July 31, 2007

Miller Time

Greetings from Milwaukee! Nice place from the little I've seen so far, but then, any city with a used book store in the airport automatically earns my respect. I'm about to head to the Mets-Brewers game, but first, some notes on the trading deadline:

-The Mets acquire Luis Castillo from the Twins for some prospects you probably haven't heard of. Good trade -- I like Castillo, one of the many Twins players who always seems to contribute more than you think he'd be able to. On the other hand, I think the Mets have 17 second basemen now.

-The Yankees send Everyday Scott Proctor to the Dodgers in exchange for Wilson Betemit. I feel for Proctor, who pitched all the damn time and never once publicly complained about it, and then, possibly as a direct result, lost his effectiveness. Fortunately, in Dodgers manager Grady Little, Proctor will have a manager who is not exactly known for going to his bullpen too often...

I don't see that Betemit helps them all that much this year, but I guess it can never hurt to have a better bat on the bench, all due respect to Miguel Cairo. I'm surprised, though, that the Yankees haven't moved Kyle Farnsworth. It's one thing to pitch badly; it's another to pitch badly while complaining about playing time and feuding with your catcher. Wheee.

-The Braves are significantly scarier now that they have Mark Texiera. The Mets would still have the better lineup if Delgado and Beltran were playing up to their potential, but since they're not... well, the Mets really need Glavine and El Duque to hold up, and Oliver Perez to stabilize. And Pedro to hurry up.

-Similarly, 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, which is a shame, if only because rooting against the Indians, who are quite likable, is not nearly so fun as rooting against Boston.

-Someone better organized than me is finally starting a campaign to get the Mets to move the Home Run Apple to CitiField. I support this wholeheartedly. If the Mets are going to make their stadium move the right way, they've got to take the Apple with them -- yes, it looks like it was made out of papier-mache by a 4th grade class in the 70s, but that's the point. It's unique, and it has character, and to leave it behind or sell it to the highest bidder would be a shame, even (or especially) if it will be an incongruous fit at CitiField. Do you really want the Apple rotting away in some eccentric millionaire's back yard? No, and neither do the millionaire's neighbors, trust me. Just bring it already. Everybody wins.

More soon on Tom Glavine, Miller Park, and -- most of all -- the sausage race.

July 26, 2007

Mysteries of Pittsburgh

The Mets have had plenty of injuries this season, but not, I'd say, a truly abnormal amount. Still, has any other team had such random injuries? How does a young guy like Carlos Gomez fracture his hand on a checked swing, exactly? And now Jose Valentine has fractured his tibia by fouling a ball off his leg. It wasn't shattered a la Jermaine Dye -- that was one of the most gruesome baseball injuries I can recall watching live* -- but it probably ended his season.

Speaking of age, I was glad to see Julio Franco land on his feet, even if it is with the Braves, and even if both parties seem a bit grouchy about the breakup. A lot of Mets fans, by the time he was released, had started to resent his presence on the team a bit, and there's no denying he wasn't very useful this year, even as a pinch hitter. Still, let's never forget how cool it is that the man is about to turn 49 years old. Also, earlier this season he broke his own record to become the oldest man ever to hit a home run in the majors, and he did it off The Big Grumpy himself, Randy Johnson. So I will, pretty much, love him forever.

Last night Tom Glavine got win #299 (and A-Rod hit home run #499). These are impressive milestones -- Glavine's far more so -- but I hate the inevitable countdown superhype we'll now have to go through with every start or at-bat. And, yes, I have decided to completely ignore Barry Bonds in the hopes that he will eventually go away. I'm not watching his at-bats no matter how many times ESPN tries to make me. Part of me does hope it takes him weeks and weeks to get it, though... if only because it will be a sort of poetic justice for Bud Selig to be forced to traipse glumly around the country after him, however long it takes. Now will you admit you should have pushed harder and more publicly for testing back in the 90s?

Anyway, the Mets seem to be back in their groove, though it's hard to tell when they're playing the Pirates. Seriously, how bad are the Pirates? Ace pitcher Ian Snell's immediate family members are now calling the team losers. "I'm starting to break," says Snell in that article. Yikes! Okay, as soon as they get out of New York, I'm officially rooting for Pittsburgh. These guys need some wins in the worst way.

That said, they really are terrible. In one eighth-inning play against the Mets last night, the pitcher failed to cover a base, no one on the Pirates seemed to know where the ball was supposed to go, and somehow an errant throw by catcher Ryan Doumit hit Shawn Green in the head as he dove back into third. Honestly, I'm not even sure what happened there; it bore only a vague resemblance to baseball as we traditionally know it. As Keith Hernandez put it, sounding genuinely confused and slightly hurt, "the Pirates did so many things wrong on that play..."

Between them and the Reds, and the Yankees' stretch against Tampa, Toronto, and Kansas, I've watched an awful lot of bad baseball over the last few weeks. Good thing they can wrap up these series tomorrow and move on to... oh... uh, the Orioles and Nationals. Aaaargh!

*Up there with Nick Johnson's broken leg (especially sickening in person -- it was almost a year ago and he still isn't recovered enough to play), Brian Roberts' elbow (eeeeeew!), and probably worst of all, the Beltran/Cameron outfield collision, which is why as far as I'm concerned no one is ever, EVER allowed to get on Beltran for shying away from balls dropping just between him and his right fielder.

You know, it's funny... I always liked Bubba Crosby when he was with the Yanks, but when I see his name the first things I think of are him crashing into Sheffield in the outfield during the '05 playoffs, and Brian Roberts' horrifically mangled elbow. That's quite a legacy for an innocuous little fourth outfielder.

July 22, 2007

...And Randy Choate Is Why I Can Never Remember Where I Put My Keys

Phew -- it's been a while, so I won't try to get to everything that's happened in the last few days. In short, the Mets are still winning just enough to keep themselves in first place, while the Yankees are at a stage of their season where every win feels enormously hopeful and every loss is a dagger to the heart. They're 7 1/2 back from the Sox now, but to me, it won't really feel like a race til they cut that to 5. A few salient points from recent games:

-A month or so ago, I was watching a Mets/Yanks game at a bar on the Upper East Side (don't ask), when a pair of young guys next to me asked the bartender to switch a TV over to the Marlins/Tampa Bay game, and proceeded to cheer heartily for the Devil Rays. I was stunned; I had literally never in my life ever encountered a Tampa Bay fan before. It was like having a Yeti sidle up and order a Long Island Iced Tea. Naturally, I made inquiries, and there was actually a logical explanation: they were old high school friends of Devil Rays starting pitcher J.P. Howell. I mention this because Howell started yesterday's 17-5 Yankees win, and I thought of his friends and felt for him... though, to be fair, he only allowed 7 of those runs.

-Wil Nieves is always described as an extremely nice guy, and it's true -- he really is, at least as far as I could tell during spring training. Awfully friendly and genuine, considerate, always smiling. Nevertheless, everyone who ever mentions him brings this up so reliably when discussing his hitting that it's become a sort of "she's got a great personality." The Yankees finally made a trade, and Nieves will be designated for assignment as soon as the new guy shows up; I genuinely wish him good luck and success wherever he lands.

His replacement is one of the dreaded Molina Brothers, Jose, acquired from the much-loathed Angels for a AA pitcher. As I by now instinctively loathe all catching Molinas (Bengie absolutely destroyed the Yankees in the '05 ALDS, while &*%@ing Yadier is the reason I didn't get to cover a World Series this past fall), this will take some getting used to. But I'll try my best... hell, you can't choose your family, right?

-Speaking of which, I'm liking new Yank Shelley Duncan so far, even though he is immediately related to two Cardinals (son of pitching coach Dave and brother of awkward-fielding Chris). He's comically enthusiastic, with some serious power, and while I'm not sure how he'd fare as an every day player, he's got to be better than the hollow shell of Johnny Damon has been so far this year. Poor Damon; such a fun guy to watch when he's going well, and still good-natured even now. He's picked it up the last few days, but then again a tea kettle could have gotten a hit off this Devil Rays pitching staff.

Anyway, at one point the YES cameras showed Alex Rodriguez casually, almost absently explaining something to Duncan, who sat and listened with absolutely hilarious unblinking laser-like intensity. I've rarely seen a human being with their eyes open wider. Rookies are fun.

-Meanwhile, in the "old ineffective ex-Yankee relievers never die..." department: the latest sighting is one Jay Witasick, currently dragging a 9.53 ERA out of the Tampa bullpen. He only pitched half a season for the Yanks, and that was six years ago, so I'm sort of embarrassed that I remember him so clearly. I imagine it's this kind of thing clogging my brain that explains why I never remember to pay the cable bill on time.

I'll catch up with los Mets tomorrow...

July 17, 2007

Baseball Player Name of the Week (Bonus Edition)

Okay, so I use the word "week" loosely, but this one was just too good to sit on:

Cletus Elwood Poffenberger, also known as "Boots."

Mr. Poffenberger had a brief and rather unstoried pitching career with the Tigers and Dodgers in the late 1930s, though he does, according to Wikipedia, bear the distinction of once having been tagged out by Frank Crosetti using the hidden ball trick. He was suspended after only three games in Brooklyn for the vague "violating team training rules."

One fan recalls him as a "nonconformist," given to "holdouts and disappearing acts." "There are many Poffenberger stories," he adds, "with most related to his affinity for strong drink." Poffenberger played for the minor-league Nashville Vols in 1941, where he was suspended 90 days for throwing the ball at an umpire.

(This is the grave of a different Poffenberger -- our Boots lived til 1999 -- but all I could find via Google Image search. There's more of them out there than you think.)

As a postscript, I can't help noticing that the baseball-reference.com page for Bris Lord, mentioned in the last Name of the Week post, is sponsored by one "Lord Peaches Von Wolfenstein."

I love the internet.

July 16, 2007

That Still Doesn't Explain What's Wrong With "The Cream"...

... and there's a really inappropriate joke in there somewhere.

I don’t really have much to add to all that’s already been said and written on the Sheffield/Torre contretemps. Buster Olney sums it up for those of you with ESPN Insider. In short, looking back over Torre’s whole career, there seems to be little evidence to back up Sheffield's remarks. And as you'll no doubt have heard by now, Sheffield mentioned that Jeter had tried to defend Torre to him, but that's not relevant because Jeter "ain't all the way black." Nice. I have no trouble believing Torre plays favorites – and that Sheffield was not one of those favorites, which may be what he’s responding to -- but that's hardly the same thing.

From that same interview, another quote from Sheff, on why he’d never, ever take steroids:

"The bottom line is, steroids is something you stick in your butt - period."

So… I guess homophobia is good for something after all?

In other news:

--Anthony Rieber has a new Ask Anthony mailbag up on Newsday.com. You know, it's not nice to make fun of a 76-year-old woman... but it is, sometimes, called for.

--Speaking of Derek Jeter, on a lighter note (and via Gothamist), I’m just going to quote this entire item from the gossip pages of the Daily News:

“Derek Jeter had to step up his game over the All-Star break in San Francisco.

The Yankees captain seemed a little nonplussed that his pal Barry Bonds was more of a hit with the ladies at the 40/40 Club All Star Celebration. Bonds, who hosted the event, was besieged by female fans wanting photos and autographs.

"If this party was in New York, all the girls would be on my s—," Jeter wryly observed in front of a Gatecrasher pal.

Not to be outdone, our boy was spotted later chatting up two women and leaving the party with an attractive blond.”

Ah, homefield advantage.

Now, I’ve never been a Jeter groupie. Love watching the man play, but never had the big crush, even as an impressionable adolescent. And I admit that his club-hopping, starlet-a-night routine is finally starting to wear on me – not that I’d ever argue against a rich and famous athlete getting his god-given share of tail, but really, it has been twelve years now, and if he has other interests, he keeps them well hidden.

However, with that said: how on earth could any sentient straight woman not pick him over BARRY BONDS? Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I don’t like to assist a guy with his cattle hormone injections on a first date. Certainly not without a really nice dinner first.

--On Saturday the Tampa Bay Devil Rays enjoyed a sellout crowd, according to the YES announcers. “Good for them,” I thought, until I heard the rest: it was only the sixth in their entire history.

--The Yankees are now one game over .500. I will skip the sarcastic celebratory remarks this time, but it is perhaps worth pointing out that they’re now just a win or two away from being on pace to match the final record of last year’s World Series Champions.

I dislike the Cardinals more and more with every passing day.

This is Rickey Calling on Behalf of Rickey

The Rickey Henderson experience is underway. As one skeptical fan at Friday night's Mets-Reds debacle told me, "Ricky never knew how many outs there were when he was playing. How's he going to coach first base?" But I wouldn't worry about that... I mean, the runner can probably tell him, right? Remember:
"Rickey's gonna be Rickey. Period. No matter what I'm going to do or play or come here early, I'm gonna be Rickey. Rickey is not going to change and not be himself. I've been in this world too long to try to change Rickey and what he does . . . My mother don't even try to change me. She raised me, but she ain't gonna change me.
Ricky was being Ricky long before Manny was being Manny -- and he did it largely in the third person, too.

On the plus side: it was Endy Chavez Bobblehead Night. Those babies are currently retailing for $30+ on eBay, but personally, I think any fan selling their Endy Chavez bobblehead is just begging for lousy karma. It's too bad Chavez couldn't be there in non-bobblehead form; he's still rehabbing that hamstring, and while L Millz has done very well so far in the lineup... it doesn't make up for the lack of Endy.

The Mets took three of four from the Reds, which they needed to do against arguably the worst team in the National League. The Reds' roster is full of players I didn't realize were still in baseball: I could have sworn, for example, that Jeff Conine had retired several years ago. And poor Mike Stanton, onetime savior of the Yankees' pitching staff, staggered out of the pen and pitched terribly throughout the series; I had no idea he was still going.

It's hard to forgive superstars when they play too long, but I can't really hold it against middle relievers; they never get, or didn't until very recently anyway, the $15 million deal to last them through the rest of their days. And for a while there, Stanton was really very good: the Yanks are still struggling to find bullpen help as reliable as he and the eternally irritable, creepily-mustached Jeff Nelson were in their primes.

Tomorrow: the Yankees. Race relations! Groupies! The Devil Rays! You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll curse the day Kyle Farnsworth was born.

I leave you with one more Rickey anecdote, also from that Newsday story:
-- And, one final story I came across was a bizarre shouting match Rickey had with none other than El Duque during a spring training game in 2002. It wasn't clear what exactly bothered El Duque. He began yelling and they eventually had to be held back. "He needs to grow up a little bit," Rickey said. "I ain't a kid. When I broke into the game, he was crawling on his hands and knees. Unless he's as old as I am. He probably is."
Well, yes, probably. Interesting, though probably no big deal; Rickey also said, on a different occasion, and by way of explaining why he often didn't know all of his teammates' names, "I never get that close to pitchers."

July 14, 2007

Baseball Player Name of the Week

Via an astute commenter: Baron Frost, of the Auburn Doubledays, a minor league affiliate of the Blue Jays.

It's no Bris Lord ("The Human Eyeball"), a player brought to my attention by commenter JL25and3 on the Banter and with whom I am now obsessed, but it's pretty good. Though, really, if Auburn Doubleday were a person, that wouldn't be a bad choice for Name of the Week either. Reminds me of one of my all-time favorite ideas for a blog post ever, from The Winged Elephant: "Wodehouse Character or Baseball Player?"

I am proud to report that I aced their quiz -- as well I should, since I have spent an inordinate amount of time in my life on both P.G. Wodehouse and, as you have probably noticed by now, baseball names. Personally I think the moniker that fits most seamlessly into both categories is Snuffy Stirnwiess.

Runner up: Stiffy Byng.

July 12, 2007

There IS a God...

... and He loves bloggers.

More on this in the days to come. So, so much more.

July 11, 2007

Last Year At Marienbad

Just as I was getting ready to unload on another dull and dreary All-Star Game... it actually went and got interesting on us! While noting that, as always, the FOX coverage was still intensely terrible, the game itself had a number of highlights:

-Ichiro's inside-the-park home run. Who doesn't love inside the inside-the-park home runs? While less surprising than Prince Fielder's earlier this year, and less dramatic that Jose Reyes' last season (with the totally unnecessary headfirst slide/flop), it was still a kick. As a bonus, Ichiro's hit drove in "Ol' Butterfly-Head, Brian Roberts".

Question: who was the last Yankee to hit an inside-the-park home run? I can't remember, and it's proving tougher to research online than I thought; this is driving me nuts. Oh Google, why have you forsaken me? I did, however, discover that Wahoo Sam Crawford holds the all-time record for inside-the-park home runs, with... wait for it... 51. It was a different game back then, but that's still basically inconceivable.

-The New York teams represented fairly well: Reyes was 3-for-4, but Billy Wagner canceled him out by giving up the decisive two-run homer to Victor Martinez. Everyone else (Beltran, Wright, A-Rod and Jeter) went 1-for-3.

-It was very weird seeing Jorge Posada catch Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. What, Jorge couldn't have maybe drawn that inning out a bit, gotten him to throw a few more high-stress pitches? I swear, it's like he's not even trying sometimes. Meanwhile, what's the over/under on one or both of Posada's knees blowing out from overuse? I say August 15.

-I have never cared much for Tony La Russa as a manager, and he didn't grow on me during the playoffs last fall. So I was torn: since the Yankees seem unlikely to benefit from homefield advantage in the World Series this year, why not let the NL win one, right? It might yet come in handy for the Mets. On the other hand, I couldn't root for La Russa over Jim Leyland, who is light years awesomer -- and on that front, the game went better than I could have hoped. As you probably know by now, La Russa left Aaron Rowand in to bat with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, down by one run... with Albert Pujols on the bench.

Now, Rowand's a good hitter and all, but Pujols, off year or not, is one of the two or three best in the game. La Russa insisted that he needed him on the bench in case of extra innings, which is the same sort of logic Joe Torre has used too many times this season to explain leaving Mariano Rivera in the bullpen while poor overworked Scott Proctor blew the lead. Torre, however, has interpersonal skills coming out of his ears, and would no doubt have handled this a whole lot better:

"It's the All-Star Game. He can do what he wants," Pujols said Tuesday night. "He does whatever he wants. If I wasn't expecting to play, I wouldn't have come up here."

Pujols, the NL MVP in 2005 and key to the Cardinals' win in the World Series last year, said La Russa didn't talk to him the entire game. ...

..."If he wants to get upset, he can get upset," La Russa said. "Whatever he wants to do, he can do. It's America. That wasn't the most important thing tonight."

It is, indeed, America. Everyone can do what he wants. No doubt when the founding fathers drafted the first amendment, they had a scenario much like this one in mind.

Other items of note on this slow sports news day:

-The Yankees are, per ESPN, talking to A-Rod about a contract extension. All well and good... except they'll negotiate with him during the season, but not lifelong Yankees Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada? I can't imagine that's going to go over very well.


-And hey -- I almost forgot my own anniversary. Eephus Pitch turned 1 year old today; my first-ever post was on the 2006 All-Star Game (don't ask me what happened with the font there. I have no idea). At the time, I was summarizing Z-grade DVDs for a living; since then I've covered the Mets and Yankees in the playoffs for the Village Voice, as well as the Knicks, the Rangers, the Jets and Giants (definitely not doing that again), Cooperstown, and Spring Training, to say nothing of indoor lacrosse. I've been fired. And I got a book deal. And a dog.

So, in short: thanks for reading, everybody.

And to the hundreds and hundreds of people over the last twelve months who, quite understandably, came here looking for information on how to throw an eephus, and left confused and disappointed... sorry about that.

July 10, 2007

Who's More 'Now': Bud Selig or Kenesaw Mountain Landis?

I can't believe I'm saying this so soon after sitting through the Home Run Derby (Back-back-back-back-[MUTE]!), but for once I'm actually on ESPN's side, as MLB reveals itself once again to be a lumbering, self-destructive dinosaur:
ESPN won't be able to allowed to broadcast its "Baseball Tonight" show live from the All-Star game in San Francisco on Tuesday night.

Major League Baseball limited ESPN's access this week after the cable network broke an embargo and announced the All-Star rosters before the end of a selection show on TBS.

You just can't do this anymore. If you broadcast something on national TV, it becomes common knowledge. It's going to be all over the internet within seconds, and then how can you really ask news programs -- though I use this term loosely with regards to ESPN -- not to cover it? They'll be scooped by a thousand websites. The fact that we're talking about All-Star Game selections here, as opposed to actual important news that people care about, means this particular instance is probably not ideal material for a first amendment-based lawsuit. But MLB is being painfully clueless here. And also here... god help us all.

Of course, this is also an example of how ESPN's business interests will never allow it to be a true news entity. Remember when the network aired Bonds on Bonds... while simultaneously pretending to neutrally cover Barry's home run chase? Or when they stopped airing hockey and basically never mentioned the NHL ever again? I understand the economic necessity behind it, I just wish they'd be more honest about it: ESPN is far too financially involved with the sports it covers to maintain any sort of impartiality. Just look what happens when it tries: They kept John Kruk and Steve Phillips out of the All-Star Game! You bastards!

Meanwhile, SportsCenter just ran the abomination that is the "Who's Now?" segment. "Who's more 'now': Alex Rodriguez or Terrell Owens?" I'm sorry, who's more... I... you just... okay, you know what? Forget I said anything: MLB and ESPN deserve each other.

In other, non-bitter-rant news:

- Check out "Ol' Butterfly-Head, Brian Roberts." Awesome. Quote of the day: "I can't imagine he knows he's got a butterfly on his head." Runner-up quote of the day: "Kinda speaks to the fact that there’s not a lot going on when the Rangers are up at bat here." Thank you, Uni Watch.

- Unfortunately for Met fans, you can't really hate the Phillies after this.

Check out this clip of the entire team running out of the dugout to help the Colorado grounds crew wrestle the tarp onto the field during a viciously windy rainstorm. And check it out quick, before MLB has it removed from YouTube, because Bud Selig grew up in the Cretaceous. Really nice moment... although, uh, where the hell were the Rockies? It's just LaTroy Hawkins out there by himself. Even a couple of umpires joined in, forcing me to question my long-held assumption that they are all demonic spawn sent to this earth to torment the honest, hardworking baseball fans in the Stadium bleachers.

July 09, 2007

I Know Why The Caged Splitter Misses the Outside Corner

I was at the Stadium on Saturday for Old-Timers' Day and a painful, beautifully pitched, horribly defended thirteen inning loss to the Angels. God, I hate the goddamn Angels. Friday night was a wild, ugly win and Sunday's game was a satisfying rout, but because it's the Halos, that middle game lingers. The Yanks couldn't score -- looking back, I'm amazed they managed even the one run -- and made five errors, which makes it all the more remarkable that they kept the Angels to a tie for so long. But the Yankee pitching was just that good, especially Roger Clemens, who went 8 innings for the second start in a row.

It may very well happen one day, but I can't imagine Clemens ever pitching in the Old Timers' Game. The Game's pleasant enough on one level, but as an exercise in pure unadulterated nostalgia -- it's not for charity, there's no genuine competition or high level of play -- it's also melancholy. This is something I plan to write more about later, probably in the book (never too soon to start the hard sell!). But in any case I can't see Clemens, the pure competitor, the guy who backed his own son off the plate with a pitch towards the chin, suiting up in fifteen years, the uniform highlighting his potbelly, priding himself on still throwing 78. A refresher:
And that competitive fire never left — as discovered by Koby, who had the audacity to hit a home run off Dad in batting practice two weeks ago in Florida. He got the vintage Clemens brushback pitch the next time up.

"I figured I'd get strike one on the kid with a fastball, 92, 93 mph, and he runs into it," Clemens says. "So, of course, I was a little pissed. I said, 'OK, if that's the way it's going to be.' So next time up, I went in on him."

Says umpiring supervisor Steve Palermo: "When I umped, we used to always joke that Roger was so competitive that he'd knock down his own mom. Well, we now know that he'll at least knock down a family member."

Then again, Paul O'Neill was there Saturday -- another guy you don't want to picture taking a feeble cut at age 65. Fortunately it hasn't come to that, as O'Neill's just 44 and, to the naked eye, almost completely unchanged; in fact he's probably moving better than Damon these days. I was immensely relieved, when he stroked a single in his first at-bat, that he hadn't embarrassed himself.

There's nothing wrong with the Old Timers' Game, exactly -- the players want to be there, the fans pay to see it, it's all in good fun. And occasionally, as with Bobby Murcer's dignified, emotional presence, it provides some powerful moments. It's always great to hear the applause for Reggie (still hotdogging) and Mattingly, and the more respectful reception given to Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford, who still looks sharp as hell -- my all-time favorite Yankee-I-never-got-to-see-play. This year, of course, Scott Brosius and O'Neill got a lot of love, and it warmed my cold, blackened little heart. But there's still something painful just under the surface. He tossed it off casually in a pre-game interview, but I thought O'Neill had the most revealing quote of the day: "Let's face it, when you get out on this field it brings back a lot of memories," he said. "And that's what you've got left."


On a lighter note, I came across this tidbit while looking at that Koby Clemens link:
"I was just trying to pick a good time to do it. Weekend or weekday?" says Clemens, who keeps a journal that he plans to turn into an autobiography.
Oh man, what's Clemens' journal like? "7/7: Guerrero got three hits today - great, now have to pitch next year too, and K him. Or Plan B: kill with shattered bat fragment. After game, rented Rambo II with Andy, even better on 14th viewing. What you choose to call Hell... Mr. Splitty calls home."

More tomorrow on the Mets' schizo series against Houston, and Carlos Beltran's catch of the year. And hey, it's the All-Star break! A time for contemplation, reflection, wondering how it all went so terribly wrong... much like Yom Kippur really, only instead of being forgiven for your sins, you have to listen to Chris Berman call the Home Run Derby.

July 05, 2007

In the Stirring Words of Crazy Legs Conti: Eat All You Can, America

I spent yesterday the way every patriotic American should, at the Nathan's Hot-Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island, for the second straight year and almost certainly not the last. But I didn't realize that 30,000-plus of my fellow Americans were there with me, bearing witness to Joey Chestnut's stirring victory over Takeru Kobayashi. Yep, Major League Eating is taking off: the NHL better watch its back. To be honest, I was sort of rooting for Kobayashi -- but Chestnut took it fair and square, an awesome performance: he shattered the previous Nathan's record by more than 11 dogs, and his own World Record by seven, while Kobayashi himself beat it by four. It was like McGwire and Sosa '98.

The Yanks lost yesterday to Johan Santana, which... I mean, of course they did. As for the Mets, I got home from the barbecue around 10:30 to find the score at 15-5 Rockies, and announcers Keith Hernandez and Gary Cohen engaged in an in-depth discussion about how their dogs are afraid of thunder.

But things are looking up: the Yankees got a nice win today, which I recapped for the Banter. And the Mets recovered from their three-game debacle in Colorado with a win over Houston behind snubbed non-All Star John Maine. Maine struck out the first three batters he faced (eventually setting a career high with 9), and the third, Lance Berkman, was so crossed up that his bat flew backwards and nearly killed Carlos Lee, who was flipped Lasorda-like onto his back. I was really, really glad Lee wasn't hurt... because I'd already started laughing, and that would've made me feel just awful. Anyway, I think it's safe to say Maine announced his presence with authority.

How's this for bad luck, though: Carlos Gomez fractured a bone in his hand on a checked swing last night, and will miss six to eight weeks. "Mets outfielder" now ranks just above "Spinal Tap drummer" on the job longevity scale. Would it violate MLB's uniform regulations to have Carlos Beltran play in bubble wrap?

July 03, 2007

B.Y.O. Deca-Durabolin

Well, that's just fantastic. The lesson, as always: never, ever say that things can't get any worse.

The Yankees actually got a nice win yesterday, Roger Clemens' 350th. He's the first pitcher to get that many Ws since Joe Torre caught Warren Spahn in 1963, and only the second since the Great Depression. Now, I'm generally the first to argue that wins are a totally meaningless statistic: you can allow 1 run and lose, or 11 runs and win; it's utterly team-dependent, and tells you very little about a pitcher's actual performance, etc, etc, and so forth. But, that said: if you've got 350 of them, you've done something right. It was old-school Clemens last night -- he went 8 innings and allowed just 2 hits.

But that's all overshadowed by A-Rod's hamstring. Jesus: enough with the fucking hamstrings already! Don't these people ever stretch?! The truth is, the Yankees probably weren't going anywhere anyway. But that's all the more reason to have A-Rod around, because watching him put up his incomprehensible numbers has been one of the few enjoyable things about this season.

In other news: like the Yankees, the Mets rolled into Coors field ready for some offensive fireworks and instead barely scraped out two runs, while Tom Glavine gave up six runs in the third inning. Luckily, the Braves and the Phillies still suck.

Finally, Peter Gammons' ESPN blog post yesterday was, essentially, one long ad for the iPhone: almost the entire entry is about how cool the technology is and how many MLB players wanted to get one as soon as possible. Now, while I would absolutely not for a second put it past ESPN to take money for an endorsement disguised as a column... Peter Gammons wouldn't do that, would he? He's not one of my favorite columnists, but he's still an enormously respected sports writer, and he was one of the greats back in the day. So it must have been just a somewhat misguided story idea born on a slow news day... right? Man, I hope so. Haven't we all been disillusioned enough already?

One interesting thing in there amidst all the masses of product placement:
Verlander also knew he didn't have to go to the AT&T/Cingular store to activate his toy. No, simple. "All you have to do is download iTunes into the phone," said Verlander. Before he went to warm up Friday, he could listen to Timbaland (actually, he might want to to listen to a little Jay-Z to get ready for the All-Star Game party he and Barry Bonds are throwing), call friends, check the weather and go online...
Screw the iPhone. Justin Verlander and Barry Bonds are throwing a party? What a random duo, and who wants Barry Bonds at their party, anyway? "I know... let's invite the old humorless guy with 'roid rage!"

July 02, 2007

Pat Neshek For New York State Comptroller

This is my least favorite aspect of the Post: not that they're a seedy, unethical, and bottom-dwelling rag -- I like that about them -- but their tendency to suddenly feign moral outrage when convenient. I guess if you're A-Rod's wife, that's not a shirt you wear if you don't want attention; but give me a break, the entire Yankee Stadium crowd chants "ASSHOLE" several times a game. And what about all the little kids that had to look at this Post cover?

(Credit where credit's due: I did enjoy the "Pett Cemetery" headline on the back page).

News and notes:

-Three Yanks (Jeter, A-Rod, Posada, duh) and four Mets (Reyes, Wright, Beltran, Wagner) are going to the All-Star Game. I'd argue that John Maine should be pitching for the NL too, but that's probably the only New York snub, and I can't get too worked up about it.

-The Yanks have gotten so bad that bored fans have started doing the wave at the Stadium. Okay, you know what? That's it. Last straw. Fire Torre.

-Paul Lo Duca is not speaking to the media. Now who are reporters going to talk to when El Duque pitches -- the one player on the Mets who will, in fact, often pretend not to speak English when he doesn't feel like talking? Oh, the irony. It's like rain on your wedding day...

-Jorge Sosa hurt his hamstring Saturday, and what the hell is it with all these athletes in top physical condition blowing out hamstrings running the 90 feet to first base? Why hasn't anyone figured out a way to prevent this yet? Anyway, this means it's Mike Pelfrey time -- and with Oliver Perez's back acting up, say hello to Jason Vargas, tomorrow night's starter. Hmm, could be a rocky week or two for the Mets.

-Vote Neshek for the last AL All-Star spot. I was going to anyway, frankly, because I love his weird-ass delivery ("a stork being violently tickled, but with much better control" is how I described it on the Banter once). But then you've gotta enjoy any player who doesn't just say something along the lines of, oh, it's an honor to be a finalist, I respect whatever choice the fans make, etc. No, Neshek went on his blog and wrote:
"WOW, how cool is getting nominated. I don't know what to say it's unreal to even think about. But man I need you guys to vote, vote and vote... it's unlimited voting... tell everyone you know and come together and get creative we have like 5 days or something! We need everyone, all Minnesotan's, all graphers, fans of baseball and yes everyone in Yankee Nation (and we know why!) I seriously would like to promise everyone All Star balls or jerseys for voting but it might be a stretch...I will promise this, if you guys can get me in I will write about everything that goes on... multiple updates each day letting everyone know what the heck goes on behind closed doors... I don't know what else to say it would be the greatest feeling in the world to be voted in by you guys. Please tell everyone to vote multiple times:) "
He's also had t-shirts made up. Okay, okay! You have my multiple votes, Pat.

July 01, 2007

Baseball Player Name of the Week

Elvys Quezada, currently a reliever for the Tampa Yankees.

Well, that's the problem with this ballclub right there. How do you leave a beautiful name like that rotting in the minors?! Free Elvys Quezada!

(photo from scout.com)

And while we're at it, let's get Damon Sublett, Seth Fortenberry, and Ryan Zink up here too. What the hell, right? They could hardly make the team worse; might as well give Bob Sheppard something fun to say.

It Was Always Burning, Since The World's Been Turning

I'm not a scout or anything. I never played the game myself. But I'm pretty sure that when relief pitchers start burning their equipment in front of the Yankee Stadium dugout, it's a sign that the season might not be going as well as one would have hoped.

Bryan Hoch has the scoop at his mlb.com Yankee blog:

"After the clubhouse was closed to reporters, Proctor emerged from the Yankees dugout dressed in shorts and a gray t-shirt, lugging articles of his equipment down the tunnel and torching them in a smoky blaze. Proctor stood at the top step of the dugout watching the fire for about five minutes before dousing it with a large water jug, sending a plume of black smoke headed up to the press box."

And here Kyle Farnsworth thought he was a badass with his bat-smashing and glove-throwing... please. Of course, you have to wonder if maybe Scott Proctor wouldn't be pitching so poorly had Joe Torre not used him in literally 123 of the last 239 Yankee games.

Proctor may be emerging as the first Yankee since Paul O'Neill who forces you to simultaneously appreciate and be alarmed by just how much he cares: Don't root for him to get the next batter out because of the score; root for him to get the next batter out so he doesn't have a complete breakdown on national television.

I'd say the ante has been upped considerably for the rest of the team; smashing a water cooler is hardly going to make an impression anymore. "Tuesday night on the YES network: will the Yankee bats heat up against Minnesota? Or will Jorge Posada be forced to strangle an adorable puppy on the field with his bare hands? Don't forget to tune into Yankees Batting Practice Today an hour before the game for complete analysis and exclusive interviews!"