June 29, 2007

Mr. Met Needs to Start Talking, Too... That Guy Speaks English, Believe Me

The Yankees finally get a lead, and the game is suspended due to weather. At this point, shouldn't we expect storm clouds to just follow the Yankees around, pouring rain on them everywhere they go? Can we just suspend this entire season?

Meanwhile, the Mets seem to have gone a little nuts during yesterday's rainout. First Willie Randolph complains about the schedule and admits he got so mad during the Mets' recent slump that he threw a chair and broke a door in Los Angeles. Then he says he expected the Yankees' current awful road trip, and that he had a bad feeling about last fall's NLCS (even though "You think the Cardinals were really better than us last year?"): "I had a feeling Molina was going to have a good series because he had a horse[bleep] year. I just had a feeling that he was going to be one of those unsung hero guys. There’s always one of them. When he hit the home run [in the ninth inning of Game 7 for the winning runs in St. Louis’ 3-1 victory] I wasn’t even surprised." Well, that makes one of us.

Meanwhile, Paul Lo Duca seems to have ordered t-shirts comparing the team to a circus and, less amusingly, implied that his Latin teammates aren't talking to the media enough. From John Delcos' Journal News blog:

He wasn’t in a talking mood, but opened up.

“I’ll do this, but you need to start talking to other players,” Lo Duca told reporters in a loud enough voice for others to hear. “It’s the same three or four people every day. Nobody else wants to talk. … Some of these guys have got to start talking.
They speak English, believe me.”

Uh oh.
Lo Duca may not have meant anything much by this, but any statement that begins with "these guys" and refers to an ethnic group is almost always going to be trouble. From what I've seen, the Mets clubhouse gets along just fine -- better than most -- but this provides fuel to the segment of fans that's been complaining about what they see as a too-heavy Latin presence for the last few years now, a position that comes across, to me, as thinly veiled (and sometime totally unveiled) xenophobia.

Naturally, Lo Duca is not pleased with how that comment has been portrayed in the media. Never exactly crazy about reporters since the whole 18-year-old-mistress/divorce/gambling tabloid saga from last season, he's royally pissed now. Yeah, his quote is probably being blown out of proportion, but it was still a dumb thing to say; and from what I saw in my few weeks covering the team, plenty of Latin players were perfectly accessible to reporters -- they were to me, anyway. Lo Duca seems to be one of those players, not unlike Gary Sheffield actually, who always needs to feel aggrieved about something, and uses anger as a motivating force. For all that he whines about the media, he brings this stuff on himself... I mean, really, all you have to say is "Sorry, I don't feel like talking today."

(Updated to add: It's tough on players, though; reporters need interesting quotes, but whenever they get one, writers pounce on it, the news cycle goes into overdrive, and everybody overreacts. This is why Derek Jeter hasn't said anything interesting since 1998. It's smart, but it sucks: will nobody think of the bloggers?).

In actual baseball news, Delgado and Reyes have both hit home runs today in the first game of the Phillies doubleheader, and it's 4-1 in the fourth... if the Mets go on a real winning streak, all of this grumbling will vanish in a hurry.

Update: RBI single for El Duque! 5-1. Ramon Castro diving headfirst into home plate is truly something to behold.

June 28, 2007

Someday a Real Rain Will Come and Wash All This Scum Off The Streets

You'd think after all these years I would have learned not to trust weather.com. But no. It lies to me time after time, and yet I always forgive it and come back for more. This is not healthy. Last night they told me "isolated thunderstorms" and I believed them, and then Shea turned into Waterworld -- which, wouldn't that movie have been so much better if it featured Mr. Met? I think it would -- and I had to paddle to the 7 train on a raft of lashed-together Paul Lo Duca bobbleheads. (Update:I was not the only one, though at least I didn't wait out the full hour and half. Ouch.).

Yesterday was notable because, as others have... well, noted, seven pitchers over 40 were set to start, which would have been a record. As it happened, though, the Tigers game was rained out -- and so, as usual, Kenny Rogers ruins everything.

Jamie Moyer, Woody Williams, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and New York's own Tom Glavine and Roger Clemens still took the mound as planned. (Old Braves never die: Smoltz, Maddux, and Glavine all won). In Baltimore, the Rocket pitched successfully up 'til the sixth despite not striking even one batter out -- the first time he hasn't had a K since before the fall of the Berlin Wall -- then tired and allowed four runs, three on an Aubrey Huff homer. Not that it mattered, because the Yankees didn't score at all.

I can't wait to see how they lose tonight. They just keep finding a way to surprise me, which is how you keep the spark in a relationship.

Meanwhile, before the rains came, Tom Glavine looked as good as new; he only allowed one hit, and that on a grounder that David Wright might've had a shot at. Wright atoned with a two-run homer in the first, which reminded me of how much I hope the Mets move the Home Run Apple with them to CitiField. It looks like it was made out of papier-mache by a class of fourth graders in the '70s, but therein lies its charm. I've talked before about the difference between annoying-tacky (the fake-rock fountains in Angel Stadium) and has-character tacky (the Twins' garbage-bag outfield walls), and the Home Run Apple has character.

The Mets still aren't hitting consistently, but if El Duque pitches like he did last time out, they might get by for another night.

June 27, 2007

My Kingdom For Some F@#%ing Bullpen Help

I've got a recap of last night's Yankees game up on the Banter. Ugly day in Yankeeville; when the team gets back to the Bronx, I hope they add extra security to prepare for the angry pitchforks-and-torches-waving mob that will descend on the Stadium calling for Torre's head.

Rough night for the Mets as well, an 11-inning loss and a second straight day of poor offense. They still had a shot, but Scott Schoeneweis gave up the winning homer, doing little to endear himself to Mets fans. Seems like the Shea crowd is tough on relievers in particular, doesn't it? I guess that's what years of Armando Benitez will do to you. Good thing the Yankees have Mariano in their pen for tight situations like... oh. Right. Never mind.

Anyway, I'm going to the game at Shea tonight, and I scored pretty sweet seats (Thanks C!) -- so if you see a blonde girl in one of the right field loge boxes get knocked unconscious by a foul ball, give a wave, that's probably me.

June 26, 2007

Baseball Player Name of the Week

Virgil Trucks.

In addition to being one of the four Tigers pitchers before Justin Verlander to throw a no-hitter (he threw two, actually, in 1952), I thought "Virgil Trucks" sounded like someone you really wouldn't want to mess with... but as it turns out, he actually looks kind of sweet.

He's also the uncle of Butch Trucks, of the Allman Brothers. See, that right there is one of those factoids that you couldn't possibly care less about, and yet will never, ever forget.

.500 Baseball: Dream The Impossible Dream

Unofficial Jewish Baseball Week continues, as Shawn Green hit a game-winning home run last night to beat the St. Louis "These Guys Won the World Series? Of What, Poker?" Cardinals in the 11th inning. (You heard it here first: look for good things from Scott Schoeneweis tonight.) MetsBlog links to a nice ESPN photo of the ensuing scene at home plate: see, Paul Lo Duca has crazy eyes when he's happy, too, not just when he's filled with uncontrollable rage.

The Yanks begin a series with the Orioles tonight, a team so depressing that watching even a few of their games may very well leave you contemplating the emptiness and vastness of space from the fetal position. Meanwhile, all I ask of the Yankees, at this point, is that they make fewer than three errors, allow fewer than four stolen bases, and don't get picked off. Baby steps.

June 25, 2007

I Joke, But the Yankees Would Be Lucky To Have A 1B Like Shuki

Remember those golden, lazy, carefree days of last week, when the Yankees were two or three entire games above .500? Sometimes late at night I think back to that time... God, we were all so young then.

Having watched Sunday's Yankees game, I now feel bad for having complained about Saturday's. Seems ungrateful, looking back. The Yankees' latest meltdown featured inefficient starting pitching from Mike Mussina, ineffective relief from the bullpen -- though I appreciate the effort from Roger Clemens, who is too old for this shit -- several futile pinch-hitting appearances, awful baserunning, and, to top it all off, a series of Keystone Kop defensive plays. The way the Yankees look right now, they're not winning the Wild Card unless the Indians and Tigers engage in a pitched, armed battle to the death sometime in August (which: not a bad marketing idea, actually. Ratings would be through the roof, and they'd be higher for the playoffs, too, without those pesky small-market midwest teams involved. Somebody get Selig on the phone!).

Don't worry though, Yankee fans, the team knows what it has to do:
“We’ve got to find a way to pitch better and score some more runs and look like a ball team again,” said starter Mike Mussina...
Allowing fewer runs while scoring more: that would probably help, yes.

Moving on and following up, the Israel Baseball League kicked off last night, with the Modi'in Miracle kicking some Petach Tikva Pioneer ass, 9-1. You may well be witnessing the origins of The Curse of Shuki Friedman.

I just now noticed that the Miracle are managed by Art Shamsky... you know, it's a strange world we live in.

June 24, 2007

Eephus of the Year

The Mets are back, baby. For those of you who wonder what an eephus pitch is, look no farther than the sixth inning of tonight's game, when Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez deployed a true classic to end a long, tough at-bat by the A's Eric Chavez. It floated in at 53 mph, giving Chavez time to stare, twitch, blink repeatedly, take a huge swing, and miss by a mile. That is an eephus. Some people will try to convince you that El Duque throws the eephus all the time, but not really; that's just his 67 mph-ish slow, slow curve, which complements his 87 mph fastball and the seven or eight other pitches he throws at odd arm angles in between, including the ones he appears to just make up on the spot. You really do have to love El Duque. Chavez smiled and shook his head as he walked away, which is always the mark of a true eephus -- well, either that or blind rage.

This actually wasn't the Mets' most crisply played game; last night's dominant 9-1 win behind Tom Glavine, his 296th, was really the "they're back" moment. And not so much because of the score, but the attitude: they were having fun again. Reyes was twitching around, dancing and shadowboxing in the dugout; everyone and the ball boy made fun of Tom Glavine, who was thrown out at the plate trying to score from first (he had two hits and two RBIs in the game and is now hitting .333; at this point, the Yankees could really use him at DH). Tonight's game also featured a Paul Lo Duca meltdown of truly epic proportions, which was both highly entertaining and slightly alarming -- it took the assembled talents of the entire Mets coaching staff to coax him back to the dugout. You know, anyone can think to toss their helmet, bat, and gloves onto the field, but adding the shin guards and chest protector was a nice touch. As with most creative endeavors, it's all in the details.

The Yankees are also back, but unfortunately, in their case, this is not a good thing. More on them tomorrow. Oy.

Speaking of which, apparently this is Jewish Baseball Week and no one remembered to tell me: the Times has an article about the new Israel Baseball League. This is a nice idea and I hope it works out -- hell, the more baseball the better as far as I'm concerned, wherever, whenever. The league will feature a 51-year-old pitcher from Nyack; expect to see Ricky Henderson playing there by next year. (The article doesn't say: do you have to be Jewish to play in the league? Both ethically and for the sake of quality play, I certainly hope the answer is no).

Unfortunately their director of player development over there is Dan "it's 1996, and this seems like a good time to publicly declare that Roger Clemens is in the twilight of his career" Duquette. And they're all excited, because the demand for tickets is so high, they had to double the available seating at one field to accommodate the fans... from, uh, 1,000 to 2,000. Yay?

Oh well, I shouldn't make fun, they're just getting started. Watch out, Devil Rays! The Modi'in Miracle are coming for your attendance records!

June 22, 2007

Three Thousand Years Of Beautiful Tradition, From Moses To Sandy Koufax...

I have a recap of last night's Yankee game up at the Banter. I watched today's too, but let's stick to the short version: bleargh. As for the Mets... oh, hell, you don't really want a recap of that game, either, do you? I miss the Cyclones already.

The Mets' slump is devouring everything in its path and expanding exponentially, like the Blob. Sure, the fact that the Braves and Phillies have been nearly as bad means the Mets are still in first place, against all the odds, having won just four games all month... but though I still think they'll eventually be fine, I'm now starting to wonder why I still think so.

The Yanks, after scoring just five runs in three games at Coors Field to get swept by the Rockies, are right back at .500. Just can't stay away, can they? They're playing the Giants next, and at this point I'm just hoping for the moral victory of not allowing a home run to Barry Bonds: he's gonna get there, but it would be nice if he did so without help from the Yankee pitching staff. Even this may be too much to ask from Kei Igawa, though, making his non-triumphant return to the rotation tomorrow.

In other news, Jason Giambi caved somewhat to Bud Selig's bullying, and agreed to meet with the Mitchell Committee -- though it sounds like all his answers will be carefully scripted by lawyers, and he's not talking about anyone else's drug use, only his own. Which... we all already knew about. Three years ago. My, isn't this a satisfying blow for truth and justice!

Selig again left open the possibility of punishment.

"I will take Mr. Giambi's level of cooperation into account in determining appropriate further action," he said.

Translation: "I reserve the right to try and suspend Giambi even though the chances of such disciplinary action standing up in court, after the inevitable challenge from the player's union, are roughly equivalent to the chances of my scoring a hat trick in a hockey game played at Hell Arena." Inspirational leadership, that, especially since Giambi's probably out for the year anyway with his foot injury. Ugh! This whole episode is like three separate empty gestures wrapped up in one.

Finally, I realize I'm a bit late on this one, but American Jewish Life Magazine makes the argument that all American Jews should root for the Boston Red Sox (via Deadspin).

I plan to refute this claim while eating a cheeseburger at work on Saturday.

June 20, 2007

The Subway Series Moves South

I want to live in Keyspan Park. I went out to Coney Island last night for the Mets-affiliated Brooklyn Cyclones home opener against the Staten Island Yankees, and that's one pretty place to watch baseball. You can't see it very well in this photo -- it was sort of hazy, and twilight -- but there's the ocean just past the field. And the Parachute Jump, of course. It's convenient walking distance from Nathan's and Ruby's and the Freak Show, so what more do you need?

I can't say I recognized many names on either roster, but a few were familiar: the Cyclones' starting right fielder is Ender Chavez, brother of Endy (and of Eneider -- I have a feeling I would really hit it off with Mr. and Mrs. Chavez). He's bigger than Endy, though who isn't, and at one point he slid for and missed a line drive that Endy totally would've had, but used a similar cannon to get the runner at second. Ender's manager is Edgar Alfonso, brother of ex-Met Edgardo. There was also an infielder named Micah Schilling, who wears #38, like Curt, but as far as I can tell is no relation... so I'm glad I didn't boo him, I guess.

The game itself wasn't always pretty -- the talent gulf between A-ball and the majors is enormous -- but it was a ton of fun, and this was their first-ever game together as a group, plus the first professional game of any kind for a lot of them. In other words, you cut them all the slack in the world. The SI Yanks out-hit the Cyclones, but couldn't get anybody home most of the night, and Brooklyn got the winning runs on a homer from J.R. Voyles.

Now, I'm no scout, but I can tell you that J.R. Voyles is a pretty solid baseball name. So is DJ Hollingsworth, which is what one Staten Island outfielder goes by, and I expect good things from them both. (Hollingsworth especially, because he looked about 5'4" and could totally become one of those "gritty" little hustling Eckstein-type players that sports writers love. One day you may well be reading column upon column about how DJ has a tiny body -- but an enormous heart.)

I also discovered that Cyclones games are broadcast on the radio, and while apparently that station only reaches about three square blocks, you can listen on the web. I haven't heard it yet, but I assume this can only be awesome.

A few more photos...

Here, observe the Cyclones' mascot, Sandy, moments before it devoured a small child:

Maybe they're not the future of the franchise, but the SI Yanks were all perched on the top step for the entire game, as were the Cyclones:

Ceci n'est pas Paul O'Neill:

C'est Braedyn Pruitt. (Sadly, not a very good baseball name. Sorry kid.)

June 19, 2007

What's A SeaWolf?

Slumping or not, no team was going to score a lot of runs off Chien-Ming Wang Sunday night. I thought it was one of the two or three strongest performances of his career -- he struck out 10, a personal high, and came one out away from a complete game. It felt like a statement, especially with ESPN broadcasting the whole performance nationwide. And apparently he couldn't quite shake a stiff neck that night, but tell that to the Mets.

Scary thought: what if Wang's actually getting better? Not only not regressing, but successfully mixing his new pitches in, a slider and a change, while still throwing hard... he's only 27. I'm going to stop myself here because I don't want to read too much into a few games, but damn.

The Mets, meanwhile, broke out against the Twins last night, with an 8-1 win. You knew they were due for one of those, but it's sure been a long time coming. John Maine was at his best, and the Mets would probably have done even more damage if it weren't for some jaw-dropping defensive plays. In the fifth inning, sandwiched between two terrific outfield plays, Luis Castillo ranged way to his left to snag a Carlos Beltran ground ball and then flipped it behind his back to Jason Bartlett for the force. It looked like a Jason Kidd pass. Jorge Sosa is facing demigod Johan Santana tonight, though, so an immediate winning streak is a lot to ask.

In other news, Jack Curry in the Times looked back on Jeter's first days in the minors, with a lot of quotes from Ricky Ledee -- former Yanks reserve outfielder, now a rarely-utilized journeyman on the Mets, who chipped in last night with a 2-RBI single and a home run. Ledee never lived up to his potential, but he was likeable, and I remember feeling absolutely horrible for him when he was traded in 2000 as part of a package for David Justice:

About a half-hour before tonight's game, Torre summoned Ledee into his office and told the outfielder -- who signed with the Yankees 10 years ago, when he was 16 -- that he was being traded.

Ledee said goodbye to Jeter, Posada and a few others, but could not face the rest of the team, fearing he would be unable to contain his emotions. His eyes were puffy and welled with tears when he spoke to reporters. ''It's sad,'' he said. ''It's very, very sad. I'm just sad I couldn't put it together with the Yankees, the team I wanted to be with.''


Reading that same New York Times article (by awesome then-beat writer Buster Olney), the Yanks were very close to trading for Sammy Sosa, a Steinbrenner favorite, instead of Justice, in a deal that could have involved sending Alfonso Soriano among others to the Cubs. Ugh -- disaster narrowly averted there.

Would the Yanks even have gotten to the World Series that year without David Justice? And could they still have pulled off a trade for A-Rod with Soriano already gone? Imagine the weird parallel universe possibilities... a Mets World Series victory in 2000, maybe? A Soriano-fueled Cubs World Series in 2003? A-Rod still rotting quietly in Texas -- or traded to, shudder, the Red Sox instead?

I imagine Brian Cashman's happy to forget all about this little episode. But do you think former Cubs president Andy MacPhail (who left to join the Orioles yesterday) ever lies awake nights muttering, "perhaps I should not have insisted so firmly on the inclusion of prospects Alex Graman* or Jackson Melian**"?

*Now pitching for the Seibu Lions.
**Now playing for the Erie SeaWolves!

June 18, 2007

Baseball Player Name of the Week

Recently signed Yankee catching prospect "Freuny Parra, of Queens."

Says Google, "Did you mean: 'frenzy Parra?'" No, Google, I did not.

June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day...

...to my dad, who taught me everything I'll ever need for a lifetime of ranting about the Yankees. (Plus some other stuff, too).

As he always used to tell me, when times got tough: "Are you seeing this? When are they going to fire that dinosaur Torre?! The man's a fucking fossil!"

Love you too, pop.

Nobody Impugns My Dirt-Kicking Skills

Lou Piniella, in this week's NYTimes Magazine:

On the other hand, it might be nice if baseball moved into the future by including more women in its ranks. Do you think a woman could be a good manager? If she had a good bench coach, why not? I would think she would need a good hardened professional baseball guy that would help her with the x’s and o’s during the ballgame. Someone who knew the intricacies in and out of the game.

Plenty of women already know the intricacies of the game. I’m not sure of that. I think some of the sportswriter women probably think they do.

Yes... unlike Lou Piniellla, I can only dream of one day managing a $100 million team to a 31-36 record without help from a grizzled bench coach.

I generally get a kick out of Sweet Lou -- baseball tends to get too stuffy and self-serious without loons like him and Ozzie Guillen to break up the monotony, though I wouldn't want either of them managing my team. And he's not an idiot, so I can only assume he knows this will touch off a bit of a firestorm, and is looking for controversy. Okay then. I'm game.

See, here's the thing: it would be incredibly difficult for a woman to manage successfully in the major leagues right now. Just not at all for Piniella's reasons. The intricacies of baseball? If there are female neurosurgeons, I'm pretty sure a few chicks out there can figure out how to misuse a bullpen as ably as the average male skipper. The real problems are all on the social side: baseball's such a massive boys' club that getting the coaches and players to properly respect you, as Piniella just demonstrated, would be very much an uphill battle.

There's actually a semi-legitimate argument to be made that the best managers are likely to be the ones who've been there themselves, played the game, and know exactly what their players are going through; though I don't know that that's vital, you can certainly see how it would help. In any case, these days it's still nearly impossible for men who never played professional ball to get their foot in the managerial door. Bench coaches or no bench coaches, it'll be a long, long time before a woman gets the job.

But just out of curiosity, is repeatedly shifting blame to your players after one of your team's many losses an "x" or an "o"?

I'll have to ask a good hardened professional baseball guy about that one. Incidentally, I'm not suggesting here that I would make a good manager; I would make a terrible manager. I'd probably chose my relief pitchers based on how much I liked their entrance music. But that doesn't mean Lou Piniella's not an ass.

Brace Yourselves For KEI IGAWA: 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS

Okay, so briefly, before I go off on Lou Piniella, there was a long but entertaining game today.

The highlights: Tyler Clippard pitched his way right back to Scranton, and Tom Glavine was -- here's a phrase you won't see too often -- not as good as Luis Vizcaino. Here's a phrase you'll see even less often: Mariano Rivera was not as good as Luis Vizcaino. Those words look ugly on the screen, but the Yanks hung on for an 11-8 win.

In other news, Jose Reyes tricked Clippard into balking him home, because he is, as has been noted here before, awesome; Alex Rodriguez is on pace for 736 home runs (guesstimate); and Carlos Beltran, following long gritty at-bats from Carlos Gomez and Reyes, with the tying runs on base, popped out on the first pitch he saw, and is going to take a lot of flak if he doesn't un-slump himself pronto. I really do think the Mets will be fine... but that's predicated on the belief that at least one Carlos will get back on track relatively soon.

I feel for Clippard, who was by my count literally the Yankees' seventh choice for fifth starter this year (after Igawa, Karstens, Rasner, Hughes, Wright, DeSalvo - am I forgetting anyone?), and given that, did about as well as anyone could expect. Until today, when he walked Jose Reyes to lead off an inning, on five pitches, twice. Tyler! Do not poke the bear!

I also feel for Glavine, who's stuck on win 295. He's made five starts since then, but only the last two were actually bad; this will not stop people from speculating that he's "lost it."

You know who I don't feel for? Derek Jeter. Dude's doing fine.

June 16, 2007

If You Can't Even Bring Pepper Spray to a Ball Game Anymore, The Terrorrists Have Already Won

Big series this weekend, obviously. I was going to put up a post before heading up to the Stadium tonight, but ran out of time, so when I say I was predicting a strong effort from Oliver Perez you'll just have to take my word for it. I didn't know how strong, though: 2-0 Mets. The offense was mostly Reyes, really showing off for Yanks fans with three steals, two singles, and a homer. See? Not overhyped. Roger Clemens was solid, and it's too bad that was wasted, but I'm just relieved that he didn't get confused and throw a bat shard at Paul Lo Duca. That wouldn't have ended well.

I usually get a kick out of my neighbors at the Stadium, but tonight I was seated near some unbelievable douchebags. The kicker was the row of four drunk 20-something hedge fund guys directly behind me; they kept clumsily kicking me and the Jersey girls next to me (also sloppy drunk, but happy, friendly drunk, which is fine by me), every other word out of their mouths was "faggot," and they never stopped loudly complaining about their seats long enough to pay the slightest bit of attention to the game. (I should probably add here, before Mets fans let this confirm their worst stereotypes, that two of them were Mets supporters). The indisputable highlight came when one guy got into a long screaming match with the mother of a 10-year old boy sitting next to him, claiming that the kid had spilled mustard and ruined the hedge-funder's "$100 pants." Words can't express how deeply I regretted not having any pepper spray on me.

Fortunately, the ride back on the 4 train was a font of totally affable, often hilarious Mets-Yanks banter, which restored a bit of my faith in humanity.

Anyway. Tomorrow is Tyler Clippard vs. Tom Glavine, which would, to put it mildly, seem to favor the Mets. You know, just a tad... it's tough not to favor the guy with 100 times more career wins. Sunday is Chien-Ming Wang vs. El Duque, which is a tougher one to call, but certainly ought to be fun to watch. As always, I look forward to seeing the eephus.

Random notes:

-I've got a couple posts up on the Banter: Your Mostly Arbitrary Guide to the AL All-Star Ballot (fun for the whole family, if the whole family doesn't mind a little cursing) and a recap of yesterday's win over the Diamondbacks.

-David Wright is now 15 for 15 in stolen base attempts this year -- pretty impressive for a guy who's not remarkably fast.

-David Pinto at Baseball Musings discovers that in the course of his career, Derek Jeter has at least one hit in 77.9% of his games played, which is good for second-highest in the last 50 years (min. 1000 games played), behind only Ichiro. Interesting stat. Joe Morgan on ESPN has pretty much ruined this word for me, yet I have no choice but to call that "consistent". Michael Kay noted on YES a few weeks back that Jeter says he wants to play 10 more years; if he's actually serious about that, and if he stays healthy, he has a very legit chance at 4,000 hits. Big ifs, but still.

-Tyler Kepner points out that the Mets drafted Clemens, but chose to sign Steve Phillips instead. If you're the guy responsible for that decision, how do you ever get over it? That's a real sell-all-your-material-belongings-and-move-to-a-Thai-monastery kind of fuck-up.

-The Diamondbacks left their scouting report lying around the dugout after last night's game. Whoops! MSNBC has the AP story (via Deadspin). Interesting... but one question: what the hell is a "good cripple hitter"? Other than Jorge Posada, apparently? I really feel like I should be familiar with this term (which by the way could probably stand to be updated), but I've never heard it, and Google is for once not helping. Anybody?

UPDATE: Never mind! Per the Times, "A cripple hitter is one who jumps on a pitch when he is ahead in the count." Thank you.

June 12, 2007

But Hey, The Wild Card Was a Really Good Idea

Okay, it's probably time to start worrying about the Mets now. Panicking, no. But worrying? Get to it. They've had some lousy luck, and a ton of injuries, but if they don't come out of their mini-tailspin this week, things could start getting out of hand... or maybe I'm just responding to last night's Willie Randolph post-game press conference, which took place in a dark, claustrophobic tunnel bathed in deep red light. That was kind of disconcerting.

The Mets took a break Monday from losing to the Phillies and Tigers in order to lose to the Dodgers; even after all these years, I'm still a little bit surprised, every time Grady Little appears on my television screen, that someone has hired him again as a major league manager. I'm being a little harsh here, since he's actually got a very high winning percentage in his managerial career... but when you hear the words Grady Little, isn't some variation on "what the fuck was he thinking?!" the first phrase that comes to mind?

The Yankees are finally looking respectable-ish these days. Yesterday's New York Times' multimedia headline was, "For Yankees, There is an 'O' In June." At the risk of sounding juvenile, I'm thinking that could have been phrased better, but you get the idea. The Wild Card no longer looks like such a stretch. And after that miserable start, all I'm asking for from this team is a legitimate race... okay, and .500. It would be really nice if they got over .500.

Meanwhile Bud Selig continues to drive me steadily insane. He's now threatening Jason Giambi with more severe disciplinary action if he doesn't spill his guts to the Mitchell Commission, all because of comments Giambi made in USA Today suggesting that, shock!, maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea for MLB to apologize for the unchecked steroid use that went on for over a decade directly under Selig's nose (I may be paraphrasing there just a tad).

Look, I don't want to defend steroid users. Jason Giambi isn't exactly the ideal guy to be calling for an apology from anyone, and he should absolutely have been suspended... in, say, 2001, when he was admittedly taking "that stuff"*. Unfortunately Selig hadn't bothered to fight the Player's Association very hard for testing at that point, at least not publicly, and he keeps insisting that he didn't know what a problem it was at the time. But come on. While the Guillermo Motas and Matt Lawtons of 'roiding are tough to spot, I have friends who don't even watch baseball and yet realized years ago that Giambi was juicing; all you had to do was look at photos of him as a young player to know that something was going on there. Ditto Barry Bonds. Hint: when the actual size and shape of an adult skull changes dramatically over a two-year period, that's not normal. If Selig really had no idea, which I doubt (just like I don't buy that the Yankees were clueless about Giambi's possible steroid use when they signed him), he certainly should have. And now, WAY too late to do any good, we get this bullying, legally shaky crusade. Gah.

Okay, rant over, sorry -- I'm sick of the topic too. In any case, I think we can all agree that if The Commish had any integrity, he would never have allowed this to happen. (Via Uni Watch).

*It's possible he still is, of course. Perhaps the money being poured into the Mitchell Commission would be better spent developing a reliable HGH test.

Baseball Player Name of the Week

As brought to my attention by astute blog reader Sam: White Sox 3B coach Razor Shines.

To be fair, the Salisbury Post already dubbed this The Best Name In Baseball, back when Shines was managing the Kannapolis Intimidators (another great name). He only played in 68 major league games over four years, during which time he got exactly one extra-base hit, a double, for a slugging percentage of .198. But he did once single to break up a Dennis Eckersley no-hitter. Sadly, Razor is technically his middle name.

Runner up: Sox bullpen coach Art Kusnyer. I don't know... Art is just a funny name. And according to his official White Sox page, his nickname is Cave.

By the way, listening to Mike and the Mad Dog try to parse the Sopranos finale is making my entire day.

June 10, 2007

They Call Me MISTER Splitty

Well, Roger Clemens isn't Roger Clemens anymore, but he's still Roger Clemens, if you know what I mean. And I won't blame you if you don't.

Never mind my ill-fated attempt to reach today's game at Yankee Stadium; it took me almost three and a half hours to reach the Bronx from Brooklyn, an epic and disastrous journey -- sort of like The Warriors in reverse, especially the subway scenes. So I arrived at River Avenue shortly after Roger Clemens left the mound. Thanks to a kind but incompetent Pakistani cab driver, though, I did catch some of it on the radio ("I don't know," the driver said doubtfully of Clemens. "He is an old man"), and the rest via the glittering wonder that is Tivo.

Roger wasn't great, but he was good enough. It's so helpful when your team scores more than two runs behind their starting pitcher, you know? And, also, when your opponent is the Pirates. Yikes -- can't we just stick them on a remote field somewhere and make them play the Royals every day? At the end of the season, the losing owner will be forced to sell his team to someone who gives a fuck.

Having said that, they'll probably shell Tyler Clippard tomorrow, just to spite me. Ah well.

However! The Yankees are, for perhaps the second week all year, not sucking. They're now just two games back from .500.... and, mmmmm! Mediocrity is so close within reach I can almost taste it!

Meanwhile, I'm beginning to think that what the Yankees had may be contagious, and the Mets could use some penicillin: cold bats, a rash of injuries, a suddenly unreliable bullpen. What the Mets still have going for them, though, is their starting pitching, which has been solid throughout (well, except for today, but never mind). The bullpen might turn out to be a serious problem, if Heilman and Schoenewies and Mota can't be reliable... but their offense at least will come around as people get healthy.

The truth is, though, I'm still mourning the loss of Endy Chavez to a serious hamstring strain. Nooooooo! I was at Shea for that game, a bleary, hopeless affair even before Endy had to be helped off the field. (Best fan quote of the night, from one of the severely drunk Long Island college kids to my right: "FUUUUUCK YOU! YOU SUUUUUCK! FUCK YOU, BUR-- hey, you're not Burrell. Who the hell's that guy?" The game in a nutshell).

Anyway, I was there for Endy's NLCS Catch, too, and his brilliant walk-off drag bunt in April. And if you think the mere fact that he'll be out for probably two months is going to keep me from writing him on my NL All-Star ballot, you are very much mistaken. Dammit! Why'd it have to be Endy?!? Please, lord, take Ben Johnson istead!

June 07, 2007

Was That Really Necessary?

Well, I just watched baseball's first-ever televised draft... and I regret it. Deeply. I read up on some of the likely top candidates beforehand, but the truth is I'm not qualified to have much of an opinion on draft selections, and any case, it's by all accounts an epic crapshoot. It's not like basketball or football where a lot of fans know who these people are and have seen them play on a regular basis; and while being a great college basketball player gives you pretty decent odds on being at least a solid NBA player, the same does not hold true with baseball.

Plus, and this is really my main bone of contention: Bud Selig, whatever you may think of his policies, has the charisma of a dead halibut. Just fifteen seconds of that nasal monotone and I feel my eyelids drooping uncontrollably; this man should not be on my television screen for more than two minutes at a time, let alone four hours, and if I sound harsh, it's only because I'm feeling somewhat traumatized. I will now stare at Jose Reyes on my TV screen for as long as it takes to get that taste out of my mouth and rediscover my joie de vivre.

Anyway, I'd certainly heard of Vanderbilt pitcher David Price, who was expected to go first and did. He had this great anxious smile on his face, which managed to combine "awesome, I'm the #1 draft pick in the country!" and "oh god, I have to go play for the Devil Rays now." This whole worst-teams-pick-first thing, I get the reason for it, but it really punishes the nation's best amateur athletes, doesn't it? You have earned the respect of the country's most knowledgeable scouts as a true competitor... congrats! Enjoy Kansas City!

With the 30th pick in the draft, the Yankees took a pitcher named Andrew Brackman, who I will now immediately begin confusing with Wally Backman. Apologies in advance. The consensus seems to be that he's massively talented (and tall! very tall!) but comes with some health concerns. People who know more about this than I do seem to think it's a good idea, and hopefully they're right; when I think about it, I suppose I like the idea of a riskier, higher-upside move. You can usually find a solidly mediocre pitcher on the free-agent market, after all -- no need to waste a draft pick on it.

The Mets, meanwhile, took a reliever named Eddie Kunz. Another year I might have mocked the notion of taking a reliever with your top pick. This season, though, I look at Luis Vizcaino, Ron Villone, and the grisly remains of Scott Proctor's right arm chilling in the Yankee bullpen and say, "good thinking."

June 05, 2007

That's What SHE Said

The Yanks went down to the Chicago White Sox today when poor Matt DeSalvo was yanked before he could finish the second inning. Naturally, the one guy who actually reads is kicked back to Scranton. Turns out Crash Davis was right: Don't think, it can only hurt the ball club.

At least he's got Last Exit To Brooklyn for the ride back. Yep... that's gonna be a cheerful trip.

This weekend, the Yankees sandwiched promising wins over the Red Sox against a nuclear meltdown of a game on Saturday. I honestly have no idea what to expect from the Yanks this year; they could win 15-3 tomorrow or lose 22-0 and neither would surprise me. As a result, it's important to enjoy things like Sunday night's win: Bobby Abreu with a disastrous misplay and subsequent game-saving catch; sweet D from Melky; Posada with a nifty block of the plate (okay, lousy slide by Lugo, but still); A-Rod with the ninth-inning homer off Papelbon; Mariano with the emphatic save... it was a long, messy game, but that just made the ending more satisfying. Even Joe Morgan made some intelligent points. These are the moments we have to savor.

By the way, when the Yanks claimed that Clemens had a "fatigued groin"? Clemens just made that phrase up. I mean, do a Google search on fatigued groin and... well actually, no, don't. But the point is, there's no such diagnosis (stop snickering!). This invention of new terms for injuries seems to happen all the time in baseball, and everyone just nods and say "ah yes, a fatigued groin!" like it's an accepted medical condition; I guess the Yankees and Celemens don't want to admit they didn't know what was wrong (disrupted scar tissue, it turns out), but why not just say he's got a "sore inner thigh"? This is right up there with Carl Pavano's "bruised buttocks" in the Yankee annals of embarrassing injury phrasing.

Meanwhile, speaking of embarrassing, here's Gary Sheffield on Latin players, and -- as quoted in the new GQ -- tactful as always:

"I called it years ago. What I called is that you're going to see more black faces, but there ain't no English going to be coming out. ... (It's about) being able to tell (Latin players) what to do -- being able to control them. Where I'm from, you can't control us. You might get a guy to do it that way for a while because he wants to benefit, but in the end, he is going to go back to being who he is. And that's a person that you're going to talk to with respect, you're going to talk to like a man. These are the things my race demands. So, if you're equally good as this Latin player, guess who's going to get sent home? I know a lot of players that are home now can outplay a lot of these guys."

Gary, I think Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and the ghost of Roberto Clemente would like a word with you. Yeesh.

Of course, there are valid concerns about the way MLB teams now sign dirt-poor teenagers who speak no English, and whether they are always treated fairly (hint: no). But that's Sheff for you -- bring up a kernel of truth and obscure it with a pile of paranoia and ridiculous, offensive generalizations. I predict he will claim to have been misquoted by 6 pm. Also in that interview:
On carrying a gun (after taking one to school in eight and ninth grade): "It ain't changed because I got in the league. It just made me get more of them."
Oh, good!

June 01, 2007

Baseball Player Name of the Week

Normally I only consider active players for this honor... but Wayne Terwilliger, at age 81, is still the first-base coach for the Fort Worth Cats (also known as agent Scott Boras's favorite bargaining chip, per this interesting Times article). So I say that counts. As a bonus, his nickname is "Twig".

I knew I'd heard the name, but I couldn't remember where: it's in an awesome chapter from Annie Dillard's memoir, about her mother, who heard the phrase "Terwilliger bunts one" on the radio one day and became fascinated with it. Quite rightly too. Turns out he wasn't really much of a player, (career-high batting average: .257), but I think I love him anyway:
...“I learned one thing,” he says. “I’d get fried chicken, and eat it in my room. If I would go out some place for a few drinks, I would wrap the extra chicken in some moistened hotel towels, and then put it on top of the lamp. It would still be hot when I got back.”...

...“This trip we take to Pensacola [Fla.] now is just a shit-hole ride,” Twig says. “It’s 12 hours on the bus, and every time I have to take a piss, I have to climb over all these players to get to the bathroom in the back of the bus. They are all sleeping stretched across the aisles, so I have to climb back there on the armrests. I wish those guys could just sleep in their chairs without laying all over the place.”
So why keep doing this, especially at this lower level of baseball?
“Goddammit, it’s because I like it.”

Honorable mention: the resourceful Mr. Norris Hopper. Nice effort, but you have to get up pretty early in the morning to beat out Twig Terwilliger.