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Category Archives: Joe Torre

Yankees 2013: A Ghostly Team

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YankeeStadium

Derek Jeter: Broken ankle still not healed, on 60-day DL. A-Rod: Hip surgery during off-season, on 60-day DL. Curtis Granderson, fractured forearm, on 15-day DL. Mark Teixeira, strained right wrist, 15-day DL. Francisco Cervelli, fractured right hand, playing it day-by-day. Ivan Nova, triceps inflammation, 60-day DL. Joba Chamberlain, strained right oblique, 15-day DL. David Robertson, sore left hamstring, day by day. Kevin YouKillUs (yes, the former Red Sox guy), lumbar spine strain, 15-day DL.

Enough?derek-jeter

Bear in mind that most of these guys have been on the DL since before Opening Day, so they haven’t played yet this year at all. More important, those 15 or 60 DL days are frequently extended once they’re up. Jeter, for instance, spent most of the off-season with his ankle in a brace, riding around his mansion on a scooter.  He was expected to play come April 1st but has yet to swing a bat other than in practice—and after seeing him hanging around the dugout, I think he’d best get himself on a weight reduction plan, stat!

Yesterday, May 4th, I watched a complete game for the first time this season. It took me a month to face the sight of my beloved team replaced by a former Red Sox player and a bunch of strangers. Yankee Stadium was half empty—unprecedented—so apparently I’m not alone. I knew precisely four of the guys in the lineup. It was like watching the A’s—who in fact they were playing—at the start of every new season when they’ve invariably been overhauled. I knew just

Joe Torre

Joe Torre

two of their players–but that’s not unusual. When Joe Torre managed the Yankees I could easily recite the rarely changed lineup. It isn’t my aging brain cells at fault; it’s the players’ aging process. That and demented management.

Despite the Yankees’ decimation-by-injury, they’re doing all right. Except for Nova’s recent injury, the pitching rotation seems to be in good shape. Yesterday Phil Hughes threw eight scoreless innings. The Yankees won 4-2, but the score leaped there from 4-0 as soon as a reliever came in. Joe Girardi did the right thing for once, and immediately called in Mariano Rivera. (He’s got 11 Minnesota Twins v New York Yankeessaves so far in what he’s declared will be his final season.) Robinson Cano is on the top ten MLB home run list  with 8, and he has an OBP of 352 and a 309 average.  They’ve won 17 games and lost 11, putting them in second place in AL East. The Red Sox are ahead with 20 wins, riding the wave of good will in the wake of the intense emotions swirling around Boston. (Not saying they’re doing anything wrong, just that some of the love pouring over Boston after the marathon bombing spills naturally over the Sox, who are so closely identified with the city, state and just about all of New England.)

A few ranting words at management for dumping Nick Swisher and Raoul Ibanez are in order. Instead we now have Lyle Overbay and Travis Hafner, both baseball elders even though we constantly hear that the Yankees desperately

Lyle Overbay

Lyle Overbay

need young blood.

Still, if the guys can do as well as they are with a Red Sox and strangers, just imagine what’ll happen when the Old Guard returns, well rested and ready to kick ass!

English: Cap logo of the New York Yankees

Yankees v. Posada: Tossing The Catcher

It began last season, although we didn’t realize just what was beginning, when A.J. Burnett demanded his own personal catcher, saying he couldn’t work with 15-year veteran Jorge Posada. At the end of the season, we were told Jorge wouldn’t be catching at all in 2011 but would be in the lineup as DH. Alarming as this was, we still didn’t get what was happening. It is only now, after Posada’s been benched, apparently forever, that it’s become eminently clear: the Yankee super structure is trying to get rid of him. Is this any way to treat a player who’s been with the organization 15 years, one of the “Core Four” who played together longer than any other teammates in any sport, a catcher who’s run the games, the locker room and the team almost as much as the Captain? You bet your ass it isn’t!

The general public became aware  something strange was brewing a few months ago, when Jorge pulled himself from the lineup rather than bat ninth, which must’ve felt like the ultimate humiliation — plus who knows what preceded that move by Joe Girardi? Suddenly the media was all over the story of Posada v. Yankees. Everyone had something to say, my favorite comment, as I wrote, being the one made by Red Sox DH David Ortiz, which was, in part,  “You’re going to tell me that Posada can’t catch a game out there? Come on, man…that is a good hitter. I don’t care what anybody says.

Since then, Posada’s been making a huge effort to contribute to the team, but, unfortunately, his efforts haven’t borne much fruit: in 90 games this season, he’s hitting .230, as compared to his career .273 mark. A few days ago manager Joe Girardi informed Posada he is no longer the DH player. From now on, it’s likely that Eric Chavez will be DH against right-handed pitchers, and Andruw Jones against lefties. Chavez, himself a veteran, feels awkward being in this position: “I’m not trying to replace anyone or anything like that,” he said. “I’ll just do whatever they need me to do.”

No doubt it’s withdrawal from catching that’s to blame for Posada’s poor performance…but people like Joe Girardi, Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner don’t give a shit about reasons, they care about one thing only: WINning. (Actually, they care only for money, but in baseball it amounts to the same thing.)

Even if it is time for Posada to leave, the Yankees could and should be doing it in a much classier way, instead of behaving even worse than they did when Joe Torre got the boot.  Their biggest rival, the Red Sox, treat their own a lot better: When Mike Lowell left them last year, he was celebrated with Mike Lowell Day and other sentimental rituals. Jason Varitek, who’ll be leaving after this season, is still catching a few games, and serving as consultant to the newbies. I don’t recall any big ceremonies when the most recent long-time Yankees, Paul O’Neill and Tino Martinez, left, but at least they weren’t mistreated. Then again, Bernie Williams simply disappeared, with rumors buzzing.

They could have let Posada catch a few games this season; I don’t believe he’s suddenly incapable of it. Instead, he sits on the bench looking miserable. My heart breaks for him–and so do many others. Here are a few comments  from around the Internet.

From ESPN Online by Stephen A. Smith : Humiliated but not humbled, the veteran should take the high road — unlike the Yankees…Now it’s up to Posada to remind them of how it should be done.It’s up to Posada to point out all the maneuvers that have been used against him and to elocute the classless way this organization has acted toward him at times. It’s up to Posada, the catcher with 270 career homers and a lifetime .273 batting average, to remind the Yankees that he wasn’t just a spectator during those four World Series championships.

From the Wall Street Journal by Daniel Barbarisi: It is the lowest moment in a humbling season for the 39-year-old Posada, as he was stripped of his catcher’s job, then removed as DH against left-handed pitchers, and now, finally, taken out of the starting lineup completely.

From Mass. Live.com, by Ron ChimelisRed Sox fans should take no delight in the sad farewell of Jorge Posada…Joe Girardi has said he knew he might be in charge when the day came that the team’s resident icons would hit the wall erected by Father Time. For Posada, it has come with a vengeance. 

His last two months will be spent on the bench, and no matter what anyone says, a player cannot lead a team from there.

This is significant, because for as much leadership as Derek Jeter has given the Yankees, Posada has been at least as much his team’s heart and soul, and maybe more.The Yankees will go on, but they are losing something of value. 

So are those of us who love baseball and the men who represent it well, no matter what uniform they wear.

Saying goodbye is never easy, and some people are worse at it than others. Still, there’s no excuse for what the Yankees are doing. Right now I’m watching them bury the Anaheim Angels, but I’m less than jubilant. Every so often the camera zeroes in on Posada, sitting alone on the bench with his teammates out in the field, his face wearing an expression of defeat. I hope, as one writer above suggested, he decides to walk away before they do any worse to him.

Jorge Posada is my favorite ball player. I’m not so sure I’ll remain a Yankee fan once he’s gone, if how I feel watching this game is any indication.  I’ll have to kiss my hometown boys goodbye, and take the last leap West: after 23 years in the Bay Area I’ll finally become a Giants fan.

More DL Posts on Posada:

We Stand Behind Jorge
The Beauty of Love: Book Review
Posada Hits Grand Slam
Adding Insult to Injury
Posada: Perfect
The Man Behind the Plate
Vote for Jorge!

Good God! I didn’t realize I’d written so much about him. Ya think he’s my favorite player? Is this excessive?!

We Stand Behind Jorge

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Yankee catchers: Martin, Posada, Cervelli

If you’re a Yankee fan, or even just a casual observer of baseball, then you heard about this weekend’s dustup, which the media upgraded to a tornado, surrounding Jorge Posada.  Briefly, Posada arrived at the stadium Saturday to find he was batting ninth, and one hour before game time told Manager Joe Girardi he was unable to play, for reasons left murkily undefined. This story, however, actually began at the end of last season, when Posada was told he’d be relieved of his catching duties and become the Designated Hitter for 2011. At 39, he’d been showing signs of slippage.

The Yankee’s Number One catcher since 1995, Posada is one of the Core Four, who, along with Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera, are the only group of athletes in any sport in history to have played together on the same team for 16 consecutive seasons. (Pettitte missed three of those seasons with the Yankees while playing for his hometown Houston Astros from 2004 through ’06.) They have won five world championships together.

Pettitte recently retired, and over the course of the next few years, the other three will inevitably follow suit, making this a sad and bumpy transitional time for them, the team, and their fans. Anyone with the least bit of emotional intelligence would expect problems to arise and try to minimize the damage. Joe Torre, for instance, would certainly have anticipated the challenge, and managed it with grace. So would almost every woman I know. Unfortunately, Brian Cashman, the Steinbrenner kids, and Joe Girardi don’t get high points for emotional intelligence.

I don’t know what goes on in the back rooms of baseball, but I’d wager a hefty bet that they don’t weigh in psychological fallout when making big decisions. The cruel mistake here was in yanking Jorge from behind the plate all at once, when his attachment to being a catcher is fierce; even physiologically speaking, it must be enmeshed in the marrow of his bones after all these years. He should have been gently weaned by being allowed to catch a few games this year. Because psychological fallout wasn’t taken into consideration, it’s now affecting team performance — borne out by the disheartening Red Sox weekend sweep.

After Jorge took himself out of Saturday’s game and sat down in the dugout looking suicidal, Laura Posada tweeted the world that Jorge had been complaining of a bad back, and, oh, by the way, ”he loves being a Yankee.” My previously high esteem for Ms. Posada, based on how she’s dealing with the challenges of raising a disabled child, immediately sagged: unless Jorge asked her to do it, which I doubt, her intervention made him look bad. He never said he had back troubles, in fact, he admitted a need to “clear my head.” The little woman’s interjections – and she became “the little woman” the minute she insinuated herself into the situation – fanned the flames of nonstop media speculations that went on relentlessly for the next 24 hours.

Not surprisingly, Red Sox fans could hardly contain themselves, expressing their joy in nasty comments all over the Internet. They should’ve taken a cue from their favorite player, David Ortiz (Big Papi), their own Designated Hitter:

“I’m going to tell you what I think. They’re doing that guy wrong. They’re doing him wrong. You know why? Because that guy, he is legendary right there in that organization. And dude, DHing [stinks]…from what I heard, they told him from the very beginning that you’re not even going to catch bullpens, that straight up starts messing with your head. You’re going to tell me that Posada can’t catch a game out there? Come on, man. Now, I got used to this because I got no choice, but I can imagine how hard it has to be for him. This is a guy that is a good hitter. I don’t care what anybody says.”

With those heartfelt, humane words Big Papi just entered into my small circle of favorite players. Smart, insightful, and respectful, he has more compassion in his big toe than many so-called Yankee fans, of the younger persuasion no doubt, who are calling for Posada’s retirement, ‘dissing his age, performance slippage, and “diva” behavior.

That was Saturday. At Sunday night’s game, true Yankee fans proved their loyalty with a sign reading, “We Stand Behind Jorge.” The “Bleacher Creatures,” a bunch of guys who at every game do roll call of on-field players only, made an exception for Jorge: After finishing their attendance check with A-Rod, they chanted “Jorge, Jorge” and got an appreciative wave back from his place in the dugout. In the eighth inning Posada was sent in to pinch-hit for Andruw Jones, and the crowd gave him a standing ovation. He drew a walk against Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard, who later said, “I think that’s pretty cool that they’re sstanding behind him, but I still wanted to get him out.”

When the 2011 season opened, the Yankees charged the gates, bats blazing, and until a week ago were firing on all cylinders, at first place in the division. But their performance has steadily diminished, and a few days ago Tampa Bay leap-frogged right over them. Posada’s at-bat average was under .150, as opposed to his lifetime average of  .273, with a high of .338 in 2007. Still,  I didn’t realize it had been affecting the whole team. This weekend it became obvious that it has.

Captain Jeter, Jorge’s best friend, said,  “He’s a brother — we’ve been together a long time. If I thought he did something wrong, I’d be the first one to tell him.” Jeter himself is none too dazzling this season: his average is 260, and if I never see another groundout from him I still will have seen too many. Someone pointed out that Jeter is playing under circumstances similar to Posada, with retirement on the horizon, yet he’s not acting like a “pouty diva.” But if Jeter isn’t showing any emotional wear and tear, it’s probably because he’s not quite as attached to being a shortstop as Posada is to catching. Besides, Posada’s nature is that of a highly sensitive person; it’s like comparing apples and oranges.

Catching is, in my opinion, one of the hardest jobs in baseball. The physical position alone is enough to kill you. And this is the guy who tells the pitcher what to throw and when: he’s key to the progression and outcome of the game. I’ve always admired catchers, even more than pitchers, and Jorge Posada is my favorite player. He’s not glamorous like Jeter or A-Rod, not flashy or adventurous or given to grandstanding. He is in fact anything but a diva.  My affinity for him deepened even further when he and Laura had a son with craniosynostosis. Having been through a similar experience myself, I read their book and wrote them a letter in response, enclosing my own book on the subject, Perfectly Normal.

I’m fully confident that Posada will emerge from all this with his dignity intact. Losing his place and identity as a catcher is a significantly big deal, but it is, after all, neither the most difficult nor the most painful life experience that Jorge Posada has ever faced.

Other Yankee Notes

Friday night’s game with the Red Sox was the 2,048th time the rivals faced each other on the field.

The Yankees have made 26 errors this season, one of the highest in MLB. In a typical sloppy move, the ball came dribbling down the field heading straight for A-Rod, who casually bent over, his mind obviously somewhere else, and let it roll past his glove and through his legs while the hitter took first base.

The Yankees’ team average is .292, with only Eric Chavez and Felix Nunoz batting over 300.

Will Eric Chavez turn out to be this year’s Nick Johnson? You might not remember Nick, so brief was his tenure last season, when he hurt his wrist in May and stayed out the rest of the season. Chavez, who came over from the A’s this year, promptly pulled something or other and is on the DL. Having spent his last few Athletic seasons on the list, I don’t expect to see him again at Yankee Stadium.

Pitching: Yankees have a pitching problem for at least the third consecutive year. With the exception of C.C. Sabathia, none of the starters are completely reliable. Bartolo Colon, as well as A.J. Burnett, is inconsistent, and he’s also one of those maddeningly S-L-O pitchers who lengthen the game – as if it needs lengthening! – with long pauses between pitches. Worse, however, is that Colon frequently wears a blank face, giving the impression he’s not completely there. Phil Hughes is on the DL. Meanwhile, Girardi lets all of them stay in the game well beyond the bounds of decent performance. I guess he’s busy deciding who’s going to catch…uh oh, don’t get me started again!

Let’s hope for better news next week!

 

The Beauty of Love/Book Review

The Beauty of Love: A Memoir of Miracles, Hope, and Healing
By Laura Posada and Jorge Posada

I’ve heard it said that the “walking wounded” recognize each other. Long before I knew that Yankee catcher Jorge Posada had a child with craniosynostosis, a complicated, little-known neurological disorder, he was my favorite ball player. Not as gorgeous as Captain Jeter, not as awesome as Sandman Rivera, Posada drew my attention like a magnet. I thought it was because he was a catcher, a position I respect and admire above all the rest. But there was also something indefinable about Jorge that touched me: I felt we were in some way simpatico. Now I know what it was. As parents of children with neurological disorders, we’ve been through the same war, and lived to tell the tale.

In The Beauty of Love: A Memoir of Miracles, Hope, and Healing, Posada and wife Laura tell the gut-wrenching story of their son’s first years of life. Born with craniosynostosis, he had visible deformations of the skull, which, if untreated, can cause severe damage such as seizures, visual impairment, misalignment of the spine, and developmental delays. Jorge Luis was operated on at nine months old, and again at two, and at three, racking up eight complicated, 12-hour surgeries in his first six years of life.

As many readers of this blog know, my son Daryl, now 45, was born with a neurological condition called hydrocephalus, which is complicated to explain and requires surgery — sometimes multiple surgeries. I thought hydro topped the list of terrible neurological conditions that could befall a newborn, but I’ve been humbled: the vicissitudes of hydro almost pale in comparison to craniosynostosis, which I won’t even attempt to explain, not to mention its treatment — restructuring the skull by means of a craniotomy. Craniotomy: a surgical opening of the skull, grafting new bones where necessary, re-shaping and re-forming…the idea of this being performed on an infant is almost beyond imagining.

“He seemed like an old soul who instinctively knew
that life came with pain…”

But if Jorge Luis’s operations were more complicated than Daryl’s, the Posadas and I shared almost identical feelings and experiences at the various stages of our children’s early lives. In alternating chapters, the Posadas write with complete honesty of their shock and grief, of feeling sorry for themselves (the Why me? stage) and their evolution to become leaders helping others cope with craniosynostosis. Realizing that Jorge’s baseball celebrity would draw needed attention that this disease had never gotten, they set up a foundation to raise money for research, and to educate, support, and advocate for parents and their children. In their own words, they evolved “from victims to warriors.”

“What I remember from that time are scenes from all the different medical procedures Jorge Luis had to endure, seeing my little son all rigged up, hooked up to a million tubes.”

Before they could reach that stage, though, they had to first travel the rough road of denial, isolation, fear, shame, and guilt that comes with this territory. For a long time they didn’t tell people about their son’s condition, lest pictures of his misshapen head end up splashed all over the New York tabloids. Laura, like every mother of a child with a disability, wondered what she might have done to cause it. Both parents suffered the agony of seeing their baby in pain, of handing him over to medical professionals in sterile rooms with cold metal instruments, knowing these strangers were about to split their baby’s skull wide open.  My son’s surgical procedures lasted five hours in the early years; less than an hour later on. I cannot imagine how the Posadas endured 12-hour marathons; surely those hours were filled with thoughts and feelings similar to what I remember  – one of the top ten being the very real possibility of my baby dying on the operating table. Laura writes that she could not, before Jorge Jr.’s first operation, fathom how an infant was going to survive the procedure as it was described by the surgeon.

“The possibility of losing him was always in the room.”

 

One thing The Posadas had going for them was that each has the inner resources that come from having been raised by large, loving, supportive families. They describe almost idyllic childhoods in Puerto Rico; each had the kind of family that every one of us ought to have but few of us do. Laura makes comparisons between then and now, of herself pre-craniosynostosis as a self-involved girl whose chief concerns were her own physical fitness and worldly achievements. As is the case for so many parents of children with disabilities, her son has shown her, she says, a whole other way of being.

Although my childhood was very different from theirs, disability is the great equalizer: the Posadas and I share the same parental reactions to our situation, beginning with the first: denial. Jorge Luis’s head looked the way it did “from the forceps”  used during childbirth. And Daryl would simply “have an operation and be fine.” Once you move through the denial stage, you can’t turn back, even when you wish you could.

“I waged my internal emotional battle in total solitude…I would spend the day with a rehearsed smile pretending that everything was fine.”

Babies who cried all night, who would not be comforted, even when we stayed up all night rocking and walking, thinking they were in pain – and maybe they were – feeling inadequate as parents. Protecting our babies from the eyes of others, friends and strangers alike, not wanting them to pass judgment on him. Seeing other parents with babies, feeling robbed of a joyful experience. Hardly talking about our son’s condition, not even to each other. Numbed by medical terminology, going through the motions of life, doing what you have to do, hoping for the best. For the first six years of Daryl’s life that’s how I lived. As Laura says, nothing in life prepares you for this “…category 5 hurricane of questions, shock and guilt—and we did not have even one umbrella between the two of us.” And then the second child: convinced she too must have some anomaly, unable to fully believe she was healthy and “normal.”

The book’s foreword was written by Joe Torre, who uses the metaphor of Jorge as a switch-hitter to describe his ability to adapt to whatever gets thrown his way. Derek Jeter, Tino Martinez, and other Yankees contributed commentary throughout, as did Jorge’s and Laura’s relatives, writing their own observations of the Posadas during difficult times. When a group of Yankees visit the hospital after one of Jorge Jr.’s surgeries, someone describes Jorge Sr. as seemingly “stunned.” He probably was. And yet, Posada continued to play baseball, having one of his best seasons the year of Jorge Jr.’s birth, contributing to a Yankee World Series championship.

As the fans shout when Posada comes up to bat, Hip hip Jorge! And hip hip Laura! as well. These are two genuine, strong, wonderful, and caring human beings, weathering one of life’s most difficult experiences. I’m grateful they told their story, and hope the rest of Jorge Jr.’s life, and theirs, gets easier as it goes along.

My own book, Perfectly Normal: A Mother’s Memoir, is available at Amazon and at iUniverse.com.

Confessions of a She-Fan: The Course of True Love with the New York Yankees

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Confessions of a She-Fan: The Course of True Love with the New York Yankees, by Jane Heller

 

 

 

In 2007 the New York Yankees had a baaaaad season. They started badly, didn’t even make it to a .500 winning percentage until mid-season, barely slid into the postseason, and then went down to ignominious defeat against the Cleveland Indians in the first round of playoffs. Well before that point, Jane Heller, a writer and passionate fan, gave up on the team she’d loved for years: in a fit of disgusted rage, she served notice, in an op-ed piece for the New York Sunday Times, her intention to “divorce” the Yankees. In a city where people live and die by this team, reactions were intense and critical: a true fan is supposed to stand by her team in sickness and in health. Heller was vilified as a “bandwagon fan,” the equivalent of a fair-weather friend. The week her piece ran, it was the most emailed and talked about article in the Times.

 

 

 

English: Cap logo of the New York Yankees

 

 

 

Stunned by this response, Heller took a long look at her relationship with the Bronx Bombers, and, smelling a book contract on the road, decided to follow the team around the country for the rest of the season. Her husband Michael (your average fan as opposed to a rabid maniac) went along to lend his support. The result, Confessions of A She-Fan, is the best book I’ve ever read on the subject of baseball. I admit this is a  totally biased, lopsided, and personal opinion, that I’m well aware  She-Fan is far from The Best Book  – but on a personal level, it is. More important, She-Fan is the first book that talks about the game from a female perspective. My perspective. The perspective of She-Fans.

 

 

 

As with most areas of life, there’s a difference in the way women participate as sports fans, specifically baseball, from the way in which men participate. This is something I’ve long suspected, but, conceding sports as the exclusive province of the male, I didn’t much talk about it. I’ve been afraid my POV is less valid than men’s, and stifled some of my observations. In baseball conversations with men, I’m insecure, afraid of sounding idiotic. I’ve written all my life about gender differences in attitude towards food, sex, movies…you name it. I’ve never been intimidated about expressing my opinions, and certainly never thought my perspective was inferior to men’s. But sports? It’s a whole other ball game (pun intended).

 

 

 

Men know and care about statistics, more important in baseball than in any other sport. Men remember plays in games that took place years or even decades ago. I envy this skill of instant recall. Women, on the other hand, watch interactions between teammates – not as mere celebrity gossip, but as to how it affects their game. Heller acknowledges these differences, and more, without self-judgment or apology. In doing so, she’s given women permission to speak our baseball minds. That crackling sound you hear is the shattering  of another glass ceiling.

 

 

 

Heller’s relationship to the Yankees will resonate with other New York fans; at least, it did with this one. I was born and spent the first six years of my life in the Bronx. Rooting for the Yankees was in my blood and my bones, a given, something you just did. The world was smaller back then, and Yankees filled a big piece of mine.

 

 

 

The tone of the writing is intensely personal and insanely funny; at times Heller flips into a kind of Woody Allen-esque self-deprecation. Comparing herself to a friend who, she says, is shaped like “a normal woman,” she describes herself as looking like “a pencil.”  Her pet names for various Red Sox players are laugh-out-loud funny: Jonathan Papelbon is Pap Smear; Big Papi is Big Sloppy.  And she lives up to the “confessions” of her title, letting readers see her quirks and vulnerabilities.

 

 

 

She manages to turn the book’s major weakness – lack of access to the team; she wasn’t even allowed in the press box – into a strength, by creating an element of suspense, sprinkling in quotes from an unnamed Yankee player. Naturally, I kept trying to figure out who the mystery speaker was, guessing and un-guessing Jorge Posada, A-Rod, Joe Torre, or even Steinbrenner himself. The suspense built until I could stand it no longer, and if Heller hadn’t eventually revealed the truth I would’ve killed her. (I won’t spoil it by revealing it here.)

 

 

 

Speaking of Joe Torre, 2007 was, as every Yankee fan will remember, the year he left after 12

 

English: Photograph of Joe Torre taken by Goog...

 Photograph of Joe Torre taken by Googie Man (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

seasons as manager. It was also, in hindsight, the beginning of the end of King George’s rule, when his health began to fail and his sons stepped in to take over. For Heller, these transitions were emotionally difficult, and she holds  nothing back, revealing without shame moments like her gut-wrenching crying jag in the stands, where she remains long after the last out of the final losing game.

 

 

 

What does it mean to love a baseball team like this? Why does Jane Heller – why do I, for that matter – love the Yankees with such passion? As a kid I simply accepted that I was a Yankee fan. As I got older, this unquestioned loyalty began to fade. I was disillusioned to learn that a team’s players don’t necessarily come from or live in the city they represent – and to tell the truth, I’ve never fully recovered from the shock of that. From it I deduced that loving a team is purely arbitrary, that you could simply choose a team ro love. When there was no choice in the matter, it was somehow easier to be loyal.

 

 

 

But it turns out that the Yankees are more like family than just a team: love ‘em or hate ‘em, you’re stuck with ‘em. I suspect that’s why so many New Yorkers were outraged when Heller announced she’d simply up and divorce them. It’s like divorcing your family, never mind just your spouse.

 

 

 

By the end of the book, though, Heller reaffirms her love for the Yankees; she’s grown, she’s moved to  a whole other level of fandom. She’s been to hell and back, learned a few things about love, loyalty, patience, and commitment, and she’s in it for the long haul. Win or lose, in sickness or health, she’ll stick with pinstripes til the day she dies. There’s no choice when you’re to the Bronx team born.

 

 

 

Welcome to the family, Jane. We’re glad you decided to stay.

 

 

 

Baseball Miscellany (with focus on the usual team)

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A-Rod Hits 600

Three years to the day that Alex Rodriguez hit his 500th home run, he became the seventh player in Major League history to hit 600 home runs in his career. It happened at Yankee Stadium in the 3rd inning off pitcher Shaun Marcum of the Toronto Blue Jays, after a stressful two-week stretch during which A-Rod made over 40 trips to the plate, hitting nothing while the fans stood, screamed, and flashed their cameras in his eyes. I for one am vastly relieved – though I confess I was somewhat hurt that he did it during a game I wasn’t watching; before then I was convinced Alex was waiting for me to witness his delivery. Oh well…at least now he can get on with just playing the game he plays so well.

Nothing these days, however, is only what it is — not even home runs, and certainly not Major League Baseball. Alex’s record-breaking homer has raised a host of questions about legacy and Hall of Fame representation in the era of steroids, an era that is hopefully passing if not over. Mike and Mike in the Morning devoted a goodly portion of the show to these questions, possibly breaking their record for time spent on baseball as opposed to basketball and especially their beloved football. They wondered if these numbers even matter anymore, and if A-Rod’s admission of steroid use detracts from his accomplishment. An interesting aside: nobody gets as riled up over drug use in other sports the way they do when a baseball player uses. Lance Armstrong, for instance, is forgiven because of his work fighting cancer. The Mikes pointed out that it’s because Americans don’t care about Armstrong’s sport, or about any sport the way they do about baseball. It’s supposed to represent Mom, the flag, and apple pie.

Well, maybe it’s time to cut baseball’s umbilical cord and free the sport from this heavy symbolic burden. I sure wouldn’t mind. We could begin by doing away with Kate Smith singing God Bless America at the 7th inning stretch.

Not that this would entirely erase the brouhaha that ensues every time a player is caught doing drugs. In A-Rod’s case, as soon as the news leaked he called a press conference and admitted it was true. You can do a lot of sleazy shit, but if you own up to it instead of lying, the way Barry Bonds continues to do, the subject gets dropped a lot faster.

Even so, the stigma remains. Alex Rodriguez is considered by many to be the best baseball player in history – and yet, according to sports columnist Buster Olney, analyst for ESPN’s Baseball Tonight and a Hall of Fame voter, most of the other 575 voting sportswriters will never vote for any player who was involved w/ drugs. This includes Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, both of whom continue to vociferously deny drug use, and a host of other players who clearly belong in the Hall of Fame.

In some quarters, there is a presumption that time will soften the baseball writers’ attitude … It won’t happen in our lifetimes, however, unless there is a dramatic alteration to the voting procedures.

It’s a twisted situation. As many sports analysts point out, it’s not as if players in past eras were pure as the driven snow; amphetamines were once the drug of choice. Given what players physically endure in the course of a season, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that they’d take something just to get through it. Unfortunately, Hall of Fame voters are as screwed up and confused as the rest of our culture when it comes to drug use and abuse. And the games go on….

Joe Girardi, Manager

I’m not one of those people who scream, “kill the ump” every time something happens on the field that I don’t like. I’m more apt to shout to the tv screen, “Hello! Earth to Girardi! Wake up Joe, it’s time to change the pitcher!” Rarely does he listen.

I don’t know WTF he listens to, if anyone, when he’s making some of his warped decisions in the lineup or pitching. Last Sunday the Yankees lost to their chief contenders because of the lineup; it was so obvious that for once I wasn’t alone in blaming Girardi. He kept A-Rod, Brett Gardner, and Mark Texeira out of the game until the late innings.

“The New York Yankees’ 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday was one of the few that was lost at the posting of the lineup cards.” wrote ESPN’s Wallace Matthews.

“Joe Girardi… is always concerned about resting his horses and somehow — on this day, in this game, against this team at this point in the season — chose to rest three of them.”

This wasn’t the first time Gerardi screwed up. I don’t have one of those photographic baseball memories like a lot of men seem to, so I don’t have instant recall of specific games and managerial decisions, but they happen frequently, more than when Joe Torre was managing. (In my opinion, the big mistakes of this season, tho not Girardi’s fault, were  dumping Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui – but that’s a whole other blog.) I don’t even think Derek Jeter should be leading off. When he was second in the lineup and Damon preceded him, Jeter benefited from the way Damon wore out the pitcher; and if Damon got on first base, Jeter would ground out and move the runner forward. Now he just grounds out, period.

It’s extremely frustrating to watch a ball game go down the tubes and know it didn’t have to happen. If my analyses are wrong, I’m caught in  a kind of syndrome, like “Monday morning quarterbacking.”  I begin to understand George Steinbrenner‘s frustration and his maniacal treatment of his managers. I wonder what he’d say about Girardi’s management?

Good News For Oaktown

It looks like the A’s won’t be running off to San Jose any time soon: it turns out that the land they’d designated for a new stadium is owned by AT&T, and they’re not planning to give it up. Fremont was wiped off the boards as a location some time ago: seems the residents want a nearby stadium, but NIMBY. Could the A’s end up staying in Oakland? Mayor Ron Dellums has proposed building a stadium near Jack London Square, a perfect location. The A’s would end up playing in a place on a par with the Giants’, easy to get to and cooled by bay breezes. Dellums, who’s done almost nothing during his time in office, could redeem himself by masterminding a plan before he leaves office. As the billboards used to say, It wouldn’t be Oklnd without the A’s.

Coming Soon to a Blog Near You

I’ve almost finished the best baseball book I’ve ever read: Confessions of a She-Fan: The Course of True Love With the New York Yankees by Jane Heller. It’s funny, very personal, and totally reflects my own passion for the team. I know I should never promise to write something I might end up not having time for, but it is my intent to blog a full review of She-Fan soon.

Baseball Legends Never Die

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George Steinbrenner’s earthly body may be gone, but considering the way baseball preserves – some might even say flogs – its legends, players, and heroes, you know “The Boss” is going to be around for a long time to come. With his spirit only just beginning its journey into eternity, he’s no doubt still hovering nearby, close enough to have seen the American League, his team’s League, lose the All-Star Game last night for the first time in 13 years. I wonder if he reacted like the “old” George, the one who fired manager Billy Martin five times; or like the “new” George, the mellow guy everyone says he turned into in recent years. (Is that the same George who fired Joe Torre?) Hopefully, he’s preoccupied with more important matters now, like his soul’s destination, and is no longer so concerned about winning, which dominated his life on Earth.

Just a few days before George left us, on Sunday, Bob Sheppard, the Voice of the Yankees for decades, passed away at the age of 99. About him we’ve heard only praise, none of the complicated anecdotes describing Steinbrenner as the complex, multi-faceted person he was. Derek Jeter long ago recorded Sheppard’s voice announcing his appearance at bat, and at the game last night it was played to a hushed stadium. “Derek Je-ter.” He enunciated every syllable with unsurpassed clarity, so everyone knew that ‘T’ was a ‘T’ and not a ‘D’. Sheppard didn’t go in for theatrics or melodrama: just clear, perfect enunciation.

I’m not thoroughly versed in Steinbrenner hagiography – but I do know that whenever someone attacks me for being a Yankee fan, his name tops the list of the so-called empire’s evils. I didn’t even know about the crooked Nixon contributions until fairly recently…but I’d rather not speak badly of the dead.

Steinbrenner’s legacy will certainly be reiterated in numerous articles and books, not to mention ceremonies, for at least a few months; it’s already begun. Mike and Mike in the Morning, which runs for four hours on ESPN TV and radio every day, and which tends to pay much more attention to basketball, football, and golf than to baseball, devoted today’s entire show to George Talk, with stories and anecdotes from call-ins, emails and guests. Today’s New York Times printed a slew of articles and obituaries, each with its own angle or emphasis.  I direct you there:

His Final Victory is an Empire Restored

Editorial

George Steinbrenner, Who Built Yankees Into Powerhouse, Dies at 80

Steinbrenner Remembered as Despot and Hero

Remembering Steinbrenner as a Seinfeld Star

Will Yankee Haters Have a Change of Heart?

The Night I Hugged Steinbrenner

Steinbrenner and the City: A Whirlwind

And that’s only about half of them! Here’s the complete list.

Now what could I possibly add to all that? R.I.P.

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