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We're Havin' a Party
2006-02-23 05:36
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

It seems as if all the big boys at Yankee camp are happy, confident and looking forward to a successful season. Tyler Kepner reports:

Looking for a laugh, one reporter quickly asked [manager, Joe] Torre, "Who's the best owner in the major leagues?" [owner, George] Steinbrenner interjected: "Who's the best manager in the major leagues?" Then he pointed vigorously at Torre, who returned the gesture, and sat on the couch next to reporters.

Steinbrenner was oddly playful. At one point, he grabbed a notebook from a veteran reporter and scrawled, "For my buddy, George Steinbrenner." And before he entered the room, Steinbrenner had already told a small pack of reporters that the Yankees would win the World Series for the first time since 2000.

"In a while, we haven't won it," he said. "We're going to win it this year. We're going after it."

Joe Torre addressed the team for the first time and his words evidentally had more urgency than usual. According to Bob Klapisch:

This is our world, Torre said. This is what it means to be a Yankee. You'll be loved [and hated], respected [and despised]. Everyone will be watching from this moment on.

Torre insisted the message was meant for the full roster, including the minor-leaguers with no chance of making the team. But for [Johnny] Damon, the address was especially poignant: In Boston and everywhere else in the American League, he'd officially morphed into the enemy.

"I thought Joe's introductory speech really hit home," Damon said. "He talked about enjoying the game, not letting it pass you by, knowing we do have a good team. That's why the goal here is getting to the World Series."

Talk is cheap, of course, but in light of the debacle on 33rd street, it's comforting to know that George's collection of high-priced stars can actually deliver--if not a championship, then at least probably something close to it. As my friend Matt B said to me last week, the Bombers were awful for much of 2005 and they still won over 90 games and made the playoffs. Unless they are side-swiped by injuries--a very real possibility--we should be in for another entertaining season, don't you think?

Comments
2006-02-23 06:39:09
1.   Sliced Bread
The Yankees are perennially confident at Spring Training.
But this year, there does seem to be a sense of purpose, and a collective swagger that I have not detected since Spring Training '98, after the emerging juggernaut jackknived in Oct. '97.
These Yankees seem to be looking forward with a confidence and urgency that has nothing to do with their massive paychecks and egos (is there a non-millionaire, non-All-Star among them?).
This is a group of proud and talented players that has underachieved together.
This is a group of proud and talented players on a mission to seek and destroy.
But everybody knows this party will last only as long as the star soliders stay healthy, and the pitchers control the games.
Here's hoping the '06 Yanks are gonna party like it's 1998.
2006-02-23 06:51:56
2.   rmd0311
Well, I'm confident the Yankees will have an amazing season. I mean the main field players, nothing has changed, the outfield (with the exception of Damon) has stayed pretty much the same. I think the chemistry we need to play a la 98' or even 99' for all I care is there. I'm sure these Yankees are the Yankees that will turn this thing around for us.

The season seems to be an eternity away, when its really just a mere 5 weeks away. Maybe this WBC thing can cool my baseball needs. GO DOMINICANA...

2006-02-23 06:52:07
3.   bp1
1 "Party like it's 1998". Good words.

Alex - I enjoy your posts. You seem to be a glass-half-full sorta guy. Me too. I refuse to fester and stew in negativity over what we did or did not do in the off season. This is the team we got, and I'll take it over any other team in the league. No team is perfect. I don't know if the last half of 2005 made this collection of players a "team" or not, but it sure sounds that way. We'll see when the games begin.

Optimism rules here.

1998 indeed. Bring it on.

BP

2006-02-23 06:54:56
4.   Felix Heredia
It's hard to focus on baseball as the Knicks organization continues to ruin itself. Can you imagine the conversation between Isaiah and Dolan:

"What we need, boss, is another Marbury."

"Good idea Isaiah!"

Even more pathetic is the New York media. The same people who criticize the acquisition of Francis were the ones celebrating the arrival of perennial loser Stephon Marbury.

2006-02-23 07:10:31
5.   Ben
Good feelings abound. Instead of the cloud of expectation that seems to have hovered over spring training the past few years, all is sun shiny. I simply can't get over the lineup. It is by far the best I've ever seen amassed. I'm even optimistic about Pavano, I can see that guy coming into his own if his back cooperates.

Well I'm game, I'm a believer. Go Ankys!

2006-02-23 07:15:46
6.   Ben
Question for all you fantasy leaguers: I'm working on my rankings for a fantasy draft. I've got the positions ranked, anyone have a rubric for incorporating those position ranks into a master list? Maybe someone has a helpful link?

Thanks, -Ben

2006-02-23 07:17:20
7.   Sliced Bread
The talk out of Camp Yankee is great, but I'm even more encouraged by reports about Torre's new coaches, who are apparently teaching the 'old' Yankee dogs a few new tricks (if you consider "small ball" a new trick for the veteran Big Dogs).

Yesterday, I cited here a report about Tony Pena's "elaborate (or sadistic) catching drills," how he has Posada scrambling like a circus acrobat to catch multiple pop-ups.

Today, the Klapisch piece, on Alex's suggested reading list, has this:

"There are important differences, though, starting with the attention the Yankees paid to base running and holding runners on. The position players spent more than half an hour with third base coach Larry Bowa, going first-to-third and second-to-home, identifying many of the mistakes that cost the Yankees last summer.

Rodriguez said better baserunning would, by itself, "mean at least five more wins." And when Joe Kerrigan worked with the pitchers at keeping runners close, it was proof that the Yankees had decided to improve on the number of baserunners they'd caught stealing -- 29 percent, which actually was the American League average in 2005.

Still, it was worth noting how the Bombers intend to sweat every run this summer, no longer content to rely on monster home runs. Those fingerprints are Brian Cashman's. The general manager said, "We're going to do a lot of teaching and learning in the early stages of camp."

2006-02-23 07:17:23
8.   Knuckles
Holy ish, 1998 was 8 years ago already? Crazy to think about things like that.

The 1995 playoffs seem so recent. I remember being a freshman in college standing outside in the dorm courtyard with my Walkman (remember them?) held up in the air, trying to grab the 770 signal and listening to Leyritz's homer.

1996- the first WS for the Yanks that I remember in my lifetime (being born just after the '77 season ended). Getting thrown off a campus bus after Game 6 on the way to a party, b/c the drive was an angry Braves fan, and I was an obnoxious celebrating kid.

1997 feeling the sting of getting bounced, there'd be no repeat. Then watching in disbelief as an expansion team beat out the Tribe (and ducking all the chucked beer cans my Cleveland native roomate was tossing around).

Summer of 1998- working the road crew in my town (last summer job ever) and listening to day games in the truck or on headphones at work, watching pretty much every night game, and after a month or two, knowing, just knowing, that they'd destroy the opponent that day- no matter what.

1999 working at my first real job, in Manhattan, watching every WS game in a bar after work or at home with my dad. Starting to notice the fair weather fans start to creep in around the edges, depending where you went.

2000 the ultimate matchup for kids from my hometown, pretty evenly split between Mets and Yanks fans. Like the Devils-Rangers games we always would go to, only bigger.

2001 so much magic for those few days, and f'in Luis (57 HR my ass) Gonzalez...

2002 sucked

2003 unbelievable- too worn out by the ALCS to notice the Fish winning again.

2004 sucked worse

2005 never really got rolling

2006 c'mon let's get going already.

2006-02-23 07:20:08
9.   Knuckles
Ben,
Baseball Prospectus has an awesome player forecaster in its Fantasy section, where you input the size and type of league, # players on each team, stats you're using, etc. If you pay for BP, it's an absolute must. If you don't have BP (worth the $$) drop your email address and I'll shoot you a message.
2006-02-23 07:36:24
10.   Sliced Bread
Re: Cashman's widely publicized pow-wow with Sheffield the other day.

The NJ Star-Ledger calls Cashman's approach to the sensitive slugger a stroke of "pure management genius," check it:

http://tinyurl.com/lkcfs

2006-02-23 07:45:55
11.   gattling
Hey, Alex...thanks for the "Optimism Infusion". Reading some Yankee criticisms on the web recently regarding the overpaying of Damon, the resigning of the pivotal Miguel Cairo, and the "The-Yanks-Are-One-Year-Older" argument had me kinda down.

It's gonna get warmer soon, let's watch some ball!

2006-02-23 08:00:59
12.   Count Zero
"In a while, we haven't won it," he said.

OMG! Someone replaced Steinbrenner with Yoda! :-D

I'm feeling very confident. Then again, I felt very confident last year too. How can I not feel confident about the Yanks after the last three months of watching the Knicks play, and watching Zeke leave no doubt in anyone's mind that he's an idiot.

2006-02-23 08:09:28
13.   Dan M
Hopefully Pena will teach Jorge how to block the plate and catch baseballs thrown by outfielders and relay men. Catching pop-ups is nice, but Jorge messes up plays where runs are put on the board.
2006-02-23 08:14:43
14.   Shaun P
Hey Knuckles, just out of curiousity, where did you go to college? 'Cause I had the same experience with the '95 playoffs, watching Leyritz's home run from outside the dorm . . . thanks for the trip down memory lane!
2006-02-23 08:16:29
15.   bloodyank78
I'm really big on Bowa being in Pinstripes, no knock on Luis, but Bowa's going to be a much better 3B coach.
2006-02-23 08:19:39
16.   singledd
First off for '06:
A toast to Alex and Cliff, for the finest and most intelligent Baseball Blog on the Net (and this includes an intelligent and (mostly) reasonable participant base.
To 2006!
2006-02-23 08:26:27
17.   Knuckles
Shaun- JMU.
Out in the sticks of the Shenandoah Valley and in the evenings just barely in WABC radio range.
2006-02-23 08:31:43
18.   Ben
Knuckles, thanks for the tip

my email is benbelth@yahoo.com

2006-02-23 09:07:24
19.   brockdc
Sticking with the hope springs eternal theme, does anyone else besides me think that Andy Phillips is going to end up being a pivotal cog on the Yanks' roster this season? Just a hunch.
2006-02-23 09:18:10
20.   Cliff Corcoran
Dan M, Girardi taught Jorge to plock the plate last year. Check my IF postmortem on the sidebar under Suggested Reading, which links to other posts about Jorge blocking the plate in '05.
2006-02-23 09:20:42
21.   Shaun P
brockdc, yes. 'Cause he can hit, and (reality here not pessimism) someone will eventually get hurt, and Andy's got to be the next person in line, right? (Except if the hurt guy is Posada, of course)

Thanks Knuckles. I went to Union in upstate NY - some nut case pulled the fire alarm that night, and as we left the dorm, I grabbed my walkman (770 came in very clearly). Luckily, someone had turned their little 13" TV to face out the window - a crowd of us stayed outside, watching and listening even after we were cleared to go back in, not wanting to miss anything.

2006-02-23 09:30:07
22.   Dan M
Cliff, thanks for the referral. I had missed the post-mortems. However, the posts that you link to make the same point I made: Jorge can't block the plate AND catch throws at the same time. It seems that when he does one, he lapses on the other, and a run scores.
2006-02-23 10:15:56
23.   Cliff Corcoran
I agree with you there, Dan M, but I think getting his body in front of a charging runner was a major mental obstacle for him. It may be too late now, but here's hoping that, having done that last year, he can be more comfortable with it this year and can start catching the throw as well.
2006-02-23 10:45:41
24.   Rob Gee
You know just got to you guys today and reading Alex's intro I thought about 1998 -

Then Sliced 1:

Indeed - let's party like's it's 1998.

(But maybe pray a bit more)

2006-02-23 10:56:09
25.   Rob Gee
BTW: Check the Spring Training pics on Newsday site. Georgie plays peek-a-boo.
2006-02-23 11:47:25
26.   Sliced Bread
The peek-a-boo Steinbrenner pics are wacky (but not in a straight-jacket way).
As long as he's not storming into camp, dressed up like a decorated field general, and driving a tank, (which actually seemed possible back in the day) the bold and benevolent King George is cool by me.

Any significance to the number 9 on his golf cart? Tribute to Maris? The number of reporters he's used as a speed bump?

2006-02-23 11:51:51
27.   Cliff Corcoran
Re: George's #9: Could it be that Graig Nettles Day is in our future? (answer: no)
2006-02-23 13:01:58
28.   claybeez
Another JMU Yanks fan here. Though when I was there I didn't get to do much celebrating, class of '93. For '98 I was watching truncated versions of the WS on Sky Sports at the Sports Bar in Barcelona. Sky basically edited out any 1/2 inning with no scoring. I was just glad to have something.
2006-02-23 20:20:05
29.   vockins
JMU grad Yanks fan number three here. Graduated in '95, lived at the top of the Village freshman year, then on E. Grattan.

Knuckles and claybeez - if you want a good laugh, read the tripadvisor.com reviews of the Belle Meade Inn I've linked below. I think anyone would appreciate them, actually. Classic.

http://tinyurl.com/j7rsf

2006-02-24 06:24:49
30.   Knuckles
Holy cow- whole lotta Dukes hanging around here.

Belle Mead in was one of the nastiest places in town. They probably only got visitors on Parents Weekend, Homecoming, and Graduation. I did enjoy the driving range nearby though- where if you really got a hold of one, you could hit it into a field of cows.

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