Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Predictions for the 2007-08 NBA Season

1.) Drew Gooden will shave his trademark “duck-tail” hair patch and donate it to cover that random bald spot on Rasheed Wallace’s head.
2.) In order to solidify their reputation as the least exciting team in history the Spurs will change their team colors from black/silver to eggshell/taupe.
3.) With all female employees of Madison Square Garden now wary of going anywhere near Isiah Thomas, he will now be reduced to running his fingers through Renaldo Balkman’s dreadlocks.
4.) Warriors captain Stephen Jackson will be suspended for 10 games when he disputes a foul call by firing a handgun into the air.
5.) Leandro Barbosa of the Suns will fail to repeat as the “Sixth Man of the Year” but will easily sweep the voting for the coveted “Name that Sounds Most Like a Tyrannical Dictator” award.
6.) Bruce Bowen will again win “Defensive Player of the Year” by leading the league in tackles.
7.) In an attempt to regain the cheers he lost to teammate Daniel Gibson (whose nickname caused chants of ‘Boobie…Boobie’ during the Eastern Conference Finals), Lebron James will reveal that as a child his mother used to endearingly call him ‘Snatch.’
8.) The population at large will hate J.J. Redick, regardless of performance or playing time.
9.) Reggie Theus will win less games as coach of the Sacramento Kings than he did in his 3 seasons on the Saturday morning hit T-NBC sitcom Hang Time.
10.) Boston fans will be wicked psyched for the dawmination of Kevin Gahhhnett.


As I sit here munching on my heaping helping of crow I can’t help but feel bitter, resentful, and scammed. After 4 seasons of defending Alex Rodriguez, of cheering him on, of insisting fans go easier on him, I find myself in the corner wearing the dunce cap. While all of my classmates point and laugh and revel in their “I told you so’s.” And what can I say? Nothing. They’re right. They have been all along.
Having A-Rod opt out of his contract without even taking a meeting to hear the Yankees’ offer has been the ultimate reality check for every fan who tried to believe he was anything but a self indulgent jackass. Now we all look back and ask “How was I such a fool?” Dealing with his free-agency has been like realizing you were dating a psychopath for four years. All your friends told you this chick was crazy, but you just didn’t see it. You insisted they were all overreacting. Until one night (say maybe the last night of the 2007 World Series) you wake up to see her standing over you dressed in full Geisha garb, wide eyed and breathing heavy as she sketches a portrait of you with crayons and glitter. And it hits you like a ton of bricks, it was there all along, you just couldn’t see it until it was right in your face.
Now the ugly truth has surfaced. For as much time as I spent as an A-Rod apologist I have to admit I was always scared I’d eventually have to eat my words. In the back of my mind I was always worried that he was exactly what everyone warned us of. And he is.
Many, including myself, thought he had come to his senses when he forced his way out of a futile situation in Texas. It seemed that Rodriguez realized his stats meant nothing if he was putting them up for a dreadful team. Suddenly he was headed to New York, to add his name to the list of great Yankees, to win not only MVP’s but Championships to boot. But Sunday night we all saw why he was really there, for the money and the attention. He was there for another chance at a bigger check and for the spotlight he so desperately craves. And now he will look for both elsewhere.
For someone who has always been touted as a “student of the game” who wants to make his place in history, his actions have not exactly helped etch his legend. Each successive move he has made has tarnished his reputation even further. Now it seems that some day down the road Alex Rodriguez will retire with full pockets, and an empty fan base. He will stand at the podium in Cooperstown as a team-less Hall of Famer. He will be remembered as the greatest individual ever to play the most team oriented game. He’ll be known as the All-Star who never truly belonged anywhere, who was never a leader except in statistics, and who never really became a winner.
Thanks to his selfishness he will never have that Jeter-like following that he has always seemed so envious of. His willingness to betray every city that embraces him will ensure that no baseball fan will ever genuinely care about or believe in Alex Rodriguez again. He will continue to be admired for his numbers and admonished for his character.
So go wherever the money takes you Alex, whether it is sunny California, windy Chicago, or fiery Hell. It doesn’t really matter. Because when all is said and done, no one will really care.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


The 3 Biggest Non-Story Stories of the Week
Despite all of the actual sporting events taking place, the World Series for one, this week's headlines have been overwhelmed by the invisible manager, the disappearing all-star, and the non-existent Sunday.

Where to go from Joe?
The New York Yankees season is over. It has been for almost 3 weeks now. Yet somehow, they are still the biggest story in baseball.
With the World Series set to start tonight, every morning's SportsCenter is seemingly more and more Yankee focused. The worldwide web has also been completely bombarded by any breaking Bombers news, dominating the sports sites you spend the majority of your workday perusing (for shame... lazy Americans).
And the biggest news to hit so far? That the Yanks have not yet chosen who will replace departed manager Joe Torre. That's right, this is news. This just in: Yankees' brass in process of making decision. Riveting. I have literally been glued to reading journalistic masterpieces like Monday's "Yanks to interview Girardi today, Mattingly tomorrow, Pena Wednesday." Which was only recently outdone by Wednesday's surefire Pulitzer contender "Yanks interview Pena today, after meeting with Mattingly yesterday, Girardi Monday."
The latest bombshell dropped earlier today, that the Yankees might make a decision by Friday. That is just good old-fashioned investigative reporting at work folks. At least we know we won't be short on Yankee news even after the manager announcement is made. We will still be able to look forward to groundbreaking mid-winter pieces on the fact that not one single Yankee has thus far reported to Spring Training.

I demand you meet my demands!
Once again, Kobe Bryant is insisting that someone do what he says (too soon?). How is it that we still consider Kobe pouting and giving orders to his supposed superiors a shocking revelation worthy of headlines?
Months after demanding the Los Angeles Lakers trade him, we are seeing headlines that literally read "Kobe still demanding trade." Honestly, who cares? Regardless of where Bryant plays this season he will still be a smooth, dominating force on the court... and a solid bet to make sure the team goes nowhere.
Any team that makes a push for Kobe will likely be forced to give up 3 to 4 good, young players. And where will that leave Kobe? In different uniform colors and in the same exact situation. Putting him on another team where he will continue to be the most prolific scorer in the league while being surrounded by mediocrity will assure him another first round playoff exit. And will likely assure fans, coaches and management more complaint-induced headaches.
It seems odd too, that in all these talks of wanting to be traded Kobe has never made mention of where it is he wants to go. However, an inside source from the Lakers tells me that he has, on several occasions, mentioned interest in the Denver Nuggets. Something about Colorado having the best hotels in the country....

What in the hell is Week 8?!
Apparently, the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts are going to be playing one another at some point in the near future. By the looks of the headlines, one might assume it would be this Sunday. One would be wrong.
Already touting this as the battle of the unbeatens, the media has unanimously decided to ignore the existence of week 8 altogether. At week 7's end the Pats and Colts are both undefeated, standing at 7-0 and 6-0 respectively. But they won't be facing off until week 9 in Indy. Doesn't it seem a bit odd to be touting a match up that completely discounts the fact that each team still has a game to play this Sunday? Is it okay to assume they will easily toss aside the Redskins and Panthers as they stroll leisurely into week 9? Probably.
The Patriots have looked simply out of this world, scoring 40 points per game and easily beating each of their 7 opponents (thus far winning by no less than 17). And their brand new receiving corps or Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth and Wes Welker have finally given Tom Brady top tier targets down-field. Brady is leading the league in essentially every major category including QB rating, completions, yards , touchdowns, celebrity girlfriends, and fertility.
On the other hand, the defending Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts haven't looked too bad themselves. Peyton Manning is leading what continues to be one of the league's most creative and productive offenses year in and year out. While on the defensive side of the ball they are in the top 3 in yards given up per game, yards overall, pass defense, and interceptions. This solid Colts secondary could very well be the ones to finally challenge that cleft-chin bastard Brady and his trio of jolly receivers.
You know what... screw it. I'm ignoring week 8 too. Pats-Colts is the real deal! Maybe I'll just use this Sunday to plan my November 4th game-of-the-century party.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

New Articles Coming This Week!

Starting this week I'll be writing about all of sports (seeing as how my Yankees are sitting at home blogging right now too)

But check out my old posts from throughout the year (and allow me to swallow the bitter pill of my utter wrongness about the ALDS on my own terms, thank you)


Wednesday, October 03, 2007
BRONX, NY – October 2, 2007

October baseball is finally here. And I've got the complete breakdown of the American League Divisional Series between the New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians.
CATCHER- Jorge Posada vs. Victor Martinez
At age 36 Jorge Posada has had one of the most productive seasons of any Yankee catcher in history. In fact, if it weren't for A-Rod's unbelievable numbers Posada would likely be a contender for the MVP. Victor Martinez however, has been no slouch himself. He batted .301 for the season knocking in 114 runs and adding 25 home runs for the Indians. This match-up is essentially even, aside from Jorge's significantly greater amount of playoff experience… and ear surface area. Advantage: Push
1st BASE- Doug Mientkiewicz vs. Ryan Garko
Neither one of these players strikes fear into the heart of opposing pitchers, but Garko showed a propensity for power with 20 regular season home runs. Mientkiewicz on the other hand, will be out there mostly for his glove. With the exception of possibly distracting Garko by offering him $1 million to spell Mientkiewicz, Doug is at a slight disadvantage. Advantage: Indians
2nd BASE- Robinson Cano vs. Asdrubal Cabrera
This match-up is simply a landslide. While similar players, Robbie Cano easily trumps Cabrera in every fundamental category including batting average, home runs, RBIs, smiles, celebration dances, accent, hilarious post-game interviews, and perhaps most importantly… ENERGY TONIGHT! Advantage: Yankees
SHORTSTOP- Derek Jeter vs. Jhonny Peralta
Looks like another one in favor of the Bombers, after all they don't call him Captain Clutch for nothing. Jeter has proven to be one of the most clutch performers in MLB postseason history, notching a playoff average of .314 in 11 seasons. Besides, I don't believe for a second that the great Yankee Captain will ever be outperformed by a guy who can't even spell Johnny correctly. Advantage: Yankees
3rd BASE- Alex Rodriguez vs. Casey Blake
For the purpose of saving energy I really could have skipped over this one altogether, but where is the fun in that? Casey Blake hit 18 home runs this season. Alex Rodriguez hit 6 in 6 games against the Indians. Casey Blake drove in 78 runs this season, and could have easily matched A-Rod's total of 156… if the season had only lasted 162 games longer. I think I've made my point. Advantage: Yankees
LEFT FIELD- Johnny Damon vs. Kenny Lofton
Can I be perfectly honest? If you switched their uniforms and skin color I don't think anyone would be able to tell the difference. These guys are both solid hitters/fielders, either of whose superior performance could have an enormous effect on the outcome of this series. On a side note: Kenny Lofton is on the Indians again? This guy is harder to pin down than Kaiser Soze. Advantage: Push
CENTERFIELD- Melky Cabrera vs. Grady Sizemore
Two of the most promising and fun to watch young players in the league, this will prove to be another intriguing match-up. Will Melky's offensive slump continue? Or will a pre-game "win one for Robbie" speech awaken his bat? Will playoff struggles finally bring Grady's flawless image down to earth? Or will commentators continue to tout him as the next Jesus each time they find themselves lost in his piercing gaze? Damn those dazzling eyes… Advantage: Indians
RIGHT FIELD- Bobby Abreu vs. Jason Michaels/Trot Nixon
The solid combination of Michaels and Nixon in the outfield resulted in 70 RBIs this season. A mere 31 short of Bobby Abreu's total for the year (and he basically slept through the first half). Thanks, but I think we'll stick to our one man platoon. Advantage: Yankees
DESIGNATED HITTER- Jason Giambi/Hideki Matsui vs. Travis Hafner
Considering they've been designated to hitting the ball, none of these three exactly took their assignment by the reins and ran with it. Matsui and Hafner did both manage to barely reach 100 RBIs, but Hideki ended in a slump while "Pronk" (best nickname in baseball by the way) finally got hot in September. And in an injury shortened season Jason Giambi stuck to his "hit one massive home run every 3 weeks just to give Yankee fans hope" approach to the game. This is another match-up in which a hot streak either way could have huge implications, but… point goes to the nickname. Advantage: Indians
The Indians' young stars C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona combined for a major league best 38 wins this year. Plus you have to give Carmona extra props for his kick-ass name. I don't know whether this kid is a ballplayer or a 15th century Conquistador. On the other side though, the Yanks top two are nothing to ignore themselves. Chien-Ming Wang just posted his second straight 19 win season, establishing himself as one of the league's most consistent performers. And I don't care how long he's been at it, no hitter wants to look out at the hill and see Andy Pettitte's eyes peering back from under his cap, especially not in October. This could very well come down to the 3-4 starters. Advantage: Push
As far as middle relief goes, Cleveland has what has arguably been the best 1-2 combination in the league. The dual Rafael's, righty Betancourt and lefty Perez, have each posted ERA's under 2. But the Yankees middle relief is nothing to scoff at either. The duo of Joba Chamberlain's fastball and Joba Chamberlain's slider had an ERA of just 0.38. I don't have to hide it anymore and I don't care what you say. I love Joba. And when it comes to the all important role of postseason closer, there isn't much of an argument. Cleveland closer Joe Borowski has been wildly inconsistent, becoming only the third pitcher ever to manage a 40 save season while having an ERA over 4.00… and his was 5.07! While on the opposing bench sits perhaps the greatest closer to ever play the game. Mariano Rivera has been the epitome of consistency over the course of his career and even better when it comes to the playoffs. He has managed an unimaginable 0.80 ERA in 11 postseasons. Advantage: Yankees
This series between the Yanks and Indians should prove to be an evenly matched one. On paper the teams match up quite closely, but I guess that's why they play the games. All I know is, it is unlikely this divisional series will end in a sweep (especially since I got my hands on tickets to game 4). My prediction: Yankees in 5.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007
BRONX, NY – September 26, 2007

Going into the All-Star Break this year I, like many other Yankee fans, was beginning to get a little nervous. With the season half over and the Bronx Bombers sitting one game under .500 there was a panic in the Yankee faithful that hadn't been felt in over a decade.
I distinctly remember having a discussion with a co-worker (for the sake of anonymity let's call him Mr. Met) on what the Yanks would need to do in order to find their way into the postseason. I told him I wasn't sweating it, which may not have been entirely true, and that the Yanks would be there in October. I knew they'd essentially have to win 2/3 of their remaining games and I believed they could do it, but Mr. Met was not so strong a believer. He was too busy reveling in his team's stellar first half while smugly enjoying seeing the Yankees stumble, insisting they had absolutely no shot at the playoffs. Oh Mr. Met, how have you not learned? If you had any idea how much pleasure it gives me to look back on that day you'd cringe at the thought of it. Had you only known then that with 5 games remaining the Yanks would be a game away from a playoff birth AND have a better record than "the Amazin's", you may have just let me slap you to avoid the eventual humiliation.
Everyone knew the Yankees needed a miracle second half, but very few believed it would actually happen. Allow me to pat myself on the back though, as I flash back to my July 10th article:

In the end what the Bronx Bombers need is a miracle run. This miracle run requires not a slight stroke of good fortune, but a huge one. Not one minor adjustment, but many significant ones. Not one good month, but a few spectacular ones. The baseball media is right when they say the 2007 New York Yankees are in great danger of missing the playoffs. However, they should do themselves a favor and not count them out until it is a mathematical impossibility. These are, after all, the New York Yankees.

So today, as we stand with the New York Yankees magic number at 1, allow me to point out exactly what they have done right over the remainder of the 2007 season. Everything.
The Bombers have thoroughly lived up to their name by posting numbers that, quite simply, border on ludicrous. They have led the league with a .662 winning percentage since the break, pulling them to within 3 games of the American League East title and giving them a 4.5 game cushion in the Wild Card race. The constant winning has been due, for the most part, to a complete and total offensive explosion.
The Yankees' big three have remained hot in the second half with A-Rod still setting the league pace for home runs (53) and RBIs (151), while Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada have both kept up their solid first half production batting .319 and .334 respectively. But it has been the accompaniment of the bats that had been dormant in the first half that has changed the Yankees' fortune overall; Bobby Abreu (.283, 98 RBI), Hideki Matsui (.287, 102 RBI), Robinson Cano (.304, 89 RBI) and Melky Cabrera (.277, 71 RBI) have all recovered from their first half slumps and rounded out the lineup, allowing the team as a whole to dominate at the dish.
Now, here is the section of my article where I warn the readers to brace themselves, and possibly consider a bathroom break before continuing on. If not fully prepared for these revelations, readers could potentially find their brand new slacks riddled with embarrassing stains.
The Yankees have led the league (and that means all of baseball, not just the American League) in EVERY major offensive category. Since the July break the boys in pinstripes have put up the most runs, hits, RBIs, home runs and total bases in the majors, to go along with the best team batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. It is almost completely unheard of for one team to lead in every category for an entire half year, and the Yankees second half detonation will leave them leading in 6 of the 9 categories overall at years end (while remaining in the top 5 in the other 3). All of the Yankee fans who were worried in July knew that there are few things that will trigger a 3 month long hot streak, but the utter annihilation of every other offense in existence is certainly one of them.
The bottom line is, in a year where all of the Yankee haters came out of the woodwork in full force, the "Evil Empire" once again dashed their hopes of a Yankee-less October. It remains to be seen whether the Yankees have the power to ride their hot streak to postseason success, but one thing is for certain, they'll be there. Sorry Mr. Met.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007
BRONX, NY – September 19, 2007

There is nothing quite like autumn in New York. No I'm not talking about that foofy Richard Gere movie where he falls in love with the dying chick (although for my money you'd be hard pressed to find a more poignant tale of the triumphant power of love), I'm talking about fall baseball in the Bronx. And I promise you there is nothing better.
With the season winding down and the Yanks in the thick of a heated American League playoff race, there is no better place to spend a mid-September night than Yankee Stadium. So if you're lucky enough to make it to one of the last few Bomber home games, I've got your complete break down guide to the game.
Make a day out of it. The pennant race is no time to be concerned with menial obligations like work and productivity. Arriving 4 hours prior to the start of the game will allow you ample time for game preparation. This early arrival makes traditional baseball activities like grilling crappy sausage and enjoying far too many frosty beverages fit nicely into your schedule. Being one of the first vehicles in your lot also allows you the opportunity to experience quality bum-time you would likely miss out on otherwise. As soon as your first can is empty you've made a new friend. Sure he scares you a little. And sure he doesn't speak a word of English aside from "Yankees, Yankees, Yankees." But that is just some of the spice of the Bronx, and of life.
Hit the head. If at any point, make your way to the port-o-potty now. You're never going to open that half hinged door do a pristine marble facility, but what it could look like later has the potential to scar you for life. So make your way in before the parking lot (and other things) fills up.
Be realistic. Around this time you forget the denial and begin to admit to yourself that once again, you're not making it in to see Monument Park. No matter how strong your intentions were to take in some of the sites, you will rarely ever follow through. A cooler still half full of beer and burgers makes it nearly impossible to justify entering the stadium this early. Fear not though Yankee faithful, this does not make you less of a fan. Feel free to stay in the parking lot and party on. Just be prepared to part with your money when the sticker/soup kitchen donation guys come around, and also accept the fact that the beverage in your hand has made you an easy target for anyone selling a remotely clever t-shirt. Don't kid yourself… just buy the damn shirt.
Game time. It's finally time to head to the stadium. And if you were smart enough to park in the riverside far lots, enjoy the sweet soft melody of the "Adams Family" theme song as you make your way across the walking tunnel. Don't forget to tip the guy playing the recorder; he won't be playing Carnegie Hall any time soon. And don't hesitate to drop a throat lozenge on the way in either, those pipes have got to be ready to yell for the Yankee role-call.
Look for the losers. I hate to admit it, but there are people at Yankee games who for some ungodly reason are not ecstatic to be there. Find these people, for as much as they are lame they are one of our greatest resources. The fans that have already lost the ability to enjoy the game will soon be the fans that make your view that much better. When they disappear into the tunnel and are nowhere to be seen after a half inning, their seats are fair game. And it is your duty as a fan and tax-paying American to steal them.
Get ready to jeer. Like the moon and the tides, it is inevitable that around this time some jackass with a Red Sox cap on will emerge from his seat having made the decision now is the time he wants to die. Standing to a barrage of boos and projectile $9 bags of Cracker Jacks, this staple of jerk-dom ensures not a single Yankee game goes by without at least one "BOSTON SUCKS" chant echoing off the stadium walls. But while you hate him, salute him, he helps remind us all of why we despise the Red Sox so very, very much.
Time for the chairman. Come on people, it's late in the year and we're the New York Yankees, odds are you're witnessing a win. So as the speakers spark up and you stroll out of the stadium to the crooning of Mr. Frank Sinatra, finish the beer you've been nursing since the seventh inning and descend gleefully down the ramps while sloppily singing along to "New York, New York" with 50,000 of your closest friends.
And that my friends, leaves us at the end. Of the night, and of the season. Good friends, New York Yankee baseball, and a cool autumn night just somehow has a feeling to it like nothing else. So pack up the car and begin the preparation for your next visit to the stadium. Whether it's the next day or the next season one thing is for damn sure, we're definitely going to make it to Monument Park next time.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007
BRONX, NY – September 5, 2007

Chien-Ming Wang pitched yet another gem last night, holding the Seattle Mariners to just one run on five hits and proving once again why he is a true Yankee Ace. With the Mariners lurking closely behind in the AL wild-card race, Wang took the mound and easily boosted the Yankee lead to 2 games while earning himself a tie for the major league lead picking up his 17th win of the year.
Now in only his second full season in pinstripes, Chien-Ming Wang has established himself as one of the league's most dominant starting pitchers. While not overpowering, untouchable, or certainly not outspoken, Wang is putting together a late string of wins that could end in his second dominating season in as many years.
In his last four starts he has notched four straight wins allowing just 5 earned runs over the course of 28 1/3 innings. He has also solidified himself as the Bombers most reliable stopper winning six straight decisions when he takes the hill following a Yankee loss. If Wang continues on the path he has followed of late, he will indeed close out another season garnering Cy Young votes.
Since his emergence onto the Major League scene in the 2005 season Wang has continued his trend of quiet dominance, managing to consistently succeed while continually flying under the radar. While I'm sure opposing coaches are well aware of what they're facing when coming into a game against the 6'3" right hander, he remains among the league's most under-exposed stars. In fact, everything about this 27 year-old Taiwan native is the opposite of flashy.
Hardly known as a strikeout artist, Wang's double play inducing sinkerball hasn't exactly landed him many starring roles at the top of Sportscenter. And combining his humble pitching style with the fact that he opens his mouth so rarely that even the most die-hard Yankee fans are unsure if he speaks a single word of English, it is easy to understand how Chien-Ming Wang has literally and figuratively become a silent assassin on the mound.
While it is unlikely that Wang will actually take home the Cy Young this year, it is impossible to deny his qualifications. His slightly higher ERA could cause some potential votes to go elsewhere, but if he finishes strong he could very well be at the same level as the other candidates and could even reach the illustrious 20-win mark. He might not overwhelm opponents the way fire-balling well knowns like Josh Beckett and Johan Santana do, but you'd be hard pressed to find a starting pitcher who has been more valuable to his club this season. For whatever he may lack in style, Chien-Ming Wang has still undeniably broken into the top class of the league by consistently doing the most important thing a pitcher can do… win.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007
DETROIT, MI – August 28, 2007

Late in the year and in the thick of a playoff race is not when you want to encounter questions about your starting rotation. This is the time when you want to kick back and rely on your veteran hurlers to bare down, and carry you into the postseason. During his time in pinstripes Mike Mussina has been one of those veterans. He has made his Yankee career out of being Mr. Reliable, a crafty pitcher who just knows how to win. Sadly though, it seems those days may be behind him.
Pitching in Detroit in the final game of what had already been a lackluster Yankee road trip, Mussina was just what the doctor ordered… if the doctor ordered a beat down the likes of Ivan Drago vs. Apollo Creed. Mussina was pounded into dust yet again giving up 6 runs in only 3 innings and starting off what would end as the worst road shutout in Yankee history. Falling on rough times as of late, Mussina seems to have hit rock bottom at the worst possible point in the season.
Over his last 3 starts Moose has had what he dejectedly referred to as "the worst 9 innings of his career," and regrettably he is not exaggerating in the least. In the trio of appearances Mussina has ordered up more hits than John Gotti and allowed an atrocious 20 runs to cross the plate. Sure, his cold streak only shows up as 0-3 in the record books, but the inefficiency with which he has thrown of late is almost unprecedented. In what has been perhaps the most embarrassing string of innings for any starter in the majors this year, he has notched a laughable 17.69 ERA over his last 9 2/3 frames.
Now it is no secret that 2007 has been a turbulent year for my beloved Bombers, but it has certainly not helped that it's also been a year in which Mike Mussina has rarely looked like the pitcher Yankee fans have grown to depend on. Aside from a few solid starts coming out of the All Star Break, Moose has looked mediocre at his best and hopeless at his worst. Too many times this season he has taken the mound and offered up what looks like batting practice in situations where the Yanks were aching for a win. In starts coming off a Yankee loss this year he has garnered an 0-7 record, literally guaranteeing a losing streak to either begin or continue when he took the hill. That, especially this season, is completely intolerable.
I, like most Yankee fans, have enjoyed having Mike Mussina take the field over the years. He has established himself as one of the best pitchers of his generation and a possible Hall of Famer, compiling a career 3.70 ERA and allowing opponents an average against of only .253. This season, however, has not been a reflection of Mussina's career numbers and there just isn't time to let him fight his way back. If this were any other year I'd be singing a different tune, but it may be time for the Moose to be put out to graze. Unlike past years, the Yanks are not spending the latter days of their season sitting comfortably atop the American League. Playing the unfamiliar role of the underdog the bombers are fighting from behind and they simply cannot afford to allow Mussina the time to push through his problems. And it appears they won't.
When asked about Mussina's spot in the rotation Manager Joe Torre, who earlier this season insisted Kei Igawa still had his starting spot only a day before sending him down to the minors, was abnormally unconfident in front of the media saying "Give me a day to digest it, and I'll be able to answer some more questions." The answer he will give now seems all but a certainty, that the once steadfast veteran will lose his spot as a Yankee starter, at least for now. After all, with Mussina's performances of late yielding the same results as a day of digestion normally would, Torre doesn't really have much of a choice.
With the Yanks now facing the unforeseen possibility of finishing the season Moose-less, a few questions remain: Who will they use to fill his spot in the rotation? Will it be time to see what young prospects like Steven White or Ian Kennedy have? I sure hope so, because the only other name that has been mentioned as a possibility is Mr. Kei Igawa. And judging by the effect Igawa has had on the collective gag reflex of the Yankee fan base so far, his re-emergence might just over-fill the hole Mussina will leave.
And what will become of the Yankee favorite? Where will Mussina go from here? Will they drop him down to the minors to regain his composure? Or will they give him a shot at contributing from the bullpen?
My suggestion Yankee fans, just tip your cap to him and remember the good times, because the Moose may finally be cut loose.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007
BRONX, NY – August 21, 2007

With August coming to a close the New York Yankees find themselves somewhere few thought they'd be this year, in the playoff race. The question now remains, will they be able to continue their stellar play and find their way into playoff baseball? Speaking from a fan's perspective I know that every year there are things I wish the team would do but they never seem to happen. So this year, I have put together a list of a dozen suggestions I have to help the 2007 Yankees make the postseason.
1. Bring Bernie Back
When the rosters expand in September I say save a spot for Bernie Williams. Why not bring back a legend for one last go 'round? His leadership presence will only further unite the team, and his sweet, smooth classical guitar riffs will melt all of their troubles away.
2. Universalize the Goggles
I vote we make the Edwar Ramirez goggles a mandatory part of the Yankee uniform. By making everyone look more like a nervous 6th grade little leaguer, the Yanks will more easily be able to lull their opponents into a state of trust and comfort before mercilessly crushing them.
3. Don't Waste Shelley
From now on when Shelley Duncan hits a heroic, game tying 9th inning home run, forget the bullpen. Based purely on the intensity in his eyes, I say we let him pitch out the rest of the game. Opposing hitters will undoubtedly fail due to fear of Shelley approaching the plate and brutally executing them with his bare hands.
4. No Seat for Jeet
Require Derek Jeter to stand at the rail of the dugout at all times while his teammates are at bat. The opposing pitcher cannot possibly go an entire inning without being distracted by his dreaminess.
5. Chicken Head
Before each game, rub down the inside of Jason Giambi's helmet with a colonel's classic recipe drumstick; as it has become abundantly clear that his home run production increases exponentially along with the greasiness of his hair.
6. Motivate the Kids
Promise Melky Cabrera and Robbie Cano that for each multiple RBI game they put together, they can open one more present early on Christmas Eve.
7. The Art of Intimidation
Order stoic relief pitcher Luis Vizcaino to remove the 10 necklaces he normally wears to the mound and replace them with only one… adorned with human skulls. I dare you to get a hit off of that guy.
8. The Farnsworth Factor
Summon Kyle Farnsworth from the bullpen each time we have to seek revenge on an opponent for throwing at a Yankee batter. The benefit will be twofold: First, his 100+ mile per hour fastball will effectively render the opposing batter lifeless. And second, his suspension will "force" us to not use Kyle Farnsworth for the duration of at least one game.
9. War Games
Have genius Stanford grad Mike Mussina hack Curt Schilling's computer and post a confessional blog that admits the bloody sock was a fake and that deep down he always wanted to be a Yankee. The pressure to explain himself will drive Schilling to the brink of insanity and eliminate him for the season when he takes a hatchet to his own ankle in hopes of proving his legitimacy.
10. Hate Driven to Deep Center
Triple league leader Alex Rodriguez's home run total by once again changing the balls before he comes to bat; this time stamping each one with a picture of NY Post columnist/king of A-Rod bashing Joel Sherman.
11. Let Him Do His Job(a)
Eliminate the rules that require breakout pitcher Joba Chamberlain to sit a full day for every inning he throws. I want to see Joba in every game regardless of score. I want his presence as a Yankee to be all-encompassing. In fact…. I want Joba in charge, of our days, and our nights… Joba in charge of our wrongs and our rights… and I see… I want, I want, I want Joba in charrrrrrge, of me!
12. An "A" for Hilarity
Throw an extra "a" in Wilson Betamit's name on the scorecard in hopes of getting legendary announcer Bob Shepherd to say "Beat-A-Meat" over the Yankee Stadium loudspeaker. Sure, this probably won't do much to help the Bombers make the playoffs, but it will definitely help make my day.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007
BRONX, NY – August 14, 2007

For a guy who was told his job was "on the hook" only a bit over a month ago, Yankees GM Brian Cashman sure looks comfortable. In fact, he looks downright satisfied. Maybe that's because his patience and awareness have helped put the Yankees on a roll that has earned them the best second half record in the bigs.
Over an All-Star Break in which many argued what the Yankees should and should not do, Cashman hung tough. Under an owner with a "win now" philosophy and a notoriously quick tendency towards firings, Cashman refused to stray from his commitment to developing the young Yankee talents. As usual, the Yanks were in the midst of trade talks for every available talent in the league, but for once they stayed relatively quiet. In order to obtain big name additions like Mark Teixeira or Eric Gagne the bombers would have had to offer up some of their best minor league assets. And after being criticized in recent years for trying to buy victory with veteran acquisitions, this year Cashman refused to budge. His belief in the current squad, along with his dedication to developing Yankee youth was too much to compromise. And as of now, it seems he made the right choice.
Three of the players whose names were mentioned in those mid-season trade talks now have lockers in the Yankee clubhouse and are contributing largely to the stability the bombers have enjoyed since the break.
Phil Hughes
The most talked about minor leaguer in the Yankee system over the last few seasons has finally been given the chance to show his stuff. Thanks to early season injuries Hughes got his first shot at starting on the manor league level, before eventually falling victim to a hamstring injury himself. Now in the second half, thanks to the complete ineptitude of Kei Igawa (which incidentally is Japanese for "I Hate Winning"), Hughes has once again found himself on the hill in pinstripes. While he hasn't been untouchable in his two starts he has shown himself to be a reliable starter. In 10 innings he has notched 11 strikeouts and picked up a win in his most recent outing against the Indians. Hughes, who in the first half improved with each start, has given the Yankees a vast improvement over Igawa and will continue to contribute as the club makes their push for the playoffs.
Shelley Duncan
The 27 year old brother of Cardinal outfielder Chris Duncan has been a most unlikely provider of power over the course of this Yankee hot streak. Coming off to bench as a DH, outfielder, and even a first baseman, Duncan has blasted 5 home runs in just 36 at bats and proved to be a legitimate threat at the plate with a .306 average. Along with his stellar performance, his fiery personality has also made him a quick fan favorite. Nicknamed "Slam" Duncan for his power and his trademark home run celebration, the forearm slam (either that or for the almost insane look in his eye that says "I just slammed 10 shots of Jack and I'm ready to throw a chair through a window"), Shelley has established himself as this year's Shane Spencer-esque feel good story and could very well be the Yankee DH of the future.
Joba Chamberlain
In only 3 appearances spanning 5 innings this young Yankee fireballer has already had an enormous impact on the 2007 club. Showing himself thus far to be basically unhittable, Joba has added an air of reliability to the once dismal Yanks middle relief. After crying over the trade of Scott Proctor, Chamberlain has allowed me to happily put my foot in my mouth as he has completely dominated in a way that Proctor simply could not have done. Over his 5 innings the big Nebraskan has struck out 8 batters and given up only one hit while hurling blazing fastballs accompanied by an almost unreasonable slider. While he is projected as a future big-league starter, this year it looks as though he could be the missing link that bridges the gap to get to closer Mariano Rivera.
Whether or not the contributions of these three brand new big leaguers lead to a Yankee playoff birth in 2007 is yet to be seen. But as a Yankee fan you have to love the fact that in the end, they are all still Yankees. When looking to the future it is not too hard to be hopeful. Whether it is Phil Hughes' near no hitter, Shelley Duncan's scary power, or Joba Chamberlain's energized yell as he left the Yankee mound untouched, these baby bombers have made it easy to be thankful for the atypically uneventful trade deadline.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007
BRONX, NY – August 7, 2007

When you think New York Yankees, youthful exuberance is hardly the first thing to come to mind. On the contrary the Yankees of recent years have been known as team owned by an over competitive geezer, run by a stoic manager, and carried on the field by mostly established veterans. They are not often associated with beaming smiles or rollicking celebrations.
In the second half of 2007 however, the Yankees seem to have a different air about them. Sure, the crazy old codger in the owner's box is still little more than crazy and old. And sure, the rigid manager still shows about as much emotion as a freshly painted door. But it's the Yankees who live out on the diamond that seem to have taken on a new attitude. They are in a position that few of them have ever encountered, playing from behind. Yet in the midst of being written off by many of baseball's "experts" they haven't seemed to show a single sign of panic. In fact, they all seem utterly relaxed.
Since the All-Star Break the bombers have carried themselves with the laid back approach of a team with nothing to lose. They are swinging free and having fun and by doing so have played themselves right back into the thick of playoff contention. They look as though they've been injected with youth (although I'm hesitant to use the word injected to describe a team that will soon welcome back Jason Giambi). And in fact, they have. It is the play and attitude of two of the youngest Yanks that has played an enormous part in giving the 2007 club new life.
Twenty-four year old Robinson Cano has been arguably the hottest player in baseball since the mid-summer classic. The second baseman continues to make tricky plays in the field with what seems to be careless ease and has solidified the Yankee middle infield as one of the league's most consistent double-play threats. And at the plate? The words "white hot" would seemingly sell Robbie short. After struggling mightily through the first half Cano has brought his season average up to .309, hitting at a ridiculous second half clip of .420 and garnering American League player of the week honors twice. And he's not even the only baby bomber producing.
Serving as the perfect partner in crime has been his twenty-two year old teammate and best buddy Melky Cabrera. Establishing himself as the Yankees most reliable option in centerfield, the "Melk-man" seems to always have the right jump or angle on the ball. And as an added bonus his canon arm has fired 9 outfield assists. Also scorching at the dish, Melky has posted a .379 second half average, proving especially hot as of late with 12 RBI's in the Yankees' last 9 contests.
As vital as their numbers have been though, it isn't statistics that define the overall effect they have had on this team. These young bombers have begun to bring fun back to the Bronx.
Think about the last time you watched a Yankee game without seeing an enormous grin slapped across Robinson Cano's face. He never seems to not have fun. Each time Robbie flashes leather in the field he flashes that giant smile, as though each ball was the first he fielded of his career. And if Melky Cabrera closes an inning with a nice catch or scores a big run he flies back to the dugout with the speed of a guy worried the team bus is leaving without him. Now put the two together. When combined in the dugout, they just feed off of each other's energy. Whether they're yapping and laughing across whatever unassuming soul happened to sit between them, or hopping and dancing around that inning's hero like kids around a Christmas tree, they give the Yankee bench a bit of little league-like energy. I'm just waiting for the time when the YES Network cuts to a late inning shot of the pair wielding their rally-caps and engaging in a "who can chomp more Big Leage Chew" contest.
The fun-loving, laid back mind set of these two close-knit teammates has allowed them to not only contribute immensely to the team's comeback, but has also added a new dimension to the normally "strictly professional" Yankee image. Showing the potential to truly be the Yankees of the future, fans can only hope they remain the same for years to come. So keep your fingers crossed that Robbie forever adorns his "Got Melky?" t-shirt under his game day jersey, that Melky continues to secretly slip on his beaded "B.F.F." ankle bracelet, and that the two always take the field together, with a smile.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007
BRONX, NY – July 31, 2007

With the 4pm trade deadline fast approaching on Tuesday the Yankees didn't seem to have any blockbuster deals on the horizon. The talks of going after Mark Teixeira or Eric Gagne had quietly gone by the wayside and the normally ever-present Yankee front office closed with little more than a blip on the radar. But don't be fooled, there was a blip, one that could change the entire season.
The one and only move made by the Yankees was one that I was frankly sad to see happen. In a deal that has been rumored since the mid-season of last year the Yanks dealt workhorse middle relief pitcher Scott Proctor to the Los Angeles Dodgers for infielder Wilson Betemit.
Over his four seasons with the Yankees Proctor made all 190 of his major league appearances, 83 of which took place last season alone. He established himself in 2006 as the go-to middle reliever that Joe Torre turned to without hesitation. Admittedly though, he had slipped from that position this year, possibly due to the frequency with which he was called on. Regardless of the cause, Proctor labored through his 54 1/3 innings this season allowing 53 hits, 23 earned runs, and an ERA of 3.81. Struggling particularly of late it, became clear that he would once again be on the mid-season chopping block.
Despite his clear drop off in consistency however, the Yankees and their fans may find themselves missing Scott Proctor for several significant reasons. The first being, his heart. Every time Proctor took to the hill he did so with a zeal that many players seem to lack these days. After making more appearances than any other pitcher in the league last year all he has to say about it was "I wish they'd use me every day." Even when struggling you never doubted that he was giving 100%, and you could see the frustration and anger in his eyes when he didn't perform up to his own expectations. He felt an obligation to his team, and he was not okay with letting them down. Scott Proctor played with fire (no pun intended toward the recent even in which he tried to break a cold streak by lighting his glove aflame after a string of poor performances) for his team and for the game. When the Mariners threw at teammate Josh Phelps earlier this year, Proctor returned serve with a wild pitch behind Yuniesky Betancourt and promptly invited Betancourt out to the mound with a wide eyed "Bring it on." You can't ask for a teammate with more passion than that.
Secondly, the Yankees have to wonder if they even got a fair deal. Nothing against Wilson Betemit, he is a talented young player with a lot of potential, but the question remains as whether or not they received enough in return for losing Proctor. The key word in describing Betemit is potential. Where we stand this year he is hitting only .231 in 84 games and on top of that it is hard to figure exactly where he'll fit in this Yankee lineup. Is he here as another potential first baseman for the depth chart? With Andy Phillips stellar play and Jason Giambi's impending return that seems unnecessary. Is he here as a back up to step in for the other infielders on off days? With the Yankees frantically chasing a playoff berth it seems unlikely that Jeter, Rodriguez or Cano will be sitting very often. And don't even tell me he's an insurance pickup in case Alex Rodriguez is no longer in pinstripes next year (if Brian Cashman thinks Betemit could even begin to fill the hole A-Rod would leave, he was clearly also of the mindset that Caddyshack 2 would be just as good as the first). For all intents and purposes the Yankees seem to have dealt Scott Proctor for a younger version of Miguel Cairo with a bit better plate presence. But on a healthy Yankee team, how much time did Cairo see? Will the Yanks even be able to use Betemit enough to make dealing an oft used pitcher worth it? It is hard to imagine a scenario in which this addition yields a big payoff, but not so hard to fathom it having negative affects.
And finally, the Yanks may regret the Proctor deal because it adds even more uncertainty to what was already one of the league's most questionable bullpens. It seems odd to see the Yankee decision makers settling on a deal that thins out what has easily been the weakest part of their team (you don't see hobos giving away their shirts, there's a reason for that). I, largely due to the fact that I am not legally insane, am certainly not resting my hopes of relief on Kyle Farnsworth ever getting control of his fragile psyche and becoming a reliable pitcher. So unless the young Yankee prospects like Edwar Ramirez and Joba Chamberlain can come up and make an immediate impact, Joe Torre and the Yankee starters will be saddled with having even less to rely on for the remainder of this already trying year.
In the end it is impossible to tell how any mid-season deal will play out. Year in and year out there are complete busts, and huge pickups that change teams' fortunes. I pray, in fact, that I am thoroughly wrong about which way this deal will go. All I know is that for a fan whose team is already looking up from below, it is hard to swallow a deal in which the odds of an upside are so much slimmer than the contrary.

Thursday, July 26, 2007
BRONX, NY – July 26, 2007

The summer is in full swing and apparently so are the New York Yankees. A team that only weeks ago was being dismissed by just about everyone is suddenly playing like the best team in baseball. Are the Bronx Bombers really back? Well it's tough to tell from a span of only one month but they have certainly given the Yankee faithful a reason to hope.
The Yanks have been on an absolute tear since the All-Star break; going 12-3, closing the Wild Card gap to 4.5 games and bringing themselves within 6.5 of the American League East leading Boston Red Sox. Yes, the gap is closing quickly on everyone ahead of the Yankees and it has been thanks to their relentless hitting day in and day out. At the moment, you'll find more angry bats in the Yankee lineup than you'd find in the sacred Wachati caves of Africa (you know everyone loves an Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls reference… GUANO!)
Now any Yankee fan who has bothered to open their eyes this season knows who the hitters have been; Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Jorge Posada. Over the past 30 days these three have remained among the best in the league. While his batting average for July is down, Alex Rodriguez is still hitting at a .310 clip for the year. Over the course of the month he has notched 25 RBIs and added 7 home runs, leaving him only one short of the 500 milestone. The Captain, Derek Jeter, has slapped 39 hits this month putting him behind only Ichiro Suzuki on the year in total hits and multi-hit games. And catcher Jorge Posada has continued his stellar year at the plate batting .310 during the hot streak.
While the three big bats have certainly been the backbone of the Yankee lineup throughout the year, the recent resurgence in the stats can be attributed to something else… the rest of the Yanks finally decided to show up. Thanks to the overall contribution the Bombers have lit up the scoreboards putting up a monstrous 63 runs over the course of only 5 games, posting a hit for each of their starters in 3 of those 5. "It's almost impossible to have nine guys going at once," said hitting coach Kevin Long, "I've been doing this for a long time and there's always going to be someone who struggles. To have this many guys going at one time is a pretty good feeling."
Thanks to extensive work with Long, Robinson Cano has been a crucial piece of the recent run. The newly selective Cano has put up a team high .369 batting average along with a slugging percentage of .573 and 20 RBIs. Employing the odd practice of taking every pitch from Long during batting practice, Robbie has sharpened his eye and regained his immaculate form from last year.
Hideki Matsui has busted out of the All-Star gate in typical Godzilla fashion, leading the team with 10 home runs and a .609 slugging percentage this month. Matsui, who has characteristically been a stronger second half hitter, has of late given the Yanks the legitimate second power threat to compliment A-Rod that they've been lacking all year.
Melky Cabrera is beginning to find his stroke as well. During the streak he is second on the team in batting average at a superb .333. He has remained the most reliable bunting threat on the squad, while also showing the potential for power including a massive shot to right field last night against the Royals.
Bobby Abreu seems to have finally found some consistency in the month of July too. Up until the break Abreu had been as black and white as BET and CBS, either looking wonderful or completely awful at the dish. However, since the break he has earned himself the second most RBIs with 24, behind only A-Rod.
One of the biggest questions for the Yankees going into the second half of the season was first base. How were they going to fill the opening left by the injured (and largely useless at the plate) Doug Mientkiewicz? Rather than going out and buying a Mark Teixiera for millions the Bombers once again called on one of their most hard working and scrappy stand-ins, minor leaguer Andy Phillips. At age 30 Phillips has long been dominant in the minor league system, and he has delivered thus far in the bigs. Coupled with flawless defense, Andy has contributed archetypal 8th man numbers with 16 RBIs for the bottom of the order at a .315 average.
And don't think I forgot the feel good story of the run, the random call-up who has belted 3 home runs in only 5 games and added 7 RBIs. Of course I have to give the honorable mention to DH Shelley Duncan, lest I be murdered by Yankee fans for ignoring this year's Shane Spencer.
Of course it's easy to be a happy fan over a short period. This is a glimmer of hope in an otherwise bleak season. But the bottom line is the Yanks have done exactly what they need to do in order to begin getting back in the hunt. They have sprung out of the gates with offensive firepower and have lost only 1 game in each of their second half series thus far. If they can continue a similar pace over the next month, don't be surprised to see the supposedly dead 2007 Yankees in the thick of the postseason race.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007
DETROIT – JULY 15, 2007

In the tranquil, warm, nighttime summer air, if you stand extra still, prick your ears up to the soft breeze, and believe with all that your heart can believe… some say you can hear him. Somewhere, to someone, at this very moment, Gary Sheffield is saying something idiotic.
In what seems to have become an occurrence as consistent as the tides Gary Sheffield is once again making headlines without using his bat or his glove, only his larger than life mouth. And once again, he has managed to make a complete fool of himself by contradicting himself as he so often has.
Last year, during his last season with the Yankees, Sheffield made the papers with his arrogant and absent-minded self-proclamation as the leader of the Yankee locker room. It seems that Gary with a microphone or camera in his face is a Gary that has no semblance of a man in touch with reality. His jaws begin flapping, his brain shuts down, and he begins spewing complete nonsense. Did he really believe that he, and not the long time captain Derek Jeter, was the leader of the bombers? He couldn't have, right? At least not all the time, right? Probably not, but with the media around Gary Sheffield becomes a selfish, irresponsible egomaniac with no regard for what he says so long as it gets him attention. And what happened the day immediately after the Jeter comments? An apology… well, sort of. A Gary Sheffield apology; which consists of little more than stuttering, uneasy contradictions of his earlier words, more often than not blamed on the media's misinterpretation.
This year, Sheffield seems to have shifted his anger from his being misunderstood; now he is angry on behalf of every black player in baseball (I wouldn't be shocked if more than a few of them were a bit uncomfortable with Sheffield speaking on their behalves). Sheffield decided he had uncovered the reason for the decline of African-American players in Major League baseball. After what I'm sure was months of finite research and well thought out argumentative preparation, Sheffield revealed his theory to the world at large: There are less black players in baseball because they are being replaced by Latinos, who are easier to control. Wow, if that's not profound then I don't know what is. I mean I have heard of fighting fire with fire, but fighting racism with racism? Could it work? Sheffield is actually claiming racism against blacks while simultaneously making the ridiculously racist comment that Latinos are "easy to control." These words were so asinine I assumed we had heard the worst of Sheffield for this year. Wrong.
Only a month after claiming racism throughout the league Sheffield was rewarded with an HBO interview with Andrea Kremer on the hit show Real Sports. Now allow me to remind you, Gary Sheffield is having a much better year on the field than anyone expected of him. He has been a huge pickup for the already talented Detroit Tigers and an undeniable factor in the MVP-type season his preceding hitter Magglio Ordonez is enjoying. He deserves some attention from the media, but he wasn't on HBO to talk about his season. He was, evidently, there to once again declare himself master of MLB race relations and to throw his former skipper Joe Torre into the fire.
During his Real Sports interview, Sheffield claims that the Yankees' veteran manager of 12 years "treats black players differently from white players." In his attacks Sheffield claimed Torre called him out in several meetings in front of the whole team, while he would take issue with his white players behind closed doors. A perplexed Andrea Kremer moved the interview along, only to find herself inevitably more confused. She asked Gary Sheffield if he was saying that Joe Torre was a racist, his answer, "No, I think that's just how they run things there." So let us get this straight Gary, Joe Torre is not a racist… he is just the captain of a very racist ship? He followed these comments with his genuine assurance, "I'm not making waves, I'm just telling it like it is." Oh but the moron waves were just getting started.
When asked about his former Yankee teammate Derek Jeter, whose mother is white and father is black, Sheffield said "Well, Jeter ain't all the way black." Astute observation Gary, but what exactly does that mean? Does that mean Joe Torre only called Jeter out in front of teammates half the time? Or was it that he would only confront Derek in his private office, but leave the door wide open? Surely Kremer would be able to gain clarification on these comments by pointing out that Sheffield's own son is the product of a mixed race marriage. "He's the same as Jeter," Sheffield pointed out, "I say the same thing about my son. He gets the same treatment." Wow. Martin Luther King, Jr. day must be quite the experience in the Sheffield house -- "Now son, I want to show you a documentary about an amazing man who helped the black community make advances in this country that most thought at the time were unimaginable… Hey, hey hold on there kid don't you let that proud smile grow too wide, after all you ain't all the way black."
In the end, after hearing every senseless word Gary Sheffield has to say, and after witnessing the media continually showing us this crap as though it holds any water in the realm of intelligence, I'm asking for two things. First, stop asking athletes what they think about anything aside from their respective sports. I don't want Terrell Owens opinion on gas prices or Roger Clemens' thoughts on the war in Iraq. Sure there are plenty of intelligent athletes out there who have a lot to say that really matters, but if I have to miss out on the few good arguments to avoid all of the heinous idiocy flowing freely from the rest of these self entitled dolts, then that is a sacrifice I am willing to make. Second, put a muzzle on Gary Sheffield. Stop the hot air from escaping this man and damaging the ozone layer completely beyond repair. Let him go up to the plate, swing the bat like a maniac, and hit the ball a mile. Just get him to shut the hell up.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007
BRONX, NY – July 10, 2007

The 2007 Major League Baseball is officially half over. If things continue to play out the way they did over the first half the New York Yankees are halfway home… literally. At the pace they have played thus far the Yankees are looking like a non-factor in the playoff race and a prime candidate for a rare, early fall trip home.
Now I, like any other Yankee faithful, have not begun waiving the white flag just yet. However, it is impossible to deny the odds that are stacked against them. Standing one game under .500 at the halfway mark the Yanks find themselves 10 games back in their division and 8.5 games out of the wild card race. The type of run that is necessary is the likes of which hasn't exactly been common in MLB history. Such a run for the wild card has been put together in recent years by the Astros, but the Yanks haven't done so since they captured the first ever wild card in the early '90's. With five teams ahead of them their chances to find October baseball through the wild card is looking slimmer every day. The only other option is to somehow come back and capture the division from the Red Sox. With the Sox running away with the best first-half record in baseball the Yankees will need a miracle run and then some, not unlike the one the Minnesota Twins put together last year. That's not exactly asking for a cup of sugar.
Facing the task of essentially having to win every series for the remainder of the year, the Yankees certainly need more than a few things to go their way. Come season's end, if all the cards have not fallen in the Yanks' direction their first absence from the playoffs since 1994 will prove to be an inevitability. Here is what needs to happen, on both sides of the ball, to spark a New York Yankee playoff run.
First thing's first… Alex, no letting up now. There is no telling just how lost the Yankees would be at this point in the year if it weren't for Alex Rodriguez putting up numbers like he's hitting twice in the order. 30 home runs and 86 RBIs in just half a year are ridiculous statistics, and they have allowed the Yankees to remain hovering around the .500 mark. Now if they're to have any chance to play this fall, A-Rod will need to continue playing like the beast he has been. His presence at the plate has been one of the few constants for the bombers this year as he has been at the center of every "get up and cheer" moment Yankee fans have experienced in this half season. Unless he can maintain the type of pace he has set thus far, it is unlikely there will be many more moments like that over the course of the summer.
While undoubtedly serving as the anchor, A-Rod hasn't been entirely alone on offense. Fellow All-Stars Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada have also enjoyed stellar first halves at the dish, hitting .336 and .326 respectively. They too, like Rodriguez, will be asked to continue their hot hitting if the Yanks are to have a fighting chance. No one player can carry a team into the playoffs by himself, so this third of the lineup will have to share the duty of carrying the bulk of the load.
More important than maintenance however, are the changes that must occur in order for this team to survive. At least one more Yankee must find his way back to reliable offensive production. On a team with so many pitching issues, high run totals will need to be a constant in the second half. There were points this year where Robbie Cano, Hideki Matsui, Melky Cabrera, Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu all enjoyed short-lived hot streaks at the plate, but none of them has emerged as the dependable hitter the Yankees so desperately need. With all of their averages falling at .275 and below, the Yanks have been unable to put together an every-day regular lineup. They are completely lacking that string of back to back hitters that should be feared. This inconsistency has resulted in intermittent holes in the lineup that disappear and reappear from day to day. It doesn't matter who steps up, but it is apparent that someone must. My vote goes for Steinbrenner allowing Johnny Damon to grow back the Jesus look and see where that takes us (prayer has never hurt in times like these).
With the state of the bullpen in constant question the onus will now fall squarely on the (mostly) very old backs of the Yankee starters. While their performance overall has seemed a tad better of late, the starting rotation has been by and large a disappointment in 2007.
Chien Ming Wang has remained the only pitcher yet to elicit a feeling in my stomach like I just stepped off a roller coaster with an empty six pack. As the only consistently reliable starter it is essential that he stays healthy. If he can continue to stave off the finger irritations that he has been dancing around and pitch long, solid outings the Yankees will have found their ace.
The real questions begin to form around the Yankee hurlers who are old enough to have fathered some of their own teammates. The exorbitantly expensive Roger Clemens had a bit of a rough start but seems to be rounding into shape. He has given the Yanks 8 innings in each of his past two starts and has looked brilliant. Of course, no one can expect that many innings out of a 44 year old every time out (no matter how big his paycheck is), but the Rocket needs to continue his trends of late and not decelerate as the year drags on.
Andy Pettitte made an early year bid for the black cat in the Yankee rotation while he pitched at least well enough to win in almost every single start, but seemed to only leave with a no-decision at best. Somehow the Yankee bats have coincidentally shut down each time he made his way to the hill, leaving him with a 4-6 record. Though he has undeniably been the victim of some misfortune, Pettitte has looked uncharacteristically shaky as of late and has been battered around in his past two starts. For the Yanks to win they need to hit for Andy, and Andy needs to make his recent slump a short one and return to his early season form.
Mike Mussina must also make a flash back to his old self. The starter who has been known throughout his career as a workhorse has been anything but. Over the course of the year Mussina has seen the same amount of starts as Wang, and yet has given the Yanks 26 fewer innings of work. When your bullpen has the worst strikeout to walk ratio in the league, you simply cannot afford to have starters dropping early in games.
As for the fifth starter, who knows who it will be? All that I ask is that Joe Torre get Kei Igawa out of there. He has proved himself to be slightly less effective than a batting practice pitcher and a sure loss unless the Yanks put 7 or more up on the board (Andy Pettitte might be up for the Cy Young is he had fallen ass backwards into the kind of run production Igawa has). If Darrell Rasner or Phil Hughes can return from injury and even be remotely effective it will be a huge step up.
In the end what the Bronx Bombers need is a miracle run. This miracle run requires not a slight stroke of good fortune, but a huge one. Not one minor adjustment, but many significant ones. Not one good month, but a few spectacular ones. The baseball media is right when they say the 2007 New York Yankees are in great danger of missing the playoffs. However, they should do themselves a favor and not count them out until it is a mathematical impossibility. These are, after all, the New York Yankees.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007
BRONX, NY – JUNE 25, 2007

Not since the South Central Louisiana State Mud Dogs lost their water boy-turned-star linebacker Bobby Boucher have these words so truly been spoken, but I believe it was Rob Schneider who so cleverly quipped: "Oh no, we suck again!"
After two weeks of spectacular baseball the Yankees do, in fact, suck again. Going 3 and 6 in their last nine outings they are once again a sub .500 team. They have relinquished second place in the American League East to the exceptionally mediocre Toronto Blue Jays, and have (for the umpteenth time) allowed the Red Sox to push their division lead back to double digits. Clearly, something needs to change. The Bombers have proven they have enough ability and talent to go on hot streaks like few other teams in the league, but they have also proven their glaring inability to maintain those high levels of play. At least on one side of the ball.
Time and time again this Yankee squad has been exploited by the weakest aspect of their game, pitching. The Yankee hurlers have firmly established themselves as the Achilles heel of the team, and unless something drastically changes for them soon, they may prove to be the downfall. At this point, even if the Yankees go on several more miracle runs this year and manage to eke their way into the playoffs, sending their current rotation of "fire-ballers" to the hill they would be easily bounced in the first round. I, for one, do not want to spend the entire season praying for the Yankees only to watch them face a far superior rotation in a first round foregone conclusion. So why not shake it up? And I, of course, have some suggestions.
First order of business: Go after Mark Buehrle. Where are the Yankees amidst all the White Sox trade talks? They have yet to even be mentioned as a possible destination for the reliable left hander. And yet, they are front and center as one of the top candidates to acquire Texas Rangers hard hitting first baseman Mark Teixeira. Now don't get me wrong, I (like any other sane Yankee fan) would love to see a young All-Star like Teixeira land in pinstripes. But the question remains, is he really what we need? Why are the Yankees brass focusing on adding more offensive firepower in a season where that is the only thing they have not been lacking? Teixeira is a hot commodity, and any team would be lucky to pick him up, but this team needs pitching. Don't trade for him with the hopes that rookie Phil Hughes will return to save the day. Hughes is young, inexperienced and far too important of a future resource that could be ruined if he re-injures himself. Mark Buehrle is an attainable, veteran starter who has averaged 7 innings per appearance this year in Chicago. In a season where a Yankee starter seeing his way into the sixth inning is about as common as Larry King posing for a centerfold, why are we not frantic over Buehrle? Brian Cashman should be chasing this guy with a bottle of chloroform and a net. By the way, the team being mentioned most often in the rumors surrounding Mark Buehrle… the Boston Red Sox. Yeah, that should make them easier to catch.
Second order of business: Scrap the middle relief rotation. Half of the Yankees long relievers have been next to useless. Only Scott Proctor, Brian Bruney, and Mike Myers have been occasionally effective, and still none of them have exactly been the model of reliability. Luis Vizcaino, who looked like a huge pickup early in the year, has now walked 27 batters in 37 innings and racked up an atrocious 5.35 ERA. And he is only one of three Yankee relievers to achieve the magical 5 mark. Ron Villone has managed a 5.25 ERA in his limited time on the mound. Why Villone is still even in this conversation is beyond me. He looks older than pitching coach Ron Guidry and has given up at least one run in 7 out of 12 innings he's appeared (Guidry could probably out pitch him at this point too). And then there is Kyle Farnsworth. I don't even want to get started on Kyle Farnsworth. There is a simple solution to this problem; Kyle Farnsworth should be taken out to pasture and shot. How a guy with a 100mph fastball manages to get hit like a peso-filled piñata on Cinco de Mayo will never be within reasonable understanding. Stop using these pitchers. Trade them, sit them, send them down, kill them, it really doesn't matter how they do it; the Yankees need to simply stop using these scrubs.
Third, and final, order of business: Replace them with one of the five-hundred starters you have used this year. Why not take some of the Yankees' intermittent 5th starters (who should be replaced by Buehrle anyway) and use them to bolster the middle relief? Rookie Tyler Clippard has shown flashes of brilliance and a curveball-changeup combination that can keep even the most solid hitters off balance (see: Jose Reyes swinging about ten feet too early). It wouldn't be hard to imagine that he might flourish in shorter appearances. Matt DeSalvo has shown (if nothing else) the ability to draw fly ball outs, a quality asset to bring out of the pen. And Kei Igawa… well Kei Igawa hasn't shown much of anything. All I know is I'd feel a lot more comfortable knowing we only need him to string together two or three outs rather than relying on him for 18. Sure, none of these young pitchers has been bred to be a reliever, but this could be just what the Yankees need. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and having 44 year old Roger Clemens make his first regular-season relief appearance in 23 years (I was a fetus the last time he came out of the bullpen) sure seems like a sign of desperate times.
Whatever the Yankees organization decides to do about their recent troubles one thing is certain; the "ride it out and we'll be fine" mentality is losing credibility fast. With each solid game that is thrown away by poor pitching the Yankees are being pushed to initiate change rather than just hope for it. The events of this 2007 season have proven this beyond any doubt, this Yankee team is not a team of destiny, or luck, or good fortune. It is time to make something happen.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The photographers hounded him, the writers disparaged him, and worst of all his own fans booed him. Yes, New York was every bit as unforgiving as Alex Rodriguez thought it might be.
A-Rod could have gone anywhere else in the country and been treated like royalty, but he wanted to be a Yankee. He could have remained a short stop, where he had been better than anyone else in the league, but he wanted to be a Yankee. He could have headed north to Boston and been heralded as their personal Jesus (although Johnny Damon was making quite a case for that name) and been the one to save them from the dreaded curse, but he wanted to be a Yankee. Alex Rodriguez chose the only town where the fans just might try to run the best player in the league out of town, just so he could be a Yankee.
Now what is the first thing anyone will say after reading that paragraph?... "A-Rod came to New York for the money!" What is the hang up that everyone has with this guy's paycheck? Newsflash, Rodriguez was plenty rich before he came to New York and would have continued to be so regardless of where he signed. Sure "Pay-Rod" is making a fat $252 million while in the Bronx, but is that a reason to hate him? Is it really A-Rod's fault that he is the best overall player the game has seen in years? Or that the best you can do is go 2 for 4 in your Sunday beer-league game? I can't sit through an entire game in Yankee Stadium without hearing some moron shout out an asinine comment like "Well he better hit walk-offs, we're paying him enough." First of all, let me clarify that the guy decked out in Yankee gear who never has anything positive to say is not exactly a part of "we." Second of all, since when does money delegate performance? If an athlete's paycheck had any direct correlation to their performance than Mo Vaughn would still be anchoring first base over at Shea, Eli Manning wouldn't be able to overthrow 6'8" receivers and Stephon Marbury's paycheck would be roughly equivalent to what it costs to buy a pair of his shoes.
So just what exactly does Alex Rodriguez have to do to live up to his massive paycheck? How can he become a "true Yankee"? While his first season in New York wasn't spectacular the team enjoyed great success with his addition to the lineup, only to lose in record fashion to the hated Red Sox in the playoffs. True, but from what I remember that was an entire team that collapsed, not one new third baseman. In just his second season in pinstripes he won the regular season American League MVP. His third season saw Alex putting up mediocre numbers: batting .290 with 35 home runs and 121 RBIs. Those are "mediocre" numbers that most Major Leaguers would sell their first born child for (maybe it's stats like that in a so-called off year that have earned him that disproportionate bank account). At the close of 2006, A-Rod looked desperate for the approval of the city that has thus far shunned him, but he just couldn't get it. After all, he wasn't living up to their expectations.
Welcome to 2007, a year that has left much to be desired as far as the Yankees are concerned. But who has been the team's backbone? Who has carried them to many wins they may not otherwise have gotten? Who is the one player who can be most credited with keeping them afloat in the playoff race? Alex Rodriguez. Through 67 games this year he is hitting .315 and has blasted 27 home runs, which is more than 1/3 of all of the Bombers bombs. He has also racked up 73 RBIs, only 11 less than the two next best Yankees combined. As for defense, he's gone his last 31 games without an error at third base. And with a little more than a week left to go, A-Rod is a mere 85,000 ballots away from becoming the first player in Major League history to garner over 2 million All-Star votes.
So will any of this be enough? When the 2007 season comes to an end will the Yankee fans finally consider him one of their own? It seems that it could go either way. If the Yanks make the necessary push and find their way into the playoffs this could easily go down as one of the most legendary performances in Yankee history. And if they don't? Well the fan reaction could very well make this A-Rod's last season in pinstripes. If he chooses to opt out of his contract and feels he's not wanted here he may just be done with it. And as he walks out of town with an even bigger bag of money under his arm, wondering what more he could have done, some jerk in a wife-beater with a fat gut and a gold Yankees NY chain entangled in his robust chest hair will yell out; "Good riddance A-Fraud, you couldn't even get us to the playoffs!"

Thursday, June 14, 2007
BRONX, NY – JUNE 12, 2007

Smiles in the Bronx. Fans wielding their hats and jerseys proudly. George Steinbrenner losing that "near murder" look in his eye. That's right kids it's finally here… Yankees baseball.
The Bronx Bombers are riding a season best six game winning streak and have taken 9 of their last 11. They've jumped Toronto and Baltimore into second place in the division. They've cut Boston's first place lead back to single digits. They have even made it so John Sterling insisting "they're not out of it yet" no longer reeks of apologist desperation. For the moment, it looks like the Yankees may be back.
Skipper Joe Torre attributes the streak to a new found "looseness" amongst the players. If looseness is the cause of the recent spectacular play the Yanks must have been feeling tighter than a Simon Cowell t-shirt early in the season. Regardless, they look like a completely different team these days. They look like the Yankees the rest of the league should fear, the Yankees they always have.
Bobby Abreu is filling the 3-hole in the line-up with a whole new man; namely one who doesn't swing the bat like a blind little leaguer. Since the start of the month Abreu has raised his batting average from a laughable .228 to a respectable .272. Overall it is still poor by Abreu's standards but it looks like a sure sign that he's headed in the right direction. In the last 12 days he has ridden a 10 game hit streak to six doubles, nine RBIs and 10 walks, posting an astounding .500 average over the stretch. He has also re-established himself as the lynch pin of the Yankee line-up. When Abreu was at his worst and dropped to the 8th spot in the order the bombers simply lacked the ability to get in a rhythm offensively, no matter how well Jeter, Posada, or A-Rod was hitting.
Speaking of Alex Rodriguez, he looks like April reincarnated. After coming out of the gate like a bull that was kicked in the bean bag, Rodriguez had a sub-par May (although any month would pale as a follow up to his mammoth April). While not hitting exceptionally poor during the month A-Rod did endure a few cold streaks, posting only 11 RBI for the month, and it seemed that he had finally come down to earth. Well, not quite. The hot June sun seems to have revived Krypton's only child and returned him to his early-season form. With the month not even half over he has seven more RBIs than he did in all of May and has raised his batting average back to .304. He now sits high atop the league lead in home runs, RBIs, and slugging percentage.
While Abreu and Rodriguez have been huge during this streak, the Yanks sudden resurgence can be attributed to others as well. The unwavering consistency of Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada (who, incidentally, also leads the league with two hilarious SportsCenter commercials this year) has held the offense together in even the worst games. The scrappy utility infielder Miguel Cairo has admirably filled the defensive void left at first base by the injured Doug Meintkeiwicz, and has proved to be far more effective at the plate than the starter. Robby Cano is looking more like the confident hitter he was last year with each passing game while Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, and Melky Cabrera (who has also been playing a spectacular center field) all seem to be clicking at the plate as well.
Yes, the bombers offense looks to be in top form. As for the pitching, it has been the question mark all year but the Yankee hurlers are finally doing well enough to help the red hot offense keep its leads. Roger Clemens made his debut on Saturday against the Pirates and looked solid. While he did labor through a few innings he had little trouble overall posting 7 strikeouts and giving up 3 runs. The following day the bullpen looked (dare I say) reliable when four relievers combined for 5 1/3 scoreless innings after replacing rookie Tyler Clippard. Most importantly perhaps, closer Mariano Rivera is beginning to come around as well. Just when I thought they were going to change his entrance song from "Enter Sandman" to "Hit Me Baby, One More Time," Mo is showing the form Yankee fans are accustomed to and hasn't given up a run in his last 8 ½ innings pitched.
The Yankees as a team have made a turn and showed me some things in June that I haven't seen from them so far this year. They are arguing bad calls voraciously, hustling in the field and on the base paths, manning the batters box with confidence, and even laughing and cheering in the dugout. When I was just about ready to give up on the 2007 season these Yankees showed me they actually have some heart. And whoever deserves the most credit for the turnaround isn't what matters, because I can finally say without a hint of sarcasm: "We ain't dead yet."

Wednesday, June 06, 2007
BOSTON, MA – JUNE 2, 2007

Down 12.5 games to the hated Red Sox on Saturday, the Yankees seemed poised to take their second win in a row in Beantown, and glimmers of hope finally began to shine in my eyes. That is until my hopes were run over by Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell. Yet another bruise on the battered bodies of my beloved bombers (got to love alliteration).
On a bobbled double play ball Yankees first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz leaned back into position to take the throw on a hop, instead he took Lowell's knee right to the side of his head. Now as much as I wish I could blame him, Mike Lowell did absolutely nothing wrong. He hustled down the line just as he should have. Doug Mientkiewicz was not a victim of a vicious play; he was simply another victim of the recently terrible New York Yankee luck.
The first baseman suffered a concussion, a cervical sprain, and a fractured wrist. I have fallen out of a moving car and sustained less injury. And we're talking about baseball, a supposedly non-contact sport. Well, tell that to the dent in Mientkiewicz's brain.
So why did this freak play occur? Because each time the 2007 Yankees take 1 step forward they inevitably take about 5 steps back. It seems there is nothing the bombers can do to gain ground on their rivals. Of course, plenty of their struggles can be plain and simply blamed on their poor play. But I defy any fan to deny the black cat that seems to be lurking in the Yankee locker room. Allow me to elaborate:
Chien Ming Wang
In a year where hamstring injuries spread throughout the team like herpes through a frat party, the Yankees were forced to start their season without their ace on the hill. Going into the year it was clear that the Yanks biggest issue was going to be their pitching; losing Wang off the bat was just salt in the wound. Minus Wang they started the season 5-6 (although at this point I'd consider selling a kidney for a 5-6 stretch).
Carl Pavano
Needs no explanation. Also I refuse to type too much for fear of getting injured even talking about him.
Jeff Karstens
A broken fibula. Honestly? Do I really need to say anything else? Again, this is baseball. This injury would be understandable if a coked up Lawrence Taylor emerged from the dugout and gave him the Joe Theisman treatment. As funny as that may have been though, it wasn't the case. Karstens was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, on the mound. I have seen plenty of line drives hit back at pitchers that did plenty of damage. But a broken leg? That is just mean. Especially with Karstens looking like he may be this year's Aaron Small, proving himself to be the most improbably reliable starter, this injury was extra painful.
Philip Hughes
There he was, the savior. The phenom who was here to toss no hitters and save the season. Hughes looked exactly like my expectations had told me he would that night… for 7 innings. It's too bad he picked the wrong year to break out. Before I could crack too wide of a smile Hughes would limp off the field to join half of the Yankees roster and all of my hopes and dreams in the intensive care unit.
Doug Mientkiewicz
Now it may be hard to argue that the injury to the first baseman will affect the team as much as the others have, but it just might. While he was hitting only .224 and drove in only 16 RBI's, he had been masterful in the field. Mientkiewicz had been as reliable defensively as any first baseman in the league. He showed heart and hustle that some teammates seemed to lack (I won't name any names but I'm pointing to right field). I also find it hard to believe that having Mientkiewicz, his high school friend and teammate, in the locker room hasn't helped account for Alex Rodriguez's seemingly more relaxed and confident demeanor (not to mention inspiring his fashionable new high-sock look).
I guess the real question here is just how much worse can it get? How much longer will we be able to say "it's still early" or "we're not dead yet" and really believe it? Just how much more bad luck can the 2007 New York Yankees have? If I had to guess, I would say keep your chin up Yankee fans, it can only go uphill from here. I've got to go though, have to make it to the emergency press conference. Roger Clemens just tweaked his groin…

Tuesday, May 15, 2007
BRONX, NY—MAY 15, 2007

Don't look now folks but the New York Yankees are 2 games under .500…. see, I told you not to look.
After a much needed off day the Yankees find themselves staring at one of their most difficult, and arguably the most important stretch of games they will face this year. It is only May 15th. We are barely more than a month into this season and we're already looking at a possible make or break situation for the Yankees. Captain Derek Jeter addressed the media in his usual cool and collected manner, "We've got 100-something games left. The sky ain't falling yet." Sure, Derek. It is one thing to say that for the media's sake, but even he must be thinking about what these two weeks could really mean to the Yanks.
Over the next 12 games the Yankees will face off against both the Mets and the Red Sox. Two series that also happen to be sandwiched by a couple of teams that have notoriously given the bombers a hard time; the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Angels of the northern LA region of Anaheim (whatever they're called now, they have consistently pestered the Yanks over the past few seasons). These dozen contests will almost certainly prove to be the ultimate early year gut check for the '07 Yankees. In the end, no matter how much any of them are putting on the "stay positive" show for the cameras, they are all well aware that a continuance of their recent trends could leave them in hole too deep to climb out of.
The Red Sox are thoroughly whipping the Yankees in the AL East standings. Now looking back at the Yanks from 8.5 games ahead and already winning their season series, the Sox don't need much more help to run away with the division. The last thing the Yankees can afford is to help them pad their lead.
While across town, the Mets are thoroughly whipping the Yanks in New York street cred. As far as this young season goes, no one would even bat an eye at the question of who the better New York team is, they hail from Queens (come on bombers, you've got to represent the boogie-down a little better than that). The Mets have undoubtedly played themselves into the spot of favorite for the upcoming subway series, and the last thing a reeling team needs is a shellacking at the hands of their consistently inferior cross-town rivals.
The strange thing about this Yankees club is that in spite of their enormous amounts of talent they keep finding ways to lose. Early on the onus was clearly on the backs of the pitching staff. Between the completely battered starting rotation and a bullpen that never met a lead they couldn't blow, the pitching was all that was wrong with the Yankees. Now, just as the pitching staff seems to be coming around and forming something resembling a respectable rotation, the Yankees offense has all but disappeared.
After their first solid home stand of the year, the Yankees hit the road and apparently forgot their bats (note to the equipment manager: get out before the Boss uses you as his next scapegoat). The offense that only last year was being compared to the famous "Murderer's Row" lineup has looked a lot more like "Mow 'em down Row." Aside from Jeter and Jorge Posada (who sit in first and second atop the league in batting average), the Yankees have looked completely lost at the plate when their pitchers have finally found their place on the mound. It seems odd that a team which is in the top five in four major offensive categories would be held to two runs or less in three of their last four games, but that's exactly what they've done (against the Felix-less Mariners no less). The steadfast shortstop and catcher have been the only bright spots in a lineup that has come up empty at the worst possible times: Robinson Cano, 9 for his last 63. Bobby Abreu, 2 for 22. Jason Giambi, 0 for 18. And the invincible April man A-Rod now in a 2 for 17 funk.
So for those who say that baseball isn't a true team sport, here is your proof. The New York Yankees are a club bursting at the seams with talent on both sides of the ball, but with half of them showing up the results have been mediocre at best. As long as the monster offense is accompanied by horrendous pitching they will continue to lose. As long as the gritty, unexpectedly reliable pitching is accompanied by a complete lack of run production they will continue to lose. Baseball is in fact a team sport, and these 2007 Yankees are a fine club.
No team in the league has a shot of beating the Mets or BoSox if they're only firing on half of their cylinders. These are complete teams, and you had better be a complete team if you want to hang around long enough to face them in October. So keep you're eyes closed tight and your fingers crossed Yankees fans, because if your squad doesn't become a team over these next 12 games, the sky may very well be falling.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

In a bold move the New York Yankees have initiated the first major alteration to baseball strategy in decades… the ten man pitching rotation. Only time will tell if this intrepid move pays off.
The injury riddled Yanks staff has shuffled in more men than a strip club in a desperate effort to avoid sending GM Brian Cashman to the mound for an emergency start. In their mad scramble the Yankees have become the first team in baseball history to use 10 different starters in their first 30 games. Is this desperation? No, no Yankee fans, it's innovation. They also became the first team since the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys to start 6 rookies in only 30 games. But fear not New York faithful, for nothing says impending championship like an Alleghenys reference.
Sure, the events of this still young season may look bleak to some, but it is essential that we look forward to where we are headed from here. Despite the bumps in the road thus far, the future is bright for these Yanks. First off, help has finally arrived in the form of a 45 year old with frosted tips. True, this could be the season that Roger Clemens aging body breaks down from "The Rocket" into the "The Wrinkle." Then again, there is always the chance he is his dominant self and that the drop-off doesn't happen until next year (when the Yanks have inevitably re-signed him for a 1 year, Gross National Product of Switzerland contract).
And let us not forget the rookies. For the most part these young upstarts have given the Yankees solid, efficient innings. Recounting the rookie starts, aside from the 4 dinger tragedy served up by Chase Wright, these most youthful of Yanks have showed an extravagant amount of promise. Far more promise, in fact, than the wily veterans who have inevitably blown their leads (with most sincere apologies to Matt DeSalvo), and riddled their records with no-decisions. Some might say this could be damaging to the young athletes' psyches, but then some might say it builds character. Speaking of character, we cannot ignore the poise of the most impressive rookie of the bunch, Philip Hughes. His impeccable form stirs the memories of a young Roger Clemens (when Clemens was 50 pounds lighter and didn't have a haircut like Pasey Witter from Dawson's Creek). Hughes showed absolutely filthy talent before pulling his hamstring in his bid for a no-hitter. And with a new strength and conditioning coach arriving in town it is safe to assume Hughes will be able to take his next no-hit effort into at least the 8th inning, before the '07 Yankees injury curse ends his career when his eyeball is punctured by an errant Bronx pigeon. Still, manager Joe Torre would likely start a Philip Hughes with no depth perception over imported Japanese rookie Kei Igawa. The ridiculously poor man's Dice-K was recently sent down to the minors after proving himself sufficiently useless as a Yankee starter. Although to his credit, he did offer up some solid "relief" innings after Jeff Karstens' leg cracked like a peanut shell.
As for the latter innings, they have provided the most pressing issue for the boys in pinstripes, their "relief" pitching. The only thing the Yanks bullpen has been able to relieve the team of is the crushing pressure of having to bat with a lead. Kyle Farnsworth and Mike Myers have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is possible, in spite of having some of the nastiest stuff in the league, to get smacked around like a graffiti artist in Singapore. However, let's not overlook their decent ERA's thanks to the fact that they are, for the most part, giving up everyone else's runs (All-Star Game here we come!). Scott Proctor has made his mark by earning a 4 game suspension for doling out his own form of vigilante justice. However, the rest could allow him to eventually pitch an entire inning without giving up a hit. And then there is Mo. Old reliable. The rock solid reliever who can always be counted on in a jam. What can you say about the Sandman that hasn't already been said? Maybe that he earned this nickname because his current ERA, hovering around 8, is the same exact number of hours expert physicians recommend for a quality night's rest (hardly a coincidence).
But I digress. As I said, we mustn't look back. Let us look ahead to the future; to all of the leads Roger Clemens will unavoidably watch disappear moments after he is pulled from the game, to Philip Hughes building us up only to break our fragile fan hearts again, to Kei Igawa's thriving career as a dominant single-A middle reliever, and most of all to the completely revamped bullpen we have come August after Steinbrenner has buried all of the current fire-ballers under the foundation of the new Yankee Stadium. In times of great difficulty we as fans must always forge ahead, and above all, remain positive… after all, these are the New York Yankees.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

How about this for a headline?
Yanks Drop 9th Out of 10. As a dismal April came to a close this was plastered all over New York newspapers. Yes, the mighty New York Yankees ended the month looking up in awe at the Tampa Bay Devil Rays from their seat in the AL East cellar.
How about these for statistics?
The Yankees pitching staff yielded the third worst ERA in the league at 5.02. The franchise set a major league record by going through more pitchers than a bar on St. Patty's day, using at least 5 different arms in 10 straight games. The Yanks also managed to lose 12 games where they scored 4 or more runs by giving up 5 or more in 17 out of 23 games.
How about this for a durable roster?
Mike Mussina/ Chien Ming Wang/ Hideki Matsui- Evidently traded their hamstrings in the off-seasonJohnny Damon- Strained calf/ ailing backJorge Posada- Bruised thumbDerek Jeter- Bruised thighJeff Karstens- Fractured fibula (people get hit by cars and don't fracture their fibulas)Carl Pavano- Suffering from being Carl PavanoAlex Rodriguez- Kryptonite… wait, what?
How about this for one man show?
That's right. The Yankee who New Yorkers unofficially dubbed Pay-Rod, A-Fraud, and many other words that can't be printed in major circulation is now officially the team's savior. Anchoring their still stellar offense A-Rod had one of the most monster starts in the history of the game. His 14 home runs and 35 RBI could have single handedly given most teams as many wins as the Yanks managed to compile. But somehow the Yanks have managed to ride the wave of this extraordinary streak right into last place.
How about the boss?
And where is George Steinbrenner during all of this? Well let's just thank our lucky stars for A-Rod or we may have been talking the boss down from the ledge of the stadium façade. In an unusually docile statement he referred to the start as "clearly unacceptable" but backed Manager Joe Torre with "confidence that he can turn it around." Has the boss really settled down? Or is it just the calm before the crazy-storm? At this point we can't count out injuries costing both Ron Guidry and Torre their coaching jobs…only to be re-signed as pitcher and catcher respectively.
The bottom line is this; Steinbrenner has been noticeably close to losing it over the past few seasons. This could very well be the straw that breaks the angry, senile old camel's back. If the Yankees aren't legitimately in the playoff race by the All-Star break the boss may officially lose his mind. The pressure to win year in and year out in New Year could push him right into the insanity he has always teetered dangerously close to.
So pre-order your San Juan Yankees gear now folks, because it could very well go south from here.

Friday, April 06, 2007
Greg Oden: Fraud.ATLANTA, GA – APRIL 4, 2007

Scandal. It has plagued the world of sports as far back as the invention of the games go. Well I hope you're sitting down, because I have stumbled across a scandal that will shake the sports world to its very core. Forget the shrunken package of the man breathing down the neck of baseball's most heralded record. Never mind that the NFL is amassing more arrests than the average third world country. You can even ignore the fact that cricket coaches are getting choked out like they're P.J. Carlesimo. A new and worse epidemic has reared its ugly head in the world of college basketball.
With the remnants of the point shaving scandals of the past all but disintegrated, a new form of cheating has emerged: year shaving.
While staying in Atlanta for this year's Final Four I had the privilege of interviewing some of the nation's top players. However, I missed out on arguably the tournaments most compelling figure, Greg Oden. This 19 year-old phenom is a near lock for the number one pick in the upcoming NBA draft and was set to be the main focus for my article. However, on the morning I was supposed to interview him I rushed downstairs only to find an empty room. To my dismay he had already left for practice, but what I found was far more intriguing than any interview. Because the door to the now vacant room was open, I took the liberty of stepping in to check out the amenities the players get to enjoy. There wasn't much there, just your average run-of-the-mill hotel room. There was one oddity though, a discarded box of "Just For Men" hair gel in the receptacle in the bathroom. I asked myself what use two 19 year olds could possibly have for a gel that old men use to get rid of gray hair?
Thinking I clearly must have had the wrong room, I headed down to the main desk to investigate. The young man working the desk informed me that I had in fact been in the wrong room. He excitedly recounted to me how he had registered that room for basketball legend Bill Russell, and now had his autograph on the bill. Strange, I thought, as a sports reporter I figured I would have been aware of Russell's presence at the tournament. I asked to see the bill and to my surprise, the room had for some reason been charged to the University of Ohio State. The wheels in my head began turning. Why would OSU shell out for Bill Russell's room? And how could it be that I had not seen someone as famous as Bill Russell for the entire weekend? Come to think of it, I hadn't seen or heard anything about him in some time.
I sat in the hotel bar mulling over a few theories. Maybe Russell was there as a guest of Ohio State. But why? He had spent his college days all the way across the country in San Francisco. Throwing back drink after drink I struggled to put anything together that made sense. It wasn't until a pre-game highlight show came on that it all finally made sense. As they reeled through dunk after dunk and stat after stat of Greg Oden, Jay Bilas made the comment that finally opened my eyes… "I know it's been said, but it is just hard to believe this kid is only 19."
Suddenly it came to me in a flash of light. It IS hard to believe, because Greg Oden is not 19 years old. Greg Oden is a fake! He is no more real than the tooth fairy (sorry kids). Greg Oden is none other than basketball legend Bill Russell.
Take the blinders off America. It has been right in front of us all this time and somehow we have all managed to completely miss it. Is there really any rational part of you that looks at Greg Oden and actually believes he is a kid? Denial is useless. You can see it all coming together as you read each successive word on this page. The ugly pieces of this puzzle are combining to paint the picture of the biggest farce the sports world has ever seen.
Think back on this year's NCAA tournament. I don't have enough fingers on my hands to count the amount of times I heard an analyst make mention of Oden looking tired. Like Jim Nantz recalling images of Wilt Chamberlain when Oden would fail to make it past half court on offense (Not Wilt, but you're not far off Jim). Of course he is tired. Your legs would be a bit weary too if you had already spent 1956-1969 dominating the hardwood. And what are the only other negatives you ever hear about Greg Oden? "He is too laid back"… maybe he is afraid of throwing out his back. Or "he doesn't seem to have that killer instinct"… well, few Great Grandfathers do.
I know what you're thinking, "amusing, but impossible." But is it really? What does any great imposter need? A solid strategy along with a well thought out disguise that is still simple enough to not arouse suspicion… thank you Danny Almonte and Superman. In the wake of the little league age scandal what if Bill Russell saw opportunity? Danny Almonte's extra years of experience (and his driver's license) made him far superior to his competition. Many thought Russell retired too early, what if this solidified a desire in him to get back in the game? And what if after stumbling across the old Superman movie on TNT he realized just how simple it was to fool the masses? With the help of some coloring gel (undoubtedly introduced to him by former opponent and current moustache paint peddler Walt "Clyde" Frazier) and a simple uniform change he discovered how to conjure up his own inner Clark Kent? Doesn't seem so impossible now does it?
The jig is up Russell. This must stop now. Year shaving is wrong (although come to think of it shaving probably isn't the appropriate word for this). You can't just tarnish the innocence of what many consider the year's greatest sporting event because you miss the game. You simply cannot be allowed to be the first player to be an NBA lottery pick twice. I'm begging you Bill, come clean. Do the right thing. Do what all of the other retired players do, become a shitty commentator (like fellow Bill, Walton).

Friday, April 06, 2007

1) Alex Rodriguez will not hit a single home run that a Yankee fan can't find a negative in.
2) The Marlins will lead their division at the All-Star break. Followed shortly after by the announcement of their intentions to fire the head coach and dump the entire infield at season's end.
3) Bronson Arroyo will add yet another notch to his "Hair-dos of N'Sync" belt.
4) Manny Ramirez will have a career year up until demanding a mid-season trade, then disappearing into the Green Monster for a bathroom break… never to be seen again.
5) Lou Piniella will free up cap room by ripping off Mark Prior's arm and beating Kerry Wood to death with it.
6) Mike Piazza, now a DH, will use his extra time in the dugout to write his memoirs about being a gay man in Major League Baseball. Tim Hardaway will no longer attend his annual barbecues.
7) The gyro-ball will live up to its hype when Daisuke Matsuzaka takes the mound with a wiffle ball.
8) The Washington Nationals will lose 110 games… their citizenship will be revoked.
9) Jose Contreras will defect back to Cuba to escape the tyranny and intolerance of Ozzie Guillen.
10) Pedro Martinez will publicly say at least 10 things that make absolutely no sense.
11) After striking out for the fourth time in one game Dmitri Young will bite his bat in half.
12) Hideki Matsui will re-injure his wrist when he trips over one of his ear lobes tracking down a fly ball.
13) A freak accident will take the life of Julio Franco when a splintered bat severs his body in two. The rings in his midsection will reveal he was 703 years old.
14) Despite his flashy red Diamondbacks gear Randy Johnson will still look like an emu.
15) Gil Meche will literally laugh all the way to the bank each time he cashes a paycheck.
16) Sammy Sosa will be suspended for 15 games when an umpire notices the bat he is using is aluminum. In the post game press conference he conveniently forgets English and stammers out something about putting on a show in batting practice.
17) Ken Griffey Jr. will pull a hamstring when he steps on a sunflower seed in the dugout.
18) In order to compete with Grady Sizemore's "Grady's Ladies" and regain their status as the league heartthrobs, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez will create their own fan section: the "DJ/A-Rod Hoe Squad."
19) A mischievous equipment manager will remove the 'S' from Albert Pujols' jersey in an attempt to see how many times Cardinals commentators will say poo-hole on the air.
20) While on an inter-league road trip to Seattle, Barry Bonds will be caught with his pants down sitting atop the 605 foot tall Space Needle.