Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Waiting for Opening Day

The blog's been quiet lately, but not to worry, folks. We'll be back at full speed next week. Things have been kind of busy for me lately, but thankfully not much has being going on in the game.

The Yankee-fan anxiety is on as usual. Many fans almost had nervous breakdowns when Wang got hit in the knee. Unlike other fans, Yankee fans don't have to wait till Opening Day to panic.

You had typical reactions from Giambi and Sheffield about the steroids allegations. You realize what a jerk Sheffield is when he actually makes Juice-on look like a good guy.

But come Opening Day, we can focus on the games on the field, where it counts. I'm looking forward to another season of Yankee-hating, and all the ups and downs that come along with it. And the Yankee Despiser and Manny Ortiz will be here to fill you in on all the gory details!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Panic Time!

NY Post:

LAKELAND - Carl Pavano might not be ready by April 15, the first time a fifth starter will be needed.

Jaret Wright spent yesterday on a trainer's table getting treatment for back spasms.

Aaron Small is sidelined with a hamstring injury.

And Mike Mussina gave up 10 runs on 12 hits in four innings against the Tigers yesterday.

Opening Day is 13 days away and the Yankees pitching is a bigger question mark than ever.

When Pavano wasn't able to join the regular throwing program at the start of camp, it was assumed he would be available April 15. However, Joe Torre dampened that the ory yesterday, say ing he wasn't sure Pavano would be ready.

While Pa vano insists he feels great and Torre didn't say there was a physical problem with the right- hander, the ques tion sur faces in regard to Pavano having the required work.

"I'm not sure he will have enough innings by then," Torre said of Pavano when the fifth starter issue was broached. "I don't want to count on somebody and then have to look around for somebody else quickly."

Since Pavano is expected to make one start before camp ends a week from Thursday, it would be difficult for him to get the normal 30 innings a starter extracts from spring training. And since Pavano hasn't pitched in a big league game in nearly eight months, Torre thinks he might require more frames.

"He may need 35 (innings) because he hasn't pitched since the middle of last year," Torre said of Pavano, whose last start was on June 27 due to a shoulder problem that didn't require surgery.

Pavano, who threw to batters who weren't swinging Sunday at Legends Field, may not make his 2006 debut until April 29, the second time in the young season the Yankees play five straight days. Or he could be held out until May 5.

Since Torre explained the situation after the Tigers handed the Yankees a 15-2 loss yesterday at Joker Marchant Stadium, Pavano wasn't available for reaction.

"We have been conservative the whole time and we aren't going to force it," Torre said.

So who faces the Twins in the Metrodome on April 15? Wright and Small are the favorites if they are healthy. Triple-A right-hander Matt DeSalvo could be next in line.

And so, the Yankees continue to wait for a dividend on the four-year, $40 million investment they made in Pavano after the 2004 season. He was 4-6 with a 4.77 ERA in 17 games last year, when he was shelved with rotator cuff tendinitis and associated humerus pain.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Yanks Pursuing Clemens, Again

You knew this was coming: the Yanks are after Roger Clemens.

I think there's more urgency than there was a few months ago (when the rumors started), with Pavano and Small on the shelf. But unlike in the past, the Yanks will not be able to blow past everyone with money. Clemens has his family on his mind, and New York is much further from home than Arlington or Houston. But if Clemens wants the cash, then get ready for another "here we go again" moment.

And with Wells staying in Boston, I don't see the Sox getting too serious about Clemens. They already have seven guys who can start.

But if Clemens does go to the Yanks, I just hope he has another bad postseason. This time in pinstripes.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Mike Lupica: A Tale Of Two Juicers

Another piece about the Bonds/Giambi steroids saga, this time by Mike Lupica. I'm just going to point to some excerpts and give my take on them:

These paragraphs are the kind of thing we need to hear more from the media, rather than everyone just kissing Giambi's fanny:

We now hear all about Giambi's new training program, and his new trainer, some guy named Mark Philippi, a former World's Strongest Man competitor who looks as if he could pull a Jeep Cherokee down the street with his teeth, right before he tries to bench press Legends Field. We are supposed to believe everything now with Giambi is so clean it's as if he's been greened.
Of course, we are now in the brave new world of drug testing in baseball. But that is a world in which no player can be tested for human growth hormones, which only shows up in some blood testing, but not all. It is the same world in which you could conceivably back up hGH with enough testosterone-producing drugs to keep you from triggering a positive test in a urine sample, and pass a urine test with flying colors. Looking sharp and feeling sharp.

But here's where I think Lupica is way, way off:

According to the new book "Game of Shadows," Bonds did not tell anything close to the truth about steroids when he appeared before the BALCO grand jury in December of 2003. According to the same coverage in the San Francisco Chronicle that produced this book, Jason Giambi did tell the truth.
For now, that is the only difference between them, other than the fact that Giambi comes across as a much better guy, and was healthy enough to have a much better year than Bonds did. But Giambi is supposed to be in the clear now — though not the kind of steroid "clear" that Bonds is alleged to have used like body lotion — and Bonds is the one in a world of trouble. Unless, and until, he starts hitting the ball over the wall again.
Maybe Bonds really does think that if he can stay standing long enough to do that, he will get the same kind of cheers and coverage as a big comebacker that Giambi got, and is frankly still getting.

First, that line about the "clear" makes me cringe. Plus, if Lupica or Bonds think that Barry will win fans over by having a good season, they've gotta be crazy. The better Bonds does, the closer he gets to baseball immortality. The jeers will become louder, and the outcry nastier. Outside of San Fran, Bonds will get the Rafael Palmeiro treatment, if not worse.

Giambi's approach to coming back worked: get hot again, hit some big homers, and make the fans love you all over again. Bonds can't do that. Not when the Babe and Hank Aaron are within striking distance.

If Bonds wants some love from the fans, he oughta quit while he's behind. Because things will only get uglier from here.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Olney - Let's Do Blood Tests

I love this idea. You need ESPN Insider to read it, but Buster Olney, in his blog, calls for mandatory blood tests. I wonder how Giambi would fare on that one.

-- Why is everyone so upset about the USA losing in the WBC? Unlike half the Canadian team (and most of the guys in the WBC), they've got a regular season (and for some, October) to worry about. I hope the USA gets eliminated fast. Then I won't have to worry about my favorite players getting hurt in a meaningless tournament.

So let Cuba win. Or China. Or Canada. I really don't care. As long as the Red Sox can go all the way this year.

What About The Other Juice Man?

With the book about Bonds' steroid use coming out, there's a small flurry of writers approaching Juice-on Giambi for his take on the whole matter.

What I found interesting was George King's contrast between how Giambi was forthright about his steroid use, while Bonds, of course, has been very quiet.

I thought King's piece was idiotic. Here is one particularly stupid excerpt:

When Giambi's BALCO grand-jury testimony was leaked in December 2004, Giambi handled the public relations nightmare a lot better than the irascible Bonds. Early last year Giambi held a press conference at Yankee Stadium in which he apologized to his teammates and the fans, and admitted to using steroids without actually uttering the word.

"I got an award on my mantel for it," Giambi said of being forthright. "I tried hard to turn it around."
Giambi was speaking of the Comeback Player of the Year Award he won last year, when he hit 22 homers and drove in 55 runs after the All-Star break.

Hey, if the guy was so forthright, why didn't he just come out and apologize for "steroids" openly? And I find it amazing how suddenly Giambi is so great for apologizing. A year ago, after his apology, the press's response was similar to this piece from Mike Lupica:

Jason Giambi said he told the truth in front of a grand jury when he testified in the BALCO drug case in San Francisco, he just couldn't say about what. Giambi kept saying he was sorry yesterday, his lawyers just wouldn't let him say for what.
He didn't come clean about being dirty.
So on a day when he wanted to come across as a standup guy about steroids, wanting to do that without ever mentioning the word, it was fitting that Giambi spent the whole time sitting down.

And in the spirit of his press conference last year, Giambi was very quiet yesterday. As the Newark Star-Ledger quoted Giambi:
Giambi was asked yesterday about Bonds' arrogant denials as opposed to his own decision to offer a vague apology before spring training last year.
"I just did what I needed to do and go from there," Giambi said. "I'm not going to speak about anybody else. I did the thing that was best for me.
"It's a different situation. I don't really know what's going on. Barry's a friend of mine and I really don't know what's really going on for him and stuff over there. I'm just more focused on (how for me) that's in the past and I'm going forward."

And as I discussed a few weeks ago, the suspicion still has to be there when it comes to Giambi. Especially after last year's mysterious comeback. I have never said for certain that the guy went back on the juice, HGH, or BALCO's latest designer supplement. But with Giambi's history, there is lots of reason for suspicion. Yet the press hasn't picked up on this at all.

To me, the one thing Giambi has going over Bonds is that he's not screwing with baseball immortality. Giambi may end up with 500 HR, but hey, that would just put him in the same boat as juicers like his mentor (and injecter) Mark McGwire and Palmeiro. So I could live with that. And that would probably cloud his chances for the Hall. Especially going up against "clean" players from his era, like Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey Jr., and, to be fair, A-Rod.

If anything, Giambi has been helped in a huge way with the allegations against Palmeiro and Bonds. Giambi, and Sheffield, compared to those two, are second-tier stars. They don't have those eye-popping numbers, at least not yet. And with all the outrage focused on the potential legends, Giambi and Sheff have been able to go about their work quietly, without any distraction. But when their time comes for HOF eligibility, I'm sure we're be hearing a lot about them.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

NY Times' Murray Chass Rips George

There's also a great piece on Steinbrenner in the Times from George Vecsey, but it costs money to view. Damn TimesSelect - MO

A Sure Sign of Hypocrisy


BEFORE we get to the World Baseball Classic, let's deal with a peripheral issue and make one thing perfectly clear. His denials to the contrary, George Steinbrenner was responsible for the ridiculously self-serving sign that was posted Saturday at Legends Field in Tampa, Fla.

Having covered him for his entire 33-year baseball career, I know a Steinbrenner statement when I see it. The sign bashing the Classic, Commissioner Bud Selig and the union did not have to carry Steinbrenner's byline.

How many times over the years has Steinbrenner, the Yankees' principal owner, called his public-relations man in a press box somewhere and dictated a statement with his comments on some issue? It was always entertaining to watch the poor P.R. guy scribbling furiously to keep up with Steinbrenner.

Selig declined again yesterday to talk specifically about the sign, but he, too, has known Steinbrenner for a long time, and he knows a Steinbrenner message when he sees it.

Howard Rubenstein, Steinbrenner's spokesman, said Steinbrenner had nothing to do with the sign, and that if he had, the word Yankees would not have been misspelled.

Rubenstein is good at coming up with irrelevant, obfuscating responses. For instance, when asked about a year ago if Steinbrenner had sustained a medical setback, Rubenstein responded, "George lifts weights every day."

Of course, Steinbrenner can spell Yankees, but the poor guy who was ordered to print the sign got it wrong and didn't proofread it. Rubenstein said the ticket office was responsible for the sign. That would be a first. Never in 33 years has any Steinbrenner minion dared do something like post that sign without direction or approval from on high.

The sign offered an apology to fans for not being able to see certain players, who instead of being with the Yankees are off playing in the inaugural Classic. Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter play for Team USA against Mexico in Phoenix today, and Bernie Williams plays for Puerto Rico in San Juan against Panama tonight.

Having set the precedent, will Steinbrenner post signs of apology when Manager Joe Torre decides not to play a regular in an exhibition game, as he does in spring training?

Last spring, for example, the Yankees played 30 exhibition games, but Rodriguez played 23, Jeter 21 and Williams 16. Yet Steinbrenner made no apologies to the fans who showed up for games and didn't get to see one or more of those players.

That Steinbrenner should oppose the Classic demonstrates his hypocrisy. Steinbrenner, a big booster of the Olympics and a former official of the United States Olympic Committee, opposes the globalization of baseball. If he could, the Ugly American would shut down the Classic.

Monday, March 06, 2006

By George, Spring Matters

My take on the flap over George apologizing for his players going to the WBC? Get over yourself, Steinbrenner.

I've already given my take on the WBC. It's a dumb, dumb idea. But who cares about spring training, either? Maybe some people go to Florida, get some autographs, whatever. But the games are meaningless, and the stars are usually done by the 6th inning (at least till the end of month). And that's why no other team has thought to apologize. Fans going to San Diego camp will miss Jake Peavy. And Red Sox fans won't be seeing Jason Varitek. But why bother apologizing? It's spring training. Nobody really cares, anyway. Aside from the Yankee fans getting horny over Damon's two hits, baseball fans don't look at the boxscores and numbers till Opening Day.

To me, George is saying two things: a) spring training matters to me. A lot. and b) We're the Yankees, the one team that people actually wanna see during the spring. So we have to apologize. Never mind that no one else is apologizing, or should, for that matter.

And at a certain point, it's not worth bitching about the WBC. Now it's just too late. This silly idea is underway, and you hope and pray that the players for your team don't get injured. And at this point, why bother complaining? Selig's not going to change his mind. And George's players are already part of Team USA. If George had a problem with the whole deal, he shouldn't have let his players go. Perhaps the younger and nuttier George of the 1980's would've done something like that. But to complain now? As my father would say, get over it!

In a nutshell, George is just being selfish and egotistical. What else is new?