Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
2005-08-04 21:31
by Cliff Corcoran

The batboy that the Cleveland Indians provide to visiting ballclubs at Jacobs field is a portly, Asian, Ohio State student who keeps the cleanest dugout in the major leagues. According to the YES broadcasters, the Yankees have absolutely fallen in love with this bulbous batboy who actually sweeps the visiting dugout when the team is in the field. Their fondness for the kid was on display in the bottom of the sixth inning last night when, as he swept his way past Randy Johnson, the Big Unit stood up and took over for him, sweeping sunflower seed shells and such into a neat pile, then going to grab a dust pan.

Johnson didn't actually pitch last night, but thanks in part to the old reverse jinx, he was the only player on either side of last night's contest with a broom in his hand as the Yankees fended off the Cleveland sweep with a surprising ninth-inning rally, winning the final game of the series 4-3 (curiously the same score my softball team--which almost never triumphs--won by on Wednesday night, also overcoming a 3-2 deficit in our last at-bat).

As the final score might indicate, the game was something of a pitcher's duel, at least through the first six innings. Kevin Millwood was fantastic, needing just 94 pitches, 76 percent of them strikes, to get through eight innings (8 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 8 K). Shawn Chacon was less efficient, needing 104 pitches (a hair under 60 percent of them strikes) to get through six plus a batter.

Still, perhaps due to my low expectations, I was impressed by Chacon's performance. Despite working deep into counts, Chacon--who wears his uniform baggy and his hat slightly to the side with the brim almost flat in the style of the younger generation of African-American ballplayers such as the Marlins' Dontrelle Willis and Juan Pierre, the Indians' C.C. Sabathia and Coco Crisp, and the Mets' Mike Cameron--was working close to the strike zone and making hitters miss with a very effective curve ball. The extra-wide (but consistent) strike zone of home plate umpire Bob Davison surely helped, as Chacon walked just two men while striking out four (three of them looking at pitches on or off the corners) but, although it was technically earned, the only run that scored on his watch was entirely the fault of his defense.

The Yankees got out to a 2-0 lead on a pair of solo homers by John Flaherty, getting an unexpected start, and Jason Giambi in the third and fifth innings respectively. The former came with one out on the very first pitch after Bernie Williams, who reached on a single on his way to going 2-for-4 as the DH, got thrown out at second on a botched hit and run. It was the second time in two days that the Yankees missed a sign from third base coach Luis Sojo (the other being Robinson Cano's bunted third strike on Wednesday night). Williams was looking back at the plate all the way to second, then stared down Sojo after being thrown out making it clear that he thought he had received a hit and run sign. Instead, Flaherty took the pitch to run the count to 2-0, then homered on the next pitch.

In the bottom of the fifth, just after Giambi had increased the Yankee lead to 2-0, the Yankee defense gave one back. With two outs, a hot shot to first by Crisp skipped over the glove of a ducking Jason Giambi for a single after which Hideki Matsui twisted and turned a fly ball to deep left by Jhonny Peralta into an RBI double. As Alex and I agreed on IM after the game, the Giambi play was the sort of thing you have to accept as a trade off for his bat (which is far more effective when he plays in the field), but the Matsui blunder was inexcusable.

It could have been worse. In the third inning, Robinson Cano bungled a sure double play on a grounder that stayed low, grabbing for the ball before he had it securely in his mitt, recovering with an awkward flip to Jeter to get the lead runner. He nearly replicated that play in the fifth on a worm burner by Sizemore following a lead-off single by Blake, but, thanks in part to the speed with which the ball got to him, was still able to get the ball to Jeter in time to turn two. That cleared the bases and put two outs on the board ahead of the more costly boners by Giambi and Matsui. Entertainingly, after Peralta was balked to third (don't even get me started on the balk rule), Hafner hit another worm burner to Cano that Robinson caught very deliberately and held in his glove for several moments before flipping first for the final out.

Things got worse in the seventh. Entering the seventh inning having thrown 99 pitches, Chacon issued a five-pitch lead-off walk to Casey Blake, after which Joe Torre brought in Alan Embree to pitch to the left-handed Grady Sizemore. Going to Embree over Gordon there was a defensible move as Sizemore's splits are indeed striking (.299/.354/.510 vs. righties, .233/.295/.291 vs. lefties). Perhaps in part as retaliation against the LOOGY, Eric Wedge had Sizemore bunting, something he appears to do about as well as Robinson Cano. With Embree feeding him high fastballs, the hardest pitch to deaden on the ground, Sizemore took two for balls and fouled off two others to run the count even. With the bunt off, Embree then walked Sizemore, which proved to be a mistake every bit as costly as Matsui's.

The next batter was Coco Crisp, whose splits are even more severe than Sizemore's (.335/.383/.506 vs. righties, .206/.252/.302 vs. lefties). Torre left Embree in the game, and Wedge again retaliated with the bunt, this one successful to put runners at second and third with one out, which likely would have happened with either Gordon or Embree on the mound. With the big lumber due up, Torre correctly went to Tom Gordon, who got Peralta to ground out to short with his first pitch, unfortunately allowing the tying run to score in the process. Gordon then got ahead of Travis Hafner 0-2 only to run the count even and surrender an RBI single to make it 3-2 Indians. Credit Hafner there, who went 2 for 4 with that go-ahead RBI in his first game back from a beaning in mid-July. Gordon got ahead of Hafner with high heat that Hafner could only foul off, but then missed too high on the next two pitches. When he came back into the zone he got it a bit to low and Hafner served it into right.

Suddenly six outs from a sweep and third place in the Wild Card race despite having finally gotten a solid outing from his starter, Joe Torre then let Tony Womack (getting another inexplicable start in center) lead off the eighth, perhaps thinking that he'd make an ideal man to have on as the tying run with no outs, forgetting that Tony Womack never gets on base. Womack fell into an 0-2 hole and grounded out to first as Millwood set the side down in order on nine pitches.

Gordon then returned serve on eight pitches and Wedge brought in Bob Wickman to save his third game in as many days. After Gary Sheffield fouled a ball out of the stadium, nearly killed Luis Sojo for the umpteenth time with another foul and finally flied out to center, Alex Rodriguez took four pitches to go 3-1, then creamolished Wickman's next pitch well into the stands in right to tie the game. After a Matsui groundout, Jason Giambi cracked his second solo shot of the night just a foot or so beyond the leaping try of Casey Blake, bouncing the eventual winning run off the top of the right field scoreboard.

After Scott Sauerbeck toyed with the bottom of the Yankee order, in the process reminding Yankee fans of the organization's complete lack of catching depth by ricocheting a pitch of John Flaherty's kneecap, Mariano Rivera then retired the Indians on ten pitches to lock the Indians' broom closet and preserve the Yankees standing in the AL East and Wild Card hunt.

2005-08-05 03:42:04
1.   mikeplugh
What a great all around performance. The dramatics came late, so it was exciting, but I'd rather see them get ahead and stay ahead. Still, that's why you buy a ticket to the game.

Okay, now for my fury. I'm sorry to start off the post with a negative, but I read one of the most idiotic and insulting things I've read by a Yankee player in a long time. One of my favorite Yankees too.

Gary Sheffield said a bunch of ridiculous nonsense in the NY Times Magazine that should get him a one way ticket to Tampa Bay next season. I don't want his cancerous arrogant ass in our lockerroom after this season is over.

Read it for yourself in the NY Daily News at:

All he does is shit on the Yankee captain and basically shit where he eats by criticizing the Yankee atmosphere. Let me ask you one question Mr. many rings do you have? That's what I thought. Exactly one. How many clubhouses have you poisoned? Running on 6.

I was so happy when the Yanks signed him and I have been a big part of the Sheffield cheering brigade since he arrived. I know his spotty past, and I know he's a grumpy kind of guy, but YOU ARE NOT BIGGER THAN THE YANKEES SHEFF!!!

Phew....glad I got that out of my system. It's emblematic of the Yankee mediocrity that something like this would happen. When we had hard nosed guys who didn't wear their stardom on their chest, we had respect and we won. Now people love to see us crash because we don't win (or lose) with class.

I have officially converted to the Sheffield Must Go crowd. Ugh.

2005-08-05 04:18:30
2.   Simone
Very good win. I still don't see the Yankees making the playoffs, but it is nice to have a thrilling win every now and then.

mikeplugh, I just read the article. Nothing that Sheffield says surprised me really. His reputation is well earned. He wears out his welcome EVERYWHERE he goes. I only thought that he should be traded if the Yankees could get a pitcher and center fielder to help them this season. It is too late for that and since his previous comments, I really don't see how the Yankees can trade him in the off season.

George chose the older, poorer fielding, steriod user Sheffield over the younger better hitting and fielding, higher reputation Vlad. The Yankees are now stuck with Sheffield and have endure him. Sheffield goes no where until that contract is done and expect lots of bitching about the Yankees not renewing his contract next season.

The Yankees tank on the field and Sheffield decides to poison the atmosphere in the clubhouse. Nice work there. Sheffield acts like a fan on the internet, not a like good teammate and employee. I can't wait to hear all the rationalizations on Sheffield's behalf.

2005-08-05 04:38:43
3.   dtrain
Why, Sheff, why?!

You know, though, as pissed off as I am that he did this interview, I do think he's actually right about him being the guy most feared by opposing teams. And his cockiness and swagger, as annoying asthey can be off the field, are a big part of what makes Sheff the player he is on the field.

2005-08-05 04:55:57
4.   Alex Belth
I had that "Oh brother" reaction when I saw the Daily News clip this morning. The article will appear in New York magazine next week, not the New York Times magazine. I'm sure Sheffield is right about the lack of clubhouse atmosphere but it's hard not to wince when he starts taking potshots at teammates.

Last year he had nothing but praise for Jeter during Jeter's early season struggles, and this season, he's had nothing but good things to say about Rodriguez. I think more than personally attacking either of them, he's more upset about how HE looks compared with how THEY are treated. As usual, it's about Sheffield being slighted somehow. So long as he keeps hitting, the riffing is part of the package. Which doesn't mean that we have to like it, but it hardly comes as a surprise.

On another clubhouse note, Robinson Cano was addressed by Rodriguez and Jeter yesterday after he displayed an arrogant approach to a pre-game chat with reporters. Cano answered questions but kept his face stuck in an issue of "Baseball America." This too, does not come as much of a shock. Cano displays a cockiness bordering on arrogance on the field. I'm not surprised that he isn't exactly the most mature guy off of it. Hopefully, he'll grow up.

Cliff, great job mentioning the batboy who looks like Hideki Irabu's nephew. He seems like such a sweet, diligent kid. It was nice to see the Big Unit show off his sense of humor as well. Fortunately, the Yanks managed to win the game which makes Johnson's sweeping even easier to remember. I am not overly optimistic about their playoff chances but last night would have really been a back-breaker if they had lost.

So, they live to see another day. Here are my bad puns for the day...Giambi has been some kind of wunnerful these days, and in the risk of being a damned jinx I've got to say that Rivera is giving Yankee fans that peaceful, easy feeling every time he enters the game.

2005-08-05 05:04:36
5.   Simone
Cliff, I loved that batboy story. I saw the batboy sweeping so intensely in the clubhouse. I loved RJ taking the broom sweeping.

All the Sheffield fans should be pleased their guy's comments are the lead story on ESPN's Cold Pizza and in the sports media.

2005-08-05 05:08:10
6.   jedi
Better get use to "Sheffield" for awhile. Even if he leaves in a year or so to free agency, I hope you all know, Sheffield incarnate is in the waiting...

Sheffield = Cano

I hope that talk by Jeter and Arod evolved a smack in the back of the head.

2005-08-05 05:09:34
7.   Simone
LOL! Sheffield whining about his contract. I thought he sacrificed to come to the Yankees? George was a fool to overrule Cashman who wanted to give Sheffield a two year contract.
2005-08-05 05:13:25
8.   Simone
Cano's arrogance may explain why he has missed his two ESPN scheduled chats over the last few days. He is too young to be so obnoxious.
2005-08-05 05:31:58
9.   jedi
"George was a fool to overrule Cashman who wanted to give Sheffield a two year contract."


I don't know about you, but based upon his production...Sheffield was one of the best signings of Steinbrenner's career. I haven't seen consistent production year after year from a free agent in a long time if ever. Sheffield never had that first year "yankee butterfiles" that engulfs everyone in the likes of Clemens, Arod, etc. If you add his final year with the Braves his numbers are ridiculous. That's not even mentioning he couldnt lift an arm one year due to a bum shoulder.

Hands down, George knew what he was doing by signing him for a longer term and had everyright to sign one of the games biggest bats for at least three years...In my opinion, I think Cashman low-balled him with that 2 year contract after he had an insane year in Atlanta. I am glad he did sign with us and I will miss him regardless of this attitude, even if he leaves after his contract.

Sheffield is insane...on and off the field. period.

2005-08-05 07:38:04
10.   Nick from Washington Heights
Sheffield has outperformed Vlad the last year and a half. Look at the numbers this year. Who would you rather have? He's spent less time on the DL, and has been an unbelievable hitter in a great line-up.

And really, who care what he says off the field. Teammates don't have to like each other to win.

2005-08-05 07:43:44
11.   Cliff Corcoran
Alex, good call on the Hideki Irabu comparison, I had made that remark to Becky, but forgot to include it in my description above.

As for Sheffield, the following are indisputible facts:

*The Yankees should have signed Vlad instead.
*Having failed to sign Vlad, Sheffield was the no-brainder second choice, his contract was very reasonable, and he has lived up to his billing on the field as a crucial part of the Yankee offense. Ignoring the fact that he was chosen over Guerrero, Sheffield has indeed been one of the Yankees best free agent signings ever.

Alex makes a good point about Sheffield having come to Rodriguez's defense earlier in the year and about having praised Jeter last year. I think my partner hits it on the head when he says that Sheffield's complaint is not with his teammates, but with a percieved slight directed toward him. As for his comments about the Yankee atmosphere, Sheffield's primary problem over his career is his inability to keep his trap shut, but when he speaks he always tells the truth. This appears to be more of the same. I know to expect that from him and have accepted it as part of the Reggie-like package that is Gary Sheffield.

As for Cano, I think that cockyness has been key to his making good at the majors at such a young age. I imagine it would be difficult not to be cocky if you were succeeding as the Yankees' second baseman at the age of 22. It's up to the Jeters, Rodriguezes and, yes, the Sheffields to show him the right way to behave. I have faith they'll do their job. Above all, Cano seems to be a cheerful sort, and doesn't appear to have the sort of chip on his shoulder that leads to legitimate personality problems such as Milton Bradley (who does seem to be working out his problems) and John Rocker.

2005-08-05 07:52:05
12.   Athos
I've been sticking up for Sheffield thoughout all of his moronic comments, but for me, he's gone too far... my love is for the Yanks, not Sheffield and I've now joined the Sheff Must Go crowd too... Jeter has done so much for the organization and so much for me as a fan...
2005-08-05 07:57:52
13.   Simone
The Yankees should have never signed Sheffield over Vlad. I am still incredulous that George never even pursued Vlad. No way should have Sheffield been George's first choice over Vlad which makes signing the Sheffield a low point as far as I am concerned. Looking VORP, Vlad is the more valuable player. Vlad plays better defense and is younger. A young Vlad would have been a nice building block for the next 3 years as the team retools.

jedi, I believe that older players should never been signed to contracts more than 2 years. Cashman's offer was generous and reasonable. You just never know when 1) they fall off a cliff and 2) when a younger better player may become available.

2005-08-05 08:05:14
14.   Nick from Washington Heights
Simone, according to BP, Sheffield has a VORP of 41.5 and Guerrero a VORP of 40.8.
2005-08-05 08:06:06
15.   Nick from Washington Heights
Giambi is at 43.4 by the way. Wow!
2005-08-05 08:21:02
16.   jedi
"jedi, I believe that older players should never been signed to contracts more than 2 years. Cashman's offer was generous and reasonable. You just never know when 1) they fall off a cliff and 2) when a younger better player may become available. "

Cmahn dude!? 2 years for $19 milr, for a guy who hit who hit 39Hr 132 RBIs and had a .330 AVG the year before??? ...that's not to mention that he has been a 30+ HR, 80+ RBI and close to a .300 AVG hitter in his entire career.

Do you know what other "over $9.5 mil old outfielders" were getting paid in the major leagues during that time of the negotiations?

Raul Mondesi $13 mil
Bernie Williams $12.3 mil
Jeremy Burnitz $12.2 mil
Shawn Green $15.6 mil
Juan Gonzalez $13 mil

Gary Sheffield was making around $11-12 mil in his last year with the Braves. Sorry, Simone, but $19.5 mil was a LOOOOOOW BALLL by Cashman compared to what the rest of the league was getting for an "older" outfielder. I don't blame Sheffied for blowing up and walking out on those discussions. Yes, baseball salaries are inflated but don't low ball a guy who produces year after year.

Sheffield was entitled to at least $13 per year and thats what the boss gave him, a generous and reasonable offer.

2005-08-05 08:24:16
17.   Schteeve
This Sheff flap seems like much ado about nothing.

He doesn't really name names. And I will bet you that Derek Jeter isn't losing any sleep over who thinks he's the team leader and who doesn't.

Sheff says he wouldn't pull a jeter and fly into the stands for a ball? Wow! Is that news? Sheff will barely do more than trot after a ball in the corner. So what? He hits like crazy.

Jeter is Jeter,a living legend who is more than the sum of his parts. Nothing anyone, even Gary Sheffield, has to say about him is really going to change that.

And until Sheff becomes a big time liability on field or in the batters box, why would you ever not want him on your team.

Also, I loved the "All-Star with the gunslinger eyes" line.

2005-08-05 08:26:03
18.   jedi
My correction.

Cashman's proposed deal was for 2 years for $18 MILLION! Not, 19.5 as previously mentioned. $9 million a year for Sheffield!? Good God. Why dont you offer him free itunes for the rest of the year and call it a deal.

2005-08-05 08:48:58
19.   singledd
Once upon a time the Yankees' had a young 1st baseman who looked decent. However he developed into a very good player. Then a great player. Great defense, HRs and even a batting crown. He had Hall of Fame written all over him and even his lastname was 'Baseball'.
Then he hurt his back. The End.

Yes... Vlad is MUCH better then Sheff on D, is younger, and has somewhat better offensive numbers. But, considering BIG contracts the Yankees were already holding, could they afford 40-60 mil on a guy who was/is one sneeze away from disability? (And who knew he go so cheap at 13 mil?)

I wanted Vlad in some ways, but back problems are the worst. They NEVER get better. It's simply a matter of how you manage them. Meanwhile, Sheff has exceeded my expectations in many ways, and his toughness is a good example for other Yankees.

Vlad over Sheff? Maybe. But we did real good anyway.

2005-08-05 08:53:34
20.   markp
It's good to see some rational responses to the tempest in a teapot interview. I doubt he's referring to is Arod-the NY press (and especially the guys in the booth) are hardly cheerleaders for him despite his great season.
As far as signing him instead of Vlad, I wanted Vlad, but Sheff's been better in 2005 and has missed less time since they were signed. Vlad's one of those guys whose ordinary defense gets overlooked because he has a cannon for an arm. Neither of them are much in the field besides that.
I disagree about using Embree being the right move. Embree was cut from one of the worst BPs in recent years in the middle of a pennant race. If he had anything to contribute he'd still be in Boston. He's Felix Heredia part VII (or whatever the number of awful LOOGYs Torre automatically brings in is up to now.)
2005-08-05 09:00:18
21.   Simone
"according to BP, Sheffield has a VORP of 41.5 and Guerrero a VORP of 40.8."

Yes ... and Vlad has missed several weeks. By the end of the season, Guerrero's VORP should surpass Sheffield's. Vlad is overall the superior player, there is no real debate there.

"Cashman's proposed deal was for 2 years for $18 MILLION! Not, 19.5 as previously mentioned. $9 million a year for Sheffield!? Good God. Why dont you offer him free itunes for the rest of the year and call it a deal."

Sounds good to me. No one was banging down for Sheffield when George went after him. He had no other offers on the table. It was another case of the Yankees bidding against themselves, period. Quoting salaries from a past market, simply ignores the reality of the current market. Cashman was probably just making a first offer, but regardless the Yankees should have targeted Vlad first with Sheffield as a fall back.

2005-08-05 09:00:56
22.   yankz
someone posted this on a yankees forum in response to RJ helping out the batboy, i thought it was hilarious:

"He's finally earning his salary."

Oh and I really doubt Jeter cares about what Sheff has to say. Arod maybe a little...

2005-08-05 09:01:36
23.   Alvaro Espinoza
Class dictates that Shef air his grievances behind closed doors. Having said that, I think he's providing a valuable "Reggie" role to this team though very close to crossing the line. On a team full of scripted soundbites to every half baked question - 2, 13, 25, 20, 51 - he's the ying to their yang. But it is beginning to get tiresome to the point where he's starting to do no more than whine. He's obviously insecure, always so preoccupied w/ "getting respect". Not quite sure he actually knows what respect is.

Glass 1/2 full: maybe this deflects the pressure of 4.5/3 games out. Maybe they roll off 8-2 in the next 10.

2005-08-05 09:29:51
24.   uburoisc
For the money, Sheff is one of the best deals the Yankees have--and he has really performed in NY. I like the guy, even if he is an asshole. I can live with his stupid comments; if the Yanks pull this out and make the playoffs, all will soon be forgiven. Everyone knows he is going to say things he shouldn't say, that's Sheff. I think he wants to win very passionately, and when the team loses, he flips out. Also, I think Vlad is the better player, all round, but he is going to have injury problems because of the way he plays the game--intense but not always smart.
2005-08-05 09:41:53
25.   Nick from Washington Heights
Simone, good points. I stand corrected.
2005-08-05 09:50:09
26.   Shaun P
I don't care what Sheff says, as long he keeps hitting, and we keep winning.

I admire and respect Sheff for his ability to play baseball at such a high level.

Articles like that one sicken me, to be honest.

Before "Ball Four", ball players - especially the very good ones like Sheff - were almost always presented in a positive light. (Fights at the Copa notwithstanding.) Those nice stories sold lots of papers and generated lots of attention - so they kept coming out, true or not.

But times change. Now its the "insider" comments, especially the negative ones, that gather the most attention, which equals $$$$$. We live in a culture with a great demand to know the inner workings of every situation and every person who's connected with entertainment. And we are bombarded with value judgments of those people, based on what we're told about those situations. Or left to "make" those judgments on our own - or rather read something like that article, and come away feeling exactly how the writer and editor intended us to feel. "That #%(&(#% Sheffield, insulting [insert name of beloved Yankee player here] - Sheffield is a #%(#&%(!@$(!(@$($(&." (Of course being vague about that player makes for all the more speculation - and all the more attention.)

I say, as long as the Yanks keep winning and the players do well, why give a damn about this crap? And why judge a guy when I don't know him, or any of his teammates, or anything really about their situation or environment? (only what the media tells me). I don't care to presume to know these things from something I've read or saw on TV.

2005-08-05 09:56:49
27.   Alex Belth
I agree that it is much ado about nuthin and that Sheff is an outspoken guy who is never hesitant to 'spress his feelings. He does tend to become more vocal toward the end of his contracts and I would expect for him to be a pain-in-the-Yankees ass next year.

It's funny, but I remember talking to an established baseball reporter when Sheff signed and he thought that Sheff would make the tabloids on a regular basis. He didn't say that Sheffield was dumb but felt that he was easily goaded and led by reporters. Gullible I guess it what he called it.

Personally, I don't really care what he says so long as he keeps putting up those sick numbers.

2005-08-05 10:37:13
28.   uburoisc
My question about Sheff is: how does he react when someone takes him on, when someone else calls him for being full of it?

"It happens because you're white and I'm black," Sheffield said. "My interpretation of things is different. You don't see it the way I see it. You write how you understand it, how you would articulate it, not how I, as a black man, would articulate it."

Oh, so in this case, he isn't really saying that he is the key player on this team, and that Jeter and Arod are getting too much attention, that's a white man interpretation of what he isn't really saying; a black man, of course would understand that Sheff must be referring to...well, I can't possibly know because my swarthiness isn't dark enough and so prevents me from ever grasping his true meaning; I am simply cut off from the articulation of the black outfielder.

Hey, Sheff can dish it out for all I care, but if I were Jeter or Arod, I'd take my accomplishments and read them in his ear.

2005-08-05 13:55:41
29.   markp
the sporting press are self-righteous slime. They were 50 years ago and they are now. Few have a shred of honesty or integrity and their chief ability is character assassination.

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