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According to Carp

Rick Carpiniello's world of sports

Archive for October, 2007

Who’s cursed now?

October
29

I wrote a column today for The Journal News and LoHud.com tomorrow about the A-Rod departure from the Yankees and the whole circus that the Bombers have become.

Has anybody noticed that, from the moment the Yankees obtained Alex Rodriguez out from under Boston’s nose, the two organizations have been juxtaposed — that the Red Sox are now two-time World Series champs in that four-year span, and a franchise that just reeks with class, especially from gentleman manager Terry Francona on down.

And that the Yankees in that span have had nothing but disastrous finishes, from the 0-3 comeback by the Sox in the 2004 ALCS to first-round exits in each of the next three years.

Plus, the Yankees’ organizationally have become a comedy act again, starting with the new boss, the chain-smoking, loose-cannon Son of a Steinbrenner, Hank, who rips away at everybody. With the Steinbrenner kids and Randy Levine running things the Yankees have now:

Rid themselves of Joe Torre, one of the most popular and successful managers ever; Rodriguez, who, love him or hate him, will have won his second MVP in three years and will leave an enormous hole in the Yankees’ power-challenged lineup; Don Mattingly, the most beloved living Yankee this side of Yogi Berra, who won’t return as coach now that Joe Girardi has been offered the manager’s job; legend Ron Guidry, Torre’s pitching coach who is reporedly not coming back either.

And it might end up costing more active legends — Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte.

Oh, what a mess.

I’m not defending A-Rod, who opted out and made himself an ex-Yankee, and who did it in the most classless way possible, trying to upstage the Red Sox as they were about to clinch their second title in four years.

A-Rod gave lip service to his love for New York and desire to stay. He was full of it, just as his agent Scott Boras is full of it when he defends the decision to opt out, saying that Alex is worried about the direction of the franchise, about who will be the new manager, about whether Rivera and Posada and Pettitte will re-up.

Baloney! A-Rod and Boras are all about the Benjamins. They will squeeze every last nickel out of the next sucker. He could have made another $230 million or so by staying a Yankee. That’s not enough? When is it enough!!???

Girardi knows what he’s getting himself into here. Poor guy.

Posted by Carp on Monday, October 29th, 2007 at 9:34 pm |
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Here comes No. Rock, again

October
28

I don’t know if North Rockland is good enough to win Section 1 AA football this year, don’t even know if the Red Raiders are good enough to get to the finals in Mahopac.

But it sure looks like they’ll be the usual tough out in these playoffs, sure looks like a team nobody really wants to play.

And this year’s edition is different. North Rockland usually is one of those power Section 1 teams who run, run, run and play good defense, with big guys on both sides of the ball.

But the 2007 Red Raiders are smaller and quicker and they throw it. They’re not mad bombers, mind you, but they run a four-wide offense and they run it pretty well, behind a junior quarterback, Mike Fasano.

The 7-1 Red Raiders — who have never missed the postseason in coach Joe Casarella’s 27 seasons as coach, and who have 14 Section 1 titles since moving over from Section 9, 24 seasons ago — knocked out Carmel 33-14 in the Class AA quarterfinals today. They just did it in a different way.

The thing about Carmel is, well, it throws the ball, too. almost exclusively. It made for a long, but very entertaining afternoon on North Rockland’s manicured natural-grass field, which a day earlier was under water and caused a postponement. Is there a better real-grass field in Section 1?

The Rams, who came in 6-1, had a sophomore, Ryan Shilling, flinging it from the no-huddle, and from the shotgun. Shilling did not hand off the ball, not even once, until the final minute of the game. He either ran it himself, or it was in the air. And thus, the Rams were right in the game until the very end.

This No. Rock team is different than, certainly, the ‘06 team, not only in its makeup and the way it plays, but also because of the way it has won.

The Red Raiders opened the season against Section 9’s Monroe Woodbury, which only won the state championship in 2005 and lost the state championship game by a point in overtime in 2006 and is favored to go back to the Dome again in ‘07. Monroe had an extra week of preparation and a game already under its belt when it beat the Raiders 31-10. North Rockland then won seven in a row, one of them by 17-16 over Clarkstown South, their semifinal opponent; one by 3-0 over Poughkeepsie last week, allowing just seven touchdowns in the winning streak.

“A lot of fourth-quarter tight games,� Fasano said. “That just shows that we come out and we’re ready to play, but in the fourth quarter, when it’s buckle-down time, we do what we have to do to win the game.�

Whatever it takes, especially at this time of year.

“We live for this,� big-hearted running back Chris Landry said. “When this time comes, we just never let down. Everything’s put out onto the field.�

In the last four years, North Rockland is the only team to beat New Rochelle in the Section 1 playoffs (in 2005, when it went on to win the title) and the other three seasons New Rochelle ended North Rockland’s season in the playoffs on the way to its championships. They have ended each other’s seasons in five of the last seven years.

Posted by Carp on Sunday, October 28th, 2007 at 10:15 pm |
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Sleepy’s shot

October
26

Both teams in the “other” Section 1 Class B football semifinal tonight wanted a shot at four-time defending champ Rye in the title game next week at Mahopac.

It will be Sleepy Hollow, with a 21-7 win over Pleasantville in a downpour, which gets that shot.
Sleepy Hollow, which thought it was headed to the Section 1 Class B title game a year ago when it slipped on a banana peel; when it was caught looking past a young but talented Pleasantville team and got erased from the tournament 14-13 in the first round. The Panthers then got squished by Rye on another rainy night, 47-7 on the Garnets’ Nugent Stadium turf.

Pleasantville wanted it, too.

“Oh, yeah,� Pleasantville coach Tony Becerra said. “Not because of what happened against Rye last year when we played them, because we were very young last year and that was to be expected. But we felt we deserved to be in Mahopac as well as anyone. Listening to what’s going on around you, everyone said it’s pretty much Rye and Sleepy’s birthright to be there, and we didn’t pay too much attention to that. We knew how hard we work and we knew we had every right to be there.�

This Sleepy Hollow team is more formidable than the one that came up short last year, more than the one that fell 19-8 to Rye — which was headed to the second of three straight state championship games in Syracuse — in the 2004 title game.

But Rye is still Sleepy’s nemesis. The Horsemen are 7-1, and the one loss is to you-know-who. Yup, Rye, 35-20 in week 3.

“This means everything to us,� said Sleepy Hollow coach Steve Borys. “You couldn’t have written a script any better for us. We have Pleasantville this round and then Rye in the title game.

“That’s what I wanted. Pleasantville ruined us last year and we’ve been thinking about this game for 12 months. Everything we’ve done, every bench press, everything, has been for this game, and I’m glad it worked out this way. And the other team that’s been keeping us down is Rye. To face them again in the title game, what else could you hope for? Another shot at redemption.�

The Hollow has one more step, but it’s like the span of the Tappan Zee Bridge.

The Garnets aren’t only four-time champs — their five-year run coincides with Borys’ tenure as head coach — but they have been dominant. Rye is 54-3 over the five years, with three trips to the Dome, one state title, and 46 consecutive victories over Section 1 teams. Some of its closest games have been in Mahopac, where the sectional titles are decided: 17-7 over Pelham last year, 22-6 over Briarcliff in 2005, 19-8 over Sleepy in ‘04.

The Horsemen never won the championship since Section 1 scrapped the bowl-game format in favor of a tournament.

“I heard,� quarterback Mike Sullivan said. “It would be great to get it done.�

Sleepy had its final appearance in 2004, and one in 1998 (a loss to Harrison), but hasn’t been on top since the late 1970s and early 1980s, when it won bowl games with record-setting running back Harold Gayden, the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

This team wants to make its own legacy. But it has an enormous, gigantic opponent that isn’t about to give up its reign easily.

Posted by Carp on Friday, October 26th, 2007 at 10:53 pm |
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O, my

October
25

Ossining assured us of one thing tonight, with a 22-7 first-round Class A football victory over two-time defending Section 1 champ Harrison.

We will have a new champ in one of the five classes this year. Maybe it will only be one, because dynasties New Rochelle (AA), Rye (B), Dobbs Ferry (C) and Tuckahoe (D, which only has two schools) remain alive in their tournaments.

But Ossining won the rematch of last year’s Class A championship game, and knocked out the champ, and further showed that this class is totally up for grabs. Ossining, Somers, Fox Lane and Eastchester — all of them victorious today — have even-money chances to bring it home.

“It wasn’t a revenge thing,� Ossining coach Dan Ricci said. “They’re still the section champs, 2006, and we can’t get that back from them. They’re just in our way right now for our goal, for this year, which is a section championship in 2007.�

The players, though, they had some vengeance on their minds.

“All the seniors that graduated last year called probably everybody on the team,� Ossining junior running back James Brudage said. “It was like, ‘Yo, you’ve got to play good; we can’t have this happen twice.’ It felt like a rivalry to me, because I was on the team last year.�

One of the Ossining players who wasn’t on the team last year is Myles Thomas, who had a fabulous game tonight with three interceptions. He had quit playing football after ninth grade and the Ossining-Harrison title game inspired him to return to football “and try and beat these guys,� he said.

I know we’ve said this before, but Class A is the most difficult to win, and its champ will have the most difficult time going on, because of this ridiculous three games in 11 days playoff format that doesn’t happen to any other section in the state.

Section 1 starts its season later than all the other sections, and in order to have a seven-game season and an eight-team playoff, the Thursday-Tuesday-Saturday schedule is the only way. Class AA is getting away from it because it has a bye in the state quarterfinals, so it will play its championship game a week later.

Class AA and A both did it for the last two years. It’s no small coincidence that in the last two years, no Class AA or A team from Section 1 has reached the Carrier Dome for the state championships after emptying their tanks so often in so little time.

“Yeah, I’m glad next year they’re going to get rid of it,� Ricci, who hopes to benefit by having a 42-man roster, said.

Whoever wins Class A will be deserving, albeit exhausted.

Posted by Carp on Thursday, October 25th, 2007 at 10:31 pm |
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Tito and Torre

October
24

First of all, sorry for being away so long. As you probably know we’ve had terrible tech difficulties. Mine seemed to last longer than most.

Watching the introductions at Fenway Park prior to Game 1 of the World Series, something I’d been thinking about became even more clear.

Terry Francona is almost exactly the same manager as Joe Torre. Good guy, gentleman, clever, quick with a story, honest, answers all questions candidly.

Also … Patient, never lets the camera figure out what he’s thinking during the game, doesn’t wear any emotion on his sleeve, doesn’t throw tantrums or buffet tables, treats his players like men, is respected by all of them in return, handles problems in his office with the door closed.

And … Handles the extremely high expectations and pressures extremely well, has been wildly successful (compared to his predecessors).

And … was in big trouble a couple of times, especially late last month when it looked as if the Red Sox were going to be caught by Torre’s Yankees and settle for the wild card, if that. I was in Boston at the time and there was hysteria up there, just as there always is around the Yankees or Mets when they slump or fall or have a debacle. People were even talking about Francona managing for his job.

Imagine. Now he’s on the verge of possibly a second World Series title in four years as Boston manager. Torre had three in his first four years, and four titles in five years, and five World Series appearances in six years. Now he’s out, and Francona is a genius.

Posted by Carp on Wednesday, October 24th, 2007 at 8:35 pm |
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Torre lives another day

October
7

This silly thought crossed my mind late in Game 3 tonight. The Yankees were up 8-3 and Kyle Farnsworth got up in the bullpen.

George Costanza.

I’m thinking, Joe Torre’s trying to get fired by the Yankees the way George Costanza did, trying “to go out in a final blaze of incompetence” or something like that. I’m kidding. But the idea of using Farnsworth in a do-or-die situation, job on the line along with the series and the season, seems rather professionally suicidal, doesn’t it? Kind of like wiping ripe strawberry juice on Babe Ruth’s uniform and dragging the World Series trophy around the parking lot.

At any rate, Torre had been asked before the game if, given the threats by George Steinbrenner of win or else, he’d be safe by somehow coming back and winning the series agianst Cleveland.

“Til next series, right?� he said. He laughed. So did everybody else.

GM Brian Cashman said he supports Torre, and that Steinbrenner supports him.

Steinbrenner just has a funny way of showing it.

“No one’s promised tomorrow, myself included,� Cashman said. “hat tomorrow brings, we’re hoping to put tomorrow off, far off, if we can. That means, obviously, extending our season not just by one day, but deep into October.�

Speaking of which, Mr. October, who is on Stienbrenner’s advisory staff, a friend of Torre, and a confidante of A-Rod, wasn’t wild about the threat hanging over the manager.

“You’ve got pressure enough when you’re 0-2,� Reggie Jackson said. “The game is tough as it is, the pressure is here. It is what it is. You’re down 0-2. People expect you to win. We’ve got the highest payroll. We’ve won in the past. We haven’t won in a long time. Is any of that new? Not really.�

Jackson was still talking about Torre’s situation, and the series, before Game 3 began, when he said: “As long as you have a bat in your hand and an out left before the game’s over, you can rewrite your story.â€?

That’s what Torre is hoping. Unless he’s trying to go down like Costanza.

Posted by Carp on Sunday, October 7th, 2007 at 11:17 pm |
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The end for the Yanks?

October
6

Watching the D-backs celebrate on old Wrigley got me thinking about the possibility of the Indians celebrating at Yankee Stadium tomorrow night.

And what if …

What if this is the end of Joe Torre, Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez, among many others, in the Bronx?

What if — and this takes some imagination — this turns out to be the last postseason game ever played at the Stadium, which shuts down after next season?

The Yankees need to hit, for sure, but they need to make sure the ball goes directly from their starting pitchers to Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera for the remainder of this series. That means, starting tomorrow with Roger Clemens, they need length.

Here are the five scenarios that could happen with Clemens, fresh off a hammy injury:

1) Clemens pitches lights out for six or seven innings. Not likely.
2) Clemens pitches just well enough for six, keeps it close (even if close means 6-5) and lets Joba, minus the flying ants, and Rivera do the rest.
3) Clemens throws 105 pitches through four or five, the Yankees have to go to the other bullpen guys but win 11-10 anyway.
4) Same as 3) only the Yankees lose 11-10.
5) Clemens does a Tom Glavine.

That said, if the Yankees survive Game 3, then Torre must make the switch he’s considering: Move Chien-Ming Wang up a spot to pitch Game 4 on three days rest. Wang pitches better tired than he does over-rested, and his ERA is nearly two runs a game better at home than on the road.

So he needs to replace the terribly inconsistent Mike Mussina in the rotation — plus, Torre noted, Mussina might be needed in a pinch if Clemens’ hamstring can’t make it, or if Clemens stinks it up. Those aren’t Torre’s words.

Then, if still alive, the Yankees will have Andy Pettitte on four days’ rest for Game 5 in Cleveland.

So it’s possible. Not likely. But possible.

Posted by Carp on Saturday, October 6th, 2007 at 9:59 pm |
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Buggy in Cleveland

October
5

There really is no question that Joba Chamberlain was bugged by the flying insects at Jacobs Field in his worst big-league inning yet.

OK, maybe there were some rookie nerves, some natural butterflies (which are better than ants with wings, right?) that helped his undoing and wildness.

But I can empathize with Joba in terms of bugs in Cleveland. Way back when, I did quite a bit of travelling with the Yankees and I can always remember those hot, summer nights in old Municipal Stadium, which was right up against Lake Erie.

By the time we, the reporters, did out interviews and got back up to the rickety old, wooden, wide-open pressbox, the giant stadium was empty. And all the lights were off except for those in the pressbox.

That meant that, within minutes, every gnat, flying ant, mosquito and moth on Lake Erie was in the pressbox. It looked like a cloud of bugs in there and we’d get chewed up something awful.

It was pretty gross seeing those bugs on Joba’s neck and face and hat, wasn’t it. I found myself scratching and itching just watching him. Horrible.

Meanwhile, for those who believe in bad omens, the Yankees announced that Bob Sheppard, the voice of Yankee Stadium (and the Voice of God), who has been doing games since opening day, 1951, will miss Game 3 with a bronchial infection.

Sheppard hasn’t missed a postseason game, working 121 in a row, starting with the Oct. 4, 1951 World Series game between the Yankees and the New York Giants (featuring rookies Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays).

His backup, Jim Hall, who does a pretty strong Sheppard impression, will work the home games until Sheppard recovers.

Posted by Carp on Friday, October 5th, 2007 at 8:47 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

No starter, no relief

October
4

This is exactly what I was talking about with the Yankees’ pitching. I expected more from Chien-Ming Wang, but I don’t expect more from Roger Clemens and Mike Mussina later in the series, and if this is what you get, then they are in trouble.

The state of their bullpen, aside from their closing Joba-Rivera tandem, is such that Ross Ohlendorf — Ross Ohlendorf!! — is the second pitcher used in the ALDS!!! What does that tell you about the trust in Kyle Farnsworth and Co.?

Right.

It’s the sixth inning and it’s 9-3, so now we’ll see if Cleveland’s middle relievers are any better. Hard to imagine they could be any worse.

This guy Frank on Frank TV, meanwhile, he does a great John Madden and an even better George Bush, but is this really what his show is about. Is he going to stand theare against a white background and do Madden and Bush and Madden and Bush and then throw in a not-so-great Al Pacino or a not-so-great Jack Nicholson?

TBS is also having a horrible night in the production department, sound going in and out, voices and noises in the crowd overwhelming those in the booth, etc. What did you expect there?

Posted by Carp on Thursday, October 4th, 2007 at 9:10 pm |
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Are the Yankees well-armed?

October
3

Are you watching these playoffs so far? From the wild-card tiebreaker on Monday through the first two games today — Rockies-Phillies and Red Sox-Angels — three games have been decided by pitching, either great starting pitching or great relief pitching, or a combination thereof.

Now that’s no secret or surprise. We’ve known forever that pitching wins in the postseason.

Which brings us to tomorrow night in Cleveland, or more actually Sunday and Monday in the Bronx.

With Wang and Pettitte going in Games 1 and 2, and with Joba Chamberlain and Mo Rivera rested, the Yankees should be fine, although they will be facing some pretty good pitchers themselves.

I think they need to be concerned about Games 3 and 4 when they give the ball to Roger Clemens and Mike Mussina. With their pitch-count tendencies, the Yankees will have to go into their bullpen earlier in those games, and that means their demons will have to be overcome. It means they will have to get innings out of somebody other than Chamberlain and Rivera, and that usually means trouble.

The Yankees might simply outslug the Indians in those games and manage to win. But I keep thinking about last October and waiting for the sluggers to bail out mediocre-to-lousy pitchers, and I keep thinking the Yankees better come home up 2-0.

Posted by Carp on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007 at 9:30 pm |
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About this blog
Rick Carpiniello is a sports columnist for The Journal News and LoHud.com. His blog will encompass the world of sports, from Pee Wees to the Super Bowl in a style that can be serious, sarcastic or even silly, and on which encourages feedback from its readers on any and all sports-related topics.
About the author
Rick CarpinielloRick Carpiniello For more than 20 years he covered the New York Rangers and the National Hockey League. Carpiniello has been writing columns on everything from local sports to the big leagues since 2002. READ MORE

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