March 2009

Green Tea Lattes Rule

It’s Day Two for me down in Tampa for and the Yankees. Let me bring you up to speed on what has happened for me so far:
Thursday March 19th:
4:00 am – Woke up and had some Special K with strawberries at my house in CT.
4:45 am – Left the house for JFK Airport.
6:30 am – First one to arrive at the gate for my 8:05 flight.
8:35 am – Left JFK – total flight time two hours, 33 minutes.
11:17 am – Arrived in Tampa – Godfather of Joe Auriemma and Kevin Sullivan picked me up.
12:00 pm – Checked in – room was not ready – hotel bar for lunch.
12:30 pm – After enjoying a Chicken Sandwich (without bread – I gave it up for Lent), room was ready – I unpacked
1:30 pm – Left hotel and went to Steinbrenner Field or as John Sterling refers to it as “The Boss.”
2:00 pm – Saw Harlan Chamberlain – Joba’s dad outside the clubhouse, introduced myself and headed inside.
2:15 pm – Ran into John Flaherty and set up an interview with him to tease our upcoming segment “Flash Forward.”
2:30 pm – Interviewed Harlan Chamberlain about Joba and the team’s chances this year (WATCH).
2:45 pm – Interviewed John Flaherty about what he’s seen this spring and the upcoming season (WATCH).
3:00 pm – Watched the Yankees take BP from the dugout (this never gets old – I feel like I am 10 all over again).
4:30 pm – Got into the press box and watched Joe edit our pieces.
5:30 pm – Bought dinner at Outback Steakhouse…at Steinbrenner Field!  They had Bloomin Onions, but I stayed away.
6:00 pm – Ate dinner – a filet sandwich from Outback, which was tremendous by the way.
7:15 pm – Sat in the bleachers and watched some of the Yankees and Blue Jays.
9:30 pm – Went back to the hotel, watched some of the tournament, and went to bed. Seventeen and a half hours was enough for me.
Needless to say I needed a good night’s sleep and a Grande Green Tea Latte from Starbucks to give me a nice kick in the rear end to get me going. We had a quick turnaround at the Stadium South this morning and it turned out to be a very productive morning. We were able to talk to Joe Girardi about Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera and how they are coming back from off season surgeries. Girardi and the coaching staff are very impressed with both players. They didn’t think they would be this advanced this soon. We also learned Andy Pettitte will throw 60-65 pitches in a minor league game today as well.

As far as the interviews go, we were able to get Dan Giese, who played a pivotal role for the Yankees last year when all of their injuries decimated their pitching staff. We also were very fortunate to get A.J. Burnett and Johnny Damon. Burnett coming off another solid outing this spring facing his former team last night. Damon is excited for this new season with the lineup, even minus A-Rod, because of the awesome pitching staff. We also talked to Tyler Kepner of the New York Times who always has the pulse of the Yankees clubhouse. Plus, one of my childhood idols gave us some time, Mickey Rivers. Mick the Quick was awesome and it was a thrill for me to get to talk to him. You can check all of these out on and don’t forget to check “Off the Wall” every day for updates from Tampa.

Trying to defend A-Rod

arod_cover.jpgIt’s been a tumultuous couple of months for Alex Rodriguez. He admitted using performance enhancing drugs, he had surgery on his hip and will miss close to the first two months of the season, and everything the slugger has said since his admission is put under a microscope, with every microbe of verbiage dissected and broken down until every proton and electron is examined.

I want to defend A-Rod with every fiber of my being for admitting he was wrong and doing everything the right way to start moving his life back in the right direction. He should also not be the only player dragged through the syringe filled mud. There are 103 more names from 2003 that didn’t come to light.

Rodriguez said in one of his many interviews he DOES NOT want those names to become public. He is bearing the brunt of the scrutiny and he just wants to move forward.

It seems he can’t move forward because almost every time he opens his mouth he proceeds to start a media frenzy. Take for example when he commented on Jose Reyes, a Dominican teammate in the World Baseball Classic. Rodriguez was asked if he watched the way Reyes ran the bases. He smiled and said quote, “I wish he was leading off on our team or playing on our team, that’s fun to watch.” Immediately some of the press surrounding him took that as a knock on Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter. Please. The last thing this guy wants to do, after getting the support of his teammates at his press conference, is to publicly humiliate them.

Even though the comments were innocuous, Rodriguez sent someone outside the clubhouse to make sure everyone knew it wasn’t a knock on Damon and Jeter. To his own admission, Rodriguez knows he is not a strong public speaker. You’ll learn that and more in an interview A-Rod gave the YES Network. Michael Kay sat down with the Yankees third baseman in our upcoming Pride, Power, and Pinstripes special which airs Tuesday March 24 after the Yankees take on the Red Sox in Grapefruit League action.

You would think if he is a self admitted bad public speaker, and always catches himself saying the wrong things, he wouldn’t make himself so available to the media constantly and maybe one of his crisis management people tells him to knock off the interviews for a while. Well that advice wasn’t available to him in recent months. Case in point, after Sports Illustrated outed him as one of the names on the list of 104 that tested positive for PED’s in 2003, and before he joined his teammates in Tampa, Rodriguez did an interview and a photo shoot with Details magazine. The pictures were in the New York Post. After seeing them, I’ll take the fifth, and refer to Forrest Gump in saying, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

My First Off the Wall Blog

xmasstory.jpgI feel like I am back in grammar school and was just given an assignment to write a theme. However, these assignments will never be a burden. I kind of feel like that kid Ralph from A Christmas Story. He was so stoked to write about getting a Red Rider BB gun for Christmas, and now I’m stoked that no one is safe from my soapbox capabilities here in “Off the Wall” land. Unlike Ralph, I get to write every day about a variety of topics, not just what I want for Christmas. 

Since I brought Christmas up, though, and there are 282 days left until the one day of presents instead of eight crazy nights, I would like to put out there that I would love to know what it feels like to make $1.5 million and average 2.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. That is my Christmas wish. 

I’m talking about Sean Williams. This guy is 22-years old. He just returned from his demotion to the D-League and he has worked himself back into the good graces of Lawrence Frank and back into the rotation for the New Jersey Nets. What does he do after all his struggles? He gets arrested in suburban Denver. 

The Nets were in the Mile High City to wrap up the West Coast portion of a five-game road trip, and Williams allegedly went into a cell phone store, got into a fight with a clerk, and threw a computer monitor. Damages were estimated to be between $1,200 and $1,300. 

What are you doing, Sean?! Sooner or later, you have to grow up. You have to realize that your life is pretty damn good. You’re playing a game and making seven figures. 

swill.jpgIs it hard to be a finely tuned and trained athlete? Um, yeah! Is it difficult to be on a plane every other day on a road trip? Sure! Every job has its drawbacks. The difference, however, between a professional athlete and John Q. Public (unless you’re an executive for AIG) is the finely tuned specimens could relax every time the check clears.

Williams gets all the credit in the world from me for taking his demotion, working hard and getting back to the big club and getting valuable minutes. However, it’s time to look in the mirror and realize you are 22, and not five. You have a responsibility to your teammates, your coach, and your organization. I don’t know what was said or what transpired, but see the previous sentence. Stop acting like a child take on your responsibilities and be a man.