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Bronx Bombers Is a Wax Museum Dedicated to Diamond Greats

If the effigies of famous Yankees sluggers at Madame Tussaud’s aren’t lifelike enough for you, cross 42nd Street to watch Eric Simonson’s Bronx Bombers, a veritable walking-talking wax museum of baseball greats—with about as much psychological complexity. All the biggies are here: Yogi, the Babe, Joltin’ Joe, Elston Howard, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter (maybe A-Rod’s invitation got lost in the mail). What’s missing is a compelling reason to gather them (and us) together, beyond misty-eyed reminiscing about ballpark glory days.

The first act of this Primary Stages production begins promisingly, throwing us into the middle of the notorious 1970s Reggie Jackson-Billy Martin feud. The lovable Yogi—whose double negatives always make a humorous positive—convenes a hush-hush hotel room summit. But it’s a furious stalemate: Neither the showboating star or the fire-breathing manager will give.

After this setup, it’s a real letdown when the second act turns out to be dominated by a bizarre fantasy-baseball banquet where the Yankee legends from different decades wax elegiac, eliciting grunts of recognition from savvy spectators. The play’s pent-up conflicts—team versus individual celebrity, tradition versus innovation, entertainment versus sport—evaporate. We’re left with a feel-good myth that’s supposed to eclipse all the greed, ego, and dirty deals. Tell that to A-Rod.

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Read Major League Baseball’s Response to Alex Rodriguez’s Lawsuit

On Friday, Alex Rodriguez filed a complaint against Major League Baseball, the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, and Bud Selig himself, claiming, among other things, that they “engaged in tortious and egregious conduct with one, and only one, goal: to improperly marshal evidence that they hope to use to destroy the reputation and career of Alex Rodriguez, one of the most accomplished Major League Baseball players of all time.”

On Monday, MLB et al. struck back with their own filing.

Theirs is a motion to have the lawsuit moved from New York Supreme Court to a federal court, with what appears to be the ultimate goal of having the complaint dismissed entirely.

See also: How Porter Fischer Exposed a Steroid Clinic and Major Leaguers Like Alex Rodriguez

In his own filing A-Rod’s lawyers complain repeatedly that MLB is “trampling Mr. Rodriguez’s collectively bargained rights.”

If that’s what they want to fight about, the MLB says, fine–then this fight should be in federal court. The MLB argues it is a national organization whose collectively bargained contract falls under the Labor Management Relations Act. As such, the league says, Rodriguez’s claims are “governed solely by federal law.”

If they succeed in getting the case moved to federal court, MLB’s next move will likely be to get the case dismissed on the grounds that it should be sorted out through a private arbitration process. Both the basic agreement and joint drug agreement, MLB says, “provide for the resolution of disputes through private final and binding arbitration.”

Read the whole thing for yourself …

MLB Notice of Filing of Notice of Removal

And here’s A-Rod’s original complaint:

A Rod Complaint

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How Porter Fischer Exposed a Steroid Clinic and Major Leaguers Like Alex Rodriguez

The first thing Porter Fischer spotted was the trunk of his silver Corolla. It was wide open. Then he noted a bashed-in passenger window and the shattered glass littering the parking lot outside the Boca Tanning Club in Boca Raton, Florida. Patrons in a nearby Starbucks peered out curiously as he sprinted to the car.

“No!” he screamed. The boxes were gone.

Fischer dashed back into the salon and yelled to the receptionist: “Call the police! Now!” Then he ran to the back, where the salon’s manager was tanning in a booth. It was the same place Fischer had spent the last 10 minutes getting a sprayed-on sheen. He banged on the door. “They broke in!” he yelled. “They got everything!”

In the weeks that followed, Fischer would torture himself about leaving priceless cargo unattended. But he didn’t think anyone would have followed him 300 miles from Miami to a storage unit in Ocala and then to Boca Raton. He certainly never imagined a thief would be bold enough to snatch the boxes from his car in such a busy lot.

He was wrong.

The March 24 daylight burglary was just one of many gut punches Fischer has taken since removing boxes of documents from Biogenesis, the Coral Gables, Florida, anti-aging clinic where he’d worked. He later shared the medical records, patient spreadsheets, and handwritten composition books with Miami New Times for an explosive story that sparked the biggest drug-related scandal in professional sports since Lance Armstrong lost his seven Tour de France medals in 2012. Earlier this month, ESPN reported that Major League Baseball is considering suspending as many as 20 players for up to 100 games.

Fischer’s motives were simple. He believed he’d been cheated by the clinic’s owner, Tony Bosch, who the records indicated had sold performance-enhancing drugs to players including New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez and the Toronto Blue Jays’ All-Star MVP Melky Cabrera.

Fischer could never have predicted the chaos that followed the story’s publication: a high-speed car chase, midnight knocks on his door, death threats, and unmarked envelopes stuffed full of cash—not to mention the Boca Raton smash-and-grab.

Even worse, Fischer says, has been the jaw-dropping incompetence of the authorities he trusted. Major League Baseball spent months alternately trying to cajole and offer money to Fischer before losing interest just after the break-in. And the Florida Department of Health, despite his full cooperation and reams of evidence, abruptly closed the case by giving Bosch just a citation and fine.

“Mr. Fischer approached us, and it was clear from the beginning he was seeking compensation for documents or verification,” says Pat Courtney, a spokesman for MLB. “We had discussion with him on a number of occasions, but never reached any agreement.” Attorneys for Tony Bosch and Alex Rodriguez did not respond to a phone message as well as an e-mail from New Times seeking comment.

The goateed, muscular 48-year-old provided the records to New Times on the basis of anonymity this past January, but decided to reveal his identity now in the hope that the real miscreants will be punished. He is the most important whistleblower in baseball history, a man who helped show that the steroid era is far from over and may well have ended A-Rod’s career before a $275 million contract is even finished. Now he has no job and plenty of reasons to fear for his life.

“The people running Major League Baseball are the biggest scumbags on Earth as far as I’m concerned,” Fischer says. “At this point, every bad guy out there knows exactly who I am. Why shouldn’t everyone else know the story, too?”

One of the most significant scandals in modern baseball history began with an argument over $4,000. That unpaid debt, combined with Porter Fischer’s short fuse, ignited a firestorm that likely won’t be finished for years.

It began one day in 2010, when he stopped by a Boca Tanning Club location in South Miami. Fischer had made friends with the staff.

“I wanted to be the manager there,” he recalls.

That’s when a new section opened in the salon: Boca Body. “He told me they were doing HCG,” Fischer says. “I asked, ‘What’s that?’ and he said, ‘Oh, it helps you lose weight.'” (HCG, in fact, is a hormone that the FDA has banned from over-the-counter sales.)

An employee took Fischer’s body fat measurements and told him to come back in a few days. When he returned, the staff ushered him in to see a man they called “the doctor.” “That’s when I first met Tony Bosch,” Fischer says.

Fischer didn’t know it, but Bosch wasn’t a licensed doctor. He had earned a degree at the Belize-based Central America Health Sciences University, which isn’t recognized in the United States. And he had led a troubled business career marred by a bitter dispute with his former partner in a medical supply business.

[

Along with his father, Dr. Pedro Bosch, Tony Bosch had reportedly been investigated in 2009 during a probe of then Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez, who was eventually suspended for failing a drug test. Neither father nor son was ever charged, and both proclaimed their innocence.

When Fischer met Tony Bosch, he “was wearing a lab coat,” Fischer recalls. “He says, ‘OK, I think we can make this work. Where do you want to be?'”

Fischer thought for a minute and answered truthfully. “Well, in a perfect world, I’d like a Stallone body.”

Bosch grinned, Fischer remembers, and said, “We can get you there.”

Soon the HCG started working. Fischer’s weight began sliding off. During the next visit, Bosch gave him another shot and suggested weightlifting. “I worked out like a fucking animal,” Fischer recalls. He claims he never bothered to ask about the injections’ ingredients.

In 2010, Bosch opened a new clinic called Biokem, tucked into a building near the University of Miami campus. He agreed to keep Fischer on the drug regimen for about $300 per month.

Then, on March 2, 2011, Fischer was out biking when a Jaguar slammed into him. After knee surgery, Fischer says, he received $35,000 in insurance money.

Fischer had begun hanging around the clinic—which changed its name to Biogenesis in 2012—after receiving his latest prescriptions, which by then included testosterone creams and anabolic steroids.

“I was starting to get seriously jacked up,” Fischer says. Soon he proposed the idea of marketing Biogenesis. After all, the place didn’t even have a sign out front. “I said, ‘Look, I’ll even pay for some of the advertising myself. I’ve come into some money,'” Fischer remembers.

Bosch later called with a proposal: Invest $4,000 and be repaid plus 20 percent interest via weekly installments. He’d also make Fischer a partner and marketing director.

Fischer agreed. Last October, he began working at Biogenesis every day, organizing records and assembling a marketing plan. “I was doing everything for free,” he says.

Then, after almost two years on the drug regimen, Fischer finally began seriously researching what he’d been taking. He wasn’t too worried. After all, Bosch was a doctor, right?

One day a co-worker approached Fischer. He claimed Bosch’s main drug source wasn’t a licensed doctor but rather “just a goddamn glorified steroid dealer.”

“That’s the first moment I thought, Oh, shit. I’m in the drug trade,” Fischer says.

It’s also the moment he began planning his exit strategy. The problem was, Bosch quickly abandoned his weekly payment plan. Pressed about the matter, Bosch claimed the clinic’s income had fallen recently by $30,000 per month “because of Cabrera.” (Bosch did eventually make two $600 payments to Fischer.)

Fischer went home and researched the name. Then-Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera had been suspended 50 games beginning in August for failing a drug test. It was then that Fischer learned of Bosch’s alleged links to slugger Manny Ramirez’s case.

“That’s when I started documenting shit,” Fischer says. “I [said], ‘Look, if this motherfucker doesn’t pay me, there’s going to be collateral damage.”

Fischer began discreetly taking Biogenesis records home. Bosch wasn’t around much, perhaps because he was distracted by money woes—including thousands of dollars in unpaid child support he owed two ex-wives.

One day, Fischer grabbed four composition notebooks from Bosch’s desk. The Biogenesis owner’s name was written on the front, and they were packed with hand-scrawled notes about clients, drug formulas, and payments.

Finally, he confronted Bosch, who had returned from a trip to Detroit. (According to Fischer, the trip took place during last year’s Yankees-Tigers playoff series, when A-Rod was benched for his ineffectual hitting. Bosch had been called to the slugger’s side, Fischer claims, to help him right his swing.)

“I said, ‘Hey, how was the trip? Where’s my money?'” Fischer recalls. “Bosch looked me straight in the face and said, ‘I don’t have it. You’re not going to get it. I’m Tony Bosch. What the hell are you going to do about it?'”

The way Fischer tells it, the frantic phone call came January 26, the Saturday before New Times‘s story about Biogenesis was scheduled to land. Fischer had told only a few people he’d been speaking to a reporter, including a friend. Rumors were running wild. After New Times had called every player named in the records for comment that Friday, someone leaked details of the coming bombshell to the New York Daily News and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

[

The friend sounded panicked.

Here’s how Fischer remembers the call: “Porter!” he hollered. “I need to come over to your place now!”

Fischer was rattled. He checked his .32 Beretta and armed the alarm on his front door. Then he gave his friend his home address. That would be the first of several mistakes he made in the manic months that followed. Fischer would soon find himself burned by his friends, by Major League Baseball, and finally by state investigators.

The first betrayal came from that friend, who showed up around midnight, panting nervously with a simple message: “[One of Bosch’s associates] will kill both of us,” he claimed, unless the story was softened.

Fischer began to panic. “What can I do?” he asked. “I just want this to blow over now.”

“Let me see the notebooks,” the friend allegedly said.

Fischer thought for a minute. Then he went to the closet, grabbed the four handwritten notebooks in which Tony Bosch had kept daily records, and handed them over. His friend quickly announced he could get them back to Bosch, Fischer says, no questions asked.

As far as Fischer was concerned, that was fine—he had copies of everything. “The whole situation was crazy, and I was panicking,” Fischer says. “I figured, I already did the damage. What did I need the originals for anymore?”

On Sunday, Fischer visited his friend at his business. The friend handed over an envelope with $4,000 in hundreds, Fischer says. “See, I got you your money back from Tony,” he said, smiling.

“So you gave him the notebooks back, huh?” Fischer said.

“Oh, no, I told him they were destroyed,” the friend said.

Fischer’s stomach dropped. “So what did you actually do with them?”

“I gave ’em to A-Rod’s people,” his friend said, chuckling.

(On April 12, the New York Times reported that MLB officials believed Rodriguez had “arranged an intermediary” to buy documents from the clinic. An A-Rod spokesman denied that report.)

On Tuesday, Fischer’s story went viral. He says the friend who’d taken the notebooks called him in a panic. “This is the worst it could possibly be!” he yelled. The friend announced he was leaving town.

Fischer also packed a bag and went to a relative’s house near Orlando. The story soon landed on the front page of the New York Times and led every newscast from ESPN to CNN. Fischer’s records had threatened the careers of some of the biggest, wealthiest names in the sport.

“I started to feel my safety was in serious jeopardy,” he says. “If you’ve been playing ball for 15 years and suddenly you don’t get in the Hall of Fame, you might just want to blame that on whoever was responsible. Or maybe Jose, his third cousin removed who lives in Hialeah and doesn’t get a check in the mail anymore, is a little bent out of shape about the whole thing.”

MLB soon dispatched a team of investigators to South Florida. They were led by Dan Mullin, a tough former New York Police Department deputy chief who’d been appointed to head baseball’s new Department of Investigations.

Meanwhile, two senior vice presidents—Pat Courtney and Rob Manfred—visited the New Times office. Their request was simple: Share the documents. (New Times declined.)

By February, Fischer had returned to Miami and moved into his mother’s home. It was surrounded by fences and tall hedges so he could spot anyone coming.

Reporters had been driving by for weeks. An MLB investigator one day left a business card that later found its way into an ESPN report: “We know time is $,” he had scrawled on the back. “Please call.”

Fischer didn’t respond. A surreal incident on February 19 convinced him that keeping a low profile was a wise move. He was driving home from the gym when he noticed a beige Honda turn onto his block. Warily, he drove past his house and parked nearby. After waiting a few minutes, he pulled out—but the Honda was parked outside the lot.

Fischer sped out with the Honda in pursuit. Sweating, he called a friend named Pete Carbone. “What the hell do I do?” he yelled.

Carbone convinced Fischer to meet him at a nearby Winn-Dixie. They quickly traded cars. The Honda tailed Carbone in Fischer’s car. A few minutes later, Carbone was boxed in between two other cars. He called the cops.

[

A report filed by police sheds little light on why the men were chasing Fischer. The three other drivers—Lewis Perry, Ernesto Sam, and Julio Moreiras—all worked for Precise Protective Research, a private eye firm. They told police they were “working an investigation” when Carbone began threatening them. (Carbone claimed one man flashed a gun at him, according to the police report.) No charges were filed, and Carbone declined to be interviewed for this story.

“They were either working for Major League Baseball or A-Rod or another ballplayer involved,” Fischer claims today, though he has no proof.

On February 25, Fischer finally decided to meet with two MLB investigators, both ex-NYPD cops.

They started with the carrots: They’d pay Fischer just to talk. If things worked out, maybe they could even move him to a gated community. And there would be justice for the cheaters.

Fischer replied, “I don’t give a shit about you or your ballplayers. This is about self-preservation to me.”

So the ex-cops switched tactics: If someone were to sue you, they warned, it could be expensive. MLB could indemnify him from damages.

“I’m not worried about court,” Fischer countered. “I’m worried about a bullet in my head.”

A deal was hatched: If 10 days went by and no newspaper or TV station reported Fischer’s name, he’d meet them again. The MLB representatives agreed, on the condition that Fischer would send them a few pages of Bosch’s files.

When there was no word in the media, they agreed to meet in a parking lot. Fischer arrived to find the pair in a Chevy Tahoe with tinted windows. They rolled down the window and hailed him into the backseat. He slid in next to one agent, while another turned around with a grin and wordlessly handed Fischer an envelope. Inside was $5,000 cash.

“I’m thinking, Holy shit, this is exactly like the movies,” Fischer says. “I considered not taking the money, but then I thought, Wait, I didn’t do anything wrong here. Everyone else is getting paid—why shouldn’t I?

An investigator made a proposal: They’d give him another $10,000 to come in with all of his documents. Fischer laughed, “My safety is worth $15,000?”

The next meeting came March 11 at a small park. This time, MLB top cop Dan Mullin himself showed up. He suggested a deal: Fischer would share everything in exchange for a $1,000-per-week salary for a year as a “consultant.” He’d be on the hook to answer any questions about the records.

“I told him: ‘No way. That’s not enough to protect myself.’ And he said, ‘Porter, this stuff isn’t worth a million bucks.’ But I never said it was. I just wanted to know how I could feel safe cooperating with these guys.”

Baseball was done with the carrots. On March 19, MLB attorney Steven Gonzalez texted Fischer. It was three days before baseball would file a lawsuit against Tony Bosch and other Biogenesis associates. Gonzalez warned Fischer about the suit and added, “I hope you take it as a sign of good faith that your name was not included. This does not preclude us from making a deal, but if you ignore a forthcoming subpoena, it will force us to compel the courts to produce the four notebooks.”

Then Gonzalez made an offer: “We can compensate you in the amount of $125,000 for all the records and your signature on affidavits.”

Fischer took the text as “a fucking . . . lawyer-speak threat.”

“No, thank you,” he quickly texted Gonzalez back. “Not worth it.”

MLB never seemed to grasp one key fact about Fischer: He didn’t give a damn about their sport. In fact, other than A-Rod and Melky Cabrera, Fischer didn’t even recognize a single ballplayer’s name in the Biogenesis records.

He had only one motivation: taking down Tony Bosch, the guy he says took his money and laughed in his face. That’s why Fischer was so much more receptive when the Florida Department of Health came calling.

The health department was a strange choice to investigate Bosch. Drug Enforcement Administration agents or local cops would have been more logical, but a well-placed source says the feds initially refused to take the case.

Florida’s DOH, by contrast, had a very narrow issue: If Bosch was practicing medicine or compounding drugs without a license, the department could charge him. Fischer met with an agent named Jerome Hill.

Fischer immediately trusted Hill. The investigator wanted only to go after Bosch. “I agreed to cooperate completely,” Fischer says.

[

The two began meeting regularly, and Hill—who repeatedly declined to talk about his investigation—began building a case against Bosch.

Fischer provided documents, including copies of medical reports that indicated Bosch had prescribed testosterone, human growth hormone (HGH), and anabolic steroids such as Anavar, Winstrol, and MIC. Fischer had even taken Bosch’s lab coat from the office, a full-length white coat with “Dr. Tony Bosch” stitched over the pocket.

But the seemingly slam-dunk case soon hit road blocks. The first came March 24, when Fischer, at Hill’s request, traveled to a storage unit where he’d kept many of the boxes of medical files. When he stopped at the Boca Tanning Club in Boca Raton at 11:30 a.m., someone broke into his car and took the files, his laptop, and his .32 Beretta, according to a police report.

“I told the police right away, ‘This is important state’s evidence that was taken,'” Fischer says. “They thought I was crazy.”

A close-out memo from the Boca PD shows a detective talked to Hill about the case and noted the New York Times reports that both A-Rod and MLB officials were reportedly buying documents from clinic employees. Hill “did not think Fischer sold files to any players,” the officer writes. On March 20, they closed the case “pending DNA or new information.”

Who took the boxes? It’s still a mystery.

“Whoever did this was a professional,” he says. “They followed me for hours, waited for their one opportunity, and then struck.”

Worse was yet to come. About a week later, the DOH abruptly closed its case and announced Bosch would receive a citation and a $5,000 fine, but no criminal charges. “[We have] referred this matter to law enforcement,” says spokeswoman Ashley Carr.

Why would the health department pass on a chance at such a high-profile criminal case? Bosch couched his business as an anti-aging clinic—which makes it part of a major industry in Florida. If regulators went after Bosch for improperly distributing HGH, how many others would they have to chase down?

Whatever the reason, Fischer is still baffled at prosecutors’ lack of enthusiasm. “[They] completely blew this investigation, and I gave them everything on a silver platter,” he says. “I blame the fucking bureaucrats.”

When the story broke late on June 4, Fischer was livid: Citing two anonymous sources, ESPN reported Tony Bosch had reached an agreement with MLB to cooperate in its investigation. In return, baseball would drop its ongoing lawsuit against the bogus doctor, indemnify him against future damages, and provide personal security.

Many questions remain. If MLB has copies of Bosch’s personal notebooks and business records, it’s unclear how the league obtained them. Experts also question whether Bosch’s testimony, combined with those records, would be enough evidence to suspend players. In the past, only positive drug tests have led to suspensions.

Yet that precedent may be changing. Cesar Carrillo, a minor-leaguer in the Tigers system, was suspended 100 games in March, reportedly over his ties to Biogenesis.

In the weeks to come, baseball will reportedly interview Bosch, review its evidence, and present its case to an arbitration panel. Most of the players named in ESPN’s latest story have declined to comment: Ryan Braun told reporters that “the truth has not changed” but refused to speak further. Alex Rodriguez released a statement that he would “monitor the situation and comment when appropriate.”

Where all of that leaves Porter Fischer is much less clear. He still has hundreds of pages of Biogenesis records. He’s willing to help any authority that wants to pursue Tony Bosch. And if MLB would offer him the same assurances it had evidently given Bosch, he’d even be willing to cooperate.

For now, he wonders how Tony Bosch ended up in the catbird seat.

On a recent afternoon, Fischer paces his neat, dimly lit room. He passes by the Xbox, the free weights, and the 2-foot-tall red statue of the Incredible Hulk with exploding pecs and bulging veins. As he rails against Major League Baseball and the Department of Health, he swigs vodka and cranberry juice from a plastic mug.

“Everything is backwards in this story now. The good guy has been molded into the bad guy and vice versa,” he says, his voice rising with indignation. “What did I do wrong? I stood up for myself. I exposed a bad guy breaking the law and ruining a sport.”

Shaking his head, he pauses to refill his mug. He has regrets: He never should have given his friend the notebooks or left the documents in his car in Boca. He never should have trusted MLB or the DOH.

[

But he doesn’t regret any of it—exposing Tony Bosch or throwing a monumental wrench into America’s pastime. He just wonders when he’ll see justice. “Why am I still paying for everyone else’s sins?” he asks.

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Who’s Saving the Yankees’ Season While All Their Old Men Are Out? An Old Man, Naturally

Nice quip from David Letterman last night: “Martha Stewart says she wants to meet a rich man between the age of 50 and 70. Why doesn’t she just date a New York Yankee?”

Indeed. And the subs that the Yankees have brought in to get them through a period of recovery from injuries are as old as the guys they’re replacing. Travis Hafner, for instance, who was acquired as a free agent on February , will turn 36 on June 3. A Cleveland Indian for 10 of his 11 major league seasons after playing a few games for the Texas Rangers in 2002, he’s a perfect example of how lucky the Yankees have been this season.

Going into tonight’s game with the Oakland Athletics at Yankee Stadium they are 17-10, trailing only the equally surprising Boston Red Sox in the AL East by 2 ½ games.

And it’s all about home runs. The Yankees, despite the loss of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson to injury and Nick Swisher and Russell Martin to other teams, are leading the American League in home field home runs at 21. Hafner, who has been DH in 22 of the Yankees’ 27 games, has hit 4 of his 6 home runs, all 3 of his doubles, and his only triple at Yankee Stadium.

It’s likely the Yankees will dump most of their new-old replacements when the old-old players come back, but Hafner might be worth keeping. From 2004 to 2007, among hitters in both leagues, in more than 2000 plate appearances he was 4th with a .976 OBP (On Base plus Slugging Percentage). He averaged 32 homers, 100 RBIs and a .286 BA. In 2005 and 2006, hit 75 home runs and drove in 225 runs and was one of the best left-handed sluggers in the league. Then a list of injuries too long to go into overtook him; since 2007 he has played in more than 100 games only once, 118 in 2010), and hit only 56 of his career 207 homers. So far this year, though: no injuries.

If Pronk, as his teammates at Cleveland called him for the way the ball sounded when it connected with his bat, can keep from getting hurt, the Yankees’ season might continue to be as good as it’s been so far. And, who knows? Martha Stewart (who, after all, used to baby sit for Yogi and Carmen Barra) might be watching from the box seats. Note to Martha Stewart: Pronk is back.

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The Yankees’ Last Gasp

Regardless of what happens tonight, while watching the Yankees 2-1 loss to the Tigers last night in the third game of the ALCS, you had the feeling that it was the end of an era. They brought Nick Swisher to the on-deck circle last night but he didn’t get to bat. If he had, it probably would have been his swan song in pinstripes.

I don’t know whether Curtis Granderson will be back next year; based on what I saw of him in the second half of the season and in the postseason, I’d find a way to deal him. (I know he’s a good centerfielder, but a guy who hits .220 most of the year and strikeouts out nearly 200 times, even if he does hit more than 40 home runs, reminds me too much of Dave Kingman.)

]

They will probably have to keep Mark Teixeira, though I would find a
way to dump him, too, after a second straight season of declining
performance and increasing time lost to injury. I don’t know what
they’re going to do with A-Rod, and the Yankees probably don’t know
either, though not lifting Brett Gardner in the 9th inning last night to
give the bat to A-Rod is the most blatant insult anyone from Brian
Cashman’s office to Girardi could have imagined.

No, make that the second worst insult; not batting Rodriguez against
Justin Verlander, whom he has always hit quite well, is a bigger insult.

On third thought, the biggest insult was constantly sitting A-Rod
down for Eric Chavez, who didn’t get a hit throughout the entire playoff
and looks as if he can no longer field at third base.

But the first one the Yankees should give up is last night’s starting
and losing pitcher Phil Hughes. I’ve been on and off Hughes for years
now, though this season I’ve been referring to him derisively as “Four
Inning Phil.” This wasn’t quite fair: this season Hughes was actually
knocked out of the box more times in five innings than four. He was
16-13 in the regular season, which led a lot of commentators to call him
a “reliable” starting pitcher. This is false. With the Yankees’ power
behind him, a reliable starter would have won more than 16 of 29
decisions.

It would be more correct to call Hughes an innings eater, though, he
should have been able to eat more than just 191 innings in his 32
starts. He seemed to always be in trouble this year, and he was, giving
up more hits (196) than innings pitched. Despite a few good starts
coming down the stretch, he never did develop into the star the Yankees
anticipated a few years ago when they were called him “The Pocket
Rocket” (i.e., a young Roger Clemens). Part of this, I think, had to do
with the fact that the Yankees misused him, as they misused Joba
Chamberlain: for too long they couldn’t decide whether they wanted to
make him a starter or reliever, and he never developed the arm strength
as a young pitcher – he’s 26 now – that he
needed.

Anyway, in most of the starts I saw Hughes make this season he seemed
to visibly tire in the fourth inning. And so it was last night. For 3
innings he matched Justin Verlander, then the real Phil Hughes showed
up. He started off the fourth inning going 0-2 to Delmon Young; then
after 6 pitches – 3 balls and 3 fouls – gave up a home run. The next
batter was Andy Dirks, whom he walked. In other words, on the first two
batters in the 4th, after going 0-2, Hughes couldn’t punch out either
hitter and ended up losing both. That is so Phil. If anyone has kept a
stat on this season, I’ll bet Hughes lost more batters after reaching
0-2 than any pitcher in the league.

It was so disheartening to watch him drain his gas tank with hitters
that he couldn’t put away after getting 2 strikes on them. Then, while
pitching the biggest game of his career, he pulled or strained – or
according to one report, reinjured – a back muscle and took himself out
of the game. I guess you can’t blame a guy for an injury, but it just
seemed so much like the Hughes we’ve come to know that he lost it
exactly when the Yankees needed him most.

Hughes will be 27 next year and no longer the Wunderkind that we
thought he would be,, and in any event, he’s now an inconsistent,
often-injured pitcher who no rebuilding team needs. And though we don’t
know who will be staying or going, that’s what they Yankees will be
next year: a rebuilding team.

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A-Rod’s Not the Yankees’ Only Playoff Goat

I’ve always resisted the idea that clutch hitting exists, I guess because I don’t like the notion that baseball is something more than a game — that it brings out something heroic in an athlete.

I pretty much agree with Bill James’s early assessment on the topic, which was that what a batter hits in so-called “clutch” situations is close to what he hits in all other situations — and that if this wasn’t obvious, it’s merely because there hadn’t been enough of a sampling. In other words, if Willie Mays never hit a home run in 21 World Series games it was simply luck of the draw. Given, say, another two World Series and another 10 or 12 games, if he batted another 40 times and hit, say, six home runs, then he’d have 7 home runs in 114 at-bats, which would be almost the same ratio as his regular season average.

It’s unsettling to watch baseball as long as I have and suddenly have to entertain an entirely new concept, but after watching the Yankees play like deer caught in the headlights in game after game, I’m beginning to think I was wrong about clutch hitting. Or at least wrong about clutch hitting as it manifests itself in the postseason, which is about as clutch as I can think of.

Alex Rodriguez, of course, is taking the major share of the flak for his failure to deliver against the Orioles and now the Tigers, but it has seemed to me all along that Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, and Mark Teixeira have been just as guilty, especially in this year’s postseason.

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I decided to look at the playoff batting record of all four men,
which turns out to be a total of 166 games and 618 at-bats — just a
little over one full season. That seemed like a pretty substantial
sampling, one that would give us an idea of whether they were really
suffering from a bad case of playoff nerves or whether their performance
was just a statistical aberration.

Well, I still don’t know which it is, but in the 618 at-bats that
these four have accumulated in postseason play, they have a total of 132
hits for a batting average of just .214, pretty crappy no matter how
you look at it. Nor was that batting average redeemed by much power:
just 21 home runs and 71 RBIs. If you had a player who, over a period of
about 160 games and 600 at-bats hit .214 with those kind of power
numbers, would you try to replace him? I would.

Oh, and by the way, in their postseason history Granderson, Cano, Swisher, and Teixeira have accumulated 140 strikeouts.

Here’s the kicker: the best of the bunch turns out to be Alex
Rodriguez. I was surprised, as I expected him to be much worse than the
others. But after Sunday’s 3-0 loss to the Tigers, he had played in 74
postseason games and come to bat 272 times with 72 hits for a batting
average of .266 – modest, but way above that of Cano (.226), Granderson
(.242), Swisher (.167), or Teixeira (.227). A-Rod had, by the way, just
13 home runs and 41 RBIs. Projected over the same 618 postseason
at-bats as the other four had combined, he would probably have come up
with 30 home runs and 93 RBIs. It’s not great, but it’s not terrible,
and his numbers were made a whole lot worse by his dreadful hitting in
the last two weeks.

I’m still not sure I believe in clutch hitting or that the
postseasons of all five of the Yankees’ regular season big boppers
really reflects that they can’t hit in the clutch. But it certainly
doesn’t provide any evidence that they are clutch hitters. At the
least, though, it suggests that the dreadful batting performances we’ve
endured over the last seven games aren’t that much different than what
the five of them have done over their entire postseason careers. Think
about that.

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Yankees Last Chance

When Raul Ibanez hit his second spectacular home run Wednesday night, he told reporters, “I’m part of a team. Everything we do is a team effort.”

After last night’s embarrassing, 13-inning, 2-1 loss to the Orioles, I’m ready to believe he was telling the truth. The rest of the Yankee batting order, seeing how miserable Alex Rodriguez was performing, decided to suck — as a team.

After Wednesday night, we can dispense with the idea that rookies are going to come into Yankee Stadium to pitch in their first playoff game and be intimidated. Even though he didn’t get the win, Miguel Rodriguez made the Yankee hitters look like rookies, and last night Joe Saunders, winner of 9 of 22 regular season decisions with an ERA of 4.07, looked like the second coming of Sandy Koufax: 5 1/3 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 5Ks. Or rather, the Orioles bullpen looked like the second coming of Mariano Rivera: 7 2/3 innings, 4 hits, 0 runs, 6Ks.

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Or maybe the Baltimore pitchers were simply throwing to lousy
hitters. For reasons no one, including myself, can fathom, a batting
order that was second in the American League in runs scored facing a
pitching staff that was almost exactly average in league ERA (3.90) has
taken a mind-boggling nose dive.

Leaving out Derek Jeter (.364) and Ibanez (.500), Yankee batters –
Suzuki, Teixeira, Cano, A-Rod, Swisher, Martin, Granderson, and Chavez –
are, for the four games, 18 hits in 119 at-bats. My calculator tells
me that’s a batting average of .151. Those eight have also struck out a
total of 31 times or one for every 3.8 at-bats.

On ESPN Colin Cowherd this morning asked rhetorically, “What is wrong
with these guys? Do they look at tapes of their own at-bats? Is this
bad hitting contagious?” Those are good questions. If you recall, Kevin
Long has, over the last few seasons, been praised as the best batting
coach in baseball. Remember when he took the hitch out of A-Rod’s swing
and made Granderson and Cano into good hitters against lefty pitching?
Well, forget all that. Either Long has been asleep through the last
third of the season and into the playoffs, or they just aren’t listening
to him anymore.

If you’ve been watching the games, tell me if you’re seeing what I’m
seeing. A-Rod (16 AB, 2 hits, 9 Ks for the series) comes up to the
plate and stands with his legs far apart, so he’s much too slow getting
his front leg up for a forward lunge. It seems to me he used to keep his
legs closer together, which made it easier for him to shift his weight
forward and thus made his swing quicker.

But you know what? A-Rod isn’t even the worst hitter in this lineup.
Curtis Granderson seems absolutely lost (16 AB, 1 hit, 9Ks). Is no one
telling him that he is practically going down on the ground to swing at
low pitches? I swear I’ve seen his left knee touch the ground in at
least half of his at-bats. And Curtis doesn’t ever seem to notice that
the low pitches set him up for a high inside strikeout pitch. I wish
Girardi had the nuts to fine him $10,000 for each time he swings with
his left knee touching the ground.

I’m curious if anyone is seeing what I’m seeing.

What to expect tonight? I have no idea. After Ibanez’s game- winning
home run Wednesday night, I thought the mental fog Yankee hitters were
bringing to the plate had dissipated. Now I don’t know what to think.

Jason Hammel was 8-6 during the season with a 3.43 ERA. I don’t know
whether to say he is better or worse than his numbers indicate. His
ERA was good, but in 188 innings he gave up 104 hits and walked 42, so
you would think the Yankees should be able to get to him. Whatever, you
wouldn’t expect him to beat Sabathia, especially pitching in Yankee
Stadium against what will probably be 6 left-handed batters.

But if the Yankee hitters continue with these stupefying at-bats,
letting strikes go by with a bat on their shoulder with runners on base,
it won’t make any difference how well Sabathia pitches.

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C.C., I Was Just Kidding — You CAN Win the Big One

If you didn’t stay up last night to see it, you missed a classic. Russell martin — or “Thank God For Russell” Martin, as he’s known in my house — belted a long shot off Jim Johnson in the 9th inning to give the Yankees 3-2 lead. And then it seemed like everyone in the Yankees lineup got a hit.

Except, of course, Alex Rodriguez, who once again looked like he was swinging at insects (I don’t remember him hitting so much as a foul all night).

It was just about a perfect night for the Yanks to dump some demons, including C.C. Sabathia, who, I’m told, is tired of hearing the carping, mostly from me, that he can’t win the big game. Still, I think Joe Girardi erred in leaving him in to get two outs in the 9th – 120 pitches is just too much.

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In recent years Yankee fans are used to big first-game-of-the-series
wins followed by humiliating flops, but this time it doesn’t’ feel like
it’s going to be that way. This newer, deeper roster is faster and more
resilient than any the team has had since the late 1990s. For instance,
in the 9th inning, when the Yankees, up 7-2, had Gardner in left and
Ichiro in center for defensive purposes, and I thought, Yes, Girardi
finally has all the parts he needs to make this engine go.

Suddenly, for the first time on months, the Orioles don’t seem so
menacing. And Pettitte going tomorrow night at Camden yards with a
thoroughly rested Robertson and Soriano seems like a sure thing.

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The 2012 Yankees Don’t Suck Nearly As Much As We All Thought They Did

I don’t think anyone, even the most arrogant of Yankee fans — am I being redundant when I say “arrogant Yankee fans? – thought the Yankees would be in 1st place in the AL East at the All-Star break. Certainly not after losing their big stud starter Michael Pineda before the season started and Mariano Rivera shortly after, not to mention the loss of Brett Gardner, who played just 9 games, and Joba Chamberlain, who hasn’t pitched all season.

And even the few fans who thought the Yankees would survive those catastrophes and contend for the top spot certainly didn’t think they would be in front by a whopping 7 games.

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Partly, at least, this reflects a collapse of what was assumed to be
the strongest division in baseball. Baltimore, for the second year in a
row, has faltered, Toronto has proved to be not so talented as the
analysts believed, and the Red Sox have suffered not only a plague of
injuries but a devastating swoon by the mainstays of their pitching
staff.

Tampa, in 3rd at 7 ½ games back, is the puzzle. If there is one team
that might make a run at the Yanks in the second half, it will probably
be the Rays, who still have solid pitching.

Regardless of how the rest of the division has underperformed, most
of the credit has to go to the Yankees. No one, except for maybe
Robinson Cano, is having a superstar-type year, and both Mark Teixiera
and Alex Rodriguez are having sub-par seasons. But everyone on the team
is contributing something. For instance, A-Rod is playing an excellent
3rd base and has been running the bases brilliantly, stealing 9 out of
10. In fact, the Yankees, though they are not a base-stealing team,
have the highest base-stealing percentage in the league (tied with the
Angels at 81 percent).

This edition of the Yankees is about a lot more than just power. In
Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones, the Yankees have perhaps the two greatest
subs since Darryl Strawberry and Tim Raines. Chavez, still a powerful
left-handed hitter with 7 home runs, plays a smart 3rd base; Jones (who,
with his spectacular performance at-bat in the field against the Red
Sox last week, has probably worked his way off the bench and into the
lineup), has 11 home runs and may not yield the left field position even
when Gardner returns.

The Daily News’ Mark Feinsand correctly points out that most
of the teams that lead the league in home runs don’t go all the way in
the postseason – of the ten highest home run-hitting teams, only one,
the2009 Yankees, took the brass ring.

This is true, but I think it’s one of those colossal flukes you
sometimes find in baseball, like the fact that teams with sensational
rotations – such as last year’s Phillies – almost never win the World
Series. If C.C. Sabathia comes back 100 percent, the rotation should
remain solid for the rest of the season. There are no aces in the
Yanks’ rotation to match, say, the Angels’ C.J. Wilson and Jared Weaver
or even the Rangers’ Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish. But they may not have
to. If Pettitte returns strong enough to give, on average, 6 good
innings a game, the Yankees can shorten nearly every game to 7 or
perhaps even 6 innings because of their magnificent all-purpose bullpen,
which Girardi can use in hold situations, matching strength against
weakness for an inning or two until Dave Robertson and Rafael Soriano
show up.

If Joba can return in the last couple of months and pitch the way he
did last year – a 2.86 ERA – the Yankees will be even more fortified.
And if Mariano is recovered in September, as is now the rumor, then the
Yankees will be the first team in history to have three bona fide
closers in the bullpen.

Because C.C. was deemed not quite ready and Pettitte’s broken foot is
still mending, the Yankees lose an opportunity to match up with the
Angels this weekend. Still, Hiroki Kuroda, who pitches against C.J.
Wilson tonight, had an ERA under 2.00 in June, and Ivan Nova, who goes
against Weaver Sunday, has won 10 games and looks to be a budding
superstar. Only in Saturday’s game, which puts Freddy Garcia against
Jerome Williams, do the Yankees seem to be questionable; but Williams,
at 6-5 with a 4.46 ERA, is no ace himself.

Whatever happens in this series, the Yankees have already proven
themselves to be a gutsy bunch, much more so than anyone could have
predicted in the first month of the season. In 85 games, they have
played 71 times against teams who are .500 or better and have the best
record not just in the American League but in all of baseball. So far,
at least, that’s all that needs to be said.

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The Straw That Fouls The Drink

“Reggie,” says Joe Torre in the wake of the latest Reggie Jackson flap, “is just being Reggie.”

Yes, indeed, Reggie was just being Reggie when he made his inflammatory comments in the current issue of `Sports Illustrated. And once again we are reminded that the real Reggie is a self-centered jerk.

In the SI profile, we’re told everything there is to know about the new Reggie, i.e. that he’s carrying a heavy spiritual load (presumably in part because a fire in Berkley ruined his $3.2 million collection of classic cars – didn’t he have insurance?), that he has found God (prompting many to remember Catfish Hunter’s classic comment that “The difference between Reggie Jackson and God is that God doesn’t think he’s Reggie Jackson”), and that he doesn’t think any of the players who have passed him up on the all-time home run list should be voted into the Hall of Fame, including his distant cousin, Barry Bonds.

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Not only that, Jackson said to SI, “If any of these guys get in, no
Hall of Famer will attend” – Reggie’s affiliation with God, presumably,
allows him to speak for all living Hall of Famers.

Of Alex Rodriguez, he said, “Al’s a very good friend. But I think
there are real questions about his numbers. As much as I like him, what
he admitted about his usage does cloud some of his records.”

So far, A-Rod has been silent on the subject of Jackson’s remarks.
But someone ought to point out, so I suppose I will, that the only
accusations made about Rodriguez have been for his years in Texas and
that a study of those years proved that his road production was
commensurate with his other road seasons and that his apparent boost in
power came from playing in he Rangers home stadium – where everyone’s
power numbers received a boost.

But I digress. What I’m wondering is: what is it that the Yankees
get back for the (reported) $400,000 a year they a pay Reggie Jackson?
What is it they get that compensates for his constant disruptions?

“Reggie is an outspoken person and he speaks what’s on his mind,” says Torre.
“Sometimes it doesn’t come out right or whatever.”

Yeah…or whatever.

Yes, Reggie speaks what’s on his mind, and what’s on his mind is
always self-serving and pompous. Back in 2002, when he was on the
Veterans Committee, he didn’t vote for Marvin Miller for the Hall of
Fame. 

Miller, when he was head of the players union and then, later, when
he was serving as a special advisor to the union, went out of his way to
praise Reggie’s actions in holding the players together in times of
labor strife. In an interview a few years ago, Miller went so far as
to say, “Reggie’s actions off the field during times of labor unrest
were the real shining moments of his career, in my estimation
overshadowing his finest accomplishment as a ballplayer.”

Miller made Reggie Jackson a free man by wining free agency for the
players — if it wasn’t for Miller and the union, Reggie would have been
lucky to get over $100,000 a year. Yet, when it came time for Reggie to
acknowledge what Miller had done for the players and for the
game, he decided that “The Hall of Fame should be only for players.”

As if anyone had asked Reggie Jackson to decide whether
nonplayes should be eligible for the Hall – by Reggie’s “standards,” we
must assume the likes of Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel, Connie Mack, and
Bill Veeck don’t merit the honor of having a plaque in the same building
as Reggie’s.

Did the Yankees actually “bar” Reggie from going to Fenway last week
for the Red Sox series? The Yankees say no, and Reggie says no, but
Reggie didn’t go, so we have to assume someone in the front office had
uncharacteristic good sense in this instance.

The question the Yankees brass must sooner or later come to terms with is why they want Reggie around at all.