Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Monthly archives: June 2003


2003-06-30 08:43
by Alex Belth


I made my radio debut over the weekend, interviewing Jim Bouton about his new book "Foul Ball" for Baseball Prospectus Radio (hosted by Will Carroll). The interview should be archieved on BP's website by the middle of the week. I'll keep you posted so you can download it and check out the latest words of wisdom from Bouton, one of baseball's most irreverent and compelling characters.

I was anxious about appearing on the radio, but we taped the conversation on Friday, and thanks to the miracle of modern editing, I'm sure I came across okay (I haven't heard the final version yet). Will gave me some great tips which calmed my nerves, and quite frankly, Bouton makes a living as a motivational speaker, so he wasn't exactly difficult to talk to. We spoke for close to 45 minutes and I believe Will cut it down to 18 minutes for the radio. The rest of the interview will appear here at Bronx Banter in a few weeks, just around the time Bouton returns to the Stadium for Old Timer's Day (July 19th).

SWEPT AWAY After the Yankees
2003-06-30 08:05
by Alex Belth


After the Yankees polished off the D-Rays with a 4-3 win Thursday afternoon (Giambi, and Mondi homered, Mussina picked up the win, and Mariano had an rough ninth inning, but notched the save), they returned home and took care of the Mets in convincing fashion, taking all four games over the weekend and sweeping the season series. But before they left Tampa, Lou Pinella threw a good tirade at one of the laziest players in the league, Ben Grieve, who struck out looking to end the game:

Grieve took a third strike from Yankees closer Mariano Rivera; Piniella was upset that Grieve didn't question the call by umpire Wally Bell. ''I asked [Grieve] if the ball was high, and he says, `I thought it was high,' '' Piniella said. ''I said, `Then why didn't you say something?' and he says, `It doesn't matter.' I said, `Well, what the hell do you mean it doesn't matter? It matters to me, and it matters to everybody else.' Rivera's a tough pitcher; I'm not expecting anything. [But] I'm expecting if you think the ball is high to tell the umpire it's high instead of walking off to the damn dugout. And then getting a response like that after we busted our [expletive] out there for nine innings trying to win a baseball game -- it does matter! It matters to me and it matters to a lot of damn people in this clubhouse. And when it matters to everybody, we'll start winning more [expletive] baseball games around here.'' Grieve insisted he never used those words. ''He keeps yelling at me and yelling at me, and I'm like, wait a minute, Lou,'' Grieve said. ''I'm saying [Bell] doesn't care. I'm not saying that I don't care. It's one thing if he's mad at me because I don't show emotion and I don't argue. But those words, `It doesn't matter,' make me look bad. And that's not what I said.'' Long before Piniella came to town, Grieve was criticized for being too laidback. ''I know exactly why he's mad,'' Grieve said. ''He was so frustrated about losing. And if he does think that I don't care, then he does have a right to yell. But I'm up in the cage during the game taking 200 swings. If I didn't care, I'd be in the dugout laughing or joking around or whatever. I'm able to care without showing emotion, which is something that obviously most people don't do.''

David Wells was less than sharp on Friday night, but he was able to hang on for the "w." He had several cursing fits which were worth the price of admission. The most memorable play of the night was when Jose Reyes slapped a ground ball to center field for a single and then turned on the jets and made it to second before Hideki Matsui could get the throw in (more bad words from Boomer). To be fair, Matusi didn't exactly pull a Reggie on the play, although Reyes did his best Mickey Rivers immitation.

I missed the first game of the Bronx-Queens double-header on Saturday, but was pleased to hear that Godziller hit a grand slam and drove in five runs. Clemens pounded the Mets and got the win. I was able to watch the major league debut of Brandon Claussen on Saturday night however, and was duly impressed. The kid needs to see a barber even worse than Matsui, but he was cool, and composed and pitched very well.

Giambi and Matsui put together several excellent at bats against Tom Glavine, taking the outside pitch the other way. It was a sight for sore eyes, especially with the likes of Raul Mondesi and Juan Rivera in the line-up (Soriano and Jeter lead off the game with homers to right). Later that night, I was thinking how much better the Yankees will be when Bernie and (knock on wood) Nick Johnson return. Even if Johnson isn't 100%, he is patient and isn't going to give away at-bats.

The Mets made a dramatic comeback against the Yankees bullpen, but fell just short, and lost 9-8. Giambi's solo homer proved to be the winning run. Joe Torre brought in Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning. With one out and the bases juiced, Raul Gonzalez hit a bases-clearing double but was caught off second base in no-man's land when the throw came back to the infield. Soriano chucked the ball to third, but the throw was low and Enrique Wilson made a beautiful pick to save an error---and perhaps a run---and then threw to second to get Gonzalez. End of threat. End of game.

Last night, Jeff Weaver made an early mistake to Jeromy Burnitz who hit a three-run bomb off of him in the first inning. But he didn't fall apart. Instead Al Leiter--who is having his worst year as a Met--was tagged in the third inning for three homers (Giambi, Matsui, Posada), and that was all the Bombers needed for a 5-3 victory and a season sweep of the Metropolitans.

Thank God it's over. The Yanks have won 15-17, and are now at the half-way point of their season (51-30). They play three games against the O's starting tonight, and then face the Bosox for the big holiday showdown this weekend.

2003-06-26 13:47
by Alex Belth


Tom Verducci makes an accurate point about the Yankees in his latest column:

I think the more the Yankees squirm, the more they sink into quicksand -- Jeff Weaver, Raul Mondesi, Ruben Sierra, Juan Acevedo . . . hardly the pillars to restore the grinder's mentality the Yankees have lost. I might fear the Yanks' money -- will they blow away Vladimir Guerrero with a huge offer when he becomes a free agent in the offseason? -- but I don't fear their future.

SWEATIN' Red Sox or not,
2003-06-26 13:26
by Alex Belth


Red Sox or not, I want to take a moment to bow down to Nomar Garciaparra, who is having a tremendous month. I hope he never leaves the Sox; they deserve a great player like him.

Also, I want to sweat one of other my personal favorites, Carlito Delgado.

Oh, and a reader just informed me that Luis Sojo won't be allowed on the bench during the season. Bummer for us. At least we know he'll be chillin' in the clubhouse.

ISSUES For some reason, blogger
2003-06-26 13:13
by Alex Belth


For some reason, blogger has cut off the first half of my post today. If you click on the link at the bottom of the article however, you can find the whole thing. I would take a minute to kvetch about blogger, but why bother?

It's well over 90 degrees in New York and I'm going out to Shea tonight to catch the kids---A. Heilman vs. Dontrelle Willis. Hope it's a good one.

2003-06-26 12:50
by Alex Belth


The Yankees made a minor trade yesterday afternoon with the Indians. The Bombers get outfielder Karim Garcia---who was with the team last spring---and right-handed reliever Dan Miceli. Mike Thurman, and your boy Charles Gipson!who'd a thunk it?---were designated for assignment.

(Picked off three fuggin times. Pack your bags jelly legs.)

Garcia has been hurt, but he's a better outfielder than Juan Rivera, Bubba or Ruben Ruben. He is a lefty who can hit with a little bit of pop too. The line on Miceli this year is 3.79 ERA in 35.2 innings. He's got 37 strikeouts.

Can't be worse than wack-ass Al Reyes---or Juan Acevedo, right?

And would you believe there is more. In the feel-good maneuver of the year, the Yankees have brought back one of the most popular Yankees of recent times---both in the clubhouse and with the public---none other than uncle Luis Sojo. I kid you not. Santa Clause is coming to town. And he'll be traveling with the team for the duration.

At least we know some common sense still exists in the Yankee command. I'm not suggesting that Sojo will make the Yankees a better team, but he makes them a significantly more enjoyable and likable team. Just being able to watch his fat ass on the bench every night for the rest of the summer is going to be one of those small pleasures that make life worth living.

Luis was interviewed on the Yankee pre-game show last night and was asked where he was when the Yankees contacted him?

"In Mexico."

Sojo has been hired as a "special assignment instructor" but he's really being brought back to be Jose Cardinal, the coach/liason to the Latin players. He is berry chappy to be back with the Jankees, babies. And let me speak for Yankee fans everywhere when I say we're happy to have him back. Even if the ol' mule won't be able to pick out a bat and pinch hit anymore---and don't discount that happening at some point either---Luis is the luck rabbit's foot the Yankees have been missing this year. Jeter isn't really the Bomber's lucky charm, it's his fairy godfather, Luis Sojo.

When you think about it, Sojo should have been treated like Lou Pinella, and should have moved directly from player to coach. Why wait? The Yankees haven't had a coach that could relate to the Latin players in a minute, and Joe Torre was frank in his pre-game interview when he said that they hope he'll have a big influence on Soriano. We already know that Jeter adores him, Posada loves him. I'm sure Mel, Zim, Torre, Willie and Maz love him too.

Sojo described how many of his old teammates jumped all over him with excitement when he showed up in Tampa yesterday. Forget Uncle Buck, this is uncle Luis. It was great watching Luis being interviewed too (I love his big head, which looks like it came right out of the pages of Mad Magazine). In interviews, Luis follows the standard jock-speak formula, but some of his line readings are priceless. He's not a pushover and not a clown, just a naturally funny man. Sojo, like Tim Raines, is a cut-up, the guys who help relieve the tension in a clubhouse. Or spark a little fire.

Meanwhile the Bombers walked all over the Rays 8-5 last night as Tampa issued twelve walks. Andy Pettitte was less than spectacular but he got the win. It's funny, but Pettitte is one of the rare players who has been with the Yankees for a long time that I've grown to like less and less as time goes on. I'm sure it will feel weird if and when he goes to another team, and maybe then I'll look back on his time with the Yanks with fondness, but I can't remember an instance like this where I feel less loyal to a longtime Yankee.

Jason Giambi was in the line up despite a bruised wrist and Derek Jeter is starting to swing the bat much better.

Bernie Williams took batting practice with the team before the game, but the news on Nick Johnson isn't as encouraging. Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus had this to say in his UTK column yesterday:

The fracture news isn't as good for Nick Johnson. Johnson is expected back around the All-Star break, but there are whispers that the bone scan done on Johnson had very troubling results. Some Yankees officials think that Johnson should be dealt as soon as he looks healthy, making brittle Nick someone else's health problem. (For the record, if I'm a GM, I'll take that risk and buy low.)

I can't say I'm surprised about the Johnson news, but I feel badly for the guy. I hope he can stay healthy enough to enjoy a somewhat productive career.

2003-06-25 12:33
by Alex Belth


One of the greatest joys of being a baseball fan is that every season brings something new and exciting. How many times do you say, "Wow, I've never seen that before," or "That was the best _____ I've ever seen?" Well, it usually happens several times each year. A few weeks ago my cousin told me that D. Erstad made a catch against the Mets---I missed it---that was clearly "the greatest catch I've ever seen." And just this week, Rob Neyer made the following observation:

I've watched it a dozen times, frame by frame, just to make sure. And after those dozen times, I remain confident that I've never seen a pitch quite like the curveball with which Mike MacDougal struck out Albert Pujols on Sunday in the bottom of the ninth.

And you can't beat that with a stickball bat.

2003-06-25 12:16
by Alex Belth


I guess George will have to stifle it for at least one more day. The birthday surprises didn't end with Marlon Anderson last night, as Juan Rivera did him one better by tying the game with a three-run job of his own in the ninth. And Mr. Maligned, Todd Zeile came through with the game-winning hit to boot. Ah, me of little faith. A reader wrote in a suggested that I might want to root against the Yankees more often.

Larry Mehnken (Replacement Level Yankees Blog) hit the nail on the head:

An individual game can be both great and awful; full of excitement and joy, but at the same time frustration and forboding. For the poor teams, the former is what matters, but for a team like the Yankees, that is trying to win a pennant, it is the latter. Tonight, the Yankees won, and they won in exciting fashion, but the win was due more to the quality of their opponent, not their play. They did all they could to lose, and had it not been for the ineptness of Tampa Bay's pitching staff, they likely would have.

HAPPY BOITDAY Marlon Anderson
2003-06-24 22:21
by Alex Belth


Marlon Anderson just hit a grand slam off of Al Reyes to give the D-Rays an 8-6 lead over the Yanks in the bottom of the seventh inninng. Good grief. This is the icing on the gravy of an absolutely putrid effort by the Yanks. Oh dip, Robin Ventura just made an error and now the Rays lead 9-6. The Yanks had a 4-1 lead, and a 6-2 lead. Giambi had to leave the game early but they haven't said why yet. All I know is that I'm starting to get sick every time I see Todd Zeile out there, which is a shame because he's always seemed like a good enough guy.

Jeff Weaver was not terrific, neither was Chris Hammond and the Yanks are getting thoroughly humiliated tonight. This is one of those games where I feel so disgusted with the team that I'm rooting against them.

The Yankees had plenty of chances to blow the game open early, but they squandered several chances (12 men left on base thus far) and have set up for another lecture from their manager. George is not going to like this at all, and it is highly likely that he'll erupt on a backpage near you with the quickness.

2003-06-24 09:01
by Alex Belth


The legendary baseball writer, Leonard Koppett died of a heart attack in San Francisco on Sunday. He was 79. Koppett's book, "The Thinking Fan's Guide to Baseball," is on the short list of indespensable baseball reference books. If you don't own it, do yourself a favor and track it down when you have a chance. Gary Huckaby of Baseball Prospectus had a brief appreciation of Koppett yesterday, and I will be on the look out for more tributes in the next couple of days.

I'm in the midst of doing research for the "Curt Flood" biography I'm writing for Young Adults, and Koppett, who covered Flood's suit against MLB for both The New York Times and The Sporting News was one of the handful of journalists who were even-handed towards Flood's case. He was from the old-"Elements of Style"-school, and his writing was clear, succinct, and clean.

He will be missed.

2003-06-24 08:48
by Alex Belth


There was a memorial service for Larry Doby yesterday in Monclair, New Jersey. Yogi Berra, Bill White, and Joe Morgan all showed up. Harvey Aaraton , of the Times was there too:

"Tell me, tell me," the young son bearing his father's famous name used to say. "I want to know about when you played."

Larry Doby Sr. would not give in to the wishes of his star-struck child. It was not his way. "I do not live in the past," he would tell Larry Doby Jr. "I live for tomorrow."

...In the age of intrusiveness, Doby was never much interested in baring his soul up close and personal, not even at home, for family archives.

"I wanted him to sit down in front of the camera, him and my mother," Doby Jr., 45, said. "They didn't want to do that. My father would say, 'It's in the history books.' ''

..."He would say things like, 'Early Wynn, I knew if he was pitching I was O.K. because if they knocked me down, then two of their guys were going down,' '' Doby Jr. said. "I believe that he and Jackie Robinson - to us it was always Mr. Robinson - would talk about the good guys and the bad guys, but to everyone else, it was only about the good guys."

I've been critical of the lack of interest in Doby's legacy by scholars and the baseball community in general, but perhaps it all started with the man himself. It seems as if Doby wasn't interested in promoting or rehashing his playing career.

Fay Vincent had a column about Doby on Sunday, and mentioned that Doby was a man who didn't harbor any bitterness. I don't buy it. Sure, he probably mellowed over the years, but I just think he chose to keep his feelings to himself. Remember the quotation I found from Sports Illustrated circa 1968:

"You know those junkyards along the highways in Jersey? Well they have scrap heaps just like that for athletes---most of them black. Black athletes are cattle. They're raised, fed, sold and killed...Baseball moved me toward the front of the bus, and it let me ride there as long as I could run. And then it told me to get off at the back door."

2003-06-24 08:29
by Alex Belth


In a rematch of their classic pitching duel last week, Roger Clemens and Victor Zambrano weren't exactly great last night, but they weren't awful either. Clemens pitched seven innings and was effective. If it wasn't for a scrub named Damian Rolls, Rocket would have been okay. But Rolls had the game of this life, hitting his first two homers of the year---as well as a double---off Rocket. It was enough to beat the Yanks, 4-2 .

Lil' Soriano golfed the first pitch of the game a long way for another lead off homer. Sori has his flashy home run follow through down pat by now. Move over Manny, Sori's got plenty of mustard on his hot dog. A little too much mustard for my liking---especially when the ball doesn't sail out of the park for a home run. This kid could have ten triples per season if he busted his fat ass out of the box like Jeter does.

The Yankees are trying to keep the talented Soriano focused:

Torre and Soriano have been having frequent talks on a variety of topics, such as undisciplined at-bats, lack of concentration in the field and admiring fly balls he hits to see whether they are headed over the fence. These have been issues for Soriano for three years, and even as he has become one of the most dynamic players in baseball they remain issues.

...Reggie Jackson has been brought in to counsel Soriano about patience at the plate and, sources say, to deliver some subtle messages about lifestyle. There is concern that Soriano is partying too much.

"He takes criticism very well," Torre said. "He understands where it's coming from. We're looking out for what's best for him. We want him to make sure he is the kind of player he has the chance to be. ... He needs to get the most out of [his ability]."

Speaking of mustard, how about Reggie is teaching Soriano patience at the plate? [Insert punchline here.]

Meanwhile, Bernie Williams joined the team for stretching yesterday. It sure was good to see him. According to the Times:

"Whenever I'm ready, I'll know," said Williams, who has been working out in Tampa, Fla. "The knee's going to tell me, but I'm not going to push it."

The Blue Jays stomped on the O's, and Carlos Delgado had four RBI, giving him 80 for the season?!?!? Oh yeah, Vernon Wells now has 72 RBI himself. Tim Wakefield and the Sox beat the Tigers, and now the Yanks lead Toronto by one and the Sox by two.

2003-06-23 09:01
by Alex Belth


I went to the Mets-Yankees game last night with my girl and some of my closest friends. It's the second Subway Serious game I've attended; I was at the Stadium when Clemens plunked Yazzie a couple of years back. We bundled up, and sat out in the left field bleachers. It was rainy and muddy, but fortunately for us, the rain stopped by the 5th or 6th inning and we didn't get drenched. (Most New Yorkers are so water logged right now, our thoughts are soggy.) The fans were in fairly good spirits, but it wasn't a playoff atmosphere despite the sellout crowd.

The game was close, familiar, yet agonizing for the Mets faithful. Where have we seen this before? It's bad enough they have to deal with getting invaded with a militia of Yankee fans, but when Armando Benetiz came on to close the game in the ninth, there were more groans than cheers from the home crowd. They could sense something bad was going to happen. For his part, Benetiz---who may have been auditioning for the Bombers---didn't disapoint as he walked the bases full and then walked pinch-hiter Jorge Posada on a 3-2 pitch with two outs, to blow the Mets one-run lead.

The Yankees took the lead in the 11th when G. Lloyd walked Charles Gipson on a full count pitch, and didn't look back (Gipson, hero for a moment, reverted to form by getting picked off later in the inning---his third time this year by my count). Tom Glavine and David Wells started and both pitched resonably well. Glavine was struck with a liner off the bat of Derek Jeter and although he was pitching effectively left the game after only 66 pitches.

We didn't get home until well after 1 am, but fortunately for us, it was worth losing the sleep. Many of the Mets fans cleared out after Benetiz blew the lead and the game went to extra innings. Perhaps they got a decent night's sleep. Then again, maybe not.

For the lowdown on the everything Metropolitans, check Steve Keane's Eddie Kranepool Society.

2003-06-21 09:29
by Alex Belth


Subway Serious 2003

The other day I saw that Jon Weisman over at Dodger Thoughts ran a play-by-play column of a Dodgers game and thought it was pretty cool. I stayed in last night on the count of I had to come in to work early this morning (Saturday), and gave it a try myself. While it required more concentration than I anticipated, here is the play-by-play of last night's soggy Mets-Yankees game.

Steve Trachsel vs. Andy Pettitte.

Top of the First

Trashcan ahead of Sori 0-2. The count evens at 2. Soriano hit s a ground ball to Wiggie at third, 5-3. One out.

Jeter lines the first pitch (fastball) to right center, and it hangs long enough for Jeromy Burnitz get to it without a problem. Shinjo backs up the play nicely.

Giambi gets ahead, 2-0 and then he fouls off a fastball. Trashcan misses on two straight pitches and Giambi walks. Where have we seen this before?

Posada is so scrubby in the clean up roll. "You don't see many catchers who are clean up hitters," garbles Kiner. (Just wait until Bernie and Nicky get back.) Trashcan falls behind, 2-0. Fastball, inside corner for a strike, then Posada hits a grounder to Alomar's left, but it isn't hard, and Alomar makes the play easily, 4-3.

Bottom 1

Robbie, batting from the ride side, throws his bat out and snaps a double down the right field line. Now, we haven't seen that in a while. Could this be a sign for the Mets?

Pettitte comes back and makes a couple of tough pitches to get Wiggenton looking for the first out of the inning.

Holy cow, Ruben Sierra is in left?!? Man, I can't wait until Bernie gets back.

Jeromy Burnitz. On the 1-1 count, and Burnitz times a curveball, waits on hit and takes a good cut. But he just missed the pitch and fouls it back. Another big swing, another foul. Fastball inside corner, and Burnitz is down looking for out number two.

Here comes Cliff. I notice the umpire starting to woof off the TV audio and suddenly the cameras cut to the Mets dugout and Jeromy Burnitz comes into focus. All I caught the ump saying is, "That's right. That's right. That' right. Get outta here." (Later they played more of tape as the ump also said to Burnitz, "I see ya. I see ya Jimmy. That's right・") Jimmy gets tossed. Burnitz comes out of the dugout, and Seo makes a mild attempt at holding Burnitz back. He goes nutty, comes back out on the field and pleads his case. The ump needs to chill out, what the hell is he so jumpy about? Throwing a guy out this early is pretty lame.

Floyd walks. 3-1. Pitch down the plate, called a ball.

Phillips. Breaking ball, low. Fastball, low and outside. Fastball, swung on and missed, 1-2. Fastball outside, ball 3. Outside ball four.

The bases are loaded.

Strike one, outside corner. Cutter low, swung on a missed, strike two. Wilson taps the next pitch to third. Ventura steps in, fields the ball, and makes a strong throw to first to end the inning.

Top of the second

Godzilla grounds out weakly to the right side.

Ruben laces a fastball into right. Joe McEwing, the new right fielder stumbles and then slips in right field. McEwing still all but had the ball hit him in the mitt, and he dropped it. Sierra cruises into second for a double. And Ruben's cruising days are long over.

Trashcan gets ahead of Robin Ventura 1-2. On the 2-2 pitch, Ventura taps one of the right side. Phillips moves to his left to make the play, but Alomar calls him off and Phillips, on his knees, freezes. Good rookie. Alomar fields and tosses to Trashcan covering first for the out.

They walk Mondesi to get to Andy. One the 1-0 pitch Andy Pettitte takes one of the fattest swings I've seen in a while. Funny as hell. Way to go big fella, eat them Wheaties! He pops the next pitch up to Cliff Floyd in left to end in the inning.

Bottom 2

Pettitte falls being Shinji, 2-0. Shinji singles past Ventura, runner on first.

The kid. Reyes. Squares to bunt, curveball called strike one. Andy goes to first, and Shinjo gets back, but it's closer than it should be. Reyes breaks his bat as the ball dribbles foul down the third base line. The head of the bat lands past Jeter in left field. Shinjo bounces off first as Pettitte throws a cutter low for ball one. Reyes slaps a high fastball foul. Another cutter, this one bounces in the dirt, 2-2. Reyes lines the next pitch into center, right at Matsui for the first out. Hit the ball pretty well. Gary Petitis stops Reyes for a word as he returns to the dugout, and we caught a partially blocked glance at the kid's bright smile. He's happy when he's making outs.

Trashcan bunts Shinjo over to third for out number two. Andy bare hands the tapper for the out.

Pettitte's 1-1 pitch is another cutter that bounces in the dirt. Alomar looks a little more confident. He takes a good swing at the next pitch and fouls off an outside fastball. On the next pitch Alomar waves at an inside breaking ball, a weak hack. Andy powers one by Alomar, who goes down swinging.

Top of the third

Sori hits the second pitch of the fame to the back wall of bullpen wall in left field. He absolutely creamolished it. Piazza worthy.

Then Jeter hits a high fastball a long way to center. Way back and out. The winds, blowing to left apparently, didn't hurt Jeter there. Boy, that feels good. Yankees, 2-0.

And here comes the big guy. Trashcan falls behind 2-0. Strike. Breaking ball misses, ball three. Outside fastball, Giambi takes a big cut and swings through it. Then he fouls off an inside fastball. 2-2. Slices another fastball foul. Giambi stays alive fouling a breaking ball down low, off. Fastball grounded foul. Fastball up in the zone, fouled off. Giambi taking bit cuts and why not. So he fouls another pitch off. This time to the left side. He takes the next pitch, inside for ball four.

Posada pops the 1-2 pitch up to Reyes for the first out of the inning.

Matsui looks at a strike on the outside corner. Then looks at a strike on the inside corner. A lot of looking. He waves at the next pitch, a splitter outside and tailing. Two outs.

Trashcan looks better against the lefties. But he falls behind Ruben Sierra 3-1. Fastball, right down Broadway, and guess what? Sierra is old and he swings right through for strike two. Sierra pops the next pitch foul, off the third base side. Wiggenton has a beat on it and makes the cash, but Reyes eagerly knocks into him anyhow, hitting Wiggie in the face with his glove, and falling into him, as the two hit the wall. Wiggie is a tough, broad kid, and the diminutive Reyes gets up grinning.

I wonder if this isn't the most important game he's ever played, it could be the most rewarding. It's the You-made-it game. The crowd is excitable and so is he. His enthusiasm is contagious.

Bottom 3

Wiggenton grounds out to Jeter.

McEwing inside-outs a fastball to the right side, and Giambi dives to his left and makes the play. Gets up and records the out.

It starts to rain in Queens. What did you expect?

Floyd lines a 1-2 pitch past Jeter into left for a single. It was a good pitch, tailing away, but Floyd was able to use his long arms to reach it. If he tried to pull it, he would be Hideki Matsui grounding out to second.

It is raining harder now. Here come the umbrellas.

Andy misses his spots against Phillips and is even over-throwing. But the count goes full before Phillips swings and misses at a cutter in the dirt.

Top of the Fourth

Ventura pounds an outside fastball to the wall in left center for a double.

Mondesi skies the first pitch to Shinjo in center field. Ventura tags from second and Shinji throws him out by fifteen feet. That play was even funnier than Pettitte's swing.

Pettitte taps out to first.

Bottom 4

Vance Wilson pops out to second.

Ventura fields a slow hopper by Shinjo nicely and throws him out at first.

Curveball strike to Reyes. Reyes fouls the next pitch off the top of his left foot. The kid's ankles look like matchsticks. Emergency swing, another tapper foul. Fastball, high and outside, check swing foul. High fastball, cut on and missed strike three. The pitcher will lead off the fifth.

Top 5

Sori swings at a breaking ball and fouls it off. It was not a strike. Fastball low, for a ball. Fastball outside and Soriano slams it to deep right center. McEwing and Shinjo leap for it at the wall, and Shinjo robs Sori of a homer. Got up pretty high, and snatched it. Just a few yards to the right of the 396 sign. Highlight reel stuff. That'll make the paper in Tokyo tomorrow. Shinjo's orange sweatbands make it even sweeter. It looks like he had a beat on it all the way.

Jeter grounds out to second.

Traschel comes back and strikes out Giambi. The crowd is back in it. Will the Mets rally?

Bottom of the Fifth

The rain is steady, but it isn't too hard.

Trachsel looks at a ball, and then fouls off four straight pitches before looking at a curve. Traschel grabs his bat and starts to walk back to the dugout. Soriano steps in to take the round the horn throw, but the umpire does not signal strike three. Now, that's the funniest play of the night. Two more pitches then he strikes out swinging.

Robbie bunts the first pitch foul, takes a ball, and then hits another foul to the left side. Alomar then grounds one past Ventura in the hole. Jeter fields but can't get the ball out of his glove cleanly, double bumps and throws on a hop, late to first. Alomar slides safely, head first into the bag. A good throw gets Alomar easily.

Wiggenton smokes a fastball over Sierra's head in left for a double. Alomar to third. Now the crowd is alive.

Here is Super Joe. Swings at a pitch low and out of the zone for strike one. He taps the next pitch to Ventura. Alomar stays put. Ventura's throw is wide, but Giambi steps to his left, makes the catch and then tags Alomar!Olay!---for the out.

Floyd looks at a ball and then takes a lumberjack, jimmy jack cut and fouls the next pitch off. What a hack. That was the prettiest swing of the night. Curve ball gets Floyd leaning, and is called for strike two. Looked inside from here. Floyd taps the next pitch foul, and then pops out to Robin in foul territory. It looks like Ventura got showered with some beer from the stands.

So far, the Mets are all wet, but the game is still close, even if it doesn't feel close.

Top 6

It's now raining hard enough for them to call play.

Posada leads off. Taps one back to the mound on a check swing, and Traschel makes a solid one-handed play.

Matsui looks at a fastball high, then a forkball, low. More looking. He fouls the next pitch off, and then takes another splitter low for a ball. Trashcan paints the outside corner for strike two and then loses Matsui, on a fastball high and outside.

Sierra strikes out. Trachsel is overly concerned with Matsui leading off first.

Ventura swings through an off-speed pitch that hung up in the zone. Fastball low for a ball.

The rain is tapering off again and Traschel throws to first.

Then Traschel throws three straight balls and walks Ventura.

Mondesi grounds the first pitch to Wiggenton who steps on third for the last out.

Bottom of the Sixth

Jason Phillips grounds out to Soriano.

Vance Wilson takes a big cut at the 2-1 pitch and fouls it back. The Mets can't get one to go. He then takes Pettitte's 100th pitch of the night outside for a ball, before lining out to Mondesi in right.

Shinji works a full count and goes down swinging.

Top 7

Pettitte pop one to short center field. Reyes goes out, Shinji, calling him off, races in. Reyes dips out of the way at the last moment, but he blocks Shinji's view momentarily and the center fielder makes the catch with his mitt facing towards the sky. Shinji gives the kid a knowing look, and smiles.

Soriano strikes out on a breaking ball in the dirt.

Jeter taps the 2-2 pitch to Wiggie at third, who double clutches for a split second; Jeter beats the throw.

Giambi and Traschel battle again, with the pitcher overly concerned with Jeter at first. On the 2-2 pitch, Jeter runs, as Trashcan paints the inside corner with a fastball and strikes out Giambi. Jason feels like he's due. He's had some good swings and has seen a lot of pitches: 5 in his first at bat, then 12 the next time, followed by 5 and 6.

Bottom of the Seventh

Reyes hits the ball sharply on one hop to Ventura, who is playing in on the grass at third. One out.

Jay Bell pinch hits for Traschel and whiffs.

Alomar grounds out weakly to Soriano.

Top 8

Our old friend, `Fat face' David Weathers comes on to pitch for the Mets, and walks Posada to lead off the inning.

He falls behind Godzilla 2-0, and with Posada running, Matsui bounces a grounder up the middle for a single. First and third, no out.

That's it for Weathers. How about another ex-Yankee? G. Lloyd, the lefty enters the game to face Sierra. Ruben grounds a double over the third base bag, Posada scores. Yanks 3-0. Charles Gipson comes in to pinch run for Sierra.

Ventura strikes out, and the Mets walk Mondesi to load the bases.

Bubba Trammell pinch hits for Pettitte and pops out.

Soriano whiffs.

Bottom of Eighth

Chris Hammonds comes in to pitch for the Yanks, and quickly strikes Wiggie out.

Super Joe grounds out to Jeter and then Cliff Floyd pops out to Giambi.

Top 9

Jeter leads off against Armando Benetiz and smacks a ground ball up the middle that ricochets off Benetiz's leg. Jeter promptly steals second. Giambi works the count even at 2-2. On the 33rd pitch of the evening to Giambi, the slugger crushes on into the mezzanine section in right field. Oh man, did he ever pelt that one. You could feel it brewing all night. What a bomb.

Posada walks. Matsui taps out to Alomar. Gipson does the same. Posada is now on third. Ventura grounds out to third.

Bottom of the Ninth

Jason Anderson now on for the Yanks. Jason Phillips singles to right; Vance Wilson singles to left. That's it for Anderson. Enter Mariano. Tony Clark is the pinch hitter and he goes down looking on three pitches.

Jose Reyes shatters his bat and his a slow grounder to Soriano, who goes to second for the force. Runners at the corners.

Timo Perez, pinch hitting grounds out to Ventura to end the game.

Yanks 5, Mets 0.

Is anyone still awake? Well, the Mets felt as if they were sleeping for the last half of the game too.

Mike Mussina goes against Tom Glavine, weather-permitting, today at 1.

2003-06-20 13:22
by Alex Belth


Another year, another Subway Serious. The Yanks open a three-game set at Shea tonight, but what with all the rain we've been getting here in New York, it's hard to figure if they'll get all of the games in (we could be looking at some day-at-Shea, night-in-the-BX-double headers next weekend). What we do know is that Jeff Weaver won't be pitching tomorrow because yesterday's game was called off. That sure was curious because it rained a whole lot more last Friday when Rocket Clemens pitched against the Cards. What gives? Lee Sinins hits the nail on the head when he writes:

Yesterday's Devil Rays-Yankees game was called, not because of rain, but due to the Yankees not wanting to play.

There was minimal rain, which stopped right after the game was called. I live about 45 or so minutes from Yankee Stadium and the weather here is always the same as it is there. I went out around the time when the game was called and I actually got wetter the previous day when I accidentally spilled some water on my socks while I was bringing it to the microwave to make coffee. While the Yankees claim the weather reports said the weather was going to be really bad during the afternoon, (1) the team is not known for getting bad weather reports and (2) the Yankees have proudly boasted of having a state of art drainage system that they claim means games only have to be called in the most extreme situations.

So, why was the game called? The Yankees didn't want Jeff Weaver to have to pitch against the Mets. By calling yesterday's game, Andy Pettitte (who's having a terrible season himself) gets moved into today's start and Weaver gets to be skipped.

This isn't the first time the Yankees have done this, so it would be silly for us to assume they aren't going to go it again in the future.

For pulling a stunt like this, yesterday's game should have been forfeited to the Devil Rays.

Jeff Weaver might get to pitch this weekend after all, because Antonio Osuna has been placed on the DL again with a strained groin. Andy Pettitte will pitch tonight against Steve Traschel. (Excited yet?) Mike Mussina squares off against Tom Glavine tomorrow and Mr. Seo goes against Boomer on Sunday night. Once again, the pressure is squarely on the Yankees because they are the better team. The Mets? They really having nothing to lose. Yankee fans get to worry about losing to a last place team and getting abused for it, while Mets fans may expect to lose and take the abuse that they are all too familiar with. However if the Mets take two-of-three, let alone a sweep the Yanks, many Mets fans will act like their team has won the World Serious. The last thing Joe Torre wants to deal with losing to the Mets and facing his Boss.

What really marks the 'rivalry' this year is just how many faces have changed for the Metroplitans.

It's hard for me to get up for these games. Like most Yankee fans I just don't want the Bombers to lose the series (no team has ever swept a series). But I don't derive any special pleasure when the Yanks beat the Mets, nor do I get up for talking trash with Mets fans. I just hope it's over as quickly and painlessly as possible. Who knows, maybe we'll get a couple of good games out of it. Maybe Reyes or Soriano will do something exciting. But I'm expecting a whole lot of rain, and a whole lot of mud.

On that upbeat note, I hope everybody has a great weekend.

2003-06-20 08:39
by Alex Belth


Bill Madden , Dave Anderson and Terry Pluto all have appreciations of Larry Doby in the papers this morning. The New York guys note Doby's friendship with Yogi Berra:

"I lost my pal," Berra said, his eyes watery. "I knew this was coming, but even so, you're never ready for it. I'd call him and he'd say he didn't feel like talking, so I knew then it was bad."

..."Other than (Indians second baseman) Joe Gordon, who befriended me right away, I felt very alone," Doby said. "Nobody really talked to me. The guy who probably talked to me most back then was Yogi, every time I'd go to bat against the Yankees. I thought that was real nice, but after awhile I got tired of him asking me how my family was when I was trying to concentrate up there."

"I know at least one time I didn't interrupt his concentration," Berra recalled now with a smile. "The time he hit that homer to center field in the old Yankee Stadium. He was the first guy to ever hit one there."

Actually, according to research, the homer Doby hit over the 430-foot sign in the old Yankee Stadium off the Yankees' Bob Porterfield in May of 1949 was the second recorded to have hit that spot. Lou Gehrig also hit one there off Grover Cleveland Alexander in the 1928 World Series.

"All I know," said Berra, "is that I called the pitch and it was the wrong one."

Compared with Jackie Robinson, Doby is often seen as reserved, and shy, but that didn't mean he didn't have feelings---even bitterness, about the racism he and the other black and latin players endured in baseball. Here is a quote that I found from a 1968 Sports Illustrated article about race and sports:

"You know those junkyards along the highways in Jersey? Well they have scrap heaps just like that for athletes---most of them black. Black athletes are cattle. They're raised, fed, sold and killed...Baseball moved me toward the front of the bus, and it let me ride there as long as I could run. And then it told me to get off at the back door."

2003-06-19 13:49
by Alex Belth


Ed Cossette's Bambino's Curse blog has been promoted to the big leagues. Ed's blog is now being hosted by Fox, which means that Ed is officially bonafide (although anyone who has read BC already knows that). It couldn't happen to a better, or more deserving guy, and that's the triple truth (Ruth).

2003-06-19 13:36
by Alex Belth


Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus is one of my favorite baseball writers, and not just because he roots for the Yankees, or because he was born in the Bronx, and raised in Manhattan. Sheehan is an even-handed yet forceful and convincing writer and he's one of several reasons why Prospectus is worth the price of admission. Yesterday, Joe had a terrific piece on pitchers' workloads that is definitive and should not be missed. Plus, it's free, so everyone can check it out.

Don't sleep, it's a real treat.

HEY AL... There is
2003-06-19 13:27
by Alex Belth


There is a good write up on Alfonso Soriano and Albert Pujols over at The New York Yankees Report . In case anyone thought that Sori is in the same league as Albert, think twice, man. Soriano is a treat to watch, and a real marvel, but Pujols is nothing short of great. I linked several articles on Pujols the other day which appeared on ESPN. Here is what some of Albert's teammates have to say about him:

Matt Morris: "In Boston the other day, a lefty goes 3-0 on him, three pitches that weren't even close. The fourth pitch is a ball, too, up and way away, and he crushes it the other way. It's just unbelievable what he does. His body isn't moving all over. He makes his adjustment, throws his hands at the pitch and slams it with a real short stroke."

Hitting coach Mitchell Page: "His mind is way above his ability. Guys might have all the tools in the world, but they don't have the mind this guy has. He helps me out, with the other players. The guy has three years in the big leagues and he's saying things that people listen to. If it was Rod Carew after 15-20 years, that's one thing. But when Albert talks, people listen."

Scott Rolen: "The pitcher usually controls the at-bat, and the hitter has to make the adjustments. But Albert controls the at-bat. The pitcher has to find a way to get him out, to trick him. You can't just come in and then go away, 'cause he's gonna hammer it. You can't go up and down, 'cause he's gonna hammer it. You'd better throw three good pitches."

...During a 13-game homestand from May 26-June 8 he went 26-for-57 (.456). Near the end of that stretch was a bases-clearing double against Orioles closer Jorge Julio that won the game 8-6. "It was a 97-, 98-mile-an-hour fastball on the inside corner, and he smokes it down the line," Rolen said. "He shouldn't be able to do that with that pitch. But he pulled his hands in with an incredible knowledge of where the bat head was. He has so much confidence in his swing and his approach at the plate, he had the confidence to stay with the ball and rope it like that."

2003-06-19 08:19
by Alex Belth


Larry Doby, the first African American in the 20th century to play in the American League, passed away yesterday at his home in New Jersey. He was 78. Doby was signed by Bill Veeck to play for the Indians just three months after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the National League. Doby was a major contributor to the Indians last championship season (1948) and went on to enjoy a career that would eventually get him elected to the Hall of Fame. Doby was also the second black manager in the big leagues (hired by Veeck once again).

Unfortunately, Doby's is most remembered for being number two. The second guy. Who cares about second place? This is particularly upsetting when you consider the fact that Doby had to face the same brutal racism that Robinson encountered:

Before Doby's election to the Hall, Willie Mays said: "Don't forget Larry Doby. From what I hear, Jackie had Pee Wee Reese and Gil Hodges and Ralph Branca, but Larry didn't have anybody."

..."There's something in the Bible that says you should forgive and forget,'' Doby told the New York Post in 1999. "Well, you might forgive. But boy, it is tough to forget.''

..."The only difference was that Jackie Robinson got all the publicity," Doby later said. "You didn't hear much about what I was going through because the media didn't want to repeat the same story."

There was, of course, a lot that separated Robinson and Doby. Doby, was younger when he came to the majors, and was a withdrawn and sensitive guy, while Robinson was a tour de force, a dynamo. But what is inexplicable---even inexcusable---is how the press and the public have slighted Doby over the years. Earlier this year, I spoke with the filmmaker Ken Burns about Doby:

Bronx Banter: Jackie Robinson was a fitting choice as the hero of the "Baseball" series. Without taking anything away from his greatness, what about Larry Doby? He was the first black player in the American League. I don't mean to single you out on this, but how come Doby has been so over looked, even neglected, by history?

KB: That's one of those situations where when you are not the first, you get forgotten. It's the John Adams syndrome. So maybe it's going to take somebody of David McCollough's caliber to rescue the Larry Doby's of the world. The guys who end up in second.

BB: Nice guys finish last, right?

KB: That doesn't make him any less courageous or any less heroic, it's just that we focused our attention on the heroism and courage of Jackie Robinson, and that's what we endow with all the symbolic importance that Jackie Robinson has for us.

BB: So it was more of an aesthetic choice rather than just saying, `Oh, Doby's story just isn't all that interesting.'

KB: It's just a question of first, it's not even a question of aesthetics. It's just Jackie was first, and Jackie also happened to display this incredible courage and heroics and really wore it. And Doby, of course, had to go through much of the same thing, it's just because our attention was on Jackie, we didn't have the time to do Doby as well.

Here is a comment from a fan named Philippe that I came across in the Baseball Primer Clutch Hits chat room:

I'd just want to shed some light on the little-known role played by the Montreal Expos in bringing Larry Doby back to the limelight. After his major league career ended, Doby went to Japan for a couple of seasons and then was out of baseball altogether, although the Johnson administration did give him a job on the National Council on Physical Fitness. His main source of income was a liquor store he operated in in New Jersey, however.

The Expos hired Doby shortly after they were granted an expansion franchise in 1968. He was at first a scout and minor league instructor, but in 1971 he became the full-time hitting coach, staying until the end of the 1973 season. He coached in Cleveland in 1974 then was brought back to Montreal to be Karl Kuehl's bench coach in 1976 (not something to gloat about in your resume), which led to his hiring by the White Sox when the Expos cleaned house after Kuehl's firing.

And of course, one major league player, catcher Larry Doby Johnson, is named after him.

Rest in peace, Larry Doby. You have left good memories everywhere you have been.

Amen to that.

ENCORE Roger Clemens didn't
2003-06-19 08:07
by Alex Belth


Roger Clemens didn't suffer a letdown after recording his 300th victory last Friday, carrying a no-hitter into the eighth inning last night at The Stadium vs. Tampa Bay. Forget about the fact that this was the D-Rays, Clemens was downright nasty. He was matched, however, by Victor Zambrano. Clemens allowed one hit in eight innings of work, while Zambrano allowed two. Clemens pounded the Ray with his fastball and his splitter, while Zambrano vexed the Bombers with his sinker. Both pitchers left with the game still scoreless and then it was up to the bullpens. Both pens were excellent and this has to be one of the best-pitched games of the season.

The Yanks won the game, 1-0 when Alfonso Soriano singled with the bases loaded with one out in the 12th inning. Sori hit a pitch that was about two feet outside and maybe a foot off the ground. It is the same pitch we are used to watching him wave at all the time, but Soriano inexplicably poked the pitch, like a back hand return in tennis, up the middle to end the game. Just when you want to curse him out for swinging at that kind of trash, he turns water into wine. Go figure. He's not a freak for nothing.

Before the game, Joe Torre addressed the comments he made to Fox TV. John Harper has a good write-up on Torre in the News today:

...The beauty of Torre in pinstripes [is]: He says what he thinks, and he doesn't manage scared.

From the day he arrived as Yankee manager, Torre carried himself with a relaxed sense of security that can't be faked, a security that comes with being an NL MVP as a player, and a man who knows he could command a high price as a broadcaster, if necessary.

So maybe he didn't have a specific message in mind for Steinbrenner yesterday, but with his answers he surely offered a reminder to his players that he's as much his own man as ever, the same guy who managed the Yankees to four world championships.

That may have been important to him, since Torre said in the dugout yesterday that his players had been asking him if he was okay, apparently alarmed by newspaper stories over the weekend full of speculation about being fired.

"My goal is to insulate them from those type of distractions," Torre said. "I wasn't successful this time."

2003-06-18 17:02
by Alex Belth


The Blue Jays didn't waste much time scooping up former-Yank Juan Acevedo. Acevedo came into spring training geared up to prove the Tigers and every other team in the majors wrong for over-looking him:

And as much as he tried to play it down, you could tell proving the Yankees wrong is high on his list.

"I think it was quick," he said of his release, "but I'm not crying over it. I know we'll face them again and I'll try to prove them wrong. But first and foremost I have to get my mechanics back to where they were in April and spring training. Based on today's (side session), I'm confident I'm on my way."

It's fun that Juan will stay in the division and will most likely pitch in some meaningful games against the Yankees later this season.

2003-06-18 16:46
by Alex Belth


Is the pressure finally getting to Joe Torre? Don't be so sure, but Torre voiced his displeasure with the way things have gone down in Fort George this year in a Fox television interview that will be aired today:

"At times I'd like [him to] just give me a little more credit that I know what I'm doing."

"Conversations happen all the time," the manager said. "Over the 7 years I've been here, they continue to happen, but it's never been as public as it has been this year. It started last year when we lost to Anaheim. He was very upset and I was, too. And then he got on Jeter ... he got on my coaches. The change is he went public with a lot of it and it's gotten in the newspaper.

..."I still have to be me," he said. "The most important thing in what I do is to be there for my players. The one thing I haven't been able to do is keep this distraction out of the clubhouse. That's the one priority I've had when I took this club over was to make sure this ballclub can only think about winning baseball games and not have to deal with everything else."

The Yankees have won four World Series titles in Torre's seven seasons as manager. He was asked his opinion of his boss.

"At times I think he's OK," he said. "I like that he gave me the opportunity to do this. You can't pick and choose the part of your boss that you want to keep. You have to take the whole package or walk away."

Don't expect George to get out of Torre's way (or anybody else's for that matter). Once the monster is out, he's hard to tame. But it looks as if the fat man is finally wearing ol' Joe down a bit. Think this will make the backpage of the tabliods tomorrow? Duck and cover.

2003-06-18 07:57
by Alex Belth


The Yanks rebounded in the night cap last night, and pounded the Rays, 10-2. Boomer Wells pitched his third complete game of the year, and Jason Giambi had three hits. Giambi is starting to look like his old devastating self; he now has 18 HR, and 50 RBI. The Red Sox beat Chicago last night, and the Yanks are now a half a game up on Boston.

Jeff Weaver faced the press after the game, and was his usual grumpy self. I like Weaver, and I hope he can get his head together because he's a talented pitcher, but as Vic Ziegel notes, he's starting to look too much like Andy Hawkins, Eddie Lee Whitson, and Kenny 'the gambler' Rogers.


The night after the dazzling performance by Dontrelle Willis, three Mets pitchers combined to face the minimum 27 batters last night, hurling a one-hitter against the Marlins. It is the third consecutive one-hiter the Metropolitans have been involved in.

How 'bout that?


The good folks over at ESPN ran a series of articles on the incomperable Albert Pujols yesterday. Don't miss the glowing reviews from Rob Neyer and Alan Schwartz.

Meanwhile, former Yankee Tino Martinez is hearing the boo birds in St. Louie as his performance continues to decline.


Not only does Godzilla Matsui have the biggest head in recent Yankee history, but he's got the longest earlobes I've ever seen.

2003-06-17 15:25
by Alex Belth


Not to be outdone by Jeff Weaver, Sterling Hitchcock is getting torched in relief today, and the D-Rays are stomping the Yanks, 11-1. The Bombers still only have one hit. Is Rick Down still here? Considering the fact that this is Tampa Bay, you'd think George would can him before Kate Smith finishes singing "God Bless America," let alone the second game.


At least Boomer has a chance to even the score tonight.

OH NERTZ Jeff Weaver
2003-06-17 14:44
by Alex Belth


Jeff Weaver is hardly making things easier on himself. He's getting battered around by the D-Rays in the Bronx right now. The Yanks trail 5-1 in the 5th. They have one hit---a first inning solo homer by Jason Giambi. Other than that, they've got bubkus.

2003-06-17 07:46
by Alex Belth


I caught the last couple of innings of the Mets-Marlins game and was able to finally catch a glimpse of the much-talked-about Dontrelle Willis. So, what's not to like? The announcers kept comparing him to Vida Blue because a) they both have a high leg kick, and b) they both made big impressions at a young age. Plus, they both have really cool names. The kid has all it takes it be a media darling, let's just hope he doesn't get a swell head.

Willis doesn't only have a high leg kick, he has a little Fernando/Luis Tiant twist in there too, and he slings the ball sidearm. Not only that, but dude hit the corners and threw strikes. Yikes. Oh yeah, he 1-hit the Mets, and out-pitched Tom Glavine in the Marlins 1-0 win:

"I don't want to give him any credit, but he deserved it," Floyd said. He added that Willis's deceptive delivery often threw off his timing. "The second time up, I tried to open up my stance so I could see the ball a little better," Floyd said. "Nothing worked. He is all arms and legs, but he's got a good head on his shoulders."

..."It felt like we were back in high school," [Jason] Phillips said. "You know, you see the crosstown lefty who throws from every conceivable angle. I didn't know who he was before the game started. I sure do now. He may have looked like some guy from high school, but his ball was moving in and out, and he kept it down."

At 6'4, Willis is a bundle of nervous energy. He was emotive and loose. Let's hope the Marlins don't run him into the ground.

In related news, it turns out Mike Piazza may return this season after all.


Bill Madden is reporting that the Yankees will sign Stick Michael to a six-year extension worth close to $4 million:

Michael, who has served in numerous capacities in the Yankee organization for Steinbrenner since his playing days as a shortstop with the club from 1969-74, became general manager for the second time when Steinbrenner was under suspension by baseball in the early 1990s.

It was during his second tenure that, with the Yankees at their lowest ebb, Michael engineered a series of deals that led to the franchise's resurgence. Among them were the signings of free agents Jimmy Key, Mike Stanley and Mike Gallego and the linchpin trade with the Reds of Roberto Kelly for Paul O'Neill.


The Yankees play their next 17 games against the likes of the D-Rays, Mets, and Orioles. This should give us a good idea of how the season will shape up. Will they fall back into mediocrity, or will they seize the opportunity and go on a run? Their competition has nothing to lose and will undoubtedly play the Bombers hard, the question is, how sharp will the Yankees play?

Bernie Williams took 20 swings from each side of the plate yesterday, and Nick Johnson will have an MRI bone-scan this Friday.

The Yankees now lead the Red Sox by a full game (and the Blue Jays by two) after the Boston bullpen blew a lead for Pedro Martinez last night in Chicago. Pedro pitched five innings.


The New York Yankees Report, a comprehensive blog devoted to the Yanks, has an impressive and thorough analysis of Rocket Clemens' career. Well worth perusing.

2003-06-16 13:02
by Alex Belth


I guess I can get over my guilt by association regarding how tacky Yankee fans can be. Loyal Bronx Banter reader Adam was at Clemens game on Friday night and reports:

We were sitting amongst a bunch of Cardinals fans who had first gone to Boston and then came here. We were talking about the difference between a Boston and New York crowd, and I took pride in being informed that "Red Sox fans were easily the biggest assholes ever." These were all people in thier late forties and fifties, with families, and obvious baseball fans and they said everyone they spoke to in Fenway was rude. They also couldn't get over the fact that there were at a Boston vs. St Louis game, and all anyone chanted was "Yankees suck!" In comparison they were impressed with how nice everyone at the stadium (NY that is) was to them. And they felt the tribute we gave Roger was one of the greatest things they had ever seen.
I mention the above because I read your comments this morning, and while I can't stand the idiot factor present at all games, I think it's not as bad as it is compared to most places. The only place where things took a turn for the worst was in the tunnels leaving the stadium. Just as I was mentioning how the Cards fans we had spoken to noticed the BoSox obsession with the Yankees, and how Yankee fans weren't that bad, some red-faced moron comes charging through chanting "Red Sox Suck!" Oh well.

The only thing worse than a sore loser is a sore winner. Adam adds:

The same Cardinals fans that I wrote about earlier dropped this gem: "I kept hearing how bad Jeter was in the field, but man, he really is that bad." After watching a grounder go through for a single. The fan continued "That wasn't an easy play, but he wasn't even close."
At the end of the season someone should add up how many ground ball singles up the middle that Yankees pitchers give up. Then, just maybe, Soriano and Jeter will stop treating the area around second base as if it were infected with SARS.

2003-06-16 12:55
by Alex Belth


When I asked the question, "Which Yankee would you most like to eat dinner with" last week I knew I should have not included the coaches, but I did anyway. Don Zimmer was the big winner, followed by Torre, Willie Randolph, Mel Stotlemyre and even Boss George. As for the players, Jeter got a vote, and so did Mariano, Ventura, and Giambi. Personally, I like the fantasy of going out to eat with Bernie, cause he's my favorite Yankee, but in reality I think that Ventura, or even Todd Zeile are probably the nicest guys. They could probably hold a good conversation as well. Rivera might be cool too.

Here are a few of the responses I got:

"Sushi with Soriano and Matsui (anyone else play or coach in Japan?? bring 'em along)."

"Being a quick eater, I guess I'd choose Rick Down because it would be to go..."

"Willie Randolph- Has seen it all or at least a lot of it. A lot of history and he was there for some crazy times.

Alternate- Mariano Rivera.

Not current Team-

Oscar Gamble
Jay Johnstone
Joe Pepitone"

Amen to Oscar Gamble. What about Claudell Washington while we're at it?

TIDBITS Before I forget,
2003-06-16 12:34
by Alex Belth


Before I forget, Joel Sherman had a column on Sunday which delineated the potential problems the Yankees will face over the next several seasons.

Also, Jack Curry, wrote the Baseball Notes section in yesterday's Times. This is usually Murray Chass' domain, and although I don't normally care for Curry, I thought he did a good job, especially the piece on the Toronto Blue Jays.

And how about that Nomar Garciappara? Dude has 12 triples this season. 12?! Mercy.

2003-06-16 07:40
by Alex Belth


The weather finally broke in New York this weekend, and so may have the Yankees slumping ways, as they swept the visiting St. Louis Cardinals.

Let's start on Friday night. I had time to go home changed my clothes, and grab some dinner before heading back out to the game. I live about 70 blocks north and several miles west of Yankee Stadium. It takes about 30-40 minutes for me to get there via subway, but I have to take three different trains. It was gray and rainning lightly and I prepared for a long, soggy night.

I met several groupings of Cardinals fans on the subway and they were all eager and upbeat. For many of them, it was their visit to The Stadium, and I welcomed them accordingly. I warned them not to take any taunting too seriously, and apologized in advance for any drunken louts they may encounter.

I was surprised at how much congestion there was getting into the park. It was like a playoff game, and I enjoyed catching glimpses of conversations as we all huddled together like cattle, waiting to get inside. At one point I got close to two older gentlemen---a tall one with a crisp-looking Cubs hat, and his partner, who was a dead-ringer for Carl Reiner. They had been to two of the three games in Boston, and were going to attend two games in New York over the weekend. Ron, was a Cubs fan, and Dick was a Cards fan. We finally made it inside, and as it turned out, they had tickets way up in the upper tier, just like me. (I was in row U, for Utica.)

I had a great time chatting with my baseball elders as we schlepped upstate New York to our seats. The good thing about sitting in row U is that we were covered from the rain, and considering that it came down steadily all night, it was a beautiful thing. The place was sold out though there were a couple of thousand no-shows because of the weather; lots of red shirts in the house.

The first order of business was Clemens notching his 4,000th strike out. Rocket didn't waste much time, striking out the side in the first. The after giving up a solo home run to Jim Edmonds and a double to Scott Rolen, Clemens faced Edgar Renteria while ex-Yank Tino Martinez waited on deck. It was a strange moment. There was a huge part of the crowd that was at the game to give Tino a welcome-home ovation. What if he faced Clemens as the potential 4,000th strikeout? That would have been bizzare. Fortunately, it didn't come to pass. With the flashbulbs flickering throughout the Stadium with each two-strike pitch, the crowd was on their feet, and Clemens struck out Renteria to become the third pitcher in history to reach 4,000 K's.

Then Tino geeked. Before the Yankees could flash Rocket's milestone on the scoreboard, Martinez was at the plate ready to go. It's understandable that he was nervous and that he wanted to get the moment over as quickly as possible, but Tino inadvertantly stepped on Rocket's applause. He should have waited on deck for a moment, or 30 seconds, allowed Clemens his due, and then walked to plate to get his. Instead, the Rocket's ovation morphed into cheers for Tino himself. It was awkward, but the fans didn't seem to mind. Clemens struck out Martinez.

It was a good, close game, and the Yanks held a 3-2 lead in the middle innings, thanks to homers by Ruben Ruben and Godzilla Matsui. Clemens got through the sixth, one-two-three which was huge, because his pitch count was starting to get high. Rocket got the first two men out in the 7th, and had thrown 120 pitches, when Joe Torre came to get him. Before Torre reached the mound, Chris Hammond was jogging in from left field and the crowd started to boo intensely. Cries of outrage could be heard all around us, but it seemed like the right move from where I was sitting. This wasn't Acevedo in the sixth in Chicago. Miguel Cairo, the last batter Clemens would face, fouled off several pitches, and with a one-run lead, I thought the Yankees were better off with the Bugs Bunny slow pitch against the likes of JD Drew, Pujols and Edmonds.

Clemens received a standing ovation as he left the field and Torre was booed loudly again. I wonder if he's ever been booed like that at Yankee Stadium? Cardinals fans must have been scratching their heads. So this is what they talk about when they talk about New York fans. JD Drew reached on a bunt, and Pujols muscled a single through the right side before Edmonds weakly grounded out to Soriano.

Raul Mondesi added a two-run home run, and when Mariano came on in the ninth, the Yankees were in the drivers seat. Rivera shut the Cards down in order, and Clemens finally had his 300th win. Rocket came back out on the field, and got the royal treatment for the fans. His boys scampered to the mound and collected some dirt. All of the Cardinals fans I saw were standing clapping.

Unfortunately, the game ended on a sour note for me. Leaving the Stadium was even worse than getting in. There was bumper-to-bumper traffic all the way down, and it took at least 25 mintues to get out of there. Pedestrian traffic is a nightmare for a New Yorker, and between all of the out-of-towners and suburban Yankee fans, it was an ugly scene. Too many drunks, too close together.

Of course, we filed out hearing the usual chants: "Cardinals suck, Cardinals suck." Now I know that even when the Sox are in town, most of these seemingly mean-spirited taunts are meant in good fun. But I just can't get with it. Why chant that somebody sucks? Why not say, "We're great!" instead? Anyhow, it's par for the course, and groups of drunken Yankee fans jumped all over any wearing Cardinals gear. The lowest was, "Cardinals take it up the ass, do-dah, do-dah." It's bad enough that this kind of thing goes, on but when you can't escape these mooks, there is an edge, a mob-like intensity to the scene which makes for a particularly uncomfortable experience.

I was so unimpressed.

Not only that, I was personally embarrased to be a Yankee fan. And this is how we act when the Yanks win. Can you imagine if we had lost? (I can only imagine how ugly it got by Sunday afternoon.) I was also ashamed as a New Yorker, but you know what? Although there are plenty of obnoxious Yankee fans from New York, most of the morons are distinctly suburban---dudes from Long Island, Jersey and Westchester.

I felt so badly about it, that when I finally made it to the subway, I apologized to the first St. Louis fan I could find. The kid I spoke with didn't seem to think the abuse was all that bad, or at least nothing that wasn't expected, so perhaps I'm just sensitive to that kind of thing. Still, Yankee fans could learn a thing or three from Cardinals fans about class and respect, that's for sure.

It was still sloppy in New York on Saturday, and the game was delayed for over an hour in the first inning, just long enough for the Yanks to run Cards ace Matt Morris from the game. Jason Giambi hit two homers and so did Tino Martinez, as the Yanks bombed St. Louis 13-4 on the Fox game of the week. Joe Torre didn't get to bask in the glow of Rocket's big win as the tabliod machine kept rolling.

According to Lee Sinins:

According to the Newark Star Ledger, "George Steinbrenner recently told some associates he's seriously considering firing Joe Torre because of the Yankees' uneven play and for what the owner claimed to view as belligerent behavior on the part of his manager.

"According to multiple Yankees executives, Steinbrenner told confidants that Torre has been refusing to return his phone calls or participate in organizational strategy sessions for weeks and that he suspects Torre is intentionally creating the opposite impression -- that it is Steinbrenner who is ignoring and excluding him -- as a way of making him look bad publicly.

"Steinbrenner has also told confidants he believes Torre is behaving this way so the owner will fire him and he can collect the more than $7 million remaining on his contract, which expires after next season. That possibility is complicating Steinbrenner's decision-making. Steinbrenner told at least one associate that he would prefer that Torre resign and forfeit the money, but that he doesn't believe it will happen soon enough for his desires."

I'm still convinced that if the Yankees win the World Series, Torre is going to say he's done enough and will step down and if they don't, he's going to be fired.

The Times reported:

"I don't think our relationship has changed one bit," Torre said. "Comfortable, I have never been, because I think that's something you reserve for your time out of the game and not working anymore. I'm secure, that's a better word. I don't feel any less secure than I did before. You deal with what you have to deal with, but you know that you're constantly on the hot seat."

The hot seat cooled down just a little bit on Sunday as the Yanks completed the three-game sweep beating Woody Williams and St. Louis, 5-2. Mike Mussina pitched eight strong innings, Woody Williams walked six, and Robin Ventura and Hideki Matsui led the Yankees offense.

The ninth inning gave Yankee fans some confidence that they still root for a formidable team. Mariano Rivera came on to face the great Albert Pujols, and plunked the Cardinals young star on the first pitch. It was an inside heater that got away from Rivera, and it knicked Pujols' uniform. Not the worst thing that could happen in that situation, especially with Tino Martinez on deck. Martinez swung at Rivera's first offering and weakly grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. Jim Edmonds pinch hit next, and hit the first pitch to second, where Alfonso Soriano made a nifty play to end the game.

To their credit, the Yankees defense actually made some nice plays on Sunday (Matsui deftly tracked down a fly ball in the 7th). Jeter makes routine plays look harder than they are, but when the Yankees defense is helping the pitching out, things are good in the Bronx.

And not for nothing, but it's always good to beat up on a team managed by Tony LaRussa. I still remember how arrogant his Oakland teams were in the early '90s and how they used to stick it to the Yankees. The Cards have a likable team, but I don't have any sympathy for their skipper.

The Red Sox kept pace with the Yanks, sweeping the Astros in Boston. More exciting games for Red Sox Nation, as their bullpen stepped it up big time yesterday and rookie Freddy Sanchez dazzled Fenway with the leather on Saturday.

It should be interesting to see if the Yankees can continue to build some momentum over the next few weeks as their schedule gets considerably lighter.

2003-06-13 13:32
by Alex Belth


Here is something dopey to think about. Jay Jaffe and I were mulling it over a few weeks back.

If you could go out to dinner with any member of the current Yankee team (coaches included), who would it be?

Send your answers to me at

Inquiring minds want to know. (Like me.)

2003-06-13 13:25
by Alex Belth


The rain is finally coming down here in New York, and if they get the game in tonight, it could be a long, sloppy affair. My friend Mindy got me a ticket for the game on the count of Tino Martinez is returning to the Stadium for the first time and all. I always liked Tino fine, but I didn't pine after him like many Yankee fans did. I don't know whether he'll play or not, but I assume if he can walk, LaRussa will let him DH, so he can get his cheers. I will certainly give him a big hand when he's introduced, and then I'll root for Roger to strike him out each time he comes to bat. Even if Clemens doesn't get his 300th victory tonight, he should notch strikeout # 4,000.

I wonder who will hurt the Yankees more? Drew or Edmonds. (Answer: Albert.)

I'll be sure and give you my take on the game, but it may have to wait until Monday. In the meantime, check out some of the great work happening out there in the blogging universe:

Mike C has another meticulously researched article on his site. This one deals with the history of the strike zone.

Jay Jaffe has a characteristically solid write up of the Yankees-Astros series over at Futility Infielder.

And don't forget to drop in on the latest installment of the C & C Baseball Factory over at The Cub Reporter.

Hope everyone has a great weekend.

AAAHHH Ah, me of
2003-06-13 08:15
by Alex Belth


Ah, me of little faith. Shows you what I know. The Yankees rallied for runs in the seventh and eighth innings yesterday and nipped the Astros 6-5. It was the first time they came from behind when trailing after six innings. They took the series from Houston and are back in first place after the Red Sox lost a crusher in Boston last night (another wild one). As bad as the no-hitter was for the Yanks, they did win the series. Meanwhile, the Red Sox lost two agonizing games vs. St. Louis. Which just goes to show you, it could always be worse.

I hope Ed Cossette got some sleep. (Ed has a link to an excellent interview with Bill James today...don't snooze, youse.)

Speaking of the Nation, here is a terrific piece from a blog called Red Sox Nation on the nature of Boston fans. I couldn't find the perma-link, so scroll down to the article titled:

A little polemic in honor of the Sox/Cards series

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

It should be required reading.

The fellas over at Red Bird Nation, have wonderful coverage of the Sox-Cards series too. Be sure to check in with them over the weekend for their take on the Cards visit to the Bronx.

Say what you like about the Yankees; they are rarely dull. They may not be the same team that won 4 championships in 6 years, but they still are the biggest show in town. Ask the Reds or the Cubs if they'll remember their games against the Yankees. Same goes for the Astros. Even though they lost the series, do you think they'll foget the no-hitter anytime soon? (Not including Jeff Kent.)

George Steinbrenner visited with manager Joe Torre before the game, and apparently Joe did most of the venting. According to Bill Madden:

"You wonder what you could have done, what you could do or what you have not done," Torre said in reference not just to the Wednesday night no-hit debacle but the general Yankees malaise that was most characterized by the 0-24 record in games in which they trailed after seven innings before yesterday. "You feel responsible. It's my job to prepare these guys and when something is as ugly as (Wednesday night) you're wondering what your missing."

Then, reiterating his anger over the performance the night before - the most anger he's ever had in baseball - Torre said: "It was not the no-hitter I was angry about. I didn't like the process. I care about these guys and I want them to play hard. It's a blow to your ego that goes beyond losing."

..."There's nothing George can say to me that could make me feel any worse than I felt. I'm probably tougher on myself than George could ever be."

Jack Curry reports in The Times:

Joe Torre called himself the caretaker of the Yankees after the darkest and bleakest game they have played for him, a warm, gentle way to describe what he does as the manager...It was an interesting and revealing word for Torre to hang on himself. He was in the midst of verbally annihilating his sluggish team for being no-hit by the Houston Astros on Wednesday night when he slipped it in to stress that he has also performed poorly. The caretaker has been praised when the Yankees have rumbled down the highway without braking, so he must be chastised when they stall.

..."It's more than just a job to me," Torre said. "It's always been. I think if it was just a job, I would have been tired of it a long time ago."

It is clear that Torre is searching for answers. Todd Zeile conceded:

"We better find out here in the short term who we are...It's important for us to start putting some of these wins together, because it helps our confidence.

"That's one thing I've noticed that's been different from the Yankee teams I remember facing. In the last six or seven years, no matter what, there was a confidence, almost an arrogance, when they walked on the field. I think we have to sort of earn that."

You ain't just whistlin' Dixie, friend.

Godzilla Matsui had two more hits yesterday (he also had a mental lapse in the field that lead to a run in the first inning). He's starting to come around a bit. Matsui is expertly profiled by Aaron Gleeman over at Baseball Primer.

2003-06-12 15:25
by Alex Belth


The Yanks trail the Astros by the score of 5-4 after six full in the Bronx. The Yanks are 0-21 this year when they are behind after six innings. Do you feel lucky? I don't, but what the hell: Let's Go Yan-kees!

Remember how Bronx Banter reader Adam said it couldn't get any worse than last night? He amended that statement when he saw who was batting clean-up today for New York.

It still hasn't rained. I have tickets to tomorrow night's game. Looks like the rain will wait until we jam the Stadium to watch Roger tomorrow night.

2003-06-12 14:35
by Alex Belth


Lee Sinins is reporting that the Mets have called a 4 pm press conference. They haven't announced why, but it looks as if Steve Phillips will finally get kicked to the curb.

Meanwhile, after 4 innings the Yanks have a 3-2 lead on the Astros.

You know it occured to me that for all the ranting and raving I've done about the Yankees offense last night, the Astros do deserve a good deal of credit for their accomplishment. They are no zhlubs, and that is one Grade A bullpen they've got.

2003-06-12 13:13
by Alex Belth


Here is an e-mail I got today from Adam, a Yankee fan who saw the Yanks get no-hit in person:

I was at the game last night - it was even worst in person. Besides Posada swinging 3-0, and the obvious no-hitter, here are some other things that helped cause a sleepless night.
1. Other than Soriano's sinking liner and a fly out to the warning track by Giambi, there wasn't really anything close to a hit by the Yankees all night. The Yankees are flailing, and usually missing, at everything. Four strike outs in one inning, seven in a row at one point, thirteen for the game.

2. Jeter looked completely overmatched. He struck out three times, and, while it's tough not to look bad while doing that, he looked like a rookie flailing away in his first at bat. Twelve strike outs in nineteen at bats, me thinks Mr. Jeter needs to do some help.

3. Soriano forgetting to cover first on the bunt. This is simply inexcusable, I'm not sure if this is a result of poor coaching or Sori's spaciness, either way it was painful to watch.

4. Weaver stinks. He got booed and rightly so. He wasn't fooling anyone on Houston, every hit was hard and usually in the gap.

5. More bouncers up the middle. It's amazing how many singles up the middle the Yankees give up because neither Jeter nor Soriano can get to them.

6. Al Reyes - meet Acevedo Part Duex.

7. Pinch hitting Bubba Trammel for Ventura. Nothing like taking a guy who hasn't played in about a month and asking him to break up a no-hitter.

8. Todd Zeile. Maybe it's me but it seems like he's in the hole 0-2 as soon as he steps in the batters box.

9. Juan Rivera is completely overmatched.
This is as low as it gets, I hope.

I hate to sound like a downer, but I think it get definitely get lower. Fortunately, it can also get a heck of a lot better too. Adam sent me another e-mail (which I inadvertantly erased) and added two more gaffes---Jeter's throwing error, and the you-got-I-got-it-nobody-got-it dropped-fly ball between Juan Rivera and Hideki Matsui.
Here is another note regarding the game. According to Lee Sinins in his ATM report today:

None of the 6 pitchers the Astros used gave up a hit.

It was the first time the Astros didn't give up a hit since Darryl Kile, on September 8, 1993.

It was the first time the Yankees didn't get a hit since Melido Perez did it on July 12, 1990. It's been inaccurately reported everywhere that the
last time was by Hoyt Wilhelm, on September 20, 1958. However, although the game only lasted 6 innings, let's look at that game. Perez pitched all of the innings. He got credit for a complete game, he got credit for a shutout. He also didn't get any hits added to his season total. If that's not a no hitter, then no game in baseball history could qualify a no hitter.

Also, don't forget to check out the Replacement Level Yankee Blog for an hilarious and insightful take on the Bronx Zoo.


With his first full lenth album set to drop in a couple of weeks, Bernie Williams has just signed a deal with Paul McCartney's company MPL Communications. McCartney's company will market Bernie's music for commericals and movies and anything else they can think of.

2003-06-12 08:29
by Alex Belth


There have been rumblings for over a month now that what these Yankees need is some tough love from their manager Joe Torre.

Yesterday, Joel Sherman wrote:

Torre has come under greater scrutiny - and not just by Steinbrenner.

If nothing else, this season is exemplifying just how much quality players and a self-policing clubhouse could elevate a manager. No knock on Torre, whose serene demeanor and dignity ideally uplifted the Yankee roster for years. But it sure is easier to push the right buttons when nearly every button offers a good option, and when the clubhouse core motivates and regulates itself.

Torre may still be right, that his reassuring manner will evoke the most from a talented team again. However, this group looks often like it needs a kick, not a hug.

Well, Yankee fans, the media, and even George got their wish, as Torre lit into his hapless team after being no-hit by six, count em, six Houston pitchers:

"Whatever kind of history it was, it was terrible," he said sharply. "It was one of the worst games I've ever been involved in. I have no explanation. Usually I do, but I can't find a reason for what happened. The whole game stunk."

..."We didn't play baseball," Torre said harshly. "I don't know what we were playing."

Today Joel Sherman opined:

This 8-0 Houston humiliation even left the perpetually find-the-positive Joe Torre totally negative. He lambasted his team beyond closed doors, perhaps in the strongest way of his tenure, and called this the worst effort of his Yankee stint. He normally does not pin out players publicly, but said Jorge Posada missed a take sign when he grounded out with a 3-0 count and the bases loaded in the third, ending the Yanks' one offensive glimmer. And he finally acknowledged that at least on this night his mentally adrift team was mentally adrift.

In describing this as "a total, inexcusable performance," Torre's anger seemed directed as much to his Boss as his 25 players. George Steinbrenner has wanted his manager sterner. You have to wonder if Torre's fury will be enough now to satiate Steinbrenner. Especially since Torre had said he liked the team's tenor in the last week, which meant the manager was either blind-sided last night or simply does not know his club anymore.

Mike Lupica added:

The door to the Yankee clubhouse stayed closed a long time. It turns out there had been a team meeting. When someone asked Torre who had spoken, he raised a hand like a kid in class. "Just me," he said.

He would be asked later if he was hot addressing his team.

"I'm unhappy," Torre said. "Whatever hot is."

"I can't find a reason for what happened tonight," Torre said.

"It was a total, inexcusable performance," he said.

"We can't hide from this, or use any excuses," Torre said. "We're all responsible, starting with me."

...He talked about Jorge Posada missing a sign and swinging at a 3-0 pitch.

"We weren't thinking well tonight," Torre said. "Once things started snowballing, we lost our composure."

...Torre talked until he was talked out. His phone kept ringing. He ignored it. He was asked about the owner and said, "There's really nothing he could tell me now ! or do ! that would make this worse than it is."

It is fitting that the Yanks were no-hit. Considering how they've been playing it should not come as a surprise, as Rob Neyer noted in his column today. Neyer tells it like it is, especially regarding the declining play of Derek Jeter:

Jeter's production has been falling steadily since 1999, when he might have deserved the MVP Award (which went to Ivan Rodriguez instead).

It's tempting to assume that Jeter's not fully recovered form his shoulder separation, and that he'll start hitting either this season or, at worst, next season after he's had a winter to recover.

Maybe. But the best evidence suggests that the power he showed in 1999 was something of a fluke, and also that his 2002 numbers were the rule rather than the exception. And if that's the case, the Yankees' fortunes this season could have a real impact on Jeter's image. To this point, a lot of people don't have any idea that Jeter has gone from being a truly great player to a merely good one, because he still has that postseason glow about him. But if Jeter finishes this season with another sub-.800 OPS and the Yankees don't play in October, then what kind of case will his defenders make?

"Chemistry" is a great argument when you're winning ... but when the winning ends, you have to fall back on the actual performance. And when the performance looks like this, it's pretty hard to justify $16.5 million.

Steve Keane asked me what was worse, the Yankees getting no-hit or Posada swinging 3-0 with the bases loaded. I think Posada swinging 3-0 felt worse to me, especially when I learned that he missed a sign. Posada may be the best hitting catcher in the game, but for someone who blasted his teammates after the Yanks lost to the Angels in the playoffs last year, for a guy who is a veteran of championship teams, Posada plays with his head in his ass more often than not.

The Yanks can save some face this afternoon if they come away with a victory, but the damage has been done. The wheels are in motion in George's universe and the fallout is going to be dramatic. After weeks of cool weather and rain, it is suddenly hot and humid like August in New York. It's like soup out there and it still hasn't rained. The game today will probably get washed out. Either way, Hurricaine George is on it's way. Right on the heels of Joe Torre's rainstorm.

Yankee-haters rejoice!

GULP Billy Wagner is
2003-06-11 22:03
by Alex Belth


Billy Wagner is on to pitch the ninth, the Astros sixth pitcher. Posada leads off. The count evens at 2-2, and Posada, batting from the right hand side, fouls a fastball off. Another fastball in on the hands, fouled off to right side. And another fastball, outside, fouled off. Fastball on the outside corner, swung on and missed, strike three. The Astros have struck out seven Yankees in a row.

The Yankees haven't been no-hit since Hoyt Wilhelm did it to 'em September 20 1958. It is the longest streak in history.

Bubba Trammell is up to pinch hit. Lucky him. Curveball called strike. Slider, swung on and missed, 0-2. Fastball, 102 mph just outside, 1-2. Slider, grounded foul. Fastball outside, swung on and missed. Eight in a row.

Here comes Godzilla. The fans are standing and chanting. The sound system plays "Get Back," and Matsui swings at the first pitch and grounds weakly to Jeff Bagwell at first, who flips to Wagner for the out.

No hitter! Wow. Six pitchers=1 no hitter. Now, there is something you don't see...ever.

It's hot and muggy in New York. The weather man said we'd get thundershowers tonight. It hasn't rained yet, but in Yankee land it's about to pour.

GOING DOWN? After eight
2003-06-11 21:51
by Alex Belth


After eight innings, the Yankees are being no-hit by the Astros. You knew it was going to be a tough night with Roy Oswalt going, but the ace of the Houston staff left in the 2nd, and five pitchers have combined to no-hit the Yanks. Octavio Dotel struck out the side, plus one in the 8th. Soriano reached first on a swinging strike three that went for a wild pitch, so Dotel struck out Jeter and Giambi to end the inning.

The Astros are leading 6-0. Oh dip, make that 8-0. Jeff Weaver wasn't great, and the Yankees kicked the ball all over the field once again. Jeter made a throwing error. Oh, and my pre-series question was answered. Berkman hit a homer in the upper deck before hitting one in the bleachers (he still has time to do that too). He also made a good diving catch to rob Soriano in the following inning.

Early in the game, Jorge Posada was up with the bases loaded. He got the green light on a 3-0 pitch and grounded out to first. Boy, was that ever the sign of bad things to come.

If the Yanks actually get no-hit, you can bet hitting coach Rick Down will be the first coaching casualty of the year.

2003-06-11 13:21
by Alex Belth


Here is an curious yet informative article that I obtained by a writer named Howard W. Rosenberg regarding the history of Yankee captains. Rosenberg has an odd penchant for referring to himself in the third person, but the article is interesting all the same.

The "Uncorked 11:" Yankees Bungle their Past; Snub, Among Others, Hall of Famers Clark Griffith and Frank Chance in Detailing Just 11 Captains Including Derek Jeter; Lou Gehrig Takes a Hit Too

Don Mattingly was definitely not the tenth captain of the New York Yankees, a decade of media reporting on Yankee baseball notwithstanding, and the newly named Derek Jeter is therefore not the 11th. The grand total of Yankee captains to date seems like 15, says Howard W. Rosenberg, biographer of Cap Anson, the 19th-century Hall of Famer and longtime captain-manager whose nickname derived from the word "captain."

When Jeter was named captain on June 3, the Yankees issued a news release that could be read on the Yankees' Web site on (and was still there as of June 9). The precise ring exuded by the release may help explain why media outlets did not bother attributing the data to the Yankees. The Yankees supplied full start and end dates (month, day and year) for many of the captaincies, starting with Babe Ruth's in 1922.

Yet the Yankees bungled Lou Gehrig's start date as April 21, 1935, and apparently have been doing so since at least 1991 (when the error appeared that way in the New York Times). That date should be April 12, 1935, as validated by the Times of April 13, 1935. Rosenberg surmises that today, while hardly anyone is sentimental that the Yankees overlooked perhaps four of their captains (whose names are not of the likes of DiMaggio or Mantle), an error on Gehrig's milestone will be deemed a sacrilege.

A back-to-back view of the Yankees' "uncorked 11" and Rosenberg's "gang of 15" captains chronologies appears at the bottom of this analysis.

Rosenberg does appreciate that the Yankees addressed an historical subject that hardly any baseball media (let alone fans) know anything about. He would welcome the opportunity to tell Yankee officials and players all about captains, captain-managers and bench managers in the old days (or if they want, they can read his July 2003 release: Cap Anson 1: When Captaining a Team Meant Something: Leadership in Baseball's Early Years). Rosenberg adds, "As penance, I invite those hoodwinked New York and national media not overly tied to ratings points or perceived focus-group sensibilities to serve up a few features that relate the first decades of U.S. team sport to today. As captain-manager of Chicago for 19 years, 3,000-hitsman Anson won several pennants, and his relations with famous Hall of Fame club presidents William Hulbert and Albert Spalding would make for an insightful comparison to George Steinbrenner-Joe Torre-Derek Jeter relations on the Yankees today."

Rosenberg continues: "Anson was great friends with the Yankees' first captain, Clark Griffith, who had been his star pitcher in Chicago in the 1890s. Also relevant to New York, Anson had the stomach to withstand criticism (especially about his advanced age; he was playing at age 45). He was the first professional ball player to have star billing in a vaudeville play (playwright Charles Hoyt's 1895 `A Runaway Colt'), and it had a run in New York City. By the way, it was out of the storied Chicago tradition of funny coverage (with Anson a major target) that baseball humorist Ring Lardner blossomed in the early 20th century. In the mid-1910s, Lardner wrote vaudeville material for Anson."

Jeter's elevation as captain will appear in the Anson 1 foreword, which is written by Clark C. Griffith, great-nephew of the Yankees' first captain and Hall of Famer Clark Griffith. The foreword writer is a former chairman of Major League Properties, former part-owner of the Minnesota Twins and current chairman of the sports law forum of the American Bar Association Section on Entertainment and Sports Law.

With the help of online databases, plus hands-on knowledge of the captain's historic role in baseball, Rosenberg has dissected the Yankees' June 3 press release. He estimates at 14 the number of Yankees captains prior to Jeter who served at least a month (a captain being a player on the active roster, and he did not necessarily have to play much). Rosenberg's "gang of 15" list, which assumes that Jeter will last at least a month, additionally contains Hall of Famer Griffith (1903 to 1905), Kid Elberfeld (1906 to 1909), Hall of Famer Frank Chance (1913) and a mystery sleeper: Roy Hartzell, on the team from 1911 to 1916. On Dec. 27, 1916, the New York Times stated that the following person had signed a minor league contract: "Roy Hartzell, former Captain of the New York Americans." Rosenberg could not tell, from a basic search, when Hartzell may have been captain. Perhaps to reward readers who find missing captains, the New York Daily News, which printed splendid pictures of the "uncorked 11," can offer a meal or rap session with noted columnist Mike Lupica.

The Daily News was the only major newspaper printing the names of the "uncorked 11" that Rosenberg has seen; the others are Newsday, the New York Post, the Bergen County [N.J.] Record, the Hartford Courant, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and several papers associated with the Scripps Howard News Service. Not readily apparent is whether any of the above noted the Yankees as the source of the information; the Daily News spread (pretty enough to post on a wall) apparently did not attribute the data.

ESPN, before one of Jeter's three strikeouts during last night's Yankees-Cubs game, posted the "uncorked 11" on the screen.

In handling the "uncorked 11," the New York Times, under fire in recent weeks, deserves just a mild censure: it was one of the few New York-area papers with big sports sections not to print it, limiting its error to calling Jeter the 11th captain.

Rosenberg has seen mentions of Jeter as the 11th captain in dozens of newspapers online and several major wire services extending as far as abroad to the Voice of America. In no case has he seen an attribution to the Yankees as the source for Jeter as the 11th captain.

Unlike most subjects that gain wide airing in today's sports media, captains may seem obscure and lend themselves to large historical blunders. While the Yankees' list seems to reflect a reasonable mastery of the subject since the 1920s (having a captain evolved into a matter of taste), it snubs early decades of that century when having a captain was a necessity (as the rule books singled out a captain who was an active player, and not the manager, as the one with the right to argue with the umpire).

That changed around 1930 (when the rules for some time singled out the captain or the manager as being able to argue). The decline in the captain's importance can be seen after 1925 in the "uncorked 11" and "gang of 15" dueling chronologies at the bottom of this note, when there is a gap between Yankee captains until Lou Gehrig in 1935.

Today, the rules let the manager hand off to a coach or player the role of top arguer in each game; a hypothetical question, incidentally, is what would happen if a manager who was not in uniform tried to come on the field and act as designated arguer. The rules today state that to be on the field, coaches must be in uniform. They do not address whether a bench manager must be as well to come on the field and argue with the umpire.

In researching Anson 1, Rosenberg posed that question to Tom Lepperd, director of umpire administration of Major League Baseball (and the following is taken from Anson 1). When given the hypothetical of a manager not in uniform coming out on the field and arguing, Lepperd replied that such a practice "is archaic in that all modern-day professional leagues implicitly require the manager to be in uniform."

Starting with 1903, the first season of the New York AL club, here is a chronological look at years of Yankee captains Rosenberg found to expand the "uncorked 11" to a "gang of 15:"

A. Clark Griffith (1903 to 1905)

According to New York Times contemporaneous reporting (which the Times in effect has undercut over two decades by accepting modern-day chronologies presumably always supplied by the Yankees), Griffith was the first captain (when the club had prior nicknames, especially the Highlanders):

1. The New York Times of Dec. 10, 1902, states, "Clark Griffith will be the Manager-Captain of the New York American League team. . ."

2. On the eve of opening day of the club's first season, on April 20, 1903, when New York was in Washington, the Washington Evening Star stated, "The New York aggregation is made up of several stars, among whom are Keeler, Fultz and Pitchers Tannehill, Chesbro and Griffith, the latter acting as captain-manager."

Griffith's reign as captain continued into 1904, and probably into 1905. The New York Times of Oct. 16, 1904, reviewed the season of the New York NL and AL clubs and ran individual pictures of everyone, including larger elegant ones of John McGraw of the Giants and Griffith of the AL club, with the caption "Manager and Captain" under each.

B. Kid Elberfeld (1906 to 1909)

Proof that Elberfeld was a Yankees captain can be found in the Times of May 15, 1906, which called him manager "Griffith's first assistant in directing the team on the field." If that sounds like a reference to Elberfeld as captain, it probably is, as on August 19, 1906, the Times referred to him as "Elberfeld, Captain of the Greater New Yorks."

On Oct. 10, 1907, the Washington Post said that if Washington acquired Elberfeld from New York, he would undoubtedly be named captain. Elberfeld played with the Yankees through 1909, and he likely remained captain throughout.

C. Hal Chase (1910 to 1911, in addition to 1912)

On April 3, 1910, the Times said, ``With Hal Chase as Captain, and with more confidence than has been exhibited in several seasons, the New York Americans show more promise than last season." Times coverage in 1911 also points to Chase as captain (on Feb. 18 and April 29).

D. Frank Chance (1913)

After casting Chase as captain in 1912 only, the "uncorked 11" list jumps to Roger Peckinpaugh, for 1914-21. For 1913, Rosenberg opines that Chance was circumstantially the Yankee captain (news reports show Chance in uniform on the coaching lines into late in the season, playing in a few games. They also show him arguing with the umpire over captain-like issues including the legality of the pitcher's motion).

The "uncorked 11" contains a large gap from 1926 to 1935 and in case you are now understandably suspicious, the Times and the Associated Press, contemporaneously, validated at least some of the gap. In their 1935 coverage, both news outlets pointed wrongly to Babe Ruth as the last captain before 1935 (Ruth was captain briefly in 1922, while Everett Scott was captain from 1922 to 1925). However, Scott does appear among the "uncorked 11," so the Yankees can be praised for helping reporters improve on coverage from 68 years ago. The Times of April 13, 1935, does allude to Scott's tenure in stating, "Not for ten years has the Yankee club had a captain;" however, it then gives an explanation that makes it sound like Ruth was captain until 1925. In reality, any suppressing of the title by the Yankees was done not after Ruth's tenure (which was in 1922) but after Scott's (which according to the Yankees ended with 1925).

It is unfair to single out the Times for erroneous claims because it is one of the few newspapers available for full-text searching on a computer. With that in mind, the oldest report Rosenberg found in the Times of a long, bogus chain of Yankee captains was on Jan. 31, 1982. A Times column stated, "In their history, the Yankees have had only six captains (dash symbol appears here) Roger Peckinpaugh, Babe Ruth (for six days in 1922 before he was defrocked by American League President Ban Johnson and suspended after a fight with a fan) [sic, meaning that's what's in the 1982 report], Everett Scott, Lou Gehrig, Thurman Munson and now Graig Nettles."

That 1982 list is interesting (as far as figuring out the chain of custody of erroneous lineage) because Peckinpaugh was a captain only in seasons when Yankees was the official nickname. It became the nickname in 1913, and Peckinpaugh was captain from 1914 to 1921. Perhaps the original list was compiled with an eye toward years in which Yankees was the official nickname; however, even by that score, the Yankees had to have had a captain in 1913 (even if the title was not bandied about explicitly), and he is most likely the strong-willed Frank Chance (of Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance poetic fame) known in 1913 as "P. L." or the Peerless Leader; Hal Chase, the 1910-12 captain, was traded in June 1913. In 1986, a Times article noting the then-naming of co-captains Ron Guidry and Willie Randolph similarly named Peckinpaugh as the first Yankee captain.

It may seem amazing that for two decades, uncorrected lists have been published about the names of Yankee captains, given the club's treasured history (and seemingly plentiful male fans of an advanced age in the highly intelligent New York area). Maybe it was earlier manifestations of the Jayson Blair phenomenon, where members of the public often did not complain because they had no expectation that corrections would be made.

For reference, here is the Yankees' "uncorked 11":

Hal Chase 1912

Roger Peckinpaugh 1914-1921

Babe Ruth 5/20/22-5/25/22

Everett Scott 1922-1925

Lou Gehrig 4/21/35-6/2/41

Thurman Munson 4/17/76-8/2/79

Graig Nettles 1/29/82-3/30/84

Ron Guidry 3/4/86-7/12/89

Willie Randolph 3/4/86-7/12/89

Don Mattingly 2/28/91-1995

Derek Jeter 6/3/03-

Here is the "gang of 15" based on additional research by Cap Anson biographer Howard W. Rosenberg:

Clark Griffith 1903-05 (first addition)

Kid Elberfeld 1906-09 (second addition)

Hal Chase 1910-12 (two years added)

(Roy Hartzell, somewhere within 1911-16) (third addition)

Frank Chance 1913 (fourth addition)

Roger Peckinpaugh 1914-1921

Babe Ruth 5/20/22-5/25/22

Everett Scott 5/30/22 or later-1925 (the 5/30 date being taken from a Times article that day noting that manager Miller Huggins was expected to name Scott in the future)

Lou Gehrig 4/12/35-6/2/41 (note the correction to Gehrig's date of naming)

Thurman Munson 4/17/76-8/2/79

Graig Nettles 1/29/82-3/30/84

Ron Guidry 3/4/86-7/12/89

Willie Randolph 3/4/86-7/12/89

Don Mattingly 2/28/91-1995

Derek Jeter 6/3/03-

Howard Rosenberg has written a book on Cap Anson that is due to be released later this year. For more information, and to contact Howard, go to

2003-06-11 12:56
by Alex Belth


Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, and the Yanks were a little bit of both last night as they took the opening game from Houston, 5-3. Mike Mussina and Wade Miller looked sharp for the first four innings, but were hit hard in the fifth. (Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano predictably turned a few tough outs into hits.) Jeff Kent couldn't turn a double play on a sharply hit grounder off the bat of Derek Jeter in the bottom of the inning, which led three Yankee runs--an RBI single by Giambi, followed by a two-run dinger from Jorge Posada. The Astros stormed back against Mussia in the top of the sixth, rapping four consecutive hits, including a two-run homer which hit off the top of the left field fence, by Craig Biggio.

But then, Lady Luck stepped in again. According to Tyler Kepner in The Times:

As Mike Mussina finished his follow-through, he saw and heard Richard Hidalgo hammer a line drive toward third base, and he crouched while he awaited the outcome. If the smash found a hole, the Houston Astros would grab the lead. If the liner settled in someone's glove, the Yankees would still be ahead by a run and Mussina could exhale.

Robin Ventura slid a step to his left to spear Hidalgo's shot and whipped the ball to first for a double play that ended a sticky sixth inning. Mussina was still crouching after the Yankees saved him. Perhaps Mussina decided to sneak in a prayer of thanks since his knees were already close to the grass. It would have been appropriate.

The funniest play of the night for the Bombers came in the bottom of the sixth. Godzilla led off the frame with a double to right and then moved to third on Ruben Sierra's ground out to first (Joe Torre was up of the bench to congradulate Ruben Ruben for advancing the runner). Raul Mondesi then smacked a grounder sharply to the third baseman Morgan Ensberg, who stepped to his right to tag Matsui. David Pinto says that Matsui looks like Moe, Steve Keane says he looks like Shemp, but Godzilla did his impression of the Curly Shuffle to avoid the tag. Ensberg then threw to first to complete the strange double play. But wait, it appeared that he missed the tag, and Matsui scampered home with an extra run. Matsui continues to hit well, and he had three hits last night. He is going with the pitch a lot better and the balls he had been weakly dribbling to second base are now solid singles to left.

The Yanks would need all the insurance they could get because after seven innings, Mussina was relieved by Antonio Osuna, who did his best Juan 'Gone' Acevedo by giving up a bomb on his very first pitch. After recording a hard-hit out, Chris Hammonds came in and got out of the inning, striking out Lance Berkman with his inimitable Bugs Bunny change up. Mariano Rivera worked a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out two.

One thing I've noticed about Rivera this year is that when he comes set, he taps his left foot repeatedly, and gingerly as if he's trying to find his footing. I don't think I've seen him do this in previous years. It almost looks like when a cat is about to step on a ledge, and it feels the new surface for a minute before it makes a move. I don't know if Mariano is just trying to get comfortable or if it is a new timing mechanism.

It was a satisfying win for the Yankees, who have squandered a good deal of games like this during the first part of this season. The Cardinals tipped the Sox 9-7 in Boston last night, so the Bombers move back into first.

Be sure and check out Redbird Nation and Bambino's Curse for all the lowdown on the historic serious at the Fens. Redbird Nation has a particularly interesting post on Red Sox fans. Just scroll down and peep the article on Clemens vs. Pedro.

Weather permitting, the Yanks get Houston's ace, Roy Oswalt tonight. Jeff Weaver gets another shot for the Yanks.

EEWWW The New York
2003-06-10 13:25
by Alex Belth


The New York Post has been reporting for several days that the Yankees are very interested in the Texas Rangers' closer, Ugie Urbina. He's expensive, he's a headcase, and he's a showboat---the ideal Yankee. But at least he's better than Juan Acevedo, right George? Hey, what's one more gavone at this point?

Here is what Bronx Banter reader Will thinks:

Depending on what we give up, this transaction could be a trade that will add more bloat to the roster without adding any quality, and if Brandon Claussen is the one being sent to Texas, John Hart needs to be arrested for commiting sodomy on the Yankees front office without proper lubrication. Promoting Al Reyes and Jason Anderson is a step in the right direction, but it seems a futile move since Manager Joe wil only use a relief pitcher only if he has been in the majors for ten years, quality and effectiveness be damned. I guess like all managers, he is more worried about winning now than about building a foundation for the short-term or long-term future. And you feel more comfortable with someone who has had experience in the "Big Spot." But if I'm not mistaken, Urbina was placed in that "Big Spot" position last year with the Red Sox and managed to help his team lose two of three to the Yanks at the Stadium and eventually the AL East when he walked Posada in with the bases loaded walk. I will not and can't ever understand the allure a veteran player holds for a manager. Urbina is not the answer, but youngsters like Anderson and Claussen can definitely be part of a bright future. This patchwork approach has never worked in the past and chasing this line of strategy will eventually bring them full circle back to the Dallas Green/Bucky Dent/Stump Merrill days.

According to his secondary sources, Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus reports:

I am hearing a lot more Urbina news - he may not want to go to NY due to last year's bad blood and his desire to get saves in a contract year. The Pirates may be
listening to offers for Mike Williams and the Yanks might be getting serious about grabbing Mike Lowell back in a deal that could include Braden Looper and everyone's favorite, Drew Henson.

Mike Lowell, Brian Giles, Carlos Beltran. The Yankee wish list is starting to grow. It's that time of year again, folks. Why just not throw in Vlad Guerrero and Miggy Tejada in there too? Just cause you can.

2003-06-10 08:03
by Alex Belth


George Steinbrenner held meetings yesterday with his round table of merry men, once again to discuss the state of his slumping team. Juan Acevedo and Charles Gipson still have jobs, but that may not last long. Without naming them directly general manager Brian Cashman told the Times:

"If you can't perform at a high level consistently, you're not going to be here too long. Anybody that falls into that category needs to step up.

"Over all, there are a lot of things right now that are not clicking. You definitely wouldn't want to blame it on one or two individual players. But generally, that's one thing I can say. I know people put forth their best effort, but you're judged at a high standard here. It's my job to decide when it's time to make a change and to move someone on. That's not a warning, just a general fact of life as a Yankee."

...Cashman has been exploring deals for relievers, with no success. He is, he said, content to wait.

"There's always pressure," Cashman said. "But if we make a move, we want to make a move that makes sense right now. We don't want to burn a prospect and make the wrong move. The players being offered to me now don't significantly improve us."

However, Newsday is reporting that the Yankees will cut Acevedo today, and place Jose Contreras on the 15-day dl with "an ailing right shoulder." They will apparently call up pitchers Al Reyes and Jason Anderson. I will put in a call to Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus to see what's what with the Contreras injury.

Meanwhile, the first-place Houston Astros---the team most likely to be mistaken for a State Troopers convention---come to town tonight to start a three-game series. Gordon Edes had a good piece on the Astros manager Jimy Williams in the Globe on Sunday. Williams' no-nonsense approach seems to be working well with the veteran Houston team:

Astros star first baseman Jeff Bagwell, like Ausmus a Sox fan who grew up in Connecticut, heard about all the controversy that swirled around Williams during his tenure in Boston, especially his battles with Carl Everett and deposed GM Dan Duquette. Did he have any reservations upon hearing that Williams was coming to Houston?

''No,'' Bagwell said, ''because I'm cognizant of what Boston is about. I know how the media can be, and I know Jimy is a no-nonsense guy. There were some things that went on, I think, in Boston that would upset him. I know the Carl Everett thing obviously was a big thing up there.

''Jimy is about playing baseball -- what goes on out on the field and his team. That's all he cares about. The other stuff he does because he has to do it. Boston is a tough town. They're going to get in there and ask questions, the tough ones. I remember Ellis Burks when I was up there, when I was a kid. He was a great thing, but they called him the `MVP that never was.' They buried him. I felt bad but I understand that's the way it is.

''So you have to give somebody the benefit of the doubt about that. That's why it didn't come into my mind.''

Is Williams, then, a good fit for the Astros?

''Great,'' Bagwell said. ''He treats you like a man. He expects you to play hard, he expects you to be on time, and that's it. He backs you 100 percent, but if you're not doing the right things, he's going to tell you.

''He's going to treat you like a man, and sometimes guys don't want to be treated like a man. They want to be coddled. Jimy is going to tell you you're not playing because of this or that. To me, that's fair, you know where you stand all the time. Some people can't handle that.''

The Yankee players got a real charge out of playing in Chicago this past weekend, and the Astros are equally juiced up about coming to the Bronx.

"This is going to be great for us," [Billy] Wagner said. "You always grow up wanting to beat the Yankees in the World Series. That's the ultimate. It's a great environment to see because we might face them in the World Series."

Wagner has played in two All-Star Games and has a franchise record 200 saves, but he admits it will be special if he gets an opportunity to collect a save at the home of one of the most respected closers in baseball.

"I want to go out there and get a save in Mariano Rivera's backyard," Wagner said. "It won't be easy, but it will be awesome."

Mike Mussina will face off against Wade Miler tonight. This should prove to be another exciting game. It should be interesting to see which Mussina shows up.

One question: Will Lance Berkman park one in the upper deck before he hits one in the bleachers?

Let's hope that Matsui and Giambi can stay hot, baby.

THE BOSS Guest Columnist
2003-06-09 08:49
by Alex Belth


Guest Columnist

It's easy to lose perspective on the antics of George Steinbrenner as a Yankee fan, but Christian Ruzich, The Cub Reporter has a clear view of Steinbrenner's strengths, as he details in this article customed-fit for Bronx Banter.

I wish George Steinbrenner owned the Cubs.
Over the last few months, baseball fans have seen what appears to be a throwback to the old days of George Steinbrenner, back when he was Boss George, the firin'est owner in baseball. When I was a kid, it seemed like Steinbrenner was in the news almost every day. There he was hiring a guy to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield; there he was firing Billy Martin, and hiring him again, and re-firing him; there he was in a Miller Lite commercial with Billy, making fun of the situation; there's he was, feuding with Jerry Reinsdorf ("How do you know when Steinbrenner is lying? His lips are moving"). Steinbrenner had been a constant presence in the New York tabloids for years. During the Joe Torre era, he seemed to recede a bit -- maybe winning shuts him up -- but recently he's come out with both barrels blazing. So now we get to hear that he isn't happy about the way Katy Feeney drew up the interleague schedule, and that he wants Jose Contreras in the starting rotation instead of Jeff Weaver, and that he thinks Derek Jeter spends too much time partying and not enough time concentrating on baseball but still thinks he'd make a good captain.
You know what? Good. I wish that stuff was showing up on the back page of the Chicago Sun-Times instead of the New York Post. I look at the Yankees and I see what the Cubs could have been: a team whose owner has deep pockets and isn't afraid to spend that money on the team, who actually gets excited about the team, and who does things that he thinks will make them better. He's not always right, but he's always trying, which is a lot more than can be said for Cubs ownership for the last, oh, seventy years.
A few years ago, George Castle wrote a book called The Million-to-One Team: Why the Chicago Cubs Haven't Won a Pennant Since 1945. Obviously, there's no one reason why the Cubs are pushing a century without a World Championship, but Castle posited that one of the main reasons was that ownership that didn't care. When Bill Wrigley died in 1932, his son P.K. promised him he would never sell the team. But, that didn't mean he wanted to run it. He was much more concerned about the gum company, and saw the Cubs as a good way to advertise his gum. Still, he ran the team from 1934 until his death in 1977. During those 43 years, he:
* Dragged his feet on setting up a farm system
* Waited until six years after Jackie Robinson's debut to integrate
* Turned down numerous offers to sell the team, including at least one attempt by Bill Veeck, son of Bill Wrigley's long-time friend, citing his deathbed promise to his father.
* Came up with the College of Coaches "innovation"
* OK'ed the trade of Lou Brock to the Cardinals for Ernie Broglio, et. al.
He did do a couple of things right over the years -- in the '50s, he encouraged radio and television broadcasts of games at a time when most owners were fighting them, and in 1966 he hired Leo Durocher, who promptly put an end to 20 straight losing seasons. But I would ascribe those successes to the "blind squirrel" theory rather than to any sort of baseball acumen. Besides, Leo didn't actually win anything, proving that just because nice guys finish last doesn't mean that bad guys finish first. By the time P.K. died the Cubs had gone 31 years without a pennant. Four years later, his son, unhampered by any sort of deathbed promise, sold the team to The Tribune Company.
The Cubs were not the first team to be owned by a large corporation (even the Yankees spent some time owned by CBS before Steinbrenner rescued them), but their purchase by TribCo certainly foreshadowed the current wave of corporate ownership. Tribune looked at the Cubs as cheap content for their WGN TV station, which was showing up on cable systems all over the country. They talked up the team on WGN Radio and in the pages of the Chicago Tribune. With the exception of the hiring of Dallas Green, however, they did very little to improve the team.
They did lots of things to improve the amount of money the team brought in, though, like installing lights and skyboxes. After the '84 division title, they ended the decades-old practice of selling bleacher seats on the day of the game. This was how I became a Cubs fan, by the way; back in the '70s, when the Cubs sucked, the adults in my life would head downtown about 2 o'clock, pick up a $5 bleacher ticket, and we would spend the rest of the afternoon happily watching the Cubs lose under the sun at the Friendly Confines. Now, in order to get a bleacher seat, you have to hang out on Waveland and buy one from a scalper for five times face value. Recently, they've done such charming things as putting up screens to block the view from the rooftops across the street and setting up a shell company to scalp their own tickets and pocket the proceeds.
And yet, not much of this extra money ended up on the field. Or, when it did, it went to people like Larry Bowa and Dave Smith, and (famously) not to people like Greg Maddux. Yes, they signed Andre Dawson, but only after he presented them with a blank check which they filled out for less than he had made the year before. They were pretty quiet on the free agent front through the '80s and '90s, and with the exception of Maddux, they weren't cranking out many prospects, either. Net result for the Trib Era: Two division championships, one wildcard, five winning seasons. It wasn't until lifelong baseball man Andy MacPhail came on the scene, and TribCo actually threw some money at the scouting and farm systems, that the Cubs started acting like what they are: one of the most popular franchises in baseball, playing in one of the most revered stadiums in sports, owned by one of the largest media conglomerates in the world.
Steinbrenner, on the other hand, has spent the last thirty years dishing out money like he was Montgomery Brewster. Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage, Rickey, Dave Winfield -- Steinbrenner opened his wallet for all of them. Later years saw the arrival of Wade Boggs, Paul O'Neill, David Cone, David Wells, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, and Jason Giambi. Plus, they were able to outbid everyone else for Orlando Hernandez, Alfonso Soriano and Hideki Matsui from the far-flung countries of the East (Hideki Irabu and Jose Contreras too, of course, but we're accentuating the positive here). But at the same time, they developed homegrown players like Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada. Net result for the Steinbrenner Era: six World Championships, three AL pennants, and only five losing seasons.
All of this spending and winning has made the Yankees the poster children for What Is Wrong With Baseball, of course. According to Bud Selig, the Yankees are why there is no competitive balance in baseball. The fact that George Steinbrenner has all this money, and isn't afraid to spend it, is held up by the nattering nabobs as proof that baseball is broken, and can't be fixed without revenue sharing/luxury tax/the Yankees giving Mariano Rivera to the Brewers. I don't buy it for a second. Yes, Steinbrenner has a lot of money. TribCo has as much money as Steinbrenner, if not more. So does Fox, and Peter Angelos, and look how well their teams have done. Steinbrenner not only has the money, he isn't afraid to spend it, and he is smart enough to hire smart people to run his team. For some reason, those last two things get lost when The End of Baseball As We Know It gets discussed.
Steinbrenner wants to win, and he does what it takes to do so. Plus, he brings all the excitement of a loaded pistol with a hair trigger being passed around by a bunch of speed freaks. Admit it, Yankee fans: weren't you just a little bit pleased when he started showing up in the papers again? I know I was, although my pleasure was dampened by a sense that I may never see this sort of stuff in Chicago (and maybe, with writers like Jay Mariotti and Rick Telander around, that's a good thing). But I'd gladly deal with all that uncertainty and day-to-day craziness if it meant I have the privilege of following a team that gave itself every opportunity to win.

2003-06-09 08:13
by Alex Belth


The Yankees looked better this weekend against the Cubs than they did against the Reds of the Tigers, but they couldn't outplay their mistakes and they dropped two of three in Chicago. In what proved to be a memorable series, the most egregious error came on Saturday afternoon when Joe Torre lifted Roger Clemens in the 7th inning of a 1-0 game, and replaced him with Juan Acevado, who promptly served up a three-run dinger to Eric Karros. Clemens bid for 300 was lost again, and although the Yankees had their chances late, they couldn't mount a rally to win.

I watched the game with my girlfriend Emily, and after Acevado gave up the dinger, it was as if someone had punched us in the stomach. (We were already quesy after the freak injury sustained by Cubbie first baseman Hee Seo Choi.) I'm not big on second-guessing, but it was unavoidable here. Joe Torre and Mel Stottlemyre gave a lot of lip service to a respitory infection that Clemens struggling with, but as far as I'm concerned Clemens was still effective, and Rocket at 65%-70% is prefereable to Acevado at 110%.

According to the Times:

"Roger never wants to come out of a game, but when you see him every time he pitches, you pretty much make an evaluation on what you see," Torre said.

Torre saw a pitcher who was wavering. The walk to Alou was Clemens's first of the game, but Torre said, "It just looked like he was forcing it." So Torre pulled him for Acevedo, a pitcher whose 7.83 earned run average was about to get worse.

Clemens did not speak to reporters after the game, issuing a brief statement that said: "Everything considered, I felt good. I went long and hard the whole way. It just didn't work out."

Some of the Cubs were surprised to see Clemens leave. "I was," third baseman Lenny Harris said, "especially for a guy who was going for 300 and shutting us down the way he was. He got it past Sammy at 98, and his breaking ball was great. He just dominated us."

Em and I were dumbstuck, and we weren't alone. Here is an e-mail I received from Harley, a loyal Bronx Banter reader:

I don't get it. Given that every Yankee fan in the known universe knew that Acevedo was going to give it up -- maybe not that quickly, or that definitively -- how did this escape Joe Torre's attention? Clemens hadn't even hit 85 pitches yet, he's throwing 94 mph fastballs, and the rookie umpire might've cost him the walk....and Acevedo is the best option? (Conspiracy theory: Joe sends a message to Steinbrenner for dropping Jason Anderson in order to stick Sierra on the bench.) Why not Weaver? Why not Hammond? (Despite Buck's inane suggestion that the Yanks don't have a match-up lefty who can pitch to right handers like Remlinger.) Or -- and Bill James just threw his
beer at the TV set -- why not break with inexplicable tradition and bring in your best reliever when it matters most (that would be Rivera, and I know no one does that, but if there was ever a situation that made James' argument, that was it).

Medical alert: Yes, Clemens was coughing, and he's been sick, and maybe he asked out -- this would be the second infamous 'ask-out' for Roger -- but I just don't buy it.

Oh well. At least when Steinbrenner fires Joe, we'll know why.

Cheers in anger....HARLEY

Acevado was the goat again last night, as he made a throwing error which lead to two Cub runs---Alfonso Soriano made an error on the play as well--and hurt the Yankees come-from-behind charge. If you told me that the Yanks were going to score seven runs in a game which Mark Prior started, I would think they would have a good chance at coming away with a "w." Pinch runner Chales Gipson---representing the tying run---was picked off of first to end the game, and the Yankees lost 8-7. The Bombers are now 0-20 when trailing after six innings, and they ended the nine-game road trip 4-5. The Yanks were a half a game out of first when the trip began, and they trail the Red Sox by a half a game this morning.

It doesn't get easier this week, as the Yanks host the first-place Astros (and get Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller), and then the St. Louis Cardinals at the Stadium. My friend Mindy is taking me to Friday night's game, as part of a birthday present. We are going to honor the return of Tino Martinez, but if everything goes according to plan, Clemens is scheduled to start that night, which could be a treat indeed. Rocket needs four strikeouts to reach 4,000 for his career.

Boss Steinbrenner will be in the house. Expect Charles Gipson and Juan Acevado to be relieved of their pinstripes sometimes soon.

David Wells pitched a good game on Friday afternoon, and Mariano Rivera escaped a ninth inning jam to give the Yanks a 5-3 win. Jason Giambi continued his hot hitting over the weekend, though Derek Jeter struggled.

Excuse me if I'm starting to sound like a broken record here, but the Yankees have simply not been able to out-run their weakness: the bullpen and their defense.

BONZAI! Joe Torre bumped
2003-06-06 08:06
by Alex Belth


Joe Torre bumped his struggling slugger, Hideki Matsui to the seventh spot in the batting order, and Godzilla responded, going 4-5, with three doubles as well as a monstrous home run to straight away center. Guess Godzilla took his meds yesterday. The Yankees other big import, Jose Contreras somehow averted early disaster---escaping a first inning, bases-loaded, no-out jam without letting in a run--and pitched well enough to get the win. He was erratic, but the free-swinging Reds helped him out plenty.

The Yanks broke out the whooping stick, stomped on the Reds, 10-2, and there was much rejoicing in Yankee land as they avoided getting swept in Cincy. Joe Torre added to the pleasure, by getting tossed by the home plate umpire after arguing a called strike three on Jason Giambi. It was a bad call, and since the game was in hand at that point, it was great to see Torre let off a little steam. Robin Ventura added 3 RBI, and Lil' Sori had 3 hits, including a homer. (It's a good thing Sori is such a marvel as a hitter, because he continues to regress defensively.)

The Red Sox and the Pirates, who faced off in the first World Serious back in 1903, wore throw-back uniforms last night, and the Pirates nipped the Sox, 5-4. The Yanks go into the weekend series at Wrigley Field a half a game up on Boston. The first game will be played this afternoon at 3, followed by the Rocket Clemens-Kerry Woods Game-of-the-Week tomorrow afternoon, and then the finale, which will be televised on Sunday Night baseball.

There could be a ruling on Sammy Sosa today, but I would doubt that MLB will make him miss the marquee match up this weekend.

According to the tabloids former Yankee Ruben Sierra will be joining the Yankees in Chicago. The Yanks will apparently send minor league outfielder Marcus Thames to Texas. Does this move have George written all over it, or what? This was the same Sierra who had some parting shots for Joe Torre when he was traded for Big Daddy Fielder in the middle of the 1996 season:

"All they care about is winning." The next spring in Plant City, Fla., as a member of the Reds, Sierra said, "Joe Torre [bleeped] up my career."

Torre was critical of Sierra in a book following the '96 season, but Sierra later apologized to the Yankee manager. Torre has admitted he admires how Sierra has rebuilt his career after stints in Mexico and Atlantic City.

The 38-year old Sierra makes the Yanks more muscular, that's for sure. I always liked Ruben, Ruben because he was such an ass. But the Yanks are maxin out on the ass cap here. At least Raul Mondesi has another buddy. Perhaps he'll be a good bat off the bench, but this is another move that makes the Yanks look more like the Rangers and less like the old Yanks (currently being played by the Seattle Mariners).

Hey, maybe King Leyritz is available too.

FALLOUT Rob Neyer has
2003-06-05 08:48
by Alex Belth


Rob Neyer has a great column on the Sammy Sosa fiasco. Neyer doesn't think the corked bat incident should change the way we look at Sosa as a ballplayer:

With that out of the way, should this change our opinion of Sammy Sosa, the man? Well, sure. Maybe a little. After all, he did cheat. So if anybody out there thought that Sammy Sosa was perfect, now they know better. But do we think Graig Nettles was a bad guy because he put rubber balls in his bat? No, we don't. Do we think Billy Hatcher was a bad guy because he put cork in his bat? No, we don't. Do we think Albert Belle was a bad guy because he put cork in his bat? No, we don't (we think Albert Belle was a bad guy for a lot of other reasons).

Nobody's perfect, and a significant percentage of players would cheat if they thought they could get away with it. In fact, there's a famous saying in baseball, "It ain't cheatin' if you don't get caught." Which reminds me, what's with the double standard in baseball? Gaylord Perry, who was famous for throwing a greaseball, sailed into the Hall of Fame. Mike Scott won the Cy Young Award in 1986, even though everybody knew he was scuffing the ball. In the later years of his career, Whitey Ford knew every trick in the book and he used all of them.

When pitchers cheat, it's "colorful." When hitters cheat, it's "cheating."

To me, it's all cheating. But let's not hold Sammy Sosa to a different standard than we hold Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford.

In my mind, Sammy Sosa's still a Hall of Famer. And as for what kind of man he is, I can't say I know much more today than I did yesterday.

Amen to that.

Players around the league had mixed reactions to the incident, but most of them seemed supportive of Sosa. Heck, even Manny Ramirez broke his code of silence to speak up for Sammy.

2003-06-05 07:56
by Alex Belth


Call em' what you like: listless, careless (nice tag, Soriano), even hapless (Godzilla). One thing is for sure, the Yankees are a slumping mess. My girlfriend Emily has been saying for over a month now that Hideki Matsui looks depressed. Maybe it's an epidemic.

Mike Mussina was cruising for the first four innings against the Reds, but then they tagged him for four homers, and the Yanks fell to the Reds, 6-2. The Bombers offense didn't put up much of a fight, and made Paul Wilson look like the ace he's not. In fact Wilson is the first Reds starter in 17 games to notch a victory. How do you think they are going to look against the likes of Kerry Woods?

Oy fuggin vey.

The Red Sox took two from the Pirates yesterday, and the Yanks find themselves in second place this morning.

But wait, it gets worse. The Yankees are now 0-18 when trailing after six innings this year. This is not your older brother's Yankees.

According to The Daily News:

Torre felt that the Yanks looked listless once the Reds' barrage was over.

"We certainly look that way," he said. "That shouldn't happen. We should be professional enough to go out and play nine innings. Not that we're not working hard. We're pressing.

"It just doesn't look like we're comfortable right now."

"This is more than a stretch now," Mussina said, referring to the Yanks' 10-19 stumble since May 3. "We just haven't played consistently good since we got out of April. We haven't gotten hot offensively or pitched consistently well.

"We're just not the same team. It's in there somewhere."

..."We're putting a lot of pressure on Contreras," Torre said. "Welcome to the starting rotation, right?"

It won't be long now before the Yanks go out and get some reinforcements. The Post reports that they have their eyes on Kenny Lofton. I've never been a Kenny Lofton fan, but I'd welcome him in place of a hacker like Juan Rivera in a New York minute.

I wish I had something wise or even funny to say (I'll leave the comedy to Boomski Wells). But I'm afraid I've been lulled into a depressed state myself. OK, I do have one positive piece of news to report: Jason Giambi appears to be coming around. He hit another homer last night (his fourth of the road trip), and has put together some very solid at bats recently. They need him now more than ever.

2003-06-04 13:09
by Alex Belth


For the lowdown on the Sammy Sosa situation, look no further than Christain Ruzich's great blog, The Cub Reporter.

2003-06-04 12:55
by Alex Belth


David Pinto, over at Baseball Musings has some interesting comments about Yankee manager Joe Torre:

I remember a few years ago asking a fan who they thought was the best manager in the game. They said Joe Torre. (At the time, Davey Johnson was still in the game.) I asked why, and this fan said because he had won big with the Yankees. I then asked if he thought this before Torre was with the Yankees, and the answer was no. And I think that's the right answer.

Joe Torre has managerial skills that work great when he has talented, intelligent, self motivated players. In that case, all he has to manage is their personalities. But when he has players who actually need to be coached, who need strategy laid out for them, who need a field general, he's not very good. So Steinbrenner is calling him on it. Good for Steinbrenner for not being fooled by the reasons for success. As usual, George isn't going about it very nicely and he's going to alienate all the Torre fans, but in the end, Torre has to keep the Yankees winning to keep his job. He's lasted longer than anyone else, but it very well might be time for a change.

Torre sure looked like a better manager when he had guys Paul O'Neill, Rock Raines, Chili Davis and Mike Stanton running his clubhouse, that's for sure. Who is running the Kangaroo court for the Yanks these days anyhow? Captain Jeter? Robin Ventura? Giambi? How much money in fines have Lil' Sori and Mondesi forked over lately?

CORKY Sammy Sosa's bat
2003-06-04 08:35
by Alex Belth


Sammy Sosa's bat split in the first inning of the Cubs-D-Rays game last night, and it turns out the bat was corked. Let the scandal begin. I don't have much of a negative reaction to this sort of thing. In fact, my first instinct is to feel badly that Sosa's reputation will take a a big hit here, even if it's deserved. I have one question: Is a batter corking a bat any worse than a pitcher scuffing a baseball? I have already read that Sosa corking his bat is worse than when Graig Nettles or Albert Belle corked theirs, because he is a greater player. But have Gaylord Perry or Whitey Ford's reputations been sullied significantly by the fact that they threw illegal pitches? And will this hurt Sosa more because he is a Black Latin player?

2003-06-04 08:01
by Alex Belth


Derek Jeter was named the 11th captain in Yankees history before the game last night. Jeter who is famous for his heady play, is looking a lot dumber these days because of the sloppy play of his teammates.

Watching the Yankees play another careless game last night, it occured to me that they simply aren't a very smart team right now. Baseball smart that is. It doesn't mean they aren't likable, or that they aren't talented---or that they won't eventaully be able to cover their mistakes---it just means they don't play smart, sound baseball. The Reds were less than bright as well, but they had enough to notch another 9th inning victory, beating the Yanks 4-3. Anotonio Osuna-or-later took the loss.

The game is what Whitey Herzog would call horseshit baseball, and there was plenty to go around. Both teams made mistakes on the bases and in the field. Felipe Lopez couldn't lay down a sacrifice bunt, and then down 0-2 took 3 straight balls before swinging and missing at ball 4; Junior Griffey forgot to advance a base on a wild pitch. The Reds scored their first run because Alfonso Soriano could not turn a double play; they tied the game with two more runs due to two wild pitches and a throwing error from Andy Pettitte, who otherwise pitched a good game.

The most frustrating inning for the Yankees was the 6th. After Jason Giambi and Jorge Posada walked to open the inning, Robin Ventura swung at a 3-0 pitch and popped out to the catcher. Horseshit. Raul Mondesi followed with a single to center, scoring Giambi. Juan Rivera was walked to load the bases for Andy Pettite, who remarkably slapped a breaking pitch into shallow center for a single. Posada scored, but Mondesi inexplicably over ran third base and was picked off for the second out (he had his head down all the way and didn't even look at third base coach Willie Randolph). Horseshit. Derek Jeter grounded out to end the frame. Pettitte gave both runs back in the bottom of the inning.

Yankee fans have been spoiled by a series of championship teams who always seemed to do 'the little things.' It was the other teams that made stupid mistakes, and it was the Yankees who made them pay for it. This is not the same Yankee team. They are more talented---and they may even be more likable, depending on your taste----but they are dumber too. No wonder Boss George is pulling out all the PR stunts he can muster to make the Yankees still look like their old selves. If they don't smarten up soon, the bellowing from the Boss could threaten to sap out all the fun from the 2003 Yankee season.

The best part of watching the game last night was getting to hear part-time YES announcer Paul O'Neill bust Michael Kay's chops all night. Keep em coming Paul.

2003-06-03 14:25
by Alex Belth


According to ESPN news, the Yankees will hold a press conference today at 4 pm to announce that Derek Jeter will be named team captain. He will be the 11th captain in Yankee history, the first since Don Mattingly. I guess the next logical question is: Do captains play third? (Of course they do, just ask Craig Nettles.)

This is classic George, trying everything he can do to boost the spirit of his sluggish Bombers. Jeter deserves it too. (It would have been nice for Bernie to be named as co-captain, but I don't think Williams really cares for that kind of thing.) As much as I've harped on Jeter's fielding this year, I'd hate to give the impression that I don't love the guy. (I just don't love Yankee fans' misconceptions about his talents.) He's been the leader of the Yanks for several years so this announcement has been a long time coming. Of course being captain of the Yankees comes with added pressure, but that won't phase Jeter. Especially now that he and George star in commercials together.

2003-06-03 13:07
by Alex Belth


The irrepressible Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus will be featured on ESPN's "Outside The Lines Nightly" tonight (check local listings). This is most likely the begining of a beautiful career for Will, and I'd like to wish him all the best. As hard as he's worked, he deserves the spotlight. Kudos, baby.


With the highest payroll in the sport, it's no wonder the Yankees owner, the New York media, and Yankee fans act like Chicken Little everytime something doesn't break their way. But one thing has been obvious all season: the Yanks have a lousy bullpen, and lousy team defense, particularly up the middle.

Here is Mike C's take on Sunday's meltdown inning:

Jeter and Soriano had consecutive errors. Soriano had another on the day and Jeter could have been called for a ball he missed to re-start the Tigers' rally in the fifth. This was a ball maybe two steps to Jeter's right that even Tanner from The Bad News Bears could have gotten to but was scored a hit by a liberal, homer scorer. Maybe the Yankees don't need relief pitchers but rather relief middle infielders to cover for Jeter and Soriano. In fact on the Eric Munson ball that Soriano threw away in the fifth it appeared that Clemens (correctly) dove for the ball as it went by him rather than allow his infielders to touch the ball.

David Pinto had an interesting post over at Baseball Musings regarding the Yankees defense:

As I've spent a lot of time listening to Yankee games with my dad over the last few weeks, I'm more convinced than ever that the Yankees can't win with the defense they have in the middle of the infield. I don't know how many times I heard, "Slow roller up the middle, through for a base hit."

What's the solution? You certainly don't want to lose Jeter's bat. And I don't think you can move both Jeter and Soriano. I think the best solution would be to find a defensive wizard at SS, and move Jeter to third. Ventura is good, but he's old. It's possible that he could be traded to a contender for such a SS, or a three way deal with Cleveland where the Yankees end up with Vizquel. I really think Jeter's future is at third, not a SS.

Makes sense to me. Perhaps they could even keep Ventura and use him as the extra lefty-bat they are seeking. But do you really think Joe Torre is going to up and move Derek Jeter to third in the middle of the season? That is highly unlikely.

Here is what reader Dan Mulvihill thinks:

I'd love to see it happen, if only to see how Jeter would react to it. He always comes across as a "team first" guy, but that would be a real test of his sincerity. Plus, he'd probably be insulted. He likes to think of himself as a great defensive guy - remember that puff piece in the Times last summer about his fielding?
Jeter can't move to his right anymore, so the sooner he gets to third the better. They're not gonna win the Series (or get there) with this defense, so I'd do that trade to get Vizquel. And yeah, I think Ventura would make a great PH/DH.

I too, am interested in how Jeter would handle such a move. After all, he is famous for being a team player, who will do anything it takes to win. When will the Yankees see what has already become painfully clear to many observers? And what will it take for them to change their minds? A terrible post-season error? I don't think Jeter will lose any star appeal or sex appeal shifting to third. Part of me thinks the only reason Jeter is at short is because he 'looks' good as a shortstop. Hey Jete, are you really a shortstop? "No," he might say. "But I play one on TV."

RIGHT ON Allen Barra
2003-06-03 08:05
by Alex Belth


Allen Barra had an excellent column on two of New York's best---yet somehow underappreciated---players, Mike Piazza and Bernie Williams, in the Times on Sunday. I've argued with Yankee fans for years about the merits of Bernie Williams, the team's quiet star. If Derek Jeter is overrated by the casual fan, then Bernie Williams is clearly underrated:

The strongest argument for Williams's value, though, might not be found in his personal statistics. "How many guys," said David Cone, who owes several of his victories to Williams's bat and glove, "have made so substantial a contribution to a dynasty as Bernie Williams and not made it to the Hall of Fame?"

Certainly not many. If Derek Jeter is considered on track for Cooperstown, why not Williams, whose contributions to seven consecutive Yankees playoff teams and five World Series teams have been neck and neck with those of Jeter?

The Yankees' rise to prominence in 1995 coincided with Williams's emergence as a star; the dynasty began to sputter a few weeks ago, close to when Williams hurt his knee. If the Yankees' rise and fall with Williams is a coincidence, it's the kind of coincidence Yankees fans will be hoping for again when, with luck, Williams returns in July and picks up his Hall of Fame bid.

Some Mets fans seem to want to blame all of the teams problems on their catcher's weak throwing arm. As if his lousy arm outweighs his tremendous offensive contributions, and completely obscures his other talents as a reciever (calling a good game, blocking the plate). Hey, when was the last time you didn't see Piazza bust his tail down the first base line?

This is the greatest offensive player at his position in the history of the game, but many Mets fans ask: what have you done for me lately? Again, I think this is a product of their overall frustration, but it is a shame, because although Piazza didn't have his peak years in New York, he did lead them to a World Serious, and has been the best hitter in team history:

The only question is how far Piazza is ahead of everyone else. Most baseball analysts agree that what a player hits on the road is much more indicative of his overall ability than what he hits in his home park. In Piazza's case, he has had the spectacular misfortune of spending most of his career playing his home games in perhaps the two worst hitters' parks in the National League ! or for that matter, in all of baseball ! Dodger Stadium (1992-98) and Shea Stadium (1998-present) with a five-game stint in Florida before coming to the Mets. The difference is almost heartbreaking. While most players tend to have slightly better numbers playing at home, Piazza's career batting average in his home parks (including this season) is .302 and his career average in other parks is .338, according to Stats Inc.

The gaps between home and road in his other stats are equally eye-opening. His career on-base percentage on the road is .405, 34 points higher than his home mark, and his career road slugging percentage is 72 points higher.

2003-06-03 07:39
by Alex Belth


The Yankees played poorly in Detriot over the weekend, but escaped with two wins. Still, the New York media is all over the team, and George Steinbrenner has chosen the opportunity to take center stage (a shocker, huh?). When not bitching about the inter-league schedule his team has been handed, George is telling his team to hurry up and relax (or else).

Jeff Weaver, who has looked about as lively as Lurch of late, has been yanked from the starting rotation in favor of Jose Contreras. Weaver committed the cardinal sin of calling out his teammates on Saturday afternoon, after another frustrating performance, making it easy for manager Joe Torre to make the switch.

The Yanks play three against the Reds tonight before they move to Chicago for three against the Cubbies this weekend (Christian Ruzich gets his wish as Clemens will go for win number 300 this weekend vs. Kerry Wood). Quite frankly, I don't know how the Yankees will fare this week. I'm not down on them, but realistically, they haven't played crisp ball lately. They seem to play up or down to the competition. Will they bust out the whooping stick against the Reds in their homer-happy stadium, or will the Reds pound them?

We shall soon see.

2003-06-02 13:41
by Alex Belth


I took the day off from work today, on the count of it was my 32nd birthday yesterday, and hell, I just needed one more day to celebrate. The Yanks looked sketchy taking two of three from the Tigers over the weekend, but Toronto pounded the Sox, and the Bombers find themselves a game and a half up on Boston.

The sun is shinning today, and I'm off to Van Cortlandt park to chill. I'll be back to blogging tomorrow. Hope everyone had a good weekend.