Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sports Illustrated picks Mets, jinxes Yankees

So Sports Illustrated has gone where even many Met fans wouldn't go - picking the Mets to win the World Series. But what about the infamous SI cover jinx? No problem - the main cover shot is of the YANKEES, namely, CC Sabathia.

Before I start looking forward to October, I must acknowledge that SI's 2008 predictions had the Tigers beating the Cubs in the World Series. The Mets were picked to win the NL East by five games, only to fall to the Rockies in the first round of the playoffs.

But if any of SI's predictions this year come true, there will be some headline-grabbing series. The Mets are picked to beat Manny's Dodgers in the NLDS and break the hearts of Cubs fans yet again in the NLCS. If that holds, it will mean Jerry Manuel will have bested Yankee legends Joe Torre and Lou Piniella to get to the World Series.

A Met-Cub NLCS would also mean a showdown with old friend Aaron Heilman. Could this mean that the Mets will get to the Fall Classic on a home run by Brian Schneider?

Meanwhile, the Angels, who always lose to the Red Sox in the playoffs, will now beat Boston in the Battle of Teams That Didn't Get Mark Teixeira. Then, in the ALCS, the Angels, the team that lost Teixeira in the first place, will defeat the team that landed Teixeira, the Yankees.

So losing Teixeira vaults you over the team that got Teixeira? Does SI think Teixeira is the new A-Rod?

But in the World Series, SI foresees the Angels, the team that also lost K-Rod, losing to the team that signed K-Rod, the Mets. We can only hope!

Tell us what you think of Sports Illustrated's predictions.

Sheff of the past

It didn't occur to me that Gary Sheffield's release would be anything to worry about until Metsblog warned of discussion of the Mets picking him up. Then I started to worry. Omar Minaya can't quite kick the habit of signing old players. Just yesterday, he signed 39-year-old Ken Takahashi after he was released by Toronto. Now 40-year-old Sheffield has been let go by Detroit.

It just doesn't seem possible that the Mets would show any interest in a 40-year-old DH. Sure, the Mets could use a righty bat off the bench, but Sheffield doesn't come across as the sit-quietly-on-the-bench type.

And if he had anything left, would Detroit be willing to eat $14 million?

Now if we can just keep Omar away from those aging pitchers...

Meet 'The Truth About Ruth' author Peter Handrinos

There are so many baseball books coming out this spring, it's hard to keep on top of reading them all. One of the books I really enjoyed was Peter Handrinos' The Truth About Ruth and More: Behind Yankees Myths, Legends, and Lore. And the author has asked me to tell Squawker readers about his "Meet the Author" event for this book:

The place: Borders Books at Park Avenue & 57th Street, midtown Manhattan
The date: Thursday, April 2nd
The time: 7 pm

"After the event," he says, "there will be a complimentary bar reception, so hopefully it’ll be a good night for fans of Yankee baseball and/or free drinks."

If my life schedule allows, I'm going to try to make it to this. Any Squawker readers interested in joining us at the event?

On the subject of books, have you read any good baseball books lately? If so, tell us about it!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Joe Girardi announces Brett Gardner as center fielder

Joe Girardi is getting to put more of his spin on this team this year. After previously announcing that Xavier Nady would start in right field, and Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon would switch places in the lineup, Girardi told reporters yesterday that Brett Gardner had won the center field job over Melky Cabrera.

The other big news yesterday was the first game at Citi Field. Squawker readers know that Jon and I will be there this Saturday to see the Mets vs. the Red Sox. And while I still haven't figured out who to root for - or against - I do have a naming idea.

Since we taxpayers are footing the bill for the naming rights at this palace, I suggest that the tarp be officially known as the TARP, as in Troubled Assets Relief Program. Every time they roll out the tarp for the rain delay, the announcer can say how this rain protection was brought to you by TARP. Talk about a win-win!

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Where's the media outrage about Mike Piazza?

The baseball blogosphere has been abuzz all week about the performance enhancing drug allegations against Mike Piazza in Jeff Pearlman's Roger Clemens biography "The Rocket That Fell to Earth," even if the mainstream media seems to be pretending the story doesn't exist.

Last Sunday, Murray Chass broke the story about the book's charges. On Tuesday, the day the book was released, I was the first to note the book's allegation that Piazza reportedly admitted to sportswriters that he took performance-enhancing drugs. Six hours later, Deadspin wrote about those charges as well. And most Met blogs have also weighed in on the allegations.

Yet while Pearlman's book has gotten plenty of buzz in the mainstream media, his Piazza charges have been pretty much completely ignored by those same reporters. No tabloid headlines, no investigations of the allegations, no followups, nothing. Very strange.

I'd hate to think that reporters are not going after that story because they like Piazza (Neal Travis' infamous blind item aside, Mike had a great relationship with the press). Or because some of their brethren may be complicit in keeping Piazza's alleged juicing quiet.

Even Joel Sherman, who did ask Piazza a few tough steroid-related questions in February after the A-Rod story broke, hasn't done a followup after the Pearlman book release. Why not?

Is it too much to expect one reporter to actually 1) write in the paper about what Pearlman's book says, 2) ask Piazza for a reaction to it, or maybe even 3) investigate the story a little further? Heck, given that, according to Pearlman's book, Piazza "fessed up" to "reporters he especially trusted," you'd think there would be one reporter going on the record to confirm or deny that charge. Or to see if Mike is one of the 103 who tested positive in 2003.

And for argument's sake, wouldn't you think, if Piazza were innocent, some reporter would try to help clear his name?

Instead, it's as if most sports reporters are sticking their fingers in their ears and going "La, la, la, I can't hear you" when it comes to the possibility that Mike Piazza used performance-enhancing-drugs. Unreal.

Why is the mainstream media ignoring the Mike Piazza story? Leave us a comment!

What a twit! Subway Squawkers are now on Twitter

Shocker! We have followed the lead of some of our baseball blogging friends and joined Twitter. You can find us at http://www.twitter.com/subwaysquawkers.

I still want to call posting there a "twit" instead of a "tweet," because I do feel a little twittish even having a Twitter membership in the first place!

We are also at Facebook - click here to catch up with us there.

Friday, March 27, 2009

'She-Fan' makes Page Six

Earlier today, Squawker Lisa wrote about the Yankee organization's refusal to allow best-selling author and friend of the Squawkers Jane Heller to run a full-page ad in the Opening Day program for her new book, "Confessions of a She-Fan".

The ad, which included a blurb from Lisa, was rejected because the Yankees thought Jane's book was "too controversial."

Now Jane has become a bold-faced name in the New York Post's Page Six gossip roundup.

The Post item begins: The Yankees are snubbing one of their biggest fans.

Read the rest of the item here.

So the Yankee ban results in much better publicity for Jane's book in a nationally-read column.

And now Jane can always say that one of the related stories to her Post item was "Derek hurries back into lineup."

Are the She-Fan's 'Confessions' too much for Yankeeland to handle?

Shocker! Best-selling author - and friend of the Squawkers Jane Heller - has been deemed "too controversial" by the Yankees!

Here's the story. Jane, whose book "Confessions of a She-Fan" I've highly touted in this blog, was all set to buy a full-page advertisement for her book in the Yankees' Opening Day program. In the ad, she had blurbs from three people: Peter Golenbock, John Sterling, and...wait for it...yours truly! (I was quoted describing the book as "passionate, funny, smart, and sassy.")

Anyhow, I was very excited for Jane that she had this ad. And I, of course, was excited for myself, that the Squawkers were going to be mentioned in the same breath as the Yankees - or at least the same program!

So much for that. Jane's ad was rejected by the Yanks this week.

When asked why they refused to approve it, some knucklehead in their front office explained, “We know who she is and we know about her book and it’s too controversial. We don’t want it in the publication.”

What the heck? (I actually said stronger words than that when I heard about this, but I try to keep the blog PG-rated!)

It's not like Heller is Selena Roberts here. Readers of "Confessions" know that not only is the book a love letter to the Yanks, but that John Sterling, the Voice of the Yankees, is very helpful to Jane's journey in the book. So why in the world could somebody who has that Sterling seal of approval be deemed too controversial for the Yanks? It makes no sense.

Given all the problems the Yankees have had in selling their luxury boxes in the new stadium, you would think they would be happy to take Jane's money for her ad. Not to mention that her book would be of interest to Yankee fans.

C'mon, Yanks, free the She-Fan's ad!

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Reminder: HAVA contest deadline is Friday

Entries for our HAVA contest, which gives you the chance to win a device that lets you watch your TV on a computer or a cell phone, are due Friday at 5 p.m.

How do you win the HAVA? Tell us about your favorite baseball clip, one you would love to see over and over. Mike Piazza's homer after 9/11? Derek Jeter diving into the stands? Curt Schilling's bloody sock?

Click here for more details, and to enter the contest.

Oliver Perez - back from spring break?

The main controversy over the WBC has been that some managers and players might be taking it so seriously that they are overdoing it - throwing too many pitches, playing through injuries and so forth.

Oliver Perez apparently is following his own drummer, or should I say drumstick. Pitching coach Dan Warthen says that Perez did not take care of himself when he was away at the WBC:

"I really liked when he left. He came into camp in good shape. I thought he was throwing the ball very well when he left camp. I was a little reticent when he left, and my worries have come to fruition.

"I think he’s not in shape. The arm is out of shape.

For the full quote, and an amusing take on the whole Ollie story, see Metstradamus. It was after reading Metstradamus that I started to think of Ollie as having been away at spring break.

While it's easy to get on Ollie for kicking back now that he's got his three-year deal, the fact is that he didn't exactly pitch like he was in a contract year last year.

So what can motivate this guy?

I wanted the Mets to re-sign Perez over Derek Lowe because of Perez' upside and youth. And it's still better to have Perez with a focus issue than an arm issue. But three years is suddenly looking like a long contract. And I'm in less denial over the fact that no other team seemed to want Perez.

The Mets are still better off with Perez than without him, especially considering the other issues in the rotation. But, while Ollie may not have been literally wasting away in Margaritaville, let's hope that he realizes that his failure to be prepared for the season is, as the song goes, his own damn fault.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Did you get Yankee single-game tickets?

The 2009 season will be here in the blink of an eye. Not only is Derek Jeter back with the team, but single-season Yankee tickets went on sale to the general public at yankees.com at 10 am yesterday.

I wasn't able to be on the computer when they went on sale then, but I tried my hand at attempting to buy Opening Day tickets last night. The good news is that there are still tickets available. The bad news is that they cost $2625 a piece, plus a $59.70 so-called "convenience charge" cost per ticket! Convenient to what - giving my credit card company agita?

Oh, and Yankee CEO Lonn Trost finally admitted yesterday that contrary to what he has been saying for months, the Yanks had only sold the equivalent of 36,000, not 39,000, tickets per game before the sale:
Lonn Trost said the sale began with full-season equivalents at just under 36,000 for the 52,000-capacity ballpark. He said January's announcement that full-season equivalents had reached 39,393 resulted from an internal team miscommunication and the higher figure referred to the final season at old Yankee Stadium, which held about 57,000 seats.
What "internal team miscommunication" was that? He used that 39,000 number on Mike Francesa last month to justify the raw deal partial season-ticket holders have gotten this year. Now it turns out to be an error? Right!

What kind of luck did our readers have at getting tickets? Please tell us about it!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dealing with the Mike Piazza story

The problem with the Internet is that it's hard to pretend you didn't see a story. There was a time when I could say I didn't see the newspaper that day, or missed the item on TV. Now, if you miss something, it's still there in a Google search.

Of course, it's that much harder to pretend you didn't see something when your blogging partner wrote it!

Earlier today, Squawker Lisa wrote about the allegations involving Mike Piazza and steroids that appear in Jeff Pearlman's new book about Roger Clemens, "The Rocket That Fell to Earth."

I really don't feel like writing about anything that has Mike Piazza and steroids in the same sentence. I'm looking forward to the start of the season, when perhaps we'll get to see Tom Seaver throw out the first pitch at Citi Field to Piazza, just like they did as Shea Stadium closed.

In fact, I've already written about this topic recently. I wrote that I hoped that any allegations about Piazza were unfounded, and that the best course for baseball was full disclosure. Release the names of the 103 players on the list and emphasize that they were just the ones who got caught and that the problem was much more widespread.

When the when the A-Rod steroid story broke, I wrote that it was unfair for A-Rod to be singled out. And I don't want to see Piazza singled out, either.

Unlike MLB, Pearlman is not pretending that the problem is only with a couple of players. Pearlman believes that the PED problem in baseball is widespread. In an interview on "It Is About the Money, Stupid," Pearlman says that he estimates that 70% of major leaguers were "using something more than Andro" duing the height of PED usage in the 1990s.

So even if we do learn the 103 other names besides A-Rod that are on that list, it won't necessarily excuse Piazza or anyone else if they are not mentioned. But at least we'll have proof for 103 players and lack of proof for the others.

Did Mike Piazza tell reporters he used performance-enhancing drugs?

Posted by Lisa Swan

Fans have speculated for ages that Roger Clemens was suffering 'roid rage when he threw that bat against Mike Piazza in the 2000 World Series. But now Clemens is not the only person in that rivalry accused of using performance-enhancing drugs.

In his new book about Clemens, "The Rocket That Fell To Earth", which comes out today, Jeff Pearlman writes that:
"According to several sources, when the subject of performance enhancing was broached with reporters he especially trusted, Piazza fessed up.

"Sure, I use," he told one. "But in limited doses, and not all that often." (Piazza has denied using performance-enhancing drugs, but there has always been speculation.)"
Pearlman, who writes about Piazza in the book's chapter on the 2000 World Series, continues:
"Whether or not it was Piazza's intent, the tactic was brilliant: By letting the media know, off the record, Piazza made the information that much harder to report. Writers saw his bulging muscles, his acne-covered back. They certainly heard the under-the-breath comments from other major league players, some who considered Piazza's success to be 100 percent chemically delivered."
Former Boston Red Sox first baseman Reggie Jefferson tells Pearlman, "He's a guy who did it, and everybody knows it. It's amazing how all these names, like Roger Clemens, are brought up, yet Mike Piazza goes untouched."

Another veteran player agreed, saying, "There was nothing more obvious than Mike on steroids."

According to Pearlman, when that player is asked what are the odds, on a scale of 1 to 10, that Piazza had used PEDs, the player replies:
"A 12," he says. "Maybe even a 13."

You can read more details in Pearlman's book, "The Rocket That Fell To Earth," a book I highly recommend. It is a balanced biography of Clemens. I will do a full-scale review of the book later this week.

Former New York Times writer Murray Chass, who, along with the New York Post's Joel Sherman, wrote about Piazza's back acne last month, was the first to talk about what Pearlman's book said about the former catcher. Interestingly, however, Chass did not mention what I think is the most explosive part of what "The Rocket That Fell to Earth" said about Piazza - the charge that the former catcher admitted to some reporters that he was using PEDs.

Some might say that it's ancient history to talk about whether Mike Piazza juiced up. But Piazza isn't just any former player. He is one of the faces of the Mets' franchise - remember that it was Mike who caught fellow icon Tom Seaver's last pitch thrown at Shea Stadium - and he is said to be one of the greatest-hitting catchers of all-time. Piazza is also expected to go into the Hall of Fame in four years.

Look, I like Piazza, but I also think that if he's going to be considered for the Hall, he needs to be under the same microscope that would-be HOFers Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa have faced. Piazza shouldn't get a pass from this type of scrutiny, even though he was a fan favorite and gave good quotes to the media.

What do you think about Mike Piazza? Leave us a comment!

Monday, March 23, 2009

What baseball clip do you never get tired of seeing?

Just a reminder that we have a contest going on this week, with your chance to win a HAVA, a device that lets you watch your TV on a computer or a cell phone.

How do you win the HAVA? Tell us about your favorite baseball clip, one you would love to see over and over. Click here for more details, and to enter the contest

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Derek Jeter is housebuilding like it's 1999

We may be living in the worst economic times since the Great Depression, but that apparently hasn't stopped at least one Yankee from doing some big spending.

According to the Tampa Tribune, Derek Jeter is building a Florida house just outside of Tampa that will be the biggest in Hillsborough County. Public records show the house will be 30,875 (!) square feet. Just buying the Davis Island land for the home's location cost $7.7 million.

To put the size of Jeter's new house in perspective, Oprah Winfrey's $50 million Montecito mansion (click here to see what that looks like) is "only" 23,000 square feet. Heck, Bill Gates' legendary home is 48,000 square feet, and Hearst Castle is around 60,000 square feet.

I think it's a little, well, tone-deaf to be building a monster of a house literally the size of a supermarket - and literally half the size of the 55,000 square foot White House - right now. Is Jeter, who is usually good at seeing how things will play out, not aware how out of touch such spending looks right now?

Some might say that "it's Derek's money, he can spend it however he likes." But imagine if, say, Alex Rodriguez or Manny Ramirez had a home planned like that. I think they'd be getting some - make that a lot - of grief for such an ostentatious plan.

At least Jeter won't have to run ads everywhere pushing luxurious - and unsold - "between the bases" seats for his new abode!

What do you think of Derek Jeter's big spending? Leave us a comment!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Memories of another David Wright walkoff hit

On May 19, 2006, the Mets played the Yankees at Shea in the first Subway Series game of the season. For the first time in years, the Mets were ready to take on the Yankees as equal contending teams.

With a pitching mismatch of Randy Johnson vs. Geremi Gonzalez, the Mets fell behind by four runs, but rallied to tie the game, 6-6, going into the bottom of the ninth. With two outs in the ninth and Paul Lo Duca on second, Mariano Rivera walked Carlos Delgado intentionally to bring up David Wright.

Before 56,000 screaming fans, the 23-year-old Wright proceeded to win the game with a walkoff hit off of the greatest closer in history.

“There’s nothing better,” Wright said after the game. “New York’s the greatest baseball stage.”

As a Met fan, I would hope that Wright would continue to feel that there is nothing better than succeeding in New York. But even if he does place Tuesday night's winning hit at the top of his baseball highlights, we are ultimately talking about a walkoff hit in March vs. a walkoff hit in May.

Let's hope that this year brings Wright some memories he can cherish from October.

More of the 'Details' on A-Rod

Now it all makes sense. According to the "Details" magazine cover story about Alex Rodriguez that I wrote about the other day, he was drinking shots of Patron during the photo shoot. When some people engage in a little liquid refreshment, they talk too loud, or start singing, or call people they shouldn't call. A-Rod kisses himself. Go figure.

The story makes a whole big deal about how Alex doesn't seem fazed by the whole Selena Roberts thing coming up, as if A-Rod should have known that he would be exposed as a juicer the next day.

But here's the fallacy in that thinking. We don't know whether Selena told him the story was coming out that weekend. We also don't know whether he thought the story was going to be in the book instead of Sports Illustrated. Besides, given that Roberts is digging through his entire life, he's probably got a whole bunch of upcoming revelations to worry about. Something tells me he's made a whole lot of bad decisions we're going to hear about in Roberts' book.

What is more shocking to me - and disappointing - is that A-Rod didn't cancel the Details magazine dinner interview after what happened to him earlier that day:
He orders an iced tea and explains why he was delayed on his way to dinner. One of his daughters was taken to the hospital with a staph infection. She's going to be fine, he says, sounding relieved.
Your daughter is in the hospital, and you're wasting your time talking to a reporter? Get your priorities straight, Alex!

Here are a few more tidbits from the article:

The writer, describes A-Rod's style sense - he was wearing "a cappuccino-colored sweater, a white oxford shirt, jeans, and pristine white sneakers" - as "a little Fred Rogers, a little Jerry Seinfeld." Ouch!

Besides gushing about how what a good friend Madonna is, A-Rod's also seen wearing one of those Kabbalah red strings around his wrist.

A-Rod wanted - but didn't get to take home - an old-time scale from the old Yankee Stadium. He said "Babe Ruth weighed himself on that scale. Joe DiMaggio. Mickey Mantle. I would have paid a funny number for that."

Alex voted for Obama, lost money in the stock market, claims to ride the subway to games, and feels sympathy for Michael Phelps:
"We live in a world right now where everyone's keeping score," Rodriguez says of the hunger for scandal. "And it doesn't stop when the games end. . . . They've crossed over. And you have the Internet stuff, and all these phones. . . . It's very intense."
All true, Alex. But maybe you shouldn't give the media something to squawk about by getting photographed looking like you're in love with yourself.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

David Wright says all the wrong things

Squawker Jon, I know you that you inhaled the WBC and all, given your most recent column, but I'm going to have to mock your guy David Wright, the star of Team USA's victory over Puerto Rico.

Or should I just call him Mr. March again? Yeah, yeah, I know somebody could say that about my team's third baseman, Alex Rodriguez. And come to think of it, Wright may not have made the USA squad in the first place if it weren't for A-Rod remembering his Dominican roots.

Speaking of A-Rod, Wright seems to be channeling his propensity for saying dopey things. After David's walkoff hit the other night, he told the media, "That situation is what you dream about when you're a kid."

Mets blogger I.M. Forme at It's Mets for Me is having none of it:

Really? Wright dreamed about playing for Team America in the World Baseball Classic? The WBC wasn't a dumb glimmer in Bud Selig's greedy eyes when Wright was a kid. Get your head on straight, Sugarpants, when you were a kid, you dreamed about winning the world series with the NY Mets. That is the situation.

I don't even root for the Mets and I'm nodding my head agreeing with this guy.

But wait, there's more! According to today's Kevin Kernan column in the New York Post:

Wright had scratches on his face, the result of being dog-piled by teammates. He also had the glow in his eye such a hit builds in the baseball soul.

"I've heard from everybody," he said. "I got more phone calls and text messages in the last 24 hours than I had the last 24 months."

He's thrilled that his bat is being sent to the Hall of Fame. One of the best messages came from his brother Daniel, a high school senior. "He sent me a text that said, 'This is by far the coolest thing you've ever done,' " Wright explained.
Can Wright get a little perspective here, please?

Team USA hasn't even won the WBC yet. They made it to the semifinals. The semifinals. Which means that they're one of four teams left. To paraphrase a Chris Rock routine, you're supposed to make it to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic if you're the US. What does Wright want, a cookie?

Wright is darned lucky that, despite the Mets' two epic September collapses in a row, he still essentially gets a free pass in this town. Because I think the other New York third baseman would get a little more criticism if he told the media what golden boy David did yesterday:

"Being in these kind of high-pressure situations, you know, big at-bats in March, can only help you out come April and hopefully beyond that," Wright said of the two-run single that beat Puerto Rico, 6-5. "You're talking about being up there with the game on the line, and when you wear those three letters across the front of your chest, you have quite a bit of pressure and weight on your shoulders.

"I think that can only help," Wright said. "It's good to get that big hit because when you do get those big hits it allows you to take a deep breath and maybe not put as much pressure on you the next at-bat."

Again, can you imagine if A-Rod had said something so damning about himself? Good grief.

What do you think about David Wright? Leave us a comment!

Subway Squawker contest: How to have a Hava in your home

Although Squawker Jon and I have been squawking about the Yankees and Mets for years now, we offically started writing Subway Squawkers in March 2006. In honor of our third anniversary of squawking, the folks at Monsoon, creators of the HAVA, are offering one of their cool machines to our readers.

What is a HAVA? It's a device that plugs into your cable box and allows you to watch your TV programming on a laptop or a mobile phone. If you can't be home to see the big game, you can watch it elsewhere if you have a HAVA. You can read more about the device here and here.

The product retails for $99, but one lucky Squawkers reader will get to have a HAVA in their home for free. Here's how:

Tell us, in an email to subwaysquawkers@gmail.com, which Major League Baseball clip you never get tired of seeing, and why you love that clip. Is it Aaron Boone's homer? Or the slow roller to Buckner? Or even (shudder), the Red Sox beating the Yanks?

Please include your name, address, and phone number in the email, and put the word HAVA in the subject line. The deadline for contest entries will be 5 p.m. on Friday, March 27.

To keep this process as unbiased as possible, the folks at HAVA will judge all entries, and pick out the best one. Good luck!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I, uh, watched the WBC and enjoyed it

Yesterday, I complained about Met pitchers getting overworked in the WBC and wished the whole thing would go away. Last night, with the WBC still on my mind, I tuned in to USA-Puerto Rico. I swear, I was just going to check the score to see which Met players would be coming home. I wasn't planning to inhale.

But when every other player seemed to be a Met, and the other players all seemed to be from the Phillies, Red Sox or Yankees, I found myself watching. And it turned out to be an exciting finish, featuring a walk-off hit by our own David Wright.

USA-Puerto Rico. The gateway drug to the WBC!

I'm still worried about pitch counts, but I did see the potential for the WBC, and also how to improve the All-Star game.

What made last night's game so exciting was that the top players were still on the field at the end. Except for one pinch-runner, everyone in the US lineup played the entire game, and we're talking players of the caliber of Wright, Derek Jeter, Jimmy Rollins (who was DH), Kevin Youkilis and Brian Roberts. Most of the Puerto Rican stars, such as Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and Alex Rios, also played the full game.

MLB wants the All-Star games to "count," but they also want to get everyone in the game, even when some of those players are only on the team because their franchise is required to have a representative. But if you really want the All-Star game to count, you have to find a way to have the David Wrights on the field at the end of the game.

Speaking of Wright, Squawker Lisa has already referred to him as Mr. March. But, as ESPN research points out, Wright is more clutch than some think:

Wright has six career regular-season walk-off hits for the Mets, one shy of the club record. However, none of those came in a situation in which his team was trailing.

Of course, Wright wouldn't have been hitting against someone named Fernando Cabrera in an All-Star game. Cabrera came in with the bases loaded in the ninth and cemented his audition for the 2008 Met bullpen by walking in a run to cut the lead to 5-4 before giving up the winning hit to Wright.

Cabrera came on for Phillies reliever J.C. Romero. It was strange to see Romero on the mound, since he's been suspended 50 games for performance-enhancing drugs. But the announcer explained that the suspension does not apply to the WBC. A few minutes later, the announcer hastily explained that the WBC does not condone the use of PEDs and that it has its own drug testing.

But that's Bud Selig's world for you. He's solved the PED problem, except when he hasn't. Suspensions have teeth, except when they don't.

Tonight, the US plays Venezuela. It's just for seeding, since both teams are in the semis, so I'm not planning to watch any of it. Unless there's a chance to see J.J. Putz face off against K-Rod...


One other note: Best wishes to Aaron Boone. No middle initial today, since Boone is going to undergo open heart surgery. It's not an emergency and, while he will miss this season, he is supposed to be back for the 2010 season.

Did you watch any of the game last night? Are you planning to watch any of the remaining WBC games?

We'll give you something to squawk about...

Lots going on in Squawkerland this week:

* This month marks the third anniversary of Subway Squawkers. To celebrate this event, we're going to have a cool contest for our readers. You'll have to come back later today for the details, and to enter the contest.

* I'm currently reading Jeff Pearlman's new book about Roger Clemens, "The Rocket That Fell to Earth," (great book so far!) It comes out next Tuesday, but I'll be sharing my thoughts about the book before you can even buy it.

* And I have a Squawker interview with "Confessions of a She-Fan" author Jane Heller, with all sorts of cool tidbits and observations about her time following the Yankees, including what it was like to see the Bug Game in person.

* * *

A few other notes:

* I know they're celebrating their big Team USA win in the World Baseball Classic last night, but I'm not sure how I feel about Derek Jeter celebrating with David Wright and Kevin Youkilis in this photo. It's like dogs and cats living together or something.

* Here's a headline that made me click to read the rest of the story, from Mass Live's Red Sox Monster blog: "Leprechaun takes over spring training, impersonates Dustin Pedroia." Heh.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ronan Tynan calls Joe Torre a 'clown'

Joe Torre had all sorts of catty things to say in "The Yankee Years" about way too many people. Now one of his targets is fighting back.

In "The Yankee Years," Torre griped about George Steinbrenner not giving Yankee scouts rings after the 2000 World Series. The book claims that scouts were angry when "they heard or saw Steinbrenner cronies such as actor Billy Crystal and singer Ronan Tynan wearing World Series rings."

The new web site Irish Central.com asked Tynan about this tidbit. And the Irish tenor wasn't exactly pleased. He called Torre a "clown" and said he was "surprised" that his name was brought up in this dispute.

Tynan also defended Steinbrenner, saying that The Boss "is passionate" and "loved to win." "If you were part of it he included you," Tynan said, "if he thought you were part of the win." Click here to read more about what the singer had to say.

I don't know why Torre felt the need to dis Tynan, who has helped contribute to Yankee pride and tradition over the years with his seventh-inning rendition of "God Bless America." Not to mention that opponents complained that the version was so long, that it messed up their team's groove!

However, I do know that to call Billy Crystal just a Steinbrenner crony is laughable, especially given that it was Torre, not The Boss, who asked Crystal to do a video for the team before the 2007 playoffs.

Besides, if Joe was so bent out of shape over the ring issue, why didn't he threaten to quit, or take it to the press, or do something about it himself at the time, instead of sniping in his book eight years later. Not exactly a profile in courage.

On another note, Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Will WBC ruin Mets' season?





There are some people who only watch a NASCAR race to see if there will be a crash. I wouldn't put it past Bud Selig to adopt a similar cynical marketing campaign for the World Baseball Classic.

Or is baseball so cynical that, now that Oliver Perez and Francisco Rodriguez have landed their guaranteed long-term contracts, it doesn't matter if they get hurt?

As Metsblog points out, Oliver Perez threw 85 pitches in his last game - after throwing 65 pitches the game before. Weren't there supposed to be pitch counts in the WBC?

This on top of K-Rod being asked to make not one, but two four-out saves, after making NONE all last season, according to the Post. In other words, the Angels, knowing that K-Rod was in his walk year and was likely to leave the team, protected his arm more than the WBC is doing.

The most disturbing thing, also from the Post article (and also highlighted in The Mets Police):

USA Today reported last week that its own study showed nearly four of every five pitchers in the 2006 WBC recorded a higher ERA that season than the previous year. Even more ominously: More than one in three WBC pitching veterans spent time on the disabled list in '06, including 14 who landed on it in April and May.

I'm not even going to get into David Wright getting kneed in the head and feeling dizzy afterwards. After all, Ryan Church suffered his first concussion last year during a Grapefruit League game.

At least, according to Kevin Kernan, the WBC news is not all bad for the Mets. Carlos Beltran is having a great tournament. And K-Rod threw only 20 pitches in his last save and said "I'm not going to put my future at risk at all... I feel tremendous. If I feel like I can, I will. If I cannot do it I will not do it."

I hope he's right. But if something happens to K-Rod, at least the Mets have a good backup closer this year. Oh, wait, J.J. Putz is in the WBC, too.

This tournament can't end soon enough.

What do you think of the WBC?

What is the Madonna song title A-Rod wanted removed from an interview?

Forget any thoughts that all would be quiet on the A-Rod front while he recovers from torn labrum surgery. Today Alex is on the cover of the New York Post, kissing his own reflection. The headline is "I love you sooo much."

The photo is from A-Rod's upcoming cover story with Details magazine. But maybe even the Post is getting tired of writing about Alex - he has to share the cover with Barack Obama!

According to the Post:
The mag captures A-Rod's essence, with pictures of him smooching his own reflection, stretching his toned muscles on a bare mattress and brooding seductively for the camera.

Rodriguez wore Calvin Klein T-shirts and tank tops for the spread, evocative of the designer's sexy, envelope-pushing ads.

Click here to see another picture of A-Rod looking into the mirror.

Good grief.

I'm a big proponent of self-deprecation, and perhaps this is A-Rod's attempt of mocking his own image. Maybe this would work if he were in Hollywood. But Alex has never understood that this type of publicity, while part of the game if you're pushing a new movie, doesn't exactly fly in the baseball world.

A-Rod's got, what, at least a half-dozen people on his payroll working on his image, and telling him how to handle the media?

I can give him some much better advice for free: Here's a nice steaming cup of shut the heck up, Alex. Drink it.

Alex also discusses Madonna in the interview, calling her "an amazing entertainer." He also told Jason Gay, the reporter interviewing him, the name of his favorite Madonna song, a tidbit he "frantically reached out to him after the interview to retract" because he didn't want the song to be played by the team's opponents at every game.

So now I'm wondering which Madonna song is his favorite. And you know, there really isn't a good answer to that one for a professional ballplayer, except maybe Madge's "This Used to Be My Playground" from "A League of Their Own."

But I think these Madonna songs would be particularly embarrassing to be the most-played on A-Rod's iPod:

* "American Pie" - I thought the Brady Bunch did the worst cover version ever of Don McLean's classic hit. I was wrong.
* "Like a Virgin" - Although I still think of Weird Al's "Like a Surgeon" parody whenever I hear this song.
* "Vogue" - Think the tan in a can and the frosted tips were a bit much? How about this song as an A-Rod fave!
* "Material Girl" - Oooh, the Material Girl and the Material Boy hook up. Charming.
* "You Must Love Me" - This "Evita" soundtrack song really does fit A-Rod's personality, though. Are we going to have to start calling him A-Vita?

But what do you think? What's your guess for A-Rod's favorite Madonna song? Leave us a comment!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Schlotzsky's giveaway is in the big leagues

When I moved to Austin, Texas in the 80s to go to college at the University of Texas, I was introduced to the majesty of a Schlotzsky's sandwich. And every time I go back to Texas to visit, I make a point to get another one of those tasty treats.

Now, in honor of their new Big League Clubz sandwiches, the delicious restaurant has something yummy for baseball fans - a whole slew of contests and games at BigLeagueClubz.com.

Here's your chance to win a trip to St. Louis for the All-Star Game, get a personalized mini-bat, play games online, and get baseball scores on your desktop. All very cool stuff.

You can register online at BigLeagueClubz.com to enter the All-Star Game contest.

To get the mini-bat, you need to visit a Schlotzsky’s and try one of the Big League Clubz sandwiches. You'll get baseball cards for doing this at the store. Collect three cards, and upload a pic of yourself holding the cards, and if you're one of the first 1,000 to do, you'll get a free personalized mini-bat. I will be doing this very soon, so you can check and see what I posed like.

Anyhow, check all this stuff out at BigLeagueClubz.com. Good luck!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Robinson Cano and Damaso Marte: Ain't that peculiar?

My Squawker partner made all sorts of references to Marvin Gaye in his last post. I'm going to have to make one of my own now. "Ain't That Peculiar" that Robinson Cano and Damaso Marte are now saying they're injured, after playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic?

According to mlb.com:

Cano said that he had felt some discomfort before reporting to the Classic club, but did not mention it to the Yankees.

"It was a little bit tight and it never went away," Cano said. "I can throw. It just feels tight. ... I was hoping that it was something that if I stretched, it'd be all right."

Why didn't Cano say anything about this before going to the WBC? And what's the story with the Yankees? Is management too hard to talk to about this?

Then there's his WBC teammate Damaso Marte, who is also hurting for certain. Here's the story from today's Newsday:

Marte's injury is more curious. He said he was bench-pressing weights - his own idea - before the Dominicans' final game, in which he pitched.

"I don't completely understand what he was doing lifting," [Joe] Girardi said.

I don't either.

Let's hope Cano and Marte recover quickly, or this is going to be a very long season.

But what do you think? Leave us a comment!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Tim Redding: Mercy Mercy Me!

On Thursday night, Tim Redding improved his ERA from his first appearance of the spring.

That's the best spin I have.

Yes, giving up nine runs in two innings is statistically better than the five runs Redding allowed in only 1/3 of an inning against the University of Michigan.

On the telecast, Ralph Kiner suggested that the mercy rule used in the WBC should also be used with Redding. Maybe during the regular season, when Redding gets knocked out of the game, the sound system can play the old Marvin Gaye classic "Mercy Mercy Me."

And when Redding trudges back to the bench, Jerry Manuel and Dan Warthen can ask Redding "What's Going On."

The Mets price their games in tiers ranging from "platinum" down to "value." If this keeps up, they may need to introduce a new tier: "Redding." Tickets are reduced in price in most of the ballpark in anticipate of a lousy showing by the Mets. However, tickets for seats in the outfield in fair territory are sold at a higher price, since your chances of catching a home run ball look to be much greater with Redding on the mound.

A couple of times during the telecast, Ron Darling said that Redding had an "outstanding" season last year because he won 10 games for a Nationals team that only won 59.

In 1972, Steve Carlton won 27 games for a Phillies team that also won only 59 times. Now that's outstanding. Winning 10 for the Nationals? Not so much.

But it doesn't look like we'll have to worry about hearing "Tim Redding" and "outstanding" in the same sentence again anytime soon.

Johan Santana wasn't outstanding tonight either, but it was great to see him on the mound making most batters miss after the injury scare. Santana even pitched into the third after it looked like he would only go two. Santana did get taken out in the middle of an inning, but it was due to being on a pitch count - not a mercy rule.

Who should be the fifth starter for the Mets? Would you like to see the Mets bring back Pedro Martinez? Tell us what you think.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I will be on the radio tonight

Check out The Brew and Bill Show on Blog Talk Radio tonight from 10 p.m. to midnight. I will be on the air tonight at around 10:15 p.m. Other guests on tonight's show include Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post and Beverly from Rock Of Love Bus. Click here to listen to the show live.

If A-Rod's life were a soap opera, would it be called "The Young and the Stupid"?

A few notes this morning of a variety of things happening in Squawkerland:

* I wrote a piece for PerpetualPost.com about what soap-operaish developments may happen in Alex Rodriguez's life, while he recovers from hip surgery. Click here to read the article.

* As somebody who is partially of Dutch descent, I am very excited over the Netherlands team's triumphs so far in the World Baseball Classic. (Hmmm, wonder if A-Rod will get the blame for the Domnican team losing to the Dutch without him?) And I'm figuring that if the Netherlands wins it all, or at least goes further, there will be a "Cool Runnings" type movie coming up about the team. Who knew that Sidney Ponson and Randall Simon were the stuff of miracles?

Anyhow, I wondered what the odds are in the WBC, so I talked to Shane Ford, Head Lines Manager, at BookMaker.com about it. He said, "Lots of money now coming in on the USA to win it, especially with the Dominicans now out. USA started the tournament at +250, and now are +150 favorites. The Netherlands were a whopping 250/1 before the tournament started and now are 30/1."

Does it make me a bad American to root for the Dutch? First the Mets vs. Red Sox dilemma on who to root against at the Citi Field game I'm going to, and now this!

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Could Max Kellerman's and Mike Francesa's egos fit into the same radio studio?

It's been a tumultuous week for NYC radio. Not only are Opie and Anthony off K-Rock, but sports show yakker - and Yankee fan - Max Kellerman is out at ESPN Radio. He apparently was peeved that Colin Cowherd's show's return to 1050 meant that his show would be cut to one hour, so he asked out of his contract, and the station agreed.

But Max likely won't be off the airwaves for long. Rumor has it that Kellerman might be moving down the dial to join fellow Yankee fan Mike Francesa's show on WFAN. The New York Post's Phil Mushnick writes:
While Francesa the Great & Powerful is known to like Kellerman (at least for now), both men are so thoroughly impressed with themselves that placing them in the same studio at the same time without the presence of sharpshooters armed with elephant tranquilizers would be ill-advised. In a medium that accentuates the self-smitten, Francesa and Kellerman are standouts.

Ain't that the truth!

What Francesa needs now is what he had with Chris (Mad Dog) Russo - somebody who knew something about the fine art of self-deprecation. From Dog's silly Marquis wig to his "singing" with Southside Johnny, he wasn't afraid to make a fool of himself, and to get listeners to laugh at the same time. But much like Francesa, the next time Kellerman pokes fun at himself will be the first time.

I used to like Kellerman when he first started on 1050 - he provided a younger perspective, and used stats to back up his opinions, something you don't often hear on sports radio.

But I found him hard to listen to in recent months. For one thing, he ticked me off when he went on a weeklong tirade last October about how true Yankee fans would want to see Joe Torre and the Dodgers go on to the World Series. I also could have done without hearing about his wealthy Hamptons lifestyle ad nauseum.

While I think Kellerman could provide sparks with Francesa - they certainly have different takes on the Yanks, for one thing - I also think the two of those egos in the same radio studio would end up being too much to listen to. Every day would be a "who's more pompous" contest, or maybe a "who's wealthier" yakfest. Sheesh.

Then again, at least there might be one good thing that could come out of their pairing - a better theme song. Kellerman, who has eclectic tastes in music, would never want to be linked to that ridiculously out-of-date "Mike'd Up" theme song. Hey, Mike, that tune would have been rocking if this were 1984, but right now, it sounds like you're broadcasting in parachute pants and a Members Only Jacket!

What do you think about Max and Mike together? Leave us a comment!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Duaner Sanchez and the day the Mets lost their dominance

As July 2006 came to an end, the Mets were as dominant as any team in baseball. Part of the reason was their dominant setup man, Duaner Sanchez. Then, in the early morning hours of July 31, Sanchez separated his shoulder in an early-morning cab accident.

Sanchez never regained his dominance and was released today.

And up to now, the Mets have not regained their dominance, either.

The bullpen, one of the team's strongest areas before the accident, devolved into the Mets' weakest part. The Mets were never able to find a setup man to replace Sanchez, finally having to trade for a closer (J.J. Putz) making a lot more than setup-man money.

And the first move the Mets made to replace Sanchez, trading for Roberto Hernandez, resulted in the Mets trading away Xavier Nady. More than two seasons later, the Mets still do not have a righthanded outfield bat to replace Nady.

With both the setup man and the righthanded outfielder, Omar Minaya's first plan was to acquire someone over 40, first Hernandez for relief and then Moises Alou for the outfield. Omar's age movement only made things worse.

So Sanchez' injury ruined his career, the Mets' bullpen and damaged their lineup. Pretty expensive late-night snack.

The only positive came from the thrown-in in the Nady-Hernandez deal - Oliver Perez.

We'll never know how the Mets' fortunes might have changed had the accident never happened. Desperate for starting pitching, the Mets started Perez, who had gone 3-13 that year, twice in the NLCS. Perez pitched six innings of one-run ball in Game 7 (with a lot of help from Endy Chavez). He gave up five runs in his other start, but won. Perez was not great, but the alternatives would have probably been a lot worse.

In 2007, Sanchez might have saved the bullpen down the stretch, but the Mets would have had to come up with a way to replace Ollie's 15 wins. If they had done so with someone from the minors, they would have had less to offer in trade at the end of the year for Johan Santana. And if they still needed to replace Ollie by the end of the year, with two rotation slots open, they might have been more wary to package so much pitching for Santana.

Ultimately, it's hard to say a setup man is more important than a starter. But if ever someone could make that claim, it was Duaner Sanchez in the first four months of 2006. Goodbye, Duaner, and good luck.

Mets vs. Red Sox? Oy!

As Squawker Jon noted last week, we are going to Taxpayer Bailout Field - err, I mean Citi Field - on Saturday, April 4 to see the Mets vs. the Red Sox in an exhibition game.

This game is a huge dilemma for me, and it's not that Jon has forbidden me from wearing Yankee gear to the game (as if I'm going to listen to him!) And that I'm liable to hear "Yankees bleep" before the first pitch is even thrown. I would expect nothing less.

No, my dilemma is about which team I should root for - or root against - more - the Mets or the Red Sox.

Despite their enmity in 1986, the two teams - and their fanbases - have a lot in common besides hating the Yankees and their fans, and having Pedro Martinez pitch for each of them. They also have no use for Roger Clemens (come to think of it, that's something Yankee fans also have in common with Mets and Sox fans!)

The Mets and Sox each have annoying players, like Jose Reyes and Jonathan Papelbon. They also have mascots - Mr. Met and Wally the Green Monster - which many Yankee fans also find annoying (not me, though! I'm a little jealous that the Yanks never had a successful mascot - Dandy was an unmitigated disaster.)

There's also the little brother syndrome each team is afflicted with, where everything they do is viewed through the prism of Big Brother Yankees. (Squawker Jon would agree with me calling Yankees Big Brother, as in "1984"!)

In 1986, I was thrilled to see the Mets beat the Red Sox in the World Series. But I'm not sure what I should do during next month's game. Sit on my hands and stay neutral, like Switzerland? Boo both teams equally? Cheer the Mets, even though it means that Jon and I will be on the same side for once, which seems like that will violate some space-time continuum thingy? (Note - cheering for the Red Sox is not an option. Some lines just can never be crossed.)

Who should I root for - or against? Leave us a comment!

Monday, March 9, 2009

How will the Yankees do without A-Rod?

It's the biggest Yankee health drama since Babe Ruth had a bellyache - or at least since Carl Pavano bruised his buttocks. Alex Rodriguez - and his torn labrum - are going under the knife today. It should take six to nine weeks to heal, which means he should be back either in April or May.

Some columnists seem almost gleeful over A-Rod being off the team that long, as if his absence will bring back the good old days of the late 90s.

Joel Sherman, in an article entitled "How the Yanks Could Survive (And Thrive) Without A-Rod," writes:
During the 1996 and 1998-2000 seasons, there were 152 instances of a player hitting more than 30 homers. None came from a Yankee, and yet they won the championship in all four of those seasons..... The Yankees three-peated from 1998-2000, and in that period, Scott Brosius hit 52 homers - or two fewer than Rodriguez hit in 2007. From 1998-2000, the Yanks won 33 playoff games, in 2007 they won one.

So, yes, you can win without an all-time slugging third baseman.

The New York Times' Harvey Araton writes:

Maybe the Yankees will hold their own with improved pitching, for which there was no shortage of off-season expenditure, and the brand of baseball that won them four World Series during a five-year stretch almost a decade ago. This is not to say that A-Rod is fundamentally unsound; it’s more his all-thumbs approach to life, his exceedingly unsubtle presence as the reigning clubhouse hub.

For all the talk of the late 90s dynasty, and whether the Yankees could survive without a superstar, there is another example that Sherman and Araton missed. The team didn't just survive but thrive when a big-name Yankee was knocked out due to injury from the beginning of the season until mid-May. Unlike recent years, when the Yanks struggled in the spring, the Bombers went 26-11 in his absence. Yet when this big name returned to the lineup, the Yanks lost 11 of their next 14 games.

That injured superstar was Derek Jeter.

Does that mean the Yankees were better off without him? Of course not.

But for all his drama and histrionics, A-Rod did win two MVPs as a Yankee, and the team would not have made the playoffs either of those years without him at third. It would be nice to see somebody remember that, instead of just waxing nostalgic for the days of Scott Brosius.
What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Mets could learn from Yankees on injury news

A-Rod is going under the knife, but at least the Yankees have an idea of when to expect him back and what to expect during the season. Johan Santana is said to be fine, no longer needs an MRI, and Opening Day is again a possibility for him. Obviously, the news is much better on Santana than on A-Rod as of now. But as far as future medical news on both players is concerned, at this point, I'm more inclined to trust the Yankees than the Mets.

Whatever else you can say about A-Rod, he hasn't tried to blame the Yankees for not realizing that the hip irregularity they saw on an MRI last year was actually something more serious. And the Yankees haven't tried to blame A-Rod's steroid use for his injury. The two sides have worked together to come up with what seems like a good compromise - lesser surgery that gets A-Rod back by May and leaves him healthy enough to play well for the rest of the season, leaving the more serious surgery for the offseason.

Even if A-Rod does not come back as quickly as hoped, or is not as productive as expected once he does come back, fans and media are unlikely to blame A-Rod or the Yankees for misleading them, since no one can say for certain how the surgery will turn out.

As for the Mets, when Johan Santana's elbow troubles surfaced, player and coach had different stories. Then, after saying the Santana had to go to New York for an MRI, as if there were no MRI machines in Florida - one is even advertised at Tradition Field! - the Mets canceled the trip because they said it was no longer necessary.

But fans and media who had been burned last year when injuries to Ryan Church, Billy Wagner and even Angel Pagan were originally underreported, wondered if the trip was really canceled only because it was snowing in New York.

When the trend of underreporting injuries is combined with finger-pointing, it's easy to conclude that there's something to hide. And that someone is not telling the whole truth.

Fortunately, the finger-pointing has died down as the Santana elbow story is (we hope) dying down as well.

Maybe the Mets need to get one of their doctors in front of the media sooner when these situations come up. Getting the story from A-Rod's hip surgeon makes the story a lot more credible than if it came from, say, one of A-Rod's relatives, much less A-Rod himself. And the doctor is a lot less likely to point fingers.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Citi Field, here we come!

I will get to see Citi Field for the first time on Saturday, April 4, when the Mets play their second exhibition game against the Red Sox, and I can't wait. Squawker Lisa is going with me, but she will have a big dilemma - she won't know whom to root against!

We've been hearing a lot of complaints about the price of Yankee tickets, but I was able to get two tickets this morning for a list price of $23 each. (Somehow, the actual price came to $32.75 each.) The tickets are even in field level, though slightly in fair territory.

According to Citi's convoluted seating chart, $23 seats cost at least $45 for regular-season games, and that's just for "value" games. (In baseball-speak, "value" apparently means Nationals and Marlins.) There are 10 value games, 18 bronze games, where these seats would go for $60, 19 silver games at $75 and 30 gold games at $90. Opening Day and Subway Series get a platinum price of $105.

So sitting in these seats will give me a sense of what I would be willing to pay for them during the regular season. I usually haven't paid more than $40 in the past, so $60 seems about as high as I'd want to go - already more than a 50% increase. But the bronze games do feature six with the Braves (take that, Larry!) and even some weekend games with your Washington Values as well as the Pirates.

The Mets are putting April and May games on sale first, and 16 of the 24 home games in those months are value or bronze. So fans looking to spend less money will have plenty of options. And these games will likely be more available anyway, since the premium weekend games will be tied up in plans.

Let's hope the Mets play well enough to justify those higher prices!

What are your ticket-buying plans for the upcoming season? Do you have a ticket plan? If you are buying individual games, will you buy based on price? Opponent? Day of week? Overall, what do you think of Citi Field's ticket policies?

A-Rod's A-Hip problem means A--Mess for Yankees

I have a busy day ahead of me, after a busy day yesterday, so I don't have time for a full-fledged Squawk. But the A-Rod hip news, combined with the Yanks missing out on Manny Ramirez, has me down.

Alex Rodriguez is the oxygen thief of all oxygen thieves, to be sure. Squawker Jon wrote yesterday about it. And I do agree with Jon that there is a reality show idea in there. In addition to Squawker Jon's choices of A-Rod, T.O, and Manny, you could have Michael Jackson, Octomom, Britney Spears, and Lindsay Lohan trapped in a room, trying to see which one can get the most attention. Sheesh.

On a more serious note, this really messes up the Yanks' season, obviously. If A-Rod needs to have the surgery eventually, though, I would prefer he do it sooner rather than later. I do wonder why he didn't get this checked out last year, when the hip was first bothering him.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Look who's in the news - A-Rod!

After the events of the last 24 hours, I propose a new reality show, "Sucking the Oxygen Out of the Room." First up, Manny Ramirez, who finally signs with the Dodgers for the same two years and $45 million he was offered in November. Somehow it took several months to iron out the final details of the terms and payout.

Your next contestant: Terrell Owens. Controversial superstar gets released by the Cowboys. Do the Giants want him? The Jets? Does anyone?

And finally, your returning champion, Alex Rodriguez. With his back-page streak in jeopardy, A-Rod knew he'd have to come up with something more than just an on-field appearance with his daughters and ex-wife. And many of you say that A-Rod can't come through in the clutch.

Squawker Lisa won't be able to post until this evening, but when I told her that the report that A-Rod will need hip surgery came from his brother, Lisa remarked that A-Rod used to be a lone wolf but now his life has turned into the Brady Bunch - a new relative in the news every day.

As of now, the Yankees have not confirmed that A-Rod will need surgery, but if it's true that he could miss a quarter of the season or more, the Yankees will have to make a move. Lisa has written how the ongoing A-Rod circus has taken the spotlight off of the Yankees' pricey free agents, but suddenly Mark Teixeira, usually a slow starter, will be beginning his career in pinstripes without A-Rod hitting behind him.

Even if Teixeira gets off to a good start, all that means now is that he'll be replacing A-Rod's production in the early going. And players coming off injuries like Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada will have to regain their earlier form if the Yankees are going to make up for the loss of Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi.

So sticking Cody Ransom at third won't cut it, even if Johnny Damon thinks Ransom is the best athlete on the team. The Yankees are going to have to make a move.

Replacing A-Rod at third for the Dominican team in the WBC is Seattle's Adrian Beltre, who is entering the last year of his five year, $64 million contract. Though nowhere near the hitter he was in his last contract year, 2004, when he hit 48 homers, Beltre has hit at least 25 homers the last three years, with much better numbers on the road. Beltre turns 30 in April.

The Yankees are in win-now mode, while Seattle is rebuilding and unlikely to re-sign Beltre, who has been a bust relative to his contract and is represented by Scott Boras.

If the Yankees are confident that A-Rod will be back in a few weeks at full strength, it probably doesn't make sense to trade for Beltre, especially considering that Matsui will probably be the main DH, Posada may also need to DH and Damon may need some DH time as well. And then there's the question of what to do with both Xavier Nady and Nick Swisher.

But how likely is it that all of these players will be healthy and productive?

Five years ago, when Aaron Boone went down, Brian Cashman made a bold trade to replace him at third with a Boras client. Beltre is no A-Rod, but he's also no Cody Ransom. Whether with Beltre or someone else, it's time for Brian Cashman to get creative again in the trading market.

And speaking of Boras, imagine what would be going on now if the A-Rod injury news had broken just a couple of days earlier, when Manny was still a free agent.

Another unhappy Yankee ticket buyer

Lots of Yankee fans are having problems with getting good tickets. Neal, a California Yankee fan and longtime Squawker reader, sent me this email about his Yankee ticket experience:

You can add me to the list of unhappy ticket licensees. Last year, I had a nice "C" plan with Tier Box seats in very shallow left field on Sundays - they were great !

Back in September when we had to give our relocation preferences, I asked for a similar package, weekend 15 game package in a similar location, even though I was very unhappy that Opening Day and Old-Timers Day were no longer part of the similar package.

A week or so ago, I finally got my relocation package, and they stuck me in a 12 game package behind the left field foul pole on weekdays. Despite their dire warnings to take what they give you, or else, I got great satisfaction from declining the seats, and went into the pool process. If that doesn't give me something better, then I guess the Yankees will have to get by without my revenue this year. The way they've handled this whole process just sucks.

What a nightmare - it's one bad story after another.

To be fair, is anybody having a good experience with the Yankee ticket process? If so, please email me at subwaysquawkers@gmail.com. Thanks!

Heads up - I will be on the radio tonight

A few quick media notes - the broadcast of me on the Brew and Bill Show will be rebroadcast on BlogTalkRadio Thursday night, from 10 p.m. to midnight. Duff Goldman of the Food Network's Ace of Cakes will also be on the program. Click here to listen to the show.

And Derek Jeter will be part of David Letterman's Top Ten List tonight, which is the "Top Ten Reasons to Watch the World Baseball Classic." Other players on the Late Show include David Wright, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Chipper Jones.

A few blogging-related notes:

Zell's Pinstripe Blog has joined with the NY Yankees Rumors Blog to form a new alliance - The Voice of Yankees Universe. You can see over 150 construction photos from the Stadium at their new site by clicking here.

And Jimmy Scott's High and Tight features an very candid interview with former Yankee Brian Boehringer. Click here to hear it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Fantasy baseball advice for the Yankees and Mets from ESPN expert Matthew Berry

Derek Jeter may be a future Hall-of-Famer on the field, but when it comes to fantasy baseball, he's overrated, says Matthew Berry, ESPN's lead fantasy expert.

"People say, he's the captain! He's dreamy! But none of that matters in fantasy," says Berry, whose columns and podcasts are featured on ESPN.com's fantasy pages.

Berry spoke with Jon of Subway Squawkers as part of ESPN.com's promotion of its fantasy baseball game. ESPN.com is offering the chance to play fantasy baseball for free, with free live scoring. ESPN.com's leagues are fully customizable and feature auction draft capability.

Along with Jeter, Berry suggests that local fans be careful not to overvalue Francisco Rodriguez.

"I'm a big believer that you don't pay for saves," says Berry. "Frankie led the league in blown saves last year, tied with Huston Street. Granted, he had more save chances. But the history of players getting 50 or more saves is that they generally come back to earth the following year."

Berry adds that K-Rod has "lots of innings on that arm" and concludes that he "will not be on any team of mine this year. I'd rather wait 10 rounds and take someone like Heath Bell."

With all the hype surrounding New York sports, it's hard to believe that any Yankees or Mets could actually be underrated for fantasy purposes. But Berry says to look out for Robinson Cano.

"He just had a brutal April, but look at what he did from May 1 on – it was in line with what he usually does. He's in line for a big year," says Berry, who also mentioned Johnny Damon as someone who could get overlooked. "Damon will still steal 30," Berry adds.

As for underrated Mets, Berry mentions Daniel Murphy. "I could see him putting up nice numbers if they stick to the plan of him playing full time and platooning Ryan Church," says Berry. "I think Church will go higher in drafts, but Murphy will do better."

One Met who might not be on fantasy players' radar is J.J. Putz, but Berry, always on the lookout for cheap saves, thinks Putz will rack up double digits.

"I could see someone like [Jonathan] Papelbon or Frankie getting hurt," says Berry. "Or Mariano [Rivera] hitting the wall. He's no longer Big Mo. Could happen this year. Not saying it will, but it could."

As long as he's healthy, Rivera is as sure a bet as anyone to perform under the pressure of New York. But Berry is more skeptical of top pitchers who come to the Yankees, noting that their performance usually goes down from what they did with their previous team.

"I get hate mail – what about Randy Johnson? He had good years with the Yankees. Yes, but they weren't as good as the years before," Berry says. "[CC] Sabathia will be good, just not as dominant as last year. He showed up at camp bigger than normal, if that's possible."

Berry points out that Sabathia has only pitched for Cleveland and Milwaukee, two small-market teams, while A.J. Burnett has only pitched for Florida and Toronto.

"Pitching for the Yankees is unlike pitching for any other franchise," says Berry. "You can't prepare for the fanaticism of New York fans."

ESPN only ranks Mets Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez as the 69th and 72nd best fantasy starting pitchers. Between them are Detroit's Armando Galarraga at 70 and Ubaldo Jiminez of Colorado at 71. Berry includes Galarraga and Jiminez in the "love" part of his "Love/Hate" list, which is a variation on a sleepers/busts list. Pelfrey and Perez do not make the cut.

While Berry is concerned about Pelfrey because of his lack of strikeouts and Perez because of his control issues, Berry says, "I do like Perez," but did not include him on the sleepers list because "people are more aware of Met pitchers – you don't need to hype them."

Berry would prefer to tout a player like Jiminez, who may be barely known outside of Colorado but whom Berry projects as a top sleeper this year.

As for how their new ballparks will affect the production of the local teams, Berry says, "You can't unfortunately account for new ballparks. I think the dimensions are similar, but you never know" how they will play.

If Berry were drafting in the top five and had a choice between David Wright and Jose Reyes, "I'd probably go with David Wright because of the more balanced production. But Reyes is special."

And speaking of top-five players, a recent article on ESPN.com via Baseball Prospectus argued that Alex Rodriguez would not surpass Barry Bonds' home run total and that A-Rod's skills may be beginning to decline. What does Berry foresee for A-Rod?

"I have A-Rod third. When you are hitting 50 homers you have a long way to drop," Berry says, adding that A-Rod is "still a phenomenally gifted player who will put up great fantasy numbers."

But Berry believes that "A-Rod would have been much better off if the '60 Minutes' interview had never happened" because "America hates liars."

And, Berry adds, "I believe, based on pure gut, that we haven't heard the last on the A-Rod steroids story."

But that won't stop him from drafting the scandal-plagued slugger.

"I won't go out of my way to get A-Rod because I don't like him, but I won't avoid him, either," Berry says.

As for whether there is any player whose baggage would preclude Berry from drafting him, Berry says no.

"It's a virtual clubhouse. They don't need to get along."

Next Monday, March 9, Berry will attempt to set an ESPN record for longest chat. The chat is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. and the goal is to last until 10 p.m. All questions will be answered.

Attention Florida readers: Jane Heller is coming to town

Jane Heller, author of Confessions of a She-Fan: The Course of True Love with the New York Yankeesis doing a book signing in Tampa this Friday.

She will be at the Barnes & Noble Carrollwood at 11802 N. Dale Mabry Highway on Friday, March 6 at 1 p.m. I hope Squawker readers in the area come out to the signing to say hello. Jane is a friend of this blog, and a regular poster here.

Click here to read my review of "Confessions." I give it a thumbs up!

Is A-Rod signing the worst ever?

What do you think is the worst deal in sports history? Would you think it was the Mets trading Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi, or the Yankees signing Carl Pavano? In today's Newsday, sports columnist Wallace Matthews calls the Yankees' re-signing Alex Rodriguez the worst deal ever.

He writes, "Today, Alex Rodriguez has a cyst on his hip and a space between his ears. The cyst could be gone by tomorrow, but the space will be there the rest of his life." Ouch! Then Matthews goes on to criticize the Yanks signing him:

Think about it. Worst. Deal. Ever.

Worse than Andruw Jones to the Dodgers. Worse than Mo Vaughn to the Mets. Worse than Stephon Marbury to the Knicks or Brett Favre to the Jets.

It's not as if he is just an April to October headache. A-Rod is a year-round migraine.

Matthews also doesn't think A-Rod being on the team worked out very well for the previous five years:
In five seasons, A-Rod has hit 208 home runs with 616 RBIs for the Yankees. During the same period, the Yankees have gone 10-14 in the postseason, suffered the worst playoff collapse in history, haven't made it out of the first round since 2004, and missed October altogether last season.

They are getting worse with him, not better. Not to mention more expensive and more troublesome.

Whatever point Matthews might have in this column gets lost in his hyperbole. First off, the Yanks still have nine years to go with A-Rod. If they win a championship or two thanks to him being on the team, will it still be the worst signing ever? I don't think so.

Second, to blame A-Rod singlehandedly for the Yankees' playoff failures is ridiculous. While Alex hasn't exactly covered himself in glory in October, it wasn't his fault that Joe Torre sat like a statue during the bug game, or refused to bunt on Curt Schilling or steal on Tim Wakefield. It wasn't A-Rod's fault Kevin Brown and Javier Vazquez pitched so poorly in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.

And more importantly, A-Rod had two MVP years in those five seasons, something Matthews fails to note. Contrary to Matthews writing that the Yankees "are getting worse with him, not better," if Alex hadn't been on the team in 2005 and 2007, in those MVP years, the Yanks literally wouldn't have made the playoffs at all for those two seasons.

And finally, A-Rod sucking up all the attention might actually benefit the team. While the circus that surrounds Alex, thanks in no small part due to his inability to connect his mouth to his brain, may be a pain to deal with, it also means that everybody else on the Yanks pretty much gets a pass in the media as long as A-Rodis around to write about.

CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira may have come with a $423.5 million price tag, but these high-priced players have been able to fly under the radar, thanks to Alex. Heck, Andy Pettitte went to Washington a few weeks ago to meet with federal prosecutors about Roger Clemens, and the story was barely noted.

Do I wish the Yanks were paying Alex less money? Of course. Do I wish he hadn't done steroids? Absolutely. Do I wish A-Rod would drink a nice steaming cup of shut the heck up? You betcha. But I think it's too soon to say it's the worst deal ever.

What is the worst deal in sports history? Leave us a comment!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Trying not to think about Johan Santana

I don't want to write about Johan Santana. I don't want to think about Johan Santana. Because he can't be replaced.

And I don't want to hear rumors that the Mets can always try to get Roy Halladay at the trading deadline. First of all, as I've written before, why should we think the Mets will open up the pursestrings at the trading deadline when they wouldn't sign Orlando Hudson or Bobby Abreu at bargain rates? Second, two months of Halladay won't make up for losing Santana for a much longer period. Third, as Was Watching points out, if Halladay becomes available, other teams will be interested as well, maybe even the Yankees.

Nobody is too concerned at this point about the battle for the fifth rotation spot since the other four are set. But imagine having to take two from Tim Redding, Freddy Garcia, Livan Hernandez and Jon Niese. I would like to see Pedro Martinez pitch for the Mets again at some point for sentimental reasons. But imagine needing him to come back.

Injuries cost the Mets last year, particularly the ones to Billy Wagner and Ryan Church. But every team has injuries. Last year, the Mets' hitting core was completely healthy. In recent years, both Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran have missed time. But last year, Beltran, Delgado, David Wright and Jose Reyes each played in at least 159 games. It was only the seventh time in baseball history that a team had four such players.

Position players can miss long periods of time with injuries. Just as Angel Pagan. And injuries ended up ruining Church's season. But usually their injuries are not that severe. In Carlos Beltran's first three seasons with the Mets, he played in 151, 140 and 144 games before playing in 161 in 2008. You don't want to see Beltran missing 20 games, but if a pitcher gets hurt, you hope it's only two or three weeks.

In 2007, Chris Carpenter pitched Opening Day for the World Champion Cardinals against the Mets. Carpenter never pitched again that year and the Cardinal season was finished.

It was great to see spring training games start last week, but they are a lot less compelling when most of the stars are at the WBC and all that's left is to root for the prospects to do well so you have something to package in case - well, I still don't want to think about it.

If Johan Santana is seriously hurt, are you giving up on the season? Tell us what you think.

What's going on with Yankee season tickets?

I wrote last week about the rising cost of tickets at the new stadium. And the controversy over obstructed view - or should I say "architectually shadowed," as per Lonn Trost - seats is just one of the issues Yankee fans have been squawking about.

Squawker reader Jennie weighs in with her experience with the Yanks' ticket office:
For the last 6 years I've had a 20-game flex plan, with seats in the tier reserve behind home plate. Two years ago my seats cost $18 each - last year they cost $27 each.

I'd been waiting to get an email from the Yankees regarding my relocation, but hadn't received anything. A friend told me that what i needed to go was go into my online account and the information would be there (how i was supposed to know this, God knows). Anyway, he was right - the info WAS there. And imagine my surprise when U discovered I had been allocated a 20-game plan, but in field level seats, waaaaaay waaaaaay out in the outfield, practically as far as the bleachers - at $85 per seat!

At least that made the decision easy - I have declined the allocation. In what universe would I want to pay more than three times the amount I paid previously, for seats where I can't even tell who's at bat without binoculars?
Jennie also writes that she has heard a ton of other Yankee ticket horror stories from friends, and about how friends stuck with bad tickets end up selling a bunch of them via StubHub. She notes:
It's really hard to understand how the yankees could have screwed things up so much that NOBODY is getting the locations they want, on the dates they want, at the price they want to pay.

On the other hand, StubHub seems to be doing quite well out of this - there are thousands of tickets available for just about every game, some even at below face value.
And the Yankees will profit twice from those tickets - once when selling them to the fans, and the second time via their profit-sharing arrangement with StubHub. Also, remember that season ticket holders caught selling their tix anywhere but StubHub will get their tickets revoked. Nice!

Kevin of Big League Stew points out that there are some MLB teams with 81-game season ticket plans that cost less than it does for two people to go to one game in the $325 luxury seats at the new Yankee Stadium. But given how much advertising that the Yankees are advertising for these expensive ducats and boxes - they're all over the New York Times and Wall Street Journal - I don't think the tix are exactly selling like hotcakes.

But what do you think? Leave us a comment!

Monday, March 2, 2009

What's up with A-Rod's $400,000 Maybach?

Greetings from a snowy Staten Island. While I try to stay warm, and I think about how long it's going to take to dig out my PT Cruiser, I'm thinking about another car - Alex Rodriguez's one.

When A-Rod left yesterday's Yankee game early, he, Robinson Cano, and Mark Teixeira piled into Alex's auto, a $400,000 Mercedes Maybach. Fortunately, A-Rod had a different driver this time than when he had his cousin, Yuri Sucart drive him home after a spring training game last week.

But while the big news yesterday was that a "cooperative" A-Rod met with Major League Baseball to talk about his steroid usage, a sidebar to the story was Alex's car, and the fact that the license plate frame on it actually has his name on it, according to Peter Abraham. Way to go incognito, Alex!

And now that I've seen what A-Rod's Maybach looks like, (here are more images of other Maybachs) I have to say that I'm a bit unimpressed. For $400 grand, I would expect the car to solve crimes, fly, or be a time travel machine. This car looks just like a, well, car!

Am I missing something here?What do you think? Leave us a comment!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

What's brewing? Two Squawker radio appearances

Quick note to let you know that I will be on Blog Talk Radio tonight on the Brew and Bill Show. The show starts at 11 p.m. tonight, and will also re-air on Thursday night. Click here to listen to the show live tonight. And click here to see the Brew and Bill Show's website.

Also, I will be on Albany' s Sound-off With Sinkoff Monday afternoon. The show airs between 4 and 7 p.m. Will let you know tomorrow what time I will be on.

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