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Monthly Archives: March 2005

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You know why I don’t make predictions? Cause I don’t really enjoy it, and because it mostly proves how little I really know. Having said that I want to immediately revise my “hunch” about Gary Sheffield. Watching him bat last night I was thinking how it’s virtually impossible to predict that his performance will fall off if he remains healthy. I know that is a big “if”–just like Bernie actually scoring 100 runs again certainly is–but I take it back. Nothing in my gut tells me that Sheff will be anything but a terror.


Okay, here goes a couple of dopey hunches I came up with this afternoon:

Javier Vazquez will have an outstanding year.

Jason Giambi will do better than expected, while Sheffield will have a down year.

Jorge Posada will suffer the first serious injury of his career.

Derek Jeter will score 100 runs again.

(Man, do I hope that Bernie can do the same, score 100 runs, and go out looking good.)

And for Cliff’s sake, here’s to the Yanks pick up Placido Planco before the trade deadline this summer.

Enough randomness for now. What you got?

What’s Old is New

Mariano Rivera threw a bullpen session yesterday, while Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams sat out with minor injuries, as Mike Mussina was roughed up by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. As Mussina explains, there are some days when you just don’t have it. He told Newsday:

“As you get ready for a new season, some days it feels like you’ve never been out there before. For me, this is about the time when I feel kind of blah,” he said. “It happens. You work through it.”

I wonder if Moose ever has the dream that Nuke LaLoosh had, standing on the mound with nothing more than his jock and garters…n’aaah, probably not.


Twinkle Toes Goes

Man, I hate to see to see a great player like Robbie Alomar go out like this, just 276 hits short of 3,000. His brilliant career came to a resounding thud the day he was traded to the Mets. Still, I’ll always remember how he mashed Yankee pitching for years. And, of course, his acrobatic defensive work at second base. My favorite Alomar move was when he went far to his left, got his mitt on a grounder, and then like a spinning top, left his feet and rolled to his left, falling into right field, while being able to keep his balance long enough–as if temporarily being able to float–to make a perfect throw to first and nail the runner. It was as gorgeous a move as I ever remember seeing a second baseman make, and Alomar seemed to have the patent on it.


Talking in my sleep

I’m not sure how many of you caught my comment on Alex’s Barking and Biting post this past Monday, but for those who didn’t, it explains my absence in recent weeks (a.k.a. the entire history of this site). I’m still under the crush, but as the Yanks have hit the half-way point of spring training, I felt I really owed you guys some sort of catch up post. So here’s a quick look at the first round of cuts the Yankees made last week.


Bobby Be Berry, Berry Good

Rany Jazayerli wrote a terrific article on Bobby Abreu yesterday over at Baseball Prospectus (registration required). Jazayerli contends that not only is Abreu the most over-looked star in the game today, but that he’s on putting together a Hall of Fame career (Abreu is this generation’s Rock Raines). Course, I know that I’ve not been alone in being a big Abreu fan–Joe Sheehan has raved about him for years. But it is nice to finally see a thorough appreciation of Philadelphia’s durable right fielder. (I used to dream that Abreu would replace Paulie O in right field. Aaahh, so much for that.)

Here’s the bit that struck a chord with me:

The main reasons why Abreu is so underrated are that rather than having one recognizable skill, he makes his game contributions in a variety of ways; and that rather than having an outlier MVP-caliber season surrounded by a series of lower-quality campaigns, he settles for giving the same MVP-candidate performance, year after year.

So the things that make him so underrated are the same reasons why, if anything, we should appreciate him even more.

I couldn’t agree more. Reminds me of what Bill James once wrote about Bernie Williams:

[Williams is] So steady and unwavering he goes unnoticed

Must Be in the Front Row…

Jay Jaffe is the host of one of the longest-running baseball websites on the Internet, The Futility Infielder. He’s also an author at Baseball Prospectus. And now, Jaffe’s made his television debut. Good gosh, what a week. I haven’t seen the clip yet, but I want to wish Jay kudos and congrats, and all of that good stuff. I can only imagine how nerve-wracking it must be to try and sound coherent, forget articulate on TV. Jaffe writes about his experience here and here. Go check it out and chalk one up for the good guys.

Speed Kills

“Everybody wants to hit home runs…It’s all about the long ball. Chicks dig the long ball. Maybe that’s why I don’t have any.” Tony Womack

Every saber-friendly Yankee fan’s favorite, Tony Womack has played well of late, impressing Joe Torre with his wheels of steal. So long as dude is batting ninth, there won’t be too much bitching about him round these parts.

Meanwhile, Kevin Brown, whose fourth child war born on Tuesday, got served by the Pirates in an exhibition game yesterday. Needless to say, Brown wasn’t exactly pleased with his performance. The Post reports:

“He’s not happy when he gives up runs,” said Mel Stottlemyre. “He didn’t think he had anything. I thought he threw good.

“We got him to 78 pitches, right on target. He felt good (physically) afterwards, but he was disgusted.”

Awwww, nutzo.

Finally, Mariano Rivera is expected to throw later today.

Take it E’z

Jason Giambi, who was excused from having to testify before Congress, is having as good a spring as anyone could have expected. He isn’t tearing the cover off the ball, but Giambi isn’t especially anxious either. According to Tyler Kepner in the New York Times:

Giambi has one extra-base hit so far, a home run on March 7, and he recently told [hitting coach, Don] Mattingly that he wanted to hit more doubles. Mattingly laughed him off – “You can’t direct it,” he told Giambi – but he understood Giambi’s larger meaning, that he wants to drive balls to the gaps.

“I don’t talk about anything other than getting a good pitch and hitting the ball hard,” Mattingly said. “If he’s having a good path to the ball and he’s seeing the ball good, he can hit. I don’t worry about home runs. They’ll happen.”

Much as been made of Giabmi getting off to a good start once the season begins. Where do you think Torre will bat him in the line-up come Opening Day?


According to the Daily News, we shouldn’t be overly concerned with Mariano Rivera’s tender right elbow. But the Yankees (and their fans) are always cautious when it comes to Mo. As Will Carroll noted in his column for Baseball Prospectus yesterday:

Rivera hasnít had problems this early before, though the Yankees are used to him needing time off to rest and recover. The Yanks will watch him closely through the early season; Rivera makes his money in October.

Paul Quantrill was shut down yesterday with a pulled muscle in his rib cage. Quantrill has pitched with discomfort for several weeks now. Newsday reports:

If anything, the Yankees were pleased that Quantrill, a workhorse throughout his career, agreed to shut it down for two days. (“Any more than that and we’re going to be fighting,” he said.) But Quantrill thinks he made it worse by pitching through it.

“You think you can pitch through and all it does is set you back,” Quantrill said. “We see that every spring. Everyone does it. Even being a veteran guy, you say it’s not a big deal. For me, that’s what I did. I said this is going to go away.”

Has anyone seen Karsay this spring? He isn’t looking good. I don’t think the Yanks can expect much out of him this year, do you?

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Rich Lederer has a good piece about the most/least efficient base-stealers in the game. Alex Rodriguez (28-32) and Derek Jeter (23-27) are two of the most efficient; Bernie Williams (1-6) and Gary Sheffield (5-11) are two of the least.

Boo Boo

Mariano Rivera has a mild case of bursitis in his right elbow and won’t pitch until the end of the week. According to reports, Rivera should be able to throw a side-session on Friday. Hopefully, this isn’t anything to be overly concerned with. Joe Torre told reporters:

“If you’re going to have a result, this is one you can live with,” Torre said, but later admitted that injuries to Rivera always are a little alarming because “he’s like one of your regular players. He plays every day, when you win. So you’re always concerned, but we weren’t concerned for very long because the tests came back quickly.” (N.Y. Daily News)

Carl Pavano tossed four scoreless innings against the Pirates in an exhibition game last night, and Tino Martinez hit a two-run dinger.

Guy Stuff

Recently, Hank Waddles conducted a fine interview with Tom Stanton, author of “The Final Seaon,” an account of the last season at Tiger Stadium. Stanton’s other works include, “The Road to Cooperstown,” and “Hank Aaron and the Home Runs That Changed America.”

Here is an exchange that really spoke to me:

BC: You mentioned this a couple of times. I wanted to see if you could elaborate on it a little bit. Much is made about the importance of fathers and sons within the framework of baseball. You write about the bond you shared with your father through baseball, and several of the subjects in your book — Al Kaline, Brian Moehler, for example — speak of this as well. Can you talk about that for a minute? What is it exactly about fathers and sons and baseball?

TS: A lot of writers have been pondering that for a long time… Itís not easy to put your finger on. But the bond seems greater, in my case certainly it is, with baseball than it is with other sports. I donít think itís always just a matter of being a sport. But I think some of it is… one of the things that people who donít like baseball complain about is that itís a slow game. Thereís not continuous action on the field, and you have these dead periods of time when youíre watching. But one of the beautiful parts of that is it allows you to kind of have a relationship within the game with the people youíre experiencing it with, and in many of our cases the people we experience it with are family originally, in the early years. So I think our relationships are more tied to the sport in that sense, that you develop a very personal bond with the sport, or in my case with my father, watching those games either in front of the television or at the ballpark itself. Itís not continuous action, you have a chance to talk, whether or not itís a… itís not a contrived thing where youíre setting out to do that, but it just happens naturally. Youíve got your father talking about his childhood experiences, and the guys he rooted for, Greenberg and Gehringer in my dadís case, and then you kind of pass this love on for the game, and share this passion for it, and I think that canít help but create that bond and sort of reinforce it. And then you have the catches in the backyard, which… when youíre playing catch with your dad in the backyard itís different from maybe having a game of one-on-one basketball in the driveway. Itís not a competitive thing, in any sense. Itís just connecting with that ball going back and forth between you, and so I guess there are a lot of reasons. Iím not being very coherent or enlightening, but I do think it has to do with the pace of the game and the fact that itís been around a lot longer than many games, and so consequently you have the ability to have these family stories that go back generations are shared and then retold.

I didn’t have a similar father-son relationship when it came to baseball, though baseball was a common ground for us. My dad was born in 1937 and though my grandfather rooted for the Giants, and was generally not interested in the sport, my dad was a rapid Dodgers fan. Through my grandfather’s connections, my dad ended up at Yankee Stadium for the World Series often during the 1947-57 heyday. By the time I was growing up, pop was a defacto Mets fan, but wasn’t an active baseball enthusiast any longer. We did connect through the game. He shared his memories from the past about the Dodgers with me on occasion and would use Ted Williams and Willie Mays as examples of how even the greatest performers have to put in blood, sweat and tears in order to be great, when he was giving the ol’ 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration speech.

But our catches, while not necessarily competitive, were anything but relaxing. I don’t think he was ever too eager about playing catch. As a result, he seemed agitated and impatient, consistantly whipping the ball too hard for me to handle. I’d ask to to slow it down, but he didn’t hear me. My had would sting as I tried to make every catch. But I don’t recall it ever being fun. My one clear memory of us having a catch ended with me throwing my mitt down and going inside after I couldn’t take all of his pegs anymore.

But I’ve got a younger brother Ben who played a lot of baseball with me. Early on, I tortured him with the ol’ Great Santini routine, but eventually we grew out of that, and by the time we were in our twenties, he came to regard each other as equals. Stanton is right on when he mentions the non-competitive nature of just having a catch. How wunnerful that can be. It is almost the perfect expression of non-verbal male communication. Sure, you can talk, but you don’t feel neccesarily compelled to. You can give each other pop ups or grounders or pretend to be taking a relay throw. Horse around or just enjoy the act of throwing and hearing the ball pop in the other person’s glove. Most of all, there is a rhythm, that is almost intimate, which defines a great catch. The sense of being connected to another guy through the simple act of throwing a ball back-and-forth, is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world. Believe it.

Speaking of Fathers and Sons, you’ve just got to head over to The Baseball Analysts and read Rich Lederer’s piece about the day his father, a sports journalist, replaced Walter Alston and managed the Dodgers. It’s a special post and we can only hope to see more of the same from the Lederer collection as the year moves on.

Barking and Biting

With the steroids mess dominating the sports pages these days, it’s enough for me to just not want to look. Reggie, McGwire, Jeremy Giambi are the lastest names to make the grade (Doc Gooden receives another “F”). Meanwhile, in Florida, Randy Johnson pitched three solid innings for the Yankees yesterday. He even was geared up enough to find the time to bark at the home plate ump some too, as John Harper reports in the Daily News.

We’re Ready for Your Close Up, Mr. Plimpton

Tom Verducci spent five days playing with the Blue Jays this spring, and his experiences make for the cover story in Sports Illustrated this week. Jay Jaffe has a wonderful post about Verducci’s article. Check it out when you get a chance.

Did You Hear the One About…?

Patrick O’Keefe IM’d me yesterday afternoon and asked if I heard anything about Mariano Rivera. O’Keefe told me that his site devoted to Mariano Rivera had it’s all-time record attendence due to a bogus story that was making the rounds about Rivera being involved in a car accident. There was no truth to the story, and Rivera pitched one solid inning against the Blue Jays last night. In case you missed it, Jack Curry’s story on Rivera earlier this week in the Times is worth checking out.

First Taste (mm, mm Good)

So last night, Emily and I were sitting on the couch filling each other in on the events of the day. After awhile I clicked the TV on and discovered that the Yankees and Blue Jays were on YES. Our first game of the year. Em promptly announced, “Time to knit,” which is what she does while we watch baseball. We watched the last four innings and saw Godzilla hit a three-run homer. I don’t know why, but it was especially comforting to see him again. It was good to see all of the guys, and curious to see some of the new faces too. (Giambi looks really big again.) I have to admit, it was disorienting to see Tino Martinez in the line up. Talk about back to the future. It’s going to take a minute to get used to seeing his coiled, intense self on this version of the Yankees. It was also nice to watch Joe Girardi, looking trim, hair buzzed low, sitting next to Joe Torre. Most of all, it was just great to see a baseball game, no matter how meaningless. And I was reminded of how lucky I am to have a partner who not only tolerates my love of the game, but actively enjoys it herself.

Nice Guys Finish Last

There is a sympathetic profile of Jason Giambi by Nate Penn in the latest issue of GQ magazine. Giambi is anything, if not well-liked by those who know him:

On a visit to Yankee Stadium a couple of years ago, Bastion, Giambi’s high school coach, toured Monument Park with an usher: “He raved about Jason

New Bronx Buttas

Hey yo, yo, yo. Welcome to Bronx Banter’s new home, Baseball Toaster. After a great run at All-Baseball.com, we’re starting f-r-e-s-h for 2005. Course it should be nothing short of another entertaining baseball season in the Boogie Down.

I’m proud to announce that Cliff Corcoran will be co-writing Bronx Banter with me this season. When I started this blog, I always dreamed of having collaborators, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have writers like Chris DeRosa, Edward Cossette, and Brian Gunn submit articles periodically. But I’ve long craved something more permanent. I don’t pretend to be any kind of baseball expert, which is why I enjoying linking to other writing around the web. Now, there will be another distinct voice right here. I think the two of us will compliment each other nicely and be able to provide you with even more balanced Yankee thoughts and coverage than ever. Cliff is actually emotionally stable when it comes to the Yanks, which is comforting, knowing how nuts I tend to get when the going gets tough. What’s really cool about having Cliff aboard is that he’s a crack analyst. He does just the kind of stuff that I love reading but am not so interested in writing myself. I’m not going anywhere but now you’ll get two writers for the price of none!

I’m sure a lot of you are already familar with Cliff’s stuff, but do wish him a warm welcome (and not a Bronx Cheer) to the blog when you get a minute.

Also, bear with us for a minute as the technical kinks sort themselves out. As Robert DeNiro told his cronies in Good Fellas: “It’s gunna be a good summer!”

Just Like Starting Over

When I was but a wee lad, knee-high to a sowís ear (er . . . whatever), my elders would often lean over me in a terrifying manner and say such horrible things as “enjoy it while you can, it wonít last forever” and “these are the best days of your life, you know.” I took them for fools at the time. Still do. Certainly there are advantages to the responsibility-free lifestyle of childhood, but with that lack of responsibility comes a significant lack of personal freedom. School, for example, is downright fascist.

Still, one thing I do miss about the nine months of ritualistic abuse that comprised the school year is the optimism and clean slate with which I would approach each new grade in September. Armed with a brand new pencil case and the latest model Trapper Keeper, I was always sure that this would be the year Iíd complete every homework assignment (on time, no less), and get “a hundred” on every test. It never happened that way, of course, but that feeling of hope, ambition, and freedom from the previous yearís failures and shortcomings was invigorating, something Iíve never been able to recreate in a work environment.

The closest I come to that feeling as an “adult” is not the change over of the calendar, with itís empty resolutions and tradition of starting the new year on the worst footing possible thanks to the debauchery that ends the previous one (of which I generally donít partake), but the beginning of the baseball season as players report to spring training in late February and early March. Suffering from the same delusions that plagued me in past Septembers, each player arrives at camp with a brand new pencil case and the latest model Trapper Keeper, sure that this is the year theyíll learn to lay off the slider low and away, hit the cut-off man, avoid the injury bug, and finally work up to their potential and play well with others.

This year, that feeling for me is especially strong because of the confluence of spring training, my move here to Bronx Banter, and the launching of our new host, Baseball Toaster. So, with the crisp spring air in our lungs and visions of a 162-0 Yankee team dancing in our heads, letís all get out a clean sheet of loose leaf paper and, in our best, clearest handwriting, take a look at this yearís crop of Yankee campers.


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