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Wednesday, September 8, 2004
Updated: September 9, 12:11 PM ET
Nothing stands in the Yanks' way

By Jim Caple
Page 2

Hurricane Frances killed at least 10 people in Florida, knocked out power to six million, dumped 12 inches of rain throughout the state and forced the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.

But the Yankees suffered the worst brunt of the hurricane, by far. Frances inconvenienced them for a whole day.

The Yankees were supposed to play a day-night doubleheader with Tampa Bay on Labor Day, but instead waited around all afternoon for the Devil Rays to arrive. Stuck in Tampa because of the hurricane, the Rays didn't show up until 6 p.m., forcing the Yankees to postpone one of the games. New York won the night game, and asked the commissioner's office to give them a forfeit in the other.

Now, the Yankees have received a lot of criticism for requesting the forfeit. But you can understand their position. Their best pitcher just broke his hand. The Red Sox keep winning, and New York's lead in the AL East is shriveling down to nothing. The Yankees showed up for a doubleheader on Labor Day, opened their gates, let their fans in and ... then waited around for hour after hour, wondering where the other team was.

Anyone who has ever cut out of work early and fought through rush-hour traffic for a softball game only to have the other team not show up should be able to appreciate New York's perspective.

In fact, in their letter to the commissioner's office, the Yankees make a very compelling argument that they do, indeed, deserve the forfeit ...

Commissioner Selig,

This letter is a formal request for Major League Baseball to award the Yankees a victory by forfeit due to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' failure to show up on time for a scheduled Labor Day doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. The Devil Rays claim they could not reach New York on time due to Hurricane Frances. We do not consider that excuse sufficient.

The infamous Hurricane of 1938 that struck New York and New England killed 700 people, left 63,000 homeless and registered winds as high as 120 miles at the Empire State Building. But it didn't postpone the Yankees game or stop Lou Gehrig's playing streak. Granted, the Yankees were playing in Chicago that day, but the point remains: A hurricane wasn't enough to stop Gehrig and the Yankees then, and it isn't a sufficient excuse to postpone a Yankees game now.

A hurricane may be reason enough to take a day off for a losing team that has never finished anywhere but last place, but it is not the Yankees' way to postpone games due to climactic conditions hundreds of miles away. The way of a true champion is to play on, no matter what the weather conditions are anywhere else.

There are hurricanes, tornados, cyclones, typhoons, monsoons, floods, avalanches, tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions all over the world, but the Yankees play on. There are starving children in Ethiopia, Liberia and Sudan who would be happy to play in a hurricane, and thus are inspired by the manner in which the Yankees take the field each night despite their suffering. There are wars all over the world. Our brave troops are risking their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Reserve units are being forced to extend their service time for month after trying month.

Derek Jeter
Derek Jeter and the Yanks play through rain, snow, sleet and hail.
And the Yankees honor their sacrifices by suiting up every night.

The U.S. Postal Service does not deliver on Sundays and holidays, but the Yankees play. USA Today does not print on weekends, but the Yankees play. There are entire weeks during which the New Yorker and Sports Illustrated don't publish, but the Yankees play.

We played the night that NBC aired the final episode of "Friends." We played the night that Mariah Carey's movie "Glitter" opened. We played the night "Cats" closed.

And the Devil Rays cannot overcome a hurricane?

We played the time Don Zimmer couldn't get through the stadium's metal detectors. We played the night David Wells drank all the beer in the concession stands. We played the night Darryl Strawberry snorted the third base line.

And the Devil Rays can't show up on time?

We played the night Alex Rodriguez's limo broke down on the Major Deegan. We played the night Jason Giambi cut the cheese on the team bus and everybody had to get out and walk the rest of the way. We played the night Ruben Rivera stole Joe Torre's hubcaps.

And the Devil Rays can't get to the airport on time?

We played the day the air conditioning didn't work right in the team hotel. We played the night Derek Jeter couldn't find his little black book. We played the day there were those really bad solar flares and we couldn't get decent cell phone coverage. We even played that one night it looked like it was going to rain really, really hard only it didn't.

And the Devil Rays don't reach the ballpark until six hours after the original scheduled start?

The facts of the case and your decision are clear. You must issue a forfeit. Baseball teams cannot willy-nilly decide on their own not to show up for scheduled games just because it is slightly inconvenient. The Yankees do not play that way and they expect no less from their opponents.

Indeed, Kevin Brown got a bad night's sleep and woke up in a very bad mood this morning, and yet the Yankees have no plans to cancel our current homestand.

Sincerely,

Randy Levine
President
New York Yankees

BOXSCORE LINE OF THE WEEK
What with Kevin Brown, the hurricane and the relentless Red Sox, the Yankees had a rough time of it last week. But they received one gift on Sunday when Baltimore reliever Jorge Julio walked four batters in the ninth inning to force in the winning run. His line:

.1 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 0 K

It wasn't the worst performance at Yankee Stadium last week, though. After all, Julio somehow avoided breaking his hand afterward.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com