Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I'm taking a break from blogging while I pursue other projects. To be honest, I've become a little depressed about the lack of hits/feedback.  I said I'd give it a year and I have done. Trouble is, there are so many stories written about the New York Yankees I feel as though I'm a small fish swimming in a big pool. If you've read my blog and miss it, please send me an email to let me know.

Thanks for reading!


Monday, May 4, 2009


NEW YORK baseball fans are never satisfied. How could they be with the level of expectation in the Big Apple? 

When the Yankees and Mets are doing well, the phone-in shows on ESPN and WFAN are pretty quiet.
But when things are going badly, the switchboards are jammed.

Right now, the talk radio hosts are having a field day. And why not. After all, there are plenty of negative things to talk about.

Here are just a few of the topics:

A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez. Okay, so we’re all fed up with talk about performance-enhancing drugs but tipping pitchers, well that’s a whole new ball game.

CC Sabathia: The hefty lefty is 1-3 with a 4.85 ERA, begging the question, is he worth the $161 million the Yankees will pay him over the next seven years.

Ditto AJ Burnett: He’s making $82.5 million over the next five years yet he can’t hold a six-run lead against the Boston Red Sox and has an ERA of 5.90.

Mark Teixeira: Even allowing for the fact that’s he’s a notoriously slow starter, a batting average of .182 is horrendously bad for any player, let alone one who is costing $180 million over the next eight years.

Bad Ollie leaves Mets with massive hole to fill

Oliver Pérez: The Mets have invested $36 million in their left-hander over three years yet it’s anyone’s guess when we will see him again in the Majors after he gave up 28 hits and 24 runs in five starts for an ERA of 9.97.

Sean Green: The relief pitcher is being labeled the new Aaron Heilman after blowing two saves.

David Wright: He’s rapidly “earning” the same tag as A-Rod, namely that he can’t hit in the clutch.

Carlos Beltran: All the ability in the world, but a player with a soft center. Why can’t he play hard every day?

These are just a few of the subjects being debated by disgruntled fans, who don’t seem too impressed with the job done by either Joe Girardi or Jerry Manuel so far this season.

So which side of the city should be worrying the most? Probably the orange and blue rather than the pinstripes.

Coming off dreadful collapses in each of the last two seasons, the Mets – more than anyone – needed to get off to a fast start.

The trouble with baseball is that no sooner have you solved one problem than another appears.

Francisco Rodriguez and JJ Putz have shored up one end of the game but they’re not of much use if you can’t hand them a lead. 

And, with the notable exception of Johan Santana, the Mets’ starters have been anything but consistent so far. I’m sure John Maine and Mike Pelfrey will get it right sooner rather than later, but that still leaves them looking for two more starters.

Yanks manager still has complete faith in CC

Girardi remains 100 percent confident Sabathia will become the ace Yanks’ fans are craving. He’s probably right.

But compare his figures with those of Zack Greinke of the Kansas City Royals, another name linked with the Bronx Bombers during the winter.

Greinke, who signed a new three-year contract worth $38 million with the Royals in January, has a 5-0 record with an ERA of 0.50. Now that’s real value for money.

Given their pitching problems, Chien-Ming Wang’s complete loss of form, injuries to A-Rod, Xavier Nady and Brian Bruney, the failure of Brett Gardner and Cody Ransom to reproduce their spring training form, and a complete lack of reliability in the bullpen, Yankee fans should be ecstatic their team is 13-11.

Let’s not forget that this record includes 15-5, 10-2, 22-4 and 16-11 defeats, not to mention a three-game sweep in Boston.

The Yankees are fortunate to have a sixth pitcher in Phil Hughes and their batting lineup will look a lot deeper if and when A-Rod returns next week.

The bad news for the Yanks is that they’re competing in the toughest division in baseball, especially with the Toronto Blue Jays getting off to an 18-9 start.

Despite being well below .500, the Mets are only two-and-a-half games out of first place.

Of course, we’re little more than a month into the season. But it’s going to take a major turnaround in the fortunes of both clubs to stop those switchboard lights flashing.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


ON THE DAY the New York Yankees slashed premium ticket prices, there was a certain irony that it was a homegrown talent who should end their slump.

Not big-money signings CC Sabathia or AJ Burnett –two of the men signed to put bums on seats at the new Yankee Stadium – but Phil Hughes, the Yanks’ first-round draft pick in 2004.

Little more than a year ago, Hughes was so highly regarded that general manager Brian Cashman wouldn’t even entertain including him in a trade for the great Johan Santana.

When he failed to win a game in eight starts in 2008, that looked a serious error of judgment.

To his credit, Hughes took his medicine and returned to Triple-A baseball to work on his game and develop a curveball. His education continued in the Arizona Fall League.

Last night, in Detroit, the 23-year-old right-hander from Mission Viejo, California, made a triumphant return, allowing just two hits in six shutout innings to help end the Yanks’ four-game losing streak.

He managed to work out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning and of the 99 pitches he threw, 58 were strikes. His fastball averaged 91.3 mph and reached a velocity of 94 mph.

With the Yankees making the most of a fielding error in the seventh inning to score 10 runs, Hughes was rewarded with the win his performance deserved.

Of course, one swallow doesn’t make a summer and Hughes has yet to prove he can pitch to this level on a consistent basis.

But with Chien-Ming Wang out of sorts, the Yanks need a fifth starting pitcher, and Hughes could hardly have provided them with more encouragement last night.

Young Yankees pitcher makes triumphant return

Dave Eiland, the Yankees’ pitching coach, said he was delighted but not surprised. “I think he has something to prove,” said Eiland.

“That’s a good thing. He can build on this, but it’s only one game. Let’s see him do it again and again and again. He was tremendous tonight. But I’ve seen him do that before and it doesn’t surprise me. That’s how good he can be. He’s much more focused and confident now.”

A healthy Hughes pitching well gives the Yankees so many more options. Dare I say it, but if Wang can iron out his problems, they can even consider putting Joba Chamberlain back in the bullpen where he belongs.

After getting swept in Boston, and losing game one at Comerica Park, the Yanks were in desperate need of a lift from someone.

Although Sabathia pitched competently the previous night, the Yankees were behind from the very first inning.

Hughes was so good that he was able to outlast Edwin Jackson and give his team the chance to feast on Tigers reliever Ryan Perry.

Now the challenge is for the rest of the Yankees’ starting rotation to follow suit. On paper, they have the pitchers to put together a similar run to the red Sox, whose 11-game winning streak came to an end in Cleveland last night.

As Hughes demonstrated in Detroit, a stellar pitching performance can cover up a multitude of sins, such as a struggling bullpen and out-of-form hitters.

Good things can happen, like a fielder misjudging a routine fly ball and your No. 8 hitter lacing a fastball over the fence for a grand slam.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


THEY'RE not in last place in the American League East…yet. But when it comes to pitching statistics, the New York Yankees are rock bottom of the AL pile.

Nineteen games played, 117 runs conceded, and an ERA of 6.18. Not bad for a franchise that spent close to $250 million in the winter in an attempt to improve their pitching.

Left red faced by the Red Sox, and tamed by the Tigers last night, it’s fair to say that things have not gone according to plan for general manager Brian Cashman and team manager Joe Girardi so far.

Okay, so they’ve had more than their fair share of injuries, losing Alex Rodriguez, Xavier Nady and Cody Ransom. But as one New York radio host put it, how can a team with an annual payroll of more than $200 million have so many needs?

Are the Yankees free from blame over Chien-Ming Wang’s complete loss of form? Shouldn’t they have seen the warning signs during spring training? Did they work him hard enough to rebuild his strength? After all, surely that’s what spring training is about.

Cashman has been given more money to spend that any other GM in baseball. Yet here we are, with the season less than a month old, and the Yankees’ roster is already looking threadbare.

There are more players lining up for the DH spot than a closing down sale at Circuit City. Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon look as though they are ready to draw their pension. Jorge Posada, and dare I say it, Derek Jeter are not far behind them.

And therein lies the problem. A lot of the Yankee stars are growing old together – and, unlike the Boston Red Sox, the youngsters being groomed to replace them are not up to the job.

Optimism that Brett Gardner could become the everyday center fielder looks misplaced. Angel Berroa may be a good fielder but he can’t hit either. Melky Cabrera has not developed in the way the Yankees had hoped for.

Nick Swisher was signed to be a bench player, which is exactly what he looks like now the honeymoon period is over, and with Mark Teixeira (.220) failing to make an early impression, rejuvenated Robinson Cano is the only batter over .300.

Yankees’ many failings reflect badly on management

That might not have been such a problem had CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett justified their exorbitant wages. But Burnett couldn’t hold a six-run lead in Boston and Sabathia has been no better than okay so far, which isn’t good enough when you come up against someone pitching like Justin Verlander did for Detroit last night.

Am I the only one sick and tired of listening to Girardi wax lyrical about how good the opposition pitcher was? Let’s not forget that Verlander lost his first two starts so maybe some of it was down to the fact that he was facing a team devoid of form and confidence.

The Yankees are paying the price for continuing to believe that they can buy success, while other teams such as the Tampa Bay Rays and the Pittsburgh Pirates build from within. Remember Carlos Pena, Russ Ohlendorf and Jeff Karstens? Just three of the many Yankee rejects making the most of a second chance elsewhere.

In New York, eight years is a long time without a World Series. Patience is not a virtue among the fans. Anyone who listened to the phone-in shows on Monday morning will know that. Getting swept by Boston – and having your nose rubbed in the dirt by Jacoby Ellsbury – is just not acceptable.

Maybe the Yankees will turn it around when A-Rod returns. No pressure there then on a player not renowned for producing his best when it’s needed most.

Messrs Cashman and Girardi had better hope so because they’re drinking at the Last Chance Saloon. Cashman’s judgment is being questioned…and rightly so. How could he let the Yanks go into the 2009 season with such a weak bench?

When Girardi took over from Joe Torre in October 2007, many were expecting him to manage with a “bulldog spirit”, to drill his troops like a sergeant major. Instead, he has become an apologist.

Torre had the Midas touch. He was able to pluck the right man for the right situation from the bullpen. Girardi is exactly the opposite. He seems to micro manage and every move he makes backfires.

Maybe he’s just unlucky. Or maybe Torre was fortunate enough to have better players at his disposal.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


THE NEW YORK YANKEES – year in and year out the team with the highest payroll in baseball – are not accustomed to being cast in the role of underdog.

But that’s exactly what they will be when they renew their annual rivalry with the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park this weekend.

For the best part of a century, the Red Sox had to live in the shadow of the “Evil Empire.” But that’s all changed in the new millennium.

The last of the Yankees’ 26 World Series titles came in 2000. Since then, the Sox have won two championships, sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004 and the Colorado Rockies in 2007.

Diehard Yankees fans still feel the pain of losing the 2004 American League Championship Series 4-3 after winning the first three games.

The balance of power in the AL East has shifted up the Eastern Seaboard to Massachusetts. The Red Sox ended the Yanks’ nine-year winning run in 2007 and even though they only finished second last year, they still beat the Yankees to the wild card.

New York fans are not used to such mediocrity. That’s why the Steinbrenner family said to hell with the economic depression and sanctioned spending totaling $423.5 million on three free-agent acquisitions during the winter.

Red Sox still in the ascendancy

Of course, money is no guarantee of renewed success. Both the Yanks and Sox were humbled by the low-budget Tampa Bay Rays in 2008.

It’s still way too early to make any firm judgments about what will happen in 2009. But we should get a few more clues over the next three days.

The 9-6 Yanks have won their last three games, but that’s nothing compared to Boston, who have recovered from a 2-6 start to win their last seven…and by a margin of 55-20.

Despite the loss of Manny Ramirez, the Sox still have a batting lineup with patience and power. 

In contrast, the Yankees’ batting is not quite as deep as it used to be, especially without Alex Rodriguez, who is currently rehabbing after hip surgery. First baseman Mark Teixeira can expect a similar reception to the one he received in Baltimore after rejecting both the Orioles and Red Sox in favor of signing with New York.

The Yankees have placed more emphasis on improving their starting pitching this season. So far, it has failed to pan out quite the way they planned.

AJ Burnett and Andy Pettitte have delivered. But CC Sabathia has again struggled in the month of April, Joba Chamberlain has yet to prove he’s as good a starter as he is a reliever, and Chien-Ming Wang has been worse than awful.

Pitchers must match up to Beckett and Lester

Chamberlain goes up against Jon Lester tomorrow night. He’ll be followed by Burnett v Josh Beckett and Pettitte v Justin Masterson. So even with the Yanks' upgrades, it’s advantage Red Sox.

The Yankees are hoping Sabathia and Burnett will do for them what Beckett and Lester have done for Boston: be consistent aces.

There’s no substitute for solid starting pitching, especially in October, and the chances of the Yankees recapturing former glories hinge on a settled rotation.

They need their starters to go seven innings on a regular basis so they can hand a lead over to Brian Bruney and Mariano Rivera.

So it’s seconds out and round one of the annual 18-game slugfest between two of baseball’s heavyweights.

They finished dead level at 9-9 in 2008, but over the last seven regular seasons, the Yankees lead 68-63. Any advantage gained by either team could be especially significant this year.

Monday, April 20, 2009


THE GOOD NEWS is that, somehow, the New York Yankees are 7-6. The bad news is that there are more holes in their lineup than a Swiss cheese.

Despite spending $423.5 million on upgrading their playing staff in the winter, the early indications are that this is going to be another long, hot summer for Yankees fans.

The Indians were circling the wagons this weekend, outscoring the home team 40-19 in four games, yet the Yanks escaped with a 2-2 split.

Yes, it’s still early days; the pennant isn’t decided in April. But, right at the moment, you get the feeling that manager Joe Girardi is desperately trying to paper over the cracks.

The acquisition of CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett has been offset by the inexplicable loss of form by Chien-Ming Wang.

Wang, a 19-game winner in 2007, has given up 23 earned runs and 23 hits in just six innings for a whopping ERA of 34.50.

The coaching staff secretly fears he has lost his velocity after being out for nearly 10 months with a foot injury. He’s certainly lost the sinker that gets him most of his outs.

Fenway Park is no place for a pitcher to try to regain lost confidence so it would be madness to throw him out there again on Friday.

Joba struggles as starter too

Then there’s Joba Chamberlain. Will the issue of whether he should be the eighth inning guy or a starter ever go away?

For what it’s worth, I’ve never wavered in my view that he should have stayed in the pen.

His pitching – and his psyche – is much more suited to one explosive inning, and who better to hand the ball over to Mariano Rivera?

With Brian Bruney pitching the seventh, Joba the eighth and Mo the ninth, nine times out of ten, the Yanks are going to hold on to a lead.

Not only that, you can use Joba two or three times a week, rather than just once every five days.

And if he’s going to be limited to throwing 150 innings this year, you’re going to be able to stretch him out longer from the pen.

Of course, with Wang struggling, that’s even less likely to happen now. The Yanks have Phil Hughes waiting in the wings for another chance, but he may have to stand in for the man from Taiwan.

With the notable exception of Rivera and Bruney, the bullpen has looked anything but solid so far this season.

Bullpen reliant on Bruney and Rivera

Phil Coke is a work in progress; there are no in-betweens with José Veras – he’s either brilliant or rank bad – and Dámaso Marte, the man signed to fool lefties, can’t fool anyone.

As for the batting lineup, there are too many easy outs without either Alex Rodriguez or Xavier Nady in it.

In the American League, you simply can’t afford to play Cody Ransom (.150), Brett Gardner (.244) and José Molina in the same team. Yet Girardi has no other choice on the days he wants to rest Jorge Posada.

Hopefully, A-Rod will be back in early May, and there’s a chance that Nady may play again this season rather than undergo Tommy John surgery on an elbow injury.

Nick Swisher’s hot bat has been a bonus but the once-formidable Hideki Matsui is hitting .194 and as one New York baseball reporter put it, you get the feeling that the Yankees are one more injury away from serious offensive problems.

When you factor in that the Yankees are not a great defensive team either, it’s hard to see them putting together the winning streaks you need to win the division.

A pessimistic point of view, certainly. But, right now, a realistic one too.

Monday, April 13, 2009


STILL WONDERING why both New York teams missed the playoffs last season?

Well, if any further evidence was required, just look at the way the Yankees and Mets contrived to lose games yesterday.

If he’s not the best starting pitcher in baseball – and he gets my vote – then Johan Santana is certainly the most dependable.

When Santana starts, the Mets must win. It’s as simple as that. You can’t rely on the rest of the rotation to produce on a regular basis.

Santana could hardly have done more against the Florida Marlins, striking out 13 in seven superlative innings.

But all his good work was undone when Daniel Murphy dropped a regulation fly ball from Cody Ross with two out. That enabled Josh Johnson to emerge the winner, even though he gave up five hits compared to Santana’s three.

So the Mets return to New York for today’s home opener against the San Diego Padres with a 3-3 record. It could be worse, but it could be so much better.

The Yankees are also 3-3. Not so bad, you might say, after losing their first two games.

But if you harbor serious ambitions of making the playoffs – let alone winning the World Series – you need to have a better than 50-50 record against the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals.

Quite frankly, the Royals stink. They’re perennial losers. The Yanks had them on the ropes but failed to deliver the knockout blow with a really sloppy performance that denied them the sweep.

New York teams show their soft center

Joba Chamberlain pitched well and they led 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth with two out and none on. But manager Joe Girardi’s faith in 26-year-old Phil Coke to get the final out proved misplaced.

Coke gave up the lead, plus another two runs, to leave Girardi’s critics (and there are quite a few of those now after last season) questioning why he didn’t call on mighty Mo – the game’s greatest closer, Mariano Rivera – for a four-out save.

Coke showed great potential at the end of last season, and again in spring training, but he was untested in pressure situations.

For all the money they spent in the winter, the Yanks lineup still has plenty of holes in it, especially without Alex Rodriguez and, now, Mark Teixeira, who has a wrist injury.

Brett Gardner and Cody Ransom have, so far, failed to reproduce the form they showed in spring training. Ransom is 1 for 20 and neither has done enough to convince that they can be an everyday player.

Add Jose Molina and Melky Cabrera to the starting nine and you have a National League batting lineup.

Hideki Matsui looks a shadow of his former self and the Yanks’ batting is nowhere near as fearsome as it was with Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu in it.

Less than a week into the season and Girardi is resting players. I’m sorry, Joe, but without A-Rod and Teixeira, that’s a luxury you can’t afford.

Instead of heading to Tampa today, and a difficult three-game series against the Rays, on a four-game winning run, the Yanks are on a down.

If they’re to succeed this season where they failed in 2008, then both the Mets and Yankees need to replace their soft center with a real ruthless streak.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


PHIL WAS FABULOUS on the front nine. Tiger clawed his way back into contention. Chad dropped out on the first extra hole and someone up above was smiling on Ángel when his second shot on the 18th hole cannoned back off a pine tree and into the fairway.

But, on a thrilling final day at Augusta National, it was Kenny Perry’s Masters to win or lose.

Aged 48 years and eight months, Perry should have become the oldest man in history to don the famous Green Jacket. Sadly, he will be remembered as yet another golfer to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

All he had to do was play the last two holes in one over par. However, back-to-back bogeys forced him into a three-man play-off, and he eventually had to settle for second place when he bogeyed the second extra hole.

Such is the unique pressure that comes with trying to win your first Major. In the end, it proved too much for the likeable veteran from Franklin, Kentucky, who was brutally honest in the assessment of his own performance.

“It just seems like when it gets down to those deals, I can’t seem to execute,” said Perry, who lost to Mark Brooks in a playoff to decide the 1996 PGA Championship at Valhalla. “Great players make it happen and your average players don’t. And that’s the way it is.”

Agony and ecstacy as Cabrera wins Masters

Ángel Cabrera had the distinct advantage of having been there before. He won the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 2007. Now he’s the first Argentine to win the Masters.

Cabrera, who used to smoke his way around the golf course, now tries to calm his nerves by chewing gum instead. He looked to have blown his chance when his drive at the 18th ended up among the pine needles.

But an excellent third shot left him a knee-trembling six-footer to save par and with Perry missing his putt, he was handed a second chance.

It wasn’t just Perry who left Georgia wondering what might have been. Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods both threatened to overcome a seven-shot deficit going into the final round, only to shoot themselves in the foot.

Woods, like Perry, bogeyed the last two holes. Mickelson, who covered the front nine in 30 to reach 10 under
just one shot off the lead – hit his tee shot into Rae's Creek at the 155-yard par three 12th and ended up taking double bogey five.

There will undoubtedly be other days for both Woods and Mickelson. But will Kenny Perry ever get another shot at greatness?

Friday, April 10, 2009


YANKEES WIN! Theeeeee Yankees win! At the third time of asking.

Okay, so we were hoping for a better start to the 2009 campaign, but after CC and CMW were blown away, at least AJ saved New York from what would have been a demoralizing 3-0 sweep by the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.

And for all the travails of CC Sabathia and Chien-Ming Wang, the Yanks are no worse off than the Red Sox.

In fact, you could argue that they’ve made a better start than Boston, whose 2-1 opening series defeat by the Tampa Bay Rays came at Fenway Park.

It may be a little early to start comparing records, three games into a 162-game marathon. But to earn the right for a crack at winning their first World Series since 2000, the Yanks are going to have to finish above at least one of those teams, if not both.

The question is, which one will be their main rival?

Some pundits are predicting the Rays will “bounce” after surprising everyone by winning the American League and reaching the World Series in 2008. Personally, I can’t see it.

The Red Sox may (and I stress may) have the better starting pitching but they’re getting older and, of course, they don’t have Manny Ramirez this year.

That one-two punch of David Ortiz and Ramirez was enough to frighten any pitcher. It was a case of picking your poison. Pitch around them – and risk loading the bases – or challenge them and risk losing the game there and then.

Tampa have wild card to play in Price

Of course, the Sox found a pretty good replacement in Jason Bay. With Bay at six and Mike Lowell at seven, their batting lineup has depth. But it’s still not as intimidating as it was with Manny.

The Rays have a tremendous trio in Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria and Carlos Peña. They’ve also strengthened their batting with the acquisition of Pat Burrell from Philadelphia.

James Shields, Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, Andy Sonnanstine and Jeff Niemann don’t look quite as menacing as Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield and Brad Penny.

But the Rays have a wild card in David Price, who finds himself back in the minors after being thrust into the limelight in the post-season last October.

Price is still learning his trade. However, he has the potential to make a similar impact for the Rays that Joba Chamberlain has for the Yankees. Watch this space. 

The Rays’ bullpen has improved in leaps and bounds. But perhaps their biggest weakness is their closer, Troy Percival, who hardly matches up with the legendary Mariano Rivera or tough-as-teak Jonathan Papelbon.

Thanks to the addition of Sabathia and AJ Burnett, the Yanks have, on paper at least, the most complete rotation.

It will be interesting to see whether it pays dividends over the next two days against the Kansas City Royals, who have the unenviable tasking of pitting their No. 4 and No. 5 starters against Andy Pettitte and Chamberlain.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


THE NEW YORK YANKEES looked like a million dollars in spring training. Or, to be more accurate, they looked like a team with a $200 million-plus payroll.

But if ever there was an example that spring training counts for nothing then it came at Camden Yards yesterday as the Yanks, and $161 million dollar man CC Sabathia in particular, suffered an embarrassing 10-5 defeat.

Baseball fans (and reporters) are prone to overreaction. If some of today’s newspaper columns are to be believed, then the Bronx Bombers are one and done.

But although the Yanks lost the opening day battle in Baltimore, they can – and most probably will – still win the war.

Those expecting a Johan Santana-like pitching performance from Sabathia should remember he is a notoriously slow starter. He went 0-3 with a 13.50 ERA in his first four outings in 2008.

Trouble is that when you’ve spent the kind of money the Yanks have on rebuilding their team this winter, then you want to see an instant return.

Hopefully, CC – with the aid of his heating pad – won’t take quite so long to warm up this year.

He needs to get the fans on his side and it won’t take too many more outings like yesterday’s, when he gave up six runs and eight hits in just 4.1 innings, to have people questioning whether he really is worth all that money. 

For the first time in 110 starts, Sabathia failed to record one strikeout. He had never previously thrown two wild pitches in the same inning. It was also the first time he had lost to the Orioles in ten career starts.

Opening day anguish for big-money signings

“It was just command of the fastball,” he said. “I’ve stressed this – everything I throw is off my fastball: my changeup, my cutter, my two-seamer. When I can’t find command of that and can’t get ahead of guys, it’s pretty difficult for me.”

Maybe Sabathia was nervous; maybe it was the cold, damp conditions in Maryland. Whatever the case, he will be hoping for much better on his second start.

So too will another of the Yankees’ big-money signings, Mark Teixeira, who had a miserable debut against his hometown team, going 0 for 4.

Teixeira, who spurned an offer from the Orioles to sign an eight-year, $180 million contract with New York, was booed by the fans.

“I would expect Orioles fans are going to boo the Yankees,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from, where you grew up or what your name is.”

Welcome to New York, Mark and CC. In just one day, you’ve learned about the pressure that comes with playing for the Yankees.

You’ve learned about the fickle fans that flood the radio phone-ins after each and every defeat. You’ve learned about the reaction you can expect on the road from opposing supporters. And you’ve learned about the tabloid newspapers with banner headlines screaming “Money For Nothing.”

You should also have learned that the Yankees have some pretty good players and, given a season free of major injuries, there should be more good days than bad.

Monday, March 30, 2009


SORRY, Phil, Geoff, Padraig and all you other professional golfers who’ve been having a ball for the past nine months; the party’s over. THE man is back.

If anyone thought it would take Tiger Woods time to get back in the swing following reconstructive surgery on his left knee then they were right: 35 days, to be precise.

That’s the number of days between Tiger making his comeback in the Accenture Match Play Championship and winning the 66th PGA Tour title of his illustrious career.

On Sunday, he recorded his sixth victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in typical Woods fashion with a birdie on the 72nd hole.

Even those of us who never doubted that the world number one would return as good as new surely didn’t expect him to win on just his third tournament back.

But perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised because if Tiger didn’t think he had a chance of winning, then he wouldn’t bother to turn up.

Such is his strength – both physical and mental – that he has been able to overcome an injury that might have destroyed a lesser player’s career.

And while that’s not such good news for his “rivals” like Phil Mickelson, Geoff Ogilvy and Padraig Harrington, it’s great news for golf fans and the PGA TOUR.

Tiger has been sorely missed…not just by us but also by the broadcasters, who have seen viewing figures plummet, and by the sponsors, whose numbers have been dwindling due to the recession.

Everyone’s happy…except Woods’ fellow pros

There’s an advert doing the rounds on the worldwide web at the moment showing a clubhouse full of jokes and jollity being reduced to reverend silence when Woods walks in. “Good to see you back, Tiger,” says one golfer, grudgingly. 

Okay, so it’s going to be harder to win tournaments – especially the Majors – from now on but look at it this way: any event you win without Tiger in the field is hugely devalued.

The frightening thought for his fellow pros is that there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

Woods had to sink a long putt just to make bogey on the final hole of his third round and force his way into the final group with Zach Johnson and five-shot leader Sean O’Hair.

That proved to be of great significance, for as one commentator succinctly put it, O’Hair might have won comfortably had he been in the group ahead.

Instead, he spent Sunday afternoon being stalked by a Tiger. The anxiety clearly got to him as he shot a three-over-par 73 compared to Woods’ three-under 67.

With dusk about to give way to darkness and a playoff looming, Woods – as he did last year and in 2001 – made his last shot a winning one, draining a 16-foot putt before celebrating with the now customary fist-pump, and embrace with caddie Steve Williams.

“It feels good, it feels really good,” said Woods after matching his biggest comeback in a PGA TOUR event. “It’s great to be back in contention again, to feel the rush and have to deal with everything coming down the stretch.”

What price now against Woods winning his fifth Masters Green Jacket at Augusta National in two weeks’ time?

Odds of 2-1 look pretty skinny but if you like backing favorites with guts, heart and class, then Tiger’s your man.

Friday, March 27, 2009


WHICH IS MORE OBSCENE? The bonuses paid to its executives by the American International Group (AIG) or some of the prices the New York Yankees are charging to watch a baseball game at their new stadium in the Bronx.

In truth, it’s a close call. In fact, if you haven’t recently received a bonus for services rendered (or not as the case may be), then forget about going to the Yankees’ home opener against the Cleveland Indians on Thursday, April 16.

The good news is that there are still some tickets left. The bad news is that if you buy one, you won’t have much change left from $3,000.

Yes, you read correctly – $3,000. A seat in the Legends Suite will set you back $2,625, plus a convenience charge of $59.70.

I love that phrase, “convenience charge.” Is that a charge to use the public conveniences (Brit-speak for restrooms)? Whatever it is, it sure as hell ain’t being levied for your convenience.

After surveying the ticket prices at, it appears there is also a processing fee, no doubt to cover the cost of processing the convenience charge.

Okay, so you can sit in the nosebleeds (baseball-speak for the bleachers) for just $14 – if there are any left – but whatever you do, don’t take your car to the game because it will cost you more than the price of your seat to park at the new Yankee Stadium: $19, to be precise.

What, so you expected a concession due to the fact that you’d already bought a ticket to the game? Tsk, tsk.

Bronx Bombers bank on beating recession

Far better to let the train take the strain, providing, of course, that the new Metro North Station in the Bronx is open (I gather it won’t be for the first home stand of the season).

Take your checkbook with you if you want to sample one of Lobel’s freshly sliced dry-aged prime rib sandwich, which will sell for $15. My advice is Eat Fresh, Eat Subway. Failing that, eat on the subway itself.

I’ve yet to ascertain the price of beer but I can personally vouch for the fact that at the old Yankee Stadium, a 24 oz Heineken set you back $12.50.

Two beers for the price of…well, two, or maybe three, depending on whether its happy hour in your local boozer. At least you only have to make half as many trips to the bathroom.

Okay, so I know it’s all about supply and demand. After all, someone has to keep hefty-lefty CC Sabathia in hamburgers. 

Someone has to pay into Derek Jeter’s retirement fund and for A-Rod’s performance-enhancing drugs. Oops, sorry, he stopped taking them back in 2003 when he was young and stupid. Thank God he’s old and wise now.

I love baseball; I love the New York Yankees. I wish I could afford to buy the best seat in the house, but I can’t.

Only corporate America and companies like AIG can do that these days…or can they?

Monday, March 23, 2009


MANCHESTER UNITED, according to Forbes magazine, is the world’s richest football club.

Those resources have enabled manager Sir Alex Ferguson to attract talent of the caliber of World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo, Bulgarian striker Dimitar Bebatov and Argentinian Carlos Tévez to Old Trafford.

Such is United’s strength in depth that Tevez usually plays only a cameo role from the substitutes’ bench.

But for all their flair and resources, you would have got long odds against the Red Devils winning all five of the competitions they entered this season.

Not so long ago, doing the “double” (league and FA Cup) was regarded as the pinnacle of achievement in English football.

Now, United are shooting for the stars as they go for the “quintuple.” And with the Club World Cup and Carling Cup already safely locked away in the trophy cabinet, it’s not just fantasy football.

United are through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, where they will be expected to overcome Porto. They face Chelsea in the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

A few weeks ago, they looked to have had the Barclays Premier League title wrapped up for the third successive year.

But two unexpected defeats, 4-1 at home to Liverpool followed by a 2-0 reverse at Fulham on Saturday, have breathed new life into the title race. It was the first time United had suffered back-to-back league defeats in 147 games.

Liverpool, who thrashed fading Aston Villa 5-0 at Anfield yesterday, are now just one point behind their arch rivals, although United do have a game in hand.

As if losing to Fulham was not bad enough, United had two players – Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney – sent-off, meaning the duo now face suspension.

"We'll need a lot of luck" – Fergie

Even with the size of their squad, United will need luck with both injuries and suspensions on the run-in if they are to keep their hopes of five alive.

Ferguson, for one, believes it’s a tall order. “The thing about cup football is you need to be the best but you also need a lot of luck and I think it’s asking too much for all the games to go your way,” he says.

“The one thing I will say is this squad is the best I have ever had. Every game we play, I feel confident.”

The two-week hiatus for international football has probably come at just the right time for United.
And the good news is that when the players return, their next game is at home to Villa on Sunday, April 5.

Only a few weeks ago, Martin O’Neill’s team looked a good bet to finish ahead of Arsenal and claim the fourth Champions League place for next season.

But it’s all gone horribly wrong since then. They haven’t won in their last eight league and cup matches and the lack of depth in their squad compared to United and Co. has been exposed.

Villa were no match for Liverpool at the weekend, crashing to a 5-0 defeat, and it will take all of O’Neill’s considerable motivational skills to coax a performance out of his tired troops at Old Trafford.

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson believes United will still come out on top, saying: “United are such a good team with so many good players, I still think they are favorites for the championship this year. But the last two defeats have given the teams chasing them that little bit more hope.”

Third-placed Chelsea missed the chance to join Liverpool on 64 points when they were beaten 1-0 by rapidly improving Tottenham.

It’s still a three-horse race but United have the pedigree and the British bookmakers still make them a 1-3 shot to finish top with Liverpool 11-4 and Chelsea 14-1.