Thursday, January 13, 2011

No Pettitte in Early '11, Kennedys, Arizona Shooting

Yankee general manager Brian Cashman has said that Andy Pettitte has told him that he needs to be close to his home in the Houston suburbs this spring -- possibly to be a witness in Roger Clemens' perjury trial -- so he won't be with the Yankees at the start of the season. However, Cashman says that Pettitte also told him that, if he pitches at all in the 2011 season, it will be for the Yankees.

Suddenly, the Yankees' chances at Title XXVIII this season have gone from pretty good to highly questionable. What does the starting rotation look like without Pettitte?

1. CC Sabathia. Would be the ace of any team, with the possible exception of the Philadelphia Phillies, who have Roy Halladay. But he would still be the 2nd starter on the Phillies, because Cole Hamels has slipped a little, and because Cliff Lee ain't that good.

2. Phil Hughes. Has been terrific in the regular season. Has been iffy in the postseason. Sort of like Chien-Ming Wang. Remember him? I'll have a note about his absence later.

3. A.J. Burnett. He has pitched 12 seasons in the major leagues. Only 3 of them have been bad, and only 1 in the past 7. But that 1 was last season. And he just turned 34 -- also his uniform number. How do we know he's going to be in 2011 what he was from 2005 to 2009? We don't. We don't know whether 2010 was a fluke, or the beginning of the end. If the Yankees are to reach the Playoffs in 2011, and make a run at a 28th World Championship, Burnett needs to come through.

4. Sergio Mitre. He pitched okay in relief last season, but only okay. He started only 3 games last season, and only once has he started more than 10 games in a season (27 with the 2007 Florida Marlins).

5. Ivan Nova. He pitched well at times last season, but he's only 23 and made a grand total of 7 career major league starts.

The Yankees could move Joba Chamberlain back to the rotation, but at this point that might be a mistake. He has been so horribly mishandled by this team. Is he a starter? Is he a reliever? He's not a baby, he can pitch 7 innings every 5 days, can't he? They need to make up their minds on him. And if Joba isn't the successor to Mariano Rivera as closer, then they need to find said successor now, because Mo is 41. He was great at 40, but he's not getting any younger. And I don't think David Robertson is the answer, either.

The Yankees will not have Andy Pettitte, at least for the start of the season. Nor will they have Cliff Lee, who is not this era's Sandy Koufax, but usually pitches well and saves some wear and tear on your bullpen by "eating innings."

Nor will they have Javier Vazquez, and even with Pettitte unavailable, I won't miss Home Run Javy a bit. Nor will they have Dustin Moseley, who they let get away. He signed as a free agent with the San Diego Padres.

Nor will they have Chien-Ming Wang, who, if the National League had decided by Opening Day 2008 to join the 20th Century (if not the 21st) and put in the designated hitter like a real league, would likely still be the Yanks' Number 2 starter.

Instead, since June 15, 2008 -- at which point, remember, he was 8-2 with a 109 ERA+ for the season and 54-20 for his career -- Wang has appeared in a grand total of 12 games, gone 1-6 with an ERA+ of 48, hasn't pitched in the majors since June 28, 2009 (a win over the Mets at Pity Field, by the way), and in 2010 became, and remains, the property of the Washington Nationals. Wang's downfall did not hurt the Yankees in 2009 (indeed, it may have led them to sign Sabathia and Burnett, so it may have helped that season), but it hurt them a lot in 2008 (missed the Playoffs completely) and 2010 (only got the Wild Card and needed another starter to beat the Texas Rangers in the American League Championship Series).

Suddenly, the Yankees not getting Cliff Lee is looking less like no big deal, and more like a mistake, if only because they definitely need at least 1 more starter -- possibly, 2, maybe 3 if Burnett can't come back strong.

The Rays won't go downhill as a result of their payroll slash immediately, and the Red Sox will probably be improved, unless they get hit by the injury bug as badly in '11 as they did in '10. Buck Showalter's Oriole revival may be long-term, or it may have been a false spring. We don't know yet.

Right now, the American League Eastern Division is a big fat question mark. All because of one man, Andy Pettitte. His presence would go a long way toward answering the question. His absence leaves it wide oepn.

Then again, maybe the Rays WILL collapse. It appears they're going to sign Kyle Farnsworth! Cousin Larry, now, we so happy, we do the dance of joy!

I can honestly say I have never been more glad to see a player leave the Yankees than Kerosene Kyle (Squawker Lisa's nickname for him). Not a Darn's Worth! (My nickname for him.)

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So when will Pettitte return, if he does? Clemens is rumored to be going on trial in July. But, as Lisa Swan of Subway Squawkers -- a huge fan of Pettitte but not of Clemens -- points out, Barry Bonds was indicted in 2007 for the exactly same thing, perjury relating to saying under oath that he did not knowingly take steroids in an effort to enhance his baseball performance, and Bonds has still not yet gone to trial, 3 1/2 years later.

Lisa thinks the idea that a Clemens trial will begin in July is "laughable." Knowing the American legal system, she may be right: The 6th Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing the right to a speedy trial, is not one of the more commonly-invoked Amendments, either in practice or in its usage in political speeches (which often mention the 10th Amendment, but not the 9th, which contradicts what a lot of people think the 10th means).

Does Pettitte really need to stay close to Houston to make depositions? Can't he make them just as easily from New York? Most major law firms have New York offices, although, according to the firm's website, Clemens' attorney and his firm, Rusty Hardin & Associates, P.C., only have an office in downtown Houston, at McKinney & LaBranch, just 5 blocks from the Astros' Minute Maid Park (and 4 blocks from the Toyota Center, new home of the NBA's Houston Rockets). But I'm guessing that Hardin & Associates have the means to fly the necessary people to New York and take Pettitte's statements there, even in the offices at Yankee Stadium II if need be.

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Maybe Pettitte isn't wavering due to possible Clemens trial implications -- in any sense of the word "implications." Maybe he just wants to spend more time with his family.

Most of the time, when a politician or a sports figure says he's leaving the profession, even temporarily, "to spend more time with my family," it's code for "I did something bad, and my wife found out about it, and I have to make it up to her." But with Andy Pettitte, I find it totally believable.

Then again, we used to think Clemens was a great family man, too. And also Brett Favre -- and I hear his sister has been arrested on drug-related charges. Do we ever really know?

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Dave Sisler died. He pitched in the major leagues from 1956 to 1962, mostly with the Boston Red Sox. He was the son of Hall-of-Fame first baseman George Sisler and brother of major leaguers George Sisler Jr. and Dick Sisler -- Dick being the most famous due to his Pennant-winning home run for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1950, making him more famous than their father, for all his achievements, was, because he retired before the era of television.

Dave Sisler appeared in more major league games than any player who had also played at New Jersey's Princeton University. He had prostate cancer and was 79.

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Nice story in the Devils' Blog Fire & Ice about the life and recent death of Hap Kennedy, Royal Canadian Air Force flying ace of World War II, and grandfather of Devils player Mark Fraser: http://blogs.northjersey.com/blogs/fireice/fraser_remembers_the_life_of_his_war_hero_grandfather/#When:20:15:34Z

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Rumor going around that actress Kate Hudson is pregnant. But she's no longer dating Alex Rodriguez -- so save your jokes, David Letterman. The father, if the rumor is true, is her current boyfriend, Matthew Bellamy, leader of the British rock band Muse.

Also rumors about pregnancies for Beyonce Knowles (her mother has publicly denied it, and neither Beyonce nor Jay-Z has addressed it), Beyonce's former Destiny's Child groupmate Kelly Rowland (no response), all 3 of the "grownup" Kardashian sisters, Kim, Kourtney and Khloe (all continue to deny it), Mary J. Blige (no response), and former Sister, Sister star Tia Mowry (confirmed -- sister Tamera is also married, but no children yet). Along with the already-established pregnancy of Natalie Portman, with her Black Swan co-star Benjamin Millepied.

No such rumors about A-Rod and his current girlfriend, actress Cameron Diaz. She's the female lead in the new version of The Green Hornet opening tomorrow. Starring Seth Rogen as the Batmanesque hero (wealthy playboy by day, crimefighter with cool car and sidekick by night).

First Robert Downey Jr. as both Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes. Now Seth Rogen as the Green Hornet. What's next, Harvey Feierstein as JFK?

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Actually, there is a miniseries titled The Kennedys that was ready to air on The History Channel, with Greg Kinnear as President John F. Kennedy -- not particularly Kennedyesque in previous roles, but in the clips shown, he really looks like him -- and Katie Holmes as an eerily-spot-on Jackie.

But the History Channel has pulled it, apparently under pressure from 2 members of the Kennedy family with ties to the History Channel's owner, NBC: Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg (JFK & Jackie's daughter does legal work for NBC) and Maria Shriver (the daughter of Eunice Kennedy & Sargent Shriver was a longtime NBC journalist before becoming First Lady of California, a tenure now ended as husband Arnold Schwarzenegger was term-limited out of the Governorship).

It's not clear why Caroline and Maria wanted it pulled. The History Channel has said that, while the miniseries shows the various flaws of various Kennedys, it is a generally positive portrayal.

Certainly, other productions about the family -- The Kennedys of Masschusetts (based on Doris Kearns Goodwin's book The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, with Steve Weber as Jack), JFK: Reckless Youth (Patrick Dempsey as young Jack), and the more recent Jackie, Ethel, Joan: The Women of Camelot (Daniel Hugh-Kelly and Jill Hennessey -- who I love -- as Jack and Jackie) -- have aired, while Ted, and for some of them Jackie, were still alive. Ethel, Bobby's widow, is still alive. As far as I know, none of them ever stepped forward to stop any book or film about the family or any member thereof, and, as we've seen, there've been so many, some of them decidedly anti-Kennedy.

Even the ones that are generally supportive of Jack, Bobby and Ted tend to look unkindly on their father, Joseph P. Kennedy. (In the one sound clip I've seen of this miniseries, in the NBC News story on its being pulled, the actor playing Joe says, "Every man has his price. I've never met anyone who can't be bought." And Katie Holmes as Jackie says, "Well, now you have." But in real life, Jackie was usually very nice to old Joe. I suppose it was her nature). In his posthumously-published memoir, Ted gave us what one reviewer called possibly the only warm-hearted portrait we are ever likely to get of the family patriarch. Yet Ted never stepped in to stop a book or film about the family or any of its members. Is this new film unkind to Ted? If so, no one's saying his widow Vickie, his ex-wife Joan, or his kids -- Ted Jr., Kara and Patrick -- are having anything to do with shelving it.

Indeed, the reasons are still unrevealed. When CBS shelved The Reagans, starring James Brolin as Ron and Judy Davis as Nancy, in 2003 (shortly before the former President's death), it was due to conservative activists' typical holier-than-thou reaction to portraying the old buzzard as anything less than the glorious hero who saved America from liberalism (at least for 8 years) and save the world from Communism (cough-aid to China-cough). In particular, they objected to comments the Reagan character makes about AIDS being punishment from God for gays -- which he never said publicly. The series then aired on Showtime, which has far fewer viewers than the 3 real networks (CBS, NBC and ABC). But at least we knew the reason it didn't air on CBS. We still don't know for sure why the History Channel won't air The Kennedys. They have said, however, that they may make it available to another cable network.

Personally, I think, regardless of politics, the History Channel should show it. It may be a dramatization, but that hasn't stopped them from showing other historically-inspired dramas such as Jesus of Nazareth, 300, the Maximilian Schell version of Peter the Great, and such World War II-themed films as Band of Brothers, Flags of Our Fathers (directed by Clint Eastwood and based on Senator John McCain's book), and the 2001 film version of Pearl Harbor.

Besides, a lot of the History Channel's recent programming has had nothing to do with history. Seriously: Ax Men? Ice Road Truckers? Pawn Stars? American Pickers? Maybe these are worthwhile programs, but they are not historical in nature. Let them air on the Discovery or Learning Channels. Let the History Channel show history.

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Finally, a word about Christina-Taylor Green. Born on September 11, 2001, killed in the shooting in Tucson, Arizona last Saturday that killed 5 others, including a federal judge, and wounded 14 others, including the gunman's apparent main target, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Christina was just 9, and already a star in Little League, the only girl on an otherwise all-boy team. She had baseball in her blood. Her father, John Green, is a former minor-league player and now supervisor of amateur scouts for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Her grandfather is Dallas Green, former major league pitcher, the manager of the 1980 World Champion Phillies, the GM who built the 1984 and 1989 NL Eastern Division Champion Chicago Cubs (they have since been moved to the NL Central), and one of only 4 men to manage both the Yankees and the Mets (the others are Casey Stengel, Yogi Berra and Joe Torre). He is now a special advisor to Phillies management, and was one of the few people involved in both of their World Championships, 1980 and 2008.

Christina was just 9, and thus had lots of options. She wanted to become the first woman to play Major League Baseball. She also wanted to go into politics. She already had: She'd been elected to her elementary school's student council. She wanted to meet her District's Congresswoman, whom she admired, and wanted to see if Gabby Giffords was as great as she'd heard. She never got the chance to find out that she was right.

This blog is not about politics, although occasionally my strong liberalism has come through. Last night, at the McKale Center, the University of Arizona's basketball arena, near the site of the shooting, President Obama said that this is not the time to assign blame, this is the time to come together.

It's hard, Mr. President. It's hard. And I would say that even if the main target were a conservative Republican and no potential baseball prospect had been lost.

But he's right. We have to try.

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