Monday, February 24, 2014

Yankees-Red Sox feud: Randy Levine issues lame rejoinder to Larry Lucchino

So there was a bit of a kerfuffle this weekend, after Boston Red Sox president Larry Lucchino dissed the New York Yankees' freee-spending approach to building a team. Unfortunately for Yankee fans, team president Randy Levine was the humorless prig issuing a response. If you are going to get into a war of the words with the guy who coined the Evil Empire remark, you had better have something resembling a quick wit, not a knucklehead still muttering about ghosts a decade after 2004.

Here's what happened. Lucchino said the following about the Yankees (emphasis added):
"We're very different animals. I'm proud of that difference. I always cringe when people lump us together. Other baseball teams sometime do that. They are still, this year at least, relying heavily on their inimitable old-fashioned Yankee style of high-priced, long-term free agents. I can't say I wish them well. But I think we've taken a different approach.
"If you compare what we did last year in the offseason to what they've done this year, there's quite a contrast there. I'll quickly say we do keep open the prospect of signing a long-term deal with a free agent, paying a sizable amount of money to attract a star in his prime. We haven't ruled that out. There's just a rebuttable presumption against doing that. But you can rebut it. The circumstances can allow for you to go ahead and do it. The Yankees do it more often it seems to me as a matter of course."
  Lucchino got a little rambly towards the end of that, and he kind of ignores the big money the Sox spent on Carl Crawford et al, but he is stating some true facts -- the Yankees are totally dependent upon spending for free agents to restock their team. When you spend $500+ million on your free agents, you can't really complain about others noticing that, can you?

Well, if you are Randy Levine, you can! Instead, Levine gave the following cringeworthy response:
“I feel bad for Larry; he constantly sees ghosts and is spooked by the Yankees. But I can understand why, because under his and Bobby Valentine’s plan two years ago, the Red Sox were in last place. Ben Cherington and the Red Sox did a great job last year winning the World Series, but I’m confident Cash and Joe and our players will compete with a great Red Sox team to win a world championship this year.”
Here are my thoughts on this:

1. Everybody in Yankeeland needs to stop with talk of "ghosts" forever. This should have stopped forever in 2004, when the Red Sox beat the Yankees in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS on Mickey Mantle's birthday, after the Yanks decided that they would bring out Bucky Dent to throw out the first pitch and somehow spook Boston. How'd that work for the Yankees again?

2. Love how Lucchino is responsible for Bobby V, but Cherington is responsible for Boston winning the World Series last year. Sounds like the way Brian Cashman brags about his "five" rings, like he did in the Roger Clemens trial, but every bad decision made in Yankeeland is blamed on Tampa.

3. Unlike the Red Sox, the Yankees do not have a viable farm system, and do have to spend a gazillion dollars on free agents. in order to be competitive. And even with that, they still didn't re-sign Robinson Cano, and still don't have a viable infield this year. To complain about Lucchino pointing out the Yankees' spending is like Miley Cyrus complaining about people noticing that she sticks out her tongue all the time.

4. The Red Sox have won three rings in the past decade to the Yankees' one, and they are the defending World Champions. As insufferable as Lucchino is, he has unfortunately earned the right to trash-talk. If Levine couldn't come up with something funny or clever, he should have kept his mouth shut.

5. Yeah, hiring Bobby Valentine was a disastrous move. But Boston realized quickly that he was a disaster, and got rid of him after one year. Then they won the World Series the following year. If Valentine had been signed by the Yankees, they would keep him forever, just because Hal Steinbrenner doesn't want to look like his father and ever fire anybody. You know, kind of like how Randy Levine still gets to keep his job as team president, long after he has done anything worthwhile!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

So I am going to get to compete in the Spartan Sprint at Citi Field

Big Squawker news -- I am in training to compete in the Spartan Sprint at Citi Field on April 12. It should be a great challenge, and I am looking forward to the event! The Spartan races combine running and obstacles. No word yet on whether Mr. Met is competing, though!

If you are interested in participating in this or any other Spartan race, here is a 15% discount code that you can use.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Spartan Race 2014 -- Are you in?

Reminder -- if you are interested in the Spartan Race, here is a 15% discount code for you. There is going to be a Spartan Sprint at Citi Field on April 12 (MLB-related tie-in here!) I am hoping to compete in it myself! Please check out the video below to get pumped up over it.

Monday, February 17, 2014

"Bronx Bombers" is a solid line drive double on Broadway

Recently, Squawker Jon and I were invited to check out “Bronx Bombers” on Broadway. We did just that, and enjoyed the play (although I did more than Jon; he is still waiting for a Broadway show to celebrate the Mets, though I did point out to him that a revival of "Les Miserables" opens next month.) Here are my thoughts on "Bronx Bombers." Spoiler alert if you want to be totally surprised before seeing the show.

This was a unique experience for me, to see a play in two different iterations. That’s because last fall, Squawker Jon and I got the opportunity to check out the play “Bronx Bombers” in its off-Broadway tryout. We attended the very first night of that show.The first act was intriguing -- it features Yogi Berra trying to make peace between Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin, on the morning after their infamous 1977 dugout argument, with Thurman Munson along as a bemused observer (more on that in a bit.)

That’s even though I thought that the play should have done more to explore Jackson’s side of the story when it came to Martin, given that race had a lot to do with Martin’s animosity towards him.  I wrote in notes then that “the show is too kind to Martin, and too rough to Jackson.”  Despite that, the writing was mostly pretty good in this part, and the acting, particularly by Bill Dawes as Thurman Munson, was very good. We were a little confused at the beginning of the previous play, though, as the actor playing Yogi looked more like Martin than Berra, and for the first 10 minutes, we thought we were watching Martin!

But when we saw the show’s dreamlike dinner party in the off-Broadway production, we thought it was “bizarre,” as I wrote in notes I took after the first show, made no sense, and took away from the show’s fairly strong first act.

That dinner party is still in the play, with Yankee legends old and new, but fortunately, it makes a bit more sense in the retooled show, with better writing and better acting – Peter Scolari is a standout as Yogi Berra, and Tracy Shayne, his real-life wife, is excellent as his wife Carmen. There are lots of Yogi-isms throughout the play – more than I remember in the original version – and most of them draw knowing laughter from the audience.

The first act is tighter now and makes you understand and empathize with each character. Reggie, played by Francois Battiste, (who also plays Elston Howard at the dinner party), now points out the racial issues he was facing as an outspoken black man in the 1970s in the way that is illuminating without being pedantic.  Billy, played by Keith Nobbs, is a well-acted mess in western wear, although Nobbs doesn’t quite look old enough to play Martin. The main four players in this Bronx Zoo drama are very entertaining to watch.

As for the second half of the play, the dinner party works better than when we saw it in previews. Dawes, who plays Munson in the first act, is outstanding as Mickey Mantle in the second act, looking, sounding and acting like Mantle. He spars with Joe DiMaggio, played by Chris Henry Coffey. Their characters are the must-watch part of the party.

Christopher Jackson plays Derek Jeter at the party, and while he doesn’t look all that much like Jeter, he does sound like him, and he inhabits the role more than he did when he saw him last fall.

There were two issues that I had with both versions of the play. The first is that if you are going to have Yogi as the central character, you have to talk about his 14-year estrangement from the Yankees. It is one of the more interesting things about him – he is one of the few people to stick it to George Steinbrenner. The second is that Steinbrenner should have been in the play. He is the kind of larger-than-life dramatic character you would want to have in the show.

After the play was over, Jon and I stuck around to see a post-play chat with Scolari, Shayne, and Fran Kirmser and Tony Ponturo, the producers of the play. They explained the reasoning behind both these issues, but I still think it would have been a stronger play with those elements in there. But that's quibbling.

When an audience member asked if they were concerned about having the actors look like the players, the producers and actors said they put more of a priority on finding bits of behavior to create the characters of the players.

If you want to walk down Yankee memory lane on Broadway, you should check out “Bronx Bombers.” While it's not a home run, it's a solid line drive double.

Did Robinson Cano dog it too much as a Yankee?

In today's New York Daily News, Yankee hitting coach throws Robinson Cano under the bus for a lack of hustle -- specifically not running hard enough to first on ground balls. Here are some of the choice comments from Long:
“If somebody told me I was a dog," Long said here Sunday, “I’d have to fix that. When you choose not to, you leave yourself open to taking heat, and that’s your fault. For whatever reason, Robbie chose not to."
Long also said about Cano:
“He overcame so much while he was here,’’ Long said. “As a young kid there were holes everywhere. There were holes in his swing, in his makeup, in his body composition. This kid grew and grew and grew. All the other stuff … he’d take plays off in the field, he’d give away at-bats in RBI situations. He made a lot of personal decisions to get over the hump in those areas. People don’t know how hard he worked, how many times he was the one asking me to do extra work in the cage.’’
Sure, Long was complimentary at times about Cano when talking to John Harper, but there were an awful lot of negative comments in there about the Yankees' best player last year. And Long never acknowledges a pretty good reason for Cano not to play 100% at all times -- that he has been able to stay healthy throughout his career and play nearly every single game. Cano only missed 14 games since 2006 -- that should have been mentioned in the article.

Anyhow, I had to wonder why Kevin Long was talking about Cano to such an extent anyway. What was the purpose? If Long thought this was so important for Cano to hustle, and he didn't do it, that reflects as badly on the hitting coach as it does on the second baseman. It also seems like bad form to me for him to trash Cano after he went elsewhere. If he had stayed on the Yankees, would Long be publicly flapping his gums on the flaws in Cano's game?

Maybe Long ought to pay more attention to his day job instead of being the Yankees' henchman.

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