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.
Where’s summer? It’s cold here! Brrr.
Oh, well. I guess it’s better than sweltering in the heat.
This morning, I headed downtown from my hotel to SoHo, where I spent two very enjoyable hours being interviewed for Barbara Kopple’s ESPN documentary on the Yankees. A two-time Oscar winner, Barbara couldn’t have been more welcoming, and it was a pleasure to meet her. My husband Michael took a photo of me with her.
It was her very capable and enthusiastic associate, David Cassidy, who conducted the interview. He’s a diehard Yankee fan, so there was lots to talk about.
I have no idea if I said anything useful, but I guess I’ll find out after the documentary airs next year.
Then, it was back uptown to the studio where they tape YES’s “Yankees Magazine.” I had a lot of fun answering questions posed by George Pisanti, who’s been producing the show for several years. I’ll post my air date as soon as I have it.
Later, it was off to dinner with this guy….
…Alphonso, the infamous pessimist who makes special appearances on the Yankees blog, “It Is High.”
I had told him I wanted to watch the Yankees-Nats game, so he thoughtfully chose a restaurant with a TV tuned to the game – only to tell me over and over again why the Yankees would lose.
“No, they won’t,” I said, as the Yanks went up 2-0.
“Yes, they will,” he said, as the Nats went up 3-2.
OMG, I thought. Anderson Hernandez, the guy who never hits homers, according to my scouting report, smacked a three-run shot off CC!
“See how they can’t score any runs off this nobody pitcher named Martis?” said Alphonso, as he polished off his second Manhattan. “And look at A-Rod. Another terrible game for him. They’re a third place team, I’m telling you.”
“They are not,” I said, giving him a nudge in the ribs as Tex tied the score with a double.
“They’ll find a way to lose, and it’ll be an embarrassment,” he said, popping an oyster into his mouth and risking some dreaded food poisoning.
“Oh yeah?” I said just as Cano smacked a double off Ron Villone in the seventh, driving in the go-ahead run.
“But Joe’s bringing Bruney in for the eighth,” he said. “He’s not ready for this. It’s his first day off the DL.”
Bruney was more than ready. So was Mo. And then there were the dazzling defensive plays by Pena and Cano, who went 4-for-4. Except for Jeter coming out with ankle stiffness, it was a nice, neat 5-3 victory for the Yankees.
“But they should have beaten the Nationals 50-0,” said Alphonso.
“A win is a win!” I maintained, my frustration boiling over.
I hate to admit it, but I couldn’t contain myself a minute longer and threw my piece of salmon fillet in his face. He retaliated by dumping his entire serving of cherrystone clams on my head. What should have been a friendly dinner between bloggers disintegrated into pure chaos at the restaurant, which, by the way is called Docks and serves excellent seafood.
Since tonight’s Yankees-Rays game was rained out, I decided to muse about my trip to New York (I leave Thursday). I’m getting jazzed about all the cool things I’ll be doing in the Apple.
Well, there’s one thing I’m not looking forward to.
As anyone who’s read my book may remember, I’m not wild about flying. If there’s turbulence I tend to guzzle too much plane wine and end up like this.
With any luck, my cross-country flight will be smooth and uneventful, and I’ll arrive at JFK on Thursday night with all my faculties.
On Friday, I’ll be doing my weekly segment on “The Natural,” the New Jersey-based radio show where I joust with host Greg Marotta about the Yankees. (He thinks Joba should be in the pen. I don’t. Not anymore.)
But the rest of the weekend will be family time. I haven’t seen my mother in a while, so it’ll be great to visit with her in Westchester.
(No, that isn’t my mother. I just felt the need to put a nice lady up there. Hopefully, my actual mother will be wearing the Jeter jersey I bought her. She has lots of opinions about the Yanks and should be good She-Fan Cam material.)
After resting up at Mom’s, it’ll be on to the city for some serious media scrutiny about my book.
Are you ready for this? Barbara Kopple, who won two Oscars for her documentaries, is interviewing me for the doc she’s shooting about the Yankees. It’s scheduled to air in the fall on ESPN. For all I know, I’ll end up on the proverbial cutting room floor, but it was exciting to be contacted and I’m looking forward to meeting Barbara.
No clue what she’ll want to talk about for two hours, but I guess I’ll find out. I did love her two Oscar winners:
“Harlan County, U.S.A.” about the coal miner’s strike in Kentucky…
and “Shut Up & Sing” about the Dixie Chicks’ crusade for freedom of speech.
A little later that afternoon, I’ll head to the YES Network’s production studio to tape a segment for “Yankees Magazine,” the weekly show hosted by Bob Lorenz.
I’ll be sure not to mention that I regularly rip Michael Kay on this blog (gently).
Wednesday will be the best day of all: my first trip to the new stadium for the Yankees-Nationals game. I can’t wait to see the Yanks in action. I’m also dying to sample all the food everyone’s been talking about. Watching this MLB video about the Food Network concession made me really hungry, although I could do without the fried pickle.
I’ll be sitting with my husband and my friend Patty from the New York Times. We’ll be up in the nosebleeds (section 323) but behind home plate. If anybody’s going to the game on the 17th, please stop by and say hi.
Also….this is still to be confirmed, fingers crossed….I’ll be having a signing for my book before the game, from 4:30-6, right outside the one-and-only Stan’s Sports Bar across the street from the Stadium!
Stan’s is an institution in Yankeeville. Its owner, Louis Dene, who happens to live part time in Santa Barbara, has managed to keep the place hopping for years. If you’ve been there, you know that it’s wall-to-wall Yankee fans.
I’m hoping we’ll be able to sell books right in the middle of all the craziness, with the help of Denise, the community relations manager at the Bay Plaza Barnes & Noble in the Bronx.
The main thing for that night is…IT CANNOT RAIN!
I think I’ll start my anti-rain dance right now.
Whew. I’m a little dizzy and those feathers made me sneeze, but it was worth it if it keeps the rain away.