Monthly archives: January 2005
Putting the Me in Mean
Bob Klapisch recently visited Alex Rodriguez in Miami and was invited to join the Yankee third baseman's morning work out routine. Needless to say, Klapisch was left gasping for air, and impressed with Rodriguez's drive. Further, he writes that, like Giambi, Rodriguez has a need to be liked. But, in a meeting with George Steinbrenner last week, Rodriguez was encouraged to worry less about being accepted in the Yankee clubhouse and concentrate on developing an edge, a mean-streak:
Watching the Yankees last year, it was obvious that Rodriguez deferred to Derek Jeter. While Jeter is the captain and a Yankee icon, Rodriguez is the superior player. If he needs to channel the inner-Reggie in him to play his best ball, so be it. It'd be sure to make the newspapers happy, but if winning is really the only important thing in Yankeeland, the end result will most likely make Yankee fans pleased too.
The Elephant in the Yankee Clubhouse
Will he run into trouble in the Yankee clubhouse?
From a distance, former teammate Tony Clark thinks Giambi will pull through:
Jason Giambi, this is your life.
Jay Jaffe, the Peter Finch of baseball bloggers, looks at what the Yankees have done this off-season, and well, it makes him sick. Dayn Perry thinks the Bombers have done a poor job too, and I know that Steven Goldman, Cliff Corcoran and Larry Mahnken aren't wild about what's been going on in the Bronx either. But nobody goes for the jugular quite like Jaffe. Kick em in the grill, Jay.
Giambo Speaks! (Sort of)
I got a late start this morning and the sun was up by the time I was walking east on 231st street to the subway. The streets looked virtually white in the sunshine. As clusters of people waddled their way down the street, wonderfully long and narrow shadows were cast behind them. The shadows must have been three or four times longer than a persons actual size. When I got on the train, I read a bit in the Times about Jason Giambi. Talk about a guy with a long shadow. According to Tyler Kepner:
In other Yankee news--and boy, there hasn't been much to talk about in the past few weeks--utility man Damian Rolls has been offered a minor-league contract, and the team is close to offering a similar deal to Doug Glanville, to serve as a back up outfielder.
Minky Dinky Dog
Carlos Delgado goes to the Fish unt the Mets get Minky. Happy?
On the way home yesterday evening, I was listening to my walkman and reading print-outs from Baseball Prospectus on the 1 train, when, at 86th street, I heard a commotion. It was coming from my left so I pulled the left earphone away from my ear and I heard a man talking loudly, and sternly. Like many New Yorkers, I’ve grown numb to the pleas of panhandlers (and there are far fewer homeless people on the trains than there was ten, fifteen years ago). Sometimes I listen to their stories and give them some change, sometimes I don’t. I’m more inclined to dig into my pockets to the musicians who make their way through the cars.
I felt a rush of emotion. I felt angry that this man had his kids out on the train hustling for money. There was another boy, also light-skinned, with round-glasses and a delicate face standing a few feet away from the man. He must have been about twelve. And there was a girl too. She was darker, and big, probably thirteen or fourteen. I wondered what the kids were feeling, if they felt humiliated and shamed. Or if it was just me projecting those feelings onto them.
Coming to Town?
Larry Mahnken, who hosts the Replacement Level Yankee Blog, is in a tight spot. His apartment building burned down two nights ago, leaving Larry homeless. He didn't have insurance, but fortunately, he got out in one piece and has his health. But he's lost everything. One way we can help is by leaving a donation on his paypal account which is posted on his site. We're thinking of you Larry and are thankful that you are still with us.
How to Stay Warm
The hot air that fuels the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry is plenty warm here in the dead of winter. Even with most of New Englander focused squarely on the Super Bowl. Hey, here's some breaking news for all you trash-talking Northeastern yentas out there: Alex Rodriguez doesn't like the Red Sox, is hated by Red Sox fans and probably many members of the Red Sox organization too. Curt Schilling is not going to win a popularity contest in the Bronx anytime soon either. As if you didn't know, the two superstars have exchanged barbs this off-season, with Mr. Rodriguez the latest to fire-away. Look for Rodriguez to be in the middle of another on-the-field brawl next season (though my hunch says that David Wells, and not Schilling will be on the other end of the exchange). I think it's reasonable to expect a lot more barking back-and-forth from certain parties, as well.
Some people think Rodriguez is a manicured phony. But he is smart enough to be accountable:
Jason Giambi could learn a thing or three from the way Rodriguez handles himself as a New York star.
On Friday afternoon a friend of mine called from the subway platform on the 7 line in Queens. He was above ground and freezing his tucchas off. He said that when New York is this cold, the streets white from the salt, he is reminded of the scene in "The French Connection" when Gene Hackman is shadowing the Fernando Rey character. Popeye Doyle is standing outside in the cold, shivering, on the stake-out, for what seems like hours, hopping in place, trying to stay warm, while Charnier is comfortably eating dinner in a toasty, upscale bistro. That's what New York is like when it gets this cold, he told me. Gray and unforgiving. Ain't it the truth.
Our weekend travel plans shelved, Em and I got up bright and early on Saturday morning and headed down to the big Fairway store, off 125th street and the West Side Highway, where we do our weekly shopping. We knew there would be a rush what with a snow storm on the way, but dag, by a quarter-to-nine in the morning, the place was ridiculous. "Dogs and cats, sleeping together..." It was retarded. Leave it to New Yorkers to get nuts over a foot of snow. We weaved and dodged our way through the panic and managed to get home a few hours before the snow actually hit. Ahhh, so what to do during a snow storm? Why make a home-made chicken soup, of course.
Which is how I spent my Saturday. In the evening, when cabin fever began to set in, Emily dragged my ass outside for a walk. She loves the snow, and we had a good time doing the snow-angel thing, trooping around the neighborhood, taking-in the silence, admiring big patches of virgin snow. We returned home for some hot chocolate and watched "Cutter's Way," a slept-on 1981 Jeff Bridges thriller, that featured John Heard's breakthrough, if hammy, performance. Emily got distracted and was up puttering around about half-way through the movie. I hadn't seen it years and think it holds up pretty well. But then again, I'm a sucker for Jeff Bridges, who is almost always good.
Not much happened in New York baseball over the weekend. The Mets are still in the hunt for Carlos Delgado...or are they? Meanwhile, the Yanks picked up Rey Sanchez to be their futility infielder. Sanchez played with the team briefly in 1997 and got along famously with Derek Jeter. I know the guy can't hit, and I don't know how much he's lost in the field--he used to be reliable--but I've always liked him, scrub or not.
Second that Emotion
Not much gray area there.
Steven Goldman has been raving about Bean for the longest.
No Justice, No Peace
The Best and the Brightest
Beginning of the End?
Omar Minaya is set to meet with free agent Carlos Delgado today. Delgado will get together with the Marlins and Rangers later this week, but according to Dayn Perry, it behooves the Mets to ink the Puerto Rican slugger. Perry delineates a recipe for Met success in a recent column for Fox. Ever the Yankee fan, here's the bit that struck me:
The signings of Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright, Tony Womack and even Ruben Sierra have been heavily criticized this winter. Some have argued that the Yankees would have been better off with Carlos Beltran and Javier Vazquez than Randy Johnson and Pavano (and Bernie Williams).
Just how close are the Yankees to falling off their perch as Kings of New York? There has been talk every year for the past four or five seasons that this will finally the year that the Bombers dip. They are too old, their farm system is barren. Personally, I expect that they'll eventually fall off. It just seems like the natural order of things, despite of the team's imposing payroll. Whether it is this year, 2007 or beyond, I can't say. They are still team stacked with talent. I don't know if their off-season has been a bust, but it's discouraging that other teams seem to be smarter than the Yankees these days. What do you think? Are the Yankees one serious-injury-to-Jorge Posada-away from missing the playoffs? Would Carlos Delgado make the Mets serious contenders? Which one of these?
Something Old, Something New
With the sale of the Brewers now complete, George Steinbrenner is officially the senior-ranking owner in baseball. Murray Chass has an appreciation, of sorts, today in the Times:
I've been fixated with what will happen to the Yankees once Steinbrenner passes on--or becomes mentally or physically unable to run the team--for some time now. He's the only Yankee owner I've ever known, and for most of my life I've considered him a bully and a bore. But he's also financed six World Serious winners. Love him or hate him, for better or for worse, we've grown accustomed to his face.
All-Baseball.com's prospect expert, Bryan Smith profiles the best young talent in the country over at Wait Til Next Year. Here is what he has to say about a couple of Yankee hopefuls:
Bryan does a terrific job. Go check it out.
Jon Weisman and I got some great responses to our pieces last week about baseball cards. As luck would have it, Hank Waddles wrote post about the same subject the day before Jon and I posted ours, over at Broken Cowboy. Worth a look. Lastly, following up on yesterday's entry, be sure and read SG's piece on Jason Giambi over at Replacement Level Yankees blog.
Inquiring Minds Want to Know
There are many questions concerning the 2005 Yankees: Will Randy Johnson stay healthy, how will Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright perform, will Alex Rodriguez have a more productive season? And that's just for starters. But the biggest mystery, the $64,000 question, as it were, is what can we expect from Jason Giambi? On Saturday, Jack Curry reported that the Yankees are prepared for Giambi to play first base and DH this year. In addition:
I hope that Giambi comes back and plays well. He's going to have some kind of cloud hanging over his head--the media attention and the abuse he'll hear on the road should be relentless--but I don't think it will bother his teammates too much. Both Joe Torre and Brian Cashman have left Giambi messages this winter. He hasn't returned their calls. I can understand why Giambi hasn't spoken with the media, but I don't get why he would't return Joe Torre's call. What's up with that? I don't get it.
New and Improved?
The players and owners agreed on a new drug policy yesterday. It isn't especially strict, as they still won't test for amphetamines (greenies) or human growth hormone. But for now, the newspaper pundits seem to be appeased. True to form, Marvin Miller, is less than impressed.
A Small, Good Thing
Every so often on my morning commute through Washington Heights I see a small family consisting of a mother and a father and their two sons get on the train. The boys must be six and seven respectively. They both have round faces that seem even chubbier by their round glasses. They wear navy blue overcoats, and the required Catholic School attire: gray pants, white shirt, and a tie. The mother and father, who look to be in their early forties, are always well dressed and, if not formal, at least neat and proper. The father, who seems like a strict disciplinarian, will lovingly lean down and comb one of his son's hair to the side. When the boys leave the train with their mother at 86th street, the father waves goodbye to them, and continues to smile and look for them after the train has begun to pull out of the station.
I've made eye contact with the father on several occasions, nodding to him and smiling as he dotes on his boys. On one occasion I told him how nice it was to see a father being so affectionate with his children. Anyhow, I saw the family this morning, while I was reading the rags. I didn't make any contact with them, I observed them from 181rst street down to 86th. At 110th street, the younger son pulled out a small stack of playing cards that were held together by an old rubber band. He removed the band and looked at the top card. Then he open the stack to the middle and proceeded to flip through them using his left hand to slide the cards from left to right. The gesture really brought me back. I wonder who teaches kids to sort through cards that way, I thought. Duh. His older brother, of course.
I started to remember how important baseball cards were to me when I was seven, eight years old. Never mind that this boy was looking at Pokemon cards. I'm sure that baseball cards don't dominate the card market for kids any longer. But that doesn't matter so much in the long run. The cards are still held together by an old rubber band, and carried in close to the vest. The fact that the cards are graphic and contain crucial information makes them vital to a young boy.
I wonder how kids trade Pokemon cards. Do they flip them or what? I used to collect baseball cards--Topps cards--but never cared for them particularly well. (I've saved them, and have the good ones in a plastic sleeve, but the cards are all bent and busted around the edges.) I flipped them all sorts of ways--I used to love flicking them against a wall--and enjoyed buying packs and getting doubles and triples of lousy players in the search for a Reggie Jackson or Pete Rose All-Star card. (Loved that awful gum too and the smell it gave to the entire pack.) Some kids would buy an entire set, which they would keep in mint condition, but that never appealed to me. I liked to play with my cards. I treasured the statistics on the back of the cards and the dopey facts they'd revealed about a player.
What about you? Were baseball cards an important part of your childhood? Do you still see kids flipping and trading them? I started collecting cards in earnest during the 1979 season, but have a bunch from 1977 and 1978 too. I was actively involved with them through the 1984-85 seasons, when comic books took over. Anyone got a favorite year? I especially loved the 1978 cards and there were a couple of years in the early-mid seventies that were great-looking too.
I'm Really Glad to Be Here...
When was the last time the Mets and Yankees held boffo press conferences on the same day? What I want to know is: Who will get the back pages of the News, Post and Newsday come tomorrow? Will they split? What? Any predictions? (I'm guessing that both will have a blurb on the front page of the Times.) Cliff Corcoran, recently back from bacation, offers his take on the Johnson deal:
Over at Baseball Prospectus, Joe Sheehan isn't thrilled about the moves the Yankees have made this off-season:
Though they aren't in exactly the same situation, I'm reminded of what Bill James wrote about the Bombers in the 1988 Baseball Abstract:
I don't know that what James wrote is exactly true now, but in general, his point is right on. Eventually, this treadmill effect will burn the Yanks like it did in the eighties. That's why some writers are understandably upset that the team didn't sign Beltran. He would be keeping them young. It's hard to believe that the Yankees will replace Bernie Williams with someone nearly as good or as young.
Carlos Beltran wanted to be a Yankee. According to multiple reports, his agent, Scott Boras approached the Bombers on Saturday evening and said Beltran would wear the pinstripes if they gave him a six-year, $100 million deal. The Yanks passed. The Astros offered Beltran more money, but they wouldn't give him a full, no-trade clause. So he moved on to his third cherce, the New York Mets, who were the highest bidder, offering him a seven-year, $119 million contract. Nice work if you can get it.
The Yankees, who are often criticized for their spending habits, are sure to be knocked in some circles for letting Beltran get away. He would have made them younger and better at a key position. If they had not over-paid for Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright, perhaps they would have been able to ink Beltran. (Come on, which deals do you like better: Pavano and Wright, or Matt Clement and Wade Miller?) Irregardless, it speaks to the reality that the team is likely stuck with Jason Giambi's contract...and Kevin Brown's too. Even if they are intent on dumping Brown, they will still have to eat most, if not all, of the money owed him.
So, Beltran now plays for the Metropolitans. I think they paid too much for him, but he makes them a better team. Now, if they have the chutzpah to go and get Carlos Delgado, they sure will have a promising team in 2005. However, Tim Marchman thinks the deal could come back to haunt the Mets:
The Mets also signed Miguel Cairo as well as the Korean left-hander, Koo Dae-sung, who had been rumored to be going to the Bronx. The Yanks? They'll have to settle for Randy Johnson, who is due to take a physical today. Cue the strings. The team also signed Ruben Ruben Sierra to a one-year deal to do the cha-cha, hit a couple of dingers and strike out a whole bunch.
You Talkin' to Me?
Have you ever read something that you feel describes you to a tee? Yesterday, I read a couple of articles that resonated so strongly with me that I just had to share them with you. They are from the PBS website, from a show called, "Do You Speak American?" and are about how New Yorkers talk and relate to the world. Deborah Tannen, a socilolinguist, explains:
My girlfriend Emily has a distinct New York accent but she was raised in the suburbs and has more in common with the Midwestern sensibility described above than she does with the New York style. When we first started dating, we had all sorts of trouble because she felt I was constantly interrupting her when she was trying to tell me a story or how her day went. I wasn't trying to change the subject or take over the conversation, I just wanted to be involved in an exchange, not just be an audience for a monologue. I was trying being natural, trying to be friendly. But when I interjected a question or a thought, she'd shut down, and say, "I'm not finished yet." According to Tannen, our problem was not unique:
Well, I've learned when to sit and listen and keep my mouth shut, and of course, it's made a world of difference. What I do when Em wants to share is get an idea of what she wants from me. Does she just want me to listen or is she looking for feedback? Once I've got those ground rules straight, it's easier for us to communicate. I'll be honest, it's not natural for me to listen to someone talk for ten, fifteen minutes straight without reacting at all. I couldn't make it through twenty minutes without participating at all, because it's just too much information to take in. I start to get over-loaded and lose my concentration. I know this is classic male-female relationship stuff--what? men have a hard time listening to women without trying to "fix" the situation? get out--but it's exaggerated in our cases because I'm a motor-mouthed New Yorker and Em's a demure chick from the sticks. Before we met, Emily told her mom that she wanted to date, "A Borough Jew." Well, I'm only half Jewish, but I'm 100% New Yorker. (Careful what you wish for, cause she got exactly what she wanted.)
Oh, and the beauty part about these articles is that I printed them out and was reading them on my subway ride home last night. I didn't notice that they were part of a PBS program until the woman sitting next to me said, "Did you see that show? It was on last night and I missed it." I told her I didn't even know it was a show and then explained who sent me the articles and why. We chatted for three or four stops, mostly about Malcolm Gladwell, "The Tipping Point," and his new book, "Blink" (which I highly recommend), speaking very quickly. Then she was off and I went back to reading. You know, she just happened to be a native New Yorker, right?
Meanwhile, the team is close to agreeing to a contract extension with Randy Johnson. Steven Goldman weighs in on the boffo deal in this week's Pinstriped Bible:
And speaking of boffo, the hottest topic in baseball right now is where Carlos Beltran will land. His agent says that five teams are in the hunt. Various reports say that the Cubs and Yanks are invovled--and there is a rumor that the Mets have already agreed to a deal with him. Yentas, start your kvetchin'. I've thought all along that Beltran will return to Houston, but who the hell knows. Think the Yanks will swoop down and nab him at the last moment, or what? And should they? What do you say?
So says the headline on the back cover of El Diario this morning. And it's true, Bud Selig signed off on the Randy Johnson-Javier Vazquez deal yesterday. Players still need to take physicals and the Yanks now have until the end of the week to work out a contract extension with the Big Unit. From what I've been able to tell reading the papers, nobody expects anything to trip things up at this point.
Interestingly, it looks as if the Yankees are not aggresively pursuing Carlos Beltran. According to Murray Chass:
Omar Minaya and Fred Wilpon, on the other hand, courted Beltran in Puerto Rico yesterday. Lee Jenkins reports:
The Yanks not interested? Chass thinks it could be the story of the off-season. The Mets out-bidding The Boss? Say it ain't so. My feeling is that Beltran will return to Houston, but never underestimate General Von Steingrabber...right? While I can understand the Yankees' reluctance to sign a player to a six or seven year contract, the truth is, Beltran would make them younger, and better, at a key position. Dayn Perry writes:
Hey, at least this week won't be boring. The newest member(s) of the Hall of Fame will be announced this afternoon. Other than Boggs, does anyone else get in? (I think that Ryno has a shot and hope that the Goose makes it but I ain't holding my breath.)
Can I, Can I Start This?
Today, the proposed Randy Johnson trade will reach Bud Selig's desk; tomorrow, the Hall of Fame class of 2005 will be announced. Up next for the Yanks: Carlos Beltran? (Meanwhile, out west, here's a couple of items of interest.) You may click when ready.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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