Wednesday, May 27, 2015

My night at the "America's Got Talent" pajama party premiere at the Ritz-Carlton, and the talent I have that should get me on the show!

Me outside the Ritz-Carlton
So I got to attend the Season X premiere of  NBC's "America's Got Talent" tonight. Talk about living the dream! This was a pajama party in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel at Central Park South, and it was a lot of fun. And I am not kidding about the PJ party stuff -- this was held in a swanky hotel suite, and they gave us all bathrobes and slippers emblazoned with the "America's Got Talent" logo.

Anyhow, this has absolutely nothing to do with baseball, so I giving you fair warning to bail if you are not interested. But if you are interested in my life, and/or "America's Got Talent," keep on reading! There is also a gratuitous shot of me in bed!

Here is how my evening went:

The Ritz-Carlton is just as beautiful as I expected it to be. And the
staff is very friendly, too. I went up to the event, and the NBC
Me in the Ritz-Carlton lobby
staff was just as friendly. They gave me a white robe and slippers to wear (and keep!), in keeping in with the pajama party theme of the night. The robe was cool, and the slippers were even
better! Newsflash -- I hate wearing dress shoes, whether they are heels or flats. I would prefer to go through life in sneakers, or (even better), slippers! So that was awesome!

They had a terrific spread of food -- shrimp (my all-time favorite food), lots of fancy cheeses (another passion), prosciutto (another fave), lots of dips and hummus, and sushi-grade tuna. Waiters walked around with egg rolls, sliders, and pizza. Oh, and there was a dessert setup, too, with ice cream with your choice of fancy toppings. As good as everything looked, I really tried to pace
myself. I just got into the skirt; I didn't want to get out of being able to fit into it!

Some of the show's contestants.
Oh, and they had an open bar, too. with wine, champagne, and mixed drinks. I enjoyed some champagne and white wine. (I have learned my lesson to never drink red wine at such a party, after somebody accidentally bumped into me at a gathering a few months ago and got the red wine I was holding all over my outfit!)

NBC also had a slew of ways to get into the spirit, with ways to have GIFs and selfies made of yourself. Will post them as soon as I get them! I also tweeted and Facebooked throughout the night, with NBC's hashtags.

There were also plenty of TVs to watch the program on, as well
as Howie Mandel, Nick Cannon, and Mel B from the show working the room. In addition, some of the contestants, including the real-looking boy band Triple Threat and the hypnotist dude, were in the suite. I talked to the hypnotist for a while -- he was the guy who got noted germophobe Howie Mandel to shake hands! The hypnotist, whose name is Chris Jones (he was the guy who looked like Drake!) has tattooed on his arm that he is going to win the Chicago Marathon and finish it in a record time! I thought that was pretty cool, but don't expect any ink from me with any such race promise!

A gratuitous shot of me in bed!
As for the rest of the suite, I also checked out the swank bathroom at the Ritz. It had a luxurious shower stall, a fancy tub, and a restroom facility with a phone and some crazy buttons on the commode to do all sorts of wacky things that I didn't even understand! I didn't want to have an "I Love Lucy" type catastrophe ensue, so I didn't try them out, though.

As for the "America's Got Talent" premiere, I have to say that I really enjoyed the show. It had a great mix of silly and excellent entertainment. The judges have great chemistry, and the pacing of the show was good as well. It will be on my summer list of things I will be watching every week. Even though Howard Stern is on the show, it really is relatively wholesome, family entertainment!

Some of the contestants are silly, but most are pretty talented! I admire people who can do things I can't. My voice is horrible, my dancing is no great shakes, and I cannot hypnotize people or be a ventriloquist. There was one thing that got to me, though -- the woman who said she was professional cuddler. Good grief. If that is a skill, then what about my Squawking? Give me a good subject to write about, a laptop, and 45 minutes, and I can write a blog post better than anybody else out there.

Me looking extremely pleased with
myself at the end of the night.
And yes, I am willing to have a contest on this!

So listen, "America's Got Talent" producers. I want to be on the show! I know that watching me fulminate while I type may not make the most riveting TV, but I still contend that my skill is much harder to achieve than professional cuddling!

To my fellow bloggers out there, especially the baseball ones, let's do a contest on this!

Anyhow, all in all, it was a fabulous evening. Check out "America's Got Talent" on NBC this summer!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My thoughts on the Bernie Williams ceremony -- and yes, I think his number should have been retired

Pete Campbell's Chip N' Dip!
I Squawked Sunday night about New York Post columnist Phil Mushnick's (incorrect) ire over Bernie Williams Night being held the Sunday before Memorial Day. But I didn't write about the ceremony itself. There was good reason for that.

That is because I was at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens on Sunday, checking out the excellent "Mad Men" exhibit (a must-see for fans of the show!), and then waiting around for my turn on a customized flight simulator called "Birdly." This thing was awesome -- you got the sense that you were flying over New York City, and you used your arms to flap and swoop up and down, left and right, and over the city. It was a huge adrenaline rush!

What Birdly looks like
The fact I was not embarrassed to be sprawled out on this thing -- and that I could fit on it -- tells me that I have made big progress on my weight loss goals!

Anyhow, I am glad I stayed around to try out Birdly, but it meant that I did not get home to Staten Island in time to watch the Bernie Williams Night pre-game ceremony. However, I was home in time to see that entire debacle of a game, though. Oh, joy!

So I didn't get to watch the actual ceremony until this morning. This tribute to Williams, one of my favorite Yankees, was long overdue. And so is this writeup!

Here are my thoughts on Bernie Williams Night, as I watched it:
  • Before the ceremony, that strange DirecTV ad with Hannah Davis and the horse runs. Given that she is Derek Jeter's paramour, did he get approval on who voiced the horse? Also, this ad isn't half as good as the Rob Lowe ones. Free Rob Lowe!
  • Glad to see Gene Michael here. He (and Buck Showalter) don't get enough credit for the dynasty. If you may remember, when Bernie was a rookie, Williams was shy, wore big glasses, and was teased mercilessly by Mel Hall and called "Bambi." It was Michael who saw this, and got rid of the bad apple that was Hall. Now Williams is in Monument Park, and Hall is in the pokey. Fitting.
  • David Cone is introduced. Why doesn't he get love when it comes to the late 90s stuff? Tino Martinez gets a plaque, but not Coney? C'mon now. David pitched a perfect game!
  • Speaking of which, Tino gets introduced as a "fellow member of Monument Park." That just seems wrong to me. Sorry.
  • Paul O'Neill comes out. I wonder if he loses his temper at home, do the light fixtures get destroyed! Come to think of it, I wish he kept that temper in the broadcast booth and gave players -- and Michael Kay -- more grief!
  • Joe Torre is introduced. I know I am in the minority on this, but I feel like he didn't do enough penance over the way he trashed the Yankees both on his way out the door, and in his book. All he seemed to say was, in effect, "blame Tom Verducci" for him biting the hand that fed him for 12 years. Good grief.
  • I notice that nobody, with the exception of Joe Torre, is wearing a tie. Just sport coats, dress shirts, and slacks. Did they plan this beforehand? Is Joe the only one wearing a tie because he was the manager?
  • Oh, wait. Scratch that theory. Mariano Rivera is wearing a tie, too.
  • Derek Jeter is here! He is introduced last, as "El Capitan." One of my brothers has a theory that the Yanks have made a deal with Jeter to retire that captaincy (remember, Brian Cashman said this spring that he didn't think anybody after Derek should be given the role) in exchange for Jeter showing up at these things. Hmmmm.  
  • There is a video tribute featuring Williams' career highlights, as well as clips of people talking about him. Brian Cashman says something about how when "we signed him." Um, Bri, you were still in high school when the Yankees signed Williams. The only superstar you signed as a homegrown player was Robinson Cano, who you then let walk out the door. Not that I'm bitter or anything!
  • It was great fun to see those clips of Williams in the playoffs in the late 90s. People have forgotten how good he was in the postseason -- 128 hits, 22 homers, and 80 RBIs! Glad to see him getting the recognition he deserves.
  • I notice in the video tribute that current Yankees like Mark Teixeira, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran, none of whom played on the Yanks at the same time, are interviewed. Yet Alex Rodriguez, the only current Yankee who was actually a teammate with Williams, is snubbed. Bad form on the part of the Yankees. Stop being petty, guys!
  • Now Bernie is getting gifts. Hal Steinbrenner comes out with a milestone ring. I still contend that Hal looks like a combination of his father and Tucker Carlson!
  • I think it is pretty cool how Williams has this second career as a jazz musician after his first one. And he is very good at the second one, too. 
  • Williams is giving his speech. It is a very gracious one, where he thanks his family, teammates, management, etc. He also says that the Yankees wanted to do this ceremony for nine years, and he was the one putting it off.
  • I am not sure when Williams and his wife Waleska divorced, but she is not at the ceremony, although their kids are there. Nor is she ever mentioned or thanked during Bernie's speech. My friend Jerome said that it stuck in his craw that Williams never thanked his former wife and the mother of his children. I have to agree. 
  • Overall, it was a very good ceremony, and a well-deserved one. You can watch the whole thing for yourself by clicking this link.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Shocker: The New York Post's Phil Mushnick sounds like a crank about Bernie Williams Night

I think that New York Post columnist Phil Mushnick frequently makes good points, and can be a much-needed force for good in the New York sports media. This recent column is not one of those times.

Mushnick is irate that Bernie Wiliams Night was being held tonight. the sports columnist writes:
So the Yankees had to choose the Sunday before Memorial Day, a holiday when tributes are traditionally, logically and respectfully devoted to our war dead, to honor Bernie Williams.
Wait a second here. Memorial Day itself is one day -- May 25 (traditional day for it was May 30, but it was moved to the last Monday in May in 1968.) Memorial Day weekend is considered the first weekend of summer. The day before is not the same thing. Not to mention that the Yankees will be commemorating Memorial Day on -- wait for it -- their Memorial Day game! Crazy, huh?

I don't understand Mushnick's point here. What about people who have a birthday the day before Memorial Day? Are they supposed to sit around in sackcloth and ashes?

Mushnick bashes the Yankees, MLB and ESPN for Bernie Williams Night and says: didn’t matter to any of the above parties that Williams didn’t serve in the U.S. military, let alone risk his life in combat. And Williams, too, might have known that this Sunday afternoon or night on Memorial Day weekend was not the time to honor him, thus, flattered as he is, the above parties, given that it’s only May, should choose another date.
Oh, please. It is not enough to think of the war dead on Memorial Day, but the day before (and the day before that, I presume) have to be solely dedicated to them, too? C'mon now. Mushnick needs to get off his high horse here.

Look, I am not being disrespectful to fallen veterans here. As some of you know, my late father was a World War II veteran who is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. And my brother had been in the military for 35 years. He is a lieutenant colonel in the Army reserve serving in Kosovo right now. (He also served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.) And you know what he was doing today in his free time? Talking about the Yankees with me and others on Facebook. The horror!

Some well-meaning people get mad about others celebrating Memorial Day weekend. My philosophy on it is this: these soldiers and sailors died to ensure that we have the freedom to enjoy life. That includes having cookouts, picnics, and, yes, watching baseball games.

So if you want to do something to honor those who died defending our country, go to your local Memorial Day parade tomorrow. Visit a local cemetery. Say a prayer. Do some other tribute, if you'd like. (I am running in the Staten Island Advance 4-Mile Memorial Day Race myself, which is dedicated to these fallen heroes.) Go to see the Yankees (or Mets) on Memorial Day and watch the commemorative events.

But don't listen to Phil Mushnick. There was absolutely nothing wrong with honoring Bernie Williams Sunday night.

What was Brian (Fredo) Cashman's worst Yankee move this year? It's not what you think

"I'm smart and I want respect!" -- Brian (Fredo) Cashman
Grrrrr. I am irate at the state of the Yankees these days. A little bit more than a quarter of the 2015 Yankees' season is over, and the team is not in a good way. Yes, the Yanks are only 1.5 games out of first place in the American League East, But they have lost five in a row, and nine of their last 10 games, They are only a game over .500. And unless they get a grip -- and soon -- their season will be falling apart pretty quickly.

As I noted yesterday, even the YES Network's Jack Curry was suggesting changes to shake up the Yanks. Unfortunately, other than calling up Jacob Lindgren, Brian (Fredo) Cashman seems content to wait out these underachieving players. Joe Girardi, too. 

Why else would you see a player like Stephen Drew, whose .177 batting average puts him as 173th of 175 qualifying hitters in the majors, batting sixth, as he did on Saturday? Why else would Esmil Rogers still have a job?  And why in the world was Didi Gregorius the best choice to replace Derek Jeter? Cashman had many years to find and groom Jeter's successor, and this is the best he could come up with? A weak-hitting player who makes so many mental mistakes? Who missed the cut over this guy?

Cashman needs to channel "The Gambler," the classic Kenny Rogers song with the lines about how you've got to know when to hold them and when to fold them. But instead of acknowledging the obvious, not even easy things like giving Drew the old heave-ho, Fredo is staying with the status quo, clapping his hands and believing in fairies. Again.

The New York Post's Joel Sherman asked Cashman yesterday if changes were afoot:
As for the players viewed most on the firing line — Didi Gregorius, Stephen Drew and Esmil Rogers — Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told The Post no changes were planned. All are staying. At least for now. “We have to play better,” Cashman said. “We have to clean up our act.”
The only reason the Yankees aren't further down in the standings is because they are in such a weak division. And the problems with this team aren't just the players above.

Aside from the other usual suspects, like the perennially underachieving Carlos Beltran, can we talk about how overrated Chase Headley is? Wasn't the hot corner supposed to be a power-hitting position? It no longer is in Yankeeland.

Headley's splits this year are .235/.289/.379 (.668 OPS), with nine errors at third. His .688 OPS is 18th out of 22nd among qualifying third basemen this year. This is the guy to replace Alex Rodriguez at third? This is the star who earned a four-year, $52M deal from the Yanks after a very mediocre summer in the Bronx?

Here are the stats for just one of the many third basemen who are doing better than Headley this year. In addition to playing third, Player Y has also played first and second base this season. He has a .273/.326/.383 (.709 OPS) slash line this year, outdoing Headley here, even though Player Y plays in a pitcher's park. Player X also had comparable numbers to Chase last year:

Player Y in 2014: .260/.336/.369 (.705 OPS) with 10 HRs and 48 RBI
Headley in 2014:  .243/.328/.372 (.700 OPS) with 13 HRs and 49 RBI

Oh, and Player Y is only costing his team $516,400 this year, while the Yanks are paying $13M for Headley.

Want to know who Player Y is? It is Yangervis Solarte, the former Yankee traded for Headley. The Yanks got a player who is four years older, more expensive, and not as good as the person they traded him for. Talk about the Yankee way -- or make that the Brian (Fredo) Cashman way. Good grief.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Have the Yankees hit rock bottom? Or could it get even worse?

I jinxed CC Sabathia. Let me explain.

So I was out and about Saturday morning and early afternoon, doing a three-mile fun run at Clove Lakes Park, going to the farmers' market, buying groceries at Trader Joe's, doing other errands, and chatting with different people I know in the small town that is Staten Island.

Lots of people I saw today complimented me after seeing the Staten Island Advance article about me in print. But you know who hasn't seen the article as printed in the paper? Yours truly! I was in Texas when the piece ran. Heck, I don't even know what placement I got in the paper! Hmmm, would that be gauche to ask? (Sorry, folks, but as a former newspaper girl, I want to know where I ranked in the paper!)

Anyhow, enough about me. Let me explain how this relates to Sabathia. I finally got home at the beginning of the third inning, when the Yankees were scoreless. And just when I put the game on while I put away my groceries, everything completely fell apart, with CC Sabathia having one of the worst starts of his career, and his worst ever game as a Yankee. ESPN says that Sabathia "is now 0-6 with a 9.42 ERA in his last six Yankee Stadium starts, dating to the beginning of the 2014 season." Yikes! Considering I literally put on the game just before Sabathia's meltdown, I felt partially responsible. Sorry, CC!

Sabathia giving up six runs to the Texas Rangers was bad enough. The Yankees bullpen gave up four more runs in the third, and another five in the game, for a 15-4 loss This, after Michael Pineda gave up seven runs in the third the night before in Friday's 10-9 loss. Good grief.

Longtime Squawkers reader Uncle Mike pointed out something interesting. Position player Garrett Jones, who pitched the ninth for the Yanks, wears #33. So did Nick Swisher, who once pitched for the Yankees in a mop-up game -- and struck out Gabe Kapler! ESPN noted that Jones was in good spirits after the game, the way Swisher was in that 2009 game. Remember what a snit fit Jorge Posada had after Swisher was smiling and laughing to reporters, whining that there was nothing to be happy about? Good grief.

Anyhow, there isn't much for the Yankees to be happy about these days. As notes, the Yankees have lost nine of their last 10 games, and their starting pitchers are "1-8 with a 6.61 ERA (37 earned runs in 50 1/3 innings)."  This looks like rock bottom to me. Unless it gets even worse, that is.

"We got embarrassed," Brett Gardner said after the game. "I feel bad for our fans," he said. "We've obviously looked pretty bad the last week or so." No kidding.

Prospect Jacob Lindgren is getting called up for tomorrow. It makes you wonder: can the Yankees end the Stephen Drew Experience for good and call up Rob Refsnyder? Even Jack Curry suggested on the YES broadcast today that the Yanks might want to bring up Refsnyder, and compared it to 2005, when the Yanks called up Robinson Cano. Hopefully, something will happen soon.

Anyhow, something's gotta give. Otherwise, it's going to be a long year.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Alex Rodriguez goes to college -- and to Washington

Mr. Rodriguez goes to Washington.
I was on the phone with Squawker Jon yesterday, and I mentioned that Alex Rodriguez was over at Capitol Hill. Jon's flippant response: "What? Is he having to testify?"

I said that A-Rod was trying to be a better person, expanding his mind and visiting historic places (Alex also went to Georgetown during the Yankees' time in Washington, D.C.) To which Jon said: "If A-Rod is trying to be a better person, watching Congress isn't the way to go." Heh.

Incidentally, Jon is also mocking me for making a reference to "Doctor Who" and talking about the tartlette. But I digress.

Anyhow, one of the more (some would say the only!) endearing things I think Rodriguez has going for him is his obsession with college. Pretty much every city he has ever been in, he goes to visit the local college campus. Rodriguez may have talent, fame, and lots of money, but he really hungers for the university experience. As revealed in "The Education of Alex Rodriguez," that huge ESPN article about him last Februrary, he even took a college marketing course last year at the University of Miami to get the college experience. I wrote this back in February about his interest in higher education:

The article has a bunch of stirring moments, and him visiting 40 (!) college campuses over the years to soak in college life was especially poignant, and made me appreciate my own college degree more than ever. These sentences really struck me: "Readings and lectures and bookstores are his guilty pleasures. Especially bookstores. You can go in, he says, have a cup of coffee, and for an hour or two pretend you're smart." No wonder he has been so easily led by people who don't have his best interests at heart -- because he doesn't trust his own brains.
A-Rod at Georgetown
Good for A-Rod. And I hope he continues to expand his mind and show that intellectual curiosity we have gotten to see as of late. It took guts for him to go take a class with kids half his age, and to keep on doing it after he flunked the first test. (He ended up with a B in the class.)

Who knows? Maybe he will go back to college and get a degree when he retires. It is never too late!

Change is hard. It can be much easier to stay the way we are, even if it means we are stagnating by doing so. But change can also make us better people. Personal growth is a good thing!

I know this from personal experience. It was easier for me to stay fat and eat whatever I wanted and go home at quitting time instead of working out, as opposed to exercising and losing weight. It was only when staying the same started to have real-life repercussions that I got off the couch. And making the changes I have had to do in my fitness journey has been a struggle.

For example, the other night, I did speed work on the track for the first time ever. It was an event my running club does every Tuesday, and it was the first time I had the guts to show up. I was terrified to go. Putting myself out there on display, when I am still as slow as molasses and not fit and trim the way they are, was hard. Plus, I still can't make it around the track without having to walk for part of it.

But I did what we were all supposed to do -- running three laps on the track, doing a recovery lap, and then doing the cycle again two more times. I still had to walk part of it, but I was able to move faster than I ever have in my life, short of sprinting for the Staten Island Ferry when the 1 train was late. I felt like I was going to throw up, but I did it.

When I finished, I felt completely exhausted, but I had a big smile on my face for the rest of the evening. That's what I have to keep on reminding myself whenever I get scared in this fitness journey -- how good I will feel when I do something that I didn't think I could do!

One other personal note: in case you were wondering, my weight loss has accelerated since the Guideposts article. Now that pretty much every single person in my life, including everyone in my workplace, knows about my weight struggles, I really can't afford to slip up!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

No! Why did it have to be Ryan Zimmerman (again!) with a walkoff against the Yankees?

Here is today's edition of "Behind the Squawkers," and it relates to last night's horror show against the Nationals. Cue flashback music. It was way back in June 2006, the first year of this blog. Squawker Jon and I had gone to Washington, D.C. to visit my brother, who lived in Arlington, Virginia then, and to watch the Yankees play the Nationals. The weekend was a bit of a nightmare, as it always has been for me whenever I have driven in the D.C. area. Between towed cars, broken-down cars, and getting horribly lost, I have had all sorts of "adventures" on the road to Washington. Finally, the last few times I visited, I gave up driving there! But I digress.

That weekend was a mess. First of all, we got lost driving in from New York that Saturday morning and trying to find RFK Stadium. We stopped at a gas station to ask for directions, but the knucklehead there never even heard of the stadium! As it turns out, we were only a few blocks away, but this was in the days before GPS on smartphones (I was still rocking a flip phone back then!) So we ended up driving to Union Station, spending $$ on parking there, and taking the Metro to the stadium.

Of course, we were late to the game. But we did get to see Johnny Damon, Alex Rodriguez, and Jorge Posada all hit homers in the fifth inning, giving the Yanks a 9-2 lead. We also saw Shawn Chacon get taken out of the game in the bottom of the fifth, after having been very shaky. I remember that Joe Torre seemed extremely disgusted with Chacon. I was, too!

The Nationals kept on chipping at the lead, and ended up beating the great Mariano Rivera, who made a rare eighth-inning appearance, to win the game 11-9. What a nightmare.

The Sunday Yankees-Nationals game was even worse. Chien-Ming Wang was dealing, and it at first looked good for the Yankees. They were leading, 2-1, in the bottom of the ninth. But for some reason, Joe Torre decided to keep Wang in the game, even though Wang was tiring by then. I remember being positively irate that he was keeping Wang in, when it was a disaster unfolding before our eyes. And some Nationals rookie by the name of Ryan Zimmerman hit a walkoff homer in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Yankees, 3-2. And Squawker Jon gloated, of course, the whole ride back to New York. Good grief.

Back to 2015. Last night, Zimmerman hit the 10th walkoff homer of his career to beat up Andrew Miller and the Yankees in extra innings, 8-6. Not only was it nauseating to see the Zimmerman and the Nationals kill the Yankees again, but the sight of Zimmerman being drenched in chocolate syrup was pretty disgusting, too. I am not a neat freak by any means, but that really creeped me out. Zimmerman had to have smelled like something out of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory after having chocolate poured onto his hair. Ick! Disgusting.

Even more nauseating was the injury Jacoby Ellsbury suffered last night. His going on the DL with a right knee sprain is not exactly a shock. I have been pleasantly surprised that he has stayed healthy in his 1 1/4  seasons as a Yankee, but he is an injury-prone player. He is also one of the players the Yankees really cannot afford to lose. Ellsbury leads the Yankees in batting average (.324), on-base percentage (.412), hits (48), runs (29), and stolen bases (14).  He is arguably the Yankees's best all-around player this season, and has the 3rd best OBP and 10th best BA in the American League this year. So losing him, even if may only be for a few weeks, is pretty devastating.

The Yankees have already lost six of their last seven games, and things have to look even more bleak. And last night's win meant that they are now tied for first place with Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, Washington now gets to share first place with...drum roll please...Squawker Jon's New York Mets. At least there is one silver lining! Heh.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Should A-Rod get his buddy Warren Buffett to buy the New York Daily News?

I just read the recent story in the New York Times about the potential sale of the New York Daily News. The story, by "Bronx Is Burning" author Jonathan Mahler, goes into great detail about the potential bidders for the paper, and about how much circulation has dropped. It is down to just 312,000 per day now; 25 years ago it was over a million, and when Jon and I worked there in the 2000s, it was about 750,000.

I remember that number because at one point, the New York Post  huge advertisement outside the old Daily News headquarters at 450 West 33rd Street, with its circulation numbers written like an odometer, showing that the Post's numbers were 652,000 and rising. The tagline? "Go ahead and stare. They’re real." This ad was visible to all of us walking to and from work, and was also able to be seen from some of the offices. Ah, those were the days of the good old tabloid wars! Unfortunately, those numbers aren't so real now, for either paper.

In the Times article, Mahler talks with grocery store mogul John Catsimatidis (who was furious at the News back when we were there after the paper negatively talked about the cleanliness of Gristedes supermarkets), who is one of the potential bidders for the paper. He discusses an idea he has to save the paper:
“Let’s say you wake up in the morning and it’s snowing,” Mr. Catsimatidis said. “You don’t want to run down to the newsstand and buy a newspaper. So you press a button and you get a virtual two-page image in front of you, the complete paper with the advertising.” 

Um, isn't that what the Internet is? Plus, purists who want to see the paper online exactly the way it looks in print can purchase the digital edition now.

Mahler's article also talks about the state of the paper in recent years:
The News has not abandoned hard-hitting journalism; when it lands a punch, it is still felt in the corridors of power. Last year, a series on the low wages of airport workers prompted Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to demand raises on their behalf. In more recent years, though, Mr. Zuckerman has imported a series of British-style tabloid editors to spice up the paper, which has struck some News veterans as a betrayal of its legacy.

The article must have ruffled some feathers in Newsland, as the paper's gossip column had this angry response to it.

At any rate, the story reminded me of an idea my friend Joe suggested -- that Alex Rodriguez get Warren Buffett, who has purchased a number of newspapers in recent years -- to purchase the paper. Heh. That would ensure that the News' relentless tone against A-Rod, the man Bill Madden once called "The Whitey Bulger of Baseball," would change bigtime!  The piece that Daily News Yankee beat writer Mark Feinsand wrote on A-Rod today was really positive, though. Feinsand interviewed him talking about Bryce Harper, and it was actually a fair article.

But let's face it, most of the News stuff is anti-A-Rod. I would also like to see Buffett buy the News to restore the paper to what it once was. (Helpful hint: hire people who actually read the paper!) After all, if it weren't for the News, there would be no Subway Squawkers. Not only did this blog start there on March 1, 2006, but Jon and I met at the paper. (He was my boss once upon a time and responsible for hiring me and having me move from Texas to New York in 2000!) And we had some very good times working for the Daily News. I was always proud to work there!

Also, I was a newspaper junkie as a kid growing up in New Jersey, and the News was my favorite paper of all. One of my fondest memories as a child was how each Saturday night, my father would come home from work as a police officer, and bring home hot, fresh bagels and the bulldog (early) edition of the Sunday News. It was such a treat to get to read the news before everybody else. I felt that same way about getting to read the news for anyone else when I worked there. I also liked talking to legends like Bill Gallo, a truly great man.

Anyhow, I wish the paper becomes a must-read tabloid again, with interesting, provocative columnists with original takes, as opposed to Mike Lupica being a one-man show, issuing banalities in both sports and news. Jon and I still have friends there, too, and we want the best for them.

Hey, A-Rod -- time to nudge your buddy to open up his wallet! Or maybe you could open up your wallet -- and join your frenemy Derek Jeter in the media business!

Remember the Tino Martinez/Armando Benitez brawl? It happened 17 years ago today

Today, May 19, 2015 is the 90th anniversary of Malcolm X's birth, the 50th anniversary of Pete Townshend writing "My Generation" (on his 20th birthday, no less!) and the 17th anniversary of the greatest baseball brawl of my lifetime -- Yankees vs. Orioles! ESPN's Buster Olney mentioned the fight fact this morning. Here is a link to GIFs showing the best part of the fight, and I have also included video of the brawl below.

The fight started after Armando Benitez drilled Tino Martinez in the back. Tino was the next batter Benitez faced after giving up a homer to Bernie Williams, and the drilled pitch was clearly retaliation. Highlights for me include the following:

  • Graeme Lloyd and Jeff Nelson running out of the bullpen to get into the fray, with Lloyd throwing haymakers against Benitez.
  • Darryl Strawberry proves to be the ultimate fighter. If I have to pick ballplayers for an all-star brawl team, he would be my first choice! He gets into the fight multiple times, connecting with Benitez hard. At one point, Joe Torre has to hold Straw back.
  • Future Yankee manager Joe Girardi (!) getting into the fray. Remember that Joe?
  • David Wells mouthing off, and being held back by Jimmy Key.
  • Paul O'Neill (!) trying to be the voice of reason with Tino Martinez, who looks completely enraged.
  • How the fight looks like it is starting to end, then it heats up again.
  • How the fight spills over into the dugout multiple times.
  • The team spirit of the Yankees -- everybody is out there in the fray! Even a very young Derek Jeter is out there!
At one point in the video, an announcer (I think it might be Jim Kaat) says, "This is horrible." To which I say, no way! This is terrific! I never get tired of this video. (I don't know what that says about me, but there it is!)

We were talking recently about Pedro Martinez throwing Don Zimmer to the ground. It still ticks me off that nobody on the Yankees did anything to Pedro over that. Not to mention the lack of response the next year (Tanyon Sturtze, the day's starter, was one of the few Yankee fighters) after the Varitek-A-Rod fight. What happened to those fighting Yankees?

A few years ago, I heard Darryl Strawberry complain about the Yankees' lack of response in those Red Sox brawls, and how this team would not have behaved that way. I completely agree. The 1998 Yankees weren't just arguably the greatest team of all time. They were also fierce fighters!


Monday, May 18, 2015

A thing like that: Why I loved, loved, loved the series finale of "Mad Men"

Stan's reaction when Peggy says she loves him.
Warning -- there are "Mad Men" spoilers in this Squawk. And very little baseball talk. Be forewarned.

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Wow! That last episode of "Mad Men"  was amazing! I was worried that Matthew Weiner, a former "Sopranos" writer, was going to end the show in an ambiguous way (read: running out of ideas and not being able to come up with a real ending), the way that "The Sopranos" concluded. Instead, Weiner shocked me with a finale that was wonderful and happy and amazing. How cool is that?

Here are my thoughts of my favorite parts of the finale:

Pete Campbell leaves for his big job with Trudy and their daughter: I know Pete can be a jerk, but he is my favorite character on the show. That is because he is multidimensional -- he was the most progressive on civil rights and women's rights, he ended up being Don's biggest defender, and he also was very supportive of Peggy (the way he praised her in the finale just slayed me!) Pete is a little like A-Rod in doing some very bad and very good things, where he ultimately has a good heart, but acts like a knucklehead a lot. And just like Pete, A-Rod has been much better behaved this year.

Anyhow, I have rooted for Pete for most of the show, so I was thrilled that he finally got his family back -- and his dream job. Who would think that Pete Campbell would end up being arguably the most moral, upstanding character on the show? My faith in Pete was not misplaced! See, Squawker Jon, I was right after all! (He has claimed I was the only person on Team Pete over the years.)

Steggy gets together: Yes, that is what the cool kids are calling the Stan-Peggy pairing. I was a Pete-Peggy shipper for most of the show, but I think both people ended up with the right partners.

If there is any consistency to this show, it is that Peggy has consistently had awful relationships. Is there anybody on television who has had as many bad dates as she has? Only in horror shows! But in Stan, she finally has a supportive partner who understands her both intellectually and emotionally, and who wants the best for her. It was so fun to see them finally get together. I gasped when I heard Stan's speech, and cried when Peggy started talking. I have watched that scene multiple times since, and get teary-eyed each time. It was inspiring! Finally Peggy can have the career *and* the good boyfriend! They really make a terrific team.

Don finds enlightenment -- and his greatest success: Squawker Jon (and a lot of other viewers) were initially confused by the Coke commercial at the end. I got its significance right away; Don would come back to McCann from his sojourn and write the most popular commercial of all time. I have had that smile on my face myself when I come up a good idea to write. Don creates the "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" ad, while I write about who would win in a celebrity boxing match: Pedro Martinez or Jorge Posada! But it is the same creative impulse. Of course, he gets rich from his writing, while I squawk for peanuts, but still!

Some viewers seem to think that Peggy created the ad, but it was clearly meant to have been done by Don. The receptionist at the hippie center was in the ad 16 seconds in, and the hilltop in the ad looks like Big Sur. Thinking Peggy did it is wishful thinking.

Some viewers also think having Don go back to advertising is somehow a failure for him. Huh? He was once great at what he did, then fell into a slump (baseball tie-in: remember his drunken singing of  "Meet the Mets"?). Now he's got his groove back -- with a vengeance -- and is responsible for such a great ad. That is a happy ending to me! I work in advertising myself, and still get that frisson of excitement every time I see an ad I proofread. Imagine how Don will feel having created a national phenomenon? Plus, he seems to have reached some measure of inner peace. Good for Don!

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As for the other endings on the show, I can't stand Roger's new wife, but at least he seems to be happy. Plus he is stepping up to help his son. Was good to see Ken Cosgrove helping Joan. And she can do better than that controlling jerk she was dating. Plus, she will be able to be her own boss now.

I was never a Betty fan, but I think the kids should be with Henry. He has raised the boys himself from an early age, hasn't he? He is basically the only father Gene has really known. Betty keeping him out of the picture is too disruptive, IMHO.

Harry didn't even get an ending, although he was a big character on the show in the beginning. IMHO, Harry took on the jerkitude that Pete used to be known for -- and then some -- and became a one-dimensional twit.

I would have liked to have seen a Sal return -- we get endless episodes of Di the drip, and the return of Glen Bishop, but no Sal? But you can't always get what you want.

In all, though, I thought the finale was arguably the greatest one of all time, with fans really getting what they wanted. Good stuff. Kudos to Matthew Weiner and the cast for pulling it off!