May 19, 2008

Pizzle Rot in the Bronx

Hey, Mets fans -- never say the Yankees never did anything for you!

It's going to take many more than two games for the Mets to prove they've turned a corner, but this weekend certainly started things off in the right direction. Whether it was actually mental -- a team meeting, clearing the air, finally playing with the much-vaunted "sense of urgency" -- or just the expected offensive improvement finally arriving, the Mets looked better than they have in many many months.

They also made a good argument for some form of instant replay. Can someone please explain the reasoning against this? How do you justify having the truth readily available to hundreds of thousands of schmoes watching on TV, but denying it to the handful of professionals actually getting paid to determine the correct call? Of course, this kind of thing happens all the time... but now that it took place during a game roughly half our nation's sports writers were covering, maybe we can finally get something moving here.

Meanwhile, back on the farm:

So my dad lives upstate and has a bunch of sheep, and apparently some of his flock have become infected with something called "Pizzle Rot." Now, I do not know what exactly Pizzle Rot is, nor do I care to find out*, but this is still my new favorite term. It sounds like something you'd get from unprotected sex with Snoop Dogg. Extremely vivid, and so even if you've never heard it before, you probably have a good enough sense of its meaning to use it in a sentence.

As in, "this Yankees team plays like they've got Pizzle Rot."

As noted in this space earlier, May is too early, in my opinion, for panic, or even intense worry. This is the time for stewing. The odds of the Yankees pulling off a phoenix-like resurrection two years running are slim; I don't know that they'll win their division this year, or even claw their way to the Wild Card. But that said, the odds of the Yankees ultimately playing better than this? Pretty damn good.

*I only got as far as "The infected ulcers can spread through the opening to the mucosa of the preputial cavity." Okay! I refuse to Google "preputial cavity"**; some things can never be unlearned. You know, when I was little, I wanted to be a vet...

**Fine -- curiosity got the better of me, and I looked it up. Not recommended. Associated key words: "cesspool," "wetness," "protozoa," "bladder," "circumcision," "scrotal skin," "smegma or bacteria."

Eephus Pitch: your go-to source for commentary on New York baseball and obscure ovine scrotal diseases!

May 16, 2008

Subway Series '08: Resistable Force Meets Movable Object

So! Fresh from acquitting a man of second degree murder (I was totally like Henry Fonda! Except if all the other jurors had agreed with him from the start and didn't actually have to be convinced of anything), it's time to get back to the really important things in life.

Things like previewing the Subway Series.

#7: "You a Yankee fan?"
#5: "No, Baltimore."
#7: "Baltimore? That's like being hit in the head with a crowbar once a day."

It's hard to say at this point which under-performing New York team is more desperate for wins. Yesterday I had a Yankees fan friend try to tell me that the Mets were in much worse shape right now, because while the Yanks just lost three of four to the Devil Rays, who are now a legitimately good team, the Mets had lost three of four to the "softball girls" of the Washington Nationals. (Side note: I was genuinely sorry to see the great story that is Nelson Figueroa designated for assignment, but that line is a parting gift that will, I expect, keep on giving). My friend was sort of kidding... I think... but the point is that when you're getting into discussions about which New York team just lost three of four to the less lousy opponent, it's a good indication that we're not exactly in a Golden Age right now.

I think the Mets are having a slightly rougher time, though, not because their current situation is any worse (actually it's better, as they're just 2.5 games out of first, while the Yankees are flailing about in last place), but because of last year's lingering bad taste. In a reversal of the normal New York baseball order, Willie Randolph's job is in more immediate jeopardy than Joe Girardi's, the fans at Shea seem less forgiving than those at the Stadium, and there are signs of clubhouse trouble in Queens regarding, as Billy Wagner put it, "accountability." They're under an enormous amount of pressure.

Now normally, as regular readers will be aware, I don't make predictions. Better to let other people go out on a limb, then mock them for it later if they're wrong, that's my feeling. But what the hell: it's the Subway Series, and I haven't gotten any good angry emails in a while, so let's make an exception.

FRIDAY: Johan Santana vs. Darrell Rasner.


Sure, sure, I know, anything can happen in baseball -- sometimes Sir Sidney Ponson throws a gem, sometimes Jake Peavy has a lousy outing, anyone can win on any given day. But "lopsided" is an extremely kind way of describing this matchup. Santana and Rasner have both pitched well this season, but the difference is that Santana is still below his career norms, whereas Rasner is miles above his; gotta figure that'll correct itself at some point.

Prediction: Mets, natch. Nothing's a must-win in May, but a loss tonight would be awfully tough for them. Besides, given the way the Yankees have been hitting lately, I'm not sure Santana could give up more than two or three runs to them even if he was actively trying.

SATURDAY: Oliver Perez vs. Andy Pettitte.

This is a tough one to call, because Perez is so... charmingly unpredictable; he has much better stuff than Pettitte these days, but a significantly less developed sense of how to use it. If you could stick Pettitte's brain in Perez's body you'd have a Cy Young winner, but sadly science isn't quite there yet. Besides, I'm not sure how that trade would work... "Today the Mets acquired Andy Pettitte's brain from the Yankees, and in return sent Carlos Delgado's ability to bunt against the shift at least just once in a fucking while to Jason Giambi in the Bronx."...

Prediction: Yankees, I suppose, though I'm already second-guessing myself, because without A-Rod and Posada, the Yankees haven't hit lefthanders at all -- not even a little. But I'll say Pettitte rises to the occasion with one of his tough six-inning, three-run aversions of disaster, while Perez is eventually done in by a few too many walks. And/or his bullpen.

SUNDAY: John Maine vs. Chien-Ming Wang.

Well, eventually someone's going to have to score a run, right? This should be a fun one.

Prediction: Yankees. Great matchup, but I've got to give the edge to Wang, just barely, because I can see the Yankee lefties doing some damage against Maine; in two starts against the Yanks, he has a 16.50 ERA in 6 innings pitched. While, on the other hand, Wang pitched one of his best games ever against the Mets at the Stadium last June.

However, by Monday, you should understand exactly why I don't make predictions.

A few other notes:

-Kyle Farnsworth, who, I was under the impression, generally walks around the Yankees clubhouse wearing camo undershirts and reading hunting magazines -- when not body-slamming opposing players -- apparently bakes excellent peanut butter cookies. Well, either that, or this is the longest typo in Daily News history.

-Every sports blogger on the planet already mentioned this, but Hank Steinbrenner's quote from a few days ago bears even further mocking:
"This is going to get turned around," Steinbrenner said. "If it's not turned around this year, then it will be turned around next year, by force if we have to."
All together now: "by force"?! He does understand that this is a baseball team, and not a hostage situation or a hostile foreign nation, right? You can't just like invade Robinson Cano and make him start hitting better. Classic.

May 12, 2008

Kei Igawa III: Updated

With many, many thanks to "unmoderated", clearly the best commenter in the world:

So, I was right! Well, not about Kei Igawa deserving another chance, but about how I'd regret/deny ever having said that he deserved another chance.

The Yankees continue to treat .500 like a soft, warm bed on a cold morning. They're four games back of Boston, which is nothing to stress over in May, but they're also still two and half behind Tampa Bay, which I find disturbing. (I know at some point -- one day soon -- I will have to accept the Devil Rays as a legitimately good contending baseball team, but I'm not there yet). And if Sunday's game hadn't been rained out, Derek Jeter was going to bat 4th. I know batting order doesn't actually have much effect on the outcome of games, statistically speaking... but, with all due respect to Captain Intangibles, I really, really miss Alex Rodriguez.

Across town, the Mets are doing a little better, and they're tied with the Phillies for what I choose to think of as "real first place". (I'm ignoring the Marlins, because they will resume sucking by July at the latest). The Mets have a few positive signs recently -- yeah, what else is new, but still -- and I have to add my voice to the chorus apologizing for having underestimated Ryan Church. He's been one of the Mets' best hitters, he plays very good defense, and he hasn't even had to apologize for any "remarks about Jews" yet; excellent signing all around. 

Anyway, I've been on jury duty for the last week and am heading back there bright and early tomorrow, but should be back on schedule when this trial is over. (It's actually a murder case... and I'm not allowed to talk about it yet, but when it's done, I'm totally going to try and find some awkward and unlikely way to tie it into baseball, so I can write about it).

May 06, 2008

Kei Igawa III: I Still Know What You Did Last Summer

Just when you thought the danger was over... that the past was finally buried forever... yes, it looks like Kei Igawa is coming back from Scranton.

If I were any good at Photoshop, that would read: "SOME SIGNINGS WILL HAUNT YOU FOREVER."

No word yet on whether Igawa has replaced his pitching hand with a razor-sharp hook.

To be fair, last season was only Igawa's first in the majors, and I honestly do think he deserves another shot, given his track record both in Japan and in the minors. But by this time next week I will probably deny ever having written that last sentence.