March 28, 2007

La Plus Ca Change, etc

I came across the John Updike piece "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu," about Ted Williams' last game at Fenway, a few years ago (in "Baseball: A Literary Anthology," I think), and recently stumbled onto it again online. Aside from what an amazing piece of writing it is, I was struck by his depiction of the relationship between Williams and the media. Updike quotes "a fair sample of appreciative sports-page prose" from the Boston American's Huck Finnegan:
"Williams' career, in contrast [to Babe Ruth's], has been a series of failures except for his averages. He flopped in the only World Series he ever played in (1946) when he batted only .200. He flopped in the playoff game with Cleveland in 1948. He flopped in the final game of the 1949 season with the pennant hinging on the outcome (Yanks 5, Sox 3). He flopped in 1950 when he returned to the lineup after a two-month absence and ruined the morale of a club that seemed pennant-bound under Steve O'Neill. It has always been Williams' records first, the team second, and the Sox non-winning record is proof enough of that."

I should add that Finnegan, clearly the Dan Shaughnessy of his day, published that on the day of Williams' last game. Anyway, I'm sure I don't have to spell it out for you: sounds familiar, doesn't it? Mainstream sports writing doesn't seem to have changed all that much since 1960. Although God only knows what Huck Finnegan would have made of WARP.

Best line in the whole terrific Updike piece, though, is on Williams' refusal to so much as tip his cap to the pleading fans, after hitting a home run in his last-ever at-bat: "The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he refused. Gods do not answer letters."

March 26, 2007

Okay, Who Kept The Billy Goat Out Of Legends Field?

So. Not only is Carl Pavano lined up to be the opening day starter (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, accep-... acc-... nope, not there yet), but Jeff Karstens, winner of the fifth starter derby, is now sidelined with elbow stiffness. "Elbow stiffness" is one of those phrases that could mean either three days or six months, so it's still unclear how big of a freakout this calls for. But I'm ready for anything.

The swarms of bees that keep descending on the Yanks this spring are starting to seem biblical, aren't they? Next up: the Gatorade cooler runs red with blood.

Anyway, Darrell Rasner it is. In fact, last summer I remember thinking that Rasner had been more impressive than Karstens in his major league starts; but, looking back, a lot of that was probably related to the fact that Karstens looked 14 then (he looks at least 16 this year). I'll check their stats tomorrow.

Over in Port St. Lucie, the Mets surprised fans who don't have access to the internet, newspapers, or television by naming the deserving Mike Pelfrey their fifth starter. Chan Ho Park is apparently headed to the bullpen, but not without considerable grumbling.

And in fluffier news, an informal poll of Mets reveals that the players consider Carlos Beltran the teammate most likely to spend over two grand on a suit, Paul Lo Duca the most likely to talk trash to opposing fans, and Aaron Heilman the best-read. Are you ready for the season to start yet?

March 24, 2007

No, No, That's A Typo. You Meant P-A-V-A-N-O, Not W-A-N-G.

Well, that didn't take long... the Yanks sustained their first major injury yesterday as Chien-Ming Wang pulled a hammy. I know I said I wanted to see Jeff Karstens on the major league roster, but this isn't what I had in mind.

Because of all the April off-days, though, the Yankees will only need their fifth starter once or twice before Wang gets back. In the scheme of things this isn't too big a deal, assuming that everything heals right (not always a given with a hamstring - remember Cano last year?). And true, Mussina didn't look very good in his start today... but just keep chanting "it's only spring training" over and over again, until you feel calm and centered.

In other news, Brian Bruney and Kyle Farnsworth have shaved their heads. Can't hurt, I suppose.

Over in Port St. Lucie, Chan Ho Park threw three sharp innings today for the Mets today -- but was pulled before the fourth, which can't be a good sign. The Mets are apparently saying there's no injury, so what's going on? Guess we'll find out later. On the bright side, Joe Smith was very impressive, again, coming on in relief.

Random fact of the day: apparently, the Kansas City Royals have a prized pitching prospect named Billy Buckner. Awesome. What could possibly go wrong?

March 23, 2007

Gooooooooooooooooood Afternooooon, Everybody

Well, I've healed the only way I know how: drinking heavily by night, and, during the day, sitting around in my pajamas with my dog, listening to depressing indie music, and watching "Mike and the Mad Dog" all afternoon. (Oddly, the shriller Dog gets, the more soothing I find the show).

So, back to baseball. I'm getting so sick of saying, thinking, hearing, and writing "it's only spring training" that you can tell this last week is going to be a long one, but the monotony was broken up today when Carl Pavano pitched solidly... and narrowly avoided being attacked by a swarm of bees. No, really.

Meanwhile, Aaron Sele had a solid outing for the Mets. I'm rooting for him to make the team because he seems like an awfully nice guy, but I can't honestly say I think he'd be better than Mike Pelfrey. Solid long reliever though, maybe? And Billy Wagner got seriously lit up, but hey, don't worry, Mets fans: Armando Benitez may be available on the trade market! If Steve Phillips were still around, he'd know what to do about it...

Finally, as of last week, when I first discovered his existence, I've got a new favorite player: Denard Span, of the Twins. No relation, as far as I know; but I've never met or even heard of another Span outside of my immediate family, so I'm adopting him. This is all I've been able to find out so far: he's from Tampa, 23 years old and incredibly fast, apparently a very good fielder but without much of an arm, and... well, maybe hitting isn't his strong suite, but did I mention how fast he is? He'll be starting at AAA, but I was stung to find BP's PECOTA system projecting him Denard to hit .281/.330/.382 this season, with a VORP of -.7. I'm taking this as a personal affront. Mark my words: he's gonna prove everybody wrong! I'm so sure of this that if he doesn't end up with a positive Value Over Replacement Player by the end of the season, I'll change my name to Denard.*

You know, I really like the Twins in general: I adore Torii Hunter even though intellectually I realize he's been overrated much of his career, I'm pretty sure that Johan Santana is a god, the name Boof Bonser makes me smile... I could go on. So it pains me to see that they still seem to be seriously considering Sidney Ponson for a starting job. I know pitching is scare these days, but for pity's sake... do you have no one at AAA? Can't we all try to at least maintain a little dignity?

*Probably not really.

March 20, 2007

Spoke Too Soon...

Well, looks like a lifetime of sports fandom has taught me nothing: I jinxed myself. Yes, my first-ever conversation with the Village Voice's brand new editor was my last, as it looks like they'll be ditching the sports section -- or, at least, me.

So "Out of Left Field" lived fast, died young, and left a decent-looking corpse. But I'm bringing Eephus Pitch back from the dead. It will rise from the ashes like a phoenix... a New York baseball-obsessed phoenix. I promise my metaphors will be better in the morning.

I'm still recovering from an epic night of drowning my sorrows, so I'll be back for real tomorrow. But in the meantime I'll leave you with some applicable sports cliches that occurred to me last night, somewhere between the wine and the shots of Jameson (not my idea):

  • "It's a marathon, not a sprint."
  • "I've just got to stay within myself." Never was entirely sure what that one meant, but if it's good enough for Bernie, it's good enough for me.
  • "It is what it is." Isn't it? This is the sports phrase of the year. Five words that fit any occasion!

As you can imagine, there are a lot of other things I'd like to say about the situation at the Voice. But for now, I guess discretion is the better part of valor. I'll save it for the nice men in white coats when they visit my cozy padded cell.

Meanwhile, Oliver Perez is having another very good start for the Mets, allowing (as of this writing) no runs on two hits through three. The Yankees are off tonight, and so am I.

March 07, 2007

Good Night Sweet Blog

And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

As you've probably noticed, Eephus Pitch has been dying a slow death for a while now. Writing for the Voice full time made it tough to keep up, but I just started a sports blog for their website... and that's made it redundant. See for yourself:

To everyone who read this site, thank you. I've loved hearing from you and I hope you'll follow me over there -- yes, all 8 of you. The blog is going to cover all sports, but the main emphasis this summer will be baseball, because, well, that's my thing. I'm in Port St. Lucie for the Mets' spring training right now, and I'm heading over to the Yankees this weekend.

So stop by, check it out, tell your friends, and leave some comments, because it's a little empty over there. And of course you should still feel free to email me (ekspan [at] gmail [dot] com). I'm going to leave this site up -- who knows, I may want to bring it back someday. But for now, please turn off the lights on your way out... and thanks again.