Monday, August 31, 2009

My Joba Rules

The Chicago White Sox have a lot of talent, but they're struggling at the moment. You never know when manager Ozzie Guillen is going to be a mad genius, or just a madman. And they just fell in three terrible-looking games at Yankee Stadium II.

That is, the games were terrible -- unless you're a Yankee Fan. As I am.

Friday night, Robinson Cano hits a walkoff home run. Very good. Saturday afternoon, Sergie Mitre and Chad Gaudin combine on a one-hitter, and the bats do their job, 10-0. Very good. Sunday afternoon, a tight 3-2 game becomes an 8-2 game in the 7th, including Mark "the Eyes" Teixeira channeling his inner Maurice Richard (ever see a picture of the Rocket -- and I don't mean Roger Clemens -- with the puck? Scary guy) "sending a Teix message" as John Sterling would say, on the way to an 8-3 win. Wiping out the White Sox. Sweeping the ChiSox. Pounding the Pale Hose.

I have no hatred for the White variety of Sox, but as Tim Robbins (sadly, a Met fan) would say, "I love winnin', man, I fuckin' love winnin'. Ya hear what I'm sayin'? It's, like, better than losin'!"

But one thing bothers me a great deal about yesterday's game. Joba Chamberlain was scheduled to start, and for three innings he was fine. But, once again, "The Joba Rules" were changed in order to baby him -- I mean, protect him, and Joe Girardi took him out. His idea? Someone else's? Does it matter?

I'm thisclose to saying the Yankees should get rid of Joba. Not because he can't get the job done, but because they won't let him get the job done. What good is a starting pitcher if you're only going to throw him for three innings? What kind of strategy is that?

Even Billy Martin never tried a stunt like that! Putting a pitcher 7th in the batting order as a DH? Check (1988 -- I was there, and it worked, Rick Rhoden hit a sac fly in a Yank win over Baltimore). A good-fielding pitcher as an emergency outfielder? Check (Ron Guidry in the pine-tar replay in '83 -- I wasn't there for that one). Best home-run hitter of the era on the bench until a righthanded reliever comes in and then send him in as a pinch-hitter? Check ('77 Pennant-clincher in Kansas City, Billy didn't want to risk Reggie against lefty Paul Splittorff, but Reggie hit an RBI single off Doug Bird).

It was Lou Piniella rather than Billy who put Don Mattingly in at third base in an injury-caused emergency in Seattle in '86 -- and, unlike the Yankees when Curt Schilling had that ankle injury in the '04 ALCS, the Mariners bunted on Mattingly! And it didn't work: I was watching it on TV, and he spun around and fielded it just fine. Let's see Keith Hernandez, also a lefty thrower, try THAT! (And the Yanks came from 12-5 down to win the thing, 13-12! Late night.)

But this... Joba only pitches three innings? For what? Saving his arm? Isn't that like giving a car a "jackrabbit start"? It's one thing if he gets knocked out of the box, but he was pitching fine!

Yankee management -- and I mean the Steinbrenner sons, Gene Michael, Brian Cashman and whoever else makes these decisions -- has got to decide what to do with Joba. Either make him a real starter, and ask him to throw 6 to 9 innings every start, never mind how many pitches or innings he throws, just do the best you can on that day; or make him a reliever; or trade him to someone who thinks he can help them and get someone useful in return. But pick one method of using him and stick with it, so he (and everyone else) knows what the role will be.

Because, right now, the Yankees are messing up a very talented but very emotional kid who could still turn out to be one of the defining pitchers of the 2010s. Either use him as a real starter, or use him as a reliever, or get rid of him! Fish or cut bait! Maybe some other team will do him some good, but, right now, the Yankees are doing him no favors!

That's my "Joba Rules": Pick one set of rules and stick with it!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mike Dean: Worst Sports Official On the Planet

I'm glad the Yankees have won their last two games with an extra-inning walkoff homer by Robinson Cano and a brilliant combined one-hitter by Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin, with 10 runs of support. But I have to rant about soccer for a moment. Or, if you prefer, football. Or futbol.

It is just me, or does the bald head, the bare legs, the authoritarian manner and the just not giving a damn who gets hurt so long as he gets what he wants make anyone else think Mike Dean resembles Vladimir Putin?

Dean is a referee -- I'm being very, very loose with the language here -- in the English Premier League, the football league that is the most popular sports league on the planet. He's bald, he's blind, the worst official's kind.

And in a game between two of the Premiership's top four teams, Arsenal (for whom I root) and Manchester United (whom every Earthling with any taste loathes to an exceeding degree), at Old Trafford, Man U's ground where anyone in a home red shirt has never committed a foul, Dean handed the game to Man U in the most corrupt example of refereeing I've seen in my (admittedly brief) football-watching experience.

It was 1-0 to The Arsenal in the second half, following a nice goal by the little Russian beast, Andrey Arshavin, when Wayne Rooney, a.k.a. Wooney, a.k.a. The Boy, a.k.a. Shrek, charged the box, and Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia reached for the ball to stop it. It was a clean stop. And then Rooney made an obvious dive. And every Man U fan on the planet -- including those 12 or 14 who actually live in the City of Manchester -- knows it was a dive.

Dean called a foul on Almunia, and gave Rooney a penalty shot, which, of course, he converted. 1-1.

Abou Diaby literally made a boneheaded play, heading the ball into his own net to make it 2-1 ManUre. There's 3,519 miles between my perch here in Central Jersey and Arsenal's home ground at Ashburton Grove, and Diaby should be grateful for every one of them, because I wanted to end his life with my bare hands. Having had 11 hours or so to calm down, I now only want to see him sold to another club. Any other club. Sell the bum to Tottenham if they'll take him. Preferably, a club far, far away. Melbourne Victory or something. (Just my luck, it'll end up being Red Bull New York. At least then, the distance between us will be only a few hundred feet, and I'll be able to tell the bum what I think of him in person.)

When Man U leads after 90 minutes, the refs will give about 12 seconds of injury time. When they are trailing, it's usually more like an hour and a half. But with Man U leading 2-1 at the end, 5 minutes were awarded. And Arsenal, who had so thoroughly dominated until the Rooney dive but had played like crap ever since, continued to play like crap in the added time. But in the 95th minute, Robin van Persie, who has been total garbage so far this season despite being one of my favorite players last season, scored. 2-2, and Arsenal salvage a point they don't really deserve, but which Man U deserved even less, certainly not the 3 points they got for victory.

And Dean's seeing-eye dog barked, and having been so properly signaled, Dean waved off the goal because William Gallas was offside. The hell he was.

(Ironically, on the subway on the way to the place where I watched the game, there was a blind man with a guide dog. But he wasn't a sports official. He would've been better at it than Dean.)

Arsene Wenger, like Joe Torre, hardly ever betrays emotion. He's not a Man of a Thousand Faces, he's a Man of One Face. Also like Torre, he tends to play hunches that usually work shockingly well, but sometimes blow up in his one face. And, also like Torre, he hardly ever argues with officials. This time, he told Dean off, and rightly so. About time his players see that he has their back when they've been stabbed therein by a lying bastard of a referee.

Those of you from England, who may have stumbled upon this blog by accident, thinking it is regularly about the game you call football, please forgive a baseball reference, but...

Mike Dean makes me think of Bruce Froemming. They don't look anything alike, but it doesn't matter. Thank God this blind lunkhead is now retired, but Froemming was the longest-serving and worst umpire in the game's history, 37 years.

In 1972, Milt Pappas of the Chicago Cubs was one out away from a perfect game -- no baserunners allowed. There was a three balls, two strikes count on the last batter, and Pappas put a pitch on the outside corner. Strike three, perfect game, immortality. Except Froemming said it was outside the strike zone, ball four, batter goes to first base. Pappas managed to get the next batter out to save the no-hitter, but the very rare and far greater accomplishment eluded him.

After the game, Pappas, a pretty good pitcher who won over 200 games in his career (but gets tarred as the man the Cincinnati Reds got in sending Hall-of-Famer Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles) actually appealed to Froemming's ego. He said, "Bruce, do you know how many umpires have called a perfect game? You could have been one of them!"

Froemming: "Milt, if I'd called that pitch a strike, I never would have been able to live with myself."

Pappas: "How do you live with yourself with all the other lousy calls you make?"

This bum umpired for another 35 years. He even did a McDonald's commercial. If he were an English ref, we'd be telling him he ate all the pies.

Dean also officiated last year's match between Arsenal and arch-rival Tottenham Hotspur, sending off Emmanuel Eboue (which I understand based on Eboue's play and personality, but it was still a questionable call) and leaving an already injury-riddled Arsenal team to play 10 vs. 11 for what turned out to be, counting injury time, a full 60 minutes. Begging the question, how many Spurs does it take to beat 10 Arsenal? Answer: At least 13, because 12 wasn't enough: Final score, 0-0.

If there is a worse official on the planet, in any sport, than Mike Dean, I'll never believe it. Tim Tschida in baseball? Ed Hochuli in football? Any referee in a Devils-Rangers hockey game? Forget it: Dean is the worst, and I say this having only rooted for the team he screwed yesterday for a little more than a year.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Top 10 False Saviors in New York Sports

Wow, that Johan Santana has really made a difference for the Mets, hasn't he?

I saw a picture of him wearing a leather jacket that looks like it was ripped off of "Life On Mars."

"My name is Sam Tyler. I was in an accident, and I woke up in 1973. The Mets are winning the Pennant, which makes me feel like I'm on a different planet."

Met fans were so sure that Santana was going to make the difference between the September 2007 disaster and the World Series. In two seasons, the Mets have had another September collapse leading to a regular-season finale humiliation, and a train wreck of a season with all kinds of injuries, including bone chips that have now ended the season of The Great Johan Santana.

Then there's Francisco Rodriguez, a.k.a. Frankie, a.k.a. K-Rod. The author of the blog "The Musings and Prophecies of Metstradamus" -- good title and usually well-written, though being a Met fan is clearly a sign of, to put it politely, compromised faculties -- has written:

"I'm starting to get the feeling that Frankie Rodriguez is the Jamie Lee Curtis of the group ... the last one standing after Michael Myers has killed everyone else, while Billy Wagner is the guy who you thought died in the first half hour of the film, only to be that guy who finally drives a stake into the psychopath's heart when he's just about to kill Frankie, then tear both of his hamstrings."

That's Michael Myers, the lead of the Halloween horror films -- not the comedian who starred in the Wayne's World segments of Saturday Night Live and the Austin Powers films. Nor the "submarine" lefthander who helped the Red Sox win a title * and then didn't help the Yankees much.

Shows what you know, Metstradamus: Jamie Lee Curtis is someone I wouldn't mind seeing in any clothes, or none at all -- and she's 50! By contrast, Francisco Rodriguez doesn't look good no matter what he wears!

You'd have to be a psycho to put up with the Mets -- and speaking of Psycho, it starred Jamie Lee's mother, the late great Janet Leigh, and she was something, too. Check her out in full blazing color in Scaramouche: Let's just say that French Revolution-era gowns were made for women like her. (Jamie Lee's father, and Janet's ex-husband, was actor Tony Curtis.)

The Mets, of course, have Susan Sarandon, who still looks great at 63... but the way we know she's a great actress is that anyone who watches the Mets as long as she has, and still "believes in the Church of Baseball" has GOT to be lying!

However, neither Johan Santana nor Francisco Rodriguez makes the following list. Nor do David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran or Alex Rodriguez -- for the simple reason that they are still active, and their stories are not yet complete, therefore they have not yet fully failed.

But there are always "false saviors" in sports, and the New York Tri-State Area has had a few of them. And the effect can be devastating.

If you doubt this, imagine if the Vancouver Canucks had won Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals, and Mark Messier eventually left the Rangers without winning a Stanley Cup. Instead of being the most beloved Ranger of all time, he would be the most hated.

There are no Islanders or Devils on this list. The Islanders haven't really tried to open the vault to get a big star capable of turning the franchise around, regardless of success or failure; and the Devils have been lucky in this particular regard.

Top 10 False Saviors in New York Sports

10. Bobby Bonds. George Steinbrenner actually traded Bobby Murcer, already one of the most popular Yankees ever, to get him from the San Francisco Giants. Now, in late 1974, being traded even-up for Bobby Bonds was not an insult. Far from it: He was a great combination of power and speed, hitting 331 career home runs and stealing 461 bases. One season, he missed becoming the first ever 40 homers/40 steals player by one homer. And when you consider he played the first half of his career in windswept Candlestick Park, and was continually injured for much of the second half of his career, you're looking at a player who could have made the Hall of Fame if things had broken right for him.

But his 1975 season was a bit of a disappointment. He didn't really fit in with New York, the pressure on him to be the next Yankee superstar was immense, and his lefty swing, while ideal for the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium, was less effective in the symmetrical, windy Shea Stadium the Yanks had to use while The Stadium was being renovated.

On December 11, 1975, the Yanks sent Bonds to the California Angels for outfielder Mickey Rivers and pitcher Ed Figueroa -- and also sent pitcher Doc Medich to the Pittsburgh Pirates for pitcher Dock Ellis and a rookie second baseman named Willie Randolph. It may have been the greatest day of trading in Yankee history. Bonds would go on to excel while healthy, but be hurt so much that he became one of the most-traded players ever.

Today, the late Bobby Bonds is best remembered as the father of Barry Bonds. Which is a shame, and not because of anything Barry has done, good or bad: Bobby was a really good player who didn't get an even break. Which is why I put him at Number 10: He doesn't really deserve it. But the hype that went along with him means he has to be on this list.

9. Marvin Webster. Known as "the Human Eraser" for his ability to block shots ("erasing" points from the board), he helped get the Denver Nuggets to the 1976 ABA Finals and the Seattle SuperSonics to the 1978 NBA Finals. Then the Knicks got him. On the cover of their October 16, 1978 issue, Sports Illustrated asked, "CAN MARVIN WEBSTER TURN THE KNICKS AROUND?" That the answer turned out to be "Not by a long shot" is hardly his fault. But that cover made quite an impression. Maybe he got hit by The Dreaded SI Cover Jinx. Sadly, both Marvin and his son, Marvin Jr., who briefly played at Temple, died of heart problems.

8. Phil Esposito. "The Trade" meant bringing one of the greatest scorers and team leaders in hockey history to the Rangers, but it also meant sending two other Hall-of-Famers, Jean Ratelle and Brad Park, to the Boston Bruins, at the time still considered the Rangers' arch-rivals -- although the Islanders had just embarrassed the Rangers in the 1975 Playoffs, and the Bruins haven't really been a Ranger rival since. Espo certainly had quite a bit left, and his talent and presence helped to make the Rangers marketable again, which was particularly important after the disasters (plural) of calendar year 1975, including the rise of the Islanders which eventually led to 4 straight Stanley Cups. Espo led the Rangers to the 1979 Cup Finals, beating the Isles in the Semis, before losing the Finals to the Montreal Canadiens. This was a very big deal, as the Rangers had been to just 2 Finals in the preceding 29 years.

Ultimately, though, Espo couldn't get the Rangers over the hump, either as a player, a head coach or a general manager. He was an honorable failure in New York, but the fact remains that he failed. And that Sasson jeans commercial... All he did for the Bruins, all he did to make the Rangers relevant again, saving Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series... Sorry, Phil, but that commercial will live forever.

7. Ed O'Bannon. He led UCLA to the 1995 National Championship, their only title without John Wooden as coach. The Nets drafted him, needing something big after collapsing from a team that had been pretty good in '92, '93 and '94 but was now ridden with dissension and injuries. How much of a risk could it be? Let's just say that, of all the Nets' blown draft picks, this was the biggest bust when you consider performance divided by hype. Even the late Yinka Dare, a.k.a. the Three-Minute Egg, wasn't as bad from that perspective.

6. Rickey Henderson. The Yankees picked him up for the 1985 season, and he shattered team stolen base records, hit a few big home runs, and solidified his reputation as the greatest leadoff hitter of all time. Unfortunately, he also failed to hit in several key situations, his "snatch catch" was bad enough when it worked and didn't work often enough to notice, and was, quite possibly, the biggest egomaniac in sports.

The Yankees got rid of him in 1989, and when you rattle off the names of the Hall-of-Famers who played for the Yankees, it's easy to forget that Rickey was one of them. In fact, I recommend forgetting it. Essentially, Rickey did nothing for the Yankees, and, despite some impressive stats, the Rickey-in-Pinstripes experience was a total waste. If he'd cared more about the Yankees than about Rickey, 2 games out in '85, 5 1/2 out in '86, 9 out in '87, and 3 1/2 out in '88, might've been a very different story.

5. Jaromir Jagr. If I were making this list for Washington, D.C. -- or even the Baltimore-Washington corridor combined -- "Dude Looks Like a Lady" might top the list. I think the reason he stayed so thin is that the only thing he ate as a Ranger was the Dolan family's money. He may have set a Ranger team record with 54 goals in 2006, but his Cup seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins seemed like a lifetime ago. He's scored 646 goals in his NHL career -- and, at 37, it might not be over yet -- but is there any other player in the 500 Goals Club, let alone with as many or more than Jagr, who is more lightly regarded?

4. Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens. I lump these two together -- I really wish I could lump those two together -- because of the hype they brought to my team, and the results thereof.

When Johnson pitched for Seattle in the 1995 Division Series, he made the difference for the Mariners, every bit as much as Ken Griffey, Edgar Martinez or Tino Martinez. When he pitched for Arizona in the 2001 World Series, he saved the Diamondbacks' skins and beat the Yankees. But when he arrived here, the Big Unit was a big flop. He put together the two most useless 17-win seasons any Yankee pitcher has ever had. He was moody at best, nasty at worst, and his injuries and his collapses in Game 3 of the Division Series of both 2005 and 2006 were unacceptable. That he has gone on to pitch elsewhere, and well, and join the 300 Wins Clubs, and surpass Clemens to be 2nd on the all-time strikeout list makes it even sicker.

As for Clemens, it seems like an odd thing to say, calling him a "false savior" after what he did for the Yankees from 1999 to 2003. Ah, but I think you've guessed what I'm really talking about here. This list is not just about failure, it's about performance divided by hype. Remember the hype when he returned to the Yankees in 2007? Making the announcement at the 7th-inning stretch? Suzyn Waldman reacting to it as if it was the Summer of '64 and she'd just been kissed by a Beatle? And the results, well, let's just say that Tom Glavine wasn't the only 300-game winner to end his New York days on an incredibly sour note that season. As Yogi Berra might say, the good news is that Roger's meltdown happened in the Playoffs... but the bad news is that Roger's meltdown happened in the Playoffs. And he's never pitched again, nor should he.

If I never saw either the Big Unit or the Rocket again, I could live with it.

3. Pedro Martinez. If you believe Met fans, signing the Fenway Punk was the message that was sent to the rest of baseball that the Mets were serious about trying to win again, so come on and sign with the Mets! It didn't work out, largely because Pedro kept getting hurt. And now, the Punk is doing a good job with the Philadelphia Phillies, who have become the Mets' rivals in ways the Atlanta Braves could never truly be.

Isn't that just like a player, to be great both before and after being a Met, but not during? Then again, the 1993 Mets should have taught you that: Eddie Murray, Bobby Bonilla, Vince Coleman, Jeff Kent, Tony Fernandez, Jeromy Burnitz. I almost made them a collective entry on this list.

2. Brett Favre. The Jets have been unlucky in many areas, but they'd never really had a false savior until Brett Favre came along. Brett Favre got them to 8-3 in 2008, and it looked like they might win the AFC East and play a January game or two "at home" at the Meadowlands. Final record, 9-7, and Brett Favre was largely responsible. Brett Favre got hurt. Brett Favre was totally useless. Brett Favre threw a season away. Make no mistake, Brett Favre should have retired after the previous season when he had the chance.

Brett Favre is no longer the Jets' problem. And getting Brett Favre might not turn out to be such a disaster: After all, if Mark Sanchez turns out to be a great pro quarterback, then it would be a direct result of the spectacularly failed Brett Favre experiment: It would make Brett Favre the Jets' Ken Phelps, and Sanchez the Jets' Paul O'Neill.

Who's the biggest false savior in New York sports history? It's not Brett Favre, he whose name always seems to be used in full. No, there can be only one.

1. Patrick Ewing. When NBA Commissioner David Stern rigged the first-ever NBA Draft Lottery in 1985 to ensure that New York got the first pick -- excuse me, when Mr. Stern announced that the Knicks had won the first pick -- everyone knew the Knicks were going to take the most celebrated college basketball player of the first half of the 1980s, Patrick Ewing, the 7-foot center who had taken Georgetown University of Washington, D.C. to three National Championship Games -- but, in some unfortunate foreshadowing, had won only one, losing the other two by two points each. The question that Knick fans, desperate for a winner after a season that made the 2009 Mets look like the picture of health by comparison (in particular the spectacular knee injury to the great hope that had been Bernard King, as well as the difficulties of the aforementioned Marvin Webster), were asking at the time was not, "Will Ewing lead the Knicks to an NBA Title?" It was "How many?"

At that moment, Michael Jordan, whose jumper had provided the winning margin over Ewing's Hoyas in the 1982 title game, had completed a not-especially-interesting rookie year for the Chicago Bulls. And Hakeem Olajuwon, who had lost three Final Four appearances with the University of Houston, including being the one team the Hoyas could beat in the Final, in 1984, had just finished his rookie year with the Houston Rockets. Isiah Thomas, who ended up as no friend of Knick fans, had finished his third year with the Detroit Pistons, and was impressive, but the team results just weren't there. If I had told you at that moment that Jordan, Olajuwon and Thomas would, between them, play on 10 NBA Championship teams, and that Ewing would play on exactly none of them, you'd ask me what I was smoking. But I would have been right.

And it's not just that the Knicks as a team, and that Ewing as an individual, frequently choked. It's that Ewing tended to make predictions about the Knicks winning it all. It worked for Joe Namath and the Jets in January 1969. It worked for Mark Messier and the Rangers in May 1994. It never worked for Ewing and the Knickleheads. And, perhaps most damning of all, the Knicks reached their second NBA Finals appearance of the Ewing era with Ewing injured and unable to contribute.

You can say that the Knicks kept running into Jordan and the Bulls; that's a fair argument. But before those Bulls, nearly every great team had a center capable of dominating a game. The Bulls of 1991, '92 and '93 had at center... Bill Cartwright. The same Bill Cartwright who Ewing replaced as Knick center, because Cartwright wasn't good enough. The Knicks thought they could get rid of Cartwright once they brought in their big Hoss, but it was the Bulls who ended up with the bonanza. The Bulls of '96, '97 and '98 had at center... Luc Longley. Like Cartwright, the big Australian was a good center, a solid team player and a decent man. But was anyone really intimidated by either of them? Yeah, apparently, one guy was: Patrick Ewing. The 1990s Bulls proved you could win an NBA Title without having a dominating center, even if your opponents did have a hyped-up center.

There are many reasons that the New York Knickerbockers have fallen short every season since 1973. (The Curse of Sam Tyler, maybe?) But for nearly half of that time, they put their eggs in the basket with the Number 33 on it. The hype was immeasurable. The results were miniscule. Patrick Ewing is the biggest, falsest false savior in New York sports history.

That doesn't make him a bad person -- I leave it to the dancers at Scores who knew how much he tipped to decide that -- but it does make him, as far as his professional basketball career is concerned, a failure. An expensive one, and not just in terms of the Dolan family's money.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Red Sox Fan I Liked

So long, Ted.

The ailing Senator Edward M. (Ted) Kennedy threw out the first ball at the Boston Red Sox' home opener at Fenway Park this season. His grandfather, then-Mayor John F. (Honey Fitz) Fitzgerald threw out the first ball at the very first Fenway game in 1912.

Ted spoke of how the Sox' 1967 "Impossible Dream" season was the last time he, his brother Bobby, and their father Joe, confined by a stroke to a wheelchair, were all together. When the Sox and Minnesota Twins played each other in the regular-season finale, Ted had Vice President Hubert Humphrey, a former Senator from Minnesota, as his guest.

I don't like the Red Sox, and I've written here about how their 2004 and 2007 World Championships are less than legitimate. But I'm glad Ted Kennedy lived long enough to see them win a World Series, by whatever means. He was a real fan.

He also played football at Harvard -- and was much better at it than his brothers. In fact, by the standards of 1950s Ivy League football, he was pretty good. He played end, both ways, making him, in today's terminology, both a tight end and a defensive end. Supposedly, the Green Bay Packers -- a terrible team in those post-Curly Lambeau, pre-Vince Lombardi days -- were willing to give him a tryout, but Joe put the kibosh on it. The University of Michigan retired Gerald Ford's Number 48, I wonder if Harvard will retire Ted's Number 88? Probably not, the Ivies tend not to do that sort of thing.

I've seen, on TV or on the Internet, nice messages from Ted's political rivals. From both George Bushes. From Nancy Reagan. From John McCain, Orrin Hatch, Bill Bennett, Mitt Romney, even Pat Buchanan, who hates everything the Kennedy family has stood for. Yet there are some who cannot put partisanship aside and show the class that these Republicans have shown. These others lead me to think that Jack Kemp, an even better football player who achieved much in politics, who died earlier this year, may have looked at what his party has become and died of a broken heart.

As I said in an earlier post, I was in Boston and Hyannis over the weekend, hoping that Ted wouldn't die then, making it a traffic and media snarl of epic proportions. He didn't. But there was a sense that it wouldn't be long.

I was at Yankee Stadium on July 15, 1999, and it wasn't until a couple of days later that I found out that John F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife Carolyn, then missing, had been at the same game. Another eulogy Ted had to give. Who can do it for him? Caroline? Bobby's son Joe? Maria Shriver, still in mourning over the loss of her mother Eunice earlier this month? Whoever does it will have huge shoes to fill.

I close with words he used for his brother Bobby... and with words he used for his own supporters:

"My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world. As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him: ‘Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.’"

"For me, this campaign ended a few hours ago. For all those whose cause has been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."

For Ted, the campaign has finally ended. But because the last campaign of his life got Barack Obama elected President, the dream is more alive than ever.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Back From Scum City

I like the city of Boston. I really do.

Even though it's full of Red Sox fans. (Cheat!) And Patriots fans. (Cheat!) And Celtics fans. (Not nearly as obnoxious as they were in the 1980s but still bad enough.) And Bruins fans. (Yes, Bobby Orr was a better all-around player than Wayne Gretzky. No, he was not better than Gordie Howe -- no one was.) And chavs. (Could be worse: They used to pride themselves on NOT being black in any way.)

And it has the worst homeless problem of any city I've ever seen. (I've never been to San Francisco, whose problem is supposedly hideous, but, per capita, Boston's is worse than New York's or Washington's.) And too many of their stores close at odd hours. (I thought they prided themselves on NOT being Philadelphia! And when a man needs his Dunkin Donuts Coolatta, he needs his wicked pissah Dunkin Donuts Coolatta!)

The Yankees took 2 out of 3 from The Scum, even though the only game they actually played while I was even in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was the 14-1 disaster on Saturday afternoon. (It was a Fox Saturday Game of the Week, you were expecting a win?) The Friday game was over before I even got into Port Authority, and the Sunday night ESPN game began just as my bus was crossing back into Connecticut.

Observations:

1. It really sucks to score 11 runs on your biggest rival... and lose by 9 runs! Ah, but if you're the team with the 20 runs, who cares how many the other team scores? As far as I know, there's only been two games ever where both teams scored that many. (And both times, it was Cubs-Phillies, one win for each.)

2. It really, really sucks to score 29 runs in 3 games on your biggest rival... and lose 2 out of 3 at home! Ah, but if you ARE that big rival... hee hee hee hee...

3. Derek Jeter may finally win his first Most Valuable Player award, which is weird, because I'd practically handed it to Mark Teixeira already. Tex has made a huge difference for the Yankees, but this is still Derek's team, and for all those who've written him off -- and all you bozos who thought Jose Reyes had become the best shortstop in New York, shame on you -- Derek has announced his freakin' presence with authority. He surpassed 2,700 career hits this weekend, and Lou Gehrig's team career mark of 2,721 is as good as gone, possibly by Labor Day.

4. I still want to praise Tex some more, but there's one team that's giving him trouble, and that's Boston. That worries me.

5. A-Rod is coming along again. Good.

6. Matsui is really coming along again. The current rumor is that he will not be re-signed when he contract runs out after this year. I want him to get a ring: He has been a fantastic team player and he deserves it. Put him in the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible: It's not his fault that he spent probably his best years in Japan. The Basketball and Hockey Halls of Fame recognize achievements in other countries' "major leagues," there's no reason why they can't consider what Matuis, or Ichiro Suzuki, did in Japan before coming here -- and they should elect Sadaharu Oh, as well, even though he never faced a regular season pitch in North America.

7. Whatever's going on between A.J. Burnett and Jorge Posada, it has to be straightened out now. Burnett has done everything else right when it comes to being a good teammate, so, as the veteran, as the deputy captain behind Jeter (for all intents and purposes), I think Posada needs to take the initiative here and, diplomatically, straighten out whatever's wrong between them. Jose Molina's a good backup catcher, but, hitting the last homer in the old Stadium aside, he can't hit.

8. CC Sabathia -- 7 innings, no walks. In fact, the only walk of last night's 8-4 win over The Scum was by Mariano Rivera, walking J.D. Drew to lead off the 9th. I thought, "Uh-oh," because this is how Mariano's gotten himself in trouble, the few times he has. That and grounders right up the middle. It ended up not mattering, though, becuase he remembered that he's Mariano Rivera and blew the next three guys away. CC was beautiful, but I am concerned: He's been so good, throughout his career, in August and September, but October, ouch. Does he burn out? The Yankees should watch him carefully: I know he's a horse, but if you're going to use that analogy, don't drive him too hard in winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, because the Belmont Stakes is yet to come.

9. I made my first visit to Cape Cod. I didn't get to see a game in the Cape Cod League, the famed amateur league for college-age players not yet signed into big-league clubs' farm systems, but, as luck would have it, the Cape Cod League Museum is in the same building as the John F. Kennedy Museum in Hyannis. They've got a Cape Cod League Hall of Fame, which includes Mo Vaughn, Jeff Bagwell, Will Clark, and a few Yankees. The one that matters is Thurman Munson of the Chatham A's. Of less significance are Steve "Bye-Bye" Balboni and William Nathaniel Showalter III -- apparently, Buck hit like hell on the Cape. Not so much in the Yankee farm system, though, and he never reached the majors as a player.

10. Legal Sea Foods kicks ass. The food is superb and the service is excellent. I thought it was about time I had my first bowl of New England Clam Chowder. Very good. People, Manhattan Clam Chowder is not clam chowder. It's not supposed to have tomato sauce in it. Call it "clam & tomato soup" if you want, but it's not "clam chowder." I just wish that, like so many other restaurant chains, Legal didn't keep the lighting so low.

11. Cambridge is not Boston. Maybe, if I feel like it, I'll go into detail later. But it is really, really not Boston. Or any other city I've ever known. In fact, the closest I can come to describing it as a mix of New Jersey's two major college towns, Princeton and New Brunswick -- although the Harvardians would probably bristle at the comparison to Princeton, and snort at the one to Rutgers.

12. Most importantly, a lot of Yankee Fans made the trip. Like me, they left happy.

They really, really hate us in Boston. Like we give a damn.

Once again, I got out alive and in one piece. I'm reminded of the words of the Beach Boys: "My buddies and me are gettin' real well-known. Yeah, the bad guys know us, and they leave us alone. I get around."

I also picked up a new book about the Sox: It Was Never About the Babe by Jerry Gutlon. I'm about halfway through it, and it's really good at dispelling some of the many myths and legends about that most mythical of sports teams, the Boston Red Sox. Note that I said most mythical -- not most myth-worthy.

To put it bluntly: The book shows that Harry Frazee and Ted Williams were no saints, but the real villains of the story were Ban Johnson, Eddie Collins, Joe Cronin, Pinky Higgins, Buddy LeRoux and John Harrington. Tom Yawkey? Without more hard evidence, the worst thing I can say about him is that he was an enabler to the true problems, the raging egotists and the racists that truly held back the Red Sox for 86 years.

I'm up to the late 1940s part of the book, when the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry really began after a long period of dormancy. I'm also interested to see what they say about Carl Yastrzemski -- who turned 70 on Saturday, I grew up known Yaz as old but it's amazing to think that he's 70 -- and another Sox Saint, Tony Conigliaro. I've said that Tony C was meant to be Sox fans' answer to Mickey Mantle, but with the injuries he'd already had, and his love of fame and the nightlife, if he hadn't gotten beaned it's possible he might've ended up instead as New England's answer to Joe Pepitone, the local boy who made 'em proud, but ultimately disappointed, because being a great ballplayer was less important to him than being a star.

I got seriously ripped for saying nasty things about Joe Paterno. I wonder how many people are going to get upset that I said something mildly unkind about Tony Conigliaro?

Anyway, this doesn't quite clinch the AL East, but it does make it all but certain. Still, the Sox are very much in the Wild Card race -- helped by their two closest challengers, Texas and Tampa Bay, having played each other this weekend. We may still have a chance for full revenge on the bastards -- October revenge.

The Mets celebrated an event from their history, instead of the Brooklyn Dodgers': Saturday night, they celebrated the 40th Anniversary of their 1969 World Championship. Every living member of the team was there -- including, for the first time at a Mets' function, Nolan Ryan. The Miracle of '69 (or the Miracle on 126th Street, if you prefer) was the only ring of his long and distinguished career. But the Mets dug themselves in deeper by losing to the first-place Phillies, and lost again, yesterday, with the final play coming on an unassisted triple play by Eric Bruntlett -- only the 14th in baseball history.

Met fans, doncha wish your ballclub was hot like mine?

The Yankees' Magic Number to clinch the Division is down to 32. The Mets' Tragic Number to be eliminated from Playoff consideration, presuming the Phils hold their current 5-2 lead in the 7th, will be 25.

*

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 14. Two weeks.

Days until East Brunswick plays football again: 18.

Days until Derek Jeter becomes the Yankees' all-time hit leader: 18 (projected -- I moved this one up a little to reflect the tear he's on).

Days until the final Yankees-Red Sox series of the 2009 regular season: 32, Friday, September 25, at Yankee Stadium II. At this rate, that night could also be the Division Title clincher.

Days until the Devils play hockey again: 40. Less than six weeks.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 95.

Days until the 2010 Winter Olympics begin: 172.

Days until the 2010 World Cup begins: 292.

Days until the World Cup Final: 323.

Days until Derek Jeter collects his 3,000th career hit: 629 (projected).

Days until the Rutgers-Army football game at Yankee Stadium: 810.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Greetings From the Belly of the Beast

Greetings from the belly of the beast. Boston itself. (Well, Cambridge, anyway.)

No, I didn't get into Fenway on Friday night -- I didn't even get to Port Authority until it was over. No, I didn't get into Fenway today -- luckily. What a mess.

But think about this: The Scum have score 25 runs against the Yankees in two games -- and only have a split to show for it. The bastards!

I'll have more detail when I get back, as the Internet access at this hotel is, shall we say, insufficient.

But I made it in. And, hurricane or no hurricane, I will make it out.

Suckers!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Invasion: Boston -- Invader, Me

I'm going. Taking the late bus Friday night, arriving Saturday morning. It's unlikely I'll actually get into Fenway Park, but it's worth the effort. And the risk. I've gotten into and out of that place before, and lived to tell the tale.

Every time I see a Yankee Hater, I think of a scene from M*A*S*H. Major Houlihan is changing the bandage of a wounded soldier, who's sick of the Army, and he tells her, "I hate your guts!" And without missing a beat, Hot Lips says, "My guts are not here for you to love."

I'm tempted to say, "My prediction... Pain." But those great words came from Mr. T before his rematch with Stallone in Rocky III, and Rocky demolished him.

So here's my prediction: The Red Sox will not make the Playoffs, and this series will have something to do with it. The ghosts will be exorcised this season, and, as Hank Steinbrenner said, "We will restore the universe to order."

And a Yankees Universe tops a Red Sox Nation any day.

1918* Forver. Beat The Scum!

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Jeter Countdowns Begin

As I write this, the Yankees have just begun a three-game series at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum -- apparently, the naming rights have run out and the "Mausoleum" has reverted to its original name -- against the Athletics.

It's not clear how much longer the A's will stay there. Plans for new ballparks have failed, both adjacent to the Coliseum site and in neighboring Fremont. With the Giants having a splendid new ballpark across the Bay, the A's need to get out of what is essentially a 43-year-old football stadium and get into a place suitable for baseball, or baseball will not be long for the East Bay.

The Yankees took the first three in Seattle before losing the fourth yesterday. Derek Jeter collected his 2,688th career hit. He now needs 34 hits to surpass Lou Gehrig, who had 2,721, as the Yankees' all-time leader, and at the rate he's going, he'll get there on September 13, a Sunday, at home against the Baltimore Orioles. That's 27 days away.

It was his 2,674th hit as a shortstop (the rest coming as a designated hitter), breaking the record of Luis Aparicio, the speedy, slick-fielding Venezuelan of the 1950s and '60s Chicago White Sox and (for the moment) the only South American in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Robin Yount, Cal Ripken and Honus Wagner all collected over 3,000 hits, but all played quite a few games at other positions, and thus trail Jeter and Aparicio on the list of hits by a shortstop. (In fact, along with Hank Greenberg, Yount is one of two players to win MVP awards as both an infielder and an outfielder.)

At this rate, Derek will join the 3,000 Hit Club on May 15, 2011. That's 637 days.

The Yankees are now 7 1/2 games ahead of the Red Sox, their Magic Number to clinch the American League Eastern Division Championship is 38, and at this rate they will clinch on September 27 -- the next-to-last Sunday of the season, and at home against the Red Sox. Wouldn't that be sweet. Anyway, that's 41 days.

The Mets are 12 games out of first in the National League East, and 9 games out of the Wild Card. The "tragic number" to eliminate them from Playoff competition is 36.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Top 10 Dumbest Team Moves in Sports History

Dishonorable Mention. 2008 Seattle SuperSonics to Oklahoma City Thunder. The Sonics were Seattle’s longest-lasting major league team. (41 years; the Seahawks will take over that title, assuming they’re not moved before the 2018 NFL season). They’re also the city’s most successful: Three trips to the finals (the Mariners and Seahawks combined: one) and the 1979 NBA Championship. They were horrible in their first season in Oklahoma City, although the fans came out.

Oklahoma City proved during the New Orleans Hornets’ temporary relocation that they deserve a team. But not this team. The Sonics didn’t fail, they were sabotaged. The reason this one doesn’t make the Top 10 is that it’s still too soon: If the Thunder turn into a long-term success, on the court and at the box office, I’ll take them off this list should I ever choose to revise it; if they turn out to be a bust, they’ll move up.

10. 1958 Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles. How can the most successful move in the history of sports be one of the ten dumbest? Let’s see, a “visionary” like Walter O’Malley should have been visionary enough to outwit Robert Moses and get the stadium he wanted in Downtown Brooklyn, at the Atlantic Yards site now favored by a current lying megalomaniac, Bruce Ratner, for the Nets. Let’s see, suppose it was the same capacity as the Dodger Stadium he actually got, 56,000…

How many of those seats do you think Brooklynites would have bought to see Brooklyn natives Sandy Koufax and Tommy Davis? To say nothing of the last years of “Boys of Summer” Duke Snider and Gil Hodges? Maury Wills? Don Drysdale? Later, Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Don Sutton, Mike Marshall… Fernando Valenzuela, Pedro Guerrero, Orel Hershiser… Mike Piazza, Pedro Martinez… Russell Martin and the rest of the current Dodgers managed by Brooklyn’s own Joe Torre? Even if this planned-but-never built Dodger Stadium were to have been replaced by now, it would still have been every bit the gold mine that the actual one in Chavez Ravine was.

9. 1982 Minnesota Vikings from Metropolitan Stadium to the Metrodome. In their first 21 seasons of existence, the Vikings played out in the suburbs, equidistant from downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul, and made the Playoffs 11 times, more than half the time. In their 27 seasons in the Metrodome, they’ve made the Playoffs 14 times, also more than half. The difference is that, at the Met, they reached the Super Bowl four times; at the Metrodome, they’ve reached three NFC Championship Games and lost them all. (Update: In January 2010, the Vikes made it 0-for-4 in NFC Title Games since moving indoors.)

Some attribute the Vikes’ lack of success to the change in the atmosphere – literally. The Minnesota cold terrified some teams. Maybe not NFC Central opponents like Green Bay and Chicago, but Tampa Bay? Atlanta? Los Angeles? Brrrr…. But the Met seated only 54,000, and the Dome added another 10,000 and protection from the cold. But although the Dome is known for its noise level, a Vikings game has never truly been the same. At least they stayed in the same metropolitan area, although even that is no guarantee, as witness the next entry.

8. 1979 Los Angeles Rams from the Coliseum to Anaheim. L.A.’s oldest team, having arrived in 1946, went from perhaps the greatest football stadium ever built to the suburbs. From 1966 to 1978, Anaheim Stadium was a nice baseball facility. But then, in 1979, after Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom drowned, his widow, Georgia Frontiere (wow, she got remarried fast), cut a deal to move them down the Santa Ana Freeway (Interstate 5), I guess because the Coliseum and the USC campus are on the edge of South Central and she was worried about some men from a race she didn’t like vandalizing her limousine.

The Rams made the Playoffs in their last 7 seasons at the Coliseum; in their 15 seasons in Anaheim, they made the Playoffs 8 times, but had totally lost the L.A. glamour. The move to St. Louis was depressing – although not entirely unjustified, as Anaheim Stadium was totally unsuitable, and St. Louis was Georgia’s hometown, and they have done better there – but it wouldn’t have happened if Georgia had simply accepted that playing in L.A. was worth more to the team than playing in a suburban parking lot.

7. 1996 Winnipeg Jets to Phoenix Coyotes. Every other NHL move, possibly ever, could be justified on some grounds or other, including improved performance. But what was gained by the Jets moving to Arizona? Especially now that the team is bankrupt, while Winnipeg has a new arena? Forget Hamilton, Ontario: Send the Jets home!

6. 1997 Washington Redskins from the District to Landover. Huh? The Bullets/Wizards and Capitals made the smart move, from just outside the Capital Beltway to Downtown, from the Capital Centre/USAir Arena to the MCI/Verizon Center. So why did the Skins move to almost the same spot, but still slightly inside the Beltway? Because Robert F. Kennedy Stadium seated 56,000, and the District wouldn’t build Jack Kent Cooke a new stadium. So Prince Georges County built it.

In their last 26 seasons at RFK, the Redskins made the Playoffs 13 times – half the time. In the 12 seasons they’ve played at what was Jack Kent Cooke Stadium and is now FedEx Field, they’ve made the Playoffs twice. It’s like the move from the 56,000-seat, noisy, intimate RFK to the 92,000-seat FedEx Field has cost them those things that made a Washington Redskins game such a special event.

5. 1982 Oakland Raiders to Los Angeles. At first, it seemed to work. In their first season at the L.A. Coliseum, the Raiders tied for the NFL’s best record at 8-1, though flamed out in the Playoffs. In their second season, they won the whole thing, demolishing the Redskins 38-9 in Super Bowl XVIII – Los Angeles’ first NFL Championship since the ’51 Rams and the only Super Bowl the city has actually won, rather than hosted. Even as late as 1990, the Raiders were in the AFC Championship Game. But just as he’d butted heads with the Oakland Coliseum authority, so too did he start to do with the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission. By 1994, he’d had enough, and managed to finagle his way back into Oakland after finagling his way out 12 years earlier.

What did Davis get out of his L.A. sojourn? A World Championship that he almost certainly would have had in Oakland anyway, a lot of frustration, a stadium 43 years older than the one he’d left and to which he was returning, and a change in the Raiders’ image as a team of grubby but lovable misfits to a team of hard-core gangsters – part Hell’s Angels, part Crips and/or Bloods. Was that really worth it? And today, the Raiders are still the most popular NFL team in Los Angeles (although the Chargers have reached up from San Diego and claimed Orange County, abandoned by the Rams at the same time).

4. 1984 San Diego Clippers to Los Angeles. Bone. Head. Move. In San Diego, they had the Chargers in November and December, and then, unless the Chargers made the Playoffs, no competition until the Padres started again in April. In L.A., they not only play in the same metro area as the Lakers, but since 1999 they’ve played in the same building. This was even dumber than the Jets playing at Giants Stadium. To say nothing of having to also share the building with the Kings, and the metro area with the Ducks, plus the months of November and December (and sometimes the first week of January) getting attention diverted from them by L.A. being the nation’s premier college football town, with USC as one of the top 5 all-time truly great programs and UCLA being one of the top 25 all-time programs. And UCLA having one of the top 5 great programs in college basketball – there have been times when the Clips might have been the Number 3 basketball team in L.A.

So why isn’t this awful move ranked higher? Simple: Donald Sterling was still the owner. Who’s to say the Clippers wouldn’t have been just as hopeless, performance-wise, if they’d stayed in San Diego? It’s because they’re constantly compared to the Lakers that they’ve reached truly pathetic status.

3. 1984 New York Jets from Flushing Meadow to the Meadowlands. We’ve all heard about how bad Shea Stadium was. Now add fall and winter weather to that mix. Then add the fact that, by the 1983 season, at 60,000 seats in its football configuration, Shea was one of the smaller venues in the NFL. Jet owner Leon Hess had plenty of reasons to want out. Fair enough.

But why would you agree to play your home games in a place that’s not only identified with the other, more successful team in your metro area – especially when their name was on the stadium? (At least, the Giants were then more successful at the box office and in the media, as they hadn’t yet won a Super Bowl while the Jets had.) When the Angels shared Dodger Stadium for four years, they had tickets and media handouts printed up calling the place not by its official name, but by the area’s former name, “Chavez Ravine.” Not the Jets: For all their wishing that people would simply call it “The Meadowlands,” the name “Giants Stadium” was there for all to see. Not to mention the green drapery hung over the blue sideline background for Jet games looked so F! A! K! E! Fake! Fake! Fake! It was even dumber every three years when they’d play each other in the regular season – and dumber still every six years when the game would be a home game for the Jets, making the Giants the visiting team in their own stadium, and sometimes the Jets’ season-ticket holders would have brought along some Giant fans as guests, and sometimes even Jet fans – who may have become such for the simple reason that the Giants haven’t played to an unsold seat since 1956 – would turn on their team, making a Jet home game against the Giants into a Giant home game against some other team. As a notable Sports Illustrated cover with Lawrence Taylor and Mark Gastineau on it pointed out, “In the Big Apple, the Jets are always second banana.”

And when the chance finally came to get their own stadium, the Jets first blew it with the Midtown stadium across from the Javits Center that will now never be built, then could have struck a deal with the Mets to redevelop the Shea site after Citi Field opened, then blew another deal (which, theoretically, is still possible) to work with the Islanders to redevelop the Nassau Coliseum site (putting them right across from their now-abandoned Weeb Ewbank Hall complex at Hofstra University) and restore them to their Queens/Long Island roots, and, who knows, maybe they could have even found a way to share that spacious lawn at Citi Field with the Mets. (Why not, Army is playing a few football games at Yankee Stadium these next few years.)

Instead, they’ll finish the 2009 season at Giants Stadium, and then starting in 2010 they will share the new Meadowlands stadium (as yet unnamed) with the G-Men. The Jets will own 50 percent of the stadium and thus have a considerably more favorable lease, but it will still be seen by most people as “the new Giants Stadium.” If there is a dumber franchise, historically speaking, in all of sports, it’s… just across Route 120, for the moment: The Nets. And, of course, the Clippers.

2. 1961 Washington Senators to Minnesota Twins. Just as the Senators were getting to be better than at any time since the close of World War II, Calvin Griffith moved them out. Did he not know that District of Columbia Stadium – later named RFK – was being built and could have been the team’s home? Did he not see that he had Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, Jim Lemon, Camilo Pascual, and a skinny kid named Jim Kaat? Did he not realize, after seeing the 1965 World Series, and the ’69 and ’70 Playoffs, what that could have meant in D.C.? Certainly, the Old Senators/Minnesota Twins would have been more competitive from 1961 to 1971 than the New Senators/Texas Rangers were. Griffith wasn’t just cheap as hell, he was dumb as a post.

1. 1958 New York Giants to San Francisco. Forget for a moment the Giants’ problems with Candlestick Park: This was dumb for two very big reasons. The first is the stadium that Robert Moses wanted to build in Flushing Meadow-Corona Park, the one that became Shea Stadium. If Horace Stoneham really wanted to get out of the Polo Grounds that badly, he should have gotten on the phone to Moses or Mayor Robert Wagner – a self-proclaimed Giants fan – in 1957 and said, “What can we do?”

What we knew as Shea could, theoretically, have opened by 1960, and can you imagine Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, Jack Sanford and Billy Pierce pitching there? Willie Mays having that big center field to run around in? Willie McCovey. Orlando Cepeda. The Alou brothers. Even with the Dodgers on the other coast, assuming that still happened, the Giants would have been so much better off staying in New York and moving into Flushing Meadow – which, of course, might have had New York superlawyer William A. Shea, himself a Giants fan even though he worked for a time for the Dodgers, as a season-ticket holder, but it wouldn’t have had his name on the place. In 1969, the Giants finished 2nd in the National League West; staying in the East, they could have been the New York team that benefited from the Chicago Cubs’ collapse and performed the Miracle of ’69. There would have been a Subway Series with the Yankees in ’62, and, who knows, maybe more, if playing in New York (and in the NL East) could have altered the NL standings from 1996 onward. And maybe, with the acclaim of New York, Barry Bonds wouldn’t have felt the need to try to match the cheers for Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, and maybe he wouldn’t have taken steroids, and might still have hit over 600 home runs as a New York Giant.

In 2009, the Giants could have christened Citi Field as their new home, possibly as the 1969 (and others?) World Champions, and as a still-beloved New York institution.

Instead, Stoneham listened to Walter O’Malley, and moved to San Francisco, and while the Giants have been competitive more often than not, they’ve never won a World Series in that city, and have suffered in comparison – not just to their rivals in Southern California, but to the team that replaced them as New York’s National League entry. Face it, if you’re being compared with the New York Mets, historically, and the comparison does not favor you, you’ve got a problem.

Top 10 Elvis Songs About Sports

August 16, 1977 was a sad day in the history of music. Elvis Presley died.

August 16, 1948 was a sad day in the history of baseball. Babe Ruth died.

They had a lot in common. Both were the best at what they did. Both were irresistible to women (although, in the Babe’s case, that was a bit strange). Both had royal titles, which, unlike most royal titles, were well-earned: “Sultan of Swat” and “King of Rock and Roll.” Both married women who proved to have excellent business sense (although, unlike Claire Ruth, Priscilla Presley didn’t manage her husband’s business affairs until after not only their divorce, but his death). Both got too fat later on. And both are instantly recognizable long after their deaths.

For the record: The Yankees were not scheduled to play on the day the Babe ended up dying, and beat the Chicago White Sox 11-10 at Yankee Stadium the night Elvis died.

Top 10 Elvis Songs About Sports

Not really, I’m just going for humor here.

10. “I Feel So Bad.” This is the only Elvis song I know of that actually mentions sports: “I feel so bad, feel like a ballgame on a rainy day. Guess I got my raincheck, shake my head and walk away.”

9. “Hound Dog.” Could be about any number of athletes who dog it, ain’t never caught a rabbit, and ain’t no friend of their teammates.

8. “Jailhouse Rock.” Michael Vick was playin’ on the saxophone. Ray Carruth is blowin’ on the slide trombone. O.J. Simpson’s hacking away on the drums, the band’s manager is Alan Eagleson, let’s rock! (And those three deserved to have the insanely crooked Eagleson as their manager.)

7. “Don’t.” The word of every college basketball star who hears the Los Angeles Clippers might draft him. If the Clips draft them anyway, their new Elvis song is "I Got Stung."

6. “Burning Love.” I’m sure there’s a few athletes who’ve, uh, had to go to a clinic to relieve this particular problem.

5. “One Broken Heart For Sale.” Sung by a fan of a Cleveland sports team. Which one? Does it matter?

4. “Are You Lonesome Tonight.” To the few fans who actually go to watch the Florida Marlins.

3. “All Shook Up.” How Johan Santana and Francisco (K-Rod) Rodriguez have felt since becoming Mets.

2. “Little Sister.” About a guy who got dumped by Venus Williams, then finds that Serena doesn’t mind him staring at her magnificent booty.

1. “Don’t Be Cruel.” Currently being sung by Red Sox fans who have done plenty of dishing out, but now can’t take being told that the only World Series their team has won in the last 91 years are both fake as hell.

I thought about saying “My Way” was sung by any number of athletes whose selfishness finally drove them off their teams, but then again, regrets, they’d have a lot more than “too few to mention.”

Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the blog.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

5-2! Four Straight, We Swept The Scum!

Yankees 5, Red Sox 2 -- even ESPN's team of El Baldo (Jon Miller), El Shrimpo (Joe Morgan) and El Dumbo (Steve Phillips) couldn't stop us!

Four straight! We swept The Scum, four straight! We swept The Scum, four straight! We swept The Scum, four straight!

Another pitchers' duel, this one Andy Pettitte vs. Jon Lester -- who should be glad Mariano Rivera is the one who's nickname is "Mo" -- until A-Rod teed off on Lester in the 7th. It was Number 574 for him, passing Harmon Killebrew. (Of course, Killebrew was clean.) Next up is Mark McGwire at 583 (dirty), then Frank Robinson at 586 (clean).

In the top of the 8th, the Red Sox stopped their longest scoreless string since 1974, 31 innings. Victor Martinez denied Pettitte the win with a 2-run homer, the Sox' first lead in the series since early Thursday. But that was followed in the bottom of the 8th by Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira hitting back-to-backers.

Four games combined, Yankees 25, Red Sox 8 -- average, Yankees 6, Red Sox 2.

This was the Yankees 7th, straight, and 13 of 14 at home. They lead the Roid Sox by 6 1/2, the Tampa Bay Deviled Eggs by 8 1/2, the Toronto Blow Jays by 15, and the Baltimore Sorry-oles by 23 1/2. And the Magic Number to clinch the American League Eastern Division is down to... Let's see, how does that work again? It's been so long since we had to try it... Add up the number of second-place Sox wins, 62, and losses, 48, that's 110, subtract that from 163, that's 52, subtract the deficit, that's 6 1/2, which makes it 55 1/2, and if there's a half-game in there round it up, so, making all previous statements invalid (due to flaws in my calculations)... The Yankees' Magic Number is 56. Any combination of Yankee wins and Red Sox losses for the rest of the season adding up to 56, and the Yanks win the Division.

The Sox are now dead-even in the Wild Card race with Texas, a game and a half ahead of the Strays, 4 1/2 ahead of Seattle and 6 ahead of the White Sox. It is by no means certain that the Sox will make the Playoffs.

As Bill Clinton might put it, "The Era of Big Papi is over." Yeah, and he also had a relationship with steroids that was not appropriate -- in fact, it was wrong. But he does not regret it, deeply or otherwise. The bum.

*

The Mets finally beat the Padres,

I saw part of the Phillies' game with the Marlins. They were down 3-1 in the bottom of the 7th, with 2 men on, 2 out, and Ryan Howard up. He got to a 3-1 count, but swung and missed at a terrible pitch. Then came an obvious ball 4, low, and he was called out on strikes. Totally hosed. Next inning, that same umpire threw out Shane Victorino -- for allegedly making an obscene gesture at him from center field! And the Marlins exploded with the bats, making the final score 12-3. The Fish now trail the Phils by only 4 games.

The Washington Nationals have won 8 straight. Instead of "NATINALS," maybe they should spell it "NATIONAS," because it's been a while since they had an L.

*

Days until the next Premier League season begins: 5.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series: 11, Friday, August 21, at Fenway Park.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 28. Four weeks.

Days until East Brunswick plays football again: 32. A shade over a month.

Days until the Devils play hockey again: 54. Less than eight weeks.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 109.

Days until the 2010 World Cup begins: 305.

Days until the World Cup Final: 337.

Days until the Rutgers-Army football game at Yankee Stadium: 824.

5-0! We Beat The Scum! There's only one CC!

Five-nil! We beat The Scum, five-nil! We beat The Scum, five-nil! We beat The Scum, five-nil!

CC, there's only one CC! There's only one CC! There's only one CC!

This time, I was there. Well, outside The Stadium (Mark II). I knew my chances of getting inside were Slim and None -- not to be confused with Mystique and Aura, who appear to have their jobs back.

I was on River Avenue, knowing I wasn't getting in, but that's okay: I was looking for a T-shirt, one that said "1918*." So far, no; the closest anybody came was "ROID SOX" on the front and "BIG SLOPPY" and Number 34 on the back.

Vinny Milano, a.k.a. Bald Vinny, the T-shirt king, Bleacher Creature and Season One Ultimate Roadtripper, had one that had "ROID SOX" on the front and "BIG PAH P.E.D." on the back. I asked if he had "1918-asterisk," but he said he didn't. I told him he should have them made. They'd sell like crazy.

I also like the one that has the Interstate 95 shield and "NEW YORK, 207 miles: The Only Sign of Life In Boston." (This is a variation on an old joke: What's the best thing to come out of Boston? I-95.)

I saw a guy in a Red Sox jersey get arrested and tossed into a police van. And another get yelled at by a New York cop for being disorderly. For the most part, though, the Sox fans looked a big shellshocked and didn't cause trouble.

CC Sabathia pitched his best game as a Yankee -- and, at least until October, his most important. A no-hitter into the 6th, and first-pitch strikes to 17 of the 26 batters he faced. The last batter he faced was Casey Kotchmann, and CC fanned him for the third time, the second out in the bottom of the 8th.

And Joe Girardi took him out. To hell with the pitch count: If a pitcher is pitching well and shows no sign of tiring, you leave him in! What if you take Phil Hughes out after that one batter, and, against the one team that's had any success against him, Mariano doesn't have it, and it goes 15 innings again? You're gonna wish you had Hughes then!

Nope, Hughes got the last out in the 8th, but Derek Jeter snuck a two-run homer off the screen on the right-field pole. 314 feet, 4 inches.

5-0 Yanks, so no Mariano. Girardi brings in David Robertson, and he lets two men on, and I'm thinking, Oh, here we go again, Yanks-Sox, one of those games, cue Yogi Berra: "It ain't over 'til it's over." But Robertson got the last three outs, and the last out? A called third strike on David Ortiz. How fucking fitting.

That felt damn good. Whether it was the vibes drifting over from The Stadium II to the Dugout bar across River Avenue, instead of drifting 45 miles to home, or being surrounded by 100 -- or 50,000 -- Yankee Fans, I don't know. But it felt soooo gooood. As I've said before, What woman could follow this? (But, as I've also said before, they are welcome to try to prove me wrong.)

*

Speaking of Big Pah P.E.D., he held a press conference before the game and said he never used steroids or performance-enhancing drugs, but may have taken a vitamin supplement that contained a bad substance.

Officer, I swear, I didn't speed, I just drove a car that had the capacity to go 90 miles an hour!

Colonel Jessup, did you order the Code Red? "No, I did not. I just happened to know of the Code Red's existence, and said aloud what would happen if I did order it, and, well, it happened."

Ortiz, you're a lying bastard. Fortunately, you are now a useless bastard as well.

*

In the 7th, Ramon Ramirez hit last night's walker-offer, Alex Rodriguez, in the back with a pitch. As if every Yankee Fan on the planet, from Subway Squawker Lisa Swan (www.subwaysquawkers.blogspot.com) to some random fan on the street to yours truly to A-Rod himself didn't expect that.

What I totally did not expect was home plate umpire Jim Joyce remembering that there are rules, and that they must be applied equally to both teams, and that, as umpiring crew chief, it was his job to apply them. He tossed Ramirez on the spot.

Which, now that I think about it, is slightly odd: In America, Joyce, who threw Ramirez out, would be called a "tosser"; but in England, for being nasty little punk, Ramirez would be called a "tosser."

It's about time the umpires treated the Red Sox like the classless thugs they are. Jim Joyce, as they would say in England, you're a top man. Thank you, sir.

*

If you had told me before the series that the Yankees would take 3 of 4, I would gladly have taken it. Of course, if you'd told me that the Sox would score 6 in the first game and that the Yanks would score just 7 runs in the next 24 innings, I would've said, Forget it, that's a sweep for Boston.

This series is in New York, so it's not a "Boston Massacre." But a 20-6 edge in the first 3 games, I love it. Beating The Scum, you gotta love it.

Times like this, it's good to go onto the Boston Globe's website and read Dan (Oh Woe Is The Nation) Shaughnessy.

It's like 2004 and 2007 never happened. And you know what? They never did (*).

We can talk all we want about when A-Rod has become, or will become, "A Real Yankee," I think it's more pertinent to say that, this series, The House That Steinbrenner Built became "Yankee Stadium." Yeahhhh...

*

The Mets lost again, 3-1 in San Diego.

Why do the Mutts even bother? At least Luis Castillo is back for them.

And, yet again, Met broadcaster Gary Cohen pronounced "Alfonzo" -- in this case, not Edgardo, the Met second baseman who hasn't played for them since 2002 or anyone else in the majors since the 2006 Blue Jays, but Padres catcher Eliezer -- "Al-FAWN-zo" instead of the proper "Al-FON-zo."

*

And it's now August 9. Happy Nixon Resignation Day, everyone! Our Constitution still works, and our great republic is a government of laws, not of men.

It's been 35 years. Wow.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Jason Giambi: What Is His Legacy?

Before I go back to gloating over the disintegation of the Red Sox, their postseason chances, and the long-term reputation of their 2003-09 team with their two phony World Championships, I need to say something about Jason Giambi.

After eight turbulent years with the Yankees, the Giambino went back to the Oakland Athletics this season. In 98 games, he hit 11 home runs, but batted just .198, and they released him. He's 38. Whether he's done is not quite clear, but what is clear is that the two teams with whom he's spent his entire career no longer want him. Unclear is who would want him.

A broken-down, heavy first baseman with a checkered past, and occasionally a bad attitude, plenty of power but strikes out too much, no speed and not much defense... Are you thinking what I'm thinking? I'm thinking Jason Giambi may be about to meet the Mets!

If Giambi isn't done, then done is now within view. Chances are, his career stats are not going to improve by much, so let's examine them:

15 seasons.
Lifetime batting average, .282. Good, but hardly great.
Four times batting over .300, with a peak of .342.
On-base percentage, .405. Very good.
Slugging percentage, .527. Great.
OPS, 932. Very good.
OPS+, 143. Great.
Hits, 1,864. Good, but not even very good.
Eight times hit at least 30 home runs in a season; three times, 40; peak, 43.
Seven times at least 100 RBIs, including six straight; peak, 137.
Five times hit at least 30 doubles; peak, 47.

Seven seasons of 100 or more strikeouts -- but also seven seasons of 100 or more walks, which explains why his batting average isn't Hall of Fame-worthy but his on-base percentage is.

Five-time All-Star. Nice, but hardly evocative of HOF worthiness.

Most Valuable Player in the American League in 2000, and finished 2nd in the voting in 2001.

Postseason play: Reached Playoffs eight seasons, all in a row: 2000 and 2001 with Oakland, 2002 through 2007 with the Yankees. Won Pennant with Yankees in 2003. Batted .289, on-base .405, slugged .489, OPS 909, 7 homers, 18 RBIs, in 42 games. Batted .286 and .353 in his two postseason appearances for the A's, so don't blame him for their losses. Nor for the Yanks' loss in the 2002 ALDS, when he hit .357. Batted .231 in the 2003 ALCS, but hit 2 homers in Game 7, making the four straight doubles of the 8th inning and Aaron Boone's homer in the 11th possible. But, in his only World Series appearance, batted .235 with just 1 RBI, on a solo homer. His various ailments kept him off the 2004 postseason roster entirely, not the biggest reason the Yankees didn't win the Pennant but a noticeable one. Batted .421 in the 2005 ALDS, but just .125 in the 2006 ALDS. Overall postseason record: Mixed, and except for one game not especially heroic. In other words, he doesn't help himself much here.

In an entry on June 26, 2008, I tried to judge Giambi's worthiness based on his career home run total, then at 381, comparing it to other players, both in the Hall and not. Let's try it again, with his current (final?) total:

Home runs, 407. Same number as Duke Snider. Looking at other players in the Hall of Fame, that's more than Al Kaline, George Brett, Rickey Henderson, Robin Yount, Roberto Clemente and Paul Molitor -- but those guys all had over 3,000 hits.

It's more than Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Yogi Berra, Gary Carter, Roy Campanella, Gabby Hartnett, Bill Dickey and Ernie Lombardi -- but those guys were catchers.

It's more than Ryne Sandberg, Joe Morgan and Brooks Robinson -- but those guys were elected for their defense as much as for their offense.

It's more than Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Mize and Hank Greenberg -- but those guys each missed three, and in Hank's case four, seasons due to serving in World War II.

It's more than Orlando Cepeda, Ralph Kiner, Kirby Puckett and Joe Medwick -- but those guys, as well as Campanella, DiMaggio and Greenberg, had their careers shortened by injuries.

It's more than Hack Wilson -- but he shortened his own career with alcoholism, and he's really only in the Hall because of one season, 1930, when he set a National League record with 56 home runs (presumably only broken by Ryan Howard with 58, unless he proves dirty, too) and a major league record with 191 RBIs.

It's more than Al Simmons, Rogers Hornsby, Chuck Klein, Earl Averill and Jim Bottomley -- but those guys started out before the Lively Ball Era really took hold; and besides, Simmons had almost 3,000 hits, Hornsby batted .358 lifetime, and Klein was a lefthanded hitter who had a 280-foot right-field fence at Baker Bowl in Philadelphia, something even Giambi didn't have at Yankee Stadium (314 at the time).

And it's more than Larry Doby -- but, like Campy, he was elected with the full knowledge that he missed some potentially big seasons due to the color line.

That leaves Tony Perez and the newly-inducted Jim Rice -- and would you take Jason Giambi over either of them? Even if you didn't know about his, uh, problem?

We know Giambi used steroids. He apologized -- without really admitting. Do we take that into consideration?

Here's my take on Giambi, and what I think should be Yankee Fans' take on him: He does not deserve the Hall of Fame, or Monument Park, or even, though his story is compelling, a Yankeeography.

But he was a really good hitter for a long time, even without steroids. And he never acted like an ass, which is not something you can say about a lot of players, not that I'm going to mention any names, not even the one who hit the 15th inning homer to win it last night.

For the Yankees, the Giambi experiment failed. But that doesn't mean he was a failure. He had a fun career, and that's more than we mere mortals who were not blessed with that kind of talent can ever have.

And Giambi appreciates this. For that, alone, he has my appreciation, and (sometimes) my respect. Not a bad legacy to have.

2-0! We Beat The Scum! In 15!

Long night. A.J. Burnett and Josh (Super Punk) Beckett, who combined to help beat the Yankees for the Florida Marlins in the 2003 World Series, dueled deep, and it went to extra innings scoreless.

Between them, Burnett and Phil Hughes allowed just 1 hit through the first 8. Still, the Yanks didn't score. It was as if both teams used up all their runs last night.

The Yanks can't score tonight. A-Rod has already choked three times in the clutch leading up to this 15th inning. Surely, he's not going to come through now.

Every time I trust him in the clutch, he chokes; but whenever I give up on him, THAT is when the bum comes through in the clutch!

Swung on, and driven deep to left-center field! It is high! It is far! It is gone! It's an A-Bomb! From A-Rod! Ballgame over! Yankees win! THEEEEEEEE YANKEES WIN!

Two-nil! We beat The Scum, two-nil! We beat The Scum, two-nil! We beat The Scum, two-nil!

I still don't like A-Rod, and, yes, he did use steroids, but as they used to say in Brooklyn, he may be a bum but he's OUR BUM.

Home Run Number 573, tying Harmon Killebrew, a one-dimensional player, but what a performance in that dimension!

Burnett, who started this game six and a half hours ago, just gave him the pie! As Brooklyn Dodger fan Jackie Gleason used to say, "Mmmmm, how sweet it is!"

Not to mention A-Rod hit it to the Moon! (Well, to the Sox bullpen, anyway.) BANG! ZOOM!

But you'll never get me to say to A-Rod, "Baby, you're the greatest!"

The Magic Number to clinch the A.L. East is 57.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

13-6! We Beat The Scum!

Finally!

13-6! We Beat The Scum, 13-6! We Beat The Scum, 13-6! We Beat The Scum, 13-6!

Whaddaya t'ink o' Red Sox? "SHIT!"
Whaddaya t'ink o' shit? "RED SOX!"
Thank you! "THAT'S ALL RIGHT!"

At this rate, with all these English soccer references, I'm going to start calling this game "rounders."

Who cares! We Beat The Scum, 13-6!

Homers by Damon, Cabrera, Posada and Teixeira. Or, in Sterlingese, "It's Damonic! The Melkman delivers! Jorgie juiced one! And a Teix message!"

Joba labored, only getting through the 5th, but the bullpen did what had to be done: Get to the 27th out with the Yanks ahead. Twelve walks by Yankee pitchers -- 12. Plus a hit batter, and not the kind that might've sent a message to the bastards a few years ago when it would have helped, this was a total accident. So that's like 13 walks. And STILL we won by 7 runs.

Finally beat The Scum. And moved to 3 1/2 games up. The Magic Number to clinch the American League Eastern Division Title is 59. The Scum still lead in the Wild Card race, though, by 2 games over the Texas Strangers, pending the results of the Rangers' game tonight.

Mets getting shelled in San Diego, Padres lead 6-0 in the 4th. (Update: The final was Padres 8, Mess 3.) And the Phillies won in Cliff Lee's home debut. The Tragic Number to eliminate the Mutts from the possibility of making the Playoffs is 55.

Oh, how it made all the Yankee Fans laugh!

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Out-of-Town Scoreboard!

It was 3-1 Sox, and I was miserable.

Now it's the top of the 5th, and it's 9-3 Yanks.

In the words of Howard Dean, former Governor of Vermont and Presidential candidate, "HYAHHHHHHHH!" (He's a New Englander now, but originally from the Hamptons on Long Island. I don't know what team he roots for.)

The game is on Channel 9. I still cringe when I think that, on those increasingly rare occasions when they're on what used to be known as "free TV," the Yankees are on Channel 9 and the Mets are on Channel 11. For decades, it was the other way around.

Anyway, Michael Kay just did the out-of-town scoreboard. Seriously, we're playing the Red Sox. Has the out-of-town scoreboard ever been more irrelevant? Out-of-Town Scoreboard? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Out-of-Town Scoreboard!

Joba just got that damn cheater Ortiz to pop up.

A Song to Celebrate the Reestablishment of the Curse

First, the pain. Written by me, October 21, 2004, to the tune of “Please, Mr. Please” by Olivia Newton-John:

In the corner of the bar there stands a jukebox
with the best of rockin' music, old and new.
But like my baseball team, it's out of order
and like four baseball games, its fuse just blew.
I've got good Milwaukee amber on the counter
and some Subway Series thoughts to ease the pain
'til some history professor talks World War I
and here I am just grumbling again!

Please, Mister, please
don't say "1918!"
It was our Curse on the Red Sox
but it's over!
Plese, Mister, please
if you know what I mean
I don't ever want to hear that year again!

If I had a dime for every A-Rod strikeout
and each gopher ball that's served up since Game 3
I could swear I'd be the richest guy in Bloomfield
maybe even in the State of New Jersey!
But I guess I'd better get myself together
'cause the Sox have finally kicked our behind.
And not once I heard "I'm sorry" from a pitcher
and these Pinstriped bums weigh heavy on my mind!

Please, Mister, please
don't say "1918!"
It was our Curse on the Red Sox
but it's over!
Plese, Mister, please
if you know what I mean
I don't ever want to hear that year again!



Now, the pleasure, sadistic though it might be. Written by me, July 31, 2009, the sequel:

In the corner of the bar there sits a Sox fan.
Makes the best of revelations that are new.
He's gone to their games since they just cost a quarter.
And for most of his life, they would not come through.

He's got Samuel Adams beer upon the counter.
And two rings that now provide him lots of pain.
'Cause some butt in-pushin' "Cowboy Up" guy cheated.
And now, here he is, just wallowing again!

Papi Ortiz!
It's still "1918!"
It's still chanted, 'cause you're tainted, it's not over!
Papi Ortiz!
If you know what I mean
All us Yankee Fans can chant that year again!

If I had a dime for every time I wondered
how the Yanks could blow a series up by three
I could swear I'd be the richest guy in Bloomfield
maybe even in the State of New Jersey.

But I guess the Curse will really last forever.
'Cause they won by sticking needles in behind.
Never once Sox said, "I'm sorry" for their cheating.
And it really takes a big load off my mind!

Papi Ortiz!
It's still "1918!"
It's still chanted, 'cause you're tainted, it's not over!
Papi Ortiz!
If you know what I mean
All us Yankee Fans can chant that year again!

1918* Forever!

Red Sox Fans Can't Handle the Truth

Another nice game in Toronto, eh? Yanks 8, Jays 4.

Mets bounced back nicely, beating the Cards 9-0 at Pity Field.

Okay, enough of that. The Scum are coming in, for a series that will most likely determine the course of the remainder of the AL East race.

I notice ESPN "SportsGuy" Bill Simmons has barely mentioned David Ortiz getting busted for steroids.

Let me put this in language he might understand. Paraphrased from real-life Yankee Fan -- even if he is also a Laker fan -- Manasquan High School, down the Jersey Shore, Class of 1955... Jack Nicholson. Talking to Glen Ridge High School, Class of 1980, Tom Cruise -- and I don't know any of the teams he roots for.

"Did you rat out David Ortiz for steroids?"

(Not in real life. I wish I had had the chance.)

You want answers?

"I think I'm entitled!"

You want answers?

"I want the truth!"

You can't handle the truth!

Son, we live in a world that has walls. One of them is a big green wall in that dump you call a ballpark. And those walls need to be guarded by men with integrity. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Commissioner Selig? You, Senator Mitchell?

I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Ortiz and curse the Yankees. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: That Ortiz's exposure as a no-good cheating bum, while tragic, exposes you Red Sox fans as equal, probably even greater, frauds. And that my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, extols the greatest franchise in the history of sports on this planet.

You don't want the truth! Because, deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you see the Yankees hitting baseballs off that wall. You see the Yankees hitting baseballs over that wall.

We use words like "Pride. Tradition. Mystique." We use them as the backbone of a life trying to defend something. You use them as a punchline.

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the glory of the baseball team I root for, and then questions the manner in which they provide that glory. I would rather you just said, "I'm sorry, we stole the Pennants and World Series of 2004 and 2007," and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest that you pick up a pen, or a computer keyboard, and write a confession.

Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

"Did you rat out Big Papi?"

Not in real life, you dumb Chowdahead bastard...

"Did you rat out Big Papi?"

You're goddamned right I did!!!!

*

Okay, enough of me playing games. Let's get on with the real games.

As they say in the kinds of rivalries that only Yanks-Sox truly resembles in North American professional sports...

Joe Girardi's Pinstriped Army: WE HATE RED SOX!
Joe Girardi's Pinstriped Army: WE HATE RED SOX!
Joe Girardi's Pinstriped Army: WE HATE RED SOX!
Joe Girardi's Pinstriped Army: WE HATE RED SOX!
Joe Girardi's Pinstriped Army: WE HATE RED SOX!
What do you think of Red Sox? "SHIT!"
What do you think of shit? "RED SOX!"
Thank you! "THAT'S ALL RIGHT!"

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Nice Game in Toronto, Eh? Not for the Mets!

Nice game, eh? Yanks 5, Jays 3, at the SkyDump -- excuse me, the Rogers Centre -- and they beat Roy Halladay, one of the biggest Yankee Killers ever.

Pettitte, nice start; Rivera, the save. How many times have we heard that?

Homers from Damon, Teixeira and Matsui. Thank you very much, muito obrigado, and domo origato.

Can we be confident going into this hee-yuge series with The Scum? As today's birthday boy -- and I do NOT mean Roger Clemens -- would say, "Yes we can, yes we can!"

*

It's not just that John Flaherty has basically turned one hit (his 13th-inning walkoff double against The Scum on July 1, 2004) into a broadcasting career -- then again, Fran Healy was a pathetic-hitting backup catcher for the Yankees and he didn't even do that much -- it's also that he's a VERY strange-looking man.

Could be worse. Ever see the Devils' "studio show" from the Goal Bar at the Prudential Center's north end? I swear, every time I see Chico Resch and Ken Daneyko, I'm thinking, "Hey Gomez, hey Lurch, where's Morticia?" If John MacLean, once the Devils' all-time leading scorer but now a totally bald assistant coach, ever walks in there, he is SO going to look like Uncle Fester.

*

Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez blew ANOTHER save for the Mutts. As I write this, it's Mets 7, Cardinals 7 in the bottom of the 9th at Pity Field.

The Phillies have lost, and so have the Marlins (of course, the Marlins losing means the "Washington Natinals" have won), but the Mets are barely within binoculars' range of the Wild Card now.

Oh, the Mets, the Mets, the Mets, the Mets...

I'd watch them blow it in extra innings, but Countdown is coming on, and it's time to watch Keith Olbermann take apart all those right-wing lunatics.

As Keith himself might say, You want me to watch the Mets? How dare you sir! Watching the Mets is torture!

Good night, and good luck!

*

Update: So much for good luck. Top of the 10th, St. Louis loads the bases, and the Mets bring in Sean Green -- not to be confused with the now-washed-up now-ex-Met Shawn Green. And Sean Green starts by pitching to ex-Trenton Thunder star Mark DeRosa, and with his first pitch, remember, the bases are loaded, with his first pitch... HIT HIM!

They say that baseball is a game where you never know when you're going to see something you've never seen before. I've seen pitchers hit batters with the bases loaded, but never in extra innings. (Gee, ya think it was on purpose?)

Hey, no big deal, it's still only 8-7. And the Mets still only needed one more out to get out of the inning. The batter?

Young man name of Jose Alberto Pujols. Phat Albert. Since, in St. Louis, Stan Musial is forever The Man, Pujols is El Hombre.

Swing and a miss, strike one. Swing and a miss, strike two. Maybe, maybe... LONG drive down the left-field line, foul at the last instant. Maybe, maybe...

As Ralph Kiner, whose 369 career home runs now stand just 14 ahead of Pujols, would say, "It is going, it is going, it is gone, goodbye!" 12-7 Cards.

That's 36 for the season, and with his 355th Pujols passes Lee May (as far as I know, legit) and Luis Gonzalez (anybody thinks he's legit, you're delusional), and ties Greg Vaughn (I'm not sure about him). Next up for Pujols, Yogi Berra with 358, Johnny Mize with 359, Gary Gaetti with 360 and Joe DiMaggio with 361.

Another really bad loss for the Mess. As they said in the movie Wildcats, "U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi, you ugly!"

Monday, August 3, 2009

Munson and Melky

THURMAN MUNSON
NEW YORK YANKEES
JUNE 7, 1947 - AUGUST 2, 1979

YANKEE CAPTAIN

"Our Captain and leader has not left us.
Today, tomorrow, this year, next.
Our endeavors will reflect our love and admiration for him."

*

August 2, 1979. 6:28 PM. I'm nine years old, and watching Channel 9. I don't remember what program they were airing, only that it was a rerun of some classic show. The Channel 9 News Brief came on, as scheduled, and Sara Lee Kessler came on looking very grim.

"Good evening," she said, looking for all the world like it couldn't possibly be a good evening. "Yankee catcher Thurman Munson was killed today, when... "

I didn't hear any of the rest of it. I literally fell out of my seat.

He wasn't considered good-looking, except maybe by his beloved wife Diane. He was out of shape. He had enough injuries for an entire lineup. He'd been playing first base and DH'ing as much as catching lately.

I've often tried to imagine what his life would have been like if he'd lived, and decided that he would've been done by 1983 anyway, at 36, the writing on the wall being a young first baseman name of Mattingly. Coaching? Managing? A studio analyst in the early days of ESPN? Part of George Steinbrenner's managerial merry-go-round? Back to the Cleveland area as a college coach? If the University of Michigan, with Jim Abbott (but not, since he blew his eligibility by signing with the Yankees, Derek Jeter), could reach the College World Series, why not, with Thurman Munson as head coach, their arch-rivals, THE... Ohio State University?

Even if he had lived and played until he just couldn't do it anymore, he, like another pretty good catcher, Joe Torre, would simply not have had the career stats, and probably would have needed a superb managing career to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Still, Monument Park at Yankee Stadium was his destiny. Just not after dying in a plane crash at age 32. As Mickey Mantle would later say, "When I died, I wanted on my tombstone, 'A Great Teammate.' But I didn't want it this soon." Those words are on Mickey's Monument out there beyond center field, but they can't compare to the words on Thurman's, apparently written by George Steinbrenner himself.

*

Flash forward 20 years. August 2, 1999. Fresh from my conquest of Fenway Park (and, really, all of New England) the preceding weekend, I decided to go to The Stadium. I figured there would be some sort of special ceremony on the anniversary of Munson's death. And it was scheduled to be a great pitching matchup: For the Yankees, Andy Pettitte, who has since become the pitcher I've seen more than any other; for the visiting Toronto Blue Jays, David Wells, whom we'd sent over the border along with Homer Bush and Graeme Lloyd for Roger Clemens. It was also a chance for revenge: The Jays had ruined my first trip to The Stadium, and three other games since. In 21 years, the Yanks had never beaten the Jays with me in attendance: They were 0-3. (The current record still isn't very good: 2-6, and that's 2-4 in The Bronx and 0-2 in Canada.)

As expected, there was a video tribute to Thurman before the game, and Mrs. Munson threw out the ceremonial first ball. The game was every bit what I'd hoped it would be: Both Pettitte and Wells made it into the 8th, and Derek Jeter homered off Wells -- fittingly, into Monument Park. Final score, Yankees 3, Blue Jays 1. Nice night at the old ball yard.

*

Flash forward a few years. I don't remember the exact date, but it was almost certainly in 2005 or 2006 -- if it had been in 2004, what was said wouldn't have had nearly the same resonance. But I was in the upper deck, and in front of me were these two young women (I won't call them "ladies") wearing T-shirts with Alex Rodrgiuez's name and Number 13 on them. And when A-Rod came to the plate, they screamed. One said, "Oh my God, he is soooooooo hot."

That ticked me off, because this was after the 2004 Playoffs, with his disappearing act and his dopey slap play. He now officially had a reputation for not winning anything. I said, "Are you kidding? He's never won anything. He's a loser."

One of the women turned around, and gave me a look that could kill, and said, "So what? He's hot!"

At that moment, I looked out toward Monument Park, saw Munson's Number 15, and wondered if he was turning over in his grave.

If memory serves me correctly, the Yankees won that game. But what does it tell you when the defining memory of a baseball game is not who won, but that somebody thought that being sexy was better than being successful?

I've felt bad in stadiums and arenas, and joked about feeling sick as a result of terrible performances. This was the closest I ever came to actually throwing up in one. (Though there was that Devils-Islanders game earlier this year at the Nassau Coliseum where I was actually, literally, barfed on.)

*

The Yankees played the Chicago White Sox on the 30th Anniversary of Munson's death, a coincidence but not an inappropriate one, as the old Comiskey Park was where the Yankees played their last game with Munson. (August 1, 1979, Yankees 9, White Sox 1, before their emotion-laden four-game set at home against the Baltimore Orioles, where they lost the first two before winning the last two, including the finale where they came back from the funeral and eulogist Bobby Murcer drove in all the Yankee runs in a 5-4 win.)

The ChiSox almost swept the Yanks 4 straight in Chicago for the first time since 1964, but the Yanks managed a tough 8-5 win that included Melky Cabrera hitting for the cycle (single, double, triple and home run in the same game), a feat that's even rarer than a no-hitter.

The last Yankee to do it was Tony Fernandez on September 3, 1995, before the Torre Dynasty began. It seems so long ago now, and yet the things that Thurman and Reggie and Guidry and the rest did seem like only yesterday. How can the perception of time be so strange like that? As Yankee Fan Paul Simon wrote, "Time, time, time, see what's become of me... "

*

I was in New York yesterday, watching the big screens at Nevada Smith's as Arsenal defeated Glasgow Rangers to win the Emirates Cup. When I got back to Port Authority, there was this guy wearing a Mets cap and headphones, singing along with whatever he was hearing. The first two times I saw him, I couldn't make out what he was singing. The third time, though, I could make it out: "And I try, and I try, I can't get no... I can't get no... " Of course, the Rolling Stones.

Sometimes, God has a sense of humor, and provides you with a glorious chance. I yelled out, "Of course, you can't get no satisfaction: You're a Met fan!"

Best baseball-related moment in Port Authority since that day I was going to The Stadium to see the Yanks play the Minnesota Twins, and a guy in a Twins cap, apparently from Minnesota, saw my Yankee cap and figured I was a good guy to ask, and asked me, "Excuse me, how do you get to Yankee Stadium?"

Ever since I'd first heard the question, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" I'd been waiting for someone to ask me that, and I gave him the answer: "Practice!"

Fortunately, he laughed. So I told him, "Just follow me." Unfortunately, the Twins won that game. That was in 1991, and the Yanks were beginning their long climb back up from the gutter, and the Twins were going from worst-to-first on their way to an amazing World Series.

*

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series: 3, this Thursday at The Stadium. Huge series.

Days until the next Premier League season begins: 12.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 35.

Days until East Brunswick plays football again: 39.

Days until the Devils play hockey again: 61.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 116.

Days until the 2010 World Cup begins: 312.

Days until the World Cup Final: 342.

Days until the Rutgers-Army football game at Yankee Stadium: 831.