"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: September 2004

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High and Low

The Good Book

The latest edition of Steven Goldman’s Pinstriped Bible is out this afternoon. Needless to say, it is required reading for any serious Yankee fan.

Do You Remember?

Jim Gerard, a frequent reader of Bronx Banter is writing a book about the Yankees. He’s dedicating one chapter to Yankee lowlights–Dark Days for Yankee fans. If you’ve got any cherce memories, Jim would appreciate an e-mail. (The first thing that comes to mind was when Bobby Meacham hit a homer and then ran past the runner ahead of him on base and was called out…I can’t recall the year, but at some pernt during the mid eighties.) In particular, Jim is looking for Yankee fans to write in and discuss what they feel were the worst, most painful losses in franchise history, and why. For me the most painful loss was the 1981 World Series simply because the Yankees played so well in Game One and Game Two, and so thoroughly lousy in Games Three, Four and Five out in Los Angeles. Also, if anybody has any remembrances of what it was like to be a Yankee fan during the dark CBS days of the mid-60s through the early 70s, they can pass those along, too. You can reach Jim at: jgerard@nyc.rr.com. Thanks.

The Book is The Thing

For those of you who are interested, Buster Olney and Alan Schwarz will be at the Yogi Berra Museum in the near future to talk about their new books. On Saturday, September 18th between 1-2 p.m., Buster will be there to discuss “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty.” Alan Schwarz will be talking about “The Numbers Game” on Saturday, October 16th between 1-2 p.m.

Chivalry Ain’t Dead

Last night I was riding the 7th avenue IRT uptown. A few stops before I was going to get off a woman came on the train and stood in front of me. Without thinking, I asked her if she would like to sit and gave up my seat for her. The woman sitting next to her looked at me incredulously. “Are you from New York?” she asked. “Born and raised,” I said. “Wow.” People always seem suprised to discover that there are nice people in the world. I’m not saying I’m a saint. I don’t always give up my seat for a woman, or an older person, but I do it more often than not. According to an article in the Times today, I’m not alone.

Funny thing is when I got back to the Bronx later in the evening, I jumped on the bus to get home. As I approached the back, which was crowded, I saw a heavy-set bald dude sitting in a seat, with his gym bag in the seat next to him. This kind of casual arrogance annoys me to no end. I said excuse me to him and motioned that I wanted to sit. He made a comment under his breath, but I chose ignore it. He was sitting in a bulldog position, still trying to take up both seats, just looking for a fight. I wasn’t interested, but when I walked off the bus, I looked back and him, smiled and shook my head. As I walked away I caught his eye again and smiled.

So early this morning I’m walking to the subway and I’ve got my earphones on when who should slide next to me but Boris, the killer bald dude. It took me a second to register who he was, and he waited for it to dawn on me. Satisfied that I did remember him, he goes, “What were you smiling at last night?” Now, I’m half-asleep, and not prepared for a confrontation. So I say, “I was smiling because I thought you made a remark.” He goes, “I did. I said there were other seats you could have sat in.” “Yo man, the bus was crowded, what do you want from me? It was a misunderstanding.” And with that he let it drop. I think he was happy enough to sneak up on me and catch me off-guard. Dude was a total bully. Big, thick, tough guy.

And me being a nice guy, I spent the rest of the morning upset at myself for not being present enough to tell the guy off. Not to get in a fight, but to simply say, “It’s a public bus.” And just walk away. To stand up for myself instead of blurting out that it was a misunderstanding. I hope to be more prepared for the next time. Man, sometimes I’m just too damn sensitive. Even for a New Yorker. Ahh, what are you gunna do?

The Trouble With Javey

I checked in with the baseball journalist Pat Jordan yesterday. Pat lives in Florida with his wife and their dogs. I wondered how theyíve been holding up under all the brutal weather. Pat replied, “Susie and I and the dogs drank a our way through Frances and are going to drink our way through Ivan. The shutters have been up for two weeks now and it’s like living in a cage. Still, a small price to pay for Paradise.” Jordan is a huge fan of Miami football and is still riding high since the Caines beat Florida State last weekend. I can hardly relate since Iím not a college football guy. Instead, I pressed him for his take on whatís wrong with Javier Vazquez. As usual, Pat, a former pitching prospect for Braves, pulled no punches.

Pat Jordan: Vazquez is throwing across his body, like many left-handers do. He’s following through towards third base and not first base. When a righty follows through, his left leg and left shoulder should be pulling toward a left-handed batter, which generates power with his right arm. When a righty follows through towards a right-handed batter, all his power is spent and he’s just flinging the ball with his arm.

BB: Three starts ago Jim Kaat spoke about balance on the broadcast. He said one simple exercise for a pitcher is for him to look at himself in the mirror and balance himself on his back leg for as long as possible. YES then showed a replay of Vazquez who looked like he was leaning about a foot forward off the mound. Are these kind of mechanical problems a result of anything mental? For instance, is Vazquez trying too hard and therefore rushing himself?

Jordan: Kaat is absolutely right. If a pitcher has proper balance he can stand in that one-legged Flamingo pose all day. Vazquez, can’t because his body is already leaning toward third base or a right handed batter, and he’s rushing to throw the ball before he falls to his right. It took me months when I was coming back to pitch at 56 to be able to stand on one leg without wobbling. Your weight has to be perpendicular, going down from head to toe. If your weight is off, like Vazquezís is, leaning to his right, you can’t sustain your motion and you rush your pitch. These problems are not mental, simple to correct. I’ve done it with l4 year old kids. It’s not a case of trying to hard it’s just bad mechanics obvious to anyone except the Yankee brain trust.

BB: Also, I’ve noticed that Vazquez just can’t put guys away. It seems that he gets hurt–especially with the long ball–when he’s ahead on the count, 0-2, 1-2. Is that a case of him trying to make a perfect pitch or what?

Jordan: The reason Vazquez gets hurt 0-2 is cause he can’t generate best stuff by pulling his upper body to his left, where his shoulder, not arm, generates speed. It’s the shoulder where the power comes from. No one throws hard who uses only the arm. Go look at old photos of Koufax in his motion. As a let, his right shoulder is pulled far to his right and almost touching the ground, which, in turn, elevates his left arm and gives it speed. But what the fuck do I know? I’m only a half-ass writer.

BB: How much influence does Mel Stottlemyre have on his pitching staff? As much of a Yankee icon as Stottlemyre is, heís been criticized for not getting the most out of his pitchers.

Jordan: There, my diagnosis. I could do a better job than Stottlemeyre. If he’s such a great pitching coach why do the Yankees send their troubled pitchers to Tampa to work with Billy Connors? The only reason Bill Connors is not the Yanks pitching coach is because he’s too fat, not the proper Yankee image. Iíve forgotten more about pitching that Stottlemeyre will ever know. I was the one who wanted to raise Weaver’s arm motion about 30 degrees so his fastball would sink more to lefties. The Dodgers did it and he’s having a good year. Why didn’t the Yankees do it? Cause they’re lazy. They buy guys and let them play. The have no concept of teaching or refining talent. They’re stagnating. Torre could let the Paul OíNeill guys just play because they were smart and corrected their flaws themselves. These guys are clueless, and need help. But again, what the fuck do I know?

Sobb Story

“I’m a positive person, but after a while it was hard to be positive. We were beating ourselves, basically.” Joe Torre (N.Y. Daily News)

The Yankees were smoked by the Royals in Kansas City last night by the tune of 17-8. The offense hit the ball hard but could not capitalize early on. Then the Royals–a bunch of hackers who were swinging from their heels starting in the first inning–scored ten runs in the fifth against Brad Halsey, Taynon Sturtze (wild pitch, balk, walk, dinger) and Brett Prinz. If that wasn’t bad enough, Paul Quantrill and Felix Heredia–pitchers the Yankees will actually need come October–were rocked two innings later for five runs. Who were those imposters wearing Yankee uniforms last night?

This one felt worse than the 22-0 loss to the Indians. The Yankees weren’t just flat, they were pathetic. I’m sure I’m overreacting, but it was a disconcerting game to watch. And for some reason I sat through the whole thing, which makes me either incredibly loyal, amazingly stupid, or positively masochistic. The Yankees are now three games up on the Red Sox–who were idle–but just two ahead in the loss column.

Yankees 9, Orioles 7

“Long, weird,” Derek Jeter said, after 3 hours 55 minutes of madness at Camden Yards. “I walked three times. That should explain it right there, right?” (N.Y. Times)

While the Yankees and Orioles have specialized in drawn-out, turgid games against each other over the past decade, yesterday was a whopper. It was a challenge to watch for sure. According to Tyler Kepner in the New York Times:

Baltimore used 10 pitchers, setting a major league record for a nine-inning game. The Yankees drew 14 walks, their highest total since 1980. They left 17 runners on base, something they had not done in a decade. Four times, they left the bases loaded.

What a relief it was when the Bombers managed to win the game. Gary Sheffield broke a 7-7 tie with a solo dinger in the ninth inning, and Hideki Matsui followed with a homer of his own. Sheffield continues to be the centerpiece of the Yankee offense. Even his outs are exciting; his sacrifice liner to left in the seventh was absolutely scorched. Alex Rodriguez had a good game too, and is taking the ball to right field more often. A good sign.

The Yankees gained a game on Boston who were shut-out in Seattle yesterday, 2-0. New York’s lead stands at three-and-a-half games (three in the loss column). Boston is off tonight while the Yankees are in Kansas City. As far as I can tell, the Yankees will be throwing El Duque, Jon Lieber and…Brad Halsey? against Boston next weekend in New York. That should be enough to get Red Sox Nation’s mouth watering.

Both Kevin Kernan and John Harper warn that if the Yankees continue to play as poorly as they did yesterday, they won’t last long in October. Hey, no foolin fellas. I’m not counting the Yankees out by any stretch–who knows what will happen?–but I think it’s been obvious for a while now that this team could be headed for an early exit this year. Let me ask you though what’s worse: If this Yankee team loses in the first round, or if a team like the Cardinals get bounced early? At least with the Yankees, nobody will be shocked if this isn’t their year. On the other hand, if the Yankees do win a round, or make it to the World Serious, it’ll be a welcome development. Imagine, the team with the best record in the league, as an underdog. Ummm, works for me.

One and One

The Yanks lost a slug-fest on Friday night (and a game in the standings as Boston creamed Seattle), but recovered behind El Duque yesterday afternoon to beat the Orioles, 5-2. The Sox whipped the Mariners again; New York’s lead remains two-and-a-half games. Steve Bonner is loving the September tension. So, for that matter is Derek Jeter. In a Newsday article which detailed two team-meetings the Yankees recently held, the Yankee captain said:

“This is a fun time,” said Jeter… “These are games we enjoy playing. We’re in a race now for the division and I definitely enjoy it. I think you’ve got some guys who enjoy it, too.”

This is supposed to be fun? Right. I keep forgetting. Thanks for the reality check, Jetes. Javier Vazquez got rocked for the second time in his past three outings on Friday night, but to be honest, he’s been a generally lousy pitcher since the all-star break. I wish I understood more about the mechanics of pitching to explain what is going wrong.

Vazquez told the New York Times:

“I don’t ever remember going through a stretch this bad since ’98,” Vazquez said, referring to his rookie season. “Early in the season in ’99, maybe. But I don’t remember the last time I’ve been this bad and inconsistent.”

Mel Stottlemyre added:

“I’ve been where he’s at, and it’s no fun,” Stottlemyre said. “He sort of feels like he wants to get away from everyone, and I understand that. At the same time, I wanted him to know how Joe and I feel about him. Those 13 games he’s won for us have not been an accident. He has a lot of talent. It’s not a question of high hopes for him. He’s one of our guys.”

…”The only logical explanation is when you try to do too much, it ends up being less,” Stottlemyre said. “I think, instead of throwing his pitches with confidence and getting ahead and letting them hit it if they can, he was trying to throw too hard, getting out of whack and he couldn’t regain his control.

“I’ve never seen him like that, never experienced anything like that in his workouts where he lost command.”

Here are some interesting observations from that were left in the “comments” section of this blog:

“How come the Sporting News says his arm slot is all messed up, yet nothing is being done about it? If even they can tell something is wrong mechanically…” Jeremy M

“Jeremy, the problem goes beyond his arm slot. His mechanics are awful…does he ever “repeat” his wind-up? He lands in a completely different spot every pitch. And we gave this guy $10 million a year? And it’s obvious that he can’t locate his pitches on the corners the way Stottlemyre wants. Problem is he’s more of a change of speed guy than a side-to-side guy. But Stottlemyre doesn’t realize that side-to-side means very little to batters who are on average 3 to 4 inches taller with longer reaches than the batters of even 15 years ago (when he was a coach with the Mets).” Johnny C

“I hate to say it because the man is a class act, but it’s time for Mel to go. He is simply not an effective pitching coach, and I don’t mean this in the way that hitting coaches have been run out of town the last few years, where they seemed to have taken the blame for deeper problems. If Vazquez is as good as everyone says he is, then what is Mel doing to help him? Maybe he’s trying to get him to not strike out as many guys, as he did with Doc Gooden back in the 80s. That was a brilliant strategy as well.” Jeremy M

What do you guys think? Anyone have anything else to offer about why Vazquez has struggled so over the past few months? In addition, do you think that Stottlemyre is costing the team victories with the way he handles the pitching staff?

One pitcher he isn’t hurting is Orlando Hernandez. El Duque allowed one run over seven innings yesterday, improving his record to 8-0 (the Yankees are 11-1 in games he’s started). He was in one tight spot all day. With two out in the third, the Orioles loaded the bases for Miguel Tejada. Duque fell behind Miggy 2-1, but then got him to foul off an inside fastball, and then wave at an off-speed pitch to end the inning.

The Yankee offense was impressive on Friday night and they played well enough to beat Sidney Ponson yesterday. The game ended with a minor incident between the Orioles third base coach, Tom Treblehorn and Yankee catcher Jorge Posada. Evidentally, Posada thought that Treblehorn was trying to steal signs.

Tough Day

Like many New Yorkers

Double Yer Pleasure

The Yanks and D-Rays finally got their double-header in and the Bombers spanked them in both games (9-1, 10-5). The Yanks have now won five straight. The first game was memorable because the stadium was virtually empty. I think there were more people there on Monday afternoon when the game was delayed. I truly wish I could have been there. This might sound retarded, but I think I’d almost rather have gone to yesterday’s game than a sell-out vs. the Sox. Talk about a unique experience. Sit anywhere you want. Move around at your leisure. And of course getting to watch Mike Mussina pitch his best game in a long time is nothing to sneeze at either.

I missed the second game entirely. I went down to “Boytown,” (Chelsea) to see my friend Shannon’s new show of experimental films. There is a strip of galleries on 20th street between 10th and 11th avenues, and apparently last night was a grand fall opening of sorts. People were in the street, milling in-and-out of the different spots. I haven’t been around the pretty people or the art scene in a minute. Can’t say that I’ve missed either. Regardless, the show was great, the cheese was stinky, and the people were generally full of shit. You can imagine how happy I was when I got back to the Bronx and learned about the second game. Not only that but the Red Sox lost in Seattle and the Yankee lead stands at three-and-a-half games.

Creepin

It’s starting to feel like “Groundhog’s Day” for the Bombers and Devil Rays, who plan to play two today after being warshed out on Wednesday. (Guess what? The Bombers and MLB are still riffin’.) Mike Mussina and Brad Halsey are scheduled to start today. The first game will kick off shortly after 3 p.m. It is supposed to rain more this afternoon…my guess is that they’ll get at least one of the games in.

Meanwhile, the Yankee lead is down to two games after the Sox completed a three-game sweep of the A’s in Oakland last night. Boston was 8-1 against the Angels, Rangers and A’s. They are just mopping the floor with the best the league has to offer: yeah, you get props over here.

Best Web Site Ever

I’m a big subway nerd. I love riding them, and reading about them, learning the history, the whole bit. The Transit Museum in Brooklyn is a must for any train lover but I came across this website yesterday and it’s got me buggin out. Here is a shot of the 240th street yard that is within walking distance from where I live; and another of the 207th street yard just a short train ride away. You can read about the history of each train line–the IRT, BMT, and the IND. There are shots of abandoned subway stations, like the 91rst street station on the 7th avenue line, which is one of the great underground bomb pits in town. Best of all, there is an entire gallery of subway maps. I’ve been wishing that the MTA would put out a coffee table book of subway maps for years, but for now, this will do. What, you want the 1967 joint? What about 1974, or 78? Want to see what tokens looked like years ago? Yo, let me chill, I’m spazin’ out. But if you dig the NYC subway system, you need to peruse this terrific site.

Here’s Mud in Yer Eye (Why Can’t We Be Friends?)

You Gots To Chill

In the latest edition of “Rivals in Exile,” both Ben Jacobs and Larry Mahnken get testy with each other while making some astute observations about the nature of the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry. I’ve noticed this season that the “comments” section here at Bronx Banter really gets fired up whenever the Yanks and Sox are playing–sometimes even before or after they play. Such was the case on Monday. I get a lot out of reading the comments because it’s an opportunity to interact directly with readers as well as a chance to learn more about baseball. I’m pleased that there is a group of regular Red Sox fans who frequent the site; I love getting both sides of the rivalry. My only complaint is when the conversation lowers itself to trash-talking and base insults. Believe me, I know how heated things get when it comes to this rivalry. That’s part of what makes it so intense and passionate. But I’d like to ask those of you who like to add your two-cents–Yankee and Sox fans alike–to make a concerted effort to keep the conversation honest, intelligent, as well as humorous and effusive. If you feel the need to sound-off like a clown, please do it somewhere else. It’s boring, man. Plus, it kills the spirit of the dialogue, which is shame, because reading the comments is something I look forward to each day.

OK, end of lecture. I’d appreciate it if we can respectful of each other, especially if we disagree. Thanks.

Yanks 11, Rays 2

Yo, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to post anything this morning, but it took me more than three hours to get to work. It’s raining in New York and the subways are all screwy; I ended up walking the last 50 blocks to work. Don’t ask. Anyhow, the Yanks beat the snot out of Tampa last night, and the Red Sox handled Oakland. The song remains the same. Gary Sheffield continues to hit the ball as if it did something wrong to his family; Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Godziller Matsui all had big nights. Jon Lieber pitched a fine game. The Yankees are still upset about how Monday’s double-header was handled by MLB. The double-header will be played today, weather permitting. Esteban Loaiza and Brad Halsey will go for New York.

Without…Charge

I was invited to got to yesterday’s game by my friend Jared. His ex-girlfriend had an extra ticket and did I want to come along? I’ve never been able to figure out how people can remain friends after they’ve been lovers; I’ve tried it, and failed miserably. I used to think it was a mature-sounding thing to do. But for me, it was simply an exercise in masochism and sexual frustration. That’s just me, of course. To each his or her own. Obviously, whatever discomfort Jared and Abbey experience together isn’t enough to keep them apart.

The three of us met up at Jared’s place, which is on 174th street and the Grand Concourse. This is the heart of the Boogie Down Bronx, and the view from Jared’s sixth floor balcony may be the most dizzingly active sight I’ve ever seen from a New York apartment. The broad-lanes of the dilapidated Concourse sit just to the left, underneath which runs the Cross Bronx Expressway. Then over the Concourse, in the not so far distance, you can see the elevated 4 train. Standing on the balcony, I felt almost quesy, unsure of my footing. There was so much to look at, and even more to hear.

We ate lunch and made our way to the stadium, arriving shortly after 2:00 p.m. Of course, we soon learned that the Devil Rays were still stuck in Florida. Bummer. It was a gorgeous day, and there was a decent crowd of fans milling about, mostly suburbanites dressed in shorts and Yankee jerseys. We were about to bag the whole thing, but Jared convinced Abbey–who had gotten the tickets through her job–that we should at least go inside and check the ball park out.

We enetered the stadium on the field level out in right, and proceeded to walk toward home plate. This was cool as we past entire sections that I’ve never sat even remotely close to. We couldn’t stop too long though before stadium security humorlessly barked at us to keep moving. Passing one disgruntled guard dressed in a yellow shit, he announced to nobody in particular, “Welcome to Shea Stadium: enjoy the delay.” We made several stops along the way, plopping down in empty seats, taking in the sights and sounds; looking up and around at the vast stadium and thoroughly enjoying ourselves in that great New York City pastime: people watching.

Eventually, we settled ourselves in about 30 rows behind home plate, under the netting. It felt very much like being in a cocoon. A boy and his father sat a few rows in front of us. The kid couldn’t have been older than four. He was wearing a Yankee cap and jersey and he was swinging a miniature bat. His father took his picture; the boy proudly posed with his bat. He caught my eye and continued to preen, swinging and showing-off for his father. But though he continued to engage his father, the old man was no longer interested. The boy’s big, earnest eyes kept darting over to us. His dad ignored him, deep in thought.

Just after 3:00, the voice of Yankee Stadium, Bob Shepard, made the announcement that there would be no double-header. The crowd–maybe 5,000 people?–groaned, “Aawwwww.” Then Shepard added that, “Hot dogs and Coke will be available…”–great dramatic pause–”without…charge.” “Yeah!” That got the crowd buzzing. Literally. You’ve never heard such a thing. The three of us fell out laughing. Fast Food Nation, this is your life! Nothing like free food to shake people out of their seats.

Soon after, Jared, Abbey and I made our way around to left field–the Sheffield seats–and then up to one of the hot dog stands. Abbey wanted her free dog and Coke. The lines were already long and they weren’t moving. Apparently, nobody had given the good people working the consessions the heads up about free dogs, so everyone had to wait as a new batch warmed on the grill. A father in a Mickey Mantle jersey was ahead of us in line, carrying on a conversation with some very peeved guys just behind us. The dudes were upset about having to wait around all day for a game to be played. The father’s kid looks up at his old man and says, “So, we’ll just come back tonight, right dad?”

“No, we’re not coming back tonight.” The father looked up and winked at the peeved fan with great satisfaction, as if they were both members of a secret club. “It’s a school night.” Yup, the summer is finally over. Dude could barely conceal his delight.

Well, we stood on line for about ten minutes before some of those in line started getting restless. “Hey, I thought this was supposed to be free. How long we gotta wait?” Before you know it, a full-scale Jerry Springer-style shouting match broke out on the other side of the room between two heavy-set customers and about 18 black women working the consessions. The customers looked to be a married couple from the suburbs–shorts, Yankee jerseys. We couldn’t pick up what was being said but things were heated. One of the workers through a batch of napkins at the customers. The women sounded like a wolf had just invaded a hen house. They were making some racket. Abbey decided that she didn’t really want a hot dog after all. Leave it to New Yorkers to start a fight over free food. Beautious.

I ended up taking Jared and Abbey up to my neighborhood and got them a good pastrami sammich at a local deli. We didn’t go back to the stadium. The only thing I regret is that we didn’t stick around to watch batting practice. That would have been a treat. But I didn’t want to schlepp back down to the stadium in the evening. After all, it is a school night.

Yankees 7, Devil Rays 4

Worth the Wait

I was at the stadium yesterday but left long before the first pitch was thrown. (I hope to have a write-up on the pre-game festivities later today.) There was no double-header, which had the Yankee brass crying foul. (Another fine job by Bud and company.) There was a game however, which started just after 7:00 p.m. Alex Rodriguez batted in the two-hole and had two doubles, one with the bases-loaded. Rodriguez collected three RBI; it was his first hit with the bases-juiced in eleven tries this season. The ace of the 2004 staff, El Duque, pitched another solid game. Both he and Mel Stottlemyre were run from the game for arguing balls and strikes after the seventh inning. Paul Quantrill pitched the final two innings, and allowed a two-run home run. The Bombers remain two-and-a-half ahead of Boston who beat the A’s out on the coast last night.

Yankees 4, Orioles 3

Javey Vazquez’s stuff looked much improved in the first inning yesterday. The fastball was moving, the breaking ball had some bite. But he was timid when pitching to the Orioles better hitters. With two-men on and two-out, Raffie P. came to bat. I said, “Home run,” and Raffie complied. Then I yelled. Loudly. Though Vazquez put the Yankees in a 3-0 hole, he recovered and pitched well through seven innings, not allowing another run to score. Meanwhile, the Yankees hit Bruce Chen hard in the first inning but only had one run to show for it. They ultimately tied the game at three but couldn’t get much of anything cooking offensively. (That’s wrong. Derek Jeter, batting lead off, had a very nice game.) Alex Rodriguez is still pressing, waving at pitches out of the strike zone. He whiffed twice and heard the boo boids; he was also robbed of a double by Jay Gibbons in right.

The Yankees ended up winning the game by the skin of their teeth when Jorge Posada walked on a full-count with the bases-loaded in the bottom of the ninth. The game was a nail-biter for Yankee fans. Who would have thought three weeks ago that the Bombers would be playing a must-win game against the Orioles at this stage of the game? They had some good fortune; Vazquez bare-handed a sure-fire single and turned it into a double play, with some help from poor Baltimore base-running, and perhaps a missed call at second base; Mariano Rivera had runners on first and third with nobody out in the top of the ninth and didn’t allow a run. (And Lee Maz made some head-scratching moves late in the game to boot.) All of which helped the Yankees stay two-and-a-half up on the Sox who survived a late rally by Texas yesterday and won the weekend series, two games to one.

I am Sorry

Kevin Brown was at the Stadium yesterday after he had surgery on his left hand. He apologized to his teammates. That’s a start. According to the Daily News:

“It’s my fault, there’s no ifs, ands or buts about it,” Brown said. “I don’t expect anybody else to understand. … The blame is mine.”

…”Whatever actions they take, I’ll handle and I’ll take,” Brown said. “I understand the team’s position.”

… “He didn’t have to do what he did,” Tom Gordon said. “That was a class act. We all make mistakes and he stood up and handled it. We’ve all been in situations where we’ve wanted to break things because we were frustrated. I just hope we can get him back.”

The real shame of it is that Brown pitched well on Friday. As a matter of fact, the Yankee starting pitching has been fine over the past five games.

We Don’t Want to Work

This is my favorite weekend of the year to be in New York City. Why? Because the town is absolutely dead. I remember working with a girl who was originally from Miami a few years ago, and she’d get nuts when the city was like this. Maybe it’s something about being a native New Yorker, but there is a stillness and a sense of calm in Manhattan that is priceless. And the space. Lots of elbow room for all. I guess the beauty part is knowing that come Tuesday morning, everyone will be back from vacation; by Wednesday, kids will be back to school. The buzz will be back. All of which makes savoring these last precious moments of summer tranquility all the more special. Go to the farm market, grab some corn, make a fresh tomato, basil salad…it’ll all be over soon.

The weather was cool and overcast in New York yesterday. The fall is in the air. It’s hazy but sunny this morning, though still chilly. I’m headed over to the stadium for at least one of the two games they’ll play against Tampa Bay today. It’s an old-fashioned single admission double-header. Go figure, and go Yanks. Hope everyone has enjoyed their holiday weekend. And that’s the triple truth…Ruth.

Orioles 7, Yankees Zilch

Free Fallin

“For certain I’m happy it’s the left and not the right,” [Joe] Torre said. “But the thing that bothered me is the fact that he thought enough to throw the left and not the right. I wish he would have thought a little bit more on that subject.” (N.Y. Newsday)

“If you’re going to get hurt playing this game,” fellow starter Mike Mussina said, “let’s get hurt playing the game. Pull a hamstring, get hit with the ball. But to take yourself out for possibly the rest of the season because of a situation like this is frustrating for the rest of us, I think.” (N.Y. Newsday)

“I think we’ve all been frustrated about stuff,” Mussina said. “We’ve all been upset. We’ve all said stuff. But to physically do something to cause injury to yourself, I don’t relate to that.” (N.Y.Times)

“You just hope anybody can control their emotions. Sometimes your emotions get the best of you. Hopefully, if you’re going to harm yourself, it’s not going to harm the team.”

“He’s probably the most competitive guy I’ve ever played with,” [Gary] Sheffield said. “He cares about his performance and how the team does. And he takes it all on his shoulders when he doesn’t have to. In this situation, I’m sure he didn’t want to hurt the team. He’s probably feeling worse than anybody.” (Newsday)

Why don’t we start with the good news? First of all, Em and I took a drive to the country yesterday afternoon, so we missed the game. That’s for starters. Second, the Red Sox finally lost a game. (What? Is the moon blue or something?) Lastly, Mike Mussina pitched well. Now for the cruddy news: Mariano Rivera gave up four runs—ouch, that smarts, okay, mercy, mercy—and Sidney Ponson pitched a two-hit, complete-game shutout. As the say in my ‘hood: “Oy.” Kevin Brown will have surgery this afternoon at Columbia Pres. He’ll be out for at least three weeks.

Biggest Dick Ever

Schmuckaholic

“A selfish and immature act by the most self-centered man in baseball may have cost the Yankees the AL East last night at Yankee Stadium.” George King (N.Y.Post)


Kevin Brown broke two bones in his left hand last night after punching a clubhouse wall:

“I reacted to frustration I’d swallowed all year. … There are no excuses. I let it boil over and I did something stupid.” (ESPN)

Brown later apologized to his teammates and to the organization. According to Jack Curry:

“It’s an issue we shouldn’t be dealing with,” General Manager Brian Cashman said, “and we are.”

…The one question the Yankees should ask Brown is how someone who is earning $15 million a year to pitch once every five days even dreams of putting his job and his team’s future in jeopardy with such an irrational act.

“You just can’t do this,” Cashman said. “You’ve got to keep your emotions in check.”

I liked the idea of Kevin Brown essentially replacing Roger Clemens at the start of the year. I knew he’d spend some time on the DL, but I liked his surly, Sal Maglie demeanor, and his intensity. I thought he was a gamer. But I can’t believe that he’s put his teammates in this kind of situation. Roger Clemens would never do something so thoughtless. I’d venture a guess and say that Jeff Weaver wouldn’t either. You know what this tells me about Kevin Brown? Consciously or not, he doesn’t want to pitch anymore. He just quit on the team. He’s not a gamer, he’s a clown. He’s going to have to live with the consequences of his actions, because it’s likely to follow him well past his playing days. There is a chance that he can come back this season. For his sake–as well as the Yankees–he’d better hope so.

Orlando Hernandez, Mike Mussina, Javier Vazquez, Jon Lieber: They must be dancing in the streets up in New England.

Can’t You Hear Me Knocking?

Foshizzle we can. Boy can we ever. No, you didn’t stutter, we can hear you knocking, but it feels more like pounding. The Orioles defeated the Bombers 3-1 in the Bronx while the Sox shut-out the Rangers 2-zip at Fenway Park. The Yankee lead is now down to two-and-a-half games, two in the loss column. When the Yanks were surging late in the 1978 season, they humbled the Sox in a four-game sweep in Boston which became popularly known as “The Boston Massacre.” NBC announcer, and former Yankee infielder Tony Kubeck commented at the time that “This is the first time I’ve ever seen a first-place team trying to chase a second-place team.” Though the Boston lead was seven games when Kubeck said this in 78, it kind of feels that way in reverse for New Yorkers right now.

Pedro Martinez continued to pitch brilliantly tonight as Boston won their tenth straight game. Meanwhile, Derek Jeter hit a solo home run off of Rodrigo Lopez in the bottom of the first; that was the only run the Yankees would score. They managed to load the bases after Jeter’s dinger, but Jorge Posada grounded sharply into a double play to end the inning. And that was as close to a threat as the offense would mount all evening. Simply put, Lopez was outstanding. He pitched into eighth and left the game with a runner on second and one out.

Erstwhile Yankee Jason Grimsley replaced him. Emily, the self-appointed “Big O”–Big Optimist–around these parts was uncharacteristically terse. “OK, enough of this shit already, let’s fucking go. I’m tired, I’m cranky, and I’ve had enough of these guys not being able to hit tonight. Let’s go.” I could hardly believe my ears. Grimsley faced Jeter and Sheffield and retired them on two pitches. Rodriguez, Matsui and Posada all went down swinging in the ninth. Kevin Brown pitched reasonably well, John Olerud made two nifty defensive plays at first, but Lopez was the star of the game.

It’s down to two. Mussina vs. Ponson tomorrow afternoon.

Yankees 9, Indians 1

The Yankees responded to Tueday’s 22-0 drubbing in the best way possible; they won the three-game series from the Indians. Jon Lieber pitched an excellent game last night, getting lots of ground balls; he worked quickly and received more than his fair share of support from the offense. The Bombers chased Cliff Lee early, capped by a tremendous three-run home run by Alex Rodriguez, and essentially cruised the rest of the way. (Rodriguez is still chasing pitches out of the strike zone, and fouling off pitches he should pound.) They had a shut out going into the ninth inning when Steve Karsay gave up a solo home run to Victor Martinez on the first pitch he threw in the majors in a couple of years. Right before he threw the pitch I turned to Emily and called the home run. Karsay told Newsday:

“I guess he didn’t get the memo that I haven’t pitched in two years, and to take a pitch to see what I’ve got,” Karsay said. “That settled me in, actually.”

Karsay struck out the next two men, and his fastball and curve ball looked good.
I’m sure Jeter and company busted his chops pretty good about blowing the shut-out. Gary Sheffield had three hits and smacked the bejesus out of the ball on several occasions. He had three RBI and now has 101 on the season. Derek Jeter went hitless, but drew two walks. As badly as his walk totals have fallen off this year, Jeter has now earned a walk in seven straight games.

Heaven Help Us

The Bombers remain three-and-a-half up on the Red Sox, who completed a three-game sweep of the Angels in Boston last night. The Sox are the hottest team in the majors right now, and while the culture in Boston might be changing, it’s certain that a good portion of Red Sox Nation is viewing their team’s recent success with a healthy degree of skepticism. “They are just pumping us up to let us down once again,” is what I imagine some of them are secretly thinking. You can hardly blame them, especially the older fans. What I think is sad is the Yankee-obsessed mentality expressed by a Sox fan in the Times today:

“Winning the World Series is more important, but beating the Yankees is a close second,” said Mark Shiro, a hotel concierge. “If we beat the Yankees to win the American League and lose the World Series, it would be disappointing, but there would also be a lot of joy.”

That’s weak. Maybe it would suffice as a consolation prize, but come on now, winning it all is what it should be all about. You know what Yankee fans would think if they beat the Bombers but lost again in the World Series? The same thing they think about the Sox right now. On the other hand, I believe that there is another faction of Sox fans who buy into this team simply because they are a very good squad, curses and history be damned. They have a ownership and management team that they can get behind, players who are easy for them to pull for, and a legitimate shot at the title. You know what these fans hope for: the Sox to muder the Yankees and then win the World Serious. Full speed ahead.

Head Case

The Daily News has an exclusive story today concerning the location of Jason Giambi’s benign tumor. According to T.J. Quinn and Bill Madden, it is located in his pituitary gland:

The treatment, which has been approved by Major League Baseball, involves a form of steroids that are not performance-enhancing.

“It’s fine for a specific medical use,” one official with knowledge of his condition said. “He isn’t breaking any rules.”

The reason for his secrecy was simple, a source said: After testifying before a grand jury in the BALCO steroid-trafficking case and having to deny repeated rumors about steroid use, Giambi was worried that a pituitary tumor would make him guilty by association, according to a source.

Pituitary tumors have been anecdotally associated with anabolic steroid and human growth hormone use, but medical experts say there has been no documented connection.

No doubt, there will be more to come on this one…

Yankees 5, Indians 3

I Come to the Party in a B-Boy Stance

George Steinbrenner didn’t rip his team in the papers, but he was at the Stadium again last night doing his best Knute Rockne routine. Before the game, he issued the following statement:

“Sure, we got punished badly last night, but winners never quit and quitters never win. We all know that New Yorkers never quit, and we reflect the spirit of New York.” (N.Y. Daily News)

Steinbrenner hawked his team from his private box as they conducted batting practice. He was in his finest big-game football form: playing a clip from the movie “Rudy,” as well as blasting “When the Going Gets Tough,” by Billy Ocean over the sound system. No matter the title, imagine anyone getting pumped up by a Billy Ocean tune? That’s a good one. (Why not, “Tuff Enuff,” by the Fabulous T-Birds?) Joel Sherman hit the nail on the head:

When the insane get goin’, the goin’ gets insane.

The Yankees responded behind another money performance from Orlando Hernandez. El Duque allowed a run in the first and then proceeded to shut down the Indians over the next six innings. Tom Gordon gave up two, two-out runs in the eighth which made things tense, but the Bombers added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning and Mariano Rivera recorded the save in the ninth. Jorge Posada hit a two-run bomb, and John Olerud and Miguel Cairo added solo shots. The Yankees remain three-and-a-half up on the Red Sox who beat up the Angels last night in Boston. But as Harvey Araton notes in the Times today, the Yankees are now seven games up on Anahiem. With the wildcard system in place, the bottom line is to make the playoffs, period. This is not to say that the Yankees won’t still win the division, but they have a safety net should Boston surge ahead of them.

I missed most of the game on the count of I was in Manhattan having dinner with the founder of All-baseball.com, Christian Ruzich, his wife Darryl and the co-host of The Cub Reporter, Alex Ciepley. But when I got home, I was able to catch the ninth inning and the highlights. I also taped the game just so I could get a better look at one of laugh-out-loud best plays of the season.

Coco Crisp led off the third inning and taped a ground ball up the first base line. Crisp is a fast runner, but Duque got off the mound quickly, fielded the ball and beat Crisp to the first base line by a stride. Crisp put the breaks on about three feet before he reached Hernandez. He threw his arms up and faked left. Duque reached for him first with his bare hand and then swiped at him with his glove. Jack Curry reports:

But Hern

Bronx Banter Interview: Buster Olney

An Insider’s Look at the Yankee Dynasty

Buster Olney’s new book, “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty” is the first major look at the Joe Torre years in the Bronx. I recently had the chance to catch up with Buster. The following is our lengthy chat. Strap yourself in and enjoy.

Bronx Banter: What are the origins of this book?

Buster Olney: I think that at some point

The Morning After

Let it Be…

“There’s a certain element of embarrassment, no question,” Yankees Manager Joe Torre said. “If you have a lot of pride in what you do and somebody has their way with you, you have to take your lumps. There’s no question. You can’t just turn the lights off and go home. You have to stay there and endure what you have to endure. If you accept winning, you have to endure losing. Something like this is hard to handle. It’s something you have to bounce back from. It counts as one loss.”

…”You can’t worry about the Red Sox,” catcher Jorge Posada said. “We’ve got to worry about us. We’ve got to worry about what we can do here. We’ve got to remember that we’re still ahead. I think everybody’s got to look at this game. You’ve got to look in the mirror and ask some questions.

“How good are we? We’ve got to look inside. We are a good team. We are still in first place. We’ve just got to do it. We’ve got to come out here and play good ball and just turn it around.” (N.Y. Times)

“Well, contrary to a lot of people in this region’s belief, the Yankees don’t [stink],” [Curt] Schilling said. “Their shortstop’s got four rings, they have probably one of the best managers in sports. I don’t expect them to fall down on the job. They were good enough to put 10 1/2 games between us. We’re going to need some help to catch up. (mlb.com)

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