Thursday, May 7, 2009

Is She Flipping Me Off?

Dear New York State Smokers Quitline
I know what you are trying to do. You want smokers to see this advertisement and quit the habit. It's a noble cause. 

Here's the problem. It doesn't work. I know plenty of people who smoke and have seen this ad multiple times, and none of them have decided to stop smoking. If I had a child, I would think it would do more harm than good for them to see it. 

Also, there are a lot of people who don't smoke and have no intention of smoking who are watching this broadcast as well. Allow me to speak for these people: We don't need to see grizzly amputee footage to prevent us from going out and buying a pack of cigarettes. This woman's condition is obviously pretty rare because between myself and everyone else I know who has seen (and been repulsed by) this commercial, we have never heard of this happening to anyone else. Did she smoke three packs a day? She probably should have quit when she started getting parts of her fingers amputated. 

It's disturbing, it's annoying and it's on every two fucking innings. Stop it. Put that picture on a pack of cigarettes or something. It's still not going to get anyone to quit, but at least there won't be the colateral damage of non-smokers being subjected to it. 

Thanks in advance. 

Fack Youk

Game 28: Tomorrow Is A Long Time

If today was not an endless highway,
If tonight was not a crooked trail,
If tomorrow wasn't such a long time,
Then lonesome would mean nothing to you at all.
[We are gong with the blues until this losing streak is over]


It's official. A-Rod is coming back tomorrow. However, the Yanks need a win tonight. There is going to be enough pressure and media attention on the team because of his return, and it would be really nice if that didn't coincide with a five game losing streak.

They are now 3-9 in their division and 2-7 against the Rays and Sox. It's May, but these games count just as much as the ones in September when it comes to the standings. The Yanks are digging themselves a deeper and deeper hole against the teams who they are likely to be competing for a playoff spot against. 

The pitching match-up favors the home team, with Andy Pettitte making the start. Andy is coming off his worst performance of the year in which he gave up 5 runs in 5 2/3 innings, but his ERA is still a staff leading 3.82. His career numbers against the Rays are top notch, but those were mostly collected when TB was a laughingstock. The guy who hit the game winning home run last night off ot lefty Phil Coke also seems to have Pettitte's number. Carlos Pena is 10-30 off of Pettitte with three homers and two triples. 

His opponent is a 26 year old right hander by the name of Jeff Niemann, making his 8th career start in the majors. He is currently holding down the number 5 spot in the Tampa Bay rotation and in five starts this year, he has averaged just over 5IP and accrued an ERA of 5.68. 

The Yankees need to stop the slide, and Niemann needs to get knocked around. Good teams beat up on bad pitchers. Let's do this. 

Only A Year?

I hadn't heard of Matthew Pouliot before Circling the Bases was formed, but I've found myself linking to his thoughts pretty frequently as of late. He's got a theory about the Manny revelations today:
However, I also wouldn't be surprised to learn that he started up about a year ago.

I thought Ramirez was done as a superstar last May. His OPS dropped all of the way from 1058 in 2006 to 881 in 2007. He homered once every 12.3 at-bats in 2005, once every 12.8 at-bats in 2006 and once every 24.2 at-bats in 2007. The home run bounced back somewhat in the first half of 2008, but he finished the first three months at .286/.377/.514. It'd be a great line for the typical corner outfielder, but it wasn't typical Manny.

It wasn't just the numbers, though. Right-handers capable of throwing in the mid-90s and unleashing quality sliders were making quick work of him. Ramirez really is about as smart of a hitter that there is in the game, and he was still feasting on mistakes. But to my eyes, the quality pitches that he used to line for doubles were instead resulting in swings and misses. Ramirez was always a guy fans wanted up at the end of close games. However, that's when teams usually have their best pure arms on the mound and Ramirez just wasn't having any luck against them.

Ramirez had to know he wasn't catching up to fastballs like he once did. Maybe that's when he decided he needed a boost. A month or two to kick in, a trade to the easier league, a happier situation… the perfect storm?

Anyway, it's just a thought. It probably didn't go down like that at all. Nothing is going to surprise me.
It's an interesting thought, and it's just as plausible as any other theory you are going to hear thrown against the wall at this point.  

That's the frustrating part of all this PED bullshit. When there is some sort of dramatic reveal, it invariably only leads to more questions. All you get are intentionally vague half truths, which bring out the conspiracy theorists in all of us, trying to connect the dots.

While it's certainly tempting as a Yankees' fan to chalk Manny's .321/.411/.618 line against the Bombers to steroid use, we can't. His 50 2B, 55 HR, 163 RsBI and 448 total bases are all the highest totals against any opponent, and that's probably the reason behind the temptation. I got rightfully called out by Mass Hysteria earlier, for bringing the Sox' World Series titles into it. I still think it's a valid point, given the fact that the Mitchell Report (which is being exposed for the incomplete sham that it was with each passing outed player) named 9 Yankees on the 2000 World Series team, and we had to hear that bullshit too. 

But pointing back to previous World Series titles isn't going to change anything. They are in the record books. The emotions have come and gone and retroactively labeling them tainted isn't going to change them in our memories. I'll never forget going apeshit in Falcone 201 when Aarone Boone hit that home run. I'll still remember walking back to my dorm room on the sixth floor of Collins that night in 2004, and watching every elated Red Sox fan spill out into greenspace, losing their minds. 

It just goes to show how insidiously PED use weaved it's way into the game. It's like an invasive species. At a certain point, it becomes impossible to separate it from what originally existed. You can try to slice and segment what would or should have happened in Played X wasn't on Drug Y, but it's only imaginary, no different from re-playing the season on MVP Baseball 2004.

Even if you are a Yankees fan, I don't think there is cause for celebration. For every player who at one point or another who seemed beyond reproach is tagged for PED use, the less we have witnessed history. If baseball is ever able to get ahead of the drug use, much of this era will be dismissed in retrospect because so many of the best players were not clean.  

It's Cool Guys, Manny Was Just Trying To Get Pregnant

From ESPN:
However, two sources told ESPN's T.J. Quinn and Mark Fainaru-Wada that the drug used by Ramirez is HCG -- human chorionic gonadotropin. HCG is a women's fertility drug typically used by steroid users to restart their body's natural testosterone production as they come off a steroid cycle. It is similar to Clomid, the drug Bonds, Giambi and others used as clients of BALCO.

Why Couldn't It Have Been Ortiz?

As a Yankee fan, there is an element of schadenfreude in discovering that Manny Ramirez has tested positive for performance enchancing drugs. A former member for the Red Sox, who everyone assumed was clean, isn't. But this isn't good for baseball, and it really doens't help the Bombers either. The longtime Yankee destroyer now has a rather large blemish on his resume, but I can't help but think the Sox got off easy on this one. 

Testing has been in place since 2003 and only this year did Manny get busted. He has already pointed to the fact that he has taken and passed about 15 tests that have been administered to him in an attempt to contain the usage to this year, when he was conveniently not with the Red Sox. Everyone will speculate, but until the rest of the '03 test results are leaked with his name attached, there is not going to be any evidence that he was using before this. 

[Sidenote: How long until someone comes out with a Selena Roberts' style expose on Manny? It seems like there is a lot of money to be made in digging through accused steroid using baseball player's pasts these days. I don't think it would be too difficult to dig up some charming anecdotes on him, and I'd just love to know how much he tips at Hooters! Anyone want to give me an advance?]

How is the three-way trade with the Pirates and the Dodgers looking for the Sox now? Manny is gone for 50 games. That's over $7M of his $20M salary. Yes, Boston had to pay a lot of his freight and part with prosepcts, and Manny has been on fire since joining the Dodgers (.380/.490/.710 = 211 OPS+). But his replacement, Jason Bay has a solid (.299/.410/.559 = 145 OPS+) line, and that is presumably without the benefits of whatever drug Manny tested positive for.

In addition, the Sox organiztion has been largely spared the of embarassment of this going down with him still on the team. The graphics on SportsCenter and the MLB Network and will carry the Dodger's logo. He won't have to answer questions at Fenway about it. All those clips of him mashing in a West Coast, National League uniform really deflect the stigma away from their two World Series titles and Manny's WS MVP. That's what I care about: the Championships. 

Maybe he was only using with the Dodgers. Maybe he is really as dumb as he seems and accidentally took something that triggered a positive test. However, I would be inclined to believe that you don't pick up these sort of sloppy habits in your 17th season in the league. I just wish there was some proof. 

10 More Innings, One More Loss

When the YES cameras panned to Joe Girardi standing in the dugout in the top of the sixth innning, he had a tense and angry look on his face. Jaw muscles clenched, staring intently onto the field. It wasn't the stoic be reassuring look of Joe Torre, sitting up against the dugout bench with the brim of his hat pulled low. The score was still only 1-0 Rays, but you couldn't tell by the skipper's demeanor. There were men on first and second with no one out, and A.J. Burnett had already thrown 104 pitches. 

Burnett had already tallied eight strikeouts, but that wasn't the sole reason for the escalating pitch count. With two outs in the first inning, Ramiro Pena let an easy groundball from Evan Longoria go by, causing Burnett to throw 10 more pitches, issuing a walk to Carlos Pena before retiring Pat Burrell on a fly ball. 

It was a frustrating night for fans and players alike. The typically affable Nick Swisher got tossed for arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire James Hoye on a pitch that replays showed to be well off the plate. Girardi yelled from the dugout "It was this far outside", with his hand about a foot apart.

Yankees fans would have had a right to complain if Gabe Gross wasn't called out looking on a pitch in the opposite batter's box from Burnett in the 2nd. 

The lone run-producing hit the Yankees got last night came from Mark Teixeira in the bottom of the 8th. Just as a thin band of heavy rain was working its way through the NYC area, the Yankees had loaded the bases with two outs. This didn't catch the YES Network by surprise as they had already cued up clips from Jason Giambi's rainy walk-off grand slam against the Twins in May of 2002. The broadcast nearly hyped the moment to death, but Teix didn't dissapoint. He sent a bases-clearing double down the right field line (along with most of his bat).
The tarp came out shortly thereafter, and when play resumed Hideki Matsui struck out to end the inning. 

If Nick Swisher had kept his cool, he would have come to the plate with a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth. In his place, Brett Gardner bunted Cano over to 2nd base. Melky Cabrera then worked a walk, which brought Ramiro Pena to the plate. Hit tapped an 0-2 pitch softly towards the shortstop but Evan Longoria charged and threw across the diamond to get Pena out. One small problem. Pena was safe. 

Instead of having the bases loaded with one out, the Yanks had men on second and third with two down. Any base hit still would have won the game, but Jose Molina came to the plate and flew out to right to end the threat. 

The Yankees were the victim of a bad call at the worst possible time, but they did it to themselves far more than the umps did. Although Phil Coke served up a leadoff HR in the top of the 10th to Carlos Pena, they would get another chance. 

Mark Teixeira, coming off his "signature moment as a Yankee" as Michael Kay must have said 14 times, stepped up to the plate with Johnny Damon on 2nd with one out. A wild pitch allowed Damon to advance to third, placing the tying run well within reach. Teix didn't get the job done, popping out to shallow right, not nearly deep enough to send Damon.

It's probably because Of the losing streak and the fact that the Yanks dipped below .500, but I'm going to remember Teixeira slamming his helmet and yelling at himself when he returned to the dugout. 

Granted, there would not have been a tenth inning if he didn't clear the bases in the 8th, but that's the more lasting impression for me. You can smash a 300 yard drive down the middle of the fairway, but it doesn't mean shit if you hit your approach shot in the bunker. The Yankees need that run in the worst way, having just bogeyed their last 4. 

Some bad breaks, some bad play, and here's where we are at: 27 games into the season and below .500. No pressure, A-Rod. 

Fall From Paradise

[Non-Sports Content Alert!!! This one is extra credit. I know we've gone pretty heavy on the music lately, but I hope that I'm introducing you to new stuff once in a while and that you enjoy a little audial field trip.

Every once in a while, you come across a song at just the right time. A couple of the lines resonate perfectly with what you are going through, and you want to listen to it over and over again. Great songs can bond with parts of your life irreversably. I can still remember listening to Feel The Real on a trip to Ireland junior year in high school in my shitty old Discman that skipped every 8 seconds. It wasn't enough to keep me from playing it repeatedly. 

Only a few of the Fack Youk faithful would remember this, but a while ago I wrote a post on a white rapper from Halifax named Classified. I found him via a pretty random connection through a BitTorrent site and have been a fan ever since. He produces all of his own stuff and used to have to keep a full-time job to be able to afford to rent studio time. 

It would be a rags to riches story, but he's still relatively underground, especially in the U.S.  His rhymes are honest and unpretentious, and his tracks are tightly put together. There are parts of this song that would have worked for tomorrow's game post ("I know that everything that goes up, must come down, That everybody with luck, must run out") but I didn't want to give it short shrift. This appears to be the official music video and in the spirit of his music, it forgoes any bullshit and is straight to the point. 

Now a couple years after this drop, I'll probably flop,
But thats the way it goes when you get on the top,
I'm talkin bout Canada, yo this industry's a joke,
I'm a canadian rap star, and kid I'm still broke.

But I ain't work in years, and some think I'm famous,
While other people ask when the hell I'm gonna make it,
I'm good where I'm at, keep the glamour and the glitz,
I don't run from my fans, cause my stamina is shit.