"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Here Today…

Em and I are house-sitting in Manhattan this weekend, so I’ve been unable to post until now. It’s Sunday around noon and it is humid and raining in New York. Kevin Brown returned to the starting rotation on Friday night and pitched very well. Yesterday, Javier Vazquez continued to struggle, but the bullpen was solid on both Friday and Saturday as the Yankees beat the Orioles 2-1, and 6-4 repsectively. Alex Rodriguez had two fine games though the rest of the offense has been uneven. The Red Sox won on Friday but lost yesterday; they now trail New York by eight-and-a-half games in the AL East.

But the games were overshadowed by the trading deadline. As expected Randy Johnson remained in Arizona. He did not get traded to the Yankees. Baseball fans everywhere can rejoice: the big, bad Bombers failed to get their man. However, the Yankees made a deal just under the wire, moving Jose Contreras and cash to the White Sox for Esteban Loaiza. They are also close to signing John Olerud to platoon with Tony Clark at first base. Jason Giambi was diagnosed with a benign tumor on Friday and was placed on the 15-day dl. The location of the tumor was not made public.

The Red Sox made a sweeping move, trading Nomar Garciaparra and ending the day with Orlando Cabrera, Doug Mientkiewicz and Dave Roberts.

Em and I were down in Chinatown with some friends on Saturday afternoon, so we missed the game. I needed to clear my head from the steady clock-watching I’d been doing for the past two weeks anyhow. Shortly after five o’clock we got on a subway and saw several guys decked out in Yankee attire. I figured they had just returned from the game.

“Did we win?” I asked one kid.

“Yeah, 6-4.”

“Who got the runs?”

“A Rod and Sheffield homered. Jeter hit a triple.”

A kid wearing a Red Sox jersey chimed in, “It was a bloop triple.”

“We didn’t get Johnson did we?”

“No, they traded Contreras for Loaiza.”

What? I repeated the names back to him and to nobody in particular a few times just so the news would sink in. An older woman sitting across the car sighed, “Good. The guy turned into mush every time a runner got on base.” I looked down in front of me and a young Latina girl, all of four, stood next to her father. She was wearing a purple dress and was caught up in the energy in the car. She must have been curious as to what everyone was talking about. I winked at her and she covered her eyes and turned her head into her father’s lap. But in a moment or two, after I continued talking baseball, she and I looked at each other and shared a big smile.

The Yankee fans then told me that Nomar had been traded to the Cubs. A couple of kids in Red Sox jerseys hadn’t heard the news yet. Wow. I felt like consoling them. I’m sad about Nomar leaving Boston. I have always liked the idea of him playing his entire career with the Red Sox. But that clearly wasn’t going to happen. And what better place for him than Chicago with the Cubs? That is nice. (Mr. Maddux is going for win number 300 today; Mazel!) I’ve got to think that Boston did well here. Caberera can hit and he’s a good fielder, and Mientkiewicz is an excellent glove too. Hey, at least they didn’t get Matt Clement, right?

Dan Shaughnessy thinks it was high time for Nomar to go:

This is a strange story. No one ever played harder, or gave more, to the Boston Red Sox and the citizens of Red Sox Nation than Nomar Garciaparra. He was probably the most popular Sox player since Ted Williams, and rightfully so; no player was more worthy of your applause. But at the same time, no player polluted the clubhouse more than Nomar, and in the end, he was the ultimate non-team guy.

He had to go. He was more miserable than any athlete I have ever seen.

… He can say whatever he wants in front of the camera and he can flash that insincere smile, but make no mistake: He hates Boston and he hates the Red Sox and you should be glad that he’s gone. If you are a Red Sox fan, he is not your friend.

The Yankee deal feels like somewhat of a warsh. They rid themselves of an expensive headache in Contreras. It’s funny, but as poor as he’s been, I never hated the guy. There was something gentle about him that I found sympathetic. Loaiza had a career year last year, but he has returned to earth this season. It’s hard to imagine he will be that much of an improvement over Contreras. But his contract is up at the end of the season, and I’m sure that is one of the reasons he was attractive to New York.

I love the idea of Olerud signing simply because he has long been one of my favorite players. Between the two of them, Olerud and Tony Clark are very tall and very slow. But they are both plus fielders and Olerud still has plate discipline even if he can’t hit for power any longer. I love that Olerud and Bernie are on the same team; they’ve always reminded me of each other.

I’m relieved that the deadline has come and gone. No more pie-in-the-sky fantasies of Randy Johnson. Oh well. Can’t blame a guy for dreaming big. Now, Yankee fans can get back to the business of wringing our collective hands together worrying about pitching, pitching, pitching. (Poor little Yankee Nation.) At least things will continue to be interesting for the next couple of months. I, for one, plan to thoroughly enjoy the rest of the season, no matter what shakes down.

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