"This week's countdown brought to you by The Yankee Chicken™ and The A-Rod Basil™..."
I'm sick of envisioning new ways for Curt Schilling to die; the latest has me dreaming of watching him choke to death on the bloody sock while Alex Rodriguez bashes his skull into a gooey muck with his man-purse.
I'm sick of pondering in which backwater they're going to bury Kevin Brown's body, and what percentage of his $15 million salary the Yanks will be paying. I'm sick of the inevitable articles that some hacks will write every time the Yankees hit town: "How rich are these Yankees compared to our beloved Midwestern City Scrappers? Why, they're paying more for Kevin Brown to pitch for the North Ogdenville Greasetrappers than the Scrappers are paying for three-fifths of their rotation, and that writeoff could cover the first two years of the well-deserved long-term deal our ace..."
I'm sick of temperatures in the single digits and low teens, and the increasingly graying snow still piled on New York City's curbs. I want to see players bathed in sunlight as they run around on green grass wearing their batting-practice jerseys and tossing the ball lackadaisically. I want the next three weeks before Pitchers and Catchers to pass overnight so we can get on with a baseball season that will inevitably take more twists and turns than we can possibly predict. Bring it on.
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...It will be difficult to recount the starting lineup. After looking it up, you'll have to report that their World Series MVP was Scott Brosius, a guy who looks like he should be fixing your computer. None of the players were the best in their position in the American League. Tino Martinez wasn't even the best Martinez (Pedro, Boston). Or the second best (that would be Edgar, Seattle). No, Timmy, that wasn't the year Reggie Jackson was on the team. And Mark McGwire played for somebody else. As did Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey, Barry Bonds, Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens. Your best bet is to try to distract Timmy with candy. In the future, candy will be even better.
If pressed, go with the morality lecture. Though we talk about teamwork and selflessness, we don't find that stuff exciting. We prefer individual stars. The truth is, we're a Rambo culture that talks a Saving Private Ryan game. We're a republic that turns out only for presidential elections. We lured Ginger out of the Spice Girls.
We are so unaccustomed to actual team spirit that manager Joe Torre, after the Yankees won their championship on Wednesday night, awkwardly called them "a great team team." They were. Every single player contributed, big time... Batters patiently waited for hittable balls and forced pitchers deep into the count. Coaches stressed on-base percentage over home runs. Everyone played crisp, robotic defense and opportunistic offense, waiting for the other team to make a mistake. [joel stein]
Watching the Patriots dismantle the Steelers on Sunday night, Brian Cashman was struck by déjà vu, by the notion that he had seen this all before. And he had, except the core names were Brosius, not Bruschi; Martinez, not McGinest; O'Neill, not Andruzzi.
"Absolutely," said Cashman, the Yankees' general manager, when asked yesterday if Bill Belichick's Patriots reminded him of Joe Torre's Yankees, circa 1996-2001. "I was thinking exactly that watching the game last night, how much the Patriots remind me of us. They obviously have a lot of talent, but most of their players would not be considered the best at their positions. They're an efficient machine, and they win with a tremendous amount of preparation and discipline that comes from the top."
Those Yankees had the composed button pressing of Torre. These Patriots have the calculating brainpower of Belichick. Continuing on this theme, we played a brief game of word association. I said, "Tom Brady." Cashman, without hesitation, said, "Derek Jeter."
Randy Johnson doesn't laugh very often, and even when he does, he lasers in with those cold, small eyes that suggest there's a fierce temper bubbling close to the surface. The Big Unit apologized several times for shoving a cameraman in Manhattan on Monday, and while he sounded contrite and sincere, the Yankees should make sure Johnson stays in touch with his most precious gift, that inner rage.
...The Big Unit can be remembered for a lot of things - but not for his graciousness or long, thoughtful answers. The Yankees have Mike Mussina to act as the clubhouse intellectual. They have Joe Torre as the billboard of professionalism. They have Derek Jeter as a marketing weapon. Johnson is here for his fastball, and only that.
If the Yankees are smart, they've already sent Johnson back home to Arizona to prepare for spring training. There, he'll lock himself in the gym and hone those precious weapons.
His arm, which generates record-breaking heat.
And his heart, which is pure ice.[bergen record]
While the Mets' signing of Carlos Beltran to a seven-year, $119 million contract may not in the end prove wise, you have to give the Mets credit for getting their man. They certainly weren't the only team willing to pay Beltran $100 million, and once they had determined what he was worth to them, they went after him ferociously. Mets management and ownership deserve praise for that.
Following through on a decision doesn't necessarily mean it was a good one, though. It's far too early to tell whether Beltran's contract was a mistake, but there are some real reasons to think that it is.
Foremost among these is that Beltran has never been a truly great player. His hitting statistics are not those of a superstar, and put in the proper context, they're less impressive than they seem. For most of his career Beltran played his home games in Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium at a time when it inflated offense more than any other park in the American League. (In 2002, for instance, it increased run scoring by 17% as compared to an average park.) Despite that, Beltran's career on-base average is .353, and has never risen above .389. His career slugging average is .490, though he has slugged above .500 the last four years. [new york sun]
...one day last week, Ruben Sierra and Beltran went to dinner with their respective families in San Juan, at which point it appeared certain Beltran would reject the Mets and Cubs.
According to a mutual friend, Sierra told Beltran, "I don't know about you, but it's more important for me to be happy than to make the most money."
Sierra was talking about the one-year $1.5 million deal he was about to sign with the Yankees, rejecting the Orioles' offer that promised nearly twice that amount, and a second guaranteed year.
Sierra went on to explain the virtues of winning, and how, as he put it, "the Yankees make me feel me wanted."
Beltran didn't just listen politely, he absorbed the unspoken advice Sierra was offering, adding it into a growing number of reasons to remain with the Astros.
...A mutual friend of the two players said Sierra all but challenged Beltran to explain why he'd even consider the Mets or the Cubs.
"It's all about winning," the friend said, repeating Sierra's words. "The last thing I want to do is go to Baltimore and spend the rest of year reading about how great the Yankees are doing. That's not for me." [bergen record]