"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: August 2003

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It is absolutely gorgeous in New York today. Emily and I woke up around eight, and when we rolled around the corner to pick up the papers and some breakfast, it was downright chilly. Em loves the fall so she’s all happy. The sun is out too. If there was a Platonic Ideal of a New York day on Labor Day weekend, this would be it. You can feel that summer is over and that fall is right around the corner. You know this is a great day for food. Especially local produce like corn and tomatoes, which will only be in season for another two, three weeks. And barbeque. Mmmm, ribsaque.

This is my last Sunday in my apartment here on 232nd street, up the block from the IHOP. I’m moving up the hill to Riverdale. I’m going from a working class Spanish and Irish neighborhood, to a upper middle class Jewish neighborhood. We’ll see how that works out. For now, I’m having neighborhood-seperation-anxiety.

Today will be the last Yankee game I watch in this apartment too. I moved in here three years ago, a week and a half before the Mets played the Yanks in the World Serious. I broke this apartment in with the 2000 Serious, how cool is that? It was the first apartment I ever had to myself and I’ve had a great time here.

I’m really looking forward to living with Emily. It’s the first time I’ve ever lived with a woman, so fug it, I’m taking the Nestea Plunge. Besides, she loves baseball, and puts up with all the nonsense I put myself through during the course of the year, so how can I complain? Still, I’m having some sadness about leaving this joint.

The subway is just half a block away, and above ground. I’m accustom to the sound of the passing trains; it is a soothing, predicatble rukus. I don’t hear it anymore. But this past week, I’ve paid attention plenty. I feel like I’ve been counting down the times I’ll hear the subway again for days. So each time I hear it whoosh by, I stop what I’m doing and take a deep breath. And just let it all in.

Ihop wafting in through the window, Spanish music played from an upstairs apartment. The Broadway traffic and passing trains down the block.

Rocket Clemens is pitching his last game at Fenway Park this afternoon (that is unless the Sox and Yanks meet up in the playoffs, and even in that case, I bet Torre would avoid using Rocket in Boston if he could get away with it). Emotional day for the Big Texan. He’s usally terrible when he’s all worked up, and you know that the crowd will be all over him. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go out and pitch a good game.

It’ll make for a memorable day. I know my emotions are heightened and all out of wack as it is; unless the game is a total stinker, I’m sure it will be one that I remember for a long time, no matter who wins.

Saturday’s game was probably the best game I didn’t see all season. OK, I checked the score cowardly at one point, and I did listen to the ninth on the radio, but I didn’t watch the game. If I had, I would have sat through one of the most exhausting—dare I say operatic?—games of the year.

After the game, Johnny Damon wasn’t fazed: “We’re a great team.”

Tyler Kepner’s beat coverage of the game in the Times today is outstanding. It’s simple, clear and succint: a lean piece of reporting:

BOSTON, Aug. 30 – So here were the Red Sox, with a three-run lead in the first inning and their best pitcher on the mound. In the last 10 days, they had chewed four games off the Yankees’ division lead. They were the hunter, and the Yankees were fleeing in fright.

The Red Sox fought to the end at Fenway Park this afternoon, but they could not stop the Yankees from punching back. When 222 minutes of battle finally expired, it was Mariano Rivera who held the ball in his glove, stepping on first for the final putout of a heart-pounding 10-7 Yankees victory.

It was pure exhaustion, said Joe Torre, the Yankees’ manager. But it was exhilarating, too. The Yankees had come back off Pedro Mart”nez, then survived a scare in the eighth inning when three runs scored while Rivera was on the mound. They regained their four-and-a-half-game lead in the American League East on the strength of Andy Pettitte’s pitching and big hits from Jorge Posada, Nick Johnson and Enrique Wilson. There was no shame in saying the game was huge.

Joe Torre had the sauce:

“This could be the biggest game of the year, basically, because we fell behind Pedro, and then what happened in the eighth inning,” Torre said. “I know there’s going to be a lot of talk about Rivera and what he gave up. But the fact that he struck out the last hitter in the eighth speaks volumes of him, more so than the other stuff.”

Jack Curry adds a good appreciation of Andy Pettitte, while John Harper takes issue with Prince Pedro.

I hope today’s game is worth writing about. But hell, I’ll be writing about it “irregardless” as they say here in the Bronx.

And remember: You can’t spell hip hop without IHop.


Are the Red Sox better than the Yankees? Joel Sherman thinks they could be, and he makes a good case in today’s Post. You know, everyone keeps talking about the Royals being this year’s Anahiem Angels but I think the Red Sox are the team that could be this year’s fuggin Angels. That is if they can survive their bullpen and eighty some-odd years of history. (Red Sox fans have been treated to a charismatic, and spirited group of players this year; even if the Sox fall short, you’d have to say they are about as appealing a team as you could ever hope to root for.)

I avoided the game today as long as I possibly could. It was a muggy Saturday in New York; in the early afternoon, Emily and I decided to take a much-needed break from unpacking. So we drove up to the country to visit my mother and my step-father and their new puppy.

I knew it would be dangerous to check the score cause I was in my step-father’s house. He is a New Englander, and though he doesn’t give a spit about baseball, he grew up a Red Sox fan and a Republican. The TV in his house is cursed accordingly.

It was close to 4:30 when I turned the game on: it was the bottom of the eighth and the Sox had the bases loaded, with the Yanks ahead 8-4. Gabe White was pitching. I couldn’t bear it so I walked away. Five minutes later I saw Rivera give up a double and the score was 8-6. That was enough for me. I didn’t want to make a scene.

Instead, Emily and I drove back down to the city and we listened to the ninth inning in the car. When her boy Jorge Posada hit his second homer of the game, I almost crashed the car I was so happy. (Actually, that’s a fib; we were at a stop light. But I did shake a lot and make a whole lot of noise.) The final score: Yankees 10, Red Sox 7.

Andy Pettitte gutted it out and earned his 17th win of the year. The Yankee bullpen was shaky again but then again the Boston relievers were nothing to write home about either. Pedro Martinez only pitched four innings and took the loss. The Yankees continue to fare well against The Great One.

Nick Johnson had four hits and Enrique Wilson played well against Martinez once again. Jason Giambi continues to slump; Will Carroll admits that the big boy hasn’t been the same since he was plunked twice last week. (Call me a drama queen will ya.)

Rocket Clemens will pitch tomorrow. Act III should be a doozie.


The Sox finished the Yanks off, and took the first game of the series. Boston now trails the Yanks by just 3 1/2 games with their ace going this afternoon. I am going to be busy moving stuff with Emily to our new apartment today and would be a crazy man if I tried to watch the game. I don’t know what the numbers are, but I always feel like the Yanks lose when the play on the Fox Saturday Game of the Week. Dealing with Pedro and the Fenway Faithful is tough enough; add Joe Buck to the mix, and I’ll be out of my bird.

Boomer Wells didn’t take long to fire back at his pitching coach and manager. The classy southpaw ripped Torre and Stottlemyre on Michael Kay’s radio show yesterday, suggesting: “The way I feel sometimes, I think I’ve worn out my welcome, and it’s a shame.”

Someone should tell the fat bastard that he wore out his welcome years ago. Still, no matter how much of a baby Wells is, he’s proven that a little controversy can go a long way. What are the odds that he pitches well on Monday?


So what did you think Jeff Weaver was going to do? He is a sad sack and a sap. He left after the sixth inning. The Sox have fattened up their lead to 10-5, and they are cruising. Yankee pitching is getting stomped again. Tough week to play any kind of Sox for the Yanks, white or red. With two innings left, the Sox pen would have to implode in a rather royal way to blow this one.



Both Lowe and Contreras pitched two easy innings. But Lowe was wild again in the fourth and gave up a 3-run double to Aaron Boone—on a 0-2 pitch of all things. The Yankees took a 5-3 lead.

Then Contreras couldn’t get anyone out in the bottom of the fourth. Bill Mueller hit his 17 homer of the year–a two run shot, and then Gabe Kapler added an RBI double. The Sox regain the lead, 6-5.

Contreras was replaced by Jeff Weaver. The beat writers are mulling whether they’ll need to change their storylines or simply augment the running ones. Will Weaver make the most of the opportunity or will he get his ticket punched too? The Boston crowd is yelling, “Weaver, Weaver.” It has an ominous, distinctly college-cadence; it sounds like a frat chant or something you’d hear at a hazing ritual.

Johnny Damon flies out to left and Varitek tags up from third. Boston leads 7-5.
Weaver then strikes Todd Walker out looking on a 2-2 breaking ball. He follows that by striking Nomar out too.

End of the fourth:

Boston 7
Yankees 5


In the top of the first, Jeter doubled to right and then Giambi walked. Giambi missed a fat pitch on the 3-1 count; he’s been slumping lately and it showed there. Bernie grounded out and moved the runners over. Then Matsui came up and worked the count to 3-2. The 2-2 was close and Lowe wanted it badly. So did the crowd. Godziller banged a double off the Green Monster, and the Yanks led, 2-0.

As Posada came to the plate you could hear militia chants of “Yankees Suck, Yankees Suck” echo through the crowd. Posada grounded out to second to end the inning.

Bottom of the first


Contreras strikes Johnny Damon out on a forkball, fishing. The pitch almost knuckles. It kind of floats up there. The big Cuban falls behind Todd Walker, 1-0 and then 2-1, then 3-1 and then he walks him. Nomar smacks the first pitch he sees into right field like he’s Fast Eddie Felson; Walker holds at second. Contreras falls behind David Ortiz and then gets a swing and a miss on a forkball, but the pitch gets passed Posada and the runners advance. Contreras misses with a fastball, 2-1. Another pitch in the dirt, Posada is lucky to have snagged it, 3-1. Ortiz singles to left, Todd Walker scores. Nice piece of hitting by Ortiz.

Yanks lead, 2-1. First and third with one out for Kevin Millar. It’s hot and muggy and currently raining in New York. Looks hot up in Boston, but Contreras should be used to the heat. Posada’s going to get his money’s worth tonight, this forkball is wild in the dirt. Contreras ends up striking Millar out on a barely-visible foul tip that Posada held on to. Groans from the crowd.

Contreras falls behind Trot Nixon, 2-0 and then 3-1 and the he walks him to load to the bases. Mel Stottlemyre comes out to talk with Contreras. The entire infield meets him on the mound. There is a lot of head-nodding going on. Everyone seems to agree on something.

Contreras starts Bill Mueller out with a strike on the outside corner. Then a breaking ball low and outside for a ball, 1-1. The next pitch is a fastball inside, waist high. Mueller backs off and it is called a ball, 2-1. Mueller then fattens his average by smacking a single up the middle. Two runs score, and the Sox lead, 3-2.

First pitch to Varitek is high. The catcher swings right through it for a strike, but the pitch gets away. The runners move up to second and third. Forkball in the dirt, blocked by Posada. This inning is taking forever. It’s the first inning and already we’ve got a Tennesse Williams play over here. Fastball for a strike on the outside corner. Contreras continues to fidget. Posada goes out to the mound. The fans boo. Contreras throws a nasty splitter on the outside corner and Varitek waves at it. The big guy strikes out the side and the first inning is over after 33 minutes.

It’s going to be a long night.

(Though Lowe sets the Yankees down quickly in the second, and Contreras responds with a 1-2-3 inning of his own. Maybe they’ll just settle down…)


When the White Sox scored a couple of runs off Mike Mussina in the top of the first inning this afternoon at the Stadium, it looked as if the great Chicago Hit Parade was picking up where it had left off last night. But the Yankees responded with five runs of their own in the bottom of the first, which helped them along to a 7-5 win.

The Yankees are now 4 1/2 up on the Sox, who had the day off. Hey, the Bombers even scored a run on a saftey squeeze, which means Zim was alert and awake and having himself a good day. I watched the game as I packed up over thirty five boxes filled with nothing but books and records. Brother.

Mussina was far from spectacular but he pitched six innings and gave up three runs. Nelson allowed a couple of runs in relief. Gabe White retired his man in the eighth, and Rivera came in to get a four-out save. He got a fly ball to right to end the inning. In the ninth, the Yanks scored an insurance run and then Rivera went to work on the Sox. He jammed Sandy Alomar to lead off the inning. Alomar hit a short pop fly that landed several feet in front of Soriano. When it landed on the infield dirt, that ball spun off to the side like a marble. By the time Soriano fielded it and made the throw to first, Alomar was able to hustle out a single. He twisted his foot in the process and was replaced by a pinch runner.

Rivera then struck out Robbie Alomar on three pitches. The future Hall of Famer didn’t stand a chance. After a stolen base, Carlos Lee flied out to left-center field. Bernie Williams covered a decent amount of ground to make the play; runner tagged to third. The Big Hurt came to the plate and smacked the first pitch right at Bernie in center to end the game. Hot dog.

The slumping Godziller Matsui was back in the line up today. Must have had his eel today. Jorge Posada was given the day off and John Flaherty contributed again.

It was a good win for the Yanks. The White Sox made their point. Now, the Bombers head for Boston with Jose Contreras starting against Derek Lowe tomorrow night. Lowe was nasty last Sunday against the M’s; Contreras was sharp against the O’s in his return outing.

On Saturday, Prince Pedro faces Andy Pettitte, who has a good career mark against Boston. You have to figure that game will be a riveting one. The Yankees have faired relatively well against Martinez, but you can’t bank on that: he’s just too good. Little bastard. Sunday gives the knuckle baller Tim Wakefield vs. Rocket Clemens. Unless the Sox and the Yanks face each other in the playoffs this could very well be the last time Clemens pitches in Fenway Park.

All in all, it should be a boffo weekend for the greatest rivalry in the East. It’s easy to expect a high scoring, back-and-forth game. Or perhaps a devastating pitching performance or two. But no matter what kind of games these two teams play–whether it’s a 2-1 pitching duel or a 9-8 slugger’s fest—they are almost sure to be tense, dramatic and worth the price of admission.


Will Carroll, the injury guru over at Baseball Prospectus, ran a terrific little interview with Rickey Henderson earlier this week that is well-worth reading (Nate Silver, one of the fine baseball analysts at BP conducted the interview with Carroll). Will also took the time to bust my chops in his Under The Knife column yesterday. He wrote:

I don’t wish harm on anyone, let alone the Yankees. I’ve heard my dad’s tales of Mickey Mantle for more years than I care to count. Still, it’s always fun to get an e-mail from my pal Alex Belth anytime something bad happens to the Bombers. He cries, he bitches, he moans–it’s like having my own private manic depressive in my Inbox, but he’s more entertaining than most people with real mental illnesses. I think there was about a six-second gap between Jason Giambi being hit on the hand by a 90-mph heater and Alex punching out a wailing electronic missive bemoaning the fate of Deodorant Boy. Giambi was hit on the hand by a pitch that wasn’t terribly inside–and where’s QuesTec when you want to see just how far inside a pitch really was?–and while he’s sore and the hand slightly swollen, the X-rays were negative and he reported good progress. Calm down, Yanks fans, he’ll be fine.

A few corrections are in order. I don’t bitch, I kvetch. I don’t moan, I whine (and then I shout and throw things). And I don’t cry. I wail.

Capice? (I can’t have my character besmirched, after all.)



The Big Bad White Sox continued to beat up the Yankees at home last night, crushing the Bombers, 11-2. Actually, the Yanks didn’t get crushed, they were creamolished. David Wells took it on the chin, while Bartolo Colon shut the Yankees down with ease. Yankee pitching coach, Mel Stottlemyre had some cherce words for Boomer. According to The New York Times:

“He just needs to do more work,” Stottlemyre said. “He hasn’t been throwing in between starts, and I think he needs that. I think it’s showing. The last two games, at the same point in the game, he hasn’t made very good pitches.”

…”I don’t know if he has a bad back,” Stottlemyre said. “If he has a bad back and it’s bothering him, for the sake of the ball club, he should say it.”

…”I would say he’s not in as good a shape as he was early in the year, because he’s not throwing between starts every time,” Stottlemyre said. “The only reason I bring that up is because I feel that’s part of the problem.”

…”If he was pitching all right, I would never address this situation,” Stottlemyre said. “But it’s very unusual for him to make that many location mistakes. Boomer has very good control, the best control of anyone on the staff.”

Asked if he and Wells were at odds, Stottlemyre said: “We may be now, but we haven’t been. I’m normally pretty easy to get along with. Most of my pitchers have differing programs, and I usually go along with that until it doesn’t work. And obviously, it’s not working.

“I’m going to talk with him about it. If he does it, he does it. He’s got the ball in his hand. I can’t make him. He’s going to do what he’s going to do.”

Stottlemyre did not seek out the reporters he spoke to last night, but he answered the questions willingly. He only wished he could have talked to Wells first. “Actually, I shouldn’t even be talking about this before I address him,” Stottlemyre said, standing by a locker close to Wells’s stall. “But he isn’t here.”

Joe Torre took the game in stride:

“I can’t be angry at this,” Manager Joe Torre said. “These are just bad outings by our pitchers. If I felt they didn’t care, that’s one thing. But I don’t feel that way.”

While Jorge Posada tried to blame himself:

“I’m just angry,” Posada said. “I’m that kind of person. I just care; 11-2 and 13-2 are not scores you can go home with and think about. It’s tough on me. I’m calling the game and I’m making suggestions, and I’m getting hit.”

The loss cost the Yanks a game in the standings as Boston rallied to beat Doc Halladay and the Blue Jays, 6-3. The Yankee lead is down to four games (five in the loss column). The Bombers play an afternoon game today and look to Mike Mussina to end the hurt before heading up to Boston for a big, three-game serious this weekend.

I’m up to my ears in boxes here in the Bronx. I’m in the middle of moving, so I fear that blogging will be light over the weekend. Still, I’ll try the best I can to take a few moments to make a comment or two.

I was thinking last night about how much I enjoy writing about baseball on a daily basis. I want to thank the people who have been reading Bronx Banter this year. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the feedback and comments you’ve sent me as the season has rolled along.

On that note, I’d like to ask for some help. Anyone who has any impressions or thoughts about the Yankee-Sox games this weekend, please feel free to send them over. I’m going to have to rely on you guys, because I don’t know how much of it I’ll be able to catch myself.

Thanks in advance.



The Pirates finally moved Brian Giles to the Padres yesterday, in a long-rumored trade. The good news for the Pads is that they didn’t have to take Jason Kendell. The great news for the Pads is that they have Brian Giles! Think Pads fans are excited? Just ask Geoff over at Duck Snorts. Aaron Gleeman gives his take on the deal as well.

I don’t think they have a burning need for a shortstop, but I would love to see Miguel Tejada in a San Diego uniform.


There is a Blue Jay’s-based website called “Batter’s Box” that has an extremely well-done interview with Toronto’s general manager, J.P. Ricciardi. Ricciardi is clearly a bright and affable guy. I think he’s very interesting-looking too. There is something exaggerated about him that reminds me of an Al Hirshfield illustration. It’s his long, narrow face. Or he could be one of those slick-looking rodents, dressed in a zoot suit, that you’d find in an old Warner Bros. cartoon. It’s not that he’s ugly either, you can actually see that he’s handsome. But from certain angles, he’s all of a piece.

On top of all that, he’s a good interview. Kudos to the guys at Batter’s Box for a job well done.


I had a bad feeling about Roger Clemens before the game last night, and when I saw his little, ol’ mom throw out the first pitch and then clutch at her hulking son, shaking with tears, I figured it was going to be a long night for the Rocket (you know how emotional he can get). Or a short night, depending on how you look at it. The White Sox played like the Gashouse Gorrillas and handed Clemens one of the worst beatings of his Hall of Fame career, as the Sox pounded the Bombers, 13-2. Esteban Loaiza was nasty and showed the Yankees why he’s a leading candidate for the Cy Young award. He moved in and out, and spotted his pitches, all of which seemed to have a good deal of movement on them.

The Yankees welcomed Felix Heredia and Gabe White to the bullpen, and released Jesse Orosco. Jeff Weaver is headed to Tampa single A, mostly to work with pitching-guru (and the former Mr. Seka) Billy Conners. Weaver will be called up next week in order to make the post-season roster:

“A lot of things have happened this year that I wouldn’t have expected, but this is one year out of hopefully many,” Weaver said. “Hopefully, 10 years from now, I’ll say that 2003 was the year that built me as a player and as a person.

“I jumped to conclusions too much when things went wrong,” he added, “and flooded my whole approach with stuff that was basically useless. Maybe I’ve taken a wrong turn a couple of times, trying to get back. I’ve made too many corrections, too many adjustments.”

…”I have no problems here,” Weaver added. “They want results right away. I look at it as my fifth year in the league and the first one that I’ve struggled. I wouldn’t say I’ve been treated unfairly for what they’re trying to accomplish here.”

Since I had an inclination that Rocket might get spanked, I didn’t find the game upsetting, especially since Toronto jumped all over the Sox in Boston. Of course the Red Sox stormed back and made things exciting, but the Blue Jays were able to hold on for the victory, and the Yanks lead over Boston remains at five games (six in the loss). The A’s edged by the Orioles, 2-1 in extra innings and now lead the Sox by a game in the wildcard.


I caught two funny moments in the game as well. Jose Contreras, the Yankees’ sleepy Cuban pitcher who is Delroy Lindo dark, was sitting on the bench in the fourth inning. His eye-lids were heavy and it looked as if he could barely stay awake. Why is he always so sleepy? I don’t know why, but I find it amusing.

Also, in the second inning, Bernie Williams was rounding second, when the bag jumped up and bit him. Bernie seemed to forget where the bag was I guess. He wiped out, flat on his face. A sympathetic Robbie Alomar tried to contain a smile. He was probably happy that it didn’t happen to him, and not surprised that it happened to Bernie. Williams smiled sheepishly at Willie Randolph at the end of the frame, and must have taken plenty of abuse from his teammates in the clubhouse later on.


The Yankees didn’t play a particularly good game last night but they came away with a win anyhow. Baltimore repeatedly opened the door for them, and they refused to take advantage. Andy Pettitte bull-dogged his way into the seventh and earned his 16th win of the year; the Yanks added a couple of runs in the ninth and beat the O’s 5-2.

Jeff Weaver relieved Jesse Orosco with one out in the eighth, and after getting the second out he served up a long home run, which cut the score to 3-2. But Lil Sori, who led off the game with his 10th lead-off homer of the season, had a big, two-run, two-out single in the ninth to seal the victory. Mariano pitched a flawless, four-out save.

Jason Giambi was plunked twice. The second time, he was pelted in the right hand on a 3-0 pitch. Giambi spun around and shook his hand in anger. Yankee fans held their breath. He eventually left the game. Initial x-rays were negative and Giambi said he’s 50-50 for tonight’s game. We’ll see. I’ll be nervous until he’s back in there swinging the bat again.

Lefty relief pitcher Gabe White has joined the team and the Yanks have also picked up another southpaw for the pen in Felix Heredia. Cashman picked him off waivers, blocking him from going to another team. This likely spells the end for Jesse Orosco. Another pitcher must go as well. Either Jeff Weaver will be demoted to the minors or Antonio Osuna could be released.

The Yanks start a three-game series vs. the streaking Chicago White Sox tonight. The Sox play Toronto.

Pedro Martinez continued to master the Mariners yesterday afternoon at the Fens, as Boston swept the M’s to end their grueling two-weeks vs. Oakland and Seattle in fine form. (Martinez might not be happy in Boston, but an angry Pedro is an effective Pedro.) They remain tied with the A’s for the wildcard—Oakland is now tied with Seattle for first place in the west—and trail the Yanks by five (six in the loss column).


The Ron Guidry festivites on Saturday afternoon were overshadowed by the announcement that Bobby Bonds had passed away. Bob Shepard, the voice of the Yankees, addressed the crowd immediately before the anthem played. The crowd gasped. Shepard listed Bonds’ accomplishments and then asked for a moment of silence. When he said that Bonds was only 57 there was another, deeper gasp from the crowd.

The Orioles then went out and handled the Yankees, behind a strong, complete-game performance from Rodrigo Lopez. The breaking ball was working and Lopez K’d 10 Bombers. Mike Mussina wasn’t awful, and he trailed 3-2 going into the ninth before the O’s scored four runs and put the game out of reach.

The Sox beat the Mariners in extra innings, surviving a blown save from B. Y. Kim.

On Sunday—which was even more beautiful than Saturday—the Yankees rebounded behind a stellar outing from Jose Contreras. There was a chill in the air that reminded me that fall is just around the corner. While the Yankee brass is crowing about the triumphant return of their soporific Cuban, I’ll wait and see how he does in Boston this Friday before getting too excited.

The Red Sox beat the Mariners for the third straight day too. The A’s crushed Toronto, and Tim Hudson looked just fine. Oakland and Boston are tied for the wildcard while the Sox trail the Yanks by five (six in the loss column).

Pedro Martinez will pitch this afternoon as the Sox go for the sweep.


It’s amazing how quickly fortunes can change. The night of the blackout last week the Yankees beat the O’s down in Baltimore and then they won six more in a row. In the meantime, Boston’s mighty offense was experiencing one of its few collective droughts of the season, and the Yankees put some room between the two teams. Going into Friday’s game, the Bombers led Boston by seven, eight in the loss column.

Buster Olney wrote in an e-mail this past week, “The Red Sox are fading, right on schedule. They’re like homing pigeons finding their way back to their cages; you don’t quiet understand how, but it’s absolutely predictable.”

The A’s are Boston’s cheif competition for the wildcard. After Oakland swiped the first two games in Boston this week, Red Sox Nation was ready to damn it all and jump off the bridge. Yes, the offense was back in the final game, and they pounded Rich Harden, who pitched in place of a bruised Tim Hudson (only been just about the best pitcher in the league this year). But they blew those two games. 17 men left on base!

Last night, the Sox beat the Mariners, 6-4 while the A’s faced a long night with Roy Halladay–the other guy who could be the best pitcher in the league. The Blue Jays beat the A’s 6-3, and Doc had his 17th win. The Sox and A’s are now tied for the wildcard spot.

But the fortune for Red Sox Nation gets better as Mark Mulder, one of Oakland’s Big Three, could be out for the rest of the year. (Mulder had to leave after three innings this past week in Boston.) In his Under the Knife column yesterday Will Carroll, the injury guru over at Baseball Prospectus, wrote:

The A’s pushed Mark Mulder onto the DL while he rehabs a strained hip. As with Randy Johnson’s knee, this is Mulder’s right (plant) leg, which understandably takes a lot of impact and torque in the pitching motion, even with great mechanics like Mulder. Mulder will miss at least two starts while on the list, but since he will be able to keep his arm loose, he shouldn’t need much work before jumping back into the rotation. Expect the A’s to be aggressive but smart with his rehab.

But it’s apparently worse than that (I’m sure we’ll hear more from Will in the next couple of days). According to the Associated Press:

A’s left-hander Mark Mulder has a stress fracture in his right hip, a startling injury that will likely sideline him for the rest of the season.

“Yeah, six weeks I think is unrealistic to expect that he’ll be in pitching shape,” A’s general manager Billy Beane said Friday night. “So yeah, we’re resigned (that Mulder is done for the year.)”

Oh, man this is brutal for the A’s. Somewhere, Michael Lewis is fuming. It reinforces just how much Oakland’s success has depended upon the healthy, durable trio of Hudson, Mulder, and Barry Zito. Forget the other stuff, it’s the Big Three or bust. They can still make the playoffs without the great offense, but it remains to be seen if they can do it without their top flight pitching.

I don’t know how many times Oakland has to play Seattle again, but I know the Sox get to play Tampa and Baltimore a whole bunch. With this sudden turn of events, the wildcard will be Boston’s to lose. They’ve got the advantage. I know Sox fans like Ed Cossette who have remained confident in this particular Boston squad throughout the painful losses and the slumps. Ed and his friends might have something to shout about in October after all.

Oakland’s chances rest on the fate of Tim Hudson. I don’t know how the hand injury will effect him, if it will slow him down any, screw with the way he throws certain pitches. He’s been remarkable all year and is the soul of thier staff. If he’s OK, and can bulldog his way through the next six weeks, Oakland will still be in it.

Meanwhile, the Yanks lost a close one to Baltimore in the Bronx last night, 4-3. The winning streak ends at seven. David Wells pitched well enough to lose, and Pat Hentgen threw a nice game for the O’s. The Yankees had their chances late. Bernie couldn’t do anything with two runners on in the eighth, and Nick Johnson had a chance with the bases loaded and two out in the ninth. But then he didn’t. The O’s brought in the ol’ southpaw Buddy Groom, so Torre countered with Ruben Ruben Sierra. Sierra had 5 hits in like 10 or 12 at bats against Groom so Torre went with the percentages.

But I’m sure I was not alone among those Yankee fans who instinctively groaned. Aw, man, don’t take Nicky Johnson out. Sierra looked at one pitch and he swung at that pitch. A strike-one fastball. Sierra swung late, and popped the ball to Gibbons in right to end the game.

The Yanks lead Boston by six games, seven in the loss column.

The other story of the night is that Brian Cashman finally traded Sterling Hitchcock to the Cardinals. The Yankees recevied two young pitchers in return. According to Newsday:

The Yankees received a pair of 23-year-old pitchers: righthander Justin Pope (4-11, 4.92 ERA for Class A Palm Beach) and lefthander Ben Julianel (4-2, 1.05 ERA, 9 saves, 78 Ks in 51 2/3 innings for Class A Peoria).

Hitchcock finally gets out of his penthouse prison and will get a chance to start meaningful games for a team struggling to make the playoffs. I wish him luck and am relieved, for him and for us, that he’s finally gone.


Today is Ron Guidry Day at the Stadium. I’m going with my friend Mindy, and a couple of her friends. I went to high school with Mindy but we didn’t start to bond on the baseball tip until last season. Since then, we’re famous baseball pals. Mindy went to spring training earlier this year and actually got to meet Guidry. She said he was a real humble southern gentleman, and she had a great time talking with him.

I was seven years old when Gator had his amazing 1978 season and I suppose it’s the first memory in my baseball consciousness. I don’t really remember the ’78 season in any coherent way, but I was aware of the skinny little lefty who just killed it every time he pitched. I started following baseball in a deliberate, aware way starting the next year in ’79. So I have much stronger memories of the playoff sweep in ’80 by the Royals–George Brett’s Revenge!–and the disastrous 1981 World Serious than I do of Reggie’s homers or Chambliss’ shot.

Guidry was my favorite pitcher and second favorite player overall next to Reggie Jackson. Willie Randolph was my third favorite. I liked the skinny guys because I was a skinny guy. I was also drawn to the quiet disposition, the cool professionalism that both Wille and Guidry displayed. Reggie of course was a totally different animal, but that’s another story. You got to have a ying to your yang.

Anyhow, I’m going to enjoy giving the Gator his props in person today. I hope to have lots of casual conversations with fellow Guidry fans and get swallowed up in the collective memories of the crowd. That will be interesting. Should be a long-ass afternoon; we’ll arrive at 2:00 for the ceremony. The game doesn’t start until 4:00, so that’ll be close to six hours out there when it’s all said and done (sun block: check).

Fortunately, it’s a tremendous day here in New York. It’s one of those days that the radio calls one of the 10 best of the year. Absolutely perfecto. Hot, sunny, but not humid. With a cool breeze cutting the heat nicely. The city is dead, with everyone still on vacation, and I love it. This is usally my favorite time of year. When you can get great corn, and fresh tomatoes, and nobody is in New York. Couldn’t have a lovelier Saturday for a wedding or a tribute to Ron Guidry at the Stadium.


Jim Bouton is the author of perhaps the most famous baseball book of all, “Ball Four.” He also pitched for the New York Yankees, was a sportscaster and an actor, and also helped create “Big League Chew” bubble gum. Mostly, he’s an author and a motivational speaker. His latest effort, a self-published book called “Foul Ball” is about Bouton’s crusade to save a minor-league ballpark in the Berkshires. I had the opportunity to speak with Bouton last month. He speaks in a raspy, soft voice, and he laughs often. Here is our conversation.

Enjoy and have a great weekend.

Bronx Banter: In your new book, “Foul Ball,” you write that there have been two experiences in your life that youíve felt compelled to write about. One was your time as a player, which you wrote about in “Ball Four.” The other one was your campaign to save a minor league ballpark in the Berkshires, which resulted in “Foul Ball.” What drew you to this story?

Jim Bouton: Well it was a story I hadnít intended to write about. My partner, Chip Elitzer and I simply had a plan that we thought was a revolutionary plan to resurrect an old ballpark in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, with our own money, private money, and have a locally owned baseball team so that Pittsfield would never again be faced with the situation that theyíve always faced which is: Build us a new stadium or lose your team. Theyíve been running up against that for years. The people have voted three different times against a new stadium. So our plan to save Wahconah Park, we thought would be embraced by the community, and we would have a lot of fun. But then when we started running into opposition from the leadership in the community, not the people, who were a hundred percent behind us, but the leadership of the community, which is to say Berkshire Bank, The Berkshire Eagle


The Red Sox got a scare yesterday when Pedro Martinez was a late scratch with the flu. But the night ended well for Red Sox Nation as Cassey Fossum stepped in and the Red Sox creamed Oakland’s rookie sensation Rich Harden and the A’s, 14-5. The Sox now trail Oakland by one game in the wildcard race, and the Yankees by seven games in the AL East (eight in the loss column).

Meanwhile, Jose Contreras will start for the Yankees on Sunday, leaving Jeff Weaver’s immediate future up in the air. Tyler Kepner has a nice appreciation of the Yankees other famous import, the sure and steady Godziller Matsui, in the Times today.

The Yanks host the Orioles this weekend, while the Mariners visit Boston.


It’s that time of year again, isn’t it? The time when the Yankees get all the cherries while the Sox are stuck with the pits. The Bombers outlasted another iffy outing from Mariano Rivera, and edged the Royals, 8-7. The Yanks had led 8-3, but never count Tony Pena’s bunch out. KC hit four singles off Rivera in the ninth, and if Carlos Beltran didn’t make a base-running gaffe, things might have ended differently. Desi Relaford struck out to end the game instead.

The Red Sox watched the afternoon game before taking on Oakland again last night. Naturally, the talk in Boston is about the annual Sox swoon. Kevin Millar, for one, isn’t having it. Before the game he opined:

“The only thing I have to remind people is that there’s 37 games left,” Millar said. “Take your Yankee stuff and go have fun with your Yankee stuff and watch the Yankees win and all that stuff. It’s irrelevant.

“The bottom line is we’re trying for a world championship. We’re trying to make the playoffs. If we go 30-7, then we win the division. But the bottom line is we have to make the playoffs. If that consists of a wild card, it consists of a wild card and we’ll go from there.”

Then Boston went out and blew a 6-2 lead. B.Y. Kim allowed four runs in the eighth, and Oakland charged back to win, 8-6. It’s not as if the Sox didn’t have their chances; Boston left 17 runners on base. The frustration in Boston is mounting.

“We felt we had this game,” [Johnny] Damon said. “It’s huge. We could have pulled even. It’s not a good spot to be in.”

I wonder how Ed Cossette is handling all of this.

Still, they are a good enough team to make a run, so it’s tough to count them out yet. Just ask Mr. Millar:

“You guys are going to be standing here in October saying, ‘Wow, what a run,’ ” Millar predicted. “We’re going to win. We’re going to have fun. We’re going to the playoffs.”

The Yanks are now 7 1/2 up on the Sox. It’s too early to get excited; let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Still, it’s nice to see the Yanks put a streak together.


Jane Leavy, author of last yearís smash hit, “Koufax,” is on a roll. Not only is “Koufax” due out in paperback this September, but Perennial (a division of Harper Collins) has issued a paperback edition of her 1990 comic novel, “Squeeze Play.” The novel follows the adventures of a woman sportswriter, A.B. Berkowitz, who happens to cover the worst team in baseball. The New York Times Book Review noted that the novel, “does baseball mythology proud


Andy Pettitte pitched another solid game, and the Yanks survived a three-error to defeat the Royals, 6-3. With the Yanks cruising 6-0, Alfonso Soriano made two errors in the seventh; Nick Johnson made one and the Royals scored three times. But the bullpen held the lead, and the Yanks were propelled by home runs from Soriano, Bernie Williams and Karim Garcia.

Jason Giambi did his best Rickey Henderson impression in the sixth. Leading 5-0, Giambi walked. Kevin Appier wasn’t paying him much mind, and the Royals didn’t hold him on the bag, so Giambi swiped second. Yeah, that’s right. Standing up. He then came around to score on Godzilla Matsui’s bloop single to center.

Garcia crushed a first-pitch breaking ball off the upper deck facade in right field, and has provided nice pop during the last three games. The Yanks recalled Juan Rivera to play right and face right-handed pitchers today. But between Karim Dellucci and Juan Sierra, the Yanks have a four-headed right field platoon that is similiar to the left field rotation they’ve had in recent years.

Derek Lowe and the Red Sox were holding the A’s down for much of the game last night in Boston, but the bullpen couldn’t close the deal. Two walks and a Ramon Hernandez dinger later, the A’s walked away with a dramamtic 3-2 win, which moved Oakland a game ahead of Boston in the wild card race. The Sox now trail the Yanks by 6 1/2 games.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver