"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: November 2003

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Barry Bonds won his sixth MVP award yesterday, easily beating out Albert Pujols and Gary Sheffield. No other player in the history of the game has won the award more than three times. Yet instead of soaking in the magnitude of this achievement, there is a cloud of skepticism hanging over Bonds’ head. Has he been juiced up? Has he cheated? Columnists, start your soapboxes. (In fairness, Rob Neyer has a good appreciation of Bonds over at ESPN.)

Alex Rodriguez has not been suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs like Bonds has, but the brightest star in the American League isn’t exactly the most popular kid on the block either. He makes too much money. He plays on a losing team. He’s selfish, a jerk. (Why can’t he be more like the saintly Derek Jeter?) How can a player on a last place team be the MVP? According to Allen Barra:

Americans are always embarrassed about the subject of the big money paid to professional athletes because, at heart, we know they’re paid that because it reflects how much more we care about them than the things we say are more important. The notion that the Texas Rangers and owner Hicks were bamboozled by Boras in the Rodriguez deal should have been dispelled long ago. First of all, with deferred payments and the interest that began accumulating on the Rangers’ money before Rodriguez was even paid his first salary, the sum the Rangers pay A-Rod every season surely comes to considerably less than $25 million.

Second, and more to the point, the Rangers didn’t exactly reach into their pockets to pay Rodriguez. They had the money for his contract because Fox Sports Net bought the 10-year cable rights to the Rangers and Dallas Stars hockey games for $250 million, and paid another $250 million for both teams’ local broadcast rights for 15 years, according to some sources (Forbes reported the latter deal at $300 million). The Rangers, presumably, got the lion’s share of that money. The TV deals boosted the value of the team, as reported in Forbes, by 16 percent, and the addition of A-Rod beefed up their revenues considerably. The Rangers jacked up their ticket prices by an average of 10 percent for Rodriguez’s first season, 2001, and finessed several new endorsement deals, including a sponsorship pact with Radio Shack.

The question that should have been asked three years ago was not “How can the Rangers afford to pay Alex Rodriguez $250 million?” but “Why don’t the Rangers use some of the money produced by those deals and the acquisition of Rodriguez to buy some pitching?”

Is Bonds even more disliked than A Rod? ESPN should run a poll asking that question. Barry Bonds surely must be on drugs, he’s beyond selfish, and one of the biggest jerks since Ted Williams.

What gives here? These are two of the greatest players in the history of the game and yet journalists and fans alike seem to spend more time running them down than admiring their achievements. Well I can’t tell you that either player is a personal favorite of mine, but I can tell you that I stand in awe of their accomplishments on the field. For me, that is enough. For those who choose to belittle Bonds and Rodriguez, all I can say is “You’re missing out on greatness.” And that’s your loss.


Carlos Delgado assumed that he was going to win the A.L. MVP. I have always enjoyed watching Delgado play–even when he is killing the Yanks–but you know what happens when you assume…

“If they were going to pick somebody from a team that didn’t make the playoffs, I think that would have given me an edge,” Delgado said. “But that’s what I get for thinking, I guess.”

Hey, you said it brother. Meanwhile, David Pinto has an excellent post about why people should stop whinning and learn to accept the fact that the best player in the league is usually the M.V.P. as well.


Major League Baseball has asked the Yankees to open the 2004 season in Japan. What a homecoming for Godzilla, huh?

Meanwhile, the other Matsui, Kaz, is headed for the States. But he doesn’t look like a fit for the Bronx. Not if Boss George gets his man Sheffield. Sheffield is a borderline Hall of Famer who is coming off his greatest season. But he has a history of being a headache too. Reader John Litt sent me an e-mail yesterday hoping beyond hope that Sheffield doesn’t wind up in pinstripes:

“Please, please, please, please, please, not Gary Sheffield. Gary Sheffield disgraced the game, disgraced it in a way that few players have, and was never punished, never apologized. These are Gary Sheffield’s words about his time in Milwaukee:

“The Brewers brought out the hate in me. I was a crazy man. . . . I hated
everything about the place. If the official scorer gave me an error, I didn’t think was an error, I’d say, `OK, here’s a real error,’ and I’d throw the next ball into the stands on purpose.’ “

That’s from an article in the LA Times by Bob Nightengale on 9/1/92, quoting a previous article. Nightengale goes on to talk about Brewers’ fans “mistakenly believing that Sheffield’s quote was an admission that he wasn’t performing up to his ability.” Excuse me? I don’t know how else to read the original quote.

Nightengale’s article continues, “Sheffield said Monday: ‘What I said was out of frustration. They want to take something and run with it. Why would a player purposely make mistakes? I’d never do anything to hurt the team. You get paid to play.’ Sheffield said the only time he may have made an error purposely out of anger was when he was in the Brewer minor-league system.”

…The fact that it was a decade ago really doesn’t matter to me. And furthermore, it was only a couple of years ago that he demanded a trade from LA because he wasn’t happy there, either. He not only demanded a trade, but it basically had to be to Atlanta or New York, so he could be closer to his family. Not surprisingly, the Dodgers traded him; after all, we know what Gary Sheffield can do if he’s unhappy.

I don’t want this guy on my team. I don’t care how he hits. Not now, not ever. Please, please, please, please, please.

I think that Sheffield would be fine in New York for a brief period of time. If he remains healthy, he should be productive as well. But I can understand why John wouldn’t want him around.


Every year, I eagerly await Roger Angell’s year-end wrap-up of the baseball season in The New Yorker. This year, Angell’s overview of the 2003 playoffs is available on-line. I haven’t read it yet myself, but that’s no reason not to link it anyway. I’ll follow-up with my reaction sometime tomorrow (thanks to Baseball Primer’s “Clutch Hits” for the link).


The issue of performance-enhancing drugs in sports is one that makes columnists drool. Unfortunately for us, their columns are more concerned with editorializing and moralizing than giving us straight information. They are usually a platform for a writer to tell us everything that is wrong with sports and our culture in general. But Derek Zumsteg has a sensible and rationale piece on steroids-in-baseball over at Baseball Prospectus. This one is free, so stop by and give it a look.


Alex Rodriguez won the American League MVP award yesterday after coming close on several occasions (much to the dismay of Jayson Stark). Yankee catcher, Jorge Posada placed third. But Rodriguez’s celebration was upstaged by trade rumors and a report that he does not get along with Texas manager, Buck Showalter. Here in New York, there is a lot of ink being spilled over the possibility of Rodriguez playing for the Mets. The Daily News reports that a trade is unlikely, while Joel Sherman suggests it is a move the Metropolitans need to make.


Christian Ruzich, The Cub Reporter, has launched a new blog here all-baseball.com, The Trasnaction Guy, a site that will ostensibly record each and every transaction that takes place in the world of major league baseball. Ruz will give us the facts on each deal and offer some off-the-cuff comments to boot. Go over and check it out, then link it, and put it on your favorites list, because chances are you will be spending a lot of time there in 2004.


Rob Neyer is often attacked as being anti-Yankee. But he’s also slammed for being anti-Red Sox, anti-Braves and just about anti-every other team too. That is one of the perils of writing a national column, I suppose. Anyhow, in his latest piece, Neyer has some positive things to say about the Bronx Bombers:

The Yankees do have to find some starting pitchers because they’re losing at least one and quite possibly three, but they could begin next season with exactly the same starting lineup and be a pretty good bet to win 95-100 games. Anything that happens in New York gets magnified, almost beyond recognition, but this was a good lineup in September and it’s a good lineup right now.

Which isn’t to say the Yankees shouldn’t try to get better. One of the reasons they haven’t missed the postseason since 1994 is simple: they’re always trying to get better, and that’s not something you can say about every winning team. Some winning teams seem happy to tread water, but when you’re treading water it’s easy for a shark to take off one of your legs at the knee.

Speaking of sharks (he wrote, clumsily switching metaphors), a baseball team might be said to resemble a shark: if you’re not moving forward, you’re dying. And while it’s not precisely true that the Yankees are always moving forward — remember Hideki Irabu, anybody? — it’s true that they’re almost always trying to move forward. If they don’t run into a bunch of injuries, the Yankees will be better next year than they were this year.

Actually, according to Woody Allen in “Annie Hall,” relationships are like sharks. Woody tells this to Diane Keaton as they travel back to New York from a weekend in Hollywood (she loved it, he was miserable). “Relationships are like sharks. They have to keep moving forward,” in order to survive. “And what I think we have here is a dead shark.”


Peter Gammons is credited for inventing the ‘Sunday Notes’ column when he wrote for The Boston Globe in the 1970s. These days, Gordon Edes is the top baseball scribe at The Globe, and his version of the ‘Sunday Notes’ is top-notch. Check out the latest from the Hub.


Who will win the A.L. MVP? Alex Rodriguez or (gasp) Shannon Stewart? Jorge Posada, David Ortiz or Carlos Delgado? Which one of these guys will take home the hardware? The results will be announced later today and one thing is for sure: the race is wide open. According to a report in The Daily News:

Anything is possible, because 10 players received first-place votes from the 28 voters, said Jack O’Connell, the secretary of the Baseball Writers Association of America, which presents the award. It’s only the third time in history that the number of players receiving first-place votes has reached double-digits – 1977 (11, AL) and 1947 (10, NL) being the other years.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” O’Connell said. “Sometimes, when you’re going through the ballots before actually counting, you know who’s going to win. I saw Roy Halladay’s name so many times, I knew he was going to win the AL Cy Young. But I have no idea who is going to win this until I count up everything.”

O’Connell added, laughing, “I’m just hoping it’s not a two-way or three-way tie. Those trophies are expensive.”

Steve Goldman, who pens “The Pinstriped Bible” for YES, offers a history of the MVP award over at mlb.com. Like most everything Goldman writes, this article is well worth your time.


Over at Rich’s Weekend Baseball BEAT, Rich Lederer has the second installment in his interview series up today, which features none other than yours truly. We talk about the Yankees, some of my experiences in the film business as well as my baseball relationship with my girlfriend and father.

I got to thinking about fathers and sons again late this summer when Jay Jaffe posted an article about Bobby and Barry Bonds. Jay wrote about how Dan Le Batard’s article about Bonds made him look at the superstar with a different sensitivity; he also talked about his own dad and how they remain close today. He has a much different experience with his father than I do with mine, but we share one thing in common: baseball bonds us together (if you’ll pardon the pun).

Baseball gives my dad and me something to talk about. It’ a safe, comfortable place. My old man isn’t an active fan by any stretch of the imagination, but he does have a history with the game and he certainly has an appreciation for it. More than anything, he respects how involved I am with it. He is also proud that I write about it almost everyday.

My father and I had a volatile and difficult relationship when I was growing up, but have a mindful and loving relationship now that I’m an adult. Again, baseball gives us something to talk about. Oh, we also talk about show business and the arts and New York City history. And we make like a pair of old yentas and gossip about the family too. But as imperfect as our relationship has been, baseball has always been a constant. Dad’s attraction to the game may be superficial, but his willingness to invest himself in it as a way to relate with his son is anything but. For that I am grateful.

And that’s the truth: tthhhppppt.


The talks between the Yankees and the Diamondbacks have reportedly cooled over a possible Curt Schilling deal. But Brian Cashman continued to check in with the Expos, White Sox and Dodgers. Who would you rather have in right field? Gary Sheffield, Vlad Guerrerro or Magglio Ordonez? Decisions, decisions. It’s tough to be rich and willing to spend, huh?

Mel Stottlemyre is officially back as the Yankees pitching coach, and George The Benevolent has also hired Darryl Strawberry as a spring training coach.

Can you feel the love? Or is that last night’s dinner repeating on you?


Eric Gagne ran away with the National League Cy Young award yesterday. Gagne who had one of the best, if not the best single season a reliever has ever recorded, blew away the competition. I wish I could have seen him more often, but what little I did see of him was absolutely terrifying. Congrats to the Frenchman.

In other Dodger news, GM Dan Evans had an interesting chat with Oakland’s general manager Billy Beane last week. Got any questions? Make like Will Carroll, and go ask Jon Weisman.


Newsday is reporting that Mike Piazza would like to be traded to an American League team. If the Mets had been smart they would have moved Piazza in 2002 or 2003. As it is, if they choose to trade him, they might have to eat some of his salary, as Piazza is due to earn $30 million over the final two years of his contract. That is a steep price for a DH. Personally, I love the guy and as much as I have enjoyed him on the Mets, I think he would be a great fit for an American League squad.


MLB announced yesterday that more than five percent of baseball players have tested positive for steriods. Random testing will continue in 2004. The mainstream media is sounding the alarm of course. I picked up the papers early this morning and both the Daily News and New York Post have a photograph of a needle sticking out of a baseball on their back covers. A guy standing next to me was already reading the story and I asked him what he made of it. “I’m not surprised,” he said. “Look at these guys.”

Dave Anderson offers a stern lecture in the Times and Filip Bondy is positively shrill in the News. You’ve got to love it when sportswriters become moralists.

Am I surprised by the finding? Not a bit. Does it bother me? Not especially. Unlike Mr. Bondy, and perhaps many casual sports fans like the one I encountered this morning, I’m not a romantic. I assume there is cheating and drug use in sports just like in other parts of our culture. (Thankfully for Pete Rose and the players of a previous generation, baseball didn’t test for greenies.) You are naive and foolish if you think this is a new problem. I don’t think a majority of the players cheat, and my enjoyment of the game isn’t ruined because there are some that do.


A fellow named Avkash Patel has devised a simple yet meaninful new statistic that measures offensive patience at his Mets-related web page, Raindrops. I’m sorry that I didn’t link the article earlier, but it has received rave reviews in the blogging community. Jay Jaffe does a great job of sorting out Patel’s theory. I’m afraid that writing about performance analysis is not my strength–though I still enjoy reading about it–so I prefer to pass you along to someone who can.

Jay is just about to go on the DL himself. He has a torn labrum in his shoulder and is going under the knife next week. Stop by and wish one of the best baseball bloggers well.


Tony Pena and Jack McKeon took home manager of the year honors in their respective leagues yesterday. No surprises there. They were both deserving. I have one minor complaint though. Why didn’t Frank Robinson recieve a little more support? It seems as if he had one of the most arduous tasks in the majors, trying to keep his team focused as they shuttled back and forth from Canada to P.R. I know he had some talent to work with, and I’m not saying he should have won the award, but I thought he would have recieved a little more love from the writers.

Here are a few more pieces on the AL Rookie of the Year voting controversy–from Rob Neyer, Aaron Gleeman and Ben Jacobs. I have to say I was mildly amused that Jacobs allowed himself to get so steamed over comments made by Boss George Steinbrenner. It’s not that I don’t agree with Jacobs here, but I have developed such a thick skin when it comes to the Boss that I hardly ever get worked up by anything that comes out of his big, fat mouth.


Tabloid gossip is as New York as handball, hip hop and the screwface stare. Today, the rumor mill is in full effect, and it is as dizzying as watching Chinese Chess in Chinatown. Here is the lowdown according to New York’s finest…

The Curt Schilling talk is still hot, although the two teams are predictably miles apart. The Diamondbacks want both Nick Johnson and Alfonso Soriano in exchange for their $12 million ace headache and second baseman Junior Spivey. Kevin Kernan thinks the Yankees would be making a major mistake letting Nick Johnson go for Schilling, while John Harper thinks it is a sacrifice worth making. One thing is for sure, there are those in the Yankee organization (led by Stick Michael) who do not want to lose Johnson, but George Steinbrenner is not one of them:

“Stick hasn’t changed his opinion of Nick,” one Yankee insider said yesterday. “He still thinks the kid can win a batting title in the next few years. But George is frustrated because he keeps hearing he doesn’t have the kind of prospects in the (farm) system to make a deal like this.

“He’s 70-something years old and he doesn’t want to hear about the future. If Nick is his ticket, he’ll use him.”

That is a point worth noting. George has always constructed his team to win now, but at his age, why should he think about the future if he won’t be around to enjoy it? We are talking about a world-class, instant-gratification egotist after all.

But the Yankee brass isn’t alone in their appreciation of Johnson. According to Kernan:

“You know who Nick Johnson is?” one GM told me yesterday in the lost-in-time lobby of the Arizona Biltmore. “He’s the kind of player the Yankees of 1996 used to build around. He’s a Paul O’Neill type. The type who will work you deep into the count and drive the pitcher crazy.”

It is unlikely that any trade will be made soon. Hopefully for the Yankees, Cashman and Stick Michael can keep their raging bull of an owner from doing anything rash.

Meanwhile, Cashman met with Bartolo Colon’s agent, and also huddled with Expos GM Omar Minaya regarding Javier Vasquez. Roberto Alomar’s agent has approached Cashman about his clients’ desire to play for the Yankees, and the Bombers are also interested in Vlad Guerrero too. (With the White Sox willing to move Magglio Ordonez, right field has some interesting options.)


The New York Post is reporting that Mel Stottlemyre will in fact return as pitching coach next season. Joe Torre said that he hasn’t spoken with Stot since the end of the season but expects to hear from him in the next week. Looks like he’ll have his old friend back by his side. You think Andy Pettitte will notice?


Derek Jeter apparently played through the ALCS and World Series in serious pain. Jeter strained ligaments in his left thumb in Game One of the ALCS against the Red Sox. Last night, at a fund-raiser, Joe Torre told reporters:

“After the first game against Boston I got a phone call the next morning and we weren’t sure he was going to play anymore,” Torre said last night at his Safe At Home Foundation dinner in Battery Park.

“It’s one of those things you test yourself as a manager and say, ‘Well, it’s out of our control now.’ But this kid was something. He got some pain shots the first couple of days and he said, ‘I can’t feel my thumb, I can’t take these shots anymore.’ “

Jeter, who was in attendence too, played coy:

“Mr. T blew a secret, huh?”

There are no plans for Jeter to have surgery this winter.


If you are interested in keeping up with the latest Hot Stove Rumors you should be subscribing to Lee Sinins’ daily Around the Majors e-mail. Why? Because Lee compiles information from papers around the country and because the e-mail is absolutely free.

Here are a few Yankee-related tidbits from today’s edition:

1. According to the Newark Star Ledger, Curt Schilling has told the Diamondbacks he’s changed his mind and would approve a trade to the Yankees.

There is a 3 team rumor that would send Schilling to the Yankees, Nick
Johnson to the Brewers.

2. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, if the Yankees decide they are
interested in Jim Edmonds, there is already a 3 team rumor that would send
Edmonds and Schilling to the Yankees, Nick Johnson and Danny Bautista to
the Cardinals and Alfonso Soriano and Jeff Weaver to the Diamondbacks.

How do you think Yankee fans would like to lose Sori and Nick Johnson and receive Curt Schilling and Jim Edmonds in return?

The gossip is fast and furious right now. Edward Cossette has a good piece today about how instability of the the free agency era reflects modern life.


My father used to work in Televison Production for years, and I know he was a big fan of Art Carney’s. I wanted to share an e-mail I received from Pop this morning:

Iíll try to give you some more in a day or two, but I put the death of Art Carney in the same category as the death of Zero Mostel; an important person has left my life.

Although thereís no arguing that for an extended period, Jackie Gleason was akin to a force of nature, he was never, in my mind, the kind of talent or funny man or actor that was Art Carney. Carney wasnít just schtick although his schtick was about as godd as it gets; Carney was a commentator, and a damned funny one at that. My first memory of him (I knew his work in radio but didnít know who he was) was playing a waiter in the nightclub that was Jackie Gleasonís stage in Cavalcade of Stars for DuMont Televisionís Channel 5 in New York. He was intrusive, clumsy and hysterically funny. Itís to Gleasonís credit that he saw in Carney a second banana of remarkable skill. And he was a second banana; for reasons of his shyness, I guess, he was clearly not at home in the starring role, certainly not as a working comic, and why he didnít get more leading roles considering his successes in The Odd Couple and Harry & Tonto is beyond me. Why he did a couple of films with Gleason when the latter was well past his heyday, again playing the second role when it was no longer fittiní and proper, is also beyond me.

One quick story.

Before Channel 13 became a PBS channel, it was owned by a fella named Ely Landau, a genuine entrepreneurial type who will always have a place in my heart because he kept trying things with Henry Morgan. Now Morgan was a radio man and like Fred Allen, never really figured out how to sell his successful brand of cerebral radio humor on television except as a game show panelist. But, for a brief while, he did some things on Channel 13 and on one show in particular, he had Carney visit. At one point, while they were both sitting behind a desk, they played a three or four minute recording from an old radio broadcast with Art in the role of “Sailor Carney”, a not-so-hot prize fighter. If Iíd ever heard the routine, I didnít remember it. They obviously had. Nevertheless, all three of us were is stitches

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