Good morning from the Gary Sheffield International Airport here in Tampa.
Sheff, as you may know, grew up in Tampa. He once told the beat writers that Tampa was such a tough town that he knew guys who would kill you for a ham sandwich. This, presumably, was before they put in all the chain restaurants. Now they would kill you for a table at the Cheesecake Factory and the factory chop salad.
Kudos to the people who run this airport. There is free wireless and I’m writing this from a desk just a few steps from the gate that includes plenty of power outlets. You would think such places would be standard in airports but they are not. Nearly every little cubicle is already in use at this early hour.
It was interesting seeing the reaction the Yankees had to George Steinbrenner last night. For Derek, Jorge, Andy and Mo, it was like old times. They have vivid memories of Steinbrenner being in the clubhouse all the time. But for the newcomers, seeing Steinbrenner was like spotting J.D. Salinger.
“It was pretty cool,” CC Sabathia said. “He was very friendly.”
Friendly? Hope Ed Whitson didn’t read that.
Some of the younger players, including Phil Hughes, met The Boss for the first time and were surprised to see him in a wheelchair. But Steinbrenner has a bad knee that he refuses to get operated on and has trouble walking. But he is doing better these days and there is a chance he will be in New York for the upcoming Boston series. Maybe he’ll gather some of his old New York City cronies.
But gone are the days when part of a beat writer’s job was staking out the hallway outside his office in Tampa in pursuit of an inflammatory quote. I still remember one spring training day a few years ago when Big Stein barked a comment out to Jim Baumbach of Newsday then ran over Sweeny Murti’s foot in his golf cart. We literally chased him down the hall shouting questions about A-Rod.
Now we give Steinbrenner his space, even the tabloids. Hal Steinbrenner runs the team and when the voice of ownership needs to be heard, he steps forward. That’s how it should be, I think. Let the old guy have his dignity.
As for the Yankees, they treated Steinbrenner to a 6-2 victory then flew off to Chicago. As they were in the air, the Dodgers were beaten and now the Yankees are tied for the best record in baseball at 62-39. It has been an impressive last month or so.
The Yankees left the Rays reeling and the stumblin’ Red Sox have dropped seven of their last 10. But the Yankees want to be the champions of October, not July.
“There is still a lot of work to do,” Joe Girardi said.
That there is, starting tonight at U.S. Cellular Field. Check back on the blog later on.