"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

All Wet


On Tuesday morning I walked up 161st street, away from the two Yankee Stadiums, on my way to jury duty. Once you reach the Grand Concourse, up the hill and four blocks east of River Avenue, you can still look into the upper deck of the old stadium, the blue seats flaking away in the distance.

It was raining, a gray spring morning. I heard a woman curse. Sharply. (I always tense up when I see a parent getting on their kids in public.) She was not far in front of me and she was yelling at her son walking next to her. He could not have been older than five. Wearing a napsack, carrying her purse and holding an umbrella, he struggled to keep up with her. Just as he caught up, she’d pull ahead, he’d fall behind and again and he’d trot ahead.

“Don’t drop my f***ing purse.”

A smaller boy hung from around her neck. The mother adjusted her hands in a tight clasp behind her back to hold him up. I stood next to them as we waited for the light to change on the Concourse. I held my umbrella over her head. She looked up at me and smiled. She was young with a round face and dark, exotic, Spanish good looks, the kind that makes guys do dumb things. Mascara ran down her cheek. She smiled at me and asked if I would put her young son’s jacket hood over his head.

The small boy hanging around her neck smiled at me, his face splattered with rain drops. So did his brother who was holding the umbrella. It never ceases to amaze me how resilient kids are, I thought. Both boys were beautiful, their smiles without open and innocent. I told the older kid that he was a good man. The mother explained that the little one had lost his shoe as they were getting off the subway.

“Fell between the car and the platform, right on the tracks.”

I looked down at his wet sock then back up at his face. He was having a fine time. As we crossed the street she said she was headed for the dollar store to get him a pair of flip flops. The little one’s name is Cassius. The older one is Evander.

“Big boxing fan, huh?” I said.

“Well, when he was going to be born we couldn’t figure a name. I was in the hospital reading an Entertainment Weekly magazine and I see the name Evander and I ask my friends, and they liked it so he’s Evander. Then with the baby I figured to keep it like a theme so he’s Cassius.”

We went our separate ways without saying goodbye as we passed the Concourse Plaza, a block-long building on the east side of the Grand Concourse. It used to be a fancy hotel. Babe Ruth stayed there. Now it is an assisted-living facility. From the top floors, I’m sure there is still a clear view of the upper deck of the vacant Stadium. The thought of old people looking out at empty, paint-chipped seats, waiting for the wrecking ball, brought to mind the the loneliness of an Edward Hopper painting.


These days when the Yankees play the Red Sox it feels like they are losing even when the score is tied, feels like they are trailing before the game has begun. A 6-0 lead in Boston a few weeks back was a mirage. The two teams have played five games and Boston has won all five. It’s not as if the Yankees have been getting blown out; they have been competitive, they have shown some fight, but it’s hard to ignore the basic fact that the Yankees are now the team chasing the Red Sox.

Tuesday night in the rain was more of the same. It was slow and painful for the Yanks who dropped back to .500 at 13-13 (the Sox are 17-10).

Final Score: Red Sox 7, Yankees 3.

They have been ever since 2005, really. Jason Bay hit a three-run bomb off Joba Chamberlain in the first inning and the Yanks were in a hole again. Johnny Damon’s three-run homer against Josh Beckett in the third, a line drive into the second deck in right field, got the Bombers back in the game. And then Chamberlain went to work, striking out ten batters over the next four innings, eight looking. He featured a fastball in the mid-nineties, a curve ball, sharp slider and a nice change-up.

With two out in the fourth, Chamberlain thought he caught David Ortiz looking with a 1-2 fastball. Ortiz checked his swing on the next two pitches, sliders, and each time Chamberlain thought he had the K. Instead, Ortiz walked and Joba hit Bay with the first pitch. But he gathered himself and with wicked stuff, got Lowell looking. 97 pitches through five, and Chamberlain left the mound screaming and hollering, as is his wont.

Joba fell behind JD Drew 3-1 to start the sixth then struck him out looking. He whiffed the first baseman Jeff Bailey swinging. Chamberlain’s last eight outs were K’s. 12 in all. 108 pitches and then Joe Girardi replaced him with Jose Veras. The Yankee manager was showered with Bronx Cheer on his walk to the mound. Veras came in, the skies opened up, the seats directly behind home plate cleared, and Jason Variteck flew out to right to end the inning.

The rain fell harder. Nick Swisher earned a one-out walk and Melky Cabrera, who was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple in the fourth, sliced a ground rule double to left. It looked as if Beckett slipped on his follow-through to Cabrera, but it wasn’t until he fell behind Ramiro Pena 2-0 that the game was stopped and the grounds crew came out and patched up the mound with dry dirt. The crowd was getting wild. Chamberlain’s antics and his performance riled them up and they were making noise. Beckett, regrouped, got a call, and then struck Pena out on a pitch well out of the strike zone. A veteran pitcher making short work of a young hitter. Jose Molina grounded out to short and Beckett was out of trouble.

Veras and Phil Coke got the Yanks through the seventh and Jeter blooped a single to lead-off the bottom of the inning chasing Beckett. Jeter didn’t advance to second, however, as Hideki Okajima retired Johnny Damon on a check-swing pop-out, Mark Teixeira on a fly out to left, and Matsui too on a fly ball to Bay in left.

Young Pena made an error to start the eighth, and two runs scored against Jonathan Albaladejo. Okajima got the Yanks in order again in the bottom of the inning. Mark Melancon walked the bases loaded in the ninth, fell behind Lowell 2-0 and was pulled from the game. His replacement, David Robertson, got out of the inning, but not before walking in a run. Takashi Saito set the Yanks down in order, they went like lambs, to end it.

More rain tomorrow.

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1 Mattpat11   ~  May 5, 2009 11:07 pm

It gotten to the point where I expect the Yankees to lose every night. If they can pull off a win, great, but I really don't remember the last game we had where, going in, I said "this is a win."

That's a very scary mindset to be in.

I think at this point its almost indisputable that the Yankees as presently constructed are a bad, bad team. I certainly hope Alex Rodriguez is enough to change that.

2 Rich   ~  May 5, 2009 11:27 pm

As much as it pains me to say it, Boston has made the Yankees their bitches.

The old George would have changed managers. As much as I thought I would never say this, I long for those days.

3 Chyll Will   ~  May 5, 2009 11:41 pm

Listening to Girardi in the postgame, I feel bad for him. He obviously knows what's going on and is not trying to obfuscate what everyone can already see for themselves, but he seems like he's quite lost and frustrated at the way the players are responding. Has he lost these guys? Are they tuning him out? I hope not. Girardi's not a stupid man, no matter how baffling some of his moves/non-moves are, but I've had a feeling there's an undercurrent of stubbornness between him and some players, maybe even a little resentfulness. Am I seeing things?

And man, some of those questions they ask... (swinging machete repeatedly into vines)

4 thelarmis   ~  May 5, 2009 11:51 pm

[1] i hear ya - i, too, expect them to lose each and every game, at this point. quite sad...

cliff paints a pretty nice picture in an earlier post today, however. there's still an awful lot of baseball left; we'll have to run into a few wins and maybe even a streak or two, along the way...

5 Cliff Corcoran   ~  May 6, 2009 12:56 am

Yanks vs. Boston: 0-5
Yanks vs. O's, Rays, Royals, Tribe, A's, Tigers, Angels: 13-8 (.619), and 5-1-1 in series.

They need to figure out how to beat Boston, whom they don't face again until the second week of June. Otherwise, I don't see the problem.

6 Cliff Corcoran   ~  May 6, 2009 12:57 am

Oh, and Bay's shot was a three-run jack. A David Ortiz single plated the first Boston run.

7 Rich   ~  May 6, 2009 1:21 am

[5] Cliff, you don't see Girardi taking Coke out after 11 pitches as a problem, or not having Pena attempt to squeeze in the run from 3B?

8 Cliff Corcoran   ~  May 6, 2009 1:28 am

You know I mourn the death of the squeeze, but Swisher may not be the runner to squeeze home. Pena has been hitting well, I had no problem with him swinging away seeing as it was only the sixth inning.

As for the Coke thing, I had no problem with that at all. Coke finished his inning, and did give up a double before he got that last out. Albaladejo came on to start a new frame against righty batters.

I see Joba giving up four in the first as a problem, but I expect that will get ironed out. I see Mark Melancon walking the bases loaded as a problem, but don't expect he'll keep his roster spot if he does that sort of thing again.

9 williamnyy23   ~  May 6, 2009 6:09 am

[5] I wish I had your outlook because I see a boatload of problems, including: a very poor defense; an offense that doesn't produce with RISP; a manager loathe to make the most obvious moves; a bullpen deathly afraid of throwing strikes; and so on. Also, not being able to beat your main rival in the division isn't exactly a small problem, unless you want to take the "at least there's the wild card approach", which is kind of what's mean in the back of mind.

[8] Why wouldn't Swisher be a runner you could squeeze home? He has average to above average speed. Besides, great speed isn't needed to squeeze. Regardless of how well Pena had been hitting, he is still a rookie against Beckett. Also, with the rain pouring down, that run could have been vital. Finally, the conditions would have made it very difficult to field and throw a wet a ball. If there was a text book time for the squeeze, it was this scenario.

As for Coke, if you only trust him to get lefties out (besides having a very good OPS against righties), and are going to limit him to 11 pitches, then you will wind up in the same situation every night, which is cycling through a mediocre bullpen. If that's Girardi's startegy then the Yankees are in trouble OR Joba will be eventually have to go back to the pen.

10 The Hawk   ~  May 6, 2009 8:37 am

The Yankees are doing fine ... except for the Sox. Imagine if they'd just won two of the five games. What a difference! I feel like the Red Sox are something of a bugaboo - not necessarily an indicator of how the Yankees will fare against the rest of the league. I'm telling you, the roles are reversed. Up is down. Mariano is Pedro. The Sox are the Yanks and the Yanks are the Sox. Pray the Yankees can re-reverse the curse or at least get to some happy curse-less medium soon.

11 williamnyy23   ~  May 6, 2009 8:44 am

[10] I don't see how one can argue the Yankees are fine EXCEPT for how they play against the Red Sox. Also, it's not like the team has played exceptionally well. Their run differential is awful and they also have a few very ugly wins. The Friday win against the Angels, for example, really had more ominious signs (imploding bullpen and bad defense) than positive ones (ability to take advantage of the Angels imploding bullpen). The Yankees are a team with the talent to be 17-9 that is lucky to be 13-13. I don't think that translates to them being fine.

12 The Mick536   ~  May 6, 2009 9:05 am

There is hope in the Hopper, as opposed to that boondoggled Stadium.

[1][9] You and I look at the same team. The rest of you, I am not so sure.

Joba started the game in a daze. Were it not for a stupid pitch from Beckett to Damon, the score would have reflected the total malaise the team stews in. After the first, Joba ruled. He had to come out to save his arm, I guess, since it took him a lot of pitches to strike out all those guys.

Pena's at bat was pitiful. Not a ball in the strike zone. He must have decided as they dusted the mound he was going to swing at the first pitch. Beckett wasn't giving him anything because he had first base open. Missing was the inning ending ground out by Molina. No speed. Not a routine ground out. SS pushed towards third, rushes throw which is up line, tagged as he lugged his body up the line. Pathetic. Not that Posada is a speed demon, but come on.

Omitted from the recap the way Damon popped out-check swing on high inside first pitch (Payback for Bay or his homer?) that he was too lazy to move away from-non chalance cost an at bat.Then there was the error by Pena on a not hard hit ball behind third. Admittedly, he played it as well as Cody or Angel, but that isn't saying much. Boston also scored without hitting. Walk. Hit batsman. Intentional walk. Walk.

I am also concerned about Teixiera who cannot seem to hit a ball thrown hard or one that dips down. He looks silly. Swings at fast balls not close. Swings over the curves. Vulnerable on slider inside from left side. Hit barely made it past the mound. Fly out from right side woldn't have been a homer in a little league park. Slow start? Not sure. And when Alex returns, the Yankees will have two guys who don't hit with runners in scoring position at the top of the lineup.

13 The Hawk   ~  May 6, 2009 9:15 am

[10] Well look at their record against teams other than the Red Sox. Then look at their record vs the Red Sox. Then look at their overall record. The Red Sox make up a disproportionate number of Yankee losses. And at the risk of repeating myself, I don't think the Yankees' performance against the Red Sox is indicative of how they will fare against the rest of the league. (The record thus far bears this out.)

Other than that, it's a bit of semantical quicksand to get bogged down in what constitutes "fine". I don't see that discussion going anywhere fast, but I think my point is clear - the Yankees record vs the Red Sox is an outlier, at least at this point. The Red Sox may be better, but they're not this much better. There's luck or circumstance or the Red Sox being in the Yanks' head, or a combination of the three at work here. Of course the Yanks need to improve, but not as much as you'd think watching them vs the Sox.

14 Raf   ~  May 6, 2009 10:32 am

Pena’s at bat was pitiful. Not a ball in the strike zone. He must have decided as they dusted the mound he was going to swing at the first pitch.

Peña had a 2-0 count against Beckett. I don't think Beckett's going to want to walk Peña, and certainly not Molina.

I can see why he would swing on a 2-0 count. Of course Beckett got a pretty good call to level the count at 2-2, and went further outside to get the K.

15 PJ   ~  May 6, 2009 2:22 pm

[3] "Am I seeing things?"

No Chyll Will, I'm afraid you aren't...

"Has he lost these guys?"

I would argue he never had them to begin with, at least in terms of the "leadership" (Jeter, Posada, Damon the "team spokesman by default," Pettitte and even Mo). They don't respect Joe Girardi. They see him as what they originally saw him as within the organization, a bit player, a backup catcher, a representative of a FO that let “daddy” go out of the door, and nothing more, certainly not a contributing factor to the titles whatsoever, or someone contributing to managing the team on the field and in the clubhouse under Torre! Instead of managing The New York Yankees, he's still suffering through Joe Torre's Yankees, who continue to lie cheat and steal their way into games they have no business playing in, because they are hurt and ill prepared for a game that's passed them by since the Marlins kids beat them down in '03. The leadership on this team more closely resembles Carl Pavano, Roger Clemens, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, and Randy Johnson, than Tino Martinez, Jimmy Key, Scott Brosius, David Cone, and Paul O'Neill. The guaranteed money is the priority with these veterans today, not winning; no matter how much lip service we get from them through the press. Joe Torre blew so much smoke up these veterans’ asses about how “great and special” they all are throughout his "tenure," they believe they can do no wrong ever, to a man! YES turning into FOX isn’t helping matters at all, as well. They are presenting unwatchable baseball from the veteran players to the network itself!

"Are they tuning him out?"

Of course they are. They still wield entirely too much power and control within that clubhouse, like they did when "daddy" was there. You can bet dollars to donuts that their "Clubhouse Dining Experience" is stellar, however!

As long as the leadership continues to lack any integrity whatsoever in terms of how they feel from day to day, as well as how prepared they actually are, Girardi will continue to struggle mightily with keeping the team together, and having his best players on the field at any given time.

16 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  May 6, 2009 6:32 pm

Alex, I love how easily you interact with people on your rounds through the city. It's so heartwarming. Thank you, as always, for sharing your experience.

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