Just about everything this side of eating breakfast will be some notable “last” for Derek Jeter this season. Today is his last home opener. Which occasioned a press conference about it all, of course. Indeed, he won’t have the last of his press conferences until sometime in the mid-2020s by my calculations. You can see the whole presser here.
The highlight: Jeter said Yankees fans are the greatest in the world. He quickly followed that by saying that, in claiming Yankee fan superiority, he means no disrespect to any other teams’ fans.
Which, as usual, is a pathetic example of the controversy-courting Jeter looking to stir the pot by saying audacious things. It’s the single biggest reason he’s been so darn unpopular throughout his career. Also:
- Jeter said he’d try to enjoy his farewell season and farewell tour, but he doesn’t know how he’s going to balance it all given that his priority each day is the game. Getting ready to play every day, which takes a lot more work than, say, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera had to deal with when they had their last season.
- He mentioned that the expectation that the Yankees had to win every year started after 1996, and noted that in 1996 the Yankees “may have snuck up on some people.”
That’s a rare and candid acknowledgment from a Yankee. Since the mid-90s there has been a pretty strong drumbeat that such expectations have always existed in Yankees-land. Those of us who remember the 80s and the early 90s know better. Those older, who remember the late 60s through the mid-70s know better too. When they weren’t winning in those periods, there wasn’t some national “how can the Yankees not be winning?!” thing in the air. They were treated just like any other team. One that has good stretches and bad stretches and life goes on. Perhaps the expectations lasted during the DiMaggio-Mantle years, and they certainly have existed for the past 15-17 years or so, but it hasn’t always been the case. And if the Yankees were ever to experience another decade in the wilderness, the expectations would adjust downward once again.
Anyway: happy home opener, Captain.
The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.