August 31, 2006

He Has Great Numbers Against Right-Handed Cameramen, Though

Randy Johnson and the third baseman seemed to rediscover their old selves today, and the Yanks beat the Tigers 6-4, winning a second series against, supposedly, the best team in baseball. There’s no denying that much of the Tigers’ pitching staff is terrific, but I think the main reason I can’t take them as seriously as I should is that the putative ace of their staff is Kenny Rogers.

If there’s one thing Yankees and Mets fans can agree on, it’s that Kenny Rogers is an incompetent dickwad. Despite his best efforts, the Yankees were able to overcome his presence on their team in 1996, but the Mets weren’t so lucky. I remember the last game of the 1999 NLCS very clearly: it was my freshman year of college, and one of my good friends was a passionate, die-hard Mets fan. I watched the game with him and his roommates, a terrifying nail-biter coming just one day after a truly epic, draining and exhilarating 15-inning walk-off Mets win. That season the Braves were at their most arrogant and obnoxious (and anti-New York), and it was hard not to root for them to go down. The Mets fell behind 7-3 but fought back -- Mike Piazza tied it up with a dramatic home run, and the game looked like it was going to go on forever, until, of course, in the 11th inning, Kenny Rogers came in and… walked in the Braves’ winning run.

It was one of the worst losses I’ve ever seen, the kind that, if it happens to your team, can change you forever. Rogers’ stats in New York don’t seem that bad at first glance, but his postseason numbers are chilling: zero wins, three losses, 32 hits and 16 walks in just over 20 innings pitched, and an ERA of 8.85. Good luck with that, Detroit. I’d rather start El Duque’s arthritic 65-year-old second cousin in a playoff game.

Meanwhile, Mariano Rivera has soreness in his pitching arm, although he saved the game today without too many problems. Sounds like it’s nothing serious, but just hearing “Rivera” and “MRI” in the same sentence makes an 8-game lead seem suddenly very small.

Mustache Watch ’06: Randy Johnson has shaved off his distinctive facial hair as well (in case you were wondering: no, it doesn’t help). They’re dropping like flies.

Interesting note on the Newsday beat writers' blog: Pavano declined to apologize to his teammates, something even grouchy jackass Kevin Brown did after punching a wall and breaking his hand. Damn – if you need etiquette tips from Kevin Brown, you have serious problems.

August 30, 2006

Whereas Randy Johnson's Starts Are More Like Unpredictable Cage Fights With Piranhas

I’m selfishly glad the Tigers game was rained out last night, since I was going to have to miss it anyway. This way I was able to listen at wor--... that is, check the score ever so briefly between bouts of massive productivity. Chien-Ming Wang pitched a beautiful game this afternoon, efficient and clean; this series really does have the feel of playoff-style baseball (knock on wood). The Tigers have played well so far, and their pitchers have been terrific, but the Yankees seem to match up fairly well against them (knock, knock) and honestly, at this point I think I’d be more afraid of the Twins or As in a short playoff series (knock, knock, knock. If things go wrong, you’re not pinning it on me).

Tonight, Jaret Wright skipped his usual white-knuckle, near-disaster, tightrope-walk-over-a-tank-of-piranhas act (which he occasionally varies with an exciting falling-into-a-tank-of-piranhas act) and pitched one of his best and longest games of the year. Of course, Scott Proctor then blew the 3-2 lead by allowing a home run in the ninth inning with two outs; but this didn't strike me as the crushing loss it might have been, since I couldn't help feeling that under normal circumstances, if Mariano Rivera or even Kyle Farnsworth had been available, things might well have gone differently.

Meanwhile, like everyone else, I made plenty of jokes about Carl Pavano and his crystalline body. But the fact that he cracked a couple of ribs in a car accident, and then didn’t tell anyone from the team so that he could try to pitch through it, tells me two things: one, Carl Pavano is not very bright; and two, he is sensitive to the heaping piles of criticism coming at him from all sides. As ridiculous as the entire situation is, I'm getting the uncomfortable feeling that at this point, everyone’s piling on the weakest kid in class. The media smells blood (today Bob Klapisch calls him a gutless 'roid-head weasel, more or less in those words) and his own teammates seem to loathe him. Yikes. Man, if they had just referred to his buttocks injury as a “lower back strain” or something, many of these PR issues could have been avoided.

A few more thoughts:

The Red Sox are now eight games back. They’ve been playing without Manny Ramirez AND David Ortiz, which is like trying to go for a jog without your legs. Big Papi is undergoing tests for an irregular heartbeat, which fortunately looks like it probably isn’t anything too serious, and there’s been a surprising outpouring of good wishes towards Ortiz from Yankee fans; I think we all have some variation on Stockholm Syndrome, wherein if you’re held hostage long enough, you start to sympathize with your captor. For someone who haunts my nightmares and inflicted seemingly permanent emotional scarring on me less than two years ago, he does seem like a nice enough guy.

Watching Sal Fasano run is a strange and oddly mesmerizing thing. Believe it or not, I'm having trouble finding a good photo of this to link to...

What the Christ is that thing on Magglio Ordonez’s head? Unacceptable. There are children watching these games.

Mustache Watch '06: Johnny Damon’s mustache is dead, long live Johnny Damon’s mustache. As a fun interactive bonus activity, repeat the phrase "mustache watch" under your breath for a few minutes and see how much sense those words make by the time you're done.

August 28, 2006

Mama Zimmerman Didn't Raise Any Haters

The guy has a song about Catfish Hunter, so it seemed like a fair bet to assume Bob Dylan was a Yankees fan. In fact, that’s not totally accurate; in this month’s Rolling Stone interview with Jonathan Lethem, Dylan says: “The problem with baseball teams is all the players get traded, and what your favorite team used to be – a couple of guys you really liked on the team,
they’re not on the team now – and you can’t possibly make that team your favorite team. It’s like your favorite uniform.”

Fair point, especially if you grew up in the era before free agency, I’d imagine. But, he goes on, “I mean… yeah… I like Detroit. Though I like Ozzie [Guillen] as a manager. And I don’t know how anybody can’t like Derek [Jeter]. I’d rather have him on my team than anybody.”

Damn straight, Bob. Imagine Derek Jeter coming up to bat to “Subterranean Homesick Blues” -- It’ll never happen (I don’t think DJ is much of a classic rock fan), but it would be a beautiful thing. And also: dinner with Bob Dylan and Ozzie Guillen. How much would you pay to be at that table?

Ozzie: We're cheating on the mound?... They're mad. They can't admit that a Latino kicked their ass… That's why I don't get along with too many managers. Because they hate my [expletive] ass, because I don't kiss their ass, and I didn't kiss anyone's ass to get this job.

Bob: No, I do not feel that good when I see the heartbreaks you embrace, If I was a master thief perhaps I'd rob them.

Ozzie: I'll tell you one thing, if Padilla hit me twice, right now I'd be in the hospital or I'd be dead. But I will fight. I will fight because the way he hit him.

Bob: How many roads must a man walk down, before you can call him a man? Yes and how many seas must a white dove fly, before she sleeps in the sand?

Ozzie: Fucking fag.

Somebody get Tom Stoppard on this, asap.

Come Back Miguel, All Is Forgiven

Kyle Farnsworth had a medium-sized meltdown yesterday, but the Yanks held on by their fingernails (or rather, by their Greatest Closer Ever, of All Time, Seriously) to win; I’ll take it, and somehow they still lead the Sox by 6.5 games. I only wish the Angels could have lost in a more painful and/or humiliating fashion. It was great to see Bernie Williams flashing some serious power -- I know, I know, he’s a defensive liability these days and miles away from the hitter he used to be, but due to over a decade of conditioning, I’m still glad to see him at the plate in a big spot, logic and reason and VORP be damned. This is apparently something that Joe Torre and I have in common.

I’d also like to take a moment to congratulate Nick “The Stick” Green on pushing his batting average over .200 yesterday… and his defensive errors are certainly keeping everyone on their toes. I’ve said many things this year I never could have imagined I’d say back in March, things like “That Johnny Damon is actually kind of attractive” and “Where would this team be without Scott Proctor?” and “No, that pitcher is still on the DL with bruised buttocks,” but here’s another one: “I miss Miguel Cairo profoundly.”

I recently heard a rumor that there are, strangely enough, a few other teams out there besides the Yankees and Red Sox and their current opponents. It seems to be true, and I’m psyched to see that the Twins are still kicking ass. They lost today, but they lead the White Sox by half a game for the Wild Card, after being 11 games back in June. Outside of the Yanks, the Twins are probably my favorite team: I like that they don’t have much money, but stay competitive and have a dedicated fan base. I’m touched by the, uh, quirky Hefty Bag outfield wall. Torii Hunter is maybe the best quote in baseball, almost as entertaining as Ozzie Guillen, but much less of an asshole. Johan Santana is barrels of fun to watch when he’s not pitching against your team, and it looks like Liriano will be too. As if all that wasn’t enough, they have a pitcher named Boof Bonser. I’m down. After this coming weekend, anyway.

August 27, 2006


Sorry for the pause between posts. I was waiting until I had something to say besides “the Yankees look tired and aren’t playing well,” but the team hasn’t cooperated. Damn I hate losing to the Angels -- as I may have mentioned before, my least-favorite team in baseball, if not all of sports (though I may hate the Finnish curling team more... long story, don’t ask). One or two more looks at that godforsaken monkey and I can't vouch for the safety of my television set.

In lieu of panicking, I’m going to chalk the Yankees' recent stretch of 1-4 baseball up to exhaustion, and you certainly can’t blame them for that (particularly since the Red Sox have been playing nearly as badly and are still five games back; for some illogical reason, five games seems like a solid lead, whereas four does not). They’ve now played 20 games in 19 days. Forgetting about the Angels for a moment -- indeed, for as long as possible -- the Yankees are certainly a better team than the Mariners, who took two of three from them earlier in the week. Their hitters are worn out and their pitchers are worse, and that isn’t a winning combination. With the semi-promising Jeff Karstens on the mound, I don’t expect the Yanks to snap out of it today, but fortunately they have tomorrow off to regroup.

I know everyone is shocked, stunned, astonished, astounded, flabbergasted, staggered, and otherwise amazed to learn that Carl Pavano may have had another setback, this time feeling some discomfort in his oblique muscle. I know. My world is shattered too. Now… here’s the thing. If Carl Pavano has a body made of tissue paper and Swarovski crystal, that’s not his fault. Just the way he was born. It’s a shame, too, because honestly, the guy is easy on the eyes -- though of course if you kissed him, it would probably shatter his jaw, which is a bit of a turn off. That said, if you had "bruised buttocks" like Pavano did in Spring Training this year... well, wouldn't you lie about it? Out of sheer embarassment, wouldn't you keep your mouth shut and play through it? I feel bad for the guy, he's taking a lot of crap from all sides, but he does seem to have brought it on himself.

August 24, 2006

Breaking News!: Gary Sheffield Might Be Kind Of A Dick

The YES Network was showing a game from last year earlier this evening. Hey, remember Tony Womack? Can we all agree to pretend that never happened? Let’s just say that Robinson Cano started 2005 at second base last year, and, in the face of any evidence to the contrary, deny, deny, deny.

Meanwhile, both Sports Illustrated and Will Carroll at Baseball Prospectus have damning articles today suggesting that Gary Sheffield may be deliberately taking his sweet time coming back from his wrist injury, reading the writing on the wall from the Bobby Abreu signing and saving himself for a new team next year. Carroll writes,
I've been hearing whispers, over and over from disparate and independent sources, that Sheffield was slowing his rehab deliberately, feeling no pressure to return. "He says he's not needed," one source told me, "and that he's got to worry more about next year than this year." Several people I spoke with that have knowledge of his rehab process claim that Sheffield shouldn't be behind Hideki Matsui. "[Matsui']s busted his [rear] and [Sheffield] is negotiating his contract. He talks more to his agents than he does the trainers."
In his SI piece, Jon Heyman wonders why Yankees fans aren’t angry about this, whereas they’re only too eager to vent their rage at, say, certain former MVPs who are having off-years but trying their hardest.

I’m not too upset about the Sheffield situation myself, for the very simple reason that I don’t really want Gary Sheffield to come back. Don’t get me wrong – he’s a great and intimidating hitter, and he earned his money the past two years. That said, Melky Cabrera, while certainly not a hitter of Sheffield's caliber (yet), is roughly 10 times more fun to watch, easier to root for, and not that much more than half his age. You can see just by looking at him how much he loves playing, which is more than I could ever say for Sheffield, who has been scowling without pause since I was seven years old. If Sheffield comes back, Cabrera would be forced to the bench, and given what he’s done for the Yankees this season, that just doesn't feel right. It’s going to be hard enough finding room in the outfield for everyone when Matsui returns (a guy who, if you’ll recall, actually apologized for breaking his wrist while trying to make a difficult play -- after which, I might add, he threw the ball back in. Can you imagine an American player doing that? It’s a struggle just to get out athletes to apologize for beating their wives on the street).

So if Sheffield wants to go slow, I’m not going to protest. The fact that both writers cite seemingly knowledgeable sources makes me wonder whether the Yankees are deliberately leaking this information, preparing their fans for the fairly inevitable decision to not extend Sheff’s contract. I wouldn't put it past Brian Cashman, who I'm more and more convinced is some kind of evil genius. And I mean that as a compliment.

In other news: doubtless not for the first time in his life, what Jason Giambi has is catching. I’m referring here to his now-famous porn ‘stache, which has spread to, at last count, Ron Villone, Johnny Damon, and Jaret Wright. I’m all for team bonding, but this is having an unfortunate influence over some of my male Yankee fan acquaintances. Boys, it’s a sad truth that in our society professional athletes can get away with a lot of things that regular citizens can’t, from speeding to, say, lying in front of a Grand Jury; and I’m afraid this is one of those scenarios. They should run a disclaimer before games: civilians, at least those without accepting and understanding wives, should be careful about trying this at home. Honestly, Ron Villone probably should too.

August 22, 2006

Well, Okay Then

Twenty-four hours later, I’m still a little stunned. Like everyone else, I was expecting the usual Yankees-Red Sox show, in which the two incredibly evenly-matched teams take turns beating the crap out of each other, and the season is ultimately decided by who plays better against the Blue Jays. Well, not this time.

This is not the same Yankees team that we’ve been watching in various incarnations from 2002 to 2005 -- a collection of overpriced superstars, some likeable and others not, who could pound out enough hits for a impressive number of wins, but never quite gelled into a unit capable of winning consistently against the best teams. Okay, so it’s still a collection of overpriced superstars. But they’re playing damn well together, seem like they're having a ton of fun doing it, and are complemented perfectly by young and underpaid talent like Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Scott Proctor, and Chien-Ming Wong. (A chunk of the credit for this has to go to the newly empowered Brian Cashman, who's been kicking all kinds of ass this year). I sort of knew this had happened, but I didn’t fully recognize it until this weekend -- specifically, Sunday night. Unlike the Friday and Saturday games, when the Yankees feasted off weak pitching, Sunday night’s game was one that the Yankees had absolutely no right to win. Schilling was on, Mussina wasn’t and was then injured, the bullpen was exhausted, and perhaps most of all, no one really expected them to anyway: three in a row was plenty; no one was going to give them a hard time for losing to the combined A-games of Curt Schilling and Jonathan Pabelbon, in a game that seemed destined to be taken by the Sox. The last few innings of that game demonstrated the rare mixture of talent, determination, and luck that I haven’t really seen since the 2001 World Series.

We’re living in a post-2004 ALCS world, and I’m not about the call the division race over, or proclaim that the Yankees are going all the way, what with their uneven pitching rotation and all. But I do think it’s time to give this team credit for being the best group of Yankees in at least five years, and the most fun to watch as well. I'm adjusting my expectations and enthusiasm accordingly. It would certainly be arrogant to say they’ve got anything sewn up, but at the same time, it strikes me as ungrateful to ignore what this team has shown us so far this season. Whether or not they get very far into Octover, or make the playoffs at all, it’s been a memorable summer.

On a side note, we all learned another valuable lesson this weekend: for Christ’s sake, you should never, ever pitch to David Ortiz or Manny Ramirez, unless the bases are loaded, and maybe not then either. It took the Yankees a long time to figure this out, but they seem to have finally gotten it (though to be fair, this would have been harder in previous years, when Manny had more protection in the lineup). I actually have a recurring dream about David Ortiz, in which he is a giant, around three stories tall, who picks me up and gently but firmly carries me across the countryside towards some mysterious destination, and I panic, because I don’t want to go, but I can’t get his attention. Aside from the fact that I should probably seek therapy, this should tell you something about the impact of Ortiz in a lineup. Meanwhile, Manny reached base something like 17 out of 20 times this weekend, yet only scored three runs, and two of those were on his own home runs. Seriously: if I never see a Yankees pitcher throw strike to that man again, it will be too soon.

Jeff Karstens makes his major-league debut tonight in Seattle. Given how tired I am from simply watching the Red Sox series, I can only imagine how the players are feeling, so I wouldn't be surprised to see them let this one go. But, as we've seen quite often recently, I've been wrong before. Meanwhile, Boston plays the Angels; I only wish there was some way for both teams to lose.

August 21, 2006

Dispatches From My Lunch Break

Am I a bad fan for being totally stunned by the events of this series? I seem to have seriously underestimated this Yankees team. Joe Torre showed more emotion last night than he has in the last 10 seasons combined, so I guess he was impressed too.

I hate to pile on Terry Francona, but I honestly cannot imagine why he didn’t go to Papelbon to lead off the eighth. I was dumbfounded, and in fact, it came as a kind of strange relief when he finally did get him in there - all that futzing around with Timlin and Lopez was making me confused and uncomfortable. Once he came in, Papelbon lived up to the hype. And, while it physically pains me to do so, I have to give Curt Schilling credit for a truly gutty, tough game yesterday. He’s one of my absolute least-favorite baseball players, but you have to hand it to him, the pompous jerkoff delivers.

All in all, what a painful loss that must have been for the Sox. With the possible exception of an error, there's no worse way to lose a ballgame than a bloop single (I give you Game 7 of the 2001 World Series). Though to give Jeter his due, he's the master of bloop singles, and I don't doubt there was as much skill as luck involved. In any case, ouch. Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter: honestly not overhyped.

As to today's game, I can't help it: I still like David Wells. I always enjoy it when people who have absolutely no right to be good athletes have so much success. Okay, so Wells isn't exactly his old self anymore and obviously, I would be happy to see him roughed up a little this afternoon. But that fat drunkard threw a perfect game for the Yanks, very possibly while hung over. And for that, he has earned our undying respect.

So after all this... after games featuring Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson, Chien-Ming Wang, Josh Beckett, and Curt Schilling... this is the pitcher’s duel? Cory Lidle and David Wells? Go figure, man. What a strange and wonderful series.

August 20, 2006

Exactly As I Predicted!

Okay, not at all. I’m confused. Cheerful, but confused.

The last three games were basically a perfect storm, in which Red Sox pitching had a no-hold-barred meltdown just as the Yankees offense finally started firing on all cylinders, but it can't last -- the Red Sox aren’t this bad, and I'm afraid the Yankees aren’t this good. As awesome as their hitters have been the last two days, I can’t quite forget that they were absolutely crushed by the Baltimore Orioles’ worst pitchers earlier this week. Anyway, show me the offense that won’t do some serious damage when you give them thirteen walks in a single game. Yankee pitching hasn’t been much to brag about this series, either, and while 20 runs allowed in three games is obviously preferably to 39, these games have not been pretty.

Now, they played three long, exhausting games in about 30 hours, so you can’t really blame them, but when Posada hit his three-run triple to make the score 10-5, it seemed to me that you could palpably feel the Sox players giving up on the game. Again, after 4 hours of sleep and way too much Manny Delcarmen, most of us would do the same, but what remains to be seen is if that spirit will carry over into the rest of the series. I don’t expect that to happen – I hate Curt Schilling with a fiery passion, but this is just the kind of situation he lives for, so you know he’s going to show up. And if the Sox take the next two, they’re just 2.5 games back and still right in the race; even if they only win one, they’re a long way from done. (They're not done if they're swept either, but "a long way from it" would probably be pushing it).

There are some insane stats from the last three games. First of all, apparently, Johnny Damon goes to 11. I was already totally sold on the guy, but this was just sick: 9 for 18, including three doubles, two home runs, a triple, and 8 RBIs. I think you’ve made your point, Johnny. Meanwhile, Bobby Abreu, who seems to have taken roughly 20 seconds to fit in, has been on base 12 of 18 times. Robinson Cano has 10 RBIs (and that guy I can’t talk about anymore this season isn’t doing badly either).

Finally, the Yankees seem to have gotten over their case of Sidney Ponson (antibiotics will usually clear that right up).

Should be a good game tonight, with Mussina going against Schilling and everyone getting some sleep - including, let's all hope, the ESPN announcers. Time to do some pre-game exercises and get my muting finger loose and ready to go.

August 18, 2006

Tell Your God To Ready For Blood

During the recent insane heat wave, city officials urged people to rest, avoid unnecessary exertion, drink water, and seek medical attention if they had trouble breathing, chest pains, or dizziness and confusion. I think the same warnings should also be applied to Yankees and Red Sox fans this weekend, particularly those with a history of cardiac or respiratory problems. In addition, I urge younger, healthy fans to check in periodically on their older and more infirm neighbors and acquaintances. At times like this we all have to help each other.

The only part of the heat wave advice that doesn't apply is here is that people should avoid alcoholic beverages, which can be dehydrating. On the contrary, in this situation a stiff drink is definitely called for. Starting at lunch today. The best thing Yankees fans can do for themselves now is dull the pain, make everything a blur, and wake up somewhere unexpected Tuesday morning, when it's all over.

When our ancient ancestors climbed out of the primordial ooze and checked the baseball schedule, it was already obvious that this was going to be a huge series. Having had the dubious pleasure of watching yesterday's terrifically ugly loss to the Orioles, about which the less said the better, I can't say I have a lot of confidence at the moment; but once my eyes stopped bleeding I reminded myself that every team has some rough patches and the occasional horrific game, and momentum can turn in one inning. Actually, it's hard to say whether Red Sox or Yankees fans are more down on their team these days -- but hey, even when the Royals play the Pirates, somebody has to win.

I'll be listening to the first game at work, via the radio, but I'll miss at least the first part of tonight's game because, strangely enough, I have to go see Snakes on a Plane for work. But for those of you who will be watching, drink lots of water, wear light loose-fitting clothing, and consult your doctor if you experience feelings of weakness, confusion, or nausea. Or just turn off the TV until Sidney Ponson is out of the game.

August 17, 2006

Hey, We Can't All Be Sal Fasano

I was really hoping that if I ignored Jason Giambi's mustache it would go away, but I see now that's not the case. Giambi claims that this is a tribute to the glory days of Don Mattingly, but, Jason? Donnie Baseball never starred in "Tell Them Johnny Wadd Is Here". Every time I see that thing onscreen I flinch and reach for the nearest heavy object, like I do when I see a roach in a my apartment.

What Yankee would you most like to see grow a serious mustache? I vote for Mariano Rivera; that would be either incredibly cool or side-splittingly funny, and I want to find out which.

It's times like this I wish I owned Photoshop.

In less important news... the Yankees broke ground on their new stadium yesterday, before losing to the Orioles 3-2, and like most people I'm conflicted (about the new stadium, not the loss to the Orioles, which my feelings are quite clear on). As much as the current Stadium holds fond memories for me, the building itself is, if we're being honest, not exactly aesthetically stunning. In Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Burning, which I can't seem to find at the moment to quote, Jonathan Mahler describes the Stadium after its 1970s renovation as a gray concrete fortress isolated in the South Bronx, and unfortunately I think that's not far off, though of course the field itself is spectacular. I'm dreading the increased luxury boxes and inevitably more expensive tickets, and I'm going to miss being able to say that Babe Ruth played on this exact field and Billy Martin tried to kill Reggie Jackson in that precise dugout. But despite all that, I have to admit the world will be a slightly prettier place.

Finally, I do not want to hear the words "Jeter" and "slump" together in a sentence until the guy's average is down below at least .330. For pete's sake, people.

August 15, 2006

If You're Not Part of the Solution You're Part of the Problem

Last night’s post got me to thinking. Since everything that can possibly be said about Alex Rodriguez this year has by now been said, and given the inordinate number of trees (and, er... bytes?) that have given their lives for excruciatingly in-depth analyses of the man, I decided not to write another word about A-Rod this season--barring truly remarkable events. So I'm making it official: not another word about lucky #13, UNLESS:

  • He single-handedly wins or loses a playoff series.
  • He starts a real quality brawl.
  • He is arrested for a felony. We're talking murder, assault, possession with intent to distribute... a DUI isn't going to cut it, nor will tax fraud, and obviously, don't bother me with any misdemeanors.
  • He--not his wife--gives birth to a child. I honestly don’t mean this as a dig on him being effeminate or anything, I just think it would be newsworthy.
  • He hits a home run off of Curt Schilling. Because it never gets old.
  • He spontaneously combusts on the field. Literal flames only; metaphorically doesn’t count.
  • He has an affair, but only if it’s with someone really unexpected. I don’t mean a model or actress or groupie, I mean, say, Hilary Clinton. Larry Bowa. Arundhati Roy. Derek Jeter’s mom. My grandpa Murray. Someone like that.

Does that about cover it? Let me know if I've forgotten something. Otherwise, so long until October, A-Rod, and good luck.

August 13, 2006

The Curse of the Weavers

I'm starting to suspect something fishy is going on with the Weaver boys. First Jeff Weaver sabotaged the Yankees from within, pitching like absolute crap for them for several years*, until to make matters worse, he was traded for the even crappier--yet older and more injury-prone!--Kevin Brown. You wouldn't think it was possible to get rid of Jeff Weaver and still come out on the losing end of a trade, but you would be wrong**. And now his brother Jared, who by the way basically mocks his older brother with every sparkling start, is killing the Yanks by pitching terrifically for the Angels. Please just tell me there isn't a third sibling. What's the deal here? Are the Weavers Red Sox fans? Was their father somehow terribly wronged by Steinbrenner decades ago? I mean, if Tony Womack and David Ortiz were brothers, you'd start to think something might be up, wouldn't you?

Tonight, I got to watch a baseball game in its entirety for almost a week, and it was a satisfying one. Randy Johnson seems to have recently sacrificed a goat or something in exchange for prolonged youth again this year, so that's a plus; Jorge Posada snapped out of his slump; and Derek Jeter got some early MVP chants going for him. (I'm basically so sick of talking, thinking, and hearing about A-Rod that I don't think I'll write anything more about him unless he does something truly spectacular, like kill Curt Schilling with his bare hands in the middle of a game, or spontaneously combust on the field, or personally discover an AIDS vaccine.) One thing I can say for sure: this Yankees team is either very good or entirely mediocre. Definitely one of those two things.

In other, off-topic news: in today's New York Times, the big headline is "In Steroid Era, Will Golf's Integrity Stand Test?" Now, it would not actually be possible for me to care less about golf, but I am pretty amused by the idea of pudgy, aging, plaid-pants-clad millionaires shooting anabolic steroids into each other's asses in the country club men's room. I know that's probably not the kind of thing the headline is referring to... but damned if I'm actually going to read the article to find out.

*2003 ERA: 5.99.

**2005 ERA in '05: 6.5.

August 12, 2006

Did I Mention That I Hate the Angels?

I do. Call them what you will – The California and Los Angeles Metropolitan Area Angels of Orange Country or whatever, this is my least favorite Major League team, and not just because they kicked the Yankees’ ass at the Stadium last night, 7-4. Nor because they ran the Yankees out of the postseason twice in the last four years.

I have no very strong feelings about the Angels’ original owner, Gene Autry - seems to have been a nice enough fellow, don’t care for his movies - but he sold the team to Disney in the mid-1990s. This is a corporation that makes George Steinbrenner look like Mother Theresa. And for all the talk about financial inequality in baseball and the Yankees’ insane spending – a legitimate issue, I freely admit – if the execs at Disney cared even half as much about winning as our lovable psychopath Boss, the Angels’ salary could easily have been, oh, say $750 million.

Disney sold the team in 2003 to Arte Moreno, a self-made billionaire Vietnam vet and the first Hispanic owner in the majors. I like some of what I’ve read about him so far (e.g. lowering ticket prices and declining to sell the stadium’s sponsorship rights), but his team still has The Mouse’s prints all over it. I give you, for example, the fake-rock fountains in the outfield. Look, I grew up in New Jersey, and I know tacky when I see it. This isn’t the good, fun kind of tacky either; this is generic, soulless, lazy tacky. (If you want a baseball example of fun tacky, I give you “the Baggie,” the apparent garbage bags lining the outfield wall of the Twins’ Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Is this an attractive look? No. Is it classy? Probably not. But it has character.)

That I hate the rally monkey with a fiery passion should probably go without saying; I’m not even going to dignify that cutesy little cocksucking fleabag with a response. Most of all, though, I hate the Thunder Stix. Seriously – if you need ugly inflated plastic devices to artifically create enough noise to cheer for your team, you are not a baseball fan. Go ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: you'll love it. Take the monkey. Everybody wins.

But, really, you might ask - more than the Red Sox? Well, you know how in roughly 70% of all movies ever made, the hero and the villain have a big confrontation, and realize that they actually have a lot in common? It’s like that. “We are not so different, you and I!” say the Sox, as they dangle the Yankees over a tank of man-eating sharks. Boston and New York are two proud old baseball cities that place a lot of value, perhaps too much, on tradition; spend lots of money; boast rabid, unhealthily dedicated fans with sometimes delusional expectations; and host shrieking media outlets that fan random little sparks of stories into raging wildfires at every opportunity. There’s a grudging mutual respect there, mixed in with the blind hatred, as there is with all the best sports rivalries (and supervillians). I guess what I’m saying is that under other circumstances… if things had been different… we might even have been friends.

Say what you want about Fenway, but I’m confident you won’t see many Thunder Stix there any time soon.

August 10, 2006

I Bet Tadahito Iguchi Believes in Dinosaurs

Two nights ago, I watched the the Yanks' classic and then suddenly terrifying game from a bar on 14th street that, interestingly, combined a medieval motif with a beer pong table (a better idea than you think... kind of). I missed last night's game altogether and tonight's is looking unlikely too; as my father would (and probably will) say, where are my priorities? Well, this is what happens when you have close friends in town who selfishly think that, just because you only get to see them twice a year, you're supposed to miss late-season baseball games just to hang out with them. The nerve.

Watching Wednesday's game, it struck me just how profoundly unlikeable Randy Johnson really is - to the extent that, though I obviously wanted him to hold the lead, I really didn't care whether his no-hitter was broken up or not. By contrast, we have David Wells' perfect game and, even moreso, David Cone's, which I still find stressful to watch even now, though the outcome of each at bat isn't exactly in question. I was also reminded of Mike Mussina's heartbreaking gem in 2001, against the Red Sox, in which he took a perfect game into the 9th inning with two outs and two strikes before Carl "the Bible never says anything about dinosaurs" Everett, of all fucking people, got a clean hit. I'm still bitter, and honestly, if I were Mussina I probably would have had Everett killed. The point is that while massively talented and therefore interesting to watch, the Big Unit truly seems to be an enormous prick (pun unavoidable), and I'll be glad when he's off the team. I of course reserve the right to backtrack on this later if he starts pitching better.

Meanwhile, tempting though it may be, I don't want to make too much of the Red Sox's sweep at the hands of the always-intimidating Kansas City Royals; the same thing happened to the Yanks last summer, after all. The Red Sox, like last year's Yankee team, are flawed, but they're a lot better than they've been playing the last few weeks, and I imagine it's only a matter of time before they snap out of it.

Now, when I get home tonight and turn on Yankees encore, I want to see that insipid rally monky being torn limb from limb.

August 07, 2006

Michael Kay: Genius

I’m not a superstitious person in most areas of my life, opening umbrellas indoors with impunity and walking under ladders at every opportunity – but I do have that streak in me when it comes to sports. I’m always afraid I’ll jinx a good thing, which is why, if the Yankees are ahead by 12 runs in the 9th inning, playing the Kansas City Royals, with 2 out and two strikes and Mariano Rivera on the mound, I will still generally avoid saying anything stronger than, “well, it certainly looks as if the Yankees have a good chance of winning this game.”

I’m not so COMPLETELY insane, however, as to actually believe any of this matters, and I certainly would never get mad when someone else says something, um, jinxish (new word!). So I understand why Yankees’ announcer Michael Kay would be frustrated when idiots started calling up his radio show, bitching and yelling because he “jinxed” Chien-Ming Wang during a potential perfect game. But, that said… justifying his breach of “baseball etiquette” by blaming “etiquette” for 1) slavery and 2) the Holocaust? Insensitive, yeah, sure, but mostly, just staggeringly stupid. I’m surprised the New York media hasn’t been all over him on this (aren’t they run by the Jews?); I only saw it mentioned at Fire Joe Morgan, where you can listen to the clip if, like me, you can't quite believe Kay could actually be that dumb. I guess in this case it’s actually a blessing that no one much listens to his show. Also: thank Christ Bobby Murcer doesn’t have a call-in talk show. “We’ll be back to discuss why leadoff walks are worse than Al Qaeda, right after these messages! Don't go away.”

Anyway. The Yanks have a tough stretch coming up, playing the White Sox and the Angels (who I’ve come to loathe more than any other team in either league – more on that later in the week), followed by a slight break at Camden Yards before Baseball Armageddon: five games in four days at Fenway Park. The Sox are playing Kansas City and Baltimore next, so I’d expect them to make up some ground before the rain of locusts begins. Note to self: cancel all appointments that week.

And speaking of the Red Sox, they now have someone named Corky playing for them. After, off the top of my head, Willy Mo, Coco, and Kason -- say what you want about that team but they’ve certainly had some great names on the roster this year.

August 04, 2006

Alas, Poor Bubba! I Knew Him, Melky...

... a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fielding skills. Yes, Bubba Crosby was designated for assignment today to make room for a 12th pitcher, Jose Veras. I feel bad for the guy. God knows he couldn’t hit, but he made some sweet plays, seemed like a nice person, and provided great tabloid headline fodder... “Hubba Bubba” and “Bubba-licious” come to mind. I would have sent down Andy Phillips or Nick Green first -- every team should have one scrappy little fast guy who can’t hit (two words: Dave Roberts*).

Corey Lidle had a terrific Yankees debut yesterday. I was getting pretty excited about that, before a helpful Mets fan at work pointed out that Sir Sidney Ponson’s debut a few weeks ago was pretty excellent too, as was Al Leiter’s last year. Okay, okay: small sample size.

Meanwhile, Derek Jeter is hitting .352. If he keeps this up, I hope he releases a new cologne every year. Also, I’m SO buying that for someone as a joke this Christmas.

*Okay, so I just looked it up and Roberts isn't really that bad a hitter. But I won't remember him for his batting, that's for sure.

August 02, 2006

So, A-Rod Is Kind Of An Underdog Now... Right?

First of all: in February, when I start bitching about how cold I am when it’s 7 degrees outside? Remind me about today, and tell me to shut the hell up.

You’ve got to be impressed by Brian Cashman, who got two decent players (Lidle, Wilson) and one excellent one (Abreu) for, basically, a song. Not a good song, either; maybe a Jessica Simpson single. As Cliff Corcoran over at Bronx Banter put it: If Brian Cashman had a number I’d buy his jersey. Still, as good as these trades seem, I can’t help feeling it’s all a little bittersweet: I’ve gotten kind of attached to the scrappy, half-AAA lineups the Yankees have been running out there the last few months. While I would never, EVER say while sober that Aaron Guiel, Bubba Crosby, Andy Phillips, Nick Green, Miguel Cairo or even Melky should play over Abreu or, if or when they return, Cano, Sheffield, or Matsui, there’s something very satisfying about winning with a lineup that, in theory, shouldn’t have a prayer. Even Yankees fans like to root for the underdog (hence the otherwise inexplicable popularity of Bubba Crosby), but we rarely have the chance.

That said, there’s nothing at all satisfying about missing out on the playoffs by a couple of games that might have been won with a few better at-bats. And so things are looking up. The Yankees are in a tie for first place in the AL East (and would be ahead by a game or two if the Indians, who’ve been playing the Red Sox, had something in their bullpen that remotely resembled a professional pitcher). Chien-Ming Wang looked absolutely amazing tonight, again. Posada’s been saying all season that Wang has the best stuff of anyone on the Yankees staff, and after the last few weeks, I’m ready to believe it. Alex Rodriguez is back. Bobby Abreu is, so far, as patient as advertised. Craig Wilson--not a handsome man, but versatile!—had two hits.

Yeah…. You know what? I guess it really isn’t all that bittersweet.