JANUARY AlexRodriguez sets the tone for the year by overthinking his participation in theWorld Baseball Classic. First, he says he'll play for the Dominican Republic,where his parents were born. Then he picks the U.S., where he was born. Then hedecides not to play at all, so as not to dishonor either country. But later,Rodriguez says he will play for the U.S. Not even the Belgian team engaged inthat much waffling.
FEB. 22 After thefirst workout of spring training, owner George Steinbrenner says eight of thevery few words he will utter to the media in 2006. Unfortunately, those wordsare "We are going to win it this year!"
FEB. 22Rightfielder Gary Sheffield is ebullient after interpreting a statement byYankees G.M. Brian Cashman to mean his 2007 contract option (for $13 million)will be picked up. But on ...
FEB. 24 Sheffieldis enraged when Cashman says he didn't say that and adds that nothing isdefinite. Speaking of the G.M., Sheffield says, "I trust him, but I don'ttrust him totally." The Yankees will eventually embrace the concept ofpartial trust.
MARCH 4 With theWorld Baseball Classic in full swing, a sign on the team's spring trainingticket window in Tampa apologizes for the absence of participants Derek Jeter,Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon and Bernie Williams: THE NEW YORK YANKESS DID NOTVOTE TO SUPPORT THIS EVENT. Was Steinbrenner behind it? "George would nothave misspelled Yankees," says his spokesman.
MARCH 27 New YorkCity tabloids report that Randy Johnson, who earns $16 million a year, is suingthe mother of the 16-year-old daughter he fathered before he was married for$71,000 in day-care payments he made after the child was too old for day care.(He added $26,000 in interest.) "My daughter is 16 and has not been in daycare for at least five years," Big Unit declares in court papers. (The casewas dropped.)
APRIL 3 Yankeesfans get indignant when new Mets closer Billy Wagner enters his Opening Daysave opportunity to the strains of Metallica's Enter Sandman--which happens tobe Yankees closer Mariano Rivera's trademark tune. Yankee fans say this isoutrageous, that it must stop and is morally wrong. Wagner shrugs and stickswith the song.
APRIL 21 TheYankees become baseball's first billion-dollar team, with a franchise value of$1.026 billion, according to Forbes--a 10,000% return on Steinbrenner'soriginal $10 million 1973 investment. Meanwhile, a Budweiser at Yankee Stadiumcosts $7.75.
JULY 17 Rodriguezmakes three errors against the Mariners hours after he was photographedsunbathing, shirtless, in Central Park. The New York City media speculate thatRodriguez's tanning left him tired for the game. "I think I looked good inthe modeling picture, actually," says A-Rod.
JULY 19 TheYankees win government approvals to build a new stadium. The facility requiresthe razing of 400 mature oak trees and the paving of 22.4 acres of park land,but the Yankees say the lost green space will be partly offset by parks builton the roofs of new stadium garages. Enjoy!
AUG. 16 At thegroundbreaking ceremony for the new ballpark, the Boss says, "It's apleasure to give this to you people." He forgets that "you people"are actually giving the stadium to him. Nearly one third of the $1.2 billiontab will be covered by public funds.
AUG. 16 YankeeNation isn't just that stadium in the Bronx, you know. In Macon, Ga., retiredYankees pitcher Kevin Brown allegedly pulls a gun on a neighbor during adispute over grass clippings that were dumped on Brown's estate. Says theneighbor, "It was sort of an awkward evening."
AUG. 28 PitcherCarl Pavano, who has missed the season with a bruised buttocks, tells the teamhe broke two ribs in an accident involving a garbage truck while rehabbing inFlorida--but waited two weeks to say so. The new injury shelves him for therest of the year. An "embarrassing situation," Cashman says.
SEPT. 15 After 28years, the Yankees dump their Triple A affiliate, the Columbus Clippers, for abetter deal with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons. The move leaves theClippers in the lurch: They have only two weeks before the deadline to sign onwith a big league team for next season. They end up with the WashingtonNationals.
SEPT. 17 Eager todefend boyfriend Pavano and advance her career as a part-time model, GiaAllemand, the woman who was in his Porsche when he collided with the garbagetruck, talks to the New York Daily News. When, in another report, Allemand'sgrandmother objects to the News calling Gia "a hottie," Gia'sgrandfather shouts, "She is a hottie!"
OCT. 4 About55,000 beer-and-hot-dog-buying fans are trapped in Yankee Stadium for two hoursas not-so-heavy rain delays Game 2 of the ALDS. The game is finally called at10 p.m.--but someone forgets to tell the Tigers, who think the game will beginat 10 and send pitcher Justin Verlander to warm up. Meanwhile Yankees starterMike Mussina remains cozy in the clubhouse. "They definitely hadinformation that I didn't have," says Verlander.
OCT. 7 The Tigerscrush the Yankees 8-3 to win the ALDS in four games.
OCT. 9 Amidrumors that manager Joe Torre will be fired and replaced by Lou Piniella, theDaily News runs a back-page headline: BLAME JETER.
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O'Neil's love for the game was effusive, even thoughhe was barred from its highest levels. --FOR THE RECORD, PAGE 18