August 2009

Living the fantasy life

hinske250.jpgThe Yankees’ fantasy football draft took place last night at the ESPN Zone in Baltimore. There was nearly perfect attendance as some players picked their teams and others watched, and all enjoyed the show put on by league commissioner Eric Hinske.

Hinske, apparently, had a comment for nearly every draft pick — mostly indicating to his competitors that they had just made a terrible selection. He also watched the clock. Owners had two minutes to make their picks; those who duplicated a pick already made — because they were immersed in research instead of paying attention — were fined $100. There were five of those miscues.

Hughes had the first overall pick, selecting Adrian Peterson. Bruney, last year’s runner-up, went with Maurice Jones-Drew. And Hinske picked DeAngelo Williams third. Last year’s winner, K-Long, selected a bunch of his hometown Cardinals, beginning with Larry Fitzgerald eighth overall.

A few people have asked about Jeter’s involvement. He was a late addition to the league, asking to join Hinske’s team. Hinske was prepared to go it alone but accepted the Captain’s offer.

“He just wants to be on the winning team,” Hinske said.

The players are having a lot of fun with this, and some spent a long time in research before the draft. We’ll have plenty on the draft and the fantasy league in the coming days.

Hideki Matsui
: He indicated today after hitting in the cage that his knees feel “great.” (No translator needed.) The Yankees training/medical staff has done a great job managing his knees this season and draining his knee on a couple of occasions. Tonight, he plays in his seventh consecutive game. If he doesn’t get a day of in Baltimore tomorrow or Wednesday, he’ll surely get one in the four-game set on the Toronto turf.

Alfredo Aceves
: He won his ninth game yesterday and today he took a liner off his left — left — biceps during BP. Aceves stayed on the field for the entire batting practice. In the meantime, a bruise had formed. He said he was fine.

Phil Hughes
: He’s going to love seeing this: Peterson just scored on a 75-yard run on the first play from scrimmage against the Texans.

Michael Kay: He has a heaping spoonful — emphasis on heaping — of peanut butter on a plastic plate in front of him. That Atkins diet has to be a ton of fun, doesn’t it?

Are you ready for some (fantasy) football?

A quiet Sunday morning in the clubhouse. The Yankees held optional batting practice. CC was hanging out with his 5-year-old son. Lil’ C watched his dad’s side session then took some hacks in the cage. Not surprisingly, Lil’ C can swing the bat.

A bunch of players were knee-deep in preparations for their fantasy football draft, scheduled for tonight. There were more fantasy football magazines in the clubhouse than there are at 7-Eleven. Rumor has it, Hinske is taking his job as league commissioner very, very seriously.

A day after wearing a Donovan McNabb jersey, Bruney sauntered to his locker wearing a Tony Romo jersey. He says he’s a lifelong Cowboys fan and wore the Eagles jersey because it was a gift from Damon. Hughes seemed disgusted by that. Hughes and Bruney have the first and second overall picks in the fantasy draft.

We’ll get you plenty of info on the fantasy football developments before the NFL season starts Sept. 10. Alex is part of the league. He was wearing a Bears hat yesterday. “I just like the hat,” he said. “It was a gift.”

What’s going on with all the NFL-themed gifts?

Joba Chamberlain: The Joba Rules are something. He’s out after three innings and 35 pitches. Aceves is in. Can’t wait to hear what Joba says about this outing after the game. One question looking ahead to next season: Will there be Hughes Rules?

George Martin: Two weeks from today, Sept. 13, the all-time great New York Giant will continue his Journey for 9/11 by walking from the George Washington Bridge to Giants Stadium. The 13-mile walk begins at 10 a.m. It ends in plenty of time for the Giants season opener at 4:15. Harry Carson and O.J. Anderson will join Martin, who walked across the country — 3,003 miles — on his original “Journey,” which benefits responders to 9/11 and helps with their healthcare needs. (We’d walk if we could; the Yankees have a 1 p.m. tilt against the Orioles that day.) For more information, go to ajourneyfor911.info.

The wild card: Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times does a great job breaking down the wild card battle. “It’s going to be interesting,” Joe Maddon said. “The Rangers are good, Boston’s good, we’re good. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a fun September.” The Red Sox visit the Rays Tuesday to begin a three-game series. Playing at home and behind in the three-team race, Tampa has to win two. At least.

Goodbye cleats

Burnett-8-29-250.jpgThe players reported at 11:30 today. A.J. was there long before then, doing some housekeeping around his locker. Among his objectives: To dispose of the cleats he wore Thursday.

“They’re the last things to go that I wore during that start,” he said.

We didn’t ask for specifics. What about the glove, wondered Dave Eiland.

“The glove stays,” A.J. said. “It’s not the glove’s fault.”

A.J.’s a veteran, a pro, a pie-thrower. He takes losses hard. Especially, it seems, losses that come down to one pitch on a day when he had nasty stuff from the moment he left the bullpen.

He pitches again Tuesday in Baltimore. A.J.’s lost his last three starts. His combined numbers: 19 innings pitched, 17 hits, 15 earned runs, seven walks, 23 strikeouts. He knows he has to do better than that; he is (much) better than that. And, in case you’re wondering, it’s a safe assumption that he would prefer to throw more than 105 pitches next time out.

 

Phil Hughes: He might spend more time in the clubhouse while the media are present than any other player. He looked on with amusement as A.J. tidied his locker. Hughes is one content guy these days. We spoke with Mike Harkey for tomorrow’s Innerview for “Batting Practice Today presented by Audi” and he marvels at the way Hughes has adjusted to the bullpen. And Harkey believes Hughes’ easygoing demeanor has played a large role in his splendid transition.

 

Michael Kay: He’s gone hog wild back into Atkins. His culinary choices today included bacon, a burger, caffeine-free diet soda and decaffeinated hot tea. That’s a rough go, if you ask us. Leiter had the commuter breakfast — muffin and coffee; he wasn’t hungry. And you just can’t beat the oatmeal in the Yankee Stadium press dining room. With brown sugar. Oh, a pizza just arrived in the booth. Leiter is partaking. Kay is eating only the cheese.

 

Jim Thome: He was today’s Innerview for “Batting Practice Today presented by Audi.” What a nice guy. He’s putting his 10 nieces and nephews through college. He and Reggie have a great relationship; he surpassed Reggie on the all-time home run list Aug. 15. At 564 homers, he said he can’t help but think about 600 sometimes. And he said when you play for Ozzie, you know you’re going to have fun. As for the toughest pitcher he ever faced, Thome laughed and said, “CC last night!”

The blog is back!

Tino is back and so is the blog! Tino Martinez is actually here at the stadium. And, yes, he (vaguely) remembered that he was going to answer your questions. In May.

“Do you still have the questions?” Tino asked.

Yes! He’s going to answer them on the next homestand. Cross your fingers.

jeter250_082609.jpgDerek Jeter: His numbers are MVP-worthy and his recent tear is incredible — heading into tonight, he is batting .509 with 14 runs, three doubles, four homers and 10 RBI over his last 14 games. Tino said this is the best stretch, offensively and defensively, that he’s ever seen from Jeter. And that’s saying something.

Elvis Andrus: He is, indeed, in the building. That was unbelievable range the Rangers shortstop just showed in sliding to field the Matsui grounder up the middle, then throwing home to get Alex. And on his 21st birthday, no less.

Jorge Posada: He is three home runs from joining the 20-home run club; six Yankees are already members this season. Jeter needs four. If his Tigers happen to face the Yankees again in postseason, Jim Leyland won’t call them “Murderer’s Row and Cano” this time around. He might go with Murderer’s Row.

Phil Hughes: Before the last road trip, he cut his locks. But you already knew that. When we asked him about it, he said, “My hair was taking up too much of my day.” Yeah, we know the feeling. He’s a funny guy.

Theo Epstein: The Red Sox GM claims that Jonathan Papelbon is looking forward to having Billy Wagner in the Boston bullpen, despite Papelbon’s previous comments. “I think Pap feels like he was misunderstood,” Epstein told the Boston media. “He’s not a Rhodes Scholar to begin with, obviously. When I talked to him directly about it, he couldn’t have been more excited about the prospect of adding Billy Wagner.” Just had to pass that along. That might be one of the best quotes from a general manager about one of his own players. Ever.

Jeter leaves with bruised foot, rotation notes

Between the long weekend series and some radio work on WFAN, trying to find a second wind as a blogger…

Phil Hughes and Ricky Romero: They trained together in the offseason at Athletes Performance Institute in L.A. Given the way the two have pitched this season, Hughes laughed when he said, “API has probably gotten some good publicity” out of it. Hughes hopes to go back over the winter. Carl Crawford and a bunch of NFL players also have worked out at API.

A.J. Burnett: He’s back on the mound amid a slightly different atmosphere than his last outing. After Monday’s game, A.J. said he finally could change his jeans. He wore the same pair every day during the seven-game winning streak.

Joba Chamberlain: Asked him today if he believes his bout with shoulder tendinitis last August has influenced the Yankees into being ultra-careful with his innings limit this season. He said no. He attributes it solely to the studies done that show young pitchers can be negatively affected by significantly exceeding the previous year’s production. “That’s for smart people to worry about,” he said. “I just go out and pitch.” As for the postseason, Joe Girardi says “all hands on deck,” meaning there will be no innings limitation on anyone. Joba anticipates his role being “as a starter. I don’t plan on going back to the bullpen.” Then he softly added, “Hopefully.”

Derek Jeter: Hit by a pitch on his right foot during his first at-bat. It looked like he was in pain, even if he won’t admit it.

Chad Gaudin: He’ll start Saturday or Sunday, with Sergio Mitre getting the other start. He says he’s extremely happy to be here; his locker is next to Mariano Rivera’s. As for his last name, it’s Go-DAN. “No pause between (syllables),” he said. Got it.

Rob Thomson: The third-base coach offered no excuses for sending Mark Teixeira in the first last night. “Bad send,” he told Kay and me, adding that he didn’t realize – obviously – that the relay throw had reached the second baseman, Aaron Hill, just as Teixeira was touching third. Thomson also said Teixeira did the right thing in giving himself up to be tagged out. “We didn’t want to get anyone hurt,” he said. Thomson wondered throughout the game if that run would come back to bite the Yankees. It didn’t. Of course, Thomson’s aggressiveness at third has helped the Yankees far more often than it’s hurt this season. We never seem to talk about that.

Paul O’Neill: He says he’s not scheduled to do another series until Boston comes to town Sept. 25. The pizza orders for the booth will be greatly diminished in the meantime. It’s amazing how much pizza, ice cream and pancakes he consumes. Even Leiter is amazed. And by the way, O’Neill golfed yesterday at Winged Foot — “awesome,” he says — and remains particularly proud of his eagle on 16 and birdie on 9. Paul’s buddy, Stone Phillips, won the match with a birdie on 18.

Jeter: An inning later, he’s out of the game and Ramiro Pena’s in. Jeter will undergo X-rays. Updates on postgame, for sure.

With Sox looming, Yanks make moves

Mitre-8-5-250.jpgHere’s how you know – with lock-down certainty – that John Flaherty’s a good teammate. He had a few Canadian bucks burning a hole in his pocket, so he bought chicken wraps at the concession stand for dinner. Nice.

Sergio Mitre: Mitre balked at a question Friday in Chicago about whether he felt he was pitching for his job, but it cannot be a good feeling knowing the Yankees called up Anthony Claggett for bullpen insurance. When Girardi was asked earlier today about what has changed the most on his team since it last saw Boston, he started with the bullpen. The Yankees don’t want to risk blowing out the pen tonight with four looming against the Red Sox.

Cody Ransom: Ransom was designated for assignment to make room for Claggett. He was popular among teammates. It’s a shame this season, when he finally had some opportunities but also dealt with a 60-day stay on the DL, didn’t work out better for him.

Mark Rzepczynski: Spell check has a problem with the name of the Blue Jays starter. If you ever have to say it, it’s zep-chin-ski. Easier said than written, right?

Joba Chamberlain: He flew ahead. You would think he’ll have a lot of energy to harness tomorrow night against John Smoltz and the Red Sox. Joba was exactly two months shy of his third birthday when Smoltz made his major league debut on July 23, 1988.

Paula Abdul: What in the name of Clay Aiken is going on? Idol won’t be the say without her and her giant cup of Diet Coke. We’ll have to ask Jeter what he thinks of this development. Probably will wait until after the Boston series for such a conversation.

George Murray: The 38-year-old died last night after battling ALS for three years. He and his family – wife Kim and son Trayson, 4 – and a host of friends were guests of the Yankees two weeks ago during Hope Week. George spent three years in the Army as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. One of his dreams was to attend a Yankees game with his son. “I know there are a million other fathers out there who don’t get this experience, and I hope they have it one day,” George Murray said July 22 at the Stadium. “This proves that regardless of your circumstances, your dreams and goals can be accomplished and come true.”

What is it about Melky?

Beautiful day here in Chicago. A surprising number of Yankees fans were dodging raindrops on Michigan Avenue yesterday. Maybe it shouldn’t surprise us.

melkyblog080209.jpgMelky Cabrera: What is it about Melky that he seems to come up with a big hit just when the Yankees need one? Like his three-run homer off Buehrle in the second inning.

Jerry Hairston Jr.:
Girardi loves his versatility. Girardi also loves Ransom. It’s hard to see the need for both.

Ozzie Guillen: We didn’t have to bleep him at all for pregame today. That might be a first. He is fun. He also promised a quick game today. Um, maybe not.

Jake Peavy: If his new team’s preferred timetable is correct, he’ll face the Red Sox and Yankees on a road trip that begins Aug. 24. Ozzie hopes Peavy, who threw in the bullpen today, could make his debut even before then.

Al Leiter and the Rev. Jesse Jackson:
What do these gentlemen have in common? Both paid dinner tabs last night in one of Chicago’s most popular restaurants. Leiter left a 20 percent tip, picking up the sizable tab for a table of four. Thanks, Al. (Full disclosure: Kay picked up the bar tab and also left a 20 percent tip. Thanks, Michael.) Restaurant sources indicated the Rev. Jackson went the 8 percent route, leaving $31 on a tab of just over $28 dollars.

CC Sabathia and Mark Buerhle:
Halfway through and there are 20 hits and 11 runs on the board. And Tony Pena, not the bench coach, has relieved Buerhle. That’s baseball, as they say.

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