Baseball is unique in that the writers have access to the clubhouse three and a half hours before the game. There is no pre-game access in the NFL and it’s somewhat limited in the NBA.
Part of my job is gather enough information for a Yankees notebook that is filed back to the newspaper before the game starts. That involves tracking down the news of the day for the most part. With the Yankees, there is always something going on.
Once that is finished, I try and use the time to have conversations with the players about different things with an eye on using that information to develop a story down the road. If nothing else, you build up relationships. Because their season is so long and their games are often so slow, many baseball players are good conversationalists. It is true of almost every player that they are more candid speaking one-on-one then they are in a group setting, especially when the television cameras are on.
I found myself talking to Nick Swisher this afternoon about the wide discrepancy in his numbers on the road as opposed to Yankee Stadium.
Swish was honest, admitting that it bothered him.
“I feel like the walls are right on top of on the road and they seem a mile away at Yankee Stadium,” he said. “It’s frustrating. I sort of have to remind myself that I’m having a good season anyway.”
I took a few notes, wished Swish well in the game and went about my business. Then — ka-boom — Swish hits a two-run homer to win the game and instant story.
Swisher is hitting .283 with 20 homers and 52 RBI on the road. He’s hitting .200 with three homers and 20 RBI in the Bronx.
“It’s mind-boggling,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s hard to understand, but baseball can be hard to understand. … I don’t try and figure out anything with Swish.”
Meanwhile, A.J. Burnett was, well, A.J. Burnett again. He has a 6.54 ERA in his last seven starts and doesn’t have a win since July 27. Girardi said he wasn’t worried. But unless Burnett gains some consistency, sending him out to the mound in the postseason will be a nerve-wracking experience. Keep in mind, Burnett’s next postseason game will be his first. How is Andy Pettitte not the Game 2 starter at this point?
Then we have Jorge Posada, who twice lost track of the count when he was at the plate tonight. But he did hit two home runs for the first time since Sept. 4, 2007.
The Yankees are 84-48 with 30 games left. If they merely go .500, they’ll win 99 games. You have to figure they do much better than that. Raise your hand if you had them winning 103 games this season. Anybody?