"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: June 2004

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Padres 10, Yanks 2

The Yanks can’t come from behind to win all the time. Trailing by three runs, they loaded the bases with no out in the bottom of the sixth and came away with just one run. The Pads blew the game apart late, capped by a three-run bomb off the bat of Phil Nevins. Thank you, Gabe White.

It was the first game I had to walk away from all season. Mostly it was a result of my having had a long, irritating week. I poured all of my frustrations into the game, and it wasn’t long after Mussina left that I sunk into a deep funk. (Hey, just because I’m a Yankee fan, and am sperled silly, doesn’t mean I’m don’t get nuts like every other red-blooded baseball fan.) Emily, who has an easier time digesting the Yankees’ failures, was busy sorting my jar of loose change into packets to bring to the bank. After the sixth, I took myself a nice long walk; I needed to cool off and relax. I got home in time to see Nevins blast and discover that the Dodgers weren’t worth half a shit in Boston last night, losing a close one, 2-1 (Cookie strikes again).

But it is an absolutely gorgeous day this afternoon. Mussina may or may not have to miss a start, but his injury doesn’t appear to be dire. According to the Times:

“I don’t know right now,” Mussina said of whether he will have to miss a start. He added: “I’m not concerned about it. It doesn’t bother me to walk or do anything else. It’s just stretching down the mound. I’ll let the guys take care of it here, and we’ll see how we do in a couple of days.”

The results on Kevin Brown’s came back, and he too may not have to miss more than a start or two:

Brown said he was relieved, but still uncertain of his immediate future. “You just know in your mind something is going on, but if you’re not having debilitating pain, it’s kind of hard not to make yourself go out there and do it,” he said. “The other day it became very obvious in my mind that it was definitely affecting the way I was throwing the ball.” (Times)

Brown is more of concern than Mussina. But let’s be real. We know that sooner or later, there will be another starting pitcher with the team, and possibly another bullpen arm too (and I don’t just mean El Duque and Karsay from Queens).

Jon Lieber pitches this afternoon, a 4:00 pm start. Considering the fact that there isn’t a cloud in the sky, the late afternoon light will be acute and brilliant later on. Wait til the shadows start to creep toward the middle of the game. It should be a good one. But I’m going to miss it. I’m out of the crib all day and was planning on recording it, but decided it wouldn’t be the worst thing for me to miss a game entirely. I can catch the highlights late tonight. A little detox never hurt anyone. Plus, I’m going to meet up with Cliff Corcoran, Jay Jaffe, Alex Ciepley, and Mike C to catch Chris Karhl and Steve Goldman at their BP/PB feed at the Coliseum this evening anyhow. I’m sure there will be a bunch of other cool nerds there–I hope my man Derek Jacques shows up–so I’m a be plenty deep in baseball regardless.

Yo, I hope everyone is having a good weekend. Go Yanks.

Another One Bites the Dust

Mike Mussina looked sterling to start the game tonight, but left after three innings due to what the TV people are calling tightness in his groin. Felix Heredia has replaced him, the Yankees have played sloppy defense and trail 4-1 going into the fifth.

Obviously, this is discouraging news for the Yankees. I’m feeling tense, I can only imagine how Brian Cashman is doing.

Oy fuggin veh.

Yankees 10, Rockies 4

Boom Boom Room

Jose Contreras allowed three home runs yesterday but pitched decidedly better than he has in his last two outings. After giving up two runs in the third and two more in the fourth, Contreras was ready to unravel once again. But, as the New York Times reports, Contreras got a boost from his third baseman:

Alex Rodriguez went to the mound from third base, and Contreras reached out.

“If you’ve got anything to say,” Contreras told Rodriguez in Spanish, “please tell me.”

Rodriguez sensed an opening, and he implored Contreras to center the ball, to focus on throwing a first-pitch strike and to let his immense talent do the rest. It was another version of the Yankees’ effort to make Contreras (3-2) believe in himself.

“If you give him some confirmation during the middle of the game, especially when things are getting a little rocky, that’s important,” Rodriguez said. “He needs to know how good he is.”

Contreras pitched well through the seventh, retiring the last eleven batters he faced. The Yankees eventually blew the game open when John Flaherty hit a grand slam in the bottom of the sixth inning (Jorge Posada’s back-up ended the day with five RBI). Gary Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez each had two hits and two RBI (Rodriguez has now reached base safely in 47 straight games). But the standout of the afternoon was Bernie Williams who went 3-3 with two walks. The third hit, a single, was the 2000th of Williams’ career.

Larry Mahnken takes a close look at Bernie’s chances to make the Hall of Fame today and concludes:

While Bernie’s numbers don’t look overly impressive, especially in an offensive era, he was a key player on one of the greatest dynasties in baseball history, and will have at least four rings, and perhaps more, when he retires. He was one of the better players in baseball at a crucial position for several seasons. He’s not a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but should get in after only a few ballots. Should he rebound and have a couple more solid seasons, and play long enough to attain 2500 hits and 300 HRs, it makes his induction more or less assured.

A good comparison can be made to Kirby Puckett, who wasn’t as good as Bernie, but won two titles, and was well liked, just as Bernie is. Injuries ended his career, while it appears they have seriously damaged Bernie’s. Puckett may not have deserved induction, but the fact that he got in on the first ballot bodes well for Bernie.

For those of you who have something to add to the conversation, head over to Larry’s Replacement Level Yankees Weblog and let him know what you think.

Brown Down

There are conflicting reports about the status of Kevin Brown this morning. The Times is more optimistic than either the News or the Post. According to Tyler Kepner:

The Yankees seem to have survived a scare with starter Kevin Brown. A magnetic resonance imaging on his back yesterday did not show serious damage, according to a person who was told of the results.

“It’s nothing serious; that’s good news,” the person said. “They just want to do a few more things in the morning.”

The Yankees will evaluate Brown after further tests today and decide then whether to place him on the disabled list, the person said.

What Did You Expect?

Jack Curry has a he said/she said piece in the Times today pitting Yankee GM Brian Cashman vs. the Yankees’ erstwhile sousepaw Boomer Wells. There will likely be more to follow in the tabloids over the weekend as Wells is due to pitch on Sunday afternoon in the Bronx. Jay Jaffe and I will be at the game. Earlier in the week, Jay wrote me and said that he wouldn’t mind seeing Boomer beat both the Sox and the Yanks on this road trip. While I sure wanted to see Wells beat Boston, I hope the Yankees knock him around but good on Sunday. I enjoyed watching Wells pitch when he was with New York. The guy threw strikes and didn’t mince around on the mound. But the man is an incorrigible bore off the field. I grew tired of his act and wasn’t especially sorry to see him go. Sure, the Yanks could probably use him right about now. Considering how the Yankee rotation is set up you can hardly blame Wells for bolting either. (That he has absolutely no couth is another issue.) I’m sure he’ll get a nice reception from the Stadium crowd. Hell, I’ll cheer for him when he comes out to the mound in the first inning. He deserves it. But that’s where it’ll end for me.

Bouncing Back

Curt Schilling and the Red Sox beat up on the Padres last night as the Sox remain three-and-a-half behind the Yankees. Nomar had 2 RBI and Manny hit a homer. The Sox host the L.A. Dodgers over the weekend.

Yankees 7, Rockies 5

Two nights ago I caught a portion of “Baseball Tonight” and John Kruk actually had some reasonable things to say about Yankee fans. He said that we should appreciate how lucky we are to be able to watch star players like Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi and Derek Jeter each and every day. For once, it was hard to disagree with him. I was thinking about just how fortunate I do feel every night as I sit down to watch this team as Kevin Brown quickly recorded the first two outs in the first inning last night. With the count 2-0 to Todd Helton my reverie was rudely interrupted by a terse, vicious chant of “Rockies suck, Rockies suck.”

Where did that come from? Some poor schnook must have had the misfortune to wear a Rockies cap, or perhaps he or she said something wise to provoke such a quick, angry response. Regardless, a group of fans were on the attack. By the time the count was even at 2-2 they were yelling, “Ass-hole, ass-hole.” Unfortunately, it isn’t enough for some Yankee fans to appreciate the good thing we’ve got going. They’ve got to be smug and ugly too. Ah, well.

Brown let several pitches up in the zone in the second inning, Gary Sheffield was charged with a throwing error (although his toss to Alex Rodriguez could have been handled), and somebody missed a pick-off sign at second base, as the Rockies scored four runs. Worse, Taynon Sturtze–slacked-jawed with something resembling fear in his eyes–replaced Brown in the third inning.

Brown was diagnosed with a strain in his lower back. The extent of his injury is uncertain but this cannot come as a surprise to Yankee fans. It’s never been if Brown will be hurt this season, it’s when. Evidentally, the time is now. This may hasten the Yankees search for another starting pitcher, but all considering, it’s preferable to have Brown break down now rather than in September and October. Still, losing Brown at a time when Jose Contreras has been awful, Jon Lieber has been up and down and the bullpen has been taxed, is enough to make some Yankee fans a bit, shall we say, irrational. Who cares if the Yanks have the best record in baseball, time to panic! (Headlines to follow.)

Sturtze got himself into immediate trouble, loading the bases and walking a run in. I cursed him out and after a double play got him out of the inning, he yelled at himself too, and slapped the side of his head with his mitt. Sturtze calmed down after that and didn’t allow another run over four innings of work. The Yankees chipped away at the lead, as has become their custom. With runners and first and second and nobody out in the Yankee third, Colorado’s starting pitcher Joe Kennedy made a throwing error which opened the door for the Bombers, who scored four runs, including a laser, two-run rope by Gary Sheffield which knocked off the left field foul pole.

Kennedy crusied after that, but Derek Jeter finally got to him in the seventh. Jeter fouled off four two-strike pitches in a ten-pitch at bat and smacked a two-run homer into the right field bleachers. Bernie Williams followed with a solo shot that landed just over the right field fence. The smile on Bernie’s face as he crossed the plate was sweet and wide. I don’t recall seeing him look so happy all season. But, the weather is getting hot–it was uncomfortably humid last night–just how Bernie likes it.

Once again, Flash Gordon pitched the eighth and Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth to seal the victory for New York. The Yanks increased their lead over Boston to three-and-a-half games after the Sox were pounded by the Padres in a rain-delayed affair at Fenway Park. Nomar Garciaparra made his season debut for the Sox, going 1-2 (a single through the left side and a hard line out to left field).

No Bull

Jay Jaffe takes a close look at the Yankee bullpen. A must-read for Yankee fans.

Once Again

Yankees 2, Rockies 1

Different day, same score. The Yankees won a pitcher’s duel at the Stadium last night as Javier Vazquez won his seventh game of the year. For the second-straight game, Jason Giambi had the game-winning RBI, a two-run single. Tom Gordon replaced Vazquez in the eighth, and Mariano Rivera recorded the save in the ninth (the game ended when Jorge Posada threw out pinch-runner Denny Hocking). It was crisp, efficient game that was played in just under two-and-a-half hours. Thomas George has a nice write-up in the Times, while Brian Lewis’ coverage in the Post is marked by sloppiness. In the opening paragraph, Lewis notes that starting pitching has not been one of the Yankees’ strengths this season:

But if inconsistent Javier Vazquez can keep pitching the way he did last night, that could change.

Later, he adds:

The Yankees (36-20) have won 12 of their past 14 on the strength of their bats; their starting staff has struggled. The starters came into last night with a 4.87 ERA, 22nd in the majors. That’s a dangerous way to try to win.

That’s also why last night’s performance from enigmatic Vazquez was so heartening.

Perhaps Lewis meant to say “the enigmatic” Vazquez, but it’s hard to figure what’s so mysterious about Vazquez. He hasn’t been so inconsistent either. He’s got the best ERA on the staff while he’s received the lowest run support.

Bill Madden catches up with Gary Sheffield, while Jay Greenberg has a puff piece on my man Bernie Williams.

Elsewhere, the old Pedro Martinez was on display at Fenway Park last night as he two-hit the Padres for eight innings. Keith Foulke pitched the ninth and the Sox won, 1-0. There is rarely a dull moment with Martinez. Hey, at least he keeps Sox fans on their toes, huh? Out west, Roger Clemens won his ninth game of the year as the Astros blanked the Mariners, 1-zip.

I can’t call it

In his Under the Knife column yesterday, Will Carroll had this to say about former Yankee hurler Andy Pettitte:

The Astros are growing more concerned about the condition of Andy Pettitte, not only for this year, but the next two extremely expensive seasons he has left on his deal. Pettitte has been doing long toss, but still can’t throw without pain. Worse, the elbow tends to tighten with usage, meaning there are still some internal problems. Pettitte has not yet gone for a second opinion, but if there’s no progress in the next week, that visit will come.

It made me think: when is it safe to applaud the Yankees for choosing to go with Vazquez over Pettitte? I liked the cherce from jump, but the local media slammed the Yankees for letting Pettitte, a proven winner, walk. Late in the day, I read the latest from Peter Gammons:

There was a strong push to retain Pettitte, but a couple of voices argued to instead invest in Vazquez. “See who wins more games over the four years,” argued one Yankee official.

“Vazquez is precisely what we traded for,” says another. “We were not worried about him pitching in New York. He’s smart, he’s savvy. I’m not sure we realized how competitive he is, so in that way I would guess he’s exceeded our expectations.

If Pettitte can’t get healthy and Vazquez continues to pitch well in New York, it’ll be interesting to see if and when Cashman and company receive some kudos for making a smart, tough move.


It looks as if Gary Sheffield will be in the line-up tonight as the Rockies (?!?!) come to town (while Derek Jeter will be a game-time decision). According to Yankee advisor, Reggie Jax:

[Sheffield] brings an image to the Yankees that’s important: a tough image, a very professional image.

Sheffield was named the AL player of the week. Considering that he was battling a stomach virus by the weekend, that’s nothing to sneeze at. Oh, and not for nothing, but do you think his thumb has healed yet?


The Yanks selected two pitchers and a catcher in the first round of the draft yesterday.

Yanks 2, Rangers 1

“They have QuesTec everywhere now, right? I’d like to see the grades on that game…That was the old day game, getaway day, Yankee Stadium strike zone.”
Buck Showalter

In Sunday’s Daily News, columnist John Harper asked, “When’s the last time a Yankee pitcher threw a [Juan] Dominguez-type gem?”* Mike Mussina had an answer for Harper and the Rangers on Sunday afternoon as he tossed his most impressive game of the year, shutting out Texas through eight innings (he would allow one run), striking out ten and walking nobody. Mariano Rivera relieved Mussina in the ninth and got the save. It was another unseasonably cool and overcast day in New York; Mussina’s kind of weather. Buck Showalter wasn’t crazy about how balls and strikes were called but Joel Sherman and Bill Madden report that this is just the kind of start that the Yankees needed. Ryan Drese was almost as good for Texas, pitching a complete game. The difference was solo home runs by Bernie Williams, who went 3-4 batting lead-off for the first time since April 16, 1996–and Jason Giambi. Gary Sheffield, still ill, was sent home and did not play. Derek Jeter was out too, and may not play until Wednesday. Inter-league play begins tomorrow as the Colorado Rockie (?!?!) come to town.

The Yanks remain two-and-a-half games up on the Red Sox, who defeated the Royals yesterday in Kansas City.

*Dominguez shut the Yanks down on Saturday afternoon. In yesterday’s post I incorrectly stated that it was the first start of Dominguez’s career. He started three games for Texas last season and one earlier this year. Thanks to Repoz for setting me straight.

Rangers 8, Yanks 1

Can’t Win ‘Em All

It was a tough day for Jon Lieber as the Yanks and Texas pounded them on a cool and overcast day in the Bronx. Forgettable is another word. Emily and I were in the house, and it was great to be out at the game together. There was another big crowd at the Stadium in spite of the threatening weather

Seems Like Old Times

Yanks 7, Rangers 6

Have you heard about the lonesome loser/
Beaten by the queen of hearts every time/
Have you heard about the lonesome loser/
He’s a loser, but he still keeps on tryin’

As I’ve mentioned several times in this space before, when I worked for Joel and Ethan Coen from the fall of 1996 through the fall of ’97, the only Yankee that Ethan liked to any degree was Kenny Rogers. Why Rogers? Well, as you can imagine the Yankees aren’t exactly the kind of team for the Coen sensibility and Rogers stuck out like a sore thumb on the Cinderella team in ’96. Unlike David Cone or El Duque, Rogers (like Denny Neagle) never fit the Yankee mold. A control specialist, Rogers drove Joe Torre and Yankee fans nuts that summer and never performed up to expectations in New York.

With a wide-jaw and square frame, Rogers looked like Joe Everybody, or Joe Anybody pitching for the Yanks. (Walter Mitty, this is your life.) Rogers resembles a slightly dumpier, plainer version of a Lifetime Network character actor. He’s been a good pitcher over the course of his career

Cooperstown Confidential

By Bruce Markusen

June 3, 2004

Regular Season Edition

From Pirate Parody to Lumber Company Revival

Daryle Ward is this generationís Willie Stargell. Jack Wilson is a combination of Gene Alley and Tim Foli, but with a better bat. Rob Mackowiak is Richie Hebner. Craig Wilson is the new Bob Robertson. And Jason Kendall is Manny Sanguillen, only with more talent.

Some of these statements are blatant exaggerations, while others are only slightly legitimate comparisons. The Pirates of 2004 are a far cry from Pittsburghís World Championship teams of 1971 and 1979, but for the first time in a long while, the Bucs are giving the city of Pittsburgh some real hope in the form of young, talented players who have futures in the game, unlike the Kevin Youngs and Raul Mondesis of the world.

To some extent, the comparisons of current-day players to Pirate stars of years gone by have some legitimacy, even if only through the images that the players create. Daryle Ward, like Willie Stargell, started his career as an outfielder before settling into a newfound role as the Piratesí everyday first baseman. Like Starg, Ward is big, left-handed, and powerful, with the same kind of intimidating frame that “Pops” featured during his latter years, when he also doubled as the teamís father figure. Ward will obviously never develop into the Hall of Fame player that Stargell became in the 1970s, but he was once a top-notch prospect who was considered the “next, great left-handed power hitter” for the Astros, something theyíd been searching for since John Mayberryís early days as a prospect. At 28, Ward is still young enough to have Mike Easlerís kind of career, and thereís nothing wrong with a team possessing that kind of building block in trying to assemble a championship contender.

At shortstop, Jack Wilsonís defensive play reminds more than a few Pirate historians of the days of Tim Foli and Gene Alley. Wilson is actually a better shortstop than Foli and might be a better defender than Alley in every way except for the ability to turn double plays. If Wilson can avoid the kind of back problems that derailed Alleyís career and maintain a batting average of .280 or better (no one really expects him to hit .350 all season long), the Pirates might actually have a finer all-around shortstop than Alley

Yanks 5, Orioles 2

“I don’t come to the ballpark every day to compete. I come to win.” Lee Mazzilli

Both the Yankees and the Orioles received good efforts from their starting pitchers yesterday. Gary Sheffield came up with the big hit–a two-out, 2 RBI double off B.J. Ryan in the seventh–as the Yanks swept the Birds for the second time in two weeks. Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams were given the day off (though Bernie appeared in the ninth as a fielder–don’t laugh), and Ruben Sierra started in right in place of Sheffield, who DH’d.

Although Flash Gordon and Mariano Rivera pitched once again, Javier Vazquez threw seven strong innings to give the rest of the bullpen a blow (trouble is, it’s Gordon and Rivera that are in need of a day or two off). Vazquez found himself in one tight spot all afternoon. Melvin Mora, Miggy Tejada, and Senior Palmeiro singled to start the fourth, loading the bases. After getting ahead of Javey Lopez, Vazquez plunked the Orioles’ DH forcing home a run. Vazquez cursed himself on the mound, and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre came out to settle him down. According to the Daily News:

“That’s all I was out there for,” Stottlemyre said. “I knew he’d be upset at himself. The ball got away from him and he was as upset as I’ve seen him all year. It was my job to stay out there until he cooled off. I told him I’d stay out there until he was ready to face the next hitter. It seemed to do the job. He was really upset, visibly, as I’m sure you saw.

“He’s generally relaxed and cool, but we all lose it momentarily sometimes. I just wanted to make sure there was no carryover.”

Vazquez got B.J. Surhoff to pop out, he struck out Luis Matos on a nasty change up, and Larry Bigbie grounded out sharply to Jeter to end the inning:

“Vazquez turned loose his fastball a little more to get out of the inning. He goosed it up there a little more,” Stottlemyre said. “It looked like it suddenly had more life on it. For me, that was the key to the ballgame, to have them just get one run there.”

The Orioles didn’t get another hit all afternoon. Alex Rodriguez had two hits, including a double and has now reached base in 41 straight games. Sheff had two hits too; Hideki Matsui followed Sheff’s game-breaking hit with an RBI single of his own.

What’s Next?

While the Yankees continue to solve Jose Contreras’ fragile noggin, the Times reports that the Mariners could be interested in the soporific Cuban:

The Mariners are in last place in the American League West and are open to making trades, said one baseball official with knowledge of their plans. The official said the Mariners remained interested in Contreras, depending on how much of his contract the Yankees would pay. Contreras is in the second year of a four-year, $32 million deal.

Unloading Contreras would be a coup for the Yankees, especially if they could get starter Freddy Garcia and the left-handed reliever Mike Myers in return. The

…Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said the Mariners had not told him of their interest. But Cashman said he expected teams to covet Contreras.

“There are people who feel the way we do, which is that this guy has a gigantic ceiling,” Cashman said. “Too many people have been at enough games and seen how exciting he is when he’s on.”

Work it, Cash, work it.

Drop off?

Pedro Martinez leads the AL in strike outs and has had some sterling outings this season, but he’s also been pounded at times too. Pedro’s main man at the Globe, Dan Shaughnessy weighs in on what the trouble could be. (Could it be the hair?)

The Sox are now two-and-a-half games behind New York. Boston will be in K.C. this weekend while the Rangers visit the Bronx. Ethan Coen’s favorite pitcher, the Gambler Kenny Rogers (who is having a fine season) will face Kevin Brown tonight.

Building a Better Bomb Squad

David Pinto checks in on the Yankees and thinks they could be a regular menace to rest of the league this summer:

If they can score like this with their offense not hitting on all cyliners, what are they going to be like when everything is in place? What if Mussina regains his form? It’s doubtful that even the return of Nomar and Nixon will be enough to overcome this juggernaught.

Derek Jeter laid down a sac bunt in the first inning against the O’s today. The Bombers scored one run (on an RBI single by Alex Rodriguez); Javey Lopez hit a solo shot in the second. That’s all I caught during my lunch hour. Feel free to chime in with thoughts or comments on the game for those of you lucky enough to be at home watching.

Do You Believe?

Yanks 6, Orioles 5

The facts are the following: Jose Contreras didn’t make it out of the first inning last night. He threw 44 pitches, walked three, allowed three hits and a wild pitch. Derek Jeter made an error on the first play of the game (and another with two outs in the top of the ninth) and Enrique Wilson added a throwing error later in the frame. The Yankee offense was held to three hits all night. So? The Yankees managed to win the game before 50,000 fans anyhow, which according to Joel Sherman says more about the state of the Orioles than it does about the Yankees.

Still, after falling behind 5-0 in the first, what a nice win for the Yanks (and a discouraging loss for the Birds). Watching the Yanks toy with teams like Tampa Bay and Baltimore may be like watching paint dry for some, but hey, these are the games they are expected to win. If they were blowing them, we’d be hearing plenty about how this team just can’t get it done. For some reason, they always seem to play tedious, drawn-out affairs against Baltimore. The first four innings last night were no expection.

Gary Sheffield connected for a three-run homer in the bottom of the first and Derek Jeter added a solo shot in the fifth. Taynon Sturtze and Brett Prinz–?!!?!–saved the Yankees bacon, while Flash Gordon and Mariano Rivera closed the door in the eighth and ninth.

The Orioles have not defeated the Yanks yet this season, and Lee Maz must be wondering what he’s got to do to get a “w” against the Bombers. It doesn’t get easier today as the Yanks send Javey Vazquez to the hill in an afternoon game.

The Yanks picked up a game on the Red Sox who were ripped by the Angels last night. Senior Superfreak Vlad Guerrero had four hits (including two dingers) and nine RBI. Pedro Martinez (4.40 ERA) was rocked though he didn’t get tagged with the loss. One piece of good news for the Sox is that Nomar Garciaparra is expected to return shortly. Panic in the Nation? It’ll take more than this to rattle Ed Cossette, bro.


Kenny Lofton told the local media that one of the reasons he has experienced hamstring problems this year is due to a lack of regular playing time. According to the New York Times:

“Ever since the minor leagues, I’ve been playing pretty much every day,” Lofton said. “So when your body gets adjusted to playing every day, your body gets used to that. When your body has to make a change, it reacts differently. My body is used to playing every day, or five days a week.

“Now, it’s not the same way. With me, the way I fire out of the box and go, I’m used to doing that on an everyday basis, not once every four days or whenever I’m in the lineup.”

…”They know I want to be out there every single day,” Lofton said. “I don’t want to be watching. I want to be a part of all this. I can’t be the main focus, but I want it to be, ‘When Kenny gets his thing going, we’re going.’ That’s what I’ve been used to.”

Sooner or later, you’ve got to think that Lofton will be traded with the Yanks eating a good portion of his contract. According to Newsday, the Yanks are a longshot to land Carlos Beltran. Meanwhile, Hideki Matsui’s left shoulder was heavily iced last night. No word yet as to what the problem is.

Too Close For Comfort

Bombers 8, Birds 7

Going into the ninth inning with a five-run lead and Tom Gordon on the hill, there was plenty of reason for Yankee fans to feel confident last night. After all, Paul Quantrill had his best outing in weeks and the Yankee offense carried Mike Mussina again. But Gordon only recorded one out, while allowing two hits and a walk. Mariano Rivera was brought in and retired Melvin Mora on one pitch for the second out. But even before Mo came in I had a feeling that the Yankees were going to blow the game. Migeul Tejada singled scoring two runs and then Rivera walked Raffie Palmeiro to load the bases again. He fell behind Javey Lopez, who stroked a single to left scoring two more runs. A cushy 8-3 was now down to 8-7. But Rivera got B.J. Surhoff to fly out to left to end the game and disaster was averted. (Man, am I glad when my gut-feeling is wrong.) After the game, Rivera told the New York Times:

“I just couldnít find the plate,” Rivera said. “I was missing a lot. I was falling behind, and the hitters have the advantage. You fall behind hitters and youíve got to throw strikes. I wasnít worried; I was just upset. You canít come into the game and do that.”

After a 45 minute rain delay, Mike Mussina labored through the first inning, allowing two runs and throwing 36 pitches. However, he settled down nicely after that, though he was still far from his A game:

“That first inning was tough, and I got fortunate. Matos hit the ball right on the nose, but right to (Wilson) to get out of it,” Mussina said. “From that point on, I got a little better, made some better pitches, and changed speeds a little better. . . . And we found a way to get some runs and get the lead.” (NYDaily News)

Sidney Ponson continues to show that he’s more chump than champ, unable to hold a lead. (He’s the east coast’s answer to Kelvim Escobar.) Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada hit homers. But Derek Jeter was the offensive star of the night for the Yanks, with four hits, including two solo dingers. Alex Rodriguez had a walk and a single and has now reached base safely in 39 consecutive games (a career high).

As Jason Giambi looks to rejoin the Yanks over the weekend, Kenny Lofton was placed on the DL due to a gimpy left hamstring.

Meanwhile, the Angels held on to beat the Red Sox last night in Anahiem. The Yanks are now a game ahead of Boston in the AL East.

So far, so good

Progress Report

Memorial Day is the first pit-stop of the baseball season, where we can check in and have some sense of storylines that will illuminate the season. The Yankees go into June tied with the Red Sox for first place. The Devil Rays beat the Yanks 7-6 on Sunday afternoon. The Yanks were down 6-0 going into the eighth. The Bombers end their longest road trip of the year, 8-4. The Sox and Yanks are tied for the best record in the game. I think that the best is yet to come for the Yankees, and of course the Red Sox will improve when Trot Nixon and Nomar return. Either team could also make a significant trade this summer too. The Yanks started off slowly, but have played very well since bottoming out against the Red Sox in Fenway Park. The greatest concern with the Yanks is keeping the team healthy, but that’s the greatest concern with every team, isn’t it? If they stay healthy, they will be rough on the opposition.

I’ve enjoyed watching the team a lot. I prefer them to the 2002 or 2003 editions. I loved Soriano and Nick Johnson, but I like Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield better. I like Kevin Brown better than Roger Clemens and I love Javier Vazquez. Not only that, but I like seeing Willie Randolph next to Joe Torre instead of Popeye Zimmer. And it’s great to see Roy White, uncle Luis, and Don Mattingly on the coaching staff too.

Here are some my loose impressions of the team so far…

Behind the Plate:

We are seeing Jorge Posada (.295/.440/.591) at his best. Posada hit for more power in April but reached base more often in May and for the second straight season, has been the most consistent bat in Joe Torreís line up. Itís not likely that Posada will play at a higher level than heís been playing right now. If he does, itís nothing but gravy for Yankee fans. When Posada called out his teammates after the Angels ambushed the Bombers in the 2002 playoffs, I thought Posada was really putting the pressure on himself to be like one of the old Yankees. To that point, Posada was known more for having the red ass than for being a team leader like Mike Stanton or Cone. But he put his money where his mouth was last year and it turns out he is one of those old time Yankees. As Jay Jaffe observed in his profile on Posada earlier this season, the Yankee catcher was wholly deserving of MVP consideration last year. So far this season, heís picked up right where he left off. I donít know how much longer Posada will play at this level, but enjoy it while it lasts: this is his prime.

First Base:

Iíve long been one of Jason Giambiís biggest supporters. I desperately wanted George to sign him after they lost the World Serious against Arizona, and was grateful when they did. Giambi got what he wanted, so everything should be peachy, right? Giambiís had two good seasons, in spite of being hurt last year. Heís off to a good start this year (.270/.406/.540), but heís not so much fun to watch.

April: (.222/.395/.397)
May: (.310/.385/.638)

Walk to whiff: 24/27

His body language is rigid and tense. You see him on the bench and he looks coiled, uptight. The only time he appears relaxed is when he’s talking with Mattingly, but I donít get a sense of comfort with his teammates. This is especially disappointing because Giambi was such a team leader with the Aís. I donít know what you can chalk it up to. Playing in New York? I canít call it. But heís not the same player. He doesnít look like heís enjoying himself much. Still, I want to like him, and I miss watching him hit.

Tony Clark (.260/.376/.494 in 77 at bats) is my girlfriend Emilyís favorite player this year. (splits) She is drawn to slow, patient guys. When we first stared watching games together in 2002, Giambi was her boy. Then came Posada

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