Friday, August 29, 2008

An Interview With Chad Jennings

Chad Jennings (The Times-Tribune) is a beat writer for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (AAA affiliate of the NY Yankees). Chad's excellent blog is a must-read for any Yankee fan. His link can be found by scrolling down to the"Yankee-related sites" header on the lower right hand side of this page.

Chad was kind enough to share his thoughts with us on a variety of topics.

CBLL: As a beat writer for the SWB Yankees, please take us through your typical day.

Chad Jennings: Wake up. Shower. Check the Internet. Eat. That's my morning, in that order, and I keep checking certain sites every hour or so throughout the day. If something breaks, then I write from home or make a hurried, earlier-than-expected drive to the stadium. If not, I want to know as much as possible when I get to the park around 4:30, earlier if I know I have a lot to work on. The big league guys get to the park much earlier than I do, but they're obviously in a different situation. When I get to the stadium, I go to the clubhouse and make small talk. I'm not usually looking for quotes, just information. Is anyone banged up? Are there call-up rumors floating around? Does anything look or sound out of the ordinary? During the game I'm either blogging or writing notebooks and Sunday features for the paper. By the sixth or seventh inning, I want to have an angle decided and my gamer partially finished, knowing that if all goes well I'm going to delete most everything that's written. Coming back to a blank screen after postgame interviews is way out of the question. Gotta have a head start, even if I don't end up needing it. I get home around 11:30, hope for a rerun of Mythbusters, then go to bed way too late.

CBLL: When did you first decide to become a sportswriter?

Chad Jennings: I was 15 years old, had to write a paper in junior high school, and for whatever reason I really enjoyed writing it. Until that moment I wanted to take over the family farm, but I got this idea that I liked words and might want to be a reporter. Covering car accidents and city council meetings sounded dull, so I wound up in sports. As a kid I had a subscription to Baseball Digest and my favorite thing to do was go to the back of the magazine where the 40-man rosters were listed, and from those rosters, choose active rosters and lineups for each team. Maybe it really started back then, but I didn't get the sports writing idea until junior high. Then I went to the University of Missouri, moved to Scranton and started living those days described above.

CBLL: All reports indicate that the Yankees have no impact position players at the AAA level. Is there anybody that you feel might be flying under the radar?

Chad Jennings: That depends on your definition of impact. I still believe Brett Gardner could develop into an interesting everyday center fielder, and I think Juan Miranda can be a platoon first baseman who gets the bulk of the starts. Beyond that, I see most of these guys as major league role players. Justin Christian's speed and Shelley Duncan's power can play in the big leagues. Chris Stewart is a legitimate Chad Moeller type defensive catcher. (Might be better, actually) Matt Carson flew under the radar for a while, but I think now most fans see him as a possibly fourth or fifth outfielder in the big leagues.

CBLL: Have the Hughes and Kennedy struggles this year surprised you?

Chad Jennings: Yes, Hughes especially. He's going to be a very good major league starter, I just expected this to be the year it happened. Instead we'll have to wait until he's an old man. When he's 23 or so. Kennedy proved last year that his stuff can translate at the big league level, it just seems that after he struggled early this season his head started spinning and he got himself into a hole. For the most part, he's been just as good as last year the times I've seen him in Triple-A. Bottom line, they're very young and player development is about patience, not hype.

CBLL: Do you get a chance to regularly watch the (NY) Yankees on television?

Chad Jennings: Not really. The YES Network is usually on in the press box and I'll go over to the TV to watch key at-bats or to watch players make their debuts, but otherwise all of the Yankees games that I see are being played on Triple-A fields. Even if I'm home for a game, I flip back and forth.

CBLL: How often do you get to Yankee Stadium?

Chad Jennings: Ready for the shocker? I've never been. I didn't grow up out here so I never went as a kid, and after I moved to Pennsylvania, my job has kept me away more than it's allowed me to go. There have been a handful of games that I was going to cover at the Stadium, but something else has always popped up and kept me from going. My first time at the Stadium was supposed to be last year during the ALCS, but...

CBLL: What type of a manager is Dave Miley?

Chad Jennings: He's fond of saying he doesn't work with the hitters, doesn't work with the pitchers, doesn't work with the fielders. He manages the game and manages the clubhouse. He's a smart baseball man and I think the players like him. He knows when to come down hard on them and when to let them have fun. He gets to the park early in the morning and leaves late at night, both on the road and at home.

CBLL: Your blog recently listed the 2008 IL award winners. I noticed that two Red Sox farm hands were selected Most Valuable Player (Jeff Bailey) and Most Valuable Pitcher (Charlie Zink). Should Yankee fans be scared?

Chad Jennings: Not really. Bailey's a utility guy who can play the outfield and first base. Good tools across the board, but nothing overwhelming. He's a bench guy in the big leagues. Zink is a knuckleballer who wasn't nearly this good last season. He might be a back-of-the-rotation starter, but I can't see him being much more than that.

CBLL: Please give us a brief scouting report and big league projection for the following players:

CBLL: Alfredo Aceves.

Chad Jennings: Throws five or six pitches and commands them pretty well. Just a matter of experience and adjustment. Projection is tough based on what I've seen. He's gotten crushed and he's been unhitable.

CBLL: Phil Coke.

Chad Jennings: Low 90s fastball. Big time slider. OK changeup. I actually like him a lot as a left-handed specialist who could prove himself as more than a situational reliever. I think he's better out of the bullpen than the rotation.

CBLL: Mark Melancon.

Chad Jennings: What else can I say. He's a beast. Mid 90s fastball with movement. Hammer curve similar to David Robertson's. Very thoughtful and polite, and willing to work. Attacks hitters, which is why his pitch count is low and his total innings high. I believe the hype that he's a future closer.

CBLL: Juan Miranda.

Chad Jennings. Good gap hitter who showed a good eye earlier this season when he wasn't hitting. It was like he knew the bat wasn't there yet, so he took his walks. The power is starting to show. Defensively he's fine, not the butcher he's sometimes made out to be. Big league platoon.

CBLL: Chase Wright.

Chad Jennings: When he keeps his sinker and changeup down in the zone, he's very good. A lot of routine grounders and weak fly balls. Control is occasionally a problem, but it's been better this year. And his curveball has come a long way, which is key for him. He was a two-pitch pitcher last season. Could be a back of the rotation starter, but I have a hard time seeing him in the bullpen because lefties sometimes give him more trouble than they should, which he admits and which he's successfully worked hard to improve.

CBLL: J.B. Cox.

Chad Jennings: Sinker, slider reliever with a deceptive delivery. Has a changeup but he leans more on the fastball and slider. Absolutely has to command the strikezone because he's never going to sneak his 87 mph fastball by a hitter. But, when he does command the strikezone, he's very effective. The slider can be a strikeout pitch, but he's a groundball guy.

CBLL: Finally, the most important question. Have you ever seen Dwight Schrute at a SWB Yankees game?

Chad Jennings: No, but I used to cover Ryan Howard. In fact, every time I hear them use the name Ryan Howard on The Office in reference to the temp, it cracks me up. Why did they have to name that guy Ryan Howard? Is there another actor in Hollywood who looks less like THE Ryan Howard?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Some Thoughts - 8/24/08

A bit of a sloppy game today, but at this point in the season, a win is a win. Thank God for Mariano Rivera. Just watching him on the mound relaxes me. We're really going to miss him someday. Hopefully, that day is a long way away.

Carl Pavano has started 20 games for the Yankees. His contract is approximately 4o million. So, as of today, he's earned 2 million per start. Pretty cool, huh.

More Pavano numbers: He's earned $6,666,666.66 per win (scary), $343,938.09 per inning pitched, and $114, 646.03 per out.

I listened to a good part of this series in the car. John Sterling sure misses a lot of home run calls, doesn't he. I realize that's never been his forte, but he really seems to be getting worse. Nonetheless, I still love Big John.

Speaking of announcers, I watched the streaming video of the Men's Gold Medal Basketball game this morning at 2:30 (on my laptop). The video contained sound, but no announcers. It was very interesting. Years back, NBC broadcasted a Jets-Dolphins game with only sound and graphics. Last night (rather, early this morning) reminded me of that game.

Does anyone ever read Phil Mushnick in the Sunday New York Post? He always shows two people that "supposedly" look alike. Maybe it's just me, but they never look anything like one another. Today he had Johan Santana and Sinbad. Do they look alike?

Speaking of look-a-likes. The woman below looks very familiar. Can anyone help me out? Who is she?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Is There Such A Thing As A "True Yankee"?

We always hear the term, "True Yankee". Does such a thing even exist? If yes, how does one become one? Do you need to win a championship? Must you play your entire career in pinstripes? Must you play most of your career in pinstripes? Do you need to exhibit class and grace? Do you need to perform well under pressure?

I think it's a very subjective thing. There's really no right or wrong answer. For me, it's purely a gut thing, but there are certain players that I do place in the "True Yankee" category.

Here's my "True Yankee" list from the past 35 years (I limited the listing to only players that I have watched in my lifetime). Did I miss anyone? Did I include anyone that's undeserving? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Ron Bloomberg, Scott Brosius, Chris Chambliss, Horace Clarke, David Cone, Bucky Dent, Joe Girardi, Goose Gossage, Ron Guidry, Catfish Hunter, El Duque, Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter, Jimmy Key, Chuck Knoblaugh, Jim Leyritz, Sparky Lyle, Tino Martinez, Hideki Matsui, Don Mattingly, Ramiro Mendoza, Gene Michael, Thurman Munson, Bobby Murcer, Graig Nettles, Paul O'Neill, Andy Pettitte, Lou Piniella, Jorge Posada, Willie Randolph, Dave Righetti, Mariano Rivera, Mickey Rivers, Luis Sojo, Mike Stanley, Mike Stanton, Mel Stottlemyre, Randy Velarde, Chien-Ming Wang, Bernie Williams, Roy White, David Wells, John Wetteland.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Maybe The Tough Love Approach Will Work?

The Yankees had a closed door meeting in Toronto. It seems as if the meeting helped (at least for one night, anyway).

According to our sources, a friend of the Steinbrenner family was asked to address the team during the meeting. From what I hear, the guy is a real Larry Bowa-type, and really laid into everyone.

Supposedly, the guy's name is Blake. Other than that, nobody knows much about him.

CBLL was able to obtain this video of "Blake" from a few years back. Larry Bowa-type does not begin to describe him.

Warning: The language is a bit harsh.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Some Thoughts

A very depressing first game against the Blue Jays. It's too bad Rasner wasn't able to get a win. Burnett's stuff is electric, it's amazing that he doesn't have more success in his non-Yankee starts.

My four year old daughter named her doll, Kim Jones. Is it possible that I watch too many Yankee games?

A quick confession. Sometimes when I'm typing (and looking at the screen) I hear Doogie Howser music in my head.

Competing in the Steeplechase must be very annoying. By the time you're finished with your race, your sneakers and socks are all wet.

This is totally coming from my heart, but I think the Jets can be really dangerous this year.

Speaking of the Jets, Eric Mangini has gotten lots of the attention, but in my opinion, the Jets also have a real good one in Mike Tannenbaum.

Bruce Springsteen is rumored to be playing the half time show at this year's Super Bowl. If the rumor is true, then it would only be fitting if a Jersey based team played in the game.

In recent days, I've heard numerous people (Al Leiter, Mike Francesa, etc...) say that Pudge Rodriguez is a borderline Hall of Famer. What do you think?

I found out today that my wife listens to (and enjoys) Craig Carton every morning. I think Carton can be amusing at times, but he strikes me as a little sleazy. Not the good kind of sleazy (think Angelina Jolie) either. I'm not exactly sure why I feel this way about Carton. I guess it's just one of those gut feelings, or maybe it's only because he hates the Yankees.

Speaking of my wife, we have tickets for the last two regular season home games at Yankee Stadium. I would like to go to the games, but my wife wants me to sell the tickets and make some money. I guess we're at an impasse. What would you do?

I was at a pig roast recently in eastern Connecticut. This particular part of Connecticut is evenly split between Yankee fans and Red Sox fans. There were lots of kids there that day, and I noticed two things. Number one, all the well behaved kids were the Yankee fans, while all the poorly behaved future juvenile delinquents were Red Sox fans. I found that very interesting. Number two, all the kids who were Red Sox fans had red hair and freckles. I'm not talking about one or two kids either. There were like 15-20 red haired, freckled, future juvenile delinquent Red Sox fans at the pig roast. Anyway, it reminded me of this hysterical video.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Why Bobby Abreu Is Scared Of Outfield Walls

I've never seen this mentioned before.

When Bobby Abreu was a young minor league player in the Astros system, he attended his first Major League baseball game. While sitting in the CF bleachers, Abreu and his teammates witnessed maybe the most gruesome sports injury ever to be captured on film.

Apparently, Abreu doesn't like to talk about the incident, however, the play has certainly had an effect on his outfield play.

Please be warned, this video is not for the squeamish.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Least Marketable Skill In The World

I just came across this site.

In a nutshell, a guy does batting stances of past and current players. Maybe it's only because it's very late, but I thought it was very funny (and accurate, too).

Here's a video of some of his Yankee stances.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Some Thoughts

Granted, Robinson Cano's play (and according to some, his attitude) this year leaves a lot to be desired, however, last offseason would have been the ideal time to trade him, not this offseason. The same goes for Melky Cabrera. Buy low, sell high. It's not rocket science.

Hank Steinbrenner should not be talking about next year (unless, he's using reverse psychology with the players). It sends a very bad message. I can't get mad at Hank, though. He's a funny and cuddly goofball, and with all his ranting and raving, it's not like he ever does anything rash or crazy (like firing the manager 16 games into the season). In fact, the more we learn about the Steinbrenner brothers, the more it seems as if Hal is the one with the most influence.

Brian Stokes pitched 4 shutout innings for the Mets the other night. Despite the fact that he entered the game with a 10-0 lead, he was awarded a save. I know it's within the rules, but how dumb is that? Wow! I just realized that this is something that Bob Raissman would write. Pretty scary.

Speaking of Bob Raissman. He's one of the few sportswriters who still uses the word, jive.

Getting back to Hank and Hal. Hank reminds me of the gruff (but lovable) guy who worked at the front desk on E.R. As for Hal, doesn't he look a little bit like Tom Cruise?

Mike & the Mad Dog were certainly annoying at times, with that being said, today is a sad day in the world of New York sports. Despite it's flaws, The Mike & the Mad Dog show was an institution that helped shape sports talk radio nationwide. During the Yankees 1996 championship run (among many other times), their show was a must listen.

Here's one of Chris's finer moments.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Lost Weekend

Let's look on the bright side. There have been worse weekends.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A Five Tool Prospect

This is the type of position player that the Yankees need. Young, athletic, and fast.

Check out the video.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Some Thoughts

I really like Robinson Cano. He has a sweet stroke, is young and tremendously talented (both offensively and defensively), but sometimes he really makes me scratch my head. His Chuck Knoblaugh impersonation in the 2nd inning of last night's game almost made me put my fist through the television. In addition, a player with his hitting ability should never have a .300 on base percentage.

Tommy Hunter reminds me of Andrew Giuliani.

After years of watching Jorge Posada, it was great to see a Yankees catcher actually block home plate last night. Jorge should try it some time.

Frankie Catalanatto would be the perfect type of player for the Yankees.

The Rays are not a fluke, but they will hit a rough stretch before this month is over. Mark my words.

In many ways 2008 is a transition year for the Yankees, and their current starting staff does kind of remind me of some of their starting staffs in the 80's. With that being said, the Yankees will make a real run at this thing (the WHOLE thing) this year. I just have a feeling.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The MaryAnne Kaat Memorial Fund

Via Peter Abraham's site:

ZEELAND, Mich. — MaryAnn Kaat might not be a familiar name to the lineup of little league baseball players who step to the plate in this Midwest town. But when they look back upon those warm summer nights under the lights, they just might appreciate her contribution to the game.

MaryAnn, wife of pitcher Jim Kaat, lost her spirited battle with cancer on July 21, 2008. In her final days, Jim made her a promise that he would establish a fund in her name for continued enhancement of the Jim Kaat Ballpark in his hometown of Zeeland, Mich.

“MaryAnn lit up my life,” said Jim, who spent 25 years as a Major League Baseball pitcher, including 16 consecutive Gold Glove Awards, and many more years in broadcasting. “I can only hope that this effort will help shine a light on little league players for years to come.”

MaryAnn served as her husband’s agent and manager since 1995, and also helped dedicate the Jim Kaat Ballpark in 2006. The ballpark commemorates Kaat’s legacy in America’s pastime and is now the center for vibrant little league and community programs.

Following MaryAnn’s death, Jim contacted local civic leaders with his idea for the MaryAnn Kaat Memorial Fund as a way to further the couple’s involvement with his hometown and to enhance the ballpark for generations to come. Funds will be used for improvements, such as lighting, under the direction of the Zeeland Recreation Little League Advisory Board.

“I hope this fund will help promote youth baseball,” said Jim. “There’s no better way to remember MaryAnn than through the game that has given us so much.”

The MaryAnn Kaat Memorial Fund is managed by the non-profit Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area. Donations can be made by visiting You may also mail your check to Community Foundation H/Z, 70 W. Eighth Street, Suite 100, Holland, MI 49423. Please specify MaryAnn Kaat Memorial Fund.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Bruce Springsteen & Tom Morello

One of my favorite youtube videos. Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine joins Bruce Springsteen for a performance of The Ghost of Tom Joad. Morello's guitar work is simply electric!

Morello's guitar solo (at around the 6:40 mark) sort of reminds me of Michael J. Fox's solo from the first Back to the Future movie.

Springsteen is a Yankee fan, so technically, this qualifies as a Yankee-related post.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

In the stands on 8/6/79

I've attended numerous Opening Day, Playoff, and World Series games at Yankee Stadium over the past 33 years, but by far my greatest Yankee Stadium memory is August 6th, 1979.

As most people know, Bobby Murcer delivered one of the eulogies at Thurman Munson's funeral earlier in the day, then knocked in all 5 runs in a stirring 5-4 comeback victory over the Orioles (on national television) that night.

My father and I (I was 11 years old) got to the park early for batting practice. The stands were pretty full, but the mood was very somber. Most of the people in the stands were talking about Thurman Munson (mostly in hushed tones), many were crying.

Ken Singleton played RF that night for the Orioles. He was very friendly with the fans before the game. He shagged fly balls, and purposely botched some of the balls to give everyone a laugh. I remember thinking that he seemed like a really nice guy.

The Yankees were down 4-0 in the 7th inning. Bobby Murcer came up with two runners on and drilled a home run to right field to make it a 4-3 game. My father and I were sitting in the RF stands. As the home run ball sailed over our heads, I briefly contemplated throwing my glove at the ball ( in those days, I brought my glove to every game) to knock it down, but chickened out at the last second. I'll never forget the vision of the laces on the ball spinning as it whizzed right over us!

When Murcer came up in the 9th inning with two runners in scoring position and the Yankees still trailing4-3, everyone in the park just knew that he would get a hit to win the game. When he did just that, nobody was surprised.

After the game ended, the fans in the stadium didn't wan't to leave. Everyone just kept clapping for Bobby (and for Thurman). A little while later, Bobby came on to the field (in his socks) to a thunderous ovation.

Despite the fact that the outcome had very little effect on the standings (1979 was just not the Yankees year), this game provided me with a wonderful and lasting memory.

Years later (a few weeks after being diagnosed with brain cancer), Bobby Murcer was a guest on Michael Kay's radio program. I called in and spoke to Bobby for a few minutes. I thanked him for providing both me and my father with a very special memory.

Bobby Murcer - Rest in peace.