the list goes on and on. Just don’t leave a 4-inch schmear of it on your neck.

Jim Monaghan can be heard Monday through Friday mornings on the WDHA Morning Jolt from 6-10AM & Sundays from 7-10AM with “All Mixed Up.” He’s also an instructor at Professional Baseball Instruction in Upper Saddle River. Follow him on twitter – @Monaghan21.

Ken Griffey on Rose, Junior, Big Papi & the Hall of Fame

By Jim Monaghan

griffeyKen Griffey Sr. was a three-time All Star and two-time World Champion. A member of the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame, he also played five seasons for the New York Yankees.

A 19-year Major League veteran, Griffey has a career .296 batting average with 152 home runs, one of which came in one of baseball’s most sentimental moments.

He’s recently written a new book called Big Red: Baseball, Fatherhood, and My Life In the Big red Machine.

I had the opportunity to speak with Griffey about a variety of topics including playing in the “Bronx Zoo” era of the Yankees, why he thinks Pete Rose should be voted into the Hall of Fame sooner rather later, and whether he thinks his son Ken Griffey Jr. will be a unanimous first-ballot pick for Hall.


Jim Monaghan can be heard Monday through Friday mornings on the WDHA Morning Jolt from 6-10AM & Sundays from 7-10AM with “All Mixed Up.” He’s also an instructor at Professional Baseball Instruction in Upper Saddle River. Follow him on twitter – @Monaghan21.

MLB Network’s Harold Reynolds On Derek Jeter

By Jim Monaghan

Derek  Jeter

Photo courtesy of MLB.com

When Derek Jeter takes the field for the New York Yankees in Houston this evening, it will mark the final Opening Day for the future Hall of Fame shortstop.

MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds, who played for eleven years in the Major Leagues, shared some thoughts on Derek Jeter with Jim Monaghan on the WDHA Morning Jolt. Here’s a portion of that interview.

Jim Monaghan – Harold, as D4A’s resident Red Sox fan, I’m of the opinion that Derek may have hung around a year too long. Do you think that’s accurate?
Harold Reynolds"<strong – Oh no…not at all. I got a chance to study him…watch him move…you know, last year was an aberration because he came back too early. Anybody’s who’s had a broken arm or a broken leg, you know when they take that thing out of the cast it’s skinny as all get out. And imagine he did that with his ankle and then ran out there and tried to play a baseball game. So he never lifted or did any of that. So he spent the off-season this year really rebuilding the muscle around that ankle. There’s no problem with the bone, or with the foot, the ankle…any of that. He got the muscle back…I watched him in Spring Training and he’s moving great. So I don’t worry about anything else; I think he’ll be fine.

JM – You mentioned recently on MLB Tonight that you thought Jeter’s moving better than you’ve seen in a few years.

HR – Yeah, you know the one thing that happens to guys with injuries, you’ve got to work lifting weights to build that area back and sometimes you come back even stronger. I’m not going to deny he’s 40, you know obviously he wasn’t moving like that when he was 20, but when you look at two years ago he had 200 hits before the injury. I don’t think he was missing a beat and at that point he was probably thinking, “I can probably play another 5 years.” The one year off for him really kind of made him think about his future. And also, the work…in talking with him the one thing that stood out with him was that this is the way you’re supposed to feel when you’re 39 trying to come back from an injury. It’s not that easy. I think he has a great perspective…his mind is clear…his body’s ready…I think he’ll have another big year.

JM – With Mariano Rivera having already retired, and Derek Jeter about to, if it hasn’t already happened by then will one of them be the first unanimous first-ballot inductee to the Baseball Hall of Fame?

HR – Boy, that’s a great question. I would have to lean towards no just because these guys (the baseball writers) have kept it a tradition. When Cal Ripken plays every game for every year for 10,000 years and puts up the Hall of Fame career he did…you look at Tony Gwynn, Greg Maddux in this last induction did not get 100%, so I would have to say no. You would think that maybe one of those guys might make it but there’s always going to be that one guy who wants to be the newsmaker – “I didn’t do it because I’m holding to tradition.”

JM – That’s some “tradition,” keeping a sure-fire Hall of Famer off your ballot. If it were to happen, though…if someone were to get in as a unanimous choice – for argument’s sake, let’s say it’s Rivera or Jeter – do you think it would open the floodgates to where these clowns finally say, “This guy deserves to be in…I’m voting for him?”

HR – You’ve got me laughing calling them “clowns” but you might be dead on. Yeah, I think that does open up the floodgates ’cause there’s going to be some players that are coming in the near future. Ken Griffey Jr. comes to mind for me; I can’t see how he’s not a first-ballot Hall of Famer 100%. So hopefully that trend gets changed and we’ll see some guys get in immediately.

Jim Monaghan can be heard Monday through Friday mornings on the WDHA Morning Jolt from 6-10AM & Sunday’s from 7-10AM with “All Mixed Up.” He’s also an instructor at Professional Baseball Instruction in Upper Saddle River. Follow him on twitter – @Monaghan21.

Mets, 90 Wins? Maybe Sandy’s Not So Off-Base

By Jim Monaghan

Sandy Alderson

Sandy Alderson
(photo courtesy NY Daily News)

At a staff meeting late last month, New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson raised more than a few eyebrows when he said that the Mets are capable of winning 90 games in 2014.   Once details on that meeting got out (as reported by John Harper in the New York Daily News), the laughs and the one-liners started flying.

First, the reality – the Mets are coming off five straight losing seasons.  There’s no Matt Harvey coming through that locker room door to pitch every fifth day until 2015 (though Harvey did tweet this morning that “Harvey Day 2014” will happen).

https://twitter.com/MattHarvey33/status/442281918965743616

And we still have no concrete idea just how much the Bernie Madoff financial scandal has strangled ownership’s ability to spend enough cash to field a competitive team.

But while the media may be laughing all the way to their laptops and twitter accounts, and the fans (and maybe even Mets players) may be skeptical, perhaps there’s a method to Alderson’s madness that goes beyond whatever the Mets’ final win tally will be in 2014.

As much as anything else, the Mets organization needs an attitude adjustment.  Alderson’s proclamation of 90 wins should be seen more as a statement that team management has raised the bar, that mediocrity isn’t going to be accepted.

Following the Red Sox 2013 World Series victory, I had the chance to speak with two senior team executives.  One told me that while the organization knew the team would perform better simply by the change in managers from Bobby Valentine to John Farrell, no one really expected the end result the organization got.  The other executive put it in different terms telling me, “We went out and got guys who loved to play baseball and who wanted to be here.  If you didn’t want to be here, we didn’t want you here.”

Sandy Alderson’s 90-win statement should be taken by players in the organization, from low-A ball to Citi Field as a sign that anything less than a desire to win and an expectation to win will not be tolerated.  Organizational attitude adjustments need to start from the top.  This is a good sign for the Mets.  Oh, and they might want to sign Stephen Drew to play shortstop, too.  Just sayin’.

For more on the Mets’ offseason moves and the 2014 season, check out Brandon Karsten’s Mets’ preview.

Jim Monaghan can be heard Monday through Friday mornings on the WDHA Morning Jolt from 6-10AM & Sundays from 7-10AM with “All Mixed Up.”  He’s also an instructor at Professional Baseball Instruction in Upper Saddle River.  Follow him on twitter – @Monaghan21.