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.
Anyway, 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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Derek 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.
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.
The Yankees and White Sox are under way after a 64-minute rain delay. A rain delay. Go figure.
In other news that cannot possibly qualify as surprising, two more stars in the game have been exposed, having shown up positive for performance-enhancing drugs on the 2003 list, the one with 104 names. The one that was supposed to be confidential. Manny and Big Papi join A-Rod. Nearly six months later.
The leaky faucet that is baseball’s steroids past continues to drip.
The most telling part of today was the reaction – weary, subdued reaction – from Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira in the clubhouse. Damon said the news surprised him – really, how could it have? – but couldn’t have said anything else about his former teammates. Damon later joked that perhaps he will turn out to be the biggest idiot of them all for never noticing, never suspecting.
Damon and Teixeira – and on the other side of the field, Ozzie Guillen – said the list of the 104 should be made public in a once-and-for-all attempt to deal with and then move past the hovering dark cloud. That the guilty were once promised confidentiality no longer seems to sway the weary. They’ve had it.
Those who compromised the confidentiality – and, make no mistake, they are a different brand of guilty — ultimately may win.
“I guess,” Damon said, shrugging, “you really can’t trust what anybody says nowadays.”
And maybe you simply can’t trust an entire era even though a bewildered Jeter again felt compelled to offer this reminder: “Everybody wasn’t doing it.” Upon today’s news, try to convince anyone that steroid use wasn’t pervasive in the 2003 Red Sox clubhouse.
“That’s probably what is being said,” Damon said, “and that’s what makes guys like me upset.”
Teixeira suggested that kids look to himself, Matt Holliday and Chase Utley as players who’ve put up numbers since 2003 and “have done it the right way.”
Or how about young players like Evan Longoria, Adam Jones, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and the Upton brothers, who weren’t even in the game back then?
Or how about the ones – perhaps not as numerous as we’d hope – who came out of the steroid era clean, who are able to look themselves squarely in the mirror?
After talking to the media, Jeter went to the batting cage to stow his bat in the Yankees dugout. As he did, a few kids wanted autographs, which he signed. An older gentleman at the edge of the dugout simply asked to shake his hand. “I admire,” he told Jeter, “the way you’ve always played the game.”
Jeter shook his hand. And said thanks.
Derek Jeter says he still gets goosebumps during player introductions for the All-Star Game. That’s cool.
So is this: The second half of the season is officially underway in the Bronx.
Sergio Mitre: He’ll make the start Tuesday. Aceves is too valuable in the bullpen and will stay there. You definitely get the feeling the No. 5 spot in the rotation might be Sergio’s for a while.
Chien-Ming Wang: He’s scheduled to play catch Sunday or Monday, Girardi said. This might be a lost season for Wang, who’s logged just 42 innings in nine starts and 12 appearances this season.
Joba Chamberlain: He said his four-day break spent in Nebraska was perfectly relaxing. When he asked about ours, we told him we spend 20 hours (on WFAN’s midday show with Adam the Bull) talking about him. Joba shook his head and laughed.
Phil Hughes: Girardi says he’s comfortable with the rotation and believes Pettitte and Joba each will have a big second half. He said he’d become concerned about the rotation if the Yankees were to lose CC or AJ to injury. (Uh, yeah, you’d think so.) Anyway, it would only be under such a dire scenario that Hughes would return to the rotation this sea son. At least that’s how things stand today. Hughes owns an ERA of 0.98 in 13 relief outings.
Mike Mussina: He’ll be here for Old Timer’s Day. Wow, an old timer. We’ll have ask Mussina how that sounds.
Al Leiter: He brought Mike and Ikes to the booth! And Twizzlers. Nice.
Tino Martinez: Hey, maybe he’ll be here for Old Timer’s Day! We’ll corner him with your (very old) questions.
This afternoon, Dave Robertson and Andy Pettitte were running the concourse of Citi Field. The concourse.
“It’s fun, something different,” Robertson said. “We kind of got lost a couple of times.”
Tomko and A.J. are the ringleaders among concourse runners. Joba also has joined. Tomko has been running concourses since 1999 when Reds teammate Juan Guzman got him hooked. Some Yankees began to join him during last weekend’s Florida series. Hey, it beats running circles around the field.
“It can be like Groundhog Day during a season,” Tomko said. “This breaks up the workouts; it goes quicker.”
They run in packs of four sometimes. In a 20-minute run, each guy takes the lead for five minutes. He might break up the run with sit-ups or jumping jacks.
“Right in the middle of the concourse,” Tomko said.
“It’s a lot more fun than running,” Joba said. “I mean, it is running, but you can do a lot more things.”
Joba enjoyed checking out Citi Field, which he describes as “nice, very nice.” Said Tomko: “Extremely nice. It has a lot of character.”
As for Robertson and Pettitte, they made it back to the clubhouse after an unplanned detour.
“We were up by the Caesar’s Club (on the fifth of six floors), then almost ran into the press box,” Robertson said. “We weren’t sure where we were, but we figured we should get out of there.”
Nick Swisher: As we were talking to Robertson, Swisher couldn’t help but interject. “Are you asking him why he threw McCann two backdoor cutters?” asked Swisher, wearing a Cheshire Cat grin. “That’s what I want to know.” (Brian McCann of the Braves hit two home runs against Robertson.) Robertson laughed: “Well, the first one was supposed to be a fastball in – and wasn’t. And the second one was supposed to be a fastball away – and wasn’t.” Swisher was highly amused. Robertson’s a good sport. “He hit two bombs off me,” Robertson said. “But I had a pretty good string going of not giving up home runs.” In 16.1 innings, those are the only two jacks Robertson has given up.
Derek Jeter: He’s got to be really sick to miss back-to-back games with the cough/illness that’s going around the clubhouse.
“George!” That’s how Keith Hernandez greets Cone whenever he comes into the YES booth during the Subway Series. We asked Cone why. When Cone was traded by the Royals to the Mets, he often talked about George Brett. So much so, that Hernandez decided to call him George. And probably a few other things. Honestly, as we told Cone, it’s a much more innocent story than we’d anticipated.
Subway Series: Enjoy tomorrow night’s game, the final interleague contest of the regular season. We’ll be watching.
Can you believe Michael Jackson is dead? When he was a kid, Joba had a poster of Chipper Jones on the wall of his bedroom. We had a poster of Michael Jackson. Just startling news. Right up until gametime, CNN was playing on the TVs in the press room here at Turner Field. Everyone’s talking about it. Probably everywhere.
Speaking of Joba, he was delighted to meet Chipper before the game. The two talked for 15 minutes. Chipper was gracious, giving Joba some tips based on the considerable amount of video he watched before facing Joba last night. Chipper probably had some worthwhile advice; he had two hits. Anyway, Joba was almost awestruck talking about Chipper after BP. That’s cool. And a reminder that Joba is so young, at 23. And that Chipper, at 37, is old. By baseball standards. (By the way, Joba wanted to thank media relations guru Jason Zillo for setting up the meeting with Chipper. So we’ll help him out with that.)
Derek Jeter: There were signs wishing Jeter a happy birthday a day early; he turns 35 tomorrow. One woman held this sign: “I’m on my honeymoon. Come see me, Derek.” Someday we’re going to have to ask Jeter if he notices this stuff. How could he not?
Alex Rodriguez: He said before the game that the past two days are the best he’s felt at the plate. Then he crushes a first-inning solo home run to center. And now an RBI-single to center.
Chicken parmesan: It’s a favorite of Kay’s, and they’re serving it tonight in the press dining room. He gave positive reviews. We second that. And the Edy’s soft-serve for dessert didn’t hurt. We ate dinner with Sweeny and Pete Abraham. They, too, have fond memories of MJ from when they were kids.
You readers rock! We’re all set with questions from you for Phil Hughes who will do the “Innerview” for the “Batting Practice Show presented by Audi” during the Seattle series. Probably Tuesday. If you submit a question now (in the comments), it’ll have to be a good one to make the cut. Thanks! Hughes says he’s looking forward to it. And we believe him.
Tuesday is also our next chat, at 6:45 p.m. from the Stadium. It’ll be a busy day. Selfish promo: Along with Adam the Bull, we’re filling in from 6-10 a.m. next week on WFAN for Boomer & Carton. We have big shoes to fill!
All aboard! We learned late this afternoon that the Yankees held a team meeting after last night’s 4-0 loss. Coaches and players were present. Jeter and Teixeira were the only ones to talk. Their messages were about staying positive, knowing they are better than what they’ve shown and HAVING to play better. Pretty basic stuff for a team that’s 4-9 over its last 13 games. Girardi likes this sort of thing; he wants his players to voice their opinions. A.J. is serving his five-game suspension, so he wasn’t in the clubhouse. If he had been, the smart money is that he also would have spoken up.
Johnny Damon: He’s not close to 100 percent with that left calf problem but knows the team needs him. He’s used to playing hurt.
Chien-Ming Wang: Since last night’s game was on My9, we didn’t talk to Wang until today. He smiled a bit and said he was mostly pleased with his outing. He’s starting to get that confident look back. He and Mariano chatted about some things today. Don’t know the details, but that’s a good friend for Wang to have.
Chipper Jones: Talked to him for today’s “Innerview.” Add him to the list of WBC alums in love with Jeter. He went on and on about the Captain, joining Pedroia, Rollins and DeRosa, who did so in previous “Innerviews.” Chipper’s a fun guy, even if Mets fans don’t think so. Said he received his two seats from Shea Stadium today! What timing!
Joba Chamberlain: He was hitting balls into the left field seats in BP and wanted to make sure we took note of that. Check. We told him we wanted to see it during the game. He didn’t make any promises. He did, however, just hit a liner off Kawakami’s neck. It appears the pitcher is OK; he walked off under his power but he’s out of the game. By the way, on the scoreboard here, it gives an “Upper Deck Scouting Report” for players. Joba’s read, in part, “upper 90s FB.” Joba likes Atlanta, where nobody complains about his velocity.
Cody Ransom: Nice to see him back. He is a really good guy who didn’t play nearly as well as he’d hoped in April. Now he gets another chance in a role off the bench. Berroa was designated for assignment, much to Pete Abraham’s dismay.
Nate McLouth: The Braves CF has made two impressive catches – one was terrific – and it’s only the third inning. He said he feels energized by playing in a bigger market and on a more competitive team than the Pirates. He also marvels at the Bay-McLouth-Nady outfield that Pittsburgh had – and still could have. All three are nice guys and they keep in touch with each other, mostly via texts.
Michael Kay: He sent Peter the Runner to the concession stands for a slice of pizza. It was so good, he sent Peter for another. Then we sent Peter for one. Peter is a regular at the pizza stand. “Did you blog about the pizza?” Kay just asked between innings. Now we did.
Three-and-a-half hours before game time, it’s hotter than ever here at Land Shark Stadium — a name that takes some getting used to, huh? — where temps are well into the 90s and humidity seems ungodly high as well. (It’s sunny, though, and there’s no tarp on the field.) Jeter says it’s supposed to be hotter in Atlanta. Most of the players seem to be staying in Florida, or somewhere else, for the off day and then will join the team in Atlanta.
Leaving South Florida will mean leaving some of the zaniest and loudest Yankees fans alive. Last night the bus ride out of the stadium was almost scary. Even police escorts can’t solve bumper-to-bumper traffic. And then there were the fans. They lined the area where the bus parked. They screamed. They yelled. And yelled. And yelled some more.
One young lady screamed Jeter’s name repeatedly. At a decibel level that would deafen dogs. She was absolutely relentless. Jeter did sign a bunch of autographs, which was brave of him; not sure if one was hers.
There are Yankees fans everywhere we go. South Florida wins the prize for most the most feverish. Maybe it’s the heat.