December 27, 2007

Take Mike Pelfrey -- Please!

So there's no real news on the Johan Santana front. But I just wanted to go on record as saying that if I were running either New York team, I'd give the Twins what they reportedly want these days. I would also give away front-row seats, send a little person up to bat, hire players based on their names, and be fired within days, but that's neither here nor there.

From the Yankees, that would mean Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera, Jeff Marquez, and some other unnamed guy who isn't Ian Kennedy. I'm not down on Phil Hughes at all, I think he's eventually going to be excellent... but as good as Johan Santana? Almost no one is. Most of the sharper Yankee fans I know want the team to keep Hughes, and I can see the logic (it's certainly vastly more cost-effective), and I'll enjoy watching him pitch if they do. But it's Johan Sanata!

Of course, as you know if you've read this blog for even a few weeks, I have an only semi-rational fixation on the guy, so I may well be wrong here. I just thought I should get these thoughts in writing, so that years from now, either:

A) When Phil Hughes blows out his elbow while resisting arrest on charges of dogfighting and perjury, I can link back to this post and crow about how right I was; or

B) When Johan Santana blows out his elbow while resisting arrest on charges of dogfighting and perjury, you can link back to this post and crow about what a moron I am. Fair's fair.

The truth is, though, I would much rather see Santana land with the Mets. They need him more right now, and watching him in his prime against the bottom of the National League batting orders would be simultaneously beautiful and terrifying. Also, nothing would get the taste of the last few weeks of the Mets' season out of everyone's mouths faster. Yes, they may have to "rip up their farm system" to get the guy... but I mean, their farm system's not that great these days anyway.

I think one reason I'm fascinated by Santana is that I know so little about him, which is what happens when relatively quiet people play for teams in the middle of the country. I don't get to see a lot of interviews or quotes from the guy, which means it's easy to make him into something of an ideal figure. (Plus I used to read a lot of Bat Girl; she referred to him simply as El Presidente).

The only off-field Santana antic I can remember made me like him even more -- it happened this past summer, when the Twins came to Shea. Minnesota broadcaster Bert Blyleven bet Santana he couldn't throw a complete game shutout (note to Blyleven: this works much better with Sidney Ponson); it turned out Santana could, and indeed did, so Blyleven had to let him shave his head:

I think the best part of all this is that while pitching his complete game shutout, Johan Santana was apparently thinking about how he would get to shave Bert Blyleven's head.

I say trade every minor leaguer that isn't nailed down.

December 24, 2007

Eephus Pitch Would Like To Wish...

... a Merry Christmas to you and yours, from 1978 Mets manager Joe Torre!:

(Awesome/vaguely disturbing photo from the Daily News archives, by Anthony Casale).

Tomorrow I look forward to Chinese food, not one but two movies, and absolutely no discussion whatsoever of the Mitchell Report.

December 19, 2007

Let's See Him Break The HR Record From INSIDE 2,000 GALLONS OF WATER!

Only A-Rod would hire, to "help him have more control of his image and brand”, the guy who represents Madonna and David Blaine.


December 16, 2007

Baseball Player Name of the Week

Slim Love, of Love, Mississippi, who played for the 1916-1918 Yankees. I'd hoped he was obese, but no, Slim was a Randy Johnsonish 6'7" beanpole of a pitcher:

Bonus points for having been traded for such well-named players as Chick Shorten and Ossie Vitt.

Love also played for the Senators and the Tigers, gave up Babe Ruth's 42nd career home run, and according to Wikipedia, embarked on a career as a Navy Yard steamfitter when his playing days were over. I have no idea what a steamfitter is, but it sounds badass.

As an aside, if you were wondering what a town called Love in Mississippi might be like, it's hard to say, because Love is listed as "extinct" (har!).

December 15, 2007

There's No Hope With Dope

As is the case with almost all tragedies, this entire steroids mess could have been avoided if more baseball players had only watched Saved By The Bell:

Amen, Brandon Tartikoff.

Meanwhile, this is off-topic, but I'd just like to point out that in the last few weeks, it seems three separate internet users have found this blog by Googling "fairy raped," for which Eephus Pitch is currently the seventh result listed. Needless to say, I have never been prouder.

December 13, 2007

A Nation Shrugs

Say it ain't so, Glenallen!

Mitchell Mania is upon us, and Roger Clemens is the big name, but I don't think many baseball fans were shocked by that one. This is what I wrote when he rejoined the Yankees back in May:
"Or maybe, though I hate to bring it up today, it'll come out that he took steroids. There's no hard evidence, but the rumors have swirled for a while, and anyone with that kind of late-career surge has to make you wonder. Clemens also has that "my actual skull has expanded over the years" sort of look to him, plus roid rage (and little else) could explain the Mike Piazza-thrown bat debacle. But you know what? I'm going to ignore that for the moment, and hope there's no fire underneath all the smoke. Or that he never gets caught. Whichever."
Oh well. Clemens is denying it -- vehemently! -- but I don't think there's much doubt at this point. And if you argued that Barry Bonds should get an asterisk and be barred from the Hall of Fame, you'd damn well better argue the same about Clemens, or else all Bonds' ranting about a racist double standard will look a lot less like ranting.

The rest of the report, though, is largely useless, just because it's so clearly (and admittedly) incomplete. This can only be a fraction of the players who used PEDs, since Mitchell leaned so incredibly heavily on one source, Radomski, for so much of his information. We still don't know the whole truth, and we never will; time to work on better drug tests and move the hell on.

But, before we do that: While there are, by my quick and probably incomplete count, 15 players in the report who were on the Yankees at one time or another (I've got 10 Mets, but I might be missing some -- I don't recognize a few of these names), there's not one single mention in here of Brian Cashman or Steinbrenner (or Minaya or Phillips or Wilpon).

How could the front office have been unaware of what was going on, when at LEAST five players** on the 2000 Yankees --the World Champion Yankees -- may well have been juicing? And if they were aware, what, if anything, did they do about it? McNamee, the trainer who says he injected Clemens, was hired by the Yankees at Roger’s request, but dismissed after 2001. Why? Because they realized he was distributing PEDs? That’s just speculation of course, but it’s a natural question, and Mitchell doesn’t seem to have asked it.

The one front office guy who comes out looking truly awful is Giants GM Brian Sabean, and if the Giants have a modicum of integrity left -- unlikely, at this point -- they'll fire him immediately. It's one thing to look the other way while Bonds took steroids. But Sabean apparently heard as far back as 2002 that Bonds' personal trainer, who was allowed in restricted clubhouse areas against the advice of the Giants' own training staff, was getting other players on the team interested in steroids and probably distributing them. And Sabean did absolutely nothing about it (pgs 121-125). Staggeringly spineless and uninspiring leadership there, from the man who once signed Armando Benitez to a three-year, $21 million contract.

Anyway, it will be sort of morbidly interesting to watch the fallout from this, but outside of the Clemens confirmation, I don't think it changes much in the long run.

The day's other interesting story was Alex Rodriguez's conference call officially announcing his new $275 million contract: he said Scott Boras convinced him to opt out by telling him that the Yankees had no interest in keeping him. Can that really be true? Is Boras even creepier and more manipulative than we all assumed? Or is Rodriguez just trying to look like the good guy in all this? Does anybody still care? Tune in next time...

**Note: I'm not counting Pettitte because there's no indication here that he took anything before or after 2002; and David Justice, Mike Stanton, and Chuck Knoblauch are all described in the report as starting their (Radomski-related) PED use after the 2000 World Series. But if you're not inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt -- and I would certainly understand if Mets fans felt that way -- you could make it nine. I've still got: Hill, Canseco, Neagle, Clemens, Grimsley.

December 11, 2007

How Long Have I Been Asleep?

Well, I'm back. And I've decided not to explain my absence at all, in a blatant and no doubt futile attempt to seem mysterious. Though I will just say that the persistent rumors of my role in the Johan Santana negotiations, while flattering, are completely unfounded... really, how on earth do these things get started?

Anyway, many things have happened in the last few weeks, and while all of this news is now not only old but in fact decrepit and being gnawed on by its own cats, I thought I'd do a very, very quick rundown of recent (ahem!) events, just to catch up.

Torre to the Dodgers: When the season ended, I felt a major pang over losing Joe Torre -- genuine pathos. I'd watched him grimace at middle relievers for 12 years, and I assumed that no matter how the Yankees fared without him, I'd miss him for seasons to come.

But you know what? I'm pretty much over it already. Go figure.

Slightly off-topic: I can't believe they voted Walter O'Malley into the Hall of Fame without a fight. That man is the embodiment of valuing greed and business and calculation over loyalty and individuality and emotion -- which I realize is a major part of any corporate entity, certainly including baseball, and I've generally made my peace with that, but do we really have to go and honor it?

Rivera, Posada, and Pettitte re-up: I like this now, but I know I won't like it in three years, and yet I am apparently unable to truly think that far ahead, so: yay!

A-Rod: Totally torn between feeling privileged that I'll get to watch Rodriguez make history firsthand, and being so fucking tired of talking about this guy already.

Johan Santana: Man, I was so psyched about the idea of Santana in New York -- I don't care which team, I've always said, as long as I can watch the man pitch every fifth day -- but then it was all talk, talk, talk, and no action, and unfulfilled excitement, like the Winter Meetings had been replaced by a 1960s Antonioni movie. I freely admit that I'm not really rational about Santana; if I were a man, you'd call it a man-crush, a blind, fierce, platonic devotion. I can see that trading Jose Reyes or Phil Hughes as part of a package for Santana is maybe not a rational move, and in fact I love both those players, but I just don't care -- my god, that changeup...

Snapping out of it and moving on, some highlights from the last few weeks:

Best Name Picked Up In The Rule V Draft: Callix S. Crabbe, 2B, and it wasn't close. Congratulations to the San Diego Padres.

Healthiest Way to Look at the Mets Offseason: While most of the Amazins fans I’ve talked to are disappointed with the Mets’ tepid moves so far, it’s become clear that it all feels much better if you just apply the Guillermo Mota Standard (GMS) to all incoming players. This began, of course, with Johnny Estrada, a mediocre catcher who nevertheless has the clear and much-lauded advantage of not being Guillermo Mota, for whom he was traded. But it works with other players, too. Lastings Milledge for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider!?!? Well, think of it this way: neither of those guys is Guillermo Mota, am I right? Doesn’t seem like such a bad trade now, does it?

Most Depressing Management Quote of the Fall: From the Orioles, of course. Just beating out Hammerin' Hank Steinbrenner's declaration that Jennifer Love Hewitt is his favorite actress, it's Baltimore President Andy MacPhail, as quoted in the Boston Globe (via Baseball Prospectus): "When the Egyptians were building the pyramids, they didn't think about what they had to build, they just carried the rocks up. I think that's what we have to do."

This explains so much. Never mind that I'm pretty sure the ancient Egyptians actually did put a fair amount of thought into creating structures that constitute, in context, some of the greatest engineering feats of all time; more to the point, I believe the Baltimore fans of my acquaintance -- those who are not yet institutionalized and heavily medicated -- would be very intrigued by Mr. MacPhail's view that the problem with Orioles management is that they've been thinking too much. Turns out we've been looking at this thing backwards all along!

Sorry, Balmer. At least The Wire will be back soon.

October 22, 2007

How Many Yankee Executives Does It Take To Screw In A Lightbulb?

So it's the end of the Joe Torre Era and, essentially, the end of the George Steinbrenner Era... and the new Yankee brain trust just took 10 days to massively botch their first major decision. Not a good sign, people.

I should've jumped into this fray earlier, because by now you're sick of reading about it, but in short: I can understand the desire to bring in a new manager; my only real issue with it, sentimentality aside, is that I'm not sure there's a better candidate than Joe Torre available right now. But like most Yankee fans, I think, I'll hear you out if you want to argue that it's time for a change. The way they went about it, however, could hardly have been more inept -- "they" here referring to a vague oligarchy that includes the two Steinbrenner sons, one son-in-law, Brian Cashman, COO Lonn Trost (great name), and last but not least Randy Levine, who managed the tricky feat of going from virtually unknown among average Yankee fans to universally despised in the span of just 48 hours.

The only bright thing to come out of this mess is that it led to a flock of reporters racing around Tampa in search of the Yankee meetings, and then settling in for a completely fruitless stakeout, which led to a number of amusing articles and an absolutely classic hour-by-hour live blog on

2 p.m.: Meetings and smoke breaks

The meetings continue. Every 40 to 60 minutes, Hank Steinbrenner (the older son and the one more involved in baseball decisions) takes a smoke break on the concrete open-air stairwell outside George Steinbrenner's office on the south end of the fourth floor of Legends Field.

For his last break, at about 1:40 p.m., Hank was accompanied by brother-in-law Felix Lopez.

3 p.m.: Grounds gets attention

As the meeting continue (as far as I can tell) in the Legends Field offices, a grounds crew attends to the half-field just outside the stadium.

The field is used for pickoff drills, pitchers' fielding practice and perhaps bunt work. So there seems no way it will be used until mid-February. But the workers are cutting the grass and watering the dirt as if a game will be played there tonight.

4 p.m.: Meetings may be over

There is some activity here that leads one to believe the meeting is breaking up soon...

Sports writing is a glamorous business, and never let anyone tell you different! Anyway, live updates aside, the situation was a total mess, leaving Torre and the fans ticked off and the Yankee ownership-by-committee looking self-serving, indecisive, two-faced, and scared.

As usual, it's not the underhanded shenanigans that bother me, but their clumsiness in executing same -- I enjoy a good Machiavellian power play as much as anyone, it just pisses me off when people don't take the time to disguise it intelligently. Randy Levine: "We were all stunned and remain stunned that he turned the deal down." Literally, and I am not making this up, my superintendent's 12-year-old grandson immediately knew that this was bullshit. Now granted he's a bright kid, but come on -- if you can't lie any better than that, how the hell did you ever manage to climb the corporate ladder in the first place?

I can already feel the nostalgia coming on, yet I've never been a George Steinbrenner fan -- the yelling and irrational firings, the compulsive trades, the illegal contributions to the Nixon campaign... he put money into the team and he wanted to win as badly as any fan, and I admire that, but didn't like a lot of what came with it. Still, he was his own guy: he did what he wanted, and he didn't give a rat's ass if anyone else liked it, which they usually didn't. I don't want to romanticize him too much, because he's hardly a hero, but at least his particular brand of sinister wasn't bland or sneaky or bureaucratic. These new guys will slowly bleed you dry with a thousand tiny paper cuts; Steinbrenner ripped out your spine with his bare hands and beat you to death with it. In retrospect, I have to respect that.

I'll have more soon on Sox/Rox. And by the way, has anyone heard from the Mets recently? It's awfully quiet over there.... think we should we send someone over to check on them?

October 16, 2007

You Heard It Here First...

...every member of the Colorado Rockies is on steroids. That's right, I'm calling it. Just brace yourself now, so you won't be disappointed when the Mitchell Report comes out.

Colorado semi-won me over in this series, if only because their fanbase seemed so much more committed than Arizona's (if you can't sell out a ballpark during the playoffs, you really don't deserve to win). They've been really fun to watch on the field, though personality-wise, I still don't have a very good grip on the team. Question: is it possible to still qualify as an underdog when you've won 21 of your last 22 games?

And: kudos to the Coors Field fan with the "SNAKES ON A PLANE" sign. Nicely done.

I'll give TBS credit, because their analysis really improved as the playoffs went on -- Ernie Johnson eventually got Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn to loosen up a bit, and they added Ron Darling, who as you probably know if you've been reading this site for any length of time, I love. (SNY's broadcast trio is great in general, but Darling is the glue that holds Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez together, and prevents either of them from getting too schticky).

That said, it's thanks to TBS that in the last month I've gained a roiling hatred for three people of whose existence, until a few weeks ago, I was only vaguely aware: Chip Caray, that guy Frank in the Frank TV ads, and Dane Cook. It's a blessing the Rockies swept (and you know they think so too!).

I'll leave you for the moment with a hilarious Dan Cook quote, apologizing in advance lest you laugh too hard and possibly injure yourself or disturb your coworkers:
I went over to the mall, I had to park nearby in the parking structure. You know when you park you the parking structure go on up and it's like 40 stories and you always to park up on the fuckin' roof. What do they pave that with, what is that, not concrete. Whatever that's paved with you could be driving five miles an hour it sounds like your in a chase scene from Chips like errrrrrrrrgggghhhhhhh! I'm backing up! Errrrrrrrrgggghhhhhhh! What the fuck is that!
Amen, brother.

October 11, 2007

By Golly!

Well, I'm back from my extremely brief Newsday hiatus -- thanks, Yankees! FIRE EVERYONE* -- and I need some help. Am I supposed to root for the Diamondbacks or the Rockies now?

I'm still holding a grudge against Arizona from '01, but there's not really anyone left now from that team, except the resentful ghost of The Big Unit. And I like Orlando Hudson, but he's injured. At the same time, the Rockies creep me out a bit with their super-Christianity (though I have to say, they've done a good job of keeping it publicly low-key this season). Todd Helton, after they won the Division Series, was interviewed on the field and actually said: "By golly, we did it." By golly!

Meanwhile, Arizona fans may not have actually sold out their playoff game, but they have mastered the art of throwing so much dangerous trash onto the field to protest an interference call that play has to be delayed. I'm not going to get on my high horse here, because New York fans have certainly been known to toss the odd object onto the diamond... I was at Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS at Yankee Stadium, and they ended up calling out the riot police for that one; Shea fans famously came close to taking out Pete Rose with a hurled whiskey bottle in '73. And it's a minor miracle that John Rocker ever made it out of that bullpen alive.

Anyway, there are dozens of choices for the Mets and Yanks to make over the next few weeks, so there'll be a lot to talk about. I once again feel compelled to say that while I realize Bobby Valentine as the next Yankees manager would be a disaster... god, what a gift it would be for bloggers. On a personal level I'd like to see Joe Torre back; intellectually I think it may be time for a change for the sake of change; professionally, I've got my fingers crossed for the current manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines. I've become fairly obsessed with his blog and more determined than ever to procure a Bobby V brand Worldwide Ballers jersey.

Coming up tomorrow (or maybe Saturday): my incomplete list of the Best Joe Torre-isms.

*Kidding. Mostly.

October 02, 2007

When October Goes

Hey everybody -- just want to let you know that I've got a blog up at today, Spanning the Playoffs (I know, I know). I'll be writing there about the Yankees, for however long they're in this thing; so please stop by, laugh at my hair in that photo, and comment if you feel moved to do so.

In the meantime, I'll try to keep writing here about the Mets and other baseball news once in a while. (And I've got an article in this week's New York Press about their last stand).

Everything but Yankees-Indians gets underway tonight. On... TBS. This should be interesting.

October 01, 2007

Things Fall Apart

Sorry for the delay in getting around to Sunday's cataclysm at Shea. I was writing about it for tomorrow's New York Press, and I needed to sort out my thoughts for that first. When the game ended I was actually at a loss for words -- longtime readers will know this is not common -- and while that didn't last long, it's still hard to make sense of the whole mess: there were 20 different quite practical reasons for it, and yet on some level it really defied logical explanation. Yes, it was the pitching, first and foremost, and there was a lack of hustle at times, and a number of key hitters underperformed... all of that is true. But, man: the baseball gods were angry.

I also think this bumps the Mets fanbase up from sort of middle-of-the-road suffering to seriously put-upon. Seeing all those heartbroken kids at Shea was just wrenching... I mean, the Yankees sucked when I was growing up, but they never did anything like that to me.

It's amazing (har!) that one terrible game could totally wipe out all the good things Tom Glavine did for the Mets in his time in New York, but that's what just happened. I have to assume he'll be back pitching next year -- because how do you leave a 20-year Hall of Fame career like that? But not with the Mets, he won't be. I hate to say it, but he really hurt himself with his calm, composed postgame comments; what he said was fair, but if the fans were ever going to even think about forgiving him they needed to see some real emotion there. Meanwhile, ESPN has a rumor (Insider only) suggesting Glavine might sign with the Nationals next season, which, god, would just be depressing on every conceivable level.

I have to say, while Mets fans have the right to be just as freaked out, crazed and irrational as they need to be right now, the maelstrom of blame is getting out of hand. There are many very legitimate complaints to be made about Minaya, Randolph, Reyes, Glavine, El Duque's bunion et al, but does anyone really believe that the Mets collapsed because Reyes was out on the town too late with Luis Castillo? Come on now.

Meanwhile Scott Schoeneweis of all people has been accused of ordering steroids three years ago -- altogether now Mets fans: "why did he stop?!" -- though he denies it; and Billy Wagner complained to New York Magazine about Willie Randolph and Rick Peterson's bullpen management, though he has since apologized and claims that his remarks out of context. Good times. (By the way, that NY Mag article is generally well-written and I don't mean to nit-pick -- okay, fine, yes I do -- but how do you refer to Ian Kennedy as "fireballing"?).

Omar Minaya was on Mike and the Mad Dog this afternoon-- they were pretty hard on him, but fair for the most part. Minaya didn't say anything especially shocking (except that, it sounds like, he really was considering firing Randolph for a little while there); he was careful to be politic, but he also owned up to some of the team's problems. MetsBlog has a good recap of what was said. Anyway, it was an extremely interesting and emotional interview; then Bud Selig came on the show and I... he talked a lot about... it was... zzzzzzzZZZZZZzzzzzz...

Yes, leave it to the Commish to valiantly step in and soothe the pain of agonized Mets fans by lulling them into a gentle, healing sleep. Anyway, two words for the Mets front office this winter: Johan Santana. Give the Twins whatever the hell they want, and do it with a smile.

September 27, 2007

Champagne Supernova

It's been an exhausting week for both New York teams, but, uh... well, different results. Mets fans, I really recommend you skip the following section of this post -- all the blue text -- and resume reading farther down. I'll have more for you tomorrow, from Shea Stadium in fact... the Happiest Place on Earth.


First, I have a recap of last night's Wild Card-clinching game up on Bronx Banter. I've gotta say, I'm a real sucker for these locker room celebrations, even when it's a team I have no particular attachment to; it's just so rare to see that many adults so purely happy. A few thoughts that didn't fit in the recap:

-A commenter at the Banter the other day pointed out that Joba Chamberlain's ERA+ is now 1042. Not a typo. 1042. For those of you not sabermetrically inclined, all you need to know is that "ERA+" basically measures how good a pitcher is compared to the rest of his league, and anything over *100* is above average; for context, Mariano Rivera, almost certainly the best reliever in the game over the last 12 years overall, has a lifetime ERA+ of 196. That's awesome, 196. Joba Chamberlain's is 1042.

Now obviously, over time, Chamberlain's numbers will become less incomprehensibly superhuman; doing something for six weeks and doing something for 12 years are two very different things. Nevertheless: that's insane.

Chamberlain earned his first save a few nights ago, as Mariano Rivera was being rested, and it occurs to me that one unintended consequence of Joba Mania is that it actually gives the Yankees a little leverage in their upcoming contract negotiations with Rivera. Back in July, it seemed like they'd have no choice but to give him whatever he wanted, because who on earth would they replace him with? But now, if Rivera does leave (granted, that's highly unlikely), the Yankees have another option for really the first time since 1995.

That said, I can only imagine that letting Mariano Rivera go would result in a hideous boomerang of negative karma so severe that Red Sox fans would be mockingly chanting "2000!" from their 23rd century space bleachers. If you're the Yankees, you just have to pay the guy. But: possibly not quite as much as you thought you would.


Welcome back Mets fans, it's safe now. In other news:

--The police have busted an international steroid ring (again, some more). So who's getting exposed this time? Barack Obama? Cardinal Egan? Maddox Jolie-Pitt? Surprise me.

By the way, you have to love government code names -- this was Operation Raw Deal. Once again I'm reminded that I really need to start giving more things in my life code names.

--Anthony Rieber reveals his plan for world domination in his latest Newsday mailbag. That's not a bad idea about eliminating the leagues, and making divisions all about geography; but, as MLB moves towards change with all the momentum of a three-legged tree sloth on Oxycontin... well, maybe your grandkids will enjoy the new setup one day.

--The Mets... what can you really say at this point? What can they say? I asked some of my Mets fan friends what they'd like to ask the team right now and I got several responses, none of them practical:

1) "What the hell? That's it, just: what the hell?"
2) "Why do you hate me?"
3) "Little Timmy needs a new heart. Little Timmy is very sick. Little
Timmy is a Mets fan. Will you go out there and win one for Little

What I still don't understand is why they couldn't have at least tried to bribe the Nationals, you know? Would that have been so hard? The team just invested a big chunk of capital in Dmitri "Da Meat Hook" Young, so it's not like they couldn't use the cash, and what's another loss or two to them at this point in the season? I trust the Mets will at least give this a shot when facing the Marlins this weekend.

September 24, 2007

A Good Plan, Violently Executed Now, Is Better Than a Perfect Plan Next Week

I have said this before, but they keep making me repeat it:

Attention, Tampa Bay Devil Rays. People are not avoiding your team because its name or logo have negative, Satanic connotations. People are avoiding your team because you've never lost fewer than 90 games in a season in your entire miserable existence, you spend less money on your entire team than the Yankees spend on right-handed relief pitchers, and you have become the yardstick by which all other Major League franchises measure failure.

Really good that you removed the "Devil" from your new logo and uniforms, though. You'll be beating 'em off with a stick.

September 21, 2007

Kapparot '07

In honor of Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement, I hereby present some of my more egregious blogging sins of the past year and humbly ask for your forgiveness. For whatever reason, most of my most painfully inaccurate opinions have related to the Yankees this season... I guess because it didn't take a genius to realize that El Duque would be injury-prone (although: arthritis and bunions?!), or that acquiring Ambiorix "Young Dominican Kyle Farnsworth With Elbow Problems" Burgos wasn't such a hot idea.

October 2, 2006: " just can’t be too impressed by a team whose putative ace is Kenny Rogers. The Detroit GM could have asked any New Yorker over the age of, say, 17 about this, and saved himself a lot of trouble and money. And I know there’s no better way to make yourself look like an idiot than to try and predict a short playoff series… so I’m not going to start now, I guess… but, honestly, I will be flat-out stunned if the Tigers beat the Yankees. Anything can happen, sure, of course, but you’ll have to scrape my jaw off the floor with a spatula."

Well, I wasn't totally wrong there, really. I mean, I was flat-out stunned.

November 29, 2006: "I know very little about Igawa... Still, given the choice between Igawa, Ted Lily or Gil Mesh, I’d take a flyer on the Hanshin Tigers ace."

December 6, 2006: "Alternately, perhaps Cashman's just been laughing too hard over Gil Meche's $55 million five year deal to use the telephone coherently."
I'm so sorry, Gil Mesh; I was wrong to treat you that way. And just look at you now; has your ERA lost some weight? Kei seemed so exciting, exotic and new -- but baby, I was a fool.

May 27, 2007: "It's still May, but by now it's pretty safe to say this is just not the Yanks' year... [they're] still much better than their current record, and I'll be shocked if they don't end up well over .500. That, however, seems unlikely to earn them a playoff spot this year... A comeback is still possible, sure. It's also possible that Clive Owen will knock on my door tomorrow night carrying an Al Green CD, a kitten, and a bottle of Glenlivet, but frankly, I'm not loving the odds."
May 28, 2007: "While the Yankees pick through the burned wreckage of their season, looking for anything that might have survived the cataclysm ("look guys, this Chien-Ming Wang is hardly even singed!"), the Mets are just plain rolling... Honestly, everyone could sense the reversals of fortune coming last year... But I certainly didn't think the divergence would be this extreme."

I'm still waiting on Clive, though.

What can I say? I didn't think the Yanks had it in 'em. Whatever happens in the next week, even in the playoffs, coming back to make the AL East a real race is a remarkable turn of events. (Though, by that same token, sucking like such a gaping black hole for the first two months was quite an achievement in itself). I hope fans will be able to properly appreciate it -- even if the Angels once again knock New York out in the Division Series. Or the Indians; am I the only one who's afraid of the Indians? Fausto Carmona is not fucking around this year.
July 31, 2007: "... the Red Sox just made their bullpen even better with the addition of Eric Gagne. The Yankees weren't catching them anyway, frankly, barring massive injury to half the Boston pitching staff; but now they're really not catching them. It's all about the Wild Card..."
I repent.

Now will you please let the Mets win a goddamn series?!?

I Forgot My Mantra

Awkward article in the Times today that tries to compare the Mets' losing streak with other famous New York "collapses". I know it's all in good fun, but leaving aside the fact that Crazy Eddie's jail term for fraud, the end of the disco era, and Jorge Sosa's control problems are what you might generously describe as only tenuously connected, did you really need to get a Harvard psychology professor to tell you that "there is always next season"?

Anyway, I'm sticking to my the-Mets-will-be-fine guns here, but they're sure not making it easy for me. Relief pitchers are funny creatures, aren't they? Sosa was brilliant last night and terrible tonight. Feliciano and Heilman simultaneously dropped from excellent last year to just pretty good. Mota... well, there's a logical explanation for that one, so let's leave him out of it. Joe Smith burned brightly but too fast. This past offseason I thought the Mets were making a huge mistake letting Chad Bradford go, and I still think that may be the case in the long run -- but he's not having a very good year for Baltimore anyway. (Though he has grown an alarming 80's-cop mustache, so at least this season hasn't been a total bust for him).

Seriously, outside of the game's top-tier closers, are there any safe bets in the bullpen from year to year? Is this about small sample size, or is it just because if middle relievers were really reliably good they wouldn't be middle relievers? Or both? I will consult the oracle that is Baseball Prospectus on this subject in the morning.

I admit my confidence is finally a bit shaken now -- it was tonight's loss that did it. The Mets are certainly better than they've shown recently, and better than the Marlins and the Nationals... but what if they just have another week of bad luck, injuries, bullpen meltdowns?

No. It doesn't matter. Repeat after me, the Phillies have the third-worst ERA in the National League. The Phillies have the third-worst ERA in the National League. The Phillies have the third-worst ERA in the National League...

September 20, 2007


A few quick notes:

--I can't believe I just celebrated a game-winning hit from Yadier Molina.

--The Orioles have completely and emphatically packed it in. Come on now, suck it up, fellas -- even Tampa Bay's still playing hard. There were a few exceptions (Brian Roberts, Melvin Mora, pitcher Brian Burres), but if the Yankees do, by some miracle, win the AL East, it will be because they play this hollow shell of a ball club three more times.

--There's a reason no team with a 7-run lead in September has ever lost their division, which is why I don't believe that the Phillies will catch the Mets, or the Yankees will pass the Sox. Still, I'd be lying if I pretended I'm not highly entertained by the ritualistic rending of garments in Boston. I do feel for Terry Francona, who doesn't deserve this level of venom -- have you ever met a serious baseball fan who didn't complain about his manager's bullpen management? Julio Lugo, however, has it coming.

I just came across this story, from last week: "Lugo Has Yen For Japan." Red Sox fans: "Please accept this gift of a one-way economy class ticket, and give Bobby V our regards."

And with that last link, I discovered that through Bobby Valentine's official blog, you can purchase a Bobby Valentine jersey with the erstwhile Mets manager's name on the front and the phrase "WORLDWIDE BALLERS" on the back. Really. Look:

Somebody give me even one good reason why I shouldn't immediately purchase this.

September 19, 2007

Mr. Met's Wild Ride

I have an article on the Mets in this week's New York Press. It was interesting to be back in the press box after so long... I went out on a bit of a limb here, saying the Mets are still the best team in their division and that I don't think the Phillies will catch them. So if they don't get a couple wins soon, I'm going to look a bit silly.

But they will... right? It just might not be tonight. Poor Mike Pelfrey, that's a tough spot to put a rookie in. But let's not forget that this is, after all, the Nationals, who rely on Dimitri Young for the bulk of their offense. And whatever happens tonight, Tom Glavine is the guy you want going tomorrow to restore order.

If you'd told me in May that the Yankees would have a better record and bigger playoff slot lead than the Mets... what an odd season it's been. But, on that note: relax, Sox fans. The Yanks still aren't winning the division, not unless Francona pitches Gagne every night. (Full disclosure: it's not really possible to be more wrong about a trade than I was about that one.)

Meanwhile, via the Banter, the Daily News has a nice, in-depth story on Bernie Williams, who is taking the kids to school, recording an album and waxing nostalgic about the majors. He's his usual classy self and though he admits to very much missing the game, he insists there are no hard feelings. Aw, Bernie. I don't miss watching him trying to play center field over the last three years, but I do miss him. Also, here's something I don't think I knew:

Willie Randolph, an old friend, called and asked if he'd consider playing in Queens, telling him he would love to have him. Williams said thanks, but stayed home.

Huh, wouldn't that have been interesting. You know, back when Alou and Chavez and Green and Gomez and Beltran were all going down with injuries, he could have come in pretty handy. No one wants to see him in Shea's massive center field, but don't tell me he couldn't have played a better left than Damion Easley, or pinch-hit better than Julio Franco.

More soon, now that I'm back in the saddle.

September 08, 2007

Baseball Player Name of the Week

Okay, fine, so maybe I overreacted a bit to the Ankiel story (though I'm still not buying his "it was for medical purposes!" tactic). Joba Chamberlain's father Harlan proved even more effective than kitlers in cheering me up... and in any case, the important thing to remember is, there are still beautiful, natural names in this game. Names like this week's winner:

Ossee Schreckengost.

Ossee had a lifetime on-base percentage of .297 and no power, so I'm assuming he was a really, really good defensive catcher. He's best known for insisting that roommate Rube Waddell's* contract be changed to include a provision prohibiting him from eating crackers in bed.

I often wish players were still required to have roommates on the road... we're missing out on some funny stories, and possibly a few highly entertaining arrest reports.

NOTW Runner up: Brewers infielder Hernan Iribarren.

*Waddell, an alcoholic who occasionally left his team's games to chase fire trucks, could be distracted by children's toys while on the mound, and wrestled alligators during the offseason, deserves his own post. As Bill James once wrote, he "would have been as great a pitcher as Walter Johnson if only he had the sense God gave a rabbit."

September 07, 2007

Also, Santa Claus Raped the Tooth Fairy While the Easter Bunny Watched and Laughed

You know, just when you think you're already disillusioned, that you can't really be unpleasantly surprised any more by the actions of public figures, let alone professional athletes... the world finds a way to prove you wrong.

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel, who punctuated a storybook comeback from pitching woes by homering twice with 7 RBIs Thursday, joined the list of athletes linked to a Florida-based steroids investigation.

The New York Daily News reported Friday that Ankiel received a 12-month supply of human growth hormone in 2004 from a Florida pharmacy that was part of a national illegal prescription drug-distribution operation, citing records its reporters saw.

I should point out here that this story only alleges that Ankiel received HGH before 2005, which is when MLB officially, belatedly banned it, and that means it might have absolutely nothing to do with his current comeback. And you know what? That comeback is still remarkable, no matter what he might have taken. Nevertheless, once again I'm forced to remind myself that if a story seems too good to be true, that probably just means there's something going on that I don't know about.

To summarize:

  • Athletes that are not abusing animals or drinking and driving are either using performance enhancing drugs, beating their wives, cheating on their taxes, or dumb as a sack of nails.
  • Your elected representative is sleeping with either a hooker (Democrat) or underage male congressional page (Republican) while accepting thinly-disguised bribes.
  • According to polls your significant other likely has cheated, is cheating, or will eventually cheat on you.
  • Your dog only loves you because you feed it.

Have a great weekend!

Okay, okay. In other, less cynicism-inducing news (unless you're a fan of a small-market team, anyway), the Yankees won two of three from the Mariners and now lead the Wild Card by three games. That's not nothing, though whether it will be enough to survive a pitching rotation that includes two 21-year-old rookies and the remains of either an injured Roger Clemens or a free-falling Mike Mussina is still unclear. Personally, I think they're going to the playoffs; although a Yankee-hating friend of mine did paint a terrifyingly realistic portrait for me earlier today of a scenario in which they go through a 2-3 stretch, while Detroit wins five in a row, and are then eliminated from contention over the season's last three days by the Baltimore Orioles. Shudder.

Having swept the Braves over the past weekend, the Mets are in better shape, even though they did just blatantly doze through that last game against Cincinnati. They can afford to do that now, though -- all season the Mets' critics have said "oh, they think they can just turn it on whenever they have to"; but all season, the Mets have been able to turn it on whenever they had to. More power to 'em.

I feel bad about my earlier negativity and I'd like to leave this post on a more upbeat note, so please follow this link.

Or this one.

August 31, 2007

What Kind of Wine Has Tim McGraw Been Drinking?

I don't really have time now to talk about the Yanks game in detail, but there is no shortage of discussion going on elsewhere. I can't decide: was Joba Chamberlain throwing at Kevin Youkilis? I hope not, because it’s too dangerous at that height -- plunk the guy in the thigh if you really feel you must, but don’t risk missing up by his head, not when you throw that hard -- and, unless something happened during this game that's not public knowledge, it was pretty much unprovoked. (Yes, A-Rod got plunked Tuesday, but Clemens then hit Pedroia Wednesday, so that should be that.) It's very odd to totally lose control of two pitches in the same spot like that; at least, I can’t remember seeing it happen quite like that before.

On the other hand, Chamberlain’s demeanor suggested it was an accident -- he looked really confused and surprised and kind of awkward when he got tossed from the game, and in his interviews afterwards seemed genuinely worried that people would get the wrong idea. So, in sum: I have no idea what the hell happened there.

Either way, though, I can understand why the Sox were pissed, because even if it wasn't on purpose it was a bit too close for comfort. (I know, it wasn't that close, but if someone fired a 98 mph fastball eight inches or nine inches away from my head, I think it would feel pretty damn close to me).

Also, while I continue to be massively impressed by Chamberlain’s pitching, at least when he’s not trying to crush opponents’ skulls, I have to say I’m extremely disappointed in his choice of entrance music. “Indian Outlaw” by Tim McGraw? Seriously? Joba, you are way too cool for this nightmare of a song. Sample lyrics:

“All my friends call me Bear Claw
The village chieftain is my paw-paw
He gets his orders from my maw-maw
She makes him walk the line

You can find me in my wigwam
I'll be beatin' on my tom-tom
Pull out the pipe and smoke you some
Hey and pass it around

'Cause I'm an Indian outlaw
Half Cherokee and Choctaw
My baby she's a Chippewa
She's one of a kind

I ain't lookin' for trouble
We can ride my pony double
Make your little heart bubble
Lord, like a glass of wine...”

Cringe. And also: What?

For the love of god, somebody help this kid pick out a decent metal track.


UPDATE: great "Who, me?" photo of Chamberlain from the Daily News. You decide:

August 30, 2007

I Have Run Out of Synonyms For "Agonizing Loss"

Man... where to start with that Mets game? I can't remember the last time a team suffered four losses that agonizing one right after the other. I mean, certainly other losses have meant more -- the Mets still do have a two-game lead, even though it doesn't feel that way -- but these were just lost in such an insanely maddening fashion. First the blowout, then they let the Phillies tie game two on a grounder that should have rolled foul but didn't. The next day their dramatic comeback is aborted by an interference call. Then today, they battle back twice, from 5-0 and 8-5 deficits, and look like they're about to salvage some tiny positive feeling from the smoldering wreckage of this series... and instead their bullpen implodes again. Absolutely brutal. And now they have to go to Atlanta, and with the Phillies breathing down their necks, they actually need to win.

Having been rendered more or less speechless (which by the way is not easily managed, so congrats, Mets), I will only say, once again: at least it isn't boring.

If you're a Mets fan it may make you feel very slightly better to listen to this fan-written song about Endy Chavez, which is what the Mets were singing in the locker room the other day when he came off the DL. But only very slightly.

August 29, 2007

Ask Jobu to Come, Take Fear from Bats; Offer Him Cigar, Rum

Gut-punch of a loss for the Mets tonight. To have the game end on an interference call just as the team dramatically tied it up... good lord. I'm not entirely sure, but I think the ump was technically right to call out Marlon Anderson; going in hard and late is one thing, but actually shoving the fielder to the ground while you do it is another. Still, you hate to see any game end that way -- and it was especially painful since the Phillies probably wouldn't have turned the DP regardless. The Mets may have actually discovered a worse way to lose than having your pitcher balk in the winning run, which I wouldn't have believed was possible.

Between this and the game-tying dribbler that never rolled foul from Tuesday night, to say nothing of countless other incidents of terrible luck this series and the entire team's sudden inability to buy a run-scoring hit, it's beginning to look as if the Mets have done something to seriously piss off the baseball gods. Hopefully someone can find a white steer to burn as an offering of atonement before tomorrow's game. Or maybe they won't need much luck, because El Duque's starting... what I wouldn't give to see him toss an eephus to Pat Burrell.

Anyway, maybe it's an illusion, but it sure seems like all year the Mets have largely been good when the Yankees have been bad, and vice versa; I'm going to have to crunch the numbers at the end of the season. Regardless, last night the Yanks played a solid game behind Roger Clemens (with the notable and totally unsurprisingly exception of Kyle Farnsworth), and moved into a virtual tie with Seattle, who just got clobbered by the Angels. I listened to a bit of that game online today and kept forgetting that I was supposed to be rooting for LA, accidentally cheering for the Mariners instead... it's just horribly unnatural. Glad that's over.

And by the way, I can't tell you how thrilled I am that somebody recently found this blog by searching for "badass jesus blogspot." Fuckin' a.

Seasons Don't Fear the Reaper, Nor Do The Wind And Rain, We Can Be Like They Are...

Nice win for the Yankees -- Andy Pettitte is on top of his game, and the Legend of Joba grows. He will, at some point, allow a run, right? I need to brace myself. Even better... and I can't believe I'm about to type this... the Angels... won (GAAARGH!!! that almost killed me), beating Seattle, and so the Yankees are now just one game back from the Mariners, two in the loss column. I chalk up this good luck to the unheralded presence of one Tino Martinez in the stands; they need to keep him there through the Seattle series if at all possible.

After every single loss, Andy Pettitte blames himself entirely -- really excoriates himself, in fact, stopping just short of hitting his head repeatedly against the wall while muttering "stupid, stupid!" It's the Paul O'Neill school of self-motivation. Meanwhile, after every win he says two things: "the offense did a great job" and "Jorgie called a great game." Tonight he just kept repeating how glad he was the hitters could "pick him up" after he allowed a home run to Varitek that tied the score at three in the 7th, on his way to throwing 119 pitches. "I thought maybe I cost us the game," he said on the postgame show, immensely relieved, "... it just killed me to make that mistake." It's okay, Andy! Fans tend to love the relatively rare players who visibly care about winning much more than they themselves do, and very possibly more than is healthy. When O'Neill came up in a big spot you rooted for him to get a hit not so much so that the Yankees would win, but so that he wouldn't hate himself. On the Mets right now I think Pedro Martinez has that quality, and it'll be a boost for them to get that back, as well as his arm.

And speaking of the Mets, if you think I was happy to have Endy Chavez back, his teammates actually burst into song. Unfortunately it didn't help at game time. Ryan Howard home runs are going to happen, but still, the Met bullpen is just hair-raising right now. But for some reason -- even after tonight -- I still have more confidence in Pedro Feliciano in a big spot than Aaron Heilman. Possibly it's because Heilman's entrance music this year has been "Don't Fear the Reaper"... and with all due respect to Blue Oyster Cult, as far as songs that will psych up a home crowd go, this is a huge step down from last year's "London Calling." It's like a vegan version of "Enter Sandman."

Then again, perhaps it's just because I haven't seen Feliciano give up a playoff series-losing home run to Yadier Molina. Anyway, it also seems clear now that if Willie Randolph really must use Guillermo Mota*, he should by no means press his luck by extending him for two innings. Question: do they test for steroids during the playoffs? Maybe they could slip him a little something just before the Division Series starts?

*Whose entrance music remains the heinous "I Like To Move It"

August 28, 2007

You Make Me Happy When Skies Are Gray

--Endy Chavez is being activated today. Yay!

--Amazingly enough, people still haven't realized that everything you do online can be tracked and traced back to you. Look, if you work for ESPN or MLB and you start editing relevant Wikipedia pages, don't think people won't find out. "Sexual harassment charges? What sexual harassment charges?! Look, Wikipedia doesn't even mention them, clearly they must not exist!"

--Also, more on Antonio Alfonseca's fingers:

Alfonseca is adamant that the digits are more a sense of pride than a problem. It even cost him a chance to join the New York Yankees machine as a 16-year old. Upon meeting Alfonseca, Yankees scout Arturo Defreitas offered to have the extra finger removed by a doctor. Alfonseca's response: He ran away.

See, Mets fans ought to love this guy.

--Oh, and the Yankees are playing some team from Boston tonight...

It's not a fight for the Division anymore, but it's still do-or-die time for the Yanks... and I can't say I'm not looking forward to seeing Joba Chamberlain versus Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. Yanks need to win tonight with Pettitte on the mound, since he's now their most reliable starter, juuust edging out Wang at the moment. And with Matsuzaka going for the Sox, it should be a good one -- anyone who pretends to have an imaginary pitch just to fuck with people's heads is my kind of pitcher. I'm only surprised El Duque never thought of this.

Too Bad He Didn't Take Better Care of His Body, Like That David Wells

So when I said I thought Mike Mussina would bounce back tonight somewhat... I, uh... well, I guess six runs in three innings is better than seven runs in 1.2 innings? Yikes.

That was an extremely painful game to watch, on a human level more than a sports fan level. Mussina's struggled before, but not like this; he's been one of the best pitchers of his generation, and this might be the end, and he's not ready for it. The post-game interview was just heartbreaking. "I don’t even know how to describe it because I’ve never had to deal with it before," he said. Watching him on the mound was awkward, almost embarrassing, like we should turn off the TV and give him some privacy. Give Mussina credit for sticking around to talk to reporters -- I would have been out of there like a shot, I'd imagine -- but he looked, and sounded, shattered. No confidence; none of his trademark snarkiness, even. Can an athlete really lose it that fast? From Tyler Kepner's NY Times story:

“Right now, I let go of it and I don’t feel like anything good is going to happen,” Mussina said. “It’s tough to pitch that way. You can’t play the game that way to feel like you have no control over anything, and that’s how I feel right now..."...

...The Yankees owe Mussina more than $11 million for next season, but he seems to be nearing the end. It is a scary and sudden reality, and it has knocked him as low as he has ever been.

“It feels like I’m never going to pitch well enough to get to the sixth or seventh inning again,” Mussina said. “That’s just how it feels right now.”

I have to believe that given time to make adjustments, Mussina can be, if not good again, at least mediocre --I don't care how old he is, I refuse to believe he's a less viable pitcher than Sir Sidney Ponson -- but unfortunately, time to make adjustments is exactly what the Yankees don't have.

In less agonizing news...

--Meant to mention this earlier, but Scott Proctor pitched against the Mets on Friday night, and not very well -- walk, hit, hit, balk... "It's possible he may have been somewhat overused," said Gary Cohen gingerly. It is indeed. However, I see Proctor has wasted no time in taking advantage of the Dodgers' more relaxed grooming rules and is already sporting a big off-putting tuft of chin-beard. So at least he's got that going for him.

Makes you wonder, how many Yankees would grow awful facial hair if only they could? You know Brian Bruney is just yearning for a goatee.

--In general, though I'd prefer them to stay right where they are in the NL East, I like the Phillies: Ryan Howard seems thoughtful and kind in interviews, Jimmy Rollins is funny*, Shane Victorino has a solid nickname in "The Flyin' Hawaiian," and Antonio Alfonseco has six fingers on each hand, which is awesome. Then there's that great clip of the whole team helping the Rockies' grounds crew with the tarp during a dangerously windy storm, which still makes me smile. But they do have one really glaring flaw in their likeability... and its name is Brett Myers. On the plus side, screaming violently at a reporter for no good reason is certainly a huge step up from smacking your wife around on a street in Boston. Baby steps!

Wait, THIS guy hit his wife? No way!

--Finally, Jim Dolan has donated to the Hilary Clinton campaign. Okay, that's it, I've finally made up my mind: I'm going with Obama.

*I still can't believe people got so worked up over his pre-season comment that the Phillies were going to be "the team to beat." What's the guy supposed to say? "I look forward to another year of frustrating near-misses"?

August 27, 2007

Baseball Player Name of the Week

... the Tigers' Jair Jurrjens, of course. Middle name: Francoise. He left the game in the second inning yesterday with shoulder pain, though; hope it's not as bad as it looked.

Runner up Names of the Week: Kansas City minor leaguers Thad Markray (anybody named Thad gets automatic consideration) and Russ Haltiwanger.

August 26, 2007

All's Wells That Ends Wells

I know he’s got a big mouth, I know he never really took care of his body and perhaps wasted a chunk of his considerable potential, and I remember his tendency, when with the Yankees, to unhesitatingly (and visibly) give up on games in which the starting temperature was over 85 degrees. Nevertheless, I’ve always loved watching David Wells pitch. His career is both cheerfully improbable and also a sort of implicit “fuck you” to all those people who insist you need to eat well, drink in moderation and go to bed early if you want to succeed in life. Okay, so he developed diabetes at 44 and is not exactly a role model... still, those people need a good "fuck you" once in a while. And pitching a perfect game while hung over -- or by his own account, actually still sort of drunk -- is a level of bad-assery not often seen in the Majors since the 70s.

Also, I have never seen a more accurate or concise observation about Bud Selig than the following from Wells:

“He worries about what people say about him and he Googles himself.“

You know he does.

You’ll recall that the Padres released Wells a couple weeks ago; tonight, pitching in his first game for the Dodgers, he looked surprisingly sharp. Obviously I was rooting for the Mets but I was happy to see Wells back in the saddle, too, and in my favorite moment of the game, he bunted for a hit. Fucking beautiful – well, not aesthetically, actually, but the idea of it. I’ve never seen David Wright look more surprised.

In other news, I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but credit where credit’s due: Joe Morgan said something interesting on ESPN tonight. He mentioned that John Maine’s high fastball seems to be actually more effective, and more explosive, than his low fastball – even though the general rule of thumb is that pitchers should keep the ball down, down, down and will get hit hard if they don’t (see: Igawa, Kei). I think Morgan’s right; when Maine’s in a groove, which he was for a few innings tonight, I often wonder how he does it with the ball so high in the zone, but I hadn't fully articulated that thought til Morgan mentioned it tonight. He just seems to have more movement up there for some reason. Good call, Joe.

Now, leaving this odd parallel universe in which Joe Morgan uses his remarkable Hall of Fame career to actually make interesting observations and educate his viewers, I have to point out that tonight Morgan also referred to Sandy Alomar Jr. as Roberto Alomar, Marlon Anderson as Marlon Byrd, Shea Hillenbrand as Shawn, and pointed out that the Braves need bullpen help but cannot pick up reliever Bob Wickman… since they just designated him for assignment. Ah yes, now we’re back in Kansas.

The Mets head to Philly now, and I thought this would be a really big series when I looked at the schedule at the beginning of the season, and even a few weeks ago... but it's not, really, since the Mets have already opened up a six game lead in the NL East. That's not huge, but as long as they take even one from the Phillies here, they’ll still be in pretty good shape. Taking the series from the Braves probably isn't necessary either... but man, it would really help their fans' mental health.

By the way, to clarify: in the last post, when I said the Yankees’ season was really really close to being over, what I meant was not that they don’t have a decent shot at the playoffs – three games back from the Wild Card in the loss column, they’re still very much in it - but that they have an extremely small margin of error right now. They’re only two or three losses combined with Mariners wins away from being, while not mathematically out of it, a real longshot. So if Mussina is really done – though I do think he’ll bounce back tomorrow, at least somewhat – and/or if Clemens and Hughes continue to be uneven… the point is, they're now one bad, unlucky week away from being essentially done, so everything needs to go right from here on out.

Well, either that, or the Mariners need to start sucking. But I've been waiting for that to happen since June...

August 25, 2007

Quick, Kids, Head to eBay

First of all, to update the MLB-licensed, gang-colored/themed baseball hat story mentioned with disbelief in the previous post: the hats are, not surprisingly, being pulled from stores. (Thanks to Ben from RAB for the link). Also,
New Era said it would increase its efforts to ensure it had a better working knowledge of gang symbols, names and locations.
Yep: it's gonna be really interesting being a New Era intern this fall.

Second... I just finished watching the Yankees-Tigers game, which started at 11 PM and ended around 3:30 AM with a Carlos Guillen walk-off home run in the 11th inning. This puts the Yanks 6.5 games behind the Red Sox, who predictably destroyed the White Sox in a doubleheader -- and, more to the point, four games behind Seattle in the loss column for the Wild Card. This is their second heartbreaking extra-innings loss in the last week, both of them off of poor Sean Henn, who was teary after the Angels game and cannot be much happier tonight. And that was actually a pretty decent pitch he threw to Guillen, too, down and in, not that it matters much.

No, the Yankees' season is not over... but it is really, really close to being over.

August 24, 2007

Coming Soon to Stores Near You: Official MLB Shivs

-Okay, is this story for real? I have a hard time believing that even Major League Baseball could be that tone-deaf and stupid. But it seems that, yes, MLB is licensing New Era NY hats with overt, deliberate gang colors and symbols. Wow. Somebody's getting fired.

On the plus side, at least I know what my dad's getting for Christmas this year.

-The Mets' trade for Luis Castillo, quintessential overachieving-Twins-infielder, is looking better and better. He's a smart hitter (though I wish he'd bunt less often, especially since he's hitting in front of Wright and Beltran), and he and Reyes are turning into a great double play combo, complete with ridiculously enthused high fives afterwards. If you hooked those two up to a generator you could power half of Queens.

-Meanwhile, across town (or, technically, in Detroit), every time Joe Torre sneezes now he moves up a spot on some decades-old all-time managerial stat list. Seems like he's hugging Jeter, Posada and Rivera, recieving a game ball, tearing up, and talking about how special milestone X is roughly every other Wednesday. This is generally a warning sign that a long and storied career is drawing to a close, a la Bernie Williams last year.

-Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera, and Billy Wagner have all faltered repeatedly over the last week or two... late August is not a good time for relievers.

-The Psycho Fan has a great note from the Angels' broadcast a few days ago. Apparently announcer Steve Physioc observed that Jeter is the best defensive shortstop in Yankees history -- manifestly untrue; he's certainly their best-ever offensive shortstop, but fielding-wise, I'm not sure if he's even in the top 10 -- including Phil Rizzuto. As evidence he offered the fact that Jeter is the only Yankee shortstop ever to win a Gold Glove. Now, this would not be a convincing argument even if Gold Gloves had been given out before 1957... which, as The Psycho Fan points out, they were not. Brilliant.

August 21, 2007

The Folly Floater

By the way, I never got to say anything about Phil Rizzuto. All the obits have already been written, so I'll skip the full send-off, but Rizzuto really had the right idea about broadcasting -- he obviously loved the game and cared about it, but never took it, or himself, too seriously. (Of course he was a great player too, but I never got to see that firsthand). And he was blatantly partisan, but so good-natured that no one could hold it against him. ESPN producers and on-air talent should be locked in a dark room and forced to watch his broadcasts for days at a time, although really, I suppose, he didn't have the kind of persona you can successfully imitate.

Anyway, Rizzuto's voice can be heard on this semi-famous YouTube clip of Steve Hamilton tossing his "folly floater" eephus pitch to the Indians' Tony Horton circa 1970. Beautiful; I don't think El Duque's ever gotten his that slow. Nice play by Thurman Munson, too, and priceless reaction from both dugouts, the crowd, and Horton himself... with, of course, a great call from Scooter.

[Update: Turns out Horton's professional career had a sad and early end. Too bad; I like his sense of humor.]

More later today on the local nines. That was quite a series the Mets and Padres just played... And that's quite a slider Joba Chamberlain's got. I could happily watch him just pitch to Vlad Guerrero for nine innings.

Baseball Player Name of the Week

From the Brevard County Manatees, recently defeated 4-3 by Pedro Martinez and the St. Lucie Mets:

Pitcher Josh Wahpepah.

(photo from

By the way, the Manatees are currently being terrorized by a "Pie Assassin" ("Millions live in fear!"):

Bystanders recoiled in fear that maybe it was a pie-terrorist attack. A threatening note found this morning stated that a new victim will be selected every home game for the remainder of the season, unless the alligator that slipped into the stadium this past week and led away in handcuffs is granted an unconditional pardon by the governor and given two seats for the playoff games...

..."It's just sick that you can't sit and watch a baseball game in peace without worrying about some crack-pot taking out his pie-ro-manical tendencies on us common folks," stated Manatees GM Buck Rogers. "We must catch this nut-job before he strikes again!" The voice of the Manatees, Kirk Aigus, was heard muttering on the air, "Oh, the Hugh Manatee!"
God I love minor league baseball.

August 20, 2007

Conine the Barbarian

I have a recap of last night's Yankee fiasco up at the Banter.

Over in MetsWorld... not all of Omar Minaya's moves have worked out, but I think it's safe to say the good has outweighed the bad by a solid margin. So I'm generally willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. But Jeff Conine? What, did they feel the team's median age was getting too low with the departure of Julio Franco?

To be fair, I guess they needed a right-handed bat and had limited options; add Damion Easley's ankle to the list of gruesome baseball injuries of recent years. I really, really didn't need to see that in Hi-Def.

In better news: Endy Chavez is coming! Hide your women and children!

Also: Johan Santana, in case you were wondering, is still mind-bogglingly awesome. Mets, Yankees, I don't care, I just want him in New York so I can see him pitch every fifth day. Whatever it takes -- trade Phil Hughes, or Phil Humber, or a kidney, or Derek Jeter's firstborn. Anything. Worth it.

Finally: it's a good thing the Yanks have some good young pitchers coming up, because according to Buster Olney the best free agent pitchers this offseason will be: Livan Hernandez, Jeff Weaver, and Curt Schilling. Um. The Mets need to cross their fingers that Pedro comes back healthy and Mike Pelfrey figures things out, or Humber advances fast; I can handle Livan Hernandez, but I have already seen too much of Schilling and Weaver for one lifetime.

August 18, 2007

Back in the New York Groove (Again)

View from Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world... for at least a few more months.

So, I'm back -- still a little fuzzy from jetlag, because that is seriously one hell of a plane ride, but back. Taipei's a really interesting place... and also: typhoons!

The two questions I was asked most often in Taiwan, neither of which I could satisfactorily answer:
  1. Why did America re-elect George Bush?
  2. Why is Kyle Farnsworth still on the Yankees?
Seeing as how I was sort of by default representing my country, I started to feel personally responsible.

Anyway, I'm now off to upstate NY for a day to retrieve my dog, but three quick notes to get my feet wet again:


-Random line from the Mets broadcast last night which I found inexplicably funny: "You can be patient with Chico." Anyway, nice bounce-back win for the Mets, after one of the most excruciating losses of the season Thursday night. Sweet defense, too, especially from Reyes and Castillo.

-It's Angels-vs.-Red Sox time again.

Hwahsi Night Market

Sinon Bulls vs. Brother Elephants at Tienmu Stadium

August 05, 2007

Smart money's on Bratwurst to place

Well, it's been a crazy month, and it's about to get even crazier, as I'm about to leave for the airport and the quick little 36-hour jaunt over to Taiwan. I'll be there for a week. But I couldn't go without first sharing the Miller Park Sausage Race love. The game I saw went 13 innings and, to the crowd's unfettered joy, included a second race after the 12th.

There is much to be said in praise of Brewers fans, but this in particular impressed me: at almost every sporting event I've been to in the last few years, fans react with more passion, cheering and general enthusiasm to the free t-shirts shot into the crowd than they do to almost anything that happens during the actual game. It was true at Madison Square Garden, it was true at Shea, and I don't kid myself that it wouldn't also be the case at Yankee Stadium, if they started the tradition. It was not true, however, at Miller Park: there, the crowd engaged more fully with the racing sausages -- hot dog, bratwurst, Polish sausage, chorizo, and Italian sausage -- than with anything else. Which is, I feel, exactly how it should be.

I should point out that these things, according to Wikipedia, have names, though they quite wisely don't advertise these at the ballpark: Frankie Furter, Brett Wurst, Stosh (I have a friend named Stosh and now will always associate him with a man in a large plush sausage outfit wearing sunglasses... I have mixed feelings about that), Cinqo, and... wait for it... Guido. Yes, they did.

Much has been happening:

-Alex Rodriguez nailed his much-anticipated 500th home run. Nice moment, though really, if he doesn't get to at least 600 it'll have to be because he lost a limb. However, I do find it slightly disturbing that he and Barry Bonds have such a supportive friendship. First they schmooze it up at the All-Star Game, now both of them go out of their way to praise the other in their post-milestone pressers today... I could have sworn I heard ominous strings in the background. I mean, I'm just not well-equipped to handle a world in which Jose Conseco is not full of shit.

-The Kansas City Royals continue to suck. Chien-Ming Wang continues to be awesome. Phil Hughes should be too, shortly, but wasn't quite today.

-The Pittsburgh Pirates are still run by a madman. As Jayson Stark writes,
For the next two hours, after people around baseball learned of this deal, they couldn't stop calling, e-mailing and texting reactions that could probably be summed up with three succinct words: WHAT THE BX!GRZFDQ!!!!!
-The Yankees are just 2 games out of the Wild Card lead.

-The Mets seem to have stabilized, and they'll try to take 2 of 3 from the Cubs today; over/under on the number of times the ESPN cameras cut to Lou Piniella looking grumpy after a cubs pitcher allows a hit or a walk: 23. Also, good luck to Tom Glavine as he goes for #300 a second time -- he got robbed by the bullpen in Milwaukee. One can only hope that Frankie Furter's 12th inning triumph was some consolation to him.

-Barry Bonds finally hit another home run tonight to blah blah blah. Does anybody still care? I took this photo just outside Miller Park:

Will there ever be a Barry Bonds statue in San Fran? It's hard to imagine, isn't it? For one thing, it would be an engineering challenge to get the head large enough, yet still keep the thing structurally sound... lawsuit just waiting to happen.

Okay, off to Taiwan. I believe I'll have internet access, in which case I'll be sure to post -- though I can't be sure, as all I really know about my hotel is that, per its official web page, it boasts "luxuriously decorated corridor poles." What more could anybody ask?

In any case: any Taiwanese fans reading this, who have any tips, advice, or the desire to watch a Yankees game this coming week in Taipei, please do drop me an email -- ekspan @