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“Freddy Sez: The Yankees Control Their Destiny,” the sign read ominously, as New York’s answer to Oakland’s tribal drumming roamed the corridors of a chilly Yankee Stadium Saturday night. With the Yanks in the middle of their seventh 10-run drubbing in their last 20 games, the toothless Yankee cheerleader, Freddy, could find only one shivering seven-year-old girl willing to bang his rally pan with the victory spoon. But after Sunday’s tearjerker of a victory, it’s easy to forget that ugly loss and get sucked into thinking that the Yankees really can make like a bad Genesis song and turn it on, turn it on, turn it on again. The reality, however, is that if Terrence Long reels in Tino Martinez‘s first-inning double, the Yankees are watching the ALCS on TV, along with the Giants, the Braves, and the White Sox.
And Joe Torre would have had to take the rap. Desperate to avoid using hurlers he’s lost trust in, Torre threw two virtually defenseless pitchers out there on three days’ rest, and will probably do the same thing against Seattle. He’s shortened his bullpen to Eddie Gaedel proportions. And he kept Chuck Knoblauch in exile, while stubbornly penciling Paul O’Neill—who hasn’t hit the ball hard since Patrick Ewing was a Knick—into the number three slot in the lineup. In short, for the first time in his managerial career, Torre panicked. And if he continues to freak out this week, the Mariners have the kind of team that can exploit the Yankee weaknesses: patient hitters, beginning with Mets castoff Rickey Henderson, starters that throw strikes, and a bullpen that’s deeper than a Barry White single. So if the Yanks are going to keep Freddy rooting through October again, perhaps their spiritual leader needs to worry less about destiny and more about pitch counts and getting guys on base.
As Uni Watch and Jockbeat have chronicled in recent months, Major League Baseball practically carpet-bombed the landscape this season with its silhouetted-batter logo, which now appears on caps, helmets, jerseys, turtleneck collars, warm-up shirts, umpire’s shirts (front and back), windbreakers and jackets, balls, tarpaulin covers, and even bases. As if this weren’t saturation enough, baseball’s honchos have taken things a step further in the playoffs, where the umps’ “MLB” caps have been replaced by caps featuring yet another iteration of the logo. And since there are six umpires per game in the playoffs, instead of the usual four, that should lead to even more “brand impressions,” as the marketing pros like to say.
Of course, the marketing pros would also say there’s a difference between visibility and overkill, but don’t try telling that to the MLB folks, who appear determined to slap their logo onto anything that might come within view of a TV camera. Look for catcher’s gear, batting gloves, and pants to be next, perhaps followed by bats and mitts. Unfortunately, nobody at MLB’s offices could confirm the rumor that the logo has also been tattooed onto Bud Selig‘s ass, but would anyone really be surprised?
As the region’s lone source for World Wrestling Federation corporate news, Jockbeat is sorry to report that shares of Vince McMahon‘s entertainment powerhouse were body-slammed last week on word that revenues would be lower than previously expected. (Welcome to the unrehearsed world of Wall Street, Vince.) Shares of WWF, which recently announced a move from the NASDAQ to the New York Stock Exchange, fell more than 30 percent—to $12 3/4 in after-hours tradings—before rebounding days later. The stock was trading at $14 1/2 as of Monday.
Since its IPO last year, the stock (WWFE on the ticker) has had a history of underperformance. After opening at $25 per share, it traded as high as $34 until investors gathered their senses in February, when it dipped below $10 for the first time. Investors could be in for another full frontal assault if the WWF loses a wrongful-death suit filed against it by the family of Owen Hart, who died last May during a pay-per-view event in Kansas City. Hart fell six stories when his harness failed as he attempted a complicated stunt from the top of Kemper Arena.
• By now even the most computer-phobic of old-school sportscasters appear to have been clued in regarding the whole dotcom thing. But not Fox’s Pat Sumerall, who still thinks the World Wide Web has something to do with giant spiders—at least judging from a promo spot he recently read at the close of an NFL game broadcast. Intending to inform his audience that the postgame show, which is sponsored by Autotrader.com, would immediately follow the game, Sumerall instead told millions of viewers to “stay tuned for the Autotrader compost game show.” Two suggestions for Fox: First, send an industrial-size box of chocolates to Autotrader.com’s HQ. And second, have Sumerall stick to telling us when The Simpsons will be on. . . . • Weirdest thing about ESPN’s postseason baseball coverage: seeing studio commentator Buck Showalter wearing something other than a windbreaker. . . . • Jockbeat would like to thank Jesus Christ for sarcasm.
Contributors: Allen St. John, Paul Lukas, Howard Z. Unger, Brian Parks
Sports Editor: Miles D. Seligman