Monday, July 31, 2006

An above-average day

The trading deadline passes. And it is hard to believe how the last two days could have gone any better for the Yankees.

1. They traded for their three of their four most pressing needs: a fifth starter (Cory Lidle), a bat in the outfield (Bobby Abreu), and some depth at first base (Craig Wilson), with Jason Giambi probably settling in as more or less full-time DH for the balance of his contract. As has been written here and elsewhere, the kids (Guiel, Crosby, Phillips) and the role players (Cairo, Bernie), once pressed into full-time or platoon duty, have performed admirably. But baseball's six-month season is above all an interrogator that drags the truth out of you; it is not like College Football, where a team can load up on non-conference cupcakes, duck a conference power in a good year, finish a cheap 7-4 and get pasted in Mobile, Alabama, in mid-December. It's not the NFL, where a mediocrity is rewarded with games against Arizona and Detroit and fakes its way to a 9-7 playoff birth and a three-touchdown loss on Wild Card Weekend. Basball is proving yourself 27 days a months for six months, over and over, and truth will out. When an inferior team like last year's Padres finds itself in the post-season, it's looked upon as a blemish on the sport. So give the kids credit for holding the fort until the right players could be found. And compare the old batting order with the potential new one, if Cano is healthy soon:

Damon Damon
Jeter Jeter
Giambi Giambi
Rodriguez Rodriguez
Posada Abreu
Williams Posada
Cabrera Wilson
Phillips Cabrera
Cairo Cano

In this scenario, Sheff and Matsui are almost bonuses.

2. The Yanks' fourth need, one more arm in the bullpen, was probably bolstered anyway with Lidle's acquisitio. With their five-man rotation finally set (assuming Wright and Unit stay healthy), and with Lidle there to go six-seven innings and .500 down the stretch--that is all the team is asking, not one inch more--poor Proctor may actually not need to come in every other day, as has been the case.

3. Four of their five most dangerous rivals--Red Sox, White Sox, Twins, and Angels--all made serious runs at Alfonso Soriano, and all came up empty.

Now we have to play. And as if to say Take that, Papi wins for Boston with a walk-off in the ninth.

Sheesh. Time to go to work, guys.

More info here.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

It's happening again

A Jewish man at a Jewish Federation in Seattle are killed by a Muslim; authorities announce themselves puzzled as to the motive.

Listen: I live in Houston, the world headquarters of BushCo, Halliburton, Big Oil and outdoor ice houses. And if I threw a single brick through a single pane of glass in a single window of one of the local mosques, there would be ten police cars on the scene in five minutes. I would be face-down and cuffed on the pavement. And the six o'clock news on all three local stations would lead with a sign behind the anchor's head: "HATE CRIME," in print whose size is reserved for Rockets NBA championships and Roger Clemens signings. Reporters would interrogate every person who ever knew me, hoping against hope that one of them would remember that I once said, "Screw you, towelhead," at the corner of Westheimer and Shepherd.

This blog--currently an amusement for family and friends, and one self-described fan in Pennsylvania, and another in Florida, and some nice people in New York, and the lady in Australia who wrote that sweet note, and Brendan who thought I was funny yesterday, and the one in Gilbert, Arizona; and some people here in Texas, and some others, and my Aunt Peggy, who told my mom she liked my piece on my office space a few months ago--would be pored over by hundreds, if not thousands.

But have a Muslim who says he hates Israel and then goes and shoots Jews at a Jewish center--gee, wonder why that took place?

Again, Mark Steyn states it better than anyone here, in a reprint from four years ago, in response to the El Al shootings (remember those?).

Yanks 4, D-Rays 2, and Abreu/Lidle official

What it is about Sunday afternoon games at Yankee stadium . . .

. . . on a day so clear you could see the weave of the fiber on Mike Mussina's cap.

On which subject, one of my favorite quotes is from Baltimore manager Earl Weaver: "You take momentum. I'll take Jim Palmer." Today Moose did what staff aces are paid to do, shut down the opposition and wipe away the memory of a previous-day's thumping.

Damon's two home runs were certainly a sight, but this was Moose's day. 13-3, if you need it.

Oh, and Abreu/Lidle now official. Steve Phillips is on ESPN now, saying Abreu should bat third. Why batting third (the province of Ruth, Williams, Mays and DiMaggio) makes sense with a batter with 14 home runs since last year's All-Star break seems a bizarre idea.

Yanks get Abreu, Lidle (maybe)

Reported here. Yanks give up shortstop CJ Henry, their number one draft pick from 2005. This would seem to be a small loss, as the Yankees are rather set at that position for the moment, and apparently for the next 7-8 years, minimum, but remember this was the same logic that allowed the Red Sox, with Hall-of-Famer Wade Boggs at third, to trade a minor-league third-baseman named Jeff Bagwell in 1990.

Abreu would have to waive his no-trade, and would be looking to get paid to do so, but ESPN has reported that Abreu has backed off his position in recent days.

In Lidle, the Yankees get a prototypical "throw-strikes-and-eat-innings" back-of-the-rotation starter, a counterpart to Jared Wright. Someone call Syd Ponson a cab.

Abreu would seem to slide into right field for now, and the outfield, with a maturing Melky Cabrera and (apparently) healthier Johnny Damon, goes from a worry to a asset, on balance. Abreu would seem to bat sixth or seventh, shoring up a weak second half of the order. And as Abreu figures to play every day, now Aaron Guiel, Bubba Crosby and Bernie Williams go from marginal everyday players to pluses off the bench.

A good trade, if all goes through.

We're all in this together

As usual, Mark Sten is as right as a martini at sunset. This isn't our armed forces' fight; is all of ours:

If you watch the grisly U.S. network coverage of any global sporting event, you've no doubt who your team's meant to be: If there are plucky Belgian hurdlers or Fijian shotputters in the Olympics, you never hear a word of them on ABC and NBC; it's all heartwarming soft-focus profiles of athletes from Indiana and Nebraska. The American media have no problem being ferociously jingoistic when it comes to the two-man luge. Yet, when it's a war, there is no "our" team, not on American TV. Like snotty French ice-dancing judges, the media watch the U.S. skate across the rink and then hand out a succession of snippy 4.3s -- for lack of Miranda rights in Fallujah, insufficient menu options at Gitmo.

Our enemies understand "why we fight" and where the fight is. They know that in the greater scheme of things the mosques of Jakarta and Amsterdam and Toronto and Dearborn are more important territory than the Sunni Triangle. The U.S. military is the best-equipped and best-trained in the world. But it's not enough, it never has been and it never will be.

The latest on Ebert

Doing better, so we hear.

His Great Movies and Movie Answer Man columns have been a small but indispensible part of my Sundays. Today I'll have to content myself with a reprint of his Great Movies review of Days of Heaven, a movie I saw freshman year at USC in the Taper Hall of Humanities and was blown away by the cinematogrpahy alone.

The latest on Harold Reynolds

An article toward the end of the week was published in the New York Post. It reports that the specific charge ESPN levied against Harold Reynolds was sexual harassment, specifically over an incident Reynolds describes as a "hug gone wrong."

Two thoughts:

1. Any time new vocabulary is unearthed to describe an event, the event in question is automatically suspect. The best example is the use of the definite article "the" to describe drinking coffee, as in "the coffee" the Clinton's way of describing the fetes of the Chinese moneymen at the White House.

2. Every so often, I really miss the Clintons.

Bush signs with Saints

For essentially the same money the Texans are giving Mario Williams.

Read it here.



A word.

Except this: the Houston Texans have set themselves up as a punchline for the next fifty years, if Bush is even close to what is expected.

And this: Two decades later, the Portland Trailblazers are still hearing about Michael Jordan.

Trade Deadline

I don't mind speculation in the media, but Geez. Kevin Kernan in the New York Post writes that the Yankees should enquire after Roger Clemens, since "the Astros aren't going anywhere."

I mean, he was paid to write that sentence. The notion of the Astros giving up Mr. Sellout (in every sense of the word, actually) . . . forget it. It's not worth mentioning.

Reading the articles and tea-leaves, this is how the trade deadline shapes up for the Yanks:

Not a chance: Dontrelle Willis, Clemens

Almost certainly out of reach: Alfonso Soriano (they'll wait for November to back up the Brink's truck)

Long-shot: Barry Zito

Fifty-fifty: Bobby Abreu

There for the taking, if they care enough: Craig Wilson, Salomon Torres, Jon Leiber

The good news is that Yankee minor-league blue-chippers Philip Hughson and Jose Tabata appear to be off-limits.

Now, I'm serious here. There is a real possibility that a Yankee team suffering through injuries to Sheffield, Matsui, Damon, and Cano (that's half the starting line-up, kids) may grind its way to 93-96 wins on the backs of Jeter, Moose, Wang, Giambi, Posada, Rivera, and, yes, A-Rod; plus above-their-heads contributions of Cabrera, Guiel, Crosby (your Yankee outfield many days) and Phillips. They might do all that, and still miss the playoffs.

I would still bet on the Yankees going to the playoffs--where the Tigers would await, another story. But it won't be worth blowing the team up, or trading a Hughson or a Tabata. And GM Brian Cashman's job can't possibly ride on this season alone.

For once, this has to be a Yankee team that is not afraid to fail.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

D-Rays 19, Yanks 6

Yikes. So much for the Big Three, as least today.

Moose, Unit, Wong--the new big three!

SunDevilJoe reminds me of an article I read this morning in the New York Daily News, one touching what suddenly seems plausible: the notion of Mussine, Johnson and Wang as a trio no one wants to meet in the post-season. SDJ writes that the notion

was reenforced by John Harper ...."nobody has talked much about the current Yankee rotation in terms of a Big Three, but maybe it's time."

The whole things is here.

And I say this with all due respect

I had hoped that Match Point would signal a fresh direction in Woody Allen's work.

Guess not, if I'm to believe what's written here and here.

Those of us who enjoyed Match Point had to overlook the fact that its second half was lifted from an earlier Woody Allen film, the superior Crimes and Misdemeanors. Nowadays, it is sounding like Allen is repeating himself again.

Yanks 6, D-Rays 0

Two-hit shutout courtesy of Wang--and speaking of shutout, I was prevented from watching.

I miss the glory days of the late nineties and early aughts, when 38 games combined against the D-Rays and Orioles was a quick 28-10, minimum. Oh well.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Another Friend of Bill

Via Taranto (third item) another nauseating self-congradulatory piece by a former Clinton official--in this case, Warren Christopher.

Regarding the Middle East, I give President Clinton credit for the 2000 Camp David II talks that broke down, because it provided what should have been a moment of clarity for everyone. Yassir Arafat, who not only turned down, but contemptuously turned down, the best possible deal the PLO was ever going to get (all of Gaza, 95% of the West Bank, portions of East Jerusalem) thoroughly discredited himself as an honest broker and gave the Israelis just cause to throw up their hands and walk away.
As Taranto makes clear, everything else about the Clinton administration in that region of the world smacks of kicking the can down the road.

Bill Clinton taking credit for peace in the Middle East is like James Buchanan taking credit for avoiding the Civil War.


Two of my favorite writers--Victor Davis Hanson and Charles Krauthammer--approach the Israel conundrum from opposite ends today. Hanson approaches the matter rhetorically:

“Disproportionate” means that the Hezbollah aggressors whose primitive rockets can’t kill very many Israeli civilians are losing, while the Israelis’ sophisticated response is deadly against the combatants themselves. See “excessive.”

Anytime you hear the adjective “excessive,” Hezbollah is losing. Anytime you don’t, it isn’t.

“Eyewitnesses” usually aren’t, and their testimony is cited only against Israel.

“Grave concern” is used by Europeans and Arabs who privately concede there is no future for Lebanon unless Hezbollah is destroyed — and it should preferably be done by the “Zionists” who can then be easily blamed for doing it.

While Krauthammer's take is more historical:

The word that obviates all thinking and magically inverts victim into aggressor is "disproportionate," as in the universally decried "disproportionate Israeli response."

When the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor, it did not respond with a parallel "proportionate" attack on a Japanese naval base. It launched a four-year campaign that killed millions of Japanese, reduced Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki to a cinder, and turned the Japanese home islands to rubble and ruin.

Yes, and again yes. Krathaummer reminds us elsewhere that Jacque Chirac has stated plainly that if Paris were ever attacked, its response might well be nuclear. The double standard in currency these days is appalling.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

My other favorite team, part 3

Notice the change to Arabic numerals.

Tonight, at the same time as one of the season's most memorable Yankee games (one of: for all of tonight's fireworks, I'd still put Yankees 2, Bosox 1, with Melky jumping into Monument Park to bring Man-Ram's homer back into the yard, ahead of tonight's 8-7 barroom brawl), there was maybe the 'Stros best inning of the season.

Situation: Reds 5, 'Stros 1, bottom fifth. The Astros have availed nothing since Craig Biggio's lead-off homer. In part because of Cincy's long balls, in part because of Cincy's pesky-ass hitting, in part because of some defensive blunders, the 'Stros simply will not come back. They will not come back because they never come back, and they never come back because they don't score in general. The 'Stros whole season has devolved, offensively anyway, to two precepts: getting as many men on base as possible when Lance Berkman comes to bat, and having enough talent batting behind him that Berkman sees a strike or two.

The last two weeks, the formula has worked atrociously. Tonight? Just how they drew it up in practice.

The bottom of the fifth: single, hit-by-pitch. First and second. Fielder's choice, one out, runners second and third. Single scores a run. 5-2. Single scores two more runs. 5-4. First and third, still one out.

All of this is perfect prelude to what comes next: Berkman's titanic, 450-foot home run into the Mexican Restaurant beyond the centerfield fence.

Berkman would homer later, and there'd be some bullpen difficulties. But if the 'Stros make the playoffs again, bottom five tonight will be the inning they point to.

Yanks 8, Rangers 7

I am sitting here, and I am stunned.

How many times did the game seem to be wrapped up, one way or another? When Giambi came up into the second, 2-0 Yanks, Jeter and Damon aboard, and hit the ball deep into the Texas twilight, bringing us all out of our seats, thinking 5-0, a cinch?

I was thinking double, minimum, with both of those scooters running. 4-0, at least. Then Sarge, Jr. camped under the long fly . . .

And suddenly, millions of Yankee fans were on the same page: the Yanks might let this one get away, after all.

Then? Seventh inning. 4-2 Rangers. Damon on first, nobody out, Jeter up, full count. Once again, all of us, same page: Torre will certainly start Damon.

Four possible scenarios: With a base hit, Damon goes to third, none out, with Giambi and A-Rod up. Ground-out, Damon on second, one out. Strikeout, Damon on second, one out. Walk, first and second, none out, Giambi and A-Rod due up.

Answer: None of the above. Strike out, throw out. Two outs, nobody on. One batter later, inning over. Game over, right?

Not so fast. Next inning, same score. A-Rod leads off. Count goes to 2-1. Pitch on the outside corner, called strike . . .

(And now I'm pissed, because, damnit, Blue didn't give Yankee starter Jared Wright that corner all night against right-handers, never mind how often Wright kept going back to that corner, like a poker player coming back to the table again and again to lose to Madator Everest . . . .)

Next pitch is the same heighth, and, if anything, catches more the plate than the previous pitch . . .

. . . only this pitch is called ball three . . .

(And the Ranger announcers nearly lose it, but I get it . . . it's a make-back, right, for the pitch before? Blue had his zone and knew he blew it.)

And the next pitch goes to Greenville Avenue or whatever the hell they call it out there . . .

4-3, Rangers.

As they use to say on the Notre Dame replays, moving ahead to further action . . .

Two batters later, first and second, nobody out, still 4-3, Rangers, your batter . . .

Melky Cabrera.

Sent up to bunt, fouls off two pitches.

(Digression. It was 28 years ago to about the week when, in a tie game with the Royals, bottom ninth, Thurman Munson reached first with no outs. Reggie Jackson, who had not bunted since Alexander Cartwright first paced off thirty paces from home to first, was asked to bunt by Billy Martin. Reggie fouled off his first bunt attempt. George Brett, not the stupidest third baseman ever, came up on the infield grass to cut off the bunt; it was unlikely that Jackson, a dead pull hitter, would slice the ball past Brett to left. Martin took off the bunt sign; Reggie tried to bunt again. Third base coach Dick Howser called time, came down the line and confronted Reggie.

"Billy wants you to hit," Howser said.

"I'm going to bunt."

"Billy wants you to hit."

"I'm going to bunt."

Howser shrugged his shoulders and returned to third. Reggie attempted a third bunt, fouled out . . . and within twenty-four hours Jackson found himself suspended indefinitely and on a plane back to Oakland . . .

. . . and the Yankees found themselves 14 games behind the Red Sox . . .

. . . and in the week that Jackson was gone, the Yankees began their heroic cavalry charge, making up--in Jackson's absence--five-and-a-half games . . .

. . . and then the week ended with Billy Martin's alcoholic and ill-considered words regarding both Jackson and George Steinbrenner, which led to Martin's forced resignation . . .

. . . and Bob Lemon's hiring . . . and the greatest pennant race in American League history, consisting of both the Boston Massacre--the Yankees sweep at Fenway in September, where Bosox fans leaning over the dugout and screaming at Sox manager Don Zimmer were dragged away by security--and the Greatest Game Ever Played, courtesy of Bucky (bleeping) Dent. Okay, just what I was thinking tonight.)

Okay. So Melky Cabrera comes up, 4-3 Rangers, first and second. Melky attempts to bunt, fouls off twice. Third pitch, makes to bunt, pulls it back for ball one . . .

. . . and here comes Larry Bowa up the line, much like Howser so many years before him . . .

. . . And this time the kid listens, take one more pitch, then shoots one in the gap. Both runners score. 5-4 Yanks. Sal Fasano, new catcher (and thank God) bunts Melky over. Then, wild pitch. 6-4 . . .

. . . and so, out for the bottom of the eighth, out comes Scott Pro . . .


. . . Kyle Farnsw . . .


Out comes some kid who apparently won a "Pitch for the Yankees" drawing. By the time Proctor is actually summoned, it is clear that Torre and Gator have determined that the bullpen is in tatters and must be rested at almost, but not all, costs.

Well now. Proctor comes in anyway. And?

And by the time Shawn Chacon is summoned from the bullpen, the score reads: Rangers 7, Yankees 6. Bases loaded, nobody out.

Oh, Gueneviere, this is where I came in.

Because the major difference between the Yankees of last year and the Yankees of this year can be measured not in the loss of Matsui and Sheffield but in the diffrence between '05 Chacon and '06 Chacon. So?

So: Strikeout. Liner back to the mound, flip to first, double play. We go to the ninth. 7-6 it remains . . .

. . . Jeter lines the first pitch to center.

And then.


Rest the bullpen? In a game like this? Rivera was stretching before Giambi's ball landed in the stands.

Four up, three down. 8-7 your final score. Winning pitcher . . . Chacon?

I'm going to bed.


ESPN baseball analyst Harold Reynolds has been fired. The New York Daily News has the details--what few are extant.

The article makes clear that only three offenses are grounds for immediate dismissal at ESPN: fighting with a co-worker, e-mailing internet porn, and sexual harassment. Right now, nobody's talking.

Speaking strictly as a viewer, I will miss Reynolds at ESPN. He was coherent and intelligent, and never bought into the more clownish aspects of the network (COUGHchrisbermanCOUGH). Among ex-players, only Jeff Brantley challenged Reynolds for listenability and depth of knowledge (and, just thinking out loud here, Reynolds' departure may be good news for Brantley). Reynolds has stated that his side of the story will come out. It may make for interesting reading.

Plamegate: The must-see movie of the summer!

You know the old joke, where the film critic writes, "This film could have been sensational. Unfortunately, it's a pile of crap," and the studio quotes the critic as believing the film " . . . Sensational! . . ." in a newspaper ad? Apparently the same nonsense is at work in the Plame-Wilson case. Byron York has the details. One example:

But it appears that the Wilsons and their legal team are basing their claim of a “concerted effort” not so much on the statements of Patrick Fitzgerald but on a Washington Post report on the statements of Fitzgerald. In a front-page story published April 9, the Post reported that Fitzgerald had “for the first time described a ‘concerted action’ by ‘multiple people in the White House’ — using classified information — to ‘discredit, punish or seek revenge against’ a critic of President Bush’s war in Iraq.” The quotes came from a government court filing, dated April 5, in the Libby perjury case. But a look at the actual document shows that Fitzgerald’s statements are less definitive than the Post, or the Plame/Wilson legal team, suggest.

Fitzgerald used the phrase “concerted action” once, in a footnote on page 30, in which he made the point that whatever the White House did or did not do in the CIA-leak matter would not affect the question of whether Libby lied to a grand jury. “The existence vel non of concerted action by White House officials is not dispositive of whether defendant committed perjury…” Fitzgerald wrote.

The Latin phrase vel non means “or not.” A legal dictionary defines it as “a term used by the courts in reference to the existence or nonexistence of an issue for determination.” So rather than making a straight assertion of fact, Fitzgerald was saying, in effect, “The existence, or not, of concerted action” by the White House would not affect the question of Libby’s truthfulness. (Wilson’s lawyers undoubtedly know what vel non means; they use the phrase, in another context, in the Plame complaint itself.)


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

My other favorite team, part II.

No runs for Clemens. Big surprise. 2-0 Reds.

Today on Cold Pizza, Woody Paige posited that Clemens would rather be back in Boston or New York, in the middle of a pennant race. My God. It depresses me to think how many no-nothings are floating around cable TV, reading something on the internet and repeating it or--even worse--pulling something out their butts. The plain truth--to anyone with the scantest knowledge of the Astros, or the Rocket, or baseball--knew plainly that Clemens was coming back to the Astros or retiring. The Yankees would have exceeded the Astros' offer, slid Clemens into Jared Wright's spot, slid Wright to fifth starter, put Sydney Ponson back in a cab, and started printing playoff tickets. The problem is that neither Joe Torre nor Brian Cashman would ever stand for a Clemens' accomodation deal, whereby Clemens would be allowed to skip road trips when he wasn't pitching, and some home games as well. That isn't how the Yankees do business, and that was that. And Clemens wouldn't come back otherwise. And he wouldn't go to Boston, and certainly not the Rangers.

This isn't to say that Torre's way is necessarily better: the Astros made the World Series last year giving Clemens all his accomodations, while the Yankees didn't make it out of the first round. The point is that Torre's way is Torre's way, and Torre has won enough to run his nine how he sees fit. Besides, the Boss probably wouldn't allow for special treatment for Clemens even if Torre lobbied for it, which he wouldn't.

Bottom line: For Clemens, it was the Astros or nothing.

Lately, I'm driven nuts by glib sports commentators who spout nonsense they know nothing about about teams they don't really watch. Really, why do they even bother? I see maybe 100 Astros and 80 Yankee games a year, and what I hear on ESPN often has no bearing on reality. Right around the All-Star break everyone on cable was going on and on about how well Astros reliever Chad Qualls was pitching, whereas anyone who had actually watched the Astros actually play for any length of time this season would know that Qualls has been barely competent, if that, and often disastrous.

This the Lupica effect--scanning the box scores and saying, Hey! Qualls! Low ERA! Never mind the nine thousand inherited runners Qualls allowed to score, the runs he walked in, the walks to number eight hitters gave up to start an inning, the bases-loaded jams from which either Dan Wheeler or Ron Villone or Russ Springer saved him. Never mind how Garner had to appear before the Astros' beat writers and say, in essense, Never mind it all, I'm sticking with the lad. Never mind any of that. Qualls rules!

Yanks 7, Rangers 4

Another good one. Moose gets his twelfth with 12-13 starts to go. Let's help him to twenty, shall we, lads?

Aaron Guiel homers again--he wasn't good enough for the Royals? Well, lousy judgment of talent had something to do with something to do with how they got there.

A-Rod misses a home run by five feet outside the foul pole. BOOOOO! Lovely.

Reggie Bush, considered

The hold-out continues. Randomly:

1. This morning Jim Rome said, "I'd love to see Reggie Bush re-enter the draft, just to see the Texans pass on him again."

2. A Bush hold-out will marginally help the Houston Texans' PR fortunes, whether it should or not (and it should not). Reggie's basic position is that
since the Texans WOULD have drafted him number one but for money
considerations, he's the de-facto number one, and should get number one
money. Sorry, doesn't work that way. I love you, Reggie, but no,
you're a number two.

3. On the other hand, Saints owner Tom Benson makes Bud Adams look like the Patriots' brain trust by comparison. If he offered Bush number one money, he shouldn't have; but if he did . . . ah, I got nothing. Bush fell into Benson's lap. Why offer anything in advance?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Yankees 6, Rangers 2

Nice, sharp win. Unit effective again. Proctor looks as good as he has all season. Farnsworth comes back from a bloop and a bunt hit to strike out the side in the eighth. Then Mo's perfect ninth.

Also, notice A-Rod's RBI double scraping off the mitt of Jerry Hairston. This illustrates the craziness of the "He's 0-for-his-last fifteen!" shrieks. Suppose Hairston extends himself one inch further. He catches the ball, Jeter retreats to first, and instead of 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI trumpeting, "HE'S BACK!", A-Rod is left with one single in five at-bats and "WHO KNOWS?"

There is a reason that a baseball season lasts six months. You play all the games, then you look at the numbers. Slicing hitting statistics into groups of 15 or 20 is almost meaningless. Hitters get hot, they get cold, and if it's too much to take, go watch Roger Federer play tennis.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Obama-Gore, 2008?

Via Sullivan.

I remember thinking in 2004, that maybe the Dems should let Obama find the Men's Room in the Russell Building before anointing him the future of the party.

Now, Obama's found his place. And?

To recapitulate: Andrew Sullivan was my hero in the days following 9/11. Him, and baseball, and eventually Tom Brady, restored me to sanity.

Then Sullivan went off the rails. And now this. Obama-Gore?

First of all, Gore will never be anyone's Vice President again. It's easier, and more lucrative, to be a rock star and sage.

Second, Hillary will be the nominee, and will lose to either McCain or Rudy. Done deal.

Part one is that the Clintons crush whoever is in their way. Gennifer Flowers, Bob Kerrey, Paul Tsongas, Jerry Brown, Bush 41, Paula Jones, Bob Dole, Kenneth Starr, Newt Gingrich, Bob Livingstone, Janet Willey, (pre-9/11) Rudy Guiliani, Rick Lazio? Anyone else f***ing want some?

Part two is, Hillary's strategy is to hold every state Kerry won, then win either Florida or Ohio. Does this happen? Quite possibly Rudy wins New York and/or New Jersey and/or Pennsylvania, thus negating any gain Hillary might make in the two ultimate swing states. Or the whole country goes for national defense and McCain wins forty states. Don't know.

But I can't see Hillary winning.

Can't see Sullivan's scenario.

More Howie Carr

Look, discover this guy. I'd call him Boston's Mike Royko, except that he's a better writer that Royko, more of a terrier, more possessed of facts, less likely to lapse into lazy sterotypes than Royko, God rest his soul.

Carr's latest on the Big Dig, especially his takedown of "Fat Matt" Amorello, the point man on the whole debacle.

Howie Carr

I traveled much to Boston in the late nineties, and discovered a columnist I never would have otherwise: Howie Carr.

Carr, who writes for the Boston Herald, is, I would think, reveling in a certain redemption at the moment.

Since I've known of him--and I'm certain, for years previous--Carr's two hobbyhorses (I mean, besides Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, aka "The Swimmer" and "Lurch" respectively, who are almost two too easy targets) have been the historical debacle known as the Big Dig, and the Bulger brothers. Whitey and Billy Bulger have mostly been represented by the press as a kind of Goofus and Gallant; one brother (Whitey) a made man in the Irish mafia; the other (Billy) the President of the Massachusetts Senate, a pol to whom even the Kennedys cowtowed. "What irony!" we were always told.

Well, yes and no. Whitey truly was all that and a pint of Guiness, a killer who snuck off with $40 million in, as they say, ill-gotten gains, and is on the lamb from the FBI to this day. He is number two on the FBI's most-wanted list. For comparison purposes, consider that Osama bin Laden is number one. Billy, though, is hardly the older boy in the Prodigal son parable, for the list of his misdeeds stretches, as they say, "From heah tuh Mahbulhead." After his tenure in the State Senate, he moved over to the Presidency of UMass, until his stumbling, bumbling testimony about his brother before a Congressional Committee gave Governor Mitt Romney the ammunition he needed to unseat Billy, albeit with nearly a million in severance, plus over $11,000 a month in pension until they put him in a pine box.

Good stuff.

Today, sampling of Carr. A sampling of a sampling:

Look, Cleveland has “the Jake.” Suddenly everyone is referring to the Ted Williams Tunnel o’ Death as “the Ted,” although given the recent killing of a woman in a car below sea level due to political corruption, perhaps a more appropriate handle would be “the Teddy.”

Get to know this guy.

No ceasefire

Soxblog makes the most persuasive case.

'They are all Jews now'

So after a rather interesting week, along comes Mark Steyn on Sunday to set everything straight.

What is plain to him, what should be plain to us all, is how Europe's and the UN's wink-and-nod philosophy toward Islamofacsism has come back, bread upon the waters (emphasis mine):

In Causeries du Lundi, Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve recalls a Parisian dramatist watching the revolutionary mob rampaging through the street below and beaming: "See my pageant passing!" That's how opportunist Arabs and indulgent Europeans looked on the intifada and the terrorists and the schoolgirl suicide bombers: as a kind of uber-authentic piece of performance art with which to torment the Jews and the Americans. They never paused to ask themselves: Hey, what if it doesn't stop there?

Well, about 30 years too late, they're asking it now. For the first quarter-century of Israel's existence, the Arab states fought more or less conventional wars against the Zionists, and kept losing. So then they figured it was easier to anoint a terrorist movement and in 1974 declared Yasser Arafat's PLO to be the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people," which is quite a claim for an organization then barely half-a-decade old. Amazingly, the Arab League persuaded the U.N. and the EU and Bill Clinton and everyone else to go along with it and to treat the old monster as a head of state who lacked only a state to head. It's true that many nationalist movements have found it convenient to adopt the guise of terrorists. But, as the Palestinian "nationalist" movement descended from airline hijackings to the intifada to self-detonating in pizza parlors, it never occurred to their glamorous patrons to wonder if maybe this was, in fact, a terrorist movement conveniently adopting the guise of nationalism.

Nowadays, with cars set ablaze in Paris and tube stops blown up in London, the common EU reaction has been, Why us? We've always gone to bat for the Muslims against Israel. How stupid. It cannot be repeated enough: they don't hate us for what we do. They hate us for who we are.

This much I know: at any international conference, any economic conference, any pro-peace conference, any Middle East Conference, any talk of dragging the Middle East into the Modern Era--rights for women in Saudi Arabia, rights for gays in Iran--is always drowned out by chants of "Palestine! Palestine!" in whatever hall was being rented. "Palestine" has become the excuse never to change anything in the Middle East, the excuse to keep going the retrograde, anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-Enlightenment, anti-democratic route. Of course, "solving" the Paelstinian problem was the last thing these entities wanted, because, what wopuld be left as an excuse? Now, finally, it has occurred to the relatively sane powers in the Arab world--Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan--that forestalling the modern world while complaining about "Palestine!" might come around to hurt them. Steyn again:

They've now belatedly realized they're at that stage in the creature feature where the monster has mutated into something bigger and crazier. Until the remarkably kinda-robust statement by the G-8 and the unprecedented denunciation of Hezbollah by the Arab League, the rule in any conflict in which Israel is involved -- Israel vs. PLO, Israel vs. Lebanon, Israel vs. [Your Team Here] is that the Jews are to blame.

But Saudi-Egyptian-Jordanian opportunism on Palestine has caught up with them: It's finally dawned on them that a strategy of consciously avoiding resolution of the "Palestinian question" has helped deliver Gaza, and Lebanon and Syria, into the hands of a regime that's a far bigger threat to the Arab world than the Zionist Entity. Cairo and Co. grew so accustomed to whining about the Palestinian pseudo-crisis decade in decade out that it never occurred to them that they might face a real crisis one day: a Middle East dominated by an apocalyptic Iran and its local enforcers, in which Arab self-rule turns out to have been a mere interlude between the Ottoman sultans and the eternal eclipse of a Persian nuclear umbrella. The Zionists got out of Gaza and it's now Talibanistan redux. The Zionists got out of Lebanon and the most powerful force in the country (with an ever-growing demographic advantage) are Iran's Shia enforcers. There haven't been any Zionists anywhere near Damascus in 60 years and Syria is in effect Iran's first Sunni Arab prison bitch. For the other regimes in the region, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria are dead states that have risen as vampires.

"First they came for the Jews." Anyone recognize this? It is happening again. Counting the Cold War as World War III, and I'm late noting this, we are currently in the midst of World War IV. Last word to Steyn:

So what is in reality Israel's first non-Arab war is a glimpse of the world the day after tomorrow: The EU and Arab League won't quite spell it out, but, to modify that Le Monde headline, they are all Jews now.

Posting Number 200

Thanks of late to Robbie-Boy, who has contributed this wisdom:

Now here I am watching the game on (following the dots around the diamond) and I'm wondering if today will offically close the book on The Sydney Ponson experiment. YIKES!

Got it

Been wondering all week just the exact words to dexribe my loathing for the use of the word "disproportionate" to describe Israel's response to Hezbollah.

By disproportionate does one mean "excessive?" Well, isn't that the point? Isn't the penalty supposed to be so punitive that the incitement never happens again?The response from Hezbollah to Israel's actions seem to run along the lines of, "We kidnap two Jews and this happens? Suppose Israel responded this way all the time? Then we'd never get to kidnap anyone!"

And have we ever hae a clearer-speaking UN rep than John Bolton? Money quote, via Lucianne:

"What Hezbollah has done is kidnap Israeli soldiers and rain rockets and mortar shells on innocent Israeli civilians. What Israel has done in response is act in self-defense. And I don't quite know what the argument about proportionate force means here. Is Israel entitled only to kidnap two Hezbollah operatives and fire a couple of rockets aimlessly into Lebanon?

"The situation is that Israel has lived under the terrorist threat of Hezbollah for years, and these most recent attacks have given it the legitimate right, the same right America would have if we were attacked, to deal with the problem. And that's what they're doing."


My other favorite team

Saw something beautiful in the 'Stros-Mets game--something I hope makes Phil Mushnick's New York Post column Monday. 6-4, two outs, runner on third. Sophomore Chris Burke hits a dribbler to the left of the mound; Met reliever Aaron Heilman goes to his left to field the ball, allows his momentum to carry him toward the bag. First baseman Carlos Delgado breaks for the bag and awaits the throw. Ho-hum.

Then something wonderful happens. Instead of flipping to Delgado or running to the bag, Heilman slows up and jogs toward first base, unaware that Burke had burst from the batter's box and was sprinting up the line.

A few feet from the bag, Heilman practically comes to a full stop and lazily sticks his foot out . . . just as Burke flies past him and touches the bag.

Safe? Out? The Astros announcers postulated that the umpire called safe on general principle, which is good enough for me. The play reminds me (in reverse) of Jeter's flip play in the 2001 playoffs, when Jeremy Giambi saw that the cut-off man (Tino Martinez) had been overthrown, then slowed up and failed to slide. I've seen Jeter's play maybe twenty times (not including the tricked-up Gatorade ad), and I still don't know if Giambi was safe or out. The moral, always, is: don't make the umpire do your job.

And the moral of Burke's hustle play? You might steal five hits a year by running all-out. Five hits, in a season where maybe half your games are decided by two runs or less. Anything less is inexcusable.

A-Rod--the new Reggie?

One of the lasting memories of growing up was the "NBC Game of the Week," this at a time when our baseball viewing was restricted to two games per week: "Game of the Week" on Saturday, then "Monday Night Baseball" with (good gracious) Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell on, of course, Mondays.

I prefer what we have today, with and 100 chances, minimum, to see your favorite team on the air. But I don't doubt that something has been lost. Every "Game of the Week" featuring the Yankees was an event at our house; every Yankees-Red Sox game was something verging on a family crisis, around which my father would plan that given Saturday. Lunch (hot dogs and potato chips) was served on TV trays arranged in a semi-circle around our family's RCA black-and-white. And so it came to pass that, one afternoon, we (and several million others) saw maybe the greatest dugout meltdown in history unfold before us.

It was embarrassing watching the Yankees, in the late seventies, play the Red Sox at Fenway in June and July, when Boston was at its warmest and the wind blew out to left. The Red Sox then were a team built for power: Yaz, Pudge, Rice, Lynn, Butcher, Dewey--a group of players who played racquetball off the Monster when they weren't hitting homers to deep center. It was during one of the routine thumpings that right-fielder Reggie Jackson, in the opinion of manager Billy Martin, loafed on a hit to right by Jim Rice that Rice (not the most hustling of ballers) played into a double. Martin, in response, sent in Paul Blair to replace Jackson in the middle of the inning--the only such derricking I have ever seen, or even heard of, in thirty years of watching baseball.

What happened next would go down in history. An alert NBC cameraman caught Jackson walk into the dugout and confront Martin. Martin, who was a brilliant judge of baseball talent and an even more brilliant game strategist--but was better known for his fistfights and drunken revelries--seemed almost to welcome Jackson's anger. By all accounts, Jackson called Martin an "old man," which was enough for Martin to initiate hostilities. No punches were thrown, due to coaches Elston Howard and Yogi Berra's physically restraining Martin three different times, finally dragging Martin nearly the length of the dugout and depositing him in his seat, where Martin stayed for the remainder of the game, like a child enduring a time-out.

It is hard in print to capture just how stunned my family was, watching this drama unfold. For reality television, for the I-can't-freaking-believe-this quotient, perhaps only OJ Simpson's slow-speed chase exceeded the sight of a manager attempting to beat the crap out of a right-fielder twenty years younger and thirty pound heavier.

From that day forward, if it hadn't already happened, Reggie would always be an interloper to many Yankee fans. He would be an outsider, a hired gun to be tolerated but never loved. Billy Martin (who would have been the World Series MVP in '52 and '53, had such a thing existed then) was the connection to the old Yankees, to Mickey and Whitey and even Yogi, the man who'd had to restrain Martin from the worst impulses of himself. Martin, warts and all, was a Real Yankee, as were the Yankees who'd been around the previous year to return the Yankees to the World Series: Sparky, Thurman, Nettles, Randolph, Mickey. It was well-known, as Mike Lupica recounts today in "Shooting from the Lip," that Jackson was disliked by about half the team, led by a clique of Sparky Lyle, Graig Nettles and Thurman Munson. Even after the most stupendous batting performance in history--four home runs in four consecutive swings over the last two games of the World Series, to complete that same season--the resentment toward Jackson was never far from the surface. The following year, when Martin's erratic behavior forced him from the job, Jackson, Billy's main antagonist, found himself booed at home.

Lupica's column drew the comparison between A-Rod's struggles and Reggie's: the boos that subside only for a game-winning home run, the dislike that is nearly stylistic. As I write this, the Yankees are getting creamed, 13-5, by the Blue Jays; A-Rod has gone 0 for 4 and stranded 4 teammates.

The game just went final.

I just was remembering Reggie, as I read about A-Rod. And what I had to say was: Please. To compare A-Rod, or these Yankees, to Reggie and the Bronx Zoo is not even a conversational starter. The Bronx Zoo is never coming back, in large part because Joe Torre would never allow it. We are left not with a fistfight, but with A-Rod's o-fer and a long flight home.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Yankees 5, Blue Jays 4

A nice win. Mo gets back on the horse. The only concern is A-Rod. Just leave him alone, everyone.

Further 'Slacker' thoughts

Roger Ebert has often written that good movies remain what they are, while great movies grow with you. So it has been thus, for me, with Slacker. When I first saw the film in the summer of 1991, I was twenty-six and living on $1,200 a month as a teaching assistant and an additional $700 as an adjunct instructor for Houston Community College. In the summer, during abbreviated semesters, I would receive $2,000 around the Fourth of July, the same amount the tenth of August, then nothing--zero--until the first of October. Especially during the summer months, with a mountain of books to read for the doctoral exams I would take three years hence, I was drawn, like many in my situation, to coffee houses and used bookstores, to clubs with no cover charge and three-dollar matinees. In other words, I was (almost by necessity) living the life I saw Richard Linklater portray onscreen, the life of the over-educated under-employed, the mopes you would see hours on end through the front window of a diner and wonder, Christ, don't they have jobs?

What work I had seemed to guarantee that lifestyle. I taught from eight until ten in the morning, then eight until ten in the evening. So for about nine hours in the middle of the day, my time was my own. Time seemed to be the one thing my friends and I had in abundance--time, plus the ability to talk the most trivial subjects to death. I saw in this film the life I would lead for approximately the next decade, the world of conspiracy theorists, of the chubbby guy in glasses complaining that the first George Bush "really" only received eighteen percent of the vote, the girl just back from a high-priced sanitorium, and the late-night pick-up: the girl who stands as proof that, in some cases, casual sex is merely the logical outcome of a half-decent evening.

Looking at Slacker from a distance of fifteen years, I am struck by the changes in the world that have rendered much of the behavior in the film obsolete. The world is moving in two directions at once on almost every front, beginning with the fact that we are becoming simultaneously both more connected and more isolated. Today the paranoid at Quackenbush with his talk of the "Medal-in" cartel wouldn't be accosting people one at a time on street corners; he'd be home, posting his wackiness on to an unseen audience of thousands.

There is one technological change that Linklater anticipated, made clear in the film, and could barely contain himself in sharing. Three times in the movie, Slackers becomes a film of a filming: the hitchiker searching for the true calling, the pixel camera at the bar, and the final Super-8 filming of the group that travels to the cliff overlooking the river. These scenes recall Francis Coppola's words to Ebert as far back as 1968, that one day "A man will walk with a movie studio on his shoulder." Ebert spotted the wisdom of Coppola's statement at about the time Slackers came out, noting that "America's Funniest Home Videos" was the number one show in the country--and what was this, but clip after clip from hand-held video cameras?

Linklater shared Coppola's vision, so much so that there is almost a direct line from his pixel camera and Super-8 filming to now, where it costs almost nothing to put something online (Youtube or whatever), and quality will out. Linklater's film came out at the midpoint of the great first-wave independent explosion (Spike Lee, Robert Townshend, and Steven Soderbergh had already made their first marks; Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino were still to come), and his film was not only an exemplar but also an indication of the great democratization of filmmaking. For a century, film was the province of those with a ton of money; nowadays, anyone with about a thousand bucks for the equipment could make their wares available. And quality will out.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Blue Jays 7, Yanks 3

Three in a row. Don't want to talk about it.

Watching 'Slacker' on a summer afternoon

Slacker is playing on my DVD right now. Maybe a dozen, maybe twenty, films in a lifetime are remembered not only as films but as experiences--day, time, theaters. Watching Saturday Night Fever at the age of twelve with my mother and youngest brother was one; Slacker was another: a brutally hot summer day in Houston when I slipped into the cool, dark, nearly empty main theatre at the River Oaks 3 with Mary Pettice.

Since the summer of 1991 I have taught summer school at Houston Community College. Also, every summer throughout the nineties and into the early part of this decade, there was been one woman whom I casually knew casually who stuck around in town in July and August, each year a different woman, and for two months this woman and I would become nearly inseparable, as if we'd been friends all our lives. From the Fourth of July until August 20th this woman and I would be soulmates, and then boyfriends and girlfriends would trickle back into the city and divide us again, though not without good feelings and memories on both sides. Make no mistake: My gratitude for these women has no bounds. Mary Pettice, Martha Serpas, Julie Chisholm, and forever Leslie Richardson, the only repeat offender in the bunch.

Anyway, the woman who showed me kindness in the summer of 1991 was Mary Pettice. She had no reason to; she abhorred my politics and probably my manners. She was going through a terrible divorce and was wonderful company; I was going through a bad break-up and was certainly intolerable company. That summer, I taught at eight in the morning and eight in the evening, leaving my afternoons free. It was this time that Mary suggested we utilize to see a few movies. So we went, Mary and me, sitting in a theatre with thr sort of fiftyish men who populate such theatres in the afternoon. We listened first of all to whatever sandwiches these men wanted to furtively unwrap, then to the movie itself. Quite an experience.

So: Mary Pettice, here's to you.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Blue Jays 5, Yanks 4

Some games you have a bad feeling about, throughout. This was mine. I just never thought the Yanks were in it--not when they led, not when they tied.

So Mo finally gave up his first home run.

Now everybody can shut up about it.

And if Moose ends up with 19 wins again, he'll say, "Yup, that was the one."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Mariners 3, Yankees 2

Stinnett killed us, I'm guessing--and I say guessing because the game was absent TV coverage. Watching ESPN's GameCast, I noticed Ichiro get a hit in the eighth inning, described as an "infield hit to the catcher."

Huh? An infield hit to the catcher? How does that work, except as a bunt?

I'd heard of Ichiro bouncing the ball off home plate and beating it out, but these usually wind up in the pitcher's glove.

So: infield hit to the catcher. Interesting.

Then Ichiro steals, Stinnett's wild throw sends him to third. Then a sac fly brings him home.

I'm thinking about back in the day, a decade ago, Girardi and Leyritz, all the catching you'd ever need, with Posada in the pipeline. King (Leyritz) leaves, Posada moves up; Girardi goes to the Cubs, King returns to do what he does best: hit the ball into the parking lot come October.

Now we've got the battling, blameless Posada killing himself 135+ starts per season. (His handling of Rivera through another tough ninth the other night was masterful.) And we've got Stinnett: can't hit, can't catch, can't throw. Triple threat.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Yankees 5, Mariners 4

Melky Mantle!

Okay, I thought the above back-page headline a bit much myself a month ago. But geez . . .

This was shaping up to be a dreary affair--three runs in the first for Seattle, followed eventually by a bucket brigade of relievers Hargrove probably keeps in Han Solo-like carbon freezing, waiting for the rare time Seattle has a lead late in a game.

Beyond that:

Who is Aaron Guiel and where has he been all my life?

Posada was out in the ninth, sure, on what umpire Mile Riley ruled an infield hit that set up Damon's tying sac fly. But, on what is becoming my tour of out-of-town broadcasters (DirecTV and YES apparently get along as well as the Corleones and the Tattaglias) I counted, like, five times the announcers pointed to Damon's fly ball and said, "That would have been the third out."

Yeah, had Damon hit the fly ball with two outs. Duh. With one out, Damon knew his job was, at the very least, to get the ball in the air and tie the game. He was looking for a pitch he could loft. Had Posada been called out--had, in fact, there been two outs--Damon's approach at the plate would have been entirely different. And Damon is one of the best situational hitters alive. So who's to say Damon's at-bat would have ended the game?

I mean, there are only thirty baseball TV announcing teams in Major League Baseball. I'm always reading how cutthroat the job is, how sports broadcasting is essentially ten thousand guys waiting for Vin Scully to die so everyone can move up a notch. And yet I wonder: this is the best we've got?

Baseball has, these past few weeks, kept me away from "Rescue Me," which I like a great deal, in part because it is superbly written, in part because I'd watch Denis Leary read from the (ugh) Boston Globe, and in part because my youngest brother Rob is a fire fighter and I like to imagine how his life must go down at the station, with all the characters in his life. As it happened, tonight's routinely brilliant "Rescue Me" episode ended just as the rain lifted in the Bronx, so I turned from Leary's imagined relapse (never mind if you don't watch the show) to a few thrills and chills in the game to Melky's walk-off.

Every so often, Torre makes the decision that Mo isn't coming in tonight, no matter what, not even to go after one guy who's 0-45 against him lifetime. This is tantamount to almost dumping a close game late, so important is Mo to the Yankee forunes, but is necessary, so important is Mo to the Yankee fortunes. I figured, with three grueling innings worked the last two games, tonight was such a night, and was correct. But not having Mo in a close game late amounts to betting with house money, which made tonight's win so much sweeter.

One thing to know

Our country is going to war with Iran soon. Israel is merely our advance agent. Andrew McCarthy says as much.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Yanks 4, Mariners 2

Exactly how was it that Jason Giambi was not an All-Star, or even mentioned?

Outside of the first two months of last season, he has settled in marvelously as a DH-1B, hits his 40+ homers a years and functions as a blameless teammate.

In the end, Giambi may come out of this whole steroids imboglio with the best resume. McGwire and Sosa were shamed by their Congressional Testimony, and Palmeiro fell further, faster, than any pro athlete this side of Pete Rose. As for Bonds . . .

Well, if Giambi can take 25 shots toward the neighborly bleachers in right in (now in the present, then the future) Yankee Stadium for the next 3-4 years, collects 15 homers elsewhere and gets to 600, a lot of homers post-steroids, who will keep him out of the Hall?

Or will Palmeiro, McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, Sheffield, and Giambi be blackballed, all of them? The next ten years will be interesting.

Also, Mo. Only close watchers of the Yankees can see how much Rivera has been laboring lately. Three tough innings in two days: twice, two hits given up, with a two-run lead, thus bringing the go-ahead run to the plate with none out.

Someone needs to step up in that bullpen. Myers is getting the lefties out, sure. I mean someone else.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Yankees 6, White Sox 4

And the sweep.

In another one of those woulda-killed-to-be-there games, it was remarkable how many hooks the Yankees wriggled off today. In the sventh, eighth and ninth, the Sox had first-and-second, nobody out (once after a lead-off homer), twice with heart of the order due up, and for all that traffic they managed not a single run.

Eighth inning: Kardiac Kyle gives up a homer, single, single. Rivera comes in. Pop-up, double play.

Ninth inning: Mo back out. A double, followed by an intentional/unintentional walk to Thome. Konerko up. Rivera throws without question the pitch of the day, a devastating down-sliding cutter that runs away from the right-handed Konerko and becomes a double-play grounder to Jeter. Then Dye strikes out. Ballgame.

Update: Just checked the schedule. I forced myself to listen to the WGN broadcast with the sound on, hoping to bathe in Hawk and Whoever's awfulness. SunDevil Joe wrote in some of their worst predelictions, such as "You can put it on the booooaard . . . yes!" and "He gone," and "Four runs for the good guys," and their insistence on referring to Paul Knoerko as "Paulie," as if he were Rocky Balboa's brother-in-law. I was all set to write "Good by, and good riddance," but I checked the schedule. Three more games in Chicago next month. Put it on the board. Yes, indeed.

Update: Like, as Daisy Buchanan would say, waiting for the longest day of the year and missing it, I was all primed to celebrate Rivera's 400th save, then the thrills of the game, and of sweeping the Pale Hose, put the landmark right out of my mind. Cue Metallica, "Enter Sandman." Here's to Mo!

Sunday Morning

Ah, what a pageant.

1. Suddenly, two wins over the White Sox have put the Yankees back on the pundits' good graces. Bob Ryan shouts, "The Yankees are coming! The Yankees are coming!" On The Sportswriters, and Mike Lupica, in his Sunday notes column, writes this:

Say it again, and remember it if the Yankees do win the American League East again:

This is the toughest group they've had since Mo and Jeter and O'Neill and Brosius and them.

Not as good.

Just as tough.

2. Israel. I keep thinking of my favorite scene in my favorite movie, Clemenza's gun scene with Michael Coreleone in The Godfather. I quote from memory:

Clemenza (showing gun): It's as cold as they come, impossible to trace, so you don't worry about prints, Mike. I put some special tape onna trigger anna butt.

(I always thought Richard Castellano spoke his line with slightly the wrong emphasis. As Mario Puzo explained in the novel, the special tape was designed not to hold prints, hence the line should have gone, So you don't worry about prints, Mike, I put some special tape onna trigger anna butt. In other words, Michael shouldn't worry about prints, not because the gun is cold (which makes no difference as to fingerprints), but because fingerprints won't adhere to the special tape. Anyway, small quibble.)

Later on in the scene, Clemenza tells Michael about the coming war. Everyone will line up against the Corleones, he says--not only Sollozo's regime and the Tattaglias, but also the rest of the five New York families: the Barzinis, the Cunios, the Straccis, and one other family that goes unmentioned. (Perhaps, though, the Corleones are one of the Five Families, and the four "other" families will line up against them. Probably.) Killing Sollozo seems foolhardy, on the face of it, but war seems inevitable, and Clemenza, the old warrior, is resigned to it: This has to happen every five years or so, ten years. Helps clean out all the bad blood. It's been ten years since the last one. You gotta stop these guys at the beginning, you know, like they shoulda stopped Hitler at Munich. They never shoulda let him get away with that. They was just asking for trouble.

In other words, if there be war, let it be now. Or, as Clemenza's pupil and successor, Frankie Five Angels, would say in Godfather, Part II, "We gotta hit 'em now, while we got the muscle!"

To a student neither of history nor of world politics, but of what I've read, this appears to be the moment at hand for Israel. Full-scale was is coming--not with its old rivals, the Egyptians, Jordanians and Saudis (the first two have treaties with Israel, the third apparently wants no part of this conflict)--but the same sort of Islamism that flew through the office window on 9/11. The Palestinians and Hamas (basically one and the same) ran true to form, using Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza not to build schools and hospitals but to burn the entire place to the ground and set up Kassam rocket sites. Hezbollah, backed by Iran's muscle (think of Sollozo and Tattaglia) has provided just enough provocation to justify Israel's incursion into Lenanon.

A sea change is taking place, a tipping point reached, and Israel has decided to deal with their enemies by killing them. This partially explains the almost bewildered response of the rest of the world: claims of "disproportionate" responses, as if the goal of warfare were not to attain disproportionate outcomes in lives and territory. Vladimir Putin called for Israel to be "balanced"--between what and what? How "balanced" has the Russian army been with the Chechnyan terrorists? How does "balance" fit in wartime?

Most gratifying has been President Bush's statement, not volunteering to negotiate or calling for a cease-fire, but saying, Yes, the fighting should stop: Hezbollah should lay down its weapons. A full-scale war between Israel and Iran seems in the making, if not, Israel will take on Iran's clients, all at once if it has to. Israel will hit them now--while they have the muscle.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Last word on the head-butter

My golf buddy, James, wondered why I hadn't written anything on last week's World Cup unpleasantness. The answer is that I hadn't anything to add. Head-butting in that situation was inexcusably stupid. It was as if Vince Young came on the field with two minutes to go in the Rose Bowl, with the ball on the forty, and slugged Reggie Bush.

But everyone else wrote that before I did, so why bother?

Today, though, I saw two things on my leading information source, Fox News. On "Fox News Watch," one of the commentators (the red-headed guy) said that if an American had behaved thus, there would be Security Council resolutions in the United Nations. This, I believe. One of the rules of modern journalism is that bad individual American and Israeli (sometimes British) actions are always part of some larger picture, whereas French (or whoever's) actions are not.

The second, on "Beltway Boys," was the report that French Prime Minister Jacque Chirac's insistence that the head butter is a national hero. Sheesh. Those two deserve one another, and France deserves them both.

Yanks 14, White Sox 3

Gack. the Malevolent Forces of Evil (aka television, this time Fox) deigned to determined that Texas would like to see the Cardinals-Dodgers (this is the same logic that had Phoenix a suburb of Los Angeles when I was growing up, thus force-feeding us 14 Rams games a season), so I was deprived of this.

So all right, the Redbirds are a division rival of the hometown 'Stros. But come on, the World Series champion vs. the glamour team of this generation? Everyone save Missouri and Southern California should have been treated to Sox-Yanks.

I should have gone back Buffalo Wild Wings and watched it on the big screen.

Nice to know that Moose won No. 11. Jeter and Bernie, two doubles and three RBI apiece.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Yanks 6, White Sox 5

This one took something out of me--all the anticipation, such high stakes.

I first caught the score while picking up food at Buffalo Wild Wings, 2-0 Pale Hose, on a big screen in the bar. I mention the because the Yankees sometimes have this tendency, for about five or six games in a row, to fall behind early and stay there. It happens three or four times a season. Call it a funk. Something about the vibe of the game seemed to indicate that this was not only one of those games but one of those trends.

But no, while waiting for my food something interesting happened. One out, Jeter doubles. Ex-Yankee Contreras essentially intentionally walks Giambi. (No pitch was within a foot of the strike zone.) For a right-hander like Contreras, this is probably the smart move--except that A-Rod is on deck. Wow, I thought, is this how low A-Rod has sunk.

A few innings later, I'm home. That kid Guiel (pronounced "Guile," right? I had the crummy White Sox announcers off) hits his first Yankee home run. Unit, who had been brilliant since the second inning, runs into trouble in the seventh. Tie score.

Eighth inning, Kardiac Kyle Farnsworth. Two things here. First, sending set-up man Fansworth out was Joe Torre's way of saying "We will score in the ninth."

Second, three up, three down. I nearly fell out of my chair.

Bottom of the eighth: Melky! And others! 6-3 Yanks.

Top of the ninth: I turn the sound back on. Something tells me that out-of-town announcers heap priase on Mo Rivera ("Probably the best of all time," "Harder on lefthanders than righthanders," "You know, sometimes switch hitters bat right-handed against him blah blah blah") just to put the hex on him. This time, it worked. Thome manages a bat-snapping quail into the outfield, inches from diving Damon's glove. Two clean singles follow. Grounder to Phillips: one out, one run. A nifty climbing-the-wall-in-foul territory catch by Crosby: same deal. 6-5.

Now the worst kind of melodrama: A.J. Pierzynski, of whom his own manager once said, "If he's on the other team, you hate him. But if he's your teammate, you hate him less." Tying run on third. Mo goes 1-2 on A.J., who fouls off the next six pitches before flying out to Crosby.

The late stages in this game were like drawing an 11 against a 5, doubling down, drawing a face card for a 21, then watching the dealer go 5-10 for a 20. You won. But you didn't think you'd need every inch of what you had.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Here we go again

Via Huffpost, Valerie Plame is suing Karl Rove, Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney for trying to destroy her career.

Three pages of comments already at Huffer, mostly of the "You go girl!" variety.

This would seem to be the only thing left to rally the Wilson/Plame forces, now that prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has, absent the Libby trial (which may never come to pass), essentially wrapped up the investigation that so many netrooters pinned so much hope on.

To recapitulate: to a small but (God knows) vocal minority, the implications of the Plame kerfuffle went beyond indicting Rove or convicting Libby. This was the Rosetta Stone, the through-the-looking-glass moment. This would be the scandal that led to Bush and Cheney's removal from office, and perhaps their imprisonment. No, really. One cannot overstate the bitterness and denial that accompanied, first, "Fitzmas," the day which Rove and (possibly) Cheney would be indicted (and not merely Scooter Libby); and second, Fitzgerald's informing Donald Luskin, Rove's lawyer, that Rove would not be indicted.

Bitterness: "Someone got to Fitzgerald."

Denial: "Rove made a deal." "What about Sealed v. Sealed?"

I suppose there had to be this lawsuit. There has been such a precipitious drop in expectations from where they were four months ago, I almost worried for . . . well, whoever those people are. This, now, gives them hope.

My only hope is that Ms. Plame knows that when Mr. Luskin's questions start slicing her to bits, simply repeating "Thank you, my dress is Chanel" over and over won't cut it.

One more All-Star word

I grew up in a world of National League hegemony spanning the last few years of the reserve clause and the first generation of free-agency: the days of the Dodger infield staying intact for a decade; of the Reds' line-up almost unchanged throughout the seventies; of Steve Carlton, Gary Maddox, Greg Luzinski, Larry Bowa, Mike Schmidt and and Bob Boone, the core of the Phillies, returning to the playoffs year after year. These were the All-Star years of Pete Rose ramming Ray Fosse and essentially ending Fosse's productive career, of Rose and some other Reds sneaking rabbit Japanese baseballs into batting practice and hitting moonshots while the AL watched, agape.

Things were so bad that, by 1983, the NL had won something like 17 of 18. The game, in the minds of many, had lost its purpose. There was talk of re-shuffling the line-ups, East v. West perhaps. As Tom Boswell recounted some years ago, NL manager Whitey Herzog allegedly did something for the good of the game. To put it bluntly, he tanked. Given the opportunity to stock his team with five Hall-of-Famers (Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Phil Niekro, Steve Carlton, Bruce Sutter), Herzog ignored them all in favor of the likes of Atlee Hammaker, Pascual Perez, and Lee Smith, all of them kids, all of whom were shelled as the AL won. Smith would, of course, grow to be quite a reliever; Perez might have done so without the drugs; but Hammaker, as they say, was never quite the same.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

AL 3, NL 2

So the AL wins for the tenth year in a row.

Today in the Washington Post, Tom Boswell makes two salient points. The first is that this game is part of the cyclical nature of the sport: the American League dominated from 1933-1949, then the National League from 1950-1987, then the American League through last night, and counting.

Breaking down the years, one can partly see why this was so. Early years, the AL: Yankees, plus Ted Williams. 50s and 60s, the NL, with the Dodgers, Giants, and Cardinals achieving superiority by snapping up the best black talent. 1970s, the NL again, with the Reds' contingent (Rose, Bench, and Morgan every year; Concepcion, Foster and Perez some years) laying down the law to their brethren that this was serious business. 1980s, mostly the NL, with the Dodgers, Phillies, Cardinals, Cubs and Mets taking turns being the best two or three teams in baseball. Then, post-1986, the AL goes harder and faster than the NL (the Dodgers excluded) for intenational talent; then--starting mid-nineties--the huge gap in talent represented by Torre's Yankees, plus (at alternating times) the Orioles, Indians, Mariners, A's, Rangers, and Red Sox.

As Boswell points out, in his second point, the obvious superiority of the AL represented by the first six batters: three certain Hall-of-Famers if they dropped dead tomorrow (Derek, A-Rod, Pudge), plus three probables (Papi, Vlad, Ichiro), all six known by either their first name or nickname.

Having the Hammer of God (aka Mo Rivera) to close out the game didn't hurt, either. And had the game gone into extra frames, Papelbon. To be followed by Jenks. To be followed by R.J. Ryan . . .

Cindy Sheehan's fast . . .

Is like Paris Hilton shopping at Gucci instead of Louis Vuitton and calling it "not spending."

Rather dense

Two truisms regarding Rathergate:

1. It is the greatest story in the history of the world.

2. Bush-haters still don't get it.

Over at Huffpost, Russell Shaw posted this story about what he'd really like Dan Rather to say to Larry King.

The interview contains this gem:

LK: Well, you are still young at 74, Dan. So what happened?

DR: Well, a few things. CBS ousted me from the evening anchor position, and then exiled me to a low-profile news feature show where my work was metered, rationed and vetted. And then, in these tumultuous times, I was all of a sudden told there were no more stories for me to do- or precious few of them. So I didn't let the screen door hit me on the way out.

LK: But what led to this?

DR: Larry, glad you asked. Remember the story about Bush and the Alabama National Guard? It could be argued that errors in the methodology of reporting were made, but the substance of the story was never fully negated. Did President Bush report for duty at the Alabama Guard or not? I could tell that the brass' enthusiasm for us following through and doing more digging, more investigating, was certainly not high.

It could be argued that errors in the methodology of reporting were made, but the substance of the story was never fully negated. Love it.

I sent this comment: "I'm here to report that Dan Rather has sex with goats. Fully negate that." Surprise, surprise, the Huffcensors blocked it.

I'm not claiming credit--not by any means--but the post was soon removed from its slot on Huff's front page. You can only find it by punching "Russell Shaw" in the index box.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Moonbat Fast

Via Michelle Malkin: Cindy Sheehan pigs out on ice cream during her "fast" (scroll down):

I find traveling out of the country very challenging being on a fast. When I was on a layover in Madrid on my way to Venice, Italy yesterday, the closest thing I could find to a smoothie to get a little protein was a coffee with vanilla ice cream in it. Traveling for 22 hours is very taxing under normal circumstances--but then again, when have we had normal circumstances since the 2000 and 2004 successful coup attempts that have brought BushCo into power?
I traveled from Venice to the frontier of Italy to the province of Udine which is right at the foot of the pre-Alps. I am here for a huge youth festival which includes many elements of social justice and peace work. It is beautiful and the air feels different from other places that I have travelled. It is strangely soft and gentle as is the natural light. However, there is not a Jamba Juice on every corner, so blended juice drinks with protein powder are impossible to find.

Malkin: "Smoothies. Coffee. Vanilla Ice Cream. How much weight does she plan on gaining during this deprivation campaign?"

I've often thought a few things about Cindy Sheehan. First, she is (or was, at least at the beginning) a genius for self-promotion (as right-wing Michael Savage said on the radio viz Camp Pendleton, there is no effective response to a hysterical mother). Second, her feelings for her dead son notwithstanding, she simply loves the attention; God knows, going on "Hardball" and "The Situation Room" sure as hell beats playing Canasta with the rest of the over-50 set back home in San Diego.

Third, and more important, there is simply something wrong with how she behaves, something--in the end--that is deeply offensive to all of us. In my lifetime, I've lost all four of my grandparents, whom I loved in different ways but fiercely, each one of them. I can close my eyes and remember the smells of where they lived, the adoration they poured on me, their boundless generosity. One grandfather, my mother's father, took me to Penn Station in Newark to watch the trains come in and leave, looked at the boards, then pointed to train after train and said, this one is going to Washington, this one to Chicago. My other grandfather, my father's father, once took me on the ferry that encircled Manhattan, past the United Nations and Yankee Stadium and, yes, the Twin Towers (these came first, though it seems right to list them last). On the trip, he pointed to a hospital where, he said, he had washed dishes in the cafeteria where the nurses ate. He let me know, without having to say so, that he had despised those nurses, who had probably treated the git off the boat from Glasgow with contempt.

I've just described two of the greatest days of my life, just to let you know.

One man was the Irish Pop-pop, all hugs, holding me as a baby and not letting anyone else near me, looking at me as if I were God's greatest creation. The other, the Scottish Grandpa, not given to overt displays of affection, but letting me know in a thousand quiet, formal ways what I meant to him; for instance, knowing I was an admirer of the author John O'Hara, and then gently offering, when I visited him in Pennsylvania, to drive the twenty miles to Pottsville, to O'Hara's hometown, to the O'Hara statue and to O'Hara's birthplace, across the street (as Grandpa knew I knew) from a brewery. And not a word of prompting from me.

Yes: losing one's grandparents is the way of the world. Well, I've also lost friends--the latest was a professor/writer, a confidant with a whinny of a laugh who was finally, in his forties, beginning to break into hardcover. I lost a friend in high school, fourteen years old, who I last saw the night we each had our first beer. Lowenbrau. I've lost a co-worker, an English professor universally admired, who took a bullet in the forehead from a serial killer.

Granted, in the calculus of Cindy Sheehan's world, none of this trumps the loss of a child. Fair enough. But all of us experience grief; we endure catharsis. And then, almost callous to say, we get on with our lives; we go on as the living after paying proper respects to the dead. It can't be otherwise, because to do otherwise is to become dead ourselves. Cindy Sheehan--fasting on only ice cream and smoothies, crying at the drop of a TV camera, moving toward the creepiest elements of the anti-Bush set, has, I'm sorry, still some growing up to do.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Newest on Lieberman

damn. I should have been a journalist.

Story here.

Too funny

A few days ago, I quoted Mark Steyn thus regarding Wimbledon:

It's more than tennis; it's about the time-honoured rituals of British life - like the way the Duchess of Kent comes out to present the trophy and always stops for a word with the lone black ballboy. You don't get that at the French Open.

So this morning, following Roger Federer's romp, the Duke of Kent strolls onto the court to present the Gentleman's trophy--and stops for a word with the lone black ballboy.

They'll always be an England.

Devils Rays 6, Yanks 5

And so we head into the break in a familar position: four teams, three slots. What was held for about 4-5 years by Oakland and Seattle, and last year by the White Sox and Cleveland, this year is held by the White Sox and Tigers: the two teams who, along with the Yankees and Red Sox, will fill the last three play-off positions.

The Yanks' four-game winning streak obscured for a moment just how truly exasperating they can be.

At the same time, what is truly obnoxious is, how every time the Yankees fall three or so games out of first place, or out of a playoff slot, gents such as those on The Sportswriters get to outshout one another acclaiming the Great Yankee Run all over. This is nonsense on stilts, for even if the Yankees do miss the playoffs, this year will have been little more than an aberration, with their corner outfielders missing (think, for a moment, of the Red Sox without Manny Ramirez and Trot Nixon, or the Astros without Lance Berkman and Preston Wilson). It will have been 1979 all over again, when the Yankees, coming off three World Series apperances and two victories in a row, lost their All-Star reliever (broken thumb), All-Star catcher (death), All-Star center fielder (wackiness), and fourth starter (several lingering injuries). The following year, they got healthy, replaced the missing parts (Rick Cerone et al), and--with the core of Guidry, Gossage, John, Jackson, Piniella, Nettles, Dent, and Randolph intact--made the playoffs in '80 and '81, and the World Series in '81, before losing the Series to the Dodgers, an act which prompted George Steinbrenner to take a wrecking ball to the team.

The Yankees, minus Matsui and Sheffield (with about 240 RBIs between them) have stayed in contention with the not-ready-for-prime time (but certainly potent) Melky Cabrera in left and aging-but-adequate Bernie Williams in right. Lord knows how bad things will get for Johnny Damon. Perhaps no team in baseball has looked forward so gratefully for three days off.

As it stands, for the balance of the regular season, the Pinstripers are a bat short. Should they make the playoffs, they'd be a starting arm (or two) short, unless we're only now seeing the real Jared Wright and Unit, circa 2006. Otherwise, it's Moose and Wang and then it goes wrong.

Even if they do miss the playoffs, the tendency (well, on my part) will be to think of 2006 as "just one of those years," as 1979 was, and before that 1959 (the year the White (Go-go) Sox won the pennant, despoiling what would have been ten Yankee pennants in a row from 1955 to 1964), and before that 1925 (when the Babe Ruth-Lou Gehrig-Miller Huggins team finished seventh, which in hindsight seems mathematically impossible). If these Yanks win 95-98 games and miss, you're looking at 1954, when 108 wins was beaten by Cleveland's 111. Yankee fans have to remember: our boys are not the only ones with talent.

Ach. I'm off to jog.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Bush wishes Ebert well

Via Mrs. Roger Ebert:

President Bush was in Chicago Thursday for his 60th birthday, having dinner with Mayor Daley. When asked by reporters what he wanted for his birthday he replied, "I've got a lot of birthday wishes. I hope the troops are safe. I hope Roger Ebert does well."

Considering the numerous digs at Bush in Ebert's recent reviews, I would consider this the acme of class--nothing less than one would expect from Bush.

Yanks 5, Devil Rays 1

Wang: nine wins by the All-Star break.

A win over Kazmir: huge.

One would hope the Yanks could achieve a one-run advantage over the Fish tomorrow, with Proctor, Kyle and Mo ready to go two innings apiece, if needed.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Yanks 1, Devil Rays 0

In which Wright, Proctor, Kyle and Mo retire the last 18 Fish in a row.

With apologies to the best two or three Unit starts, and the best two or three Moose starts, this was the best-pitched game of the year, group-effort wisecracks notwithstanding.

These are the games the Yanks have to win, folks.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Roger Ebert: ill, but improving

Overlooked in the moment of Ken Lay's death, North Korea's rockets and the current unpleasantness in Gaza is the medical condition of Roger Ebert, who recently suffered a burst blood vessel while undergoing his latest operation for salivary cancer.

Ebert's wife reports he is in stable condition, which is reason for cheer.

At his moment, it is worth mentioning that Roger Ebert, his efforts spanning five decades, is quite simply the greatest daily-newspaper film critic of all time. Or, to put it another way, Ebert is the greatest film critic in all of history, non-Pauline Kael division.

Throughout my college years, one of the great pleasures of every Christmas was a new Ebert anthology under the tree; fifteen years later, my discovery of the internets led to three or four superbly crafted Ebert reviews every Friday morning (usually at six in the morning, as soon as I woke up); followed by, every Sunday, his "Great Movies" series alternating with his "Movie Answer Man" series, either one a treat, part of a Sunday feast along with Mike Lupica's "Shooting From the Lip," George Will's Sunday column on politics, and Phil Mushnick in the New York Post, playing the role of the Old Testament scold toward everything stupid, cheap or cruel in the world of sports.

Whatever qualms one might have had toward Ebert, whatever silent disagreements, are for another time. Tonight I pray he is back before long, pointing us toward the next Steven Soderbergh, pushing hard for a My Dinner With Andre, or teeing off on the latest Rob Schneider atrocity. Get well, Roger.

Yanks 10, Tribe 4

The Unit is, as many sportswriters have noticed, in a recognizable pattern: two or three good starts followed by a shelling. Now he moves into the All-Star break looking at six days of rest, until next Thursday.

Other thoughts:

1) When was the last time a former MVP had 26 homers (and counting) at the All-Star break and wasn't selected? Jason Giambi, I mean.

2) No Moose? Hello?

3) Ah, what's the point? The whole All-Star selection is a fiasco, from the distortion of having at least one player from each team represented (they should fill out a 30-man roster, then take the best player from every team left over, and have a 37-man roster if need be) to the emphasis on, Well, shortstop X is now batting Y more points than shortstop Z, when everyone who has watched baseball at all knows that Z is five times the player X will ever be. Look, Bill James had a point: it's the All-Star game, not the "Good players with great first halves" game. People want to tune in to see the stars--A-Rod, Papi, Pujols, Derek (both of them), Vlad, Torii--plus the emerging stars who seemingly have staying power: Papelbon, Howard, Cano, and so forth.

Pitchers are more up-and-down, and for that I'll grant more leeway. Otherwise, throw this process to the dogs.

Wimbledon--the tournament, the movie

First, Mark Steyn classic: A Foreign Field, proof once again that, whatever Steyn's other splendid qualities, he is, in the end, screamingly funny. Two exerpts. First:

In 1877 the club introduced the first Gentlemen's Singles lawn tennis championship, won by an old Harrovian rackets player called Spencer Gore. He was very different from today's star champions: he wore long cotton trousers with vast acres of empty white advertising space that Adidas or Nike would die for. At that time, the British dominated the tennis scene, thanks to their gruelling training regime: on the day of the big match a chap would take the train up to Paddington, drop in at the Savoy for a haunch of venison and some spotted dick washed down with a couple of brandies, toddle down to SW19, change into the heavy underwear and a thick long-sleeved pullover, and dispatch Johnny Foreigner in three sets. Unfortunately, the Americans and Australians then introduced radical concepts like getting up early in the morning and practising.

Then this:

It's more than tennis; it's about the time-honoured rituals of British life - like the way the Duchess of Kent comes out to present the trophy and always stops for a word with the lone black ballboy. You don't get that at the French Open.

If you ain't laughing, you ain't living.

Also: Steyn's review of the Notting Hill-esque film Wimbledon. Steyn's verdict: close but not quite there.

Dr. Katz

I will always be indebted to the TV shows that helped get me through graduate school by keeping me sane between morning classes and evening classes. At the front rank is this quiet masterpiece, now out on DVD.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Yanks 11, Tribe 3

In which we may grow up one day to look back on Melky Cabrera's coming-out party.

Grand slam, five RBI, and yet another circus catch in left.

Yes, and again yes

Charles Krauthammer with the best take on Gaza yet.

Holy Crap

Ken Lay, dead of a heart attack at 64.

Already at Huffpost, four pages of moonbat nonsense ranging from his complicity in 9/11 to his knowledge of George Bush's closested homosexuality.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Tribe 19, Yanks 1

Happy Birthday, Boss.

Best. Times. Parody. Ever.

Via Powerline. How would the New York Times have covered Lexington and Concord?

I'm thinking my youngest brother Robbie would get a kick out of this. Call it Robbie Humor.

Flash : Bush told Cheney to contradict Wilson!

Can't say it enough: a small but obsessed group of leftists will seize upon anything, anything, anything to flog the Wilson-Plame kerfuffle into something worthwhile. With Scooter Libby's lawyer mounting what appears to be a rather spirited defense (as always, Byron York at NRO is invaluable), and with Karl Rove wriggling off the line and free to continue tormenting Democrats, it appears at present that Patrick Fitzgerald's invesitigation will fall slightly short of President Bush's and Vice President Cheney's impeachment, conviction, and imprisonment.

In any case, it won't be for lack of trying by the nutbars who have kept this story on life support. Yesterday, as reported (in a huge banner headline) on Huffpost, The National Journal reported that President Bush had instructed Vice President Cheney to discredit that clown, Joe Wilson, when Wilson was busy lying in at three different ways about his trip to Niger.

On the face of it, this is nothing remarkable. The President says, "Look, Wilson is lying about us. Get our side out, and make sure people know where this guy is coming from."

Well, it is unremarkable everywhere except the netroots, where at Huffpost, a total of 1,277 comments have been posted, among which are these, which came early and really only count as just warming up:

Only six months before the impeachment proceedings can begin.
By: whitewaterwillie on July 03, 2006 at 05:31pm

That does it. It's time to start impeachment hearings. They outed the very CIA operation keeping tabs on the Iranian Nuclear program. They deserve the same fate as any traitor: death.
By: smootybooty on July 03, 2006 at 05:32pm

If I keep bringing this up, it is because this is the direction of one of the two major political parties. We have entered an atmosphere in which a dorky and competent senator, Joe Lieberman, is not only opposed within his own party for his principled support of the war in Iraq (perfectly fine, said opposition) but vilified as a monster and murderer, then vilified again for hedging his bet against a potential primary loss as potentially dividing his party.

Again: the banana cream pies on the left are a small group, but they are loud, and (at the production level if not the commenters) they're connected to serious money. If Hillary does not claim the Democratic nomination in 2008--a nomination for which she will have saved and prepared for a least a decade by 2008, by far the longest unofficial/official campaign with a specific timetable in the nation's history--these people will be the reason. A samplng, first the more-in-anguish-than-in-anger type:

I am flying my flag - but at half staff.
By: FirstBlowupDollLaura on July 04, 2006 at 11:02am

i'll have my flag upside down
By: BobiuFromCa on July 04, 2006 at 11:13am

Then the old-fashined tinfoil hat type:

call it creeping paranoia, but ya cant dismiss the machiavellian genious of 9/11. What more perfect way to lay claim to broader powers than any president since roosevelt held. evidently 3,000 lives was a small sacrifice to initiate an apotheosis. My dream is to see bush's head explode on live t.v. through pixel manipulation or cranio/arterial thrombosis.
By: JimLarkin on July 04, 2006 at 11:38am

Oh, and by the way, Did you catch the handle on the first one? Separate out the words, and you get "First Blow up Laura." Wonderful.

Yes, and happy Independence Day to you, too.

Joe Lieberman will collect signatures to run as an independent . . .

. . . assuming he loses the Dem primary to Ned Lamont.

Fathoming the netroots' hostility to Lieberman is a full-time job. Check it out.

Really, though.

Sore Loserman?

Grabbing a slogal from the Bushies?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Israel, then and now

I grew up thrilling to tales of Israeli heroism. The raid on Entebbe (conducted on July 4, 1976, when the attention of much of the world was focused on the American Bicentennial) told me everything I needed to know about brains, heroism and sacrifice. It is a matter of historical record that a single Israeli soldier died in the otherwise successful assault on the Ugandan airport: Jonatan Netanyahu, brother of Benjamin, aka Bibi, who would, two decades hence, be elected Iraeli Prime Minister, when the Oslo accords began to be exposed for the PLO subterfuge they were. You can't make this stuff up.

File this, if you must, under, "Some of my best friends . . ." but this is more full disclosure. My college roommate, Hugh Milstein, was, is, Jewish. It is a great American tradition that whenever Mom and Dad visit their child at college, they must invite the roommate or the best friend or both out with the kid for first-class restaurant food, a wonderful break from Ramen and turkey franks. This tradition was followed, shall we say, religiously by Hugh's parents. But there was more. In every way and every time, they treated me like family. Perhaps this treatment colored my vision of the unending turmoil that is the Middle East. Perhaps it always will. But.

But I think of the Israeli officer's code: "After me." And then I look today at pictures on Little Green Footballs, in which Palestinian terrorists surround themselves with young boys, reasoning (if that is the word) that any mortar that lands on them will take out the boys, thus providing more victims. And I wonder two things:

1. What would it take to stop the incessant repeating of the term "cycle of violence," as if the two combatants were somehow engaged in behavior even remotely equivalent?

2. Has a society built on murder and nihilism ever succeeded? Ever? Wait, put it another way: do the Palestinians define themselves by anything other than the destruction of evil? Christ, even Hitler had Wagner and industrial progress to point to.

Right now, Corporal Shalit (I hope) sits somewhere in Gaza. Israeli children are taught from a young age that they might be taken hostage and that no deals would be made on their behalf. It is the main reason so few Jews have been taken hostage since Munich and Entebbe; a refusal to negotiate makes hostage-taking a lose-lose. Even Palestinians almost never take Israelis hostage; they simply blow them up when they can. This has to be the position of Israel now; give in, and the door to more hostages gets kicked in.

I thought the withdrawal from Gaza was a good thing; Jeff Jacoby thinks otherwise, and furthermore looks to see some of that Entebbe spirit. I agree with Jacoby on the essentials. No ransom. No ransom. No ransom.