October 31, 2008

Baseball Player Name of the Week

Via RAB, The Yankees have just added to their 40-man roster...

Eric Hacker.

Good thing he's a pitcher. If he ever makes it to the majors, though, I hope he gets to bat in a few interleague games in NL parks.

August 23, 2008

"When the Legend Becomes Fact, Pitch the Legend"

Well, the Yankees' season is likely over... but that didn't keep me from writing a recap for the Banter about Saturday's supposedly Carl Pavano-started game. That's one of my better post titles, too, if I do say so myself.

And if we could somehow get "The Last Unicorn" to stick as a nickname for Pavano, I won't have wasted my time on this planet.

The Mets are in much, much better shape, the loss tonight not withstanding. I can't help feeling a little sorry for Willie Randolph. He got a huge standing ovation at Old Timer's Day at Yankee Stadium, and seemed to really appreciate it, but I think it was only really about about half "we love you, Willie!" and half "fuck the Mets." And I don't want to deny Jerry Manuel credit, because obviously he's done an excellent job, but surely the Mets' turnaround can't be attributed entirely to the managerial change, can it?

But anyway, more on the Mets later, as I now have to fall asleep while watching the US basketball team win a gold medal. Well... knock on wood, but come on.

July 30, 2008

One Pint of Blood is a Small Price to Pay

So I was at Shea today to donate blood in exchange for Mets tickets. And, okay, doing this two years in a row makes it harder and harder to successfully sell the idea that I'm in it for the interesting material, as opposed to because I'm so cheap and broke I'll literally sell my own blood for baseball tickets. Plus, afterwards I stood up too fast and got kind of dizzy, so I had to stay at a table in the Diamond Club for seemingly an eternity drinking apple juice like a complete wuss before I could stagger back onto the 7 train. But it was all worth it, because:


On the way in, I passed Fred Wilpon, though he was already past me before I could gather my wits to ask him a hard-hitting question about the trade deadline. Or even a soft-hitting question about the Burger Shack opening at CitiField next year. Anyway, the New York Blood Center organizers asked him if he wasn't donating -- and by the way, those guys are fucking relentless, with endless streams of emails and letters and calls; never, ever owe money to an NYBC employee -- and Wilpon told them he had to keep his head clear for the big meeting he was heading to. Which sort of piqued my interest... but, ultimately, not nearly as much as seeing Mr. Met did. So, sorry guys: I have no scoop for you, because I was distracted by a huge felt anthropomorphic baseball, and by apple juice.

Couple of recent Bronx Banter posts you may have missed, by the way, here and here; the first is a Walter O'Malley rant and the second talks about the Yankees' Farnsworth-Pudge Rodriguez trade, for those of you who might be interested.

Baseball Player Name of the Week

Courtesy of astute reader Perpetual Memory Loss, I give you:

Phillies pitching prospect Antonio Bastardo.

You might laugh, but it actually sounds pretty badass. I'd imagine that last name would have to make you tough, in a Boy Named Sue kind of way.

July 22, 2008

Spanning the Spans

I've got a soft spot for the Twins, and have for years; they're probably my favorite non-NY team. For one thing, the immortal Bat-Girl made them seem incredibly endearing. Besides that, as I've mentioned many times, I like Ron Gardenhire (a wise and twinkly-eyed baseball gnome), I loved watching Torii Hunter and Johan Santana, and Pat Neshak, and now I like Boof Bonser -- yes, just for the name, but what a name -- and Joe Mauer and, even though he is currently one of the worst-hitting starting outfielders in Major League Baseball, speedy bat-sniffing Carlos Gomez*. But right now I'm especially loving them, because they've got:

1. Longtime Eephus Pitch favorite Denard "No Relation" Span, who with every fleet-footed triple increases the odds that significant numbers of people will one day be walking around in "Span" t-shirts and Jerseys, and improves the reputation of a surname I've spent much of my life sullying. He's kicking ass right now if I do say so myself, albeit in a very non-power-y kind of way.

2. Craig Breslow, who was one year ahead of me at college, and by all accounts as well as my own very brief experience with him, is one very nice biochem major. His appearance against the Yankees tonight was... ah... well, hey, he did set a record. Let's just leave it at that. But he's having a really good year overall and hopefully I'll get to see him pitch again this series.

Anyway, the Yankees are back in the playoff race with a vengeance, but I'm still skeptical. Don't get me wrong -- this is a bit of a rebuilding year and if they can just keep things interesting into September, I won't complain. (Much). But it's hard to imagine that after playing mediocre baseball for nearly half the season, the Yankees will play significantly better after losing Chien-Ming Wang and Jorge Posada for the season. I mean, it's not as if they have top-notch studs on the bench, like Fernando Tatis and Argenis Reyes, ready to step into the void.

Wait... what?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present your first place New York Mets (and their Reyeses, or Reyesi). If I were Willie Randolph I would probably just unplug the TV, cancel my newspaper subscription, and take up either Zen meditation or heavy drinking.


Last but not least, congratulations to my friend Dan, one of the best Mets fans I know -- not because of first place, but because he got married yesterday, in an incredibly beautiful ceremony in Connecticut. (And I say that as someone who doesn't generally go sappy during weddings... seriously, it was beautiful).

And? He didn't check the score even once.

July 11, 2008

Baseball Player Name of the Week (Bonus Edition)

Via Rob Neyer's ESPN blog, I give you:

Independant League manager Kash Beauchamp.

Yes. But wait, it gets better... because Kash Beauchamp manages a team called the Wichita Wingnuts.

He also appears to be something of a wingnut himself, but that's neither here nor there.

Previous Names of the Week

July 09, 2008

Baseball Player Name of the Week

Having just watched the Yanks-Rays series, I have no choice but to select:

Reid Brignac.

(Runner up: Gary Glover. It's an aptonym!)

"Reid Brignac" sounds like a fine liqueur but is, instead, a rookie shortstop from St. Amant, Louisiana. He really and truly looks 14 years old, but the Rays are claiming he's 22.

June 30, 2008

Crosstown Traffic

Okay... I leave town for a few days and all hell breaks loose. A-Rod and Madonna?

(Actually, that OK! story sounds like total bullshit, and I hate myself a little for even linking to it. But a couple of years ago, when the A-Rod hysteria was at its height, I swore I wouldn't write about him again unless he met some extremely unlikely criteria, one of which was having an affair with someone totally insane and unexpected... and while Madonna isn't my Grandpa Murray or anything, I do think this qualifies. Or, you know, would, if it were true).

Anyway. I'm in upstate New York for a few weeks, visiting my dad, who has recently purchased a hi-def TV that pretty much left me drooling with envy. I only got here in time for the last couple innings of tonight's Yanks game (because the traffic leaving the city today was un-fucking-real -- I mean I literally could have driven from New Haven to Providence and stopped for dinner in the time it took me to get from Flatbush Avenue to the Thruway), but man, baseball looks gorgeous on that screen. It's not so much the sharpness, but the depth perception; you can really see movement on the individual pitches in a way that I generally can't on my own elderly TV. I suppose it helped me be a bit more understanding of the fact that, for the third day in a row, the Yankees couldn't actually hit any of those pitches.

From what I could make out through the deafening static -- my dad's place is really too far for me to get the games on the radio, but this never stops me from leaving the station on so that once in a while when the car crests a hill I can make out something like "...six straight balls thrown by John Maine!" -- the Mets lost, too. If the Phillies and Red Sox (... fine, and Rays) had gone on major runs earlier in the year, this could've been one hell of a depressing baseball season in New York. And of course it still might be, but so far? Mostly it's just bewildering.

Anyway, it's late and I'm still recovering from road rage, so I better call it a night and stop A) wondering why the Yankees can't do any damage against one of the worst pitching staffs in the league, and B) remembering how much I dislike the Cardinals.

Oh -- and I had a couple of posts on the Banter last week which I forgot to link to here.

June 23, 2008

Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown?

As an aside, good luck to Curt Schilling, who's undergoing what may be career-ending surgery. While I've taken my shots at the guy here and elsewhere for being, shall we say, a bit of a blowhard, he's certainly a hell of a pitcher, and never less than an eminently entertaining character. In the end I'd much rather have someone shoot their mouth off from time to time than become a dull sound-bite drone in public, as a lot of athletes feel compelled to.

I was at Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS, as a fan, and I won't be forgetting Schilling's performance that night anytime soon -- though of course, sitting in the far reaches of the upper deck, I had no clue there was bloodied hosiery involved at the time. (I also couldn't see the A-Rod slap play from up there, and so I'm afraid I may have had some harsh words for the first base umpire, specifically regarding his parentage and mental acuity, which in retrospect may have been a bit unjust). Schilling was a great focal point for the Boston/New York rivalry, stirring up a dozen mini-controversies over the years -- deliberately or not, he definitely had a knack for getting a rise out of people. If this is the end for him in Boston, which sounds likely, Sox-Yanks games won't quite be the same.

Of course, every time I start to work up some real fondness for the guy, I remember this:


(Yeah, I usually try to stay away from politics on here, and for good reason, but fuck it -- I have my limits).

June 19, 2008

Baseball Player Name of the Week

... and I use the word "week" loosely here, but:

Marv "Rotty" Rotblatt.

I was reading up on the history of the sadly extinct bullpen car the other other day, and it turns out Mr. Rotblatt, a Chicago White Sox reliever, made Comiskey Park history (well, sort of) in 1951 when he became the first Sox pitcher ever driven from the bullpen out to the mound. Ah, to live in an era when nobody had ever heard of the phrase "carbon footprint."

The Yankees' bullpen car was retired after 1972 when rats ate through its engine cables. Seriously.

June 18, 2008

No, Wait...

... I spoke too soon. THIS is really the kind of thing you should try to announce at 3:15 AM:

Yep. Via RAB, the Yanks have signed... gah... Sir Sidney Ponson to a minor league deal. That sound you hear is the entire Scranton-Wilkes Barre Police Department whipping out their breathalyzers.

Ponson, famous for his multiple DUIs, inexplicable knighthood (wtf, Netherlands?), and occasional Aruban judge-punching, was released by Texas a few weeks ago -- and while you might assume he's learned his lesson and the Rangers just dropped him because he's not a good pitcher, you'd be wrong:

Ponson was reportedly put on notice after creating a serious disturbance at the hotel bar in St. Petersburg, Fla. during the team's recent road trip and told that further problems would not be tolerated.

He also reacted furiously after being taken out of a June 4 game against the Indians and with being pushed back from the start that was to follow that outing, prompting Rangers general manager Jon Daniels to say, "We don't feel Sidney deserves to be here or wants to be here."

Of course I doubt Ponson will start for the Yankees more than a few times, if at all (light a candle for Dan Giese), so this probably won't end up being very significant. But as much as everyone's been getting on the Mets the last two days, and rightfully so, let's be careful about bemoaning their lack of class as compared to the Yankees*, a team which within the span of a few hours has deliberately allied itself with both Sidney Ponson and the Hard Rock Cafe.

*I've heard a lot of this, even from Mets fans, who I can only assume are so aggravated right now that they're suffering from selective memory loss. Never mind that smarmy crypto-offer the Yankees made to Joe Torre just last fall -- I mean, Billy Martin would have killed to be fired as tactfully as Willie Randolph was.

Now THIS is the Kind of Thing You Should Try to Announce at 3:15 AM

Kill me now.

You know, there are so many possibilities with a new Stadium -- it's a fresh slate, and a huge opportunity. So why would you squander that on a boring, overpriced, characterless and omnipresent chain like the Hard Rock Cafe?

“Adding popular and premier dining options such as the Hard Rock Cafe and NYY Steak was done with our fans in mind,” said Yankees Chief Operating Officer Lonn Trost.
I'm so sure. Do you ever get the feeling that when Lonn Trost pictures "fans" in his mind, it's as thousands of little walking dollar bills with arms and legs? (Wearing officially licensed Yankees gear, natch).

You know, the more I find out about the new Stadium, the grouchier I get...

June 17, 2008

This Better Be Another Ambien Hallucination

So, sometimes there are advantages to being an insomniac. It's 3:18 AM, and the following press release from the Mets just showed up in my inbox:



ANAHEIM, Calif., June 17, 2008 – The New York Mets today named Jerry Manuel interim manager, replacing Willie Randolph. Manuel, in his fourth season with the Mets, had been bench coach since 2006. The Mets also named Ken Oberkfell, Luis Aguayo and Dan Warthen to the coaching staff. Rick Peterson and Tom Nieto have been relieved of their coaching duties.

Mets General Manager Omar Minaya will hold a briefing with the media Tuesday, June 17 at 2:00 P.M. PT (5:00 P.M. ET) in the media room at Angel Stadium. Mets Manager Jerry Manuel will meet with the media immediately thereafter.

Because nothing says "I'm proud of the decision I just made" like announcing it at 3:18 in the morning!

Okay... I have a number of questions here, all of which fall under the broader umbrella of "What the fuck are the Mets doing?"

First of all, why would you send this out literally in the middle of the night? Because everyone sane and normal is asleep, there is no mention of this story on mets.com, espn.com, the NYTimes, MetsBlog, or anyplace else I've seen so far, leading me to wonder if I am perhaps just losing my mind. This may be the first time in my entire life I actually break a news story (well, if you can consider publishing the contents of a press release to be "breaking a news story") not related to funny names, at-bat songs, or facial hair.

But honestly, late hour aside, I find the timing of this completely bewildering. Why would you fire Willie Randolph NOW, after a win, at a time when the Mets have won four of their last six games, and when by most accounts Randolph was handling the intense pressure very well? If Omar Minaya and/or the Wilpons weren't actually waiting to see how the team performed before making a decision, what the hell were they waiting for? Why not fire him weeks ago, or indeed at the end of last season? At the very least, why make Randolph and his coaches fly to California first, if nothing he did there was going to make a difference? Why put him and the team and the fans and the beat writers through weeks and weeks of this if, as now seems clear, they were going to fire him no matter what?

Yeesh. What a mess.

Maybe something happened in the last day or two that I'm not aware of. Otherwise, this has to be one of the most incompetently handled personnel decisions since the days of George Steinbrenner vs. Billy Martin.

...Ah, there we go. The story is up on Mets.com. They managed to get it up before 4 AM, too -- classy!

June 15, 2008

No Offense, Joe

Back in high school, I used to do my homework in front of the TV, usually while watching the Yankees game with my dad. Starting in 1997 or so, whenever we started arguing over something or other -- I was 15, and not all that thrilled with the world -- I would stare wistfully at the TV and sigh, "I wish Joe Torre was my father."

"I wish he was, too," was his usual grouchy reply.

"Look at him, so calm and wise..." I was kidding, of course, but it never failed to get a rise out of my dad, and it became a running joke, repeated to this day.

But, of course, I wouldn't trade my dad for anyone.

For one thing, his bullpen management is WAY better than Torre's...

Happy Father's Day, pop.

June 11, 2008

LOL Mets

Well I'm back from a weird but largely fun reunion weekend, and you know, I never thought I would say this -- my college self would recoil in horror if she could hear me now -- but there might actually be such a thing as too much open bar. Like, say, nine hours a day for two days in ninety degree heat. (I'm getting old, apparently, but not so old that I can just turn down free booze). It was really great to see people again, though... at least from what I can remember.

Anyway, I've got a recap of last night's Yankee game up at the Banter. As for the Mets, well, they were thoughtful enough to clear up any misconceptions their fans might have had last week that the team was turning things around, instead embarking on a listless five-game losing streak.

But don't worry, Shea faithful: inspirational pieces of paper ARE being handed out! From the Daily News:

Tuesday, before facing the Diamondbacks, the Mets players emerged from a brief players-only, closed-door meeting, each carrying a piece of paper with a blueprint for a future that includes the postseason.

No part of it included blowing a four-run lead and falling, 9-5, at Shea…

…One player allowed the Daily News a quick glance at the sheet, which looked a lot like a flow chart with a series of arrows. At the top was the team's record entering Tuesday night's game, 30-32. Near the bottom was a circled final regular-season record of 92-70.

Below that was an arrow pointing to a single word: "Playoffs."

The sheet also had several phrases and motivational messages. One said "We B4 I." Another read "team above self." A third message was "we have time."

“We B4 I”? Seriously, that’s going to be your big inspirational team slogan? That's gonna get you back above .500? And is spelling out "before" somehow uninspiring? Guys… UR DOIN IT WRONG.

June 04, 2008

Pedro the Lion

I had a post on the Banter yesterday, about the Yankees' little-remembered early 80s disaster of a mascot, Dandy.

Sorry for my recent absence -- I've been in major crash mode, working on my book. I have been watching, though. Three quick thoughts:

-No one these days wants to let themselves get too excited about Pedro Martinez's possible impact on the Mets' season, because we all understand that he's likely to tear some major muscle in half every time he bends over to tie his laces. But after watching him pitch last night, even if it was just against the Giants, it's hard not to indulge myself and wonder... suppose Pedro stays healthy? The simple act of my writing these words, from 3,000 miles away, may very well be enough to snap his fibia. But just suppose. That by itself would make the team, but my highly scientific calculations, 15% better and 47% more fun.

-I'm glad Willie Randolph didn't get fired. Sometimes you need to make a change for change's sake, and I can understand that -- but given that he's working with a flawed roster courtesy of Omar Minaya, and that there's no compelling candidate I'm aware of available to replace him mid-season (Wally Backman?), it would have felt like scapegoating to me.

This is also the second time in eight months that the Wilpons have made it crystal clear that they're thinking about firing Randolph, without actually doing so. I don't understand the strategy here. If you don't have confidence in the guy, fire him; if you do, give him a little public support. (And if you want to fire him but can't, suck it up and fake the support). Otherwise you just piss of your manager and your fans simultaneously, which is a neat trick but not really productive.

-Wondering what Hideki Irabu is up to these days? Of course you were! The Times has the answer. You know, it's really unfortunate that when I hear the words "Hideki Irabu," I think not of a trailblazer who pitched intermittently well for the Yankees during their late 90s run of success, but of the phrase "fat pussy toad." Such is the power of the soundbite, I guess. But it sounds like Irabu is enjoying a happy and quiet retirement in California, and I'm glad.

It's a good article, and well worth the read - but damn Billy Witz for drawing parallels, however indirectly, between Irabu and Joba Chamberlain. Noooooooooo!


This weekend I'll be out of town, and likely without TV, as I drown in nostalgia-laced booze at my 5-year college reunion. But I should be back on track and writing here regularly after that.

May 19, 2008

Pizzle Rot in the Bronx

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

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

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

Meanwhile, back on the farm:

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 16, 2008

Subway Series '08: Resistable Force Meets Movable Object

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

Things like previewing the Subway Series.

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

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

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

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

FRIDAY: Johan Santana vs. Darrell Rasner.


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

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

SATURDAY: Oliver Perez vs. Andy Pettitte.

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

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

SUNDAY: John Maine vs. Chien-Ming Wang.

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

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

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

A few other notes:

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

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

May 12, 2008

Kei Igawa III: Updated

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

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

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

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

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

May 06, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

April 30, 2008

Heads Up, Taliban

I read a ton of sports blogs every day, probably too many -- and so sometimes I go into auto-mode, skimming through most of them. But often, when that happens, I'll eventually get to a sentence so unexpected that it snaps me right out of my trance. Such as (via Buster Olney's ESPN blog a few days ago):

Former reliever Jeff Nelson is headed to Afghanistan.

Huh. That's not how I figured that sentence was going to end.

Turns out Nelson is part of a goodwill tour, along with a few other ex-MLBers -- and in all seriousness, good for him. But for a moment there, I thought maybe the government was sending him over to let him deal with the insurgents like he did the Fenway Park grounds crew.

Baseball Player Name of the Week

Pittsburgh Pirate John Wesley Van Benschoten, who, thanks to the Mets, is currently sporting an ERA of 27.00... and who sounds like he could actually have been a literal pirate. Didn't I once read about some fabled sea battle between him and Sir Francis Drake?

Also, here's an extremely promising NotW prospect, via a blog called We Got A Guy There: Oklahoma State's Rebel Ridling.

God, I'd give anything to get him on the same team as Cody Ransom one day.

April 29, 2008

Let's See Pedro Fix a Hard Drive

So, the Mets are looking a bit better these days... though it seems every time I say that, they go on a losing streak. Whatever else happens, it's awesome that seventh starter Nelson Figueroa has been more than just a feel-good story. Furthermore (and I don't know how I missed this earlier), according to a 2002 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, he's also an electronics whiz:

"He's incredible," Brewers manager Jerry Royster said. "When we were in Cincinnati, my computer went down. My hard drive was totally shot. He maneuvered around and somehow came up with a system that would allow me to do all my work.

"Normally, I would have to call Hewlett-Packard to get that kind of work done. Are you kidding me? This guy is just amazing."


Not long ago, Brewers clubhouse manager Tony Migliaccio was so frustrated with the slow response of his laptop that he was ready to grab one of the autographed bats that decorates his office and smash the computer to bits.

Enter Figueroa.

"I was in here yelling and he came in and asked if he could take a look at it," Migliaccio said. "I was a little nervous about that at first, but I let him. My machine was going through all these setups that I didn't need and it was slowing things down. He went in and changed a few things and said, 'Let me go on the Internet and find you a memory chip.' ... it works great now.

"Nelson is fixing things for guys all the time. He's been invaluable to this organization for all the time and money he's saved by repairing things."

Now that's what I call a small-market team! Anyway, it's a fun article, though clearly not written by a New Yorker:
"Figueroa grew up in a tough Coney Island neighborhood on the 14th floor of an apartment building just across the river from the World Trade Center."
"Just across the river"?! Brooklyn Heights is just across the river; Coney Island is an hour away by subway. You can't get too much farther from Manhattan without -- well, leaving the city. And who'd ever want to do that?

Finally, do you buy that Carlos Delgado doesn't believe in taking curtain calls after relatively insignificant home runs, out of "respect for the game"? Or do you think he's just pissed at the fans for mercilessly booing him all season? Either way, he may have a point. But I personally feel that any time you do your job so well that 50,000-odd people applaud, chant your name, and beg you to take a bow, you should pretty much just go with it, you know? How often do you get the chance?

Of course, I speak as someone who, if I'm extremely successful in my field, MIGHT hope to one day get 20 people in folding chairs -- half of them homeless -- to quietly clap for me in a Barnes & Noble basement...

April 27, 2008

Today the Backstop, Tomorrow the World

Watching the Mets-Braves game Saturday, I discovered, to my dawning horror, that there is now yet another catching Molina in the majors. Supposedly this Gustavo, called up from the Mets AAA team during Brian Schneider's absence, is not related to preexisting catching Molina brothers Bengie, Yadier, and Jose... but I'll believe that when I see an impartial DNA test. Is any team safe from Molinas? Sure, Jose has done an excellent job for the Yankees, and yeah, he appears to be a good teammate and a hard worker. But over the years Molinas have absolutely destroyed New York teams -- I know Mets fans will vividly recall a certain Yadier home run; in the 2005 ALDS Bengie hit .444 and slugged .944(!) against the Yanks -- and I don't trust them one bit. Suddenly Brian Schneider's mysterious "thumb infection*" looks a lot more sinister.

The next Tigers catcher.

What do the Molinas want from us, I wondered Saturday, and what will they stop at to get it? Well, I guess that last question has now been answered: nothing. Resistance is futile, and both New York teams have fallen. One day soon fans in Boston and Detroit will wake up to find that Jason Varitek and Pudge Rodriguez have been turned into Molinas. The next domino, though, will probably be Minnesota, where Felix Molina is lurking in the minors. Skeptics, heads in the sand, may point out here that Felix Molina is, primarily, a second baseman. Sure... for now. Watch your back, Mauer.

In all seriousness, losing Posada is a big blow to the Yankees, who are hovering around .500 as it is. It's not a season-killer or anything, but there's really no way to replace his production. Jose Molina has been impressive so far, but keep in mind that making nefarious plans for world domination can be quite stressful. I only hope it won't become a distraction for the whole team.

*... How exactly does someone get a thumb infection so bad it requires an overnight hospital stay? The Mets say there was no cut or other obvious cause. I don't think I want to know.

April 23, 2008

Commence Fretting

I've got a recap of last night's Yankees game up at the Banter.

As for the Mets, I started a post Saturday about how they were really hitting their stride, but I never got around to putting it up... and now, of course, they're in a slump. Everything is just magnified this early in the season, but as I've said before, you have to pace yourself -- which is why I have made myself this handy summer schedule of appropriate baseball emotions:

Fret: April 16th.
Stew: May 3rd.
Worry: May 28th.
Freak Out: July 10th.
Panic: July 30th.Despair: September 4th.
Throw Self into Gowanus Canal*: September 20th

I may need to iron this out a little more -- only three weeks for freaking out, but well over a month for worrying? -- But this is the rough draft. Input welcome. Anyway, I'll write more later, after some mild fretting.

*Never -- NEVER -- actually do this.

April 18, 2008

Baseball Player Name of the Week

Coot Veal.

Okay, so his real name wasn't Coot... but it was Orville, which is very nearly as good/bad.

April 17, 2008

Think Classy, You'll Be Classy

I noticed, during a postgame interview last night, that LaTroy Hawkins -- now wearing #22 -- has a big yellow "RETIRE 21" sticker right above his locker nameplate.

I assumed that was a joke on this whole controversy, at first, and was suitably impressed... because aside from good breaking stuff, a sense of humor is probably one of the more crucial traits in a New York relief pitcher. But no -- per this AP article on the whole fracas, it's actually from retire21.org, a group trying to get Roberto Clemente's number retired throughout baseball ("Ya es tiempo!"). Oh, the irony.

There's even a t-shirt:

On the plus side, Hawkins pitched very well last night at a pivotal moment, as the Yankees slowly and clumsily clubbed the Red Sox to death, 15-9. Not the most graceful game the old Stadium has ever seen.

Meanwhile, there's good news from Shea, on a rare night when both teams were playing (and winning) at home. Jose Reyes seems to have his groove back, after a nudge from Carlos Beltran -- who apparently took three entire seasons to adjust to New York before he could feel comfortable opening up a bit to reporters, bless his mild-mannered soul. Anyway, David Lennon writes:

Carlos Beltran gave us a great story after the game. He revealed that he went to Jose Reyes Tuesday afternoon and pleaded with him to go back to his old ways: the dancing, the handshakes, the smiling, the laughing. No more Mr. Serious.

Since then Reyes has gone 6-for-9 with a double, triple and home run.

“I’m going to be the old Jose Reyes," he said. "I’m going to enjoy my game. I’m going to dance during the game. I’m going to do the handshakes with everybody. I’m going to keep everybody going with smiles in the dugout.”

Here's Beltran: "I didn’t think he was happy. I told him, ‘I want you to be the Jose Reyes you’ve always been. Forget about what people say. Forget what they write about you. Forget about what other teams think. Just be you.’”

Nice! I'll take Carlos Beltran over Dr. Phil any day of the week. The Times has more.

Personally, I'm thrilled -- I really hate the line of thought that says baseball players shouldn't be demonstrative, should try not to show too much emotion on the field. A certain segment of columnists, radio personalities, and fans throughout the years has always wanted athletes to essentially feign indifference at all times; this is supposedly "classy." I think it's just dull.

Granted, you don't want to be obnoxious about these things. But baseball is, after all, a form of entertainment, and it's always more fun when you can tell that the players care (speaking of Paul O'Neill), or when they reveal a little personality. I like Joba Chamberlain's scary-intense fist-pump -- hell, I like Jonathan Papelbon's fist pump. The Mets' handshake routines seem deeply good-natured to me, and if other teams really feel compelled to take offense, well, then that should lead to some good and intense games. You don't want Jose Reyes to dance? Pitch better.

April 16, 2008


So, I've got an article on the Mets' and Yanks' respective Opening Days and new stadiums in this week's NY Press. Click here to check it out.

And! Because too much is never enough, I've also got a post on last night's Yankees game up at the Banter.

In the meantime, I only got a chance to quickly skim through the Mets' win, but it was another stong Mike Pelfrey outing. I'm thrilled that The Legend of Go Big Pelf is spreading.

April 15, 2008

Hello Offense My Old Friend

...I've come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping*,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Of the bullpen blowing a goddamn 5-run lead.

So apparently nothing is going to be easy for the Yankees this season. (Not that it's ever really supposed to be in baseball, but man, one little 1998 can really warp your perspective if you let it). The Yankees were quickly up 7-2, then just as quickly tied at 7-7; but Robinson Cano hit a game-winning pinch-hit home run, and I suppose in this case, it's the destination that matters, not the journey.

On a serious note, that's genuinely sad news about Joba Chamberlain's father Harlan, who's been a great story and an immensely likable presence at games. Here's hoping for his quick and complete recovery, and in all honesty, that's not just because Joba's absence means more Kyle Farnsworth.

Meanwhile, in lighter news, Wednesday's first pitch at Yankee Stadium will be thrown from outer space. Quoth the lucky astronaut,
"From Earth's orbit, but still deep inside the Yankees Universe, let me say, Go Yanks!"
I love the implied dare here: Top that, Red Sox! Let's just hope we don't have another Cold War-style space race on our hands. I can easily see this escalating until eventually Jerry Remy finds himself broadcasting from a rocket hurtling towards Mars.

*Just noticed for the first time how icky this lyric is. Ew.

April 14, 2008

Curses, Foiled Again

I have a lot of friends who insist that baseball is boring, and naturally, I'll argue this point vehemently and tirelessly. But I really hope none of those friends were watching last night's Yankees-Red Sox game. These match-ups do manage to live up to the hype a remarkable percentage of the time -- remarkable given the truly staggering nature of that hype -- but not yesterday; that was long, slow, limp, and dispiriting. The fact that Jon Miller and Joe Morgan were our narrators certainly didn't help any. Sometime around the 7th, feeling an increasingly violent urge to start chewing through my own ankle, I muted the game, put on some music, and looked over periodically to make sure the Yankees weren't mounting a dramatic comeback.

They weren't.

Meanwhile, I certainly hope the organization isn't going to press charges against the construction worker who buried a Red Sox shirt in concrete under the new Stadium, hoping to cause a new "curse." The Post broke this vitally important news story a few days ago, and at first the Yankees dismissed it, but when photographic evidence turned up, they spent a few hours jackhammering and dug it up. Seems silly to waste manpower on that, though when you're hundreds of thousands of dollars over budget, I suppose it's just a drop in the bucket.

Yankees president Randy Levine called this a "bad, dastardly act," and I would assume that was tongue-in-cheek... because no sane human could seriously look at the world and then call this little joke "dastardly," right? In fact, no one who isn't a character in a 1930s B-movie would use the word "dastardly," period. But then I saw that COO Lonn Trost claimed "the Yankees were speaking with the Bronx district attorney’s office about whether there was any criminality involved in the act, and that the team was considering filing charges against the construction worker, identified by The Associated Press as Gino Castignoli, a Bronx resident."

Give me a break. It's all in good fun, isn't it? Besides, Mr. Castignoli was misguided, because that's not how curses work. (Not that they actually work at all, or indeed exist, but you know what I mean). There's always an element of perceived offense or justice in a good, long-lasting curse -- the team has to DO something, to somehow tempt karma or fate. The Red Sox traded away Babe Ruth, the best player in history, for cash; the White Sox, until a few years ago, hadn't won since they threw the World Series. Even the Cubs, who have by far the least dignified of these "curses," supposedly brought it on themselves by kicking a fan and his goat out of Wrigley Field. (And why wouldn't they? I like goats fine, but who wants them at a ballpark? As an organization, you can't let people threaten you with curses every time they feel like bringing farm animals to the game. This story is just plain stupid, even by curse standards).

Point is, you can't just go around burying innocuous items and expect to start a curse. As pure fan mischief, though, this was pretty classic; and if the Yankees were to actually pursue charges against this doofus -- who would have absolutely gotten away with his prank, had he just kept quiet -- well, then you might have curse material.

April 13, 2008

Billy Traber: Quasi Supernormal Incremental Precipitation Inducer?

In one of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books -- yes, I'm a geek -- there's a minor character, a truck driver, who's constantly bitter and complaining because although neither he nor anyone else has figured it out yet, he's actually a rain god:
All he knew was that his working days were miserable and he had a succession of lousy holidays. All the clouds knew was that they loved him and wanted to be be near him, to cherish him, and to water him.
I bring this up because I'm beginning to suspect the Yankees have something similar going on this season. It rained out Opening Day in the Bronx, it rained in Kansas City, it's raining in Boston, and today the weather caused some unfortunate fans to get stuck watching NASCAR, of all things, instead of the end of the game. I figure if an unwitting rain god is causing this, it must be someone new to the team, and so my money is on Billy Traber, who always seems vaguely unhappy:

Rain god or no rain god, the Yanks lost to the Sox today, but the good news is that Mike Mussina pitched pretty well in the losing effort. I expect that, when/if the Yankee offense eventually decides to join the rest of the team, the resulting massive change in his routine will unnerve Moose, causing his ERA to skyrocket.

Meanwhile the Mets lost to the Brewers, 5-3, in Johan Santana's Shea debut. Fans are taking an understandable but incorrect message from this -- I've heard a lot of people say things along the lines of, "Hey, Santana's only human." Nope, wrong. He just wants you to think he's only human. All part of his strategy. You'll see.

Finally, the Mets are currently having what honestly has to be one of the best promotions in baseball, at least in theory:
"New York Mets and Gilman Ciocia Offering Fans Free Tax Prep at Shea Stadium

...For the third year in a row, the New York Mets will partner with the personal tax team of Gilman Ciocia, Inc. to offer free tax preparation and filing to Mets fans attending games on April 12, 13 and 15 at Shea Stadium.

Professional accountants from Gilman Ciocia will be at the Mets Team Store located behind home plate on the Field Level throughout the game to lend this complimentary tax preparation service for last-minute filers. The service that includes filing extensions is free to all Mets fans that have purchased tickets to any of the following games..."
Now, I'm not sure what caliber of tax prep these people will be able to offer -- to potentially thousands of people, for free. But since TurboTax's advice to me at this point is, basically, "Shoot yourself in the head," I suppose it could hardly hurt to try.

April 11, 2008

Pagan Idolatry

Nice wins last night, as both New York teams pulled themselves back up to .500 -- 1.5 games out of first place in their respective divisions -- and quieted a few early anxiety pangs.

The Mets had the more dramatic victory, a tense 12-inning grudge match against the Phillies, further building up a rivalry that still has that new-car smell. I imagine I wasn't alone in doubting the Mets would pull this one off, after Aaron Heilman coughed up the lead. But eventually Angel Pagan (owner of the best name in current New York baseball, even if Pagan isn't pronounced the way you want it to be) singled and Jose Reyes, who'd been at second, beat the catcher's tag by a fraction of a second to score the winning run. Or maybe not; it was too close for me to call, frankly. Either way, while noting that everything is amplified this early in the year, it felt like a big win.

However, I don't think I'll really feel like this season is seriously underway until the Marlins and Orioles are out of first place in their divisions. I know it ought to be a fun story, a couple of disrespected underdogs getting their moment in the sun... but instead I just find it unnerving. And the Tigers are five games back from the Royals? Up is down, black is white, Jason Kendall has the highest batting average in the majors.

Back in the AL, the Yankees looked pretty good, as they tend to do when they manage to score more than three runs. Andy Pettitte had one of those games, increasingly common with him over the last few years, where he gets excellent results despite not actually appearing to be pitching all that well. Makes it all the more impressive, as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway, tonight is the first Yanks-Sox game of the season, and also the first Mets start for Nelson Figueroa, who is awesome. In general, if maybe not at pitching. He's a multi-lingual graphic artist from Coney Island who's thrown in six different U.S. organizations, Mexico, and Taiwan (where he was the 2007 Taiwan Series MVP); when asked this spring what he'd do if he didn't make the Mets, he said:
"I'll play until nobody in the world wants me."
So you've got to root for this guy, clearly. And who knows? Maybe he can be this year's terrifically unlikely Aaron Small-type success story. Unless Angel Pagan's already got that covered.

Finally, via Deadspin, it seems the Rockies are close to trademarking the word (or "word") "Rocktober." I hope they succeed, if only to prevent any organization I actually like from ever using that term.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to rush off and secure the rights to "Emovember."

April 10, 2008

Kid, This Ain't Your Night

I'm supposed to write about Tuesday's Shea Stadium opener for the NY Press, so I won't get into it in detail here. But there was no getting past the fact that the fans were immensely pissed off. While the Mets' play was hardly encouraging, I still think people may have been overreacting a bit to only one week of poor play... or anyway, only one week of poor play this season.

Granted, if anyone has the right to overreact these days, it's Mets fans. I try not to freak out about anything in April, though -- it's a long season, and you have to pace yourself. Otherwise you won't have anything left in the tank for those crucial August freak outs.

The Mets won a big one last night, even if the Phillies looked as though they were doing their best to throw the game while gangsters back in Pennsylvania threatened their loved ones at gunpoint. Kyle Kendrick allowed six walks in two innings to start things off, and the miracle is that the Mets only scored one run while he did it. You could almost see him thinking, "Come on! They'll shoot my wife if we win tonight! WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO?!?"

Fortunately Eric Bruntlett, who did not so much replace the injured Jimmy Rollins as disgrace his memory, helped Kendrick out by blowing several easy plays in the third, and the Mets won 8-2. Hey, it's a start.

Meanwhile, over in Kansas City, Joe Girardi tried to out-think nature. He was not successful.

April 08, 2008

Baseball Player Name(s) of the Week

Well, I'm certainly not going to top David Pinto's discovery of the new Marlins call-up:

Burke Heinrich Badenhop.

Meanwhile, in excellent, long-awaited NotW news, Eephus Pitch favorite Denard Span -- who lost out on the starting center field job to once and former Met Carlos Gomez -- has been called up to the majors. It took a little longer than I thought it would last spring, but, with the weight of representing Spans everywhere on his light-hitting shoulders, he's making the most of it so far.
Of course, it may not last. When the CF job was decided at the end of spring training, Rob Neyer wrote:
"...Carlos Gomez is going to be their center fielder, taking the prize as the best of a bad lot. Well, not bad. Each of three candidates -- Gomez, plus Jason Pridie and Denard Span -- had something to offer. Well, not Span."
Ah, if I only had a nickel for every time I’d heard words to that effect. But I'm sticking with my guy; I think Denard's going to do fine. I might even pick him up for my fantasy team... hell, I'm in last place as it is.

Anyway, I'm off to Shea for the Mets' home opener. If you see a blonde girl in a Throneberry t-shirt, come say hi.

April 05, 2008

Devil Rays on a Plane

I think I may have seriously underestimated Ken Singleton. When the Yankees loaded the bases in the eighth inning with nobody out, he noted:
“For a pitcher, this is sort of the worst situation you can have. It’s like Snakes on a Plane.”
That may be the first time I've heard Singleton -- generally perfectly pleasant but unmemorable in the booth -- make a post-1987 pop cultural reference, but he pulled it off in style.

It was the highlight of an otherwise fairly dismal Yankees game. The Yanks are 2 for 5 now, and the Mets are at .500... but it is, of course, far too soon to worry, so I won't. I imagine things will be looking up tomorrow, with Johan Santana and Chien-Ming Wang on the mound.

Meanwhile, over/under on when the Yankee Stadium crowd breaks LaTroy Hawkins' spirit: June 5. I'm taking the under. You'll know when it happens by the hollow, despairing look in his eyes when he's viciously booed off the mound one time too many.

Now, Hawkins so far has been -- by all accounts, and contrary to my pre-season concerns -- pleasant with the media, and a good teammate to boot. (He has not been a good pitcher, but it's way too early to come to any conclusions on that yet). But New York is especially tough on middle relievers, and taking Paul O'Neill's #21 was a mistake, in terms of both karma and public relations. Morgan Ensberg recognized this immediately and ditched the number like it was on fire.

There is, of course, nothing logically or rationally wrong with Hawkins wearing 21; in fact, honoring Roberto Clemente is nothing but a classy and admirable gesture. I'm not even sure Paul O'Neill really rates a retired number, much as it pains me to admit it. He was a very good player, not an all-time great one, but like a lot of fans I love O'Neill out of all proportion -- he came to New York when I was 12, and was actually instrumental in converting me from a fairly casual fan into the baseball-obsessed nutcase you know today. I would never argue that he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame... but, if I got a ballot, I'd vote for him anyway. (I'd vote for Endy Chavez too. And players with funny names. It's a very, very good thing that I'll never be allowed in the BWAA).

So yes, it's silly and counterproductive to boo Hawkins over this, and I'd never do so myself. But I do understand the impulse.

March 31, 2008

Blue Balls

Just got back from Yankee Stadium, where they mysteriously decided to cancel the game just as it completely stopped raining. Shut up, radar! They'll try it again tomorrow -- but at night, much to the relief of the majority of fans, who'd had to take off from work or school.

I knew the new Stadium had come a long way since September, but it was still a shock to see it there, all... well, Stadium-like. I've gotta say, it looks great. I don't think they needed a new building, I hate what's going to happen to prices, and I hate losing all that history on the field... but there's no doubt the new Stadium's exterior is a vast improvement and, having just spent two hours huddled in a cold, wet, jam-packed and filthy bleacher concourse, the idea of a clean and roomy and better-designed structure does hold a certain appeal. I don't even want to think about what was dripping on me all afternoon.

I know by the end of the year -- probably by June -- I'll be sick of the "Last Ever X, Y, or Z in the Old Stadium" fanfare; there's only so long I can keep up that level of nostalgia and sentimentality before it starts to get cloying. ("Sniff, this will be my last time paying $9 for a beer before the New Stadium opens and it goes up to $11!"). Tomorrow night, though, I'm just going to wallow.

Anyway, at least they called the game in time for me to get home and watch Johan Santana's Mets debut, so life's still looking pretty good. Happy Opening Day, everybody.

March 25, 2008

Nothing Ever Changes, Part LXXXVII

The Yankees have announced that they will celebrate the final year of Yankee Stadium by putting a "special patch" on their uniforms.

Once again, I quote the one and only Bill Veeck: "It happened that 1951 was the Fiftieth Anniversary of the American League, an event the league was celebrating with its usual burst of inspiration by sewing special emblems on the uniforms of all the players."

This clearly remains baseball's go-to promotional tactic. I'm not suggesting the Yankees should actually emulate Veeck by sending a little person to the plate... but surely there's some middle ground here.

Meanwhile, real baseball has finally started, and I've got a post about it up at the Banter.

March 24, 2008

Yeah... It Was Probably Time

From Baseball Prospectus' "Week in Quotes":
"The American League spoils you a little. Not that managing in the American League is easy, but this is certainly different. I'll have to have somebody poke me in the rear end when I have a pitcher that's going to hit."

--Joe Torre, Dodgers manager, on life in the National League. (John Shea, San Francisco Chronicle)

March 18, 2008

Final Fantasy

I've got a post up at the Banter today. It's about at-bat music, so head on over and check it out.

And apparently I'm not the only one getting bored with spring training, as -- per the Star Ledger -- Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy are now having slap contests in the clubhouse. Are we there yet?


Meanwhile, Sunday night was YanksBlog's Yankees bloggers fantasy league draft. I promise not to bore you with the details all season, but I think it went pretty well, at least by my own extremely low standards. Last year, as you may recall, I was in a salary cap league, and wanted Johan Santana so desperately that I impulsively blew a full third of my budget on him -- eventually ending up with just $600,000 for my last slot, which meant the best designated hitter I could afford was Bubba Crosby. Needless to say, this did not prove to be a winning strategy.

So I'm primed for a comeback, led by Miguel Cabrera and Brandon Webb. Of course, "comeback" is a relative term here. My ultimate goal for the season is to finish at least 10th out of 14, then make fun of whoever finishes below me for losing to a girl.

Reach for the stars, I always say...

March 17, 2008

The House That Rich Douchebags Built

Via Sliding Into Home, MLB.com has posted renderings of the New Yankee Stadium. Check out the eye candy:

Well, that sure looks lovely, but... uh, say... where'd the Bronx go?

Yes, the new Stadium appears to be floating magically in the sky. No tenements here, only fluffy white clouds!

I bring this up because the site these photos come from is an add for "Yankees Premium" suites at the new Stadium, and I'm afraid that if you have a soul, it will make you want to throw something breakable at a wall:
"An Exclusive Experience... For Those With Discerning Tastes... Who Seek The Very Best... Life Has To Offer."
... "An Exclusive Experience"? Excuse me? It's a baseball stadium, you assholes! I want a decent view of the game and beer that costs less than $10, how's that for "Discerning"? Gah. Sometimes I think the Yankees must be actively trying to make everybody hate them.

March 16, 2008

Baseball Player Name of the Week

An incredibly easy choice this time, thanks to today's Mets-Tigers spring training game:

Outfielder Deik Scram.

Sounds (though does not look) a bit like a lost Sex Pistol.

UPDATE: Whoops! Metphistopheles beat me to it. The moral here is, when one sees a name like Deik Scram, one must act immediately.

March 12, 2008

Armando Benitez Has NO Natural Cow Sense

Spring training news and notes:

*The Mets have the right idea. They're occupied with trying to surreptitiously balance things on Luis Castillo's head -- bubble gum, plastic cups -- while the Yankees are getting into shoving matches with the Devil Rays to defend the honor of Francisco Cervelli. Or something.

*Logically, I realize it must somehow seem like a good idea to sign Armando Benitez... because teams keep doing it. But I'm damned if I can understand why. The Blue Jays must not have watched many Giants games last season.

*Young Yankees pitcher Ross Ohlendorf has "a lot of natural cow sense." That's good to hear. After all, how many promising pitching prospects have we gotten excited about over the years, only to see them fall short at the Major League level due to a tragic lack of cow sense? Never again!

*The Red Sox traveled by plane to a spring training game recently. The Twins, naturally, did not, and wise and sparkly-eyed little baseball elf Ron Gardenhire shared some old bus ride stories:

"... the bus catches on fire and Big Fella [clubhouse legend Wayne Hattaway] tells Tom Kelly, 'I'm not leaving, T.K. I'm going down with the ship.'

Wayne Hattaway is a great character, by the way, and still going.

The Dude abides

*Joel Sherman of the Post has a good story about Shelley Duncan, who sparked yesterday's silly "benches-clearing incident" by spiking the Devil Rays' second baseman:
Shelley Duncan once had a minor-league incident, in the Florida State League, when all heck broke loose on the field around him. He had slid into second base and the shortstop on Detroit’s Single-A team had thrown from an unnaturally low angle, at least in Duncan’s opinion, and nearly hit the sliding Duncan in the head. He chased around the shortstop all over the field as the benches and dugouts emptied. But he never did catch the shortstop. The identity of the shortstop: Current Mets farmhand Anderson Hernandez. And Duncan says the two became friends after the incident.
What's great about this is that Hernandez didn't even consider any of the usual macho posturing, but just turned and ran like the wind. Quite right, too, since he's about half Duncan's size.

March 09, 2008

Idle Hands Are the Devil Rays' Playground

You can only strand dozens of reporters in Florida with no real news to cover for so long before they will, out of sheer desperation, latch onto the first vaguely controversial thing they can find; it took a while this year, but the Yankees finally have their first good and meaningless spring training kerfluffle. (Unless you count Kyle Farnsworth mouthing off about Joe Torre, but I refuse to dignify that with the term "kerfluffle", because seriously: until you get your ERA down from 4.8, nobody wants to hear it).

So: Tampa Bay Devil (yeah, you heard me) Rays minor leaguer Elliot Johnson ran over Yankees minor league catcher Francisco Cervelli in a play at the plate, and Cervelli ended up with a fractured arm. Joe Girardi was upset that Johnson played so aggressively, risking injury, during a meaningless spring training game; then Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon got defensive. Now everyone's favorite gerbil, Tampa adviser Don Zimmer, who does not take kindly to this soft, newfangled, try-not-to-maim-your-opponent style of wussy-ball, has criticized Girardi. And the Yankees are muttering vaguely about payback. Betrayal! Violence! Revenge!

Well, if by "betrayal" you mean "Zim being a little grouchy," and by "revenge" you mean "drilling some no-name Devil Rays prospect in the ass with a fastball in a ST game". So you probably don't need to buy the movie rights just yet. Though I actually wouldn't mind a Yankees-Devil Rays rivalry, since if you have to watch Tampa play 18 times a year, those games might as well have a little added spark -- yes, this is the year everybody's picking Tampa to not suck, and I understand the logic, but I'll believe it when I see it.

That said, this particular mini-controversy is completely silly. The Rays player, Johnson, wasn't trying to hurt anybody; he only had a fraction of a second to decide what to do, he's trying to impress his coaches, he went for it. I think it was dumb, because you really should go out of your way not to injure anyone in March, but I can see how it'd happen. (The Twins' Ron Gardenhire, official Manager I'd Most Like To Have a Beer With, agrees with me, or rather I agree with him, because Ron Gardenhire is a wise and sparkly-eyed little baseball elf).


There was no malicious intent on Johnson's part, so far as we know, and there's no need to "retaliate" -- this isn't Clemens-Piazza here, no one threw at anyone's head. These things happen, and frankly, while this may sound callous, the Yanks should just be counting their lucky stars it wasn't Jorge Posada.

Meanwhile, I've been thinking a lot about El Duque's proposed new delivery -- he's trying to lower his iconic leg kick in an effort to keep pressure off his bunion. Yes, I just admitted to thinking a lot about a middle-aged man's bunion; leave me alone.

While there are many, many people involved in this process -- El Duque himself, Willie Randolph, Rick Peterson, etc -- who know vastly more about changing deliveries than I do, it still strikes me as something of a harebrained scheme. And it's a little poignant, because the sky-high leg kick has become such a part of Hernandez's legend; I used to* try and imitate it when I threw the ball for my dog. It's hard to imagine him being the same pitcher without it.

But the more I think about it, the more this attempt by El Duque actually fits. After all, he didn't start drawing his knee up to his ear because it looked cool; he did it because it confused the hell out of batters. Hernandez is constantly switching speeds and arm angles just to gain a slight deceptive edge, and vanity is not one of his concerns, hence the eephus pitch. So it makes sense that when things aren't working, he's willing to experiment -- to try anything, really, however odd or unlikely.

If he's not already using a little dab of Vaseline on the ball from time to time, maybe it's time to start... after all the steroid scandals, that sounds downright wholesome.

*last week.