"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: February 2010

Older posts            Newer posts

Hold That Tiger


One of the least compelling Hot Stove dramas in recent memory has come to a close. According to a report, Johnny Damon has signed a one-year deal with the Tigers.

Saturday Night Art

Ballet Dancer Standing, by Edgar Degas (1886-90)

Baltimore Museum of Art

The (New) Baltimore Way

I caught a link to the following article on Baseball Think Factory.

According to Brian Cashman, the Baltimore Orioles are a sleeping giant:

“I remember a few years back when Tampa Bay was perennially losing. Everyone in the industry was following them and saw all their young talent brewing and slowly getting refined. You don’t know, because prospects are suspects until they declare themselves at the Major League level.

“Andy is doing the same thing. Everybody kind of sees the collection of talent. Players with big tools and high ceiling. When you are athletic and have those kinds of tools, when it all comes together, it comes fast.

“The Orioles are a team that has closed the gap, without a doubt. And Andy is showing the patience. I think their fan base will be very, very pleased. All the sudden, before they know it, they’ll have that foundation in place. They just haven’t seen it pop yet at the Major League level.

As much as I feared and loathed the Orioles when they were good, it has been depressing to see them for the past decade. Be cool to see them improve. It’s only right.

Riding the Wave

The Times Magazine has a good photo slide show of Jeff Bridges in the latest issue. Bridges, unless something goes horribly wrong, is going to win the Academy Award for Best Actor this year. What goes into an Oscar campaign? Mark Harris provides the unsavory answers in this profile for New York magazine.

Art of the Night

The Milkmaid, 1657-58

Beat of the Day



Taster’s Cherce

For dumb nice doughnuts, you must go downtown to this spot. I’m not kidding, they are ridiculously tasty.

Stitch in Time

Check out Futility Infielder for more on this treasure:

Observations From Cooperstown: Neyer, Hechavarria, and Jim Bibby

Earlier in the week, ESPN’s Rob Neyer caused a bit of a stir when he wrote this assessment of the Yankees’ possible switch of new acquisition Curtis Granderson from center field to left field.

My guess is that they’ll stick with Granderson in center field for practical reasons. The Yankees can always move him to left field. But once there, it might be problematic to return him to center if, say, they signed a new left fielder next winter. It’s pretty obvious that the organization doesn’t care about defense. That’s why they’ve got all those high-strikeout pitchers. They can carry Granderson’s decent glove in center for at least one season and probably more.

I’m a fan of Rob’s writing, particularly his books on baseball blunders and great dynasties, but he’s way, way off when he says the Yankee organization “doesn‘t care about defense.” There is little evidence of the Yankees’ being indifferent to fielding issues. One of Brian Cashman’s biggest concerns after the 2008 season–and he stated this publicly on at least one occasion–was the team’s declining defense. That sentiment was a huge factor in letting both Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu, two of their weakest links in the field, depart as free agents without so much as qualifying offers. The Yankees replaced both players with superior defenders in Mark Teixeira at first and Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady in right field. Faced with similar concerns about their double play combination of Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter, the Yankees assigned both to work extensively with new coach Mick Kelleher last spring. Both players emerged as improved defenders in 2009. And then there is the more recent decision not to bring back Johnny Damon. Damon’s defensive foibles (along with his age) factored into Cashman’s decision not to budge from making a two-year offer worth $14 million. In replacing Damon, the Yankees are calling upon Brett “The Jet” Gardner, whose prime attribute is his speed and range in the outfield. Does this sound like the working plan of a general manager that doesn’t care about defense? I don’t think so.

Yes, the Yankees do care about their defense. It’s just that they don’t place as high a priority on defense as teams like the Mariners, A’s, and Red Sox do. (And one could argue that those teams are placing way too much emphasis on defense, at the expense of fielding subpar batting orders.) The Yankees won the World Series last year with a solid but unspectacular defense playing behind a high-strikeout pitching staff. On the whole, the Yankees didn’t display much range, and they didn’t make many highlight reel plays, but they turned in routine plays consistently, made few tangible errors, and executed the fundamentals of hitting the cutoff man and throwing to the right base. That’s what solid defense is about: making the routine plays time and time again. The Yankees care about defense enough to execute that part of the game very well…


If you’re a Yankee fan–and you likely are if you follow the Banter–Adeinis Hechavarria is a name you need to know. Some people believe he will be the player who succeeds Derek Jeter at shortstop, perhaps in the year 2012 or 2013, assuming that Jeter moves to another position, or flat-out retires. Hechavarria is a Cuban defector who fled the grip of Fidel Castro for the relative freedom of Mexico last summer. Although major league clubs are not yet permitted to sign Hechavarria, that permission will likely come in the next few months. Once that happens, the Yankees will officially become the favorites to sign the shortstop, who is either 19 or 21 years old, depending on the source.

So what kind of a player is Hechavarria? According to the scouting reports I’ve found, Hechavarria offers a combination of blazing speed and plus power, with the ability to take the ball to right field. In the field, he has good range, quick feet, and soft hands, but his throwing mechanics need work. Having already scouted Hechavarria on numerous occasions, the Yankees like what they see in the athletic shortstop, who stands six feet tall and weighs 170 pounds. Some talent evaluators foresee him being moved to center field in the future, ala the Rays’ B.J. Upton, but the Yankees seem to think he can handle shortstop for at least a few years. By then, we should all have a better idea of how to pronounce his name; I am from Latino ancestry and have little idea how to say it. For now, we can at least practice how to spell it…


Finally, a non-Yankee note. Former big league right-hander Jim Bibby passed away earlier this week at the age of 65, a victim of a long battle with cancer. I was saddened to hear the news, particularly because I remember Bibby very well, especially from his days with the Pirates. An enormous right-hander who stood six feet, five inches and weighed nearly 250 pounds, Bibby was an important part of the Bucs’ 1979 world championship team, a valuable pitcher who could star or relieve with equal effectiveness. Blessed with a power fastball, Bibby was also well known for pitching a 13-strikeout no-hitter for the Rangers in 1974 and for being the older brother of Henry Bibby, a very good shooting guard for the Philadelphia 76ers during the Julius Erving-Maurice Cheeks era.

After a few moments, my sadness gave way to a smile in recollecting Bibby. That’s because he was one of the most interesting subjects of the one of the funniest baseball books ever written, Seasons in Hell, by Mike Shrospshire. A lot of the Bibby material is X-rated and therefore not appropriate to my PG writing style, but some can be revealed here. First off, Bibby used to sweat like no other ballplayer I’ve seen. On hot, humid days, he would look like Albert Brooks in Broadcast News, the perspiration pouring down his face and arms like Yosemite Falls. Furthermore, Bibby used to go by the “stage name” of “Fontay O’Rooney” during Rangers road trips. Now I’m not sure why he needed a stage name–was he performing in Vaudeville or doing one-man shows on the road?–and I have no idea why he selected the odd moniker of Fontay O’Rooney as his alter ego. Is it an anagram for something else? No one really seems to know. Whatever the case, it was an indication of Bibby’s colorful, offbeat character.

By all accounts, Bibby was a good man, too. A veteran of two years in the Vietnam War, Bibby’s intimidating physical appearance belied his friendly nature. He was outgoing and funny, and so popular as a minor league pitching coach that the Lynchburg Hillcats held a bobblehead night in his honor.

Farewell, Fontay O’Rooney. You will be missed.

Bruce Markusen writes “Cooperstown Confidential” for The Hardball Times.

Bricker-Bracker-Firecracker Sis-Boom-Bah

Ben Shpigel, who I assume is now covering the Yankees beat for the New York Times (he had been on the Mets beat previously), has a piece today on prospect Andrew Brackman. I met Shpigel at Citifield last year and mistook him for another Times reporter, Michael Schmidt, but didn’t realize my gaffe until later. Always felt like a putz about that. Regardless, Shpigel is following Tyler Kepner, who did a great job writing about the Yankees (Kepner is still with the paper as their national baseball writer). I’m looking forward to reading his coverage this season.

Sweet Dreams

Will Lebron James land in New York this summer? It’s not likely but we can still dream. At the very least the Knicks are closer to starting from scratch for the first time in a long time cause this summer they’ll have some…

Art of the Night

This is one of my favorite paintings in the world. And it’s at the MET.

Girl Asleep, 1656-7

Beat of the Day



Taster’s Cherce

The Best Pizza in New York?

According to the Times’ food critic, Sam Sifton, it can be found at Motorino in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

I’m not wild about Sifton as a food critic and I avoid Williamsburg like the plague. However, this could be well worth the trip.

Yankee Panky: Hope Springs Eternal (when your roster is stacked)

Alex Belth said it perfectly. Spring seems eons away here in New York. Especially since we haven’t seen grass here in two weeks — longer if you live in Pennsylvania and further south in the mid-Atlantic region.

But pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training brings vitality to the discussions had in the local media marketplace and here in the blogosphere over the past three months. The Yankees have an unofficial count — if you pay attention to talk radio and are on top of the beat — of three questions:

1) Who will be the fifth starter?

2) Which young gun will be in the bullpen, Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes?

3) What will the batting order look like?

Taking these questions individually, the answer to the first questions will likely answer the second. Sunday afternoon, Sweeny Murti and Ed Coleman had Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland on WFAN and asked him point blank about taking the reins off of Joba, and whether that would give him an edge heading into spring workouts. Eiland said Chamberlain and Hughes are on equal footing in terms of the competition for the fifth starter, along with Chad Gaudin, Sergio Meat-Tray, and Alfredo Aceves.

The most sensible option outside of Chamberlain and Hughes, it seems, based on the numbers, is Gaudin. He didn’t post Aaron Small 2005 numbers by any means, but as Joba insurance, he was serviceable, allowing less than a hit per inning, 7.3 K/9, and a 125 ERA+. Not great, but not bad. Just what you expect from a fifth starter. But when you think of the dropoff from Javier Vazquez to Chad Gaudin, yikes.

Eiland said on Sunday in that WFAN interview that Hughes would be on an innings limit this year, but not with the same level of stringency as Joba Version 2K9. If that’s the case — just speculating here — the ideal situation is to have Joba in the fifth slot and Hughes in the bullpen. This wouldn’t be as difficult a decision if both twentysomethings hadn’t done so much to inspire confidence that either is better suited to be the last piece in the bridge to Mariano Rivera, or even Mo’s heir apparent.

Re: the batting order, there’s a consensus among the pundits on the following spots:

1. Jeter
3. Teixeira
4. A-Rod
5. Posada
6. Cano
8. Swisher
9. Gardner

The issue becomes who bats second: Curtis Granderson or Nick Johnson? And really, it’s a toss-up. Based on Johnson’s on-base percentage (.402 career OBP to Granderson’s .344 career OBP, Johnson has the edge. But despite Granderson’s propensity to strike out, his speed may allow him to see ample time in the two-hole. Granderson has grounded into just 18 double plays in his career, while Johnson grounded into 15 last season alone. Nick Swisher could even slide in, given the number of pitches he sees per at-bat. Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada could flip-flop at 5 and 6.

None of this is news. Given the way the Yankees entered camp last year, when we were discussing the merits of Selena Roberts’ book, Alex Rodriguez’s sincerity, whether CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and AJ Burnett had what it takes to thrive in New York, and overall, what it would take for the Yankees to make the playoffs, let alone win a World Series, maybe that’s a good thing. The only off-field issues left to talk about are the contracts of Girardi, Rivera, and Jeter, and those likely won’t be negotiated until after the season. Rivera may retire. But we have eight months to go before that speculation becomes more rampant.

For now, as Girardi said in his 30-minute powwow Wednesday, “It’s nice to be talking about baseball.”

And while we look out the window and see a wall of white with no threat of a thaw, it certainly is.

Diamond in the Back, Sun Roof Top

What is it about Doc Ellis that people find so inspiring? Man, pitch one no-hitter under the influence of L.S.D. and you’re a hero for life.

Dig this cool picture gallery from a blog called Generation Exploitation.

News Update – 2/18/10

This update is powered by the Peanuts gang, cause its still a kid’s game (smile):

. . . Will Joba Chamberlain start or relieve? Or will Phil Hughes get the job? Or will both tyros be in the pen, opening up the rotation slot to a more classically defined fifth-starter type like Chad Gaudin or the reliably bad Sergio Mitre? Or will Alfredo Aceves swap places with Hughes and Chamberlain and get the skippable fifth man’s job? . . .  With the decisions to acquire Javier Vazquez and retain Andy Pettitte, the fifth starter’s slot ought to be skippable given an expensive quality front four; a quick run through the Yankees schedule suggests that the they could avoid starting anybody on short rest and reduce the fifth slot to 25 turns on the year. . . .  it also has the nice advantage of having the fifth starter face the Red Sox or Rays just once in 13 September games against their two most likely rivals, and they could easily turn that number into zero if they felt the need.

Of course, any such proposition relies on the front four being healthy and delivering, and I’ve already expressed my doubts about Javier Vazquez. . . .

. . . If the Bombers were to leave Hughes and Chamberlain in the bullpen for a combined 150-160 innings, it isn’t hard to envision a dramatic improvement, and if Aceves ends up manning the middle innings, that might add up to a historically outstanding unit by any flavor of relief metric.

As for the outfield, I don’t really see the contest as that dramatic, since I expect an initial job-sharing arrangement not unlike what happened last year between Gardner and Melky Cabrera. However, Winn’s the sort of hurdle Gardner should be able to beat out over time, and regardless of the outcome both players should get plenty of at-bats, especially once the Yankees decide there’s not much to be done about Curtis Granderson’s issues against lefties.


Art of the Night

More Vermeer…

Woman Weighing Pearls (Woman Weighing Gold), 1662-64, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.


Man, spring seems so far away from New York. But down south and out west, the players have begun to arrive at training camp.  Joe Girardi met with the press this afternoon.

Great Expectations. So, what’s new?

Beat of the Day

Triple Decker Fun:



Equals, Such:

Older posts            Newer posts
feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver