Tag:New York Yankees
Posted on: July 1, 2011 2:31 pm
 

Short Hops: All-Star Soria back on track (& more)

This isn't about Mariano Rivera. It's about the Royals' Joakim Soria. But as with so many other things regarding closers, it makes Old Man Rivera look even more sensational than he already is.

OK, here goes: If I were to ask you coming into this season whose save conversion rate since July 31, 2007, is second in the game to Rivera's, whom would you say?

Yes, the answer is Soria, a two-time All-Star whose 92.4 rate since that date is second among all major-league closers to Rivera's 92.9.

Now, here's just one more piece of evidence that Rivera is superhuman: In late May, Soria suddenly fell into a hole and blew five of his first 12 save opportunities. It got so bad that after he blew consecutive save opportunities in late May, he admirably went to manager Ned Yost and essentially removed himself from the role. Something that in all of these years Rivera has never had to do.

Yost handled the situation superbly: He gave Soria a few days off to clear out his mind, eased him back into non-save situations in which he could pitch two innings at a time (to work on his fastball command) and then plugged Soria back into the ninth in early June.

The results, again, have been spectacular: Soria has worked 12 shutout innings in his past 10 games and is six-for-six in save opportunities, while holding opponents to an .098 batting average (4 for 41).

"It was not a big change at all," Soria says. "It was just a mind-set, getting my confidence back. Mechanics-wise, there was nothing to change. I looked at video, and I'm not doing anything different."

Soria isn't a closer with overpowering stuff, nor does he have one lethal weapon like Rivera's cutter. Instead, he throws all of his pitches -- fastball, curve, slider and change. Because he depends on location, problems can arise if he goes four or five days between outings.

"He's a command-guy closer," Yost says. "Command guys rebound so much better from that than stuff guys do.

"I've never had stuff guys who have gone through this rebound -- Derrick Turnbow, Danny Kolb, even Eric Gagne."

Soria, 27, right now is reinforcing Yost's history.

"Bad things make you stronger," Soria says. "If you've always been good, maybe you don't realize what it takes to be good until you go bad."

As for Rivera, who mostly has been immune to slumps throughout his Hall of Fame career, Soria, like everyone else, just marvels.

"He's the best," Soria says. "He's done everything in his career, and I don't think he's ever struggled."

-- Soria and Rivera have met once, at the All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium in 2008. But they did not exchange trade secrets. "We didn't talk about the game," Soria says. "We just talked about life."

-- Though they clearly could use reinforcements for a beat-up bullpen, and manager Charlie Manuel wants a right-handed bat (the Padres' Ryan Ludwick? The Twins' Michael Cuddyer?), the Phillies are telling teams that they they're tapped out financially. They're close to the luxury tax threshold and do not want to cross it. Of course, they were also telling rivals the same thing last winter before they shocked everyone by signing free agent pitcher Cliff Lee.

-- Emphasizing Philadelphia's need for a right-handed bat: The Phillies are hitting .196 in their past 13 games against lefty starters.

-- The Red Sox, too, say they do not want to push their luxury tax any higher than it already is, which suggests no pricey mid-season reinforcements. But recent history under general manager Theo Epstein also suggests the Red Sox get what they need and, right now, their internal discussions are centering on a hitter. They're not getting much out of right field, which led to the release of Mike Cameron this week.

-- Mariners officials are scheduled to talk via conference call next week to discuss final strategy leading into the July trade deadline. Though Seattle has done a nice job of staying competitive, the recent 3-7 tailspin could spur the M's to deal Erik Bedard. Though Bedard landed on the disabled list this week with a knee sprain, he could be a very good trade chip.

-- Thanks to Milwaukee's road woes, the Cardinals are back in a tie for first place in the NL Central entering the weekend. But one scout who has watched St. Louis recently remains unimpressed. "Colby Rasmus is so inconsistent," the scout says. "Sometimes it looks like he's not even there at the plate." Then there are the times when Rasmus looks like he is there, like when he homered Tuesday and Wednesday in Baltimore.

-- In St. Louis' defense, the Cards have been so beat up this year, but while Albert Pujols is out, at least third baseman David Freese has returned from the disabled list. "Daniel Descalso was playing third base when I saw St. Louis," the scout says. "And I'm thinking, 'These are the St. Louis Cardinals?'"

-- This is the Phillies' rotation we expected: Philadelphia starters compiled a 1.96 ERA in June. Which, according to STATS LLC makes the Phils the first team since July of 1992 to go a full month under 2.00. Both Atlanta and the Chicago Cubs did it back in July, '92.

-- Quietly, Padres outfielder Ryan Ludwick is resurfacing and showing why he will be in demand on the July trade market. He's at 51 RBIs in 78 games after finishing April with a .198 batting average and a .294 on-base percentage. That followed his miserable debut in San Diego last summer when he hit .211 with six homers in 59 games after his acquisition from St. Louis. There have been differences between this year and last: A calf injury nagged at him last year, while this April he was hitting the ball hard, just right at people. "I played terrible last year," Ludwick says. "I wouldn't say I've been playing great this year, but I've been doing what I've been known to do and what they brought me over to do. Drive in runs. Last year, every time I came to the ballpark I was stressed out, wondering if I was going to be able to make contact."

-- Know what's funny? The cover of Florida's media guide is a collage of small photos of historical highlights in Marlins history. And right there front and center, albeit at the bottom, is a photo of Jack McKeon in uniform. No need for updating there. Well, except he's wearing No. 15, and this time around, he's No. 25.

-- Angels manger Mike Scioscia, by the way, is still marveling about McKeon's enthusiasm for managing at 80. Scioscia and the Angels saw McKeon in his 2011 debut a couple of weeks back.

Likes: All-Star voting results coming soon, with the game soon to follow. ... Derek Jeter nearly set to resume his chase for 3,000 hits. ... Kerry Wood off of the DL and back in the Cubs' bullpen. ... From rocky NFL labor talks to rocky NBA labor talks to ... baseball labor talks still quiet and positive. ... The smell of neighborhood grills over the Fourth of July weekend. ... Modern Family boxed set, season 1. I'm just catching up to a show I haven't watched. Very funny. ... My sister's frozen key lime pie. Delicious.

Dislikes: Missed Jason Isbell coming through my town last week because of work commitments. His latest disc with his band, the 400 Unit, Here We Rest, is outstanding.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Driving in to Darlington County
"Me and Wayne on the Fourth of July
"Driving in to Darlington County
"Looking for some work on the county line
"We drove down from New York City
"Where the girls are pretty but they just want to know your name
"Driving in to Darlington City
"Got a union connection with an uncle of Wayne's
"We drove eight hundred miles without seeing a cop
"We got rock and roll music blasting off the T-top singing. ..."

-- Bruce Springsteen, Darlington County

Posted on: June 16, 2011 5:30 pm
Edited on: June 16, 2011 6:23 pm
 

Gardenhire: "This will give me teaching tools"

Out of the ruins, sometimes, come plans.

Whatever happens the rest of the way in this odd Twins season -- they've now won 11 of 13 after falling 20 games below .500 -- what's already happened will shape what the club does next spring.

Nobody could have predicted that Minnesota would have put 15 players on the disabled list so far this season -- most in the majors. But what the Twins never would have predicted would be the fundamental mistakes they've had to endure.

An organization that prides itself on doing the little things right has, at times over the early part of the season, watched a train wreck in that department. Missed signs, missed relay throws, baserunning blunders.

"It gives me a tool," manager Ron Gardenhire says. "That's one of the things I've already thought about for next year. This will give me teaching tools."

In other words, when Gardenhire and his staff call for yet another round of fundamental drills in Fort Myers, Fla., next spring, there will be no room for questioning from the players.

Gardenhire's immediate rebuttal will be, hey, remember that time in Chicago last May when Alexi Casilla screwed up on the bases, or when Danny Valencia botched a rundown?

Ironic thing is, Minnesota emphasizes fundamentals as much as any team in the bigs in the spring.

But the flip side is, that's why the mistakes aren't tolerable.

Yes, the Twins have had to count on players they never would have imagined would fit into their plans in 2011 -- like Trevor Plouffe and Brian Dinkelman. But as far as they're concerned, while some players may be more talented than others, everybody can execute the fundamental part of the game ... whether your name is Joe Mauer or Trevor Plouffe.

Likes: Seattle calling up rookie second baseman Dustin Ackley. ... Brian Gordon on the hill for the Yankees on Thursday. ... Former colleague George Dohrmann's excellent piece on Jim Tressel and the Ohio State football mess in Sports Illustrated. ... Brad Paisley's new tune Eastwood featuring the voice -- and whistling talents -- of the song's inspiration, Clint Eastwood. ... Modern Family.

Dislikes: Poor Edwin Rodriguez. The Marlins are sinking fast -- they've lost 15 of 16 now, and seven in a row -- and if we know anything about Florida owner Jeffrey Loria, it's that he wastes no time in aiming a sharp knife at his managers. Hey Edwin, duck!

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Mind on a permanent vacation
"The ocean is my only medication
"Wishing my condition ain't ever gonna go away
"'Cause now I'm knee deep in the water somewhere
"Got the blue sky breeze blowing wind through my hair
"Only worry in the world is the tide gonna reach my chair"

-- Zac Brown Band, Knee Deep



Posted on: June 7, 2011 12:36 am
 

Royals re-insert Soria as closer

KANSAS CITY -- Exiled at his own suggestion after blowing five saves earlier this year, All-Star Joakim Soria is back as Kansas City's closer.

Manager Ned Yost told Soria after the right-hander pitched two scoreless innings and earned the win as the Royals snapped a four-game losing streak with a 3-2, 11-inning victory over Toronto at Kauffman Stadium.

Aaron Crow, who did not have a save opportunity while serving as temporary closer, will move back into his set-up role.

"That sets our bullpen up nice," said Yost, who thinks Soria needed to make a "mental adjustment" more than anything.

"Get back on the attack, get out and over on his front foot," Yost said.

Among Soria's struggles this season: His 16 earned runs allowed are three more than his season totals from both 2009 and 2010, and the five blown saves are the most of any of his five seasons.

He approached Yost following his fifth blown save of the season -- and second in two days -- on May 30.

"He's done it with a lot of class, a lot of dignity," Yost said of his two-time All-Star. "He stepped back when he felt he was hurting the team, and he stepped back when he had to make adjustments before coming back to help us."

Yost noted it was quick, "eight or nine days", but now he's again seeing "vintage Soria."

"He had two four-out innings where we made errors on ground balls when we should have made the out, and he's been fantastic," Yost said.

Entering this season, since becoming Kansas City's closer following the trade of Octavio Dotel on July 31, 2007, Soria had converted 122 of 132 save opportunities. His 92.4 conversion percentage during that time was second in the majors to the Yankees' Mariano Rivera (92.9 percent).

"I always felt good, but I'm in a better spot right now," Soria said. "I feel better in my command. I'll always be challenged in this game. I like challenges, and I put a challenge to myself to come back as quick as I can."

 

Posted on: June 2, 2011 4:54 pm
Edited on: June 2, 2011 5:24 pm
 

Short Hops: Is it the bratwurst in Milwaukee?

Short hops, backhanded stops and quick pops:

-- The Brewers have climbed into second place in the NL Central thanks to ... their own beds? All that bratwurst? Milwaukee is 21-7 at Miller Park, the club's best home record EVER after 28 games. But at 9-19 on the road, the Brewers are the worst in the NL. Manager Ron Roenicke is not yet a believer in the trend, figuring "if we go three months into" the season and things don't change, then it's a problem. One reason the Brewers' road mark could be skewed: They opened with 21 of 34 games on the road, including an 11-game trip and a 10-game trip during a cold and wet spring. Assuming they stay in contention, look out for the Brewers in September: They finish with 14 of 25 games at home.

-- Milwaukee right-hander Shaun Marcum, though stuck with a no-decision in Cincinnati on Wednesday night (and though teammate Zack Greinke has received more pub for fewer starts), has pitched like an All-Star. He's allowed one run or fewer in six of his 12 starts. "He wasn't under my radar," Roenicke says. "He's the same guy I've seen pitch in Toronto. He was in the toughest division in baseball, for me. That league can flat-out hit. If you can pitch in that division, you can pitch anywhere."

-- Maybe if a team can get through the early part of a game without genuflecting to the big, bad, Yankees, it'll have a chance: New York has pummeled opponents 83-44 over the first two innings of games this year, according to STATS LLC. The Yankees are outscoring their opposition 43-16 in the first innings.

-- Clint Hurdle for manager of the year? Pittsburgh winning its 17th road game on Wednesday night ... matching the Pirates' total for all of 2010 (17-64). They're 17-14 away from PNC Park so far in 2011.

-- Kirk Gibson for manager of the year? When Arizona moved into first place in the NL West after being 6 1/2 games back through April 30, the Diamondbacks became the first team in major league history to take sole possession of first place in their league (before 1969) or in their division (since 1969) during May after starting the month at least 6 1/2 back.

-- What's up with St. Louis' Chris Carpenter, an annual Cy Young candidate who is 1-5 with a 4.52 ERA over 12 starts? "I've been up and down all year," he says, pointing to one basic element for a pitcher that he's still battling: Fastball command.

-- Lance Berkman on his experience with Cardinals manager Tony La Russa this year: "Love him. He's great. He's such a players' guy. When you think of Tony La Russa, being a players' manager is not the first thing that jumps through your head. At least, not from watching him from the other side. But he's got a bunch of guys here who will run through a wall for him."

-- One significant difference between this year's Cardinals and last year's: The clubhouse atmosphere is far better in 2011. The stuff with Colby Rasmus has blown over. The presence of Berkman, in addition to that of Matt Holliday, has really helped. "He's unbelievable," Cards GM John Mozeliak says of Berkman. "He's a gentleman and a class act. I've really enjoyed getting to know him."

-- That the Yankees' Russell Martin currently is the AL All-Star leader at catcher is attention-grabbing. But the fact that Martin actually is deserving of consideration speaks more toward the dearth of quality catching than it
does to Martin's prowess.

-- Most productive designated hitters: Red Sox (.315 combined average, 34 runs scored, .565 slugging percentage), Royals (.302, 31, .394 on-base percentage) and Indians (.299, 27 runs, .510 slugging). Least productive? Yankees (.185, 21 runs, .350 slugging), White Sox (.234, 21, .383 slugging) and Mariners (.242, 15, .328 slugging).

-- At 17-37, the Twins are 20 games below .500 for the first time since the end of the 2000 season (69-93).

-- Nate McLouth's strained oblique had better heal quick. The Braves' Jordan Schaffer is opening many eyes with his spectacular play in center field.

-- So what is retired Braves manager Bobby Cox doing? He spent a nice summer's evening last week at the Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band's Atlanta show on the Welcome to Finland tour.

Likes: Former big leaguer Darin Erstad taking the job as head baseball coach at his beloved alma mater, Nebraska. ... Ian O'Connor's new book, The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter. ... Also, for you Giants fans, Worth The Wait, written by Brian Murphy and largely photographed by Brad Mangin, is beautifully done. ... The story on how Roger Ailes built the Fox news fear factory in the current issue of Rolling Stone. ... Professor Longhair's Rock and Roll Gumbo.

Dislikes: If it's anything like this, Michigan's "throwback" jersey for the night game against Notre Dame this Sept. 10 might make the game unwatchable.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Good luck had just stung me
"To the race track I did go
"She bet on one horse to win
"And I bet on another to show
"Odds were in my favor
"I had him five to one
"When that nag to win came around the track
"Sure enough he had won
"I took up all of my winnings
"And I gave my little Bessie half
"And she tore it up and blew it in my face
"Just for a laugh
"Now there's one thing in the whole wide world
I sure would like to see
"That's when that little love of mine
"Dips her doughnut in my tea"

-- The Band, Up On Cripple Creek




Posted on: May 31, 2011 10:08 pm
Edited on: May 31, 2011 10:31 pm
 

This Nixon not on Griffey Sr.'s enemies list

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- Yes, Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson was one of the most visible managers Ken Griffey Sr. ever had, and surely is influencing in some way what Griff is doing as a manager today.

But Griffey's most influential manager?

That would be Russ Nixon, whom Griffey was blessed to have come across during his second year of professional baseball, perhaps the most difficult of his career.

It was in Sioux Falls, S.D., in the early 1970s, and Griffey was the only married player on the team.

Worse, Griffey says, "there were not many black folks in Sioux Falls. We were the only black family around."

Concerned over this, Griffey said he phoned his wife at the time, Birdie, and tried to tell her not to come to South Dakota with their five-month-old son -- Ken Griffey Jr. But she already was on a plane.

As Griffey remembers it, the team opened with a homestand of about nine or 10 days, and Birdie arrived on day six or seven. They were rebuffed on a couple of rental attempts while looking for a place to live, Griffey says, adding that he knew it was because of their race.

"I told Russ Nixon that if I didn't find a place to live by the time the team left for the trip, I was going home," Griffey says. "Russ was staying at the team hotel and knew the guy who owned the hotel, and the guy's nephew was in real estate.

"He found us a place to live."

Sometimes in the low minors, managing isn't just about teaching hit-and-run techniques and bunt defenses.

"You learn quick," says Griffey, who was Cincinnati's 29th-round draft pick in 1969.

From Nixon, Griffey learned the value of persistence and the human touch.

From Sparky, Griffey learned the value of aggressive play and the art of handling different personalities.

Over his 24-year professional career, Griffey Sr. also played for many skippers, including John McNamara, Vern Rapp, George Scherger, Yogi Berra and Billy Martin. He hated Martin -- especially when Martin was drunk (he was a mean drunk) -- but still marvels at how shrewd and skilled a sober Martin was.

Likes: The Diamondbacks (!) in first place in the NL West, and Seattle surging in the AL West. What a month. ... Thanks to all with the Bakersfield Blaze. Very nice visit there with Ken Griffey Sr. and so many others late last week. Clubhouse manager Eddie Vasquez rocks. ... Griffey's Big Red Machine stories (George Foster has been in touch the most since Griffey took the Bakersfield managing job). ... Griffey chuckling about how he got along fine with Billy Martin in 1983 shortly after joining the Yankees "until Billy realized I was on the Reds team that kicked their ass in the '76 World Series." ... Mama Roomba Caribbean restaurant in Bakersfield. The salmon with mango salsa, mmm. ... Moo Creamery, also in Bakersfield. Go for the Toasted Almond and Strawberry Shortcake ice cream. ... Merle Haggard. ... The countdown to the final day of school.

Dislikes: Hall of Famer Gary Carter's battle with malignant brain tumors. Colleague Danny Knobler updates Carter's condition here. Prayers to Carter and his family.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I came here looking for something
"I couldn't find anywhere else
"Hey I'm not tryin' to be nobody
"I just want a chance to be myself
"I've spent a thousand miles of thumbin'
"Yes I've worn blisters on my heels
"Tryin' to find me something better
"Here on the streets of Bakersfield"

-- Buck Owens, Streets of Bakersfield



Posted on: May 20, 2011 2:21 pm
Edited on: May 20, 2011 2:26 pm
 

Love Letters: The Killebrew (and more) Edition

A few tears (farewell, Harmon Killebrew) and a few laughs (hello again, Bronx Zoo), it's good for the soul. ...

FROM: Ed K.
Re: Killebrew was no 'Killer', except when it came to slugging

Dear Scott,

Your tribute to Harmon is terrific. My 10-year-son is starting to learn baseball history, and I will share your story with him. I once met Killebrew in Vegas. He was selling autographs, with ALL proceeds going to a children-based charity.

Cool thing is, you could read his autograph. One of my favorite things is how the Twins' Michael Cuddyer and the Angels' Torii Hunter tell stories that, when they were young, they both scribbled autographs until corrected by Mr. Killebrew. "If you're going to take the time to write your name, write it so people know who you are," Killebrew schooled them. Pure class.

FROM: Brian

"Listed at 6-feet, 190 pounds, until cancer slipped a final fastball by him Tuesday." Really? A man loses his life to cancer and you're making baseball metaphors? I typically enjoy your columns but this line is unprofessional, disrespectful and a literary stretch I'd more likely expect to find in a high school publication.

For a man who devoted his life to baseball ... you really think it's a stretch to use a baseball metaphor in tribute to him? What should be used, good metaphors?

FROM: Chris H.

Scott,

I am a 48-year-old Twins fanatic, and Harmon was and always will be my hero. You did a wonderful job capturing the essence of my hero. Thank you so much for this article. Simply put, you did Harmon justice and being who Harmon was, that is quite a feat!

Thanks, Chris. I think it's our job to educate some of the younger fans who maybe don't know much about Killebrew as to just what a humble and class act he was.

FROM: Mike F.

This story may be apocryphal, but I once heard that the scout Bluege sent to look at Harmon Killebrew as a 17-year-old reported back to Clark Griffith as follows: "He has absolutely no weaknesses as a hitter. In my opinion, he is the best first base prospect since Lou Gehrig."

I just learned that Killebrew was passed over several time in the Hall of Fame voting. How is that possible? I know there are a few HOF voters who will not vote for anyone, but how could any sane person who knows baseball not see this guy as a first ballot Hall of Fame selection?

Especially because, as he was being passed over three times before being voted into Cooperstown, he ranked second all-time among right-handed home run hitters behind Hank Aaron. When he retired in 1975, he ranked second to Babe Ruth all-time among American League home run hitters. Utter nonsense he wasn't a first-ballot HOFer.

FROM: Bob D.

Thanks Scott. You understand.

Sniff.

FROM: Kevin M.

Mr. Miller,

Thank you so much for this article about Harmon Killebrew. He was such an inspiration to me while I was a boy. I loved listening to the radio and watching him play.

We've always gotta remember our inspirations, don't we?

FROM: Norman
Re: History tells us Yankees do not grow old gracefully

Great piece, Scott. A classic. History ... gracefully.

One thing you learn when writing a piece like that: How many Yankees fans lack a sense of humor.

FROM: Lee

Your column that the Yankees do not grow old gracefully is pretty interesting. Are the quotes accurate from these past managers and owners?

Uh, no. The tipoff was in the fact that I said the old Yankees diaries were grabbed by Navy SEALS at the YES Network fortress. Almost all of the historical information in the column is factual: The Yanks dumping Ruth, management leaning on Joe McCarthy to remove Lou Gehrig from the lineup sooner than he did because Gehrig's production was down, Steinbrenner forcing Reggie Jackson to take a physical ... all true. I had some fun with the "quotes" and what they were "thinking" at the time.

FROM: Eric S.

Really liked the concept, Scott. Was completely thrown off when I saw you were going make-believe, and not funny at that. The real dagger was the Gehrig stuff, though. That is just tasteless. I am hard to offend and think I have a well-developed sense of inappropriate humor, but there are some things that will never be funny. With all that Yankee material in your hands, trying to instead get laughs out of a debilitating disease is kind of pathetic. You could have done what it seemed like you set out to do -- tell the actual stories, not a corny, LOL nimrod version and had a great column. You can do far better.

Oh come on now. You can't tell me you didn't at least chuckle at the Joe Pepitone line.

FROM: Steve

You're an idiot. I want the 30 seconds of my life back that I wasted reading this drivel.

We just completed an old-fashioned baseball trade: I dealt your 30 seconds for the 30 it took to read your drivel.

FROM: Lee P.

Scott,
 
I actually know Babe Dahlgren’s grandson.  John wears Babe’s 1939 World Championship ring in honor of his grandfather. He will get a kick out of your column! I grew up in NY and finally moved to sunny, beautiful Southern California in 1995 and still love the Yankees. Yankees management and the media are always up to something. Keep up the good work!

Ah, 1939: A four-game Yanks sweep of the Cincinnati Reds, and Dahlgren contributed a homer and two RBI.

FROM: Edward
Re.: Compared to Yanks, 'immature' Rays whip-smart

You may be the worst baseball columnist on all of the major sports sites on the internet. Your bias shines through in every article you write, and is hardly EVER backed by any facts. Consider a new career. Maybe put a cool rag on your forehead, sit in a dark room, and re-evaluate your life.

Funny, I do that about twice a year. Usually with pizza, Mountain Dew and National Lampoon's Animal House playing.

FROM: Bob

Cheesy? Cheesy? America's game should not wear Red, White and Blue on the most important days of the country? While Jackie Robinson's efforts were tremendous -- big Dodger fan here -- it was only in this country could that have happened in the western world. The only country to elect an African-American and did not have colonies in Africa. But it would seem history is not your forte, Ass!

If 100 percent of the profits from the red, white and blue caps went to the troops, I'd be fully in favor of it.

FROM: Chris

Wow ... banging on the Yankees with Tampa as the new flavor of the week. What guts, Scott. But I guess who would read what you write if it didn't include knocking the Yankees? I know I wouldn't. And congrats on one thing: You didn't even mention New York's bloated payroll. Oh but I forgot, you're a pro. You will save that one for next week when the Bombers have turned it around again.

Sorry, I stopped reading when you said you wouldn't read what I write if it didn't include knocking the Yankees. Was there anything pertinent after that?

Likes: Jim Leyland on interleague play. He's right. ... Very cool story, Cleveland's Orlando Cabrera missing a game the other day to become a U.S. citizen. ... Mets pitcher Dillon Gee. ... Sean Burroughs back in the majors (with Arizona) for the first time since 2007. Great story. ... Stephen Colbert the other night: "Starbucks is being sued for firing a dwarf. Or, as Starbucks calls him, a 'tall.'" ... Bridesmaids is pretty funny for a chick flick. Not great. But entertaining. Probably about as good as we're going to get in another crappy summer movie season. ... Bob Seger in Detroit for three shows this week. Wish I could be there for one of those -- and preferably for this past Tuesday's show when The Rockets opened. What a great, underrated Detroit group they were from the late 1970s-early 1980s. Turn up the radio, indeed.

Dislikes: Farewell to Harmon Killebrew, one of the great human beings the game has ever seen.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"When the Senators stopped playin’ ball
"The Twin Cities got the call
"Minnesota joined the American League
"With Mele at the reins
"The Twins made instant gains
"In ’65 they had the flag and an MVP
"I’m talkin’ baseball
"Allison and Perry
"Twins baseball
"Kitty Kaat and Jerry
"Don Mincher and Mudcat comin’ through
"Jimmie Hall and Davey Boswell, too
"Just like Tony ... the Killer and Carew

-- Terry Cashman, Talkin' Baseball (Twins version)

Posted on: May 2, 2011 4:49 pm
 

The Yankees, the Mick, Paul Simon and DiMaggio

Where have you gone, Mickey Mantle?

Doesn't have the quite the same ring as Joe DiMaggio, does it?

Yet the interesting thing about Paul Simon's classic song, Mrs. Robinson, is that the singer's favorite player was Mantle.

Catching up on some reading over the weekend, I came across Nicholas Dawidoff's excellent feature on Simon in Rolling Stone magazine and found a very entertaining anecdote about Simon, his love for baseball and the classic song from The Graduate.

Here it is, from Dawidoff, the author and former Sports Illustrated writer, who obviously spent much time with Simon while reporting the story:

"Near the entrance to Simon's office, there are several framed pictures of baseball players, among them Jackie Robinson, the Negro Leagues star Buck O'Neil, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and a fleet of other New York Yankees.

"I like baseball," he says. "Probably my favorite thing. When it comes to the end of life, I'll say it was baseball and music. That'll be it."

What Simon savors most about the sport is line drive.

"That feeling of the ball hitting the bat so perfectly, you don't feel it," he says. "It's like writing a great line. You don't even feel it. You think, Ahhh! It's perfectly concise. Anybody who has not experienced it can't understand."

His favorite player was Mantle, who, when he met Simon, wanted to know why, if that was the case, DiMaggio was the one Simon had immortalized in song. Simon explained about syllables, how it helps when they glide along for awhile. When Simon encountered DiMaggio in an Italian restaurant, the Yankee Clipper also had questions:

"What does that mean -- Where have you gone?"

He let Simon know he hadn't gone anywhere. He was doing ads for Mr. Coffee. Simon told DiMaggio about the potency of vanishing heroes. As for the line itself, how it came to him at age 26, all Simon has ever been able to say is, "I don't know where it came from, but all of a sudden it was there."

You can read the entire Simon piece at RollingStone.com by gaining access to their digital archive here. It's great stuff. Simon's new CD, So Beautiful or So What, is getting rave reviews.

Likes: If you haven't read it yet, Jane Leavy's biography of Mickey Mantle, The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood, is the best thing I've read on one of America's icons. Very well done. ... Great day to be an American, today. Not just knocking off Osama bin Laden, but to do so in such breathtaking manner, with such a clean hit and no American injuries ... bravo, troops.

Dislikes: Aw, Simon should have been on the cover of Rolling Stone, not that goofy Steven Tyler.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
"Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you
"What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson?
"Joltin' Joe has left and gone away
"Hey hey hey"

-- Paul Simon, Mrs. Robinson

 

Posted on: April 29, 2011 1:43 pm
 

Short Hops: Yanks, Zo-rilla, Padres zeroes & more

-- The Yankees are doing exactly what they need to do in the first few weeks of the season, and that's take advantage of home cooking. They opened with 11 of 14 games at home, and through May 1, they play 18 of their first 25 games at home. So far, they're 10-5 at home, and they've got a chance to continue to pad their home record while they play 46 of their first 79 games at Yankee Stadium. The flip side, and the reason it is important for Joe Girardi's club to build up as much collateral at home as possible: From Aug 1 through season's end, the Yankees are home just 20 times (nine home games in August and 11 in September).

-- Zo-Rilla is back: Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist has crushed four homers in his past five games, including one each in Thursday's day-night doubleheader in Minnesota. He had a monster doubleheader, collecting 10 RBI, giving him 18 over his last five games and 25 for the season. Impressive, yes, but his best moment might have come right after the game when he quipped to reporters, "This must be what it's like to feel like Sam Fuld."

-- Tampa Bay is 13-3 since April 10 which, yes, is the best record in the majors since that date.

-- Kansas City was the last team in the majors to lose a series this season, and now look at the Royals: six losses in a row. The Yankees were the last team in the majors to lose consecutive games, to the White Sox on Monday and Tuesday.

-- Seattle's historically bad offense last summer looks positively Ruthian compared to what the Padres are doing (or, rather, NOT doing) so far this season. San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez-less lineup has been shut out seven times in the month of April. That, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is a major-league record. When the Padres score just ONE run, they're 9-9.

-- Yes, it's a different deal this year for the Padres from their 90-win team of a year ago. Ryan Ludwick (.202, four homers, 11 RBI), Brad Hawpe (.143, 23 strikeouts in 63 at-bats), Orlando Hudson (.238, .300 on-base percentage) and Jason Bartlett (.231) have gotten off to miserably slow starts, and there are growing questions regarding whether cavernous Petco Park is defeating hitters mentally. That was one key to last year's group -- which included David Eckstein, the Hairston brothers, Jerry Jr. and Scott, and Tony Gwynn Jr. -- the bottom line was winning, and there was no griping about Petco. "You've got to be mentally tough to get through some things," Padres manager Bud Black says. "That's part of being a total player, part of being a total, major league professional player. It works the same way if you're a pitcher in a small park. It works the same way for pitchers in Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Houston."

-- The Dodgers' Andre Ethier takes a 24-game hitting streak into this weekend's series with San Diego, but it could be in jeopardy Friday night. Ethier lifetime is hitting .077 (1 for 13) against Padres starter Clayton Richard.

Likes: White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen saying the other day he has his closer -- outfielder Brent Lillibridge -- following Lillibridge's great, diving catches in Yankee Stadium. ...  Andre Ethier's hitting streak at 24 games. ... The way Brandon Phillips always refers to the "Redlegs", not the "Reds", in his tweets (@DatDudeBP). ... Great casting on Hawii Five-O. Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan (son of James) are really good together. ... First listen reaction to Steve Earle's new disc I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive: Outstanding. The disc might even be better than the title.

Dislikes: If you see me at Fast Five, please come up and say hello. Maybe that would then distract me from my next move: Jumping off of a bridge. Man, summer movie season stinks.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Now listen youngster, be on your way
"Don't bother me til a later day
"I like my men like I like my whiskey
"Mmm, aged and mellow"

-- Little Esther, Aged and Mellow Blues

 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com