April 16, 2014

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Doug Clarke: Yankees aren’t what they used to be

The Yankees. Teh.
Whether Andy Pettitte failed to rescue the New Yawkers once again Friday night — as he made a career of doing for the Pinstripers before Boss Steinbrenner so cavalierly cut him adrift a few years back — is not the question.
The question is: After Pettitte what? Mike Mussina (5.15 ERA), who was so thoroughly rotten this year that he was yanked from the rotation? Roger Clemens, the 43-year-old mercenary who, because he’s 43, is naturally fighting off debilitating injuries? Igawa, the Japanese import with his 6.25 ERA? Someone named Kennedy? Rasner?
They got nuthin’, my friends. Not even a prayer. And Pettitte wasn’t able to outduel Fausto Carmona. 
But the Indians are up 2-to-0 as we munch on our Wheaties this morning, so … fugitaboutit, Sal. And tell Maggie to bar the door, turn off the lights in The House That Ruth Built and start leading the rendition of Auld Lang Syne that says an old acquaintance named Joe Torre should not be forgotten.
As we speak, The Boss — rambling incoherently to himself as he pads around his home barefooted with oatmeal stains crusted on his jammies — will find a way to hang the Yankees’ albatross, its atrocious pitching staff, around the neck of Torre. Oh, yes, heads will roll.
In New York, where anything west of the Hudson is held not so much in contempt as it is with utter amusement, the Cleveland-New York series will no doubt be viewed as a baseball Armageddon. It’s one thing to be bested by the Boys from Back Bay, the Red Sox, but an ignominious horse of a different color to lose to.
Get used to it, Sal. Your team is old and gray and creaky about the edges.
Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow will see Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, Eyechart Mientkiewicz, Mariano Rivera and the aforementioned Mussina & Clemens not getting a single day younger. Not one single day.
Contrast that with the young’uns from the Tepee out beyond the Hudson River. Why, some of these guys — Victor Martinez, Grady Sizemore, Asdrubal Cabrera (that’s Asdrubal, Sal; not Melky), Ryan Garko and Franklin Gutierrez by name — why, I’d rather have their future than I would the past of most of these Yankees.
Aside from Jeter, of course.
Which brings us to the one called A-Rod. If Alex Rodriguez, who just has a devil of a time hitting in the only month that matters east of the Hudson, continues to get that Golden Delicious lodged in his throat, well, hell … he just may decide that West of the Hudson is the place to be.
A place where a guy can get away from the pressure, the scrutiny, the booing, the chants, the sweaty palms, the savage beat writers who hover over the team like vultures over a dead body lying on the desert floor. Place that isn’t a fishbowl and a guy can lose himself …
I keep seeing that first pitch popup he hit off Sabathia on Thursday night. Guy goes up to the plate swinging at the first pitch like you know what things are inside his head, rattlin’ around. The rattles sound this way: “Gotta do something this October. … If it’s anywhere near the plate I’m swinging … gonna be a first-pitch fastball … gonna swing … gotta get a big hit this October. … Just gotta … gotta …”
The inside of A-Rod’s head. A great place to be, isn’t it? Especially if you’re not A-Rod. If you are A-Rod, well … lotsa luck to you, pal.
Or, like the sign being held up for the cameras inside the tepee reads: “Hey, A-Rod: Think.”
Seriously, can the Yankees win this series? Well, yes. But, seriously, the window of opportunity for them is as narrow as Dick Cheney’s mind and twice as treacherous. (Well, not quite, but it is a slippery slope as Dubya likes to say.)
Consider:
1. They have to hit enough … against the Tribe’s superior pitching staff — both starters and middle relievers — to have a lead after seven innings. That’s an absolute must.
In the eighth inning Torre can call on a monster of a kid named Joba Chamberlain (2-0, 0.38 ERA, 34 K’s in 24 innings and just 12 hits allowed) and in the ninth bring in Rivera, who has closed more cases than Kyra Sedgwick.
2. A-Rod is able to empty the demons from his mind … go to the plate with a blank slate … and hit like he hits in, well … May and June.
3. Torre pulls out all the stops and realizes that another kid, rookie Phil Hughes (whom we saw briefly in Game 1) is a far better pitcher right now than Mussina or Igawa or Rasner and starts him in Game 3 (or 4). And the kid delivers a gem — somewhat like another kid, Jaret Wright, came through for the Indians once upon a time.
4. Having a lead, Rivera must close things out like he did last year and all the years before that — not like he did this year when he had a 3.15 ERA and gave up almost as many hits as innings pitched.
I’m tellin’ ya, Sal … Mariano Rivera ain’t what he used to be. Nossir. Not by a long shot.
As your guy Yogi liked to say, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” Still, I’d rather be us out here west of the Hudson than stuck in your boots east of the Hudson. Yessir, I would.

LeBron became a Yankees fan when?

When Shakespeare wrote “Much Ado About Nothing” he probably had this whole LeBron James-wearing-a-Yankee-cap thing in mind. Still, I have to ask: Wasn’t LeBron between the ages of 9 and 15 when the Indians were the Ramirez-Thome-Belle-Viquel et al Indians of 1994-2000? He was … Woulda been when the Yankees were down and ordinary and the Cleveland Indians were on top.So tell us again, LeBron, you became a Yankee fan when you were, what … 5 years old? Six? Seven?
And living in Akron?
Oh, brother …

Unbelievable

No one, not your mother or father or sister, or your coach or your favorite teacher — not even a politician — was ever as sincere or as convincing as Marion Jones all those years she was denying she took steroids.We believed her because we wanted to believe her. If she wasn’t telling the truth, well … you couldn’t even believe a nun then.
And then came Friday when Marion Jones, the five-time Olympic gold medal winner, pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about steroids. She was into BALCO, and Conte and the ’roids up to her neck. The track and field world wept in dismay. So did we all.
Meanwhile, the same federal grand jury that investigated Jones is the one that’s looking into one Barry Bonds.
“He’s next,” said one insider close to the investigation.
The world of baseball waits … and holds its breath.
Contact Doug Clarke at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.