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Monthly Archives: September 2006

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Good News/Bad News

Okay, the bad news first. Randy Johnson has a herniated disk in his back and it is not certain whether or not he’ll be able to start Game 3 of the ALDS or any other game in the playoffs. The Yankees won’t have any real answers for a few days, but, naturally, losing Johnson would be a blow.

Johnson received an epidural yesterday at Beth Israel Hospital in hopes that the treatment would relieve the discomfort in his back to the point where he would be able to pitch next Friday. An epidural is an injection in the back that is usually a combination of a cortisone-type medication and a local anesthetic that reduces inflammation.

Johnson, 43, was expected to play catch at Yankee Stadium today and was scheduled to throw a bullpen session tomorrow. [Yankee General Manager, Brian] Cashman said no decision would be made concerning Johnson’s postseason status until after he threw tomorrow.

“He’ll tell us,” Cashman said. “It’s not something we can see. He’ll tell us how much more comfortable he is.”
(Kepner, Times)

Hold your breath everybody and hope that the bats and bullpen can carry the team.

Now, for the good news. The Yanks beat the Jays 7-2 last night. Combined with the Tigers stunning loss to the Royals, the Bombers have secured home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Gary Sheffield hit a three-run bomb, Jorge Posada added a two-run shot of his own, and Alex Rodriguez had three hits as Mike Mussina pitched a nice game and notched his 15th victory of the year.

4:05 start today. It’s sunny but brisk and chilly in the Bronx. Gametime temp: 64 degrees. We’ll see some terrific shadows on the field this evening.

Let’s Go Yan-kees.

UPDATE Actually, the sun isn’t anywhere to be found. It is cold and breezy at the Stadium. There is a lot buzzing around the park today with the playoffs just a few days away. Pete Abraham has the latest. Also, the Twins lost this afternoon. Unless the Tigers lose today and tomorrow and the Twinkies can pull out a win in the final game of the season, the Yanks will face Minnie in the ALCS. Scary match-up as the Twins have Santana, a great bullpen, the Metrodome, and some unfinished business with the Yanks in the playoffs. They’d love some payback. We already know that Twins’ owner wants to face the Yankees. Look like his wish is going to come true.

Almost Over

The Jays are in town for the final weekend of the regular season. It’s fall in New York, folks. It’s been chilly today, I can only imagine it’ll be downright cold tonight. Mike Mussina is on the hill for the Bombers.

Let’s Go Yan-Kees!

No No-No

Robinson Cano broke up Daniel Cabrera’s bid for a no-hitter with one out in the ninth inning when he slapped a humped-back line drive to left field for a single. Bobby Abreu followed and hit into a game-ending double play. Final Score: O’s 7, Yanks 1 (the Bombers scored a run, thanks to three Baltimore errors). Exhale. And good by Bollymore.

Four More Games Left

One of Cliff’s favorites, D. Rasner is on the hill tonight for the Infamous Bronx Bomb Squad. The hapless Orioles are a team simply going through the motions at this point. Wonder if they can muster up the umph to play a competitive game tonight?

Oh, and off-the-topic, if anyone is interested in checking out some of my artwork–or music–check out my souped-up web site. Got some good tunes for the Hip Hop heads out there, as well as series of famous sports tirades (including ones from Goose Gossage, Lee Elia, Earl Weaver and Bobby Knight).

Calm Before the Storm

Sometimes, there is nothing as satifying as getting to the ballpark early. Last night, I went with Jay Jaffe to the Yankee game and he had cherce seats in the lower section of the tier directly behind home plate, possibly my favorite general location in the entire park. Until about 35 minutes before game time, the house organist played a string of older popular melodies: “Sunny,” “Groovin,” and even my sentimental favorite, “Angela’s Theme,” (more commonly known as the theme music for the show “Taxi”). Then Bob Sheppard announced the “dos and donts,” in his inimitable articulated and understated fashion. As he read the rules of conduct, a round consessions man who looked very much like a bloated toad, moved around the walkway in the upperdeck, leaning on the railing as if to keep his balance, and repeated Sheppard word-for-word.

At 6:38, the TV screen in centerfield showed Bruce Springsteen sitting in the front row next to the Yankee dugout. Sun-tanned and handsome, the Boss, wearing a blue baseball cap, green army jacket and organge t-shirt, smiled for the camera and spoke in a serious and unselfconscious way to a reporter standing over him. Two teenage girls wearing Yankee caps sat next to him and could not stop giggling as “Glory Days” blared over the P.A. system. The TV screen now showed the two girls and a message read “The Other Boss” (I assumed that one of the girls was Springsteen’s daughter). When the reporter left and the cameraman turned away, the Boss leaned forward and opened his program as his daughter held a camera out with an extended arm and took a picture of herself and the other girl.

By now, the calming sounds of the organ was replaced by the blaring sound of TV highlights and commericals. My section was populated with season ticket holders, many of them older couples, all of them eating. The early bird special. The first pitch was thrown out by Kathy Johnson Masser who in the early fifties (I missed the exact date) became the first girl to ever play in a Little League game. As she left the field, escorted by a younger woman in a business suit, Masser, a short woman wearing a oversized white jersey, was stopped by two of the Yankee players who were leaning over the top rail of the dugout. They said a few words to her and then she walked away.

The Mid Island Little League All Stars from Staten Island–dressed in red and white uniforms–were announced to the crowd and the kids got to stand with the Yankee players on the field during the playing of the National Anthem (the U.S. Army Band recording, which I find to be true and without pretension). The three middle infielders stood with Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Robbie Cano at the lip of the outfield grass near shortstop. Three outfielders stood around the Yankee outfield in short right field. Two kids flanked Jorge Posada at home plate. One kid stood next to Gary Sheffield at first and another with Chien-Ming Wang on the mound. All of the big leaguers leaned down slightly and talked to the kids. When the anthem was over, the kid standing next to Sheffield didn’t move. It was as if they didn’t know exactly what to do. I’m sure the last thing these kids wanted was for this moment, on a beautifully crisp and pleasent night in the Bronx, to end. The three infield kids were dispatched first and they sprinted towards first base. The kid at first waited for them to reach him before he moved. As Sheffield began to get ready to throw grounders to his infielders he motioned “yo” with his glove to the kid who was walking from the mound to the dugout. Big leaguers all the way.

As for the game itself, the Bombers were in fine form, beating the hell out of the Orioles 16-4. The Yanks are now one game ahead of the Tigers for the best record in the league. Chien-Ming Wang was not sharp but he pitched well enough to get his 19th win of the season. Jason Giambi returned and had three hits and 4 RBI (guess his wrist is feeling okay); Jorge had 4 RBIs as well. Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu and Cano all hit dingers as well. Rompalicious.

A fun, carefree night of it for Yankee fans. It was fun to think that in a week, the place would truly be packed, the weather a little colder, and the energy entirely different. For a drunk sitting nearby–”Hey, nine dollar beer guy, over here!”–booing the wave, and everyone who participated in it, was the highlight of the night. “Where are you? This isn’t Shea. We don’t do the wave here!” An almost impossible cute little baby girl held in her mother’s arms directly in front of us, cooed at Jay and me throughout most of the game. She had blond hair and big blue eyes and had already learned the art of flirtation. Two french kids in their early twenties, who like basketball far more than they like, or even know, baseball, sat behind us and told us about the World Cup and how excited they were to see Tony Parker play at the Garden later this fall. And, wouldn’t you know it, but in the ninth inning, fellow blogger Ben Kabak spotted me (he recognized my mugshot from SI.com) and he came by with his friend Ben for the final outs.

A nice, relaxing evening of it. The calm before the storm…

Hey Nineteen

Jay Jaffe and I will be at the Stadium tonight hoping to see Chien-Ming Wangarulo pick up his 19th victory of the season.

Let’s Go Yan-Kees!

Keep it Rollin…

My apologies, y’all, but I’m mad busy this morning. Yanks beat the O’s 5-4 last night. Bobby Abreu hit a bomb, Godziller Matsui looked good in left field, Scott Proctor earned the save (the first of his career), and Derek Jeter and Robbie Cano are bringing back memories of 1984. If only there wasn’t that guy Mauer in front of ‘em…

Oh, Bird…

Corey Lidle goes tonight for the Bombers while Godzilla Matsui will start in left field. Sheff is at first again, while Robbie Cano will DH. It’s a beautiful night for it in the Bronx. Let’s hope it’s a fun game–yes, I know they are playing the Orioles–and, again, that nobody gets hurt.

Bang, Zoom

The Yankees knocked the snot out of the Devil Rays to the tune of 16-1. The highlight of the game came in the first inning after Bobby Abreu hit a three run dinger. Tampa’s starter, Jay Seo was clearly getting squeezed by home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez. He didn’t get a call against Alex Rodriguez, who walked. Robinson Cano reached base on an infield single, and then Seo got ahead of Hideki Matsui 0-2. After taking a ball and fouling two pitches off, Seo didn’t get another call. A couple of more foul balls, followed by another near miss.

That was when D Rays’ skipper, Joe Maddon and pitching coach Mike Butcher had all they could stand. The two men went Batsh**t Tavarez on Marquez, really letting him have it. Marquez was not passive, as he and Maddon looked like two chickens, yelling in each others faces, moving back slightly and then going back in for more. Crew cheif Larry Young was pushed aside by Butcher, and two Tampa Bay coaches had to restrain their pitching coach. Maddon and Marquez were ejected from the game and when play resumed, Matsui fouled off three more pitches before depositing the fourteenth pitch of the at bat over the wall in right field for another three-run bomb.

In more important news, Randy Johnson has been scratched from his start this Thursday due to a strained back which he said “locked up” at the moment:

“I’d rather have 10 or 12 days between starts and feel better than pitch on my regular turn and feel the way I do now,” Johnson said. “I’m missing my last regular season start, which has no bearing on me statistically or on the team, basically, in order to get healthy, or as healthy as I can get, for the playoffs.”
(Don Amore, Hartford Courant)

As it stands now, it seems as if Chien-Ming Wang will start Game 1 of the ALDS, Mussina will go in Game 2, and the Big Unit will pitch Game 3. It’s a strong possibility that Jaret Wright will start Game 4. In other injury-related news, Mariano Rivera looked much better last night than he did in his return last Friday. Hideki Matsui is expected to start in left field tonight while Jason Giambi will hit off a tee today (Torre insists that Giambi needs to be able to play the field in the playoffs).

Monday Night at the Trop

Ah, so with Cliff and his bride living the life of Riley in the motherland, you all are going to have to put up with my, well, less than comprehensive pre-game posts. Yanks finish up down in Tampa tonight.

Go git ‘em boys. Don’t nobody get hurt now, ya hear? (And here’s to Alex Rodriguez breaking out of his mini-slump with a big night.)

Sleepwalkin…

The Yanks got smushed by the Devil Rays on Saturday 8-0, and then 11-4 on Sunday, almost as badly as Manny Ramirez did by Boston Globe columnist Gordon Edes over the weekend (yikes). Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina were the losers; yesterday, Ron Villone continued to struggle. Moose was hit in the hand by a line drive off the bat of Carl Crawford in the fifth, but was not hurt seriously. He was more upset about losing the game. Later, he told the New York Times:

“It’s a big deal,” said starter Mike Mussina, who lasted four and two-thirds innings Sunday and was the losing pitcher. “It was a big deal last year, and we let it get away. When you clinch this early, you’ve got to find a way to get motivated and stay after it for another week. We’ve got to win some ballgames and not let it get away from us.”

With Sunday’s loss, the Yankees fell a half-a-game behind the Tigers for the best record in the league. According to Pete Abraham, Torre told reporters after the game that while home field advantage throughout the post-season is important, it’s not worth exhausting his players this week. “I’m not going to beat the hell out of them,” he said. This isn’t the first time in recent memory that the Yankees have slipped a bit towards the end of September. I don’t think it will sperl them for the playoffs.

Gary Sheffield had an adventurous go of it at first base on both Saturday, when he was hand-cuffed by a throw from Johnson, and again on Sunday. More from Kepner:

“Once I go through it and see it once, I’ll get it,” Sheffield said. He added: “I’m willing to learn. I’m putting the work in and the time, and eventually I’ll get it.”

Torre said that while Sheffield’s footwork could improve, even a more experienced first baseman might have made the same decisions. While saying he had not decided whether to start Sheffield at first in the playoffs, Torre seems confident he could manage it.

“He’s got a feel for the game,” Torre said. “So I’m not really concerned.”

Jason Giambi hopes to return later this week. I think it’s safe to say that Torre and the Yankees are not sure yet what their first base/DH plans will be come next week.

A Fine Day For It

Chien-Ming Wang won his 18th game of the season as the Yanks beat the Rays, 4-1 on Friday night. Gary Sheffield didn’t get a hit but made a couple of nice picks at first. Mariano Rivera wasn’t particularly sharp in his return but he did manage to strike out the side in the ninth.

Cliff is getting married today and will be honeymooning in Italy for several weeks (he won’t return until after the ALDS). Go Cliff and Becky and go Yanks!

Surf’s Up, Yankee Fans

The Boss speaks (says he feels fine and that the Yanks will go “all the way”); Jason Giambi might need surgery on his left wrist this off-season (he’s playing with a torn ligament); Tyler Kepner profiles Brian Bruney; Will Weiss looks at the Yankees division-clinching games since 1996; Christian Red writes about Ray Negron’s new book; the Yankees are moving their AAA operations to Sranton, P.A.; over at the Replacement Level Yankees Blog, SG takes a look at the Good, Bad and the Ugly of the 2006 season; and last but not least, Bronx Banter reader Pistol Pete has arranged some clips of the Yankee’s post-game celebration the other night over at You Tube. Good looking, bro.

I’m looking forward to see Gary Sheffield play first base this weekend down in Tampa. Nothing like a little hometown cooking to get him going again.

Kick the Bobo

And now… for the Prime Minister, sinister.. Pete N-hi-hi-hi-hi-hi-hice! (Nice nice nice)

Kick em in the grill, Pete. Props to Jack Curry.

This Never Gets Old

The Yankees lost 3-2 to the Blue Jays last night in Toronto but clinched their ninth straight American League East Division title when the Twins spanked the Red Sox in Boston, 8-2. The young kids in the Yankee clubhouse–Melky Cabrera, Robby Cano, Jose Veras–led the champagne and beer-soaked celebration. Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez could not stop smiling. Gary Sheffield talked about how eager he is to contribute in playoffs. Derek Jeter was bumrushed by the young Latino mob during a TV interview with Kim Jones, who was repeatedly (and perhaps mean-spiritedly) doused by Randy Johnson. Naturally, Jeter managed to keep his composure. So did the veteran Jorge Posada who stressed that this was just a good start.

All of the older guys mentioned how tickled they were at the energy and enthusiasm of the younger players. Bernie Williams, who really looked geeked, his eyes wide open and innocent like a kid on Christmas morning. Williams knows that the end is near for him, and it appeared as if he was taking a special pleasure in the moment. Joe Torre’s eyes started welling-up when he first spoke with Jones. Unfortunately, he kept his composure. We’ll have to wait for a more significant celebration to really see the waterworks, bless his heart.

This doesn’t get boring. Every year that the Yankees make the playoffs is a special occasion, something to be treasured and appreciated.

Congrats to the team on a fine regular season. Now, as the Captain likes to say, the real season begins…

The Doctor Will See You Now

Doc Halladay, I presume?

One More Pin Rodney

There is only one kind of real daily tension remaining in the regular season for the Yankees and that’s hoping that the team can get through each game without losing anyone to a significant injury. On Tuesday night, Derek Jeter was hit in the hand with a pitch, Johnny Damon made a funny motion with his left arm after making a poor throw from the outfield in the fith, and, later in the same inning, sustained some minor cuts on his left hand after making a terrific, game-changing catch. Jason Giambi left the game early with tenderness in his aching hand. The YES announcers did not say that anything to lead us to believe that it’s a devastating issue, but nevertheless, it’s enough to make you hold your breath.

Ron Guidry looked like his old fluid self tossing bp to Gary Sheffield this afternoon. The Yankee slugger, wearing a sweat-soaked t-shirt cranked Gator’s first offering into the second deck of the Rogers Centre. He was activated and available to pinch hit tonight but did not appear. However, we will see him soon–regardless if Giambi will need a few days to rest. Joe Torre has stated that he’d like to wait until the Yankees clinch the division before he uses Sheff, and tonight, the Bombers (with a little bit of help from the Twinkies) moved two steps closer, their magic number reduced to one. Not bad when you consider the fact that Roy Halladay is pitching for Toronto tomorrow.

Jeff Kartsens pitched a very nice game and the bullpen was effective as the Yanks beat the Blue Jays, 6-3. Bobby Abreu broke a 3-3 tie with a two-run dinger to straight away center in the seventh and Godziller Matsui added a solo shot in the eighth (earlier, Jorge Posada cranked his 20th homer of the season). A good job all around by the boys tonight.

The Yankee announcers spent a good deal of the broadcast talking about Verducci’s cover story on Alex Rodriguez, which will be on the stands tomorrow. After thinking about it for a few hours the thing that really stands out about the story is not that it tells us a lot that we don’t already know, or haven’t already suspected about Rodriguez and his teammates, but the fact that it reveals some of the behind-the-scenes atmosphere of the Yankees. One thing that has been a constant during the Torre Era is that the Yankees have kept their business to themselves. When Buster Olney wrote his book about the team he learned about a dispute that Jorge Posada and Tino Martinez had had while Olney was covering the team. Olney never knew about it and Posada told him that was because the Yankees didn’t let anyone know about that kind of stuff. It was all handled in house. It doesn’t get into the papers.

Af for the SI piece, well, I can’t remember the last time we’ve read anything as intimate or direct about the Yankees since Torre came to town. It’s not as if Giambi or Torre didn’t realize that their words would get out there. Maybe that is part of what they are trying to do. I’ve spoken with a few people today who thinks if that is the case it’s a lousy move on their part. No matter, let’s just hope this doesn’t shake Rodriguez out of the nice groove he’s started to get in. The Yankees have too many good things going on to let themselves get sucked into any kind of controversy. Still, cruddy timing continues to plague Alex Rodriguez (who was 0-3 with a walk tonight).

Hold your head, bro, and way to go Yanks!

Tuff Enuff?

Nobody in Yankeeland has been analyzed half as much as Alex Rodriguez has been this year. But just when you thought the horse couldn’t take another lash, Tom Verducci arrives with an insightful, behind-the-scenes profile of Rodriguez. There are especially good quotes from Jason Giambi. Check it out.

Three is the Magic Number

“We were dead,” said Rodriguez, whose 34th homer made it 3-2. “This is as tired as I’ve seen this group in probably three years. A.J. Burnett was dominating us, about as much as we’ve been dominated all year.”
(Don Amore, Hartford Courant)

Man, was anyone else fired-up watching that game last night? After the bullpen blew two games on Sunday, I was in rare form as A.J. Burnett dominated the Bombers through the first five innings–cursing, kvetching, and shouting loud enough to drive Emily from the couch. Burnett had his fastball and his breaking ball working and he simply overpowered the Yanks who didn’t arrive in their hotel ’til the wee hours of the a.m. The team got a jolt of life when Johnny Damon was ejected for arguing balls and strikes after Hideki Matsui was called out on a check swing in the fifth.

The Jays held what seemed like a commanding 3-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth when Burnett could not finish off Bobby Abreu with two men out. Abreu worked a full count and then slapped a single up the middle. Then Alex Rodriguez planted a 1-0 fastball over the wall in left center field and the Bombers were on the board. Suddenly Burnett lost his groove. Jason Giambi walked on five pitches, Burnett balked him over to second and then walked Jorge Posada. However, he got Robinson Cano to pop a fastball up to shortstop to get out of the inning. As good as his stuff is, you have to wonder about Burnett’s mental toughness. I was calling him everything in the book from where I was sitting.

Godzilla Matsui singled sharply to center to start the seventh but was retired when Melky Cabrera hit into a 6-4-3 double play. But Aaron Guiel–who replaced Damon in center and made a fine sliding catch to boot–dunked a 1-2 curve ball into left for a double. Burnett fell behind Derek Jeter 3-0 before the Yankee captain crushed a home run over the wall in left center field, putting the Yankees ahead for good. It was only the second time that Jeter has swung at a 3-0 pitch since 2002 (the other time came in his final at bat on Sunday night). Hot damn and go figure, right?

The Yanks added three in the ninth (with Bernie Williams doing his best Albert Belle routine) before Posada waved at ball four with the bases loaded to end the inning. As it turns out, they would need all the insurance they could get as Troy Glaus lined a three-run dinger off Octavio Dotel in the bottom of the ninth. More moaning in the Bronx. The only reason I wasn’t more upset was that I had called Glaus’ dinger two innings earlier. It took four Yankee relievers to seal the deal, but when all was said and done, the Yanks had a 7-6 victory, and saw their magic number for clinching the AL East cut to three games.

Gary Sheffield had a thorough tutorial at first base yesterday afternoon and it looks like we’ll see him at first base, if not in Toronto, then later this week or this weekend down in Tampa. According to Tyler Kepner in the New York Times:

Sheffield has spoken recently with Fred McGriff, a former teammate who lives near him in Florida. McGriff reinforced the message that the position change would benefit Sheffield.

“This is a blessing in disguise for you, and you don’t even know it yet,” Sheffield said McGriff told him. “It just enhances your value.”

Sheff will face Ron Guidry in a live bp session today. Yo, I’m just licking my chops to see that man hit again, aren’t you?

Toronto Blue Jays

I really don’t have much to say about the Blue Jays. As the season winds to a close it looks as though their splashy offseason will have netted them an extra six wins. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but 86 wins just isn’t going to cut it in the American League.

What’s most compelling about the series that begins in Toronto tonight is that a) the Yankees could make like 1995 and clinch in Canada and b) because the rest of the rotation was scrunched into two days over the weekend and Cory Lidle is out with tendonitis in his pitching hand, the Yankees are running out a trio of rookie starters. This spring I did a lot of blabbing about the trio of 25-year-old pitchers in Columbus which I thought could produce this year’s Chien-Ming Wang for the Yankees. Things didn’t work out that way. Sean Henn and Darrell Rasner spent large chunks of the season on the DL and Matt DeSalvo was so awful that he was exiled to Trenton where he continued to walk more than he struck out. Henn inspired little confidence when healthy and was eventually converted to relief, though he’ll return to the rotation in Lidle’s stead on Wednesday.

Of the three, only Rasner, who starts tonight against the Jay’s offseason poster boy A.J. Burnett, has displayed the sort of potential I had trumpeted in the spring. Rasner has been uniformly excellent for the Yankees in his limited opportunities this year. He posted a 2.89 ERA in the minors with a stellar 3.93 K/BB ratio–which includes a few rehab starts following his three-month DL stay due to shoulder soreness–and has allowed just one run in 11 2/3 major league innings (0.77 ERA), striking out eight and walking none. In his only previous start for the Yankees, Rasner held the Twins to a run on four hits over six full. Most recently he pitched in relief of tomorrow’s starter Jeff Karstens and threw four one-hit shutout innings against the Devil Rays, striking out five and throwing a staggering 80 percent of just 45 pitches for strikes. That outing came on Thursday, which means Rasner is pitching on three-days rest, albeit from what amounts to half a start. I continue to hold out hope that Rasner will be a part of the discussion for next year’s rotation. While I don’t think he’ll be able to work his way into the fourth spot in the playoff rotation, a good outing tonight could clinch his spot on the postseason roster as he could do for the Yankees what Ervin Santana did against them in Game 5 of the ALDS last year.

As for Burnett, he has been dominant over his last three starts–24 IP, 16 H, 4 R, 1 HR, 5 BB, 22 K–but it’s too little, too late. In his last start against the Yankees, Burnett was bounced after giving up four runs in four innings and throwing 86 pitches. That start came in the Bronx. At home against the Yankees in late June, Burnett turned in 7 1/3 strong innings to earn just his second win of the year. He’ll have to face a full set of Yankee starters tonight, though I expect to see Torre start resting guys again tomorrow as the Yankees play their second of three games on the Rogers Centre turf.

Hmmm, Rasner plus a full-strength Yankee line-up. I could get used to this.

(more…)

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