Dead Meat
May 2009

Plagued by inconsistency and poor middle relief pitching, the New York Yankees returned to their new $1.5-million sports palace in the Bronx sporting a lackluster 17-17 won-loss record and in desperate need of a cure that would allow the team to keep pace in the formidable American League East.

The Bronx Bombers’ prayers were answered in the form of Minnesota Doc Gardenhire’s Traveling Medicine Show on May 16. The good doctor was able to supply the Yankees with a variety of figurative potions and elixirs and, within the span of four days, permitted the pin-stripers to get well. Whether the tender loving care administered by Gardenhire and his minions will amount to a long-term cure remains to be seen.

The generous Gardy has been spreading goodwill to New Yorkers since 2002. It made no difference to him that the Yankees moved to a new stadium this year. Consistency still shines through. Since 2002, Gardenhire’s Minnesota Twins have won only three games in the Bronx while losing 23. “I don’t pay a lot of attention to it,” the humble and self-effacing skipper remarked after the Twins lost their fourth in a four-game series. “It’s just numbers.”

In the 1950s, the Yankees, under manager Casey Stengel, took particular glee in making patsies of the hapless St. Louis Browns and Washington Senators. “Beat the weak,” was the slogan of the Old Perfesser. It took New York more than a few decades to find patsies to replace the Browns and the Senators, but the Bombers have them now in the Minnesota Twins. Ironically, the Twins were the Senators before moving to the Land of 10,000 Lakes in 1961.

The series began on Friday night when the Twins used home runs by Justin Morneau (a pair) and Joe Mauer to give Minnesota a 4-1 lead. It was 4-2 in the ninth when Gardenhire brought in Joe Nathan, widely believed to be the best closer in the American League to seal the deal. Hits by Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira and a walk to Alex Rodriguez preceded a two-run single by Melky Cabrera, and the Yankees had a 5-4 victory. The three-run uprising apparently so rattled Nathan to the extent that his manager chose not to use his ace for the rest of the series.

The Saturday game attracted a national television audience. However, due to contractual obligations to the Fox Network, Minnesota residents were forced to endure the TV comments of the broadcasting team of Bremer and Blyleven (dumb and dumber). No matter, the Twins were doomed from the start, even though it took 11 innings before a Rodriguez two-run walk-off home run settled Minnesota’s hash. The victim was lefty Craig Breslow who trotted off the field with an ERA of 7.11.

By now it was evident that the Twins’ bullpen was more inept than even the strange collection of has-beens and never-were previously used by New York in middle-inning situations. On Sunday, Minnesota and New York were tied 2-2. The Twins’ Jesse Crane took the mound in the bottom of the ninth, and the power surge felt throughout the Twin Cities metropolitan area was due to thousands of television watchers turning off their sets. This time, the heavily-anticipated winning walk-off home run was hit by Johnny Damon.

Most of those who turned off their television sets on Sunday did not bother to tune in to Fox Sports on Monday night. Either they were sick of the lack of sophistication found in the provincial musings (humor?) of Bremer and Blyleven, or they knew that, as sure as night follows day, their Twins were doomed. By now, they heard the footsteps. Starting pitcher Glen Perkins told St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist Charley Walters that he “was not about to be awed by baseball’s newest cathedral.” It is a given fact that ballplayers will lie like rugs when it comes to talk of jinxes, and Perkins was no exception. He was merely following baseball’s party line when it comes the mental aspect of the game. Perkins couldn’t get passed the first inning, and the New Yorkers had a 6-0 lead.

Afterward, Perkins was placed on the disabled list due to what the Twins called an “elbow inflammation.” If he doesn’t return soon, he could be the second Minnesota native (the first was Pat Neshek) to have his arm burned out when wearing a Twins uniform.

Over the weekend, University of Minnesota baseball coach John Anderson revealed that he once had sought out the services of Rick Aberman, a sports psychologist. The Twins currently are in need of an entire team of sports psychologists to get the Yankees out of their heads. Gardenhire’s comments (“I don’t give a rip.”) after the series finale bear all the signs of a man whistling in a graveyard at midnight.

Meanwhile, many of the $2,500 seats behind home plate at the new Yankee Stadium remain empty. The previously reliable (?) news source The Onion, reports that Hal Steinbrenner, managing general partner, was heard to say: “The Yankees, much like the city they play in, have never cared about the size of your fortune, as long as you have one. Sure, we’d prefer to have the Queen [Elizabeth II] in the dugout seats, but if that’s not possible, we’ll take whoever we can get until this economy gets back on its feet.”

As for the future success of the team Steinbrenner puts on the field, it would be wise for him to remember that the Yankees won’t have the luxury of playing the Minnesota Twins at home anymore this season. New York’s middle relief still sucks.

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