"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: July 2009

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Yanks Stand Pat

Back to the game. The Yanks did not make any major moves while the Red Sox boosted their offense with the addition of Victor Martinez, and their fielding by trading for Casey Kochman.  Two nice moves and perfectly timed given the Big Papi Mishegoss.

Halladay stays put.

The Bombers lost a close one last night. They are gunna need to put some runs on the board this evening with Mr. Mitre on the mound.

Time to get back to work. Let’s go, fellas. We believe in ya.

The Final Four Hours

The trading deadline is this afternoon at 4pm EST.

Jarrod Washburn, believed to be the Yankees’ top target for the rotation, was just dealt to the Tigers, who have a Joba-like innings-limit issue with rookie Rick Porcello and might have just wrapped up the AL Central by solidifying their rotation.

Cliff Lee’s a Philly, increasing their odds of repeating as NL Champs.

The Giants won the Freddy Sanchez sweepstakes by overpaying for him, but may have sewn up the NL Wild Card as a result.

The Pirates are likely done with their fire sale unless they decide to flip catcher Ryan Doumit, closer Matt Capps, or starters Paul Maholm and Zach Duke.

But thus far no word on Roy Halladay or Victor Martinez. If Halladay goes to Boston or Martinez to Tampa Bay, the AL East will get a whole lot tougher. Meanwhile, the Yanks could use an extra starter.

I’ll have some trade reactions over on SI.com’s Trade Talk blog (my stuff is here), where Jon Heyman will likely have the news as it breaks (or will break it).

Meantime, consider this an open thread for the final four hours leading up to the deadline. As Alex would say, whaddya hear? Whaddya say?

Observations From Cooperstown: Reviewing Hall of Fame Weekend

We all find ourselves so caught up with the Yankees and the races for both the American League East and the wild card that we sometimes lose sight of some of the most enjoyable and nostalgic events on the baseball calendar. One of those is Hall of Fame Weekend, just completed on Monday here in Cooperstown. Here’s a simple bit of advice: if you live anywhere near Cooperstown and have never experienced Hall of Fame Weekend, make sure you attend this celebration at least once in your lifetime.

As a Cooperstown resident, I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to soak in Hall of Fame Weekend each year. There are so many different events going on—from autograph signings to clinics to the actual induction ceremony—that the weekend becomes a non-stop whirlwind of baseball activity that has something to fit fans of just about any sort, from casual to diehard.

One of the best and most underrated events of Hall of Fame Weekend took place last Friday. Sponsored by the Major League Baseball Players’ Alumni Association, the Hall of Fame’s annual youth clinic gave children ages five to 12 the rare opportunity to learn the game from some of its masters. Ten former major league players led approximately 150 children in a variety of instructional drills, including baserunning, pitching, outfield play, and catching fundamentals. Four headline names participated, including perennial Hall of Fame candidate Lee Smith, former Big Red Machine component George Foster, longtime Montreal Expos ace Steve Rogers, and old favorite Jim “Mudcat” Grant. (My nephew Brandon, who took part in the clinic, particularly enjoyed listening to Foster, who has become his new favorite player. After the clinic, we went to a local baseball shop, where Brandon soon asked me if the store had a section containing cards of Foster. Sadly, the store didn’t, but that didn’t quell Brandon’s passion.)

As I watched from the third base dugout at venerable Doubleday Field, I took note of how well organized the clinic seemed to be. Each group of youngsters spent 15 minutes at each station, as former players offered hands-on instruction, before moving on to the next post. The kids completed seven of eight stations, as some late afternoon thunder and lightning forced organizers to cut the event short by about ten minutes. The early termination didn’t matter; by then, the kids had received nearly two hours of instruction at the cost of exactly nothing. Yes, the event was completely free of charge.

Frankly, I’m surprised that more parents don’t sign their kids up for the experience. In addition to being free, it features outgoing instructors who all have a desire to teach youngsters about the game. There are few scenes more uplifting than watching a 75-year-old Mudcat Grant telling five to 12-year-olds stories about his playing days while emphasizing the important of getting an education. Grant did this despite his continued recovery from recent knee and hip surgeries. Mudcat walked with the assistance of a cane, but aside from the effects on his gait, he still looks good some 36 years after last throwing a pitch in a major league game. Mudcat is truly a modern day marvel—and a phenomenal ambassador for the game.

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The Big Hurt

hurt1

I was walking up Sixth avenue last night after work when I spotted a middle-aged man wearing a Red Sox hat.

“How are you taking the news?” I asked.

He hadn’t heard. So as we passed each other, without breaking stride, I told him. He looked at me blankly, turned, and kept walking. I smiled, unexpectedly satisfied. Later, I saw another guy with a Sox hat, pushing a stroller. He was closer to my age. I asked him the same question.

“Does it even matter anymore?” he said. He looked disgusted. “Why don’t they all just admit it? They were all using. Every last one of them.”

Some Red Sox fans were arrogant or foolish enough to believe that their team’s clean; Yankee fans would be naive to think that even Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera are above suspicion.

Over at ESPN, Howard Byrant writes about faith:

Think for a moment about faith. Not about baseball or the press, about the union or management, the home and away teams, all the stuff that seems so important but in truth really amounts to nothing. Such surface concerns melt away with the years, like snowdrifts in April.

You have to go deeper than that to understand the meaning of the New York Times report that David Ortiz is one of the names who tested positive in the now-infamous 2003 performance-enhancing drug testing.

You have to distill it further down, way down to the bones, to the basics, to the people you’ve met in this world and all the individual ingredients that comprise the concrete, the foundation — the conviction in the eyes, the passion of the words, the firmness of the handshakes, all the devices designed to make you vulnerable, to make you believe.

Dig down there, to where it counts. And when you get there, don’t think about batting average, or the latest news about who tested positive for what, but about the mentality of the professional athletes who spend so much time and energy constructing an elaborate confidence game.

I saw The Hurt Locker last night which does a brilliant job of demonstrating how war is a drug (lying can be a drug, cheating can be a drug, especially when big money is involved, and let’s face it, this entire “sterioids era” has been about money). The director Kathryn Bigelow pulls off a tough trick; she creates drama and tension about a guy who defuses bombs. Okay, that sounds inherently tense, but we know that she’s not going to kill off the protagonist in the first reel, so how to make it interesting? Well, I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say it is an expertly made movie. There are some flaws–you can see the fate of an intellectual corporal coming a mile away–but the performances are strong, and it is incredibly tense after all. It is an entertainment but left me with a feeling of just how crazy this war has been. The movie is as good as advertised.

Missed It By That Much

Tough night for the Yankees. After an hour-long rain delay, Gavin Floyd and Andy Pettitte come out and start mowin’ ‘em down. Home plate ump Ted Barrett’s generous strike zone helps. There’s just one walk in the game (by Floyd to Johnny Damon in the top of the first), and 23 strikeouts, ten of them looking. Forty-six percent of Floyd’s strikes are called as opposed to swinging.

The Chisox eke out a run first when Chris Getz singles to lead off the third and scores on a two-out double into the left field corner by hot-shot rookie Gordon Beckham. Floyd and Pettitte retire the next 12 batters until the Yankees answer in the sixth when Jose Molina leads off with a double and Damon gets him home with a well-placed single toward the line in right (well placed to allow Molina to score from second, that is, it was a well-struck hit).

Entering the bottom of the sixth there have been just seven hits–three by the Yanks, four by the Sox–and the game is tied 1-1. Jim Thome leads off and hits an accidental blooper up the first base line. Pettitte hustles over to grab the ball and tag Thome out, but as he gets into his crouch, his right foot slips on the wet turf, sending him onto his backside and putting Thome on first base. After Pettitte strikes out Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski hits a skipper to Alex Rodriguez’s left that the Yankee third baseman flubs for an infield single putting men on first and second with one out.

Cano watches his pivot throw sail off-line as Pierzynski rolls over the bag (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)With Pettitte at 101 pitches and righty Carlos Quentin coming up, Joe Girardi pops out of the bullpen and calls on the dominant Phil Hughes. Hughes gets Quentin to hit a hard grounder to third, which Rodriguez fields and fires to Robinson Cano at second to start a would-be inning-ending double play, but Pierzynski comes with a hard, late slide at second and Cano jerks his throw up the line. Mark Teixeira comes of the bag and knocks it down, but it rolls just far enough away to allow Thome to score with the go-ahead run.

In the top of the eighth, Derek Jeter drives Floyd from the game with a single on his 103rd pitch of the night. Damon then greets lefty fireballer Matt Thornton with a single pushing the tying run into scoring position, but Thornton hits his stride from there striking out Mark Teixeira to end the inning and Alex Rodriguez and Hideki Matsui to start the top of the ninth on a combined ten pitches. Thornton’s first pitch to Nick Swisher is another called strike. His second is blasted into the left-field seats for a game-tying home run.

Swisher said after the game that he was trying to do too much against his former team in his first few at-bats, but with Thornton dominating he was just trying to get the bat on the ball. Mission accomplished.

Thornton then struck out Robinson Cano on three pitches.

Bottom of the ninth, Hughes still on having thrown just 24 pitches over the previous inning and a third. Hughes gets Jermaine Dye to foul out, but with Jim Thome up, Robinson Cano shifts into shallow right and Thome hits Hughes’ 0-1 pitch through Cano’s vacated position (why Jeter wasn’t pulled over for a full shift, I couldn’t tell you). With Scott Podsednik in to run, Konerko dumps Hughes’ next pitch into left to put the winning run on second base. Girardi then calls on Phil Coke to pitch to lefties Pierzynski and defensive replacement Dewayne Wise. Coke gets A.J. to fly out to shallow left center, holding the runners. He then works back from 2-0 to go even on Wise only to have Wise line the 2-2 back through the box. The ball ticks off Coke’s glove, but doesn’t change direction, heading straight into center for a game-winning single. Sox win, 3-2.

Missed it by that much.

Chicago White Sox

Chicago White Sox

2009 Record: 51-51 (.500)
2009 Pythagorean Record: 51-51 (.500)

Manager: Ozzie Guillen
General Manager: Kenny Williams

Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): U.S. Cellular Field (105/105)

Who’s Replaced Whom:

  • Chris Getz (minors) replaces Orlando Cabrera
  • Scott Podsednik replaces Nick Swisher and Brian Anderson
  • Gordon Beckham (minors) replaces Joe Crede
  • Jayson Nix replaces Juan Uribe
  • Mark Kotsay replaces Ken Griffey Jr.
  • Ramon Castro replaces Toby Hall
  • Clayton Richard and Jose Contreras inherit Javier Vazquez’s starts
  • Tony Peña replaces Nick Massett
  • Randy Williams replaces Boone Logan

25-man Roster:

1B – Paul Konerko (R)
2B – Chris Getz (L)
SS – Alexei Ramirez (R)
3B – Gordon Beckham (R)
C – A.J. Pierzynski (L)
RF – Jermaine Dye (R)
CF – Scott Podsednik (L)
LF – Carlos Quentin (R)
DH – Jim Thome (L)

Bench:

L – Dewayne Wise (OF)
R – Jayson Nix (IF)
L – Mark Kotsay (1B/OF)
R – Ramon Castro (C)

Rotation:

L – Mark Buehrle
R – Jose Contreras
R – Gavin Floyd
L – Richard Clayton
L – John Danks

Bullpen:

R – Bobby Jenks
R – Octavio Dotel
L – Matt Thornton
R – Tony Peña
R – Scott Linebrink
R – D.J. Carrasco
L – Randy Williams

15-day DL: RHP – Bartolo Colon

Typical Lineup:

L – Scott Podsednik (CF)
R – Alexei Ramirez (SS)
R – Jermaine Dye (RF)
L – Jim Thome (DH)
R – Paul Konerko (1B)
L – A.J. Pierzynski (C)
R – Carlos Quentin (LF)
L – Chris Getz (2B)
R – Gordon Beckham (3B)

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Aie, Papi!

cookiecup

Nothing shocking here.

Michael Schmidt has the story in the Times.

Kick ‘Em in the Grill, Pete

In today’s Daily News, Michael O’Keeffe has a long profile on Peter Nash’s (formerly Pete Nice) bitter dispute with Rob Lifson, the president of Robert Edward Auctions. And you thought things got tense with Serch. Yikes.

Coming Soon

Cliff hipped me to something fun–IFC’s list of the 50 best coming attractions ever.

I remember this one:

Yankee Panky: Toure de Farce

The New York Times is arguably the most reputable name in journalism. But with the Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal, the Judith Miller trial, the introduction and shuttering – all of which took place over the course of two years — of the quarterly sports magazine PLAY, and the recent public display of the media conglomerate trying to jettison one of its major holdings, the Boston Globe, it’s been a rough stretch for the institution formerly known as the Paper of Record. Now the Book Review — still a staple of its kind and a section I’d look forward to when I was a subscriber – is under fire, and rightfully so.

The July 26 edition of the NYTBR featured a story from a writer named Toure entitled “Damn Yankees,” which touched upon the three major books released about the team this year: Selena Roberts’ “The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez;” Tom Verducci and Joe Torre’s collaboration, “The Yankee Years;” and “American Icon: The Fall of Roger Clemens and the Rise of Steroids in America’s Pastime,” by NY Daily News investigative reporters Teri Thompson, Nathaniel Vinton, Michael O’Keeffe and Christian Red.

I stumbled upon the review online during my Sunday morning scouring and this question immediately sprung to mind: “Did anyone on the NYTBR editorial staff sound the dead horse alert?” I clicked on the link and read it anyway, to see if the synopsis would contain any new information or analysis. It did not. When a colleague told me that Toure was a pop culture writer for the Times, everything started to make sense.

It didn’t have to, though. Many writers have crossed platforms and been successful. The best parallel here would be Chuck Klosterman, primarily a music writer and author, penning certain sports works for Esquire, ESPN.com and the aforementioned, defunct PLAY. His writing style lends itself to an easy transition into sports.

I saw a real opportunity here for Toure to write a good story, even if the theme was not germane to the news of the day regarding the Yankees. But he failed. There is no fan reaction anywhere in this piece, which begins with a sweeping generalization and a question that immediately undercuts his credibility and – rightly or wrongly – gives the perception that he knows little about being a fan.

“Why do Yankee fans still love the Yankees? The team has embarrassed its supporters by leading the league in steroid scandals – thanks, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez. It’s also made them cringe by strong-arming New York City into giving the team public funds to subsidize its new $1.5 billion stadium while simultaneously flexing its herculean financial muscle to grab expensive free agents like a spoiled heir stockpiling rare sports cars.”

Did the steroids scandal embarrass you as a fan? And how could you mention the steroids scandal and leave out Jason Grimsley? Because he’s not a name player? He was arguably the worst offender of all the Yankees involved with steroids and PEDs through the years.

Toure continues:

“Rodriguez consistently fails in the clutch in the regular season. That doesn’t move the turnstiles.”

He’s wrong on both points, but so off-base on Point two he’s in foul territory. The Yankees have averaged 4.2 million fans four years running. Turnstiles aren’t moving as much this year due to pricing, which has been well-documented and reported here.

Re: Point One on A-Rod, consider this rebuttal from the inimitable Rob Neyer:

“Not for nothing, when games are close and late, he’s batting .278/.378/.539 (and in those spots he’s often faced tough relief pitchers). … Ah, but of course there is October postseason games, Rodriguez has indeed struggled, relative to his regular-season performance: .279/.361/.483.

You might argue that 167 plate appearances isn’t enough to prove — or even suggest — anything. I don’t think I would argue much with you. But let’s assume that those numbers mean something. Should we now scurry to expert witnesses to explain why Willie Mays hit just one home run in 99 postseason plate appearances? Have you seen Joe DiMaggio’s postseason numbers? They’re significantly worse than A-Rod’s and DiMaggio finished with 220 World Series plate appearances. Has anyone resorted to pop psychology to explain DiMaggio’s October struggles?”

Pop psychology. That’s the term Neyer used to describe Toure’s portrayal of A-Rod. Toure theorizes that Rodriguez embodies the gluttonous, greedy bullies from his opening paragraph, and that he is now the national face of the Yankees when fans both rabid and casual see the team. He tells us that the Jeterian side makes us proud of the team. When he lists dignified players with character and class, he rightfully includes Bernie Williams, Thurman Munson, DiMaggio and Gehrig, but includes Whitey Ford, who was repeatedly accused of scuffing the baseball and was part of the 1950s and ’60s wild bunch that included Billy Martin and Mickey Mantle? Where was Don Mattingly in the list of classy Yankees? Willie Randolph? Yogi Berra? Phil Rizzuto?

Right there, I was ready to stop reading, and I should have. The story delved more into A-Rod’s insecurities – stuff we already knew – and lauded the “meticulously reported” effort of Selena Roberts, whose book was universally panned. Not once did Toure take Roberts to task on the pitch-tipping components of the book. There was a clear agenda here to paint A-Rod as the new face of the Yankees in the role of disgraced star. To that end, three pages of steroid discussion followed the Roberts compliments. Pages that included a note suggesting that Chuck Knoblauch’s throwing yips, per the Daily News’s book, may have been caused by his use of GHB. That was the first I’d ever heard of Knoblauch’s throwing problems being linked to drugs of any kind. Like many including Joe Torre, per the Verducci book, it appeared that he just cracked under the pressure of New York. He couldn’t get out of his own way.

The finale read like a public service announcement against the dangers of steroid use, highlighting notable deaths like Lyle Alzado, Ken Caminiti, and former high school star Taylor Hooton, whose father flanked A-Rod at the bizarre press conference when he admitted to his steroid usage.

There were some good points in the article pertaining to the Yankees’ streaky nature and their 0-for-8 performance against the Red Sox this season, but any good point made fell flat.
Neyer questioned the NYTBR’s timing of this article, given that the Yankees are in first place and rightfully conceded that when the story was likely submitted, the situation was much different.

There are a number of things to question here. Why was this story deemed relevant now? Why is the New York Times playing in the tabloid realm? What is the purpose of reviewing three books that have been reviewed, pored over and analyzed ad nauseam, particularly on the local level? What was the goal of this story? What audience was being served? If you know, please send a lifeline.

I’m glad I cancelled my subscription to the Times already, because if I saw this piece in hard copy after paying for it, I’d be an angry customer.

Joba! Joba! We Accept You! We Accept You! One Of Us!

Here’s what I wrote prior to Joba Chamberlain’s last start of the first half:

Joba Chamberlain . . . got an ego check his last time out when he allowed eight runs in 3 2/3 innings. Joba’s been a bit obstinate about his performances thus far this season, often giving too much credit to the opposing lineup as well as to his own ability to make good pitches, when in reality he’s been inefficient, nibbly, and his velocity has lacked consistency. He’s still been valuable, but his lack of progress is becoming disturbing. Part of me almost wants him to get his ass handed to him tonight so he has to ugly outings staring him in the face through the All-Star break. The hope being that might put a crack in some of his delusions.

Joba did indeed get smacked around in that start against the Angels, allowing five runs on nine hits in just 4 1/3 innings while using up 94 pitches, and it seems those two starts did indeed give him something to think about during the break. Since play has resumed, Chamberlain has been the pitcher those of us who argued for his restoration to the rotation envisioned. He’s an ace, a dominating horse who is only getting better each time out. Dig these three lines:

6 1/3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 8 K, 107 pitches
7 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 6 K, 100 pitches
8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K, 101 pitches

Two runs on six hits in 21 1/3 innings? That’s sick, and surely a little bit lucky, but there’s no denying that Joba Chamberlain has finally arrived.

Joba comes up big (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)That last line is what he did to the third-best offense in the league in Wednesday night’s rubber game against the Rays. Joba was quite simply mowing them down. With his new no-nonsense approach, he was getting the ball and getting set on the mound so quickly that even Jorge Posada was trying to slow him down. He retired the first eight men he faced, and after Posada threw out Jason Bartlett with two outs in the third (thanks to a great jump, catch, and tag by Robinson Cano) he faced the minimum through 4 1/3. He walked two in the fifth, but stranded them both and didn’t walk another batter in the entire game. The only hits he allowed were a pair of singles to Bartlett and an infield single off his own glove in the sixth. He had his fastball clocking in around 94 miles per hour and great movement on his slider and curve. It doesn’t get much better than that.

The Yankees, meanwhile, picked away at Matt Garza. Derek Jeter led off the game with a triple on a ball misplayed in the right-field corner by Gabe Gross then scored when Mark Teixeira singled through three drawn-in infielders on the right-side. In the fourth, Alex Rodriguez singled, moved to third on a Hideki Matsui double, and scored on a Robinson Cano groundout. Cano then blasted a homer in the sixth after fouling a ball off his shin. With sidearming lefty Brian Shouse on in the eighth, Bartlett threw away a grounder by Matsui, putting Hideki on second, from where Posada was able to drive in pinch-runner Cody Ransom with a single to make it 4-0. Melky Cabrera and Mark Teixeira then added solo homers off Dan Wheeler in the ninth.

The Yankees nearly needed all of those runs as Brian Bruney, in to finish off a 6-0 game, gave up a triple and a homer to his first two batters (Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria). After getting Ben Zobrist to pop out, he then gave up a double to Carlos Peña. Before Bruney could pitch for the cycle, Joe Girardi brough in Mariano Rivera to lock down the series against a division rival. Rivera walked Gabe Gross, but struck out Pat Burrell and Michel Hernandez around him to secure the 6-2 win and the 3-2 series victory. With the win, the Yankees gained a game over the Red Sox, who lost to the A’s, and tied Joe Torre’s Dodgers for the best record in baseball.

Bruney’s showing was the one sour note on the night. If Bruney can’t step up, it’s going to be that much harder for the Yankees to feel comfortable moving Phil Hughes back into the rotation, if they’re even considering such a move at all. Meanwhile, Joba’s next start lines up with the Yankees’ off-day on Monday. Given the fact that his longer outings have him racing toward his innings limit, would the Yankees consider skipping him in Toronto? He’ll get to pitch in the weekend series against the Red Sox either way. If so, they could skip him again on August 24 in lieu of starting him against the Rangers at home on the 25th.

Joba Joba Hey!

Oh man, this should be a good one. The Yanks and Rays in second-half a rubber game that pits a pair of young live-armed hot-heads against each other in Matt Garza and Joba Chamberlain. Garza, 25, has his strikeout rate up to 8.1 K/9 this year and is coming off a complete game win over the Blue Jays in which he struck out nine. The rejobanated Chamberlain, 23, has allowed just two runs on five hits in his two second-half starts, posting a 1.34 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, and striking out 14 in 13 2/3 innings. I do worry that Joba’s been a bit hit-lucky in those two starts, but having watched them both, the stuff matched the results, with Joba getting his velocity and the sharp break on his slider back.

Standard lineups for both teams tonight, and still no position-player move for the Yankees who keep the extra man in the pen.

Meanwhile, deadline deals are starting to drop (Ryan Garko to San Francisco, Cliff Lee to Philadelphia, the Mariners living in a house with no mirrors). If he averages six innings per start, Joba will have just eight turns left, including tonight, before he hits 150 innings. Will the Yanks blink? Will the new old Joba pitch so well the Yanks can’t take him out of the rotation? These questions hang over Chamberlain’s head as he looks to give the Yankees a series win against a rival intra-division contender.

Things are getting good . . .

Clash of the Titans

batman_vs_superman_wallpaper

Another trade deadline is upon us, there is another big fish out there, and the Yanks and Sox are in the mix. Or are they? Of course they are, writes Ken Rosenthal.

Update: According to Rosenthal, Cliff Lee is going to the Phillies.

Just got hotter around here, didn’t it?

Hey Abbott

A knife, a fork, a bottle and a cork

bernice-abbott

That’s the way we spell New York.

Damaged

Chien-Ming Wang’s season is finished. He is set to have shoulder surgery this morning. Tyler Kepner reports in the New York Times:

“Missing a year, going through the stuff he was going through when he was here; it just stinks he’s not going to be here,” [CC] Sabathia said. “We really need him. He’s a great pitcher.”

At least, Wang used to be a great pitcher, when he was the No. 1 starter on the playoff teams of 2006 and 2007. Now Wang’s future is unknown, and he may have thrown his last pitch for the Yankees.

Man, what a bad break for Wang, and also the Yankees.

Clunker

clunker

This was the game I thought the Yanks were going to have on Monday. A night where nothing goes right. Instead it happened tonight. For every sloppy play the Yankees made the Rays countered with a slick one. Moving to his right, Carl Crawford closed quickly on a line drive robbing Alex Rodriguez of an RBI base hit. Later, BJ Upton glided back and nabbed a shot hit by Jorge Posada. (They are a wonderful contrast in styles–Crawford, powerful and aggresive but not graceful; Upton, smooth like butta.)  Jason Bartlett also made a couple of nifty plays at short.

Meanwhile, Derek Jeter and Rodriguez had throwing errors (Rodriguez’s mistake led to a run), Mark Teixeira mistimed a jump on a line drive allowing another run to come in, and Nick Swisher had two adventurous plays that he’d soon like to forget (the first one included an ill-advised and unnecessary dive). Hideki Matsui drove in the Yankees’ first run and then got picked off after misreading the throw from right fielder Gabe Gross.

Nobody helped CC Sabathia, who was far from terrific anyhow–he gave up some shot to Evan Longoria. Scott Kazmir, on the other hand, was excllent, allowing one run over 7.1 innings as the Rays cruised, 6-2.

And so the Yanks went kerplunk. Sometimes things just don’t go your way. Just ask Buster.*

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Chocolate Funk on Planet Lovetron

chocolate

The Big Fella is on the hill for the Yanks tonight. He’s had a good not great season so far. I’d really like to see him go on a serious roll here. Who knows how much longer Burnett can stay this hot. It’s gotta start and end with CC. 

Let’s go boys, this is just the warm-up. We’re hoping y’all fatheads make the playoffs and bring us home another title.

Ya herd?

Dicey

 dicek

Dice K isn’t thrilled these days:

“If I’m forced to continue to train in this environment, I may no longer be able to pitch like I did in Japan,” Matsuzaka is quoted as saying in the article, according to WEEI.com’s translation. “The only reason why I managed to win games during the first and second years [in the United States] was because I used the savings of the shoulder I built up in Japan. Since I came to the Major Leagues, I couldn’t train in my own way, so now I’ve lost all those savings.”
(Boston Globe)

Just a Little Bit of Flavor

baron

Anyone know about this character Baron Ambrosia? I read a long piece about him in the Times last week and can’t call it–is he a Kool Ket or a Clown? I haven’t seen his show yet so I’ll reserve judgement. Regardless, the premise of his show is dope.

Schadenfreude Follies: Sucka GMs

mrt

It’s tricky taking pleasure in the misfortune of others–karma does have a way of coming back to bite you–but here are two stories that are making plenty of folks chuckle. The first is local and it involves Omar Minaya’s unfortunate press conference yesterday, ostensibly about the firing of team executive Tony Bernazard. Instead of being a routine firing, it turned into an attack of a journalist’s ethics.

Minaya called out Daily News beat writer Adam Rubin in an attempt to discredit Rubin’s recent coverage of the Bernazard controversy. Funny how a personable and seemingly unflappable guy like Minaya can fall apart like this. Just goes to show you what happens when things get too hot.

The SNY broadcast team ripped Minaya. Bob Klapisch adds, “There’s a flurry of Internet chatter now that likens Minaya to Isiah Thomas; Wilpon is the new James Dolan.”

Ah, the kiss of death, bringing the Knicks into the equation. That’s when you know the ship be sinkin.’

I exchanged e-mails this morning with our own Will Weiss about the Minaya press conference:

Q: Are you surprised that Omar Minaya, who appears so savvy with the media, unravelled like he did yesterday?

WW: No. While it was an unenviable position to be thrust into, it’s not the first time he has bungled a public-speaking engagement. During the NY Baseball Writer’s Annual Dinner following the 2005 season, he mistakenly called Braves manager Bobby Cox “Bobby Cock” and never corrected himself. It became a running joke around the room for the rest of the night. But if you go through the last year, the item that particularly sticks out is the way he publicly handled Randolph’s firing. He’s an intelligent man but I think is uncomfortable in difficult public relations situations. He’s not as adept at spin as Brian Cashman. Few GMs are. The mistake Minaya made was the same mistake that can easily be made in our profession: he made it personal. He made it clear that it pained him to fire Bernazard, and rather than say that, he felt compelled to point a finger. I feel terrible for Adam. The irony of the situation is tha this might be a great thing for his career.

Q: Did Minaya’s performance seal his own fate?

WW: Without question. The players standing behind him are doing the right thing by publicly stating their loyalty, but given what’s happened with the Mets under his watch over the last 2 1/2 years — the two collapses, the mishandling of Willie Randolph’s ouster, the continuing transgressions of Tony Bernazard, Jerry Manuel’s perpetual ho-hum attitude at the state of affairs with no reaction from up top — I would be surprised if he remains the Mets’ GM past this season.

Q: Are the Mets really this bad at public relations or do things like this just come out when a team is going badly?

WW: Yes, and when the team is going poorly, their PR foibles are further exposed. Like the Jets, they operate in the vacuum of a “second-class citizen” mentality, and for whatever reason, they can’t get past it to make things right. It’s a shame, because their fans deserve better.

Q: What’s your take on Rubin?

WW: I’m inclined to believe his reports. The only thing I take issue with is his asking career advice from people within the organization he covers. I can’t help but think of my own experiences. While I was friendly with many people on the Yankees’ staff during my years at YES, I would not ever have considered asking anyone there for career counseling. The supposed reward wouldn’t have been worth the risk. That said, I did have a career conversation, albeit unintentionally, with someone from a different Major League franchise. It was in 2005; I happened to sit at one of the dinner tables in the Yankee Stadium Press Room with an advanced scout for the Oakland A’s who was there to observe Aaron Small. We got to talking baseball, I asked him a few questions on the record about Small and I told him my observations. When we were done with the elements for my story, he asked me if I ever considered working in a baseball front office, or even as a scout. I said no and when he asked why, I told him I never considered it because I enjoy being on the media side. That was it. We exchanged business cards, shook hands and set out to do our jobs for the night.

The other piece is about Billy Beane. From Howard Bryant’s excellent piece over at ESPN.com:

For his singular, unapologetic iconoclasm in the face of the game’s long tradition, Lewis lionized him six years ago in “Moneyball,” which became a must-read for both baseball and business aficionados. Beane became the lead evangelist of a new baseball orthodoxy that emphasizes greater statistical analysis in the scouting and development of players. The Moneyball way also diminishes the field manager’s organizational influence while it increases the power and profile of the general manager position — a job that was once largely invisible. In the 140-year history of Major League Baseball, the office of field manager has never held less power than it does now, in the wake of Moneyball.
…If Beane didn’t singlehandedly reinvent how hitting is evaluated, he almost certainly has become the face of the massive change in prioritizing how certain components of the craft are now compensated.

In the process, he also became a corporate sensation. Fortune 500 CEOs suddenly were interested in him as that rare commodity: the athlete thinker. He may very well be the most influential figure in the game over the past 25 years, and some in the sport seem to have never forgiven him for it. Now, he was about to be immortalized on the silver screen, portrayed by one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. And it is in this spirit, as his team suffers in last place without a single .300 hitter or a box-office draw, that the knives sharpen.

“So much for the genius…He doesn’t look so smart anymore, does he?” an American League scout sneers while looking up the paltry batting averages of the A’s hitters before a June A’s-Padres game. “Let’s see them make a movie out of that.”

I’ve never been convinced that Beane is all that brilliant. I don’t fawn over the intellectual gifts of baseball executives, though there is no denying there are beaucoup brianiacs running front offices all around baseball these days.

But I think Beane is a compelling and vivid character, the dream protagonist for Michael Lewis. It’s understandable why there is a backlash against him now (dogpile on the rabbit, dogpile on the rabbit):

“A profile of me? Oh, jeez,” Beane wrote in a text message recently. “I’m so yesterday. Can’t I just live out my J.D. Salinger existence and just fade away?”

The revolution, in a way, has consumed the revolutionary. He cannot escape.

Something tells me that Beane, no matter how things turn out for him in Oakland or in baseball, for that matter, will have the last laugh. I’m not sure the same can be said for Minaya.

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