February 26, 2007

Whew, Abreu!

If you heard a loud groan emanating from around the Westchester area of New York today, it was Bernie Williams' expression of disappointment upon learning that Bobby Abreu is expected to start opening day. It was reported this afternoon that Abreu strained his right, oblique muscle during batting practice. We all know that Bernie was invited to camp to vie for a position on the team; but, apparently having to compete for a job he's held for so long, and performed so successfully was beneath him. The plan for Bernie, it seems, is to sit at home (while staying "in shape") and wait for someone to take a nose dive in the outfield and sustain an injury that would keep him out for the rest of the season, thus opening a spot for him.

I'm a Bernie Williams fan like any Yankees fan. However, the way he's been carrying himself during the last few weeks makes me wonder if he took a blow to the head himself. This isn't the laid-back, easy going guy who writes terrific music and doesn't get involved in off-field mayhem. This is Bernie Williams, a class act. His temper tantrums leading up to his final decision to stay at home and feel sorry for himself while rolling around on a pile of $100 bills makes fans such as this writer wonder if he really is waiting for someone to get hurt so he can jump in and save the day for the Yankees.

It seems Abreu is going to be okay. If all else fails, Melky Cabrera can fill the spot for a week or two if he's still sore. With that said, as much as I used to adore Mr. Williams, if he showed up at Yankee Stadium to fill in for someone on the DL, I'm afraid I won't be cheering. Here's to hoping the Yankees remain healthy, and Bernie remains in the recording studio.

Diagnosis: Pavano-itis

About a thousand people witnessed Carl Pavano, the cosmically challenged Yankee pitcher, get hit on the foot with a ball while pitching batting practice the other day. Because of this, no one can be suspicious when he misses the entire 2007 season with a boo-boo. Besides the fact that he stubbornly refuses to pitch batting practice from behind a screen, this could have happened to anyone. With that said, it only could have happened to Pavano. One of my co-workers commented wryly about Pavano's situation, stating: "I'm waiting for that giant 16 ton weight from Monty Python's Flying Circus to land on his head."

Johnny Damon returned to Legends Field stating that he had a "personal matter" to deal with. Speculation for his absence ran rampant with reporters paused for break from the "Cold War" coverage between A-Rod and Jeter. While Damon refused to disclose the details of his "personal matter", it's an easy guess for this time of year. Damon was doing his taxes.

Baseball returns to television this week. There's snow on the ground, more may be coming, and there's still news streaming from the National Felon League about trades, retirements, shootings, investigations, etc; but, baseball is back. Even though these are only spring training exhibition games, the season begins in February when pitchers and catchers show up to camp for die-hard baseball fans.

The cliche is that on opening day, every team is in first place. The front runners can be picked with a high degree of accuracy early on with few surprises. But, as sure as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays will be watching the World Series from home, Johnson & Johnson will offer Carl Pavano a lucrative endorsement deal for Band Aids.

February 21, 2007

Let The A-Rod/Jeter Issue Zimmer Down

MLB.com reports that Don Zimmer has jumped into the Alex Rodriguez/Derek Jeter "friendship" issue stating: "They're making [Jeter] out to be the bad guy," Zimmer said. "What has he done wrong? Like I say, if A-Rod hits a home run tomorrow, Jeter will be on the top step, the first guy shaking his hand. What do you want [Jeter] to do, put his arm around him and kiss him?"

This writer does not know (or care) if Don Zimmer was approached by members of the media for his opinion, or if he felt compelled to defend Derek in this ridiculous soap opera down in Tampa. Zimmer may or may not be able to help him, but the last time Zimmer jumped in to offer his opinion on a matter, Pedro Martinez grabbed him by the head and tossed him to the ground at Fenway Park.

If reporters need to dust off Don Zimmer for his opinion on essentially a disagreement between two men, then things are truly slow in Baseball Land. As an avid baseball fan who will run through a blizzard to get the newspaper at the end of the driveway in shorts and a tee shirt just to scan the Sports section for baseball news, journalists would be doing their readers a greater service if they would offer scouting reports, or do features on new players such as Kei Igawa instead of writing gossip columns. If reporters still felt the need to report that A-Rod and Derek still haven't kissed and made up, they can tell us that tid-bit of information in a short paragraph.

Tomorrow morning when I retrieve the newspaper from the end of my driveway (my newspaper delivery guy has a weak left arm) I'd love to read some actual articles on baseball...NOT more non-news from spring training that Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter won't share their toys in the sandbox anymore. Enough already.

Finished "Mr. Grudge II" Image

Here you go Stephen. Your finished artwork has been published on the prestigious "Mr. Grudge" blog. I know it's supposed to be me; but...I don't know. I mean, where's the inter-locking "NY" in white lettering on the baseball cap?

I like the drawing. One of my co-workers says it doesn't look like me. The glasses belong to Elton John and the mustache makes me look like the "Brawny Paper Towel" man. But, it's a caricature, right? However, I'm flattered enough to post it here. Thank you. In return, maybe one day I'll write a short piece about you. Brace yourself.

The End Of An Era?

MLB.com reports that Bernie Williams refused the Yankees invitation to Spring Training. In much the same way an ailing man prays for a new heart, meaning someone has to die in order for him to be saved, Bernie is home in Westchester staying in shape hoping that he can replace an injured position player during the regular season. Talk about a spoiled sport. I'd have more respect for him if he went ahead and signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and smacked homers off of Carl Pavano when the Yankees came to town. Instead, he's at home moping around waiting for Hideki Matsui to break his other wrist. How pathetic.

The Yankees owe millionaire Bernie Williams NOTHING. They paid him well during his tenure in pinstripes and now his time is up. He knew last year when the Yankees paid him over one million dollars to be a part time player that his baseball days were nearly over; and now he's acting like he's twenty five years old again and he deserves to be out there.

Bernie should have accepted the Yankees offer of a minor league contract, showed some class and reported to spring training, and then gracefully bow out when the team breaks camp and heads north. Sorry Bernie, nobody stays young forever. If you're unhappy about the way you're being treated, then let me tell you about my last day in uniform when I was forced to turn in my shield due to an injury and then figure out how to raise my family on a police officer's pension. Go ahead and record your music, buy another mansion and quit whimpering already.

The only thing saving Bernie is the other soap opera occurring daily in the Yankee's camp. That one being the one between A-Rod and Jeter. My goodness, you'd think they were married. The only thing worse than Alex bringing this up the other day is all of the other reporters asking both him and Derek about their relationship...constantly. Really folks, who cares?

In eight days, the Yankees begin their exhibition games without Bernie. Maybe, just maybe then may we get some baseball analysis coming out of Tampa. Also, maybe Bernie will recognize the opportunity he missed when he pulled a hissy fit and stayed home in his mansion while others were out there hustling to make the team. Here's to everyone on the Yankees staying healthy for the entire season; and to Bernie for a brilliant career. Only, this time, stay home. I don't want to see you come back if someone has to break a bone for you to do so.

February 19, 2007

Mr. Grudge Is In Gotham Baseball Magazine

Once again,the kind folks over at Gotham Baseball have included me on their terrific website. You can read my articles here. Visit there often for baseball news, enjoy their busy forums, and subscribe to the magazine. This is a special thanks to Gotham Baseball for posting Mr. Grudge often.

Mr. Grudge's New Image

A buddy of mine who is a talented artist created this "caricature" and sent it to me for posting. Since I've had it with the old "Yellow Face" anyway, this drawing was more than welcome.

You can view more of my friend's creations at his blog by clicking here: http://www.stepheningram.com/. Enjoy.

February 16, 2007

Don't Play Cards, Mariano

One of the most glaring cases of over-playing one's hand is that of Mariano Rivera marching into spring training warning the Yankees that they better treat him with "respect" or he'll go elsewhere. Well, Mariano, "respect" from the Yankees for you may only come on Old Timer's Day after 2007 as Sport's Illustrated is reporting the Yankees are interested in Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod) for the 2008 season. Oops, Mo.

This news surely must have reached Mo's agent by now with the impact of a cigar exploding in his face at a state funeral. Did either he or Mariano NOT see this as a possibility? At thirty eight years old, Mariano may have a few years left in him, but whose arm do you want more for around twelve million dollars a year? K-Rod is the person you throw big money at over four or five years. Mariano is the guy you keep at the current pay scale and offer a contract laden with incentives for reaching goals like, say...oh...going beyond the ALDS in the post season?

Don't get me wrong, this writer would love to Mariano hang around for a while and win a few more rings. But, when you threaten to leave the Yankees unless you get more respect (ahem, money) you are actually hijacking paying fans. That's something that ball players don't realize looking down on us lowly fans from atop of their "leather & lumber" towers.

Others ball players should take a lesson from this latest episode with Mariano and the Yankees. You are not irreplaceable. There was a time I thought I would never cheer for Roger Clemens, Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, and a few others from the 1990's and 1980's. So, if one of my favorite Yankees decides that this writer and the rest of the Yankee fans out there aren't paying him enough, well, I'm sure that K-Rod has a favorite song that they can play over the loud-speakers at Yankee Stadium that will get the crowd cheering when he trots out to the mound.

Good luck in Boston, Flushing, or even Tampa, Mariano. Go cry on a big pile of cash.

February 14, 2007

"No Mo" Aftermath

This writer feels a bit of ambivalence after the tirade posted in this forum yesterday. Like most writers, I had an emotional reaction to the news that Mariano Rivera would be willing to leave the Yankees if they didn't show him the proper "respect." Now, after thinking a little more on the subject, It occured to me that if it is respect that Mariano wants, then he should show some respect for the fans.

When Mariano Rivera was busy saving games in the post season for the Yankees, he was paid handsomely. Even the MLB minimum wage going back to when Mo was learning on the job from John Wetteland was a sizable chunk of change. In reality, I'm not worried if Mariano Rivera or any other baseball player are going to get a raise. Mariano makes a lot more money than I do and I make a decent living

Now, this writer believes in the free market. The fact is that Major League Baseball has no salary cap, and baseball in general is making tons of money, then ball players should be compensated too. But, don't belly-ache in public to me about respect from your organization. Ultimately, it is the fans which supply George Steinbrenner with ship loads of currency to lavish upon free agents. The effect is, however, that ticket prices go higher, as does the cost of refreshments, parking, memorabilia, etc. I'm sick and tired of having my pockets vacuumed out when I enter the stadium just to cheer when Rivera exits the bullpen to the strains of "Enter Sandman." It's a terrific experience, and one of the best entrances in baseball. But, I don't want to hear him whine about not being offered a contract extension on the first day of spring training and complain in advance that he'd better be given more than the $10,000,000 a year he's making now (give or take a couple of hundred thousand). I don't even want to do the research on how much he's actually making becuase if I won that much in the lottery it it would change my life forever and he's earning that sum every year. He's a filthy rich man carping beforehand that the Yankees had better making him stinking-filthy rich, or he'll take his glove and ball and play for someone else. Yes, Mo, baseball is a business, and you stink at it.

The Yankees can wait him out as long as they want. They know that if he played for the Red Sox or the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for that matter he'd be miserable. The Yankees have a few young arms in their system to make him look like last year's model "Terminator" against the T1000 in "Terminator II". Yes, he's battle tested and proven, but getting old.

Also, fans who admire him for his past success now have a bad taste in their mouths since he's come out and protested about money. Chances are, after all of the adoration and praise and cheers fans have heaped on Mariano in his relatively long stint as a Yankee that he'll move back to Panama when he retires and live like Bill Gates leaving the fans wondering if they mattered to him at all. At this point in my life, I couldn't care less about the complaints of the rich. Again, I'm not complaining that I'm not rich as I am the master of my own fate and the amount of money I have is in direct correlation to the skills I have. But, when a guy like Mariano starts to cry because he needs an extra million or two I can't shed any tears. The two million or so extra the Yankees will ultimately pay him when the season is over will come out of my pocket and the rest of the folks who will slavishly shell out mega-bucks to attend games at Yankee Stadium.

Greed is not an attractive quality, especially in those you once respected. If you want respect Mo, respect the fans and don't be greedy. If you're not happy, Fenway park is a little ways north and Brian Bruney and others like him can throw really hard.

February 12, 2007

Things You Don't Want To Think About

In life as one gets older, there are things you'd rather not think about. Among the heavy topics which can cause the average middle-aged working slob to stay awake at night are: losing your job, getting cancer, one of your children getting ill, your shaky 2003 tax return, death, and Mariano Rivera not re-signing with the Yankees. Ouch.

Now, this writer considers himself and adult. With a career as a police officer behind me, I can say that I've seen and done a few things which required some guts and fortitude. However, after reading the following quote from the "Sandman" himself on MLB.com, it nearly caused me to fall out of my chair. Mariano was quoted as saying:
"Definitely, I want to finish my career here," Rivera said. "But if they don't give me the respect that I deserve, [if] I have to move on, I have to move on. The Yankees always give me respect. When it comes to these times, I don't like to talk about it." Yikes.

Forget the fact that the Yankees would be fools to let him go for any reason, who exactly would be able to fill in Mariano's shoes? Jay Witasik? (Kidding).

It's going to be a sad and strange season to begin with watching Yankees games on television knowing that Bernie Williams is doing the same thing. But, every time "Enter Sandman" plays over the P.A. system in "The House That Ruth Built" this season, one can't shake the nauseous sensation that at in 2008, someone else might be trotting out to the mound instead. With the luck the Yankees have, the song accompanying his trip to the mound might sound more appropriate for Ringling Brothers than Yankee Stadium.

February 9, 2007

Take It Easy With The Home Runs

MLB.com has an article which poses the question: "Will anyone hit 60 home runs?" It's certainly possible, and there will be contenders . With that said, the first person to hit 60 home runs in '07 will be congratulated first, then scrutinized heavily afterwards by fans and the media.

The "S" word won't go away for a very long time; and those who dare to show off their talent, God given or otherwise, will have to face district-attorney style questioning before the press due to the sins of others and the sins of omission committed by Major League Baseball for it's light-hearted attempts at policing their sport over the years.

Oh well. The individual players may not deserve such treatment; but baseball on the whole needs to be sat under a hot lamp in the interrogation room and grilled on why it let this scourge go on for so long, virtually polluting this great game, it's records, and it's history while souring a generation of true baseball fans.

Bud Selig and the Player's Union can come out tomorrow and swear on a stack of bibles that the steroid issue has been resolved and that none of the players on any team are on steroids and I won't believe it. Not, as long as their are unscrupulous chemists and scientists out there willing to make money formulating performance enhancing drugs which glide in under the radar of current testing methods. I won't believe it because the amount of money to be made playing baseball is so mind-blowing that any extra edge a player can get will mean a bigger payday come arbitration or free agency.

In this fan's view, the game will be ruined for the next decade or so until some real policing is done to ensure that no other fancy, designer potions, lotions, powders, and supplements find their way into baseball locker rooms or player's bodies. It's a tough job, but enforcement of any policy worth enforcing isn't easy. It's marvelous how the Olympics manages to keep it's eye on the athletes involved in their games, and there are far more Olympians than major league baseball players, and from all corners of the Earth.

It would probably be naive to suggest that there aren't any athletes at all cheating in some way or another in Olympic sports; but I appreciate the way the officials for the Olympics pounce on athletes who do violate their drug policies. Good for them. Bad for baseball.

February 7, 2007

It's The Fans, Stupid

This writer has been defending Alex Rodriguez all winter claiming that he will have a superb 2007 season, and that past criticisms of his performance were too harsh. After reading today's Newsday forget everything I said.

For a long time now, this writer has asserted that the fans care more about their favorite team's performance than the players do themselves. There are people out there who will dye their dog's fur blue and orange if they are Mets fans, or name their kids after their favorite players (Hi, this is my son David Wright , and my daughter Mookie Wilson ). How many baseball fans do you know who contemplate suicide after the team they would be willing to bleed for loses a big game? The day after the Mets were eliminated from the NLCS, nearly every Mets fan at this writer's place of employment did not show up to work. This is not an exaggeration. One co-worker who is not a big baseball fan observed "These guys are home crying while the players are luxuriating in their mansions." It just goes to show you, it's all a matter of perspective: the fans love their teams, the players love themselves.

After all of the criticism A-Rod has faced during his tenure as a Yankee, some of it deserved, some of it exaggerated, he is now considering opting out of his contract in 2008 so he can make even MORE money elsewhere. Forget the fact that he is the highest paid player of any sport on the planet; he now wants to suck more life and cash from the pockets of some other team (and thus the slavish baseball fans) to make himself wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice.

In reality, when all of the pretense of fan faithfulness and a player’s loyalty to a franchise are removed, Alex Rodriguez has the absolute right to earn as much money in this capitalist society we live in and to provide for his family and future generations so they may live comfortably. However, I'd have more respect for him and other ball players if he just came out and said it. I'm tired of having the wool pulled over my eyes by players who won't admit that they can't play in New York, don't care that much if they win or lose, getting injured and missing an entire season is not the end of the world for them, and playing for a particular team only matters if it pays enough.

In that respect, Alex has almost fulfilled the above requirement by not confirming or denying a report in Newsday stating that he will exercise his option to leave the Yankees in the 2008 season for more money. What hurts is the fact of after to listening to players such as A-Rod spew the party line about wanting to do "what's best for the team", his tacit admission is a smack in the face. Players used to mask their attempts at a cash grab. This one is so blatant, it makes the most hard boiled and cynical fan cringe. Just come right out and say that you want to be a billionaire, Alex. However, fans reserve the right to dislike your greediness. Yes, it is greedy to try to wiggle out of a contract with a team that got ZILCH from you in the post season (which you were hired for) so you can squeeze a freighter-load of cash out of another team with perhaps less demanding ownership.

The sad fact is that someone is going to cave into Scott Boras and pay him what he wants for A-Rod. The fans will still scramble to the stadium on "Alex Rodriguez Souvenier Pencil Day" to see him play at shortstop while eating $9.00 hot dogs and drinking $8.00 sodas. If they're lucky, they can hang around the stadium after the game and watch as A-Rod trots past them and into his limo while the rookie players on the team pause to scribble their signatures on their $40.00 programs.

It is a rare breed of baseball player these days that will stay with a team for their entire baseball careers. Two of them come to mind: Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn, and they're both bound for Cooperstown.

February 5, 2007

Civil War Baseball Site

For fans who are nterested in baseball's past, here is a terrific website offering a history lesson on baseball's popularity during the Civil War. Visit "Civil War Baseball, Battling on the Diamond", and learn more about your favorite game, baseball.

Must Read: Robert B. Parker Book On Jackie Robinson

Baseball fans must read "Double Play" by Robert B. Parker. It is a fictional account of a man who actually lived. The story depicts this man as the bodyguard of Jackie Robinson. This book is available at Amazon.com.
This book is full of action, and offers a glimpse of what it must have been like for Jackie Robinson during his first year in the major leagues.

Things That Should Change In Baseball

Now that the 2007 season s almost upon us, This writer has a few casual observations about the game which need to be mentioned.

First, get rid of the "Doo Rag." Don't ask me why, but it's the sight of a grown man wearing a rag on his head is just plain irritating. Take it off, put on your cap, and play the game already.

Second, the sunglasses belong on your face, not on top of your hat. This writer is well aware that players receive money from sponsors to wear sneakers, use certain bats, gloves, etc. But, when makers of sunglasses pay a ballplayer to wear their sunglasses, they should be required to actually put them on their faces, and not on top of their hats. You're not at the beach, you're on a ball field. If this writer is going to shell out a week's pay to cart my family into the Bronx to watch you play, then employ the eye wear your being paid to show off to shield your eyes from the sun and catch the %@!*&^$#@ ball already. We all know that you're a millionaire baseball player, don't rub our noses in it by showing off a $300 pair of sunglasses you don't need, want, or ever intend to wear when not playing.

Third, enough with the sunflower seeds already. I'm sure the sunflower seed company gets a pretty penny from Major League Baseball to use their sunflower seeds over anyone elses. Quite frankly, I don't care what the deal is, I get nauseous when the camera pans the dugout and 25 guys are shown spitting wads of phlegm covered shells all over the bench, floor, and onto the field. Also, there's nothing like downing a couple of bags of salty snacks in ninety five degree heat when you have to run around on the field. I'm no scientist, but if you ingest too much salt and mix it with a drink full of electrolytes like Gatorade and run around in the blazing sun on a hot day, won't you spontaneously combust? Here's a suggestion: give the players hot dogs in the dugout. Babe Ruth ate four or five of them during each game and look what that did for him.

Fourth, every time a player pauses to admire his handiwork after hitting a home run, he should be fined ten thousand dollars. To a multi-millionaire, this is chump change. However, a $25 parking fine won't make or break this writer, but it sure is enough to make me pay attention next time I look to park somewhere. A ten thousand dollar fine for shoving the opposing team's face in it should wake a few guys up and run around the bases.

Finally, enough with the jewelry already. Do you really need gold chains around your neck to play ball? This writer remembers when baseball was a sport played by men who charged into home plate ready to take the catcher's head off with his spikes. One isn't likely to take such risks while wearing pretty jewelry, expensive sunglasses, and nicely quaffed head of hair under a doo-rag, and a mouth full of mashed up sunflower seeds.

These are some of the things this writer wants to see disappear in baseball. watch this space for more as the season unfolds.

February 2, 2007

Baseball Fans Love The Superbowl

Die-hard baseball fans love the Superbowl. Do you know why? It's because once football is gone, baseball is just around the corner. New York is a baseball town. There are only a handful of cities around the country where baseball is discussed year round, and New York has to be number one. February is the offical start of the season for New York baseball fans; and, spring traing begins when pitchers and catchers show up to camp to begin workouts.