Saturday, June 27, 2009

Yankees 9, Mets 1

Some quick thoughts (and I've waited months to type this) before I go catch a plane:

1. CC as Yankee is a work in progress. You play the whole season and look at the numbers.

2. Same is true for Brett Gardner, but if he's the real deal, is makes the Yankees (Brett, Melky, Jeter, Damon still) in the class of the fastest Yankee teams of my lifetime, right along side the Mickey Rivers-Willie Randolph-Roy White-Reggie Jackson teams of the late 70s. People forget: Jackson, in his 20s, could fly, so much so the A's had him in centerfield for awhile, even though he couldn't catch the ball.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The week that was

And I missed most of it. Oh well, back tomorrow.

It seems like I'm always writing, "Bring on the Mets."

Friday, June 19, 2009

Yankees 5, Marlins 1

Anyone notice Andy Pettitte--though he is surely the beneficiary of some titanic Yankee power--is 7-3 as we speak?

ERA is a better predictor of future wins and losses than wins and losses, if you get my drift. But a pitcher's career comes down to wins and losses. Tom Boswell: "They give you the ball. You win. You lose."

Nolan Ryan, for all his heat and strikeouts and no-hitters, was a .500 pitcher until the last half-dozen years of his career. Catfish Hunter, though he couldn't come within a dozen mph of where Ryan topped out, was, at his peak, a far better pitcher than Ryan ever was. Preacher Roe would give up three home runs in one start and win 4-3.

And Andy Pettitte is 7-3.

Oh, and this, from Old Testament scold Phil Muschnick, who I've been waiting a week to come out emphatically on the Castillo-Tex pop-up:

Friday, the Yanks beat the Mets not only because Luis Castillo failed to make a one-handed catch of a pop-up, but because Mark Teixeira busted it from first, scoring on the botch. One play told plenty about both teams' sense of fundamentals.

The next day, Castillo was praised for taking the heat, for standing up and facing the questions. OK, but if he hadn't regularly chosen to play minimalist ball from the day he became a Met, he wouldn't be in position to take such heat.

Yes, and yes. Lot a talk this sumkmer about the price of Yankee and Met tickets. The Yankees may be overpriced, but if the Mets charge anyone over five bucks for that easy-riding middle-of-the-pack squad that seems content, again, to loaf away a half-dozen wins and give up the division to the Phillies, they ought to be wearings masks.

In the late nineties, as the John Robinson II era seamlessly merged, after a fashion, with the Paul Hackett era, I simply gave up on the USC Trojans. There is always a built-in front-runner quality to rooting for USC--why deny it? Unless USC is contending for at least the Rose Bowl, there are simply too many better ways to spend an October Saturday in Southern California than driving into the ghetto to sit in an 80 year-old stadium originally constructed for track meets. The Dodgers are down at Chavez Ravine, the beach is at the end of I-10, and Disneyland is 25 miles from the 50 yard-line.

But my distaste--and eventual trial separation--from USC went deeper than the USC fan mentality. It wasn't that USC was bad. They were worse than bad; they were punk-ass. They were unwatchable. They had learned all the wrong lessons from Keyshawn Johnson, and it showed. They seemingly got up for one game a year, Notre Dame, and even then in their zeal they would kill themselves by piling up the personal fouls. Anything less than a top-tier (meaning Rose) Bowl and they barely showed up.

I'm not against watching overmatched, dogged teams. I'm the man who cheered for the 1991 Houston Astros, as they scratched and clawed their way to 65 wins, led by a youth core of Bagwell, Biggio, and Caminiti.

But if a team doesn't apply the fundamentals or try--if a team doesn't seem to care--why should I?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A deep breath

I mean, thank God the Yankees won on Sunday; otherwise Mike Lupica would be in full meltcwn mode about how the Yankees were "one Luis Castillo pop-up away from losing seven games in a row to their most hated rivals."

Lupica probably did write that. Until Sunday afternoon.

People need to calm down. The Yankees historically have always lost to the Sawx in May and June. Back in the days of NBC's Game of the Week, Yankee-Red Sox games were an event in my house: Ball Park Franks my father would cook on the grill, potato chips, TV trays and, in May and June, gloom. It was during one of the Games of the Week that Billy Martin attempted to start a fistfight with Reggie Jackson; only the intervention of two former catchers--Yogi Berra, and, more so, and to his everlasting credit, Elston Howard--kept the situation from becoming worse.

First, the Wild Card is coming from the East. That is a given. So after a terrible series against the Red Sox, the Yankees are in prime position.

Second, the free-agent signings are looking better every day. Everyone lambasts the Yankees for their spending. No one focuses on the fact that when they go shopping, then Yankees go to Tiffany's. Three of the first four players they ever signed (Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Rich Gossage) are in the Hall of Fame. Now we have Tex, who we love more every day; and CC, who Girardi should have taken out after seven innings, and AJ, who pitched those shutout innings against a Mets team that does know how to hit.

Okay. Go get 'em.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Yankees 9, Mets 8

Tonight's game was a Little League manager's dream.

What did Coach always tell you?

Run hard. On every batted ball. We'll steal a few runs here and there. Not many. But enough to matter.

In the major leagues, the difference between those teams that run hard and those who don't is, maybe, three to five wins a year. Maybe.

By how many games have the Mets lost to the Phillies the past few years? Pencils down.

Not hustling cost the Mets Game 1 of the 2000 World Series, and maybe the Subway Series itself. These days, watching the Mets flounder amid a combination of not-caring and--please, people--fundamentally atrocious play is a Mets-hater's dream.

2000: Derek Jeter's frantic relay throw home vs. Timo Perez's loafing from second when Todd Zeile's home-run-that-wasn't bounces off the top of the Yankee Stadium left field wall.

2009: Luis Castillo's dropped popped fly vs. Mark Texeira's mad dash around the bases.

Both times, in a matter of seconds, the difference between the two teams is revealed.

Sox Sweep

Saw it coming.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Yankees 4, Rays 3

Missed last night's game (another Wizard metldown at Minute Maid) which was just as well.

But you know what today's game was like?

Today's game was a cold beer after a long jog.

Today's game was doubling down on eleven and getting a face card.

Today's game was ordering a medium-rare steak and getting it just red enough in the middle. With a meaty Cabernet.

Today's game was slashing all around a golf course for seventeeen holes, then on 18--from 150 yards--clicking your five iron to send the ball to within six inches of the hole.

Today's game was laying down fours against a full house.

Today's game was waking up in the middle of the night, thinking it was time to get up, then seeing you still had three hours left of sleep.

Today's game was a two-hour afternoon nap that you've known for three days you've needed. And then taking it.

Today's game was seeing a column by Mark Steyn or Jay Nordlinger and saying to yourself, "I'm really going to enjoy the next ten minutes of my life."

Today's game was not perfect, just beautiful.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Yankees 8, Rangers 6

Messy but effective. But what about Wang?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Rangers 4, Yankees 2

One of those games, but can I get in on something?

John Sterling, and I mean, Jesus.

I am one of I don't know, maybe hundreds of thousands of Yankee fans who listened to the last season of Yankee radio broadcasts, in 1988, before Sterling and whoever was his stooge took over.

Hank Greenwald and Tommy Hutton. Those names ring a bell with anyone under 35?

In 1988, I was a graduate student in Binghamton, New York, trying to make enough money to last the summer, and was lucky enough to land a position as a security guard at Binghamton General Hospital. Mostly, my job entailed looking in on yobs the police had brought in, those too drunk or too high to yet withstand psych evaluation, those who would have to sleep it off before their interview and assignment.

I was being paid five bucks an hour to watch people sleep and read as much as I could inhale. The work was so low-stress I was able to work double shifts and put away enough money to patrol New England on the weekends: just enough money for gas, coffee, sandwiches, and the occasional beer.

And what kept me going? Through upstate New York, Vermont, and even Massachusetts, what kep me going was Greenwald and Hutton; Greenwald, bringing the gravel; and Tommy, the honey. Not once did their account of the game stand at odds with the filmed account of the game. Not once did their self-aggradizement cloud what was happening.

I mean, these guys were the real deal.

But this was the era of Steinbrenner. The Boss. The guy who said "You're fired!" back when Donald Trump was some millionaire's son trying to make it real estate.

Greenwald and Hutton? Not pro-Yankee enough. So after superbly capturing a not-so-bad pennant race (1988, look it up), these guys were let go.

And in came, in 1989, John Sterling.

Who, in the first three weeks of the 1989 season, called two home runs that weren't.

"It is high . . . it is long . . . . it is gone! . . . No it isn't!"

Great announcers, the Vin Sculleys and Ernie Harwells of the profession, get a home run call wrong maybe once a decade. Simply okay announcers (think of the Caray boys), maybe once every four or five years, though this may be too harsh.

Sterling? Once a month, minimum. Minimum!

A bill and a half for the stadium, they can't afford an announcer who can call a damn game?

More: Jeez.

Yankees 12, Rangers 3

Ohhhhh, those mid-week extra-inning games that so mess up the next day . . .

By which I mean the Astros over the Rockies in 11, Tejada's walk-off.

(Which does raise a point. Again, folks, let new Yankee Stadium settle. This happens with parks. When "Enron Field" opened in 2000, balls flew out for the first season. Last night, in 11 innings, the 'Stros and Rockies combined for five runs, one of them a solo homer. The last name of the Houston starter was Paulino.)

All night, to relieve the tension/boredom, I could look over and see the Yankees pile the runs on the mechanical scoreboard. Seven runs in one inning? Surely a Texiera slammy.

Um, no.

A baseball season is a game in macro-cosm. It is tempting to give everything, in retrospect, an air of inevitability. As the Astros trailed for six of the first nine innings, not only piling up men left on base but men left on base from insane situations, everybody was on the same page: They're blowing it. First inning, first and third, nobody out, with Pence, then Lee, then Puma due up. result: Zero runs. That sort of thing.

In the end, though, you'd say that though the Astros had squandered their opportunities the Rockies had let them hang around. Well, I saw it coming, dummy.

The game of "I knew it right then" is easy to play, so long as you play it after the final score.

I'm saying this because should the Yankees have a successful season (and at this moment nothing less than the World Series would define "success") this will be one of the games we look back on, when the team really started to come together.

This bring us back to Tex. Like the O'Neill/Tino/Scottie bunch who came over to the Yankees in the mid-nineties, a Yankee fan finds out about a new player a day, a game, an at-bat at the time. I had known something about Tex from watching him play maybe ten games a year. Hit, field, power, average--not much else.

When I got a look at him in pinstripes I (along with five million others, I'll wager), took him in. Heighth, build, facial expression--I'll be honest, I put him in the Kyle Farnsworth/Lou Piniella School of Red-Ass.

Well, not so fast. With his military upbringing (didn't known that), his fanaticism for a sharp-looking uniform (didn't know that), and his own personal code of conduct (he has, for instance, vowed never, ever to charge the mound), what we have here is a different cat than what I'd thought.

Tex was the catalyst for last night's big inning. But, as everyone not at the Astros' game knew, not the way you might have thought.

There's a little Pudge Fisk in this guy, a sense of how the game should be played. Right way, wrong way. (Pudge, you may recall, once screamed at Deion Sanders for not running out a pop-up . . . and this was when Sanders was playing for the opposing team, for God's sake.)

Asked about Padilla's headhunting, Texiera gave an answer that revealed something about him: his concern was not merely the danger aspect of a beanball, but how antithetical it is to the best notions of the game. He objected to the way Padilla played when they were teammates, and not just because Padilla's style made his better-hitting teammates (including, of course, Texiera) vulnerable. Anyone who has watched or played baseball knows the line between protecting the plate and attempting to injure someone--it's subtle, but it's there. And Texiera knows it, and suspects Padilla does, too.

So Padilla did what he did, twice, and Texiera did what he did, taking out the shortstop on a rough slide. A double-play was averted, the Yanks scored seven runs in the inning, and down went the Rangers.

Does this portend great things?

Since real life isn't fiction, we will only know in retrospect.

Last night at Minute Maid, so many fans had given up in the seventh, eighth, and ninth (they'd seen this story play out too many times already this season), only a few thousand remained to the end. I thought they were going to ask Astro-Girl and me to hit the lights and lock up when we left. Instead I was able to high-five an usher as we left and shout those magical five words: "Had 'em all the way."

Monday, June 01, 2009

Yankees 5, Indians 2

Soime housecleaning.

Sun Devil Joe writes:

Regarding Gardner's baserunning blunder, I'm not sure that Giradi threw him under the bus as I think Gardner was the first to talk about it. He also admitted to misjudging Asdrubal Cabrera's leadoff fly ball to center in the fifth inning. What should have been the first out turned into a double and a cheap run that extended the Indians' lead to 4-0. Welcome back Melky.

Well, okay, and yes. And:

I'm the one who asked about Ian Kennedy. He is on the roster of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees but on the DL. Did you know he is a Trojan?

To the last, no. Strange as it may seem, as dominant as USC baseball has been over the years, during the McKay/Robinson I/Carroll years it has run a poor fifth to USC's four major sports:

1. Football
2. Spring football
3. Football recruiting
4. Basketball

I bounced around looking for Kennedy's current stats; nothing so far, just that 8.17 staring at me from 2008.

Now, Gardner. Well, good for him. This piece of knowledge turns the whole deal on its right angles and may (to mix sports metaphors) help the Yanks gain yardage over all.

Now. As to tonight. Robby-Boy: Still Joba to the pen? Or Joba to 35 starts and 220 innings for the next 10 years?

Yeah, and Mo. Has anyone noticed something? Since the days of Alexander Cartwright or John McGraw or whomever, Mo has blown some high-profile game in April. Happens. This has lead to some scare backpage headline--"OH, MO!", or "SAY IT AIN'T SO, MO!"--written in the same 120-point-size typeface the Daily News or Post is saving for its front page, when it caen write "MARINES CAPTURE BIN LADEN"--something they'd probably run as "OUR BOYS BAG THE BUM."

So: high-profile game in April. Mo blows a save. So: It's over for Mo! Mo can't bring it! Mo is mortal!

This wouldn't be as funny as it is were it not for every other time Rivera comes to the mound, how Miller and Morgan (or whoever) rhapsodize about how Oh, God, pity the poor batters, and notice how he's harder on right-handers.

Rivera is the greatest closer ever, and it's not even close. (He surpassed Eck and Sutter a long time ago, sorry, and Goose, and Hoffman was never close.) Not about to fall off a cliff. Not perfect. Everybody calm down.