Search This Blog

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

What's New With the Yankees?

George Steinbrenner- Yanks Will Win it All This Season

"It's been a while; we haven't won it," said Steinbrenner today. "We're going to win it this year. We're going after them this year." Steinbrenner has been more visible at this year’s Spring Training than any year in recent memory and has made a point of being there in order to patch up his relationship with Joe Torre.

Gary Sheffield (from

Sheffield took the entire winter off, giving his battered body time to heal. He said that the Division Series loss to the Angels didn't stick with him, as he traveled to Paris, Italy, London and the Bahamas, spent time with his family and got as far away from baseball as he could.

General manager Brian Cashman met privately with Sheffield after the right fielder finished with his physical, telling the nine-time All-Star that, barring any unforeseen circumstances, the club would likely pick up the $13 million option.

"The only thing I judge it on is how many rings I have, and I don't have any," Sheffield said. "That's the thing that eludes me right now and agitates me. It agitates me a lot, because I feel with the guys in this room, we should have two rings since I've been here and be working on our third. With that in mind, the mission never stops until I get it."

Mike Mussina Not Concerned With Contract

Cashman spoke with starter Mike Mussina, conveying the impression that the Yankees want to keep him beyond this season. But even Mussina said he believes he will not return at a salary of $17 million, meaning the Yankees will probably decline his option for that amount and try to sign him for less. "I'm pretty sure it won't be picked up unless I win 25 games," Mussina said. "But I've known that for years."

Johnny Damon: High Expectations

"I thought Joe's introductory speech was amazing," said Johnny Damon. "It really hit home. We do have to enjoy being a part of this, because the game of baseball will pass you by. This is my 12th year, and it seems like yesterday that I took the field for the first time."

"Knowing we have a good team, knowing that the goal here is to win a championship, that's what it's all about," Damon said, adding that no other manager had ever set his sights that high on the first day of spring. "There is no reason to celebrate getting into the postseason. It's great, but it's winning that championship that stays with you for a long time."

Bernie Williams Looking Forward to New Role

"It will probably be a more complicated role than being an everyday player at a set position," Williams said. "If I look at it that way, I think it will be more of a challenge for me."

Alex Rodriguez (from - Sorry, I was lazy today!)

Alex Rodriguez's 2005 season was as good as any player's in Major League Baseball. He led the American League in home runs, slugging percentage and runs scored, placed in the top four in batting average, RBIs and on-base percentage, capturing his second AL MVP Award in three years.

None of that matters to the 30-year-old superstar. The Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round, sent home early after just five games in which he went 2-for-15.

"It was very painful," Rodriguez said Monday, shortly after arriving at Legends Field for the first time this spring. "When you play as miserable as I did in the most important five games of the year, that kind of fuels you going into this year. It fuels me tremendously, because I feel that my career won't be complete without a world championship.

"This year, to use a poker term," he added, "we're all in."

Aside from A-Rod's obvious crack at his offseason poker scandal, it is clear that the third baseman is extremely focused on filling in the one gaping hole on his resume.

"[The MVP Award] is a consolation, but if you don't win in October, if you're not a world champion, nobody really cares about anything else," he said. "I came here for one reason. Winning, that's it. I could have won MVPs in Texas. I did that."


Sunday, February 19, 2006

Images of Spring

Chien Ming- Wang

Showdown Between Guidry and Big Unit...
The Greatest Closer of All-Time, Mariano Rivera

Clean-Shaven, Slightly Surprised PosadaMoose

Idiots have arrived
I didn't know the YMCA was part of the Yankees warm-ups...

Yankee pitching coaches, past and present


Friday, February 17, 2006

It's Here!

Spring Training Has Arrived!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

It's Official...

Tino Forced to Admit: Playing Career's Over
An ESPN Gig Awaits the Tampa Native, Who Retires After 16 Seasons
By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published February 15, 2006


Tino Martinez didn't want to make a formal announcement. If he'd had his way, he just would have not showed up for spring training and gone on with his life.

But with a new high-profile gig at ESPN about to start, he figured people might notice. So Tuesday, the Tampa native officially acknowledged that his stellar 16-year playing career, which included four World Series championships with the Yankees and a 2004 season with his hometown Devil Rays, indeed was over.

"I don't want to make this a big deal," Martinez said by phone. "I'm done. I'm not going to play anymore. I'm 100 percent decided."

Martinez, 38, said he began to realize the end was near when he was limited to part-time duty in 2005. He decided he wanted to finish his career in pinstripes, and when the Yankees declined an option to bring him back this season, he determined there was no point in going anywhere else.

"I wanted to retire as a Yankee, to have that uniform on for the last time," he said. "It's a great way to go out."

And the chance to get right in at ESPN, with duties that include the Baseball Tonight studio show, some radio work and assignment to a few games, provided a perfect transition and an exciting challenge.

"This opportunity made it a lot easier," he said. "I'm really fired up about it. And I'm going to work hard at it to get better."

After starring at Tampa Catholic and Jefferson high schools and the University of Tampa, Martinez was a 1988 first-round pick by the Mariners and a gold-medal Olympian. He made two All-Star teams during his 16 seasons with the Mariners, Yankees, Cardinals and Rays, finished second in the 1997 AL MVP voting after hitting 44 homers and piled up some impressive career numbers: a .271 average, 339 home runs and 1,271 RBIs.

"To play 16 years in the big leagues; most people dream of playing one day," Martinez said. "I gave it all I had. I definitely made the most of my opportunity. And I look back with no regrets."

So, Tino's career has come to an end, and another member of the Dynasty is lost to retirement. I was lucky enough to have been present at Tino's final game in pinstripes at the Stadium for Game 4 of the ALDS to give him the proper send-off. His presence will certainly be missed, on the field and in the clubhouse. I'm happy he ended his career as a Yankee, but I was hoping he'd be able to go out a champion once again, with a fifth World Series ring to complete the set. Unfortunately, Tino rejoined a team last season very different from the Yankee teams he'd been accustomed to in the past. Constantino Martinez was a true Yankee and a proven winner who provided Yankee fans with countless fond memories. Seeing him on "Baseball Tonight" will be some consolation, but I will certainly miss my favorite player every time I take a look at first base. Jason Giambi, once again, has some big shoes to fill, just as Tino did when he arrived to replace Don Mattingly in 1996.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Spring Training: 1 Day, 16 Hours, and 20 minutes away!

Here's a first look at pictures from Legends Field, where several New York Yankees have already arrived for the start of Spring Training. Pitchers and catchers are due to report by Thursday, so expect the news and photos to pick up soon!

Derek Jeter and Miguel Cairo share a laugh

Jorgie's going to need to break out the razor pretty soon.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Night to Remember

Meeting Mike Mussina was really an incredible experience.

Unlike most people, baseball players are my definition of celebrities. I would be star-struck if I happened to run into the bullpen catcher of the Colorado Rockies, so you can imagine how I felt about getting ready to meet a potential Hall of Fame candidate, a multiple All-Star, and a six-time Gold Glove winner with 224 career victories (not to mention my absolute favorite member of the world-famous New York Yankees).

Before posing for pictures with his fans during dinner, Moose held a “Question and Answer” session, making sure to address every single person with an inquiry.

When I said “exclusive interview” before, it was a bit of an exaggeration, considering I only asked one question. But, hey, it’s a pretty good start for an aspiring journalist, no?

Here’s a look at my question for Mike Mussina, as well as some of the more interesting points he brought up throughout the night.

Q & A

Me- "Shawn Chacon gave you a lot of credit last season for helping him adjust to the American League; how was it exactly that you became a kind of mentor to him and in what ways did you help him as far as going over scouting reports and the like?"

Mike Mussina- “Uh, Shawn Chacon. Yeah, actually we spent…you know it was his first time in the American League and I actually probably spent a little bit of time with him more than somebody that’s been around. Um, I don’t know how it really happened. It kinda just happened. It wasn’t anything planned or…I didn’t do it on purpose. It just kinda started happening. We’d have a scouting report and then he happened to pitch one day I think and he asked me what I thought about the last time I faced him because he hadn’t seen him at all. So I told him…I went through the line up with him. He pitched really well so the next time his turn came up he wanted me to go with him again. And you know how pitchers are with the superstitious thing. So all of a sudden he felt good about it and then he threw the ball great I think four, five games in a row. Shoot, I’ll go sit with him and talk if he’s gonna pitch good. I’ll tell him this guy stinks even if he hits .800 off of him. “This guy can’t hit nothin’; throw it right over the plate.” Worked for him, so… Whatever works.

Also Worth Mentioning

- Mike was asked about his favorite moment as a member of the New York Yankees. He responded:

1.) Tino’s homerun with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning of Game 4 of the 2001 World Series that saved the Yankees from going down three games to none to the Arizona Diamondbacks
2.) Derek Jeter’s dramatic, walk-off homerun later that same game as the bells tolled midnight and ushered in November baseball for the first time in the history of the game
3.) And Aaron Boone’s unlikely, incredible, and historic walk-off homerun against Tim Wakefield and the Boston Red Sox in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

Moose also mentioned how terrified he was coming out of the bullpen for the first time in the 4th inning of that game, with two men on and nobody out, down 4-0 and going up against Pedro Martinez. Apparently, Joe Torre had promised him he would not take Mussina into the game in the middle of an inning, but decided to anyway as Clemens continued to falter. It turned out that Mike’s first relief appearance in 401 career games was the turning point for the Yanks in one of the most exciting games in recent memory.

- Moose is unsure of what the 2007 season holds in store for him since his contract with the Yankees is up at the end of this season. Ideally, he would like to stay with the Yankees rather than go anywhere else, but it seems as though he won’t really make a decision until he sees if he is still as effective as he has been in the past (he is 37, after all). Nothing is concrete, but he did specifically say that he wants to stay close to home in Pennsylvania because he’s been spoiled during his career so far and definitely does not want to go to the West Coast.

- When asked what it will be like without Mel Stottlemyre as pitching coach this year, Moose said it will be “weird” not to have him there and that he will certainly be missed by the Yankees. Stottlemyre was his pitching coach for each of the five seasons he’s been with the team. However, Mike is looking forward to working with Ron Guidry, with whom he has worked before in Spring Training.

Other Interesting Tidbits

- Mike showed how to throw his patented pitch, the knuckle curve, and explained how it is different from a regular curveball

- When asked about his favorite baseball stadium, Moose replied, “Definitely not Japan!”

- Regarding former teammate Rafael Palmeiro and his struggles with steroids, Mussina diplomatically stated that the whole story will probably never come out but that whatever the case may be, it’s a sad story and he hopes that Palmeiro will get his life straightened out

- The 37-year-old Mussina joked that he’s getting old and that he’ll probably have to retire in about “ten or twelve” years.

- His favorite sport besides baseball is basketball, but only when it’s competitive, which “just about rules out the entire NBA.”

- Mike’s brother, Mark, who was the emcee for the evening, said that whenever he sees his brother, he asks Moose how he’s feeling in regards to his strength, and Mark always gets one of two answers- “I’m fine,” which means everything is going well, or “I’m OK,” which is “Mussina- code” for “Things could be better.” This past season, when Mark asked him in May, Mike said that he was pretty sore and his elbow was hurting him. So it looks as though Moose was battling his elbow troubles all season and that his condition was worse than he let on.

- During the Q & A, my sister asked Moose about the documentary in which he was featured and that has been getting rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival. Although he’s still not sure what it’s about or why they even wanted to speak to him, he is extremely surprised he didn’t wind up on the cutting room floor.

After explaining this, Moose said, “…They haven’t sent me my SAG card yet. And I didn’t get to vote for any of those award shows… The Screen Actors Guild. Who invented the word ‘guild’ anyway? Some British guy?”

(If you’ve ever seen Mike Mussina interviewed, he is extremely sarcastic and has a very dry sense of humor, which is lost on a lot of people. But if you get him, he can be quite hilarious!)

- Finally, when someone asked Moose what he thought of Michael Kay, he sarcastically replied, “Oh, me and Michael Kay are good buddies.” For those of you that don’t know, a few years ago, the YES Network’s Michael Kay stated that Mike Mussina “has the personality of a doorjamb” and Kay has continued to not-so-objectively point out the fact that he severely dislikes Mussina ever since. Moose explained that he really has no idea why Kay is so bitter and resentful towards him, but says that he’d be perfectly willing to talk to him, if only for the fact that in the five years since he’s been in New York, Kay never so much as uttered a singled word to Mussina. When a fan pointed out that Michael Kay seemed to be “a lot nicer” in 2005, Moose said “Yeah, that’s just what you see on T.V.”

In Conclusion

It is just unbelievable to me that Mike Mussina is so accessible and personable and just so utterly devoted to his fans. The man who makes $19 million a year and graduated from Stanford with a degree in Economics in only three years is as down-to-earth as they come. When we arrived at the hotel in his birthplace of Williamsport, PA, Moose’s middle son, Brycen, greeted us at the door and gave us a gift bag. Throughout the evening, Mike was selling memorabilia for his charity in the back of the room, rocking his youngest son Peyton to sleep while his wife ran back and forth from their home in Montoursville to the hotel retrieving items that some of the fans had requested, signing autographs for every guest and walking around at each table in order to allow everyone to get their picture taken with him, answering questions, and introducing his fans not just to his wife, children, and brother, but to his parents and his grandmother as well. It really was quite the family affair.

You would think that Mussina would be one of the more popular players in the game, but because he is so unwilling to cater to the media and just a thoughtful, quiet, and contemplative man in general, he doesn’t really stand out and would never brag about all the good he does for his community (where he coaches basketball, mows the little league ball fields, pays for maintenance to his old high school, and invites little leaguers to the indoor batting cages he has in his home), the devoted family man that he is, or even the fact that in the past ten years, he is one of the best and most consistent pitchers in the league and has a very realistic shot at making it into the hallowed halls of Cooperstown if he is able to compile a few more wins and maybe lower that ERA of his before his retirement.

Before leaving, I made sure to wish Moose good luck on the upcoming season. Let’s hope that elbow holds up and that maybe, just maybe, Mike can finally reach that elusive 20-win season and shed his “Mr. Almost” image.

If he weren’t already a favorite of mine, Mike Mussina certainly would be after the events of several evenings ago. He is a truly impressive man, an awesome but underrated pitcher, and a great Yankee.

And that is the long-awaited recap of my encounter with Michael Cole Mussina.


Mike Mussina's Official Web Site and Charity Foundation