Friday, August 31, 2007

Devil Rays 9, Yankees 1

well, a blow-out, so let's consider Joba Chamberlain:

Q: Was Joba throwing at Youklis?

Um, yes. I wonder what Tim K. over at ESPN was thinking. Hey, he thought, Joba couldn't have been head-hunting, it was a 5-0 game, ninth inning, what was the point?

Well, duh.

I love Timmy K., if for no other reason he takes his Hall of Fame vote seriously, and enough like him will put Jeff Bagwell in right beside his buddy Craig Biggio.

But really: Well, duh.

You don't come in on a batter in a 2-2 game with Papi on deck. You come in with a lead, late, and then you make your point. This year, the Rocket, who had the Hall of Fame in his hip pocket nine years ago, waited until he'd secured enough innings and a big enough lead for a win, and then plunked his guy. And got run.

Q: Was this good or bad for the Yankees?

Hard to say. One thing that has exasperated Yankee fans since the O'Neill/Tino I/Scottie era ended was the perceived Yankees' loss of toughness. The 1998 Yankees--and, as time goes by, clearly the greatest team of all time--demonstrated its toughness early in that season, when an Oriole pitcher responded to a Bernie home run by hitting Tino in the back, and the Yankees chased the Orioles straight into the Oriole dugout. Yankee fans have wanted more of that, and this year--via the Rocket, and then Joba--they've gotten it.

So, on the one hand, the Yankees found their manhood.

On the other hand . . .

This came at the end of a sweep. Why wake a sleeping giant?

Q: Is the penalty sufficient?

Don't make me laugh. The Rocket was suspended for five games. In other words, he was granted one extra day of rest. Joba? Tonight he would never have been called in; this effectively reduces his punishment by fifty percent. Tomorrow, if it's Yankees 3, D-Rays 2 in the eight, then we'll see.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Yankees 5, Red Sox 0

You know, when I earlier mentioned the recent recruiting class of Cano, Melky, Hughes, Joba, and Duncan, I completely forgot Wang. And really. Does an Asian import count as . . . hmm, do we throw in El Duque with Stick Michaels' crowd, Jeter, et al?

Anyway.

One might hope that this game puts Wang into the Cy Young conversation, especially with Beckett losing to the Rocket the previous night.

What I've been meaning to mention is Graig Nettles.

I was thinking about The Chute, a status that confers upon the player a sense of inevitability. In my lifetime, Hack Wilson, Joe Sewell, Phil Rizzuto, Pudge Fisk, and Bill Mazeroski have entered the Hall of Fame for no other reason than they were the most deserving player not in.

What causes someone to vote "No" one year and "Yes" the next about a player whose career numbers haven't budged is a mystery. Odds are, Goose Gossage will get in, just because there won't be a Gwynn or a Ripken hogging all the votes.

Makes no sense.

Which brings me to Graig Nettles.

Graig Nettles is a Hall of Fame player. Yes, yes, a .248 batting average (around what many HOF power hitters reside), but 390 homers. Plus a glove that would make you faint with its artistry.

This is a crazy nook of the Hall of Fame: it doesn't reward duplication. It's like the Oscars, who couldn't possibly nominate both The Age of Innocence and The Remains of the Day for Best Picture the same year.

It was Nettles' bad luck that his career was bookended by the greatest influx of third basemen the game has ever seen. It was as if the baseball gods decreed, "Enough third basemen, but not too many." To wit:

Right before Netlles' career was Eddie Matthews and Kenny Boyer. One Hall of Famer.

At the beginning of Nettles' career (1967), and toward the middle, there was a great number of third basemen: Brooks Robinson, Ron Santo, Sal Bando. That's another Hall of Famer (Robinson), another eventual Hall of Famer (Santo), and the captain of a team that won three straight World Series.

In the heart of Nettles' career, there were (minus the gambling) three Hall-of-Famers--Mike Schmidt, George Brett, Pete Rose--who swept up all the awards. Plus two others--Buddy Bell and Bill Madlock--who were the bedrocks of their teams.

So? Absent time and Pete Rose's problems, six third basemen in the Hall of Fame, those whose career touched Nettles'.

And too many duplicates diminish the whole.

So: Graig Nettles, with 390 homers, six first-place finishes, and a defense separated from a half-dozen Golden Gloves by the sainted Brooks, is not even mentioned. That is all.

Waa

Suppose you're an editor for the Daily Trojan. This makes you a student at a university whose football team is as deep as the Pacific in talent, eight-deep at tailback, with ten returning starters on a defense that spent the last three games of last season terrorizing, in order, the offenses of Notre Dame, UCLA, and Michigan. You are a few days away from a season-opener against the second-best team in the state of Idaho, a game your school will win by, oh, fourteen touchdowns.

Your school is number one in every poll in the country. Oregon presents a problem, Nebraska is always tough at home, and, on Thanksgiving Day, Sun Devil Stadium will contain 70,000 screaming freaks hanging from the rafters. (Does anyone remember? The last two times USC got Arizona State in Tempe, it needed second-half comebacks to win. For ASU, beating Arizona is money earned. Beating USC is money won.) Oh, and up at Cal, Tedford will think of something.

Beyond that, not so much. Notre Dame is down. The Washington schools--not so much. Arizona is . . . well, one day they'll break through and that will be terrifying. But right now, like Kansas in the Big-12, Arizona remains a basketball school in a football conference. USC gets Oregon State and UCLA at home with revenge in their eye. And Stanford . . . well, Harbaugh is amusing.

Bottom line, a few challenges, but a better-than-even chance to wind up in New Orleans sometime in mid-January.

Finally, if you are a senior, you've stood witness to 1) an undefeated BCS Championship, 2) The Greatest Game Ever Played (Bush Push ring a bell?), 3) a second BCS Championship Game that, though ending in heartbreak, could be appreciated as another all-time classic, 4) a good old-fashioned Rose Bowl ass-whooping of Michigan.

So, given all the above, to what end do you concentrate your efforts?

Of course: you whine about some UCLA blog's revelation about a USC assistant coach's long-ago involvement with dog-fighting.

While we do not condone (Todd) McNair's previous behaviors, no new evidence of McNair mistreating animals has come to light. BruinsNation's story is not newsworthy - rehashing a 14-year-old, already settled issue does nothing for readers today. The statute of limitations has expired, McNair has paid his dues to society. Nothing more can be asked of him than to not engage in such behavior again, and there is no reason to believe he has.

BruinsNation has used the media frenzy fueled by the Vick case to take advantage of McNair and has accused the Trojans of acting inhumanely by employing a man who was convicted of a crime, as if no coaches at UCLA have ever themselves been convicted.


Oh, go stuff a sock in it, kids. Had this run as a banner headline across the front page of the Daily Bruin, there might have been some cause for complaint. But it ran as an item on a blog a helluva lot fewer people read than read the DT. Sorry to say, but the gang over at Westwood played this sliver of a story just about right, and the folks at my former paper overreacted in a spasm of self-pity.

Bottom line:

UCLA 13, USC 9. It hurt me as much as it hurt anyone. I couldn't function for a week. But exploding on something like this won't make it go away.

Thanks to Deadspin.

The new stud

Olney on Chamberlain.

And a question. Will we, a dozen years from now, talk about the great recruiting class of Joba, Duncan, Melky, Hughes, and Cano the way we now talk of Jeter, Pettitte, Rivera, Bernie and Posada?

New York 4, Boston 3

Ecch. A great game I had to follow, inning by inning, off the hand-operated scoreboard at Minute Maid Park: arriving to a 3-0 lead in the fifth, then 3-1 heading into the eighth. When the Sox scored two in the eighth to draw to 4-3, I thought, Oh, too bad, Chamberlain finally gave up a run. Eight appearances, ten innings, no runs: the nicest story of August.

So: the Yankees hang on to win, Astro-Girl and I come home (nice Astro win, Oswalt and Co. shut out the Cardinals), I pull up the box score and . . .

Oh. Farnsworth. Kardiac Kyle strikes again: 2/3s of an inning, two hits, two runs, one homer.

I see what the Yankees are doing with Chamberlain: the exact opposite of what happened to Flash Godron, Proctor, Farnsworth, Sturtze and the few others put through the Torre Set-Up Meatgrinder.

I agree in principle. But, as Rich Lowry wrote a few weeks ago in The Corner, perhaps Torre should rely more on the ebb and flow of the season than one-on, one-off.

So: pull within Six. Closer in the Wild Card. And two wins in the series.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Yankees 8, Dodgers 4

Oh, sorry, make that Yankees 5, Red Sox 3. I was simply riveted to that other game, the one where Reggie Jackson hit three home runs on three swings off three pitches to lead the Yankees to the 1977 World Series championship.

I saw it live in 1977 (color TV at a friend's, we still had a black-and-white RCA with the rotary dial at our house), and then I saw it again tonight, during the final episode of "The Bronx is Burning." And tomorrow night I'll watch it again, courtesy of a wedding present from my brother, all six games of the '77 Series captured on DVD. (The release of complete games and series on DVD has become one of the smartest marketing ideas in decades--what took them so long? I'm getting the '96 Series, and the Bucky Dent game, and Bird Stole the Ball, and Celtics-Suns Triple OT, and The Bush Push, and--should it become available--Arizona State 17, Nebraska 14 in the 1975 Fiesta Bowl, the game that pretty much introduced me to the possibilities of competitive sports, right along with the Carlton Fisk Game 6, a game I had watched two months earlier in my living room, as I had been allowed at the age of 10 to babysit my younger brothers when my parents went out for the evening. Different time.)

Anyway, as I headed out for my honeymoon a few weeks ago, Phil Rizzuto died. This intrigued me, because for a decade or so before his belated election to the Hall of Fame in the early 90's, the Yankee shortstop spanning the DiMaggio-Mantle dynasty (and it was a single dynasty, uninterrupted) had been in the enviable postion I think of as "Next in the Chute." Meaning, when people play the parlor game of Who's Out, and Should Be In the Hall of Fame, one name invariably is named before the others. When I was a teenager, the name was Hack Wilson. The Wilson got in, to be replaced in the chute by Joe Sewell . . . who was the elected in the eighties, and was replaced in the chute by the Scooter. Who stayed there for a good decade.

Two events pushed Rizzuto through the chute, and in. The first was the publication of David Halberstam's routinely brilliant book, The Summer of '49, a book, in the best baseball tradition, that was given to me by my father. This book was an account of the second-best pennant race in American League history (the summer of '78 will always reign preeminent), and a goodly portion of it was spent detailing Rizzuto's value to the team. This was a team of Joe D, Yogi, of Tommy Henrich and King Kong Keller. And if those names don't resonate as much as the Yankee names that came before before (Ruth, Gehrig, Lazzeri, Crosetti, Combs, Hoyt, Pennock) or those who would come after after (Mantle, Maris, Bauer, Elston Howard, Whitey Ford, Kubek, Richardson, Skowron), keep in mind that these 1949 Yankees had three things going for them: Casey Stengel, the greatest manager of all time; a deep and talented starting rotation (Reynolds, Raschi, Lopat); and one of the great relievers ever, Joe Page (who would finish second in the MVP balloting to Ted Williams, then sadly blaze and fade).

And, oh, yes, they had the Scooter.

When I was a graduate student in upstate New York, I would venture down to New York City once a month to crash with a buddy from high school kind enough to put me up. (A good friend in NYC is worth several thousand dollars cash on hand.) And, in the broadcast booth, on TV for a thousand shills, there would be the Scooter: getting the names wrong, calling homers that weren't, then doing ads for The Money Store, a lending operation that dispensed money at just below what would put them away for violations of state usury regs. Oh, yes: there was always the end of the seventh, when the Scooter would announce to the TV audience, "I'm out of here, I'm on the bridge," that being the George Washington Bridge, his conduit to Jersey. His broadcast partners would finish the game.

This was not the Scooter I read about. Phil Rizzuto, to hear the Yankees talk, was simply their MVP, year after year, Joe D or no Joe D. His arm was positively weak for a shortstop, but his inhuman reflexes allowed him to play several steps closer than the average shortstop, and thus cut off balls up the middle. The Yankees understood his value and put the word out: no one was to spike Rizzuto, not ever. When it happened in one game, DiMaggio, who happened to get the next hit, a clean single, raced straight to second and spiked--brutally--the second baseman applying the tag.

Which brings me to the second reason Rizzuto got in.

The Scooter's value to the Yankees is something I read about. What I heard about later was Ted Williams's pleas to the Veteran's Committee to let Rizzuto in, something that morphed into the granting of a dying man's plea. I don't care. Rizzuto deserved in.

Which brings me to Graig Nettles. And tomorrow.

Tigers 16, Yankees 0

Yipes.

Moose's fourth terrible start in a row. How many more chances does he get?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Tigers 5, Yankees 4

A new definition of torture: sitting at Minute Maid (on, by the way, Jeff Bagwell gets his number retired) watching the Yankees fail to erase a one-run deficit over five innings.

You boys ever hear of hitting? Kinda helps you score some?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Yankees 7, Tigers 2

Missed last night's affair; too much fatigue.

What do we know?

1. Wang: staff ace.

2. Posada: maybe the MVP above A-Rod.

3. Abreu, Matsui, Cano: coming into their own.

4. Melky: centerfielder til further notice.

Look, I've resisted all talk of "A-Rod overrated" til now. Anyone who hits 43 homers through August 24 deserves respect. But Posada has carried this sorry-ass bullpen (Mo excluded) for five months. Does that not count for something?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Professors and Sex

When I became a teaching assistant at the University of Houston, sex with one's students was considered--by the male TA contingent in general--as nothing less than a perk of the job, something akin to free coffee in the staff room. Some friends of mine would routinely work through three or four co-eds per semester, consoling themselves with the truism that was so often true: that, despite all Lonelyhearts cliches to the opposite, the inevitable revulsion would originate with the student, almost always before the TA became bored.

Now, in the post-Anita Hill, post-Clinton era, colleges have new rules: All This Must End. But not if a certain professor has his way. Get this: Sex with a student is a constitutional right.

Maybe not so much.

Yankees 8, Angels 2

How nice to come home to.

Posada for MVP . . . votes?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Yankees 6, Tigers 1

And with this I bid my friends farewell until next week. Gotta see a girl about a honeymoon.

I trust you all to keep the good karma rolling for our boys.

Next week, my new friends and I will delve into Rove and the Scooter (hint: one of them has something to do with Graig Nettles).

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Monday, August 13, 2007

Yankees 7, Orioles 6

Funny thing. Top of the ninth, knowing Mo was exhausted by his recent efforts, I said this out loud: "Rivera will blow the save in the ninth. Then the Yankees will win in the bottom."

I say it here, it comes out there.

Also:

Second weak start, ace-wise, for Wang.

And the phrase "walk-off" has finally reached its apogee. We've had walk-off homers, walk-off hits, and even walk-off walks. Tonight, courtesy of si.com, something new: the walk-off fielder's choice courtesy of Derek Jeter.

Virtual tie with Seattle.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Lupica

Mike Lupica's politics sometimes crowd out the sense he makes as a columnist. But nothing makes more sense than this, about the Yankees and Joe Torre:

If the Yankees weren't going to go for Lou Piniella after last season, they shouldn't think about having somebody else managing next season, whether they make the playoffs or not.

Torre himself has already called this his toughest season. But the Yankees have come out of it, and been the best team in baseball for more than a month, and are making the run they had to make now. For all the pitching problems they had early, they were too good not to make a run. No matter how many people wrote them off.


True enough. With Piniella, Jim Leyland, and Tony LaRussa taken, there is no one--no one--with the necessary stature to guide the Yankees should Torre be fired.

Don Mattingly, Joe Girardi--no and no.

It's all-in with Torre.

Lupica here.

Yankees 5, Tribe 3

Maybe the most important series of the season.

I considered Giambi a luxury a month ago--but what a luxury.

Melky, comeing into his own.

And again: the season comes down to Abreu, Matsui, Cano.

Merv Griffin, RIP

When I was five, I wanted to be Merv. When I went to my grandparents’ apartment in Newark, I’d go out on the balcony, beyond the curtains, then my Irish grandpa would shout, “Heeeere’s Merv!”, and I would charge in through the curtains and everyone would cheer. Good times.

Later on, I won a ton of money at his Lake Charles casino.

RIP.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Yankees 11, Tribe 2

Another strong game.

I keep waiting for Seattle to slide off the earth; based on their runs scored/runs against differential, they should have by now.

Boston scares me.

Oh: and Houston played just well enough to raise false hopes, pulled to within 8 1/2 games of Milwaukee before their bullpen ripped up and threw away two games in a row.

Yankees 6, Indians 1

Hughes and Chamberlain--love those guys.

The tough part of the schedule starts now.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Yankees 9, Blue Jays 2

Ah. I was wondering last night about the origins of the Yankees-Blue Jays' bad blood--or, more specifically, the Jays' recent emnity toward the Yankees, or maybe A-Rod. As it happened, I forgot all about "Got it," something that seemed to occur seasons ago.

And something that explains tonight.

Towers dots A-Rod, benches clear twice. Then Clemens (with, it should be said, a big late-inning lead and a fresh bullpen installed--in other words, the W in his pocket) dots Rios.

Found out something strange on ESPN tonight. For all of Clemens's reputation as a hard case, this was only the fourth time in his career he's been ejected, and the first time in 14 years. The first happened in his breakout year of 1986, for charging an umpire. (I remember the seeing the hi-light well. This was during Clemens's break-out 1986 season, when he went 24-4 and carried the Red Sox to the brink of the World Series Championship; during the incident, a group of his mates, who knew he was the franchise and the key to staving off the Yankees, virtually carried him horizontally off the field to avoid grabbing the ump and enduring a prolonged suspension.) The second was the 1990 playoffs, when Clemens--battling injury and fatigue--melted down against the A's. The third was 1993 and involved "bench jockeying," this during a year when I was studying for comps and baseball was a mystery to me.

Anyway, the good times roll.

Melky Cabrera, 3-for-4.

Chamberlain, the new bullpen stud, two scoreless innings.

20-7 since the All-Star break.

Detroit, Seattle win. But Boston, losing big.

We could all wake up on Wednesday with the Yankees five back.

So? So the division is in play.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Yankees 5, Blue Jays 4

Here's humor for you: The Blue Jays throw behind A-Rod.

Because? Of the brutal 1985 pennant race? 1987, which barely even counts? Consider the teams' side-by-side 30-year history, starting in 1977, the Jays' first year:

1977-1981: The Bronx Zoo era. Yankees: four division titles, three pennants, two rings. Jays: Stinkeroo.

1982-1983: Both teams stink. In one of these years (1983), the Yanks make an enfeebled pennant run. Otherwise, open a window.

1984: Detroit starts 35-5 and runs away with the division. Toronto: a respectable second. Yanks have the best second-half record in the league . . . thus setting up . . .

1985: An honest-to-goodness Blue Jays-Yankees pennant race. Behind the pitching of Ron Guidry (22-6), the relief work of Dave Righetti and the 1-2-3 hitting of Rickey Henderson, MVP Don Mattingly, and Dave Winfield, the Yankees storm back from a 9 1/2-game deficit, pull to within 1 1/2 games in September . . . and then lose the last three games of a four-game series at the Stadium to fall 4 1/2 back. (Gator--surprise, surprise, wins the opener.) Incredibly, the Yanks stay close and go up to Toronto 3 back with 3 to go. With the Yanks hoping for a sweep and a playoff, Gator wins the Friday opener. However, Toronto wins the next game to clinch. (Oddly, there was a measure of history in the statistically meaningless Sunday finale. With Blue Jay manager Jimy Williams resting his starters for the playoffs, Yankee pitcher Phil Niekro wins his 300th in a complete game--without, he claims, a single knuckleball . . . except maybe two in the ninth, to former Braves mate Sean Burroughs.)

And there you have it. The one season when the Jays and Yankees both mattered.

1986: The year of Clemens (24-4). The Red Sox win going away. Yankees second.

1987: Yanks fade in September (something about a Steinbrenner memo and Rickey's sore hammy); Blue Jays lose the last seven games of the year; lose the pennant to Detroit 1-0 on the last day of the year. (This game occurred--another historical footnote--the first Sunday of the NFL Scab Games; faced with the prospect of watching gym teachers and bar bouncers in NFL uniforms, the American Sporting Public thanks Toronto and Detroit).

1988: The Red Sox surge after Joe Morgan (no, not that one) is hired as manager, win 14 in a row in August, and blow past the Yankees and Tigers. Toronto: not so much.

1989-1993: Blue Jay pre-eminence. Four division titles, two pennants, two rings. Yankees stink. Donnie Baseball injures his back permanently and slides out of Hall-of-Fame consideration. Yanks make a feint as a flag chase in '93, but Donnie falls into a catatonic slump in September, sees his average drop from .319 to .288. The team follows.

1994: Yanks lead by 6 games as the strike begins . . . and the season ends.

1995-2006: Yankee dominance. 12 consecutive playoff appearances, 10 division titles, six pennants, four rings. Toronto: Nada, and rarely close.

The Yankees in the past decade has had its rivals: the Red Sox, Indians, Mariners, even the Angels. The Yankees are a rival to Toronto the way Notre Dame is a rival to Navy: all one way.

(Oh, by the way, it was nice to be tied for the Wild Card today, if only for a little while.)

On Rome today, Ken Rosenthal postulated that if the Yankees make the playoffs, and if A-Rod has a solid October (a big if and a bigger if), the Yankees will have to meet Boras's price, in part for YES ratings, in part for their new stadium (which, he admits, the Yankees will sell out every game anyway), and in part because, well, he's their best player.

Okay. 40-plus homers, a .310-ish batting average, ungodly RBI's . . . a solid October . . . and with everyone north, south, and east of San Francisco pulling for him to run down Barry . . . what? Thirty million?

Thirty-five?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

While I Was Out

I left town for a few days (thus depriving myself of the new friends I've made online) and returned to the Yankees within one-half game of the Wild Card, behind Seattle and Detroit.

Today's game was cut from the recent template: strong offense early, decent starting pitching, shakey middle relief (Bruny and Myers: 1 inning, 3 runs, 2 earned) before a standard ninth from the Hammer of God.

Looking ahead . . .

Detroit will be a problem. Seattle is due for a fall.

Meanwhile, what has gone right?

Matsui, Abreu, Cano. And Melky moving more or less permanently to center.

It bears repeating that the Yankees have done nothing more than precisely what they needed to against the softest part of their schedule.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Yankees 8, White Sox 1

Two games down.

Third place, of course. But the Mariners (with one more run scored, in the aggregate, than runs scored against) are due for a slide.

Cleveland looms.

Oh, and: A-Rod, 0-for-21 since 499.

Pettitte: strong.

Posada: 2 dingers.

An above-average evening.