Wednesday, August 27, 2008
A-Rod is playing like he just doesn't care, like all that "Waaaah, waaaah, I wanna be a Yankee!" stuff after Hank Steinbrenner told him to take his Scott Boras and get lost last fall was just a ploy to get his moolah back. Moolah in, mojo out.
Really, one at-bat last night was the 2008 New York Yankees' season in a nutshell:
Bottom of the 7th at Yankee Stadium, against the arch-rivals, the Boston Red Sox, currently leading the American League Wild Card race. The 1st of a 3-game series we have to sweep in order to make a serious run at the Playoffs.
We were down 7-1. Now we're down 7-3. The bases are loaded. Johnny Damon on 3rd, Derek Jeter on 2nd, Bobby Abreu on 1st. All 3 of those have puzzled us at times this season, but on this occasion, they worked for us, and did their job. Which, basically, has come down to getting on base so we can score more than 1 run when A-Rod jacks one out of the park. Assuming, of course, he does his job.
Loaded up. Just 1 out. And "the best player in baseball" is batting. Against the Boston bullpen, and not Jonathan Papelbon, and not Hideki Okajima, either.
If A-Rod hits one out, that's a grand slam, a tie game, a completed comeback, and a big emotional lift -- in a game the Yankees have to win.
But even if all he does is hit a single, it's 7-5, and Abreu on 3rd and A-Rod on 1st, with Jason Giambi coming up, and still only 1 out, and, with 2 men on, the Sox can't go into the Giambi Shift.
If A-Rod works a walk, now it's 7-4, bases still loaded, still only 1 out, still Giambi coming up, with the shift a bad idea, and the short porch in right field.
If A-Rod so much as flies out, that's 7-2, with men on 1st and 2nd, and Giambi coming up with 2 out. Not a terrible situation.
Given any of these possibilities, you'd have to like the Yankees' chances.
Except A-Rod grounds into a double play to end the inning. Again.
And the Yankees don't mount another threat, and lose the most important game of the season, the one that was going to either likely get them back in the race, at least for the Wild Card, or doom them to their 1st postseason on the wrong side of the TV since 1993.
We trusted A-Rod.
A wise man once said, "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." Another said, "Those who fail to learn it properly are simply doomed."
Having lived through 1982 to 1995, I've seen worse than this, and I can handle this. Even if I can't blame the Curse of Donnie Baseball anymore.
But the 2008 Yankees are doomed.
The only saving grace of this season: Our team disappointed... again... but the Mets are well into another choke. Last night, they blew a 7-0 lead over the team they're battling for the Division Title, the Phillies, and lost 8-7 in 13 innings.
We're still better off, even if you don't consider the 26 titles.
It doesn't make this season's performance any less disgusting. We were supposed to leave the one and only true Yankee Stadium with Title 27.
It won't happen. You can blame the injuries. But if A-Rod had done his job, the injuries would've been something the Yankees overcame.
You know what the difference is between Madonna and a Yankee Fan?
A-Rod has only been screwing Madonna for a few months. He's been screwing Yankee Fans for five years. And any pleasure we've gotten has been fleeting.
Prediction: In one of the seasons left on his $275 million contract, Alex Rodriguez will get hurt, and be out for the season. Then, in October, the Yankees will win the World Series without his help.
Then we can watch him pursue 756 (or 763) career home runs with a clear conscience.
UPDATE: A-Rod did get hurt at the start of the 2009 season, but returned about a quarter of the way through, and hit great, and sparked the Yankees in the postseason, and we won it all with him. Alas, a chase for the career home run record didn't happen.
Arsenal is leading FC Twente Enschede 3-0 late in the game as I type this, so they will move on to the next round of the UEFA Champions League. Not exactly making up for their debacle against Fulham last weekend, but it should have them better prepared for a home match against a tough Newcastle squad on Saturday.
Days until Rutgers kicks off: 5.
Days until East Brunswick kicks off: 16.
Days until the last regular-season game at Yankee Stadium: 25. (Sob... )
Days until the Yankees' season ends: 32. (Grumble... )
Days until the Devils drop the puck: 44. (Corrected from an earlier entry. Days until the Rangers suck: 0, always 0!)
Sunday, August 24, 2008
And again, Darrell Rasner didn't get out of the 5th. So he won't be in the postseason rotation.
That's the bad news. The good news:
We swept on the road. Yes, it was Baltimore, or as Michael Kay calls it, "the Really South Bronx." But the O's have been a pain in the neck the last few years.
A-Rod, Giambi and Cano, all of whom have been rightfully ripped and needed to step it up, have. Cano was 3-for-4 today, with 2 doubles, and his homer in the 7th made the difference in the 8-7 game.
Xavier Nady continues to make the Mets look like fools for letting him go. And when it comes to looking like fools, the Mets don't need any help: They are quite capable of doing that for themselves.
And we gained a game on Tampa, finally. Thank you, White Sox.
Next up, the Dark Side. The Red Sox. Wonder if Lindsay has taken little Carla Yastrzemski Wrightman and left Ben with his real "life-partners," Troy, Gerard and The Bald Anesthesiologist?
This is the time to make the move. Especially since Josh Beckett won't be pitching in this series.
Speaking of whom: Beckett has been said to have "tingling" in his arm. That could be a lot worse than a mere baseball injury. David Cone had that in 1996, and it turned out to be an aneurysm. He came back and was a World Series hero -- not just that year, but four times. But it could have been the end of his career. Even his life.
The Sox doctors better be absolutely sure this is nothing like that before they send Beckett out there again. Especially since he's already won two World Series, one with them: Another isn't worth risking his life. The Red Sox will probably still be contenders next year if he's healthy (especially since he does much better in odd-numbered years, like Bret Saberhagen used to). No need to roll those dice, unless and until you know this is not a life-threatening condition.
(UPDATE: It wasn't something life-threatening.)
The Mets. Does anybody still think they're a postseason team? I mean, the Astros ain't that good. No way they should take 2 of 3 in Flushing. And they would have swept the Mets if Jerry Manuel hadn't let The Great Johan Santana throw a complete game Friday night. (Still, the Mets didn't pay for 12-7, did they?)
Shawn Merriman, the controversial linebacker for the San Diego Chargers, has a torn-up knee. He may be out for the season. If so, the Chargers, a lot of people's pick to be a serious Super Bowl contender, can forget about it.
Is this injury the result of his past... steroid use? Or has Bill Belichick hired Tonya Harding and her goons?
A baseball team losing 1-0 is disappointing, but usually not lousy. A soccer team losing 1-0 on the road, even to a crosstown rival, is disappointing, but this early in the season, it's hardly a crisis. But Arsenal did just that at Fulham yesterday.
The Gunners need midfield help, as soon as possible, if not sooner.
So why did they lose to an apparently inferior club? Maybe they were Tottenham in disguise.
No, I take that back! I'm sorry! That was over the line! (Too bad the Gunners didn't put 2 "footballs" over the line!)
Incidentally, the name of Fulham's home ground is misplaced. "Craven Cottage" more accurately describes the owner's box at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge.
UPDATE: Later in the season, Arsenal faced Fulham again, at the Emirates, and it was a turgid 0-0 draw. And the Arsenal fans booed their own players off the pitch.
This got their attention, and they played much better for the rest of the season, eventually reaching 3rd place, and the Semifinals of both the FA Cup and the Champions League.
(This was the first time I ever did the countdown on this blog.)
Days until Rutgers kicks off: 8.
Days until East Brunswick kicks off: 19.
Days until the last regular-season game at Yankee Stadium: 28. (Sob... )
Days until the Devils drop the puck: 45. (Days until the Rangers suck: 0, always 0!)
Days until the Nets' next-to-last season in New Jersey begins: I don't give a damn anymore. Let them move. There was never any point in rooting for them anyway. So who's my favorite NBA team now?
Do I have to have one? I don't know...
Sometimes it seems like I don't know anything anymore.
But I will always know more than Met fans, and Ranger fans, and Penn State fans, and Man U fans, and people from Old Bridge.
Friday, August 22, 2008
So many Yankee Fans I know are saying that somebody needs to "light a fire under the Yankees."
So what would light a fire under this team? If a 2nd Red Sox title in 4 years didn't do it, what would? The Other Team winning one? Yeah, that's not gonna happen as long as the front office is dumb and the players are immature and/or injury-prone.
Sending down Melky Cabrera should have sent a message. So far, not received. Send down Robinson Cano? Bench somebody? Fire coaches?
Something has to be done, before it really is too late.
It's not, yet. We play Baltimore. Boston is in Toronto, although they won't face Halladay. (Thanks a lot, you useless hosers.) And Tampa is in Chicago to play the White Sox, a very good team. Games can be gained this weekend, and some hope can be restored. Mussina goes tonight, and he's been the best starting pitcher in New York this season.
So let's get some hits and runs, and do what we usually do in Baltimore: Turn Camden Yards into Yankee Stadium South.
(Like I said in the last entry, the John McCain analogy applies: We're not sure how many "houses" we have.)
I'm beginning to understand how John McCain feels. Every time it looks like we've turned a corner, I'm ready to "declare that victory is at hand" and tell anyone that says otherwise that they're "hurting the troops."
Then something happens like last night, the baseball equivalent of a car bomb in Baghdad taking out 70 people, and it proves we're no closer to "victory" than we were before the surge.
At least the Yankees know what "victory" means, which is more than McCain has told us.
Come to think of it, right now, the Yankees are aging, we're not sure who's really in charge, their economic plans are highly questionable, and we're aren't really sure how many "houses" they have.
Meanwhile, the big Red enemy is flexing its muscles again. And there's this upstart kid with no experience under pressure leading everybody, saying, "Yes we can, yes we can." (That's the Rays.)
Not sure who the Hillary equivalent would be, but then, was she ever really a Yankee Fan?
(The photo is from earlier in the year, when the Yanks played the Oakland Athletics. Both managers were former Yankee catchers: Joe Girardi and Bob Geren. I was at this game, and it was my last time inside the old Stadium.)
Monday, August 18, 2008
That's 16 wins for Mike Mussina. Who would've thought at the beginning of the season, after all the hype about The Great Johan Santana, that the best starting pitcher in New York this season would be the Moose?
A-Rod hit Number 544. Only 219 more to go. Not that this matters as much as any hits he may get between now and October 30 (which is when Game 7 of the World Series would be played, if it goes that far).
Hideki Matsui may be back tomorrow night as the Yankees begin a three-game set at the SkyDome -- excuse me, the Rogers Centre -- in Toronto. Joe Girardi says he'll limit Matsui to DH duty to save wear and tear on his knee. Man, I would love to see him come back and smack some horsehide around.
Phil Hughes and -- gasp, this is the big one, I'm coming, Elizabeth -- Carl Pavano both pitched yesterday. One or the other may start on Saturday night in Baltimore. If we can get anything out of either one the rest of the way, it's a plus. Much more so with Pavano, because Hughes is young and can bounce back more easily.
With Boston and Tampa dealing with their own injuries, there's still a chance. This old buzzard ain't givin' up on the 2008 Yankees.
A lot of slobbering in the Tri-State media over Brett Favre's debut with the Jets. I guess they forgot that, A, the Jets lost; B, it was an exhibition game and didn't count anyway; C, there was a season a few years back where the Jets went 5-0 in the preseason and started the regular season off 1-4; and D, it's the Jets -- if the quarterback doesn't get hurt, his linemen will.
Favre may have made Jet fans hopeful, but he hasn't made the Jets relevant.
And the regular-season opener? Against the Miami Dolphins, with Bill Parcells as GM and the newly-signed Chad Pennington as starting quarterback. Uh-oh...
The Great Premiership Experiment continues:
Newcastle United 1, Manchester United 1. At Old Trafford. That's an embarrassment for the defending chumps.
Chelsea 4, Portsmouth 0. As the saying goes, my "upset special" turned into an upset stomach.
Aston Villa 4, Manchester City 2. Not a surprise.
So my first-ever weekend of picking Premiership games ends 5 wins, 4 losses and 1 tie, counting Newcastle's tie of Man U as a loss.
Still, if "A tie is like kissing your sister," then Newcastle must feel like they kissed their sister's really hot best friend, while Man U must feel like they kissed their mother-in-law.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
You're an essay in glamour
please pardon the grammar
but you're every schoolboy's dream.
You're the Yankees and Arsenal
go on, take it personal
but you're the best team I've ever seen.
Actually, it's, "You're Celtic, United, but baby, I've decided... " But it's hard to root for a team with the same name as one from Boston, even if it's Glasgow soccer; and I won't root for Manchester United unless they're playing the Rangers. The New York Rangers. Or maybe the Mets. Or the Red Sox.
So the question coming into today, the next round of my Great Premiership Experiment, was... who was going to score more, the Yankees or Arsenal?
That the question even has to be asked is not funny in the slightest.
Arsenal played West Bromwich Albion, a team from England's "Black Country" in the West Midlands. The newly-signed French player Samir Nasri scored in the 4th minute, and then Arsenal coasted the rest of the way, winning 1-0.
In the game I watched at their New York Supporters' Club official watering hole, the 11th Street Bar on the Lower East Side, Liverpool was pretty good on defense, but on offense they were terrible. Of course, when it's 11 against 14...
Apparently, being English is no defense against lunkheaded officiating. I kept thinking of the song I read about in one of the books about "football" I've been reading: "Oh, Graham Poll... you're a f---ing ar$ehole... " But he's retired, so we can't blame him. (Note: This was before I began regularly using profanity in this blog.)
This one was the opposite of the Arsenal-West Brom game, where the team I was pulling for struggled most of the game before a late score. Fernando Torres scored in the 82nd minute, and it was "Sunderland 0 - 1 Liverpool." The Reds (though wearing their road grays) walked on through the wind, walked on through the rain, though their dreams were tossed and blown, and beat the North-East club.
Blackburn Rovers 3, Everton 2 -- the winning goal scored in injury time, the 94th minute. Everton had a 2-1 lead at home, and they blew it. "Two-one, and you f---ed it up! Two-one, and you f---ed it up!"
The Liverpool supporters seemed to greatly enjoy seeing that highlight at halftime of their game, seeing their city rivals (whom they call "the bitters" because of their fans' bitterness over LFC's success) embarrass themselves. Unlike their rivals, Everton appears to walk alone. I, however, picked the result of that game wrong.
Middlesbrough 2, Tottenham Hotspur1. Got that one right, but how hard was that? "Sp*rs" -- apparently, Arsenal fans, a.k.a. Gooners, have to type it like that because they consider it a profanity -- were on the road, against a good team (another North-East club), and, we'll, they're, you know, Tottenham. If Arsenal is the Yankees of London "football," and Chelsea having bought 2 titles after decades of none is the Red Sox, then Sp*rs are the M*ts.
(UPDATE: In 2013, I did a post about how the Mets are not "the Tottenham of New York," the Rangers are. And, since then, the Red Sox' owners have bought Liverpool FC. But the Red Sox are still more like Chelsea in how they behave.)
Bolton Wanderers 3, Stoke City 1. Got that one right. Hull City 2, Fulham 1. Picked a road win there, and got it wrong. West Ham United 2, Wigan Athletic 1. I didn't even pick that game, so I have to score it a tie. One point for me, instead of three for a win.
Overall, for my first-ever attempt at picking Premiership games, 4 wins, 2 losses, 1 tie, a percentage of .643 (counting a tie as a half-win) -- 4-2, .667 in the games I actually tried.
Back in New York, there was a great story about how the local supporters' clubs of Liverpool and Glasgow's Rangers got together for a charity "friendly" and raised $5,000 for local youth soccer. Here's the story: http://www.lfcny.org/
That's another one where I would've had to root for Liverpool. A team in red, against a team in blue called "Rangers"? Yeah, that's a hard choice. Even if the only team in the Premiership with a "Devilish" nickname is the Red Devils of Manchester United -- Boooooooo!
But pretending it's hockey makes it a lot easier to watch, as there are a lot of similarities, particularly when the team you're rooting for seems to have forgotten how to pass the damn rock!
And in a game actually played in New York, the Yankees blew opportunity after opportunity... and beat the Kansas City Royals 3-2 in the bottom of the 13th inning. Brett Gardner, called up when Melky Cabrera got sent down because he wasn't hitting squat, got the winning hit. A message.
Am I relieved? Yes. Am I encouraged? Not yet, although we gained back a game on Tampa.
The Met bullpen nearly blew it for Pedro Martinez, but they were playing the Pittsburgh Pirates, who haven't had a winning season, much less made the postseason, since the fall of 1992, when the elder George Bush was President and lost to Bill Clinton (or, if you prefer, since John Major won his one and only general election and the "First Division" became the "Premier League"). The Mets hung on to beat the Bucs.
The New York media, as you might guess, slobbered over Brett Favre's first game as a Jet, saying how great he was. First of all, it was an exhibition game. Second of all, they lost, to the Washington Redskins, a mediocre team these last few years.
Yes, it's Superman. Strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman! Who can swim the course of mighty rivers, break world records in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Michael Phelps, mild-mannered swimmer for the U.S. national team, fights a never-ending battle for truth! justice! and the American way!
You got a better explanation of how Phelps went 8-for-8, setting world records in each event, topping by one the 1972 achievement of Mark Spitz, and raising his career total to 14 Gold Medals, an Olympic record that may never be matched?
The Yankees have to make their move. Yesterday has to be the beginning.
Friday, August 15, 2008
This is a big mistake. They're so much better together than apart. You see, Mike, when alone, talksinalowrumblingmonotone, andnobodycanstanditforlong, byhimself, he'sreallyreallyboring.
And when Chris is by himself and he doesn't have Mike to slam on his brakes, do ya know what happens? DO YA KNOW WHAT HAPPENS? I'll tell ya what happens! Dog goes outta control! He starts screaming like a lunatic! And his Yankee hatred spirals up to da moon! And he gets to da point where da guys at WIP in Philly can hear him! Without turning on their radios! I'll bet even those goofballs up at WEEI in Bahston can hear him!
(Sometimes there's a 7-second pause of dead air... )
And when he catches his breath he GETS BACK ON DA HIGH HORSE AND HE CAN'T BE STOPPED! I'D LIKE SOMEBODY TO STOP HIM! JUST ONE TIME! ONE TIME! ONE TIME! ONE TIME!!!!
Plus, he talks about tennis way too much. It's a major league sports in only 8 weeks of the year, and, even then, most Americans don't pay attention except for Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. And then, just from the Quarterfinals on. So, 2 weeks of the year. Face it, if Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal had played that incredible Final in Melbourne (in the Australian Open) instead of London, it would still have been a major, and it still would've been great, but would we be talking much about it?
And they both talk about golf too much. There's no reason to talk about golf on a sports station, because golf is not a sport.
Then again, neither was The Sopranos, which they both talked about way too much. Though watching that show appeared to involve some athleticism, to hear them talk about it.
Well, you know the old saying. Mike & the Mad Dog were an institution... but who wants to live in an institution?
Mike and the Mad Dog. Requiescat in pace, September 5, 1989 - August 5, 2008.
So long, "Kathie Lee." Hey, "Regis," get somebody good to take his place.
Of course, you know me: I can do a show all by myself, titled, Mike IS the Mad Dog.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
But Giese getting hurt? That's not good, even if he does turn out to be okay. And Wilson Betemit getting 2 hits isn't a good thing if the entire rest of the team only got 3.
So we come home for Kansas City. Advertising my age, I can remember when that meant a great matchup. But I don't think either of these teams matches up well with the 1976-81 Yankees or the 1976-81 Royals.
Let me refresh everyone's memory of the New York-Kansas City relationship:
1936: The Kansas City Blues of the American Association are purchased by Jacob Ruppert, owner of the New York Yankees, and are made a Yankee farm team, sharing top-level status with the Newark Bears. (Both names, "Kansas City Blues" and "Newark Bears," have been used for other teams, including pro football teams, and the current independent Atlantic League defending champions, the Newark Bears.)
The Blues had already won Pennants in the leagues they were in for the seasons of 1888, 1890, 1898, 1901 and 1929, with their '29 team being considered one of the greatest minor-league teams ever.
1938: Muehlebach Field, the stadium that had hosted the Blues and the Negro Leagues' Kansas City Monarchs since it opened in 1923, is renamed Ruppert Stadium after the owner. The Blues win another Pennant.
1939: "Colonel" Ruppert dies. Ownership of the Yankees and Blues goes to his heirs.
1940: Blues shortstop Phil Rizzuto is named Minor League Player of the Year by The Sporting News. When he is promoted to the Yankees the next year, the result is a pay cut, as Yankee general manager Ed Barrow wasn't willing to pay him as much as the Blues' GM was. Had there been a Rookie of the Year award in 1941, the Scooter probably would have won it.
1943: The Ruppert heirs take their name off the ballpark, and rename it for the team: Blues Stadium.
1954: The Philadelphia Athletics are sold by the family of Connie Mack to Arnold Johnson, a Chicago-based trucking executive, who moves them to Kansas City. Blues Stadium is double-decked, increasing capacity to 35,020, and renamed Kansas City Municipal Stadium. The Blues farm club is moved to Denver, where they are given the name of the team that had been there, the Denver Bears.
(The Yankees moved their Triple-A affiliation to the Richmond Virginians in 1959, the Toledo Mud Hens in 1965, the Syracuse Chiefs in 1967, the Tacoma Yankees in 1978, the Columbus Clippers in 1979, and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees in 2007.)
1960: Arnold Johnson dies, and his heirs sell the A's to another Chicago-based businessman, insurance tycoon Charles O. Finley. This pretty much ends what came to be known as "the special relationship" between the A's and Yankee owners Del Webb and Dan Topping, in which the Yanks essentially treated the A's as what the Blues had been, their top farm team, trading prospects to Kansas City in exchange for the A's' best players, including one made in the 1959-60 off-season, netting the Yankees slugging right fielder Roger Maris.
Maris was named to the All-Star team in 1959, and won back-to-back Most Valuable Player awards in 1960 and 1961. You may have heard about Maris' home run exploits, the "61 in '61."
Finley ends the special relationship, but the A's, who hadn't finished in the 1st division (what the top 4 spots in each major league, then 8 teams, was called at the time) since 1948 (when they were still in Philly), get no better.
1964: Finley decides that the reason the Yankees have won so many Pennants was the 296-foot distance to right field at Yankee Stadium. (After the 1974-75 renovation, it became 310; in 1988 it became the present 314.) He set up a 296-foot fence in right field, fronting a tiny bleacher section, and called it the "K-C PENNANT PORCH," even having the words painted on the fence.
Two preseason exhibition games were played in the freshly-configured Municipal Stadium, before the American League office contacted Finley and informed him that a 296-foot foul line distance was in violation of the major league rule, adopted in 1958, that held that no ballpark from that point on could introduce a foul line dimension of less than 325 feet. Yankee Stadium had been grandfathered in, but Municipal Stadium wasn’t allowed to copy it in 1964. (Since then, some new ballparks have gotten around this, including both the Kingdome and Safeco Field in Seattle, Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, and Minute Maid Park in Houston. I guess they only applied the rule to Finley because they didn't like him.)
Finley pitched his typical fit, but moved the fence back -- but only to the 325-foot limit, and dubbed the revised setup the "K-C One-Half Pennant Porch." Later he tried the ruse of putting a canopy over the little bleacher, which just happened to have an extension that reached out 29 feet over the field, to 296 feet from home plate. The League again ordered him to take it down.
So Finley tried one other thing: He had a chalk line painted in right field, at 296 feet from home plate, and when a fly ball was caught between that line and the fence, he had the public address announcer say, "That would have been a home run in Yankee Stadium." Not to be outdone, the next time the A's went to New York to play the Yankees, an A's player hit a fly ball out to the "Death Valley" in Yankee Stadium's left-center, which Mickey Mantle easily caught, and Yankee PA announcer Bob Sheppard said, "In Kansas City, that would have been a home run."
Did the shortened fence -- though not as shortened as Finley would have liked -- help? No, because opposing players ended up hitting more homers there than the A's did, the A's fell to last place again, they had a worse record at home than on the road (which doesn't happen often, even for bad teams), and their attendance dropped. In 1965, the previous right-field distance of 353 feet was restored.
1967: Finley, fed up with the failure of local government to build him a replacement for Municipal Stadium, had been threatening to move for a while, publicly citing Dallas as a possibility, then Louisville, and privately talking to officials in Atlanta, Milwaukee, New Orleans, San Diego and Seattle, finally gets permission to move the team, to Oakland, California.
Senator Stuart Symington, although from the opposite end of Missouri in St. Louis, was furious, and threatened to have Congress revoke baseball's antitrust exemption if Kansas City didn't get a new team. It got one in the round of expansion announced in 1968.
1969: The Kansas City Royals begin play, at Municipal Stadium, while a bond issue is passed by Jackson County voters, allowing for new stadiums for both the Royals and football's Kansas City Chiefs, who have been playing at Municipal Stadium since coming to Kansas City in 1963.
1971: In only their third season, the Royals have a winning season, finishing 2nd, though far behind the Oakland Athletics. In the last few years in Kansas City, Finley had been told that building up the team's farm system was the way to go, and by the time the team arrived in Oakland they'd developed Reggie Jackson, Jim "Catfish Hunter" and Rollie Fingers, all future Hall-of-Famers, along with future All-Stars Vida Blue, Joe Rudi, Sal Bando, Bert Campaneris and Rick Monday. The A's finish 1st for the first time since their 1931 Pennant in Philadelphia.
The Royals stay competitive, but can't break the A's' strangehold on the American League Western Division until free agency causes the breakup of "the Swingin' A's."
1973: Royals Stadium opens. It is renamed Kauffman Stadium in 1993, shortly before the
impending death of team founder-owner Ewing M. Kauffman, a pharmaceutical kingpin. It is the first ballpark in the American League that has artificial turf from the start, and the Royals develop a team tailored to their park, based on contact hitting, speed and defense.
1976: With the A's losing just enough talent to fall to 2nd place, the Royals win the AL West for the 1st time, in only their 8th season. To celebrate, infielders Cookie Rojas and Freddie Patek dive into the fountains that were build beyond the outfield fence.
But they Royals lose the Pennant to the Yankees in a tough 5-game American League Championship Series. The Yanks lead 6-3 in the top of the 8th in Game 5, but 3rd baseman George Brett, having just won his 1st of 3 batting titles, hits a long home run off Grant Jackson to tie it up. Leading off the bottom of the 9th against reliever Mark Littell, Yankee 1st baseman Chris Chambliss hits one over the right-center fence, winning the Pennant, and barely makes it around the bases as fans pour onto the field.
1977: With the A's now having disintegrated, as Finley wouldn't try to re-sign any of his stars in order to save money, the rising California Angels dealing with injuries, and the Chicago White Sox "South Side Hit Men" fading after the Royals swept them 3 straight in early August, the Royals win 102 games to lead the majors, and take 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the ALCS against the Yankees, knowing they have Games 3, 4 and 5 at Royals Stadium.
The Royals' fan base, which includes western Missouri and chunks of Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Oklahoma -- and, of course, anyone, anywhere, who hates the Yankees -- is sure the Bronx Bombers are about to be conquered by this exciting young bunch of upstarts.
There are incidents. Hal McRae, trying to break up a double play, kicks Yankee 2nd baseman Willie Randolph almost into the outfield. (Maybe the Mets should hire McRae; he has managed since.) In the bottom of the 1st in Game 5, Brett hard slid into 3rd base, and got into a fight with Yankee 3rd baseman Graig Nettles. The benches clear. Things settle down.
The Royals lead 3-1 going into the 8th. But the Yankees come back, and win the game, 5-3. The last play is a double play grounded into by Patek, at 5-foot-4 the shortest player in baseball at the time. As the Yankees celebrate, Patek cries in the dugout -- not for himself, but for his dear friend Rojas, who had announced he was retiring after the season, after a career that included the devastating collapse of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1964. (To make matters worse, the Phillies had their own monumental collapse in the 1977 National League Championship Series, but that's a story for another time.)
The photo above is from this series: Mickey Rivers sliding into 2nd base, guarded by Frank White.
1978: Again, the Royals win the AL West -- since the Division was established in 1969, there had been 10 titles, and the count was A's 5, Royals 3, Minnesota Twins 2. And the Royals were confident that, this time, they were finally going to beat the Yankees. They were convinced that it was the bullpen, led by Sparky Lyle, who had flummoxed the Royals in Games 4 and 5 of the '77 ALCS, that made the difference. So the Royals signed free agent reliever Al Hrabosky, the flamboyant lefty known as the Mad Hungarian.
In Game 1 of the ALCS, Hrabosky warmed up in the bullpen, and Yankee broadcaster Phil Rizzuto, always a worrier despite all the Pinstriped success he'd seen, said, "Uh-oh! The Mad Hungarian!" A few minutes later, Hrabosky pitched to Reggie Jackson, and, well, you know why the man is called Mr. October: Rizzuto soon found himself saying, "That's gone! That is gone! Holy Cow!" The Yankees won Game 1.
The Royals took Game 2, and the action shifted to Yankee Stadium. Brett hit 3 home runs off Catfish Hunter (whom the Yankees had signed after the 1974 season), and led 4-3 in the bottom of the 8th. But Doug Bird, part of the KC meltdown in 1977's Game 5, hung a curveball to Thurman Munson, who hit the longest home run of his career at the time when the Yankees most needed a homer from him, into Monument Park. The Yanks won, 5-4, and with Ron Guidry and the Yanks' own new bullpen signing, Rich "Goose" Gossage, mowing 'em down, the Yanks clinched the Pennant in 4 games.
In 3 seasons, the Royals had won 284 games, an average of nearly 95 per year -- 289 counting the postseason -- but had no Pennants to show for it.
1980: After both teams had down years in 1979, the rivalry resumed when the Yankees and Royals won their Divisions again, setting up a 4th NY-KC matchup in 5 years. As they had in 1977, the Royals won Game 1. But Game 2 turned the tide of the rivalry, with Yankee 3rd-base coach Mike Ferraro sending Randolph home when he shouldn't have, and Randolph being tagged for a key out. In Game 3, the Royals completed the sweep at Yankee Stadium, with Brett hitting a long home run off Gossage into the upper deck in right field.
It was one of the most humiliating moments in Yankee history. The Royals went on to lose the World Series to the Phillies, but the disappointment was tempered by their finally having slain the Pinstriped dragon. Like the 1950 Phillies, the 1951 New York Giants, the 1961 Cincinnati Reds, the 1965 Minnesota Twins and the 1967 Boston Red Sox, it almost didn't seem to matter that they had lost the World Series: What they won was more important. (This would later be true of the 1984 and 1998 San Diego Padres, the 1991 Atlanta Braves, the 1995 Cleveland Indians and the 2007 Colorado Rockies.)
1981: The strike forces a split-season format. The Yankees won the AL East in the 1st half, the Royals won the AL West in the 2nd half, and so both made the Playoffs again. But while the Yankees held up their part of the bargain, beating the Milwaukee Brewers to advance to the ALCS, the Royals didn't hold up their part, losing to the A's, preventing a 5th New York-Kansas City battle in 6 years.
The Yanks beat the A's for the Pennant -- Finley had sold them, and Billy Martin had rebuilt them -- but lost the World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
1983: Neither the Yanks nor the Royals make the Playoffs this season, but, on July 24, a big moment happens in the rivalry. The Yanks lead 4-3 in the top of the 9th, but Brett hits another homer off Gossage, for a 5-4 Royal lead.
Earlier in the game, Nettles had told Martin, again managing the Yankees, that Brett had too much pine tar on his bat, which was illegal. Martin decided to wait for the right time to ask the umpires to enforce the rule. Now was the time, and Brett was called out for violating the rule.
This ended the game as a 4-3 Yankee win. It also sent Brett into a fury, and he charged the umpire who made the call, a rookie named Tim McClelland. (He's the only umpire from that crew still active.) Brett had to be restrained by teammates John Wathan and Leon Roberts.
Naturally, the Royals appealed. AL President Lee MacPhail, though a former general manager o the Yankees, ruled in favor of the Royals, saying that Brett had violated the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law; i.e., he wasn't trying to gain an unfair advantage.
Speaking as a Yankee Fan who remembers this one very well, those of us who were around then were furious. Martin was furious. Team owner George Steinbrenner was furious. MacPhail ordered the game resumed on August 18, an off-day for both teams, from the top of the 9th, two outs, and the Royals up, 5-4. (Next week marks the 25th anniversary of the resumption.)
Steinbrenner decided to open the Stadium and let fans see this travesty for free, and about 1,200 people showed up in the 57,545-seat Stadium. Martin symbolically protested the continuation of the game by putting pitcher Ron Guidry in center field and lefthanded 1st baseman Don Mattingly -- still a rookie and not yet "Donnie Baseball" -- at 2nd base, a rarity for lefthanders (there's been only 1 since).
McRae was the next scheduled batter, and before he came up, Martin challenged Brett's home run on the grounds that Brett had not touched all the bases, and maintained that, since this was a different umpiring crew, there was no way for them to dispute this. But umpire Davey Phillips was ready for Martin, producing an affidavit signed by the July 24 umpires, stating that Brett had indeed touched all the bases. An irate Martin continued to argue with the umpires and was ejected from the game. (No doubt, to the delight of the 1,200 fans who showed up, watching their manager fight for their team.) Yankees reliever George Frazier struck McRae out to finally end the top of the 9th, 25 days after it had begun. Dan Quisenberry then pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the 9th to preserve the Royals' tainted win.
1984: The Royals win the AL West again, but lose the Pennant to the Detroit Tigers.
1985: Another possible Yanks-Royals matchup looms, but the Yanks tail off in September, and the ALCS is the Royals against the Toronto Blue Jays. For the 1st time, the LCS is a best-4-of-7 series rather than a best-3-of-5. Good thing for the Royals, as the Jays, making their 1st postseason appearance and their only one at Exhibition Stadium, take a 3-1 series lead. But the Royals take the next 3 for their 2nd Pennant. This fold gives Toronto the nickname "Blow Jays," which will be reinforced by collapses in the 1987 regular season final week, near-misses in the 1988 and 1990 regular seasons, and losses in the 1989 and 1991 Playoffs.
The Royals finally win the World Series, beating the cross-State St. Louis Cardinals in a controversial result (which, as I said about the '77 Phils, is a story for another time).
The Royals had won the AL West 6 times in 10 years, and it looked like there was no reason why they couldn't go on winning. But they didn't. In fact, while both teams had been strong in 1985, the Yankees wouldn't reach the postseason again for 10 years, and the Royals have never gotten back.
In fact, since the strike-shortened 1994 season, their 1st after Brett retired, they've only had a winning record once, in 2003, and haven't finished as high as 2nd since 1995, or even 3rd since 2003. They are 54-66 coming into this series, in 5th and last place in the AL Central.
The Royals are not what they once were. But then, neither are the Yankees. The Yankees must reassert themselves in this series to have any hope of making the Playoffs in the final season at Yankee Stadium.
If nothing else, it makes Yankees vs. Royals matter, the way it hasn't in a long, long time.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
"The third baseman," Mr. Noclutch, did his job last night... and Mariano didn't? Welcome to Bizarro Pinstripes.
Tonight's pitchers: Darrell Rasner against Kevin Slowey. "Slowey"? Not a good name for a pitcher. He's 8-8 for a good team, ERA 4.07. In the Metrodome, that's not bad, and he doesn't walk a lot of guys. Maybe that means he throws strikes. Time to get in some good hacks. And his last start against the Yanks wasn't good: He didn't get out of the 6th.
But 6 or even 7 innings from Rasner might not be enough, especially with the bullpen so worn out. This may have to be a slugfest. Hopefully not the kind the Idiots and the Strangers played last night. (Don't look at me like that: The Red Sox named themselves "The Idiots.")
I can't believe the Red Sox blew a 10-0 lead... and then the Rangers blew a 17-16 lead? As a Devils fan, I should've known you can never trust a team called the Rangers. And, as Yankee broadcaster John Sterling is fond of saying, "You just can't predict baseball."
Randy Johnson is now 6 wins away from the 300 Club. Why couldn't he have pitched like that in the 2005 and '06 ALDS? OK, sure, the Yanks probably still would have lost the '05 ALCS -- the White Sox did have a "team of destiny" thing going on. But if the Big Choking Unit had simply pitched well in that Game 3 in Detroit in '06, the A's were the same hopeless October unit they've been since the '90 World Series, and the Cardinals had the fewest wins of any World Series winner in a season of at least 154 games. We could've won it all if Randy had been for us in that game what he's been so many times when we didn't need it.
The current A's, however, beat the Devil Rays last night. Sure, it was only 2-1, but it counts the same as if it was 19-17, right? A tough loss for Scott Kazmir, who must've felt like he was back with the Mets.
Reminder: Maximilien Robespierre led the French Revolution, and he eventually became a victim of it. Leon Trotsky was a major figure in the Russian Revolution, and he eventually became a victim of it. And those revolutions eventually produced Napoleon and Stalin. Revolution is a risky business. Even if you call it a "Ray-volution."
I almost wish there was an Internet in 1964. I'd love to read the baseball posts from then. Can you imagine what Phillies and White Sox fans would have been saying at this point? And each ended up losing the Pennant by 1 game.
Of course, we Yankee Fans, in the process of winning another Pennant, would've had to hear from Met fans about what a slum The Bronx is and how wonderful the brand-new Shea Stadium is. Then we'd have to remind them how they'd lost nearly 5 seasons worth of games in their first 3 years...
Back to the present: Taking 2 out of 3 against the Twins in the Metrodome would be terrific, but Rasner has to hold that good offense down and eat some innings.
I close with this thought: No, I do not miss Kyle Bleeping Farnsworth! I could tell him to go to hell, but if you've ever been to the City of Detroit, you know that's punishment enough.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
These are the New York Yankees: Their hallmark is hitting the tar out of the ball.
Let's see what we got: Two hits from Bobby Abreu, one from "the third baseman," one from Robinson Cano, 3 walks, and 2 double plays. On a night when Sidney Ponson gives up only 2 runs over his first 5, 3 over his first 7.
You can't waste pitching like that, but this is the 3rd straight time the Yankees have. Which goes to show that whoever said pitching was 75 percent of baseball was wrong.
I remembered Billy Martin pulling a lineup out of a hat, and a big winning streak resulted. He did it because his mentor Casey Stengel once did it to get the Yanks out of a similar slump. It worked wonders in the Fifties for Casey and in the Seventies for Billy.
I decided to try it myself, to see if I could shake things up... but the first name I pulled out was Giambi. Jason Giambi, hitting leadoff? As Yogi Berra would've said if he'd thought of it first, even when he could run, he couldn't run. So much for that idea.
Vince Lombardi told the 1-10-1 Packers he inherited in 1959, "We may not win, but we won't be losing with the same people."
It's time for Girardi to go into beast mode. Everybody's got a clean slate, but from this point forward, anybody who doesn't produce gets benched.
If that means A-Rod takes A-Seat, it's still A-Great Idea. If that means the Captain gets court-martialed for a day, sorry, Derek, but hit and it won't happen to you. Show them that nobody -- but nobody -- is untouchable. Same goes for the bullpen: If the bullpen had done its job on Saturday and Sunday, the Yankees beat the Angels both times, and we're only 2 games behind the Idiots and well within range of the Frauds.
If the Yankees are going to put pressure on Boston and Tampa, they've got to put pressure on themselves first. Hank, Joe... It's up to you.
Monday, August 11, 2008
I could just credit the Los Angeles Angels of Katella Boulevard, Anaheim, Orange County, California, etc., etc., etc.... for being a smart, tough, talented team that knows how to win and shows a lot of character and have earned the consensus pick as the team that has the best chance to win this year's World Series. Certainly, they earned these 3 games. Certainly, they were at home. Certainly, for as long as I can remember, the Yankees have had trouble winning in Anaheim Stadium. (Or whatever they're calling it this year. Will you guys pick a name for your team and a name for your stadium and stick with it?)
Yes, I could credit the Angels.
To hell with crediting the opposition. I've got to do what Joe Girardi is already doing, and what Hank Steinbrenner needs to do, since it's worked 3 times already this season: Chew out my team!
The Yankees need to start hitting like Yankees. Jason Giambi was on a hot streak, but he's tailing off a little, and swinging at some truly awful pitches. It needs to stop.
Derek Jeter is stuck in the .280s, and while that's good, "good" is not good enough. Time to step up and lead, "Captain."
Bobby Abreu is falling into the trap of last year: When he hits, we win; when he doesn't, we lose. Bobby, if you want to be here next year, start hitting in the rest of this year.
Wilson Betemit has got to go: He has given the Yanks very little since he arrived.
The key, of course, is the $275 Million Man. At the risk of sounding like a scene from that horror film Fever Pitch...
Alex, I already know I like August Guy, but you're turning into October Guy again, and I don't like you as October Guy. I want you to play like August Guy all season long, including in October. But in order to get to October, you need to stop hitting like a guy who's got 543 career home runs (i.e. is nearing the end of a glorious career) and start hitting like a guy who's got something to prove -- which, in case you've forgotten, Mr. Ciccone-in-training, you do.
The Yankees move on to Minnesota to play 3 against the Twins, who are in the thick of the AL Central and Wild Card races despite having traded The Great Johan Santana to the Mutts and having pretty much lost Nelson Liriano to injury again. I am really impressed with them, and while the Yankees are one of the few teams that seems to play well in the Metrodome, we've got Sidney Ponson going tonight.
Your Uncle Mike tells you that Sidney Ponson is like a box of chocolates: He can be delicious, or he can be messy and nuts. The Twins have Glen Perkins, who I never heard of before, but he's 8-3 and doesn't walk guys. I'm not feeling it today.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Needing an emergency start against the Angels, the best team in baseball right now, on the road, the Yankees looked to a 31-year-old rookie, Dan Giese (rhymes with ice), on his home field: He grew up right outside Anaheim and was an Angels fan.
He pitches not just like he grew up in those stands, but like he was born to stand on that mound. He throws 5 innings of 2-hit shutout ball for the Yankees. He allows a monstrous home run in the 6th, but leaves with a 2-1 lead thanks to back-to-back homers from Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi. The Yanks take a 3-1 lead in the 7th, and it looks like Giese has the biggest win of his brief career. Rarely has a starting pitcher provided such "relief."
If this was England's football Premier League, the Angel fans would be singing, "Two-nil, and you f---ed it up! Two-nil, and you f---ed it up! Two-nil, and... " and so on.
The Angels scored a run in the 7th to make it 3-2, and in the 8th...
Please, Lord, make it stop, make it stop...
They scored 7 runs before the Yankees even got an out. Final score, Angels 10, Yanks 4. You do not want to waste a good starting pitching performance like that.
This, after a 10-5 loss last night. Oy gevalt.
Now eight games behind Tampa for the Division lead -- with seven weeks to go. That means we could average gaining a game every week and it wouldn't be enough. This might be it, the first full season since 1993 that the Yankees don't see October except on TV.
Just 23 days to Rutgers football. Five weeks to EBHS football. Two months to hockey. Aside from Rutgers' bowl-game wins in the 2 preceding seasons and a rare Thanksgiving victory for EB, I haven't had much to root for since the Devils' Playoff sweep of the Rangers in '06 -- which the Rangers (who suck) avenged this spring (which really sucks). And I don't think anything the Olympics could provide will help. I need something!
(Is this why I'm getting interested in the Premiership? Am I that desperate?)
But then I read Mike Lupica in the Daily News, bashing the Yankees as usual, asking why Brian Cashman didn't trade some combination of Melky Cabrera, Philip Hughes, Ian Kennedy (last night's hopeless starter) and maybe someone else for The Great Johan Santana.
Excuse me, Lip, but the Mets did not pay all that dough for Santana so that he could be 9-7 on August 9 and they could be in 2nd place, lower than they were last year at this point -- and you know what happened last year!
At lest he gives credit to Joe Girardi for keeping the Yankees from going completely off the rails. I mean, let's face it, after all the injuries and all the A-Rodrama, should the Yankees be 3 games out of the Wild Card? No, they should be way back, around .500 or so. Instead, they are still very much in the Playoff race -- though I wish the Tampa Bay Deviled Eggs would go back to being the fraud I said they were last month. Don't they know they don't belong in 1st place?
Maybe it's time for Hank Steinbrenner to give the team a verbal jumpstart. It's worked a couple of times already this season.
Lupica also mentioned Don Imus in his Sunday "Shooting From the Lip" column, as he usually does. Look, plenty of pieces of scum throughout history have given to charity in between instances of proving that they're scum, so don't tell me that the guy runs a ranch for kids with cancer, all right? It doesn't excuse 40 years of bigoted bullying on the radio.
You want to nominate him for sainthood? Fine. Just remember that he's got to get to heaven first, and a guy who's pulled the crap he's pulled -- and, for the most part, has gotten away with -- isn't going to be selected in the first round of heaven's draft.
Then again, the way Brett Favre and the Packers were both acting these past 2 weeks, maybe there's a spot open.
Of course, if patience really is a virtue, maybe we can start weaving Aaron Rodgers' wings.
Friday, August 8, 2008
Ordinarily, this would look like a great deal. But I've been watching the Jets for 30 years. Things generally do not go well for them.
Sometimes they just stink. Other times, they get good and tease you, and then end up collapsing, sometimes even calamitously. Like the Buffalo Bills. Or the Cleveland Browns. Or the Boston Red Sox (used to and hopefully will again). Or the Chicago Cubs. Or the Cleveland Indians. Or the New York Rangers (with one awful exception). Or, if this book I'm currently reading about England's Premier League (Bloody Confused! by Chuck Culpepper) is accurate, Newcastle United.
This could turn out like Joe Montana going from San Francisco to Kansas City (two Playoff berths, one in the AFC Title Game). Or it could turn out like Joe Namath going from the Jets to Los Angeles (Hollywood turned out not to have any effect on his shredded knees), or Johnny Unitas going from Baltimore to San Diego (definitely should've retired the year before).
Or, knowing the Jets as I do, they could have a rash of injuries, and it won't matter what Favre does.
I'm curious as to where Pennington is going to go. I know he gets hurt a lot, but he's 32, and plenty of quarterbacks are still productive when they're considerably older than that. And there's always a team that needs a quarterback. The Miami Dolphins, for one. The Chicago Bears. The Minnesota Vikings are probably a good quarterback away from being the best team in the NFC North (formerly known as the NFC Central and still known as the Black and Blue Division), and maybe even a serious Super Bowl run.
UPDATE: Pennington signed with the Miami Dolphins, and got them into the Playoffs. But the next season, he got hurt, and played his last game the next season.
Anyway, why am I talking about football? Well, Rutgers starts in 24 days... on a Monday afternoon at 4? Against Fresno State? What gives? Aren't you supposed to open your season against a bad team? Isn't Fresno State usually, at least, a good team? (It was Labor Day, a holiday rather than a school day, so the time of day wasn't ridiculous.)
Dear Old Alma Mater, East Brunswick High School, celebrates its 50th Anniversary next month, having first opened its doors on September 8, 1958. It's "only" the 48th season of varsity football, and as fate would have it, the opening game is away... but in Sayreville, right across the street from the stop where I get off the bus to get to work. It'll be easier for me to get there than it would be to go to a home game!
The Yankees, even with all their injuries, are still within striking distance of the Division lead, but somebody's gotta beat the leaders when we aren't playing them. The Yanks still have six games left against Boston and six against Tampa Bay, so we've got a good shot, especially if Phil Hughes and -- Seriously? Him?!? He could come back? -- Carl Pavano can give us anything, and Joba Chamberlain comes off the disabled list and can throw without pain.
Maybe Jerry Manuel should chew David Wright out after every game, if the result is going to be a walkoff homer in the next one.
Hockey season is two months away. After a frustrating Devils season, I'm ready to kick some Ranger, Flyer and anybody else ass. In the days to come, I'm going to do a Top 10 list on why the Rangers suck. Because, as you may have heard, they do.
Basketball season starts a month after that, but with Jason Kidd gone, Richard Jefferson gone, Vince Carter in obvious decline (can he do anything except dunk anymore?), and the move to Brooklyn currently scheduled for 2 years from now (construction of the Barclays Center is finally underway), I'm not sure I should care anymore about New Jersey's first major league sports team. New Jersey Nets, R.I.P., 1977-2010.
And a week from tomorrow, the Premiership "Fixture" gets underway. Why am I now more interested in that "football" than I am in the American kind? Maybe because it's something new to me, something I haven't buried myself in for 30 years. Or maybe my current resistance to NFL info is due to an ESPN-inspired offseason "overdose." Really, I am knackered over Brett Favre, Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson and the whole ruddy lot o' them.
One and three-quarters books read about English soccer, and I'm using words like that. Bloody hell...