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Monthly archives: March 2005

 

Cool Breeze
2005-03-31 18:42
by Alex Belth

I had my first real good laugh of the baseball year tonight. It was just a small thing, but sometimes, well, it's the little things that do it to you. Erstwhile Yankee first baseman Travis Lee--we hardly knew ye--was batting against Mike Mussina in the top of the fourth inning of the Yankees-Devil Rays exhibition game at Legends Field. I was only half-watching when Mussina delivered an 0-2 breaking ball that just missed the outside corner for strike three. Mussina glared in at the home plate ump. He came back with the same pitch, only this one was lower, and well out of the zone. Lee did not chase it. So Mussina comes back and floats a change-up around Lee's eyes. Lee swung and missed and I instinctively started laughing. Anyone who has ever taken a Conan swing in whiffle ball could empathize with what Lee was thinking. How do you lay off such a pitch? And how do you have the chutzpah to throw it?

Emily didn't get what was so funny. Man, baseball slapstick can be so obvious (the blooper reels they play between innings on the Jumbo Tron), and yet so subtle, the ultimate inside joke. I couldn't help but immediately jump to the fantasy of Mussina getting a quality lefty like David Ortiz out on a bullcrap pitch like that sometime, oh, round October. Yeah, I'm about good and ready for the season to start. You?

Burning Down the House
2005-03-31 10:26
by Alex Belth

The 1977 Yankees have been written about to death, but there is a new book which incorporates the Bronx Zoo antics of George, Billy, Reggie, Thurman and company, into the social dynamics of New York city during the Summer of Sam. "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Buring: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City," by Jonathan Mahler received a mostly favorable review in the Times yesterday from William Grimes:

The city needed a win in the worst way. If the Bronx was burning, so were large swaths of Brooklyn, notably Bushwick, which had imploded in a frenzy of looting and arson when an electrical failure plunged the city into total darkness on July 13. All summer, a crazed killer dubbed Son of Sam had preyed on young couples in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens. There were not enough firefighters or police officers to deal with either problem, because the city, virtually bankrupt, had laid off thousands of workers. There was an edge of desperation when New York fans chanted "Reg-gie, Reg-gie."

Grimes is impressed with Mahler's writing skill but doesn't believe that the author's themactic ambitions work in the end:

...In a last-ditch effort to tie up loose ends, Mr. Mahler anoints Mr. Koch, Mr. Murdoch, Mr. Steinbrenner and Mr. Jackson emblematic figures of the new New York. The idea is not nearly as compelling as the stories in which they have played pivotal roles, and which Mr. Mahler tells with such skill. In the end, the Yankees, however heroic, cannot carry the conceptual weight assigned to them. It's probably better not to think too deeply about Mr. Jackson's three home runs in Game 6. Just savor the moment.

In a very crazy year, oh, what a moment it was. I'm putting this one on my wish list for summer reading. Looks highly entertaining at the very least.

Jumping Ship
2005-03-31 10:11
by Alex Belth

Jay Jaffe is an admitted fair-weather fan when it comes to the New York Yankees. Jaffe grew up in Utah rooting for the Dodger teams of the late 1970s, so it's natural that he was no fan of the boys from the Bronx. But when he moved to New York city in 1996, Jaffe fell fell for Joe Torre's Yanks. Jaffe then rooted for the Bombers during their recent glory years, but now, the affair appears to be over. What gives? Well, it mostly has to do with the way the Yankee front office has operated for the past several seasons. In a recent article for Baseball Prospectus, Jaffe writes:

It's painfully clear the Yankee front office is, if not out of ideas, then at least at an impasse as to how to implement the ones they have with creativity and foresight. In this regard, the pesky Red Sox have not only surpassed them, they figure to hold a distinct advantage going forward. Nowhere was that more clear than last October's LCS clash. Sox GM Theo Epstein and his charges created a big edge for themselves in constructing and deploying their roster, while the Yanks drastically misused theirs. Emblematic were Game Six's flailings of Sierra and reserve first baseman Tony Clark--two aged hitters with more than a few holes in their swings--which occurred while reserve outfielder Kenny Lofton looked on from Torre's doghouse. Can't anyone here run this team?

...As a fan, I look over this expensive Frankenstein knowing that it's laden with superstars, even future Hall of Famers, a team projected by PECOTA to win 95 games, second-best in all of baseball, and likely to provide a good run in October. The Big Unit aside, however, this has the feel of déjà vû all over again. It's not too difficult to imagine either Pavano or Wright as the next episode of Mystery Stottlemyre Theater, in which a previously effecive(ish) starter falls apart on the Yankee watch. Beyond that, it's even less difficult to envision injury-induced collapses, major or minor, of a few older vets, the kind that can turn a 95-win wild-card team into an 87-win squad making tee times in October.

Jay isn't the only member of Prospectus who is down on the Yankees. Joe Sheehan, a native New Yorker, and lifelong Yankee fan, has them missing the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

Bronx Banter Interview: Chuck Korr
2005-03-31 04:43
by Alex Belth

Part One

One of the best books that I've come across in my research for the Curt Flood biography for teenagers that I'm currently working on, is a history of the Players Association by Chuck Korr, "The End of Baseball As We Knew It: The Players Union, 1960–1981." Korr is a professor and sports historian at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. His book on the union is the ideal companion to John Helmer's "Lords of the Realm" (not to mention the "A Whole Different Ballgame," by Marvin Miller and "Hardball," by Bowie Kuhn). Now available in paperback, "The End of Baseball As We Knew It" won the Elysian Fields Quarterly's Dave Moore Award as the best baseball book published in 2002 and was runner up for SABR Seymour Medal for the North American Society for Sport History's award best sport history book of the year.

What distinguishes "The End of Baseball As We Knew It" is the fact that Korr had complete access to the Association's papers and files. It is a remarkably well-documented work, a simply fantastic resource for anyone interested in the history of the union. But Korr wasn't only interested in the Association's point-of-view; his interviews with Judge Robert Cannon, who presided over the union before Miller entered the stage, as well as John Gaherin, the owners' head negotiator during the Miller-Dick Moss years, give the book balance and depth. These two men, along with Frank Scott, who ran the Association on a part-time basis during the Fifties, are often overlooked. But they were key figures in baseball's labor saga, and Korr makes sure to get their side of the story.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Korr, who is a generous and engaging guy. Here is the first part of our conversation. Enjoy.

Bronx Banter: How did you manage to get access to the records at the Association and how did that help form your book?

Chuck Korr: Ted Simmons read an article I'd written that analyzed how free agency and large salaries for professional athletes in the U. S. and Britain had changed the relationship between them and the fans. He sent a copy of the article to Don Fehr, who was interested in it. Maryanne Ellison Simmons (Ted's wife and the founder of a very important magazine for wives in baseball, The Waiting Room) and Ted thought it was important to have a historian write about the union and suggested that I should look into the idea. I contacted Fehr and Marvin Miller and when both of them said they would make the records of the union available to me, I decided to set aside the work I was doing and see if it would be possible to write a history of the union. Fehr, Gene Orza, and Mark Belanger did everything possible to assist my work--they gave me an office space when I needed it and wrote letters to everyone whom I wanted to interview. Everyone involved with the union made a commitment to have no control over the final product. In fact, no one involved with the union saw any of the manuscript until after it had gone to the press for outside peer review.


Continue reading...

Dirty Work
2005-03-30 13:42
by Alex Belth

Does the New York Times have it in for the Yankees? The New York Post sure thinks so. Last Sunday, an editorial in the Times blasted the Yankees' plans for a new stadium:

While a plan is still being negotiated, the team seems to be acting like a superstar free agent and asking for the moon. The team is reportedly expecting the city and state to pitch in $300 million to build, among other things, a parking garage that would be used mostly during games. That is wrong, and if the city intends to give the Yankees Macombs Dam Park for its new site, the team - not the taxpayers - should pay to replace that open space elsewhere. The Yankees can boast that they would pay for the stadium - about $750 million - but under new rules they can deduct capital costs from annual payments to the league, so they will hardly feel the pinch.

The Yankees have the richest franchise in the league, and they have played the better part of a century in a depressed area of the South Bronx without adding much to the neighborhood. There are plenty of ways the team can give back, including helping to build affordable housing, schools and retail space in the area. The Yankees should also preserve at least the facade of the beloved House That Ruth Built.

The Times owns a piece of the Boston Red Sox. Yankee president Randy Levine told the Post:

"Not only were the facts cited in the editorial incorrect, but the arguments are similar to those emanating from rival teams worried about a new stadium rising in The Bronx."

..."Isn't it amazing that the Times never mentions the tax enhancements it receives for its projects, including the new Times building, when they pass judgment on other transactions?" Levine said.

"In the past 25 years, 20 out of the 30 major league teams have built new stadiums. Except for two, they all got public subsidies," Levine told us. "All we are asking for is infrastructure. Is the New York Times paying for the streets and subways around their building? Of course not."

Fight, fight.

Since You've Gone
2005-03-30 05:23
by Alex Belth

Even though he was roughed up in a minor league outing yesterday, Randy Johnson and the rest of the Yankees look relatively copasetic as spring training draws to a close. While there are new additions on both the Sox and the Bombers, many familiar faces are returning this season: Jeter, Posada, Bernie, Sheffield, Rodriguez, Matsui are still here, as are Damon, Bellhorn, Manny, Varitek, Nixon, and Millar. The clean-cut Yanks vs. the Dirt Bomb Sox. It will be interesting to see how the new guys figure into the rivalry. (It's a drag that Edgar Renteria is on Boston, cause I've always enjoyed rooting for that dude.) Boomer Wells is a beauty fit, that's for sure. Clement, Miller, Pavano and Wright change the look of the rotations, not to mention Mr. Johnson, of course.

But you know what's got me bugged out? The Red Sox without Pedro. He's been the most important player on their team since he arrived from Montreal in the late 1990s. With all due respect to Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro was the biggest star in Boston. Every series against New York, the talk revolved around Martinez: when was he pitching, was he healthy? The feeling was always that the Sox just had to win the game he started. I'm not saying the team is better or worse without him, just marketedly different. Life without Pedro will take some time getting used to.

Oh, and for those of you who are superstitious, SI has picked New York to win the Serious this year. That's bound to bring a sigh of relief to many card-carrying members of Red Sox Nation. If you believe in that sort of thing, that is.

Something to Remember
2005-03-30 05:11
by Alex Belth

A day after he was plunked on the left knee by a David Bush pitch, Tony Womack appears to be okay, at least physically. He's still peeved about the beaning though. His teammates weren't too pleased about it at the time either. Something to look out for when the Yanks face Bush again during the season.

Bing! Crosby
2005-03-29 20:11
by Cliff Corcoran

Hallelujah, Joe Torre got it right. The twenty-fifth man on the Yankee roster is . . . Bubba Crosby! Congratulations, Bubba. Allow me to suggest you wear a pare of dungarees under your uniform pants to avoid getting splinters in your bum.

Okay, maybe that's not fair, but getting Bubba on the roster, which is great, is only half the battle. The other half is getting Torre to rest Bernie once or twice a week and--rather than moving Matsui into center and starting Sierra in left, a possibility that seems to intrigue the Yankee skipper a little too much for my liking--start Bubba in his place.

Torre had several conflicting quotes today about the likelihood of this happening. The most promising was this:

"This guy [Crosby] may be a regular in a part-time situation, where he may play 2-3 games here or there"

More troubling was this:

"He can steal a base, and that's probably where he'll be utilized more times than not. We don't pinch-hit for many people, but we do have a couple of guys you'd pinch-run for. In that regard, he's a bonus for us."

And of course the ever-present:

"We do have options if we want Ruben to get some playing time, we can put Ruben in left field and move Matsui to center. [Matsui] is so good at what he does, that won't be a concern if that's the way we decide to do it."

Continue reading...

Ducks in a Row
2005-03-29 08:37
by Cliff Corcoran

According to the Associated Press, Joe Torre has set the Yankee rotation. Of course there was no mystery about which five pitchers would comprise the rotation, and Randy Johnson had already been named the Opening Night (what is this Broadway?) starter, but with three off days in the first two weeks, the Yankees have decided to skip their fifth starter until April 15. The question was, who is the fifth starter? The answer: Jaret Wright.

Here's how the Yankee rotation is expected to shake out over the first two weeks:

4/3 v Bos: Johnson (Opening Night)
4/4 off day
4/5 v Bos: Pavano
4/6 v Bos: Mussina
4/7 off day
4/8 v Bal: Brown
4/9 v Bal: Johnson
4/10 v Bal: Pavano
4/11 @ Bos: Mussina (Fenway Opener)
4/12 off day
4/13 @ Bos: Brown
4/14 @ Bos: Johnson
4/15 @ Bal: Wright

Which would set the order from there forward as: Johnson, Wright, Pavano, Mussina, Brown.

Continue reading...

Meet the Mets
2005-03-28 06:03
by Alex Belth

The place to be for Met fans is the newly-formed MetsGeek.com, which has a roster of eight writers, including Jeremy Heit and Matt Gelb. Andrew Hintz has a good interview with veteran New York sportswiter, Bob Klapisch up today. I like this exchange:

MetsGeek.com: ...Who's the best interview on the Mets?

Bob Klapisch: The best interview on the Mets right now, when he feels like it: Mike Piazza. He's a very thoughtful, opinionated guy. He's intelligent, and well-read, he's well-spoken and can fill up your notebook on subjects besides baseball, but you need to catch Mike on a good day and that's not very often. Usually he's not even at his locker, he just doesn't want to go through the whole interview process so he'll just hide out in the player's lounge or the trainer's room and will make a point of avoiding reporters. Even the days when he is at his locker it's hit or miss as to whether or not he feels like talking. The most consistent, polite and thoughtful guy is probably Tom Glavine. David Wright is such a nice guy that it's unbelievable I mean, I hope he never changes. He's the type of guy that you'd want to be friends with, that's how open and honest and accommodating he is, you always feel like you're welcome at his locker.

MetsGeek.com: Best interview in baseball?

Bob Klapisch: Overall, the best interview in baseball, in my career, is David Cone. I'd say the New York Met David Cone, by the time he got to the Yankees he had changed a little bit and he had gotten caught up in that Yankee corporate thing, where you need to be careful what you say. That philosophy tends to pervade everywhere, top to bottom in the organization, and it acts as a filter to how they answer even the most mundane question. So even David was influenced by that by the time he was at Yankee Stadium, but as a Met you couldn't find a more honest guy to tell you exactly what he was thinking all the time, regardless of how controversial, and I will miss him.

Count Down to Ecstacy
2005-03-28 05:22
by Alex Belth

It is gray, raining, and chilly in New York. Emily and I took a long walk yesterday down affluent Fieldston road and though there were several clumps of snow still littered around, we also saw a few fuzzy buds on the trees as well as batches of purple and yellow crocus' popping up. On the first warm day of the year, I'll generally be able to smell baseball, mixed in with the dirt and the blooming cherry trees. That didn't happen this weekend, but you can feel it coming. Each morning, there is more and more activity from the little birdies outside of our window, chirping and buzzing around.

It's hard to believe that in a week from now, we'll be recapping Opening Night. It sure has been one long, hard winter for us Yankee fans. And yet, once again, there is so much to look forward to this year. I know that I'm ready to go, although I'd be lying if I said I was stoaked about seeing the Red Sox this early in the season. I understand why it makes sense, but couldn't we just ease into it a lil' bit? The last few years I've wondered why the schedule-makers don't have the Yanks and Sox start and finish the season against each other annually. This year, they've finally gotten around to it. But I don't relish the hoopla this early. It feels like too much, too soon. But considering the WWF nature of this rivalry I suppose it is fitting. So for the first couple of weeks we'll be all jacked up. Things could be a lot worse.

Put Him In, Coach
2005-03-27 22:49
by Cliff Corcoran

With less than a week left before opening day, the battle to make the Yankee roster is intensifying. Most of the heat is on who will back up Bernie Williams in center, as that's generally assumed to be the only open spot on the Yankees 25-man roster. Of course it's not really that simple.

I'll get to that in a moment, but first, here's an update on the cuts the Yankees have made in the past ten days.

Continue reading...

All-Baseball AL East Preview
2005-03-25 09:27
by Cliff Corcoran

I'm just a dirty preview whore. Two days after participating in the Baseball Analysts' roundtable on the AL East, I've provided the Yankee entry in All-Baseball's AL East preview, which is now up on the main page over there.

In these previews I've been allowing my homerism to show through by picking the Yankees to win the division. At Baseball Analysts I was outnumbered three to one on that subject, but logic seems to win the day at All-Baseball, where Evan Brunell's Red Sox entry (written independently) confirms my belief that the Yankees remain the team to beat in the East. Check it out.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "why the hell doesn't he write something for Bronx Banter." Well, the good news is that I've turned in the book, so starting this weekend, I should be in full effect in this space. What's more, next week is Preview Week (TM) here at Baseball Toaster. We'll have a different set of predictions for you each day next week on the main page, so be sure to stop by for that. Opening Night at the Stadium is one week from Sunday. All systems go!

A Small, Good Thing
2005-03-25 05:02
by Alex Belth

"I love baseball. You know, it doesn't have to mean anything, it's just very beautiful to watch." (Woody Allen as Leonard Zelig)

Such was the case for the Yankees yesterday, when, in a meaningless game, everything seemed right with the world. Randy Johnson had his best performance of the spring, dominating the Atlanta Braves for six innings; Mariano Rivera threw another scoreless inning with ease; and the offense, led by Alex Rodriguez, Tino Martinez, Jason Giambi, and Derek Jeter, pounded out twelve runs.

People, get ready.

On the Mend
2005-03-24 05:29
by Alex Belth

There are puff pieces in the local papers this morning on Alex Rodriguez and Tony Womack. Meanwhile, Derek Jeter is scheduled to take batting practice today, but Bernie Williams is still aching. Unfortunately, this is something we are all too familiar with. It can't be much fun for ol' Bernie either:

"It seems to be a pattern with me, I guess," Williams said. "I figure there's nothing I can do about it. It just seems funny that every year something happens that throws my normal spring training pattern off."

..."Bernie works hard. It's just been tough," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He has had some problems in spring training, but I think since he had the problems with the shoulders where he had the surgery, I think he's gotten into a mode where he's doing what he has to do in the off-season, and he did that again this off-season." (Newark Star-Ledger)

Traditionally, it takes Bernie a few months to settle into a good groove. But considering his advanced age, you've got to wonder when his body will turn on him for good.

Nice
2005-03-23 05:12
by Alex Belth

Mariano Rivera pitched a three-up, three-down, six-pitch inning last night in the Yankees' 5-1 win over the Phillies. Oh whatta relief it is. Not only did Rivera look sharp, but Paul Quantrill pitched a scoreless inning as well. Jaret Wright started and tossed six shut out frames himself. In all, it was a good night for the Bomber's pitching. Hot dog.

Baseball Analysts' AL East Preview
2005-03-23 00:50
by Cliff Corcoran

As I inch closer to the land of the living, you can check out my thoughts on how the AL East is shaping up over at Rich Lederer and Bryan Smith's Baseball Analysts.

Rich and Bryan are doing what they call "two-on-two" conversations to preview each division, pitting two bloggers covering two different teams in the division "against" the site's charming hosts in a roundtable discussion that covers every team in the division (the Toaster's own, Alex "Cub Town" Ciepley was part of the NL Central discussion, as was Jon "Dodger Thoughts" Weisman for the NL West).

In the AL East edition, Patrick "Sully" Sullivan from The House that Dewey Built (a frequent Bronx Banter commenter) and I go head-to-head (and two-on-two) with Rich and Bryan. Enjoy!

Against the Grain
2005-03-22 10:24
by Alex Belth

The Yankees have been heavily criticized by the sabermetric community this winter for signing Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright. But alas, Ken Rosenthal thinks that Pavano and Wright are the key to their season. Not only that, but as much as it may pain him, Rosenthal is picking the Bronx Bombers to win it all. Go figure.

Coming Soon...
2005-03-22 05:41
by Alex Belth

According to Howard Byrant in today's Boston Herald, David Wells will start on Opening Night in the Bronx versus Randy Johnson and the Yanks. However, Curt Schilling is looked sharp in an intrasquad game yesterday:

"I felt very good...I thought I threw the ball with a lot more velocity. A lot more balls felt normal.

"I guess you could call it a breakthrough day in that I didn't have any issues, but the big thing is seeing how I bounce back."

There will be plenty of time for Schilling and Johnson to hook up this year. Plus, Boomer generally gets up for a big game. Regardless, there will be plenty to write about with him on the mound in New York against his former team. Whatever happens, it most likely won't be dull.

Now There's Something You Don't See Every Day
2005-03-22 05:09
by Alex Belth

Emily and I caught a good portion of the Yankees exhibition game against the Tribe last night. In his third at bat, Jason Giambi laced a long fly ball to deep left field. It sliced behind the left fielder and bounced on the warning track. Meanwhile, Giambi who was running hard out of the box, was storming around second, headed for third...I started yelling as he beat the throw for a triple. I turned to Em and said, "You'd better store that in your memory bank, cause we are not likely to see that again this year...or maybe ever." Giambi scored on Ruben Sierra's single through the left side, and was greeted by smiles all around from the Yankee bench. Rich Lederer--who wrote a fine piece on the late Dick "Monster" Radatz this past weekend--was watching too, 3,000 miles away from the Bronx, in Long Beach, California. He thinks the Giambi's feat was significant for a couple of reasons, belly laughs aside:

1. Giambi has only had eight three baggers in his entire career and not a one since 2002.

2. Jason actually ran hard and with enthusiasm, and he ran better than I can recall since joining the Yankees. His knees don't appear to be bothering him like they have in the past.

Giambi's hair is also longer than I can remember it being since he joined the team. I know it won't ever get as long as it was in Oakland, but as far as I'm concerned, the longer the better.


Continue reading...

Doh!
2005-03-22 05:05
by Alex Belth

You know why I don't make predictions? Cause I don't really enjoy it, and because it mostly proves how little I really know. Having said that I want to immediately revise my "hunch" about Gary Sheffield. Watching him bat last night I was thinking how it's virtually impossible to predict that his performance will fall off if he remains healthy. I know that is a big "if"--just like Bernie actually scoring 100 runs again certainly is--but I take it back. Nothing in my gut tells me that Sheff will be anything but a terror.

Hunches
2005-03-21 14:01
by Alex Belth

Okay, here goes a couple of dopey hunches I came up with this afternoon:

Javier Vazquez will have an outstanding year.

Jason Giambi will do better than expected, while Sheffield will have a down year.

Jorge Posada will suffer the first serious injury of his career.

Derek Jeter will score 100 runs again.

(Man, do I hope that Bernie can do the same, score 100 runs, and go out looking good.)

And for Cliff's sake, here's to the Yanks pick up Placido Planco before the trade deadline this summer.

Enough randomness for now. What you got?

What's Old is New
2005-03-21 05:13
by Alex Belth

Mariano Rivera threw a bullpen session yesterday, while Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams sat out with minor injuries, as Mike Mussina was roughed up by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. As Mussina explains, there are some days when you just don't have it. He told Newsday:

"As you get ready for a new season, some days it feels like you've never been out there before. For me, this is about the time when I feel kind of blah," he said. "It happens. You work through it."

I wonder if Moose ever has the dream that Nuke LaLoosh had, standing on the mound with nothing more than his jock and garters...n'aaah, probably not.


Continue reading...

Twinkle Toes Goes
2005-03-21 05:01
by Alex Belth

Man, I hate to see to see a great player like Robbie Alomar go out like this, just 276 hits short of 3,000. His brilliant career came to a resounding thud the day he was traded to the Mets. Still, I'll always remember how he mashed Yankee pitching for years. And, of course, his acrobatic defensive work at second base. My favorite Alomar move was when he went far to his left, got his mitt on a grounder, and then like a spinning top, left his feet and rolled to his left, falling into right field, while being able to keep his balance long enough--as if temporarily being able to float--to make a perfect throw to first and nail the runner. It was as gorgeous a move as I ever remember seeing a second baseman make, and Alomar seemed to have the patent on it.


Continue reading...

Talking in my sleep
2005-03-18 13:23
by Cliff Corcoran

I'm not sure how many of you caught my comment on Alex's Barking and Biting post this past Monday, but for those who didn't, it explains my absence in recent weeks (a.k.a. the entire history of this site). I'm still under the crush, but as the Yanks have hit the half-way point of spring training, I felt I really owed you guys some sort of catch up post. So here's a quick look at the first round of cuts the Yankees made last week.

Continue reading...

Bobby Be Berry, Berry Good
2005-03-18 04:49
by Alex Belth

Rany Jazayerli wrote a terrific article on Bobby Abreu yesterday over at Baseball Prospectus (registration required). Jazayerli contends that not only is Abreu the most over-looked star in the game today, but that he's on putting together a Hall of Fame career (Abreu is this generation's Rock Raines). Course, I know that I've not been alone in being a big Abreu fan--Joe Sheehan has raved about him for years. But it is nice to finally see a thorough appreciation of Philadelphia's durable right fielder. (I used to dream that Abreu would replace Paulie O in right field. Aaahh, so much for that.)

Here's the bit that struck a chord with me:

The main reasons why Abreu is so underrated are that rather than having one recognizable skill, he makes his game contributions in a variety of ways; and that rather than having an outlier MVP-caliber season surrounded by a series of lower-quality campaigns, he settles for giving the same MVP-candidate performance, year after year.

So the things that make him so underrated are the same reasons why, if anything, we should appreciate him even more.

I couldn't agree more. Reminds me of what Bill James once wrote about Bernie Williams:

[Williams is] So steady and unwavering he goes unnoticedÖIf a player is accomplished in three, four, five areas, it is harder to recognize the breadth of his total accomplishment. Williams spreads his accomplishment all over the statistical map. He hits doubles and home runs, he draws walks, he hits for a high average, he runs well, he plays a key defensive position, and he bats from both sides of the plateÖHe tends to be overlooked in the discussions of the best players because his talent isnít isolated in one areaóitís everywhere.

Let's hope Abreu remains healthy and continues to have a wonderful career.

Must Be in the Front Row...
2005-03-17 05:23
by Alex Belth

Jay Jaffe is the host of one of the longest-running baseball websites on the Internet, The Futility Infielder. He's also an author at Baseball Prospectus. And now, Jaffe's made his television debut. Good gosh, what a week. I haven't seen the clip yet, but I want to wish Jay kudos and congrats, and all of that good stuff. I can only imagine how nerve-wracking it must be to try and sound coherent, forget articulate on TV. Jaffe writes about his experience here and here. Go check it out and chalk one up for the good guys.

Speed Kills
2005-03-17 05:05
by Alex Belth

"Everybody wants to hit home runs...It's all about the long ball. Chicks dig the long ball. Maybe that's why I don't have any." Tony Womack

Every saber-friendly Yankee fan's favorite, Tony Womack has played well of late, impressing Joe Torre with his wheels of steal. So long as dude is batting ninth, there won't be too much bitching about him round these parts.

Meanwhile, Kevin Brown, whose fourth child war born on Tuesday, got served by the Pirates in an exhibition game yesterday. Needless to say, Brown wasn't exactly pleased with his performance. The Post reports:

"He's not happy when he gives up runs," said Mel Stottlemyre. "He didn't think he had anything. I thought he threw good.

"We got him to 78 pitches, right on target. He felt good (physically) afterwards, but he was disgusted."

Awwww, nutzo.

Finally, Mariano Rivera is expected to throw later today.

Take it E'z
2005-03-17 04:55
by Alex Belth

Jason Giambi, who was excused from having to testify before Congress, is having as good a spring as anyone could have expected. He isn't tearing the cover off the ball, but Giambi isn't especially anxious either. According to Tyler Kepner in the New York Times:

Giambi has one extra-base hit so far, a home run on March 7, and he recently told [hitting coach, Don] Mattingly that he wanted to hit more doubles. Mattingly laughed him off - "You can't direct it," he told Giambi - but he understood Giambi's larger meaning, that he wants to drive balls to the gaps.

"I don't talk about anything other than getting a good pitch and hitting the ball hard," Mattingly said. "If he's having a good path to the ball and he's seeing the ball good, he can hit. I don't worry about home runs. They'll happen."

Much as been made of Giabmi getting off to a good start once the season begins. Where do you think Torre will bat him in the line-up come Opening Day?

Mo'kay
2005-03-16 10:45
by Alex Belth

According to the Daily News, we shouldn't be overly concerned with Mariano Rivera's tender right elbow. But the Yankees (and their fans) are always cautious when it comes to Mo. As Will Carroll noted in his column for Baseball Prospectus yesterday:

Rivera hasnít had problems this early before, though the Yankees are used to him needing time off to rest and recover. The Yanks will watch him closely through the early season; Rivera makes his money in October.

Paul Quantrill was shut down yesterday with a pulled muscle in his rib cage. Quantrill has pitched with discomfort for several weeks now. Newsday reports:

If anything, the Yankees were pleased that Quantrill, a workhorse throughout his career, agreed to shut it down for two days. ("Any more than that and we're going to be fighting," he said.) But Quantrill thinks he made it worse by pitching through it.

"You think you can pitch through and all it does is set you back," Quantrill said. "We see that every spring. Everyone does it. Even being a veteran guy, you say it's not a big deal. For me, that's what I did. I said this is going to go away."

Has anyone seen Karsay this spring? He isn't looking good. I don't think the Yanks can expect much out of him this year, do you?

Should I Stay or Should I Go?
2005-03-15 05:16
by Alex Belth

Rich Lederer has a good piece about the most/least efficient base-stealers in the game. Alex Rodriguez (28-32) and Derek Jeter (23-27) are two of the most efficient; Bernie Williams (1-6) and Gary Sheffield (5-11) are two of the least.

Boo Boo
2005-03-15 04:57
by Alex Belth

Mariano Rivera has a mild case of bursitis in his right elbow and won't pitch until the end of the week. According to reports, Rivera should be able to throw a side-session on Friday. Hopefully, this isn't anything to be overly concerned with. Joe Torre told reporters:


"If you're going to have a result, this is one you can live with," Torre said, but later admitted that injuries to Rivera always are a little alarming because "he's like one of your regular players. He plays every day, when you win. So you're always concerned, but we weren't concerned for very long because the tests came back quickly." (N.Y. Daily News)

Carl Pavano tossed four scoreless innings against the Pirates in an exhibition game last night, and Tino Martinez hit a two-run dinger.

Guy Stuff
2005-03-14 05:15
by Alex Belth

Recently, Hank Waddles conducted a fine interview with Tom Stanton, author of "The Final Seaon," an account of the last season at Tiger Stadium. Stanton's other works include, "The Road to Cooperstown," and "Hank Aaron and the Home Runs That Changed America."

Here is an exchange that really spoke to me:


BC: You mentioned this a couple of times. I wanted to see if you could elaborate on it a little bit. Much is made about the importance of fathers and sons within the framework of baseball. You write about the bond you shared with your father through baseball, and several of the subjects in your book -- Al Kaline, Brian Moehler, for example -- speak of this as well. Can you talk about that for a minute? What is it exactly about fathers and sons and baseball?

TS: A lot of writers have been pondering that for a long time... Itís not easy to put your finger on. But the bond seems greater, in my case certainly it is, with baseball than it is with other sports. I donít think itís always just a matter of being a sport. But I think some of it is... one of the things that people who donít like baseball complain about is that itís a slow game. Thereís not continuous action on the field, and you have these dead periods of time when youíre watching. But one of the beautiful parts of that is it allows you to kind of have a relationship within the game with the people youíre experiencing it with, and in many of our cases the people we experience it with are family originally, in the early years. So I think our relationships are more tied to the sport in that sense, that you develop a very personal bond with the sport, or in my case with my father, watching those games either in front of the television or at the ballpark itself. Itís not continuous action, you have a chance to talk, whether or not itís a... itís not a contrived thing where youíre setting out to do that, but it just happens naturally. Youíve got your father talking about his childhood experiences, and the guys he rooted for, Greenberg and Gehringer in my dadís case, and then you kind of pass this love on for the game, and share this passion for it, and I think that canít help but create that bond and sort of reinforce it. And then you have the catches in the backyard, which... when youíre playing catch with your dad in the backyard itís different from maybe having a game of one-on-one basketball in the driveway. Itís not a competitive thing, in any sense. Itís just connecting with that ball going back and forth between you, and so I guess there are a lot of reasons. Iím not being very coherent or enlightening, but I do think it has to do with the pace of the game and the fact that itís been around a lot longer than many games, and so consequently you have the ability to have these family stories that go back generations are shared and then retold.

I didn't have a similar father-son relationship when it came to baseball, though baseball was a common ground for us. My dad was born in 1937 and though my grandfather rooted for the Giants, and was generally not interested in the sport, my dad was a rapid Dodgers fan. Through my grandfather's connections, my dad ended up at Yankee Stadium for the World Series often during the 1947-57 heyday. By the time I was growing up, pop was a defacto Mets fan, but wasn't an active baseball enthusiast any longer. We did connect through the game. He shared his memories from the past about the Dodgers with me on occasion and would use Ted Williams and Willie Mays as examples of how even the greatest performers have to put in blood, sweat and tears in order to be great, when he was giving the ol' 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration speech.

But our catches, while not necessarily competitive, were anything but relaxing. I don't think he was ever too eager about playing catch. As a result, he seemed agitated and impatient, consistantly whipping the ball too hard for me to handle. I'd ask to to slow it down, but he didn't hear me. My had would sting as I tried to make every catch. But I don't recall it ever being fun. My one clear memory of us having a catch ended with me throwing my mitt down and going inside after I couldn't take all of his pegs anymore.

But I've got a younger brother Ben who played a lot of baseball with me. Early on, I tortured him with the ol' Great Santini routine, but eventually we grew out of that, and by the time we were in our twenties, he came to regard each other as equals. Stanton is right on when he mentions the non-competitive nature of just having a catch. How wunnerful that can be. It is almost the perfect expression of non-verbal male communication. Sure, you can talk, but you don't feel neccesarily compelled to. You can give each other pop ups or grounders or pretend to be taking a relay throw. Horse around or just enjoy the act of throwing and hearing the ball pop in the other person's glove. Most of all, there is a rhythm, that is almost intimate, which defines a great catch. The sense of being connected to another guy through the simple act of throwing a ball back-and-forth, is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world. Believe it.

Speaking of Fathers and Sons, you've just got to head over to The Baseball Analysts and read Rich Lederer's piece about the day his father, a sports journalist, replaced Walter Alston and managed the Dodgers. It's a special post and we can only hope to see more of the same from the Lederer collection as the year moves on.

Barking and Biting
2005-03-14 05:05
by Alex Belth

With the steroids mess dominating the sports pages these days, it's enough for me to just not want to look. Reggie, McGwire, Jeremy Giambi are the lastest names to make the grade (Doc Gooden receives another "F"). Meanwhile, in Florida, Randy Johnson pitched three solid innings for the Yankees yesterday. He even was geared up enough to find the time to bark at the home plate ump some too, as John Harper reports in the Daily News.

We're Ready for Your Close Up, Mr. Plimpton
2005-03-11 11:29
by Alex Belth

Tom Verducci spent five days playing with the Blue Jays this spring, and his experiences make for the cover story in Sports Illustrated this week. Jay Jaffe has a wonderful post about Verducci's article. Check it out when you get a chance.

Did You Hear the One About...?
2005-03-11 11:00
by Alex Belth

Patrick O'Keefe IM'd me yesterday afternoon and asked if I heard anything about Mariano Rivera. O'Keefe told me that his site devoted to Mariano Rivera had it's all-time record attendence due to a bogus story that was making the rounds about Rivera being involved in a car accident. There was no truth to the story, and Rivera pitched one solid inning against the Blue Jays last night. In case you missed it, Jack Curry's story on Rivera earlier this week in the Times is worth checking out.

First Taste (mm, mm Good)
2005-03-11 10:47
by Alex Belth

So last night, Emily and I were sitting on the couch filling each other in on the events of the day. After awhile I clicked the TV on and discovered that the Yankees and Blue Jays were on YES. Our first game of the year. Em promptly announced, "Time to knit," which is what she does while we watch baseball. We watched the last four innings and saw Godzilla hit a three-run homer. I don't know why, but it was especially comforting to see him again. It was good to see all of the guys, and curious to see some of the new faces too. (Giambi looks really big again.) I have to admit, it was disorienting to see Tino Martinez in the line up. Talk about back to the future. It's going to take a minute to get used to seeing his coiled, intense self on this version of the Yankees. It was also nice to watch Joe Girardi, looking trim, hair buzzed low, sitting next to Joe Torre. Most of all, it was just great to see a baseball game, no matter how meaningless. And I was reminded of how lucky I am to have a partner who not only tolerates my love of the game, but actively enjoys it herself.

Nice Guys Finish Last
2005-03-11 09:54
by Alex Belth

There is a sympathetic profile of Jason Giambi by Nate Penn in the latest issue of GQ magazine. Giambi is anything, if not well-liked by those who know him:


On a visit to Yankee Stadium a couple of years ago, Bastion, Giambi's high school coach, toured Monument Park with an usher: "He raved about Jasonóhow he wasn't a complete asshole like Reggie Jackson and Barry Bonds. He said Jason is one of the nicest guys who's ever come through Yankee Stadium." Bastion falls silent for a moment. "And I really liked hearing that," he says softly. Former A's executive and current Blue Jays general manager, J. P. Ricciardi, says, "If you don't like Jason Giambi, you don't like M&M's." Indignant at the way the press has treated him, many of Giambi's friends came forward for this story to defend him. Tony Phillips: "He was a good guy before he did steroids, he was a good guy when he was doing steroids, and he's a good guy after he's not doing steroids." Mike Thalblum, Oakland's visiting clubhouse manager: "There's a handful of great players who are even better people. We named our first son after [former A's pitcher] Dave Stewart, and I would name a kid after Jason Giambi in a heartbeat." Barry Zito: "I can't say enough about who he is as a man. He did something that our former president didn't even have the balls to do, which was to come clean and admit to his mistakes. He knew that all the stuff that's happening was gonna happen, and he still did it. I fear the day when we find out that people possibly perjured themselves just to save their name when G didn't."

Several weeks after the grand jury leaks, Derek Jeter spoke out on Giambi's behalf. They later saw each other in Vegas, during Super Bowl weekend. "Jeter's support throughout the off-season has been something I will never forget," Giambi told me. "I know that he didn't have to take a stand publicly, but he did, and I can't thank him enough."

Giambiís greatest flaw seems to be his need to be a good boy, who wants to please everyone, all of the time. I can identify with this because I struggled with the same kind of need for years. Growing up, I wanted people to like me more than respect me. I thought that if I could get people to like me enough, all of my needs in life would be met. Well, I eventually accepted the fact that this was a fantasy. A nice fantasy, but a fantasy all the same. The truth is that I am a nice guy, so I donít need to bend over backwards trying to constantly prove it. It's exhausting, and not necessary. And I've come to the opinion that, as difficult as it feels at times, it's better to be respected than liked.

I believe that Jason Giambi is a nice guy. But in trying to accommodate everyone, he left himself vulnerable. Unfortunately, he doesnít have the luxury of being able to move through his growing pains in private like the rest of us. He has to make the transition from entitled adolescent to an adult under tremendous public scrutiny. Penn concludes:


Giambi trusts that if he works hard enough, he can make things go back to the way they used to be. But that's a little boy's dream, and he has to be a man now. "I hope that there will be a time when I can answer everyone's questions," he says, and you can tell he means it. That dayóand Jason Giambi's futureóis unimaginable, because no other athlete has ever gone through anything like this: "I really haven't thought about what it would be like." On his retirement day, he wants people to say "that I gave the Yankees my best and that I came back from a disappointing '04 season and was an important part of the team for the remaining years of my careeróand that we won several World Series."

...To win the approval of his father, Giambi, a natural righty, made himself into a left-handed hitter. To win the approval of the A's, he made himself into a pull hitteróone of the most extreme in the gameówhen he'd been taught to go the opposite way. Now, to win the approval of the fans, he will, like a penitent, travel from stadium to stadium to be mocked and jeered. He seems convinced something better lies on the other side of all this.

Of all the players who ever cheated this way, how strange that Jason Giambi is the first to be exposed. How troubling that he, the star least suited by temperament for this turbulent moment, must learn to bear it. And, finally, how sad to realize that it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Sometimes you've got to learn the hard way. I don't feel sorry for Giambi, but I am pulling for him.

New Bronx Buttas
2005-03-09 14:44
by Alex Belth

Hey yo, yo, yo. Welcome to Bronx Banter's new home, Baseball Toaster. After a great run at All-Baseball.com, we're starting f-r-e-s-h for 2005. Course it should be nothing short of another entertaining baseball season in the Boogie Down.

I'm proud to announce that Cliff Corcoran will be co-writing Bronx Banter with me this season. When I started this blog, I always dreamed of having collaborators, and I've been fortunate enough to have writers like Chris DeRosa, Edward Cossette, and Brian Gunn submit articles periodically. But I've long craved something more permanent. I don't pretend to be any kind of baseball expert, which is why I enjoying linking to other writing around the web. Now, there will be another distinct voice right here. I think the two of us will compliment each other nicely and be able to provide you with even more balanced Yankee thoughts and coverage than ever. Cliff is actually emotionally stable when it comes to the Yanks, which is comforting, knowing how nuts I tend to get when the going gets tough. What's really cool about having Cliff aboard is that he's a crack analyst. He does just the kind of stuff that I love reading but am not so interested in writing myself. I'm not going anywhere but now you'll get two writers for the price of none!

I'm sure a lot of you are already familar with Cliff's stuff, but do wish him a warm welcome (and not a Bronx Cheer) to the blog when you get a minute.

Also, bear with us for a minute as the technical kinks sort themselves out. As Robert DeNiro told his cronies in Good Fellas: "It's gunna be a good summer!"

Just Like Starting Over
2005-03-09 14:43
by Cliff Corcoran

When I was but a wee lad, knee-high to a sowís ear (er . . . whatever), my elders would often lean over me in a terrifying manner and say such horrible things as "enjoy it while you can, it wonít last forever" and "these are the best days of your life, you know." I took them for fools at the time. Still do. Certainly there are advantages to the responsibility-free lifestyle of childhood, but with that lack of responsibility comes a significant lack of personal freedom. School, for example, is downright fascist.

Still, one thing I do miss about the nine months of ritualistic abuse that comprised the school year is the optimism and clean slate with which I would approach each new grade in September. Armed with a brand new pencil case and the latest model Trapper Keeper, I was always sure that this would be the year Iíd complete every homework assignment (on time, no less), and get "a hundred" on every test. It never happened that way, of course, but that feeling of hope, ambition, and freedom from the previous yearís failures and shortcomings was invigorating, something Iíve never been able to recreate in a work environment.

The closest I come to that feeling as an "adult" is not the change over of the calendar, with itís empty resolutions and tradition of starting the new year on the worst footing possible thanks to the debauchery that ends the previous one (of which I generally donít partake), but the beginning of the baseball season as players report to spring training in late February and early March. Suffering from the same delusions that plagued me in past Septembers, each player arrives at camp with a brand new pencil case and the latest model Trapper Keeper, sure that this is the year theyíll learn to lay off the slider low and away, hit the cut-off man, avoid the injury bug, and finally work up to their potential and play well with others.

This year, that feeling for me is especially strong because of the confluence of spring training, my move here to Bronx Banter, and the launching of our new host, Baseball Toaster. So, with the crisp spring air in our lungs and visions of a 162-0 Yankee team dancing in our heads, letís all get out a clean sheet of loose leaf paper and, in our best, clearest handwriting, take a look at this yearís crop of Yankee campers.


Continue reading...

It's Only Going to Get Worse
2005-03-04 08:33
by Alex Belth

In the Times, Tyler Kepner captures one of the most interesting off-the-field realities that the Bronx Bombers will encounter this year:

The Yankees were on the field, but Jason Giambi was not. He was the designated hitter in the team's exhibition opener Thursday, and as the Pittsburgh Pirates hit in the middle innings, Giambi was back in the Yankees' clubhouse, taking shadow swings in full uniform.

The clubhouse TV showed the game, and some players milled around watching it. Then the commentators started talking about Giambi and steroids. Giambi stopped what he was doing and stared at the screen.

His expression never changed, and he never said a word. None of the other players did, either. Welcome to the awkward new world of Giambi, recovering ballplayer and reported former steroid user.

That's What I'm Talkin About
2005-03-04 08:24
by Alex Belth

Yesterday, David Pinto linked an article that Ed Price wrote in the Newark Star- Ledger about the Yankee line-up. Today, there is more good news regarding the prospects of Tony Womack leading off. It just may not happen. Looks as if Joe Torre is comfortable with Derek Jeter leading off and Womack hitting ninth:

Derek Jeter batted leadoff Thursday, with the new second baseman, Tony Womack, batting ninth. Manager Joe Torre said he expected to stick with that arrangement, mainly because he could not think of another everyday player who could bat ninth. (N.Y.Times)
Good as Golen
2005-03-03 13:54
by Alex Belth

Phil Allard has a good interview with the author Peter Golenbock over at NYYFans.com. It's part one of two, and worth checking out if you are into Yankee history. Speaking of which, peace to Repoz for linking this article on Jim Bouton early in the week. Here's a good one from the Bulldog:

"Baseball has become a gross game presented in a gross manner with loud noises and advertising,"Bouton said. "There's nothing beautiful about it. Nothing contemplative. Baseball's beauty is its timelessness. There's no clock.

"But now when you walk into a ballpark you are blasted with advertising messages and a big TV set in centerfield. You don't listen for the crack of the bat. Now it's all about home runs. It's not about bunting or moving the runner over and all the little things. It's just a different game.

"A home run is now as boring as the dunk is in basketball."

I remember that the Pirates had one night last summer where they shut down the electronic scoreboard and just had an organist play during the game. Man, I wish I could have been there for that. Not to be a snob, but it sounded so, well, civilized.

Shut Out
2005-03-03 13:43
by Alex Belth

The Veteran's Committe did not elect anyone to the Hall of Fame yesterday. (Say what you want about Maury Wills, but I don't get how he gets twice as many votes as Minnie Minoso...okay, I understand how, I just don't think it's fair.) In the Times, columnist Dave Anderson questions the committe's methods:

After two veterans committee shutouts, it's fair to wonder how responsibly do the Hall of Famers, especially the 58 ex-players among them, take their duty as voters?

Do they really study the two pages of statistics, rankings and highlights supplied to them for each of the 25 candidates on the ballot - particularly those of players from other eras whom they never competed against and probably know nothing about?

Do they just glance at the list and make a snap judgment?

...Particularly annoying is that three committee members did not cast a ballot. (A fourth committee member, Murray Chass, the baseball columnist of The New York Times, does not vote, in accordance with the newspaper's policies.) If they were ill, that's understandable. But if they simply did not care enough about the process to fill out the ballot, they should be removed from the committee. No vote this time, no ballot in two years when the committee will be polled again.

For more excellent Hall of Fame coverage, check out what my label-mate Mike Carminati has to say. (Oh, and while you are there, Yankee and Red Sox fans should definately read the first part of Mike's history of trades between the two teams.)

Breath of Fresh Air
2005-03-03 13:34
by Alex Belth

The Yankees play their first exhibition game of the spring today, and all is quiet in the clubhouse, much to the chagrin of some. Man, oh man, how I wish I was at home watching. Just cause, you know?

Doggin Em
2005-03-03 13:28
by Alex Belth

Former Met Al Leiter thinks that syndicated radio personalities Mike and the Mad Dog done him wrong. In today's Daily News, he tells John Harper:

"They influence not only fans but organizations," said Leiter, who is paid to do a weekly spot on Michael Kay's ESPN radio show. "Teams in New York listen to those guys. Why I don't know. One guy's a know-it-all, and his opinions are better than anybody else's, and the other guy is a clown who throws a ball 47 miles-an-hour and plays tennis.

"They called me every name in the book, and questioned my integrity. Chris said I was done in 2003, and then when I had a strong second half, he said, 'I guess I was wrong.' Like a 10-second retraction was enough after he ripped me up and down in every way as if I'd done something to his wife and kids."

Anyone listening to Fatso and Fruit Loops this afternoon? If so, let me know how they respond. I love bullcrap like this.

Oldies but Goodies
2005-03-02 12:44
by Alex Belth

So, will anyone be elected to the Hall of Fame later this afternoon? My vote would go to Ron Santo, Minnie Minoso, Joe Gordon and Dick Allen.

Tender
2005-03-02 12:31
by Alex Belth

Randy Johnson has a sore left calf and will miss his first spring training start. Johnson insists that this is not a big issue. Meanwhile, Kevin Brown pitched two innings yesterday in a intra-squad game and felt good when all was said and done. It would be curious if Brown ended up being a valuable contributor in 2005, particularly after how he finished 2004.

Back for Thirds
2005-03-02 12:08
by Alex Belth

Part three of Rich Lederer's chat with Bill James is up:

BJ: Rickey [Henderson] is one of a kind. Someone should write a really good book about Rickey. There is an essential connection between ego and greatness and no one better illustrated that than Rickey. When Rickey is 52, he will still believe that he could play in the majors. You can say that his ego is out of scale to his real world, but his ego is what made him so special. Somebody should document mannerisms and Rickey was a walking catalog of annoying mannerisms. He was a show. Every at-bat was a show. It's not like a Reggie Jackson show where it's done for television. It's a live show. It's done for the guys in the ballpark and the guys on the field. The show made him totally unique.

Tim Raines was almost as great of a leadoff man and almost as great of a player. Tim is a good guy, just a nice, reasonable person that everybody likes. Rickey is a show. [laughs] The show was essential to his greatness.

I really enjoyed this conversation. I can't wait for lunch.

Pass the Biscuits (Mirandy)
2005-03-01 08:47
by Alex Belth

Part Two of Rich Lederer's "Breakfast with Bill" interview is up. I like this exchange regarding a trio of James' former assistants:

RL:...I was wondering if you could talk about some of the different people that worked for you. The fact that your disciples have become notable in their own right reminds me of the success of Bill Walsh and his assistant coaches.

BJ: Jim Baker is a very talented person. I conducted perhaps an over-organized search for an assistant at that time and hired him. He was the most talented person I could find. He is an extremely funny writer. He's hilarious. I think everybody who knows Jim and knows how good his stuff is has been waiting for him to explode as a popular pop icon for 20 years. It hasn't happened yet and maybe it won't, but he's a very talented guy.

RL: Rob Neyer was your second assistant.

BJ: Rob is the easiest person to work with that I've had. I hired him just because I liked him. I knew he was a big baseball fan. It was sort of a trial thing and I didn't really know how long it would last. He is a natural assistant to me because I'm not organized enough to spend any time directing anybody's work. You give Neyer a stack full of baseball books and he's busy. He was naturally doing it by his own intellectual curiosity and interests so I never really had to worry about what he was doing, which was a good thing for me.

RL: How about John Sickels?

BJ: I hired John because I was looking for an assistant. We went to lunch and one of the things I did was draw up a list of young players. I thought I'd ask John to see if he knew anything about them as sort of an intern test. He knew far more about these players than I did! Just off the top of his head, he could rattle off where they were last year and what they were doing. I was quite amazed at that. John always had -- and it doesn't have anything to do with me -- an area of expertise. He always knew more about that stuff than anybody did. Through working with me, he was able to let people know all of the expertise he had in that area.

Homeboy
2005-03-01 08:38
by Alex Belth

Chris Smith has a good profile of Mets general manager Omar Minaya in the latest issue of New York magazine. I don't know whether or not Minaya is a good GM, but I like him:

In private conversation, the six-foot-tall Minaya leans forward, establishing an intimacy. Heís resolutely upbeat, flashing a broad smile, and instead of launching into monologues, he frequently stops and asks questions, appearing genuinely curious instead of slick.

...ďWhen you grow up in New York, you go to it,Ē Minaya says. ďYou donít expect it to come to you. Maybe some of the tools we learn as New YorkersóI donít know if the word is aggressive, but be proactive.Ē