Monday, April 30, 2007

What We Want

Everyone on this team has been taking their share of responsibility for the disappointing start to the season. You can count me as one of them.

The New York Yankees are my team and that will never change. I know that tomorrow we will start to see how good this ball club can be.

George Steinbrenner believes:

“The season is still very young,” Steinbrenner said, “but up to now the results are clearly not acceptable to me or to Yankee fans. However, Brian Cashman our general manager, Joe Torre our manager and our players all believe that they will turn this around quickly.

“I believe in them,” he continued. “I am here to support them in any way to help them accomplish this turnaround. It is time to put excuses and talk away. It is time to see if people are ready to step up and accept their responsibilities. It is time for all of them to show me and the fans what they are made of.

“Let's get going,” Steinbrenner went on. “Let's go out and win and bring a world championship back to New York. That's what I want.”

That’s what everyone wants.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Here To Stay

It started in the rain and ended in the cold. Phil Hughes’ Major League debut had a bit of everything, but mostly it offered the promise of better days.

People were clamoring around the Yankee Stadium ticket windows after Wednesday’s rainout. Chuck from Walton Street was soaked, but happy. “I got to swap ‘em for the Hughes game. It’s going to be great.”

Although it may not have been great, the 20-year-old showed the stuff that has already made him a cult hero in the Bronx. His next start could be great or maybe it’s the one after that. It’s certainly coming. Even last night’s shivering stragglers could see that.

“I thought he was real good,” said Javier. “He got some tough hitters and some tough hitters got him, but he kept coming. He’s not scared.”

Fearlessness is the only requirement to play baseball in the Bronx. Hughes is here to stay.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


I felt refreshed walking out of Yankee Stadium last night. It was cleansing and calming just to talk to my baseball friends. After much discussion we all agreed that a rainout was exactly what we needed to end our losing streak.

A night off helped wash away five tough games that all came down to the last out.

Everyone is feeling even better after reading a beautiful baseball quote from Jason Giambi in the Daily News.

“I’m not a negative person,” Giambi said. “I look at the positives. We were beat up, but we played with Boston, we faced their three best (pitchers) and we had opportunities to win those games and we had opportunities to win in Tampa and we just didn’t. We got beat.

“Everyone is upbeat and excited to come to the ballpark. You can’t change what’s already happened. We just have to go forward.”


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Knuckle Buster

A worker busts a knuckle maybe 20 times a year. A slipped wrench, a dropped crate or a momentary lapse with a box cutter are all part of the job.

Every time you find yourself replacing a slab of skin like a divot after a sliding catch, you promise to be more careful. But eventually the bleeding stops and a scab forms and then you slip again.


A busted knuckle is similar to a flat slider. You realize it immediately, but it’s too late. The skin is cut and the ball is on its way. You promise it won’t happen again. But everyone knows it will. Workers make mistakes. Ball players make them, too.

Mike Myers will be ready if Lyle Overbay comes up tonight with the bases loaded in the seventh inning.

It’s all part of the job.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Never Easy

Since Alex Rodriguez is doing everything else we’ll also look to him for perspective.

“The key is not getting discouraged,” he said after last night’s loss.

Someone then asked if the game seemed easy these days. Rodriguez laughed.

“Baseball is not easy.”

It never is. Not on either side of the ball. The starting rotation is struggling with injuries and that has dropped a lot of innings on the bullpen. Everyone is doing their best. Sometimes your best isn’t good enough, but if you keep going things will turn. Joe Torre clearly has this team ready to play because they are in every game.

They will be there again tonight. With Chien-Ming Wang on the mound they will be on the right side of the score. He is the perfect man to get things rolling.

There’s an old baseball rule that says you should never look past today’s game. It’s an old rule because it’s a good one, but it’s hard not to think about stinging some wins together with Andy Pettitte starting tomorrow and Phil Hughes on Thursday.

No one could get discouraged looking forward to that.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Good Fight

I’m very proud of my baseball team. Everyone in the Bronx is proud of this team. They have fought the good fight all year and trudged into Tampa a few hours ago to get ready for another brawl.

Nothing has come easy in April. Last night Wil Nieves dislocated his thumb, but had it jammed back into place on the field and stayed in the game. Jorge Posada was still in pain from Friday’s injury, but pinch hit and drew a walk. Josh Phelps ended up behind the plate for the first time in more than five years.

Everyone is taking everything into every game. I’m happy with what they’ve accomplished and very excited about how good they’re going to be once they get back: Hideki Matsui, Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano.

These April battles will make them better. They’re building a fighter’s mentality: Never give up and never back down.

Next round is tonight in Tampa. Ding.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sunday Afternoon

It’s a beautiful day for baseball in the Bronx. They are playing in parks and parking lots with bats and baseballs and broomsticks and handballs. They have milk-carton gloves and cardboard bases and a warm April sun.

Over coffee and newspapers the talk turns to the Yankees who are stuck in Boston on get-away day.

“Who ever heard of playing baseball on a Sunday night?” someone asks.

“Fat-cat TV guys,” another shoots back.

“The players play the games and we buy the tickets. Why don’t we get a say?”

Everyone laughs.

It’s a good day to discuss matters of interest and Robinson Cano comes up next.

We recently heard an interview where Cano was asked to explain why he hits better on the road than at Yankee Stadium. It was suggested that there could be fewer distractions away from the Bronx.

“Maybe,” Cano said. “You don’t have to worry about leaving early and driving in the traffic.”

We tossed this around awhile and may have hit on something. There are plenty of great places to live within walking distance of the Stadium. At the very least we can chip in to get him a MetroCard.

“This is New York City. Who even knows how to drive?”


“I like this Chase Wright,” someone pipes up.

“I’m looking forward to tonight. Going to listen on the radio.”

“They come home on Wednesday, right?”


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Winning And Losing

Winning and losing are close. They aren’t twins, but they’re like brothers.

The first thing you learn in baseball is that there can’t be one without the other. The game demands a winner and a loser. Anything less is not a game.

You understand once you get to know them both. You build on your wins, learn from your losses and always look forward to tomorrow.

Your next win is always closer than your last loss.

Today is the day. Tomorrow is the night. Play ball.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Anything Is Possible

I cracked my hands clapping and cracked my voice cheering. I pulled something in my back when the ball jumped off A-Rod’s bat and I hugged a group of English soccer fans who were my neighbors for the afternoon.

It turned out to be one heck of day.

Many called it an improbable comeback, but nothing is really improbable in baseball. The nearly impossible is always foremost in my mind. I was reminded of that before yesterday’s game when someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was my neighbors from Chelsea, England.

“So what are the rules?”

I was stunned for a moment. I have played and watched baseball all my life. I have actually read the rulebook cover-to-cover several times, but explaining it was harder than I imagined.

I started with the theory that a baseball game could last forever. It’s improbable, but certainly possible. Just like scoring six runs with two outs in the ninth inning to win.

The interesting thing is that I honestly never imagined another fate. I have never given up on a game until the last out. Ever. My English buddies picked up on that and were on their feet for the rally. They were cheering like South Bronx natives by the time A-Rod’s blast landed.

“Bloody, great game! You Yanks can really play ‘em!”


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Day Game

A day game after a night game is tough on players, especially catchers. Jorge Posada will get a break this afternoon, but he’ll be there if the game is close and we need a big swing.

If Posada can be ready then there is no excuse for not blogging a little this morning.

Last night was another cold and drizzly one, but thankfully I had nine runs to keep me warm.

Two of them came off the bat of Alex Rodriguez. I sit behind the plate, but way, way up so I don’t hear much from the field. I heard that sixth-inning blast. Thwack. Wow, what a sound.

The legend of Phil Hughes continues to grow. Word of his six shutout innings and 10 strikeouts against Syracuse quickly filtered through the crowd around the players’ gate after the game.

“Do you think he’s coming up?” asked Jose.

“Soon, my friend. Baseball is a game of patience.”

“Maybe in a couple of weeks?”

“Yeah, maybe. Get some sleep. Day game tomorrow.”

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

An Honor

It was an honor to sit in a cold drizzle and salute Jackie Robinson at Yankee Stadium. His memory has always been an inspiration and thoughts of him and Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez have comforted me through many justice marches and protests.

Robinson has always held a place of honor in the Bronx despite being a Dodger. His official spot was carved out with a plaque in Monument Park:

Jackie Robinson
Uniform number retired throughout baseball: 1997.

In becoming the first Major League player to break the color
barrier, Jackie will forever be an inspiration with his grace, dignity and perseverance. His story and the stories of those who never had the same opportunity must never be forgotten.

The Yankees donated $1 million to The Jackie Robinson Foundation.

The video tribute before the game was especially moving. Dozens of players said, “Thank you, Jackie Robinson.” And dozens more said, “I am Jackie Robinson.”

It’s an honor to say both.

The only thing I can add is “Thank you, Rachel Robinson” for never letting this country forget how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Chase

Baseball is a wonderfully magical game. Sometimes that gets lost in today’s culture of statistics and win projections. Fans have far too much to worry about and often lose sight of what’s really important.

The only thing that matters is that Chase Wright is taking the ball for the Yankees in his Major League debut: One game, one starter, one team and nine innings. Something magical and wonderful and interesting is sure to happen.

Baseball is all about the day-to-day chase. It must be enjoyed one win at a time and endured one loss at a time. Think ahead and you’ll miss the whole season: 101 wins, 95 wins, 97 wins happened one day at a time.

Chase Wright goes tonight. Yeah.

Monday, April 16, 2007


It’s always stunning to see Mariano Rivera surrender a lead, but yesterday’s painful loss turned out to be a fitting tribute to Jackie Robinson.

Rivera walked off the field in defeat much the same as Robinson did at the Polo Grounds in 1951. Marco Scutaro’s home run probably won’t have the lasting impression of Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” but defeat shows a man’s character much more than victory.

Rivera has always displayed everything that defined Robinson: Courage, talent, determination, humility and dignity. Yesterday, he left a pitch up and over the plate that was hit for a game-winner. It was a mistake by baseball’s greatest closer.

Mistakes happen every day. Robinson – the kid from Pepper Street in Pasadena – and Rivera – the son of a Panamanian fisherman – were taught to overcome them.

Robinson overcame more than anyone could ever imagine. Rivera – like the rest of us – is far better off because of him, but there are always obstacles.

Rivera fought his way through the minor leagues and grew into an anchor on one of baseball’s finest teams. But it’s been the way he walks away from defeat that defines him as a player and a man.

People have always looked for Rivera’s weakness. First it was giving up the lead in the 1997 American League Division Series against Cleveland. Then it was losing the 2001 World Series against Arizona. Finally, it was game four of the disappointing 2004 American League Championship Series against Boston. Rivera has come back stronger each time.

It’s now clear that Rivera, like Robinson, has no weakness.

On Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium there will again be only two 42’s in baseball: Robinson and Rivera.

A very fitting tribute, indeed.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

West Coast Baseball

West Coast baseball can be difficult and losses really hurt. They are especially painful when you battle into the 11th inning only to see it slip away.

You sit alone at 2:00 a.m. with the television flicking across a shadowy room. Moments before you were in the middle of a bases-loaded-one-out situation trying to push the game to the 12th inning.

Now, you slump in your chair as your team walks off the field.

Heads up. Everyone fought hard and just came up short. It happens. As Mariano Rivera says, “That’s baseball.”

You total your scorecard and listen to the post-game interviews before trying to sleep. Rest easy because tomorrow always offers more promise than today. Of course, it’s already tomorrow. No, it’s today and Rasner is ready. Pettitte goes tomorrow, I think.

That’s West Coast baseball in the Bronx.

Friday, April 13, 2007


I was flipping the channels on the Yankees’ off day and finally settled in with the Tigers and Blue Jays on my free preview of MLB Extra Innings on InDemand.

I could have watched the Royals and Orioles or the Nationals and Braves or the Devil Rays and Twins.

What’s more important than having every baseball game available on television?

If you answered, “Having every game at people’s fingertips is one of the most important issues facing the people of the United States,” then Senator John Kerry thanks you.

Kerry held hearings and called for an FCC investigation on an agreement that would have shown “out-of-market” Major League games only on DirectTV.

The political pressure worked. Major League Baseball struck a last-minute deal to keep its Extra Innings package on cable television.

“We kept talking and pressing until we had a deal that protects the rights of most fans to follow their hometown team,” Kerry said.

Over three million Americans will be homeless this year, 12.5 million children go to bed hungry every night, nearly 50 million people have no access to quality healthcare and the most important thing on the mind of a United States Senator like John Kerry is whether a few people have televised access to a specific baseball game?


Time Warner, Comcast and Cox are the big winners here. They got a publicly elected Senator to help ramrod through their private multimillion-dollar contract.

If Kerry was honestly interested in the rights and welfare of baseball fans and every other American he would call hearings on: Homelessness, poverty, healthcare, education, malnutrition, racial justice and a thousand more pressing issues.

Of course, Kerry doesn’t have time for any of that with all those baseball games to watch.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


The Yankees lost the game, but won the series in Minnesota. Mike Mussina left last night in the third inning with a hamstring strain.

That’s the bad and the good and the very bad. At least the very bad doesn’t sound all that bad.

“I don’t limp and I can still touch my toes,” Mussina said. “So it’s not bad.”

Good. Well, as good as bad can get. And I believe that makes everything okay.

It’s certainly not okay that guys keep going down with hamstring injuries. First is was Chien-Ming Wang and then Hideki Matsui and now Mussina.

I’m not a doctor or a trainer or even a player anymore, but I do have two unstrained hamstrings that aren’t doing much these days since I only run when I smell pizza. I would gladly loan them out if they would help the team because first and foremost I am a Yankee. And that is very good.


My “Got Melky?” T-shirt hit the laundry bag after an 0 for 3 and a loss. But I’ll keep looking for an edge because watching that kid play makes me smile.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

An Edge

I believe in the one-fan-one-vote system. I will cheer and study and defend my team until my last breath, but I realize my dedication means nothing in the grand scheme of the game. I can’t influence a pitch or a swing or even a catch no matter how strong my support. I barely have the clout to get a bag of peanuts thrown in my direction at Yankee Stadium.

But that doesn’t stop me from trying.

I dug into my T-shirt drawer when Melky Cabrera started the season 2 for 21. I wore “Got Melky?” yesterday and he went 3 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored. He also made a great catch in the eighth inning.

I don’t honestly believe I had anything to do with his success, but I’m still not willing to remove my T-shirt. As Melky and the Yankees roll through this weekend and into the next home stand I will certainly be getting a bit ripe.

I may get some extra room on the train and will probably be able to clear a few counter seats in any coffee shop, but an edge is an edge.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Big Comfy Dome

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “The next best thing to home is a big comfy dome.”

At least in April.

The Yankees just needed a little heat to get things rolling. The fake-ballpark feel of the Metrodome did nothing to detract from the fact that this was the first time anyone has been warm in a week.

Carl Pavano was excellent. Alex Rodriguez hit another home run and drove in a pair. Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, Bobby Abreu and Jorge Posada were their usual understatedly-brilliant selves. The bullpen got a break and the Bronx rested easy last night.

It was all good, but everyone is a bit wary this morning. This is baseball and your advantage can flip as quickly as a pancake. The rock-hard turf and mysterious roof can turn quickly, but the Yankees hope to be on their way to Oakland before it does.

A quiet comfort comes with Andy Pettitte. The big lefty is tough, smart, talented and confident. Tonight he will also be warm in that big comfy dome.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Painfully Cold

Cold hurts. It tightens your neck and lower back. It makes your joints creak and cracks everything it can reach: Hands, cheeks, lips and fingertips.

We endured a week of pain in the Bronx. Johnny Damon missed a few games and Hideki Matsui is on the 15-day disabled list to take care of a hamstring strain.

There was the usual wear and tear of playing baseball – Derek Jeter fouled a ball off his foot and Bobby Abreu was nailed by a Chris Ray fastball – and it all feels worse when the cold is biting.

Darrell Rasner developed a pair of blisters in Sunday’s series finale against Baltimore from trying to spin his curveball on a snowy afternoon.

My only responsibility during the season-opening home stand was getting myself to Yankee Stadium, filling out my scorecard and cheering. Even that took its toll. I’m stiff and sore and nursing cracked hands this morning.

I’ve never been much for indoor baseball. There is a painful childhood incident that still causes me to swing a bat with caution in the house. But this trip to the Metrodome is actually welcomed. We’ll have to deal with playing on turf and trying to pick balls out of the ball-colored roof, but at least it won’t be cold and snowy.

This six-game road trip will help the team get in the flow of the season and eight more days into April should warm the Bronx. I’m pretty sure it won’t be any colder next Tuesday when the guys come home to face Cleveland. Yeah, pretty sure.

Friday, April 6, 2007


All you really need are a few good T-shirts to get you through a baseball summer. April is an entirely different matter.

I piled on five layers last night: A Derek Jeter T-shirt, a Yankee sweatshirt, a Yankee pullover fleece, a Yankee lightweight jacket and a Yankee hooded parka. I wore thermal underwear, heavy socks, boots and a hat.

I was still cold.

No one was making excuses for the errors and wild pitches and passed balls, but I don’t know how they played at all. It took me almost five minutes to get out of my seat after the game and I moved so slowly down the ramps that they nearly locked me in the Stadium.

It was a tough night to do anything. Playing good baseball was nearly impossible. Luis Vizcaino had difficulty gripping the ball. I had trouble just gripping my pencil and scorecard.

Tonight will be just as cold and it might even snow again, but Mike Mussina usually finds a way to get it done regardless of the weather. So load up the layers and head to the Bronx.

Scoring At Home

I have one final note on Bud Selig’s salary for those scoring at home.

The Major League Baseball Commissioner, who can’t hit or throw a curveball, makes more than American League Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana. He also makes more than National League Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb.

Selig makes $10 million more than the combined salaries of American League MVP Justin Morneau and National League MVP Ryan Howard.

Selig makes more than you and me and everyone else that sat in a frigid Yankee Stadium last night.

He makes a lot more than the people who couldn't even afford tickets to sit in the cold.

Thursday, April 5, 2007


There has been quite a stir in the Bronx over the recent news that Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig was paid $14.5 million last year.

“He got it all from us,” my friend Javier shrugs. “Revenue sharing and luxury tax; it’s all bad for the Bronx. He’s just one more rich guy stealing from poor people.”

Javier turns his pockets inside-out.

“See? Bud’s got it all.”

The Commissioner is supposed to look out for the best interests of baseball. Selig has always looked out for the best interests of the bottom-line.

That’s why owners love him: Mets Chairman Fred Wilpon recently called him, “…the greatest commissioner of all time.” And the media fawns over him: Sports Weekly assembled a “panel of nine experts” that voted Selig the most influential person in baseball in a story titled: Optimism, hope nourish commissioner’s labor of love.


The first player on that list was Barry Bonds at number 15 and Derek Jeter was the only other in the top 25. Selig has certainly succeeded in concentrating the money and power at the very top of Major League Baseball’s monopoly.

He’s done plenty to hold down players’ salaries while inflating his own. There are 10 current New York Yankees whose combined salaries are less than Selig’s. That list includes one of the greatest pitchers ever: Mariano Rivera, last year’s American League Cy Young Award runner-up: Chien-Ming Wang, along with Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Sean Henn, Scott Proctor, Miguel Cairo, Wil Nieves, Darrell Rasner and Brian Bruney.

After hearing of Selig’s fat paycheck the consensus in the Bronx is that: Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, Jorge Posada, Bobby Abreu, Doug Mientkiewicz, Josh Phelps, Kei Igawa, Mike Myers, Luis Vizcaino, Kyle Farnsworth, Jason Giambi and even Carl Pavano are woefully underpaid.

And Yankee fans are criminally overtaxed.

Thanks Bud.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Cashing In

George Steinbrenner is a starter and Brian Cashman is a finisher. We got a good look at both on Opening Day.

There were the obvious signs in free-agent addition Jason Giambi and big-trade acquisition Alex Rodriguez, but the subtle keys to victory were in Steinbrenner’s constant desire to win and Cashman’s ability to deal.

Bobby Abreu had two hits, scored two runs and had one big RBI on Opening Day. He fits so perfectly on this team that it’s hard to believe he hasn’t been here forever.

When the Yankees needed a big bat and a solid starter for last year’s stretch run, Cashman put together a deal for Abreu and the late Cory Lidle. The only drawback was that it would cost money. Steinbrenner, who has always plowed profits back into the team, quickly signed off because he wants a winner as badly as the players and fans.

Luis Vizcaino picked up the win in the opener on the strength of a perfect 7th inning. Cashman got him up – along with Ross Ohlendorf, Steven Jackson and Alberto Gonzalez – in the Randy Johnson trade.

The deals for Abreu and Vizcaino were so one sided in our favor that some in the Bronx have wondered if Cashman finished them with a ski mask and a .38.

“He robbed ‘em,” says my friend Javier. “But Cashman doesn’t need a .38. He just needs The Boss.”

The Opening Day victory proves we need them both.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Catch Up With Ketchup

Ketchup is good on french fries.

Catch up is needed after Opening Day.

It’s good that you can’t blog from Yankee Stadium. I certainly don’t need any distractions other than a pencil and my scorecard.

This is the first time I’ve been near a computer since my team arrived back in the Bronx. They worked out at Yankee Stadium on Sunday in a cold drizzle and Jason Giambi stopped to greet the huddled mass near the players’ gate.

“How are you guys doing?” Giambi grinned.

The group eagerly thrust hands. I believe he shook mine first, but others dispute that.

Giambi was peppered with the usual stammering questions and autograph requests.

“How was Spring Training?”

“Good, real good. We’re ready to go.”

“How do you like this cold weather?”

“Love it.”

“We gonna win it all?”

“We’re sure gonna try.”

Small talk that meant a lot to people who love the big man with the big smile.

“He is so cool,” one of them said.

Giambi helped Cory Lidle’s family through an emotional Opening Day ceremony and then drove in three runs on two hits. Joe Torre called him, “…one of the leaders in this clubhouse.”

He is certainly a leader with the people.

Giambi attended a swanky Midtown affair last night, but somehow we feel he would have been more comfortable hanging out with us at the Crown Diner. Ordering up a grilled cheese sandwich and french fries. Extra ketchup, please.

As Advertised

Doug Mientkiewicz came as advertised.

“He’s a tough ballplayer who will do anything to win,” Brian Cashman promised.

On Opening Day Mientkiewicz dropped a perfect sacrifice bunt that set up a big sixth inning and used an aggressive slide to get under Dioner Navarro’s tag with a huge insurance run in the eighth.

Many in the Bronx got their first look on Sunday when he left the Stadium after a work out. He had bags over each shoulder and was rolling two other huge suitcases. When fans yelled his name he turned smoothly, nodded and winked.

Slick fielding.