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Bernie Comes Home; Torre, Clemens Left Behind
September 23, 2008 - John Whittaker
Finn Takes Fat Guy Trophy Lead, Wonder Is Truly Whitless
Do you believe in improbabilities?
Simon Teska was three last-second field goals on Sunday from pulling out the best record among our hefty panel - all the while picking games based on whether or not the winning city was a good vacation destination.
As for the Whitless Wonder, the crap-a-palooza that was Week 3 turned into a 22-12 week - not terrible, but my NFL picks bore an eery resemblance to the Cleveland Browns' uniforms -- CRAP! I won 5 games. That's right. Five. I had the same feeling watching the ticker on Sunday as I do when I take one too many ex-lax.
Finn had the best week at 26-8, followed by Teska and Sir Cumference at 24-10 with Teddy and the Whitless Wonder coming in at 22-12.
Overall, Finn pulls into a four-game lead with an 85-20 record with the Whitless Wonder huffing mightily in second place at 81-24. Teddy and Sir Cumference are now 76-29, tied for third, with Teska making a late move at 70-35, no longer hopelessly out of the picture.
With the four-week feeling out process nearly over, here are four things we learned Sunday that we didn't know before.
1. Cleveland is horrible. They can't stop anyone defensively. They can't score. They're in the midst of a quarterback controversy. I won't be picking the Browns this year again, unless they play St. Louis. As for the Toilet Bowl games, Cincinnati vs. Cleveland, I have no idea who I'm picking.
2. The Patriots aren't a guaranteed bet against anyone this year. I'm not pinning that 38-13 loss against the Dolphins solely on Matt Cassel. The defense couldn't stop a play that hasn't been run since the 1950s on six different plays. I think Bill Belichick will get things fixed, but unless the offense opens back up, they Pats aren't going to outscore anyone.
3. The Bills are for real. Remember when I likened this team to the 1988 Bills on Sunday? Sunday's game against the Raiders was a game they had to win before they slipped into being the old, undependable Bills you've seen the last few years. Big win for the Bills on Sunday, and a big game for Trent Edwards. They could realistically win the division.
4. I apologize to Kerry Collins. The Titans are a must-pick most weeks now. Nicely done, Collins and Jeff Fisher, dismantling Houston, one of the trendy picks to come out of nowhere and make the playoffs, was a game I didn't see coming. I should have, but didn't.
More on the NFL later this week. Here are the games on our schedule this week.
College GamesOklahoma vs. TCU Georgia vs. Alabama Florida vs. Mississippi LSU vs. Mississippi State Texas vs. Arkansas Wisconsin at Michigan Penn State vs. Illinois South Florida at N.C. State Ohio State vs. Minnesota Auburn vs. Tennessee Wake Forest vs. Navy Utah vs. Weber State Clemson vs. Maryland East Carolina vs. Houston Fresno State at UCLA
NFL GamesAtlanta at Carolina Cleveland at Cincinnati Houston at Jacksonville Denver at Kansas City San Francisco at New Orleans Arizona at N.Y. Jets Green Bay at Tampa Bay Minnesota at Tennessee San Diego at Oakland Buffalo at St. Louis Washington at Dallas Philadelphia at Chicago Baltimore at Pittsburgh
Welcome back, Bernie Williams.
It was great to see Bernie back at Yankee Stadium on Sunday as the Yankees sent the building out in style. One of the most decorated players in Yankee history, Williams hadn't been back to the Bronx since he stopped playing (he hasn't officially retired). The final former player introduced during Sunday's pre-game ceremonies, Bernie received a 3- or 4-minute standing ovation that was the longest of the night except for Yogi Berra's, the greatest living Yankee.
Bravo, Bernie, for burying the hatchet. I can understand how your feelings were hurt after the Yankees lowballed you during contract talks and signed Johnny Damon to take your place. The final night at Yankee Stadium wouldn't have been the same without you - and it's great to have you home.
What I don't understand, though, is absence of Joe Torre and Roger Clemens.
Let's take the easy one first.
I know Torre and Don Mattingly couldn't make it to the Bronx for the festivities since the Dodgers were playing a game that afternoon against the San Francisco Giants. Mattingly was at least included on the video board with the other great first basemen in team history -- though I think more should have been done since he's a huge fan favorite.
Torre was left out, totally, from the picture, which I find to be an inexcusable omission.
Let me get this straight.
You go to the playoffs every year of your tenure, win 4 World Championships, comport yourself with dignity in the face of Hank and Hal Steinbrenner and deal with all the bullhonkey that comes with managing in New York City, and you don't merit a second of time during the closing of Yankee Stadium? Not one iota? Really? No chance to at least address the crowd on the Videotron and thank them for supporting his teams?
It wouldn't have been a fitting bookend to have the actors representing the 1923 team standing in centerfield and Joe Torre closing the stadium for good as the manager of the last World Championship teams?
It could have been done after the game, even, giving Joe a chance to thank the fans and bid farewell to his hometown stadium and giving the fans a chance to thank Torre for his time, effort and results.
The Yankees dropped the ball on this one, and should rectify this situation when the open the new Yankee Stadium in April. Torre's arguably the third-best manager in team history and the guy who brought the team to the promised land in the late 1990s. He's a part of Yankee Stadium lore, a key figure in team history and one of the cogs to a time when it was great to be a Yankees fan.
The Clemens Conundrum
I've been on and off the Clemens bandwagon for the last year, every twist and turn driving me further and further from one of my former favorite players.
Even when Clemens was plying his trade with the Red Sox, I had a healthy respect for him. He played hard, seemed to do things the right way and was tough on the Yankees. Then, the Yankees traded for him, and every time out, you wanted to see him do well. When he came through in the 1999 and 2000 playoffs with huge games, it was gratifying. When he struck out his final batter in the 2003 World Series, I had goosebumps. He had answered the one question people had about him -- Clemens could indeed win a big game.
When he announced he was coming back to the Yankees in 2007, I was elated. I knew we weren't getting the 2000 Roger Clemens, or even the 2006 Roger Clemens, but it was still the Rocket, and the Yankees were listless. They needed something - and I thought the something they needed was the Rocket. He brought a toughness that the 2007 team seemed to need.
In the wake of the Mitchell Report, the Mindy McCready soap opera and the back and forth between Clemens and former trainre Brian McNamee, I did what everyone else did - ran away from Clemens. He was tarnished, damaged goods. Doggedly proclaiming his innocense in the wake of fact upon fact that he used performance-enhancing drugs pushed me away.
But, he still came through on big stages for the Yankees in this last run of world titles.
And don't forget that Andy Pettitte, who started Sunday's game, and Jason Giambi, the starting first baseman Sunday, were also named in the Mitchell Report. They both admitted to using HGH. And, Doc Gooden has been out of jail less than a year for cocaine possession. He was mentioned on the video board for his no-hitter.
Bill Simmons wrote a great column in 2001 called Is Clemens The Antichrist? During the column, he argues that Clemens will forever be a man without a team because of the way he left teams and fans in the lurch every time he moved on. He failed to mention Boston's fans in his introductory news conference with the Blue Jays, took more money from the Jays saying he wanted to win a title and then engineered a trade to the Yankees two years later, said he was retiring from the Yankees only to go to Houston and pitch two more seasons before making that glorious return to the Yankees in 2007.
Throw in the Mitchell Report, and Clemens never had a chance. Let us read from the Book of Simmons:
Is he the Antichrist? Probably not. But I've been following sports for nearly three decades, and no athlete ever let me down quite likeRoger Clemens did. Fortunately, we can take solace at the potential sight of Clemens standing on the field at New Fenway, maybe 40 years from now, being introduced on Old Timer's Day 2041 ... and getting showered with boos from Red Sox fans. "I can't believe they still haven't let this go," he'll mumble to himself, a thin smile spread across his face, oblivious to the bitter end, still waiting for the fans to come around.
I can see how that would happen. Substitute Yankees or Astros fans for Boston, and Yankee Stadium for the New Fenway, and the scenes are identical.
But, you know what? They shouldn't be.
The Yankees are the team that brought Steve Howe back after he snorted his career away in the 1980s, brought Daryl Strawberry back for five last chances, and kept extending a lifeline to Gooden after he had done everything but been spotted driving to the ballpark in one of those Cheech and Chong Marijuanamobiles. What the three of those guys did was illegal. What Clemens appears to have done isn't.
The Yankees have a history of giving out second, third, fourth and 23rd chances. Heck, even the owner has been suspended twice by the league. I think the Yanks might have been suffering from a bit of Pot/Kettle Syndrome here.
I don't think Yankees fans would have booed Clemens if he was included in the video tribute Sunday night. Honestly, it wouldn't have cheapened the night. Shunning Clemens only focused everyone's attention to the white elephant in the room -- how do the Yankees handle the Clemens years?
Their answer -- you don't. You hide from them. You pretend they didn't exist. Clemens became the Fredo Corleone of the sports world -- Rocket, you're nothing to me now. You're not a brother, you're not a friend. I don't want to know you or what you do. I don't want to see you at the ballparks, I don't want you near my clubhouse. When you see our mother, I want to know a day in advance, so I won't be there. You understand?
Has Clemens done wrong? Absolutely. Should he apologize, like Pettitte and Giambi have done? Yeah, he should. Should he be blacklisted, never to be heard from again. No. The same goes for Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, by the way.
We should all get off our high horses.
When the Yankees open the new stadium next season, let's hope that there is at least a mention of the pitcher who helped push the Yankees to those last two titles and the manager who led them to the Promised Land is honored the right way.
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