"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: August 2016

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Double Bubble


There probably is no room left in the world for great deadline sports writing, but the last couple of days in New York on the beat for the Yankees certainly provided a gifted wordsmith a wealth of opportunity. A Rod had his finale last night and just as the Yanks are giving him the standard farewell, the sky opens up and it starts to pour. Only A Rod. Everyone is forced to leave the field, a video tribute is cut short. But Alex’s two young girls seemed to enjoy it. “You like this?” a mic picked up Alex asking the younger one. “I love it,” she squealed.
Of course, the rain didn’t last long and they got the game in. Not before a muderously gorgeous sunset. After the quick storm—which did nothing to relieve the humidity—the sky was a painting.
And then Rodriguez doubled in his first at bat, good for an RBI. That was all he’d get—but that’s more than most get. Girardi put him out at third in the 9th, and then took him out of the game with 1 out, and he got a nice ovation. All very modest. Then Girardi broke down and cried during the post-game press conference (I swear, watching this mind-numbing ritual, day after day these press conferences, I don’t know how these guys hold it together sometimes). Vulnerability is always appealing. He didn’t cry when Jeter left. Tells you something.
Then, the Yanks honored the 1996 champions yesterday at Broiling o’clock in the morning. And let me tell you, Saturday was hotter than Friday. The Yanks make regular business of these kind of events, and if only Hunter Thompson and a bucket full of blotter acid were around, a real gonzo writer could really do justice to it because these ceremonies are just like those awful Jerry Lewis Telethons.
Anyhow, the Yanks called up 2 of their hot young guys—and the kids hit back-to-back homers in their first at bats! The second kid, Aaron Judge, looks like he ate Mike Stanton. Just an absolutely Moose. And while 99 is not a number I’m crazy about for a baseball player, if you are going to pick it you had either be a crazy ass reliever or a Wily Mo Pena Giant slugger. And Judge looked as fresh as a newly picked pea pod at the farmer’s market in his post-game interview.
The ball was flying yesterday—even Aaron Hicks hit a bomb—and the Yanks won, 8-4.


We’re Havin’ a Heat Wave


Alex Rodriguez’s pregame ceremony was cut short by rain. But the storm was a passing one and it left the most gorgeous sunset in its wake—the sky was orange and red and fantastic. Rodriguez got an RBI double in his first at bat—his last hit and run batted in for the Yanks. The Old Man even trotted out to third base in the 9th inning before being pulled and given an ovation. It was modest by Yankee standards by seemingly heartfelt (manager Joe Girard’s tearful postgame press conference perhaps being the most genuine televised moment of the night).

And, oh yeah—the Yanks won.

This morning gives a tribute to the 1996 team.

Never mind the humidity:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

What Did You Expect?


The Yanks honored Alex Rodriguez tonight and before they could get through the proceedings the sky opened up and everyone ran for cover. Just about sums it up for Rodriguez, doesn’t it?



Hot Dog Days


Yanks look to make life annoying for the Sox. Hope Alex gets a base hit, maybe drive in a run.

Never mind the selfies:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!


Winners and Losers


Hey, Alex Rodriguez got an at bat last night, and just got under a pitch and flew out to right field. Man, you could see how frustrated he was having just missed it. And that might be as close to getting a hit as he comes—just missing a pitch, feeling that frustration. You never know. He is supposed to start tonight and then again tomorrow but something tells me that we are definitely going to see him again in the spring somewhere else.

Anyhow, the  Yanks lost on Tuesday but they pounded the Sox last night and hell, anytime the Yanks can irritate the Sox it feels like a good thing, am I right?

Old Friends


The bobbleheads ain’t coming. But the Yanks are in Boston for a three-game set against the Red Sox, who need these wins more than the New Yorkers. Be interesting to see if Alex gets any swings this week. I expect he might, just to give him some burn in a big league game.

Never mind the boo-birds:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Good Bye, Alex


I was at a baseball card show in the winter of 1996, and I crossed paths with Alex Rodríguez. He had just spent a few hours signing autographs, and was wandering the floor of the convention hall, sifting through baseball history laid out on 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inch pieces of cardboard.

I didn’t like him. He wasn’t a Yankee, but more importantly, he wasn’t Derek Jeter. In those early days of the late 90s, Jeter and A-Rod were intertwined (along with Boston’s Nomar Garciaparra) as the glamour shortstops of the day. You couldn’t read a feature article about one without seeing references and comparisons to the other, and they were often side by side on magazine covers ranging from Sports Illustrated to GQ. (Looking at one of those covers in April of 2000, my wife casually mentioned that A-Rod was better looking. What’s interesting is that I wasn’t bothered that she was saying this about another man, I was bothered that she had chosen him over Jeter.)

But it didn’t take me long to come around once he inevitably arrived in New York, so I’m sad to see him go. No story about Alex Rodríguez will ever be written without mention of his PED issues, both his admission to use in Texas and his season-long suspension in 2014, but those high profile scandals were only the most egregious missteps of a career fraught with controversy. Whether he was posing shirtless on the rocks in Central Park, commissioning a portrait of himself as a centaur, or dating Madonna, he was as bad at publicity as he was good at hitting a baseball.

But there was baseball drama as well — he scuffled with Jason Varitek, he slapped a ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove, and even yelled (“Ha!“) at two infielders who were trying to field a pop-up — and those childish antics couldn’t have endeared him to his bosses. What other elite player in the prime of his career would ever be slotted eighth in the lineup in a playoff elimination game? Only Alex. What other elite player would force his general manager to publicly tell him to “Shut the fuck up“? Only Alex.

He was the most talented player in baseball, and probably the most insecure. Four or five years ago, back when he was still one of the most feared hitters in the game, rather than posing after hitting a majestic home run, A-Rod would instead snap his head to the right and look immediately into his own dugout, preferring to watch the celebration of his teammates rather than the flight of the baseball. Even with hundreds of home runs on the back of his baseball card, he still needed the approval of his peers.

Somehow all of this made me love him. His tragic flaws could’ve been penned by Shakespeare, and just as Hamlet and Othello were doomed, A-Rod’s destiny was always written in the stars, and once again that destiny was intertwined with Jeter, now his teammate. When the Captain notched his 3,000th hit with a home run, the world stopped and grown men cried; when A-Rod matched that feat with a home run of his own a few years later, his teammates stood on the top step and applauded politely. When Jeter left the game he did so with a season-long parade; A-Rod’s announcement on Sunday morning put an end to what had been a month-long march into oblivion. Yes, Rodríguez was always a superstar, but he was never beloved.

But as you might expect from a player as complicated as this, there’s much more to A-Rod’s legacy. We’ve always heard about his ability as a teacher of the game, and on Sunday morning manager Joe Girardi credited Alex for elevating Robinson Canó from an average hitter to a superstar. We’ve seen A-Rod laughing with the younger players on the bench, and Girardi talked about that also, remembering the sound of their laughter echoing from the clubhouse down the hall to his office. And the general manager who publicly feuded with his all-star third baseman? When asked about A-Rod’s legacy as a Yankee, Brian Cashman didn’t mention any of the controversies. Instead he pulled an enormous championship ring from his finger and dramatically slapped it down on the podium. “That’s the ’09 ring. That doesn’t come along to this franchise’s trophy case without Alex’s contributions, significant contributions.” (A-Rod slashed .365/.500/.808 and hit six home runs during that postseason.)

This is the way it is with retirements. We gloss over or choose to forget the negatives and instead accentuate the positives. Not even in your line of work do people stand up and complain about the boss who made them stay late on a Friday night. But there was something genuine in the voices at the podium on Sunday. The tears that welled in Girardi’s eyes weren’t manufactured, and Cashman wasn’t exaggerating when he threw down that ring.

Somehow A-Rod had mended those relationships, and somehow he made me a fan as well, even though I know that doesn’t make sense. He cheated and lied, he squeezed every penny he could out of the Yankees, and he embarrassed the franchise on several occasions, but there was still something about him that allowed me to overlook all that. More accurately, I was able to accept all of that as well as his other weaknesses. He was human, and he gave proof of that humanity with each misstep. His personality flaws were on display for all to see, but he never shied from the spotlight.

It will likely take decades for baseball fans and historians to reconcile A-Rod’s momentous statistics with the reality of this Steroid Era, but right now I can say two things. I’m glad he was a Yankee, and I miss him already.

And Now the End is Near


The Yanks lost today and this evening announced that Alex Rodriguez is holding an 11 a.m. press conference tomorrow morning. Which means he is either going to follow Tex and hang ‘em up, or the team is going to release him. Rodriguez had a terrific comeback season in 2015 but this year he has been what you’d expect from a 40-year old.

Going out with a whimper is not rare—it is how most players leave and reminds me of the lede of a story Pat Jordan once wrote about Bobby Hurley:

“For most of us, death will not announce itself with a blare of trumpets or a roar of cannons.  It will come silently, on the soft paws of a cat.  It will insinuate itself, rubbing against our ankle in the midst of an ordinary moment.  An uneventful dinner.  A drive home from work.  A sofa pushed across a floor.  A slight bend to retrieve a morning newspaper tossed into a bush.  And then, a faint cry, an exhale of breath, a muffled slump.”

If this is it for Alex, well, I have thoroughly enjoyed rooting for him. Not since Reggie Jackson have I pulled for a star player that is so disliked by Yankee fans. And he didn’t make it easy to root for him always, that is for sure. He was such a social klutz—never mind his tremendous talent—that I felt for him, even when he was being a putz. He’ll retire as the greatest third baseman in Yankee history, like him or not.

He achieved some grace before the curtain fell on his playing days and considering where he was a few years ago that is no small feat.

Treadmill to Oblivion


Man, the Yanks should sell more often. All this winning, what gives?

They’re at it again this afternoon.

Never mind the Men at Work:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

S’Long and Thanks for the Ringski


Whoa, Tex is hanging ‘em up at the end of the year.

And tonight gives the Clevelanders.

Never mind the March of Time:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Saving Face


That what the Mets want to do tonight. More than that, they just need a win.

The Yanks. Well, we’re still root, root, rootin’ for our boys.

Never mind the ruckus:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Why Can’t Be Friends?


I’ve got a friend who cannot stand Mark Teixeira—who seems like a benign guy to hate but the more I think of it, I can see it. Sort of like hating a guy like Raffey Palmerio. Not really hatable but irritating enough to turn into something disagreeable. Especially if he is not on your team. Well, Tex got under the Mets’s skin last night, particularly reliever Hansel Robles, who appeared to psyche himself out believing Tex was psyching him out.

Oh, well. Yanks won, 9-4 in a game that certainly more painful for the Mets to lose than it was for the Yanks to win.

We’ll take it.

Back in the BX


Our Raise-the-White-Flag Yanks host the Mets for a pair starting tonightski.

Never mind those cheerin’ Mets fans:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

The Old Man….Is Down the Road

A Rod pop up

Is this the end of the line for Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees? M’eh, could be…

Yeah, and the Mets thumped the Yanks last night, 7-1.




Seriously, that was a fun win last night. Pretty funny when the Yanks are in the tank and can play the spoiler.

Never mind the future:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Everything Must Go


Well, almost everything: Beltran—hugely likable—goes to the Rangers, and Nova—woulda, coulda, shoulda—goes to the Pirates.

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