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Monthly Archives: July 2010

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No, No: Like This

Been a couple of exciting, well-played games by the Yanks and Rays, huh? Phil Hughes made one mistake on Friday night and it cost the Yanks the game. They bounced back tonight, however, and served the Rays a dose of their own medicine. The Yanks rallied down 3-1, and 4-3. A trio of homers did it–a two run bomb by Mark Teixiera, solo shot by Nick Swisher and the game-winner, a long, soaring home run by Robinson Cano.

Final score: Yanks 5, Rays 4.

Javier Vazquez and Matt Garza both competed; neither was great. Matt Joyce hit another long home run, and duly admired the fruits of his labor. Carl Crawford collected the 400th stolen base of his career. But Boone Loogan and Dave Robertson were terrific in relief, and kept the game close for New York. And Mariano did like he do in the ninth after Cano’s homer gave the Yanks the lead in the bottom of the eighth.

Alex Rodriguez had a tough night, striking out, popping up, and laughed at himself when he spoke to reporters after the game.  He had some more pitches to drive, put some good swings on them, and had nothing to show for it.

Lance Berkman didn’t look relaxed either but then again, the Yanks only had six hits all night, three by Cano.

The Yanks lead in the AL stands at two. No matter what happens tomorrow, they’ll leave town in first.

[Photo Credit: Mike Carlson, AP,

Battle For First Place

Yanks saddled up with some beef for the home stretch: Kerry, Austin and Lance. Sounds like the Chelsea All Boys Glee Club.

Still, the Bombers can use all the muscle they can get against these tough Rays.

Go git ’em, boys.

It’s 4pm. Do You Know Who Your Yankees Are?

The latest buzz has the Yankees acquiring Kerry Wood from the Indians for a player to be named later. The Yankees needed a relief pitcher, but Wood, who was just activated from the disabled list where he had landed due to a blister on his right index finger, is an underwhelming solution. Not only is he seemingly always hurt, but in two seasons with the Indians, he has posted a 4.80 ERA and 4.7 BB/9, the worst of that work coming this year (6.30 ERA, 5.0 BB/9), while his typically stellar strikeout rate has been a bit more ordinary at 8.1 K/9 (down from 10.3 K/9 both last year and career). Wood has also given up 1.4 home runs per nine innings this year, all of which combines to make him look a lot like Kyle Farnsworth with a sketchier injury history. Given that Joe Girardi used to catch both pitchers with the Cubs and was likely a driving force behind the Wood acquisition, the comparison seems apt.

As Tyler Kepner has been pointing out on twitter, Wood has been better since a disaster outing on May 19, posting a 3.78 ERA since, but even that figure isn’t overwhelming, and he’s still blown two games and lost a third over the course of just 18 games before landing on the DL with that blister. All of which is to say, I’m not optimistic, and part of me would have rather taken a chance on Chad Qualls (who went to the Rays early this morning) and his outlandish .427 BABIP. Qualls has had better peripherals than Wood this year and, from what I can tell, has never been on the DL. Anyone want to place bets on who pitches better over the next two months?

Update: The Wood deal is official, with Joel Sherman tweeting that the compensation could be money or two “middling” minor leaguers. Indians’ choice if Wood says healthy, price drops after the fact if Wood gets hurt.

Bantermetrics: All the A-Rod you can handle for just 599!

So here we are, sitting in the “waiting room” anxious to find out if Alex Rodriguez’s next homerun will be a line drive or a moon shot.  Maybe Gene Monahan will have to perform some sort of C-section on Rodriguez’s bat to get that 600th to come out.   It certainly feels like Yankee fans have wanted to induce labor on A-Rod and then hold his hand as he steps to the plate  . . . “C’mon Centaur … push!  OK . . .  we can see the baseball’s head!  And now breathe . . . swing the bat . . . nice and easy . . . there you go!”

While we wait for the blessed event, let’s look at the longest homerless streaks (in games) in his career.  It took Rodriguez 33 games to hit his first career homer, back on June 12, 1995.  Other than that, the longest streak without a homer has been 18 games, which has occurred twice.  The first was between August 4, 1995 and April 9, 1996. The second stretch was between September 10, 1997 and April 6, 1998.

Of more recent vintage, Alex had a 15-game homerless drought from April 20 to May 9 of this year.  He also went 16 games between dingers from July 19 to August 7, 2009 (coincidentally, both streaks came to an end against the Red Sox, whom the Bombers once again face starting this coming Friday).

For his career, A-Rod has had 68 separate streaks of at least eight games without a homer (as he is now).

So, when do YOU think he’ll get off the schneid?

Funny Name for a Man…Lance

I’ve never met a Lance that I’ve liked. Knew a kid when I was in fourth grade, lived up the block, Lance. He was a dick. Lance. Never followed one on TV or in sports that I liked, until Lance Berkman, that is. Because Lance Berkman has a good face–doughy and open. Looks like a second-rate opera singer with black eye-liner or a moldy Elvis impersonator. The point is, he’s fun. And according to Jeff Pearlman he’s authentic too, so I think he’ll do just fine in New York.

First Lance I ever cared to like and now will be more than heppy to root for. Here’s hoping there are no late snags on this one and Berkman in this year’s David Justice for Cash Money. I know he’s on the downside of his career, but in this line up he could wake up in a New York minute.

So, bring us some Lancelot P. Berkolllistock with a schmeer. Let’s tip the scales, shall we?

[Photo Credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images North America]

Loss and Gain

Friday night’s game in a nutshell: Nick Swisher hit a two-run home run in the first. Matt Joyce hit a three-run home run in the sixth. Rays win 3-2. That hurt. Phil Hughes cruised through the first five innings, not allowing more than one baserunner in any of those five frames and  allowing just one man to reach second base (B.J. Upton on a walk and a steal with two outs in the second). Then in the sixth, John Jaso led off with a single and moved to second on a wild pitch with one out. Evan Longoria followed with a walk. Carl Crawford moved Jaso to third and replaced Longoria at first via a fielder’s choice, and Joyce cracked a 2-2 pitch into the right-field seats to turn a 2-0 Yankee lead into a 3-2 Yankee deficit.

Working to keep the Yankees within reach, Joba Chamberlain pitched two perfect innings striking out three, but Rays end-gamers Joaquin Benoit and Rafael Soriano were perfect as well, and Carlos Peña made a nice lunging stop on a Jorge Posada hot-shot headed for right field, beating the lumbering Yankee catcher with a flip to Soriano for the final out.

In other news, the Yankees made a pair of trades Friday evening, one official, one to become official today. In the official deal, the Yankees promised a player to be named later to the Indians in exchange for right-handed-hitting outfielder Austin Kearns. I’m not impressed.

Though Kearns was once a top prospect with the Reds, he never really panned out, in part due to nagging injuries, and had fallen hard in recent years. Kearns hit .209/.320/.312 in 568 PA for the Nationals in 2008 and 2009 and was a non-roster invitee to camp with the rebuilding Indians this spring. Kearns not only made the team, but he worked his way into the starting left field job and hit .307/.393/.508 through June 11. That was impressive, but suspect, and indeed he has hit just .210/.286/.269 since then and recently missed a week with a bum knee. At his best, Kearns drew his share of walks and flashed 20-homer power, but he’s never hit for average, and his power has diminished significantly, which in turn has undermined his ability to work walks. Sure, he’s an upgrade on Colin Curtis, and he likely didn’t cost anything (we’ll see which player is named), but over the next two months he may not make any meaningful contribution to this team. To put it another way, the Indians seem to have upgraded on Kearns by calling up Shelley Duncan.

The other trade, yet to be officially announced, has the Yankees sending Mark Melancon and Sally League second baseman Jimmy Paredes to the Astros for Lance Berkman. First the prospects. Paredes is a 21-year-old switch-hitting Dominican second baseman who has played some short and third. He steals bases, but doesn’t walk and has modest pop at best. He’s not a significant prospect, particularly not with Robinson Cano at second base at the major league level. Mark Melancon is a bit of an ironic trade chip given that the Yankees really need relief pitching more than anything else and Melancon was supposed to be their top relief prospect, but Melancon’s control abandoned him in Scranton this year (5.0 BB/9), and the Yankees seemed reluctant to give him a long look at the major league level even before that. A college product who had Tommy John surgery soon after turning pro, Melancon is already 25, and since he wasn’t likely to contribute this year, seems like an expendable-enough arm given the quality of the return.

Which brings me to Berkman. From 2001 to 2008, Berkman was one of the best hitters in baseball. A switch-hitter who hit .303/.417/.564 over that span while knocking out 263 homers (more than Jorge Posada’s career total) and drawing 815 walks against 859 strikeouts. He’s not that guy anymore. At 34, his power is fading and his switch hitting is suspect (he’s not hitting lefties this year, last year he did but didn’t do much damage against righties), but he still gets on base at a strong clip (.372 this year, .399 last) and can flash that home-run stroke, such as when he hit five homers in four games earlier this month. In fact, Big Puma arrives in the Bronx (or, rather, Tampa) having hit .257/.418/.533 since June 20, which looks a lot like the sort of numbers Jason Giambi put up as a Yankee (career with NYY: .260/.404/.521).

That’s a huge upgrade over Juan Miranda as a left-handed designated hitter (or, when Jorge Posada catches, over Francisco Cervelli). Even Berkman’s full season linen of .245/.372/.436 would look pretty good just about anywhere in the lineup previously occupied by Miranda, Cervelli, or Curtis, and if Berkman’s struggles against left-handed pitching continue, Marcus Thames is still here (and so is Kearns, I suppose). Primarily a first baseman since 2005, Berkman hasn’t played the outfield since 2007, so don’t expect much defensive value out of him, and his 2011 option was declined as a condition of the trade, so he’s just a rental, but he’s not only a good replacement for Nick Johnson, he’s an upgrade on him, and for a team looking to fill holes in pursuit of another title, he still has the potential to be more than just a well-fit cork.

Now let’s just hope the final hours leading up to the trading deadline yield some equally inexpensive bullpen reinforcements.

Tampa Bay Rays IV: Rev On The Deadline

As I type this, neither the Rays nor the Yankees has made a deadline deal, but that could change by first pitch with the non-waiver trading deadline of 4pm Saturday bearing down on us. Both teams are said to be looking for a designated hitter, but the Yankees are in more urgent need of a relief pitcher (though apparently not urgent enough to give Jonathan Albaladejo an extended look).

On first glance, it might seem the Yankees would be wise to stay in the DH market to cause problems for the Rays, who trail by just two games in the AL East entering this weekend’s three-game set at the Trop, but the real threat to their playoff chances is the Red Sox. Though the Sox are another 5.5 games behind the Rays, they are the second-place team in the Wild Card race and thus the team with the best chance of keeping either the Yanks or Rays out of the playoffs, and the Red Sox big target is relief pitching.

Of course, all of that is mere speculation for now. The hard facts are that the Yankees took two of three from the Rays in the Bronx two weeks ago to even the season series at 4-4, but the Rays have gained a game back in the interim by winning eight of ten and their last six in a row. The Yankees last visited Tropicana Field on the first weekend of the season, taking two of three from the Rays then as well.

In the second game of that series, the Bombers put up four runs in six innings against Wade Davis, who starts for the Rays tonight against Phil Hughes. Davis had more success against the Yanks in a rematch in the Bronx in May, and has been sharp of late, turning in three straight quality starts and posting a 3.47 ERA in his last eight games.

Hughes, meanwhile, seems to be wearing down a bit as the season progresses. He was effective in two of his last three starts, but those came against the lowly Royals and Mariners, while the Angels, Blue Jays, and Mariners in a previous turn got to him good in his other most recent starts. Going back to his start in CitiField on May 17, Hughes has posted a 5.47 ERA over 12 starts, though good run support has lifted his record to 7-3 over that span. However, it’s worth noting that two of Hughes’ recent duds came after his previous start was skipped. Five of his last eight starts on regular rest have been quality and a sixth saw him allow three runs in 5 1/3 innings. Hughes will be be on regular rest again tonight.


Walk on By Friday

Happy Summer Friday.

In the Summer…

In the City…

In the summer…

Stay cool and drink plenty of fluids.

Collect ‘Em All

As we bear down on Saturday’s trading deadline, I have a few more items over at SI.com. First, I look at the Phillies acquisition of Roy Oswalt and how the team would have been better off had they simply kept Cliff Lee. Second, I look at the top-performing deadline acquisitions of the Wild Card era.

No Yankees make my top five in the latter piece, but a few pop up in honorable mention. David Cone, surprisingly, doesn’t appear at all. Looking back, Cone went 9-2 for the Yankees down the stretch that year, but he posted an underwhelming 3.82 ERA and had fewer than twice as many strikeouts as walks. The Yankees scored an average of 7.1 runs Cone’s nine wins and, over a six-start stretch from August 19 to September 13, Cone failed to make a single quality start and posted a 6.28 ERA.

Some notable additions that didn’t make my list include Cliff Lee to the Phillies last year, Jason Bay to the Red Sox in 2008, Ugueth Urbina to the Marlins in 2003, Scott Rolen to the Cardinals in 2002, Aramis Ramirez to the Cubs in 2003 (Ramirez didn’t hit all that well that year, but the Cubs did win their first postseason series since 1945 that year, and Ramirez did emerge as a star on the northside in the years that followed; Jamie Moyer going from the Red Sox to the Mariners in 1996 was another deadline deal that paid off for years to follow, ditto Jason Schmidt to the Giants in 2001). Two notable performances that didn’t result in playoff berths were Cliff Floyd’s .316/.374/.561 line for the Red Sox in 2002, and Bobby Bonilla’s .333/.392/.544 line for the Orioles in 1995.

Card Corner: Fritz Peterson

If you play word association with the name of Fritz Peterson, then the subjects “wife-swapping” and “Mike Kekich” will come up almost immediately. But the reality is far more nuanced. Peterson was a fine major league pitcher, the possessor of 133 career victories, a 20-win campaign, and an All-Star Game berth. From 1969 to 1973, Peterson ranked as the Yankees’ No. 2 starter, situated behind only staff ace Mel Stottlemyre.

The recently-completed Hall of Fame Weekend gave me the chance to sit down with the amiable left-hander, who spent much of his time in Cooperstown signing autographs with ex-teammate Ron Blomberg at the local CVS. Immensely gracious in granting me a lengthy interview, Peterson talked about Hollywood, the late Ralph Houk, his new book, his ongoing battle with cancer, and a few of his old Topps cards.

Markusen: Fritz, let’s first talk about the movie project that you’re going to be working on; you’ll be a consultant on The Trade. What’s the latest on that?

Peterson: Well, the latest is that Ben Affleck is doing some revisions to the original screenplay that has been done by David Mandel, who’s part of the Curb Your Enthusiasm group and did a lot of stuff with Seinfeld, just a good guy. But Ben wants to be the director of it at this point, so he’s changing it a little bit the way that he wants it. So we’re just waiting to see when Matt Damon gets involved. And then we’ll go from there.

Markusen: As a consultant, I take it you’ll be on the set of the film?

Peterson: From time to time. I don’t know exactly the schedule yet.

Markusen: Is your biggest goal just to try to keep it as accurate as possible?

Peterson: Well, that would be my goal. When I was out there with the screenwriter two years ago, that’s exactly what I wanted to do, just tell 100 per cent of the truth, and I hope that it gets close to that.

Markusen: Now, Affleck’s considered a pretty good looking guy; I guess you’re flattered he’s going to be playing you.

Peterson: You know, actually, I asked them to have Matt Damon play me because Matt can throw harder [laughing], plus he’s the shorter guy and he’s got blue eyes. I have the light eyes, and Mike Kekich had the dark eyes, and was taller.

Markusen: When you were first approached about this, were you surprised that they were interested in your story, your situation, as being part of a feature film?

Peterson: I was surprised [at the interest] from the people at that level, because we’ve been offered things by people at HBO and stuff like that before. But it was never big screen and big people like this before.

They’ve been interested in this since 1999. And then in 2006, we came together on an agreement, and we’re proceeding from there.

Markusen: Final question on the film itself: any chance that you’ll make some kind of a cameo in the movie playing someone else?

Peterson: No. [laughing] I’m not going to be like Alfred Hitchcock either and be seen walking through [one of the scenes]. I’m too old and too ugly.


Throwaway Game

At first glance, Thursday night’s Yankee lineup — Jeter, Granderson, Teixeira, A-Rod, Canó, Swisher, Gardner, Cervelli, Curtis — gave the impression that Joe Girardi wasn’t treating the game with the utmost seriousness. It was questionable to go with a lineup that was essentially six-deep, since the Rays beat the Tigers earlier in the day for their sixth consecutive victory, and Dustin Moseley was getting the start.

The proof, or so I thought, came in innings 2-6, when the Yankees continually had base runners advance to scoring position, only to have poor situational hitting lead to nine men stranded. Not coincidentally, their success in putting runners on base aligned with Indians starter Mitch Talbot leaving the game due to a back strain. But the Yankees couldn’t capitalize; they were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position until Derek Jeter’s two-out single in the sixth plated Brett Gardner to break a 1-1 tie.

In the seventh, Robinson Canó’s solo home run began a two-out rally and a string of nine straight Yankees reaching base. The Yankees broke the game open during that stretch, scoring six more runs as Francisco Cervelli, Curtis Granderson and A-Rod all had singles and Jeter had drew a bases-loaded walk to score a run. The Yankees stranded two more runners that inning, but at least they finally took advantage of an overtaxed Indians bullpen.

Two more two-out runs were scored in the eighth to pad the lead to 11-1. And again, multiple runners were stranded, thanks to A-Rod’s inning-ending strikeout with the bases loaded.

A-Rod’s strikeout was the last piece of drama to the evening. Six more plate appearances, no home runs. Stuck on 599 for more than a week now. He got on base twice and drove in three runs, though, so while at times it appears that he’s pressing, he’s still managing to contribute.

The real story, though, was Moseley. Girardi had said before the game that he’d be happy to get six innings out of Moseley, and that’s exactly what he got. After a rocky first inning that saw him throw 31 pitches, Moseley settled down and cruised through the next five, striking out four batters, walking only two, and retiring eight via the groundball. If the Yankees do not trade for a starting pitcher between now and next Tuesday, Moseley likely earned himself another start.

The rout improved the Yankees’ record in July to 18-6, tied for the best in MLB with the Rays. The only way the Yankees leave St. Petersburg without being in first place is if they get swept. The only team to sweep the Yankees this season? The Rays, May 19-20 at Yankee Stadium.

Should be a fun weekend. Let’s see if Girardi crafts a lineup card like Thursday’s at any point against Tampa.

* Ten of the Yankees’ 11 runs were scored with two outs.

* After the 0-for-10 start with runners in scoring position, the Yankees went 7-for their next 11.

* Have you seen anyone get more at-bats with the bases loaded than A-Rod? Three more tonight, one last night; I checked his season splits during the game and was shocked to find that he only had 14 ABs with the bases loaded prior to Thursday.

* Both Mark Teixeira and Brett Gardner walked three times. Gardner reached base in all four of his plate appearances to raise his on-base percentage to .397. Conversely, Jeter, who has batted leadoff for most of the year, has an OBP of .338. At what point will Girardi even consider placing Gardner in the leadoff spot, considering the 59-point OBP differential?

* The two pitching staffs combined to issue 17 walks and throw 386 pitches. The strike percentage: 57 percent. The Indians’ staff WHIP for the game was 2.67.

* WTF: Andy Marte pitched the ninth inning for Cleveland and was able to retire the Yankees in order. On the other side of the ninth, Chan Ho Park, in his second inning of work, gave Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland major agita by allowing three runs on two hits, three walks and two wild pitches. Only when Swisher caught Luis Valbuena’s fly ball on the warning track was anyone able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Big Boppers

Yanks go for the series win tonight in Cleveland.

Keep it rollin’, boys, cause the Rays are here to stay.

Let’s Go Yan-Kees!

Afternoon Art

Interior with a Violin, By Henri Matisse (1917-8)

Beat of the Day

This record always struck me as a kid. I don’t know, it had a pleasantly depressed vibe about it.

Million Dollar Movie

Next week’s theme is a good one: Guilty Pleasure Movies. We had some internal discussion about the definition of a guilty pleasure movie, and as usual in such cases, Emma hit the nail on the head:

“To me, they are movies that you enjoy but CAN’T really defend. A guilty pleasure is a movie that you would NOT have in your DVD collection. I don’t own Deep Blue Sea and wouldn’t buy it. But whenever it’s on TV, I watch-even though I must’ve seen it about four times by now, which is three and a half more viewings than it deserves.”

The general consensus was that the movie has to be bad in order to qualify, but that doesn’t really matter to me. A movie can be well-made and still be a guilty pleasure for me. Like Boogie Nights or Rushmore or True Romance, Sleepless in Seattle, even, those are guilty pleasures for me because overall I really don’t like the filmmakers and enjoy not liking them. So to admit that I can actually watch something by them and even enjoy it, that’s guilt, Dog.

Or self-loathing, or something warped like that. And has nothing to do with the artistic quality of the filmmaking, because like them or not, PT Anderson, Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, are skilled and talented guys.

But if I had to pick a scrubby movie as a guilty pleasure–resisting like all hell not to choose something starring Chris Makepeace–I think this one will do just fine.

Should be a fun week. Let’s all have a laugh, shall we?

Taster’s Cherce

The New York Times presents a Peaches Navigator.

Thank you.

Funeral for a Buddy

I’ve been playing golf for so long I couldn’t quit the game if I tried, I don’t remember not knowing how to swing a club. It’s something my father and I share to this day. Perhaps my daughter will see me hit golf balls or watch Paula Creamer on TV and get excited about the game like I did when I was her age. Golf is an escape, a source of sanity and competition all at the same time. It’s that way for the group of guys I play with every weekend; one guy in particular, Don. On Sunday evening, July 18th, we lost him.

I got the call the following morning. We all expected the news. When we played thee weeks ago at Lido, another member of our group saw Don’s cousin who told him the end was near. Don battled cancer for about a year-and-a-half.

He was 46. Made a mint trading oil stocks. Had a history of substance abuse in his younger days but while he still maintained some vices (smoking, the occasional drunken evening), he’d kicked the drugs. His only junkie-level activity for the length of time I knew him was golf.

And he was a junky golfer. Slow as shit, three practice swings prior to every shot, with a swing that looked like a cross between Kenny Perry and Al Czervik from “Caddyshack.” I don’t know how he hit the ball, but he was effective in his own way. He was an 18 handicap that could shoot 85, kick your ass and take your money.

He was one of the guys who welcomed me into that group that regularly shows up at Lido well before dawn to get into the first few groups, regardless of the time of year. Don was that way with everyone, though.

Three years ago, he went on a golfing trip to Scotland. Unsolicited, he brought back souvenir ball markers from Gleneagles for me and several other guys in the group. Earlier that year, again unsolicited, he did the same thing following a business trip to Chicago where he played at Butler National, which used to host the Western Open, except the gift was a sleeve of golf balls with the Butler National logo emblazoned on the side.

The best gift, though, sits near the putting/chipping green adjacent to the 18th green and 1st and 10th tees at Lido: a wooden bench. Engraved on the bench are the names of the guys in our early-morning outfit. It reads “The Posse” at the top center, and then our names in a cool cursive font underneath. We all wanted to chip in and help contribute to the bench, but Don wouldn’t allow it. The same way for the last two years, for our annual two-day tournament — which will be renamed in his honor — he wouldn’t accept any of our contributions for either the trophies handed out to the Low Net, 2nd Place Net and Low Gross winners, or the buffet lunch that accompanied the ceremony. He just wanted all of us to relax, have fun and enjoy ourselves. On him.

Our tournament was the last time I saw Don. He was 40 pounds thinner due to the chemo. He’d shaved his beard. He looked good and sounded even better. On the golf course, he was the same insufferable Don we loved to rib. Somehow, he got the staff at Lido to give him a handicapped flag that he attached to his cart. Like he was going to get sympathy from us?

At that point in time — it was Labor Day weekend — Don thought he was in remission. Turned out the cancer was only hibernating. By January he was back in Florida at the treatment center, playing golf whenever breaks in his chemo and radiation would allow. In mid-February, Don was amidst what would be the last round of gold he’d ever play, at TPC Sawgrass, home of The Players Championship. He got as far as the 4th hole when an attack debilitated him and an ambulance was rushed to the course to cart him off. Stupid sonofabitch asked for a rain check. That was Don.

For the next five months of his life was resigned to a bed, either at the treatment center in Florida, Sloan Kettering here in New York, or finally, at home with his wife and teenage daughter. He may have died Sunday, but as far as I’m concerned, he died that day in February on the 4th hole at Sawgrass. That’s when his vitality was erased. He’d tell you the same thing. At least at that moment, Don was happy in his escape, doing what he loved most.

Our group assembled at his wake last weekend to pay our respects. It was open casket. He had grown his beard again. We mourned and we celebrated his life, recounted stories; everybody had one — and chipped in for a life-size floral wreath that looked like a golf ball on a tee. The flowers bore a hexagonal shape that resembled the dimple pattern on Callaway golf balls, just like the ones Don played. It was the best way we knew how to return the favor for all he did for us.

Don’s death fell amid the recent trifecta of passings in the Yankees’ Universe — Bob Sheppard on July 11, George Steinbrenner on July 13, and Ralph Houk on the 21st. Trying to put it all in context, I thought about Don, and then Todd Drew, and then turned my thoughts to Sheppard, the Boss and Houk. I was angry that each of those men lived a long life and neither Todd nor Don got that opportunity. Then I felt guilty for thinking that.

At least Todd and Don got to enjoy their escapes, and made a point to enjoy them even more when sharing their experiences with friends. That’s a legacy.

If you have similar stories about escapes, whether they be golf, baseball, any experiences you share with “buddies,” please share them in Comments.

[Photo Credit: Inside Florida.com, twooverpar.com]

What, Me Worry?

In the sixth inning last night, the game in hand already for the Yanks, Alex Rodriguez swung late at a high fastball and muscled a line drive just fair down the right field line. As he slid into second, the bag dislodged and Rodriguez came up with the base in his arms. Then he rolled up to one knee, stood the base up and leaned on it, striking a pose. He tilted his head, looked straight into the Yankee dugout and held back a smile.

A Rod, the goofball. Now, whether some of his teammates were laughing at him and not just along with him, I have no way of knowing, but even if that’s the case (especially if that’s the case), I enjoyed the moment. If Rodriguez has any charm–and their is ample evidence to the contrary–it is that he’s a goofball. Self-aware in a way that’s like a Hollywood Diva–Vogue–but nerdier, the hot chick who gets straight A’s in school. He knows it and when he plays off it with his teammates it makes you think that even if he acts schmucky, maybe he’s not all bad after all.

Rodriguez is pressing at the plate, missing several pitches each game–popping them up, fouling them off, swinging right through them–as he chases career homer #600. There have been articles about how nobody cares about the milestone because it is stained by PEDs, but in New York it makes the back page almost every day. And 600 dingers is an achievement, even if how we feel about achievements in the PED Era has changed, even if it is lessened, because people sit around talking about how 600 homers don’t mean anything anymore. It’s still a topic of conversation. Still the lead story on Sports Center every night.

There will be a sense of relief more than anything else when he finally hits it.

So I’m enjoying it. Makes me feel like a kid every time he’s up, because a home run is all that is asked or expected from him. The announcers rev their engines with every pitch waiting for the big call, dvrs on record at home, the fans snap their cameras–how many thousands of pictures have been erased of Rodriguez not hitting the homer?

He’s in the spotlight and I’ll give him that. He might not know how to manage his star the way Reggie Jackson did, but when he’s on the field, Rodriguez’s talent does have a way of drawing attention.

Probably be the same thing when he’s sitting on 699 if he gets that far. I don’t think he’ll catch Aaron and Bonds but if he stays healthy he’ll beat Aaron for the all-time RBI mark. He’s going to be the most ridiculously overpaid veteran in any sport at any time from here on out. The spotlight will never go away. I’m curious to see how much he’s got left and looking forward to watching how it all plays out.

[Photo Credit: AP Photo/Tony Dejak]

Feaston Carmona

The Yankees had amassed nine hits in the first two games of the current series with the Indians.  They had gone 0-10 with runners in scoring position.  Tuesday night, they were silenced by yet another rookie making his major league debut.  Now they had to face the Indians lone All-Star representative in Fausto Carmona.

Carmona had won his last three starts, two of those against the Rays, and had ten wins for a 42-58 team.  He had had only one start shorter than five full innings the entire season.  So, of course they pummeled Carmona into submission by the end of the third inning Wednesday.

The Yanks took a 1-0 lead in the first on a Mark Teixeira double and an Alex Rodriguez single up the middle. The Bombers kept Indians right fielder Shin Soo-Choo very busy in the second, as they laced three consecutive one-out singles (Curtis Granderson, Francisco Cervelli and Brett Gardner) and then a two-out two-RBI single by Teixeira, all to right.

The third inning featured a Cano double high off the wall in left, a Granderson RBI triple (making him 16-36 lifetime against Carmona), a Cervelli HBP and a Gardner RBI double to right.  An RBI single by Nick Swisher finally knocked Carmona out after 2.2 IP, having surrendered ten hits and seven runs while throwing 73 pitches.


Try, Try Again

Alex Rodriguez and the Yanks are back at it in Cleveland tonight.

Go git ’em, fellers.

[Picture by Stephen Holland]

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