April 2009

Rain, rain go away

rain_300.jpgAaaarrrrgggghhhh! Next time the rain dance will include neither diet coke nor malted milk balls.

Nice to hear from so many of you! Yes, I read every single one of the comments. And I love them! I cannot comment on all of them, but I’ll try at least to allude to them more often in my posts.

Just between us….I’m now hearing the Wang-not-trusting-his-foot theory on more than one media outlet. Hmmm. Hey, that’s how it goes.

Bruney and I actually talked about that theory before Wang’s latest fiasco. But I went back to him Sunday and we revisited the topic. (Bruney’s into the blog; he gets it. He knew I was going to talk about it on pregame and also blog about it.) By the way, Bruney really, really supports Wang and believes he will return to form. But – and this is important – the degree to which Wang is struggling is mystifying to every single one of his teammates.

The Yankees also believe Wang is still building arm strength. Here’s what I’m not sure of: Remember when we used to report regularly that Wang’s fingernail was split, was painful and required medical attention? The nail’s not split now. Not sure how that plays into Wang not being Wang. But I’ve been trying to find out.

With the official decision to skip Wang, I suspect the Yankees will have him pitch a simulated game (or two) to try to get him on track. Or they could attribute the poor outings to injury and DL him, but Girardi has been pretty clear in saying Wang isn’t hurt.

Wang has built collateral in the clubhouse, and that helps him here. But the whole confidence thing is very, very tricky. And, let’s face it, it could be debilitating. Wang just doesn’t look the same. I cannot tell you how many football and baseball players have told me over the years that confidence is the most important factor in their success once they reach the professional level.

To answer a few questions:

I am thrilled to report: There WILL be a live chat. Listen, I’m not the least bit shy or afraid or anything like that. I just had NO IDEA if ANYONE would read this little blog of mine. But you read, and I am SO GRATEFUL. And so, we shall chat.

Internet Guru Kevin Sullivan and I will find a time. Tentatively, I think our first chat (of many) could be next week from Detroit – probably Tuesday or Wednesday evening. The tricky part is my little pregame ditty around 6:30 p.m. So the chat might start at 6:45 p.m. and run until first pitch. If they will allow me to chat through the beginning of the game, I would do it. (As long as I can figure out the technological part of this.) As soon as we clarify the details, I will let you know. Thank you so much for your interest. My goal would be to chat weekly, and I’d also love to take questions from you for a player on a bi-weekly basis. (This is kind of, sort of, stealing an idea from my friend, Pete Abraham, who is the King of Blogs. At least we admit it.) We’ll work that out soon, too.

Growing up in South Central Pennsylvania, I loved the Orioles and the Phillies. I admit to continuing a fondness for the O’s. They are so easy to root for. And their pitching is coming. As Andy McPhail told me, this is a big summer for them at the AAA level. My NFL teams included the Eagles and Raiders and I desperately wanted the Bills to win a Super Bowl. But even today I have no particular affinity for one NFL team. But I love the game.

Several of you have asked about players and my postgame interviews. I understand that. So here goes. The Yankees are a pretty cool group. Honestly. They are almost always accommodating, even the biggest of stars. And they are fun sometimes. Like Pettitte punking me. Or Joba, who is always talking and is unbelievably accessible. A.J. rocks and has a great personality. CC is nice. Jeter is fun. Yes, really. I love Posada; I think if I were a player with four rings, I might be like Posada. Except I could never squat for three hours. Swisher is a blast. Damon always says yes to any request. Nady is terrific. Guys like Gardner and Ransom and Cano are great. Teixeira seems very agreeable. Mariano is distinguished and his teammates notice — the consummate professional. I know I didn’t mention every single player but I didn’t intentionally leave anyone out. There are very few players around the league who haven’t been cooperative when I’ve asked. And I’m not trying to suck up. Trust me on that, I’ll call someone out here if I have to. For example, Alex and I have shared an interesting professional rapport – I’ve ended a couple of his group interviews with questions he didn’t like — but he was great with me when we saw him in Tampa. My goal at the moment is a one-on-one, no-holds-barred interview with him. I truly do not know if that will happen.

Just watched Dancing With The Stars. I want you to shoot me.

Here’s the biggest travesty about tonight. Al Leiter was doing the game with Kay and Kenny. Now I won’t see Al til Wednesday because tomorrow is My9. So sad.

A new day with, hopefully, better results

mound300_041909.jpgObviously, getting a repeat of yesterday’s weather was too much to ask.

Lots of stuff on a Sunday morning, with Wang a main topic of discussion, Nady actually providing another day of no news, and the Yanks looking to put yesterday’s debacle behind them. And quickly.

That’s why Swisher walked through the clubhouse and ripped the front and back pages off the newspapers. “New day, fellas!” he said. (Swisher’s introduction of the lineup was entertaining yesterday on FOX. And his Q&A in today’s NY Post with Steve Serby is a good one.)

As for Wang, he doesn’t look like himself on or off the mound. And, at this point, how can it not translate? If his confidence is shot, he’ll need strong results to rebuild it. And he seems a long way from anything close to a good outing.

Girardi believes it started as a mechanical flaw that has evolved into a mental crisis of confidence. Not good. Eiland says it’s Wang who has to work himself out of it, and he strongly believes that he will. “He’s still Chien-Ming Wang,” Eiland says.

Bruney has an interesting perspective, since he sustained two months earlier the same injury as Wang last year. Bruney believes Wang’s troubles stem from not yet trusting his right (push-off) foot. Bruney says he was doing the same thing during his rehab, and his velocity was down and his stuff was off. He worked his way through it — and has been great out of the pen — which is what he says Wang has to do. You’ve got to wonder if that was easier to do in the midst of an offseason or spring, as opposed to during the regular season when you’ve already been shelled thrice.

Not much of a food update. Here’s the deal: On the road, most of us eat around the same time, between pregame and the game. At home, all bets are off. Kenny and Kay probably ate in the press dining room. O’Neill just had pizza and ice cream, which is quite a sight, considering it does not impact his 32-inch waist.

As for me, I had a pretzel that could have chipped glass, so most of it wound up in the garbage can. And some fruit and yogurt.

Okay, O’Neill just stood up (between innings) and said, “I’ve had it! I’ve tried everything else, I’m having a burger!”

He returned smiling because the press dining room lady told him, “Man, you’re eating a lot today!”

A visit from the Food Network

Unbelievable development, particularly for blogging purposes. And, yes, this is a true story. Completely true.

Our runner, Ryan, just tapped me on the shoulder. “There is a guy from the Food Network outside the booth. They’re making food here today. He wants to know if anybody wants anything.”

Bonanza!

Food Network marketing manager Michael Baru was the bearer of good news. (I think he was excited that his offer made me so excited.) The menu was pretty diverse, but here’s what we came up with: Five fish tacos (including Kenny, O’Neill and me) and a Chinese cold noodle for Audio Jim. Kay, Ryan reports, went with “the burger, of course. And fries.”

Ryan the Runner is a fast learner.

No one wanted a cheeseburger or the duck pizza. They had a much fancier name than “duck pizza.”

The Food Network folks scampered away to prepare our order. This will require a blog update, but probably not until after the postgame.

A great way to spend a Friday

What’s shakin’?

Today feels normal, like a regular game on a beautiful day. What better way to spend Friday?

Lorenz (AKA Ron Burgundy) was feisty this morning during our little pregame conference call. Let’s just say he’s been reading. “You write pretty well — for a chick,” he said.

That’s bloggable!

So is O’Neill, eating ice cream, directly from the pint. Chocolate and vanilla. I’ve never seen that before. He said he doesn’t do it often. Big surprise.

Will he finish the pint?

“No!”

Oh, just asking. (Sadly, I’ve finished many pints, mostly Ben & Jerry’s “lowfat” yogurt. It probably has twice the calories.)

So far, our guys appear to eat in the press dining room. There’s a buffet of dogs, burgers, chicken, cold cuts, salad stuff, desserts. Someone commented that we eat a lot of the same food. True. It’s mostly ballpark-type stuff. The last day in Tampa, I just couldn’t do it.

I was talking to Dave Robertson, who is a really nice guy, around 10 a.m. when he was told that Dave Eiland wanted to see him. Robertson kind of figured he’d be sent down when Juan Miranda was called up, but he was hoping not. We’ll see him again.

No matter what, I’ll never, ever forget Robertson. (Keep reading…) He and I were walking out of the Rangers’ Ballpark in Arlington to the bus last August 7 when I hit a divot in the cement, and my left ankle caught and twisted like a Coke cap, resulting in the worst sprained ankle in history. Oh, the pain! (Sorry, Benigno.) Robertson asked if I was okay; I lied. We flew to Anaheim that night; I could barely walk. The entire nightmare in short form (kind of): couldn’t work out but tried to, self-pity led to considerable M&M consumption, gained six pounds in the final two months of the season, eventually went to physical therapy, finally ran again in five months. Five months!

Robertson and I never discuss August 7. But I always think of it when I see him.

Mariano Rivera vowed to talk to Jose Veras and Damaso Marte. He’s a great leader in the bullpen and players listen when he talks. As he often does, Rivera will make some constructive points and then it’ll be up to Veras and Marte to implement his suggestions.

Funny pregame moment in the Cleveland dugout: Carl Pavano spoke to the media in advance of his start Sunday. Yes, he noticed the harsh reception from the crowd yesterday. Brian Cashman went over and shook Pavano’s hand and said hello. “Were you one of the ones who was booing?” Pavano asked.

Not a bad line. Cashman laughed.

The clubhouse was quiet this morning. A lot of players seem to like the routine of weekday evening games better, and these first two weeks have included a lot of different starting times. But a Friday night off isn’t a bad deal. And tomorrow, our friends at FOX take over so the YES crew has the day off. That’s a great deal.

A long time coming

Welcome home!

Now this should be fun. It’s 7:32 a.m. and fearing traffic, I’ll be off to the stadium soon. Today has seemed a long, long time coming. By the time the millionth cowbell was ringing in their ears, the players were definitely ready to leave St. Pete and head home.

Andy Pettitte mentioned on the flight how big a win yesterday’s was. Somehow it did seem more significant than your usual, ninth-game-of-the-season victory. And if the Rays’ bullpen can’t right itself … ouch!

The home opener will be something many of us remember forever. It also promises to be a crazy, busy, exciting day. And one that will be, sadly, blog-free for me. I plan to hit you up this evening, but I’m not even taking the laptop to the stadium. There just won’t be time to blog. Hopefully that’s the one and only time I say that this season.

We are expecting news this morning on Nady, and he wasn’t optimistic as we waited for our luggage at midnight.

Hopefully, you’ll enjoy today’s coverage. And hope to catch up with you afterward. Later, skaters!

Tough break for Nady

nady250_041609.jpgHi there! Unlike this trip, this blog post is going to be short.

Lots going on today. Bad news for Xavier Nady, who is a good guy. His eyes watered as he talked about the initial diagnosis on his right elbow being “not great” and as he said he spent the morning making some difficult calls to family members and friends. He expects a final diagnosis tomorrow, when he will go on the DL, and is worried that he’ll need a second Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He initially had the procedure in September 2001 and said he was ready for the start of A ball the following spring.

This is why you don’t automatically trade an outfielder just because you have one too many.

Interesting approach with Chien-Ming Wang today. He threw his bullpen with Joe Girardi and Dave Eiland among the onlookers. Then he went to the pitcher’s mound and faced live batting practice, with Cody Ransom and Melky Cabrera taking swings. The goal is to have Wang translate his good bullpen sessions to the game, something he clearly hasn’t done through two starts. Wang said the issue has been balance-related, with his legs getting ahead of his arm.

We’ll see how it works Saturday, I guess.

Today’s lunch/dinner update: Kay and Cone ate in the press dining room – somewhat of an upset, to the betting public – as did I, though later. The buffet included meatballs, chicken parm, veggies and stuffed shells. Flaherty skipped ballpark food; he had a sandwich at the hotel.

The Yankees head home after the game and every single person in the traveling party is ecstatic about that. There are a million cowbells here at the Trop – today’s giveaway – so it’ll be a loud sendoff if the Rays get going.

Nice to see everyone wearing No. 42. CC Sabathia said one of the reasons he didn’t fly ahead of the team in anticipation of his start tomorrow is because he wanted to take part in Jackie Robinson Day.

I asked Mariano Rivera about the home opener being tomorrow. His response: “I love it.”

Eiland working with Wang

wang250_041409.jpgHello from the Trop. Good thing we’re under cover. It rained hard all day.

Tonight’s game is on My9, which usually means I don’t work. Today I’m at the Trop to finish up some interviews for a Jackie Robinson feature tomorrow — should be a good one; the pressure is on producer Jared Boshnack 🙂 — and to watch at least the beginning of what should be a great pitching matchup.

Just got back to the booth from the field. Flaherty bought dinner and made the independent decision to get me a grilled chicken sandwich. Nice move. He’s having the same thing. Kay and Cone are eating chicken tenders and fries.

Some notes:
Dave Eiland talked about Wang, saying he’s seen the same struggles and arm angle issues before — during the ’07 playoffs and during a brief period last year, before Wang got hurt.

Eiland said Wang looked strong in the bullpen, as late as 6:45 p.m. Monday. But, the stuff obviously didn’t translate into the game.

“He’s the one who has to do it,” Eiland said. “The player always has to do it.”

Eiland and Girardi met with Wang behind closed doors, probably talking about those things and also making sure Wang remains confident.

“It’s there; I’ve seen it,” Eiland said of Wang’s good stuff. “He just has to take it into a game. He’s going to get it. He’s going to get it because it’s there.”

All of that being said, the Yankees believed last night was a big start for Wang because they didn’t want his awful debut to carry over. That makes Wang’s next start really big, for his mechanics as well as his confidence.

Talked with Alex Rodriguez, who is at the game again tonight. He said he awoke with usual workout soreness but nothing that would be of any concern. He said Dr. Philipon was delighted to hear that. The rain changed Alex’s workout a bit, but not much, and he remains encouraged and upbeat. (His interest in the blog was minimal, though he did ask the name of it. He suggested I sign up Swisher for some sort of a role. Not an awful idea. Everyone wants a piece of Swisher these days.)

Hung out with Mariano for a while as the Rays took BP. Evan Longoria walked along the third base line and tipped his cap. Nice. Mariano appreciated that. It was funny to watch the Rays, especially Longoria, keep an eye on Mariano. He’s baseball royalty. Once Don Zimmer started motioning and yelling over, I knew I was done. Sure enough, Mariano went over to Zim, saying he loves him and had to say hello.

Gabe Kapler had an awesome response to being struck out by Swisher: He now has an answer when people ask him his most embarrassing moment. Also said he had no problem with Swisher’s wanting to keep the ball.

Joe Maddon marveled at that catch Upton made. (Who didn’t?) He said it was as technically perfect as it could have been. Maddon and Molina shared a nice moment during BP. There is much respect between the two, from their days with the Angels.

A long trip is a step closer to coming home. Kay says he’s already packed. Already a better start for the Yanks with Gardner getting a bloop hit.

A-Rod back in town

arod_250.jpgThe Trop is unbelievably loud tonight. More cowbells than the state of Iowa.

Pregame was interesting. Clearly Wang needs to do what he didn’t in his first start – keep the ball down. He’s been getting encouragement from A.J., who yesterday sent Wang an email in Chinese that read, “preparation for domination.”

A.J. uses a translation feature on his phone. He said Wang is teaching him Chinese, little by little. A.J. has been a really, really good teammate in his short time as a Yankee.

Alex arrived in the clubhouse at about 4 p.m. He looks happy, relaxed and thinner. He said he weighs the same, when I asked him. He also said being in Colorado has allowed him to take a “20-second timeout” from the circus that had been swirling around him. You could argue it was more like a full timeout.

Joe Maddon is one of the smartest, nicest men I’ve met in sports. He had a full offseason, following up the World Series by getting married and visiting the Bush White House in early January for one of those “baseball couples” dinners. He said it was awesome. (The marriage AND the White House.) Asked him about Longoria’s hot start and he said, “A sophomore jinx is the result of failure to make adjustments. He’s making adjustments.”

I like that kind of stuff.

Upton and Crawford will test Posada when they have the chance. They Rays have always believed they could run on Wang. And they think Kazmir, coming off a great spring, is already locked in.

Awesome day so far, sunshine, clear skies, fun atmosphere for the game.

Oh, that reminds me: It was my turn to buy dinner, and I took it. For a mere $46, Kay got chicken fingers, Flaherty and I had grilled chicken sandwiches, and Cone had a burger. Four orders of fries, thank you. And I channeled my background as a waitress to carry it all back to the booth at the same time.

Sadly, there won’t be blogging during the game. Logistically, it’s not practical tonight. We’ll catch up soon.

Jeter gets in the holiday spirit

Not. Mentioning. Weather.
I’m pretty sure Harlan was signing autographs before the game.
It will be very interesting to see Alex Rodriguez in Tampa tomorrow night, won’t it? You know he wants to come back, like, yesterday. I guess he’ll talk to the media; I hope so. Likely he won’t have interest in the blog but we’ll mention it if we have the chance.
Bruney, on the other hand, has read the blog and had promised to comment. But he has decided that he will give me his comments and I’ll post them – it’s easier for him that way. That’s fine. We’ll look forward to Bruney weighing in now and then.

jeterblogjoneseaster.jpg

Jeter was in a tremendous mood before the game when he asked for “no negavity and no negative questions since it’s Easter.” And he called me out! I reminded him the postgame tone is generally framed by the actual game. He wasn’t buying it. Jeter also chatted about “American Idol” (he’s watched every season) and internet habits. The short version? Jeter said he stays away from the internet, so this blog has no chance to be among his bookmarks. Sad.
I was completely wrong in my guess that Ransom would get today off – “He’s our guy,” Girardi said. (Damon is off; he’s hitless in his last 14 at-bats against Meche.) With Teixeira wearing what he called “a little splint” on his left wrist – which hurts when he swings right-handed — it could be that he also takes tomorrow off against Kazmir.
OK, it’s come to this: 10 minutes before first pitch, I’m asking Cone if his burger had mustard. He wished it did but, alas, it did not.
Cone bought lunch and Patrick the runner ably handled the duties. Flaherty, Cone and I all went with a burger and fries. Flaherty peer-pressured me into the fries. Their burgers were plain, mine had ketchup.
Oh, wow, I think it’s my turn to buy next time! Just realized that.
No jellybeans to be found. Happy Easter!

Big night for the blog!

swisher250_041109.jpgSwisher had three Red Bulls and three RBI.

Teixeira had balloons — white, black and silver — hanging above his locker and was given a birthday cake by his teammates. A.J. might have been the organizer, not sure about that. Sources say the cake read: “Happy Birthday, Mark. From the Baltimore Orioles.” Nice touch.

Teixeira thinks he’ll play tomorrow but said his left wrist is sore. Joba-Meche should be a good one. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ransom gets a day off, but Girardi wouldn’t give away the lineup tonight. Both teams are holding optional batting practice; the weather, unfortunately, could be an issue.

Finally, folks, this could be a big night for the blog: Bruney not only asked about this little endeavor of ours, he promised to comment! Coolio! One of his teammates told Bruney he couldn’t use curse words. Bruney then said he didn’t know if that was possible. We shall see.

Had to haul tail to make the bus tonight, by the way. CC and his wife were a football field ahead of me as the bus came into view, and I KNEW they wouldn’t leave without them. I made it!