"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Category: Yankees

Coming Soon

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As in next week: baseball. Our man Chad Jennings with some thoughts about the state of the Yanks. 

And here’s more from River Ave Blues. 

This is the 13th season we’ve covered here at the Banter. For many years, this was a Yankee and baseball site. I wrote and wrote and had some terrific contributors. Now, the site is more a culture blog with a dose of baseball. It’s also become far more visual. I don’t write about baseball as much. Somewhere along the line I exhausted everything I had to say. As I began to get freelance work as a writer I moved away from giving away all my thoughts on the blog, preferring to save some stuff for longer pieces.

But I still love following the game, and, especially, the Yanks. I love hosting the Banter. The vibe of the place may have changed but just because I write less, doesn’t mean I’m not present. I just share myself more with links and pictures.

The Banter is still my home and my heart. Thanks for hanging out with me.

[Photo Credit: Lynne Sladky/AP]

Have Glove, Will Travel

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Here’s something to make you excited about the season. Ken Rosenthal on Did Gregorious’ fielding, featuring some nifty analysis from Alex Rodriguez.

[Photo Credit: Kathy Willens/AP]

BGS: The Straw That Stirs the Drink

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Robert Ward’s infamous 1977 Sport magazine story: “Reggie Jackson in No-Man’s Land”:

“You know,” he says, “this team… it all flows from me. I’ve got to keep it all going. I’m the straw that stirs the drink. It all comes back to me. Maybe I should say me and Munson… but really he doesn’t enter into it. He’s being so damned insecure about the whole thing. I’ve overheard him talking about me.”

“You mean he talks loud to make sure you can hear him?”

“Yeah. Like that. I’ll hear him telling some other writer that he wants it to be known that he’s the captain of the team, that he knows what’s best. Stuff like that. And when anybody knocks me, he’ll laugh real loud so I can hear it….”

Reggie looks down at Ford’s sweater. Perhaps he is wishing the present Yankees could have something like Ford and Martin and Mantle had. Community. Brotherhood. Real friendship.

“Maybe you ought to just go to Munson,” I suggest. “Talk it out right up front.”

But Reggie shakes his head.

“No,” he says. “He’s not ready for it yet. He doesn’t even know he feels like he does. He isn’t aware of it yet.”

“You mean if you went and tried to be open and honest about he’d deny it.”

Jackson nods his head. “Yeah. He’d say, ‘What? I’m not jealous. There aren’t any problems.’ He’d try to cover up, but he ought to know he can’t cover up anything from me. Man, there is no way…. I can read these guys. No, I’ll wait, and eventually he’ll be whipped. There will come that moment when he really knows I’ve won… and he’ll want to hear everything is all right… and then I’ll go to him, and we will get it right.

Reggie makes a fist, and clutches Ford’s sweater: “You see, that is the way I am. I’m a leader, and I can’t lie down… but ‘leader’ isn’t the right word… it’s a matter of PRESENCE… Let me put it this way: no team I am on will ever be humiliated the way the Yankees were by the Reds in the World Series! That’s why Munson can’t intimidate me. Nobody can. You can’t psych me. You take me one-on-one in the pit, and I’ll whip you…. It’s an attitude, really… It’s the way the manager looks at you when you come into the room… It’s the way the coaches and the batboy look at you… The way your name trickles through the crowd when you wait in the batter’s box… It’s all that… The way the Yankees were humiliated by the Reds? You think that doesn’t bother Billy Martin? He’s no fool. He’s smart. Very smart. And he’s a winner. Munson’s tough, too. He is a winner, but there is just nobody who can do for a club what I can do… There is nobody who can put meat in the seats [fans in the stands] the way I can. That’s just the way it is… Munson thinks he can be the straw that stirs the drink, but he can only stir it bad.”

Crosstown Traffic

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Head on over to the Village Voice and check out this brief history of the Mayor’s Trophy game by none other than our chum, Diane Firstman:

The Mayor’s Trophy Game actually dates back to 1946, when the New York Giants and Yankees agreed to play a best-of-three exhibition during the season to benefit sandlot baseball programs, with the winner to receive a trophy from Mayor William O’Dwyer. The best-of-three format lasted one more year before switching to a single-game event each season, with the Yankees opposing either the Giants or Dodgers until both teams left for the West Coast after 1957.

The series was revived in 1963, the Mets’ second year of operation. The Yankees, coming off their thirteenth World Series appearance in sixteen years and twentieth championship since 1923, were the most successful professional franchise in American sports, playing in one of the most recognizable stadiums in the world. They meant business on the field, and their fans expected nothing less than a pennant each year.

The Mets, on the other hand, were lovably inept. As an expansion team in their second season, their roster was littered with other teams’ castoffs and players either way past their prime or never having experienced one. The loss of the Giants and Dodgers left a huge hole in the New York baseball scene, and for a certain segment of fans, the Mets were the logical replacement to root for. Their fans skewed younger, and this “New Breed” of New York baseball fan developed the tradition of bringing homemade banners fashioned from bedsheets to the Mets’ first home stadium, the Polo Grounds.

[Photo Credit: Ray Stubblebine/AP]

Monday Matinee

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Yanks exhibition game is on the MLB Network this afternoon for those of you who’re around a TV.

[Photo Credit: Chris Carlson/AP via It’s a Long Season]

I Got a Friend Shirley Bigger n You

MLB: New York Mets at Arizona Diamondbacks

Chris Smith profiles Matt Harvey in New York Magazine:

Last year, post-surgery, the Mets tried to protect Harvey from himself, physically, and this year the tension will resume. The franchise has also struggled to figure out how to handle Harvey’s attraction to the spotlight. Harvey is the Mets’ first star who has grown up with Twitter and Instagram, and his online posts have sometimes irritated management. His fondness for women and nightlife quickly conjured overheated comparisons to Joe Namath, the Jets quarterback who in the late ’60s set the standard for swinging jock bachelors in the city. Harvey is as at ease knocking down pins at Brooklyn Bowl as he is lounging inside 1 Oak. The gossip pages have claimed he pursued tennis player Eugenie Bouchard and dated models Ashley Haas and Asha Leo.

Harvey’s ego is substantial, but his desire for attention isn’t driven by simple A-Rod-ian neediness. He has an almost romantic notion of New York stardom and an endearing curiosity about what the city has to offer. Unlike the majority of his teammates, who keep a safe suburban distance, Harvey lives in the city, in a tenth-floor East Village apartment. He walks for hours, exploring neighborhoods and popping into restaurants he hasn’t tried.

But becoming a social-media-era experiment in New York sports celebrity, hanging on to his openness and crafting an identity somewhere between reckless Broadway Joe and bland Derek Jeter, might prove harder than lifting the Mets back into the playoffs. “I will never apologize for having a life,” he says.

Harvey pitched against the Yankees yesterday. Here’s Chad Jennings with the notes. 

[Photo Via: USATSI]

Meat Pie

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees

Over at River Ave Blues, Mike Axisa takes a look at the Yankees’ new flame-thrower. 

[Photo Credit: Getty Images]

Bluebird, Bluebird, Through My Window

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The Yanks and the Jays play an exhibition tonight in Florida.

Brett Gardner LF
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Carlos Beltran RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Brian McCann C
Garrett Jones DH
Chris Young CF
Stephen Drew 2B
Didi Gregorius SS

Game’s on TV. I don’t watch spring training baseball much but I’ll watch tonight because I want to see C.C. He’s been a fun guy to root for and I don’t know what he’s got left but I’m pulling’ for him, big-time. I mean, we only saw him 8 times last year. Miss the dude, you know? I like that he’s gained some weight back. You don’t want skinny Lolich or skinny David Wells.

Figure the Jays could be pretty good this year, right? And maybe even a little less douchy?–though you could argue Russell and Donaldson just up the douche factor. I’m curious to see them.

Whadda ya hear, whadday ya say?

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Picture by Bags.

Breaking Bad

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Unfortunate news for the Mets.

Man, it just feels like a matter of time before we hear something similar about Tanaka…or any young pitcher, really.

[Photo Via: Eddie Kranepool Society]

Stretching Out

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More spring notes from the intrepid Chad Jennings.

[Photo Credit: NJ.com]

Happiness Is…

I have a friend who’ll watch the NFL and occasionally check in on a hockey or basketball game but who really sits around all winter waiting for baseball to return. He’d watch a channel that just showed a still picture of a baseball; that’d be enough to keep him warm.

I spoke to him  yesterday and he was so excited to see an exhibition game on TV.

So happy, in fact, he got busy with photoshop and sent this.

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Ah, baseball.

Springish

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You guys know all about the great Lo Hud Yankee blog. Pete Abraham started it and Chad Jennings keeps it purring along. For all the latest spring training whatnot, look no further than your one-stop shop for Yankeeness. 

[Picture by Lucy Eldridge via It’s a Long Season]

It Ain’t the Meat it’s the Motion

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C.C. weighs in.

B-B-Batter Up

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Pitchers n catchers and dreams of someplace warm. 

[Photo Credit: Francis Miller via It’s a Long Season]

The Miseducation of Alex Rodriguez

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J. R. Moehringer on Alex Rodriguez:

PEOPLE HATE HIM. Boy, wow, do they hate him. At first they loved him, and then they were confused by him, and then they were irritated by him, and now they straight-up loathe.

More often than not, the mention of Alex Rodriguez in polite company triggers one of a spectrum of deeply conditioned responses. Pained ugh. Guttural groan. Exaggerated eye roll. Hundreds of baseball players have been caught using steroids, including some of the game’s best-known and most beloved names, but somehow Alex Rodriguez has become the steroid era’s Lord Voldemort. Ryan Braun? Won an MVP, got busted for steroids, twice, called the tester an anti-Semite, lied his testes off, made chumps of his best friends, including Aaron Rodgers, and still doesn’t inspire a scintilla of the ill will that follows Rodriguez around like a nuclear cloud.

Schadenfreude is part of the reason. Rodriguez was born with an embarrassment of physical riches — power, vision, energy, size, speed — and seemed designed specifically for immortality, as if assembled in some celestial workshop by baseball angels and the artists at Marvel Comics. He then had the annoyingly immense good fortune to come of age at the exact moment baseball contracts were primed to explode. Months after he was old enough to rent a car he signed a contract worth $252 million. Seven years later: another deal worth $275 million. Add to that windfall another $500 million worth of handsome, and people were just waiting. Fans will root for a megarich athlete who’s also ridiculously handsome (body by Rodin, skin like melted butterscotch, eyes of weaponized hazelness), but the minute he stumbles, just ask Tom Brady, they’ll stand in line to kick him in his spongy balls.

Rodriguez’s defenders (and employees) are quick to say: Sheesh, the guy didn’t murder anybody. But he did. A-Rod murdered Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod brutally kidnapped and replaced the virginal, bilingual, biracial boy wonder, the chubby-cheeked phenom with nothing but upside. A-Rod killed the radio star, and his fall from grace disrupted the whole symbology and mythopoesis of what it means to be a superhero athlete in modern America.

[Image Via: Mark Murphy]

Chicolini, Take A Letter

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The Yankees retire so many numbers and give out so many plaques that reading about the latest immortal to be honored always feels like something straight out of The Onion. But there you have it, the hits keep coming.

For more Stupid Human Tricks, here’s Alex.

And we’d be remiss if we didn’t salute our ol’ pal Jason Giambi who announced his retirement today. Giambo is five months older than me to the day and I suppose I always liked him because he was in my grade.

He was a good fella. I’m sure we’ll see him as a coach soon enough.

[Photo Credit: Stephen Anzaldi]

Enthusiasms

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James Shields head for the sunshine and there’s plenty to be enthusiastic about in San Diego.

Wait a Second…

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Head on over to the New York Times where David Waldstein takes a look at Rob Refsnyder:

At some point this year, whether in spring training, on opening day or later in the regular season, Refsnyder is likely to be introduced to Yankees fans for the first time, and some of them may look at him with the same bemused expression that the players and coaches at those California showcases wore.

Amy Mihyang Ginther with her birth mother, Park Jeong-hee, at Park’s home in Gimcheon, South Korea.Why a Generation of Adoptees Is Returning to South KoreaJAN. 14, 2015
Refsnyder is a top Yankees prospect, a gifted hitter who has been invited to his first major league spring training this month and hopes to soon become the team’s starting second baseman. He was adopted from South Korea by parents with German and Irish backgrounds, as was his older sister, Elizabeth, who was a talented softball player in college.

While you’re at it, check out Mike Axisa’s recent appreciation of Willie Randolph. 

[Photo Credit: Dan Farrell/N.Y. Daily News]

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