Friday, May 22, 2009

Game 42: Once

The final series of the homestand begins tonight against the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. In the 127 seasons of Phillies baseball this only the second time they could be referred to as such. That's nuts.

This marks Philly's first visit to the Bronx since July 2000, a series during which a soon-to-be-traded big mouth, with a son named Gehrig no less, told anyone who would listen how much he'd love to play for the Yankees. Funny how no one remembers that anymore.

A.J. Burnett gets the ball for the Yankees. Just as they did in his first three starts this year, the team will need innings from Burnett tonight in order to spare a fatigued bullpen. Burnett came up big in those three starts, all Yankee victories, before turning in four clunkers in a row. He did better in his start last Sunday (6 BBs notwithstanding), and will look to build on that tonight. To do so, he'll need to keep Philly sluggers Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Raul Ibanez out of the right field stands. Burnett will be opposed by former wife-beater Brett Myers.

Johnny Damon returns to the line-up after a night off to rest a sore neck. Brian Bruney is unavailable, Albaladejo has been optioned out, and Chien-Ming Wang will be in the bullpen as the long man. With that, here's the bullpen situation tonight:

  • Albaladejo: Optioned out
  • Aceves: Out tonight, likely tomorrow as well
  • Bruney: Ditto
  • Veras: 1.2 IP last night. May be available tonight
  • Rivera: 2.1 IP over two days. May be available tonight
  • Coke: Available I assume. Held out last night after taking a liner off the arm Wednesday
  • Wang: Available to make his 4th professional relief appearance
  • Tomko: Available (but do you really want to see him?)

We've been lucky the past three days picking songs that focus on the next number in the winning streak. The problem is the further we go with that, the more tenuous the connection becomes between the song and the game. But you gotta be superstitious during a hot streak and I'll be damned if I'm going to be the one to jinx this. So bear with me. Today we're going to stretch things a bit further, focusing on the album name rather than the lyrics or the song title.

We'll go with Once, the opening track from Pearl Jam's seminal debut album, Ten. Pearl Jam was the first band that I really got into. It's hard to believe that this summer will mark 18 years since Ten was released. It's not hard to believe that Pearl Jam kicks as much ass today as they did then.

Once is a song about a guy going insane to the point of becoming a serial killer. That doesn't have a helluva lot to do with the Yankees, but the inconsistent play earlier this year certainly was maddening. And there were more than a few people out there who were ready to lose their marbles over it. Once upon a time it seemed this team could do no right. That's all a distant memory right now; winning has a way of doing that.

So that's your loosely-founded connection today. Believe it if you need it, or leave it if you dare. At the very least this video will give you a jump start for your Memorial Day Weekend. It was shot four days before Ten was released.

Once upon a time I could lose myself....

Bruney Unavailable

Via the same friend who texted me from Springsteen last night comes more news about a fat man. This time it's not funny.

Mike Francesa says Brain Bruney had another MRI on his arm today. It was clean, but Bruney will be unavailable tonight, making a thin bullpen thinner.

Bryan Hoch is reporting that Albaladejo has already been optioned out, but that Wang hasn't been officially activated yet. I wouldn't be surprised now if you see more than just Wang added to the roster for tonight. Berroa would be the only other guy they'd drop at this point I'd imagine.

[UPDATE 5:15 P.M. - This has been confirmed by multiple outlets now. This is why he didn't pitch last night. He may be unavailable tomorrow as well]

Breaking News: Yanks' Wang to Get Some Action

This morning came the news that after Joba got drilled last night, the Yankees told CMW to turn around on his trip to Pawtucket.

Now comes the news that Wang will be activated tonight and serve as the long man out of the pen.

"Huh huh. You said 'long wang'"

This marks about the fifteenth different roster move this year that makes absolutely no sense to me. Just yesterday the team said they wanted to see Wang have one more strong outing before activating him. Now because the bullpen is short tonight, they're going to reverse course and use Wang, who has started in all but 3 of his 182 professional appearances, out of the bullpen.

Really? You don't think CMW is too valuable to be jerked around like that? Given how badly he's been beaten this year, I would hope he would be put in a position with a high chance of success upon his return. Instead, in a knee-jerk reaction, he'll be placed in a role with which he has no experience. Meanwhile Melancon and Robertson sit in AAA.

Generally a long man won't be needed, but the Yanks have only two sure things available in the pen tonight (Bruney and Tomko), so we knew a move would be made. Given that Wang was slated to pitch anyway, I'd guess it's a guarantee we see him tonight. It's too early tell what the implications are on the upcoming rotation as it involves CMW, Joba, and Hughes.

None of this is confirmed yet. We'll update you in the game preview later on, including the corresponding roster move.

Obese Football Coach Week Continues At Fack Youk

Following yesterday's Charlie Weis name-drop and a gratuitous picture of an asphyxiating Jabba the Hutt (or were he and Leia playing the choking game?), submitted for your enjoyment is the following text message exchange I had with my friend who attended the Springsteen show at The Swamp last night:
Him: Rex Ryan is sitting right in front of us. i didnt realize how fat
he is

Me: Who's fatter? Him or Weis?

Him: Definitely weis
I would have to agree.

So there you have it. Notre Dame may have fallen on tough times of late, but they still have the Heavyweight Champion of the Football World. I suppose I'm obligated to come up with something about Andy Reid soon.

As a side note, the Yankees faired much better last night than they did the night I caught The Boss on this tour.

Time Turns Elastic

As Matt mentioned last night, the penultimate destination of my road trip was a stop in Baltimore to see Trey Anastiasio (the frontman of Phish), play with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. If you aren't familiar with Phish's music, you might think this would be an unlikely match. That's probably because you didn't know that all four members of Phish are classically trained musicians and that many of their longer songs are tightly composed and would be well suited to an orchestral backing.

I've seen symphony performances before at SPAC, but never at a concert hall specifically designed for acoustics. We lucked into some pretty good seats - first row of the lower balcony - which certainly enhanced the experience as well. Above the stage at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall there were bowed wood panels, and on the ceiling there were giant half spheres with a slot down the middle that looked like flat head screws. The doors where you entered your section were closed and soundproof, each balcony was it's own little pod, the ledges of which were gently sloped and aimed (not surprisingly) right towards ear level. Each one of these design features were put in place solely for acoustical purposes, and last night, they were put to their full use.

There was a stringed band playing in the entry way across from a cocktail bar and the crowd was an interesting mix of dreadlocks and blazers, summer dresses and t-shirts. Trey walked on stage with conductor Marin Alsop, wearing a black suit and blue dress shirt, a pretty drastic departure from his normal stage attire, and was met with a rousing applause.

Standing in front of the orchestra and off to
Alsop's left, Trey then picked up his spruce-topped Languedoc, which was plugged in to a modestly-sized Fender amp, and delved into Divided Sky. The tone was clean and and carefully balanced with the mostly stringed arrangement. The crowd sat quietly through the roughly 10 minute version of the song but erupted with what I'm guessing was the loudest applause in the history of the venue when Alsop halted the strings. These being mostly Phish fans, the typical clapping was backed by plenty of "Wooohooo!!!"s and "Yeah, Trey!!!"s. It was a breathtaking moment, and one that made it impossible for me to suppress a smile.

Next came the mellow Brian and Robert (which I simulcasted via iPhone to Sampson), followed by the short, acoustic The Inlaw Josie Wales. Trey then took a moment to thank the crowd and said how honored he was to be able to do something like this.

The most emotional moment of the night came when he dedicated the next song to his eight year old nephew. Three weeks ago his mother, Trey's sister, Kristy Manning lost a long battle with cancer and they played a beautiful rendition of Water In The Sky in her honor. As I listened, I couldn't help but think back to the heartfelt post that Matt wrote earlier in the day and appreciate one of those times when life comes together - when for a short while it all seems to make sense. Last night was one of those fleeting moments.

The title song of the show was called Time Turns Elastic and was a 13 minute opus consisting of 9 shorter, interwoven songs that they played at the beginning of the second set. Next came what they call "Guyute" the orchestral composition of what is from Trey's album Seis De Mayo, and starts and ends with the intro from My Friend, My Friend. I recorded all 12 minutes of it on my phone, but haven't figured out how to get it off. The encore, If I Could, hadn't been played live in almost nine years.

Here is a link to the full setlist.

By the time I get back to New York this afternoon I will have logged over 2,000 miles on my Grandma's Mercury Sable and slept in 5 different states in 6 days. We ran into all sorts of pitfalls and obstacles and very little went according to plan, save for the show last night. I was lucky to have a traveling companion who in addition to being easy going, was a top notch iPhone navigator and text-retary who rolled with the punches at every juncture. We've been friends since Semester At Sea, so that last part came as no surprise. She's not a Phish fan, but I prepped her a little bit while we were sitting in traffic on the Baltimore-Washington Expressway and unless she was bullshitting me (unlikely), she came away almost as impressed and satisfied as I was.