Omar Minaya’s imagination seems to know no bounds. Minaya, the Mets’ general manager, didn’t invent the term “thinking outside the box,” but in baseball he is among its leading practitioners.
Minaya is imaginative, aggressive and determined. He must also be fearless because with his early activity he has created enough hope among Mets fans that they will surely have a letdown if he fails to execute one or more of his plans.
Mike Lupica is impressed by Minaya’s assertiveness. The good news, he writes, is that:
Minaya [is] letting people know that the Mets are going to be in play with the big boys this time.
…Minaya is saying that the Mets don’t sit back anymore. I think Pedro belongs in Boston. I think he’ll stay in Boston, unless he leaves a great situation over money the way Jason Giambi did. He’s still better than anybody the Mets have, if he can pass a physical. You want to know why Minaya tries? That’s why.
I still figure that Martinez will stay on with the Red Sox. But then again, I wouldn’t be shocked at all if he simply goes to the highest bidder. Across town, all is still in Yankeeland. Oh, they are close to re-signing John Flaherty. Very well, then. Quickly moving on, if you want to fill your head with Yankee musings, check out Cliff Corcoran’s look at the Bombers’ 40-man roster, as well as thoughts about their pitching from Larry Mahnken and Jay Jaffe.
Thanksgiving came and went this year without any major deals going down for any of the local teams. Last Wednesday, there was more kibbitzing about the Yankees interest in sending Javier Vazquez to Arizona for Randy Johnson. However, Peter Gammons delineated why the proposition is a dicey one for the Diamondbacks:
What makes no sense is Arizona taking on Vazquez. Wink, wink — we know the Yankees would take on some of the money, but Vazquez has $25M guaranteed in 2006 and 2007. Now, the Diamondbacks likely will be worse than any of Vazquez’s Expos teams, so he’ll demand a trade at the end of the ’05 season. If he has a good year, Arizona will be embarrassed. If he has a bad year, he will be virtually untradable at that price. Then there’s the matter of Diamondbacks owner Jeff Moorad being the agent Vazquez fired.
Since the Yankee farm system is thin near the top, one talent solution is for the Diamondbacks to get Tom Gordon and Kenny Lofton, then spin Gordon off to either the Indians or Cubs, two of the richest organizations in young talent, and Lofton to the Phillies or Giants for a third prospect.
Meanwhile, Met general manager Omar Minaya dined with Pedro Martinez in the Dominican Republic on Thanksgiving. The Mets will reportedly make Martinez an offer in the near future. John Harper examines whether signing Martinez is worth the risk in today’s Daily News.
Gary Sheffield will have surgery on his left shoulder today. The Yankees’ right fielder had been told by several doctors, including Dr. James Andres, Stuart Hershon, and Frank Jobe, that he wouldn’t need to be operated on, but the pain has continued, so he will in fact go ahead with the surgery. According to the New York Times:
[General Manager, Brian] Cashman described the operation as minor and said that if everything goes as expected, Sheffield will recover in four to five weeks.
The Times also picked up on a report which appeared last Sunday in the Dominican newspaper, El Caribe, concerning Pedro Martinez. Apparently, Pedro was impressed by Steinbrenner when the two met in Florida last week. In addition, Derek Jeter got together with him as well.
“I want respect, affection and the best treatment possible,” Mart”nez said, without specifying a contract figure. “I am not asking for anything that Pedro Mart”nez doesn’t deserve. People don’t understand that when it’s about a free agent, that means that you can go to the best bidder.”
…”I would play baseball even in a goat’s den,” he said. “Anywhere. That doesn’t worry me.”
Yup. He’s a ba-a-a-a-d, man. (Aw, hell, I just couldn’t resist.)
Awww, man. Monday morning and there’s not one baseball article to be found in New York’s big three papers. Over the weekend, there were rumors about the Yankees making an offer to Pedro Martinez (which was later contested), and the Red Sox making a counter proposal. Who knows what’s going on. The one that that is sure is that Pedro is making himself some mo money here.
In His Element
Several weeks ago, Sripraphai, a small, inviting Thai restaurant in Woodside, Queens got a two-star review from Frank Bruni in the New York Times. A friend at work hipped me to the place a few months ago, and the review reminded me that we should get out there, even if it meant waiting on line for a table. So Emily and I went out to Queens on Saturday night with Jay Jaffe and his girlfriend Andra, their close pal Nick Stone, and fellow AB-scribe, Alex Ciepley. The trip was well worth taking. The food lived up to advance billing and the price–$85 including a generous tip for six people–was oh so right.
But perhaps the most satisfying aspect of the evening was watching Alex C navigate us through the intricacies of Thai cuisine. A bonafide foodie who once lived in Thailand for a year-and-a-half, Ciepley was clearly a Duke in his domain. We all had dishes we wanted to try but were more than comfotable leaving the final decisions up to Alex who took care of the ordering. As each dish arrived and quickly made its way around the table, we ate at am insatiable, almost furious clip. About half-way through the meal Nick looked up and noticed that in his excitement as our defacto host and tour guide, Alex had barely eaten anything. But it didn’t seem to matter much; he was in his glory.
We all had a great time, and most importantly, the place had Alex’s seal of approval. On the subway ride home, Jay, Nick and I looked over at him, sitting with the girls on the other side of the train, his head buried in the take-home menu, lost in a reverie. The restaurant–not to mention the company—was terrific and another reminder of why living in a city like New York is so rewarding. (It was a cold, rainy night, but that didn’t stop us from going out of our way to the west village to pick up some off-the-hook cupcakes from the sinful Magnolia bakery.) What made the experience even sweeter was going with an expert like Alex, who derived so much pleasure and deep satisfaction from the trip that by the end of the night, my man was–and I don’t think this is an exaggeration–swooning.
In researching the 1964 Cardinals for the Curt Flood project I’m working on, I came across a good bit about the difference betweeen Casey Stengel and Yogi Berra in Bill Veeck’s book (written with Ed Linn), “The Hustler’s Handbook.” In his first year as Yankee skipper, Berra won the pennant, then lost the World Serious in seven games and was promptly fired. So much for Yankee loyalty:
The decision to make Yogi Berra, of all people, the manager of the Yankees was admittedly one of the more moonstruck episodes in baseball. Furthermore, pitting him against Casey Stengel of the crosstown Mets was the worst mismtach in history. No boxing commission would have allowed it. Yogi is a completely manufactored product. He is a case study of this country’s unlimited ability to gull itself and be gulled.
The priority for the Bronx Bombers this off-season is pitching. Yesterday, Joe Torre told the AP that he would welcome Pedro Martinez to New York, while Curt Schilling and the Red Sox wooed Carl Pavano. Lots of courting going on before Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, for some bonafide analysis on what the Yankees could or should do with their pitching staff, check out recent posts from Cliff Corcoran and Jay Jaffe.
Yankee radio announcer Charley Steiner may be on his way to Los Angeles to join Vin Scully in the Dodgers broadcast booth. Jon Weisman asked what I thought about the prospect of Steiner leaving New York for the coast. The first thing that popped into my head was a moment from The Honeymooners when Alice sang, “I don’t want him, you can have him, he’s too fat for me.” Yo, chill kid. Actually, I don’t mind Steiner at all, but he was hopelessly miscast alongside ol’ Silver Throat, John Sterling. Why? Because their pairing violates the fat-skinny tradition of comedy teams like Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Gleason and Carney, Siskel and Ebert, and Mike and the Mad Dog. With Steiner and Sterling you had heft with hefty and the chemistry just didn’t work. I hope Steiner goes to L.A. and flourishes. What do you guys think? Weisman has a post up on it over at Dodger Thoughts. Head on over and chime in with the New York perspective.
The meeting, which was scheduled before Martinez’s side trip to Steinbrenner’s offseason headquarters in Tampa, was considered crucial because both sides were eager to reach an agreement and move on to other concerns.
At the very least, Martinez almost certainly needed to sense some willingness by the Sox to improve their initial offer if he were to maintain faith in the negotiations. And the Sox needed to determine whether they could afford to reasonably satisfy Martinez’s expectations, particularly if he believed his meeting with Steinbrenner improved his bargaining position.
On a conference call with reporters yesterday, Yankee pitcher Mike Mussina said he didn’t think the Bombers need to make any drastic moves:
“Almost everyone was new last year, and nobody was really sure what was going to happen, and we had injuries to deal with,” Mussina said. “To win 101 games with that kind of staff was pretty impressive. We may just need a little bit of an adjustment.
“If you keep trying to do an entire overhaul every year, you’re not going to get 101 wins every year. One year, you’re going to do that and it’s not going to happen. Maybe we have to work with it just a touch and try that, instead of trying to throw a new handful of people in there.”
The perfessor has spoken.
Pedro Martinez met with George Steinbrenner yesterday in Florida. It was only a matter of time, right? It is not clear if Martinez and Steinbrenner are using each other to drive up Pedro’s price-tag or if he has a sincere interest in playing for the Yankees next year. Yankee officials are said not to be attracted to Martinez, but that’s never stopped Steinbrenner before. The Yankees could also be engaging in talks with Martinez to influence a possible deal with Arizona for Randy Johnson. So much posturing and so much time…John Harper has a good take on the story today in the Daily News.
For some of us, a season never feels complete until Roger Angell weighs in with his take in pages of The New Yorker. Angell’s latest is available on the Internet (thanks to Repoz for the link). A longtime Red Sox sympathizer, Boston fans will relish this one. Enjoy:
I didn’t think much about all my Red Sox fan-friends until the World Series was over. Now they are triumphant, and their old pains and desperate attachments have become historic and quirky. They won’t need their amulets and game-watching rituals anymore—the stuff that was mentioned in so many of the TV news stories the day after, and in some New England newspaper feature stories. A copy of the Bangor Daily News mentioned a family in Old Town that mowed a “Go, Sox” pattern in the lawn, and a ninety-four-year-old lady in Lakeville, Massachusetts, who made herself a little ceramic Fenway Park each year, with porcelain nuns at play inside. This stuff may go on, but, like the Sox home games next year, it will be terrific fun but not the same. Perhaps trying to hold on to something, I got in touch with a bygone Red Sox hero, the pitcher Jim Lonborg, who had won two games in the World Series of 1967 and lost the last one, Game Seven, to Bob Gibson, whom he’d faced on two days’ rest. Lonborg is a dentist in Hanover, Massachusetts, and he called me back after he’d finished with his first patient of the day. He told me that he still got back to Fenway Park to see the Sox three or four times each year, and he admired the energy of this new bunch. So far, none of his old teammates had called, but a few friends had, savoring the day. He’d watched the last World Series game with his twenty-seven-year-old daughter, Nora—he has six children—and they’d high-fived after the Sox won.
“That’s all?” I said.
Just how important is it to have left-handed pitching, particularly left-handed starting pitching? Neither the Red Sox or the Yankees (or the Astros or Cardinals) had any left-handed starters in the playoffs this past year. But the word around town is that the Yankees are craving one, if not two southpaws for their 2005 rotation. The Daily News delineates possible Yankee plans today, while the Times reports that the Bombers may have interest in a lefty of a different kind–get this–first baseman Carlos Delgado. (Umm, huh?)
How long will the Yankees be haunted by how the 2004 season ended? At least until spring training, probably longer. Jack Curry caught up with Alex Rodriguez recently and the Yankees’ third baseman is feeling predicatably low:
Three weeks after the Yankees faded in four straight losses and two weeks after Rodriguez barely watched the Red Sox shelve 85 seasons of misery, Rodriguez settled on the villain in this tale. He looked in the mirror and never stopped staring.
“The fact that I got what I got, I deserved every bit of it because I was brought here to help win a championship and we didn’t get that done,” Rodriguez said. “Therefore, we failed. I don’t think you can point your finger at any one guy because we win and lose as a team. But if you had to point a finger, I think you would point it right at me.”
…”Obviously, what will make it better is coming back next year and winning a title,” Rodriguez said. “But I’ll never forgive myself or my team. As good as we were, there’s no way we should have lost four games in a row to anyone. That disappointed me. That shouldn’t have happened.”
As far as Curt Schilling’s post-championship comments about Rodriguez:
“Anytime he says something about me it’s a compliment, especially when they’re in their championship parade and they’re still thinking about us,” Rodriguez said. “The one thing I hope is that he continues to speak poorly about me and the Yankees because that will give us great motivation to beat the Red Sox in the future.”
As Rodriguez carefully selected his words, he was seething. He is miffed that Schilling, who made several recruiting calls to Rodriguez about joining the Red Sox after Schilling was traded there last November, has blasted him so incessantly.
But, when Rodriguez was asked if the words hurt, he said: “Absolutely not. Red Sox are not supposed to like Yankees.”
What are the odds that Rodriguez will be in the middle of another brawl between the Yanks and Sox next year?
Bronx Banter celebrates a Boitday, Albeit Belatedly
A few weeks ago I posed a series of questions about the end of the 2004 Yankee-Red Sox season to a group of writers. Bill James was one of the guys I had contacted to participate. The first post I ever wrote here at Bronx Banter was about James. I just looked back on it and noticed that I celebrated my second birthday of hosting Bronx Banter last week and didn’t even notice it. I knew it was sometime in November dangit. (It was Em’s birthday yesterday and you can bet your sweet bibbie that I remembered that one!) Anyhow, James didn’t respond, until yesterday that is. So I threw a few more bp fastballs his way and here is what he had to say for himself.
Bronx Banter: Did you attend any of the playoff games?
Bill James: Three games of the series against the Yankees, all four in the World Series.
BB: How tense were you watching the ALCS, especially games 5 and 6?
BJ: One click short of a heart attack.
It’s All About Timing
It’s tough to find successful “As-told-to” biographies. I imagine that most of them consist of the subject talking into a tape recorder for many hours and dumping the mess on a writer. Then the writer goes off to transcribe the ramblings in the attempt turn it into something coherent. I may be wrong, but rarely do these kind of books strike me as true collaborations. The results are often clumsy and artless, though they can still be entertaining. But it’s a pleasure when a book of this sort seems to capture the subject’s spirit, their rhythms and inflections. When the writer and subject actually connect.
As I mentioned earlier in the week, Ed Linn captured Leo Durocher’s personality vividily in their book, “Nice Guys Finish Last.” Another winning example is “Second Wind: Memoirs of an Opinonated Man,” by Bill Russell with the historian Taylor Branch (1979, Random House; currently out-of-print). Russell grew up in West Oakland, and I came across this book researching the Curt Flood project I’ve been working on. (Rusell was four years older than Flood but played high school basketball with Frank Robinson.) Anyhow, it is a terrific read, emotionally direct and tender. Well worth snatching if you ever find it in a used bookshop.
“I don’t have anything against Pedro, if he’s my teammate,” Posada said. “Obviously, we’d work things out. I’d catch him. You know this guy’s a winner, he knows how to pitch, he does everything possible to try to win and keep in shape.
“I’ve got no problems getting things straight and going on. We are gentlemen here and we are adults, so we can work things out.”
Posada also lobbied for another Martinez, his old pal Tino, to return to the Bronx. Which Martinez would you rather see in pinstripes in 2005?
It’s getting winter cold here in New York. But there is plenty of hot baseball air in the papers today: the Times reports that the Yankees are setting their sights squarely on Carlos Beltran; the Post notes that Brian Cashman and Joe Garagiola Jr met briefly, presumably to talk about Randy Johnson; Newsday mentions that Andruw Jones could be a good fit for New York should Beltran slip away, and according to the Daily News, the Yankees also met with Carl Pavano’s agent yesterday. The News also has a story about the Mets interviewing Yankee coach Rick Down without permission. Ostensibly, it’s all much ado about nothing, but at least it’s about baseball.
“I had always intended on returning,” Stottlemyre said. “I never had the word retirement in my mind at any time. There was more in the papers about retiring than I had in my mind.”
…”My family very much wants me to go out the right way,” he said. “I think the way is to announce that this will be my last year as pitching coach for the New York Yankees. Doing it this way takes away a lot of the thinking that health might be a problem.”
…”I sensed a little bit from what you read in the papers and things going around that someone in the Yankee organization might be happy if I stepped down,” Stottlemyre said, in reference to articles that appeared last week suggesting that he was preparing to retire.
Some Yankee fans, including me, have wondered if it isn’t time for Mel to move on. However, Steven Goldman defended Stottlemyre well in the most recent edition of “The Pinstriped Bible”:
In general…I think we’re too quick to blame Stottlemyre for things that have gone wrong and don’t give him enough credit for the many things have gone right.
…Perhaps Stottlemyre couldn’t help [Jeff] Weaver get over his psychological problems. Neither could Joe Torre and a dozen other people connected with the Yankees organization. Every pitching coach has some pupils that will not be helped. The pitcher then changes teams and does a little better because he’s found a coach who can somehow get through to him, or he’s desperate enough to finally listen. Jason Marquis, who could not find success with the Braves’ Leo Mazzone but was helped by the Cardinals’ Dave Duncan, is a great example.
That leaves [Javier] Vazquez. If, as has been continually asserted, Vazquez’s problem was mechanical/psychological (though emphatically not a phobic response to New York) rather than physical, it would be fair to say that Stottlemyre deserves to share some of the blame for the pitcher’s breakdown. Still, there is a limit to what any teacher can do with a pupil who is unwilling or unable to listen, and in the heat of a pennant race, with 10 other pitchers to manage, the task becomes even more difficult.
And, as I’ve already mentioned here before, I’m excited about Joe G becoming the bench coach.
Roger Clemens won his seventh Cy Young award yesterday. It was not a surprising cherce. Even if he wasn’t the best pitcher in the league it’s pretty special that he pitched so well for the Astros. Looks like he’s serious about hanging em up this time too. If this is it, what a way to go, huh?
Speaking of saying good bye, Brian Gunn, who has been one of the most prolific, informative and entertaining baseball writers on the Internet for the past two seasons is closing up shop at Redbird Nation to persue other interests. Check out his farewell post. He will be missed.
Lastly, there is a Mike Piazza for Shawn Green rumor making the rounds at the general managers’ meetings. Hmmm. What do you think, Met fans? Also, check out the latest baseball stylings from Rob Neyer and Steven Goldman.