Monday, June 30, 2008

Rangers 2, Yankees 1

Moose goes on. But how about some runs?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mets 3, Yankees 1

Back in the day, Pirate Oliver Perez would start three games a year against the Astros, beating them every time and leading to the question, Who the hell can hit that slop?

Well, in the intervening years he's found a fastball. And the mystery continues.

God bless the 'Stros for taking two of three from the Yankees.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Yankees 3, Mets 2

All of a sudden . . . a battle of staff aces?

Last November, did anyone think Pettitte would have that status with the Yanks? Or Santana with the Mets?

All of a sudden, Pettitte is channeling 1998.

And they'll need him.

What was nearly an afterthought in the off-season ("Oh, cool, Lefty's coming back") is now a necessity: Holy crap, Pettitte better keep it up.

So: Pettitte, Moose, Joba are your core starters. And: is Ponson this season's Sean Chacon/Cory Lidle? Can you do it again and again, big boy? You're here to eat 100 innings between now and Harvest Moon, keep us in games, eke out a half-dozen more wins.

Can't wait for tomorrow.

And? And? Rasner?

Yanks, Mets split

Advantage, Yanks, with off-the-heap Sidney Ponson throwing six shutout innings.

But sheesh, a wasted start from Moose, 15 runs surrendered to Team Turmoil, and now . . . again . . . today, a game surrendered to the Fox cartel.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Obama's latest reversal (not that you'd notice)

I remember President-elect Bill Clinton appearing via videotape to celebrate Arsenio Hall's thousandth broadcast. This was either late 1992 or early 1993, and Clinton (who had appeared a year ealier to play his sax) made a passing reference to poring over "those big, heavy, depressing budget books." I instantly thought one thing: Well, goodbye middle-class tax cut. With those six words, Clinton had laid the groundwork for going back on one of his most oft-repeated campaign promises. A month later, when he delivered his budget address, and specifically ruled out a tax cut for anyone (though with his usual soupcon of self-pity), I think I was the least suprised person in America.

What surprised me was this: Clinton paid no political price for what he did. The New York Times, which hates tax cuts as much as it hates Rush Limbaugh, praised him for making the "tough decisions." And the republic went on.

So now we come to Obama. On Wright, on public financing, on Iraq, on meeting with dictators, on NAFTA, on gun ownership, on town hall debates, on the death penalty for rapists, there is not even the pretense of an evolution or maturing different "facts on the ground" or whatever you want to call it. Obama simply says today the opposite of what he said yesterday, and counts on a willful press to cover for him. A few months ago, on his website, he, in no uncertain terms, came out in support of the D.C. gun ban. Last week, he came out in support of the Supremem Court decision overturning the gun ban, and had the previous comment scrubbed. Bam. Done. Over.

Charles Krauthammer has more.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Yankees 10, Pirates 0

More like it. A Minute Mid scoreboard watch.

Joba: the real thing.

Pirates 12, Yankees 5

"Don't you boys how much I hate losin' to the Pirates!?"

--Wilford Brimley, as Pops, in The Natural

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Yankees 4, Reds 1

Oh, did Girardi want to win this one. Michael Kay saiud as much: "Lose today, and the San Diego series (or Houston, take your pick) is negated."

So Rivera come in in the eighth, after Farnworth's hand injury.

Strong again from Pettitte.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Reds 6, Yankees 0

One of those games. But Giese may end up helping

On a cheerier note, I received a message from Greater Phoenix informing me that my youngest brother, Robby-Boy, has ascended to the rank of Captain in the Phoenix Fire Department. Good for him. I feel sorry for the fires.

Reds 4, Yankees 2

All good things . . .

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Yanks sweep Pods!

It's like I can't keep up!

Seven in a row.

Joba . . . for real.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Yankees 8, Padres 0

And, oh yeah, the Yankees. Two home runs apiece by Giambi and A-Rod. Pettitte strong.

Five in a row.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Celtics Win!!!!

Seriously, the greatest thing about this final round has been, at long last, the recognition of Paul Pierce as belonging to the front rank of all-time NBA players.

Paul Pierce is a great player.

A Hall-of-Fame player.

Like Brooks Robinson in the '70 World Series, Bobby Orr in the '72 Stanley Cup, Johnny Bench in the '76 World Series, and Tom Brady in the '04 Super Bowl, Paul Pierce's efforts in these finals have served to illuminate the greatness of a player whose true greatness might have otherwise fallen just slightly below the radar.

And--not that it matters, basketball-wise--not one single player, not even Larry Bird, ever went to school so much on Celtic lore, nor ever was so familiar on the Celtic-Laker rivalry, which was basically the narrative of the league during its breakout years (1959-1969), and then its explosion years (1979-1987). Pierce had about nine thousand opportunities to leave the Celtics for more money and a better chance to win, and continued to repeat his mantra: "No. I want to help build a new winning tradition in Boston. That's what I want to do."

And so, he has. With this one championship, he has.

When, after defeating Detroit, Pierce (born, yes, in Inglewood, in the shadow of the Fabulous Forum) exploded in a chant of "Beat LA! Beat LA!", his teammates responded slowly, as if learning a new song. He knew, they would quickly learn. Me, I thought I was hearing a verse from my youth, when I still looked at the girls in their summer dresses.

God bless Paul Pierce, God bless Red, and damnit, God bless America.

TWTWTW, Part 1

(That Was The Weekend That Was, part 1)

I sometimes wonder if my life resembles others': nothing happening for a long while, then everything happening at once. Two of the very few things I do, outside of home, work, and sports, are judge the Houston Chronicle spelling bee and attend the English Composition CCCC Conference out of town, usually in some city I'm dying to explore: chicago one year, New York another, (hopefully) San Francisco in 2009. What is truly exasperating is how the spelling bee and the first day of the conference usually fall on precisely the same day in March, during a four-month span in which nothing else much happens. So I always miss the first day of the conference, a Wednesday. Then on Thursday, Astro-Girl and I catch an 8 am flight out of town and race off to the conference. Then we come home from the conference and watch re-runs of Will and Grace until the baseball season starts three weeks later.

So it was this past weekend, during which I was confronted with two, three, maybe four events overlaying one another: the State GOP Convention, the Celtics-Lakers NBA finals, the US Open on TV, and (oh yeah) the New York Yankees in town to play the Astros.

Thursday morning: GOP convention opens, stretched across two enormous auditoriums (auditoria?) in the ground floor of the George R. Brown Convention center downtown. Maybe it's me; I've always found the GRB, supposedly the chief selling point for conentioneering, a rather gloomy place, certainly gloomier than its analogue in Phoenix, the Civic Center. Already the mood of the conventioneers might be desribed as . . . muted. The lights are down, to aid trhe television cameras. The usual functionaries parade out, the usual songs are sung. People come to their feet out of a sense of obligation.

There is a brief spasm of excitement for Paul Bettencourt, a gifted speaker and the one Harris County official everyone knows by name.

Who is Paul Bettencourt? The Harris County Clerk. It is a quirk of Texas law that, upon paying for your car registration renewal or property tax, you make the check out to the county clerk personally. That's right: your check reads, "Pay to the order of . . . Paul Bettencourt." Until two months ago, I had never seen him in person, never known much about him but his name, certainly not expected the large Yogi Bear of a man who bounded onstage at our Senate District meeting and brought the crowd to its feet. The same happens this time: glasses shining in the lights, sweaty hair plastered to his scalp, the man explodes onto stage. His rhetoric is as corny as Bird's Eye ("the Dems had a choice: Obama or Chelsea's Mama!"), but his enthusiasm is infectious. He simply refuses a desultory audience to affect him.

Next, Governor Rick Perry. And here things get interesting.

As everyone in Texas knows, the Texas Governor's Mansion was torched, almost certainly by an arsonist, the Sunday before Rick Perry was due to appear here. That's right: the man lost his house (or residence, anyway) some hundred hours before his appearance on the podium. As if to emphasize the circumstances, a quirky little film about the Perry family (one boy, one girl) starts and ends with a shot of the mansion in its former, pristine state.

Mrs. Perry introduces the Governor. Again, muted applause. The plain truth is that there is a segment of GOPers who dislike the Governor, perhaps even loathe him, not least because of the business tax he pushed through the legislature as a means of funding schools. If one were to spend a lifetime searching for--by GOP lights--the most horrifying conjunction of two English words, one could hardly do better than combine the word "business" with the word "tax."

Beyond his positions, there has always been the image of Perry as a place-holder, as his Lieutenant Governor's beneficiary of W's ascension to the White House, as a tool of Bush, Rove and DeLay who has kept his job thanks to the Dems' incompetence in recruiting a worthwhile foe. (By contrast, John Cornyn, who entered the US Senate to catcalls of "Bush Machine," has distinguished himself, especially in matters of energy. About which, more anon.)

Perry does what he does with what he has . . . and then, ten minutes in, starts winning the crowd over. The plain fact is that there are several positions the GOP holds that are widely popular (not that voters, this time 'round, may be swayed--another story). Among these are voter picture ID, gay marriage, increased border security; Perry hits all of these hard, and well. He also goes on at length about Texas's 10 billion-dollar surplus, at a time when California and New York (the two biggest Texas bugabooes, after Massachusetss) are deep in the red.

Then, the finish: Perry's call for party unity, at a time when Perry finds himself the potential target of party disunity. (In the following days, volunteers will materialize on the skyway between the GRB and the Hilton Hotel and hand out stickers: Kay Bailey Hutchison for Governor.)

And, now, the Really Weird Moment.

Perry says something about one instrument playing a tune. Behind him on the podium, a uniformed buglist appears, and begins playing "Yellow Rose of Texas." Seven thousand people stand, anticipating . But no: no song, not yet. Perry resumes talking: one instrument, one tune. Trumpet player appears, plays the first few bars of "The Eyes of Texas." Half the crowd stands up. Perry continues talking; the two thousand people sit again, finally on the same page: "Oh, now I see where this is headed." And sure enough: a dozen-piece band appears to play "Deep in the Heart of Texas."

The effect, to say the least, is underwhelming. For such a build-up, Perry needed to trot out a hundred-piece band that would march up the aisles to thunderous applause. I once saw a high school production of The Music Man whose climax played to bigger effect in front of six hundred people. Instead I found myself with seven thousand Republican fanatics cheering the titular leader of the state party out of politeness.

Is it too much of a stretch to link this moment with the current McCain-Obama tussle? When I was seven years old I wore a NIXON NOW button to school on election day. In the intervening thirty six years, the full extent of my political activity has been conducted in the interior of a voting booth--that wonderful, wonderful place. I was pulled back into political activism--first my district caucus, then as a district delegate, then finally a state delegate--for one reason: because we are at war with an enemy who wishes to destroy us, and I can't find sufficient seriousness from the other side.

Want to save the polar bears? Easy: let's everyone stop shooting at them. Gas too high? Drill here, drill now, pay less (and yes, given a substantial, public American commitment to more drilling and refining, prices would come down. That's why they're called oil futures.) The only thing that matters to me is the vigorous pursuit of those who would do us harm, and the reduction of our enemy's assets to basketball courts. Right now, only side seems to have the requisite commitment--or rather, as they say on NPR, This, I believe.

Mornings like Thursday, however, fill me with a kind of gloom. Sometimes I wonder: does any of the above mean anything, even to me? Days I watch McCain speak, I feel like throwing my show at the TV and shouting, "No, no, you're saying it wrong"? However right McCain be right on the issues (I have my opinions, others have theirs), rhetorically, he's playing Salieri to Obama's Mozart. This will be a problem.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Yankees 13, Astros 0

Ah, what a grand game. And a sweep.

But for now, to bed.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Yanks 8, Astros 4

But first, last night's game.

Robby-Boy writes:

What a great game. I told Ryan (his son, my nephew) you were at the game. I was so excited, and told me not to worry to Joba didn't get the win, he said he "pitched awesome" and will get his win soon!

Farnsworth in the 9th! Wow!

Yes, wow indeed. My second-day duties at the Texas Republican Convention kept Astro-Girl and I from making our seats until the second inning. Our Friday seats were in the mezzanine, which in Minute Maid, as in a few other parks, exists as a kind of isolated cheering section, almost a treehouse, separated from the rest of the stands except by a series of stairways and risers. The mezzanine has its own snack bar, rest rooms, and beer court. Its seats slope down at a dangerous-looking angle and--alone among the seats at Minute Maid--have no armrests.

What is most disturbing thing about the mezzanine is how its spectators cannot see balls hit below them, into the bleachers.

(Is baseball the only sport besides golf where a ticket doesn't guarantee a view of the entire event? Just thinking.)

Anywat, the score was 1-1 interminably through six innings, at which point Derek Jeter took a fastrball outisde and drove it to right field--and beneath my field of view. In such situations, when a 'Stros rival is well-represented (in most years, the Cards, Cubs, and Braves), one looks to who is cheering to make sense of the play.

So: the ball disappeared beneath the stands. I looked. Thousands below me, those in blue pinstripes and grey away jerseys marked JETER, RODRIGUEZ, and DIMAGGIO, jumped in the air. Enough for me. Home run.

So: 2-1, bottom ninth. In the context of Tiger Woods's latest exploits at Torrey Pines, I shouted to those around me "Watch, just watch!"

The Mo Rivera jog (more a glide) from the bullpen, ninth inning, one-run Yankee lead, must rank among the greatest anticipatory moments in sports, right up there with Woods taking his Sunday practice swings at Augusta and 45 doing lay-up drills in a clinching game.

So . . . ninth inning. I stand. I raise my hands to greet . . .

Oh. Kardiac Kyle.

The last time Kyle Farnsworth pitched at Minute Maid was the 2005 ALDS playoffs, during which he blew a five-run Brave lead: a Berkman grand slam followed by, the following inning, a Brad Ausmus homer that seemed to climb a ladder to the exact spot on the Minute Maid facade. The Astros tied the game, won in 18 innings (a story all its own) and made the first World Series in its history. And all because Kardiac Kyle, in the words of Jim Rome, burned Minute Maid to the ground.

So here he was. And worked through the ninth inning.

More tomorrow.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Yankees 2, Astros 1

And so I stagger home from my 13-hour day . . .

Yankees 4, A's 1

A full day of conventioneering, during which I missed Matsui's slammy and Pettitte's return from his should-have-been-a-debacle had it not been for the Yankees' three separate comebacks last Saturday.

And speaking of comebacks . . .

Anyone catch the Celtics-Lakers?

I did, at the end of the day, in a cigar bar on Kirby Drive, and spent the second half high-fiving the Chowderhead sitting behind me until my palms nearly bled.

At one point we were admonished by the bartender: "Hey, calm down guys, this ain't no f------ wing house!"

I had thought about going home at halftime, but I stayed to watch it all, and now I feel wicked smaht.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Inquiring Minds

SunDevilJoe asks:

So, how do you choose Politcs over Baseball/Yanks-Astros as well as the US Open?

Ah, don't have to.

Tomorrow: Caucusing all day, til nine pm, with a time-out run to the hospitality room for a look at the ongoing US Open action, followed by Astros-Brewers at seven, supplemented by Lakers-Celtics. Home for Yankees-A's on YES at nine.

Friday: Astro-Girl drives me downtown in the morning. Conventioning all day, with a quick dash up the street at 2:30 with a meeting with the supervisor of my current moonlighting assignment, then back to the convention at 3. Quick look at the US Open. Back to the convention, right up until 6 pm . . . when Astro-Girl will screech to a halt in front of the George R. Brown Convention Center, armed with a change of clothes. Off comes the button-down, on go the pinstripes. We drive the three blocks to Minute Maid--for Yankees-Astros at seven. Then home for US Open highlights.

Saturday: Last day of the convention, a half-day. Easy: convention in the morning, US Open in the afternoon, Yankees-Astros at night.

Sunday: I sleep in. Yankees-Astros at one. Home for the back nine of the US Open. Then, Celtics-Lakers.

See? Easy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Yankees 3, A's 1

So off we go to one of the more eventful weeks of my life:

*I'm teaching three classes each day, plus two more on the weekend, which I've cancelled because . . .

*The Texas Republican State Convention is this weekend, and, as a delegate, I'm obliged to show up at Houston's George R. Brown Convention this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I put myself in this place at the urging of Astro-Girl, who urged me to speak my mind at the Senate District Convention. Twelve of us stood for two spots. Each of us was allowed two minutes to speak our piece; I spoke, was elected, and now I have to balance my responsibilities to helping defeat Barack Obama with . . .

*Would you believe it? The Astros-Yankees series, the first ever and last--in Houston, at least--for the next six years. Everyone--everyone--who knows anything about Texas baseball (and it's not an insignificant body of knowledge) knows about the 1965 opening of the Astrodome, when the Yankees were recruited to provide exhibition opposition, and Mickey Mantle hit the first Dome home run in a 1-0 Yankee victory. Thirty-five years later, in 2000, when as-was Enron Field (eventually Minute Maid Park) opened, George Steinbrenner had enough sense of history (and let's say it, enough class) to agree to send the back-to-back World Series Champion Yankees back again, on a roundabout way home from Spring Training. This opening was less climactic, as forgettable Yankee Rickey Ledee hit the first Enron home run, and the Astros won 6-4 in a sloppy, subs-filled game.

Since then, the most memorable Astros-Yankees game has been the six-pitcher no-hitter the Astros threw against the Yankees at the Stadium in 2003; a game that caused me no end of grief at work. Maybe you can get used be called "Loser Boy." It did not help with my office mates that the Yankees won the next day, and in thrilling fashion; nor did it matter that the Yankees won the pennant in thrilling fashion (can anyone say "Aaron Boone"?) while the Astros lost their division on the second-to-last day of the season. I can't let my guys lose to the Astros, not now. Really, not ever.

Yankees, Royals split

A mixed bag: twice in three days, a tie-breaking ninth inning home run off Mariano Rivera.

Then, yesterday. Another getaway game I missed.

It is fitting that the Yankees come to town this week to play the Astros; both teams are around .500 and both need to stop running in place.

Saturday's game, though memorable, should have been lost by the Yankees three different times, at deficits of 5-1, 10-6, and 11-10, when Mo surrendered the first of his two dingers.

So the question remains: what to do?

Oh, and happy birthday to Robby-Boy, fire fighter and photojournaolist extraodinaire, as well as my baby brother. Love you, kiddo.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Yankees 12, Royals 11

So, let's keep count:

It is huge to come back from a four-run deficit; these Yankees did it twice in one game.

In fact, count up the number of times a lead in this game was erased, reversed, or won back.

Seven times.

That's a month.

Of course, I missed the whole freaking thing--maybe the most entertaining game of the season, between any two teams--thanks to the FOX embargo.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Yankees 12, Royals 11

Did I even get the score right? By my count, the lead was either erased, reversed, or won back eight different times.

Well, yeah, Fox took the game right out of my ambit. So I missed the best game of the year.

Royals 2, Yankees 1

Another wasted gem from Ranser.

Face it: we knew the game was over when Melky popped up with one out and Cano on third. It was that kind of game.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Yankees 5, Blue Jays 1; Yankees 9, Blue Jays 8

About the first game: has Moose discovered the fountain of . . . something? Perhaps the fountain of the Hall of Fame. 300 wins and he's in; he's pushing 260 as we speak. Anyone doubt he goes to 270 at least this year, then--at a mimimum--gets 10 wins a year through 2011?

Run support be damned. You're a major-league pitcher. They give you the ball. You win or you lose. Moose, at this point, has nine of the Yankee 30 wins to this point.

Make no mistake: he's still got it. The as-usual wretched home plate umpiring of the worst umpire on earth, C.V. Buckner, cost Moose an extra 20 pitches.

About the second game: well, damn. Sounded like the best game of the year, Giambi with the walk-off.

I was teaching.

Well, great.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Blue Jays 9, Yankees 3

It took all of two innings to demonstrate the obvious: this is one wicked roll of the dice.

Since Labor Day of last year, the most consistent portion of the Yankees--really, the only consistent portion of the Yankees--has been Joba and Mo at the back of the bullpen. Wang has come close at times; the rest of the rotation has been up and down. MVP A-Rod suffered another miserable October and was hurt for much of this year. Cano and Giambi were catatonic for this season's first six weeks. Damon was hurt, then Posada. Jeter has been mostly excellent, but week in, week out, what has kept the Yankees afloat has been their ability to take a lead after 21 outs and make it stand up.

So: mostly because Hughes has been hurt and ineffective, and because Kennedy has had tweo really good starts all year, Cashman and Girardi basically have decided to break up a pair to go for a straight. Which is something you do in spring training, not while you're trying to hang on to the outer edges of contention in June.

We have already seen the short-term effect of Joba's move out of the pen: one loss, at least, on Monday (thank you, Kardiac Kyle). Now this.

Well, let's reserve judgment, anyhow.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Yankees 7, Twins 6 (12)

Missed Friday's game--found out about by fishing Saturday's sports section out of a wastebasket in the Isle of Capri poker room.

Got home in time for extra innings.

Isd Ohlendorf for real?