Yankees legend John Sterling says goodbye; why the Marlins sent down a budding star

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John Sterling is stepping down from the microphone in The Bronx, the Marlins sent down a budding star, a scary collision in Boston and the Power Rankings examine some hot starts. I’m Levi Weaver, here with Ken Rosenthal — welcome to The Windup!

John Sterling, Yankees legend, retires

It hardly feels possible, but from now on, when you tune in to a Yankees game on the radio, you won’t hear John Sterling’s voice. Sterling is retiring, effective immediately.

The reason it’s so surreal is that for over 30 years — over 5,000 consecutive games from 1989 to 2019 — if you tuned in to a Yankees radio broadcast, Sterling’s voice was the one thing you could count on. If you’re wondering if that’s normal, it’s not. Broadcasters often take a little time off; baseball season is a grind that usually starts sometime in late February during spring training, and goes through the first of October, assuming your team doesn’t make the playoffs.

You may recall that the Yankees made the playoffs a lot between 1989 and 2019.

Broadcasting isn’t the same as playing, of course, but any streak that nearly doubles that of Cal Ripken Jr. (whose streak ended against the Yankees, with Sterling in the booth) is remarkable, even if it’s just showing up.

Sterling, of course, did much more than show up. For 35-plus seasons, his voice and delivery were among the most recognizable in the broadcast world. His bespoke puns for each player’s home run calls were a signature, as was “It is high! It is far! It is gone!” after home runs and wins punctuated by “Tha Yankees win, thaaaaaaa Yankees win!” His chemistry with color commentator Suzyn Waldman was incredibly endearing. To quote the man whose song plays after every Yankees win — Sterling did it his way.

“He’s a totally unique radio personality, the kind that used to dominate the airwaves in the ’50s when I was growing up,” said Eric Nadel, who grew up in New York, and has been calling Texas Rangers games since 1979. “Just hearing John’s voice and personality combined with Suzyn’s observations and diligent prep are a reason to listen.”

Nadel is not the only broadcaster who feels that way.

It’s a classic “happy for the person, sad for the game” situation. Hopefully, he’s able to enjoy his retirement, but the game won’t be the same without him.

Ken’s Notebook: Marlins had reason to demote Max Meyer

From my latest column:

The Miami Marlins’ surprising demotion of right-hander Max Meyer on Monday is not an example of service-time manipulation, at least not at this point. But when a 3-14 team options a gifted young pitcher responsible for two of its wins, the message it sends — to its players, its fans and even the industry at large — is nothing short of dispiriting.

Meyer, who began the season with one year and 82 days of service, was not going to qualify for Super Two arbitration status even if he remained with the team the entire season, which was never the plan. The only way he will miss getting to two years of service, pushing his free agency back one year, will be if he stays in the minors for more than half the remaining major-league schedule. Considering his talent, that outcome doesn’t seem likely either — or, at least, it shouldn’t be.

The Marlins had their reasons for parting, if only temporarily, with their best pitcher. Many of those reasons make sense. Meyer, 25, has never thrown more than 111 innings in a season, including his three years at the University of Minnesota. He underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2022 and missed all of 2023. So he was always going to face restrictions this season, and understandably so.

The other part of this, and don’t laugh, is that the Marlins believe they are dealing with a surplus of healthy starting pitchers — yes, even without Sandy Alcantara and Eury Pérez, both of whom are out for the season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

The Marlins demoted Meyer to make room for Edward Cabrera, who pitched brilliantly against the San Francisco Giants on Monday night in his return from the injured list. Jesús Luzardo, Trevor Rogers, A.J. Puk and Ryan Weathers round out the rotation. The return of Braxton Garrett, who experienced a “dead arm” in his bullpen session Monday, will be delayed, but not for long in the Marlins’ estimation.

“Something has to give,” Marlins general manager Peter Bendix said. “We spent a full three different meetings of an hour each talking this through, kind of talking ourselves in circles because we didn’t have an obvious, ‘Oh yes, just do this,’ type of solution that we all felt great about.”

Scary moment in Boston as Tyler O’Neill, Rafael Devers collide

Maybe you could have guessed that Tyler O’Neill would hit a home run on Opening Day. After all, it was the fifth straight year he did so. What you probably wouldn’t have guessed was that on April 16, O’Neill would have a share of the MLB home run lead, tied with Marcell Ozuna at seven.

So — given the bad health luck the Red Sox have had so far this year — who else would it be but O’Neill and All-Star third baseman Rafael Devers colliding hard in the seventh inning of yesterday’s game?

Collisions in the field are always scary; exponentially more so when it’s head-on-face contact. Both players went down hard and stayed there for a few minutes that felt like an eon. When they got up, Devers — who had just come back from a four-game absence due to shoulder soreness — stayed in the game, while O’Neill headed to the trainer’s room to receive eight stitches and is currently in concussion protocol.

The Red Sox didn’t need another scary moment. They’ve already lost Lucas Giolito for the year. Trevor Story, too. Vaughn Grissom, whom they acquired in the Chris Sale trade, has yet to play a game in Boston due to injury.

The good feelings fostered by the 7-3 start have certainly taken a turn for the uneasy. For a moment yesterday, they got downright scary. Hopefully this time, the Red Sox have avoided (another) disaster.

Power rankings hot starts

For as long as the calendar reads “April,” we’re still in “small sample size” season. But rather than pooh-pooh it as meaningless, why not embrace it? That’s what Tim Britton, Kaitlyn McGrath and Grant Brisbee have done in this week’s Power Rankings, taking a look at one player from each team who came out of the gates sprinting.

Some of them aren’t that surprising (no one is pretending to be shocked that Jose Altuve is hitting well) but our trio did a good job of digging in and finding some under-appreciated gems. Here are three that surprised me a little.

• Before this year, Reynaldo López had a 4.64 ERA (and 1.36 WHIP) as a starting pitcher, compared to 3.01 (1.077) as a reliever. So of course, the Braves signed him to be a starting pitcher. Turns out, they may have known something we didn’t — in two starts so far (12 innings), López has allowed just one run. With the loss of Spencer Strider (and the uncharacteristically rough start by Max Fried), López has been essential. More on him here.

• Similar story, different guy: Paul Blackburn has always been a starter, but his career ERA from 2017-2023 was 4.90. After three starts for the A’s this year, it’s exactly four-point-nine runs lower than that. Blackburn isn’t the only pitcher who hasn’t given up a single run, but at 19 1/3 innings pitched, he’s pitched more innings than any of the others. The next-highest is currently Shane Bieber, who will not pitch again this year.

• I’m glad Grant brought up Steven Kwan of the Guardians. His OPS is currently around 130 points higher than his previous career total of .739, but here’s a weird stat: His strikeout rate is about 40 percent higher than his career rate (it’s still only around 14 percent), and his walk rate is about 70 percent lower, hovering at around 3 percent. And yet, his on-base percentage is up about 30 points. Why? Because he’s hitting the mess out of the ball. Eno Sarris has more on that.

By the way, we have a new No. 1 in this week’s Power Rankings — go check it out and say whatever you need to say.

Handshakes and High Fives

The Mets, who started the season 0-5, are now 8-8. Will Sammon credits manager Carlos Mendoza.

Seiya Suzuki’s torrid start will be put on hold for a bit. He is on the IL with a right oblique strain. He missed six weeks last year with a left oblique strain.

Any time you have to invoke 19-oh-anything to describe how bad a team’s start is, you know it’s bad. Sorry, White Sox fans.

Melissa Lockard does a run-down of how the top American League and National League prospects are doing thus far this minor-league season.

Ken Holtzman, who threw two no-hitters and was part of four World Series-winning teams, has passed away. He was 78.

Alejandro Kirk has always been a good defender, but as Kaitlyn McGrath tells us, it looks like his bat is coming around this season.

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(Photo from 2022: Rich Schultz / Getty Images)

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