Sunday, April 3, 2016

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

No, the Expos never really tried to trade Vladimir Guerrero and Pedro Martinez for Derek Jeter. Why this story is bogus.

Part of my day job involves fact-checking information. Plus, I also have a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to stories that seem too good to be true. So when I saw a recent claim about a longtime trade offer involving Derek Jeter, I immediately called shenanigans on it. And sure enough, my initial thought that it was BS turned out to be correct.

 Here's the scoop. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe recently wrote this:
As the story goes: When Jeffrey Loria owned the Expos, he was obsessed with Derek Jeter. So he ordered his general manager, Jim Beattie, to try to make a deal with the Yankees and to give up whatever he had to. Beattie offered Yankees GM Brian Cashman Vladimir Guerrero and Pedro Martinez. Stunned, Cashman told Beattie, “I can’t trade Derek Jeter."
This is sheer nonsense, and here's why:

1. Pedro Martinez was traded from Montreal Expos to the Boston Red Sox on November 18, 1997.

2. Brian Cashman didn't become Yankees' GM until 1998.

3. Jeffrey Loria didn't buy the Expos until 1999.

So how in the world could this trade offer have been made, when Pedro was already in Boston during this timeframe? And when Martinez was an Expo, Loria did not own the team, and Cashman was not a GM?

I wonder where, exactly, Cafardo heard this story. Did Cashman feed him this nonsense, knowing that the reporter wouldn't fact-check it? Or did somebody else do so?

At any rate, it literally took me two minutes to Google the dates on this information, and prove definitively that this story could have never happened. Not that complicated, folks. You'd think a reporter -- or his editor -- would do the same. Good grief.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Here's the world's smallest violin, Randy Levine, playing just for you!

The world's smallest violin. Playing just for Randy Levine!
Leave it to New York Yankees president Randy Levine to make the team's point on revenue sharing so poorly, that you have no sympathy for what could be a potentially be a valid point of view. Why this clown, who, to steal a line from "The Hunger Games," is about as charming as a dead slug, is the "face" of the Yankees front office is beyond me.

Let me explain the latest brouhaha. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports talked with Levine about the Yankees' revenue-sharing agreement. In this conversation, Levine slammed the crosstown New York Mets:

"What is very burdensome to us -- and is unfair -- is the amount of money we have to pay in revenue sharing compared, for example, to teams in our market that pay 10 times less than us,” Yankees president Randy Levine told FOX Sports. "Hopefully that is something that will get looked at in the next labor agreement."
According to Levine, the Yanks paid $90 million in revenue sharing for last year. The figure is based on each team's net local revenue, and the Mets' figure is supposed to go up next year, commensurate with their increase in attendance. The Yanks also paid $26 million in luxury tax.

Rosenthal notes that:
Levine’s comment on revenue sharing followed his response to a question about the Yankees’ home attendance, which has declined every year since 2010 with the exception of ‘14.
Oh, snap!
"The Yankee business is strong -- very, very strong," Levine said. "But we’re the Yankees. We can always do better. We always look to do better. Our attendance projections are up. All of our other revenue -- sponsorship, food and beverage – everything else is up. We expect to have a great team this year. I think it’s going to be a good year."
Very strong? I dunno about that. Whatever happened to the idea that any year without a World Series title was a failure for the Yankees? It's now been seven years since the Yankees won a title -- their only title since 2000. Heck, it's seven years since they even got to a World Series. Meanwhile, the crosstown Mets, the team Levine is griping about above, won a pennant last year, despite spending over $100 million less on payroll.

And the "we can always do better" line would have been a heck of a lot more appropriate 15 years ago, as opposed to now. Eight years in a row, the Yanks have spent over $200 million a year in payroll. In one of those years -- 2009 -- they won a World Series. In three of those years, they didn't make the playoffs at all. In the other four years, they had ignomious defeats in the postseason, like getting beaten by the Astros in last year's Wild Card game, and getting swept by the Tigers in the 2012 ALCS. Not only is that a terrible ROI (return on investment) for the money, but it means that there is a LOT of room for improvement.

At any rate, you can't brag about how much money you're bringing in, and then complain about how much you're paying on revenue sharing. That does not compute. Also, on what planet are their attendance projects up? Is there, you know, actual hard evidence showing that?

Here's the thing, though. Theoretically, there is a valid point here. As Rosenthal notes, "Another concern of high-revenue teams is that the money acts as a disincentive for low-revenue clubs to increase their own revenue -- in effect, becoming a permanent subsidy." But Randy Levine is the last person in the world who should be bringing up that point. Why he continues to be the voice of the Yankee brass is beyond me.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Shocker! We ended up with $200 in Mets tickets for free! (And we can print them at home if we want to!)

Remember how Squawker Jon and I waited in the cold for two hours on Presidents' Day to get free Mets tickets? And how I almost froze my tuchis off, the day after running a 10-mile race in single-degree weather and getting hypothermia? Anyhow, you may remember that the Mets ended up giving us a better deal on free tickets than we expected. And today was the first day we could redeem our free ticket vouchers.

We had a choice of field-level box seats in the outfield area for most Monday to Thursday Mets games from April through June. So Jon and I chose two games: Tuesday, May 17, Mets vs. Nationals (Daniel Murphy's first game back at Citi Field!) and Thursday, June 30, Mets vs. Cubs (only time Cubs come to town this year.) The Nationals tix are in Section 130 and retail for $37 each. The Cubs tix are in Section 131 and retail for $63 each. So, yes, we ended up with $200 in tickets for waiting in the cold that day. Not too shabby!

Anyhow, there is something else I noticed about the Mets' ticket policies. You can either print the tickets at home, or add them to Apple Wallet so you can show them on your mobile phone! Imagine that! Also, we don't have to worry that we'll get kicked out of our field-level seats, or that somebody will wonder if we really belong there. Amazing.

Funny that the Mets don't seem to be worried about that massive ticket fraud problem that the Yankees are so concerned about. Or, maybe it's that there is no problem at all in the first place! Gee, ya think?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Playing Pepper: Nine Mets bloggers preview the 2016 season

How will the Mets do this year? Who will be the breakout player? I was one of the participants in Playing Pepper, an annual survey of bloggers from each team from Daniel Shoptaw of Cardinals blog C70 at the Bat. Other questions involved evaluating the offseason and which team we enjoyed beating the most.

I went with 93 wins and first place in the NL East. Most, but not all, of the other  bloggers also predicted another division title.

See all of our predictions and observations at Playing Pepper: New York Mets.

Ruben Tejada: From postseason inspiration to victim of Mets' cheapness

We'll always have Ruben Tejada walking onto the field on a broken leg with his Mets-themed cane to help inspire the Mets to the World Series. But we won't have infield depth with Asdrubal Cabrera on the DL and David Wright not having played in a game yet because the Mets apparently think that shedding Tejada's $3M salary is more important, now that the Mets have placed Tejada on waivers. If he is not claimed, the Mets are expected to release Tejada 15 days before the start of the season to get out of paying him all but 30 days worth of his salary (about half a million).
(Update: Tejada went unclaimed and was just released.)

While Wilmer Flores can fill in for Cabrera, the backup for Wright could be none other than Eric Campbell, who started 39 games for the Mets at third last year. For the year, Campbell hit .197 and helped the Mets to the worst hitting attack in the league in the first half of the season. He also made eight errors at third.
I had hoped that the days of the Eric Campbells and John Mayberry Jrs. were over. That the Mets would no longer have such a pathetic bench that last season's deadline trades for backups Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson were hailed as game-changers because they were actually major league-caliber.

Maybe Matt Reynolds or someone else from the farm system is ready to step up. Maybe Wright is going to be fine and Cabrera will not be out long. But even if the Mets genuinely feel they do not need Tejada, they need to get some value out of him. The Cardinals apparently do not want to take on that contract. But did the Mets offer to pay some or all of Tejada's salary? I assume not.

Dumping players with some value for nothing is bad business. The Mets did not need Jon Niese and wanted to shed his salary, but they were able to turn Niese into Neil Walker.

But when Dillon Gee fell out of favor, he ended up getting released. Now Gee could make the Kansas City bullpen, which last year was only the best in baseball.

Tejada may not seem that valuable now, but Justin Turner seemed like no great loss when the Mets parted ways with him, and wouldn't it be nice to have him shoring up the infield right about now, or at least to have gotten something back for him.

Now the Cardinals can pick Tejada up on the cheap if they are so inclined to help fill the void left by Jhonny Peralta's injury.  I just hope St. Louis does not end up edging the Mets out of the postseason by a couple of games as a result.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Shocker! Yankees new ticket policy causes a disaster for Stadium soccer game

I was looking at, one of my go-to sites (if you want to see the latest articles on whatever team you follow, go there!) to see the latest on the Yankees. And I just saw this article from Deadspin, about the repercussions of the Yankees' new ticket policy.

The New York City Football Club (NYCFC), who plays at Yankee Stadium, decided to change their ticket policy two days ago, before today's season opener, to ban print-at-home tickets. This, after they had told fans previously that this would be a Yankee-only policy. My guess is that Lonn Trost and Randy Levine pressured them to do so and they had to listen, given that the Yankees are part-owners of the team.

And guess what? Hilarity did not ensue! Instead, a disaster ensued. It was a hot mess.

Roberts is a writer for Yahoo! Finance. He said in another tweet that it took him 49 minutes to get into the ballpark after getting on the security line. He and others also said that the game had started, with much of the crowd still outside. Yikes!

I went to an NYCFC game last summer and had a great time. But if I were on a line like that, and missed some of the game, it wouldn't exactly make me want to come back.

I wonder if this is a harbinger of things to come when the Yankees' season starts. One thing they have not thought out is what it's going to be like when many tens of thousands of people all try to use the Internet on their phones at the same time to pull up their tickets. Last week, I was at Staten Island's St. Patrick's Day Parade, and my phone's Internet was extremely slow. And this was only with a few thousand people, if that. Imagine what it will be like with many more folks.

Things are not going to end well for the Yankees, if this becomes the scene at every game! Good grief.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Yes, MLB is different than in Goose Gossage's day. That doesn't make it bad.

I turned 49 a few weeks ago, but I still feel pretty young. Aside from being in the best shape of my life, thanks to adopting a fitness regimen I have stuck to, I think a lot of that has to do with my attitude. IMHO, nothing ages you faster than being closed to new ideas, and to viewing any change as a bad thing. If you want to look old, keep up a "get off my lawn" attitude and rip millenials because they see the world differently than you do. Before you know it, you'll look and sound like you've got one foot in the grave.

My friend Phil Watson, who is my age, shares a similar attitude to mine. He writes on basketball for Fansided, and had this to say when it came to basketball players of our generation ripping the current game.  
I’m almost 50 years old (it’s true, my birth certificate has the yellowing to prove it), but I can’t subscribe to the “it was better back in my day” chants that so many former players and so many media members are throwing around right now. About 20 years ago, I made a discovery that has shaped much of my life as I transitioned from mere adulthood into this dreaded ground people refer to as “middle age.” That discovery? For most people, there is one simple rule: All change is always bad, always. 
Is the NBA game different now than it was 20 years ago? Unquestionably. Is it worse?
Not that I’ve noticed.
It’s just, well, different.
I couldn't help but think of that astute asssessment when I saw two things in the news yesterday, from a current superstar and a crotchety Hall of Famer, that illustrated that very well.

ESPN the Magazine has an interview with Bryce Harper, in which the National League Most Valuable Player  

“Baseball’s tired,” he says. “It’s a tired sport, because you can’t express yourself. You can’t do what people in other sports do. I’m not saying baseball is, you know, boring or anything like that, but it’s the excitement of the young guys who are coming into the game now who have flair. If that’s Matt Harvey or Jacob deGrom or Manny Machado or Joc Pederson or Andrew McCutchen or Yasiel Puig — there’s so many guys in the game now who are so much fun. 
“Jose Fernandez is a great example. Jose Fernandez will strike you out and stare you down into the dugout and pump his fist. And if you hit a homer and pimp it? He doesn’t care. Because you got him. That’s part of the game. It’s not the old feeling — hoorah ... if you pimp a homer, I’m going to hit you right in the teeth. No. If a guy pimps a homer for a game-winning shot ... I mean — sorry.”
He stops, looks around. The hell with it, he’s all in. 
“If a guy pumps his fist at me on the mound, I’m going to go, ‘Yeah, you got me. Good for you. Hopefully I get you next time.’ That’s what makes the game fun. You want kids to play the game, right? What are kids playing these days? Football, basketball. Look at those players — Steph Curry, LeBron James. It’s exciting to see those players in those sports. Cam Newton — I love the way Cam goes about it. He smiles, he laughs. It’s that flair. The dramatic.”
I, of course, completely agree with Harper. Especially with his affection for Cam Newton and Steph Curry. And it makes me wonder if Harper becoming a Yankee is the fait accompli that so many seem to think it is. After all, the Yankees are a franchise that, with the exception of A-Rod, isn't really known for styling and profiling. Is he going to sacrifice the ability to have facial hair, cool hairstyles, and a flamboyant personality to be a Yankee, when these days he can get the big bucks from other teams? I dunno.

I'm personally tired of the whole "act like you've been there before" stiff upper lip attitude. As I've written before, what's wrong with having some fun during what is supposed to be a game? Human emotion is what separates playing baseball on a video game, as opposed to watching real-life games.

Now, Squawker Jon pointed out to me that none other than Jonathan Papelbon shows emotion. But I say he's a jerk, so that's not what I'm talking about. (And Papelbon and Harper, of course, don't have the same worldview, given Harper also thinking that throwing to hit other players is "tired." That's what they fought about last fall!)

Ironically, yesterday former Yankee and MLB Hall of Famer Goose Gossage unleashed one of his tirades about these kids today. He complained to ESPN New York about the current state of the game:
"[Jose] Bautista is a f---ing disgrace to the game," Gossage told ESPN. "He's embarrassing to all the Latin players, whoever played before him. Throwing his bat and acting like a fool, like all those guys in Toronto. [Yoenis] Cespedes, same thing."
Why is Bautista or Cespedes representing all Latin players? Does Harper (or Gossage) represent all white players? Those are really unfortunate comments by Gossage. But even if you take out the racial issue, it's silly to complain about this stuff. Yes, the game today is different from Gossage's day. And I agree with Harper that MLB could use even more loosening up. Different eras, different styles.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

John Sterling is closing in on his 5000th Yankee broadcast. Are you excited?

It's official. John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman will be back in the Yankees' broadcast booth this year and the next, something that was talked about a few weeks ago. WFAN recently announced the news with some hyperbolic comments that made my eyes roll so much, they're still at the back of my head! Let me go through what the statiion said, and give my own hyperbolic comments!
“Yankees baseball on the radio provides a soundtrack for the summer, and it would be unimaginable to listen to the Bronx Bombers without these two iconic broadcasters,” said CBS Radio New York senior VP and market manager Marc Rayfield. 
Unimaginable? Really? I can imagine it. I can imagine listening to broadcasters that -- shocker -- help me understand what's going on in the game, instead of devolving into schtick and cliches and incorrect calls. Because while the Yankees' TV broadcasters are no great shakes (and I've never been a fan of Paul O'Neill the broadcaster, as opposed to Paul O'Neill the player, even before he endorsed Donald Trump) at least I can, you know, follow the game from the visuals. When it's a radio broadcast, I'm at the mercy of John and Suzyn. And that's not a fun place to be!

Heaven forbid we have professional broadcasters like the Mets' Howie Rose and Josh Lewin (no relation to Squawker Jon!) who actually paint the picture of what's happening in the game. Not to mention the way every facet of the broadcast has a sponsor. I'm still waiting for "John takes a bathroom break, sponsored by Charmin" or "Suzyn's lipstick is brought to you by Revlon."

And 2016 is also an anniversary year of sorts. Rayfield sez:
“This is a special year, particularly as John closes in on his 5000th consecutive broadcast, an ironman feat almost as remarkable as Cal Ripken, Jr and Lou Gehrig’s legendary streaks.” 
Is there anyone who considers themselves the luckiest man on the face of the Earth for getting to listen to 5,000 broadcasts with John Sterling? Just wondering.

And Mark Chernoff, CBS Radio VP of sports programming and WFAN program director, makes his own hyperbolic comparisons:
“We’re thrilled Yankees fans will continue to hear this legendary broadcast team that has been together for more than a decade. John and Suzyn are as much a part of Yankee tradition as Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Derek Jeter and Yogi Berra.” 
Good lord. What a ridiculous comparison. Sterling and Waldman are more like the Cotton-Eyed Joe or YMCA of Yankee tradition: things that were entertaining once, but are well past their prime. Yet they keep on going and going and going, like the Energizer Bunny.

You know, I wonder if WFAN, which paid a gazillion dollars to get the rights to the Yankees' broadcast, and dumped the Mets, ever wonder if they made the right decision when it comes to teams. They sure didn't make the right decision when it comes to broadcasters.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Subway Series, spring style

The Mets were in World Series form in their first 2016 meeting with the Yankees today.  Unfortunately, by that I mean they blew the lead in the ninth inning, which they did yesterday as well. It's only spring training, and closer Jeurys Familia was not involved, but it would have been nice to beat the Yankees instead of settling for a 4-4 tie.

The Mets led, 4-2, going into the ninth, but Antonio Bastardo gave up solo homers to Kyle Higashioka and Sebastian Valle. I was hoping John Sterling would be caught off guard and have to struggle to come up with a home run call for Higashioka, but he probably just said something like "Kyle hit it a mile." (Sorry, Squawker Lisa, Valle's name is pronounced "vye-yay," so he couldn't say, "He hit that one to the Valle of the dolls!)

The Mets went with most of the starters (everyone but David Wright and Michael Conforto), while the Yankees sat most of their starters and top prospects. Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley did play, but the cleanup hitter was Dustin Ackley.  The thin lineup did manage five hits off Jacob deGrom in three innings.

Curtis Granderson and Yoenis Cespedes each had two hits for the Mets, who did not score off starter Ivan Nova, who went three innings, but then put up four runs (two earned) off James Kaprielian.

One bright note for the Yankees was that none of their current players endorsed Donald Trump (as far as I know).

The game saw an appearance by Cesar Puello, who was considered one of the Mets' top prospects a few years ago. But Puello was suspended 50 games as a result of the Biogenesis scandal and his prospects faded after that. The Mets released him last year.  And now he's back - as a Yankee.

This marks the second time a onetime top Mets prospect ended up with the Yankees and a Biogenesis suspension. The Yankees acquired Fernando Martinez in 2013, just before his suspension. 

Bastardo was also suspended as a result of Biogenesis.

But Biogenesis seems like a long time ago, and now the Yankees are giving A-Rod his own Bat Day.


During the offseason, Mets executive Paul DePodesta left the NL champs for, of all places, the Cleveland Browns. Today was the first day of NFL free agency, and Cleveland's decisions left many scratching their heads. The Browns allowed several top players to leave, but somehow held on to Johnny Manziel. As ESPN notes:

So a team assembles the most unorthodox front office in recent NFL memory, and you're surprised/hysterical/dubious when it doesn't make conventional moves at the outset of free agency?

Have fun in the NFL, Paul!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Say it ain't so, Paulie!? Yankee broadcaster Paul O'Neill endorses Donald Trump, loses my respect forever

Donald Trump and Paul O'Neill at Trump's victory speech last night

I was fixing supper after working out tonight, and minding my own business, when Donald Trump came on to blather about his presidential campaign victories tonight. If that weren't painful enough, I nearly lost my lunch (make that dinner!) when I learned that 1) Yankee fan favorite Paul O'Neill was in the audience, and 2) O'Neill was supporting The Donald.

Oh, and when I saw the photo above, I got even more sick to my stomach! (Incidentally, O'Neill looks as uncomfortable as Chris Christie. Paulie, if you need help, blink three times in a row!)

What the heck is O'Neill thinking? Why is he getting involved with supporting a demagogue like Trump? Especially given that O'Neill is a broadcaster for the YES Network, and is in the public eye.

Why would he endorse David Duke's favorite presidential candidate? How disappointing. And I have to wonder -- which campaign promises of Trump most appeal to the former right fielder? What part of Trump's rhetoric is most exciting to O'Neill?

Is it Trump calling Mexicans who emigrate to America "rapists? Him wanting to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico? Trump's desire to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants on the first day of his administration? Him wanting to ban Muslims from coming into the country?

Or perhaps it's the way Trump thinks of the U.S. military as his own palace guard, ready to commit war crimes on his say-so. Or maybe O'Neill likes the way Trump talks about women in such disrespectful or derogatory terms. Or it could be that Paulie secretly wants to go to Trump University.

Whatever it is, I'm never going to think of O'Neill the same way again. And he was one of my favorite Yankees ever. He was also one of my late father's favorite Yankees. I just talked about how much I liked the way O'Neill handled his farewell tour. But he is supporting a very bad man for president.

As Jon puts it, he's known me for over 15 years, and Jon's never seen me take a public political stand like this. But I feel that strongly about Trump being a menace that I had to say something.

Look, I'm not going to tell you that you should vote for Ted Cruz or Hillary Clinton or whatever. I just want to stop Trump. And I have respect for whomever anybody chooses to vote for in the presidential race. Except for Donald Trump. He deserves no respect whatsoever, and I really have a hard time holding onto respect for those who support him, given his horrendous views on the world.

What's the upside for O'Neill here? Many fans besides me are upset over this. Say it ain't so, Paulie!

Monday, March 7, 2016


So Chase Utley's dirty slide inspires a major rule change, but MLB can't bring itself to uphold Utley's measly two-game suspension. As the Daily News's Anthony McCarron writes, "you can pretty much circle May 9 as the date when Utley will get the real penalty for the dirty slide that broke Ruben Tejada’s leg last October." That's the day the Mets and Dodgers meet for the first time this season. As Squawker Lisa would say, get your popcorn ready!

At least I hope it's May 9, or whenever Utley first steps up to the plate against the Mets. Not a rerun of the season and a half it took to get any sort of retaliation against Roger Clemens after his 2000 roid rage. And all most people remember about that is Shawn Estes throwing behind Clemens, and not Estes and Mike Piazza homering off of Clemens in that June 15, 2002 game.

For what it's worth, the Mets' failure to respond against Clemens in a timely and appropriate fashion coincided with the team sinking from the 2000 pennant into years of losing. But with pitchers like Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard, the 2016 Mets figure to write a different story.

Let me emphasize that I am not rooting for Utley to get hurt or for the Mets to throw at his head. I just want the Met pitchers to let Utley know that they were not happy about what happened and, new rules or not, here's what happens if you try it again.

Coincidentally, May 9 is also the day Aroldis Chapman is eligible to be reinstated from his suspension. Looks like a potentially big baseball day around here!

Meanwhile, Jennry Mejia, banned for life, claims he's the victim of an MLB witch hunt. Mejia admits he failed his first drug test, but disputes the next two failed tests, claiming that MLB faked the third failed test after he appealed the second one. The Times notes that two of the tests found evidence of boldenone, a steroid used in horse racing. Lisa, I think I know what you would have to say about whether Mejia's allegations have any validity - neigh!

As Lisa noted, Subway Squawkers recently celebrated our tenth anniversary. During that time, we have generally steered clear of politics, but it's a strange and troubling political time, so I'm glad Lisa went off topic Saturday with  #NeverTrump: Donald Trump for president? That joke isn't funny anymore.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

#NeverTrump: Donald Trump for president? That joke isn't funny anymore

I really don't like talking politics on the internet, and even less so in this blog. Jon and I have tried to keep this blog as an escape from the "real world." I get into enough arguments about Yankees-Mets or Yankees-Red Sox; I don't need to fight political arguments, too!

Until now, that is. I really feel compelled to say something about Donald Trump. I want to add my voice to those who are trying to stop this demagogue and bully from getting the Republican presidential nomination, or, (heaven forbid) becoming president. 

So I feel like not saying something in the bully pulpit of this blog when I feel so strongly on this would be cowardice, And I never want to be a coward. To quote both Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata and soul singer James Brown, I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees. 

That's because I went through multiple bullying horrors in my childhood, which have made me have a pretty visceral reaction as an adult to bullies. Nowadays, I stand up for myself pretty well (some might say too well!) because I never want to experience that feeling of powerlessness as I did back then, when I wasn't able to fight for myself. 

Nor do I ever want to be the type of person who sees something awful happening to other people, and just pretends to ignore it.  That's not how I live my life. In fact, I actually get angrier when I see others, especially loved ones, being bullied than I would if it were myself. Because at least I know I can do something about it and not put up with it. Other people can't always do that, for various reasons..

Anyhow, all this is to say is that the more this Trump candidacy goes on, the angrier I get. For our country's sake. And like any bully, he's been getting away with this because almost nobody has taken a stand until now. The media has been in the tank for him because he's good for ratings. The Republican Party has been afriad of alienating his voters. And a lot of us were hoping that this was a bad dream, and he would go away before long. So much for that.

Several things really sent me over the edge this past week and compelled me to speak out. The first was Trump stumbling over disawoving David Duke -- and the criticism Mitt Romney got from professionals who should know better for calling him on it! Romney got compared to Mother Jones (Laura Ingraham) and President Obama (Tucker Carlson) for doing so. Is that how far we've fallen as a nation in 2016, that we're actually arguing on whether or not to denounce the KKK? Not to mention how nasty and insulting Trump is with anybody else who annoys him, but he had such a hard time attacking Duke and the Klan. Very telling.

The second was Trump's campaign giving a white supremacist radio host full media credentials (at the same time they were refusing credentials to the Des Moines Register, Buzzfeed, and because they didn't write 100% positively about him) and even having his son Donald Jr.appear on the cretin's radio show, at the same time African-American students were being ejected from his speech at Valdosta College in Georgia without actually doing anything worth being thrown out for.

The third is the way Trump uses and would, if he were president, abuse the military. Over and over, he has talked about using the U.S. military as his personal goon squad, suggesting that they do torture worse than waterboarding, and that they kill suspected terrorists' families. These things happen to be war crimes. And when it was pointed out to Trump at the last debate that these things are illegal, he scoffed at the very notion, saying about the service members: "They won't refuse. They're not going to refuse. Believe me," and claimed that this was what "leadership" was all about. No, that's what being a dictator is all about. He finally backed down on this, but who knows what he would do in office?

The fourth was the revelation that the anti-immgration Trump, who talks tough about American jobs, brings in captive (and white) staff from countries like Romania to staff  his resort Mar-a-Lago, instead of hiring American workers. As Ted Cruz very effectively pointed out at the latest debate by asking ex-waiters and waitresses in the audience to raise their hands, American workers would not turn down such a job, as Trump claims.

And finally, the idea of Trump getting anywhere near the Oval Office terrifies me. His thin-skinned attitude, which was amusing in "Celebrity Apprentice" (he refused to pick the deserving Penn Gillette to win because Penn said something about Trump in a book that he didn't like) would be horrifying if he were in the Oval Office. He's already threatened to throw out libel laws so that he can sue writers who say mean things about him. He thinks judges sign bills and thinks he can have 11 million deported on his say-so. As my friend Joe says, Trump doesn't even show a sixth-grader's knowledge of civics class. God help us all if he gets his finger near the button. Will he start World War III if some world leader mocks his combover?

The worst thing about Trump is that instead of being a candidate who brings this country together, he has cynically fomented the divisions in this country, and made them worse. I have friends throughout the political spectrum, but I really have to wonder about the Trump acolytes. Are they naive or wicked? Do they not know any better, or do they know all too well what he wants to do? Do they agree with his racism? His sexism? His xenophobia? His dictatorial beliefs?

I do expect that there is at least one "Face in the Crowd" style audio or video of Trump trashing his followers. According to a former Romney aide, that may be the case:
So I'm hoping some patriot releases such a recording. In the meantime, I hope that all good people, no matter what their political persuasion, speak out against Trump. It's not too late, by any means, to deny him the Republican nomination for president.

And I have to wonder about the cowardice of those who act like this is all inevitable, and don't seem to want to do anything to stop this runaway train of Trump, other than to give in. This, even though Trump is currently fewer than 100 delegates ahead of Ted Cruz, and Trump only has a quarter of the delegates needed to get the nomination. I have to wonder about such people who are telling the #NeverTrump crowd to just give up. Is that what they tell kids when they're bothered by bullies -- just give up your lunch money and hope the bully doesn't bother you again? Surrender without a fight? That's a terrible way to live.

One of the saddest things I've seen this past week is how Chris Christie, a smart, talented, take-no-prisoners type of politician, has been completely emasculated by Trump. He now calls him "Mr. Trump," while being called "Chris" in return. And who could forget how forlorn Christie looked standing beside Trump at Super Tuesday?

If we don't do something soon to stop Trump in his tracks, we're going to be the ones looking forlorn while Trump pushes us around.

I was heartened over the past week to see some pushback -- both in the presidential debates and among voters -- against Trump. (And how he can't seem to handle the attacks at all!) Let's hope it sticks, and that we don't have to face the horror of a Donald Trump presidency.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Bummer -- Hal Steinbrenner sez his family is not selling the Yankees

Hal (Rip Van Winkle) Steinbrenner has finally woken up from his winter snooze to talk to the press. Specifically, ESPN New York's Wally Matthews. And specifically, to say that he and his siblings are not selling the team, and will keep the team for the next generation of Steinbrenners. Oh goody -- another generation of people who were born on third base and think that they hit a triple running the team! I can't wait! (That's sarcasm, kidddies!)

Matthews talked to Prince Hal for an hour, and said at the end of his piece that he "can't help but like" Hal "and feel for" him. Feel for what, exactly? Because Steinbrenner had a tough father? Many people out there had tough fathers, but didn't inherit multi-billion dollar baseball teams, either. Boo bleeding hoo. This sounds like how the media gave Brian Cashman a pass for so many years because George yelled at him. Good grief.

There is no talk about the Yankees' ticket debacle (shocker!), but Matthews asked Steinbrenner about other things. Here are some of the most interesting tidbits from the story, and the questions I would like to ask Hal if I could:
"I'm not trying to be George," he says. "I never walked into this with the concept of trying to act like George, trying to be everything that George was, 'cause I can't."
No $#%^. Sherlock. Hey, Hal, we don't need you to be George. But we don't need you to be the exact opposite of George, either, where you won't do anything like hold people accountable for fear that somebody will think that you look like your father. Get over your childhood already. We'd all be a lot better off.
"George accomplished all this through his hard work. But for me, this is a privilege. It's a privilege in that I don't feel that I deserve to be the managing general partner of the New York Yankees."
That makes two of us, Hal!
And if my last name wasn't Steinbrenner, I wouldn't be managing general partner of the New York Yankees."
 Well, you do have at least *some* self-awareness!
He is strident, if not exactly passionate, about his role as managing general partner of the Yankees -- that is the description he uses, never "owner," and certainly never Boss -- but nowhere near as wound up as he gets when he talks about flying his airplanes, a GTO single-engine aircraft and a Cessna high-wing that he says he can land anywhere. It is a hobby he only took up in 2000. "That's what I do to get away from this," he said, pointing at his iPhone. "Go up to 2,000 feet and practice takeoffs and landings."...."It scared the hell out of my dad. He was always worried about it. But you know, there's nothing safe about driving on the interstate, either. You minimize the risk, you make sure your plane is in good shape, and you don't make poor choices, and it's a fairly safe thing to do." 
1. Can you go be general partner of a plane company, instead of a baseball team, the job you so desperately wants to "get away from"? We'd all be better off!

2. Paging Dr. Freud, but considering your father lost Thurman Munson when the Yankee captain died doing takeoffs and landing on his private plane, and considering your father then had clauses in Yankee players' contracts banning them from flying planes, you have to wonder how much your hobby has to do with sticking it to your dad.

He said he's never going to react to a loss, or a losing season, by firing someone. He understands his natural reserve tends to make fans believe he doesn't really care about the Yankees, at least not as much as his father did. "Even if I wanted to, I couldn't do that," he said. "I'm not going to try to be something that I'm not. I don't pretend to be as good as him in this role, and I wouldn't even try."
Hey Hal: You know, firing people when they fail at their jobs, year after year, is not only a George thing. It's kind of how the rest of baseball -- and the rest of the world -- works. But you're too busy playing Peter Pan to actually hold people accountable.
On who is ultimately to blame for the Yankees' recent failures: "Nothing is going to happen or not happen without me. So you can say it's [GM Brian] Cashman but I can tell you that Cash and I talk, and Hank and I talk, but again, the decision still falls on me. So if anyone wants to blame anybody they should throw me in there with Cashman, for goodness sakes."
Well, that's great, Hal. You won't fire Cashman. And we can't fire you. But we should keep on sucking it up and buying tickets, just because.
 On whether the Yankees will pay A-Rod the $6 million bonus for tying Babe Ruth's 714 home runs: "We'll see. We'll see. I think we have a much better relationship at this point in time to try to work something out. We'll figure something out. I wouldn't worry too much about that. I think it's going to be a different story this time around." 
Hal, given that 90% of your team's current marketing campaign that features today's players is about A-Rod, it would be kind of hard to avoid giving him this money. But I doubt you even know that, since you show about as much interest in the Yankees as I do in watching "Doctor Who." Oy.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Listen to me on the Sully Baseball podcast

I was on the Sully Baseball podcast twice in the last few days. Click here to hear me yak with my friend Paul Francis Sullivan about MLB retirement tours. Click here to hear me talk about the Yankees' ticket debacle.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Happy anniversary to Subway Squawkers! We've been yakking for 10 years! Read our very first blog entry ever!

I love "The Flinstones," while Jon thinks
they are a cheap "Honeymooners" ripoff.
And they said it wouldn't last. Today marks the 10th anniversary of Subway Squawkers. That means we -- and especially me! -- have been annoying people for 10 long years. (Actually, I've been annoying people for my whole life, but it's been 10 years with this blog!)

Back then, Alex Rodriguez was coming off an MVP season, but was still not considered to be a so-called "true Yankee." This year, A-Rod is coming off a very good season, and is now the de facto team leader and most popular player.

Many other things have changed in the Yankee Universe and in Metsland since then. The only Yankee from back then who is still on the team is A-Rod. The only Met from 2006 who is still on their team is David Wright. And Carlos Beltran, of course, was on the Mets back then, and the Yankees now.

Our format has changed since 2006. We started on the New York Daily News' website as one very long article on the web site each month. Then we went over to the blog format. We have been on Blogger now since November 2008.

And, of course, both of us have undergone personal changes since 2006 -- me more dramatically. In 2006, I was a couch potato who was starting to pack on the pounds after quitting smoking. In 2016, I have lost almost 70 pounds since my heaviest, and run regularly for exercise, albeit being a very slow runner.

But some things have stayed the same. I still bring the sass, and Jon still tries to put me in my place (although he rarely succeeds!)

Here is our origin story, for those of you who may not know: Jon and I worked at the New York Daily News together in the web department. (Jon actually hired me in 2000!) We talked a lot of trash back and forth about our respective teams. Back then, I used to spend a lot of time posting fan on various team message boards. (This was in the days before social media.) And Jon thought I should be doing something more with my writing talents than yakking on and other sites.

Plus, in 2006, both the Yankees and Mets looked like they were going to be good teams at the same time since 2000. So Jon suggested to me that we do some sort of column on the website together. He also came up with the Subway Squawkers name, a moniker that has been misspelled ever since!

He sold our boss Kevin Hayes on the idea, and the rest is history.

Having this platform has been good for both of us. Especially me. I love having this outlet. I know it's made me a better writer. And it's been a lot of fun, too. We've met some great people because of this blog, which is awesome.

Anyhow, since this is our 10th anniversary, we are going to highlight great posts from our archives throughout the year. Here, below The Flintstones, is our very first Squawk!

March 1, 2006

Jon -- Met fan

When The Daily News Online Edition launched in 1996, New York was far from the Yankee town it unfortunately is today. The Bombers had not won a World Series in eighteen long years. Their new manager was derided by this very paper as “Clueless Joe.” The Mets’ phenom rookie shortstop was mentioned in the same breath as the Yankees’ phenom rookie shortstop. But the Yankees went on to win four championships in five years, while our phenom turned out to be Rey Ordonez.

Once the Yankees beat the Mets in the World Series, much of the media forgot that New York has usually been a two-team town (and before that, a three-team town).  Now, thanks to Omar Minaya and Fred Wilpon’s checkbook, the Mets are back on the map.

But it’s hard for me to get too excited – I’ve been burned too many times before. What if Pedro’s toe doesn’t heal? What if Beltran never adjusts to New York?  What if the Carnegie Deli names a sandwich after Carlos Delgado? (Remember how well the last high-priced Met first baseman with his own sandwich worked out.)

Unlike the Yankees, who can absorb high-priced disappointments (Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright and so on), a single costly Met failure could sink the whole team. If Kaz Matsui were on the Yankees, he’d be long gone by now. Instead, he’s penciled in as the starting second baseman (at least I hope it’s in pencil).

I’m tired of the Yankees monopolizing the front page. Sure, the Mets made the cover now and again last year, but now Anna’s in Baltimore.  (Hey, George, since you like signing ex-Mets so much – Seaver, Gooden, Strawberry, Cone, Leiter, to name a few – how about bringing Mrs. Benson in? You can put her on YES and give her the planted questions to ask Torre.)

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the 1986 World Championship team. I’ve already got my ’86 pack – tickets to six games with promotions commemorating the boys of 20 summers ago. On Friday, June 16, if I’m one of the first 25,000 fans, I’ll get a commemorative coin courtesy of Dunkin’ Donuts.  Something tells me I’d rather get a donut, but I am looking forward to the ’86 reunion on August 19. Hope there’s no need for video feeds from various prisons.

Lisa – Yankee fan

Before we get into discussing the state of the Yankees today, let's have a moment of silence to mourn the retirement of Kevin Brown. Remember how the Yankees gave Roger Clemens a burnt-orange Hummer when he "retired"? I hear the Yanks came up with a perfect parting gift for Mr. Friendly – a framed piece of the wall he fought.

Fortunately, there are still plenty of characters left in Yankeeland this spring.   Here are a few of them:

George Steinbrenner – Is he on the "I'm Not a Senile Old Coot" world tour or something? After years of a Garboesque silence (that is, if Greta had had a press agent to whip up missives for her), The Boss is back in rare form. What's next, a tearful appearance on Oprah?

Alex Rodriguez – I just don't understand the incessant A-Rod bashing. Yeah, he wants to be liked by everyone. And that is a bad thing, why, exactly? You know what happens when an athlete really doesn't care what anybody thinks of him?   Bode Miller.

Carl Pavano – The Yankees should have known that he wasn't worth pursuing  when they took him out for a night on the town, and he chose "Mamma Mia" as the evening's entertainment. Then there's his health, or lack thereof -- is there any illness this guy hasn't contracted?   What's next?  Rickets? Scurvy?

Randy Johnson – I think he's going to have a great year.   Why?  Because he's got the glare back – you know, the look that Italian ice dancer gave her partner after he dropped her.

Jorge Posada – You think he might be a little scared of Randy, particularly after the Big Unit threw inside to his buddy Derek Jeter?

Derek Jeter – Could he not speak in a monotone all the time?   He makes Shaquille O'Neal sound like he has vocal range.

Chien-Ming Wang – Randy Johnson constantly chats him up in the dugout.   What's that all about?

Mike Mussina – Did you see his quote in our paper about how the Yankees really do"have plenty of fun"?  Then he asked, "Look, what's more important: Lighting someone's shoes on fire or winning the division?" But where do crossword puzzles rank?

Johnny Damon –Why is it that every player who comes over to the Yankees, even if they're a straight-shooter like Johnny Damon, says the same mantra about pinstripes, greatness, tradition, the Yankee way, blah blah blah.   Is the Boss implanting them with a "pinstripe pride" microchip or something?

Speaking of characters, I think Mr. Met has had some work done.  Look at this 1963 image --  Plastic surgery – it's not just for Hollywood anymore!

One other thing -- I was going to trash-talk you about how the Yankees don't need to have a mascot, because they have pinstripes, greatness, tradition, and the Yankee way.   But then I remembered that they actually did have one, named Dandy, in the early 80s. Looks like I'm not the only one who wanted to forget about Dandy – I couldn't find a single online image of him.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Raccoon takes over Yankees' spring training

Wonder if he bought his tickets on StubHub! Did you see that a raccoon invaded Steinbrenner Field the other day? He got rousted, fell 40 feet, is still alive, and on the loose! It reminded me of Lonn Trost's infamous comments on Yankee tickets:

"The problem below market at a certain point is that if you buy a ticket in a very premium location and pay a substantial amount of money. It’s not that we don’t want that fan to sell it, but that fan is sitting there having paid a substantial amount of money for their ticket and [another] fan picks it up for a buck-and-a-half and sits there, and it frustrates the purchaser of the full amount." Trost said.

"And quite frankly,” he said, “the fan may be someone who has never sat in a premium location. So that’s a frustration to our existing fan base."

Check out these pictures of Rocky Raccoon going wild. Now, the obvious joke is that the raccoon is someone who has never sat in a premium location. But I'm going to zig instead of zagging, and make the joke that the raccoon is simply trying to protect his season ticket investment from the riff-raff. Ha!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Subway Squawker at the Boston Marathon? It could happen!

Here I am with members of my running club.
Happy birthday to me! I did my long run this morning with my running club (thanks to my coach for the carrot cake birthday cake slice, candles, card, and protein shake!) I had a little bit of an adventure this morning. My brakes went kaput on my car. So I ran a mile, then caught a bus, and then another bus. And while I was waiting for the third bus, two members of my running club saw me waiting and picked me up. Whew. My fellow runners sang "Happy Birthday" to me as well. Very nice!

After running a total of nine miles, I headed to Manhattan to Pampano, a modern Mexican restaurant, where Squawker Jon and I celebrated my birthday at brunch. (We did a lunch instead of dinner because we both wanted to be home in the evening to watch the Oscars! Especially since we have money at stake!)

Squawker Jon and I acting silly.
Anyhow, Jon and I were laughing, as we usually do when we get together, over this idea: He suggested that I pull a David Ortiz and say that I'm going to run the Boston Marathon, as long as Bosston sports fans give me a standing ovation. I put this joke on my Facebook page, and my Yankee fan friend Jason asked me if I could actually run the marathon. I explained that I'm too slow to qualify, but I could get in on one of those charity admissions. You have to agree to raise at least $5000 for charity. So Jason suggested that we could try to get Yankee fans to try to chip in, if I wore Yankee gear to stick it to Boston fans.

I love, love, love this idea! Of course, I first have to finish the New York City Marathon in one piece, first. I wouldn't want to commit to Boston unless I knew I could finish New York. But it would be so epic to do it. Sticking it to Boston never gets old!

But would readers chip in to fund this? What do you think?

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Who would win a Best Athlete Oscar?

I love the thrill of competing against other people -- and winning. But since I am bound to be at the back of the pack forever when it comes to athleticism, I have to do my competition in things like trivia, fantasy football, and Oscar pools. (Click here to read about the pool I set up for my running club.)

Anyhow, speaking of movies, since its Oscar weekend (as well as my birthday weekend!) the New York Daily News did a pretty good look at athletes' stellar acting performances in films.(Click here to read it.) Like Brett Favre in "There's Something About Mary," Dan Marino in "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in "Airplane."

But I thought of at least one other good performance that could be added. How about Roger Clemens as a character named Skidmark in "Kingpin"? Fun fact: this is one of my all-time favorite comedies, but I didn't understand that it was a spoof of "The Hustler" until seeing the latter last year! I know Clemens was also in "Anger Management," but his role in "Kingpin" is much better! He is so convincing, I didn't realize it was him the first few times I saw the movie. (Warning: Language not safe for work.)

What else should be added to this list? Please leave your suggestions below!

Friday, February 26, 2016

What is more self-aggrandizing in baseball? Bat flips or retirement tours?

One of the cool things about having a lot of baseball fan Facebook friends is being able to test out ideas quickly. Like my theory of baseball celebrations. I had a hunch that if you did a Venn diagram of MLB fans who disliked Jose Bautista's bat flip and the like, and who say things like "Act like you've been there before," there would be very little overlap.

Generally speaking, the types of people who dislike individual in-game celebrations such as flamboyant home run trots and closers going nuts at the end of the game say things like "Act like you've been there before." (But many of those players haven't been there before, like Joey Bats finally making the playoffs after a long career. Thus, their happiness.) and "Play the game the right way." (Although left unsaid is who gets to define what the "right way" is.) 
These comments mean: Don't show any emotion. Don't draw attention to yourself. Be as sober as a church mouse. (In case you haven't figured it out already, I am NOT in this category!  I like players being human and showing human emotions! Unless it involves celebrations against the Yankees, and then I'm totally opposed. Heh!)

Anyhow, my theory (really, a hunch at first) was that these traditionalists would be the kinds of people who would be fans of players who have had long enough careers to do retirement ceremonies. It seemed to me that somebody who would be excited over, say, Derek Jeter's retirement tour, would be the type of person who liked Jeter because he Played the Game the Right Way. On the other hand, those of us, like myself, who like the spontaneous show of emotions in the game may not like the way that these retirement tours have been so formalized and commodified. 

As I wrote in this space (and got tons of grief for) in 2014, I was sick of Jeter's retirement tour by the All-Star Break, And my disdain for it only grew as it got even more over the top over the year.

We recently had a funny discussion on Facebook about it, over the fact that Mark, the president of my running club, who also works as a background actor, was in one of the Jeter commercials. When Josh, another background actor and our club's publicity director, told me that, I asked if El Presidente was in the Gatorade "My Way" ad. Josh said that wasn't the ad, and described it this way: "There was another commercial that showed [Jeter] even more reverent if you could believe that." As soon as I heard that description, I immediately knew he was talking about the Nike "Re2pect" commerical. So if you thought those were real fans in the stands, I've got news for you: they were actors, and at least one of them -- our friend Mark -- is a Mets fan! Heh.

Anyhow, that is basically what I found on Facebook -- that people who like the one thing generally don't like the other, and vice versa. And, at any rate, very few Yankee fans want to cheer for David Ortiz in his last game at Yankee Stadium. I predict that Ortiz will face a bigger public backlash on his tour, especially if either he or the Sox are doing poorly.

The thing of it is, these retirement tours not only about worshiping a particular player, but they also can hurt team goals in a way that a bat flip never did. If Joe Girardi had been able to move Jeter down the lineup, would they have made the playoffs? Maybe so. But instead, the team was all about a season2watch, not a team2watch.

The two retirements I admire the most are Paul O'Neill's and Mike Mussina's. Savvy Yankee fans serenaded O'Neill in Game 5 of the 2001 World Series (even Red Sox fan Sully from Sully Baseball was impressed by that.) And Mussina, of course, decided it would be his last year, left it all on the field, won 20 games, and then announced his retirement.

What's the showbiz adage? Always leave them wanting more? These retirement tours do the opposite. They make you sick of the player. And they've become pretty joyless affairs over time. The last truly "wow" gift was Rob Gardenhire saving Twins' bats broken from hitting off Mariano Rivera, and having them made into a rocking chair. After that, the gifts have become boring, as have the ceremonies in each city. And I'm sure I will rolling my eyes all year at Ortiz's farewell. Oy.

Where do you stand on this issue? Tell us about it!

Oscar-inspired rides for Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes has made a spectacular entrance at Met camp every day this week in vehicles ranging from a  three-wheel Polaris Slingshot to a Lamborghini Aventador. How can he continue to top himself? With the Academy Awards coming up this weekend, here are some possibilities from this year's nominated films.

Gigahorse from 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

Ideally with Chase Utley strapped to the front.

Rover from 'The Martian'

When Cespedes comes up with a runner on base, Met fans all over the world
will be rooting for the slugger to "bring him home."

Millennium Falcon from 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' 

If one franchise can return to glory days not seen since the 1980s...

 Bear from 'The Revenant'

If Cespedes can tame a grizzly bear, taking care of the Cubs should be no problem.

Train of Thought from 'Inside Out'

When Cespedes re-signed, Met fans' emotions switched from Sadness to Joy.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

It's the new A-Rod! Again! This Arodologist looks at what was the biggest key to changing his image

A-Rod today at spring training.
I check Facebook's "On This Day" each morning to see what' I was doing on previous dates in Facebook. A year ago this week, especially today, I was writing about how the New York sports media was going nuts over Alex Rodriguez. Back then, pretty much every single question in spring training was about A-Rod, after he missed a season due to PED use.

What a difference a year makes. A-Rod is *a* story, but he's not *the* story. And when stories are about him, they are mostly positive, about how he is a beloved teammate, good player, fan favorite, talented broadcaster, and good businessman.

Case in point #1: Bob Nightengale's profile of him this week in USA Today, which might have been the most positive story ever written about Rodriguez.

Case in point #2: This headline in a New York Daily News story about how A-Rod should give some advice on handling the media: "Yankees' Alex Rodriguez can help Lonn Trost, Aroldis Chapman deal with media crises." Wait, what?

As an Arodologist who wrote about "The Redemption of A-Rod" for the Washington Post last June, even I am surprised at how complete his image has changed over the past year.

So what has made the difference? I have a number of theories as to why this has happened: He had a great season, he showed his love for the game with his excellent broadcasting, he got better advisors, he stopped saying dumb things, etc.

But here are the most important things he has going for him these days: groupthink, peer pressure, and Derek Jeter's retirement. Let me explain.

I always have said that there were a certain number of fans who loved Rodriguez no matter what, or hated him no matter what. And what really moves the needle are the ones in the middle. For a long time, it was cool to hate A-Rod. Now, that is no longer the case. The perception is that he did his time, has matured into an elder statemen, and is arguably the most important player on the team. Without him, they wouldn't have made the playoffs. Sure, there are still Yankee fans who can't stand him, but most like him now, and he has gotten the biggest cheers of anybody this spring. The groupthink and peer pressure (it's no longer cool to despise him) are finally working in his favor.

That also goes with the media. Granted, so many problems of A-Rod's were self-inflicted, but at the same time, too many people in the press made mountains out of molehills when it came to him. There seemed to be an unseemly piling on over the silliest of things. Now, most reporters have realized that he (shocker) is actually a great person to talk baseball with, and they pick his brains now for strategy. And they seem to have collectively gotten away from the snickering amongst themselves about him that they used to do. Now they're falling over themselves to write positive stories. Even this Arodologist couldn't have predicted that!

The other thing that is helping A-Rod out is Jeter's retirement. No longer do fans have to feel somehow disloyal to Jeter by liking Rodriguez. No longer do reporters try to curry favor with Jeter by slamming A-Rod. In addition, Alex had always talked to players behind the scenes and helped the younger players (fun fact: he has bought several sets of suits for each rookie since he joined the team), but now that Jeter is gone, he can be more of an open team leader and elder statesman. Now he's the veteran who contacts new players to welcome them to the team. Who'da thunk it?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Message to Randy Levine and Lonn Trost: When you're in a hole, quit digging!

I really was going to write today about something else in Yankeeland besides the team's ticket debacle. Honest. But as long as team president Randy Levine and COO Lonn Trost keep on saying and doing dopey things about it, I've got to keep Squawking about it!

The gruesome twosome have said even more ridiculous things in the last two days to extend this story into even more news cycles. This, at the very same time the team is attempting to sell individual tickets for the 2016 season. Unbelievable.

I woke up this morning to see that Levine had run his mouth about Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. because Diaz is taking the fans' -- and StubHub's -- side in this ticket issue. Diaz's spokesman, John Desio, told the New York Daily News:
“The borough president is a lifelong Yankee fan. The borough president’s favorite player was Graig Nettles. He lives and dies by the Yankees as do many people in the borough, the city and the world. This new policy on tickets combined with their COO’s elitist comments are not very fan friendly for the borough president or anyone else who loves the Yankees.” 
So how did Levine respond? In a mature, adult fashion befitting his reputation. By which I mean, he lashed out like a frat boy with anger management issues, the way he usually does. (How is this guy in a position of authority, anyway? I wouldn't trust him to run the fry station at McDonald's without spilling grease on himself when flying off the handle!)

Levine told ESPN's Darren Rovell, who first reported on Diaz' stance:
“It doesn’t surprise me given that we’ve stopped his endless funding requests. It does surprise me because the only time he showed up to Yankee Stadium was when he was on official business when he was comped. I guess there are no greater problems in the Bronx, that he needs to spend time on, than ticketing.” 
How is this comment possibly productive? It doesn't even make any sense. What, exactly, would be the "endless funding requests" a Bronx borough president would ask the Yankees for? Wouldn't it be the other way around?

And you can't complain that Diaz rarely shows up at Yankee games, and then whine that "I guess there are no greater problems in the Bronx, that he needs to spend time on, than ticketing." Well, most of us would think that enabling his constituents in the poorest borough in the city to get decently priced tickets is kind of important.

UPDATE: Shortly after writing this Squawk, I received an email from Diaz's office containing a copy of a letter the borough president sent to Levine, criticizing the policy. It's a pretty strongly worded missive! Read it here

That isn't the only time in recent days that Levine has flapped his gums. He and Trost recently talked to Bloomberg View sports columnist -- and Yankee fan -- Kavitha A. Davidson about the ticket policy. She writes about a less-discussed aspect of using mobile tickets. Fans will have to sign up at Ticketmaster, give the company personal information, and download an app in order to use the Yankees' mobile ticket feature. (I wrote about this last week, but she went to much greater detail on the new system and tried it out herself. "It seems there are still a few bugs to work out," she wrote.)

Anyhow, both Levine and Trost dismissed any concerns over the new policy. Levine insisted to the writer that third-party ticket brokers and StubHub are, Davidson writes, as "the source of much of the backlash against the new mobile system." Um, no, dude. Your team's fans are the main source of the backlash. Remember them?

In addition, according to the article, "Levine said Trost's comments were taken out of context and stressed that the Yankees' position is 'if you buy a legitimate ticket you're welcome to sit at Yankee Stadium,' whether or not you paid full price." Well, isn't that nice of them! And at any rate, we didn't take Trost's comments out of context. We took them in context. That's the problem!

Trost made let yet another elitist remark in insisting: "In today's world of millennials, I can't imagine anyone who's not smartphone savvy who wants to come to the ballpark," he said. "But when they do, they can get a hard-stock ticket." Oy. He needs to get out more.

Remember how Trost talked about Yankee fan ticket buyers who spent "a buck and a half" for premium tickets? I wrote that there was no way people were paying $1.50 a ticket for the fancy seats. But I missed an even more elitist remark that Trost was making with that. I have a friend who is a ticket broker. And he said that "a buck and a half" is a term in the business meaning $150. So Trost is looking down at fans who "only" spend $150 per Yankee ticket. For the rest of us, that sort of money for a three-hour regular season game is a splurge for a milestone birthday or something. In Trost's world, these people are the riff raff!

My friend Jason Keidel, who writes about sports for CBS New York, interviewed me this week about how a decision by the Yankees on February 15 to ban print-at-home tickets has morphed into a PR disaster for the team that is like the Energizer Bunny. It just keeps on going, and going, and going.

I talked about my part in that -- Squawking the next day about how the decision was about smashing StubHub and taking away fans' ability to buy tickets on the secondary market. Then I was interviewed for the New York Post the following day, and showed how Yankee fans were unhappy about this, at the very same time the team's spokesperson claimed that fans were thrilled over it. The very next morning, Yankees COO Lonn Trost popped up on WFAN to defend the policy, and blurted out his elitist opinion about Yankee ticket buyers.

This story has gone about as disastrously for the Yankees as anybody with a brain and common sense could have predicted. It's been raging for 10 days now, and shows no sign of abating. Are there any grownups in Yankeeland who will step in and stop this? Where is Hal Steinbrenner? What could possibly be more important for him to be doing than stopping this PR disaster? Good grief.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Should Yankee fans cheer David Ortiz in his last Yankee Stadium game?

I was on my my home when I saw about the retiring David Ortiz's "plea" in the New York Post to Yankee fans. And I couldn't wait to get home and Squawk about it, because obviously, I have something to say!

Post columnist Kevin Kernan talked to Ortiz today about what he wanted in his final game of his career at Yankee Stadium:

When Ortiz, 40, makes his final Yankee Stadium appearance on Sept. 29, this is what he wants, and it speaks volumes about Ortiz the player, the competitor, the enemy, the star. 
 “You know what I want most of all?’’ Big Papi told The Post on Tuesday at JetBlue Park. “I would love it if the fans at Yankee Stadium gave me a standing ovation.’’
Kernan writes that Yankee fans can "show class" by doing this:
Cheer for Big Papi. Chant his nickname. Send him out with class.
You know, I mostly like Kernan's writing, but this is a bit much for me.

Look, I gave Ortiz a standing ovation in my living room when, after the Boston Marathon bombing, he took the mike at Fenway and said, "This is our f*cking city." That was a great moment, and it's the one time in my life I wanted to cheer for Ortiz.  That's enough for me, thanks. Unless he's got Lou Gehrig's Disease or something, I am on record in thinking these endless farewell tours are too much. And I'm not cheering for him. I also think it's a little weird for him to ask for this.

Now, I'm not going to tell other Yankee fans that they shouldn't cheer for Ortiz. But I say not just "No," but "Hello, no." to the idea of me cheering and giving him a standing ovation and chanting "Big Papi." Good grief.

And I don't think not doing so for him makes me unclassy. (Class is overrated, anyway!)

 I also don't think  that sportswriters should tell fans what to do here. This is a personal decision every fan has the right to make. And I'm sitting on my hands, thanks!

What do you think? Will you cheer for David Ortiz?

Lisa interviewed for CBS New York piece on Yankee ticket policy

CBS New York columnist Jason Keidel has weighed in on the fallout from the Yankees' move to ban print-at-home tickets and Lonn Trost's preferences for the type of fan to sit in the often-empty fancy seats. He interviewed Lisa for his piece New Ticket Policy Widens Divide Between Yankees, Everyday Fans and she is quoted throughout on topics ranging from Trost to admitting that the Mets now have the "better team" than the Yankees!

Yankee press office tells players to be more like Russell Wilson than Cam Newton. But what about Yankee brass?

Isn't it ironic? (Cue Alanis Morrissette song!) The Yankees' PR/media team recently held their annual training sessions advising players how to act in front of the press. In the very same week that the biggest story in Yankeeland is how team COO Lonn Trost made elitist remarks that alienated most of the fan base, and then team president Randy Levine insulted fans' intelligence with his comments about StubHub. Seems like the execs need that training more than the players! Not to mention the fact that this story is still percolating among Yankee fans this week, while nobody from the front office has stepped in to clarify the remarks or apologize for Trost. Talk about bad PR!

Anyhow, Ryan Hatch of got the inside scoop on the players' training from media relations director Jason Zillo. Yankees saw videos featuring clips featuring ESPN's Britt McHenry's infamous argument trashing a tow truck employee, as well as Lawrence Taylor's media meltdown back in the day. Derek Jeter pops up on the video to advise the ballplayers that everything in their lives is fair game these days. And A-Rod (!) is actually cited as a positive example of how to handle the press, when he deflected talk of his home run numbers.

The players saw clips of Cam Newton's and Russell Wilson's respective post-Super Bowl press conferences, with the idea that Newton's behavior was bad, and Wilson's was good. But I kind of agree with Big League Stew's Mike Oz, and his take on this:
Cam's presser you know well by now: He grumbled and sulked, giving abrupt answers before walking out. It's almost like he felt emotion after losing the big game of his life. Imagine that....And Wilson's presser from a year earlier was pretty much the opposite....
It was textbook, so the Yankees are right wanting their players to be like Wilson — if you want players to say the predictable thing and not show a lot of emotion. And, let's be real about what the Newton/Wilson dichotomy is really implying these days: We want you to be safe and dull, not polarizing, not making yourself an enemy of Middle America. 
He then writes about how it applies to the Yankees:
They have one player, C.C. Sabathia, who is coming back this season after admitting he had a problem with alcohol and seeking help. He has a story that's worth telling, emotion and all. They have another player, Alex Rodriguez, whose image is as far from clean-cut as possible and has been criticized most of his career for being too robotic. Considering, his against-the-odds comeback from a year ago, he has a reason to finally open up. Is it the worst thing to let them and their teammates be real people with real emotions? 
You're right. Considering this is baseball, where you can't celebrate a home run for more than a split second or risk breaking the unwritten rules, the answer is probably, "Yes. We don't want real emotions. Just say the boring stuff that everyone wants you to say."
Oz then brings up Lonn Trost and suggests, like I just did, that he is the one who needs the media training.

I get the Yankees' point on the media training. I do. But I also get Oz's point. There's something to be said for genuine emotion. While Newton should have stayed longer at the presser so all the reporters could have gotten their questions in (they're funny that way), I cannot fault him for looking as devastated as he did. Isn't that what you want as a fan? For your team's players to care? To be as upset as you are over losing the big game?

You also want your team's front office to care. Not just about the team winning and losing. But about the fans. And Trost's and Levine's remarks have emphasized an "us vs. them" mentality instead of a "we're all Yankee fans together" attitude. I have seen so many fans online over the past few days wonder why they should even bother going to games at all any more, given the contempt the front office has for them.

It's now been five days since Trost's elitist remark. Still no apology, or statement from the team, or olive branch to the fans. Meanwhile, individual tickets have gone on sale. Way to sell the brand, Yanks!

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