Friday, February 26, 2010

Decoding the language of A-Rod

In every interview with Alex Rodriguez, there's always at least one moment where I shake my head in disbelief and think to myself, "My God, what a goober."

It's become a cherished part of my Yankee fan experience these past six years.

Here's how it goes: Reporter asks A-Rod question. A-Rod squints his eyes (this indicates that he's listening really hard) and contorts his lips (I'm not sure what this indicates). Then comes the painfully-obvious canned response that includes unnecessary adjectives, unique pronunciations, and best of all, content that is almost entirely untrue.

I actually tear up just thinking about it.

So as you might imagine, I was all-in when Rodriguez sat down for a typically massive press conference at Boss Lair on Thursday.

I'm thrilled to report that winning a title and becoming a postseason hero hasn't changed our slugging third baseman at all. He brought the squinting and lip puffing in bulk for the assembled gathering. As for the responses? Hilariously erroneous in so many ways.

Luckily, River & Sunset has gotten its hands on a Rodriguez-2-Reality Decoder. The device basically takes canned A-Rod quotes and converts them into his actual thoughts on an issue.

I can't tell you who gave me this device, but I will say it was from a Japanese buddy of mine in Anaheim whose love of gadgetry is matched only by his affinity for pornography. He also walks with a limp.

Here's what I learned from the R-2-R Decoder on Thursday:

On the difference a year makes:

"It's definitely a much different day, that's clear to me. Last year was a very embarrassing day, and something that I wouldn't want to go back and do. But looking back, I certainly thought it was a very important day. I've done a lot of growing up and realized a lot of things, and I like to think I put some of those things into play in 2009."


"It's definitely a much different day, that's clear to me. Last year, I was forced to admit to using steroids because a reporter exposed me and Brian Cashman threatened my life if I didn't 'fess up. It was an important day because my admission meant that my surprisingly muscular general manager wouldn't brutalize me with a crow bar. I haven't really grown up or realized much, and nothing that happened at spring training actually helped me hit baseballs harder the following October."

On admitting his mistakes:

"It was the most difficult day of my life, if not definitely top three. It was very difficult to deal with, it was very embarrassing."


"It was the third most difficult day of my life, behind seeing Madonna naked and finding out that MLB doesn't the lock their 'confidential' file cabinets. I mean, you think to yourself, 'It's Madonna! She has to look good nude, right?' False."

On the feeling of being a champion:
"I was having lunch with Tex yesterday and we both talked about what an amazing feeling it was to be world champs and how badly we wanted to do that again. It becomes an addiction, you want to just keep winning."


"I was having lunch with Tex yesterday, who happens to be an animatronic robot. He asked me what it was like to love, and what were feelings. I didn't really have any answers for him, but it was still nice to have someone to eat lunch with."

On finally winning the World Series:

"It wasn't a monkey, it was a humongous gorilla that came off my back. And I felt that, I did. It was a heavy gorilla. Now I just have an opportunity to come out and play baseball and have fun and really just focus on what I did in '09."


"You like how I did that there? You said monkey, and I came back with gorilla, a substantially larger primate. I also threw in the adjective 'humongous', which shows that the only thing that matches my baseball prowess is my vocabulary."

On the Johnny Damon drama:

"I was just crossing my fingers, hoping he would come back."


"There was nobody on the team better at pretending to like me than Johnny. It's going to be difficult to find someone else who is that adept at pretending. I'm looking at you, Swish."

On Derek Jeter's contract situation:

"Derek Jeter was born to be a Yankee."


"Derek Jeter was born to make me look bad."

On why numbers don't matter to him anymore:

"I've never had more fun in my life playing baseball than I did last year. If you told me that I'd hit 14 (HR), drive in 60-65 (RBI), I would've been happy with that as long as we won."


"I love numbers. I care about numbers more than Will Hunting. I watch the tepid CBS drama Num3ers only because I love numbers so much. In fact, let me know if you believe what I just said about the 14-homer thing, because I have this great stock guy, Lenny Dykstra, who you need to speak with ASAP."

My God, what a goober.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached via e-mail at Follow Dan on Twitter at danhanzus.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What, Me Worry? Jeter Relaxed About Future

Today over at, sports fans from around the globe were shaken to their core by the following headline:

Jeter Wants To Remain Yankee

This is the equivalent of going over to and seeing "Obama Wants To Remain President", or calling up to find "Madonna Wants To Keep Creeping You Out With Her Scary Arms".

So yeah, this is about as non-story as a story can be. But we're in the early portion of spring training, and writers stationed across Florida and Arizona have little choice but to stalk clubhouses like packs of starving dogs.

Sometimes, as with A-Rod's PED admission last spring, scribes luck into a Porterhouse steak. Other times, like Jeter's "revelation" that he likes being a Yankee, the beat guys have to make due with Alpo.

The fan's job is to sort out what's actual news and what's copy filler. Jeter's not worried about a deal getting done, because he knows there would be riots on the streets if he were anywhere but New York.

And since the Yankees probably aren't too keen to a bunch of lunatic WFAN callers burning down their zillion-dollar stadium, they'll give Jeter basically whatever he wants. He has the organization over a barrel, and he didn't even have to get his hands dirty to do it.

Once again, Derek Jeter dominates all.

As a gift to my readers, River & Sunset will look into its crystal ball to provide an exclusive look at the details of Jeter's new contract with the Yankees. What are my seer credentials, you ask? Well, I am the same guy who predicted the Yankees would win the World Series by beating the Phillies in six games...on April 5, 2009.

"Hey smart ass, in that same post you also predicted Wang would win 20 games."

What I meant to say is that Wang would appear in 20 games, and I fell short of that by just eight. Okay, that's a lie, but whatever. Let's stay on point here. My prediction:

Derek Jeter will re-sign with the Yankees in December. It will be a four-year contract worth approximately $18 million per season. The deal will include escalators that will allow him to match or better his current salary ($21.6 M in 2010) if he exceeds certain production markers. Everyone will be happy, including Nike, Ford, Dorothy and Charles Jeter, Minka Kelly, Gatorade, and your girlfriend/wife.

Brian Cashman will say he's happy, but this sentiment won't be completely accurate. On the surface he'll be thrilled, and if the club holds a press conference to announce the deal, the Yankees GM will gush about how Jeter is worth every penny.

But Jeter will be 36 in June, and the idea of handing out a lavish multi-year contract to a 36-year-old shortstop—a 36-year-old anything really—will gnaw at the business part of Cashman's brain.

Remember, Johnny Damon is 36 now, and after Damon griped on Monday about his sloppy departure from the Yankees, Cashman had this to say about his former left fielder:

"When we signed him, he was playing center field, a premium position, and the market was high. Now he's a left fielder, he's 36, in a collapsed market. Why would he not expect to take a pay cut?"

Well, Jeter's negotiations will occur in a collapsed market, and he'll likely be forced to move from his current premium position by the end of any contract he signs. Sound familiar?

Obviously, Johnny Damon is not Derek Jeter. But it does show you that any deal the Yankees strike with Jeter will not be one driven by the financial fundamentals that Cashman has weaved through the organization.

It will be about protecting their brand, and protecting the image of one of the most marketable entities to ever wear pinstripes. The payout may seem excessive in one sense, but it will be money well spent in every other sense that matters.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached via e-mail at Follow Dan on Twitter at danhanzus.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Old Guard, New Test: Yankees Rely on Vets

The 2009 postseason will forever provide fond memories for Yankees fans—a month of baseball that signaled the franchise's return to the apex of the sport.

But being a Sports Pessimist (the New York Jets did this to me), I still had a couple of minor gripes. One was Chris Rose, the Best Damn Sports Show hack who was inexplicably given onfield emcee duties following New York's Game Six clincher.

What do you think was the over/under for the number of Yankee games Rose watched last year? Eight? Four? One?

I understand Joe Buck and Tim McCarver were busy projectile vomiting at the thought of a Yankees championship, but FOX didn't have anyone else available? Jack Bauer? Ryan Seacrest? A former Mad TV cast member? I'm not asking for much here.

The other complaint was the Core Four. No, not the actual grouping of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte—the actual term, Core Four. What the hell does it even mean?

It sounds like the name of a four-man tag team that squared off against Demolition and the Heavenly Bodies in the 1989 Survivor Series. Before the playoffs began, everyone referred to the veterans as the "Old Guard". I liked that. There was something dignified and appropriate about it. The "Old Guard" worked. Why mess with a good thing?

Going forward, this will be a no Core Four zone. You hear me? A No Core Four Zone.

With that settled, I'd like to get to my main topic today, which just so happens to be—wait for it—the Old Guard.

Even the staunchest OG supporter had to be surprised by how well the old dogs held up last year.

Jeter appeared in the early throes of decline in '08, but the 35-year-old followed that disappointing season with one of his best ever (.334 BA, .406 OBP, 115 runs, 18 homers, 30 steals). Rivera continued to defy humanity at age 39, saving 44 of 46 games with a 1.76 ERA. Pettitte entered the season simply asked to to eat innings in the back of the rotation, but the 37-year-old ended up (14-8, 4.16 ERA, 194.2 IP) being the biggest rock in the rotation not named Carsten Charles. Posada, 38, spent time on the DL and slipped defensively, but remained one of baseball's most productive offensive catchers (22 homers, 81 RBI in 383 at-bats).

So, coming off a season where the Old Guard gave the Yankees more than they could've ever asked for, what can we expect going forward? This is possibly the biggest subplot of the 2010 season.

If each of the four matches or exceeds the production of a year ago, it's quite likely the Yankees will find themselves back in the World Series eight months from now. If each gets hurt, or if they fall into sharp declines, it's unlikely the Yanks will be able to plug the holes quickly enough to salvage the season.

Realistically, you have to expect it to fall somewhere in the middle. I don't know if we get the privilege of another season like '09 from Jeter, but a .300/12 HR/.380 OBP/15 SB with solid D would still work right? If his body holds up, Pettitte is wholly capable of throwing close to 200 innings and winning 12-15 more games. Rivera is super-human, making a repeat of '09 realistically plausible.

To me, Posada represents the biggest concern. As I wrote last month, the Yankees will be asking a lot from their longtime backstop. Do I think he's due for a Varitek-style nosedive this year? No. But if I had to bet one of the Old Guard breaking down first, it would be Georgie Boy.

One of the theories brandied about in explanation for the Yankees' success in 2009 was the idea that the Old Guard had finally "assimilated" with the newer Yankees to form a complete unit.

For the first time, there was no barrier in the clubhouse between the old-timers and the newbies, which in turn, helped make them champions. This makes for a nice story angle, and it could be true...but it's probably not.

The reality behind 2009's success was that the Old Guard of Jeter/Po/Mo/Pettitte managed to perform at a high level alongside the New Guard of Tex/A-Rod/CC/Hughes. Throw in solid seasons from the likes of Johnny Damon, Nick Swisher, and Robinson Cano, and it added up to a championship season.

The formula remains the same in 2010. And while it may be a frightening prospect to lean so heavily on four players approaching middle age, it'd be hard to find a group worthy of more trust than the Core Four.

Damn it. Last time, I swear.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached via e-mail at Follow Dan on Twitter at danhanzus.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cashman in complete control of Yankees

I was watching In The Line Of Fire the other night, one of those great early 90s movies that time seems to have completely forgotten. The general plot: A grizzled secret service agent (Clint Eastwood) must take down a sinister would-be presidential assassin (John Malkovich) before it's too late. A lot of Renee Russo pant suits are also involved.

It was a star-making performance by Malkovich, who absolutely knocked the role out of the park. His character was intelligent, cold-blooded, calculating, and his singular goal overshadowed everything else.

Come to think of it, you could describe Brian Cashman the same way.

It's been fascinating watching the evolution of Cashman since he was named the Yankees' general manager way back in 1998. Back then, he was a puppet, a loyal, young aide who had risen up from the intern ranks to become George Steinbrenner's newest whipping boy.

The Yanks won the World Series in each of his first three seasons at the helm, but much of the credit still (rightly) went to Gene "Stick" Michael, the man who was credited with laying the groundwork for the dynasty years.

By the time Cashman was primarily responsible for constructing the team, an unfortunate development occurred: The Yankees stopped winning championships. Following the Subway Series victory over the Mets in 2000, New York went without a title for the next eight seasons, an eternity on River Avenue.

But something very unusual happened during that title drought. The further the Yankees got from their glory days, the more power Cashman seemed to acquire. This was due in large part to the failing health of Steinbrenner, but also because Cashman had successfully lobbied for complete autonomy over operations following the 2005 season.

As we all know now, the team's patience in Cashman paid off. His signings of CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira hit perfectly, and other moves like the protection and cultivation of young entities like Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes played a huge role in the Yankees' World Series victory in 2009.

Ironically, the only aspect of the team the GM couldn't really take credit for was the presence of postseason hero Alex Rodriguez, the player Cashman was prepared to let walk after he opted out of his contract in 2007.

Luck is a necessary part of success in any field, I suppose.

Now Cashman holds all the cards. The organization was behind him before 2009, and now he has the ring that justifies all that support. It's not hard to notice the change in Cashman's personality as a result. He's been completely relaxed in his interactions with the media, with a confidence that borders on smugness.

An example of this Nu-Cash came during a remote interview for YES' Yankees Hot Stove show last month. Cashman was asked by Daily News beat man Mark Feinsand which offseason acquisition was most important, to which Cashman inferred that, since he was a starting pitcher, Javy Vazquez would likely be it.

When former Times scribe Jack Curry began his follow-up question with "Brian, you talked about Granderson, and I won't tell him you picked him second in that answer...", Cashman sat stone-faced in the split screen, his arms crossed. He was clearly unamused by the joke, and I wondered momentarily whether Curry would make it out of the studio before Billy Connors got to him with a lead pipe first.

Cash's actions were equally resolute. Hideki Matsui was the World Series MVP, a respected veteran who single-handedly lifted the Yankees past the Phillies in the Game Six clincher. And yet, Cashman said sayonara to his popular designated hitter, willing to let Matsui's knees give out for good on somebody else's team.

Johnny Damon probably thought he'd be back in pinstripes, too, coming off one of the most productive seasons of his fine career. But Cashman decided he had little long term use for a 36-year-old outfielder who couldn't throw.

When Damon spoke with Mike Francesa shortly after the Yankees made his exit official by signing the immortal Randy Winn, you could tell Damon was dazed by the way things had played out. Sure, Damon always sounds sort of dazed, but this was different. You got the feeling Damon believed he had built up enough goodwill to get a deal done.

But Cashman has now made it clear that unless you're Jeter, Rivera, or Posada, he doesn't work in goodwill. Chien-Ming Wang knows that, as he prepares to report to a team that lost 205 games in the past two seasons.

That's Brian Cashman: Intelligent, cold-blooded, calculating. Winning championships overshadows everything else.

It's an attitude that may make him a hard man to love, but an easy one to respect.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached via e-mail at Follow Dan on Twitter at danhanzus.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mark Teixeira is not like us ... and that's okay

Mark Teixeira is not human.

You probably think I'm using this statement as a cute jumping-off point to wax poetic on how extraordinarily well Teixeira plays baseball, but you'd be incorrect. What I'm trying to say is, I literally believe that Mark Teixeira is not human.

Think about it. Sure, you've watched him win a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger award, but have you ever seen the man blink? According to Wikipedia, "blinking is an essential function of the eye that helps spread tears across and remove irritants from the surface of the cornea and conjunctiva."

What makes Mark Teixeira's conjunctiva different than yours? Cyborg, bro.

I personally try to ignore this rather insane reality. Is it weird that Teixeira could be seen behind the plastic that protected the lockers during the Yankees' World Series celebration? Sure. Is it odd that if you pause your DVR during a typical Kim Jones postgame interview, you can often spot a motionless Tex in the background, plugged into the wall, his eyes glowing red? Um, obviously.

But the Yankees need Teixeira to defend this title. It is necessary that we keep this situation on the down-low. Let's approach it like Stoney and Dave in Encino Man : If we can keep this secret about our special friend, he will get us laid win more championships.

Teixeira may be the complete anti-thesis of the last big-name ticket the Yankees brought in to play first base. Jason Giambi couldn't be more human (if you discounted the countless liters of elephant testosterone he regularly shot into his ass).

He was a muscle-bound, fun-loving, mustachioed maniac who stood out on the corporate Yankees like a sore tattoo upon signing with the team in 2001. It took Giambi several years to get comfortable in New York, and by the time that happened, the skills that once made him an MVP had mostly evaporated.

Giambi had some nice moments during his seven-year tenure in the Bronx, but he ultimately came to represent a cautionary tale of the Steroid Era. Buyer beware.

Teixeira seems like the type of guy who wouldn't touch a Snickers bar, let alone a performance-enhancing drug. Giambi crashed and burned as he pushed away from his twenties, but you don't worry about a steep decline for Teixeira, who turns 30 in April. If anything, you can make a case that the switch-hitter will exceed the 39 homers and 122 RBI he compiled in 2009.

Think about it: Teixeira struggled mightily in his first month in pinstripes, clearly pressing and without the presence of the injured Alex Rodriguez hitting behind him. There was also talk of a lingering wrist injury. He batted .200 with just three homers and 10 RBI in April. Fans booed and babies cried and it was generally a bummer.

You know what happened next. A-Rod came back and the switch went off for Teixeira, who exploded in May at a .330/13 HR/34 RBI clip.

Now you put him in familiar surroundings, coming off a World Series win, and with a healthy A-Rod slotted in at the cleanup spot. Teixeira finished a distant second to Minnesota's Joe Mauer in the '09 AL MVP race, but I predict the Yankees' first baseman puts up numbers that even another .380 season by the Twins catcher can't match.

Teixeira has that much potential. That he was swindled from out under the Red Sox's nose may be ultimately remembered as a historic turning point in the rivalry, the event that swung the balance of power back in favor of the Yankees.

It's not exactly Babe Ruth for $ 125,000 and No, No, Nanette, but the Teixeira signing was a significant game-changer, the stink of which is still all over Boston management. Imagine if it were the Yankees being forced to contend with Teixeira at Fenway Park, as Nick Swisher danced around first base like an injured baboon?

If you just got the chills thinking about that, you're not alone. Luckily, Brian Cashman and the Yankees made the right move, setting the team up for years to come.

Just don't mention the cyborg situation. No sense risking a great thing.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached via e-mail at Follow Dan on Twitter at danhanzus.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Yankees and Hollywood: Through the Years

When Nick Swisher and his impeccable faux hawk made an appearance on Monday's episode of How I Met Your Mother, the outfielder became just the latest New York Yankee to dip his toes in the waters of Hollywood.

In honor of Swish's riveting performance at MacLaren's pub, River & Sunset has decided to take a look back at nine other great Yankee performances in the business of show.

Keep in mind this isn't an exhaustive list—Andy Stankiewicz may have played Victim No. 2 in a 1992 episode of Murder, She Wrote for all I know. Consider this simply a sampling of the Yankees' contribution to the entertainment business over the years.

Click here to check out my slide show over on Bleacher Report.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached via e-mail at Follow Dan on Twitter at danhanzus.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

How Nick Swisher Met Your Mother

I can't even imagine what Nick Swisher's offseason has been like.

There's literally nothing you can say that would surprise me about his last three months.

Swisher drank 50 Mountain Dews and swam the English Channel in 20 minutes? Sure. Swisher recorded a chart-topping charity single about snow leopards with Chumbawumba? Plausible. Swisher constructed a human conveyor belt that allowed him to nail every model/actress in Manhattan? Makes sense to me.

Everything's on the table right now. He is a man with free reign on the greatest city in the world.

The Nick Swisher Life Victory Tour made an interesting stop on Monday, rolling into the CBS prime time lineup for a guest spot on the hit sitcom How I Met Your Mother.

I've never been a HIMYM guy. I mean, I get why people like it. It's very funny at times, its sensibilities appeal to my demographic, and Neil Patrick Harris is unquestionably the greatest gay actor to play a serial womanizer since...well, ever. It's certainly better than most sitcoms out there right now, though that's really more an indictment of the genre than anything else.

But you don't care about that. We're not here to figure out if HIMYM is Generation Y's answer to Friends (which it's not). You just want to know if the creator of the Swish Salute has stumbled upon a second career in Hollywood.

Well...let's put it this way: If Hulk Hogan in No Holds Barred represents the worst acting put to celluloid by a professional athlete, and Carl Weathers' turn as Apollo Creed in Rocky takes top honors, Nick Swisher would probably fall exactly in the middle. He would finish ahead of Shaq in Kazaam! and behind Brian Bosworth in Stone Cold.

The Cliff's Notes storyline: Barney (Doogie Howser, MD) is attempting to achieve the perfect week of creeping—seven days, seven women, seven conquests. When Swisher happens upon the gang's local bar, he becomes Barney's greatest hurdle for perfection.

"That's Nick Swisher. He's a New York Yankee," The Guy From Forgetting Sarah Marshall explains. "No normal guy in New York City can compete with a Yankee."

I won't ruin the ending for you (watch the full episode here), but I will say that Swisher clocks in at about 50 seconds of screen time (watch Swisher's scene here). They used a one-shot for both of his main dialogue contributions, which leads me to believe multiple takes were necessary. He nervously munches from a snack bowl during his scene, which gets kind of funny after a while.

Swish didn't embarrass himself, but his agent won't likely be bombarded by film offers either. I give him a solid "B," graded on a steep curve created by Howie Long and Dan Marino.

Of course, this isn't the first time the Yankees have shown up in prime time. The team was famously part of a major story arc in the fifth through eighth seasons of Seinfeld, after George Costanza landed a job as assistant to the traveling secretary with the organization.

You may remember George giving unsolicited batting tips to Bernie Williams and a youuuuung Derek Jeter (Bernie calls out George for putting the team up in a Ramada). Also memorable was Paul O'Neill's annoyed clubhouse interaction with Kramer ("You promised a kid in the hospital I'd hit two home runs?"). The immortal Danny Tartabull and Buck Showalter also made cameos in the series.

Swisher's HIMYM appearance was more in the standard vein of jock sitcom cameos. Athlete X shows up, utters a couple lines of stilted dialogue, and then disappears forever. Swisher's turn reminded me of those old Cheers episodes where guys like Kevin McHale and Wade Boggs would randomly pop up. I always loved that.

Swisher was on a tweeting tear in the hour before HIMYM aired. I can picture him kicked back on his couch with a cold beer, watching himself and soaking up the awesomeness that every day has become.

This is Swish's world—we're just living in it.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached via e-mail at Follow Dan on Twitter at danhanzus .