April 30, 2007

I Do Believe in Fairies, I Do, I Do

George Steinbrenner believes in his GM, manager, and team. Well -- PR man Howard Rubenstein does, anyway, but I suppose that's a start.

The ESPN fellas took Steinbrenner's statement to mean that he wanted to see more "accountability" from the Yankees. But, really, Joe Torre has consistently taken responsibility for the team's record; Brian Cashman said that he should be blamed; and the players all insisted it was their fault. Accountability is basically the only thing this team does have right now. Pitching? No. Hitting? Not at the moment. But accountability, sure! I will try to take comfort in this thought until such time as the Yankees pass the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the standings.

Meanwhile, while I think trading Gary Sheffield was a good move -- though given that Humberto Sanchez is out for the season, that may not have been the right trade -- I do miss him sometimes. Especially when reading stories like this one:

Sheffield homered off Cabrera moments after the pair had to be pulled apart, leading the Tigers to an 8-4 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Monday night...
..."Danny was struggling with his control all night, but I guess they thought he was throwing at Sheff," Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo said. "I have the utmost respect for Gary, and if I was going to pick someone to get angry, it wouldn't be him."

Anyway, given the current state of the Yankees, I turned for wisdom and solace to fans of other suffering teams. The brilliant and deranged Washington Wizards site Wizznutzz posted this while their team was being destroyed by the combination of massive injuries and the Cleveland Cavaliers:

The team has all the momentum of a hippopotamus pregancy. They are like a dying tauntaun, we can just hope to climb into its warm carcass and wait out the endlessly bitter Hoth night!!!...
...Its not about dying with dignity.
In fact, the only thing we have left is the power of dying WITHOUT dignity.
Wiz goal should be to die the least dignified death ever died.
They need to lose these games so dreadfully, so painfully, and desperately, with moans and urine and loud cursing, so that Cleveland will turn their eyes away, and be filled with a deep guilt and species shame and be so sickened and horrified to see fellow ballers suffering so that it will snuff out all joy and competitive fire forever and cleveland will be forever stained and stumbling with the pointless, lost gait of a man who has seen another mans, and therefore all men's, ultimate ruin.

They also quote T. S. Eliot and Hall & Oates. I love Wizznutzz.

Now Playing Third Base For the Yankees: Number One, Steve Francis. Number One.

Well, the good news is the Mets are getting excellent starting pitching -- a solid outing from Glavine yesterday, and yet another gem from SuperMaine today -- and eking out wins despite a somewhat slumping offense. Julio Franco had a nifty defensive play too, when, knowing the Nationals' batter was going to bunt, he charged in as Maine threw, fielded it perfectly, and nailed the runner at third. I'm fairly sure he's the oldest player ever to do this, because, I mean, what are the odds? But, more on the Mets tomorrow, because there's an elephant in the blog post. (I was going to write "a pinstriped elephant," but fortunately, I stopped myself in time.)

So the bad news is... well, where do you start with the Yankees? Despite a desperately needed win yesterday, thanks to the much-maligned Kei "Nuke" Igawa (after Jeff Karstens' fibula was broken on the first damn play of the game), they lost again today. Behind Chien-Ming Wang and against Julian "Batshit" Tavarez, no less: that stings. And the grounds crew is going to start finding little bits and pieces of the bullpen lying around the mound pretty soon, which will just take all the fun out of "YMCA".

The vultures are circling around Joe Torre, but I don't honestly think he'll be fired, unless this keeps up for weeks (the mind boggles). Not that I doubt the stories citing Yankee officials who say Steinbrenner is "thinking about" firing Torre. He probably is, in much the same way that I was "thinking about" hurling my TV off the fire escape this afternoon. But Steinbrenner is obviously in poor health, whatever his PR rep may say -- there's a reason he hasn't spoken in public in such a long time, and it's not because he got shy all of a sudden. I just don't see him grabbing power back from Cashman right now, and I definitely don't see Cashman firing Torre in the near future. Hey, I've been wrong before. But I don't think it'll happen.

An aphorism I've really come to loathe over the course of my life is "it's always darkest before the dawn." Nice thought, but not remotely true. No matter how bad things get, it could always, always be worse. Much worse. (Don't worry, this will never happen. But just the suggestion is enough to give me night terrors. Damn you, Steve Swindal!)

April 28, 2007

This game's fun, okay? Fun, godammit!

You know how I said I wasn't going to panic until at least Monday? Well, I meant it. Unless you want to define panic as "a sudden overpowering fright; also : acute extreme anxiety," of course. I was going with the definition "of, relating to, or resembling the mental or emotional state believed induced by the god Pan," which I don't feel applies. Johnny Damon is hurting and probably heading for the DL, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera got lit up, the bullpen is in bloody shreds, Joe Torre's job may be in danger.

So then Jeff Karstens takes a line drive off his knee on the first pitch of the game -- and you have to hand it to fate, because that really perfectly encapsulates the Yankee season thus far, doesn't it? Nicely done. Anyway, here comes Kei Igawa, and there goes my sanity.

April 27, 2007

Okay But Seriously, It IS Kind Of Weird That The Stain Didn't Spread, Right?

I never seriously believed that Curt Schilling's bloody sock was faked. I mean, it's technically possible I suppose, but it's pretty damn far-fetched. I do love mentioning this theory to Red Sox fans, though, because it drives them absolutely insane -- and in the dark years since October 2004, anything you can find like that, you use. I suppose I'd react similarly if Sox fans swore that Derek Jeter's bat was corked in the 2001 World Series.

Anyway, Orioles announcer Gary Thorne is finding out how seriously the Red Sox themselves take these accusations. It certainly does sound like Thorne either misquoted or misunderstood Doug Mirabelli, but really, it's not like he's accusing Schilling of raping and slaughtering puppies here. Seems like the sort of thing it'd be wiser to laugh off, but, on his blog, Schilling... well, not so much.


Take Gary Thorne, John, Jack Joe or whatever his first name is, Heyman, Karen Vescey, Woody Paige, CHB, Jay Marriotti, Bill Plaschke, and a host of other people that litter the media landscape, and put them all on an island somewhere.

Does anyone stop reading their newspapers? Watching the shows they appear on? The answer to that is no. Instead of using the forums they participate in to do something truly different, change lives, inspire people, you have an entire subset of media whose sole purpose in life is to actually be the news, instead of report it. They have little to no talent at what they do and other than a mastery of the English language their skill sets are non-existent.

Watching Woody Paige or the plastered made up face of Jay Marriotti spew absolutely nothing of merit on sports, day after day, makes it easy to understand how Gary Thorne could say something as stupid, ignorant, and uninformed as he did the other night.

Goodness. There are going to be some fun columns written on Curt Schilling this season, aren't there? But then:

People have asked and I have answered, but the mileage the media got from the incident is all of their own making. When I walked into the room for the post game interviews and offered up my first response to the questions about the game I basically said that the night was a revelation for me. That my faith in God that evening showed me things I’d never believed.

As I uttered those words I could see pretty much every person in that room roll their eyes and smirk. That’s not what any of them wanted to hear, truth or not. That was not good copy...

Fuck, now I feel bad, because I totally just rolled my eyes when I read that (though I don't believe I smirked). Anyway, lest he leave any reporters unoffended:
If you haven’t figured it out by now, working in the media is a pretty nice gig. Barring outright plagiarism or committing a crime, you don’t have to be accountable if you don’t want to. You can say what you want when you want and you don’t really have to answer to anyone. You can always tell the bigger culprits by the fact you never see their faces in the clubhouse. Most of them are afraid to show themselves to the subjects they rail on everyday...

The saddest part in all of this is the following. Yesterday, as I was warming up for the game, I got to see a young kid, could not have been more than 20, who had served in Iraq. He was being honored by the Orioles and threw out the first pitch. He was a double amputee who’d lost the lower portion of both of his legs serving his country. He refused to use his cane and getting to see him do that was incredible.

Instead of finding this kid and writing a story that truly matters, something that would and could truly inspire people, the media chose to focus on a story that was over two years old and a completely fabricated lie. What a job.

Someone gave me a great idea to end this once and for all. No one will ever need to bring it up again. I’ll wager 1 million dollars to the charity of anyones choice, versus the same amount to ALS. If the blood on the sock is fake, I’ll donate a million dollars to that persons charity, if not they donate that amount to ALS.

Any takers?
Well, no argument here that Iraq and its victims are more important that Schilling's sock, but you know, these are sports writers. As for the wager... darn, I know I had a million dollars lying around here somewhere. Where could I have put it? Hang on... let me check under the sofa cushions...


I always stay til the bitter end of baseball games. It’s not really because of loyalty or devotion to my team, or even superstition, but more out of fear: I don’t want to miss anything. Say you leave after 8 innings with the team down by 7, and miss one of the greatest comeback wins of all time? Or, almost as bad, a really fun brawl? So I stay. But the truth is, today I could’ve been out of there after the fifth without missing much.

Phil Hughes did pretty well under the circumstances. He threw too many pitches, and made a number of mistakes that the Blue Jays made him pay for, which is why he allowed 4 runs in 4.1 innings (though Brian Bruney was in by the time the last two scored); but you can’t expect perfection from a 20-year-old dealing with the nerves of his first start. I was actually worried for a while there that he'd mistake the "Huuuuuughes!" calls for real booing.

Anyway, he’s got great stuff, no doubt. I always rolled my eyes at the Clemens comparisons, and in fact I still will, because Roger Clemens is one of the 5 or 6 greatest pitchers of all time, and that’s way too much to expect from this kid. But I have to say, their deliveries are extremely similar – I almost had an acid flashback to 2000. (Of course Hughes is about 24 years younger, doesn’t have an enormous skull that encourages steroid speculation, and couldn’t grow intimidating stubble if his life depended on it).

Personally my take on the whole Hughes thing is totally dependent on what the training staff or team doctors say. If he can stay up here and really pitch 200+ innings without risking permanent arm damage, I’m all for it; but if it increases the odds of a serious injury, you have to send him back down, no matter what the team's record is. I personally have no expertise on the matter. The way the Yankees talked in spring training, they had concerns about it, which is why I did too; but if that’s not the case, I’d take him over Kei Igawa any day. I just don't know.

Anyway, it was a dismal game outside of Hughes’ promise, and the Blue Jays won 6-0 on yet another chilly night. I’ve been defending Joe Torre’s moves a lot recently, but I honestly am not able to understand why Doug Mientkiewicz was batting second tonight. Was he trying to get Mientkiewicz better pitches, in front of A-Rod? Or just prevent the bottom of the order from being three straight easy outs? Not like they would have won anyway, but it was odd. So that’s six straight losses for the Yankees, with the Red Sox arriving Friday night... and I’m still not panicking. But it's possible that I will be on Monday.

April 26, 2007

Baseball Player Name of the Week

TIE!: Yorvit Torrealba

And!: Newly promoted Cubs pitcher Rocky Cherry.

(hat tip to Baseball Musings).

Man, it's so unfair that the Cubs get Rocky Cherry AND Felix Pie.

April 25, 2007

1,035 Words

Oh, and I understand the Yankees also played a game tonight. What's your point? Hey, come over here and say that!

I believe Chien-Ming Wang's face in this mlb.com photo sums things up nicely:

Could I Possibly Love Endy Chavez Any More?

Answer: not really, no. The Catch last fall was obviously awesome, but in a smaller way, his game-winning, walk-off drag bunt tonight in the 12th inning of the Mets-Rockies game was just as cool. Don't think I won't be there July 13th to pick up my free Endy Chavez bobblehead. (Also, if you follow that link you'll find that Paul Lo Duca's upcoming bobblehead will be sponsored by "Gold's Horseradish," which is fabulous).

Anyway, it was a good, taught game all around. I was at Shea with my friend Chris, who snagged free last-minute tickets. El Duque was awesome, confusing the hell out of the Rockies hitters, though sadly, unlike in his last start, I don't believe he threw an eephus. In the bottom of the 10th, with the Mets trailing 1-0 thanks to a slightly-too-exciting outing from Billy Wagner, pinch-hitter Damion Easley came up with two outs, batting .100 so far this season. The count quickly went to 0-2.

Chris: Oh well. It's tough to come into the game cold, and face a guy with this kind of delivery.
Me: Yeah, especially if you're Damion Easley.
Damion Easley: (400 foot home run)
Everyone: Whhhhhooooooooooooooo!
Chris: We called it.
Me: Knew it all along.

I'll take a walk-off two-out drag-bunt over a walk-off two-out homer any day, though. I'm sure it's been done many times, but I can't recall ever seeing it before (Hell will freeze over, thaw, and freeze again before you ever see a Yankee try it). Chavez's bunt was well-conceived, unexpected -- by the Rockies' defense especially -- and perfectly executed. Judging by the look on Willie Randolph's face, and the huge, long hug he gave Chavez afterwards, I don't think even he saw that one coming. Everything's clicking for the Mets right now, even on a night when their offense was almost totally stifled; the winning run came on a walk, a bunt, a balk, a walk, and a bunt hit. Now that's what I call National League baseball.

April 23, 2007

What, Me Worry?

Okay, okay, I'm ready to talk about this weekend. No need to panic; the Yankees were dealing with so many key injuries over the weekend -- and made every game competitive anyway -- that rationally, you can't get too upset over the results... but a Red Sox sweep always hurts. And a four-game hole, while completely surmountable, is never a good thing. Now the Yanks are bringing up 20-year-old phenom Phil Hughes for a start on Thursday, which is a little disconcerting since they swore up and down they didn't want him used early in the season. So maybe I'm not panicking, but, uh, the team sort of is. I guess we can thank poor Chase Wright and his record-tying four consecutive home runs allowed for this.

  • I've seen enough of Matsuzaka over the last few weeks to be convinced that he's a very good pitcher, but he wasn't at his best last night. Five runs in seven innings isn't awful or anything, but it's not exactly anything to crow about either, which is why I was confused to see all of Fenway Park rise to give Matsuzaka a standing ovation as he left the game. Really? You're that psyched about an ERA of 6.43? I mean... it's not my place to tell anyone what they should or shouldn't be applauding... but, weird.
  • Wil Nieves really needs a hit. It's been... well, it's been literally years. I'm pulling for him, because he seems like an awfully nice guy, but really, if Posada is out for any extended period of time, the Yankees are beyond fucked. Nieves can't catch a break -- two sharp line drives last night, but both hit right at Sox fielders. Then he dislocated a finger catching a Colter Bean pitch, had the trainer pop it back in, and caught four more innings. Yeeargh! I can't decide if this is admirable or stupid; probably both.
  • Emergency backup-backup catcher Josh Phelps, usually a first basemen and not even all that great at fielding there, did a surprisingly solid job filling in Nieves in the ninth, catching Sean Henn. There were many opportunities for disaster and you hardly could have blamed Phelps, catching for the first time since 2001, but there were no passed balls, no wild throws. I assume someone on the bench was telling him what to call, but in any case, Henn got through the inning uneventfully. If they could do this more often, it'd give them some nice flexibility...
  • I'm a little worried about this Hughes thing. He's only made 3 starts in AAA, and great prospects are not always great pitchers -- certainly not always in their first major league starts. It's a lot of pressure on the kid, and a lot of potential for disappointment if he can't deliver right away. But hey... already bought my ticket for Thursday.

And now onto tonight's games, as Kei Igawa has apparently decided that throwing fifty pitches in two innings would be a good strategic move. Whee!

If There Is Ever A Braves-Red Sox World Series, I Will Flee To Europe

Well, it wasn't the smoothest weekend in New York's two biggest baseball rivalries. I was at the Mets-Braves game at Shea Saturday when, accompanied by absolutely gorgeous weather (finally!), Oliver Perez pitched a gem. He allowed no walks in more than six innings, one start after allowing seven in less than three. Go figure. Meanwhile the offense flexed its muscles with home runs by Jose Reyes, Ramon Castro, and Damion Easley and four hits from Carlos Beltran, and they won 7-2. Between the relatively low-stress win and the sunshine and the breeze, the crowd was in such a good mood they barely even bothered to call the enormously fat man in my section wearing a Derek Jeter jersey an asshole, and several children in Chipper Jones tees were left unmolested. Spring fever!

Today was a different story, though. The Mets got a nice little lead for Tom Glavine, once again pitching against his pal John Smoltz, only to watch the bullpen spit it back up. Three of the Mets' four losses to the Braves this season have been come-from-behind wins for Atlanta, and it's starting to look like maybe there's a few demons left after all. The Mets are only half a game back, though, so there's no real cause for concern at the moment. The Yankees, however... well, more on them tomorrow. Everything looks better in the morning.

Scattered Mets notes from the weekend:

  • One overzealous Mets fan was arrested after he (allegedly!) pointed a bright flashlight into the eyes of Tim Hudson and Edgar Renteria during Friday's game. Granted, you can't have people doing this (and the guy is 40, which is pretty damn pathetic), but he was charged with "interfering with a professional sporting event" -- who the hell knew that was a crime? And can we arraign Sidney Ponson on those charges?
  • Joe Smith is such a cool story. Not even a year out of college -- Wright State, no less -- he's now made ten appearances without allowing a run. Obviously that streak will end at some point, probably sooner rather than later, but he looks like the real deal, and Willie Randolph's been using him in big spots from the start. On Saturday, he came in with the bases full of Braves and struck out Andruw Jones: he said Shea Stadium got so loud it made him shake. Awesome. It'll be interesting to see how, or if, hitters adapt once they get used to his unusual delivery...
  • Love the fake tomahawk chop once the Mets get a comfortable lead, as they did Saturday. I loathe that chant and it deserves to be mocked whenever possible. I was also thrilled when Rangers fans at the Garden broke it out as New York was demolishing the Atlanta Thrashers -- though, since half their hockey team is from Eastern Europe, I kind of doubt they had any idea what the fuck was being referenced.
  • This would be a good time for David Wright to snap out of his slump. After one of his at-bats Saturday, when he once again left runners on base, the crowd at Shea kind of, almost, sort of made a booing noise. A little bit. It never quite materialized, but they were right on the edge. And the idea of Wright getting booed at home is completely demoralizing.
  • I always figured John Smoltz was kind of a jerk. Not for any particular reason that I can remember now, but since the mid-90s I've pretty much operated under that assumption. (I know there's a reason I starting hating Chipper Jones in '96, too, but damned if I can put my finger on it). Recently though, Smoltz has seemed downright funny and agreeable in interviews. And if he really is good friends with Tom Glavine, AAA-grade upstanding citizen, well, it's very possible I was wrong about him. I'm totally annoyed by this realization; it's a major pain to try to correct a full decade of irrational but now deeply rooted dislike. Actually, I might start disliking the guy for this very reason. Thanks a lot, Smoltz. Why'd you have to go and be a decent guy after all for no reason? Bastard. Yes... this could work.

April 21, 2007

Who Are You, And What Have You Done With Mariano Rivera?

Oof. It was not a good night for New York baseball teams.

Tim Hudson pitched a fantastic game for the Braves; the Mets lineup, hardly slumping with 27 runs in its last three games, couldn't do a thing with him. With Hudson gone in the ninth, they revived a bit and made it 7-3 on Shawn Green's home run (somewhere in New Orleans, Lastings Milledge is cursing under his breath), but it was never that close. Mike Pelfrey got knocked around and the bullpen, uncharacteristically, let it get out of hand: you hate to see a run walked in. You REALLY hate to see two runs walked it. And after that, the last thing you need is a run scoring on a wild pitch. A Mets fan sitting near me at the bar, in agonies watching Ambiorix Burgos's coy avoidance of the strike zone, kept yelling "Just groove one down the middle! For fuck's sake! A grand slam is much better than this! Please! Just let him get the gland slam!!!" Yeah, that seventh inning didn't go so well.

Adding insult to injury, bases loaded walks against the Braves are an automatic Kenny Rogers '99 flashback. It's starting to look like Philly was just a decoy -- the Braves are still the issue, and if Hudson continues pitching like that, they're going to be much stronger than they were last season. I'm going to the game at Shea tomorrow, so let's hope the Mets come out swinging, and the Dr. Jekyll version of Oliver Perez shows up.

I see no reason the Mets can't take the next two games from the Braves, though; the Yankees are in a tougher situation.With rookies going over the weekend and a potentially worn-out bullpen, tonight was their best bet for a win against the Sox.

Andy Pettitte held up his end of the deal, only allowing two runs on a Jason Varitek homer. (You know, I think Varitek is a terrific catcher and I respect him for it, but I'll never understand why he didn't take more crap for leaving his face mask on when he went after A-Rod a few years ago.) Schilling wasn't bad tonight either, and it would have been a pitcher's duel if not for the fact that Alex Rodriguez is fucking scalding hot right now. Yep: he hit two more homers, providing 5 of the Yanks' 6 runs, and generally continuing to be incomprehensibly awesome at the plate. Normally, that's all the Yanks would need, but Vizcaino was a bit shaky, Mariano Rivera came into the 8th inning with runners on, and... well... he blew the lead. His first time out after Sunday's Marco Scutaro debacle. There are no words for how much I hate watching Mariano Rivera lose -- or rather, there are words, but I already used them Sunday. Small, cold, helpless sort of feeling.

Two other things made this loss especially galling: the Sox's green uniforms -- I honestly have no rational explanation for why this bothered me, it just did -- and the fact that nearly half the bar was composed of Red Sox fans. In Brooklyn! Why? I mean, I don't begrudge anyone the right to watch a baseball game wherever they please; but there should not have been this many. I may need to find a new local sports bar.

Anyway, a lot of people are blaming Torre on this one, and I do question some of his moves -- pinch running for Giambi, not bunting with Nieves, etc. -- but the bottom line, for me, is that if you hand Mariano Rivera a three-run lead, that's a win 95% of the time. You'd take that every day. So I suppose it's possible that better managing might have won the game despite Rivera's ineffectiveness, but I don't think you can really say that Torre's mistakes lost it.

Also, I've decided that I will not freak out after only two bad outings from Rivera. If he gets lit up his next time out, I'll become somewhat concerned. If it happens a fourth time, please call and talk me off the edge of my fire escape.

April 19, 2007

Me Too, Phil, Me Too

The Yankees and Mets both knocked out 9-2 wins last night, over the Indians and Marlins respectively. I watched both at a sports bar, where they also showed the Rangers' playoff win (sweep!) and the Nets game(sixth seed!). I thought my head was going to explode. It didn't, so here's a few notes:

  • John Maine apparently does not mind a little extra rest. He took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, and the Marlins aren't lightweights; if you ever wanted to know exactly what's meant by "movement on his pitches," check the tape on Maine tonight. They were going up, down, left, right, diagonally, all at the last tenth of a second. I didn't think he was really going to get the no-hitter, just because he threw too many pitches (four walks), but he had the stuff. The Mets backed him up with 17 hits(!), including four for Jose Reyes and a Carlos Beltran home run, and still more nifty double plays. It's being overshadowed by the Yanks-Red Sox series, but Mets-Braves this weekend ought to be good.
  • I love Miguel Cabrera, but as Gary Cohen put it, he’s got a tendency “to nonchalant the ball.” Also, I could be wrong, but it looks like he’s put on a bunch of weight this season. Oh well; any player who does this is in my good graces forever.
  • For reasons that I cannot, at this time, explain, the Mets' pictures on the Marlins' scoreboard all included a small image of Borat, giving two thumbs up, in the lower right-hand corner. I like it, but I'm confused.


  • The Yankees got another good start out of Kei Igawa -- and totally creamed Jeremy Sowers, who's generally a very good pitcher (which is why I put him on my fantasy team... whoops). Alex Rodriguez homered again. I just keep cut and pasting that phrase. How long can he keep it up? That's 9 in 13 games, and I'm running out of superlatives... Amazing? Sick? Awesome? Insane? Really helpful when 3/5 of the rotation is on the DL?
  • This may be premature, but Jeter had three hits and, better yet, seems to be coming out of his odd fielding funk. I know the guy doesn't have very good range, but for him to make so many clumsy errors was not in character, and I really thought he must be either hurting or distracted. But maybe it was just one of those fluky things.
  • Phil Hughes, down in Scranton, pitched a game that screams “Hey! Hello? I’m sick of all these Wright puns!”

Baseball Player Name of the Week

Felix Pie.

If I ever get a cat, I know what to call it.

April 18, 2007

Found the Wright Pun!

Poor Jake Westbrook. When Doug Mientkiewicz homers off you, it ain’t your night.

Looking back, the Indians should have heeded that warning sign, but they left him in, and it got too late fast. That’s like seeing rivers run red with blood and thinking, "eh, it's probably just kelp or something." Dougie Eyechart’s portent of doom was followed by hits from Damon and Abreu, another Alex Rodriguez homer (yawn!), a Giambi single, and a Posada home run.

Chase "God's Gift to Headline Writers" Wright, for his part, did as well as you can expect a barely-AA rookie in his first start to do. You can't hold a Travis Hafner home run against anyone. He had his rocky moments, but got through five and kept things under control. No doubt that seven-run lead helped out there. Anyway, I am cautiously optimistic, but that doesn’t mean I’m not fervently hoping that Chien-Ming Wang skips his rehab start, and gets his ass back here in time for the Red Sox series. The Yanks are now 6-6, which doesn't sound very good until you remember that the New York rotation includes exactly one healthy pitcher you can expect a quality start from. His name is Andy Pettitte, and his elbow is, frankly, liable to explode at any time.

But hey, Paul O'Neill is back in the booth! Okay, I realize he's not necessarily a great announcer, and kind of tends to... well, not understand some of Michael Kay's more multisyllabic words, but I don't care, because I developed a crush on him when I was twelve. It's always good to see him.

Finally, in other pleasant news, my adopted player of the year Denard Span is getting some clutch hits for the Charlotte Knights and honoring Jackie Robinson. That's my guy... and yes, I did sign up for a Google News Alert. What's your point?

April 17, 2007

"Team's Real Hot, Stand Up Proud/ Do The Wave, Shout It Loud!

Wait a minute. I'm confused. I was told the Phillies were going to be a really good team this year... wasn't I? I'm sure I was. In fact, I believe a number of Phillies told me so themselves.

Okay, okay, it's early. I don't really doubt that the Phillies will get their act together and play well this year. But man, they looked awful tonight -- no effort or concentration in the second half of the game whatsoever, even though they were only down by four runs at the time. The Mets announcers had a cheerful little discussion that began, "this is the kind of game that gets managers fired." The Mets looked good, but the Phillies helped them out. Tom Glavine couldn't find his control, probably because it's fucking freezing outside, again, but got great defense and thoughtfully pitched out of trouble. "Crafty little devil," said Ron Darling, admiringly. Moises Alou had two very serious home runs to left, without batting gloves no less (because batting gloves in 35-degree weather are for the weak and puny, apparently), and my arch-nemesis Geoff Geary gave up two hits and a run. Mwa ha ha!

Meanwhile: I may have posted this before, but please, please follow this link to the memorable rap Let's Get Metsmerized!, as performed -- er, "performed" by members of the 1986 Mets. My personal favorite lyric: "When they want a batter filled with terror/ They call on me, Rick Aguilera!" I promise you will not be sorry. (No promises about your ears not bleeding, though).

Too Many "Wright" Puns... Cannot Compute...

It’s been a tough few weeks for New York baseball – with all the rainouts and off-days, neither team has been able to get much of a rhythm going. But hey, at least it’s stopped raining. Tonight the Yankees, or some of them anyway, take on the Indians, who should theoretically be a tough team this year. The Mets are out of town for a rematch with the Phillies, which means Tom Glavine will get to deal with another chilly, damp night. With just 292 fewer career victories, so will the Yanks’ Chase Wright, in his first-ever major league game.

Wright seems like an odd choice at first glance. He’s already on the 40-man roster, which I suppose gave him a leg up, and he had a solid spring and an excellent first two starts at AA Trenton. But the key word there is “AA”. He’s never played above it.

Then again, look at the Mets’ Joe Smith, who never even got to AA before making the team out of spring training: he was in college less than a year ago, and so far he’s pitched seven innings in relief with an ERA of 0.0. So maybe experience isn’t everything. I will say this much for the kid, he's got an awesome baseball name. "Chase Wright"! Suck on that, Phil Hughes.

Here’s the plan for tonight: Mets at 7. NY Rangers playoff game during commercial breaks. Yankees Rewind at 11:30. Bring it.

Finally, I know it’s not baseball but I had to get this off my chest: How, how did I not know that Tim Duncan plays Dungeons and Dragons? Seriously, why didn’t anybody tell me?

April 15, 2007

You Know What Else Pales In Comparison? Hay Fever! Also, Subway Delays.

Karl Ravich on Baseball Tonight this afternoon: “Bad weather’s already cancelled six games today, but the bad weather pales in comparison to the obstacles that Jackie Robinson had to deal with.” Yes. Virulent, pervasive, systematic racism: worse than heavy rain!

There were some nice tributes to Robinson today, though -- very cool to see the entire Dodgers team wearing #42.

It is in fact a nasty, windy, soaking day in the city. The Mets game was washed out and then some, but it's a rougher weekend for the Yanks. First there was the tough extra-innings loss on Friday; then a draining 13-inning game that resulted in a win last night, but required the entire bullpen. Today came news that Mike Mussina’s hamstring hasn’t improved enough for him to avoid the DL. He’ll be joined by Carl Pavano, who has “soreness” in his forearm (yeah, that really narrows it down). I’m not sold on all the character-based Pavano-bashing, but it certainly looks like his body isn’t able to handle the strain of regular major league pitching, I’ll give you that. Looks like Chase Wright, with two AA starts to his name, will get the start in his place -- kind of a surprising pick, but more on him later.

The worst came today, however. Andy Pettitte pitched a gem, and the offense eked out four runs; holding a 4-2 lead, the Yanks brought Mariano Rivera in to pitch the ninth. Then -- with two on, two out, and two strikes -- he allowed a game-winning home run to Marco goddamn Scutaro, the A’s number nine hitter (current batting average: .095).

For Yankees fans, a game-winning home run off Mariano Rivera is much worse than a walk-off homer off anyone else. It’s like being confronted with evidence that there is, in fact, no God, that the universe is a cold and empty place devoid of larger meaning or comfort or hope, a howling void.

Well, okay, maybe it’s not that bad. Still, tough loss. This is how my (wet) dog felt about it:

Meanwhile, the Angels have been playing the Red Sox. Who do you root for there? Whoever wins, we lose

April 11, 2007

Try to Picture Derek Jeter Saying That...

I've got a Yankees recap and Carl Pavano column up on the Banter today... gotta run now, but a couple of quick notes:

-Interesting Endy Chavez interview in the Post. I knew he had a brother named Ender, but wasn’t aware of the sister, Eneidy. I suspect I would love Endy's parents. Chavez touches on a variety of subjects, including the time in Venezuela he nearly had to fight an aggressive fan and his love of the movie Happy Feet, but the money quote is on the Cardinals and last year's Game 7:
But you lost. Did the better team win?

Oh no. What we lacked was suerte, luck. We play better, have better defense, pitching. They just had one lucky bat. But our team is better. I mean we just swept them in their casa.

True enough, though somehow I don’t think the Cardinals will agree.

Meanwhile the quote of the season so far comes from Ichiro, on facing Daisuke Matsuzaka at Fenway today:

“I hope he arouses the fire that’s dormant in the innermost recesses of my soul.”

Well, damn. I hope so too!

April 10, 2007

Julio Franco is Getting Too Cold For This Shit

I have a new nemesis: Geoff Geary.

Who, you ask? I had never heard of this inoffensive Phillies reliever either, but he earned my undying wrath yesterday in the eighth inning of the Mets home opener: after three hours of shivering in the shaded Shea upper deck, four innings after I’d lost all feeling in my fingers and some of my toes, Geary agonized, fretted, contemplated, studied and pondered every goddamn pitch; it must have taken him fifteen minutes to walk Julio Franco on four pitches. Now, it’s a free country, and if you’ve really got your heart set on walking Julio Franco on four pitches, I’m not going to stop you. But in 35-degree weather, this is a task that can easily be accomplished in, say, two minutes. Have a little consideration, Geoff, you know? I will be following your career with schadenfreude.

So yeah, it was cold at Shea yesterday. But the Mets took their revenge on Geary (and the rest of the Philly bullpen, including former Yankee John Lieber, whose ERA is currently 27.00), and after all was said and done it was a fun come-from-behind opening day win. Mets fans are pumped this year. There were a couple of guys in full-on tights wearing capes that said "SuperMaine," which I hope catches on, because “Remember the Maine” is a bit esoteric, and also very difficult to dress up as. There were painted faces, and signs, and huge cheers for Howard Johnson and Jose Reyes and Endy “Death to Flying Things” Chavez and everyone, in fact, except Aaron Heilman (can’t say I really get that one). As Matthew Cerrone points out over at MetsBlog, there were a few issues at Shea, notably with the lines for the men’s room, which I gloated over all day, and the hot chocolate situation, which I did not find amusing at all.

I don’t honestly think Jimmy Rollins did anything wrong by saying the Phillies were the team to beat in the NL East, but what the hell, it’s always fun to get riled up for a rivalry. Because of that innoffensive little comment, Rollins will be booed at Shea for all eternity; he can switch teams, win the world series, cure cancer, marry David Wright in a civil union with a touching televised commitment ceremony, it doesn’t matter. He’ll be booed at Shea. Fortunately, it sounds like he’s having a good time with it.

In other news, Carlos Delgado reached first base in the second inning by bunting to third, thereby foiling the shift that the Phillies' defense always puts on him. (My friend was thrilled on behalf of his father, who, he said, has been advocating this for months and months). Delgado also had a nifty sideways slide later in the game that allowed him to just barely, by a fraction of a second, evade the catcher’s tag and beat the throw to home plate. It’s fun to watch smart people play baseball...

April 09, 2007

Because I Refuse to Use the Word "Fugly"

Okay, I went to the thesaurus. This was another unattractive, unsightly, hideous, unprepossessing, nasty, horrid, dreadful, unpleasant -- well, some of those seem a little harsh. Let’s go with another unsightly Yankee loss, thanks to another… unprepossessing start, this time from Darrell Rasner, who apparently developed a blister in the process. Get well soon, Chien-Ming!

River Ave. Blues points out that the Yankee starters have actually performed slightly worse thus far than the Washington Nationals rotation. Fantastic.

If you're one of those irritating optimist types, note that A-Rod continues to destroy the ball, Cano's picking up where he left off, Andy Pettitte graciously pitched a scoreless inning on his throw day to ease the bullpen's burden -- and said bullpen, despite massive overuse, has been mostly lights-out.

Meanwhile, Hideki Matsui’s hamstring has landed him on the DL. This is, obviously, bad, but with him and Damon both shaky, they need the roster spot for another outfielder. Kevin Thompson has been called up from AAA, and I’m actually kind of optimistic about him: he had a solid spring training, plays the outfield well, and has some patience at the plate. I’m not suggesting he’ll ever come anywhere remotely near Matsui’s offensive value, but I can see him filling in decently (read: better than Miguel Cairo!) for a few weeks. Plus, from what I saw in Tampa this spring, he seemed like an incredibly nice, friendly, outgoing guy -- and while sadly these qualities are unrelated to baseball talent, he's fun to root for. If he somehow manages to get himself on a few YES post-game interviews, I bet he’ll be a hit with fans.

Speaking of lovable outfielders, where’s Bernie? Why, jamming with the Allman Brothers, of course. (Link via LoHud).

Meanwhile, the weather continues to mock Al Gore. I actually get a kick out of watching it snow during a baseball game – it’s charmingly incongruous. However, I expect to find it less charming in person tomorrow at Shea Stadium, where I will contract hypothermia and frostbite as the Mets take on the Phillies. They lost to the Braves today (El Duque pitched another gorgeous game; the usually reliable Aaron Heilman lost the lead in the 8th), but a couple of wins against Philly and they're right back on track, and I bet they’ll get a boost from the home opener crowd. Should be a fun game. And hey, it’s not like I was using ALL my fingers, anyway...

April 07, 2007

M-V-P! M-V-... What? Too early?

Now that’s what I call a statement.

It was a perfectly scripted ending to a game that was otherwise, well... look, it’s only the fourth game of the season, and yet already I’m running out of synonyms for “ugly.” That can’t be a good sign. Kei Igawa, in an apparent effort to fit in with his new teammates, joined the Yankees’ other starters in pitching ineffectively, with another healthy assist from inexplicably awkward defensive plays. (No one expected the Yanks’ fielding to be sparkling this year, but I don’t think “more or less adequate” is out of reach. What’s going on?). Never thought I’d say this, but the Yankees best starter thus far has probably been Carl Pavano. Eeep.

Of course, not that you need me to say this, it has only been four games. And the end justified the means in this case, because no matter what you think of A-Rod, Sox fans exempted, you had to smile at his relieved, elated grin as he skipped towards home (and nearly catapulted Larry Bowa into the stands with an enthusiastic, drive-by double high five).
“It felt awesome,” Rodriguez said of his trip around the bases, which he earned after belting a game-winning grand slam that capped an improbable 10-7 victory against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. “I was so excited. I felt foolish running around the bases like it was Little League. I just remember I almost knocked Bowa over at third. I saw the fans kind of rocking behind him. It was kind of cool.”
It was.

Before A-Rod’s redemption – for this week, anyway - Hideki Matsui left the game with an (apparently) slight hamstring strain. Yankee outfielder are having a rough few years, aren’t they? If Damon's still a bit tentative, they may need to get Kevin Thompson up from AAA, because a few innings of Miguel Cairo roaming the outfield go a long way. More on Thompson another time...

The Mets are mortal too, it turns out, and lost to the Braves 5-3: Tom Glavine didn't pitch all that badly, but was hurt by a couple of poorly-timed errors (say… that sounds familiar), and outdueled by his buddy John Smoltz. The Mets had their chances – they left 13 runners on base – but never quite got the rally going.

Personally I’m looking forward to watching El Duque toy with the Braves hitters tomorrow, but the more telling games will be John Maine and Oliver Perez’s next few turns through the rotation.

Also, Mets fans, Orioles starter Steve Trachsel started against the Yanks and actually looked sort of... well... I don't know, kind of good-ish. But I'm not buying it. The YES announcers were all over his 15 wins last year, but as Mets fans should recall, he had piles and piles of run support. He swam and frolicked in run support like Scrooge McDuck in his gold. He did make 30 starts, but averaged 5.46 innings per, while striking out 79 and walking 78, with an ERA just shy of 5 -- in addition to moving at the speed of a club-footed tortoise between pitches. I suppose aging a year and switching from the NL to the Al East could improve him... and if that sounds probable to you, I'd be happy to enter into a friendly little wager on it.

April 06, 2007

Nicely Played, Theo

Bleargh. Not exactlyan enthralling game tonight, with neither side pitching particularly well -- but the Devil Rays got a nice boost from the Yankees' three errors (for six in two games), and won 7-6. Jorge Posada looked awful behind the plate, with lots of strange missed signs and passed balls. Poor Andy Pettitte seems to have traded defense for run support

Of course, it was also in the 20s tonight, which probably had something to do with it; I could barely feel my hands after walking the dog. At one point Robinson Cano held his glove in his mouth between pitches so that he could get both hands warmed in his pockets. I don't imagine that growing up in the DR would really prepare you for this. Also, Johnny Damon may end up on the DL, for the first time in his career, with his calf strain, but as he told reporters (including the Star-Ledger's Lisa Kennelly): "I still have sexy calves." Yep, those are big shoes to fill, Melky.

I was sort of surprised to realize this week that the Devil Rays are officially no longer a joke; they're really just a couple of good relievers and one decent starter away from being, in fact, good, though their owner is apparently too cheap to bother. Good thing we now have the Washington Nationals to mock as a replacement.

Meanwhile, as you will no doubt have heard by now, Daisuke Matsuzaka (or, as one of the Royals' broadcasters called him, "Daisuke Matsui") looked as good as advertized. Seven innings, one run, ten strikeouts for the Red Sox, and he's fun to watch while he's at it.

On the one hand, it's the Royals; but on the other, it's only his first major league start. Wasn't there supposed to be some sort of adjustment period? He's not actually going to get better, is he? It's far too early to panic, but I don't think it's too early to be... let's say, mildly concerned.

April 05, 2007

Rainy Day Baseballs #12 & 35

It was a less cheery day for the Yankees, as Andy Pettitte’s homecoming was rained out, George Steinbrenner didn’t invite soon-to-be-ex-son in law and heir apparent Steve Swindal to the annual Welcome Home dinner, and Johnny Damon’s calf turns out to be strained (or something) rather than just cramped. And you were worried about Melky getting enough playing time.

This is when you’d like to be carrying a fifth outfielder, because if anything else goes wrong, we’re looking at Miguel Cairo out there, and… no. Just no.

Finally, I’m more psyched than I’d care to admit for Daisuke Matsuzaka’s first MLB start tomorrow. I just love the fact that there are currently about 200 Japanese reporters camped out somewhere in Kansas City. And I don’t know if anyone could live up to the hype Matsuzaka’s been subjected to, but I’m certainly looking forward to seeing him air out some of those eight different types of pitches in a game that counts. Anyway, I expect him to look good tomorrow, but keep in mind that this IS the Royals.

Over/under on the number of Royals who will claim to have seen the elusive gyroball, only to have Matsuzaka later deny throwing it: three.

Get Metsmerized

Yeah, yeah, it’s only three games... but the Mets look fan-fucking-tastic so far. Glavine and El Duque were excellent, but John Maine today was even better: 7 innings, one hit, no runs; he was only in any kind of trouble for about five minutes in the fifth. This is kind of a bittersweet series for Mets fans, because on the one hand, they swept their rivals and that’s great, but on the other… how the hell did they lose the NLCS to these guys? The mlb.com recap headline was "Cards Bats Holding Them Back." I mean, maybe so, but only with plenty of help from their pitching and defense.

I know Tony La Russa is supposed to be a genius and all, but I thought he made some questionable moves: he left reliever Russ Springer, now the proud owner of a 40.5 ERA, on the mound way too long; and he somehow concluded that Preston Wilson was in any way qualified to either bat second or play the outfield (one ball was lost in the lights, which can happen to anyone, but the error on Julio Franco’s fly ball to right was just gruesome).

By the way, Julio Franco is now the oldest player ever to reach second base thanks to a fielding error by Preston Wilson. Well, probably. I think I'm going to make that a weekly feature: "Julio Franco is now the oldest player ever to..."

Erratic flamethrower Ambiorix Burgos had a blissfully stress-free debut, entering with a 10-run lead, and looked great, but I still have a lot of reservations about him. Anyone who's compared to Armando Benitez this often has got to give you pause. Aaron Sele pitched well tonight too, striking out Albert "Tom Glavine wasn't that good" Pujols with a curveball.

Also: in the sixth inning tonight Keith Hernandez referred to a John Maine slider as a “slid-oobie.”

April 04, 2007

Saint Eeephus Rides Again

It was a good night for El Duque, the patron saint of this blog (being one of the only current major leaguers who'll actually throw an occasional eephus). He went seven innings, throwing a cornucopia of pitches from all arm angles and occasionally, as catcher Paul Lo Duca put it after the game, “inventing stuff out there.” And as if that weren’t enough, he went two for three at the plate, doubling in two runs.

The big question with Hernandez (other than “but seriously, how old IS this guy”?) is always whether he’ll stay healthy, not how well he'll do when he is. But the Mets are starting out with a bang, proving yet again the utter irrelevancy of spring training records. In two games they’ve scored 10 runs, allowed two, and turned seven double plays, all against the team they lost an excruciating Game 7 to last fall.

Continuing the exorcise-the-demons theme, tomorrow they face former deeply ineffective Mets closer Braden Looper, who is now suddenly a starter. Converting Looper seems like a bad idea to me, if only because it implies a kind of scrambling desperation, and April’s a bit early for that… but then again, you know if I trash the idea at any length he’ll come out and throw a one-hitter. Worked for Gil Meche, didn’t it?

April 03, 2007

And Just in Time for Passover

I've got a post on Bronx Banter today, but here's a few additional comments on opening day, before round two of Mets-Cardinals tonight:

-I think we were all ready for Pavano to either collapse in pieces, perhaps literally, or stage a triumphant and inspiring comeback. Instead, he was just… well… okay. Not bad. Meh. Of course, that in itself represents progress. The jury’s still out, especially since the Yankees helpfully made three ugly errors behind him. It’ll take at least three or four more starts before I give up on him for the 11th time.

-There’ve been a lot of stories recently about how Andy Pettitte is befriending Pavano, his new neighbor in the locker room. This is clearly part of the Pavano media rehab initiative, the idea being “hey, if Andy likes him… how bad can he be?” Not a bad strategy, I've gotta say.

-I only discovered yesterday that Doug Mientkiewicz is nicknamed Manischewitz. A quick Google search reveals that this one has been around for a while, but I don’t think I’d ever heard it before, and while it doesn’t make any sense -- other than phonetically -- I think it'll stick. My only worry is that, if he hits extremely poorly, people will think I’m being anti-semetic.

- I watched the Twins-Orioles game last night, and was reminded that Santana hasn’t lost a game at home in TWO YEARS. And yes, I know wins aren’t an accurate measure of how a player performed on a given day… but fuck it, that’s insane. Also, I learned from the announcers (Yes - learned something! From ESPN announcers! I know!) that the Astros used to have Santana in their farm system, and let him go in the Rule V draft. Can you imagine being the person in the Astros organization responsible for that decision? I would never sleep again. Sorry -- I know this is a bit off-topic, but when I watch Santana pitch, I’m like a small child fixated on a shiny object. I wanted him on my salary cap fantasy team so badly that I spent a third of my budget on him, and was left with only $600,000 for Bubba Crosby as my DH.

Finally: everything was going well yesterday -- until I saw this story. Now, I know this is truly nothing but idle speculation. But. Donald Trump… owning the Yankees? Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo…

April 02, 2007

Finally!: Mets 6, Cardinals 1

Opening day seemed to take longer than usual to arrive this year, didn't it? One game into the season, and I feel better already.

I don’t know if this was really a big win for the Mets’ mental state, but it was certainly key for the health and well-being of their fans. This was more or less how everything was supposed to work out last fall, before Jeffs Weaver and Suppan were body-snatched and replaced by more talented alien look-alikes. Tom Glavine was eminently ace-like, again, for the win (291 down); the Mets' offense bludgeoned forme Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter; and the defense was excellent all around, with Jose Valentin and Reyes repeatedly saving the day. The game was more fraught than the final score indicates, though with a number of near-rallies -- but, fortunately for the Mets, also a number of double plays.

It should probably be noted that this Cards team featured Preston Wilson batting second (why?) and Yadier bleeping Molina batting fifth (WHY?! OBP last year:.274! SLG: .321!). However, in the interests of extending spring optimism, I see no need to dwell on that information.

Of course, like the man says, every rose has its thorn, and if you want to watch baseball you must accept the ESPN commentators that come with it. "You know I don't get carried away with statistics," dr awled Joe Morgan early in the game, when he and partner Jon Miller failed to comprehend a chart involving that most cutting-edge and complex of stats, the walk. We know, Joe, we know. On the plus side, Joe and I agree on something for the first time in quite a while, namely, Jose Reyes’ awesomeness.

Tomorrow I’m heading up to Yankee Stadium for the Bronx home opener. I’ll post in the evening when I get home... unless, of course, I’m delayed by Pavano-inspired mob violence.