Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sorry A-Rod, They Can't All Be Hotties

In and of it itself, the 58 minute rain delay was quite annoying, but this totally made up for it.

What did we learn guys?

Professional Athletes + High School Girls = Aaaaaaawwwwkwarrrrd

Game 76: Got Me Wrong

The Yanks square off against the Seattle Mariners tonight, one of two AL teams they've yet to see this year. Last year, the M's finished an AL worst 61-101. This year, it would appear that Seattle, with a new G.M. and new manager, has made improvements, as they currently sit at 39-36, 3.5 games out in the wide open AL West. Things aren't always as they seem.

Seattle is outplaying their pythagorean record by a whopping six games. They have a negative run differential, having scored a league low 291 runs, making them the only AL team to average under 4 per game. Amongst their regulars, they have just two batters - firstbaseman Russell Branyan (166) and rightfielder Ichiro (144) - who have an OPS+ over 100. Four of their regulars have an OPS+ below 80, with catcher Rob Johnson at 41. Outside of the 1906 "Hitless Wonders" Chicago White Sox, no team is contending with that sort of offense.

The M's saving grace has been their pitching. They lead the the AL in R/G (4.08), ERA (3.64), ERA+ (116), HR/9 (0.9), and H/9 (8.5), and place second in WHIP at 1.33. Ace "King" Felix Hernandez (166 ERA+) is amongst the top young pitchers in the game, and he's backed by a rejuvinated Jarrod Washburn (131 ERA+), a currently disabled Erik Bedard (172 ERA+), and the surprising former Met and Marlin, Jason Vargas (112 ERA+). The Seattle bullpen has also been stellar, with the second best ERA in the league at 3.16.

One pitcher who has not been part of the success of either corps is tonight's starter, Brandon Morrow. Much like his opponent tonight, Joba Chamberlain, Morrow's role has been the subject of much debate. Morrow worked exclusively in relief in his rookie season of 2007, and for the early part of 2008. He served as Seattle's closer through June and July last year, recording 10 saves in 12 opportunities. A shoulder injury put him on the shelf for most of August, and when he returned in September, he was placed in the rotation. He made five starts, the best being a victory over the Yanks on September 5th in which he tossed 7.1 innings of 1 run ball, fanning 8.

Morrow was ticketed for the rotation in spring training, but lingering arm strength issues stemming from last year's injury left him in the bullpen again. He quickly pitched his way out of the closer's role, walking nearly 7 per 9 and blowing back-to-back saves on May 13th and 14th. He was moved to the rotation on June 13th, and has been better in his new role, cutting his walks to 4.5 per 9 and posting an ERA of 4.50 as a starter. Tonight will be his fourth start, and his first without any pitch count restrictions.

For the Yankees, newly-acquired Eric Hinske may or may not make it to the park tonight. Pete Abe reports his plane is delayed in Pittsburgh. As such, no roster move announced yet, but if there is one you have to figure Ramiro Pena is on his way to Scranton. With interleague play now over, Hideki Matsui gets his first start since June 18th. Ice-cold doubleplay machine Robinson Cano stays in the five hole, while Nick Swisher, he of the fourth best OPS on the team, is relegated to eighth in the order. Brett Gardner grabs some pine despite outplaying Melky Cabrera over the past several weeks. Not good lineup construction if you ask me.

So who are the real Seattle Mariners? Contenders or pretenders? With the trade deadline now just thirty-one days away, they'll have to determine the answer to that question very soon. Some may say that given their division, they're contenders. But if you ask me or Seattle's most underappreciated band of the grunge era, those people got the M's wrong.

As of now I bet you've got me wrong.
So unsure you run from something strong.

Say Goodbye To The Kid

In 1989, a fledgling baseball card company card named Upper Deck issued its first set. In an unorthodox move for the time, the prestigious #1 card in the set was reserved for a 19 year old kid who had played all of 17 games above A ball. That card, shown above, would become an iconic baseball card at a time when the market was flooded with a multitude of brands and series. That company would become the premier card company amongst collectors, driving several competitors out of business. And that kid would become the iconic and premier baseball player of his generation.

Ken Griffey Jr. made his Major League debut on April 3, 1989. The Seattle Mariners were beginning their thirteenth season of Big League ball. The franchise had never won more the 78 games in a season, those coming in 1987, the same year they chose Junior Griffey with the first overall pick of the Amateur Draft. It would take the M's three years with Griffey to top that mark, but Griffey's arrival in 1989 was the first step to changing the organization's culture of losing.

Griffey's had his share of signature moments against the Yankees through the years. In his first series against the Yankees, Griffey went 3 for 11, hitting the fifth and sixth home runs of his young career. A week later, in his first trip to Yankee Stadium, Griffey went 5 for 12, blasting two home runs in the second game, the first multi-HR game of his career.

The next year, Griffey made what still may be his signature defensive highlight in a career that's been filled with them. Jesse Barfield blasted one deep to Death Valley, ticketed for the Yankee bullpen. Griffey sprinted towards the fence, leapt, and reached over the wall, hauling it in to end the inning before he sprinted in holding the ball aloft like a trophy. Video here.

Griffey beat on the Yankees throughout the first six years of his career, but in 1995 he took it to new levels. After breaking his wrist making yet another spectacular catch in late May, Griffey returned in mid-August. He hit just .265 in his first nine games back. When the Yankees came to town on August 24th, the M's were a game under .500, in third place in the AL West, and 11.5 games behind the Angels.

In the series opener, the Yanks were up 7-6 heading into the bottom of the ninth. The M's had tied the score with two outs, when Griffey came to the plate. He yanked the first pitch he saw from John Wetteland over the rightfield fence to give the Mariners the win. From that game on, they went 24-11, forcing a one game playoff against the Angels for the division. Seattle took it, setting up an ALDS match up with the Yankees. Griffey had only begun to inflict his damage upon them.

In Games 1 and 2, Griffey went 5 for 11. Hit 2 homers in Game 1, and added a third in Game 2, a go ahead shot in the 12th inning that would later be negated by a Ruben Sierra double and eventually a Jim Leyritz game winning homer. Griffey's exploits were somewhat negated by the two Yankee victories, but he wasn't done yet and neither were the M's.

As the Series moved to Seattle, Griffey stayed hot. After an ohfer in Game 3, he went 2 for 4 in Game 4, blasting his fourth HR of the Series. In the deciding fifth game he'd rip the Yankees' heart out. He went 2 for 5, with his fifth and final HR. His HR came in the eighth and pulled the Mariners within a run, They would tie it later in the inning. In the eleventh, Joey Cora led off with a single. Griffey singled him to third, leaving runners on the corners with no one out. Edgar Martinez then unleashed a double to left, Griffey sliding across the plate ahead of the throw and ending the Series. For the Series, Griffey hit .391/.444/1.093. He was a one man wrecking crew.

That series probably saved baseball in Seattle and pushed the vote to construct Safeco Field over the top. Shortly after Safeco opened in 1999, Griffey engineered his way out of the Great Northwest. I never particularly cared for Griffey. Much of it likely had to do with how badly he beat on the Yankees through my youth. Some of it has to do with how he pushed his way out of Seattle. Some of it has to do with how I thought he was a punk when he was younger, then a surly prick as he got older, capped by his dismissive, uninterested interview after winning the 1999 Home Run Derby.

But now, as Griffey is on what is both his welcome back and (likely) farewell tour of the American League, I can't help but feel bad for him. Griffey is amongst the greatest two or three ballplayers I've seen. While the events of the past few years have left no one above suspicion of PED usage, Griffey has to be as close as one can be to being above suspicion. As he tore apart the Yankees in that 1995 ALDS, it was very easy to imagine him rewriting the record books. Instead, inferior ballplayers and inferior human beings have attained the accolades for which Griffey once seemed destined. After leaving Seattle Griffey made into 140 games just three times in nine seasons, and three times failed to reach ninety games. Still, he reached the 600 HR milestone last season and is an assured first ballot Hall of Famer. Enjoy his visit to the Bronx this week; it'll likely be his last.

Yanks Acquire Hinske

Back in the 1950s, the Yankees and the Kansas City A's traded with each other on a weekly basis it seemed. Half a century later, the Pittsburgh Pirates are the trading partner of choice.

Following last year's six player deal that brought Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to the Bronx, this year saw the Bucs have Andy Phillips in spring training, claim Stephen Jackson off waivers, and trade for Eric Hacker.

Today came another deal between the two clubs. Multiple sources are reporting that the Bucs have sent Eric Hinske to the Yanks in exchange for minor leaguers Eric Fryer and Casey Erickson.

Hinske will provide depth for the Yankee bench. The 2002 AL Rookie of the Year can play the corner spots in both the infield and outfield. While not a major bat, Hinske can provide some pop off the bench when needed and may offer a more appetizing option at third base than Cody Ransom, which could lead to A-Rod receiving more frequent days off as planned. Hinske spent the last three seasons with the Rays, Red Sox, and Blue Jays, so he knows the AL East well.

Hinske's acquisition likely means that Ramiro Pena will play AAA ball for the first time in his career. Pena did well for himself, particularly considering that he hadn't played above AA before. I'm sure we haven't seen the last of him, and in the long run, he'll likely benefit from getting regular ABs at Scranton for now. Pena's demotion leaves Ransom as the backup SS, a position he has played extensively, if not spectacularly in both his minor and major league careers (career UZR/150 of -8.4).

Fryer was playing for High-A Tampa. He was acquired from Milwaukee this past offseason for Chase Wright. After a hot start, he's leveled off to .250/.333/.344. He's played predominantly in the OF, but can also catch.

Erickson was at Low-A Charleston and was 3-3 with 2.25 ERA in 3 starts and 18 relief apperances.

Checking In On AJax

Chad Jennings of the most excellent Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees blog has a story on and a Q&A with Austin Jackson.

The story leads in with a quote from Keith Law in an ESPN.com chat in response to a question about Slade Heathcott, that was rather unflattering towards Jackson:
"He'll sign," Law wrote. "Five-tool guy, chance to be the player that Austin Jackson ... well, that Jackson probably isn't going to be now."
Jennings went around to various members of the organization including teammates and coaches who of course were more than happy to sing Jackson's praises.

Funny that Law would pick this year, when Jackson is hitting .320/.385/.421 in International League play to give such a lukewarm forecast. The reasons for the sentiment behind Law's statement are that Jackson hasn't hit for power, he strikes out too much and his BABIP indicates he's gotten lucky with the placement of his hits.

True, Jackson is averaging more than a strikeout per game, and has only two home runs on the season. Sure, his BABIP is .433, but that isn't quite as high as it seems, since his career average is .366. Furthermore, the increase in strikeouts decreases the denominator in the BABIP equation and the absence of home runs not only inflates the numerator, but also means that his hardest hit balls are landing in play. So perhaps that number isn't as inflated as it seems.

His line drive rate is also quite high at 24% and perhaps some of those balls that are hit hard enough to be home runs are falling into the gaps for doubles. Jackson also has four triples and is 12 for 12 on stolen base attempts.

Jackson made the leap to triple A this year and responded by increasing each of his slash statistics to this point, even if the home runs aren't coming. That would be impressive, even if he weren't just 22 years old.

It seems the Yankees are going to be patient with Jackson and give him time to develop, or so says Joel Sherman:
Interestingly (to me at least), the Yanks are in no rush to bring Austin Jackson to the majors in 2009. They feel he needs the full season of Triple-A experience and might even need some more minor league seasoning next year.
Matt and I had a discussion about whether or not to bring Jackson up to the big leagues if Melky Cabrera needed to spend time on the DL after he ran into the wall in Texas. Matt though he should stay down in Scranton and it appears that is the Yankees' plan, at least for the time being. It's commendable that the Yanks are taking the patient approach, but I think a large part of it is due to the fact that he is essentially the same type of player as Brett Gardner. He's fast, can get on base but has hardly any power. There are clearly some parts of his game that still need to come together, and it seems like Jackson is well aware of that:
Q (Jennings): On the whole, we're about halfway through the year, how do you think it's gone so far?

A (Jackson): I'm happy with how it's been so far. I'm not satisfied. I still think there's always room for improvement and I feel like I could always be doing better.

I Don't Want To Speculate, But...

Tim Marchman, who's writing I truly enjoy, put up an... interesting post last night. Apparently there's another list of the supposed positive tests from 2003 floating around, and Tim, a respected mainstream journalist linked to it.

He goes out of his way to say that he's not "passing any judgment on whether the list is accurate or not" and adds parenthetically:
Maybe some time when I'm about to stick my head in an oven I'll cobble up a 2,000 word post on journalistic ethics and the 'it's out there' principle, but I think for now it's enough to say it's out there.
And by "out there", he means that it was proudly displayed on RotoInfo.com. Not exactly on Deadspin, you know?

I didn't go to journalism school, and I know it's just his blog, but when you link to something, you are giving it a new audience. And when you say things like...
A thorough but not comprehensive spot check reveals that these players all seem to have been in the majors in 2003, for instance, and if it's fake someone did some real work on it. I note, as an example, that in one of the multiple similar but not identical versions floating around one player is listed twice, in among two different teams he played for that year. That's detail. (Or really shoddy work, of course!) This also is not the fake list that got out the morning the Mitchell report was released, by the way—that's here and is entirely different.
...it sounds like you are trying to give it some credibility.

Marchman also wonders aloud:
Should this list or something reasonably close prove real—and there are some names on it that would genuinely shock and even disappoint me, which is saying something—it would be a good thing for baseball.
He spends the rest of the post, dare I say, speculating what it would mean for baseball if this list turned out to be accurate.

Here's what Marchman said about the whole Jerrod Morris/Raul Ibanez/John Gonzalez/Ken Rosenthal fiasco when it came up:
I should really add that as far as I can tell, 99.9999% of the time when you see professional journos talking about 'controversy' that's arisen because some random guy no one reads has said something, it's a backdoor way of bringing up something they don't think they're allowed to bring up but think is worth talking about.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this doesn't fall into the other .0001%.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Another Quiet Monday Night

Tonight is the last off night before the All-Star break and after that, it won't be until August 3rd that the Yanks get a scheduled reprieve. As we have over the past couple of weeks, here are some options to occupy your time tonight.
  • It's your last chance to catch Bernie Williams filling in for Les Paul at the Iridum Jazz Club on Broadway between 50th and 51st. There are two shows, one at 8:30 and one at 10:30.

  • The Mets take on the Brewers at 7 as Fernando Nieve looks for his fourth win in as many starts. It's not just the Yankees he's done it to so far, if it makes you feel any better. In 12 innings total against St. Louis and Tampa Bay, Nieve has allowed only one run, six hits (but 7 walks). Unfortunately for New Yorkers, this is the game on ESPN as well so that will be your only option for live baseball. There are 12 games on in total, so check your local listings.

  • At 9 & 10 on Palladia HD has two Soundstage specials showcasing a Tom Petty concert in his hometown of Gainsville. Here is the setlist.

  • YES will be running a Yankee Classic at 7:00 from earlier this year. It was the first of the walk-off victories against the Twins, which included a Brett Gardner inside the park home run and the winning hit delivered by the Melk Man.

  • On the Travel Channel, Anthony Bourdain stops by Sri Lanka at 10:00 and Uzbekistan at 11:00.
  • In case you haven't seen it yet, stop by RAB to watch Mariano Rivera's Sunday Conversation.

  • The new seasons of Weeds and Nurse Jackie continue on Showtime. Does anyone else miss the old theme song from Weeds?

  • ESPN2 is re-running the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event from 8 until midnight. Not to long ago, when I spent about as much time playing poker as I do writing for this site, it was one of my favorite things to watch. However, the legislation prohibiting online gambling snuck in under "SAFE Port Act" has largely killed online poker and in turn the fields for major $10,000 buy-in tournaments. Poker is never going to die completely but the days of $12M prize pools and 8,000+ entrants are long gone.

  • In a close three way race for "Show I'd Be Most Likely To Punch Myself In The Face Before Watching In Its Entirety" at 8:00, you have American Idol, The Bachelorette and John and Kate Plus Eight.
That's pretty much all I've got for you, Fackers. For further TV related recommendations, check out Warming Glow.

See you tomorrow.

Cheering For Dummies

Via the Shyster over at his NBC Circling The Bases gig, the guys from Freakonomics have a some complaints about the chants at Citi Field last night, and it's not the one you'd expect to hear from a middle aged guy who took his family to a game:
A pattern quickly emerged. The many Yankees fans regularly broke into their thunderous cheer: “Let’s go Yankees!” (clap-clap-clap-clap … clap-clap). If you are a Yankees fan (we are; but we do not hate the Mets), this was a sign of what might be called prideful hubris, or maybe hubristic pride: we can come into your stadium and rock it very, very hard.

How’d the Mets fans respond? Succinctly. In the space where the Yankees fans did their rhythmic clapping, Mets fans shouted “Yankees suck!”


This pattern was repeated all night. What surprised me is that neither side found a way to improve their effort.
The problem with chanting is that it is, by definition, the lowest common denominator. The more clever or unique the fewer people are going to jump on board with you. If the chant isn't immediately recognizable, it won't spread. Conversely, when someone starts up with "Let's go Yank-ees" invariably, at least a few people will tag along.

As for "Yank-ees Suck!", is it my imagination, or did that only used to be the domain of Red Sox fans? I've heard the chant break out at concerts in the Boston area or pretty much any other public setting where more than 50 drunk people are gathered together. Now the de facto anti-Yankees chant throughout basically every place the Bombers have visited this year.

Regardless of the hollow inanity of "Let's Go Yank-ees" or the falsehood of "Yank-ees Suck" I'm afraid they are here to stay. Aside from "Hip-Hip-Jorge" and other player-centric chants, this is what stadium cheering has been dumbed down to.

Cano's Bad Night

Last night was a great win, and Robinson Cano probably couldn't be happier. His atrocious effort got overshadowed by the Yankees winning their fifth straight game and Mariano Rivera notching his 500th save and doing something Cano couldn't last night - see more than three pitches in an at bat and get on base. But since today is a relatively slow off day, we might as take closer look at just how bad Robby's night was:
  • 1st inning: With no one out and runners on first and second, Robby grounded the third pitch he saw to Luis Castillo, who flipped to Alex Cora who fired to first base. The Mets probably would have had the double play at first base if Daniel Murphy had held onto the ball, but instead settled for the force out. Not content with being on base, Cano was caught stealing to end the inning. In his career, he has 16 stolen bases and has been caught 17 times.

  • 4th inning: After A-Rod led off with a single, Cano rapped a blistering 83MPH fastball again to Castillo, but this time Murphy held onto the relay from Cora for a successful double play. Two more pitches, two more outs.

  • 6th inning: With men on second and third and one out, Hernandez intentionally walked A-Rod to get to Cano. On the strength of the two ground balls Livan had induced from Cano earlier in the game, Jerry Manuel took the risk of loading the bases to create the possibility of a double play. Robby took two balls this time, before reversing the third pitch he saw towards Alex Cora for the DP the Mets were hoping for.

  • 8th inning: Once again with the bases loaded, but this time with two out, Livan Hernandez had seemingly lost his command. He had thrown 18 pitches and only four for strikes. Cano took two balls but grounded the third one to Castillo to end the inning. Had there been less than two outs, it might have been another double play.
Add that all up and what do you get? A -.304 WPA. That means having Cano in the line up yesterday made the Yankees 30% more likely to lose. In four plate appearances, he saw only 14 pitches and made 7 outs (one on the basepaths). A-Rod got on base 4 times in front of him and never made it safely to second. He came to the plate with 9 runners on base and none of them scored. He was the biggest (only?) reason that Livan Hernandez wasn't lit up like a Christmas tree last night.

Cano's biggest strength - his ability to make contact and put the ball in play - can also be his greatest weakness. He rarely works the count because he knows he can hit almost anything that is thrown is his general vicinity. As a result, he's going to have nights like this one, where he chalks up four hits in as many plate appearances, but will also have abysmal outings like last night. When you constantly put the ball in play, you rely on probability, which is why Cano is not only a streaky hitter from game to game, but year to year.

This season, he's on pace for 195 hits, but only 32 walks and 50 strikeouts. Unfortunately that pace also predicts 22 GIDP, will probably put him near the top 5 in the league in that category. Strikeouts are bad, but they are great compared to double plays.

As much as we'd love to see Cano improve his plate discipline, most statistical evidence indicates that patience isn't something hitters develop; they either come into the league with the mindset to get on base or don't. Last night was pretty lucky for the Yanks. They absorbed what might be the single worst night of Cano's season and still came away with the win. And in the end, that's all that really matters.

Where, Exactly, Is The Visiting Bullpen At Citi Field?

Did they temporarily put it in the basement while they finish the actual one off? Is it in one of the chop shops alongside the Stadium? Does that phone even connect to the dugout? Is this what the home bullpen looks like? Why is that electrical box on this side of the fence? What does it look like on the other side of that fence? Was this calculated decision, or did they simply forget about it until it was too late?

So many questions...

Morning Mariano Roundup

I said my piece in last night's game recap, now let's hear what others are saying about Rivera's accomplishment on this Monday Mo'ning.


Shysterball: Mariano Rivera got his 500th save. More impressive: he drew a bases-loaded walk, giving him his first career RBI in 15 seasons. Francisco Rodriguez gave it up, which in some cosmic way illustrates the vast gulf between those two pitchers in my mind. How do you walk Mariano Rivera? Nerves is all I can think, and you can bet your ass that if the situation was reversed, Rivera would never have walked Rodriguez, because Rivera's body temperature runs at a constant 57 degrees.


PeteAbe: If you’ll permit me a personal aside, I’ve been doing this job since I was 17 and Mariano is the best athlete I have covered. He is the model of professionalism in how he approaches every aspect of his job, how he treats his teammates and how he treats those around the team, including reporters. [He's got some audio from the postgame as well].


Emma Span (From Bronx Banter): Rivera closed out the game afterwards with a minimum of fuss for his 500th save, and while I think most everyone reading the Banter would agree that the save is a deeply flawed statistic, this is really just another opportunity to reflect on how freakishly awesome Mariano has been, is now, and hopefully will continue to be - for at least a while longer. You can’t really overhype Mo, and that’s saying something.


David Pinto (As it was happening): If Rivera converts this save, he’ll earn his 110th long save, a save of more than one inning. That will double the next closest total from 1996 on, 55 by Keith Foulke.


She-Fan: After he notched the final out, there was no fist pumping, no theatrics, just his customary classy, humble demeanor. His teammates gathered around to congratulate him, and I sat in my living room sobbing like a sentimental fool.


Tyler Kepner: There was something poetic in the strange walk Mariano Rivera drew with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth inning on Sunday at Citi Field. It made the score Yankees 4, Mets 2 – the same score as it was in Flushing on Oct. 26, 2000, the fifth and final game of the World Series.

That was the last time Rivera closed out a championship, the last time he allowed himself to show much emotion after a victory. Rivera views everything through the prism of the team. Like Derek Jeter, part of his greatness is in his rigidly simplistic view of his craft. He never complicates anything.


Ben K. (From River Ave. Blues): On Friday, he had just his second career at-bat, and he nearly managed to knock in a few with a line drive. Today, he was more patient. He saw seven pitches from K-Rod — including one foul ball — and the Yanks’ Hall of Fame closer worked out a bases loaded walk. It would be his first RBI of his career, and the timing — coming on the same night as his 500th save — could not be better.


Joel Sherman: "I didn't expect any of this," Rivera said afterward.

How could anyone expect it? He barely made the team in 1996. But slowly -- with one success after another -- he gained then manager Joe Torre's trust, and moved from mop-up to long man to main set-up guy to Wetteland's fill on that May night.


Ken Davidoff: Rivera's career, at a job in which the shelf life of most pitchers is a few years, has been remarkable. The milestone reminds us. Rivera's overall performance makes us look silly for questioning whether he was done.

Diminished? A little, at age 39. Done? Not even close.

Five Straight And Five Hundred

After getting blanked by Tommy Hanson and the Braves last Tuesday, the Yankees had lost three in a row and five of their last six. The bats were dormant, mustering only 13 runs over that stretch. Since then they've ripped off five wins in a row, outscoring their opponents 37-13. Not coincidentally, over that time, A-Rod has seemingly found his groove again, picking up 7 hits, 9 walks and driving in 9 runs during the streak.

The Yanks hit the ground running in the first inning against Livan Hernandez with a double by Derek Jeter high off the wall in left center field, a shot which would have left most other MLB parks. Next up, batting in place of the flu-stricken Johnny Damon, Nick Swisher pulled a ball to the right side which Daniel Murphy inadvisably threw to third in an attempt to nab the lead runner. Instead of taking the easy out at first, both runners were safe. Mark Teixiera took the opportunity to bust a double to left, driving in both Jeter and Swish. Still no one out.

A-Rod worked one of his three walks of the evening then Robby Cano bounced into a force out which moved Teixeria over to third. Jorge Posada brought him home on a sac fly and provided Chien Ming Wang with some room to maneuver.

Wang kept the Mets off the board until the 4th inning. Gary Sheffield worked a lead off walk and was driven home by a Fernando Martinez double two batters later. Luis Castillo then drove home Martinez with a single to left before the inning was over.

Wang wasn't very sharp, but made it to the sixth inning having thrown a reasonable 80 pitches and allowing only the two runs in the fourth. Sheff reached base for the third time in as many at bats against Wang, this time via a single to lead off the inning. In a rather sad testament to the state of the Mets line up right now, their number five hitter Fernando Tatis laid down a sac bunt to advance Sheff to second base down by one run in the sixth inning. Joe Girardi then called on Phil Coke to face Fernando Martinez, ending Chien Ming Wang's night short of that elusive quality start, but in line for a victory nonetheless.

Coke struck out F-Mart at which point Jerry Manuel called on Omir Santos to pinch hit for Brian Schnieder. Joe Girardi countered by calling on Phil Hughes. These kinds of "strategic moves" make me happy that interleauge play is over. I hate pinch hitters and excessive calls to the bullpen predicated on match ups. Managers feel obligated to respond to the opposing manager's moves, lest they open themselves to being second guessed. I personally think that a pitcher striking out the batter before is a better predictor of success than which arm he uses to throw the ball. This season (and pretty much every other one), the platoon splits amount to just a few percent, an advantage that could easily be negated by having to bring in a new pitcher out of the bullpen.

Managers are under pressure to make the decision that is perceived to be rational, not necessarily the one that is rational. If they fail making the conventional decision, it's much more tolerable than if they go against the grain and unfortunately, the former typically happens to be a giant waste of everyone's time. Anyway, the move worked out as Hughes retired Santos and came back out to pitch a scoreless seventh inning.

When people talk about this game months and years down the line, which they certainly will, no one will mention that Brian Bruney's inability to throw strikes set the table for one of the most memorable milestone achievement games I can remember. In the process of getting two outs, Bruney issued walks to David Wright and Fernando Tatis. With men on first and second, Mariano Rivera was called on for a four out save. After an 8 pitch at bat which included four foul balls, Mo caught Santos looking on a strike that just tickled the inside corner.

The pitcher's spot was due up 6th in the inning, but unlike when Mo batted in Atlanta, it was obvious he would stay in when it was his time to hop into the on-deck circle. However, with Jeter facing K-Rod, Girardi sent up Francisco Cervelli to pretend as if he was going to hit for Rivera, which didn't fool anyone. After curiously dropping the first pitch to DJ for a strike, K-Rod threw four straight balls (two intentional) to create the rare match up of a closer facing a closer.

Standing in the box wearing Cody Ransom's batting helmet, Mo took the first two pitches for balls, causing a collective groan at Citi Field. The next pitches were fastballs called as strikes, as Rivera didn't flinch; his clear intention was to get on base the easy way, if possible. With the count level at 2-2, K-Rod dialed it up a bit and tossed a four-seamer down Broadway. Mo unleashed a vicious cut, fouling it back. Perhaps the hack got in K-Rod's head because he failed to deliver another strike and instead walked Rivera to force in a run. It was the first RBI of his career.

Then came the bottom of the ninth, when Mo did what Mo pretty much always does.

In fitting fashion, it was a four out save with two strikeouts and only one hit. Trevor Hoffman might have 71 more saves than Rivera, but he hasn't had an appearance which lasted longer than one inning since 2004 (and that wasn't a save). Fitting too that Mo's RBI came against K-Rod, one of the few active relievers with a chance to compile career statistics anywhere near Rivera's. Even more so when you consider that it came via a walk, a demon that K-Rod can't quite seem to tame and one that is all but a non-issue to Rivera.

Even when it appears to be beyond his control, the moments seem to find Mariano. During the inning, promos for Mo's Sunday Conversation on SportsCenter ran and there was preemptive talk about what it would mean for Rivera to convert his 500th save.

You can tell yourself to savor this moment. You can remind yourself that 500 saves makes 300 wins seem commonplace by comparison. You can try to let the fact that we are watching the greatest of all time do his thing on a semi-nightly basis, but there's no way to fully appreciate someone like Rivera when he's actually in motion. Full reflection requires observation at a distance, something which we all hope doesn't come for quite some time.

Congrats Mo, and many more.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Game 75: I Wish You Wouldn't Say That

For the players, it seems, being on Sunday Night Baseball is a fairly big deal. Only once a week during the regular season does the baseball world grind to halt and showcase two teams in a nationally televised game without any others running concurrently. The ESPN banners get put up on the packed camera wells down the first and third baselines and the personalities of the Worldwide Leader in Sports roam the clubhouses. The atmosphere is at the ballpark is undoubtedly elevated

Conversely, most fans at home dread Sunday Night Baseball. It might be because they have to wait until 8PM to watch their team play and it keeps them up later than they'd like. It's probably not because it overlaps with Law and Order SVU or Extreme Makeover: Home Edition or Million Dollar Password, although that might be part of it. It doesn't matter to Yankees fans that the team gets national exposure, because if anything, there's already too much of that. I think you know where I'm going with this.

Jon Miller and Al Michaels are both smooth and competent play by play guys who do their job and set the table the Joe Morgan and John Madden, respectively. For all the fun that people have at Madden's expense, I think most can agree that that his understanding of the game of football runs far deeper than the average fan's, even if in his effort to transmit it, all the clumsy chuckles and "booms" get in the way. That has never seemed to be the case with Joe Morgan. Plenty of man hours have been dedicated to explaining how and why Morgan is a terrible baseball analyst and an even worse broadcaster. He's overly nostalgic and unabashedly anti-intellectual and it comes across crystal clear in every broadcast, but I think the real difference between the two guys comes down to the differences between the sports.

Baseball is easy to digest because it unfolds slowly in front of you, one play at a time. The average viewer doesn't need to have an RBI double to left center broken down by the TV crew in order to understand what is happening. The best broadcasters provide context when it's necessary, but otherwise step aside and let the game unfold. Each play in football, on the other hand, occurs like an explosion, while the announcers work frantically in between snaps to piece together what happened.

Since baseball is played 6 or 7 days a week, fans are much more familiar with the team than the broadcast team who is stopping by to do just one game. The context is far more important to fans and the Sunday Night Baseball crew, as it is currently composed, it's terrible at providing any sort of valuable insight as to how this game fits into the season thus far. Instead Morgan tries too often to relate what's happening to his own playing experience and the newly added Steve Phillips offers insipid big picture "insights" that are either factually incorrect or painfully obvious to any regular follower of either of the teams involved.

Yes, the broadcast is meant for a national audience, but it's at the expense of the fans of the teams on the field. I'm not Michael Kay's biggest fan, but listening to a Yankee game with him behind the mic is infinitely more enjoyable than one with the ESPN crew.

Tonight, expect Miller and Morgan to laud the Mets for signing Livan Hernandez and point to his 5-2 record and 4.05 ERA as proof that he is in the middle of a resurrection. Never mind the fact that last year he started out 6-1 with a 3.90 in Minnesota before watching his ERA balloon two runs northward, his WHIP expand to 1.667 before getting DFA'd. His numbers might look decent right now but Livan is only one start away from being the rubber-armed base hit machine he's been for the last three years of his career.

Don't expect any grand insights into Chien Ming Wang's lack of success this year aside from his inability to "keep the sinker down" and recover from his foot injury last year. Wang has taken small steps towards being not historically terrible, coming off of back to back 5 inning, 6 hit, 3 run, four strikeout outings against fellow National League East members Washington and Atlanta. Perhaps the spacious confines of Citi Field will be home to Wang's first quality start of the season.

Derek Jeter returns to the line up tonight, but Johnny Damon is still down with the flu.

Miller and Morgan aren't so much "talking heads" as "disembodied voices", but you get the idea...

There are places that I won't forget,
And I guess I'm never going back,
Guess it's information that I lack,
I've told lies without a hint or regret.

Burnett Shuts Down Mets

On Friday night, CC Sabathia was perfect through four innings. Last night, A.J. Burnett was just as impressive as he spun a gem against the Mets. After a perfect first inning, he worked around two walks in the second. Nick Swisher's oppposite field solo shot in the top of the third gave Burnett a one run lead. It was all the offense the Yankees would need on the night.

Burnett worked a perfect third and fourth, and was aided by an outstanding, leaping catch by Melky Cabrera on the leftfield warning track to start the bottom of the fifth. By the time Brian Schneider worked a two out walk in the fifth, Burnett had retired nine in a row. He then fanned Tim Redding to make it 15 of 18 retired. He had yet to give up a hit.

In the top of the sixth, the Yankees added some insurance runs. Mark Teixeira doubled, and was driven in by an Alex Rodriguez basehit. Robinson Cano doubled, moving A-Rod to third, then Jorge Posada cleared the bases with his 10th home run of the year.

Burnett lost his no hitter in the sixth, giving up a lead off single to Alex Cora. He responded by sitting down the next six in a row, ending his night at 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 10 K.

Brian Bruney and David Robertson closed it out, with a perfect eighth and ninth respectively. The victory ensured that the Yanks would take both halves of the 2009 Subway Series. They'll go for the sweep tonight.

Derek Jeter missed his second consecutive game with the flu, and was joined in the sick ward by Johnny Damon.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Game 74: Saturday Night Special

The Yankee bats look to stay hot tonight while the Mets try to shore up their defense. Ramiro Pena is defensively solid, and he'll be in the lineup again tonight as Derek Jeter continues to battle the flu - just like me, hence no real recap last night. Pena also got in on the act offensively last night, going 3 for 5 with a pair of doubles, two runs scored, and an RBI.

Pena's night was topped by Brett Gardner, who was in the lineup while Nick Swisher received the day off that he seemingly talked his way out of on Wednesday. Gardner went 5 for 6, falling a double short of the cycle, scored three times, drove in two, and stole a base for good measure. Less than two weeks ago, we revisted the centerfield situation and suggested that Gardner was in line for more playing time. Since that time Gardner has hit .440/.481/.720 in 27 PA, while Melky has gone .227/.400/.455 in 30 PA. For the season now, Gardner is out-hitting and out-onbasing Melky and with last night's power outburst, he only trails by .005 in SLG. Gardner also holds a large 10.4 to 4.1 edge in UZR/150 in center.

Just as he did early in the season when Cabrera replaced Gardner, the time has come for Joe Girardi to play the hot hand. Until Gardner cools off he should be getting the lion's share of playing time in center. Girardi's postgame comments last night seem to indicate that is the current plan.

Quick note on Xavier Nady: several reports say his ulnar ligament is now completely torn. He'll likely require Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career. Position players generally recover from TJ more quickly than pitchers, but with this being his second procedure all bets are off. With Nady being a free agent after the season, this could get interesting in the offseason. Meanwhile, Nady will likely soon be transfered to the 60 day disabled list, leaving the Yankees with two open spots on the 40 man as the trade deadline approaches.

Following his five game suspension, A.J. Burnett makes his first start in a week. For the third consecutive outing, Burnett will face an organization to which he once belonged. Last Saturday he was the tough luck loser against the Marlins, surrendering just one earned run in 6.1 IP. In his previous start against the Mets, he picked up the win in a 15-0 beatdown that saw him stikeout eight and allow eight baserunners over seven innings.

For the Mets, Tim Redding gets the ball. Redding has never faced the Yankees, but was briefly a member of the team in 2005. With the Yankees extremely short on starting pitching and Paul Quantrill's throwing arm having been ground into hamburger meat from over use at the hands of Joe Torre, Brian Cashman flipped Quantrill to the Padres for Redding and Darrell May. Combined, the two made three appearances for the Yanks, pitching eight innings and yielding nineteen earned runs. Yikes. Redding made one of those appearances, a disastrous start at Fenway in which he gave up six runs in one inning plus. I'll sign up for more of that today.

Tonight's game is a bit of rarity for the City. The Yankees never play Saturday night home games, and the Mets seldom do. Tonight will be the first Saturday night game in Citi Field history. I guess that makes it a Saturday Night Special.

It's a Saturday night special
Got a barrel that's blue and cold
Ain't good for nothing
But put a man six feet in a hole

Getcha Recaps Here

Well, not here, per se... I'm up in Boston right now and believe it or not, the Overtime Sports Bar in Beverly didn't have the game on last night.

But feel free to re-live all the action Mets' errors here:

or here,

or here,

or here,

or here,

Or if you must, one of the MSM outlets.

That photo comes from the Times article, and according to that and multiple picture-texts I got last night from friends in the city, it was quite the site to behold. If you search "nyc sunset" on Flickr and sort by most recent, you'll find more incredible shots (but nothing quite like the one above).

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.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Game 72: Rubberband Man

A key to a successful baseball season is winning series; it's the surest way of having a winning record. The Yankees are 2-0-1 in four game series, 1-2-0 in two game series, and 11-6 in three game series for an overall series mark of 14-8-1, but have dropped three of the last four. Of the 17 three game sets they've completed, 11 have had the third and final game determine who took the set. The Yankees are 8-3 in those rubber games, but have lost two in a row to the lowly Marlins and lowlier Nats. The Yanks look to end that rubber game losing streak tonight and take the series from the Braves.

Andy Pettitte gets the start tonight, and he's a bit of a rubberband man himself. As Joe Girardi likes to say, Andy has a tendency to bend, but not break. Pettitte's had some ugly outings this year, yet his record sits at 7-3 and the team is 10-4 in his starts. On May 18th, he picked up a win against the Twins despite allowing 12 hits over 6.2 IP. On May 29 in Cleveland, his back acted up on him. He allowed 10 baserunners in 5 IP, but he held the Tribe to just one run.

In his last start though, Pettitte had no such troubles. Friday against the Marlins Pettitte threw seven innings of one run ball, allowing just three baserunners and fanning seven. He even helped his cause with an RBI double. He looks to build on that tonight as he returns to the city that saw the greatest perfomance of his impressive career. Lifetime, Pettitte is 5-1 with a 3.13 ERA against the Braves in the regular season and has two big postseason victories in Atlanta.

The Yanks will be opposed by old foe Derek Lowe, who has been tagged with the loss in his last two starts. In his time with the Red Sox, Lowe made 15 starts and 24 relief appearances against the Yanks, going 8-10 with 6.07 ERA and 1.68 WHIP. I'll take more of that please. Lowe and Pettitte went head-to-head twice, both in 2002, with both pitchers taking a win and a loss each.

It was rumored that Alex Rodriguez might get his weekly day off tonight, but he is in the lineup, meaning he'll likely skip Sunday's Subway Series game in order to get back-to-back days off. Cody Ransom is in the lineup however, as Robinson Cano was a late scratch. According to Pete Abe, Cano's claims he's just getting a day off, but his wrist was also taped. Given that he was in the original lineup, it appears that the Yankee Cloak and Dagger game has returned for the second consecutive day.

Oh, and just for good measure, I'll throw this in too.

Hey y'all prepare yourself for the Rubberband Man
You never heard a sound like the Rubberband Man
You're bound to lose control when the Rubberband starts to jam