Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Disaster at the Prudential: Devils Eliminated

A truly ignominious evening. The Yankees won 11-0, got a masterful performance from Phil Hughes, one of last year's disasters turning it around, and I don't even care.

Devils 3, Hurricanes 2, with 1:20 to go in regulation. And then, bing, bing, Hurricanes 4, Devils 3, season over.

The Devils' poor defense let them down again. Not having Scott Niedermayer anymore probably didn't make a difference -- he might be done as a productive player -- but not having Brian Rafalski back there may have been critical. Thanks for not opening the vault, Lou Lamoriello, you cheap bald twat!

But, ultimately, the Hurricanes have to be given credit. Their experience, their toughness, and their resolve led them to win. They deserved it. But they're still bastards.

And I won't whine about not getting calls. That failure to call goaltending interference at the end of that Game 4 disaster wouldn't have happened if the Devils had played a competent defense. We lost it for ourselves, and blaming the refs is the mark of an ignorant fan.

At least the Devils outlasted the Rangers... by half an hour. We choked away 3 games to 2 with Game 7 at home, they choked away three games to one with Game 6 at home. We're disgraceful, but the Broadway Boozehounds remain pathetic.

So now I fall back on Yankee fandom, and say that I hope the Stanley Cup is won by ABB: Anybody But Boston.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Don't Lose With the Same People

Blowing a 4-2 lead in the 9th, and leaving 15 men on base, on Friday night.

Six-nil, and we fucked it up, scoring 11 runs and still being way out, on Saturday afternoon into night.

Allowing a steal of home on Sunday night.

This weekend's results would have been bad enough if the Yankees had given a solid effort and still got beat by a better team. I wouldn't have liked it, but I would've accepted it and moved on.

What we saw this weekend was unacceptable, and that really had little to do with the Red Sox. Because it was the Red Sox, it gets magnified. But when it happened against Cleveland, and against Tampa, it was just as bad, if not just as glaring.

The 2009 New York Yankees have no heart. They have no sense of pride. They have no awareness of drama, of knowing that there is a clutch situation in front of them and they must come through. (UPDATE: All of this did soon change.)

And Alex Rodriguez getting healthy isn't going to change that. Come on, let's be honest: A healthy A-Rod wouldn't have made a damn bit of difference this weekend, because we know he turns into the $275 Million Bum when the lights get bright.

It gets old seeing people like me defend the old guard, Jeter, Posada, Pettitte and Rivera. But who would you rather defend: Somebody who did it but it was a long time ago, or someone who's never done it?

I'll put it in a Met perspective: No sane Met fan... must... not... laugh... No sane Met fan would trade Jose Reyes for Rafael Santana, right? Or for Bud Harrelson, right? Yet Santana and Harrelson were Met shortstops who won the World Series. Reyes is not, and never will be at the rate he's going.

Maybe the four remaining old guarders will never win another. But the guys we've got now, who haven't been a part of it -- I'm trying to think of how many others are still here from the last Pennant in 2003, I know Matsui is but he's been hurt so much that he may be done -- won't be a part of a championship team until someone comes in and tells them the awful truth.

"This is unacceptable."

As a great New Yorker, Vince Lombardi, put it when he first became a head man, taking a team that had been 1-10-1 the year before, "We may not win, but we will not lose with the same people."

The man generally accepted as the Green Bay Packers' best player at the time was an All-Pro end named Billy Howton. Ever heard of him? Unless you're a diehard Packer fan or a football historian, probably not. Lombardi cut him. And he built possibly the greatest team the NFL has ever seen, getting a winning season in his 1st season, to the title game in his 2nd, and championships in his 3rd, 4th, 7th, 8th and 9th seasons.

The time has come to make a choice: Either get the current guys to care about winning, or sit them and start over.

I could tolerate sacrificing this year if I thought it meant that we'd be ready to gun for a title next year. But if Cano, Melky, several of the bullpen guys, and even the big ticket Teixeira don't start playing every game as if it's September and they're one game out of 1st place, then they shouldn't play. Simple as that.

They may file a grievance with the players' union. Let them. At least it'll show that they care.

The time has come to get tough or get out. Especially if you're the manager.

If, by the end of the next Yanks-Sox series, the Yankees have not shown significant improvement in attitude, if not in record, then it's time for Hank Steinbrenner to truly live up to his father's legacy, and fire the manager. And bring in some blood-and-guts players.

And, please, Hank, and please, God, not Donnie Regular Season Baseball. I want someone who knows what it's like to win.

*

Game 5: Devils 1, Hurricanes 0. Between them, these teams had 85 shots on goal, but only David Clarkson of New Jersey scored. Martin Brodeur notched his 23rd Playoff shutout, to tie a record. The Devils did a pretty good impression of the 1998 Yankees.

Game 6: Hurricanes 4, Devils 0. The Devils did a pretty good impression of the 2009 Yankees (so far).

Game 7 tomorrow night in Newark. The Rangers also lost, blowing a 3-games-to-1 lead, so they have a Game 7 tomorrow night as well, in Washington.

I'll probably be posting my Top 10 Most Hated Opponents, Managing/Coaching/Ownership Division sometime this week.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

My Most Hated Opponents -- Players

In the midst of another what-the-hell-is-going-on-here Yankees-Red Sox game -- can somebody tell me how you score 11 runs and lose by 5? -- I've given some thought as to who my all-time most hated opponents are.

I have 1 eligibility rule: Only major-league athletes are considered. I'll put the managers, coaches and owners in a separate category when I feel like doing it, and I’m not going to hold some high school punk or some college twat responsible for something he did when he was 17 or even 21 years old.

So you're off the hook, Rob Stanavitch. So are you, Glenn Foley. (If you don’t know who they are, don't worry about it. Let's just say they both played high school football in New Jersey, and one played college ball elsewhere and came back here to play pro ball, although not well.)

I've limited it to 15, although there’s quite a few Dishonorable Mentions.

15. Carlton Fisk, Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox. This isn't personal, because I respect him a lot. Which is why I leave him at the bottom (top?) of this list. But he always seemed to step up his game against the Yankees, regardless of the color of his Sox. And, no, as long as Thurman Munson was alive, Fisk was never the best catcher in the American League.

Dishonorable Mention: Some other pain-in-the-ass Red Sox, including Jerry Remy (his playing was enough to get him on this list, but as a broadcaster, he's no Phil Rizzuto), Rick Burleson (man, what a pest, but the kind of guy you want on your team), Rich Gedman, Spike Owen (who sort of redeemed himself on the Yankees' 1993 Pennant-race run), Calvin Schrialdi and Bob Stanley (for allowing the Mets to win their only World Series in my lifetime, along with manager John McNamara but not Bill Buckner), Trot Nixon, Kevin Millar (or, as they pronounced his name in New England, Kevin Millahhhhhhhh), Johnny Damon (definitely redeemed himself, even if, in 2004, he looked a lot more like Charles Manson than Jesus), and now Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Not quite making this list is Bill Lee, who probably hated the Yankees more than any Red Sock ever, but by the time I saw him, he was already damaged goods and didn't hurt the Yankees much -- luckily for me, because until Graig Nettles (or was it Mickey Rivers?) body-slammed him, wrecking his shoulder, in that 1976 brawl, he was one of the top Yankee-Killers ever.

14. Bryan Trottier, New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins. Somebody from the early 1980s Isles dynasty had to be on this list, and I never hated Denis Potvin like those dopey Ranger fans still do, and it was hard to hate Mike Bossy. But also playing for the early 1990s Pens' near-dynasty also puts this pain in the ass on the list.

Dishonorable Mention: From the early 1980s Isles, "Battle Ax" Billy Smith and Clark Gillies; from the early 1990s Pens, and the mid-2000s Rangers, Jaromir Jagr.

13. Rod Brind'Amour, Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes. There had to be at least 1 Flyer on this list, but it's not one of their thugs. This guy has been a thorn in the Devils' side for 20 years, including in the 2002, 2006 and now 2009 Playoffs.

Dishonorable Mention: Flyers Dave Brown, Brian Propp, Ron Hextall and Eric Lindros. And Tie Domi, for his Ranger goonery (not to be confused with fans of Arsenal F.C.), and for his elbow to Scott Niedermayer in the 2001 Playoffs when Domi was with the Toronto Maple Leafs.)

12. Terrell Owens, Dallas Cowboys. Yes, I know, he played for the Philadelphia Eagles, my favorite NFL team, and, for 1 season, very well. And I know he also played for the San Francisco 49ers, and is now with the Buffalo Bills.

But has any player ever summed up why the Cowboys are so hated? Think about it, from the Sixties (Lee Roy Jordan's cheap shots, especially on Eagle runner Timmy Brown), to the Seventies ("America's Team"? More like "America's Most Wanted"), to the Nineties 'Boys, to today. Cheap shots. Egomania. Stupid dances. Drugs: "Dallas sucks! T.O. swallows -- pills!" And, or course, choking in the clutch, as the Cowboys so often do (but not often enough).

As far as I know, the only thing missing from T.O.'s Cowboys checklist is getting arrested. Maybe that's due to the Dallas Police being as negligent as they were when JFK came through town. Maybe the Buffalo police will be better. Come to think of it, I can see him going to Niagara Falls, going to their casinos, and getting in trouble that way. Or maybe he'll try to smuggle something across the Peace Bridge. You never know with T.O.

Dishonorable Mention: Lots of Cowboys, including Jordan, Roger Staubach, Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson, Butch "California Quake" Johnson, Michael Irvin, Tony Romo, and the man T.O. succeeded as the epitome of all that was wrong with modern football despite being immensely talented, Deion "Prime Time" Sanders.

11. Rafael Palmeiro, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles. He always seemed to hit well against the Yankees. And while he never seemed to get picked for the All-Star Game, he somehow managed to hit 569 home runs and collect over 3,000 hits. One of only 4 guys to do that, the 1st 3 being Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Palmeiro's former Oriole teammate Eddie Murray. And of all the players with at least 3,000 hits, only Aaron and Mays had more home runs. (Griffey is still active, so he could pass him.)

Late in his career, he did a commercial, where he said, "I take batting practice. I take infield practice. I take Viagra." Gee, Raffy, did it ever occur to you that your impotence -- in the bedroom if not at the plate -- might have something to do with taking steroids?

He was called before Congress to testify at the St. Patrick's Day Massacre, March 17, 2005, and he stuck his finger in the camera, and said, "I have never used steroids. Period." He was lying, and he knew he was lying, and a lot of us were pretty sure he was lying, too.
How do you hit 569 home runs and not get into the Hall of Fame? Well, Mark McGwire has 583, and Sammy Sosa has 609, and Barry Bonds has 762, and they're not getting into the Hall of Fame, either. And for the same reason: Because they cheated, Raffy, and so did you! Exclamation point!

Dishonorable Mention: Collectively, the 1996 and '97 Orioles. They rode steroids to the American League Wild Card in '96 and the A.L. Eastern Division Title in '97, before losing in the A.L. Championship Series both times, partly because Armando Benitez was a lousy relief pitcher in the clutch. (He gave up Derek Jeter's "Jeffrey Maier homer" in '96 and Tony Fernandez's Pennant-clincher in '97.)

Palmeiro used steroids. In all likelihood, so did Brady Anderson, who never hit more than 26 in a season despite playing most of his career at Camden Yards with that 309-foot right-field pole, but hit 50 in '96. I don't know who else among them was on steroids, but they also had Bobby "Make Yo Move, 'Cause I'll Hurt You" Bonilla, and the headhunting, pressure-folding Benitez.

And their manager? Davey Johnson. Just for being on the 1970 Orioles and managing the 1986 Mets, he might want to rehearse Lou Gehrig's farewell address, because he was certainly one of the luckiest men on the face of the Earth. He certainly wasn't one of the best managers on this planet.

10. Larry Bird, Boston Celtics. As much of a dick as Isiah Thomas is, he had a point about the fuss made over the Hick From French Lick: If he were black, he'd have been... Scottie Pippen. He wouldn't have been The Guy on a championship team. But those bastards from Southie and Eastie loved him, even though they never gave Bill Russell his due for all those titles in the Sixties.
Dishonorable Mention: Quite a few Celtics qualify, but I'll limit it to one who tears up the Nets with regularity, Paul Pierce.

9. Jason Varitek, Boston Red Sox. It's easy to pick a fight when you’re wearing a helmet, a metal mask and a big catcher's mitt, while your opponent isn't wearing any of that.
Jason Varitek. Obviously, no opposing players were within
50 feet of him when this photograph was taken.

I have a lot of respect for Georgia Tech. It’s a great school, and they produce fine engineers and good athletes. They don't produce cowards. But they produced at least one, and this cunt is it. And he whines, too. And, like so many Sox, he has such stupid hair.

8. John Starks, New York Knicks. It wasn't just that he was a thug. It's that he chose to be a thug at a particular moment. On February 28, 1993, in what might have been the 1st nationally-televised game the New Jersey Nets ever played, the Nets played the Knicks at the Brendan Byrne Arena at the Meadowlands. Though the Nets won, 102-76, the destiny of a franchise was rewritten. Kenny Anderson, then thought of as a rising star and a good guy, was driving to the basket, and Starks reached up and clotheslined him. Anderson landed hard, breaking his wrist.

He was never the same: He was never fully healthy again, and he became a little brat who whined his way off the Nets. At the time of this game, Derrick Coleman was considered a self-assured power forward who might one day lead the Nets to a title; afterward, he became a lazy, fat schmuck and a clubhouse cancer. At the time of this game, Drazen Petrovic was a fantastic player with a deadly outside shot; and while this can't really be blamed on Starks, even indirectly, he died in a car crash in the following off-season.

The Nets looked like they might be about to become the best team in the New York Tri-State Area, and a serious challenger for the Eastern Conference Title and even the NBA Title; that ended up not happening until 2001, when they traded Stephon Marbury for Jason Kidd, won back-to-back Conference Titles, and showed themselves to be far ahead of the disintegrated Knicks. But in between, forget it.

The history of at least one NBA franchise changed at that moment. And it was all because John Starks decided a foul that would have gotten him 5 minutes in hockey, and a straight red card in soccer, was necessary to prevent 2 points in the middle of a basketball game that his team was going to lose by a large margin no matter what he did on the play in question. The play symbolized the classlessness of the Pat Riley era Knicks.
Yes, I called you a thug. Don't look so surprised.

Dishonorable Mention: Latrell Sprewell, Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks. As Starks left in 1998, Spree came in. Of course, he fit in on the Knicks: They always choked!

7. Manny Ramirez, Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox. He was a Yankee-Killer in Cleveland, when he had no hair. But it was in Boston, where he ended up looking like Super Slob, that he did the most damage. "Manny Being Manny" was all he cared about. I know, the Yankees have a "corporate" image that is worthy of some mockery, but, dammit, have some pride in your appearance and behavior.
Mickey Mantle used to say, "When I died, I wanted on my tombstone, 'A Great Teammate.'" Those words are now on Mickey's Monument in Monument Park at the new Yankee Stadium. Will anybody, especially after 2008, ever say, "Manny Ramirez, what a great teammate"? I wouldn't bet a penny on that.

6. Josh Beckett, Florida Marlins and Boston Red Sox. After the 2003 World Series, I figured I only hated him because he ruined a World Series for the Yankees. Turned out he was hateable on the basis of his personality. A headhunter and an egomaniac. He came by the nickname I gave him, Super Punk, the old-fashioned way: He earrrrned it. Yes, I know he's talented. Yes, I know he's successful. But that doesn't make him "good."
Dishonorable Mention: A slew of other Red Sox headhunters, including Dick Drago (who beaned Munson back in '78), Bronson Arroyo, that preening schmo Jonathan Papelbon, and, of course, Roger Clemens -- who fails to appear in the Top 10 solely because he went on to help the Yankees.

To an extent. I give Jim Lonborg a pass on this because, A, his beaning of Yankee pitcher Thad Tillotson happened back in 1967 before I was born; B, he was merely retaliating for Tillotson beaning Joe Foy; and C, it was one time, and he proved not to be a headhunter.

5. George Brett, Kansas City Royals. Today, I can look back on him and say he was the greatest athlete in Kansas City history; a man with over 3,100 hits; the only man to win batting titles in 3 different decades (1976, 1980 and 1990); and a winner (to this day, the Royals have never reached the postseason without him, but did so 7 times with him, and he always hit well in postseason play, including on the road to the 1980 Pennant and 1985 World Championship). (UPDATE: Now, they have.)

But until October 2003, when Pedro Martinez threw Don Zimmer to the ground, there was no Yankee opponent I hated more while he was playing. I can make "pain in the ass" jokes (though Mike Schmidt admitted in his memoir that he, too, had hemorrhoids during the '80 World Series), but it seemed like this guy always came through for the Royals, from nearly messing up the '76 Pennant (thank you, Chris Chambliss) to hitting 3 homers off Catfish Hunter in Game 3 of the '78 ALCS (thank you, Thurman), to taking Goose Gossage deep to cement the '80 Pennant, to taking the Goose deep again in an '83 regular-season game with a little help (the Pine Tar Incident).
But I respect Brett for this: He admits that he hated the Yankees. Whatever else this bastard is, he's honest, and for that, as well as for his talent, I salute him. But he’s still a bastard.

Dishonorable Mention: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox. Can't put Big Papi on the Top 10 yet, though with his whining about Joba Chamberlain this week, he seems to want to get on here. Still, has anybody ever messed the Yankees up more? Actually, yes, and you’ll see him at Number 2.

(UPDATE: If I were doing this list again in 2016, Ortiz would, at the very least, be at this place on the list, probably higher.)

4. Collectively, the 1984 to 1990 New York Mets, especially the '86 bunch that won the World Series. It was impossible to pick one, although Keith Hernandez comes close. But Gary Carter, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Roger "Second Spitter" McDowell Wally Backman, Howard Johnson, and of course manager Davey Johnson all got under my skin.
I forgave Darryl and Doc because they became Yankee heroes, and each ended up winning more World Series with the Yankees than they did with the Mets. And, post-playing career, it's hard to hate Carter.

But Hernandez? After seeing what he's like as a Met broadcaster, I can tell you this: When he appeared on Seinfeld and played a self-absorbed, preening schmo of a retired baseball player named Keith Hernandez... he was not acting. At all. At least he finally quit smoking. But Walt Frazier is definitely the star of those "Just For Men" ads.

3. Curt Schilling, Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox. In a 1997 Interleague game, he struck out a whole slew of Yankees for the Phils at Veterans Stadium. If that had been the end of it, he wouldn't be here.

But in the 2001 World Series, he blew the Yanks away in Game 1. Then, as the Series move to New York, to the original Yankee Stadium, which has so often been said to have had a "mystique," he said, "You know, Mystique and Aura, those are dancers in a nightclub." He pitched Game 4 and nearly won it, until the late heroics of Tino Martinez and Derek Jeter tied up the Series. In Game 5, there was a sign on the upper-deck railing along first base: "MYSTIQUE AND AURA APPEARING NIGHTLY." (That same fan, in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, had an even better sign: "MYSTIQUE DON’T FAIL ME NOW." It didn't, not that night.)

Schilling was great again for 7 innings in Game 7 back in Phoenix, but gave up what should have been a title-losing homer to Alfonso Soriano. But then D-backs manager Bob Brenly brought in Randy Johnson, who'd won Games 2 and 6, and... let's not go over this again.

In the 2003-04 offseason, he signed with the Sox, and said, "I guess I hate the Yankees now." Fair enough. Before the 2004 ALCS began, he said, "There’s no better feeling than making 55,000 Yankee Fans shut up." Fair enough. But to then actually do it...

And I wonder, were all his 2004-onward injuries the result of steroids? Because steroids would explain a lot of things with him, although it may not explain his personality. God knows plenty of athletes have twisted personalities and may also be accused of steroid use. (Right, Roger?)

But Schilling isn't just a bad person: He's also a bad teammate. Remember him covering up when Mitch Williams pitched Game 6 of the ’93 World Series? A display of no confidence. (It wasn't the same thing when Andy Pettitte did it to John Wetteland in '96: Pettitte was just nervous. If there's one thing Schill has never been, it's nervous in a ballpark.) Phillies general manager Ed Wade, before even trading him to Arizona, said, "One day out of five, he's a horse; the other four, he's a horse's ass."

And I don't want to hear that he works with the ALS charity: He likes getting his punky mug on TV. And he named his son Gehrig. Not "Louis Gehrig Schilling," or even "Henry Louis Gehrig Schilling," but "Gehrig Schilling." How many times has that kid since been punched or kicked in the schoolyard, hearing, "Did that hurt, Iron Man? You gonna ask out of the lineup tomorrow? What's the matter, why can't you fight back? You paralyzed or something?" Actually, more likely, the kid is going to grow up to be a bully like his father.

Dishonorable Mention: Randy Johnson, Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks. For the 1995 Playoffs, the 2001 World Series, and for giving the Yankees the most useless 17-win season any pitcher has ever had, in 2005. And for having the only combination of mullet and hat-hair I've ever seen. If you gotta put Schilling on this list, and you gotta put him on this list, then you gotta at least mention the Big Unit.

Further Dishonorable Mention: Collectively, the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks. Matt Williams, who I used to like a lot, was named as a steroid user in the Mitchell Report. We can be pretty sure that Luis Gonzalez used steroids. I wouldn't put it past either Schilling or Johnson. So if any Yankee title from 1996 through the 2004 collapse is suspect, then so is the '01 Snakes' title. So is any title won by a team with Ivan Rodriguez on it, including the 2003 Marlins, and the A.L. West titles won by the Texas Rangers in '96, '98 and '99. (Hello, Juan Gonzalez.)

2. Mark Messier, New York Rangers. Lex Luthor himself. I don’t think I have to explain why he's on this list. And remember: He’s not only the Hair Club Team Captain, he’s also a client!
Dishonorable Mention: Scott Gomez, New York Rangers. He helped the Devils win 2 Cups, and was a wonderful player and a great guy. Now, he's just another piece of Ranger Scum -- and the only reason he's not really on this list is that he hasn't helped the Rangers win anything yet. And he never will, because the RANGERS SUCK!

(UPDATE: Gomez later returned to the Devils, and most Devils fans, myself included, forgave him. Messier? Never.)

That’s quite a sordid collection of characters. Number 1? Drumroll, please...

1. Pedro Martinez. Can there be anyone else? A Dodger, a Red Sock and a Met, which ought to be enough to get him into the Top 100 even if he were a nice guy.

He is not. We have the video evidence of him being guilty of the following crimes: Attempted murder (possibly multiple counts), assault (definitely multiple accounts), threatening to commit assault (and possibly to commit murder), and, of course, cockfighting -- not that we could enforce the last, since it was in another country.
Pedro, Schill and Papi

He’ll make the Hall of Fame, because he has over 3,000 strikeouts, and his winning percentage and earned-run average are very close to being the best of all time. But I tell you this: If O.J. Simpson said that Pedro the Fenway Punk was "the real killer," I might actually believe O.J. Of course, if Pedro ever did commit murder, instead of a Bronco chase, the Massachusetts State Police would have given him an escort to Logan Airport and paid his airfare to Santo Domingo.

By the way, how did that free-agent signing work out for the Mets?

You Don't Leave 15 Men On Base at Fenway

There are certain things you just... don't... do.

With apologies to fans of the late Jim Croce...

You don't tug on Superman's cape.

You don't spit into the wind.

You don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger.

And you don't leave 15 men on base at Fenway Park.

The leadoff man in the 1st. Men on first and second in the 2nd, and again in the 3rd. Man on third in the 4th. Man on second in the 5th, and again in the 7th. Man on third in the 8th. In the 9th, the Yankees had the bases loaded with no one out, then came a double play, still man on third with two out, and no runs scored. Man on third in the 10th. The leadoff man in the 11th, becoming man on second with one out. None of the aforementioned scored.

And there's one other thing you just don't do, especially if your name is Joe and you manage the New York Yankees.

You don't bring Mariano Rivera in until the 9th. Never, ever in the 8th.

Once again, the way to beat Mariano is to hope and pray the Yankee manager has a major case of brain lock, and brings him in at any time in the 8th, and then hit one up the middle on him in the 9th. The 2001 World Series, the 2004 ALCS, and this isn't the first regular-season example of it, either. If Girardi brings in someone else for the 8th and Mo pitches the 9th, this doesn't happen, and the final score is Yanks 4, Red Sox 2.

"Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." -- Georges Santayana.

I don't know if Santayana was a baseball fan -- coming from Spain, he probably wasn't -- but Girardi failed to learn from history, and he doomed the Pinstripes in what should have been a statement game for us. Red Sox 5, Yankees 4.

What really hurts is that Mariano burned the Fat Man -- who looked decidedly thinner in this post-steroid era, did you notice that? -- with a high fastball, very high, no smart hitter would have swung at it, for strike three to lead off the 9th. That was a great sign. And he got the second out. But then came that liner back up the middle, and then Jason Bay's drive that juuuuuuuust hit the top of the Green Monster and came down, to tie it up. As the old Yankee pitcher Lefty Gomez said, "I'd rather be lucky than good." Gomez was both, and, last night, so was Bay.

And then, in the top of the 10th, with a man on third and two outs, Mark Teixeira does the exact same thing that Ortiz did: Swing for strike three at a pitch way too high. Sometimes, you just know. I didn't just know when Bay hit that homer, but when Tex struck out on such a ridiculous pitch from that preening schmo Papelbon, I just knew the Yankees were going to lose. It was just a matter of when and how.

When was the bottom of the 11th. How was a home run from Kevin Youkilis. On a 2-2 count, no less.

I can't blame Damaso Marte, even though he's been awful so far this season. I blame Joe Girardi for bringing in Mo in the 8th. You just don't do that.

I don't like Youkilis. He's a whiny bastard. Which is probably why Red Sox fans love him, because they're whiny bastards too.

Yeah, I've been reading a lot of those British soccer blogs. At least I didn't use the words "cunt" or "twat." But then, Josh "Super Punk" Beckett pitches today, so be on the alert.

This time, we better not leave a platoon on base.

And did you notice? The Curse of Kay struck again. He named the Yankee bullpen, collectively, as Player of the Game as the bottom of the 9th started. And then...

I can't stand Michael Kay. Keep him for CenterStage on the YES Network, but let Ken Singleton and the various late-'90s Yankees (O'Neill, Cone, etc.) be the color commentators. Get rid of Kay!

At least the Rangers got their heads handed to them by the Washington Capitals last night. I still hate the fucking Rangers more than I hate the goddamned Red Sox. (Or is that the goddamned Rangers and the fucking Red Sox?)

Or do I? Yeah, for the moment, I do. After all, say what you want about Super Punk Beckett: At least he has talent, unlike Supreme Twat Sean Avery. Oops, I guess I used one of the British soccer blog words.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Shut the Fat Man's Fat Mouth, Beat the Damn Sox!

So... What could possibly make me forget about that incredible game last night? The Devils scored 1 goal, and the Mets scored 8 runs, and guess which one won?

There were 85 shots in the game, both teams combined. Final score, Devils 1, Carolina Hurricanes 0. David Clarkson with the only goal. Martin Brodeur ties Patrick Roy's record with his 23rd Playoff shutout. The Devils go up 3-2 and need one more to move on to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, probably against the Philly-Pitt winner.

This is what Playoff hockey is all about. All 5 games so far have been decided by one goal, two of them in overtime and one, literally, at the last second of regulation. Whichever team wins this series, if they go on to win the Stanley Cup, will totally deserve it. Even if it is the rat-bastard Canes.

And yet, as we prepare for the first Yanks-Red Sox series of the 2009 season, David Ortiz said something that totally turned me from thrilled about the Devils' magnificent win to being completely pissed at the Sox. Big Papi thinks that Joba Chamberlain should be a nice guy, and not hit batters, especially that delicate Kevin Youkilis:

"None of that, man -- just play the game the way it's supposed to be, and that's about it," Ortiz said, as quoted by Wallace Matthews in the Murdoch Post. "This is a guy, as good as he is, the next step for him will be to earn respect from everybody in the league. He's not a bad guy, but when things like that happen, people get the wrong idea."

As Lisa Swan wrote in the New York baseball blog Subway Squawkers:

<< Perhaps Ortiz should have a talk with Josh Beckett about how to play the game the right way. If you'll remember, last week Beckett celebrated Easter Sunday last week by:

1) Taking forever in a Red Sox-Angels game to throw a pitch,

2) Getting irritated when Bobby Abreu called for time,

3) Throwing the ball inches above Abreu's head,

4) Storming off the mound and walking towards home plate to argue when the usually unflappable Abreu took offense,

5) Getting to stay in the game despite all this, when Angels who argued with him were thrown out,

6) Griping that anybody would read anything untoward into what he did,

7) Suggesting the Angels' angry reaction had to do with the death of Nick Adenhart,

8) Complaining over getting disciplined at all, even when his six-game suspension was reduced to five games.

Then again, I'm quite sure that Big Papi has had a stern talk with the Big Twit - Beckett - about just playing the game ''the way it's supposed to be," right? After all, "when things like that happen," like at that Easter Sunday game, "people get the wrong idea." >>

Well, I have to disagree with Lisa about one thing. Let us not call Beckett the Big Twit. I've already begun to call him Super Punk, and I like that better. (Just trying to add a little levity here.)

Where was the Boston Fat Man's outrage when Pedro Martinez was throwing 95+ MPH heaters at Yankees' heads? And hands? In back-to-back at-bats in a 2003 game -- Ortiz was already on the Sox, so this is not one of those Pedro the Punk moments he didn't see -- Pedro hit both Alfonso Soriano and Derek Jeter on the wrist. Put them both in the damn hospital. In some ways, Soriano has never been the same.

And where was Big Sloppy when Pedro grabbed a 72-year-old man, Don Zimmer, by the head and threw him to the ground? Where was Papi when Bronson Arroyo plunked Alex Rodriguez (who doesn't always deserve it), starting that fight when Jason Varitek cowardly left his mask at mitt on and sucker-punched A-Rod? (At least when Graig Nettles coldcocked Bill Lee in 1976, he was man enough to leave his face exposed.) Where was Ortiz for every other Sox plunking of batters, Yankee and otherwise?

That's it. It is time to stop pretending that David Ortiz is a good guy who happens to play for a team a lot of people hate. We can now officially lose all respect for him. If he rips Joba for doing much less than Super Punk Beckett, then he's not the good guy we grudgingly presumed him to be. He's just another Chowdahead, and if one of theirs throws at one of ours, then Ortiz is the obvious target -- even if he is a big fat shell of his former intimidating self.

They want to send a message, let's show enough spine to send one right back: We're as mad as hell, and we're not going to take your crap anymore.

To think, the Mets and Rangers are both playing tonight, but, for the moment, I don't hate either of them as much as I hate the Red Sox.

Shred the cunty bastards.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Melkman Delivers, But What About the Pitchers?


Bottom of the 14th, and Melky Cabrera, whom some of us had given up for dead -- and who looks strange wearing Number 53 instead of the 28 he's had thus far, why would you move up to a higher number? -- hits one out off Dan Giese, whom some of us wanted us to keep, for a two-run walkoff home run. Yankees 9, Oakland Athletics 7.

This followed three and a third scoreless innings of relief by Jose Veras. That was good to see. But, again, CC Sabathia didn't have it, allowing 6 runs in 6 innings.

A.J. Burnett has been fantastic. Andy Pettitte, for the moment, has found the fountain of youth. But C.C. has not come as advertised except in his second start, Chien-Ming Wang has fallen apart, Joba Chamberlain has been inconsistent, and the bullpen, oy vey...

Mariano Rivera has remained the Silent Assassin. Brian Bruney and Jonathan Albaledejo have settled down after tough beginnings. Veras, Phil Coke, Edwar Ramirez, all consistently inconsistent (as Yogi Berra might say). And Damaso Marte, the designated get-lefties-out guy, has been hideous. Then, of course, there's the very effective reliever named Nick Swisher.

Look, the bats have not been the problem at the start of this season. Melky, Swisher, Robinson Cano and Johnny Damon are all batting over .300. Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada have been solid. Mark Teixeira hasn't hit much, but when he has it's gotten runs home, and besides his fielding has been super. Hideki Matsui is the disappointment as far as hitting is concerned, and he's been hurt again. What has happened to this once very durable player?

No, I'm not bothered by the hitting or the defense. It's the pitching. It hasn't worked.

Yes, I know, it's early. The hitters, all over baseball, are usually ahead of the pitchers by this point. And, yes, unlike the last three seasons, the Yankees have not gotten off to a dreadful start. They're only a game and a half out of first, one in the loss column. So far, this is not a time to worry.

But it is a time for concern. The pitching, starting and relief alike, has got to get better. Today is a day off, and then... Boston. That little green pinball machine off Kenmore Square. And the Red Sox have the exact same record as the Yankees, 9-6, also just 1 back of Toronto in the loss column. They must be dealt with, and harshly, lest the as-yet-appealing Josh "Super Punk" Beckett decide to be a headhunting twat again. Or any other Boston pitcher, for that matter.

Friday night at 7: Joba against Jon Lester. If Joba is on his game, this could be a great matchup.

Saturday afternoon at 4 (the Fox Game of the Week, of course): A.J. against Beckett. If both decide to be pitchers instead of headhunters (shouldn't be a problem for A.J.), it could be another great pitching matchup.

Sunday night at 8 (The ESPN Game of the Week, natch): Pettitte vs. Justin Masterson.

Yanks vs. Sox. The Hundred Year War. Let's get it on, ya Chowdahead Bastards!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Okay, I'll Call It "Yankee Stadium"

As of 9 hours ago, I had never been to the home field of the New York Yankees. That hadn't been true in 31 years.

On May 27, 1978, 8 years into my life, and 55 years into the tenure of the original version of the building, my mother and grandmother took me to Yankee Stadium for my 1st major league baseball game. We came out of the Subway, and I looked up at what Jacob Ruppert's Monument Park Plaque calls "this imposing edifice," and, as so many others had before me and would after me, said, "Wowwww... " We sat in the upper deck in Section 17, on the right-field line, and seeing that amazing panaroma, again, I said, "Wowwww... "

Unfortunately, Reggie Jackson got hurt in the 4th, and Ed Figueroa ran out of gas in the 9th, and the Yankees lost 4-1 to the Toronto Blue Jays, a second-year expansion team.

On April 19, 2009, 4 games into the tenure of the building I had been calling "the George M. Steinbrenner Memorial Coliseum" -- even though The Boss is still alive and was at the opener -- I made it in.

I walked up to a ticket window I'd never seen before -- which is why I didn't order online, since I had no idea where the Will Call window is at the new place -- and the closest they could get me was a $23 seat (hey, that price is fine by me), in Section 431a.

"Section 431a"? I know Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia had a 700 Level, but since when do seating sections need to add an "a" or a "b"?

In the old Stadium, that would have been around Section 26, in the upper deck, almost right across from where I sat that first day -- 31 years, 5 Presidents, 8 Pennants and 5 World Championships ago. As far as it was, the view was fantastic.

Here are the improvements, in the order in which I discovered them:

* Wider concourses.
* Better escalators.
* Elevators.
* Betting sight lines. No longer do you have to go up a tunnel to see what's going on: You can see it from the concourses.
* More and bigger bathrooms. This was a huge reason George wanted a new Stadium.
* More and bigger gift shops. Not really important, but nice.
* Legroom, glorious legroom. Neither the old Stadium nor Shea Stadium had sufficient legroom at the seats. I didn't realize just how much legroom the new Stadium had until I was already on the bus back home, and the woman next to me happened to be a Yankee Fan, and I mentioned it to her. (Sadly, she was not only married, but much older.)
* Bigger video screen. Not that I especially cared, but it was an incredible high-definition picture.
* More concession stands, including specialty stands like pizza, Southern barbecue, Latin America foods, sushi, and, believe this, "nostalgia beers." Schaefer, Schlitz, and the old Yankee sponsor Ballantine.

The things I don't like about the new Stadium were few, but should be mentioned:

* Monument Park. As with the old Stadium, you've got to get there very early or it will be closed.
* The Yankees Museum. Same situation, except it remains open all game long. I saw the line for it and said, "Forget it, I can see it some other time." As with Monument Park, this could, once I see it, be moved from the "don't like" to the "like" category. (UPDATE: It did.)
* Getting upstairs, and back downstairs. The ramps and escalators seemed hard to find.
* The out-of-town scoreboard. Still not programmed to show all games in progress, so they rotated. At the old Stadium, this couldn't be helped; at the new one, they had years to plan this.
* The food prices. That could have been predicted, since ballpark food, like movie theater food, is much more expensive than in the real world, and the 2 New York parks of my youth were the worst of all in this regard. Still...

Remember Jackrabbit Slim's, the nostalgia diner in Pulp Fiction? Uma Thurman orders a milkshake that costs $5.00. John Travolta asks for a taste, and says, "I just wanna see what a five-dollar milkshake tastes like." He tries it, and says, "Daaaamn! I don't know if it's worth five bucks, but that's a great f---in' milkshake!" (Note: This was before I decided it was okay to use profanity in my blog.)

At Yankee Stadium II... $7.00. Needless to say, I didn't plunk down the spondolas for it.

And those nostalgia beers I mentioned? In cans (yuck, aluminum rubbing off into the drink) and ten bucks. Ten freakin' dollars for a can of old-time beer?

In the end, what matters is, did I enjoy the experience? Yes. Absolutely. I will miss my old friend, but I made a new friend today.

A couple of times, I looked out across 161st Street at the old Stadium, and at the insult-to-injury of the back wall of the Bleachers being the first part to be demolished -- yeah, stick it to the Bleacher Creatures, the biggest fans of them all -- and nearly started crying. I managed to pull myself together.

After the game, I walked over, put my hand on the River Avenue wall of the Bleachers, and promised my old friend that he would never be forgotten. Much like "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out On Broadway)," which Billy Joel sang at a Yankee Stadium concert in 1990, a dystopian fantasy that included the Yankees getting out and picked up for free:

There are not many who remember.
They say a handful still survive
to tell the world about
the way the lights went out
and keep the memory alive.

The new Stadium, I told it, "You did nothing wrong. You're doing everything you should do."

Including, in my case, something the old Stadium couldn't give me: A win in my first visit.

*

The Yankees played the Cleveland Indians, three days after a 10-2 disaster in the first game in the new Stadium, and less than 21 hours after a 22-4 "oy gevalt" game that included 14 Indian runs in the 2nd inning.

Within 2 minutes of coming out of the Subway station, I saw perhaps the most famous Yankee Fan of them all -- or, at least, the best-known Yankee Fan who isn't already known for something else: Freddy Shuman, a.k.a. "Freddy Sez." Definitely somebody who had to make it across the street.
I heard somebody tell him, "Freddy, you can't retire!" And I said, "Retire? Retire? At this rate, we may need Freddy to pitch!"

Based on the 15-5 disaster in Tampa earlier in the week, we've already seen Nick Swisher pitch a scoreless inning, and in both the 10-2 and the 22-4 losses to Cleveland, fans chanted, "We want Swisher!" I don't blame them.

Carl Pavano, Mr. Disabled List himself, started for the Indians, and took a perfect game into the 4th. And the Indians led, 3-0. Cue Vince Lombardi: "What the hell's goin' on out here?"

In the 4th, the Yankees scored to make it 3-1. But Pavano kept the lead through 6th, and got the hell booed out of him. At one point, there was a mound conference, and I yelled out, "Whatsa matter, Pavano, did ya break a nail?"

Actually, that's not that funny: A broken fingernail is a problem for a pitcher. (Especially if he throws the knuckleball, although Pavano doesn't.) But it got a laugh from the fans around me.

A.J. Burnett started for the Yankees, but didn't really have it. While he kept the Indians from another blow-us-out-of-the-yard game, he also walked 7 batters. Jonathan Albaledejo relieved him in the 7th, and finished the inning without incurring any further damage.

In the bottom of that inning, the Yanks got to within 3-2, and then Jorge Posada, not starting because he's the catcher and it was a day game after a night game, pinch-hit for Jose Molina. And he hit one deep to right field, it was high, it was far, it was...

Argued over by Indians manager Eric Wedge. He claimed a fan had interfered. And so, for the first time in a baseball game I attended live, instant replay was used. (The rule says it can only be used to determine whether a play was a home run or not.)

The replay showed a fan reaching out over the fence, much like Jeffrey Maier in the 1996 Playoffs. But the ball didn't hit him. It hit the fan next to him, bouncing off his chest and back down onto the field. That fan barely moved, and did not reach out over the fence with any part of his body. The umps, led by crew chief and plate umpire Jerry Crawford, ruled, "Home Run." 4-3 Yankees, and the 43,000 fans on hand went nuts.

Just 43,000 in the 50,000-seat new Stadium? Most of the empty seats were down close, the most expensive ones. I guess the Yanks are having trouble selling them.

Nick Swisher, for whom I chanted, "MVP!", struck out 3 times before coming to bat to lead off in the 8th, but he doubled, starting another 3-run rally.

Albaledejo stood to be the winning pitcher. Brian Bruney relieved him in the 8th, and got 'em out 1-2-3. Mariano Rivera entered for the 9th to his usual thunderous ovation, and slammed the door.

Final score, Yankees 7, Indians 3. Cue John Sterling: "Ballgame over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeee Yankees win!" Cue Frank Sinatra: "Start spreading the news... etc., etc., etc."

And, after all those hits and all those runs in the first and third games of the series, the Indians walk away from this series with... a split. Congratulations, Tribe.

Another great memory for me at Yankee Stadium. Even if it wasn't at the only Yankee Stadium I'd ever known until now.

The new Yankee Stadium gets my approval. Even if the way we got to it does not.

To paraphrase an old Brooklyn Dodger fan, Humphrey Bogart, "New Yankee Stadium, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

(I had previously thought Bogie was a Yankee Fan, but a few years after I posted this, his son, Stephen Bogart, confirmed to me through the official Twitter feed that he runs for his father that the great man supported the Dodgers.)

Friday, April 17, 2009

5 Booms + 4 Good Relievers = 1 Yankee Win


Muuuuuuuuch better. Joba Chamberlain did not have a good start, but four relievers -- starting with yesterday's much maligned Phil Coke (but no smile) and ending with the Silent Assassin, Mariano Rivera, did the job, and five homers -- by Johnny Damon, Mark Teixeira, Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter -- led the way this afternoon.

Yankees 6, Indians 5. 6-5 also happens to be the Yankees record effective with this game. Not great, but better than it could be.

Now, no one can ever again -- at least, not for another few decades -- say that the Yankees have never won at their current home park. The strange thing is, for the 1st time in 31 years, the truth is that I have never seen a game at the home park of the New York Yankees. Hopefully, I'll be able to remedy that soon.

The bats have been getting the job done. It's the pitching that's been the problem. You gotta have good pitching. Maybe it's not 75 percent of baseball like the old adage goes (or is that an "old axiom"? or an "old wives' tale"?), but it's pretty damn important.

I still didn't want to leave the old Stadium. But everything I've actually seen of the new Stadium on TV and in newspapers looks fantastic. And most of the TV shots, looking at the batter, and around the outfield wall (the ads can certainly be arranged the same), look a lot like the Stadium I knew -- even if the Stadium I knew hadn't had the facade/frieze/whatever the correct term is around the rim since 1973.

Keep it coming, Pinstripes. And let's go Devils tonight in Game 2 against the Canes!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Real "Curse of the Bambino"? Horrible Opening Day

Oy vey.

In the 7th inning, the 1st official game at the new "Yankee Stadium" was still Yankees 1, Cleveland Indians 1. If you'd told me before the game that would be the case, knowing what I know about our hitting and Mariano Rivera, I would have gladly taken that.

As ESPN's Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast, my friend!" First, CC Sabathia, pitching against the team that gave him his start, throws 122 pitches and doesn't even get out of the 6th, and the bullpen lets us fall behind 1-0. Then Jorge Posada hits the 1st home run in the new place, and it's 1-1. But in the 7th, it all blew up on our faces. Final score: Yanks 10, Tribe 2.

This was even worse than the Mets' opener at Pity Field. U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi, you ugly. (Cheerleaders' chant from the film Wildcats.)

This better not be what I think it is: The real "Curse of the Bambino," Babe Ruth being mad that King George moved the Yankees out of his house and using his "baseball god" powers on the current Pinstriped crew.

It took the Boston Celtics 13 years out of the Boston Garden to win a World Championship -- in fact, until 2008 they'd never even gotten to the Conference Finals. The Montreal Canadiens moved out of the Montreal Forum at the same time, and I think they've won exactly one Playoff series since, still stuck on 24 Stanley Cups. (Yeah, there's 29 other teams that would love to be "stuck" like that.) Are the Yankees headed for the same? They'd better not be.

But I hope George was in the house, so he could see just how little the new Stadium he wanted so much helped the team.

At least -- no, at most -- Jorge hit the 1st home run in the new Stadium. He deserves it.

But I am furious at this result. It is completely unacceptable, and I don't care what kind of talent the Indians have. Yes, they're better than last year and their start this year would indicate, but we cannot allow things like this to happen.

The Yanks fall to 5-5, and the only saving grace for this season thus far is that the Red Sox are even worse.

And -- I can't believe I'm typing either half of this statement -- thank you, Commissioner Bud Selig, for suspending that twat Josh Beckett 6 games for his punk-ass behavior the other day. True, it's 6 games, not 6 appearances, meaning he'll likely miss only 1 start. But it's, well, a start. It means that the Red Sox will no longer be able to get away with such nonsense. Thank you, Bud, for teaching that cunt a lesson.

(UPDATE: That turned out to be wishful thinking, as Selig continued to let the Sox get away with that stuff until his 2014 retirement.)

"Twat"? "Cunt"? I've been reading too many British soccer blogs.

Nice job by the Devils in last night's Playoff opener against Carolina. I'll have more to say about them as the Playoffs move on.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Baseball's Start Gets Worse: Farewell to Harry and The Bird

A bad start for baseball got much worse today. We lost Harry Kalas.

One of the great baseball announcers of all time, he called games for the Phillies from the Veterans Stadium opener in 1971, through the near-misses of the late 1970s, to the 1980 World Championship that brought the Phils to the top of the baseball world after 98 years, Steve Carlton's 300th win and 3,000 strikeout, all 548 of Mike Schmidt's home runs including his 500th, no-hitters by Rick Wise, Tommy Greene and Kevin Millwood, the 1983 and 1993 Pennants, the Vet finale, the opening of Citizens Bank Park, and the 2008 World Championship that ended a 25-year drought for the entire city, to the start of the defense of that title.

Harry also narrated most of the Phillies' promotional videos and DVD, including a recent tribute to former partner Richie Ashburn, and some NFL Films work.

Once, happiness was sitting on a bench on a boardwalk overlooking the Jersey Shore, with a slice of pizza in one hand and a bottle of Pepsi in the other, listening to John Sterling and Michael Kay broadcast the Yankees on 770 WABC, then Bob Murphy and Gary Cohen with the Mets on 660 WFAN, and then spinning to 1210 (by whatever call letters) to hear Harry Kalas and Whitey (as Ashburn was known), later Harry and Larry Anderson, call the Phils.

Unlike Ashburn, the Hall of Fame center fielder who died in a New York hotel between games of a Phils-Mets series in 1997, Harry was found where he was happiest, in the broadcast booth, preparing for tonight's game in Washington against the Nationals.

Now, as the man himself might say, Harry the K is... outta here. Rest in peace, old friend.

*

And if that wasn't bad enough, we lost The Bird, Mark Fidrych.
He took the American League by storm in 1976, and when he pitched, the Detroit Tigers, then an awful team in a suffering city, went from an average attendance of 14,000 at already-creaky Tiger Stadium to 40,000. His start on ABC's Monday Night Baseball on June 28 was a national phenomenon, and he beat the soon-to-be-Pennant-winning Yankees 5-1.

He was just 21 years old, and he was as amazed by it as anyone else. He went 19-9 that year, led the AL in earned run average, and started for it in the All-Star Game. But it wasn't just that he was talented. He was also a big character.

He tried to explain that he would talk to himself on the mound, saying things like, "Settle down, you're getting too nervous." But somehow, it got around that he was "talking to the ball," telling it where he wanted it to go. He would smooth out the mound. He would walk over to an infielder who'd made a great play and shake his hand.

You see, in baseball, which has so often been culturally behind the times -- the world's 1970s were baseball's "Sixties" -- this was considered weird. What's wrong with thanking your fielder for making a great play, or fixing the mound the way you want it?

In spring training the next season, Fidrych, known as "the Bird" because his curly blond hair reminded someone of the Sesame Street character Big Bird -- hurt his knee. Trying to favor it, he hurt his shoulder, tearing his rotator cuff. The amazing thing is -- forgive me if this sounds like a Yogi Berra line -- when he could pitch, he could still pitch. He had a nine-strikeout, no-walk 2-1 win over the Yankees that season. But he couldn't pitch without pain often enough, and that was his last season of any productiveness. After 1980, he was done, a nobody at 21, a superstar at 22, a has-been at 24.

The amazing thing about Fidrych is that he didn't look at his career as tragic. Even though he got hurt and left baseball before salaries really took off, he had the attitude of, "So what, it's not the end of the world, I've got another life." And for about 30 years, he did have another life, running a farm and a gas station in western Massachusetts. He thought it was a good life, and who are we to doubt him?

Still, he accepted that baseball fans liked him, and participated in old-timers' games, the Tiger Stadium finale in 1999, things like that. I know this is going to sound like another Yogi-ism -- so what, Yogi was a character, too, and still is -- but it was good that the good things that happened to him happened to him.
Fidrych at the Tiger Stadium finale in 1999.

Things like this often happen in threes. If anyone knows Ken Harrelson, or Bill Lee, or Jimmy Piersall, or anybody who is (or was) an announcer or a colorful ex-player (or both), tell him to be careful!

So long, gentlemen. Harold Norbert Kalas, 1936-2009. Mark Steven Fidrych, 1954-2009.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Bad Start for Baseball


Never, ever again start a baseball season on a Sunday night, especially in a cold-weather city like Philadelphia.

Always start the season in Cincinnati, or Washington with the President throwing out the first ball, as tradition says.

The President wasn't even available this time, so it didn't even matter that the Washington Nationals started the season on the road.

The Yankees got bad opening starts by CC Sabathia and Chien-Ming Wang, before this afternoon's fine start by A.J. Burnett. At least the bats are working so far.

And now, three games into the season for most teams, an active player has died. Nick Adenhart, just hours after pitching six shutout innings for the Angels, was killed in a car crash. He was only 22 years old.

To make matters worse, I'd never heard of him before. I hate when that happens, on top of feeling awful upon hearing of someone's death. Rest in peace, 1986-2009.

And seeing "1986" as the date of birth for someone who's died was also pretty chilling.

*

Congratulations to the University of North Carolina for winning another National Championship of college basketball. Roy Williams is a class act.

My college basketball picks are usually awful, but of my Final Four picks, two didn't make it, but the other two met in the Final, and the one I wanted to win it all, Carolina, did, over Michigan State.

Didn't you wish that Michael Jordan would suit up for the Heels and Magic Johnson for the Spartans? Just for a few minutes? Just for fun?

Yeah, right, as Jordan suggested in his Hall of Fame acceptance speech, for him, "fun" is all about fueling his competitive juices. Maybe his post-playing reputation hasn't taken the hit of, say, Pete Rose's, but his halo is tarnished.

I'm going to the Devils' regular-season finale on Saturday. After winning 22 of 27, they've now dropped 8 of 10. Not encouraging for the upcoming Playoffs, but at least they'll go in as Atlantic Division Champions and get a good seed.

Have the Nets given up on Brooklyn yet? The Devils and Seton Hall would love to have the Nets join them on Mulberry Street.

Do the Jets have a quarterback yet, or is the drive to clone Namath on yet?