Posted: Thursday August 11, 2005 3:47PM; Updated: Thursday August 11, 2005 3:47PM
5. An "Eight In the Box Inside an Eight in the Box" on the New York Yankees, from someone who has been addicted to watching them since their double-play combo was Gene Michael and Horace Clarke:
1. The Yankees lead the Majors -- no, all of pro sports -- in players with "balky backs" or "barking shoulders." These Torreisms describe nagging injuries to Yankee players (usually pitchers) while at the same time, in medical terms, provide no information at all. Fine, they're colloquialisms, but why does the New York media buy into these terms as well? I'm no Sanjay Gupta, but those terms tell me nothing.
Tomorrow, I dare you, call in sick and tell your boss that you're feeling balky.
2. Jay "I'm not Arash Markazi" Mohr wrote an incisive piece last week about true Yankees and not-true Yankees. I agree with almost all of what he wrote, except that I'd like to add two points.
One, you can break the Torre Era (1996-present) into two periods. The dividing line is the ninth innning of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. Think of the Yankees' lineup then: Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez, Alfonso Soriano, Derek Jeter, Scott Brosius, Shane Spencer, Bernie Williams and Paul O'Neill. All "true Yankees." Before that inning, the Yankees had been to four World Series in five years. Since that evening, zero. Many of the players added in the aftermath have had more talent (Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield and Randy Johnson), but the fans in the Bronx have never warmed to them the same way.
Second, I think Mohr slighted one Yankee who has come on board since that October night in Phoenix: Hideki Matsui. The Yankee leftfielder runs hard, plays smart and keeps his mouth shut. Not to mention he lures baserunners into inning-ending 7-6 doubleplays. Did you see the Toronto game on Sunday?
3. Perhaps New Yorkers won't ever cheer Giambi, but he has been amazing the past six weeks. There was a play Sunday in Toronto that illustrates how much his fortunes have changed this season:
In the seventh inning, with the Blue Jays employing the shift, Giambi hit the softest of liners that fell between two Blue Jay infielders. YES analyst Ken Singleton remarked that "both came within a foot of catching this ball." Giambi, who was hitting "the interstate" as YES play-by-play man Michael Kay often says, in April and May, is approaching .300. The man's on a tear.
4. Giambi leads the Majors in on-base percentage at .452 heading into Monday night's game with the Chicago White Sox. Who's second? The player Giambi replaced, Washington Nationals first baseman Nick Johnson (.438).
5. Did you see the play Monday where A-Rod -- after he had been robbed of an extra-base hit by White Sox right fielder Jermaine Dye -- prevented a double play by allowing Dye's throw to first base hit him in the leg. Dye was attempting to double up Sheffield, who had run all the way to second base when A-Rod hit it. The umps ruled it as accidental, but did you know that earlier in the game, on the outfield screen, the Yankees had shown the infamous play from the 1978 World Series where New York's Reggie Jackson pulled a similar stunt (with similar impunity) against the Los Angeles Dodgers?
6. I agree with Sheffield: Jeter is baseball. It was an embarrassment not to have him at the All-Star Game.
7. Robinson Cano is, as Phil Rizzuto would say, "a good-looking young ballplayer," but he needs a discriminating eye. He swings at more bad pitches than Soriano used to. Hell, he swings more than Derek Lowe. (Hey-O!)
8. You're reading this and you're saying, "JW, it all comes down to pitching, and the Yankees just don't have it this year." You're right. Besides, the Bombers end the season with three games at Fenway.
6. In the wake of Peter Jennings' death on Monday at age 67, here are some frightening facts about lung cancer gleaned from a report on Tuesday morning's Today Show. Lung cancer kills more Americans annually (172,000) than breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer combined. The five-year mortality rate of those who are diagnosed with lung cancer is 88 percent. Finally, 85 percent of those who develop lung cancer are smokers, as was Jennings.
7. Here's how I had the final five in Monday's Miss Teen USA Pageant handicapped before any of them spoke:
1. Miss West Virginia: Grace Kelly doppelganger 2. Miss Illinois: That anti-Maxim/Stuff look worked in her favor 3. Miss Michigan: Great features, seemed the most down-to-earth despite her 5-foot-11 frame 4. Miss California: Slightly Sharapovan 5. Miss Ohio: Looked like someone you might actually spot in a high school hallway
So who won? Miss Ohio, Allie LaForce. Some will cite the legacy factor (Miss LaForce's mom was Miss Teen Ohio 1977), but I think she won the audience over with a sports anecdote. LaForce shared a story about how she was the only girl on a Little League team and got a game-winning hit. That one endeared her to the audience in Baton Rouge. I also liked the fact that she did not list scrapbooking as a hobby.
8. You may have missed this, but former Bates College swimmer Phil Barr received the 2005 NCAA Sportsmanship Award earlier this week. Bates, a swimmer, survived the February, 2003, fire at The Station nightclub in Rhode Island that began during a Great White concert. The blaze killed 100 people and left Barr in a drug-induced coma for 21 days. Last year Barr, who had only 45-percent lung capacity when he left the hospital, competed for Bates. He is now a financial analyst in New York City.