"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

When it Snows…

Snow and then rain has covered New York since Friday morning and I’ve been home sick since Thursday. Yesterday, Em and I went off to get our new kitten, Mo Green. Into the country snow. The senior cat in our crib, the Divine Mrs. Tashi, is none too thrilled, as you can imagine. And Mo is just as cute as he is wild.

Still not feeling too well, I slept on the couch, next to a little box we’d set up for Mo, last night. From 3-5 am he was a wild man. Ah, the joys of parenthood. I’ll have a picture of the little bugger up in the coming days.

I did catch the CC, AJ press conference the other day and came away amped about next season for the first time. I think CC has an easy personality, he’s got some charm. What’s not to like? Then, the fan in me, tore loose as I realized that the Yankees’ best starting pitcher is a six-foot-seven brother. I mean, his size alone is unique, but how many good black starting pitchers have the Yankees ever had? Al Downing, Rudy May, Doc Gooden. It’s not that many. Which isn’t to say that race is a reason to like or dislike a guy. I’m just noting the facts. I wonder how many city kids that normally don’t care about baseball will be wearing 52 jerseys next year.

CC is a new-age pitching version of Darryl Dawkins “Chocolate Thunder.”

I thought it was fascinating to hear Brian Cashman disclose that last winter the Yankees were either going to deal Hughes, et al to the Twins for Johan Santana, or they were going to wait and hope to nab Sabathia this winter in the free-agent market. They rolled the dice, got the situation they wanted, and then signed their man. That is satisfying.

I was almost even more impressed by Burnett. Now, he’s a guy that I’ve loved rooting against for years. The charge against him–he’s all talent, no polish, a million dollar arm with a ten cent head–was something I could never see past, even when he shut the Yankees down time and time again. But in the press conference, and then later to reporters, Burnett attributed much of his injury history to arrogance. He loved his “stuff” so much, he said, that he’d try and throw every pitch 98 miles an hour. If you got it, flaunt it, was his motto. He didn’t know how to prepare, physcially or mentally, for a long season. But he remembers making the playoffs in ’03 and not being able to pitch.

Burnett gave Roy Halladay a lot of credit with turning him into a pitcher not just a chucker. He sounded like a guy who has finally figured it out for himself. Now whether or not he’ll continue to harness his gift (and if he does, he has the best pure stuff of anyone on the staff), or will he be hurt all the time and continue to be uneven? Time will only tell. But for me, it’s going to be easy to pull for him, at least at the outset, than I had imagined.

Burnett was almost deferential to Joe Girardi, the Yankee manager, who told reporters that CC and AJ were his Chirstmas presents this year. “No, I’m sure I’ll get a few gifts,” he added so as not to offend his wife. He went on to say that he is aware that the Yankees’ playoff run came to an end on his watch and he was eager to start a new streak. You could see how geeked he was with the new talent he’s got to work with and who can blame him?

When it’s all said and done, provided everyone is healthy, the Yankees 2009 starting pitching staff is going to look like a red, hot, shiny muscle car. Will it run like a GTO or an Edsel, that’s the question.

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1 Bobtaco   ~  Dec 21, 2008 2:01 pm

Maybe AJ really has turned a corner, like when Schilling got the talking to by Clemens.

2 unmoderated   ~  Dec 21, 2008 2:06 pm

i hope so. it's really hard to root for that guy.

we're still getting dumped with snow, almost a foot now... and i've got the flu, or a bug, or something... first time i've been sick in years.

3 Joseph   ~  Dec 21, 2008 2:19 pm

I've always liked cats, and all animals for that matter. Cats personalities along with their amazing dexterity are fascinating. I recently found a couple of abandoned kittens, to young to survive on their own, so I purchased some milk substitute for kittens, fed them with a syringe for a few weeks, and when they were weaned, found homes for them. I would have kept them, but considering we have a couple of toy poodles and two pet birds (cockatiels), my wife didn't think we needed a couple of cats in the mix (and neither did the birds).

Having watched the Yanks trot out Rasner and Ponson quite often last year, and with Wang hurt, compared to the rotation were looking at this year, and well, any Yankee fan that isn't drooling at this point in time ought to examine their conscience and be grateful the Yanks have money and are willing to spend it. There'll be plenty of time for second guessing and "I told you sos" as the season progresses.

I had to smile at the reference to the Pontiac GTO. One of my all time favorites was the 1965 model. Had this song on a 45 rpm record titled, "Little GTO" by a group called Ronnie and the Daytonas. I can remember way back in the day, around 1970, spying a '65 silver blue convertible on a little car lot in the small town in Iowa where I live. 389 cu. in. 360 HP, 3 deuces, 4 speed, redline tires, etc. They were asking the whopping sum of $900 dollars for it. Unfortunately, my father didn't think I needed a car like that. Who knew back then what those muscle cars would be worth today. The '65 GTO sold new for a little less than $3000 back then, and now those cars go for anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000 depending on condition.

Finally, and btw, sorry to ramble on, I've got my fingers crossed on these mild, unsubstantiated Yankee-Tex rumors that are floating around.

4 Diane Firstman   ~  Dec 21, 2008 2:41 pm

I'd love to have a cat, but I'm allergic. I'm OK to be in a room with them, but I couldn't be giving them all the TLC they need.


5 Rich   ~  Dec 21, 2008 4:12 pm

"...but how many good black starting pitchers have the Yankees ever had?...I wonder how many city kids that normally don’t care about baseball will be wearing 52 jerseys next year."

To expand on Alex's point, in recent years, the Yankees haven't even had that many African-American players, which I guess speaks to a larger issue in MLB in general, and the sports that inner cities kids are gravitating towards.

If CC's presence in NYC (including the outreach to the community that he has spoken of) can in any way alter that mindset, it will be yet another dividend of the signing.

6 thelarmis   ~  Dec 21, 2008 5:34 pm

chris britton signed with the padres.

7 Evil Empire   ~  Dec 21, 2008 6:05 pm

“Do you know who I am? I’m Mo Greene! I made my bones when you were going out with cheerleaders!”

8 Will Weiss   ~  Dec 21, 2008 7:55 pm

[5] That was the subject of Bill Rhoden's column in the NY Times earlier this week, which Diane Firstman linked to. The last non-Latino black man the Yankees had on their starting rotation was Shawn Chacon. They had Tom Gordon in their relief corps. ... In a few weeks, when the rancor of my most recent post has subsided, I'm going to make this a focus of a column and ask some members of the organization if this had anything to do with the Yankees' signing him. From a PR standpoint, having another high-profile African-American on the roster will be a boon.

9 monkeypants   ~  Dec 21, 2008 8:23 pm

[8] I'll be interested to see how you argue that. Given that the team is more popular than ever, and that African American interest in the sport is very low, I'm not sure how adding an African American pitcher can possibly be much of a "boon" from a PR perspective. Even if it does, from a philosophical perspective, I'm disappointed that it would even matter.

10 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 21, 2008 8:23 pm

[7] "You don't buy me out, I buy you out.." watch out for those glasses, Mo..

[0] I am all aboard the CC & AJ train now, but can we just sign Adam Dunn already please??

11 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 21, 2008 8:31 pm

[9] I think it is in an interesting issue. People like Bill James have dismissed it, but baseball was a major part of the African-American community for most of the 20th century. It's sad that the Negro Leagues museum in KC has to stuggle for financing. Maybe if the game regains some popularity from hoops and the evil grid-iron, that could change...

12 monkeypants   ~  Dec 21, 2008 8:34 pm

[11] Baseball was a bigger part of all American society--black, white and otherwise--for much of the 20th century. I personally see little value in obsessing over which specific color groups (or creedal groups for that matter) compose what percentage of the starting line-up. I really wish we could move past this topic.

13 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 21, 2008 8:45 pm

[12] Well, Rob Neyer expressed a similar view in an articel awhile back. I see your points but at the same time, I found it pretty sad when some of the African-American kids in my neighborhood (growing up in Brooklyn) had no idea who Willie Mays was...Willie Mays!! You really see no value at all in people knowing and valuing their cultural history?? Every rinky-dink college in the country promotes it's college football program, etc. I think the history of African-Americans, Latin-Americans and now Asian baseball players is something to be celebrated and explored.

14 monkeypants   ~  Dec 21, 2008 8:57 pm

[13] I reject the notion that "their" "cultural history" must be defined almost soley in racial terms. Is it a problem that the little black kids don't know who Willie Mays is? I don't know...do they know who Babe Ruth is? Should they know (or care) more about Will than Babe? Doesn't this simply perpetuate the same tired old racial politics that divide us?

15 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 21, 2008 9:10 pm

[14] Nothing was mentioned about "solely" defining history in racial terms. However, as a baseball fan, it saddens me that ANY kid would not know who Willie Mays is. It certainly does not perpetuate old racial politics for a community that was oppressed for many many years to celebrate the sucess of one of their own in America's game.
As an Asian-American, I think it is seriously cool to see not only Japanese (our "mortal enemy" in WWII) players, but also two Indian guys now signed with the Pirates. (Ok, it's a publicity stunt for sure, but still cool). To promote and celebrate the diversity of the great game of baseball will help END racial fears and prejudices, not perpetuate them.

16 monkeypants   ~  Dec 21, 2008 9:14 pm

[15] Racial fears and prejudices will be ended when they are no longer invoked. So long as we deifne people by 19th century racial categories, those categories perpetuate, no matter how much we make ourselves feel better by embracing "diversity."

I could give two shits whether CC is the only or the fifth African American starter on the staff. But since others seem much more interested in such matters, I'll bow out here and let y'all continue that discussion.

17 Diane Firstman   ~  Dec 21, 2008 9:15 pm

Not to stir the pot, but given the economics in the country today, the vast majority of the seats in the new house will be filled by rich, white folk. However, I don't think they (or anyone else in the stadium) care about the color of the skin of the player they are rooting for.

If anyone has incurred any scrutiny over the demographics of their roster, its the Mets. Omar Minaya has been "accused" of a Hispanic bias in his roster construction, which is kind of ludicrous given the percentages of white/black/hispanic players active in the majors.

18 monkeypants   ~  Dec 21, 2008 9:15 pm

[16] That should read: "Racial fears and prejudices will be ended when *racial categories* are no longer invoked."

19 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 21, 2008 9:19 pm

[16] [18] And you think that "no longer invoking" them means that racism will go away?? Respectfully disagree about your point `no matter how much we make ourselves feel better by embracing “diversity.”`. I will continue to gladly embrace diversity, and hope others will jump on board.

[17] I missed most of that coverage of Minaya..who exactly was claiming that?

20 Evil Empire   ~  Dec 21, 2008 9:27 pm

[17][19] that would be Kris Benson's idiot wife. She claimed "that Mets general manager Omar Minaya was 'putting together an all-Latino team'."


21 monkeypants   ~  Dec 21, 2008 9:27 pm

[19] I'm not saying: "if we don't talk about it, racism will go away." I am saying that in a world free of racism, the very categories would no longer be invoked because they would not matter one jot. The very fact that we (you, whoever) celebrate diversity defined in racial categories, which were largely defined in the 19th century, we act to perpetuate the very categories themselves. The celebration of those categories is evidence that they exist.

For me, however, they simply do not matter. If you (and others) feel good counting up black and brown and white players, I wish you well. I simply do not care, except inasmuch as I believe the practice--albeit well-intentioned--is part of the problem.

We'll have to agree to disagree, I guess.

22 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 21, 2008 9:37 pm

[20] Interesting points..I am not a sociologist so really not comfortable discussing the origins of "racial categorizations", etc. But yes, guess we will agree to disagree! One last point: living in a very homogenous country (or I should say, a country that REALLY emphasizes it's homogenious character while trying to suppress it's actual underliying diversity) has worked to change my views on this...the rather ruthless suppression of any discussion or race in Japan leads to many prominent ethnic-Korean baseball players to either deny or simply refuse to discuss their backgrounds...including old favorite Hideki Irabu and even Hideki Matsui.

23 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 21, 2008 9:38 pm

[8] The Yankees have also had Latroy Hawkins, but who’s counting.

Unless you talk to Cashman, I am not sure how you can get an accurate answer to the question. It's really an irrelevant question anyway because I'd be shocked if the Yankees let anything other than Sabathia's superior talent be a driving force behind the signing. Furthermore, as [9] mentions, there can't really be a PR boon associated with Sabathia because fewer black Americans are interested in baseball. So, unless you really mean it is a move that panders to media members who seem to think racial quotas are the answer to all the country's problems, then yes, I don’t see the “boon”.

[11] James has not dismissed it. He has correctly noted that the decline in African Americans playing baseball is not something that has occurred because of institutional bias. Instead, there are numerous factors that have resulted in the decline. Those factors range from black athletes having more pro sports options to other races having more opportunities in baseball. Interestingly, in the 1970s, one could have argued that black players made up a disproportionate percentage of the league, while now, at just over 8%, the participation level more closely resembles the racial demographics of the nation. If anything, baseball “looks more like America” than any other sport.

[14] I couldn’t agree more. In my mind, this issue is a quality one, not a racial one. MLB should want every great athlete, regardless of color, to play baseball. As a result, it should do everything possible to attract the best athletes in this country and around the world. It shouldn’t be interested, however, in inflating its racial profile. It’s a shame that people can’t get past this kind of thinking.

[15] As a baseball fan, it saddens me that everyone in the world isn’t a fan of the game. Of course, I realize that you simply can not make people be interested.

I also bristle at the notion that Willie Mays is one of “their own”. As an American and a baseball fan, I like to think of Willie Mays as one of my own too. I didn’t realize that I should only revere players with the same skin color as my own. Similarly, I’d like to think that black Americans should be able to revere whomever they like, regardless of skin color or what sport they play. It almost seems condescending to me for someone to suggest what or whom another person should appreciate, not to mention an entire of race of people. It’s that kind of thinking, disguised as enlightenment, that fosters the prejudices and racial fears that we all would like to disappear.

24 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 21, 2008 9:44 pm

[22] That is NOT what I was saying in [15]. Yes, ALL Americans should rever Willie Mays, and baseball! But to deny the special role that people like Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays had in pre-Civil Rights African-American history..well, that's just ignoring a crucial period in American History for all of us. I am not an African-American, but in no way do I find it condescending to say to a young kid, "hey, you should learn about Jackie and Willie and others. they helped pave the way for the real gains in the 1960s civil rights movement". Frankly, it's a bit insulting to be accused of condescension or fostering prejudices.

25 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 21, 2008 9:49 pm

[17] This is another red herring. As a partial plan holder in the upper deck, I can first report that my tickets will actually be going DOWN in the new stadium and, secondly, that the stands around where I sit are not filled with rich white people.

[19] What does the notion of embracing diversity mean? Taken literally, I guess it means dividing people in as many ways possible. Personally, I like to embrace individuality. Instead of demanding that whole races of people feel one way or another, I prefer to advocate that each individual person have the same rights and opportunities as all others.

26 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 21, 2008 9:56 pm

[23] Again, why must an African American boy know Willie Mays (what role did he have in the Civil Rights movement anyway)? There are hundreds of black and white historical figures who seem to be more prominent than Mays, so I am not sure why you would lament one not knowing much about him.

I am sorry, but when I read lines like "the sucess of one of their own", it strikes me as being very divisive. I am sure you don't mean for such a statement to be taken that way, but ultimately, I think that's the message it sends. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

27 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 21, 2008 9:58 pm

[24] This is the usual non-sensical argument against "diversity". No one ever demanded that whole races feel one way or another. Real diversity embraces both a "culture" and the uniqueness of the individual within that culture.

To bring baseball back into this discussion, "embracing diversity" would simply mean being happy to have a more multi-cultural, multi-ethnic team. Just like our great city of New York. The lilly-white teams of the Sox and Yanks of the 50s are an embarrasment.

28 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 21, 2008 10:01 pm

[25] William, the success of African-American baseball players in the 1950s had an ENORMOUS impact on the people who went on to march for Civil Rights. Someone like Wilile Mays who went out into a white man's game, faced horrible racial abuse, and transcended that to become an all-time great...yeah, I think young sports fans should know who he is.

Yes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but denial is a river in Egypt.

So, did we sign Dunn yet?

29 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 21, 2008 10:06 pm

[26] Then why are we demanding that black american (it is black americans at issue, after all) athletes play baseball and learn about Willie Mays? Unless you think baseball is denying african americans opportunities to play, then I am not sure what the point is. Encouraging diversity should be about making sure everyone has the opportunity to participate; not trying to gerrymander participation based on race.

I have no idea what the 1950s Yankees and Red Sox have to do with the modern day. In that era, black americans were denied opportunities. Now, that is no longer the case. Except for the Red Sox (who somehow have assembled a pretty homogenous team), most teams to have considerable diversity...one that reflects the racial composition of our nation. Do you think that is a bad thing? Is diversity only worthwhile when a certain group is represented to a desired level?

30 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 21, 2008 10:09 pm

[28]Again, why use the word "demand"? No one is demanding anything. Why do people get SO upset about this topic anyway, I fail to see what is wrong with promoting the game within a community in which it's popularity has fallen..especially a community whose history in the 20th century is inter-twined with the great game? Geez, if this is called "fostering prejudices" then just call me Jesse Helms and let's get back to arguing about Manny vs Dunn for the big-bopper contract up next.

31 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 21, 2008 10:10 pm

[[27] I am sorry, but Willie Mays was hardly at the forefront of the American civil rights movement. I would rather encourage a boy, black or white, to learn about what his own parents or grandparents did to bring about positive changes, than randomly assign social implications to the actions of individuals based solely on their skin color.

Also, for what it's worth, Mays was often criticized for his indifference to the Civil Rights movement.

32 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 21, 2008 10:15 pm

[30] "criticized for indifference to Civil Rights."...So were Louis Armstorng, and Miles Davis (of all people!). The symbolic value and importance to thousands of people is surely still important, regardless of what they did or did not do?
Also, we're talking about baseball here..no one mentioned NOT teaching young people about all the great men&women of the past..it's not an either/or thing.

33 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 21, 2008 10:17 pm

[29] I'll leave it at this...if the only way Americans can like something is if their race is disproprotionately represented, well, then maybe we are all being naive. I think MLB should promote Sabathia's talent, not his skin color, but maybe that thinking is still well in our future.

I'll take Manny.

34 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 21, 2008 10:35 pm

[29] again, no one is arguing for that..anyways..

Manny...I still think Dunn is the way to go. seriously could see 90hrs between him and A-Rod, and his D at 1B not as bad as in the OF.

ESPN reporting the Angels now out of the Tex race...could Cash-man sneak back in??

35 monkeypants   ~  Dec 21, 2008 10:45 pm

[26] "To bring baseball back into this discussion, “embracing diversity” would simply mean being happy to have a more multi-cultural, multi-ethnic team. Just like our great city of New York."

I am neither happy nor unhappy about the Yankees being more "multi-cultural, multi-ethnic." I want them to field the best team possible, and I don't care what color, creed, culture, etc. those players are.

36 Diane Firstman   ~  Dec 21, 2008 10:56 pm


I second that emotion ...

37 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 22, 2008 12:11 am

[34] Ok, throwing out all social or political concerns then...diversity is good for BASEBALL. The game is more popular and more exciting with all the international players who have come from Latin America, Asia, Australia (our man Grahm Lloyd) and soon India. Maybe one day baseball will be the world's 2nd most popular sport? (it will never pass soccer..)

38 monkeypants   ~  Dec 22, 2008 12:41 am

[36] I'm not convinced that baseball isn't already the world's 2nd most popular sport, tough maybe basketball is.

I don't think the game is "more exciting" because of international players. However, I guess people who live in Korea or Australia or wherever find the game more interesting if a player from their own country is in the MLB. This sort of tribalism doesn't thrill me, but it's a reality.

I would come at the issue from the opposite direction. The game is not "better" or "more exciting" or whatever *because* of diversity. Rather, the fact that MLB is diverse, with players coming from many different parts of the world, is evidence of the sports global popularity, and of the teams' more sophisticated worldwide scouting mechanisms.

In other words, for you, diversity is the cause. For me, it's the effect.

39 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 22, 2008 1:24 am

Dag, what did I miss? >;)

40 sonyahennystutu   ~  Dec 22, 2008 10:00 am

[37] Well, one thing I don't think can be argued against is that the diversity - whether cause or effect - has led to increased revenues in the game at large (and thus player salaries).

TV rights deals, jersey sales, etc. now have a global audience they once lacked (at least relatively speaking).

41 Evil Empire   ~  Dec 22, 2008 7:07 pm

Hey Alex, why did my post about Chris Benson's wife and Minaya "awaiting moderation." Am I not allowed to refer to Anna Benson as an idiot? Surely that can't be????

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