Friday, June 26, 2009

Game 73: Crosstown Traffic

The second leg of the Subway Series starts tonight as the Yankees make their first trip to Citi Field. New York's two new ballparks are the yin and yang of the longball. Yankee Stadium is tops in the bigs with 119 HR thus far, while Citi Field ranks 25th with only 57 HR.

A few quick notes. Xavier Nady removed himself from his first rehab game last night after making a throw from RF. Brian Cashman says it could be the worst case scenario. Robinson Cano is back in the lineup afte getting last night off. Brian Bruney and K-Rod have apparently buried the hatchet, and Derek Jeter turns 35 today. The Captain had his birthday off last year, but on his previous four birthdays he was 6 for 15 (.400) with 4 BB, 3 R, 1 2B, and an RBI.

CC Sabathia gets the start for the Yankees. Sabathia didn't make it out of the second inning in his start against the Marlins last Sunday, exiting early with soreness in his left bicep. He should be good to go tonight. If not, things could get interesting. The bullpen had to throw five and a third innings last night. Alfredo Aceves and Phil Coke are both likely unavailable. Phil Hughes was held out of the last two games, presumably to shadow Sabathia in the event he can't go tonight. After Hughes, Brett Tomko would presumably be next in line. Pray that it doesn't come to that.

Mike Pelfrey goes for the Mets. He has one career start against the Yanks, coming one year ago tomorrow. Despite giving up 4 ER in 5 innings, Pelfrey picked up the win in a 15-6 beatdown that was the first game of a split stadium doubleheader.

Like today's game, that split stadium twinbill fell on a Friday. Rush hour NYC traffic is bad enough, but on a Friday, fuhgettaboutit. The Yanks and Mets were fortunate enough to have a police escort over the Triboro Bridge last year. You're not that lucky. So if you're going to the game, avoid the crosstown traffic and hop on the Seven Train with John Rocker and pals.

You're just like crosstown traffic
So hard to get through to you
Crosstown traffic
I don't need to run over you
Crosstown traffic
All you do is slow me down
And I'm trying to get to the other side of town

R.I.P. Michael Jackson

As I'm sure you've heard already, Michael "Mike" Jackson passed away yesterday. Jackson had a 17 year career, coming up with the Phillies in 1986. He was a Thriller with the Giants, leading the NL in appearances in 1993 and posting a 266 ERA+ in 1994. He finished 21st in AL MVP voting in 1998. With the Indians in 1997 and 1998, Jackson pitched 5.1 scoreless postseason innings against the Yankees, winning Game 4 of the '97 ALDS and saving the infamous Chuck Knoblauch Game 2 of the '98 ALCS.

Jackson was Bad late in his career, posting ERAs poorer than league average in two of his final three seasons. Many thought he hung around the game too long, but he said he still had the desire to play and that he wouldn't stop until he got enough.

With a fastball that topped out around 98 MPH, Jackson earned the nickname "The King of Pop" from the sound the ball would make smacking the catcher's mitt. He certainly wasn't the King of Pop at the plate however, with just five hits, collectively known as The Jackson Five, in 28 career ABs, for a .179 average.

All of us at Fack Youk extend our condolences to the Jackson family.

That Didn't Take Long

After Alex Rodriguez was taken out of the line up for two days in Florida last weekend, the Yankees' plan was to rest him once a week. How quickly things change:
Alex Rodriguez should be in the lineup this weekend when the Yankees play their first games at the Mets' new Citi Field.

"It's our home city, and I think our guys enjoy the Subway Series," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Thursday before New York played the Atlanta Braves. "Alex feels good, feels like he's got a lot of energy in his legs. He feels good, so we'll let him keep going."
So, let's recap. A-Rod comes of the DL and the Yankees say he should get rest one day a week. Joe Girardi can't find one single game to sit him down and his numbers start dropping. The front office may or may not have had to intervene, and A-Rod sits down two days in a row. He breaks out of his slump in Atlanta driving in six runs in two games and the Yanks throw the plan out the window once again.

It's good that they try to be transparent with their plans. However, what is the point of presenting this cut and dry plan to the media if you are going to deviate from it literally as soon as possible? It's stupid to sit a player once a week just for the sake of sitting him. What if A-Rod hits .450 over the next 6 games and drives in 12 runs? Does he really need a day off? What if he follows up an night off with three sluggish games and goes 0-13? Only once a week!
According to Girardi, [team physician Christopher] Ahmad said Marc Phillipon, the Colorado specialist who operated on the $275 million third baseman, doesn't think Rodriguez needs one off day a week as the team indicated recently.
/head explodes

So where did this stupid notion even come from?

Like I mentioned the other night, these are A-Rod's version of the Joba Rules... except they get broken more often then they are followed.
Dear Mr. Girardi,

Joe, you are a major league manager. Even though playing A-Rod for 39 straight games after he was returning for major surgery might lead some to believe otherwise, you should be able to figure out when to give your players days off. Use your judgement and stop backing yourself into a corner by letting the media in on your plan, especially when someone with the ability to count to seven will have the right to call you out when you break your word.


Fack Youk

Phillips Off To The Land Of The Rising Sun

No, unfortunately it's not Steve Phillips.

Former Yankee Andy Phillips has signed a deal with the Hiroshima Carp of Japan's Central League. Phillips homered in his first Major League at bat and hit .253/.294/.384 over parts of four seasons with the Yanks. He spent time with the Mets and Reds last year and had been in AAA with both the White Sox and Pirates this year.

Phillips becomes the third former member of the Yankees organization to head to the Far East in the past year. Darrell Rasner was sold to the Rakuten Golden Eagles last November, and Scranton outfielder Todd Linden was sold to the same team two weeks ago.

With Hideki Matsui's knees shot and contract expiring at the end of the year, there were rumors last week that he may return to Japan next season to play for the Hanshin Tigers. If so, Matsui would be the biggest Yankee slugger to move to the Japanese Leagues since Jack Elliot in 1992.

And yes, that is Frank Thomas in a Yankee uniform.

One More Hockey Post

Tuesday we ran a post congratulating Yankee fan and former first pitch tosser Brian Leetch on his being voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. In my haste to make sure that Leetch was one of the four members that the Hall allows to be inducted anually, I overlooked the inductee in the Builders Category - a man who has a more concrete connection to the Yankees than Leetch. So indulge the puck head in me one more hockey post this week (unless something really interesting happens in the draft tonight) .

New Jersey Devils CEO/President/General Manager Lou Lamoriello will be inducted this fall in the Builders Category. Lamoriello is one of the more fascinating sportsmen of recent years. He's most well known in the metro-NYC area as the strong-willed President and GM of the Devils for the past twentytwo years and the architect of three Stanley Cup Champion teams. But Lamoriello has a host of other accomplishments in the sports world beyond his career with the Devils.

While a student at Providence College, Lamoriello was the captain of both the baseball and ice hockey teams. During his collegiate summers, he played in the Cape Cod Baseball League, the most prestigious wooden bat amateur league in the country. In the days before baseball had an amateur draft, Lamoriello was offered a contract by the San Francisco Giants, but elected to pursue a career in coaching. At age 21 he became player-manager of his Cape League team, managing three summers there and winning the 1965 title. One of his Cape League players was Bobby Valentine. Lamoriello was named to the Cape League Hall of Fame earlier this month.

At the conclusion of his collegiate career, he became an assistant hockey and baseball coach at Providence, then became the head hockey coach in 1968. He held the head coach position for 15 seasons, making 11 postseason tournaments, four NCAA tournaments, and reaching the Frozen Four in his final season. He remains the all-time wins leader at Providence and is a member of the Providence Hall of Fame.

For the final season of his coaching career and four years thereafter, he served as the Athletic Director at Providence. In that position, he hired Rick Pitino to coach the Friars' basketball team. He was also instrumental in forming Hockey East, arguably college hockey's most powerful conference. He served as Hockey East Commissioner for four years and the conference championship trophy bears his name.

In April 1987, Dr. John McMullen, owner of both the Houston Astros and the New Jersey Devils, as well as a former limited partner of George Steinbrenner, hired Lamoriello as President of the Devils. By the time training camp opened in September he was also the G.M., a post he holds to this day, making him the longest tenured G.M. in the NHL.

In 1989, Lamoriello brought defensemen Slava Fetisov and Alexei Kasatonov to the Devils from the USSR. They were the the first crop of NHLers to come from behind the Iron Curtain and opened the floodgates for the Eastern Europeans that proliferate the game today.

He was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy, given for dedication to hockey in the United States, in 1992. On the international stage, Lamoriello served as the General Manager of championship 1996 World Cup of Hockey and 1998 Winter Olympic teams. Leetch played for both teams and won the Lester Patrick Trophy as well in 2007.

By 2000 Lamoriello also owned a small stake in the Devils. The short-lived YankeeNets conglomerate purchased the Devils from McMullen in April that year. After the acquisition, Lamoriello was named CEO of the Nets as well.

YankeeNets fell apart in 2004 and sold off the Devils. A new company, Yankees Global Enterprises, was created to serve as the holding company for both the Yankees ballclub and the YES Network. Lamoriello has served on the Board of Directors for Yankees Global Enterprises since its inception and has been on the Board of Directors for the Yogi Berra Museum since 2006. He's also been a frequent guest of George Steinbrenner at Yankee Stadium through the years.

So that's my Lamoriello biography. He's had an extremely interesting sporting life, with some loose connections to the Yankee front office over the past several years. He's certainly deserving of this most recent honor bestowed upon him.

Through The Looking Glass

The second leg of the 2009 Subway Series slated to get underway at New Shea later this evening. In preparation for this, I made an advance scouting trip to the park last Friday evening. In many ways New York City's other new taxpayer (and bailout) funded baseball stadium is similar to the one in the Bronx; in others it's entirely different. In both regards, it was a bit of a trip to Bizarro World.
The most striking thing about the park is that Shea Stadium is gone. Not even a trace of it. While a trip to the Bronx still gives us a fleeting glimpse of the place the Yankees used to call home, a parking lot now exists where Shea once stood. If you'd never been there before, you'd never know it was once there.

Unlike the new Stadium, the outside of Citi Field features many adornments. In addition to the banners on the structure, the Mets also have a courtyard like area where Mets fans had the luxury of purchasing personalized bricks to be stepped upon for all time. Somewhere Lonn Trost is kicking himself for not tapping this revenue stream. As you can see in the picture below, Hooked on Phonics did not quite work for all Mets fans.

Inside the difference is quite stark. Whereas the Yankees have their spacious but cold Great Hall paying tribute to the legends of their past, the Mets have the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, an inviting and intimate entraceway that is smaller and feels more welcoming. What Jackie Robinson accomplished and endured in breaking the color barrier is remarkable, and he, his memory, and what he represented are deserving of accolades and remembrance. But I find it somewhat off that the Mets feel it appropriate to name their rotunda for him because he used to play in the same league but a different borough more than half a century ago.

Off the rotunda is the main clubhouse store. I happened upon the section called Rehab Row and snapped the shot below. Note the prison jumpsuit orange in the shirt to the left. Not pictured: the Keith Hernandez Collectible Airplane Bathroom (mound of cocaine sold separately).

The concourses at Citi are narrower than at the Stadium. They also lack a frieze of photos of World Championship Mets teams wrapping the circumference of the concourse. 1969 and 1986 can only stretch so far. The Citi concourses, like the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, feel more welcoming than the Stadium's. Instead of cold concrete walls, art galleries, and butcher shops, the walls are covered in a red brick facing. The concourses also have a leg up on the Stadium in that they feature high top tables from which you can eat, drink, and watch the game all at once.

We made our way to the open air food court beyond the bleachers. This is a really cool area. There are arcades and play areas to keep the kiddies occupied and Mr. Met himself was there glad-handing with the fans. Starving, I elected to skip the absurdly long line for the Shake Shack and saddled up for some Blue Smoke Barbeque. I would have taken a picture of the pulled pork sandwhich, but I downed that thing before it ever had a chance.

Now I'm as big a fan of Brother Jimmy's as they come. But as a far as ballpark eating experiences go Blue Smoke > Brother Jimmy's. However, until I see a bartender repeatedly light the bar on fire at Blue Smoke, as far as binge drinking experiences go Brother Jimmy's >> Blue Smoke.

Our seats were located directly behind home plate in the upper deck, with convenient access to the upper deck level open air food court. This made it quite easy to run down and get a beer, which by the way are more reasonably priced than in the Bronx.

Another beef I have with Citi Field is the ridiculously shaped outfield, and not just because it's sapping David Wright's power thereby hurting my fantasy team. There's absolutely no reason for the outfield to be shaped that way. Like the dangerous hill in centerfield at Minute Maid Park, it's weird just for the sake of weird.

Attention owners and architects: old ballparks had quirky dimensions out of necessity. In the days before owners could bilk the taxpayers out of public funds to secure proper land for their parks, the parks were built to fit the cityscape around them. Landsdowne Street begot the Green Monster, Ipswich Street begot the Pesky Pole. Designing your outfield wall to take the shape of a drunken sailor's walk is not retro. It's contrived. It's stupid. It puts players at risk and prevents relief pitchers from seeing the actual field. In Citi Field's case, the dimensions are not that way to work around one of Flushing's prized chop shops. It's an attempt at duplicating Ebbets Field, just another example of Fred Wilpon's sick obsession with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Next thing you know he'll try to move the Mets to L.A. too. End rant.

One note on the game. It was exactly one week after Luis Castillo's error against the Yankees snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. As two fans both made spectacular barehanded catches on foul balls in the early going, I made sure to point out that they had better hands than Castillo. Later in the night, I shit you not, Castillo dropped the ball as the Mets attempted to go around the horn.

All in all, it was a worthwhile experience. There are few things I enjoy more than a day at the ballpark and I try to check out as many as I can. With a few Mets fans amongst my friends, I make it to a Mets game every year or so. Without a vested interest in the game I usually end up relaxing, having a few cold ones, and thoroughly enjoying myself.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Compton

Good morning Fackers. I have to travel once every month or so for my job. In the past few years, this has enabled me to take in games at Safeco Field in Seattle, Minute Maid Park in Houston, and Fenway Park. Actual work got in the way of me going to the Metrodome, Citizens Bank Park, Comiskey Park, and Rogers Center.

This summer I'll be stuck in the hell hole that is Southern California for a full week. Both the Dodgers and Angels will be in town during that time frame. Since Anaheim will be my base of operations in that time, I was figuring on getting to at least one Angels game.

Then late Wednesday night came the news that following the Angels-Rockies game that evening, there was a parking lot altercation that resulted in someone taking a beer bottle to the skull and an off duty cop using his department issued firearm on two of the hooligans, leaving one critical and one in serious condition. This all comes following an Opening Day concourse altercation that left a fan dead. Dead! I may have to reconsider my plans.

For the past five years, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have been the punch line of quite a few jokes thanks to their ludicrous name. They were a 1961 expansion franchise initially known as the Los Angeles Angels, named after the old Pacific Coast League team. In 1965, in preparation for their move twentyfive miles southeast to Anaheim, they renamed themselves the California Angels. In 1997, finally realizing the four other MLB franchise called the Golden State home, they changed to the Anaheim Angels, before settling on their current moniker for the 2005 season. Turns out the Anaheim is a bit closer to South Central L.A. than previously thought.

A Long, Hot, Sloppy Mess

If at any point during last night's game you were bitching about how it would never end, don't worry, you weren't the only one. At 3 hours and 49 minutes, it was the Yanks' third longest nine inning game of the season. A grand total of 11 pitchers gave up 29 hits, and 11 walks. The defenses were charged with four errors which led to a total of five earned runs.

I had the pleasure of having the majority of this odessey described to me by none other than John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman on my drive upstate. I was in traffic on the Westside Highway when the game started and I got to my destination north of Albany in time to watch Peter Moylan serve up a two run double to A-Rod in the top of the seventh. I lost reception during the 3rd & 4th innings when I was passing through some mean thunderstorms in the Catskills, but 880AM, 94.3FM & 104.5FM stuck with me for the better part of the way.

I would say the radio duo was in rare form, but Sterling saying things like "That's why you can't predict baseball" no fewer than six times and constatnly speculating what the score should be isn't that uncommon. Big John also should have been called for his epic verbal balk on Teixeira's deep foul in the top of the 2nd. "It is high! It is far! It is gooooooonneeee... Oh wait, it's foul." He then claimed the ball missed being a home run by "a foot", but having yet to see the replay, I'm skeptical.

During the bottom of the 5th(?) inning Hall of Fame President Jeff Edelson joined the broadcast and was giving a cute little pitch for visiting the HoF about how it's "only 2000 blocks north of Manhattan" or something. It was then Suzyn clumsily interjected that the Women In Baseball exhibit is one of the most visited in Cooperstown. (Hmm... why could that be?) Edelson goes "Yes, that's right Suzyn, it is quite popular". Suzyn then said "And do ya know who's face is in that exhibit? Right when ya walk in?" Apparently the answer to those questions is Suzyn Waldman. I know what that technically means, but I can't bring myself to type it out.

Still talking about the exhibit, she added "And they have the real Dottie Hinson in there. She's much prettiah than Genner Davis". Honestly, how many times do you think Suzyn has seen A League Of Their Own? Is there even the slightest chance that if you asked her right now, she wouldn't tell you it was her favorite movie? Did Bill Simmons write this paragraph for me?

It's not easy to keep track of an entire baseball game on the radio, especially one as topsy turvy as the abomination that took place in Atlanta. I'm kind of glad that I wasn't able to actually see most of what was going on, for 11-7 games typically lack aesthetic appeal.

Since we just recapped ten extra games in the past three days and I'm four pours into some Lagavulin, I'm not going to get into the box score minutiae. Let's go to the bullet points, shall we?
  • A-Rod woke the fuck up with a home run, drove in four runs and scored another.

  • Derek Jeter reached base six time, via four hits, a walk and an error and scored 4 runs.

  • Johnny Damon drove in three on three hits while also drawing two walks

  • Andy Pettitte and Derek Lowe were both chased before they could finish their respective halves of the fourth inning, but the difference was that Pettitte only gave up 6 runs (!)

  • The bullpen only allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings
Good times. The Yanks' zany adventure through the National League East continues tonight as they return to New York and make their first trip to the Shea-k Shack. If you are going to be attending any of the games this weekend, I highly recommend you click that link.