Thursday, August 28, 2008


JOE GIRARDI still believes in the current New York Yankees. Well, Joe, I’ve got news for you. No one else does. Not even the players themselves.

Before the series against the Boston Red Sox, Girardi stated that the minimum requirement to keep the Yanks in the play-off picture was two out of three.

Yet after two humiliating losses to their bitter rivals, the delusional Girardi was still refusing to give up on either the season or his team.

Naturally, no manager is going to write off the year – publicly, at least – with 30 games still to go. But Girardi’s tired old line that “it ain’t over til it’s over” is beginning to grate.

For a man who has worked on the other side of camera, he has a lot to learn about dealing with the media. Girardi's reluctance to tell the whole truth about injuries and be honest about his players is unlikely to win him friends with the New York press. You can only fool some of the people some of the time...

Let’s face facts. Now seven games behind the Red Sox in the wild card standings, the Yanks are done. For the first time since 1993, there will be no October baseball in the Bronx. And just to rub salt in the wounds, the Yanks final three games of the season will be at Fenway Park. Three meaningless least, for the away team.

Boston, the new “Evil Empire” of the East, has a chance to win the World Series for the third time in five years.

In stark contrast, it’s now eight years since the Yanks won a championship...and they’ve probably never been further away from winning No. 27.

Even allowing for the horrendous list of injuries, notably to their starting pitchers, this has to be the worst Yankees team of the last 15 years.

Young pitchers prove a bust

Much has been made of the pitching staff – and replacing a 19-game winner like Chien-Ming Wang is hard to do.

But let’s not forget that it was the choice of general manager Brian Cashman and the Yankee suits not to trade Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Melky Cabrera to the Minnesota Twins for Johan Santana last winter.

Hughes and Kennedy have not managed to win a game between them this season and Cabrera’s form has been so bad that he’s now down in the minor leagues.

With Hughes (ERA 9.00) getting knocked around pitching for Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre on his return from injury, there has to be a serious doubt whether either he or Kennedy are going to make it at Major League level with the Yanks.

It all starts with pitching and no team sending Darrell Rasner, Sidney Ponson and Carl Pavano to the mound can be confident of winning consistently.

However, the truth of the matter is that the Yanks should have been able to hit their way out of the trouble and the batters must shoulder most of the blame.

Projected to score between 900 and 950 runs, they have managed only 638 in 132 games, and their situational hitting has been awful.

After his MVP season in 2007, Alex Rodriguez is once again the Bronx boo boy. His batting average of .310 belies the fact that he has contributed next to nothing to the team when it mattered most.

I couldn’t believe the statistic that he has scored just two RBIs in the eighth and ninth innings this season, but apparently it’s true.

Time to say goodbye to Giambi

It’s time to say thank you and goodbye to Jason Giambi. And while Bobby Abreu has been the Yanks’ best situational hitter this season, you have to question whether they should spend big money on resigning him at age 34. Like Johnny Damon, he’s a liability in the outfield.

Jorge Posada has proved impossible to replace…and not just behind the plate. José Molina is good defensively but he couldn’t compensate for Posada’s 20 home runs and 90 RBIs in 2007.

Neither could Pudge Rodriguez, who looked a good singing on paper but has proven to be a shadow of his former self.

Detroit manager Jim Leyland is nobody’s fool and while Kyle Farnsworth has hardly set the world alight for the Tigers, he would have been of more use to the Yanks than I-Rod.

Shaky starting pitching has forced Girardi to overuse the bullpen and it’s at this time of the year when it really begins to show.

So all in all, there’s much work to be done in the winter. The Yanks have a new stadium to play in next year. Now all they need is a new team.

Surely Andy Pettitte won’t be coming back in 2009 – he’s certainly not worth $16 million – so the Yanks will need to sign at least one, maybe even two, frontline pitchers.

The rotation will be based around Wang and Joba Chamberlain. Mike Mussina must pitch at least one more year. Hopefully, Hughes can redeem himself during spring training and at least prove a useful No. 4 or No. 5.

CC Sabathia and first baseman Mark Teixeira will no doubt be at the top of the Yanks’ shopping list. They will have the money to outbid their rivals. Whether that’s enough to persuade either of them to come to New York remains to be seen.

Whatever happens, there’s nothing they can do about A-Rod other than hope that he straightens out his swing and his life by 2009.

Nine more years of booing is going to be tough on the ears.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


P.S.L. The three initials that stand for Personal Seat License. Or should it be Pay up! Sports Loser?

Not content with fleecing the fans to pay the over-inflated salaries of Alex Rodriguez and Brett Favre, New York’s two baseball and two football teams are expecting them to finance their new stadiums too.

Personal seat licenses at the $1.6 billion Jets-Giants stadium, the $1.3 billion Yankee Stadium and the Mets’ $800 million Citi Field will cost anywhere between $1,000 and $25,000.

And, in some cases, ticket prices are more than doubling for the same view (or worse) that you had in the old stadium.

Not surprisingly, it’s a subject that is causing outrage among many season-ticket holders of the Yankees, Mets, Giants and Jets.

The owners were no doubt bracing themselves for a backlash. But they know that once the furor has died down, the fans will do what they always do…pay up.

It’s a simple case of supply and demand. In New York, and some of the bigger cities, demand currently outweighs supply.

The clubs have done their market research. They know just what they can get away with. Which is just about anything.

The three major sports in the United States – baseball, basketball and football – continue to defy the economic downturn. The less disposable income the average man has, the more the teams charge.

But, of course, that’s where sports have changed. Baseball and football are not games played for the average man anymore.

Baseball and football no longer games of the people

America’s favorite pastimes are no longer aimed at the blue-collar worker. They're aimed at the Wall Street stockbroker and corporate hospitality; people who can afford to spend upwards of $20,000 just for the right to sit somewhere near the halfway line or behind home plate.

The clubs will argue that the season-ticket holder has ownership of their seat so they can sell-it on.

What it actually means is that Ticketmaster and StubHub will make an even bigger profit on commission and the chances of purchasing single-game tickets will become more remote.

In any case, the true fans don’t buy their season ticket with the aim of making a profit. They buy it because they want to attend as many games as possible and support their team.

The clubs also claim they are “rewarding” loyalty by giving long-standing season-ticket holders first refusal on purchasing their P.S.L. Thanks a million!

Never mind a season ticket, it’s rapidly getting to the stage where the middle class man in the U.S. (if he still exists) can’t afford to take his family to a one-off game. Well, not if they want a hot dog and soda too. It’s more expensive than the best Broadway show and nearly as dear as a mini break in Barbados.

Believe it or not, there was actually a time when Yankee Stadium wasn’t sold out every night. Heaven help the clubs if there’s ever another strike or wane in popularity.

Who then will pay Alex Rodriguez $27.5 million a year to go 0 for 5 against the Yankees’ arch rivals the Boston Red Sox?

+++ Talking of the Red Sox, Boston manager Terry Francona summed up my feelings entirely when asked whether he had any sentiment about playing his last regular season series at Yankee Stadium. “Not really, the new one is only 100 yards away.”

Monday, August 25, 2008


IT’S NOW OR NEVER for the New York Yankees. This week’s three-game series against the Boston Red Sox might not be make, but it could certainly be break.

Five games behind the Red Sox in the race for the American League wild card, the Yanks simply cannot afford to lose this series.

To be brutally honest, they really need to complete their second successive sweep, having revived their fading hopes in Baltimore this weekend.

And there’s actually reason to believe they could do it.

With 46 runs in the last seven games, offense should not be a problem. And while not exactly favored by the probable starting pitching line-ups, they’re certainly not overmatched.

The Yanks catch a break tomorrow night. Red Sox ace and Yankees killer Josh Beckett still has tingling and numbness in his right arm and will miss at least one start.

That means Andy Pettitte will be up against Tim Wakefield instead. The knuckleballer has been on the DL since August 7 due to tightness in his right shoulder so there has to be a major question mark about whether he’ll be at his best.

Even if he is, the Yanks have had plenty of success against him in the past. With Pettitte giving up just one run in seven innings on his last start in Toronto, it should be game one to New York.

Paul Byrd, who joined Boston from the Cleveland earlier this month, faces Sidney Ponson on Wednesday.

This is a real crapshoot. Byrd is 2-5 against the Yanks with an ERA on 4.90. He allowed four runs on six hits over six innings, but that was good enough to give him the win against the Blue Jays.

Becket-less Boston could have pitching problems

Ponson was simply horrible in Toronto last Thursday, lasting just over two innings, during which he gave up seven runs on eight hits.

But he’s been pretty good on his last two starts at the Stadium, notably against the Los Angeles Angels, when he conceded just two hits in seven innings.

It’s asking a lot for him to repeat that level of performance, but if he can just keep his team in the hunt, the Yanks can come through late and win game two.

On paper, game three looks the toughest challenge for Joe Girardi’s men. Mike Mussina goes for his 17th win against Jon Lester.

Lester dominated both his starts against the Yanks last month, the Sox winning 9-2 and 7-0. He pitched a complete game at Yankee Stadium, allowing just five hits and no runs.

The Yanks have been unable to work him out. But the Blue Jays had no such problems on his last outing, pounding him for seven runs on eight hits in only 2.1 innings.

The bad news for the home team is that Lester will be fresh. The good news is that his last outing must surely have dented his confidence.

Mussina has been Mr. Reliable this season. Even when he’s got off to a shaky start, he’s managed to hang in there.

It may be wishful thinking – and it would be foolish to place too much faith in a team that currently has Ponson, Darrell Rasner and Carl Pavano as three of its five starting pitchers.

But if Mussina comes through, the Yanks can sweep the Sox and put themselves right back in the hunt for October.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


INCONSISTENT is an adjective that’s been used to describe the 2008 New York Yankees. Consistently bad might be more appropriate.

How else can you characterize the ineptitude of a team that has managed to lose the first game of their last seven series?

Not since their 1-0 win in Boston on July 25th have the Yanks won the opening game. And you don’t win too many series from 1-0 down.

Last night’s 2-1 defeat in Toronto was a microcosm of the season. It wasn’t down to bad starting pitching. Darrell Rasner made just one mistake in seven innings.

Once again, it was due to their inability to come up with a big hit when they needed it – and another appalling error in the outfield.

Melky Cabrera was sent down because of his poor form with the bat. But you can bet your mortgage that he would have caught the long fly ball makeshift centerfielder Johnny Damon dropped to hand the Blue Jays victory.

Even then, there was time for the overpaid and underachieving Alex Rodriguez to run himself out at second base with another error in judgment.

Girardi let down by senior players

Manager Joe Girardi must be beside himself at seeing so many mistakes made by so many experienced players.

The Yanks had controlled the game for the best part of seven innings – only to waste all their hard work.

Most other teams in the American League have worked out a way to score runs against A.J. Burnett – he gave up eight hits and four runs in six innings on his previous start in Detroit – but not the Yanks.

And unlike Yankees teams of old, they were unable to tack on to the one run they scored in the very first inning.

Perhaps Girardi should have canceled Monday’s day-off. After scoring 15 runs against the Kansas City Royals on Sunday, their star-studded batting line-up sleepwalked their way through another game.

With Tampa Bay, Boston, the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins all winning, the Yankees now find themselves 6.5 games back in the wild card standings.

Right now, the question isn’t whether there will be October baseball in the Bronx. It’s whether September baseball will hold any meaning for the fallible, feeble, fumbling New York Yankees.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


GREAT BRITAIN’S surprising gold rush at the Beijing Olympics is causing a stir “Down Under.”

It seems the rivalry between Britain and Australia is not confined to the cricket field.

The Aussies currently hold The Ashes – the urn awarded to the team that wins the Test cricket series between the two countries ­– and has dominated the Poms in just about every sporting pursuit.

In the last four Olympics, they have won considerably more gold medals than the Brits. But that could be about to change in Beijing.

As of today, Great Britain has won 16 golds to Australia’s 11 and stands third in the medals table behind China (43 gold) and the USA (26).

Traditionally, Australia has been strong in the pool. But for the first time since 1976 in Montreal, the Australian men’s swimming team failed to win a single gold.

Australia has also been good at cycling in the past but Britain has wiped the floor with them in the velodrome, boosting their total medal haul on the bike to 14.

Aussies outswum, outcycled and outrun by the Poms

To rub salt in the wound, the British cycling coach Shane Sutton won gold at the 1978 Commonwealth Games – for Australia!

Apparently, top-level coaches can earn five times as much in Britain as they can in Australia.

Australian sports minister Kate Ellis, who described the Poms as a bunch of “serial chokers” before the Games, is being forced to eat humble pie.

And John Coates, head of the Australian Olympic Committee, has conceded that with five days of competition to go, they might be edged out by the Brits.

Not bad for a country that has virtually no Olympic-standard swimming pools or cycling tracks and very little sunshine to train under compared to Australia!

The Aussies, it seems, have become a victim of their own success. The Australian Institute of Sport, set up after the disastrous display in the Montreal Games, has become the role model for Olympic Committees throughout the world.

And with the next Summer Games being staged in London in 2012, the Brits will even have home advantage.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


WOULD the New York Yankees be any better off this season if Joe Torre were still in charge?

We’ll never know the answer to that question. But it’s one that is sure to be asked if they miss out on October baseball.

Five games out in the wild card race, it’s going to take a superhuman effort by A-Rod and Co. to maintain the Yankees’ proud record of making the play-offs every year since 1993.

With 38 games to go, the Yanks are a disappointing 66-58. They finally managed to win a series against the last-placed Kansas City Royals.

Usually, two out of three ain’t bad. But in their current predicament, the Yanks really needed a sweep.

The pressure they’ve been playing under has been etched on the face of Joe Girardi.

At times, Girardi has looked as though he is carrying the weight of the whole world on his shoulders. And it’s hard to believe his obvious frustration and vexation is not being transmitted to the players.

Now I’m not for one moment suggesting that Torre was leaning on his bat, cracking jokes in the dugout. I could actually see him age during the course of last season.

New Yankees boss prepared to give youth a chance

But one of his big strengths was carrying the burden on his own back and thus deflecting the pressure away from the players.

I doubt whether Girardi is quite as good at that. Nor should we expect him to be in his first season in charge of the 26-time world champions.

Managers can occasionally influence the outcome of games by their decisions, notably through pitching match-ups, pinch hitters and pinch runners.

But in the end, it all comes down to the players, and too many have of them been below average this year.

Torre always relied on the old guard. Girardi has been more willing to give younger players such as Brett Gardner and Justin Christian a chance.

To a certain extent, his hand has been forced by a ridiculous number of injuries. But his decision to play Christian and Richie Sexson ahead of Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi in Minnesota last week defied all logic. Yes, the Yanks were up against a left-handed pitcher, but he had a better ERA against righties.

The jury is still out on Girardi’s management style. We won’t be able to make a fair judgment on the strength of his hand until he has full deck of cards to play with.

But the fact remains that in Joe Torre’s 12 seasons as manager, the Yankees always made the play-offs. If they do miss out this year, Girardi will have plenty to prove in 2009.

Friday, August 15, 2008


NEW YORK sports fans suffered a major blow last night. And, for once, it had nothing to do with the Yankees stinking up the city.

They say that breaking up is hard to do. Apparently not for Mike and the Mad Dog, WFAN’s popular afternoon sports talk show.

For some months, there had been rumors about a break down in the relationship between Mike Francesa and Christopher Russo.

Now, after 19 years analyzing the Jets, Mets, Nets, Yankees, Giants, Knicks, Rangers, Devils and Islanders, Mike and the Mad Dog is no more.

It’s now Mike minus the Mad Dog, or to give the new show its proper title, Francesa on the FAN.

Russo, a 48-year-old father of four, was unwilling to commit to another five years with WFAN and has decided to go it alone. He denied any rift with Francesa.

Although he has yet to announce his future plans, he is being tipped to become the voice of sports on Sirius Satellite Radio.

Sadly for disciples of Mike and the Mad Dog, there will be no farewell show.

“You only get a goodbye show when you retire,” said Francesa. “No company gives you a goodbye show unless you’re no longer going to be a competitor. And we all know that Dog will work again.”

Russo said: “I’m not sure I’ll take another partner on, because before Mike, I was solo. I can do a talk show. Solo, partner, anything I’m on, I’ll do a good talk show.”

Mad Dog splits with Mike after 19 years together

Of that, I have no doubt. But I would question seriously whether it would ever be as good as Mike and the Mad Dog.

The fact that they were so different was their strength. Francesa is a Yankees fan. Russo supports the San Francisco Giants.

Francesa is cool, calm and collected; Russo excitable, opinionated and famous for his rants.
George Vecsey of The New York Times once described his voice as “a bizarre mixture of Jerry Lewis, Archie Bunker and Daffy Duck.”

He was introduced to WFAN listeners by Don Imus on his morning show as the sports reporter.

The departure of Imus, and now Russo, is an undoubted blow to WFAN in its ratings battle with ESPN.

For those who follow sports in the New York area, Mike and the Mad Dog was compulsive listening between 1pm and 6.30pm on weekday afternoons.

The only sports talk show that comes anywhere close to it is Mike & Mike In The Morning on ESPN. And they spend a lot more time talking about sports nationally than they do focusing on the local scene.

Boomer (Boomer Esiason) and Carton (Craig Carton) have their followers. But, as a Yankees fan, I can no longer listening to the irksome Carton (a Mets fan) gloating about their demise.

I always found Mike and the Mad Dog’s coverage of the New York baseball teams fair and, for the most part, unbiased.

Okay, so Francesa went over the top about Joe Torre leaving the Yankees last year, but you could never accuse either of them of not having their finger on the pulse.

They knew New York sports; they knew the personalities. Afternoons won’t be the same without the Mad Dog barking.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


FORGET CHARIOTS OF FIRE. The ideal that only amateur athletes should be allowed to compete in the Olympics is now well outdated.

But is there really any place for professional sports such as basketball and tennis in the Olympic program?

I’m not sure that Baron Pierre de Coubertin had these events in mind when he founded the International Olympic Committee and the modern-day Games.

For me, Roger Federer’s straight-sets defeat at the hands of American James Blake in the Olympic tennis tournament epitomized the problem with allowing the pros to compete.

I’m not saying Federer went out to deliberately lose. But was he as fired up to represent his country, Switzerland, at the Games as he would have been playing in a Grand Slam event? I seriously doubt it.

Tennis already has an international team competition – the Davis Cup – so it hardly needs to be showcased at the Olympics.

And does winning an Olympic gold medal mean as much as winning a Grand Slam title?

Basketball and tennis bring shame on Games

Similarly, is the Olympic stage any place for highly paid basketball stars such as LeBron James and Kobe Bryant? 

Of course, it has nothing to with the fact that basketball – and the NBA – is one of the most popular sports in China. Or that in Yao Ming, of the Houston Rockets, China has one of the stars of the NBA.

I’m sure the world’s broadcasters, and NBC in particular, are very happy to have the basketball to boost viewer ratings. Equally, for the IOC, it’s a great tool to attract sponsors. But surely the Games should be for sports like archery, gymnastics and weightlifting, that only receive exposure once every four years.

I can still recall those golden moments from Chariots of Fire and the words of British athlete Eric Liddell, known as the “Flying Scotsman,” on his dilemma about whether he should compete on a Sunday. 

“I believe that God made me for a purpose…but he also made fast, and when I run, I feel HIS pleasure.”

Those were the days when it was the taking part, not the winning, that counted. Athletes competed for glory, not money. Do you really believe the likes of Federer, James and Bryant share that same philosophy? 


HANK STEINBRENNER is ready to throw in the towel on the 2008 season – and it seems most of the New York Yankees players are too.

“Wait ’til next year,” says Hank. Did you ever think you would hear a member of the Steinbrenner family saying that with more than 40 games still to go?

These are the New York Yankees, 26-time world champions and the most celebrated franchise in the history of American sports.

No matter how many injury problems they have during the course of the season, it’s a given that even if they don’t win the pennant, they will at least make the play-offs.

They have done so every year since 1993. But the prospect of that proud record being extended is receding with every day.

After losing five of their last six games, the Yanks are now nine games out in the American League East and six out in the wild card standings.

As Yogi Berra would say, it’s getting late early. And after a three-game homestand against the Kansas City Royals, they’re back on the road again.

One statistic will tell you exactly why the Yanks are in dire straits. They have scored two runs or less in 39 of their 121 games.

Yanks score two runs or less in one out of three games

That’s very nearly 33% – a shocking statistic for a team projected to score more than 900 runs.

Bad starting pitching puts immediate pressure on the batters. But for all their pitching problems, the plain truth is that the star-studded New York Yankees can’t hit, either in the clutch, or out of it.

Yesterday’s 4-2 loss in Minnesota was just another example. What more could they expect from Darrell Rasner? As manager Joe Girardi said afterwards: “You don’t win too many games when you only score two runs.” Not even with Johan Santana or CC Sabathia on the mound.

Robinson Canó, Melky Cabrera, Jason Giambi. Even Alex Rodriguez. They seem to have spent most of the season in a slump and when they have got hot, it hasn’t lasted long. Kevin Long, in his second season as Yankees' hitting coach, must be a man under pressure.

But for beating up on the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics (11-1), the Yanks would be under .500. They are just one game over .500 against teams in their own division.

It will take a phenomenal effort just to make their last three games of the season – against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park – meaningful.

That’s why some would agree with Hank Steinbrenner that the Yanks would be better off planning for 2009.

There’s no point in rushing back Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes – even Carl Pavano – when the battle has already been lost.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


SO MUCH for David Beckham turning round the fortunes of the Los Angeles Galaxy and revolutionizing soccer in the United States.

Just 19 games into the 2008 Major League Soccer season, the Galaxy have parted company with manager Ruud Gullit and president/general manager Alexi Lalas.

Lalas was influential in luring Beckham from Real Madrid to Rodeo Drive. Now, after a seven-game winless streak that has dropped L.A. out of the play-off positions in the Western Conference, he and Gullit are gone.

The former Dutch international reportedly resigned due to “personal reasons” less than a year into his three-year contract. Assistant Cobi Jones has been appointed interim coach.

Neither Beckham – in the first year of a five-year deal worth an estimated $250 million – nor his representatives have yet to comment on the upheaval.

But Tim Leiweke, chief executive of electrical giants AEG, the company that owns the Galaxy, admitted: “Ruud was their guy so him resigning and us accepting that obviously is not a good day for them.

“This was my decision solely. I don’t think David knew about this decision until the team meeting. I saw him right before I went into the locker room and I don’t even think he knew what I was about to do.”

Lalas, Gullit leave L.A. under cloud

Beckham’s arrival in Los Angeles was greeted with mass hysteria by the U.S. media. But the latest moves by the Galaxy have been overshadowed by the Olympics, baseball and the advent of a new football season. Yes, that’s football…not soccer.

One year ago, Sunil Gulati, president of the United States Soccer Federation, questioned whether Beckham’s presence would have any long-term effect on the sport’s growth in the U.S.A.

“The worldwide interest in Beckham is extraordinary,” said Gulati. “The hope is with all the media attention, fan attention, television interest and sponsors that you can sustain some of that and allow soccer to be on a higher level.

“Pele took us up but we couldn’t sustain it. Sustaining the higher level, that’s the big issue. It’s not inevitable.”

Beckham, himself, has become a celebrity on both sides of the Atlantic. Most Americans, even those who don’t follow sports, know who he is. For a soccer player, that’s an achievement itself.

Posh and Becks are now pictured in the U.S. newspapers as often as they are in the British tabloids.

Beckham is the first to concede that he won’t make soccer the biggest sport in America. But he was hoping his arrival would make a difference.

Judging by events in Los Angeles this week, a lot of the gloss has already worn off.


THE NEW YORK YANKEES players keep fluffing their lines. Now it seems their manager has lost the plot too.

This column was the first to praise Joe Girardi for his manipulation of the bullpen under trying circumstances earlier in the season.

But his decision to pick Justin Christian ahead of Johnny Damon as leadoff hitter against the Minnesota Twins last night beggared belief.

Damon (.322) has the best batting average in the American League. Christian (.250) has managed just ten hits in 40 at bats in his first season in the Majors.

Christian failed to get a hit in four at bats. Questioned about his strange team selection by the YES Network's clubhouse reporter, Kim Jones, after the Yanks’ lifeless 4-0 loss, a defensive Girardi growled: “Justin Christian has had a lot of success against left-handers; that’s why he played.” 

In Girardi’s defense, Damon went 0 for 3 against Glen Perkins when he pitched at Yankee Stadium last month.

In the case against him, left-handers have been hitting Perkins well and two of the Yankees’ paltry four hits came from Bobby Abreu…a left-hander.

Christian, Sexon should be bench players at best

Girardi could have also been questioned about his choice of Richie Sexon over Jason Giambi at first base. 

Sexon (.223) is simply awful. That’s why he couldn’t hold down a place on the worst team in the American League, the Seattle Mariners.

This is no time to be governed by leftie/rightie stats. Now five games out in the wild card race, the Yankees are a sinking ship and it’s a case of all hands on deck.

Girardi should be picking his best team every night. And his best team does not include either Christian or Sexon. Christian should be used purely as a pinch runner and Sexon, at best, as a pinch hitter.

Girardi can count himself lucky he wasn’t given a more severe grilling about these blunders by timid Yankees beat reporters.

Nobody likes criticism but Girardi appeared to be particularly prickly last night when questioned by his former broadcasting colleague Jones.

Funny that. He was happy enough to take the YES Network’s money as an analyst when he was out of work last season. Another case of poacher turned gamekeeper. 

Monday, August 11, 2008


IT’S TOO SOON FOR INQUESTS. Standing four games behind the Boston Red Sox in the wild card standings, the New York Yankees could yet make the post-season.

But after their three-game sweep in Los Angeles, the odds have shortened considerably on them missing out on October baseball for the first time since 1993.

Disgruntled fans are already playing the blame game with general manager Brian Cashman getting most of the flak.

Joe Girardi, in his first season as manager, seems to be getting a free pass. In fact, Girardi is being praised for keeping the team afloat, given the seemingly endless list of injuries he has had to deal with.

Girardi is not blameless. Like any manager, he makes questionable decisions. With yesterday’s game a “must win” for the Yanks, why did he wait until Dámaso Marte had walked the Angels’ No. 9 hitter to allow two men on base to bring in Mariano Rivera?

Rivera threw just one pitch as Chone Figgins’ dribbler escaped both Robinson Canó and Wilson Betemit.

In former years, the Yanks have been good enough to overcome such errors. Not this year.

Every team has injuries. The Red Sox have been without Curt Schilling for the whole season and have lost players like David Ortiz, Daisuke Matsuzaka and now Tim Wakefield for lengthy periods of time. Not to mention the issues with Manny Ramirez.

Bullpen implodes after Farnsworth's departure

Of course, that’s nothing compared to the Yankees’ problems. But surely an organization with a $200 million payroll should be able to overcome them?

Cashman made all the right moves by bringing in Xavier Nady, Marte and Ivan Rodriguez before the trading deadline.

At the time, not too many fans were complaining about the decision to let Kyle Farnsworth go. But, in hindsight, it may not have been as good a move as it looked.

Since Farnsworth’s departure to Detroit, the hitherto reliable bullpen has imploded, allowing 27 earned runs in their last 30 innings for a combined ERA of 8.10.

Edwar Ramirez, David Robertson. Marte, and to a lesser degree, José Veras, have been shelled, begging the question: are they mentally tough enough to pitch the 8th and 9th innings?

But for Mike Mussina, the Yanks would be below .500. Mussina has been the one shining light in the starting rotation.

Undoubtedly the biggest blunder made by Cashman and the Steinbrenners was overvaluing the team’s young pitching.

Trading Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes – and even Melky Cabrera – for Johan Santana today would be a no-brainer. Sadly, the youngsters have failed to come up to expectations.

Cashman and co. overvalued young talent

Kennedy has made more comebacks than Brett Favre yet the simple fact he is not ready to pitch at Major League level…and probably never will be. 

There’s an old saying in sport that if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. Joba Chamberlain is a prime example of that.

Kennedy and Hughes have yet to win a game between them this season. If and when one of them finally manages to do so, the season will probably be over.

Forget the injuries. Forget the pitching problems. To me, the biggest disappointment has been the batting. 

A team projected to score more than 900 runs has amassed just 569 in 118 games so far. They haven’t come up with the big hits and they’ve left far too many men on base.

Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada are sorely missed. While Nady looks a player worth keeping, it’s beyond me why the Yanks brought in Richie Sexon. He can’t hit any pitching, left-handed or right.

With Jason Giambi, Cano, Cabrera and Derek Jeter all hitting well below average, the Yanks haven’t been able to overpower their opponents in the early innings.

Even Girardi’s attempts to play small ball have backfired. Jeter bunted in an attempt to extend a 3-1 lead in the seventh inning on Saturday and they ended up losing the game 11-4!

The truth of the matter is that the Yankees have never been – and hopefully never will be – a small ball team. After all, why bunt when there’s another All Star coming to the plate behind you?

This season, however, the New York Yankees have had too many Old Stars rather than All Stars.

Right now, a 27th World Championship has never seemed so far away.

Friday, August 8, 2008


HE RODE into town like Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars. The stubble was there. All he needed was a black cigar hanging out of the corner of his mouth and he could have been The Man With No Name.

But, of course, everyone inside and outside of football knew the name of this particular hired gun. Discarded by the Packers after spending 16 seasons in Green Bay, Brett Favre was wanted by the New York Jets: Dead or Alive.

The soap opera started when Favre decided he wasn’t ready for the retirement he formally announced at a tearful news conference last March.

It soon became clear that there was to be no going back as far as the Packers’ management were concerned.

Once National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell officially reinstated him, the guessing game began. Where would he go to: Minnesota, Tampa, New York?

In the end, it was the Jets who offered A Few Dollars More than anyone else and the soap turned into a spaghetti western with Favre saddling up his horse and heading for New York, or New Jersey to be exact.

Even the sheriff welcomed him to town, Mayor Michael Bloomberg introducing him to the city.

“The legendary No. 4 has now become Jet Favre,” jested Bloomberg. “And we’re delighted to welcome him to City Hall.”

Just about everyone is delighted, apart from those die-hard Cheeseheads up in Green Bay who believe Aaron Rodgers will never be fit to tie Favre’s shoe laces.

Jets right to pay A Few Dollars More for Favre

Oh, and, of course, Chad Pennington, who will presumably now have to sell the house he recently bought in New Jersey.

This isn’t just sport; it’s business. There are personal seat licenses to sell and who’s going to put more bums on seats, Pennington, Kellen Clemens or Favre?

After all their moves this off-season, the Jets are aiming to improve on their dreadfully disappointing 4-12 2007 season. To do that, they need a quarterback of substance.

At age 38, soon to be 39, Favre’s arm is not as strong as it used to be. But, hey, this guy is the only three-time AP MVP in NFL history.

The Jets had a chance to get him and all credit to team owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum, they went and got him.

Whether it’s for one year or two doesn’t matter. That the Jets have a better chance winning this year with Favre than without him is beyond question.

And for a franchise living in the shadow of the reigning Super Bowl champions the New York Giants, it’s not a bad publicity move either.

Favre now has a month to learn the playbook get in shape for the season-opener at Miami. 

A bit like The Man With No Name in A Fistful of Dollars, who had to recover both physically and mentally from being imprisoned and tortured before returning to kill baddie Ramón Rojas.

Does Brett the Jet have one last shot in him? We shall see.