"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Yankee Panky #2: The Last Writes of Spring (Training)

By Will Weiss
Bronx Banter Correspondent

“Rupert Murdoch should cut me a check for all the papers I’ve helped him sell.”
— Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestley, in The Devil Wears Prada

Sure, the above quote can be applied to Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, or Brangelina. But since the lead-in to the only display of humanness Meryl Streep shows in the film refers to “another divorce splashed across Page Six,” let’s figure that someone named Steinbrenner was muttering something similar this past week.

The marriage of Steve Swindal and Jennifer (Steinbrenner) Swindal is over, and as a result, Swindal is out as a general partner of the Yankees. The ascent of the top son-in-law is no more. It has ceased to be. Let the race for the New Boss begin.

Just about every angle of this story was examined: reporters and columnists from all the local papers raised the question Swindal’s replacement. Every beat reporter I read rightly mentioned the effect of Swindal’s ouster on Brian Cashman and Joe Torre – it was Swindal who twice convinced Joe Torre to come back, and helped negotiate Cashman’s return and increased the GM’s decision-making power. In his solid Thursday report, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times intuited that Steinbrenner’s other son-in-law, Felix Lopez, could jump to the forefront. Daily News columnist Bill Madden carried this further in his Friday column, writing that Lopez has become more of a fixture on the operations side “to the dismay of the other three siblings.” The Times’ Richard Sandomir wondered which of Steinbrenner’s two sons, Hal or Hank, would take over should the Patriarch look in their direction. Sandomir’s colleague Harvey Araton called for a shift in philosophy and wondered why neither of Steinbrenner’s daughters would be considered to run the team instead of the sons. In addition, Swindal’s DUI arrest and questions of what would become of his shares of the team as a result of the divorce were smartly asked; and notes and quotes from Swindal’s other business associates at Excelsior Racing regarding his group’s bid to buy the thoroughbred franchise completed the coverage.

The Swindal situation provided fodder for the talkies, of course. To be expected, there was a hint of melodrama in their reactions and in their projections regarding the future of the Yankees’ front-office hierarchy. Overall, the mainstreamers did pretty well in keeping things on the level and not going overboard with the tabloid potential of the story.

Reading so many versions of the same story – particularly one like this – is fascinating. Not only is it fun to see the range of sources the writers interview from a competitive standpoint, from a straight writing perspective, it was amazing to see how many different ways the question, “Who will benefit from nepotism as it relates to the Yankees, and when will a decision be made,” was presented.

Per your requests from last week, I turn to the blogosphere for info and insight the mainstream didn’t provide. Derek Jacques, the esteemed proprietor of The Weblog That Derek Built, put it best:

“As someone who was until recently in the marital strife industry, I’m sensitive toward what Steve Swindal and Jennifer Steinbrenner must be going through. The end of a marriage is a real human tragedy, also something truly private and really not the business of anyone outside of the couple and perhaps their immediate family, friends, and business partners.

“But as a Yankee fan, I just gotta look at Swindal and say ‘You jerk! We were counting on you! You had it all in the palm of your hand and you blew it, just completely and totally blew it!'”

* * *

The Swindal situation wasn’t the only divorce splashed across the New York pages. PAVANO GAL PAL DROPS BOMBER led Page Six on Friday, as news of Gia Allemand’s dumping of the oft-injured righty came out three days prior to Opening Day. Good times in Pavanoville.

The story combined Johnson and Li’s reporting with an interview Allemand did for Steppin’ Out magazine. A lot of fun bits in this story, but nothing surprising — not even Allemand’s attempt at irony.

“That’s our personal life. I don’t think it needs to be in the paper,” Allemand told the Post. “I don’t want this to distract him at all.”

Dear Gia – can I call you Gia? — if you don’t want your personal life in the paper, calmly say “no comment” and move on. Don’t do a lengthy interview for a magazine where you detail how the relationship went awry and then follow it up with more nuggets for Page Six. On the other hand, if you’re looking to help promote your upcoming Maxim pictorial, then you and your publicist are doing a bang-up job.

Back to Pavano…In his two Yankee seasons, he has shown himself to be hypersensitive to negative press. Allemand knows this as well as anyone, since she’s been dragged into this mess with him for the better part of six months. From the files of Captain Obvious: How is this not going to distract Pavano? The fact that the first regular-season pitch he’ll throw since June 27, 2005, is on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium is probably freaking him out enough. Now the news of this breakup will be trailing him like Pigpen’s dust cloud. (At this point, would anyone be surprised if the creative strikeout card makers in the upper deck will hang 8 x 10s of Allemand for every K? How about if 20,000 or so fans wear T-shirts with the message “It must suck to be you” under a silk screen of Pavano’s likeness? I wouldn’t rule anything out. )

I’m curious to see how this is treated in the television and radio broadcasts.

* * *

Aside from the Yankee edition of Divorce Court, there was plenty of on-field news this week, from the daily Pettitte update, Josh Phelps and Wil Nieves beating out Andy Phillips and Todd Pratt, respectively, for the backup first base and catcher spots, and the standard season preview commentary. Cliff Corcoran has done an excellent job of relaying all that to you in this space, so I’ll keep my portion of the news brief.

Most Telling Quote Related to On-Field Matters: “I will like it more when [Chien-Ming] Wang gets back. We need to get the guy healthy.”
— GM Brian Cashman, on the team beginning the season with a patchwork rotation

Most Interesting Story: The dual effort from Post beatman George King and the Associated Press profiling Mariano Rivera’s move to the roomy corner locker most recently occupied by Bernie Williams, and previously by Don Mattingly, Dave Righetti and Ron Guidry, to name a few. While the space, as Rivera says, is not much bigger than the standard locker in the clubhouse, the move is symbolic of Rivera’s stature as a team leader. (Plus, there is added privacy, so he can steal away from the media should discussion of his contract escalate during the season.)

In new stadium news: Neil DeMause breaks down the logistics of the new Yankee Stadium and the CitiField project in Queens for the Village Voice.

Thank you, Deadspin: For the notes on Project A-13, a Web site devoted to tapering the negative treatment of Alex Rodriguez. ESPN.com’s endorsement of A-Rod as the league’s top third baseman and projected league MVP won’t hurt this site’s traffic.

Elsewhere in the Blogosphere: Steven Goldman’s Pinstriped Blog is always a good read, but especially so during the time of final cuts. Pay particular attention to his note on the Yankees backup catcher situation. Knowing Steve as I do (I edited his YESNetwork.com columns for 4 ½ years), I would bet this theme appears close to 100 times during the course of the season. That still wouldn’t top the number of Tony Womack discussions through the first six weeks of the 2005 season, though.

I’ve rambled long enough…Now it’s your turn. A special bonus “Opening Day Review” edition coming tomorrow.

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