Friday, April 29, 2011

Peyton Manning Gets Over Little Bro Eli Once Again

The New York Giants must have gotten caught up in all of the Royal Wedding mania when they used the 19th pick for a Prince instead of a big body to protect their quarterback, Eli Manning, in last night's NFL draft.  Anthony Castonzo, a big offensive-tackle from Boston College, was still available but was taken by the Indianapolis Colts three slots later.

Colts GM, Bill Polian, did Peyton Manning a big solid and added a few years to his quarterbacking life by adding Castonzo to their depleted O-line.  The Giants gave Peyton's little brother Eli another season of being knocked on his butt.

With their first pick, the G-Men opted for the best athlete still on the board, cornerback Prince Amukamara from Nebraska, and literally left a gaping hole in their offensive line after claiming all week leading up to the draft that patching up their aging and hobbled line would be the Giants main concern.

The Giants wanted Center/Guard Mike Pouncey from Florida.  The twin brother of Maurkice, a Pro-Bowl center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was taken by the Miami Dolphins with the 15th pick.  Castonzo was the Giants consensus second choice because the team needs help at the tackle position too.

Amukamara is a fine athlete and experts were surprised to see the 6-foot, 206-pounder slip to No. 19, but the Giants already have two solid cornerbacks in Terrell Thomas and Corey Webster with former-first-round pick Aaron Ross as the backup. The most glaring problem last season, outside of the linebackers, was the thin and aging offensive line.

So the Giants scrapped their plans to bolster Eli's protection and grabbed the CB--mostly because of quality and not necessity.  Head coach Tom Coughlin didn't hesitate about the pick-up and said Amukamara "was clearly the highest rated player on the board."

Meanwhile, all three Giants centers--Shaun O'Hara, Rich Seubert and Adam Koets,  are recovering from surgery.  Two starting tackles, David Diehl and Kareem McKenzie, are in their 30's and have a lot of miles on their bodies. 

So while Peyton gets a huge tackle, who will help him on his quest to own every all-time quarterback record in the books for the next few years, little brother Eli looks forward to another season of being chased around the backfield fumbling balls and tossing interceptions.

The Giants GM Jerry Reese said, "You always need corners" citing the NFC East competition's collection of speedy wide-outs.  Eli might be wondering, 'What about protection?'

Eli may now be joined by a Prince, but Peyton is still the King.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

God's Gift Answers St. John's Prayers

St. John's basketball coach Steve Lavin announced today that God's Gift Achiuwa signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the Red Storm in 2011-12.  The bruising post-player chose the Johnnies over Cincinnati and Washington.

This is the second big acquisition by Lavin during the spring signing period.  Last week Phil Greene, a sought-after guard from Chicago, signed with St. John's too.

The 6 foot-nine, 240 pound Achiuwa is a 2011 JUCO First Team All-American from Erie Community College.  He led the team to a 28-4 record and averaged 22.3 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game.  He also shot 56% from the field and 35.7% from beyond the three-point line.

Besides having to live up to one of the great names in college basketball, Achiuwa will be playing under the New York media's spotlight.   Just picture the tabloid's back page headlines. The Nigerian minister's son seems ready for the attention.

"I am excited to come to St. John's and New York City," he said.  "They are a running team and that's what I like, fast paced basketball."

Achiuwa joins eight other top-rated recruits who have already signed with the Red Storm for 2011-12.  Standing out on St. John's No. 2 rated recruiting class (by ESPN and may not be easy but, the Nigerian may be the most imposing body on a team that is already fast and big.

Lavin thinks heaven is the limit for his new signee.  "He's an ideal fit for our baseline-to-baseline attacking style of play," the head coach said.

Lavin, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer, continues to show no sign of letting it slow him down.  He inherited ten seniors in his first season as head coach of St. John's last year and lead the team to a 21-12 record and it's first NCAA tournament in nine years. The 2011-12 team will be Lavin's own team and it looks like it's ready for the rough-and-tumble Big East.

You might think the Red Storm have completed their stockpile of blue-chippers for next year but, the scary thing is, they still have two scholarship places left on the roster.

Bartolo Colon: Yankees' Pound-for-Pound Most Valuable Pitcher

The New York Yankees might have lost Phil Hughes' fastball to "dead arm" but his replacement, Bartolo Colon's right arm is screaming 'It's alive!'

Last night, Colon--who's best years seemed to be over six years ago--continued his unlikely run as the Yankees best comeback story by tossing a beautiful eight-inning gem against the Chicago White Sox.  The hefty righthander allowed one run on seven hits and struck out six lead the Yankees to a 3-1 win and snapping their first two-game losing streak.

The hefty pitcher has been the Yankees most reliable pitcher and the pound-for-pound most valuable starter--literally. 

The big steer of the Yankees staff is still CC Sabathia who--even after slimming down this off-season-- rolls in at a conservative 290 lbs.  Colon, who was never physically mistaken for Randy Johnson even with a blazing fastball and slimming pinstripes, thunders in at 270.  Divide Sabathia's $23 million per year to Colon's $900,000 by their weight and you get $79,310 per pound to $3,333, respectively.  That's a kobe steak at Nobu next to ground chuck; only this hamburger is now being served on a silver platter.

Colon may have found some way to turn back the clock, but it remains to be seen if he can maintain his early season success.  So far this year, he is 2-1with 26 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.77 in 26 innings but there is still a long way to go.

The 37 year-old Colon--who would use skinny jeans as gloves-- had great years through 2005 when he went 21-8 and picked up the Cy Young award as a Los Angeles Angel.  He has been plagued by injuries and trying to pick up the pieces since that fantastic season.

Colon was an off-season pick-up by Brian Cashman's for the Yankees' scrap heap along with Freddy Garcia for minor-league contracts and corned-beef hash-like money.

Colon battled Garcia for the fifth spot in the rotation, but started the year in the bullpen.  Now both pitchers have become more than fill-ins through the first month of the season--especially with Hughes' problems looking more serious than at first thought.  Time will only tell if the two veteran pitchers can hold up for the rest of the season.

If last night was any indication of Colon's rebirth,  things look good for the Yankees.  Colon's fastball reached 96 mph in the eighth inning and he battled a game Mark Buehrle (1-3) for seven innings.  Even White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen--who managed an injured Colon in 2009--was impressed

"Amazing," said Guillen.  "Wow, I can't remember seeing him like this since he was in Cleveland or with the Angels.  His ball was moving great.  I feel proud of him, especially after knowing all the arm issues that he has gone through.  Buehrle was good tonight, but Colon was better."

Except for a few singles by the Sox in the sixth, they could not hit Colon's heater.  The last time the big guy went eight innings was in 2007.

"It's been huge for us," said Joe Girardi.  "Every time he's taken the mound, he's pitched well and given us a real good chance to win--even in games where he came in in long relief and held the other clubs down for us, he's given us a chance to win.  His production has been huge."

Now with Hughes looking at a possible long downtime, the Yankees will be counting on Colon to uphold his end of the rotation for as long as he can.

"I felt pretty happy, my first [start] at Yankee stadium," Colon said through an interpreter.  He believes he is better than ever even if his fastball probably won't reach 98 mph again.  "I can throw more strikes than when I won 21 games," he said.

Those words ain't chopped liver.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Yankees Girardi: Limit MRI's On Hughes Due To Radiation Super Powers

New York Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes, who spent 4 1/2 hours enduring a battery of tests at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center yesterday, will undergo more tests to determine the cause of the righthander's "dead arm."  The Yankees don't want Hughes to overdo it with the MRI's because of the dangers too much radiation could pose.

"They want to try to rule out everything they can.  We don't really know why he's having this issue,"  said Joe Girardi.  The manager expressed concern about depending too much on the MRI's because of radiation overexposure.  "They say you can only get a certain amount of MRI's a year.  I don't want him walking around like Spider Man."

Spider Man.  Okay.  Right now, Hughes is a wimpy Peter Parker on the mound.

The "dead arm" problem still remains a mystery after Hughes spent most of yesterday morning getting MRI exams on his shoulder and elbow, a series of vascular tests to determine his blood circulation and an ultrasound to check his arteries.

No results were available after yesterday's onslaught of tests.  The 24 year-old pitcher's problem had baffled and frustrated the Yankees even before his "numb" throwing arm put Hughes on the 15-day DL on April 15.

The Yankees concern goes beyond Hughes' problematic arm and missing time on the mound due to a thorough testing procedure.  There is the worry of overdoing the diagnoses and over analyzing.

Hughes says he doesn't feel any pain in his arm and thinks the 'deadness" could be an internal problem--something the doctors have overlooked.  It sounds like he's ready to put up with that green glow if more MRI's means finding the problem.

"If they find something, they find something.  I'm just anxious to figure out what's going on," the dejected Hughes said.  "I talked to the doctors this morning and basically want to get as many tests done as possible so we can paint a clear picture of exactly what's going on.  As much information as we can gather, basically.  The more the better."

The Yankees are being cautious with Hughes.  The team wants to know why a  once-healthy fastballer could suddenly lose his zip and suffer from numbness in his arm.

In three starts, Hughes' ERA blew up to 13.94 and there was no velocity on his fastball.  The Yankees thought Hughes just needed a couple of weeks to rest and build up his arm strength until bullpen sessions the other day proved otherwise.

Now it looks like more tests and half-hours inside an MRI tube, trying to rule out structural damage, then implementing some sort of rehabilitation.

"It's frustrating," said Hughes.  "I wish we were sitting here talking about the great start we've gotten off to.  But it's the road we're on right now."

Girardi may have been only joking when he mentioned the comic book super hero but, if the radiation did afford Hughes a single super power, I bet he wishes it would be that his starter could throw a 106 mph fastball.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Yankees Could Put Six Position Players on 2011 All-Star Team

Alex Rodriguez leads a team of nine New York Yankees All-Star hopefuls listed on the American League All-Star ballot released today.  The way things look right now,  six Yankees position players alone could be playing in the July 12 classic--maybe even seven.

A-Rod will be looking to be elected to his 14th All-Star game.  He is one of the league leaders in batting and RBI's with 17 and having one of his best starts ever.

Shortstop Derek Jeter, while showing signs of inconsistency this year, is always a perennial fan favorite and will be looking to make his fifth straight appearance and 12th all-time.  Even the one year Jeter wasn't there, other players said it didn't feel just right without The Captain.  Could it be his last?

The Yankees have been sending the ball over the fence at an unbelievable rate and all those home-runs could lead to All-Star turns for their sluggers.

Surprisingly, centerfielder Curtis Granderson is tied for the league lead in home-runs with seven and is looking to make his second All-Star slot.  His first and last was for the Detroit Tigers in 2009.

Another wonder has been catcher Russell Martin.  The off-season pick-up, with the rehabbed hip, is lighting up pitchers with a .328 average, six homers and 16 RBI's so far this season.  His OBP is one of the best in the league.  Martin was a two-time National League All-Star with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira round out the six Pinstripers who could be showing up at Chase Field in Phoenix for baseball's big showcase.

Cano, one of the best all-round players in the majors is batting .314 with 4 HR's and 14 RBI's.  It would be the second-baseman's third appearance.

Teixeira, battling his usual m.o., started the season fast then slumped badly.  Over the past week, the first-baseman has picked up steam and seems to be back on track.  He has six home-runs and 16 RBI's already this year.  His last All-star appearance was in 2009.

The Yankees could bring their own Home-Run Derby to the 82nd All-Star Game.  Five players--A-Rod, Cano, Teixeira, Martin and Granderson have 28 home-runs between them.  If you throw in Jorge Posada, who is on the ballot for the first time as a DH after five All-Star games as a catcher, you have a major-league leading line-up boasting 34 dingers between those six players.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Yankees/Orioles Rainout Benefits Sick CC

Last night's washout of the Yankees/Orioles may have been a blessing in disguise for CC Sabathia.  The big righthander, who was slated to start, was battling flu-like symptoms and got an extra day to recover.  Sabathia is still looking for his first win in four starts despite having an ERA of 2.52.

Sabathia may be the best pitcher in the league without a win under his ample belt.  Tonight, he will attempt to get that elusive first W.

The Yankees ace said he would have taken the mound last night even if chills, a scratchy throat and stomach pains told him not to.

"It's the stomach and the throat and I'm freezing right now," Sabathia said last night.  "This [the postponement] definitely helps."

Sabathia is off to one of his best starts as a Yankee despite having a goose egg in the win column.  He has pitched 25 innings and allowed 7 runs with 23 strikeouts.  Manager Joe Girardi is surprised by Sabathia's  streak of bad luck.

"It's pretty hard to believe; the way he's pitched in his four starts, not to have a win is very unusual,"  said Girardi.  "I wouldn't say he's frustrated by it , but it's unusual for CC to go four starts without having a win."

The confines of Camden Yards have been pretty friendly to Sabathia.  He is 8-1 with an ERA of 2.97 in 10 starts in what is typically known as a hitter's ballpark.   In 20 career starts against the O's, Sabathia is 14-2 with a 2.86 ERA.  Last season he beat the Orioles five times.

For Sabathia, pitching against the Baltimore Orioles might be the best remedy for anything that ails him.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Yankees Granderson Picks Up Slack For Slumping Gardner

No one would have doubted that a New York Yankees player would be tied for the AL home-run lead at this point of the season, but nobody would have ever predicted his name would be Curtis Granderson.  The Yankees center-fielder is on fire over the last five games.  He is batting .421 (8-for-19) with four home-runs and six RBI's over that span.

The Yankees head into Baltimore for a scheduled three-game set against the Orioles--tonight's game has been called due to rain--as the AL East leaders and Granderson is the biggest SCUD on the Bronx Bombers.

Nine games into the season, Granderson was hitting .156 at the back of the order.  Since then, the 27 year-old has gone from batting ninth, then eighth and now second.  He has lifted his average to .273.

"I talked to [hitting coach] Kevin Long and he liked my at-bats and my swing," the rejuvenated player said.  "I wasn't really out of whack and there was no need to change.  It was a matter of an inch and being late."

Granderson always had a little pop in his bat, but heading to Camden Yards this weekend, he has homered in three straight games and, after struggling against lefthanders (.218 lifetime), is also taking them yard this year, hitting .353 (6-for-17), with three HR's and five RBI's.

Gardner, meanwhile, is stuck in a rut.  He has as many hits (six) as Granderson has home-runs and is carrying a minuscule .128 average and .196 OBP to the plate.

The 27 year-old right-fielder finally won the lead-off spot this season but, after his pitiful start, has been bumped down to batting ninth and watching lefties from the bench.

Two years ago, a slump like this cost Gardner his starting job to Melky Cabrera, but don't expect manager Joe Girardi to replace his speedster at one time.  Just expect to see Andruw Jones in the line-up against lefthanders.  Jones, another one of the Yankees scrap-heap pick-ups, has seen limited play and is hitting .250 with one homer.

Gardner knows he is rooted in a bad slump is hoping he can turn it around; much like Granderson has done over the last seven games.

"I feel like every day is an opportunity to come out here and turn it around," said Gardner.  "I don't think about too much long-term stuff right now."

The Yankees have been shuffling the struggling Gardner and inconsistent Derek Jeter at the number one and two spots all season and felt they had to pull Gardner after a horrible game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday.  The speedy Gardner blew a sac-bunt and was thrown out stealing--his third time in six attempts this season.  Speed is considered Gardner's saving grace.

"The last thing you want to do when you're not swinging the bat well is to get the most at-bats on the team," hitting coach Kevin Long said.  "It's a smart move.  He a smart kid, so he gets it.  He doesn't have to be happy about it, but at this point in time, it's the best thing to do."

Gardner has been hitting the video rewind button pretty hard lately; while trying to find out where he is failing at the plate. 

"If you can be successful for a couple of months, there's no reason that I shouldn't be able to find that and get back in that groove again," he reasoned.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Steve Lavin Signs Chicago Prize; Could God's Gift Be Next?

The St. John's basketball team continues to pile up key recruits and, yesterday, acquired an important cog in next year's squad by signing guard Phil Greene of Chicago.  Head coach Steve Lavin will now focus on  going after 6-foot-8 power forward/center God's Gift Achiuwa from Erie Community College and Jamari Traylor, another big man from Chicago.

Greene joins eight other blue-chip players who have signed a letter-of-intent with the Red Storm in 2011-12.   There are three remaining scholarships left on the roster.

Greene is a vital pick-up for St. John's; who are loaded with front-line players.  The 6-foot-2 guard, who is enrolled at IMG Academy in Florida, would play an important role in bolstering the team's backcourt.  His IMG teammate, 6-foot-8 Traylor is a bulky post player.  Traylor and Achiuwa would give the Red Storm one of the most fearsome front-lines in the physical Big East Conference.

Lavin continues to collect great players in his first wave of recruiting.  His class of 2011-12 already boasts six freshmen ranked in the top-100 by most recruiting services.  St. John's recruiting class is currently ranked the # 2 by and ESPN.

Yesterday, St. John's lost a key recruit when forward Dwight Meikle from Long Island was granted his release.  The previous signing of three other forwards would have probably meant fewer minutes to Meikle anyway.

Achiuwa will visit St. John's this weekend.  The Nigerian minister's son has already visited Cincinnati and Washington.  Kentucky is also interested.  Achiuwa could be a huge difference maker to whichever team lands the big man.

Lavin, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer before last season, doesn't seem to be slowing down. He secretly battled the disease throughout last season when he lead the Red Storm to a 21-12 record and it's first NCAA Tournament spot in nine years.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

2011 NFL Schedule; Don't Expect 9/11 Patriotism to End Lockout

The NFL announced it's 2011 schedule last night and the first Sunday games of the season will be on September 11--ten years to the day after the 9/11 tragedies.  The NFL is already planning to honor and commemorate the dead and their survivors even if the league isn't even close to snapping a ball due to the lockout.

Optimistic fans may see a silver lining because the planned 9/11 memorial ceremonies may hasten an agreement between the NFL owners and the NFLPA due to deep rooted patriotism.  Realists know the two parties will still only be trying to line their pockets with gold.

A lot of talking heads on sports TV shows this morning brought up the fact that the NFL is adamant about paying tribute to America for that horrible day and that the stadiums will be filled up all the NFL glitz it can muster to honor those who paid the price.

On Mike & Mike, both Mikes said the NFL "highlighted" the date on it's schedule press release and claimed the owners and players would, at the least, be shamed into settling the lockout because of all the bad publicity it would generate if they didn't put their differences aside.  The public outcry alone should bring both sides to their knees.

Don't count on it.  Here in New York--one of the three terrorist attack sites--it took almost eight years to break ground to start rebuilding at Ground Zero, because of political differences, and there is a ongoing stalemate regarding compensation to injured first-responders and their families.  The Ground Zero Memorial was bound in red tape for years and that's here in New York.

It's hard to believe millionaires squabbling about their benefits, salaries and all the other issues involved in the billion-dollar negotiations would let 9/11 influence their decisions.

The NFL ceremonies will include everything we in New York have become all to familiar with over the past nine years.  There will be somber speeches and moments of silence.  Photos of lost loved ones and praises for the heroics that followed the attacks.

The biggest ceremonies will probably be reserved for the New York Jets opening game against "America's Team" the Dallas Cowboys at New Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey on national TV that night. 

The NFL will probably be going all out that night.  Expect all the usual pomp and hanger-on politicians for this prime-time tribute.  The sight of former-mayor Rudy Giuliani, families of the slain and first responders will bring the fans and viewing millions to tears. 

The New York Giants game vs. the Washington Redskins at  4:15 ET in Landover, Md.--not far from one of the other terrorist hits at the Pentagon--should provide an emotional group hug, as well.

There was speculation the league would make the Giants-Jets game the season opener to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.  Now, the battle for the city will take place on Christmas day.  It is only fitting that Washington gets their moment though.  It's 9/11 tragedy seems to already be a faint memory here in New York.

It's delusional to think that either the owners or players would cave in for just a minute of silence before the opening kick-off.  The world is already filled with war and natural disasters.

How many fans paid tribute to 9/11 last September?  In New York, you are lucky to get a few thousand spectators at the Memorial Day Parade--and most of them are tourists crowding the Fifth Avenue stores.  Sadly, the marching soldiers usually outnumber the supporters.

Don't be seduced by any hype from the NFL, owners or union reps.  If the lockout ends and the opening ceremonies move you.  Fine.  Just don't let the NFL or NFLPA pat itself on it's back for overcoming the labor dispute in the guise of a 9/11 commemoration.

You don't need a football game to honor the lost lives and heroes or remember the horrible events of 9/11 next September.

Nathan's Hot-Dog Eating Contest Starting Women's-Only Division

The annual Nathan's Hot-Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island is adding a women's-only division to help even out the competition.  Richard Shea, president of Major League Eating, claims the 4th of July competition has been dominated by men for too long and it's time to open up the playing field.

According to the New York Post, the sausage-fest on the boardwalk's landmark decision will open up the sport to more female competitors.

It might become more popular than the men's division because the only thing more sensual than a woman caressing a hot dog, to the Nathan's frat boy audience, is when two dozen females are gulping them down by the cart load.

According to Shea, women account for only a couple of the world's top competitive eaters and only men have taken home the the "Mustard-Yellow Belt" at Nathan's.

"Serena Williams didn't have to beat Roger Federer to win the Wimbleton title, and we don't think Sonya Thomas should have to beat Joey Chestnut."  Chestnut is the four-time reigning Nathan's champion.

Thomas has her share of eating titles and is called "The Black Widow" because she has devoured as much food as she has men's egos.  The 44 year-old holds 38 world records and set the American record for hot-dog eating with 37 in 2007.  She lost to the Babe Ruth of competition eating Takero Kobayashi of Japan.

Thomas and Juliet Lee are the most visible and dominant women eaters on the circuit.  Both women weigh in at 105 pounds and have made the finals of the Nathan's hot-dog finals.

"On any given weekend, Sonya and Juliet can beat the guys," said Shea.  "But hot dogs seem to be different."

Shea claims the women hold records in cheesecake and cranberry sauce eating contests among others, but hot-dog eating is still dominated by the men.

The petite Thomas is known as a ringer in the sea-food eating competitions and trains by eating one big meal a day.

Lee, says being bigger has little to do with being a competitive food-eating champion.  It's more about the elasticity of your stomach.

"Your body size doesn't have anything to do with how much food you eat," the 45 year-old said.  "The larger people tend to have more fat on them and can't stretch as well."

Last year's competition at Nathan's was a let down after Kobayashi was arrested for trying to crash the event--contractual dispute--and satisfied his hunger with bologna sandwiches and Kool-Aid while chilling his taste buds in a central booking jail cell.

Chestnut won the belt by cramming an uninspired 54 tube steaks down his throat--14 short of his world record.

Now we'll have ladies vying for a separate belt.  Women's rights has come a foot-long way.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Russell Martin's .600 Slugging Percentage Is Pretty Good So Far, Eh?

The New York Yankees have to be pleasantly surprised with their collection of garage-sale pick-ups this off-season and rising to the top of the scrap-heap is catcher Russell Martin.  The Dodgers cast-off, who was coming off two disappointing and frustrating seasons in Los Angeles, has a .600 slugging percentage this season; which ranks seventh in the AL.

Martin, who has caught every game this season except one, is taking over nicely for the veteran Jorge Posada.  The Yankee backstop's new-found positive attitude is showing too.  He blamed his poor performances in 2009-10 on being unfocused.  According to his new Yankees teammates, that is all in the past.

The young righthander's chemistry with his new battery-mates is blossoming as well.  He even painted his fingernails orange to make it easier for the pitchers to pick up his signals.

Starter A.J. Burnett--the recipient of three wins with Martin--joked that his new catcher might have just wanted his nails orange, but got serious when asked how the catcher is calling for more change-ups over fastballs in a game.

"He believes in it, and I'm starting to, more and more," said the 3-0 starter.

 Yankees GM Brian Cashman took a chance on Martin.  The Canadian native came up with the Dodgers in 2006 and had three solid years in a row before slumping in 2009 and breaking a hip in 2010.  He is a two-time all-star and has a Gold Glove award  on his mantle.  Last season looks like a faded ghost of the real Martin.  He hit only five home-runs in 97 games last year.

Now the new Yankee is hitting .289 with four home runs and 11 RBI's in 13 games.  If anyone believes a catcher, built like a fullback, can't steal bases, especially after watching Posada chug around the base paths, should know Martin already has a couple of stolen bases too.  

Martin chose the Yankees over the Boston Red Sox because he said the Yankees wanted him more.  He signed a one-year deal for $4 Million.  Now the insecurity of his last two seasons has been put far behind.

 "I want to prove to myself I can do it," said Martin.  "I'm 28 years-old.  I don't really feel old.  I don't really feel beat up.  I've healed from my injuries.  I feel back in shape and I' enjoying playing baseball."

Martin's transition from Dodger blue to Yankee pinstripes had to be made easier by associating with Dodgers and former Yankee idols--hitting coach Don Mattingly and manager Joe Torre.  Martin was under the tutelage of the two Yankee legends for the past few seasons and it's a sure bet Yankee tradition was not unspoken in the  L.A. dugout.

Cashman's flea-market pick-up of Dodger's reject Martin, so far, looks like an "Antiques Roadhouse" type bonanza.  One man's trash...

Besides his offensive resurgence and contributions, Martin has ingratiated himself to the veteran World Series-winning Yankee players with his sense of humor and humility.

The six-year veteran Martin actually went up to Posada, whom he is replacing, and asked the veteran catcher--with 16 years under his belt-- for advice at the beginning of the season.  Not a bad company move by Martin--even for a pro with a couple of All-Star appearances himself.

"On this team, they think about winning, whatever it takes," he said.  "It's just a good environment to be in."

Martin may be considered to be one of the first-place Yankees' consolation prizes after the losses of Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford; but has already proven to be healthy and back to All-Star form.  He said his injuries were blown out of proportion and claims he's had only one surgery to "cleanup" a knee and his broken hip has healed on it's own.

"You guys can't always believe what you read in the paper," he joked.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Yankees Rivera Still 'Mo'ing Down Opposition

Is there anything in spring so sweet to the ears of New York Yankees fans than the bells of an ice cream truck or, even better,  Metallica's "Enter Sandman"baring over the Yankee Stadium P.A. system.  The two sounds are a prelude to a couple of sweet sights--ice cream and Mariano Rivera's trot out of the bullpen to the pitcher's mound.

Rivera continues to defy time as he marches towards his quest of becoming the all-time saves leader.  The "Sandman" is now at an an AL record 566 and closing in on Trevor Hoffman's MLB record of 601 saves.

For the 2011 season, Rivera has been almost untouchable.  He has had a hand in eight of the Yankees nine victories so far.  He picked up save No. 7 after throwing a scoreless ninth against the Texas Ranger, in a come-from-behind victory, last night.

It's amazing how the 41 year-old defies nature.  It seems like he is the only member of the original Core Four who isn't showing signs of aging.  The other members, Derek Jeter hit 30 points below his average last season, Jorge Posada is struggling as DH and Andy Pettite is already enjoying retirement.  Rivera keeps plugging away--and better than ever.

The righthander and his deadly cutter have gone nine innings in 2011, allowing 4 hits and zero runs.  He is 1-0, has seven saves in as many chances and giant goose eggs for an ERA.

Rivera's cutter still baffles hitters.  Last night, the powerful Ranger batters could only toss their bats at the darting balls.  As predictable as Rivera's repertoire of pitches is, it is pretty amazing that opponents still can't touch him.

Since 1996,  Rivera has always answered the call.  Mo's body still looks freakishly as young as any twenty-something.  In his 15th season in pinstripes last year, Rivera had 33 saves and was selected to the All-Star game. 

This season he has reached seven saves in the fastest time ever and Rivera is on pace to equal his age in saves plus some.

Rivera has recently stated that 2012 could possibly be his last year.  If that's the case, it's unfathomable to think that a 41 year-old  leaving the game could be considered an athlete retiring in his prime.  With Rivera, that would be the case.

Springtime brings a lot of perennials like the inevitable Baltimore Oriole's flop and European tourists in sandals and black socks, but there is nothing as dramatic as Mariano Rivera running across the Yankee Stadium outfield as the thumping chords from Metallica fill the air.

Ahhh...springtime in the Bronx.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Garcia Goes From Rain Out To Reign Over As Yankees beat Rangers, 5-2

Freddy Garcia was anxious to make his regular season debut as a New York Yankee---after two straight rain-outs---and he made the most of it today.  Garcia was magnificent in a six-inning effort as the Yankees defeated the Texas Rangers, 5-2.

It was the first time Garcia started a game in 18 days.  His last start was in spring training and he had a one-inning stint in relief against Boston last week.

Garcia had the misfortune of having two starts cancelled because of rain and today's weather forecast did little to dispel the belief that the game would be scratched again.

It was a cold and dreary day at Yankee Stadium but Garcia finally got his chance to shine.  The righthander was nearly flawless as he mowed down 18 of the 21 Texas batters he faced.  He allowed two hits and no runs with one strikeout in between the light rain showers.

Manager Joe Girardi had nothing but smiles after defeating the defending AL champs and lots of praise for his starting pitcher.

"He did a great job keeping men off balance," said Girardi.  "It was an outstanding job."

The Yankees have to be elated that Garcia was able throw six efficient innings after the long lay-off.

Girardi didn't think Garcia's tank was empty when he pulled him from the game.

"If he had a couple of starts before, I would have let him go further," the manager confessed after the game.  "His fastball was up to 89 [mph]."

Garcia's gem couldn't have come at a better time for the Yankees.  The bottom of the starting rotation has been a disappointment and, with Phil Hughes going to the DL with "dead arm" and and Bartolo Colon coming from the bullpen as his temporary replacement, many questions still remain.

Garcia got a little help from Mark Teixeira, who seems to have broken out of his slump, and hit a home-run and knocked in 3 runs.

Rafael Soriano continued his up-and-down relief efforts and gave the Yankees a scare after giving up a couple of runs on three hits.

A bigger concern might be Alex Rodriguez's back.  The third baseman left the game in the seventh inning after complaining of "stiffness" in his lower back oblique muscle.  Girardi said no tests were being planned and put Eric Chavez in as his replacement.  A-Rod is batting .385 with 4 home-runs and 9 RBI's in 12 games.

Mariano Rivera got his sixth save out of the team's eight wins.  This is the fastest the closer has ever gotten save #6 in a season and #614 for his career.

The Yankees may have gotten more than they asked for out of Garcia in his role as the fifth starter.  Garcia, himself, only asked to have Gustavo Molina as his battery-mate.

"I found a way to make it happen," said Garcia.  "[Molina] helped me make pitches when I needed it."

Garcia, who won 12 games last year with the White Sox, is now 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA.

Braylon Edwards: DUI Charge Was "B.S."

Braylon Edwards, the free-agent wide receiver of the New York Jets called his DUI arrest last year "B.S." and blamed all the attention it garnered on the New York City media.  In a Detroit radio station interview, Edwards claimed he wasn't even pulled over for driving under the influence, it was for tinted windows.

In the interview,  Edwards said he "wouldn't mind" returning to the Jets, and claimed he wasn't at fault for being arrested for suspicion of DUI last year with a blood alcohol level of 0.16---twice the legal limit.  It sounded like the NYPD and the New York media may keep him from coming back to the Jets.

 "Why I got pulled over wasn't even because of erratic driving or suspicion of intoxicated driving, it was for tinted windows, which is some B.S.," said Edwards.  "But you learn from it.  No matter if you drive there, you should have someone drive you back, be it a car service, cab a friend.  Don't put yourself in that situation."

Edwards was pulled over on the west side of Manhattan last Sept. 21  after a 31-23 win over the Miami Dolphins--a game where he scored an important touchdown.  He said the media blew the story out of proportion because it was in New York City.

"I wasn't the only guy to get a DUI last year," he said.  "A couple of athletes around the league have gotten DUI's, but the mere fact that that I was in New York, playing for the Jets, we had just got off "Hard Knocks," everyone was waiting for us to do something wrong anyway, it blew up."

Maybe the press blew it up because he put lives in danger and the Jets beat him with a feather as punishment.  The talented receiver was benched for the first quarter in their next game by the team.

It wasn't the first time Edwards did anything wrong.  He has several speeding violations and was once clocked doing 120 mph in a 65 mph zone.  Maybe he left the Browns because the Cleveland press made such a big deal out of him punching out LeBron James' buddy outside a nightclub a few years ago.

Whether or not Edwards returns to the Jets is any one's guess.  Besides disliking the New York media and NYPD,  Edwards hates the roads in the city.

"The bad thing about this situation is I never drive in New York," he claims.  "One, I don't know where the heck I'm going, and two, the roads are too bumpy and traffic is crazy.  I usually have a chauffeur, but it was  a random situation.  I went to a teammate's event and stepped out after that."

Edwards is waiting for the NFL labor dispute to end and isn't sure the Jets will be bring him and another free-agent receiver Santonio Holmes back as teammates.

At a charity basketball game, Edwards didn't totally dismiss returning to New York and predicted the the owners and union would reach an agreement soon.

"I wouldn't mind ending up back with the Jets," he said.  "I think we have a good chemistry and a good rapport and we're building on something."

Sorry to break the news to you Braylon but, if you come back to New York, the press, the cops and the potholes will still be here.

Friday, April 15, 2011

N.Y. Yankees Put Hughes on DL with Case of "Dead Arm"

Today, Phil Hughes desire to be a season-long starter took another detour after the New York Yankees put the 24 year-old pitcher on the disabled list with a case of what they are calling "dead arm."  The team is blaming the nasty sounding ailment for the cause of the right-hander's bloated 13.94 ERA.

Bartolo Colon, who was edged out of the fifth spot in the rotation in spring training by Freddy Garcia, will replace Hughes.

Hughes (0-1) has been roughed up in all three starts this season and his struggles came to a boil after giving up five runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings against the Baltimore Orioles last night.  The Yankees came back to win in the 10th-inning after Hughes staked the O's to a 5-0 lead.  Amazingly, Hughes' old ERA (16.50) dropped almost three runs after the beating.

After last night's blown outing, the Yankees took a hard look at Hughes' situation, decided to pull him from the rotation and put his arm on a slab.

"We just feel like he's going through a dead arm period," said manager Joe Girardi.  "We don't feel that he's hurt."

Hurt or not, there is no arguing something is wrong with Hughes' right arm.  The former flamethrower has seen his fastball turn into an 80 mph changeup.   Now, his bread-and-butter pitch, which was once clocked in the mid-90's,  has a hard time reaching the mid-80's.

After last night's game, Hughes stoically attempted to explain the unexplainable.

"I don't have a magic potion," the glum Hughes said.  "I feel like I'm bringing nothing to the team.  My fastball had a decent life after the first inning and then it just disappeared.  I tried to balance it with cutters, but made some mistakes.  Same old story, I guess."

While Hughes gets 15 days to revive his corpse of an arm, Colon will get to start.  Fans had been calling for the hefty righthander to replace Hughes for the past few days after he had a couple of good  outings while Hughes struggled.

Colon brings a respectable 3.97 ERA into the mix.  In three relief appearances, he has struck out 16 batters in 11.1 innings.

Girardi must be wringing his hands over where he went wrong with his No. 3 starter.  The manager had babied Hughes by limiting the number of innings he could through in a season (The Hughes Rules) and shuffling him between the starting rotation and the bullpen throughout his Yankee career.

The manager's hands-on approach seemed to work last year after Hughes went 18-8 with a 4.18 ERA and was selected to the All-Star team.  Although Hughes faded down the stretch and got rocked in two playoff appearances against the Texas Rangers, the team believed this was going to be their young pitcher's first full season as a starter.

While Hughes attempts to regain the zip in his arm, his roster spot will be filled by right-handed pitcher Lance Pendleton from the Yankees Scranton affiliate.  Pendleton is 1-1 with a 1.59 ERA for the Triple-A club.

Just yesterday Girardi said, "It's our job to get him [Hughes] right.  We got to have him pitch.  He can't just go on a sabbatical.  We need to get this kid right."

Sabbatical?  No.  Morgue?  Maybe.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Yankees Garcia Slated to Start Saturday; Forecast: More Rain

New York Yankees fifth-starter Freddy Garcia is still awaiting his first start of the regular season after being bumped from his two previous attempts due to weather.  It will be 18 days between his last start in spring training and his first regular season start on Saturday against the Texas Rangers.  The forecast: rain.

Garcia's new nickname should be Dopler.  So far this season, his slated starts are more likely to be called for rain than by any weatherman at National Weather Service--at least he's been more reliable.

Garcia's last scheduled start was pushed back again after Tuesday night's rainout at Yankee Stadium against the Minnesota Twins.  After a bumpy spring training, Garcia is anxious to get on the mound.  The gap between his last start and this Saturday's is the longest of his career.

"I've just got to pitch, that's it, " said Garcia. "I don't really know what to say."

Garcia earned the fifth spot in the starting line-up after an up-and-down spring training, but he is far from a lock to stay there, even if the bottom of the five-man rotation is looking a little stormy.

The 34 year-old Garcia's first start as a Yankee now carries a lot more significance than at the beginning of the season.  CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett are the only starters making any thunder so far this season.  Slow starts by Phil Hughes, whose fastball looks more like fog than lightning, and the No. 4 starter Ivan Nova, who is still getting his feet wet have raised some concerns with the team.

If you believe Garcia, the early season layoff shouldn't affect his rhythm.

"I don't think so, I'm too old for that," the righthander joked.  "I've got to go out there and pitch, that's all I can do, and win.  If I don't have the rhythm, I don't have it, but I don't see a problem.  I've got to go out and make my pitch, that's it."

Garcia did throw one inning of relief against the Boston Red Sox last week, giving up one hit and one run, but says he has been keeping in shape by throwing bullpen sessions while waiting to get an actual start.

"Working out, man, throwing bullpen, doing my stuff," He said.  That's all I can do.  That's all I can control.  [I've been throwing] a lot, 40 [pitches], 50 , whatever I need.  That's it, throw in the bullpen and [make] it like a game, two or three innings."

The Yankees signed Garcia to a minor league deal for $1.5 million.  The veteran hurler won the fifth spot over Bartolo Colon and doesn't think pitching only one real inning in over two weeks can stop him on the mound.

The Weather Channel says:  Avoid plans for the outdoors on Saturday; Freddy Garcia is slated to start.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A.J. Burnett Is Ready To Keep Perfect April Record Intact

You have to look pretty hard to find highlights of A.J. Burnett's career as a New York Yankee, but the amazing fact is that the much-maligned right-hander is 7-0 in pinstripes during the month of April.  The lanky starter is 2-0 this year and off to another to another quick start.

Tonight Burnett tries to extend his undefeated April record as a Yankee against the Baltimore Orioles to 8-0.

Burnett, who entered this season as the teeth-gnawing piece of the Yankees rotation, has now been replaced by Phil Hughes as the big question mark.  Maybe, by turning the manager's glare from Burnett to Hughes, will help Burnett regain the confidence he lost a season-and-a-half ago?

Hughes has replaced the 34 year-old Burnett as the team's biggest concern with his 0-1 record and sky-high 16.50 ERA as Hughes, the No. 3 starter, continues to search for his fastball.

Burnett, the shaving-cream-pie-throwing, mystery-on-the-mound has looked good so far.  He is coming off a economical 6-inning, 5-hit win against the Minnesota Twins--while battling a nasty cold-- and has 11 strikeouts to go with his 4.09 ERA for the season.

Yankee fans shouldn't get too excited.  Last year Burnett started the season with a 4-0 record and then spiraled out of control the rest of the season.  He finished with a inconsistent 10-15 record and a bloated 5.26 ERA.  He was about as predictable as a Charlie Sheen show--unless you call it bad.

So far, as a Yankee, Burnett has blossomed in April.  He has a 3.91 ERA in 12 starts to go with his unblemished record, but those April showers seem to bring May sours.

If you take away the seven April wins, Burnett's record as a Yankee is a dismal 18-24, but the tattooed hurler says things feel a little different this year.

Burnett says new pitching coach Larry Rothschild altered his delivery during spring training and, more importantly, he has found a battery soul-mate with new catcher Russell Martin.

It was no secret that Burnett and catcher Jorge Posada clashed over the last two seasons and now that Posada has been assigned to a DH position, their days together are limited to high-fives in the dugout.

During his win against the Twins, Burnett showed he can once again wiggle out of trouble and after wards, he sounded like he prefers throwing to Russell.

"I shook [Martin] off today and he put the same sign back down," said Burnett.  "He's got me believing."

The Yankees have to encouraged by Burnett's first two outings--lord knows they have very little else to be happy about--but tonight he will be facing a division-leading Orioles team.

"I've said it before, it's absolutely about  consistency and doing my work in between (starts) with Larry and keeping it rolling," said Burnett.  "Not thinking about it, just go out and pitch."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

N.Y. Yankees Digging the Long Ball and Not Much Else

The New York Yankees are tied for the league lead in home runs with 18 but still look anemic at the plate.  A .236 team average is something the team is not used to--even if it is only nine games into the season--and seems worse when you realize four regular starters are well below the Mendoza Line with two others barely above it.

The Yankees No. 4 and No. 5 hitters,  Robinson Cano (.324) and Alex Rodriguez (.321), are batting at least 115 points over the leadoff and No. 2 spots--Brett Gardner (.167) and Derek Jeter (.206).

Out of the Yankees 70 total hits this season, 18 have gone over the fence.  They are on pace for a record 324 jacks and only 1260 hits.

Hot starts by Jorge Posada, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira are faded memories.  The sliding threesome went 0-for-9 with 8 strikeouts against Josh Beckett and the Boston Red Sox on Sunday.  They have combined for nine home-runs but, with an average of .182, Teixeira is the stud of that bunch.  Take away the homers and those three are a combined 6-of-81.

Yankee hitting coach Kevin Long hasn't heard the Steinbrenner alarm yet--thanks to the awful start by the Red Sox and he puts on a happy face when asked about the slumping players.

"I've felt good about our offense thus far and I still do," Long said after the Sox ace struck out ten Yankees on Sunday.  "This isn't any time to hit the panic button just because Josh Beckett came out and threw the ball really well."

True.  But how does he justify the lack of hits against pitchers who didn't throw the ball as well as Beckett so far this year?

It seems unlikely that Jeter or Gardner won't pick it up at the top of the order or that Mark Teixeira won't be rattled from his annual April swoon.  And there's no way that the DH Posada or outfielder Granderson will still be batting .138 and .172, respectively, at the end of the season, but there has to be concern--even with a 5-4 record.

If anything the Yankee hits have been timely.  They were sixth in runs scored (50).

Manager Joe Girardi knows nine games do not make a season.  "You can't make too much of a few at-bats," he said.  "You can't just do it because early in the season you're going to see guys have ups and downs.  You're going to see it, and then as they start getting more at-bats under their belts, they start to get more consistent."

The Yankees may be hiding their lack of hits behind their home-run onslaught.  Everyone knows chicks really dig the long-ball, but I don't think hitting coaches do.

the other paper: Former-Boxer Butterbean Turns Lawman In New TV Rea...

the other paper: Former-Boxer Butterbean Turns Lawman In New TV Rea...: "Former boxer, kickboxer and MMA fighter Eric 'Butterbean' Esch will be followed by cameras as a reserve deputy sheriff in his hometown of Ja..."

Former-Boxer Butterbean Turns Lawman In New TV Reality Show

Former boxer, kickboxer and MMA fighter Eric "Butterbean" Esch will be followed by cameras as a reserve deputy sheriff in his hometown of Jasper, Ala. on a new series premiering this August on the Investigation Discovery channel.

If you've been wondering what the popular, chicken and butterbean chomping, bald-headed Esch has been up to, you'll now be able to ride along the newly appointed lawman as the 400-plus former World Toughman Champion and his best friend and police partner, Adam Hadder, are followed by a camera crew as they patrol the streets of Jasper.

The two Walker County cops, Esch and Hadder, will be shown helping the sheriff's department making drug busts, working crowd control and performing other sheriff's duties, according to the New York Post.

"I don't get paid a dime to do the deputy sheriff stuff," said the 44 year-old Butterbean.  "But I love it because I want to make Jasper a better place to live for my grand kids and children."

Esch knows his size is scary, but claims he hasn't had to rough any one up yet.  "My size kind of intimidates people," he said.  "Normally, people realize that it's not a winning situation for them with me."

It looks like Esch has joined the ranks of another bigger-than-big tough-guy personality, actor Steven Seagal, in fighting crime; but Esch, the former-boxer with a pro record of 77-8-4, insists his gig is tougher.  Esch says A&E's "Steven Seagal: Lawman" is a lighter version of his reality show.

"It's like trying to compare the WWF to ballet," he said.  "There's no comparison, and my show is the WWF."

Butterbean is no stranger to the cameras.  His fight fame was built on his huge TV persona and American flag shorts.  He was one of the most televised fighters during his heyday and once knocked out Johnny Knoxville in a department store for the movie "Jackass: The Movie."

Monday, April 11, 2011

Yankees Teixeira Deals With April's 'Funky Stats' Again

If New York Yankees Mark Teixeira is 0-for-18, it must be April.  Never mind showers that bring flowers, it's usually his April slumps that bring a little power every spring.

Teixeira, notorious for his slow spring starts, may have been fooled by the season's early start date and stormed out of the gate.  He batted .333 with 4 home-runs in his first five games leading fans to believe the first-baseman had conquered the spate of early-season struggles which have dogged Teixeira throughout his career.

The surprisingly great start had a reality check and now a dreadful 0-for-18 slump leaves Teixeira batting .182 in the third spot.  The slide was highlighted by a hitless weekend against the Boston Red Sox.  The Yankees dropped 2-of-3 against their division rivals culminating with Josh Beckett's 2-hit gem on Sunday night.

Teixeira, who turns 31 today, had a blistering start to the season.  He hit four home-runs with 10 RBI's during that span.  He now has six hits and 10 strikeouts in 33 at-bats.

The top of the Yankee order is, so far, pretty bland and can't be helping Teixeira much.  Leadoff batter Brett Gardner is hitting .167 followed by Derek Jeter and his piddling .206 average.  The healthy stats of the No. 4 and 5 batters, Alex Rodriguez (who sat out last night's game) and Robinson Cano, make Tex less of a concern to opposing pitchers than the hitters who follow him.  Teixeira has become the cheese on a white-bread and multi-grain sandwich.

"They pitched me really tough this weekend," Teixeira said last night.  "Any ball I hit hard got caught.  They pitched me tough.  [Today's] day off will be nice to just regroup and get back to work on Tuesday."

Teixeira doesn't have to feel relatively bad about last night's three-strikeout performance.  Beckett made the rest of the Yankees team look just as small.  The rejuvenated Boston right-hander mowed down 10 pinstripers on strikeouts and looked like the Beckett of old.

For the weekend, Tex was 0-for-12 with six strikeouts.  When last seen he was arguing a strikeout call against Jonathan Papelbon.

"He [Beckett] was really good tonight," said Teixeira.  "Some nights you beat yourself up and some nights you tip your cap and this was one of those nights."

It looks like the Yankees will have to just wait until May for Teixeira to get his groove back.  While the four-time Gold Glove winner earns his keep in the field, Teixeira says he doesn't put too much emphasis on early-season swoons and batting stats.

"If I did, I would have retired years ago," he said.  "The first nine games you're going to have some funky stats.  You're going to have guys that you say that this guy is going to be the next MVP and he's sent down a month later.  You're going to have guys that are hitting .050 and then he wins the MVP.  It's a such a small part of the season."

Yankees manager, Joe Girardi, seems to take Teixeira's .232 career April average in stride.

"He's just missing balls a little bit, that's all," the manager said.  " And you're seeing good pitching out there."

Teixeira may be sugar-coating his frustration.  While the Red Sox were celebrating their win, after Teixeira's final swing, he followed the umpire to dispute the call.

"You guys saw it," Teixeira said.  " I'm not allowed to say anything.  I didn't yell at him.  It is what it is.  He said he might have missed it.  I wasn't going to hit a grand slam with no one on.  I might have gone nuts, but we didn't get the job done."

"It's raining, it's cold. You can't get a rhythm sometimes," said Teixeira.  I'd love to be able to hit .300 from day one...that's the way baseball is."


Friday, April 8, 2011

Jets QB Mark Sanchez Gets Cozy With Hayden Panettiere

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez likes his blondes like Rex Ryan likes his feet.  According to the New York Post, Sanchez has been spotted squiring actress and animal-activist Hayden Panetierre around Los Angeles and Las Vegas hot spots.  Sanchez might want to bone up on his fighting skills; Panetierre is currently in a long-distance relationship with heavyweight boxer Wladimir Klitschko.

Never mind "Save the cheerleader, save the world," someone better save the quarterback because the title of Sanchez's next HBO reality show might be called "Hard Knockouts." 

Sanchez and the petite Panetierre were seen on Wednesday night in L.A., where they shared drinks at Beacher's Madhouse.  Customers said the couple were whispering and getting close to each other.

A source told the Post that "They were clearly trying to hide their affection.  They used their friends as a buffer, but it didn't work so well."

The usually low-key Sanchez must like courting trouble.  He was recently linked to a similar-looking 17 year-old high-schooler who alleged that she had a romance with the Jets QB.  The teen, Eliza Kruger even took photos of Sanchez's tossed bed.

This time, Sanchez may have to worry less about having 'dolphin-free tuna' on his plate, while  dining with Panetierre, than getting waled on himself.

Klitschko is the reigning IBF heavyweight champion of the world.  This is no Mark Gastineau or even Tommy Zbikowski in the ring either.  The Ukrainian giant stands 6'6" and tips the scales at a pre-lap-band Ryan-like 240 pounds of muscle.   Klitschko has held the title since 2006 and has a career record of 55-3 with 49 knockouts.

Panetierre seems to fit Sanchez's type--young, blonde and petite.  Besides being spotted in L.A., the couple was seen together with friends in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago.

The actress has been linked to Klitschko since last year and sources say she's "just friends" with Sanchez--who is reportedly a buddy of the heavyweight fighter.

Representatives for Panetierre had no comment and Sanchez's reps couldn't be reached by the source.

Klitschko knocked out Samuel Peter in September and is currently preparing to defend his heavyweight title against David Hyde in July.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Yankees Soriano Didn't Answer Relief Call Or One From His Mom

Much has been made of the Yankees Rafael Soriano's eighth-inning meltdown and subsequent vanishing act from the Yankees clubhouse on Tuesday night; but it looks like reporters weren't the only ones blown off by the surly pitcher.  Soriano wouldn' even take a phone call from his own mother after the 10-inning loss.

Soriano refused to accept a postgame call from his mom; who had been watching the game from her home in the Dominican Republic.

After giving up a four run lead over the Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium, Soriano avoided the media and ignored his mother's phone call because he was too upset to talk.

"I didn't answer my phone because I didn't feel comfortable to talk to her," Soriano explained on Wed. afternoon.  "I said, 'Let me go home, relax and get ready for today.'"

The unsociable pitcher made a major Yankee faux-paux by not speaking with the self-entitled New York press--especially when it was his first week in pinstripes--but to diss your own mom.

Soriano finally addressed the media at the urging of the Yankee organization after some players steamed--none publicly--that they were left holding the dye-pack after Soriano's criminal pitching performance and escape routine.

"I'm apologizing that I didn't talk to you guys last night," Soriano said before last night's rained out game.  "The reason I didn't was because that game CC [Sabathia] was supposed to win.  That's why I got mad  and I didn't feel comfortable talking to you guys.  I know last night I was supposed to talk to you guys and I left."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi explained to Soriano that facing the press in New York after a bad outing is expected.  He wasn't in Atlanta or Tampa Bay anymore.

"There is no rule a player has to talk to the media," said Girardi.  "There are times players need to blow off steam."

Girardi knows what it like to answer questions after a tough loss.  "We've all been there" he said.  "There are days when I'd not like to come in here, as well, but I'm not allowed to do that."

Blowing off steam is one thing , but the woman who birthed you?

The conversation with his mom would have probably gone like this:

"My little Raffy, did those boys bother you?"

"I don't wanna be here."

"Don't let those Twins boys bother you."

"They're mean."

"Now you just go and make friends with those nice reporter kids"

"I don't wanna."

" Raffy, do it for your mother...and watch your language."


Yankees GM Brian Cashman had almost the same motherly advice.

"He's new to this market, so like everything else, you live and learn," he said of the Yankees $35 million set-up man.  "We have to bang out some kinks and that was one."

Soriano learned a tough New York lesson. Face the music--even if it means standing your ground in front of your locker after a good or bad performance.  Nick Swisher, Boone Logan and Dave Robertson took their lumps after they contributed to Tuesday night's debacle.

Girardi said none of the players addressed Soriano's situation personally and Soriano now understands he has to be accountable; so it looks like water under the bridge.

The greater concern to the Yankees is Soriano's horrible performance--2/3 inning, 3 walks and allowing one hit and four runs--that ruined a seven-inning gem by Sabathia.

The next time Soriano hears a certain phone ringing, it will be in the bullpen from the Yankees dugout.  Here's hoping the "eighth-inning guy" answers that call.

Dodgers Hire Ex-NYC Police Commish To Assess Stadium Security

The Los Angeles Dodgers have hired former NYC Police Commissioner and LAPD Cheif William Bratton to evaluate security policies and procedures at Dodger Stadium after a 41 year-old man was severely beaten in the stadium parking on Opening Day.

Hundreds of people formed a prayer vigil outside County-USC Hospital in Los Angeles in support of the "critically-injured" San Francisco Giants fan while the announcement to hire Bratton was made.

Security at Dodger Stadium was questioned after Bryon Stow was set upon by two men on March 31.  Stow, a paramedic from Santa Clara, is in a medically-induced coma, according to a spokesman from the LAPD.  Stow suffered a fractured skull and trauma to his brain said his neurologist, Dr. Gabriel Zada.

The beating has outraged the community-at-large and has fans complaining that attending a Dodger home game has become very dangerous.  L.A. officials have been calling for better security around the park for years.

Bratton, who has headed police forces in Boston, New York City and L.A. was hired to help the beleaguered franchise quiet the outcries and prevent the public relations nightmare from happening again.

Team owner Frank McCourt--who is already embroiled in a messy divorce involving the team with his wife Jamie--said that acquiring the expertise of Bratton is a step in the right direction.  "Bill Bratton is widely credited with spearheading modern community policing in America," said McCourt.  "There is no one better to lead a top-to-bottom review of our current practices and make recommendations to be implemented now and into the future."

Bratton was appointed as NYC Police Commissioner by  Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in 1994.  For two years, Bratton was credited with being a major force in modernizing the force and turning the crime-ridden streets into safe havens.

The reward for the arrest of Stow's two Dodger-clad assailants has increased to over $100,000.

According to the LAPD, Giants fan Stow and his friends were leaving Dodger Stadium when two men taunted then hit Stow from behind.  He was kicked while on the ground.  The suspects are described as male Hispanics between the ages of 18 and 25.

According to L.A. County supervisor Michael Antonovich, the fright factor outside the ballpark is real.  "For anyone to suggest security at Dodger  Stadium is adequate is simply putting their head in the sand," he said.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Soriano's Silence Says A Lot About Yankees "Eighth-Inning Guy"

CC Sabathia must know how Yankees GM Brian Cashman felt when he put on a big fat happy-face while the team signed Rafael Soriano's huge contract last winter.  No other team was even willing to sign Soriano as a high-priced closer, but the Yankees did pay him--against Cashman's wishes--big bucks to become a over-priced set-up man for Mariano Rivera.  Some called it more of a bribe than a contract.

Last night, the surly Soriano bolted from the Yankees clubhouse a lot quicker than his fastball without speaking with reporters after blowing a four run lead against the Minnesota Twins.

Today, the day after Soriano ruined Sabathia's 2-hit gem against the Twins, the on-the-run righthander still hasn't said anything and is considered M.I.A in the media room.

Unlike Soriano,  Sabathia put on his best face and a positive spin on Soriano's eighth-inning meltdown and runaway after the game.

"The bullpen is the strength of our team and nine times out of ten they're going to come in and shut the door," said Sabathia, who allowed two hits and one walk and had a 4-0 lead through seven innings.  "That's baseball and it's just part of the game.  We have to move on and look forward to tomorrow."

Patient words from a pitcher with two outstanding starts, no wins to show for it and a reason to be angry.

The Yankees led by four runs when Joe Girardi brought in Soriano, his "eighth-inning guy."  In two-thirds of an inning, Soriano gave up four runs, three walks and a hit as the Twins tied the game.  Dave Robertson gave up the winning run in the tenth.

This isn't the first time a Yankee reliever has blown a game and it definitely isn't the first time Soriano shown his anti-social side.  But his behavior is leaving fans colder than the thousands of nightly empty seats at a freezing Yankee Stadium so far this season.

Soriano has left a trail of bad relations in previous stops in Atlanta and Tampa Bay.  His reputation as a grump and a recluse preceded him in New York, but the Yankees were willing--or desperate enough--to take a chance on Soraino accepting the role as the eighth-inning set-up man to go with the big contract.  It only took one blown chance for him to show his true colors.

The Yankees painted a nice picture of Rivera courting Soriano during the recruitment.  The story was that the level-headed Rivera would welcome the hard-headed Soriano as his set-up guy and the bullpen would sing "Kumbaya" through the playoffs.  Soriano would be tamed by Mariano.  One big happy family.

It was all fiction and it only took five days into the season for the love-in to get icky.

Former teammates felt Soriano can sometimes look at a pitching situation as being beneath himself.  Members of the Rays claimed he did not invest his full attention in the ninth-inning of last year's Division Series elimination game against the Texas Rangers when Soriano was asked to pitch, down 3-1.  They felt his attention and fastball were off because it wasn't a save situation.

Maybe Soriano thought last night's 4-0 lead wasn't worth his valued consideration.

In Soriano's absence, Yankee players took to the vanished pitcher's defense--somewhat.

"I think he was there mentally," said Russell Martin who caught the game, "He was throwing the ball with conviction, I think."

Even Nick Swisher took the flack for his overplayed ball which tied the game.  "It was an aggressive mistake and I paid for it," said the outfielder, " CC pitched a helluva a game; it definitely hurt."

It's probably too late for the Yankees to think Soriano will behave like Rivera when it comes to the occasional blown game by holding your chin high.  The Yankee veteran has never disappeared or blamed anyone but himself.  Rivera faces the media, takes his lumps and says, 'I'll get 'em next time.'

Soriano has been anointed the "eighth-inning guy" by Girardi.  There will be other eighth innings for last year's AL 45-save leader.  He isn't going anywhere.   Not if three-year, $35 million dollar contract means anything.

Let's see how long the manager puts up with Soriano's vanishing act.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

the other paper: Yankees Joe Girardi: The Joba Ruling Is Official

the other paper: Yankees Joe Girardi: The Joba Ruling Is Official: "The New York Yankees knew their starting rotation was shaky at best when the season started and placed a lot of faith on their back end reli..."

Yankees Joe Girardi: The Joba Ruling Is Official

The New York Yankees knew their starting rotation was shaky at best when the season started and placed a lot of faith on their back end relievers, Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera, to pick up the slack.  The real question was who would be the bridge between the starters and Soriano.  Last night manager Joe Girardi made it clear Joba Chamberlain is officially the team's seventh-inning specialist.

The much-maligned and oft-shuffled Chamberlain, who arrived to spring training camp 25 pounds overweight and seemed like a long shot to even still be on the team, has pitched well enough in two chances in the seventh inning in the Yankees first four games to be awarded the spot.

Girardi, who likes to assign his relievers set roles, is loaded with one of the deepest bullpens in the league.  Chamberlain's name has been dangled about as trade bait for a long time, but he has made the most of his three appearances early in the season.

For now it looks like Chamberlain, who has been a starter, eighth-inning closer and set-up man since coming up in 2007, has the security of a new official job title.

"Right now, that's what we're doing," said Girardi.  "We love the way he threw the ball in spring training."

Even if Chamberlain didn't hear about it from Girardi, he seemed thrilled that the bouncing around is over.

"It's an honor and a privilege to have that role and, to know that with the arms we've got down there, they have enough confidence in me to get guys out."

Chamberlain has retired all six batters he's faced in  the seventh inning this season and threw nine pitches in last night's 1-2-3 seventh to help the Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins.

Confidence had become a problem for righthander over the past few seasons and Girardi's pat-on-the-back can only help Chamberlain overcome that obstacle.  No more insecurity or guessing what his role on the team would be.

"I never really got into a routine," said Chamberlain.  "This is the first time in spring training in 4 1/2 years where I've had the opportunity in spring training to do exactly what I was going to do in the season."

Girardi said, "[Pedro] Feliciano is not healthy for us.  There might be situations where you bring in both of them in for an inning.  Feliciano to face a couple of lefties and Joba to face a rightie.  But Joba has the ability to get lefties out, as well as righties."

The Joba Rules.  Once, it was about about limiting Chamberlain's pitches.  Finally, it's about getting an official role on the team.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Carmelo Anthony Set To Appear On "Saturday Night Live"

Carmelo Anthony will hone his comedic chops on "Saturday Night Live" tomorrow.  According to the New York Post,  'Melo will make a guest appearance on the live show to be hosted by Elton John. 

"SNL" executive-producer Lorne Michaels was spotted courtside at Monday night's Knick game against the Orlando Magic, but according to reports, the two didn't mention 'Melo's upcoming appearance.

A spokesperson for "SNL" said, " We never confirm guest stars."

Elton John will be the host and musical guest for this Saturday's show, but it's any body's guess if 'Melo will show up with his own supporting cast for the segment.

Melo's teammate Amar'e Stoudemire could make an appearance at the studio.  It seems like he hasn't really been seen at Madison Square Garden in a while.

LaLa Vasquez, 'Melo's wife and reality show fixture, is a pretty good bet to be there.  The "entertainer" is always looking for the spotlight.

Anthony is no stranger to the camera.  He was in Common's video "Be" and shot the movie "Amazing" this past year with Orlando Magic star Dwight Howard.

"Amazing" was shot in Bejing, Shanghai and New York and is directed by an award-winning Chinese director.  The NBA players star alongside many of China's leading actors in a basketball-themed film about young people  achieving their dreams through hard work.

NBA players who tread from the court to the stage are a rare breed.  Some score--Ray Allen in "He Got Game"-- while others foul out--Shaquille O'Neal in "Kazaam."  Rick Fox is unforgettable in anything.

Melo's star power at the Garden had dimmed in recent weeks during the Knicks losing streak.  Maybe a Derek Jeter style appearance in drag is just the wake-up call he needs.  Although Jeter did have a championship ring to accessorize his skirt and high heels.

Here's hoping 'Melo finds his inner funny-bone and skips the all-night wrap-party.  He's got  a game against the Cavs on Sunday.  Now they're funny.