"I swing and miss and sometimes I don't feel anything. Then I check the swing and I feel like somebody just shot me." Gary Sheffield (N.Y. Post)
The first guy I roomed with in college was and is a piece of work. Hank Mayo Flynn III streaked across campus during our first week of school. These days he works as the public address announcer for your very own Staten Island Yankees. Hendree grew up in North Carolina but moved to Long Island when he was in high school. For that reason, he became a defacto Jets fan. I remember one Sunday afternoon in the early 90s, Hank and I sat down to watch the Jets with our pal Lomain and after something bad quickly happened to our boys, Flynn announced, "Well, it's gunna be another long, stupid season for the Jets."
I liked the simplicity of that statement, and ever since I've used it as a mantra watching the Jets. (The statement fits the Knicks to a tee as well.) I don't get worked up one way or another with the Jets any longer. I just remind myself that they are destined to have long, stupid seasons, and everything is OK. Mostly, I laugh a lot.
Long and stupid are words that come to mind when Taynon Sturtze pitches for the Yankees, and I repeated Hank's mantra last night in the bottom of the first inning, determined to find some humor in the mess Sturtze had worked himself into. (Sturtze is just the kind of lunkhead that Henry would appreciate.) After giving up three hits, the game was tied (Derek Jeter hit a solo homer in the top of the inning). Sturtze walked Mark Teixeria to load the bases and then plunked Gary Matthews Jr to force home a run.
Brian Jordan followed with a low line drive to right field. Gary Sheffield waited on it for a moment, caught the ball on his side, and then fired a strike to the plate to cut down Hank Blalock for a double play. It turned out to be a key play in the game. In the second, Regilio did his best Sturtze impression walking the first three men he faced. John Olerud tied the game on a force and Migel Cairo's sac fly put New York ahead for good. (Bernie Williams later added a sacrifice fly of his own.) It was a sloppy game with both teams making mistakes on the bases. In addition, the Yankees left a ton of men on base, unable to get any key hits.
Sturtze managed to work through the fifth and then the Yankees' rested bullpen trio of Quantrill, Gordon and Rivera shut Texas down for the win. As the Yankees went through the post-game high-fives and fist-bumps, Derek Jeter barked at first base umpire Angel Hernandez. Jeter was correctly called out by Hernandez late in the game on a close play at first. I couldn't exactly tell what happened when the game was over but it looked like Hernandez shot Jeter the evil eye as he was running off the field. Jeter is generally competitive but he usually doesn't get that heated with an ump. Herandez will work behind the plate tonight. The Red Sox creamed the Devil Rays and remain nine-and-a-half behind New York.
It is clear to anyone watching the Yankees these days that Gary Sheffield is playing with a lot of pain. He can't lift his left arm over his head and he practically catches fly balls down by his waist. How bad has it gotten for Sheff? Bad enough for him to consider retiring. According to the Daily News:
"I'm not ruling anything out," Sheffield said. But then he added, "I may feel differently tomorrow."
...Meanwhile, Sheffield is battling the mental part of his injury. Generally, he does not strike out much, but entering last night, he whiffed six times in his last 12 at-bats and admitted that swinging and missing, the point when he feels the most pain, is on his mind. Last night he did not strike out; he walked three times instead.
"You tell yourself when you go up there, you know what you're dealing with," Sheffield said. "I go up there trying not to get two strikes on me and I wind up with three strikes. That's what happens when you play mind games with yourself. Usually, I don't think about that when I hit.
"Now I feel like I'm a defensive hitter. ... There are a lot of emotions that go with playing how I'm playing."
Meanwhile, Jason Giambi is in Tampa rehabbing. Yesterday, a clean-scrubbed Giambispoke to the media. Characteristically, he said little; however, he looked much better and hopefully, he'll rejoin the team soon. It would make for a great story if he can contribute down-the-stretch, especially in light of Sheffield's injury. Can't wait to see you back in the line-up, ya big lug you.