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.


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


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 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!


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


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.


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.