Saturday, September 30, 2006

As I suspected

The two coolest traditions in sports:

1. If you hit a hole in one, you buy drinks for the house . . .

2. On the last day of the season, if the Yankees have nothing to play for, Joe Torre designates a manager-for-a-day from his crop of veteran players.

I thought awhile ago the obvious choice was Bernie Williams. Turns out I was right.

Never mind the Unit. Go Yanks.

Some kind of day

3 pm: with the Brewers four outs away from defeating the Cardinals, and thus reducing the Cards' lead over the Astros to one, Scott Speizio hits a bases-clearing triple and simultaneously providing all the necessary runs in a 3-2 victory, thus reducing the Cards' magic number to one.

5 pm: University of Houston begins its game against the University of Miami. Miami scores first but Houston scores often, and holds a 13-7 lead throughout most of the game. The problem with 13-7 against a heavy favorite is that you can do the math. Sure enough, Miami scores a touchdown and wins 14-13. But what a showing by the Cougs.

6 pm: The two big games of the day begin: USC-Washington State and Astros-Braves. The 'Stros lead 2-0. Then the Braves work back to a tie, 2-2 (I'm a little hazy on the details, as my attention was drawn more to my Trojans). The 'Stros score, then hang on for a 5-4 victory.

I was thinking of the Rose Bowl . . . when USC went up by twelve with seven minutes to go, and UT knew it had to score two touchdowns in two possessions to win, what left the Trojan D was a sense of urgency. The Longhorns scored the first touchdown with laughable ease, which forced the Trojans into a defensive posture, which led to going for it on fourth-and-two . . . and the rest is history.

Same deal tonight. The fight seemed to drain from the defense when the Trojans went up 28-15; the lack of urgency was apparent when the Cougars scored a touchdown to bring them within six.

Do the math.

All right, they escaped. But Cal, Orego and Notre Dame are on the horizon.

Time to grow up.

1 1/2 (Arrrrrgh)

In every pennant race, as Tom Boswell once said, there is always one you want back--always one you know you'd win if they played it again, one you probably lost because you wanted the damn thing so badly.

Such was last night. Rocket's best pitching availed nothing through 5 1/2 innings. Then in the sixth, lead-off man Pete Orr beat a ball off home plate, forcing Rocket to wait helplessly as it hung in the air and Orr flew down the line. When the ball finally returned to earth, Rocket's throw to first beat Orr by half a step--in the view of everyone but first-base ump Alfonso Marquez, who called Orr safe.

Edgar Renteria was next. Orr took off for second, and Adam Everett broke for the bag--and so was a half-step out of position for a line drive he'd have converted for an easy double play. Instead, the ball glanced off Everett's glove and into center field. First and third, no body out. Chipper Jones hit a soft bouncer that, 24 weeks out of the year, Lance Berkman would play for the easy out, conceding the run--but in his zeal to make a fabulous throw out at home, Berkman let the ball bounce under his glove and trickle into right field. Orr scored easily. 1-0.

Then Andrew Jones, batting only because the Braves found themselves in posession of six outs that inning, singled to center. Renteria scored. 2-0. It might as well have been 20-0, so weak were the Astro bats, so resembling the dreary days of June and August, when "back-to-back homers" meant one on Monday and one on Tuesday. The final score (4-1) was almost irrelevant.

St. Louis, given new life, cruised to an easy 10-5 victory in Milwaukee.

Today, back to Sampson.

Sheets goes for Milwaukee.

USC plays Washington State.

University of Houston at Miami.

Texas Tech at A & M.

Ohio State at Iowa.

About it.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Rocket goes tonight; Weaver for Birds

By my count, there have been six games that people honestly believed might be his farewell as he walked off the field: Game Seven, 2003 ALCS (the Aaron Boone game); Game Four, 2003 World Series (you'll remember the Marlins applauded him from the dugout as he walked from the field); Game Seven, 2004 NLCS (couldn't hold a 2-0 Astro lead, the Cards went to the World Series); and his last two starts at home, when the Astros were either hopelessly (last Wednesday) or patently (last Sunday) out of it.

This guy has more curtain calls than guys who have lots of curtain calls.

And he goes tonight, against the Braves, with Houston's first chance to be in first place since early May.

Weaver, cut loose first from the Yankees, then the Angels, then stinking it up with an 0-3 record at Busch Stadium, goes tonight for the Cardinals against Milwaukee.

So . . . here's for everyone playing true to form, ay?

Thursday, September 28, 2006


It is for real.

The Brewers jump on Marquis (only the Cards' number three starter), sprint out to a 9-1 lead, and coast to a 9-4 win.

Tomorrow, the Cards' Jeff Weaver (an Angel cast-off) versus the Brewers' passably competent Capuano.

Not happening, right?


The Scenario lives on.

Over the past three seasons--the last three crazy, wild, drink-too-much-beer, miss-your-bedtime Astro seasons--my favorite player has been Roy Oswalt, whose 90-pitch, two-hour shutouts have been, for the sheer pleasure of watching the game, the best part of being an Astro fan.

As a pitcher, Oswalt harkens back to the 1970s, the time when my love of the game first took hold (it lay dormant through most of the eighties--college, girls, and underachieving Yankees--was re-born in the fall of 1986, and has grown ever since). Oswalt's throwback status (give that man a technicolor jersey!) starts with Rick Miller's four axioms of pitching, honed as Earl Weaver's trusty lieutenant in Baltimore: work fast, throw strikes, keep the ball down, and for God's sake have faith in your fastball.

It is something, for someone raised in four-hour, American League East 12-10 softball games, to watch Oswalt work. Twice last season TFT and I went to Oswalt starts that lasted less than two hours and less than ninety pitches; it is something to go to a 7:05 start and be home in plenty of time for the ten o'clock news.

The second 1970s frisson is provided by Gator, by Louisiana Lightnin', by Rong Guidry, who was a lefthander, but one whose physical dimensions are almost identical to Oswalt's, and whose pitching, like Oswalt's, started with a fastball that seemed to come from parts unknown.

All this was on my mind today, driving around after my afternoon literature class, listening to Oswalt motor through the Pirates like, as has been said, they weren't even standing there. 3-0 lead in the fifth? It is to laugh. Even with some help from Qualls, this qualified as an Oswalt special.

Meanwhile, through seven, 9-1 Brewers. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . .

One game down.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Son of 1 1/2

So the Padres had to pitch to Pujols too. Will anyone ever learn.

Tomorrow morning, the Wizard goes out to try and cut the lead to one. This may be the 'Stros' last shot: hanging a W on the St. Louis scoreboard before the gates open, putting all the pressure on teh 'Birds to stay abreast.

And, yes, yes, Luke Scott was clutch in tying the game, but sheesh, National League extra-inning games are becoming the most boring creatures on earth. Everybody swings for the moon, everybody strikes out, and the freaking game goes on forever.

Brad Ausmus, who sent his buddy Biggio home with the sac fly in like the 90th inning, was--I'm not kidding--asked about T.O. His not unreasonable response: "T.O.?"
Then Greg Lucas saved him with a baseball question.

Game MVP: Wheeler. Three shutout innings in relief. Rivera-esque.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

1 1/2

Impossible, but true. By way of a butchered run-down play, a Pujols pop-up on a pitch he usually puts in the Mississippi River, adn some strong Padre relief, the Cardinals have just lost seven in a row.

Meanwhile, an crisp Astro win, 7-3 over the Pirates.

The Scenario lives.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Paging Phil Mushnick

After the conclusion of tonight's Falcons-Saints game, Stuart Scott pointed out that this was “the first time we had three consecutive Monday Night match-ups between undefeated teams.”

Counting, um, Week One, when both teams were 0-0.

Thanks for coming.

Saints win; Bush looks good

So the Saints beat the Falcons, 23-3. I suppose that the dreadful nature of the game was, for once, a secondary consideration.

Reggie Bush was good if not great: 52 yards rushing, 19 receiving, and a few effective turns as a decoy opening up half the field for his mate McAllister.

Bush is sure to get better, though never as good as I want him to be, though good enough to shame the Houston Texans for decades.

Oh, and . . .

This morning, while staring at the baseball standings, TFT had a question:

"Can the magic number go up?"

Alas, it cannot.

Signs of Life (My Other Favorite Team)

In the Houston Astros' greatest game this season . . .

. . . except maybe last night's, or the one the night before, or the night before that, or maybe last Thursday, when Lance Berkman brought his mates back from a one-run deficit with a two-out, two-run, eighth-inning home run into the Mexican restaurant out beyond the center field fence. . .

. . . the Astros recovered from a seventh-inning, 4-2 deficit to win, 5-4, over the Philadelphia Phillies. The hero of the game was one of the less-sung heroes of the Cardinal sweep, pinch-hitter extraodinaire, Orlando Palmeiro, who tied the game in the seventh with a two-run pinch single. Jason Lane followed with a single to put the 'Stros ahead for good.

The win was more impressive as Astro manager Phil Garner went into this evening with an odd handicap: essentially, he had no starting pitcher. With Oswalt, Pettitte, Clemens and Hirsch exhausted by their recent efforts and unavailable for duty, Garner faced the lack of a starter in a unique way.

He didn't use one.

Well, sure, Chris Sampson started the game, and pitched splendidly, shutting the Phillies out for three and two-thirds innings, but was pulled at the first sign of trouble when a favorable match-up was at hand. This was the proper handling of a long reliever. As the game progressed, as the margin for error narrowed, the hooks became faster, until (with Wheeler in waiting to work the ninth) it seemed that individual pitchers were being run in to face individual hitters.

In the end, one corner of the box score was a marvel of symmetry: nine innings, nine pitchers. And another one-run win.

Meanwhile . . .

Bottom of the ninth: Padres 6, Cardinals 5, bottom nine, one man out, runner at first.

Update: Woo-Hoo! Reliever Linebrink strikes out the side (mixed in with a Miles base hit and a wise pitch-around to Pujols) in the bottom of the ninth. 6-5 Padres.

The Cardinals' lead is now 2 1/2 games. Magic number remains at five.

And this:

A week ago, TFT (Tammie, as was) wrote out a detailed analysis of just how the Astros would pull off yet another miracle: pitchers, match-ups, probable wins and losses. She wrote "Magic Number: 5" and magneted it to the refrigerator. I nicknamed her formula "The Scenario" and remembered how I used to compose such mathematic proofs in college, and then graduate school, as each autumn's Yankee charge (think the eighties) failed again and again.

Cute, I thought.

The day The Scenario went up, the Cardinal margin was 8 1/2 games.

As I sit here, the margin is 2 1/2 games.

Six days. Six games.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Life in Hell

Came home tonight to the Astros-Cardinals on ESPN. The fair Tammie (TFT), the Astros freak for the ages, was in the midst of a baseball fan's personal hell: suffering through Joe Morgan talk for five minutes about your favorite team.

She asked me, "Who is that clown?"

I told her.

She said, "Wow. What an asshole."

In other news, the Astros pulled off an improbable fourth straight victory against the Cardinals. 3 1/2 games with a week to go is probably insurmountable, but meaningful baseball the last week of September is always a rich and wonderful occasion.

"It looks like you're so clever"

The last few weeks have demonstrated two things:

1. Bill Clinton is obsessed with how he is viewed re Al Qaeda and terrorism in general.

2. He sees the second draft of history, and does not like what he sees.

The only thing that ever engages my curiousity in Clinton's behavior is Clinton's response to inquiries about his behavior. I didn't care about his campaign finance irregularities until he began using a definite article to describe drinking coffee--as in, foreigners with piles of cash attended "the coffee." I didn't care about Paula Jones until Clinton claimed that he and Ms. Jones were never "alone in the hotel," whch was something no one had ever claimed. (One would assume, first, that there were other guests in the hotel, plus a staff; and second, that this rhetorical construction was Clinton's rhetorical guy wire.) His sex life was his own business; if his wife could live with it, so could I, and considering who he was married to, I not only suspected he slept around, I rather hoped he did.

Did Clinton drop the ball on Al Qeada in the nineties? Probably. But then everyone did. I don't know that George H.W. Bush or Bob Dole would have behaved any differently. I remember being rather amused after the first World Trade Center bombing, at terrorists so stupid they would return the rental truck for a refund of the deposit. After Kobar Towers, after the Cole, I was reminded of Ronald Reagan's blunders in Beirut, and chalked them up to our status as the last great power. Every punk around the corner was lining up to take a shot from us; we were exhausted from seventy years of Depression, followed by World War, followed by Cold War. We wanted to enjoy, as George Will put it, our holiday from history, and collectively could absorb the blowing up of a warship without becoming too affected.
Sad, but true.

I always wonder: what would have been the response of a Clinton administration, or a Bush administration, had the 9/11 plots been understood in their entirety beforehand? The answer is, relatively speaking, not much. The plotters would have been rounded up. Someone would have gone Sipowicz on them in some Boston or New York police station, and gathered whatever information they could. And that's probably it. Had a President, on the basis of nineteen arrests, proposed invading a country and overthrowing its government, the reaction would have been stupified anger.

What I mean is, it took the reality of the towers falling to bring about an understanding of the conflict we face, as well as the political cache President Bush needed to invade Afghanistan. So all right. So President Clinton lived every day with the same restraints.

Still, then he has to go and answer Chris Wallace's questions like this:

I will answer all of those things on the merits but I want to talk about the context of which this arises. I’m being asked this on the Fox network…[note — these ellipses are in the Thinkprogress transcript]. ABC just had a right wing conservative on the 'Path to 9/11' falsely claim that it was based on the 911 commission report with three things asserted against me that are directly contradicted by the 9/11 commission report. I think it’s very interesting that all the conservative Republicans who now say that I didn’t do enough, claimed that I was obsessed with Bin Laden. All of President Bush’s neocons claimed that I was too obsessed with finding Bin Laden when they didn’t have a single meeting about Bin Laden for the nine months after I left office. All the right wingers who now say that I didn’t do enough said that I did too much. Same people….

I authorized the CIA to get groups together to try to kill him. The CIA was run by George Tenet who President Bush gave the medal of freedom to and said he did a good job.. The country never had a comprehensive anti terror operation until I came to office. If you can criticize me for one thing, you can criticize me for this, after the Cole I had battle plans drawn to go into Afghanistan, overthrow the Taliban, and launch a full scale attack search for Bin Laden. But we needed basing rights in Uzbekistan which we got after 9/11. The CIA and the FBI refused to certify that Bin Laden was responsible while I was there. They refused to certify. So that meant I would have had to send a few hundred special forces in helicopters and refuel at night. Even the 9/11 Commission didn’t do that. Now the 9/11 Commission was a political document too. All I’m asking is if anybody wants to say I didn’t do enough, you read Richard Clarke’s book…

At least I tried. That’s the difference in me and some, including all the right wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try and they didn’t….. {ellipses in the Thinkprogress transcript]. I tried. So I tried and failed. When I failed I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and the best guy in the country, Dick Clarke… [ellipses in Thinkprogress transcript] So you did Fox's bidding on this show. You did you nice little conservative hit job on me….

I worked hard to try and kill him. I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since. And if I were still president we’d have more than 20,000 troops there trying to kill him. Now I never criticized President Bush and I don’t think this is useful. But you know we do have a government that think Afghanistan is 1/7 as important as Iraq. And you ask me about terror and Al Qaeda with that sort of dismissive theme when all you have to do is read Richard Clarke’s book to look at what we did in a comprehensive systematic way to try to protect the country against terror. And you’ve got that little smirk on your face. It looks like you’re so clever…

"You've got that little smirk on your face." Brother.

From NRO's The Corner.

Farewell to the Beer Dude

The Beer Dude tends his Shiners and Michelob Ultras behind the lower deck along the third base line at Minute Maid Park. I used to go to him for yards of Michelob Ultras before common sense intervened, and I downshifted to pints.

Of all the vendors at Minute Maid, he is the one who has not moved, staying his post during the Miracle Run of '04, which was followed by the Miracle Run of '05, which was followed by one of the most exasperating seasons in memory.

I was wandering around the first deck, a few tiers below my actual seats, when I saw him standing his post.

"Sorry I couldn't give you any business tonight," I said. "Our seats are on the third deck and now I've had enough."

"No problem, man," he said.

We shook hands.

"See you next April," I said.

What else can one say about the Houston Astros, a team which stormed to the World Series last year, came back intact (except for what they added, namely Preston Wilson)--what else, except "monumental disappointment"? Morgan Ensberg and Jason Lane backslid, Preston Wilson did nothing but strike out, Craig Biggio went into a catatonic slump in the second half, and Brad Lidge wandered through the season in a funk, seemingly still stunned by his post-season collapse of a year ago.

The young talent--and Houston is deep here, as deep as any team in baseball--never jelled with the aging veterans. The team's collective batting average with men in scoring position was (I know this without looking) had to be among the three worst in the league, at least among teams with realistic playoff hopes (exclude Pittsburgh). And even the thrill of this weekend (three wins in the teams' last at-bat, capped off by Luke Scott's twisting, walk-off, line-drive three-run homer) only engenders frustration. Where was this clutch hitting, this spirit, in June, July, August?

Tonight the Rocket takes the hill to try and pull them within 3 1/2 games with a week to play. So let's not count them out completely yet. But there was a reason I said goodbye to the Beer Dude last night: Don't know where, don't know when.

What we think we know . . .

. . . a month into college football:

1. No super teams. No Texas and USC of last year, nor USC of a year previous. The BCS works--and works splendidly, give it that--only when there are two squads head-and-shoulders above the rest of the nation: USC and Texas last year, Miami and Ohio State in 2002. This year, we are headed for a train wreck in which as many as five or six teams could plausibly claim they belong in Glendale come January.

The motto of those who would tear apart the BCS, root and branch, resembles that of Marxists in the 1930s: "The worse, the better." That is, the more chaotic, the more unfair, the more biased (toward the Big Six confrences, the East Coast, Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Notre Dame), the sooner a reform (and thus a playoff) will occur. This is fantasy. It matters not that a college playoff would run to the billions in rights fees and make March Madness money look like a tip jar. The Big Six (plus, as always, Notre Dame) knows that anything resembling a playoff cedes power to the NCAA, and at all costs that must be avoided.

This, too: the one danger to the BCS comes neither from public clamour, nor from the NCAA but from Congress, whose presumptive hearings and anti-trust legislation could be the ruin of this closed shop. This spectre, by itself, was enough to prompt the four-plus-one formula, a strategy that would allow the odd Louisville or TCU a run at the big cash and placate everyone.

I'm remembering probably the best moment in the history of ESPN's "Game Day": the trek by Fowler and the guys, in 2004, to undefeated mid-major Utah. This was when the Fiesta Bowl was lusting hard after Utah, and Utah knew it; Corso and Herbstreit donned sombreros for the show's final segment, and Tostitos were frisbeed across the set. The new formulation will allow for a few more of those moments--but that's it.

2. One month in, Ohio State, USC, Michigan, Louisville, Auburn, and West Virginia have--the best way to put it?--at least not disappointed.

3. Arizona State. Next subject.

4. USC? A passably competent win in a hostile stadium that has known its share of upsets (my brother went to Arizona State, so I should know).

I’m wondering, though, if USC’s defense is that good, or if they’ve been lucky in their opponents.

One other thing:

Half the yahoos in the country (Lee Corso, take a bow) said that of course USC would lose one of its first three games: hostile Arkansas, Nebraska on the road back, Arizona . . . well, once a year, at home, in a game against a huge favorite, Arizona forces seven turnovers and scores six touchdowns on special teams and four touchdowns on tipped-pass interceptions and seventeen atrocious calls go Arizona’s way . . . and since USC was a nineteen-point favorite, it only figured, right? Right?

4. Notre Dame. Some nights you just go, “Holy crap!” I hit Buffalo Wild Wings (the sports bar that is the epicenter of the Houston sports scene)a half-hour after standing at Minute Maid Park to watch Luke Scott drill a walk-off three-run homer over the wagon gate to keep the Astros’ slim-just-left-town playoff hopes alive. USC was finishing up its efficient win over Arizona, and I was settling in to watch what apparently, for the night’s clientele, passed for the main attraction (Ultimate Fighting) when a lad in a Longhorn golf shirt said, “Switch to Notre Dame! Switch to Notre Dame!”

I asked him, “Christ, aren’t they out of it?”

He said, “They’re about to be three points out of it.”

And then the extra point was missed.

And then, the interception.


Look, this game was the Ultimate Fighting Conference or whatever. In other words, it was a bar fight: nothing but offense. ND had better figure out how to stop someone; scoring 40 points a game and endeavoring to hold the opposition to 39 (or 38, or 37) won’t cut it.

College football. It's corrupt. The championship is a closed-shop. The officiating is terrible. And I love it to death.

Chavez? Uh, who?

Dean Barnett, the sainted Soxblog, now posting at Hugh Hewitt, gives probably the best commentary on Kos's reaction to Chavez.

This is wonderfully wonderful. Chavez's remarks hurt Democrats, and the Democrats are wise enough to notice.

Kos, in the meantime, has suddenly decided Chavez does not exist.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

If Rivera and Sheffield are both healthy . . .

Look the hell out.

Then the remaining concern is Giambi.

Envision this batting order:

Damon cf
Jeter ss
Abreu rf
Giambi dh
A-Rod 3b
Posada c
Sheffield 1b
Matsui lf
Cano 2b

With Craig Wilson, Melky Cabrera, Bernie Williams, Andy Phillips, and Sal Fansano off the bench.


Whither Libby

One of the best websites in existence is Donald Luskin's Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid. One of the best features: the running tally from Tradesports, an overseas futures market, in which "shares" of future events happening are sold. The spectator's pleasure (and only spectating is advised; there's been some controversy as to payoffs), is achieving a rough consenus by people with enough confidence in their predictions to back them up with cash.

The first item on the list is "Libby convicted," which--since its first posting, a month ago--has gone from 48 percent down to 18 percent, a fair assessment of Prosecutor Fitzgerald's recent fortune.

Chances of a GOP House in 2007: 58 percent, up from the mid-thirties.

GOP Senate: 82 percent, mostly holding steady.

Just sayin'.

As another college football Saturday gets underway . . .

One must look back on last Saturday's dreadful officiating in the Oklahoma Sooner-Oregon Duck game.

And consider these words by John Scarborough, editor of True Orange, an (of course) University of Texas journal. His response to last week's game:

"So what. 'Sooner' means 'cheater.'"

Chavez? Never heard of him.

Classic. Daily Kos is being contacted by the press to explain the outpouring of support for Hugo Chavez on his website? His first instinct: Deny it exists:

I’m on the road, so perhaps I had missed some outpouring of pro-Chavez blogging on the left. But a look at my RSS reader doesn’t show much of anything, and I’ve got about 80 blogs on it. The feeds don’t always update regularly, so perhaps something was missed.

Next step: minimize it:

But really, this is much ado about nothing. So Chavez said mean things about Bush. Bush and his administration has said mean things about Chavez and about lots of other world leaders.

Who gives a s--- what Venezuela thinks about the United States? I swear, for a country that goes around invading countries it doesn’t like, it sure has a thin skin. Republicans, Democrats, and the media are all freaking out.

Because the president of f------ Venezuela doesn’t like Bush.


With Kos, there is always a mirror reality: What he writes and its intended effect. Pathos is all.

In other words, Kos may have a point, but, come on.

He’s writing this because he knows what Chavez said hurts Democrats. Democrats now must spend valuable air time denouncing this guy and defending President Bush, and they’d rather eat bark.

With the compromise on interrogation, signed off by John McCain (who one week ago was the libs’ unimpeachable source); with gas falling to two bucks a gallon; with Senator Menendez imploding in New Jersey (and the Dems can’t take back the Senate if they lose a single seat); with the stock market at record highs–with all this, President Bush enjoyed a pretty good week. The Dems would like nothing better than to go after Bush this weekend (and there’s a lot to choose from, believe me). Now they have this blowhard with his Satan this and sulphur that, completely closing off that option and forcing them to denounce Chavez.

The only other option is to say, “Who cares?”, however disingenuously, and Kos took it.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Will A-Rod sink the team?

Boys. Boys! This is nuts.

Furthermore, the notion of "clutch player" or "choke artist" is bogus in this context, and if you doubt me, go look at the sainted Jeter's batting average for a couple of those World Series.

Just as the team is peaking at the right moment, just as nobody wants to face them, this happens.


Minnesota Twins 8, Boston Red Sox 2

. . . and so, the New York Yankees, your 2006 AL Eastern Division Champions.

ESPN just showed the Yankee clubhouse. It was too bad they missed the running-on-to-the-field pigpile, but the moment seemed joyous enough. One wonders how Melky is taking it all in.

Time to move away from game-by-game summaries and tackle how the next week-and-a-half shapes up. Right now, one's concern is the Chicago White Sox, who might have won enough games to stretch the race (and thus make the race a three-way struggle) and exhaust the Central Division enough for the Yankees, who are due to play one of the three Central Division teams.

But Chicago might bomb. Detroit and Minnesota might hang back, let who wins win and then shout, "We don't have to play the Yankees! We don't have to play the Yankees!"

Meanwhile, what is up with the A-Rod article in SI?

Some questions:

Q: Did Giambi have Torre's blessing to speak as he did?

A: Probably not. Giambi was always a bit of a loose cannon in Oakland; one wonders if he actualy considered his words as he said them.

Q: Does the messenger destroy the message?

A: Close call. Jim Rome played the SI story hard today--it occupied his first two segments, an event usually reserved for Super Bowl and World Series Champions--and the phone lines went hot with people screaming, "Anyone but Giambi! Anyone but Giambi!" To be specific, Giambi called A-Rod out for his five weak-ass singles during Boston Massacre II. To which the response is begged: Christ, let A-Rod jam horse steroids up his ass and let Giambi rely on spinach and clean living, and let's see who hits 900 home runs and who is looking for a job.

Ultimately, the answer to the above question is No; this clearly is the worst season of A-Rod's career, he hasd become harder and harder to defend, and quite simply, he has been at sea out there. Criticizing Giambi is simply an exercise in the tu quoque fallacy: you did bad things too, therefore your word has no merit.

Q: How does this affect the team?

A: Ah, the big question. And the answer is, Nobody knows. I was weaned into baseball on the Bronx Zoo Yankees, that 1970s team with the various cliques: the red-asses (led by Graig Nettles, Thurman Munson, and Sparky Lyle), the guys who just wanted to play ball (Ron Guidry, Willie Randolph, Chris Chambliss, Catfish Hunter), the horse players (Lou Piniella, Mickey Rivers), and the tortured souls (Bucky Dent, Reggie Jackson). As Tom Boswell wrote, the team was as charming as a bucket of snakes, but when they took the field, look out.

Is this team of the same ilk? The joy in the champagne celebration assuredly did not seem faked. The mix of youth (Melky, Cano), grateful veterans (Fasano, Abreu, Lidle, Wilson), hungry veterans (A-Rod, Giambi, Moose, Unit, Wright, Sheff, Godzilla), needing-a-rest relievers (Proctor, Kardiac Kyle, Villone, Myers), and been-there superstars (Jeter, Mo, Jorge, Bernie) actually bodes well. Send out the Guiels of the world for a week and a half, set up your rotation, and kick ass.

Blue Jays 3, Yankees 2

And so we wait for the Red Sox game to end . . . .

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Yankees 6, Blue Jays 3

A solid win: Posada, Abreu and Matsui all homer, and help reduce the magic number (thanks to Boston's loss) to one.

Clinch tomorrow, guys.

Oklahoma-Oregon officiating crew suspended for one game

Not nearly enough.

Having grown up with Arizona State and attended USC, I can attest to the Pac 10's officiating as famously, historically atrocious, probably worse than some Texas 5A high school conferences, probably enough to impugn the quality of football in the conference as a whole.

That crew should be fired, and about four or five others should follow them out the door.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Dear Vatican: How do you like it now?

Christopher Hitchen, making sense. Money quote:

The Muslim protesters are actually being highly ungrateful. When the embassies of Denmark were being torched earlier this year, Rome managed a few words of protest about … the inadvisability of profane cartoons. In almost every confrontation between Islam and the West, or Islam and Israel, the Vatican has either split the difference or helped to ventriloquize Muslim grievances. Most of all, throughout his address to the audience at Regensburg, the man who modestly considers himself the vicar of Christ on Earth maintained a steady attack on the idea that reason and the individual conscience can be preferred to faith. He pretends that the word Logos can mean either "the word" or "reason," which it can in Greek but never does in the Bible, where it is presented as heavenly truth. He mentions Kant and Descartes in passing, leaves out Spinoza and Hume entirely, and dishonestly tries to make it seem as if religion and the Enlightenment and science are ultimately compatible, when the whole effort of free inquiry always had to be asserted, at great risk, against the fantastic illusion of "revealed" truth and its all-too-earthly human potentates. It is often said—and was said by Ratzinger when he was an underling of the last Roman prelate—that Islam is not capable of a Reformation. We would not even have this word in our language if the Roman Catholic Church had been able to have its own way. Now its new reactionary leader has really "offended" the Muslim world, while simultaneously asking us to distrust the only reliable weapon—reason—that we possess in these dark times. A fine day's work, and one that we could well have done without.

Jacque Chirac: making things worse since 1982

With Catholics in fear for their lives, with churches being shot at, nuns getting murdered, and the pope burned in effigy, we can always count on good old Chirac to make things worse.

There is something stupendous about the negation of logic at work in Militant Islam: Stop calling us violent or we'll blow you up.

I have been ambivalent about the Catholic Church of my upbringing for two reasons. The first has been its criminally negligent (and sometimes criminally conspiratorial) response to the church pedophilia scandal, something it was decades late in responding to, and even now has yet to make a full accounting. The second was its morally obtuse handling of the great challenge of the new century: the clash of civilization with those who would destroy it.

Of the first I can still say nothing. Of the second, there is this to say: welcome to the fight, Vatican, for you're in one whether you want to be or not.

Lower Gas prices: it's Bush's fault!

Falling gas prices: a GOP plot?

Via the Media Research Center, CNN's Bill Schneider:

In a Friday report for The Situation Room, CNN reporter Bill Schneider wondered if the current decrease in gas prices has been timed to help Republicans in the midterm elections. He ominously asked: "The drop in prices may last a couple of months, long enough to get through the November election. Could that be what the oil companies want?" Does that mean high prices in the spring and summer were an attempt to hurt the Republicans? This theme, that oil companies are trying to aid the GOP, was repeated or insinuated throughout the report.

In the September 15 segment, which aired at 4:40pm EDT, anchor Wolf Blitzer introduced Schneider by noting that a form of smog reducing gasoline will be pulled "as we head into the fall and the November elections." Schneider then prefaced a soundbite from an "oil industry critic" by stating: "But this oil industry critic believes that what drove prices up was speculation and a report from a bipartisan congressional investigation may be having an impact."

The critic, Tyson Slocum, is a member of Public Citizen, a liberal consumer advocacy group founded by Ralph Nader. The group's left-wing ideology was not mentioned, the only ID onscreen was of the organization's name. At that point, Schneider asked the question: Do oil companies want prices down through the midterms? Slocum elaborated for him: "Eighty-one percent of their money goes to members of the Republican Party. I cannot say for sure whether or not they are influencing prices to assure that outcome, but it is, I think, more than just a coincidence that we're seeing an easing of prices at a time of running up to a very, very important election."

This isn't the first time CNN has conjured up dark conspiracies involving the GOP and "big oil." The August 31 CyberAlert related:
Wednesday's USA Today reported that gasoline prices could be closer to $2 a gallon by Thanksgiving. The paper cited the end of the summer driving season and decreased demand as causes for this predicted decline. Not surprisingly, CNN's Jack Cafferty saw something more sinister at work. Before his daily "Cafferty File" segment during the 4pm EDT hour of The Situation Room on Wednesday afternoon, substitute anchor John King and news reader Zain Verjee discussed this report and cheered on lower gas prices as good news. Cafferty then spouted off the old liberal conspiracy theory connecting Republicans and Big Oil: "You know, if you were a real cynic, you could also wonder if the oil companies might not be pulling the price of gas down to help the Republicans get re-elected in the midterm elections a couple of months away."

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sox Sweep

Okay, time to send out the first team:

Damon cf
Jeter ss
Abreu rf
Giambi 1b
A-Rod 3b
Posada c
Cano 2b
Matsui dh
Cabrera lf

These guys, every day, until this thing is clinched.

The game came down to Crisp repaying the Yanks for Melky's miracle catch against Man-Ram, leaping into Monument Park to bring Posada's homer back in to the park.

I'm sick of the inevitable. Don't care how, I want it now.

A-Rod at the bat

One run down, one out, Damon on first. A-Rod up.

Okay, let's see it.

An entire country says, "Double play grounder."

No, pop-up.

Beautiful words

I've always had an affection for the Aussies. Perhaps having Irish-Scots lineage brings me closer to the other step-children of the Empire. Perhaps it is that the Aussies have fought with us in every war of the 20th and 21st century--yes, even Vietnam. Perhaps it is, unlike the third-way Euros, they have a way of sounding as correct as a martini at sunset. Example:

AUSTRALIA'S Muslim leaders have been "read the riot act" over the need to denounce any links between Islam and terrorism. The Howard Government's multicultural spokesman, Andrew Robb, yesterday told an audience of 100 imams who address Australia's mosques that these were tough times requiring great personal resolve.

Mr Robb also called on them to shun a victim mentality that branded any criticism as discrimination.

"We live in a world of terrorism where evil acts are being regularly perpetrated in the name of your faith," Mr Robb said at the Sydney conference.

"And because it is your faith that is being invoked as justification for these evil acts, it is your problem.

"You can't wish it away, or ignore it, just because it has been caused by others.

"Instead, speak up and condemn terrorism, defend your role in the way of life that we all share here in Australia."

I'm in Hell

Specifically, I am watching the Yankees-Red Sox, an entertaining enough game, but Joe Morgan and Jon Miller began the tiresome should-a-pitcher-be-considered-for-the-MVP award four innings ago and they won't shut up about it.

Joe Morgan spent a half-inning slowly, painstakingly going over the MVP voting criteria, complete with an onscreen graphic--all of which led to his point, which I saw coming a half-hour before he made it: specifically, that since "number of games played" should be considered, pitchers should be disqualified. It's been about two weeks since someone reached for that chestnut--but no, Morgan gloated over it at length as if he'd just solved the Da Vinci Code.

You really needed to witness this. Anytime Miller broke away from their conversation to describe something actually taking place on the field, Morgan seemed irked that the game was interrupting his brilliance. Then we were treated to a graphic featuring the pitchers who won the MVP (we know, we know: Clemens, Eck, Willie Hernandez, Rollie Fingers, we know). Said list was divided between starters and relievers, which inevitably led to Morgan asking, "Well then, why hasn't Rivera won it?," which Morgan seemed to think helped prove his point, when in fact the opposite was true.

Then we heard about the playoffs--which, as any 10-year-old knows, have nothing to do with the regular-season MVP--and Morgan's ramble about how, say, Albert Pujols can affect all five games of a five-game series, whereas a number one starter like Chris Carpenter can only play in one game. He was kidding, right? There is not a baseball fan in this universe who doesn't know that, in a standard five-game series, a number-one starter is always available for games one and five. This is one of the reasons a team with a hot starter has such a huge advantage in a short series.

Jon Miller is better than this. Whether he is too intimidated by Morgan's stature in the game or too concerned about being a good guy is a mystery to me.

Leaving aside that the should-a-pitcher-win argument is one of the most excruciatingly dull topics in all of sports (right up there with why the foul pole should be called the "fair pole," which at least has the virtue of brevity), Miller and Morgan neglect saying straight-out what seems to be the only germane point: namely, that there is no pitcher--none--in serious contention for the MVP. Anyone who thinks Johann Santana will finish in the top five is dreaming.

Update: Now I'm starting to wonder about Miller. He mentions that Jeter's best offensive year was 1999, and that, "I don't know that Jeter was even in the discussion for the MVP that year." Well, he finished sixth. Miller says, "And you know who won it that year? Alex--er, Pudge--Rodriguez." An understandable slip, everyone does it, but then Miller doesn't make the point that might have made the last two hours of my life worthwhile in retrospect: namely, that second-place in the MVP race that year went to pitcher Pedro Martinez, whose margin of defeat to Pudge was supplied by two sportswriters who loudly proclaimed that no way would they ever vote for a pitcher.

I mean, I know this for free. These guys are paid to know it, in theory at least.

(Note: this post is dedicated to SunDevil Joe, who feels more strongly than me along these lines.)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Boston 5, Yankees 2; Yankees 7, Boston 5

The only important stuff is:

1) Neither Wang nor Unit pick up a win;

2) Jeter's hit streak extends to 25;

3) Magic number drops to four.

Unit is on course to have, seriously, the worst 20-win season in baseball history.

USC 28, Nebraska 10

Not the statement I was hoping for. But a solid win nonetheless.

Booty: 3 TD passes, zero INTs. And no chance to win the Heisman. No way they give it to three Trojans in a row.

Too bad, if true

From the Corner:

'The Black Dahlia' Is Extremely Bad [John Podhoretz]

To describe The Black Dahlia as one of the worst movies ever made is an insult to many of the worst movies ever made. And it has what may be the single most ridiculous climax I've ever seen. It's almost worth seeing so you can stare open-mouthed at the screen in abject disbelief as the movie proposes its risible solution to the real-life unsolved murder that obsessed Los Angeles 60 years ago. Notice I said "almost." It's not worth seeing. Under any circumstances. Ever.

I was looking forward to The Black Dahlia more than any movie I can remember. My fathere introduced me to old-timey Los Angeles films (Chinatown, True Confessions) and I carried that love forward to the adaptation of James Ellroy's L.A. Confidential, one of my dozen or so favorite movies ever. I read--and loved--Black Dahlia in the form of Ellroy's novel, and looked forward to Brian De Palma's adaptation. Was a little concerned about the cast (Jason Hartnett as a lead detective?), but otherwise could not wait.

I'd love to discount Podorhretz's reaction, except 1) J-Pod usually knows his onions, and 2) Too many others already agree with him.

So it's off to Hollywoodland.

Friday, September 15, 2006

From Here to Tehran

I'm re-reading a book I first read in junior high, From Here to Eternity. I came to the franchise at right angles: first the mini-series starring William Devane as The Warden, Peter Boyle as Fatso, Joe Pantolino as Maggio, and Kim Basinger as the whore with the heart of gold; then the novel; then finally, in my thirties, what everyone remembers best, the movie, with Burt Lancaster as The Warden, McHale's Navy guy as Fatso, Frank Sinatra as Maggio, Mongomery Clift as Prewitt, and Deborah Kerr as the Lieutenant's wife.

What everyone remembers about the movie is the sight of Lancaster and Kerr on the beach (this, reduced from a ten-day vacation they take together in the novel), but what I come away with, what I keep coming back to, is the absolute certainty of the dogfaces as Schofield barracks, in the summer and fall of 1941, that war was coming soon for the Americans, in Europe and the Pacific both. This, despite an enormous pressure from isolationists and the belief (held by millions) that two large oceans to the east and west, and two placid neighbors to the north and south, would be ample security. I am guessing that the soldiers' DNA, as recounted by Jones, was sufficient to propel them to such insight. And I wonder if they possess this insight today.

And I wonder if we're going to fight Iran.

And I think we are.

Charles Krauthammer analyzes the stakes here.

Simmons won't let it go (Good!)

Bill Simmonss, The Sports Guy, on's Page 2 with his weekend NFL picks.

Part of his schtick is his amazement that the Texans passed on Reggie.

He's amazed. I'm amazed. But he's amazed:

PACKERS (-2) over Saints
We're about three weeks away from the first "Mike McCarthy is the white Art Shell" joke. But here's the thing about Reggie Bush, as well as the No. 3 reason Houston should have drafted him behind No. 1 ("Every Texan fan wanted to root for him") and No. 2 (he's infinitely more marketable than Mario Williams): he didn't even have a big game on Sunday, but you noticed him every time he was on the field, and it certainly seemed like the Browns were worried about him no matter where he was lined up. Well, how many skill players force opponents to (A) specifically plan for them, and (B) panic every time they run onto the field? Other than LDT, can you think of a single guy? Lord was that Texans pick dumb. I can't get over it.

Sometimes it rains

Like tonight, in New York.

So the Sox and Yankees will play two doubleheaders: one Saturday, one Sunday.

The last time I was at Yankee Stadium it was for a Sunday doubleheader, Yanks vs. Red Sox. The Yankees swept that one, and the hi-light of the day was Donnie Baseball's two home runs in the second game. Donnie came out for a curtain call Mattingly-style: one foot on the top step, one arm extended with his helmet shoulder-high, as if paying the toll on the Queensborough Bridge.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Yankees 7, D-Rays 4

Never put your faith in the Orioles, let's say.

I was hoping for a Baltimore win and a Magic Number of 5--which, come to think, wouldn't do.

Godzilla hits a home run.

They could do it this weekend.

Gas prices plummet--it's Bush's fault!

From the Seattle Times:

WASHINGTON — The recent sharp drop in the global price of crude oil could mark the start of a massive sell-off that returns gasoline prices to lows not seen since the late 1990s — perhaps as low as $1.15 a gallon.

"All the hurricane flags are flying" in oil markets, said Philip Verleger, a noted energy consultant who was a lone voice several years ago in warning that oil prices would soar. Now, he says, they appear to be poised for a dramatic plunge.

Crude-oil prices have fallen about $14, or roughly 17 percent, from their July 14 peak of $78.40. After falling seven straight days, they rose slightly Wednesday in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, to $63.97, partly in reaction to a government report showing fuel inventories a bit lower than expected. But the overall price drop is expected to continue, and prices could fall much more in the weeks and months ahead.

Drove past a Valero station in what, admittedly, is not the best area of town (it's near where I work, say no more).

Two-sixteen a gallon.

So surely the leftist media will be praising Bush for . . .

Never mind.

Wait. Obviously Bush, the former governor of Texaco . . .

Never mind.

Here's the deal. Falling gas prices may save Bush and the GOP the House. And if you don't think the Dems are going nuts over this, you're nuts.

Well, fair is fair. The Dems rode three-dollar gas like an outlaw on his horse.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Yankees 8, D-Rays 4

The game reminds me of the 1978 Mayor's Trophy Game, an exhibition between the Yankees and Mets, a game lost by the Mets, a terrible team that had, the year before, traded the greatest player in its history (Tom Seaver) for five sacks of garbage (including crooked-legged Bobby Valentine). The Yanks won, meaninglessly, after Graig Nettles attempted to lose on purpose by throwing a ground ball into the stands. What came out of the game was not the tanking, nor Brian Doyle's heroics in the Yankee win, but Nettles' summing up of the evening: "We might have played well. But the Mets are so bad you never can tell."

Now, of course, the Yankees play the Mets six times a season, for real stakes, and the Mets, having long ago discovered skill (and looking more and more like a potential World Series opponent), are to be properly respected. The memory of Nettles' quote stays, and is now properly applied to the Diamond Backs, who, having lost their best player (Aubrey Huff), now field a glorified AAAA team with a lot of promise and little else.

The Yankee hitting, I can now see, will be the key to its post-season success--that, and Mo. The starting rotation ranges from tolerably competent to superb; the bullpen should get its rest. Gotta keep hitting.

Tucker given the gate

So a television news journalist I admire was bounced from "Dancing With the Stars."

Had to watch, just to see him.

The worst kind of luck: the very night (last night) that Dork Nation might have come to his aid by voting for him, they were all busy following the Rhode Island primary.

In Alabama they say, "Thank God for Mississippi."

Jerry Springer says, "Thank God for Tucker."

Now, back to the pennant race.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Two birds, one stone

I've now been a fan of New Republic publisher Martin Peretz. His unconscienable derricking of managing editor Michael Kelly (too many anti-Gore pieces) prompted me to cancel the NR subscription I had carried since early graduate school--a journal I could disagree with half the time, but one that could still make me think.

It's worthwhile to note, however, that Peretz's new blog, The Spine, deals definitively with two issues of the day that I've followed, but--in the pressure of sixteen-hour days--I've not taken the time to note. As with all blogs, the art is in the scrolling. Up top is his meticulous, point-by-point defense of "The Path to 9/11." Further down is his take on Plamegate, which just about sums the matter up:

No one is interested in the case of the "outed spook" and her "outer" any longer. And that is because we now know who exposed the lady to Robert Novak, and he isn't and never was part of the Cheney White House. He was part of the anti-Cheney State Department, liberal heroes, sort of. That man is Richard Armitage, latterly deputy secretary of state and multi-lateralist par excellence. He has now expressed his soulful contrition for the leak. One thing everybody in Washington knows about Armitage is that he doesn't take another kind of a leak without asking Colin Powell first. So there is now added to this weird case the question of what were Armitage's--and Powell's--motives in this exposure. And they should also be asking about Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Powell's chief of staff at State, and his possible role in this affair. None of these men were especially taken with the Bush administration's war in Iraq. So they are, so to speak, off the hook with the anti-war folk with regard to the leak. The fact is that neither Armitage nor his associates ever told the president who was responsible for the leak. If I were George W. Bush, I'd be ripshit. And, since Armitage two weeks ago unambiguously admitted to being the culprit, should he not now face charges? Now, there is one person who has been indicted--not for violating the Intelligence Identification Protection Act, the law which Armitage has actually confessed to breaking--but for obstructing Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation. (Read Jeffrey Rosen's TNR article "Overcharged," November 14, 2005, here.) The indicted man is Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and he has become MoveOn's designated scapegoat for the entire war. Folk who wouldn't have thought Alger Hiss or the Rosenbergs or Philip Agee guilty of treason have been calling him a traitor. This is laughable.

Let me concede: I am a friend of Scooter Libby. But I do not like his boss. And I do not like his boss's wife. I know this gets me no credit with the all-or-nothing crowd. Still, I like Scooter, who is quite brilliant, very honest, and brave. Also funny. I've contributed to The Libby Legal Defense Fund and have joined the fund's advisory committee, which is not large because in Washington old pals dessert when even their college roommate gets into trouble. In a time when self-styled civil libertarians are giving money to defend Muslim terrorists, I am happy to help defend an American patriot, some of whose politics I do not share and some of whose politics I do, from a cynical onslaught of the special prosecutor who put journalists into jail for not telling him what he already knew.

Just about precisely. The minute the collective Washington press realized that the trail went cold at Richard Armitage, it became bored and simply wanted the story to go away. Chris Mathews, who had turned many of his own shows into Rovewatches (anyone remember? Frogmarching? Handcuffs?), simply declared the whole matter "too complicated" and simply dropped the matter.

Collosal waste, all around.

Yankees 12, D-Rays 4

Guys, this is getting ridiculous.

Six RBI for Abreu in the first inning.

Matsui comes back from--what?--four months off and goes four for four.

Magic number goes to nine.

I marked September 24th as the drop-death clinch mark. It might come sooner.

But the 24th will do.

Tucker Carlson Dances!

Was listening (I think for the fourth time) to Tucker Carlson's book on tape when I remembered that he'd be on "Dancing With the Stars" tonight.

So I tuned in.

Bad as I had feared.

Plus, anyone who would vote for him is busy following the primaries tonight.

Well, he has all that Swanson frozen-food money to fall back on.

Plus, he seriously doesn't seem to give a crap.

I mean, for half his routine, he literally couldn't have outdanced FDR, circa 1928.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Yankees 9, Birds 6


Talk abut playing with house money.

This game was placed behind the DirecTV curtain, so I was left to make sense of it by way of the dots racing around the screen of my laptop.

The Yankees get one day closer to an early clinch--and, it is becoming clearer, a first-round confrontation with Minnesota.

Anything could happen. Detroit is a young team with problems of its own (Dmitri Young--what was that about, anyway?) and a veteran pitcher (Kenny Rogers) well-known for his October meltdowns. Far from running away with things, Detroit could finish out of the playoffs altogether. The White Sox seem to be a team more willing to beat you up on the field than on the scoreboard; not since the Bronx Zoo days of the 1970s have I seen a championship team, or a champion manager, more eager to complicate problems than resolve them. Ozzie Guillen's mixture of vanity and recklessness seem to guide him on the same path as Billy Martin and--maybe more to the point--Jimmy Johnson, the only coach ever fired immediately after winning a championship. Paradoxically for Ozzie, another playoff appearance and he may find himself out of a job.

The Angels are the Angels--the only team to defeat the Yankees twice in the post-season during the Joe Torre era. Has anyone ever noticed? The Yankees seem confident they can beat the A's the way they always beat the A's, the same way they used to always beat the Red Sox, right up until October 2004, up three games to none, ahead in the ninth, Rivera pitching . . . and Dave Roberts leading off first.

No, I'm betting the only team the Yankees seriously sweat between here and the Mets are those Twins, provided Liriano is healthy. Two top-flight starting pitchers can play hell with the best of teams in a short series--just ask the 1998 hundred-win Astros, all set to ride their 10-1 Unit straight to a presumptive World Series match-up with the Yankees, before running into the Padres' Kevin Brown and Sterling Hitchcock and bowing lamely, three games to one.

Now, Santana and Liriano. Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

More Reggie Bush

I'm sorry, I can't let this go.

Houston Texans: 70 yards rushing, a good portion of this was David Carr running for his life.

To recapitulate:

1964: Chicago Cubs trade Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio.

1980: Golden State Warriors essentially trade (when draft picks play out) Robert Parish and Kevin McHale for Joe Barry Carroll and Rickey Brown.

1984: Portland Trail Blazers draft Sam Bowie ahead of Michael Jordan.

In the aggregate, the record for the blunderers: 90 years, no championships, 2 final-round appearances (both Portland's).

The beneficiaries over the same time (respectively, St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls): 12 championships, 17 final-round or World Series appearances.

Historical blunders like bypassing Bush have a way of infecting a team's soul.

Yankees 9, Birds 4

Between the NFL, my fantasy entries, and the Astros' travails, this game fell--I confess--to about sixth on my priorities today.

Even so: the magic number drops to 11. It is possible (not likely, but possible) that the Yankees celebrate their divisonal title in front of the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium next Saturday or Sunday.

We are left with only a few questions. Does Jeter win the MVP? (I'd place his chances right now at forty percent.) Does Wang get the Cy Young? (Alas, no. Barring a flameout, Santana wins again.) And: who do the Yankees want to meet in the first round?

If current trends hold, that means the Wild Card, which means the Central Division runner-up. If Liriano is healthy, look out for Minnesota; starting pitching is everything is a five-game series, and Santana and Liriano are as potent a duo as exist in baseball. Second less-dangerous is Detroit, with its young pitching--and more to the point, elder statesman Kenny Rodgers--ready to go into October meltdown. Least dangerous, I think, is Chicago, which gives every indication of making the playoffs (thus ensuring a tolerably successful season) but doing nothing more (hey, they won it all last year--what's your problem?).

But for now. Ball. Eye. Clinch soon, rest the wounded, and be ready for October.

Reggie Bush: strong out of the gate; Mario Williams: don't ask

With 141 yards of total offense in the Saints' 19-14 victory over Cleveland.

Meanwhile, Mario (Drafted instead of Bush) Williams has two tackles and one assist in the Texans' 24-10 loss to the Eagles.

Williams looked lost out there at times, at least with the Eagles weren't turning him into a spectator.

Just beautiful. I drafted Bush for my fantasy team merely to get something out of his play.

Hello, same old freaking Texans.

Sunday afternoon

So much to keep track of:

The Houston Texans, with a new coach, a refurbished line, and--best of all--rookie sensation Reggie Bush (that's a joke, son) host the Philadelphia Eagles. Houston takes the kick-off. Quarterback David Carr takes the team smartly down the field for the opening touchdown . . . whereupon Philadelphia outscores Houston 21-3 and reduce defensive end Mario (He's not Reggie Bush) Williams to a spectator. Midway through the third quarter, Williams, with a single tackle to his name, actually is a spectator, having been removed for crucial passing downs. Wonderful.

The Houston Astros, with their second chance in three weeks to climb to .500, and thus move as close as two games in the Wild Card race, are in Milwaukee, facing a pitcher (Dave Bush) who is always inexplicably tough on them. Score, 3-0 Brwers, midway.

The New York Yankees lead, 7-0. Ho-hum. Magic number should be 11, maybe 10, by the end of the day.

The number one rule of your fantasy team is that no one gives a damn about your fantasy team. Almost as an act of spite, though, I drafted Bush, who has racked up 7 points for me so far: 50+ yards rushing, 20+ yards receiving.

The Eagles are about to score again.

Will ABC air 'The Path to 9/11'?

Yes, we're told, despite Bill Clinton's last-minute rush to block.

Is there a judge anywhere willing to issue a temporary restraining order?

And--it goes without saying, though it's been said, again and again--what if this were a Republican ex-President

Two other things:

1. I saw most of the Ohio State-Texas game last night on ABC, and didn't see a single ad for "Path to 9/11." I have repeatedly checked ABC's website, and "Path" is still listed to air as scheduled. This would seem to indicate a middle road: ABC will probably air the show, but not push it. It will air and be forgotten two weeks from now.

2. The fulminations on HuffPost have been something to watch. At last count, nine bloggers at one time were featured on the front page--including Rob Reiner's, which interestingly enough did not allow for comments. For most of them, I posted the same thing: Farenheit, "Path," jump ball. My comment prompted this response:

The difference between progressives and neandrathals such as yourself is that we don't make stuff up to prove an ideological point or go to war. We base our opinions on real facts. That's right 'facts' like scientific 'facts.' I know, I know, you don't believe Darwin either. So go back to your trailer park, slap your wife around a little, pick up your guitar and play those Texas country tunes and contemplate all those WMDs that are in Iraq.

Update: Just finished watching the round-table on "This Week"--on ABC, of course. George Will said the two things I've been thinking all week: that first, docu-dramas are a suspect entity in the first place, but--but--Democrats who fawned all over Farenheit 9/11 sure have some nerve.

Katrina Vanden Heuvel went off into Neverland and discussed what movie should have been made, something that would include a film loop of Dick Cheney outlining the connections between Al Qaeda and Saddam. (I'd watch.) When George Will invited her to comment on Farenheit 9/11 she snorted, "Farenheit 9/11 was understood for what it was." Will then asked her, "What was it?" three times; Katrina ignored his question until Fareed Zakaria jumped in, and called it a "pounti-of-view polemic that I denounced, by the way."

To this, one could say, Oh. So this is the latest line of defense: Sure, Farenheit 9/11 is a pack of lies, but since everyone knew it was a pack of lies, that makes it okay. That would come as a surprise to people I spoke to two summers ago, including the woman at a teaching workshop in Olympia, Washington, the week it opened, who predicted that the Bush family would have the movie pulled, especially in my home town. When I returned to Houston and e-mailed her that the movie was not only playing, but playing five miles from the elder Bush' house, she responded, "How can he live with the shame?"

The lesson here is a corollary of the old, "Poetry changes nothing." Harriet Beecher Stowe aside, neither literature nor movies nor TV shows change much of anything. More often these enterprises are a case of preaching to the choir.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

My other favorite team, part 7

Unbelievably, with three weeks to go, the Astros find themselves in two pennant races: a real one for the Wild Card, and a fanicful one for the division.

One does not know what to do with the Astros, one of the most exasperating teams of recent years. The team is an uneasy mix of veterans winding down (Clemens, Ausmus, Biggio, maybe even Pettitte), youngsters finding their way (Taveras, Burke, Scott, Bruntlett, Hirsch), and those in between, the ones who leave us all to wonder if they will ever amount to their promise (Ensberg, Lane, Lidge, Qualls, Backe). Remove all these gentlemen, and who remains?

Wheeler, a solid set-up man.

Oswalt, a perennial All-Star and 20-win threat, locked up long-term.

And Berkman, who trails only Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols for the title of best everyday player in the National League.

This will be some batting order in two years.

Anyway, tomorrow the 'Stros go out to reach .500 for the first time in months. The team that can't score, that can't hold a lead, that can't supply anything but solid starting pitching and above-average fielding is three games out.

Three weeks to go.

Yankees 3, Orioles 2

This win, coupled with Boston's 14-inning loss to Kansas City, may be it. I actually saw more of the Boston game than the Yankees (flipping back and forth between the Red Sox and Ohio State-Texas), and Boston's game could not have gone worse (or, if you root for the Yankees, better). A waste of a tolerably competent start by Josh Beckett, a burn straight through the bullpen, a cheapo Royal home run that wrapped around Pesky's Pole--all right, I'll say it. It's over.

As for the Yankees: we are seeing the fruits of the first solid group of Yankee prospects-turned-stars since the Bernie-Jeter-Pettitte-Rivera-Posada crowd in the early nineties. Wang is not only part of the bunch that contains Melky and Cano, he may be at the head of it. One must conclude that Joe Torre has already figured Wang's work through the rest of the season, to coincide with game one of the Divisional Series, against (if current trends hold) either the eminently beatable White Sox or the harder-to-beat (if Liriano is healthy) Twins.

One wonders about the injuries. When the Yankees zoomed out to a double-digit lead early in 1998, they began disabling players who didn't need it (Tino Martinez comes to mind) just to keep them rested and relaxed for the playoffs. Can we wonder if this is the case for Rivera, for Giambi, for Moose? If the three of them are healthy, if the Unit pitches as he's been pitching, it appears a not-insurmountable much stands between these Yankees and a World Series showdown with the Mets.

Will ABC pull "Path to 9/11"?

It's just past halftime in the Ohio State-Texas game (17-7 Buckeyes) and I'm struck by this thought: Not one ad for "The Path to 9/11," which supposedly airs tomorrow and which presumably might have some attraction for the college football-watching crowd.

I'm tired of watching Jerry Springer dance (I imagine he'll be the second to go, after Tucker Carlson). The pretty-cool commercial of various people humming in anticipation of "Monday Night Football" is here. But no "Path" commercials, so far as I've seen.

Is this a precursor?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Birds 9, Yanks 4

Yankees hold serve, and reduce magic number to 14.

Turning and turning

"The Path to 9/11" is rising to, if not the intensity of Memogate, something of a junior-league variety.

Dean Barnett, the sainted Soxblog, now guest-blogging on Hewitt, has the latest.

I find the whole thing hysterical. As Barnett maintains, had Clinton and Berger and the rest kept their mouths shut, the film would have come and gone. Lord knows I wouldn't have watched it--the Vikings play Sunday night and I have fantasy implications. Now I'll at least DVR it.

There can't be enough lies to suit me.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The ABC kerfuffle

Democrats urge ABC to withdraw 0/11 movie.

The whole time I've been following this controversy, I have thought of the conversations I had with my liberal friends all through the summer of 2004. I had gone to Farenheit 9/11 (bought a ticket to another movie, mind you--Moore wasn't getting one penny of my money), and afterward, when I would bring up one of David Kopel's 57 irrefutable Moore falsehoods, my friends would merely smile and say, "So? Moore's our Rush Limbaugh. Big deal." When I asked what falsehood Limbaugh had ever perpetrated that was one-tenth as tententious as (to name one of dozens) Moore's Afghan pipeline canard, they'd say, "Well, Femi-Nazis," and then parrot Roger Ebert's idiotic statement, "The important thing in a documentary isn't truth, it's emotional impact," a position so morally obtuse as to defy response.
The current right-wing defense of the ABC movie misses the point.

So now? I want the ABC movie to be false. A hundred libelous distortions of the Clinton administration won't be enough for me. A thousand will barely sait me. A want long denunciations to be published in The Nation and Mother Jones, complete with links and footnotes and circles and arrows and stuff. And then I want to respond. "So? It's our Farenheit 9/11. Big deal.'"

To paraphrase George Will in another context: No, two wrongs don't make a right. But maybe an 18th or 27th wrong might wake a few people up.

So stop bombing Israel

"Gaza is a jail . . . We are all starving now."

Bibi plans for return to Israeli premiereship

At last.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Yankees 8, Royals 3

A two-thirds no-hitter for the Unit, which, coupled with the Red Sox' loss to the White Sox, lowers the magic number to 15.

Rule number one in life: No one cares about your fantasy team. (I got Peyton Manning.) But that's what occupied me tonight.

Royals 5, Yankees 0

No help for a rusty Moose.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Yankees 12, Royals 5

A confession: I mised the first, the important, portion of the top of the eighth, when the Yanks scored six runs and basically demoralized the Royals out of the game. Different circumstances, I could see the White Sox or (pre-catastrophe) Red Sox coming back, and maybe the Angels or Mets. Not the Royals, though.

Did anyone notice? A-Rod, on base twice in the eighth, and scored twice. Which only encourages people to write, "Nyanh, nyah, who cares, they won by seven runs." Which misses the point. They won by seven runs in no small part because of him.

We can write off Wang's outing as an unfortunate accumulation of bloops and bleeders. More important, the exhausted bunch (Proctor, Kyle, Mo) gets another day of rest.

Magic number is at 17. I'm hoping they clinch on September 24th at the latest, so to give their tired bullpen arms a chance.

This is the most single-minded Yankee team I remember since 1998, a team (like that team, maybe the best ever) that can beat you 16-14 or 2-1, either way.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Yankees 10, Twins 1

Clearly, Torre is pointing toward October. With the Yankees' lead now at nine games, with the Red Sox unfurling the white flag (aka the trade of David Wells), the question is now how many games Torre will leave open to sacrifice, and to resting the corps of the exhausted, roughly Kyle, Proctor, Mo, Georgie, Mussina, and probably the Unit. The Yankees are headed toward a first-rounf series against the Wild Card, as the Wild Card will almost certainly come from the Central, the guts-needing Twins or the youthful White Sox.

Magic Number: 18, coupled with the Red Sox' loss.

Post number 300

With thanks this time to the anonymous readers who have weighed in.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Trojans 50, Razorbacks 14

So much, early on, for rebuilding.

Some preliminary thoughts:

1. John David Booty went to school on learning the offense over the past two years.

2. Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith, probably the best receiving tandem in the country, are going to be huge.

3. These guys are fast.

4. The defense: opportunistic as usual.

5. Booty. I mean, wow.

Of course, you never know from one game. This might be an Arkansas team that ends up 4-7. But--running, passing, line play, turnovers considered--the evening could hardly have gone better.

Twins 6, Yankees 1

But the Red Sox lose, dropping the Magic number to (I believe) 20. And no one was hurt.

Lee Siegel gone

The New Republic, which was nearly sunk by the Stephen Glass fiasco, has discovered that Lee Siegel was commenting on his blog, to give the impression of readership.

John Podoretz at NRO's The Corner says Siegel was attempting "to give the impression that his blog had at least one reader."


No Mo?

Mo Rivera is out for at least a few days with forearm difficulties. I was about to type "this could not come at a worse time," but in fact the opposite is true. With the Yankees lead at 8, the Red Sox' two leaders (Varitek and Papi) both out, with the hitters hitting, with even A-Rod coming out of his near-catatonic slump, Mo's injury--if it had to happen--could not come at a better time.

Having written that, know this: there will be no World Series without a healthy Rivera. He is the franchise, and he has the record to prove it. When introduced its online survey, whereby people could vote for one of five players on each team as that team's franchise player, four nominees from the Yankees were a foregone conclusion: Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, baseball's Mount Rushmore. I've no problem with Yogi Berra as number five, but I would have picked Rivera, for no other reason than on the all-time varsity (eight position players, right-hander, left-hander, reliever), he is the only no-doubter besides Ruth in right field.

Get well, Mo.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Yankees 8, Twins 1

I get the feeling that Torre has the team turning for home. With enough rest for Proctor, Kyle, Mo.

Am I alone?