"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: November 2009

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Beat of the Day

Goes without saying that Crime Don’t Pay, right?

Pipe Dreams

rockraines

If I could vote for the Hall of Fame, this is who I’d send to Cooperstwon:

Robbie Alomar
Fred McGriff
Bert Blyeleven
Tim Raines
Alan Trammell
Barry Larkin

I’m not as convinced about The Hawk or Edgar, but sure like them both better than Jim Rice, so I wouldn’t mind seeing either of ‘em make it.

Yankee Panky: Halladay or Holliday Shopping?

holl

SI.com’s Jon Heyman has been on just about every local broadcast media outlet and the MLB Network the past two weeks discussing this offseason’s Free Agent class and potential trade market, all the while saying, “Don’t discount the Yankees in any talks about Roy Halladay, Matt Holliday, or anyone else.”

This, of course, is stating the obvious. Remember the story in The Onion in February of 2003, shortly before Spring Training started, with the headline “Yankees Ensure 2003 Pennant by Signing Every Player in Baseball“? With new developments in the Halladay sweepstakes, and the Yankees’ additional need for a left fielder — contingent upon what Brian Cashman decides to do about Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon — the Haters could be on the march with a similar headline for 2010. As we’ve seen, however, the Yankees don’t care much about public or media perception when payroll is the topic.

Much of why that Onion-type headline could return is a result of last winter, when the Yankees signed three of the top free agents in baseball to $423.5 million worth of contracts. All of them — CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixeira — contributed to the World Series title, only feeding the thought that the Yankees bought their championship and leveled the small-market teams’ chances of success. That thought would be, and is, incorrect. Cashman didn’t buy a title, he bought the necessary pieces — buying on need as opposed to greed — to put his team in the best position to win. Cashman has said through the years that’s all a general manager can do, and he’s right. Once the ink dries, it’s the players’ jobs to perform and live up to those contracts.

What to do now? Cliff Corcoran has done his usual yeoman’s work analyzing the team’s needs. It just so happens that the two biggest names being rumored to move would fill two of those voids. Let’s take a look at both Halladay and Matt Holliday, since there’s nothing else better to do leading up to the Winter Meetings in Indiana City, Indiana.

ROY HALLADAY

Per a Daily News report, Halladay told the Blue Jays Saturday that he would waive his no-trade clause to come to the Yankees, if the pieces of a deal came to fruition. (Read: “I would waive the no-trade clause to go to the Yankees because I know they’re on the short list of teams that don’t need to win the lottery to pay me, and I won’t have to deal with the exchange rate.”) This is super-interesting because a week ago, it looked like the Red Sox were all-in and Yankee fans, some of us still in a championship daze, cried a collective variant of “Uh oh.” ESPN made it worse, posting a projected 2K10 Red Sox rotation of Halladay, Beckett, Lester, Dice-K and Buchholz (not taking into account that Buchholz may be the linchpin in getting or not getting the ’03 Cy Young Award winner).

What it means: Nothing yet. This is still very much in the conjecture phase. As the article states — and we know — the Blue Jays want high-end prospects and young players who are either major-league ready or have some experience. The article also notes how the Yankees did not want to travel down this path two years ago when Johan Santana was the soon-to-be-traded pitcher.

(more…)

News Update – 11/30/09

Today’s update is powered by The Allman Brothers:

Fine Vintage in Full Peak

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Heppy Boitday to our man Mariano Rivera who turns 40 today. There’s no telling how long he’s gunna last but we know he’s in the last phase of his career–he is near the end, right…right?How about if he pitches til he’s 42 and then hangs ‘em up, that works nice numerically.

Last year at 39, Rivera was at the top of his game. We all know he’s the best of his kind we’ll ever see. So here’s to appreciating each and every last appearance the Great Mariano ever makes in a Yankees uniform, ’nuff said.

New York Mets vs. New York Yankees

Heppy Boitday, 42, Heppy Boitday, Mo.

The love is deep. You are the best present a fan could ever wish for. Say word.

A Good Year

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According to an item on Deadspin, Sports Illustrated will announce tomorrow that Derek Jeter is their Sportsman of the Year.

Who needs a stinkin’ MVP anyway?

Cocktails for Two

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Heppy Holidaze.

Spike, take it away:

Dusty Fingers+Rare Grooves=Sweet Dreams

I was talking to somebody at work a few days ago about all of the public deaths in 2009, and they said, “We’ll be hearing new and un-released Michael Jackson tracks for the next twenty years.”

I said, “They’re still putting out Tupac records, aren’t they? You bet we’ll be hearing more Michael.”

duke

Most un-released material wasn’t released in the first place for good reason, however, I’m not so narrow-minded as to think there aren’t gems to be discovered, or re-discovered. I got to thinking about this after reading a fascinating article in the New York Times today:

Yet Verve has just released “Twelve Nights in Hollywood,” a four-CD boxed set of Ella Fitzgerald singing 76 songs at the Crescendo, a small jazz club in Los Angeles, in 1961 and ’62 — and none of it has ever been released until now.

These aren’t bootlegs; the CDs were mastered from the original tapes, which were produced by Norman Granz, Verve’s founder and Fitzgerald’s longtime manager.

They capture the singer in her peak years, and at top form: more relaxed, swinging and adventurous, across a wider span of rhythms and moods, than on the dozens of other albums that hit the bins in her lifetime.

…There’s nothing rare about a joyous Ella Fitzgerald recording; the woman exuded joy in nearly every note she sang. Yet the level on these sessions soared higher and plumbed deeper.

Gary Giddins, the veteran critic and author of “Jazz,” agrees. “This ranks on the top shelf of her live recordings,” he said. “It’s about as good as it gets.”

I don’t know much from Ella other than I’m vaguely familiar with her work (my twin sister, Sam, loves her, and played her records when we were kids).

It’s not that I’m going to go out and buy this set, necessarily–although it does sound appealing–but the idea of it is amazing. The idea there are still hidden gems out there, tucked away in some warehouse vault…it’s enough to make your mouth water and mind float away in a dream.

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When Black Friday Comes I’m Gonna Stake My Claim

It’s the biggest shopping day of the year, so here are a few of the things that have come into my possession in the past year which the baseball fan on your list might enjoy (or which you may want to ask for yourself):

Yankee Colors

Yankee Colors photographs by Marvin E. Newman, text by Al Silverman

This is an absolutely gorgeous book of full-color photography from the late ’50s and early ’60s including game action from the 1955-1958 and 1960-1965 World Series, shots from spring training, and looks inside the Yankee locker room. Newman’s photography, which also includes some black and white work, is alternately intimate and breathtaking, and some of the images of the old Stadium are particularly striking, a true revelation even after all of the retrospectives from the last year.

Weber on Umpires

2009 World Series film2009 World Series Collector's Edition

As They See ‘Em by Bruce Weber - I’ll admit I’ve only just started this one, inspired by a recent episode of the MLB Network’s “Studio 42 with Bob Costas” featuring Steve Palermo, Don Denkinger, and Bruce Froemming, but I can already tell it’s a keeper. A very rare look into the insular word of major league umpires, Weber explores an essential, but mysterious aspect of the game with a curious, conversational style.

The 2009 World Series film – This has only been on the market for a week, but it’s a must for any Yankee fan, particularly one that already own the outstanding collection of the World Series films of the Yankees’ championships from 1943 to 2000. If you don’t own the latter, put that on your list as well, or, for you big spenders, go whole-hog with this.

The 2009 World Series box set – This one’s not even out yet (street date: Dec. 15), but MLB does a great job with these sets, and this one is sure to follow suit. Again, for those who don’t already have it, this box of games from the 1996 to 2001 World Series is also a must-have for Yankee fans.

Baseball Prospectus 2010 – I schill, yes, but this book, a valuable guide to the 2010 season, contains three team chapters written by me, three more written by “Bronx Banter Breakdown” regular Jay Jaffe, and several more written by friend-of-the-Banter and co-editor Steven Goldman, not to mention the other talented BP regulars who are contributing. It won’t publish until February, but if you pre-order your copy now, you’ll get it in time for your fantasy draft, or in time to sort through the subs in spring training.

And having schilled for myself, I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you about friend-of-the-Banter Mark Lamster’s Master of Shadows, which Alex wrote about last month.

Whatta Gal

hisgal

Pauline Kael on His Girl Friday:

In 1928 Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur wrote The Front Page, the greatest newspaper comedy of them all; Howard Hawks directed this version of it — a spastic explosion of dialogue, adapted by Charles Lederer, and starring Cary Grant as the domineering editor Walter Burns and Rosalind Russell as Hildy Johnson, the unscrupulous crime reporter with printer’s ink in her veins. (In the play Hildy Johnson is a man.) Overlapping dialogue carries the movie along at breakneck speed; word gags take the place of the sight gags of silent comedy, as this race of brittle, cynical, childish people rush around on corrupt errands. Russell is at her comedy peak here — she wears a striped suit, uses her long-legged body for ungainly, unladylike effects, and rasps out her lines. And, as Walter Burns, Grant raises mugging to a joyful art. Burns’ callousness and unscrupulousness are expressed in some of the best farce lines ever written in this country, and Grant hits those lines with a smack. He uses the same stiff-neck cocked-head stance that he did in Gunga Din: it’s his position for all-out, unstuble farce. He snorts and whoops. His Burns is a strong-arm performance, defiantly self-centered and funny. The reporters — a fine crew — are Ernest Truex, Cliff Edwards, Porter Hall, Roscoe Karns, Frank Jenks, Regis Toomey; also with Gene Lockhart as the sheriff, Billy Gilbert as the messenger, John Qualen, Helen Mack, and Ralph Bellamy as chief stooge — a respectable businessman — and Alma Kruger as his mother.

And here, direct from the good peoples at Hulu, is the complete movie:

Home Boy

A little Thanksgiving treat via Hulu. The complete documentary film, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg.

Enjoy!

News Update – 11/26/09

Today’s update features the Muppets tackling Queen:

  • John Perrotto writes about the Yank’s gameplan for the off-season:

General manager Brian Cashman still hasn’t mapped out his winter strategy, waiting until he meets with managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and his brother Hank next week. “Once I get some firm numbers then I can go ahead and start putting together some ideas,” Cashman said.

The Yankees actually lowered their payroll from $209 million in 2008 to $201 million in 2009. The general feeling is Steinbrenners will tell Cashman to hold the line for 2010. “I think the big picture is to be real efficient with how we allocate our resources,” Cashman said. “Obviously, last year showed examples of, depending who it is, we can step up in a big way. I think we’re going to try to be careful. Careful doesn’t mean slow. We’re trying to spend it wisely, make the right commitments to use for the present and the future.”

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!  See you Monday.

Pound for Pound

ray2

My Old Man was certain about a great many things–that he was “second to none,” as a fan of Jackie Robinson, that the United States was the best country in the World, and that New York was the capital of the World but also that the tap water was better on the Upper West Side than it was on the Upper East Side. He was not a boxing fan but when I was a kid I remember asking him who was the greatest fighter of all-time. I figured it had to be Ali, but he didn’t pause when he told me that “Ray Robinson was, pound-for-pound, the greatest fighter that ever lived.”

ray

 The Old Man wasn’t alone in this assessment, yet it wasn’t just Robinson’s accomplishments in the ring that appealed to him: it was his style.

Robinson’s elan is mentioned in  a complimentary review of a new Sugar Ray Robinson biography today in the Times:

The jazz that filled Robinson’s head, and that he loved his entire life, spills over into Mr. Haygood’s book like a buoyant soundtrack. Robinson befriended many jazz players over the years (Miles Davis, Billy Eckstine, Dizzy Gillespie). He loved their style, and they loved his. As Mr. Haygood writes, Sugar Ray was “the first modern prizefighter to take culture — music and grace and dance — into the ring with him.”

It was something to see. Robinson really brought it all: the beautiful smile, the finely chiseled body, the thin mustache and wavy hair, the coiled ease with which he moved. Mr. Haygood captures his grace and power, at many disparate moments, as well as it’s been captured: “At times whirling around the ring — as if moving from rock to rock across a shallow lake — he seemed the epitome of lightness and balance, until he stopped to unload a series of punches that drew gasps from onlookers.”

First, the book on Louis Armstrong, now this–I’ve got some reading to do this winter.

The Last Word

roger_angell_at_kwh

The baseball season never really ends anymore. Not after the last out of the World Serious, or after the awards are handed out. How can it be over with the winter meetings just a few weeks off? While we wait for the trades and rumors there is a lull, and when you get right down to it, spring training can’t come soon enough. Perhaps less so this year for Yankees fans, but you know what I mean.

Yet no season is complete until Roger Angell weighs in with his recap in The New Yorker, which he has been doing for close to fifty years, a truly remarkable run. Angell turned 89 this September and is still at it. The pieces aren’t as long as they once were, but that’s understandable. It’s like wanting another great movie out of Scorsese or another great novel from Pete Dexter–after awhile, you start feeling greedy. There is still something reassuring about Angell being around to tie a bow on what we all just saw that won’t be replaced once he stops writing. It is a part of the season, just like the MVP awards, just like the winter meetings.

Unfortunately, Angell’s latest is not available on-line. It’s funny, since I get a subscription, I printed out a copy a few days ago, but it didn’t feel exactly right until I got the actual magazine last night. The print is bigger in the magazine, and there is just something about the printed word on the page that has more weight than it does on a computer screen, or even a print-out from the computer.

Here are a few highlights:

On Alex Rodriguez:

I think A-Rod will always be a little beyond us. We can used to his money more easily than to his outlandish talent and his physical gifts; standing near him in the dugout at times, I’ve had the impression that I’m within touching distance of a new species. The games this fall set him free, at least for now, and in the process released me from the ranks of sullen doubters. I’ve begun to think that if Alex Rodriguez–A-Rod, of all people–can come such a distance in one season then maybe baseball is coming out of its long funk after all.

On Chase Utley tying Reggie Jackson’s World Series home runs mark with five:

There was passing speculation that Utley would supplant Jackson in legend were he to waft another, but it died of unlikelihood. Reggie, discussing all this with the News columnist Mike Lupica back at the Stadium before the last game, simply murmured, “Come on.” He pointed to the adjacent centerfield stands, with their line of standup drinkers above Monument Park in the new configuration, and said, “My fifth is in the fucking bar.”

On Godzilla Matsui’s performance in Game Six:

I can’t remember a closing performance anything like this, or the feeling, while it was happening, that I quickly needed to thank Hideki Matsui–with a bow or something–not just for tonight but for every game of his seven years of super-pro service with the Yankees. His straight-back, left-handed stance, with that almond-colored bat held still; his broad-shouldered, slashing cuts at anything up in the zone; his slightly tilted vertical style of running; the trim black hair just touching his uniform at the nape; the cracked smile–we knew all this, certainly, but in some oddly formal and removed fashion, because he was Japanese and because he didn’t speak English easily. His silence kept him old-fashioned: a ballplayer from the black-and-white newspaper-photograph days, before our heroes talked.

Big Boid

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According to a report by Mark Feinsand and Bill Madden in today’s Daily News, the Red Sox are making a serious push for Roy Halladay.

Gobble, Gobble.

And speakin’ of boids…here’s one of my all-time favorites:

Have You Heard About the Lonesome Losers?

mel stot

Yo, dig this, courtesy of Gabe Schechter of the Baseball Hall of Fame, via Bruce Brown (a baseball fan who has been formulating imaginary teams on a daily basis for almost a decade).

“To make the team,” writes Schechter, “you had to play in at least seven seasons with the Yankees without winning a World Series title as a player. The lone exception is manager Clark Griffith, who played only five years with them but had the longest tenure (six years) of any manager who never won a title with them. Here they are (with number of seasons as a Yankee in parentheses).”

moose

C: Rick Cerone (7)
1B: Don Mattingly (14)
2B: Horace Clarke (10)
SS: Roger Peckinpaugh (9)
3B: Randy Velarde (10)
LF: Dave Winfield (10)
CF: Bobby Murcer (13)
RF: Willie Keeler (7)
DH: Ron Blomberg (7)
PH: Jason Giambi (7)
PR: Birdie Cree (8)

SP: Mel Stottlemyre (11)
SP: Fritz Peterson (9)
SP: Tommy John (8)
SP: Mike Mussina (8)
SP: Jack Chesbro (7)
RP: Dave Righetti (11)
RP: Steve Hamilton (8)

MGR: Clark Griffith (6)
Owner: CBS (8)

Bench:
1B: Hal Chase (9)
SS: Kid Elberfeld (7)
OF: Oscar Gamble (7)
IF: Gene Michael (7)
P: Ray Caldwell (9)
P: Sterling Hitchcock (7)
P: Rudy May (7)
P: Jack Quinn (7)
P: Jack Warhop (8)

Mgr – Clark Griffith* (6)
GM- Gene Michael (7 as a player, 5 as GM)
Owner – CBS (8)

Bench and Bullpen
Ray Caldwell (9)
Kid Elberfeld (7)
Oscar Gamble (7)
Jack Warhop (8)

*Hall of Fame
ALL CAPS = All-Star
Bold = Inspiration

The King

 kingtut

Albert Pujols, three-time MVP…and counting.

(I couldn’t resist.)

Legend of the Fall

Joan-Rivers-What-Becomes-A-Se-476379

 Mr. Goldman on Mr. Mauer, Mr. Jeter, Mr. Teixeira and the AL MVP:

Mauer had a historic year at catcher, even having missed the first month, and there should be nothing remotely controversial in his winning the award. What is more interesting is the way the rest of the votes fell, and the apparent perception that Teixeira, a first baseman having a very good but by no means great season. Jeter had a season that ranks among the top 25 by a shortstop in the past 60 years. Both were integral to the success the Yankees experienced this season, but there’s a huge difference between a shortstop contributing at the level that Jeter did and a first baseman doing what Teixeira did.

In the end, I suppose it doesn’t matter — Jeter has been robbed in previous awards voting. He wasn’t robbed this time. This is more a cri de coeur against misapprehensions about the replacement value of a great shortstop season versus a good season by a first baseman. Before anyone jumps on me for saying Teixeira’s season was “good,” not “great,” it’s not meant as an insult. It’s just that the hitting standards at first base are so ridiculously high that to call Teixeira’s season great would be ludicrous given the existence of Albert Pujols.

The Rub

The boy in the middle of the photograph is my great uncle Albert, my grandfather’s brother. The picture must have been taken some time in the 1920s, somewhere in Belgium.

06 Albert corde

I love his expression. He’s really working, boy, forget smiling.

This winter, we hope the Yankees’ live up to their Business-First image. As Jonah Keri mentioned in the Times the other day, they caught lightening in a bottle with productive seasons from their old-timers (Rivera, Posada, Pettitte, Jeter, Damon and Matsui). That is not likely to happen again. So while we wait out this lull, the hope here is that the Yanks go into 2010 younger.

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