Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Yankees 10, Blue Jays 5

And . . . tied with Toronto for fourth, and behind every other American League team, save two.

So . . . subtract three division winners. And Toronto, even. And the two.

Leaves . . . seven teams to climb over.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Blue Jays 3, Yankees 2

Today: the marriage license.

Easy, or so we thought.

The Harris county website lists 1001 Preston, downtown Houston, as the location of the county clerk for such as what we wanted. So, this afternoon, it was into the car and into downtown, to the only portion of the metropolis, which extends into six counties, where parking is a serious hassle.

Zing--a parking meter a mere two hundred yards from 1001 Preston. Enough coins for 44 minutes.

Into 1001 Preston, a building I remember from my once-a-year trips to renew my car registration.

County Clerk, such as marriage licenses, three flights up.

Elevator, up to the fourth floor.

Big Sign: COUNTY CLERK RELOCATED TO THE SO-AND-SO BUILDING, MAY, 2006.

One year earlier.

And no change on the website. Or the building legend. Nothing but a woman sitting at a desk in an open front office, presumably for nothing but to serve as the first line of information for those who rely on the website and building legend.

"It's at the so-and-so building," she explains. "Down to the first floor, then go out that back of the building, then over to the blah-blah Street, then down to Caroline Street. The building looks like this."

In front of her on the counter, a laminated picture of the new building. Look over her shoulder, out the big picture window, see the exact same building, three blocks away.

"But nothing's changed on the website," I say.

Laughter. "You know," she says, "everyone says that."

So, out on the street. Unlike New York City's mid-town, Houston has no famous buildings to point out. Unlike San Diego, the weather is nothing to enjoy, except in October or the marvelous stretch between Valentine's Day and Easter. Late May, just sweat.

So, into the So-and-So building.

County Clerk, third floor.

Out the elevator, and arrow.

Information. Okay, information.

Astro-Girl: "How much money did we put in the meter?"

"Enough."

Ah-Hah! Below Information, a sign on the wall, and this list:

COPIES
Something
Deed something
Something
Marriage Licenses

So, end of the line.

Ten minutes, front of the line. The best line-related word: Next.

"Yes?" asks the woman, one of a dozen who seem, behind the counter, to be walking at the bottom of a filled swimming pool.

"Marriage license," I say.

She gives us the once-over. "So when were you married?"

"No," I say. "We need a marriage license."

"Well then you're in the wrong place," she drawls.

"But," I start, "It says . . ."

"Copies," she says. "Copies of marriage licenses that already exist. You need to go to the other end of the building, turn left past the elevators, then take a blah-blah turn and blah-blah-blah."

So, office number three. Behind us in line, after a few seconds, a pair of men.

"You know," I said to one of them, "the signage in this building is terrible."

He answered in a West-Indian dialect:

"What you be sayin'. I go to eighth floor they say fourth floor, fourth floor they say third floor."

Finally, after being ushered to a desk, presenting our driver's licenses, swearing that we had never been married before, were not married, and were neither delinquent in child support nor related by blood or adoption, 41 dollars later, the license was ours.

"There," the woman said. "That was easy."

Saturday. Three days to go.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Angels 3, Yankees 1

Actual conversation, on the way to the wedding photographer's.

Me: "So what street is this place on?"

She: "Either Chimney Rock or Fountainview."

Me: "Either? You mean you don't know?"

She: "Not exactly."

Me: "So how are we going to get there."

She: "Ummmm . . . by car?"

Friday, May 25, 2007

Angels 10, Yankees 6

So:

Astro-Girl and I are presently in the midst of the "what else can go wrong" marriage sweepstakes.

Our minister, who I've known for 15 years, met us on our college campus, a campus currently in the center of 20 acres or so of demolition: every building around us is being demolished, and God knows how many chemicals and poisons are being released into the air. Come to find, no one is taking it worse than the Reverend, who spent the balance of our last meeting excusing himself to blow his nose and/or hold his head in his hands.

"Oh, man," he said, then wiped his eyes. He bent over, face in hands. "Oh, maaaaaan." Sat up. "Okay, your vows. Oh, wait." Another tissue, another bugle blast that Prewitt in From Here to Eternity would have envied. "Okay, your vows."

It was then off to the florist, who had put off Astro-Girl four times before agreeing to meet near her store--and then arrived in some asphalt/warehouse sun-stricken hellhole that reminded me of the lot DeNiro used to photograph Pacino and the other cops in Heat. The DeNiro in Heat would have come in handy, actually, for breaking and entering, as the florist had locked herself out of her shop--something about her husband having one set of keys and she another, and how he was across town at a meeting, and she was here. I guessed some was truth, some fib--and some she probably didn't know. None of it was made easier by 1) the contract, flapping in the breeze, she kept urging Astro-Girl to sign, 2) the check she kept urging Astro-Girl to write, or 3) the florist's three children, who incessantly banged their fists against the inside windows of the florist's Four-Runner, demanding Chick Fil-A or somesuch.

The florist was nothing compared to the phone call Astro-Girl received from the Beauty Salon. Here was the story: the hair stylist Astro-Girl had used for years, the stylist whom she had lined up six weeks in advance to do herself, plus the matron of honor, plus the bridesmaids, all on the wedding day, had apparently endured an emotional fist-swinging break-up with his boyfriend, then had suffered a nervous breakdown and returned to Mexico. His mother and sister had cleaned out his apartment. He was gone.

So, while we wait for resolution . . . .

The Yankees and Astros allow 22 runs between them tonight.

Good night now.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Yankees 8, Red Sox 3

Really, the only satisfying part of this game was that Schill got roughed up.

There is no joy in Mudville, save that things did not get worse.

I mean, look at this team. Jeter, A-Rod, Posada are producing--really, playing their hearts out. Damon is at least trying. Matsui, who the hell knows. Menk is Menk: batting ninth and catching the damn thing when its hit or thrown to him, pretty much what came with his luggage.

Who the crap did we expect with Menk, the second coming of Chris Chambliss?

But then.

Cano, Abreu, Giambi: Good Lord, don't get me started.

I almost don't want to blame the bullpen--Torre has run them out so many times it hardly seems fair. Really, gang, we are down to two reliable starters: Wang and Pettitte and then forget it.

Well, and then the kids. I love DeSalvo. Anyone who thinks he's gonna win seven straight, circa Ron Guidry, '77? Hands?

As for the others.

I almost want to enroll in journalism school so I could get a job on the Kansas City Star, work my way up to baseball beat writer and into the Baseball Writers Association, all for the sole purpose of voting against Mike Mussina for the Hall of Fame when his name comes up in eight or so years.

I don't care if Mensa Mussina wins 300 games. I don't care that he provided my family one of the great thrills of our lives, Labor Day Weekend, 2001, on Sunday Night Baseball, retiring 26 red Sox in a row before Carl Everett singled to center to break up the perfect game--nine days, exactly, before the world went to hell.

What I'll remember is what happened six weeks later, when Mussina started Game One of the World Series against the Diamond Backs and was gone within two innings.

The sporting press rushed to his defense. The eight-day lay-off. The new ballpark. And I heard the same thing when he bombed in Japan, when he bombed after a rainout, when he bombed because the manager wanted to juggle the line-up.

Wah-wah.

ENOUGH. Ron Guidry thought enough of the pennant race in 1978 that, in late September, he voluntarily chopped a day off between starts, in part because the Yankee staff was in such tatters after so many injuries and late-season cliffhangers, and in part because Guidry could read a calendar, and knew that a three-day rest between starts would leave him perfectly suited to start a play-off game with the Red Sox . . . on, mind you, three days rest.

The play-off with Boston came to pass. And, on three days' rest (and with a little help from his buddy, the tortured Bucky Dent), Guidry pitched 7 2/3 innings for two runs and the win, in the greatest game ever played.

Mind you: this was no Lamarr Hoyt, one-shot deal. The following year, Guidry would go 18-8, this in part due to a 12-1 second half and an ERA championship, a good enough string to warrant a second Cy Young, except that 1) the Yankees finished in fourth place that year, and 2) Guidry had voluntarily sent himself to the bullpen in April, after closer Goose Gossage broke his thumb in a shower-room scuffle with back-up catcher Cliff Johnson. Guidry's sacrifice surely cost him a second twenty-win season.

(A digression here. I find myself writing about teams that, unlike the late 90's Yankees, never reached their full potential. The 1979 Yankees had solid starting pitching (supplemented by free agents Tommy John and Louis Tiant), a core infield of Chambliss, Randolph, Dent and Nettles; and, if anything, too many front-line outfielders: Reggie, Mickey, Roy White, Sweet Lou, and a bunch of kids. During the regular season, the outfielders were interchangeable. In the infield, Jim Spencer could fill in for Chambliss; Brian Doyle and Chicken Stanley could play shortstop or second. Nettles--who for my money belongs in the Hall, if Santo does--would be hard to replace, but the only truly indispensible Yankees were Guidry, Goose, and catcher Thurman Munson. Cliff Johnson's scuffle with Gossage had sealed his fate. Reggie Jackson, he of the pithy quote, said, "If you f*** with the G-Men (ie Guidry and Gossage) the big guy with the boats (ie the Boss) will seal your fate." Johnson was traded to Toronto. The Boss would have wished Siberia, but was told there was no club there recognized by the American League. And then Munson died in a plane crash.)

Look, I've seen interviews. I've seen players. I know the oh-crap-we're-facing-Guidry face. Guidry had his down years in his '77-'85 prime--1982 was a lost year, 1984 wasn't good for anyone--but he pitched enough in the others to be the bull who ended losing streaks, the stopper with the exploding slider.

They feared Gator.

Which is why Gator belongs in the Hall a thousand times before Mussina.

(

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Red Sox 7, Yankees 3

The game? Bah.

Now becomes an opportune moment to mention here what I've not mentioned before.

I'm getting married.

As it happens, in eleven days.

To Astro-Girl, of course.

Today Astro-Girl reminded me of her theory that, in her opinion, the NBA Lottery should work in the reverse system than it does. Never mind the teams, she said. What you should do is list all the teams in order--doesn't matter, alphabetical, record, reverse record. Then, a commission should be studied to pick the thirty best players.

Then, (can you sense her excitement?) the players' names should be put on ping-pong balls and drawn from the hopper, one at a time, for assignment. Atlanta, you get Yi. Boston, Noah.

And so on.

Okay. Some solace here.

As Bill Simmons has noted, has any team in sports had such buzzard's luck for the last two decades than the Boston Celtics? In the spring of 1986, coming off an incineration of the Houston Rockets (maybe the only 4-2 series ever properly described as a blow-out), the Celtics were primed for three more championships, maybe more. The frontcourt of Bird, McHale, and Chief was being called the best ever; Bill Walton had found the fountain of youth as Sixth Man of the Year (were there a Sixth Man of All Human History, he might have won that); Wedman and Sichting were there for off-the bench brio; DJ was the point guard/defensive god. Ainge knew what his role was: wait for the double team to kick in on the front court and drain three-pointers.

David Thirdkill could play defense.

Rick Carlisle was smart.

Greg Kite tried, at least.

And then there was Len Bias, the incoming rookie, who could do what none of the Celtics could do (play above the rim, with tomahawk slams if need be). Red Auerbach made it clear: as a forward, Bias would have to come off the bench at first, behind the power forward, McHale, and the godlike forward, Bird.

But nobody with that much talent stays on the bench for long. I envisioned Bias--no kidding--as a black John Havlicek, a swingman who could play forward or guard, who could score, rebound, pass, defend, whatever was needed.

Coach K once said there was one player in the history of the ACC who he'd put ahead of Len Bias.

Michael Jordan.

I believe him.

My parents remember Kennedy. John and Bobby both.

Not to diminish those awful days.

But I remember, for various reasons, four other events.

Belushi. The Challenger. 9/11 of course, the worst day in the history of the world.

And Bias.

I was home for the summer, home in the same living room where my mother had dug out the wine and toasted the Celtics' championship a few weeks earlier.

Bias had been drafted two days before. I was resting, getting ready for my evening's assignment as a night watchman at the Phoenix Civic Center. My senior year in college awaited--and so, I thought, did a string of Celtics's championships as Bird and McHale rounded out their brilliant careers and gave way to the new superstar.

My brother, Robby-Boy, called me; he was a lifeguard at a city pool and heard the information on a radio, and then called me.

"My God," he said. "You won't believe it. Len Bias died."

Yeah. Not that sports, in the end, mean much of anything, but that was the start. Walton's broken leg, Wedman's torn ankle, Sichting's catatonic (and career-ending) shooting slump, Magic's junior sky hook, the emergence of the Bad-Boy Pistons, Bird's bad back, Reggie Lewis's death, ML Carr, Rick Pitino, the Duncan lottery fiasco, the Vin Baker trade (this, courtesy of Bill Simmons) . . . . all of the preceding beat a path to tonight, where the two men who could have helped salvage this franchise were placed hopelessly out of reach.

Anyway, I'm getting married.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Yankees 6, Red Sox 2

Asa this is written, the Yankees lead the Sox 4-0, off homers by A-Road and Giambi and effective, if not great, pitching from Wang.

By the end of the week, the Yankees may have shrunk the Red Sox' lead to single digits and ripped off six wins in a row--though I doubt it. In the meantime . . .

I remember last October, beginning my day the way I begin all autumn Saturdays, with ESPN's "College GameDay." This was when ESPN reported the Joe Torre had been fired and then replaced by Lou Pinellia.

My first reaction was, "Hmmm . . . that kind of makes sense."

I never pretend to go on inside players' heads. But once Mike Mussina gave up the lead in game two of the ALDS to the Tigers, the Yankees eventual defeat in that series seemed so . . . inevitable. The dreariness of the Yankees' postseasons since the titanic World Series of 2001 has been one first-round defeat after another, interrupted for two years by the grand Yankee-Red Sox Passion PLay of 2003-2004.

For all their star power, for all their first-ballot Hall of Famers (and I counted four on last year's team: A-Rod, Jeter, Unit, Mo, with Moose getting in eventually), the Yankees, post-2004 meltdown, have seemed . . . . I don't know. Boring. Lethargic. With a certain Oh-no-here-we-go-again about them.

I wasn't the only one who noticed. Jeff Pearlman, writing in espn.com, echoes the thoughts I've had for over a year.

A portion:

When George Steinbrenner first hired Torre to replace Buck Showalter back in 1996, I was among the legions of people befuddled by the move. In his 14 years of guiding the Mets, Braves and Cardinals, Torre captured just one division title (with Atlanta in 1982) and never won 90 or more games. Surely there were more qualified candidates -- Gene Michael … Clyde King … Billy Martin's ghost … Alf … me.


Yet, in one of the great managerial achievements in Yankees history, Torre took a team of castaways (Mike Aldrete, Matt Howard, Charlie Hayes), youngsters (Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera) and big-name vets on the downside of their careers (Dwight Gooden, Cecil Fielder, Tim Raines) and molded the franchise's first world champion in 18 seasons.


Torre's touch was subtle, yet undeniable -- he knew when a button needed to be pressed, and when a player was best left alone. He allowed pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre to handle the arms, and hitting coach Chris Chambliss to deal with the intricacies of bat control. And he rarely overmanaged, opting for trust in his players over trust in his own brilliance.


Over the ensuing five years, Torre and the Yankees were an ideal match. The front office always managed to find the right piece -- be it Scott Brosius, Luis Sojo or Chili Davis -- to fit Torre's world. These were mostly mature, self-motivated men in their early-to-mid 30s who didn't need to be pumped up by their manager before a big game. Torre's greatest strength was not his handling of the bullpen or sticking with a steady lineup (in both areas he was only fair), but his innate ability to relate. Black players loved Torre, white players loved Torre, veterans loved Torre and rookies loved Torre. When the 32-year-old Jeter refers to his manager as "Mr. Torre," it is done not for effect, but out of respect.

Unfortunately for Torre, times have changed. With the departures of coaches like Stottlemyre, Willie Randolph and Don Zimmer, he is left with a cast of failed managers (Tony Pena, Larry Bowa) and future failed managers (Don Mattingly) as his assistants. Whereas once the Yankees built a team primarily through player development and small- and medium-scale trades, now it seems like the team (with rare exception) is built on other franchises' blocks. When you nurture and develop the Jeters and Riveras and Jorge Posadas of the world, those men will live and die for those pinstripes. On the other hand, when you shell out fat wads of cash for Alex Rodriguez and Carl Pavano and Jason Giambi, are you buying skill and passion, or just skill?


The solution, Pearlman continues, was to bring in some passion, some fire--someone who could make everyone care the way Jeter and Damon care. Pearlman's solution?

Bobby Valentine.

Hmmm.

I thought last October that if you change managers in order to light a fire under this team, the replacement had better 1) have the requisite personality, and 2) have the requisite resume. To me, the only person that had both qualities was Piniella. It is the case that Steinbrenner and Lou have always had a good relationship, that Lou desperately wants in the Hall of Fame, and that Pinella's CV (two rings as a player, an connection to the bad-ass Yankees of the seventies, another ring as a manager, numerous division titles, a 116-win season with Seattle) is sufficient to command respect.

But Bobby Valentine.

I suppose what colors my perspective was the one time I saw Valentine manage up close, in the 2000 World Series. What struck me was the Mets'insufferable laziness on the basepaths, which cost them at least Game One. There is also, with Valentine, a certain strain of weirdness (anyone remember his Uncle Louie moment, the fake mustache and glasses after being run)? The last unbalanced Yankee manager was Billy Martin, but his unbalance was alcohol (coach Stick Michael used to say the best time to talk to Billy was "between drinks four and seven"), and he had played with Dimaggio, was best friends with the Mick.

So I don't know what to think.

Tonight was vintage recent Yankee: Strong start by Wang, power by A-Rod and Giambi, good fielding, strong bullpen.

Need about 75 more of those.

So who would get them there?

Yankees 6, Mets 2

Ah, but what a dreary litle season this is shaping up to be.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Mets 10, Yankees 7

That ball off Damon's glove--that's the Yankees' season.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Mets 3, Yankees 2

Ahhh, someone else tell me what happened.

White Sox 4, Yankees 1

Put it on the board ... ah, screw it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

White Sox 5, Yankees 3; Yankees 8, White Sox 1

Which, on a day in which the Red Sox were rained out, changed not a thing.

It is time to find out how this season will go.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mariners 2, Yankees 1

On, of course, the same day the Red Sox score six in the ninth to win 6-5.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Friday, May 11, 2007

Mariners 3, Yankees 0

Ahhhhhh. How do you win without runs?

On a lighter note, Graduate School Pal, a few nights ago, conjured up memories of my overnights to Dallas:

It was "The Balcony Club." It was "The Whiskey Bar." It was 15-year-old Scotch and Macanudos, and refusal of free watermelon shots. It was Stevie Ray Vaughan never coming up on the Juke, but trying anyway. It was rain and sun and one year a friend who had recently smashed his face into gravel via bike ride. It was it was it was.


Oh yes, GSP. It was getting that softness in my chest when I drove through Ferris, Texas, a town that was not only the name of my cat but the signal that my drive had only twenty minutes to go. It was the sight of downtown as I drove north. It was the taste of the first Shiner of the day in somebody's second-story walk-up. It was regrets over the previous night halted by a shout of "Ooh, Bubba's!", the indication that the best breakfast place in East Texas was in sight.

The sight of someone lusting after Mike Mussina.

When you go to grad school, your thirties are your days.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Schneider and Ebert

Thing is, I do this mostly for myself.

My site-meter reads that I had 35 readers today, which means my readership hovers between one one-hundredth and one one-thousandth of the best at this beat: James Lileks, Mark Steyn, and Hugh Hewitt, whose site has only improved since he took on Dean Barnett, aka, the sainted Soxblog.

And I can't approach Brendan Loy, the Irish Trojan, who was nice enough to take me on his dedicated server and nicer still to link to me from time to time.

Oh: and I'm stuck on a computer that won't link on URLs, so: no links.

So: for right now it's me, Blue, Robbie-Boy, SunDevil Joe and about two dozen others in what I called, last October, the Smelly Lounge. Come on in if you like.

When I started, politics, USC football and the New York Yankees. And movies. But again, for myself. Whatever I'm thinking.

Lately, though, politics has depressed me no end. Sixty or so percent of people think we're moving in the wrong direction--this, in a time when the Dow Jones has essentially doubled in 4 1/2 years, where unemployment hovers around 4 percent (basically, a job for whoever will go out and look for one), where inflation (the bugaboo of my youth) is battened down, and where gas, yes, is ready to go above three dollars, right until after Labor Day, when it will go down below two dollars.

Zero terrorist deaths on American soil since 9/11, a pro-American elected in France, of all places, and bin Laden on the run, and what does our President have? A 33 percent approval rating.

And why?

One word.

Well, you know it.

Lately, I've been re-reading the second volume of William Manchester's biography of Churchill, the period of 1932 through 1940, when Churchill, almost alone in Great Britain, saw Hitler for what he was, and gave speech after speech after speech warning England, the United States, and the greater western world--all to the growing emnity of his colleagues, who eventually had him banned from appearing on the BBC--to the growing terror they would face. Well, I'm no Churchill. But I have a sense of the world we will live in--an emboldened Iran, a delerious Al Qaeda--should the United States stand down in Iraq.

We're there. And it stinks. But leaving is tantamount to surrender, a surrender far worse than in Vietnam.

The genius Steyn has it right. In New York and Boston, Iraq is about Iraq. In Damascus and Tehran, Iraq is about us. Our country. Our will.

Oh, as far as linking, an article from Roger Ebert that I wanted to recount in full:

A beautiful bouquet of flowers was delivered to the house the other day. A handwritten note paid compliments to my work and wished me a speedy recovery.

Who was it from? A friend? A colleague? An old classmate? The card was signed, “Your Least Favorite Movie Star, Rob Schneider.”

Saints preserve us.

It will help to establish a context if I mention that my review of Schneider’s latest film, “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo,” contained three words which provided me with the title of my new book: “Your Movie Sucks.”

I regard the flowers and intuit they were not sent in the spirit of irony. Despite my review, Rob Schneider was moved to make a kind and generous gesture, one person to another.

The bouquet didn’t change my opinion of his movie, but I don’t think he intended that. It was a way of stepping back. It was a reminder that in the great scheme of things, a review doesn’t mean very much.

Sometimes when I write a negative review, people will say, “I’ll bet you can’t wait to hammer his next film.” Not true. I would far rather praise the next film to show that I maintained an open mind.

When Vincent Gallo’s “The Brown Bunny” played at Cannes in 2003, I walked out of the screening and declared it “the worst movie in the history of the film festival.” This was an unwise thing to do. My policy for years has been to avoid giving a negative review of a festival film until it has a chance to open.

Gallo issued a curse on my colon. I responded that the video of my colonoscopy was more entertaining than his film, and there the matter rested until 2004, when Gallo released a “final cut” of “The Brown Bunny” which was re-edited and 30 minutes shorter. I went to see it, and now I could see better what he was getting at, and I gave it a positive review.

“Ill bet you hated to change your mind,” I was told. No, I was happy to. It is a hard and frustrating thing to make a movie, and credit must be given where due.

Now we come back to the flowers. They were a reminder, if I needed one, that although Rob Schneider might (in my opinion) have made a bad movie, he is not a bad man, and no doubt tried to make a wonderful movie, and hopes to again. I hope so, too.

Thanks, Rob.


I mean, I have loved Roger Ebert for thirty years, despite how his politics have influenced him to give rave reviews to imbecilic movies, including JFK and The Contender.

And Schneider is a funny guy, thought poorly served by his handlers.

I read that post, and I'm in tears.

Yankees 6, Rangers 2

One of those games that correspond to life going well, when the roofing is in good shape and the investments are solid.

Moose, Jeter, Mo.

Life the way it should be.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Substitute Teacher in the Box

Funny thing: I love proctoring exams. The quiet, the escape. I save books I've been dying to read, and take them out during finals week. My students file in, I distribute exams, then sit back for two to three hours of solitude and quiet.

Sometimes I play Professor. This is when I get up, walk up and down the rows, desk to desk, thumb and forefinger tucked beneath my chin. Hmmmm.

(Which does raise a point.)

Occasionally I walk to the little rectangular glass window cut, by law, into every college classroom door constructed after 1966. Peer up and down the hallway.

All 'scopes green, Cap'n.

(One thing, though. Something always bothered me about Animal House, a movie I held in higher regard than the ultimate great-guy movie Caddyshack, except for one segment that threw me. Okay. Bluto and D-Day steal the fake Psych mid-term; Kevin Bacon has picked up the real exam and dropped a fake exam in the trash. Now they're taking the Psych midterm as the Professor walks about them. Wouldn't occur, at least to Bluto and D-Day, that the exam they stole was (here Boone chimes in) the wrong f***** exam? Bluto and D-Day are alcoholics, sure, but dumb? Not so much.)

Okay, back to reality.

So, when, last week, Astro-Girl told me that family business would interfere with her Psych finals, my reaction was two-fold: Me! and Me!

A good day. Yes, and 8-2, Yanks over Rangers didn't hurt.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Mariners 3, Yanks 2

Didn't see it (Astro-Girl treated me to an elegant evening at Olive Garden), but I understand the call was brutal.

Still--Mo, you're killing me.

For those enjoying as much as I am the running commentary between Blue and Robbie-Boy (see below), a bit more. First, has anyone noticed that, Igawa aside, the starting pitching has actually been the Yankees' greatest strength for over a week? (Blink of an eye, I know. But right now you take what you can get.) Pettitte, Moose, and Wang: all back and effective, Wang more than so. Rasner, DeSalvo: solid the first time through. Add the presumptive return from Clemens (and take it from someone who saw him up close for three seasons--his AL return will fall somewhere between his last two seasons for the Astros and his final season with the Yankees--say, 10-5, 3.15, with one DL stint because of his groin), and the rotation glistens with possibilities. Rasner and DeSalvo have earned a second look, the older guys have rounded into form, and when Hughes comes back (right around Clemens's first start) he'll still have not allowed a baserunner.

So Torre and Gator's mission: find five healthy, serviceable starters out of a possible eight. Not counting Igawa.

The offense has been a bother, and with a terrible sense of timing--the thing is, when you score 11 runs, the idea is to do so when the opposition scores no more than 10. But this is a team that will score runs--maybe 900, maybe more.

Then . . . the bullpen.

What was said lst year is still true: it is bad to be a reliever Torre hates, but fatal to be a reliever Torre loves. Proctor, Bruney, Vizcaino, will all have their arms in slings by July unless that situation gets sorted out.

A stable rotation will help.

I'm still not worried about the Hammer of God.

Yet.

Home runs happen.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

While I was Out

First, the formalities.

Yankees 8, Mariners 1
Yankees 5, Mariners 0

Now . . .

As to the other event of this Sunday.

(Understand, Astro-Girl sits ten feet away, cursing at the TV as I type. Astro-Girl, so named because of her status as the world's biggest Astros fan, has her own feelings on the Clemens signing. I join her mid-screed:

"He came here and said he wanted to come home. How touching. Well, f*** you, buddy. Hope the Red Sox kick your ass. He promised to come here and help us to the World Series and all that bull****, well he could have damn well stayed here and help us now. All this, 'It's not about the money,' Well, f*** you, buddy. All this, 'This really isn't about money. I picked the Yankees because they have the best chance to win.' Well, f*** you, pal. Go ahead and trash your old teammates. What, they Astros don't know how to win? And you can f****** put that on your blog. Sh****** on your old teammates that way. F*** you, asshole. Go have sex with Pettitte for all I care."

My fiance, ladies and gentlemen.

Anyway, back to the post.)

So anyway . . . Wang picks the Saturday night sports collision to announce his return, taking a perfect game into the eighth. Dealing as I did with the Rockets' first-round fade-out (as expected) and Mayweather's victory over De la Hoya (same), I missed Wang's return to the front rank.

Let us take in the events of the past week. Last Tuesday, Philip Hughes's cranky hamstring was seen as the death knell of the Yankee rotation. Now, as of June first, with the top four spots set (Wang, Moose, Pettitte, Rocket), with Rasner pitching as well as he did (against the Mariners, mind), and with Igawa due for another few chances this month, Hughes may go straight from the DL to Triple-A.

Yes . . . Moose, Pettitte and Rocket may not last the season. And the Red Sox are scary good.

But what a difference a few days make.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Seattle 15, Yankees 11

Thing is: these are the games they used to win.

Went north nine years ago, in May, 1998, for the Yankees' annual trip to Arlington. The plan, which I adhered to for years, was to drive from Houston to Dallas, hook up with a grad school buddy, drive to the ballpark (known, then, as The Ballpark), watch the game, then finish off the evening in a bar near Greenville Avenue, one whose name and address was a mystery to me, plus everything else, except that it was on a second floor and accessible by way of a stairway that ran up the exterior of the building.

A guy played a piano. Give him a couple of bucks, he'd play "Strangers in the Night."

Sleep over, then drive back to Houston. Four hours.

First time I did it, as I say, 1998. David Wells started for the Yanks, who raced out to a 9-2 lead early.

Game over, right? Think again. These were the Rangers of Pudge and Juando, the team of football scores awaiting almost every inning. David Wells (who would pitch a perfect game two weeks later, who would win 18 games against 4 losses and be the MVP of the ALCS) coughed up the majority lead in about twenty seconds. Just like that, 9-8.

Oh, crap.

The Yankees scored five more runs, to make it 14-9, and the feeling was, Well, that's that.

Bang. A few Ranger hits (Wells was long gone by now) followed by a Juan Run. Tie game.

14-14, and, Oh, did the Ranger fans let me hear it, with my Yankee gear and so on.

Top eight, Yankee base hit. Runner on second. Jeter, base hit. 15-14.

Now, Rivera.

This was Rivera before Rivera was Rivera. The Yanks had let 1996 World Series MVP John Wetteland get away in '97, and had endured a year's worth of misery because of it. In 1997, Mo had blown three saves in April, then blown the Divisional Series by surrenduring a homer to Sandy Alomar, and how stupid were the Yankees for letting John Wetteland go?

Well, now it was 1998. Now Rivera would begin compiling his Hall-of-Fame resume as the best closer of all time. I watched him as he glided in across the outfield, watched his impassive face as he threw his warm-up pitches.

Two innings. Six up, six down.

From that point on, right up until that terrible ninth inning in the desert four years later, the expression on Rivera's face meant Enough Already.

Didn't hurt that Bernie hit a homer, made it 16-14. Your final score.

But, as before: They used to win these games.

Yankees 4, Rangers 3; Yankees 5, Rangers 2

Good stuff from Pettitte and Moose.

Otherwise, in the context of the whole season, a little like winning three hundred at Blackjack the night after dropping a couple thousand.

Normally, three hundred equals ecstacy. Now?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Hamstring

The word came this morning.

Philip Hughes.

Hamstring. Four to six weeks.

Well, just wonderful.

One month ago, Hughes was a treasure shielded from the rigors of major league pitching, cossetted by Brian Cashman until--probably--2008.

Six days ago, the consensus was, "Well, let's hope the kid can help us."

Today--with Moose growing old, Igawa unsteady, three or four injuries to the rotation, with the team not hitting and the bullpen (which two weeks ago looked to be a major upgrade over '06)looking unlikely to last into June--the instant, universal reaction was, Crap, what will we do without Hughes?

Well, it was some kind six-and-one-thirds innings--really, aside from A-Rod's heroics, the only bright spot of this whole dreary month.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Yankees 10. Rangers 1

You start with the kid.

Phil Hughes.

In my lifetime, who have I seen, coming up from the Yankee minors, with this much promise?

Gator.

Rags.

Drabek, maybe.

Leiter.

Taylor, and never mind that punk.

Mo.

Pettitte.

And then, and then, and gentlemen, and then . . .

Ah, not so much.

Lilly? No. Ridiculously overpaid.

I thought it was nice in the first few innings, how Hughes worked around a few walks for a couple of double plays.

And then.

And then, and then, and gentlemen, and then . . .

Jeeeeeeeesus. Anybody get a load of this kid's stuff?

I had thought Bert Blyleven's slow curve was the best I'd ever seen.

And then.

And then Hughes threw a ball that started at a batter's teeth and dropped over his shoes.

A pitch you can't hit--thrown for a strike, no less.

Holy crap.

The kid's got speed, control, location. Movement. He throws high fastballs no one catches up to, curves he can spot, changeups that make the hit-happy Rangers look like fools.

So, of course, given this season, he leaves in the seventh. No-hitter going.

Hamstring.

All things Yankee. Circa 2007.

But, uh, the kid stays in the picture.

The smell of the grass, or whatever

So we return to the sheer joy of the game.

Out of, you know, desperation.

I always think of my favorite baseball summers. In descending order: 1996, 1978, 1998.

The first: Return to Glory.

The second: Greatest Comeback Ever. (This would get the winner's purse, except that sports information was rather ancient in those days. Any Phoenix sports fan over 40 remembers the Republic Sports Line, which was basically an answering machine featuring one guy (I always imagined him as having a beard plus hair to his shoulders) reading the scores in a bored monotone that suggested a coroner's emotional attachment to the deceased. Those a little older may remember the ESPN sports phone number, chanted in commercial after commercial: 900-976-1313! I called fourteen times one month, and caught it from my father over the seven bucks I had wasted, never mind I had to call because the freaking Bud Light commercial ("Bring out your best!") drowned out the freaking scores. Newspapers were worse. In those days, the Republic wouldn't even try to have the scores from the West Coast, a whole one hour behind where we were; when the Yankees played Seattle or Oakland, we got the results two days later, like we were at the freaking South Pole.)

So: greatest comeback ever. But viewed from afar.

The third: Greatest Team of All Time. Too close to '96 to be earth-shattering. But something.

You know whom I have a soft spot for?

1988 Yankees.

Not much love, to be sure. A check of the records indicates they finished . . . oh, I can't remember. Second, third, fourth. They had the hitting (Mattingly, Winfield, Henderson, Clark, Pags, Sluggo), but their starting pitching was bad (John Candelaria started well but was hurt, likewise Al Leiter, likewise Richard Dotson; Ron Guidry was at the end of the line, likewise Tommy John; Rick Rhoden went .500, does that count?) and the bullpen was worse (Rags was ready to move on, some other relievers did what they could).

So: the reason for my soft spot?

Well.

1988 was the first time I enjoyed baseball on a daily basis. Ah, I thought. This was how the game is meant to be watched, and listened to: as John Updike wrote, something about "a tissue-thing difference between a thing done well and a thing done ill." This was far preferable to restricting my baseball-watching to NBC's "Game of the Week" and ABC's "Monday Night Baseball," an activity that reduced individual games to college football.

Another thing. 1988 was the last time the Yankees had a decent radio crew. Hank Greenwald and Tommy Hutton--sharp, crisp, giving us an honest account of the game--were fired at the end of 1988. The scuttlebutt was that Greenwald and Hutton were canned for not being cheerleader enough, a fair enough assumption, as their replacement, John Sterling, endeared himself in the first month of the season for calling two Yankee home run balls that weren't, to wit:

IT IS HIGH!

IT IS LONG!

IT IS GONE!

NO IT ISN'T!

Lovely.

So I came in front of the TV tonight. Win or lose, let's enjoy some baseball.