New Players & Fans Set To Experience Yankees in ALCS For First Time

By Jason Klein  

I walked my daughter to the bus stop this morning.

It’s a short stroll, really.  Around the corner and down a hill – just enough steps to pad my Fitbit stats and see some familiar October sights.  There were pumpkins on porches, leaves on the ground, and an interlocking “NY” on my shirt.

Of course there was.

ALCS Logo

Yankee Stadium Prepares For The ALCS’s Bronx Return.

The Yankees will play Game 1 of the American League Championship Series tonight in Houston.  Watching the Yanks play baseball deep into October is typical of my childhood.  Not so for kids my daughter’s age.

The Yankees reached the ALCS or World Series 7 times from 1996-2004.  Then, 3 more times between 2009-2012.  Since then, their lone Postseason appearance came in 2015 when they lost to the Astros in the AL Wild Card Game.

So, tonight is special for kids like my daughter, born within the last 10 years.

A boy waiting for the bus noticed my shirt and asked if I was excited for the upcoming series.

“Of course,” I said.  “How about you?”

His face lit up.  His smile was huge, like an Aaron Judge homerun swing.

“Yeah!” He said.  “I’ve never seen them play in the ALCS before.”

He then gave me a “thumbs down.”

“When were you born?” I asked.

“2008.  But I was too young to watch the 2009 World Series,” he said.

His excitement reminded me a lot of myself back in 1996 – the first time I’d seen the Yankees win a playoff series.  He had a look of wonderment – like he was about to witness something he’d never seen before.

He is.

My Yankees – you know, Jeter, Bernie, Pettitte, Posada and Mo – are nice historical footnotes for today’s kids.  Now, Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird and the rest of this young core of players are ushering in a new generation of Yankees success.  They’re bringing the new generation of fans along with them. Judge-Sanchez

The boy’s reaction did make me further appreciate the late-90s dynastic run.  It’s so difficult to sustain success from one year to the next.  Every opportunity to win a championship should be treasured.  You never know when it will happen again.

Many say these Yankees arrived ahead of schedule.  They weren’t expected to compete this soon.  They are “playing with the house’s money.”

I disagree.

It’s never the wrong time to win a Title.  Teams that get this close must capitalize.  “Wait ‘till next year” isn’t guaranteed.

Just ask the 2015 Mets.

It’s possible, this could be the only shot this young group of Yankees have to win a World Series.

Or, it could be just the beginning of another sustained run of success.

The latter would give kids my daughter’s age a childhood experience similar to mine.  Yankees baseball, deep into the Fall, would once again be a familiar October sight.

Like pumpkins on porches, leaves on the ground, and an interlocking “NY” on my shirt.

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Have The Yankees Found Their Next Captain? You Be The Judge.

By Jason Klein

All Rise?

Honestly, why would you ever sit down in the first place?

There’s no time to relax between each one of Aaron Judge’s majestic blasts.  They fly out of stadiums at a record pace, travel record distances and leave me sounding like, well, a broken record.

Aaron Judge

All Rise For Aaron Judge.

“He hit another one last night,” is the first thing I say to my wife every single morning.

Forget Groundhog Day.  We’re all living Judgement Day over and over again.

Through 60 games, Judge is hitting .341 with 22 HR and 49 RBI.  It’s a small sample, but he’s showing no signs of laying down his gavel.  His at-bats are can’t-miss events, he comes up with a game-defining hit almost every night and he hears “MVP” chants…on the road!

Oh, and let the record show, Your Honor is a 6 foot, 7 inch, 25 year-old rookie!

It’s Judge’s courtroom.  We’re all witnesses.

Yup, Number 99 is everywhere: the front of Sports Illustrated, the middle of the Yankees’ line up, the back of fans’ jerseys and the top of prominent AL statistical categories, including HR, batting average and runs scored.

He is impressive on the field and poised off of it.  He handles the bright lights of New York with ease and deflects all adulation on to his teammates.

He tells you that he doesn’t pay attention to his individual accomplishments.  Instead, he only focusses on winning games.  For twenty years, Derek Jeter said the same thing.  I always believed him.  Now, I believe Judge.

Like Jeter, Judge has a good head, and a great bat, resting firmly on his shoulders.  His teammates respect him and fans adore him.  Is it possible the Yankees found their future Captain?  Do my two young daughters have their own Jeter to look up to…and grow up with?

There’s plenty of time to figure it out.

No time to sit down, though.

Judge is walking to the plate.

All Rise.

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Jeter’s Latest Title Might Be His Greatest

By Jason Klein

You couldn’t pick just one.

We sat together, inside Yankee Stadium, and I asked you to decide which of your Titles meant the most to you.  You couldn’t do it.

“‘96, ‘98, ‘99, 2000, 2009…All five of them,” you said.  “We won all of those years.”

Well, Derek, the debate ends with your newest title:

ct-derek-jeter-wife-hannah-preganat-20170213

Jeter’s Going To Have a Baby Girl in 2017.

Dad.

There is nothing more special or rewarding than being a father – especially to a little girl. I’ve got two of them. They changed my life, and your little bambina will change yours too.

For twenty years, you played shortstop.  Now, you’ll stop short of nothing to make your daughter smile.  You once carried the weight of New York on your shoulders, but there is no greater responsibility than fatherhood.  Dressed in Jumpman, you’ll jump, man, every time she needs your help. For her, Mr. November will be Mr. Everyday.

You’ll flip for her!  You’ll want to dive into everything that interests her.  You’ll be her champion and her captain.  Number 2 will be her Number 1.

No doubt, being a Dad is hard work.  She’ll wear you out, like a doubleheader in mid-August.  You’ll get less sleep than a west coast trip.  She’ll throw you more curve balls than Pedro Martinez and ask more questions than the New York media.  She’ll demand your very best each and every day.

You’re battle-tested, though.  I saw you rise to the occasion for two decades in Pinstripes.  You were a role model for a generation of fans.  Now you’ll serve in the same capacity for your daughter.

jade-jason6-9-18-14

Her First Yankees Game!  Watching Derek Jeter’s Final Career HR with my Daughter in 2014.

The world needs more strong, successful young women.  Be sure to pass on your work ethic and leadership abilities to her.  Teach her to be classy, accountable, carry herself with dignity, be professional and respectful…just as you were.  Empower her to be confident, do what makes her happy and be who she wants to be.

These are all messages I try to convey to my two young daughters each day.

After your final game at Yankee Stadium, when reflecting back on your career, you said, “I’ve never taken it for granted, but it goes a lot quicker than you could imagine.”  Remember this while you’re rolling around on the floor playing with your new baby girl.  Enjoy it all.  Like your twenty years in the Bronx, it will go faster than you think.

Unlike your previous Championships, your latest title won’t have all the fanfare.  There will be no cheering, no press, no parades or rings.  Your fans won’t celebrate this title, but you should.  It’s your most important one to date.

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One More Time, Jeter Brings Out The Kid In Me

By Jason Klein

It was supposed to mark the end of my childhood.

Instead, I got thrown right back in the middle of it.

I was a kid again – despite having kids of my own now – all because the kid from Kalamazoo did what he always does…one last time.

Jeter Leaps Following His Walk-Off Hit.

Jeter Leaps Following His Walk-Off Hit.

Thursday night against the Orioles, in his final Yankee Stadium at bat, Derek Jeter poked a bottom of the ninth, game winning RBI single to right field. In the last huge moment of his twenty-year career, Jeter came through again.

Of course he did.

His storied career is loaded with sweet ice cream sundae moments, and this last one will sit near the top like a cherry. Captain Clutch’s latest greatest moment didn’t surprise anyone who’s been paying attention for the past two decades. It certainly didn’t shock me. Instead, it brought me right back to the late-90s, when these types of things happened with regularity.

After securing victory, Jeter leapt high into the Bronx night, the way he used to back when I was in high school. In that moment, his recent injury woes and diminished abilities didn’t matter. The forty candles on his last birthday cake didn’t matter either. In that moment, the only thing that mattered was that Derek Jeter – at least for one night – was a kid again, flying high through the sky, arms raised, like the super hero he’s been for more than half my life.

Teammates Celebrate With Jeter.

Teammates Celebrate With Jeter.

He always seems to save the day for the Yankees.

As teammates flooded the field, so did memories of previous triumphs, so magical and so perfect, you’d think the whole thing was a Hollywood script. Instead, it’s reality, and Jeter’s been the one writing history, one remarkable moment at a time, for the past twenty seasons.

When the spotlight – and camera phone flashes – were brightest, that’s when Jeter would always shine brighter. Thursday night was no exception. His walk-off hit was so reminiscent of past Jeter conquests, you’d swear you saw the Posadas, Pettittes, Bernies, Tinos, Torres and Mos out there celebrating victory with him.

And then they actually were.

Torre, Posada, Rivera & Martinez Wait To Walk Jeter into Retirement.

Torre, Posada, Rivera & Martinez Wait To Walk Jeter into Retirement.

Jeter’s baseball brothers stood behind home plate in the Bronx, quietly watching their former teammate do what he always seems to do…one last time. Then, they too congratulated him and symbolically asked him to join them in retirement.

It was a poignant moment that, no doubt, had Jeter fighting back some tears.

“I think I’ve done a pretty good job of controlling my emotions throughout my career,” he would later say, “but today, I wasn’t able to.”

Neither were those of us watching the drama unfold.

Eliminated from playoff contention the night before, it was the first game of Derek Jeter’s Yankee Stadium career without any meaning.

Jeter Acknowledges The Yankee Stadium Crowd.

Jeter Acknowledges The Yankee Stadium Crowd.

Except, in the end, it really meant so much.

For Jeter, it was the final big moment of a career he would later deem to be “above and beyond anything I’d ever dreamt of.”

For me, it was a chance to be a kid again, one more time, when these types of Jeter moments happened with regularity.

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Sheppard’s Run Ends With Jeter’s Exit. Introduced Major Yankees, Personal Moments

By Jason Klein

Derek Jeter’s career is coming to an end.

When it does, he’ll take Bob Sheppard’s voice with him.

Though Sheppard was silenced for good with his passing in July 2010, Jeter has continued to pay homage to the legendary Yankees Public Address Announcer of nearly 60 years. Since his final game in the booth, back in 2007, a recording of Sheppard’s Jeter introduction has been played prior to each of Derek’s at bats.

A Sheppard Recording is Played Before Every Jeter At Bat.

A Sheppard Recording is Played Before Every Jeter At Bat.

“Now batting for the Yankees…number 2…Derek Jeter…number 2.”

Sheppard’s voice had a mythical quality to it. Goosebumps surfaced with every properly pronounced syllable. Jeter single-handedly extended Sheppard’s Stadium shelf life by seven years – long enough for a new generation of fans to experience him, including my 4 year-old daughter.

For that, I’ll always be grateful for Jeter’s decision to be introduced by the “Voice of God” for as long as he continued playing.

As it turns out, he only has another month to go. Two if we’re lucky.

Sheppard’s style always inspired me. In an industry saturated with big, booming voices, Sheppard preferred to quietly stick to his timeless method of “Clear, Concise, Correct.” Yelling and over-embellishment wasn’t his style. Instead, he took pride in his ability to properly speak the English language.

His voice was ear candy. He made every trip to Yankee Stadium an event. He was synonymous with the Yankees brand, like pinstripes and façade.

His voice was heard before some of the biggest moments in franchise history.

In 2008, I wanted his voice heard before my biggest moment too.

In the winter of 2008, I placed a call to Paul Sheppard, Bob’s son. I was getting married that upcoming July 4th, and wanted the “Voice of Yankee Stadium” to present my wife and I to our guests.

At that time, Sheppard had already announced his final game at Yankee Stadium. His health was deteriorating and his son informed me that he’d honor my request should his condition remain stable.

In late Spring, Sheppard, feeling more like himself, pre-recorded intros for my future wife and me, along with the rest of our wedding party – something that remained a surprise for our guests until our wedding reception was interrupted by:

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Glen Island Harbour Club.”

Heads swiveled, eyes popped, and jaws dropped low. His voice added a layer of historical elegance typically only found at East 161st Street in the Bronx.

After our wedding party entered, my wife and I joined the fun on Sheppard’s cue:

“Now, ladies and gentlemen, please rise, and remove your caps. Please give a warm welcome to, for the first time as husband and wife…the Bride and Groom…Mr. and Mrs. Jason Klein…the Bride and Groom.

[See Video of Intro Below]

Hearing Sheppard announce my name as I entered the room on my wedding day was one of the most surreal experiences of my life.

Only Derek Jeter has had that same pleasure over the past seven years.

When he goes, so does Sheppard’s voice.

We can all enjoy hearing it over the next month.

Two if we’re lucky.

 

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Jeter’s Last Act as Captain America?

By Jason Klein

Derek Jeter grew up on the national stage.

Next Tuesday could be his final performance there.

Prior to 2014, his Yankees teams have made the playoffs in 17 of his 19 years in the league. They have won 7 American League Pennants and 5 World Series. During that time, Jeter has methodically built his name, his brand, his reputation, and his legacy as one of the most clutch and consistent winners in sports history.

An October Staple, Will Jeter Get Another Shot in 2014?

An October Staple, Will Jeter Get Another Shot in 2014?

As this season’s pinstriped pieces continue to crumble around the 40 year-old shortstop, so do his chances of adding more postseason success to his remarkable resume. Injuries have decimated his teammates, claiming 4/5 of the Yankees pitching rotation, and forcing key position players to miss considerable time.

Once a right of passage for The Captain, his place in October is not guaranteed this year. For that reason, his appearance at this year’s All-Star Game, the 14th of his career, could be America’s last real opportunity to say goodbye to the future Hall-of-Famer.

At times, those who follow Jeter on a regular basis thought he might play forever. His youthful appearance, consistent demeanor, and will to win have never waivered. He’s kept us all feeling young, even as he got old.

There was a time, in the late 90s, Jeter had a legitimate shot to catch Yogi, and match his ten rings. If the Yankees miss the playoffs for only the third time in the last twenty seasons, Jeter’s title count will be permanently frozen at five.

If there are no more postseason evenings in Jeter’s future, there will also be no more legendary flips, dives, or signature jump throws. We will have seen the last of his October heroics and his November home runs. Never again, will we witness a Pennant clinching fist pump or a World Series clinching, arms raised, leap into baseball lore.

Typically a meaningless sports charade, Tuesday’s All-Star game becomes must-see-TV, if, in fact, it’s Jeter’s last appearance in the national spotlight. A sport, and an entire country, will get a final opportunity to honor one of the game’s most respected ambassadors.

Derek Jeter grew up on that national stage.

Can he rally his ailing Yankees towards another playoff run?

If not, the All-Star Game could be his last performance before the entire country.

No October encore.

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Time Stood Still With Jeter In Pinstripes

By Jason Klein

Nobody wants to get old.

As long as Derek Jeter kept playing for the Yankees, I didn’t have to.

Watching him play on a nightly basis over the last nineteen years helped prolong my childhood and allowed me to escape Father Time’s inevitable grasp.  His consistent play, stable demeanor, and youthful appearance made me feel like time stood still for two decades.  As long as Jeter wore pinstripes, I’d feel young.

I watched him as a kid & worked with him as an adult.

I watched him as a kid & worked with him as an adult.

Flip on the game and…POOF!  I could be a kid again.

This October, when Derek Jeter walks away from baseball for good, he’ll take a big piece of my childhood along with him.  He’ll also leave behind a franchise in need of a new identity.

Former Yankees Pitcher, and Jeter teammate, Mike Mussina once said: “We can put on the uniform, and we can play in the Stadium, but we’re not the New York Yankees unless Derek Jeter is playing shortstop.”

With Jeter onboard, the Yankees could always be the Yankees of the mid-to-late-90s.  They could be the Bernie-Tino-O’Neill-Posada-Pettitte-Mo Yankees.  With #2 penciled in the lineup, expectations, confidence and accountability would always be high.  No waters ever seemed too choppy, as long as Jeter was the Captain of this pinstriped ship.

He is the final link to the most recent golden era of Yankees baseball – the last “Core 4” member standing.  He helped win four World Series Titles in five seasons.  He made his jump throws, wore his Jumpman, and at times, you believed he’d keep playing, and winning, forever.

He won’t though.  His remarkable career will come to an end after the 2014 season.  The Kalamazoo Kid who never seemed to age, finally did.  It reminds us all of our own mortality.

Nothing lasts forever.  Even if it seems like it might.  If you’re twenty-something, all you know is Derek Jeter at shortstop for the Yankees.  Literally.  That’s it.

Taking my daughter to a game in April 2013.

Taking my daughter to a game in April 2013.

I was fourteen when he made his debut.  I’ll be 34 when he tips his cap for the final time.  For twenty years, no matter what was going on in my life, Derek Jeter was a constant.

He entertained me as a high school kid, distracted me as a college student, inspired me as an adult, and worked alongside me during my career at Steiner Sports.

My Dad took me to see him play as a kid.  Now I take my own daughter to see him.

The fact that my 3 year-old daughter roots for the same active player in 2014 that I did in 1995 is a tribute to Jeter’s consistency, longevity, and drive to succeed.

As a parent now, I watch her get older with each day that passes.

With Derek Jeter retiring, I’ll get a little bit older too.

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Boone Sends Yankees To The World Series, Fans Into A Frenzy

By Jason Klein

(Today is the 10 Year Anniversary of Aaron Boone’s miraculous ALCS Game 7 HR.  The 11th inning walk-off blast sent the Yankees to the World Series, and preserved the Bambino’s Curse for at least one more season.  The Following Post Can Be Read, In Its Original Form, As I wrote on 10/17/03)

Babe, Bucky, Buckner…Boone.

At 16 minutes past midnight on Friday morning, Aaron Boone added his name to the list.  Aaron “Bleepin’” Boone.  Tied at 5 in the bottom of the 11th inning of game 7 of the ALCS, Boone sent Tim Wakefield’s first pitch through the Bronx sky, and safely into the hands of George Herman Ruth sitting out in the left field stands.

“Like Derek [Jeter] told me, the ghosts will show up eventually,” Boone said.

Images From Game 7, 10/16/03.

Images From Game 7, 10/16/03.

With an early 4-0 deficit, and Roger Clemens out of the game, the 56,297 in attendance were wondering just when the Great Bambino planed on showing up.  He probably just got caught up in traffic following the water main break on the Deagon.  He showed up 8 innings late to the party, but the Babe arrived in time to see the Yanks capture their 39th American League pennant in dramatic fashion, coming from 3 down in the 8th inning, to win the game 6-5 in 11 innings.  Boone’s walk off, series ending blast punctuated the evening.

“I knew it was out, I finally put a good swing on it,” he said.

It’s a swing that will long be remembered, perhaps one of the most dramatic of all time.   One swing of the bat from Boone ended the most compelling, evenly matched series in Major League Baseball history, sending Yankee Stadium into a frenzy and the Red Sox home for the winter.

“This was our chance to get the World Series,” Boston’s Johnny Damon said. “And we were so close.”

Cowboy Down.

“This is the best, said Yankees manager Joe Torre.  “To come here and play against the Red Sox, and play them 26 times and beat our rival like we did, it couldn’t be more satisfying.  This has to be the sweetest taste of all for me.

However, early on things were rather sour in the Bronx.   The Sox got to Clemens early, tagging the Rocket for 6 hits and 4 runs through only 3 innings.  Clemens’ ineffectiveness, coupled with Pedro Martinez’s brilliance was a sure sign of a pinstriped apocalypse.  Many wondered if this would be the night the curse was broken.

Jason Giambi, batting out of the 7 hole, delivered 2 solo shots and Mike Mussina’s 3 scoreless innings of relief kept the Bombers in the game, but it wasn’t until that fateful 8th inning when the Empire finally struck back.

The Captain, Derek Jeter got it all started with a double to right, and Bernie Williams knocked him in with a single to make it 5-3.  After a Hideki Matsui double, Red Sox Manager Grady Little went out to meet with Martinez.  After some convincing, Pedro stayed in the game and gave up a game tying double to Jorge Posada.  Red Sox 5, Yankees 5.

That’s the way it would stay until the 11th, thanks to a flawless 3 innings of relief from the incomparable Mariano Rivera.  It was the first time Rivera had thrown 3 innings in a game since 1996.

“Words can’t describe him, he is a cartoon character,” Jason Giambi said of Rivera.

After Boone hit, what former Mayor Rudolph Guliani deemed “the best home run since Chris Chambliss in ’76,” the Yankees were World Series bound for the first time since 2001.  They will be fishing for Marlin starting Saturday night in the Bronx.

That challenge can wait until then.  For now, New York revels in its latest dance with destiny.  They came from behind to beat Pedro, Wakefield, and an entire Red Sox nation that holds little regard for the aura and mystique found season after season in the Bronx.

“I believe in ghosts,” Derek Jeter said when asked if there was something to the Curse. “And we have a lot of ghosts in this Stadium.”

Those Cowboys from New England may not agree with Jeter, but they surely have heard of the killer “B’s” that continue to haunt them every year.

Babe, Bucky, Buckner…and now Boone.

“Go back to Boston boys. Goodbye,” said George Steinbrenner following game 7. “They didn’t treat us very well in Boston, but you know, we get the last laugh.”

Bye Bye, Boston.

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Yankees Trio Part Of My Childhood. My Daughter’s Too.

By Jason Klein

“Dewick Jeeta!”  “Annie Peditte!”  “Mo!”

That’s what my three year-old daughter calls them.

I’m just ecstatic she even knows who they are.

Like the iPhone, baseball rosters change every year.  Players come and go, switch teams, retire, or fade into baseball ambiguity as their skills diminish.

Taking my daughter to a game in April 2013.

Taking my daughter to a game in April 2013.

Yet, incredibly, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera have remained a constant within the Yankees Universe for 19 years.

Long enough for me to enjoy them with my daughter.

It’s every father’s dream to share their passion with their children.  Jeter, Pettitte and Rivera were a major part of my childhood.  Remarkably, they are now a part of my daughter’s too.

I’ve watched them compete since 1995, when I was a fifteen year-old sophomore in high school.  I grew up celebrating their success.  Some of my happiest memories were made watching the three of them play, and win, in the Bronx.

Now I’m 33 years-old, married, and have a child.

They’re still playing.

Think about that.  They’re still playing!  Not on a YES Network Yankees Classic from ten years ago.  They’re still out there grinding today (Jeter’s injuries aside), at a high level for the Yankees, in 2013.

It’s a remarkable tribute to their consistency, longevity, and drive to succeed.

When the 2013 season ends, so will Pettitte & Rivera’s careers.  Jeter isn’t far behind.  Together, they’ve authored tons of memorable moments.  Baseball fans of all ages are fortunate to have watched their extraordinary careers.

There may never be another trio quite like “Jeeta, Peditte & Mo.”

When they finally leave the game for good, they’ll take a piece of my childhood with them.

My daughter’s too.

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Like A-Rod, Sanchez About To Take On The World. Alone.

By Jason Klein

Just four years ago, I compared Mark Sanchez, to Derek Jeter.

Now, he more closely resembles Alex Rodriguez.

It’s a shame, really.

Like a young Jeter, Sanchez once exhibited confidence, poise and passion.  He also found ways to win big games.

Big playoff games.

Both Sanchez & A-Rod will face hostile crowds, for different reasons.

Both Sanchez & A-Rod will face hostile crowds, for different reasons.

Now, like A-Rod, he’s all alone.

He has the majority of his own fan base, and people within his own organization seemly rooting against him.   He’s saddled his team with an immovable contract, been involved in controversial plays on the field, and controversial situations off it.

Yet, Sanchez takes the field tonight in Detroit looking to prove all doubters and dissenters wrong.

Sanchez against the World.

A-Rod begins a similar fight tonight in the Bronx, but for much different reasons, obviously.

A-Rod cheated his organization.  Sanchez was simply cheated by his.

A-Rod made his own poor decisions.  Sanchez was a victim of those made by others.

A-Rod deserves the ridicule.  Sanchez deserves a fair shot to prove he can win again with proper support.

Tonight, two well-paid, and well-famed New York athletes will take center stage.  Both are polarizing figures.  Both will be booed by their home crowd.  At 38 years-old, A-Rod is simply playing out the string.  At 26 years-old, Sanchez potentially has his best years ahead of him.

If he’s going to spend them playing in New York, the kid from SoCal needs to be confident, poised, and passionate again.  He’s got to find ways to win big games again.

He’s got to be more like the face of the Yankees.

Less like the face of Biogenesis.

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