Those were the words of Peter Finch’s character in “Network,” of course, but now I’m shouting them, too. Can you hear me? No? Then let me put it another way.
I’M. NOT. HAPPY. RIGHT. NOW.
I’ve worked in book publishing my entire adult life – from a publicist and a marketing executive to a writer of fiction and nonfiction – and I’ve loved every minute of it. But now and then I want to tear my hair out, and today is one of those days.
Months ago, my agent shopped a proposal to publishers for an illustrated book about the Yankees’ 2009 season. More specifically, the book was going to highlight the 50 most memorable moments of the Yankee Stadium Inaugural Season; I was going to write the (hopefully witty and heartwarming) text for each key moment and Andy Friedman, whose wonderful illustrated portraits of famous people regularly appear on national magazine covers, was going to do the drawings. We thought we had a unique, commercial idea. But here’s what publishers said:
“The project is too risky. We don’t know how the Yankees will do. The season might not be memorable after all, and we can’t take that chance.”
They also said:
“The audience for a book about the Yankees is too narrow.”
Yes, I tore my hair out when I heard those comments, especially because the audience for a book about the Yankees isn’t narrow; it’s enormous. But hey. They wanted to wait to see how the team did this season? Fine. We’d wait. Well, surprise surprise. The Yankees won the World Series.
My agent went back to publishers last week and said, “OK, everybody. The season was memorable. Now do you want the book?” Once again, publishers said the audience was too narrow (no, it isn’t). They also said the market would be flooded with keepsake books about the World Series (ours would cover the entire season, not just the Series). And today, one publisher said this:
“The drawings would make the book too cerebral.”
Yes, I tore my hair out again. Too cerebral? Does this guy think Yankee fans (or all baseball fans, for that matter) are Neanderthals?
Seriously. Take a look at Andy’s drawing of Yogi throwing out the first pitch on Opening Day. Does it seem hard to comprehend?
We had planned to include everything from A-Rod’s walk-off against the Red Sox in the 15th inning, to Girardi getting tossed in Atlanta, to A.J. pitching to kids from Camp Sundown at 3 o’clock in the morning during HOPE Week. We had it covered in a way that would be so different from a photographic chronicle. Publishers didn’t think it would sell, and I think they’ve been incredibly shortsighted. Such is life. Andy will go back to drawing movie stars, athletes and members of the Supreme Court, and I’ll go back to the novel I’m writing as well as the script for the She-Fan book. I just hate when good ideas end up in the dumpster, I really do.
Chase Utley hit a couple of solo shots off CC, who otherwise pitched seven solid innings and was more than good enough to win on any given night. There was just one problem: Cliff Lee. The guy was lights out.
Jeter had three hits and scored the Yankees’ lone run in the 6-1 loss. But Lee took care of everybody else. He could have been pitching in his backyard in Arkansas, not a care in the world, especially on Damon’s pop up in the sixth. He hardly moved a step to catch it and was like, “Oh. Yawn. I think I’ll just stick my glove out and see what happens.”
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pitcher so relaxed. Even on Cano’s tricky eighth-inning comebacker, which Lee corralled from behind his back, he could just as easily have been doing this.
So I’ll simply tip my cap and say: “Good job, Cliff. Now get back on that Amtrak train so I never have to see you again.”
The Yankees didn’t play badly, but I’m concerned about the bullpen. Marte was effective, but Robertson, Bruney and Coke? Stinkeroo. And Phil Hughes? What happened to Mr. Setup-for-Mo? He hasn’t pitched well in the postseason and I want to know why. Is it some mechanical problem? A glitch in his delivery? Or just playoff butterflies?
There really isn’t much else to say about the game, except that the Stadium looked beautiful all decked out in its World Series finery, even with the steady drizzle. And I loved seeing Yogi walk out to the mound during the pre-game ceremony, flanked by two heavy-duty she-fans.
But my favorite moment was right after the ceremonial first pitch. I snuck into the Yankees clubhouse, stole one of those nifty World Series sweatshirts/jackets/whatever they were, and rushed onto the field – just as Jeter was approaching Yogi and the others. What a thrill it was when Jeet leaned over and planted a kiss on my cheek!
Talk about a World Series to remember.
When things are going right for a team, they go right – even when they go wrong.
Wait. Did I just write that? Sounds like something Yogi would say.
But you know what I mean. The Yankees have been on a roll lately. So, despite an uneven start by Aceves, two lame errors in the second inning, two shallow pop ups by Melky with runners on base, Swisher’s 0-for-5 afternoon, and Robertson’s back-to-back walks of Span and Tolbert with bases loaded, the Yanks managed to beat Minny 6-4 and take all seven games this season, positively eating up the Twinkies.
The game wasn’t without its highlights. Cano doubled with Posada on base and eventually scored. That’s progress for Robbie, and it didn’t go unnoticed by the captain.
(If Jeter touched me on the head, I’d probably never wash my hair again.)
Tex broke his homer-less streak in the fifth and was congratulated by Jorge.
(Love JoPo’s manicure, although I would have gone with a more summery color.)
Gardner continued to slap the ball around, and reminds me of a young Johnny Damon.
The relief trio of Coke-Hughes-Mo was impressive, and the bullpen has really solidified, not counting Bruney, who’s still sitting and searching for his location and velocity.
As the Yanks head west, they have to be feeling pretty good about winning 13 of their last 15. And, of course, I feel pretty good about seeing them in Anaheim on Saturday. I predict that the Angels’ dominance over us will come to an end and that we will finally break free of their cruel and unusual punishment.
Speaking of combat, I spent a few hours touring Vandenberg Air Force Base yesterday. Vandenberg is the military’s go-to place for the testing and launching of strategic missile weapons. The photo below is of Jennifer, their community relations director, and a friendly woman in uniform. (We were at the “BX,” which, apparently, is Air Force for “PX.”)
No, I didn’t enlist. I went to research a new novel. But the experience was interesting, and if my writing/blogging slows down, I might find myself in the same situation as Goldie.
The day started off well, with gorgeous weather to christen the gorgeous stadium.
George was in attendance and Yogi threw out the first pitch and there were reps selling the “USA Today Yankee Stadium Tribute,” the publication that was kind enough to run an ad for my book.
I tuned in to the MLB Network’s coverage of the festivities, as opposed to YES’s, and was instantly hooked by the broadcast pairing of Costas (he makes even trivial stuff sound momentous) and Kaat (I love his folksy stories and been-there insights). And I really enjoyed Gillette’s commercial co-starring Jeter (it kicks off their free-razor promotion).
Then came the game.
I could tell right away that CC was laboring, but so was Lee. I figured it was anyone’s ball game – particularly since both lineups kept wasting scoring opportunities.
I was wrong. It wasn’t anybody’s ball game. It belonged to the Indians.
After CC was lifted and Edwar and Coke escaped trouble, Girardi went to Jose Veras to pitch the seventh with the score tied at 1-1.
The second he appeared on the screen, my husband Michael and I said simultaneously: “Leadoff walk.” Why? Because that’s Veras’ specialty in close contests. I stood right in front of the TV and screamed, “JOSE: DO NOT WALK DEROSA!”
Did he listen? No. Before I knew it, he gave up the walk and two doubles, and the score was 3-1. Boos rang out at the Stadium as he departed. Boos rang out at my house, too, and I was so mad that I threw this at the wall.
(It was empty, and I didn’t throw it very hard.)
Next up was Marte, who is supposed to be a lefty specialist – aka a situational reliever used only in specific match-ups.
He promptly hit Choo, botched Francisco’s bunt, gave up a single to Shoppach and walked Crowe, forcing in a run for 5-1.
Sizemore stepped in with the bases still loaded, and Michael and I said in unison: “Grand slam.” Why? Because it was obvious that Marte had nothing. I stood in front of the TV again and yelled: “DO NOT GROOVE ONE, DAMASO!”
Did he listen? Of course not. As I watched Sizemore round the bases, I wondered why Girardi was just standing there on the dugout steps, looking grim.
Why wasn’t he giving Marte the hook? Come to think of it, why didn’t he give Veras the hook after he walked DeRosa? Why was he watching passively as the Yankees’ home opener was going up in these?
Astonishingly, Marte remained on the mound. When Martinez came to the plate, Michael and I said at the same time: “Home run.” Why? Because that’s what happens when you throw batting practice to a major league hitter! I stood in front of the TV and yelled: “DO NOT SERVE UP ANOTHER BOMB, MARTE!”
Did he listen? Yeah, right. With the score now 10-1, the Stadium crowd chanted: “We want Swisher!”
Bottom line? The Yankees lost to the Indians 10-2, thanks to a crappy bullpen and what seemed like 1,000 men left in scoring position. I was fuming, to put it mildly.
I took a late afternoon walk and brought the She-Fan Cam along. Given my mood, it was only fitting that the person I interviewed was not a fan at all.
I just got my copy of Publishers Weekly, the trade magazine that covers the book industry in the same way that Variety, its sister publication, covers Hollywood. There’s a section on forthcoming sports books and I thought some sounded interesting.
Take a look at the spring roster of baseball titles – something for fans of all stripes.
“As They See ‘Em” by Bruce Weber. Can’t wait for this one. Weber, a New York Times reporter, spends a season around major league umpires, even going to umpire school, and reveals all sorts of secrets. (March)
“Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit” by Matt McCarthy. In the tradition of “Bull Durham,” McCarthy comically recounts his year as a southpaw for the Provo Angels, the team’s Class A club in Mormon country. (Feb. 19)
“The Complete Game: Reflections on Baseball, Pitching, and Life on the Mound” by Ron Darling. The former Mets star and current broadcaster dissects the art of pitching. He’s doing a 10-city author tour, so he’s sure to be signing at lots of stores. (April)
“Catcher: How the Man Behind the Plate Became an American Folk Hero” by Peter Morris. A look back at catchers in history and how they became more and more important to the sport. (April)
“Yogi Berra: The Eternal Yankee” by Allen Barra. I know. Yet another book about Yogi. But this one’s supposed to chronicle his defining moments. Besides, I like the cover. (March)
“Forever Blue: The True Story of Walter O’Malley, Baseball’s Most Controversial Owner, and the Dodgers of Brooklyn and Los Angeles” by Michael D’Antonio. Since there will be two books about George Steinbrenner coming out, why not one about O’Malley? (March)
“Fighting Words: The Media, the Red Sox and the All-Encompassing Passion for Baseball in Boston” by Jerry Beach. A detailed account of “the combative relationship between the media and the Beantown team.” Is there a combative relationship? I guess we’ll find out. (April)
“Bottom of the Ninth: Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel, and the Daring Scheme to Save Baseball From Itself” by Michael Shapiro. A biography of the men who tried to change the course of the sport. For history buffs. (June)
“Hit and Run: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez” by Selena Roberts. (No, that’s not A-Rod; it’s investigative reporter Roberts. There’s no cover yet.) The book is described as “an expose of A-Rod’s controversial path to self-destruction.” If he wins another MVP in ’09, will that be considered self-destruction? (May)
“The Rocket That Fell to Earth: Roger Clemens and the Rage for Baseball Immortality” by Jeff Pearlman. Well, we knew the Clemens books were coming. They were inevitable. Here’s the first. No cover yet. (June)
There was baseball on my television at precisely 3 p.m. PCT here in California. No glitches with my cable company. No power outages caused by 49 million other homes watching at the same time. No problems whatsoever. The MLB Network appeared just as promised, and I settled in happily for the next, oh, six hours.
Here, in no particular order, are my first impressions.
1) Bud Selig’s welcome address.
Bud is serious, even grim, which is appropriate when you’re dealing with pushy owners and PED-using players. But on this occasion, which was not the same as testifying before Congress, I wish he’d smiled a little, acted like we were about to have fun. Instead, his welcome was about as warm as this guy’s would have been.
2) The sets.
Very snazzy. Lots of eye-popping stuff to look at in beautiful high-def. Good job.
I’ve read the comments from people who weren’t enamored of this trio, but I thought they worked together smoothly, especially considering this was Opening Night, and I look forward to more from them. My one complaint was their wardrobe.
What’s with the dark suits? Every guy in that studio looked like an undertaker. Lighten up, boys.
4) Jimmy Rollins-Josh Hamilton.
Loved Rollins’ mischievous response to his teammate, Cole Hamels, calling the Mets “choke artists.” He could have given the usual non-answer. But he stood by his pitcher.
Quite an admission by Hamilton that he cleaned toilets, did other menial jobs and slept on an air mattress in a room above the ballpark – anything to get back into professional baseball.
5) Larsen’s perfect game.
Sheer heaven being able to watch this game for the first time and have Larsen and Yogi there to provide interesting asides. I was amazed how fast games moved along in the good old days with no instant replays, no endless meetings on the mound, no stepping in and out of the batter’s box to adjust gloves, helmets, etc. And how could I not love those Gillette commercials – or Bob Costas comparing Sal Maglie’s five o’clock shadow to Richard Nixon’s?
6) Speaking of Costas, he had the line of the night.
After Larsen admitted that he came off the field after the celebration, not realizing he had pitched a perfect game, Costas said disbelievingly, “So you just thought it was an extra good no-hitter?” LOL.
6) The Mick.
I grew up worshipping Mantle. To see him hit a homer and make that fantastic running catch in left center made my night.
Bottom line on the debut of the MLB Network? There was plenty to enjoy. Congrats to everyone involved.
There I was, spending Christmas with loved ones, thinking of all the things I was grateful for, feeling truly blessed, when a friend offered me some of this.
I can’t stand eggnog, but I drank it just to be polite – all of it. And you know what? It wasn’t as bad as I thought. So I drank some more.
Suddenly, my legs got a bit wobbly and I developed a little buzz. And before I knew it, I was imagining objects that weren’t really there. Like the presents under the tree – they started moving, as if they were people.
Which led me to wonder….What if one of them sprang to life – as a baseball player? What if I could have a Yankee drop in at my Christmas Day celebration? Which one would it be? In this eggnog-induced fantasy world of mine, it could be any living player from any era – someone I’d just die to pepper with questions. So who would it be? Who?
Yes, of course, Yogi would be on my list. I would ask him to act out those Aflac commercials and tell me juicy stories about The Mick and encourage him to come up with funny, incomprehensible Yogisms.
On second thought, the Yankee who probably has the juiciest stories about The Mick (Billy Martin too) is Whitey.
What a great Christmas guest he’d be. In addition to dishing up the Mantle anecdotes, he could talk about what it was like to be a pitcher back in the day. I know I’d be fascinated.
But is there anyone more enigmatic than Reggie?
He was a big-time free agent long before the likes of Sabathia and Teixeira. I can easily see myself sitting him down and asking him if he really was the straw that stirred the drink and which current player stirs the drink now.
Having Paulie over at Christmas would be interesting.
He’s a non-stop talker so there would never be a lull in the conversation. The only drawback would be his temper; I’d have to watch what I said or else he might kick the bowl of eggnog onto the floor, smashing it in a million pieces.
I wouldn’t be a Yankee fan with a pulse if I didn’t want Captain Jeter to stop by.
I’d have a million questions for him. Like what did he really say when he called Sabathia to recruit him? Does it hurt his feelings when people say his skills as a shortstop have deteriorated? Does he have any intention of settling down with a wife and kids or will he be a swinging bachelor forever?
Speaking of bachelors, I suppose I could invite A-Rod over. Maybe I could ask Reggie to bring him since they’re pals.
But do I want to hear about Madonna all afternoon? On Christmas? Not so much.
And that’s when it hit me – the Yankee I want for the holidays more than any other.
I don’t speak Spanish, so we’d have to improvise. But the truth is, I love Mo the best. From everything I’ve read or heard, he’s the most thoughtful, kind, generous guy on the team – a truly outstanding person. There’s a scene in my book where someone close to the Yankees shares an amazing story about him. It’s a tear-jerker, no question, but it shows the measure of the man.
So it’s settled. Mo is my imaginary Christmas guest. Who’s yours? Oh, come on. You know you have a favorite player that you’d kill to have over. Tell me who it is. I promise not to laugh.
Before I sign off, I just want to say thanks to everyone for stopping by and reading my posts since I joined the MLBlogs community at the end of last season. I never expected to become so bloggy, and yet here I am, being bloggy right now.
Merry Christmas to one and all.