November 2008

Why Can’t Baseball Be More Like the Book Business?

Except that the book business is bracing for its worst holiday season ever. Retailers are slashing orders and publishers are laying people off and new manuscripts are harder to sell than condos in Reno. Lots of panic in the biz right now.

panic.jpgThat said, there’s one aspect of the publishing industry that’s way more efficient than the Hot Stove season, where we’re forced to sit around waiting to see which free agents will deign to play for which team for how many millions of dollars.
It’s called an auction.
auction_gavel.jpgSeriously. Let’s say Mark Teixeira wrote a novel about – I don’t know – being a vampire, and every editor in New York was eager to acquire it for his or her company.
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Mark’s agent, Scott Boras, would set a date for the auction. On that day, editors would submit bids for the book to Scott, who would sift through them, pick the highest bidder and the best marketing plan, and notify the winner. And that would be that. Tex and his vampire novel would have a home. No waiting around. No blogging about why it’s taking so long. Just a done deal.
Authors aren’t that different from ballplayers (not counting the lack of athletic ability and affordable health insurance). There are some, like John Grisham, who’ve stayed with the same publishing house for their entire career. In fact, Grisham is the Derek Jeter of authors.
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There are others, like Jackie Collins, who finish up contracts, become free agents, and jump from publisher to publisher, making her the LaTroy Hawkins of novelists.
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There are still others, such as the Red Sox-loving scribe Stephen King, who have special bonuses in their contracts (more money for each week a book is #1 on the NY Times bestseller list). Doesn’t that remind you of A-Rod and his “historic event bonuses?”
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My agent’s name is Ellen Levine. She’s a big cheese at Trident Media Group, and she conducts auctions all the time. You could call her the Scott Boras of publishing, because she’s been known to make editors cry.
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Ellen held an auction for me after I became a free agent. It was the most stressful day of my life. I sat by the phone saying out loud to no one, “What if nobody comes to my auction and we don’t get a single bid?” I thought about other careers I could pursue if we didn’t have any takers. Like maybe this.
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Or this.
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Or even this.
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Luckily, I had a taker, so I didn’t need to become a dental hygienist, a bullfighter or a clown. If I had to compare myself to a Yankee, I’m probably the Robinson Cano of authors. I can make the stylish play from time to time and hit with power when the mood strikes. But I’m lazy. I fool around too much. I could very easily be shipped off to Kansas City for Zack Greinke.

In Defense of A-Rod and Madonna’s Love

My Thanksgiving Saga/Yankees Brawl

My family lives back east, so my husband and I drive down to L.A. every Thanksgiving and celebrate at the home of our friend Rhonda Friedman. Rhonda not only takes in strays like us but prepares a fabulous meal and sets a very elegant, tasteful table – flowers, crystal, candles, the works.

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Rhonda is the supervising producer of the soap opera daytime drama, “The Bold and the Beautiful.” She is frequently seen walking the red carpet at Emmy Awards and such.
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Rhonda always presides over a really nice group of people, but occasionally, as on “The Bold and the Beautiful,” there is drama.
This year, along with her family members, we were joined by her friend Jennifer Farrell, who until recently hosted the TV show “Find & Design,” which was like “Extreme Home Makeover” without the “Extreme.”
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Jennifer’s boyfriend Mike was there too. He produces/directs a reality series called “My Big Redneck Wedding” on Country Music TV. I had never heard of it, so I made him say the name of it about six times. Apparently, it is hosted by this man.
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Also in attendance was Rhonda’s friend Mary Ann, the ex-wife of actor John Saxon. Does anyone remember him from the movies or the zillion TV series he was on?
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So there I was, sipping champagne, eating turkey and minding my own business, when Jennifer’s mom, who was visiting from Florida, said very animatedly, “Jane’s got a book coming out about how she loves the Yankees! I went to my Books-a-Million in Gainesville to buy it, but they don’t have it in stock yet!”
I smiled, eternally grateful that I would have at least one sale, and said, “It doesn’t come out until February 3rd. Maybe you could go back to the store then.”
I resumed eating, this time diving into the stuffing.
“The Yankees are losers,” said somebody down at the other end of the table. It might have been Rob, Rhonda’s brother. Their family is from Chicago and they’re Cubs fans. Or it might have been Mike, Jennifer’s boyfriend, who also roots for the Cubs.
“They had a down year, yes,” I admitted, feeling my blood pressure spike.
“A down year?” said Antonio, the dashingly handsome son of Mary Ann and John Saxon. “They sucked.”
I laughed. Well, it was Thanksgiving. You’re supposed to laugh and be jolly and forgiving.
“Yeah,” Mary Ann chimed in. “What do you think went wrong with them, Jane? Besides the pitching and hitting and fielding.”
O.K. That was downright sarcastic! Never mind that she and her son are Dodgers fans. No excuse for picking on my team during a lovely holiday meal.
I set down my fork and eyed her. “We had a new manager,” I said. “And there were injuries. A lot of injuries.”
“Plus, they sucked,” said Antonio.
Everybody at the table laughed. LAUGHED. Including my husband, a Yankee fan, or so I thought. Would no one but me defend the Pinstriped Ones? 
“We’ll bounce back and be very competitive next season,” I said, my heart thumping now. I was trying to keep it civil. I was.
Antonio smirked. “How? You can’t even sign Sabathia.”
Uh-oh. I gripped my champagne glass tightly and said through clenched teeth, “Then we’ll sign one of the other free agents. Lowe, maybe.”
“Lowe?” he said mockingly. “You can have him. He’s garbage.”
“Face it, Jane. The Yankees aren’t what they used to be,” said Mary Ann.
That did it. How dare she? How dare any of them?
I should have attempted to calm myself, done some deep breathing, shoved more food in my mouth. Instead – I’m so embarrassed to tell you this – I threw my champagne at Mary Ann. In turn, she grabbed a handful of candied yams and threw them at me.
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In the blink of an eye, she and I were really going at it.
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Needless to say, Rhonda’s beautiful table was ruined. My apologies to her. I can only hope and pray she’ll overlook my boorishness and invite me back next year.
In the meantime, I’ve sent her this video just to show her how bad things could have gotten.

Music for Lovers (of the Yankees)

Just a quick post to Yankee fans….If you’re sitting at your family’s turkey dinner and you suddenly find yourself drifting away from the conversation and yearning to be at the Stadium watching your favorite team, here’s a treat.

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Just kidding. I don’t have any tix to give out. But Andrew at Scott Proctor’s Arm posted a Yankees Stadium Soundtrack featuring all the songs we love to love/hate during a game. Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving.

A Pitcher Scorned

It happens all the time when it comes to romance. Love is found, love is lost and somebody ends up with a broken heart.

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Is that the case with Andy Pettitte? Is his passionate affair with the Yankees over forever? Are they just not that into him anymore? He’s hurt and confused, and who can blame him?
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Sure, he’s trying to explore new love with the Dodgers, but it’s an act, trust me. Right now he’s sitting in a BarcaLounger in the den of his ranch and he’s asking, “Why, y’all? How did it go wrong? Things used to be so good with us.”
And they were. Never mind the relationship with Clemens. There were other bonds.
He and Wang were tight, breaking through the language barrier with a language of their own.
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He and Jeter needed no words either, whether in times of laughter or tears.
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And then there was all the hugging with Jorge
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and the cuddling with A-Rod.
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Andy’s wife Laura tried to corral her husband’s attention, even showing up in leopard-print outfits on occasion.
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But how do you compete with the blissful moments Andy shared with his pinstriped teammates? I mean, he not only played baseball with them. He played dress up with them.
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“Why?” he cries out into the dead of the Texas night. “I was fixin’ to take your darn pay cut, but you haven’t called. Not a ‘Hello.’ Not a ‘We miss you.’ Nothin’.”
And so Andy Pettitte, the pitcher scorned, has reached out to Joe Torre for comfort. If the Yankees don’t re-sign the lefty, perhaps he’ll make a fresh start in Los Angeles. A new town. New faces. It could work.
But it will take an attachment to
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and
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and
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and there are no guarantees that they’ll fill the void. After all, first love is the hardest to get over.
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Just ask Bernie.
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He’s still waiting for this to happen.
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The Yankees Go Spanning the Globe

Not to be outdone by either the Red Sox, who appear to have signed Japanese pitcher Junich Tazawa (even though he is an amateur), or by the Pirates, who have inked deals with Indian pitchers Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel (even though neither youngster had ever heard of baseball), the Yankees have taken a major dive into the world’s untapped talent pool.

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“We can’t sit back and wait for Sabathia to make up his mind,” Yankees Control Person Hal Steinbrenner told She-Fan during a late evening meeting over cocktails. “What’s more, it wouldn’t be prudent for us to pay what Boras is asking for Teixeira. And we’re certainly not throwing money at Pettitte, Abreu and Giambi, although they will always be part of the Yankees family.”
“Then which players are you planning to put on the field on Opening Day?” I asked with a healthy dose of skepticism. I do love Hal, but he’s still pretty new to the job.
That’s when he began singing – right out of the blue, his voice an oddly familiar falsetto.
“We are the world. We are the children.”
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Yes, that’s who he sounded like. “Why that song?” I asked. 
He motioned me closer and whispered, “This is very confidential, so please don’t blog about it. We’re replacing our expensive players with amateurs from the far corners of the world.”
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Well, I was shocked, of course. This was the Yankees we were talking about.
Hal revealed the names of our Opening Day lineup, which I will now pass along to you. I know, I know. I told him I would keep his secret. I hope he will forgive me.
Without further ado, here are the new Yankees.
From the Netherlands….batting first and playing shortstop: Percy Isenia, a member of the Olympic baseball team. He’ll have to lose the facial hair, naturally.
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From Thailand….batting second and playing left field: Ek Boonsawad, a champion sailor.
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From Hungary…batting third and playing right field: Zsolt Nemcsik, who excels at fencing. On guard! Touche!
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From Croatia…batting cleanup and catching: Blazenko Lackovic, a burly handballer.
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From Iceland…batting fifth and DH-ing: Sigfus Sigurdsson, an even burlier handballer.
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From Cameroon…batting sixth and playing third base: Joslain Mayebi, a goalkeeper or something like that.
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From Denmark….batting seventh and playing center field: Jonas Rasmussen, who is good at badminton and can, therefore, handle a shuttlecock if need be.
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From Switzerland…batting eighth and playing first base: Niklaus Schurtenberger, an equestrian jumper who goes by the nickname “Baldy.”
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From Luxembourg…batting ninth and playing second base: Marc Schmit, another sailor. He’s got a little Nick Swisher in him, doesn’t he?
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And from Latvia…pitching: Aleksandrs Samoilovs, who plays beach volleyball and will have to replace the smile with a snarl if he wants to succeed in the Bigs.
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No marquee names. Not even any names I (or Bob Sheppard) will be able to pronounce. And how will the Bleacher Creatures come up with chants for these guys?
Still, Hal’s strategy is bold, I’ll give him that. 
“I only foresee one problem,” I told him as he was getting ready to catch his flight back to Tampa. “Too many translators in the clubhouse.”
He smiled. “Haven’t you seen the pictures of the new Stadium? The clubhouse is huge.”
“Right. Have a safe trip.”
I miss A-Rod already. I even miss Swish.

How Much Power Does Scott Boras Really Have?

As I sit and wait for some free agent to sign somewhere….tick tock, tick tock….I can’t help but be reminded that one man controls the destiny of almost every coveted player except CC and AJ. (Maybe he doesn’t handle clients who go by initials only.) He is The One who will oversee the futures of the following…..
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not to mention Jason Varitek, Garret Anderson (or did he retire), Ivan Rodriguez (he should retire) and Julian Tavarez (he should be locked away in a padded cell). The One of whom I speak is, of course, this man.
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You can tell he’s Scott Boras by how hard he’s plotting and planning. The question is: Is his power limited to the fates of baseball players? Or does it extend far, far beyond the realm of sports?
Like can he negotiate a bailout for these three?

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Can he reunite these men at Madison Square Garden, including the dead ones?
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Can he take away all the calories in this and turn it into a health food?
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Can he make this man funny again?
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Can he cause it to rain in drought-stricken California?
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Can he cure diseases and enable us to live forever?
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If he can do all that, he can surely do this.
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Yes, if you are really so powerful, Scottie, you can make this happen simply by handing over your FAs to us for a pittance. It would be a gesture of good will after what you put us through with A-Rod last year, and it would make you a god in New York.
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Unfortunately, it would make you the opposite everywhere else.
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Your choice, Scott. Use your power wisely.

The Mysterious Case of the Fractured Fibula

Let’s face it. I was a bandwagon Dodgers fan during the playoffs. The Yankees were out of it, so I rooted for Joe and Donnie’s team. When the Dodgers didn’t make it to the Series, that was it for my interest in them….until today. I was cruising around the MLB blogosphere and came upon the item by Prince of New York about this man.

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Yep, pitcher Chad Billingsley was in the news. According to media reports, Chad slipped on the ice outside his Reading, Pennsylvania home on Friday.
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He was diagnosed with a “spiral fracture of the fibula in the left leg” and underwent surgery on Saturday. His doctor had to put a plate in the leg.
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(It may or may not have been the same pattern as my grandmother’s Wedgewood.) Poor Chad will be in a cast for two weeks.
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Supposedly, he’ll be ready to throw by spring training, but I ask you: Do they take us for fools? Do they expect us to believe that he really broke his leg falling on the ice outside his house? Do they assume we’ve forgotten all about this man?
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Nomar (or should I say Ramon) Garciaparra showed up at the Red Sox spring training camp in 2001 with a very strange wrist injury – a “split tendon” that kept him out of the lineup for a long, long time. How did it happen? Was it a delayed reaction to being hit by a pitch two years before, as Nomar theorized? Or did he injure the wrist in a suspicious manner that would have violated his contract?
Since ballplayers aren’t always the most truthful individuals, She-Fan decided to investigate the Chad Billingsley case. Did he break his leg while engaging in some forbidden activity?
For starters, the “ice” part of the story doesn’t hold up. He claims he lives in Reading, PA, right?
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Yeah, well I checked Reading’s weather for November 21st, the day in question, and here’s what I found out.
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No snow. No ice. No precipitation of any kind, only sunshine. I’m not saying it’s been warm there. I’m just saying.
What’s more, he’s a professional athlete who’s much too coordinated to slip and fall like some lame cartoon character.
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So here’s what I’m thinking: Chad’s assertion that he went down on the ice is merely a cover, intended to keep the Dodgers from voiding his contract. Perhaps he was secretly doing this.
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Or this.
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Or this.
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(Well, sometimes things get out of hand.) 
Or he was afraid to tell the Dodgers that he was making his reality show debut on this.
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So many possibilities. If I were a Dodgers fan I would demand that Billingsley tell the truth. He should follow the example of a certain Yankee.
boonehr.jpgAaron Boone hit that homer off Wakefield and was an instant hero. Then, in the off-season, he did this.
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A no-no. He tore a ligament in his knee, and the rest is history. But if Aaron hadn’t manned up and come forward, the Yankees wouldn’t have cut him loose and ended up with this guy.
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Life as a Yankee fan would have been very different indeed.

Never Dull Here in Santa Barbara

Last month it was Heather Locklear who was arrested not far from my house for driving erratically.

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(She kept running over her sunglasses in the parking lot of my local market.) 
This weekend it was former tennis star Jimmy Connors who got the attention of law enforcement. Oh, Jimbo.
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He always did have a temper. I remember those matches when he’d go off on the chair umpire. McEnroe was a hot head.
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But Connors was pretty demonstrative too.
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You can read what he did here. Not exactly first degree murder. It was a slow news day.
I saw him at the dry cleaners about three weeks ago.
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He was having a pair of jeans altered and was very polite to the tailor. Go figure. Maybe he has too much time on his hands now. He should start his own blog or something.
In other non-earth-shattering news, I went to a screening this afternoon of “Doubt.” Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, it opens nationwide on January 8th and stars Meryl Streep.
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She’s a nun at a Catholic school in the Bronx (yes, there’s actually a scene where a boy is caught listening to the Yankees on his transistor radio). She becomes suspicious of a priest who takes an interest in one of the students. Viola Davis, the actress who plays the mother of the student, was at the screening and did a Q&A with us. She’ll be nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for sure.
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Here’s the trailer. I know, I know. It’s not a Ben Stiller movie. No Will Farrell or Vince Vaughn in it either and there isn’t a single special effect or flatulence joke. Still, it’s worth seeing.

Jays Trade Halladay to Yankees!!!!!

O.K., so it hasn’t exactly happened yet. But Dan Graziano’s item in the Newark Star-Ledger the other day got me obsessing about the Blue Jays. 

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What if they can’t or don’t even try to re-sign A.J. Burnett and, as a result, decide to cut payroll? Roy Halladay is supposed to make $30 million over the next two years. Will the Jays be up for that? And will Doc himself have any interest in staying in Toronto without his buddy in the rotation? He looks pretty depressed just contemplating it.
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Graziano said: “Toronto did some quiet snooping around the trade deadline to see what kind of package they could get if they did put Halladay on the market.”
Excuse me? They actually floated the idea of trading Harry Leroy Halladay III? The best pitcher in the American League? The Cy Young award winner and five-time All-Star? The guy who throws complete games? They thought about trading him and no one told She-Fan?
“Halladay might not want to stick around,” Graziano theorized. “And he’d bring a treasure trove of talent in a trade.”
Did you read that, Cashman? The Yankees should forget about CC, A.J., D-Lowe, and all the other pretenders and go for the hurler who not only has the best nickname in baseball but strikes fear in the hearts of batters all across this great land of ours. Sure, it’s a long shot, since the Yanks and Jays are in the same division. But you have to try. We got the Babe from the Red Sox, remember?
The one glitch is the treasure trove of talent Graziano mentioned.
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We don’t have one. Offering the Blue Jays a package of Cano, Melky, Hughes, and Kennedy won’t make this deal happen.
But I’m not giving up and neither should Cashman. Because we do have treasures we could put on the table. They just aren’t wearing pinstripes.
For example, we could give the Blue Jays some diamonds.
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And rubies.
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And emeralds.
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Even gold bullion. We probably have enough left from what they used on the lettering at the new Stadium.
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See? Who says we don’t have treasures. And there’s more!
We could ship some New York landmarks to Canada.
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And, although a lot of people cross over it to get to and from the Bronx, we could part with it for Roy Halladay. They can take the Lincoln Tunnel, for goodness sake. Or the Holland.
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And then there are the quintessential New York luminaries we could send them. Like him.
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And him.
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And them.
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Oh, I suppose we’d have to toss in a Steinbrenner. Not Hal, of course, now that he’s our Control Person. And not Hank, because he’s such fun. How about one of the girls? Perhaps we give them Jessica Steinbrenner, bless her heart.
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It’s clear that we can come up with a more than satisfactory package, isn’t it? So please, Cashman. Think about this. Roy would be the answer to our prayers. To mine, anyway.
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