September 2009

Thoughts on an off day

yanks250.jpgEveryone you talk to or listen to seems to think the Yankees and Red Sox are a foregone pairing in the ALCS. And they may be. But given what we saw over the past few days, the Yankees and Angels would make for an entertaining seven-game series, no?

Certainly the way the managers approached risk/reward on the base paths would be an intriguing game within the game. And the weather in Anaheim would be better. Decidedly so.

Anyway, just a quick check-in on an evening without baseball. I do fewer posts than ever. And feel guilty about it.

Phil Hughes: He’s our scheduled “Innerview” for tomorrow’s “Batting Practice Today” at 6 p.m. on YES. Should be fun. He’s trying to convince me to watch “The Office” beginning with the first season instead of trying to jump in as a new viewer this season. That’s the kind of stuff we talk about on long West Coast trips. And Hughes LOVES “The Office.” I’ve seen one little episode and am nearly converted. (Long West Coast trips also allow for movie watching. Saw “The Hangover” last night and laughed like a hyena. Really, parts of that movie are hysterical.)

YES coverage: There’s not a Red Sox-Yankees game on YES this weekend, but we will have plenty of coverage. On Friday night, the BP show, pregame and postgame are on YES; the 7 p.m. game is on My9 with Kay and Leiter.

On Saturday, pregame and postgame are on YES. The 4 p.m. game is on FOX.

On Sunday, pregame and postgame are on YES. The 1 p.m. game is on ESPN.

Cone is joining Lorenz in the studio for the weekend. We could have a champagne-popping postgame, so stay tuned. This Yankees team probably will throw a heck of a clubhouse party.

Tino Martinez: To the five of you still interested in the Q&A with Tino that was scheduled for May 18, my deepest apologies. I’ve had no luck finding him. None. If I were a sensitive sort, I’d take it personally. I’m not.

So, if I see Tino between now and the end of the season, I’ll ask him some questions on the spot — first question: “Are you ducking me and my blog readers?” — and post them. Otherwise, this will sadly remain a Tino-free zone.

“This Week in Football”: I need to bounce back. After going 1-2 in my NFL picks for “This Week in Football,” I thought about quitting the picks business. But producer extraordinaire Jared Boshnack wouldn’t have it. So, I have three games to pick. It’s agony.

Sticking with the Giants over the Bucs because the Giants haven’t let me down yet and because if they need a score in the final two minutes, Eli will deliver.

I need another win, and if you think I’m going for a white-knuckler, you’re wrong. Ravens over Browns. Sooner or later, Mangini will have to come to terms with the notion that he did not invent the game.

As for the Jets, I haven’t picked them yet and they’ve burned me twice. Or I’ve burned myself. And this week they’re playing the desperate Titans. Sigh.

If I had a fantasy team, I’d want Chris Johnson on it. I think he makes the difference. Titans over Jets.

Post-brawl notes

Carlson-9-16-250.jpgAngela (from my chat), you were correct! Jesse Carlson was spotted by My9 cameras in the visiting dugout after he was ejected last night. Flaherty and Leiter say they were making the point during the broadcast that Carlson should not have been there. Nice catch, Ang!

“This Week in Football”: I’m required by producer Jared Boshnack to make NFL picks. Went 2-1 last week, hitting on Giants and Saints and missing the Jets. This week, I’ll take the Giants because of their pass rush. And the Patriots because they’re the Patriots. For my third pick, I’ll go with the Titans over the Texans because the Texans looked awful and somewhat disinterested.

Angels-Yankees: Yeah, it’s two days late, but Monday’s game yielded some interesting comments from the visiting clubhouse. Said pitcher Jered Weaver, who is having an outstanding season: “It’s pick your poison with anybody who comes up to the plate for them.” Said Mike Scioscia, who knows a thing or two about how much solid relief pitching can propel a team: “(The Yankees are) definitely not a team you want to get in a bullpen war with.”

Should be a fun three-game series in Anaheim, beginning Monday. And here’s a weekend highlight: CC against King Felix on Saturday night at Safeco Field.

Chat: Red-hot Red Sox, Posada brawl, 2010 and more

Check out the below chat for Kimberly Jones’ thoughts on the Red Sox closing the gap in the A.L. East, Jorge’s suspension, 2010 Yankees schedule and more.

<a href=”http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php?option=com_mobile&task=viewaltcast&altcast_code=d25a52c318″ >Kimberly Jones chat</a>

Good (and bad) news from the bullpen

The good news from the bullpen is that Mariano Rivera feels great and says his previously sore left groin is 100 percent.

The not-so-good news, delivered today by Joe Girardi, is that David Robertson has been experiencing stiffness in his right elbow for the past 10 days to two weeks. He’s been shut down until he sees Dr. James Andrews, the specialist in all injuries to athletes, presumably in his Birmingham, Ala., office.

robertson300_090809.jpgRobertson said he’s not worried. “It’s a concern of mine,” Girardi said, noting Robertson’s “ability to get strikeouts (has been) about as good as anybody in baseball.”

Robertson has struck out 54 batters in 36 1/3 innings since May 26. With 61 K’s in 41 innings overall, he ranks first in average strikeouts per nine innings among AL relievers who quality (at least 40 innings).

This could be encouraging: Robertson has been pitching well, with his usual (or higher) velocity, even with the lingering stiffness. Girardi called that “interesting and unusual.”

For now Girardi is without one option in the bullpen, something a division leader with a nine-game lead can live with in September. On a night when Girardi would use Robertson to give Hughes or even Bruney a night off, he’ll now look to Aceves, Albaladejo, Coke or Marte. “We have a little less flexibility and (fewer) weapons,” Girardi said.

Always optimistic, Girardi is hopeful that Robertson — whom he called “a huge part of our bullpen” — will return relatively soon and contribute in October.

Tino Martinez:
I spotted him today at the stadium and he says he’ll be here tomorrow. I’ll ask 10 questions (or so) of Tino that are representative of the ones you submitted back in May. And the Q&A will be posted on the blog by Thursday.

Reminder: I’ll be chatting at 6:45 p.m. tomorrow until first pitch. Hope you can join me!

Thank you: For reading and for the birthday wishes. Very nice.

My Week 1 picks

It’s time for some TWIF picks! That’s right, I’ll be making my football picks here during the season and competing against the guys on “This Week in Football.” We pick the Giants and Jets games and one wildcard — straight up, no spread. Fingers crossed, here goes:

Giants over Redskins. The Giants pass rush will harass Jason Campbell. Brandon Jacobs will run over someone. The receivers will catch some of Eli Manning’s passes.

Texans over Jets. Houston has Andre Johnson, DeMeco Ryans and Dunta Robinson. The Texans have to finish above .500 one of these years. And Mark Sanchez is a rookie.

Saints over Lions. Because I desperately do not want to go 0-fer the first week.

See you later. Remember, YES is doing a pregame and postgame show tonight. The game is on My9.

Flashback Friday in Toronto

It’s Flashback Friday here at Rogers Centre. Does that mean we can call it Skydome? The Blue Jays look dandy in their powder blues. And they wish it were 1993.

rivera250_090409.jpgAnyway, Mariano was joking around in the clubhouse before the game. That’s the surest sign that his left groin is feeling better. He’ll throw a side session tomorrow and, if all goes well, be available Sunday.

Derek Jeter: With the way the schedule is breaking, it’s almost certain he’ll break Lou Gehrig’s franchise hits record at home. (Which, really, is how it should be.) Jeter isn’t in the lineup tonight; Girardi called it a planned day off. He’s eight hits shy of tying The Iron Horse and has two games left in Toronto. Then it’s 10 games at home. The record-breaker will be an outstanding moment. How will his teammates congratulate him? Will they go on the field? Or stand at the dugout, joining the ovation?

David Cone: “Are you blogging?” he wants to know. “Yes!” I reply. Through his extensive pre-game research, he has some “offensive tidbits” to pass along.

One, the Yankees don’t chase bad pitches. In fact, they’re best in the Majors at identifying balls and strikes. The Yankees swing at just 22.2 percent of pitches outside the strike zone. The Giants swing at the most — 31.6 percent.

Two, the Yankees are selective, stubbornly so. As are the Red Sox. Boston hitters swing at just 42.4 percent of pitches seen, the lowest rate in baseball. The Yankees are just behind at 42.6 percent. And you wonder why their games are so long.

Thanks, David!

Yogi Berra: At 7 p.m. on Sept. 17, Fritz Peterson will be at the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center for a discussion and signing of his new book, “Mickey Mantle is Going to Heaven.” Fritz had an interesting career; he played with Mantle and Munson and was a 20-game winner in 1970.

Jonathan Papelbon: The Red Sox closer was fined $5,000 by MLB for a pacing violation during his outing Tuesday. (His 2009 salary is $6.25 million.) He said he’s been fined at least five times for taking too long at the start of an inning.

“Game pace, pace of game, or something like that,” Papelbon told the Boston Globe and WEEI.com. “I don’t know why they keep coming after me. It’s probably because I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m not obeying the rules. You’re allowed (two minutes, 25 seconds), and I’m taking too long.”

Remember when Theo Epstein said his closer “isn’t a Rhodes scholar, obviously?” That was funny.

Jay Alford: The Giants defensive lineman is gone for the season after partially tearing his ACL. That’s a shame. Why? Because he went to Atlanta during the offseason to work his tail off with Osi and was going to be a big contributor this season. And he’s a Nittany Lion.

TWIF is back!

“This Week in Football” debuts tonight after Yankees Post Game. All of us involved with the show hope you enjoy it. And set your DVRs. The show will air again (and again) next week.

It’s going to be a fun season on TWIF; producer Jared Boshnack and the rest of the crew will see to that. On the first show — being finalized as I write this — new addition Ross Tucker sits down with the Giants offensive linemen (always an entertaining group), Gary Myers talks to Rex Ryan and Bart Scott for a profile of the Jets coach, and I interview a very relaxed and confident Eli Manning. There’s plenty of other stuff to look forward to, with host/fantasy gamer Gordon Damer and the wit and wisdom of Howard Cross. If it’s not already on your football radar, give TWIF a chance!

And I’ll have a baseball post for you later.

Video: Watch Kimberly discuss her love for football.

News and notes from Toronto

halladay250.jpgThe outside of Rogers Centre includes large portraits of Toronto-area stars. (That includes Buffalo.) Trent Edwards of the Bills is flanked by Cito Gaston and B.J. Ryan. To the left of Ryan are Scott Rolen, Roy Halladay. Alex Rios is pictured elsewhere around the dome.

Ryan’s gone, Rolen’s gone, Rios is gone and Halladay might be gone this winter. Presumably this offseason there will be some redecorating on the exterior. The Blue Jays — who’ve weathered 12 disabled list stints by 10 pitchers this season — haven’t spent money wisely and don’t have as much as they’d like to spend. That’s toxic.

Meanwhile, on the interior, fans are few and far between. The sparse crowd here – on Ladies Night, no less — follows three nowhere-near-capacity gatherings in Baltimore.

That’s the awful part of baseball season when a team is out of it by Labor Day. Or Independence Day.

Mariano Rivera: He knows panic could ensue whenever his health is in question. He said he’ll be fine. But his left groin is “sore.” In Seattle last month, it “grabbed” and resulted in one appearance over a week’s time as he rested and underwent treatment. This time, Mariano said it might be a few days. He will be cautious. Girardi said it is uncomfortable — “like walking on hot coals” uncomfortable — to think about not having the Hall of Fame closer.

Jonathan Albaladejo: Have you seen his face? He looks like he was in a fight and lost. Big-time. Actually, he was playing catch with Edwar Ramirez on Monday and missed the ball, which hit him just above his left eye. He got a Band-Aid. Within 30 minutes, he had two shiners that are now a mixture of black, blue, purple and pink. The Yankees waited until he pitched in a game — an inning last night for AAA — to recall him. He arrived today and got a lot of ribbing. “Catch the ball!” Joba yelled, just as Albaladejo finished chatting with some reporters. Albaladejo laughed. “They were giving me a hard time in AAA,” he said. “I’d rather they give me a hard time here.”

Phil Hughes: In his locker here are two souvenirs from Baltimore, a Nick Markakis bobblehead and an Adam Jones figure. Hughes is collecting with a purpose. “I don’t want just regular stuff,” he said. “These are funny. Markakis is making a sliding catch, and Jones is jumping and blowing a bubble.” He’s right. The Orioles apparently know how to do give-away nights.

Joe Girardi: Joe’s wife, Kim, and Kid Styles of Bedford Hills are hosting an event on Saturday, Sept. 12 at the Stadium to support awareness of stomach cancer. Blue hair extensions will be sold at two booths as will raffle tickets to win one of four items signed by the manager. All proceeds go to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer of Northwestern University. Joe’s sister-in-law was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and he says she’s doing well. He also says he’ll be wearing a blue extension that day.

Jim Leyland: His Tigers have a five-game lead over the Twins. But Leyland objected to the suggestion today that his team is in the “driver’s seat.”

“I don’t like comments like that,” he said. “There’s no reason for them. Our players should feel good about themselves and what they’ve done, but there’s no need to talk. Just go out there and keep doing it.”

Comings and goings in the Majors

Swisher-9-2-(2)-250.jpgSo we’re sitting here in the booth, Kay’s eating a heaping portion of peanut butter and I’m thinking about blogging. Thinking about it. And then, out of nowhere – perhaps his memory was jogged when Kenny mentioned that Teixeira attended high school in Baltimore — one of our local freelancers in the booth tells a story.

He’d like me to refer to him as “Pablo.”

When he was a young man in the 60’s, Pablo attended a public all-boys school in Baltimore. When gym class incorporated swimming, the boys were required to swim sans suits. There was concern about wet suits getting moldy in the lockers. Or something.

Anyway, Pablo said 140 “naked guys” would swim together. At the end of class, they’d form two teams and play a game like water polo in the shallow end of the pool. With a volleyball. A few gym teachers supervised, but there were no rules. None.

Wow. Can you possibly imagine this happening today?

Thank you, Pablo, for participating. Now back to Yankees-Orioles.

Nick Swisher: He’d like you to wear jeans and donate $5 to Women’s Cancer Programs to fight breast cancer. He’s signed on as an Entertainment Industry Foundation Ambassador for Lee National Denim Day on Oct. 2. Swisher lost his grandmother to cancer in 2005 and continues to honor her memory with campaigns such as this one. We’ll have more info for you as National Denim Day approaches.

Labor Day: For the Monday doubleheader against the Rays, Yankee Stadium gates will open at 10 a.m. for the 1:05 scheduled game and 5 p.m. for the second game at 7:05 p.m. The second game is rescheduled from June 5, when it rained. Tickets for the postponed June 5 game will be valid only for the 7:05 game, not the 1 p.m. game.

CC and A.J. are starting that day. Girardi hasn’t announced if they’ll go in alphabetical order or if CC will start the opener. A.J. will be on an extra day.

Sergio Mitre: His forearm is feeling better and he’ll start Sunday in the finale in Toronto. It’s Gaudin, Joba and Pettitte in the first three games there. Joba is opposed by Halladay, who hasn’t been himself since all that trade talk.

This Week in Football: A new season premieres Friday night – only on YES! More details to come tomorrow. Oh, in the comments, one of you mentioned the TWIF promos. (Yes, I swear I read the comments and apologize for not answering more questions.) So I checked. I’m told our new promos, which we shot Aug. 25, haven’t aired yet. I’m sure they’ll surface soon, and hopefully you like them.

Nick Markakis: Amazingly, only two major-leaguers have played in each of his team’s game this season. The Orioles RF is one of them. The other? Prince Fielder. Prince Fielder! Why do I get a kick out of that note? Thanks, Elias Sports Bureau.

The White Sox: So they finally beat the Twins at the Metrodome, coming from behind against Joe Nathan for a 4-2 win this afternoon. The White Sox went 2-7 at the Metrodome this year and were 3-16 since the summer of 2007, leading Ozzie Guillen to refer to the Dome as a funeral home. The Twins will open their outdoor ballpark – Target Field – next season.

“How crazy this thing is,” Guillen said. “We figure out how to win in this place, and now we can’t come back here no more.”

After the game, Paul Konerko walked into the visiting clubhouse and yelled, “We own this place!”

From afar, the White Sox seem baseball’s traveling carnival.

Chat room: We’ll do another chat soon — the first in a while — with Internet Guru Kevin Sullivan there to head off any technical difficulties. I’ll let you know the date as soon as I do.

Hairston handled himself well

Last night, Jerry Hairston Jr. conducted a clinic on how to handle the aftermath of committing a devastating error. First, he stopped the first reporter he saw — WFAN’s Sweeny Murti — and told him, “I know you guys want to talk to me. I’m going to get something to eat and I’ll be right back.”

Then, when he emerged, Hairston literally invited the media to his locker with a wave. And he answered every single question.

hairston400_090109.jpg“He knows you have to be accountable,” Derek Jeter said. “Everyone makes mistakes. That’s one reason it’s so hard to throw a perfect game.”

Pettitte also reassured Hairston, joking that he didn’t want to throw nine innings anyway. Posada said everyone felt bad for “J-Hair.”

“Jerry’s been outstanding,” Jeter said. “He’s playing everywhere, the infield, the outfield, and he’s catching between innings. I don’t think people appreciate how difficult that is.”

Speaking of Jeter, he is the Yankees nominee for the 2009 Roberto Clemente Award, which annually recognizes the player who performs exceptionally on the field and contributes in the community.

Johnny Damon: Told Damon today that I could not say “calf cramp” on yesterday’s pregame. He laughed. Much more significantly, Damon paid a “very rewarding” visit to Walter Reed Army Hospital today, part of his ongoing commitment to the Wounded Warrior Project. Swisher, Robertson and Coke went along. Johnny was particularly touched by a young quadriplegic he has seen on several visits. “I see the progress he’s making,” Johnny said. “And he has a great spirit, a great sense of life. Definitely, he’s an inspiration.”

Alex Rodriguez: He’s back at third tonight and this morning, Alex spoke to 500 student-athletes at Millford Mill Academy in Baltimore County about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs. According to a news release, Alex opened his remarks: “As a kid, my favorite player was Cal Ripken, Jr. Has anyone here heard of him?”

The man knew his audience. Alex went on to say he made a mistake and “one of my missions in life is to turn a negative into a positive.” He called his admission of steroid use “pretty darn liberating.”

The call-ups: Francisco Cervelli, Ramiro Pena, Mark Melancon, Edwar Ramirez and lefty Mike Dunn. As you would imagine, they were smiling a lot in the clubhouse.

Adam Jones: The young Oriole center fielder hates to lose, which will be important as he becomes a leader on a Baltimore team that is trying to rise from the ashes. And Jones wasn’t thrilled last night to see Yankees fans taking over Camden Yards. “We’re not at the new Yankee Stadium,” Jones said. “I expect more of our fans to be here, but I understand completely why they’re not. But it (stinks) that they’re not.”

Jim Thome:
Had a chance to interview him for Saturday’s “Batting Practice Today presented by Audi” when the White Sox were in town. No wonder he’s considered one of the friendliest players in the game. Anyway, today on WFAN, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti was interviewed by Adam the Bull and Jon Heyman. Colletti said Thome wanted to make sure he was upfront in telling the Dodgers he did not think he could play first base for them. No matter. The Dodgers want his bat and his leadership, which could pay off big.    

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