February 2009

The Original Yankees #2…

Missing The Mark…

It’s always fascinating to learn more about those who have worn the famed Yankee pinstripes.  The great ones are often mentioned; Ruth, Gehrig (my personal favorite all-time player), DiMaggio, Mantle, etc.  But not much is said of the lesser known players who have carved their niche in Yankee history.

I saw one blog yesterday that cried out Mark Teixeira is already the greatest all-time “Mark” in Yankees history.  My only issue with this statement is that Teixeira has yet to take an “official” at bat for the Yankees, and he certainly has done nothing…yet…to bring the elusive 27th World Championship closer to the Bronx.  But the topic did make me think of Mark Koenig.  I am not saying that Koenig was a great player (he wasn’t), but he has a place in Yankee history that should not be forgotten.

Roger Godin

Koenig was the original number 2 for the Yankees, and played shortstop on the storied 1927 Murderers’ Row team.  A Yankee from 1925 to 1930, he was the double play combination with second baseman Tony Lazzeri.

Granted, Koenig did not have great career numbers and he didn’t stick in the major leagues for very many years.  But he did bat .500 in the 1927 World Series, and had a .319 batting average in 1928. 

In an interview before he died, Koenig described himself best.  “I was ordinary.  Very ordinary,” he said.  “I had small hands and made too many errors.  The only thing that I had was a powerful arm.  I don’t think I could have stayed on any other club.  The Yankees could have carried a midget at shortstop.  That’s how good a club it was.” 

Koenig had a league-leading 52 errors in 1926, with 4 more in the 1926 World Series which helped open the door for the St. Louis Cardinals to win the deciding Game 7 and their first world championship.

Koenig, who died in 1993 at age 88, was asked why he was the last survivor of the 1927 team.  “I don’t understand it,” he said in a 1990 SI interview.  “Maybe they got on base more and wore themselves out.”

Mark Teixeira will be the “MVM” (Most Valuable Mark) but we should definitely not forgot the Mark’s that have preceded him through the history of the franchise…

The New “Burner”…

Brett Gardner is definitely positioning himself as the Yankees’ starting centerfielder for Opening Day at Yankee Stadium on April 16th.  I know it is still very early in camp, but Gardner has gotten off to a great start.

Brett Gardner

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Pete Abraham of The LoHud Yankees Blog asked Jorge Posada about the irritation a player like Gardner causes a catcher.  “Oh, we hate it,” Posada said.  “It changes everything about the defense.”

Nick Swisher put it more bluntly when he said that Gardner was the ‘fastest white dude’ that he’s ever seen.

If I were Melky Cabrera, I would have skipped the WBC to make sure that my presence was felt in Yankees camp.  I do not want to belittle what Cabrera can do for the WBC’s Dominican Republic team, but the phrase “out of sight, out of mind” does seem to apply.  Maybe he has a tremendous few weeks with the WBC, and comes back to camp in late March to take the centerfield job.  But at this point, I think Gardner brings a new dimension to the Yankees offense (so long as he can continue to get on base) and he is the leading contender for the job in my eyes…

The Closure of The Rocky Mountain News

The closure of Denver’s oldest newspaper has adversely impacted one of baseball’s greatest writers, Tracy Ringolsby.  I have respected and trusted Tracy’s opinions for many years and he has long been one of my favorites. 

I became a fan while he was covering the Texas Rangers for The Dallas Morning News in the late 1980′s.  He has been with The Rocky Mountain News for 17 years.

The good news is that Tracy will continue to write for Foxsports.com, and he’ll expand his role at Baseball America.

Tracy has written a very good final column for the News about Manny Ramirez and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Happy trails to you too, Tracy!  We’re looking forward to the next phase of your great career!

New Vikings Quarterback

In my blog yesterday, I indicated that I did not know what to think of the Minnesota Vikings’ acquisition of QB Sage Rosenfels from the Houston Texans.  The indifference seems to be shared by the local press in Minneapolis-St. Paul as the Star Tribune’s headline reads “Sage Investment?  We’ll See”, while the Pioneer Press opted for the more neutral “It’s Sage Rosenfels vs. Tavaris Jackson for Vikings QB” approach.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Nevertheless, I am willing to give a fellow native Iowan a chance.  Just so it doesn’t bring back memories of Bob Lee at quarterback, he’ll be alright…

 

Maybe it was because I was such a huge fan of Fran Tarkenton, but one of my most painful memories as a Vikings fan (aside from all those Super Bowl losses and the 1998 playoff loss to the Falcons) was during the short time Lee was the starting QB.  In 1978, I wrote the team a letter resigning as a fan because of my dislike for Lee, and it took a few years for the passion about the Vikings to return…

 

 

Yanks-BoSox, Let The War Begin…

Game On!

Julia of Julia’s Rants has challenged me to a duel!

The New York Yankees play the Boston Red Sox for a three game series at Fenway Park in Boston beginning Friday, April 24, 2009.  If the Yankees take the series, Julia has to change her website banner to show the Yankees logo.  Conversely, if the BoSox take the series, I will have to sport the dreaded Red Sox emblem on this site. 

But, let the record show that Julia has the unfair advantage of home field!  But it is her birthday weekend, so I suppose some concessions must be made…

I am wondering what Julia’s site will look like…

 

 

Julia’s Rants

My feelings about the Boston Red Sox New York Yankees, baseball, sports and life in general. 

Sweet!  :)

 

 

This bet actually reminds me of an ongoing bet that I have had with a friend in Tampa named Kelly.  Kelly has been a devout Devil Rays, excuse me, Rays fan for many years. 

She was a season ticket holder for Rays games when getting a root canal was preferable to going to Tropicana Field.  She likes to get her season tickets in the upper balcony, and there were often times that you would need binoculars just to see the person sitting next to you. 

 

For several years, the bet has been about bragging rights. 

For each series played during the season, the winner has bragging rights until the next series is played. Whichever team takes the season series has bragging rights throughout the off-season, and the other person is powerless to retaliate. 

When the bet was first made, I had the advantage of the high and mighty Yankees against the lowly, pathetic then Devil Rays.  Of course, tables were turned on me last season, and I had to reluctantly take what I had been giving for so many years.  Fortunately for me, the Yankees went out and spent $423.5 million in the off-season, so hopefully, I’ll be able to return to my “perch” again this year! 

Actually, Kelly let me know that I had a thing or two to learn about “bragging” as she showed me how it is really done! 

It’s going to be a very exciting summer in the American League East…

 

Manny Is Officially From Another Planet

Manny Ramirez has turned down the Dodgers for the fourth time.  I thought the latest offer was very generous given the current state of the economy.  Plus, it isn’t exactly like there are teams beating down the door to sign Manny. 

A quick scan of the Los Angeles Times’ Business section shows the following headlines:

  • GM posts $9.6-billion quarterly loss
  • Source:  U.S. on verge of deal to boost its stake in Citigroup
  • Student loan companies’ shares plunge on Obama proposal
  • U.S. banks post collective $26.2-billion quarterly loss
  • Weak healthcare stocks drag market lower
  • The sun sets on the Rocky Mountain News
  • 667K new jobless claims; continuing claims top 5M
  • AIG could be broken up
  • Economy still going south

I feel that Manny is proving to be very selfish, and we are seeing the true player that exposed himself in Boston.  It is a very unfortunate situation, and the Los Angeles Dodgers deserve better.

On a side note, that is sad news about the closure of the Rocky Mountain News, which became Denver’s first newspaper on April 23, 1859.

 

Other Tidbits for a Friday…

Admittedly I do not follow the PGA very closely, but who is Tim Clark and how did he beat Tiger Woods?…

The Minnesota Vikings should be announcing later today that they have acquired QB Sage Rosenfels from the Houston Texans.  I am not sure how I feel about the acquisition.  Granted, I do not think that Tavaris Jackson is the answer, and Gus Frerotte is getting too old.  I really like Matt Cassel, but when the New England Patriots placed the franchise tag on him, it removed him as a possibility as the cost to acquire him would be so great.  Picking up someone like Jeff Garcia or even Michael Vick is equally unappealing.  There just doesn’t seem to be any viable answers out there, so perhaps Rosenfels is the best option available.  The cost to acquire Rosenfels is reasonable (fourth round draft pick, and contract extension of three years for $9 million).  Like Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner, Rosenfels hails from Iowa.  He was born in Maquoketa, IA, and played college football at Iowa State.  Given that I also grew up in a small Iowa town, I can relate to Sage and Kurt (well, except for the part about the million dollar contracts…and okay, the superior physical conditioning…and, I know, the heighth of the players…).  Hopefully, Sage can have some of the success that Kurt has experienced.  His stock was very high after the 2007 season, but the bloom lost much of its luster this past season when he went 2-3 filling in for injured QB Matt Schaub. 

The Phoenix Suns, minus star Amare Stoudemire, have now suffered blowout losses to the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers within the past week.  The Suns were also without Steve Nash in the loss to the Lakers, but this has been a very disappointing season.  The Suns, if they make the play-offs, look like they’ll suffer another first round exit…

On the bright side, the San Jose Sharks beat the Ottawa Senators last night, 2-1.  The Sharks were powered by two power-play goals by Milan Michalek and Patrick Marleau, which were scored 1:18 apart in the second period.  The Sharks, 42-9-9, lead the Western Conference by 5 points over the Detroit Red Wings.

Have a great weekend everybody!

 

 

 

But I Didn’t Inhale…

Dumbest Play of the Week

I should have learned by now…

Alex Rodriguez does something wrong, we condemn him for his actions, but then are ready to accept him again very quickly for what he means to the team (in terms of baseball performance).  Yesterday, for example, I found it very positive that the boos slowly turned to cheers in the Yankees’ game against the Toronto Blue Jays.  It was refreshing to see Alex hit the tie-breaking home run. 

All is good in the world…

 

And then Alex drives away from Dunedin Stadium with his cousin, Yuri Sucart… 

 

 

How stupid is that?  I guess Victor Conte and Greg Anderson were unavailable to ride with Alex…

The One Man Show

Watching the ESPN highlights of the Yankees game against the Blue Jays, I couldn’t help but notice that Alex was apparently the only Yankee who played the game.  The box score had other names, but the highlight reel seemed to show that the game was played by one guy.  I guess he fielded all positions and pitched.  He changed the names of his alter egos to protect the “guilty”…

Lost among the A-Rod Show was that Brett Gardner hit a home run,  That’s something we may not see again in 2009.  Here was a golden opportunity to show something that happens once in a lifetime, and ESPN chose to show about 25 different angles of A-Rod hitting his fourth inning home run.

Barton Silverman/The New York Times

 

Manny, it’s only money…

I think the Dodgers latest offer (2 years for $45 million) is very generous.  The latest offer differs from the original $45 million offer in November in that $25 million would be paid the first year with $20 million player-option for the second year.  It gives Manny some time to see if the market improves next fall and puts more distance between him and his ugly departure from Boston.  C’mon Manny, when is too much money not enough?  It’s not like the Giants are knocking on the door with $100 million…

 

 

Prediction for Julia…

Friday, April 24, 2009:  Yankees 7, Red Sox 4

Saturday, April 25, 2009:  Yankees 12, Red Sox 1

Sunday, April 26, 2009:  Yankees 9, Red Sox 3

Ah, life is enjoyable as Yankee fan…

Seriously, spring training and exhibition games are a great time of year.  It doesn’t matter if the Yankees lose and the Red Sox win…uh, on second thought, what am I saying?  Yes it does!  Go Yankees! 

By the way, if the Red Sox beat a college team but lose to a major league club, does that make their record 1/2-1 1/2?  ;)

I know, that’s mean.  I guess I have this old-recycled photo coming for making anti-Red Sox comments…

 

 

 

The Yankees Win!…

The Undefeated New York Yankees!

Okay, it’s just the first exhibition game of the season.  It is also a time when pitchers are still way ahead of the hitters.  But it is great to see the Yankees start the year on the right foot.  In the grand scheme of things, it means absolutely nothing but given the adversity of the past month, anything positive is a good thing.

The Yankees defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 6-1 in Dunedin, FL.  The highlight of the game was a tie-breaking two-run homer by Alex Rodriguez in the fourth inning.  Although the game started with the much anticipated chorus of boos, A-Rod had begun to receive applause by his third plate appearance.  Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come.  Well, maybe anywhere except Fenway Park…

Alex Rodriguez is scheduled to play in four of the Yankees' first five exhibition games before joining the Dominican Republic team on Monday for the World Baseball Classic. Chris O'Meara/The Associated Press

Chris O’Meara/AP

Brett Tomko started and pitched two innings of scoreless, one-hit ball.  Jose Veras, the winner, pitched the third inning, giving up one run, with two strikeouts.  Brett Gardner, locked in a center field battle with Melky Cabrera, also homered.

The Pitching Rotation

It appears that Joe Girardi has set his pitching rotation as CC Sabathia, Chien-Ming Wang, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, and Joba Chamberlain, respectively.  That order makes the most sense.  The change of pace with Wang between Sabathia and Burnett is a good idea, and I like Burnett followed by Pettitte.  Girardi expects about 30 starts from Joba Chamberlain (barring injury, of course). 

 

Number Change

I sure am glad that Melky Cabrera changed his number from 28 to 53.  I kept wondering what the heck was Bob Watson doing in the outfield.  Isn’t he too old to play ball?  ;)  Meanwhile, Brett Tomko, who was wearing Bobby Abreu’s old number, switched to 28.

 

Former Yankee first baseman…and Number 28… 

Manny and the Dodgers

It sounds like activity is starting to pick up between the Dodgers and agent Scott Boras.  Hopefully, this means that Manny will be back in blue by the end of the week.  This has been a long, drawn out story that needs to end…

Say what you will about Manny, and while I agree that his behavior in Boston toward the end was about as bad as it gets, he remains one of the most feared hitters in baseball.  As an opponent, I always hated it when Manny came up in a clutch situation because he, unlike A-Rod, consistently delivered. 

Los Angeles Dodgers' Manny Ramirez warms up during batting practice at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles August 1, 2008. Ramirez was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three-team trade July 31, 2008. From Reuters Pictures by REUTERS.

Reuters Pictures

Salary Cap Implications

I am not a proponent of a salary cap.  The Yankees have an advantage of being in a major market, but they contribute more to Major League Baseball than any other team through luxury taxes and revenue sharing.  The team with the highest payroll is not guaranteed a spot in the World Series, and the Yankees haven’t won since 2000.  Watching the NFL, it is painful to see the careers of Derrick Brooks and Marvin Harrison abruptly come to an end with their original teams because of salary.  Both have factored very heavily in the recent successes of their respective teams, and have made their mark in their teams’ record books.  Earlier, the Jaguars cut loose Fred Taylor, and the Jets will soon release Laveranues Coles.  Granted, there comes a point where performance doesn’t justify pay, and teams are smart to sever ties.  But the NFL’s Salary Cap adds pressure to make these decisions sooner rather than later.  As a Vikings fan, I am glad that Randall McDaniel made the Hall of Fame.  But I will forever have the painful memory of watching him play his final years in a Buccaneers uniform.  I realize that football and baseball are businesses, but we, as fans, deserve to cheer our heroes to the end so long as they are still performing at a top level.  At times, football can feel like fantasy sports in a non-keeper league.  You have to re-select your team every year…

 

The Next Great Yankee Closer…

Exit the Sandman…

 

Who will be the Yankees’ next great closer?  When the great Mariano Rivera finally decides to hang up his glove, everyone will be looking for the next great closer.  Granted, we may never see the likes of Mo again (at least not in our lifetime), but there are certainly a number of viable candidates to fill the void that will be created in the ninth inning of tight games.

 

The easy answer is to say Joba Chamberlain.  The debate continues to rage about whether Chamberlain is most valuable in the starting rotation where he will play in about 30-35 games, or in late inning relief where he would appear in 60-plus games.  While Joba’s injury late season did cause me to wonder if he was better suited for shorter stints, I do feel that he has the potential to be a frontline starter.  In the grand scheme of things, it is not economically feasible to spend $181 million to secure an ace.  It is much better to “grow your own”.  The Yankees have a two-time 19-game winner, who most likely would have won 19-20 games last season if not for the foot injury, and they’re paying him only $5 million this year.  Granted, that price will continue to go up, but the Yankees have been getting a great bargain for the past few years.  Meanwhile, CC Sabathia’s first year with the Yanks comes at a price of $23 million ($15 million base with $9 million signing bonus).  That’s big difference, particularly considering at the end of the year, there might be only a couple of wins that separate the two.  As Wang’s price goes up, it will be difficult to place high dollars in other key spots of the rotation.  So, Joba as a starter makes sense both economically and competitively.  The only thing that could cause me to rethink this position is if Phil Hughes pitches so well this spring that he makes it impossible to leave him out of the rotation. 

 

I was reading that Brian Bruney is an option.  I have to admit that I really didn’t know much about Bruney when he came to New York.  He had a few productive years with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and even saved 12 games (out of 16 games) in 2005.  In May 2006, he was designated for assignment and signed with the Yankees as a minor league free agent.  Bruney missed about three months last season after suffering a Lisfranc injury (similar to what happened to Chien-Ming Wang) in April.  But he returned in August and finished with a 3-0 record, 1.83 ERA in 32 appearances, and held hitters to a .153 average.  Since 2007, Bruney has lost about 40 pounds.  He appears to be in great shape to be a dominant 8th inning bridge to Mo Rivera, and he certainly has a closer’s mentality.

 

Brian Bruney will be a key cog in the Yankee bullpen this season.

Antonelli/New York Daily News

 

A young player that is starting to draw attention is 23-year old Mark Melancon.  Mark missed the entire 2007 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on October 31, 2006.  But he returned last season, and gradually worked his way up from Single-A Tampa to the Triple A-Scranton/Wilkes Barre.  Increasing his walk-to-strikeout ratio at each stop, Melancon finished 2008 with a total of 95 innings in 44 games, with a 2.27 ERA.  “His ball cuts, it sinks, it’s got late life to it,” manager Joe Girardi said.  “That usually translates into swings and misses, and not solid contact.”  More than likely, Melancon will begin the year with Scranton/Wilkes Barre, but it won’t be long until he receives the phone call from New York.

 

Reuters Pictures

 

One guy who has fallen off the map is J. Brent Cox.  When the Yankees drafted Cox (who followed Huston Street as the closer for the University of Texas Longhorns), I thought he had a chance to be Mo’s eventual successor.  But he has had a roller coaster ride with the Yanks, and doesn’t appear to possess the stuff necessary to close at the major league level. 

 

I know that it is difficult to think about a future without Mo Rivera in the bullpen, and he is coming off a great season.  But the fact remains that he is 39, and it would be difficult to assume that he’ll be an upper-tier closer by the time he reaches the number on his back.  I feel very blessed to have witnessed the Mariano Rivera era, and he is arguably the greatest closer in franchise history.  “The end is coming,” Rivera recently said.  “Sooner or late, it’s going to come.”

 

The Mets have shown that you can rebuild a bullpen with dollars, but the best closers are those who have been developed from within.  Well, aside from Goose Gossage…

 

When Mo does retire, his number will obviously be retired for Jackie Robinson.  But it should be a simultaneous ceremony to place Mo’s name in Monument Park along with Jackie’s.  Mariano deserves to stand shoulder to shoulder to Jackie Robinson…he would have made Jackie proud, and he has certainly made all of us very proud and appreciative. 

 

Time will tell if the next Yankee closer will be the next coming of Goose Gossage or just another Steve Farr, but unfortunately, it won’t be the next Mariano Rivera as the original is impossible to replicate.

 

 

 

Status Quo in Right Field

 

With the Atlanta Braves signing of free agent OF Garret Anderson, they’ve most likely been removed as the leading suitor for a potential trade involving either Xavier Nady or Nick Swisher. 

 

Based on the comments I’ve seen, Nady fully expects to be the starting right fielder and apparently no one has said there is an open competition for his spot.  However, Swisher should be able to make room for himself regardless of the outcome.  I had read that Swisher has a ‘Jack Black’ persona about him, and watching MLB Network’s ’30 Teams in 30 Days’ certainly gives an illustration of that playfulness.  I think his personality is good for the team, and it doesn’t come across as defiant or obstinate (like other past Yankees who shall remain nameless…err David Wells and Randy Johnson). 

 

 

 

My preference is still for Swisher to win the job outright, and then trade Nady.  But if the return is not sufficient, then the Yankees are better served by keeping both Nady and Swisher on the roster. 

 

I feel strongly that Swisher will rebound from last year’s .219 batting average.  He definitely has some power, as evidenced by 24 home runs despite the BA that came perilously close to the Mendoza Line.  Swisher is certainly capable to matching his 2006 performance when he hit 35 home runs with 95 runs batted in.  His average was only .254, but his OBP was .372, thanks to nearly one hundred walks.  So, while Nady may have the slightly higher batting average, Swisher gets on base more often and is more capable of “making things happen”. 

 

The One Day Flu

 

Saturday, I heard that CC Sabathia had cancelled his batting practice session and went home with the flu.  Although I had heard the session had been re-scheduled for Sunday, I didn’t really expect Sabathia to make a go of it.  Of course, that’s exactly what he did.  The guy’s clearly a “gamer” and has the heart of a David Cone.  Like Nick Swisher, I think that CC’s personality will be a huge asset for the Yankee Clubhouse.  Here’s hoping that CC gets the opportunity to throw the first pitch in October…

 

Go Jed Lowrie

 

In a couple of fantasy leagues I belong to, the primary shortstops were quickly taken while I focused on filling needs at other positions.  When I realized my weakness at short on one team, I selected Boston’s Jed Lowrie as my shortstop.  On another team, I selected Jed to fill a bench role.  So, I am not concerned about the Yankees center field battle between Brett Gardner (my favorite) and Melky Cabrera, I am most interested in the Red Sox shortstop competition between Lowrie and Julio Lugo.  Lugo has the unfair advantage of having $36 million reasons why he should start, but youth and excitement go with Lowrie.  So, hopefully Lowrie wins because my fantasy teams really need him (hey, why else would I be concerned about what happens in Boston?).

 

If Lowrie succeeds in taking Lugo’s job, third baseman Mike Lowell (drafted by the Yankees in 1995) would be the only infielder who didn’t come up through the Boston farm system.  Of course, when Youk slides to third to make room for first baseman Lars Anderson, it will be a completely homegrown infield. Holy Garciaparra! 

 

My new favorite player…

 

Jim Davis/Boston Globe

 

For my last fantasy draft, I went with Hanley Ramirez as my shortstop…

When Does the WBC Start? Not Soon Enough…

A-Rod – What else are we going to talk about?

I found it somewhat humorous Alex Rodriguez said that he will be under intense scrutiny for “the next 18 months to 24 months”.  Interesting how one can predict the exact time frame involved in the ‘post-confession’ period.  Does that mean we are guaranteed of no reference to A-Rod in March 2011?  Looking forward to it!

Personally, I don’t blame Alex for not wanting to talk about his past drug use following the press conference earlier in the week.  If he talked, he’d run the risk of contradicting his previous comments…

Wallace Matthews of Newsday wrote a great piece today about how GM Brian Cashman wanted to ‘move on’ when A-Rod opted out of his ‘drug-induced’ $250 million contract in 2007.  Cashman’s position has gone largely unnoticed until now, but he could have saved the organization from much embarrassment.  A-Rod’s return only came about when A-Rod bypassed agent Scott Boras and dealt with the Yankees and Hank Steinbrenner directly.

 A day after his 'roid-related press conference, Alex Rodriguez returned to the field Wednesday for the start of spring training.

Credit:  Altaffer/AP

 

It should come as a welcome relief when A-Rod joins the Dominican Republic World Baseball Classic team early next month.  Egads!  The reporters in Yankees camp will have only baseball to talk about!  Of course, there might be mention of the scandalous time that Mark Teixeira took a couple of Advil for a post-game headache…

More Yankees in the Headlines?

I have to admit that I was startled for a moment when I saw the headline about the frozen assets belonging to Johnny Damon and Xavier Nady.  Of course, it is clear that they are innocent victims.  The government’s freeze of a company affiliated with Robert Allen Stanford impacted accounts owned by Damon and Nady.

Neither Damon nor Nady invested directly with Stanford funds but rather they invested through broker dealers whose accounts were with a Stanford company.

It was reported that Damon complained of being unable to pay his bills and Nady could not put down a deposit on a New York apartment.  I find it surprising that both would wrap up their assets through a single source.  I guess diversification is not something they are concerned with.  I also find it interesting that both players are represented by agent Scott Boras.  Thanks for the sound financial advice, Scott!  And, oh by the way, Jason Varitek sends his love!

Credit:  Branimir Kvartuo/AP

 

The Return of Bernabe Figueroa Williams

Enjoy camp for a few days, Bernie, but don’t get used to it!

I have to admit that it was both strange and exciting to see Bernie Williams wearing Yankee gear with number 51 on his back.  However, that does not mean I would want to see him make a comeback with the team.  At this point, I’d clearly prefer Nick Swisher over Bernie.  I thought Bernie was a great Yankee but time has moved on.

Williams and Derek Jeter last played together in 2006 ...

Credit:  Antonelli/New York Daily News

 

Then again, Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer won a world championship at age 45, winning 16 games in 2008.  But c’mon, this guy just doesn’t age…

 

Bernie had begun a significant decline by 2006, and there is no chance that future years will be any better.  He played more and better than expected in 2006, but it was time to turn the page.  His presence on the roster would potentially prevent the presence of a younger player with more potential.

Upon completion of the WBC, Bernie should focus on his musical career.  His latest CD, Moving Forward, is scheduled for release on April 14, 2009. The CD includes a special live performance with Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa.

 

 

Griffey’s a Brave, no wait, a Mariner!…

RETURN OF THE ANCIENT MARINER

 

‘God save thee, ancient Mariner!

From the fiends, that plague thee thus!

Why look’st thou so?  With my cross-bow

I shot the ALBATROSS.

 

   From Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

 

The Ancient Mariner has returned!  Ken Griffey Jr., 39, decided to sign with his original team after deliberating between the sentimental choice versus playing close to home with the Atlanta Braves.  Some news accounts earlier in the week were erroneously reporting that Griffey had chosen the Braves.

 

I was surprised.  I had expected Griffey to stay close to home, but obviously the lure of the sentimental return proved to be too great in the end.  On one hand, it is a nice story to see his return to Seattle.  The fans are excited, and he has the chance to end his career wearing the same uniform he started with.  But on the other hand, he is a shell of what he used to be.

 

As a Cincinnati Red in a June 2007 series at Safeco Field against the Mariners, Griffey did say, “I think I owe it to the people of Seattle, and myself, to retire as a Mariner“. 

 

Apparently, it was Griffey’s teenage daughter who helped seal the deal.  Taryn Griffey plays for an AAU basketball team that’s based in the Atlanta area, but according to agent Brian Goldberg, “She told him, ‘Dad, I really think you should go back to the Mariners and not have any regrets about how you finished,” Goldberg said.  “That kind of put it over the top.”

 

Griffey, with 611 career home runs, will play left field and DH for the Mariners. 

 

Despite signing free agent pitchers Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami and trading for pitcher Javier Vazquez, this has been a disappointing off-season for the Atlanta Braves.  In addition to losing out on Griffey, they failed in their attempts to sign or acquire Mike Hampton, A.J. Burnett, Rafael Furcal, and Jake Peavy.  It also sounds like the Braves will look to fill their outfield needs internally, rather than pursue a trade for someone like Xavier Nady or Nick Swisher.

 

I’ll admit that it’s nice to see Griffey back in Seattle, but hopefully, we won’t be seeing any repeat headlines like this…

 

 

 

NEW OLD VISITORS

 

The Yankees had two visitors in camp today.  Bernie Williams was invited to practice at the major league facility by manager Joe Girardi as he prepares for the World Baseball Classic.  “Obviously he’s retired as a Yankee, but, you know, once you’re a Yankee, you’re always a Yankee,” Girardi said.  Hmmm, I wonder if Mike Lowell knows that he is still a Yankee?  ;)  The other visitor was owner George Steinbrenner, who is rarely seen in public these days.  The frail 78-year-old owner was taken from the parking lot to Steinbrenner Field by golf cart, using a wheelchair to get to his office.

 

 

 


 

 

LET THE BATTLES BEGIN…

 

Nice to see that the Great Yankees-Red Sox War resume battle this week with the opposing points of view regarding a salary cap in Major League Baseball.  Red Sox Owner John Henry called for a salary cap, and President Larry Lucchino criticized the Yankees’ spending on CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira.  Yankees Co-Chairman Hank Steinbrenner, never at a loss for words, fired back with “Along with a few other teams, we’re basically baseball’s stimulus package.”  Say what you will about Hank, but he’s right.  The Yankees pay a heavy price for their spending habits as evidenced by the high luxury taxes and revenue sharing they pay each year for exceeding the salary thresholds; money that is funneled to other teams.  According to AP, the team paid about $110 million last season. 

 

VERY OFFENSIVE

 

It’s exciting to see the Phoenix Suns return to their “offensive” ways.  In the two games since Terry Porter was dismissed as coach, the Suns have scored a total of 282 points.  Of course, the opponent in both games was the Los Angeles Clippers.  But it’s exciting to see the team return to its fast-paced strategy.  It doesn’t mean it will result in a championship, but it is fun to watch.  I felt Terry Porter was a mistake when he was named to replace Mike D’Antoni since he was coming from a defensive-minded team like the Pistons.  I know what much of the appeal to the Suns was, but they need to stick with the strengths.  This is a great opportunity for interim coach Alvin Gentry.

 

 Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images

 

TIGER’S IN THE HOUSE

 

Tiger Woods has announced on his website that he’ll make his 2009 PGA Tour debut at the 2009 World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship near Tucson, AZ February 23rd through March 1st.  Tiger is the defending champ, and also won the event in 2003 and 2004.  It will be exciting to see the new dad back in action!

 

 Tiger Woods

Andrew Redington/Getty Images

 

 

 

 

Young and stupid, or so the story goes…

A-ROD PRESS CONFERENCE

 

“I knew we weren’t taking Tic Tacs”…

 

Alex Rodriguez

Alejandra Villa Newsday

 

Facing the media in Tampa, Alex Rodriguez admitted that his cousin had introduced him to “boli” under the presumption that it was an over-the-counter substance in the Dominican Republic.  The cousin injected Alex with the substance about two times per month on six-month cycles to help him get an energy boost.  These cycles were administered from 2001 through 2003 while Alex was a member of the Texas Rangers.

 

Alex insists that he stopped taking the drug in 2003 and has not taken it since that time. 

 

He opened the press conference with a prepared statement, in which he thanked the Yankees and the fans for their support.  The press conference lasted 32 minutes, and was attended by GM Brian Cashman, Manager Joe Girardi, Co-Chairman Hank Steinbrenner, and SVP Felix Lopez, as well as players Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte. 

 

Is this enough?  Time will tell.  I agree with the comments made by David Ortiz that any player, going forward, who tests positive for PEDs should be banned for one year.  That obviously does not apply to Alex Rodriguez and his situation, but the incident occurred six years ago.  Major League Baseball is directly responsible for lagging behind the other major sports in implementing and enforcing a strict drug policy.  I don’t feel the same way about A-Rod that I did prior to the PEDs revelation, however, he does deserve the opportunity to regain our trust. 

 

“I know that I am in a position where I have to earn my trust back,” Alex said.  “And over time, I am confident, and at the end of my career, people will see this for what it is – a stupid mistake and a lesson learned for a guy with a lot of baseball left to play.”

 

If Alex can stay true to these words, I do feel that he can salvage some of his credibility and gain entry into the Hall of Fame when the time comes (contrary to what Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer may believe).  Being “stupid” is no longer a tolerable excuse, Alex.  You have to prove to us that you belong…

 

MARK TEIXEIRA PRESS CONFERENCE

 

Meanwhile, in Monday’s press conference with Mark Teixeira…

 

“I watch ‘Sesame Street’ in the morning,” Teixeira said.  “And then I watch ‘Max & Ruby’ at night.”

 

What?  He should be BANNED from baseball for a year! 

 

Seriously, we moved from the Rock Star at First Base…

 

Rock Star

 

 …to Mr. Rogers in the span of one year.

 

 

Well, at least Mr. Rogers can hit…

 

 

 

 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Here’s A-Rod!…

The A-Rod Drama Continues…

Tuesday, Alex Rodriguez will face the media as he reports to Tampa to take his physical.   Joe Girardi, and inner-core Yankees like Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter plan to be there for support.  But the support does feel somewhat disingenuous, as some Yankees have privately conveyed that they have no choice but to support A-Rod as teammates.  I agree with the need to support your fellow teammates, but not to the point that you compromise your own integrity.  As kids, we were told if you had something bad to say, don’t say anything at all.  If Pettitte, Posada or Jeter do not, in their hearts, support A-Rod, then I feel that they should not be present at the press conference. 

ARod

Paul Sancya AP

When Pettitte faced the media during camp last year, you heard many statements about how much everyone cared about Andy.  The same tone is not present in the comments about A-Rod. 

Reading that Alex had called SI reporter Selena Roberts to apologize for comments he made during his ESPN interview, it is ironic that he’s had to apologize for his apology.  If the ESPN interview was controlled, it will be interesting to see how A-Rod reacts to a blitz of questions by multiple reporters.  There is no doubt that every response will be dissected, and any irregularities will be singled out and over-analyzed in subsequent news articles throughout the week.

The sad part is that the A-Rod drama will continue into the season despite everyone’s desire to move forward.  Selena Roberts’ book, “A-Rod:  The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez”, will be released two days prior to the opening game for the new Yankee Stadium.  So, at a time we should be celebrating the opening pitch by, most likely, CC Sabathia, we’ll still be talking about A-Rod. 

I don’t think anyone truly believes that Alex left his PEDs in Texas when he made the trip to New York in 2004.  But it is imperative that Alex fully responds to each question with total honesty…and he’d better apologize to not only Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks, but to the Steinbrenner family as well.  Meanwhile, there will be millions of Yankees fans watching and analyzing the comments made, and wondering if A-Rod is truly worthy of our support…

The return of Oil Can Boyd?

I found it humorous that Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, 49, is seeking a return to Major League Baseball.  Sorry, there was only one Satchel Paige.  In his final season with the Texas Rangers in 1991, Boyd was 2-7 with a 6.09 ERA.  He started 12 games, and pitched 88.7 innings.  The subject of Boyd made me curious who he was pitching with that year.  The 1991 Ranger pitching staff was led by Kevin Brown, and followed by Nolan Ryan, Jose Guzman, and Bobby Witt.   The catcher?  19-year-old Pudge Rodriguez…

 Maybe they should create a true “senior’s” league where Boyd and others, like Rickey Henderson, David Wells, and Juan Samuel can continue to live the dream…

Sorry, that would be very painful to watch.

The Lisfranc Injury

I have to admit that before Chien-Ming Wang was hurt last June in Houston, I did not know what the Lisfranc joint was.   The Lisfranc joint was named for Jacques Lisfranc de St. Martin (d. 1847), a French surgeon and gynecologist.   According to eMedicine (http://emedicine.medscape.com), the Lisfranc joint, which represents the articulation between the midfoot and forefoot, is composed of the 5 tarsometatarsal (TMT) joints.  The Lisfranc ligament is attached to the lateral margin of the medial cuneiform and medial and plantar surface of the second metatarsal (MT) base.  This is the only ligamentous support between first and second ray at midfoot level.  In a note of irony, the doctor who had a part of the foot named after him, was also a pioneer in the removal of the rectum.  It helps me to better understand the relationship in the phrase, ‘A kick in the…’  Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Wang seems to be progressing very nicely in recent weeks.  While the injury took longer than expected to heal (Wang felt pain as recently as November), there are no signs that he is favoring his right foot.  When he reported to Tampa, there was some tightness but that’s subsided.  The Yankees have limited Wang’s cardio activity to avoid running.  He has preferred the stationary bike to the elliptical trainer.   Hopefully, Wang will be ready to go when the Yankees break camp.

Griffey the Brave or Griffey the Mariner

It sounds like it is decision time for Ken Griffey, Jr.  By all reports, Griffey has replaced Nick Swisher as the key target for their outfield.  The Braves are limited financially (a total compensation package would be no more than $2.5 million), but they offer Griffey the chance to play close to home.  His daughter plays AAU Basketball in Georgia, and his son is starting high school football in Florida.  The Braves training camp is also only 20 minutes from Griffey’s Orlando home.  The Mariners, meanwhile, train in Arizona. 

This decision really comes down to family versus playing time.  I think the Mariners offer more playing time since Griffey could DH against primarily right-handed hitting when not playing the field.  With the Braves, he would be limited to a left-field platoon. 

Most players would go where they have the greatest chance to play, but I think Griffey will opt for family and sign with the Braves.

It would have been fun to see Griffey in Seattle again, but he has always placed family first and I don’t expect that to change now.

The Ostrich Farm

Randy Johnson was discussing the difference between training camp with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the San Francisco Giants.  Both teams train in Arizona, but the D-Backs camp is in Tucson, versus Scottsdale for the Giants.  I laughed when I saw this quote, because anyone who has lived in Arizona uses the same benchmark to determine how much longer it is to Tucson when driving down from Phoenix:  “Not that I had a problem going to Tucson,” he said.  “I always knew when I got to that ostrich farm; I had 45 minutes to go”.  Unfortunately, there’s not much else in between Phoenix and Tucson except a lot of Saguaro Cacti…

Randy is now able to walk from his home in Paradise Valley to Scottsdale Stadium (home of the Giants), so the ostrich farm will be reserved for those away games in Tucson.

Picacho Peak, in the photo background, is a great hike, by the way…

Got an extra $25,000?

My favorite place to get dessert in New York City is Serendipity 3, which is on 60th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues in Manhattan. 

 

My wife wrote this review after a visit:  “My husband and I were visiting NY and had to make a visit to this place because we’d heard about the fabulous desserts and because “Serendipity” is one of his favorite movies.  The frrrozen hot chocolate does not disappoint and was definitely worth the 1.5 hour wait!!  We also had dinner here because we were hungry.  The food was just ok and kind of pricey, but the dessert made up for it.   I wouldn’t come back here for a meal next time, just dessert.  We bought some of the powdered mix to make frrrozen hot chocolate at home.  It’s actually not a bad instant mix and tasted good…but of course, it’s much better to have the real drink in person.  I found out later that they take reservations so if you don’t want to deal with the long wait, call ahead.”

Serendipity 3 offers the world’s most expensive chocolate sundae (which was introduced in 2007) for the low, low sum of only $25,000.  The “Frrozen Haute Chocolate” is made from 28 types of cocoa, 14 of which are the rarest in the world.  It is sprinkled with edible 23-karat gold and served in a goblet lined with edible gold.  It is topped with whipped cream and a side of LaMadeline au Truffle from Knipschildt Chocolatier (sells for $2,600 a pound).   It is accompanied by an 18-karat gold, diamond encrusted spoon and 18-karat gold bracelet.

Photo

Photo by Chip East/Reuters

Yikes, I think I’ll just have the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate for $8.50, please…

 

 

Time to look forward…

Enough of the steroids talk already…

I don’t want to sound as if I condone the actions of Alex Rodriguez.  I don’t.  I recognize that his numbers are now tainted, but I am willing to accept the past as just that…the past.  With the current testing procedures in place, it isn’t likely that A-Rod is continuing to ‘juice it up’.  I’d be foolish to believe that his PEDs use stopped when he was traded to the Yankees, but I do believe that it did cease sometime over the past several years. 

Fans continue to crucify A-Rod, and many say that he should be banned from baseball.  I blame Major League Baseball.  They had a chance to act back in the late 90′s and did nothing.  Bud Selig, who is now so critical of A-Rod, was at the forefront of the inaction.  So, he’s directly responsible for allowing an environment where A-Rod and others could take performance enhancing drugs without violating MLB rules. 

Tony Massarotti of the Boston Globe wrote a great article earlier in the week regarding how A-Rod has been singled out.  I completely agree with his assessment. 

Andy Pettitte was asked about A-Rod and the list of 104 names of players who tested positive for PEDs in 2003 upon his arrival in Tampa.  “If they had to come out, that would be the way it needs to come out,” Pettitte said.  “You hate to see just one name leak out here or there.  But for me, I don’t need to see the names.  It was back in 2003, six years ago.  It’s a great game and it’s taking a blow right now.  The game will move past it.”  There is nothing that we can do about the past.  They aren’t going to take away World Championships from the Marlins or Angels, and the only way we can heal is to move forward.

Then again, what if I had taken performance enhancing drugs?…

  

 

Nah, just dreaming.  It would NOT have been worth it.  Besides, with my luck I would have been drafted by the Boston Red Sox…

Joe Torre made comments yesterday at Dodgers camp in Glendale, AZ that he was unaware of any drug use by players on his successful Yankees teams.  I find that very hard to believe.  For half of each year, he spent more time with and around his players than he did his family.  You see things.  You hear things.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to piece together the puzzle.  I realize that you cannot make statements based on assumptions, but I think “unaware” is a strong word.  He may not have had tangible evidence, but I’d have to believe he was suspicious of certain players.  I mean, c’mon, wasn’t Jose Canseco on the roster at one point?

Let’s move on…

 

The Big Slim Show…

I am not sure if Joba Chamberlain’s new tag of “Big Slim” on CC Sabathia will stick, but it’s great to see CC and A.J. Burnett in Tampa.

 

Gene J. Puskar/AP 

 

CC downplayed the opt-out clause in his contract and expressed excitement about playing for the Yankees and having the chance to go to the World Series.  He also is looking forward to being a participant in the great Yankees-Red Sox War. 

A.J. made a statement of the obvious in his assessment of the Yankees pitching rotation of Sabathia, Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain and himself when he said, “There’s no back end is the way I would put it.  You’ve got five guys that can win 15-plus, should”.

I am looking forward to watching these guys pitch together, along with Phil Hughes.

 

Other Notes…

The Yankees have signed righthander Brett Tomko, 35, to a minor league contract and non-roster invitation.  I don’t see where Tomko fits in, but I suppose he’s insurance against possible injuries and a potential trade target for a prospect if he shows anything in camp. 

The San Jose Sharks are having a tough road trip.  They lost Friday night to the Buffalo Sabres, but it is hard not to cheer for the City of Buffalo.   After the plane crash that killed 50 people on its approach to the Buffalo airport, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said, “We needed that.  We needed a fairy tale ending”.  The Sabres had tied the game with 3.9 seconds left, and then won 6-5 in a shootout.   

I applaud the Sabres organization’s decision to play the game, and I am glad to see some joy brought to the community at a very difficult time for many. 

Meanwhile, the Sharks are now 1-0-3 on this road trip. They have lost three shootouts in the past 9 days.  Hopefully, they’ll be able to rebound soon.

Today is the first formal workout for the Yankees pitchers and catchers.  Baseball 2009 has arrived!  Life is good…

 

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