Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Spread

Let's see how many topics I can give you as I "spread out the Sunday paper":

I did not watch Jersey Shore, and I do not watch Jerseylicious, Jersey Couture, or The Real Housewives of New Jersey (or of anywhere else, for that matter).

I see enough "Situations," "Snookis" (or would "Snookies" be more gramatically correct?) and Manzo sisters in the real New Jersey.

Is our attitude really like that? Pretty close. It usually has to be that way if you live here, or you die, because nearly everyone else's attitude is.

In the 18th Century, Benjamin Franklin called New Jersey "a keg tapped at both ends," meaning New York and Philadelphia. You get stuck between those 2 cities, you'd better have an attitude. (Or "Attytood," as Will Bunch puts it in his great blog for the Philadelphia Daily News.)

The State's motto is "Liberty and Prosperity," personified by 2 racily-dressed chicks on the State Seal and the State Flag. Someone once joked the State's actual motto is, "You think you're better than me?" (Ya tink ya bettah dan me?)

We're not all Italian, of course. But a lot of us sound like we are. Whattaya gonna do about it, huh?

Now, if the New Jersey Devils had shown a little more of that attitude on the ice, they'd still be playing Playoff hockey.


On Friday night, Joba Chamberlain gave up an 8th-inning homer to Kendry Morales, and the Yankees lost 6-4, to the Los Angeles Angels of Katella Boulevard, Anaheim, Orange County, California, United States of America, Sol System, Sector 001, United Federation of Planets, Milky Way Galaxy, Known Universe.

But, yesterday, Andy Pettitte shut the Halos down, and the bats got to work, and the Yankees beat the Angels 7-1.

Hideki Matsui looks so strange in Angels red. But I still love him for what he did in Yankee Pinstripes.

Javier Vazquez goes this afternoon against Scott Kazmir. After Javy's last start, I think Met fans might be dreading the thought of one of this game's starting pitchers more than Yankee Fans.


Speaking of the Mutts, they're back to .500. And they're getting 36,000 fans out at New Shea.

The Mets must be doing better: In today's Daily News, Mike Lupica is gushing over his favorite team again, in particular over the rebounding Jose Reyes.

As they used to say in Angels country (and still might), Oh, like, gag me with a spoon!

Lupica is wondering where the Mets would be with a healthy Carlos Beltran. I'll tell you where they'd be: Trailing the Philadelphia Phillies, which is exactly where they are.

Here's what Lupica said about Beltran: "Very good player, very bad contract. The Mets got back to 9-9 without him yesterday, behind Jonathon Niese and Reyes and Bay and Francoeur. And K-Rod. You wonder how April would have looked for the Mets if their $119 million center fielder had been around. He was supposed to be a big part of the Mets' future once. Now he's turned into their Jason Giambi."

Oh, really, Mike? You want to compare Carlos Beltran to Jason Giambi?

When healthy, Giambi was a better hitter, but Beltran was a better all-around player. This is easy to admit.

And, as far as I know, Beltran has never used steroids, nor has he ever been accused of doing so. (UPDATE: Through the 2016 season, he still hasn't been seriously accused of it. But he has, since, come to the Yankees -- and been traded away for next to nothing.)

But do you really want to compare Carlos Beltran to Jason Giambi? Here's all you need to know:

On October 16, 2003, in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium, when runs were hard to come by, Jason Giambi hit 2 home runs, keeping the Yankees in the game, and a home run came from an unlikely source, Aaron Boone, and the Yankees won the Pennant.

On October 19, 2006, in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series at Shea Stadium, when runs were hard to come by, Carlos Beltran scored what turned out to be the only Met run of the game, keeping the Mets in the game for the moment, but a home run came from an unlikely source, Yadier Molina, and Carlos Beltran was at bat with 2 outs and 2 men on, making him the Pennant-winning run, and he took a called third strike, and the Mets lost the Pennant.

How's that comparison look now, Lupica?

Who knows, maybe Beltran will, one day, serve as a role model for... Ike Davis.

If, that is, the Mets ever get back into the postseason.


On a somewhat related subject: You know that home run that Molina hit in the top of the 9th to give the St. Louis Cardinals the Pennant? It was a little out of the reach of Met left fielder Endy Chavez, who had earlier robbed Scott Rolen (the most overrated 3rd baseman of my lifetime and probably also of yours) of a home run, with a catch that Met fans call the greatest ever, as if Willie Mays and several other players never existed.

If Chavez had not made that catch, Molina's homer might never have happened. At the very least, it would have been meaningless, the cherry on the Cards' sundae. And Aaron Heilman might not have been stigmatized, and he might have been a better pitcher in 2007 and '08, and the Mets might have gotten back to the postseason in either year, or even both.

If you're a Met fan, you're probably not reading this blog. (If you're a Met fan, it's a 50/50 proposition that you can even read.) But if you could trade that Chavez catch for 4 years (2007, '08, '09 and '10) of a more effective version of Heilman, either as a starter or as a reliever, would you take it?

It's good to be a Yankee Fan, and to not have to worry about things like this. I'm a little nervous about Vazquez's start today, but if that's my biggest worry -- that, and Nick Johnson having a .375 on-base percentage but a .135 batting average -- then there's lots of fans who would love to have my baseball worries.


Arsene Wenger told Arsenal fans to give warm welcomes to Patrick Vieira and Kolo Toure as they came back into North London with Manchester City for yesterday's match. They did. Good.

He also told them not to boo Emmanuel Adebayor upon his return, after his goal celebration and stomping on Robin van Persie's face in Manchester last September. This time, the Gooners refused Le Boss' request. Good.

Despite having Lukasz Fabianski in goal, and the centrebacks being the useless Mikael Silvestre and the 35-year-old Sol Campbell (who still outran everyone on the pitch except the speedy but ineffective Theo Walcott), and despite having to face Carlos Tevez for 98 minutes (Man City goalkeeper Shay Given's injury and replacement led to "Fergie Time"), and Adebayor for 45 minutes, and despite Vladimir Putin lookalike and all-around bastard Mike Dean as the referee, Arsenal kept a clean sheet yesterday. That's "English" for "they shut 'em out."

But despite Man City having to replace their goalkeeper due to injury, they couldn't score in 98 minutes, either. Final score was nil-nil. That's "English" for "nothin'-nothin'."

Arsenal will finish 3rd in the Premier League, behind Chelsea and Manchester United -- though not necessarily in that order.


In New York, there's a weekly soccer newspaper called First Touch. In it, regular columnist Dave Bowler writes of the financial crisis at Portsmouth, which still managed to reach their 2nd FA Cup Final in 3 years. (They won in 2008, and will play Chelsea in the Final next month.)

He says, "I’m really sorry about this, but we have to talk about Portsmouth again, the Kurt Cobain of football clubs, who seem to mean more to people after committing suicide than when they were alive."

Portsmouth were not a bunch of dirty, poorly-dressed, drug-addicted losers who couldn't be understood and then killed themselves. They were a good team (getting up to 8th place in the Premiership in 2007), whose finances were wrecked by the spending of then-manager Harry Redknapp, who had previously also done this to Portsmouth's arch-rivals, Southampton, to the point where, while Portsmouth will go down to England's 2nd division, Southampton are stuck in its 3rd. 

Redknapp also seriously hurt West Ham United, to the point that they were relegated. (They have since gotten back up, but have struggled to stay up, and will just barely avoid relegation again this season.) Hopefully (I say this as an Arsenal fan), Redknapp, recently indicted for tax fraud, will end up doing the same to the club for which he left Portsmouth in the lurch, Arsenal's arch-rivals, Tottenham Hotspur.

Bowler: "Portsmouth stand on the brink of stealing the FA Cup for the second time. But that's not enough, oh no. For their next trick, they're going to try and barge their way into the Europa League next term because with Chelsea already in the Champions League, as FA Cup finalists they'd ordinarily qualify, win or lose. So why are they currently exempt? Because they did not file accounts with UEFA because they were in administration. Portsmouth now want to see that ruling waived, in order that the financially incompetent be rewarded for that very incompetence."

No, Mr. Bowler. Portsmouth did not steal the 2008 FA Cup. Maybe they bought it, but they did not steal it.

But since 1996, the FA Cup has been won by the following teams: Chelsea 5 times (with a chance for a 6th), Arsenal 4, Manchester United 3, Liverpool 2, Portsmouth 1. Except for Porsmouth, it's been all the Big Four, all of whom spend much more than have Portsmouth.

In fact, the 2008 Final, in which Portsmouth beat 2nd-division (and Welsh!) club Cardiff City, was the 1st FA Cup Final since 1991, and only the 4th since 1982, that didn't involve any of the Big Four.

So who's buying? Who's stealing? Not Portsmouth.

It's true that Portsmouth should have spent better, and it's also true that they should have watched the deadline for application for the UEFA Europa League, formerly known as the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and the UEFA Cup.

But it's also true that, should they win the FA Cup (the odds are long that they'll beat Chelsea, but they did win it 2 years ago, and did come back from a 2-0 deficit to tie Bolton Wanderers on the road yesterday), they will be, technically if not officially, Champions of England (despite finishing in last place in the Premiership), and would deserve to play in some sort of European competition next season. I think, although this would never happen because there wouldn't be enough money in it, that FIFA (the world's governing body of soccer) should overrule UEFA (the governing body for Europe) and let Portsmouth play.

But here's the part of Bowler's column that really pisses me off: "The Premier League must be watching very nervously indeed. Because if UEFA sticks to its guns, insists that Portsmouth are financially unworthy and reiterates once more the intention that European competition takes place only between clubs who are in good financial order, it instantly begs one question. Why can't the Premier League or the FA do exactly the same? Because if you mean what you say when you tell clubs to behave responsibly financially, why don't you enforce it?"


You know which clubs have the biggest debts right now? Manchester United. Chelsea. And Liverpool. Three of the Big Four. (Arsenal are regularly making payments on the debt they incurred with the building of Emirates Stadium, so they're much better off than the others.)

The difference between Man U, Chelski and Pool on the one hand, and Pompey on the other, is that Pompey has already seen the hammer come down on them -- or the Sword of Damocles, if you prefer. If Bowler is going to be consistent, then he has to say that United, Chelsea and Liverpool also have to be barred from European competition in the 2010-11 season. Because they have been financially irresponsible.

Or are we dealing with the old idea of "It ain't cheatin' if you don't get caught"? Those clubs haven't "been caught" yet.

Although Liverpool's owners are desperate to sell. They are George Gillette, the American who recently owned the NHL's Montreal Canadiens (and he just sold them back to the Molson family), and Tom Hicks, the American who owns MLB's Texas Rangers and the NHL's Dallas Stars (and a right-winger who contributed millions to the Republicans because he's a friend of the man he bought the Rangers from, George W. Bush).

Malcolm Glazer, an American who owns the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, owns Man United, and he's piled so much debt onto the team that a group of their fans is attempting a hostile takeover. (It won't work.) After Glazer bought the team in 2005, by piling on that debt, a group of fans "seceded from the union" and founded FC United of Manchester, which is still far from qualifying for Football League status.

Their fans have a song: "We're Having a Party When Glazer Dies."

English football fans like to call their arch-rivals "The Scum" (hence my use of that term for the Boston Red Sox and the New York Rangers), and fans of said rivals "Scummers."

Man United fans are scum, but even they are not as low as these FC United fans. Have Met fans, or Red Sox fans, ever sung about having a party when George Steinbrenner dies? If so, they haven't done it in the stands at Shea, Citi Field, or Fenway.

Really, what is Glazer's crime? Piling all that debt on United? Put it this way: Even if they do go into administration, get docked points, and have to sell off several stars, they're probably not going to lose so much that they get relegated.

And since buying the team, Glazer's purchases of players have resulted in 3 Premiership titles (with a shot at a 4th over the next 2 weeks) and the 2008 Champions League title. That's more than most teams have ever won, or ever will.

For example, in their entire history, Manchester City have won just 2 English Football League titles (none since 1968, well before "The Football League Division One" became "The English Premier League") and 1 European trophy. Having not all that long ago having gone down to the 2nd and even to the 3rd division, do you think Man City fans would like to trade just the last 5 seasons with Man United?

Even though Man City's new Arab owners are also spending like crazy. It has gotten them to at least qualify for next season's Europa League. They may finish 4th, which would qualify them for the qualifying round of next season's Champions League.

Which means, in all likelihood, they'll crash out of the competition by losing on aggregate to FC Dinamo Whoareyaslava, and, as dropping-like-a-stone Liverpool have done, hope against hope that they can survive in the Europa League thereafter.

Strange game, soccer/football/futbol. I'm still glad I got into it.

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