"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Category: Larry Roibal

Everyday People

Via Chad Jennings, here’s what Joe Girardi said about Alex Rodriguez this afternoon.

[Drawing by Larry Roibal]

Observations From Cooperstown: Ibanez, Mike Stanley, and Burnett

So who will be the Yankees’ designated hitter? The first DH name that came up in the aftermath of the Jesus Montero trade was Carlos Pena. But he wanted too much money for the Yankees’ liking and returned to Tampa Bay. The second name belonged to Johnny Damon, who instead expressed an interest in returning toDetroit, only to see the Tigers sign Prince Fielder to that ridiculous nine-year contract. So Damon is still in play for the Yankees, at least for the moment. Next up on the list is former Phillie, Mariner, and Royal Raul Ibanez, who is also a free agent. My reaction to the possibility of Ibanez becoming a Yankee? Don’t touch this guy with a ten-foot bat, corked or otherwise.

Ibanez is a native New Yorker, a good guy with a strong clubhouse reputation, and a left-handed hitter with power, so it’s only natural that his name would come up in connection with the Yankees. But that’s where the interest should begin and end. At one time, Ibanez was a fine hitter with the Royals and Mariners, capable of slugging at or near .500. Those days are over. He’s 39, hit only 20 home runs last year despite playing in a hitter’s playground, and slugged a mere .419. His on-base percentage was more strikingly worse, a meager .289. This guy’s not a lefty DH. He’s barely even a good pinch-hitting candidate at this point in his career.

With Ibanez, there’s no consolation coming from his defensive play. Though he spent the last three years playing left field for the Phillies, his fielding is–and always has been–atrocious. There’s a video somewhere on the Internet from a game in which Ibanez is playing for the Mariners against the Yankees. After he fields a ground ball down the left field line, Ibanez attempts to throw the ball back toward the infield, but he instead accidentally spikes the ball, which travels a few feet to the right and straight down to the ground. Video records are incomplete, but it may be the worst throw in the history of major league baseball.

Of course, that play represented Ibanez at his worst, but his general level of fielding acumen ranks somewhere between bad and poor. For his career, TotalZone puts him minus 5 for his play in left field, a ranking that matches his awful reputation. As a point of comparison, former Yankee Marcus Thames has a career TotalZone of minus three. So, by this rating, Ibanez is even worse than Thames, a frightening proposition. Yikes.

So other than DH, there’s no where to play Ibanez without risking further embarrassment. And if he’s not good enough as a hitter to be a DH, then there should be no role for him on the 2012 Yankees…


In assessing the great catchers of Yankee lore last week, I discussed Jorge Posada and Thurman Munson while referencing Elston Howard, Yogi Berra, and Bill Dickey. Though he was neither a particularly strong defensive player nor a longtime Yankee, I should have included at least a footnote mention of Mike Stanley. In terms of pure offense, Stanley was one of the best catchers the Yankees have ever had, putting up OPS numbers of .800, .923, .929, and .841 from 1992 to 1995. In 1993, he even received some votes in the MVP balloting. Stanley’s emergence as the No. 1 catcher coincided with the Yankees’ return to glory in the mid-1990s.

Why have we forgotten Stanley so quickly? Unfortunately, he didn’t join the Yankees until he was 29, the result of one of Gene Michael’s prudent free agent signings. He played four full seasons in New York, left when the Yankees acquired Joe Girardi, spent a year and a half with the Red Sox, and then returned to the Yankees as a DH for the tail-end of 1997. As a matter of bad luck, he missed the Yankees’ 1996 title while in Boston, and was not brought back for the world championship season of 1998. The end result was zero titles for Stanley.

The emergence of Posada over the last decade and a half also made it easier to overlook the prior contributions of Stanley. But Stanley was a very good player, a right-handed hitter with power who had a terrific opposite field stroke, and brought the kind of patient, grinding style at the plate that became a hallmark of the Yankees in the mid to late-1990s. He wasn’t Posada and he wasn’t Munson, but Stanley was an important part of the Yankee turnaround, and that makes him an important part of franchise history…


A few Yankee fans have asked me which of their bottom-of-the-rotation starters will be traded between now and Opening Day. I don’t think it will be Phil Hughes, if only because the Yankees would be trading him while his value is so low. This Yankee administration hasn’t forgotten that Hughes was once their top prospect, and the front office would love nothing better than to see Hughes report to spring training in good shape and take aim on the potential that he seemed to be tapping two years ago. I also don’t think that the Yankees will trade Garcia, who is probably the one pitcher best suited to serving as a long man/spot starter. Nothing seems to phase “The Chief,” so I’d expect he’d handle the Dick Tidrow/Ray Burris/Ramiro Mendoza role without a hitch.

That leaves A.J. Burnett, who still has two years to go on that nonsensical contract and continues to be Yankee fans’ greatest source of frustration. Is Burnett tradeable? Sure, anyone is, assuming that the Yankees pick up enough of his contract. But I do get the feeling that Brian Cashman will want something tangible in return, whether it’s a lefty DH or a utility infielder. If the Yankees eat something like 80 per cent of the $33 million owed to Burnett, then Cashman will expect a player in return, and not just some 25-year-old middle reliever pitching in Class-A ball.

There have been suggestions of a swap sending Burnett to the Cubs for Alfonso Soriano, but there is a problem with that. Soriano has three years remaining on his monstrosity of a contract, meaning that the Yankees would have to commit an extra year compared to the two years left on the Burnett deal. Soriano also happens to be a right-handed hitter, making a platoon with Andruw Jones a bit unfeasible.

Still, there may be a deal out there somewhere. At the right price, a team might just think that it can fix A.J. Burnett.

Bruce Markusen was born on January 30. Hey, that’s today!

[Drawing by Larry Roibal]

Sundazed Soul

And how about a little love for Johnny Otis?

Rest in Peace. A master.

Dig the range:

[Drawing by Larry Roibal]

Beat of the Day

Matt Blankman sent over the following excerpt from Greil Marcus’s new book on the Doors:

“In the mid-sixties, when the Doors began, when ‘Mystery Train’ first entered their repertoire, Elvis Presley was a joke. The shocking black leather blues he conjured on national television for his 1968 Christmas special was unimaginable after years of movie travelogues, of hula hoops and shrimp, of a world where a racetrack was just another beach–where, as Elvis himself once put it, he had to beat up guys before he sang to them. But in 1968, when Elvis sang ‘One Night’ — after climbing mountains and fording rivers all across the frontiers of ‘Tryin’ To Get To You,’ going back again and again to Jimmy Reed’s ‘Baby What You Want Me To Do’ as if it were a talisman of a treasure he couldn’t name, each time deepening it, dropping words in search of a rhythm the song didn’t even know it wanted and now couldn’t live without — what returned was the sense of awe, of disbelief, that greeted him when he first made himself known.”

[Illustration by Larry Roibal]

Observations From Cooperstown: September 11 and Frank Tepedino

When I think about September 11, I immediately become angry. Angry with malevolent terrorists who committed mass murder on American soil, terrorists who participated in one of the greatest atrocities in American history. I have no sympathy for the terrorists, and no interest in hearing about their reasons for murdering innocent people.

After awhile, my anger turns to sadness. I think about Adam Lewis, the one person I knew who died in the Twin Towers. Adam and I were classmates at Hamilton College, part of the class of 1987. I didn’t know Adam well enough to call him a friend, but knew him well enough to realize that he was a good guy and a strong family man. Like all of the other civilians who died that day, he deserved better.

And then my sadness turns to a smile. I think about the way that Americans responded to the tragedy. So many firefighters, medical personnel, and policemen reported to Ground Zero on a day when they were not supposed to work. They had no obligation to report, but knew it was the right thing to do. So many volunteers went there, gave hours and hours of themselves, in an effort to rescue whoever might have survived. These were Americans at their finest.

One of those Americans was a former Yankee, Frank Tepedino. A veteran member of the New York Fire Patrol, Tepedino was at home that day when he heard about the terrorist attacks. He, his son, and two other firefighters immediately drove to the towers. Even though they were coming from Long Island, it took them four hours to reach the site.

By the time they arrived, the towers had already collapsed. Tepedino and the others did what they could, searching the rubble for other potential survivors. “Moving debris, opening manhole covers, helping with food, water and excavation,” Tepedino told the Syracuse Herald American in 2001. As they helped in the recovery efforts, Tepedino and his friends worked in 24-hour shifts.

What began as a rescue mission eventually became a job of cleaning up, once they realized that no other survivors would be found. It was frustrating for Tepedino and the others, knowing that the missing would not be found, but they also knew that the cleanup had to be done.

Tepedino’s rescue efforts put him in the spotlight for the first time since 1975, when he wrapped up a journeyman career with the Braves. Originally drafted by the Orioles, Tepedino was then selected by the Yankees in the Rule Five draft. The Yankees loved his left-handed swing, envisioning him as a possible answer at first base. But there were roadblocks at the position, Mickey Mantle and Joe Pepitone early on, and then Johnny Ellis and Ron Blomberg.

The Yankees switched him to the outfield, but there was no room there either, not with people like Roy White and Bobby Murcer holding down starting jobs. As a result, Tepedino never received even close to a full opportunity to play regularly in the Bronx.

He spent a good deal of time at Triple-A Syracuse, where he became one of the Chiefs’ most popular players. Early in 1971, the Yankees finally gave Tepedino a reprieve, sending him to the Brewers for strongboy Danny Walton, who had enormous power but an alarming propensity for striking out.

The Brewers gave Tepedino a look at first base, but he couldn’t beat out veteran Johnny Briggs. So the next spring, the Brewers sold him back to the Yankees. They used him exclusively as a pinch-hitter, and then used him as part of a package to acquire Pat Dobson from the Braves. In 1973, Tepedino became part of the Braves’ celebrated bench brigade, which was known as “F-Troop.” As Tepedino explained to The Sporting News, “F stands for fearless and faithful.” Playing as a backup first baseman and pinch-hitter, Tepedino hit .304 for manager Eddie Mathews. He also had the opportunity to play with a fellow named Hank Aaron, bookending a career that had seen him start his career playing with his boyhood idol, Mickey Mantle.

Two years after leading F-Troop, Tepedino was out of baseball. At the age of 27, Tepedino had to seek out a new career, while continuing his battle with alcoholism. Not only did Tepedino beat the bottle, but he found himself doing worthy work as a fire fighter, beginning a 30-plus year stint with the New York Fire patrol.

On September 11, Tepedino, like thousands of other first responders, became a hero. It was still an awful day, a day that brings with it so many bad memories. But it was a day when people like Frank Tepedino showed us only their best and helped us feel proud.

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

[Drawing by Larry Roibal]

Number One Chief Rocka


Alex Rodriguez is still out, but C.C. is on the hill.

While we wait for the game to start, check out this interview with Marc Carig over at The Yankee Analysts. Nice job by Carig and Moshe Mandel.

Brett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixiera 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Jorge Posada DH
Eduardo Nunez 3B
Francisco Cervelli C

Never mind the preamble: Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Drawing by Larry Roibal]

Emotional Rescue


Derek Jeter will not be at the All-Star Game (and that’s okay).

[Drawings by Larry Roibal]

Pen Pal

Our pal Larry Roibal’s complete Yankee drawings

Stormy Monday

It’s raining and windy in town today. Got soaked on my way to work, still half-asleep and had to laugh…

Top of the morning to you.

[Picture by Larry Roibal]


…as one of the best Jersey blogs (and beyond), our man Larry Roibal.

Million Dollar Movie

Check out this Vanity Fair piece on Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.


[Drawings by Larry Roibal]

Afternoon Art

Five years of drawings from our guy Larry Roibal:

Tender is the Night

The good folks at Gangrey have reprinted Michael Paterniti’s loving 1999 Esquire piece on Thurman Munson:

[Ron Guidry] remembers his first start as a Yankee. He came in from the bullpen, nervous and wired, and Thurman Munson walked up to him and said: Trust me. That’s it. Trust me. Then walked away. As Guidry remembers it, everything after that was easy. Like playing catch with Thurman Munson. Thurman calls a fastball on the outside corner. Okay, fastball outside corner. He calls a slider. Okay, slider. Eighteen strikeouts a game. A 25-3 record. The World Series. Just trusting Thurman Munson. Can’t even remember the opposing teams, Guidry says, just remember looking for Thurman’s mitt. Remembers that very first start: Thurman Munson came galumphing out to the mound, told him to throw a fastball right down the middle of the plate. Okay, no problem.

But I’m gonna tell the guy you’re throwing a fastball right down the middle, says Thurman Munson.

Guidry says, Now, Thurman, why’n the hell would you do that?

Trust me, says Thurman Munson. Harumphs back to the plate. Guidry can see him chatting to the batter, telling him the pitch, then he calls for a fastball right down the middle of the plate. Damn crazy fool. Guidry throws the fastball anyway, batter misses. Next pitch, Thurman Munson is talking to the batter again, calls a fastball on the outside corner, Guidry throws, batter swings and misses. Talking to batter again, calls a slider, misses again. Strikeout. Thurman Munson telling most every batter just what Gator is going to throw and Gator throwing it right by them. After a while Thurman Munson doesn’t say anything to the batters, and Gator, he’s free and clear. Believes in himself. Which was the point, wasn’t it?

[Picture by Larry Roibal]

Blacked Out

Thanks to these two pussycats:

Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Dolan…

…looks like I will be one of many who won’t be watching the Whirled Serious.

[Drawing by Larry Roibal]

Fear Not Forecast

Here are some fearless ALCS predictions from the crew at Bronx Banter.

First of all, I predict that I’ll have worked myself up into a state of near fury/exhaustion before the first pitch is thrown tonight. I’ve got nothing against Texas. I’ve never been there, other than a stop at the Dallas airport, but mostly, I admire Texas. But I predict that I’ll be cursing it up-and-down for the duration of the series. The sight of former president Bush will be fodder enough to get me going I figure.

I also predict that my wife will have had it up to hear with me by Saturday night. 

As much as it bothers me to say, I think the Yanks will win the series. At least they should. The thought of them losing…no, there’s no way to make that palatable. Ron Washington is cool, sure, and I’ve got nothing against Michael Young. I’ve always loved Vlady. But collectively, the Rangers come across as a college team, youthful spirit, antler-horns,  hollering, rah-rah. And why shouldn’t they next to the business-like Bombers? Still, that doesn’t mean I have to find it “refreshing.” 

I figure Mo is going to blow one game and the Yanks will beat Lee.  Oh, and if A.J. Burnett gets a start, he’ll do okay.

The Rangers will steal at will against Posada.

I don’t have a feeling about Alex Rodriguez but he’s due to catch fire and be a monster. He was terrific down the stretch. I’d be as geeked as the next guy if he goes on a tear.

Also, I fear Nelson Cruz.

Matt Blankman:

Yankees in 5. Superstition makes me nervous calling for a Yankee victory in fewer than 6 games, but really, if my thoughts and actions have such little impact on my own life, they can’t possibly affect a major league baseball game. The Yankees will drop one in Texas, find a way to win Cliff Lee’s start, and win the pennant in the Bronx. While I’m reading tea leaves, I see another effective start for Hughes, at least one Yankee bullpen implosion and some big hits from Mr. Cano. Also, look for some creative Bronx cheers for Cliff Lee – it’s not often you have to boo a guy you’re simultaneously wooing for next season.

Jon DeRosa:

I predict that the most annoying Ranger batter will be Michael Young, most annoying pitcher will be a tie between the twoDdarrens, and all three of them will be eclipsed by Nolan Ryan, who will be on camera so often that he’ll be the number-two most-annoying sports figure this fall (Nobody’s touching Favre. execpt Favre, obviously).



I figure Andy Pettitte is a borderline Hall of Famer, but if he keeps winning playoff games, who knows?

[Drawing by Larry Roibal]

That Barton Fink Feelin’

It’s cool in New York this morning. I can only imagine it will be nippy in Twinkieland come tomorrow night. Playoffs in the air…never gets old.

[Drawing by Larry Roibal]

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