Tuesday, July 7, 2015

My Ranking of All 50 States


Thrillist.com just did a ranking of all 50 States, but their reasons are a little skewed: "Inventions, food/drink, somewhat productive famous people, unique physical beauty, etc."

50th and last: Florida.
49th: Delaware, a neighbor of New Jersey.
30th: Massachusetts, home of sports cheating.
21st: New Jersey. We came off rather well.
13th: New York, a neighbor of New Jersey and home to the greatest city in the world.
12th: Pennsylvania, a neighbor of New Jersey.
9th: California.
8th: Washington, suggesting that the 25-year-old trendiness of Seattle will continue.
5th: Louisiana. But if it didn't have New Orleans?
4th: Wisconsin. But if it didn't have all that beer?
3rd: Kentucky. But if it didn't have all that bourbon?
2nd: Maine. Too many Red Sox fans.
1st: Michigan. Somebody has a LOT of faith in the rebound of Detroit.

As you might guess, my guidelines are a bit different. Here's what I'm looking for:

* Looks. Is your State nice to look at, on the average?

* History. Is it long? Is it good? Being 1 of the 1st 13 States in 1776 helps. Being a Union State in the Civil War from 1861 to 1865 helps, being a Confederate State hurts. Being a segregated State from 1865 to 1965 hurts. Anything else important, or at least something I find interesting, happen there?

* Politics. Do you vote right -- or, rather, correctly? (If you're a regular reader, you know where I stand on this.)

* Sports. If you favor baseball or hockey, that's a plus. If you favor football, that doesn't help you as much. Success in sports also helps.

* Food. What kind of food is thought of when we think of the State?

* Transport. Is it easy to get around the State to see the State's good stuff?

* Have I been there? If so, did I find the experience enjoyable?

So, here goes, in descending order:

50. Mississippi. This is the State where Elvis Presley, Oprah Winfrey, William Faulkner, Chuck Scarborough, and the blues as we know it were born. And, um, nice Gulf Coast beaches. Still doesn't make up for so much foulness. Also, it's too damn hot!

49. Alabama. This is the State where Hank Williams was born, America learned to appreciate Southern football, and the Civil Rights Movement began. But then, there's a reason the Movement began there. Also, it's too damn hot!

48. Idaho. Natural beauty and the world's greatest potatoes don't make up for being the birthplace of the Aryan Nations. Or the birthplace of Sarah Palin, for that matter. Compared to that, Boise State Unversity's horrid blue "Smurf Turf" is a minor offender.

47. North Dakota. Aside from being staunchly Republican, there's not much that's bad about it. In fact, the biggest bad thing about it is that there's hardly any good things about it.

46. Arkansas. This is the State where Johnny Cash, Bear Bryant and Bill Clinton were born. But if the last 20 years has proven anything, it's that it's still more Orval Faubus', Mike Huckabee's and Jim Bog Duggar's State than Clinton's. Even if Hillary is elected President next year, she's from Illinois, got her political thinking formed in Massachusetts, got her political start (by meeting Bill) in Connecticut, and got elected to public office in New York. Also, it's too damn hot!

45. Oklahoma. The home State of Will Rogers, Jim Thorpe, Mickey Mantle and Johnny Bench is also Tornado Alley and a hotbed of Teabaggers. Also, it's too damn hot!

44. Wyoming. It's got Yellowstone National Park. It's also got Dick Cheney. They cancel each other out. After that, what's left? Not much.

43. Nebraska. Nice, friendly people -- if you're just like them. If you're not, you'd better be male, between the ages of 18 and 23, and be able to play football.

42. Alaska. Lots and lots of natural beauty. But the people... Let's face it, anybody who watched Northern Exposure wasn't surprised by Palinmania. Also, it's too damn cold!

41. South Dakota. Mount Rushmore helps, but that's pretty much all there is to do there. Unless you like to hunt and/or fish. And I don't and/or don't. Also, it's too damn cold!

40. Montana. As Red Skelton once said of Texas, they got miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles. There's no State that has a worse size/stuff ratio.

39. New Mexico. A lot more nice scenery than Montana, but that's about it. Also, it's too damn hot!

38. Kansas. "What's the matter with Kansas?" Not enough Jayhawk basketball fans and too many Tea Partiers. Also, it's too damn hot!

37. Utah. Salt Lake City is quickly becoming what Atlanta is to Georgia and Austin is to Texas: A liberal enclave in the capital of a seriously backward State. Also, it's too damn hot!

36. Iowa. The Hawkeye State is becoming increasingly liberal, to the point where the worst thing I can say about it is that there isn't much to attract your attention, unless you like politics, and even then, the Caucuses only happen once every 4 years.

35. Louisiana. New Orleans is pretty much the only thing keeping this former Confederate State from being another Mississippi or Alabama. Also, it's too damn hot!

34. Vermont. Like skiing? You'll love it. Don't like skiing? Uh... Well, there's Lake Champlain. And... that's about it. Ben & Jerry's? You can buy that anywhere.

33. South Carolina. The good news is, the history keeps it from being a bottom-tenner. The bad news is, so much of that history is bad. And Myrtle Beach proves that rednecks can't do beach towns. At least the food is good. Also, it's too damn hot!

32. Indiana. The Colts, IU, Purdue and Notre Dame help. The Indy 500? It's big, but I don't like auto racing. And it's a conservative State: Aside from Barack Obama in 2008 and Lyndon Johnson in 1964 -- both outlier elections -- it hasn't voted for a Democratic nominee for President since Franklin Roosevelt in 1936. That's 1 in the last 13 elections, and 2 in the last 19.

31. Maine. "Vacationland"? I'd hoped to visit this year, and hopefully I'll get to do so soon, which may change my mind. But it doesn't seem to be a very interesting place. Also, Red Sox fans.

30. Georgia. College football and food can't offset Confederacy and Coke. Also, it's too damn hot!

29. Hawaii. Beautiful and liberal, but too damn far and not sports-oriented enough.

28. West Virginia. With natural beauty and good sports fans, used to rank much higher, until they started to believe that Democrats were going to take all their guns away.

27. Missouri. Sports and history keep it in the top 30, but they're going to have to overcome the legacies of Rush Limbaugh, John Ashcroft and Branson. Also, it's too damn hot!

26. Kentucky. College basketball, horse racing and natural beauty help. Little else does.

25. New Hampshire. Another relatively close State that I have never visited, and it will probably help if I do. Still, not a lot to do there, and too many Red Sox fans.

24. Colorado. My only visits have been in changing planes. I should rectify that, as it's beautiful, it's an increasingly liberal State, and it's a good sports State.

23. Washington. Looks nice. Good liberal people. Good sports State. Food. Another one that would probably rise significantly if I visited.

22. Minnesota. Thank you for what you tried to do in 1984. (But what's your explanation for 1972?) Thank God the Metrodome is gone now. But it's too damn cold!

21. Texas. History and sports put it a lot higher than its blatant stupidity in politics and its chauvinism in just about everything else would suggest. Also, it's too damn hot!

20. Arizona. Natural beauty? Check. Good sports State? Check. Good food? Check? Good politics? Not so much. Also, it's too damn hot!

19. Tennessee. Great music. Great food. Great for college sports. Not so good for pro sports, or politics, and it was a Confederate State. Also, it's too damn hot!

18. Nevada. Las Vegas is an acquired taste, but I acquired it. Lots of nice scenery. Good on politics. But it's too damn hot!

17. Oregon. It seems like a place I'd love to visit, but I never have, due to the distance. For politics, sports, food and natural beauty, it looks terrific.

16. North Carolina. Beautiful, great food, great college sports, getting better in pro sports. Evolving into a better political State, and was one of the Original 13. Still, it was a Confederate State.

15. Delaware. A neighboring State for New Jersey, and thus one I've visited a few times. Rehoboth Beach alone might get this State into the top half.

14. Virginia. Only its Confederate/segregation status keeps it out of the Top 10. Its Revolutionary role, its many tourist attractions, its natural beauty from mountains to bay, and its generous people make it the 2nd-highest of the ex-Confederate States.

13. Rhode Island. The smallest State by area, but one of the nicest. Its only real flaw: Too many Red Sox fans.

12. Ohio. Great for college sports, good for pro sports, improving in politics, and Cleveland is a great food city. I've never been to Cincinnati, and I need to change that.

11. Wisconsin. I love Milwaukee. I've never been to Green Bay or Madison, but I'm sure I'd love them, too. Away from Lake Michigan, though, it's not much to look at, and it gets cold. That's all that's keeping it out of the Top 5.

10. Florida. The highest-ranking Southern State, and despite that history, and being too damn hot and too damn humid, there's so much to see and do, even if you don't want to visit Disney World. Great college sports State, although its pro sports status has taken a hit, with the only team doing well in attendance being, ironically, hockey's Tampa Bay Lightning. Even the Miami Dolphins aren't doing too well at drawing crowds these days, and as soon as South Floridians realize Dwayne Wade is leaving as LeBron James already has, you won't be able to find too many Heat fans.

9. Connecticut. Very nice. Great State for college sports. Losing the NHL's Whalers hurt. Also, too many Red Sox fans. Other than that, I like Connecticut a lot.

8. Michigan. Yes, Detroit needs serious help. But it's a great sports town, and the rest of the State supports the pro and college teams very well. Michigan has lots of natural beauty, and the many ethnic groups provide lots of fine food. And while they stupidly elected and re-elected some horrible Governors in John Engler and Rick Snyder, they usually vote Democratic for President and Senator.

7. California. Yes, it's got Los Angeles and its vacuous suburbs, and Oakland is a bit dodgy. But is there a better State for Sports? Is there a better State for showing that liberalism works and conservatism doesn't? And with L.A. and San Francisco, there aren't many better States for ethnic food variety. As for natural beauty, there's San Francisco, San Diego, the Sierra Nevadas, the Redwoods, and Yosemite National Park.

6. Illinois. Chicago alone gets it into the Top 10, and the historical stuff elsewhere in the State helps. (Thanks, Abe.)

5. Maryland. Some parts of the State -- the mountainous Panhandle and the Eastern Shore, especially Ocean City, the Redneck version of the Jersey Shore -- aren't too palatable. Otherwise, this beautiful State with one great (if troubled) city, Baltimore, and access to another, Washington, might well be Number 1.

4. Massachusetts. Between the history, the natural beauty, the food, and the sports, this State could have been Number 1 if their sports fans weren't so, how shall I put this... Boston.

3. New Jersey. I'd have loved to put my home State at Number 1. I just couldn't, because, well, Jersey City. And Paterson. And Trenton. And Camden. And Atlantic City. And "Christie Country" in the rural western part of the State. And the industrial blight along the Turnpike (North and South). But pretty much anything you could want, we've got it, and we've got it good. Too bad we can't claim either New York City or Philadelphia as our own, as close as we come to them. Speaking of which:

2. Pennsylvania. James Carville once said, "Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, with Alabama in between." He wasn't kidding, and he wasn't referring only to the State's love of football. There's a reason that the 280 miles in between the suburbs of those cities, and the rural mining areas in the north of the State, are called "Pennsyltucky." And they were too quick to defend the indefensible from Joe Paterno. But with Philly, Pitt, and its role in the Revolution and the Civil War, how can you not put Pennsylvania in the Top 5?

1. New York. Admittedly, most of this is due to New York City. But even the rest of the State, by itself, would make the Top 20. Buffalo. Rochester, Syracuse. Lake Placid. And, oh yeah, Cooperstown. Plus, the Hudson Valley, the Catskills, the Adirondacks, Lake Champlain, the Finger Lakes, and Niagara Falls. And, yes, New York City.

Disagree? Set your own guidelines, and then make your own list.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Holiday Weekend Fireworks... and then Yankees Blew Up on Sunday


It's an old adage (are there any new adages?), quoted by everyone from Peanuts' Charlie Brown to M*A*S*H's Colonel Potter, that the team in 1st place on the 4th of July wins the Pennant.

This, of course, is a holdover from the days of single-division leagues. It's also baloney, as plenty of teams have famously blown leads later than the 4th of July. In the case most relevant to the Yankees, the 1978 Boston Red Sox. In the case most recently relevant to he Yankees, the 2011 Red Sox.

On Friday, the Yankees began a 3-game home series with the Tampa Bay Rays. And Masahiro Tanaka was mortal again, giving up 2 runs in the 1st inning and another in the 5th. And the way the Yankees had been hitting lately, Tanaka not pitching like the Tanaka of 2014 was a bad sign.

It was still 3-0 Rays as the Yankees came to bat in the bottom of the 8th. And when Brett Gardner led off by striking out, it looked bleak.

Then came back-to-back singles by Chase Headley and Alex Rodriguez. Up came Mark Teixeira, and BOOM! Teix Message! His 20th home run of the season, and we hadn't even hit July 4 yet. Tie ballgame.

Then Brian McCann and Garrett Jones drew back-to-back walks. Potential winning run on 2nd, insurance run on 1st, only 1 out. Things were looking good. But Chris Young grounded into a double play.

Did Gregorious led off the bottom of the 9th with a walk. Jose Pirela bunted him over. Winning run on 2nd, only 1 out. Then Gardner was walked intentionally to set up the double play, and Headley promptly grounded into it.

A-Rod led off the 10th with a walk. He got stranded. The Yankees got nothing in the 11th. And when the Rays touched them up for 2 runs in the top of the 12th, it looked bad.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If you're going to lose, do it in the regulation 9 innings, instead of making us sit through missed opportunities. Winning baseball > "free baseball."

But Gardner led off the bottom of the 12th with a walk. Headley struck out, But A-Rod singled him over to 3rd. Runner on 3rd, tying run on 1st, winning run at the plate, less than 2 out? The Yankees aren't going to blow this, are they?

Teix came through again, singling home Gardner. Next up was McCann. BOOM! First walkoff home run of the year for the Yankees! His 13th homer of the season.

Yankees 7, Rays 5. WP: Chasen Shreve (6-1), even though he was actually worse in relief of Adam Warren in the 12th than Warren was. No save. LP: Steve Geltz (1-4), not to be confused with early 1990s good-field-no-hit Phillies shortstop Steve Jeltz.

*

So the Yankees were in 1st place in the American League Eastern Division on the 4th of July, a sunny Saturday in New York. And were at home. As God intended it.

Well, not totally as God intended it. It wasn't the old Yankee Stadium, and only 35,508 people showed up, leaving about 14,000 empty seats.

Michael Pineda took the mound. Took the hill. Toed the rubber. I love baseball jargon.

"Big Mike" -- not to be confused with yours truly, I'd like to think I'm important but I'm hardly big -- pitched 7 innings, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks, with 10 strikeouts. That should have been enough to allow the Yankee batters to win the game.

And it looked like it was. This time, it was the Yankees who struck for 2 runs in the 1st inning. The 1st 4 batters of the game: Gardner singled, Headley singled, A-Rod singled home Gardner, Teix hit a sacrifice fly to score Headley.

But Joe Girardi's musical-chairs approach to bullpen management canceled out Pineda's brilliance. He brought in Justin Wilson to pitch the 8th, and Wilson struck out the 1st 2 batters he faced. Presuming that relieving Pineda in the first place was the right idea (I'm not so sure it was, but you can't argue with Wilson's results), the next right idea would have been to leave Wilson in.

Girardi didn't: He immediately brought in Dellin Betances for a 4-out save. At first, it worked: Betances got the last out in the 8th. But the 9th began with a James Loney single and a Steven Souza home run, and it was 2-2. Betances got the next 3 outs, including raising the Yankees' strikeout total on the day to 14. As Phil Rizzuto would have said, "But the damange is done. I tell ya, Murcer, it's unbelievable. Holy cow."

The specter of another extra-inning loss hung over the Yankees. But they refused to accept this. Teix doubled to lead off the bottom of the 9th. Young worked a walk to push the winning run to 2nd with nobody out.

The batter was rookie left field Ramon Flores. He tried to bunt the runners over, and hit a ground ball back to Rays reliever Brad Boxberger. Easy play, right? Wrong: Boxberger threw it away! Teix scored easily!

Yankees 3, Rays 2! WP: Betances (5-1) -- again, a winning pitcher who didn't really deserve it. No save. LP: Boxberger (4-4).

Back-to-back walkoffs over the Rays. Holiday fireworks on back-to-back days. I'm guessing Joe Maddon is glad to be managing the Chicago Cubs now, instead of the Rays, as he did from 2006 to 2014. (He might be the first man preferring to manage the Cubs over someone else.)

*

So after 81 games, half the season, the Yankees were 44-37. That averages out to 88 wins. Historically, 93 wins has been enough to win the AL East. As I've said before, I've looked it up, and from the formation of the Division in 1969 to today, despite the exact lineup of teams having changed (the Yankees, Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays have been the only constants), the team that finishes 2nd averages 92 wins. Therefore, to win the AL East, you need at least 93 wins. This isn't always the case -- the Yankees won the Division, Pennant and World Series in 2000 despite winning 87 games -- but it usually is.

Yesterday's game was essentially over before it began. Ivan Nova allowed 3 runs in the 1st 2 innings, and the Yankees just didn't hit. Throw in an 8th-inning implosion by reliever Brian Mitchell, and the final score made it look much worse than it was, but it didn't matter, because the Yankees just didn't hit:

* 1st inning: Bases loaded with 2 out, nothing.

* 2nd: 1st & 2nd with 2 out, nothing.

* 4th: Man on 1st with 1 out, double play.

* 6th: Home run by A-Rod, his 16th of the season, and nothing else.

* 7th: 1st & 2nd with 1 out, double play.

* 8th: Leadoff walk, nothing.

Rays 8, Yankees 1. WP: Erasmo Ramirez (8-3). No save. LP: Nova (1-2).

*

So, more than halfway through the season, 14 weeks out of 26 done, the AL East looks like this:

The Yankees are 44-38, and lead the Orioles by 1 game. The Rays and Jays are 2 back. The Red Sox, having an awful season, are 6 back -- 7 in the loss column, as the Yankees have 2 games in hand on them.

The Yankees have today off. Tomorrow night, they begin a 3-game home series against the Oakland Athletics. Here are the projected starting pitchers:

Tuesday, 7:05 PM: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Sonny Gray.

Wednesday, 7:05 PM: CC Sabathia vs. Scott Kazmir. Yes, the Scott Kazmir the Mets led go in one of their many, many boneheaded trades.

Thursday, 1:05 PM: Tanaka vs. Jesse Chavez.

*

In addition, the starters for the All-Star Game were announced. No Yankees made it for the AL. No Red Sox, either. This is the first time both have been blanked in a dog's age. Surely, more than the minimum one player per team will be named as reserves for each.

The Mets? They'll be lucky if Steve Matz is named.

As a designated hitter.

The game will be played a week from tomorrow night, at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. That's a National League park, which means there won't be a DH. Which means, if A-Rod makes it -- and why not, the guy is hitting -- it'll be as a pinch-hitter only. Somehow, I don't think Ned Yost, manager of the AL team since he's the manager of the defending Pennant winners, the Kansas City Royals, is going to put A-Rod in the field in the month that he turns 40.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Yankees Salvage Finale In Anaheim


You're going to win some series if you only allow 7 runs in 3 games. But you're not going to win many series when you score just 5 runs in 3 games.

After splitting a 4-game series away to the Houston Astros, the Yankees flew to Southern California, to play the Whatever They're Calling Themselves This Season Angels of Anaheim.

CC Sabathia started on Monday night, and pitched as well as he has all season, but the Yankees didn't back him up. He pitched 7 1/3 innings, allowing 4 runs on 6 hits and 1 walk -- but no more than 1 run in any inning.

Brett Gardner went 3-for-5, but with no RBIs. Carlos Beltran (who was placed on the Disabled List this afternoon) went 2-for-4, but with no RBIs. The only other Yankee hit was an RBI single by Alex Rodriguez in the 3rd inning.

Angels 4, Yankees 1. WP: C.J. Wilson (6-6). SV: Huston Street (22). LP: Sabathia (3-8, and half of those losses have hardly been his fault -- but the other half have).

*

Ivan Nova made his 2nd post-injury start on Tuesday night. Joe Girardi only allowed him to pitch into the 6th inning, allowing 2 runs on 8 hits and 2 walks. Again, the Yankees didn't back their pitcher up with runs.

Mark Teixeira led off the top of the 2nd with a home run, his 19th of the season. Gardner singled to center in the 3rd. Chase Headley drew a walk in the 5th. Gardner reached 1st on a dropped 3rd strike in the 6th. Teixeira led off the 7th with a walk. Didi Gregorius reached on an error in the 8th.

And that was it. Just 6 baserunners in he entire game -- only 2 of them hits. The last 3 runners were all erased on double plays.

Nova "lost" the game in the bottom of the 6th, giving up back-to-back home runs by Albert Pujols and Erick Aybar. It wasn't fair. Angels 2, Yankees 1. WP: Andrew Heaney (1-0). SV: Street (23). LP: Nova (1-1).

*

The Yankees absolutely had to get some runs on Wednesday. They had finished June just 4 games over .500, 41-37. Fortunately, the American League Eastern Division was still as tight as the Wilpons' wallets.

Naturally, I figured, if the Yankees did score a lot of runs this time, they wouldn't get the pitching. Or the defense.

Thankfully, I was wrong. Nathan Eovaldi was scorching as July began, pitching into the 6th, and reaching 100 miles per hour on the radar gun. Aside from a Mike Trout homer off Justin Wilson in the 8th, the Yankee pitching of Eovaldi, Chasen Shreve, Wilson and Dellin Betances was very good: 9 innings, 1 run, only 6 hits, 5 walks. And the Yankee defense played errorless baseball.

Now, about those runs: Gregorius led off the 3rd with a single. Stephen Drew sacrificed him over to 2nd. Gardner's grounder to 1st allowed him to reach 3rd. Headley singled him home. 1-0 Yankees.

With 2 outs in the top of the 6th, Garrett Jones hit a home run. 2-0 Yankees.

With 1 out in the top of the 8th, Brian McCann singled. Jones drew a walk. Chris Young singled to load the bases. Gregorius singled to score McCann. But no other runs could come home, and when Trout took that run back in the bottom of the 8th, the uh-ohs came to us.

But Betances finished it off. Yankees 3, Angels 1. WP: Eovaldi (8-2). SV: Betances (7). LP: Matt Shoemaker (4-7).

*

Coming into tonight's action, the Yankees are tied for 1st in the AL East with the Baltimore Orioles. The Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays, for all their respective troubles, are just 1 game behind the Yanks and O's, although they're 2 back in the loss column, as the Yanks and O's have 2 games in hand on them. The Boston Red Sox are 6 games back, 7 in the loss column. (Serves the bastards right.) Only the Oakland Athletics have a worse record in the AL.

Tonight, the Yankees are home again, to begin a 3-game series against the Rays. Here are the projected starting pitchers:

Tonight, 7:05: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Chris Archer.

Tomorrow, 1:05: Michael Pineda vs. Nathan Karns.

Sunday, 1:05: The Yankees have not yet announced a starter, but it would most likely be Sabathia, vs. Erasmo Ramirez.

Come on you Pinstripes!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Cities' Last World Championships


Again, this includes MLB, the NFL, the NBA, the WNBA, the NHL, and MLS (or NASL, as the case may be, although I don't think any city's last title was in that long-gone league). Again, Canadian cities can't include Grey Cups. And, again, no matter what we know or suspect, no asterisks.

1. Chicago: Blackhawks, June 2015.

2. San Francisco: Warriors, June 2015.

3. Boston: Patriots, February 2015.

4. Los Angeles: Galaxy, December 2014.

5. Phoenix: Mercury, October 2014.

6. San Antonio: Spurs, June 2014.

7. Seattle: Seahawks, February 2014.

8. Kansas City: Sporting KC, December 2013.

9. Minneapolis: Lynx, October 2013.

10. Miami: Heat, June 2013.

11. Baltimore: Ravens, February 2013.

12. Indianapolis: Fever, October 2012.

13. New York: Giants, February 2012.

14. St. Louis: Cardinals, October 2011.

15. Dallas: Mavericks, June 2011.

16. Milwaukee/Green Bay: Packers, February 2011.

17. Denver: Rapids, December 2010.

18. New Orleans: Saints, February 2010.

19. Salt Lake City: Real Salt Lake, December 2009.

20. Pittsburgh: Steelers, February 2009.

21. Columbus: Crew, December 2008.

22. Philadelphia: Phillies, October 2008.

23. Detroit: Red Wings, June 2008.

24. Houston: Dynamo, December 2007.

25. Carolina: Hurricanes, June 2006.

26. Sacramento: Monarchs, 2005.

27. Washington: D.C. United, December 2004.

28. Tampa Bay: Lightning, June 2004.

29. Atlanta: Braves, October 1995.

30. Toronto: Blue Jays, October 1993.

31. Montreal: Canadiens, June 1993.

32. Cincinnati: Reds, October 1990.

33. Edmonton: Oilers, May 1990.

34. Calgary: Flames, May 1989.

35. Oklahoma: Roughnecks, October 1983.

36. Portland: Trail Blazers, June 1977.

37. Buffalo/Western New York: Rochester Lancers, October 1970.

38. Cleveland: Browns, December 1964.

39. Ottawa: Old Senators, April 1927.

40. Victoria: Cougars, April 1925.

41. Vancouver: Millionaires, March 1915.

42. Quebec City: Bulldogs, March 1913.

43. Winnipeg: Victorias, March 1902.

44. Orlando: None. Last Finals: Magic, June 2009.

45. Tennessee: None. Last Final: Titans, January 2000.

46. San Diego: None. Last Final: Chargers, January 1995.

47. Jacksonville: None. Last Finals: None. Last Conference Final: Jaguars, January 2000.

*

If you don't count soccer or the WNBA, the rankings are a little different: 

1. Chicago: Blackhawks, June 2015.

2. San Francisco: Warriors, June 2015.

3. Boston: Patriots, February 2015.

4. San Antonio: Spurs, June 2014.

5. Los Angeles: Kings, June 2014.

6. Seattle: Seahawks, February 2014.

7. Miami: Heat, June 2013.

8. Baltimore: Ravens, February 2013.

9. New York: Giants, February 2012.

10. St. Louis: Cardinals, October 2011.

11. Dallas: Mavericks, June 2011.

12. Milwaukee/Green Bay: Packers, February 2011.

13. New Orleans: Saints, February 2010.

14. Pittsburgh: Steelers, February 2009.

15. Philadelphia: Phillies, October 2008.

16. Detroit: Red Wings, June 2008.

17. Indianapolis: Colts, February 2007.

18. Carolina: Hurricanes, June 2006.

19. Tampa Bay: Lightning, June 2004.

20. Phoenix: Diamondbacks, November 2001.

21. Denver: Avalanche, June 2001.

22. Washington: Capitals, June 1998.

23. Atlanta: Braves, October 1995.

24. Houston: Rockets, June 1995.

25. Toronto: Blue Jays, October 1993.

26. Montreal: Canadiens, June 1993.

27. Minneapolis: Twins, October 1991.

28. Cincinnati: Reds, October 1990.

29. Edmonton: Oilers, May 1990.

30. Calgary: Flames, May 1989.

31. Kansas City: Royals, October 1985.

32. Portland: Trail Blazers, June 1977.

33. Buffalo/Western New York: Rochester Lancers, October 1970.

34. Cleveland: Browns, December 1964.

35. Ottawa: Old Senators, April 1927.

36. Victoria: Cougars, April 1925.

37. Vancouver: Millionaires, March 1915.

38. Quebec City: Bulldogs, March 1913.

39. Winnipeg: Victorias, March 1902.

40. Oklahoma: None. Last Final: Thunder, June 2012.

41. Orlando: None. Last Final: Magic, June 2009.

42. Tennessee: None. Last Final: Titans, January 2000.

43. Salt Lake City: None. Last Final: Jazz, June 1998.

44. San Diego: None. Last Final: Chargers, January 1995.

45. Sacramento: None. Closest Call: Kings, NBA Western Conference Finals, most recently May 2002.

46. Jacksonville: None. Closest Call: Jaguars, AFC Championship Game, most recently January 2000.

47. Columbus: None. Closest Call Blue Jackets, NHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, most recently April 2015.

Cities' World Championships

I should have done this after the recent NBA and Stanley Cup Finals.

This includes the big four: Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Football League (NFL, counting a Super Bowl won in January toward the previous calendar year, so the 1969 Jets are 1968 World Champions), the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL).

It also includes the pre-NBA National Basketball League from 1936 to 1946, the American Basketball League from 1926 to 1946, Stanley Cups won in the pre-NHL era from 1893 to 1917, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), the old North American Soccer League (NASL, 1968 to 1984), and Major League Soccer (MLS Cup). It does not, however, include the Canadian Football League (CFL)'s Grey Cup.

Ties will be broken by the most recent title. 

Also, despite what we now know to be true, and what we suspect to be true, none of these titles will be given an asterisk. Giving Boston a higher ranking than they deserve.

1. New York (includes North Jersey & Long Island), 72: New York Giants (baseball), 1888, 1889, 1905, 1921, 1922, 1933 and 1954; Brooklyn Dodgers, 1899, 1900 and 1955; New York Yankees, 1923, 1927, 1928, 1932, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1941, 1943, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1956, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1977, 1978, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009; New York Mets, 1969 and 1986; New York Giants (football), 1927, 1934, 1938, 1956, 1986, 1990, 2007 and 2011; New York Jets, 1968; Original Celtics, 1927 and 1928; Brooklyn Visitations, 1931 and 1935; Jersey Reds, 1938; New York Jewels, 1939; New York Knicks, 1970 and 1973; New York Rangers, 1928, 1933, 1940 and 1994; New York Islanders, 1980, 1981, 1982 and 1983; New Jersey Devils, 1995, 2000 and 2003; New York Cosmos, 1972, 1977, 1978, 1980 and 1982. The team now known as the Brooklyn Nets lost NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003; the New York Liberty have lost 4 NBA Finals, most recently in 2002; while the New York Red Bulls lost the MLS Cup Final in 2008.

2. Boston (includes Foxboro, Providence, Hartford & Mohegan Sun), 51: 
Boston Braves, 1872, 1873, 1874, 1875, 1877, 1878, 1879, 1883, 1884, 1891, 1892, 1893, 1897, 1898 and 1914; Boston Red Sox, 1903, 1904, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 2004, 2007 and 2013; New England Patriots, 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2014; Boston Celtics, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1974, 1976, 1981, 1984, 1986, 2009; Boston Bruins, 1929, 1939, 1941, 1970, 1972 and 2011. The Connecticut Sun lost the WNBA Finals in 2004 and 2005. The New England Revolution have lost 5 MLS Cup Finals, most recently in 2014.

3. Montreal, 41: Montreal AAA, 1893, 1894, 1902 and 1903; Montreal Victorias, 1895, 1896, 1897, 1898 and 1901; Montreal Shamrocks, 1899 and 1900; Montreal Wanderers, 1906, 1907, 1908 and 1910; Montreal Canadiens, 1916, 1924, 1930, 1931, 1944, 1946, 1953, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1986, 1993; Montreal Maroons, 1926 and 1935. 
The Montreal Expos never reached the World Series. The Montreal Impact reached the Final of this year's CONCACAF Champions League, but lost.

4. Chicago, 36: Chicago Cubs, 1876, 1880, 1881, 1882, 1907 and 1908; Chicago White Sox, 1906, 1917 and 2005; Chicago Bears, 1921, 1932, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1946, 1963 and 1985; Chicago Cardinals, 1925 and 1947; Chicago American Gears, 1947; Chicago Bulls, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997 and 1998; Chicago Blackhawks, 1934, 1938, 1961, 2010, 2013 and 2015; Chicago Sting, 1981 and 1984; Chicago Fire, 1998. The Chicago Sky reached the 2014 WNBA Finals, but lost.

5. Los Angeles (includes Anaheim & Inglewood), 33: Los Angeles Dodgers, 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981, 1988; Los Angeles Angels, 2002; Los Angeles Rams, 1951; Los Angeles Raiders, 1983; Los Angeles Lakers, 1972, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010; Los Angeles Sparks, 2001, 2002 and 2003; Anaheim Ducks, 2007; Los Angeles Kings, 2012 and 2014; Los Angeles Aztecs, 1974; L.A. Galaxy, 2002, 2005, 2011, 2012 and 2014, plus the CONCACAF Champions League in 2000. The Los Angeles Clippers have never reached the NBA Finals.

6. Philadelphia (includes South Jersey & Delaware), 28: Philadelphia Athletics (National Association version), 1871; Philadelphia Athletics (American League version), 1910, 1911, 1913, 1929 and 1930; Philadelphia Phillies, 1980 and 2008; Frankford Yellow Jackets, 1926; Philadelphia Eagles, 1948, 1949 and 1960; Philadelphia Warriors (formerly the ABL's SPHAs), 1934, 1936, 1937, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1945, 1947 and 1956; Wilmington Bombers, 1942 and 1944; Philadelphia 76ers, 1967 and 1983 Philadelphia Flyers, 1974 and 1975; Philadelphia Atoms, 1973. The Philadelphia Union have yet to reach an MLS Cup Final.

7. Detroit (includes Pontiac & Auburn Hills), 26: Detroit Wolverines, 1887; Detroit Tigers, 1935, 1945, 1968 and 1984; Detroit Lions, 1935, 1952, 1953 and 1957; Detroit Pistons, 1989, 1990 and 2004; Detroit Shock, 2003, 2006 and 2008; Detroit Red Wings, 1936, 1937, 1943, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008.

8. San Francisco (includes Oakland & San Jose), 18: Oakland Athletics, 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1989; San Francisco Giants, 2010, 2012 and 2014; Oakland Raiders, 1976 and 1980 (1983 doesn't count, they were then representing Los Angeles); San Francisco 49ers, 1981, 1984, 1988, 1989 and 1994; Golden State Warriors, 1975 and 2015; San Jose Earthquakes, 2001 and 2003. The San Jose Sharks have not yet reached the Stanley Cup Finals. Nor did the Oakland Seals, a.k.a. the California Golden Seals.

9. Milwaukee (includes Green Bay, Oshkosh & Sheboygan), 18: Milwaukee Braves, 1957; Green Bay Packers, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1936, 1939, 1944, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1996, and 2011; Oshkosh All-Stars, 1941 and 1942; Sheboygan Redskins, 1943; Milwaukee Bucks, 1971. The Milwaukee Brewers have won just 1 Pennant, and lost the World Series.
10. Toronto, 17: Toronto Blueshirts, 1914; Toronto Maple Leafs, 1918, 1922, 1932, 1942, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1951, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1967; Toronto Metros, 1976; Toronto Blue Jays, 1992 and 1993. The Toronto Raptors have never reached the NBA Finals.
11. Cleveland (includes Akron & Richfield), 16: Cleveland Indians, 1920 and 1948; Akron Pros, 1920; Canton Bulldogs, 1922, 1923 and 1924; Cleveland Browns, 1950, 1954, 1955 and 1964; Cleveland Rosenblums, 1926, 1929 and 1930; Akron Wingfoots, 1938; Akron Non-Skids, 1939 and 1940. The Cleveland Cavaliers reached the NBA Finals in 2007 and 2015, but lost both.
12. St. Louis, 15: St. Louis Cardinals, 1885, 1886, 1926, 1931, 1934, 1942, 1944, 1946, 1964, 1967, 1982, 2006, 2001; St. Louis Rams, 1999; St. Louis Hawks, 1958. The St. Louis Blues are 0-3 in Stanley Cup Finals.
13. Pittsburgh, 14: Pittsburgh Pirates, 1909, 1925, 1960, 1971 and 1979; Pittsburgh Steelers, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 2005 and 2008; Pittsburgh Penguins, 1991, 1992 and 2009.
14. Baltimore, 12: Baltimore Orioles (National League version), 1894, 1895 and 1896; Baltimore Orioles (American League version), 1966, 1970 and 1983; Baltimore Colts, 1958, 1959 and 1970; Baltimore Ravens, 2000 and 2012; Baltimore Bullets, 1948.
15. Washington (includes Landover), 12: Washington Senators, 1924; Washington Redskins, 1937, 1942, 1982, 1987 and 1991; Washington Wizards, 1978 (then the Washington Bullets); D.C. United, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2004, plus CONCACAF Champions League in 1998. The Washington Nationals have not yet reached a World Series. The Washington Capitals have reached only 1 Stanley Cup Finals, in 1998, and got swept.
16. Ottawa (includes Kanata), 11: Old Ottawa Senators, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1920, 1921, 1923, 1927. The new Senators reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007, but lost.
17. Minneapolis (includes St. Paul & Bloomington), 9: Minnesota Twins, 1987 and 1991; Minneapolis Lakers, 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953 and 1954; Minnesota Lynx, 2011 and 2013. The Minnesota Vikings are 0-4 in Super Bowls. The Minnesota Timberwolves have never reached the NBA Finals. The Minnesota Wild have not yet reached the Stanley Cup Finals, while the Minnesota North Stars lost them in 1981 and 1991.
18. Dallas (includes Arlington & Irving), 8: Dallas Cowboys, 1971, 1977, 1992, 1993 and 1995; Dallas Mavericks, 2011; Dallas Stars, 1999; Dallas Tornado, 1971. The Texas Rangers have lost their only 2 World Series, in 2010 and 2011. FC Dallas reached the MLS Cup Final in 2010, but lost.
19. Houston, 8: Houston Rockets, 1994 and 1995; Houston Comets, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000; Houston Dynamo, 2006 and 2007. The Houston Astros have never won a World Series, getting swept in their only attempt in 2005. The Houston Texans have not yet reached a Super Bowl. Nor did the Houston Oilers, although they did win the 1st 2 AFL Championships in 1960 and 1961.
20. Miami (includes Fort Lauderdale), 7: Miami Marlins, 1997 and 2003; Miami Dolphins, 1972 and 1973; Miami Heat, 2006, 2012 and 2013. The Florida Panthers got swept in their only Stanley Cup Finals, in 1996.
21. San Antonio, 5: San Antonio Spurs, 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014.
22. Seattle, 5: Seattle Seahawks, 2013; Seattle SuperSonics, 1979; Seattle Storm, 2004 and 2010; Seattle Metropolitans, 1917. The Seattle Mariners have reached 3 American League Championship Series, but have never won a Pennant. The Seattle Sounders reached 2 NASL Finals, and the new version has won 3 U.S. Open Cups, but they have not yet won an MLS Cup.
23. Kansas City (includes K.C., Missouri & K.C., Kansas), 5: Kansas City Royals, 1985; Kansas City Chiefs, 1969; Kansas City Spurs, 1969; Sporting Kansas City, 2000 and 2013. The Kansas City Kings, now (for the moment) the Sacramento Kings, never got anywhere near the NBA Finals (not since they were the Rochester Royals, anyway).
24. Denver, 5: Denver Broncos, 1997 and 1998; Colorado Avalanche, 1996 and 2001; Colorado Rapids, 2010. The Colorado Rockies have never won a World Series, getting swept in their only attempt in 2007. The hockey team of the same name only reached 1 Playoff series in its 6 seasons. The Denver Nuggets reached the ABA Finals in 1976, but have never reached an NBA Finals.
25. Cincinnati, 5: Cincinnati Reds, 1919, 1940, 1975, 1976 and 1990. The Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC Championship in 1981 and 1988, but lost both Super Bowls to the 49ers. The Cincinnati Royals never reached the NBA Finals.
26. Edmonton, 5: Edmonton Oilers, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1990.
27. Phoenix (includes Glendale), 4: Arizona Diamondbacks, 2001; Phoenix Mercury, 2007, 2009 and 2014. The Arizona Cardinals won the 2008 NFC Championship, but lost the Super Bowl. The Phoenix Suns are 0-2 in NBA Finals. The Arizona Coyotes have never reached the Stanley Cup Finals, and now it looks like they're going to move before they do.
28. Indianapolis (includes Fort Wayne & Anderson), 4: Indianapolis Colts, 2006; Fort Wayne Pistons, 1944 and 1945; Indiana Fever, 2012. The Indiana Pacers won 3 ABA titles, but lost their only NBA Finals appearance in 2000.
29. Buffalo (includes Orchard Park, Rochester & Syracuse), 4: Rochester Royals, 1946 and 1951; Syracuse Nationals, 1955; Rochester Lancers, 1970. That's it. No Buffalo team has played in MLB since 1915 (and if you don't count the Federal League, not since 1885). The Buffalo Bills' 1964 and 1965 AFL titles don't count, and they're 0-4 in Super Bowls. The Buffalo Braves never reached an NBA Finals. The Buffalo Sabres are 0-2 in Stanley Cup Finals.
30. Tampa Bay (includes Tampa & St. Petersburg), 3: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2002; Tampa Bay Lightning, 2004; Tampa Bay Rowdies, 1975. The Tampa Bay Rays lost their only World Series appearance, in 2008.
31. Winnipeg, 3: Winnipeg Victorias, 1896, 1901 and 1902. The old Winnipeg Jets won the Avco Trophy, the World Hockey Association title, in 1976, 1978 and 1979; but neither the old Jets (who became the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes and may be about to move again) nor the new ones (the former Atlanta Thrashers) have ever been to the Stanley Cup Finals.
32. Atlanta, 2: Atlanta Braves, 1995; Atlanta Chiefs, 1968. The Atlanta Falcons won the 1998 NFC title, but lost the Super Bowl. The Atlanta Hawks have never reached the NBA Finals (not since they were in St. Louis, anyway). The Atlanta Dream are 0-3 in WNBA Finals. Neither the Atlanta Flames (before they moved to Calgary) nor the Atlanta Thrashers (now the new Winnipeg Jets) got anywhere near the Stanley Cup Finals.
33. Vancouver, 2: Vancouver Millionaires, 1915; Vancouver Whitecaps, 1979. The Vancouver Canucks are 0-3 in Stanley Cup Finals. The reborn Whitecaps haven't yet reached an MLS Cup Final.
34. Quebec City, 2: Quebec Bulldogs, 1912 and 1913. The Quebec Nordiques won the Avco Trophy in 1977, but never made the Stanley Cup Finals.
35. New Orleans, 1: New Orleans Saints, 2009. The city's NBA teams (the Jazz, 1974 to 1979; and the Hornets/Pelicans, since 2002) have never reached the NBA Finals. The Buccaneers won the 1st ABA title in 1968, but that doesn't count here.
36. Salt Lake City, 1: Real Salt Lake, 2009. The Utah Jazz are 0-2 in NBA Finals, although the Utah Stars won the 1971 ABA title.
37. Columbus (not close enough to counted with Cincinnati), 1: Columbus Crew, 2008. The Columbus Blue Jackets have never won a Playoff series.
38. Carolina (includes Charlotte & Raleigh), 1: 2006 Carolina Hurricanes. The Carolina Panthers won the 2003 NFC title, but lost the Super Bowl.
39. Sacramento, 1: Sacramento Monarchs, 2005. The Kings have never reached the NBA Finals, though some think their 2001 denial was asterisk-worthy.
40. Calgary, 1: Calgary Flames, 1989.
41. Oklahoma (includes Oklahoma City & Tulsa), 1: Tulsa Roughnecks, 1983. The Oklahoma City Thunder reached the NBA Finals in 2012, but lost. The Tulsa Shock haven't reached the WNBA Finals, although they won 3 titles while playing in Detroit.
42. Portland, 1: Portland Trail Blazers, 1977. The Portland Timbers, revived in MLS, have had their closest call in the 1975 NASL Final, which they lost.
43. Victoria (British Columbia, not close enough to be counted with Vancouver), 1: Victoria Cougars, 1925.
44. Orlando, none: The Orlando Magic have been to the NBA Finals in 1995 and 2009, but lost both.
45. Tennessee (includes Memphis & Nashville), none: The Tennessee Titans won the AFC title in 1999, but lost the Super Bowl. Neither the Memphis Grizzlies nor the Nashville Predators have yet reached their sports' finals.
46. San Diego, none: The closest they've come is the San Diego Chargers winning the 1963 AFL Championship. The Chargers won the AFC title in 1994, but lost the Super Bowl. The San Diego Padres are 0-2 in the World Series. The San Diego Clippers got nowhere near the NBA Finals before moving to Los Angeles.
47. Jacksonville is the only metropolitan area currently with a team in either MLB, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL or MLS that has never had a team in the final of any of those sports. The closest call is the 2 AFC Championship Games reached by the Jacksonville Jaguars, in the 1996 and 1999 seasons.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Yankees Split 4 In Houston


The Yankees began a Western roadtrip with 4 games in Houston against the resurgent Astros. The Astros haven't made the Playoffs since their 2005 Pennant. Their last winning season was in 2008 -- 7 years ago. Their last 4 seasons, they've lost 106, 107, 111 and 92 games.

It's rare for a team to lose 106 or more games, especially if it's not an expansion team. The Astros did it 3 years in a row. They're not an expansion team. Nor did they suffer a catastrophe that cost them the services of several key players. (Thankfully, that has never happened in North American major league sports. There's never been an analogue to the Munich Air Disaster of 1958, which killed 8 Manchester United soccer players, and injured 2 others to the point where they could never play again.) Nor do they have problems maintaining an old, dysfunctional stadium: Minute Maid Park is in its 16th season, and no one is suggesting it be replaced or even upgraded.

Nor is the club having Mets-type financial issues: They've kept payroll low, but that was a choice. After the aging of the generation that got them to 6 Playoff berths in 9 seasons from 1997 to 2005, including Hall-of-Famer Craig Biggio and should-be-Hall-of-Famer Jeff Bagwell, Astro management figured it would be better to rebuild than to reload.

It took a few years, but they're doing it. They gained 19 games from 2013 to 2014. The switch from the National League Central to the American League West didn't help in '13, but maybe it did for '14. At the conclusion of this series with the Yankees, they are 44-34, 4 games ahead of the Whatever They're Calling Themselves This Season Angels of Anaheim, and in all of Major League Baseball, only the Missouri teams, the Kansas City Royals and the St. Louis Cardinals, have a better record.

*

On Thursday night, they didn't pound Yankee starter Adam Warren. More like sliced him, and then reliever Chris Capuano, who actually pitched one of his better games since coming to the Yankees. They scored single runs in the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 8th innings, none with the use of a home run (although 3 of the 4 came as a result of doubles -- either the run scorer had doubled, or a double drove him in).

Dallas Keuchel -- a pitcher for Houston named Dallas? Is somebody trying to "mess with Texas"? -- pitched a complete game, throwing 116 pitches, which probably bothered Joe Girardi more than the defeat, seeing as how he sees the pitch count as more important than the score. He allowed just 6 hits and 1 walk, and it wasn't until the 9th inning that the Yankees even got a runner to 2nd base.

The Yankees did load the bases in the 9th, and did get the tying run to the plate. With 2 outs, Alex Rodriguez singled, Mark Teixeira walked, and Carlos Beltran singled, but A-Rod couldn't get home. That left it up to rookie Jose Pirela. If he'd hit one out, and Minute Maid Park is a hitter's park, it would have tied the game. Alas, he grounded into a force play. He will have his moments for the Yankees, but this past Thursday night was not destined to be one of them.

Sometimes, you lose a game because you've blown it. Sometimes, you just get shut down by a pitcher who's on, and there's little you can do about it.

Astros 4, Yankees 0. WP: Keuchel (9-3). No save. LP: Warren (5-5).

*

On Friday night, the Yankees fell behind 2-0 after 6 innings. Vincent Velasquez had the Yankees handcuffed, every bit as much as Keuchel had the night before.

Except, this time, the Yankees found a Harry Houdini escape from those handcuffs. With 1 out in the top of the 7th, Beltran, the Astros' postseason hero of 2004, singled. Garrett Jones followed with another single. Will Harris came in to relieve, and Chris Young said, "Abracadabra!" Had he merely sawed the Astros' lead in half, with a single to make it 2-1, I would have been fine with it. But no, he made the lead disappear, with a home run over the short left-field wall with the CITGO sign, the Astros' poor attempt at copying Fenway Park's Green Monster.

Yes, I know, in New York baseball, the word "magic" is more often associated with the Mets. As is "miracle." With the Yankees, we more often use words like "pride," "tradition," "destiny."

At any rate, Nathan Eovaldi had pitched well enough to win, but until the 7th, he hadn't gotten the run support he needed. Beltran, Jones and Young (sounds like a law firm) got him off the hook, and Girardi brought in Chasen Shreve, who struck out the side.

Naturally, Girardi refused to leave in a cruising pitcher (I will never understand his bullpen maneuvers), and brought in Justin Wilson. He only got the 1st 2 outs in the 8th, and Dellin Betances had to nail down a 4-out save.

Yankees 3, Astros 2. WP: Eovaldi (7-2). SV: Betances (5). LP: Harris (4-1).

*

The Yankees played the Saturday game as if they'd had enough of not scoring in the Astros' rinky-dink modern retractable-roof stadium. (The Astrodome, mostly vacant since the Astros left after the 1999 season, and with no firm plan for what to do with it, was a pitcher's park, which was rare for the old-style domes.)

Brian McCann hit a grand slam in the top of the 1st inning to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead before the Astros even came to bat. They got 2 of those runs back in the bottom of the 1st, but the Yankees took them right back in the top of the 2nd, thanks to another Young homer. (McCann's 12th homer of the season, Young's 10th. Remember, we haven't yet left June, much less reached the All-Star Break.)

But Masahiro Tanaka fell apart, and in the 5th, allowed the Astros to tie it at 6-6. Girardi brought in Bryan Mitchell to pitch the 6th inning, and he got through it and into the 7th. Shreve finished that inning off.

Brett Gardner led off the top of the 8th with a walk, Young reached on an error, A-Rod flew out, and Teix doubled home Gardner and Young. Chase Headley added an insurance run in the 9th, with his 8th homer of the year.

Yankees 9, Astros 6. WP: Shreve (5-1). SV: Betances (6). LP: Pat Neshek (3-1).

*

Things started out well for the Yankees in the Sunday game, too. With 1 out in the top of the 3rd, Stephen Drew, well, drew a walk. A wild pitch advanced him to 2nd, and Gardner singled him home.

But that was the last good news of the day, as Gardner giveth, and Gardner taketh away. In the bottom of the 4th, Carlos Correa hit a drive to center field that Gardner misplayed, allowing him to get all the way around the bases and score the tying run. In the 7th, Correa struck again, leading off with a double, and coming home on Evan Gattis' triple. The Astros added an insurance run in the 8th.

Michael Pineda pitched decently, but, again, the Yankees didn't generate enough runs, as Collin McHugh shut them down. Astros 3, Yankees 1. WP: McHugh (9-3). SV; Luke Gregerson (18) LP: Pineda (8-5).

The Yankees move further west, to begin a series against the Angels in Anaheim.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Super Nova Returns, Yanks Give Him Enough Runs


In their 3-game home Interleague series against the Philadelphia Phillies, the Yankees scored 8, 6 and 10 runs. That should have been enough for them to win every game. Instead, they only won 1.

Phillies legend turned broadcaster Richie Ashburn used to turn to broadcast partner Harry Kalas and say, "The game's easy, Harry, if you get good pitching, you get good fielding, and you score a few." And if you don't...

On Tuesday night, CC Sabathia did not give the Yankees good pitching. He had to leave in the top of the 5th inning, trailing 6-3. There is now talk (on social media, if not from the Yankee brass) about putting him in the bullpen.

But the Yankees bailed him out, as far as the loss was concerned. Having already had Garrett Jones' 4th home run of the season, and Brett Gardner's 9th, the Bronx Bombers got back-to-back homers leading off the bottom of the 5th, from Chase Headley (his 7th) and Alex Rodriguez (his 15th). In the same inning, doubles by Carlos Beltran and Chris Young tied the game at 6-6.

Closer Andrew Miller is on the Disabled List, but, with the game still tied going into the 9th, Joe Girardi may have brought in Dellin Betances anyway. Normally up to the task -- until mid-June, ol' Number 68 hadn't allowed an earned run all season -- this time, as C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney on The West Wing) would say, he compwetewy impwoded. This is what he allowed: Double, hit by pitch, RBI double, groundout, hit by pitch.

Girardi removed him for Nick Rumbleow, who walked the bases full, and allowed a bases-loaded triple.

Phillies 11, Yankees 6. WP: Ken Giles (3-1). No save. LP: Betances (4-1).

*

For yesterday afternoon's series finale, the Yankees badly needed a good start. And they were depending on Ivan Nova, who, due to injury, hadn't pitched in the major leagues since April 2014.

The man once known as Super Nova pitched into the 7th inning, allowed no runs, earned or otherwise, just 3 hits and 2 walks. While a no-hitter would have been better in a technical sense, realistically, considering where he was coming from (over a year on the DL), the Yankees couldn't have realistically hoped for a better start.

Ah, but for all the talk about how "pitching is 75 percent of baseball" and "pitching and defense wins championships," the cold, hard truth is that you can't win if you don't score. It would have been just like the 2013 and 2014 Yankees if the 2015 Yankees followed 2 games where they scored a few and lost with 1 where they held the opposition to few and scored fewer.

And the Phils' pitcher was Cole Hamels, one of the few remaining players from their 2008 and 2009 Pennant winners. He's gotten better lately, leading some people to think that he's making himself look good for teams to trade for him. Even the Yankees are rumored to be interested.

Bottom of the 2nd: Young led off with a single. John Ryan Murphy drew a walk. Didi Gregorius bunted them over, and beat it out to load the bases with nobody out.

If you're a Met fan, you're thinking, "Aw shit, now the pitcher's spot in the order is coming up. Why, oh why, did I have to become a fan of a team in a league that doesn't have the DH?"

Fortunately, you're a Yankee Fan, and this is a real league, and the pitcher's spot was not up. Jose Pirela was, and he grounded to 3rd, and instead of starting a double play, Andres Blanco made a bad throw, and 2 runs came home.

Bottom of the 4th: Gregorius led off with a double. Pirela walked. Gardner singled home Gregorius. Headley doubled home Pirela. A-Rod grounded out, but Mark Teixeira singled home Gardner. 5-0 Yankees.

Young added an RBI single in the 6th, and the Yankees put it away in the 7th after Nova left: An RBI double by Pirela (yeah, he's ready for the major leagues) and RBI singles by A-Rod and Teix (did somebody say they were old and washed-up?).

Bryan Mitchell got the last out for Nova in the 7th, and pitched a scoreless 8th. Girardi brought in Diego Moreno to pitch the 9th, and he was a bit shaky, allowing a couple of runs, but put an end to it.

Yankees 10, Phillies 2. WP: Nova (1-0). No save. LP: Hamels (5-6).

*

The homestand over, the Yankees have flown to Houston, where the Astros, now in the American League, have followed 4 straight horrible seasons with a run that has them in Playoff contention. Here are the projected starting pitchers for the series:

Tonight, 8:10 PM (7:10 Central Time): Adam Warren vs. Dallas Kuechel. Why is a guy named Dallas pitching for Houston?

Tomorrow night, 8:10: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Vincent Velasquez.

Saturday afternoon, 4:10: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Brett Oberholtzer.

Sunday afternoon, 2:10: Michael Pineda vs. Collin McHugh.