January 2009

Clearance Sale! Everything Must Go!

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With only two weeks until spring training, I took myself out for a little retail therapy. No, not for shoes and handbags. Please. I’m talking about free agents. They’re on sale! They’ve been marked down! They’re at low, low prices and they come with home delivery at no extra charge!
Not one to pass up a bargain, I marched over to the Free Agent Store and spent a few hours browsing the racks. Would I find anyone for the Yankees in my capacity as their personal shopper? Anyone who might look good in pinstripes?
I breezed past the Pitchers Department, since the Yanks are well stocked with arms for the season, and zeroed in on the Position Players.
Did I have any interest in buying Adam Dunn?
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No, not really. Lots to like, but I already have enough sluggers who can’t field. Besides, I’m not sure I could embrace a player whose nickname is “Big Donkey.”
Orlando Hudson?
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Again, I already have a second baseman so what would be the point? It would be like buying two shower curtains even though I only have one shower.
Orlando Cabrera?
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Talk about a surplus. The Yankees have two Gold Glove shortstops, even though one of them plays third base. No sense splurging on another one.
Ken Griffey Jr?
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I overheard the saleslady say he’s being shipped to the Seattle store.
Frank Thomas?
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Not a chance. The Big Hurt nearly ran me over with his Bentley when I was in Toronto for the book. All I wanted was five minutes. Sheesh.
Garret Anderson?
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Damaged goods. I’m still having flashbacks of his pink eye during the ’07 ALDS. For all I know, he could bring that conjunctivitis to the Bronx with him.
I didn’t even bother looking at Manny (too expensive and hard to maintain) and I-Rod (been there, done that). I did experience a pang of regret as I lingered over Abreu. How could the Yankees not want to bring back El Comeduce, which is Spanish for “the candy eater?” I was tempted to buy him anyway and let the Yankees return him, but the Free Agent Store had a no-returns policy.
I was feeling a little down as I strolled through the aisles, wondering if there were any bargains worth getting excited about, when I came upon Ty Wigginton.
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“Wiggy.” Hmm. The Yankees already have a third baseman, obviously, but what about a utility man? Would Cody Ransom be filling that need? Or was there an opening for someone else?
I leaned closer to examine the merchandise. According to Ty’s tags, he actually delivered his own baby when his wife went into labor unexpectedly. They were at home and he called 911 and the dispatcher talked him through the procedure, which he pulled off in a bedroom closet! He even tied the baby’s umbilical cord with his shoelaces! Now if that isn’t resourceful, I don’t know what is. Imagine what he could do for the Yanks in a pinch.
“I’ll take him,” I told the saleslady. “Wrap him up and deliver him to Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York, 10451.”
“Would you like a gift card?” she asked.
“Oh, just scribble something on his forehead,” I said. “How about: ‘For Joe Girardi, a little insurance. Best wishes, She-Fan.’”

Dining With Larry King and Joe Torre

I kept dinner simple tonight, so I could watch Larry King interview Joe Torre and not get food all over myself. The menu, therefore, was this.
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I turned on the TV and sat across the table from my husband Michael. I was eager to hear what Joe would say about The Book.
To set up the interview, Larry showed the audience a picture of himself at Yankee Stadium last year and explained that it had been a very windy day.
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He introduced Joe, who said what every guest says: “It’s great to be here, Larry.”
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Larry explained that they would be fielding questions not only from callers and e-mailers around the country, but also from fans gathered at Mickey Mantle’s restaurant in New York
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and Barney’s Beanery in Los Angeles.
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Since most people have already seen the show or read accounts of it, I’ll just offer my favorite moments.
Larry: Boomer Wells calls you a punk for breaking that code. Are you hurt by that?
Joe: Nah.
Me: I’d be hurt if Boomer called me a punk.
Michael: I’d be afraid if he called me anything. He’s a big guy.
Larry: What do you think about A-Rod and Madonna and all that? I know it was after you left, but does it surprise you?
Joe: Sure, it surprised me. And I feel bad for him.
Me: He feels bad for A-Rod because he has two young children?
Michael: Or because he thinks Madonna is skanky.
Comment from a male patron at Mickey Mantle‘s: Joe, seeing you is like seeing an uncle I’m not supposed to talk to anymore, because he divorced my aunt. I’m confused and sad.
Me: If he picked up the phone and called that uncle, he wouldn’t be confused and sad.
Michael: Pass the Parmesan cheese.
Question from a female patron at Mickey Mantle’s: Did you sign any sort of pre-nup with the Dodgers before you started with them or maybe since the book has come out?
Joe: Uh, as far as what?
Me: A pre-nup. She’s kidding, right?
Michael: I guess she’s never been married.
E-mail from a male in New Jersey: Should you be fortunate enough to play the Yankees in the World Series and come up to A-Rod during the first game, what would you say to him?
Joe: Unless I’m completely off base, I think there would be a hug involved.
Me: (Laughing uncontrollably)
Michael: Are you choking?
Me: No. I just don’t see the hug happening.
Larry: Did you expect the book to shock people?
Joe: No. To me, this book is going to be a piece of history.
Me/Michael at the same time: Does he think he’s winning a Pulitzer?
Caller from New York: What would you say to Yankee fans who might say you turned your back on an organization that provided you with so much fame and fortune?
Joe: Well, I hope that’s not the case.
Me: Wouldn’t he know if that’s the case?
Michael: He’s good at ducking stuff. He’d probably make an effective politician.
Question from a female patron at Mickey Mantle’s: I’m a big Yankee fan. All of us here are very ardent. And we’re involved in all the ins and outs of everything that goes on with the Yankees. How do you find the Dodgers fans compare?
Joe: The Yankee fans in New York were about as special as any fan that’s ever been around.
Me: What’s this “were?” We still are special, with or without him.
Michael: Don’t take this personally.
Me: I take everything personally. You know that.
Michael: Then maybe I shouldn’t say this.
Me: What?
Michael: The pasta’s cold and rubbery, and the sauce tastes like a salt lick.
Me: Oh, really. Well, I was busy blogging all day. I didn’t have time to fly off to Italy and hunt down the homemade stuff from some Mama Mia in Naples.
Michael: I’m just saying.
Me: That I should stop blogging?
Michael: No. I like reading your blog.
Me: But you never leave a comment.
Michael: I’m your husband. It would be weird.
Me: You could have a cool screen name. Like YanksGuy or BomberBoy. Maybe even your own blog.
Michael: What would I blog about?
Me: Same thing the rest of us blog about. 
Michael: Nothing, in other words.
Me: Yes. Exactly.

“Like Sands Through the Hour Glass…..Starring Jason Varitek”

   
Even this Yankee fan is on the edge of her seat. Will Varitek sign with the Red Sox by the time I wake up in the morning here on the West Coast? Will Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Dice K have their trusty catcher to catch to? Will Red Sox fans like Julia and Elizabeth get their guy back?
According to MLB.com, there’s a chance Varitek would actually sit out the season rather than take less than he feels he’s worth. I can’t picture it, but stranger things have happened in baseball….and on soap operas.
Here, then, are some scenes that provide a glimpse of how a Red Sox-Varitek love affair might conclude.
Take 1: The Worst Case Scenario.

Take 2: Scott Boras The Devil Intervenes.



Take 3: Together Forever…Again.


How’s this for trivia. Before becoming an actor, Drake Hogestyn (above) played minor league baseball for the Yankees. He turned to soaps when he couldn’t make it to the bigs. Our loss? Their loss? Toss-up.

Never Dull In Yankeeville

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According to this report on MLB.com, the Yankees are considering whether to insert a confidentiality clause in the contracts of players, managers and coaches in the wake of Torre’s book. Sounds like an overreaction, but it doesn’t surprise me. There’s been a lot of finger-pointing over the last few days; when Jeff Nelson and Boomer Wells hit the airwaves to discuss the breached “code of silence,” you know things have gotten out of hand. But a confidentiality clause? In baseball? Seriously?
It’s very common for employees of celebrities to sign such agreements – specifically so they won’t write books about their experience. But a ballplayer? A manager? Come on. I can certainly understand the impulse to want to enforce the rule: What happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse. But I’d also hate to be deprived of such wonderful entertainment as “Ball Four” and “The Bronx Zoo.” And rather than create a climate of trust, wouldn’t a confidentiality clause engender a mood of mistrust in the organization – that a guy’s freedom of speech is being denied? No small matter.
I say the Yankees should lower the volume. The furor over Torre’s book won’t last past the next news cycle or two. Once he’s in Arizona presiding over the Dodgers’ spring training camp, that’ll be that.
And speaking of spring training, I got my tickets yesterday for the March 6th game against the Tigers. Sweet!
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They’re in section 104, row MM. I’ll be looking right out over my new first baseman.
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In my fantasy, here’s what’ll happen when I get to Tampa.
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I’ll have my Barnes & Noble signing that afternoon, then head to Steinbrenner Field.
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When I get to the ballpark, my Yankees will be thrilled to see me. (I said it was a fantasy, O.K.?)
Jeter will give me a fist pump.
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Jorge will break out in joyous laughter.
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CC and AJ will look at each other and say simultaneously, “So this is the She-Fan our wives keep telling us about – the one who’s taking them shopping.”
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And Mo, my favorite Yankee of all, will get down on the ground and thank the Lord that I’ve come to watch him play.
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Yankees aside, I’m looking forward to having dinner with some of the media people who were so helpful to me during the ’07 season. Tampa has plenty of good restaurants, so let the fun – and the eating – begin!
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Baseball Books (No, Not Mine Or Torre’s)

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I just got my copy of Publishers Weekly, the trade magazine that covers the book industry in the same way that Variety, its sister publication, covers Hollywood. There’s a section on forthcoming sports books and I thought some sounded interesting.
Take a look at the spring roster of baseball titles – something for fans of all stripes.

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 “As They See ‘Em” by Bruce Weber. Can’t wait for this one. Weber, a New York Times reporter, spends a season around major league umpires, even going to umpire school, and reveals all sorts of secrets. (March)
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“Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit” by Matt McCarthy. In the tradition of “Bull Durham,” McCarthy comically recounts his year as a southpaw for the Provo Angels, the team’s Class A club in Mormon country. (Feb. 19)
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“The Complete Game: Reflections on Baseball, Pitching, and Life on the Mound” by Ron Darling. The former Mets star and current broadcaster dissects the art of pitching. He’s doing a 10-city author tour, so he’s sure to be signing at lots of stores. (April)
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“Catcher: How the Man Behind the Plate Became an American Folk Hero” by Peter Morris. A look back at catchers in history and how they became more and more important to the sport. (April)
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“Yogi Berra: The Eternal Yankee” by Allen Barra. I know. Yet another book about Yogi. But this one’s supposed to chronicle his defining moments. Besides, I like the cover. (March)
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“Forever Blue: The True Story of Walter O’Malley, Baseball’s Most Controversial Owner, and the Dodgers of Brooklyn and Los Angeles” by Michael D’Antonio. Since there will be two books about George Steinbrenner coming out, why not one about O’Malley? (March)
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“Fighting Words: The Media, the Red Sox and the All-Encompassing Passion for Baseball in Boston” by Jerry Beach. A detailed account of “the combative relationship between the media and the Beantown team.” Is there a combative relationship? I guess we’ll find out. (April)
“Bottom of the Ninth: Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel, and the Daring Scheme to Save Baseball From Itself” by Michael Shapiro. A biography of the men who tried to change the course of the sport. For history buffs. (June)
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“Hit and Run: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez” by Selena Roberts. (No, that’s not A-Rod; it’s investigative reporter Roberts. There’s no cover yet.) The book is described as “an expose of A-Rod’s controversial path to self-destruction.” If he wins another MVP in ’09, will that be considered self-destruction? (May) 
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“The Rocket That Fell to Earth: Roger Clemens and the Rage for Baseball Immortality” by Jeff Pearlman. Well, we knew the Clemens books were coming. They were inevitable. Here’s the first. No cover yet. (June)
Happy reading.

Call Me An A-Fraud Apologist But…

…he carried the Yankees on his back in 2007.
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There he was, rounding the bases after hitting home run #500. I was sitting behind home plate that afternoon. Everybody at the Stadium went crazy. The Yankees spilled out onto the field and bear-hugged their teammate. It was a celebratory moment in an otherwise discouraging season; the Yanks spent time in the cellar during the first half, only to rally in the second half to make it into the playoffs as the wild card.
One of the main reasons they did make it through was A-Rod and his 54 homers and 156 RBIs. He was on fire in ’07. He hit in the clutch. He did everything that was asked of him on defense. He earned that MVP award. He fizzled against Cleveland in the ALDS, but so did everyone else. Jeter. Jorge. Jason. I didn’t think it was possible to hit into so many double plays, but that’s what they did. Wang’s two dismal performances didn’t help.
I love Joe Torre. I always will. I miss his leadership and can’t wait to read his book. I just feel the need to stick up for A-Rod, who might have saved Joe’s job early in the season with all those homers.
Is he a philandering phony?
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Check.
Does he have a tendency to do bush-league things?
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Check.
And check.
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(Who can forget his “Mine!” or “I got it!” in Toronto?)
Does he love to look at himself?
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Check.
Is he jealous of Jeter’s popularity with the fans?
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Check.
Does he seek attention even as he claims not to want it?
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Check. Here’s an item in today’s NY Post to prove it.
He is not a model citizen. We know that. But in 2007 he led my team to its 12th consecutive postseason, and for that I’ll always be grateful.
Here’s a clip from the champagne party after the Yanks clinched at the Trop. Interesting that A-Rod gives Torre a shout out.


Reunited And It Feels So Good

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It’s O.K., Andy. Let it out. Let it all out. I’m crying too – tears of joy and relief and reconciliation.
It’s a beautiful thing that you and the Yankees have worked things out and you’ll be pitching for us in the new Stadium. So what if you didn’t get the millions you were asking for? You can still earn those millions and plenty more if you rebound from last year, throw seven-plus innings every outing and serve as a steady veteran presence on the staff. Oh, and it would be great if you’d toss a perfect game while you’re at it. David Cone did it late in his pinstriped career. David Wells, too. Your turn.
Was there tension between us during the negotiations? Was I upset that you wouldn’t commit?
couple-arguing-_1.jpgWere there times when I wanted to slap you?
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Grab you in a headlock?
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Strangle you?

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Smack you with a pillow?
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Run you over with my car?
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Yes, I admit it. You were exasperating with your mixed messages and your mood swings and your tendency to blow hot and cold, and I honestly didn’t know how to get through to you. Or your agents.
But there are strains even in the best of marriages, right? What’s important now is that we’re back together and it feels so right.
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I say we forget all the unpleasantness, and celebrate. Spring training is coming up and so is Valentine’s Day.
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Just don’t go pulling this stuff again in 2010 or I’ll drag you in for a chat with him.
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It’s War! My Book Vs. Joe Torre’s!

As fate would have it, my book comes out on the very same day as Torre’s: February 3rd. His may be grabbing all the headlines. His may convey the gravitas befitting a Hall of Fame manager. His may have a #24 ranking on his Pre-Order page on Amazon (mine is #100,368). But hear this, people. In the words of Dylan Thomas, “I will not go gentle into the good night!”
Instead, I will draw bold distinctions between Torre’s book and mine, and we’ll just see who wins the Battle of the Books.
His?
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Or mine?
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#1) Joe Torre’s book was written by Tom Verducci. My book was written by me.
Wouldn’t you rather read a book by an author who didn’t need to hire someone to tell her story?
#2) Torre’s book says Brian Cashman was mean to him. My book says Jean Afterman, Cashman’s assistant GM, was mean to me.
O.K., that one goes to Torre, because Cashman is higher up on the corporate ladder than Afterman. But the Yankees’ media relations director, Jason Zillo, was also mean to me, so that gives me the advantage in terms of being dissed. Do I hold a grudge against Zillo the way Torre is apparently holding a grudge against Cashman? No. In fact, in an effort to reach across the divide, I sent Zillo an advance copy of my book and thanked him for playing the villain of the story. I took the high road, in other words, unlike the former Yankees manager.
#3) Torre’s book reveals that A-Rod asked a clubhouse attendant to do personal favors for him. My book reveals that I asked a clubhouse attendant to do personal favors for me.
Well, he wasn’t a clubhouse attendant; he was an usher. Still, he did bring me a piece of paper so I could write down my phone number for the Yankee who wanted to ask me out when I was in high school. My anecdote is a first-hand account, while Torre’s is from the point of view of a mere bystander. No contest.
#4) Torre’s book claims that the players called A-Rod “A-Fraud.” My book refrains from name calling except when I was confronted by hostile Red Sox fans.
There was no reason for a man of Torre’s upstanding reputation to drop an A-Bomb on A-Rod.  It makes him look small, petty. The only person I really, truly disparage in my book is me.
#5) Torre’s book is about A-Rod’s “single white woman’s obsession” with Jeter. My book is about a “married white woman’s obsession” with the Yankees.
What does Joe’s remark even mean? That single white women are jealous and catty and somehow crazier than other women? Does he not have a clue that women make up 50% of baseball fans? My book isn’t the literary read of the century, but it doesn’t offend the hand that feeds it.
#6) Torre’s book is an inside story by an insider. My book is an inside story by an outsider.
What I’m trying to say is that Torre sat in the dugout day after day. I sat in the nosebleed section 95% of the time, which gave me a much broader perspective on the game. What does a manager know, anyway? It’s the fans that drive the engine. Derek Jeter said so in his speech at the Yankee Stadium finale.
#7) Torre’s book is deadly serious. My book has jokes.
In these bleak economic times, don’t we need to laugh? Even my husband thinks my book is funny, and most of the jokes are at his expense.
#8) Torre’s book will be promoted on publication day with an appearance on “Letterman.” My book will be promoted on publication day with an appearance at my dentist for a possible root canal.
If nothing else, people should choose my book over Torre’s for the sympathy vote alone.
#9) Torre’s book retails for $26.95 on Amazon. My book goes for $24.95 – a $2 savings!
See #6 about the bleak economic times. Enough said.
#10) Torre’s book is already being touted as a nationwide bestseller. My book was hailed as a bestseller months ago by Jimmy Curran of Baseball, The Yankees and Life.
Since Jimmy knows what he’s talking about, I think I’m in good shape.
 

Baseball Takes Center Stage At The Film Festival Today

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Last night was all about Kate Winslet, who appeared at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival to receive an award for her work in “The Reader” and “Revolutionary Road.”
Unlike some of the stars who show up at this event, Winslet took the time to sign autographs before striking a pose on the red carpet.
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(No, I’m not in that mosh pit. I avoid crowds except at ball games.)
Between clips of her movies, Winslet answered questions from film critic Leonard Maltin.
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(No, I didn’t raise my hand and say, “Are you a Yankee fan?”)
After the ceremony, there was a private party for Winslet at a clothing boutique in downtown SB.
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(No, I didn’t go. I was invited, but it was raining and I decided to bag it. Well, O.K. It wasn’t just the rain. The truth is, I was afraid I’d spill red wine on some of the clothes and/or Winslet. Remember my post about the chili? I don’t trust myself anymore.)
Today was about the movies themselves, not the glitz, and they’re the reason I look forward to the Festival every year. These are small films, foreign films, films that will never make it to the Multiplex – indie movies that are shown at festivals in Toronto, Sundance and Santa Barbara in the hopes of finding distributors. They come from countries like Japan and China, Norway and Germany, Mexico and Argentina, even Russia and Afghanistan. This morning I saw one from New Zealand. Talk about movies being the universal language.
This afternoon was a screening of “Sugar,” the baseball movie I’ve mentioned. Is it the greatest movie ever? No. But it’s definitely worth seeing. It’s an eye-opening look at how young players in the Dominican Republic will do almost anything to get to the States and stay here.
The main character, Sugar Santos, is a pitcher with a wicked knuckle curve.
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When he’s plucked from the baseball academy where he and his friends train and given the chance to play for a minor league team in Iowa, he can’t believe his good fortune. But the transition isn’t easy. He has to adjust to an English speaking country (he orders French toast for breakfast every morning, because it’s the only thing he knows how to say), deal with fans who yell “You suck” at him (you’ll never utter those words again) and stay healthy or be sent back to the Dominican (he resorts to taking PEDs).
There are lighthearted moments, and I let out an actual cheer when Sugar and his friends talk about playing for the Yankees. But mostly, the movie is about how hard it is for these kids to make it here. We have no idea. Seriously.
As I was leaving the theater, I vowed to go much easier on Robinson Cano.
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Do you hear that, Robbie? I’m going to give you a break. I won’t scream at the TV the first time you swing at a pitch in the dirt or forget to run out a ground ball or let a dribbler get through the infield. I have sympathy for you now.
For him too.
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Just don’t take advantage of my newfound generosity of spirit. Movie or no movie, you’d better bust it this year.

Yankees Build a “Vacation Stadium” in the Hamptons

The folks at The Onion have a new video that made me laugh. Dan at Pinstripes, Pa posted it earlier.

For your viewing pleasure….



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