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What on earth is wrong with the Yankees? I'm not talking about their woeful pitching or their erratic offense. I'm talking about their demand that MLB award them a win by forfeit because the Devil Rays were late arriving in New York due to Hurricane Frances.
The Yankees have a base of operations in Tampa, so it's not like they didn't have a vested interest in this little windstorm -- which killed at least 11 people and did $10 billion in damage. That Randy Levine can stand there and say the D-Rays should have abandoned their homes, their wives and their children just so they can get to the Bronx in a timely fashion shows the depths to which sports can drive a man. (In a way, I wish MLB had granted the request, just so I could see Lou Piniella go nuts and break something.)
ESPN baseball analyst Dave Campbell made a potentially controversial point yesterday that the Yankees were being especially insensitive given the outpouring of support they received in the wake of 9/11.
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Now, I don't know that I'd go on TV and invoke 9/11 to make a point about the Yankees. And I don't think Campbell was comparing the hurricane to the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. They're clearly not on the same scale.
But I will give Campbell credit for doing it. It took guts. And to the people who were trying to endure the storm, I'm guessing they'd consider the hurricane to be a pretty big deal.
One other thing about the Yankees: You can buy every free agent on the market, but apparently you can't buy class.
On a related topic, there's a little note in SI this week I think bears repeating. After Hurricane Charley tore through Florida, John Rocker showed up for no good reason and spent a day clearing fallen trees with a chainsaw. Everyone was quick to rip the guy (who deserved to be ripped) when he made his absurdly narrow-minded comments five years ago. He should get at least a fraction of that amount of attention for this selfless act. Good for him.
Because Congress recently passed the Doyle Brunson Act of 2004, which legislates that every male between the ages of 22 and 70 (18, if you're in college) must assume a regular seat in at least a bi-monthly game of Texas Hold 'Em, I recently took part in the first SI poker night. (I amassed a huge chip lead and squandered it in a heads-up showdown with Danny Habib, a railbird who now is frequently seen with a copy of David Sklansky's poker tome in his back pocket -- indicating he's looking to branch out.)
During the proceedings, John Kruk's round visage graced the TV screen behind us. In a recent blog I made a comment about how I like Kruk's work, and Habib informed me that I was roundly ripped on some Web site (I think it was this site) for my pro-Kruk sentiment.
To which I say: How could anyone have a problem with Kruk? Recently retired baseball players tend to make the best commentators, because they're still in touch with the guys who are playing. Here in New York, we're not exactly blessed with great announcers. But the Yanks now use Joe Girardi as the third man in the booth -- his delivery is pretty mediocre and somewhat stilted, but the guy knows his stuff.
Case in point: A few weeks ago the Indians are playing New York, and Jake Westbrook is pitching. The conversation in the booth turns to how frequently Westbrook has been traded in his brief career, specifically why the Rockies would have traded him to the Expos for Mike Lansing. One of the announcers -- I don't remember if it was Ken Singleton or Michael Kay -- pointed out that Lansing was from Rawlins, Wyo., and Colorado naturally wanted a player from a mountain state.
Never mind that Rawlins is 250 miles from Denver, which means that if one of Lansing's hometown homies wanted to make the trip and chat during BP for a Saturday afternoon game, he'd have to be on the road by 7 in the morning.
So then Girardi makes a far more interesting point: Lansing is best pals with Larry Walker, who was a Rockie at the time. That's the kind of stuff you'd like to learn, as opposed to some half-baked geographical speculation. So I say keep up the good work, John and Joe.
Speaking of announcers ... a couple of weeks ago, I made a big decision. The Indians were three games behind the Twins and had a three-game set coming up, the first of 13 games with Minnesota down the stretch. I figured Cleveland had a real chance of catching the Twins, so I decided to buy the remainder of the MLB Extra Innings package. It set me back 119 bucks for about 60 games, but I figured it'd be worth it. Naturally, the Indians won the first two from Minnesota and haven't, it seems, won since.
But it wasn't a total waste of money, because now I can surf channels and actually listen to some of the game's great announcers. As I type this, Vin Scully is doing the Diamondbacks-Dodgers game by himself. I couldn't care less who wins; it's simply a chance to listen to Scully. How this guy isn't calling games nationally is beyond me. Also, big props to the Giants team of Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper, who prove that you can, in fact, have an effective team comprised of two former players.
In yesterday's blog, Albert Chen ranked his top five reality shows. The Real World was nowhere to be seen. Typical of these young whippersnappers to fail to appreciate the classics. Yeah, Albert, you can have The Apprentice. But without Jon Brennan no one would know know who Omarosa is. He was a trailblazer, and I'm proud to say I once saw him in a deli in Nashville.
Sign of a bad picnic: When "frozen excrement" is involved in any way, especially if it falls from the sky.
Check this out. I'm going to go out on a limb and say if your friends don't shave at least some part of your body the night before you get married, they're not really your friends.
Happy belated birthday to ESPN, which turned 25 yesterday. And happy early birthday to Kristine, who turns something more than 25 on Saturday.
Mark Bechtel is the Scorecard editor for Sports Illustrated and writes a Daily Blog every Wednesday for SI.com.