Wherever the increasingly Garbo-like George Steinbrenner was Friday night -- perhaps lost where mint juleps clink and bonnets are decorated like wedding cakes -- he had the luxury of distance.
If he was strolling around Churchill Downs, he could stroke an equine acquisition in the prized Bellamy Road. A sort of pet therapy. If he had been prowling around his collapsible team, he would have been forced to confront a pinstriped disaster inside a dreary and morose Yankee Stadium. A sort of pet cemetery.
Somewhere, the Boss was probably in front of a television set, watching, growling and audible for a Kentucky mile as the Yankees fell apart against Oakland during a three-error 10th inning for their fourth straight loss.
The Boss can hide, but he is always on everyone's mind, especially on a day when he laid the blame for the Yankees' spiral on the lap of the pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre in USA Today.
"To me, that's not the right thing to do," manager Joe Torre said. "I'm the one responsible for Mel."
This kind of accountability is a Torre trait, not a Boss quality. Personal responsibility is a Tino Martinez trait, not a Steinbrenner asset.
"I cost us the game tonight," said Martinez, who committed two errors on one play that allowed two runs in the 10th. "I've got to make the play. It's on me."
Introspection doesn't occur to Steinbrenner. Others soul search; the Boss searches for a scapegoat. And yet, one answer to the Yankees' bewilderment unfolded in front of everyone on Friday night when the Yankees crossed paths with the A's in an intersection of baseball philosophies that changed everything in 2001.
Back then the coupon-clipping A's tried, but could not afford, to retain Jason Giambi as their beloved raucous leader with the pro wrestler's physique and the MVP statistics. At that moment, the Yankees, with a loss in the 2001 World Series on their impatient minds, decided to depart from a successful strategy of growing titles from talent on the farm.
The Boss plopped down US$120 million for Giambi, starting a parallel decline of an organization and a player, of a personnel philosophy and a Yankee dynasty. That moment has helped lead to a US$200 million payroll for a team that has found itself in its division's crawlspace.
"If you're the Boss and spend all the money, they're your toys," Torre said. "You can do what you want. It's your money."
To the Boss, money is blameless. Cash equals power, not weakness. To the Boss, money is flawless. It creates, not ruins. For Steinbrenner, faulting money is like faulting himself.
From 2001 to 2005, the ex-shopaholic of the 1980s resurfaced as Steinbrenner began handing out golden parachutes to every aging superstar with crow's feet. The obsession with shiny players began with Giambi, the player who has become the official mirror to the Yankees' unraveling.
Giambi arrived as an invincible luminary with a tear in his eye as he slipped into his No. 25 Yankee jersey. It was 2 plus 5 -- as in No. 7, as in Mickey Mantle, as in the folk hero of all the Yankee bedtime stories his father had told him.
"Pop, it's not 7, but we got the pinstripes," Giambi said that day.
Here he was, a player who wanted to live up to a demanding father's dreams.
Here are the Yankees, a team who wants to live up to a deluded Boss' demands.
"There's a lot of tension, and on a scale of 1 to 10, it's probably at an 8," Torre said of the current atmosphere, adding, "What is called listlessness is really tension."
Giambi whisked into New York as a player who would do anything to be an authentic Yankee legend. So he shaved his menacing beard, trimmed his rock-star hair and dulled his edge. So he put pressure on himself, yearning to go beyond human, even leaning on magic potions to do it.
What can expectations do to a player -- or to a team? Just like Giambi, the Yankees have shrunk in stature since 2001. While he has been plagued by the wacky and weird -- like parasites, mystery ailments and BALCO revelations -- the Yankees have been diminished by the bizarre, as well.
Kevin Brown smacks a wall in the clubhouse; Alex Rodriguez claws at the glove of Bronson Arroyo; Randy Johnson swats at a television camera.
As of Friday night, Giambi was still a bit groggy after being knocked dizzy by a pitch to the head on Wednesday night in Tampa. Entering Friday night, the Yankees were still stunned silly by their dramatic plunge to an embarrassing bottom.
This is more than poor asset allocation by the Yankees. It is a flawed philosophy about money rooted in impatience, all of which was predicted in Buster Olney's book, The Friday night of the Yankee Dynasty -- a title more prescient every day.
Who is to blame?
Not Stottlemyre, not Torre, not the millionaire players. The Boss has to be accountable for his strategy of acquisition, for collecting glittering parts, not a solid team. Giambi just happened to be the base case for the Yankees' troubles.
"There are things you see in people that make you have no doubt," General Manager Brian Cashman said on the day the team announced Giambi's signing. "I have that feeling about him."
That feeling began the erosion of a player, of a personnel strategy, of a Yankee organization. The parallels between Giambi and the Yankees are uncanny.
Of course, there is one hitch to their side-by-side paths: Giambi became more human in his slide, while there is no sympathy for the flaws in the Boss' cold, hard cash.
Matt Clement won a matchup of unbeaten pitchers, allowing just an unearned run in seven innings while Jamie Moyer faltered, and Bill Mueller drove in four runs to lead Boston past Seattle 7-2.
Despite removing Johnny Damon and Edgar Renteria from the lineup because of injuries, the Red Sox won their fourth consecutive game to move a season-high five games above .500. Clement (4-0) allowed five hits and a walk while striking out six.
Moyer (4-1) couldn't stop a Seattle losing streak that has reached six in a row, failing for the second time to surpass Randy Johnson for the franchise record for wins. Moyer allowed six runs, seven hits and three walks in 2 2-3 innings.
David Ortiz hit his eight homer for Boston.
Twins 7, Devil Rays 1
In St. Petersburg, Florida, Minnesota's Johan Santana rebounded from his first loss in a nearly a year, scattering six hits for his second career complete game against Tampa Bay.
Joe Mauer was 4-for-5 with a three-run homer, and Justin Morneau hit a two-run shot in support of the AL Cy Young pitching award winner, who won for the 18th time in his last 19 decisions.
Santana (5-1) struck out seven and walked none, and the Devil Rays went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position after Aubrey Huff drove in the only run off the left-hander with a one-out triple in the first.
Mauer matched a career high with four hits, including his homer off Dewon Brazelton (1-6) for a 3-1 lead in the third. Morneau homered off Rob Bell in the fifth.
Orioles 3, Royals 1
In Baltimore, Sidney Ponson pitched eight innings of five-hit ball for his third straight win, and B.J. Surhoff had three hits and two RBIs as Baltimore defeated Kansas City.
Ponson (4-1) had a season-high eight strikeouts and two walks. B.J. Ryan struck out two in a perfect ninth for his sixth save in six chances.
AL East-leading Baltimore has won 10 of 12 and has given up only three runs in its last three games. Ken Harvey drove in the lone run for the Royals, who have lost 13 of 15. Kansas City is 7-22, its worst record after 29 games.
White Sox 5, Blue Jays 3
In Toronto, A.J. Pierzynski hit a go-ahead two-run single in the eighth inning to lead Chicago over Toronto for its sixth straight victory.
Orlando Hernandez (4-1) pitched seven strong innings to help the White Sox improve their major league-leading record to 22-7. Chicago's starters are 17-3 with a 2.79 ERA.
Dustin Hermanson finished for his fifth save.
Corey Koskie homered for Toronto. Jason Frasor (1-2) was the loser.
Angels 4, Tigers 3
In Anaheim, California, Kelvim Escobar pitched 7 1-3 strong innings, and Steve Finley tripled in two runs and doubled home another as Los Angeles beat Detroit for its fifth straight victory.
Escobar (1-1), making his third start of the season, gave up three runs and six hits, struck out five and walked two.
Francisco Rodriguez pitched the ninth for his eighth save.
Wilfredo Ledezma (1-3) took the loss.
LaTroy Hawkins blew his third save of the season, allowing the tying and winning runs to score on his throwing error that gave the Philadelphia Phillies a 3-2 victory and pushed the Chicago Cubs' losing streak to six games on Friday.
Hawkins (1-3) relieved starter Mark Prior in the ninth inning and proceeded to load the bases.
Pinch-hitter Placido Polanco then lined a pitch back to Hawkins, who made the catch and threw to first base to try to double up Jose Offerman. But his hard toss hit Offerman's helmet and skipped deep into the stands, allowing two runs to score.
Hawkins has saved only four of his seven chances this season.
Phillies closer Billy Wagner (1-0) earned the victory by getting four consecutive outs after giving up Derrek Lee's go-ahead, two-run homer in the eighth.
Braves 9, Astros 4
At Atlanta, Johnny Estrada hit a three-run homer and six other Atlanta players drove in runs, leading the surging Braves over slumping Houston.
Atlanta outscored Houston 18-7 in the first two games of the four-game series.
John Smoltz (3-3) won his third straight start, giving up two hits and a run before coming out after the fifth inning because of a strained muscle in his back. The injury wasn't considered serious.
Roy Oswalt (4-3), a 20-game winner last season who beat Atlanta in the deciding fifth game of the division series, gave up 10 hits and nine runs -- including a career-high seven earned runs -- in a grim five-inning stint.
Dodgers 13, Reds 6
At Cincinnati, Jeff Kent had a two-run homer and a three-run double in a 10-run first inning for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Hee-Seop Choi also hit a two-run homer for Los Angeles, which sent 14 batters to the plate in a half-inning that lasted 27 minutes.
Paul Wilson (1-3) failed to retire a batter, allowing eight runs, five hits, one walk and hit two batters. Matt Belisle relieved after eight batters and gave up two walks and Kent's double. Los Angeles had six hits in the inning, including five for extra bases.
Brad Penny (2-0) took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning. Penny allowed one hit and two walks with four strikeouts in seven shutout innings.
The Dodgers scored 10 runs in an inning for the first time since September 1977, and the Dodgers said Kent matched the franchise record of five RBIs in an inning.
Cincinnati has lost eight straight and gave up 10 runs in the first inning for the first time since allowing a National League-record 15 in a 19-1 loss to the Brooklyn Dodgers in May 1952.
Marlins 7, Rockies 0
In Miami, Florida's Dontrelle Willis improved to 6-0, allowing five hits and tying a career high with seven strikeouts in seven innings against Colorado.
The left-hander dropped his major league-leading ERA to 1.07 and improved to 4-0 at home with an 0.58 ERA.
The Rockies have baseball's worst record at 6-20, and their nine-game losing streak matches the third-longest in franchise history. They're 1-14 on the road.
Adding to Colorado's woes, left-hander Joe Kennedy (1-4) limped out of the game trailing 1-0 after a sharp one-hop grounder deflected off his left ankle in the sixth.
Mets 7, Brewers 4
In Milwaukee, Mike Piazza homered his first two at-bats, giving him home runs in three straight plate appearances, and New York snapped Milwaukee's seven-game winning streak.
Mike Cameron added a two-run shot in his second game back from the disabled list, and David Wright hit a solo home run for the Mets, 5-1 in their last six.
Piazza hit an 0-1 pitch from Doug Davis (3-4) into the second tier of the left-field seats in the second inning, a drive estimated at 434 feet. After Carlos Beltran's run-scoring double in the third, Piazza hit Davis' first pitch 402 feet to the same tier of seats in left. It was his fifth home run of the season.
New York's Cliff Floyd went 0-for-4, snapping his career-high 20-game hitting streak, the longest in the majors this season. Victor Zambrano (2-3) was the winner, and Brandon Looper closed for his seventh save.
Padres 6, Cardinals 5
In St. Louis, Trevor Hoffman became the third pitcher in major league history to reach 400 saves and Mark Sweeney had a two-run home run and three RBIs as San Diego edged St. Louis.
Hoffman, who joined Lee Smith (478) and John Franco (424) in the 400-save club, has converted seven of nine save chances this season and 400 of 450 in his career.
San Diego has won five in a row, including two straight in St. Louis for the first time since July 16-17, 1997. The Padres, who ended an 11-game losing streak at Busch Stadium on Thursday night, have lost 19 of their last 23 in St. Louis.
Randy Williams (1-0) allowed one run on one hit in the sixth to earn his first major league win. Randy Flores (1-1) was the loser.
St. Louis' Albert Pujols was 0-for-3 with a walk, ending a 16-game hitting streak.
Diamondbacks 8, Pirates 4
In Phoenix, Troy Glaus drove in four runs, three of them with a 464-foot homer, to help Arizona beat Pittsburgh.
Shawn Green also homered and Javier Vazquez (4-2) earned his fourth victory in his last four starts, allowing two runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts in seven innings.
Glaus' home run -- the sixth-longest in the eight-year history of Bank One Ballpark -- was his ninth of the season, tying him with Chicago's Derrek Lee for the NL lead.
Oliver Perez (1-4) was the loser.
Pittsburgh's Matt Lawton hit a two-out homer in the ninth.
Nationals 9, Giants 3
In San Francisco, Ryan Church hit a three-run double, and Brad Wilkerson had three hits and drew a bases-loaded walk as Washington thrashed San Francisco.
Jon Rauch (1-1) pitched three effective innings for the win.
Deivi Cruz homered for the Giants, who lost their third straight following a six-game winning streak. Noah Lowry (1-3) was the loser.
Injured Mariners shortstop Pokey Reese, who has yet to play for Seattle this season, has undergone surgery on his sore right shoulder.
Also, catcher Dan Wilson is scheduled for surgery on May 20 to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, which he tore on Wednesday during a loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
The procedure on Reese was performed on Thursday. The 31-year-old Reese, on the 60-day disabled list all season, will return to Seattle for rehabilitation.
‘CRIMINAL ACT’: The UCI said it ‘strongly condemns’ Dylan Groenewegen’s ‘dangerous behavior,’ which left Jakobsen in critical condition and injured other cyclists Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was in a coma on Wednesday, in “serious” condition, after he was thrown into and over a barrier at 80kph in the conclusion to the opening stage of the Tour de Pologne. Footage showed 23-year-old Jakobsen, of the Deceuninck-Quick-Step, racing elbow-to-elbow with fellow Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen of Jumbo-Visma as both men frantically tussled in a tight sprint to the line in Katowice. However, Jakobsen came off worst, somersaulting over the barriers before colliding with a photographer after Groenewegen had veered suddenly to the right, squeezing his rival into the security wall. “His condition is very serious. His life is
Growing concern over health standards in e-sports has prompted a new federation to pledge to address the problem, as players fall victim to conditions ranging from wrist injuries to obesity, stress and diabetes. The retirement of top Chinese player Jian Zihao, better known by his gaming handle “Uzi,” sent tremors through the booming sport, whose revenues are predicted to reach US$1.1 billion this year, according to industry analyst Newzoo. The 23-year-old, hailed as an “icon” of the League of Legends game, stepped away from e-sports in June, saying that “chronic stress, obesity, irregular diet, staying up late and other reasons” had given
‘COMPLICATED’: The 34-year-old from Spain called sitting out the tournament ‘a decision I never wanted to take,’ but added that he would ‘rather not travel’ Defending champion Rafael Nadal has said that he would skip the US Open because of the COVID-19 pandemic, putting on hold his bid to equal Roger Federer’s men’s record for Grand Slam titles. On Tuesday, Nadal explained his decision in a series of tweets sent in Spanish and English. “The situation is very complicated worldwide. Coronavirus cases are increasing. It looks like we still don’t have control of it,” Nadal wrote. The 34-year-old from Spain called sitting out the tournament scheduled to begin on Aug. 31 in New York “a decision I never wanted to take,” but added that he would “rather not
The Braves were dealt a double blow as the Mets’ Jacob deGrom struck out 10 in six innings to help New York snap a five-game skid with a 7-2 victory on Monday, and as Atlanta top pitcher Mike Soroka went down with a torn Achilles tendon in the third inning. “There’s no sugarcoating this night,” Atlanta slugger Freddie Freeman said. “It stinks. It really does.” Soroka crumpled to the ground on a seemingly routine play, breaking toward first to cover the bag on a grounder to Freeman’s right. “When you lose, in my mind, one of the top pitching arms in this entire