Wednesday, November 04, 2009

New York Yankees, World Champions

A few quick thoughts:

1. Robinson Cano, not even on the Yankee radar nine years ago, finally gathered up that third out that was last seen bouncing around in the desert eight years ago. There was a gaping hole in the history of the franchise. Now, closed.

2. The thing is: if you spend money, go shopping at Tiffany's. CC, Burnett, Tex. Huge, huge.

3. A-Rod is now a World Champion. Cue rasberry.

More tormorrow.

Yankees 7, Phillies 4, middle 8

Nice of Posada to end things middle eighth. What do you do with Mo? You can say, The only time they get on base is when somebody saws one off (cf. Gonzalez, Luis). But then someone hits what would be a routine play for a centerfielder, never mind one with Gardner's wheels, and you think . . . okay, what then?

Yankees 7, Phillies 4 bottom 7

Just my luck every strand of my life screams for attention this week. Since the Series started, I've bought a house, driven to Little Rock, taken part in a round-table discussion about adult education, eaten some very good steak (thanks again, James!), eaten some good catfish, driven to Hot Springs, treated myself to a Turkish bath, and driven home, searching for a signal somewhere in the Ozark Mountains, driving down a highway between a canyon of trees that felt like one of the more brutal Par 4s at the US Open. Olympic, maybe. Or Oakmont, Bethpage.

Tonight, a midterm, which reduced me to following Game 6 on my Blackberry. My students were amused when Matsui picked up A-Rod, and dealt with my "Yes! Yes! Yes!" ringing down the hallway.

Here comes Rivera.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Phillies 8, Yankees 6 (Yankees lead series 3-2)

In the end, five runs against Cliff Lee--and a loss.

Jeter and Tex both come up as the tying run in the ninth--and those two at-bats account for the final three outs.

Did I miss anything?

Just that the Yankees are now totally out of front-line pitchers who could go on regular rest. Wednesday, Pettitte on three days. Then, if necessary, CC starting the fifth Yankee game of the last 13 (yes, yes, with the long interval in between one series and the other). Did Gaudin even make the Series roster? I mean I seriously don't know, or else I forgot. In any case, his arm is 34 inches of rust, and Girardi has pretty much decided his course.

Ahhhh. Back to the Bronx.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Yankees 7, Phillies 4 (Yankees lead series 3-1)

Take it from a Houstonian: I had faith, if you want to call it that, in Lidge. Listened to the first seven innings on the road, coming back from Arkansas. Saw Joba give up the homer to tie it. then watched Johnny Damon work through an at-bat that, if the Yankees close this thing out, will rank up there with Jim Leyritz's in 1996.

Yankes 8. Phillies 5 (Yankees lead series 2-1)

Just my luck. On the road to view a classic Yankee-type victory. Ahhhhhh.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Yankees 3, Phillies 1 (Series tied 1-1)

Strong pitching. Clutch hitting late. Mariano Rivera.

Rinse, repeat.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Yankees 5, Angels 2 (Yankees, American League Champions)

I was standing in a restaurant bar, waiting for takeout, when Andy Pettitte threw his first pitch against Chone Figgins, a slider. Hit the corner. Strike one.

Second pitch, maybe a cutter. Hit the corner. Figgins just looked at it. Strike two.

Suddenly, I was channeling Ray Shalk from Eight Men Out.

"Oh man," I said, in the general direction of the Angels. "You guys are in trouble tonight."

All the years I've seen Pettitte, it's become easy to see if his stuff is on or not. Sometimes with the first pitch. Funny: the team that became famous in the 80s for trading away an All-Star team (Doug Drabek, Jose Rijo, Fred McGriff, Wille McGee, Jay Buhner, Al Leiter) took the field last night with three players who rose in the Yankee organization in the early 90s and kept regardless of all trade inquiries: Pettitte, Jeter, Jorge. And who should end the game but Mariano Rivera, the fourth face on the team's Mount Rushmore.

Well, off we go, to a Phillies team that has terrorized the National League for two years. A month ago, their bullpen was suspect. Now Brad Lidge has found his head. This team is good.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Angels 7, Yankees 6 (Yankees lead series, 3-1)

Ibid, for details, see post below.

Angels 7, Yankees 6 (end 7th)

Saw Burnett come out for the seventh, and nearly somersaulted off my sofa.

First, his pet catcher Molina is gone, replaced by nasty ol' Jorge.

Second, after the rocky first, five scoreless A.J. innings drop out of the sky. You're tempting fate.

Third, you've got a bullpen so rested it's verging on rust. Girardi would have brought in Rivera tonight if the score had reached 13-2. Mo can go two and put his arm in a sling until next Wednesday. Robertson, Coke, Marte, Joba and Hughes can throw six pitches apiece in the seventh.

Tony Doubleday has ruined baseball. Managers! Stop thinking! If an usher had managed the Yankees tonight, they'd be six Mo (post-season ERA: 0.00) outs away from the Series.

Bottom eight.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Off-day thoughts

So the Phillies go to the Series. Their one worry, heading into the post-season, was the bullpen. And now, Brad Lidge seems to remember that he's Brad Lidge. That is: Brad Lidge of the non-Pujols pitching, non-11-save-blowing variety. So: Now we have Lidge, and a lineup of Howard, Rollins, Utley, Victorrino. This team doesn't suck.

I've never thought this about another player, but: does Jorge Posada have some life issues going on, something we don't know about? If so, it's actually completely understandable. In two innings last night, Jorge made three horrendous blunders, three brutal ghastly goofs that, in ordinary circumstances, he might spread out over an entire season. God knows Posada has earned the benefit of the doubt: both at the plate and behind the plate, he's come through too many times to be labeled a choker or lunkhead. So what gives?

The greatest officials in all of sports are Major League Baseball umpires. Let us all say, "My God, have they had a terrible two weeks," and go from there. For now.

CC Sabathia. The Yankees have not had such a calming shut-down stopper like this since Ron Guidry, circa 1977-78. Gator. Now CC.

CC Sabathia. I now know how important it was for the Mets to beat the Astros in Game Six in 1986, just to avoid Mike Scott in Game Seven. How important Randy Johnson was to the D-Backs in 2001. CC not only assumes the role of stopper, he embraces it, and in doing so makes himself a part of the team the way no pitcher has done since David Cone in '96. Coney, with Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez at his back (with Rock Raines available as enforcer), laid down the law for the younger players. Never complain. Stand up and face the press, whether you hit the game-winning homer or strike out with the bases loaded, whether you get the save or surrender the game-winning dinger. Never walk when you can run. Remember all things are possible if you share the credit.

You look at CC, he gets it, gets it all the way back to Allie Reynolds and Eddie Lopat, gets it all the way to Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock. CC is the real deal.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Yankees 10, Angels 1 (Yanks lead ALCS, 3-1)

It was over when . . . A-Rod's ball cleared the left field wall.

As for CC Sabathia. I mean, wow.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Angels 5, Yankees 4 (11)

Or so I think. Astro-Girl had to text me the last 2 innings, out by out.

Eveyone said these two teams were evenly matched. Yeesh.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Travel Day

Had to explain to Astro-Girl what happened.

But: an interesting note. When A-Rod came up with two outs in the bottom of the 12th, bases loaded, tie score, when a hit or run or error would have won the game, I thought, Well, here it is. The fulcrum. A-Rod gets a hit here, and a half-decade of futility vanishes.

Well, didn't work out, and that became forgotten when the Angels' adventures 'round the infield send Hairston home with the winner one inning late. Still, consider:

The 1977 ALCS. The Yanks are tied 2-2 with the Royals in a best of five to go to the Series. Due up for KC, a rested Paul Splitorff, a nasty left-hander who (in the words of Thurman Munson) Reggie could not hit with a canoe paddle. Splittie or not, Reggie has had a brutal playoffs, going 1-for-17 thus far (yes, kids, even Mr. October struck out now again after the leaves turned). His job and his team's season on the line, Billy Martin sits Reggie in favor of Paul Blair, reasoning first (reasonably) that a low-scoring game would put a premium on fielding, and (again reasonably) as soon as Whitey Herzog went to his bullpen, Reggie would be available for an advantageous moment. As it turns out (and never say Billy couldn't run a game) both things happen, and as soon as KC turns matter over to right-hander Doug Bird, Reggie turns up, swinging from the on-deck circle, driving in the run that makes the score 3-2. Bottom of the eighth, in comes Sparky Lyle; in the ninth, the Yankees mow down the weakest part of a really good KC team, their bullpen. 5-3 Yanks. Series.

Then: the Series. And so the legend of Mr. October was bronzed, eventually literally, in Cooperstown.

With or without 1977, Reggie was headed for the Hall. But it was '77 that gave him immortality, the greatest nickname in baseball history. I love The Babe, The Big Train, The Iron Horse, the Yankee Clipper, Old Pete, The Splendid Splinter, Big Poison, Li'l Poison, Ducky, Stan the Man, the Say Hey Kid, The Commerce Comet, Catfish, Gator, and Big Puma.

The greatest nickname of all time?

Mr. October.

Point being: even Mr. October had his down time. But her came through enough.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

So, who exactly gets pie tonight? (Yanks 4, Angels 3, 13)

A-Rod only tied it. Melky's game-winning whatever-it-was (FC-E4-E5?) could have been a double play. Should have been second-and-third, two out, tie score.

Ah, give the pie to Hairston, AJ. Sure. Splat.

How much can we really blame on the weather? How much to freak luck? The Yankees went 0-for-8 with men in scoring position, stranded 12 men, committed three errors . . . and won.

23 men stranded in two games, and the Yanks are up 2-0.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Yankees 4, Angels 1

It was over . . . at the bottom of the first. 2-0 Yanks. We had seen enough of CC to see-see his game-game tonight.

No wonder he yawned. If excited, and I'm yawning right now.

Yankees 1, Angels 0

Monday, October 12, 2009

If your name were Skip Moore instead of Skip Kennedy, your campaign would be a joke

Friday night, after the third, I drive to pick up a cake for a niece's birthday--and, not insignificantly, to treat myself to the dulcet tones of Miller and Phillips in the car.

Run in, grab the cake, run back. Miss, say, five minutes of the game. Game on the radio, but no score announced. Call Astro-Girl. Astro-Girl, half-following the game, says, "Still zero-zero. And, oh, the announcer just said the Twins pitcher has a perfect game."

"Huh?"

"A perfect game."

"Can't be," I says. "Matsui walked the last inning."

"I don't know," she says. "That's just what he said. 'Six up, six down.'"

"He said that."

"Just now."

"Yes."

Five seconds of Is it me or has the world gone crazy? later: "Wait, what inning is it?"

Pause. "Oh, the fourth. Wait, that doesn't make sense."

So consider: Astro-Girl, bless her heart, attended her first baseball game in her thirties. I was there at the time. Let me go out on a limb here and wildly guess that Skip Caray--grandson of announcer Harry Caray, son of announcer Chip Caray--first got out to Wrigley or Fulton County a shade younger than 30. And yet my wife understands that, dating back to before Mel Allen and Red Barber were on the scene, "X up, X down" in baseball terminology applies only to a pitcher's performance since the start of the game. If a pitcher has an impressive run in the middle of the game, it is correct to state that he has retired "X batters in a row," "or "X of the previous Y batters," or else say,"No batters have reached first since the Z inning." Whichever applies.

Substituting "six up, six down" for "six batters retired in a row" is like describing a mighty impressive two-run homer as a "grand slam."

And my wife, supine on the sofa, allowing the Yankees to compete with James Patterson, knows all this, without the two of us ever having discussed it. And Skip Caray, after a lifetime versed in baseball and baseball broadcasting, does not.

And if not for the dearth of Yankee baseball looming before me the next few days, I still wouldn't point it out, but it's always nice to see that Phil Mushnick agrees with me.

And I wish I knew how to let my thing link again.

Yankees 4, Twins 1

So here our Yankees sit, as in 2003 and 2004 vis a vis Boston, with the matchup everyone has been pretty much expecting since the sweep of Boston in July.

This time, they draw the Angels, with a BCS-like build-up of almost a week.

We now know the season turned:

1. When CC finally seemed comfortable with his role of staff ace;

2. When A-Rod seemed healed, or healed enough;

3. When Phil Hughes, to paraphrase Mike Lupica, slid seamlessly into Mike Stanton, circa 1998-2000.

When the Yankees seemed to dig victories out of potentially hopeless causes (think Game 5, ALCS, 1977), Roger Angell, no Yankee-lover he, conceded, "With the Yankees, you cannot open the door a millimeter, for they will kick it down." This is how the Yankees have been playing lately.

Any team can beat any team any day. The 1998 Yankees, one of the greatest five teams in history, lost 50 times, post-season included. It's the nature of things. Shut-outs happen. Home runs happen. Your team is not the only one with talent. Or else your starter sleeps on his pitching arm and gives up five runs in the first. Only . . .

Only . . .

The Twins would have had to have played perfectly to beat the Yankees, and in Games 2 and 3 they almost pulled it off. Two brutal baserunning blunders and one terrible umpire's call over twenty innings were enough to doom Minnesota. Their second-best player was out, their starting pitching (for how well it played in Games 2 and 3) was discalibrated thanks to the Twins' last-week cavalry charge, and their bullpen, from Nathan forward, was simply gassed.

For all that, the series was closer than people will remember, save perhaps Game 2.

Now the Yankees, like it or not, are the position the Twins were in, of having to bring their A-game every inning, every pitch, every split-second decision. CC has to be the bear in the woods, Joba and Hughes and Mo need to be practically perfect out of the pen, the outfield has to run down gappers, and at least three among Jeter, Damon, Tex, A-Rod, and Matsui have to produce big-time at the plate.

Oh, and it wouldn't hurt for both AJ and Pettitte to keep it up.



So there's the assignment.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Yankees 4, Twins 3

Consider:

1) This time they didn't need Jeffrey Maier. That's less a lame joke than a serious observation: after all the salaries have been paid, the spring training suffered through, the slumps endured, the streaks enjoyed, October baseball so often comes down to . . . freak luck. If, in 1996, Luis Polonia hits the ball six more inches, Paul O'Neill doesn't make the catch, Atlanta wins Game 5 2-1, then heads back to New York up three games to two, needing only one win the be the Team of the Nineties, with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine ready to go. Instead, O'Neill makes the catch, the Yankees go up 3-2 in games, and the Braves return to a Bronx they thought they'd not see again, at least not that year, having to do what they'd done a week ago: win two straight games. So: what happens tonight if, in the top of the eleventh, the one-out line drive is hit two feet either way? Tex doesn't make the play. One run for sure, maybe two. What happens if, in the bottom of the eleventh, Tex's shot hits three inches lower? A double, maybe. A-Rod is walked intentionally. Does Matsui bunt? Double play? Never know.

2) Where did these umpires come from? There has not been such atrocious baseball officiating since Eric Gregg's strike-zone-as-wide-as-his-ass noble moment in the 1997 NLCS, the game that brought Livan Hernandez to the world stage. The home plate umpire recalled Whitey Herzog's crack about another Blue Man: "He's lucky he only has two guesses." As for the left field umpire: really, and I say this as a Yankee fan, clearly Joe Mauer was robbed in the 11th. Not only was--Cuzzi, is that his name? Who are these guys--Cuzzi's call brutal, Cuzzi lacked the positioning that the lowliest Little League umpire learns his first game. With a ball heading for the corner, you straddle the line; in left field, you plant your left foot to the left of the line, your right foot to the right. You focus down the line. Thus positioned, you can judge foul or fair from 100 feet away.

Cuzzi, who had all the time in the world, walked up to the left-field foul line from foul territory as if walking to the edge of a diving board, and then leaned over the line and turned his head sideways, as if he meant to count the house or mark the exits. Thus positioned, he made his call based on the ball's trajectory, and not where it actually landed. The ball was headed foul, but clearly landed a foot to fifteen inches fair.

There is no overstating what a brutal call that was for the Twins. I see about 30 baseball games live per season, and maybe another 75 broadcasted, and I might go an entire season without seeing a call so horrible. And this with a crew of four umpires, not six. No, better: I coached a women's softball team for a half-decade, when the home plate umpire (usually some 22 year-old frat boy working through a triphammer hangover on a Sunday morning) was in charge of fair-foul calls of that nature. Always--always--the ump hustled down, positioned himself properly, straddled the line, and made the call that, if one is positioned properly, isn't really hard.

Who the hell are these guys?

3) Pettitte. Pettitte! Get 'em.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Yankees 7, Twins 2

Some thoughts:

1. It was over when . . . not to go ESPN on you, but it was over when Jeter tied it up (see below). If you listened closely, you could hear every Yankee fan from Hartford down to Perth Amboy exhaling: Got 'em. CC might surrender one tie, but not two. After Jeter, just a matter of time.

I remember watching CC pitch his first game as a Yankee, Opening Day at Camden Yards. The way he was throwing, it seemed Sabathia was trying to earn all of his $165 million in the first inning. Fastballs came in at 98 miles per hour, but in one of two heights: either the brim of the batter's helmet or bounced off the plate. There was a little bit of this tonight, early, and helped not a little bit by a Twin-Cities ump who had seemingly decided that, given the Twins' lack of rest, they should be given four strikes apiece. On the radio, Jon Miller, who usually strives to be fair-minded to the detriment of the broadcast (see below), seemed stunned at some of the two-strike pitches that . . . well, here is how he described one two-strike call, verbatim: "That was either at the corner but below the knee, or, um, at the knee and off the corner, or, um, er, at the knee and at the corner." For an equivalent radio moment, think of Glenn Beck calling for General McChrystal to shoot President Obama on sight.

2. What I was thinking of was . . . the ghost of Jim Beattie. In 1978, When the Yankees came back from 14 games down against the Red Sox, pushed their own lead to 3 1/2, found themselves tied with the Sox on the last day of the season, then defeated the Sox in The Greatest Game Ever Played, they still had the small matter of the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS. The series started on a Tuesday, the day after TGGEP. For Game One, what were manager Bob Lemon's options? Ed Figueroa had won his 20th game the previous Saturday. Catfish Hunter had been thumped by the Indians on Sunday. Of course, in the playoff game the previous day, Ron Guidry had started and gone 6 2/3 innings; Goose Gossage had pitched 2 1/3 innings for the save.

In other words, Lemon's four best pitchers were unavailable.

What was Lemon left with, that he could trust in any way? Basically, three pitchers: Jim Beattie, Ken Clay, and a royally pissed-off Sparky Lyle. Lyle had had almost no role in the Yankees' historic comeback (his recount of the season is captured, most entertainingly of course, in The Bronx Zoo.) Lyle had felt badly left out by the emergence of Gossage as the majors' prime closer. The previous day, with two outs in the ninth and the tying run on third base, Lyle had desperately wanted to pitch to Yasztremski, just to prove his worth in some way, had even warmed up to face Yaz with no call from the dugout. Lemon had stuck with Goose, to no Yankee fan's complaint.

So: this was Lyle. With little option, Lemon went with Beattie, with his sparkling 6-9 regular-season record. Beattie, of course, collared the Royals with almost laughable ease, and was ably relieved by Clay. When Reggie hit one of his requisite October home runs, the game was already on ice.

The next day, Ed Figueroa did his annual post-season folderola. Two days' following, at Yankee Stadium, Catfish gave up three home runs to George Brett, but Reggie provided an answer for each blow at the bottom of the same inning of Brett's bombs: first with a home run, then with an RBI single, then with a 400-foot fly ball that scored a run from third. This was merely the prelude to the finale: Thurman Munson's game-winning blast that soared over the fence in left-center field and bouced around the monuments.

Finally, the next day, given sufficient rest, Guidry and Gossage shut down the Royals, 2-1, for the series.

But Beattie was the one who started it.

I kept waiting for the Twins to produce their own Jim Beattie tonight. Jeter's home run, therefore, was a comfort in more ways than one.

3. Nice to see A-Rod, you know, hit. The only thing I was worried about was, Damn, Jeter's doing so well, now A-Rod will swing at pitches that threaten to hit the batboy. Well, yeah, the first two times up. Can we hope that 2 RBIs relaxes him? He's got three of the best clutch hitters in the sport clustered around him (Jeter, Tex, Matsui). The Yankees have a .320 hitter batting sixth. Would it kill A-Rod to force the pitcher to, like, throw a strike or something?

4. Steve Phillips: smart guy. To hear Joe Morgan's colleagues (Miller and Phillips) call the game sans Morgan is like sitting on a long bus ride with a female classmate and discovering the reason you thought you never liked her was because of her asshole boyfriend. Phillips is smart. He's observant. I listened to 90 percent of the game on radio, and Phillips' dissection of CC's pitches was worth my attention all by itself. The reason nobody knows he's smart is that, on ESPN, nothing he says is directly relevant to somebody's "second-consecutive MVP Award."

I hear Morgan may be retiring. I should live so long.

Please, please: to paraphrase John Lennon, ESPN, if my dream comes true, if I should one day end my weekend with a CC-Beckett slamdown at Fenway without Joe Morgan, don't go out and hire Jim Palmer or Bret Boone, or (God forgive me) Mr. October. ESPN, all we are asking, is give the Miller-Phillips team a chance.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Baseball, as midnight passes

Whatever happens, you can never really be upset. Schilling and Unit, combined, appear six times in seven games and either shut the Yankees down or (in Schilling's case, and remember he only won Game One, ND'd Game Four, and was set to lose Game Seven, and all sensors pointed to Clemens as World Series MVP, right at the point where Mo pulled Jeter off the bag), keep the D'Backs close enough to get over.

Remember: These were the 2001 Yankees, who had fought back the upstart A's, walked over the 116-win Mariners . . . and found themselves outmatched in every conceivable category of the game except closer, precisely up until the ninth inning of Game 7.

Nobody knows in a short series. Mauer may hit .600 and slug 1.200, and there's the ball game. Cuddyer could hit five home runs. Gomez would run crazy. Melky could lose the ball in that infernal roof with the bases loaded. Never know.

But, as we pass into the first day of the baseball playoffs, let us consider a few thoughts. From SDJ:

I think all the wags agree that those three free agents were the best 09 signings in all of baseball. Mark Teixeira may end up being the all time great Yankee first baseman. Of course he'd have to be considered better than the "Iron Man".


And Robbie-Boy:

Tex reminds me a lot of Paul O'Neill. But a new and improved O'Neill, a bigger bat and flashier leather.

On a team with CC, Jeter and A-Rod, there is Tex. All season long, quietly, he has been the glue. A guy you never worry about, a guy I'm sure the young players listen to and watch with amazement. A third basemen's dream. Throw it in his area code and he'll dig it out.

I can't really think about 100 wins without this guy. And how long has it been, since we have had that power, and that defense at that spot?


Answer to the last question: Don Mattingly, at his peak, 1984-1987.

1984: Batting title.
1985: MVP (145 RBI)
1986: Triple-Crown threat, 35 homers, .352 BA, second in MVP to Roger Clemens
1987: Triple-Cown threat, lost in MVP shuffle as the Yanks tank in September

And: a Gold Glove at first base, every year.

In short, over a four-year span, the best player in baseball.

Twins 6, Tigers 5 (12)

So, instead of Verlander and the rest of the Tigers' pitching, we get Mauer, Cuddyer, and Young.

Yankee faithful to CC: "The world could not have set this up better for you, Big Boy. Time to step up."

My only regret: 'Round about the fifth inning, a clas I cannot cancel. they used to schedule these things better.

Monday, October 05, 2009

As we head to almost-certainly Wednesday

Deadspin, on the Yankees, pretty spot-on:

This was the season that the Yankees' undignified lurch toward their past dominance actually worked, a cosmic confluence of circumstances that allowed them to sign the best three free agents and have them, lo and behold, to turn out to be pretty damned good. Of all the signings, Mark Teixeira was probably the most steadying. The literal opposite of a diva, he's a robot, a smiling semi-vacant switch-hitting machine, a man so lacking in personality that his at-bat song is "I Wanna Rock" by Twisted Sister. You can almost see the gears whirring and creaking in his brain. I do, in fact, like rock. Particularly Daughtry. What song would be express this feeling? How do I say, 'Boy, I sure could use some rocking right now.' That man doesn't even think in exclamation points. The last few years, the Yankees have needed players they never have to worry about. Mark Teixeira is the living embodiment of Someone Who Requires No More Thought. This is not a criticism of Teixeira. It is what makes him valuable. Well, that, at the .948 OPS.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A-Rod heats up?

Some record here.

Yankee legends are made in October, A-Rod.

Operation Chaos, at a conclusion

Okay, Yankees, now you're on you're own.

I wonder: whatever happened to those people who made a living building those metal television portables, those metal carts with plastic wheels that were used to move a TV from the living room to the bedroom?

I do remember, back in the old house on Second Street, sneaking into my parents' room on a Saturday morning and quietly rolling our RCA black-and-white out to the living room to watch "Kid Power" and "Hong Kong Fooey."

As soon as people decided that it was simply more convenient to buy a TV for every room that might want one, those TV cart people were out of business.

So I thought today, as I raced between Astro Girl's and my four TVs: I've got my own Sports Bar!

Living room: Texans vs. Raiders.

Den: Flipping: Giants vs. Chiefs (Eli et al. fantasy), and Patriots vs. Ravens (game of the day, by the way--defense bails out Brady's awful fourth-quarter management).

Kitchen: Tigers stroll to victory.

Bedroom: Twins stroll to victory.

So we move to a one-game playoff, with, for the Twins and Tigers, both pitching staffs (staves?) in the bully.

It cannot set up better for the Yankees.

First, a Central team whose pitching staff is torn to tatters by so many late-season cliffhangers.

Then, past that, the winner of the glamour Division Series, the Angel-Red Sox potential war.

Then . . . who? The Dodgers don't hit, the Phillies have no bullpen, the Rockies are the Rockies, and the Cardinals . . . well, there you might have a problem.

Tony effing Doubleday. He has out-thought himself out of more World Series than he's won, and he's been the father of more good-ideas-turned-crappy than any manager in history (twenty-one years ago, Tony Doubleday deemed that Honeycutt must pitch the eighth, and Eck the ninth, and every team since then has fallen into lockstep . . .)

(. . . And I'm not saying he's wrong on principle, only does that have to rule have to be ironclad, from here to eternity? Wilcy Moore was the relief ace for the '27 Yankees (only the greatest team of all time, and featuring, beyong Ruth, Gehrig, and Lazzeri, two starting pitchers who made the Hall of Fame, and a third--Urban Shocker--who should be there); and Joe Page was the "closer" for Casey Stengel, and both of them were brought in multiple times with multiple innings to go. In a tight game, in a pennant race, Casey had no problem bringing in Page in the third or fourth. In Game Four of the ADCS, with the Yankees facing elimination, Billy Martin brought in Sparky Lyle to retire the last 15 Royals for the win, and then come in the ninth for the win the following night. The following year, in the historic 1978 Yankee-Red Sox playoff game (aka The Greatest Game Ever Played) there is serious evidence that Bob Lemon considered sending Goose Goosage out to start, hoping he'd shut the Sox down for three innings, then bring in Guidry. As it was, Lemon started Guidry, but put Goose on notice: if Guidry was knocked out of the first, Goose would be the first man out. Go with your best. That was the rule, right up until Tony Doubleday discovered Honeycutt adn Eck.)

Well, if the Yankees can't beat the winner of the Tiger-Twin cage match, I give up.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Lupica exasperates by being right sometimes

How often I've thought it . . .

Get Mike Lupica west of the Hudson River, regarding any sport except golf or tennis, and he's simply out of his element.

No, George W. Bush was never going to pardon Roger Clemens, and anyone who knew anything about George W. Bush, aside from what an intern had downloaded from Huffington Post, knew as much. (Such was Lupica's braying on the matter that the presumptive pardon became a topics of discussion on "The Sports Reporters," even on an episode where Lupica did not appear.)

A few weeks ago he talked about how USC, under Pete Carroll, had "underachieved."

Really.

Start with this.

USC's record in Carroll's first 16 games: 8-8.

USC's record since then: 83-8.

Two Orange Bowl victories, four Rose Bowl victories, two National Championships, one historic loss (Vince Young), one no-shame loss (Oregon, 2007), one loss to an underrated Aaron Rogers/Lavarr Arrington team (2003), and five losses that defy sense and gravity (one to Stanford, two to Oregon State, one to UCLA, and the latest one to Washington).

Still: 83-8.

Back to Lupica. His ten-thumbed dealing with greater sports America makes it almost exasperating when he gets it right, as he does here with Mo.

Before Midnight

Two thoughts:

1. People (well, first my brother John and then Who-the-Hell, the guy on ESPN who lost all that weight, I really can't remember his name) once called NFL Conference Championship Sunday "the best day in the sports calendar."

No: the best day is the first Sunday in October, the intersection between the NFL, a good pennant race, and sorting out what happened in college football.

2. Really: to calm down after a stressful day, turn on the Dodgers on MLB.com. Last inning, Scully: "Base hit to right, and heeeeere comes Furcal." To quote Nabokov: "A poem, forsooth. A poem!" Will future generations marvel at the greatest baseball announcer of all time simply sitting in the booth with a scorecard and a monitor, supplying both the text and commentary with a marvelous baritone combined with an economy of words worthy of Chekohov and Hemingway?

One moment. Manny, who's had a brutal post-suspension season, hits a scorcher to right-center in a 0-0 game with post-season implications. Forty thousand Dodger fans leap to their feet, thinking extra bases. The Rockies center fielder leaps for the ball, catches it . . . only his glove hand hits the field and the ball trickles out. Easy double (or, the way Manny "runs," a single.) But the center fielder, in a crafty bit of gamesmanship, tucks his body around the ball on the ground, shielding it from the second-base umpire. The call: out.

Multiple replays leave no doubt. The catch was a deke. In similar circumstances, Sterling or Harrelson would have broken a blood vessel. Morgan would have brought the play up fifteen times over the remaining course of the game, and I'm not exaggerating.

Scully? He simply says, "Well, you can see the ball trickle out, but 'out' was the umpire's call," trusting that his television viewers have eyes in their heads. Then, just for the seeing-impaired, he waits until the Rocky center fielder comes up again to say, "He got away with a little trick play an inning ago," and leaves it at that--complimenting the player on his craftiness (and it was), rather than calling for the umpire's suspension, if not firing.

Oh, and by the way: the game clinched the NL West for the Dodgers, and, by the way, Joe Torre. Hard not to feel good for Joe.

Operation Chaos (Baseball Version) Lives

Tomorrow's starting pitcher--

(Det) Verlander 18-9

Every little bit helps.

One might ask . . .

. . . who wants to even chance going into the Thunderdome, the way the Twins are playing?

. . . Doesn't a team that wins an extra playoff game go deep into the playoffs (see: Yankees '78, Mariners '95, Colorado '07) as often as not (Astros '80, Cubs '99)?

. . . above all else, aren't we worried about CC?

To which one answers: Maybe not me, yes, and yes.

But I'll take my chances.

Right now I'm watching 1) another historically crappy personal-foul call by the Pac-10 crew working USC-Cal, once again demonstrating that Pac-10 football officials make Big-10 basketball officials look like John Marshall and Oliver Wendell Holmes had given birth to Earl Strom; and, alternatively, 2) a baseball game called by Vin Scully, which I treasure as a college professor would the few nights he can afford to eat out at Morton's or Fleming's. To think all those nights in Los Angeles I could have listened! I was too busy at the library. Or out chasing girls.

Operation Chaos lasts one more day . . .

. . . but the Twins go up against Grienke today, so that may be half the puzzle for the Tigers.

If Verlander pitches on Sunday, though, mission accomplished. A similar situation ten years ago today pushed Cy Young runner-up Mike Hampton to the mound on the last day of the season. He was unavailable until the following Friday, and the Astros, as they always did those years, went down to the Braves.

One consideration. CC last night . . . OUCH.

Four days to turn it around, big man.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Operation Chaos (Baseball Version)

Detroit's Magic Number: 2.

One of the great happenstances of politcs is how, when political opposites become polarized enough, they eventually reach all the way around and eventually agree with one another. So it was that both conservative Evangelicals and rabid feminists wanted pornogrpahy banned. And, back in the 60s, the Ku Klux Klan's favorite boxer was Elijah Muhammad disciple Muhammad Ali, since both the Klan and Muhammad's Muslim sect preached separation of the races.

Today we have Ozzie Guillen. Behaving like an ass and blowhard comes as easily as breathing for Ozzie, so as the White Sox are in Detroit, with the Tigers' magic number is two, Ozzie (who would rather sit with the Bleacher Creatures than watch another team celebrate in front of him) is starting Jake Peavy.

Ozzie is (let me project here) so set on beating the Tigers that his preoccupation over something that, to the White Sox, is essentially meaningless is--when it stretches all the way around--the right thing to do.

If Peavy is sharp, he stays in. Watch. Ozzie's only regret is that he cannot follow Peavy this weekend with Lamarr Hoyt and Billy Pierce in their primes.

Meanwhile, Minnesota gets to face Kansas City, and the immortal Lenny DiNardo, with his sparkling 0-2 record and 7.52 ERA.

Go get 'em, Ozzie.

Rooting for one team over the other: Bad karma. Rooting for chaos? No, that's okay.

Apparently I'm not alone, guys:

Detroit now has to win two, or the 'ole combo win Twinkies loss. Let's hope for a 1 game playoff!

Robbie-Boy

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Whew

I feel as exhausted as CC and A-Rod combined. I was hoping the Twins might hang on long enough to wear down Verlandr's arm a little more (catch his 129-pitch meatgrinder on Monday), but looks like no soap. So, bring on the Tigers, I guess.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Yankees 4, Red Sox 2 (Yanks clinch Division Title)

On the whole, I'm rather glad we stayed home from the Astros home finale.

Strong starting pitching, strong relief, timely hitting late, Mo.

Eleven more times.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Another (sort of) vote for Sabathia

Eleven starts, 9-0 in that span.

Yankees win all 11 games.

0.90 ERA.

3-0 vs. Boston in that span.

Joel Sherman.

Yankees 3, Red Sox 0

I loved old Paul Zimmerman's rationale for NFL MVP: look at each contender and ask, "Where would his team be without him?"

Based on that rationale . . .

Ladies and gentlemen: CC Sabathia, your 2009 AL Cy Young award winner.

Grienke has become the chic pick, I know, and he may get there, the same as Karl Malone won his MVP out of sheer boredom from giving it to MJ, and how Kirk Gibson, through Gibson's sheer grit and determination or something became the answer to this glorious trivia question: Who is the only everyday player to win MVP who never, in any season, 1) hit .300, 2) hit 30 homers, 3) hit 100 RBIs, and 4) played in an All-Star game? Darryl Strawberry was the NL MVP of 1988, but Gibson just fit so well with the journalistic idea of an MVP that Straw was screwed. Clearly, this explains his subsequent problems.

Journalists are sometimes prone to overthink and underthink at the same time. When Hillary Clinton was Senator, and clearly gearing up to run for President, her every move was dissected for its brilliance. She was "moving to the center." She was "establishing her foreign policy credentials." Her every position was viewed in light of how it helped her chances for in the 2008 general election, without any thought given to whether her actions were, in fact, based in her convictions. By the time it came for her to actually campaign, there was nothing left of her but the notes. A large portion of the press, assuming her nomination was secure and embellishing her toughness for a run against McCain or Romney or Huckabee, found it impossible to scramble back quickly enough to head off Obama from her left flank. It was too late to simply step back and re-frame her for what she was: a more or less doctronaire liberal, just like Obama.

Sometimes we have to step back and just look at what is what. The second half of the season, CC has been the bull moose, the stopper, the one most responsible for the Yankees' 15-game swing with Boston since the break. Most years this is simple: the clear ace, the 19- or 20-game winner for the best regular-season team in baseball, best down the stretch, overwhelming the historical rival . . . yeah, there's your guy.

See how this goes. For a pitcher's milestone game, like a chance for a 20th or 200th win, the starting Yankee eight usually shows up. Posada behind the mound (unless CC works better with Molina). Tex, Cano, Jeter, A-Rod (yeah, depending on his hip), Damon, Melky, Swisher. Matsui. So we'll see.

Meanwhile, I'll be at Minute Maid watching a team whose last two months belong in the obituaries. If they clinch on the MM manual scoreboard, that's one thing I'll take away.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Yankees 9, Red Sox 5

A weird kind of satisfying game: a lead that was always comfortable enough to make you feel comfortable, yet never felt like a complete blow-out.

AJ and Joba--have they bottomed out and turned upward? One more solid start each and I'll start to believe.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Yanks take 2 and turn 4 home

Laid out here here in the Post.

Okay, guys, once we get past the obligatory barring a major collapse part, the last two games basically sew up the regular season. The Magic Number goes to five versus the Sox (with any one victory over Boston counting as two of the five--okay, we all know that). Thanks to a diasastrous/disastrous/kinda cool football weekend (USC, Patriots, Texans--and memo to Pac-10 haters: both Mark Sanchez and Brian Cushing may be the real deal), I've been feeling 24 hours behind my reall passion.

Some notes of my own:

1. The telling part of the last game, for me, was that Ian Kennedy, of all people, was brought into pitch during Wednesday's minor-panic game, not least because the Non-Mo usually reliable part of the bullpen, right now, would probably struggle to pass the green beans at dinner. Recalls another Earl Weaver quote about pitching: "Either six is too many or ten ain't enough." Today that would translate to: "Either eight's too many or twelve's not enough." Because of the delicate dynamic of a rotation/bullpen, plus the vagaries of the schedule, entire staffs tend to pitch well at once (cf. the 1996 Yankees) or stink all at once (cf. Games Three (yes, three) through Seven, 2004 ALCS). When the starting pitching goes well, all you need are your five starters, set-up man and closer. When the starters get shelled, the rusty middle part of the bullpen, already rusty from inaction, gets exhausted from immediate overwork. Then your eighth- and ninth-inning guys sit around and do nothing, because there's never a lead to protect. When times were going well for the Yankees (roughly 7 1/2 weeks after the All-Star game, when they were 30-11 or some ungodly number), you could almost sense Girardi and Eiland see the bad times coming, and scramble to get Acevedes, Coke, and Bruney work whenever possible. Still, it's never enough. Chop as much fire wood as you want in September; you'll be shivering out there in the woods with your hatchet come January.

Only three weeks ago we were debating Pettitte v. Joba for Game Number Three against the Tigers. Three days ago it was: Can anyone pitch Game 2, and could that be on the road against the Angels? We seemed to have reached a middle now: Pettitte or Burnett for Game 2 (if it's a toss-up, you go Burnett for the lefty-righty effect with CC, right? And when in doubt, always start the older veteran on the road?)

2. Quiz: name the last team the Yankees beat in a playoff series. The Minnesota Twins, 2004 ALDS. And yes, I've seen the Twins creep up on Detroit, and no, I'm not going to openly root for the Twins because such behavior is just major bad karma, whether we're talking about "ducking Verlander in a short series" or not. Consider:

I was living in Binghamton, New York, in the spring of 1989, and barely following the NBA. The Celtics had just begun their (interrupted, kind of, twice, in 1991 and 2002) two decades of ineptitude-at-all-levels. I sort of picked up the sagas of the Patrick Ewing/Mark Jackson/Charles Oakley/Rick Pitino New York Knicks by osmosis, in part because they were a young, running, pressing, fun team to watch, and in part because when the Knicks are good (that used to happen, kids) you pretty much can't escape them anywhere from Perth Amboy, New Jersey, all the way to the Canadien border.

Anyway, the only question the Knicks wanted to know was, Which team would they have to beat to face the Bay Boy Pistons in the Conference Finals? A good young Cleveland team (Brad Daugherty, Mark Price, Larry Nance) had given New York fits all season, so naturally they pulled for Cleveland's first-round opponent . . . Chicago. And when Michael Jordan beat Cleveland at the buzzer in Game 5 with the first truly famous shot of his career, the Knicks themselves were publicly ecstatic. Great, we get to play the Bulls!

You can guess how the next round went for the Knicks. Or, for that matter, the next decade, whenever they went up against Jordan.

Or think of the Democrats.

In 1968, the Dems privately rooted for Richard Nixon to win the GOP Presidential nomination against George Romney, Ronald Reagan and Nelson Rockefeller. Nixon won the nomination, and then the presidency.

In 1980, Jimmy Carter thought he'd stomp Ronald Reagan. Privately, the Dems heavily rooted for Reagan to gain the GOP nomination over Bush I and Howard Baker. Result: Reagan landslide over Carter.

In 1988, the Democrats openly and publicly rooted for Bush I over Dole and Kemp, thinking either Dukakis, Gore or Gephardt would beat him easily. Bush I won the nomination. Result: Bush I landslide over Dukakis.

In 1996, the Democrats privately rooted for Bob Dole over Lamar Alexander. Okay, that went well for the Dems.

In 2000, the Democrats openly rooted for Bush II against McCain, thinking either Gore or Bradley would beat him easily. Bush II won the nomination. Result: Bush II in a squeaker over Gore.

In 2008, the only Republican who scared the Democrats at all was John McCain. McCain won the nomination. Result: Obama semi-landslide over McCain.

Lesson: beware of what you wish for. And never wish to meet any team with players named Mauer and Morneau. I could have rooted for Texas to beat Boston for the Wild Card, or to overtake the Angels, and get rid of one of the Yankees' two nemeses. It would take a total breakdown of Yankee pitching to lose to Texas. But Detroit v. Minnesota? I'm sitting out.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Angels 5, Yankees 2

Damn. Perfect. Wrote about the game and then it all vanished. I'm going to bed.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday, Sunday (Mariners 7, Yankees 1)

When your ten year-old niece calls up to check on you, you know it's been a brutal weekend.

You know your life needs a lift when your two favorite teams (USC, Patriots) both suffer humiliating defeats, but your fantasy team does okay and that picks you up.

Turned on the Yankees to cheer myself up. Losing 7-0. Goodbye, Yankees.

Hello, Angels. And here we go.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

No, really, I feel like an intruder

"You take momentum. I'll take Jim Palmer." Earl Weaver.


Oh, man did that USC loss hit, though it wasn't a surprise.

I wish I was in Vegas to bet a grand on the spread. Ah well.

That Was The Week That Was

Pete Carroll doesn't lose the big games.

He loses the little games.

When will ASU lobby to host USC in September?

More important:

Did anyone notice one Hall-of-Famer (Ichiro) takiing out another (Mo)?

Good Lord, I don't know which season depresses me more.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Yanks drop two

How many people have thrPee computers melt down in a month?

Yeah, thought so. Plus I had nothing on my mind but USC-Ohio State

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Yankees 4, Rays 2

Missed Jeter's three hits--fantasy draft.

And if he goes past Gehrig tonight, I'll be busy watching the 'Stros play out the string.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Yankees 3, Rays 2

Magic number: 15.

Is it me, or does Nick Swisher look like Mark Texiera's younger brother they let put on a uniform?

Neever mind, the shaving cream, I'm guessing, tasted just as good.

Tonight's plan was to race through my evening class and arrive at Minute Maid during the third inning. In the car, Astro-Girl delivered the bad news: eight pm, one hour in, middle of the fifth.

And I had thought Geg Maddux had retired.

Christ, doesn't anyone besides Pujols take a pitch anymore?

So: Off to the sports bar.

2-1, Yankees, in the seventh.

Then: 2-2. Somebody's home run. I as nailing down the boneless wings.

Then Swisher.

Magic number: 15.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Yanks sweep; Sox, Halos lose

"You take momentum, I'll take Jim Palmer."--Earl Weaver

Or: we'll take CC and AJ back-to-back. The only problem is, CC didn't get the win, which may cost him the Cy Young.

And . . . if Texas can catch Boston for the Wild Card.

Division Magic Number: 16.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Blue Jays 14, Yankees 8

Oh, what a terrible game. Just a dreadful game. Four Yankee errors, and the Blue Jay scorekeeper was being generous. If one includes mental lapses and plays-that-guy-usually-makes, you could double that number. Ball under Tex's glove. Hairston getting cute with the slow roller. Help me out, guys, I turned that sucker off four different times.

Call this the okay-you-still-know-nothing's-been-quite-settled-yet? game. And PS: The Red Sox and Angels both won.

SDJ agrees mostly with the post-season roster; I only forgot about the kid Pena, who may squeeze in as pinch-runner/defensive all-purpose guy.

They tell you in the minors: the way to stay employed for a long time is to 1) learn to play all four infield positions, 2) learn to catch, or 3) cultivate a left-handed breaking ball.

I'm with SDJ: Coke is hard to leave off, maybe too hard. Put him in for 23.

Where I now think we are at is one from Mitre/Gaudin and one from Pena/Cervelli.

Mitre didn't do himself any favors today but, sheesh, Lamar High School up the street from me would have knocked down more balls.

If the playoffs started tomorrow (CC vs. Verlander, and don't think I wouldn't cancel class to see it, though those games usually end up 15-12), I'd bet on Gaudin and Cervelli as odd men out.

Yankees 6, Blue Jays 4

I throw in with Robbie-Boy: at 8 1/2 ahead of the Red Sox with three weeks to go, the next mountain is fending off the Angels for home-field.

Word is that Girardi and Eiland will go with Mitre or Gaudin, but not both. Hmm. Another look at October. Start with the for-surers.

Six pitchers (CC, AJ, Pettitte, Joba, Hughes, Mo), and the only difference here is Lefty starting game three ahead of Joba.

Two catchers, Posada and Molina.

Five infielders: A-Rod, Jeter, Cano, Tex, Hairston.

Five outfielder/DHs: Damon, Melky, Swisher, Hinske, Matsui.

We're at 18. Add Aceves. And Bruney.

20.

The way Marte is pitching, probably him. Robertson. Mitre or Gaudin, but not apparently both.

23.

Leaving . . . Cervelli and Coke?

Friday, September 04, 2009

Blue Jays 6, Yankees 0

So Halladay finally has his day, but the Red Sox lose, so the Yanks shave another off their magic number.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

And by the way

From Robbie-Boy;

I am always checking the Red Sox score during a Yankee game. Now? Angels score. Why? Because now it's about winning the home field......

'Cause, in New Yankee Stadium, Johnny Damon turns into Johnny Mize. Or Jimmie Foxx. And the Yankee pitchers seemed to have adjusted.

Yankees 10, Jays 3

So:

1. The Bake sale continues. Marte did himself some good.

2. Allen Barra in the Wall Street Journal (looking for the link) argues for Derek Jeter as MVP on the Paul Newman principle: the notion that someone deserves an Oscar eventually, based upon one's body of work, if not exactly this work. Paul Newman won for The Color of Money after losing for a half-dozen better performances; 2009 is no better than Jeter's third-best season, but it has become the year everyone plumps for him. The funny thing is, Paul Newman's best performance was probably The Verdict, which went up against Dustin Hoffman's best performance in Tootsie, which went also against Peter O'Toole's best performance in My Favorite Year, except that Hoffman had already won for an okay performance in Kramer vs. Kramer, which Oscar itself was a make-back to him from not winning in Midnight Cowboy, for which Jon Voight also didn't win, but would later win for Coming Home . . .

But O'Toole did win for Laurence of Arabia, right?

Um, no.

Oh, and. Newman, Hoffman, and O'Toole, three performances of a lifetime, all lost to Ben Kingsley in Gandhi. Bring me the man who has sat through that film twice.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Yankees 10, Orioles 2

Sabathia now 16-7. It is one of the ironies of baseball that playing for a winning team helps an MVP candidate but often hurts a Cy Young candidate. Remember the immortal Pat Hentgen? (He beat out Pettitte in '96, announced on a day when Lefty, fresh from the World Championship, had already arranged a press conference in Deer Park.)

So now Grienke: 13-8 to CC's 16-7, but an ERA one-and-a-quarter runs less than Sabathia's. Hmmm.

In MVP news: Mauer? Jeter? Now, a renewed case for Tex.

Speaking of Pettitte: If he gets to 250 wins (Official Bob Feller Territory, OFBT), plus four rings, seven pennants, and (not even counting this year) eleven playoff appearances--well, can we now begin to talk about Cooperstown?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Yankees 9, Orioles 6

Worried about AJ? Me too.

Meanwhile, the 9-10-11 pitcher bake-off continues.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Yankees 5, Orioles 1

Yeah, too bad about Pettitte and all, but with the season 80% over, is it too early to think about a post-season roster?

Let's say eleven pitchers to start. The locks would be CC, AJ, Pettitte, Joba, Mo, and Hughes. That's six. Bruney and Aceves make eight. Probably Mitre and Gaudin, that's ten. Now: One among Coke, Marte, Robertson? You'd have to say (ulp) Coke, right?

Time for Marte to get his game on. A forty-game audition has already begun.

Leaving room for fourteen position players.

Start with two catchers: Georgie and Molina.

Infield. Sticking with the for-sures: Cano, Jeter, A-Rod, Tex, Hairston. Seven out of fourteen covered.

Outfield/DH: Melky, Damon, Hinske, Swisher, Matsui. That's five, for a sub-total of twelve.

Sixth infielder: Ramiro Pena. Sub-total: Thirteen, with one slot remaining.

Leaving . . . who exactly? Cervilli as third catcher? Marte, for another lefthander--a twelfth pitcher, especially in the American League, with no need to pinch hit for a pitcher losing a 2-1 game in the seventh? Any one of a number of jackrabbits to play the Andy Fox role and pinch run?

Tom Boswell once proposed the twenty-fifth player on every team be determined by a vote of the twenty-four players the manager selected. There have been worse ideas.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Yankees 8, White Sox 3

Ah, what a wonderful game. And, as the announcers stated today, just a few more days until the gates open up on the Triple-A starters and all their fresh arms. Then Mitre and Acevedo (and maybe Gaudin) go back to as-needed basis bullpen basis, with Mitre kept in reseve as a spot starter, and Joba continues his downshifting.

It was ironic that one of the announcers I caught on TBS was Al Leiter, a former Yankee prospect the Yankees thoroughly mishandled before shipping out of town twenty years ago this summer, fresh on the heels of a 160-pitch meatgrinder.

Of course Lupica couldn't leave all the above at that, something about Joba getting more vacation than anyone since W.

Ha ha. Of course this attitude is a product of the White House press corps, which hated Bush dragging them to Crawford every August. Martha's Vineyard this time of year is a hundred times nicer than East Texas--take it from me. During the Clinton Administration, the White House print media woke up at their four-star seaside inn, showed up for their daily briefing, filed their 700 words, got in their nine holes at Mink Meadows or Farm Neck, then made sure to snag the best table at the best restaurant in Edgartown. And so it is now with Obama.

In Crawford? No room service at the Bear Creek Guest House, 110-degree heat on the way to the briefing, and then some dry rub at Ernie's outdoor Bar-B-Que and Ice House. It is well-known the press corps hated it. And all of them, with the likes of Lupica egging them on, promoted the idea that August in Crawford was a goof.

To cheer myself up, I got me some Ozzie, comparing his Sox to a Little League team--or better, saying his squad doesn't quite measure up for a Little League team: Heh.

Jeter for MVP?

The case here.

The verdict?

Nah. Ain't gonna happen.

1. Enough Yankee/Eastern votes siphoned off by Texiera. (Three weeks ago, Jeter was siphoning off votes from Tex! Three weeks equals 20 games equals a lifetime in baseball.)

2. Joe Mauer: higher batting average at the only harder everyday position than shortstop.

Everything tells me Derek will place again.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Yankees 10, White Sox 0

Honestly, what did you think you'd read first?

*A Washington Post story that reads, "CIA documents support Cheney's contention?"

*Or this: "Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin combine for one-hit shutout"?

More Morgan, More

Finding faults with Joe Morgan's commentary is like looking for cowflop in a barnyard, but this shouldn't pass unmentioned, courtesy of Sun Devil Joe, from last Sunday's game:

After Jeter hit the home run, I really didn't care what drivel Joe Morgan was selling. However, once again, old Joe did stray from his teleprompter.

He mentioned that Derek Jeter is approaching 3,000 hits. Instead of just simply expounding on the merits of this feat, he proceeded to express surprise that there weren’t more Yankees in the 3,000 hit club. At first, I thought his comment was insightful but I knew better. Analyze the facts (which never get in the way of Joe). Of the 27 members of this elite group, only 9 played on one club which will unequivocally associate them with a team. The remaining 22 played on a range of 2 to 9 teams, that included some Yankee representation. Of the 5 active players that are approaching the 3,000 number, 4 of them played for an average of 5 teams while the remaining 1(Derek Jeter) has played for only one team.


The above points out Morgan affectation: to make sweeping generalizations while ignoring the particular. Consider the mostly-Yankees one might consider good enough to reach 3,000 hits. Babe Ruth spent four years as a full-time pitcher, costing him something like 1,500 at-bats. Lou Gehrig is renowned for his longevity, but that is mostly due to his consecutive-games streak; his actual career was only two-thirds as long as Ty Cobb's. Joe DiMaggio missed three seasons to the war (another 1,500 at-bats) and spent the last three of his 13 seasons as a part-time player. Mickey Mantle, blessed with Ty Cobb's speed and Babe Ruth's power, might have had the best shot, but he suffered a freak football accident in high school and that ghastly torn knee in the 1951 World Series. By 32 he was finished as a premier player, except in spurts; by 37 he was retired.

Place 3,000 hits in context: 150 hits per year for 20 years. Just about everything has to go right: ability, health, longevity, and sustained excellence. That Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle--the Yankees' Mount Rushmore--failed to get there is not only not a shame, it's not even a bit surprising.

Oh, and this from Robbie-Boy:

My favorite Joe Morganism when it comes to anything Yankee, is when ESPN shows a punch-out on the "K Zone" for a Yankee pitcher, he stops mid-word and states, "well that was off the plate a bit." If it is an opposing pitcher, he talks through the "K-Zone" replay, continuing on about his days as a Red, and what is was like to be the greatest second basemen of all time.


The greatest? Rogers Hornsby, call your libel lawyer.

Yankees 5, White Sox 2 (11)

No, really, had 'em all the way.

When Jeter's ball reached its apex somewhere over centerfield, my TV picture froze and sharded into a hundred tiny mismatched squares. Hurricane season returns to Houston--something that used to be generally thought to fall between the middle of June and the end of September but now seems to have narrowed to the 45 days between August 15 and October 1. And there went the picture.

So? I had waited all day for CC to bring the left-handed hammer down on My Most-Hated Team. But Oh Well. Off to dinner.

Back in time to see the last few innings, 2-2 on.

No, that nut was gonna be cracked.

Thought it was over with A-Rod.

Cano, knew it.

Put it on the boooooaaaaaaaard . . . . . Yeeeee-ESSSSSS!

Though I sure do wish Cano would at least pretend to run out of the box.

Michael Kay: "You stroll like that, you'd better hit it out."

Well, Mickey Mantle never strolled like that, not even at the end, not when he could barely walk.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Rangers take two of three

Mostly I'm doing this for myself, in case the season turns out to be a special one (see: 1978, 1996, 1998). But oh, boy, those first-weeks-of-school thing can blow you away.

And racing after lectureships and driving around and trying to jog in the heat and and . . .

Anyway, the guys held their own, in that the Red Sox didn't gain ground.

So, once more into the breach.

Joe Morgan has been on my mind, thanks, guys.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Yankees 8, Red Sox 4

Jeter's home run in the first. I shouted, "It's over!"

And so it was--not that simply, not that cleanly, but it was.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The 800-pound Halo in the room

Let's face it: Joba was rested this week because the Yankees, deep down, have stopped seriously fearing the Red Sox.

If the Red Sox beat the Yankees' two best starters today and tomorrow, the edge will be 5 1/2 games. More importantly, right now, the Sox simply lack the starting pitching to mount a comeback.

Probably.

Second. No one knows what happens in a short series, but between our jaunts to Minute Maid and our late nights in front of the TV, Astro-Girl and I have seen the National League. The Cubs have been in a holding pattern for three months, the Phillies just returned Jamie Moyer, a former teammate of Cap Anson, to the starting rotation. The Marlins are nothing special, the Rockies are the Rockies. The Cardinals, seemingly the best hope of the NL, just signed John Smoltz, a former teammate of Eddie Matthews. The Dodgers? Maybe. But nothing scary.

If the Yankees--as seems the case--win their division, they will play Texas, Seattle, Chicago, or Detroit. Of those, Detroit (with Verlander) could, but a Tankee loss to any of those teams in a five-game series would be a major upset.

CC, AJ, Pettitte, Joba, CC. Hughes, Mo. Rinse, repeat.

If the Angels hold on, they'll play the Red Sox, White Sox, Detroit, or Tampa. And beat them.

The season, if it holds true to form, is shaping up as a Yankee-Angel ALCS. And, Madden writes, that's scary.

Yankees 20, Red Sox 11

By inning five, I was simply going to type, "I'm Joe McDade, and I approve this baseball game."

Then came the sloppiness at the end.

What Lupica said is correct: Jeter may be headed toward a second 100 million-dollar contract.

It's more important that AJ go seven than he win today.

Not that I'll get to see it. Fox has, as is their wont, decided to broadcast the notoriously underexposed Chicago Cubs today. Lately Fox has even been skimping on hi-lights from the B game.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Yankees 3, A's 2

Thoughts:

1. Two scary moments, of course: the fifth and eighth. Both times, disasters averted with double plays. Actually, make it three scary moments, since, in the eighth, just before Cust got his hit to put runners on first and second, none out, Hughes threw him a 1-2 fastball that missed by . . . what, nothing? Compare it to Tex's punchout the previous inning. Hughes clearly wanted strike three on Cust, maybe (who knows?). Then A-Rod and, especially, Texiera helped Hughes walk the tightrope.

2. Chad Gaudin had a Nook LaLoosh night: same number of walks as strikeouts, five and five. Cue Robert Wuhl: "New League Record." No win, but enough.

3. Girardi's plan for the pitching staff is set: ride CC, AJ and Pettitte as far as they will go, then save the bucket brigade of relievers for Joba, Mitre, Gaudin. I switched over to ESPN.com after the game and came up with this: The Yankees have played 1078 1/3 innings thus fat this season. CC has pitched 178.2, AJ 153.2, Pettitte 147.1. That is a total of 479 2/3s innings, or--to put it this way--forty-five percent the season from three pitchers. Forty-five percent out of a possible sixty percent, if all three had pitched nine innings of every start. It was not for nothing that Girardi was able to practically uncase Hughes from carbon freezing (five days rest) to pitch the eighth.

4. Nobody, least of all Girardi, will say this, but Texiera is becoming the Paul O'Neill of this team.

5. A 5-2 road trip was about as good as could have been expected. Maybe better. Now a day's well-earned rest, then on to Boston with Lefty, AJ, and then CC v. Beckett on Sunday. The Yankees will wake up August 31st in first by no worse than 3 1/2 games.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

Two losses in a row

Wow, those line drives sure do head straight for those AL West outfielders, ay?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Yankees 5, Mariners 2

Okay, not only do we have a bonus win via Mitre, we got the first team (CC, AJ, Lefty) lined up to meet the Red Sox.

As for Joba? Let the kid pitch!

Anything?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mushnick, making sense

Every so often, of the 162 regular-season games your favorite team plays, maybe 20 will hit you just so, with a mixture of rivalry, anticipation, and cleared-away time. A game you look forward to all day just a bit more than the others. A game that asks that you work around nothing and allows you to ignore everything.

Sunday night was such a game.

Yankees-Red Sox. Pettitte-Beckett. Chance for the sweep. Yanks peaking at just the right moment.

Astro-Girl added to the ambience with her superb grilled salmon, supplemented with a Greek salad, squash, and a choice, ice-cold bottle of Chardonnay, all designed to be placed on the table 'round the anthem.

Then, ten minutes before first pitch, it hit me. No, really, I entered the kitchen feeling as if my horse had finished with a view of the field.

"Oh, man," I said, "I forgot. Sunday night ESPN."

"Oh," Astro-Girl said. "Right. Morgan."

If Mike Judge or Judd Apatow were to craft a film detailing one baseball announcer's preening sense of self, one announcer's ability to simply rip up and destroy what we were watching, they could scarcely do worse than last Sunday.

After the game I talked the whole grevious affair over with Sun Devil Joe. But, really--and SDJ saw this coming--who could improve on Phil Mushnick? His comments are reprinted here in full:

SINCE 2003, when this column began to include an e-mail address, two regularly scheduled live game telecasts have provoked the most infuriated feedback: ESPN's Monday Night Football and ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.

But Sunday's Red Sox-Yankees broke the data bank.

By now, you and ESPN know the gripes: The telecasts are drowned in visual and verbal overload. They often become ESPN/ABC infomercials, designed to have you watch the next thing, not this one. The productions assault and insult all the good senses.

But ESPN long ago determined that it doesn't care what anyone writes or what you think. It doesn't care that we watch events on ESPN only because we have to, not because we want to. As long as ESPN owns exclusive rights it can continue to make jerks of us all.

Sunday's Red Sox-Yanks was so junked up with every-pitch over-analysis, banal conversation, Joe Morgan's short-story-made-long nonsense, mindless graphics and an endless, forget-the-game interview with Luis Tiant -- ESPN had a documentary about him the next night -- that my e-mail box, by Monday afternoon, three times had maxed out. I couldn't clear space fast enough. Impossible to gauge exactly how many were sent, at least 200 made it through.

And among those read, all complained that ESPN had destroyed another telecast that viewers were eager to watch.

Perhaps most remarkable is that scores of these missives were sent during the game, meaning ESPN so aggravated viewers that many couldn't contain themselves; on a Sunday night they arose and steamed to their computers.

One missive suggested that Sunday's telecast be shown to terrorism suspects -- a means to force them to talk -- before the next Geneva Convention could act. Others needed to rhetorically ask how America's sports network could continue to vandalize America's most attractive games. And several recognized that MLB doesn't care, as long as ESPN's checks clear.

One of the more sedate e-mails (sent at 8:53, during the game) was from Fred Rosen, Boynton Beach, Fla. He acknowledged that he was left to choose between listening to Morgan or John Sterling -- "What a choice!" -- but admitted to being fascinated by ESPN's non-stop stat graphics. He accurately noted two in particular:

"I am now aware that after a 2-1 count Alex Rodriguez bats .300. However, his average dips to .174 when the count is 3-1. Therefore, it should be a no-brainer that managers instruct their pitchers to throw a ball when the count is 2-1."

Meanwhile, the "ESPN Wrecks Red Sox-Yanks" missives are still stacked up. Lot of good they'll do either of us. "SportsCenter is next! SportsCenter is next! SportsCenter is next! . . ."


I only conclude with:

1. In over forty years of living in this country, Luis Tiant has steadfastly refused to learn how to speak understandable English. Neither here nor there. In twenty years of living in Houston (twenty years next week, actually) I've never learned how to speak Spanish. The point is: there was no excuse for having him in the booth, to answer every two-minute question with twenty seconds of mumble-grumble-mumble. Get and interpreter, interview the producer of the thing, whatever.

2. What if, during the half-hour or so of Miller's & Co.'s interview, a fantastic play had taken place? "Oh, uh, A-Rod hits a three-run shot to, um, Monument Park. Now, Luis, back to when you pitched to Joe in Game Four . . ."

3. SDJ called it: An infomercial. A butchery of what's on to show us what's on next. Aeey.

Yanks take 1st 2

Ahhhh--always the exciting games that end past my bedtime.

Last night: Sabathia seeming almost amused by the Mariners, Godzirra smacks around Seattle pitching.

Tonight: Pettitte get another win ripped from his left hand, Tex comes through. Hughes.

Peace and love, peace and love.

Joba, AJ, CC, Lefty: another four wins in a row, however obtained.

Now Robby-Boy can get ready for Mitre tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Yankees 4, Jays 3 (F/11)

Missed it--out to dinner with a small sliver of in-laws. Too bad.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Yanks 7, Jays 5

A few thoughts:

1. A more important win than one might think, at first glance. It is time, contractually, for Joel Sherman and Bill Madden and Lupica and all the others to write their obligatory The Red Sox Aren't Going Away pieces. A 6 1/2 lead can become 4 1/2 in two days. And, really, none of this "Every time the Yankees have been ahead blahdeeblahh after blahdeeblah games they've never blahdeeblah." The Sox comeback from 3-0 in 2004 made all the "it never happened" crap disappear. SunDevil Joe, Robbie-Boy: if we've learned nothing in this life we've learned this: nothing ever happens until it happens.

2. Three things win in October: starting pitching, bullpen, bench. Joba has been bailed out twice. Time for our Game 3 playoff starter to show his chops.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Postscript

A few words from Robbie-Boy.

First, from last night:

Yanks get the sweep, stellar starting pitching. Yankee clutch hitting after the 7th inning starting to remind me of the late 90's.

As we go forward two questions. Do we want lefty Phil Coke facing right handed power hitters late in the game? And is Yanks Skipper Girardi using Phil Hughes correctly?


Answers: Maybe and maybe. My question for SG would have been: did he intend on leaving Hughes out last night no matter what, barring a replay of Friday.

Today:

I've said it before I'll say it again-Mitre is NOT good enough to be the Yankees 5th starter. Enough already!!!

Again, maybe. It's hard to make the case Acevedo isn't the better option. It appears SG wants Acevedo in the pen, where--besides Acevedo, and despite recent success--one only has confidence, real confidence, in Hughes and Mo.

And this may put the cart before the horse, but should the Yankees make the playoffs the rotation becomes four-man, and at this point you'd take CC, AJ, Joba and Pettitte over anyone, top to bottom, and Acevedo may need the seasoning for getting out of those 6-7 inning jams.

Well, crap

So: this is what happens.

The biggest Yankee win in almost three years, maybe since the 5-game Massacre II of 2006, and a virus assaults my laptop. So I hopped on Astro-Girl's manual tonight, all set to . . .

Oh, never mind. Tony Doubleday tells us there are three good chances to get at a starting pitcher: the first inning, when he looks to settle in; around the fifth, when he has thrown to probably fifteen-twenty batters; and the seventh, when fatigue becomes a serious issue.

Tonight, the Yankees had the first, and no chance after that, having to deal with a bucket brigade of relievers. Who could blame the Jays? The Yankees have such an explosive line-up that any second-tier team will gladly burn through its bullpen for a chance at a single win, and damn tomorrow. The Yanks duck Halladay this time round, something that last happened when Paul Molitor was their DH.

A slight lead on the Yankees coming off four (in their unique ways, each) emotional wins in a row, with the Yankee rotation about to flip back to Joba and AJ--well, who could blame Gaston, or whoever took over for him?

When Jeff Torborg managed the dreadful Indians in the mid- to late-seventies, Sparky Lyle complained he would get two pitchers up in the pen with a 2-0 lead in the second if the Yankee lead-off man reached base. This exaggerates, but not by much.

But about tonight's first inning.

Jeter has already homered. Swisher on. Tex nails a single to left.

Two on, nobody out, already 1-0. Jay pitcher (is he the son of the Duke basketball coach?) is back on his heels. The Stadium is rocking as much as it can on a Monday when the Sox left town yesterday.

Then, A-Rod, double play.

Well . . . A-Rod's come through too many times lately to jump on him.

And the sloppiness that followed could have been avoided.

And Joe West is a terrible umpire.

But what is comes down to is: they lost the game in the middle innings by not winning in the first.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Yankees 5, Red Sox 0

So now the work is done. Tomorrow, for everyone but the Yankees themselves, is gravy.

Funny thing (1): for the first time simply typing down some reflections of last night game round 12:30 Houston time, something funnny happened: I fell asleep. I have a big overstuffed and a TV tray I use at night, and I was getting to JD Drew's great catch in the 14th, when . . . I fell asleep.

So, today, incredibly, Houston Fox gets Yankees-Red Sox instead of Rangers-Angels, 'cause, you know, Texas is Texas right?

And running aainst the game were our ticklets to Astros-Brewers. Sabathia, at 12 up, 12 down, introdsuced a moral quandary. Watch the perfect game on TV or run to the ballpark? Herein I determined the hierarchy:

1. Perfect game on TV: stay and watch no matter what. Blow off everything. Be late with your tickets if you want.

2. No-hitter: If going to another game, race to the stadium and find a screen in a convenient or pillar. Watch this game in preference to the game you paid for.

3. Shut-out: go to your other game. Keep track on the scoreboard.

CC getting better.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Yankees 2, Red Sox 0 (15)

So . . . wow.

But still, one of thoss games you knew, just knew, the home team would break through.

(They always do, except when they don't.)

The pitching cards fell New York's way, the last Red Sox pitcher looked like the kid IT sends over to fix your computer, and even the close calls in the 14th hat went against the Yankees (both Hinske and Mely hit scalding long drives with a speedster on second. Each time, the Yankee batsman raised their arms in triumph halfway down the first base line. Then each saw, one after the other, sees Drew's twisting, lunging catch, then a foul ball by inches.

No, I thought, this was still going to work. When A-Rod swung in the 15th I shouted, "That's it!" as I jumped in the air. And so it was.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Yankees 13, Red Sox 6

What can you say except: The one they needed.

No matter what else happens this weekend, they will wake up next Monday in first place.

This, with Josh Beckett going tomorrow and a rested Papelbon in the bullpen.

Pretty much over when Melky took Smoltz deep.

Like so many Yankee games lately: messy, crazy, a little bit exasperating. But okay. So here we go.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Yankees 5, Jays 3

Something tells me beating Roy Halladay in August is somewhat akin to getting par on number 12 on Sunday at Augusta.

You know what I'm talking about. Sunday at the Master's, at The Greatest Par Three Hole On Earth, the flag is back and to the right.

Everyone in contention knows how to play No. 12.

You hit what passes for the fat part of the green. You two-putt for par. You pick up your ball and run to No. 13.

I followed tonight's game courtesy of the manual scoreboard at Minute Maid. 2-1 against Halladay for the longest time.

Then 4-1. Then 4-3. Then 5-3 with Rivera warming up.

Well, well played, Pettitte. A win over Halladay, just good enough to beat him.

And Tex.

Now we run toward tomorrow.

Hey, great title for a Lifetime movie: "Run Toward Tomorrow."

Do what you need to do and run toward tomorrow.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Yanks salvage weekend

Again: not pretty. Buty after three miserable games against the White Sox, I'll take it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Yankees 6, Rays 2

Tonight's game was a cold beer after a jog.

A slice of pepperoni pizza when you're starving.

Having a catch with a nephew.

Watching Joba blow through the Rays was like watching your little brother walk the graduation podium (and yes, I mean you, Robbie-Boy). All the thoughts of innings and starts and pitch counts and blah blah blah--come on. Time to take the training wheels off. This kid is for real, and outside of Tim Lincecum (and even then it's a close call) I wouldn't trade him straight-up for any pitcher in baseball. Not Halladay. Not Beckett. Not Santana.

I understand the Yankees' wish to hoard their best home-grown prospect since Pettitte and Rivera both broke out in '95. (Ted Lilly had to make his bones elsewhere, which was probably best for all concerned.) And the Yankees have the luxury only a few teams--say, the Mets, Red Sox, Cubs, and Dodgers--have: they can pay market value for every one of their home-grown stars. But . . . come on. Turn him loose.

Rays 6, Yankees 2

CC, c'mon.

Still quiet on the Roy Halladay front. What is funny, and it just occurred to me, is that my two favorite teams, the Yankees and Astros, might meet their demise this season due to two players named Halladay and Holliday (St. Louis, Matt).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Yankees 11, Rays 4

Well, that was fun. And it's a good thing Burnett is looking so good, 'cause CC, Burnett and Joba at their best might be what the Yankees need. Joel Sherman in the Post:

1. The Blue Jays are listening to whichever teams call, but feel the best matches are with the Phillies and Red Sox. All things being equal, Toronto would prefer to ship Halladay out of the division, but if the Red Sox come up with the right combination of players the Jays would do a deal with Boston. Toronto is prioritizing a pitcher with a high ceiling as key to the deal so Clay Buchholz almost certainly would have to be a component.


2. The Jays also believe that the Yankees have the pieces to make a deal, but the YanksNew York Yankees have not been aggressive at all in an attempt to consummate a trade. That is probably because the Jays would have to have Phil HughesPhil Hughes , and that appears a deal breaker for the Yanks. But Toronto also is infatuated with Double-A catcher Jesus Montero, and like outfielder Austin Jackson, catcher Austin Romine and lefty starter Jeremy Bleich. The Yanks are one of about a dozen teams that have inquired on Scott Downs.


Sorry to ruin your day, Robbie-Boy, but you'll agree: Hughes needs to stay. You don't trade Joba for Halladay, not with the age difference. And the Jays aren't interested in Kennedy.

On another note: If Omar Minaya and Robert Gibbs traded jobs, would anyone notice?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Yankees 7, A's 5

It sure wasn't pretty . . .

Not when the double-play grounder glanced off the mound and eluded Cano in the first . . .

Not when Mitre messed up a sure double-play grounder, which (ahem) echoed another easy double play ball oh, some eight years ago . . .

When Cano, after clearing the bases with a three-run triple, overslid third base by so much he finally ground to a halt, flat on his back, in the coach's box . . .

Hughes offered up some uncommon thrills and chills in the eighth, before Rivera trotted out to restore order . . .

And we ended the day told that Anaheim had leap-frogged the Dodgers and joined Philly as the front-runners in the Roy Halladay sweepstakes . . .

. . . because oh, boy, if A) Anaheim lands Halladay and B) these Yanks don't win their division, New York can look forward to two games (one and five in the ALDS) against the Yankee-Killer of this generation pitching for the Yankee Killers of this decade--all for the privilege, probably, of playing the Yankee Killers of this season, potentially four times at Fenway.

That is, if both the Rays and Sox don't both race past them . . .

In the ten really good games past the All-Star game, the Yankees did precisely what they needed, maybe one win more than necessary, against such dreadful competition. 8-2 we would have taken, 7-3 would have been barely tolerable. 9-1 helps, but here come the Rays.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Yankees 12, A's 9

Or, as the rest of the world thinks of it: Yanks 8, A's 3; A's 6, Yanks 4

These Friday night/Saturday-essentially-morning games seem to run together, especially if you're being feted at your in-laws Friday night and have to teach all Saturday morning, after which you find out it's 6-1 A's in the seventh.

The FOX blackout was therefore moot.

Oh well.

Joba and Pettitte are moving in opposite directions at an accelerated rate.

And, by all accounts, Girardi stuck with Pettitte too long today. But would Acevedo been any better? (Um, apparently not.)

If the Red Sox catch the Yankees (or, more to the point, if the Red Sex beat the Yankees in the playoffs), it'll be in the sixth and seventh. "Gettin' to Mo" has been replaced by, at the moment, "Gettin' to Phil," but you wonder, thinking of yesterday's and today's pitchers, how much treat Lefty has on the tire and where the outer edge exists for starter Joba.

Once the playoffs start, the need for a fifth starter will become moot, of course, with CC set to go in games one and five. But still: Joba. Pettitte.

Oh, and, before we think about the playoffs: Thirteen games remain against the Angels and Red Sox.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Yankees 6, A's 3

Two observations.

One. When the Yankees went down 3-0, Astro-Girl, luxuriating in an Astros off-day following a sweep over the Cardinals capped off by a thriller of a 4-3 ninth-inning comeback/walk-off, felt comfortable in saying, "Hey, CC will calm down. Relax."

Easy for her to say.

Correct, as well. I was reminded, strangely enough, of the 1972 Munich Olympics, of the 800-meter finals, where Dave Wottle, all limbs and hair and gold cap, trailed at the halfway point. I remember seeing Wottle trail the field, of crying out to my father, "He's in last!", and hearing my father say, all assurance, "Just watch."

I spent 10 years thinking my father was clairyorant. Then I spent 10 years thinking the event was on tape-delay, and he was pretending. Since then, I realized the event was at night in Germany, carried live, and that my dad had seen Wottle in the semis and knew about his final kick.

So tonight. 3-0 A's. "Relax," Astro-Girl says. "CC won't allow any more runs and the Yankees will score. Sit down."

So: Tex, two-run homer, and I basically knew it was over then.

But one other thing. For all they charge, the Yankees forced their fans to wait nearly three hours for the game to start?

Not to go Phil Mushnick, but have they no shame? Three hours they hold their most loyal fans hostage against a last-place team, selling beer and snacks at premium prices?

This will never be the subject of any collective bargaining agreement. The owners are happy to delay games as long as they please, once the tickets are sold. The players hate make-up games. Both leagues have rules in place: Until September, home teams call rain-outs, until the first pitch is thrown. Or they let the rain fall, and call it a delay.

What motivation ,did the Yankees have except the pecuniary?

I think of football, of the New York Giants.

A family that might have held four Giants season tickets since the fifties, since the Polo Grounds--through Yankee Stadium, the Yale Bowl, and Giants Stadium--was just recently told they needed to come up with eighty grand. Not for their tickets, for for the privilege of keeping the tickets the family might have held for a half-century.

Personal Seat Licenses.

And three-hour rain-outs.

Don't know, was just thinking of them both.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Yankees sweep

6-0 out of the break, two games in front. with Nick Swisher playing (for better or for worse) like he's still trying to make the team.

ALL of which I glean part by part, perched at club level to watch (to this point, hopefully) the game of the Astros' season. Astros 4, Cardnals 3: not just the score, not just the game that provided the sweep, but the sheer drama of the game. Ace v. Ace, Oswalt v. Carpenter, the type of match-up which so often ends in a disappointing 9-7 hitfest with both starters in street clothes by the sixth inning--but no, both Carp and the Wiz blew past the opposition, escaping trouble a copuple of times, but fighting to a 1-1 standstill through six.

Top seventh inning: infield hit, hit, hit, play at the plate where Pudge, at the plate, drops the ball in trying to apply the tag. 2-1, Cards. Sac fly, 3-1.

Bottom eighth, Carp out: Four hits, station to station, one Astro run. 3-2.

Bottom nine: 3-3, two outs, first and second. Tejada, single to left. 4-3.

Maybe ten percent of all baseball games hold your attention on every pitch, every play, every 3-1 count. Astros win, pull to within 1 game in the NL Central. Game of the year.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Two for two v. the Orioles

Driving through night rain out to Lake Charles (good God) thirteen summers ago, I heard the Yankees had swept the Orioles in Baltimore coming out of the All-Star break. For many Yankee fans, this was the point we realized these 1996 Yankees were for real, 10 games ahead and pulling away. (The series was so memorable it worked itself into the first episode of that fall's Seinfeld.) Beating the Orioles--and these are not the Orioles of Ripken, Moose, Murray, Brady and Zeile--is always a harfbinger of good times.

Mitre!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ibid, for details consult yesterday's game

Yankees 2, Tigers 1. S: Rivera (26)

Yes, how sweep it is. And how nice to see Joba back. Those nine-day rests can sometimes help.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Yankees 2, Tigers 1

They tell me Sabathia is a great second-half pitcher.

Lupica makes sense (Stopped clocks, etc.)

Anytime Mike Lupica ventures outside New York sports, or the sports he takes time for (tennis, golf), he's in trouble. He sounds like a fool when he talks college football (read: when he memorizes the college football talking points his interns prepare for him) and he's an even bigger fool talking about politics (how's that Roger Clemens Presidential pardon working out?).

But set him loose in the five boroughs and he can make some serious sense.

Would the Yankees be better with Roy Halladay? Sure they would. Should they get him?

Different question.

Lupica chimes in:

There are as many rationales for getting Halladay, of course, as there are empty seats at the new Stadium, starting with the most basic rationale of all: They're the Yankees, they're supposed to buy guys like they're one of those European soccer teams, they're supposed to think big. But then they've been thinking big since Piazza's ball ended up in Bernie's glove.

We are constantly told that the Yankees have to be this aggressive with high-priced talent because they have to win or else. Or else what, exactly? People will stop coming to watch them? No one will watch them play on YES? Even without the World Series or even the second round of the playoffs the Yankees were selling four million tickets a year before they started charging obscene prices over at that Eighth Wonder of the World on the other side of 161st. . . .

A-Rod missed the first month and still the Yankees are only three behind Boston. Hughes only recently became the setup guy. Sabathia will be better the second half than he was the first. There ought to be enough talent in the room without having to bring in another Cy Young Award less than 100 games after bringing in the last one. Unless the story with the Yankees is never going to change.


Translation:

1) If there's a Johnny Mize or Country Slaughter out there, who can be have for the price of his salary and little more, by all means go get him (Barry Zito, anyone?). But selling off young talent (which the Blue Jays are sure to ask for) for veteran talent is what kept the Yankees out of the World Series for fifteen years (cf. Willie McGee, Fred McGriff, Doug Drabek, Jay Buhner, etc.).

2) For five straight years after winning the World Series in 2000, the Yankees played the game of, "This, to be sure, is the final piece of the puzzle." Supposedly, in order, Mike Mussina, Jason Giambi, Jeff Weaver (!), Alex Rodriguez, and Randy Johnson made the Yankees world-beaters, all while the farm system and any kind of youth movement suffered. Now the minors have produced, in the last three years, Melky, Cano, Hughes, Joba, Gardner, and Cervilli, with Kennedy no worse than an open question. Would anyone rather watch this team or go back to the 2005 squad, that joyless bunch of veterans whose lasting image was getting on a plane after Game Four of the Divisional Series to fly 3,000 miles for the privilege of getting ass-kicked by the Angels?

Would Halladay help? Sure he would. But I like this team. Cashman's best move may be, "I'll play these."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Yankees 5, Tigers 3

So, um, Hughes is the new Mo, circa 1996, and Zumaya, who so bedeviled the Yanks in the 2006 playoffs--I cancelled class to watch him burn through the heart of the order--is a regular old pitcher.

Hughes, who now adds a 97 mile-an-hour fastball to The Best Slow Curve Since Burt Blyleven (have I said this before?) has become someone, I hope, the Yankees value.

Roy Halladay? Maybe.

But the first two names the Jays will mention will be Melky and Joba.

The Yanks will say no.

Then: Melky, Hughes, and a prospect.

Yanks: No.

Jays: Melky and Hughes.

Yanks: (Hopefully) No.

Break it down for the Yanks:

CC, Burnett, Joba, Pettitte and Somebody. That's the Yankee rotation.

Somebody, Somebody, Hughes, and Mo. Bullpen.

The Astros went this way in 2005, and wound up in the World Series: These are our guys. No trades, no call-ups. The guys in this room are our team.

So, let's see.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Lost Weekend, plus Mo

I didn't watch the Angels game on Sunday--were I still in Vegas, I would have laid a hundred bucks on the Angels--and I didn't enjoy the Home Run Derby, as it has ruined too many swings I care to remember (Bobby Abreu, Lance Berkman, et al).

So now, heading into Detroit, the Yankees have their starters rested, a playoff spot (as of today) in line, their 32 million-dollar player getting better.

Things twist about--but, oh, Lord, what a joy to see Rivera close out the All-Star game, continue with an All-Star ERA of 0.00, watch his cutter bedevil the National League.

In his career, Mo has had three great pitfalls: the homer by Alomar in '97, the thrills and chills in Game 7 in 2001, and the Dave Roberts drama in 2004. Three bad innings in a career that features a 0.77 postseason ERA.

Mariano Rivera transcends his Yankee teammates; he is one of the greatest 20 players in baseball history. Always good to be reminded.

The Lostg Weekend, p[l\\

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Angels 14, Yankees 8

Some series you simply mourn over, awaiting their end.

In the seventies, playing the Red Sox in June was sort of like that. One simply waited for Yaz's three-run homer, or for Pudge's three-run triple off the top of the monster, or for Rice to fist the ball over Chambliss for another two-out run to score.

Just get the series over with, damnit.

Yeah, that's where we are with the Angels.

Angels 10, Yankees 6 (Breaks of the Game, cont.)

Ouch.

If the umpire gets the call at second right (Molina had the runner dead), and if the Angels don't follow bloop after bloop after bloop before every blast, if anyone managed to be on base when A-Rod hit his homer, and if A-Rod's throw didn't yank Tex off the bag just before Joba served up maybe the worst pitch of his career (three-run homer), and if Matsui had gotten just an eighth of an inch more bat on the ball with the bases loaded . . .

. . . and if Jeter hadn't made the sort of error he hadn't made probably since he patrolled the infield in the Kalamazoo Little League . . .

. . . no, better, if Jeter hadn't made the sort of drop that made Luis Castillo look like the second coming of Nellie Fox . . .

. . . right before another three-run homer . . .

If if if if if if if if. Roger Angell, meet Rudyard Kipling.

Now today, with the Yankees up 2-0, I'm assaulted, thanks to Fox, by the 67th meeting this season between the Cardinals and the notoriously underexposed Cubs.

'Cause, you know, what a Houston baseball fan shut in by the oppressive heat wants to see on TV is a mid-July game between the Astros' two most hated rivals.

What was it Kissinger said about the Iran-Iraq war?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Yanks sweep Twins, head to Anaheim (sound familiar?)

One can make the case that the true end of the Yankee dynasty was their dispirited, ugly 3-1 Divisional Playoff loss to the whatever-they-were Angels in the 2002 playoffs. This was the series where they lost Game 3 after leading 6-0 with a rested Mike Mussina on the mound. Worse yet, this was the fulcrum. Between 1996 and 2001, only two close calls went against the Yankees: Sandy Alomar's homer in the 1997 playoffs and Mo Rivera's errant would-have-been-a-double-play throw that pulled Jeter off the bag in . . . well, you remember.

Those two bad brekas seemed to turn into a dozen; one remembers, from that Game 4, Derek Jeter missing a home run two feet to the left of the foul pole, or Robin Ventura missing a three-run homer when his line drive hit the padding of the center field wall, instead of three feet horizontally to the left.

With the exception of the 2003 Championship Series with the Red Sox, think of Alex Gonzalez' home run against Jeff Weaver, over the precise portion of the outfield wall that was lower than all the rest, Bernie Williams' tying home run the following night, hit fifty feet longer than Alex's but to the deepest part of Dolphins' Stadium . . . then, the following year, Brian Roberts beating Posada's throw by a thousandth of a second . . . Tony Clark's line drive bounding into the Fenway Park bleachers, thus freezing the runner at third . . . Randy Johnson's left arm sputtering to a halt precisely when the Yankees acquired him . . . Joba's adventires in ectymology . . . then last year, season-ending injuries to three of the seven (at the time) most important Yankees. And so on.

Joel Sherman sets up the weekend:

Truly fascinating road trip for the Yanks as they are in the midst of playing the team they always beat (the Twins) and the team they never beat (the Angels). By winning Thursday, the Yanks swept all seven games against Minnesota this year. It is the third time since 2002 that the Yanks swept a season series against Minnesota. In that time, the Yanks have never lost a season series to the Twins and beat them twice in the playoffs.

The Yanks lead their season series against the Angels 2-1 going into this weekend. They have not won a season series from the Angels since 2003. Since 2004, they are 20-31 vs. the Angels and have lost to them twice in the playoffs in this decade.

The Yanks have seven games left this season vs. the Angels, so they cannot win the season series this weekend. But what a great symbol it would be for the Yanks to close the first half with another winning series against the team they can't beat.