How Brett Gardner and Yankees authored a fitting ‘Stick’ salute | Forum

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Angel92 Sep 9 '17

BALTIMORE — “So hopefully, I’ll steal a few <a href=""></a>; more bases for him here down the stretch,” Brett Gardner said Thursday morning. “Just play like my hair’s on fire.”

Then the Yankees’ leadoff hitter went out and put together the sort of day Joe Girardi called “a Stick special.”

If you want to know the impact Gene Michael had on the most storied organization in professional sports, all you needed to do was watch the Yankees’ 9-1 thumping of the Orioles on Thursday afternoon at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and then listen to them honor their fallen guru. Gardner, the longest-tenured active Yankee, contributed a single, double, two walks — and yes, a stolen base — from the leadoff spot to help the team record its first series victory over the O’s in Baltimore since September 2013.

“I’m sure he would’ve liked that,” Gardner said. “… That’s my job at the top of the lineup: Get on base. Sometimes I do a pretty decent job of that and sometimes I’m inconsistent. So today was a good day.”

It will go down as a very sad day, though, as Michael, who was still an active member of the Yankees’ brain trust, suffered a fatal heart attack in the morning. By 1:39 p.m., when the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman threw the first pitch, a called strike to Gardner, the Yankees’ road grays had been outfitted with black armbands on their left sleeves; I hope they eventually add a “Stick” patch, but this marked a fitting tribute on such short notice.

And then Gardner fouled a pitch off to fall behind, 0-and-2, and fouled two more pitches, and he looked at four straight balls for the earned free pass. One out later, he swiped second on a 2-and-2 pitch to Starlin Castro. The next batter, Didi Gregorius, scored Gardner with a two-out double down the first-base line. Aaron Judge followed with his 39th homer of the season, a 420-foot blast to the bleachers in right-center field.

“That’s what Stick liked. He liked seeing a lot of pitches and then hitting home runs,” Yankees bench coach Rob Thomson said. “That was his recipe for success. That was kind of fitting.”

These Yankees, now 3 ¹/₂ games behind the Red Sox in the American League East race, carry Stick’s imprint, even though he stepped down as general manager over 20 years ago. On-base percentage and the personality to handle New <a href=""></a>; York remain essential to the Yankees’ success profile. And Michael spent enough time around the team, particularly during spring training, that he knew many of the current players.

“I knew Stick a little bit,” Judge said. “He did absolutely everything for this organization. Every time I saw him, he always had a smile on his face. He always welcomed me and gave me a little tip here and there, things like that. It’s pretty sad news.”

Michael wanted Gardner to “probably run a little more often, steal a few more bases,” the outfielder said, which prompted him to make his pregame pledge. He didn’t steal any more bases for the rest of the day, as the Yankees built up quite a lead, and O’s manager Buck Showalter, who credits Stick for giving him a chance to manage the Yankees 25 years ago, eventually lifted his regulars to concede the loss. Yet with three more times on base, particularly his hustle double in the fourth on a flare to left, he sure looked like a man whose hair — or, in Gardner’s case, his shaved head — was on fire.

“He’s meant so much to this organization,” Girardi said of Michael. “He’s done a great job of scouting players, managing players, acquiring players. Just a sounding board for all of us. We thought about him a lot.”

Stick would’ve loved this one, agreed. What <a href="">Daeshon Hall Kids Jersey</a> better way to honor his memory than to produce plenty more wins like this one?

kakakaoo Oct 13 '17
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