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Friday, July 31, 2009

On David Ortiz, missed opportunites, and the trading deadline

A-Rod looks like the truth-teller for the ages compared to his buddy David Ortiz. For all his goofiness, Alex never pretended that he had no idea how he tested positive on a steroids test!

I found David Ortiz' postgame statement ridiculous - here's my piece on it for the The Faster Times site.

At any rate, I should be more upset over all the missed opportunites in last night's Yankees-White Sox game, from the errors to the lack of timely hitting to DeWayne Wise being the late-inning hero for the second time in a week. But hey, I'm still basking in the afterglow of the big Red Sox news.

I did enjoy the heck out of Nick Swisher's ninth-inning, game-tying homer against his own team, though. Hopefully, he'll get even more revenge against the Sox tonight.

Let's hope Brian Cashman has some good surprises in score today, as we wait for the trading deadline.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Happy fifth anniversary, Scott Kazmir trade

On July 30, 2004, the Mets were 49-53, seven games behind Atlanta in the NL East and 7 1/2 out of the wild card, in ninth place. What better time to trade Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano.

On July 31, 2009, the Mets are 49-52, 9 1/2 games behind Philly in the NL East and 6 1/2 out of the wild card, in eighth place.

In theory, the Mets are much better off this year than they were in 2004, since they are due to get back "four All-Stars" as I have read in a number of places. But there are some problems with that argument.

First of all, we have been hearing that the Mets are close to getting Jose Reyes back practically since he left the lineup. It is still impossible to know the truth.

Second, even if everyone does make it back, will they be at All-Star form? Very unlikely for Carlos Delgado at least. Rumors that Carlos Beltran will try to make it back, then undergo microfracture surgery in the offseason do not make his situation look promising, either. And if Billy Wagner is going to make a contribution, why is the Mets' top priority supposedly another lefty arm in the pen.

Once Reyes comes back, he probably will be at or close to top form, since he would not come back otherwise.

Still, getting Reyes back and some version of Beltran and Delgado is better than, say, getting Cliff Lee.

But will it enable the Mets to go 41-20 the rest of the way, which they will need to do to win 90 games? Not even if all those guys came back today.

To make matters worse, the Mets have a GM who is fighting for his job. The future is now for Omar Minaya. By the time his vaunted 17-year-olds make it to the majors, if they ever do, he will be long gone.

But Omar does have a long contract, and if the Mets can continue to turn it around and end up with 85 wins (going 36-25 the rest of the way seems doable), coming close to last year's 89 wins with a healthy squad, that would be pretty impressive, and Minaya and Jerry Manuel would deserve to come back.

There would still be a lot of work to be done for next year, but there will be a lot more to do if there are any panic moves made today at the deadline.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

It's steroid schadenfreude in Yankeeland

The news that David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez failed the 2003 steroids test makes this the most exciting day in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry for me since the Yanks swooped in and signed Mark Teixeira. And I make no apologies for feeling that way.

Sorry, I'm not going to pretend I think this is a sad day for baseball. I have written for a piece for The Faster Times called "Steroids: The Real Juice Behind Reversing the Curse of the Bambino" - with some of my thoughts on the issue.

As I've said a zillion times over the years, Sox fans should have thought about the very real possibility that the steroids scandal would hit their team. Especially when it came to David Ortiz. But instead, too many Boston fans - not all, but a good bunch - acted like their team's hands were clean on the issue. Too bad, so sad.

Oh, and so much for FoxSports' Ken Rosenthal's self-righteousness on the issue, criticizing anybody who wondered if Ortiz was chemically enhanced.

The thing that gets me the most on this test failure - and that goes for A-Rod too - is that these players knew the test was coming, and they still failed. What hubris.

Wondering if Curt Schilling still wants the entire list of 103 names to come out?

One other note - Jon and I will still be squawking, but we're going to be writing in other outlets as well. I have another piece coming up soon on BaseballReflections.com. Go here to read my article for them about the first half of the Yankees' season.


What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Hey Ya! David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez Test Positive for Steroids!

Time to do the Snoopy Dance! I will have more to say shortly about the big news that David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez reportedly tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. I'm writing a piece up right now. But in the meantime, let me just do the Snoopy Dance and enjoy the news!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

For some Mets, DL stands for designer labels

Move over, Alyssa Milano! As noted in Metsblog, Tuesday marked the introduction of the Players Choice Signature Series, a set of T-shirts, jerseys and hats designed by six Met players.

Squawker Lisa thinks what the Mets should have been designing were straitjackets. I was thinking they could have included hospital gowns.

It's only fitting that half of the players involved - J.J. Putz, John Maine and Gary Sheffield - are on the disabled list. The other three - Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell and Omir Santos are healthy (knock wood).

But this clothing line figures to go out of fashion in a hurry, since many of these players may not be back with the Mets next season.

At least they are here now. Knowing the Mets, it would not have been a surprise to have Ryan Church and Ramon Castro unveiling their designs yesterday via satellite.

And to prop up the dubious Roy Halladay rumor, Fernando Martinez could have been trotted out to unveil clothing with a Toronto theme.

But at least the Mets had an off-the-field story that involved people putting on their shirts, rather than taking them off.

***

On the field, winning four in a row after a Johan Santana loss against two teams that have been hot is pretty impressive. I still think they should not be designing those wild card commemorative outfits just yet, but at least the Mets are competitive again.

Dice-K runs something - his mouth!

The last time the Boston Red Sox got fed up with an out-of-control diva, they traded Manny Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers. So what will they do about Daisuke Matsuzaka, who seems to be suggesting that players of different ethnicities need to train differently?

I've written a piece for The Faster Times on the subject. Check it out here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mets' version of 'Takin' Care of Business'

The Mets play "Takin' Care of Business" after every win. But this song is no more appropriate for this franchise than former eighth-inning singalong "Sweet Caroline." Especially not today.

At least the Mets did not let Tony Bernazard fly out with them to California only to fire him at 3 a.m. New York time, as they did with Willie Randolph last year. Then again, Omar Minaya would have been better off holding his news conference at a time when hardly anyone would be watching.

Only in the world of the Mets could the team finally start turning it around, thanks in large part to Jeff Francoeur, only to have Jon Heyman start twittering possible new GM candidates. Minaya's trade for Francoeur could turn out to be one of his best - and his last.

***

There was a time when winning three in a row while scoring 25 runs was routine for the Mets. Now it's worthy of curtain calls for the entire team.

Call me Eeyore, but I'm not ready to treat signs of life as pennant fever. Especially when the Mets won despite more questionable moves on the field.

In the sixth inning, with Luis Castillo on second and David Wright on first and none out, Daniel Murphy singled to shallow right. Third base coach Razor Shines held up Castillo, but Castillo ran through the stop sign.

Shines' eagerness to wave everyone home whatever the odds of success has been one of the most frustrating aspects of the 2009 Mets. It has not always been clear that he even has a stop sign. Finally, he uses it, only to have Castillo ignore it.

And Castillo scored standing up.

What Castillo noticed was right fielder Brad Hawpe throwing to second to prevent Wright from advancing to third. So Castillo alertly raced home and scored easily. Castillo was able to steal a glance at Hawpe despite the fact that Castillo's back was to the play.

What exactly was Shines looking at? The out-of-town scoreboard? Why was Castillo able to see what Hawpe was doing, but not Shines?

Back when Shines was waving everyone home, it sometimes seemed as if that was his instruction, to send runners regardless of the actual circumstances of the play. Perhaps he had the opposite instruction in the sixth - hold the runner regardless of what else is happening on the field.

Fortunately, at least Castillo was paying attention to what was actually going on.

In the eighth, the Mets again had Castillo and Wright on second and first with none out and Daniel Murphy coming up. But this time, Jerry Manuel decided to have Murphy bunt. At least Murphy now knows how to lay one down - the runners advanced to second and third.

Now the Mets had their biggest RBI threat, Jeff Francoeur coming up. And, thanks to Manuel's maneuvering, first base was open. So Francoeur was walked, leaving the Mets to rely on the dregs of the lineup.

As it turned out, pinch-hitter Fernando Tatis hit a grand slam to win the game for the Mets. But the Mets won despite Manuel's strategy, not because of it. Manuel took the bat out of the hands of both cleanup hitter Murphy and five hitter Francoeur, leaving things up to the weak second half of the lineup.

If Manuel does not trust Murphy to hit in that spot, Murphy should not be hitting cleanup. In fact, why not bat Francoeur fourth and Murphy fifth? The righty-lefty back and forth works a lot better with names like Beltran, Wright and Delgado. Managers are not going to worry about bringing in a righty to face Wright and Francoeur just because lefty Murphy is between them.

But despite the dubious decisions and the off-the-field circus, the Mets were able to take care of business. What a wonderful world!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bill James is dead wrong about Andy Pettitte

Do you think Andy Pettitte will be in the Hall of Fame one day, and that he will help Roger Clemens make it into the Hall as well?

Bill James does. He wrote a piece in his upcoming new book about steroids and Cooperstown stating just that. He also wrote that our grandchildren will be doing steroids. You can read my thoughts on his article here.

If Met memorabilia were in the Smithsonian

Squawker Lisa and I were in Washington over the weekend. We visited the Smithsonian's American History museum, where Lisa was none too pleased to see Red Sox memorabilia prominently displayed.

Nothing from the Mets made it into the popular culture exhibition. But if the Smithsonian would like to freshen up their display, here are some ideas for Met-themed replacements:

Current: Third base from 2004 World Series
New: Third base missed by Ryan Church

Current: Boxing gloves worn by Muhammad Ali around 1975, when Ali was heavyweight champion for second time
New: Glove worn by Luis Castillo when he dropped A-Rod's popup

Current: Jerry Seinfeld's puffy shirt
New: Tony Bernazard's shirt

Since I was away this weekend, I did not get to see any of the games. Did the Mets really score 18 runs in two games? I find that hard to believe.

Easier to believe that yet another Met (Gary Sheffield) was about to return, but was put on the DL after the Mets played a man down for a week.

Also easier to believe that Johan Santana again allowed the opposing pitcher to do damage at the plate. A home run by Mike Hampton? Glad I missed that!

But at least Jon Niese was strong in his return to the rotation. And Jeff Francoeur drove in 12 runs on the ten-game road trip, accounting for almost a third of the runs the Mets scored on the trip.

One of the most famous displays in the Smithsonian is of Dorothy's ruby red slippers, which she clicked three times and said, "There's no place like home." Now we get to find out if the same is true for the Mets, with 21 of the next 28 games at Citi Field.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Joba rules - and pitches another quick game - as the Yankees have great eight

I'm out of town this weekend - I'm in Washington, D.C. - so I missed seeing last night's game. I wasn't surprised that the Yankees won. But I was very pleasantly surprised to see that Joba Chamberlain not only won, but continued to pitch quickly - the game finished in less than three hourss.

I think those two items - pitching well and pitching at a fast pace - go hand in hand for Joba. As Derek Jeter, who was happy with Joba's pace, said to the media:

"I told him that after the game, he did a better job of working quick," Jeter said. "The last thing you want to do when you're out there on defense is play slow."

Ain't that the truth. It seems like there are many more errors when Joba moves slowly, than when he picks up the pace. Good to see that Joba is turning it around this year.

But what's going to happen when he reaches the Yankees' innings limit? Is he really going to go back into the bullpen? If so, Mike Francesa will be very pleased!

* * *

In other news, I saw this headline, "Wang may meet with Andrews on Monday," and at first I wondered why the heck Chien-Ming Wang was going to talk with Erin Andrews! Was he going to express sympathy on those peephole pix or something? Then I realized it was James Andrews he was going to meet with. Yikes!

One of our readers emailed me to ask if my thoughts on the Yankees making any trade deadline deals. My guess is that they have to assume Wang is out for the year. So I wouldn't be surprised to see them trade for a fifth starter - they've already said they won't move Phil Hughes out of the bullpen anytime soon.

But will it be Roy Halladay? No chance. And that goes for the Red Sox, too. Why in the world is J.P. Ricciardi going to give his team's franchise player to somebody in their division? I just can't see it happening.

* * *

Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger has done a great job in his first year as a Yankee beat writer. Check out his touching piece on the wonderful carnival the Bombers put on for the kids of Camp Sundown.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Is Phil Hughes the Phil of the Future for the Yankees bullpen?

Phil Hughes got his first career save last night. He's been so impressive in the bullpen this year, that it looks like he's going to be the setup guy for the rest of the year, a la 1996 Mariano Rivera. But should he stay in that spot for next year as well? Good question. It's something to think about.

The Yanks are on some streak - seven in a row - thanks in no small part to Hughes and the rest of the bullpen. And they've been so dominant as of late that they're even beating pitchers they haven't seen before, like New Jersey native Vin Mazzaro. Good stuff.

I had tickets to last night's game (it was the rescheduled rained out game from April), but I decided to use them for some other time, as I was worried about rain. Good thing I did - I wouldn't have wanted to wait out a 2 hour and 43 minute rain delay! But hey, I'm a wimp!

On the other hand, some brave kids got the time of their life at the game last night. As part of the Yankees HOPE week, the Bombers gave kids who suffer from Xeroderma Pigmentosum a night they'll never forget. The disease prevents sufferers from going out in sunlight. For last night's game, the Yankees put up Camp Sundown kids in the luxury suites, then threw a carnival for them on the field after the game.

A.J. Burnett talked about this to MLB.com:
"I have two kids, and it's kind of unfathomable to imagine what's going on with these kids," A.J. Burnett said. "I'd never heard of this disease before this week, and as soon as I heard about it, I signed up for it. They're going to take this one memory and I want to be a part of it. That's kind of flattering." ....

Burnett said that, to benefit Camp Sundown and XP research, he planned to put the Yankees' WWE belt -- distributed to the team-selected player of each game -- up for auction later this season.
My heart goes out to those kids, and to all the people honored in HOPE Week. The Yankees have done a tremendous job with these events.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Is Tony Bernazard trying to get fired?

Quick note: I wrote something for The Faster Times on Mets VP for Player Development (ha!) Tony Bernazard, and whether he is the new George Costanza. You can read it here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mark Buehrle is perfect against the Rays

Thanks, Mark Buehrle, for pitching a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Every Rays loss will help in the pennant race!

I am going to be writing on Major League Baseball for The Faster Times, a brand-new news web site. Here is my article about Buehrle's perfecto.

While Mets are 'Dumb and Dumber,' the Yanks win sixth in a row


While Squawker Jon is in despair over the Mets' teamwide meltdown, I'm all pleased that my Yankees are riding high. They now are 20 games over .500, and have a two-game lead in the AL East. 

And get this - A.J. Burnett used a Jim Carrey movie line to lighten the mood on the team. After Nick Swisher bobbled the ball in yesterday's game, he later made a great play in that inning to save Burnett's bacon. The Yankee pitcher put his arm around the outfielder and unleashed this famous "Dumb and Dumber" quote:

"Just when I think you couldn't possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this...and totally redeem yourself!"

And Swisher didn't even barter the team's van for a moped!

In the postgame, Swisher, who drove in two RBIs described his day as being like an ice cream flavor - Rocky Road! Heh.

As for Burnett, he has continued to impress. Since he got destroyed by the Red Sox last month, he's gone 5-1 with a 1.93 ERA. 

Phil Hughes (I will not call him one of the Phil-thies!) had another good game, and Mariano Rivera got his 23rd straight save. But really, Rivera shouldn't have had to be in the game in the first place. Unfortunately, Brian Bruney gave up back-to-back homers and made the score 6-4. 

Bruney needs to get it together - and soon. He's the only real weak link in the bullpen right now. He's also a weak link with his mouth, as the Journal-News reports:

Bruney was mad that reporters were asking him questions and gave several sarcastic answers including, “I just wanted to get Mo a save, that’s what a set-up man does.”

He also claimed he pitched perfectly fine and that those home runs could have been pop-ups.

Speaking of weak links, Brett Tomko, who was designated for assignment Tuesday, griped about the way the Yanks treated him, and said he would not accept a minor-league assignment with the club:

"I don't think I got a fair shot," he said. "I pitched great in spring training and didn't make the team. I pitched great in the minors, got called up and didn't get much of a chance. I understand other guys are pitching great. But it could have been different. I can't see the point in coming back."

He had a 5.25 ERA with the Yankees. How much of a chance should he have gotten? He shouldn't have been on the team so long in the first place. It's like "Dumb and Dumber" with Bruney and Tomko, when it comes to dopey comments.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Mets sinking on and off the field

Despite reports that Tony Bernazard challenged Binghamton players to a fight, latest indications are that Omar Minaya is unlikely to fire Bernazard. I guess the Mets are willing to let the vice president of player developement stand on his record.

AAA Buffalo Bisons - 35-58, last place.
AA Binghamton Mets - 37-59, last place.


Binghamton's Web site says that they offer "A Big League Show at a Small Town Price."

Meanwhile, the parent club in Queens now offers the opposite.

At least the MLB Mets can thank Washington for keeping last place out of reach. If the Mets were in the NL Central, they would be only two games out of the cellar.

But while even the Mets don't figure to blow the 16-game lead they hold over the hapless (except when they play the Mets) Nats, the two teams have had similar records since May 31:

Mets: 16-29
Nats: 14-30

Now the Mets go to Houston, another so-called "easy" stop. Only the Astros just swept the Cardinals and are only a game out of first place. And the news gets better for the Astros - the Mets are coming to town.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Yankees enjoy first place to themselves, while John Henry Twitters about his 'frustrating' Red Sox

Big news in Yankeeland. No, not that the Bombers have first place all to themselves, but that the Brett Tomko era is over. When is his Yankeeography coming out?

Tomko, who was released yesterday to make room for Sergio Mitre, hadn't even pitched since July 11. On the other hand, another Yankee who hasn't played in ages, Cody Ransom, scored two runs in yesterday's victory. Until last night, he hadn't played since July 10.

Incidentally, if anything bugs me about Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman this year, it's the way that roster spaces are wasted on players who are never used. Angel Berroa was another player who shouldn't have been on the roster. But now he's a Met, which is fitting, somehow.

Speaking of the Mets, does Jeff Francouer dropping a fly ball last night make him a True Met?

I probably should give Squawker Jon and his team a break, though. They look as hapless as Teddy Roosevelt does in the Washington Nationals' Presidents' race each night!

Back to the Yankees. Mitre gave the Yanks about as much as Chien-Ming Wang had been doing in his last few starts before getting hurt. Mitre started out poorly, then settled down, then had a shaky sixth inning. He got a nice ovation from the crowd for his game. It was a positive start in the right direction, and Mitre's first win in two years. And really, anything else Mitre can provide over what Wang would have given the team will be a plus.

I also appreciated how Alex Rodriguez and the Yanks manufactured a run last night without a hit. That was a highlight of the night.

Another highlight was seeing the Red Sox's John Henry gripe about his team's lousy play on Twitter. He called the Sox's week "frustrating" and wrote, "Tough night in Texas." Boo bleeding hoo!

At least he didn't complain about the Yankees' spending $400 million in free agents this time. Thank goodness for small favors.

Speaking of big-spending teams, how come nobody gripes about how the Sox have enough money to release Julio Lugo, even though he has $13.5 million on his contract? Just wondering.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

This Squawker's 'Baseball Reflections' on the Yankees' season - so far

I just started writing on the state of the Yankees each month for the very cool site BaseballReflections.com. My first article is on the first half of the Bombers' season. It's featured as the lead story on the site right now! I'm very excited about this.

My piece is called "2009 Yankees: (Almost as) Easy as Pie." Please check it out and say hello.

Another 0 for '09 Mets

John Lannan did not bother with scouting reports before shutting out the Mets last night:

"I've just faced them so much," Lannan said. "I usually do a scouting report where I look at video and stuff, and this scouting report I basically did it from memory."

Why would any pitcher bother with a scouting report for these Mets? Just throw strikes and most of the Met batters will get themselves out. The worst that will happen is the occasional single. Avoid bunching those singles together and you'll be fine.

The Mets have played 17 games in July. They have scored two runs or fewer in 10 of those games - five shutouts, three one-run games and two two-run games. Their record in these games is 1-9. The only win came on July 1 when Mike Pelfrey beat Yovani Gallardo, 1-0.

You don't have to be a sabermetrician to that you are not going to win a whole lot when you score two runs or fewer almost 60% of the time.

After the game, Jerry Manuel said that Gary Sheffield's absence had left a hole in the lineup. Sheffield has missed the four games, during which the Mets have scored 12 runs, which actually raised their game average for the month (they have 48 runs in the 17 games).

Losing Sheffield only added another hole to a lineup full of holes. And the hole the Mets are digging for themselves now has them ten games behind Philly.

***

When Lannan beat the Yankees in June, Squawker Lisa wrote: "Imagine: John Lannan shuts down Yankee bats." Squawker reader Uncle Mike had plenty of suggestions for other John Lennon quotes, some of apply to the current state of the Mets:

"I think I'm gonna be sad, I think it's today, yeah" (David Wright)

"Help! I need somebody" (Jerry Manuel)

"He's a real nowhere man/Sitting in his nowhere land/
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody"
(Omar Minaya)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Roy Halladay would not fill Mets' biggest needs

When the Mets traded for Johan Santana, he looked to be the missing piece for a potential championship team. Unfortunately, the Mets are no longer one piece away. While Roy Halladay would look great in the Mets' rotation, the cost in prospects and salary would likely not result in a title team.

Let's assume that the rumored price of Fernando Martinez, Bobby Parnell, Jon Niese and Ruben Tejada was true. Let's also assume that the Mets won't miss any of these players now or ever (always a possibility). Let's also assume that the Mets sign Halladay to a long-term contract using the money they save by saying goodbye to Carlos Delgado and Billy Wagner. So Halladay would not be just a rental.

Finally, let's assume that Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran are completely healthy going into next year.

Assuming everything breaks right, the Mets would still have big problems with their lineup. They would be lacking a power hitter in the middle of the lineup as Carlos Delgado was in his Mets prime. Unless Jeff Francoeur magically regains his 2006 form, the Mets are going to need a big bat to replace Delgado.

Even when the Mets had their core at full strength, the lineup was front-loaded last year and in the first part of this year. Daniel Murphy may be decent in the field at first, but as of now he is no corner infield hitter. Along with Murphy, the Mets would have weak hitters at catcher, second, left field and possibly right field, depending on how Francoeur fares.

Perhaps most importantly, the Mets would still have big problems with depth. The Mets have had really bad luck with injuries this year. But you can't assume no injuries at all next year.

As for pitching, the rotation would certainly be great with Halladay slotted in behind Johan Santana. But the bullpen would be weaker without Parnell, and J.J. Putz would probably be gone as well. While Putz is hurt now and Parnell has been shaky recently, if both leave, the Mets will have to find pitchers to replace them.

Last year, the Mets addressed their pressing bullpen needs, but neglected everything else. Now they have a great closer, but lack the lineup to get him a lead most days.

Trading for Halladay now sends the wrong message. It says that the Mets have an unrealistic view of how close they are to being a championship team. It continues the failed policy of having a top-heavy team with a few superstars and a lot of filler.

Instead of spending the money and prospects on Halladay, the Mets could, for argument's sake, sign possible free agents such as Jason Bay and Orlando Hudson, while retaining Parnell for the bullpen, Niese for the rotation and F-Mart for outfield depth and the future.

The Mets should not be sellers at the deadline or move into rebuilding mode. They should plan to contend in 2010. But even if money is no object, and that does not appear to be the case with the Mets, they have to do something about their organizational depth so that Jerry Manuel can't even joke about playing Livan Hernandez in the infield.

Whip it good! Hideki Matsui and the Yankees celebrate another walkoff win

Ladies and gentlemen, your first-place New York Yankees (for now, at least!)

Pretty cool to see the Yanks' have their ninth walkoff win of the year, and it's still only July. Also amazing to see that the Bombers have won three games in a row with a 2-1 score. The coincidence itself isn't what shocks me; the fact that there were such low scores in this bandbox of a ballpark is the astonishing part!

The other jaw-dropping thing was Hideki Matsui's uncharacteristic celebration of his walkoff homer. The only other time I remembered seeing him so excited in a game was in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, where he jumped at home plate. (Speaking of which, I saw that clip again when watching Mike Mussina's "Yankeeography" last night.)

Last night, Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, and Jorge Posada (another shocking thing right there!) all encouraged him to toss his helmet a la A-Rod. And Hideki did so while rounding third, while the three teammates went after the helmet. Squawker Jon teased me that Matsui was a "punk" for tossing the helmet, though!

Then, of course, Matsui was treated to a pie in the face, courtesy of A.J. Burnett. 

It really is a different team this year. I don't know what's more shocking - that Matsui was participating in the Yankee mayhem, or that Jorge Posada was! Or maybe it was that Andy Pettitte finally pitched a great game at Yankee Stadium.

Squawker Jon doesn't care for this era of good feeling in Yankeeland. He wonders why Yankee fans gripe about Francisco Rodgriguez and Jose Reyes celebrating, when the Yanks are doing such elaborate walkoff win stuff. Good grief!

(Photo courtesy of the Star-Ledger)

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Monday, July 20, 2009

More thoughts on Old Timers' Day, the Yankees' sweep, and Julian Tavarez

Squawker Jon, while I greatly enjoyed your Julian Tavarez blog entry, I must point out what Jennifer Lopez did last month when stuck at a Mets game with husband Marc Anthony. She snoozed!

But in recent years, J-Lo was seen smiling it up with A-Rod - and wearing a Yankee hat to boot. Heh.

* * *

In other news, I was glad to see Joba Chamberlain pitch like the old Joba again yesterday. And it was good to see the Yanks win all three games against the first-place Tigers, even though the Bombers only scored nine runs all weekend.

As for Old Timers' Day, it got a little dusty in the Squawker mansion while watching it. I even got a little choked up seeing Don Zimmer make his return. Mel Stottlemyre got a warm welcome as well. 

It got me wondering as to when Joe Torre will ever come back to the Bronx for such an event. It will happen somebody, but it might be an even longer wait than Zimmer had.

One of the moments I really enjoyed about Old Timers' Day was seeing Mike Mussina again. He seemed so much more relaxed and fun than he did for most of his time as a Yankee. I really liked his last season for that reason - he seemed much less tense.

I did half to laugh about his comments to Kim Jones regarding the new Yankee Stadium. I got the impression he didn't like it - he seemed to struggle to find a word to describe it other than "big"!

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

But does Julian Tavarez think the Mets look like Jennifer Lopez?

"Why did I sign with the Nationals? When you go to a club at 4 in the morning, and you're just waiting, waiting, a 600-pounder looks like J. Lo. And to me this is Jennifer Lopez right here. It's 4 in the morning. Too much to drink. So, Nationals: Jennifer Lopez to me."
Julian Tavarez after signing with Washington in March

Yesterday, Julian Tavarez was dumped by a 600-pounder. The last-place Nationals designated Tavarez for assignment.

So what's a 36-year-old pitcher with an ERA of 14.73 in July to do?

Maybe he should go back to that club, where another patron is sitting alone at four in the morning. This patron does not look like Jennifer Lopez, either.

But Tavarez is in his mid-thirties and available on the cheap, so to Omar Minaya and the Mets, he probably looks like Brad Pitt.

No, wait. It's Julio Lugo who looks like Brad Pitt to the Mets. Tavarez may have to settle for George Clooney.

There would be only one thing worse than the Mets signing Tavarez.

What if Tavarez tells the Mets, "It may be four in the morning. You may be the only one in the bar. But even I don't think you look anything like Jennifer Lopez. Go home with you? Fat chance."

Red Sox co-owner John Henry needs a new Twitter target besides the Yankees

Red Sox co-owner John W. Henry recently took time out from enjoying his new marriage to slam the Yankees on Twitter. Again.

Yesterday, the Boston owner, who posts as John_W_Henry on Twitter, tweaked the Yankees over their new fan club, Yankees Universe:
News from Yankees' Universe. Big upsurge in membership. Apparently coming mostly from Pluto. Not doing nearly as well on Mars.
It's not that I find Henry's comments offensive. It's that I find them unfunny, which is arguably a bigger sin.

Dude, just because your underlings may laugh at your "jokes," it doesn't mean that those witticisms are actually funny. Leave the comedy to the trained professionals.

I will give him credit for one thing, though. At least he didn't make a Uranus joke.

But really, Henry's obsession with the Yanks is kind of sad. He writes more about the Bombers than I do about Jonathan Papelbon. But at least I have the excuse of having no life.

The Red Sox co-owner, on the other hand, is both a gazillionaire and a newlywed. Yet he appears to have nothing better to do than to complain about the Yankee playroll and suggest that the acquisition of Mark Teixeira -(MT in Henryspeak) has cursed the Bombers.

I do have a suggestion for something Henry can do on Twitter - spark an online fight with former Red Sox/Yankee/Met player Doug Mientkiewicz - aka DougieBaseball on Twitter. (Squawker Jon is still stunned by the news that Mientkiewicz refers to himself as DougieBaseball!)

Mientkiewicz recently made Twitter news by calling Yankee Nick Swisher "a turd" and saying "I think he's way way over rated." Maybe Henry and Eye Chart can get into a dispute about the 2004 World Series ball again or something. An argument between the two would be more compelling than the Red Sox owner's tired anti-Yankee rejoinders, to be sure.

Or heck, Henry could start a Twitter war with us (of course, Squawker Jon would probably take the Sox owner's side!) Our Twitter account is subwaysquawkers. Bring it on!

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

One small step for Nieve, one giant leap to the DL

Squawker Lisa, you are right to attack Mets' management for saying that the fans are not interested in Old Timers' Day. But the Yankees are not better than the Mets because they are willing to put Chad Curtis up in a hotel. And the Yankees have their own issues with honoring history, judging by the sorry placement of Monument Park.

But overall, the Yankees definitely do a lot more to honor their history than do the Mets. The fact that the Yankees' history is more glorious is no excuse - the Mets actually do have their own history, despite how management seems to feel.

So defintely have some sort of regular Old Timers' gathering at Citi Field, but stay away from any Old Timer games. The way the karma around the Mets is these days, there's no guarantee that all of the old-timers will make it through the game alive.

Just when you think things couldn't get any worse on the injury front, the Mets need a cart on the field twice in three days, for Gary Sheffield (who waved it off) and Fernando Nieve.

During the seventh-inning stretch, maybe the Mets' version of Milwaukee's sausage race could be the injury cart racing an ambulance.

40 years ago today, man landed on the moon. And a few months later, the Mets won the World Series.

Today, the big story out of the U.S. space program is that the toilet is broken. And the Mets season is in the toilet.

Yankees outdo Mets - again - with Old Timers' Day

Yesterday was another classic Old Timers' Day - something the Yankees invariably do a great job with. Meanwhile, Met fans like Squawker Jon had their own tradition of sorts to celebrate yesterday - another Met got carted off the field!

Meanwhile, Yankee fans were cheering the likes of Met icons like Dwight Gooden and David Cone. Oh, and remember how I made this autograph suggestion yesterday?:
You know what would be icing on the cake, though? If the Bombers got Gooden to sign some place that all the fans could see today. Contrary to previous promises, the Mets still haven't done anything with Doc's signature, other than hide it from the fans!
It sounds like the Yanks are indeed starting a new autograph tradition. Peter Abraham reports that Yankees clubhouse manager Rob Cucuzza had all the old timers sign the wall near Joe Girardi's office. This year's current players have all autographed the wall as well.

Granted, fans won't get to see the wall unless it's part of the new Yankee Stadium tour, but it's still a heck of a lot better than the Mets covering up Doc Gooden's autograph and treating it like it was graffiti!

Coming later on today - more of my thoughts on Old Timers' Day and the Yankees' sweep. But in the meantime, tell us what you think!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Yet another reason why the Yankees are better than the Mets - Old Timers' Day!

The Mets are at it again. The team that treated Dwight Gooden's autograph like graffiti now explains why it won't honor their team's heroes with an Old Timers' Day. Mets VP Dave Howard told the media:
“It was particularly unpopular as a promotion. We didn’t see an increase in ticket sales or interest from sponsors or even from people who already had tickets. It died of its own unpopularity in the early ’90s."
Nonsense. The last time the Mets did an Old-Timers' Day was in 1994. While the attendance was only 24,885, that was still better than the team's 20,380 average attendance at Shea that season, and represents an approximately 25% increase in ticket sales.

While it wasn't a a sellout, the Mets Police blog reminds us of how bad the team the Mets were putting on the field back then (the year before, they only won 59 games.) To not consider that the crummy team might have had something to do with the Old Timers' Day attendance back then is ludicrous. And to refuse to do another such event because of something that happened 1a generation ago is crazy.

No, there are two real reasons the Mets won't put on an Old Timers' Day again. One is that this is a franchise which is embarrassed to showcase its own history. Dodgers' history? Yes. Mets' history? Fugeddaboutit.

The second is that the Mets are also an extraordinarily cheap franchise. As Howard, the Mets VP, also told reporters:
"It wasn't popular, it wasn't effective, fans weren't responding and it wasn't selling very many tickets," Howard says. "The fans spoke volumes. It's a very expensive promotion and it wasn't producing the sales and marketing results we wanted for that investment."
This is just silly. I seem to remember there being a sellout crowd for the last game at Shea Stadium, and big attendance for Ralph Kiner Day and the 1986 tribute game, so to suggest that fans don't care about such stuff is ludicrous.

The real story is that unlike the Yankees, the Mets are too stingy to fly in their dozens of their old players, and put them up in hotels for the weekend. But in addition to being so cheap, the Mets try to palm it off as the fans' lack of interest. Unconscionable.

Every Met fan I know, including Squawker Jon, is embarrassed by their team's refusal to honor their own franchise's history.

While the Bombers aren't perfect - I'm still unhappy with much of the new Stadium - the team ownership does a terrific job with Old Timers' Day each year. Players from Aaron Small to Yogi Berra all get their moment in the sun.

Meanwhile, the only chance Met fans will be able to get to see players like Doc Gooden or David Cone or Lee Mazzilli play in Old Timers' Day game, is if they headed to the Bronx today. Yet another reason why the Yankees rule, and the Mets drool.

You know what would be icing on the cake, though? If the Bombers got Gooden to sign some place that all the fans could see today. Contrary to previous promises, the Mets still haven't done anything with Doc's signature, other than hide it from the fans!

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Subway Squawkers break some political news, thanks to Jonathan Papelbon!

Jonathan Papelbon might not only be the Red Sox most despised by Yankee fans, but his controversial comments on President Obama are getting some national attention, thanks to Subway Squawkers!

The other day, I wrote about how he told radio host - and friend of the Squawkers - Larry Milian on Andy and the Amigo that he preferred the Playboy All-Star Game parties to meeting President Obama. This story got picked up by the big political site Politico.com, with writer Ben Smith suggesting that the Sox closer is "hard to impress."

The site Newser.com also wrote about my story on Papelbon - and featured it on their main sports section right next to Tiger Woods. Sports site MVN.com also picked up the story.

Anyhow, Larry Milian had me on his WFTL radio program yesterday afternoon to talk about the controversy. I told Larry that while I'll give Papelbon points for candor and honesty (a ballplayer in his 20s like him probably would be more impressed by Playboy than the president), it still was a silly thing to Papelbon to admit. But then again, if Papelbon didn't say silly things, I wouldn't be able to call him Cinco Dopo!

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Whatever happened to 'True Yankee' moments?

In recent years, there's been a whole to-do over when a new Yankee would become a so-called "True Yankee," or when he would earn his pinstripes. For example, Jason Giambi's extra-inning grand slam in the rain was considered his first "real Yankee" moment. And really, it ended up being one of his two most memorable moments as a Yankee (the second was him hitting two solo homers in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.)

I think the whole notion of being a "True Yankee" is silly, though. Everybody who puts on the pinstripes is a real Yankee. Sure, some are better liked and cheered than others, but they're all still Yankees.

Besides, no other team's fan base does this "True Yankee" nonsense. You never hear somebody talk about whether such and such player is a True Met or a True Red Sox or even a True Pirate!

Fortunately, it seems like this year's Yankee imports are not having to worry about getting their true Yankee moments. Mark Teixeira had his own home run in the rain Friday - a three-run homer to win the game for the Yankees. But was it his signature moment? Not really. After a shaky first month, he's been a vitally important hitter for the team.

Alone those same lines, I guess one could say that CC Sabathia's May 8 Orioles game (the night A-Rod came back) or A.J. Burnett's one-hitter were their signature moments. But, thankfully, I don't think any of the three Yankee free agents are still having to pay their dues with the fan base. Other than Mike Francesa and Michael Kay griping about Burnett's pie celebrations, these players have all been accepted by the Yankee fan base. Thank goodness.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Me and Julio (Lugo) down by the graveyard

Here are the top five reasons for signing Julio Lugo:

5. Lugo will make the Mets' infield younger. 33-year-old Luis Castillo was born in September of 1975. Alex Cora was born in October of 1975. Lugo was born in November of 1975.

4. According to Baseball Reference, one of the players Lugo is most statistically similar to is Tony Bernazard.

3. Baseball Reference also notes that, at ages 26 and 27, Lugo was most similar by age to Angel Berroa.

2. If the Mets end up with both Berroa and Lugo, that will mean that they have acquired shortstops from both the Red Sox and Yankees this year. Perhaps the success of these organizations will rub off on the Mets, as it did when the Met manager was Willie Ran- oh, never mind.

1. By signing Lugo, as The 'Ropolitans put it, "it would signal the white flag to the rest of the NL East."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mets have nowhere to go but 'Up'

Squawker Lisa, I must take issue with your use of the movie "Up" to describe the Yankees' season. The Yankees have no place in the world of wholesome family entertainment. They are more like a "Terminator" - relentless and artificially enhanced.

"Up" belongs squarely in the Mets' camp. The movie features an cranky old-timer thrust into an unlikely leadership role (Gary Sheffield). His sidekick is an eager youngster still in need of a lot of guidance (Daniel Murphy). The movie also features a friendly flightless bird (Jose Reyes) and a pack of talking dogs (the Met farm system).

During the movie, our heroes attempt to support a house without a foundation, powered only by balloons. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2009 New York Mets!

***

Last night's game was another dreary loss, but at least Oliver Perez did just as well as the pitcher the Mets might have signed instead, Derek Lowe. Omar Minaya deserves a lot of criticism, but not for passing on a four-year contract for a pitcher who will be 39 in the final year, especially after how the latter parts of the contracts for Pedro Martinez and Billy Wagner turned out.

Ollie pitched six innings and gave up three runs on five hits, exactly the same as Lowe. Ollie walked four, but Lowe walked three. And Ollie struck out six to Lowe's two.

Actually, one could argue that Ollie pitched a lot better than Lowe, since Lowe got to face the Mets.

***

At least the Braves and Mets have one thing in common. Last night, the Braves unveiled a new giant Coke bottle that shoots out fireworks when a Brave hits a home run. But when the Braves hit back-to-back homers in the second, the fireworks failed to go off.

Yankees midseason report: A double feature of 'Up' and 'Groundhog Day'

Well, given that Squawker Jon has already thrown in the towel on the Mets' season, can I do a little victory lap and run around like Rocky with my arms in triumph or something?

I mean, really. In his "Reversal of Fortune" blog entry, he compared his team both to the bad side of competitive eating, and to Sunny Von Bulow. Harsh!

As for my own team, two movie analogies come to mind - "Up" and "Groundhog Day." "Up," because the Bombers are an old team moving up in the standings, albeit without the help of balloons. (Yeah, I can hear Squawker Jon suggesting that steroids have taken the place of helium in this analogy!)

"Groundhog Day," of course, is what happens when the Yanks meet the Red Sox or Angels. One of our readers suggested that the Yankees do poorly against red-hatted teams. Sad but true.

Anyhow, instead of grading each player, here are ten observations on the first half of the Yankees' season:
  • Joba Chamberlain has gone from being an electrifying pitcher to watch, to the new Steve Trachsel. Sheesh.
  • Derek Jeter may be the Yankee captain, but the Bombers are A-Rod's team when it comes to hittting. It's no coincidence that they started winning when Alex Rodriguez returned to the lineup. Unfortunately, when A-Rod slumps, that means the rest of the team slumps as well.
  • But Jeter has been rejuvenated this year, moving pretty well in the field for a 35-year-old. Jeter getting old makes me feel ancient!
  • I have been pleasantly surprised at how much I've liked A.J. Burnett. He's been pitching great as of late, plus his personality is a welcome addition. He just needs to beat the Red Sox!
  • Have also greatly enjoyed CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira as well. Both of them are quality players, as well as quality individuals.
  • Bring back Francisco Cervelli! He was one of the more exciting players to watch this year.
  • The new Stadium is still a mess. Let's hope the Yankee management is serious about fixing what's wrong with it, from the lousy food, to the lame atmosphere, to the garage sale that is Monument Park.
  • Still scratching my head about what the heck happened to Chien-Ming Wang this year, and why he was so bad to start off the season?
  • While I mostly like how Brian Cashman spent the Yankees' resources this year, and I appreciate him picking up Eric Hinske, there were still too many wasted roster spots this year, like Angel Berroa and Brett Tomko. But good news for Met fans - Berroa has joined your team!
  • When the Yankees have been winning this year, they have been the most likeable Bomber team in ages. When they struggle, like against the Red Sox and the Angels, they are absolutely painful to watch. Let's hope the second half is more "Up" and less "Groundhog Day"!
What do you think of the state of the Yankees? Leave us a comment!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Jonathan Papelbon prefers Playboy party to president

I now have one degree of separation from a Red Sox. Yikes!

Larry Milian, South Florida sports radio host and good friend of the Squawkers, got to interview Jonathan Papelbon during the All-Star Break. And, as usual, the Red Sox closer had a lot to say.

Here's what Papelbon - aka Cinco Dopo - said in his appearance on the "Andy and the Amigo" show on Fort Lauderdale's WFTL Sports (640 AM):
  • On President Barack Obama's appearance at the All-Star Game: "It was fun, man, it was fun. I enjoyed the parties more than the president, to be honest with you." Papelbon said that the Playboy party was the one he liked the best. But he also said "it was good to have the president" at the game "to kind of rejuvenate the midsummer game classic. But overall, it was great."
  • On Obama's first pitch: "I thought it was all right, man," he said. "He didn't spike it and he didn't throw it to the backstop. I thought it was halfway decent."
  • On Joba Chamberlain: "Joba is going to be great really at whatever he does." He also called him "a perennial All-Star type pitcher."
  • On the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry: "It's intense because they're in our division and we're fighting against them year after year," he said. "But the whole rivalry thing, the whole Babe Ruth and ghosts," Papelbon said, "that's all media-driven."
  • On Ray Halladay being on the trading block: "I don't think he's going nowhere."
  • On Tim Wakefield not getting to pitch in the All-Star Game: "My first All-Star game, I didn't get to throw either," although he acknowledged that he was a rookie then, and Wakefield is, well, not!
What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Mets 2009 midseason report: Reversal of fortune

"Reversal of fortune" is a term used in competitive eating contests to describe when food shoved into your mouth starts coming back up. I suspect most Met fans have had a similar experience while watching Met games this year.

"Reversal of Fortune" is also the title of a 1990 movie that explores the debate over how a 48-year-old ended up brain dead.

2009 is the Mets' 48th season.

Last year, as well as in 2007, the National League wild card team had 90 wins. For the Mets to end up with 90 wins in 2009, they will need to go 48-27 the rest of the way. That would be a winning percentage of .640.

The Dodgers have the best record in baseball at 56-32, with a winning percentage of .636.

So all the Mets need to do to be in a position to make the playoffs is to play at the Dodgers' level the rest of the season.

If the Mets were at full strength, it would at least be a possibility. Last year, after Jerry Manuel took over, the Mets went 55-38, for a winning percentage of .591.

But this year's team is not near full strength. It is unclear whether it will ever be at full strength.

So let's not talk about how anything can happen, and that if the Mets can blow a 6 1/2 game lead in September, so can the Phillies. The Phillies might blow the lead, but that will only open the door for the Marlins or Braves.

The Mets are not making the playoffs this year.

There are still plenty of questions to be answered that will make it worthwhile to watch games this season. In fact, pretty much every Met is a question mark of some sort, right up to Johan Santana's decreased velocity and David Wright's decreased power. Is Daniel Murphy the answer at first base? Can Jeff Francoeur regain his 2006 form? Will Oliver Perez... well, whatever he does the rest of the way, there will always be questions about Ollie.

On July 31, 2004, the Mets were in even worse shape than they are now. They were in fourth place (same as now), eight games out (compared to 6 1/2 now). They were five games under .500 (compared to 3 now).

But that year, the Mets still thought they were in contention. So much so that they traded Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano.

2009 has already a been a pretty bad year. Let's hope it does not get any worse.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What is the meaning of this Tim Wakefield/Jonathan Papelbon pose with...Captain Morgan?


It's not even Talk Like a Pirate Day, but don't tell that to Boston Red Sox pitchers Tim Wakefield and Jonathan Papelbon. They're here yukking it up Monday with Captain Morgan and a few of the pirates' friends at a charity event for Ryan Howard's foundation.

I don't quite know what to make of this photo. It's silly, but it's not quite ridiculous enough. They should have made Papelbon - aka Cinco Dopo - dress like a pirate, and it would have been an All-Star classic pic!

Of course, the Yankees already had a Pirate play for them - Carl Pavano stole money from them for four seasons!

(Thanks to Boston.com for the photo.)

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mo wuz robbed! Mariano Rivera should have been the All-Star MVP

Yes, I know I'm biased, but I still think Mariano Rivera should have been picked as the MVP for tonight's All-Star Game.

I do think it's funny that Carl Crawford got that MVP award for saving Jonathan Papelbon - aka Cinco Dopo - from giving up a homer in the seventh inning. Even so, I would have liked to have seen Mo gotten the award. He set a record with his fourth-ever All-Star Game save, and he just happens to be the greatest closer of all time. If there was any night to give him that award, it was tonight, given that there was no clear-cut candidate for MVP.

And tonight, of course, meant it was the one time I rooted for the Red Sox and the rest of the American League. So while I normally would be hoping Papelbon would give up a homer, I was happy that Cinco Dopo was bailed out by Crawford. But even so, Mo should have been the MVP.

Anyhow, tonight's game, clocking in at two and a half hours, was a heck of a lot shorter than last year's fifteen-inning Yankee Stadium win. And a win is a win. It gives me more bragging rights against NL fan Squawker Jon, too.

A few other thoughts on the game:

* Red Sox Nation is peeved that Tim Wakefield didn't get to pitch. Too bad, so sad.

* Is there any event Sheryl Crow won't sing at? She'd perform at the opening of an envelope!

* What was up with Fox not showing where President Obama threw his first pitch to? Terrible, terrible camera work.

* Seeing Mo's teenage kids made me feel old!

* David Wright did a commercial for the game for "G-Force," the new movie about secret agent animals. So, Squawker Jon, since your man D-Wright endorsed the Disney film, that means you need to go with me! (Jon mocks me because my movie picks seem to consist of flicks with talking animals, mafia movies, and Tyler Perry films!)


What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Home Run Apple headed to DL?

Home Run AppleAt first, the Mets said it was nothing. The Home Run Apple just needed a few seconds to reset, that's all. Now management is hoping that the All-Star break and following road trip will give the Apple enough time to heal and avoid the disabled list.

Already the finger-pointing has begun. Some claim that that the Home Run Apple felt pain when it rose for Brian Schneider's homer, but the Mets sent it right out there again when Fernando Tatis hit one out two batters later. They say the Apple tried to do too much too soon.

Others blame the Home Run Apple's conditioning, noting that The Apple's outfield home is dangerously close to Shake Shack.

Now the Mets are frantically searching for a supersize MRI machine. And the Home Run Apple plans to get a second opinion from a specialist in microfracture surgery.

The Mets appear to have no interest in bringing the old Home Run Apple back. In fact, the once-beloved local icon is on the verge of signing with the rival Phillies.

If the Home Run Apple is out for any length of time, the Mets may have to look for help outside the organization. Don't expect any help from the farm system - Buffalo's Home Run Grape has been on the shelf since May.

The lost weekend: Yankees get touched by the Angels


This is one weekend I'm glad I didn't get to see much of the Yankee games. What a nightmare. Especially given that the Mets won two out of three of the Reds series, and Squawker Jon is preening.

Then again, his team's vaunted Home Run Apple had a wardrobe malfunction. What's the deal on that?

So now we head to the All-Star break. And three Yankees - Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, and Mark Teixeira - are representing the Bombers in the game. I'm so glad that voters picked Teix over Youk!

Squawker Jon saw a headline about how Dustin Pedroia begged off the All-Star team due to personal reasons. Jon sardonically suggested that my campaign against Pedroia for the All-Star team depressed Dustin so much, that he couldn't face playing! Actually, Pedroia is taking care of his pregnant wife. But I'd like to think he was also anguished that I can't stand him!

On a completely different note, I'm looking forward to finishing "Munson," the great book by Marty Appel about the Yankee catcher. You can read an excerpt of the book here.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Same stuff, different day: Yanks lose again to the Angels

It's getting ridiculous. How many times are we going to see the Yankees lose to the Angels? And to have them blow a four-run lead?

When you have two of your players - Eric Hinske and Alex Rodriguez - each hit two homers, you should win the game. But the Angels seem to have the Yankees' number. Not cool.

It's like "Groundhog Day" or something. Sheesh.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

When is Joba Chamberlain going to get his attitude adjustment?

Note to Joba Chamberlain - nobody wants to hear about how the other team has good hitters. Especially when two of the Angels' best hitters - Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter, are on the disabled list.

In addition to the long slog Joba games have become, it's getting frustrating seeing him give up a big hit right after somebody makes an error. It seems to happen every game Chamberlain pitches these days.

But what's nearly as frustrating as Joba's pitching are his delusional postgame comments. Each time he has one of these lousy outings, he tips his hat to the other team, and insists his stuff is terrific. And bet your bottom dollar, he will tell us about how the sun will come out tomorrow. For the second start in a row, he channeled Annie:
"There's no excuses, but what are you going to do about it?" Chamberlain said. "You can't change it. The sun will come up tomorrow and I'll be the same person I was the day before."

That's what I'm afraid of!

Unlike other young players, who seem to - shocker - learn from their mistakes, Chamberlain seems to have regressed this year. And what makes it all the more disturbing is that he seems to think he's doing great.

And no matter who is doing the catching, whether it be Jorge Posada, Francisco Cervelli, or Jose Molina, Chamberlain seems to do the same annoying nibbling. Good grief.

In the second inning, Chamberlain threw (29!) pitches, but didn't seem to think it was a big deal:

“In the second, I mean, they only scored one run,” he said. “I think I walked one guy that inning. They just went deep in the count and they put their plan together.”


What's Chamberlain's game plan, other than nibbling and being in denial? He needs a new one, and soon.

Speaking of Yankee disappointments, What's up with Brian Bruney? He's been horrible since coming back from the DL.



What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Mutts and Jeff: The Francoeur trade

It's becoming a tradition - when a team gives up on a highly-touted young player, they send him away for Ryan Church.

First the Mets traded Lastings Milledge for Church and Brian Schneider. Now the Braves have acquired Church for Jeff Francoeur. In both cases, the flashy young player's star had fallen so far that his team was willing to trade him within the division.

When the Mets traded Milledge after the 2007 season, they probably had no chance of getting Francoeur, only a year older than Milledge but coming off back-to-back 100-RBI seasons during which he hit a total of 48 homers. Now Milledge has been sent to the minors and traded yet again, while the Mets have Francoeur and Schneider to show for him.

So from the point of view of the Milledge deal, this latest deal is a good one. But it is far from clear that the Mets would not have been better off keeping Church, who hit .307 in 75 at bats in June and was one of the few solid parts of the lineup - that is, when Jerry Manuel deigned to play him.

Trading Church for Francoeur is a desperate gamble. The Mets badly need a power hitter, but Francoeur's 29-homer season was three years ago. Last year, Church actually out-homered Francoeur, 12 to 11. And Francoeur had twice as many at bats as Church - 599-319. Omar Minaya touts Francoeur's arm and defense, but Church was strong enough on defense that the Mets sometimes used him in center.

Ryan Church got a raw deal with the Mets when they mishandled his concussions. Then he seemed to end up in Jerry Manuel's doghouse. Let's hope this move was exclusively to improve the team and not in part to get rid of Church.

But desperate times do call for desperate measures, so gambling on the upside of Francoeur may not be that bad an idea. You never know when a team gives up on a young player too soon.

Friday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the Giants were apparently willing to trade pitcher Jonathan Sanchez to the Pirates for second basemen Freddy Sanchez. The Giants had dropped Sanchez from the rotation and the article described him as a reliever.

Last night, Sanchez was summoned back to the rotation after three weeks in the bullpen because Randy Johnson was placed on the DL. And he pitched a no-hitter. Bet the Giants are not trading him now!

Sanchez, by the way, is a young lefthander who gets a lot of strikeouts but gives up a lot of walks. Kind of like another young player whose team gave up on him - and traded him to the Mets.

It's been three years since Omar Minaya acquired Oliver Perez and saw him follow a 3-13 season by going 15-10 the following year. Even the prospect of a similar turnaround from Francoeur has already made this dismal season more interesting.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Yankees are in first place - for now at least

Getting ready to watch the first-place Yankees - at least for today - play against the Angels tonight. How cool that is to see that, even if the Bombers do have to share that title with the Boston Red Sox.

I missed most of yesterday's win (I went to see the movie "Up"), so I don't have much to say about it. It is amazing, though, how much the Yanks have dominated the Twins this year.

Did see that the Yanks are bringing back up Mark Melancon, and sending down Jonathan Albaladejo. If it were up to me, I would DFA Brett Tomko instead. Bu that's me.

As for the potential of the Yankees to trade for Roy Halladay, I just don't see it happening. The Yanks would have to give up the likes of Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, and Austin Jackson, and that would probably be just for starters!

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Make Daniel Murphy lineup follies more fan-friendly

What does Daniel Murphy have to do to get a chance to stay in the lineup? Even after a great game on Wednesday night, he finds himself on the bench because Jerry Manuel keeps trying to recapture last year's magic with Fernando Tatis.

Manuel cannot use the Dodgers starting lefty Randy Wolf last night as an excuse. Murphy is hitting .281 this year against lefties, as opposed to .237 against righties.

Nobody is saying Murphy is the next Albert Pujols. But at least give him consistent playing time to give him a chance to show what he can do. Fernando Martinez got that opportunity, even when it was clear that he was not ready to stay in the majors.

As long as Manuel seems to be pulling lineups out of a hat, why not turn it into a fan event? Put the names of all of the possible first basemen and outfielders into a hat, and the first four pulled out get to start. Manuel can decide what positions they play and where they bat in the order - he is the manager, after all.

Or the Mets could turn the scoreboard truck race into a battle for playing time between Murphy, Tatis and Nick Evans.

I would suggest having the Mets do their own version of the Milwaukee sausage race, in which Murphy, Tatis and Evans race around the field in a battle to get in the lineup, but knowing this team, somebody would pull a hamstring.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Farewell to Francisco Cervelli - for now, at least

Since Jose Molina was activated before last night's game, Francisco Cervelli was sent to AAA. The catcher, who had never played above AA until this year, made quite the impression with Yankee fans, including this one. I'm very sad to see him get sent down. It was great to have his youthful energy and catching smarts on this team.

Fellow blogger New York Sports Jerk writes:
... the Yankees hate using kids as backups at the Major League level, which is why 33-year-old Cody Ransom is allowed to make error after error without contributing at all with the bat, while Ramiro Pena is down in Scranton for "seasoning."

What the Yankees should be doing is evaluating which players make their 2009 team better.
While at least Molina is a very good backup catcher, Cody Ransom is terrible. Since this is a win-now team, I don't understand why Pena doesn't have the chance to play up here. His contributions to the team are much better than Ransom can provide. Yeah, Pena can play every day in Scranton, but the Yankees are a better team with him than with Ransom. And I'd rather see one of the Yanks' young arms get a chance over Brett Tomko.

Are the Yankees better with Molina or Cervelli? I think the case can be made for either of them. I like Molina, but if the Yanks could use him in a trade, I'd be okay with that. Ransom and Tomko, on the other hand, need to hit the bricks.

* * *

Missed the first half of last night's game - we went out to dinner at Bob'z Ribz on Staten Island. I was excited to see A.J. Burnett continue to pitch well, even when he didn't have his best stuff. How great is it to have a one-two punch of aces like CC Sabathia and Burnett?

Speaking of aces, hope Alfredo ACEves pitches like one today!

Book Excerpt: 'Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain'

If you're looking for some great baseball reading this summer, pick up a copy of Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain by Marty Appel. Even if you think you knew all there was to know about Munson, you'll learn more from this book.

Thanks to Doubleday, we're doing our first-ever Subway Squawkers book excerpt. Here's the first chapter of Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain:


Baseball wasn't cool in the 1960s.

During the "Summer of Love" not many young people were talking about Carl Yastrzemski. No one at Woodstock wondered whether the Mets could really go all the way. Few among my friends were particularly impressed when I took a summer job answering Mickey Mantle's fan mail for the Yankees in 1968. And it was the same when I was offered, and accepted, a full-time position in the public relations department midway through my senior year in 1970.

I was one of two people in my college who subscribed to The Sporting News (my roommate was the other)--but I couldn't watch baseball on Sundays in the fall when the one TV in the dorm was tuned to the NFL--even during the World Series!

As Mantle, Banks, Clemente, Mays, Aaron, Mathews, Maris, Killebrew, Koufax, Drysdale, and Colavito moved toward the twilight of their careers, few stars appeared to replace them. The mid- to late sixties gave us Reggie Jackson, Johnny Bench, and Tom Seaver, but not many other attention-getters.

But then, in the midst of this decidedly uncool period of baseball, the once proud Yankees, now mediocre and dull, found a player named Thurman Lee Munson to proudly take them to their tomorrows.

Thurman was a throwback; a lunch-bucket kind of guy who was all jock and no rock. He wasn't going to win over New York by being Joe Namath or Clyde Frazier. He liked Wayne Newton music and, in what was arguably the worst-dressed decade of the twentieth century, the 1970s, he was the worst of the worst. His wardrobe featured clashing plaids and checks made of the finest polyester. Socks were optional.

It was an everyman look that went with his regular-guy demeanor. He liked to pump his own gas, even in New Jersey, where you weren't allowed to, and even when he became famous. On occasion, thinking he was the attendant, someone would pull up next to him and say, "Fill 'er up"--and he would! He'd pump the guy's gas, collect payment, and hand it to the station manager. I was with him one day when he even washed a guy's windshield while filling up his gas tank. I suspect the guy drove away thinking, That gas station guy looked a lot like Thurman Munson.

No, cool wasn't his game. He was going to win them over the old-fashioned way--with gritty determination and a focus on respecting the game and playing it with heart. He would honor the tradition of the Yankees and wear the uniform dirty and proud, and would not tolerate mediocrity from his teammates. He would restore the Yankees to their prominence in the sports universe, the place they occupied when all seemed right in the world.

We would fall in love with his game and realize, watching him, that cool didn't have to count in baseball. Thurman Munson made it a virtue to be uncool, winning over the young and the hip with his decidedly unhip approach to his profession.

He wasn't Mickey Mantle--he wasn't born with those looks or that body, or that particular style that made "the Mick" a pinup boy for baby boomers. But he was Mantle's heir. Mickey retired in spring training of 1969. Munson made his debut later that season, giving the Yankees continuity in their ongoing parade of stars.

By 1970, my first year as assistant public relations director, New York had begun to latch on to his Ohio grit and guts. And since my career began along with his, he would become "my guy," the player I would grow up with in the Yankee organization, the one I'd write about and collaborate with.

I loved watching Thurman Munson play baseball. He just knew how to play the game, knew how to win the game, knew how to lead. He was grumpy but he had a great sense of humor and a magnificent sense of self. He was the kind of guy you wanted to be friends with.

As kids we had the same glove. His first glove was made by Hutch, as was mine. When I asked him whose model it was, the coincidence broadened--we both used the same model, a Billy Goodman infielder's glove. I remembered mine as a pancake that didn't really fold to trap the ball; he remembered his as a "good old mitt." Clearly, he made better use of his than I did of mine.

I was there when he made his first appearance at Yankee Stadium in August 1968, when the Yankees brought the Binghamton team to the stadium to play Waterbury, Connecticut. While some of his Binghamton Triplet teammates like Steve Kline and Frank Tepedino walked out to the monuments in center field for a look, Thurman was detained near the infield for some media interviews and photographs. He was clearly the guy everyone wanted to see.

At one point, he just decided to walk over to the Yankee clubhouse and say hello to Mickey Mantle. What the hell. The other guys could look at monuments to dead guys. Thurman would say hello to a future monument, still living.

Mantle, in the final weeks of his eighteen-year career, was seated on his stool by his corner locker, dressed in his baseball underwear, wrapping his legs in long Ace bandages, as was his custom.

"Mickey, I'm Thurman Munson," he said, his voice perhaps revealing that he was nervous but determined just the same. Since he was wearing his Binghamton uniform, he didn't think it was necessary to say who he was other than his name. Mick responded with a firm handshake and asked, "How ya doin'?"--hardly the stuff of highlight reels, but enough to make Munson's day.

Mantle had heard of him. Everyone in the organization had. He had been an elite high school athlete in three sports, and then went to Kent State, where he was the consensus All-American college catcher in his junior year. The Yankees felt fortunate that he was still available in the first round when they made him the overall fourth selection in the amateur draft. He was "_fast-tracked" by the scouting department for a ticket to the majors.

Michael Grossbardt, a Kramer-like character in the Seinfield vein, was the Yankee photographer. He was under orders from PR chief Bob Fishel to get some good "posed action" pictures of Thurman, which could be used as publicity stills. Grossbardt would go on to photograph most of Thurman's career, shooting thousands of pictures of him at bat and behind the plate, as well as baseball card photos for the Topps Company, family pictures for his personal use, and magazine covers.

I walked behind Fishel, his assistant Bill Guilfoile, and Michael, out to the area behind home plate for the photos. We took turns shaking his hand, and I was flattered that Bob took the trouble to introduce me. Munson had a chubby look, almost unathletic, and he wasn't much taller than I was, but he had those big forearms you always see on baseball players. His flannel hand-me-down Yankee uniform, converted to a Triplets uniform, was baggy and unflattering. The schedule called this a Waterbury home game, so he was in the drab gray road uniform. He seemed to know how to pose, and there was a confidence to him that I would seldom see among rookies, as it grew to be part of my job over the years to get them all photographed in spring training. Amazingly, you can always tell a rookie photo from a veteran photo by the poise or lack of poise on display. Thurman had some poise.

I had asked Bob if we were going to call him "Thurm" going forward in our press notices. Remembering that, he asked Munson if he went by any nicknames.

"None that you'd want to print," he laughed, a typical ballplayer answer. And indeed, he never really developed one that stuck with the public.

Howard Berk, our vice president for administration, had come down onto the field as well. "We really needed someone to capture the fans' imagination," he said later. "We were so hoping this would be the guy. And we liked him from the start. He was always very cooperative with me; always went on our Winter Warm-Up radio shows to help boost off-season ticket sales for us."

He did all that and more in the decade he played for the Yankees until his untimely death in 1979. By the time I wrote his autobiography in 1977, he had accomplished enough to fill up a plaque in Cooperstown. The book was a traditional baseball life story with little controversy, particularly given his place in the turmoil of the so-called Bronx Zoo. He offered an equally small amount of personal insight. "Does it have to get personal?" he asked, when I approached him with the idea.

What a strange question, I thought, from a man considering an autobiography.

The book sold a lot more copies after he died than before. I've received a lot of compliments on it over the years, particularly from Munson fans. His wife, Diana Munson, was especially admiring. "Thank you for writing it, thank God we have this," she said to me on the eve of his funeral in her home in Canton.

But as I have reread that book over the years, I've always felt that Thurman held back too much, skirting over personal matters, as was his right. The publisher was pleased with the final product, so I felt I had met my obligation to give them both the book they wanted. But I was never really satisfied with it.

I was also perplexed. Why were his comments so unenlightening? For example, there was the matter of his ancestry. I wrote he was of German stock. His sister told me later that the family was mostly English-Welsh, and only part German on both sides. Why didn't he correct me? Why didn't he care about getting his life right? Why did he have so little to say about his childhood?

Diana had asked me whether he brought up much about his childhood. She hadn't been in the room when we were doing the tapings. I told her I had brought up the subject but the conversation didn't go very far. I think she was just curious to know how much he had opened up.

Obviously, he hadn't. In the three decades since Thurman's death, I have wondered why a man who gave so much of himself on the field would withhold so much off of it. This book is an attempt to fill in the gaps that Thurman left in telling his own story to me in 1977-78. In the course of revisiting the details of his life and his death, of visiting his family and friends, I have thought back to the way he presented himself in the Yankee clubhouse in the last years of his career.

He had pretty much stopped talking to the media. Still, there were times when the glare of the Bronx Zoo fell squarely on his thickset body. Maybe it was something the Boss, George Steinbrenner, said. Maybe it was something Reggie Jackson said. Maybe it was something Billy Martin had done. Thurman was the captain, the go-to guy for the press, the steadying influence, the voice of reason. And so they had to ask him about it.

Munson would lower his gaze, refusing to make eye contact, walk through them all, and say, "I'm just happy to be here."

It was as though he were Mr. Magoo, walking blindly through the turmoil, oblivious to it all. Of course, Thurman wasn't oblivious at all. He was well aware that his home wasn't like the homes of his classmates and teammates. He didn't want his coach to drop him off at home and see it. He didn't want readers to see inside those walls. And he certainly wasn't going to reveal himself to the media. No, he would pretend everything was fine, and that life would go on--la de da--no matter what chaos surrounded him.

The story Munson didn't tell is how his childhood had in fact prepared him for the Bronx Zoo. I see him now walking through the tensions of the Munson home and saying, in his own way, "I'm just happy to be here."

* * *

Thurman Lee Munson was born on June 7, 1947, in Akron, Ohio, the tire and rubber capital of the United States.

He was the youngest of four children. Darla, the oldest, was born in 1941, and Janice came along eleven months later. Duane, the oldest son, was born fourteen months after Janice. After those three children in twenty-five months, there was a four-year gap between Duane and Thurman.

When Thurman was four, the Munsons moved as tenants to a farm in Randolph, a half hour east. When he was eight, they moved to the city of Canton, a half hour south. When Thurman was in second grade, the family moved to 2015 Frazer Avenue NW, between Nineteenth and Twenty-first streets. Canton, the state's eighth largest city, would always remain Thurman's hometown, even after fame and fortune would come his way. He was comfortable and well respected there, partly from his Yankee fame but also from his schoolboy fame, when he was one of the best athletes the town would ever see.

The Frazer Avenue home was a modest two-story home (plus an attic) with a gable roof and bevel siding, and a homey, brick-bordered front porch. There was a side entrance, and about thirty feet of front lawn along the modestly trafficked street. The houses on the block were set close to one another, and represented a comfortable standard of living for a working-class family.

"We moved around quite a bit," Duane Munson recalls. "Thurm was probably too young to remember much of those years, and sometimes they're pretty vague on me too. We were very active kids and got into our share of trouble, but nothing very serious. When Dad did find out that we were bad, he let us know it with his leather belt.

"We lived on Ido Avenue in Akron, and that would have been where Thurm was born. I vaguely remember my grandfather and my mother having polio or having had polio, but beyond that, Akron is a blur."

"When I finished my chores, I'd play ball mostly," said Thurman. "I loved to play and I'd come home at night where my collie, Fritzy, was waiting for me.

"I started playing as a kid and I was 'littler' than most. This may sound corny, but I remember seeing a lot of horses back in Ohio and baseball reminded me of a stallion just running free. There was a freedom to the game. No matter what your problems were and what you had on your mind, when you played baseball you forgot about it."

Excerpted from Munson by Marty Appel Copyright © 2009 by Marty Appel. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

ESPN no longer laughing at Daniel Murphy

A couple of days ago, ESPN offered up a montage of the worst plays of the Met season. Daniel Murphy came in for his share of abuse. After showing a clip of Murphy butchering a fly ball in St. Louis, the laughing ESPN announcers explained that was why Murphy was being tried out at first, as well as "the pine."

Well look who's laughing now! After his incredible behind-the-back flip Wednesday night, Murphy not only led ESPN's Web Gems as the play of the night, his play was mentioned as a candidate for play of the year!

Murphy has actually looked pretty good at first base for the most part, especially compared to some of the other Met fielders. Still, Murphy making the play of the year is about as unlikely as Oliver Perez being the stopper - against the team with the best record in baseball. Yet both things happened in the same night.

Since nothing comes easily for the Mets these days, they nearly blew a 5-2 lead, holding on to win, 5-4.

The last time the Mets won a game by more than one run was the 11-0 win over the Cardinals on June 24, 14 games ago. Since then, the Mets are 4-9. All four of the Met wins have been by one run. All nine of the Met losses have been by more than one run. In fact, seven of the nine losses have been by at least three runs, and four of those have been by at least five runs.

But while this win turned out to be another squeaker, it did offer up a play that will be shown over and over again. Best of all, it's one of the first times this season that such a play won't make Met fans cringe.