"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: November 2008

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Yeah, He’s Pretty Good


Let’s gush over him just a little bit more, shall we?

SHADOW GAMES: The Visitors

Everyone pegged them for visitors when they piled on the 2 train at 72nd Street. There was a mother and a father and a son and a daughter. They seemed excited and were talking while everyone else stared blankly at a Sunday morning.

They might have been ignored if they hadn’t been wearing local colors. The father and son had Yankees hats, the mother had a Yankees scarf and the daughter was carrying a pink Yankees backpack.

“Where are you from?” someone asked.

“Michigan,” the father said. “We live in Ypsilanti. It’s near Ann Arbor and not too far from Detroit.”

“And you’re Yankees fans?” someone else asked.

“Yeah,” the father said. “I guess you can call it the Derek Jeter effect. We started following him because he grew up in Kalamazoo and now we watch every game.

“We always go when the Yankees are in Detroit,” he continued, “but we haven’t seen them in the Bronx, yet. This is our first time in New York City and yesterday we went and looked around the old Stadium and the new Stadium. We’re going to try and see a game next year.”

“So where are you headed today?” someone asked.

“To the Stature of Liberty,” the mother said. “And we also want the kids to see Ellis Island.”

The visitors wanted to switch to the 1 train at Chambers Street because that’s what their guide book said to do. But weekend service changes aren’t covered in books and everyone on the 2 train was looking out for them now.

“There are no trains going to South Ferry,” someone said. “And don’t bother with the shuttle bus because that’s usually like trying to get on the last helicopter out of Saigon in ‘75.

“Stay on this train to Wall Street,” they continued. “Then you’ll have a short walk to Battery Park and the ferry to Liberty and Ellis Islands.”

“I’ve got a friend named Freddy who sells Yankees hats and T-shirts in the park,” someone else said. “Tell him that Clarence from Mott Haven sent you and he’ll give you a good deal.”

“Thanks,” the father said. “If you’re ever in our neighborhood we’ll return the favor.”

“Just make some noise in Detroit next year,” someone said. “And help the Yankees get some wins.”

“Will do.”

Skim Milk

Sean Penn cracks me up.  He makes me laugh nervously when I watch his anguished performances.  He’s a fine actor but such an…actor.  So when I saw the previews for Milk and saw Penn as the Gay activist address a crowd with a bullhorn…”I know you’re angry…I’M ANGRY!” that was enough to get me giggling.  

This is gunna be good.

Gus Van Zant directed the bio-pic which gave me hope that this movie would be a riveting experience.  False hope, as it turns out.  The movie, like so many of its kind, is an earnest civics lesson.  It is well-crafted and informative and dramatically dull.  Penn gives a deliberate performance and he’s game–he throws himself into the role.  But it also feels self-aware.  So does the entire movie. 

I guess I’ve always expected the comic in Penn to re-emerge.  His small role in Fast Times has turned out to be an anomoly, though I thought he walked away with Carlito’s Way too. 

I don’t mean to suggest that the role of Harvey Milk is a funny one, necessarily, but the character does have a quick-witted sense of humor and it offered Penn a new challenge.  He gets credit for trying, but in the end, it is a studied performance.  He is restrained when you feel he should be manic.  And the blame falls squarely on a static script that doesn’t allow the characters to develop in complicated or interesting ways.    

Penn and Van Zant and James Franco and the rest of the filmmakers have good intentions, but that alone is not enough to make a memorable movie.

News of the Day – 11/30/08

Sunday Newsy Sunday …

  • Suite City Blue Eyes: The Daily News has a report on demands made by the City for perks (like a free suite) at the new Stadium, in return for free parking spaces.

The Yankees got the city to write a letter to the IRS so they could obtain $942 million in tax-free bonds. The team plans to request $366 million more, saving them a total of $247 million in lower borrowing costs. In return, Bloomberg’s team wanted a free luxury suite and the right to buy at cost 180 of the best seats to all home games, including post-season, the e-mails show.

  • The Times has their own rundown of the City suite deal, including the City’s justification:

David Lombino, a spokesman for the city’s Economic Development Corporation, cautioned against reading too much into the e-mail messages.

“Securing the option to use a box at the stadium was one part of a much larger, comprehensive negotiation where we sought the best deal possible for the city,” he said. “Our goal was to make sure that New York had the same advantages as other cities, including the option to use a box, be it for staff outings, for public employees or for visiting dignitaries. The mayor’s office has indicated that no decision has been made as to whether or not it will exercise the option, but it exists for this and future administrations.”

  • Ken Davidoff of Newsday has some non-player off-season changes for the Yanks:

The Yankees have informed the ultra-popular Frank “Hondo” Howard that his services won’t be retained. Howard worked this past season as a professional scout. And former Yankees outfielder Hector Lopez, who spent the last 15 seasons as a coach for the rookie-level Gulf Coast Yankees, won’t return, either.   The Yankees also let go special pitching instructor Rich Monteleone, batting-practice pitcher Mitch Seone and massage therapist Scott Yelin.

  • Craig Wilson, who struck out 34 times and walked only 4 times in 109 PAs for the Yanks in 2006, turns 32.  Matt Lawton, who batted .125 in 48 ABs for the Bombers in 2005, turns 37.  Bob Tewksbury, one of the quintessiential finesse pitchers of the 90s (mostly for teams OTHER than the Yanks), turns 48.  Steve Shields, who allowed 126 baserunners in 82.3 innings for the Yanks in 1988, hits the big 5-0.  Barry Evans (who?) turns 52.
  • On a local TV program on this date in 1952, Jackie Robinson charges that the New York Yankee management is racist for its failure to bring up a black player. George Weiss of the Yanks denies the allegations.
  • On this date in 1967, the Yankees purchase Gene Michael from the LA Dodgers.
  • On this date in 1981, Dave Righetti (8-4, 2.06 ERA) wins the AL Rookie of the Year Award.
  • On this date in 2000, the Bombers sign free agent P Mike Mussina to a 6-year contract worth $88.5 million.  Mussina says a deciding factor was a call from Joe Torre.

I Coulda Been a Contender

Remember when Mickey Rourke was going to be the next big thing? 

He had nice turns in Body Heat:

and Diner:

Some people swear by The Pope of Greenwich Village (I am not one of them): 

But as soon as Rourke became a star, he became less interesting, predictable, a flat-joke, and then he wasn’t a star long, unless you account for his runaway fame in France (and there’s no accounting for that, is there?).  He left Hollywood and became a boxer and then returned to the movies, mostly B-level action movies made for DVD.

Now Rourke is back in the mix. The critics liked him in Sin City. And you can just smell an Oscar nomination for him in The Wrestler, his new feature, which looks to be a downbeat, arty riff on Rocky.

Pat Jordan profiles Rourke (His Fists Are Up and His Guard is Down) in today’s New York Times Magazine:

You meet Mickey, you can’t help liking him. He rescues abused dogs! He cries a lot: over his stepfather’s supposed abuse; the loss of his brother to cancer and his dogs to old age; the failure of his marriage to the actress Carré Otis. He admits he destroyed his own career, because, as he puts it: “I was arrogant. . . . I wasn’t smart enough or educated enough” to deal with stardom. He is candid about the people he has crossed paths with: Nicole Kidman is “an ice cube”; Michael Cimino, the director of “Heaven’s Gate,” “is crazy” and “nuts”; and the producer Samuel Goldwyn Jr. is “a liar.”

So what if he cries at the same moment in the same story in every interview? So what if his candor sometimes sounds like the bad dialogue from one of his many bad movies (“I have no one to go to to fix the broken pieces in myself”) or that his self-deprecation seems culled from the stock stories of so many fading actors (“I was in 7-Eleven, and this guy says, ‘Didn’t you used to be a movie star?’ ”)? So what if he seems disingenuous, at best, when he says he can’t remember that critics nominated him one of the world’s worst actors in 1991 (“I probably would have voted with them”) or even making a terrible movie that went straight to video, “Exit in Red,” in 1996 — despite the fact that the love interest in that movie was then his wife?

Mickey Rourke is, after all, an actor. The roles he has played and the life he has lived have so blurred one into another in his mind’s eye that even he doesn’t seem to know when he’s acting or when he’s being real. He has spent his entire adult life playing not fictional characters but an idealized delusional fantasy of himself.

Ohh, I Could Tell You Were a Real Artist. You Look Like You’re Starving

I love me some Good Times.

SHADOW GAMES: What’s In A Name?

James Reynolds Jr. has been called a lot of names. He was Jimmy to his grandmother and Junior to the rest of the family. In school the other kids tagged him Bern, which was short for Bernie Williams his favorite Yankee.

Most people in the Bronx just call him J.R. these days, but in Manhattan he’s known as Mr. Quick.

Some say he sells more designer handbags than anyone else in New York City.

“I just know the flow of the crowds around here,” Mr. Quick explained. “The key is being fast on the setup and the getaway. That’s how I earned my name.”

Mr. Quick moves everything on a small cart. When he locates a good spot the handbags are scooped up and arranged over old bed sheets on the sidewalk.

“People flock like pigeons to popcorn if you hit it right,” Mr. Quick said. “But you don’t want to draw too much attention. That brings the cops and then you’re out of business.”

So Mr. Quick has rules if you want to buy his French-designed handbags that are made in New York.

“The small bags are $20 and the big bags are $40,” he explained to a group outside the Winter Garden Theatre last night. “I don’t make change and don’t even think of asking for a receipt. Take it or leave it.”

Most of them took it.

Mr. Quick pocketed the cash and packed the leftovers. He was headed up Broadway when a woman shouted:

“Stop. Please wait.”

Mr. Quick kept walking, but the woman caught him near 54th Street.

“I just want to buy a bag,” she said. “But our tour bus is leaving so I need to make it quick.”

“That’s my name,” he said.

Card Corner–Johnny Ellis

Sometimes a baseball card encompasses more than just the main player featured within the borders of its photograph. That actuality has influenced one of the habits of the hobby that I particularly enjoy—“sleuthing,” or trying to figure out the identities of the other players on the card, whether they are in the background or off to the side of the card.


In some cases, trying to identify background players is difficult, because of the fuzziness of the photograph or the awkward angle provided by the camera. In other situations, it’s much easier, and on rare occasions, a collector might come to the realization that the “other” player is actually much more famous than the featured player. That is certainly the case with this 1972 “In Action” card of John Ellis (No. 48 in the set), a traveling-man catcher and first baseman who was probably best known for serving as Thurman Munson’s backup in the early 1970s. This card could just as easily have been chosen as the action card for Harmon Killebrew, who happens to be the “other guy” in the photograph—the Twins’ first baseman who is holding Ellis on during an afternoon game at the old Yankee Stadium, sometime in 1971. A member of the 500-home run club and one of the game’s quietly nice guys, “Killer” earned baseball immortality when he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not), Killebrew was already featured on another one of the 1972 “In Action” cards, so there was no need to create another action photo for the Twins’ slugger. Still, it’s interesting that Topps cropped the photograph in the way that it did, making “Killer” just as prominent as Ellis on the facing of the card. Did Topps do this intentionally, because of Killebrew’s status as a star, or was it merely an accident? I honestly have no idea, but I do know that this 1972 Johnny Ellis carries no extra value because of the incidental presence of one of the greatest sluggers in the game’s history. This card is worth about the same amount of money as most common cards of 1972’s lower-numbered series, no more and no less. Still, it’s a fun card to have, especially when you can procure a picture of a Hall of Famer at the far more reasonable price of a journeyman.

Ellis might have settled for journeyman status, but he started his career as a popular player in the tri-state area who was once ticketed for stardom at a time when the Yankees badly needed such a quality. As a late 1960s contemporary of Munson, Ellis was actually regarded as an equal prospect by some scouts. In fact, some targeted Ellis, and not Munson, as the heir apparent to the long line of great Yankee catchers that had recently halted after the decline and trade of Elston Howard.


News of the Day – 11/29/08

Back from my day off, and armed with this news:

  • Anthony McCarron of the News warns of the landmines inherent in signing a pitcher to a $100+ million contract, and reminds us of the travails of the pitchers who have received them: Johan Santana, Kevin Brown, Mike Hampton and Barry Zito.
  • Pete Abraham of LoHud offers us his ranking of the 20 most important people in the Yankee organization today.  His top 3? ….. Joba Chamberlain, Hal Steinbrenner and A-Rod, in that order.
  • The rumblings about Pettitte ending up in La-La Land are getting slightly louder, as the Post’s George King details:

“Some,” Colletti wrote in an e-mail about the level of the Dodgers’ interest in Pettitte, who said often at the end of the season that he didn’t want to work for any team other than the Yankees in 2009.

Pettitte apparently has changed his mind after not getting a deal done quickly with the Yankees.

With Monday’s deadline for offering salary arbitration to their free agents looming, the Yankees are faced with a dilemma now that Pettitte has expanded his choices beyond retirement or the Yankees.

If the Yankees offer Pettitte arbitration and he accepts (Dec. 7 is the deadline), he is a signed player and his one-year salary would be determined through the arbitration process.

Considering that is based on the past two seasons, Pettitte would receive an increase from the $16 million he made last year. The Yankees have balked at signing Pettitte, whom they view as a back-end starter, because he doesn’t want to take a pay cut.

Should the Yankees not offer Pettitte arbitration they wouldn’t receive two draft picks as compensation – a first-round pick from the team that he signs with and a sandwich pick.

Pettitte’s dance with the Dodgers could be a ploy to get the Yankees to give him the $16 million he wants.


Why Were You Unpopular with the Chicago Police Department?

These guys were very good together in this movie.

Maybe DeNiro’s funniest comic performance. And the last time Grodin was great.

Catch Me If You Can

The answer to “what went wrong?” is surprisingly quick and easy: Jorge Posada got hurt, and the team couldn’t compensate for that loss because they were too busy compensating for other problems.

That was the conclusion of my postmortem on the Yankees 2008 season. Note that I’m not blaming Posada’s bum shoulder for the Yankees’ failure to make the postseason for the first time since 1993, but rather the combination of Posada’s injury and the team’s other failures, most significantly Robinson Cano’s collapse. Had Cano been productive, the Yankees very well may have survived the loss of Posada, but the combination of the two simply took too many runs off the board.

Heading into 2009, we’re hearing very encouraging reports about Cano’s off-season training regime in the Dominican Republic and his continued work with hitting coach Kevin Long, but little about Posada. With Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu departing as free agents and the team focusing on improving their pitching rather than replacing those runs on offense, the Yankees will need more than a comeback season from Cano to return to the postseason, they’ll need a full contribution from Posada as well, and if Posada’s shoulder hasn’t recovered enough to allow him to catch his usual slate of 140 or so games, they’ll have to find a much more productive replacement for him than Jose Molina, who is a fine defensive catcher, but a miserable hitter.

Here are the men who started behind the plate for the Yankees in 2008:

Player Starts Stats OPS+ CS%
Jose Molina 81 .216/.263/.314 61 44%
Jorge Posada 28 .293/.377/.434 127 17%
Chad Moeller 25 .238/.323/.333 85 38%
Ivan Rodriguez 26 .219/.257/.323 51* 26%
Chris Stewart 1 0 for 3 n/a 0%
Francisco Cervelli 1 0 for 3 n/a 0%
Total 162 .230/.290/.335 75 33%

OPS+ adjusted for position except for *

Entering the season, Chad Moeller’s career line (.224/.284/.346) was not significantly better than Molina’s (.243/.279/.345), both men were the same age, and Molina had hit well for the Yankees down the stretch in 2007 and had a hot streak for them in April of this year, so it’s really only in hindsight that the choice of Molina over Moeller seems like an obvious mistake given Moeller’s 60-points advantage in on-base percentage. Still, as the season progressed and Molina’s bat failed to restart following his late-April hamstring injury, it became increasingly obvious that the Yankees needed to try someone else behind the dish. The late-July trade for Ivan Rodriguez, who was hitting .295/.338/.417 for the Tigers, seemed like a brilliant solution to that problem. The Yankees didn’t miss Kyle Farnsworth given the strength of their bullpen and the 6.75 ERA he posted with Detroit, but Rodriguez was never given more than three starts in a row, didn’t hit when he did played, and was largely abandoned down the stretch, starting just five of the Yankees’ final 18 games.

Moeller and the now 37-year-old Rodriguez are both free agents this offseason, but looking at the catchers remaining in the Yankees’ system, the organization is surprisingly strong and deep at the position over the long-term, thanks largely to its efforts of the past couple of years:

Player Age* Level 2008 Stats CS%
Jorge Posada 37 MLB .293/.377/.434 17%
Jose Molina 33 MLB .216/.263/.314 44%
Francisco Cervelli 23 AA .315/.432/.384 27%
P.J. Pilittere 27 AA .277/.317/.349 18%
Kyle Anson 26 A+ .241/.367/.353 26%
Austin Romine 20 A .300/.344/.437 17%
Jesus Montero 19 A .326/.376/.491 20%
Kyle Higashioka 19 Rk .261/.300/.348 5%

*on May 1, 2009


SHADOW GAMES: Justice Is Served

The streets are in a rage today. Everyone is going somewhere to buy something or sell something or steal something.

Traffic is snarled and parking tickets are being written in bunches: One car in a crosswalk, two up on a sidewalk and three in a bus stop.

“These people don’t care,” a parking cop says. “Double parked, tripled parked and some of them block the whole street. We try to keep emergency lanes open and people move the barriers to park.”

It almost makes you feel sorry for the parking cops.

“We need a way to show these people who is really in charge,” the parking cop says.

Yeah, almost.

Even though most New Yorkers can’t work up a holiday-shopping rage it is interesting to watch. It’s like seeing an enemy fan being hauled out of Yankee Stadium by a dozen cops. It may not be right, but you quickly come to terms with the fact that justice can take many forms.

The parking cop gets on the radio and calls a tow truck to Broadway and 56th Street.

Another car in a bus stop. A BMW with Massachusetts plates. Perfect.

Justice is served.

The Great Teddy Ballgame

Hub Fans Bids Kid Adieu, John Updike’s fan-in-the-stands piece about Ted Williams’ final ball game is one of the most anthologized and famous stories in all of sports.  It first appeared in The New Yorker and it is now re-printed on-line at Baseball Almanac.  

I admire Updike’s elegant writing and observations but actually I prefer Ed Linn’s behind-the-scenes account of the same afternoon that was featured in Sport magazine.  But the ultimate Williams profile has to be Richard Ben Cramer’s Esquire article, What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now? (1986):

Ted Williams can hush a room just by entering. There is a force that boils up from him and commands attention. This he has come to accept as his destiny and his due, just as he came to accept the maddening, if respectful, way that opponents pitched around him (he always seemed to be leading the league in bases on balls), or the way every fan in the ball park seemed always to watch (and comment upon) T. Williams’s every move. It was often said Ted would rather play ball in a lab, where fans couldn’t see. But he never blamed fans for watching him. His hate was for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t feel with him, his effort, his exultation, pride, rage, or sorrow. If they wouldn’t share those, then there was his scorn, and he’d make them feel that, by God. These days, there are no crowds, but Ted is watched, and why not? What other match could draw a kibitzer’s eye when Ted, on the near court, pounds toward the net, slashing the air with his big racket, laughing in triumphant derision as he scores with a killer drop shot, or smacking the ball twenty feet long and roaring, “SYPHILITIC SON OF A BITCH!” as he hurls his racket to the clay at his feet?

And who could say Ted does not mean to be seen when he stops in front of the kibitzers as he and his opponent change sides? “YOU OKAY?” Ted wheezes as he yells at his foe. “HOW D’YA FEEL?…HOW OLD ARE YOU?…JUST WORRIED ABOUT YOUR HEART HA HA HAW.” Ted turns and winks, mops his face. A kibitzer says mildly: “How are you, Ted?” And Ted drops the towel, swells with Florida air, grins gloriously, and booms back:


If and when you have the time do yourself a favor and check out both of these classic pieces.

Charlotte’s Parents are Coming in For Thanksgiving, I Really Need to Get this Haircut

Winkler rules in this movie. Keaton’s great too.

I’m Your Agent Not Your Mother

It’s always nice to watch guys at the game of their game, as Pollack and Hoffman are here. Here’s some Thanksgiving laffs on the house.

Tootsie not only holds up. It’s a classic.

From Pauline Kael’s review:

…When Hoffman delivers the kind of performance he gives here, the talk in the media about his being overpaid seems beside the point. The movie is inconcievable without him. Once Hoffman was committed to the project, the scriptwriters began to shape the central character to fit him, and then they went further. In its final form, Tootsie is based on Dustin Hoffman, the perfectionist; he’s both the hero and the target of this satirical farce about actors.

…Sydney Pollack, who was an actor in his earlier years, originally went to Hollywood (in 1961) as a dialogue coach for John Frankenheimer; essentially he’s still a dialogue coach, and this works better for him here than it ever has before. Having dealt with stars most of his life, he knows how impossible they can be, and he has been able to make Tootsie something practically unheard of: a believable farce. The picture has more energy than anything else he has done; it’s almost alarmingly well cast, and the lines of dialogue collide with a click and go spinning off. Pollack himself gives some jabbing, fast readings; he plays a major role–that of Michael’s agent–with zest.

December, 1982

They might of hated each other while they were filming it, but they sure were funny.

What Toikey, Give Me Some Moose

How ’bout some Moose-for-the-Hall banter on Turkey Day? Got to keep busy doing something before the football and the cranberry sauce and sleepiness. Cliff and Jay have at it in the video above and here are some links that build a case for Mussina.

Allen Barra in The Wall Street Journal:

The naysayers note that he has never won a Cy Young Award (though he placed in the top six in nine of his 18 seasons); that he doesn’t have a World Series ring (though he’s pitched in two Series as a Yankee); that he has a losing record in the postseason (though he has a respectable playoff ERA of 3.42 and has struck out 145 batters in just 139.2 postseason innings); that he never led the American League in earned run average (though he was in the top six 10 times); and that he led the league in wins just once (1995, though he finished second three times, including 2008). But such arguments focus on what he hasn’t done, rather than on his achievements — which are considerable.

To make the case for Mr. Mussina in the Hall of Fame, start with winning. His 270 victories against 153 defeats are good for a won-lost percentage of .638, tied with Hall of Famer Jim Palmer for 10th among pitchers with 3,000 or more innings pitched. He won at least 11 games for 17 consecutive seasons.

Dick Lally at Baseball Library.com continues:

Mussina compiled statistics that become even more impressive than they first appear when you view them in the context of the era in which he played, a period in which offense dominated the game. During the 18 seasons in which he played, Mussina’s e.r.a. was 100 or more points below the league average. To give you an idea of the rarified level of performance those numbers represent, consider that Tom Seaver pitched for 20 seasons, and accomplished that feat in “only” 10 of them; Steve Carlton posted e.r.a.’s that low in only five seasons.

Dan Rosenheck furthers Lally’s argument in a piece for the New York Times:

During Mussina’s 18-year career, league leaders in E.R.A. have posted marks 47 percent below the league average; by contrast, during the 18-year period from 1946 to 1963, the E.R.A. leaders were just 37 percent better than the average.

Some of that difference can be accounted for by the lower innings totals accumulated by modern pitchers. That should not be held against Mussina, because although contemporary bullpen usage has enabled him to pitch more effectively, it has also prevented him from compiling the large innings totals.

But Mussina has benefited from another factor: the greater control modern pitchers can exert over the game. One of the chief insights of applying statistical analysis to baseball in the last decade has been the importance of distinguishing between events that involve the defense — non-home run hits and fielded outs — and what number crunchers call the Three True Outcomes: strikeouts, walks and home runs.

It will be interesting to see how it all pans out especially with the likes of Maddux, Glavine, Clemens, and the Big Unit all hanging it up roughly at the same time. But I believe at some pernt, Moose will jern them in Cooperstown.

SHADOW GAMES: A Working Holiday

Helen’s holiday started early. She left her apartment at 3:32 a.m., got to the coffee shop at 4:26 a.m., began filling the salt-and-pepper shakers at 4:39 a.m. and was pouring coffee for customers at 5:02 a.m.

She shouted the first order to the cooks at 5:09 a.m.

“Two scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, home fries and whole-wheat toast.”

“Breakfast is my business on Thanksgiving,” Helen said. “Some people are roasting turkeys and baking pumpkin pies, but I’m here serving bacon and eggs and pancakes and cheese omelets.

“This is always a busy morning,” she continued. “I think some of the guys just like to fill up on their gossip before going home to a family dinner.”

At 6:02 a.m. the counter was elbow-to-elbow and the baseball talk was wall-to-wall.

“I was hoping for some new pitchers to go along with my turkey dinner,” someone said. “What’s taking so long with these free agents?”

“You’ve gotta be patient,” someone else said. “We need a good rotation on Opening Day not on Turkey Day.”

“We also need a bat,” someone said. “What about getting Teixeira?”

Helen interrupted at 6:07 a.m.

“Would you guys like some more coffee?” she asked.

“That sounds good,” they all said.

The conversation quickly restarted:

“Do you guys think Abreu is coming back?”

Helen rolled her eyes at 6:08 a.m.

She only has about nine hours to go.

News of the Day – 11/27/08

Jimmy Gobble, Turkey Stearnes, Yam Yaryan and I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving … here’s the news:

  • Boras talks, but does anyone believe him?: The LA Times reports that Scott Boras claims to have received multiple offers for Mark Teixeira.  However …

Boras would not say which teams had extended offers, or even how many. He characterized the offers as bids Teixeira had the right to accept, as opposed to informal discussions about contract parameters without firm offers attached.   He declined to set a timetable for Teixeira’s decision.

  • Mark Feinsand of the News reports that the Yanks don’t believe the Angels are really interested in C.C. Sabathia.

One Yankees official didn’t seem too concerned with the news of the Angels’ supposed interest in Sabathia, which the Bombers believe is designed primarily to speed things up with Teixeira and his agent, Scott Boras.

“It sounds like they’re trying to get a message to Teixeira,” the official said. “That’s the guy they really want.”

Boras has been seeking a 10-year deal for Teixeira, but the Angels reportedly are reluctant to go higher than seven years.

  • FoxSports‘ Ken Rosenthal has news of Andy Pettitte speaking “more than once” to Joe Torre about joining the Dodgers:

… lest anyone forget, Pettitte has a history of changing teams as a free agent when he does not feel completely wanted.

Go back to 2003, when the Yankees dragged out their negotiations with Pettitte, only to lose him to the Astros despite making a significantly higher last-minute offer.

Or, go back to 2006, when the Astros would not budge off their one-year proposal to Pettitte, only to see the Yankees grab him by offering a higher salary and the option to return for a second year.

Pettitte lacks the leverage he had in either of those negotiations. Not only is he older, but he also posted a 5.35 ERA after the All-Star Game last season.

His first choice is to stay with the Yankees. The Yankees say they want him back. But at the moment, the Yankees are focused on the top free-agent starting pitchers — CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe.

For Pettitte, the Dodgers would represent a viable alternative.

  • Ben Shpigel of the Times notes the seemingly slow start to the free agency period, and wonders if its the nation’s economy at work here.
  • Larry Dobrow at CBSSports.com takes us along on his “Premium Seating” tour of the new stadium.
  • Ivan Rodriguez turns 38 today.
  • On this date in 1972, the Yankees make one of their best trades ever, acquiring third baseman Graig Nettles from the Cleveland Indians for catcher John Ellis, infielder Jerry Kenney, and outfielders Charlie Spikes and Rusty Torres.
  • On this date in 1974, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspends George Steinbrenner for two years as a result of Steinbrenner’s conviction for illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon and others.

And finally, a special treat for you all … follow this link to a Google Images collection of Life Magazine photos pertaining to the Bronx Bombers.

I’m taking tomorrow off.  Be happy and healthy this holiday … and catch up with you on Saturday.

Mmmm, Pork Fat

Dude, Suzanne Goin is fierce.  I absolutely love her.

Here’s some light, uncomplicated fare (cough, cough) she served up with Bittman on his PBS show.


You Wanna Be Down With The King

During the first couple of months of the 1996 season, every time I saw Derek Jeter on TV I couldn’t help but think of John “No Question” Starks, the combustible shooting guard for the Knicks. It was the body language, the cock-sure posture. I adored Starks even though he was a fine mess.

Oh, no, I thought when Jeter strutted up to the plate, his ass sticking-out, chest-puffed up, here’s the second coming of that knucklehead Starks.

Of course Jeter soon showed himself to be the antithesis of Starks. He was composed and collected, even when he made the usual rookie mistakes. Twelve years later, Jeter is not only the greatest shortstop in Yankee history, and one of the most marketable players in the game, he’s a sure-fire Hall of Famer.

Jeter, the team captain, is accessible but dull with the press but his enthusiasm on the field has always been evident. He smirks when he steps into the batter’s box, engages the fans while he’s on the on-deck circle, and chats up the opposition when they reach second base. No matter how tense the situation, he looks like he is having a good time out there. He’s a natural. It’s as if he were built to be a ballplayer–mentally, physically and emotionally.

Jeter personifies Tom Boswell’s description of “a gamer.”

Baseball has a name for the player who, in the eyes of his peers, is well attuned to the demands of his discipline; he is called “a gamer.” The gamer does not drool, or pant, before the cry of “Play ball.” Quite the opposite. He is the player, like George Brett or Pete Rose, who is neither too intense, nor too lax, neither lulled into carelessness in a dull August doubleheader nor wired too tight in an October playoff game. The gamer may scream and curse when his mates show the first hints of laziness, but he makes jokes and laughs naturally in the seventh game of the Series.

Jeter also has an edge. He is acutely aware of his position, his celebrity, and his surroundings. He’s terse with reporters if they push him. He rides his teammates. In 2004, Alex Rodriguez hit a long home run one day–the kind that Jeter could only dream about hitting. After Rodriguez returned to the dugout, Jeter stuck out his chest and mocked Rodriguez. It was funny but sharp.

“Derek Jeter knows how to give teammates a hard time,” said former teammate John Flaherty on a YES broadcast a few years ago.

Later, Flaherty told a story about arriving to the Stadium one afternoon hours before game time. Jeter was taking early batting practice on the field. Hardly anybody was around. Only Jeter and a batting practice pitcher were on the field. Flaherty took off his jacket upstairs in the YES booth as Jeter continued to hit. Without turning around, Jeter yelled, “Hey, Flaherty, nice tie.”

Now when I think of Jeter, when I think of how his career will wind up, I mostly think of Cal Ripken. I think of a superstar with a tremendous amount of pride. I don’t think he’ll ever be asked to leave shortstop by the Yankees even as his fielding continues to decline. His contract is up in two years. If he remains healthy he should get 3,000 hits not too long after that.

I can’t imagine him playing anywhere but the Bronx, can’t imagine him playing anywhere but short, no matter how it impacts the team. This isn’t the ultimate team player we’re talking about, this is the team captain.

I wonder if he’ll still be having a good time by the time he reaches the end.

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