It’s difficult to remember a more historic stretch of days in baseball, with Bonds’ 755th home run, A-Rod’s 500th blast, and Tom Glavine’s 300th victory all taking place within 36 hours of one another. The closest time frame I can come up with is June 11th and 13th, 2003, when the Yankees were protagonists on banner nights. On the first night, the Yankees, who hadn’t been no-hit since Baltimore’s Hoyt Wilhelm stifled them in 1958, were no-hit by a record six Houston Astros pitchers (a game that featured a record-tying four-strikeout inning from future Yankee Octavio Dotel). Two nights later, Roger Clemens eclipsed the 4,000-strikeout mark and won his 300th game versus the St. Louis Cardinals.
(I’m not big on mementos, but I covered three of Clemens’ four shots at 300, including the winner. I still have my scorecard. It’s the only card I ever kept in five seasons reporting on Yankee games for YESnetwork.com. )
As soon as A-Rod hit 499 on July 25th, was there any doubt that he would be the story every game thereafter until he finally hit the 500th? And was there any doubt that despite what he told Kim Jones after hitting No. 499, that 500 was only creeping into his mind “a little bit,” he would later admit what was obvious to everyone watching, that he was trying to hit the home run in every subsequent at-bat? The tabloids were brutal up to the point that he hit the home run (see Deadspin for a hilarious take on the home run, including a sweet David Bowie/Flight of the Conchords tie-in). Then, as is usually the case, the angles shifted from the significance of the home run — not just from a historical standpoint but in the context of the game, it gave Phil Hughes an early 3-0 cushion — to all the ancillary stuff that in a way demeans the achievement. Stories of who should get the ball, A-Rod or the Rutgers student who grabbed it were everywhere. In the Post’s case, where Cynthia Rodriguez was when he hit it (I know I’ve written a lot about the off-field A-Rod stuff, but even if I was editor of the Post, I wouldn’t care where A-Rod’s wife or alleged mistresses were when he hit the home run.)
The juxtaposition of A-Rod and Bonds will grow even more now that the man who used to look like Morris Day is baseball’s all-time home run leader. The prevailing thought is that A-Rod will be the record holder when all is said and done; Bill Simmons referred to it in his ESPN Mag column, as did the Associated Press in its recap of 756. The Post’s George Willis asks the question that I would ask: Sure, A-Rod’s got the talent to do it, but does he want to play 10 more years? Within the Willis column are some sharp quotes from Joe Torre bashing media coverage of “the third baseman.”
The other component to the A-Rod 500-homer story — and it’s a reasonable hypothesis — regards the skeptics’ view that the outpouring of support during A-Rod’s chase for 500 and the “MVP” chants filling the Stadium have an ulterior motive, to coax A-Rod to staying in New York. Newsday.com’s Jim Baumbach provides some insight on this topic. The man himself said, “It’s two different things.”
My feeling is this: if the Yankees reach the playoffs and A-Rod maintains his regular-season level of production, the Yankees will pony up the cash to re-sign him and still have some left over for Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada. If the brain trust were willing to spend $25 million and change to earn the rights to talk to Kei Igawa — oops — a $30 million per year extension over four years is not out of the realm of possibility.
* So the Kansas City Royals smacked Phil Hughes around. Does that mean he’s not the future ace of the rotation? Nope. Any Yankee fan who expected him to go out and throw another no-hitter needs a reality check. Saturday afternoon's FAN host, Lori, was incorrect in saying that the best way he'll learn is by picking the brains of Clemens, Pettitte, Rivera and Guidry
Bob Klapisch asked Hughes about this, and the 21-year-old said: "I hope people don't think I'm going to throw a no-hitter every time, because obviously that's not going to happen."
Judging from some of the calls into WFAN and 1050 on Saturday and Sunday, there was that sense. Nothing like judging a guy after three major league starts.
* Even if you’ve seen George Steinbrenner in recent years or heard his quotes and thought, “You know something, George got old,” the Franz Lidz Conde Nast Portfolio story of GMS III is disturbing on many levels. The content of the story itself did not bother me. It generally reflects what the public may be thinking of Mr. Steinbrenner at his advanced age of 77; he’s not the volatile public figure he once was. But he is still a commanding presence and deserves better treatment, as Wally Matthews notes. To use Steinbrenner’s 84-year-old friend as bait to tap into a story that really isn’t a story — if Mr. Steinbrenner is in failing health, the Yankees have remained quiet — is antithetical to journalistic ethics. Maybe there are no journalistic ethics anymore.
* Joba Chamberlain. The Star-Ledger’s Dan Graziano, an erstwhile Yankees beat writer turned national baseball columnist for the paper, had what I thought was the best story on Chamberlain and how his call-up could affect Joe Torre’s tenure and legacy as Yankees manager. Interesting stuff.
Oh, and we need to put a moratorium on Joba and “hut” references. Now.
* Met fans are a trip. There’s an overwhelming sense of doom not unlike what Red Sox fans used to harbor. In addition, there’s a certain faction that has a rather peculiar obsession with the Yankees. Part 1 of this story: Riding the train home tonight, I overheard one commuter — a Met fan — saying how this series with the Braves was “the season.” It’s not, but getting smoked in the first game of the series doesn’t do much to validate that the Mets are the better team. Part 2: If I was hosting a radio talk show, and a Met fan asked about the chances of the Mets and Yankees facing each other in the World Series, I’d hang up on the person. Seriously. Would a Subway Series rematch be awesome? Absolutely. But I get the sense that Yankee fans do not care who the opponent is, provided the Pinstripers get that far. Met fans have been asking the question since May. It’s time to stop. If the Mets reach the World Series and play the Red Sox, Tigers, Indians or Angels, and defeat those teams, is their championship invalid because they didn’t beat the Yankees? Of course not. I know plenty of Met fans who loathe the Yankees and don’t follow them at all. The people calling into the various radio programs could learn something from that group.
* Roster moves. Finally, some dead weight is gone. DFAing Mike Myers and Miguel Cairo and sending down Brian Bruney, a surprise because Torre loves him, were the correct moves at this time. I'm curious to see what happens during the remainder of the waiver period. Keeping Melky Cabrera as the everyday centerfielder is a step in the right direction also. Keep the momentum going. Jason Giambi's $20-million price tag this year doesn't guarantee him a spot in the everyday lineup.
NETWORK FOR SALE, SORT OF I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this story. When the news broke that Goldman Sachs was looking to sell its stake in the YES Network, many family members and friends e-mailed me the link to the story and expressed shock at the possible worth of the network. To me, it’s not a shock that Goldman is looking to get out, or that the asking price could be in the mid-billions.
Two and a half years ago, Leo Hindery stepped down as YES Network’s CEO and shortly thereafter, Tracy Dolgin, who made a name for himself in marketing at FOX Sports, took over. In November of 2004, several people across many departments were let go as corporate restructuring began. In nearly three years at the helm, Dolgin has done what a good business man does: assesses the landscape of the company, brings in his own people, moves the company forward and increases revenue. There was a general feeling among some of my colleagues — and I’ll confess, me — that the goal was for Dolgin to do exactly what he’s done, take the profit margin to the YES board and then Goldman would likely sell its stake in the company. It was a matter of when, not if.
I don’t know what’s going to happen to the Network. I do hope that in the event of a sale and potential restructuring, that the efforts of my friends and colleagues who helped YES get to the point where its value is so high are recognized and they can further their careers there.