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I’ve driven past PNC Park, home of the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate three times in the past week and I’ll be driving past it again this Friday. Too bad I’m out of town on Saturday, July 31, when fans will meet their favorite Triple-A Yankees players and bid on sports memorabilia at the annual Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees Autograph Party & Auction.

According to information shared with Generation Third from the SWB Yankees marketing office, gates will open at 1:30 p.m. as fans will be able to browse the wide variety of silent auction items displayed throughout the stadium concourse. 
 
More than 100 auction items will be on the block including signed items from Stephen Strasburg, Mariano Rivera, CC Sabathia, Reggie Jackson and Curtis Granderson plus numerous game used bats, jerseys, gift certificates from local merchants and much more.
 
Your favorite Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees players and coaches will be signing autographs beginning at 2:00 p.m. at six autograph tables located throughout the facility.
 
Admission to the event is only $5 which includes one randomly assigned autograph table featuring 3-4 players/staff. Additional tables may be purchased for $5 once inside the facility.
 
The silent auction will run from 1:30 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.
 
For the first time ever, there will also be a silent auction taking place during the 7:05 game that evening vs. Syracuse.
 
One nice thing coming from this event is that all proceeds will be donated to the Pediatric programs at Allied Rehab and John Heinz Rehab.

Hope you decide to support this worthy cause!

Today is July 14, 2010.  There’s no baseball being played anywhere.  So I’m going to take this opportunity to do my mid-season Yankee rankings.  Overall, I don’t think Yankee fans could be much happier with the team.  The Yankees lead the entire league with a 56-32 record, two games ahead of Tampa for best in the AL and four games ahead of the NL-leading Atlanta Braves.

Most Valuable Player – Robinson Cano

Hands down the Yankees MVP this season, Cano has been almost unstoppable at the plate and has played superbly on defense as well.  He earned his second all-star appearance this season and his first ever appearance as a starter.  Cano leads the Yankees in batting average, runs scored, doubles and slugging percentage.  He is second in on-base percentage and homers, and third in RBI.  He also boasts a team low 40 strikeouts out of all Yankees with at least 200 at-bats.

Most Improved Player – Nick Swisher

Swish is one of my favorite Yankees and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way.  The attitude and passion that Swisher brings to the game is unmatched.  His fun-loving personality is a big reason for the Yankee’s success the past season and a half.  Swisher has improved his eye at the plate, putting in a lot of work with hitting coach Kevin Long.  Last season, Swish hit .249 with 29 homers, 124 hits 82 RBI, scored 84 runs and had a .371 on-base percentage in 498 at-bats.  Midway through this season, in 315 at-bats, he is hitting, .296, with 94 hits, 15 homers, 49 RBI and has scored 55 runs due to his extra hits.  His OBP is .377.

Biggest Disappointment – AJ Burnett

The sad thing is Burnett is exactly what everyone has criticized him for in the past – being inconsistent.  Only two years removed from an 18-10 season for the Blue Jays, Burnett is performing below his salary at 7-7 with a 4.70 ERA.  He is arguably the Yankees weakest starting pitcher right now, especially considering his win on July 7 in Oakland was his first since May 30th.  He was 0-5 in five starts with an 11.35 ERA in June.  The sad thing is Burnett started the season 4-0 with an ERA under 2.40, then was 6-2 with a 3.28 ERA before things went very downhill.  The Yankees will need his veteran presence on the mound in the second half, especially since Phil Hughes will face innings limits later this season.  Burnett needs to find a way to turn his season around.

Biggest Surprise – Phil Hughes

In spring training, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain had to compete for the fifth spot in the Yankees starting rotation.  Hughes had a successful spring while Joba struggled, earning Hughes the nod.  Hughes dominated for the Yankees from the beginning.  He started his season 5-0 with a 1.38 record, taking advantage of massive run support from the Yankee offense.  Hughes is one of the top ten pitchers in the American League this season, boasting an 11-2 record with a 3.65 ERA, earning him a spot on the All-Star team.  However, he will face inning limits later on this season, requiring the Yankees to get someone else to finish the season after he hits the limits.  No word on his post season availability.

Grades

Offense: A The team is 2nd in runs scored and RBI, 5th in hits and 7th in batting average.

Starting Pitching:          A- Sabathia & Co. are 1st in wins, 7th in ERA(2nd in AL only) and 10th in strikeouts.  By the way, Andy Pettitte is 11-2 with a team leading 2.70 ERA.  He could end up having the best season of his career at age 38.

Relief Pitching:              B- Joba and David Robertson are the go-to guys in the pen’ but their ERA’s are 5.79 and 5.46,          respectively.  The bullpen has also only lost 10 games, a little better than average.  But the Bombers still have the best closer of all time, Mariano Rivera.

Coaching:                        A Joe Girardi appears to have a good thing going with the Yankees right now and a great support staff, including pitching coach Dave Eiland and hitting coach Kevin Long.  Whatever they’re doing, it’s working.  The Yankees are in first place, enough said.

Yogi Berra:

“George was ‘The Boss,’ make no mistake,” Hall of Famer Yogi Berra said. “He built the Yankees into champions, and that’s something nobody can ever deny. He was a very generous, caring, passionate man. George and I had our differences, but who didn’t? We became great friends over the last decade and I will miss him very much.”

Commissioner Bud Selig:

“He was and always will be as much of a New York Yankee as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and all of the other Yankee legends,” baseball commissioner Bud Selig said. “Although we would have disagreements over the years, they never interfered with our friendship and commitment to each other. Our friendship was built on loyalty and trust and it never wavered.”

Rudy Giuliani:

“George was a friend of mine for over 30 years. He was truly the most influential and innovative owner in all of sports. He transformed baseball and sports broadcasting with the YES Network and brought New York seven World Series. Beyond that, he made the Yankees a source of great pride in being a New Yorker. George Steinbrenner’s Yankees represent the will to overcome all odds which is precisely the will New Yorkers display when meeting every challenge they face.”

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg:

“Few people have had a bigger impact on New York over the past four decades than George Steinbrenner,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “George had a deep love for New York, and his steely determination to succeed combined with his deep respect and appreciation for talent and hard work made him a quintessential New Yorker.”

Joe Torre:

“I will always remember George Steinbrenner as a passionate man, a tough boss, a true visionary, great humanitarian, and a dear friend. I will be forever grateful that he trusted me with his Yankees for 12 years. My heart goes out to his entire family. He will be deeply missed in New York, Tampa and throughout the world of baseball. It’s only fitting that he went out as a world champ.”

Don Mattingly:

“His vision, passion and commitment to winning, recharged the New York Yankees and revolutionized the game. I remember a man driven to succeed. He was the owner, “The Boss” and number one fan of the Yankees. Our relationship was built on mutual respect. I will never forget and always be grateful for how he treated me and my family both during my playing days and after I retired.”

John W. Henry, owner of the Boston Red Sox:

“I had the good fortune to call George Steinbrenner both partner and friend. I had the privilege to watch George as he built a system that ensured his beloved Yankees would have a strong foundation for sustained excellence. And then we fiercely competed in the American League. George Steinbrenner forever changed baseball and hopefully some day we will see him honored in baseball’s Hall of Fame as one of the great figures in the history of sports.”

Mario Cuomo, former New York Governor:

“Everyone knows George Steinbrenner went from loser to legend by taking a second division team with a struggling franchise in 1973 and turning it into a champion again. But he was much more than a winner and a celebrity. There was no falseness in him. He did everything with his heart: His family, his friends, his team, his nation and his community. I’m not surprised that in the end he died by wearing it out.”

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The Yankees announced today that the team will wear patches on their uniforms remembering owner George Steinbrenner, who passed away Tuesday at the age of 80, and long-time public address announcer Bob Sheppard, who passed away Sunday at the age of 99.

The Steinbrenner patch will be placed above each player’s heart – over the interlocking NY on home jerseys, and above the word “YORK” on away jerseys.  The Sheppard patch will be worn on each player’s left sleeve.

I’m watching the all-star game right now and it appears that each Yankee has a black armband on his left sleeve in honor of Steinbrenner’s passing.

Just nine days after his 80th birthday and just two days after the passing of iconic PA announcer Bob Sheppard, the Yankees are now mourning the loss of owner George Steinbrenner Tuesday morning after a massive heart attack.

Steinbrenner had been in declining health for about 3 years now and most of the day-to-day operations of the team were passed to sons Hal and Hank.  Although many in the Yankee Universe were expecting his eventual passing, a heart attack was not what most were expecting.

Steinbrenner bought the Yankees for $10 Million in 1973 and initially claimed he would not be involved in the day-to-day operations of the team.  Fortunately, that didn’t happen.  In his first 8 years of ownership, Steinbrenner’s Yankees won 4 pennants and 2 World Series championships.

After a “Dark Ages” from 1982-1993, the Yankees started winning regularly again in 1994, leading the league before the player’s strike ended the season.  The Yankees have not had a losing season since and despite the “dark ages” the Yankees still hold the best overall record from 1973-today.

Love him or hate him, for better or worse, the Boss changed baseball forever.  He brought a businessman’s mentality to the game that led to higher salaries for the players due to his willingness to pay a lot of money for good players.  For example, he offered Catfish Hunter a $700,000+ salary back when many baseball players were not even making six figures.

Yankees fans will have to mourn the loss of two iconic members of the organization for the rest of the season.  I will be interested to see how the Boss is remembered at tonight’s all-star game.  After the impact this man had on baseball, I’ll be disappointed if nothing is mentioned.

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