December 2008

Sending Good Thoughts to an Ex-Yankee

I’m a big fan of Doug Mientkiewicz – so big that I finally learned how to spell his name. 
He played a stellar first base when he was with the Yankees in 2007. He missed a chunk of the season following a collision with Mike Lowell at Fenway, but he came back strong in September and was one of the reasons the Yankees squeaked into the playoffs.
Maybe you remember him with the Twins, where he began his pro career.
Or with the Red Sox, where he won the championship in ’04 and ignited some controversy after making the final out.


 He was with the Mets in ’05, although it was an injury-plagued season for him.
He moved to KC in ’06 for a stint with the Royals
before joining the Yanks and flashing some leather. (Loved the crouch, loved his hustle, loved that he always got his uniform dirty.)
When I was writing my book, Doug was candid and helpful and an all-around nice guy. I was hoping Cashman would bring him back in ’08, but the Yankees went with a parade of defensive replacements for Giambi that included Wilson Betemit, Shelley Duncan, Morgan Ensberg, Richie Sexson and Cody Ransom (not to mention Damon and Posada).
Instead, he signed with the Pirates and provided a stable, veteran presence in Pittsburgh.
In August, he received a phone call with terrible news: His wife Jodi – his college sweetheart and the mother of their young son – had collapsed. Jodi needed heart surgery and a pacemaker, and Doug went on bereavement leave so he could be by her side.
I spoke to Doug today. He said that Jodi had to undergo another operation but is doing okay. He also said that he’s had an outpouring of support from friends, players, even Joe Girardi.
“I don’t know him from Adam, but he took the time to call.”
Speaks well of Girardi, don’t you think?
I asked Doug, a free agent, if he’s had any job offers. He hinted that he’d love to play for his old manager out here on the west coast.
Will it happen? He said he usually gets signed in January when clubs start looking for backup. Here’s wishing him and Jodi a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Coming This Spring – George Steinbrenner Unplugged

We’ve all heard the stories about “The Boss” – from his hirings and firings to his run-ins with Major League Baseball. But now, thanks to Peter Golenbock, we’re about to get The Whole Story.
Peter has written numerous New York Times bestsellers, including “The Bronx Zoo” with Sparky Lyle…
“Idiot” with Johnny Damon…
“7: The Mickey Mantle Novel”…
And “Dynasty.”
dynasty.jpgWho better to delve into the outsized, improbable life of George Steinbrenner?
Recently, Peter gave me a sneak peek at the book, which comes out on May 4th. It’s compulsively readable – chocked full of eye-popping, never-before-told anecdotes that are sure to make headlines. Unfortunately, he swore me to secrecy.
What I can tell you is that the book is a fascinating, thoroughly researched account of a complex man, and features interviews with a huge cast of memorable characters (including Steinbrenner). It’s all here – from George’s childhood to his suspensions from baseball, his stormy relationships with players and managers, and so much more.
There’s plenty to satisfy Yankee fans and Yankee haters as Steinbrenner comes across as both a bully and an icon. Put this book on your wish list. You won’t be disappointed.
In the meantime, here are a few memorable “George Moments.”


Is Andy Pettitte Coming Back to the Yankees? Yes Or No?

Well, he’s not getting five more years or even four, so I won’t read anything into the number of fingers he’s holding up in that photo. But is he coming back for one more season? Or is the marriage over? Finished? Kaput? One day the media says his return to the Yanks is “inevitable” and the next they say it’s “doubtful.” What’s a fan supposed to believe?
Will he take a pay cut and once again frolic with his pinstriped pals?
Or will he feel slighted and go west for a reunion with his old manager?
Or will he do the unthinkable and sign with the Dark Side?
Or will he come to the conclusion that it’s time to hang it up?
When will it all be revealed?
I decided to go back to Susan Miller, the astrologer who correctly predicted Mark Teixeira’s future, and take a look at Andy’s horoscope for December. He was born on June 15th, which makes him a Gemini.
Since December is just about over, I’ll focus on the last part of her forecast.
A new lucrative agreement will surface in one of your financial houses on December 27.”
Really? So either Brian Cashman upped the ante or some other team made an offer?
“Talks will continue into the first half of January.”
And this new lucrative agreement won’t be announced until after the first of the year?
“Even when the talks are all said and done, it could take weeks or even months to see your profits, but make no mistake; you will be richer for it.”
Which could simply mean that Andy needs to pass a physical and that he’s not getting a signing bonus.
I’m still not clear, so I’m going straight to the video. Maybe I’ll find a clue somewhere.
O.K. I found a clip of Andy telling Michael Kay he wants to come back to the Yankees in ’09, wants to pitch in the new Stadium, wants to set up housekeeping again in beautiful Westchester County, where my mother will be waiting eagerly for his return.
But then I found another clip, and now the answer is clear: Andy wants a career as a pitch man, not a pitcher. Good luck with that. We’ll miss you.

The MLB Network – Life Will Never Be The Same


After I read the most recent article by our own Mark Newman about the January 1st launch of the MLB Network, I started counting the hours. Blogging day and night about baseball is fun, but watching baseball 24/7 is huge. Seriously. It’s frightening how excited I am.
For starters, I’m in love with two of their on-air analysts.
Sorry. I exaggerate. I like Harold Reynolds. He’s fair and balanced, as they say on another network.
And I like Al Leiter. He’s good at explaining the difference between a circle change and a knuckle curve. Or whatever.
And how about the Opening Night of programming on the MLB Network? They’re showing this for the first time in 52 years.
Yep, Don Larsen’s perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series. Yankee fan or no Yankee fan, I’m not about to miss that.
And now for the bad news.
It’s clear that MLB will ruin my life with this cable channel of theirs, because I’ll get hooked on it and lose the capacity to function responsibly in society.
I’ll turn into one of these.
I’ll never get any work done.
papers01.jpgI’ll become a complete slacker around the house.
I won’t even bother to make the bed
or clean the windows
cobwebs.jpgor water the lawn.
My husband will divorce me.
My friends will forget about me.
I’ll gain an incredible amount of weight.
And my mean next-door neighbor will pound on my door and yell this at me.
Will I still tune in for the debut of the MLB Network on January 1st, knowing the consequences?
Yes. I. Will.

Movie Break – “Slumdog Millionaire”

Do yourself a favor. Go see this movie.
slumdogposter.jpg“Slumdog Millionaire” has been in theaters for a few weeks, so maybe you’ve already had the pleasure. But I finally got around to seeing it this afternoon – my husband and I always try to sneak in a film on Christmas Day – and now I understand why all the reviewers have been raving. It’s amazing – my personal “Best Picture of the Year.”
It’s the story of an orphaned boy from the slums of Mumbai who survives unimaginable poverty and cruelty and somehow manages to enjoy life.
His fortunes change when he grows up and becomes a contestant on the Hindi version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” to attract the attention of the girl he loves.
British director Danny Boyle (“Transpotting”) has created a movie that explodes with color and passion and always keeps you guessing. I’m not surprised that he’s been nominated for a Golden Globe; so has the movie and the screenplay. Shot on the streets of India with unknown actors, “Slumdog” is so worth your time. Unlike most of the other Oscar contenders, this one will have you leaving the theater with a smile.
Here’s the trailer. Back to baseball tomorrow.

My Imaginary Christmas Guest

There I was, spending Christmas with loved ones, thinking of all the things I was grateful for, feeling truly blessed, when a friend offered me some of this.

I can’t stand eggnog, but I drank it just to be polite – all of it. And you know what? It wasn’t as bad as I thought. So I drank some more.
Suddenly, my legs got a bit wobbly and I developed a little buzz. And before I knew it, I was imagining objects that weren’t really there. Like the presents under the tree – they started moving, as if they were people.
Which led me to wonder….What if one of them sprang to life – as a baseball player? What if I could have a Yankee drop in at my Christmas Day celebration? Which one would it be? In this eggnog-induced fantasy world of mine, it could be any living player from any era – someone I’d just die to pepper with questions. So who would it be? Who?
Yes, of course, Yogi would be on my list. I would ask him to act out those Aflac commercials and tell me juicy stories about The Mick and encourage him to come up with funny, incomprehensible Yogisms.
On second thought, the Yankee who probably has the juiciest stories about The Mick (Billy Martin too) is Whitey.
What a great Christmas guest he’d be. In addition to dishing up the Mantle anecdotes, he could talk about what it was like to be a pitcher back in the day. I know I’d be fascinated.
But is there anyone more enigmatic than Reggie?
He was a big-time free agent long before the likes of Sabathia and Teixeira. I can easily see myself sitting him down and asking him if he really was the straw that stirred the drink and which current player stirs the drink now.
Having Paulie over at Christmas would be interesting.
He’s a non-stop talker so there would never be a lull in the conversation. The only drawback would be his temper; I’d have to watch what I said or else he might kick the bowl of eggnog onto the floor, smashing it in a million pieces.
I wouldn’t be a Yankee fan with a pulse if I didn’t want Captain Jeter to stop by.
I’d have a million questions for him. Like what did he really say when he called Sabathia to recruit him? Does it hurt his feelings when people say his skills as a shortstop have deteriorated? Does he have any intention of settling down with a wife and kids or will he be a swinging bachelor forever?
Speaking of bachelors, I suppose I could invite A-Rod over. Maybe I could ask Reggie to bring him since they’re pals.
But do I want to hear about Madonna all afternoon? On Christmas? Not so much.
And that’s when it hit me – the Yankee I want for the holidays more than any other.
Mariano Rivera-1.JPG
I don’t speak Spanish, so we’d have to improvise. But the truth is, I love Mo the best. From everything I’ve read or heard, he’s the most thoughtful, kind, generous guy on the team – a truly outstanding person. There’s a scene in my book where someone close to the Yankees shares an amazing story about him. It’s a tear-jerker, no question, but it shows the measure of the man.
So it’s settled. Mo is my imaginary Christmas guest. Who’s yours? Oh, come on. You know you have a favorite player that you’d kill to have over. Tell me who it is. I promise not to laugh.
Before I sign off, I just want to say thanks to everyone for stopping by and reading my posts since I joined the MLBlogs community at the end of last season. I never expected to become so bloggy, and yet here I am, being bloggy right now.
Merry Christmas to one and all.

Check Out the New York Times “Bats” Blog

Just wanted to alert anyone who’s interested that I’ve got a piece up on the Times’ site.

More on the signing of Teixeira to come, but keep in mind…..You did hear it first right here when I posted his horoscope for December. Aries. Susan Miller. It’s in the stars. Remember? You scoffed, but it happened. 
Better go check my own horoscope.
Update.I just went on the “Bats” blog over at The Times to see if anybody commented on my article. Was I surprised. There are well over 100 comments and they’re pretty amusing. Some are pro. Some are con (such meanies). And everything in between. If you’re taking a break from wrapping presents, check them out.

This Really Happened (Warning: Not for the Squeamish)

While the rest of the country has been getting blitzed by snow and ice and frigid temps, we’ve been spared here in Santa Barbara. But it’s been unseasonably cold – in the 30s at night. Brrr.

My husband Michael and I decided to make a big, steaming hot pot of chili for a chilly night. Perfect, right?
A roaring fire…
some red wine…
a little shredded cheddar on the chili…
and we were all set. The meal was so delicious that we didn’t even talk. We just stuffed our faces and every few minutes went, “Wow, this is good.”
When we were finished, Michael turned on ESPN and I started to put the leftover chili away in those Tupperware bowls.
I was placing one of the bowls on the shelf in the refrigerator when I heard someone on ESPN say, “The Nationals may have upped their offer to Mark Teixeira in an attempt to land the free agent first baseman before Christmas.”
O.K. I was clearly stunned by this news and what happened next was all my fault. Still, I blame Tupperware for not having tighter lids.
Yes, the bowl slipped out of my hands, bounced onto the hardwood floor and splattered chili everywhere – onto the walls, onto the furniture, even into the air conditioning ducts.
Picture this…
chili 2.JPG
covering every surface imaginable.
If it weren’t for the kidney beans, you would have thought it was a bloody crime scene.
Next came the accusations, the recriminations, the “It’s your fault”s.
“If you hadn’t gotten all distracted by the Teixeira thing, we wouldn’t have to spend the next four hours cleaning this up!” said Michael.
“It’s the Nationals that caused it, not me!” I countered.
I suggested we call in the professionals. I mean, the white walls were now stained a revolting orange-y red. There wasn’t enough Fantastik on the planet to spray it off.
But my ever frugal husband said we had to to handle this on our own.
Which, of course, meant that I had to handle it on my own.
I didn’t know which part of the evening upset me more – the Teixeira news, the mess, or the fact that my leftover chili was no longer on the menu for tomorrow night. Although Michael did suggest that I save it off the floor. The barbarian.
It was nearly midnight when I’d finished cleaning. As I passed out from sheer exhaustion, I remember wondering, Is Mark Teixeira worth this?

Breaking News – Clemens Is “Clean”


With the baseball world’s collective attention focused on which teams will sign which free agents, many people have forgotten about The Rocket’s lawsuits and countersuits to clear himself of the steroids taint.
To recap…
First, he angrily denied the charge that he was a juicer to Mike Wallace on “60 Minutes.”
Then, he and his lawyer staged a press conference where he issued more denials and looked very thirsty.
Finally, the pitcher performed on the ultimate Big Stage – the floor of Congress – and maintained over and over that he had never used ‘roids.
He pledged his innocence, but wasn’t particularly convincing when facing down his interrogators.
Since then, his reputation has been in tatters; most people believe that Brian McNamee did, in fact, inject him with banned substances.  But the investigations have never found the smoking gun that would either nail Clemens or exonerate him.
Until now.
In a stunning feat of reportage, She-Fan has uncovered long-buried evidence proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Roger Clemens is clean.
Clean as a whistle.
Clean as a new penny.
Clean as….
Why don’t I just show you. I think you’ll agree that those who condemned him were dead wrong.

Movie Break – “Gran Torino”

If you liked Clint Eastwood as “Dirty Harry”….

you’ll love him as Walt Kowalski.
Eastwood may be 78 years old, but in “Gran Torino,” my last screening before the Santa Barbara Film Festival kicks off on January 22nd, he’s every bit as menacing when he says, “Get off my lawn,” as he was years ago when he said, “Make my day.” 

He plays a retired auto worker and Korean war vet, who’s enraged by the changing ethnicity of his Detroit neighborhood. An equal opportunity bigot, he rages at everyone but especially at the Hmong immigrants who live next door.
I admit I’m a fan of nearly every movie Eastwood has directed and/or starred in – “Mystic River,” “Unforgiven,” “Million Dollar Baby,” to name a few – but “Gran Torino” took me completely by surprise. How it manages to be both very funny and extremely poignant is a miracle. I laughed out loud so many times, even as I shed some tears at the end. No special effects. No car chases. Just a simply told tale of a man trying to adjust to life in post-war America. I’m putting “Gran Torino” near the top of my list for 2008.
But don’t take my word for it. Go see the movie when it opens nationwide on January 9th.
Here’s the trailer.