Fresh off the sweep of the Mets, the Yankees face another injury-riddled team.
I’m such an ancient mariner that I still remember when they were called the Pilots, talk about a lame logo.
Without Beltre at third, Chavez in left and Betancourt at short, their whole left side is hurting.
Even so, they could be dangerous. We should take nothing for granted and absolutely not come out looking like flu victims.
OK. Here we go. They’ll be changing their lineup around, but these are the main characters.
1) Ichiro Suzuki.
Obviously, he’s a great outfielder as well as a hitting machine. I think he’s got an 11-game streak right now. And his current average is a sick .372. But that routine he does at the plate – the sleeve tugging, the bat pointing, the whole drama – is really annoying. Tip to Yankees: The pitchers should step off the rubber and stall in order to screw up his timing.
2) Russell Branyan.
He’s played for the Indians, the Reds, the Brewers, the Padres, the (Devil) Rays, the Phillies, and the Cardinals – almost as many teams as LaTroy Hawkins. Now, he’s the Mariners’ first baseman and he’s batting .303 with 19 homers. He’s also struck out 73 times. Tip to Yankees: Throw him nothing but high cheddar.
3) Jose Lopez.
A happy-looking Venezuelan who covers second or third base, he tied a Major League record last year with three sac flies in one game. Tip to Yankees: Try to get him to hit the ball on the ground.
4) Ronny Cedeno.
Another Venezuela native and former Cub, he’s taken over the shortstop role in Betancourt’s absence. Although he had his first career grand slam in ’08, he’s batting .133. Tip to Yankees: Don’t walk him.
5) Kenji Johjima.
The Mariners’ catcher, Kenji (I love saying his name out loud for some reason) has a museum in his honor in his hometown of Sasebo, Japan, despite only having a .269 career batting average. Tip to Yankees: Show him respect by spinning him off the plate now and then.
6) Franklin Gutierrez.
Yet another Venezuelan, he played for the Indians before becoming the Mariners’ center fielder. In 2008, he swung at the first pitch only 11.8% of the time, the fifth lowest in the AL. Tip to Yankees: Throw him first pitch strikes.
7) Wladimir Balentien.
No, I didn’t misspell this outfielder’s first name. It starts with a “W” but is pronounced “Vladimir.” He’s from the island of Curacao and played for the Netherlands in the WBC, and now he’s filling in for the ailing Endy Chavez and hitting .230. Tip to Yankees: He’s no Vladie, as in Guerrero.
8) Chris Woodward.
He was originally signed by the Blue Jays and did time with the Mets, and is one of those guys who’s played every position except catcher. A few years ago, he was the first Toronto shortstop to hit three homers in a game. Tip to Yankees: Keep the ball down and away.
9) Ken Griffey Jr.
First of all, am I the only one who didn’t know his real first name is George? And I still don’t get why he has a thing against the Yanks; that story about his father isn’t the stuff of post traumatic stress syndrome. He’s hitting a paltry .218 as the DH, and yet he’s “Junior” and he’s HOF bound. Tip to Yankees: Let him crank one out in a game if we’re leading by a lot.
I’d make a prediction for this series, but I’m too superstitious.
P.S. Programming note: The segment I taped for the YES Network’s “Yankees Magazine” about my book will start airing this Wednesday, July 1. I think the show is broadcast twice a day for a week – at 11:30 a.m. and 11 p.m. ET – so my friends in New York need to tell me if they see it. I don’t get YES out here in California except for the actual Yankees games, so I asked the producer to send me a copy of the show. Maybe I can upload it and post it at some point.
With only two weeks until spring training, I took myself out for a little retail therapy. No, not for shoes and handbags. Please. I’m talking about free agents. They’re on sale! They’ve been marked down! They’re at low, low prices and they come with home delivery at no extra charge!
Not one to pass up a bargain, I marched over to the Free Agent Store and spent a few hours browsing the racks. Would I find anyone for the Yankees in my capacity as their personal shopper? Anyone who might look good in pinstripes?
I breezed past the Pitchers Department, since the Yanks are well stocked with arms for the season, and zeroed in on the Position Players.
Did I have any interest in buying Adam Dunn?
No, not really. Lots to like, but I already have enough sluggers who can’t field. Besides, I’m not sure I could embrace a player whose nickname is “Big Donkey.”
Again, I already have a second baseman so what would be the point? It would be like buying two shower curtains even though I only have one shower.
Talk about a surplus. The Yankees have two Gold Glove shortstops, even though one of them plays third base. No sense splurging on another one.
Ken Griffey Jr?
I overheard the saleslady say he’s being shipped to the Seattle store.
Not a chance. The Big Hurt nearly ran me over with his Bentley when I was in Toronto for the book. All I wanted was five minutes. Sheesh.
Damaged goods. I’m still having flashbacks of his pink eye during the ’07 ALDS. For all I know, he could bring that conjunctivitis to the Bronx with him.
I didn’t even bother looking at Manny (too expensive and hard to maintain) and I-Rod (been there, done that). I did experience a pang of regret as I lingered over Abreu. How could the Yankees not want to bring back El Comeduce, which is Spanish for “the candy eater?” I was tempted to buy him anyway and let the Yankees return him, but the Free Agent Store had a no-returns policy.
I was feeling a little down as I strolled through the aisles, wondering if there were any bargains worth getting excited about, when I came upon Ty Wigginton.
“Wiggy.” Hmm. The Yankees already have a third baseman, obviously, but what about a utility man? Would Cody Ransom be filling that need? Or was there an opening for someone else?
I leaned closer to examine the merchandise. According to Ty’s tags, he actually delivered his own baby when his wife went into labor unexpectedly. They were at home and he called 911 and the dispatcher talked him through the procedure, which he pulled off in a bedroom closet! He even tied the baby’s umbilical cord with his shoelaces! Now if that isn’t resourceful, I don’t know what is. Imagine what he could do for the Yanks in a pinch.
“I’ll take him,” I told the saleslady. “Wrap him up and deliver him to Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York, 10451.”
“Would you like a gift card?” she asked.
“Oh, just scribble something on his forehead,” I said. “How about: ‘For Joe Girardi, a little insurance. Best wishes, She-Fan.'”