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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Met Fever: Catch It!

From today's AP game story:

So how do the rest of the Mets avoid getting sick on their upcoming trip to Pittsburgh and Washington?

“I need one of those masks,” [David] Wright said. “Just stay away from the sick people, quarantine yourself I guess.

It figures that the one game where I am sitting far closer to the players than I am likely to all year is the one where the unofficial team captain is talking about wearing a mask and quarantining himself.

My friend Roger had great seats to today's game, so I found myself sitting 20 rows behind home plate. Cushions on the seats - but no Purell dispensers.

One minute, John Maine is breezing along with a three-hit shutout, then he suddenly gets removed in the top of the seventh because he caught the same stomach virus that Carlos Beltran has.

Perhaps the discussion in the dugout between Jerry Manuel and Dan Warthen went something like "You go get him. " "No, you go get him."

Though I do admit to being a bit of a hypochondriac, I'm not really worried about catching something at the game. (Besides, as a longtime Met fan, I am used to the Mets making my sick to my stomach.)

With all the injuries and illness the Mets have had (Angel Pagan also got hurt during the game and could go on the DL), it's a wonder that they have now won six of eight. The Mets don't get many hits these days, but they make them count. Twice the Mets sacrificed a man to second and both times they got him home. And the players who drove in those runs were well outside the core - Pagan and Fernando Martinez.

We got to the game so early that there was no line at Shake Shack. My friend Roger said it was the best burger he has ever had at a sporting event. I have somehow managed to skip Shake Shack the last couple of times at the ballpark so it was great to go back.

The other off-the-field highlight: No "Sweet Caroline"!

***

Squawker Lisa, I know you like Larry David about as much as you like Monty Python, but my trip to the ballpark today did make me think of "Curb Your Enthusiasm." I can just imagine Larry getting a chance to go to the clubhouse to meet the players after the game, only refusing to do so because he didn't want to catch anything and managing to insult everyone in the process.

Or Larry could be the one who brought the bug to the ballpark in the first place and made all the Mets sick, much like the episode where he tripped Shaquille O'Neal at courtside and caused Shaq to tear up his knee.

***

By the way, Lisa, our section was fairly full and the people there didn't look any different from other fans.

I can just imagine what it would be like to sit behind home plate at the new Yankee Stadium - you'd be surrounded by empty seats except for a couple of guys wearing tuxedos and monocles swatting at foul balls with polo mallets.

Can somebody please tell Joe Torre to just shut up about the Yankees already?

It's funny. Joe Torre accused Alex Rodriguez of wanting to be the center of attention with the Yankees, but if there is anybody who constantly seeks the spotlight, it's St. Joe himself. And it - shocker - usually involves talking about his old team, instead of his new team.

And as long as he's going to keep on yakking about the Yankees, I'm going to keep on proving the disingenuousness of his comments. Like yesterday, when Joe talked about the Bombers before last night's Dodgers' game. He told reporters that he still follows - and roots for - the Yankees:

“I have to pull for them. People think because you leave the Yankees and supposedly you’re unhappy with each other that you’re supposed to pull against them."

Supposedly unhappy, Joe? Really? You're the one who called a $5 million contract offer (with an additional $3 milion in incentives) "an insult." You're the one who wrote a tell-all book on the Yankees, betraying clubhouse confidences.

But hey, it's not like anybody else is going to call you on this. After all, you wrote that David Wells was a bad influence on Sidney Ponson in the Yankee clubhouse, even though the two pitchers were never even teammates. And nobody ever asked you about this egregious error.

Teflon Torre also said:

"But I can’t pull against the individuals over there, least of all Girardi who played for me, coached for me. I recommended him when he had his first managing job. This kid is going to be one of the top managers. This I know is a dream job for him and I’m glad things are getting better for him."

This "kid" is 44 years old. 44 isn't a kid anymore. And it's condescending for you, Joe, to call him that. When you were 37 years old and managing the Mets, would you have liked it if somebody called you a kid? No, I think you would have given that infamous Torre glare over that.

As for not being able to "pull against the individuals over there," you did it with A-Rod, when he was on your own team! And Johnny Damon, and any other player who didn't fit into your little four-rings clique. Spare me the sanctimony, please. And just shut up about the Yankees already (Mike and Mike ought to give you their Just Shut Up award!) I'll stop complaining about you when you stop talking about the Yanks. Deal?

* * *

I was reminded of St. Joe's last "triumph" as a Yankee last night with all the bugs in Cleveland. And with Fausto Carmona pitching against the Yanks - and losing.

What was up with the non-reception for CC Sabathia? It was like he was just any other pitcher, not somebody who once starred for Cleveland. I'm glad he won, and I was hoping CC would have a no-hitter last night, but it was not to be. At least Michael Kay didn't jinx it, though!

There were still a lot of bugs in that ballpark - and seagulls. Maybe it's because "The Birds" traumatized me when I was a kid, but all those birds flapping their wings really freaked me out last night!

Speaking of CC, John Flaherty said the pitcher spent in the five figures to take his teammates to that Cavs game. That's something.

The Yanks are on a roll, but they had better beat Carl Pavano today. That is all.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Yankees have first place all to themselves - for now, at least

While the Mets had the dramatic walkoff win, and the Yankees had a rather pedestrian victory last night, at least the Bombers gained sole possession of first place for the first time since September 2006. Hooray!

I don't really have that much to say about last night's game - I missed part of it, and what I did see wasn't exactly drama-backed.

Hopefully Andy Pettitte will be able to make his next start - he left the game after five innings due to his back.

Anyhow, I'm curious to see what kind of reception CC Sabathia will get for tonight's game. Will he get booed? Cheered? Both?

At any rate, he will not get booed as much as A-Rod does in that ballpark!

* * *

In other news, I heard that the Mets have finally come to their senses on something. No more "Sweet Caroline" in the eighth inning! "Meet the Mets" was played last night instead. But I have a question - did the song mention Shea, or did they edit that part out? And was it the original version of the song, or the 80s one?

If only the Yanks could come to their senses on that horrible "Cotton Eye Joe" (yes, that is the correct spelling.) Hate it.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Friday, May 29, 2009

On Yankee bonding, hating Monty Python, and offensive t-shirts

A few notes on a Friday afternoon:

* I saw pictures online of some of the Yankee players at Thursday's Cleveland Cavaliers game. Our friends at Big League Stew featured pix of Alex Rodriguez (hobnobbing with Jay-Z), Joba Chamberlain, CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera. Gettyimages.com also has shots from last night's game, including Robinson Cano also yakking it up with Jay-Z. Incidentally, the rapper now has hair!

Nick Swisher, who was also at last night's game, Twittered about it, saying: "Wow. The Cavs had it going last night. What an atmosphere. Really had a great time. Now its business. Let's go get all 4."

It sounds like a big contingent of the Yanks were at the game, thanks to CC Sabathia getting the tickets - as I wrote earlier, Brett Tomko, Brett Gardner, and Brian Bruney were also there. No Jeter, though.

I think this type of event is a great team-bonding thing, as opposed to how previous Yankee teams over the past few years didn't hang out together much. It really is a different team this year!

* Squawker Jon, why did you have to make a Monty Python reference in today's Squawk? You know how much I hate Monty Python! Quickest way to get me to tune out of a conversation is to make a Monty Python reference. Not a fan.

* I heard about this story from a reader of lohud.com: A Texas woman is griping because the Texas Rangers wouldn't allow her to wear a "Yankees Suck" shirt to the game. Kristen-Knapp Webb, a Rangers fanatic, said a Ranger security guard told her the shirt, a 19th anniversary gift from her husband, violated their code of conduct. She was given the option of turning the shirt inside out, changing shirts, or not being admitted into the stadium. She put the shirt inside out, but left before the game in an apparent snit.

I don't think the woman has any reason to gripe, and I would feel the same way if it were a Boston Sucks t-shirt. Much like the Yankees and Red Sox both ban such shirts in their ballpark, the Rangers do as well. I think it's a good idea.

Besides, this woman should be ashamed to be in her 40s and wearing a shirt that is more suitable for a snotty teenager. She's like school in summer - no class!

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Mets' 'Black Knight' approach to injuries

Why are people making such a big deal over Carlos Delgado saying he can't guarantee he will be back this season?

Delgado, who turns 37 in June, has just had major hip surgery. Most people realize that it will take him weeks to recover, and even when he is ready to play, there is no guarantee that he will be able to perform at his best.

Everyone except Met management, that is.

"Tis just a scratch!" bellows the Black Knight in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" when King Arthur cuts off his arm. Eventually, King Arthur cuts off all of the Black Knight's limbs, but the Black Knight still refuses to concede the fight.

With the Mets' constant insistence on downplaying the severity of injuries, it would not surprise me if they used "Holy Grail" as a motivational film.

And someone in PR is going to pay for allowing Delgado to appear in public last night on crutches. How will they pilfer Nick Johnson from Washington if the Nationals have any suspicion that he might not be back when the Mets hope he is back?

The worst thing about the Mets' denial when it comes to injuries and injury risk is that it permits Omar Minaya to keep relying on aging veterans, both at the big league level and at Triple A. Moises Alou did great when he could play, but he was at the end of his career and could not stay healthy. Now the Mets are counting on a 40-year-old playing the outfield fulltime for the first time since 2005. How is that likely to work out in the long run?

But the only thing worse about being in denial on injuries would be to panic and overreact to to them. Better to at least give the first base platoon of Daniel Murphy and Fernando Tatis a chance than to give up the likes of Bobby Parnell for an injury-prone Nick Johnson.

Is it time for Jorge Posada to take off his catcher's mask?

Jorge Posada will be 38 this summer. By the time Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench were 38, Yogi was in his last season, and Johnny Bench was retired. And Joe Girardi, Posada's predecessor, was off the Yankees for five years, and in his last season.

While Posada has been very outspoken about how he wants to be the Yankees No. 1 catcher, is it time for him to do more DHing and less catching? One New York sports columnist seems to think so.

New York Post columnist Joel Sherman suggested in a column earlier this week that "there is no coincidence that the best Yankee run of 2009 has come with others catching." He expanded on his column's thoughts in his blog yesterday, writing that he believes "the Yanks have to think seriously about making Posada more a full-time DH and having him catch less." Sherman also noted:

Pitchers do not generally enjoy pitching to him for a variety of reasons, including his inadequacy at framing pitches and his sketchy game calling.

In his column, Sherman explained why pitchers complained about Posada:

Now, I have long been a huge supporter of Posada the catcher, including defending him in his own clubhouse. Over the years, I have heard plenty of off-the-record snipes from pitchers who did not particularly like Posada's game-calling intellect or the lack of soft hands and finesse that enables a catcher to frame pitches well and steal strikes.

I would listen to the complaints and then offer one of the following responses: 1) You hate him all the way up to the three-run homer he hits to bail your sorry butt out. 2) Yeah, he's terrible. That dynasty must have been in spite of him.

Yes, I admit it, I like Posada for both his skill and his passion.

Hmm, whatever happened to that "no cheering in the pressbox" adage? Yes, I get that a columnist is different from a beat writer, but why the heck was Sherman getting into arguments with Yankee pitchers over the merits of Posada, and why is it only now that we're hearing about such arguments? Put down your Posada pom-poms, Joel!

Besides, Sherman's "count the rings" dynasty rejoinder is misleading, given that Joe Girardi was the No. 1 catcher in 1996, and caught 78 games in 1998, and 65 games in 1999.

Anyhow, I'm looking forward to seeing Jorge Posada's bat back in the lineup. Seeing him as catcher again? Not so much. I'm concerned he's going to get hurt again, and I also like seeing a Yankee team where the catcher can actually throw somebody out once in a while.

Francisco Cervelli has been terrific in Posada's place. The kid has been impressive behind the plate, making smart plays, calling good games, throwing baserunners out, and framing the ball well. And he's hitting well, too, getting 12 hits in 40 at bats. While I don't expect Cervelli to continue his hot hitting, his catching skills are something that should only get even better over time. I hope he gets to stay with the Yanks, even after Jose Molina's eventual return.

Kevin Cash hasn't been hitting well, but he's also been a decent backup catcher. Loved how he tried to settle down A.J. Burnett by going to the mound - and not saying anything!

Anyhow, it will be interesting to see if the Yankees starting pitching continues its good run under Posada. Let's hope it does.

What do you think about Jorge Posada? Leave us a comment.

CC Sabathia, A-Rod, Mariano Rivera, and other Yankees show up at Cleveland game

I haven't watched many - actually, make that any - NBA games lately. But I kind of wish I had watched last night's Cavaliers-Magic game - it sounds like something a Yankee fan would have enjoyed.

In the latest example of Yankee team-building, CC Sabathia organized a field trip for the Yankees in Cleveland. Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain, Brett Gardner, Brett Tomko, and Brian Bruney were among the players at the game. Oh, and Carl Pavano was in the house as well - Peter Abraham reported that Pavano got cheered, while the Yanks got booed, when shown on the arena's big screen. At least it was boos, and not bugs!

Remember how LeBron James angered Cleveland by wearing a Yankee hat when the Indians and Yankees squared off in 2007? Sabathia may have switched allegiances himself, but he hasn't forgotten what James did. Bryan Hoch of MLB. com reports:

"I actually was going to send him a text and maybe buy an Orlando hat, since he wore a Yankees hat to our playoff game," Sabathia said.

But, but, CC's a Yankee now. Shouldn't he be praising LeBron for his prescience or something? Besides, this fall King James campaigned for Sabathia to be a Yankee!

TV reporter Craig Sager did a sideline interview with CC. Sager's clothing choices are, um, interesting. (He's the guy who Jonathan Papelbon sprayed champagne on during an interview last year.)

One other tidbit about the NBA. Did you know that Brett Tomko's father named the Cleveland Cavaliers, and also designed their first logo? Yankee beat writer Pete Caldera wrote about this in his Pinstripe Posts blog for the Bergen Record. Interesting coincidence!

Are you a basketball fan, or do you just watch baseball? Tell us your thoughts!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ladies and gentlemen, your first-place New York Yankees!

Our long national nightmare is over. The Yankees are finally back in first place, where they belong. Unfortunately, they have to share that spot - for this morning, at least - with the Boston Red Sox. Grrrrrr.

Meanwhile, the Mets also moved into first place last night, a spot they don't have to share with anyone. Squawker Jon rather gleefully pointed this out to me on the phone last night. My reaction? It was Zambranoesque!

As for the Yankee game itself, I didn't get to follow some of it - my radio's batteries ran out of juice when I was at the gym, so I missed the middle innings. After the game, I did get to see the clip of Kevin Cash going out to the mound to settle down A.J. Burnett - and not saying anything. The look on Burnett's face was classic!

Joe Girardi called Burnett's victory "gritty." When Kim Jones asked him about it, A.J. responded, "You'll have to explain that word to me first." I was hoping Kim was going to say that gritty was like Scottie Brosius or something!

And is it just me, or does Burnett look like Harrison Ford?

Besides Burnett's victory, other good signs included Hideki Matsui's two homers, Mark Teixeira's 12th homer this month, and Chien-Ming Wang's excellent two innings. Wang's ERA is down to 20.45. Hooray!

I've been avoiding talking about this, as I don't want to jinx it, but the Yanks have now had 14 consecutive games without an error. Of course, now that I've mentioned it, expect an error tomorrow night.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Upon further review, Mets back in first place

Maybe the Mets have a matching runs program for Johan Santana. When he is unhittable, they don't score any runs for him. But with Santana more human over his last three starts, allowing nine earned runs in 20 innings and giving up a home run in each game, the Mets have stepped up their attack, helping Santana to win all three games.

Earlier in the year, Santana lost two games in which he gave up no earned runs. Tonight, Santana blew an early lead by allowing a bases-loaded walk and was out of the game after six innings and 120 pitches with the score tied. So this was a game that Santana would not expect to win. But he did, with the help of a rejuvenated Daniel Murphy and the umpires.

Fernando Martinez might have set a Citi Field record for quickest boos of a touted new arrival. But he deserved them for failing to run out a popup that the Washington catcher dropped.

The Mets nearly had another baserunning mishap when Sheffield was out at home after Murphy's hit was initially ruled a double. Had Sheffield stayed at third, the Mets would have had second and third with none out, and would have had a great chance to score. Instead, was one out and man on second before Murphy's double was changed to a home run.

The overly aggressive baserunning is resulting in more runs, but there also seems to be someone out at third or home almost every game, and that is bound to be bad in the long run.

But it is hard to find much to complain about on a night when a Met team missing three-fourths of its lineup core moves back into first place.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mets outfield: Generations

The average age of last night's starting corner outfielders was 30. That seems about right for a contending team trying to win now - two players still in or near the prime of their careers.

Oh, wait - actually it was a 40-year-old near the end of his career and a 20-year-old at the start of his.

But while the Mets lack the type of corner outfielder that becomes a lineup fixture, they should think twice before making a panic trade for another aging, overpriced player.

As someone who opposed the Sheffield signing, I have to concede that the Mets would have been in a lot of trouble without him over the last two weeks. Sheffield might be the Mets' second-most valuable player behind Johan Santana during that time (or third-most valuable if instant replay is eligible).

But in the long run, all I will concede on Sheffield is that he is near the end of his career rather than at the end. Even if Sheffield continues to be productive, what are the odds of him remaining healthy while asked to play the outfield fulltime for the first time since 2005?

Especially since the Mets' history with injuries seems to be to play players until they get hurt, then keep trying to play them.

As for Fernando Martinez, the track record on very young phenoms is not good. Martinez might be a star one day, but right away at age 20?

But the Mets have enough corner outfielders now that they might be able to get away with playing the hot hand. Daniel Murphy, Ryan Church and Fernando Tatis all had hot streaks before cooling off. All three, along with Angel Pagan, have track records of success from last year. Pagan was the starting left fielder in April 2008. Church was one of the Mets' best players in May 2008 before he got hurt. Tatis was the comeback player of the year. Murphy was the promising rookie who earned a fulltime job this spring.

Maybe none of these players should be playing fulltime, but that does not mean that they are worthless. Jerry Manuel sometimes seems to devalue his players - jerking them in and out of the lineup, benching or pinch-hitting for them for little reason.

Ryan Church and Daniel Murphy began the year in the starting lineup. Now Church is in the doghouse and Murphy could be headed back to the minors.

If these players ultimately do not figure in the Mets' longterm plans, the team should be trying to build up their value. Trading one of them now will get a lot less in return than it would have a few weeks ago.

Granted, it's a lot harder trying to find the hot hand at three slots, including first base, than two.

And with Jose Reyes on the shelf and Carlos Beltran out for a few days, the lineup is truly full of holes.

But Beltran will be back soon and Reyes presumably will be back at full strength within a week or two.

In the meantime, the Mets should keep doing what they finally started to do yesterday - DL the injured players so they can play with a full roster, add help on defense by picking up Wilson Valdez and give their top prospect a shot.

***

Squawker Lisa, here's a quickie quiz for you. Who is the only major-league pitcher with five wins in the month of May? Hint: He now has as many wins this month as he did in the last three years of his Yankee contract.

That's right - it's Carl Pavano!

Do the Mets need to make a big move for a corner outfielder or first baseman? Tell us what you think.

Late night, late loss, for Joba Chamberlain and the Yankees

What a day. The Yankees have a lousy loss that kept fans up way past their bedtime, thanks to that endless rain delay. Joba Chamberlain looked terrible, and only lasted four innings. The Yankee bullpen was ineffective, to say the least. Melky Cabrera got banged up in the game, and needs an MRI. And Brian Bruney is off to see the Wizard, err, I mean Dr. James Andrews. Not exactly a red letter day for the Yankees.

So now, after winning nine in a row, the Bombers have lost three of five. Is this cause for concern? It depends if you're a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty type of person, I guess. I'm most worried about Melky Cabrera. If there's anybody who's been a sparkplug for Yankee rallies, it's him.

Let's hope A.J. Burnett can get his first victory in over a month today. It would be a shame to lose this series to the Rangers.

* * *

Jason of the great baseball blog It Is About the Money, Stupid has another website - and a rather devious plan. He's asking fans to Vote for Manny Ramirez for the All-Star Game.

Why does he want Manny as a starter? Jason writes:
To highlight the silliness that are the MLB rules towards PED users as well as their "head in the sand" approach to this situation. Rather than confront it head-on, MLB is choosing to do nothing and simply hope there are three higher vote getters in the NL OF.
Manny Ramirez is currently ranked fourth in the All-Star outfield balloting. And you know who's leading for NL catchers? Yadier Molina! I vote for him every time I fill out an All-Star ballot, just so I can tick off Squawker Jon about the 2006 NLCS!

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Phil Hughes and Alex Rodriguez sparkle on Memorial Day

One of the good signs for the Yankees' current hot streak is that they're playing tough against good teams. As my Rangers' fan nephew has been telling me all season, the Rangers actually have a pretty decent team this year. Which made yesterday's 11-1 victory even more impressive.

Since it was Memorial Day, the Yanks and Rangers were both wearing those red hats to honor the troops. I appreciate the sentiment - especially since my brother just went back to Iraq for his third tour over there - but it still kind of confused me a little to see the Yankees wearing red, especially when red is a primary color in the Rangers' uniform!

Phil Hughes seems to have stepped up his game since it looked like he was about to have his last start in the rotation. Giving up zero runs and only three hits over eight innings in that bandbox of a ballpark is phenomenal, especially when Alex Rodriguez single-handedly had five hits of his own for the Yanks. And Hughes wanted to complete the game, so he didn't want to shake Joe Girardi's hand after the eighth inning.

Anyhow, it was good to see a blowout, after two nailbiter games in a row. Hopefully, the Yanks will beat up on the Rangers again today.

One other note - I was glad to hear that University of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy threw a decent first pitch before the game. If he hadn't, Squawker Jon would mock me forever about my alma mater's QB not being able to throw!

* * *

In other news, I read that Jonathan Papelbon threw a hissy fit - and a towel - Saturday when a photographer took a photo of him in the dugout after the reliever gave up that homer to Omir Santos. (Click here to see him throwing the towel.) What a baby.

If Papelbon wants to be left alone, maybe he could change places with former Red Sox closer Keith Foulke, who is trying to make a comeback with the Newark Bears. Foulke griped a lot, too, about being in the media fishbowl. But he's now so eager to come back to the majors that he says he'd "even play for the Yankees"!

Hmmm, now that Brian Bruney is on the DL for the second time, could I see Brian Cashman taking a flyer on Foulke? Absolutely. I hope he doesn't, though - the last thing the Yanks need is a pitcher who hates baseball!

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Jose Reyes, Mets are day-to-day-to-day-to-day...

Why can't the Mets deal with injuries in a straightforward manner? From Ryan Church last year to Johan Santana in spring training, players, coaches and front office often do not seem on the same page. And now a decision on whether Jose Reyes will go on the disabled list has been put off until Friday, which will be sixteen days since he first got hurt.

By not putting Reyes on the DL, the Mets are suggesting that he is not that badly hurt. Every day we keep hearing that he is about to return. Jerry Manuel says that 80% of Reyes is better than most alternatives. The implication is that management wants Reyes back now and that he could play if he really wanted to.

If Reyes does go on the DL, the Mets will finally admit that he really is hurt, but by then the DL stint, which would start retroactively on May 20, would be more than half over.

With Ryan Church also unable to play, the Mets' bench is two men down. Carlos Beltran is going for an MRI on his knee tomorrow. Ramon Martinez nearly missed the game tonight. Gary Sheffield is now a full-time outfielder for the first time since 2005. This is no time for a depleted bench.

And it is no time to make one of your core players look bad. Met players shouldn't have to undergo surgery or be rushed to the hospital in an ambulance to prove that they are hurt.

Only two days after that ambulance picked up Francisco Rodriguez, he was pitching tonight and converting his thirteenth straight save chance. K-Rod was praised on the air for inspiring his teammates with his quick return. K-Rod deserves the praise, but if a player is unable to rush back, he - and his team - should not be left in limbo.

Now the Mets have created a situation in which Reyes either comes back in a few days before he is ready, and runs the risk of further injury, or he goes on the DL and six days later, the daily questions begin anew.

Having inadequate backups for Reyes and Alex Cora is not Reyes' fault. It is Omar Minaya's.

What do you think of the way the Mets have handled Reyes' injury?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Thoughts on yesterday's Yankee loss, and why I feel sorry for David Ortiz

I guess I should be bummed out that the Yanks couldn't get the job done in extra innings yesterday, but I'm not all that upset over the loss. It's hard to complain too much when the Yanks went 8-2 in this homestand. And at least CC Sabathia continued to pitch well.

However, the fact that the Red Sox only won one of three this weekend, and still slid into first place, does tick me off. And it's funny that my predictions for both series ended up being more accurate for the Mets than the Yankees!

Speaking of Boston, I do feel sorry for the woeful David Ortiz, even though I strongly suspect - thanks in no small part to him hiring Angel Presinal as a trainer - that he's gotten some "help" in the past. The once-proud, ebullient player looks like a broken man. That's how pathetic Ortiz has been at the plate - even Yankee fans feel bad for him!

I see that there's talk about moving Big Papi, who bats third in the lineup, further down in the lineup. Sounds like hitting coach Dave Magadan and manager Terry Francona are going to talk about it, and consult Ortiz. You mean you actually inform your team's superstar that you're going to move him down in the lineup? I thought the standard - and "classy" - thing was to move your struggling star to eighth in the lineup, and not tell him about it beforehand. And then gripe when reporters ask you about it.

When I was growing up, I heard from my brothers about how sad it was when Willie Mays was stumbling around the outfield in the 1973 World Series. But Mays was 42 then. Ortiz is only 33.

Is Ortiz's career over? I don't want to say yes, but his slump has been going on since last season. When Brett Gardner has more homers than Ortiz, that isn't a good sign.

Now I'm going to throw a gratuitous Jonathan Papelbon slam out there. In addition to him throwing a fit when he didn't like an ump's call in Saturday's game, I saw this pic on Sliding Into Home, where Pap's vacant stare seems to suggest he's aiming to replace Spencer Pratt on "The Hills." Yeah, I went there.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Let's go Mets! Jonathan Papelbon cries as Omir Santos (!) hits one off him

For once, Squawker Jon and I are united in our baseball fandom this weekend. And we were both equally thrilled - and surprised - to see the Mets beat Jonathan Papelbon and the Red Sox last night.

It was soooo enjoyable to see Papelbon's dopey facial expressions after he gave up that homer to Omir Santos, both before and after that play was ruled to be a homer.

And how about Keith Hernandez saying on the air that Papelbon should go ride the pine after the pitcher ran out of the dugout to make a scene about griped a call in the bottom of the ninth! (NY Sports Dog has a clip of Papelbon's temper tantrum here. Classic!) What a drama king Papelbon is.

Between Papelbon making a fool of himself yesterday, and Kevin Youkilis making a fool of himself against Johan Santana in Friday's game, Mets fans got to see a little of what we Yankee fans have to deal with for 19 games a year. (No, I'm not buying that Youk was just joking when he griped after being hit by that pitch.) And Boston fans think Joba Chamberlain is over the top? Look at the drama kings on the Sox!

Arguably, yesterday's Mets win was more of a miracle than the Yankees' walkoff win vs. the Phillies. In my predictions for this weekend, I called the game a tossup. After a pitcher's duel that Mike Pelfrey was about to lose against Josh Beckett, to see the Mets' third-string catcher go deep against Papelbon was pretty amazing.

And, as Squawker Jon noted, the Mets' stellar defensive plays in the bottom of the ninth were pretty unexpected as well. Not to mention that the Mets won without their closer, Francisco Rodriguez, who was doubled over in pain with back spasms. The Yankees had an exciting walkoff win, to be sure, but even I can see that what the Mets did was even more stunning than the Yankees' victory.

Anyhow, it was a great day for New York baseball. And a rare day for Subway Squawkers, in that Jon and I were rooting for the same teams. Let's keep it up today!

What did you think of the Mets-Red Sox game? Leave us a comment!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Video killed the bullpen star

Only five days ago, the Mets lost a devastating game when the umps took the go-ahead run off the board after Ryan Chuch missed third base.

Tonight, the Mets won a thrilling game when the umps put the go-ahead runs on the board after video replay reversed the call on Omir Santos' ball that just cleared the Green Monster, turning it into an unlikely home run.

If this turns out to be a magical year for the Mets, tonight's game will be seen as one of the first signs. It still doesn't seem possible that the Mets actually won the game tonight. Look at all that had to go right:

Santos was a third-string catcher batting with two outs against star closer Jonathan Papelbon, who had not blown a save all year. If Jerry Manuel did not have a depleted bench, he might well have pinch hit for Santos.

Instant replay on disputed homers did not become a rule until late last season. Before that, Santos would be on second and Sheffield on third. And Papelbon very likely would have gotten out of it and the Red Sox would have won.

Even when the ball was called a homer, the Mets still had to contend with Francisco Rodriguez being unavailable. Every ball hit off of J.J. Putz was hard-hit. Two of them required great plays by the Mets' infield.

The infield of Daniel Murphy, Luis Castillo, Ramon Martinez and David Wright preserving the lead might have been the biggest miracle of all.

And this all came after Josh Beckett allowed no earned runs in eight innings.

Papelbon blowing the game came only hours after another top closer, Brad Lidge, blew a lead and the game against the Yankees. But as dramatic as that win was, Alex Rodriguez hitting a homer is slightly more expected than Santos belting one out in that spot.

The one dark cloud was yet another injury. K-Rod went to the hospital in an ambulance for back spasms. Sportsticker just reported that the Mets say he took an ambulance to avoid traffic.

So the week begins with Martinez rushing to Dodger Stadium with a police escort and ends with K-Rod rushing to the hospital in an ambulance. Let's hope K-Rod is OK - Mets magic can only overcome so many injuries.

I thought the Mets would get swept in Fenway and I'm glad to be wrong. But I still have a chance to be right about a sweep!

The Melkman - and A-Rod - deliver as the Yankees walkoff in style

For most of yesterday's game, I didn't have much hope for a Yankee victory. As I expected them to, they did very little against J.A. Happ, while Andy Pettitte gave up five runs. And given that it was the FOX Game of the Week, which the Yanks usually lose, it didn't look good. The biggest excitement of the game up until that point was FOX misidentifying John Mayberry Jr.'s dad in the stands after Mayberry's first career homer.

But I had a good feeling in the ninth inning that the Yanks were going to do something against Brad Lidge. Down by two in the ninth, up against a big name closer? That was the same scenario against Joe Nathan last week, and we all know how that turned out! So I was not surprised that the Yankees won, or that Alex Rodriguez and Melky Cabrera were the heroes.

Before the game, friend of the Squawkers Larry Milian interviewed me on South Florida's WTFL 640. I talked on the radio about how Alex Rodriguez did the opposite of his so-called stat-padding reputation this season, where he's only had a few hits this year, but nearly every one has been critical to the game. And whaddaya know, he goes 1 for 4 today, with that one hit a game-tying homer.

And how about Melky Cabrera? Three walkoff hits in two months? Amazing!

Anyhow, the ninth inning was something else. Off to watch that walkoff celebration again!

What did you think of today's Yankee game? Leave us a comment!

Yankees may have lost, but at least Johan Santana gave Kevin Youkilis the what-for

Yes, Squawker Jon, I know my Yankees didn't hold up their share of the Yankees-Mets alliance this weekend, and your team did. Sorry about that. But give me this - I had more faith in your Mets than you did. I predicted that your team would win last night, and thought they had a 50/50 chance to win the series. You, on the other hand, figured the Sox would sweep the Mets!

Too bad my Yankees prediction - that they would continue their winning streak Friday - didn't come true. And I kind of figured that early in last night - make that very early in last night. After Jimmy ("The Team to Beat") Rollins hit a homer off A.J. Burnett's very first pitch of the night, I didn't expect the evening to end well.

I do like Rollins an awful lot, though. In addition to his skills as a ballplayer, he's got a great personality, he's not afraid to speak his mind, and he loves to make predictions:

Rollins, who hit his 29th leadoff homer, envisioned leading off on Thursday.

"I kind of said it would nice to do, first time at Yankee Stadium, my first swing, you know, be a home run. I prayed on it. Prayers get answered," he said.

Unfortunately, his prediction, unlike mine, actually came true!

Did notice how Burnett hit Chase Utley and the homer, and then Brett Myers hit Derek Jeter. Aside from all the fans wearing Phillies red in the Stadium seats, what struck me was how intense the game was, even with two teams that don't have any sort of rivalry.

And it's a funny thing - it's not so enjoyable to see all those home runs when it's the other team hitting them! Everybody talks about right field being a homer haven, but what disturbs me more is how many balls get hit to center. How many balls got hit into the black in the old ballpark - maybe 25 in 30+ years? And how many got hit in the area in front of that? Not many. Seems like a lot this year.

Hmmm, maybe the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar is the problem. Wouldn't that be a kick in the head, if it turns out that building that monstrosity is the cause of all the homers?

Anyhow, it was a rough night - when Chien-Ming Wang only giving up six hits and two runs in three innings is considered progess, that's not a good thing. And I expect a loss today, because it's a pitcher - J.A. Happ - that the Yanks have never seen.

At least there was one great highlight of the night that literally had me cheering. Too bad it came in the Mets-Red Sox game. When Kevin Youkilis got hit by one of Johan Santana's pitches - it looked like an accident to me - Youk did his usual yippy "Don't you know I am" thing. Then Santana looked like he told Youkilis to go drink a nice steaming cup of "Shut the bleep up"! Good stuff. I've watched the clip three times already!

What did you think of last night's games? Leave us a comment!

Can Johan play shortstop?

The 2006 Mets rolled into Fenway and got swept, losing the three-game series by a combined score of 23-8.

The 2009 Mets staggered into Fenway and have already done better by taking the first game, 5-3, behind the great Johan Santana.

Squawker Lisa, I would also like to point out that the Mets have also done better this year in this department than the Yankees, currently 0-5 against the Sox. And the last time the Phillies came to New York, they were swept by the Mets.

I'm going to get all my gloating in now, because I expected the Mets to get swept this weekend and don't have high hopes on winning another game in Boston with this depleted crew.

Here's an idea for an exotic bet: Number of errors committed when Johan is pitching vs. number of new Met injuries. If you had errors, you won, 3-2. If Ramon Martinez is the best option the Mets have in their entire system to fill in at shortstop, I would hate to see the runners-up.

Along with Martinez' two errors, giving him four in three games, David Wright also committed his seventh error. So the strong side of the infield is now Luis Castillo and Daniel Murphy. Fortunately, the Mets have a lot of fly-ball pitchers.

As for the injuries, Carlos Beltran's knee forced him to DH and Ryan Church came out of the game with a sore hamstring. Church could be day-to-day, which means the Mets could be playing two men down with Jose Reyes already unavailable.

At least Jerry Manuel will be limited in his pinch-hitting hunches, such as Omir Santos for Ramon Castro. But the Mets' indecision on whether or not to put someone like Reyes on the DL leaves them shorthanded way too often. Or do they stall on calling people up because there's so little to choose from in Omar's farm system?

Especially on a night like this, I'm glad the Mets have packaged prospects for the likes of Johan Santana. And they've got some talented 17-year-olds at the lower levels. But surely Omar should be able to replenish the likes of Anderson Hernandez and Ruben Gotay.

But not if it means trading Bobby Parnell, who got up to 100 mph tonight.

I'm still dubious about Gary Sheffield batting cleanup, but he did get things going tonight with a homer over the Green Monster.

Sheffield now has better stats than a fixture in the middle of Boston's order - David Ortiz, who has one homer and a .205 battting average compared to Sheffield's three homers (in half the AB) and an average of .257.

In 1986, the Mets staggered into Boston down 2-0 and turned things around in the World Series by beating the Red Sox in Game 3. The stakes were much lower tonight, but a turnaround was needed just as badly, and Johan and the Mets came through.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Oh Manny! Some songs which sum up Manny Ramirez

In response to Manny Ramirez's 50-game suspension, mobile music site mSpot.com sent Subway Squawkers a list of five ringtones that sum up the the Manny mess. Their site lets you edit your own ringtones to the part of the song you want, so mSpot picked the most applicable lyrics for each ringtone choice.

Anyhow, I can't resist posting this list, and adding a few of my own:

1. Stars Are Blind (Paris Hilton): “…some people never get beyond their stupid pride…”

2. Before you Accuse Me (Eric Clapton): “Before you accuse me take a look at yourself…”

3. Rehab (Amy Winehouse): “When I come back you’ll know, know, know…”

4. Blame It (Jamie Foxx feat. T Pain): “I ain’t sayin what you won’t do but you know what we’re probably gonna do…”

5. Wasn't Me - Shaggy: “Never admit to a word…”

I have a few other suggestions of my own for Manny's ringtone, focused on the fact that he took the female fertility drug human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG):
  • "Man, I Feel Like a Woman": Shania Twain
  • "Mother's Little Helper": The Rolling Stones
  • "Having My Baby": Paul Anka
What songs fit Manny Ramirez - or any other baseball player, for that matter. Leave us a comment!

Yankee fan must root for Mets and against Phillies


It shouldn't exactly be a surprise that I'm rooting for the Mets over the Red Sox this weekend. Talk about a no-brainer! I didn't even root for the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series. So why would I cheer for the Red Sox over the Mets just because the Mets are our crosstown rivals? It makes no sense.

Anyhow, it's weird that Squawker Jon and I are on the same side for once, with me cheering for the Mets, and him rooting for the Yankees. It just seems all so strange for Jon and I to cheer for the same teams, though. My blogging partner is the guy who has rooted for USC, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and even TCU's Horned Frogs just because all those teams faced my Texas Longhorns in college football.

So my rooting decision is much easier for me than it is for him. Squawker reader Uncle Mike aside, most Yankee fans don't hate the Mets the way the Met fans despise the Yankees. They just don't.

Meanwhle, way too many Met fans, including my partner in Squawking, root for the Red Sox just because of their rivalry with Yankees. It's that whole Little Brother Syndrome thing. You'd never see Bomber fans expending the psychic energy to root for the Phillies and the Braves, just because they're against the Mets.

In 2004, it was ridiculous how many Met fans called up WFAN to celebrate the ALCS. What were the Mets fans cheering about? Their team finished 71-91 that year!

Anyhow, I will make my predictions for this weekend in a moment, but I just want to say a few word's about last night's ninth victory in a row. I was at dinner for most of the game, so while I did get to see Joba Chamberlain get knocked out of the game - literally, I missed much of the rest of it. Kudos to Alfredo Aceves for stepping in and pitching so well in Joba's place.

Incidentally, is Adam Jones the Yankee-killer or what? Johnny Damon hurt his back Wednesday night going after Jones' home run ball? And now Jones hits Joba in the knee. I guess the Orioles have their new Kevin Millar!

Nine in a row is impressive, but the Yanks face a big test of the year so far with their three games against the team to beat this weekend, the 2008 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. Here's how I think the games will go:

Friday: Brett Myers vs. A.J. Burnett. I know A.J. hasn't won in over a month, and his ERA is terrible, but he's really pitched better than his numbers indicate. I think the power of the pie will work in his favor tonight, with him being the victim of a pieing when he's talking to Kim Jones tonight. Edge: Yankees.

Saturday: J.A. Happ vs. Andy Pettitte. I think this is a game the Yankees will lose, for two reasons. While Burnett is better than his numbers indicate, Pettitte has pitched worse than his overall numbers (4-1 with a 4.18 ERA) indicate. And when Andy gets hit, he gets hit hard. Throw in J.A. Happ, a starter the Yankees have never seen, and you have the recipe for a Yankees loss. Edge: Phillies

Sunday: Cole Hamels vs. CC Sabathia. Battle of the aces. I think this game will be a pitcher's duel, but I give the edge to Sabathia. Just a hunch. Edge: Yankees

As for the Mets/Red Sox series at Fenway Park, here are my predictions:

Friday: Johan Santana vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka. This is a great matchup, and something I would watch if there weren't a Yankees-Phillies game on at the same time. Dice-K is making his first start since coming off the DL. I give Santana the edge, but the Mets need to score some runs for him for a change. Edge: Mets

Saturday: Mike Pelfrey vs. Josh Beckett. Surpisingly, Pelfrey's having a slightly better year than Beckett. Pelfrey is 4-1, with a 4.61 ERA, while Beckett is 4-2, 5.85. This is a tossup for me, though. I could see either team winning. Edge: Neither

Sunday: Tim Redding vs. Tim Wakefield. I still remember Redding's disastrous outing in Fenway Park with the 2005 Yankees (the game where Trot Nixon hit an inside-the-park home run after Melky Cabrera messed up the play.) The Yanks ended up losing that game, 17-1. Because of that game, I give the edge to Tim Wakefield in this battle of the Tims. Edge: Red Sox

But what do our readers think? What are your predictions and rooting interests for this weekend? Tell us about it!

Joe Torre can't even get his story straight in his own book

Squawker Jon, I will announce later on this morning who I'm rooting for in your Mets-Red Sox series this weekend. Have to keep our readers coming back for more!

But in the meantime, I have to chastise your team for letting themselves get swept by the Dodgers this week. Even the usually-snoozing Joe Torre roused himself out of a nap to notice that Ryan Church didn't touch third base. Torre went out onto the field and argued about it and everything. Imagine if he had done the same during the Bug Game when Joba Chamberlain was literally screaming, "I can't see"!

And your team couldn't even knock around Jeff Weaver! I don't want to go all Steve Phillips on you, but what's wrong with the Mets?

Anyhow, I wonder how that Torre-Weaver thing is going, given the negative things Torre said about him in "The Yankee Years." I also wonder if Weaver, or for that matter, David Wells, noticed this passage from the book. On Page 49 of "The Yankee Years," Torre complained about David Wells being a bad influence on Weaver:
[Wells] can be an engaging personality, and then there are times as a manager where you could hate his guts. He'd go out there and I'd watch his body language, and I'd watch Jeff Weaver and I'd watch Sidney Ponson, those are two guys who gravitated toward him, and I saw the same things. 'Woe is me.' It drove you nuts.
Wow, Wells' bad influence is amazing. Especially given that he and Sidney Ponson were never teammates. Ponson didn't join the Yankees until 2006, three seasons after Wells was off the team. You gotta love Joe's attention to detail there.

Torre also botched the name of the Yankee who got the game-winning hit in Game 1 of the 2000 World Series. Not one, not twice, but three different times in the book, the player is named Luis Vizcaino, not Jose Vizcaino. Luis, a pitcher, didn't play for the Yankees until 2007. Maybe this error explains why Torre overworked Luis Vizcaino so much in the bullpen that year - he thought he could get some of that old World Series magic!

In addition to these sloppy errors in "The Yankee Years," Torre still tries to justify pitching Weaver in extra innings in the 2003 World Series. From Page 234:
"I had no options," Torre said. "People say bring in Mariano. I had no options. It was an extra-inning game on the road. There was never any consideration of other options. I never was between anybody, I know that...."
Yeah, it's a tough choice. Who do you pitch in a World Series game - the greatest closer of all time, or Jeff Weaver? Then again, this is Joe Torre we're talking about, the guy who spends most of "The Yankee Years" complaining of the horrible burden of having the best player in baseball on his team!

Torre also said this about Weaver:
"People were basing their criticism of him in Game 4 on what happened before, when he was bad. But we finally got him to the point where he was controlling his emotions better. But the result reverted to what he was before, so people say, "It's the same old guy."
This is just nonsense. Torre hadn't had Weaver pitch in 28 days. He thought so little of his abilities that he never used Weaver in the entire postseason until Game 4 of the World Series. Six years later, the wrongheadedness of this decision still boggles my mind.

But that's Teflon Torre - he's completely incapable of ever acknowledging that he did anything wrong. Just this week, he refused to acknowledge any culpability regarding Scott Proctor. Torre overworked Proctor so much with both the Yankees and the Dodgers, that Proctor had to get season-ending elbow surgery this week. Torre's overwork of Proctor was so legendary, a Yankee fan site called Scott Proctor's Arm was named after it!

But does St. Joe regret what he did to Proctor? Of course not. Torre told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel this week:
"There's playing hurt, and then there's playing stupid," Torre said. "It doesn't have anything to do with someone's intelligence. If you can endure pain and still are able to do what you do, that's one thing."

"If you're willing to play, which means you certainly are brave, but you can't be the player that you need to be, then it's not very smart to do for your own health, and you're not helping the team either," Torre said.
You'd think Torre would have realized he was overworking Proctor after the time the pitcher set his equipment on fire after a loss. But maybe that's just me.

Torre continued:
"He doesn't know what hurt is," Torre said. "The dumbest question I could ask him was: 'Are you OK?' Because I knew what the answer was going to be."
Then why did Torre keep on pitching him, when he knew this about Proctor?

Of course, expecting anybody to actually ask Torre a tough question on this is a futile endeavor. He's got four rings, after all!

And we only have one year until Teflon Torre's triumphant return to the Bronx, when the Dodgers play the Yankees in interleague play. Jeez, I just can't wait.

What do you think about Joe Torre? Tell us about it!

Met fan must root for Yankees and against Red Sox


It's been a miserable week. The Mets have lost four in a row with only six runs scored. Carlos Delgado undergoes surgery and is out at least two months. Jose Reyes is hurt and who knows when he will be 100%. Alex Cora fills in ably for Reyes, only to tear ligaments in his thumb. The Mets commit five errors in one game and conjure up memories of 1962. And one of the team's few bright spots, Carlos Beltran, is maligned on national TV by a buffoon.

Now this bad week is about to get even worse. This weekend, I will find myself rooting for the Yankees and against the Red Sox. I generally root for the Red Sox in the American League, though it seems that many Red Sox fans lump the Mets in with things from New York that they do not like. And they probably wouldn't enjoy SNY's celebration of all things 1986.

But Red Sox fans have celebrated two titles since the Mets last won. And when I think of Mets-Red Sox, I think of the massacre of 2006 and the downfall of Pedro Martinez, who returned triumphantly to Fenway with a 7-4 record and a 3.01 ERA, only to give up eight runs (six earned) in three innings. We didn't know it at the time, but after only a year and a half with the Mets, it was the beginning of the end for Pedro.

The Yankee series figures to be a nightmare either way. If the Phillies win, the Mets fall further behind. (I'm conceding the series at Fenway - I just hope the Mets don't get swept as in '06. Go Johan!)

If the Yankees win, we'll probably hear Jimmy Rollins, who, in the June issue of Playboy, predicted a Phillies-Yankees World Series, praise the Yankees as the only good thing to come out of New York, while Cole Hamel calls them the New York team that can make it to the Fall Classic without choking.

If the Yankees celebrate after the game with a pie in the face of the player who gets the game-winning hit, Shane Victorino will probably praise the celebration as tasteful and ask for the recipe for the pie.

Met fans, will you root for the Yankees against the Phillies? Yankee fans, will you root for the Mets against the Red Sox?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

PR guru Ronn Torossian's thoughts on A-Rod, Manny, Clemens, and the Yankee front office

Can the Yankees get their new stadium filled? Did Alex Rodriguez kill his image for good by kissing himself in the mirror, dating Madonna, and using steroids? And what about how the steroid scandal has affected the reputations of Manny Ramirez and Roger Clemens? I asked a public relations expert about these issues and more.

Ronn Torossian is President & CEO of 5W Public Relations. His client list, which includes Coca-Cola, McDonald's, P.Diddy's Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group, the Christian Trinity Broadcasting Network to the President of Serbia, is as diverse as his native Bronx, he quips.

Torossian, 34, grew up five minutes from Yankee Stadium and said he used to cut school to go watch Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield play. He calls the Yankees the "icon of American sports," but says that "the entire world has taken a fall," and the team isn't immune.

"The world has changed drastically financially," Torossian notes, "and the Yankees need to change with it." He says the Yankees front office has to "be receptive to what the fans have to say" regarding their criticisms of the new Stadium.

As for the team's dealings in the press, Torossian said "I didn't love" Randy Levine's response to Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber, where the Yankee president told Garber to "worry about Beckham, not the Yankees."

How can the Yankees stand out in this challenging economic climate? By being a positive story. "Many out there would like to see sports become fun again, Torossian says, "especially in these times."

The use of performance-enhancing drugs, of course, is one of the more negative issues facing Major League Baseball. I asked Torossian his thoughts on the players caught up in the scandal - Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, and Roger Clemens.

Alex Rodriguez is "not likeable.", the PR maven says, noting "his brand has really evolved in a bad way," Besides the steroids, there was the reported relationship with Madonna and that "absurd photo" of A-Rod kissing himself in the mirror. Rodriguez "doesn't do things to help himself," Torossian says.

So what can Alex do to fix his image? Torossian has a simple solution - "shut up and play ball."

These days, Torossian says that people think ballplayers make a lot of money from endorsements, but "the reality is very few athletes make money off the field."

Manny Ramirez, the PR expert notes, is one of the players whose star power has never translated to big commercials. As for Manny's marketability, "my perception is he really doesn't care that much" about that, Torossian says.

The 5WPR CEO says "the fall of Roger Clemens" coincides with "the rise of steroids" as a hot issue.

But the biggest issue facing baseball these days is the recession. So will the Yanks weather the current stormy economic climate? Torossian says yes. While the team is affected by what's going on in the world, the Yankees "won't fail," Torossian says. "They can't fail."


What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Interview with 'Confessions of a She-Fan' author Jane Heller


Squawker readers are familiar with frequent poster - and Yankee blogger, "She-Fan," aka Jane Heller. She's the author of over a dozen bestsellers (her fiction books have romance, screwball comedy, and a sassy tone). She hit a home run with her first nonfiction book, "Confessions of a She-Fan," about being a Yankee fanatic (click here for my review.)

I talked with Heller about a variety of topics, including how she came up with the "She-Fan" moniker, how men and women watch baseball differently, and what her fiction fans think of her new book.

Heller, a Westchester native, says her first baseball idol - and favorite Yankee - was Mickey Mantle. "I grew up loving him," she says. "I had pictures of him all over my bedroom wall, right next to the Beatles, and I was convinced I would marry him someday, never mind that he was already married and old enough to be my father."

Through the years, Heller followed the team, and now watches them long-distance from Santa Barbara, California. Her favorite current Yankee is Mariano Rivera. "There’s nothing I don’t love about him," Heller says. "When I hear 'Enter Sandman' I go a little nuts. He has such grace and style when he pitches, and he seems like a very decent human being."

Like many fans, Heller was frustrated over the beginning of the 2007 season. She was supposed to be working on a novel, but then "the Yankees started losing and I couldn’t concentrate on anything else," she said. In a fit of pique after a particularly bad game, Heller dashed off a piece wanting a divorce from the Yankees and sent it to the New York Times. That article, To Love and to Cherish for All Eternity, angered a lot of Yankee fans, who called her a front-runner.

Heller wanted to prove her true-Yankee-blue fandom to these critics, and she also "wanted to discover the true meaning of being a fan." So she - and her husband Michael - decided to follow the team around for the last two months of the season and the short-lived playoffs.

The novelist didn't have to invent plot twists, either. That time was dramatic enough, what with Alex Rodriguez's quest for 500, the Yankees' pennant race, The Bug Game, and Joe Torre leaving the Yankees.

"The great thing about writing my first nonfiction book after all those romantic comedies," Heller says, "was that I didn’t have to make anything up! I was my own heroine, and the Yankees were my heroes (and my husband too)."

Jane says that she wanted to "dazzle" her editor with her "reportage" in her first nonfiction book. So she turned in a 600-page manuscript. Her editor told her to cut it in half, and said, "Don’t tell us everything. Just tell us what matters."

Heller came up with the "She-Fan" moniker after the "She-Demon" movie, which aired on WPIX's old "Chiller Theater" program. "Women and men process fandom differently," she says. "I've never seen a man cry when his team loses."

"Numbers hold no allure for me," Heller says. What appeals to her about baseball is the "emotional component to the game."

Heller thinks that "women have much more sympathy" for wayward players. Among them is Alex Rodriguez - Heller sees him as a modern-day Reggie Jackson, to Derek Jeter's Cal Ripken Jr. While she likes A-Rod, she thinks Rodriguez is often "tone deaf." On A-Rod's steroid usage, Heller asks, "Is it that inconceivable that somebody might do something stupid?" But she still roots for him. "A-Rod's a Yankee, so I'm going to support him to the death," she says.

And after following the team around for 2 1/2 months, she is also sympathetic to the players' travel schedule as well. "It's a grind," she says, "charter plane or not."

Speaking of travel, Heller says many of her fans have traveled from her fiction to nonfiction books. "I’m getting great emails from fans of my novels, some of whom turn out to be Yankee fans. Who knew? They write to say they’ve loved the Yankees forever and are so glad to read a book about another fan."

Heller says she's also picked up fans of her current book who are now reading her novels. (Full disclosure - I'm one of them!) And the writer is now branching out into yet another field - Heller is currently working on a screenplay based on "She-Fan."

Is "She-Fan" as rabid a Yankee fanatic, even after seeing the team up close for two months? "I still watch every game," she says. "The difference, post-book, is that I don’t let myself get as depressed after a loss. I’m a crazed fan and always will be, but I’ve found more balance in my life. At least I hope I have."

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Don't dropkick Murphy

Squawker Lisa, I'm happy for you that things are "Swishalicious" on your side of town, but over here, they are not even Churchalicious. Swept out of L.A. and now Jose Reyes might have to go on the DL. But at least Daniel Murphy aced his first game at first base.

On his first play, Murphy took his foot off the bag, but Juan Pierre would have been safe anyway. But after that, Murphy made a range of plays that any first baseman would be happy to make - going to his left, going to his right, and leaping to take a hit away.

So I think it was a little harsh of the Post to put Murphy on the back page with the headline UGH-LY! Yes, Murphy went 0-for-4 and did not get the job done in the five hole, but it was a lot more important for Murphy to show he could handle first base.

We know Murphy can hit. But before last night, we also knew that he could not field. That he would have to end up in the American League as a DH.

But last night, Murphy did not look merely adequate at first, but actually like he belonged there. It's still only one game, but the Mets are a whole lot better off being able to solve the first base problem internal than calling up the Indians or Nationals and saying, hi, we're desperate for Mark DeRosa or Nick Johnson. Please rip us off.

As for his hitting, Murphy's slump has now left him batting .263. He hit .324 in April and is hitting .174 in May. Murphy is probably not a .324 hitter, but he's also not a .174 hitter. Murphy has also been jerked in and out of the lineup and his struggles in the outfield are well-documented. Perhaps having a secure spot at first base will help him settle down at the plate.

It's also not fair to criticize Murphy for not driving runs in as the 5 hitter last night, since he is not a power hitter and ideally would not be batting fifth if the Mets had other options.

Like it or not, the hitless wonder Mets are now a team that must win on pitching and defense. It's frustrating to see the team score only six times in the four-game losing streak, but at least the pitching has held the opposition to only ten earned runs in those four games - along with two unearned runs.

One of the unearned runs came after Murphy dropped the fly ball in the first inning Tuesday night. The other came of course when Jeremy Reed threw wildly from first at the end of Monday night's debacle.

With Murphy out of left and installed at first, the Mets have potentially shored up both their weakest spots on defense - though now they may have to contend with the loss of Reyes.

IF Reyes goes on the DL, the Mets must think defense first. But Jerry Manuel can't burn Fernando Tatis as a pinch-hitter as he did last night, leaving Ramon Martinez to bat in the ninth. Ideally, Martinez won't be batting at all soon, but Manuel must start treating the shortstop spot as he does catcher, making sure to keep options open.

With pitching, defense and smarter managing, maybe the Mets can avoid another Fenway massacre.

*

Condolences to Scott Schoeneweis on the loss of his wife. What a sad story. Our thoughts are with Scott and his family.

Positively Swishalicious! Yanks win eighth in a row on back-to-back-to-back homers

Lots of nice moments yesterday at the Stadium, and the Yankees seem to have found a partial solution to filling up those empty seats.

First up, the game. Squawker reader The Emperor said that John Sterling exclaimed, "Positively Swishalicious" over Nick Swisher's homer. And yes, he went there - he did do a back-to-back-to-back and belly-to-belly-belly call! And the other night, Sterling had the stellar call, "Two and two for Swisharoo." Heh.

Swisher, who has been slumping as of late, finally got his first homer at the new Stadium. I wonder if honorary bat girl Polly Tompkins, the schoolteacher fighting Stage 4 cancer who got to throw out the first pitch, brought him good luck with her cheerful attitude. They seemed to have bonded, hugging after the game. Bryan Hoch of yankees.com wrote a very touching story on Tompkins - click here to read it.

Phil Hughes made it harder for the Yanks to send him down to the minors with his nine-strikeout win. I think the Yanks should keep him up for a while as a long reliever - I'm not sold that Chien-Ming Wang is ready just yet.

Oh, snap! Johnny Damon seemed to call out Joe Torre, saying about how "family-oriented" Joe Girardi runs his clubhouse, suggesting that's why this year's free agents came to play in the Bronx. I don't think that's the case - I think the $423 million the Yanks spent had a bit more to do with it. But I guess Damon couldn't say, "Girardi actually pays attention to players besides the four rings guys," or "Hey, I don't have to worry that Girardi is going to sell me out in a tell-all book."

And somebody in the front office seems to have gotten a clue. Instead of shunting the servicemen and servicewomen in town for Fleet Week to the obstructed view bleacher seats, the way the Yanks did with the West Point cadets on Opening Day, the Yanks put them in the Legends seats right up front. Cool!

Only thing I didn't like about last night's game was Mariano Rivera pitching the ninth. I had no problem with Girardi bringing in Mo in the eighth to shut down the O's. But after the Yanks scored six runs at the end of the inning, Mariano should have been out of the game. Getting him the save isn't worth him pitching the ninth, even if he did throw only 14 pitches in the game.

Speaking of Rivera, I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at the Yankees' first Kangaroo Court since 2005. He was the judge, A. J. Burnett, Johnny Damon, and Derek Jeter were the jury, and Xavier Nady was the court stenographer. Sounds like it was great fun. I think Brian Bruney should have been the bailiff.

* * *

In honor of the Yanks winning eight in a row, here's a classic video about the number eight. It's Sesame Street's Jazzy Spies segment, featuring Grace Slick on vocals. Yes, Grace Slick. It's like having Amy Winehouse on Barney and Friends or something! Anyhow, the tribute to No. 8 is from early 1969, back when Oscar the Grouch was orange. It

And for Mets fans, click here to check out the day when Keith Hernandez and Mookie Wilson made a cameo on Sesame Street. They told Ernie to put down the duckie. Good advice!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Michael Kay and Mike Francesa: Self-appointed arbiters of 'The Yankee Way'

The Yankees have won seven in a row, with C.C. Sabathia getting his first win at Yankee Stadium, and Alex Rodriguez hitting in his fourth straight games. But some broadcasting voices don't like the team's current penchant for actually having fun while winning.

I watched the Joe Girardi Show before last night's game, and heard Michael Kay ask - or should I say complain - about the new Yankee whipped cream tradition. Kay claimed that his boothmates David Cone and Paul O'Neill were "not really cool with that." The broadcaster also said it wasn't "The Yankee Way."

Girardi said he was fine with it. He noted that because it was done after the game when the other team was off the field, it wasn't showing up the opponents.

But geez, is Michael Kay head of the No Fun Zone or what? He didn't like Nick Swisher laughing about pitching. He doesn't like condiments, seafood, soup, or bananas. Now he doesn't like - shudder - the Yankees actually acting like other teams, which means having a good time playing a kid's game. Sheesh.

For goodness sake, this team has won seven games in a row, with three walkoff wins in a row in that streak. If having fun contributes to winning - and I believe it does (and vice versa) - then why can't Kay, Cone, and O'Neill get behind that? The late 90s super-serious vibe worked for that team, but it shouldn't mean that every Yankee team ever has to act the same way. Besides, the Bronx Zoo teams didn't exactly carry themselves like choir boys.

Kay's sports radio competition, Mike Francesa, is just as super-serious. He griped on Monday about A.J. Burnett being the instigator, saying that Burnett should win a few games first.

Francesa also said that Burnett better not try that stuff with Derek Jeter or Jorge Posada, a point Squawker Jon and Newsday writer Anthony Rieber agree with. Rieber writes in today's Newsday:
It's a good thing Jeter didn't get the walk-off hits on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. A.J. Burnett smashing a shaving cream pie into Jeter's mug on live television might have been the last thing Burnett ever did as a Yankee.
Jeter had already said that the Yanks better not do that to him, so yeah, I wouldn't be surprised over that outcome!

On the other hand I noticed on Saturday how Alex Rodriguez handled the whipped cream pie. He seemed thrilled to be - for once - just one of the guys! For somebody who's been known to worry too much about his looks and image, he appeared to let his hair down there when talking to Kim Jones with egg - I mean whipped cream - on his face!

Besides the whipped cream, and the new WWE wrestling belt tradition (CC Sabathia won it last night), there are a few other new looks in the Yankee clubhouse this year. The bullpen guys are shaving their heads! Phil Coke showed off his new bald look before Tuesday's game. He told the New York Times:
"So far, it’s me, [Jose] Veras, [Brian] Bruney and Alfredo Aceves," Coke said of the bullpen baldies. Coke said Jonathan Albaladejo "is thinking about it; he’s on the fence now. He’s not sure."
Maybe Edwar Ramirez will shave his head, too, whenever he comes back to the big leagues. He got sent down to open up a roster space for Bruney. Ramirez has given up too many walks this year - 15 in 17 1/3 innings. Hopefully he can fix that in AAA.

LoHud's Sam Borden blogged today about the Yankees team's newfound team spirit, including how the Yanks are having a Kangaroo Court today, with Judge Mariano Rivera presiding. Cool! That's the first time I can remember that happening in many years, although it used to be a staple of the Bronx Zoo Yankees.

Borden asked Johnny Damon about the team's current makeup:

Johnny Damon, who started the WWE belt trend, was supposed to help “change the rigid Yankee culture” when he arrived in 2005, but that’s tough for one guy to do by himself. This year, the Yankees have several new players and that’s how the vibe of a team changes, Damon said. “We’ve got a lot of new guys here,” he said. “A lot of guys didn’t know what it was like here before, so they bring their own flair and so far it’s working.”

Newsday's Ken Davidoff wrote about this as well earlier this week.

I think this team having fun, and coming together, is all a good sign for the Yanks. Maybe it all started when Joe Girardi took the Yanks out for that pool expedition this spring. At any rate, I hope this era of good feeling continues.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Mets' AAA team more like AARP

On Monday night, the injury-plagued Mets started three players just brought up from Triple-A Buffalo. One might think that would result in a younger lineup - maybe a couple of kids rushed to the majors. But the Mets, not a young team to start with, actually got older. Monday's lineup only had two players under 30.

When the Mets' top choice to fill in at shortstop Monday and second base Tuesday is 36-year-old retread Ramon Martinez, something is wrong. And a look at the Buffalo roster confirms it.

The Bisons roster contains ten players who are over 30 and three more who will turn 30 during the season. At least seven other players over 30 have already played for Buffalo this year - Martinez, Redding, 40-year-old Ken Takahashi, Nelson Figueroa, Casey Fossum, Freddy Garcia and Rob Mackowiak. It's mid-May, and at least 17 players over 30 have already appeared in a Bisons game.

All teams have some veterans sprinkled in among the prospects. The Yankees recently brought up 36-year-old Brett Tomko and signed Fossum to AAA Scranton-Wilkes-Barre after the Mets released him. But the Yankees only have five players on the current AAA roster who are over 30, as well as two who will turn 30 during the season.

Veterans in the minors can have value if they are recovering from injuries or AAAA types who aren't quite good enough to stay on the big league roster but can still serve as fill-ins. Signing a bunch of older pitchers and hoping to get lucky with one or two is a potentially workable strategy. Redding looks good after one start and Takahashi has an ERA of 3.12 after seven appearances.

The farm has also delivered Omir Santos and Angel Pagan this year. Santos is older than a typical rookie, but at 27, young enough to pinch-run, at least for Ramon Castro. Pagan is 28 and coming back from injury.

With cleanup hitter Carlos Delgado out indefinitely, the Mets need to increase their emphasis on defense and speed. After tonight's loss, the Mets now have only five runs scored in three games. And two of those runs were driven in by John Maine.

The Mets should be trying to get younger, but it won't be possible on the big league level until they figure out how to improve things at Buffalo.

The Buffalo Bisons, by the way, are 10-27, 15 games behind first-place Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Are the Yankees trying out Felix Lopez as their new spokesman?

How quickly did the Yankees score last night? I went from the car to the store in the middle of the first inning to buy an AM/FM radio. And when I got back to the car five minutes later, the Yanks had already scored four runs and were about to score a fifth!

I listened to some of the game on the radio at the gym, so I missed "seeing" the Yankee bats get completely shut down by R.A. Dickey after that first inning. But I did hear something interesting on the Sterling-Waldman broadcast: an interview with Felix Lopez!

Lopez, you may remember, is a senior vice president of the Yankees - and the husband of George Steinbrenner's daughter, Jessica. And it sounded to me like the Yank front office was sending him out for a trial run as a family spokesman. Which brings up a whole lot of questions.

Like, where are Hank and Hal Steinbrenner these days? The two of them - and their very different personalites - remind me of feuding brothers Heat Miser and Snow Miser. (And now that you've got that song in your head, click here for the video.) Too bad Mother Nature can't mediate in real life. But I digress.

Anyhow, Lopez told John Sterling that the Yankees were going to fix everything that is wrong with the new Stadium. Sterling, of course, said he didn't think anything was wrong with the Cathedral! But Lopez was armed with zero specifics on what the front office was going to do. Nor was he the most eloquent spokesman - he kept on using words like "obviously" like some people say "you know." However, the advantage Lopez does have over Lonn Trost and Randy Levine was that listening to him didn't make your skin crawl. And when Lopez said that the team was going to listen to the fans, I kind of believed him!

So, are the Yankees 1) conceding that the new Stadium has problems, and 2) conceding that Trost and Levine aren't very good faces for the franchise? It's all very curious. Wonder what will happen next.

* * *

As for the game itself, Mark Teixeira sent two "Tex messages," as John Sterling calls them, last night. That second one was a tremendous shot. It's exciting to see what he can do when he's "on."

Is the reason that the first baseman is "on the Mark" because Alex Rodriguez is back in the lineup? Sure looks like it. According to the YES broadcast, in 25 games without A-Rod, Teixeira hit .198, with 5 homers and 15 RBIs. In the 10 games since, he's hit .342, with 5 homers and 13 RBI. And the Yanks went from a 13-15 record without Alex, to a 8-2 record with him. Hmmm, who would think putting a three-time MVP back in the lineup would actually make it better?

And Phil Coke got his first save, after a few fits and starts. I thought it was cute that it was fellow rookies Ramiro Pena and Francisco Cervelli who went to the mound to calm him down when he had a case of the jitters!

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Angel in the outfield, devils in the infield for Mets

You know you're in trouble when your best infielder is Carlos Beltran.

But say this about the Mets - despite having their lineup in a shambles, the Mets almost won this game.

And even after what might have been the bonehead play of the season, Ryan Church missing third base in the top of the eleventh when he appeared to score the go-ahead run, the Mets did not give up even when the game looked over.

Bases loaded, none out in a tie game in the bottom of the eleventh. An infield featuring Jeremy Reed at first, where he has hardly played, and 36-year-old Ramon Martinez fresh off the plane and installed at short, where he has already made two errors tonight. David Wright and Luis Castillo were in their usual spots, but they were joined by special guest star Carlos Beltran, installed on the right side to create a five-man infield.

And it almost worked. The Mets got one out, then a sharply-hit ball to Reed, who threw home in what could have been the start of a home-to-first double play. Except that Reed threw wildly past Ramon Castro at home and the Dodgers won.

The Mets made five errors, but most of them came from players new to the position or new to the team. Presumably Beltran and Angel Pagan will have better communication going forward and a ball won't drop between them as it did in that ill-fated eleventh, back when Beltran was still an outfielder.

But Church missing third - no excuse for that. And this on top of him not sliding back into first on a pickoff attempt when he could have been called out.

As brutal as the game turned out to be, there were some genuine bright spots. Tim Redding had a strong first start and Angel Pagan had four hits.

But the Mets have gone from a team alone in first to a team in crisis in just a couple of days. They took the field tonight with only three regulars who were in the starting lineup on Opening Day, along with a pitcher who was not in the rotation at that time.

This makeshift lineup is going to need to rely on good defense and smart play, not five errors and missing third base.

Monday, May 18, 2009

What is proper baseball t-shirt etiquette?

Whenever Squawker Jon and I go to baseball games together, we point out t-shirts and jerseys that other fans wear.

For example, there was a sea of #13s in honor of Alex Rodriguez at Friday's game, but we've seen all sorts of shirts out there. Like when you see somebody wearing a Soriano Yankee shirt, and he's been off the team for five years. Or those Yankee jerseys that the team sells which have the names on the back, contrary to tradition.

Anyhow, I've been thinking of getting some new Yankee shirts for this season. I want Squawker Jon and I to wear these tie-dye Mets and Yankees shirts from WearYourBeer.com to a Subway Series game!

This subject got me to thinking of baseball t-shirt/jersey etiquette:

* What do you do if your player is no longer on the team? How long can you get away with wearing his shirt? I say if he's somebody who's retired, like Bernie Williams or Paul O'Neill, it's still cool to wear his shirt. Randy Johnson or Alfonso Soriano? Not so much.

But I understand in the cases of jerseys, that there are some big expenses involved. Squawker Jon and I have a New York Rangers' fan friend who spent close to $200 on an authentic Mike York jersey, only to see him get traded the next week. Yikes!

* How long does a player have to be on the team before you buy his shirt or jersey? I'd really like an A.J. Burnett shirt, but Squawker Jon said I should wait half a season to make sure I still want to do it. Imagine all those fans who bought Ed Whitson shirts once upon a time. Or the poor souls who bought a Carl Pavano jersey!

* What do you do if the player changes his number? Is it okay to still wear the old number? This has happened a bunch in the last few years:

Robinson Cano had to change his #22 for #24 for Roger Clemens (yeah, that looks great in retrospect!) Phil Hughes switched from #65 to #34 last year, and now he's back at #65. Melky Cabrera switched from #28 to #53, which was convenient for Bobby Abreu jersey owners who didn't want their shirts to go to waste! Same thing with Mark Teixeira taking Jason Giambi's #25. (Reference tool: YankeeNumbers.com)

* And is it ever okay to have your own name on the back of a Yankee jersey? I say no, unless it's for a softball game.

What are your thoughts on proper t-shirt etiquette? Leave us a comment!

Only core that needs breaking up is at ESPN

After suffering through the Fox telecast on Saturday afternoon, I ended up missing much of last night's ESPN telecast. Too many of the national broadcasters don't even pretend to be up on what is happening with the teams involved. I DVRed Sunday night's game, but once it ended in disappointing fashion, the prospect of sifting through commentary from another clueless national crew was not appealing, so I deleted it.

So I am both sorry and glad that I did not have a chance to hear the latest inanities from the mouth of Steve Phillips.

When I think of Steve Phillips talking about the core, the first thing that comes to mind is that Phillips came close to giving away most of the core. And when I hear people talk about getting gritty players to replace the core, it should be obvious that the gritty types only win championships in conjuction with a core of superstars, not instead of it.

Metstradamus has done a great job of laying out both of these points.

Omar Minaya's record has its ups and downs, but he appreciates the value of a core and has generally used sound judgment in assembling it. No blunders anywhere close to the magnitude of a Mo Vaughn or Roberto Alomar. Of course the Mets have financial advantages when pursuing star free agents and players deemed too expensive by their current clubs. But Brian Cashman apparently had the same opportunity to land Carlos Beltran and Johan Santana and he passed. Minaya recognized these players as ones he had to have if at all possible.

The Mets are lucky that they have the resources to go out and get pieces of a core. And they are very lucky that GM Phillips did not give away Jose Reyes and David Wright.

Tell us what you think of Steve Phillips.