"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: November 2009

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Mr. Mex

“Everybody thinks, because you make a lot of money, that you have a lock on happiness. It’s not true…. I most fear boredom and loneliness, life after baseball. Life after baseball equals boredom and loneliness. I don’t want to be a 50-year-old guy sitting and drinking beer in some pickup bar with younger people. I’ve seen it. I don’t want to be that.”


Ever read Bill Nack’s terrific profile of Mex Hernandez for SI? From 1986.

It’s a good one.

True Genius


From Michiko Kakutani’s review of the new Louis Armstrong biography:

Louis Armstrong, a k a Satchmo, a k a Pops, was to music what Picasso was to painting, what Joyce was to fiction: an innovator who changed the face of his art form, a fecund and endlessly inventive pioneer whose discovery of his own voice helped remake 20th-century culture.

His determination to entertain and the mass popularity he eventually achieved, coupled with his gregarious, open-hearted personality, would obscure the magnitude of his achievement and win him the disdain of many intellectuals and younger colleagues, who dismissed much of what he did after 1929 as middlebrow slumming, and who even mocked him as a kind of Uncle Tom.

With “Pops,” his eloquent and important new biography of Armstrong, the critic and cultural historian Terry Teachout restores this jazzman to his deserved place in the pantheon of American artists, building upon Gary Giddins’s excellent 1988 study, “Satchmo: The Genius of Louis Armstrong,” and offering a stern rebuttal of James Lincoln Collier’s patronizing 1983 book, “Louis Armstrong: An American Genius.”

You can order the book, here. Man, it sounds terrific. Which makes sense, because Louis Armstrong is the top of the heap, man.

The Greatest. Everything. Ever.


The Sure Thing

The AL MVP will be announced shortly. Can’t figure it going to anyone but Mr. Mauer, can you? Derek Jeter had one of his best seasons but Mauer won his third batting title as a catcher and, well, without Mauer, the Twins don’t even sniff the playoffs.  

sure thing

Update: Mauer makes like Special Ed and takes home the hardware. Fitting.

Sheff of the Future?


How about some hardcore?

Yeah, we like it raw.

News Update – 11/23/09

This update is powered by a wonderful lyricist and performer, Ray Davies:

  • Tyler Kepner examines the “is it about the money” angle of free agency for the Yankee FAs.
  • Jonah Keri warns the Yanks not to get complacent in the off-season.
  • For what its worth, Jon Miller is the only ESPN “expert” to NOT pick Mauer for the AL MVP.
  • Is Bobby Abreu’s contract ($19M over two years) with the Halos a baseline for Johnny Damon?
  • Aaron Small turns 38 today.
  • Frank Tepedino turns 62 today.
  • Luis Tiant is 69 today.

Nappin on the Job

Been a busy weekend, so I haven’t been round much to post anything on the Banter.


It is sunny and crisp in New York. A nice football Sunday.

Hope y’all are enjoying the weekend.  So dream a little dream and I’ll be back in the saddle come mornin.

Observations From Cooperstown: Swisher, Granderson, and Klimkowski

I find it hard to believe that the Yankees are seriously shopping Nick Swisher, as indicated by a published report this week. Swisher is currently the only outfielder with any kind of power on the 40-man roster—a fact that isn’t likely to change until the free agent situations of Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui (if we can even consider him an outfielder anymore) are resolved. With the Yankees showing little interest in either Jason Bay or Matt Holliday, the prospects of a Melky Cabrera-Brett Gardner-Austin Jackson outfield would do little to ease the minds of nerve-wracked Yankee fans.

It’s easy to dismiss Swisher because of his poor postseason, which resulted in his benching in Game Two of the World Series, but that would be a short-sighted approach. This is the same Swisher who hit 29 home runs during the regular season, compiled a near .500 slugging percentage, played a far better right field than predecessor Bobby Abreu, and brought some much needed life and verve to a staid and stagnant clubhouse. Furthermore, Swisher seems to be genuinely liked by his Yankee teammates, in contrast to his days in Chicago, where some of the veteran White Sox resented his non-stop talking.

Then there are the matters of Swisher’s relative youth and his contract status. About to turn 29, Swisher is one of just four Yankee regulars who are under 30 (along with Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, and Melky Cabrera). Sure, I wish Swisher would have hit more in the postseason, but a 15-game slump should not completely override a productive regular season. I, for one, hope Swisher returns to the Yankee stable in 2010…

A potential trade between the Yankees and Tigers, centered on Curtis Granderson, has me torn. On the one hand, I love Granderson’s combination of power and speed, along with the vast range that he carries in center field. My sources with the Oneonta Tigers also rave about him from his days there; he’s highly intelligent and brings a good attitude to the ballpark. On the other hand, Granderson is older than I initially thought, with his 29th birthday arriving before Opening Day 2010. His on-base percentage also fell off badly this year, dropping from .365 to .327. Even at his best, Granderson is not particularly well-suited for the leadoff role the Tigers have given him; he’d be an ideal No. 6 hitter for a team like the Yankees.

Then there’s the matter of what the Tigers would want in return for Granderson. As much as they want to shed his long-term salary, they’d be crazy to just give him away for a package of Shelley Duncan and Ramiro Pena. The Tigers are probably going to want at least one player (and possibly two) from a group that includes Austin “Ajax” Jackson, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, and Zach McAllister. That may be too much for the Yankees to swallow. And if the Tigers insist on Jesus Montero, that demand should be a dealbreaker from the New York standpoint…


His passing didn’t create many headlines, but it did strike a chord with this writer. Former Yankee reliever Ron Klimkowski died last Friday at the age of 65, succumbing to heart failure. Initially signed by the Red Sox’ organization, Klimkowski came to the Yankees as one of the players to be named later in the Elston Howard deal. He pitched very well as a middle reliever in 1969 and ‘70, but was then traded to the A’s as part of the deal that brought Felipe Alou to New York. Klimkowski remained in Oakland until May of 1972, when the A’s released him; the Yankees signed him later that day. The timing wasn’t particularly good for Klimkowski, who missed out on Oakland’s world championship and then suffered a knee injury, which essentially ended his career.


One Never Knows…

“Last year, we had close to $100 million coming off the payroll,” General Manager Brian Cashman said Wednesday. “This year, that’s not the case. Last year, we had more to spend. Every year is different. The talent pool available this year is different.”
(Kepner, N.Y.Times)

old stad

Okay, so maybe the Yanks won’t net a big fish this winter. Unless, of course, they make some kind of crazy trade. Right, Goldie?

Since new Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos let it be known that he would not object to trading Roy Halladay within the American League East, there has been much speculation about another Yankees-Red Sox competition for the veteran right-hander’s services. If true, this almost ensures that Halladay will be traded in the division, because these are two teams deep in resources who will be motivated to top each other, thus escalating their offers above and beyond what teams outside the division would be willing to offer.

This news is both exhilarating and depressing. The Yankees just won a World Series by leaning on three starters, and their 2010 rotation is unsettled beyond CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. Halladay is one of the best starters in the game and an additional asset in new Yankee Stadium given his groundball tendencies. The depressing part is that Halladay will cost a lot, particularly if the Red Sox and other teams are bidding up the price. It would be sad to see Phil Hughes and Jesus Montero blossom in a Blue Jays uniform. Halladay will be 33 next year, while Montero will be 20, so even if Halladay spends the next five years in pinstripes, Montero will still be in his prime for years after the Doc has checked out.

They will tweak things, for sure. Maybe shake ’em up more than somewhat. If I could just get rid of the peaceful, easy feeling that has engulfed me since the Yanks won the Serious, I’d be more serious about it all.


…There’s still time.

Beat of the Day

Produced by the amazing Willie Mitchell.

On the Go


What’s fer lunch?

Face Time

I caught part of a Hot Stove show on YES last night, featuring Bob Klapisch, Tyler Kepner and Mark Feinsand. It left me feeling how good these kinds of shows could actually be if there was more…banter. It wasn’t terrible by any stretch, just too formal for my taste, each guy guest getting the spotlight to say his piece. That said, I truly enjoyed what I saw.

I love listening to Klap talk about pitching and pitchers and wish that he’d be drawn out even more on that subject.


Tyler looked sharp in a purple shirt and he had an even, calm speaking voice that is refreshing, especially in a medium that values shouting.  He is not a hype-artist and I think his insights, using numbers as well as his first-hand observations, were excellent. Yes, more Tyler, please. (I think he’d benefit from a more conversational atmosphere because he tended to blink a lot when looking directly into the camera and less so when he addressed the other guys.)

And I thought Mark was a natural. Reminded me a little of Jeff Garlin–something about him just immediately puts you at ease. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t agree with everything he said–he’s exceedingly comfortable in that setting and I think has a real future on TV. Very appealing delivery, love his look. Camera loves him. He was terrific.


Hopefully, we’ll see more of these guys throughout the winter. Good job by YES. Now, it they’d just bring Steven Goldman into the mix, they’d really be cooking with gas.

If He is the Answer…


…What is the question?

Tell you this much, as a fair-weather fan, I’ll watch more games if Iverson is around.

Up in Smoke


Tim Lincecum, in a close one, wins his second Cy Young Award. Adam Wainwright finished third, with the most first-place votes.  Go figure.

Roll ‘Em

Here’s a story on the making of the 2009 World Serious video.


Does a Body Good


Here’s another trip down memory lane for us who grew up in the Seventies:

Better Keep Your Head


Terry Southern is one of those writers that keeps popping up, has for a long time. Nu? Why haven’t I read anything by him? I really should, shoudn’t I? Why don’t I see his books more in used bookstores?  Man, I’ve been meaning to read him for years now.

Southern is one of those characters that you hear about, time and again, yet his legend has outlasted his work. His two best know novels are The Magic Christian and Candy (co-writen with Mason Hoffenberg ), but he is more famous for the work he did as a screenwriter–Dr. Strangelove, The Cincinnati Kid, Easy Rider. (Peter Sellers, the story goes, bought 100 copies of The Magic Christian, gave one to Stanley Kubrick, and that’s how Southern got the job on Strangelove.)

Southern was briefly a writer on SNL during the Eddie Murphy years but apparently, not much of his material made the show. He was a guy who drank a lot and dig a ton of drugs, and his writing suffered as a result.

I’ve read a couple of pieces on Southern lately. Maybe I’m not missing much. There is this, from a New Yorker article about Easy Rider, “Whose Movie is This?” by Mark Singer (June 22, 1998).

Peter Matthiessen, who says that a Southern story from the fifties, “The Accident,” helped to inspire the founding of The Paris Review, told me recently that he though Southern had lost the energy and discipline to persevere as a serious writer. “I don’t believe there was much more work he wished to do,” Matthiessen said. “He was an observer anda commentator on modern life, and he had this quirky take on things. He was one of the founders of that school of irony–that cool style–and when he had a big splash with ‘Dr. Strangelove’ that irreverent, obstreperous take on things was all very startling and new. But, after that, everybody was into outrage. Terry’s style became diffused throughout the culture, and I think he’d already said what he had to say.”

And this, from an essay by Luc Sante, “I Can’t Carry You Anymore.”

Southern staked everything on effect. Thus he required a social context; he needed both an audience of cronies who would get it and an audience of squares who not only wouldn’t, but would turn purple and thrash ineffectually in offended protest. His was the strategem of someone with a lot to prove, and perhaps a lot to conceal. Other writers of his time similarly polarized the readership, but never quite in the same way. His old friend William Burroughs, for example, put all his contradictions on the line. He might have enjoyed provoking the enemy, but he hardly appeared dependent on the finger-popping approval of his frat brothers. Anway, his provocation had a point–there was a world of repression that had caused him misery and that he wanted to destroy. Southern never made it clear that he was in it for more than high fives and free drinks.

…Many of his riffs have failed to survive their context, and there wasn’t a whole lot in his work that transcended the category of riff. What we have here is a caution to the young, which might be summed up by one of Southern’s most famous lines: “You’re too hip, baby. I can’t carry you anymore.”

Here is a nice interview with Southern by his biographer, Lee Hill.


News Update – 11/19/09

This update is powered by a walk on the wild side:

  • Joe Girardi finished 3rd in the AL Manager of the Year vote.
  • CC Sabathia finished 4th in the AL Cy Young vote.
  • Ian Kennedy is working on his two-seam fastball out in the Arizona Fall League.
  • The Yanks declined their 2010 option on Sergio Mitre.
  • Tyler Kepner details the Yankee bigwig brainstorming for the off-season.
  • MLB.com Yankee beat writer checks in from the team’s fantasy camp.

Yes, You


Award winner.

Born to Rock


I’ve never taken to Bruce Springsteen’s music but I’ve always like him as a personality. I admire what a great show he puts on, time and time again, and appreciate that he’s enjoyed inspired periods of musicianship and songwriting.

Here’s an old (1975) Baltimore Sun piece on The Boss from my pal John Schulian, “from the days when I was still learning how to write.” The article came out just before Born to Run dropped.

Dig this from Bruce:

“I don’t consider myself a writer, like a novel writer or a poetry writer. Writing songs is just something I do. It’s a real, natural, basic urge. The only thing I can compare it to is when you get hungry. You feel it and you do something about it.”

…”I play for the thrill, man, just like I have since I picked up the guitar,” he said. “Like tonight, I could have played forever if they didn’t have to close the place down at midnight.”

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