Thursday, July 15, 2010
LIFE WITHOUT GEORGE
By Tony Mangia
YANKEES SECOND-HALF CONCERNS
The New York Yankees had a tough week. First the loss of their beloved announcer, Bob Sheppard, and then the death of their larger-than-life owner, George Steinbrenner. One of the only people whose death could cast an ample shadow over the All-Star game. Twisted minds may wonder if the man who burst into this world on the Fourth of July held on long enough to take his last breath on MLB's big day---come in with American flags and fireworks and go out with peanuts, Crackerjack and a national audience. No, Steinbrenner loved the game too much for that kind of attention.
How will the club handle the adversity? Wow, that's a word that's never been tossed around the Yankees locker room before. The fiery glare of The Boss had been replaced by a more grandfatherly squint in recent years. Derek Jeter may be the face of the team, but even Steinbrenner's scowl from the owner's box still made him the face of the New York Yankees. Don't think George's aura isn't all over Yankee Stadium---his Yankee Stadium.
QUESTIONS ABOUND WITHOUT THE BOSS
Is the Yankee philosophy still the same? Will they stay the course? Will the team lose its edge? Yes! Yes! No! The mission will be even more reinforced. The Core Four will be undoubtedly be galvanized for a second half run. There will be a "Do it for The Boss" mentality. There is a loyalty that runs deep within the Yankees, and it will rear its prideful head.
The Yankees are sitting pretty with 56 wins and lead division rivals, Tampa Bay and Boston, by 2 and 5 games respectively. These are still concerns, however. Tampa Bay looked to be fading a few weeks ago, but seem to have collected themselves. Boston---never count those guys out--- has withstood pitching woes, an early hitting slump by David Ortiz, and an all-star roster of players on the DL. A dozen important Red Sox players are nursing injuries at this very moment. The real questions don't lie within the Yankees' psyche, it's more of a physical concern.
First and foremost, there is the bullpen. I hate to continually harp on Joba Chamberlain, but the phenom has fizzled. He continues to give up runs and blow games. Early-season set-up savior, Alfredo Aceves has a bulging disk and his return is unlikely. The Yankees hoped to get Cliff Lee and use Phil Hughes (an All-Star starter) to be the set-up man. Right now, there aren't too many starters of Lee's quality available that could replace Hughes. Don't even get me started on Chan Ho Park. The search for a reliable eighth inning hurler to set up Mariano Rivera must begin...and soon.
The DH has been complicated so far this season with the injuries to Nick Johnson and Jorge Posada. Didn't the Yankees learn anything about the injury-prone Johnson the first time around? The only injury that hasn't shelved him is ebola. Posada continues to struggle with a broken foot...and knee...and thumb...and calf... Marcus Thames is another role player who needs his own private ambulance. Curtis Granderson's .240 average and surprising lack of power won't cut it in the second half. The Yankees need a slugger like Ty Wigginton of the Orioles to pick up the slack. I'm sure Brian Cashman is on the horn right now. The spirit of George lives on.
The All-Star Lame
Did anyone make it past the third inning that night? I never heard of any of the players on the field after Phil Hughes got punched out. I even tuned in to watch that weird-looking dude, Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. That home run derby is a real ratings grabber too. Who won?
NCAA Tournament Expands to 68 Teams...Why?
The Road to the Final Four will begin with the First Four next March. The formally 65-team format will include two of the lowest seeded teams, rated 65th to 68th; all small schools that earned automatic bids, then the winners will face a top seed in the first round...whew...wait...then the teams rated 34th to 37th --weak teams from major-conferences will play for two spots in the main bracket...got it so far? Then...they will represent the First Four seedings and then...whew...water please... then this would result in the winner advancing to play the #7 seed. That simple! Can't wait to see what the new bracket sheets look like.
Pass the SPF 300, Hurry Please!
Watched outdoor bowling on ESPN last weekend. Not as exciting as a outdoor NHL game. The best part was watching the pin-pals bake in the sun and force warm beers down their gullets. I never knew people could actually glow.