In a rather amusing piece on The Times’ Bats blog, Jack Curry details how he broke the uniform news to Paul O’Neill. When told that someone new would be wearing 21, Paul handled himself quite diplomatically. He ran into the dugout and chucked his bat, batting gloves, helmet and the Gatorade cooler onto the field. Wait. Just kidding. In reality, he cautioned against expecting one’s number to be retired. “You don’t ever take anything like that for granted,” he said. · (13) ·
It’s no secret around here that I am no fan of Mike Mussina’s. While he has put up some huge seasons for the Yanks and has turned in some stellar games over the years, I’ve long questioned his desire and drive on the mound.
Too many times, I’ve seen Mike Mussina grow flustered with his fielders after an error or with his pitches after he doesn’t get a close call from an umpire. Too many times, I’ve seen Mussina squander away a lead because he’s just given up. Maybe it’s his drive for perfection just manifesting itself; maybe it’s 3000+ Big League innings coming home to roost.
But whatever the cause or the symptoms, something about Mike Mussina just rubs me the wrong way.
So enter Andy Pettitte and the HGH/Mitchell Report scandal. In discussions with the media yesterday, Mike Mussina shared his thoughts on the topic. Generally, he was very supportive of Andy but realistic. Pettitte, Mussina said, will face some trying times this season, especially when he pitches in Boston and if he struggles out of the gate. But the best part was Mussina’s money quote.
“However it happens, he has to be able to go out there and pitch,” Mike Mussina said of Pettitte. “He has to find a way to deal with it. I don’t think he will be able to do his job properly if he has to answer questions all season long.”
So many times over the last three seasons, I’ve yelled at the TV with Mussina on the mound. I’ve pled, begged, shouted and just plain stated: Mike Mussina has to find a way to deal with it. Sure, Jeter made a bad throw, Giambi made a bad scoop, the pitch was on the black. But just deal with it.
I got a chuckle out of Mussina’s quote today, and then I thought to myself, “Hey, Mike, take your own advice. It’s for the good of the team too.”
Kat O’Brien checked in with Brian Bruney today:
Brian Bruney has dropped significant weight. He says he lost 18 pounds and should be down 20 before the season. He wanted to get to 240 and is at 237, and looks even leaner…He also said he focused on his nutrition.
“I’m just in all-around better shape,” he said. “I’ve never really pitched in good physical shape before. I’ve always been kind of average. I knew going in that Joe [Girardi] was kind of a stickler for that, so that was one reason, but mostly I just wanted to do it for myself.”
Infamously last season, Bruney and Joe Torre did not get along. If Bruney shows up willing to pitch and throws strikes, the Yankee bullpen stands to benefit. We may yet see the Joe Girardi Effect on this team fairly quickly. · (25) ·
As the Boss’ control of the Yankees has passed on to younger generations of Steinbrenner children, Yankee fans are grappling with an interesting question: How will Yankee fans remember George Steinbrenner?
When I, on Monday, wrote about George’s buying the Yankees, I got the sense that the older Yankee fans have long passed judgment on George. He was a two-faced liar who would backstab fellow front office employees and his dugout and on-field personnel. He would do whatever it took to win and eventually wound up in trouble with the baseball law. In fact, I was at the game on July 30, 1990 when George was suspended, and the Yankee fans sitting around me applauded.
But a funny thing happened on the way to 2008. New Yorkers started adopting King George’s maniacal bend on winning, and the Yankees on the field became victorious once more. Following Steinbrenner’s reinstatement in 1993, the Yankees entered a period of prosperity largely unmatched in franchise history. They’ve finished first or second every season since 1993 and have won four World Series titles and six AL championships since then.
In the eyes of the public, George became a hero. He had the money to spend to build a winning team, and unlike owners in Baltimore or Minnesota, he was more than willing to spend it. The crowds – many of them fans who had never known the losing ways of the Yankees in 1980s and 1990s, let alone the Bronx Zoo years in the 1970s – flocked to Yankee Stadium and grew to love George Steinbrenner. He was the benevolent dictator occasionally good for a quote but growing noticeably older.
Now, movements are afoot to cement the Boss’ legacy in Yankeeland. Owner for 35 years, Steinbrenner’s name is synonymous with Yankee baseball for better or worse, and the team and its fans are coming to grips with that. On the official side, the Yankees renamed Legends Field in honor of George. From now on, Spring Training happens at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
All of this prehumous celebration of Steinbrenner has my mind rolling around his legacy. We can’t avoid honoring Steinbrenner, and he deserves it. But at the same time, we can’t forget the guy who would insult his business partners and fire his employees on a whim, who would flout campaign finance laws, who would hire private investigators to dig up dirt on his own players. His is a tortured legacy and one that does not fit neatly on the plaque Steinbrenner will probably get in Monument Park.
While the official list of non-roster invitees doesn’t reflect the latest news, PeteAbe notes that Morgan Ensberg will get the long-dormant number 21. I always thought the Yanks would retire O’Neill’s number, and Mike and I wonder if Ensberg would hear boos for daring to wear it. The only numbers not assigned to players in camp this year are 6, 51, 69, 98 and 99. Two of those are sure to be retired, and one is just plain funny. · (36) ·
We’re moving out of one Hot Stove League and into another. This morning, C.C. Sabathia announced that he will wait until the end of the season to negotiate a new deal with the Indians. This doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll test the free agency waters. There will be time between the end of the season and the free agency filing period, even if the Indians do go to the World Series. But for now, it appears Sabathia will pitch out the final year of his contract.
Then again, this doesn’t really mean that negotiations are dead. If you’ll remember back to last year, Carlos Zambrano not only said that he wanted a deal done before the season started, he said he’d leave the Cubs if that wasn’t the case. Four and a half months after the season began, he signed a five year, $91.5 million extension. So we can’t really take this as the be all, end all. I’m sure if Mark Shapiro blew him away with an offer, he wouldn’t outright refuse it.
This is good news for the Yanks, though, who have a ton of money coming off the books after this season. We have Farnsworth ($5.5 million), Pavano ($11 million), Giambi ($21 million), Abreu ($16 million), and Mussina ($11 million) this season, and both Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui at $13 million each next year. So there will be funds for this transaction. It’s just a matter of Mr. Sabathia’s demands.
He’s probably going to want six years, and I’d say somewhere around the $137.5 million given to Johan Santana. Is that something you’d do as a free agent signing? It’s very tempting, especially for a horse like Sabathia. Then again, when we were debating the merits of Santana, many of us pointed out the high innings total as a red flag, an indication that he might break down sometime during the deal.
But someone is going to pay CC. Might as well be us.
It’s October. The Yankees lose a stunner to the Indians when former Manager Joe Torre fails to get his team off the field in the face of a Biblical plague of blood. Fade out on the season.
Except this is New York, and while the Giants won the Super Bowl, while the Knicks are epically bad, we never really fade out on the season. After the Yanks’ last game in October, Joe Torre left as manager and A-Rod opted out of his contract. Then, the World Series ended.
A-Rod came back. The Yanks re-signed Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. They almost traded for Johan Santana, and then, they didn’t. The Mitchell Report hit, and we’ve been inundated with steroid news for the last two months. Now, Andy Pettitte, who hopefully won’t retire, won’t report to Spring Training until Monday.
Meanwhile, on the blog, we debated A-Rod, replacement third basemen, Johan Santana, Joba’s role and the future of Melky Cabrera. We saved the Big Three and had our biggest day for traffic during the cold days of December.
And here we are on February 14, and the countdown on the right just hit 0. I used to say forget Opening Day; life can begin again when pitchers and catchers report. But this year, baseball season never ended. It’s just a circle that keeps on going.
For a few minutes, we can forget about steroids. We can forget about yesterday’s circus or tomorrow’s hordes of reporters. We can forget about bullpen make-ups and starting pitchers on pitch counts and innings limits.
For a few minutes, we can remember opening day — six weeks away. We can remember the joys of a nine-inning baseball game on a warm summer night. We can remember the thrill of a pennant race and the tenseness that surrounds a pivotal three-game series when the Red Sox come to town. We can remember the electric air of Yankee Stadium in October (and forget that this is the Stadium’s last year).
We can remember this and smile because today, the action moves on the field, for today pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. And everything is good again.
Jack Curry sat down with some of the Yanks’ young guns and the new skipper yesterday to discuss pitch counts and innings limits. The short version: Joe Girardi did not handle his pitchers improperly in Florida. The longer version: The Yankees are going to be very, very careful with Joba, Phil and IPK this season. But we knew that already. · (10) ·