Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, October 22, 2007

When the Season Goes Down the Toilet

(this appears in my column in the sports section of today's Business Mirror)

When The Season Goes Down the Toilet
by Rick Olivares

The New York Yankees’ season despite all the feel-good moments by Alex Rodriguez, Joba Chamberlain, Shelley Duncan, and Andy Pettitte, went for naught as they were upset by the Cleveland Indians 3-1 in the American League Division Series.

And about 45 minutes after the game ended and the last of the Yankee faithful had cleared the Stadium, the triumphant return to greatness of major league baseball’s greatest franchise that began in 1995 ended in the toilet after three consecutive years of first round flame outs.


When beleaguered skipper Joe Torre, a native New Yorker who won four of the six World Series in which his team played in, entered the executive’s bathroom, he saw none other than team owner and nemesis George Steinbrenner inside. There were no other urinals free except for the one next to the man they call “the Boss.” As it was, everyone inside was quiet whether out of sadness for the latest team debacle or because they could tell that Steinbrenner was simmering. But when Torre entered, everyone inside could swear that they could have heard the last call topside for the 11:15pm bus to Jersey City from Port Authority.

There was a curt acknowledgement from both men, but the tension was so thick that the enmity could be felt.

Just when things couldn’t get any worse, general manager Brian Cashman, a Torre loyalist and frequent Steinbrenner punching bag entered and uttered, “Now this is awkward.”

A couple of days later, Torre turned down a one-year contract offer (for $5 million plus an additional $3 million in bonuses that largely depend on the team’s performance) citing that he felt disrespected since it effectively made him a lame duck coach.

Now it’s all uncertain in the Bronx as the team looks to rebuild -- pitching coach Ron Guidry has been all but fired, closer Mariano Rivera has verbally tied any further association of his to Torre’s stay in New York, pitching star Andy Pettitte could depending also on the roster moves exercise his option to forego the second year of his contract, Rodriguez who is clearly playing a money game has probably played his last year in pinstripes, and catcher Jorge Posada who is the team’s heart and soul is a free agent. Also playing perhaps his last year is Roger Clemens for whom it is most possibly the end of the road.

Since starting off the new millennium by beating cross-town rivals the Mets in 2000 World Series, the Yankees lost in two championship matches and five play-off series including the humiliating loss to the Boston Red Sox in 2004 where they spotted their foes a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 lead before suffering the most ignonimous of meltdowns. Looking at it objectively, despite the success, they’re grounds for the manager’s termination as he clearly hasn’t been able to get the team over the hump. And it isn’t like the team hasn’t been given the players the team needs to compete as they’ve signed up expensive free agents like Randy Johnson, Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu, and Alex Rodriguez. So when does objectivity and rational sense supplant nostalgia? When is it time to blow up the team and start anew? Yes, I’m not exactly a fan of sports being business propositions, but I do understand why there are.

Some would point to the Boston Celtics of the 80’s as an example of keeping a team together far too long. When they won their last title in 1986, they didn’t even have the best team. They had the best six players and that was enough to get them past many teams that season. Clearly those six players played too many minutes and it told on them heavily over the next couple of years.

There was a time when certain quarters called for the breaking up of the Big Three of LarryKevinRobert but Celtics patriarch Red Auerbach vetoed any such deal. The Big Three would make it to the NBA Finals one more time in 1987 where they lost the 80’s rubber match with the Los Angeles Lakers. After that, save for the excitement of 1991, they lapsed into an extended period of mediocrity until the one-year aberration of the Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce partnership.

As stubborn as Boston’s hierarchy was, they did try to rebuild with youth, but they lost Len Bias and Reggie Lewis to tragedy. They couldn’t reload since McHale and Bird retired because of nagging injuries and the Chief was well… the oldest player in the Association by then. Only the Chicago Bulls’ Jerry Krause thought that Robert Parrish could still contribute as he signed him for the team’s ’97 campaign that resulted in a fourth championship ring for the big man from Centenary.

In 2005, Liverpool FC was ready to go in a new direction. They had done well with Gerard Houllier when the team won five trophies in six months in 2001 but they regressed after that in spite of the free agent signings of Hadji Diouf, Harry Kewell, and Alou Diarra. Their best finish was third place in the Premiership and they would get no further.

The losing begat booing and it was clearly a time for change after the 2004 season. With Houllier and his lieutenants (Sammy Lee and Phil Thompson) out, even incumbent captain Steven Gerrard thought about bolting. But Liverpool management held firm about the change. They brought in former Valencia coach Rafa Benitez (who was fresh from a La Liga title) himself and they immediately won the Champions League and the UEFA Super Cup. The Reds would go on to win the FA Cup and the Community Shield the following season.

So maybe to Yankee fans like me, maybe we should look on the bright side now that the Joe Torre era has ended in New York. Yes change is always frightening; the move from the familiar to the unfamiliar. But like his equally pedigreed predecessors Casey Stengel and Joe McCarthy, good things happened to the club after their time was done (whether premeditated or prematurely) or when the season went down the toilet.

From the toilet to the sewer.

Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, a part of the San Siro stadium will be closed for Inter Milan's next Serie A home game as punishment for offensive banners their fans displayed during Napoli's visit two weeks ago.

"Inter Milan fans grouped in the second tier of the north stand displayed several large banners with statements insulting Naples supporters and, above all, their city of origin," reported the Italian Soccer League in a statement on its website

In the second half chants of a similar derogatory tone were heard from the same sector of the stadium while one of the banners read: 'Naples, Sewer of Italy'.

As a result the second tier of the San Siro's north stand, the Curva Nord, will be empty for Genoa's visit on Oct. 31 and the football club was also fined 30,000 euros.

Oh well.

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