Jose Contreras allowed three home runs yesterday but pitched decidedly better than he has in his last two outings. After giving up two runs in the third and two more in the fourth, Contreras was ready to unravel once again. But, as the New York Times reports, Contreras got a boost from his third baseman:
Alex Rodriguez went to the mound from third base, and Contreras reached out.
"If you've got anything to say," Contreras told Rodriguez in Spanish, "please tell me."
Rodriguez sensed an opening, and he implored Contreras to center the ball, to focus on throwing a first-pitch strike and to let his immense talent do the rest. It was another version of the Yankees' effort to make Contreras (3-2) believe in himself.
"If you give him some confirmation during the middle of the game, especially when things are getting a little rocky, that's important," Rodriguez said. "He needs to know how good he is."
Contreras pitched well through the seventh, retiring the last eleven batters he faced. The Yankees eventually blew the game open when John Flaherty hit a grand slam in the bottom of the sixth inning (Jorge Posada's back-up ended the day with five RBI). Gary Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez each had two hits and two RBI (Rodriguez has now reached base safely in 47 straight games). But the standout of the afternoon was Bernie Williams who went 3-3 with two walks. The third hit, a single, was the 2000th of Williams' career.
Larry Mahnken takes a close look at Bernie's chances to make the Hall of Fame today and concludes:
While Bernie's numbers don't look overly impressive, especially in an offensive era, he was a key player on one of the greatest dynasties in baseball history, and will have at least four rings, and perhaps more, when he retires. He was one of the better players in baseball at a crucial position for several seasons. He's not a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but should get in after only a few ballots. Should he rebound and have a couple more solid seasons, and play long enough to attain 2500 hits and 300 HRs, it makes his induction more or less assured.
A good comparison can be made to Kirby Puckett, who wasn't as good as Bernie, but won two titles, and was well liked, just as Bernie is. Injuries ended his career, while it appears they have seriously damaged Bernie's. Puckett may not have deserved induction, but the fact that he got in on the first ballot bodes well for Bernie.
There are conflicting reports about the status of Kevin Brown this morning. The Times is more optimistic than either the News or the Post. According to Tyler Kepner:
The Yankees seem to have survived a scare with starter Kevin Brown. A magnetic resonance imaging on his back yesterday did not show serious damage, according to a person who was told of the results.
"It's nothing serious; that's good news," the person said. "They just want to do a few more things in the morning."
The Yankees will evaluate Brown after further tests today and decide then whether to place him on the disabled list, the person said.
What Did You Expect?
Jack Curry has a he said/she said piece in the Times today pitting Yankee GM Brian Cashman vs. the Yankees' erstwhile sousepaw Boomer Wells. There will likely be more to follow in the tabloids over the weekend as Wells is due to pitch on Sunday afternoon in the Bronx. Jay Jaffe and I will be at the game. Earlier in the week, Jay wrote me and said that he wouldn't mind seeing Boomer beat both the Sox and the Yanks on this road trip. While I sure wanted to see Wells beat Boston, I hope the Yankees knock him around but good on Sunday. I enjoyed watching Wells pitch when he was with New York. The guy threw strikes and didn't mince around on the mound. But the man is an incorrigible bore off the field. I grew tired of his act and wasn't especially sorry to see him go. Sure, the Yanks could probably use him right about now. Considering how the Yankee rotation is set up you can hardly blame Wells for bolting either. (That he has absolutely no couth is another issue.) I'm sure he'll get a nice reception from the Stadium crowd. Hell, I'll cheer for him when he comes out to the mound in the first inning. He deserves it. But that's where it'll end for me.