March 31, 2008

Blue Balls

Just got back from Yankee Stadium, where they mysteriously decided to cancel the game just as it completely stopped raining. Shut up, radar! They'll try it again tomorrow -- but at night, much to the relief of the majority of fans, who'd had to take off from work or school.

I knew the new Stadium had come a long way since September, but it was still a shock to see it there, all... well, Stadium-like. I've gotta say, it looks great. I don't think they needed a new building, I hate what's going to happen to prices, and I hate losing all that history on the field... but there's no doubt the new Stadium's exterior is a vast improvement and, having just spent two hours huddled in a cold, wet, jam-packed and filthy bleacher concourse, the idea of a clean and roomy and better-designed structure does hold a certain appeal. I don't even want to think about what was dripping on me all afternoon.

I know by the end of the year -- probably by June -- I'll be sick of the "Last Ever X, Y, or Z in the Old Stadium" fanfare; there's only so long I can keep up that level of nostalgia and sentimentality before it starts to get cloying. ("Sniff, this will be my last time paying $9 for a beer before the New Stadium opens and it goes up to $11!"). Tomorrow night, though, I'm just going to wallow.

Anyway, at least they called the game in time for me to get home and watch Johan Santana's Mets debut, so life's still looking pretty good. Happy Opening Day, everybody.

March 25, 2008

Nothing Ever Changes, Part LXXXVII

The Yankees have announced that they will celebrate the final year of Yankee Stadium by putting a "special patch" on their uniforms.

Once again, I quote the one and only Bill Veeck: "It happened that 1951 was the Fiftieth Anniversary of the American League, an event the league was celebrating with its usual burst of inspiration by sewing special emblems on the uniforms of all the players."

This clearly remains baseball's go-to promotional tactic. I'm not suggesting the Yankees should actually emulate Veeck by sending a little person to the plate... but surely there's some middle ground here.

Meanwhile, real baseball has finally started, and I've got a post about it up at the Banter.

March 24, 2008

Yeah... It Was Probably Time

From Baseball Prospectus' "Week in Quotes":
"The American League spoils you a little. Not that managing in the American League is easy, but this is certainly different. I'll have to have somebody poke me in the rear end when I have a pitcher that's going to hit."

--Joe Torre, Dodgers manager, on life in the National League. (John Shea, San Francisco Chronicle)

March 18, 2008

Final Fantasy

I've got a post up at the Banter today. It's about at-bat music, so head on over and check it out.

And apparently I'm not the only one getting bored with spring training, as -- per the Star Ledger -- Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy are now having slap contests in the clubhouse. Are we there yet?


Meanwhile, Sunday night was YanksBlog's Yankees bloggers fantasy league draft. I promise not to bore you with the details all season, but I think it went pretty well, at least by my own extremely low standards. Last year, as you may recall, I was in a salary cap league, and wanted Johan Santana so desperately that I impulsively blew a full third of my budget on him -- eventually ending up with just $600,000 for my last slot, which meant the best designated hitter I could afford was Bubba Crosby. Needless to say, this did not prove to be a winning strategy.

So I'm primed for a comeback, led by Miguel Cabrera and Brandon Webb. Of course, "comeback" is a relative term here. My ultimate goal for the season is to finish at least 10th out of 14, then make fun of whoever finishes below me for losing to a girl.

Reach for the stars, I always say...

March 17, 2008

The House That Rich Douchebags Built

Via Sliding Into Home, has posted renderings of the New Yankee Stadium. Check out the eye candy:

Well, that sure looks lovely, but... uh, say... where'd the Bronx go?

Yes, the new Stadium appears to be floating magically in the sky. No tenements here, only fluffy white clouds!

I bring this up because the site these photos come from is an add for "Yankees Premium" suites at the new Stadium, and I'm afraid that if you have a soul, it will make you want to throw something breakable at a wall:
"An Exclusive Experience... For Those With Discerning Tastes... Who Seek The Very Best... Life Has To Offer."
... "An Exclusive Experience"? Excuse me? It's a baseball stadium, you assholes! I want a decent view of the game and beer that costs less than $10, how's that for "Discerning"? Gah. Sometimes I think the Yankees must be actively trying to make everybody hate them.

March 16, 2008

Baseball Player Name of the Week

An incredibly easy choice this time, thanks to today's Mets-Tigers spring training game:

Outfielder Deik Scram.

Sounds (though does not look) a bit like a lost Sex Pistol.

UPDATE: Whoops! Metphistopheles beat me to it. The moral here is, when one sees a name like Deik Scram, one must act immediately.

March 12, 2008

Armando Benitez Has NO Natural Cow Sense

Spring training news and notes:

*The Mets have the right idea. They're occupied with trying to surreptitiously balance things on Luis Castillo's head -- bubble gum, plastic cups -- while the Yankees are getting into shoving matches with the Devil Rays to defend the honor of Francisco Cervelli. Or something.

*Logically, I realize it must somehow seem like a good idea to sign Armando Benitez... because teams keep doing it. But I'm damned if I can understand why. The Blue Jays must not have watched many Giants games last season.

*Young Yankees pitcher Ross Ohlendorf has "a lot of natural cow sense." That's good to hear. After all, how many promising pitching prospects have we gotten excited about over the years, only to see them fall short at the Major League level due to a tragic lack of cow sense? Never again!

*The Red Sox traveled by plane to a spring training game recently. The Twins, naturally, did not, and wise and sparkly-eyed little baseball elf Ron Gardenhire shared some old bus ride stories:

"... the bus catches on fire and Big Fella [clubhouse legend Wayne Hattaway] tells Tom Kelly, 'I'm not leaving, T.K. I'm going down with the ship.'

Wayne Hattaway is a great character, by the way, and still going.

The Dude abides

*Joel Sherman of the Post has a good story about Shelley Duncan, who sparked yesterday's silly "benches-clearing incident" by spiking the Devil Rays' second baseman:
Shelley Duncan once had a minor-league incident, in the Florida State League, when all heck broke loose on the field around him. He had slid into second base and the shortstop on Detroit’s Single-A team had thrown from an unnaturally low angle, at least in Duncan’s opinion, and nearly hit the sliding Duncan in the head. He chased around the shortstop all over the field as the benches and dugouts emptied. But he never did catch the shortstop. The identity of the shortstop: Current Mets farmhand Anderson Hernandez. And Duncan says the two became friends after the incident.
What's great about this is that Hernandez didn't even consider any of the usual macho posturing, but just turned and ran like the wind. Quite right, too, since he's about half Duncan's size.

March 09, 2008

Idle Hands Are the Devil Rays' Playground

You can only strand dozens of reporters in Florida with no real news to cover for so long before they will, out of sheer desperation, latch onto the first vaguely controversial thing they can find; it took a while this year, but the Yankees finally have their first good and meaningless spring training kerfluffle. (Unless you count Kyle Farnsworth mouthing off about Joe Torre, but I refuse to dignify that with the term "kerfluffle", because seriously: until you get your ERA down from 4.8, nobody wants to hear it).

So: Tampa Bay Devil (yeah, you heard me) Rays minor leaguer Elliot Johnson ran over Yankees minor league catcher Francisco Cervelli in a play at the plate, and Cervelli ended up with a fractured arm. Joe Girardi was upset that Johnson played so aggressively, risking injury, during a meaningless spring training game; then Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon got defensive. Now everyone's favorite gerbil, Tampa adviser Don Zimmer, who does not take kindly to this soft, newfangled, try-not-to-maim-your-opponent style of wussy-ball, has criticized Girardi. And the Yankees are muttering vaguely about payback. Betrayal! Violence! Revenge!

Well, if by "betrayal" you mean "Zim being a little grouchy," and by "revenge" you mean "drilling some no-name Devil Rays prospect in the ass with a fastball in a ST game". So you probably don't need to buy the movie rights just yet. Though I actually wouldn't mind a Yankees-Devil Rays rivalry, since if you have to watch Tampa play 18 times a year, those games might as well have a little added spark -- yes, this is the year everybody's picking Tampa to not suck, and I understand the logic, but I'll believe it when I see it.

That said, this particular mini-controversy is completely silly. The Rays player, Johnson, wasn't trying to hurt anybody; he only had a fraction of a second to decide what to do, he's trying to impress his coaches, he went for it. I think it was dumb, because you really should go out of your way not to injure anyone in March, but I can see how it'd happen. (The Twins' Ron Gardenhire, official Manager I'd Most Like To Have a Beer With, agrees with me, or rather I agree with him, because Ron Gardenhire is a wise and sparkly-eyed little baseball elf).


There was no malicious intent on Johnson's part, so far as we know, and there's no need to "retaliate" -- this isn't Clemens-Piazza here, no one threw at anyone's head. These things happen, and frankly, while this may sound callous, the Yanks should just be counting their lucky stars it wasn't Jorge Posada.

Meanwhile, I've been thinking a lot about El Duque's proposed new delivery -- he's trying to lower his iconic leg kick in an effort to keep pressure off his bunion. Yes, I just admitted to thinking a lot about a middle-aged man's bunion; leave me alone.

While there are many, many people involved in this process -- El Duque himself, Willie Randolph, Rick Peterson, etc -- who know vastly more about changing deliveries than I do, it still strikes me as something of a harebrained scheme. And it's a little poignant, because the sky-high leg kick has become such a part of Hernandez's legend; I used to* try and imitate it when I threw the ball for my dog. It's hard to imagine him being the same pitcher without it.

But the more I think about it, the more this attempt by El Duque actually fits. After all, he didn't start drawing his knee up to his ear because it looked cool; he did it because it confused the hell out of batters. Hernandez is constantly switching speeds and arm angles just to gain a slight deceptive edge, and vanity is not one of his concerns, hence the eephus pitch. So it makes sense that when things aren't working, he's willing to experiment -- to try anything, really, however odd or unlikely.

If he's not already using a little dab of Vaseline on the ball from time to time, maybe it's time to start... after all the steroid scandals, that sounds downright wholesome.

*last week.

March 05, 2008

Get to Know Your New New York Players, Part 5: Matt Wise

When the Mets signed Matt "Skeletor" Wise to a one-year deal, I didn't know much about him, and didn't expect enough from him to bother with a post. His numbers are largely uninspiring. But thanks to a stream of positive spring training coverage, I now feel compelled to root for the guy.

First of all, he's repeatedly injured himself in ridiculous ways, which is something I can relate to on a personal level. Since recovering from 2003 Tommy John surgery, Wise has strained his shoulder on a "slick railing"(?), sliced his hand open on salad tongs (I still have a scar from the time three years ago I decided to open a bag of granola with a steak knife), and somehow managed to concuss himself on the dugout roof while walking off the field. Damn and blast MLB for pulling that footage off YouTube.

Now, these mishaps don't reach the bizarre heights of, say, Clint Barmes' broken shoulder by deer meat, or Glenallen Hill's spider-nightmare sleepwalking incident, but that's still a pretty impressive litany of bad luck.

And in today's Journal News, Wise talks about how much he struggled last season after hitting a batter in the face; he was too worried that he might hurt somebody to pitch effectively inside. That sensitivity may not be ideal in pitchers -- guys like Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan, for instance, seemed to regard an occasional maimed batter as par for the course -- but it's admirable in general.

Needless to say, this warm Port St. Lucie lovefest will not continue through the season should Wise fail to improve on his career-average ERA of 4.18.


In the course of writing this post, I came across some truly spectacular baseball injury stories of which I'd somehow been previously unaware. Perhaps my favorite is the fact that Vince Coleman, then of the Cardinals, "missed the 1985 World Series after he was run over by the automatic tarp machine." I've never even heard of an automatic tarp machine, and perhaps this is why.

Coleman is of course best known to Mets fans for being frequently injured, fighting with coaches, and tossing a lit firecracker at small children in the Dodgers Stadium parking lot. I was aware of all that -- but I never realized before that Coleman must simply have been dealing, the best way he knew how, with the suppressed trauma of a vicious tarp attack. The media can be SO unfair sometimes.

March 04, 2008

Smokey, My Friend, You Are Entering a World of Pain

Let me take you back to December 2006, when ESPN did a long investigative piece into athletes' infatuation with their guns -- weapons, not biceps, though probably either one could apply. Luke Scott, in particular, stood out for his... ah, enthusiasm:
"An athlete gets paid a lot of money," he said. "And someone who is after that, a thief, a mugger or someone who steals from people, they are taking a chance with the law that if they get caught, they are going to jail or face some other problem."

With a broad smile, he added, "In my case, you are going to get shot."

There's a whole lot more in that vein, if you read the full article (including a rather questionable story about about Scott flashing his Glock, tucked into the front of his jeans, at a supposedly "up to no good" Katrina refugee who approached him at a Texas gas station). I bring it up now because Scott was recently traded to the Orioles, and as the Baltimore Sun reports (hat tip to Buster Olney), manager Dave Trembley asked him about "the gun situation." Scott is standing firm:
"Certain things, if I'm asked about them, I'm very outspoken," said Scott, who hit .255 with 18 home runs and 64 RBIs for the Astros last season. "I'm outspoken about my faith. I'm outspoken about my beliefs. I'm outspoken about what I believe this country is about. And I don't back down when it comes to core beliefs."...
…[Scott] said he has been "challenged" in the clubhouse in the past about his faith in God, but no one has spoken out against his thoughts on firearms and gun legislation.”
No, of course they haven’t, because you don’t speak out against the thoughts of someone who is both angry and armed to the teeth.

I should add here, before you email me, that it's not the gun owning I'm questioning so much as Scott's chillingly gung-ho attitude towards his concealed weapon (... as it were). My dad lives in rural upstate New York, and like everyone up there, he's got a rifle; most of the gun owners I've met there are kind, normal, nonviolent people. However, I'm pretty sure that, unlike Luke Scott, none of them walks around with a Glock tucked into his or her jeans. Baltimore residents: when approaching Scott for an autograph, do not make any sudden movements.

In other news:

-Have I ever mentioned that ESPN's Rob Neyer is incredibly talented? And also strikingly handsome?

-The Mets are courting disaster a little early this year. (Marlon Anderson's sternum: 1, Ryan Church's head: 0). The only really significant injuries here are Delgado's hip -- supposedly not serious, but then he was bad enough last season even when healthy -- and El Duque's general ancientness, which I think everyone saw coming. Still, this is getting a bit disconcerting.

The good news is that Johan Santana will be starting another spring training game soon. The man is like human Lexapro.

-Which Major League player recently said, when asked about a six-figure contract he perceives as disappointing:
"We're heading into a recession and people are struggling out there. They don't need to hear me complaining about my big salary not being big enough. Thanks for asking, but it's between me, my agent and the club."
Trick question! None of them, of course. That was just King Kaufman of's suggested response; he has a good column on young players' annual complaints about the hundreds of thousands of dollars they'll make this season. Semi-understandable in context, but still insanely irritating.

(Incidentally, King Kaufman would totally win "Sports Writer Name of the Week" if I had such a feature. Followed by La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.)

-Finally, a few of the Red Sox held a charity dance-off. Only Mike Lowell escaped with his dignity.

March 02, 2008

The Ghost of Ineffective Middle Relief Past

Let me preface this by saying that I like Joe Torre. It was probably time for the Yankees to make a change, but the team had a ton of success on Torre's watch, he seems like an eminently decent human being, and I wish him all the best. That said, I am not looking forward to reading what's sure to be a plethora of articles that begin just like this one:
“VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Joe Torre might have looked out of place wearing Los Angeles Dodgers blue. He was right at home as a winner.”
This is referring, by the way, to the first game of spring training. Gag me.

Incidentally, the Dodgers' win came against the Braves, whose pitchers included Matt DeSalvo and Colter Bean*. Given that (as of last week, anyway) Torre has Tanyon Sturtze, Esteban Loaiza, and Mike Myers in camp, I'm forced to conclude that the man is suffering some sort of karmic payback for his bullpen mismanagement over the years. You can move to the other side of the country, but you can't escape your past...

"Without their visits," said the Ghost, "you cannot hope to shun the path I tread."

*Based solely on this fact, I hereby predict that the Braves have no chance in hell at the NL East title.