The Break Room

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Thanks, Hank.

New York Yankees fans received another scare over the weekend. And if they're thinkers and not followers, it should haunt each one of them well beyond Halloween.

It was news from Tampa, of course, but not of those idiotic post-season pow-wows led by Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, the Veruca Salts of Major League Baseball. It wasn't Joba Chamberlain's arrest for suspicion of D.U.I, less than a day the Brothers Duh decreed Chamberlain a front-runner for next season's rotation. And no doubt, this lapse in Lincoln, Neb. will be forgotten as Chamberlain's legend grows like that of Michael Phelps, whose 16 medals (14 gold) have all but erased his same mistake. It wasn't news the Yankees can't sell memorabilia from the "old" stadium at Picasso prices, the cancelation of one last bash, the planting of new sod across the street at the same address, the pinstriped futures of Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte, or the clubhouse backlash of manager, Joe Girardi. It was their future flashing before their eyes. A future as bleak as the past of the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays. In 1920, the Yankees acquired Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox, and for the next 85 seasons (no, those aren't typos -- 1918 was the last Red Sox championship and 1920 was the Bambino's first season in pinstripes, which equals 85 years), that was the defining moment of both franchises. Then, the Red Sox came back from three games down and three outs away from an 87th season of futility, and took Boston off the map of cursed sports cities. What the New York Yankees didn't expect was another Red Sox comeback in 2007, down three games-to-one to the Cleveland Indians in that year's ALCS, compiling seven straight wins en route to another World Championship. And last Friday morning, at 12:16 am, five years to the minute Aaron Boone added another year to The Curse, JD Drew's game winning RBI single sent the ALCS back to Tampa. Saturday night's BoSox win made Yankee fans think even harder about a team that has looked more like Bizarro Sox since 2004, compared to the ones that came up short in 1946, '67, '75, '78, '86 and 2003, and all the years in-between. Sure, names like Williams, Pesky, Cronin, Doerr, Lomborg, Rice, Fisk, Lynn, Yaz, Lee, Boggs, Buckner, and Garciaparra hold special places in Sox history. But names like Schilling, Ortiz, Ramirez, Veritek, "Youk", Lowell, Beckett, Mill-ahhh, Pedro and Theo hold rings. Some of them two. Shortly after the babes of Red Sox Nation--who know not the anguish of their parents--were sent to bed for one last dream of another dream ending, the Rays ended the ALCS with a 3-1 win in Game Seven. It was a brief sigh of relief for Yankee fans; it that lasted as long as the relief of Ambosol on a root canal. Tampa Bay has been a last place team throughout its existence until this season's 200-to-1 World Series surprise, and even a second-place team in its own town, evacuating the city every February while the Yankees blew through like a hurricane. Now, they're only four wins away from capturing not only baseball's biggest prize, but a city championship as well. The Bronx Bombers may start next season in a new stadium, Band-Aid their problems like a federal bailout, and always have enough folks in Bristol, CT convince you they'll be the team to beat. The fact is, the hapless Rays have left their past behind with the Devil, the Red Sox have changed the culture of New England baseball to a new generation, and the Toronto Blue Jays finally inked best free agent manager of the last decade, who led them to a 51-27 record. This Yankee fan remembers his late father warning him during one of the last games we shared. "Danny Boy," he said shaking his head, "it looks like that curse may be going the other way." Butch Borrello said these words much like a father telling one of those not-in-my-lifetime-but-yours stories with the same conviction he told this twenty-something how he'll eventually learn the truth of President Kennedy's assassination, and the consequences of American excess, headphone-enduced deafness and backwards-hat-patterned baldness. Get used to this idea, Yankee fans: your team has been replaced. Until a 27th trophy gets presented to another Steinbrenner, the Boston Red Sox will be this century's version of the never-say-die, Bernie Williams-Paul O'Neill-Tino Martinez-Derek Jeter-Scott Brosius-Mariano Rivera-Andy Pettitte-David Cone-El Duque-Jim Leyritz-Joe Girardi New York Yankees. Tampa Bay still has time and the lack of pricing power to become this year's and next year's 2003-04 Florida Marlins, or the '07-'08 Colorado Rockies. The difference, however, is they seem to have more youngsters on the way, starting with Game Seven closer, David Price. Ninety-six combined years of tears in Beantown and Tampa-Saint Pete are not only over, but they've evaporated as if God himself wiped the sniffles away. The Red Sox and Rays have emerged as new creatures boldly claiming what the Yankees--Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte, and Jorge Posada notwithstanding--have expected to be their inheritance, long after they've been evicted from the paper Promised Land. Go ahead, Hank. Sign C.C. Sebathia. Sign A.J. Burnett. Trade for Jake Peavy. Bring Joba into the rotation. Grab Mark Teixeira. Sign the Red Sox castoffs. It won't matter. Not when the Red Sox and Rays continue to out-draft you and out-develop youngsters. Not when you award your GM a three-year extension based on what happened between 1998-2000, after you let your previous manager walk after 12 straight postseasons, ten division titles, six pennants, and four titles before taking the LA Dodgers to the NLCS for the first time in two decades. Not when your players hate his replacement. Not when you embarass your father's organization everytime you see a microphone. The Yankees are playing in a brave new baseball world, and those old tricks don't work like they did in your father's century.

10/21/2008 11:40AM
Thanks, Hank.
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