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Monthly Archives: May 2005

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All good things come to an end, and the Yankees winning streak ended ugly last night, as three errors (Womack, Sheff, and a crucial one by Jorge Posada) resulted in a 7-6 Seattle win. The Bombers had a chance in the ninth, but Jason Giambi struck out with the bases loaded to end the game. I didn’t stay up to watch, so I can’t speak about the particulars, but I gather it was a discourgaing way to cap off an impressive road trip. Regardless, the Yanks are in much better shape today than they were two weeks ago.

The Subway Serious is on this weekend against the Mets. I’m not one for manufactured excitement. As a result, the so-called rivalry with the Mets doesn’t get me amped. However, I’m in the minority on this one, and Shea stadium will be plenty packed. I’ve watched the Mets some this year and think they are an enjoyable team. I’ve always liked Piazza and Cliff Floyd. Beltran is a star, and David Wright is an appealing young player. If their pitching keeps them in the game, they should be a good match for the Yanks. Pedro Martinez has been pushed back to Sunday, so Victor Zambrano gets the nod on Friday night. He’ll go against Kevin Brown. That should be a wild one.

End of the Road

The road trip that is. The Yanks go for their second sweep of the Mariners in a ten day span tonight, with Mike Mussina–who started this whole winning streak thingy by shutting out the A’s a week and a half ago–coming off the three best starts of his season. His mound opponent will be Jamie Moyer, who hasn’t made it out of the fourth inning of any of his last three starts, the last coming against the Yankees when he was run with one out in the third. Moyer has a 19.80 ERA in his two May starts combined.

Bernie Williams, who has always owned Moyer and went 2 for 2 against him last week with a double and an RBI single, is expected to start, which might mean Womack will sit and the outfield will be an adventure.

Speaking of line-up changes, I had this fantasy that Joe Torre decided that, with the series in his pocket, he could sit E-Rod tonight in favor of Andy Phillips or Russ Johnson, or perhaps a two-at-bats-each in-game platoon of the two. You see, E-Rod has played third for all but one inning this season while Johnson has just one at-bat in the majors this year and Phillips hasn’t played since he took an 0-fer in Moose’s streak-starting shutout back on May 7. With the Yanks headed to Shea to take on the Mets this weekend, it would help to have those two bats a bit warmer than they are now (which is ice cold) for pinch-hit opportunities. And it wouldn’t hurt to rest E-Rod with the series in the bag and a 5-0 record on the current road trip.

Just a thought. I know it won’t happen.

Sweet and Meaty

Where’s the beef? Right here, dog. Yankee sirloin was in full effect last night, as Carl Pavano, Jason Giambi, Alex Rodriguez, and Jorge Posada powered the Bronx Bombers to their tenth straight victory. A night after hitting a grand slam, Bernie Williams was back on the bench. Characteristically, he took the news in stride, telling the Daily News:

“At this point in my career, who cares what I do?” he said. “All we care about is winning games and getting to the postseason.”

Speaking of meat, today, is the 18th. As a kid, this day had special meaning for me, because it’s Reggie Jackson’s birthday. Funny, how other people’s birthdays can make such an impression on you when you are growing up. For the rest of my life, I’ll never forget how meaningful this day used to be for me.


Or as Alex would likely title it “. . . and ya don’t stop.”

The Yanks won their tenth straight last night behind a dominating complete game shutout by Meat Pavano against the very same Mariner team that beat him bloody last week in New York. Here’s his final line:

9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K, 68 percent strikes

Pavano allowed just six baserunners all game, a full third of them in the ninth inning. Meat hit Bret Boone with a pitch in the second, gave up consecutive singles to Richie Sexson and Raul Ibanez in the fourth and a single to Boone in the seventh. Pavano did not allow an extra base hit, did not walk a batter, and did not allow a runner past second base. His seven strikeouts tied his season high and 15 of the 20 outs recorded by his defense came on ground balls. Seattle never had a shot.


Fear of the Unknown

The Mariners are pulling Julio Mateo out of the bullpen to make his first major league start tonight. This may look like a great opportunity for the Yankees to extend their winning streak, but this sort of set-up always seems to go awry for the pinstripers.

Mateo, for example, may not have started since A-ball in 2000, and he may be averaging just two innings per outing this year, but that 2IP/G is up from his career average, and his last two outings have been the longest of his season at 3 1/3 innings each. What’s more, he has a 0.41 ERA, the opposition is hitting .154/.205/.179 (.137 GPA) against him (ten singles, two doubles, two walks against ten Ks in 22 innings), and in his second-most-recent outing he held the Yankee’s scoreless over 3 1/3. He’s pitching so well that Jason over at U.S.S. Mariner actually suggested the M’s move Mateo into the rotation in a post this past Saturday, with no expectation that the Mariners would actually do it, let alone so soon (to be fair, this is a spot start while Joel Pineiro works on his mechanics in the minors).

More encouraging for the Yankees and their fans, Dave added a very informative post yesterday that reveals that Mateo pitches to contact in the Quantrill/Lieber style except that instead of throwing ground balls, Mateo is an extreme fly-ball pitcher. Thus far this season Mateo has an absurdly low .176 opponents’ average on balls in play (against a league average of .293) and has yet to allow a home run. In other words, he’s pitching way over his head. Dave fears the odds will catch up with Mateo tonight over an extended outing against the Yankees’ major league leading offense. Here’s hoping he’s right.

Meanwhile, the Yankees have to hope that whatever ailed Carl Pavano in his last start (in addition to Alex Rodriguez’s defense, that is) has subsided in the days since. Especially since Joe Torre has inexplicably decided to bump Chien-Ming Wang out of his scheduled start at Shea on Sunday and use Thursday’s day off to let Pavano move up a day in his place. Wang should start one of the first two games of next week’s homestand against the Tigers instead.

In other news, don’t look now, but Mike Stanton is the only active Yankee reliever with an ERA over 4.00. Meanwhile, Ruben Sierra is playing extended spring training games in Tampa (batting left exclusively for the moment) and should start a Florida State League rehab stint mid-week. Take your time, Ru.

Eight is Great, But Nine Is Finer

. . . and rolling, and rolling . . .

The Yanks made it nine straight in Seattle last night thanks to another strong performance by Chien-Ming Wang and a seventh-inning grand slam by Bernie Williams in his first start of the road trip.

Wang coughed up a pair of runs to the Mariners in the first on an Ichiro Suzuki single and stolen base, an Adrian Beltre single and a Raul Ibanez double. He then retired eighteen straight batters before getting knocked out of the game in the seventh by a Bret Boone double (misplayed just a half inning after his grand slam by Bernie, who started in center for the first time since the big shakeup) and a more legitimate double by Jeremy Reed that drove Boone home. TanGorMo kept the M’s scoreless the rest of the way. And yes, Wang did post a season-high four strikeouts, while not walking a batter for the first time in his four major league starts.

As for the Yanks, they got runners on in each of the first five innings against Aaron Sele, but only got one of them home, a Robinson Cano lead-off double in the third that was cashed in on a pair of groundouts by Hideki Matsui and Alex Rodriguez. Batting second for the first time (Womack sat), Cano went 2 for 5 and is now 13 for 22 with six doubles in his last five starts.

Sele struck out the side in the sixth, but the last strike was his 115th pitch, so, leading 2-1, Mike Hargrove went to his pen in the seventh. Shigetoshi Hasegawa loaded the bases with one out. Lefty George Sherrill (who replaced Joel Pineiro on the roster) got Tino (who didn’t homer, but drew an intentional walk earlier in the game with a man on second and two outs) to ground into a fielder’s choice, forcing Sheffield out at home and keeping the bases loaded with one out.

That brought up Bernie Williams, who had a walk, a groundout and a flyout on the night. Hargrove went to his top righty set-up man, J.J. Putz. Putz fired a fastball to Bernie and Bernie smacked it to dead center. Centerfielder Jeremy Reed went back, jumped and reached over the wall, the ball hit his mitt and the simultaneous impact of the ball and the wall knocked Reed’s glove off his hand. Grand slam. 5-2 Yankees.

The M’s pulled a run closer against Wang, as mentioned, but the Yanks came right back against Jeff Nelson on singles by Cano, Sheffield and E-Rod to put the final score at 6-3.

The Yankees are now one game over .500 and just a half game behind Toronto for third place in the AL East. Also, the A’s snapped their eight-game losing streak against the Red Sox, allowing the Yankees to pull within 2.5 games of the World Champs. The Yankees’ current nine-game winning streak is their longest since they won nine in late June and early July of 2001. Lastly, when the Yankees were struggling in April and the first week of May, Joe Torre repeatedly said that he was just waiting for the team to pull off nine out of ten and get going. Well, guess what?

Is Eight Enough?

The Yankees’ current eight-game winning streak matches their best such streak from last season. Interestingly, last year’s streak also included a 5-1 run against the A’s and got the Yanks out of an early hole and back over .500. The Yankees aren’t back over .500 yet, but they would be with a win tonight as they roll into Seattle to face a Mariner team they swept in the Bronx one week ago.

Not much has changed with the M’s since then, though they did have fun this weekend, taking 2 of 3 from the Red Sox (by comparison the A’s were swept by the Sox in between series with the Yanks). There have been a couple of roster changes in Seattle. Wiki Gonzalez, who was called up to replace Dan Wilson and promptly given the starting catching job over a severely slumping Miguel Olivo, has been placed on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. Olivo has been given the starting job back and 21-year-old rookie Rene Rivera has been called up to serve as the back-up.

Meanwhile, Joel Pineiro, who was to become the staff ace after the trade of Freddy Garcia last year only to spend the majority of that time on the DL thus far, has been sent to the minors to work on his mechanics following a rough Friday the 13th start. Reliever Julio Mateo, who has started just 12 games in his professional career, the last coming with Class-A Wisconsin in 2000, will take Pineiro’s start against the Yankees on Tuesday. He will be framed by Aaron Sele (tonight) and Jamie Moyer (Wednesday) against whom the Yankees scored twelve runs on eighteen hits in five innings last week.

Chein-Ming Wang takes the ball for the Yanks tonight. Removing his one rough outing in Tampa, he’s turned in this line in his other two starts: 14 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 0 HR, 5 BB, 3 K. Curiously, the only part of that that isn’t encouraging is the K/BB ratio, which was one of his strong suits in the minors. Expect that to correct itself. He’s already seen his strikeouts increase in all three starts, even if it has only been from 0 to 3.


On an afternoon when Randy Johnson allowed three first inning runs, and ended the game with no strike outs, Tino Martinez powered a Yankee comeback and Jason Giambi had the game-winning hit as the Bombers extended their winning streak to eight, beating Oakland, 6-4. They are now 19-19, and the win was the 1,800th of Joe Torre’s career. Johnson labored through the first four innings, and lasted through six; this was the longest outing of his career withouth recording a K.

But he was helped out by Tino Martinez, who hit two line-drive home runs to right field. Derek Jeter had three hits, and Robinson Cano had four (giving him nine for the three-game set), and Tony Womack swiped four bases for the second time this season. Though he struck out twice with men on base, Alex Rodriguez made one of the crucial plays of the game. With one out in the top of the seventh, Rodriguez walked. Tino Martinez followed and popped out to the third baseman Keith Ginter deep in foul territory. Rodriguez caught Ginter off guard, tagged up, and slid into second base safely. It was the kind of play that has made Derek Jeter an icon in New York. Next, Jorge Posada was intentionally walked, and then Giambi whacked Rincon’s first pitch into the right field corner for a run-scoring double.

Giambi did not talk to the media after the game, but he had a good day on the field. In addition to his clutch double, he hit the ball well in two other times. Sturtze, Gordon, and Rivera set the struggling A’s down in order over the final three innings, as the Yanks have finally reached even.

On the Seventh Day…Bombs Away

It was shortly after eleven o’clock last night when I went to get the car. My cousin’s wedding reception, which was held in a cool French bistro on 5th avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn, made for a lovely evening. The car was a couple of blocks away and when I turned on the radio, the Yanks were comfortably ahead, 15-3 (Rodriguez, Jeter, Posada, and yes, that man Martinez, all homered, while Godzilla had four hits, including three doubles.) I’ll leave the real recap to Cliff, who I assume watched it. Instead, here are some quick links to what’s what in the Sunday papers:

Things might be going from bad to worse for Jason Giambi. Last night, a fan threw a beer on him. He also spoke to reporters and told them how “pissed” he was about being asked to go to the minors. This does not bode well for him. Giving the Boss an excuse to lay into him publicly is not wise.


Six Pack

Thursday’s off-day cleary didn’t faze the win-happy Yanks. Nor did last Saturday’s 131 pitches faze the suddenly vintage Mike Mussina. After featuring a fastball that finally reached the low 90s to shutout the A’s last weekend, Mussina switched to a reliance on a sharp knuckle curve last night to hold those same A’s to two runs on six hits and a walk over seven innings while striking out an encouraging nine men. Suddenly my claims of Moose’s demise seem alarmingly premature. Check out his last three starts combined:

23 IP, 15 H, 4 R, 1 HR, 5 BB, 14 K

In the process he’s dropped his season ERA from 4.97 to 3.46. Of course, I’ll feel better about Mussina once he turns in a solid performance against a team other than the punchless A’s or the last-place Devil Rays, but he certainly is a pleasure to watch right now.

While Moose was cruising the Yanks got out to a 2-0 lead on a first inning home run by Gary Sheffield, who has four homers through the first half of May after hitting just two in April. A 2-RBI triple by Tony Womack (who has a hit in 9 of the Yankees 11 games this month), and two sac flies by Hideki Matsui added four more runs.

In the ninth, Jason Giambi followed lead-off walks by Tino Martinez (who’s homer streak was stopped at five) and Jorge Posada with his first hit since April 28, a single to right which Bobby Kielty misplayed for two extra bases, allowing both baserunners to score. Robinson Cano followed with a double that plated Giambi to put the Yanks up 9-2. Cano was 3 for 4 on the night with a pair of doubles and is now 5 for 7 in his last two games with three doubles. After hitting seemingly ever pitch on the ground to second during his first six or seven games in the majors, Cano is suddenly driving the ball into the gaps with regularity.

Joe Torre went back to the well with Tom Gordon in the eighth despite holding a four-run lead against the worst offense in baseball, but given three more runs to work with in the ninth, finally took Mike Stanton out of mothballs. Understandably, Stanton was rusty, surrendering two runs before he was able to get the third out. Paul Quantrill finished the job. 9-4 Yanks.

Kevin Brown vs. Joe Blanton tonight at 9:05 EST as the Yanks try to make it seven in a row.

Ah, Yes

Mike Mussina pitched seven strong innings and the Yankee offense jumped on Rich Harden early as the Yankees cruised to a 9-4 victory last night in Oakland. Jason Giambi got the nod at DH, and went 1-4; Robinson Cano had three hits including two doubles. The Yanks have now won six straight. I’m between my nephew’s birthday part and my cousin’s wedding, so I don’t have time to get into anything in detail. One thing that I was thinking about last night though was all the premature talk earlier this season about Matsui being a strong candidate for MVP. I’ve heard a lot of people say that he’s been the Yankees’ best player since the start of the 2004 season. He’s been solid, no doubt, but nobody has been better in that time span that Gary Sheffield. (Man, was his dinger off a Harden heater in the first last night sweet.)

Brown goes tonight. What are the odds he can string together two good outings in a row?

Tuff Enuff?

The Yankees’ mini-hot streak will be put to the test tonight as they face Rich Harden in Oakland. The A’s have dropped five straight. Harden sure looked good to me last Sunday, but Ken Arneson assured me that it was one of Harden’s worst performances of the year. Yikes. Hopefully, the Bombers can win the weekend series, then take two-of-three in Seattle before they return to New York to face the Mets. (A week from now, we could be looking at Pedro v. Johnson: mmmm, juicy.)

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First up is the tough young, Mr. Harden. After throwing a lot of pitches in his shut out last Saturday, Mike Mussina is back on the hill for the Yanks. It will be interesting to see how he responds.

Toast, toast

Just a quick personal note here. Cliff and I want to send our best wishes to Jay Jaffe and his beautiful (not to mention funny!) bride Andra, as they tie they knot in Milwaukee this weekend. Our thoughts are with you guys. Have a beer and a brat for us. Here’s wishing you a long, and happy life together.

The Lesson of Stevie Hearsay

Ten days have elapsed since Steve Karsay was designated for assignment. The Yankees have been unable to trade him, leaving them two options: assign him to the minor leagues, or release him. They have chosen the latter. The four-year $22.5 million contract Karsay signed with the Yankees on the sixtieth anniversary of Pearl Harbor calls for him to make $5 million this year, which the Yankees must now pay, along with the $1.5 million buyout on his option for 2006, without hope for getting anything in return.

When the tale of the Giambi-era Yankees is told, Karsay will likely be remembered as a bad signing, a case of the Yankees throwing an unnecessary amount of money at a fragile pitcher to solve a problem that could have been solved less expensively and paying the cost for their reckless behavior, yet another signpost on the fading dynasty’s road to ruin. Upon closer examination, however, Karsay is revealed as merely another victim of Joe Torre’s now notorious push-button method of bullpen management.

When Torre was hired as the Yankee skipper, The Daily News famously dubbed him “Clueless Joe,” and the one statistic most often associated with him was his 4,110 games in a major league uniform, as a player and manager, without a World Series appearance. In fact, in 32 seasons in the majors, Torre had only been to the playoffs once, as the new manager of the 1982 Atlanta Braves. To make matters worse, his was a history of late arrivals.


Bring that Beat Back

In Bill Cosby’s famous “Go Carts” routine, he talked about the importance of having good theme music when racing. Ballplayers love theme music too, as they get to choose four-bar clips that are played when they come to bat in their home parks. Actually, I’m assuming they get to pick their songs. I’m pretty sure they Yankees do anyway. The selections usually are not that interesting: Derek Jeter goes for the latest club hits, Paul O’Neill used to love meat-and-potatoes classic rock cuts. Some guys actually have taste: Chuck Knoblauch appropriately used BDP’s “South Bronx” before his at bats, and David Justice nabbed another 1986 Hip Hop classic, “Eric B is President” by Eric B and Rakim. Other players have a sense of humor–Dave Dellucci goes for the “Godfather” theme down in Texas. (Funny music is so underrated at the ballpark. For instance, a couple of years ago, when Rickey Henderson was on the Mets, he was thrown out trying to steal second one day in Pittsburgh. As he jogged off the field, the organist played “Old Grey Mare.” Wise-ass organists rock.)

Last year, Hideki Matsui used “Get Back” and “Day Tripper” by the Beatles, which I thought was amusing simply because it sounded so out-of-place. But it fit Matsui’s personality well. This year, Matsui is using “The Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin, which is outstandingly random. I’m really loving that. It got me to thinking, wouldn’t it be fun to be able to play DJ for your team? So I sat down and came up with a playlist for the Yankees. (Cliff is working on the bench and will have his picks up later today.) Some of the songs are really obvious, used because they have a good opening, others because the title works.


Picture That

Better late than never, here are some photographs from last Sunday’s game vs. Oakland. (Click on photo’s for a bigger version.)

Emily and Me

Road Island Red: Bobby Kielty



The Yanks and M’s not only played like they had a plane to catch yesterday, but like they had all been out way too late the night before. In a comedy of errors at the Stadium, the Bombers outlasted and outblasted the hapless Mariners, 13-9 to win their fifth straight game. Neither starting pitcher had much and the score was 9-9 after four innings. Alex Rodriguez made two errors, which led to six Seattle runs; Carl Pavano allowed four dingers; for the second time this spring, Jorge Posada Cadillac’d what he thought was a home run into a single; Richie Sexton and Brett Boone kicked the ball around all day, and Shigetoshi Hasegawa perfected Jackie Chan’s Drunken Style during a seventh inning rundown. (Even better was when my better half told me about the play and called Hasegawa “Hitchagoowoo Miniyawa.”)

Tino Martinez homered for the fifth game in a row, one of eight balls that left the yard (four by Seattle, four by New York). According to Michael Kay, Bernie Williams and the Yankees are now calling Martinez, C.C. As in Curtain Call. Tony Womack swiped four bases, and the Yankees’ bullpen was excellent over the last five innings of the game. While it may not have been pretty, the Yanks have to be pleased with the result. They head for the west coast feeling a bunch better than they did when they started this home stand, that’s for sure.

Gitcher Brooms

With their victory last night, the Yankees ran their record to .500 on the month and .500 at home for the year. Despite having already won the series with Seattle (just their fourth of the year and their first following another series win), they’ll need a victory this afternoon against 42-year-old Jamie Moyer to avoid dropping those records back below .500 before leaving town for a six-game trip to the west coast.

The good news is that the Yankees have four men in their line-up with spectacular past success against Moyer, including the blazing hot Tino Martinez (.346/.404/.654 in 52 at-bats), who will look to extend his four-game homer streak. Another of the fab four is Bernie Williams, who will get his second straight start at DH this afternoon. If memory serves me right, Bernie’s numbers against Moyer are a bit deceptive. He has hit .386/.458/.771 (.399 GPA) against him in 83 career at-bats, but I recall that just a few years ago he had a .500 career average against the Seattle hurler, meaning he’s actually struggled against him since. The other two Moyer-killers are Alex Rodriguez (.380/.426/.740 in 50 ABs) and Gary Sheffield, who has hit an unreal .550/.654/1.200 (.594) in 20 career at-bats, most of which likely came during 2004 and interleague play in prior years.

One Yankee with less impressive numbers against Moyer is Hideki Matsui (.250/.333/.438). Matsui’s slump continued last night with an 0 for 5 (though he would have had an RBI double in the third inning if not for Ichiro Suzuki’s ridiculous range in right). He’s hitting .189/.279/.270 (.193) through the first ten games of May, is homerless since the fourth game of the season back on April 8, and his season line has sagged to a pathetic .233/.315/.372 (.235).

One wonders if, with the series in his pocket going into a day game after a night game, Joe Torre might consider sitting Matsui this afternoon. Matsui, of course, has a consecutive games streak that extends back through his career in Japan to August 21, 1993, so he’d most likely appear as a defensive replacement at the end of the game, but with an off-day tomorrow, it would be nice to give Slumpzilla a couple days in which he’s not confronted with his struggles at the plate.


Beating the Bottom Feeders

Chien Ming Wang won his first Major League game last night, pushing the Yankees’ winning streak to four, as the Bombers beat Seattle, 7-4. It was not an especially riveting game–other than some nifty running catches by all three Seattle outfielders–but for Yankee fans it was more than satisfying. When pitching out of the stretch, Wang holds his hands above his head and almost comes to a complete stop. It’s like he momentarily forgets what he’s supposed to do next. I don’t know that I can recall seeing another pitcher with a wind-up that starts so slowly. Julio Mateo, who replaced Aaron Sele in the third inning, had a quicker delivery, but the man took forever between pitches. The deliberate styles of the pitching gave the game a lathargic pace. But after the Yanks jumped out to a 7-2 lead, Wang was impressive, working through the middle innings easily. He was excellent from the fourth through seventh innings.

Wang left the game to a nice hand with one out in the eighth. Tom Gordon replaced him, walked a batter and then allowed a two-run double to Brett Boone. The ball missed being a home run by about three feet. This meant that Mariano Rivera would be called on in the ninth. He struck the first man out, and then lost an 11-pitch battle and gave up a single. But Rivera got Ichiro to pop out to left (Suzuki helped Mo out, swinging at a 2-0 pitch that was up in the strike zone.), and Randy Winn to ground out. And that, was that. Tino Martinez homered for the fourth consecutive game, while John Flaherty and Robinson Cano hit the ball hard all evening, powering the Bombers’ offense. It was nice to see Cano drive the ball and have something to show for it. The Yankees have gotten healthy playing against the A’s and the M’s. They’ve won two series in a row, and improved their record to 15-19.

Slip Up

We can forget about Felix Rodriguez: trade bait. Rodriguez tore cartilage in his left knee getting out of the shower or the hot tub, according to reports. It’s not certain if he’ll need surgery. He could be out for up to six weeks. Infielder Russ Johnson will replace him on the Yankees’ roster.

A Delicate Balance

I wonder if fans were more sympathetic toward aging players before the free agency era. I seriously doubt it. I’m sure fans have always given struggling players a hard time. These days, it’s common to hear a player’s salary come up when he’s slumping horribly. “You make $15 million, throw a strike, get a hit, for crying out loud.” If a player isn’t producing, it must be because he’s a fat cat, too rich and complacent for his own good. Fans have a right to their opinion of course, but often I feel as if this attitude discounts just how difficult it is to play baseball, particularly for players who are over 35 years old. I get as frustrated as the next guy at Kevin Brown, but I feel that it’s easy for me to forget how tough it must be for a guy his age to continue to compete at an elite level. Physically, and mentally, playing baseball into your late thirties must be an incredible challenge. In an article that appeared yesterday in The Baltimore Sun, Laura Vecsey profiled Rafael Palmeiro:

Palmeiro’s eyes dart here and there. He talks with a mix of passion, longing, anxiety.

…But his head is down. His frustration is evident. His disappointment over disappointing his teammates and fans is obvious.

Anxiety is the word that stuck with me. In the third inning of last night’s game with the Yanks trailing 2-0, Bernie Williams came to the plate with men on second and third and nobody out. He popped out to shallow right field, failing to drive in a run. The camera followed Williams as he returned to the dugout. His mouth was tensed, and he clasped his hands together as if he were praying. But the gesture didn’t look like a prayer, it looked as if it was everything he could do to prevent himself from losing his temper. It was just a moment, but it spoke to the kind of anxiety he must be experiencing internally. Moments later, he was sitting next to Don Mattingly, a placid look on his face, talking about the at bat.

Hideki Matsui, mired in the worst slump of his Major League career, must be able to relate. But Matsui still has several good years left in him. For Palmeiro, who homered last night, and Williams, time is running out. The pressure is also on Jason Giambi, who was evidentally approached by Joe Torre and Brian Cashman yesterday about possibly heading to the minor leagues to help his lagging confidence. Giambi insisted that working with Mattingly would be better for him at this time than a trip to Columbus.

Torre told the Daily News:

“I’m a firm believer of the mind ruling the body, and it’s not good right now,” Torre said. “I saw a calmness (before), but calmness in spring training is one thing. When you’re 0-for-4 during the season, it takes on a different face. He was more patient in spring training. Physically, he had a little more life in his body, and I blame the psychological stuff.”

Giambi was treated well by Yankee fans early this spring. But any sense of goodwill has run out, and the reaction to Giambi is getting downright nasty. No matter what happens, it doesn’t feel like Giambi’s career in New York is going to have a happy ending.

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