Tagged: Seattle

Day 1 of “Operation Cliff Lee Countdown” (With Update)

What a busy baseball day for a lazy Sunday in December, right? There I was, sitting in a screening for a movie called “Barney’s Version,” completely unaware that Jayson Werth had signed a monster contract with the Nationals and that Adrian Gonzalez had backed out of his deal with the Red Sox.
Before I move off “Barney’s Version,” I have to recommend it to everyone. It’s based on the highly acclaimed novel by Canadian writer Mordecai Richler and it’s just great. Paul Giamatti plays the hard-drinking, cigar-smoking, politically incorrect son of a cop (Dustin Hoffman) who falls in love with a woman – at his own wedding. The movie tells the story of his life and is both funny and touching. It opens in January. Here’s the trailer.
Back to baseball. I don’t even know what to say about the Werth deal except that Carl Crawford must be dancing in the streets. And if the Red Sox aren’t able to put the Gonzo deal back together, it’ll be like their near-miss with Tex. But mostly, it’s time to focus on Lee. With the GMs gathered in Orlando, will Cashman finally make his agent an offer that’ll blow the Rangers and all other suitors out of the water? Taking no chances, I thought we needed to start the Operation Cliff Lee Countdown right away, posting a video either of him or about him each night until he’s wearing pinstripes.
CLIFF LEE.pinstripes.jpg
(Hat tip to the Village Voice for the odd Photo Shopping)
So without further ado, let’s go to the videotape. It worked for Jeter.
Yes, this video is long. Sorry about that. But here’s why I picked it: It gives us a taste of what Lee’s press conference at Yankee Stadium will be like when Cashman, Girardi and Hal introduce him to the New York media. Well, with one big difference – there’ll be a lot more reporters and photographers in the Bronx. (From the look of this Mariners presser, there were maybe 10 media people there.) I had to laugh when he was asked what kind of a contract he’s expecting and he said, “10 years for $200 billion.” Yes, he did say billion. But he’s such a kidder, that Cliffy. Did everybody catch the cool attitude when the reporter (don’t they use recording devices in Seattle or just pads and pencils?) asked him to talk about hitting Sammy Sosa in the head in Texas. Lee shrugged and said, “What can I say? I hit Sammy Sosa in the head.” And then there’s the interview the same reporter did with Cliffy’s wife – about their dog. I think he’ll be much happier with the Yankees. Don’t you?
Update: Looks like I spoke too soon on the Red Sox-Gonzo deal. Apparently, all is well now and there is joy in Beantown.

Sleepless in Seattle

Somehow, I was able to sneak aboard the Yankees’ private charter and take the team’s flight to Seattle.
Man, that plane is plush.
I was hoping to get a few words from each Yankee, but they all pretended they were asleep, just to avoid me.
I wanted to ask about their expectations for this road trip, how they felt about their magic number being 10, if they were worried about the state of the rotation or the bull pen, what they thought of Jorge’s suspension, etc. Oh, and I wondered if they’d miss Yankees beat writer Peter Abraham.
For non-Yankee fans, Peter’s LoHud blog has been the bible for many of us. It’s where and how we’ve gotten the most up-to-date info, as well as insider stuff. And Peter was the first beat writer I interviewed for my book – something I’ll always appreciate. But he’s changing jobs, moving to the Boston Globe to cover the Red Sox, crossing over into enemy territory.
I had to get at least one Yankee to weigh in on Pete’s departure. So as soon as the plane landed in Seattle, I threw myself at Jorge, figuring he had plenty of time on his hands. After elbowing me (a cheap shot, I thought) and then trying to pawn me off on Shelley Duncan, he finally agreed to meet me at my favorite cafeteria. Here’s our conversation.

Sloppy Second Sinks Mariners

Glub. Glub. Glub. 
The Mariners have struck out 30+ times in this series, but it was their error in the second inning tonight that set the stage for their latest defeat at the hands of those happy, love-is-in-the-air Yankees.
Melky hit one to right center, and Gutierrez heard Ichiro creeping over and dropped the ball. I guess I-Row has that effect on people.
As a result, Jeter’s sac fly scored Melky to break a 1-1 tie.
Homers by Swisher and Jeter added to the fun, and the Yanks went on to beat Seattle 5-2. Was Sergio Mitre better than he’s been in previous starts? Or are the Mariners just a punchless, free-swinging team? Maybe a little of both, but it was Robertson who saved Sergio’s bacon.
With the bases loaded in the sixth, he came in and struck out the two batters he faced. Sweet. Coke and Mo did their jobs too. And then there was Molina. I-Row inexplicably tried to steal third base in the seventh and Jose nailed him.
Tonight’s win puts the Yankees 7.5 games up over the Red Sox. Anything can happen in the next six weeks, but I’m thinking only positive thoughts.
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens. 
Yeah, right. Here’s what I’m really thinking.

A Different Hero Every Night

Oops, I meant this kind.
It continues to amaze me how resilient the 2009 Yankees are. Take tonight, for example. After Matsui and the gang beat up on the Mariners last night, the offense hardly had a pulse, scoring only two runs on three hits over eight innings. Meager. But would the team go down to defeat? Absolutely not. With the game tied at 2-2, Tex led off the top of the ninth and did this.
Yeah, boom – into the seats to put the Yankees ahead 3-2 and allow me to breathe
Swisher singled home Cano for another run, and that was all the insurance the Yanks needed to beat Seattle for the second night in a row and keep the train moving.
But none of that would have been possible if not for another hero: Pettitte. Talk about gutty.
He overcame a shaky start and hung in there for a six-inning, 10-strikeout performance, keeping the Yanks in the game. I bow down to you, Andy. (And I thank you for the lovely kimono, which arrived at my house this afternoon. Very sweet of you.)
Bruney looked vastly improved in the seventh, and Hughes got it done in the eighth, despite a couple of walks and the fact that the home plate umpire was squeezing him.
Which brings me to Mo. I’ve been doing a lot of hand-wringing over his “cranky shoulder,” worried that he’d have to miss playing time. Wrong. He came in for the ninth, retired the side in order and secured the save. I don’t think his velocity was there and he seemed sort of “off” to me, but I can’t argue with his results.
There was a short interruption in the seventh when a fan ran onto the field. The networks never show us what’s going on, which really bothers me. Supposedly, MLB thinks it’ll make us crave our 15 minutes of fame and do equally dumb things. Personally, I hate this rule. I want to see what the people at the game see. Show us the fans who run onto the field! It won’t lead to the end of days!
Here’s the fan….and Ichiro’s reaction.
Yup. The culprit was a she-fan. Imagine that.

The Walk-Off Wounded

I’m still basking in the afterglow of the Yankees’ 4-3 defeat of the Blue Jays – yet another game they won in thrilling, walk-off fashion. What’s not to love about this team? Sure, they frustrate me sometimes. AJ was throwing wild pitches like a madman. Pena allowed himself to be picked off first base. Matsui was 0-for-5. But I can’t argue with the way the 2009 Bombers nearly always find a way to escape the jaws of defeat.
But as they head to Seattle to begin their long road trip, all is not well in Yankeeville. Not medically speaking. The sudden casualties?
* Jeter was hit on the foot in the first inning. Diagnosis? Contusion.
* Posada caught a foul tip off the knuckle of his middle finger in the eighth. Diagnosis? Contusion.
* A-Rod was drilled on his elbow in the 11th. Diagnosis? Contusion.
* Mo complained of shoulder soreness. Diagnosis? “Crankiness,” according to Girardi.
I decided to fly out to Seattle myself and harass Yankees head trainer Gene Monahan for answers. 
Here’s our conversation.
She-Fan: Thanks for taking the time to chat, Gene. I’m really worried about Jeter, Posada, A-Rod and Mo. Can you update me on their conditions?
Gene: They’re suffering from contusions.
She-Fan: What IS a contusion anyway?
Gene: An abrasion. A trauma. An ecchymosis.
She-Fan: Please spare me the medical jargon and speak English, Gene.
Gene: Fine. They’ve got shiners. Black-and-blue marks.
She-Fan: What about Mo? Girardi said his shoulder was cranky. Can a shoulder even BE cranky?
Gene: That’s just Joe being Joe. Mo’s shoulder is crabby, not cranky.
She-Fan: That’s so funny I forgot to laugh. Why are the Yankees secretive with the media when it comes to injuries?
Gene: You’re not the media, She-Fan. You’re just a blogger.
She-Fan: And you’re not a doctor, Gene Monahan. You’re just a trainer.
Gene: Good point. Forgive me.
She-Fan: I’ll consider it if you make sure my boys are healthy.
Gene: I’ll do my best.

So there you have it. Gene Monahan had a bit of an attitude, but he said he’ll do his best. I just hope it’s good enough.

Sluggish Start, Fun Finish

First came the raindrops….Then came the members of the Westhill High School girls softball team, who were invited onto the field by Brian Cashman to stand with all the Yankees during the National Anthem. On the outside, the girls were very composed.


On the inside, they had to be feeling like this.

Well, I would have.
I loved that Mo was asked to throw out the first pitch. How fitting, since he would also throw the last pitch for save #501.
Joba’s outing was decent, but he kept getting into bad pitch counts and the game slowed to an absolute crawl.
For the longest time, it seemed as if all we’d get were those two measly runs in the second on Woodward’s two errors. I mean, we were 0-for-10 with RISP, for God’s sake, and the offense looked comatose.
Joba had trouble getting Ichiro out and Jorge had trouble throwing him out, and Ronny Cedeno, whose average is well below the Mendoza line, homered. Please.
The game was tied at 3-3 for what felt like an eternity, and the most exciting thing at that point was the appearance of a Seattle reliever named Jakubauskas. It was sort of fun listening to Kay and Singleton trying to get their heads around it.
Phil Coke set down the two batters he faced in the sixth, and Phil Hughes was brilliant in the seventh, including his strikeout of Griffey on a 98 mph fastball. Sweet.
But it wasn’t until the bottom of the frame that things got really interesting for the Yanks. With Damon aboard, A-Rod crushed one.
Bruney blew the lead in the top of the eighth. (Why even go to him when Hughes was pitching like a genius?) Luckily, the Mariners brought in White for the bottom of the eighth, and he’s my new favorite opposing reliever. Why?
Matsui: doubled.
Gardner: pinch ran.
Swisher: bunt single.
Melky: double.
Score: 6-5 Yankees.
Jeter tacked on a two-RBI single, giving Mo an 8-5 cushion for the ninth. Game over – a good night for the pinstripes.
Off topic, I was really looking forward to a quiet July 4th weekend here in Santa Barbara. Now? Not so much. Michael Jackson’s body is being driven up here from LA by some zillion-car caravan on Thursday, and there’s a “public viewing” for fans/gawkers/anybody on Friday. Yeah, Friday of the holiday weekend. I don’t live near Neverland, but you have to pass my exit on the 101 Freeway to get to it.
The California Highway Patrol, as well as the Santa Barbara County Fire and Sheriff’s Departments, are anticipating that traffic will come to a standstill and hotels and restaurants will be jammed.
Here’s where I’ll be.

Sleepless in Seattle

I realize the Yankees spent last night on a cross-country flight and had to feel jet-lagged and tired for tonight’s game. But that’s what Red Bull is for!!!!! They couldn’t manage a hit over seven innings against a guy who was making his first start in the majors for a last-place team? How sad is that? I wonder what sort of positive spin Girardi will put on this one. Will he say: “Sometimes you just have to tip your cap?” Or go with the usual: “We took good swings?” Or maybe he’ll resort to: “You don’t always get the results you want.” I hope they all have a nice, deep sleep, because when they wake up tomorrow they’ll have to face the same reality I’m facing: it’s over. 

On a positive note: only six months until spring training!