Greetings From LA

Having attended both Saturday and Sunday games, last night I was seven long hours into a weekend of horrible baseball.  I almost started to agree with what the host Dodger Stadium fans and countless Facebook status updaters cleverly suggested: Yankees suck.  But that eighth hour of long-awaited grinding offense was heartening.

Friday
Great game.  But it should not have been.  Only a sputtering Yankee offense could turn a Vicente Padilla outing into a Ford-Koufax pitchers duel.  Except I don’t think Koufax wasn’t as into drilling opposing batters for no reason in a tight game.

Saturday
When purchasing tickets back in March for Saturday’s game, I took the 80% chance that Burnett would not be on the mound for this game.  He might be going through this slump as a personal favor to Javy Vasquez so AJ can assume the full burden of the fans’ ire.  But Javy has started to show signs of his NL self, so ire-redirection is made slightly easier.  It’s a sad case when watching the Yanks put 3 on the board before an out is
recorded and saying to yourself “OK, now we just need a couple more 3 run shots to have a chance in this game”.  Four interminable hours later, it was clear that two more 3-run shots would merely have tied the game.

 

AJ Burnett’s games are becoming more of a “pass” that Vasquez’s.  Pre-pinstripes, everyone said AJ only has to be healthy to become a dominant pitcher; that his health was the only thing preventing greater success when he was with Toronto.  Well, we are led to believe he’s been healthy his entire time with the Yanks and he still gaks with the best of them.   He’s like a heavy-set woman whom you think would be attractive if she dropped 20 lbs, but next time you see her, she’s that much lighter and equally unattractive.  I have the go-ahead to say that since I, too, am skinny and unattractive.  But I still think I’ll be disqualified as a “People All-Star”.

So after Girardi shockingly let AJ hit for himself with the tying run on 3rd and one out in the 4th – this, after Burnett made an open and shut case for being yanked due to lack-of-being-anything-remotely-resembling-effective – I can only hope the skipper did an imitation of me whenever I lock my keys in the car.  It involves finding the nearest brick wall and banging my head against it, “Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!”  Anything short of that makes me fear his head is in a mystical faraway land of gnomes and sprites.  Neither of
which I’ve noticed in the Bronx.  Though admittedly, they are more likely to appear in LA.

 

Sunday
Much as I like Mr. Torre, he was his old self in helping the Yanks come back on Sunday night.  I had noticed last Thursday he brought in his stopper Jonathan Broxton with a 5 run lead (I think there were two men on, so Torre was clearly protecting against three consecutive home runs that would have tied the affair… the iron-clad rulebook calls that a save, afterall).  That precluded Broxton from the Friday game, which proved to be
academic.  Then in the Saturday debacle, he again saw a 5 run lead in the 8
th
as tenuous enough to go to his stopper for an extended save.  In fact, in watching this I was hoping the Yanks would battle and make him work a bit so he’d be less effective the next night, but I was actually disappointed in how efficient Broxton was against them that day.  But I
guess it was enough.  Again, the rulebook tells us that protecting a 3 run lead for one inning = save, so naturally, they had to go with Broxton in the 9th yesterday.  Yes, the Dodgers added an insurance run (nullifying the “save situation”), but it was after two were out and no one was on, so Broxton was heated up and ready.  I think his use in this game in and of itself was less egregious than the day prior.  This is arguable, but put
them together and you got yourself a whole mess of “Joe T. wuz here, 6/27/10″.

Overuse of his stopper was not nearly enough to earn Torre the Knucklehead Award ™ however.  That went to co-candidates Russell Martin and Garrett Anderson, who conspired to leave their team without a catcher and a leftfielder in an extra inning game by popping off to home plate umpire Chris Guccione about balls and strikes.  Maybe he had a quick trigger, but there’s no reason to put yourself in that situation.  Even with the
built-in excuse “it was an emotional game”.

Oh, and…
I was amused at the conclusion of the 7th inning of Saturday’s ugly Yankee loss when some Dodger fans in my section loudly made light of all the Yankee fans that started defeatedly filing out of the stadium at that point.  They must not have taken note that it was the Dodgers who just went down, so the fans leaving the stadium were the thousands of stereotypical Dodger fans headed for the exits. 

And another thing!
At ballparks, I tend to eschew the traditional stadium fare of hot dogs and beer and instead go for a soft serve.  So after observing the menu and which line was giving heartier servings, I firmly, loudly, and confidently walked up to the Frozen Yogurt Lady and had this exchange:

Cappiello: Hello, I’d like a chocolate frozen yogurt in a white cup please.
(they also had pink)
FYL:  You want mix? (as in “swirl” flavored)
Cappiello:  Chocolate, please.
FYL:  Mix?
Cappiello: Chocolate, please.

[Cappiello receives the mix flavor, sighs, and slinks away, frustrated. But maybe the frustration was really because the concession stand inexplicably did not have the game on.] 

 

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This is not baseball…

…said Ken Singleton in reference to the struggles Dontrelle Willis displayed during the first two innings of possibly the worst baseball game played in years by the Yanks, which, for the first two innings, the Diamondbacks tried to match.  But as the game progressed, his description would better describe the Yankee effort, and might even have been an understatement. 

Rarely does a victory merit an angry team meeting, but I sort of hope one is taking place as I type.  You wouldn’t think an offense would be considered overanxious when it draws seven walks in the first 2.1 innings, yet the way poor Willis was going, some of the Yankee swings, and most certainly their baserunning, were acts of charity toward the hapless D-backs.  And if D-train’s performance made AZ fans blanch, Vasquez’s efforts were frustrating enough to make any NYer slap their forehead so hard they might have loosened dental crowns.

A couple of admirably grinded-out runs and a 10th inning homer by Granderson against the wretched Arizona bullpen, to go along with some good relief work (when not walking, balking, and wild-pitching) got the Yanks a victory.  This was aided and abetted by Arizona’s own early curious baserunning that mirrored Willis’ wild performance.  So the Yanks should humbly accept the victory, but, sorry gents… I hereby decree: no beer for you on the charter to Los Angeles.  I’ll take that, thank you very much.


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Javy, come back!

Is Javy Vasquez’s recent trend too much of a good thing?  I suppose Girardi must think so the way he yanked him after seven efficient innings in favor of …guh… Chan Ho (outta the) Park.  The only run scored against Vasquez was on a ball that looked like it was going to beat David Wright to the plate in the 1st inning.  Not sure why Frankie Cervelli felt the need to field Swisher’s throw six feet in front of home plate, but his futile dive back to the plate need never have happened.  Sure, he’s fast for a catcher, but he’s not faster than a thrown baseball.  I suppose if Posada was catching, he may have run into the clubhouse while the throw was still airborn, fearing a home plate collision.

 

I somewhat enjoy the Met broadcast team of Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez, but…A) Darling kept pronouncing Vasquez as “vas-KWEZ”.  That’s not right, is it? You don’t say “KWA-sedilla” instead of quesadilla.  Even Hernandez was adding a W.  Darling’s a Yale grad and Hernandez is Mexican, so I guess I bow to them on this?  B)  Moments after giving Cervelli the business for his real or perceived histrionics, they applauded Jose Reyes’ spastic rain-dance after he doubled in the 8th inning.  Doesn’t bother me much, but his routine was much more reminiscent of Celine Dion hitting a crescendo in one of her many spectacular Vegas showstoppers than anything Cervelli ever does.

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All he needs is dred-locks

As a special nod to Manny’s Fenway return, I present visual proof of JD Drew recently taking a smoke break while the ball was being overthrown past the infield:

JD Drew - tired.jpg

JT Being Manny

Of the many things swimming through my head as I watch the
Saturday Yanks-Sox matchup on Fox, my head is swirling with mostly the obvious,
such as…

…Why would Sabathia plunk Pedroia when it is evident the previous
nights HBPs were intentional?  Umps were wise to not issue a
warning.  And by the way, is there any meaning to a warning
whatsoever?  Ejections are not automatic after a warning, as the ump can
still use his judgment.  And ump can use same said judgment if there has
been no warning issued, so someone tell me the significance of “The
Warning”.  Does it go on your permanent record and keep you out of
the good colleges?

…A sartorial detour: Don’t like the Sox tertiary red
jersey (worn Friday night).  Or anybody’s third jersey, for that matter.  Got
a classic home jersey, so…why?  And not very eco-friendly since you
can’t put those in with your whites.

…If there were two outs, 3rd base coach Robby Thompson
should send Winn on the single to center.  With one out, maybe.  With
no outs, HOLD HIM UP!!!  This is not something that requires athletic
instincts, just a little forethought.

…During the Fox Moment of Silence for Ernie Harwell and
Robin Roberts (brought to you by the new Toyota Avalon – Comfort is Back),
wouldn’t that have been interesting if a brawl broke out?  Fox probably
made a point to avoid the MOS when Arod was at bat, so they picked the more
innocuous Ramiro Pena.

…Bizarro Adrian Beltre is playing for the Red Sox. 
High avg and lousy glove.  Seven errors already and in my limited viewing,
I’ve seen at least two routine grounders right at him in previous games that
were called hits (without the dreaded “tough hop”).

…As I type this, I am watching the game on DVR-delay (only
by writing from LA can I sequester myself so successfully… avoiding hearing
what bar Lindsay Lohan and her mother left at 3am, not quite as easy.), so
maybe the Boston Globe has already written a treatise on this.  On the
ball Beltre threw into left field — and the miracle of DVR corroborates this
— at the moment the ball sailed into right field, JD Drew was still parked at
his position with his hands on his knees, as though he was out sick that day in
little league during the “back up the throw” lesson.  He looked
like he was poised to kick back with a lounge chair and mai tai.  In fact,
all of the above text was written while the ball sat on the field before he
arrived to pick it up. 

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Tough Break About Having to Play in the Steroids Era*

*Yes, it is a tough break for those who didn’t take steroids but are lumped in the same broad category that McGwire helped create.   If such a comment came off the cuff in the live interview, I would find it more forgivable.  But in a carefully written, pre-scripted statement with a handler looking over your shoulder?  Astounding… just… jaw-dropping how stupid Team McGwire thinks the American public is.  Sure, it’s a “Dancing With the Stars” kind of culture these days, but people are still smart enough to not let that “steroids era” comment slip by without offering a “hey, wait a second…”

 

So,

 

CHEERS to Mark McGwire for admitting steroid use of his own volition, however obvious it was to everyone not named Tony LaRussa.  He didn’t pretend to try it once or twice, he came clean to his family (and to the Maris family), and he seemed to grasp the gravity of it until…

 

JEERS to the erstwhile Big Mac for:

taking all of 11 seconds to stubbornly–almost angrily–deny that steroids provided an advantage, a base for which he would maintain that he (and, we are to deduce, others) made a mockery of the record books with good old eye-hand coordination and the gifts TMU (“The Man Upstairs”) gave him.  He seemed put off at any suggestion otherwise, like Bob Costas just dreamed up such a silly notion on the spot.  Listening to McGwire defend himself by invoking his first little league home run stirred the kind of disappointment usually reserved for Little League parents who watch their son give the umpire the middle finger.  Which I guess is appropriate seeing as that McGwire was lobbing the same finger at baseball fans across the country.  No need to rehash the asinine argument that steroids provide no advantage – I don’t want to deter any ping pong players out there who clearly have the eye-hand coordination to join the big leagues and hit 70 home runs in a season.  So even if McGwire never took steroids, I guess all of his body-building workouts were just to look good for when he takes his shirt off to help move his neighbor’s refrigerator.

 

I’ve always given Mac partial credit for being the one guy who chose not to lie to congress in 2005.  I even find his reasoning possibly acceptable, that it might have opened up a can of worms which his family would get dragged into.  But to hear how much it pained him to essentially take the fifth in front of the Hooton family overlooks the fact that he retreated into exile (pardon me, “retirement”) immediately after emotionally swearing he would devote his post-playing career to preaching against steroid use.  Sorry Hootons – you were lied to by the big red man.

 

Why is this so complicated?  I can understand being cagey about certain whens and wheres so as to protect the fellow guilty, i.e., teammates, or other connections that would lead back to other players.  But everyone knows why these guys made The Decision.  Sure, lots of guys were doing it, but every one of them knew it was wrong – culture notwithstanding.  Maybe more names will come out this year, and more guys will say they didn’t realize what their trainer was sprinkling on their Maypo.  Or if anyone boldly admits to taking anything knowingly, they’ll say they took “illegal substances” to aid their regularity.

 

Maybe Bud Selig should create the Ken Caminiti award, given annually to the ballplayer that is truly up front about his steroid use.  Prerequisite is the player A) admitting he used, and B) acknowledging it was cheating, done for the purposes of being a better ballplayer.  So far, the only winner would be Jose Canseco, as the continuing parade of outed users double-talk their way into steroid purgatory.

 

 

A Beautiful Ride

Decompressing…

 

-The offense came alive in the nick of time, though that most certainly is not a Swisher pun.  Although a loss, game 5 played out nicely in that the early blowout kept the top shelf Yankee relievers from being pressed into service, yet the Yanks built a rally late in the game that they seemed to carry into the clincher.  Jumping on Pedro early, this game had the earliest evident outcome in the whole Yankee post-season.

 

-From game 6, all those fans hanging over the RF fence on Matsui’s double nearly cost the Yanks a run.  Again… the wall should be thicker to create that slight buffer to discourage interference.

 

-Arod’s newfound patience paid off as Matsui drove him in twice.  This was even the case in the regular season when, at times Arod’s stats did not look particularly gaudy; he maintained productivity all year long, getting on base a lot even when his average was low.  His regular season OBP was .402 to Jeter’s .406.  Plus, the avg, HRs and RBIs would eventually come.

 

-Marte’s performance in this series is reminiscent of the Yankee pen in ’96.  Need that surprise hero to show up, and Marte played that role nicely.  His accomplishment should get him work doing off-season signings where he can scribble “surprise WS unsung hero ’09” after his name.

 

-The overlooked storyline in the post-season this year was the Yankee defense.  Going hand in hand with mostly superb pitching, they made only one error and played better D than each of the teams they faced.  They also made fewer oddly spastic baserunning errors.  Real head-scratchers, but the opposition made even weirder mistakes.  Strange post-season, indeed.

 

-I’ve not generally been firmly on board with Pettitte-as-savior.  I’ve always appreciated him, but did not see him as a #1 guy, nor as a hugely clutch performer that is often alleged.  Well, at 37, he put in some great grind-it-out performances that this team absolutely needed to win.  And I didn’t even realize using him on three days rest was an option.  Suddenly I’m having the epiphany that was obvious to everyone else years ago:  the Yanks win in 2004 if Pettitte hadn’t pettily skipped town.  Turns out bringing him back was an exceptional move, as these last couple weeks have demonstrated.

 

-Mo must have no soul because he has clearly made a deal with the devil.  His mph is down, he was heavily leaned upon for the entire post-season, the bar is so high that at times he appeared to struggle slightly, yet the whole thing ended with him giving up one earned run the entire post-season.  He truly makes no sense.  As a fan, no small reason to root for the Yanks this year is because one day he’ll wake up and the cutter won’t cut.  I keep thinking that’s right around the corner, but there’s no real indication of that yet.  This won’t last forever, but enjoy it while it does.

 

-Another big reason to relish this one is how well the rest of “the core” performed along with Rivera.   Seeing so many newer Yanks struggle in this entire post-season, you can’t help but hope some of the new guys can learn the ways of the Jedi from Rivera, Jeter, Pettitte and Posada.  Lost in an 11-4 post-season record was a collection of tight hitters who are new to this whole thing.  If they didn’t pull this off, there would be blood on Teixeira’s and Burnett’s hands.

 

-Girardi outmanaged Manuel in this series (the latter’s glaring misdeeds: not setting up Cliff Lee for 1,4,7; going too long with Pedro Martinez in both his outings; and not being prepared for a what proved to be a devastating two base steal with 3rd base abandoned for the Teixeira overshift).  But why was Girardi so maligned for going with Hairston over Swisher against Pedro in game two?  Sure the Hairston-can-hit- Pedro stats were old, but the Swisher-can’t-hit-anyone stats were quite fresh.  And Hairston had a huge hit in the rally that knocked out Martinez.  All that said, Girardi went back to Swisher in game 6 against Pedro.  This isn’t a no-brainer, but still: Why, Joe?  OK, OK, no more nitpicking.  I can relax now.

 

-It somehow seems like months since the Yanks clinched the pennant vs Angels.  Is that a sign of withdrawal?

 

-If the Phils make it back to the WS next year, you think Charlie Manuel will run Cliff Lee out there three times?

 

Notes from the parade:

-For the parade through the Canyon of Heroes, did Reggie and Arod coordinate their outfits?  If Arod wants to imitate Reggie, no one is going to stop him.

-Tough to do a very revealing interview during a parade or clubhouse celebration, but is there something they can ask besides “how cool is this?” (apparently it’s all “unbelievable”) and the condescending “do you have anything like this back in [insert hayseed town where you are from]?”  

Kim Jones to Brett Gardner “Have you ever been on a float before?”

 

-I’m in the mode where I am thinking I will not ask the baseball gods for anything ever again.  That’ll change probably about a month from now. 

 

-My appetite has returned. 

 

-Arod might just be sending a Christmas card to Selena Roberts this holiday season.  The Aaaaa-bomb that she dropped on Aaaaa-rod seems to have set the wheels turning on an effort at a psychological makeover by the formerly beleaguered slugger.  Seems that Rodriguez’s decision to not do what almost every other steroid cheat did – i.e., lie about what prompted the positive test – has paid dividends in some weird fashion.  Perhaps we’ll enjoy an off-season of David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield and countless others changing their minds on the cock-n-bull excuses they used for being tied to steroids?  Or maybe they’ll just start dating blonde starlets and see if that works.

 

-Lest I give the Yanks all the credit for winning the World Series, yours truly did have a small hand in it by not shaving during the post-season and changing my desktop wallpaper every time the Yankees lost.  Note how they never lost two games in a row…  You’re welcome.  I can also claim responsibility for the 1996 game four victory when the Yanks were rallying from being down 6-0.  As they started to put big innings together, then tied it, I refused to go to the bathroom until they won the game.  I didn’t know it would go extra innings, but I think I made the right decision.

 

-For whatever negatives there are to the new Stadium (nice joint, but crazy ticket prices and thus more tranquil clientele), it sure had a good year.  All the entertaining comeback and walk-off wins was iced perfectly with the WS victory and gives the joint a nice dallop of mojo.

 

-Farewell for now from LA, where you go to a ballgame, and the view is this: 

 


 
Oct misc 004a.jpg.

Looking Back to Live, Game 6

Oh, it’s so nice to have Matsui batting behind Arod.  Gotta make walking Arod hurt.

Shows what I know.  For all Swisher’s post-season struggles, I thought Brett Gardner was a worthy roll of the dice, but he’s making this game more interesting than it has to be.

I’ll take a victory any way I can get it – umpire error, leaning into a bases loaded HBP, slapping the ball out of the catcher’s hand, fan interference – but if I could really script it, just plain hitting Pedro well enough to have Manuel pull him in the middle of an inning would be entertaining.  Pedro might be too good tonight and Manuel may not make the oft-repeated mistake of putting him out there longer than he should be.  But it would make for some entertaining video and a probably way more entertaining post-game press conference.  The press is going to miss this guy when he retires.

Rollins got the runner home from third with less than two out, just like you’re supposed to.  If the Yanks fail in that same situation tonight, my foot is going through the TV.  And I have the old tube TV sets, so it’ll make that wicket “pop!” when that happens.

Another good AB by Damon.  Time for Teixeira to show up.  I wonder if he is subconsciously doing poorly just so he doesn’t have to listen to John Sterling replays of “You’re on the Mark…Teixeira!” and “It’s a Tex message!”.  That could explain a lot.

HBP!  I’ll take that!  Loaded for Arod.  I was about to say “this could be the game right here”.   Which it could.  But it’s still too early for that kinda talk.  The best that happens is he hits a grand slam, in which case I’ll still be edgy for another six innings in hopes they don’t let the Phils back in it.   I know this is only baseball and these guys don’t even know who I am, but I must admit, I’ve been as testy as someone trying to quit smoking.  The past few
weeks, if you cut me off on the road, you’ll get a taste of Evil Matt.

Bases loaded K and we just got a taste of Evil Arod.  Foot, meet
television.  How does Pedro back himself into a corner like this and come out throwing strikes like this?  Too much drama.  I want a light, fluffy comedy tonight.


Thank you Matsui!  Arod is off the hook (like he didn’t buy enough
indulgence this post-season).  What a backbreaker for the Phils, but I doubt the mental letdown will result in them just going down in order the rest of the game.  Like any post-season team, win or lose they need be able to use the cliche “there’s no quit in this team”.

Wow.  How great has Damon been and how painful is it that he’s just been replaced by Hairston.

 

After 61 pitches – 31 strikes 30 balls.   Boy is Pettitte sneaking by without his best stuff.  How long can this last?  He and Pedro don’t look wildly different through 4 innings, but thanks to Matsui it’s the Yanks with a 3 run lead.  I want more!  If they hold on, I can go back to my breathing not being labored.  I’m starting to think if I was on the mound for these tense games that I wouldn’t fare very well.

 

This is the AB I’ve been looking for from Swisher all post-season.  After down 0-2 the count went full.  Of course he ended it with a strikeout, but laborious ABs against Pedro are a small victory.

OK. three more innings before Rivera.  That’s a long three innings.

The Yanks bottom of 4 was limp as they went down in order.  But if they get two guys on next inning… Matsui!

Meanwhile, Pettitte faces the 8 and 9 hitters in top of 5, which I’d like to think are easy outs, but that’s just not the way it’s been going.

 

…and the #9 hitter walked with the top of the order coming up.  How long can Pettitte hang in there?  Four walks through 4.1.   Yanks have GOT to tack on.  We all know the magic pitch count threshold for Pedro is 100, but Pettitte’s must be lower than that tonight.

 

For all my concerns about the overuse of Rivera, the 7th inning was awful close to the real save situation.  I think Rivera should have been available to pitch to Ryan Howard if Utley had reached and brought up the tying run, but he wasn’t even warming up.

 

 

It was at this point that I found an environment where I would loudly be sharing my opinions with anyone who would listen rather than typing it into a Word doc to paste into an MLBlog.  To synopsize: I was pleased with the result.

I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City

Too much… too much.  More to come.

Reasons for Agita vs. Reasons for Optimism

Agita:

Like the just concluded game 5, I don’t like the match-up in game 6 (assuming this is a fully rested Pedro vs. a short-rested Pettitte).  On the up side, if the Yanks do win, it can be by beating Pedro, which always makes for good television.

Optimism:

SOME of the Yankee bats are warming up and with a second look at Pedro, maybe they’ll show a bit more of a heartbeat.  Also, if Pettitte can hang tough even through five, the bullpen should be in decent shape if Girardi tries to stitch Joba, Hughes, and Rivera together to get this done.  Not that the sequence I mention is a sure-fire recipe for success, but it’s conceivable they can hold it together.

Agita:

If it goes 7, is CC (who will be seen for the third time in a little over a week by these Phils) near the end of his rope or already at it?  As big as he has been (ahem), it is still not outside the realm of possibility he would come out and just plain not have it.  And there would go the season.  Plus, maybe the Phils can squeeze two innings out of Cliff Lee for this game.

Optimism:

Cole Hamels (if that’s who is slated) hasn’t had it all post-season.

 

Perceived momentum from game 4 aside, folks, this is anybody’s series.  At this point in the war of attrition, the bats are going to have to decide this WS champion.

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