"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: March 2004

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Double Negative?

The Sports Illustrated Baseball Preview issue is out today. Kerry Wood is on the cover and the headline reads: “Hell Freezes Over: The Cubs Will Win the World Series.” Ah, the SI jinx. The boys at The Cub Reporter are going to love this. Then again, considering how jinxed the Cubs have been, how could this really hurt?

Meet the Mets

There is an entertaining two-part preview of the 2004 Mets over at The Shea Hot Corner (part one and part two). Met fans, head on over and check it out.

Like Me, Please

Alex Rodriguez has an article about coming to play for the Yankees written with Dan LeBatard for ESPN the magazine. It is a far cry from Reggie Jackson’s “I’m the straw that stirs the drink” 1977 article in Sport magazine, but there is something needy about the tone of the piece all the same. Rodriguez come across more like Sally Field, as somebody who desperately wants to be liked. It’s as if Rodriguez is trying to convince us what a good guy he is.

It speaks to Rodriguez’s insecurities that he felt the need to come out with an article like this. But he does make some interesting comments. One particularly struck me:

Fear of failure is what fuels me, keeps me on edge and sharp. I’m not as good when I’m comfortable.

This reminded me of a Lou Piniella quote that I read in Michael Lewis’ fine piece in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine:

HE WILL NEVER BE A TOUGH COMPETITOR. HE DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO BE COMFORTABLE WITH BEING UNCOMFORTABLE.

I think that is what Rodriguez is talking about. Considering how much failure is inherent in the life of a baseball player, it makes perfect sense. You could say the same applies to being a great comic or rock star too. Once you get too comfortable, you are sunk. After all, Sir Lawrence Olivier threw up before almost every performance he ever gave on the stage. I doubt if Rodriguez gets physically ill before every game, but I’m sure he’s not overly confident on the days he goes 4-4 either.

p.s. The Lewis article is really terrific. It’s long, but a must-read.

Yanks Bounce Back and Bomb Tampa Bay

Yankees 12, D-Rays, 1

Ah, just what the Yankees needed to avoid a full-scale disaster. The Yankees blasted the Devil Rays in the second game of the season, leaving New York sports writers with nothing much to write about for the next five days. Pity for them, but good for us fans. Jorge Posada homered twice and collected six RBI. Fittingly, Hideki Matsui also homered. Jason Giambi, Kenny Lofton and Gary Sheffield also had good offensive games. Kevin Brown allowed a run in the first, but was his usual stingy self. He threw seven innings, allowed six hits and struck out five. Tom Gordon pitched a scoreless eighth, and Mariano Rivera whiffed two in a scoreless ninth.

I didn’t see any of the game. If you did, whatta ya here, whatta ya say?

D-Rays Bomb Yanks in Season Opener

Tampa 8, New York 3

I only caught the second and third innings. Mussina didn’t look sharp, and I guess the Rays eventually got to him. Giambi homered. For those who did watch it, how ugly was it? Discuss.

Eastward Ha!

Hideki Matsui gave the people what they paid to see when he hit a home run in his return to Japan on Sunday. The Yankees beat Godzillaís former club, the Giants, 6-2. (Donovan Osborne was rocked in the Yankeesí second exhibition game, against the Hanshin Tigers )

It may have been Matsuiís moment, but as Joel Sherman writes, this is really the about the beginning of the Alex Rodriguez era in New York.
Joe Torre has announced the Opening Day line-up. The most notable decision was that Kenny Lofton will bat ninth. Derek Jeter will lead off, followed by Matsui. (How do you like them apples? Who says Torre isnít capable of a surprise here and there?) Of course, the heart of the order will be Rodriguez-Giambi-Sheffield, with Posada, Sierra (DH), Wilson and Lofton making up the bottom half of the line-up.

Lofton isn’t happy about batting ninth, but quite frankly, who cares? I’m sure there will be plenty of things that upset Mr. Lofton in 2004. But hey, it could be worse: he could be playing in Pittsburgh.

The Daily News has its 2004 season preview today. Naturally, there is much about the Yankees-Sox continuing rivalry. Always the realist, Mike Mussina offers his pragmatic take on the situation:

“You write a great book, you make a great movie, you write a great song, an album, how do you follow it up?” says Mike Mussina. “You have to, but I don’t know how you beat last season. You can add all the people you want, but you can’t make the stakes any higher.”

Meeting of the Minds

Here Come the Smart Guys

The Baseball Prospectus book signing at Barnes and Noble in downtown Brooklyn was a lot of fun last night. It started promptly at seven. I don’t think I got there until a quarter past. Of course Jay Jaffe was the first guy I saw, just as he was about to walk into the store. Same thing happened a few weeks ago at the pizza feed in Times Square. I saw Jay, with his pal Nick Stone, just as I was arriving at the restaurant. My man Jay. We walked in and could hear Joe Sheehan’s voice muffled through a microphone from upstairs. So up we went.

There was a nice turn out. I don’t know, 30-35 people? Maybe more. Mostly men, but a couple of women too. Standing and sitting. There was pizza (the Dude abides). Basically it was a was a cluster of baseball nerds all huddled together talking about PECOTA and steroids and why some teams are luckier than others in the playoffs, and good stuff like that. I think it’s a completely enjoyable experience. Being a nerd and being proud of it. Other people stopped by to listen as well and Jay and I stood in the back next to the pizza, with our friend, Cliff Corcoran.

As we settled in, Doug Pappas, who is an all-of-a-piece-baseball-nut -I mean really a classic was talking about performance-inhancing drugs when this round, bearded man with a funny, blue baseball hat, helped himself to a slice of pizza and stood next to Jay. Pappas was the oldest writer in the group, and though he’s not what I expected him to look like, he was perfect. And very bright.

I don’t know that Jay was aware of the funny bearded guy next to him, but I was. This guy was a too much. Looked like a combination of John Belushi and Danny Devito, full, thick black beard. Think about the illustration of the Brooklyn Bum on the pack page of the Daily News when the Dodgers finally beat the Yanks in ’55, OK. He had the plastic shopping bag, and the rumpled suit. Staring straight ahead, listening to Pappas, chomping on his free pizza. What kind of quirky Paul Mazursky bit is this?

By the time Dayn Perry was up to talk, the fat guy had had enough and moved on to better things in the self-improvement section. Dayn was a nice surprise. Not that I expected him to be a putz. I have followed his work for a while, and enjoyed it very much but I had no conecption of what he looked like or sounded like. As Alex Ciepley told me later, “I didn’t realize just how southern he was.” Dayn is very southern, in the best possible way I suppose. I don’t know too many southerners, but Dayn has a slow, easy, and direct way about him, that I would associate with a cool southerner is like.

Prospectus had five guys at the signing. Doug and Dayn were joined by Steven Goldman, Nate Silver and one of BP’s founding members, Joe Sheehan. Each guy took a turn fielding questions. Sheehan acted as the emcee of sorts. Joe is polished, and composed in front of an crowd. He could be on TV. He is precise, self-aware and smart. He’s like an old pro with the audience communication skills. But let’s face it: the guy is from New York. Respect due. Why shouldn’t he be good on his feet, talking in front of people?

Ah, it’s an assumption on my part, I know. But I have rucchmones with Sheehan. Joe and I were born within five months of each other, and it’s likely that we were born in the same hospital (Columbia Pres). How old do you have to get before discovering you were in the same grade with a someone instantly bonds you somehow? Joe grew up in Inwood, and I originally lived on the upper west side. Sheehan may have been residing in southern California for the last dozen or so years, but everthing about him says New Yorker. And that’s what it so appealing about him. Get Sheehan to go on TBS and talk hoops with Kenny “the Jet” Smith, and he’d be a cinch. The guy is a natural sports talker.

I didn’t get a chance to hear Steven, but Goldman was there anyway, standing behind Nate and Pappas (who were seated at a table), with his hands resting on chest, holding the edges of his jacket. He looked like an Orson Welles publicity still circa “The Magnificient Ambersons.” All he needed was a pipe, and some slippers.

It was a comically studied, self-aware posture. You know slightly self-depricating; one that looked completely comfortable as well. Goldman is a big guy, with a great shock of black hair and black rimmed glasses. He has these terrific, expressive eyebrows and an easy smile. He’s entirely sympathetic. One of those dudes you look at and say, “Man, isn’t he such a good guy?” And I’m telling you, looking at him, all I could think was what Al Hirshfield could do with him in that pose, next to the charactures of the other guys. He would make a fine Al Hirshfield drawing.

Nate Silver would too, and he was a very good with the audience. Nate looks like a kid, but he comes across with the confidence of an adult. He was not rattled talking in front of people and he made eye-contact with the people who asked the questions. I got the sense that he tried to answer each one to the best of his ability. He wasn’t overly concerned with having the “right” answer.

The great thing about Nate is that he doesn’t look like a baseball guy. He looks like a numbers whiz or a record nerd or some kind of nerdy guy. But he’s completely comfortable in his nerdiness, which makes him less nerdy. He was actually assertive and confident in a way that some of the other speakers were not. (He later told me he had been on the debate team, and it shows.) Nate doesn’t come across like an awkward dork, he comes across as someone who is extremely comfortable with his intelligence.

Silver doesn’t project any insecurities about being as smart and I always find that to be an inviting and welcoming quality. I love that in people. He’s humble. Silver is more interested in sharing his knowledge and having a dialogue than being right all the time, or superior in any way. He’s completely impressive. No two ways about it: Nate projects well.

After the signing, their was mingling and then a gangle of us headed west on Atlantic avenue and settled in a neighborhood bar. It was a bar for local locals in their twenties and thirties. The place was still pretty much empty when we arrived which means that we staked out a good spot in and around a slightly elevated area that had tables and booths. Later in the night, the place filled up and a this mo mo who looked like Kenneth Branaugh spun records. He played eighties music and had his shirt open half way down his chest. Jeez what a stroker.

But the vibe was good, and a good bunch of guys were there, including Alex Ciepley, Derek Jacques, and Pete Fornitell. Must have been about a dozen of us or so. And it was a fine night, hanging out with dudes, talking about baseball. What more could you ask for to keep you grounded as a guy?

On the Money

Thanks to Baseball Primer’s “Clutch Hits,” I found a short interview with Michael Lewis, author of “Moneyball,” as well as an especially good longer one with author Bill James. They are both worth checking out.

Boston Banter

Alex Rodriguez had to leave last night’s Yankee-Red Sox game earlier after getting smacked in the kisser by the ball. A throw from Hideki Matsui bounced off of Brian Daubach’s foot and proceeded to bite Rodriguez right in the face. Ouch. The ball landed just under Rodriguez’s eye. He left the game, but x-rays were negative and he should be OK. The Yankees won the game, 8-6.

Speaking of the Sox, I’ve got a two-part interview with Howard Bryant, columnist at the Boston Herald, and author of “Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston,” over at The Hardball Times (Part One and Part Two). If you get the chance, let me know what you think of ‘em.

He’s a Keeper

The Mariano extension became official yesterday, and all was well in Yankeeland. Chicken soup for the soul. According to the Daily News:

“I think I was born to be a Yankee,” Rivera said. “I could’ve gone and tried to test the market after the season, but I wanted to remain a Yankee. It’s priceless, the pinstripes. Putting on that uniform every day in and out is priceless. If I have a chance to go in the Hall of Fame in the pinstripes, that’s big for me.”

Next up: Joe Torre.

Part two of T.J. Quinn’s profile of Alex Rodriguez is up today. It is worth taking a peek at because Quinn concentrates on Rodriguez’s skills on the field.

The Yankees host the Red Sox tonight in Tampa, but trainer Gene Monahan is more concerned with preparing his players for their long trip to Japan.

And You Can Quote This

I remember on one of my first days working for the Coen brothers, DVD copies of “Fargo” arrived at their office. This was in the fall of 1996, and the movie

Puff n Stuff

The Daily News has the first of a three-part series profiling the career of Alex Rodriguez today, if you like that sort of thing. Rodriguez turned a nifty double play against the Tigers yesterday. John Haper called it Rodriguez’s first Graig Nettles play:

“I guess you’d say it was like the birth of me being a third baseman,” A-Rod said afterward. “That was the first one where I got a pretty good rush out of it, I’ll tell you that.”

It was a beauty, all right, A-Rod’s first truly sensational play with the glove as a Yankee. He robbed Ivan Rodriguez of a double with a backhand dive, and with runners at first and second, turned the stab into a double play by scrambling to third and making an off-the-wrong-foot throw across the diamond.

Meanwhile, Bubba Crosby could make the big club coming out of spring training. With all of the high-priced studs on this team, Crosby, the Dodgers number one draft pick in 1998, is a welcome breath of air. He is often compared with Lenny Dykstra, as a hustling, scrappy kind of player. Hey, if Clay Bellinger made the team, so can Bubber.

Back fo Mo

Mariano Rivera will be in New York for at least another three seasons. A two-year extension, with an option for a third, could be announced later today. According to the New York Times:

The Yankees and Rivera agreed to terms on a two-year, $21 million contract extension that will keep Rivera with the team through 2006, several club officials said Monday. The deal includes an option year for 2007 that will be triggered by games finished. Rivera will earn $10.5 million each season, making the total value of the deal $31.5 million if the third year vests.

A lot of money for a closer? Yup. Is Rivera worth the risk? I’d say so. I know I’ll sleep well at night knowing that the Sandman is around to close games out for the Yankees. If he holds up for the next few years, I think it’s safe to say: Next stop, Cooperstown.

Final Days

I watched most of the Yankee game against Tampa Bay yesterday and all I can say is that the middle of the Bomber line up is rough, man. Each time 3-4-5 came up again, the only word that came to mind was, rough. Rodriguez is terrific of course, but he is prone to striking out. Giambi has an even better eye, though he too, whiffs a good deal. But then you come to Sheffield, who doesn’t strike out much, and who hits the ball extremely hard virtually every time he’s up. The dude is vicious. Oh yeah, Godziller went 3-3 yesterday. Matsui is part of the second-tier Yankee hitters along with Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada. There is no doubt that the Bronx Bombers are back.

Jorge DePaula pitched well, and is battling Scott Proctor for the last spot in the bullpen. Big Tony Clark is likely to stick around a bit longer as well, as Travis Lee will start the season on the DL with an inflammed left shoulder. Enrique Wilson and Miguel Cairo are also banged up. Could our man Homer actually make the squad? We shall see.

Meanwhile, Brian Cashman made Mariano Rivera an offer on Sunday night: two years, $21 million, with an option for a third season. Acccording to reports, Rivera could accept the contract extension as early as today.

A Litle of This (and a Little of That)

Here’s a couple of cherce cuts for you before I break for the weekend…

Congrats go out to fans of the Oakland A’s, after Eric Chavez signed a six-year extension the other day. Christian Ruzich and Aaron Gleeman cover the story well.

Tyler Kepner has a puff piece on Joe Girardi this morning that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

The Yankees are meeting with Mariano Rivera’s agent today. Rivera would like to sign an extension before the season starts.

Gordon Edes reports on MLB’s reaction to critical comments made about their drug-testing policy by Curt Schilling and Johnny Damon. (Meanwhile, Nomie and Trot are hurt and both could miss the season opener.)

Finally, Scott Miller has a good piece on one of my favorite pitchers, Greg Maddux, who has always been an interesting quote:

“I still believe if you do everything mechanically correct, it’s impossible for the ball to not go where you want it to,” Maddux says. “Like in golf. If your swing is mechanically correct, the ball is going to go where it should — or, at least, where you’re aiming.

“Things will change, and your mind will do things funky that you don’t want it to do.”

…”Coaches, if they tell you 10 things, one or two maybe will work,” Maddux says. “Very rarely will all 10 things work for everybody. I see it. I’ve worked with kids before. You tell one kid the same thing you told another kid yesterday, and the kid yesterday didn’t get it but the kid today does.

“I do it with my own kids with their math homework. I tell them one way, and they have no clue. I tell them another way, and they get it. Pitching is no different.”

I’m headed to the Transit Museum in Brooklyn with Emily tomorrow. We both love the New York Subway system and its history, plus Em’s never been to the Museum, which recently reopened after a long over haul. The two of us will be sitting on our fat asses watching the Yankees exhibition game on Sunday. I’ll be talking trash at the TV, she’ll be knitting. Hope everyone has a good weekend.

Well, OK Then

I love quoting movies. Doesn’t everyone to some extent or another? OK, I shouldn’t speak for everyone, but even my girlfriend, who doesn’t get off on that kind of thing, loves to quote lines from her favorite movie, “What About Bob?” (Believe it.) I’ve formed relationships based around a mutual love of movie-quoting. It’s an addicting, compulsive activity, and one that I thoroughly enjoy. I don’t think I’ve sent Mike Carminati an e-mail yet that didn’t contain a reference to “Stripes.”

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that loving to quote movies is what got me a job working for Joel and Ethan Coen, but it didn’t hurt. (I had previously worked for Woody Allen, and did my impression of the Wood man talking about the Knicks went over well with the guys.) The Coen brothers make extremely quotable movies themselves, and I think that is because they love to quote movies. When I first went to work for them I would pepper every day conversation with lines from “Raising Arizona”-which may be their most quotable movie. (Since I worked on “The Big Lebowski” I’m partial to that one, which is chock full of good lines too.) They would laugh, repeat the line, and quote another one. Or they would correct how I misquoted a line. (Don’t some people just hate when you get the words/lyrics wrong?)

During the production of “The Big Lebowski,” I recall driving Ethan to the bowling alley set in East Hollywood one day, and we went back-and-forth quoting from “Raging Bull.” It was a great treat to work in the editing room with them. As they put the movie together, we inevitably would quote our favorite lines. Ethan and I especially were fond of the Dude groaning, “Mmíaaww, man,” when he wakes up from getting cracked on the jaw by Julianne Mooreís goons. On some days, thatís all Ethan and I would say to each other. (Our other favorite was when the Dude is riding in the back of Maudeís limo and he tells the driver, “Yeah, I got a rash, man.”)

I mention the Coen brothers because they were brought up in the All-Baseball American League East Roundtable earlier this week. Jon Weisman wondered what kind of movie they would make about the Yankees-Red Sox feud. I responded in an e-mail:

 

I don’t think the Coen brothers would have much to say about the Yankees and Sox at all. Both teams are way too stuck up for the likes of the Coens. Coppola, Scorsese, DePalma, Speilberg: These are the kind of directors who have enough inherent hype in their styles to do the Yanks-Sox justice. The Coen brothers could do the Pirates vs. the Padres, though MLB is probably way too sophisticated and boring for Joel and Eth. Those guys love losers. Not self-satisfied, pompous losers like the Sox. The Cubs come close. But if they ever made a baseball movie–which I doubt would ever happen–it would be set in some minor league some time in the past. Don’t you think?
 

So what are some of your favorite Coen brother quotables? (Actually, a better question is: What are some of your favorite quotable movies of all-time?) Here are some that jump to mind:

 

“The important thing is we wall want it to have that Barton Fink feeling. I guess we all have that Barton Fink feeling, but since you’re Barton Fink I’m assuming you have it spades.” 

“‘Lo Tom, what’s the rumpus?”

“Well, we could start for instance with the Schmatte, like where’s the Schmatte? You could maybe tell us that.”

“Repeat offender.”

“You ate sand?”

“We’re set to pop here honey.”

“Mind you don’t cut yourself, Mordicai.”

Jon added two good ones:

 

“Her insides were a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase.” 

“You know – for kids!”

Here are two more than are not from the Coen brothers, but very well could be:

 

“Nice boy, but about as sharp as a sack of wet mice.” Foghorn Leghorn 

“It’s as hot as two rats fucking in a sock in August in Kansas City.” Ichiro’s favorite American expression, as told to Bob Costas.

And Will Carroll noted that:

 

“The Ladykillers” looks to be one of those eminently quotable movies, along the lines of “The Big Lebowski.” I find myself saying “We need waffles, forthwith” already and that’s just the trailer.
 

I’m looking forward to seeing how Tom Hanks fares with Joel and Eth. I suspect it will be a lot of fun. Do yourself a favor though and see the original “Ladykillers.” The 1955 Eailing comedy stared Alec Guinness and featured Peter Sellers– a big radio star in England at the time on “The Goon Show”–in a supporting role.

Sprung

I experienced some technical difficulties over the past 24 hours, hence the lack of new material. My label-mate Will Carroll was kind enough to post an article I wrote this morning; head on over and give it gander when you get a chance. On that note, I’m pleased to report that the snow has ceased and the sun is shinning in New York. Are you ready for spring or what?

Snow Day

For the second straight day it is snowing in New York. The city is mobbed today with packs of drunken suburbanites stumbling around in the name of Saint Patrick. Fortunately, the YES network is televising a Yankee exhibition game tonight, so the last-ditch efforts of old man winter aren’t bothering too tough.

I got an e-mail from my friend Mindy who was in Tampa last week with a couple of her pals, checking out the Yankees camp. She said it was such a mob scene this year that she doesn’t have any intentions of going back next season. Here are a few of her observations:

There were a couple of light-hearted moments we saw before the games. One day, Jeter and Kenny Loften were making fun of the way a-Rod was running up and down the field, so Kenny started prancing around on his tippy toes, leaving Jeter doubled over. Giambi ran over to get in on the joke and Jeter looked like he was gladly re-telling the story. Very cute.

…One thing I feel is worth mentioning…I realized that many of these people come down to spring training not just to see games, but to see players up close, get pictures and most importantly, get autographs. The autograph seekers are everyone from wide-eyed little kids to ruthless baseball memorabilia freaks who are looking to make an easy buck on e-bay. Either way, the entire time I was there the only person I saw signing any autographs was Jason Giambi (which he did last year as well). After, the guys left batting practice, A-Rod, Jeter, Kenny Lofton, even Enrique Wilson, ran by tons of fans waiting for autographs. Giambi was the only one to take the time to sign them. Even when people were throwing the balls over the fence at him (all at once), he stopped and ran around picking them up off the ground to give a signature to everyone. Last year, Joe Torre was the only other guy next to Giambi that I saw giving an autograph. I was very proud of Bam Bam Giambi and according to everyone that I met who knows or has met these guys

Wanna Be Startin’ Something?

Last Saturday I watched parts of two Yankee spring training games. First, I caught most of the Friday night game on Yankee Rewind, and then I popped in-and-out of the day game against the Braves. One thing is for sure: as much as I like to worry about how good the Red Sox, Blue Jays and every other good AL team will be, I don’t envy any of those teams when they face a healthy Yankee line up. Watching Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield follow Jeter felt like playing a video game, almost too good to be true. I allowed myself to get caught up in the excitement. Man, this is going to be fun.

It is reasonable to assume that this team will pound out plenty of 12-4 wins. I’m interested in how many games they win 7-5 after trailing 4-1 going into the seventh or eighth innings.

One player who caught my attention was Scott Proctor, the young flame thrower aquired with Bubba Crosby from the Dodgers in the Robin Ventura trade. Last summer, John Sickels opined:

Like Crosby, Proctor is a product of Los Angeles’ 1998 draft class. Drafted out of Florida State in the fifth round, Proctor has pitched adequately as a starting pitcher, but never obtained true prospect status and was often left off Dodger prospect lists. Converted to relief this year, Proctor has posted a 2.58 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 66 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. His fastball has been timed anywhere between 89 and 95 mph, and he has a reasonably effective slider. He is 26, and could be a middle-relief sleeper.

Proctor is thin, almost like a young Tim Hudson. His motion is compact, and he kept the ball down, mixing in a slider with his fastball. I’m curious to see how he develops this season. Perhaps he’ll make it up to the Bronx at some point during the summer. For his part, Crosby has caught the attention of Joe Torre and the Yankee coaches. Bill Madden reports:

“The first thing I noticed about him were his quick hands,” said batting coach Don Mattingly when I asked him if Crosby, who is hitting .363 while playing a flawless center and right field, might be the real deal. “He can run, throw and hit. That’s all I can say, other than the fact that he’s a major league player in my opinion, and could be one for a long time.”

Meanwhile, Donovan Osborne, an old favorite of Joe Torre’s from their days in St. Louis, will make like Sterling Hitchcock and fill-in as the number five starter…for now.

The Yankees bombed the Phillies yesterday. Gary Sheffield homered, as did Kevin Brown. Brown, who allowed four hits and no runs in four innings of work, hit the first pitch thrown to him by Billy Wagner over the fence. I didn’t know Brownie’s birthday was in March.

Riffin

Pedro Martinez intentionally threw at Karim Garcia’s head in Game Three of the ALCS last year. Apparently, the diminutive right-hander is still sore at Garcia, as he went off on the erstwhile Yankee in a recent ESPN interview. According to the Boston Herald, Martinez will talk to the Red Sox about a contract extension this week.

Point, Counterpoint

Murray Chass defends Don Fehr and criticizes politicians in an op ed piece in the Times, while Tim Marchman applauded John McCain’s efforts to expose baseball’s steroid problem. Both articles are worth checking out.

The Ides Have It

Et tu?

Aaron Gleeman and Mathew Namee have launced a new baseball website, The Hardball Times. It features a talented crop of writers like Ben Jacobs, Larry Mahnken, Bryan Smith, and Joe Dimino to name just four. I’ve signed up to do some work for them too. Although my name is listed on the front page with the regulars, I will only be an occasional contributor to the site (between my work for all-baseball.com and the book I’m writing, there is only so much additional writing time left). However, Gleeman and Namee have assembled a terrific group, and I’m happy to be associated with them. Quite frankly, I’m as eager as the next guy to follow what they’ve got to say throughout the coming season. Head on over see what they are all about.

Strain

Jon Lieber has strained his groin and will miss his first couple of starts of the season. A setback to Lieber doesn’t come as a surprise. For now, the Yankees are content to give a few of his starts to either Donovan Osborne or Jorge DePaula. The team got better news from their ace Mike Mussina, who pitched well yesterday and then offered some typically sardonic words to reporters as to why he chose to come to the Bronx several years back. According to the Post:

“Two World Series, yeah I’m pretty pleased with the choice,” said Mussina after throwing four hitless innings yesterday. “What were my other options?

“I could have gone to the Mets. That’s been smooth across town so far hasn’t it? I could have stayed in Baltimore, that would have been fun. Or, I could have gone to Boston and watched the other side of it for three years.”

Or he could have tipped the balance in favor of the Red Sox.

Hey, in case you missed it, check out Tyler Kepner’s profile of Joe Torre that appeared in the Sunday New York Times. It’s excellent.

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