April 2009

Yankees Win Again, Magic Pen Takes Credit (With Video)

Watching Wednesday night’s 8-6 win over the Tigers was like sitting through three different ball games.

In the first one, Joba couldn’t throw a strike, looked out of sorts and received a lecture in the dugout from Dave Eiland, who, as we learn from this photo, is a “close talker.”
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In the second one, Joba regrouped and was lights out, allowing only three hits over seven innings.
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On the offensive side, the Bombers teed off on Porcello (the Tigers’ starter, as opposed to some sort of specialty mushroom) and on Rapada (the Tigers’ reliever, not a pasta dish involving miniature broccoli). The barrage included hits, walks, a couple of homers by Swisher, even a stolen base by Posada. Before I knew it, the score was 8-1 and I could sense that Yankee fans everywhere were yelling, “Par-tay!”
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In the third game-within-the-game, Albaladejo came on in the ninth and couldn’t figure out that his job was to finish off the Tigers. Why was he even out there?
Mo should be pitching!” I yelled at Girardi through the TV. “I know it’s not a save situation, but he hasn’t been on the mound since last Friday when he gave it up in Boston! He’s probably rusty! He needs the work!” 
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Joe must have heard me because Mo suddenly appeared. “I meant at the beginning of the inning, not now!” I shouted at the skipper. “You didn’t give him enough time to warm up!”
In stepped Granderson, who smacked a three-run homer to bring the Tigers to within two. Great. Was it possible that they would rally for more? That the Yankees would lose what had seemed like a mercifully easy contest? That my entire night would be ruined?
I was pretty agitated as I jotted down the score. And then… I remembered. I wasn’t just keeping score. I was keeping score with the Magic Pen!
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I gripped the pen tightly and told it to use its powers. Well, you know the rest. Polanco and his melon head flied out, and the Yankees did win.
I bet Kim Jones interviewed Nick Swisher as the player of the game, but to me the one responsible for the “W” was the Magic Pen.
And so I interviewed it. Here’s my exclusive.

The Yankees Win…Thanks To My Magic Pen!

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I’m not saying that Phil Hughes didn’t play a major role in the Yanks’ 11-0 victory over Detroit. He was fantastic – throwing strikes, moving the ball around, pitching with authority instead of nibbling.
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Molina’s grand slam didn’t hurt either, along with some impressive flashing of leather by Pena.
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But I firmly believe that it was the cheesy pen I swiped from the Marriott Westshore in Tampa that caused the Tigers to spazz out in the seventh inning and hand the Yankees the win.
Look at the evidence.
Normally, I use another pen to keep score. When it ran out of ink at the end of the sixth, I grabbed the Marriott pen, which I didn’t even remember I had, and started recording each at-bat with it. The result?
Pure hell for Detroit.
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Jim Leyland called on his relievers and was not amused when they couldn’t get it done. Doesn’t he look like he was having fun? I, on the other hand, was highly entertained watching someone else’s bullpen implode for a change.
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Just as I was noting Ryan Perry’s ineptitude, Posada flied to left and the Tigers’ Josh Anderson misplayed the ball for an error, opening up the floodgates.
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The Yankees piled on with some nice station-to-station hitting, culminating in Molina’s second career granny.
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Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless inning, giving me hope for the future and providing the Tigers’ announcers with yet another name to butcher.
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No, they’re not the worst I’ve ever heard, but they’re pretty lame. They blamed the near collision between Granderson and Ordonez on “loud crowd noise.” (Comerica was hardly a full house.) And when the camera found a drunken fan holding up a towel, one of them said, “Look! He’s waving his Rally ShamWow!”
Too bad I live up in the hills and am stuck with the Extra Innings package on cable; the only way I’d get YES for away games is if I had a dish on my roof.
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But back to the magic pen. Obviously, it’s responsible for snapping the Yankees’ losing streak, and I will use it to score Wednesday night’s game. The Tigers will, of course, be toast.
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Watching The Yankees = Watching A Horror Movie

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For three straight days I was tortured by the Red Sox and their merriment. Tonight, in the Yankees’ 4-2 loss to the Tigers at Comerica, I was tortured by Justin Verlander and his 99-mph fastball. Watching my team lately has taken on the feel of this.
Every horror movie has a few likable, heroic characters, and tonight’s game was no different. Cano kept hitting (why wasn’t he batting cleanup?). CC gave the pen a night off (loved the fourth when he K-ed Ordonez, Cabrera and Guillen; he could have gotten a “W” if he’d had a little run support). And Pena continued to show why he’s a better utility infielder than both Ransom and Berroa (duh).
And then there were the scary villains….
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* Justin Verlander and his high cheese.
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* Placido Domingo Polanco and his oddly shaped head.
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* Magglio Ordonez and his oddly shaped hair.
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* Jorge Posada and his tendency to ground into rally-killing double plays.
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It’s true that the Yankees didn’t arrive in Detroit until the wee hours of the morning and were probably as tired as they looked. But isn’t that what this is for?
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Getting back to “Carrie,” I was thinking how empowering it would be to have her gift of telekinesis – to make things happen just by thinking about them.
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Here are a few ways I would use my power to help the Yankees…
* I would heal A-Rod, Nady, Bruney and the newly banged up Damon.
* I would fix Wang’s mechanics and, if necessary, his mind.
* I would turn Brett Gardner, Melky Cabrera and Nick Swisher into better hitters. (Swish is spiraling back down to earth. I can feel it.)
* I would command Jose Veras not to walk anybody. Ditto: Marte.
* I would put ten pounds on Edwar Ramirez, as well as give him another pitch besides the change-up.
* I would make Jeter five years younger.
* I would leave Mo exactly the way he is.
* I would trade Kei Igawa for Roy Halladay straight up.
* I would insure that the Yankees win their 27th championship this year.
* I would haunt anybody who tried to thwart me.


Yanks/Sox Game 3: My Head Wasn’t In It

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Why wasn’t I more engaged during tonight’s 4-1 loss to the Red Sox? What made me sit quietly instead of yell at the TV? How come I was even tempted to change the channel?
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Maybe it was because I was concerned about my car, which I’d stupidly driven into a curb, busting the right front wheel well and necessitating a call to Roadside Assistance.
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Or maybe it was because Girardi put Berroa at third again instead of the more defensively capable Pena, so I was not surprised when Angel made those two errors.
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I suppose my detachment could have been due to the fact that Robinson Cano was the only Yankees batter with a pulse.
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Or that, while Ellsbury’s stealing home must have been a genuine thrill for Red Sox fans, it left me cold.
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I certainly wasn’t amused that Pettitte, despite the walks, pitched another decent game with nothing to show for it except this.
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And while Mike Lowell was an RBI machine, he looked gimpy at third and made me worry how A-Rod will fare when he returns from his own hip surgery. (Please hurry, Al.)
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I was roused from my stupor when Mark Melancon made his appearance, and I was impressed with his two scoreless innings of relief work. 
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But he’s 24. Didn’t he look, like, 40?
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Seriously. I thought I was watching a scene from “Benjamin Button.”
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I was really excited when I got an email during the game from Greg of Red Sox Ramblings. He had an encounter with Dave Winfield while he was working at Fenway and wanted to let me know. Very cool, Greg! I loved it!
In the end, I guess I was just suffering from Yankees-Red Sox Fatigue – all those hours and innings without a single victory. I would be discouraged right now, except that the Yanks are a very good team that ran into a very hot club. It happens. I don’t think anybody could have beaten the Sox this weekend, given the streak they’re on.
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The good news? There are 144 games left. Plenty of time for the Yankees to get hot too.
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(Daily Flip Video Contest Reminder. Great pics are coming in, so add yours!)

Yanks/Sox Game 2: Looking On The Bright Side

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I’m not saying that losing the second of two back-to-back marathons against the Red Sox is easy. I mean, the Yanks scored nearly a dozen runs without our best hitter (A-Rod) and another big bat (Nady) and yet we didn’t win the game? That’s just grotesque.
But before I throw myself off the ledge following the 16-11 defeat, let me at least shoot for a little perspective.
Here are a ten fun things to take away from the game. Yes, fun!
#1) It was a good old-fashioned slugfest.
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#2) The Yankees hitters made Josh Beckett work.
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#3) We found out that AJ Burnett has the ability to go all Jekyll and Hyde on us at any moment.
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#4) The ancient Angel Berroa was in the lineup and succeeded in not making a single error.
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#5) We got to watch Dustin Pedroia do his best Bill Buckner imitation.
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#6) Tex walked five times.
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#7) Jose Veras had the delivery of a break dancer.
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#8) Pitchers on both teams were bad.
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#9) Joe Girardi and Terry Francona channeled Grady Little by leaving their starters in too long.
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#10) Nobody came down with swine flu during the nearly five-hour game.
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There. Feel better? I do.

Yanks/Sox Game 1: Bummer

I don’t know which I find more disheartening: losing a close game that was there for the taking or getting humiliated in a blowout.

O.K. I do know. I hate both with identical passion.
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As for tonight, while I never take anything for granted when we play the Sox, especially at Fenway, I thought we’d win this one. Joba got the double plays when he needed them. Coke and Alba did their jobs. Ortiz struck out with surprising frequency. And we were still ahead 4-2 in the ninth. Then the unthinkable: Mo blew the save.
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Yeah, I was shocked too, because he’s usually lights out. But the guy is human. The NESN announcers reported that he has 12 blown saves against the Red Sox – the most against any team – and I had to laugh. That would give him an average of one per year over his 12-year career as a closer. Hardly a disaster.
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Much more troubling, in my opinion, were the runners the Yankees stranded on base. A recap:
* First inning: Jeter led off with a single, and Damon, Tex and Posada stranded him.
* Second inning: Melky and Molina walked, and Ransom stranded them.
* Third inning: Damon and Tex singled, and Posada and Swisher stranded them.

* Fifth inning: Swisher doubled, and Cano stranded him.
* Sixth inning: Molina singled, and Ransom stranded him.
* Eighth inning: Ransom walked, and Jeter and Damon stranded him.
* Ninth inning: Tex got hit by a pitch, Posada and Swisher walked, loading the bases, and Cano (GIDP) and Melky (pop up) stranded them.
* Tenth Inning: Molina singled and Damon walked, and Tex stranded them.
* Eleventh inning: Posada walked, Gardner laid down a lousy bunt, Cano singled, and Melky stranded them (GIDP on a pitch way out of the strike zone).
Any way you look at it, that’s a lot of stranding.
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Then, there was the use of the bullpen. I understand that Bruney was hurt and unavailable. But what was up with bringing Mo in during Ellsbury’s at-bat in the eighth with an 0-and-1 count? Was Girardi in the clubhouse watching a rerun of “Friends” when he suddenly remembered he wanted to call for his closer?
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And finally, I must make mention of Joe’s use of Marte. I was thrilled to see Damaso have a 1-2-3 tenth, but that should have been enough! He’s never good for two! What was he doing on the mound in the 11th with Edwar and Veras rested and ready? It was puzzling.
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But oh well. It was an exciting game (if you like the sensation of your stomach churning and your palms soaking with sweat), and we’ll try again tomorrow. I miss having A-Rod, Matsui and Nady in the lineup. Maybe there would be less stranding if they were.

The Insanity Known As “Yankees-Red Sox”

It begins for real Friday night – the first series of 2009 against the team Yankee fans love to hate. From the cheers and jeers to the we’re-better-than-you-are arguments, The Rivalry seems to get more intense every year. It definitely brings out the creativity in bloggers (hat tip: nomaas).

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Part of me can’t wait until Lester and Joba go at it. The other part wants to hide under the bed. 
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But here’s my real dilemma: I have important meetings in LA and will be forced to miss some of the game, which starts at 4 p.m. here on the west coast! Instead of being glued to the TV in my living room, I’ll be stuck in traffic on the 101 Freeway!
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It’s not in my DNA to miss a single installment of Yankees-Red Sox. But the meetings in LA are about the possibility of turning my book into a movie, so I can hardly blow them off. Hopefully, I’ll be back in Santa Barbara in time to see Mo trotting onto the mound at Fenway for the bottom of a 1-2-3 ninth.
In the meantime, I thought I’d post the article I wrote for the New York Times in 2008. It’s about Yankees-Red Sox and why The Rivalry always keeps me coming back for more. Enjoy (and don’t forget to enter the Flip Video Contest).
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CHEERING SECTION

Loving the Team You Hate

Published: July 3, 2008

My mother always says there’s a fine line between love and hate, because both emotions stir such deep and abiding passions in us. Since mothers are right about 99 percent of the time, I assume mine is right about the love/hate thing.

So what I’m wondering, as I immerse myself in this latest series of contests between the Yankees and the Red Sox, is this: Is it possible that a tiny piece of my pinstriped heart beats for the Sox, even as I can’t endure the sight of Josh Beckett, not to mention Tek, Youk, Dicey-K, Nancy Drew and Big Sloppy? Can a Yankee fan actually have a love relationship with the bullies from Boston, our sworn enemies?

I realize that the question sounds not only Carrie Bradshaw-ish, but also downright sacrilegious. Me? Love the Red Sox? I’d rather stick needles in my eyes.

Still, it’s a question that must be answered, given how fixated I am on the Sox — from checking their scores daily to perusing that crazy Sons of Sam Horn Web site. Surely, it is hate, not love, that causes me to boo them mercilessly, rejoice in their every loss and adopt superstitious behavior meant to bring about their collapse. (Giambi stopped shaving his ‘stache; I stopped shaving my legs.)

On the other hand, why do I get all giddy with excitement when the Red Sox blow into town? Why do I have a little more spring in my step? Why do I drop everything and plant myself in front of the TV for four straight days if I really, truly despise those clowns?

For instance, I once begged off an invitation to a baby shower on a Saturday afternoon because the Yankees and the Red Sox were playing. The puzzled hostess asked, “Why can’t you just TiVo it?” I apologized but admitted that I could never attend a baby shower during a Yanks-Sox game, even if the baby in question was my own.

Yes, I watch because the teams have an awesome rivalry. No matter what our respective standing in the division, we somehow remain wonderful foils for each other. It is their scruffy outlaws versus our scrubbed professionals: their cocky Papelbon versus our cool-headed Mo; their durable Wakefield versus our dynamic Joba; their eccentric Manny versus our egocentric A-Rod. Even our ballparks are rivals: their peculiar Green Monster versus our pristine white facade.

The games always last for hours and are packed with high drama, whether they’re blowouts or tight pitchers duels. And let’s not forget all the bean balls and brawls. There is so, so much history between us. Dent and Boone. Schilling’s bloody sock and Dave Roberts’s steal.

Dave Bleepin’ Roberts. The very thought of what that late-season pickup did to us in ’04 makes me insane. No, of course it’s not love I feel for the Red Sox. It is hate, pure and simple.

And yet it’s twisted how much I obsess about them, about how much I get up for playing them. I want us not only to beat them but also to look fabulous doing it — from making flashy defensive plays to smashing homers over Coco Crisp’s head. It is as if the Red Sox are some swaggering bad boy who is clearly not right for me but has, nevertheless, managed to crawl under my skin — a guy I find insufferable but impossible to dump.

Oh, God. What am I feeling?

I quickly call my friend Lisa, who happens to be a Red Sox fan but is otherwise a very nice person.

“I have to ask you something,” I say. “Does any part of you love the Yankees?”

She laughs hysterically. “Uh, no.” More laughter. “I hate the Yankees, you know that. The World Series didn’t mean as much last year because we didn’t go through you to get there. You validate us and we validate you. It’s like we need each other.”

That’s it. I understand now. I don’t love the Red Sox any more than Lisa loves the Yankees. It is simply that we are addicted to each other’s team in a totally unhealthy, co-dependent way.

And — this is just a hunch — we are not the only ones.

Melky Cabrera Stars In Epic Remake Of “Atonement”

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In December, he was nearly traded to the Brewers for Mike Cameron. In March, he lost the center field job to Brett Gardner. And on April 16th, Opening Day at the Yankees’ Home Run Palace, he was stuck on the bench, a lonely soul relegated to the shadows. Why? Because he couldn’t hit, took odd routes to the ball, and refused to stop sliding head-first.
Today, after striking out with the bases loaded in the seventh, Miguel (aka “Melky”) Cabrera finally atoned for his sins.
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In the bottom of the 14th inning of a nearly five-hour contest against the A’s, he hit his second homer of the game – a walkoff that resulted in the Yankees’ 9-7 victory.
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Yes, he was joyful, as were his teammates.
And, long after the game was over, the celebrations continued around the world.
She-Fans sang his praises.
He-Fans chanted his name.
And one Yankee fan toasted him a few times too many.
Melky’s heroics did not obscure the fact that CC had a miserable outing, giving back every lead the offense handed him. (“Everything was off,” he told reporters. Swell.) And what was up with Damon’s misplay of Giambi’s little flare? With Posada not covering home for Jeter’s throw? With Suzuki morphing into a Yankee killer?
Who cares. The bullpen was spectacular, especially Veras. Matsui’s got the pop back in his bat. Cano and Tex have been playing like Gold Glovers. And the Yankees won both games of the rain-abbreviated series. 
Let the celebrating continue.


I Wish The Yankees Could Play The A’s Every Night

Wait. Let me amend that. I wish they could play the game they played tonight over and over for an entire season.

Not that their 5-3 win against Oakland was especially dramatic. It wasn’t a pitcher’s duel. There were no bean balls. Nobody hit a walk-off anything. Well, Brett Gardner did make a sensational catch on Giambi’s deep drive to center in the first inning.
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But mostly, it was just a solid effort – from Pettitte’s seven innings to Mo’s efficient ninth (tying the career combo of Welch and Eckersley); from Damon’s homer in his 2000th game to Gardner’s two RBIs and stolen base; from Matsui’s offensive awakening to Cano’s continued consistency. Lots to like about this one – except that my Extra Innings Package forced me to watch the A’s Comcast feed and I was subjected to the two most boring broadcasters on earth.
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Somehow, I knew the Yankees would win this game, the way you can sense when it’s about to rain. There was a certain smell in the air even before the first pitch.
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O.K., maybe it was the smell of the lavender bushes outside my house, not the Yankees’ victory. It’s extremely hot here in Santa Barbara right now – record breaking – and all the windows are open. What I’m saying is that I felt confident that my team would get the “W,” and it was a different experience than screaming at the TV and doing this.
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I was sort of amazed that I could stay calm for an entire game, even when the A’s scored a run off Bruney in the eighth to pull within two. No yelling. No hysteria. No jumping up and down and acting like a psycho.
“Do you think I’m finally maturing when it comes to the Yankees?” I asked my husband Michael, who has the unique ability to watch games and not raise his voice.
“No,” he said without looking up. “I think it’s because of the heat.”
Oh.
I checked the weather forecast for tomorrow in anticipation of CC’s start. It’s supposed to be ten degrees cooler here. I guess that means I’ll be back to my old psycho self.
(Daily Flip Video Contest Reminder: Deadline is May 15th.)

While The Yankees Anticipated Today’s Rainout…

…A-Rod began the second week of his workout program at the Yankees’ minor league complex in Tampa.

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According to the YES web site, he made precisely 19 throws to first base and nine throws to second base after fielding grounders. Offensively, he has hit 10 homers in 75 swings. He offered this nugget to reporters: “It feels good.”
I’d feel good too if I’d had my hip sewn back together.
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But the question is….What else did A-Rod do in Tampa today? Inquiring minds want to know, and She-Fan has the exclusive.
* He chewed 89 of these.
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* He drank 5 of these (with a straw – the kind that bends at the top).
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* He went to the beach and took a nap in one of these.
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 * He went back to his hotel and watched the whole hour of this.
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* He got up from his chair and started dancing when Ellen did this. (He reported zero pain in his hip!)
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* He felt good enough to do this.
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* And finally, he felt loosey-goosey enough to attempt this.
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I asked A-Rod how he hurt his hip in the first place. He said, “I’ve got one word for you, She-Fan: Pivot.”
Pivot? Was that like some secret baseball code word? Or maybe a profound message, like “Rosebud” in the movie “Citizen Kane?”
And then I got it. All three players who’ve had torn hip labrum recently have been third basemen: Mike Lowell, A-Rod and Alex Gordon. Was there a connection? Does the injury have to do with the way third basemen twist their bodies on every throw to first? And was there any way to prevent the problem?
I tried to get A-Rod to respond to my musings, but he was too busy doing this.
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P.S. If you’d like to enter the contest to win a Flip Video Camcorder (details here), leave a comment. The Favorite Fan Photos that have come in so far are pretty cool!
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