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.