Monthly archives: December 2004
Happy New Year
The Yankees and Diamondbacks agreed in principle to a trade yesterday that would bring Randy Johnson to the Bronx and send Javier Vazquez, Brad Halsey, Dioner Nararro and between eight and nine million in cash to Arizona. There will be plenty of "The Rich Get Richer" articles wailing about how unfair, or just plain absurd it all is. And why not? These kind of pieces while obvious and easy are based in truth, especially when you consider that the Yankees' pitching staff will make more than the entire payrolls of some teams. Here's Murray Chass, for starters:
Ever since Ban Johnson introduced the Highlanders, spending and spending some more has been a time-honored Yankee tradition. And so has bitching about it.
If the Johnson signing becomes official next week, the Big Unit will be reunited with his former Seattle teammate, Tino Martinez, who apparently will be back with the Yanks next season. Martinez is close with Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. According to Buster Olney, he was a legitimate clubhouse leader during the 96-01 championship run, even though his coaches and manager were never especially in love with him. I have to admit I feel funny about Tino's return. While I always liked him, I wonder if this is a "You Can't Go Home Again" scenerio. Maybe, I'm reading too much into it, but is bringing Martinez--a hyper competitive player--back going to undermine Jason Giambi's attempts to get his career back in gear? Perhaps the Yankees are still hoping that they can rid themselves of Giambi before the season. How I don't know. Maybe they think that Tino will help motivate him. Who can say. I know that Martinez is probably as good a back-up as Tony Clark was last year, even though Tino has never been a bench player before. What do you guys think, will Martinez have a positive, negative or benign impact on the 2005 team?
Jaret Wright was officially introduced as the newest member of the Yankees yesterday afternoon. More importantly, the Diamondbacks and Bombers continued to discuss a trade that would bring Randy Johnson to New York. According to Lee Jenkins in the New York Times:
Reportedly, the deal could go down today or tomorrow. However, Bud Selig would not sign off on it until next week and the Yankees and Johnson still have to work out an extension.
Paying the Price
In the most recent edition of The Pinstriped Bible, Steven Goldman compares Jason Giambi's current situation with that of Charlie Keller, who played left-field for the Bombers in the Forties. Goldman is always entertaining, but he's essential reading for Yankee fans because of the historical perspective he brings to his columns. Anyhow, he concludes with some sage words about The Man Who Wasn't There, Mr. Giambi:
I have always liked Carlos Delgado but I'd rather see Giambi come back and have a decent season. There is so much to look forward to in 2005, but I'm more curious about what happens to Jason Giambi than just about anything else.
It has been another memorable year for us Yankee fans. Am I right? So maybe it wasn't memorable in the way we'd like, but it had more than its fair share of good parts. I just wanted to take a quick moment to thank all of the professional baseball writers out there, particularly those here in New York. As you know, I link to their stuff often. I really admire the job they do. I know this site would be a while lot different if I couldn't excerpt and refer to their work. I'm also thankful for all of the great baseball writing there is to be found on the Internet, most of it done by amateurs like myself. Sometimes the sheer volume of writing is overwhelming, but I just try and share what makes an impression on me with the rest of youse.
Having said that, here are some links'n'things to keep you busy for a minute:
1. Rich Lederer's three latest Bert Blyleven articles (one, two and three) are a must for anyone interested in the Hall of Fame election process.
2. The final 2004 edition of "Rivals in Exile," from Ben Jacobs and Larry Mahnken.
3. Our pal Sully's look at the contracts of seven Red Sox players, including their newly minted captain, Jason Varitek:
Can of Corn
By Brian Gunn
When Alex asked me to guest host a segment of Bronx Banter, it seemed only natural that I should write about movies. See, I may have grown up a Cardinals fan in the suburbs of St. Louis, and Alex may have grown up a Yanks fan in New York, but when it comes to movies we're from the same neighborhood. We're both nuts about Bob Altman, Pauline Kael, and Robert Towne, and we've both seen Hollywood from the inside out, each of us working in the film business at various times (just like another All-Baseball scribe, Jon Weisman).
I originally wanted to use this space to talk about some of my favorite baseball movies (Bull Durham, Bad News Bears, even that almost-masterpiece Cobb), as well as some of my least favorite baseball movies - like, say, Field of Dreams. But I didn't feel right talking about Field of Dreams because I hadn't seen it since it came out 15 years ago. It's possible, I thought, that it had improved over time. After all, the film was made for guys like me - yuppies in their mid-30s, about to have families of their own, maybe feeling guilty about their relationship with their dads. If I was going to write about it I needed to see it again, hopefully with an older and wiser perspective. So I rented it on DVD, thinking maybe I'll actually like it after all these years…
If I was any closer to you, I'd be behind you
The Hot Corner
Submitted for your approval, Alex Rodriguez's 2004 season:
Those are some pretty numbers, especially when they're coming from your 28-year-old third-baseman who just posted a 106 Rate in the field and is under contract for the next six years. Those numbers represent what just might have been the greatest season ever by a Yankee third baseman, and was at worst one of the four best alongside Red Rolfe's 1939, Graig Nettles' 1976, and Frank Baker's 1918.
So why do they seem so disappointing?
Back in February, I contributed a piece to this site that debunked the myth that Alex Rodriguez is, or was on his way to becoming, the greatest shortstop ever to play the game (Honus Wagner has him beat any way you slice it) and gave lie to the oft-touted fact that Rodriguez is, or has been, the best player in the game (ditto Barry Bonds). Those misconceptions of Rodriguez's standing in the game might answer my question in part, but they're only part of the story.
Me and My Yankee Shadow
By Alex Ciepley
It's often easy to figure why you're a fan of a team. I'm a Cubs fan because my father is a Cubs fan. I was raised on WGN and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And if there'd ever been any doubt of my eventual loyalties, my fate as a Lover of Lovable Losers was sealed during the heady days of Sandberg and Trout and Durham in 1984. People love their teams because of their family, or geography, or perhaps just as a whim. But no matter the reason, it's usually easy to find out.
Is a person's disdain for a team as easy to trace? The Yankees are often called an easy team to hate. But what's the real motivation behind this feeling? Red Sox fans, gluttons for punishment, may despise the Yankees for beating them year in and year out (at least until this year!). A modern day Mets fan may be down on the Yanks for stealing their teams' thunder, always one-upping them on the raggy back pages.
I hate the Yankees, too, though in ways both more abstract and more specific. I'm bugged by the way Jeter sticks his ass out on an outside pitch. I shudder at the way A-Rod make millions a year but still frosts his hair like a cheap escort. I can do without Bernie's record album or Giambi's deodorant commercials.
The Year in Books (Part Three)
By Christopher DeRosa
Roger Angell, Game Time: A Baseball Companion (2003)
Essays from the ‘60s to now. As Richard Ford says in the introduction, Angell is not a baseball romanticist, and it’s true he’s too light on his feet to be labeled a sentimentalist, but he does write with great affection for the game, in an adult voice that never takes itself too seriously. This collection features many examples of his strengths: the eye for the telling detail, the felicitous turns of phrase, and the sweet wrap-ups. I read him to remember, rather than to learn, but I learned some things too. Check out this description, from the 1980 essay “Distances:"
Bob Gibson had Mariano’s cutter?
The Year in Books (Part Two)
By Christopher DeRosa
Jeff Pearlman, The Bad Guys Won! A Season of Brawling, Boozing, Bimbo-chasing, and Championship Baseball with Straw, Doc, Mookie, Nails, The Kid, and the Rest of the 1986 Mets, the Rowdiest Team Ever to Put on a New York Uniform—and Maybe the Best (2004).
Pearlman writes, “There are those who will read this book and say, ‘Why would anyone root for a team made up entirely of imbeciles?’” Rooting for them was no problem; reading about them was kind of pushing it, though. Some might consider the 1986 Mets merely to be a particularly egregious result of our national method for socializing eleven-year-old athletes. But to Pearlman their behavior embodied the “fire and panache” lacking in baseball today. “For all their greatness on the field of play, the Yankee Dynasty of the late 1990s and early 2000s will be remembered as—yaaaaaawn!—a skilled yet boring cast of characters, and nothing more.” I cannot help but feel that something has been gained, rather than lost, but I still got a lot of laughs from Pearlman’s book.
Yo Oh No
As Jason Varitek's new deal--not to mention, exclusive new title---is sealed for the holidays, Javier Vazquez had some cherce words for the Yankees:
"Good for him," says Emily when I read her this quote. You can't hardly blame Javey for being irked. I love the guy. Still, it seems increasingly unlikely that he'll be returning to the Bronx in a Yankee uniform next year. Quite frankly, if I were the Bombers and could have either him or Randy Johnson--sentiment aside--I'd take my chances with the Big Unit. But I will also miss Vazquez should he leave. I expect him to have a great year no matter where he pitches. At least I sure hope he will.
The Year in Books (Part One)
This being the time of year when we count our blessings, let me say that I'm fortunate to have a guy as gifted as Christopher DeRosa contribute the occasional piece to Bronx Banter. For real. DeRosa, a professor of history, assembles a terrific review each year called the "Baseball Procrastinator" which he sends it off to his friends. I'm fortunate enough to be on the list and "The Procastinator" is just tons of fun. One portion that I especially enjoy is DeRosa's book reviews. So with his permission, I'm going to reprint his 04 reading list here in this space over the Christmas weekend. I hope you enjoy em as much as I have. And hey, here's wishing everyone a safe and heppy holidaze.
By Christopher DeRosa
Buster Olney, The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty (2004)
Here is the first good book about latest Yankee dynasty. The title refers to game seven of the 2001 World Series. On the cover, Mariano Rivera stands on the mound, hands on hips, back to the camera. On the back, Paul O’Neill sits in the dirt at second base, head buried in hands. However, they are in their home uniforms, in Yankee Stadium. Game 7 was in Arizona, so I don’t know what that’s about.
Yo Ho Ho
So, it's the Red Sox who end up with a fitting, if expensive, Christmas gift, while Yankee fans will probably have to wait until 05 for the Wright stuff. Ah well, such is life. Something tells me we'll get more than our fair share of goodies before it's all said and done.
In the Twinkling of an Eye (We Shall All Be Changed)
By Edward Cossette
Closing in on two months since Keith Foulke casually underhanded the ball to first for the final out of Game 4 of 2004 World Series, I am very happy to report that I've neither lost my identity (which, as a Red Sox fan, was defined by loss according to the media) nor have my beloved Red Sox become "just another team" to me since winning their first World Series in 86 years.
No, no, the red of the two dangling socks of the Red Sox logo has never seemed brighter nor more deserving of of fan idolatry than it does to me now, awash in the cleansing, baptismal waters of triumph realized.
And I don't use the baptism metaphor lightly; baseball, Red Sox baseball, has always been a spiritual circumstance for me, and I'm not drinking from the chalice of hyperbole when I describe the feeling of putting a lifetime of not-quite-enough-to-win-it-all behind me as one of rebirth and resurrection.
I am a Red Sox fan reborn.
Everything is different now. But, at least for me, not in the negative way so many media pundits, scribes, and philistines prophesied and continue to presage. Instead, the difference is one of affirmation and positivity.
The Red Sox fan I was is no more. The Red Sox fan whose relationship with the team was built upon a memory of the past, of loss and sorrow, has been transfigured and delivered into a new realm.
Red Sox fans everywhere are now living in what Dante called il punto a cui tutti li tempi son presenti, "the point at which all time is present" (Paradiso, xvii).
And this is why I had to end the Bambino's Curse weblog. Why I had to let it go to dust and ashes. The blog represented a past I/We have been delivered from.
As I've written before, the notion of "the Curse" was never something I took literally. I instead described it as all of our collective Red Sox fan angst, heartache, and desire. Only in these days and weeks since the Red Sox won the World Series have I come to the realization of just how true that was.
When the final out was recorded in the bottom of the 9th in St. Louis, it was time for me to put the "dead image" of George Herman Ruth, the Bambino, whose ghostly presence was the central design image, both literally and metaphorically, of my blog to a final, peaceful, rest.
But baseball, like life, continues. And in its constancy, its endurance, day to day, season to season, from boyhood, to middle age, and beyond, it will remind me and counsel me to live not just in the moment, without past or future, but also to realize that it is the timeless, eternal moment wherein our real lives exist.
Or said another way, "Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack, I don't care if I never get back."
See you in Spring when everything is new again. (You'll find me not among the dead but the living.)
According to reports coming out of New York, the Dodgers indeed gummed-up the potential Randy Johnson blockbuster...for now. Here is the scoop from Bill Madden and Murray Chass. Meanwhile, Carl Pavano, who Bobby Valentine has dubbed the "New Italian Stallion," was introduced as the newest member of the Yankees at a press conference in the Bronx yesterday. And Bronx Banter favorite, El Duque, agreed to a two-year deal with the White Sox. I hope he continues to pitch well. If he's healthy, White Sox fans are in for a treat. I know I'll miss him.
I love writing about rooting for the Yankees. That ain't hard to tell, is it? But yo, one of the most satisfying aspects of hosting this blog is having a community of readers who stop by, time and time again. I can't tell you how rewarding that is for me. Some of you make yourselves known in the comments section, while others prefer to just read along, keeping your thoughts private. I value both kinds of readers, of course.
Anyhow, I was thinking how I could best say thanks, while offering some small token of my appreciation at the same time. I've been absolutely swamped with my 9-5 of late, so the interview I recently conducted will have to wait until early next year (so much transrcibing, so little time). Instead, I contacted a couple of writers and asked if they would be willing to submit a guest article to help celebrate another fine baseball year. Lucky for me--and now you--a bunch of 'em said yes. So over the next week or so, I'm gunna post articles from some of my favorite Internet writers, who I'm also fortunate enough to call friends.
The first piece is by Tim Marchman, who writes for The New York Sun and The New Partisan. Hope you enjoy. Heppy holidaze guys. Thanks for helping make Bronx Banter a lively place to get together and shoot the baseball breeze.
By Tim Marchman
You have to take all the recent talk about the death of the baseball hero in a fair perspective.
There are, apparently, hundreds of sportswriter’s sons tearing down Jason Giambi posters from their walls and pronouncing the disgraced slugger a cheat and a fraud. Giambi is both, and deserves in some measure the scorn of his young fans; but I doubt that these children will suffer too greatly from their disillusioning. They may even end up the better for it.
I grew up in Queens following the Davey Johnson Mets, probably the sleaziest team in living memory. Because it was Queens and because the Mets were so great and the Yankees so consistently second-best both in their division and in the city, to be a Yankee fan was usually a matter both of family inheritance and inborn contrarianism, and thus something fiercely clung to, like a threatened faith.
Ding Dong, the Deal is Dead
And according to the Daily News, Yankee president Randy Levine is not pleased about how the Dodgers handled themselves:
Who knows? Was Vazquez really that unhappy about going to the Dodgers? Is he really not healthy? Did the Dodgers do business in bad faith? (Whatever their reasons, it apparently didn't have too much to do with getting someone to replace Shawn Green, as Los Angeles reportedly agreed in principle with J.D. Drew to a five-year, $55 million contract late last night.) Does it really matter now? The Yankees and Diamondbacks are expected to continue to try and work something out for Johnson. Whether a third team will be involved or not is anyone's guess right now.
Meanwhile, Boss George met with Scott Boras yesterday, kicking off the Carlos Beltran talks. No big Christmas presents for the Yanks, but there is still plenty in the works for 2005.
Back to the Drawing Board
The Dodgers done gone killed the deal. The Yankee-Diamondbacks-Dodgers trade is caput. Looks like the Bombers won't be getting the Big Unit for Christmas after all. Shoot. But hey, so long as they can get the big sombitch before Opening Day, Yankee fans will be plenty happy. For now, it's back to square one with Arizona. Well, at least Yankee fans won't have one K. Ishii to kick around.
Hold Up (Wait a Minute)
The Dodgers are holding up the three-team, ten-player trade that features Javey Vazquez going to L.A., Shawn Green to Arizona and of course, Randy Johnson to the Bronx. The Dodgers want to make sure they've got somebody to play right field, namely J.D. Drew. According to the New York Post:
What are the odds this deal gets done--or falls apart--by Christmas Eve?
Bud Selig is expected to sign off on the ten-player blockbuster deal today. Arizona and New York will then have a 72-hour window to negotiate extensions with Shawn Green and Randy Johnson. Nothing new to report, really. All we can do is wait. Meanwhile, El Duque and Ruben Ruben declined salary arbitration last night giving the Yankees until January 8th to sign them to a deal or lose the right to work something out with them until early May. I'd like it if they could keep Duque and dump Sierra but I think it'll work the other way round. Jason Varitek also declined arbitration but my guess is that the Red Sox will sign him before all is said and done. Even if they have to over-compensate to keep him, I can't see them letting Tek go.
Waiting for Randy
Stop Making Sense
With the Randy Johnson-to-the-Yankees deal still in the works--I didn't know that Kaz Ishii was part of this now--the Boston Red Sox acted swiftly yesterday, agreeing to a deal with Matt Clement (three years, about $25 million). After over-paying for Edgar Renteria, I think the Clement contract is very sensible. I'm frustrated that Clement didn't choose another destination; it's too bad the Yankees didn't go after him instead of Jaret Wright (or even Carl Pavano, you could argue). But, he'll pitch for Boston instead. He isn't a control pitcher but he's got nasty stuff. This deal keeps the Yankees and Sox extremely close in talent, don't you think?
In other Red Sox news, all you yentas out there check out the Pedro Martinez-Curt Schilling melodrama.
Incredibly Beautiful People (Part Four)
From Red Sox Century
By Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson
His remarkable streak began in Detroit. After Boston jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, the Tigers came back to tie the game 4-4, then went ahead. But with one out in the ninth, Yaz turned on a Fred Lasher fastball and drove it into the upper deck to tie the game again, and then a Dalton Jones home run won it in the tenth. The win tied Boston with Detroit for the lead.
The next night, Detroit was leading 2-1 when Adair singled and Yaz walked. Scott tied the game with a hit and Yaz scored the game-winner when he raced home on a wild pitch. The next night in Cleveland, with the game tied 4-4 and two out in the ninth, Yaz singled, Scott walked, and Reggie Smith singled Yastrzemski in with the game winner again. They stretched their winning streak to four games with a 6-5 win, then got blown out 10-0 in the first game of a doubleheader in Baltimore.
But Yastrzemski wouldn’t allow the Sox to stay down. With Boston trailing, Yaz led a comeback and Boston rolled to a 10-3 win. The following day, his 42nd home run of the season put Boston ahead, but the bullpen failed and the Orioles won 7-5.
Next to Yaz, Jim Lonborg was the most important player on the team. In the last game of the road trip, he proved it, holding Baltimore scoreless through six innings as the Sox built a 7-0 lead. Then Dick Williams, daring to think ahead for the first time all year, gambled and pulled his ace to save his arm in case he was needed in the next few days. The Sox held on to win 11-7 and returned to Boston for two games against Cleveland and two against Minnesota to end the regular season. With only four games remaining, the Red Sox were in a dead heat with the Twins for first place, while Chicago trailed by ½ game and the Tigers lurked 1 ½ behind.
Coming to Town?
The day after Pedro Martinez was introduced to the media as the newest member of the Mets, the Yankees still managed to kick their cross town rivals off the back pages. According to reports, the Yankees are close to trading Javey Vazquez and their two best prospects (Dioner Navarro and Eric Duncan) to the Dodgers in a three-team trade that would bring Randy Johnson to the Bronx. John Heyman broke the story late yesterday for Newsday. The Times, News and Post all have slightly different spins on the story. The complicated trade could involve a fourth team before all is said and done.
Who knows if it'll actually happen. So much can go wrong. I'll believe it when I see it. My initial reaction when I heard the news last night was one of happiness. The Yanks got their man. It was quickly followed with concern that they were losing two valuable chips in Navarro and Duncan. The concern didn't last long. What are prospects for, after all? (Just ask the Braves who shipped three of em to Oakland in exchange for my man Tim Hudson yesterday afternoon.) Duncan wasn't going to get any burn with Alex Rodriguez playing third in the Bronx, and Navarro? Is he worth holding up a deal like this? Hardly. Then, I felt sad about the possibility of Javier Vazquez moving on so quickly. I am a big fan of his, and thoroughly enjoyed rooting for him last year, inspite of his poor second half. But sentiment aside, I think two years of Randy Johnson over three years of Vazquez is a risk that is well worth taking.
Anyhow, I'm getting ahead of myself. The deal ain't done yet.
Incredibly Beautiful People (Part Three)
From Red Sox Century
By Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson
For the first time in over a decade fortune smiled on the Red Sox. On August 21, after power-hitting outfielder Ken Harrelson was quoted referring to A’s owner Charlie O. Finley as “a menace to baseball,” Finley released him. The Red Sox were drawn into the first free agent bidding war in modern baseball history.
Pedro Martinez passed his physical yesterday. The Mets have scheduled a press conference for 11:00 a.m. to introduce Prince P to New York. The Yankees will officially announce the signings of Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright early next week.
Let's Get Physical
Pedro Martinez is not officially a member of the Metropolitans yet, but that hasn't prevented folks from weighing in with their take on his situation. Tom Verducci and Peter Gammons do not think it is an especially wonderful deal for the Mets. I asked Edward Cossette, author of the now deceased Bambino's Curse website, for his reaction:
Apparently not. Another Sox fan, ESPN's Bill Simmons, writes:
In the Times, Harvey Araton has little sympathy for the Red Sox organization:
Meanwhile, what about the Yankees in all of this? Well, in the latest edition of Pinstriped Bible, Steven Goldman, 'splains the awful truth about the Yankees new second baseman, Tony Womack:
What gets me going is the thought of Womack leading off. But you know what? Even if Torre starts the season in that manner, it won't be long before Womack will be batting ninth, don't you think?
Sox Sign Renteria
Incredibly Beautiful People (Part Two)
From Red Sox Century
By Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson
(For Part One, click here)
Stanky got the message. The Red Sox were for real. Before leaving Fenway Park he meekly admitted Yastrzemski should be the starting All-Star left fielder for the American league. Then, as soon as he was out of town he made an empty threat to sue the Red Sox for not protecting him from their fans. The pennant race was becoming contentious. Boston had the attention of the other teams. Dick Williams loved it.
Even Boston fans were starting to wake up. Last minute wins were exciting and the Sox had a knack for coming from behind. Attendance started creeping up as older fans decided to check the team out, and young fans came for the first time.
What More Can I Say? Top Billin
Will Carroll, who writes about injuries for Baseball Prospectus, and has a blog on this site, has made the big time. He's got a piece on the op-ed page of the New York Times this morning about performance-enhancing drugs. Mazeltov, dude.
King of Queens?
Pedro Martinez is not officially a member of the Mets...yet. However, the Red Sox brass are reacting as if he's played his last game for the Home Nine. According to the Boston Globe:
While signing Pedro to such an expensive deal is a calculated risk, you would think that Shea Stadium will do wonders for Martinez's numbers. As a Yankee fan, I'm happy to see him on any team but the Red Sox. Now, if the Yanks face him twice a year, it will seem like fun. After all, the so-called rivalry with the Mets doesn't hold a candle to the very real one the Yankees have with the Red Sox. (I wonder how Sox fans feel about losing Martinez.) Also, I would simply like to see Pedro pitch well for the Mets. I just think it would be cool. Met blogger, Jeremy Heit, initially "floored" by the news, writes:
Changeup pitchers who throw cheese. Martinez would be the best pitcher the Mets have had since David Cone was with the team in the early 90s. While the Yanks work on finalizing deals with Pavano and Wright, and continue to haggle with Arizona over Randy Johnson, the Mets swipe the headlines for now and apparently are set to give their fans a terrific holiday treat. Martinez still has to pass a physical and given his mercurial personality, anything could still happen, but it's increasingly difficult to picture him pitching for the Red Sox again.
Dag. If this is in fact true, props to the Mets for stepping up and bagging their man.
Incredibly Beautiful People
So how could I run a series of excerpts by Stout and Johnson without touching on their seminal work, Red Sox Century? Well, I couldn't leave it out. The question was, "What part did I think would work best for Bronx Banter?" After giving the matter serious consideration, Glenn and I selected the chapter on the Impossible Dream team of 1967. It just so happens to be one of the longer chapters in the book, much longer than the Dodger and Yankee excerpts which appeared here last week. But it was just too good to leave alone. After all, 67 was the Summer of Love. Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate were released that year, as was Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Oh, and the American League had one of the most thrilling pennant races of all-time. There is no hidden meaning behind choosing such a long section for the Bostons, but I figured that Sox fans deserve to read about a winning year--even if the team did ultimatley lose the World Series to the Cards--after how things ended up for them in 2004. So here goes...enjoy. And if you are looking for a last-minute holiday gift, please consider Red Sox Century, Yankees Century, and The Dodgers: 120 Years of Dodgers Baseball. They are all welcome additions to any baseball fan's library.
(Part 1 of 4)
by Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson
Dick Williams didn’t mess around. "This club has become a cruise ship overrun with captains and players thinking they are captain. The cruise is over and you don't need a captain anymore,” he told the players. “You have a new boss now--Me. Eliminating the club captaincy is my way of letting you know that things will be done one way...My way.” This was how spring training before the 1967 season began.
Dick Williams stripped Sox captain Carl Yastrzemski of his title and assumed total command. And the Red Sox became a different team.
Although most would later view the rebirth of the Red Sox in 1967 as some kind of miracle, the renaissance of the franchise was more the product of a peculiar set of circumstances that landed the team in the hands of the right man at the right time. The end result was perhaps the most exciting Red Sox season in history, one that started slowly then built before finally exploding like a roman candle that bathed Sox fans in a lasting glow.
The Yankees haven't officially signed anyone yet, but they are close to inking Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright. In addition, according to articles in the Post and the Daily News, the Diamondbacks are prepared to re-open the Randy Johnson talks with the Bombers.
Meanwhile, the Boston Globe reports that Pedro Martinez could make a desicion about his future as early as today. The Mets have yet to wow him with an offer so I don't see why he wouldn't return to the Hub.
Finally, here's Jay Jaffe's second report from Anahiem. Great stuff as always.
The Pitch (Part Two)
From Yankees Century
By Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson
(For Part One, click here)
As the two teams embarked on the midnight train back to New York, their moods could not have been more different. Boston, having finally broken through on Chesbro, believed he was done for the year. They were confident they could beat whomever Griffith chose to pitch in either game on Monday. The Yankees, on the other hand, knew it would take a miracle to win both games.
Neither the Yankees nor their fans were deterred by the odds. The Giants refusal to play in a postseason series had cost them and the Yankees had picked up thousands of converts that victory could make permanent. Anticipation built during the off day. On Monday afternoon nearly thirty thousand zealots turned out at American League Park hoping to witness just such a miracle.
Jack Chesbro took the mound for the final time that season, and the fourth time in eight days. If it were true that he had nothing left, after 445 innings of pitching, it was equally true that he had nothing left to lose. He had told Griffith the previous day "I'll trim 'em on Monday if it costs an arm."
Pitching, Pitching, Pitching
Carl Pavano is this close to being a member of the New York Yankees. According to Tyler Kepner in the New York Times:
Meanwhile, there was news that Jaret Wright had failed a portion of his physical, holding up his deal with the Yankees. But he took a second one yesterday and it seems as if he'll be wearing pinstripes after all. The Yankees are still interested in adding Eric Milton, but Milton is currently asking for too much money. Hopefully, the Bombers will persue Matt Clement or even Odalis Perez instead of Milton.
Elsewhere, the Red Sox are close to inking free agent Edgar Renteria--a personal favorite, dag--while the A's could move Tim Hudson--another favorite--by the end of the weekend. For more first-hand reports from the field, check out the latest from All-Baseball's crack staff: Jon Weisman, Rich Lederer, Alex Ciepley, and Peter White.
Live From Anahiem
Rich Lederer and Jay Jaffe have both filed reports from the winter meetings. Lively stuff. It's cold and rainy in New York and man, do I ever wish I was out there. Anyhow, I ain't. But reading Rich and Jay's articles makes me feel as if I was smack dab in the middle of it. Go check em out.
Boomer Goes to Beantown
With the Yankees reportedly set to sign Carl Pavano, the Red Sox inked David Wells to a two-year contract last night. According to the Boston Globe, the deal is:
As if the rivalry needed any more excitement. Wells, a fan favorite in New York, will now pitch for Boston. (Bet he plunks Rodriguez next year to ignite another brawl.) This is a good signing for the Sox. After all, who would you rather pitching for you: Boomer or Eric Milton? Yeesh. This should all but assure the Yanks of throwing their dough at Pavano and perhaps Milton too. They are talking about four-years, $42 million for Pavano. If you are going to spend that kind of loot, why not up it to $50 and nab Pedro? The question remains: Would Pavano, Milton and Wright make the Yankees a significantly better ball club?
Anyone else get the sense that it is the Yankees desperately trying to keep up with the Red Sox now?
Some Kind of Anniversary
The Yankees lost to the Red Sox in exquisite fashion in 2004. It was horribly painful for Yankee fans and amazingly wunnerful for Red Sox Nation. Although the Sox haven't made a custom of beating the Yankees (when both teams have been good) during the past hundred years, they did send New Yorkers home unhappy in 1904, in spite of the considerable efforts of Ban Johnson and Jack Chesbro. The following excerpt--the first of two parts--from Yankees Century details that fateful season, when the Boston-New York baseball rivalry was just beginning.
CHAPTER TWO: 1904
By Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson
"I would have given my entire salary back could I but had the ball back."
If the Yankees failure to contend in 1903 had caused some joy among some factions of Tammany Hall, elsewhere there was only frustration. Ban Johnson, Frank Farrell and William Devery were not happy. The new club had proven problematic, a failure in almost every way. All interested parties were determined not to let that happen again. They'd invested too much in the immigrants to let them flounder.
Fans were less than impressed. American League baseball in New York, while cheaper than National League ball, hadn't been very impressive. The Yankees had failed to create their own constituency, or steal substantial numbers of fans from the Giants. Yankee rooters were foundlings who couldn't afford to attend games at the Polo Grounds, gamblers who would bet on anything, anywhere, anyhow, or political cronies of Farrell and Devery taking a day off.
They weren't drawing fans from downtown. Getting to the ballpark was inconvenient, and would be for several more seasons until the subway opened. By and large, the Yankees were fighting the Giants for the same group of fans - and losing badly.
Let the Meetings Begin
The winter meetings start today in Anahiem. Looks like there will be plenty of action. Troy Glaus and Jeff Kent were snatched up yesterday. The Angels are reportedly close to signing Steve Finely while the Diamondbacks are nearing a deal with Russ Ortiz. What will the Yankees accomplish? Youse tell me. Regardless, it promises to be a busy weekend. Goody.
What's with the Coal in our Stockings?
At this point, the Yankees are putting all of their off-season hopes in landing Randy Johnson, and perhaps Carlos Beltran too. If they can't make a splashy move, Wright, and possibly Milton, could end up haunting the team for the next several years.
At least the winter meetings shouldn't be dull this weekend. Meanwhile, Al Leiter signs with the Marlins and isn't pleased with the way his Met career ended, while the Red Sox brass met with Pedro Martinez yesterday.
Is Brooklyn in the House?
As usual, there was a crop of good baseall books released in 2004. In case anyone is doing some last-minute holiday shopping, consider: "The Numbers Game," by Alan Schwarz, "Brushbacks and Knockdowns," by Allen Barra, “Negro League Baseball: The Rise and Ruin of a Black Institution, " by Neil Lanctot, "Saving the Pitcher," by Will Carroll, "The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty," by Buster Olney, and one of my favorites, "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups." I know it wasn't released this year, but "A Legend in the the Making: the New York Yankees in 1939," by Richard Tofel is essential reading for any self-respecting Yankee fan. You can find these books in stores or on the Internet, but in case you want to hunt for a wider selection of baseball literature, check out R. Plapinger Baseball Books (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson, authors of "Red Sox Century," and "Yankee Century" released another fine team history this season, "The Dodgers: 120 Years of Dodgers Baseball." All three books are a must for any baseball library. Thanks to Glenn Stout, I am going to run excerpts from from all three books in the coming week. First up is Chapter Ten from the Dodger book, which is about the teams' final days in New York.
LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN
You can kiss Jon Lieber good-bye as the Yanks signed former nemesis Jaret Wright to a three-year, $21 million deal. (Lieber is reportedly close to signing a three-year contract with the Phillies.) Wright was an easy guy to dislike when he was with Cleveland but I don't have much of a feeling for him one way or the other anymore. I know that Jay Jaffe was high on the Yankees getting him. The big question is whether Wright can continue his comeback without Leo Mazzone.
Meanwhile, many of the Yankee fans who have been bracing themselves for the Bombers to ink Eric Milton received a surprise body blow last night when the team signed Tony Womack to a two-year contract. Miguel Cairo is five years younger than Womack, but was apparently asking for too much money to return as the staring second base man. The logic behind not bringing Cairo back is not at fault here. In fact, it's promising that the team didn't fall in love with a utility player who simply had a solid season. But the cherce of Womack is uninspiring at best. And this was not a George move either. According to the Post:
What about Cliff Corcoran's man, Placido Planco? Not enough defense? What? And now, who do you suppose will be the utility man? This might be nuts, but what about Robbie Alomar? If he is mentally prepared for it, I think he'd be a good selection. He would be cheap, can still play defense, and can come off the bench and swipe a base if needed. Or will this open the door for Yankee farm hand Robinson Cano?
Oh well. John Olerud was not offered arbitration, but Ruben Sierra was. Man, oh man. Seeing Womack on the back page of the Post this morning was not a terrific way to start the day. Maybe I'm wrong here. I know Larry Mahknen sure ain't happy about it. What do you guys think?
I Want to Be a Part of it...
Jason Giambi's agent, Arn Tellem, released a statement to the media yesterday:
Murray Chass, who is at his best when writing about the business-side of the game, continues to detail the Yankees' possible legal options concerning Giambi's contract in the Times today. And for a completely different take on the steroids scandal, be sure and check out Larry Mahnken's piece over at The Hardball Times. It's sure to provoke a reaction.
No Sudden Moves
Okay, so according to Newsday, the Yankees are close to signing Eric Milton to a three-year deal. Why? Well, I dunno. Because he's a lefty and because he has a Yankee tatoo? Very well, but...Milton seems like an appealing enough guy, but he's not nearly as attractive as a pitcher. Anyone with me on this one?
Elsewhere, Mike Lupica suggests that Jason Giambi wouldn't be getting such a hard time from Yankee fans and perhaps even the local press if he'd just come off a year like Gary Sheffield had. Over at the Times, Murray Chass has a strong piece about politicians and steroids.
The baseball winter meetings are this coming weekend in Anahiem. Unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to make it out there, though several All-Baseball.com writer's will. What, if anything, do y'all think will shake down out there for the Yanks? Or the Mets? Or the Sox for that matter.
Although the news that Jason Giambi admitted having used performance-enhancing drugs is hardly surprising, it's too early to know what the ramifications will be. What does it all mean? Will Giambi still be wearing pinstripes in 2005? (Not if the Yankees get their way.) Will he be playing baseball at all? (Considering the amount of money that is due him over the next four years, I think that is not a hard question to answer, ">or is it?)
What does the public think of him now? What about his fellow players? So far, the Internet community of baseball writers have been generally more sympathetic towards Giambi--especially regarding his health--than the mainstream media. Perhaps this is because Internet writers are amatuers who are fans first and don't have to deal directly with the athletes they write about. Tom Verducci expressed disdain for Giambi on SI.com:
John Heyman wrote a particularly vicious column in Newsday last week, detailing Giambi's off-the-field lifestyle. John Harper has a far more balanced piece on what Giambi does when he's away from the ballpark today in the Daily News.
Meanwhile, the Kenny Lofton-Felix Heredia era in New York is officially over. Felix Rodriguez and Mike Stanton are now with the team, as is John Flaherty, who was re-signed to back-up Jorge Posada. Not wild about seeing Flaherty back? (If you are, better hope that Jorge stays healthy.) Wait until they ink Eric Milton.
On the Move
According to the Daily News, the Yankees made two trades yesterday: One, sending Felix Heredia to the Metsies for Mike Stanton, and two, shipping Kenny Lofton (plus a little over $1 million in cash) to the Phillies for reliever Felix Rodriguez. Neither deal has been officially announced yet.
In addition, Suzyn Waldman will join John Sterling in the Yankees' radio booth. Oh, baby.
First Jason Giambi, and now, Barry Bonds, the Big Red One. According to the San Francisco Chronicle:
It is most disturbing that testimony is being leaked to the public, but I'm afraid that the matter of civil rights will be lost in the hysteria that has already accompanied these findings. Giambi is on the cover of the New York Post this morning. The headline reads, "Boot the Bum: Why the Yankees MUST fire ugly drug cheat Jason Giambi TODAY."
In the Daily News, Bill Madden opines:
Characteristically, the Times is more even-handed. Tyler Kepner reports that the Yankees met with Bud Selig yesterday. It is believed that they will try and void Giambi's contract if at all possible. But it doesn't seem likely:
Tom Verducci adds that the Yankees will:
You have to wonder if Giambi will ever be able to rebound from this.
Aha! We've finally got some news we can sink our teeth into.
First, talks between the Yankees and the Diamonbacks concerning a possible trade involving Randy Johnson have stalled. Evidentally, Arizona asked for everything but GI Joe with the Kung-Fu grip. But while negotiations are dead for the moment, it is still very early in the game. Remember, the deals that brought Roger Clemens, Chuck Knoblauch and Alex Rodriguez to New York all happened late in the Hot Stove season.
Now, the big 'un. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Jason Giambi admitted that he used steriods when he testified before a grand jury last year. The newspaper reportedly obtained a transcript from the trial. Dig:
Uh, anyone got thoughts about this one?
Meanwhile, on a less meaty note, Derek Jeter weighed in on the Pedro Martinez situation:
But wait, there's more:
Finally, the News is reporting that the Yankees and Mets are close to swapping Mike Stanton for Felix Heredia. There you have it. You may fire when ready, Grizzly.
The Waiting (is the Hardest Part)
We can only hope that the embers of what has been a tepid Hot Stove League thus far will be stoaked next weekend at the baseball winter meetings. But while things have been slow for our Yankees at least we have The Pinstriped Bible to keep us engaged and entertained. Thank goodness for Steven Goldman.
For now, the big story round these parts is "What will Pedro do?" Bob Hohler suggests that the Sox may be willing to give Martinez a three-year deal, but that is it. And what about the Mets? Wouldn't they have to offer Pedro a significant bump in salary or years in order to snag him? Sure, the National League would be a better place for him, especially a pitcher's park like Shea Stadium. And I can also see how getting away from Curt Schilling may even appeal to him. But if the Mets don't wow Martinez, I still don't see him leaving Boston.
In any case, like it or not, the Hot Stove season is all about the business of baseball. And of course, it hasn't just been a business since 1976 either. In his book, "The Broadcasters," famed announcer Red Barber wrote:
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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