Saturday, April 30, 2011

Yankees 5, Blue Jays 4

I couldn't keep last night's game in my mind--it doesn't exist.

Today, solid solid. AJ continues to play just well enough to win.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Yankees 12, White Sox 3

A nice thumping (would have been nice if the nine-run margin could have been spread over all of CC's starts this year), but better for this, a good night for Swisher.

One of Earl Weaver's tricks for coaxing a player out of a slump was to move them up to second in the line-up, reasoning that someone placed right in front of Ken Singleton and Eddie Murray would receive a steady diet of fastballs. Dings to Jeter and Tex placed Swisher to second, right behind Granderson and just ahead of Cano and A-Rod. Result? Oh-for-19 quickly became 3-for-4 with his first homer of the year.

14-8, the very definition of "starting out smartly."

Bring on the Jays.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Yankees 3, White Sox 1


1. Wonder if Cano thought, "Catch this one, pal," as his three-run homer landed in the porch. Of course, Quentin was in right field, so not as sweet.

2. CC, AJ, Chief, Nova, Colon--do we dare see a rotation emerging?

3. The 2:11 time was worthy of note. Had to run errands, timed them perfectly to arrive home in time to catch the bottom of the sixth. Game over.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

White Sox 3, Yankees 2

And if you didn't see the two magnificent catches--both of which probably prevented a loss--I'm not going to tell you.


Monday, April 25, 2011

White Sox 2, Yankees 0


Remind ourselves that the Yankees aren't the only team with talent.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Yankees 6, Orioles 3 (11)

Perfect game for a Sunday, anyway--watch 10 innings, nap during the rain-out, wake up for the 11th.

Two splendid fielding plays did as much to keep the Yankees in it as long as the were: Gardner's splendid two-out over-the-shoulder catch in the eighth with the tying and go-ahead runs circling the bases, and, of course, Swisher to Cano to Martin for the play at the plate.

A road team gives up the lead late, you always assume they will lose.

Today, I was strangely confident they'd win.

As far as the bullpen: Rivera will be fine.

The real worry? Joba.

The 2011 Houston Astros--I watch so you don't have to!

My friend Aaron Knight writes: "An almost triple play
served as the turning point in the game, leading to an Astros victory.....surely you have something to say about that!?"

Ach, no--was negotiating back and forth between Astros and Yankees and found myself caught up in discussions of Russell Martin's plunking. Can't lose for winning.

Yankees 15, Orioles 3

I thought of Earl Weaver after Martin's plunking. Weaver in fact never ordered a knock-down (he said he was afraid of permanently injuring someone and didn't want it on his conscience), but he was a master of grabbing hold of a situation and changing the subject from his own team's poor play. If Jim Palmer was tossing a two-hitter or Brooks Robinson was turning doubles into double plays, Weaver would sit in the dugout, arms folded, smoking when he thought he could get away with it. Give him the wrong end of a 12-2 thumping, and he was a whirlwind of animation: screaming, cursing, arms-waving, generally making life miserable for Ron Luciano and Steve Palermo. Get him thrown out, and the local Baltimore TV station (and eventually ESPN) would show a hi-light of his histrionics, and not Dennis Martinez giving up another home run. The Baltimore and Washington papers would write about Weaver; the questions in the clubhouse would be about Weaver's ejection.

So . . . in a game that might have been about CC's (less one pitch) masterpiece or Russell Martin's three home runs or Gardner's awakening, the post-game conversations began with Martin's beaning. Both New York tabloids began their accounts with one otherwise meaningless ninth-inning pitch. Alex Rodriguez's twenty-second career grand slam (one short of the Iron Horse's majesterial 23, one of the last of the old power records) barely warranted mention. The total incompetence of Baltimore's bullpen barely merited a mention. Weaver couldn't have pulled it off better himself.

11-6--first place!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Yankees 6, Toronto 2

Torn. Happy that Bartolo Colon may be the near-term answer (and I still think, absent a deal for Brett Myers or somebody, New York needs solid seasons, and probably solid post-seasons, from two of Colon, Garcia, Hughes) but miffed that YES, while patching up its differences with DirectTV in New York, is somehow ensnared in something in Tucson.

Missed the whole game.

The 2011 Houston Astros--I watch so you don't have to!

It seems a loss to the Astros by the New York Madoffs is too desultory to even describe. From The New York Daily News, via Deadspin:

Blah blah blah blah rain blah blah blah Niese blah blah Astros blah blah Mets got spanked. Blah blah, 6-1.

This has nothing to do with Tuesday's game, which was played in New York anyway, but the above lead (or lede) reminds me of treatment Houston itself--the city, I mean--receives from the sportswriting world in general. Houstonians will recall the first salvo during the '94 NBA Finals, (Rockets/Knicks) a back-page, off-day space-filler in the New York Post which was apparently written by a spotswriter who had never been south of Perth Amboy. The oh-too-subtle headline, describing Houston: WELCOME TO HELL.

A week-and-a-half after that valentine, all thoughts of city-as-hot-humid-nuthin'-to-do-in hell had receded behind the white Bronco interrupting Game 4 and John Starks's Game 7 awfulness (though I must say, when my date and I went out in the streets of Montrose to celebrate the Rockets' championship, it was breezy and cool). But the stigma stuck.

"WELCOME TO HELL" was not exactly "HEADLESS MAN IN TOPLESS BAR," but clear enough--and, more to the point, the article that set the tone for the countless Houston Sucks articles to follow. There was Bill Simmons, usually more thoughtful than this, writing from Houston after the 2006 NBA All-Star Game:

In the past four years, I made four separate trips to Houston and spent a total of 24 days here . . . And you know what? That's too much freaking time to spend in Houston. My editors just bleeped me, I don't care. Maybe Houston doesn't suck any more or less than 20 other major cities, and maybe the people are friendly and likable, but the fact remains, you would never come here for any reason, other than these three:

(1) For work.
(2) To gain weight.
(3) To get shot.

You just wouldn't. And yet, dating back to the Super Bowl XXXVIII in February 2004, three of the last eight major sporting events were held in Houston. Does this make any sense? There are 30 to 35 American cities that could host the Super Bowl and/or either of the All-Star Games ... and yet Houston pulled off the Ultimate Pro Sports Trifecta in a 24-month span, despite the fact that it's a sprawling city with traffic and safety problems (the three intangibles you always want to avoid for major sporting events). Here's what really frightens me: I have spent so much time here, I actually know my way around. Can I have this information removed from my brain? Is there a pill I can take?

Anyway, I have the following announcement to make: I am never, ever, ever setting foot in Houston again. I don't care if the Red Sox play the Astros in the World Series. I don't care if the Celtics play the Rockets in the NBA Finals. I don't care if my daughter gets engaged to an astronaut and has to have a quickie wedding in Houston hours before he gets launched to Saturn. I'm never coming back to Houston. Twenty-four days were enough. No offense.

To which one might simply reply:
1) Simmons's first love is basketball; clearly he was channeling the Post's account from '94, and
2) Simmons grew up in Boston and lived (and lives) in Los Angeles, so complaining about another city's "traffic and safety problems" is really quite hilarious. Los Angeles, at least, deals with the traffic the way Montanans deal with the snow--as adults. There are two things Angelenos approach with a degree of gravity: traffic and going to the movies. (Try whispering, "Why did he go in the chunnel?" to your companion during a Sunday matinee in Westwood. Twenty-five people will shush you, and ten more will hiss "Shut UP!") As for Boston . . . imagine the cast of Good Will Hunting multiplied by fifty thousand driving in Kenmore Square (with its five-way intersection hard by Fenway Park) on a street laid out 350 years ago for horses and milk wagons. I'll give you traffic.

The idea of Houston-as-craptown was revived once again this year, during the Final Four. Leaving aside that the worst basketball game in history somehow tainted the city. Every sports columnist, thinking himself the soul of wit, wrote on the Sunday off-day for the Monday papers. These guys work in journalism--they didn't know the Crown Royal is stuck south of the Medical Center and toward Fort Bend County, basically the Houston version of the City of Industry? Downtown--with 20 really nice bars and a dozen superb restaurants, Sam Houston Park giving onto Allen's Landing and Buffalo Bayou, plus a Hilton, a Hyatt, a Doubletree--is 20 minutes from Reliant Stadium. Really, is that so hard?

Anyway, just thinkin' out loud.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blue Jays 6, Yankees 5 (10)

And considering that three hours ago I was furious I couldn't get the game on anywhere, my MLB a casualty of my laziness . . . all I want to say is that every year, Mariano Rivera's first blown save of the season is like the first scratch on the new car: both inevitable and devastating. Saw him vs. the Rangers Sunday and thought, "Maybe this is the season he goes 0.00." Seriously, I thought that.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Yankees 6, Rangers 5

Oh, what a lovely game. Classic Yankee, 1996 forward: Strong starting pitching, timely hitting late, Mo Rivera. Deeper than that--for all the power from baseball's gaudiest line-up (since 1923), how many big games over the years have been won by the light-hitting infield guys (Frank Crosetti, Jerry Coleman, Billy Martin, Bobby Richardson, Bucky Dent); by the off-the-bench humpty-dumpties (Johnny Blanchard, Paul Blair, Jim Mason, Brian Doyle, Luis Sojo, Jose Vizcaino); by the members of the Over-the-Hill Gang (Johnny Mize, Country Slaughter, Cecil Fielder, Wade Boggs, Tim Raines)?

As was written of Mize, when Casey Stengel traded for him in 1950, after the ill-fated experiment with DiMaggio in 1950: "Your legs are gone, your arm likewise, but your eyes, Mize, but your eyes!"

Ladies and gentleman, meet Eric Chavez, light-hitting off-the-bench over-the-hill former All-Star, tonight's player of the game.

Eric Chavez--occupant of all three categories

Friday, April 15, 2011

Texas 5, New York 3

Hughes to the DL; Nova, Colon, Garcia?

Old Milwaukee Braves: Spahn and Sain and pray for rain.
Late 70s Angels: Tanana and Ryan and two days of cryin'.
Late 80s Red Sox: Clemens and Hurst, then expect the worst.
1995 Yankees: Cone and Pettitte and then forget it.
2011 Yankees: Burnett and CC and . . . what rhymes with CC?

Yankees 6, Orioles 5

Right--the first best game of the Yankee season just as the internet crashes. Lovely.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The 2011 Astros: I watch so you don't have to!

Brett Myers' ERA is 1.77. The ERA of Houston's other four starters, plus the closer: 6.17, 7.31, 8.10, 8.10, 10.61. Say it real fast, you sound like an auctioneer at the Livestock Show.

The good news: they are hitting hitting, Pence, Sanchez, Bourn especially. Wallace and Johnson are the "just a matter of time guys," and Lee seems happy to audition for the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers, where he'd fit in perfectly behind Gorman Thomas as one of Harvey's Wallbangers.

The bad news: they are hitting, and are 3-9.

Yankees 7, Orioles 4

A nice boat race; A-Rod now officially hot, and AJ 3-0.

Record: 6-4

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Red Sox 4, Yankees 0


CC's ERA through three starts: 1.45.

His record: 0-1.

The Yankee's record when he starts: 1-2.

And oh yeah:

Joba Joba Joba Joba Joba Joba Joba Joba.

Astros 7, Marlins 1

One of the few pleasures of watching a really bad baseball team is viewing the embryo of the really good baseball team emerge. Such was the case with the 2005 Tigers of Jeremy Bonderman and Justin Verlander that, two short years later, defeated the Yankees in the playoffs. And so we have, now, teh Astros of Brett Wallace, Chris Johnson, J.A. Happ, with Jason Castro on the mend. Hunter Pence is the elder statesman in a bunch that, every so often, gives you hope.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Yankees 9, Red Sox 4

What everyone figured out about 10 seconds after Andy Pettitte's retirement--or perhaps earlier, maybe 10 seconds after Cliff Lee announced he was returning to Philadelphia, is writ large: really, the only possible impediment to a long Yankee October is the back end of the rotation.

What McCarver said on Fox today is true: 18 home runs in eight games (with Jeter and Gardner still trying to get going) can paper over a lot of deficiencies. CC is rounding into form; AJ, who is at heart a number 3, is no better and no worse than the Yankees could expect or hope for. Beyond that . . . what? Hughes has lost his fastball, Nova didn't get out of the third today, Colon--in the space of a week--has used up all the hope he inspired in Spring Training, and Freddy Garcia has been waiting in the wings longer than Anne Baxter in All About Eve.

Two-point-two-five home runs per game is not going to last all year. From the 3, 4, 5 -hole, the Yanks will have to gut out their share of 3-2 and 4-3 victories. Even when the power is on, Hughes & Co. will have to at least keep them close enough so that, say, four home runs in one game don't get wasted.

Still, nothing better than beating the Red Sox on a Saturday afternoon, and seeing the score all night. And--I nearly fainted--Fox deigned to broadcast the game in Houston.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Boston 9, New York 6

Two pitchers between Hughes, Colon and Garcia are going to have to have years.

The 2011 Houston Astros: I Watch So you Won't Have To!

What do we think we think?

1. These Astros will be something in Obama's second term--if the pitching comes around. Myers and Lee will be gone by then; Pence, probably still here. Brett Wallace at first base and Chris Johnson at third have the look of keepers. Until then, it's a matter of waiting for the young guys to mature, some money to free up, for Drayton to sell the team

2. Somebody do something about the Jumbotron. It's the best device I've ever seen for not showing much of anything. Lee was called out for "BI," as it read on the scoreboard; I assume that means "batter's interference." But whatever happened seemed to happen as he was rounding first during/after a poor throw, which sailed past the first baseman and into foul territory. thirty-five thousand people were on the same page: Lee goes to second with Wallace and Johnson due up. Bingo, a big inning.

Wait a minute. Here's Lee being thumbed out. Why, no one seemed to know. The screen, which flips between a standard-issue scoreboard complete with batting orders, innings, runs, hits, etc., and a Jumbotron screen, still listed Lee's at-bat as E1, pitcher's error, with a base advance. (It does have a neat scorebook-style batting line). But more important: It would not show the play. Instant-replay Diamond Visions have been strictly regulated since 1985, when a furious George Steinbrenner ordered seven replays, one after the other, of a close play at first, and the umpires threatened to walk off the field. (It was Billy Martin, of all people, who acted the role of peacemaker.) But this wasn't a close play. It was . . . something. Nobody knew. The next inning, I went into the Men's, hoping to catch Milo's explanation on the radio feed the park pipes into the restrooms. The speakers in my Men's Room, however, were not functioning. Came back, when Lee came up again: BI. Batter's interference. (Does "batter" in this instance refer to "batter/runner", a popular term in the rulebook? Still no replay--I asked.

There was no play for Lee's whatever-it-was; no replay of a soft Marlin pop-up that somehow--I would loved to have seen how--found a splash of greenspace between Lee and Johnson at third base; no replay, later on, of a collision at second that led to Hanley Ramirez, only the Marlins' best player, carried off the field with his left foot dangling. (The last time I saw an injury like that, live, was when it happened to Chien Ming-Wang, who on Father's Day, 2008, was headed for the Cy Young Award before he tore that cord of a muscle that runs diagonally under your foot. This happened at Minute Maid, and was never the same.) On the big screen, there was the kiss-cam, the Goya ball shuffle, a look at the Houston Zoo, a Q&A in which Wandy was asked which teammate could be a super-hero (Carlos Lee, Superman), and a pantomime in which Kids of All Ages were asked to play a drawing of a set of bongo drums. (I don't know either). Apparently Drayton (or the Park, of some measure of both) has paid for the world's most expensive screen-saver.

3. Oh, yeah, the final score. In one week, the Astros' bullpen, given eighth-inning leads of two and one runs, have allowed six runs in four innings, for an ERA of 14.50, and the only reason it's not higher is that, last Friday, the Phillies were playing at homeand didn't need to keep scoring after they went ahead in the bottom of the ninth.

4-3 Marlins. More loveliness tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Twins 5, New York 4 (10)

It's a day later, we save Nova because of the rain, Boston just went to 0-5, and I still don't wanna talk about it.

Soriano. Don't know if you heard, but Babe Ruth has been dead 60 years. It made papers. Throw strikes!

Monday, April 04, 2011

Yankees 4, Twins 3

Strong starting pitching, timely hitting, good bullpen, Mo. Yawn.

except: if Posada takes to the DH role, if Tex can attach a good April to the rest of his season . . . then it all comes down to Burnett, Hughes, Nova, Blank.

3-1. First place.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Tigers 10, Yankees 7

Great. The first game I saw all season: hit four home runs and then go kill yourself. Tex, Jorge, A-Rod, Granderson, Martin and Swisher are all hot--only Hughes and the guys can't keep Detroit in single digits.

Yeah, and so much for "Colon shoulda been number five."

2-1, and the only consolation is that Boston and Tampa are a combined 0-6.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Yankees 10, Tigers 6

Two games into the season, and there it is: the first Yankee game hidden behind the Fox firewall, bought and buried, and--I'm going by last season, since I didn't bother with Cards and Padres--I've never seen a network give fewer updates for its B game (or, for what I'm guessing for most of the country, its A game) than Fox.

Anyway, the game. What I could glean was a good start for AJ and--yes, merciful God--another home run from Tex, who is, I kid you not, I bet five weeks ahead of his 2010 pace in homers and RBI. I mean, come on. I have three nephews who could hit .136.

Been reading about the up-and-comers; apparently New York is deep as the Harlem River re pitchers and catchers.

Yankees and Red Sox: it's going to come down to who has fewer starting pitching problems, right? Tampa's retrenching, Baltimore is at least a year away, Toronto has lost its best player (Halladay) and its second-best player (Wells) the last two seasons. If AJ can give them the 16-18 wins a number two has to be good for, if Hughes doesn't run out of gas, if either Garcia or Colon can string together a solid year, if Nova is a year better . . .

But you know who, right this minute, would be the Yankees' best option for starters number four and five?

Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte.