As part of Baseball Prospectus’s continuing coverage of Yankee Stadium’s final season, I went to the Bronx on Tuesday for a star-studded press conference to kick off the preparations for the lead up to the 2008 All Star Game. The event was at the ballpark’s Stadium Club; like a number of things about the current Yankee Stadium, it’s nice, but you can understand why it could stand to be replaced. The space was probably big enough to accommodate the press corps the last time the Yankees had the All Star Game in their house, back in 1977, but this mid-afternoon PR opportunity was pretty much completely jammed.
The headliner for the press conference was New York’s mayor, the Honorable Michael Bloomberg. The mayor’s demeanor is a bit like that of an extroverted high school math teacher. His speeches for events like these tend to be littered with bad puns and groaning laugh lines, which he delivers with absolutely no shame, knowing that he gets points just for trying. (He did have one funny line, however: after he was given an All Star Game jersey, he quipped, “I’ll wear it with pride. Then, when no one’s looking, I’ll bury it in Fenway Park.”) Major League Baseball was represented by Bob DuPuy (pronunciation guide: rhymes with toupee); co-Chairman Hal Steinbrenner and team President (and former city government insider) Randy Levine were there on behalf of Yankees management, leaving the odd couple of Derek Jeter and Yogi Berra to represent the baseball side of the Yankees.
The purpose of the presser was to announce the All-Star festivities schedule, but the program wound up featuring more boasting than a rap video (”We’re giving $7 million to local charities!” “The All Star Game will bring almost $150 million of revenues into the city!” “The All-Star FanFest will be 50% bigger than it was last year!”). Probably the most pertinent and time-sensitive announcement was that online balloting for the All Star starters was now open, an awkward phrasing resulting from the fact that ballots have been available in Baltimore for more than a week. A few notes:
Aside from Bloomberg’s jersey quip, the quote of the day had to come from Derek Jeter, saying, “If I never play in another All Star Game again, this is the one I want to play in.” You’d have to think, hell or high water, Jeter will be making the 2008 All Star team, but he certainly didn’t seem to be taking it for granted.
Unlike his older brother, who looks and sounds like a mimeograph of the old man, Hal Steinbrenner doesn’t bear much of a resemblance his father, until you hear him talk. It’s not that his voice sounds like the elder Steinbrenner’s, but the moment he strings more than two sentences together, the rhythm with which he speaks is unmistakeable. It’s like you’re listening to Larry David’s Steinbrenner impression from Seinfeld.
It’s way too early to talk All Star ballots, but since one was included in my press packet, I wound up playing a game–pick out the most inappropriate guys on the ballot. Every year, the ballot has a few guys on, like Jayson Nix, who’ve been sent down to the minors before the balloting begins. Frank Thomas is still on the ballot as the Blue Jays’ DH, even though he was released and signed by the A’s. Based on the sketchy circumstances surrounding Thomas’s departure from Canada, part of me wishes that this meant he could be the Jays’ sole representative at the ASG. Those guys aside, my picks are two playing-time challenged thirdbasemen, Wild Willy Aybar in the AL and Hurtin’ Nomar Garciaparra in the NL. Feel free to send me your choices.