Monday, October 5, 2009

Late Links

Sorry, I'm a little (lot) late with this post. I got a chance to play Albany Country Club this afternoon and bailed on my bloggerly duties. It's a fantastic track, measuring 7054 yards from the tips with a lot of elevation changes, tough tee shots and beautifully undulated greens. We got caught in a bit of a storm but I was able to snap this picture when it cleared up.

Double rainbow, suckas. That means you can take two shots off your score, in which case I kept it under 80. Boom.

On to the links:

Jason is officially live over at ESPN. You can find him in the same place as always, but's he's now ESPN Certified©. Also be sure to check out Jason, Will and Tamar's respective favorite moments from the season.

Is Mariano Rivera's other fastball a one seamer?

Zell's Pinstripe Blog compiled every Yankees Sports Illustrated cover.

Will Leitch on Jeter. He also penned a playoff preview for the Yanks on Deadspin.

A-Rod accomplished a 30-100 season in the 10th fewest games played of all-time and the least since 2002.

The Yankees can make life a little more difficult on the Red Sox by not announcing which series they want to take until after tomorrow's play-in game. That way, the Sox won't know what day they are starting in Anaheim until Tuesday night. If the Yanks unexpectedly take the shorter series, the Sox might have to rush out to L.A.

Happy Birthday, Bill James.

If you must subject yourself to the unlimited and unbearable Brett Favrery, at least you'll have this drinking game.

Until tomorrow, y'all...

The Loudest Yankee

Yesterday, Marc Carig of the Newark Star-Ledger referred to A-Rod as the "Quietest Yankee" so his relatively humble campaign and effort to evade the spotlight, something which he has failed miserably at doing ever since he became a Yankee. Carig relayed the fact that A-Rod has limited his interview sessions in the clubhouse to 3 minutes and been more willing to accept walks from pitchers.

This made me think of the guy who has been sort of the opposite of that for the Yanks this year. The one who draws more media attention, hype and debate than his performance would indicate. The guy who, if he was a 30 year old journeyman with the same stat line, wouldn't merit much attention. The dude whose innings management generates enough keystrokes to fill 1,000 bibles.

I'm of course talking about Joba Chamberlain. It's not that Joba is loud persay, but I think we can agree that he inspires a lot of other people make a whole lot of noise on his behalf.

Well, yesterday Joba made the Yankees task of choosing 25 players for the ALDS roster a little more difficult with only 7 pitches.

The rational fan in all of us attempts not to be swayed by one inning of work in a meaningless game. But the nostalgic, overly optimistic one can't help but to be taken back to Joba's dominant days of late 2007, lighting up the radar gun and setting the Bronx on fire coming out of the 'pen.

Which ever decision the Yanks make, I don't think we have much of a right to complain. If Joba makes the ALDS roster, he'll likely be called upon to get some important outs and there's a pretty good chance he'll get them. But he might bump out Chad Gaudin or an extra position player in the process. If not, he'll get some work in down in Tampa and likely be added for the ALCS if the Yanks take care of business against the winner of the AL Central.

Cashman and Girardi gave him the opportunity to pitch that one inning yesterday and Joba passed that test with flying colors, even if it was only three questions long. How much more could they have expected? Why give the guy one inning if you're not going to take it into consideration? As always, the upside with Joba is tantalizing.

What's the right move here, Fackers? A separate consideration: What do you think the Yanks are going to do? Your guess is as good as mine.

The 2009 Fack Youk Fall Beer Review

It's been a while since we talked brews around these parts, but judging by comments on previous posts, I can tell that there are a decent number of you out there who share my love for great beer.

I personally enjoy fall beers more than any other seasonals. A big part of that are brews like Oktoberfests and pumpkin ales which add dimensions that Winter, Spring and Summer brews just don't have. I find Winter ales to be over-spiced. Summer brews to be enjoyable but they aren't usually complex enough to achieve Great Beer® status. Spring ales are few and far between.

Something about beer and the Fall just seem to pair exceedingly well. It's just starting to get cold and the leaves are turning, setting the stage nicely for a darker, heartier brand of brew.

On to the review:
  • Three of us (my buddies John, Frank and I) tasted 13 different beers, divided into 4 categories: 4 Oktoberfests, 2 Fest Biers, 3 Harvest Ales, and 4 Pumpkin Ales, in that order.

  • As for ratings, we used a 1-5 scale with 1 being "I would never drink this beer again" and 5 being "I'm definitely buying this the next time I see it", or something to that effect.

  • Two of us drank out of goblets like this one, and the other out of an oversized wine glass of roughly the same shape, which I always recommend in an effort to maximize your beer experience. We weren't too anal about rinsing them our or cleansing our palates so it wasn't the most scientific of tastings.

  • The beers below are listed from least to most enjoyable by category and the ratings are based on the average of our 3 scores.

  • Each beer is linked to its respective place on BeerAdvocate so you can get a good look at the bottle and some other (more expert) opinions if you'd like.

Oktoberfests - We tasted the this group first, which was probably the right move since they were the most straightforward of the bunch. The scores are lower than almost all of the other beers because they are simplistic, but as far as session beers go, these and the two Fest Biers are probably your best bet.
  • Blue Point Oktoberfest - 2.50 -Extremely light and drinkable, the Blue Point lacked any sort of depth of flavor and had a sharp biting amount of carbonation on the tongue. It's a good session brew, but not highly recommended if given the choice between this and other Oktoberfests.

  • Stoudt's Oktoberfest - 2.67 -Pouring out a copper colored hue, Stoudt's offering was simple and easy going down. It had the mildly skunky notes of a typical lager and slightly less carbonation than the Blue Point.

  • Saranac Octoberfest - 3.33 - The flavors in the Saranac were immediately more apparent than either of the above two beers. It had a nuttier, breadier taste to it with a smoother mouthfeel. It was notably hoppy as well, balancing it out pretty nicely.

  • Harpoon Oktoberfest - 3.50 - The Harpoon poured the darkest color of any of the four in this category - nearly garnet red. It had the recognizable flavors of Harpoon's signature yeast strain along with sweet notes including dark fruit (dates?), hints of butterscotch and caramel, and a nice amount of hops. Really well-balanced and the most enjoyable of the crew.
Fest Biers - We were originally going to lump these in with the Oktoberfests but they didn't quite fit; they aren't very similar to each other (aside from the name), but neither belonged in the previous category. Both of these came out with relatively higher ratings mostly because they weren't really playing by the same rules as the Okt's, hence the separation.
  • Weihenstephaner Fest Bier - 3.67 -With a beautiful straw-colored pour, it was apparent that the Weiheny wasn't really comparable to a typical fall beer. It had a somewhat skunky nose but the taste was much sweeter, with hints of honey. It was soft on the palate and an ideal choice if you are going to kick a whole six pack by yourself.

  • Victory Festbier - 3.83 - Holding this brew up to the light gave it to color of an orange gummy bear. The character expanded and had a deliciously long finish. It was rich and malty giving way to some spicy and hoppy notes. You might miss the complexity of this one if you are downing a whole bunch of them or drinking out of a bottle, but if you pour it into a proper glass and savor, it's well worth the effort.
Harvest Ales - The cool part about these beers was that each took on the character of their respective region. As you went north, starting with the Southern Tier, on to Redhook and finally arriving at Long Trail, the beers got steadily heartier and, in our opinion, more enjoyable.
  • Southern Tier Harvest Ale - 4.17 - In a blind taste test, I'm not sure I could distinguish this from an IPA, which is probably a good thing. It was a gorgeous golden color with citrusy flavors backed with bright, hoppy notes. More of a late summer than fall beer maybe, but delicious nonetheless.

  • Redhook Late Harvest Ale - 4.17 - The Red Hook sat roughly between the other two in this category. It had some of the hoppy and citrius elements of the Southern Tier and also a bit of the malty character of the Long Trail. A good beer in its own right, this one still comes with a sincere recommendation.

  • Long Trail Harvest Ale - 4.33 - A rich ruby-color once emptied into a glass this baby was nutty with notes of hot cocoa. It was strong, roasted and malty with a warming, almost whiskey-like character. In our eyes, this is was a great execution of a Harvest Ale and the epitome of what a fall beer should be.
Pumpkin Ales - The pumpkins had the widest variance of any of the groups, spanning the spectrum from pretty bad to mind-blowingly good.
  • Saranac Pumpkin Ale - 2.17 - With all due respect to Saranac, this one represented the mistake a lot of breweries make when attempting a pumpkin beer; just dumping in a whole bunch of spices in a ham-handed attempt to give it the expected characteristics. You might as well get a medium-bodied ale and shake some pumpkin pie spices in it yourself.

  • Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale - 3.33 - The Smutty had some of the same problems as the Saranac but not nearly as bad. The spicing was overt and almost separate from the beer itself. It was enjoyable, but left something to be desired.

  • Dogfish Head Punkin Ale - 3.83 - The Dogfish Head did the best job of the typical pumpkin ales at subtly blending the spices and the beer. There were some notes of semi-sweet chocolate, coffee and mocha to balance out the cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice that overpowered the other ones. DFH rarely disappoints and this one did not either. Probably not worth the money, but the best one short of the...

  • Southern Tier Pumpking - 5.00 - Being an imperial ale and checking it at 9% ABV, this one was already on a different level than the other three, but it went above and beyond expectations. That was apparent from the first whiff of this deep copper gem. You could smell the creamy sweetness as if you had just opened a box of pumpkin pie topped with fresh, home-made whipped cream. If you have had their Creme Brulee Stout, you'll recognize the amazing, ephemeral sweetness of the beer packed with caramel and vanilla. I kind of hate that we all gave this a 5, but it was the last beer of the night and stood out so far and above everything we tasted, we had no choice.

There are some notable omissions to this list and we are currently preparing a second round of tasting to come sometime this week. Stay tuned.

A-Rod's Turbulent But Taciturn 2009

Good morning, Fackers. The Yankees and A-Rod in particular closed out the regular season with a bang yesterday.

This year will be remembered for a lot of things done by individual players. The debuts of CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett, the emergence of Nick Swisher, the defensive re-invention of Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano's rebound, Jorge Posada's ability to contribute despite his shoulder and hamstring injuries, Johnny Damon's power surge, Chien Ming Wang's fall from grace, Phil Hughes' transition to the bullpen, Brett Gardner's first season in The Bigs, Mariano Rivera's continued excellence, Joba Chamberlain's innings limit, and the swan song of Hideki Matsui.

Am I missing anything? Oh yeah, A-Rod.

A-Rod endured what was certainly the most tumultuous offseason a player has had since Game of Shadows essentially convicted Barry Bonds of doing steroids in the court of public opinion before the 2006 season to have a pretty damn good year in 2009.

It started with Joe Torre's book, exploded with his admissions of steroid use, got worse with his interview with Peter Gammons and even more ugly with his press conference in Tampa. Adding still more fuel to the fire was the time he left the park with his disgraced cousin, the Details magazine photo shoot and the revelations that he was involved in a relationship with the madame of a whorehouse.

Those events were really just bad P.R. and weren't going to have much of an impact on his on-field production. Then came the news of his hip injury and the impending surgery which ultimately cost him the first month of the season. What was already a disastrous offseason got tangibly, inarguably a whole lot worse. At least it seemed pretty terrible at the time. (Click through that one for one of my finer photoshops)

But at a certain point when he was hiding out and rehabbing in Colorado, things started to change. The details of Selena Roberts's book began to leak and some had the potential to be very damning, but the tide began to turn. Craig from Shysterball was among the first to question the motives and level of objectivity Roberts used in writing her exposé and fairly swiftly, we all grew tired of the never ending stream of A-Rod's exploits.

Then of course he rejoined the team in a moment a movie studio would have rejected because it was too unrealistic; a three run shot on the very first pitch he saw. Although he struggled early on in his return, the back to back days off he got off in Florida seemed to turn his season around.

Since his return the Yankees went 88-44 and climbed from 4.5 games behind the Red Sox to achieve the best record in baseball by 6 games. Since his two day hiatus they are 62-28. He was probably given too much credit for turning Mark Teixeira's season around, but it's hard to understate the importance of swapping replacement-level guys like Angel Berroa and Cody Ransom for one of the 5 best hitters in the game.

We've heard a lot about the fact that A-Rod has flown under the radar this year. Joel Sherman recently talked about his newfound ability to blend in with the team. Yesterday, Marc Carig dubbed him the "Quietest Yankee". Even our pal PeteAbe, who has never been too fond of the slugger, gave him credit for his ability to "blend in [and] stay out of the news".

Did anyone see this coming? I'll be the first to admit that I did not. One the posts I wrote before the season started and liked above was entitled "This Is Never Going To End" and another was "Hurricane A-Rod". I put up another one comparing him to an actual Albatross. At the time it looked like he was spiraling out of control and I think we should be very thankful that he did not.

It's not just that he eclipsed the 30 home run and 100 RBI marks for the 13th straight season, miraculously breaking a record he previously shared with Jimmie Foxx and Manny Ramirez. A-Rod actually had a higher on-base percentage than in 2008 despite batting 16 points lower. He changed his approach at the plate and as a result struck out in 18.2% of his plate appearances, down from 19.6% in 2008.

Fifty-one of his 100 RBIs tied the game or gave the Yankees the lead (although that didn't stop a certain insufferably bitter Yankee blogger who didn't even watch yesterday's game from dismissing the homers because they came in "garbage time"). He stole 14 bases and got caught only twice. He gave the Yankees more production than they could have reasonably expected given the injury he was coming off of.

I'm not going to fall into the trap of saying any of this makes him more likely to have a great postseason. I thought his ridiculous MVP campaign in 2007 set him up to break out of his October slump but it most definitely did not. The reality is that a 5 game series is a tiny, tiny sample and there is no guarantee that he will get the big hit or hits that he is seemingly due for.

I'm sure as hell hoping it happens, though. A-Rod is a power hitter with holes in his swing, who seems to alter his approach when the pressure elevates, neither of which portend profound postseason production. But as he's demonstrated time and time again, he can carry a team when he finds his groove. Maybe this is the year he finally gets hot in the postseason, and maybe it's not. If it is though, the other teams standing in the Yankees' way had better watch out.