To our faithful readers:
We apologize for our lack of enthusiasm in the past few months. Unfortunately, as all you know, we live in New York City. To be honest, it was been extremely difficult to write about sports in New York with out getting totally fucking sick to our stomachs. Sometimes at night, as I lay down and close my eyes, I am still haunted by visions of the Sanchez ass fumble on Thanksgiving. New York sports is entering a recession and we are fairly god damn close to a depression. With that said, Sports Debaters knows it’s our duty to entertain regardless and we are fully committed to picking up the slack because somebody has got to win around here.
Let’s paint a quick picture of the sports scene in New York. The Jets are a fucking joke. They are the laughing stock of the god damn NFL. As currently constituted, I would rather the Jets not show up next year and forfeit all 16 games. The Jets are so bad that they can’t even find a QB who is better than Mark Sanchez. Today the Jets lost their best offensive weapon (Dustin Keller) to division rival Miami, but replaced him by signing three guys that I could have sworn has retired already. There is not much more to say about this team…just that I fucking hate that fact that I fucking love them.
The Giants are in much better shape than the Jets, but are still on the decline. They are currently in danger of losing their best WR in Victor Cruz because of a salary cap situation in which they can’t afford to pay him the premium price needed. The Giants have let go of way more players this offseason then they have signed, including players like Ahmad Bradshaw, Chris Canty and Michael Boley who were key contributers during their Super Bowl teams. The Giants are not among the top NFC teams anymore, which is clear by their playoff miss and failure to improve. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather be where the Giants are than where the Jets are. With that said, there are about 10-15 teams that are in better shape than the G-men, who are only one year removed from being champions.
For the past 15 years, baseball has always brought the New York city area hope and encouragement this time of year. I can’t waste much time on the Mets. 70 wins for the Mets will be a success this year and as of today they might be opening up the season without their best player as David Wright as suffered a rib injury. However, as a Yankee fan, we might be entering a period in which we haven’t experienced since the early 1990’s. All of a sudden, the Yankees don’t spend money. This offseason, they watched all of their free agents leave, didn’t sign any of their own and were actually outbid by the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player that they could actually use, Russell Martin. When was the last time the Pirates offered more money than the Yankees were willing to. Tie in the Yankees stinginess to the fact that the are dropping like flies with injuries to A-Roid, Granderson and Teixeria, and it’s safe to say that the Yankees are in trouble heading into the 2013 campaign.
After an 18-5 start to the season, the New York Knicks are 20-20 in their last 40. Amare Stoudemire is out for the remained of the regular season with a knee injury that he suffered as he was starting to look like the player the Knicks paid a max contract to 2 and a half years ago. A week later, Carmelo Anthony has been hobbling around the west coast and just had his knee drained in an attempt to get healthy. Throw in a knee injury to Tyson Chandler, suffered in Carmelo’s homecoming game in which the Knicks got laced by their 2010 first half team, and the past few games have been simply awful for the Knickerbockers. The only silver-lining is that I’m a Brooklyn Nets fan, and although the Nets are playing mediocre, the Knicks are playing bad enough to allow the Nets to inch closer to the division lead. The Knicks age was always a concern and it appears that as this season has dragged on, the injury bug is slamming this team upside the head.
Last but not least, we have my New York Rangers. I know most people don’t care about hockey and may not even be aware that there is a hockey season going on right now. Well, the NHL season has been in action for about 2 months now, but I’m not even sure the Rangers are aware of this fact the way they have been playing. The Rangers were 2 games away from the finals last year and ended up bringing in one of the best players in the sport in Rick Nash. They have a star laden team and should be one of the best in the league. After their latest loss to the Winnipeg Jets (yup, that’s really a team), the Rangers find themselves in ninth place in the Eastern Conference and out of the playoff picture. There is still time left in the season for a turn-around, but to say that they have been disappointing doesn’t even begin to explain my feelings on this team.
New York is the best city in the world. There are other amazing, beautiful cities out there, but New Yorkers are the brashest, proudest and hold the highest expectations for all aspects of their lives. We are passionate about our sports and incredibly supporting of our teams. We pay outrageous ticket prices to watch them live. Madison Square Garden just raised their ticket prices a couple days ago for next year, which oddly enough was about the same time the Rangers and Knicks have collectively taken nose dives. New Yorkers are resilient and we will continue to support our mediocre (and in some cases terrible) teams, and unfortunately for New York fans and sports debaters, I fear there will be a whole lot more complaining than celebrating in the near future. Hoping I’m wrong, but as the faithful SD readers are aware, I’m much more often right.
There is no sports organization that has a history as rich as the New York Yankees and there is no day that embraces the legacy of the Yankees as much as Old Timers Day. Each year, thousands of Yankees fans of all ages gather to watch their favorite all-time players compete in an exhibition game. For fans like myself who grew up in the 90’s, seeing favorites like Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez and David Cone is well worth the price of admission. For the older generation of fans, seeing Yogi Berra and Don Larsen wear their pinstripes each and every season brings back such unbelievable memories of years past. For two plus hours every season, the Bronx faithful stand, chant and applaud their heroes and honor them in a manner that only Yankee fans are capable. Yesterday was especially memorable for a little known Yankee who played on the team for less than a full season. Though he didn’t receive the greatest ovation of the day, Aaron Small had to overcome the greatest of all obstacles to find his way into Yankee Stadium yesterday.
Most casual Yankee fans probably don’t know very much about Aaron Small. He was a pitcher who spent half of his career in the minors, as he appeared in only 172 games tossing 321 innings in his entire career. The list of teams he played for includes the Blue Jays, Marlins, Athletics, Diamondbacks, Braves and last but not least, the Yankees. Primarily used as a middle reliever for the majority of his career, Small didn’t appear in any major league games from 1998 until 2003, except for 1 inning pitched for Atlanta in 2002. However, Small never lost hope in his ability, worked hard and eventually in 2005, he found himself in the right place at the right time.
Due to injuries to the Yankee rotation, Small was called up from the minors and asked to fill in while their proven pitchers were rehabbing. Small turned one successful sport start into a regular rotation spot and didn’t look back. He came on to go 10-0 and was one of, if not the main reason the Yankees were able to win their division and make a postseason appearance. He finished the 2005 season at 10-0 with a 3.20 ERA. The next year the Yanks brought him back and gave him a role in the bullpen, but after a tough 0-3 start with a 8.46 ERA, the Yankees realized they caught lightning in a bottle the year before and Small’s big league career came to an end.
Although Small’s performance in 2005 was quite remarkable, it does not even compare to the challenge he overcame this calendar year. Small was at his home on Saturday, June 5th when his wife found him in the bedroom with a towel over his head. Small complained about not feeling well and said he’d shower and go to sleep. The next morning, Small’s condition worsened and his wife called 911. The Small family and EMT personnel has to wrestle and sedate Aaron to get him into the ambulance, as Aaron describes the situation by saying “they said I was wild, like a wounded animal.” Eventually Small was taken to a Tennessee hospital where he fell into a medically induced coma.
After tests were run, Small was diagnosed with encephalitis, a virus which causes swelling and inflammation in the brain. He woke up out of the coma, looked around the hospital room and asked “what am I doing here?” As a result of the virus, Small lost the ability to walk as well as perform all other motor skills. Breathing was a struggle and he was unable to talk due to a tube that was placed in his throat. Recovery involved him using a walker, feeding tubes and vocal chord exercises. Small lost 23 pounds while in the hospital. In case you missed it earlier, this all happened to Aaron Small on June 5th, about 4 weeks ago. The man who pitched the Yankees to the 2005 postseason lost all bodily abilities in a matter of minutes.
However, as June crept by, Small began recovering slowly but surely. The vocal training began to bring his voice back, feeding tubes were removed and he began physical therapy and gain usage of all his motor skills. He was originally planning on playing in yesterday’s Old Timers Day at Yankee Stadium, but as a result of the illness, he was forced to modify his plans. His new goal was to walk out under his own power. In doing so yesterday, Small demonstrated the same work ethic and self-belief that allowed a career minor leaguer to go 10-0 in the heat of a pennant race. Though Aaron Small didn’t hit any clutch home runs, win any World Series or play long enough to leave any long legacy in Yankee lore, he deserved the loudest of all ovations yesterday. In the past 4 weeks he has shown more determination than any of us can even fathom and I have a feeling that next year we will likely see Aaron Small take the mound on Old Timers Day. Personally, I can’t wait to go to the Stadium to pay my respects to a legend. A legend who has earned that title in many ways that are unrelated to baseball.
The Yankees completed their first ten game winning streak since their magical 1998 season last night with a complete game victory over the Atlanta Braves. CC Sabathia shook off a rocky start to the game, in which he surrendered a leadoff triple to Michael Bourne, but basically shut down Atlanta from that point forward and went the distance, to lead the Yankees to the 6-2 victory at the Stadium. If the Yankees were beating up on the Kansas City Royals, Seattle Mariners or Oakland Athletics, it could be dismissed that the streak is coming at the hands of lesser competition. However, the fact of the matter is the Yanks are beating up the NL East’s elite, which was thought to be one of the better divisions in baseball.
During the past 10 games, the Yankees starting rotation has a combined ERA of 2.09. Each game, the starting pitcher is just trying to pick up where the last one left off, and now for two complete trips around the rotation, they have gotten nothing but winning performances. The emergence of Phil Hughes has been the most important in my opinion, as the Yankees have invested an incredible amount of time, have turned down trade opportunities galore and have billed Hughes as a front of the rotation pitcher. Up to this point in his career, he has been somewhat disappointing as a starter, even though his win totals haven’t been awful. Now he looks as sharp and effective as he has ever in the starting role, and the Yankees are feeling validated for their patience.
The Yankees hit two home runs in last night’s victory, and have taken a whole lot of heat about how dependent they are as a team on the long ball. However, I don’t see how any of these complaints make any sense because the last time I checked, home runs are hits the cause the most damage to the opposition. Should the Yankees really apologize for their power surge? Last night, Mark Teixeira added his 12th home run of the season in the sixth, transforming the Brave’s Mike Minor’s start from heroic to forgettable. Robinson Cano homered for the second consecutive game in the eighth to pad the lead. Curtis Granderson has an unbelievable 21 big flys this year, and although Alex Rodriguez has struggled at times this season and has taken a lot of questions about his lack of power, last week with the Yankees down by 4 and a chance to lose their streak at a meager 4, ARod hit a grand slam which was followed up by a 2 run shot by Nicky Swish and all of a sudden 4-0 Braves was 6-4 Yanks. Yeah, I can definitely see why people think the Yankees hit “too many” homeruns!
Not to give myself too much credit, but a few weeks ago I wrote an article asking Yankee fans not to panic. I pointed out the good (Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter, Ivan Nova, Rafael Soriano) and wrote about what I thought would improve about this team (Starting Pitching, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, etc.). The Yankees were tied for last in the division when I wrote my post, but I knew things would have to go their way at some point. I feel justified after watching this team the last few weeks but I am still not fully satisfied as there is still room to improve. The Yankees still need to hit better in the clutch, as they are atrocious while batting with runners in scoring position. The Yankees really don’t have much speed and are definitely missing Brett Gardner, as this team really only plays station to station ball. With all that said, they have the best record in the American League at 41-25, they are up by 2.5 over Baltimore and will have the opportunity to pad their lead even further. They will finish with Atlanta and then get another shot at the New York Mets this weekend, the team they started their winning streak against. How magnificent would it be if the Yankees head into Sunday night with the streak in tact and we get to see them try to extend it to 15 with CC Sabathia on the mound against RA Dickey?! There is still a lot of baseball to be played before this weekend and more importantly to the Bronx Bombers, before the postseason, but I think the rest of MLB has been put on notice that the Yankees will be a major force when the smoke clears at the end of the 2012 season.