Friday, February 29, 2008

Hankenstein Bashes BoSox, ESPN

From an upcoming magazine interview comes Hank Steinbrenner's jabs thrown at the Boston Red Sox, its fans and ESPN.

"Red Sox Nation?" Hank Steinbrenner said in an interview with The New York Times' Play magazine. "What a bunch of [expletive] that is. That was a creation of the Red Sox and ESPN, which is filled with Red Sox fans.

"Go anywhere in America and you won't see Red Sox hats and jackets, you'll see Yankee hats and jackets. This is a Yankee country. We're going to put the Yankees back on top and restore the universe to order."

Yeah, you're not like your father at all Hank. Not that telling it like it is is wrong.

The Hughes Q&A Session

Pete Abraham of the Journal News sat down for an extensive Q&A session with Phil Hughes. The entire interview and audio is available at the LoHud Blog and on Hughes' blog. All of the questions were taken from fans, making for more original discussion than your standard sportswriter-to-athlete interchange.

Klapisch: Torre May Regret Dodger Blue. Bob Klapisch, the no-nonsense columnist for the Bergen Record, ponders Joe Torre's decision to bolt for the City of Angels after feeling slighted by the Yankees extension offer.

Klap first sympathizes with Torre's decision, calling the Yankees offer a "hollow, one-year offer [which] was made to be rejected." However, the tone soon turns as he contends Torre may implement the same type of Yankees boycott Yogi Berra instituted after an ugly departure from pinstripes.

Klapisch goes on to paint an ugly final year for Torre and his Yankees tenure, citing an unnamed source which called the Ron Guidry promotion as a favor and not a proper baseball move. From the piece:
Torre says all the right things -- it is, after all, still February -- but his friends in the business say it's only a matter of time before the non-Yankee reality greets him head-on. One person close to Torre said, "I just hope Joe doesn't end up regretting this."

That hollow, one-year offer was made to be rejected; after taking the Bombers to the postseason 12 straight seasons, Torre was so offended he hinted at a long, Yogi-type boycott of the organization.
The Dodgers ... want to win now: They've made Torre the richest manager in the team's history ($14.5 million through 2010), and will want an immediate return on that investment. For all the tension that grew between Torre and Steinbrenner, at least the Yankees stuck with their manager for over a decade. Meanwhile, the McCourts are on their third skipper in four years, which is to say, they won't wait long on Torre.

He doesn't get in people's faces. He doesn't do fiery team meetings. He operates on trust, believes in self-reliance. The Yankees unwittingly took advantage of the honor system last year; everyone seemed too comfortable, especially after failing to win the World Series for the seventh straight time. Even Torre's supporters in the organization admit Joe's stewardship had become too casual, evidenced by his naming Ron Guidry as pitching coach. "It was obvious all [Torre] was doing was taking care of a buddy," said one Yankee inside. "Finally, we have someone here [Dave Eiland] who knows what he's doing."

In his heart, Torre probably knew it was time to leave New York. He's said as much recently, that he no longer felt appreciated. But why did he take another job so fast? Torre is in a new league, trying to familiarize himself with a roster of strangers, surrounded by a baseball culture that could care less about the Yankees. Someday, Torre may look in the mirror, see that Dodger blue and ask: Was it really worth it?

Good question.

NY Times Q&A With Gammons. Wow, a whole five questions with Red Sox relic ESPN columnist Peter Gammons. The Boston beaneater made good points on the Roger Clemens saga, Barry Bonds' future and the Yankees young starters. Then, there was this:

Q: The Yankees stood pat in the offseason, while some contending teams like the Mariners and Tigers made drastic improvements. Do you think the Yankees could miss the playoffs?

A: There's a risk because Toronto is going to be really good if A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan come back. The AL East is so deep. [If] Scott Kazmir is healthy, the Devil Rays, Jays and [Red] Sox are three teams in your division you don't want to play. I don't think that's true in any other division. I am sure it has Hank Steinbrenner very concerned.

So, according to Gammons, the AL East is going to be good. Where would we be without these Diamond Notes?

Larry Lucifer Won't Retire Clemens Jersey. The man who coined "The Evil Empire" label regarding the Yankees, Larry Lucchino, is reconsidering the idea of immortalizing Roger Clemens in Beantown:

Once an icon in the game, Clemens is now a baseball pariah. Now comes evidence that the Red Sox may be backing off their efforts at rapprochement.

While the organization had spoken in broad terms about holding a special day to honor to Clemens and perhaps even retire his number, those plans are now on hold.

“I seemed to remember some talk about that,” confirmed Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino yesterday, noting that former vice president of public affairs Charles Steinberg spearheaded the discussions. “But since that time, there’s been nothing further. I know there are no plans at this point (to do anything).”

Wright Tells Milledge To Shut Up

The New York Mets do not like Lastings Milledge. After all they traded him - a potential Gary Sheffield type - for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.

The love fest doesn't stop there, as David Wright and [of course] Billy Wagner took exception to comments Milledge made to Sports Illustrated upon his arrival at Nationals training camp:

"I can't go through anything worse than I went through in New York. It only gets better from here," Milledge said. "A lot of veterans didn't like the way I play the game. They thought I didn't respect it."

Milledge added: "The vets here (on the Nationals) have no problem with me. They know I respect (the game). They know I work hard."

"Enough is enough," David Wright said yesterday. "You're a Washington National now. Don't worry about what happened last year or the year before that. Just go out there and try to help the Nationals win.

"It makes no sense to bash your former team. He just needs to turn the page and worry about helping the Washington Nationals. Forget about what we're doing over here. Forget about the New York Mets."

This is a no-win situation when viewing the situation as an outside observer. Milledge probably had some growing up to do, but his make-up issues seemed to be very much exaggerated. After hitting an important homerun, running down your the foul line at your homefield and high-fiving excited Mets fans is youthful enthusiasm, not cockiness or showing up the opposition. If Milledge had released a rock record - and not a hip hop album - littered with profanity, methinks the youngster would not have received half the commotion.

On the other hand, Milledge could have shown some class and progress by keeping his mouth shut this Spring, but he could not manage to do so. Whether or not he hits his ceiling becomes more a question of maturity than physicality. The question remains, can Milledge put the trivialities aside and just play ball, or will he continue to fumble his priorities. At least he can always turn to the new Elijah Dukes for inspiration.

Hilarious Canseco "Story" From The Onion.

Maybe this is how it all went down before the infamous BBQ hosted by Jose Canseco:
"Hey guys, big steroid bash at my place," Canseco said while handing out flyers at a Toronto Blue Jays spring training intrasquad game. "Nothing too fancy, just a bunch of guys, hanging out, taking steroids. Tell your friends."
"Let me break it down for you: food, babes, steroids," said Canseco, leaning over the outfield fence of Dunedin Stadium, to Blue Jays centerfielder Vernon Wells. "Any steroid you want. Winstrol-Stanozolol, Deca-Durabolin, Sustanon, Anadrol, you name it. I even got some exotic steroids from South America, and I might bust out my own special homemade steroid blend. Oh, and if everyone chips in $5, I might get a steroid fountain. It's gonna be sweet."

Rangers Hated On Tex For "Winning" Statements. Mark Teixeira drew ire from his Texas teammates and coaches when he expressed his desire to play for a contender - and said the Rangers were far from contending. The author: "Rangers types started floating this idea that losing Tex helped them and not simply because of Salty and his fellow Braves prospects -- Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, et al. -- look to have huge upside." The writer goes on to refer to Alex Rodriguez as A-Fraud for leaving the Texas Rangers in 2004. How does this chick have a column?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Larry Bowa doesn't like the new helmet rule for base coaches. The rule goes into effect this year following last year's incident in which a minor league base coach was killed after an errant foul ball caught him in the head. Bowa was quoted as saying, "One guy got killed and I’m sorry it happened...but bats break and they can be a deadly weapon. Do something about bats."

Murcer To Face New Brain Cancer Trial. According to an e-mail sent out by his wife, Bobby Murcer may have to defeat brain cancer for a second time. Murcer must undergo a brain biopsy on Monday to determine if an area of concern for doctors - which appeared during a recent MRI - is another tumor or simply scar tissue. Speaking for myself, every true Yankees fan and all of Major League Baseball, let's hope it's the latter. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Murcer family.

That's Offensive: The Detroit Tigers

Nothing groundbreaking here, but was pondering the top offenses in the American League. The Yankees and Red Sox are always prominent, but take a look at Detroit's potential lineup for 2008:
Curtis Granderson
Placido Polanco
Miguel Cabrera
Magglio Ordonez
Gary Sheffield
Carlos Guillen
Edgar Renteria
Ivan Rodriguez
Jacque Jones
That's about as scary a 1-8 as has ever been assembled. The Yankees offense is nothing to sneeze at, but the Tigers arguably have more firepower and consistency. Sheffield's health is a concern, but the real question mark is their pitching.
Can Dontrelle Willis return to form? Will Jeremy Bonderman ever put it all together? Is Nate Robertson able to emerge if Kenny Rogers continues to be an injury prone aging lefty? Justin Verlander can't pitch 600 innings.
The bullpen is just as porous with Fernando Rodney never able to stay on the field, Joel Zumaya recovering from shoulder problems and Todd Jones well still being Todd Jones.

Afternoon Links:
· FBI opens case investigating whether Roger Clemens committed perjury. MLB fans offer their overbearing indifference.
· Jon Heyman says Joe Torre will have a tough time keeping the Dodgers together as embittered veterans will mix with LA's uber prospects.
· Jonathon Mayo, good source of MiLB info, takes his swings on the Clemens predicament and may offer a surprising perspective.
· The NY Observer thinks a Betemit/Duncan platoon at first base best serves Yanks though Joe Girardi will probably institute the "hot hand" approach.

Miggy B Loves Some Kenny G

This has got to be one of the funniest baseball-related posts of this young year. Mariners starting pitcher Miguel Batista, apparently likes the soprano saxophone a lot. Eventually, Batista took up the instrument as a hobby and not surprisingly idolized the king of the genre - Kenny G.
The result was an awkward encounter between a fan - the professional baseball player - and a pseudo celebrity - the master of the super market anthem.
The close of the article is especially ambiguous as the author writes Batista "this time, was the one receiving instead of giving." Ouch.
The Mariners pitcher and blossoming soprano saxophone buff was invited to a concert at the Dodger Theatre in Phoenix on Tuesday, where he spent 20 minutes backstage with his musical idol, Seattle native Kenny G. They talked music, baseball and saxophone breathing techniques in a private waiting area before Batista was serenaded with his very own Kenny G session.

"He played for me," Batista said. "It was my favorite song, 'Alone.' Now, I feel like I've had everything. I've talked pitching with Sandy Koufax, had Kenny G play for me. Maybe if I could have an interview with God, then I'd be served. I'd be complete."

Batista took private sax lessons at the University of Washington last summer. He was inspired to begin playing the instrument after listening to CDs of Kenny G's music in the

Kenny G, whose real name is Kenneth Gorelick, heard about Batista being a fan after The Times published a story about the pitcher last August that detailed, among other things, his new musical hobby. Representatives for the team and Gorelick arranged the meeting when it was discovered that Batista's spring training here in the Phoenix area coincided with the date of the musician's one-night performance.
Partway through the sold-out concert, the musician left the stage while playing "Havana" and waded through the aisles, slowly approaching Batista's seat.

"Then he pauses from playing," Batista said. "And he goes, 'Thanks, guy, it was cool today.' "

Batista is used to being thanked by others. But this time, he was the one receiving instead of giving.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

McCutchen Sets The Record Straight. For those who don't already know, Dan McCutchen is a bulldog righthander from Oklahoma who catapaulted himself on the prospect scene after going 16-4 with a 2.59 ERA last year.
Splitting time between Tampa and Trenton, McCutchen was not merely facing the critical jump from Single-A to Double-A competition, he was also overcoming a 50 game suspension for performance-enhancing drug use in 2006. When news of the suspension first surfaced, McCutchen's local Oklahoma newspaper blared a large, loud headline reading "McCutchen Busted For Steroids."
However, had the newspaper spent any time discovering the details to his suspension, they would have learned McCutchen had tested positive for Adderall, a drug his doctor prescribed for his attention deficit disorder. McCutchen forgot to file the prescription with the Yankees and therefore a big misunderstanding became an unavoidable stigma.

"People assumed he had taken steroids, and that just wasn't true," said Jay Franklin, McCutchen's agent. "The paper printed a retraction that nobody saw because it was so short. It was a rough time for him and his family."

Despite [an elbow injury], the Yankees drafted McCutchen in the 27th round. He turned them down to accept a scholarship from Oklahoma.

McCutchen pitched well for the Sooners, getting drafted again in 2004 (28th round by the Rays) and 2005 (12th round by the Cardinals). He beat Nebraska 5-1 on April 28, 2005, handing a sophomore named Joba Chamberlain his first loss in college.

"He threw hard; he was good," Chamberlain said. "That game was on ESPN, and he just beat me."

Within the linked piece from the Journal News, McCutchen is depicted well as the ferocious mound presence he has been described as in several prospect guides. His Trenton Thunder teammates refer to him as "Danimal," and McCutchen admitted "I have a split personality when I get on the mound."
It's this tenacity which has helped push the 25 year-old into the mix for a 2008 promotion into the Yankees starting staff or bullpen. His versatility is a great value and GM Brian Cashman explains "He's a starter for now, but we believe he does have the ability to relieve."
McCutchen primarily throws a sinker 90-94 mph, but he also throws a straighter four-seam fastball which can hit 96. He also has a hard curveball thrown at about 80 mph which is his outpitch. McCutchen completely lost his feel for the curve in Trenton, forcing him to develop and rely upon his changeup. The pitch has come a long way because of it and makes his 2007 statistics even more impressive.

Girardi Says "Giddy Up." The new Yankees manager spent Tuesday evening with the New York beat writers for dinner. Though Pete Abraham warned the gathering was off the record, he did reveal a telling piece of information on Joe Girardi.
General Joe is a Seinfeld fan. When the group's reservation was lost in the shuffle, Girardi explained "Anybody can take a reservation, the key is keeping the reservation." Maybe some day Girardi will have established himself enough in the Big Apple to warrant Larry David's homage - that is, a crew-cut, a Forest Gump-like running regimen and an over-the-shoulder impersonation.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Two Stories Of Alcoholism

Bret Boone claims a bout with alcoholism forced a sharp decline and early exit from his baseball career.
Boone, 38, revealed that an alcohol problem was the reason he retired. According to Boone, the problem goes as far back to his peak years with the Mariners, but he happily reports that he hasn’t had a drink in seven months.

...Boone’s problems started in a more subtle matter, but it got to a point where he would drink 12 to 15 beers after a game. At age 32, for example, Boone recalls dinking heavily after a game and then going 3-for-4 the next day. But as he got older, Boone’s stats declined and he lost the passion for baseball.

“For me, it was an alcohol thing,” Boone said. “It wasn’t to the point where I was down and out. But it was to a point where I could see it was going there.

“I don’t want to make a big deal about it, but I was at a point where sometimes it was more important to me to go to a hotel bar after a game. At the end, it takes away your passion and everything inside that makes you tick. I’m not proud of it. I’m proud I took care of the situation before it got to a point where it could have.”
Call me a cynic, but it's altogether possible Boone faded from baseball because of abuse of drugs other than alcohol. Perhaps the kind that builds muscle and allows you to hit 450 foot opposite-field homeruns. Citing alcoholism - though a terrible disease - and being called a recovering addict is much more forgiving territory than being called a cheater who used steroids.

Max St. Pierre, a once heralded catching prospect in the Tigers farm system, also revealed a serious drinking problem in his recent past.
He began his career as a catcher. Nearly ended it, though, as an alcoholic.

“I drank all night, every day of the season,” Max St. Pierre said.
...After four seasons at Double A Erie, St. Pierre finally rose to Triple A. Instead of seizing the opportunity, though, his demons seized him.
“I started not caring as much,” he said. “My priority was drinking instead of wanting to be a baseball player. It happened more than a couple of times that I almost fell asleep in the bullpen because I’d barely slept the night before. “I lost my job because I was just partying. I wasn’t going the right way, and people finally found out.”
That sounds more like an addict's behavior than Boone's "alcohol thing."

Marchman: Bonds Would Make Rays Contender. Tim Marchman of the NY Sun believes adding Barry Bonds to the Tampa Rays - the team is rumored to be mulling an offer - would make the AL East basement dweller a contender in the American League. The article believes the Rays should cut a deal today, though Bonds' upcoming legal circus has to be a factor. It's hard to DH in Tampa Bay if your in lockdown upstate.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Hank: I'll Discuss Cashman Extension

Hank Steinbrenner wants to extend GM Brian Cashman. But he also wants to hold him accountable if Johan Santana wins 25 games and posts a 1.90 ERA for the crosstown Mets.

From the AP Wire:
"I want to concentrate on the season, and he does, too," Hank Steinbrenner said Monday. "But during the course of the season, we will talk. It will just happen. We'll be sitting together at the game, and we'll start talking about it. It's just that simple."

Cashman joined the Yankees as a 19-year-old intern in June 1986. He succeeded Bob Watson as general manager after the 1997 season.

"I've known Cash for a long time," Steinbrenner said. "He's been with our family for a long, long time. I think the big thing is with Brian is the organization he put in place. You know, it's not based on just one decision as far as do a trade or don't do a trade, or sign a free agent or don't."
Steinbrenner will be keeping a close eye during exhibition games on Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, the Yankees' trio of touted young pitchers.

"They're going to take it easy with them, build up their pitches," Steinbrenner said. "We'll be careful with them, but obviously everybody's going to be watching them."

Today In Spring Training

The LoHud blog reported a few notes from today's live batting practice, with emphasis on Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes.
Apparently Pettitte isn't satisfied with his ability to keep runners on second base from stealing third and consequently began working on a slidestep today. His pickoff move is still a lethal weapon - as illustrated by the bases-loaded sniping of Jhonny Peralta last year - but Pettitte believes AL East baserunners are beginning to take third more easily.
The report on Hughes' BP session should be encouraging for Yankees fans as the 21 year-old told Pete Abraham his curveball is back to what it was pre-hamstring injury. His fastball must also be coming back into form:

Hughes was, in a word, terrific. He made Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, Bobby Abreu and Francisco Cervelli look foolish at times. He got Abreu to swing and miss at a curveball and had Damon fouling balls off the other way, a sign of how late his swing was. Jeter only swung at 3 of the 10 pitches he saw and fouled all of them off.

Now, keep in mind, the hitters have been facing live pitching for four days and Hughes started throwing off a mound in Tampa in mid January. But what was encouraging is the confidence with which Hughes threw his curveball.

As he said later on, he never had his true curveball last year after the injury. Now it’s back. Hughes is working out with Pettitte six days a week and has dropped 10 pounds since last season. You can never say never, but all the work he has done should help him avoid leg injuries.

This all must be taken with a grain of salt, however, as pitchers are far ahead of hitters in terms of their workout regimen.

Get(ty) Your Photos Here

Getty Images has the photo collection of all the Spring Training invitees posted here.

As you see in the photo, Joba Chamberlain lost some LB's. So did Brian Bruney and Chris Britton.

The 6'11'' Andrew Brackman looks like a beast and Jose Tabata also looks to be in very good shape.

Then there's Jesus Montero - the 18 year-old powerbat - and A-Jax - the five tool centerfielder.

Humberto Sanchez will always be "husky" and Ross Ohlendorf looks happy with a bullpen spot that's his to lose.

Phil Hughes is all business and Alan Horne wants him some major league innings.

Sherman: Melancon May Be 'Next'

Joel Sherman, a great source for Yankee management information - but not so much on player development - offered another piece on the emergence of Mark Melancon.
The article, titled "Melancon The Next Joba?" tells the abridged story of the righthanded reliever's organizational rise, though he has yet to do anything besides close out the NY Penn league playoffs.
Melancon throws a four-seam and two-seam fastball along with a nasty power curveball and a developing changeup. The four-seamer ranges from 92-94 and tops out at 96 mph, but the two-seam sinker is his real fastball weapon which runs from 90-93 mph. He sinks the ball expertly, but the lateral movement is filthy as well. His power curveball is reminiscient of Josh Beckett's or K-Rods, in that it is thrown in the 82-84 mph range and looks like a fastball before diving into the dirt. Ian Kennedy - who was a PAC-10 rival in college - calls his curve "the Melancon."
As this Yankees blog and countless others had implied months ago, Melancon has the ability and the moxy to become a late inning weapon this year. If he can recapture the level of performance he had while closing games at the University of Arizona, Melancon can eventually become Mariano Rivera's replacement - as Baseball America contends in their annual prospect handbook.
Of course, such a solution remains several months and several leaps away from fruition as Melancon has to first conquer Tampa, Trenton and Scranton's minor league levels before sniffing the big leagues. He also has to prove himself to be a durable power arm completely recovered from last fall's Tommy John surgery.
Furthermore, the path which Joba Chamberlain takes will determine Melancon's route, as a move of Joba to the rotation midseason would open up a major hole in the Yankees bullpen. An opportunity which Melancon would drool over.
From the Sherman piece:
Mark Melancon did not pitch an inning last season. He has pitched 62/3 innings in his entire minor league career. Yet, Yankees officials speculate Melancon could pull a Joba, emulating Mr. Chamberlain by rocketing from the Florida State League to late-inning Yankee relevance in one season. This season.

"I thank Joba for opening that door," Melancon said after a simulated two-inning batting practice session.

The scouting report on Melancon is above-average fastball with command (though his control was sketchy yesterday), a power curve that some in the organization equate as an out pitch to Chamberlain's slider and, as Nick Green, who hit against him in the BP session, said an ability to hide the ball in his delivery. However, what every Yankees official cites as Melancon's greatest asset is a serious, professional, determined makeup.

"This guy wants to compete and will not get rattled," minor league pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras said.
If the Yanks were to get nothing else from that process besides Kennedy and Chamberlain, it would be considered an excellent draft. But the Yanks think they will get more. Oppenheimer said the Yanks "felt blessed" how the draft fell, allowing them to grab six players ranked in the top 70 on their board: Kennedy, Chamberlain, Melancon, Zach McAllister, Dellin Betances and Colin Curtis. The Yanks also believe pitchers from that draft such as George Kontos and Daniel McCutchen, particularly, but perhaps David Robertson and Tim Norton, too, have a chance as major league relievers.
That is one hell of a draft just on IPK and Joba alone. But add Kennedy, Chamberlain, to McAllister, Betances, Kontos and McCutchen and all six arms are potential contributors to the 2008 season or front-line rotation prospects of the future.

Inside The Tampa Clubhouse. On his blog, Phil Hughes posted a cell phone photo of the now legendary interior decorating Mike Mussina concocted in his dark corner of the Yankees locker room. Meanwhile, LoHud has the story of yesterday's incident in which a Chien-Ming Wang wild pitch nearly decapitated Derek Jeter. In the same post Joe Girardi reportedly voiced his early impressions of Dan McCutchen, Mark Melancon and Steven White - all strong candidates for the Yankees bullpen at some point next season.

Forgot to post this before the weekend, but here is a link to a knowledgable list of the top 30 prospects in the Yankee farm system.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

BoSox Sign Colon, Hide Cheeseburgers

According to ESPN, the Red Sox have signed Bartolo Colon to a minor league contract as an insurance plan for the unpredictable nature of Curt Schilling's future.
The Boston Red Sox have reached preliminary agreement on a minor league contract with right-hander Bartolo Colon, a source told's Jerry Crasnick.
If he makes the Opening Day roster, Colon would provide rotation insurance for Boston, which will be without Curt Schilling, who is working his way back from a shoulder injury.
The White Sox, Cardinals and Astros also had been rumored as possible
suitors for Colon this offseason.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Jeter, A-Rod Buddies Again?

That's right kiddies, breakout the sleepover bags and fathers lock up your daughters. From the NY Post:
A Yankees official said the [Jeter-Rodriguez] relationship is "getting better, and that is good for the team."
Then again this is G. King were trusting here. Hat tip to Steve.

Carl Crawford Owns Delmon Young. Crawford and Young have begun a war of words ever since the latter was traded to Minnesota and Elijah Dukes to Washington. Following their collective departures, Crawford told the media the Devil Rays would enjoy a more comfortable, relaxed clubhouse without the presence of Young and Dukes. Young took exception, and fired back at Crawford. Then Crawford got angry and shot back once more:

Carl Crawford has a message for former teammate Delmon Young: Shut up.

Irritated at Young’s reaction to his comments about the Rays having a calmer clubhouse without Young and Elijah Dukes, Crawford spoke out early Friday morning.

“These are exactly the the kind of distractions we were talking about with the Rays, a young guy popping off at the mouth, talking too much,’’ Crawford said. “He needs to just shut up and play baseball.’’

Crawford said that if Young didn’t fully understand his comments about the Rays benefiting from having fewer distractions, Crawford said he will be more than willing to explain it. After reading Young’s comments in the Times early Friday morning, Crawford was animated in his response:

“Nobody even mentioned the word losing, losing games. We know we’ve been a losing franchise. He just wanted to say something back like he’s always running his mouth. That’s what he does. He runs his mouth all the time. Nobody was blaming him for anything. For him to come back at me was a personal attack. I feel that if there is anything that he is unsure about, tell him I would be more than happy to say it in his face, or any kind of other way, that would make him understand.”

That first Twins-Rays game should be fun to watch.

Jeter plans to play short for a long time. Real shocker here, but the NY Daily News reports Derek Jeter intends to man shortstop for "as long as he can." When asked if he's ever thought of playing a different position, the Captain answered with a definitive "No." Jeter plans to play out the final three years of his contract at the only position he's known and after the 2010 season - should he sign an extension with New York - he would assume his position would remain at short. “That’s the plan,” Jeter said. “I haven’t really thought about how long I’m playing. I take it one year at a time; I don’t sit down and say, ‘Well, I hope I’m playing in two-thousand whatever.’ It’s a tough question, because I haven’t really thought about it much.”

Friday, February 22, 2008

That Boy Can Hit

Pete Abraham describing today's live batting practice:

The format was pretty simple. Each pitcher threw 35 pitches. The hitters rotated every five pitches. The pitchers threw from behind a screen to a catcher who was in the batting cage.

There was one moderately hard-hit ball off Mussina. He kept his pitches down and looked very good. Wang gave up five line drives, four off the bat of Jesus Montero [pictured above]. “He’s a strong young man, a strong hitter,” Joe Girardi said.

Oscar Picks

As a movie junkie, I figured I'd throw out my selections of worthy winners for Sunday's Academy Awards. I haven't seen every movie this year, but I caught most of them. There Will Be Blood was a deliberate, long epic, but Daniel Day-Lewis puts forth such an incredible performance the film itself is lifted.

Gone Baby Gone
was an excellent film which will keep you talking about it for another 20 minutes after the credits roll. Casey Affleck shows great versatility and his brother's direction is just as surprising. Michael Clayton is an intelligent political thriller that reminded me a bit of The Parallax View - possibly the greatest poli-thriller of all time.

Juno is clever, quirky and hilarious. No Country For Old Men is a great experience for the first hour and then becomes prodding, pretentious and obsessed with itself. I am a fan of the Cohen Bros, but what exactly they were thinking during the final 45 minutes of the film is a mystery to me.

Charlie Wilson's War proves the unparalleled writing talents of Aaron Sorkin, the architect of The West Wing and films like A Few Good Men. Tom Hanks embraces an unusual role for himself and Phillip Seymour Hoffman steals every scene he's in. The dark humor is used expertly without clouding the message - which remains at the forefront of the film.

American Gangster was entertaining - if only to see two exceptional actors share the screen - but was way to lengthy and not as compelling as expected. The Assassination of Jesse James should win for best cinematography simply because every shot appears like a painter's canvas. Like Gangster, the film it way to drawn out and moody, but the spectacular photography and an excellent ending redeems its shortcomings.
Best Movies [I've Seen] Of The Year:
1) Gone Baby Gone
2) There Will Be Blood

3) Michael Clayton

4) Juno
5) Charlie Wilson's War
6) The Assassination of Jesse James...
7) No Country For Old Men

8) American Gangster

9) I Am Legend
Best Actor:
Daniel Day-Lewis
Best Actress:
Ellen Page
Supporting Actor:
Javier Bardem [PS Hoffman a close 2nd]
Supporting Actress:
Amy Ryan
Best Director:
PT Anderson
Best Cinematography:
The Assassination of Jesse James

Photo Shows Clemens Attended Canseco Party. According to the Daily News report, a young man who attended the now infamous Jose Canseco barbecue - 11 years old at the time - may have photographic evidence showing Roger Clemens was there as well. Though the debate as to whether or not Clemens appeared at such a BBQ seems to be trivial at best, the Republicans and the Rocket's defense team spent an awful lot of Congressional hearing time attempting to prove he was never at Canseco's house. Just as was the case with Clemens' former nanny, it appears new evidence will emerge, proving him to be inaccurate. According to the photographer, he took several pictures of his baseball heroes, one of which was Roger Clemens. The article states Richard Emery and his client Brian McNamee were aware the photo had been circulating as evidence for over a week. Just another lie from a couple of liars. Can we put a fork in this, now?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Barry Bonds is a sad, sad individual. The recently revealed typo which mistakenly cited Bonds had failed a drug test in 2001 [the correct year is 2000] motivated the mongoloid, syringed slugger to declare "the damage to the case was already done," the AP says. Roger Clemens based his case on the word "misremember" and Bonds is building his defense around the idea that a typo recants a positive drug test. These guys have to be long lost brothers, right? At least within whatever fairy tale world they now inhabit.

Jeter Pulls A Fast One

This was supposed to be Andy Pettitte's individual photo, but the Captain had other ideas.

Sheffield Rips Boras A New One

Looks like Alex Rodriguez isn't alone with his newfound disdain for super-agent Scott Boras. After Kenny Rogers recently fired Boras and completed a one year deal with the Tigers on his own, Gary Sheffield has come forward, calling the agent a "bad person" amongst other things.

Gary Sheffield and Boras have been in dispute for five years, since Sheffield fired Boras in 2003. Sheffield later negotiated his own contract with the New York Yankees, but Boras claimed he should get a portion of that deal because of the work he had done on Sheffield’s behalf.

“It’s probably personal, but when it gets done it’s going to be personal with me,’’ Sheffield said. Sheffield won’t mention Boras by name, but he left no doubt who he was talking about when he said this morning that he would tell other players to stay away from the super-agent.

“I’m going to warn everybody,’’ Sheffield said. “It’s going to be the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen. There’s certain people you don’t want to mess with—and I guarantee you I’m one of them.’’

Sheffield later said that his dealings with Boras were “total hell,’’ and he twice referred to the agent as a “bad person.’

..."Major league baseball is allowing it to happen,’’ Sheffield said. “They haven’t heard what I’m going to say when I’m done with all of this, And it’s not going to be pretty. And nobody’s going to shut me up.

“Ain’t no fine going to be big enough. Ain’t no suspension going to be long enough.’’

Good ol' Gary. That chip on his shoulder must be why the steroid suspicious slugger required surgery in the offseason.

Tabata Makes Way For Jeter. Top outfield prospect and 19 year-old Jose Tabata got his first sniff of the big league media yesterday. Though Tabata attended his first Spring training last year, he did not have the burden luxury of neighboring Derek Jeter's locker as he does now. Along with learning lessons from Jeter comes the unenviable task of dealing with the media swarm which accompanies the Captain. Pete Abraham reveals an interesting encounter involving Tabata, Jeter and a bevy of NY media.

Pedro-Santana Rift Already?

An article from The Sporting News discusses Pedro Martinez and Andy Pettitte, exploring the possibility of both New York pitchers falling on their faces this season. More specifically, the idea of Pedro resenting Johan Santana is presented:

For Martinez, it is a matter of accepting that he no longer is the lead dog in the Mets' rotation.

Martinez said he was "jumping up and down" when the Mets obtained Santana from Minnesota and welcomed his arrival. However, Martinez also has an oversized ego, which has served him well.

He rejected the suggestion that Santana was just what the Mets needed to recover from last season's collapse. The Mets had a good No. 1 starter last season in 13-game winner Tom Glavine, Martinez said. The Mets need a full season from Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez and Martinez, he said.

"What this team has been lacking is health," Martinez said. "Even though Glavine was healthy, he couldn't do it by himself. I wasn't there to help him. El Duque got hurt. We're all healthy now."

Mets manager Willie Randolph must carefully maneuver to keep Martinez engaged and productive. Santana seems willing to do his part. He is deferential to Martinez and expressed no reservations about watching him get the start on Opening Day.

Regarding Pettitte, the article wonders "how deep the psychological damage runs" stemming from his role between Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee. The upcoming season will certainly be a challenging one for Pettitte, but photos like this one seem to paint a pretty relieved individual.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Burgos' Bling Burglarized,
The 'Real' Dukes Shows Up

Ambiorix Burgos had his chain snatched. How does a pitcher this bad carry around jewelry this expensive?

New York Mets reliever Ambiorix Burgos had $270,000 in jewelry stolen from his hotel room here Tuesday after leaving it in a shaving bag, Port St. Lucie police said.

Most of the bling was recovered last night, according to a police spokesman, but Burgos went to the police station today after the Mets’ full-squad workout and discovered four to five pieces worth $20,000-$30,000 were still missing.

The theft happened when Burgos, who made $415,000 with the Mets last season, switched floors of his hotel near the Mets’ Tradition Field complex. Cops say Burgos left the bag with the jewelry in his earlier room, and when he went to get it back, it was gone.

Burgos, 23, had a large diamond necklace and an assortment of bracelets, chains, watches and rings in the bag. The Dominican Republic native told The Post today that he stored the jewelry in the bag because the Spring Hill Suites doesn’t have room safes.

Let's get this math straight. Had jewelry worth an estimated $270,000 stolen from him and he made a total of $400,000 last year for the Mets. That mean - using my superlative mathematical skills - Burgos was wearing trinkets worth nearly 3/4ths of his entire paycheck for 2007. Ok . . . to each his own.

Elijah Dukes is a changed man. At least that's what the article says.

Elijah Dukes, the talented but troubled outfielder acquired by the Washington Nationals over the winter, reported to spring training this afternoon and declared himself a changed man.

“I’ve been working on myself a long time,” the 23-year-old said in a press conference at Space Coast Stadium. “I finally found a breakthrough, and from now on, everybody gets a chance to really see [what] the real Elijah Dukes is like.”

...Dukes has been working extensively with a player adviser hired by the Nationals to mentor and watch over him. General manager Jim Bowden said the adviser, James Williams, has spent nearly every waking moment with Dukes over the last two months, at times even sleeping at the player’s house.

“He kind of comes in and gives me that tough love and shoots it to me straight,” Dukes said. “We kind of do things together that kind of reflect a kind of father and son type thing. That’s a good feeling to always have.”

Sorry, but I will never get over this radio interview in which Dukes describes the benefits of crack-cocaine. If he has turned his life around, congratulations. Excuse me while I reserve judgment on Mr. Put Up Ya Dukes.

The Poll: A Split Decision

After approximately 200 votes were cast, BL visitors created a split decision regarding how the Yankees should use Joba Chamberlain this season. Each choice had its own reasonable justification. Some believe Joba is the heir-apparent to Mariano Rivera and should serve as his setup man until succeeding him - much like Rivera's role when John Wetteland closed in 1996.

Some believe Joba has the ability to become an ace starting pitcher and effect games in the same fashion which Josh Beckett dominated last year. After seeing Chamberlain pitch in Trenton, and observe he could carry his velocity into the later innings - still hitting 97 mph in the sixth and seventh innings - this argument holds just as much credence in my mind.

The major concern for the Yankees is to keep his innings totals under control, something that will be done with greater ease than many may believe. Nardi Contreras has already worked out his plans for Chamberlain - as well as for Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy - and his recommendations will be explored by Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi. Expect to see Chamberlain pitch between 140-150 innings as has already been reported on numerous occasions.

Though the Yankees seem intent on starting the year with Chamberlain in the bullpen, there is a strong belief they will stretch him out after the all star break before joining the rotation down the home stretch. This was my choice, and received 21 percent of the vote. Receiving only 2 percent more votes was the desire to keep Chamberlain in the bullpen all season.

The most popular decision - and by far the most reckless for health reasons - had BL voters hoping Chamberlain would start and end the 2008 season in the rotation. Considering the "plus 30 rule" for starting pitchers, Joba should not throw more than 150 innings next season, and using him all season as a starter could pile up 180-200 innings. This could bring about serious arm issues by the summer and even more likely cause injury at some point during the 2009 season.

All things considered, the poll results in a true split decision. Of the first four choices, two place more value on Joba in the bullpen and two more so in the rotation. If you add up the total votes for each facet, 44 percent believe Chamberlain better serves the Yankees as a reliever and 44 percent believe he is more valuable as a starting pitcher.

Conclusion? There is none, other than this is a very separative issue amongst Yankee fans, media members and [probably] organization officials.

Damon Pondered Retirement Last Spring. Johnny Damon, class clown and team nude-exerciser told Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated he considered retirement after leaving camp for a few personal days.

"I was just exhausted .... Burnt out," Damon told Tuesday. "(Retirement) definitely crossed my mind." Damon, who will become the Yankees' regular leftfielder and hit in the leadoff spot, believes he is ready for a comeback season. "So this offseason, I finally was able to work out consistently... I was able to do things that this game has afforded me to do. I'm ready to go out there and prove to everybody that I'm still a pretty good player."

No Teixeira News Is Good News For Yanks. Braves fans want to know if Mark Teixeira will be manning first base in 2009 and for the forseeable future. However, the talented switch-hitter has yet to yield any hints on the topic, leaving the organization guessing what his next move will be. With Jason Giambi's $20 million per season coming off the books following this year, the Yankees are a good fit for Teixeira and his likely exorbitant contract demands. The fact that Tex's agent is none other than Scott Boras - who was recently humbled by the Yankees ownership and his own client in Alex Rodriguez - may make it an interesting derby.

"Leche, usted es flaco, hermanito."

Video of Pettitte's Return to Teammates. Pete Caldera of the Record submits a video report from Spring training in Tampa, chronicling the day's activities. Included is a look at Andy Pettitte's first workout with the team since the Mitchell Report's release. The clip also quotes Jason Giambi as declaring himself "100 percent" going into the season - that is until he hits a ball in the gap and leaves his Achilles tendon on the infield rounding first base. Also, Pete Abraham reports Bobby Abreu's in good shape entering camp. Abraham notes, "He also appeared to take the warnings of Joe Girardi seriously and came to camp in great shape."

Klapisch Investigates Mussina

Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record talked to Mike Mussina about his most difficult year in the major leagues. . . 2007. Klapisch explained Mussina is smart enough to realize that he was "killing [the Yankees]" during his Summer swoon and also revealed that he was pitching through pain for the majority of the year. From the article:
The Yankee right-hander says there are two reasons why he'll rise from the ash heap.

The first is the state of his arm: Mussina is pain-free for the first time since 2006. The second is the rebound factor that goes hand in hand with a catastrophic collapse: Mussina reasons he'll improve because he certainly couldn't pitch any worse.

"Oh, it was bad. I admit that," Mussina was saying Tuesday morning at Legends Field. "There were times when I was on the mound thinking, 'Why can't I get anyone out anymore? Why can't I win a game?' It got to the point where no matter what I threw, it would get hit. It's a helpless feeling, like you can't believe you're the same pitcher who used to be able to go seven innings [a start]."

At 38, his numbers suggest this was no crisis, just an aging pitcher reaching the end of his career. But the Yankees say the dropoff was too steep to be solely age-related. Go figure: In '06, Mussina was fourth in the American League in ERA, third in WHIP (walks plus hits per nine innings), and among the top 10 in winning percentage and strikeouts.

A year later, Mussina had crashed and burned beyond recognition, with the worst ERA (5.15), worst batting average against (.311) and worst WHIP of his career. The very asset that once separated Mussina from other pitchers -- the ability to think through a crisis -- stopped serving him. The right-hander remembers returning to the dugout after being knocked out by the Devil Rays on July 20, having allowed six earned runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings, unable to find an explanation.

At 38, his numbers suggest this was no crisis, just an aging pitcher reaching the end of his career. But the Yankees say the dropoff was too steep to be solely age-related. Go figure: In '06, Mussina was fourth in the American League in ERA, third in WHIP (walks plus hits per nine innings), and among the top 10 in winning percentage and strikeouts.

A year later, Mussina had crashed and burned beyond recognition, with the worst ERA (5.15), worst batting average against (.311) and worst WHIP of his career. The very asset that once separated Mussina from other pitchers -- the ability to think through a crisis -- stopped serving him. The right-hander remembers returning to the dugout after being knocked out by the Devil Rays on July 20, having allowed six earned runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings, unable to find an explanation.

Crazy, isn't it, that Mussina is the pitching staff's de facto leader. Pettitte intends to keep his mouth shut for the time being. Wang never speaks anyway, and the kids are just learning. So Mussina's pride is at stake, not to mention his legacy as a Yankee. If he ends his career in pinstripes with back-to-back failures, all his successes, even the one in 2006, will become invisible to Yankee historians.

Mussina knows he will never again be able to call upon his 93 mph fastball of yesteryear, but he also believes he can succeed with an 88 mph heater. Klapisch contends, just like Pedro Martinez, Mussina possesses the deep pitching repertoire necessary to get outs. Unfortunately, Pedro's decline is taking place at a pitcher's park in the forgiving National League and Moose is looking to come back in the offense-dominated AL East.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

CC Kills Contract Talks

According to the AP [via ESPN], Cleveland ace CC Sabathia has cut short contract talks. Sabathia cites the continuing discussion of a contract extension as a potential distraction for himself and his team.

Ever since Johan Santana signed off on a trade and contract which made him a Met and the highest paid pitcher in MLB history, industry sources began pondering the final destination of Sabathia. Many have labeled him the second prize to the Santana sweepstakes.

Suffice to say that the New York Yankees will have an interest in the 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner. It also goes without saying that the Yanks will have plenty of competition for such a free agent signing. Today's report of Sabathia cutting off talks is one of several small steps which lead to him walking out of Cleveland - and into a more pricey salary and address.

Call me an idiot, but I would like to see Sabathia remain in Cleveland. It would be good for the city and for baseball in general. However, the realists in all of us probably believes CC is on his way out of Ohio following the upcoming season. From the article:
The cold, hard reality is that C.C. Sabathia's days with the Cleveland Indians could be dwindling.

At this time next year, Sabathia could be somewhere else, pitching for somebody other than the only team he has ever known.

"I can't think like that," Sabathia said after a brisk workout on Tuesday morning. "I don't want to go through the season thinking this will be my last year. I want to help my guys here win."
At the end of December, the Indians offered Sabathia, who has a 100-63 career mark, a four-year extension believed to be worth between $17 million and $18 million per year. He's represented by Legacy Sports Group.

Sabathia said the two sides never got close to a deal.

"The Indians sent a proposal," he said. "We couldn't get any common ground on it. Coming into spring training I want to focus on the team and not make it a distraction. I've seen it be a distraction for guys in this clubhouse and I don't want it to be that way for me, so I decided to put it on the shelf."

Last week, Sabathia announced through his website that talks had hit a standstill. Therefore, this is not really "news," but his public statements give it a little more relevance as opposed to rehashing stale items.

Hal Steinbrenner in the interview you don't care about. Hal comes across as the softspoken intelligent brother to Hank's outspoken blowhard persona. After twenty years of silence, many would expect an interview chock full of intriguing anecdotes and an in-depth perspective of the Steinbrenner empire. Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the case in the above-linked GQ article.

Some points of interest:
Who’s at the top of the chain of command?
What’s been determined is that this is a family business, and if we’re both gonna be involved, it has to be an equal thing, and we both need to be involved with all major decisions, whether it’s the stadium, big expenditures, or [the unconsummated trade for Johan] Santana, for instance. It’s well publicized in New York that we didn’t agree on that deal. My concerns were economical and financial, and I’m not gonna get into those, but I also had baseball concerns. I didn’t want to get rid of these kids! Boy, the last time we had three young pitchers like Philip Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy, I couldn’t even tell you.

Is it true, as the media has suggested, that Brian Cashman’s job is on the line because the Yankees didn’t do the Santana deal?
No, it’s not. I don’t know where the media gets this stuff sometimes. They gotta sell papers, I understand that. You gotta sell magazines, right? The bottom line is Cashman is with us this year. In any given year for the past thirty years, you could probably say, “This year the general manager’s job’s on the line.” That’s par for the course for that job, but certainly not because of one trade, no.

It’s been suggested that you and your brother would sell the team after your dad passed away. Given your uneasiness with public life, are you exploring this option?
No, we’re absolutely not planning on selling the team.

Are you willing to concede that Boston, my favorite team, is the superior organization right now?
No, I will never concede. They’ve got a lot of talent, and you’ve done very well the past few years, but let me put it this way: I don’t think you guys wanted to play us in the ALCS. So I will concede nothing. I think we’re better than you.

These excerpts were as inspired as Steinbrenner's comments reached throughout the interview.

Hankie Says Baseball Was Singled Out. Yankees boss-in-training, Hank Steinbrenner, does not like the fact that Major League Baseball is picking up the PED tab for the rest of professional sports. The NFL once saw offensive lineman over 300 lbs as freaks, but now such specimens are considered the norm. As is probably the case with MLB, somewhere in every NFL lockerroom is a Steve Lattimer locked in a bathroom stall transforming himself from David Banner to the Incredible Hulk. Steinbrenner opined that "everybody that knows sports knows football is tailor-made for performance-enhancing-drugs." The Yankees owner also said he was irritated when wondering "how [the NFL] managed to skate by" and believed "the number in football is at least twice as many [as baseball]."

Torre: What Went Wrong With Yanks. The Philadelphia Daily News reports Joe Torre's entrance into Dodger-hood and considers the last three disappointing years for his previous team. Torre called his successor, Joe Girardi, "intelligent" and advised him to always "be yourself" whether criticized or acclaimed. Following the 2004 collapse, Torre felt the Yankees "wanted to make a change" and said he never felt as secure as manager after losing that series to Boston. Torre went as far as to say the last few years got "to the point of not being a helluva lot of fun." The Brooklyn native goes on to discuss how his new job originated and what aspects he looks forward to.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Writers Weigh In On Pettitte

1) Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle.

Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated.

3) WasWatching's Steve Lombardi.

4) Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN.

5) Ronald Blum of Yahoo! Sports.

6) Bryan Hoch of

From Justice's blog entry:

Andy Pettitte stuck his hand out to shake mine after one of the toughest hours of his life. I said the first thing that came to mind.

''You're a role model,'' I told him. ''I don't know if you were a role model before, but you're a role model now.''

The Andy Pettitte you saw on television Monday afternoon is exactly the Andy Pettitte I know. He doesn't have an insincere bone in his body. Has he made mistakes? Sure he has. That's true of most of us.

Andy is a man of such decency and humility that it's impossible not to admire the things he has attempted to stand for. He admitted his mistakes and asked for forgiveness. What else can he do?

He's a role model for every player that used illegal performance-enhancing drugs. He's going to find out we are a forgiving people. He's also more than that. He's a person that has attempted to do the right thing his entire life. He has messed up some and will mess up again.

I don't know where those injections of human growth hormone will be viewed in the wake of his entire career, but for me, it's going to be a very small part. He did it. He regrets it. Next question. It was telling that he would have let the Yankees out of his 2008 contract. He was being honest about that.

It was telling that Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada showed up to hug Pettitte when his news conference was over. They know Pettitte well enough to know how much he has suffered these last few weeks. They also know how he hates being the center of attention.

This post isn't to condone what Pettitte did. He cheated. That said, he has done the best he can to admit his mistake, ask for forgiveness and keep going. He did exactly the right thing. His family and friends should be proud of him.

That sounds about right.

Pettitte Looks To Move Forward

Today's press conference allowed Andy Pettitte to address his use of HGH on three separate occasions in 2002 and 2004. Pettitte came across honest and genuine. The mistake of using HGH occurred when desired to return from two trips to the disabled list. It is a faux pah which will follow his career now and long after he retires.

Pettitte answered every question - with exception to a couple whose legal ramifications made them off-limits. By and large, Pettitte showed himself to be an honorable, remorseful individual who knows he was "stupid" to implement HGH into his rehabilitation process. A few photos from the day [courtesy of Yahoo!] are included below.

Some will remember Pettitte as a cheater, but Roger Clemens more appropriately fits that label. After all, Pettitte pursued a quick return from the DL to help his team while Clemens apparently pursued a fountain of youth and steroid help. Pettitte looked for an edge in recovery, but he did not abuse drugs, pump himself full of steroids or sell out his wife in the process.

Those Yankee haters baseball fans who allege Pettitte lied and used HGH more than his admitted three days suffer from a clear case of having your cake and eating it too. The 2004 incident was something only he and his father knew about and Pettitte could have chosen never to confess it as no one would have ever been the wiser.

Instead, Pettitte was compelled to tell the whole truth. Using Pettitte's testimony to incriminate Clemens is very rational. But, turning around and questioning Pettitte's deposition regarding his own HGH use reveals a biased observer with an agenda. Either Pettitte lied and Clemens has been wrongly implicated, or he is telling the truth and has only used HGH over a three day period. Can't have it both ways.

Yankee fans will embrace Pettitte when he returns to the Bronx. Whether or not the average baseball fan will be so kind - when recollecting his career - will not be realized until years later. Some athletes can never recover their career from PED use, and should Pettitte have a terrible year in 2008, his detractors will point him as a cheat. A slippery slope has been accumulating in Major League Baseball over the past decade and The Mitchell Report doused it with ice water.

"It is one thing to show a man that he is in error, and another to put him in possession of the truth." - John Locke

1) The new manager, Joe Girardi and GM Brian Cashman bookend Pettitte:

2) The rest of the "Dynasty Yankees" lend support:

3) Jeter, Posada and Pettitte hug it out:

4) The end result? Humility personified . . .

Pettitte circus press conference to commence at 3:00 p.m. That's right nonsports fans, Andy Pettitte will be on the griddle this afternoon, though it's been reported he wanted to meet with the media on this topic months ago. The big news outlets - ESPN, USA Today, FOX Sports and Yahoo! - are descending on Tampa with pens, cameras and journalistic aspirations, says Pete Abraham. Pettitte's lawyer will be on hand to help him sidestep questions pertaining to Roger Clemens' upcoming defamation lawsuit against former trainer Brian McNamee. Trapeze teams, fire jugglers and domesticated elephants may or may not appear at the tent to be constructed on Legends Field.

K-Rod implies 2008 his last year with Halos. Francisco Rodriguez is not pleased with the fact that he must enter an arbitration hearing with the Angels over this year's salary. When asked if this meant K-Rod would be wearing another uniform next season - he enters free agency in 2009 - the closer replied, "Yeah, probably...if they wanted me here they would have done something a long time ago." Rodriguez asked for $12.5 million this year and the Angels countered with an offer of $10 million. As far as its bearing on the New York Yankees, K-Rod's departure may not make the Bronx a likely landing spot. Mariano Rivera would have to show a sharp decline in 2008 and be willing to move to the setup role in 2009. Those are big ifs to consider, especially for the 26 year-old Rodriguez who collected 40 saves, a 2.81 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 67 innings-pitched.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Farnsworthless had staph infection. Kyle Farnsworth, resident save-blower [and meathead in Roger Clemens' absence], revealed he suffered a serious staph infection which required hospitalization in January. The malady required Farnsworth's left leg to be immobilized for three weeks and the relief pitcher believes the infection began with "a mosquito bite." He said the incident did not derail his offseason regimen very much - which presumably involves shotgunning Schlitz beers and hunting field mice.

Cash: Payroll's Too High

Brian Cashman is sick and tired of being chided as a baseball executive operating under an unlimited bank account. After watching the Yankees fail to win a World Series with an escalating payroll, Cashman reiterated to the AP yesterday it's time to cut down on expenses.

"We are high," Yankees GM Brain Cashman said in an interview with ESPN 1050 New York's Andrew Marchand. "If I could get our payroll lower [I would]. It is not going to happen -- not this year. But we have, at the end of the year, a lot of numbers coming off. The combination of building our farm stystem and getting our salary lines back to where they probably need to be. That's a process, too, and that takes some time. I'm not particularly proud that we have the highest payroll in the game.

"I just don't think you are going to get the type of bang for your buck at the type of dollars that you are paying."

"I don't think anyone is promised tomorrow," Cashman said. "It is something I don't really think about it. All I really care about, every day that I have had this job, is doing the best job I can while I've got it because I've had the fortunate side of having the rare opportunity of being one of 30 GMs in the game. While I do it, I'm going to do everything in my power to do the right way."
With Hal Steinbrenner supporting his financial conservatism and Hank publicly lobbying for Cashman to stay, it's altogether possible the Yankees GM re-signs for another three seasons. Contrarily, Hank Steinbrenner could just as easily dispatch Cashman should the Yankees fall short of the playoffs - or of the owner's expectations.

Hank's already begun griping over Cashman's decision to pass up Johan Santana - as well as place blame on the Yankees front office should Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy collectively add up to a six month season.

The Real Hughes Stands Up?

Phil Hughes threw a bullpen session Friday and, according to Pete Abraham, is beginning to get his mojo back. Not to imply Hughes pitched poorly in 2007, but it was obvious he was relying more on guile and guts than the electric stuff he is known for.

Pitching through such difficulties and facing adversity will only improve his pitching acumen - as well as provide an experience for the 21 year-old to reference during any future struggles.
Watched Phil Hughes throw and was impressed with his fastball. After his leg injury in May, he said his heater was 91-92 instead of the usual 93-95 it is. “It wasn’t until the playoffs when I felt complete confidence in my leg,” he said. “That was when I got my fastball back.”

Hughes said it’s not so much velocity that he counts on. It’s more the “late life” when he can throw harder. “You need your legs to follow throw and get that little extra on the pitch,” he said. “I wasn’t getting that.”

Jorge Posada caught Hughes and was impressed. On his last few pitches, Posada was yelling “Nice pitch!” back to the mound.

Meanwhile, Hughes has his locker moved. It was Mike Mussina’s idea. He wanted Hughes on one side and Ian Kennedy on the other so he talk to the kids all spring.

The Hughes who I've seen dominate hitters at the minor league level - and a Texas Rangers lineup at the major league level - before succumbing to a hamstring strain is a totally different animal than the one who appeared in the Summer of 2007. The life on his fastball - and curveball - did not seem to return to Hughesian levels until September, and possibly even the playoff series against Cleveland.

Abraham also described his 1st class view of Hughes tossing a bullpen, noting "the ball was almost never right over the plate, it was hard and down on the corners."