Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
2003-06-10 08:03
by Alex Belth


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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