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.


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.


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.)


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.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Yankees 10, Blue Jays 8

I go away for a week . . .

. . . and hey, not bad.

Only question: Is it better to watch the Yankees win or the Mets stumble around?

Yeah, I know, but it's closer than you think.

By the way:

I had given up on tennis since the heydey of Borg-Connors-McEnroe. Two days ago, I sat and watched the last set of Andy vs. Andy.

Today, for the first time in 27 years, I sat with Astro-Girl and watched an entire men's tennis match from start to finish.

And my innocence in such matters precludes agreeing with John McEnroe's conclusion.

It just sounds right.

Such is the talent of Roger Federer that this happened:

Back to back, Andy Roddick played the two best matches of his life.

And came in second.