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ZippyTheChimp
December 11th, 2003, 12:08 PM
:shock:

NYatKNIGHT
December 11th, 2003, 12:26 PM
:shock: :!:

maroualle
December 12th, 2003, 01:43 AM
What the hell are you talking about?
:(

TLOZ Link5
December 12th, 2003, 02:49 AM
What the hell are you talking about?
:(

American sports.

maroualle
December 12th, 2003, 02:55 AM
Ah ok, sorry for that. Frankly, here in europe we don't really know american sports except maybe Basketball with all the stars.

There is only one sport: soccer, yeah babe :-)

Rob
December 12th, 2003, 05:40 AM
Van Nistelrooy kicks Song's Belgium ass :!: :twisted:

maroualle
December 12th, 2003, 08:25 AM
Ha!!! Yeah, you're right but V Nistelrooij is a terrific player, that makes the difference :-)

NYatKNIGHT
December 12th, 2003, 01:28 PM
Andy Pettitte's leaving the Yankees. That sucks! But he's got to be every ball players hero today, sticking it to Stienbrenner and taking the smaller contract. At least he didn't go with Boston. :mad:

phxmania2001
December 12th, 2003, 03:34 PM
Yarg. :(

Oh well... on the bright side, he's closer to his family this way.

Jasonik
December 12th, 2003, 04:38 PM
On the bright side, New York has all the makings of becoming Boston's bitch.

TLOZ Link5
December 12th, 2003, 04:44 PM
On the bright side, New York has all the makings of becoming Boston's bitch.

Dear gods, no...

Kris
December 13th, 2003, 02:20 AM
Boston's bitch? When pigs fly and you win - only 21 more to go.


December 13, 2003

BASEBALL ANALYSIS

What's Up With the Boss?

By JACK CURRY

http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/2003/12/13/sports/base.xlarge.jpg
George Steinbrenner is once again looming over the Yankees as the primary decision-maker, bristling over a lack of recent titles and apparently accepting little input.

NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 12 — The various team officials kept streaming through the lobby at the Marriott hotel here on Friday. There were general managers, managers, assistant general managers, scouts, trainers, traveling secretaries and public-relations officials walking, talking and happily participating in one of the routine off-season events in the baseball business.

The Yankees, the alone-on-an-island Yankees, did not send any of their top executives to the winter meetings. George Steinbrenner revoked General Manager Brian Cashman's ticket on Thursday and he advised Damon Oppenheimer, a vice president, to stop packing on Wednesday. Somehow, Gene Monahan and Steve Donohue, the two trainers, managed to sneak here and perhaps study the latest innovations in treating strained hamstrings.

"George doesn't want us to go there because we would give away our secrets," one club official said. "There are a lot of teams out there who don't really care about our secrets."

That is not what the increasingly obsessive Steinbrenner, the team's principal owner, thinks. According to officials from the Yankees, other teams and agents, what he thinks, feels and does is what the Yankees think, feel and do these days. More than ever, Steinbrenner, who is perturbed about three straight seasons without a World Series title, is dominating how the Yankees will take shape in what should be a hectic 2004 in the Bronx.

One baseball official who has spoken to a few members of the Yankees' hierarchy said the 73-year-old Steinbrenner had stopped seeking the opinions of Cashman; Oppenheimer; Mark Newman, a vice president; Gene Michael, the trusted evaluator who has been with the organization for more than three decades; and other club executives whose opinions normally help mold the Yankees.

The official said a Yankees official had told him that Steinbrenner had sometimes acted so single-handedly and haphazardly that, if he did listen to someone about pursuing a player, it was just as likely to be an accountant as a scout.

Michael said he had not been quizzed about signing the 35-year-old Gary Sheffield to a three-year contract, about signing Kenny Lofton to a two-year deal or about acquiring Kevin Brown from Los Angeles.

"If you ask me if they've contacted me about anything, I'll say they haven't," Michael said. "That's all I can say."

Steinbrenner declined to be interviewed about his handling of the Yankees, but did speak to his longtime spokesman, Howard Rubenstein. Rubenstein said that Steinbrenner depicted the Yankees as a unified organization in which he listens to his subordinates, absorbs the information and decides what to do.

"I have a saying that I like to use: you can't lead the cavalry unless you know how to sit the saddle," Rubenstein quoted Steinbrenner as saying. "In reality, I make the final decision on everything. But I have a large number of people, real professionals in their field, who compile a lot of material for me and make suggestions. We're in constant contact. But, in the end, I come up with the final decision."

Whenever the Yankees have discussed off-season plans in the last several years, they have stressed three traits they want in a player: ability, durability and character. But in their pursuit of Sheffield, Lofton and Brown, and their sloppy shedding of Andy Pettitte, one former team official said that Steinbrenner had seemingly eliminated character from the equation.

The character issue was paramount in helping Michael and the former manager Buck Showalter boost the dreary Yankees of the early 1990's into the championship form that blossomed into a run of four titles in five years, beginning in 1996.

Players like Paul O'Neill, Jimmy Key and Joe Girardi were positive influences on and off the field, as was the low-maintenance Pettitte.

Sheffield, a superb offensive player, has been a malcontent in multiple clubhouses. Lofton has sometimes been selfish, and it is questionable whether he is even a defensive upgrade in center field over Bernie Williams. Brown had a bounce-back season in 2003, but he is ornery and does not seemingly fit in with the image of the businesslike Yankees. While Steinbrenner has pursued other players this off-season, he was strangely indifferent toward Pettitte, who signed a three-year deal with the Houston Astros on Thursday.

"It's a sad deal because the Yankees of the mid-to-late 90's acted the right way and worried about winning," the former Yankees official said.

Soon after the postseason, Steinbrenner always gathers his baseball people around a round table in a conference room in a one-floor cinder-block office on Himes Avenue in Tampa, Fla. Yankees officials refer to the place as "the bunker." Unlike other teams, the Yankees have executive offices in two cities — New York and Tampa — and it is likely that they lead the majors in conference calls.

Steinbrenner positions himself at the head of the table and has a telephone in front of him. Pens and notebooks are in front of each seat.

The former Yankees official said that Steinbrenner could be a decent listener, but he began to lose his listening skills after the Yankees lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in seven games in the 2001 World Series.

That was apparent when Steinbrenner summoned Cashman, Manager Joe Torre and the rest of the Yankees' hierarchy to Tampa three days after the Yankees lost the World Series to the Florida Marlins this season.

Steinbrenner stopped listening and started barking about signing Sheffield, Vladimir Guerrero, Kazuo Matsui and Bartolo Colón and trading for Javier Vazquez and Carlos Beltran, spewing the names as quickly as a Rotisserie league player and behaving as if he wanted each one more than the next.

After the meeting, one club official told another, "I thought, for a minute, we were going to have the Dream Team this year, you know, like the Olympic basketball team."

As the World Series loss to the Marlins unfolded, Steinbrenner criticized Cashman for whatever went wrong on the field, according to a Yankees official.

Steinbrenner's criticism of Cashman has shifted to indifference in the off-season; Steinbrenner has made player decisions without consulting him. Cashman did not attend the winter meetings in 1999, either, and after fighting Steinbrenner for permission to go each winter, he did not fight him this year.

Like Torre, Cashman is in the final year of his contract, and speculation about being fired by Steinbrenner will surely follow both from spring training.

One American League executive said Steinbrenner's two sons, Hank and Hal, and son-in-law, Steve Swindal, have been concerned as Steinbrenner has steadily increased the payroll.

The Yankees had a major league-high $180 million payroll in 2003 and will undoubtedly exceed that total by the time Steinbrenner is finished tinkering with the roster for next season.

But even as Steinbrenner's heirs watch as the Yankees lavish money on another free agent not named Pettitte, the A.L. executive stressed that they would probably never have the temerity to try to subdue him.

No one stops Steinbrenner from doing what he wants to do.

"By the way, make no mistake, I'm active," Rubenstein quoted Steinbrenner as saying. "I'm very active. I have the same enthusiasm and desire to put good teams together for the New York fans as I've always had."


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

ZippyTheChimp
December 13th, 2003, 03:32 PM
Alzheimer's

Jasonik
December 15th, 2003, 11:35 AM
Roger Clemens May Join Pettitte In Houston
Dec 14, 2003 8:48 am US/Eastern
(NEW ORLEANS) Roger Clemens might.... (http://1010wins.com/topstories/winstopstories_story_348084932.html)

Kris
December 15th, 2003, 11:08 PM
December 16, 2003

Yankees Hoping the Pieces Will Fit

By TYLER KEPNER

NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 15 — When the Yankees finally announce all the moves they have made this winter, their roster will include 17 former All-Stars. There should be a sign outside the clubhouse: No Admittance Without Proof of All-Star Status.

It is an awesome collection of talent, a dream team of George Steinbrenner's making, but hardly the carefully constructed champion of the late 1990's. Steinbrenner, the Yankees' principal owner, forbid club officials to come to the winter meetings, which ended here Monday. But the Yankees were a presence, as always.

"There's no question the quality of their club is unreal," the Philadelphia Phillies' general manager, Ed Wade, said. "One of the primary exercises any club goes through is trying to get it all to mesh, get the pieces to come together. At least for the off-season, the Yankees have added people but still kept their core character guys."

But Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Bernie Williams have never seen an infusion like this, with so many decorated stars and difficult personalities entering the clubhouse at the same time.

Gary Sheffield will play right field, with Kenny Lofton in center. Kevin Brown and Javier Vazquez will join the rotation, with Tom Gordon and Paul Quantrill steadying the bullpen. All but Vazquez are former All-Stars, and Vazquez seems to create the most excitement among baseball people. The Yankees traded first baseman Nick Johnson, outfielder Juan Rivera and pitcher Randy Choate to Montreal for Vazquez.

"I think he's one of the most underrated players in baseball," the San Diego Padres' general manager, Kevin Towers, said of Vazquez. "Of all the free-agent pitchers in baseball and all the guys available in trades, to me, he would be the most desirable guy. If I could have had my choice of any pitcher out there, Vazquez would have been it."

Towers saw Brown lead the Padres to the 1998 World Series, and he said that if he could have any pitcher for a big game, he would choose Brown. Jim Tracy, who managed Brown with the Dodgers the last three years, dismissed the idea that Brown's moodiness would be a problem.

"They'll like him every fifth day, I'll guarantee you that," Tracy said. "When you talk about a healthy Kevin Brown, what is there not to like? The object is to win games, and he provides you that opportunity."

General Manager Brian Cashman has grown increasingly frustrated by his role with the Yankees, tired of dealing with Steinbrenner's meddling and possibly willing to quit after this season, even though Steinbrenner guaranteed his 2005 option on Sunday. But Cashman engineered the deals for Vazquez and Brown, who will replace Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens.

Five of the six prominent players the Yankees have added are over 35 years old, and that could prove to be a problem. But at least the starting rotation has gotten younger. Vazquez, 27, is four years younger than Pettitte. Brown, acquired from the Dodgers for a package that included starter Jeff Weaver, will be 39 in March and is two years younger than Clemens.

Vazquez and Brown join the returning starters Mike Mussina, José Contreras, Jon Lieber and David Wells to form a six-deep rotation.

"I think it has a chance to be a terrific rotation, but it's hard to compare year to year," Cashman said. "I think it has a chance to be one of the best rotations in the league, and that's what we aspire to every year. It's a rotation that should be in the top five in the league."

Vazquez has never pitched in the postseason, Brown has not done so since 1998, and Clemens and Pettitte had strong October track records. But Brown and Vazquez combined to pitch more innings last season than Clemens and Pettitte, and their combined earned run average, 2.83, was much better than the combined 3.96 E.R.A. of Clemens and Pettitte.

"I won't say they're better, because Clemens is going to the Hall of Fame," one National League manager said. "But they didn't give an inch with the guys they got."

Still, some officials wondered if the Yankees had disrupted their clubhouse with some of their acquisitions. Brown is notoriously dour, and Sheffield has a history of strained relations with his teams. Certainly, neither player has the polished blandness the Yankees expect from their stars.

"You always had to respect the Yankees because of the kind of people they brought in," one American League scout said. "But this is a volatile mix."

One high-ranking official from an American League team warned that Steinbrenner must tread lightly around his new stars.

"Kevin Brown and Sheffield — those are two potential blowups right there," the official said. "Could you imagine George criticizing Brown after a bad start, or getting on Sheffield? Those aren't guys who are going to hold back with what they say. But they're awfully talented. If they get the best out of them, they'll be really good."

Lofton, who will sign a two-year deal worth more than $6 million after he passes a physical, can also be a prickly personality. But Steinbrenner ordered his signing, hoping to get an older version of Juan Pierre, the Florida Marlins' pesky leadoff hitter, who flustered the Yankees in the World Series.

Lofton, who turns 37 in May, will play center field and bump Bernie Williams to designated hitter, putting pressure on first baseman Jason Giambi to play every day in the field on his surgically repaired left knee.

But Lofton is coming off a solid season, batting .296 with a .352 on-base percentage and 30 steals for the Pirates and the Cubs. He is more than a singles hitter, with 52 extra-base hits and the same slugging percentage, .450, as Derek Jeter.

"He's still got a young body, and he can run," said Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry. "He was a real catalyst for us and he still looked like the prototypical leadoff guy. He knew when to take a walk, he would lead off innings with base hits and he knocked in runs when he had the chance."

The Yankees will count on Lofton to do that for them, and for the other stars to play as Steinbrenner expects. Doing so might be their only chance at harmony.

INSIDE PITCH

A stunt by a Houston radio station failed to entice ROGER CLEMENS, The Associated Press reported. Clemens said Monday that he was still retired, and turned down a luxury sport utility vehicle offered by a Houston car dealer in exchange for joining his hometown Astros. But Clemens did not rule out changing his mind and playing again, for Houston. "You guys are going to have to hang onto your Hummer because nothing's changed," Clemens told KKRW-FM shortly before the deadline set by the station's morning-show hosts. "I'm retired right now." The Astros' owner, DRAYTON McLANE, said Monday that he would be interested in "opening discussions" with Clemens about having him join the Astros for the 2004 season. . . . The Yankees want to re-sign the left-hander GABE WHITE, said one baseball official, but they must first trade another left-hander, CHRIS HAMMOND. . . . The Yankees announced the signing of the reserve catcher JOHN FLAHERTY to a one-year $725,000 contract. . . . Infielder/outfielder MIGUEL CAIRO, who played for St. Louis last season, will soon sign with the Yankees.


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Kris
December 17th, 2003, 08:31 AM
December 17, 2003

SPORTS OF THE TIMES

George III Sees All He's Done, and Approves

By HARVEY ARATON

http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/2003/12/17/sports/17araton.jpg
George M. Steinbrenner III

OUR greatest generals and geniuses are never appreciated until they are gone, until history grants them their proper due. I know this. I accept this. So I, George M. Steinbrenner III, will remain in the saddle, undeterred, front and center, leading my troops as we prepare for battle to protect the citadel of champions, the Fort That Ruth Built, from the invaders north and south.

The Red Sox are coming! The Orioles are chomping! The Blue Jays are chirping! They don't scare me. The Red Sox can have Schilling and Foulke and A-Rod, too. Let the Orioles waste Peter Angelos's money. Let them spend all they want, because in the end, we'll see whose pocket runs deep, who really loves the smell of expanded payroll in the morning.

Go ahead, Pettitte-lovers and parasites of the press, ignore the escalation of arms by this new divisional alliance, the conspiracy against the kingdom of George III. Continue to portray me as an irrational dictator, the perpetrator of all baseball evil, just for defending my rightful territory at the top. Next October, when those pretenders have been defeated, when the World Series returns to New York as a matter of national honor, it will be my redemptive pleasure to invite you to Yankee Stadium, where you can be sure that the spoils of summer will be allocated on merit.

(Note to myself: Francesa and Lupica are first off the preferred parking list.)

As another famous general, Bob Knight, once said regarding his many critics . . . well, on second thought, I'd better not repeat what he said. On the personnel front, let me just defend myself from the vicious attacks of the past two weeks by reviewing how I have reshaped the tired and broken-down army recruited and trained by my chastened lieutenants after our disgraceful surrender

to those wild-card jokers from the wrong Florida coast.

All season long, we were said to be vulnerable in right field, with a platoon of players who couldn't carry Paulie's used cleats. Now this is nothing against Karim Garcia and David Dellucci, fine young men, but more suited to latrine duty than patrolling the patch of hallowed turf where Babe and Maris roamed. Against the advice of my inner circle, I signed Gary Sheffield, my Tampa homey, who may be 35 years old but immediately becomes a more fearsome weapon of mass destruction than anyone the Red Sox may have, and that includes A-Rod.

The chastened lieutenants wanted Vladimir Guerrero because he's younger and plays better defense, but as I said, "Lot of good he'll do me when he's on the disabled list with his bad back, sitting in the whirlpool next to Giambi." True, Sheffield tried to hold me up for more money, but I floated our interest in Guerrero, stood firm like MacArthur and had him right where I wanted — in the cleanup hole.

Next I turned my attention to center, where Bernie Williams, bless his pinstriped soul, has become slower than Nick Johnson. Presto, another stroke of the General's genius: the addition of the sweet-swinging Kenny Lofton, giving us more outfield speed and the leadoff hitter Soriano will never be.

Now all I hear is: how can you do this to Bernie, take away his glamour position, make him a designated hitter? Hey, I'm not the one who wanted to let him go to the Red Sox when he was a free agent, who campaigned for, ahem, Albert Belle. Go talk to St. Torre about that one.

But that's how it is when life chooses you to lead, to be the undisputed Boss. That's why it was left to me to make the boldest of moves. Andy Pettitte is a nice, clean-cut young man, but I saw right through the little scheme he and Clemens cooked up. Let the ingrates go, I decided. Let them go pitch in that launching pad of a ballpark, without Mariano to bail them out. Let the Astros cater Clemens's next half-dozen retirement ceremonies.

Meanwhile, how'd we do? With Javier Vazquez and Kevin Brown, we shaved more than a run off the combined earned run average. We walked on water by getting rid of Jeff (Waterloo) Weaver, whom I had never heard of until Brian Cashman assured me he was the next Kevin Brown.

They were killing me for replacing Pettitte with Brown until Cashman, on my orders, began getting the message across that they had it all wrong. It's Vazquez (27) for Pettitte (31). It's Brown (39) for Clemens (41). Good job of making this point, I have to admit, by Cashman.

(Note to myself: reactivate the general manager's expense account.)

So the manager has lost the pitcher for whom he has a strong sentimental attachment? Boo hoo. Remember how they ripped me when I traded Wells for Clemens? "He's not a Yankee. He'll never be a Yankee." All the whining, and how did that one turn out?

The 1996-2000 Yankees are part of history. Get over it, people. I'm moving on, much to the chagrin of baseball's insiders, who may hate me but fear and respect me. They know the Yankees are better, now that I'm back on my high horse, where I belong.

(Note to myself: don't forget to double my Christmas bonus.)


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

ZippyTheChimp
December 18th, 2003, 08:34 AM
December 18, 2003

The New-Look Yankees Will Put Torre to the Test

By TYLER KEPNER

Gary Sheffield's diamond earrings sparkled as he sat beside Manager Joe Torre at a news conference at Yankee Stadium yesterday. The earrings, of course, will have to go. The squabbling with George Steinbren ner, the Yankees' principal owner, which began before Sheffield signed his contract, will have to go, too. The lethal right-handed bat can stay.

That, at least, is what the Yankees hope for from Sheffield, the right fielder who was finally introduced yesterday after his three-year, $39 million contract became official. The deal has a team option for 2007. "I had my sights set on the Yankees," Sheffield said, "and the Yankees only."

If Sheffield hits the way he usually does, the Yankees' lineup will be better. But if Sheffield bickers with Steinbrenner, whom he angered by initially going back on a handshake contract agreement, Torre could be in for a trying season.

Torre, speaking publicly for the first time since the Yankees made the bulk of their off-season moves, said he was not concerned about the dynamics of the clubhouse. Steinbrenner has added loads of talent, but the personalities of Sheffield, pitcher Kevin Brown and outfielder Kenny Lofton may test Torre.

"My job is going to be tough enough, not because of the new acquisitions of guys who are supposedly tough to handle," Torre said. "When you go in and you have new people, you see what you have. Will my job be tougher? You never know that. I certainly don't think it's fair to the players that we're getting to all of a sudden put a wary eye out."

Call it a Yankee eye for the new guys. Many pieces have changed, but as he enters his ninth season as the manager — and the last season of what could be his final contract — Torre wants to stress continuity.

"I'm going to look at it as, just: `This is the New York Yankees. Come on in here. This is what we do, and this is how we play,' " Torre said. "If something doesn't fit, then we address it."

For now, the 2004 Yankees fit together snugly, with a former All-Star at every spot in the lineup. There will be two former Gold Glove center fielders, Lofton and Bernie Williams, with Steinbrenner apparently ready to shift Williams to designated hitter. Not necessarily, Torre said.

"He's working hard," Torre said of Williams. "He's in every other day working on his shoulder and his knee. I told him, `When we go to spring training, we're going to put the best team on the field.' Nobody dictates that part of my job to me. That's not going to happen. We're going to leave with the team that I think is the best overall team starting. That doesn't mean Bernie's not in that mix."

Gone from the mix is Andy Pettitte, another player Torre has reached out to this winter. As the weeks went on without the Yankees and Pettitte reaching a deal, Torre said he grew more pessimistic that Pettitte would return.

After the last game of the World Series, Torre told Pettitte, "Do what you have to do for your family." Pettitte chose to play at home, and Torre waited until after Pettitte signed with the Houston Astros to call him. "There was enough going on in his mind," Torre said. "He didn't need me to tell him, `I want you to come back.' He needed to do it for himself."

Torre added: "I talked to him Sunday. He was still concerned that there were certain things in the newspapers here that said he didn't want to come back here. I said: `Don't even look back. There's nothing you did that you should ever have to make an excuse for, the way you pitched and the way you behaved. Just enjoy it and stay healthy.' "

Health is Torre's main concern about one of the replacements for the rotation, Brown. General Manager Brian Cashman traded for Brown and Javier Vazquez to fill the spots vacated by Roger Clemens and Pettitte. But Brown, who will be 39 in March, missed much of the 2001 and 2002 seasons with various injuries. "Brown is a big question mark," Torre said. "Last year was great; he made 30-plus starts. You give him 30-plus starts, he's going to be a winner."

Torre said the addition of Sheffield, who hit .330 with 39 homers and 132 runs batted in for the Atlanta Braves last season, made the Yankees "as deep as we could possibly be" in their lineup.

Sheffield essentially negotiated without an agent, dealing directly with Steinbrenner and agreeing on a deal that pays him $13 million a year, of which $4.7 million is deferred annually. That brought down the average annual value of the contract, and when Sheffield went back and asked for more, Steinbrenner did not budge. It was a side of Steinbrenner that Sheffield — Dwight Gooden's nephew — had not seen. "When it comes to friendship and business, it's two different things," Sheffield said. "I learned that real quick."

Sheffield said one of the holdups in the contract was the Yankees' clause against playing other sports. Like pitcher Mike Mussina, Sheffield made sure he was allowed to play recreational basketball. "That's my cardio," Sheffield said. "Once I got basketball, the rest was easy."

But Gooden, now an adviser to Steinbrenner and a minor league instructor, said Sheffield was much more worried than he let on. "Oh, yeah, he was nervous," Gooden said. "My phone didn't stop. Because I think he wanted to be here all the time, but at the same time, he wanted to get what was right."

If there are controversies because of Sheffield, it will be up to Torre to defuse them. Torre assured reporters he would not make controversy of his own, even without a new contract. "I'm not even going to deal with it until after the season's over with," Torre said. "If I decide in July or August that it's still fun and I want to keep doing it, I'm going to wait until afterwards."

INSIDE PITCH

Though JOE TORRE said the idea of ROGER CLEMENS pitching for the Astros "seems like a natural fit," he said he thought Clemens would stay retired. "I'm doubtful that he'll come back," Torre said. "I think he was ready to do it. Even though it's not New York, he's still going to be away a lot. But it's his decision. He certainly could come back and pitch, and pitch effectively."


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

DominicanoNYC
December 18th, 2003, 06:49 PM
How about them Mets. I'm sad that Andy left, but I'm a Mets fan. So far we've gotten 'Little Matsui' and Mike Cameron :P Aslso signed were Jon Franco (he should retire) and Vnace Wilson. I hope that we at least do better than last place.

Kris
December 19th, 2003, 05:55 AM
December 19, 2003

NOTEBOOK

The Bullpen Picture Is Coming Into Focus

By TYLER KEPNER

The Yankees are nearly finished remodeling their bullpen. They traded Chris Hammond to the Oakland Athletics for two prospects yesterday, clearing the way for them to re-sign another left-hander, Gabe White.

The Yankees sent Hammond to the A's for Edwardo Sierra, a 21-year-old relief pitcher, and J. J. Stotts, a 21-year-old infielder. The A's will pay part of the salary for Hammond, who is entering the final season of a two-year, $4.8 million contract.

The Associated Press reported that the A's reached an agreement on a three-year deal yesterday to add the free-agent left-hander Arthur Rhodes as a closer to replace Keith Foulke, who has signed with Boston.

Hammond pitched effectively for the Yankees last season, with a 2.86 earned run average over 62 games. But he is a changeup specialist who relies on regular work to stay sharp, and as the Yankees' bullpen evolved during the season, Hammond's workload declined sharply. He was left off the postseason roster for the first two rounds.

Hammond came to the Yankees as a free agent from the Braves, who tried to reacquire him this off-season. Atlanta attempted to acquire Hammond and starter Jeff Weaver, according to a person with knowledge of the talks, and offered to pay half the players' salaries. After the Yankees shipped Weaver to the Dodgers in a deal for Kevin Brown, Atlanta again tried to trade for Hammond, but would not pay enough of his salary to satisfy the Yankees.

White, a free agent, is seeking a two-year contract worth about $5 million. One person familiar with the talks said that White may accept the Yankees' offer of salary arbitration today if the sides do not reach an agreement on a two-year deal.

White would join Felix Heredia, who re-signed with the Yankees for two years and $3.85 million, as the left-handers in the bullpen. The Yankees have agreed to two-year contracts with the right-handers Tom Gordon and Paul Quantrill, who would set up for closer Mariano Rivera. Those deals have not been announced.

Vazquez Wants Long-Term Deal

Javier Vazquez, the starter acquired in a trade with Montreal on Dec. 5, said on a conference call that he wanted to sign a long-term contract with the Yankees.

"I'm thrilled," Vazquez said. "I wanted to be a New York Yankee. Of course, I would definitely want to be a Yankee for more than a year."

Vazquez said that his agents, Seth and Sam Levinson, have been talking with the Yankees about a new deal. The sides have discussed a four-year contract for Vazquez, 27, who went 13-12 last season and is considered one of the best young starters in baseball.

Rangers Interested in Clemens

Roger Clemens is now being courted by both Texas teams. But his agent, Randy Hendricks, said yesterday that he still believed that Clemens would stay retired.

Clemens made an appearance at the Ballpark in Arlington on Wednesday, and met with the Rangers' owner, Tom Hicks, at Hicks's request, Hendricks said. Clemens is considering pitching next season for his hometown team, the Houston Astros, but Hendricks said he doubted Clemens would play at all.

"I do not believe it likely that Roger would play for the Rangers," Hendricks wrote in an e-mail message. "My opinion is that retirement still leads the horse race."


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Jasonik
January 13th, 2004, 10:02 AM
NY Times
Associated Press
http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/2004/01/13/sports/base.jpg
Yankees in 2003, Astros in 2004:
Roger Clemens, left, who came out of retirement Monday,
and Andy Pettitte, a free-agent acquisition,
check out their new home jerseys.

In Texas Two-Step, Clemens Joins the Astros
By TYLER KEPNER

Published: January 13, 2004

ll through last season, one thing about Roger Clemens was never in doubt: he could still dominate hitters. He said repeatedly that he was retiring, but his 41-year-old body was not yielding to time. When the season ended, Clemens was amazed that he felt so strong.

Still, while he sometimes left open a tenth-of-a-percent chance that he would return, he usually insisted he was done.

He never expected to come back, but he also never expected Andy Pettitte, a close friend, to leave the Yankees. When Pettitte came home to Houston after the Yankees' tepid effort to re-sign him, everything changed.

Now Clemens has called off retirement before ever taking the rocking chair from the attic. He will continue his career with the Houston Astros, agreeing to a one-year, $5 million contract to pitch for his hometown team yesterday.

"Any individual has the right to change his mind, and I don't know if I really did change my mind," Clemens said. "There was so much good to doing this. With the overwhelming response since Andy signed here, that made all the difference. It's pretty much as simple as that."

Clemens expressed interest in pitching for the United States Olympic team in Athens next August, but the team was eliminated in regional qualifying on Nov. 7. As recently as Nov. 12, he said there was "no scenario" under which he would play again. He had seemingly capped a remarkable career by going 17-9 in a regular season that included his 300th victory in June and a standing ovation at Fenway Park in August, when Red Sox fans who had jeered him for years gave him what they thought was a final salute.

After what appeared to be Clemens's final pitch, a fastball in a strikeout of Florida's Luis Castillo in the seventh inning of Game 4 of the World Series, the fans at Pro Player Stadium rose in tribute, with Marlins players doing the same. Clemens lifted his cap and touched his glove to his heart, signaling the finality of the moment.

"At that point, I was done in my mind," Clemens said. "Once Andy signed here and Houston was able to acquire him, everything started falling into my lap, and things started changing that way."

By then, the Yankees had no chance to retain him. Believing that Clemens was retired, the Yankees did not offer him salary arbitration by the Dec. 7 deadline, closing their negotiating window until May 1.

The Yankees do not receive any draft choices as compensation for Clemens's departure.

General Manager Brian Cashman said that if the Yankees had known Clemens would play again, they would have tried to sway him to stay in New York.

"We would have definitely had a discussion about it," Cashman said. "But we all have the right to change our mind."

Randy Hendricks, one of Clemens's agents, said that after Pettitte signed with the Astros, the Yankees' president, Randy Levine, told him the Yankees would understand if Clemens did the same. "Randy Levine told me a day or two after Andy signed that if Roger signed with the Astros, it would be with the Yankees' blessing, which Roger greatly appreciated," Hendricks said in an e-mail message.

Even if the Yankees could have spoken further with Clemens, Hendricks said, there was no chance he would have re-signed with them. Clemens has four sons, including two in high school, and the Astros were the only team he considered.

"We all thought he was retired, including Roger," Hendricks said. "The big difference was Andy signing and the response of the Houston community. He would not have played anywhere else."

After Pettitte's Dec. 11 signing, Clemens was all but hounded to join him. His sons gave him an Astros hat for Christmas. Clemens golfed with Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell. A Houston radio station offered Clemens another Hummer if he signed; in a going-away gift, Clemens received one from his Yankees teammates in the color of the University of Texas, his alma mater.

"I'm going to hold that radio station to it, because my wife wants a white one," Clemens said. "She doesn't want a burnt orange one."

The final push came from the Astros' chairman, Drayton McLane, who assured Clemens he could leave road trips on days he was not pitching if sons Koby, 17, or Kory, 15, had an athletic event.

*****

Rocket makes a re-entry
By Dan Shaughnessy, Globe Columnist, 1/13/2004

Twenty-one was always Roger Clemens's number. Why not 21 major league seasons? If he wins 11 more games, that'll be 321 wins.

Clemens unretired yesterday. He agreed to a one-year contract with his hometown Houston Astros. This means he'll get his first big crack at the National League. It means he'll finally have to bat against the New York Mets. It means he'll be pitching for manager Jimy Williams. It means he could face the Red Sox one more time in the 2004 World Series.

This time it isn't about the money. It isn't about the Hummer that some radio station offered. It isn't about a milestone and it isn't about getting back at Dan Duquette. It's about winning a World Series in your hometown in front of your wife and four sons. Who among us wouldn't go for it? Clemens will be 42 next August, but he won 17 games last year and ranked 10th in baseball in strikeouts. His 3.91 ERA still places him in the upper echelon of big league starters. And he joins a rotation that includes Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt, and Wade Miller.

The best part about all this is the impact in New York. Boss Steinbrenner must be boiling. Forty percent of the Yankees' 2003 starting rotation will be pitching in Houston this season. Guys who started four of the seven games against the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series are now pitching for Houston. Brian Cashman, we have a problem.

Steinbrenner issued a statement in which he noted that Clemens said all last year that he was going to retire, adding, "we had no choice but to believe him."

Naturally, the Rocket's touchdown in Houston was a topic at last night's Boston Baseball Writer's bash at the Sheraton.

"I like the idea of a player going home and signing for something other than top dollar," said Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino. "I especially like it when the player is with the Yankees and decides to go to his hometown team."

Clemens vs. the Sox in the World Series?

Lucchino frowned. "The chances of you getting me to admit that in January are about five trillion to one."

Tim Wakefield, who has been around long enough to have played on the Sox when Clemens was still here, said, "I thought he would stay retired. He really doesn't have anything else to accomplish. He got the 300 wins and the 4,000 strikeouts. Maybe he just wants to continue to play. He can watch his kids grow up now that he's playing in Houston."

Wakefield doesn't believe Clemens will be a part-time, or home-only player for the 'Stros. "Knowing his work ethic, I don't think he'd take advantage of his status."

Kevin Millar, who knows Clemens likes to pitch inside, said, "I'm glad he's doing it. I think it's awesome. I'm glad the National League gets a chance to see him and that Houston staff is really shaping up. I'm also glad he didn't return to the Yankees."

Clemens was routed by the 2003 Sox in the seventh game of the ALCS. He would have been the losing pitcher of the game that would have put the Red Sox into the World Series if not for Grady Little's brain cramp and Pedro Martinez's implosion in the eighth inning. When Clemens started the fourth game of the World Series against the Florida Marlins, it was thought to be his final big league appearance. Now it turns out he'll be with the 2004 'Stros, rejoining Pettitte in the Houston rotation.

Pettitte and Clemens are both Texans and share the same agents (Hendricks Brothers). When they pitched for the Yankees, they occasionally went home between starts on a private jet. Now they'll be pitching for the hometown team.

"I think it's great for baseball," said commissioner Bud Selig. "I have a lot of respect for Roger Clemens. Frankly, Roger has earned the right to do what he wants to do, and he obviously wants to come back and pitch. We're glad to have him for another year. I'm sure the people in Houston are very happy."

This being Boston, the story is always about us. It was about us when Clemens left the Sox in the "twilight" of his career and signed with the Blue Jays. It was about us when the Jays and Yankees made a trade that put the Rocket in New York. And now it's about us when Clemens signs with the Astros. After all, in the spring of his last year with the Red Sox, Clemens promised that he would pitch for only two teams: Boston and Houston.

Finally, it happened. The Rocket man splashed down near NASA headquarters. And the Boston angle won't die here. The Patriots will be in Houston two weeks from today, preparing for Super Bowl XXXVIII and the Red Sox will be at Minute Maid Field for the 2004 World Series . . . against the Houston Astros and Roger Clemens.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is dshaughnessy@globe.com

ZippyTheChimp
January 13th, 2004, 10:56 AM
Nothing like stovetop baseball with the Yankees to take your mind off the miserable Giants.


It means he could face the Red Sox one more time in the 2004 World Series.

Please Red Sox fans, don't torture yourselves. My Boston friend of 25 years (a friendship that gets severely tested every autumn) told me that the undercurrent in Boston is a fear of trading Nomar. Since curses generally run 100 years, the Bambino may be running out of gas, and it's no time to start the Nomar Curse :P

Jasonik
January 13th, 2004, 11:42 AM
Shortstop is in center
By Gordon Edes, Globe Staff, 1/13/2004

He wasn't here last night, though he is expected in town by the weekend for his annual baseball camp for kids. On a day when Roger Clemens ended the shortest retirement since Michael Jordan by signing with Houston and Vladi Guerrero tilted the balance of power in the West toward Anaheim by signing with the Angels, Nomar Garciaparra may not have been on the dais for the Boston baseball writers' dinner, but he is definitely on the agenda for the Red Sox.

The vision might have been different a month ago. Alex Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez easily could have been the Sox headliners at last night's dinner, sharing the stage with Bud Selig, the commissioner who gave his blessing to the proposed trade that would have brought A-Rod to Boston, which in turn would have triggered a deal sending Garciaparra to the White Sox for Ordonez.

But with that deal flatlined, Garciaparra remains central to the Sox' plans for the immediate future, and perhaps beyond. That is why Sox chairman Tom Werner, who is close friends with Garciaparra's agent, Arn Tellem, made a point of inviting Garciaparra to his home when the Rodriguez deal was on the verge of collapse.

"I just wanted to tell him how much respect we have for him and to fill him in on what was going on, to make sure he understood we had turned the page and were moving on," Werner said.

The relationship between Garciaparra and the Sox was strained close to the breaking point when Tellem called the A-Rod negotiations a "slap in the face" to Garciaparra and accused the Sox of being disingenuous.

That prompted a rare public burst of anger from Sox owner John W. Henry, and soon the details of the Garciaparra negotiations -- he turned down a four-year, $60 million offer in March, the Sox came back with a four-year, $48 million offer in December -- spilled into the public.

For the intensely private Garciaparra, that was as much an affront as the fact the Sox were pursuing Rodriguez.

It did not surprise Werner that Tellem would go on the offensive on Garciaparra's behalf.

"Arn has a very special relationship with Nomar," Werner said. "They're very, very close. Arn was doing what he felt was the best way to protect his client."

If Garciaparra had not rejected the Sox' offer back in March, there would have been no pursuit of Rodriguez. The Sox were motivated by fears that Garciaparra's decision to remain here would be market-driven, as opposed to a fervent desire to be a Sox lifer, and that they would be left with only draft choices if he left after next season as a free agent. An even bigger component was the opportunity to rid themselves of Manny Ramirez's bloated contract for that of a franchise player and marketer's dream in Rodriguez.

Werner spoke with Tellem during the Rodriguez negotiations, and has spoken with him since. He expects Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein will have a conversation with Tellem shortly, opening up another round of talks regarding a long-term extension.

But in the interim, despite his Hawaii honeymoon phone call to WEEI, has Garciaparra's ardor to remain in Boston cooled? And were the Sox correct in dropping their offer to the shortstop by $3 million a year, citing a market correction?

"Does he want to stay here? I hope he wants to stay here," Werner said. "I hope the recent episode is something that is a thing of the past. He's still a Hall of Fame ballplayer.

"By the time we get to spring training, I hope it's a thing of the past, and the team is what's most important, and that winning is what's most important. I think with Nomar, there's such a thirst for winning that trumps everything."

How the Sox approach negotiations with Garciaparra, however, may be a different story, though Werner dismissed speculation that the Garciaparra-Ordonez deal might still be alive.

"He's a real professional -- I think he'll be able to understand that some of these situations develop during the course of a year," said Sox CEO Larry Lucchino. "We have enormous respect for him, and affection. That hasn't been lost at all."

The third and most influential member of The Trio, Henry, said he would like to see the matter addressed before the start of the season. But Henry, who has described himself as a poor negotiator and one who would rather operate on the basis of `Here's our best offer, give us an answer,' noted how the Sox had made a three-year, $24 million offer to free-agent-to-be Cliff Floyd. When the offer just sat there without a response for six weeks, the Sox pulled it off the table; Floyd eventually took a worse offer (4 years, $24 million) from the Mets.

A similar "best" offer was made to closer Ugie Urbina, who spurned it and signed with Texas before being traded to the Marlins.

"We make good, credible offers," Henry said, "but everyone wants to negotiate. People seldom believe you when you say, `This is the best we can do.' "

Can Garciaparra retrieve the millions he left on the table back in March? Will he be willing to settle for less? From the Sox side, are those millions gone forever, or are they willing to make another "market correction?"

Rico Petrocelli, the former Sox shortstop and a guest at the dinner, wasn't making any predictions.

But he did say this: "Everybody always tells you, both players and management, that this is just business, so there shouldn't be hard feelings. If that's true, then boom, let's negotiate."

© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.

NYatKNIGHT
January 13th, 2004, 12:03 PM
Nothing shocking here. Clemens wants to play in Texas, and the Red Sox still think they can actually win a title.

Kris
January 14th, 2004, 01:04 AM
January 14, 2004

Clemens's Decision Doesn't Annoy Jeter

By JACK CURRY

Derek Jeter sensed that Roger Clemens was close to abandoning his brief retirement when they spoke at Michael Jordan's golf tournament in the Bahamas last week. Clemens told Jeter about his fruitful discussions with the Houston Astros and how he was waiting for his family to give approval for him to pitch one more season.

So, when Jeter shook Clemens's hand on the golf course, he figured he had shaken the hand of a former Yankee who was about to join Andy Pettitte, another former Yankee, in Houston.

"Everyone has the right to change their mind," Jeter said yesterday, a day after Clemens announced he was returning to baseball with his hometown team. "Everyone thought he was going to retire, but with Andy going to Houston, I think it changed his plans. He's the only one who can decide when he's finished."

On Monday, George Steinbrenner, the Yankees' principal owner, issued a terse statement about Clemens's signing with the Astros, and General Manager Brian Cashman expressed disappointment over Clemens's reversal of his supposedly concrete retirement plans. But Jeter said he was not annoyed by Clemens's decision to come back at age 41 and pitch for Houston.

"From a team point of view, we weren't planning on having him here this year," Jeter said in a telephone interview. "We didn't think he'd be here. We don't have to think about Houston. We don't play Houston."

But the Yankees could play the Astros in the World Series in what would be an entertaining scene featuring two marquee pitchers who bolted from Steinbrenner's team in the Bronx to play in their own backyard. After Jeter was reminded of that sweet possibility, he said he would accept that matchup because it would mean the Yankees were one series victory away from a title.

Though the Yankees have only one returning starter in their rotation, Mike Mussina, and will have at least nine players making their debut with the team this season, Jeter said he was not fazed by the overhaul. He noted that the Yankees had undergone successful alterations even after winning titles. The Yankees acquired Clemens from the Toronto Blue Jays for David Wells and two others after winning 125 games in 1998 and won it all again in 1999.

With Kevin Brown trying to prove he can stay healthy, Javier Vazquez trying to show he can thrive in a more unforgiving environment, José Contreras trying to perform like a $32 million pitcher and Jon Lieber trying to come back from elbow surgery, the Yankees have a fragile rotation that is devoid of a left-hander. If the rotation falters, the loss of Pettitte and Clemens could haunt them.

"I think we've got a pretty strong team," Jeter said. "There are no worries. I don't look at it as there should be any worries. I just look at it as we're changing personnel."

In addition to Brown and Vazquez, the Yankees have added Gary Sheffield and Kenny Lofton in the outfield and Tom Gordon and Paul Quantrill in the bullpen.

Jeter said he naturally becomes eager as spring training approaches. He is looking forward to seeing some of his new teammates.

"We're adding All-Stars," Jeter said. "We're definitely adding good players."

But in Brown, Lofton and Sheffield, the Yankees have some players whose reputations do not seem to mesh with the selfless approach of previous teams that Joe Torre has managed. Brown can be grumpy, Lofton can be ornery and Sheffield can be petulant. While Jeter did not dispute the personality traits, he believes that every player will adjust to how Torre wants things done, not the other way around.

"The Yankees change them," Jeter said. "If you don't fit in here, you've got to adapt pretty quickly. If you don't adapt, then something else will happen to you. We've had people come here over the years, and they've had the reputation of being this or being that and they've fit in. I don't foresee that being a big problem."

Besides, Jeter noted, there is always an easy solution to any problem on the Yankees. Just do what the Yankees have failed to do for three straight seasons and win a championship.

"That's always the expectation here," Jeter said. "We don't go into the season saying that we're trying to win the division or get to the World Series. We say we're trying to win the World Series. Those new guys, if they don't know about that, they'll learn it quick."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Jasonik
January 14th, 2004, 09:54 AM
But the Yankees could play the Astros in the World Series in what would be an entertaining scene featuring two marquee pitchers who bolted from Steinbrenner's team in the Bronx to play in their own backyard.

ZippyTheChimp
January 14th, 2004, 02:16 PM
Given the mantra all last season...

Did Roger actually say,

"I'm going to unretire to spend less time with my family."

Kris
January 26th, 2004, 01:23 AM
January 26, 2004

Clemens Has New Tour: Good Will, Not Goodbye

By TYLER KEPNER

After deciding that last year was not his goodbye tour, after all, Roger Clemens is embarking on a New York good-will tour. It started last night with a warm reception — and gentle teasing — at a Midtown awards dinner.

Clemens, the former Yankee pitcher who came out of retirement this month to sign with his hometown Houston Astros, received the Joe DiMaggio Toast of the Town award at the annual dinner of the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

"My friend," said Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman, who presented Clemens the award, "you will always have a seat at our family."

With that, most people in the ballroom at the Sheraton New York stood and gave Clemens an ovation; only a few booed. Florida Marlins Manager Jack McKeon had already needled Clemens for going back on his retirement pledge while accepting his National League Manager of the Year award.

"Jack, I thought I was going to be settling into my couch also," Clemens said. "Everything seemed to change."

Clemens played in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic golf tournament in Palm Springs, Calif., on Saturday and took a red-eye to New York. He will appear at three more dinners in New York over the next 10 days.

"I am glad I could make it here so I could personally come before all of you here and all the Yankee fans and everybody, just all the things that I hold so close to my heart," he said.

Clemens said his five seasons with the Yankees had a movie-like quality and seemed to unfold "in slow motion." He said repeatedly last season and early this winter that he would retire as a Yankee, but decided to keep playing after the Astros signed his close friend Andy Pettitte away from the Yankees.

Clemens's decision rankled some Yankee fans and was greeted by headlines he noticed from Houston.

"I heard some of the things that were on the back pages, and it was hurtful, and it did bother me, because I poured my heart out and did the best I can," Clemens said. "But, like my mother said, `You should please some of the people some of the time, not all of the people all of the time.' "

Clemens sat on the dais between the recently elected Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley and the American League Cy Young winner, Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays. To Halladay's left was the Texas Rangers' Alex Rodriguez, the A.L. most valuable player, who received a new title earlier in the day.

After spending much of the winter trying to trade Rodriguez and his enormous salary to the Boston Red Sox, the Rangers' owner, Tom Hicks, named Rodriguez captain yesterday. Hicks, General Manager John Hart and Manager Buck Showalter also attended the dinner, at which Rodriguez received his M.V.P. award.

Rodriguez acknowledged the presence of the club officials and praised Hicks in his acceptance speech. "I feel privileged to play for such a great owner," he said.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company