Yardbarker Nav Bar

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Yankees have bona fide boondoggle with parking price increase

Think parking is too expensive now at Yankee Stadium? You ain't seen nothing yet. The parking garages closest to the ballpark are planning on raising their rates next season from $23 to $35! This is to close a budget shortfall due in part to...wait for it...not enough fans using the parking garages. Yes, because the easiest way to get more people to use the parking is to jack up the prices!

New York Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez has the scoop:
Even at those rates, the garages will still fall into a technical default unless two-thirds of bondholders agree to waive some requirements in the original construction bonds.


Bronx Parking barely managed to make a $6.8 million bond payment that was due Oct. 1 and will likely not have enough cash to make its next $6.8 million due in April. Without the waiver, the company warned, it will be forced to charge a minimum of $55 per car next year to avoid a default.
I haven't driven to a game at the Stadium in years, because it makes no economic sense for me personally. I can take the Staten Island Ferry into Manhattan and pay $4.50 round trip on the subway, or I can drive in, battle tons of traffic, and spend money on gas, bridge tolls, and parking, with current expenses coming in at around $35 or so. Not exactly a tough decision. Now, if I lived much further away, with no public transportation options, I would have to drive. But for fans who live closer, using public transportation makes the most economic sense.

Apparently, building these parking garages cost hundreds of millions of dollars:
The firm, which is independent of the Yankees, is a three-year-old subsidiary of a little-known Hudson County nonprofit, Community Initiatives Development Corp.


The city Economic Development Corp. selected Bronx Parking to build and run the parking system. In addition to getting the right to raise $237 million with tax-free bonds, the firm received $100 million from the city and state for the project. This generosity despite the fact that its parent firm had defaulted on two previous tax-exempt industrial development bonds in upstate New York.
Given how much parking costs at Yankee Stadium, most fans are either 1) taking public transportation to and from the game, or 2) parking at lots further away from the Stadium that cost significantly less money, like at the Gateway Shopping Center.The article says that the Stadium lots are operating at around 60% capacity. Not exactly a shock.

And raising the rates will only discourage people from using the garages. I mean, really, how does this make any logical sense? What's next -- forcing people to drive and park instead of taking public transportation?

I also want to know why it costs so much money to build these parking garages. Is that typical?

I don't know the answer to that. But I do know what the Texas Rangers charge to park in their lots -- $10. And this in an area where most people drive to the games. And get this -- unlike Yankee Stadium, where the parking garages charged $40 for playoff games, the Rangers even charged the same rate for the ALCS as they did in the regular season! Imagine that!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Friday, October 29, 2010

4th of July, Citi Field (Sandy)

The best parts of Sandy Alderson's introduction as new Mets GM came after the televised press conference. Adam Rubin's list of talking points from the media's subsequent conversations with Alderson and the Wilpons has some great news regarding both eating contracts and the slotting system for the draft.

- Releasing players with guaranteed contracts. (Obviously, the reference was to Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo.) Ownership expressed a willingness to eat money.

"We sort of know who you're talking about," Jeff Wilpon said.

*

- Slotting system/draft. Major League Baseball recommends signing bonuses based on a prospect's draft position. The Mets try to be good MLB citizens and adhere to that system, but that appears as if it will change under Alderson and they will spend over the recommended amount to exploit the system, as other big-market clubs do.

The Yankees and Red Sox have better farm systems than the Mets because those clubs are willing to go over slot much more frequently. I wondered if Alderson would end up adhering to the slotting system because he has been working for Bud Selig and MLB. But Alderson spoke at length about developing homegrown talent, and if he's serious about that, the first thing he will do is put the Mets on equal footing with other big-market clubs.

Alderson also spoke of wanting to have a competitive team in 2011 rather than waiting until 2012, when tens of millions of dollars of payroll come off the books. If he's as serious about 2011 as he sounds, he won't have Oliver Perez or Luis Castillo on the roster.

I can't blame him if he has Ollie play winter ball in a last-ditch effort to establish some minimal value for him, since if Ollie gets cut, someone will pick him up just for his potential. But who is going to want Castillo, except maybe as a temporary fill-in if their second baseman is hurt? Alderson can make a nice splash right away by cutting Castillo now.

When I wrote the title of this piece, I was thinking not just of Springsteen, but of looking forward to a July Fourth when the Mets were once again in contention. Then I remembered that the Mets were in contention on July 4, 2010. They were 46-36, two games behind first-place Atlanta. They were three games ahead of the Phillies, though the Phillies had been besieged by injuries. The Mets were also 4 1/2 games in front of the 41-40 Giants, who are now halfway toward winning the World Series.

The Mets' collapse in the second half showed that they still have a ways to go. The one false note in Alderson's news conference was when he suggested that the Mets would have done better with another 800 at-bats from Jason Bay and others. If the Mets had several hundred more at-bats from the 2010 Bay, they might have done worse.

But the Mets' strong first half shows that there is a foundation to build on. Alderson seems like a guy who can find the spare pieces that winning teams like the Giants manage to obtain but generally eluded Omar Minaya.

After today, I'm not just looking forward to 2012, but 2011 as well, and a festive summer at Citi Field.

Will Sandy Alderson turn around the Mets? Tell us what you think.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

How about Leo Mazzone as the Yankees -- or even the Mets -- pitching coach?

As soon as I heard the other day about Dave Eiland getting the old heave-ho as Yankees pitching coach, I wondered if Leo Mazzone would want to throw his baseball cap into the ring for the job. And guess what -- he does! He wants to bring his rocking motions -- and coaching skills -- to the Big Apple.

I just got this info from Sirius XM about Mazzone's appearance today on their network. Mazzone spoke with  Gary Williams and Steve Phillips of the Mad Dog Radio channel about coming to New York:
Gary Williams: “There are a lot of new staffs and, obviously, there’s an opening with the Yankees. Steve was effusive in praising you. Have you been contacted? I know you want back in. Any job in particular that is of interest to you?”


Leo Mazzone: “Yeah, there certainly is. And it has New York in front of it, too. I mean, it can be in the American League or the National League.”
Very interesting!

I also noticed that after Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell left Boston to become the Toronto Blue Jays manager, that they interviewed former Oakland Athletics pitching coach Curt Young, after Young left Oakland earlier this week. You know, back in the days of The Boss, George Steinbrenner might have swooped in to make Young a better offer, so he didn't go to Boston!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Sandy Alderson can do better than Lee Mazzilli for Mets manager

If the Mets want to energize their fan base, Lee Mazzilli as manager is not the way to go. I was surprised when Fox 5's Russ Salzberg made that suggestion last night after the World Series game and now Squawker Lisa has written about how the Daily News' Bill Madden has said the same thing.

I don't even want the real Joe Torre, much less another of his bench coaches after the unsuccessful tenure of Willie Randolph. The only person with a Yankee connection that would interest me at all would be Joe Girardi if he somehow became available. Unlike Randolph or Mazzilli, Girardi has actually been a successful manager, in two different places, and has a ring to show for it.

Girardi's bullpen moves in the postseason were certainly questionable, but after watching Jerry Manuel make questionable bullpen moves all year, I'd be more than happy to endure them in the postseason if it meant the Mets would actually have a postseason.

Plenty of managers were more successful the second time around, such as Terry Francona. Maybe Mazzilli deserves another chance. But it shouldn't be with the Mets.

I never understood why the Mets were considering Allard Baird for GM after his poor showing in Kansas City. And Josh Byrnes ended up getting fired in Arizona after some questionable moves.

In retrospect, the Mets should have looked more closely at Omar Minaya's record in Montreal, which included one of the worst trades in recent memory - a brief rental of Bartolo Colon for top prospects Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips and none other than a 23-year-old Cliff Lee.

The most important thing about a new manager is that Alderson be allowed to make his choice and show that he is his own man.

*

As for Game 1 of the World Series, I don't think it's necessarily bad news for Texas, which had an even more devastating loss in Game 1 of the ALCS and came back to crush the Yankees. But San Francisco is looking like a team of destiny, getting great production from a patchwork lineup that has Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell and Cody Ross in key roles. It sounds like something Omar Minaya would have tried, except that the Giants made it work.

With all the speculation about Cliff Lee, nobody ever stopped to think about what would happen if he did not pitch well. Suddenly, Lee has a career World Series ERA of 4.79. And it's not just from this game - as Lisa already noted, Lee gave up five runs in Game 5 last season against the Yankees. So that makes two straight World Series starts in which Lee has given up at least five runs.

Lee's overall postseason ERA is still great at 1.96, but he's no longer in the same statistical class as Sandy Koufax and Christy Mathewson.

The best thing for the Yankees would be if Lee gets shelled again, costing the Rangers the Series. Texas would be a lot less inclined to break the bank for him, and the Yankees could probably get him at a cheaper price than when he was being compared to Koufax and Mathewson.

Why couldn't that be the Yankees? The Giants get to Cliff Lee

Remember how I wrote a few weeks ago that Cliff Lee could be "beatable" in this year's postseason, because the Yanks did get to him for five runs in Game 5 of the World Series last October? Well, I was right about Lee not being automatic, but I was wrong about who would get to him. The San Francisco Giants made the Texas Rangers pitcher look very hittable last night, with that six-run fifth inning.

And I'm sure a lot of Yankee fans were thinking the same thing I was -- why couldn't that have been the Yankees who did that? Yes, I'm still bitter about Joe Girardi giving up in Game 3!

Much like the Twins made the Yankees look like worldbeaters in the ALDS, I wonder if the Yanks made the Rangers, especially Lee, look completely dominant in the ALCS. It will be interesting to see how the Giants handle Colby Lewis, the starter who shut down the Yankees twice. If San Francisco manhandles him, I'm not going to be happy!

Tim Lincecum wasn't at his sharpest, but it didn't matter. I've heard some Yankee fans coveting him, though. First off, he's not a free agent for a few more years. Second, he'd have to kill his personality, and everything that makes The Freak fun to watch, as a Yankee. Can't see him in pinstripes at all, no matter how much I like watching him pitch!

Oh, and how about Barry Bonds sitting in the stands? Squawker Jon was repelled by seeing him. I think it's okay that he's there. After all, he had a lot to do with the Giants being able to get that wonderful new ballpark, and he did get them to the World Series in 2002. Why should they hide him away? Like it or not, he was an important part of the franchise's history. (And no, Roger Clemens doesn't even come close to being as important in Yankeeland!)

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Lee Mazzilli as the new Mets manager? Even Flushing doesn't deserve that!

Squawker Jon, now that your Mets have a new GM in Sandy Alderson, I saw that tabloid columnist Bill Madden is championing Lee Mazzilli for Mets manager. What's that all about?

Madden writes this today in the New York Daily News:
Now the big question is: Who will Alderson hire as his manager? Originally, it was believed the Wilpons wanted a manager who will excite their fan base, but this being Alderson's call and his alone, the primary criteria will probably be a manager with whom he's comfortable and who will not buck him. In that respect, he'll likely want a manager with major league experience because this is New York - no place to experiment with someone untested. I would expect Lee Mazzilli, who has a Met pedigree and had a modicum of success managing in Baltimore under impossible conditions, and Bob Melvin, who had 90-win seasons in both Seattle and Arizona before his teams went quickly south on him, will be on Alderson's list.
Now, I've heard Melvin's name bandied about as a Mets' managerial choice for a while now. But who would want Lee Mazzilli as manager of the Mets? He was fired from Baltimore for going 9-28, after being in first place for the first 2 1/2 months of 2005. He was a terrible bench coach for the Yankees, known mostly for being one of Joe Torre's guys than for any good decision-making skills. Mazzilli couldn't even hack it as an SNY analyst, showing zero personality. Is he somebody who can really turn the Mets around? I don't think so.

This isn't the first time Madden has written about Mazz for manager. Back in September, the columnist wrote this, pushing Mazzilli for the job:
So, if not [Wally] Backman, there is only one other candidate who fills at least two of the three primary criteria the Wilpons are looking for - difference-maker, experience, Met pedigree - and that's Lee Mazzilli, who, coincidentally, is also employed by the Yankees in a behind-the-scenes capacity. Mazzilli, one of the most popular Mets ever, managed the Baltimore Orioles for a year and a half in 2004-05 and might have been a difference-maker there if not constrained by the manic, deterrent ownership of Peter Angelos. Mazzilli's 78-84 third-place finish In 2004, is the O's best record since 1999. The following year, he had them a half-game out of first place as late as July 18 - only to be fired by Angelos two weeks later in the wake of Rafael Palmeiro's positive steroids test.


Mazzilli became the organization's unwitting scapegoat because he wouldn't give Palmeiro a public declaration of support.
Madden calls Mazzilli a "scapegoat" for the Palmeiro issue, but he fails to mention that not only did the Orioles, after being in first place for much of the first half of 2005, go 9-28, but they had also lost eight in a row, and 16 of their last 18 games, when Mazzilli was fired. No matter how much of a micromanager Angelos is, it's hard to justify keeping a manager around whose team collapsed like that, no matter how many injuries and issues the team faced.

Madden also writes that Mazzilli "is also employed by the Yankees in a behind-the-scenes capacity." It's so behind-the-scenes, that I didn't even know about it until now! And that's another reason why he would be a bad candidate for Flushing. I can't tell you how many times I heard Met fans gripe about Willie Randolph being a Yankee. We'd hear the same thing if Mazzilli became Mets manager. Surely the Mets can find somebody with a better pedigree than Mazz to run the team.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Step off, Squawker Jon! I'm rooting for the Texas Rangers, not you!

I announced Saturday, in my own version of "The Decison," that I would root for the Texas Rangers in the World Series. Yes, I'm taking my talents to the Metroplex!

I'm doing this for three reasons: I lived for over a decade in Texas and want to see baseball become more popular in the state, I promised my native Texan nephew I would support his team, no matter who they faced in the AL, and I want to see the American League team win. So where does Squawker Jon get off thinking we can root for the same baseball team in the World Series? I'm not having it!

Jon needs to root for the San Francisco Giants. After all, the Mets wear orange in honor of the old New York Giants. Besides, Jon always takes the opposite side of whoever I'm rooting for. That's kind of the point of Subway Squawkers. This is a guy who dreams of riding in Oklahoma's Sooner Schooner, just because I'm a Texas Longhorns fan!

Yes, I know he's rooting for the Rangers because he thinks it will hurt the Yankees in their quest for Cliff Lee, but we just can't be in the same side with the World Series. It's as unnatural as the color in Brian Wilson's beard!

And Jon, don't tell me that your Rangers rooting has anything to do with Miracle Met Nolan Ryan. Because the closest Ryan got to being around somebody with a Mets connection, past or present, for the 35 years after he was traded for Jim Fregosi was when he knocked Robin Ventura to the ground!

Who should Squawker Jon root for? Tell us about it.

How a Rangers' title could hurt the Yankees

There are plenty of good reasons for me to root for the Rangers - Nolan Ryan, Jeff Francoeur, the fact that they took care of the Yankees in the ALCS. But the main reason I'm pulling for Texas is the hope that they will take care of the Yankees in the offseason as well - by re-signing Cliff Lee.

If Lee leads the Rangers to a world championship, it's going to be that much harder for him to leave. There will still be a good chance, since the Yankees will offer the highest bid regardless of Texas' new TV contract. And I don't buy the notion that fan abuse of Lee's wife will play any role in his decision, except to drive up what the Yankees will need to offer.

But a Rangers' title will make it impossible for Lee to trot out the cliche of "I just want to go someplace where I'll have a chance to win." Because that place this offseason is shaping up to be Arlington.

The irony is that the teams that lose out on Lee might well be lucky in the long run. Lee will turn 33 during the 2011 season. Ideally, you'd want to give him no more than a four-year deal. But the way things are shaping up, he'll probably get six or seven years at CC Sabathia money.

Speaking of Sabathia, he is now scheduled for knee surgery on Friday. Johan Santana also underwent surgery for a torn meniscus two offseasons ago and it marked the beginning of his recent struggles. But the New York Times points out that Sabathia's surgery will be on his right knee, which is better for a lefty than having surgery on the left knee, as Santana did, since lefthanded pitchers push off their left leg.

So Sabathia will probably be fine. But his surgery underscores the risk of signing any pitcher to a long-term deal, as the Mets know all too well with Sabathia and earlier contracts for Pedro Martinez and Billy Wagner. (Oliver Perez is a whole separate category.)

It's why I don't want the Mets to sign Lee, since it's a win-now move, and the Mets are not in that position. They were in that position when they signed Santana and Wagner, so I continue to think that those were good moves. While I'm glad the Mets had Pedro for a little while, I have to concede that signing did not ultimately pay off.

Since the Yankees are always in win-now mode, they don't need me to tell them to go all-out for Lee. But if the Rangers win, the Yankees will have to compete for Lee's services with a team that isn't just in win-now mode, but actually has won now.

*

The Yankees have signed a free agent from a World Series winner at least once - Don Gullett from the Reds after the 1976 season. Gullett went 14-4 for the Yankees' 1977 title team, but only won four more games after that. If there any other examples, I hope Squawker Lisa or Uncle Mike will let us know.

What do the Beatles' tribute "Rain," Chris Brown, and Shea Stadium have in common?

Warning: (Mostly) non-baseball post ahead! My friend Barbra invited me to go with her to see the opening night of the new Broadway show "Rain." The show is a tribute to the Beatles, so I was excited to get to go. And this also was the first time I ever attended an opening night before, so it was a lot of fun.

We got to watch a bit of the red carpet to-do before the show. Saw Sid Bernstein (who brought the Beatles to Carnegie Hall and Shea Stadium) there, as well as Chita Rivera (whose name was at the tip of my tongue, although I didn't remember her at the time.)  Also saw Shelley Goldberg, the wacky puppet lady from NY1, on the red carpet. Didn't see May Pang, but I heard she was there.

But the biggest name attending the show was the singer Chris Brown. The first thing you notice is that he is breathtakingly handsome in person. The second thing you notice is the way people talk about him. Half a dozen times, I heard variations of this conversation. "Isn't that Chris Brown?" "You mean the guy who beat up Rihanna"? Yet I saw the same people who were disparagingly talking about him rush to take his picture, or ask for his autograph! Go figure.

While Barbra and I were waiting for the show to begin, we were talking about the 80s show "Rock of Ages." I said I avoided hearing most of that type of music at the time, and that I'd rather see a musical based on the music of the Smiths. (I found out later that someone already did one, but it sounds a little too artsy for my taste!)

Anyhow, onto "Rain" itself. I'm not somebody who goes to see a whole lot of tribute bands, but this show had terrific production values, backed by sound musical skills. It's not so much that you feel that you're seeing the Beatles again, but that you are reminded how good the music, and how it still holds up.

The show starts with clips of the 50s and early sixties, then show footage the Beatles landing at JFK, and go on from there to the Ed Sullivan Show, Shea Stadium, Sgt. Pepper, the studio rooftop, etc. During the Shea Stadium songs, they showed real clips of the concert, with plenty of screaming teenage girls (I always wondered if there were any guys at those shows, or if the cameras didn't just capture them!)

"Rain's" musicians play most of the Beatles songs in chronological order, with a few sections, like "Eleanor Rigby" during the Sgt. Pepper segment. Oddly, it works!

In between costume changes, they show old-time clips and commercials -- my favorite was of Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble sneaking a Winston cigarette while Betty and Wilma did all the housework!

As for the costumes, they are pretty historically accurate, down to  George Harrison's underrated Sgt. Pepper hat. One of the few historical inaccuracies is that the musician playing Paul McCartney plays bass right-handed, not left-handed.  But that's a minor detail, and maybe it would be too hard for a musician playing live every night to do it as a lefty.

There was a big range in ages at the show, from teenagers to seniors. But my guess is that most people at the show were too young to have seen the Beatles the first time around. After all, they stopped touring 44 years ago!

A splendid time was, if not guaranteed, had by most everybody at the show. Barbra and I both really enjoyed "Rain."

You can see pictures of "Rain" at the official website, and NY1 has video of scenes from the show.

Should Ian O'Connor disclose in his columns that he's writing a book on Derek Jeter?

I wrote something for The Faster Times about how ESPN NY columnist Ian O'Connor is writing a book that promises "unique access" to Derek Jeter and his camp. Nothing wrong with that. But my issue is that O'Connor has also written several recent columns defending Jeter, without disclosing in those articles that he's writing a book about him.

One of O'Connor's columns suggested that Jeter needed a pay raise in his new contract, bumping him up to $23 million (!) a year for four years. Another tied Joe Girardi's fortunes with the team to Jeter, saying that if Girardi didn't shape up, "he is not going to be the manager of the New York Yankees long enough to do to a declining Derek Jeter what Casey Stengel did to a declining Joe DiMaggio." It's a very harsh take on Girardi, even for the New York media. What does Jeter think on this? Did he have something to do with the article?

That same article also claimed that the Yankee players basically quit on Girardi in the ALCS, an extremely damning allegation that I haven't read anywhere else. In that article, O'Connor talks about the players' perspective on Girardi, which makes one wonder if he heard those opinions from his book subject.

I'm not arguing that O'Connor shouldn't write about Jeter. He's a New York sportswriter, and not writing about Jeter would be like a Miami writer not being able to talk about LeBron James. But when O'Connor does, he really should put a disclosure in every column, explaining the book deal. Read my Faster Times article to see what else I had to say on this issue.


What do you think?  Tell us about it!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The lost Taco Bell ad with Jerry Manuel and Francisco Rodriguez

Inside a Taco Bell, JERRY MANUEL walks up to a CUSTOMER staring at his chalupa.

MANUEL
You're done, kid. You're slower than John Maine.

Manuel touches his left arm. The customer gets up and Manuel slaps him on the butt.

PEDRO FELICIANO walks over. He has put on a lot of weight.

FELICIANO
Skip, I don't feel too good.

CUSTOMER
This is what happens when you make him help finish a chalupa every day.

MANUEL
Fine, I'll just go to my closer.

Manuel slaps Feliciano on the butt. He touches his right arm.

As FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ walks toward the chalupa, he passes the exiting customer.

CUSTOMER
Let's see if you can have a good outing for a change.

RODRIGUEZ
Excuse me?

CUSTOMER
You heard me.

The customer and Rodriguez start shoving each other. Rodriguez slips and falls, slamming his jaw on the corner of a table.

CUT TO:

Rodriguez sits glumly. His jaw is wired shut.

Trainer RAY RAMIREZ turns to Manuel.

RAMIREZ
I’m afraid he won’t be finishing any chalupas the rest of the season.

Manuel throws his hands in the air. OLIVER PEREZ approaches the chalupa.

Manuel slaps Ramirez on the butt.

RAMIREZ
Aren’t you supposed to slap Frankie?

MANUEL
You think I'm laying a hand on him?

Perez picks up the chalupa, cardboard packaging and all, and starts to put the whole thing in his mouth.

MANUEL
You're not supposed to eat the cardboard.

Perez takes the chalupa out of the box. But as he brings it to his face, he misses his mouth and the chalupa flies out of his hands and up in the air.

LUIS CASTILLO settles under the flying chalupa. It lands in his hands, then bounces out and hits the floor, splattering everyone with ground beef, nacho cheese, bits of taco shell and toppings.

At a nearby table, JEFF WILPON turns to SANDY ALDERSON.

WILPON
All right, Sandy - think you can clean up this mess?

Cliff Lee becoming a Yankee is not a sure thing after all

Ever since the Yankees lost in the ALCS, most of the hot stove talk has been centered around getting Texas Rangers pitcher Cliff Lee. A lot of Yankee fans think that it's inevitable that he will be a Yankee next year. After all, the Bombers can throw beaucoups of money at him, the Yankees make the playoffs almost every year, and he's good friends with CC Sabathia.  But I wouldn't be so sure that Lee is going to come to the Bronx. Here's why:

* Yes, the Yankees usually get to the postseason, but contrary to what some fans seem to remember, they've made it to the World Series exactly one time since 2003. And you can't really say anymore, as many free agents signing with the Yankees do, that coming to New York gives them the best chance of winning, when Lee's Texas Rangers beat the Yankees this season in the ALCS.  Lee himself has said that if the Rangers win the World Series, "it would be hard to walk away."

* For that matter, Lee himself has been to the World Series twice in a row now, without wearing pinstripes. Reggie Jackson used to say how he brought his own star; that's Lee, too. Whatever good team he's on has a chance to do well in the postseason because of his presence at the top of the pitching rotation.

* The Rangers have new ownership, and a sweet new 20-year TV contract that reportedly gives the team at least $80 million a year. Owner Chuck Greenberg has said the team will be "aggressive" in re-signing Lee. This time around, the Yankees may not have the financial advantage they usually have in such competitons.

* USA Today's Bob Nightengale (Hat tip: Lone Star Ball) recently interviewed Cliff Lee's wife, Kristen. Turns out that she didn't exactly have a wonderful experience in the Bronx this week:
Perhaps the Rangers' greatest sales pitch simply was having Kristen sit in the visiting family section at Yankee Stadium during the playoffs. She says there were ugly taunts. Obscenities. Cups of beer thrown. Even fans spitting from the section above.
"The fans did not do good things in my heart," Kristen says.
"When people are staring at you, and saying horrible things, it's hard not to take it personal."
Yikes!

In the USA Today article, Kristen Lee talked about how their hometown of Benton, Arkansas is just a 40-minute flight from Dallas/Fort Worth. "That's the greatest thing, being so close to home," she said.

As Texas Rangers fan site Lone Star Ball said about the Lees, "When momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."

* If Lee becomes a Yankee, that will be his fifth team in less than two years. Maybe it doesn't matter, but is that something he wants on his career resume?

There's no way of knowing for sure now whether Lee will leave the Rangers or not. But I will not be the least bit surprised if he stays with Texas.

What do you think? Tell us about it.

How Brian Cashman cost the Yankees the pennant

Squawker Lisa, I want to commend you for putting the loss to the Rangers in perspective:

I actually feel the least terrible that I have had in years after a Yankees series loss. I'm still peeved, but I'm not in complete despair or anything. After all, the Yankees did win the World Series just a year ago.

Met fans don’t have that luxury. It's been so long since we've had a World Series to celebrate that one of 2010’s promising rookies, Jonathon Niese, was born the night the Mets won their last title. Instead, we’ve had to endure indignities such as the 2009 Yankees-Phillies matchup. A few days ago, most people expected a rematch this year.

So before I return to the disarray of the Mets, I'm going to celebrate the triumph of the Rangers and, I hope, the Giants.

As for the Yankees, at least Brian Cashman is still their GM. Cashman sometimes looks smart when he has his checkbook out, but when he has to strategize without simply making the highest bid, he often runs into trouble. Cashman's moves since the 2009 title season helped ensure that there would not be a repeat in 2010.

Here are a couple of moves that backfired (and I'm not even including Javier Vazquez!).

Ivan Nova and Eduardo Nunez better turn out to be really good.


If Cashman had completed the trade for Cliff Lee, the Yankees would likely be on their way to the World Series. Lee would have made two starts for the Yankees (since they swept the Twins) instead of one for the Rangers. As John Harper writes, Cashman was prepared to trade Jesus Montero; he was just unwilling to sweeten the pot further:

In the end, Cashman says he ultimately turned down the deal when the Mariners came back to him wanting another of his top prospects, either shortstop Eduardo Nunez or pitcher Ivan Nova, in addition to Montero.

"It was too much for a rental," Cashman said.

It's one thing to balk at trading Montero, one of the top prospects in all of baseball, but it's bizarre to offer to include Montero but draw the line at a lesser prospect.

Cashman no doubt figured that he could just whip out his checkbook as usual in the offseason. It could still work out that way, but at least Cashman will have a harder time selling Lee on the notion that coming to the Yankees will give him the best chance to win.

For 2010 at least, Cashman passed on a great shot at another ring for the opportunity to use Nunez to replaced injured Mark Teixeira on the roster.

The Yankees would have been better off this postseason with Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui at DH.

Cashman's offseason moves in OF and DH did make the Yankees younger, landing Curtis Granderson and giving Brett Gardner a chance to play. Time will tell if the Yankees gave up too much for Granderson (Austin Jackson and Ian Kennedy).

But Cashman should have held on to either Damon or Matsui instead of filling the DH spot with Nick Johnson. When Johnson went down with his inevitable injury, the Yankees ended up with a hole in their lineup that contributed to the ALCS offensive meltdown.

Marcus Thames hit seven homers in August, but followed with a .596 OPS in September. In the ALCS, Thames went 2 for 16 (.125), striking out seven times.

After hitting 13 homers in 298 at bats with Houston (.245 BA, .808 OPS), Lance Berkman had only one homer in 106 AB with the Yankees while hitting .255 with a .707 OPS. Berkman went 3 for 12 (.250) against Texas.

Both players homered in the LDS, but aside from that they were mediocre down the stretch and in the postseason.

Damon’s numbers tailed off this season, but after the All-Star break, Matsui hit .309 with OPS of .955.

Who knows if Damon or Matsui would have done any better than Thames or Berkman. But they couldn’t have done much worse. And both Matsui and Damon are proven winners – Matsui was last year's World Series MVP and Damon’s double steal on the same play might have been the defining moment of the 2009 World Series. In a do-or-die game, which players in this group would you rather see in the lineup?

*

As for Joe Girardi, his bullpen mismanagement has been well-chronicled, so I'll stick to his decision to change the rotation for the ALCS:

Andy Pettitte should have started Game 2


Pettitte was the Yankees' best starter this postseason, allowing two earned runs in seven innings in each of his two starts. If Pettitte had pitched Game 2 instead of Game 3, he might have won Game 2 rather than seen his Game 3 start overshadowed by Cliff Lee. Then Pettitte would have been able to pitch Game 6 last night instead of Phil Hughes. In Game 7, Joe Girardi then could have started CC Sabathia on three days rest or started Hughes with Sabathia ready to go in the pen.

And here's one last Girardi mistake - from last offseason:

Girardi should not have changed his uniform number to 28.

Now he has to go through another season with a reminder of the Yankees' crushing loss on his back. What if the Yankees don't win in 2011, either? That 28 will start to look awfully heavy on Girardi's back. Maybe he expects he won't be here for long, either by his choice or upper management, if his uniform number doesn't change to 29 fairly soon.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why I don't like the Joe Girardi/Mariano Rivera Taco Bell commercial

I wrote a piece for The Faster Times unfavorably comparing Joe Girardi's bullpen decision's to Bruce Bochy's. I closed it by wondering why Girardi was so willing to go to Mariano Rivera in that ubiquitous Taco Bell commercial, but not in the postseason!

I know some Yankee fans who liked the Taco Bell ad, but I'm not one of them. It's not just that they played it about a gazillion times during the postseason. It's not just that I don't like seeing the greatest closer of all time lowering himself to be in a fast food commercial. It's that the commercial makes zero sense.

First off, the guy eating the XXL Chalupa who sighs, "I can barely finish it," hasn't even started eating it. There's not one bite missing from the chalupa!

Then, there's Girardi being so eager to get Mo to finish that uneaten chalupa. What's up with that? Can't Mariano buy his own fast food? Why does he have to dumpster dive from someone else's meal?

Besides, if I'm thinking of a Yankee who would finish somebody else's din-din, it wouldn't be Mo, the thinnest guy on the team. It would be CC Sabathia. But he's in the Subway commercial instead! How does that work?

Mariano is no actor, but Girardi isn't half-bad. However, it's a little disconcerting the way Joe smacks the customer's butt so enthusiastically!

I do like one thing in the ad: when the guy who just had his food stolen from him just mumbles, "Mo."

Mike Francesa doesn't have Mad Dog, but he does bring dopey hot stove talk ideas

I put on the Mike Francesa Show this afternoon on WFAN, hoping against hope that he would invite his old partner Chris (Mad Dog) Russo on the air to discuss the San Francisco Giants making it to the World Series. I didn't hear him do that, but I did hear two of the most ridiculous hot stove ideas I've heard this year.

First was his wondering if the Yanks should get rid of Nick Swisher, because he wasn't good two years in a row in the postseason. Never mind that he had the best season of his career in 2010: a .288/.355/.511 line with 29 homers and 89 RBI and making the All-Star Team. Never mind that he was paid just $6.5 million for 2010. Never mind that he had an injured right knee towards the end of the year. Never mind that he fits in terrifically in New York, something that's hard for many to do. According to Francesa, the Yanks ought to cut ties with Swisher and go after somebody like Jayson Werth. Good grief.

The second was Francesa's obsession with the Yankees getting younger on the left side of the infield, as if that's what cost them the pennant. So his idea is that the Yanks get a new, young shortstop in 2011, should move Derek Jeter to third base, and A-Rod to DH. Hey, maybe the Yankees also should trade for that kid Elvis Andrus while they're at it! Francesa also thinks the Yanks should pay Jeter at least $20 million a year in the new contract.

There are many flaws with Francesa's idea:

1) Jeter's defense at shortstop is not the biggest issue with him right now -- the fact he's batting at the top of the lineup with the second lowest OBP on the team, and showed a huge decline at bat this season, is more of a concern,

2) Jeter's numbers, while excellent for a shortstop even in an off year, aren't what you want from your third baseman. That spot is a power position, not for somebody who hit 10 homers last year,

3) Where does Jorge Posada go, if he can't DH? If there's any Yankee that needs to be a DH in 2011, it's him, given that he's still signed for next year and can't really catch anymore,

4) Why should A-Rod have to switch positions again for Jeter? And why would he? It's not like anybody ever gave him credit for switching over to third at the first place!

5) How do we know Jeter will be any good at third base? Or at left field, Francesa's other suggestion?

6) How do we know Jeter would ever move from shortstop? Has he shown any inclination to do? The answer is no so far.

This is why I miss the Mad Dog. Chris Russo would actually challenge Francesa on this over-the-top idea!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

So why is Brian Cashman giving Dave Eiland the old heave-ho?

Just heard the news, that Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland is out. Brian Cashman said he fired him, but wouldn't say what for. Instead, Cash said that the reasons were "private."

Chad Jennings of LoHud reports:
“It has nothing to do with what took place in the playoffs,” Cashman said.


Cashman said the decision is not based on performance. He labeled the reason as “private.”


“It was my decision,” Cashman said.
I could be wrong, but I can't say I remember hearing a coach's firing being explained as "private" before. Either they point to performance when getting rid of them, or they let the coach leave on his own with the old "wants to spend more time with his family" excuse. There's something strange here.

I wrote earlier today that I still want to know why Dave Eiland took that leave of absence this year -- nobody ever explained it. And him being gone from the team for a month sent A.J. Burnett into a downward spiral.

I  wonder what the deal is. I think there's some bigger story here, something the media has kept quiet until now. I think there is something going on that the team wants to keep private, but I wonder, now that Eiland is gone, if we'll hear what really happened.

So, who should replace Eiland? Some of my Facebook friends suggested Leo Mazzone, and another brought up Dave Righetti's name. Don't know what Rags' contract status is, but I hope the Yankees bring him home next year!

One other note: Wally Matthews is reporting that Cashman admitted to making mistakes last offseason. Wally writes on Twitter that Cashman said, "I didn't have a great winter last year. A lot of the things I did didn't benefit us." Gee, ya think?

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Please reunite Mike and the Mad Dog -- if only for one day

If WFAN is smart, they'll have Mike Francesa do part of his show today with his old partner Chris Russo, and get the Mike and the Mad Dog band back together. Because hearing the Mad Dog celebrate his beloved San Francisco Giants making it to the World Series, while Francesa pontificates about the failure of the Yankees to do the same, would be radio gold.

I'm not the only one thinking this way -- I saw lots of fans express similar sentiments Saturday night. After all, New York radio listeners heard Chris squawk about his Giants for the last 20 years; he's arguably the most famous San Francisco Giants fan in New York! And given that most fans in the tri-state area don't have Sirius/XM Radio, they're not going to get to hear what the Mad Dog has to say about his team.

I do have XM in the car, but I don't want to have to go for a ride this afternoon just to hear Chris' infectious laugh! I'd love to hear his whole excited "good afternoon everybody" thing on local radio here, and I think many fans agree.

After Mike and the Mad Dog broke up their partnership two years ago, neither has been the same. And when they did reunite for one show last year, during the 2009 playoffs, it reminded me of how much better they were together than apart.

Let's hope WFAN gives Mad Dog a call to have him on this afternoon's show. It would be must-listen radio!

* * *

Speaking of which, I will also make sure to listen to Michael Kay's explanation this afternoon about how the Texas Rangers were able to win the ALCS, when he declared the series "over" after Game 1! Hope some listeners give him grief.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi, and some of the moves that cost the Yankees the pennant

Squawker Jon's article, How Brian Cashman Cost the Yankees the Pennant, is currently being featured on the popular site Yardbarker! For a Met fan, Jon did a good job encapsulating the mistakes Brian Cashman made this year. But I have a few things to add about Cashman, Joe Girardi, and the 2010 season. Here are some of my own gripes:

* The Javier Vazquez deal: It isn't second-guessing to say this was a horrible trade, and that it was clear that Javier wouldn't succeed in pinstripes the second time around; I was against this deal from Day 1. I heard Cashman last week on Mike Francesa trying to explain the trade. But the deal was inexplicable, no matter what Javy's numbers were last year. How can Cashman not acknowledge that the ability to play in New York is kind of an important thing for a Yankee pitcher to have? Does he not understand his team's own fan base, and that many Yankee fans were not going to give this guy a second chance after he gave up a grand slam to Johnny Damon in Game 7 of the ALCS? The booing Javy got this year wasn't right (I don't believe in booing your own team's players) but it also wasn't surprising.

* Signing Nick Johnson for, what, exactly?: Let's leave Hideki Matsui out of the equation here as a possible DH -- he signed with the Angels before even hearing an offer from the Yankees, and reportedly didn't want to come back to New York. But the Johnson deal never made any sense.

I remember Cashman saying that if Johnson could stay healthy, he could be a $15 million a year player. Well, if Lindsay Lohan could stay sober and get a good role, she could win an Oscar one day. But neither thing is likely to happen any time soon.

The Johnson signing was another deal that was obviously a bad one right from the beginning. Cashman seems to sometimes want to show how clever he is with signings like this. He's not. Johnson seems like a decent guy, but he can't stay healthy. And the Yankees paid him $5.5 million for just 98 plate appearances in 24 games.

* Not bringing back Johnny Damon: Sure, Damon and Scott Boras deserved some blame for overpricing Damon. But it was pretty clear that Cashman had zero interest in bringing Damon back, at any price. And that $2 million, last-minute "offer" he made to Damon was insulting to somebody who played his heart out for the Yankees. For the money Cash paid Nick Johnson and Randy Winn, who was dumped during the season, he could have extended a one-year deal to Damon and kept him in the fold.

Sure, Damon faded a little in 2010, but undoubtedly, his numbers would have been better in Yankee Stadium, a place tailor-made for his swing. Plus, he added something to the clubhouse. The Yankee hitters looked so tight in the ALCS; would Damon have been able to loosen things up? I think so. Even Bill James admits that clubhouse chemistry does mean something, and this team was missing a key element of that chemistry this year with Damon being off the team.

* What's the deal with Joe Girardi?: Joe G. most likely will be back with the Yankees next year -- after all, he did lead the Yankees to a World Series title just a year ago. But he did seem to age a lot this season, and to look both gaunt and miserable as time went on this year. What's the story? Several people have asked me privately if he's got some serious disease; that's how sickly he's looked!

* What happened to Dave Eiland?: His still unexplained leave of absence in June cost the team a lot, specifically, A..J. Burnett. It's forgotten now, but A.J. was out to a pretty good year in the first two months of the season; he was 6-2, with a 3.28 ERA. In Eiland's absence, he lost all five games he pitched in June, and his ERA shot up to 5.25. How much of that had to do with his pitching coach's absence?

* And finally, what happened to A.J. Burnett's eye?: How is it that we still don't know what happened? Nobody has said anything. What is the deal? Enquiring minds want to know!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Jon celebrates the Yankees and Phillies losses, and I agree with Wally Matthews on something

Squawker Jon must be exhausted from doing the Snoopy Dance this weekend. First, he got to see the Yankees get humiliated by the Rangers. Then, the Giants beat the Phillies, thanks in no small part to Bruce Bochy's great work. He was a manager who was unafraid to pull out all the stops, taking out his starter in the second, and using his best bullpen arms, including Tim Lincecum, in the game.

To top it all off, Ryan Howard pulled a Carlos Beltran, leaving his bat on his shoulder with the bases loaded, striking out to end the game, and the series. (Yeah, yeah, I know the same thing happened with A-Rod Friday, but he had nobody on base, and a 6-1 deficit to overcome -- what was he going to do, hit a six run homer)?

At any rate, two of the Mets biggest rivals ended their season this year, while the Braves' season ended in the NLDS. Jon as I were arguing on the phone last night over what team was the Mets' biggest rival these days -- the Yankees or the Phillies? He said Yankees, I said Phillies, telling him that right now, the rivalry between the Yankees and Mets is like the rivalry between the hammer and the nail. For some strange reason, Jon hung up on me over that. Touchy!

As for myself, a strange thing happened yesterday. I was reading Wally Matthews' analysis of Joe Girardi's bullpen mistakes in the Yankees' loss, and instead of muttering and cursing to myself, as I often do when reading his work, I found myself agreeing with nearly much everything he wrote. I hate it when that happens!

It gets better -- or worse, depending on how you look at it. I wrote words to that effect to him, and he wrote me a funny, self-deprecating response. Matthews came across as a likeable guy. I hate it when that happens, too!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

A great October after all

Who would have thought that October would turn out to be the best month of the year for Met fans? First Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel get the ax, then the Yankees are sent packing. And now the two-time defending National League champion Philadelphia Phillies will be playing golf while Cliff Lee and Pat Burrell are in the World Series.

Last month, I wrote how I was dreading another Yankees-Phillies World Series. The Phillies looked invincible with their H2O rotation. As for the Yankees:

The Yankees have had some ups and downs lately and there are no guarantees in the postseason, but is anyone really prepared at this point to predict Minnesota, Texas or Tampa Bay in the World Series?

And who would have predicted that both the Yankees and Phillies would miss out? It sounds too good to be true.

Now, instead of the same old tired faces in the World Series, there will be some welcome changes:

  • Instead of "the Captain" (Jeter), we'll get "the Freak" (Tim Lincecum).
  • Instead of Roy Halladay making his Series debut, we'll get Vladimir Guerrero making his Series debut.
  • Instead of flawed superstar Alex Rodriguez, we'll get flawed superstar Josh Hamilton.
  • Instead of Cliff Lee on the Phillies or Yankees, we'll get Cliff Lee on the Rangers.
  • Instead of sour Shane Victorino, we'll get smiling Cody Ross.
  • Instead of no Yankee facial hair, we'll get the black beards of the Giants.
  • Instead of Haley Swindal singing "God Bless America," maybe we'll get Tammy Nelson and her giant hat.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The morning after: Thoughts on the Yankees' ALCS loss

I had the worst dream last night. The Yankees got shut down by Colby Lewis and the Rangers, and lost the ALCS. What a nightmare. Oh, wait, that actually happened! Bummer.

I was very angry during last night's game, and I still think that Joe Girardi did a terrible job with his bullpen management moves. He had a quicker hook in the Taco Bell commercial for the chalupa eater than he did for pitchers who deserved to be taken out!

And you don't put in David Robertson with the game on the line when you have CC Sabathia, Kerry Wood, and Mariano Rivera in the bullpen. But hey, at least Mo was well-rested this week, thanks to him not being used on Monday, to pitch the bottom of the eighth in last night's 6-1 loss!

But those weren't the only things that went wrong during the ALCS. The Yankees got outplayed in every single facet of the game in this series. And for all of Michael Kay's talk on 1050 ESPN Radio about how Ron Washington is a terrible manager, Washington outmanaged, and his team outplayed, Girardi and the Yankees.

That being said, this loss was a team effort. You can't get stymied -- twice! -- by Colby Bleeping Lewis and expect to win.

However, even though I'm still bummed, I've calmed down a little, and I actually feel the least terrible that I have had in years after a Yankees series loss. I'm still peeved, but I'm not in complete despair or anything. After all, the Yankees did win the World Series just a year ago. As a friend said on Twitter this morning, "You know when people say 'act like you've been there before'? That applies to losing as well. The Yankees can't and don't win all the time."

Nothing will ever match the pain of 2004. Ever. Even now, I will still swivel my head like something out of "The Exorcist" if I see a clip on TV from that year. I have several good Facebook friends in Red Sox documentaries about that year, but there is no chance I will ever watch them in it!

But there have been some other bad Yankes series losses over the years. 2006 (Torre batting A-Rod eighth and being outmanaged by Jim Leyland) and 2007 (Bug Game) were worse than this year. 2001 was gut-wrenching at the time, but in retrospect, it was a miracle the Yankees even made it past Game 5. But I still won't watch clips from Game 7 of that series!

Funny thing is, though, is that I was able to deal with seeing the Texas Rangers and their fans celebrating last night without it making me want to pull an Elvis on the television set. Maybe it's because my nephew is a lifelong Rangers fan. Maybe it's because I lived in the state for so long. Maybe it's because it was interesting to see a football-loving state like Texas get excited over baseball instead of football. But I don't really have any vitriol towards the Rangers.

But as I noted last night, what I am still ticked off about are people like Mayor Bloomberg talking about planning the parade route, and Michael Kay showing such hubris in declaring the series over after one game. Oh, and Filip Bondy's thoroughly obnoxious "Count the Rings" take on the series still rubs me the wrong way:
[Nolan] Ryan's no-hitters aside, this ALCS represents one of sports' great historical mismatches, 40 pennants versus zero. The Yanks should win this series just by throwing their pinstriped uniforms onto the field and reading from a few pages of The Baseball Encyclopedia.
If only Bud Selig would agree to waive a few silly postseason rules, the Bombers might send their Scranton/Wilkes-Barre roster to Arlington for the first couple of games, make this a fair fight....
The Rangers are the oldest of three existing major league clubs never to have won a pennant. They should be ashamed to bring their media guides to the Bronx....
Why are they even playing this series? Why don't they just use the scores from '96, '98 and '99?
"I can't even think back to those years," Jorge Posada said. "It's over. I don't think it matters."
It matters. The Yankees lead, 27 titles to none. Play ball.
So much for that, dude. Too bad Bondy, like his colleague Mike Lupica, does not allow readers to comment on his articles, because he deserves to be mocked mercilessly for writing those words. Worst. Column. Ever.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Yankees lose, Rangers celebrate, and I've had it with Joe Girardi

Well, so much for my hope that the Yankees would win tonight. But believe it or not, if the Yankees had to lose to anybody, I'm glad it was the Texas Rangers. Congrats to them and their fans.

I lived in Texas for over a decade, and I have friends and family who are Rangers fans. Like my nephew, Zachary. We went to the Yankees-Rangers ALDS elimination game in 1998 together, along with my father and my brother, and Zack was very sad afterwards to see his beloved Rangers lose. Now he, and all the other long-suffering Rangers fans, finally have something to cheer about.

I talked to my nephew after the game to congratulate him, and I told him that whether the Rangers face the Phillies or the Giants in the World Series, I will root for the Rangers and the American League. Besides, the Yankees won just last year, so at least there's that.  They can't win every year, as much as we'd like them to!

With all those niceties out of the way, I have to admit I'm very angry at the way the Yankees played in this series. Not just with the hitting, and the pitching, but with the way Joe Girardi managed. And I really think the Yanks ought to consider a new manager next year. I was about as pro-Girardi as they come, but I completely lost faith in him over the past month, as have many other fans. Yes, the Yankees bats fell asleep, but whose ultimate fault was that? The manager.

Things started going sour in September, when Girardi played not to lose, instead of playing to win. Then he made a bunch of crucial errors in this series. I'm not going to second-guess him on switching out Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte, as I didn't originally criticize him for originally doing that. But I think he was awfully complacent in this series. It took Joe Torre eight years before he started snoozing in the dugout. It's taken Girardi three.

The biggest issue I had with Girardi was bullpen management. He should have gone to Mariano Rivera in Game 3; a two-run lead with Cliff Lee at a season high in pitches would not have been insurmountable. Instead, he went to Boone Logan, and then David Robertson. To add insult to injury, he left Robertson in to get pummeled for five hits and five runs, causing potential damage to his psyche.

Then Girardi had faith in A.J. Burnett for too long on Tuesday, costing the Yanks the game on a homer to Bengie Molina. Finally, Joe left Phil Hughes in too long tonight, then brought in Robertson, of all people, who blew the game wide open. When he finally went to Kerry Wood and Mariano Rivera, the Yanks were already way behind. Not smart. And so much for the plan to use CC Sabathia for an inning or two.

I don't understand Girardi's whole bullpen management, and kind of wish he had channeled Billy Martin, who once brought Sparky Lyle in during the fourth inning (!) of a playoff game, as opposed to him being as passive as Joe Torre at his worst. If there is a goat to this series besides the Yankee lineup, I think it's Girardi, something I would never  have guessed I would have said just three months ago. At the risk  of sounding like a greedy Yankee fan, I think Girardi's mistakes helped cost the team the series. The Yankees didn't just get outplayed; they got outmanaged.

My YES Network broadcast went out after the game, so I didn't get to see it, but I heard Brian Cashman say Girardi would be back. Bummer.

* * *

A few other things I wanted to rant about:

* So much for Mike Bloomberg and his planning the World Series victory parade talk, eh?

* And how about Michael Kay's proclamation that the ALCS was over after Game 1?

* Or Daily News columnist Filip Bondy's ridiculous trash talk that "The Yanks should win this series just by throwing their pinstriped uniforms onto the field and reading from a few pages of The Baseball Encyclopedia.

Granted, my own predictions (that the Yankees would win in seven, and that they could win tonight) weren't exactly on the mark. But at least I hope I showed respect for the Rangers, something the folks I'm complaining about didn't!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Read about the San Francisco singer's epic hat

My jaw dropped last night when I saw the getup the "God Bless America" singer was wearing in Game 5 of the NLCS. Read about the hat, and why I now want to see "Beach Blanket Bablyon," the show singer Tammy Nelson performs in, by going to The Faster Times.

Why I think the Yankees have a real shot of winning Game 6

It sounds like a facile argument, but I told Squawker Jon that as long as the Yankees won Game 5, they could win Game 6 and then the series. After all, a 3-2 deficit, even with the scary Cliff Lee pitching Game 7, sounds much less scary than being behind 3 games to 1.

So I'm hopeful about the Yanks tonight. Let me explain why:

* The absence of Mark Teixeira from the lineup, thanks to his hamstring injury. There, I said it (and felt bad about saying it!), but it's true. He's not only been slumping (not a single hit in the ALCS), but he's been injured. Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger reports:

Teixeira said he believes playing with a broken toe may have led him to compensate for the injury, altering the way he runs. Those changes, he believes, led to the hamstring strain that ended his season in Game 4, and also a swollen knee he played through during the month of September.
While he did play through the pain, literally, maybe it's best that he's not in the lineup right now.

* Robinson Cano moving up to the No. 3 spot in the lineup. It could be coincidental that the Yanks had their best day at the plate this series with him there, but he also is the best player on the Yankees right now, and moving him up from fifth to third can only help.

* The hitting of the whole team in Game 5. Perhaps they are finally waking up out of their October funk.

* Speaking of which, did A-Rod's good Game 5 wake up a sleeping giant? Let's hope so.

* The look on Phil Hughes' face during the pregame presser. He looks like he wants payback for that Game 2 loss. Unscientific, I know, but I'm going with it!


* CC Sabathia is available in the bullpen. Could it be shades of Randy Johnson in the 2001 World Series?

* Nick Swisher being ticked off at all the Cliff Lee questions.

* And finally, Cliff Lee himself, or rather, him being used as a crutch by the Rangers. Hear me out. I remember in 2004, how Joe Torre and the Yankees showed little sense of urgency after losing Game 4, and then Game 5. They were thinking about how they still had two games at home, and mystique and aura and all that jazz, until it was too late. Are the Rangers thinking it was okay to lose Game 5, or even a Game 6, because they have Lee for Game 7? That kind of complacency can be fatal.

Of course, if I'm wrong, I'll hear it all this winter from Squawker Jon! Oh well.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Nick Swisher sez he's bleeping tired of talking about Cliff Lee

ESPN New York is making a whole to-do over Nick Swisher cursing (shocker!) when asked yet another question about Cliff Lee. Good for Swisher, I say.

Here's what happened (hat tip to Was Watching for the link.) Swisher overheard Andrew Marchand asking his teammates about Lee. Swisher responded:
With the Yankees facing Texas Rangers starter Colby Lewis in Game 6, Swisher did not take kindly to a reporter asking teammates a couple lockers down about Lee.


You guys are talking about Cliff Lee?" said Swisher out loud in a room full of reporters. "[Expletive], who cares?"


As he walked off, Swisher said, "I can't wait to hit against his [behind]."
OMG, a ballplayer cursed! Twice! What is the world coming to? What about the children? (And yes, I'm being sarcastic here.)

The story continues:
Later, when asked about saying this out loud with reporters present, Swisher cut off a question when the words "Cliff Lee" were uttered.

"I'm not talking about Cliff Lee," Swisher said. "I don't give a [expletive]."

A few points:

* Whenever you hear a writer refer to what "a reporter" said, nine times out of ten, "a reporter" is really the reporter writing the story. I don't know why sportswriters keep with this silly, passive convention; it does not serve the reader. And indeed, it is the case here; Marchand's ESPN colleague Wallace Matthews confirms that Marchand was the one to ask the question. Matthews also writes that Swisher was openly tired of the Cliff Lee questions as early as last Saturday.

* As for Swish's response, what's the big deal here? Swisher's response is exactly what I want to hear from him. And I don't give a bleep that he cursed to reporters, and offended their delicate sense of being (yeah, because we all know that the harshest word any sportswriter will say is "gosh darnit"!) What is Swisher supposed to say? That he's really, really scared to face Lee, and the Yankees are just terrified? C'mon now.

* Why don't the reporters worry about Game 6 before raising the OMG! Cliff Lee Is Pitching Game 7 specter? Then again, they raised it after Game 2, so that would be too much to ask for!

What do you think? Tell us about it! 

Non-Shocker! Mike Lupica tells A-Rod to "show up," makes him Designated Yankee Scapegoat

After Alex Rodriguez's great October last year, most of the media have been mostly muted on his so-far-disappointing ALCS this year. That's a story in itself, as evidenced by what Mike Vaccaro and even notorious A-Rod basher Wally Matthews wrote on the subject today. Vaccaro said that "it isn't a matter of "if A-Rod will hit in the postseason, "it is a matter of when." But the Daily News' Mike Lupica is still writing like it's 2006, with his back-page column criticizing the third baseman.

I've never written a blog entry criticizing Lupica before, mostly because I try to avoid reading his mailed-in, cliche-ridden columns as much as possible. It's like Lupey constructed each piece in MadLibs or something -- blah blah blah, Yankee payroll, blah blah blah, the Wilpons are great, blah blah blah, let's make a lame joke at A-Rod's expense, blah blah blah, I have the greatest family in the world. Bor-ing. Shooting from the Lip? More like Snoozing from the Lip!

But I had to say something about Lupica's big screed on A-Rod, where he says that it's time for Rodriguez to show up in the postseason. Because even for Lupey, this column is ridiculously unfair. Some snippets:
The Yankees showed up on Wednesday in Game 5, they did, hundred percent. Now they have to do it again in Texas, or they become another big, bad Yankee team of this decade that got hit somewhere before the World Series and never recovered.

You know who is supposed to show up Friday night for Game 6? Alex Rodriguez. So far he has three hits in the series and only one of them - two-RBI single that Michael Young should have made a play on, eighth inning of Game 1 - has mattered. There have been times when he seemed perfectly happy to take a walk, leave it to Cano when Cano was still hitting behind him.
A few points:

* Lupica writes that "there have been times when he seemed perfectly happy to take a walk, leave it to Cano when Cano was still hitting behind him." Aside from Lupica not seeming to understand that getting on base by any means necessary is considered a good thing these days, how does he know that A-Rod "seemed perfectly happy to take a walk"? Is The King a mindreader now?

Incidentally, do you know how many times A-Rod has been walked in the eight games of the postseason?  Four -- three in the ALCS, and one in the ALDS. Do you know how many times he was walked with Marcus Thames, not Cano, batting behind him? Two. So we're talking about ONE TIME in the ALCS where A-Rod walked in front of Cano! So much for Lupica's point. At any rate, there were times in this series where I would have preferred that A-Rod take a walk, and not strike out or hit a weak dribbler or hit into a double play!

* Sure, A-Rod has had a bad postseason, but so has every other Yankee hitter not named Robinson Cano or Curtis Granderson. Not to bash Mark Teixeira, but he didn't merit a back page column when he had a .000 BA in the ALCS before getting hurt, the second year in a row he had a terrible postseason. What, is it because Tex is a "True Yankee," and A-Rod isn't? Puh-lease.

* At any rate, Lupica's article is very curiously timed, especially since Rodriguez had a good Game 5, and looked the best at the plate that he's been for the whole ALCS. A-Rod was on base three times Wednesday, twice via walks, and once via a sharply hit double to left field. (He didn't get an RBI -- Nick Swisher surely would have scored on it -- because it was a ground-rule double that bounced into the left-field seats.)

A-Rod scored the first run thanks to the first walk (so much for walks being bad!) He also hit the ball very hard a second time, but Michael Young made a great play to cost him a hit. And he looked good in the field that game, something he has not been during the series. A more fair-minded person would have seen this as a good game for Rodriguez. But that's not Lupica.  According to him, nothing Rodriguez did in this game "has mattered."  Good grief.

* Lupica does briefly mention that other players haven't stepped it up, but doesn't give them the full-throttle criticism he does A-Rod:

He's not the only one in the order who hasn't shown enough stick. Derek Jeter has hits, but has struck out six times Mark Teixeira was 0-for-14 before he got hurt. Nick Swisher is .105. Maybe the home run that Swisher hit in Game 5 is the start of something for him.
Why is it that Swisher getting only his second hit of the entire ALCS is "the start of something for him," but A-Rod having a very good Game 5 doesn't matter?

* Lupica isn't even willing to give Rodriguez credit for his huge hit with the bases loaded in Game 1,saying it was a "two-RBI single that Michael Young should have made a play on." Maybe in Lupica's world, Michael Young should have fielded that hit in Game 1, but most people think that would have been a tough play for Young to have made. I watched the video again, and broadcaster Ron Darling said that the batted ball was going "a hundred miles an hour;" thus, Young was unable to make the play. And Young did not get an error on it. So much for Lupey's great analysis.
* Finally, it takes more than one star to win a series. We saw A-Rod "show up," as Lupica would say, in September and win AL Player of the Month for his great hitting, going .295/.375./600 for the rest of  the season, with nine homers and 28 RBI . What was the Yanks' record during that time? 9-17.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Yankees are staying alive, and the Squawkers got to see it in person

I went to yesterday's Yankee game not just because I got a terrific deal on tickets, but to make a statement about my faith in the team. I wasn't going be the equivalent of one of those fans who fled for the exits in the seventh inning of a playoff game Tuesday night. I could hear the trash talk from Yankee haters Tuesday on Facebook, and I hoped that the team would shut them up Wednesday.

And I had bit of an ulterior motive in taking Squawker Jon to yesterday's playoff game. I was hoping that he would continue his good luck for the Yankees. Even though we didn't actually see Game 4 of the World Series in person (I dragged him to the simulcast at Yankee Stadium instead), I always think that Jon's presence in Yankee Stadium had some karmic connection to Damon's Dash!

Jon noted that in the last three Yankee games he attended, "the Bombers have hit ten homers - three [Wednesday], five on August 24 in Toronto and two on June 19 against the Mets." I wasn't at the Toronto one, but in recent years, Jon was also at the first night game with me in the new stadium (a win), and the first  time A.J. Burnett threw a pie at a Yankee!

As for my own game attendance record, while I have some good memories (Jeter dives in the stands game, the Pine Tar Game, etc.), I've also got some terrible ones as well. For a variety of reasons (money, job obligations, etc.) I was able to get exactly two sets of playoff tickets in the 2000s (how is it that we went through that decade without ever giving it a nickname!) The two times I went to see the postseason: Games 6 and 7 of the 2004 ALCS! In the nineties, I did get to see the Yankees clinch twice against the Texas Rangers when I lived in Texas, but I also saw the Bombers get their butts kicked in Game 1 of the 1996 World Series, after I spent money flying in from Texas to see the team.

So, if there is any good luck charm for the Yanks between us, it's the Met fan! Jill, one of my Facebook friends, suggested we send Squawker Jon to Texas to help the Yankees' luck. I totally think he should do it -- he could go eat fried butter at the State Fair, then watch the Yankees win! Sounds like a plan to me!

* * *
Not only did we get to a Yankees' victory yesterday, we saw Lance Berkman fall on the ground and not be able to get up for a few minutes. I think most fans were looking on in horror, thinking that the Yanks would be out another first baseman, after Mark Teixeira's untimely injury, but fortunately, all that was hurt was Berkman's "pride," as he joked about later.

Squawker Jon thought that Robinson Cano, who batted third yesterday, was finally hitting where he was supposed to be. He also wondered if Jorge Posada were insulted that he was batting seventh, behind Marcus Thames and Berkman. If Posada did have his nose out of joint about it, he took it out on his bat!

C.C. Sabathia actually gave up more hits than C.J. Wilson, although C.C. didn't walk anybody in the battle of the initials. But he limited the damage, and kept his team in the game.

And not only did Robinson Cano continue to be the Yankees' MVP, but some other batters showed "signs of life," as a fan's sign said. Everybody got on base, with the exception of Brett Gardner. Curtis Granderson had three hits. And even A-Rod, who had looked terrible at the plate for the series, seemed much better.

I think the Yankees will win his series -- after all, I did predict the Yanks in 7. But even if they don't, they won't be going down meekly.


What do you think? Tell us about it!

Watching Jeff Francoeur play a meaningful October game in New York

I still can't believe Squawker Lisa was able to get ALCS tickets behind home plate (in the upper deck) for just $26 each. That's less than I paid for some Met games this year, and we know those weren't postseason games.

But to paraphrase Jeff Francoeur, at least I got to see meaningful October baseball in New York. I even got to see Francoeur participate. Unfortunately, Frenchy, who always played well in the field for the Mets even when his hitting went into the toilet, made a throwing error to allow a run to score. Same old Mets - even when they're no longer Mets!

While the market for tickets to Wednesday's game may have been weak, most seats were filled and the Yankee fans around us were very enthusiastic. One guy chanted "Kerry Wood" over and over again when Wood came into the game in the seventh. He had been chanting about something or other most of the game and his voice sounded like it was about to give out. But by the eighth inning, he had many of the people around us chanting "Kerry Wood" along with him.

His attempt to chant "Sir Lancelot Berkman" did not go over nearly as well.

Maybe Lisa is right about me being a good-luck charm for the Yankee bats. In the last three Yankee games I've attended, the Bombers have hit ten homers - three today, five on August 24 in Toronto and two on June 19 against the Mets. It was the second straight game in which I've seen Yankees homer back to back (and, uh, belly to belly). Curtis Granderson has homered in all three games. (I refuse to add anything using the nonword "grandish.") The only Yankee regulars I haven't seen homer in these three games are Brett Gardner and, of all people, A-Rod.

I don't know how long they've been doing this bizarre Michael Kay graphic for each homer, but talk about adding insult to injury.

Speaking of homers, the last playoff game Lisa attended was the memorable (Lisa would use a different word) Game 7 in 2004, and she was annoyed when Bucky Dent threw out the first pitch. Lisa saw it as the Yankees desperately trying to recapture some magic.

Today, Bucky Dent AND Aaron Boone threw out first pitches. But this time, it worked.

Lisa and I were happy to see that the Yankees had a shrine to famed superfan Freddy "the Fan" Schuman, who passed away earlier this week. I saw Freddy on the street a couple of times over the years on the Upper West Side.

But I still find it jarring when the late Bob Sheppard's voice suddenly booms out when Derek Jeter comes to bat. I just hope that A-Rod doesn't insist that his introduction feature a recording of Freddy banging on his pan.

Lisa thinks this game changed the momentum in favor of the Yankees. While the Yankee bats did wake up at least somewhat, and now Nelson Cruz is hurt, I still think it's an uphill climb for the Yankees to come back and take the series, and I'm picking Texas to win Game 6 and get to their first World Series...

And face the Giants!?

I've been dreading another Yankees-Phillies World Series, and now both of last year's pennant winners are one game from elimination. You can't count the Yankees or the Phillies out until the last out is made. But it's shaping up to be quite an interesting next few days.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Thanks to fans with no faith, we're getting a sweet deal on Yankee tickets

As I noted in an article today for The Faster Times, many Yankee fans have apparently given up hope on the series, if all the rock-bottom prices on tickets for Game 5 are any indication. There are all sorts of great deals to be had on tickets in the secondary market. So, I just scooped up grandstand tickets just to the left of home plate for today's game. Price was just $26 dollars a ticket, below face value. Cool!

So, win or lose, Squawker Jon and I will be at Game 5. Anti-Yankee fan Jon will be cheering on the Rangers, and I will be rooting for the Bombers, win or lose, until the very end. Let's hope at the end of the day that Jon is the one with the Nolan Ryan Face and not me!


What do you think? Tell us about it!

Joe Girardi leaves A.J. Burnett out to dry

A.J. Burnett is getting a lot of grief from Yankee fans these days, including some calling for his head last night. But really, he did much better than expected, giving up only two runs in the first five innings. Heck, he was the first Yankee starter to get through the first inning without giving up a run in this series. Until Joe Girardi left him in too long in the sixth, that is.

Longtime readers know that I'm no Girardi basher, but he has done such a poor job with decision-making this series that Squawker Jon and I were musing last night what were the chances that be fired if the Yankees lose the ALCS. And what Joe did in the sixth was just ridiculous.

Guess Girardi never heard of that "leaving on a high note" adage. He should have pulled Burnett after Vladimir Guerrero's hit. At that point, A.J. was at 90 or so pitches. Burnett could have left the cheers from the crowd, with a well-pitched game, and something to build on for the future. Instead, Girardi got a little too cute, deciding to leave him in, and then intentionally walking David Murphy to pitch to Bengie Molina. This, even though he had Joba Chamberlain warmed up in the bullpen. I thought Girardi would keep Burnett on a short leash, but instead, the leash was long enough for A.J. to get caught in.

Incidentally, did you see that Burnett nearly threw the ball away in one of the intentional walk pitches? That should have been yet another clue to Girardi that Burnett was about to turn into a pumpkin.

I didn't watch the postgame last night because he was too angry after the loss. But Jon did, and he thought Girardi was awfully defensive. New York Post columnist Joel Sherman wrote about what the manager said, and I pretty much agree with Sherman's take on what happened last night (emphasis added).
Girardi had Mariano Rivera for as much as two innings, a remnant of the manager’s iffy choice not to use the closer to keep the Yankees within 2-0 in the ninth inning of Game 3. So Girardi would have had to fill just two set-up innings here.
But he got greedy or caught up in the moment....
“If you take A.J. out there and you give up a couple of runs, people say, ‘Why did you take A.J. out?’“ Girardi said.
No, that would not have been the conversation. New York is now well versed on Burnett. No one could think it was a good idea to have him on the mound at that moment: tying run in scoring position, go-ahead run on first, season on the brink. Burnett has spent a career breaking hearts, throwing the pitch he absolutely could not at the wrong time.
And he did here....
Girardi had given a baseball arsonist matches and the Yankees season went up in flames.
I agree with Sherman, something I don't say very often!

One last note -- Squawker Jon sez Molina's homer is bad karma on me for trash-talking Jon for four years about Yadier Molina's homer against the Mets. By the way, last night was the fourth anniversary of that event.

What do you think? Tell us about it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why I'm okay with Francisco Cervelli catching for A.J. Burnett

If there were any doubt that A.J. Burnett and Jorge Posada aren't exactly BFFs, it's that tonight's Yankee lineup contains Francisco Cervelli instead of Posada.

I was actually going to suggest this idea today. Given the importance of this game to both Burnett and the Yankees, they might as well pair him with the catcher he has the greater comfort level with. Not to mention the catcher better able to handle wild pitches and throwing runners out. Cervelli isn't great at it, but I trust him more than I do Jorge at this point. If Posada were to catch tonight, we'd see double steals and home steals and all sorts of mayhem off A.J.

Besides, Burnett's ERA is better with Frankie. According to the New York Post, here's how the numbers break down:
During the season, Burnett pitched 186 2/3 innings, and his best results overall were with Cervelli, who caught 129 1/3 of the innings as Burnett posted a 4.66 ERA. Posada caught 38 1/3 innings with Burnett, during which the righty posted a 7.28 ERA. Burnett's other 19 innings were with Chad Moeller, who worked with him to a 5.21 ERA. Moeller is not on the ALCS roster.
Yes, I know Posada is a better hitter than Cervelli. But Posada, along with the rest of his teammates with the exception of Robinson Cano, hasn't exactly been hitting up a storm as of late -- he has just two hits in the first three games. Could Cervelli be any worse?

I know some readers don't like the idea of personal catchers, especially considering Burnett isn't exactly the second coming of Greg Maddux. Well, tonight's game is a must-win. Increasing A.J.'s comfort level is necessary at this point for the good of the team.

I did see that Burnett showed up late to the interview room yesterday because he was buying stuff at the Halloween Store. As one of my friends put it, let's hope he'll be wearing the costume of a great pitcher tonight.

What do you think? Tell us about it.

Is Maury Povich going to set the Yankee hitters and A.J. Burnett straight?

I read via Yankee beat writer Sweeny Murti's WFAN Twitter feed that Maury Povich and Connie Chung were at Monday's playoff game. My first reaction was to ask on Twitter if Maury was there to tell some player that he was not the father. Sweeny replied, "I think Maury told the Yankees they are not Cliff Lee's daddy." Heh.

So, it got me to thinking if Maury should do one of his phobia shows with the Yankees. Like when he helped the people were was afraid of flowers, pickles, cotton balls and foam peanuts, cats, and even chicken.

The show's phobia "cures" usually entail having Maury's staff bringing out some of the "scary" items to freak out the people.



Then the show has some phobia expert work with the affected guests.

So I'm thinking that the Yankees ought to have Maury work with the Yankee batters, who seem to be phobic about getting some hits. And Maury ought to also spend time with A.J. Burnett, with his apparent fear of winning a ballgame!

C'mon, Maury, help the Yankees out!

Cliff Lee, David Robertson, Joe Girardi haunt Yankee fans' nightmares

For me, Monday's ALCS loss was the most frustrating playoff defeat since the Bug Game. And only some of my frustration had to do with the Yankees being completely flummoxed by Cliff Lee (so much for my thoughts that he could be beatable last night, eh?) Top it off with Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young, my fave NFL player, getting hurt on Monday Night Football, and it was a completely miserable evening for this Squawker.

I could have lived with just a little (okay, maybe a lot) of grumpiness about the Yankees getting shut down by Cliff Lee, with Andy Pettitte pitching a very good game. But what bugged me even more about the game was the way Joe Girardi left David Robertson in the game to get shelled. The young reliever clearly didn't have it last night. Virtually everybody in the park (who started fleeing for the exits as soon as Roberston started giving up hits) knew that, except for Girardi, who left him in like a lamb to the slaughter to give up five runs, five hits, and a walk. The Yanks ended up with their worst postseason shutout loss ever, and Robertson ended up having a very good young career so far marred with this disaster.

It reminded me of when Joe Torre left Chase Wright in to give up four homers in a row to the Red Sox.
You just don't do that to young pitchers. It isn't right. You tell me there was no other pitcher Girardi could have brought in to rescue the ballgame (and the reliever's psyche) before Robertson imploded?

For that matter. why didn't Mariano Rivera start the ninth? If the Yankees were still down only 2-0 in the bottom of the ninth, it literally would have been a different ballgame. So why didn't Girardi go to Mariano Rivera? He told reporters:
Well, Mo is a guy that sometimes we use multiple innings in a situation that if we are ahead. Our bullpen had been really, really good up until that point. Boone had done his job. Robby had done his job. We were down 2‑0 and if you bring in Mo, you may not have him available for multiple innings tomorrow, if you want to use him. So we went with guys that were throwing well in a situation where we were down.
Even if  he wanted to save Mo for a better situation, it was completely inexcusable of Girardi, to leave Robertson in, and take the fans out of the game like that. I'm peeved, and even Squawker Jon felt bad for Robertson!


What do you think? Tell us about it!