Friday, September 30, 2011

Yankees vs. Detroit, 2006 and Now

I really hope the Yankees win the ALDS this week, not just because I want to see them win the World Series, but because I'd also like to see them avenge what went down in the 2006 ALDS against th TIgers. There's some real unfinished business there, with the cruelest cuts self-inflicted. I rank it second to the 2004 ALCS as the playoff series in this era that angered me the most. Here's why.

Squawker Jon and I starting writing Subway Squawker in March 2006, with the idea of capturing the Yanks and the Mets when both of them were expected to make a run for it in the playoffs. Imagine my chagrin when the Mets actually made it to within a Yadier Molina home run of the World Series (more on that in a sec!), surpassing the Yankees in the postseason.

Arguably the biggest issue for the Yanks that year was that A-Rod, coming off an MVP season, was 1) having an "off year" for him: .290, 35 homers, 121 RBI and a .914 OPS, 2) getting thrown under the bus again and again by his manager and his captain. I think Torre was trying to get him to force his way off the team by making his life miserable. He certainly wasn't trying to get the most or best out of him. (An aside -- compare and contrast with the truly classy way Terry Francona stepped away from the Sox today, acknowledging that he failed with getting players to listen to him, and being genuinely broken up about the way the season ended. But I digress.)

Anyhow, that situation was brewing all summer, and it was obvious to me at the time what was going on, from the way Torre refused to tell the fans to stop booing Rodriguez to the way he blew up, instead of tamping down, every story brewing on Rodriguez, that Joe had a nasty agenda. But every time I pointed out how much Rodriguez was being undermined and gaslighted by Joe Torre, I would hear critical responses from readers, telling me I didn't know what was going on in the clubhouse. True, but I do know a little about human nature, and a lot about passive-aggressive phonies!

And the mainstream media wouldn't acknowledge the undermining, not even when Torre hooked up with his past and future ghostwriter Tom Verducci to orchestrate "The Loneliest Yankee" hit piece, set to run on the eve of the playoffs, just when Rodriguez was in the midst of a great September. Funny thing is, though, that years after the fact, Torre finally acknowledged in "The Yankee Years" that the clubhouse was divided. Duh!

Anyhow, I think that year that Torre wanted to make sure that Rodriguez would fail in the playoffs again, so A-Rod would be off the team, even if it meant sacrificing his team's October chances. First, he batted Rodriguez sixth in Game 1, even though A-Rod hadn't been in that role all year, just to make sure to give him more scrutiny.

Also, Torre's lack of preparation for that series was breathtaking. The team never took Kenny Rogers seriously, which haunted them in Game 3, and Torre let Jim Leyland flatter him with that "Murderers Row and Cano" nonsense, playing St. Joe like a fiddle. He also never asked for the umpire to check if Rogers was doctoring the ball, something Tony LaRussa did in the World Series.And don't forget the sight of Gary Sheffield at first base.

The Yanks did win Game 1 at home,  but they never won again in that series, although they did lead in Game 2 before Mike Mussina blew that lead. Remember Mussina blaming the fact that the game was a day game, with a quieter atmosphere than it would have been if it hadn't been rained out the night before? Good grief.

Game 4 was the infamous day where Torre decided to hang the entire series on A-Rod's shoulders, scapegoating him by batting him eighth, and never telling him beforehand. Then, when the media hordes inevitably descended on Torre, he chastised them for not asking them about why he had also benched Jason Giambi. I thought what Torre did was one of the nastiest, most cowardly things I've ever seen in my life. He wasn't trying to win the game. He was trying to put the goat horns on A-Rod. And I wished that the Yankees would have fired him then and there for what he did.

Anyhow, Game 4 was the day of my cousin's wedding, so I fortunately missed seeing much of the carnage live, although I knew it was hopeless. I spent most of my cousin's wedding reception in a rage about the Yankees, capped off seeing the Mets' chanting about "Party in Queens, Funeral in the Bronx" on the TV at the banquet's room bar when the Mets clinched the NLDS.

I really hoped that Torre would be gone after that year, but the Yankees were stuck with that gold-plated phony another year. There was talk that the Yanks might get rid of him, but Steve Swindal didn't want to pay him without him managing. I said when the team brought Torre back that they would never win another playoff series until he was gone, and I was proven to be right.

Anyhow, I'd like to see the Yankees beat Detroit this year, and for A-Rod to have a huge series in October, as a little cosmic payback for the 2006 ALDS. In fact, that's my prediction -- A-Rod will have a big series, and the Yanks will win in four games.

Report: Were Boston Red Sox Pitchers Drinking Beer During Games?

Quick squawk, as I breathe a sigh of relief that Freddy Garcia, not A.J. Burnett, is the Yankees' Game 3 starter: I read this in today's Boston Herald: "According to multiple sources, more than one pitcher drank beer in the clubhouse during games on the days he didn’t pitch." If this report is true, are you flipping kidding me? Geez, is it too much to expect your players to say sober when they are in uniform during games? And what the heck was Terry Francona doing when some members of his rotation may have been treating game time as Miller Time?

Good grief. Maybe I'm naive, but other than the famous Jack Daniels shot in the Sox clubhouse before Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS, I haven't heard many stories of players drinking beer in uniform during games. Even David Wells, for all his partying ways, was never accused of boozing it up during a game. Whether or not it was a game a player was pitching in is irrelevant. Crazy times!

I listened to the Terry Francona/Theo Epstein presser yesterday, and while they didn't give explicit details, they did acknowledge that there was some clubhouse turmoil and a bad atmosphere, so much so that Francona had to call a team meeting after a 14-0 win! Terry admitted that "We were spending too much energy on things that weren’t putting our best foot forward toward winning." Interesting!

The thing that got me with that press conference was that they both acknowledged problems in the clubhouse, as well as players not being in good physical condition. Hmmmm, isn't that the manager's job? To keep the players working together, and make sure they are ready to play?

(The other thing that amazed me in the presser was Theo Epstein suggesting that John Lackey just couldn't help it when he rolled his eyes at his teammates and his manager. What, is he suffering from Sarcasm Syndrome or something, where he just can't help but show his disdain to others?)

Anyhow, I'm not exactly going out on a limb here, but my guess is that Francona is going to "leave" today as Sox manager, but it really be a firing by the front office. Speaking of which, I got a link in my email yesterday from This Yankee fan completely agrees -- I think Tito ought to be Red Sox manager for life. Get your popcorn ready!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pride, Power, Proctor

So the Yankees allow a cast of scrubs to blow a seven-run lead while sitting All-Star relievers Mariano Rivera and David Robertson and some folks give Jose Reyes grief for not being Ted Williams?

Before I get to the conclusion of my brief stint as a Yankee fan, I want to congratulate Jose on becoming the first Met to win a batting title. And there's nothing on the final day to apologize for. As Squawker Lisa points out, the reason we remember Ted Williams' heroics 70 years later is that they are so unusual.

Players sit on their stats in meaningless games all the time. As Mike Vaccaro pointed out in the Post, Bernie Williams left the last game of the 1998 season early to protect his batting title. And as one of Lisa's Facebook friends pointed out, in 2008 Derek Jeter left the game early and sat out the last two games, finishing with a batting average of exactly .300.

I do feel a little bad for the loyal fans who came out to Citi Field yesterday, but they ultimately got what they paid to see - Reyes win a batting title and appear in what could be his last game as a Met.

Reyes' early departure was handled awkwardly, but these are the Mets. And my main concern with Reyes is that the Mets now avoid an early departure for Reyes from his Mets career.


So much for my three-day stint as a Yankee fan. If I had wanted to see epic bullpen meltdowns, I could have stayed in Flushing. But the Yankees are not obligated to use Mariano and Robertson in a meaningless game for them as they prepare for the playoffs any more than Reyes was obligated to play the whole game.

And whatever the Yankees did, it was the Red Sox who were responsible for their own collapse. While I wanted to see the Red Sox win, I have to say that I don't mind seeing the Sox and Braves pass the 2007 Mets on the list of epic chokes.

Especially the Braves.

While my brief stint as a Yankee fan was a bust, my brief stint as a Phillies fan went well, with the Fightins finishing off the collapsing Braves. And the Phillies did themselves proud, with veterans Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and even ancient Raul Ibanez playing all thirteen innings of last night's game.


Thankfully, the postseason is here, so I can go back to rooting against both the Yankees and the Phillies. I just hope I don't have to make another grim choice in the World Series.

The Choke's on Them: Red Sox Lose, Squawker Lisa Does the Snoopy Dance

This is the happiest I've ever been after a Yankee loss. I'm exhausted from screaming and clapping and doing the Snoopy Dance to celebrate the Red Sox losing and Tampa Bay winning.

I still can't quite believe it all happened the way it did. Remember, the Yankees had a 7-0 lead against Tampa (what was up with Mark Teixeira hitting two homers?) and even though their bullpen ending up giving up six runs against the Yanks, the Bombers were still within one strike away from winning the game when Tampa tied it. And Boston was also one strike away from winning the game when Baltimore roared back to win.

There was also Atlanta's historic collapse, with the Cardinals making it into the playoffs. All in all, my TV's remote control and picture-in-picture function got quite the workout last night. That was the most action-packed, exciting night of baseball all year.

The funny thing, though,  is that if Bud Selig gets his way with adding another wild card, none of this would have happened -- both Boston and Atlana would have made the playoffs, being rewarded even though they blew their wild card leads.

It was so good, so good, as they say in Red Sox Nation, to see Boston back where they belong, choking away their playoff chances and bringing much angst to Beantown. Remember, I witnessed the carnage of the 2004 ALCS in person for Games 6 and 7. I literally cried after Game 7. And the next day, when I went into work at New York's hometown newspaper, I saw how my employer mocked the Yankees with the infamous "The Choke's On Them" Daily News cover.  Those were horrible, horrible times.

Well, now the choke is on the Red Sox again. And you'd better believe I am enjoying every single minute of it. It's not just that Boston blew a nine-game wild card lead in a month. They were also in first place as late as September 1 this year, and were in that spot for 60 days this summer. The Yanks knocked them out of first for good at the begining of September, and helped send them on this downward spiral.

BTW, I've already seen some revisionist history by a few Sox fans that this debacle isn't that bad because the team only missed a wild card spot. Puh-lease. This team was being touted as the best Red Sox squad ever. They seemed totally stacked, from top to bottom, and had a great winter of acquisitions. At the beginning of the year, most people, including myself, figured the Sox would win the division, with the Yanks winning the wild card (and who would have expected the Rays to be in the playoff picture at all?) To do what they did ranks right up there with 1978. Only thing is, the '78 Sox actually made it competitive towards the end, forcing a one-game playoff.

I feel some empathy for my Red Sox fan friends -- they deserved better for their loyalty -- but I'm still loving seeing the Red Sox franchise I remember return to its old ways. (I've been listening to WEEI on my phone all week. Great stuff hearing Red Sox Nation lose their minds!) Since 2004, the Red Sox have had their own mystique and aura, of seeming that they could come back against impossible odds. Now that's all gone.

Come to thing of it, a lot of what I see the Red Sox this year reminds me of the Yankees in 2004. And if the ownership is smart, they will fire Terry Francona, the way the Yanks should have gotten rid of Joe Torre after that year. I think that in most cases, the first five years a manager has a team are the most effective (Torre had four rings in that time, Francona two.)

One of the things Joe Girardi did, after some initial resistance, was successfully meld the four rings guys and the rest of the Yanks together as a real team, with a different identity from the late '90s dynasty. That's what the Sox need right now. From what I see, they don't have the all-for-one, one-for-all look that they did in 2004. They also don't seem to have the Kevin Millar-type joker to keep things loose, the way the Yanks have now with Nick Swisher, and didn't have in 2004.

I already see a lot of scapegoating in Red Sox Nation of Jonathan Papelbon, Carl Crawford, etc., the way A-Rod was scapegoated in 2004. But in both cases,  this was a team-wide meltdown, with nearly everybody playing a part in the suckitude.

And I don't want to hear any whining about losing pitchers due to injury. The Yankees won the AL East with CC Sabathia, the rookie Ivan Nova, and a bunch of retreads. They won with A.J.. Burnett having an even worse season than last year, and Phil Hughes being terrible and/or injured for much of the year. The two worst pitchers down the stretch for Boston were Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, both of whom are arguably better than any Yankee starter who does not have the CC initials.

Anyhow, I'm going to bask in the fact that the Red Sox of old, the ones who broke hearts all over New England, are back, baby! Good times!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Backwards Day for the Squawkers

It's as if Squawker Lisa started watching "Doctor Who" and I tuned in to "Dancing With the Stars." As if Lisa started quoting Monty Python, while I quoted Oprah. Lisa is rooting for the Yankees to lose, while I am rooting for the Yankees to win.

People complain that fantasy baseball causes fans to compromise their rooting interests. But look what the collapse of the Red Sox has done to the Squawkers!

Not that it's any fun being a Met fan pulling for the Red Sox these days, when Boston is making the Mets looks good. The Mets have only won five of their last 16. The Red Sox have only won five of their last 22.

And just when I'm putting the 2007 Mets collapse in the past, I get to be reminded of it every day.

Since I know all too well how these collapses turn out, it's not like I have any hope that the Red Sox will turn it around.

The one bright spot about the Red Sox completing their historic collapse is that it will be even worse than that of the 2007 Mets. So maybe every time a team falls apart, the Mets won't be one of the first teams mentioned.

Meanwhile, the Braves are on the verge of their own historic collapse, which would be great, except now I have to root for the Phillies, since they are playing Atlanta.

I'm still rooting for the Mets to finish on a positive note, but even Jose Reyes' pursuit of the Mets' first batting crown is tainted by the fact that these could be his last appearances in a Met uniform.

But when I was hoping for meaningful games in September, I didn't expect it would involve rooting for the Yankees and the Phillies.

On Rooting for the Orioles and the Rays, Disliking John Lackey, and Rookie Hazing

Yes, along with cheering for the Baltimore Orioles to beat the Boston Red Sox last night, I rooted for the Tampa Bay Rays to beat my beloved New York Yankees. And what of it? As Squawker reader Uncle Mike wrote yesterday, "Tibialia Rufus delenda est. The Red Sox must be destroyed." My brother says I should close every column with that phrase!

I want to see Red Sox fans wailing and gnashing their teeth over their team going down the tubes. I had great fun listening to bridge-jumping fans on WEEI last night. And I've been loving reading Boston fans killing Jacoby Ellsbury, only their team's MVP this year, because he dropped the ball and let in an inside-the-park homer last night.

And my Sox fan friends would feel the exact same way if the shoe were on the other foot, as my BoSox fan friend Sully Baseball and I discussed on his podcast last night (click here to listen.)

This Rays/Yankees series means zero to the Bombers, so why not cheer for Tampa to win, since it would help keep the Red Sox out of the playoffs. I don't want to see Boston rise from the dead, the way I feared they would after winning Sunday's game. I want them to go down in history as the worst September collapse ever. This isn't a matter of which team would be better for the Yanks in the postseason; this is a matter of extracting maximum humiliation. And if the Sox make the playoffs at all, the humiliation factor is not there.

Boston could still wake up over the last two games -- after 2004, I NEVER count them out. But here's hoping they continue their September swoon.

One other note on the Sox. Whenever I have pointed out that John Lackey, who I think is a colossal jerk, is actually having a worse season than A.J. Burnett, I've heard back from fans to not be so hard on Lackey, because his wife has breast cancer, and that's part of the reason for his terrible numbers. There's also been some holding back in the press on slamming Lackey due to that issue. And apparently, even the Sox's Bill James asked people to give Lackey a break because of this wife.

Now comes the news, courtesy of TMZ, that Lackey has filed for divorce from his cancer-stricken wife. Then he tried to make himself the victim here, being all outraged with the media Sunday, because some reporter dared to text him over the issue. Good grief.

I've seen a lot of outrage online over TMZ somehow invading Lackey's privacy by reporting a public filing. I wonder where all these Lackey lackeys were when the media ran story after story putting Alex Rodriguez's personal life on the front page, with zero newsworthiness other than it being a way to sell papers. When the press ran stories which were based on unsubstantiated rumors, like the centaur thing, his alleged behavior at strip joints, his tipping habits, and the supposed meltdown over being filmed at the Super Bowl, a meltdown that never actually happened. Not to mention the fact that MLB did a gambling investigation on A-Rod, based on a story from a scandal sheet, even though he could not possibly have been at one of the games in question because he was playing in the World Series.

At any rate, given the intense media attention that the Boston Red Sox's collapse has gotten, how Lackey thought that nobody in the media would write about him divorcing his wife when she has cancer is pretty astonishing. He ought to ask Newt Gingrich and John Edwards about the issue!

* * *

I was wondering when the Yankees were going to do the rookie hazing thing. They did it last night, having the kids dress up as 80s music stars -- Prince, Madonna, George Michael, Milli Vanilli, Slash, and MC Hammer. Aside from the fact that it made me feel old to see some of the big names of my younger days being a nostalgia thing, I noticed a few other things:

* Other than the Madonna costume, and maybe the George Michael one, the "hazing" was nonexistent, particularly in the Slash costume, which actually looked really cool. And the Hammer pants didn't really look like Hammer Time. Plus, most of the players wore sunglasses with their outfits, which helped hide whatever "embarrassment" there was even more. It made the event fun, not a humiliation. I'm sure that's intentional, giving all the issues these days with bullying. Keeping this good-natured was a good thing.

* As a teenager in the 80s, I was completely obsessed with music, and know that decade's music better than any others. So I think there were some really glaring omissions there in this group. Where is Michael Jackson, only the biggest star of the decade? Or Bruce Springsteen? Or Bono? And there are also no alternative rock representatives. Wouldn't it be funny to see a Yankee rookie dressed as Robert Smith of the Cure or as Morrissey? Or the Flock of Seagulls guy?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Joe Girardi, Scott Proctor Help Save the Sox's Season

I really wanted the Yankees to sweep this series. I wanted the Yankees to tramp the dirt down, put the nail in the coffin, and destroy the Red Sox's season. A.J. Burnett did his part in the first game to smash the Sox. But alas, thanks to Joe Girardi and Scott Proctor, Boston gets to live again, with a huge victory that could be a momentum-changer to their season. If the Yanks face the Red Sox in the ALCS and lose, I will rue tonight even more.

I subscribe to the Conan the Barbarian belief that what is best in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women. But now I am the one doing the lamenting!

I blame Joe Girardi for making several critical mistakes that helped cost the Bombers the game:

* The first was keeping Ivan Nova in for too long when the Sox were clearly getting to him. Nova should have been pulled by the sixth, not in the seventh when the damage was done, with the game tied.

* The second was Girardi refusing to use most of his bench to get a big hit to win the game. Leaving Austin Romine in to face Jonathan Papelbon with the bases loaded in the ninth inning was inexcusable. Romine has all of 15 at-bats in the majors, with exactly three hits, and you leave him in there to face Papelbon? Joe could have used Russell Martin, Alex Rodriguez, or Derek Jeter instead in that spot. Then he let Romine bat again with runners on base, only to have his strike out. Good grief.

Not pinch-hitting for Greg Golson with Andruw Jones made no sense, either. Or letting Eduardo Nunez go 0-for-6, bat in extra innings with Derek Jeter in the house. Why Girardi let the kids get so many at-bats when there were several people on the bench who could have ended the game with one swing makes no sense. What good did it do to give the veterans "rest" when if one of them had gotten to hit in the ninth, or even the tenth, the Yanks would have been resting on the plane much earlier, after most likely winning the game. Who needs the stars refreshed for Tampa, anyway? Tonight was the night to play them.

* And the third was going to Scott Proctor (yeah, I know Girardi was out of the game then, but I'm sure he helped make the decision) in the 14th. Why would you rely on a guy who is best known for having his arm blown out, and setting his equipment on fire, for anything? Proctor is horrible. He shouldn't even be on this team. (BTW, funny how when Brian Cashman was patting himself on the back the other day for all the moves he made this year, he didn't talk about picking up Proctor. Gee, I wonder why.) As soon as I saw that Proctor in, I knew the Yankees would lose. Thanks for nothing, Scottie.

One other note on Proctor. The media's revisionist history on him amuses me. Back when St. Joe Torre was blowing out his arm as a Yankee, it was bloggers like yours truly who pointed out how Joe ruined so many arms. The media mostly ignored the issue. It really wasn't until the whole Joba Rules thing that the press finally started to acknowledge that Joe was a bullpen-killer.

Anyhow, I was hoping to be jubilant over the Yanks sweeping the series, but I am disgusted that the Bombers let the BoSox escape with a win. Yikes!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Are the 2011 Boston Red Sox Turning Into the 2007 New York Mets?

Saturday's game was the very first Yankees-Red Sox game that the Bombers have won this year at home, and the Yanks looked about as dominant against Boston as they have since they swept them in that August 2009 series in the Bronx. Jon Lester, who usually gives the Yankees fits, looked more like John Lackey. And Jesus Montero looked like a star. It was fun to have a blowout win, and the game actually lasted less than three hours. Shocking, I know!

I have been trying to keep myself from doing a full-on Snoopy Dance about the Boston Red Sox's September swoon -- they need to be officially out of the Wild Card race before I will put on my dancing shoes. That being said, what I've seen so far reminds me a lot of the 2007 New York Mets. (Squawker Jon, are you listening?)

The angriest I have ever heard Jon in the decade I have known him was when Tom Glavine coughed up seven runs in the first inning of the last game of the season, to put the nail in his team's coffin. Tom Terrible lasted all of one-third of an inning before getting knocked out of the game. Jon was appalled by Glavine's horrific performance and wrote a rant in Subway Squawkers that made my anti-Joe Torre rants look tame. And that was before Glavine poured salt in the wounds of Mets fans everywhere by proclaiming that he wasn't devastated by the loss. Good grief.

Anyhow, I've been reading talk about how it would be unfair to get rid of Terry Francona, because he has two rings, blah blah blah. Nonsense. If the Sox don't make the postseason, after everybody and his brother predicted them to win the World Series, the manager has to go. One of the many mistakes the Mets made in recent years was not getting rid of Willie Randolph after the 2007 collapse, instead waiting until the following June to fire him in the middle of the night after a West Coast win.

The same with the Yankees keeping on Joe Torre after 2004. It's the manager's job to keep the team grounded, and not letting the team drive into the ditch, the way Boston is right now. It's not all Carl Crawford's fault, you know, as much as some people in the media would like to make it that way.

Anyhow, I'm looking forward to today's doubleheader, but apparently the matchup I was hoping for -- A.J. Burnett vs. John Lackey -- is apparently not going to happen. Alas. They could have called the game the Toilet Bowl.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The AL East, Mariano Rivera, the Red Sox, And What's Going on in Yankeeland

I have been very busy with real-life work projects -- so busy that I haven't had the time to squawk in ages. So here are a potpourri of my thoughts on what has been going on in Yankeeland:

* Mariano Rivera making history with his 602nd save: It was a great moment to see the greatest closer make history. What happened afterwards, not so great. Literally seconds after Mo set the record, I got an email from a certain sports memorabilia company congratulating Mo on setting the record, and pushing all sorts of commemorative products, including that valuable Yankee Stadium dirt. And the very first commercial after the game ended was for that company, pushing more product.

Then, I was horrified to see in the postgame presser that Mariano was wearing a cap and shirt featuring a logo of himself on it, commemorating the occasion. Say it ain't so, Mo! It was bad enough to see Jeter have his own logo after getting his 3000th hit, but to see Rivera promoting himself was even more of a spectacle.

Heaven forbid we just enjoy the moment, without having to see it so commercialized. I feel like Charlie Brown complaining about the commercialization of Christmas or something, but good grief. Could the powers that be wait a week or two before exploiting Mo's achievement with $199 "hand-signed" autographed baseballs (um, isn't that what authentic autographed baseballs are supposed to be? Hand-signed?) And don't forget the free "Dirt Crystal Paperweight" included. Oy. There's also a $799 signed jersey available, with a commemorative patch featuring Mo's achievement. This huckersterism and tackiness all seems so incongruous to the quiet, low-key way Rivera has conducted his career. I get that some people want to buy this stuff, but pushing it so strongly, right after the event, leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I don't mind it as much when players get caps and shirts for winning the division, like the Yankees did when they got the playoff gear stuff when they won the AL East the other night. It's a team achievement, not a promotion of an individual. But these individual player logos rub me the wrong way. Not to mention the incessant promotion of the autographs and other memorabilia. And please, Chris Parmalee, do not sign any merchandise about how you were involved in getting "MR602," the way David Price embarrassed himself with his "I gave up DJ3K" autographs.

* I am very glad the Yankees won the AL East (it ticked me off the way last year ended, and they staggered into the postseason with only the Wild Card.) And I want to see the Yankees sweep the Red Sox this weekend (and A.J. Burnett has to be thankful for the existence of John Lackey, as he makes A.J. look like the reincarnation of Cy Young.) I've also been greatly enjoying Boston's September swoon. But I am not going to join in with the "I'd rather see the Yankees face this team than that team in the playoffs" crowd. The last time I did that, with the 2006 Detroit Tigers, the Yankees got knocked out in the first round of the playoffs by those Tigers. I'm not taking a chance of jinxing things ever again.

And keep in mind that how a team does in September has zero to do with how well they will do in October.  No matter how bad the Sox look now, as long as they can make the postseason, they have just as much chance as anybody to win the World Series. (I feel ill writing that, but unfortunately, it's true!)

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Too Bad Mets Couldn't Cap Off 9/11 Commemorations

Usually, the Mets do a pretty good job on their own of ignoring their own history. This time MLB and ESPN did it for them.

The Mets may once again not have any meaningful games in September, but Sunday they at least had a meaningful pregame - commemorating the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The Mets played in the first professional sporting event in New York after 9/11. Mike Piazza hit what is probably the most memorable homer in the fifty-year history of the franchise.
And the Mets wore caps commemorating the heroic first responders.

But MLB didn't allow them to wear those caps last night.

I've lost track of the number of times I've wondered, what is Bud Selig thinking? Or more precisely, is Bud Selig thinking? The edict came down from Selig lieutenant Joe Torre, so he must share in the blame as well. As for speculation that the Mets were unwilling to risk a fine because they didn't want to pay it, or because MLB might demand that the Mets start paying back that $25 million loan, even if there's any truth to that, the problem still begins with MLB's ridiculous decision not to allow the Mets to wear the caps.

Had the game been played at the usual Sunday time of 1 p.m., the Mets would have had their ceremony well before the Giants' opening game and the U.S. Open final. The Yankees were also playing later in the afternoon.

Then there's ESPN scheduling the game for the worst possible time - directly opposite the glamor matchup of Jets vs. Cowboys. Complete, of course, with its own ceremony, and frequent shots across the Hudson of the New York skyline. You would think they would realize how many Met fans are Jet fans and vice versa.

Ideally, the game would have been played at the Mets' usual Sunday time of 1:10 p.m, well before the Giants, Yankees, and Jets games, as well as the U.S. Open final.

ESPN recognized that it would be a good night to air a ballgame from New York. But how about at least moving it up an hour to 7 p.m.? Fans could have tuned in to the ceremonies, then switched over to the Jets.

Last Thursday, President Obama gave his jobs speech at 7 pm rather than 8 pm. The President of the United States didn't think a major speech before Congress could compete with NBC's national football broadcast, but ESPN, which knows a thing or two about the popularity of football, thought people would tune in instead to Mets-Cubs?

At least my biggest gripe yesterday involved the particulars of a commemoration. It was far different ten years ago.

When the second plane hit, I knew I'd be coming in early to work that day at the Daily News. My Eighth Ave. subway was diverted to Sixth Ave., so I got out on 33rd St. and Sixth in preparation for walking over to the News' offices near Tenth Ave. It was a few minutes after 10 a.m., and everyone on the street was staring at the smoke pouring from the Twin Towers. I stared as well, unable to believe what I was seeing, before heading toward the office.

What I didn't realize at the time was that the first tower was already gone. There was so much smoke that you couldn't tell. Or maybe I did see just one tower but couldn't process that information - I had enough trouble processing it when I made it to work.

Or more precisely, the street in front of the office, which had been evacuated.

We soon were allowed back in, where I updated the web site with the awful news until finally leaving at 11 pm. I boarded a nearly deserted subway and made my way back uptown.

Sports did eventually offer a respite during that difficult time, but for me, the turning point was not Piazza's home run. It was Game 7 of the 2001 World Series.

I had grudgingly admitted that a Yankee World Series win would be good for the city. When the Yankees held the lead in the ninth with Mariano Rivera on the mound, another Yankee title appeared inevitable. It would be their fifth in sixth years.

Then, miraculously, the Diamondbacks rallied to win the game and the World Series. As a New Yorker, I was supposed to be upset, but I was the happiest I'd been in weeks. The mighty Yankees had lost! Yes, there was a new normal, but at least some things could remain the same. It was all right once again to root against the Yankees.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering the Horrors of September 11, Ten Years Later

These are my thoughts on remembering September 11, 2001, and the aftermath of the terrorist attack that killed 3000+ Americans. There will be a few baseball-related comments, but most of this post is going to be about 9/11. If you can't bear to read anything more on the subject, I will totally understand -- we do try to keep this blog all about New York baseball, but I feel like I have to say something today about the 10th anniversary of September 11.

I woke up that Tuesday morning in 2001 around noon. At the time, I worked nights as a web editor for the New York Daily News. That night was a particularly late evening at work, as the Giants were on Monday Night Football, and I worked until after 3 a.m. or so, and didn't get to sleep around 5. When my clock radio went off that morning, there was a reporter on the news talking about being on the site of the World Trade Center. I didn't know what he was talking about; even in my groggy state, I remembered that the anniversary of the 1993 attack on the building was in February, so I couldn't understand what the report was about.

Then I got up, looked at my computer, and saw on the Daily News home page that the Twin Towers were destroyed, and the Pentagon hit. How could the World Trade Center be destroyed? How could the Pentagon have been attacked? It seemed like a nightmare too bad to be true; I thought I was having a bad reaction from having taken a Tylenol P.M. the night before or something. Even after talking to several friends on the phone asking what happened, I didn't quite believe the Twin Towers were gone until physically walking up Staten Island's Richmond Terrace until I could see the skyline. When I saw two huge plumes of smoke where the Twin Towers used to be, the horrific truth was confirmed, and my jaw dropped.

I had moved to Staten Island the year before when I started working at the News, and one of the things I cherished was seeing the skyline every day on my drive to work. I used to make sure and look for the Twin Towers each time I passed it by. Now I would never see those buildings again. For years afterward, I couldn't even bear to look at the skyline, finding it too sad. Come to think of it, the New York City skyline has never looked quite right to me since the World Trade Center was destroyed. Still doesn't.

I never made it into work that day, as all the Staten Island bridges were closed, and the Staten Island Ferry wasn't running to Manhattan. But Squawker Jon did. He was called in early by our boss after the second tower was hit, and worked all day, putting up stories on the web site about the horrors. Back then, it was expected that maybe 10,000 of our countrymen were dead. We also didn't know at first about Flight 93.

The next day, I went back to work after a very long commute into the city. You could smell the burning Twin Towers from West 33rd Street. That first evening back, there was an emergency evacuation of the building. I remember a big, burly guy from the sports department barreling past me on his way down the stairs. People were scared out of their minds then, and rightfully so.

Some of that time after 9/11 is a blur. Other things I remember clearly, like walking around town and seeing all the handmade "Missing" signs. Or seeing Staten Island firefighters in formal dress over and over, them attending yet another funeral. (My borough lost close to 300 citizens, a good portion of them firefighters and police officers raising their families in Staten Island).  The sound of bagpipes. You couldn't get away from thinking about 9/11 every minute, especially working at a daily newspaper. While we didn't lose anybody we know, we lost almost 3000 of our fellow New Yorkers. I think I might have cried every day for a good two months afterwards.

(Note: After reading this, Squawker Jon reminded me of the anthrax attacks on media companies during that time, and how we were all afraid to get the mail at our office. That's something I had kind of blocked out over the years!)

But there were moments that we cheered, like when watching the defiant, passionate "Concert for New York" on TV.  Even Yankee fans like me rooted for the Mets to beat the Braves that Friday night (although I knew things had changed forever when I saw Chipper Jones get hugged by Mets players!)

Then there was the Yankees' playoff run, with even some Red Sox fans cheering for New York. My memories of the World Series that I like to remember are President Bush throwing out the first pitch for a strike in Game 3, Challenger flying into Yankee Stadium that night. And, of course, the Yankees going deep against Kim two nights in a row to win Games 4 and 5. And the gut punch that was Game 7 of that World Series just seemed cruel, although it did put a smile on Squawker Jon's face!

In the months following the horrors, we all kind of waited for the other shoe to drop. People were scared, and sad, and angry. The latter is something I think has been forgotten since 2001. There's been a mountain of news coverage this week, most focused on the sadness back then, and very little about the anger many of us felt back then. I remember how filled with rage I was that those bastards attacked us. This morning, when I saw Google's "Remembering September 11" link today describing the day this way: "The events of September 11, 2001 changed the lives of so many people around the world," and never mentioning that it was a terrorist attack, not just some random sad thing, I got ticked off all over again. Spare me the euphemisms, please.

We also don't do enough remembering of those who lost their lives in the wars after 9/11. The closest thing to a memorial that they have now is Section 60 of Arlington Memorial Cemetery. I went there with my brother on Christmas 2007, to see our father's grave there -- he had died on September 10 that year. I held up okay after seeing our father's tombstone for the first time, but completely lost it when I saw the graves of those who died in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of them in their teens and early 20s. In addition to thinking about those who lost their lives in 9/11, today I'm remembering those who lost their lives after 9/11 in service to their country.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rain, Rain, Go Away, But the Yankees Still Have to Play!

I got stuck in yesterday's near-monsoon driving home last night, and heard the rain pounding against the windows when I got home, so I assumed that the Yankees would not play Tuesday night. Silly me. They did play the Orioles Tuesday night -- and Wednesday morning -- with a game that started past my bedtime (after 11 p.m.) and went on past 2 a.m. And according to the clips I saw, it rained pretty much the entire time. Good grief.

It was MLB, not the Yankees, who insisted that the game be played last night. Bud Selig reportedly ordered that the game be played, no matter what. Ridiculous. At least the Yanks are giving those with ticket stubs the opportunity to attend another game. But geez, that game never should have been played in the first place.

Since I was snoozing when the game started, I missed seeing the Francisco Cervelli home run controversy (it involves hands, but not his hands this time!) Big League Stew has the details.

Anyhow, hopefully the Yanks will be able to get today's game in without another huge rain delay. Rain, rain, go away!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Big Disappointment: John Sterling's Jesus Montero Home Run Calls

When Jesus Montero was called up to the majors, I asked my Facebook friends to predict what John Sterling's home run call would be. I got lots of responses, such as "Jesus Montero Superstar," "Jesus Juiced One," and even "Holy Moses, Jesus Crucified it." And people were very interested in the subject.

So when Montero hit his first home run, I expected something maybe show-tunes related from Sterling. Something memorable. Instead, we got "Jesus is loose." What? He had all weekend to come up with something catchy, and we got a cheesy knockoff from "The Goose Is Loose"? Puh-lease.

And when Montero hit his second home run of the day, Sterling expanded on his call, saying "Jesus has been turned loose." Really? What is this, some Unleash the Kraken reference or something? Hate it. Back to the drawing board, John!

* * *

Something else I wasn't crazy about were Brian Cashman's comments the other day on Montero. He told ESPN's Ian O'Connor that "In terms of hitting ability, Montero can be a Manny Ramirez or a Miguel Cabrera." He also said, "As a catcher, he's got a cannon for an arm. As far as everything and what I want him to be, I want him to be Jorge Posada. He has a chance to bat third or fourth. He has the potential to be a beast in the middle of our lineup."

What, why not throw in Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Yogi Berra to make the comparisons even more hard to live up to? Good grief.

I fail to see how hyping up a rookie so much is a good thing.

How about being happy for now if Montero can be better than Francisco Cervelli? Isn't that enough at the moment?

And when I told Squawker Jon what Cashman said, he snapped back, "Then why did Cashman try to trade Montero for two months of Cliff Lee?" Good point!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Squawker Media Alert: Lisa Will Be on ESPN Radio Today at 5 P.M.

Lisa will be on Brian Sinkoff's "Sound-Off With Sinkoff" radio show today (Thursday) at 5 p.m. If you live in the Albany area, turn your radio to 104.5 FM, or you can listen to her live by going to ESPN 104.5 The Team's website.

What's the Deal With the Yankees and Bugs?

My jaw dropped when I heard that a moth flew into Phil Hughes' eye when he was trying to make a critical pitch in last night's game. What's the deal with young Yankee pitchers and insects? First Joba and the midges; now Hughes with the moths! Good grief.

I don't think Hughes should lose his spot in the rotation, thought -- A.J. Burnett ought to have that honor, even though Hughes' overall ERA this year is higher. Hughes, at times, has shown something ever since returning from the DL. All Burnett has shown as of late is the ability to give Yankee fans agita.

Speaking of which, The Michael Kay Show was giving me agita yesterday, with the twisted logic about how it was okay for David Ortiz to flip his bat when hitting a homer, but Francisco Cervelli -- aka the Yankee Clapper -- was committing the crime of the century by clapping his hands. Um, which unwritten rule is this, again? Ridiculous.

The other thing that bugged me was that Kay painted anybody defending Cervelli as being pro-Yankee. But a lot of Red Sox fans, including some of my Sox fan friends, thought John Lackey (who, BTW, has arguably worse numbers than Burnett this year) was out of line, especially since he ended up costing the Sox a run with his hissy fit. Too bad Kay et al couldn't bother to show the other side of the story.

One other thing: Boston Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia suggested that Francisco Cervelli was acting that way because he is Latino. Never mind that Cervelli is also of Italian descent, and that the comment itself is pretty offensive.

Then Salty backtracked, complaining about these kids today acting out. Which is pretty funny, given that Saltalamacchia is all of 26 years old himself. You don't get to complain about these kids today until you're at least 30. It's one of those unwritten rules thingies!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

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