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Arms Race in the AL East

Posted by athomeatfenway on April 17, 2014

200 Inning & 254 K's ?

200 Inning & 254 K’s ?

If Baseball is 90% pitching and starting pitching represents about 70% of the hurling, then it must be so that the AL East, the best Division in MLB, will be won by the guys who take the mound in the first inning.

But which AL East team has the clear edge after the first 2 weeks of play? And which starters represent the best of the best?

Surely Cobb, Tillman, Tanaka, Kuroda, Pineda, Lester, Lackey and Peavey are presenting their teams with the most quality starts and/or dominating performances.

Those are the contenders for top AL East starter of 2014 so far.

If the season ended today and Boston & New York went to the postseason it is a certainty that Kuroda-Tanaka-Pineda and Lester-Lackey-Peavey would present formidable playoff rotations.

Don’t underestimate Tampa Bay’s 3 best starters, Cobb-Archer-Price,. They are clearly 3rd best but Price and Archer are capable of delivering more and probably will.

The tasty question is who is the top starter in the Division. Tasty, because the answer is Tanaka. He is distancing himself from the pack in a delightful way if you are a Yankee fan, and at an alarming rate if you are everyone else.

Tanaka leads the Division in K’s, IP, and fewest walks. His ERA is a sparkling 2.05. His strikeout rate per 9 innings is 11.45. That works out to 254 K’s if he throws 200 innings. If you have watched him pitch you know that of not for 1 or 2 mistakes he would have allowed no runs at all.

Pretty damn good start to a career, no?

Wait a second. There are 2 A-listers who have an even better ERA than Tanaka. Pineda sits at 1.00 this morning. And Chris Tillman is at a breathtaking 0.84.

What madness. They say that pitchers begin the season more ready than position players but these guys are hotter than hot.

Overall, the eight hurlers mentioned here are racking up innings, limiting hits, registering K’s and providing quality starts. They are definitely the best of the AL East so far.

Unless you consider Toronto’s Mark Buehrle, who is 3 – 0, 0.86 ERA and a WHIP of 0.90.


Go Sox.

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Posted by athomeatfenway on August 12, 2013

 Hodges Mariano pic

Some observations from my baseball life today…..

Today, Mariano Rivera gave up a game tying HR in the 9th to the devastating Miguel Cabrera.  In so doing, he blew his 3rd save in 3 consecutive opportunities.  That had never happened in Mariano’s 19 year career. 

This inspired me to look at Mariano’s game logs on BBRef so I could savor his greatness but then I thought why waste my time.  The game logs will only show he was the perfect closer, totally unique and unimproveable.  It’s a good thing for Yankee fans that Big Stein was banned while Gene Michael assembled the Core 4 back in the day.  As Pete Golenbock wrote in his 2009 book on The Boss, “Another trade that George ordered that Michael refused to make was twenty-one year old Mariano Rivera for veteran free spirit David Wells.  When Michael saw that Rivera was throwing 94 miles per hour, all talks were off.”

Boy.  Without Mariano, the Yankees might be shooting for championship #24 these days.  He’s a true great and he could blow his next 10 saves without diminishing his luster.

Rivera, you would have looked great in a Boston uni.


Larry Colton, author of a baseball and Civil Rights book (Southern League) was on Book TV today.  Colton has written a number of books but he was also a bonafide pro player in his youth, mainly in the minors.  He did however appear in one game for the Phillies in which he struck out 2 in 2 IP.  He K’d Vada Pinson and George Culver on May 8, 1968 as his Phil’s lost to the Reds 10 – 1. 

Colton’s cup of joe came after 3 years of apprenticeship in Eugene, Macon and with the old San Diego Padres of the PCL. 

Culver, his first victim, was a righty reliever who batted .124 lifetime.    Not too memorable. 

Pinson, however, was a 4x All Star, a lifetime .286 hitter who batted over .300 four times.  He led the NL in 4 key hitting categories 7 x:  Runs (1), hits (2),  doubles (2), and triples (2).

How happy is the memory of K’ing Pinson for the 71 year old Colton?  I wanted to know.   Turns out, Colton was happy just to not screw the pooch and lose his composure as he debuted against the likes of  Johnny Bench (ground out), Pete Rose (double) and Tony Perez (double).  Colton is a fine writer and you can read his blog post about his one and only game in the bigs with this link:


Is it my imagination or is the unpopularity of the Cubs on a never ending downswing ?  Vintage  Cub publications from the 50’s and 60’s seem to be offered on eBay at 70% off and go unsold week after week after week.  And their local broadcasts ratings in Chicagoland are off 15% from one year ago, drawing half the audience that Bulls games get and one-third the audience that Black Hawk games enjoy.  Oddly, the Cubs are 52- 64 today,  certainly better than the 46 – 70 mark they were at one year ago.  (I’d mention how their attendance is also off but so is everyone else’s this year.)


Should Gil Hodges be in the HOF ?  Some folks really care about this subject. 

Hodges was a wonderful player on a mythical team, a perennial contender, the Brooklyn Dodgers of 1947 to 1957.  He hit 370 homeruns, was probably the best fielding first baseman of his era, and he was a very, very good hitter for 7 years.

As a manager, he led the Mets from  worst to first, flipping the oddsmakers on their heads in 1969 before he was taken suddenly by a heart attack in 1973, a middle aged man gone far too early.

Unfortunately for Hodges supporters, he wasn’t great in his own time and thus isn’t a HOFer.  Hodges  never led the NL in a key offensive category like average, OBP, Hits, Walks, doubles, triples, stolen bases, runs scored or RBI. Not even once.

He did lead the league in striking out once, sacrifice hits twice, and games played twice. 

Sorry, Hodges supporters.

Go Sox.

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The Yankee Depression of ’13

Posted by athomeatfenway on July 13, 2013

When will Suzyn get her Buffalo leashed?

When will Suzyn get her Buffalo leashed?

In this year when Suzyn Waldman and her trained buffalo are having trouble finding nice things to say about the Yankees I am having no difficulty finding the bad.

Waldman and her loudmouthed Yankee broadcast partner saw Ryan Doumit’s line leave Yankee Stadium.  “IT’S GONE!”, the Buffalo exclaimed.  “No doubt about it, it was a laser.  Two runs on two home runs for the Twins, and they lead the Yankees 2 – 1 here in the 6th.”

“And for this Yankee team, a team that cannot score, that’s bad.”, said Waldman. “ In the past, being down one run in the 6th you would say ‘who cares’, but not with this team.”

“So true”, said the Buffalo.

There was a pregnant silence.

“Well, even with the two homeruns given up by Hughes, he has pitched fantastically today.  I would have him pitch this way every time he makes a start!”, asserted the Buffalo.

“True.”, said Waldman.

Waldman and Buff are in the unusual position of having to dig deep to find something nice to say.

They are subdued and beaten.  They are in a dark mood, sounding like reprimanded adolescents.

There is a lot to be bummed out about.  

Jeter is on the DL again.  The everyday line-up is largely unrecognizable.  The 37-53 (4th place) Twins were out slugging the Yankees in the Bronx.

The Yankees were on a 3 game winning streak as they entered this game.  Good news, right ?  Well….not really.  Those 3 wins were preceded by 3 straight losses.  And those 3 losses were preceded by 6 straight wins – which were preceded by 5 straight losses.

That’s some ugly streaking.

It’s an ugly year in the Evil borough.  I am taking as much relish in these Yankees difficulties as I would in casting a ballot to block Herr Steinbrenner from entering the HOF.

There is so much to enjoy.

CC Sabathia lost his last start by a 3-1 score.  He threw a 113 pitch complete game against the Royals but the Yanks could not score for him.   Nice. 

Yankee fans are sticking a shiv in Joe Girardi’s back again, ignoring the fact that the former Yank catcher has the team 9 games over .500 despite the $90 million of Bomber payroll on the D.L.. 

“I don’t think Girardi is handling the pitchers well.  They should get rid of him.”, says Yankee fan Ray in the Credit Union.

I love it.


Even better, the Yankee line-up is a mess.

Cast your eyes around the Yankee infield and say hello to 4 All Stars:  Teixiera, Cano, Jeter and A Rod.  Whoa.  Hang on a second.  It’s Overbay, Cano, Nunez and Cruz.  I feel downright disoriented.

And do we have Ichiro, Granderson and Swisher in the outfield ?  No.  Swisher went to Cleveland and Grandy has a broken pinky.  So the Yankees have Almonte, Gardner and Suzuki chasing fly balls.

The catching is less than tip top.  The Bombers have Austin Romine behind the plate.  He is batting .162.  Russell Martin and Jorge Posada are long gone.

The Yanks can’t score.  They are inconsistent.   They start 5 guys with whom the casual fan is totally unfamiliar. Jeter is back on the DL after missing 90 games with a broken ankle.

And CC loses a gem.

I hope you are enjoying this baseball season as much as I am.

Go Sox.

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Big Fenway Day for Mr. Nobody

Posted by athomeatfenway on April 21, 2013


It’s been written that Baseball is the perfect game.  Today it allowed everyday heroes to stand center stage and take bows that will be remembered for decades.

Daniel Nava, occasionally familiar with a dramatic homerun, bailed out Clay Buchholz and the non-clutch David Ortiz with a 2-out, 3-run homer in the bottom of the 8th.  His bash into the Sox bullpen was caught expertly by teammate Junichi Tazawa.  It drove in the winning runs in the first Fenway game after the bombing of the Boston Marathon.

Nava put a fine swing on a 1-1 change-up, depositing it in about the same spot as he did another of Mr. Selig’s spheres on June 12, 2010, when he hit a Joe Blanton pitch to become the second player to ever hit a grand slam home run on the first pitch he was thrown in the majors.

Before that debut game, Johnny Pesky told Daniel that anything could happen in his first upcoming at bat.  Still, Nava wasn’t swinging for a homerun 3 years ago, and he wasn’t swinging for the fences today either.  Nor was he swinging for the big bam on April 8, when his homerun won the 2013 Red Sox home opener.

Ironically, that’s when it happens for Daniel.  When he just swings to make contact.

Baseball success has largely eluded Nava since he was a kid.  Nava was just 4’8 ” tall and weighed 70 pounds as a high school freshman.  He grew to 5’5” and 150 by age 18, but could not make the college team at Santa Clara State.  Thus, he became the Bronco’s equipment manager.  A successful stint as a junior college player later earned him a scholarship in a return to Santa Clara, but he went undrafted by the pro’s.  He had to play independent league ball to continue his dream after college.

The irony is that the man who came through when the city needed it today is the player that nobody wanted. He is the player that spent each of the last 6 seasons playing in the minor leagues while getting just 484 at bats in sporadic stays with the big club.

And the day, this day, that Nava honored Boston, the Red Sox honored on field other unrecognized heroes.   Heroes that wear a cap and badge for Watertown, Boston and the Staties.   Heroes that are everyday citizens.  People who run toward the trouble when hell breaks out, not away from it.

Mr. Nobody came through today, a day that capped a week of terror, heartbreak and relief.

Or should I say that it MIGHT have capped it ?  We don’t know what the 30 year old pride of Mountain View, CA will do for us tomorrow.

Daniel has mojo.  Daniel is the Talisman. 

Go Daniel.  Go Sox.


Kevin “I’ll always be a Red Sox” Youkilis, now a Yankee, sports a .295 average currently and has had some timely hits.  No surprise that he doubled in the winning run today against the Jays.  Also no surprise that he left the game early with tightness in his back.  Yankee fans will learn what Sox fans already know about the wear and tear on Kevin’s body.  Youk is Mr. Emo.  He plays all out.  He gets hit, scraped and scuffed.  Youk is a warrior in April and May but will limp to the finish line in August and September.  No criticism intended.  Like former Yankee Paul O’Neil, Youk plays one way.  His intensity is a double edged sword.

Derek Jeter is banged up.  There’s a fracture in the bone that was operated on last year.  Is this the end?  Will he ever again present a reasonable facsimile of his old ability?  Perhaps not.  When the time finally comes for farewells, I’ll remember Jeter for his durability.  The home run he hit for his 3,000th hit was royal.  His 2004 nose bloodying dive into the stands ennobled him.  His patented fall-in-liner started or crowned many a rally.  His batting stats are princely for a shortstop (.313, 255, 1254).  He is almost the King of Shortstops with 2,531 games at SS in 18 years. 

In that count, Jeter is slightly ahead of HOF’er Ozzie Smith, slightly behind HOF’er Aparicio, and 178 games behind the all-time leader, future HOF’er Omar Vizquel. 

Jeter was tip top for a very long time.  He is a first ballot HOF’er.

He would have looked great in a Boston jersey.

Derek Jeter for Scott Cooper in 1994.

I think the Yankees owed us that much.

Go Sox.  J

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George Brett prefers Pine Tar to Hemorrhoids

Posted by athomeatfenway on March 26, 2013

Pt and P H

When July 24 arrives this summer with it should come 30th anniversary remembrances of the Pine Tar game.

Talk about a different world. 

George ruled the roost.  Billy was the skipper.  Berra, trim and bespectacled, coached at 1st base.  Don Zimmer’s corpulent form was poured into pinstripes as he stood in the 3rd base coach’s box.

These were the Yankees of Winfield, Nettles, Piniella and Rags.  They were destined to go 91 – 71 and finish 3rd, 7 games behind Baltimore and 6 behind the Kitty Kats.

These were the Royals of Brett, Wilson, White, U.L., Hal McRae and 44 year old Gaylord Perry in his final tour of duty.  KC would finish under .500 at 79 – 93, good for 2nd place and 20 games behind the Pale Hose.

Haven’t at least 34,000 different people told you that they were at the Pine Tar game?  Some of them were kidding.  33,944 was the official count.

It was a scrappy game played by two teams that had faced each other in the ALCS 4 times in 8 years.  With George holding a grudge that he hadn’t won all 4.

It was a scrappy game, as I said.

KC scratched out one run in the second on a Frank White ground out.  NYY answered with a Winfield solo shot in the bottom of the 2nd.  Frank White got his 2nd RBI in the 4th on a single.  White and Slaught hit back to back triples in the 6th for a 3 to 1 KC lead in the 6th.  Baylor tripled in Campaneris and Piniella, and then Winfield singled in Baylor all in the bottom of the 6th.  Yankees 4, Royals 3.

Thus, with the Yankees ahead by 1 run with 2 outs in the top of the 9th, George Brett did turn on a shoulder high fastball thrown dead  red from the hand of Rich Gossage and Mr. Brett did blister a high line drive that landed 10 rows deep in the sunny right field grandstand.  It was a laser.

Beautiful.  KC takes the lead.

Oh, but then Billy Martin acted on something 3rd baseman Graig Nettles told him before the game.  Nettles had told Billy that Thurman Munson had once been called out in a game for placing pine tar too far up his bat, and that Brett’s bat looked just like it.  Nettles suggested Martin use the rule against Brett should he hurt the Yanks with a big hit that day.

The rest is history.

It was a unique year for the Yankees.  They played .562 ball and finished 3rd.  Winfield killed a seagull in Toronto and was arrested.  Righetti no hit Boston but was converted to a closer.  Martin gets Brett called out on a technicality and gets reversed.

There were also some peculiarities to the Pine Tar TV broadcast.

Bill White and Frank Messer started the broadcast.  White was replaced by Rizzutto in the middle innings.  Bobby Murcer, who had been driven from the playing field to duty in the booth by George, took  Skooter’s place in the 6th and finished the game with Messer.

Early on, White asked Messer if he thought Lou Piniella would someday manage in the bigs.  Messer said, “No, he won’t manage.  Lou says he doesn’t want to stick around the game after he retires.”  Of course, Lou went on to manage for 23 seasons with the Yankees, Reds, Mariners, Rays and Cubs.

At another point, White comments on U.L. Washington’s cleats:  “U.L. is wearing New Balance baseball shoes.  You don’t see a lot of those.  They do make a fine sneaker, though.”  Today, Miguel Cabrera, CJ Wilson and Curtis Granderson are web-site poster boys for New Balance, a dominant brand.

Skooter had his Skooter moments, too.  When someone noted the misty weather conditions, he said it reminded him of that Johnny Mathis tune.  When Bert Campaneris got an infield single, Skooter exclaimed, “Campanella beats it out !  Hey, did I just say Campanella ?”  When a Bobby Murcer Day was mentioned, Skooter asked that somebody please give Murcer a solid gold spittoon for his Skoal shots on his day.

When Bud Black began to unravel somewhat in the 6th,  Messer observed that “This young man does not have a complete game in 11 starts this year….he may have a history of running out of gas.”  Maybe so.  He would go on to have 3 CG’s in ’83, far below Ron Guidry’s league leading 21.  It was a different world.  3 CG’s in 2012 would have been a top 5 performance in the A.L..

Wondrously, ironically, baby faced Don Mattingly, getting just his 100th career plate appearance in this game, prompted Bobby Murcer to say, “He’s a good defensive first baseman.  He likes it in Columbus (the minors) but he knows the majors are the place to be.”  Bobby did not recall that Mattingly had a .332 BA in 5 minor league seasons, I guess.  He had a glove….and a stick.

Credit Murcer with seeing the protest coming.  After Messer’s call of Brett’s pine tar home run….”Uh Oh!  Uh Oh! It’s gone !”, Murcer immediately explained that Martin was telling the umpires that Brett had broken a rule and could be called out, and he explained why.  Bobby was on the money.  And as it turns out, George Brett should have been called out.

Murcer concluded the broadcast saying, “You know, Frank, you and I may have been a part of history today.  I just talked to some people with 50 years in the game and they’ve never seen anything like this.”

Amen, Bobby Mucer.  May you rest in peace, brother.

Today, George Brett says he’s happy for the entire incident.  “Instead of being remembered as the guy with hemorrhoids in the 1980 World Series, I’m the guy with the pine tar bat.  I’ll take it.”

Go Sox.

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10 things to make a Sox fan smile

Posted by athomeatfenway on March 14, 2012

View from inside Green Monster at Jet Blue.

1.  Last year Donald Trump tweeted that A Rod is “an average player now that he is unable to use drugs.”  2 days ago, Trump compared singer Debby Gibson to Derek Jeter and then said, “We love Derek.  That’s not an A Rod statement.  It’s a Derek statement.”  Another slap.

2.  Yankee set up man David Robertson was diagnosed with a sprained foot after slipping on a step while emptying a box in the recycling can outside his home. His Opening Day is in jeopardy. The NY Daily News reports that the Yankees are alarmed.  Love it.

3.  Lawrence McCutchen, Buc centerfielder, wore #25 before veteran A.J. Burnett arrived in the Steel City.  McCutchen told A.J. he could have his old numerals if he agreed to pay a fee of $500,000.  Turns out the financially shrewd Pirate was just starting high so that Burnett could feel good about working him down.  The 2 players settled on a $20,000 payment.  In what major field is McCutchen’s college degree from Oklahoma, you ask ?  Why, a B.S. in Economics, of course.

4.  Felix Doubront has just completed a sterling outing against the Yankees in Tampa as I write this.  The lefty went 4 innings, yielding 2 hits and 0 runs. He faced only 14 batters to secure 12 outs.  This guy is going to contribute.

5.  The Red Sox will be a lot harder to hate in 2012 according to the Wall Street Journal.  The primary reason for this is that “goofy, slow, arrogant”, and yes, “excellent”, Jonathan Papelbon is now a Phillie, and has been replaced by “a pair of genial, vanilla New Yorkers.” i.e.,  Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon.  Perhaps the WSJ is forgetting that Yaz and Rico were both mild mannered New Yorkers that thrived in Boston in an era when the 5 Boroughs lacked no bellicosity for the Sox.

6.  The two jamokes broadcasting tonight’s Yankee – Red Sox game from Tampa on YES just said that Pete Rose had 33 triples for the minor league Tampa Tarpons in 1962 or 1963.  Pretty close.  Charlie Hustle had 30 triples for the Class D Tarpons, batting .330 and leading his team to the best record in the Florida State League in 1961.  The Manager of that team ?  Double no-no man, Johnny Vandermeer.

7.  Clay Buchholz spoke with self-confidence to Ron Chimelis of the Springfield Republican after pitching 4 scoreless innings on Sunday.  He said he knew early in spring training that he would “…be ready to throw with maximum effort in game situations.”  The lower back stress fracture is a thing of the past.

8.  Tom Caron explained on that Pedroia, Ellsbury, and Gonzales are all each capable of winning the 2012 AL MVP.  Moreover, Caron said, “I do expect Adrian Gonzales to have an even bigger year this year.”  Seriously, Tom ?  Better than  2011, when he posted .338, 27, 113, and a league-best 213 hits ?    I’ll have whatever Tom is drinking.

9.  The Globe’s Pete Abraham predicts that these 5 Sox will be on the D.L. on opening day:  Carl Crawford, Rich Hill, Bobby Jenks, John Lackey and Dice K Matsuzaka.  Crawford won’t be out for long.  And’s Ian Brown reports that Dice K threw free and easy on Saturday.  The Interminable One may be back earning his pay before Hill, Jenks and definitely before John Shell Lackey.

10.  WEEI’s Gerry Callahan took credit this morning for the installation of 258 seats inside the Green Monster at Jet Blue Park in Fort Meyers.  The self-absorbed Callahan explained how the idea to create those seats was derived by Larry Lucchino from a conversation Callahan had years earlier with the BoSox President.  I guess you have to have a healthy ego to be the unerring airborne voice of authority in Boston.  Crazy Callahan.

Go Sox.

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What Will You Do in the Off Season ?

Posted by athomeatfenway on September 22, 2011

Big Papi's Body Langage says it all.

Well, the Sox gave away another one last night.  They could have gained 1.5 games vs. TB for the Wild Card but they blew a 4 – 1 lead.


The hopeful & forgiving part of my brain, the part that gives Jose Canseco the benefit of the doubt, the part that voted for O’Bama, the lobe that reluctantly acknowledges that Jeter and Cano are outstanding players, that part of my brain is looking past the end of the season and asking, WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WHEN THE SEASON ENDS NEXT WEEK ?

Well, I have been meaning to research a historical list of Baseball players with the most anatomical names.  Ed Head and Bill Hands to name two. And there are the lighthearted citations of Johnny Dickshot and Nippy Jones.

The list explodes when nicknames are mixed with proper surnames

Like Footsie Blair. Clay Barfoot.  Barry Foote.  Footer Johnson.  

Jerrod Head. Ralph Head.  Chase Headley.

Bird Eye Truby, Eyechart Mientkiewicz, Human Eyeball Lord, Eagle Eye Hemphill, Camera Eye Bishop.  Wagon Tongue Adams.


Iron Hands Sullivan, Handy Andy Pafko.  Brad Hand. Rich Hand.



There are 3 HOF’ers. Rollie Fingers, Three Finger Brown and Shufflefoot Boudreau.


Piano Legs Hickman, Piano Legs Gore.


Three Finger Newkirk.


Jim Hearty, of the 1894 San Fran Hot Peanuts.  What a cool name.


Derek Livernois.  Gary Tongue.


Ears Mossi.

And my personal favorite, Walt “No Neck” Williams.  The hustling little man on The 70’s ChiSox who well matched his nickname visually.

Who did I leave out ?


Even though the team has lost 6 in a row, 8 of 9, 13 of 15, and 18 of their last 26 games, the mission has not changed.  The Sox have got to put their best team on the field 6 more times.

The Probables haven’t been fully announced.  Here is what is on the team sites:

Fri, Sat, Sun at NYY:  Lester v TBD, Wake v TBD, TBD v TBD

Mon, Tue, Wed @ BAL: all TBD.

I expect they will start Beckett & Lester as per the norm in the final 2 BAL games.  That means they have to pick two guys to start on Sunday and Monday.  It’s a crap shoot.  Lackey and Miller are the worst of the remaining choices.  Bedard is a Box of Chocolates.  The rotation should round out as follows:

Fri  @ NYY  7:05    Lester vs. TBD.

Sat @ NYY  4:10    Wake vs. TBD.

Sun at NYY  1:05   Bedard vs. TBD

Mon @ BAL  7:05  Lackey vs. TBD 

 Tue @ BAL  7:05  Beckett vs. TBD

 Wed @ BAL: 7:05  Lester vs. TBD.

Lackey could swap days with Bedard but The Sox will probably see if an extra day of rest helps the most flawed starter on the team.  God only knows who Baltimore will start.  Now that the Yankees have clinched, expect them to rest CC, Nova and Colon.  Expect they will throw AJ at us this weekend with some minor leaguers, which is all in our favor, my fellow Sox fans.

I have never been and will never be a supporter of the New York Yankees.  But I must say something here.  After beating the hell out of Tampa this week, the Empire may further ingratiate themselves to Sox fans by starting poor pitchers and September call-ups all weekend against us.  In so doing, the Yankees may do more to help the Sox at season’s end then the Sox themselves are doing.

What a crazy flipping upside down year.

Posted in BASEBALL, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, NEW YORK YANKEES, RED SOX, Tampa Bay Rays | 1 Comment »

Yankees: Be Happy Lee in Philly !

Posted by athomeatfenway on December 14, 2010

This was not the first time that the Yankees lost out on Cliff Lee in 2010.

On July 9, TV reports announced that the Bombers were very close to completing a deal with Seattle to make Lee a Yankee.  Then a last minute trade sent Rangers top prospect Justin Smoak  to Seattle and landed Lee in Arlington, disrupting Yankee plans.

At the time, Smoak said he felt honored to be the main bait in a deal that landed a guy who looked to be in the hunt for the 2010 Cy Young Award with an 8-3 record, a 2.34 ERA, and 5 complete games in 13 starts.

But despite how heated the bidding for Lee was, it should be noted that his second half performance in 2010 was far from Cy-worthy.   Smoak’s reverence may be as unnecessary as the disappointment felt by Yankee fans today.

Truth is that Cliff Lee may not be healthy enough to warrant a 5 year contract.  He was on the needle to recover from an abdominal strain when playing for Seattle this year, and he went back on the needle to pitch into August and September for the Rangers.

Cliff pretty much spent the month of April taking injections and resting.  He made his first start on April 30, thus missing 5 starts.  He was very good throughout May to July, making a stellar 14 quality starts in 16 tries.

The injections were of platelet-rich plasma, the powers of which for healing muscle strain are as mysterious as those of aspirin.  Mysterious, and in-demand by rich athletes.  Tiger Woods and Hines Ward are users.

After six weeks of treatment and recovery in March & April, Lee was back on the hill for the Mariners.

It is a risky proposition to give a 32 year old pitcher with a recurrent injury $106 million for 5 years.  The Yankees might not be so disappointed this time next year if Lee pulls another muscle and takes a hiatus.

The media frenzy over the competition has occluded more than just Lee’s health history.  There is the matter of his contributions to the 2010 campaign for Texas.  Today’s AP wire story on the Lee signing by Philly said,” Seattle traded Lee to Texas in July, and Lee pitched the Rangers into the World Series for the first time.”

Did he ?  Yes, he had a great D.S. & L.S. before recording a 6.94 ERA in the W.S..  But he didn’t propel Texas into the playoffs.

The Rangers won their Division by 9 games.  In the 11 starts Lee made for Texas, the Rangers lost 7 times including a string of 5 consecutive losses that were also non-quality starts from Aug. 11 and 31.  His ERA in that stretch was 5.21.

Funny thing happened after that point in time:  Cliff had more injections and sat out almost two weeks in September.  He then came back and posted a 1.61 ERA over 4 starts in that month.

Now I like the September, and I like the May through July.  But his April and August were throw aways.  If the pattern of injury and decline continues in Philadelphia, no way will the Phillies be getting their money’s worth.

So take solace, Yankee fans.  Your team is at a clear disadvantage against the refurbished Red Sox, but at least you have not been set to take another Pavano-like fall with Cliff Lee.

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Reggie Jackson: All Star Games, fibs & fleas

Posted by athomeatfenway on December 13, 2010

Reggie Jackson, sometimes accused of lying or exaggeration in his playing days, was asked on MLB TV recently how he felt about giving up vacation time to play in the All Star Game back in the day.

To paraphrase, Reggie replied that he usually lit out of the ASG right after its conclusion because players didn’t have their own private

planes back then, and, they had to scramble back to their team.

He further said that in his “14 or 15” AS games, he usually played 9 innings, implying that All Star Games were more demanding when he played.

I don’t know why that sounded like B.S..  Maybe it was tone.  Maybe it was a memory of Billy Martin telling the Press that (in reference to Steinbrenner & Reggie), “One’s convicted, the other is a born liar.

Maybe that was it.

But it did sound like B.S..  So I checked it out.

Reggie was selected for 14 All Star Games.  He started in 10 of those games.  He started in 6 of his first 7 between 1969 & 1977.  He started in 4 out of his last 5 ending in 1984.

(That he was an ALL Star starter at both ends of his career is a testament to his home run power and personal charisma.  And Reggie would agree with that.  After all, when a handsome, ripped Jose Canseco shocked the world with titanic moon shots in 1986, Reggie told the media that the person Jose most reminded him of was, well……himself.)

Here’s the year-by-year break down of the Jackson ASG selections:

1969: Started & played 5 innings.  1971: Pinch hit for Vida Blue with a HR off Dock Ellis.  1972: Started & played 10 innings.  1973: Started & played 8 innings.  1974: Started & played 9 innings.  1975: Started and played 6 innings.  1977: Started and played 4 innings.  1978: selected, but did not play.  1979: Played 3.5 innings.  1980: Started and played 4.5 innings. 1981: Started and played 3.5 innings.  1982: Started and played 4.5 innings. 1983: selected but did not play.

1984: Reggie started and played 3.5 innings in his final ASG.

There is a heroic dimension to this story that must be appreciated.

As he came out of these games, he was replaced by marginal men like George Hendricks, and Hall of Famers like Jim Rice, Rickey Henderson and Dave Winfield.

In All Star appearances that spanned 3 decades, he was on the field with Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente & Ernie Banks as well as Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken and Darryl Strawberry.

His long sailing All Star ship was steered by Managers from Mayo Smith to Harvey Kuenn to Joe Altobelli.

It’s a stellar run.

Still, he did exaggerate some in that TV interview when he suggested he was usually on the field for 9 innings. Out of 14 ASG’s, he played in 9 in which he appeared in 4.5 innings or less, including 2 in which he only sat on the bench.

But what’s a little self-embellishment among friends ?

As much as I look skeptically at Reggie’s current “devotion” to the pinstripes, as much as I suspect he’s always placed himself way above any team or colleague, I can’t help but like Reggie Jackson.

The record also shows that Billy Martin liked Reggie when he wasn’t driving him crazy.

So what lying was Billy referring to any way ?

I couldn’t find an answer easily by googling, but I did dip into three vintage Bomber books and instantly whiffed the ego driven battle that drove Martin to make that comment.

In Sparky Lyle’s 1979 book, The Bronx Zoo, he wrote, “Reggie is now saying that Billy makes up excuses for not playing him, which I can’t understand.  Reggie once went up to Billy and said, ‘I don’t want to play because so-and-so is pitching.’.  Then after the game George wanted to know why he didn’t play.  Reggie turned around and said, ‘Beats me.’”

That type of Reggie story is not a unique.

In Billy Martin’s 1987 book, Billy Ball, he wrote that Reggie defied him right before the “liar/convict” fiasco. Martin suspended Jackson for his defiance.  Upon returning from the suspension, says Martin, Reggie called a press conference and explained that he had done nothing wrong to deserve the suspension.  The public charade by Reggie made Martin boil.  Martin was soon further enraged when Coach Dick Howser told him that Reggie had just lied to Steinbrenner about spending his banishment working out.

Martin then lost it.



In Jackson’s 1984 book, Reggie, he retells the banishment story and the ensuing liar/convict episode without any mention of speaking to the media upon returning.  He said he was crushed, that he no longer wanted to play, that he was defeated, that he intending to apologize to his team mates (and not Billy) but circumstances prevented him from doing so.  He never mentions that he played innocent with the press.  He wrote that he just reported, stayed mum, & next thing you know Cedric Tallis was telling him that Billy had uttered the unutterable, and the cleaver was falling.

It sounds like Reggie was an All Star at playing games in the clubhouse as much as he was on the field.

But there is no outrage here.

Who am I to judge a man who hit 563 HR’s before steroids entered the game ?

Big players have big egos.

Big egos bring blind spots.

In time, and with the perspective of age, an All Star perhaps bends the truth a little whereas he broke it cleanly as a younger man.

It doesn’t matter to me.  He’s still the young muscle man who bashed an impossible  dinger into the light tower at Tigers stadium four decades  ago.  That’s the Reggie I will always recall.  Young, earnest, and as far as I knew, honest.

Every dog has a flea or two.

So if a fan chooses to ignore how Babe frequented whorehouses, and that Ted was a lousy family man, or that a young Rapid Robert spoke against rookie Jackie Robinson, well I won’t complain.

I’m getting older, too.


George, the poor little rich boy

Posted by athomeatfenway on July 8, 2010

Life seems like a long series of hello’s.  By the time we are George Steinbrenner’s age, we understand that life has actually been a long series of goodbyes.

George is saying goodbye now.  He turned 80 four days ago.  It is written that he was damaged by a stroke in 2003, and was later debilitated by Alzheimers.  He has not been running the Yankees for 5 or more years, I have read.

In his wake George leaves 11 pennants, 7 Championships, one felony conviction and a related banishment from baseball, one $100,000 fine for hiring a gambler to find embarrassing information about one of his players, a second banishment, unscrupulous business dealings including the bilking of taxpayers, broken promises, ruined careers, and on the flip side kind acts that include rebuilding burned homes and funding college for the poor.

One wonders if many of the kindnesses that George performed were inspired by a sense of guilt.

Don’t take my word for the above.

Read Pete Golenbock’s book, GEORGE, The Poor Little Rich boy who Built The Yankee Empire. (Wiley, 2009).

What rules ?

The defining moments of Steinbrenner’s life story involve his actions leading to a felony conviction for illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon’s Committee to Reelect The President (C.R.E.E.P.) in 1972.

Newspaper pundits and the spirit of Billy Martin are indebted to George’s criminality, which enabled Billy to fire off, “One’s a born liar, the other’s convicted.”, to describe George & Reggie.

But that unforgettable line is not what makes his C.R.E.E.P. conviction a window into George’s psyche; it is the way he recklessly with premeditation & without concern for others required loyal employees to break the law on his behalf, and when caught he ultimately blamed the whole thing on an innocent, ruining at least one life and career, while making others miserable and scared.

In 1972, George decided to donate $100,000 to C.R.E.E.P..  He cut a personal check for $75,000.  That was perfectly legal.  Then, he decided he was above the law prohibiting the contribution of corporate funds to an election committee.  He browbeat eight of his American Shipping employees into a secret scheme to contribute about $25,000 in company funds.  He paid a bonus to each employee of $5,000 gross.  The employees wrote personal checks to C.R.E.E.P. equal to the take home amounts.  The employees, who made about $15,000 per year, a very good wage in 1972, were too scared to object.

Subsequently, the Government found the donations by the eight Am Ship employees to be suspicious and investigated Am Ship (along with American Airlines and others) for illegal campaign contributions.

With Steinbrenner’s company under threat of prosecution, George was front and center in a drama of manipulation and deceit.

The Prosecutor gave all accused corporations a chance to plead guilty privately and receive a slap on the wrist.

Only one C.E.O. said “no thank you” and forced the U.S. to mount a prosecution, declining the stay-out-of-jail-free card.

Steinbrenner, who had orchestrated the entire scheme, now lied to his 8 employees, telling them right until the night before trial that he would never let them go to court.  He would go to D.C. and get his wrist slapped, ending the ordeal.  In the meanwhile, he required them to deny everything.  Admit nothing.

He didn’t keep his promises.

In the months leading up to the trial, he brought in his personal attorney, Jack Melcher, to counsel him.  He asked Melcher to speak with the employees, too.

Ultimately, George kept his hands clean until the courts convicted him.  He made the employees endure the trial.  When they testified, their denials held up for a while but eventually one confessed that he had been told to lie on the stand by Jack Melcher.

To his death, Melcher insisted that was untrue and that George had manipulated the employees into pinning the whole thing on him.

George was convicted of a felony.   Melcher, who was only guilty of being Steinbrenner’s lawyer, was soon investigated by the Ohio Bar Association.  The Bar found him clean.

Then something strange occurred.  Something that almost never happens after a lawyer has been cleared by the Bar.  A second Bar investigation was launched and a hearing was set up.  Melcher, who had suffered a serious heart attack in 1971 didn’t believe he would survive the stress.  He resigned from the Bar.

For the rest of his life, George Steinbrenner was thus able to say that he had made a mistake, but that he was  victimized by a bad lawyer in the process.

What is so revealing about Steinbrenner  is that he chose to scheme and break the law, make 8 employees suffer, ruin someone’s career and do it all with  impunity.

He knew he could  manipulate or donate his way out of almost anything.

Brilliant.  Charismatic.  Attractive.  Energetic.  A gifted generalist.  A gifted salesman.  Instinctively Strategic.  Driven.  Rich.  Connected.

He was all of the above.  And he believed that the rules simply did not apply to him.

Not A Baseball Guy

I wince when I see that the last name listed under the Board of Directors of The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is George M. Steinbrenner III.

He must have paid for it in cash.  He surely didn’t get there by being a knowledgeable baseball man.

Golenbock reveals George as unaware that with two outs and a runner on third,that the run scoring from 3rd on a grounder doesn’t count when the out at first is recorded after the run scores.  He doesn’t know the rules.

Golenbock paints George’s acumen for assessing young talent as deficient.  George instructed Gene Michael to trade young & artistic Bernie Williams for being too soft.  He ordered Michael to contact every MLB G.M. and offer up Williams.  Michael knew George was wrong.  He made the contacts but withheld Bernie’s name.

Imagine the Yankees without Mariano Rivera.  George did not see the potential in 21-year-old Mo.  He ordered Michael to trade him to Toronto for David Wells.  Michael refused.  At the time, Mo was registering a 0.17 ERA w a 5 – 2 WL in the Gulf Rookie League.

Golenbock repeatedly shows how incompetent George is as a baseball talent man.  And yet, when his Player Development people built a winner, he got rid of them because he will not share the spotlight of success.

After returning from a 2.5 year banishment after the 1995 season, George fired GM Gene Michael and the entire Player Development team that brought the Yankees to their first post season in 14 years, the people who signed and developed Jeter, Posada, Rivera, Williams and Pettitte, the people who traded for or signed O’Neil, Boggs, Knoblauch, Girardi and Tino Martinez.

Mitch Lukevics was on that Player Development team.  He was canned with the rest of his colleagues after the 1995 post-season concluded in an LDS defeat by Seattle.

Today, Mitch and former Yankee colleague Bill Livesay have transformed a Tampa Bay team from one that had never won more than 71 games in a year to a pennant winner and perennial contender.

George didn’t know or didn’t care how valuable Michael, Lukevics and Livesay were to the Bombers.  In 7 years in the Bronx, they drafted 62 Yankee picks that played in the MLB.  From 1996 through 2008, the span starting after they were fired, not one 1st round Yankee draft pick had played for the New York Yankees.  Not one.

The Resourceful & Respected Joe Torre

Joe Torre has something in his background that no other Manager in the Steinbrenner era had:  His father was a NYPD night shift detective and “an abusive bastard”.  “Being a victim of abuse enabled him to handle and endure the humiliations of another abuser, George Steinbrenner.”

“Clueless Joe”, as the media first tagged him, turned out to be the perfect man for the job.

And…..‘Torre’s brilliance was to defend Steinbrenner to the world but in private to tell him he was full of shit.”

The Good Wife

Old family friend Patty Stecher quoted George’s wife, Joan as saying, “I don’t know why I married George.  I should have known because when I went out with him on our first date he talked for 3 hours about himself.”

The Good with the Bad

Golenbock details George’s cruelty and narcissism until it blurs.

But there are two passages about the good works that Steinbrenner has performed.  The longer of the two is the final chapter, titled, “George, The Munificent”.

George’s business crimes, social crimes and his personal cruelty are certainly somewhat balanced by his acts of generosity.

Golenbock doesn’t spare the rod.  But he does endorse George as a first ballot HOFer.  After all, his financial backing delivered 11 pennants and 7 Championships.

After spending over 300 pages revealing George as felonious, sadistic and narcissistic, Golenbock’s endorsement rings hollow.

It will be impossible to not pity Steinbrenner given that the stroke and Alzheimer’s have silenced the man.

Forgiving hearts will vote him into the HOF, I expect.

Some will believe he has earned a plaque.

And some of us believe that his plaque is tarnished.

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