Archive for September, 2008

Exclusive Brian Cashman Interview: Part Three

September 20, 2008

In the third part of my exclusive sit-down interview with New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman, I asked him about his expectations of Humberto Sanchez, who was called up to the big leagues the day after winning an Eastern League Championship in Trenton.

Brian Cashman: “It’s more of a chance to have (Sanchez and Cervelli) break in.  In Sanchez’s case, he’s had a year and half to almost two years of rehab and it’s been tough.  It was an opportunity where he’d finished off his rehab and we’re bringing him up here for two reasons.  One, we optioned him down to Trenton 10 or 15 days ago, so when you bring a guy back in under 20 days, it doesn’t count as an option used.  So that’s one reason.” 

“The other is, you know what, he’s been busting his butt to get here.  So let him finish the season up here.  He’s from here, he’s from the Bronx originally.  Just give him a chance to be up here and see what it’s like and let it carry him into the winter.  He suffered from chain-link fever, which is basically what I call the rehabbers down in Tampa, where they have to sit there in front of nobody in the glaring heat and get their work in every day.  You can get chain-link fever, and it’s not good.  So this is kind of a reward for hard work paying off.  He’s healthy again, which is great.  Hopefully Joe Girardi will see an opportunity where he can get to pitch a little bit, but if not that’s fine too.”

NOTE: Sanchez made his Major League debut on Thursday night, throwing a perfect inning and striking out one.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Thank You…All 218,668 Of You.

September 19, 2008

My goal when I first started this blog was — no joke – merely to eclipse Pete Rose’s record of 4,256 hits.

218,668 hits later, and I’m absolutely amazed.

There are so many thank you’s in order, I don’t even know where to start.  I suppose I should do it in the order that I do things during a normal day during the season.

I generally get to the ballpark 3-4 hours before the game, and I walk through the front office to do so.

The Thunder front office genuinely feels like one big family — sounds corny, but it’s true — and I’m happy to feel like a small part of it.  Thanks so much to Steve Rudenstein and Josh Landsburg for all of their help this season.  The blog wouldn’t have been as good without their help, so thanks for that.

Bill Cook deserves a special thank you, because he’s been putting up with my crap on a day-to-day basis for five seasons now.  I can honestly only think of one time that I covered a Thunder game and didn’t spend a minute or two chatting with Bill in his office on my way out to the field…and I didn’t really know what to do the day I showed up and Bill wasn’t there.  He too has been incredibly helpful, and was very supportive when this blog was in its early stages.

Thanks to Eric Lipsman for his support…and for always having Chase and Derby around.  I still remember getting licked and trampled by Derby on numerous occasions throughout the season — probably worth noting that Chase and Derby are both dogs at this point, I’d imagine.

And while both are now in greener pastures — Bowling Green-er pastures? — I’ve got to thank Brad Taylor and Greg Coleman for all of their help and support as well.  It’s also been good getting to talk to Will Smith, and I’m sure I’ll get to know him better next season.

There are too many other people in the front office to thank them individually…whether it be Ashley Kresky, whose workspace was right inbetween Steve and Bill’s, meaning she had to hear me make a plethora of idiotic comments…Erin Leigh, who sold me many a ticket to add another Thunder bobblehead to my collection, or Mark Zangara, who also made a wise choice in his favorite NHL team…it was a pleasure to interact with and get to know everyone in there on a daily basis.

After making my way through the front office, I’d head out to the field, jump over the wall and make the trek out to the press box.

It was always an interesting place to watch a game from…and it wouldn’t be have been that way without the help of Pete, the stats guy, who had to deal with me asking about the play(s) that I missed.  Or David Fenster, the WIMG sports director who has been kind enough to have me on his show.  Or Steve Cornell, Dave McDonough, Dave Schofield, Rudy Jones, Josh Norris, John Nalbone, and everyone else I’ve enjoyed working with this season.

After getting set up in the press box, I’d go down on the field to watching batting practice.  Afterwards, we’d either hold court with Tony Franklin on the field, or speak to him in his office.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say anything negative about Tony, and there’s good reason for that.  He’s been a pleasure to get to know over the past few seasons, and hopefully I’ll get to speak to him again next season.

After speaking to Tony, the clubhouse would open, and another group of individuals that certainly need to be thanked are the players.

I don’t even want to take a guess at how many collective hours they were kind enough to give to me, whether it be for on the record quotes, or just chatting off the record.  Regardless, I never had a problem dealing with anyone this year, and it’s just a testament to the great group of guys that was in the home clubhouse throughout the season.

After coming back up to the press box and updating the blog, I’d try to take some time to answer e-mails and check the comments and see if anyone had linked to anything I’d written and so on.

It’s here where I should thank Chad Jennings and Pete Abraham for their help and support throughout the season…both were very willing to send some people my way throughout the season, and having met both of them, they’re both great people as well.

To anyone else who linked to stories I’d written this year — especially the guys at River Ave. Blues, who sent plenty of people over here throughout the season — thank you so much for your support.

And of course, a special thank you to the New York Yankees organization, specifically their media relations department.  I don’t think it’s any secret that I’m not a Yankees fan…but the Yankees are such a tremendous and professional organization, it’s really hard to say anything bad about them.  I can’t even begin to say how much I appreciated them letting me to come up to the Stadium every so often to write features on former Thunder players.  Trust me, Mike Ashmore needs the Yankees a lot more than the Yankees need Mike Ashmore.

After all that, I’d generally go down to the field and take some pictures.  But I’d also talk to a lot of the fans at the ballpark, answering some of their questions about the team, but also getting the opportunity to know some of them as well.

And this is where the biggest thank you’s come…to you guys, the readers of Thunder Thoughts.

Like I said at the beginning, I never, ever thought that this blog would become as wide-read or popular as it has.  And that has very little to do with me, and a lot to do with you guys.

Thank you so much for continuing to come back to this blog, for your friendship, and for all of the kind words throughout the season.

I can’t begin to tell you how nice it is to feel appreciated, so to come into work every day and feel appreciated by not only the readers of this blog, but the front office and players as well…it was a really special season for me, and I want to thank everyone for being a part of it.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Exclusive Brian Cashman Interview: Part Two

September 19, 2008

In part two of my exclusive chat with New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman, I asked him about the status of the Yankees renewal of the Player Development Contract with Trenton…

Brian Cashman: “That would be for another day.  I certainly wouldn’t want to trump anybody.  We’re very happy in Trenton.  We feel like it’s a terrific marriage, and we hope it’s going to last for a long time.”

By far the shortest answer of all the questions in this series, but it sounds like there’s only so much he can say about it at this point.  By all accounts — and I’ve received a few e-mails about this recently — it seems fairly inevitable that the PDC will be officially renewed shortly.

Here’s the schedule for the remainder of this series of questions and answers with Cashman…

Saturday, 9/20: Cashman talks about Humberto Sanchez
Sunday, 9/21: Cashman talks about Francisco Cervelli
Monday, 9/22: Cashman talks about Austin Jackson
Tuesday, 9/23: Cashman talks about whether Trenton and Scranton’s championships and the overall success of the farm system give him hope for the future of the organization

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Scott Patterson, Probably Regretting That Waiver Claim…

September 18, 2008

If you thought Phil Coke’s pink backpack was bad…well, Scott Patterson is probably regretting getting DFA’d by the Yankees right about now.

He’d be the guy who looks like he’s about ten feet tall in the back of the picture, which has other Padres rookies in it.

In other news — not that I’ve ever been to a Hooters — but I now have no plans to ever, ever go to one.  Ever.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

2008 Game Worn Jerseys Now Available

September 18, 2008

The Trenton Thunder are having their annual sale/auction of their 2008 game worn jerseys.  Jerseys from top prospects and rehabbing big leaguers will be auctioned off, while other jerseys are available for direct purchase.

For more information and a complete list of which jerseys and players are available, go here.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Exclusive Brian Cashman Interview: Part One

September 18, 2008

In an effort to drag this out as long as possible so that I make sure I get people coming back here for the next few days provide you with the best Thunder coverage around, I’ll be presenting my exclusive, one-on-one interview with New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman over the next week.

In the first part of our chat, I asked Cashman to talk about the job that Tony Franklin and his staff have done over the past two seasons…

Brian Cashman: “I was talking to (Tony) about it (Monday), and was congratulating him on everything he and his staff have accomplished.  Your job as a manager and a coaching staff in a minor league system is about executing a player development program.  And if you win on top of that, it’s like a bonus.  But they’re executing specific innings usages, and prospects have to hit in certain spots, and he has to manage the people inbetween and make sure he’s managing the program as well as the games within in the program, which is different.  It’s completely different.  But to keep everybody motivated and hungry and successful as he’s done there, it’s been tremendous.  We’re so proud of him and that he joined us, and more importantly, players have gotten better under him.  That’s the biggest compliment I can give him — is that players enjoy playing for him and they get better under him.  And that’s great.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Tony Franklin At Yankee Stadium

September 17, 2008

The Thunder have asked me to pass along this gallery of photos of Tony Franklin during his very first visit to Yankee Stadium.

Couldn’t be happier to do it.  I only wish I could have been there to see it for myself.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Phil Coke, Big Leaguer

September 17, 2008

It wasn’t too long ago that Phil Coke was one or two bad starts away from possibly being sent down to Single-A Tampa.

He was 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA in the month of April, and the Eastern League was hitting at a .340 clip off of him.  In 26 innings of work during the first month of the season, he allowed 18 earned runs.

Over the next three months, he allowed just fifteen.

His velocity started slowly creeping up from the 88-89 MPH readings he was posting at the start of the year.  With that, the strikeouts started coming in bunches.  Over his final three months with the Thunder, he posted four double-digit strikeout games before eventually being converted to a reliever shortly after the infamous trade, no-trade debacle.

At the end of July, Coke was summoned to Scranton.  He was a much different pitcher than he was when everyone saw him in April, now pitching with more confidence and a fastball that touched 94.

After a largely successful month in Triple-A in which he put together a string of 11 consecutive appearances without allowing an earned run, he got the call to go to the big leagues, adding a chapter to an unpredictable story that you wouldn’t have believed if you saw him pitch over the first few weeks of the year.

In the span of five months, he went from a player in danger of being exiled to Tampa to a guy who hasn’t allowed a run in eight big league appearances…

I was able to catch up with Coke in the Yankee Stadium clubhouse before the game on Monday night  — and if you know him at all, you know he’s always very willing to talk.  Here’s how the conversation went…

Mike Ashmore: What has the whole experience up here been like?

Phil Coke: “Amazing, absolutely amazing.  Every day, I’m just in awe of the way the season has gone and the opportunities I’ve been given to prove myself at each level.  And then to have the opportunity to come up here and prove myself here, its just been a dream come true.  I’m just in awe of it every day.”

Ashmore: You weren’t necessarily on a lot of the prospect lists, and there were a lot of people who probably didn’t expect you to get up here, at least not this quickly.  Was getting up here a goal that you had set for yourself at the beginning of the year, or is this something that not even you expected?

Coke: “Of course it’s everybody’s goal to get to the big leagues, however you’ve got to get there.  Whether it’s through a role change like I did, or it’s through sheer luck or having somebody at this level go down…for me to be up here at this time of year and contributing when I’ve been able to contribute, it’s really huge for me.  More on a personal level, because I’ve put in the time and I’ve put in the effort and I feel like I’m being rewarded for it.  I really see myself as being extremely fortunate, and I’m just glad things happened the way they happened.”

Ashmore: Is it a little bittersweet to be up here in a sense?  Trenton went on to win a championship, and you were on that team.  Same thing with Scranton.  I know you’re happy to be where you’re at, but…

Coke: “It’s always difficult to leave a team, just because you make friendships with everybody on the team.  For me to have been really close with everybody in both clubhouses, it’s been difficult.  But at the same time, it was a stepping stone, and you have to be able to put certain things behind you.  Sometimes, that’s one of them.  Unfortunately, that’s how this game works.  You’ve always got to be looking at the future and looking at tomorrow, so that’s what I really try and do for me personally.  Yeah, it was difficult, but at the same time I’m beyond happy for both teams.  They put in the time, they put in the effort, and they got themselves the best pat on the back that you can get in this game, which is winning a championship and showing everybody that you are as good as you set out to be at the beginning of the season.”

Ashmore: You’ve been getting some ink lately, considering the impressive start you’ve gotten out to — you haven’t allowed a run in your first seven big league outings.  Did you expect to do as well as you have up here?

Coke: “You always aspire to do as well as you can.  As I said, I’ve been fortunate and have guys in the right spots.  I threw a fastball down and away to (Akinori) Iwamura down in Tampa, and it was elevated and he got good wood on it.  But he hit it right at A-Rod.  If A-Rod’s not playing there, you never know.  Obviously hits happen, but the fact that he was standing there and got a great hop and turned and made a perfect throw and got me the out in that situation…you’ve got a guy like myself with adrenalin just raging through my body and I’m just trying to throw strikes.  When you’ve got guys like A-Rod and Jeter and Cano and Giambi in your infield, and then you’ve got Damon, Nady and Abreu in the outfield and Pudge or Molina behind the dish, you know that you are just the tiniest part of the big picture, but you’re in the picture.  So for me to go out there and do what I’ve done, having the incredible defense out there has made it that much easier to just go out there and concentrate on throwing strikes.  It’s kind of hard to put it in any other words than that.”

Ashmore: With so many guys for so few spots, do you kind of view this opportunity as kind of an audition to start 2009 in the Yankees bullpen or have you not really thought about it that way?

Coke: “That’s an interesting question.  I just view it as an opportunity to be here today and make sure that I do what I have to do and to be able to contribute to this team moving on, and just getting better every day, however I have to do that.  I said earlier this year, that if they were going to call me up — which I’d be surprised by — I’d go swing a set of purple pom-poms and wave them in the end of the dugout, but they don’t let the bullpen guys sit in the dugout unless they’re in the game.  So, no I didn’t go buy any.”

Ashmore: You do have the pink backpack though… (Note: I’d assume Humberto Sanchez may have taken over the responsibilities, but as the least experienced member of the bullpen at the time, Coke was in charge of carrying the seeds, gum, and other snacks for the rest of the relievers.  He was given a bright pink backpack with a Yankees logo on it to do so.)

Coke: “And don’t get me wrong man, it’s supposed to be a rookie deal, but I’m absolutely appreciative of it.  I love the fact that they’re willing to put some sort of trust in me, regardless of whether it’s pink or any other color, to make sure that we have seeds and stuff like that out there in the bullpen.  It’s like they’re handing me responsibility rather than kind of like a rookie hazing, that’s how I view it.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Exclusive Cashman Chat Coming Soon

September 17, 2008

Stay tuned over the next few days for portions of my exclusive one-on-one chat with New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman.  Cashman and I talked about the job Tony Franklin and his staff have done over the past two seasons, the status of the PDC the Yankees have with the Thunder, his expectations and impessions of the two most recent call-ups from Trenton (Cervelli and Sanchez), his thoughts about Austin Jackson’s season, and if the championships won by Scranton and Trenton and the overall success of the teams in the farm system as a whole give him hope for the future of the organization.

If you follow the Thunder or the Yankees farm system, this is a chat you’re not going to want to miss.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Bricktown Showdown

September 16, 2008

Chad Jennings has all the info on the Triple-A Championship game in Oklahoma City.  The kids call it the Bricktown Showdown, but I think we all know what it is.

Anyway, looks like Ramiro Pena’s getting the start after winning a championship in Trenton.  The game’s televised on ESPN 2, so make sure you check out all your favorite Thunder alums.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com


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