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A tale of two No. 2s – Derek Jeter and Mike Gallego

Mike Gallego was the last Yankees' player to wear No. 2 before Derek Jeter made that number historic.

Mike Gallego was the last Yankees’ player to wear No. 2 before Derek Jeter made that number historic.

One of the many universal rules in baseball is that all rookies learn some tough lessons from the men who came before.

Even if you are Derek Jeter, even if the team is the Yankees and even if you were the team’s first-round draft pick.

Jeter came to came to the spring camp with the Yankees in 1994, 18 months after New York had used the sixth pick in the draft to take him. He was just 20, and he was a long time away from wearing his No. 2.

In fact, No. 2 at the time was worn by current A’s third base coach Mike Gallego, at that point in his final year as the Yankees shortstop.

Gallego got an email Friday from his daughter, Allison. It seems she’d found Instagram an interview from 1995 when Jeter talked about his Gallego in the spring of 1994 asking him how old he was and if he had a girlfriend.

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A’s honor Rivera, then ruin his last Coliseum game

Truth be told, the Oakland A’s didn’t want to see Mariano Rivera pitch against them one more time.

He’s that good – a legend, really. His 631 career saves is a number that boggles the mind.

The A’s would have been more than happy to honor Rivera in a pre-game ceremony, then make sure there was no situation where they’d actually have to face him.

Well, 18 innings of baseball can spoil any plan.

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It’s time for Oakland to say farewell to Rivera

Thursday’s series finale with the Yankees was the finale of another kind.

Unless the A’s and the Yankees were to meet in the 2013 post-season, it marks the last time Mariano Rivera will be an active player in the Coliseum. He’s retiring at the end of a career that can only be summed up as glorious, and the A’s and Yankees don’t play again this season.

Rivera won his first big league game in Oakland back in 1995, but it’s not for his wins that he’ll be remember but for the 631 (and counting) saves he’s piled up as the closer’s closer.

A’s manager Bob Melvin was in the Yankee organization when Rivera was coming up, and Melvin remembers a different pitcher than the one Major League fans have gotten used to, the one throwing perhaps as nasty a cutter as anyone has ever thrown.

“I caught him late in my career, and early in his, in (Triple-A) Columbus,’’ Melvin said Thursday morning. “When I caught him, he was throwing a four-seam fastball. The decision to go with the cutter was a good thing.

“But his four-seamer was good. It had a lot of late life. He liked to pitch up in the zone with it.’’

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Schedule inequities on display this week with A’s hosting Yankees in New York’s one trip West

There will never be a time when the three American League West teams located on the eastern rim of the Pacific Ocean – the A’s, the Mariners and the Angels – won’t have troubling schedules.

They are about 1,500 miles from the other two teams in their division, Texas and Houston, and further still from the rest of the American League venues.

The question we pose here today is why the schedule makers insist on making things worse than they already are.

The Yankees, who come to town for three games beginning Tuesday, are in Oakland as the middle stop in a three-city West Coast swing. They’ve been to Seattle, and next they head to Anaheim.

The Orioles have already had a three-city junket to the West Coast. The Red Sox, in July, and the Rays in late August and early September, will do likewise.

Such a schedule makes it easy for those teams, minimizing the amount of mileage each accrues and leaving them with just two cross country flights for the AL West portion of the schedule – one to the West Coast and one back to the East Coast. With a day off mid-trip and another after after, it’s as close to a piece of cake as schedule makers can devise.

How many of the West Coast teams have reciprocal deals? None. The A’s, the Angels and the Mariners each must take three separate trips to say they’ve visited those same four cities. Oakland, for example, had Tampa Bay and Boston on an April trip, but their trip to New York was coupled with stops in Cleveland and Seattle. The trip to Baltimore later in the year will also include a stop in Detroit.

The city breakdown for the Angels and the Mariners is a little different, but the basics are the same. The Angels may have the most ludicrous of trips to visit one of those four East Coast cities, heading to Seattle and Milwaukee before making it to Tampa Bay.

It’s subtle, but it’s East Coast bias at a substantial level. The three West Coast teams are always going to have to fly the most miles, but by this kind of discriminatory scheduling, the Major League Baseball makes it worse than it has to.

There was a time in the 1980s and 1990 when the A’s could generally count on a three-city Baltimore-Boston-New York trip, but as the number of teams have expanded, the number of divisions has increased to three and interleague play has become season-long, that seems to have gone.

It should return, because the West Coast teams have enough built-in scheduling issues as it is. The A’s, for example, have five different trips to the Eastern Time Zone. And with the addition of Houston to the AL West this year, there are a total of six stops in the state of Texas for each West Coast team.

The West Coasters would be getting a break if they could play the Rangers and the Astros as part of a combined trip, but that hasn’t been deemed important. The A’s had one Texas-Houston trip this season, but that’s it and the other four stops will be combined with trips to other cities.

The Angels have it even worse. They have no conjoined Texas-Houston series, so they have to fly to into and out of the State of Texas six different times. That’s a joke.

You can bet that Angels manager Mike Scioscia doesn’t see the humor in it. It’s a good bet that he, A’s manager Bob Melvin and Mariners’ manager Eric Wedge would supplicate themselves at the altar of MLB in New York if they thought it would bring about any change.

There are always going to be schedule inequities with the bulk of Major League Baseball teams concentrated in the Eastern and Central time zones. But it’s time somebody in the scheduling department of the commissioner’s office did something to level the playing field a bit.

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Andy Pettitte speaks

Andy Pettitte faced the music about an hour ago at the New York Yankees’ camp, and before start any more of those annoying “St. Andy” testimonials, let’s start with this:

He’s been caught in another lie.

The latest was revealed when Pettitte told the assembled gathering at the Yanks’ camp in Florida that his friendship with Roger Clemens has been strained, but that “Roger knows how I feel about him. He knows I’ve admired him and continue to admire him. He’s a great friend to me.”

Now, that may well be true — though why would he continue to admire Clemens? — but it goes in direct contrast to what a “friend” of Pettitte told Newsday on Jan. 19. The friend said that Clemens and Pettitte “were never as close as they were made out to be.”

Didn’t see Pettitte rush to clarify his views once that article was written. So, in essence, he was an accomplice to that lie. Or, he’s lying now about his feelings toward Clemens. Either way, it adds to Pettitte’s “mis-truth” total, and by now, I’ve lost track of the number. Needless to say this “role model” or “consistent honesty,” (Representative Henry Waxman’s words) could have a dueling-nose fight with Pinocchio by now. 

OK, that said, Pettitte deserves a little credit (very little) for sitting down with the media, becuase the gutless, baseball-player thing to do would’ve been to avoid it altogether. And he does seem genuinely sorry for his role in baseball’s steroid mess. Hopefully, Clemens was watching. He could learn from Pettitte’s humility.