So let's get this straight: Crusty, corn-pone Charlie Manuel is managing his pitching staff like some tender-heart, new-age guy. He's lit incense, adopted a yoga position and is listening to sitar music. Joe Girardi - the man who took the candies out of the New York Yankees clubhouse - is managing his staff like some arm-shredding, Dusty Baker disciple.
As good as Cliff Lee has been for the Philadelphia Phillies, you think they sort of wish right now that they'd been able to trade for Roy Halladay, who is 4-2 (2.79) on three days rest with 27 strikeouts and one walk? Look: after seeing Cole Hamels, I don't blame Manuel for pitching Cliff Lee tonight in Game 5 on regular rest instead of bringing him back on three days. Hamels tossed a total of 2621/3 innings in 2008, including 35 in the postseason and went winless in his first four starts this year. He's been inconsistent, never able to command his curveball, and was booed off the field Saturday night in Game 3. Talk about a cautionary tale: Lee hasn't pitched on three days and didn't exactly lobby for the assignment. That's what separates the Roys from the boys.
Garbage Time: Tampering alert: LeBron James makes his only visit of the year to Madison Square Garden on Friday night. Cue the Ohio angst about the free-agent-to-be's state of mind, which was already tried during a recent Jay-Z concert when James got up to sing 'Empire State of Mind,' with Jay-Z - who is also a New Jersey Nets minority owner ... Agent Darek Braunecker has a tough call to make tonight: Two of his clients, A.J. Burnett and Cliff Lee, will oppose each other in Game 5 ... If as expected the Atlanta Braves make Javier Vazquez available, the Toronto Blue Jays will be interested in those 200 innings and 200 strikeouts ... Always on the hunt for ways to squeeze revenue out of Fenway Park, the NHL's Winter Classic has given the Boston Red Sox some ideas: They're going to use the temporary ice sheet for a Hockey East college hockey extravaganza and are thinking about using it for corporate events. Shinny by The Green Monster, anyone?
You know what separates Montreal Canadiens fans from Toronto Maple Leafs fans? Habs fans differentiate between their glorious past and their mediocre past. In Toronto, every returning player gets a video salute during the game. Everybody's a hero if they suited up for the Leafs. Meanwhile, Mike Komisarek gets lit up in his return to the Bell Centre. I like Komisarek and I like his game. I just wish he'd be more comfortable in his skin when he's on the ice. And I wish Leafs fans would pine a little less for things like the Darcy Tucker Era and that the Air Canada Centre's in-game entertainment people didn't feed the beast. It's unbecoming.
Do not expect to see much of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner as the World Series wraps up. 'The Boss' is not expected to be in the Bronx if the series returns there and sources say that during the first two games at Yankee Stadium, Fox was asked to limit television shots of the ailing, 79-year-old. The strangest moment of the Series came after Game 2, when reporters were forced to remain in a stairway for 10 minutes behind a locked door so Steinbrenner could be spirited out. The press elevator was shut down and metal gates were erected in front of black curtains to keep people - including surprised Major League executives - away from Steinbrenner.
I can't believe that Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos is all that thrilled to have Cito Gaston back managing the club in 2010. But I do believe he's smart enough to know he'll have to carefully pick his fights with president and chief executive officer Paul Beeston and that he's also smart enough to know Gaston's future is a battle he can't win. I have no issue with letting Gaston bow out on his own terms, but I'm a little surprised that Anthopoulos thinks it will work with Gaston's right-hand man Nick Leyva and Brian Butterfield both around. I'm not certain Butterfield has the gravitas to manage in the Major Leagues because he's spent most of his time with the Blue Jays cozying up to players. If Anthopoulos is as smart as I think he is, he'll use this year to get the best available managerial candidate. Oh, and he shouldn't feel like he has to bring back somebody from 1992-93, either.