By Tony Mangia
TEIXEIRA WAKING FROM LUMBER SLUMBER?
A lot has been made of Mark Teixeira's notoriously slow starts. It's become a sort of ritual for the Yankee's first baseman to plod through the first month and pick it up later. This season started no differently for Tex, only April turned into May, then into June. This weekend Tex came alive by belting two home runs---including his first grand slam as a Yankee---as the Bombers took two of three from the surging Mets and recovered first place in the AL East.
Fans have blamed some of the power outage on A-Rod's injuries; which meant the lack of protection behind Teixeira. Since June 8, Tex has batted .302 and hit four dingers. He is on pace for a 30 HR/100 RBI season even if he continues to slump like this. Those numbers are a downgrade for the slugger but, non-the-less, still respectable.
Teixeira's stoic face hides the fact that he is slumping and his defensive play at first almost totally overshadowed the slide. I've never seen a first baseman make the plays that Tex does. Whether he's going right or left, down or up, vertical or parallel, the agile fielder continues to amaze. In every game, Tex seems to make a few dazzling plays and if you don't think that saves opposing runs and win games, you can have your Steve Balboni back. Against the Mets, with two outs and men on first and second, Tex went left and snared a blistering shot just over the bag, getting an out and drying up a Met rally. A lesser first baseman would have let it roll into the right corner. If you don't think these rally-killers don't hurt look, just remember David Wright's face on the replay. Give Teixeira another 100 RBIs for Runs Being Incinerated.
HOME PLATE SPECIAL
The Yankees continue their Royal Sampler of the Weak. Road games against the fledgling Diamondbacks and the fading Dodgers should fatten up the Pinstriper's record. The next few weeks include home games against the disappointing Seattle Mariners and Oakland A's. The Yankees continue gobbling up feeble teams and, at this pace, they'll look like a fifty-legged version of Kobyashi inhaling hot dogs at the Nathan's competition. Nothing says Fourth of July in NYC like a first-place Yankee team and Coney Island. All the schedule makers forgot to do was include the Pirates and Royals for a double-superfecta banquet of sitting ducks. The Yankees better make the most of it now. First place in the AL East is a fickle spot and Boston and Tampa Bay lay in wait, behind one game each.
Good news for the Yankee starters: Javier Vasquez pitched a tough three-hit seven-inning game in a losing cause, Phil Hughes out dueled met ace Mike Pelfrey and C.C. Sabathia looked like his old big self and went eight strong innings in a humid 90 degree Yankee Stadium. That tarp they brought out in the eighth inning wasn't for the rain, it was a huge Brawny paper towel for the 20 pounds of sweat the gigantor, C.C., flooded the field with. Mariano Rivera has his own version of a no-hitter going. He hasn't allowed a hit for 22 outs. Even Joba Chamberlain got to fist-pump this weekend.
And The Oscar Goes To The Italian Team
Italy has produced many great actors--- Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren to name a few. The tradition continues with their World Cup soccer team. I've never seen so many flops, winces and pratfalls. It looks like an audition for Roberto Benigni movie. Adding to the comedy was a brilliant upset tie by New Zealand. The Kiwis played with true grit while the over-confident Romans looked like bambinos. Not the La Dolce Vita.
Not A Sideshow
Manute Bol, the 7'7' Sudanese NBA player died last week in Virginia. Bol, who--along with Gheorge Muresan-- was the tallest basketball player in NBA history and played for four teams. In 10 years, Bol had 2,086 blocks and 1,599 points. His unique physique--190 pounds and a 8'6" wingspan-- made him a curiosity, even among the giants of the NBA. Legend has it that he killed a lion with a spear with his Dinka tribe in Africa. The gentle giant may be more remembered for his smile and humanitarian missions than his basketball skills. Charles Barkley--a former teammate and not the most eloquent speaker--said something that made me think hard about Bol and this planet. "If everyone in this world was a Manute Bol," Barkley said, "It's a world I'd want to live in." Enough said about a man.