Sunday, May 31, 2009

Indians 5, Yankees 4

One of those, "Yeah, saw it coming, even when they tied it up" games.

The downside of winning so many cliffhangers is that, eventually, your first line of relievers is going to exhaust itself. Happens all the time, happened today.


1. For Hughes, again, two forward, one back. Meanwhile, Wang, in three scoreless relief innings, has cut his era more than half from its apex! (To sixteen-something.) So: whaddya do? Watch and learn? Right now, about a dozen Yankees couldn't play better in their dreams, from Tex on down. They're in first, and there's about a ninety percent chance the Wild Card comes from the East. Does Girardi allow himself the luxury of forcing Wang to play himself back into the rotation? Does he sit back and observe, and wait for Phil Hughes to become Phil Hughes?

2. Robby-Boy is pushing hard for Joba in the pen. Two thoughts: 1. If you do it now, do it forever, and with the intention of installing him as closer eventually. 2. Are we looking at a rotation of CC, Burnett, Pettitte, Wang and Hughes, in that case? 3. I forget who asked the question, but where in the world is Ian Kennedy. Yeah, yeah, that's what the internet is for. I'll find out myself.

Joba back to set-up? I disagree, but not vehemently.

3. Of course we really knew when it was over. Posada's DP grounder in the ninth. Turns out Brett Gardner was given the "must steal" sign. Re Girardi:

Yankees manager Joe Girardi gave Brett Gardner at first base the steal sign with Posada up, but the rookie didn't go.

"It has been addressed," Girardi said.

So: Gardner gets his sign. He breaks for second, the shortstop breaks for the bag. Tapper to second, Gardner comes in safe, Posada out at first, go-ahead run scores from third, and Gardner is on second, ready to score on a base hit.

In any case, in this scenario, up comes Mo and out go the Indians.

Well, of course we know that.

Funny, though. Did Girardi throw the kid under the bus? Sounds like he did. How very un-Torre of him.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

14 of 17 and counting

At the quarter-pole, it is time to ask ourselves:

Are these guys really this good?

CC, Burnett, Tex, Melky/Gardner, Cano, Joba.

Jeter in the middle of rallies. A-Rod, back in the groove--with Manny as his new best friend and Selena Roberts, in her odd way, as his second-best.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Yankee 11, Rangers 1

Astro-Girl pressed hard for a jaunt north to Arlington when the Yankees came around, and I toyed with the idea before deciding my compact schedule couldn't permit it.

And this would have been the game I saw. Damn.

Should have listened to the missus.

More than A-Rod's hits, more than Tex and all his doings, the main story was Phil Hughes. Every so often, on your favorite baseball team, there's some kid coming out of the minors you just badly want to see do well. Al Leiter was that way with me in 1988, and he did make good, though with the Mets and a decade later. Lance Berkman, and more recently, Hunter Pence with the Astros.

When Pence showed up at Spring Training two years ago, then proceeded to hit something like .460 with a dozen home runs, throw out guys from center and run the bases like a Little Leaguer, it was impossible not to like him. Then, it took one month of playing in houston for Pence to go from, "Hey, this kid can play," to "Damn, they could build a line up around this guy." Now, unless Pence's batting average falls off a cliff, Pence should go to the All-Star game whether Tejada is voted as a starter or not.

And now Hughes, with that sweet slow breaking ball (did I mention--the best I've seen since Bert Blyleven's?). Hughes is starting to tantalize us the way Leiter did two decades ago: a few good starts, injury, bad start, good start, etc.

I want

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Roger Maris belongs in the Hall of Fame

Call this my new crusade. In the wake of steroids, the case becomes more compelling. More to follow

More housecleaning

" I confess. This past Sunday night I betrayed Howie Rose, something I knew was risky and wrong, when I chose to both watch and listen to ESPN's coverage of Mets-Giants.

Why I thought that ESPN, instead of smothering another game with verbal and video excess, would let this one breathe, I can't explain. But it was, of course, a mistake.

To lighten the load of both the Yankees' loss today and the fact of my post being zapped by PC ( that geek I want to slap), I give you this, coutesy of SundDevil Joe:

microcosm from Sunday's telecast as to why ESPN's Sunday night baseball remains insufferable:

Shortstop Kevin Frandsen charged a bouncer, made a sweet grab on the half hop, then threw out Gary Sheffield. "Nice pickup," admired play-by-player Jon Miller. The play otherwise spoke for itself. But Joe Morgan was just getting started:

"Very nice play. Well, you have to time this perfectly because you're going to get that in-between hop, and the way you field the ball is that you catch it on the short hop or on the big hop. But this is the in-between hop. You can't get there in time to get the short hop, so he gets it on the in-between hop; you don't get it at its highest point. And a nice pick, there."

Good grief.

So now I'm trying to remember my brilliance. I remember thinking it odd Morgan didn't fit in either "my two consecutive MVP awards" or "The Big Red Machine" or "We never should have traded Tony Perez" into that paragraph.

(A time-out here. I mean, every time a line drive gets past a diving first baseman, it's not warrant to plunge into a ten-minute monologue about how Tony Perez was the anchor of the 70s Reds, and blah blah how the Dodgers blah blah and then after we got Seaver blah blah blah. I mean, some on, dude.)

Thing is, and this the tragedy, Morgan was a fantastic player. I'm about to turn 44, and in my lifetime, if one twins offense to defense with second basemen, three players are even in Morgan's area code: Ryne Sandberg, Jeff Kent, and Craig Biggio. Morgan and Sanberg are in the Hall of Fame, Biggio is headed there in 2013, and Kent should follow--never mind everyone hated him, teammates, press, fans.

Jeff Kent, red ass first-class, is a Hall-of-Famer. Sorry, Mitch Albom.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Nine is . . . fine? Divine?

Just auditioning for a job as the Post backpage headliner.

It's called the "wood," if you're interested. Something to do with how the old printing presses were manufactured.

As the Yankees sail above an ocean of joy on a pink cloud with a rainbow rainbow wrapped their spikes, a few matters of note:

1. The more 2004 recedes, the clearer it becomes that the fulcrum in the Yankee/Red Sox rivalry was the moment Dave Roberts led off first against Rivera. It's not just that since then, the red Sox have won two World Series, the Yankees not a single playoff series. The intriguing point here is how the teams are comprised, in contrast to the previous decade of their wars, 1995-2004. As we speak, the Yankees and Red Sox (and Blue Jays, more about anon) are essentially tied in the middle of May, when--in the old Sparky Anderson adage--the standings actually start to mean a damn. The Red Sox are in first without Manny, and with their best player--Papi--hitting so poorly it was said even rival players were starting to pity him. The Yankees' pitching is starting to come around; until it does, they seem content to win games 10-8. When a portion of the outfield bleachers is named after your most prominent singles hitter (Damon's Deck, anyone?), well, that's some power.

2. Up until the last few days, the big question has been: Are the Blue Jays For Real? Clearly, they couldn't play better in their dreams, and may play worse as the summer goes on. Something to watch.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Back, Back, Back (Headline NY Daily News)

"You're never as good as you look when you're winning, never as bad as you look when you're losing."

But this team looks pretty good. 11-4--which, strangely enough, was just about enough to put the Yankees on the positive side of the runs scored/runs against ledger (they're plus-2). runs in the aggregate, and this never is said enough, is the best determinant of future success. (What is worrisome, of course, is that Toronto sits at between plus-40 and plus-50).

And now--what--it's having fun? Swisher, the team DJ?

More here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Yankees 7, Twins 6

Last week: Choppy shoe.

This week: Aces and faces.

Big Tex and A-Rod--not a bad start.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Yankees 6, Twins 4 (11)

Amazing, isn't it, how well things set up for A-Rod. He comes back in the middle of May, with the Yankees neither so far out in front nor too far back to make him irrelevant.

The whole Manny thing has become the new big story.

And that field of blue at Yankee Stadium, all those empty seats behind home plate reminding you of when TV cameras wouldn't track the apex of punts during Arizona Cardinal home games, the better to conceal that nobody was sitting in the upper deck at Sun Devil Stadium.

It all reminds you of what Bob Lemon said to Reggie when he showed up to replace Billy Martin in the tumult of 1978: "Just bash a bunch over the wall, Meat."

Friday, May 15, 2009

Yankees 5, Twins 4

A few more wins like that, boys . . .

Astro-Girl and I hosted her uncle and aunt for dinner tonight, and both our guests were subject to my agony early and late, and then eventually to my, "Yes, yes, yes!" when Melky stroked his two-run single to left in the bottom of the ninth.

My uncle-in-law, a hero of the Khmer Rouge death camps, a boat refugee, did his gracious best to follow the last few innings of a game he's never followed. When Melky hit home the winning runs, he asked, "So how much time is left?"

None, baby, I said. None. Game over.

"Then," he said, and lifted his glass of Chianti, "to Melky. To the Yankees. To victory. To Tammie and Joe."

No, Uncle: to you.

So how was your night?

Sometime in July, when the Yankees have an off night and all the networks are running episodes of my favorite shows for the third time, I'll remember last night. In descending order of caring, my interests were:

1. Bruins-'Canes (Seventh game, naturally)
2. Celtics-Magic (chance to advance in the playoffs)
3. Yankees-Blue Jays (because, come on)
4. Rockets-Lakers (Watching the Lakers wrestle with a team that, currently comprised, would not make the playoffs in the West in one of the pleasanter surprises of the spring)
5. What happened to Izzy on Grey's Anatomy (Astro-Girl's favorite show and, as Samuel L. Jackson said in Pulp Fiction, "My girlfriend's a vegetarian, which pretty much means I'm a vegetarian.")
6. If Meredith and McDreamy finally hooked up.

All this, while contending with:

1. A TV in the den stuck on a channel, it seems, that aired nothing but back-to-back showings of the David Hasselhoff made-for-TV movie Layover.

2. The Bruins game nowhere to be found. Last month, we seemed we had NESN. Now, not so much. And the Red Wings were hogging Versus. I mean, I'm old enough to remember friggin' Curt Gowdy call the Bruins-Rangers Cup Finals on NBC.

3. My lack of knowledge of about the last seven episodes of Gray's Anatomy. (Wait, is that "Grey" with an a or an e? I sort of got distracted since the chubby one went lesbo--and, as I recall, showed extreme skill.

So. What do we take away from last night?

A busted silverware drawer. When Paul Pierce missed two free throws in a row, essentially handing the game to the Magic and sending the series to game seven, I slammed the drawer so hard, the front popped out.

A potential Dan-and-Dave moment. I laughed out loud the first time I saw the Nike Kobe-and-LeBron-as-puppets commercial. Everyone outside greater Houston, Denver, Boston and Orlando seems to want . . . but more important, expect . . . a Cleveland-Laker final. But LA, as they're playing right now, can't beat Denver.

A chance to party like it's 1999. Yanks last night: strong starting pitching (enough to keep it close), timely hitting late, then Mo. Fellas, is that so hard?

A letdown on "Grey's Anatomy." The problem with series-leavings on network TV shows is that we've already been told via Entertainment Tonight and its various outlets. Mark Harmon on St. Elsewhere, Ed Marinaro on Hill Street Blues, Shelley Long on Cheers: the only suspense is how it's going to happen.

A sense of doom. Was it me, or were the Bruins, in overtime, just delaying the inevitable? Since the days of Brad Park and Rick Middleton, the onlt Bruins I could tell you about were Sergei Samsanov and Joe Thornton--both of whom the Bruins, sticking to their post-Park game plan, traded years ago. So there was Samsanov in a 'Canes uniform last night, in the middle of every rush toward the puck. The Bruins, at the end, were just hanging on.

Laughs. This Rocket team--missing both its first- and second-string center, its most talented player, sporting a center three inches shorter than Magic Johnson and a point guard (Aaron Brooks) who sounds like he plays quarterback for Oregon State--will not win the NBA championship. But after last night's victory against the Lakers, they will, in Houston, always be loved.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Celtics. You're kidding me.

Blue Jays 5, Yankees 1

Roy Halladay has owned the Yankees pretty much since he was pitching at Exhibition Park (he was the starter the night Dave Winfield offed the seagulll, right? And do you remember when Canadian authorities held up Winfield at the border on some animal rights' charges . . . I mean, a frickin' racoon with wings . . . and manager Billy Martin, in one of his more genial moods--famously defined by Stick Michael as more or less between Scotch number four and Scotch number seven--offered to mollify the Canucks: "We'll give the bird a funeral of honor. We'll have a day for it and bury it out in Monument Park next to the Babe.")

So, anyway, I spent all day waiting for Halladay the way a kid who partied on finals week waits for the dreaded envelope stamped GRADES ENCLOSED next to the address.

So, no surprise.

For the Rockets, not so much a surprise. What amusement I'm getting from the game is how Bakley is in all those T-Mobile commercials, and how at the end of every commercial they play the familiar four-note tinkle, which is precisely the tone that Astro-Girl keeps on her cell phone and refuses to change. So every time we come to the end of a T-Mobile commercial, the tone plays, and Astro-Girl comes charging into the living room.

"Where's my phone?" she asks.

"Commercial," I say. I mean, this happens every time.

So, getting back to the Yankee game, I cheered myself up by reading this item over at Deadspin, by Will Leitch, who writes a column for Sporting News (link:)

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, after writing a column making fun of the two New York baseball stadiums, I invited SN readers to email me their pitches as to why their stadium was unappreciated. I would "reward" the best pitch by buying them and me a ticket to a game this year. I received some impassioned pitches for Detroit, Arlington, Philadelphia, Toronto, even Tampa. But the contest was kind of rigged: I really wanted to go to Pittsburgh.

This was for two reasons. First, I've heard from numerous people that PNC Park is a gorgeous stadium where it's easy to procure great cheap seats because the Pirates play there. But mostly: I had slated May 12, today, as my travel day for the game, and the Cardinals happened to be in town that day. That's cheating, but whatever, it's the Cardinals.

Anyway, I was primed to proclaim the first person to email me about PNC Park the "winner," but, because the Pirates have no fans left, nobody sent me a thing. Then, they day before I had to make a decision, I received an email from some guy, whom we'll call "Robert." His note was not inspiring — "The reason that PNC Park is different is that it's the most beautiful stadium of any sport in the entire world and it's parking lot is located near our pre-Forbes stadium, Exposition Park" — but who cares? I had my Pittsburgh resident! I emailed him posthaste, told him he won and asked if he could make it May 12. "I'll buy the tickets," I told him. "We can just meet there. My hotel will just be a few blocks away. I'll buy the booze too!"

I was on deadline, so I began to worry when I didn't hear back from Robert for a few hours. I kept needling him, saying I needed him to confirm so I could file my next column and buy the plane tickets. I kept offering him plenty of booze in Pittsburgh: Nobody fails to act when booze is on the line, I figured. And nothing. So I finally gave up. I chose Minnesota, because I've always wanted to see the Metrodome, which is in its last season, and because I thought I would seriously try to talk the Twins into making me their general manager because that would be HILARIOUS. And then I didn't think that much more about it.

Three days later, I received an email from a woman named "Barbara." She informed me that she was the mother of ... Robert. Who was 13 years old. Who had told her that "the man from the magazine" had invited him to "meet" him at the Pirates game, that his hotel was right by the stadium, that he would buy his ticket and buy him lots of booze.

"He was a bit overwhelmed by your kind invite," she said, and I really, really hoped she'd seen the magazine, the column and the "contest." Because I had just invited her 13-year-old son to come meet a stranger with alcohol at a baseball game. With my hotel "just a quick walk away."

Man-Boy love humor. Dig it.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Leading into tonite's game . . .

If the short (so far) Yankee season were a game of Blackjack, you'd describe it as a "choppy shoe."

If you've ever played Blackjack in a casino, you know what I mean. The "shoe" is the box of six decks uses to thwart amateur card counters. (Professionals, of course--say, the MIT crowd--would laugh at such a safeguard.) For reasons having a little to do with the way cards are gathered up after a hand, a little to do with the manual shuffle still used by many casinos, and in part because God Hates Them That Make a Plan, tables run hot and cold about 75 percent of the time: play smart, you win, win four hands in a row, lose five, win three, etc., all the while knowing about the 1.5% house advantage that, over time, will grind you down if you stick to the Basic Strategy (those laminated cards people flash in Lake Charles but are forbidden at most Vegas tables).

The phenomenon of the streaky shoe is why so many Blackjack players go broke in ninety minutes: the engage at an intuitive strategy called "chasing the loss": doubling up after a loss. Players chasing their losses is why Steve Wynn builds 2000-room hotels reaching up into the clouds; start with a five-dollar loss, chase it eight times, and you're laying down a thousand dollar bet.

So (to complete the metaphor) as counterintuitive as it may seem, don't chase the loss. Do the opposite. If you're losing, bet the minimum. If you're on a roll, put as much money on the table as you can. Go up three bets, double. Go up six bets, quadruple. Push a hot streak, 'cause, baby, they don't happen very often.

The exception (and they happen rarely) is the choppy shoe. Win one, lose one. Good pitching, bad pitching. Hitting, no hitting. Bullpen, no bullpen. No rhythmn, no rhyme. No one (Guidy in '78, Pettitte in '96, Wells in '98) to grab onto, not yet.

Choppy shoe.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Batting Practice

The Yanks are in their third generation of prospects since the Dark Ages of 1989-91. The kids of the early nineties who came of age under Stick Michaels (first Roberto Kelly (who was flipped for Paul O'Neill), then Bernie Williams, then in rapid succession the Jeter/Pettitte/Rivera/Posada crowd) gave way, in the early aughts, to a cast of characters either traded away (D'Angelo Jimenz, Alfonso Soriono, Ted Lilly, Nick Johnson) or proven a bust (that cast of The Gong Show paraded out as pitching prospects--one of them was named Randy, right? And Kei Igawa).

What has taken shape in the first month in the season is Generation Melky: Cabrera, Cano, Joba, Hughes, Gardner. Tex will be Tex, and Swisher Swisher, and CC will be fine once he'd told of this fabulous, new, innovative, secret pitch that goes by the code name "Strike One." AJ and Pettitte: not as good as their first few starts, not as bad as lately. Call it a wash. A-Rod will come back, serve himself up as the dinner special once around the division, and hit 30-35 home runs. Posada is healty and Jeter, yes, is Jeter.

But, for a team that supposedly went out and bought itself enough veterans to ensure at least a spot in the playoffs for the foreseeable future, it is startling to see how much is riding on the performance of a crop of youngsters at least as numerous as 1995 and 1996. Their importance to the club was never so evident as last night, and in fact for every game since the Fenway debacle.

In a few weeks, Cano has gone from, "Christ, can he please not hit .150 in April?" to a player in the middle of every rally. Cabrera has transformed himself from an airheaded defensive replacement for Johnny Damon to . . . well, we'll see. Hughes pitched a major-league game and actually didn't end up in the hospital. Joba is settling in as a number 3-4 starter.

Now, all of a sudden, the Yankees need all these guys.

But hey, some game last night, huh?

Friday, May 01, 2009

Yankees 10, Angels 9

Ladies and gentlemen, to celebrate May Day: the Best Game of the Year So Far.

And now I'm going to bed. More tomorrow.