"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: July 2006

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How Much More Can You Give Us Big Cash?

Sunday’s acquisition of Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle for Matt Smith and three non-prospects filled the Yankees’ two primary needs in one move for minimal cost. In fact, the move was such masterstroke that yesterday’s follow-up trade of Shawn Chacon for the Pirates’ Craig Wilson almost seemed like showing off.

To begin with, not only had Chacon been removed from the rotation after a disaster start in Cleveland on July 4, but with the acquisition of Lidle on Sunday, he had become a burden, a player occupying a spot on the 25-man roster who had no role to play and was unable to contribute to a winning effort when given an opportunity.

In exchange for this player, the Yankees obtained Wilson, a right handed first-baseman and outfielder with both patience and power at the plate who also has experience behind it. A career .268/.360/.486 hitter, Wilson is exactly the hitter I had hoped Andy Phillips would be at the plate given a proper opportunity. Unfortunately, Phillips hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, hitting just .239/.272/.401 in 235 plate appearances. Enter Wilson, who is just four months Phillips’ senior and has put up those numbers over 2,133 career major league plate appearances.

Yup, the Yankees have a new starting first baseman, or at least a player who can start every day and bounce between first, DH and the corner outfielders per the needs of the regulars in those other positions. If there’s any down side to Wilson it’s that he’s a subpar defensive first baseman, but according to Baseball Prospectus’s Rate stats, Andy Phillips has been just as bad this year despite what has looked to the naked eye like some excellent play around the first base bag. Of course, both are significantly better than Giambi (the exact numbers are a 93 Rate for Wilson and Phillips and an 83 Rate for Giambi). My theory on Phillips’ figure is that he just might be the defensive equivalent of Derek Jeter at first base, a solid player who makes some spectacular-looking plays within a deceptively small range.

So, Wilson holds the line on defense and greatly increases the Yankees production on offense. Not a bad trick. The result is a line-up that could look like this upon the return of Robinson Cano:

L – Johnny Damon (CF)
R – Derek Jeter (SS)
L – Bobby Abreu (RF)
R – Alex Rodriguez (3B)
L – Jason Giambi (DH)
S – Jorge Posada (C)
R – Craig Wilson (1B)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
S – Melky Cabrera (LF)

And that’s without getting Matsui or Sheffield back.

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Swipe

The Yanks have sent Shawn Chacon to the Pirates for 1B/OF Craig Wilson. Good job, Cash. Very nice get. According to Peter Abraham, Aaron Guiel has been optioned, Corey Lidle will start Thursday and Bonzone will go to the pen. My guess is that Bubba Crosby will be next to go, as the Yankees like Andy Phillips’ ability to play second and third.

Abreu Abreme

By now you’ve probably heard the news. After months of rumors, the Yankees finally traded for Bobby Abreu yesterday afternoon. Not only that, but they get to have their cake and eat it to as the deal also brought them back-of-the-rotation starter Cory Lidle, satisfying the team’s need for both another big bat and a viable fifth starter. And all it cost them was a quartet of expendable minor leaguers. More on the identities of those four at the end of this post, but first let’s take a look at the two players the Yankees have acquired.

Bob Kelly Abreu is exactly a month and a half older than Derek Jeter and arrives in New York with a career hitting line of .301/.412/.507. Here’s a complete list of active players who have hit at least .300/.400/.500 on their careers (minimum 1200 plate appearances, or three full seasons) along with their current ages:

Barry Bonds (42)*
Frank Thomas (38)
Chipper Jones (34)
Manny Ramirez (34)
Todd Helton (32)**
Bobby Abreu (32)
Lance Berkman (30)
Albert Pujols (26)

*Bonds’ career average just dipped to .299, but he deserves inclusion anyway
**Helton is more than six months older than Abreu

The Yankees have just acquired the third-youngest established .300/.400/.500 hitter in baseball.

That said, the key to appreciating Bobby Abreu’s talent is understanding that, despite his company above, he is not a home run hitter. To wit, here are the career home run totals for the four youngest players on the above list (career plate appearances per home run in parentheses)

Helton – 282 (20.6 PA/HR)
Abreu – 198 (30.9)
Berkman – 208 (20.3)
Pujols – 234 (16.3)

Rather, Abreu’s greatest strength is his ability to get on base. Only five players with a minimum of 1200 plate appearances reached base more often than Abreu over the last three seasons (2003-2005). Of those five (Bonds, Helton, Pujols, Berkman and J.D. Drew), only Albert Pujols currently has a higher on-base percentage than Abreu, who ranks fifth in the majors with a .427 mark. Notice that Jason Giambi’s name didn’t pop up anywhere in there? Bobby Abreu is a bigger on base threat than the man whose bones repel baseballs out of the strike zone.

Then there’s what Abreu does once he’s on base. Only eight men have stolen more bases over the last three years than Abreu, and Alfonso Soriano, Jimmy Rollins, Jose Reyes, Johnny Damon and Tony Womack are not among them. Here are those eight and Abreu along with their stolen base totals and success rates:

Scott Podsednik – 172 (79%)
Juan Pierre – 167 (73%)
Carl Crawford – 160 (83%)
Chone Figgins – 109 (75%)
Ichiro Suzuki – 103 (79%)
Dave Roberts – 101 (78%)
Carlos Beltran – 100 (88%)
Rafael Furcal – 100 (85%)
Bobby Abreu – 93 (80%)

Get the picture? Despite his bulky appearance (Abreu reminds me of a left-handed version of Sammy Sosa or Jose Canseco when he’s at the plate) and his 2005 Home Run Derby crown, Bobby Abreu is actually more of a lead-off type. He gets on base at a staggering rate and is a prolific and successful base stealer once there (he’s 20 for 24 on the bases thus far this year, good for an 83 percent success rate). That he also happens to hit about 20 home runs every year is a compliment to those core abilities.

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Win Win

The Yankees rebounded on Sunday and defeated the D-Rays 4-2, on the strength of a solid performance from Mike Mussina and key hits by Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter (Hmmm, solo dingers in the upper deck: them bitches come in handy). Damon jerked two solo bombs into the upper deck in right field, one in the fifth, another in the seventh; Jeter added a two-run double. But the biggest news on an unbearably hot Sunday in July involves Bobby Abreu. Abreu and starting pitcher Corey Lidle are coming to New York. ESPN reported the deal early in the game and the Yankees made it official with two out in the bottom of the ninth and Mariano Rivera on the mound. According to John Heyman, the Yankees will send minor leaguers C.J. Henry (the Yankees’ number one pick in 2005, reliever Matt Smith, catcher Jesus Sanchez and right-hander Carlos Monasterios. The postgame show on YES reports that the Yanks will send a total of four minor leaguers to Philly, no names as of yet. Abreu is signed through 2007 and has an option for 2008, but the Yankees will not have to pick-up that option, a huge plus for New York.

I’ve long appreciated Abreu’s wide variety of skills, and though he has underachieved for the better part of the last calendar yet, and has a reputation in some quarters as something less than a gamer, I will be excited to see him in pinstripes. This is the guy that BP’s Rany Jazayerli pronounced as one the most underrated players in baseball at the begining of 2005. He’s not going to be asked to be the team’s best player. Perhaps he’ll fit right in. He is a better defensive right fielder than anything the Yanks have got. Offensively, he is exceedingly patient and a high-percentage base stealer to boot. I don’t have much of a gut feeling as to how he’ll do in New York–I could see him going David Justice or Raul Mondesi–but I’m looking forward to finding out. I suppose this spells the end for either Aaron Guiel or Bubba Crosby. It will surely impact the Yankee future of Gary Sheffield.

Over at ESPN, Keith Law opines:

Bobby Abreu may or may not have lost his power — I think it’s overblown, as he’s still on pace for 40-plus doubles and doesn’t look like he’s lost bat speed or raw strength — but he’s still one of the best offensive players in the game. He’s about to post his eighth straight 100-walk season and has the fifth-best OBP in the game. The Yankees have been running a Bernie Williams/Aaron Guiel platoon out in left, and while Guiel has hit a few homers since he came to the Bronx, he’s still a four-A player who has no place on a contending club’s roster. Even if Abreu’s home run total remains low, he’s worth two extra wins to the Yankees if he takes at-bats away from Bernie and Guiel, and more if his home-run power comes back.

Cory Lidle is a finesse right-hander with excellent control who will probably struggle to be a league-average starter in the American League at this point, but he is an enormous improvement over Sidney Ponson, Kris Wilson and Aaron Small — whom the Yanks have employed as fifth starters this year. Lidle’s best pitch is a splitter, but his fastball is a tick below average so he has to have good command to be effective and keep the ball out of the seats. Since the guys he’s replacing have been so bad, he’s still a one-to-two-win upgrade for the balance of the season, making this one of the biggest impact deals any club will make this month.

As for the game, Mike Mussina threw a lot of pitches early on, running into jams in the third and fourth innings. A throwing error by Jorge Posada got Mussina in trouble in the third, but he struck out Julio Lugo and Carl Crawford to escape cleanly. After giving up a one-out single to Travis Lee in the fourth, Mussina walked Jorge Cantu before giving up an RBI single to Johnny Gomes. Russell Branyon flew out to deep center field and then Mussina got the hot-hitting Tomas Perez (who had four doubles on Saturday) to wave at an 0-2 knuckle curve in the dirt. Posada scrambled for the ball as Perez started back to the Devil Ray’s dugout and Mussina walked off the mound. But the umpire called “foul tip.” A bum call for sure, one that got worse when Perez lined Mussina’s next offering into center field for a game-tying single.

That was the only real danger Mussina would face all afternoon as he retired ten of the next eleven hitters, striking out eight overall. Kyle Farnsworth struck out the side in the eighth and Mariano Rivera buzzed through the Rays in the ninth to lock down the Bombers’ 61st win of the year. Mike Mussina earned his 13th win, and is 6-1 following a Yankee loss.

Scorched

There was not much that happened on the field on Saturday afternoon that the Yankees or their fans would like to remember. Although things started promisingly for the Bombers when Derek Jeter and Jason Giambi hit back-to-back solo home runs in the first inning, they quickly spun out of control as the Devil Rays pounded ‘em but good, 19-6. Coupled with the Red Sox’s come-from-behind win over the Angels, the Yanks now trail Boston by a game-and-a-half in the AL East. Randy Johnson had nothing, Shawn Chacon had less than nothing. In all, it was a groaner through and through.

I was at the game with a bunch of my oldest friends. We sat in Row T in the Upper Tier, safe from the sun, but not exactly safe from the dopes. In the fourth inning a crew eight kids (in their early-to-mid-twenties) arrived. They were having a bachelor party. All of them were lean, and tightly muscled. They were all dressed in clean, tight-fitting t-shirts or sports shirts. They all had clean haircuts, and some of them wore sunglasses and they had attitude to spare. These dudes are the sort that think “Entourage” is about them, but they were actually much closer to being like “Bring Up Gotti” (In fact, one of the kid’s was a dead ringer for one of the Gotti boys). We guessed where they were from? Long Island, Jersey, Brooklyn, Staten Island? Long Island turned out to be the correct answer.

I had a brief misunderstanding with one of them–who couldn’t have been more rude–when they first got there which set the tone for bad vibes. As fate would have it, we were sitting in an alcohol-free section. The kid who bought the tickets for the bachelor party did not realize this and you should have seen the look of disappointment on his face when he realized what he had done. Ah, sweet justice. The best moment came when the kid who looked like one of the Gotti’s–same super-gelled spikey haircut and all–pulled out a small ziplock bag. His friend next to him had no idea what it was–a bag of cocaine? Hardly. The bag was filled with babywipes. So Gotti pulls out a baby wipe and carefully dabs his forehead right underneath the hairline, presumably to keep the grease from his hair running onto his face. “These bitches come in handy,” he said, now sounding exactly like a scene from “Entourage.”

The Gavones left in the sixth, sick of watching the beating the Yanks were taking, and sick of no beer.

We sat through the whole thing, of course. When we were outside of the stadium, we heard a teenage boy talking loudly to a friend: “That was the…worst game..I have ever seen in…my…life…ever!”

It wasn’t that bad. But it makes today’s game important. Go Mikey Moose.

In other, perhaps more pressing news, both the Daily News and the New York Post report that the Yankees are a bit closer to landing Bobby Abreu.

Hey Now.

My Favorite Redundancy

The complete game shutout. Last year, the Yankees got four of them, the first coming on May 7 when Mike Mussina shutout the A’s on a sunny Saturday in the Bronx. That kicked off a ten-game winning streak that pushed the 11-19 Yankees over .500 for the first time since the fifth game of the season. The last of those ten wins was the Yankees’ second complete game shutout, thrown by some guy named Carl Pavano in Seattle. Less than a month later, Moose tossed his second shutout, this one at home against the Pirates, kicking off a five-game winning streak that pushed the 30-32 Yankees back over .500 yet again. Finally, Aaron Small bookended things nicely by shutting out the A’s in Oakland on a sunny Saturday afternoon in September.

Last night, the Yankees received their first complete game shutout of the year as Chien-Ming Wang made short work of the Devil Rays by limiting them to just four base runners, two on singles, two on walks. Wang needed just 104 pitches to shut out the Rays in a game that lasted two hours and 33 minutes primarily because the Yankees put 17 men on base and scored six runs. Wang was perfect through four innings, faced just 30 batters, and recorded 18 of his 27 outs on ground balls. The only man to get past first base was Julio Lugo, who reached on an infield single with two outs in the sixth, stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch only to be stranded when Rocco Baldelli flew out to center.

As for the Yankees, they got on the board right away when a two-out Alex Rodriguez single plated a Johnny Damon lead-off double in the first. They added two more in the second. Andy Phillips led off with a single and was called safe at second when Julio Lugo bobbled and dropped the pivot on a double play ball off the bat of Melky Cabrera. Miguel Cairo then bunted both runners up and Derek Jeter drove them home with a single to right. Two more runs came in the fourth when Devil Rays’ starter Tim Corcoran (no relation) followed a Derek Jeter one-out double by walking Giambi, Rodriguez and Posada, the last two on nine pitches. Posada’s walk drove in the Yankees’ fourth run and drove Corcoran from the game. Chad Harville then came in and, after getting Bernie Williams to fly out to shallow left, walked in the Yankees fifth run by giving Andy Phillips a free pass on five pitches. Two innings later, Bernie homered off Harville to put the final score at 6-0

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The Devil Rays

Although it didn’t work out particularly well in Toronto, the Yankees have had some rather fortuitous timing since the All-Star break. First they faced a White Sox team that had a .648 winning percentage in the first half just as it hit its first serious skid of the year. The Yankees swept the Chisox at home to open the second half, and the Sox have since gone 2-7, pushing their skid to 3-12 dating back to their final series before the break.

Next the Yankees faced the Mariners at home without having to see Jamie Moyer or Felix Hernandez, taking two of three. They then traveled to Toronto on the even of the Shea Hillenbrand fiasco. The Jays took three of four that weekend, but have since lost three of four to put their post-Hillenbrand record at .500. Most recently, the Yankees stopped by Arlington, Texas to finish their season series with the Rangers with a three-game sweep. The last of those victories saw the Yankees score four runs in the eighth inning against Francisco Cordero, who just earlier today was sent to Milwaukee in the deal for Carlos Lee. Had that trade happened before the Yankees traveled to Texas, the sweep may not have.

Tonight the Yankees come back home to host a three-game weekend series against the Devil Rays. Good timing? Well, Scott Kazmir was supposed to start tomorrow, but has been skipped due to shoulder soreness. Alex’s boy, Yankee-killer Jonny Gomes, has a shoulder injury of his own that will require surgery this offseason. Though he’s tried to play through it, it isn’t working. Gomes is hitting just .121/.181/.258 in July and has been dropped to the bottom third of the order. Finally, Aubrey Huff, the other Devil Ray who always seemed to hurt the Yankees (in part because, like Gomes, he’s simply a good hitter), was dealt to Houston for a pair of minor leaguers two weeks ago.

Yeah, that’s good timing. Not that the Devil Rays have been a big threat to the Yankees thus far this season (the Yanks lead the season series 6-2), but every little bit helps.

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The Waiting Game

According to Buster Olney:

The Yankees want Bobby Abreu, and the Phillies keep calling the Yankees and asking for top prospects; the Yankees’ executives will not trade pitcher Philip Hughes. If the Phillies’ priority is to dump salary, it appears Philadelphia will have to lower its demands in order to give itself a chance to move Abreu’s contract — and even then, it wouldn’t be a sure thing. Abreu must approve any deal.

Even if the Yanks don’t make a splashy move, it’s hard to imagine that they won’t make at least one small deal. So, what do you think is gunna happen?

Way Out in Brooklyn

Every time I approach my barber’s shop on Smith Street in Brooklyn, I expect to be greeted by awful news. My barber is too old to work anymore, or worse, he’s dead. I lived in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn from 1994 through 2000. One day I was looking for a barber shop, and I ran across Efrain. He came to Brooklyn from Puerto Rico in 1955. His father was a barber and his three older brothers were barbers too. He cut my hair with such care and patience that I have been a loyal customer ever since. It’s worth the two-plus hour roundtrip commute to the Bronx. Efrain, a silver-haired man with kind eyes and soft, smooth hands, no longer owns his own shop—he had to give his up five years ago, a victim of Smith Street’s rapid gentrification. He’s past retirement age but still works six days a week.

Now Efrain has a chair up the block from his old place, in a barber shop run by Ray, a self-absorbed Puerto Rican man in his mid-fifties. Ray’s shop is no longer cluttered mess it had been for years, as Ray’s daughter and her boyfriend use the space one a week to give dancing lessons. Three chairs stand in the middle of the space, and both walls are covered with mirrors. Ray has a trim mustache and likes to pontificate authoritatively about boxing, salsa music and women. When he is not holding court, he is sullen and removed as he works. Rays’ son Macho, a plump man in his early thirties with a thick scar on his left forearm, cuts heads too, his chair situated between Ray’s and Efrain’s.

It was overcast and muggy last Saturday morning when I arrived. Macho was walking out as I was walking in. I said my hellos and Efrain motioned to me, tilting his head forward and looking over his glasses, a pair of scissors in his raised right hand. Only three heads waiting in front of me, not bad for Saturday. I stuck my nose into my book. Old Salsa music played over the stereo. I didn’t recognize the tunes, but they were familiar anyhow. This was the music I heard up and down Amsterdam Avenue when I was a kid: Ray Barretto, Willie Bobo, Willie Colon, and Mongo Santamaria. Not ten minutes later, I was pleased to discover Efrain calling me to his chair.

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Beneath the Surface

Neil deMause has a column in the Villiage Voice about politics, the city of New York and the New York Yankees.

City documents newly uncovered by the Voice reveal that the New York Yankees billed city tax- payers hundreds of thousands of dollars for the salaries of team execs and high-powered consultants to lobby the city and state, thanks to the team’s sweetheart lease deal engineered by the Giuliani administration.

“You’ve created this weird circular situation where the city is, effectively, paying with taxpayer money to have itself lobbied for potentially more taxpayer money,” says Common Cause’s Megan Quattlebaum, one of several government watchdogs who were dumbfounded when the Voice told them last week about the deal. “Taxpayers would not be pleased at all to hear that the city is subsidizing someone to come back and hold their hand out to lobby for more.”

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Continue reading if you have the stomach for such things.

Spell Check: The School of Hard Knocks

The Goon Show: Part II

When I was thirteen years old I met Mike Fox, my dad’s old pal from his days in show business. Three years later, I visited Mike in London during a summer trip to my grandparent’s home in Belgium. “Hope and Glory,” John Boorman’s autobiographical story about growing up in England during the Blitz had just been released. Mike was the camera operator on the film and was duly proud of his work on it. He took me to a cast and crew screening in London, one of the highlights of my vacation.

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Joe Knows

Pete Abraham, the Yankee beat reporter for The Journal News, has an interesting, insider’s take on Yankee skipper Joe Torre today over at The Baseball Analysts. I was going to put up an excerpt but I couldn’t trim it down sufficiently…instead, just head on over to Rich and Bryan’s terrific site and check it out for yourself.

Boom Bap

“I feel like we robbed the bank tonight – twice,” A-Rod said. “They may have played the better game but we won.”
(N.Y. Daily News)

Alex Rodriguez led off the top of the eighth inning last night with his team trailing 4-2. Jaret Wright had allowed all four runs and didn’t make it out of the sixth. Meanwhile, after scoring seven runs on just four hits on Tuesday night, the Yanks had collected nine hits in the first seven innings with just two runs to show for it (both runs scored on Andy Phillips’ first inning single, his first of three hits). Francisco Cordero faced Rodriguez now, and kept throwing fastballs away. The count went full and Cordero went away again, but not far enough, and Rodriguez stroked a line drive over the center field fence onto the grass to bring the Yankees closer. A nice early birthday gift for Rodriguez (2-5) who turns 31 today.

Bernie Williams followed with a walk and then Phillips dunked a single into left. Melky Cabrera was asked to bunt the runners over. He stabbed weakly at the first pitch and fouled it off. According to manager Joe Torre after the game, the bunt sign was then taken off. But Cabrera missed it and he lunged again, to no avail. To make matters worse, he attempted to bunt again on the very next pitch. He fouled off a couple of pitches and worked the count even and then slapped a double into the left-center field gap (the outfield had been playing in). Suddenly, the Yanks were ahead by a run, and Larry Bowa was pumping his fist and shouting at Cabrera. Sal Fasano, who reluctantly had roughly 20 inches of hair cut off before the game, bunted Cabrera to third. And Melky came home on a wild pitch from Cabrera.

Everything appeared to be in order. But Kyle Farnsworth could not get loose, bothered by a stiff back. Torre absolutely wanted to stay away from using the over-worked Scott Proctor, so rookie TJ Beam started the eighth. But he could not put away the Rangers’ lead off hitter, Gary Matthews, Jr, who drew a nine-pitch walk. Beam, a lanky right hander, then fell behind Ian Kinsler. Another base on balls was unacceptable so Beam’s 3-1 offering was right over the plate. Kinsler drove the ball to right center field. It skipped over the fence for a ground rule double. Torre, furious, walked to mound and summoned Proctor, then returned to the bench and simmered.

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Wright Away

Jaret Wright is on the hill tonight as the Yanks go for the sweep in Texas. Since you never know what you are going to get with Wright, it would behoove the Yankee offense to break open a can o whup ass against the Rangers’ rookie southpaw, John Rheinecker.

Love to see a big night from Alex Rodriguez. Giambi too, provided that he’s in the line-up. Giambi has slumped considerably in July with little to no fanfare. Hopefully, Damon will play and help get the ball a-rollin. And perhaps, a little bit of comic relief from Sal Fasano.

Let’s Go Yan-Kees.

Pluggin’ Away

The Yankees only mustered four hits againt the Rangers on Tuesday night but still managed to come away with a 7-4 win. Wildness was the case for Texas, who allowed three runs in fourth inning on a five walks, a hit batter and a single. But it was Aaron Guiel’s three-run dinger in the fifth that proved to be the decisive blow. Pete Abraham of The Journal News has dubbed Guiel “Ralph Malph.” I’ve got a more random call (and it only works looking at him head-on when he’s at bat): Sissy Spacek. It’s the nose, mouth, the freckles. Work with me on this one.

Mike Mussina was far from brilliant but he was good enough to earn victory number 12 on the season. Scott Proctorthe subject of trade rumors–pitched well, as did Mariano Rivera, who earned the save (#24). Alex Rodriguez had a decent night (HBP, two walks, two runs scored). He whiffed in his last at bat after narrowly missing a home run, but looked just fine in the field. Actually, he looked great. Had that confident, concentrated look on his mug again. I’m guessing that being back in Texas has been helpful. According to Tyler Kepner in The New York Times:

The Yankees also seem to be loosening up. Even Alex Rodriguez, who has not made an error since Friday, playfully kissed teammate Andy Phillips on the back of the head when a scoreboard “Kiss Cam” focused on the Yankees’ bench.

“It meant a lot,” Phillips said, laughing. “I can tell my grandkids about that.”

After his smooch, Rodriguez got up and walked to the other end of the dugout, raising his arms over his head and winking at the camera.

Johnny Damon sat out a second-straight night with a sore back. He is expected to be back in the line-up this evening.

In other news…

“I don’t want him, you can have him, he’s too fat for me,” Alice Kramden sang to her husband once a long time ago. This was the first thing that popped into my head when I read in the Post that the Yankees have picked up back-up catcher Sal Fasano, previously of the Phillies. Bonzone and now Fasano. I believe that Kelly Stinnett has done a poor job in the role, but can Fasano be much better? Somewhere, someone (or a lot of someones) are chuckling about this one. What’s Fasano worth without that mustache, which I’m sure he’ll have to shave? Also, I remember calling Ron Hassey Ron Fatassy, back in the eighties. Anyone come up with a good one for Fasano yet? This is mine (with a nod to Dimelo): Ron Jeremy plus the late Vincent Schiavelli.

Lastly, Jack Curry reports that Phillip Hughes will not be pitching for the US Olympic team, now or anytime soon.

Eaton Moose

The Yanks go for a quick and easy series win tonight with their ace, Mike Mussina, taking the hill against former Padre Adam Eaton, who will be making his Rangers debut after spending four months on the DL due to a strained middle finger on his pitching hand. Eaton has made four minor league rehab starts, two in double-A and two in triple-A. He dominated in all four turns, allowing just one run at each level, but the Rangers kept him on a strict pitch limit which held him to a mere 12 1/3 innings pitched across those four starts. Part of me expects Eaton to get roughed up tonight, if not the first time through the order, then certainly the second time ’round as he gets past his minor league pitch limits. Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the Eaton.

No Sweat

Last week’s heat wave has given way to some absolutely beautiful days here in the New York area. Not that it does the Yankees any good. Last night’s game time temperature in Arlington was 94 degrees, but the Yankees were as cool as the other side of the pillow, answering a second inning solo homer by Mark Teixeira off Randy Johnson with four runs over the next three innings.

In the third, a pair of two-out triples by Melky Cabrera and Derek Jeter tied the score. In the fourth, Alex Rodriguez and Bernie Williams scored on a two-out double by Miguel Cairo to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead. In the fifth, Alex Rodriguez received some cosmic justice when, with Melky on third and Jason Giambi on first and one out, Rodriguez hit a sharp grounder to third and Texas third baseman Mark DeRosa tried to nail Melky at home, but threw the ball in the dirt, allowing Cabrera to score.

The Rangers got that run back in the bottom of the inning when that man Teixeira drove home a Gary Matthews Jr. double with two outs only to get nailed by Cabrera when he tried to stretch his hit into a double and overslid the bag. Two pitches later, the Yanks returned the favor via an Aaron Guiel solo shot.

A pair of doubles by Jeter and Rodriguez added another run in the seventh, capping the scoring at 6-2 Yankees. Johnson, showing no ill effects from the 129 pitches he threw in his previous start, pitched six strong and Proctor, Farnsworth, and Rivera combined to hold the Rangers to three hits and no walks while striking out five over the final three innings.

Farnsworth has now struck out the side in his last two appearances and hasn’t walked a man in his last 11 innings pitched, dating back to June 25 against the Marlins. His line over that stretch is 11 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 HR, 0 BB, 8 K. Proctor has also been pitching well of late. Since the All-Star break his line is 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 HR, 0 BB, 12 K.

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Texas Rangers

Like every other team in the AL West, the Rangers are a straight-up .500 ballclub. That’s why there are just four games separating first and last place in that division. For their part, the Rangers have by far the best run differential of the bunch and stand just a half game behind the first-place A’s.

The three-game series set to start tonight will finish their season set with the Yankees. Back in May, the Yankees swept a three-game set in Texas, then split a four-game set with the Rangers in the Bronx thank in large part to one of the wildest games the Yankees have played in recent memory. That adds up to a 5-2 advantage in the season series for the New Yorkers. Now, if the Rangers are a truely .500 team, they’ll catch fire and sweep the Yanks here to even the season series, then punt their ensuing three-game set against the Royals, leading to much rending of garments among the Bronx Banter readership.

For the more enlightened members of that group, win or lose a highlight of this series should be that we’re getting our first look at rookie Ian Kinsler (.304/.370/.492) who, along with Jose Lopez and the still MIA Robinson Cano, gives the AL an exciting crop of young second basemen.

Tonight Randy Johnson takes on Kevin Millwood. Both veterans have been headed in the right direction of late after rough starts to their seasons, though both also suffered a pre-All-Star break hicup. As is becoming a tradition in my pregame posts for Johnson’s starts, here’s Randy’s combined line in his last three starts: 22 2/3 IP, 18 H, 10 R, 8 ER, 3 HR, 1 BB, 22 K.

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Oy Veh

Boom, Bap, Thwap: Flat Yanks Tank, Spanked (and happy to be leaving Canada). Sunday’s Final: 13-5. Meanwhile, two reports suggest that it is unlikey that Bobby Abreu will be a Yankee this time next week.

Scrappin’

Three game losing streak? Hold a pre-game team meeting. While Alex Rodriguez’s slump continues, the Yankees scrapped and rallied to defeat the Blue Jays 5-4 on Saturday evening in front of more than 50,000 at the Rogers Centre, gaining a game back on the Red Sox who lost earlier in the day (the Yanks trail by two-and-a-half). Jorge Posada, the Bronx version of “Captain Red Ass,” tripled (?!?) after objecting to a high offering by Ted Lilly which came close to his noggin, Bernie Williams hit a two-run homer, Jason Giambi had a clutch pinch-hit (he walked in his second at bat and was pinch run for by Jaret Wright!), and Derek Jeter drew a walk with the bases loaded, scoring what would be the game-winning run. For the second straight start Chien-Ming Wang was far from electric, but he was good enough while the Yankee bullpen was dynamite: Scott Proctor struck out the side in the seventh, ditto for Kyle Farnsworth in the eighth, and Mariano Rivera–who is way too cool for strikeouts by now–sent the Jays down, 1-2-3 in the ninth on two ground balls to Jeter and a pop fly to Rodriguez at third.

Rodriguez, who was taking ground balls five hours before the game began with coaches Larry Bowa and Don Mattingly, was the DH and only played the field in the ninth inning. Rodriguez struck out four times for the first time since 1995. Even more troubling was that Rodriguez swung through or fouled off at least four fat pitches in his last two at bats. It wasn’t so much a case of the pitcher beating him as it was him beating himself. Rodriguez’s troubles have gotten worse over the past week. What I find fascinating is that the cause of his fielding woes is his arm–something that has long been his strength defensively. I mean, his arm is that last thing I’ve ever worried about. (Perhaps the Yankees’ next stop–in Texas to play the Rangers–will bring some comfort to Rodriguez.)

It’s painful for everyone involved–from the fans to Rodriguez himself of course–watching the Yankees’ superduper star struggle so mightly. The situation is intensified by the fact that the Yankee offense desperately needs his power. My girlfriend never cared much for Rodriguez until he became the target of the fans’ ire. This morning, she released the following statement:

“There’s no question that he will rebound from this slump. I’m patient until he does. And I wish everyone would just shut-up and leave him alone and give him the room to breath and continuing helping the Yankees win as he always has. Which is what the fans want…right?!”

For what it is worth, I have every bit of confidence that Rodriguez will be just fine. According to Tyler Kepner in The New York Times:

In the clubhouse Saturday, after cuddling with his 20-month-old daughter, Natasha, Rodriguez was asked if he felt pressure mounting on the field. Appearances aside, he insisted he did not.

“Not at all,” Rodriguez said. “You wish you could be hitting .340 with 35 home runs — and Big Papi has, what, 95 R.B.I.?,” he added, referring to Ortiz, who leads the majors with 92. “But, guys, this is a human being. You guys screw up sometimes. I’m sure sometimes when you guys write, you misspell a word. That’s life, we’re human beings.

“I wish we were perfect. But I feel very comfortable and very confident.”

And Reggie Jackson tells Mike Lupica:

“I hear people say (A-Rod) might not be tough enough for this,” Jackson said. “He’s more than tough enough. You don’t do what he’s done in this game without being tough enough. I see it on his face every night. I see that he knows what every player knows, whether they’re as great as he is or not: What a hard, humbling game this really is. You know why he’ll play through this? Because he has to. He’ll do what he’s always done, and show up every day and go to work with a toolbox that has more in it than anybody else playing. More than (Albert) Pujols, more than anybody else you want to talk about.

“I signed the biggest contract once, and I knew when I did what I was taking on. And you better believe I knew that it was one more thing that I was going to have to carry up the hill with me. Alex is going up that same hill now. And it’s like I just said: He’ll make it because he has to, because we’ve got more than 60 home runs and 200 RBI on the bench (Matsui, Sheffield) and because he’s as great as he is and because he just has to.

“It’s like I told Jeter that time when he was 0-for-32: Figure it out because you ain’t going anywhere. There ain’t no place to hide. You never get hurt. You’re not sitting down. You’re gonna be there every day and you’re Derek Jeter. Same way with Alex. He’s Alex Rodriguez.

…”I wish they didn’t boo him,” he said. “I wish they didn’t boo me. But I always respect the fans and love them and in the end, they aren’t really a part of this, even if you know they want to love him. This isn’t about whether you think the boos are justified or unjustified. It isn’t about the media. This is about him. The guy has all that talent.

“You take on a lot of things when you take the money and come here and tough times are part of it. He’ll get through this and he’ll be better for it.”

The Yanks will need Rodriguez’s pop today, what with Bonzone on the hill for the Yanks. Here’s hoping the Yanks can out-pound the Jays and come away with a split.

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