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Derek on Letterman [ Thursday July 17, 5pm]

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Papelbon not happy with Rivera comment backlash [ Wednesday July 16, 6am]

The 24-hour-old subject was still whether Red Sox reliever Jonathan Papelbon did or didn't disrespect Yankees star Mariano Rivera on Monday by saying he should get the call to close out last night's All-Star Game ahead of the Yankees legend. Papelbon was rifling through his locker as he dressed for the game and spewing expletives that pretty much matched the graphic on the T-shirt he wore, which featured two hands - one with its middle finger raised up in salute.

Papelbon said he was angry because when he and his pregnant wife, who is due on New Year's Eve with their first child, both participated yesterday in the All-Star parade down Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, they were heckled so badly because of his widely reported remarks.

"My wife told me she didn't feel safe," Papelbon ranted. "My wife just didn't feel comfortable, man, and she's pregnant with a -- little baby ... It kind of pisses you off when your family gets involved, when you've got a -- wife who's pregnant and doesn't feel safe riding in a red-carpet event.

"How would you feel? You know what I mean? They were yelling stuff. At someone pregnant. It brings a whole new thing to the mix ... All because some -- Daily News writer was looking for a headline."

Papelbon was asked if he still wanted to close the game, and he waved a hand disgustedly and said: "No. Not really. I don't even give a -- anymore. If I don't even pitch, I don't care. This soured the whole experience for me."

Papelbon insisted, "I said [Sunday] that I was pulling for Rivera to close the game." But then, pointing to Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez, who was sitting quietly in the locker next to his, Papelbon added: "I mean, I want to close the game. You think this dude here doesn't want to close the game?"

Rodriguez looked up and blinked but said nothing. Four lockers away, Rivera was sitting inside his corner locker. If he could hear Papelbon raising his voice, he didn't let on.

As it turned out, Papelbon pitched the eighth. He gave up a leadoff single to Miguel Tejada. The Astros shortstop stole second and moved to third on Dioner Navarro's throwing error, Tejada scored on Adrian Gonzalez's sacrifice fly to give the NL a 3-2 lead.


A father-son moment [ Wednesday July 16, 6am]

The Yankee Stadium ground crew went to great lengths to make sure the field was perfect for Tuesday’s game. More than six hours before first pitch, the infield and outfield was mowed into a pattern as three guys used both sides of a rake to smooth the infield.

Two hours later, we realized just whose house this was.

Taking ground balls at third base was 6-year-old Dante Girardi. The guy hitting them was his father, Joe, who also doubles as the Yankees manager. Joe Girardi was an American League coach.

And he wasn’t giving his son much of a break. Dad hit one to the shortstop side and Dante dove for it. He came up dirty, but without the ball. Dante also pitched to his father, then put on the catcher’s gear.

Dad needed to get changed, so Dante found two other kids to play with - Mariano Rivera’s two sons. If the “Rivera” on the back of their jerseys didn’t give young Mariano and Jafet away, the free-throwing motion they inherited from their father, did.


A-Rod: Don't feel sorry for me [ Tuesday July 15, 7am]

He has been mum on the topic for more than a week now. Alex Rodriguez has run out of clubhouses without speaking with reporters. At the All-Star selection press conference last week, he had a team exec lay down ground rules: "Baseball questions only."

Well, yesterday at a pre-All-Star event in Manhattan, Alex Rodriguez spoke for the first time about his latest forays onto the front pages and gossip rags. No, he didn't get specific about Madonna or his marriage, but he did talk about what this is like for him.

And he wouldn't trade his place with anybody ... except maybe Derek Jeter.

"Look, everyone has distractions," Rodriguez said. "Everyone goes through personal issues. I mean, mine are on the front page of the papers. I'm fine with that. It's a little bit of a gift and a curse. You have to deal with that, and (these are) challenging times, but I'll get through it, but on the other hand there's so much good that comes with that, and I don't have a problem with that. I'm not blaming anybody. I'm not blaming the media. There's issues and they're hard and you have to move forward.

"But with that same token, you take our experience we had with Virginia Tech. We had an opportunity to go down there and make such an impact because you wear this Yankee uniform and because our names have a lot of power to those kids. You look at a guy like John (Challis) last week, who's dying of cancer, and he had an opportunity to come to my apartment. I gave him a tour, and he was riding to the ballpark with me, and the kid was falling asleep. You look at moments like that and all of us should be grateful for what we have."

Rodriguez was peppered with questions, and gracefully sidestepped those from the tabloid TV shows. He said the fans have been "incredibly supportive, all over town." When somebody brought up the photo of him with his daughters in the papers this week, he simply smiled and said, "Everything's good. Thank you."

Rodriguez said he knew what he was getting into when he signed his two record-breaking contracts, but that he might not have known how to handle it earlier.

"I don't think any piece of advice can help you, besides you living it by yourself in New York," Rodriguez said. "Again, you have to take the good with the bad and not take yourself too seriously. I think that's the one thing, over the first four or five years, I kept knocking myself over the head and trying to re-explain myself, and if (I had been asked) that question (about the tabloid stories) I probably would have been there for three or four hours trying to explain my personal life and kind of would have made a (jerk) out of myself, really. So you just don't take yourself too seriously.

"For every negative you tell me, I can tell you 10 positives. I focus on the positives. I never look in the mirror and feel sorry for myself. It's just part of it. I know that a lot of people, whatever they read, they can relate with one, two or three things that's occurred to me, and I lean on the good Lord and I know he'll get me through these challenging times."

Of course none of this would prevent A-Rod (or Jeter) from hosting a big bash last night in separate Manhattan nightspots.

Rodriguez said the difference between the two players is simple, from the time they were kids:

"He was a Yankees fan and I was a Mets fan," A-Rod said. "That's why everybody hates me."

But he sounded envious when he spoke seriously about his fellow All-Star starter.

"Derek, look, you're talking about a storybook guy," Rodriguez said. "Playing his whole career here, being the captain, winning four championships, I think for him (the All-Star Game) is also a celebration of his great career and he was the most beloved Yankee of our generation. I think the story, in many ways, is Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and the new stadium.

"When you look at the perfect career, I would have to say Derek Jeter's right there and Mariano Rivera's right there."

Jeter was flattered by that.

"I like to think it's more a celebration of the stadium, but you appreciate that coming from Alex," he said.


A-Rod’s wife alleges infidelity in divorce papers [ Monday July 7, 12pm]

Alex Rodriguez’s wife filed for divorce Monday, calling her husband an adulterer who “emotionally abandoned his wife and children.”

“The marriage of the parties is irretrievably broken because of the husband’s extramarital affairs and other marital misconduct,” according to Cynthia Rodriguez’s petition for dissolution of marriage, filed in the family division of Miami-Dade County Circuit Court.

The New York Yankees third baseman, who earned his 12th All-Star selection Sunday, has refused to comment on his relationship with Madonna, who denied any romantic involvement with the slugger in a statement posted Sunday on people.com.

“The petitioner has exhausted every effort to salvage the marriage of the parties,” Cynthia Rodriguez said in the filing. “However, Alex has emotionally abandoned his wife and children and has left her with no choice but to divorce him.”

Rodriguez’s attorney in Miami, Ira M. Elegant, said he had not reviewed the divorce petition but added: “As you know, anyone can pay the filing fee and make allegations.”

Elegant also represents NBA star Shaquille O’Neal in his ongoing divorce from his wife, Shaunie.

A telephone message left for a Rodriguez spokesman Monday was not immediately returned.

The couple, who married in November 2002, have a $12 million, six-bedroom house in the upscale Miami suburb of Coral Gables. A company run by a corporation controlled by Rodriguez bought an apartment at Trump Park Avenue in Manhattan for $7.4 million in July 2005.

Cynthia Rodriguez has asked for primary custody of their two children, as well as child support and alimony.

Their two daughters are Natasha Alexander, 3, and 2-month-old Ella Alexander.

The filing comes just days after the third baseman was linked to Madonna in various media outlets. Cynthia Rodriguez later visited the Paris home of rocker Lenny Kravitz, who said she came to France to escape the media frenzy in New York and denied anything improper.

Cynthia Rodriguez’s lawyer, Maurice Kutner, declined to elaborate on the filing, which does not mention Madonna or any other alleged paramours by name.

“Cynthia has made it very clear to me that she wants to take the high road and protect her children and herself. There’s no vindictiveness here,” Kutner said. “She wants to resolve the issues between Alex and herself in an amicable fashion.”

The couple has had prenuptial agreement in place since Oct. 3, 2002, according to the divorce papers.

The divorce petition was filed the day after Rodriguez hit his 536th homer, tying Yankees Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle for 13th place.

Rodriguez is in the first season of a $275 million, 10-year contract with the Yankees, a deal that allows him to earn up to $305 million. He made $185.45 million from 2001-7 from his contract with the Texas Rangers and Yankees.


Stray kitty is feline like a Yankee at new stadium [ Friday July 4, 5pm]

The Yankees have a new fan.

A stray cat has been living at the new stadium being built in the Bronx - and construction workers are hoping someone will adopt the black-and-white feline they've named "Yankee."

"Everybody loves him," said construction worker Richard Morell. "I can't take it because I'm never home. Maybe one of the players will take him."

The cat showed up several months ago after what was apparently his mother got inside and gave birth to about five kittens. Mama cat and the other kittens disappeared, but Yankee stayed behind.

Morell and his colleagues said they're afraid the cat will be accidentally killed amid all the construction that's going on.

"It's just a matter of time," he said, adding that the kitty has been hard to spot.

"It hides among the bricks," he said. "But we try to feed it."


Roger Clemens Can't Spell - And other revelations from e-mail exchange with accuser Brian McNamee [ Friday July 4, 6am]

What can a baseball fan learn from a series of e-mails exchanged by Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee, the trainer who has accused the baseball star of using performance-enhancing drugs? Well, Clemens can't spell the words "douchebag" or "lawsuits," uses the word "rocket" in his e-mail address, and signed electronic missives with his uniform number, 22. The e-mails, reproduced below, were sent in October 2006, following the publication of a Los Angeles Times story reporting that Clemens and teammate Andy Pettitte were identified as steroid users in a confidential federal affidavit (the Times story proved to be erroneous). In the first e-mail, Clemens tells McNamee that, "Pet and I talk about the BS coming out. What a crock of shit!" The athlete added, "Who knows next week they will be saying we robbed a bank or something. Stay hot. 22." After commiserating about problems caused by the Times report, McNamee sought to dispel any concerns "in regards to being a rat or flipping on you or anyone of my clients." Though Clemens now claims that McNamee has wholly fabricated accounts of his steroid use, the athlete did not appear to bat an eye when his crony referred to being a "rat" and "flipping" on the baseball legend. A cynic might refer to that as evidence of guilt on the pitcher's part. The correspondence was included as an exhibit to a federal court filing made yesterday by McNamee's lawyers, who are seeking dismissal of a defamation lawsuit brought by Clemens.

Link to the e-mails

The Yankees talk it over - for a long time [ Friday July 4, 6am]

For at least the fourth time already this season, the Yankees held a team meeting after a bad loss.

This one was was a doozy as Joe Girardi didn’t emerge from the clubhouse until 34 minutes after the game. He even threw the clubbies and security people out before his talk.

The first three meetings didn’t change much, time will tell whether this one does. Girardi was very emotional afterward but didn’t say anything specific about what he wants to see changed.

The Yankees have reacted well to steady, no-panic leadership in the past. Whether this approach works remains to be seen. You can sometimes scare a young team into winning. Old teams have heard it all before.


Venditte's versatility prompts new rule [ Wednesday July 2, 11pm]

SI's ambidextrous hurler at center of adjustment by PBUC

It is a rare instance, indeed, when a first-year professional ballplayer inspires the creation of a new rule. But ambidextrous pitcher Pat Venditte has done just that.

Venditte, the 20th-round pick of the New York Yankees in this June's Draft, received national attention after making his debut with the Staten Island Yankees June 19. With two outs and a runner on first in the bottom of the ninth inning, switch-hitter Ralph Henriquez came to the plate representing the Brooklyn Cyclones' last hope. What resulted was a moment of high comedy: Henriquez entered the batters box batting right-handed, so Venditte switched his glove to his left hand. Henriquez then decided to bat lefty, so Venditte switched his glove back to his right.

And on and on it went. After a prolonged delay, Henriquez was ordered to bat right-handed. He then struck out on four pitches to end the ballgame.

In order to avoid such incidents in the future, the Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation (PBUC) released its official rules for dealing with ambidextrous pitchers on Wednesday. These guidelines were reached after PBUC staff consulted with a variety of sources, including the Major League Baseball Rules Committee.

At the heart of the new guidelines is the following provision:

The pitcher must visually indicate to the umpire, batter and runner(s) which way he will begin pitching to the batter. Engaging the rubber with the glove on a particular hand is considered a definitive commitment to which arm he will throw with. The batter will then choose which side of the plate he will bat from.

"The basis for the rule is that everything the batter does, he does so knowing what hand the pitcher is going to throw with," explained PBUC executive director Justin Klemm. "He may not know what type of pitch is going to be thrown, or its location, but he does know which arm will be used. A manager selects a pinch-hitter based on that knowledge, and that is also how a switch-hitter determines which side of the plate he is going to bat from."

The guidelines also permit both the batter and pitcher to change positions (from right-handed to left-handed or vice versa) once per at-bat.

"We don't anticipate that being an issue, but official playing rules allow that to happen in a normal situation," said Klemm. "Not allowing it to happen in situations involving an ambidextrous pitcher would be going against a previously established rule."

Like virtually all baseball rules, these "Venditte Guidelines" are sure to spark some arguments regarding their fairness to both batter and pitcher.

"That's the way it is in baseball. Very few rules are airtight, where there's no room for debate," said Klemm. "This will create some interesting conversations, and that's fine. Our primary goal was simply to be as fair as possible to everyone involved."

The new rules regarding ambidextrous pitchers are as follows:

• The pitcher must visually indicate to the umpire, batter and runner(s) which way he will begin pitching to the batter. Engaging the rubber with the glove on a particular hand is considered a definitive commitment to which arm he will throw with. The batter will then choose which side of the plate he will bat from.

• The pitcher must throw one pitch to the batter before any "switch" by either player is allowed.

• After one pitch is thrown, the pitcher and batter may each change positions one time per at-bat. For example, if the pitcher changes from right-handed to left-handed and the batter then changes batter's boxes, each player must remain that way for the duration of that at-bat (unless the offensive team substitutes a pinch hitter, and then each player may again "switch" one time).

• Any switch (by either the pitcher or the batter) must be clearly indicated to the umpire.

• There will be no warm-up pitches during the change of arms.

• If an injury occurs the pitcher may change arms but not use that arm again during the remainder of the game.


Mod post [ Friday June 27, 11pm]

I'm heading camping tomorrow and won't be around until Tuesday. Have a good weekend everyone!

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