Spring is easily my favorite season of the year in New York City. (Fall is second.) The way the weather is right now, chilly in the morning, chilly at night, and lovely during the day--is choice. I love it. All of the trees now have buds, and some are almost in full bloom. Women are wearing skirts and dresses again. Hello? Yams galore. Oh baby, how about those NYC legs? Hey now. Talk to me, talk to me.
I went out to dinner with a friend from high school who just bought a two bedroom apartment on 115th street just off Broadway. Which means that it's essentially on the Columbia University campus. We went out for Indian and then took a walk on the campus. Dave's father went to graduate school for business at Columbia during the late 1960s. His pop went on to become a successful and financially comfortable executive who retired early, golden parachute and all. His parents now live in Florida year-round.
Not so long ago, they visited Dave in New York and took a stroll on the Columbia campus. It was the first time Dave's dad had set foot on Columbia since he left grad school in 1968. He told his son that he would have to step over protesting bodies in order to get to class. Which just goes to show, no matter how much attention the hippies got, twenty years later, there were a whole lot of guys who retired early with golden parachute deals too, man.
The weather was great and riding the train home, even waiting for the bus, was pleasent simply because it felt so good to be out. As the subway moved above ground through the northern Manhattan streets, I thought about how much I love living in New York City, how proud I am to call it home.
When I got home Carlos Beltran had just hit a one-out single off Mariano Rivera. It was the ninth inning and the Yanks were ahead 5-2. As I hugged Emily and we said our hellos, Rivera walked Mike Sweeney and Mel Stottlemyre came out for a talk. Mo then blew away Matt Stairs swinging and got Ken Harvey to wave at a pitch two feet over his head to end the game. Fourth in the a row for the Bombers and there was more smiles to be had. (Royals manager Tony Pena even got into it flapping his arms like a chicken after the Royals intentionally walked Alex Rodriguez and then Gary Sheffield in the fifth inning.)
As I learned in the highlights, the game was all about Javier Vasquez, who is the most impressive pitcher on the Yankees staff so far this season.
"I saw it early on," Torre said. "He's very comfortable with himself. He has a lot of confidence. You recognize that when he gives up a home run like that and then buckles down. He's very professional. He seems to be mature beyond his years."
"The thing I'm most impressed with is how he bounces back after a bad pitch or a bad hitter," said Joe Torre, the Yankees' manager.
"He throws a lot of strikes. He gets ahead in the count and keeps hitters in a defense mode. He throws a very lively fastball, plus he has a slider and a changeup that he is confident to throw at anytime. For a kid 27 years old, that's pretty amazing. He came here knowing how he wanted to pitch, and he wasn't going to change that."
Mike Scioscia once told George Will that a pitcher has his best stuff working only 60-70 percent of the time. The rest of the times they have to concentrate on the craft of pitching more than they can on having dynamite stuff.
"It's never easy, but I felt good," Vazquez said. "The guys put five runs on the board and that helped. I'm a fastball pitcher and it was there for me today. I didn't think my stuff was so great, but I mixed the pitches up pretty good."
The win was important because it gave the Yankees a winning record for a month in which they played poorly. In fact, they have now had a winning record in the month of April for 13 consecutive seasons. Considering how they must have felt after getting their asses handed to them by the Red Sox, it is something to feel good about. I sure know that I feel good about it.
The Yankees are like the great rap duo EPMD: no matter how you slice it, it all comes down to Business. I have to admit, I'm not a business-minded person at all. At least not naturally. But growing up following the Yankees, I've grown to appreciate their Business-like approach to the game. I do admire the fact that Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter work so hard to maintain a high level of performance. Some people find it boring and I can understand that. I find it comforting.
I always slapped hands, or high-fives when the Yankees, or any team I rooted for, won a game. But starting in 1998, my brother and I just gave each other a firm, hearty hand shake. Maybe a pat on the back. We got so used to watching the team win, and shake each other's hands at the end of the game, we just thought it was the most natural thing to do as well. Any other kind of celebrating--unless the game was appropriately dramatic--seemed exessive, in bad taste.
On Wednesday night, when the Yankees beat the A's all of the guys I was with who were Yankee fans shook each other's hands. Job well done guys, nice doing business with you.
Going out of Business?
Speaking of business, that's just what Pedro Martinez seems to be giving the Boston Red Sox. According to the Globe, Pedro will test the open market at the end of the season:
"I will consider any team as of now," he said. "The Dodgers don't have the same people that were there when I was mistreated. I'm open to anybody, just as I am open to anybody in the future."
..."I'll play for anybody, but I'm not going to say I'm going to try to play for the Yankees before I give Boston the opportunity to sign me," he said. "Boston has probably the same chances the Yankees will have."
Check out some of the fine voices from Red Sox Nation linked to the right for the fan reaction.
Certainly Out of Business
Sometimes you have to wonder how the Mets do business at all. It can't just be about bad luck. Jose Reyes had a setback in rehab and will be shut down for more than a minute. How long before he returns is anyone's guess. Lee Jenkins reports in the Times:
"He feels like maybe he came back too soon," [Reyes' agent, Peter] Greenberg said. "He's dejected, frustrated, very upset. He's kicking himself."
So are the Mets, who have been treating Reyes for almost two months with no real results. Reyes will undergo a treatment program in Port St. Lucie that includes weight lifting, aerobics and exercises in a pool — a regimen much different from the initial treatment he received when he strained the hamstring March 14.
..."You can't do this in-house," [fitness expert and hamstring specialist, the Phoenix-based Mack] Newton said. "You have to look outside your organization and look at all the resources, or you're really not serious about being successful. You're not insuring your investment and that's stupid. If the people in-house knew what they were doing, how did it get to this point in the first place? It's not like this started the day before yesterday."
Head on over to the various Mets sites listed to the right for more on this story. Hey, Jeff Pearlman's book might be the highlight of the season for Mets fans, and that'd be a damn shame.
The Yankees are reporting that reliever Steve Karsay won't be around this season at all:
"No, I don't think we'll get anything out of him," Torre said. "If he shows up here, it'll be a bonus. Every time it looked like he was getting to where he could let it go - he was throwing with good velocity - he had a reaction to it."
No Karsay, no DePaula, and most likely, no Travis Lee either.
William Rhoden is one of the few general sports columnists who writes thoughtful and enganging pieces on baseball. He's got one today comparing P. Diddy's current star turn in a rival of "A Raisin in the Sun," with Alex Rodriguez's arrival in the Bronx.
You can debate who has more pressure. A-Rod is playing with the Yankees and carrying his reputation onto the big stage of New York. Frankly, I think there is a lot more pressure on Combs. Rodriguez switched teams and positions; Combs switched genres.
...The more intriguing part of the Rodriguez-Combs analogy is the impact they have had on their supporting casts.
The most pressure on the Yankees is not on Rodriguez, as it turns out, but on Jeter, the Yankees' 29-year-old captain, shortstop and backbone.
It's no coincidence that the worst slump of Jeter's career coincided with the arrival of Rodriguez. The slump wasn't about envy, not even about a sense of looking over one's shoulder, just an awareness: the best player in baseball at your position is playing third base and has slowly gained ownership of that position as well. Rodriguez has an 11-game hitting streak; Jeter broke out of an 0-for-32 slump on Thursday night.
I think Rhoden is the first guy to say that Rodriguez is all tied up in Jeter's slump, but of course, I've been thinking about it since last Sunday. He's right when he says that it's about "awareness" more than envy. Jeter's not a stupid guy. He realizes that on some level he's the one who is going to have to adjust to Rodriguez as much as Rordriguez is going to have to adjust to him. It's much easier for Rodriguez: He's the superior player. In the end, that will win out. And Jeter is bright enough to recognize it. I think he's competitive enough to eventually regain his confort zone, but I'm interested to see if he'll offer to change positions for the good of the team sometime in the next couple of seasons.
Lisa Olsen has an amusing puff piece on Jon Lieber, who is making his first big league start in 21 months for the Yankees this afternoon.
[YES announcer, and former Yankee, Joe] Girardi calls Lieber "naive" and "kind of a simple guy who doesn't get too wound up about anything." Joe Torre calls him "a character." After being asked about today's eventful start every which way, and in several different languages, Lieber says, with a smile that stretches all the way to the door, "I feel like I'm on Death Row. Do I get my last meal?"
I'm not going to be able to watch the game, but I'll follow updates on the computer. It's an overcast day in New York, and more than slightly humid. It's a day that anticipates the summer weather. In no time at all, it's going to hotter'n' July. Bernie had two hits yesterday, Sheffield an RBI, Rodriguez a single that extended his hitting streak to eleven. I hope the Yanks get as hot as the weather.