February 29, 2008

The Best of "Oedipus Bronx"

The New York Times' Play Magazine has a highly entertaining article on what I like to think of as Steinbrenners: The New Class. It's by Jonathan Mahler, who wrote the excellent Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning (don't let the clunky ESPN miniseries put you off). If you're at all interested in the topic it's well worth reading the entire thing, but here are a few quotes that caught my eye:

*On Jessica Steinbrenner's ex:
"Before Lopez, Jessica, who is in her mid-40s, was married to Joseph Molloy, who served briefly as the team’s general partner when Steinbrenner was banned from baseball in the early 1990s. (Molloy is now a physical-education teacher at a middle school in Tampa; Jessica keeps an office at Legends Field but devotes most of her time to the family’s horses.)"
From general partner of the Yankees to middle school gym teacher. That guy's head must still be spinning.

*Jennifer Swindal Steinbrenner on the openings left by the DUI arrest and subsequent divorce of her ex-husband Steve Swindal:

"... Jennifer avoided discussing the change in management caused by her ex-husband’s departure. Instead, she dismissed her tabloid divorce, and the resulting upheaval within the Yankees, with peppy spin. “It couldn’t have been scripted any better,” she told me."
Really? Not any better?

*On the new Stadium's field:
"...the rain tarp will be moved from the first-base side of the field to the third-base side so that Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, the Yankees’ two most valuable assets, will have something soft to land on when they dive after foul balls..."
This is great. Sorry, Shelley Duncan! Pay real close attention to those fielding lessons with Tino, and try not to break anything when you and your very affordable contract crash into cold , hard metal!

*The money quote, Hank on the Red Sox:
“Red Sox Nation?” Hank says. “What a bunch of [expletive] that is. That was a creation of the Red Sox and ESPN, which is filled with Red Sox fans. Go anywhere in America and you won’t see Red Sox hats and jackets, you’ll see Yankee hats and jackets. This is a Yankee country. We’re going to put the Yankees back on top and restore the universe to order.”
I'm still trying to figure out whether to cringe or laugh over this one; I suppose since everyone already thinks of the Yankees as arrogant, you may as well embrace that identity and make it your own. And really -- if he'd said something diplomatic about what a great organization Boston has, you'd have been bored to tears, right? Just give in.

Release your anger... with our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy...

*A surprisingly honest assessment of the team from everyone's favorite alleged Joe Torre backstabber Randy Levine:
“The Yankees today are an entertainment company with a baseball team at its core,” Randy Levine, the team’s president, told me recently, ticking off some of the club’s less visible businesses, including its memorabilia company, Yankees-Steiner Collectibles, which sells players’ game-used uniforms and gear, and its partnership with the Japanese media company Yomiuri Shimbun, the owner of the Yomiuri Giants.
Personally I think sports are entertainment in and of themselves, but that's not the point here; Levine is acknowledging that the actual Yankees are now almost incidental to the massive corporation they're part of. The team is always central to the fans, of course, but not so much to the owners:
Last summer, when Goldman Sachs was shopping around its approximately 40 percent stake in YES, the network was valued at around $3 billion. According to Forbes magazine, the team itself isn’t worth half that.
That's the reality of modern big market sports. But it makes me nervous, because it's shades of Cablevision -- which is such a vast empire that no matter what a disgrace the Knicks mutate into, their owners, the Dolans, feel virtually no ill effects financially. Obviously the Yankees, as big as they are, aren't a monster like Cablevision, but I'm traumatized from years of Isiah Thomas basketball and I do worry. The timeline at the end of the Play story reminded me, much to my horror, that Cablevision actually tried to buy a big share of the Yankees back in 1998, and came extremely close to an agreement; the deal collapsed because Steinbrenner wouldn't give up control.

Whatever George Steinbrenner's faults -- and they were many -- let us never forget that his stubbornness spared New York baseball from the staggering horrorshow that is Jim Dolan. In my book, that that makes up for quite a few illegal Nixon campaign contributions.

February 28, 2008

Bored at Work?

I've got a column on Slate today, for those of you who are interested - "Why Red Sox and Yankee fans are happy they won't be rooting for the best pitcher in baseball."

February 25, 2008

If You Build It, They Will Lock in a Competitive 2.25% APY With a Six-Month CD

The Mets unveiled the new CitiField logo today, with much fanfare... and it's... well, pretty weak, frankly. Isn't this just the Citibank logo, with orange and blue squares? At an angle?

That $20 million/year Citibank is giving the Mets will pay for much of Johan Santana, and that's probably worth it. But this image, to me, says nothing about the crack of the bat, the buzz of the crowd, the elegance of a well-turned double play, or the majesty of a towering home run -- let alone Queens, or New York, or the character of the Mets. This says "refinance your mortgage".

Bring your kiddies, bring your wife, earn 4.00% APY when you make two online bill payments each calendar month

Baseball Player Name of the Week

Cleveland Indians minor leaguer Cirilo Cumberbatch.

It's reminiscent of ex-Oneonta Yankee Abdiel Cumberbatch -- WasWatching first noticed that gem -- which is what I plan on naming my first child one day, regardless of gender.

Meanwhile, previous NotW winner Cody Ransom continues to compete for an exceedingly unlikely spot on the Yankees' roster. And my guy Denard Span, of the Twins, is facing stiff competition for Minnesota's center field spot since the arrival of equally fast and similarly light-hitting former Met Carlos Gomez. But he's not going down without a fight, and clearly I have no choice but to root for him, because I totally want to buy an official "Span" t-shirt.

February 22, 2008

Please Go a Little Bit Gentler Into That Good Night?

Whatever the YES network pays its analysts... it's not enough.

I was flipping through the channels last night and came across Al Leiter, of all people, on Spike TV's Pros vs. Joes. Now, granted, all I know about this show is what I've read on Deadspin... but seriously, Al Leiter is no John Rocker. In fact, last I heard he was considering running for Congress! What happened?

Not that Leiter embarassed himself -- the "Joes" only got a couple hard-hit balls in many attempts off him, and the Spike TV radar gun clocked him at 91 and 92 miles per hour, once even 93. (Since I can't recall him ever hitting that as a Yankee in his last season, I'm a bit skeptical, but I'm willing to let it pass). Weirdly, the guy who won - by hitting 1 triple in 10 swings, and later getting down a nice bunt - was named David Ortiz.

(UPDATE: Per this SI.com interview Leiter gave on the topic:
This was his opportunity to get back at every beer guzzling, hot dog chomping, chain-smoking blowhard that taunted him during his 18-year career. Although Leiter does wish this chance would have come a few years ago while he was in the visiting bullpen in Philadelphia.

"This is as close as you're going to get to getting back at them on the field," says Leiter, who is the first pitcher to have defeated all 30 MLB teams. "You couldn't get an active athlete to come out here while under contract and really get after it. That would be the best. Having a guy that yells at you at Veteran Stadium, 'Leiter you suck!' and then say, "Come on down." That would be the best reality show ever, but this is pretty close."

So... he's not looking for money, but revenge? I guess I can get behind that.)

Getting a little off-topic, I found it odd that the "Pros" -- in this case, also including Nick Van Exel and Warren Moon -- all root for each other. I mean, as far as I know they weren't friends before this; why not root for the regular dude to win some prize money? Do they feel the reputations of all aging ex-athletes hang in the balance? Or do they just support other rich and famous people on general principles?

Anyway, speaking of retiring pitchers who played for both the Mets and Yankees...Newsday's Dave Lennon reports that El Duque's offseason foot surgery was not for his bunion, as previously thought:
The bunion on his right foot is still there and its causing him problems this spring.

El Duque had surgery to fix a dislocated second toe, which is now actually shorter, affecting his balance. Because of that, Hernandez is lagging behind the other pitchers as he tries to adjust. At the moment, he's planning to face hitters on Saturday.

Duque also talked about retirement for the first time saying its 50-50 after this season. He jokingly slid out his nameplate and said, "Someone else next year."

Jeremy Cothran of the Ledger has further disgusting details. Last year it was arthritis, then bunions... shingles and gout can only be next.

I absolutely love seeing El Duque pitch, and as the only current major leaguer to regularly throw the eephus, for both the Yankees and Mets, he's sort of the patron saint of this blog. After ten years of watching him, and a few group interviews, I still have basically no feel for his personality -- he doesn't much enjoy speaking to reporters and is hilariously shameless about pretending not to speak English, often mere seconds after speaking it perfectly well -- but Hernandez is incredibly inventive on the mound. These days he usually gets hitters out with nothing but rubber bands, thumbtacks and chewing gum, as his fastball is now practically the same speed Joba Chamberlain's changeup, but if anything it's made him even more interesting to watch.

But the guy's a lot older than he claims, and it looks like he's finally reaching the end of the line. There are few players I'll miss more... but I never want to see him on Spike TV.

Pedro, on the other hand, will need his own show.

February 21, 2008

We Are All Interested In The Future, For That Is Where You And I Are Going To Spend The Rest Of Our Lives

The Amazing A-Rod predicts!:... that Derek Jeter will win an MVP this season. I don't know how, exactly, but people will find a way to get mad at him for this.

Speaking of predictions, Jimmy Rollins replied to Carlos Beltran's, and then the Mets responded to that, and then Ryan told Jose that he heard from Brett that... yeah, there's not much real baseball news just yet. Select anonymous Phillies have apparently mentioned brawls, which reminds me that neither the Mets or the Yanks had even one actual fight last year -- just a scuffle each, with some shouting and your basic "hold me back!" posturing.

While few things in sports are sillier than a baseball fight, I have to admit part of me wants the Yankees to have one this season; it's the last year of Kyle Farnsworth's contract, and that's pretty much the only thing he excells at. (Seriously, if you haven't watched this clip of Farnsworth vs. Jeremy Affeldt during a Tigers-Royals brawl, you are depriving yourself of hours of enjoyment). Seems like a waste if the Yankees don't get even one jaw-dropping tackle for their money.

However, as for the Mets, I say let the Phillies run their mouths: I don't want to see an opposing player come within 10 feet of Johan Santana's left arm at any time, for any reason.

One more prediction for the road (via RAB): Kevin Millar says the Orioles are gonna win it all, baby! He's kidding, of course - and aiming some jokey trash talk at the Cubs' Ryan Dempster, another prediction-happy player. Still: it's probably not a good sign when a team's veteran players are openly joking about how ludicrous it would be for them to win a championship, you know?

February 18, 2008

Baseball Player Name of the Week

Brooks Badeaux.

Well he looks full of joie de vivre, doesn't he? Perhaps it's because his Durham Bulls are a Tampa Bay Devil Rays* affiliate. Anyway, in addition to sounding like a suave B-movie villain, or perhaps a minor Walker Percy character, Badeaux seems to have played every position except catcher. He's been to spring training with Tampa three times over the years but only received a grand total of four at-bats there, which must be a bit frustrating.

*Yes, I know, it's the "Tampa Bay Rays" now. But I find the entire name change so inane, I refuse to go along with it. In fact, every time I even type "Tampa Bay" from now on, just so you know, I will be making a devil sign.

February 16, 2008

No Matter How Long The Winter...

Ah, spring training! Pitchers and catchers are in camp and my RSS reader is blowing up. News and notes:

-Mike Mussina had minor leaguer Billy Traber's locker switched so that Phil Hughes could be in the corner, next to Mussina and Ian Kennedy. The Moose comes off as such a grouchy old man sometimes that I thought Traber must have been playing his music too loud or something, but that's not it:
Ian Kennedy was given the locker on one side of Mussina and non-roster lefty Billy Traber the other. Phil Hughes, meanwhile, was five lockers away, between Carl Pavano and Andy Pettitte.

So Mussina talked to Rob Cucuzza, who is the actual clubhouse manager, and asked Hughes and Traber to be swapped. Mussina wanted Hughes we well as Kennedy to be part of any impromptu pitching discussions.

My question is, whose idea was it to place Hughes next to Carl Pavano? That guy shouldn't be allowed within 15 feet of a pitching prospect. Just the thought brings out all my protective instincts.

Anyway, this is a classy move by Mussina. I wonder what kind of wisdom he'll be imparting?...

“So kids, remember all that stuff Rocket told you last season about ‘B12 shots'? DISREGARD.”

-MetsBlog has a quote from Ryan Church, who's all excited to join the Mets -- to be expected, as this kid comes from a place where Dmitri Young qualifies as a superstar. Just wait until the lifetime Expo/National finds himself on a team with a winning percentage over .500, his head might explode.

-Paul Lo Duca apologizes, vaguely, for "mistakes in judgment" and his memorable supporting role in the Mitchell report. That took two months?

-While I find all this "team to beat" stuff pretty silly, it's nice to see Carlos Beltran showing a little life. Beltran, when he's healthy, is a joy to watch, but you always wish he would have a bit more fun out there.

-Excellent news: the Mets signed Olmedo Saenz, owner of one of the better nicknames in the game, to a minor league deal. "The Killer Tomato" is not only an accomplished pinch-hitter, but also offers the kind of zaftig presence that's sorely lacking in New York this season.

-In the "La Plus Ca Change" division: pitchers throwing for Joe Torre in the Dodgers' camp the other day included Tanyon Sturtze, Esteban Loaiza, and Mike Myers.

You can run, but you can't hide.

February 13, 2008

Fear and Loathing in the Congressional Oversight Committee

There's been saturation coverage of the hearings all day, so I'll just summarize my reaction here real quick:

1. I believe Roger Clemens took steroids.

2. That said, good luck convicting him of perjury if your main witness for the prosecution is Brian McNamee.

3. By forcing the issue this far, Clemens put Andy Pettitte in a really terrible position. Which, to be honest, lowers my opinion of Clemens more than any amount of steroid use.

But hey, at least he's not a vegan.

4. Our elected representative are asses. Why on earth did even this spectacle have to split down party lines? We have a thrilling three-way bipartisan tie for the most staggeringly stupid thing said by a member of Congress today:

*Representative Clay, Democrat of Maryland, asking on behalf of a friend what hat Clemens would wear into the Hall of Fame. Points for ballsiness! Negative points for wild inappropriateness.

*Rep. David (R, VA) comparing the attacks on Clemens to "a lynching." No. No, no, no.

*Rep. Souder (R, IN) comparing the players' widespread silence on the steroid issue to the anti-snitching culture in Baltimore that got one family's house fatally firebombed recently. Again: no.

Nobody has died, people! Although I'm starting to consider it. I'm sick, it's raining, I'm stressed out, and I just watched the U.S. Government discuss abscesses and buttocks for a solid hour. Not even kitlers can cheer me up today.

I'll leave you with this quote, though, from the autobiography of the great Bill Veeck:

“Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that baseball is not a great game. It has to be a great game to have survived what we have done to it.”


February 12, 2008


I like Joe Girardi. I think he's smart about the game, and intensely hard-working, and I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of job he does this year.

That said, he would probably not be at the top of the list of "Managers I'd Like to Have a Beer With"*.

From Jack Curry's in-depth interview with Girardi:

G- “I think one of the jobs of a manager is make sure it’s an enjoyable place to work every day, even during the bad times. You have to find a way to make it enjoyable. Sometimes, you got to do things a little different. Sometimes, you got to be a little off the wall, as off the wall as I can be.”

C- What would be off the wall for you?

G- “I would do things with the players to spice it up. I might run with them one day. I might pull them off the field a little early during batting practice if it’s hot. You’ve got to have the pulse of your players at all times.”

Wow. I mean, hey, I'm all for having a little fun on the job, but slightly shortened batting practice on hot days? I had no idea Girardi was such a loose cannon.

*Number one on that list: Ron Gardenhire.
Last place: Tony La Russa.

Baseball Player Name of the Week

Cody Ransom.

Well, that’s just flat-out awesome. Cody Ransom. Ransom will be the Yanks’ third baseman at Scranton this year, and I only hope they let him play while wearing a cowboy hat and a six-shooter as God so obviously intended. In fact, is there some way he can play third base on horseback?

Cody Ransom was born in Mesa, Arizona and actually went to Grand Canyon University. Honest. I'm not even going to look up photos of this guy because it can only be disappointing.

February 10, 2008

Get To Know Your New New York Players, Part 4: Ryan Church

After looking at Brian Schneider and LaTroy Hawkins, plus some Venezuelan lefty whose name escapes me at the moment, it's time to see what we can't find out about new Mets outfielder Ryan Church. I put this off because I kept thinking Minaya was going to turn around and trade the guy, but apparently not; Willie Randolph told WFAN the other day that he (Church, not Randolph, though that would be fun) will get the chance to win the starting right field job.

Checking out Church's stats, I see that even the guy who sponsors his Baseball-Reference.com page writes, "It was a fun ride, but you're no Lastings Milledge." Ouch. Still, when Church has been healthy, he's put up solid numbers, unspectacular but useful.

Off the field, he found himself in the middle of a mini-scandal a few years back, thanks to conversations with the Nationals' overzealous team chaplain. The unfortunate Washington Post headline was "Nats' Church Apologizes For Remarks About Jews":
An article in Sunday's paper about Baseball Chapel quoted Church as saying that he had turned to Moeller for advice about his former girlfriend, who was Jewish. "I said, like, Jewish people, they don't believe in Jesus. Does that mean they're doomed? Jon nodded, like, that's what it meant. My ex-girlfriend! I was like, man, if they only knew. Other religions don't know any better. It's up to us to spread the word," Church said.
Whoops. I'm sure the Mets' PR staff will be having a little chat with Church about trying not to alienate one third of his new team's fan base. (Particularly not the third that controls the media! Har.) Anyway, Church apologized immediately-- "I am not the type of person who would call into question the religious beliefs of others" -- and the whole mess seems to reflect more on Moeller, the chaplain, than Church, who comes off mainly as excessively impressionable. Still... the Mets ditched Shawn Green for this guy? Insult to injury.

Fun fact: Church once roomed and played with the Yanks' own Darrell Rasner at the University of Nevada. There's really no reason anyone should care about that, and yet, having learned it, I felt oddly compelled to share.

February 08, 2008

Karma's Payment Plan

Careful, Yankee fans, this is a dangerous time.

I understand that Curt Schilling's shoulder injury, and its timing, provide a golden opportunity for schadenfreude. I really do. But remember: it is terrible baseball karma to wish for, or celebrate, injuries. By all means hope for Curt Schilling to be absolutely horrendous in 2008 -- but not because of significant surgical procedures, or pain. It's unseemly, but more to the point, it'll make the baseball gods just that much more inclined to give potential Sox starter Jon Lester a spectacular season for the ages... or to reach down and loosen one of Phil Hughes' ligaments.

So get well soon, Curt. Get well soon, and then suck.

UPDATE: That said... this is pretty funny.

February 07, 2008

Actually, I Can Only Dream About Having That Kind Of Storage Space

I'm a little confused by everyone's reaction to the news that Brian McNamee claims to have kept used syringes and bloody gauze as evidence of Roger Clemens' steroid use. So... people are saying it's not normal to keep boxes of your friends' and clients' bloody medical waste for eight years? Here I thought I was just being conscientious!

Seriously, though: Ew. I think Clemens probably did use steroids, but the more I learn about McNamee, the more the ex-trainer appears to be a slimy, untrustworthy scumbag.

In other news:

-Johan Sanata was introduced to New York yesterday in all his glory. Santana was relaxed and friendly and stayed on-message -- he's not a born showman type, like Pedro Martinez or Johnny Damon, but he handled himself well. Maybe a bit stiff and scripted in the main press conference, but looser and more charming in the subsequent one-on-one interviews. Still, he was nearly Jeterian in his determination to say nothing controversial. Which is probably for the best when you consider...

-...last night's revelation that Pedro Martinez is apparently a cockfighter. You know, I'm surprisingly unsurprised by this.

-My ancient Tino Martinez #24 t-shirt is current once more! Well, sort of. Tino is in Tampa working with Shelley Duncan, a meeting of remarkably affable and good-natured first basemen. Expect much enthusiastic high-fiving.

-Paul at Yanksfan vs Soxfan has some fun projections, based on BP's PECOTA numbers, for the Yankees and Red Sox in 2008. I've weathered the offseason pretty well this year, but looking at those posts, particularly the segment on the Yankees' starting pitching, I suddenly experienced a yearning for actual baseball games so acute it almost physically hurt.

February 05, 2008

Name of the Week, Revisited

I got a great comment this morning on the last Baseball Player Name of the Week post, regarding Ferd Eunick. This is one of those things that just makes you love the internet. Writes Kimberly Eunick Hay:
"Well, I can tell you what I know about my grandfather, Fernandas Bowen Eunick. He died in 1959, 8 years before I was born in Baltimore, MD. Played high school ball against Hall of Famer George Herman (Babe) Ruth. Worked his way through the minor leagues, played in Montreal, among other places til he got his shot at the show in 1917. Played in one game at the end of the season. Cleveland wanted him to come back the next year, but his future father-in-law made him decide - baseball or my grandmother. And he chose to walk away from his dream for her. He never really forgot the game - played semi-pro ball as long as he could and died - literally - at an Old Timers event at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium on December 9, 1959. He was inducted in the Maryland Professional Baseball Hall of Fame in 1956 - I have the trophy and pics of him receiving it at home.

And for the record - NO ONE called him Fred - no idea where they got that from.

When people ask that question about any person, dead or alive you'd want to have lunch with - my answer would always be him. Very proud to know my grandad pursued his dreams."
Well, that explains the two career at-bats; playing high school ball against Babe Ruth, then passing away at an Old Timers Day -- it's hard to top that as bookends to a baseball life. Thanks to Ms. Hay for taking the time to write.

February 04, 2008

One "S" Short of a Marketing Sensation

I've never been much of a football fan, but last night's game might just make me into one.

I refer of course to Puppy Bowl IV.

Kidding! I'll probably go right back to ignoring football next year, but this Super Bowl was amazing, a ton of fun to watch. I didn't think the Giants had a prayer, but I was glad to be wrong, and Brooklyn was in a very happy place last night (and a very hungover place this morning). I walked the dog when I got home, and we couldn't go 50 feet without an exuberant Giants fan stopping to pet her and, oddly, congratulate her on the win. "18-1!" was ringing out late into the night, or, more often, "18-1, MOTHERFUCKERS!" You gotta admit, Boston had it coming. I still believe to this day that I personally jinxed the Yankees out of their 2004 American League Championship, so I know whereof I speak.

In baseball news... well, now we know why Don Mattingly had to reduce his role on the Dodgers' coaching staff. If you'd had to guess which player might find himself in that situation, wouldn't the eternally buttoned-up Mattingly have been just about your last choice? Anyway, this is one of those stories that I really don't want to follow too closely -- it's hard to see how it's any of my business.

Finally, via RAB I see that the Yanks have "expressed interest" in Kevin Mench. Yes! Finally! I've been saying for years (literally) that anyone named Mench, spelling aside, belongs in New York. It's taken them long enough.

February 02, 2008

And If You Don't Know, Now You Know

I've got a post about Chuck Knoblauch up at the Banter, for those of you who're interested.

Meanwhile Johan Santana and the Mets made it official last night, of course, and there was much rejoicing. MetsBlog must have set some sort of page view record yesterday; I did little but click "refresh" for three hours straight, and I was not alone. Anyway, I was going to do a Get To Know post on him, but really, I pretty much covered Santana back in December. As I said then:

I think one reason I'm fascinated by Santana is that I know so little about him, which is what happens when relatively quiet people play for teams in the middle of the country. I don't get to see a lot of interviews or quotes from the guy, which means it's easy to make him into something of an ideal figure. (Plus I used to read a lot of Bat Girl; she referred to him simply as El Presidente).

The only off-field Santana antic I can remember made me like him even more -- it happened this past summer, when the Twins came to Shea. Minnesota broadcaster Bert Blyleven bet Santana he couldn't throw a complete game shutout (note to Blyleven: this works much better with Sidney Ponson); it turned out Santana could, and indeed did, so Blyleven had to let him shave his head:

I think the best part of all this is that while pitching his complete game shutout, Johan Santana was apparently thinking about how he would get to shave Bert Blyleven's head.

I say trade every minor leaguer that isn't nailed down.

Rewatching that video, I'll add that Santana also sounds a little bit like a muppet. But in a good way! Also, check out this additional Johan video, from a fan in the stands; anyone who messes with Sidney Ponson during his downtime is, clearly, a man after my own heart.