"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: January 2009

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He Ain’t Pretty No More

A new book by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci about Torre’s long stint with the Yankees is due out this spring.  The New York Post has an item about it today and it seems as if the book will have some behind-the-scenes juice.   Who says the Yankees won’t have any controversy this spring?

This or That?





Observations From Cooperstown–Fifth Starters, Backup Catchers, and Rickey At 50

The heralded off season acquisitions of Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett have answered most of the Yankees’ questions surrounding first base and starting pitching, but at least one rotation place remains available for the taking. The identity of the No. 5 starter is still unknown, pending the re-signing of Andy Pettitte or the importing of one of Milwaukee’s Best (Ben Sheets) or a Fallen Angel (Jon Garland). So what should the Yankees’ best course of action be, a proven free agent commodity, or a four-way battle of young arms Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Alfredo Aceves, and lefty Phil Coke?

When it comes to pitching, I tend to believe in the theory of excess, especially in light of the twin avalanches of injuries that have assaulted the Bronx the past two summers. I’d like to see Sheets signed to a two-year deal, or Pettitte to a one-year deal, with Garland a less expensive backup plan should those offers fall short. Signing one of those three would allow the Yankees to use Aceves as a long man in the bullpen while having Hughes and Kennedy in reserve at Scranton-Wilkes Barre. The days of getting through a season with five starters are long gone; you’d better have at least seven to eight pitchers capable of giving you a substantial number of starts and innings from April to October…


The YES Network’s Steven Goldman, often an astute observer of Yankeeland, was a thousand per cent correct this week in offering his assessment of the tenuous state of the Yankees’ catching situation. If the Yanks are not careful, they may end up with Jose Molina again doing the majority of the catching, an untenable prospect given Molina’s overall futility at the plate. (With Brett Gardner or Melky Cabrera set to play center field, the Yankees cannot afford to give away two lineup slots to defense-first players.) In the event that Jorge Posada’s surgically repaired shoulder allows him to catch no more than 80-90 games this summer, the Yankees need another catcher to share the burden. They won’t necessarily require a No. 1 catcher to fill the void, but they would need someone who is capable of splitting the load with Molina in some kind of a platoon arrangement.

Let me advocate two possibilities, one a free agent and the other on the trade market. The free agent is switch-hitting ex-Red Javier Valentin, who is decent enough with the bat to serve as a platoon partner and “designated” pinch-hitter for Molina. It isn’t that Valentin is a great offensive player, but he happens to be a much better hitter than Molina, with a career on-base percentage that’s 35 points higher. At 33 years of age, he’d be happy with a one-year deal, making him a far cheaper alternative to Jason Varitek. (That would also spare us the inevitable Varitek-Alex Rodriguez soap opera.) The other possibility is Chris Coste, now relegated to third-string catching status with the world champion Phillies, behind Carlos Ruiz and the newly acquired Ronny Paulino. Even at the age of 35, Coste has acceptable on-base skills and enough versatility to play the infield corners in the pinch. He shouldn’t cost too much in a trade either, maybe something at the level of a Chase Wright or an Alan Horne…


Last week’s election of ex-Yankee Rickey Henderson and Boston’s Big Jim Rice to the Hall of Fame figures to give the village of Cooperstown a much-needed boost in tourism this summer, especially when compared with the meager turnout for the 2008 induction. Fewer than 10,000 fans visited Cooperstown for the induction of Goose Gossage and Dick Williams, despite Gossage’s obvious connection to the Yankees from 1978 to 1983. (Perhaps Goose didn’t pitch long enough for the Yankees, or maybe he simply played too long ago, but his induction brought surprisingly few fans north from the Bronx.) This year’s induction attendance could double last year’s total of about 8,000 visitors—but not because of Henderson’s superstar presence. Henderson played only four and a half seasons with the Yankees, preventing him from developing the cult following of someone like Don Mattingly or Paul O’Neill or Bernie Williams. Given the distance between Cooperstown and Oakland, the team with which Rickey is most associated, it’s likely that few A’s fans will make the cross-country trek to Cooperstown.

So where will the attendance boost come from? There will be a large contingent of Red Sox faithful in town for the long-awaited induction of Rice, who played his entire career in Beantown. Boston is a mere four hours away from Cooperstown; the Hall of Fame is already a convenient destination for members of the dreaded Red Sox Nation, and that will only intensify during what figures to be the Summer of Rice…


Speaking of Henderson, I’d love to see the “Man of Steal” carry through with his wish of playing one final season in the major leagues. Even at 50, he’s still in prime physical condition and probably capable of filling a role as a pinch-runner and fifth outfielder. He’s also a far smarter player than most give him credit for, a student of both pitchers’ repertoires and their moves to first base. If the Yankees find themselves in a pennant race come September, why not sign Henderson as an extra body for the 40-man roster? I’d enjoy the theater of watching him enter a tie game as a pinch-runner, pawing his way off first base against a pitcher 20 years his junior. If nothing else, it would beat watching Angel Berroa under similar circumstances.

Bruce Markusen writes “Cooperstown Confidential” for MLBlogs at MLB.com.

News of the Day – 1/24/09

Lights … camera … links! Here’s the news:

  • Mooooving Day at the Stadium: MLB.com has all the details on the Yanks moving their offices into the new Stadium.  They’ve got a photo gallery and a video report.
  • LoHud’s PeteAbe has some photos from the move.
  • RiverAveBlues offers up a nifty virtual tour of the new park.
  • Jon Lane of YES Network provides a pro/con analysis of the contenders for the fifth spot in the rotation.
  • The Post reports that Astros’ owner Drayton McLane believes that Andy Pettitte probably won’t be pitching for them in ’09.
  • Bernie Williams will be back in New York … this Sunday night.  He’ll be an honoree, and a performer at the annual BBWAA dinner at the Hilton (YES Network).
  • If you have at least $33,275 to spare, you can bid on a signed team photo of the 1927 Yankees.
  • Heard of Arodys Vizcaino?  Keith Law thinks he’ll be the Yankee prospect to make the jump into his Top 100 prospects next year.
  • Over at the Post, Kevin Kernan summarizes the off-season to date for the Mets and Yanks.
  • 2-tour Yankee Neil Allen turns 51 today.  He was purchased from the Cards in July of ’85, traded to the ChiSox in ’86, released by them in August of ’87, and picked up by the Bombers again for the last month of ’87.
  • Tim Stoddard, a teammate of Allen’s in ’87, turns 56.  Stoddard was acquired from the Padres in exchange for the failed free agent experiment known as Ed Whitson.
  • On this date in 2000, Yankee prospect D’Angelo Jimenez suffers a broken neck when a car he is driving collides with a bus. Jimenez is not paralyzed but will miss the 2000 season.

See you Monday!

Pack it Up, Pack it in

Did someone call Moishe’s?

News of the Day – 1/23/09

News of  the Day, chronicling the Yanks since …. late October 2008!

Here is what’s going on:

Should they, though? Say, at the prices that Rosenthal suggests – a one-year, $7-million deal for Sheets with incentives that could push it past $14 million, and a two-year, $10-million package for Cruz?

Definitely not for Cruz, I’d say. Brian Cashman’s best work, since gaining full control of the team in late 2005, has been on the Yankees’ bullpen. They should be good to go with what they have.

For Sheets? You’d have to strongly consider that one. The Yankees passed on Sheets in December because they felt like they already had their “high-risk, high-reward” guy in A.J. Burnett, and because they preferred Andy Pettitte’s durability and familarity with New York. But with Pettitte and the Yankees still at odds, and with Sheets possibly down to a year, that certainly changes the equation.

  • John Walsh (The Hardball Times) has an analysis of outfielder’s arms for the 2008 season, and … no great surprise here … the Yankee contingent left a little bit to be desired (Damon awful, Abreu slipped a lot, Cabrera and Nady were decent).
  • MLB.com has a status update on the Yanks payroll for 2009.  As of right now it stands at $186 million for 16 players.
  • Keith Law is out with his Top 100 prospects for 2009, over at ESPN.  The highest-ranked Yankee?  Austin Jackson, at #46 (down from #24 last year).  Here is part of Law’s write-up on Austin’s City Limits:

Jackson’s star has dimmed over the past year or so, as an expected breakout hasn’t come. He’s shown that he takes a while to adjust to each new level or challenge. He’s still a great athlete, but it’s not translating into baseball skills as quickly as hoped.

Jackson’s tools grade out as more or less average across the board, with nothing standing out as plus except for the possibility that he’ll become an above-average hitter (for average, that is). He had good speed but is, at best, a 55 runner now, although he has good instincts on the bases. He has gap power and can jerk a ball over the fence to left, but doesn’t project as more than a 15-20 homer guy unless he fills out substantially. He’s solid in center field with a good arm, but probably isn’t a Gold Glove candidate.

  • Dellin Betances just missed Law’s Top 100 list.
  • In a separate piece, Law hands out a list of each organization’s top prospects.  Here’s the Yanks  (btw …. “prospect” is being defined as still eligible for ROTY consideration):

1. Austin Jackson, CF
2. Jesus Montero, C
3. Andrew Brackman, RHP
4. Dellin Betances, RHP
5. Zach McAllister, RHP

  • PeteAbe at LoHud reports that the Yanks offices are moving to the new Stadium tomorrow.


Can I Kick It?

Yes, you can.

Even she can too.

Converse were the joints back when, huh?

This or That?

There’s two old-timey parks left (Yankee Stadium, even the original model, was never a ballpark now, was it?).



And Wrigley:


I’ve only been to Fenway once, back in 1999.  Saw them play and beat, the Tigers on a Saturday afternoon.  I found the park strange and fascinating.  I liked the intimacy, the vibe outside on the street.   I’ve never been to Wrigley.  Man, that’s a trip I’ve got to take one of these days.

News of the Day – 1/22/09

Powered by the knowledge that there will be one less drunken person in a major league ballpark next season (and he’s a mascot, no less!), here’s the news:

  • Fox Sports.com’s Ken Rosenthal thinks the Yanks shouldn’t sit on their off-season laurels at this point, and go after Ben Sheets and Juan Cruz:

Both Sheets and Cruz are Type A free agents who were offered salary arbitration, but they would cost the Yankees only fourth- and fifth-round draft picks. The Yankees already have signed three higher-ranking free agents — Mark Teixeira, Sabathia and Burnett.

Sheets, while a physical risk, could be the Yankees’ answer to Brad Penny and John Smoltz, both of whom signed with the Red Sox for relatively low base salaries with the chance to earn significantly more through incentives.

Cruz, on the other hand, makes more sense for the Yankees than he does for any other club. Teams are reluctant to forfeit a first-round pick for a setup reliever. But an aggressive spender such as the Yankees, because of a flaw in the compensation system, gives up a lower-round draft pick with each Type A free agent that it signs.

[My take: You must know by now that I’m a big Ben Sheets fan.  But since he ended last season with some arm issues, I’m going to want to see what he looks like in Spring Training before making a big push for him.  But really, the Yanks still need a back-up (or starting?) catcher more than a #5 starter.]

  • MLB.com reports that hitting coach Kevin Long is feeling good about the off-season work done by some of his students.  An excerpt:

Robinson Cano met with Long in November, working out in the Dominican Republic and continuing the adjustments that the hitting coach suggested late in the season. Cano had hit rock bottom in terms of frustration, and only a September surge helped him raise his average to .271.

With Long’s help, Cano has reduced movement at the plate, tweaks that remain constant in the overhauled stance that will be on display next month. But Long said he was blown away by other changes Cano has made, hiring a personal trainer to help reduce his body fat and add muscle for the year ahead.

“The trip to the Dominican went above and beyond what I expected,” Long said. “Really, I just expected to go out there and see where he was from an offensive standpoint and mechanically, and mentally talk to him about his game plan for winter ball.

“To go out there and see what kind of shape he was in was a pleasant surprise, to say the least. He’s worked hard to get himself in shape and get himself looking like a top-notch ballplayer.”


And Such Small Portions

I’m Only Sleeping


Earlier this winter I walked through a snowy Central Park. When I got to the Great Lawn, I stopped to look at the baseball diamonds. There is something tranquil and comforting about seeing a field covered in white. They need the rest and look protected underneath all the snow. The absence of activity–knowing that the fields will be lush green, dirt kicking up, voices yelling, come the summer–is reassuring. I hung out for a few minutes and gazed out over the fields. I wondered what it must be like living down South or out West where baseball is played year-round.

At Todd’s memorial service this past Sunday we learned that Todd, who grew up in Syracuse, loved the snow almost as much as he loved baseball. It snowed on Sunday and then again on Monday.

I stared out of my apartment window at the thick flakes and thought about him. I can’t get him out of my mind.  And I can’t muster up any enthusiasm for baseball at the moment.  It will be here soon (though not soon enough for some).  But right now, I don’t miss baseball. I miss Todd.

This or That?

Late Nineties veteran hitter/clubhouse guy.



or Chili?


I really liked Davis on the Yanks, but Rock was hilarious.  Anyone who could get away with busting O’Neill’s chops is aces in my book.

News of the Day – 1/21/09

Powered by this salute to the Presidents (at least through Clinton).

  • LoHud’s Pete Abe reports that Melky Cabrera and the Yanks have settled on a contract for ’09, avoiding further arbitration-wrangling.  Pete also has the details on Brian Bruney’s path to a contract.
  • Also at LoHud, Pete notes that Xavier Nady nearly doubled his ’08 salary by signing a one-year deal for $6.55 million.

[My take: Yes he had a nice year, and figured to get a bit of a raise, but a $6.5 million salary may reduce his ability to be traded.  Maybe the Pirates want him back?]

  • MLB.com covers the Yankee signings.
  • Padres’ front office assistant Paul DePodesta has his own blog, and has a post which details the ins and outs of the arbitration process.
  • ESPN’s Buster Olney runs down five key injury situations, and (no surprise) … Jorge Posada makes the list.
  • Also at ESPN, Rob Neyer responds to Steven Goldman’s analysis of the Yanks’ catching quandary for 2009:

The Yankees’ biggest limit is not their “budget” or the disapproval of owners in Milwaukee and Miami. Their biggest limit is their 25-player roster limit. … But backup catcher? That’s one roster spot that should be completely available. And if you’ve got the Yankees’ “budget,” why not fill every roster spot with a useful player?

What’s more, while Goldman argues the Yankees need a “co-catcher,” there’s also the distinct possibility that they’ll need a catcher, period. If not this year, then next. And next winter the only free-agent catcher worth signing — if he doesn’t re-up with the Indians in the interim — will be Victor Martinez, and it’s not completely clear that he’ll be a catcher for much longer, himself.

[My take: Yes it would be great for the Yanks to have a back-up catcher of some skill on both sides of the equation, but there aren’t that many to be had in the free agent market.  A few weeks ago, I broached the topic of going after Martinez after ’09, and you guys (correctly) pointed out that the Indians would be fools not to invoke their $7 million club option for ’10.  Robinson Cano and Nady for Russell Martin and a pitching prospect, then ink Orlando Hudson for 2 years, anyone?]


You Can Get With This (or You Can Get With That)

Ah, Black Sheep’s break-out classic.  I liked the whole album.  Dres gets props for bringing Knishes into the discussion.

How about if we take the concept to the Yanks. Like say for instance, Yankee Screw-Jobs.


Ex-major leaguer Irabu arrested for assault at restaurant

Or That?


Same As It Ever Was


In a lively guest post over at Pete’s jernt, Emma Span explains how things have never been kosher when sports and politics mix.

News of the Day – 1/20/09

Let us wish our new President the resolve and ability to steer this country through these challenging times ….

Here’s the news:

  • Over at the YES Network, Steven Goldman has some concerns over the state of the Yanks’ catching:

At this writing, the one thing that seems certain is that the days when the Yankees could count on Posada for 140 or more games are gone. That presents a problem, a familiar one. The only other catchers on the 40-man roster are Jose Molina and Francisco Cervelli. The Yankees have also invited five non-roster backstops to camp. Kevin Cash is the only member of that quintet who possesses major league experience, though most of that experience is comprised of making outs. The same thing goes for Molina, and is also indicated in any reasonable forecast for Cervelli, who, thanks to that pointless spring training collision, has yet to play in any meaningful way above High-A. Given his offensive shortcomings, which include the complete absence of power (he even slugged a lowly .350 in the Venezuelan Winter League), the Yankees would be wise to ticket him to Double-A and let him play his way upward, proving that his one solid hitting tool, his batting eye, stays with him as he climbs.

  • The News notes that Don Zimmer has stated he has recovered from the minor stroke he suffered last month:

“I lost my speech capacity for about a week,” Zimmer said in a brief telephone interview Sunday. “But it’s come back now and I just got done with a whole bunch of tests, including a stress test on Friday, and I’ll get the results on them later this week.

“I’m fine,” he added. “For a while, I had a little trouble getting around, but I’m getting better at that every day, too. I’ve got just about everything back, all of my speech.”

  • At LoHud, Pete Abe gives us the rundown on the Yankees appearing in the upcoming WBC, and wonders if Robinson Cano will be well-served by playing in it.
  • MLB.com also has an article on the WBC Yankees.
  • Derek Carty of The Hardball Times has an evaluation of Robinson Cano’s #s from a fantasy perspective.
  • Happy 31st birthday to 2009 NRI John Rodriguez.  Rodriguez actually signed with the Yanks as an amateur free agent in 1996.
  • Kevin Maas turns 44 today.  You’ll remember that Maas set a ML record for the fewest games needed to reach ten career HRs when he came up in 1990, and banged out 21 HRs in 79 games that year.  But the pitchers caught up to him the following year, and he was out of baseball by 1996.
  • On this date in 1977, the Yankees obtain outfielder Paul Blair from Baltimore for Elliott Maddox and Rich Bladt.

Torres! Torres! Torres!

Jose Torres, the former light heavyweight champion of the world, a man of many gifts, died today.


Here is what Leonard Shecter wrote about Torres for Sport magazine back in 1965:

Tell the life of Jose Torres to music, rippling, sensual Spanish music. Don’t tell it, sing it. Guitairs, clacking claves, men’s voices together in song. The singing is important because Torres is surrounded by noise, the noise of people. Hubbub. Children laughing, running. The trill of spoken Spanish, almost without consonants, flowing like the music.

…The life of Torres is like no other. A fighter who sings, a fighter who did not fight, a soilder who did not train, a man who never finished high school but is a friend to American literati. Norman Mailer. James Baldwin. He lived with Pete Hamill, a young writer who is coming fast. Hamil gave him money. Cus D’Amato, a fierce, bristling man with eyes hard and black and shiny as obsidian, the man who mesmerized Floyd Patterson to the heavweight champship. Cus D’Amato gave him money. His father gave him money. Cain Young, real-estate operator, a tough man with a buck. Cain Young gave him money.

Jose Torres, a fighter who writes for a newspaper. A fighter who sits at the feet of Norman Mailer and tries to learn about writing novels. “Tell me, Norman, when you start a novel, do you know how it will end?”

…What do people like Mailer see in Torres? His English is poor and slurred. He is difficult to understand. He does not close his lips when he talks. He sounds punchy, which he is not. Oh, boy, is he ever not punchy. He laughs. “I don’t speak Spanish good either.” A man in a hurry; quick body, quick mind. No time to speak distinctly. He knows all the words, though. In his basement, music. And a light bag. But books, too. A wall of books. He hasn’t had the time to read them all. He will, he says, only not while he’s champion. “I don’t take my wife everyplace. She is too jealous. She’s got a perceptive mind. She can tell when I like a girl. Or if a girl likes me.” They yell at each other a lot in Spanish. With the hi-fi going. Beautiful.

“He’s alive,” Hamill says. “He’s a champion,” Mailer says in the quick tough monotone he uses. “And bright. He’s bright enough to be an executive of a corporation. And he’s a fighter.”

For a small sampling of Torres’ work, check out his archive at the Sweet Science.com.


Card Corner–The Sad Story of Leon Wagner


This has been a miserable week for baseball. Here at Bronx Banter we lost a talented young wordsmith in Todd Drew, who passed away after a short but intense battle with cancer at the age of 42. From the ranks of major league baseball, former manager Preston Gomez never recovered from injuries suffered in a terrible car accident last spring and died at age 85. And former big league reliever Frank Williams, who had fallen into an existence as a homeless alcoholic, died from a heart attack at the age of 50.

For three years in the late 1980s, Williams was virtually unhittable as a side-arming reliever with the Giants and Reds. But then came arm problems, along with a host of personal problems after his playing career ended. Williams’ death reminds me too much of the story of another former major leaguer who had lapsed into a life of homelessness. Five years ago, this noted ex-outfielder spent his final days in the streets of Los Angeles. As with Frank Williams, few in the mainstream media seemed to take notice.

Ever colorful, Leon Wagner (seen here in his final Topps card from 1969) was an enormously popular player with both the Los Angeles Angels and the Cleveland Indians. Nicknamed “Daddy Wags,” a self-imposed nickname that tied into the clothing store he owned, he began his big league career with the Giants and Cardinals before finding a niche in Southern California. In 1962, Wagner hit 37 home runs with 107 RBIs for the Angels, earning him a fourth-place finish in the American League MVP sweepstakes. After hitting 26 home runs in 1963, the Angels traded him to the Indians for slugging first baseman Joe Adcock and pitcher Barry Latman. Wagner played four seasons for the Tribe before wrapping up his career with the Giants and White Sox in 1968. In 12 major league seasons, Wagner hit 211 home runs, batted .272, and compiled 669 RBIs. Off the field, the well-dressed Wagner concentrated his efforts on operating a clothing store that bore the colorful slogan, “Get Your Rags at Daddy Wags.”

After his playing days, Wagner found day-to-day life to be a struggle, partly because he had made little money in baseball’s pre-free agent era and partly because he lacked a college degree. With movie producers intrigued by his high cheekbones and general good looks, Wagner dabbled in acting, appearing in an episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E, and in two feature films, including the controversial Negro Leagues picture, The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings. Yet, he did not enjoy long-term success in Hollywood. Wagner later became severely addicted to drugs, which cost him most of his money and left him in debt to others. Stricken with poverty and left without a home, Wagner ended up living in an old car and then a small electrical shed—located next to a dumpster—where his lifeless body was found in January of 2004. Alone at the end, he was 69 years old.

I didn’t realize how good a player Wagner was until I looked at his career statistics in the days after his death. Having always heard stories about Wagner’s fielding faux pas in the outfield and his flaky personality, I had regarded him as sort of a clownish journeyman—and nothing more. Boy, was I wrong. In 1961 and ’62, he slugged .500 or better, making him one of the few bright spots on the expansion Angels. From 1961 to 1963, Wagner averaged 31 home runs and 99 RBIs, at a time when those figures still meant something. Four times in his career, he received votes for the MVP Award. Simply put, he was one of the American League’s best left-handed power hitters during the early sixties, strong enough to hit home runs in any of the league’s spacious ballparks. If only he had received a chance to play regularly before his 26th birthday, Wagner might have put up some numbers that would have made him a borderline candidate for the Hall of Fame.

Off the field, Daddy Wags was much more than a clown; loved by teammates and fans alike, he sincerely enjoyed talking to people, even if he did brag a little bit too often about his batting prowess. He loved to hit, he found joy in playing the game, and he always seemed willing to give something back to his fans. It was no wonder that he was given the nickname, “The Good Humor Man,” during his tenure with the Angels.

As with Frank Williams, I only wish that good fortune had accompanied “Daddy Wags” more often during his days after baseball.

Bruce Markusen writes “Cooperstown Confidential” for MLBlogs at MLB.com.

News of the Day – 1/19/09

Powered by the moving memorial service for Todd, here’s the news:

  • Mike Lupica tries to give us the straight dope on the Stadium financing deal.  He includes some pointed remarks from State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky:

“… Even NYC officials now admit the truth of what we’ve been saying, that taxpayer dollars are tearing down The House That Ruth Built, and replacing it with The House That You Built.”

“Here’s how they do it. The city sends the Yankees a property tax bill like everyone else gets. The Yankees write a check (about $70 million a year) to the city for that amount, just like everyone else. But next, unlike you or I, the city winks and sends that check to the Yankees’ bankers to pay off the $1.4 billion mortgage, plus the $1.4 billion in interest on the new Stadium. You or I can’t get that deal, but the Yankees did.

“And they got a lot more. The got an additional $575 million directly to build parking garages and sewers and other stuff for the new Stadium. They don’t have to pay sales tax and mortgage recording taxes that every other taxpayer pays, and they get interest rate subsidies. That’s an additional taxpayer subsidy of about $350 million.

  • The AP reports that CC Sabathia believes he’ll be able to handle the pressures of pitching in New York:

‘If you ask anybody in my family or anybody that knows me, I don’t think there’s any outside pressure that could be put on me that I don’t put on myself,’ Sabathia said Saturday night before being honored with the Warren Spahn Award. ‘I put an enormous amount of pressure on myself to go out there and perform and expect to win every game, expect to pitch well in every game.

‘I think having the guys in New York _ the A-Rods and the Jeters and these great players, and Tex _ I think it will help me be a better player.’

‘To have that bullpen and have just the support of that team, that team is unbelievable,’ Sabathia said. ‘To add me and A.J and put Tex in that lineup, I think it’s going to be an unbelievable team. Hopefully we have a special year.’

‘That’s what I’m looking for. That’s a thing that I’m big on is having great team chemistry, and hopefully we can get that in New York,’ Sabathia said.

  • New HOFer Jim Rice vents his frustration over having to compete against the free-spending Yanks during his playing days, as per Newsday:

“During that time, Steinbrenner spent more money than the Red Sox,” Rice said. “He had more free agents. So when you get the best free agents, and you get the superstars from other ballclubs, that’s what made you have a better team. The more money you can spend, the better you should get.” …

Even now, Rice remains annoyed by the Yankees’ habit of throwing money at their problems. Not surprisingly, he lauds Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein for doing things the right way. “If you look at the Red Sox now, you see them bringing guys up in the organization,” he said. “That’s why Theo has been the person he’s been over the last couple of years. He’ll bring young kids up and stay within the organization.

“The Yankees haven’t won in the last eight years. What do they do? They go out and buy high-priced players in the hope to get back the winning percentage they had 10 years ago.”

[My take: Would Rice be so upset if that ball hadn’t gone through Buckner’s legs, and the Sox had won a Series during his career?]


The Man

The service today for Todd was beautiful and well-attended. There were a series of photographs of Todd, a big fella, who looked like a combination of Matt Damon and Don Rickles. Rickles without the nastiness. As one of his friends said, Todd was tough but never mean-spirited.

I knew how deeply Todd and his writing touched us here in the baseball community, and that of course extended to his co-workers at the ACLU as well as his family. I knew that Todd was a caring soul, hard-working and determined. But today, we learned that he loved to go to the ballet with his wife Marsha. He raced motor bikes as a kid in Syracuse and played hockey and later covered race car driving and even worked for Dale Earnhardt for a year. He was a dog lover, and he enjoyed a good cigar.

Todd’s sister reminded us that he was no saint, a commanding but tender big brother who wasn’t above playing a prank on his syblings, like when he sprayed Pledge on the kitchen floor during a game of hide-and-seek. His wife said that his calm demeanor changed when he was at Yankee Stadium watching a game, especially if the Sox were in town.

At the end of the ceremony, Todd’s father-in-law said the final words and put a Yankee cap on–so did many of the guests in the audience. It’s so easy to be cynical about big time sports these days–I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the New York Yankees and the ACLU celebrated jointly before–but it was a moment that reminded me why our teams, these games, matter so much to us, how they keep us together. Then we all sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

I came away knowing more about Todd, feeling closer to him than before. I am honored to call him a friend. I am also more aware of just how much he will be missed.

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