March 18, 2010

Blog Truck Day

So, I've packed up and moved Eephus Pitch over to It will be much improved! If by much improved you mean "actually updated."

Come on over, and if you use an RSS reader, please update accordingly. I promise to keep the book promotion at a manageable and hopefully non-irritating level, and the funny-player-name obsession at the heights you've come to expect.

December 24, 2009

...Not Even A Centaur

A few weeks ago, a few of my friends had people over to their apartment to help make and hang decorations for their tree. I think it came out pretty well:

...Say, what's that at the top of the tree? A star, an angel?

I can almost make it out...

Ah yes. (You can thank/curse @jasoncfry for the image). Happy Holidays from our centaur to yours!

November 18, 2009

Ranking the Yankees By Best Dog Name

... That would be the title (and purpose) of my new post at Bugs & Cranks. "Melky" is #1, of course, while "Chad" came in dead last. Terrible name for a dog, Chad.

If you only read one analysis of the 2009 Yankees, don't make it this one. But if you read dozens of them, you might consider it.

This train of thought was sparked by Brian at Random House, whose own dog, Goose - as in Gossage - was once personally petted and complimented by Derek Jeter on the Upper East Side. My dog came with the name Pearl, and it suits her; but left to my own devices I might have come up with something a bit different, and quite possibly baseball-related. So it's likely for the best that I didn't get to make my own pick, or I might spend my mornings in Prospect Park calling for Bris Lord ("Human Eyeball, come! Come here, girl!").

If something exciting doesn't happen soon this offseason, I'll do the Mets next.

November 05, 2009

Almost the Only Orderly Thing in a Very Unorderly World

And then there were a series of tableaux, some familiar – Jeter’s raised arms and yell, Rivera’s grin, Posada’s near-skip towards the mound – and some new: Mark Teixeira’s fiercely goofy expression as he jumped up and down, Nick Swisher tearing wide-eyed and open-mouthed towards the infield, Francisco Cervelli hopping around like a caffeinated bunny, Joe Girardi’s gaunt face an open book of anticipation and then, for just a moment, pure, unguarded happiness.
That's from my Bronx Banter writeup of last night's Yankees World Series win. I hope I did it justice - not the game, which was pleasant but not a classic, but the outcome. The last time the Yankees won the Series, I was a college sophomore - I watched the games with my Mets fan friend Dan, on my common room coach - and it had never even crossed my mind to write about baseball. Of course I understand that nine years isn't a long time, not even close, between sports championships; but in an individual life it is a pretty major chunk of time. And "time" is my theme for the day, since the Yankees clinched about 10 minutes before my birthday.

Anyway, I'll just cling to the Series for another day or two, because it's going to be a long, cold, baseball-free winter. But I'm going to keep the blog going throughout - Mets and Yankees and general baseball news, plus maybe some movie and book reviews to pass the time - and while I haven't figured out the details yet, I'm even planning to move off Blogger and onto a real site at some point in the next couple of months.

For now, though (look away, Mets fans):

November 02, 2009

One More for the Money; Also Facial Hair

My writeup of last night's game is up at the Banter.

In other vitally important news (via Rob Neyer), I am quite pleased to see that Diamondbacks reliever Clay Zaveda - who also has a fine baseball name - has won the American Mustache Institute's coveted "Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year." It is well deserved. The Phillies and, especially, the Cardinals, among other teams, could learn a lot from this guy about proper facial hair technique. (Last night a friend of mine expressed the opinion, unprompted by me, that Jayson Werth "looks like a human rattail").

To summarize:

This is how it's done.



Absolutely not.


October 30, 2009

Baseball Player Names of the Week

Today's names come courtesy of valued commenter Unmoderated:

Mutz and Jewel Ens, brothers out of St. Louis, MO.

Mutz made it to the White Sox for all of 5 days in 1912, where he had zero hits and no walks in 6 plate appearances, giving him a lifetime OPS+ of -100. He also made two errors at first base, just for good measure.

His brother Jewel, younger by two years, played with Pittsburgh for parts of four seasons - 47 games in 1922, but only 3 by 1925. His batting average was .290, but his OBP was just .323, and he hit one home run in his career. The internet doesn't tell us much more than that about the Ens brothers, except that Mutz's real name was Anton, and that Jewel's middle name was... (drumroll):


At Least It's a More Creative Chant Than "Phillies Suck"

My writeup of last night's game, which perhaps predictably half-turned into an essay on Pedro Martinez, is up at the Banter.

This seems like too short of a post to put up all by itself, so: bonus dog photo.

Hopefully I'll get a Name of the Week post up later.

October 29, 2009

The Cliff Lee Affair

There's not much point in urging fans to relax, to not freak out so much about one bad game... after all, isn't irrationally investing our emotions sort of the point of baseball fandom? There's nothing logical about the enterprise to begin with.

Still, it's always a little startling how quickly one game can flip the general fan mood (as measured, highly unscientifically, by talking to a few friends, reading a bunch of blog comments, and checking in with the huge Yankees fan who works the late shift at the deli on the corner). Cliff Lee's performance last night - which was not only great, but also just so Steve McQueen cool - seems to have flipped the consensus from "Yankees in 6" to "Phillies in 4 and I just hope a Yankee hits the ball out of the infield again, some day."

If Pedro, of all people, wins tonight's Game 2, it ain't gonna be pretty.

October 22, 2009

Sad Dogs and Englishmen

I'm too tired even to take a cute picture of my dog, so here's a random photo of a sad dog from the internet reacting to last night's game:

Meanwhile my post on last night's roller coaster is up at the Banter; I found kinda the perfect quote for that game:

It was the best of games, it was the worst of games, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way…

As I wrote in my Banter post, now that they've rescheduled Saturday's Game 6 for the evening, I may have to miss at least a chunk of it - I'm going to a dinner party that night. Aaargh! But it's at the apartment of a good friend who has known me a long time... so I'm assuming she'll forgive me for checking the score during the meal.

October 21, 2009

Banter, Bugs, and Further Animal Exploitation

So I wrote up last night's Yankee win at the Banter, and posted a little something about the umpiring shenanigans at Bugs & Cranks.

Meanwhile, following yesterday's successful debut of Pearl as the official Eephus Pitch mascot, I give you my dog's reaction to the blown fifth-inning call at third:

Yes, Pearl wants instant replay in the playoffs. Instant replay, and maybe a peanut butter treat.

October 20, 2009

New Crush

If he keeps calmly and sensibly taking apart Chip Caray, as he has been throughout this postseason, I'm going to develope a serious crush on Richard Sandomir.

Call me Richard. We'll spend cozy evenings in, ordering Thai and methodically trashing inept sports broadcasting.

Now on Sale at the Stadium Store, Pitchforks and Torches

You know how some sports blogs try to attract traffic with photos of hot chicks in bikinis? Well, I'm going to try a slightly different, but related, approach: the cute animal photo. Herewith, the expression on my dog's face when Joe Girardi took Dave Robertson out of the game in the 11th inning, with two outs and nobody on, and brought in Alfredo Aceves:

Pearl, official Eephus Pitch mascot

I hope to make this a regular feature.

Anyway, this is one of those days I'm just glad I'm not a manager, especially not a New York manager. I like Joe Girardi, and I think he's done a very good this year on the whole, but... yeah... it may be time for him to take it down a notch.

I'll be writing up tonight's game over at the Banter. Make Pearl happy, CC.

October 19, 2009

The Final Word on My Jeopardy! Appearance:

As usual, Weird Al says it best. (Yes: from T.S. Eliot to Weird Al in less than 24 hours. Liberal arts education, ladies and gentlemen. "Let us go then, you and I,/ When the evening is spread out against the sky/ Like a patient etherised upon a table; We been spending most our lives living in an Amish paradise.")

Bonus Weird Al video:

October 15, 2009

Onwards to the Stony Rubbish

I've got a new post up on Bugs & Cranks about last night's epic Angels-Yankees error-off, and the upcoming three-game jaunt into the Wastelands of Anaheim. (I have never been to Anaheim, but I do generally imagine it as A heap of broken images, where the sun beats/ And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief/ And the dry stone no sound of water.)

Meanwhile the Yankees doing something fan-friendly for once and opening up the Stadium for anyone who wants to watch Game 3 in Anaheim. That sounds pretty neat, and though I'm sure they'll still make a tidy profit on concessions, in a refreshing departure from their usual squeeze-out-every-penny approach they will not be charging admission. If I have time maybe I'll head up there.

October 12, 2009

What is "One of the More Surreal Experiences of My Life, Alex?"

So in the end, my anxiety about the ALDS was largely unfounded - except for Carl Pavano's ace performance; did I call that or what? My recap of last night's Yankees win went up on the Banter this morning.

And since it worked so well last time, now I'm off to write about all the many ways the ALCS could turn into a total disaster for New York.

Meanwhile, weirdly enough, I'm supposed to be on "Jeopardy!" tonight - I went out to LA for the taping back in August and it was a fun though deeply weird experience. I'm Tivo-ing the show, but as I hate even hearing my own voice on a tape recorder let alone watching myself on TV, I will probably go with the Phils-Rockies game tonight instead.

And I'm not allowed to say how I did before it airs, but I can't let it go without just one preemptive note: I knew the Mickey Mantle question! I just couldn't buzz in in time, I swear!

October 08, 2009

Bugs and Cranks and Stuff

So, I'll be doing a little blogging over at Bugs & Cranks, and my first post went up yesterday. I outlined all the various things that might go wrong for the Yankees this postseason, including the possibility that cockroaches will swarm Mark Teixeira and carry him off to the sewers. (These things happen).

Of course I'll also be continuing to post over at the Banter, and in fact have a writeup of last night's Yanks-Twins game there. Feel free to chime in with suggestions for my upcoming TBS/Chip Caray Drinking Game. E.g.: take a drink every time someone uses the phrase "plays the game the right way"; if Craig Sagar's suit is attacked by frightened birds, finish your beer; etc.

Finally, for those of you who enjoy having your information input and output arbitrarily limited to 140 characters, feel free to follow me on Twitter.

I think that about covers it. Except I'm so happy to have playoff baseball back in New York that I actually did a little dance at the first pitch. No one saw except my dog, and she, luckily, will never tell.

October 05, 2009

Baseball Player NICKname of the Week

According to, there have been 10 different Major League Baseball players nicknamed "Wild Bill," from Bill Hutchinson in 1884 to Bill Connolly in 1953.

But there is only one Ed Heusser, "The Wild Elk of the Wasatch."

Heusser pitched for five different teams in the 1930s and 40s, though why he reminded anyone of a wild elk is not clear. (It seems safe to assume "Wasatch" refers to the mountain range in Utah, where Heusser was born). He ended up with 300 walks (compared to 299 Ks), but didn't hit an especially large number of batters or throw that many wild pitches.

I just hope this unsolved nickname doesn't come to haunt me the way that Bristol Robotham Lord's "The Human Eyeball" still does.

NB: Heusser is not to be confused with Pepper Martin, "The Wild Horse of the Osage."

October 03, 2009

"Afraid to Win": The Story of the 2009 Mets

A few weeks ago, when Derek Jeter was about to pass Lou Gehrig on the Yankees' hit list, I almost posted the following paragraph:

"While needless to say I love watching Jeter play, and I have nothing but warm feelings towards Joe Torre, when I see a quote from the ex-skipper about the Captain like: "Just the tenacity, the determination. He's not afraid to win," I do have a strong urge to bury my head in my hands and weep for the English language. No one in sports is as good as Torre at stringing a selection of pre-approved words into convincing but meaningless sentences. He's "not afraid to win"? How many professional ballplayers are afraid to win? Except Chuck Knoblauch, maybe? Is that really what prevents the average player from being Derek Jeter, their victory phobias? Gah."
I decided not to put it up, because it seemed too grouchy - bitching about one of Torre's well-meaning platitudes in the middle of a nice celebratory moment. But I remembered it the other day while I was watching the Mets lose, again, to the Washington Nationals... Maybe I was too hard on Joe Torre, I thought. Maybe this is what "afraid to win" looks like.

I'm not serious, of course - all the psychoanalysis in the world wouldn't make that shredded lineup a pennant winner. But this year's Mets will make you entertain a lot of strange thoughts. They've overcome all kinds of obstacles, and repeatedly defied the odds, to lose in a series of remarkable ways.

(SIDE NOTE: I also thought of my abandoned blog post when Knoblauch was arrested for domestic assault the other day. Afraid to win, perhaps, but not to - allegedly! - hit his wife. Lovely.)

Anyway, I think every Mets fan I know wants Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel fired, though few have any hope that it'll actually happen. Given the staggering array of injuries, I'm not sure it's really fair to call for their heads... on the other hand, I don't think I can argue with it, either. There's a lot to answer for, and I don't know how else the team would be able to start spring training without this year's toxins hanging over them.

Then again, as an alternative, maybe they could try teaching their players how to run the bases and field grounders. Sure, winning is frightening - but just using both hands to catch popups, that's not so scary, is it?

September 23, 2009

Baseball Player Name of the Week

In honor of the Yankees' recent hard-earned series win in Anaheim, I scoured the roster of the Angels' AAA team, the Salt Lake Bees, to bring you this week's Name:

Catcher Flint Wipke.

I know you'll all join me in my earnest hopes that this young man eventually makes it to the majors. On a side note, has there ever been a less appealing Minor League team name than the "Salt Lake Bees"? I mean, two things in this world that I really don't care for: dry laws and stinging insects.

Anyway, my Yanks-Angels recap is up at the Banter for those who are interested; I'm still working on a Mets post but it feels increasingly futile. What is there to say?

September 19, 2009

Tim McCarver's Baadasssss Song

Before I talk about the Mets, I could not let this pass without comment.

"Tim McCarver Sings Selections From The Great American Songbook."

I am physically overwhelmed by the sheer number of possible jokes here. But first of all, this reminds me of nothing so much as this:

Although to be fair it should be said that, while I do not particularly care for McCarver's announcing, it is WAY better than John Ashcroft's Attorney General-ing.

But that's not really the point, of course. Do you know how many great versions of "One for my Baby (And One More For The Road)" there have been? Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Etta James, Sammy Davis Jr, Rosemary Clooney... I was hoping instead that McCarver would record some original songs, written just for him and tailored to his style. Here, inspired in large part by the McCarver archives of the dearly departed, are some suggestions for an alternate, more McCarver-esque tracklist:

1. That Goes Against Conventional Thinking
2. I Don't Want To (Throw A Lot Of Numbers At You)
3. There Used To Be A Shea Park
4. Gee David Eckstein, Ain't I Good To You?
5. A Mark Wohlberg Fastball
6. Clogging Up The Bases on a Saturday Night
7. Embrace Me, My Sweet Intangible You
8. I Don't Want No On-Base Percentage (If You Can't Run)

September 18, 2009

Ohhhh, Fight

In theory, I do not approve of multimillionaire professional adults punching and shoving each other over some macho bullshit.

However I have to admit that whenever it actually happens, I'm all "Ohhhh, fight!!!"

Actually I missed seeing Tuesday's Yankees-Jays brawl live because I was watching the Mets lose to the Braves, which was not so remarkable (thought I admit it took me quite a few minutes to place Mets starter Patrick Misch), but I was doing it at "Amazin' Tuesday" on the LES, which was a lot of fun.

The first thing I thought when I saw clips of the fight was, of course the first real Yankees brawl in years happens AFTER they finally got rid of Kyle Farnsworth. Because that is basically the only good reason to have Farnsworth on one's team, as has been repeatedly proven in independent studies.

Anyway, I had no idea Joe Girardi could move that fast - he got to the scene quicker than anyone else from either dugout. I guess nothing motivates a guy quite like seeing hundreds of millions of dollars (and thousands of pounds) worth of stars heading for a hostile dogpile. There was a whole lot of VORP shoving around in that mess.

I'm dwelling on a game from four days ago because (A) I cannot ever pass up the opportunity for a Kyle Farnsworth joke, and (B) tonight's game ended with a sin against nature in the form of a walk-off home run off of Mariano Rivera. I don't like to dwell on such games because, quite frankly, the universe already seems frightening, random, and meaningless enough as it is.

Next blog post: time to talk about the Mets. But god, where do I start?

September 09, 2009

Three Things About "Rookie of the Year"

So yesterday I caught the end of "Rookie of the Year" on TV, for the first time in a good 15 years. To refresh your memory, that's the one where a kid breaks his arm and it heals weird so he can suddenly throw 102 miles and hour, and the Cubs sign him, and he ends up playing in the Division Series against the Mets. (A rare baseball movie where the evil team is not the Yankees but still, please note, from New York).

I realized several things while watching this - well, the last 20 minutes or so, which is all I caught. The first was "holy shit, that's that kid from American Pie" - not Jason Biggs, one of the other ones, the guy who was dating Tara Reid. Never realized it at the time.

The second was "holy shit, at one time Gary Busey used to be considered a viable love interest."

Then the third thing. In the Big Game at the end of the movie, the kid, Henry, is pitching in the ninth with the Cubs up by a run (of course). And all of a sudden his arm stops working weirdly - he doesn't throw 102 anymore; just like that, he's back to normal 12-year-old-kid velocity. And it's not like he has an amazing curve or anything to fall back on. Once he realizes what's happened, he gets one out using the hidden ball trick; the second out by repeatedly calling the runner on first base a chicken and goading him into trying to steal and then basically tagging him out with a really weird variation on the hidden ball trick; and the third out by throwing a Folly Floater-type eephus pitch to the Mets' huge and ludicrously villainous slugger (who when he steps to the plate actually says, "Mwa ha ha ha ha!").

Of course I love the hidden ball trick, and you know I love the eephus. (I'm slightly less enthusiastic about a pitcher actually clucking and directing a chicken dance at a base runner... maybe not the classiest way to back into the World Series, plus I'm surprised the ump didn't warn him there). But this is where I thought: can you imagine the online fan reaction to the manager, Sal Martinella, during that ninth inning? Oh my god, TAKE HIM OUT OF THE GAME! The kid's got nothing! His velocity just dropped 30 miles an hour between pitches, you don't want to maybe get the trainer out there to take a look at him? Do the Cubs not have one single other pitcher left on the roster? Or even just a position player who pitched in college? Jesus. Sports radio talk show switchboards would melt under the weight of furious callers - the events of "Rookie of the Year" make Grady Little's choices in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS look like Earl Weaver at his best. Even if they do go on to win the world series Martinella would probably lose his job and frankly, he would deserve to.

It's possible I may be slightly too old for this movie now.

September 08, 2009

Nobody Knows Anybody, Not That Well.

So, first, just to be veeeeery clear about this: I don't think Derek Jeter ever used steroids. No clue or circumstantial evidence or even the vaguest rumor has ever indicated otherwise. I think only Mariano Rivera would be a bigger surprise to me, if he turned up on that list.

That said, with everything baseball has been through this decade, wouldn't it probably be a good idea to stop writing articles like this one? Newsday's Wallace Matthews discusses Jeter's upcoming Yankee hits record, in a piece titled "Fair Ball: Just Clean Hits For Jeter":
...It also will serve to remind us how pathetic were the excuses of this era's steroids cheats and their many media apologists, to wit: "Everybody else was doing it, and I was just trying to keep up.''

Jeter's career exposes that for what it is: a lie, a lame excuse, a sign of weakness and absolute proof that all the talent in the world can't compensate for a lack of character.

Because (until proven otherwise), Derek Jeter, all 195 non-spectacular pounds of him, never needed that kind of help. ...

...You can call that moralizing if you like. I call it celebrating a man who did things the right way rather than excusing or, worse, glorifying boys who took the easy way out.

I don't know that I'd call it moralizing, but I would call it a bit of an assumption (as Matthews knows, of course, hence the "until proven otherwise" parenthetical). Again, I don't think Jeter took steroids - but until about seven months ago, sports sections were full of stories on how A-Rod was going to be the clean-living hero who breaks Barry Bonds' home run record. And yeah, it's DEREK JETER, so I'll cheerfully give him the benefit of the doubt, and when I watch him play steroids are the last thing on my mind. I'm not saying we should run around suspecting and accusing everyone who sets foot on a diamond. I'm just saying: you never really know until you know, you know?