Friday, April 30, 2010

Who's Crazier: Met Fans Or Ozzie Guillen?

The good news is, the Mets are in Philadelphia to begin a very important three-game series with the Phillies, the 2nd-best team in baseball, a series in which their current 9-1, 1st-place status will come crashing down to Earth. Most likely, a lot of the Flushing Heathen have gone down there to get a right hiding from the Philly Phaithful, and will come back shellshocked.

The bad news is, they will come back. And, taking Met fans' place as the craziest people in New York, is Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, as crazy as any 10 Met fans.

When Ozzie was the White Sox' shortstop, he was a nice player, a fair hitter for a middle infielder and a good glove man. And we never had reason to believe that his El train didn't go all the way to the end of the line.

But as ChiSox manager, he's been the South American version of Billy Martin, yelling at his players, his team's owners, the media, everybody. It seemed to work at first, as he let the Pale Hose to the 2005 World Championship -- the first for either Chicago team since the 1917 White Sox, 88 years, and the first Pennant for either Chicago team since the "Go-Go Sox" of 1959. But his act has gotten stale, his comments have included bigotry (homophobic slurs at various non-gay individuals, including Chicago Sun-Times and ESPN columnist Jay Mariotti, who is, openly, a Cub fan), and, what's more, the Sox have been in just one Pennant race since '05.

We Yankee Fans don't care. As far as we're concerned, the White Sox are just another team on the schedule. Maybe White Sox fans hate us and our team, but we don't care, everybody hates us and our team. We don't take any special delight in beating any particular team other than the Boston Red Sox and, during those interleague games, the Mets. We don't care which American League teams we play in the Playoffs, or which National League team we play in the World Series: It doesn't matter who it is, we gotta play 'em anyway, so let's beat 'em. "Because it's there" is a dumb reason to climb a mountain; "Because that's the next team on the schedule, because they're there" is an excellent reason to beat your next opponent.

Oh yeah, last night, A.J. Burnett pitched fabulously, holding the Orioles to just 3 hits, and Robinson Cano was on fire again -- more so than Boog Powell's barbecue stand down there at Camden Yards -- and the Yankees beat Baltimore, 4-0. Next up, as I said, the White Sox/ChiSox/Pale Hose/SouthSiders/Go-Go Sox/Ozzfest.
Come on, Phillies, civilization is counting on you to put the Heathen in their place! Which is no higher than second place!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Orioles Suffer Acute Case of Sabathia

The Yankees followed up last night's awful 5-4 loss (by Yankee standards, a 5-4 loss is "awful") by jumping out to a 6-0 lead over the Baltimore Orioles at Comedown Yards, and cruised to an 8-3 victory.

CC Sabathia improved to 10-1 lifetime against Da Boids (that's "The Birds" in Yankeefantawk), and took the game into the 8th inning. Joba Chamberlain got one out, and with the game well out of a save situation, manager Joe Girardi decided not to pitch Mariano Rivera, and instead said, "Let's go see Sergio!" Sergio Mitre pitched a scoreless 9th. Robinson Cano took advantage of the short porch in right field (yes, they have one, too) and hit a home run.

Officially, attendance was 17,248. For a Yanks-O's game in Baltimore. That's pathetic. Even at Memorial Stadium, a Yanks-O's game could usually be counted on for about 25,000.

*

Did anybody see the San Francisco Giants-Philadelphia Phillies game today? Because the National League doesn't wise up and put in the Designated Hitter, Giants manager Bruce Bochy had to decide whether to pinch-hit for Tim Lincecum, arguably the best pitcher in the game right now, in the 8th inning, with a 3-run lead.

Bochy, who famously beat the Yankees in the 2001 World Series as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, let Lincecum hit. He didn't reach base.

Then in the 9th, he walked a batter, and was immediately removed. If Bochy was going to remove him after his 1st 9th-inning baserunner anyway, why didn't they pinch-hit for him and then bring in their best reliever? The Phils tied the game and then won it in the 11th.

This would not have happened to the Giants (not that I particularly care about them, they left my home region half a century ago) if the NL had done the right thing and adopted the DH like the rest of the planet!

And don't give me any of this "real baseball" garbage! For most of my lifetime, until all these new parks were built, half the stadiums in the NL had artificial turf. Now, no NL parks do. If they can get smart about that, why can't they bring in the DH like every other league in the world (except one of the Japanese leagues, I forget which)?

It's the 21st Century, NL: Bring in the DH!

*

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series: 9, starting a week from this Friday night, at Fenway.

Days until the 2010 World Cup begins: 43. Just 6 weeks.

Days until the World Cup Final: 74.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 129.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 135.

Days until the new Meadowlands Stadium (still unnamed) opens for football: 137.

Days until the Devils play another local rival (after their inevitable elimination by the Flyers tonight): 164 (estimate).

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 211.

Days until Derek Jeter collects his 3,000th career hit: 398 (estimate).

Days until the Rutgers-Army football game at Yankee Stadium: 563.

Days until the last Nets game in New Jersey: 711 (estimated).

Days until the 2012 Olympics begin in London: 831.

Oh, Bulldurham!

Joe (Trey Wilson): You guys. You lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you? Larry?

Larry (Robert Wuhl): Lollygaggers!

Joe: Lollygaggers! What's our record, Larry?

Larry: 8-16.

Joe: Eight... and sixteen. How'd we ever win eight?

Larry: It's a miracle!

Joe: It's a miracle!
-- Bull Durham

It's bad enough that the Yankees lost the finale against the Angels in Anaheim, 8-4, thus losing a series for the first time this season. But, last night, the bullpen (specifically, David Robertson) wasted a good effort by Phil Hughes, and the Yankees fell a little short with a 9th-inning rally, losing 5-4 to the Baltimore Orioles?

What was the Orioles' record coming into the game? Three... and sixteen. How'd they ever win three? It's a miracle.

They've got several guys with on-base percentages -- not batting averages, on-base percentages -- under .300. Their starter last night, Kevin Millwood -- how many teams has he washed out with, now? -- came in at 0-3, and did not get the decision, because, in his first 3 starts, the O's scored a grand total of 5 runs. And they play in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, one of the homer-happiest parks in the majors. The Orioles stink.

And the Yankees lost to them.

The Daily News points out that the Yankees have now lost 4 out of 5, and they ask, "Time to panic?"

No, it's time to suck it up and fry those Birds! CC Sabathia goes tonight, so let's get 'em!

*

Last night, John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman were remarking on WCBS about how, due to the schedule (midweek), the O's' awful start, and the cold, it was the smallest crowd they'd ever seen there, and that even the Yankee Fans who sometimes "take over the place" (or, as Michael Kay would say, turn Camden Yards into "the really South Bronx") didn't show up.

They also remarked about how it was a typically dragged-out Yanks-O's game. Suzyn actually used Phil Rizzuto's old line: "Holy cow!"

Yeah, well, it wasn't long enough: The Yankees couldn't force it to a bottom of the 9th.

The Yankees will snap out of it tonight. After all, they're not the 1987 Durham Bulls.

Of course, those Bulls did snap out of it. By the 4th of July, they were in first place. (In the movie, anyway.) But, strangely, the film doesn't tell us how they finished the season. (It didn't matter: Both Crash and Nuke were gone, and the movie wasn't really about the team, it was about the Annie-Crash-Nuke menage-a-trois.)

But the Yankees will snap out of it. Good thing they don't need Annie, in the person of Susan Sarandon: In real life, she's a Met fan. (And, in hockey, a Rangers fan.)

And I don't care how good she looks at age 63: Met and Ranger fandom is a double dose of anti-Viagra.

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?"

Really.

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.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Who the Hell Is Dallas Braden?

Yesterday, the Yankees lost to the Oakland Athletics, 4-2 at the Oakland Coliseum. The winning pitcher for the A's was Dallas Braden.

In the top of the 6th, with Alex Rodriguez on 1st base, Robinson Cano fouled a pitch off, missing a bloop double by a couple of inches. Having nearly reached 3rd base, A-Rod walked back to 1st by crossing the infield, and walked on the pitcher's mound in the process.

And Dallas Braden -- who, like Phillies pitcher Chad Durbin, who you might remember from the last couple of World Series, has a name that sounds like that of a somewhat shifty soap opera character -- lost his cool. That is, if he ever had any cool.

Apparently, one of the "unwritten rules of baseball" is that you do not cross back over the pitcher's mound. Have you ever heard of that rule before? I haven't. Even Keith Hernandez -- not exactly the first guy I would quote -- hasn't. He said, during the Mets' broadcast last night, "I don't know if there is 'an unwritten rule,' but I would never do that."

Oh, I think he would have. After all, "Who does this guy think he is?" "I'm Keith Hernandez!"

Now, on the one hand, Braden and the A's did win the game. So credit to him, and them, for that.

On the other hand... Who the flying fuck is Dallas Braden? (I toned down the language for the title of this post, but the question still applies.) As Lisa Swan put it in today's Subway Squawkers):

Braden, who I wouldn't have been able to pick out of a police lineup until today (now I would - just look for the clown puffing himself up like a blowfish trying to look all fierce, like he is in the pic above), has become the self-appointed arbiter of unwritten rules nobody even heard of until today.

Blowfish? (Paging Darius Rucker.) I think he looks more like Freddie Kreuger before getting burned!

"The guy ran across my mound," Braden said. "He had his foot on my pitching rubber."

Your mound? Your pitching rubber? Have they got your name on them, you dope?

"Any kind of disrespect like that has got to be handled, and that's what I did. If my grandmother did what he did, I'd tell her the same thing."

Somebody once asked Hall of Fame pitcher Early Wynn, known for hitting batters on purpose, if he would throw at his own mother. He said, "I'd have to. Mom could really hit the curveball." Wynn had a sense of humor about it. He had perspective. Braden... not so much.

Braden continued: "Nobody's ever done that to me when I pitched in the big leagues. I had to get my point across in terms of the unwritten rules, the little intricacies of the game, how the game's supposed to be played, how we expect it to be played, how we play it over here, and I did that."

Okay, here's an unwritten rule: Guys who've played 65 games in the major leagues, not counting postseason games, because you've never even seen one except on television, do not call out a future Hall-of-Famer who plays for the defending World Champions (and was a major reason why).

"He just told me to get off his mound," A-Rod said. "I thought it was pretty funny, actually. I'd never quite heard that before, especially from a guy with a handful of wins in his career."

Ah, the matured A-Rod. I never thought I'd live to see it, did you? Then again, I never thought I'd live to see him play in, let alone win, a World Series. But he did. Will Braden ever play in a World Series? Or win one? Not as long as he's with the A's, who still think general manager Billy Beane is a genius, but haven't seen the far side of October in 20 years.

Squawker Lisa: "Braden also thought he'd burn A-Rod by suggesting that he act more like Derek Jeter. Well, I think Dallas Braden ought to act like Steve Carlton and shut the bleep up!"

For those who don't remember: Carlton was noted for not talking to the press, to the point where, in the early 1980s, the joke was that the 2 best lefthanded pitchers in baseball don't speak English: Fernando Valenzuela and Steve Carlton. (Braden is also a lefty.)

But Carlton and Valenzuela were great pitchers. Carlton proved himself many, many times over a 20-year stretch. Valenzuela proved himself faster than most players ever will. Put it another way: By the time he was Braden's age, Fernando had already won 110 games, reached 3 postseasons and won a World Series. (Sadly for me, it was against the Yankees, for the Los Angeles Dodgers, in his rookie season of 1981). At the same age, Carlton had already won 77 games, and a World Series. (It was in 1967 with the St. Louis Cardinals. He did it again in 1980, with the Philadelphia Phillies.) Carlton reached the postseason 9 times in his career. Valenzuela, 5 times.

Here's Dallas Braden: A 17-22 lifetime record, an ERA of 4.52, a WHIP of 1.392, no postseason appearances. According to Baseball-Reference.com (which is your friend, even if you don't know it yet), these are the 10 players who, statistically, Braden most closely resembles at this point in his career: Jack Curtis, Paul Thormodsgard, Ray Francis, Gerry Janeski, Glen Perkins, Jim Winford, Aaron Laffey, Cha-Seung Baek, Mike Birkbeck and Tony Saunders.

I've heard of 3 of them: Thormodsgard (a blip on the radar screen for the late 1970s Minnesota Twins), Laffey (a nondescript current starter for the Cleveland Indians), and Birkbeck (a briefly interesting pitcher for the late 1980s Milwaukee Brewers, whom the Mets then picked up, and then regretted it). The rest, your guess is as good as mine, unless you actually want to click on their Baseball-Reference.com links. These are Dallas Braden's peers.

Here's Alex Rodriguez: A lifetime batting average of .305. An OPS+ of 148. 585 home runs. 2,548 hits. 8 trips to the postseason. And now, a World Series ring, and he was hardly "just along for the ride": He was a monster in the 1st 2 rounds of the Playoffs, and got key hits in the Series as well. Oh yeah, by the time A-Rod was Braden's age, he already had about 300 homers.

Michael Duca, co-author of the recently-published The Baseball Codes: Beanballs, Sign Stealing and Bench-Clearing Brawls: The Unwritten Rules of America's Pastime, says the "unwritten rule" does exist:

It was very common (to observe the rule) in the '40s, '50s and '60s. Bob Gibson was very well versed in protecting what he called his office. He told people to say the hell out of my office. Had that been Gibson on the mound, A-Rod would have picked himself off the grass to get back to first. He would have decked him. No question about it.

Yeah. Had that been Bob Gibson on the mound. Guess what, Mr. Duca: That was not Bob Gibson on the mound! That was Dallas Braden on the mound.

Actually, Gibson is a good model for Duca's argument, as he was a slow starter. But even at Braden's age, 26, Gibson had already won 36 games, more than twice as many as Braden.

The point, though, is that at 28, Gibson became the Most Valuable Player of a World Series. He earned it. What has Braden earned, besides scorn?

Besides, does Duca really think A-Rod would have tested Gibson like that? Do what Gibson did in his career, and you don't test him; do what A-Rod has done, and Gibson would have been smart enough to not fool around with threats. He'd just try to get him out -- as he explained, himself, in his approach to baseball's all-time home run leader, Hank Aaron, in his own recent book, co-written with my guy Reggie Jackson: Sixty Feet Six Inches: A Hall of Fame Pitcher and a Hall of Fame Hitter Talk About How the Game Is Played.

(Get this book. I know Reggie doesn't need the money, and Gibson probably doesn't need it, either. Get it anyway. You will love reading what these two old warhorses have to say.)

They talk about how the game is played, because they were two of the guys who shaped it. Braden? As the late Lloyd Bentsen would have said, "Senator, you're no Bob Gibson."

So when Braden has accomplishments that can stand alongside those of Gibson, or even those that can stand alongside those of A-Rod, without embarrassing any of them, then he can talk. Until then, he is a nonentity, and he needs to put a sock and a stirrup in it.

Braden's lucky he plays for the A's, not a team that the Yankees really don't like, or else he would really hear it when they come to New York.

As it is, Yankee Fans may give him an even bigger insult: Forgetting about him.

*

UPDATE: Just 3 starts later, on May 9, 2010, Dallas Braden did something that was never accomplished by any of the other pitchers I named: Steve Carlton, Fernando Valenzuela, Bob Gibson or Early Wynn. He pitched not just a no-hitter (which Fernando had done), but a perfect game, against the Tampa Bay Rays at the Coliseum.

There really isn't an equivalent feat for a hitter. Hitting for the cycle -- a single, a double, a triple and a home run in the same game -- isn't the same. Nor is hitting 4 home runs in a game, which is an even rarer feat than a perfect game: It's happened just 16 times. Alex Rodriguez hit for the cycle once. He never hit 4 home runs in a game, although he hit 3 in a game 3 times.

Since the pitching distance became 60 feet, 6 inches in 1893, there have been 21 perfect games in Major League Baseball:

* They've been pitched by Hall-of-Famers: Cy Young, Addie Joss, Jim Bunning, SandyKoufax, Catfish Hunter, Randy Johnson, and, likely to be elected in the next few years, Roy Halladay. (Like Johnson, Braden is a lefty who wore Number 51. Even though Johnson never pitched for the A's, he may have been Braden's idol.)

* They've been pitched by guys who weren't HOFers, but were All-Stars: Mike Witt, Tom Browning, Dennis Martinez, Kenny Rogers, David Wells, David Cone, Mark Buehrle, Matt Cain and Felix Hernandez.

* And they've been pitched by guys who, at best, were journeymen: Charlie Robertson, Len Barker, Philip Humber, and, of course, with the only perfect game in postseason history, Don Larsen.

Dallas Braden remained a journeyman at best, although it wasn't entirely his fault. Just 11 months after his perfect game, he hurt his shoulder, and, despite surgery, it never healed, and he never threw another professional pitch after April 16, 2011. He was not yet 28 years old, and he finished 28-36 with a 4.16 ERA. He didn't make his retirement official until January 14, 2014, calling his shoulder "a shredded mess."

He then joined ESPN as an analyst on Baseball Tonight. He was moved to Monday Night Baseball as a color analyst when Curt Schilling was fired for being a bigger jerk than Braden ever was. Braden has gotten considerably more respect as a broadcaster, even though, just 33 years old in the 2016 season, he should still be pitching.

Born in Phoenix, he grew up in Stockton, California, so the A's are, sort of, his hometown team. He is a charity fundraiser in the San Joaquin Valley. He's a better man than he was when he had his little contretemps with A-Rod. So is A-Rod -- or so it seems.

It took me 6 years to figure this out, but the reason I thought "Dallas Braden" sounded like the name of a soap opera character is that I was thinking of Eric Braeden, the German-born actor who stars as business lord Victor Newman on the CBS soap opera The Young and the Restless -- and has a major fan in none other than Bob Gibson.

In 1995, then the Cardinals' pitching coach under manager Joe Torre, his former Cardinal teammate, Gibson spoke to Franz Lidz of Sports Illustrated, and said he admired Newman for being, in the word so often attributed to him, "ruthless." According to the article, many ballplayers like to watch soap operas in their hotels before night games, and don't like day games because they miss their soaps. Victor, good to those loyal to him but described by one TV critic as "the blackest of blackguards," appeals to them for some twisted reason. I don't know if Dallas Braden is a fan of his.

Devils Should Be Ashamed of Themselves

The Yankees pulled off their 1st triple play in 42 years yesterday afternoon, and still lost, 4-2 to the Oakland Athletics.

That's okay. Taking 2 of 3 in Oakland is very much allowed. They move on down the Pacific Coast to Anaheim, another long-time trouble spot for them, to face the Whatever They're Calling Themselves This Year Angels.

What really has me angry is the New Jersey Devils. Once again, they simply didn't show up for the Playoffs, losing Game 5 and the series at home to the Philadelphia Flyers, their second-biggest rival, 3-0.

It's bad enough that they were awful in the Playoffs -- although some teams would have loved that chance. (Have I ever mentioned that the RANGERS SUCK?)

It's that the Devils didn't take that chance. Simply getting clobbered by a better team (which the Flyers are not), or by a hotter team (which the Flyers definitely are), would be excusable. Not showing up is never excusable.

From 1995 to 2003, the Devils reached 4 Stanley Cup Finals, winning 3 of them. Since then:

2004: Lost Eastern Conference Quarterfinals to Flyers in 5. They still hadn't gotten used to the idea that Captain Scott Stevens, dealing with post-concussion syndrome, would never play again.

2005: No Playoffs. No Season. The Lockout. Gary Bettman, you better do some serious repenting, because otherwise you're going to Hell.

2006: Won the Atlantic Division title. Swept the Rangers in the Conference Quarterfinals, the greatest non-Cup moment in team history. And then followed it up by getting embarrassed in the Semifinals, losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in 5.

2007: Won the Atlantic Division title. Beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in 6. Then lost to the Ottawa Senators in 5. Who loses a Playoff series to the Ottawa Senators? Don't forget, these were, essentially, the same Senators who, 4 years earlier, led the Devils 3 games to 2 in the Eastern Conference Finals, then lost Game 6 at the Meadowlands, then let the Devils score the winner with 3 minutes left in regulation in Ottawa (well, in Kanata) in Game 7. Losing a Playoff series to the Ottawa Senators is disgraceful.

2008: Lost to the Rangers in 5, including the first 3 Playoff games ever played at the Prudential Center. This was beyond disgrace.

2009: Won the Atlantic Division title. Blew a 3-games-to-2 lead against the Hurricanes, losing Game 6 in Raleigh. Then, in Game 7 in Newark, blew a 3-2 lead with a minute and a half to go. Putting aside all rivalry issues and concentrating solely on quality of play, this is the most notorious loss in Devils history. (And they do now have some history.)

2010: Won the Atlantic Division title. But I knew the Devils were going to lose the series when they lost Game 1 at home. After that, the series had "Uh oh" written all over it.

Since winning the 2003 Stanley Cup, the Devils' postseason record is 16-26. Since opening the Prudential, their home Playoff record is a miserable 3-7.

The problem isn't the goaltender: Martin Brodeur is still one of the top 3 goalies in the game. The problem isn't the offense: With Jamie Langenbrunner still a force, Travis Zajac having fully matured, Ilya Kovalchuk being a terrific acquisition and Zach Parise having become one of the best offensive players in the game, the Devils are quite capable of scoring goals. The problem is the defense: The Devils have never really replaced Scott Stevens with a "commanding officer" on defense.

Some changes will have to be made. It may be time to say goodbye to Colin White. Maybe one or two others. But the Devils must bring in a Stevens type, someone who will lead by example, by dirty looks if necessary, in order to change the team's lackadaisical attitude and become a threat again.

And that's what they need to be. The Devils are capable of beating teams. They are not, however, scaring anybody. They need to make the Prudential Center the kind of uh-oh-I-don't-wanna-go-there place that the Meadowlands was for a few years -- and not just for fans. (Yes, that's a joke about how inadequate the Brendan Byrne/Continental Airlines Arena was.)

I want to bring back the fear factor. We haven't had it for a while now. Not since Scottso decided further concussions weren't worth it. (And they're not. Don't get me wrong, I miss him, but he's 46, and and what good would he have been to the team with another concussion?)

We need to make men afraid of us again.

David Puddy was an idiot... but he was a real fan.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day All-Stars

Happy Earth Day. This is the 40th Anniversary of the occasion, first celebrated on April 22, 1970.

The Yankees are in the San Francisco Bay Area, the "greenest" metro area in the country. Today they will finish up a series with the Oakland Athletics, who not only were the 1st big-league team to regularly wear green as their uniforms' primary color (although they started it when they played in considerably more conservative Kansas City), but claim to be the most eco-friendly team in the majors. Hard to imagine that, considering how outdated the Oakland Coliseum is, but I hope they're trying as much as they say they are.

In honor of Earth Day, here are the All-Time Earth Day All-Stars.

Unfortunately, the team isn't all that strong. If it hadn't been for Khalil Greene, I would have had to put Pumpsie Green -- a Polo Grounds Met -- at shortstop.

1B Hank Greenberg
2B Dick Green
SS Khalil Greene
3B Jake Flowers
LF Mike Greenwell
CF Phil Plantier
RF Shawn Green
C Arlie Latham
P Tommy Greene
MGR Dallas Green

Greenberg was a Hall-of-Famer. Greenwell, Shawn Green and Khalil Greene were All-Stars. Dick Green was a good fielder. Plantier was a hot prospect who didn't pan out.

Tommy Greene, well, he did pitch a no-hitter for the Phillies. Dallas Green, although an even lesser pitcher for the Phils, managed them to a World Championship. Flowers is just kind of filling out the lineup.

And Latham? This late 19th Century star appears to have no connection to Earth Day. But I needed a catcher, he did frequently play the position early in his career (though he was mainly a 3rd baseman). But I included him mainly for his nickname: "The Freshest Man On Earth."

*

Javier Vazquez sure looked fresh on Monday night, getting his 1st win of the season after getting booed at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees won, 7-3.

Phil Hughes looked even fresher last night, taking a no-hitter into the 8th, before John Sterling's constant use of the word "no-hitter" on the air jinxed him. The Yankees held on for a 3-1 win as Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera came to the rescue.

This was the 2nd near-no-hitter of the season for the Yankees, and it was only April 21. They say certain things come in threes, and they also say the 3rd time is the charm.

CC Sabathia nearly had a no-hitter against Tampa Bay 2 weeks ago, but manager Joe Girardi was willing to take him out even with the no-hitter still underway. Joe, as I said before, you can take your pitch count and...

Come to think of it, it was in Tropicana Field -- and I really don't like calling a dome a "field" the way they do, so sometimes I still use the old name of "ThunderDome" -- so that is a place "where the sun don't shine."

It is only a coincidence that the Rays and the A's -- who rhyme with each other -- are the 2 teams now most in need of new ballparks, now that the Florida Marlins are finally building one. Both had plans collapse as a result of the Bush Recession and local political boondoggles, and it remains to be seen if either the A's or the Rays -- despite both being competitive at the moment -- will remain in their metro areas for much longer.

*

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series: 15, starting Friday night, May 7, at Fenway. A shade over 2 weeks.

Days until the 2010 World Cup begins: 49. Just 7 weeks.

Days until the World Cup Final: 80.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 135.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 141.

Days until the new Meadowlands Stadium (still unnamed) opens for football: 143.

Days until the Devils play another local rival (after their inevitable elimination by the Flyers tonight): 170 (estimate).

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 217.

Days until Derek Jeter collects his 3,000th career hit: 404 (estimate).

Days until the Rutgers-Army football game at Yankee Stadium: 569.

Days until the last Nets game in New Jersey: 717 (estimated).

Days until the 2012 Olympics begin in London: 837.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It's Hard to Be a Yankee Fan In the Citi

Every season, I try to make it to all 3 "local teams": The Yankees, the Mets, and the Phillies.

The Yankees, even with the cost, are the easy part. I've been with them for a third of a century now. And even with all the difficulties (the Mattingly Drought, Steinbrenner's managerial musical chairs, the Roid Sox Era), it's been a pretty successful era.

The Phillies are not a problem, either, unless you count the long train ride from Center City back to New Brunswick and then having to get back to the old home town around midnight, which is not fun, which is why I usually prefer a Sunday afternoon game at Broad & Pattison (and it's now actually 11th & Pattison, but who's counting).

The Mets are the hard part. It's often been hard to figure out what stunk more: The Mets, their fans, or Shea Stadium. With Shea replaced by Citi Field, it's a little clearer.

You know the joke: The field at Citi Field looks great. It should, considering the Mets put $150 million worth of fertilizer on it every day!

Ah, but tonight, the Mets played the Chicago Cubs. Two legendary losers, with lousy bullpens, both known for blowing games they should have won? Something had to give.

Why did I go to Citi Field tonight? A, To get it out of the way. B, To see this miracle boy named Ike Davis. C, Because, in their current condition (hopeless), Met fans were unlikely to be the arrogant schmucks they have so often been, even when they weren't all that good.

This was my 2nd trip to Citi Field, and, both times, Mike Pelfrey has started and pitched well. This time, he even took a no-hitter into the 6th inning. However, in Year 49, the Mets still do not have a no-hitter in their history. For crying out loud, even the Colorado Rockies -- formerly known as the Rocky Horror Pitching Show -- have one now!

I actually ran into the Mets' answer to "Freddy Sez" Schuman and Bleacher Creature Milton Ousland, their Cow-Bell Man, Eddie Boison. (Milton's name is always "Cowbell Man." It isn't hyphenated. As Yogi Berra would say, it isn't even carbonated.) I said to him, "I really thought that was gonna be the no-hitter." THE no-hitter. He didn't say anything to me, he just shook his head.

His jersey was Number 21. Last year, when I saw him at Citi (but didn't say anything to him), it was Number 15. I don't know why he switched.

I said to the fans around me, "Where were you when Ike Davis hit his first major league home run?" Well, it wasn't tonight. When he struck out, my reaction was Yankee Fan (in real life, a Met fan in City Slickers) Billy Crystal's, imitating Edward G. Robinson in The Ten Commandments: "Where's your Messiah now? Where's your Moses now, see?"

I still don't know if Davis, son of former Yankee reliever Ron Davis, will turn out to be another Gregg Jeffries, who doesn't live up to the Met hype; or another Jeff Kent, who gets hurt, comes back too soon, and then the Mets give up on him, trade him for somebody once great but now washed up, and then he'll become a star elsewhere. But he ain't gonna become the next Mike Piazza, that's for damn sure. (Of course, he's probably not on steroids, and I doubt he'll date international supermodels to, uh, overcompensate.)

Thanks to a monster day from Jose Reyes, who went 4-for-5 and tripled in 2 runs in the second, it was 2-0 Mets in the 8th, when Fernando Tatis pinch-hit for the pitcher, and got booed like hell. But he hit a home run, to make it 4-0. Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez got into a little trouble in the 9th -- seriously, how do you walk Alfonso Soriano? -- but got some good D and got out of it. In the words of the immortal Bob Murphy, "The Mets win the damn thing! We'll be back with the happy recap after these messages."

To which Ralph Kiner would probably say, "We'll be right back, after this message from Manufacturer's Hangover." Gotta love Ralph.

Have the Mets turned the corner? I don't know. But if Pelfrey can pitch well with me in the yard, why can't he do it without me? Has Reyes come fully back? Who knows. Carlos Beltran is still out. John Maine and Oliver Perez are still big question marks. And can the bullpen really be trusted? Tonight, it could.

Attendance was 27,502. I'll bet 5,000 of those were there just to see Ike Davis. And another 5,000 or so were Cub fans. And I saw 9 Yankee caps, 1 Yankee sweatshirt, 2 Yankee jackets, and 1 Yankee jersey, a Mariano Rivera Number 42. I didn't bring a cap. I had to hide the fact that I was root, root, rooting for the Cubbies. If they don't win, it's the same. But that was a lot of Yankee Fans in Flushing.

Speaking of whom, at last check, the Yankees were up 6-3 over the A's in the 6th. (Update: They won, 7-3, thanks to A-Rod's 585th homer and, surprise, the pitching of Javier Vazquez.) But the Devils lost in Philly, and now trail the Flyers 3 games to 1. Game 5 is at the Prudential on Thursday night, and I am not optimistic.

I'm glad the Mets "Mets-ified" their ballpark. The Shea version of the Home Run Apple has been restored, and is outside the home plate gate, serving as a meeting place, their equivalent to the old Yankee Stadium's Big Bat. The Mets Hall of Fame, just off the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, is done well, with their World Series trophies (both of them), World Series rings (Bud Harrelson's from 1969 and Fred Wilpon's from 1986), the original Mr. Met costume, and several items from their history (including the Cleon Jones shoe-polish ball from '69 and the Mookie Wilson/Bill Buckner ball from '86).

As Tom Seaver might say, "Terrific." Now, recognizing their own history, and the Dodgers', all they need to do is remember that the Giants once played in New York as well.

And they gotta open a 2nd Shake Shack. These new ballparks are supposed to prevent losing 2 innings on line for food!

I'm not sure when I'll get to the new Yankee Stadium -- I tried last Thursday night, but the only tickets they had left were in the really expensive section -- or Citizens Bank Park, 70 miles away (as opposed to 44 to The Stadium and 46 to Citi). But I will get there.

I don't just love my team, best in the world though it is. I love this game.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Best TV Shows Set in Major League Baseball Cities

Atlanta: Designing Women. Rest in peace, Dixie Carter. Actually, there haven't been very many shows set in the Peach City. Matlock is probably the next-best. The Dukes of Hazzard was set in fictional Hazzard County, and a few highway signs suggested a Georgia location, but it was never definitive other than that it was in the South.

Baltimore: Homicide: Life On the Street. I've never seen The Wire, but it's also very highly regarded. Roc was good, too.

Boston: The Practice. Beats the hell out of Cheers, which got too goofy at times. Also better than its own spinoff, Boston Legal; yet another David E. Kelly legal drama, Ally McBeal, and the medical drama St. Elsewhere, which was excellent, but too depressing for me.

I also liked Crossing Jordan, starring the luscious Jill Hennessey, but I kept calling it "Crossing Delancey," after a movie that was showing while I worked at a theater in 1988. (Set in New York, it starred Amy Irving, who still looks great by the way.)

Chicago -- the North Side, Cub territory: Perfect Strangers. Was there ever a better show in Cubland? A funnier one? As Balki (Bronson Pinchot) would say, "Well, of course not, don't be ridiculous!" Roseanne was set in a small town outside Chicago, the fictional Lanford, and the Conner family were clearly Cub fans.

Chicago -- the South Side, White Sox territory: Good Times. No show was ever more "South Side" than that one. Hill Street Blues was obviously set in Chicago. Never mind the lousy weather it always seemed to have and the El shots; the cars saying "METRO POLICE" were obviously redone "CHICAGO POLICE" cars. I'm not sure where in the city either The Bob Newhart Show or ER were set; not knowing that, I can't nominate either one.

Cincinnati: WKRP in Cincinnati. Not a whole lot to compete with, but the show was excellent. It wasn't a turkey, because it sure did fly.

Cleveland: The Drew Carey Show. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of contenders, which is too bad, because I like Cleveland.

I once did a "What if?" scenario for what would have happened if the Red Sox had won the 1986 World Series. Suddenly, Boston no longer seemed like a "loser city" (you really gotta use your imagination here), and so Cheers' ratings went into the tank. Not ready to give up, the producers decided to do a spinoff. So they decided Norm was from a "loser city," and sent him there to do a radio talk show based on his usual job, accounting and money matters. They chose Cleveland, and co-starring on "Norm" were Patricia McPherson, who played Bonnie the supermechanic on Knight Rider, as his previously unseen wife Vera, and... Drew Carey as Norm's even more Normish brother. In essence, I redid Frasier for Norm.

Dallas (Texas Rangers): Dallas. Not a lot of contenders here, either, unless you want to count Walker, Texas Ranger, but Chuck Norris is an overrated right-wing asshole. Yeah, you read me right. You gonna tell him? He's close to 70, so I figure I got a shot at beating the bastard.

Denver (Colorado Rockies): Dynasty. Unless you want to head out to Boulder and count Mork & Mindy. Oh, shazbot!

Detroit: Home Improvement. Laughter with more power! Argh! Argh! Argh! Argh! You'd think being such a big metro area, there'd be more Detroit-centric shows, but the next-most popular has been Martin. Oy...

Houston: Reba. Aside from country music superstar Reba McIntire's sitcom, the only other show I can think of set in the Bayou City is one in which a bunch of Wild West desperadoes got time-traveled to the present (the 1980s), and found a world that had passed them by. Fortunately, the gold they'd stolen was now worth a fortune, and they tried to make honest men of themselves. Unfortunately, for the life of me, I can't remember the name of this series, which didn't last long.

Kansas City: Jericho. Okay, it was set in a town in Kansas, and after a nuclear holocaust, but the next-closest any TV show has come to being set in KC was Gunsmoke, and Dodge City is 335 miles from KC -- it's almost closer to Denver -- and was set in the very early days of baseball. Yet another thin pack to choose from.

Los Angeles -- the city proper (Dodgers territory): L.A. Law. Maybe if I were old enough to have regularly seen Columbo, I would have put it here. Peter Falk was a gas. Nor am I quite old enough to have "gotten" either The Rockford Files or Starsky & Hutch. I'm also not familiar with Dragnet, either its 1951 black-and-white original version or its 1967 color version, aside from the basic format.

Los Angeles -- the suburbs (Angels territory): Three's Company. Santa Monica is much closer to Dodger Stadium than to Anaheim Stadium, but the show was definitely suburban. And I've gained a whole new appreciation for the show, which went off the air when I was 13: Now I get all the jokes. Arrested Development was set in Newport Beach, but I never watched it.

Miami (Florida Marlins): Empty Nest. I liked this one better than the show it was spun off from, The Golden Girls. Richard Mulligan was a likable guy, and all 3 daughters were gorgeous: Dinah Manoff, Kristy McNichol and (though we only saw her briefly) Lisa Rieffel. Dreyfus the dog was a hoot, and Park Overall was a holler.

Milwaukee: Happy Days. Come on, the only competition was its own spinoff, Laverne & Shirley. And That '70s Show, set in a suburb of Milwaukee, can, in the words of the immortal Fonz, "Sit on it."

Minnesota: The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Also not a lot of competition, but it would fall well short. Unless you count Coach, which was definitely set in Minnesota but not definitively set in Minneapolis, St. Paul, or a suburb of either, this is the only show set in the Twin Cities that ever looked like it was going to make it after all.

New York -- Queens: All In the Family. There have been other shows set in the Mets' home Borough, including Taxi and The King of Queens. But All In the Family may have been the best sitcom ever. You don't think so? In the words of the immortal Archie Bunker, "You are a meathead!"

New York -- Brooklyn: The Honeymooners. A strong, but not close, second is The Cosby Show. But Ralphie Boy, Alice, Norton and their pals have 'em all beat. Any other candidate is, by comparison, "a mere bag of shells." If you think any of them was better, well, "You wanna go to the Moon?" Then again, Welcome Back, Kotter, and a later show reminiscent of it, Head of the Class, were both very good.

New York -- Bronx: The Goldbergs. This was the very first TV sitcom, running from 1949 to 1956. Unfortunately, there haven't been many shows set in the Yankees' home Borough. The next best may have been Becker, which proves that even Ted Danson was better in The Bronx than in Boston.

New York -- Staten Island: Grounded For Life. It appears to be the only TV show ever set in the smallest, whitest, most conservative Borough. Although Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc on Friends) was supposedly from Richmond County.

New York -- Manhattan: Sesame Street. Don't laugh, it was great before they turned it into The Elmo Show. There was never a definitive location, although Big Bird once had a map which suggested it was off Great Jones Street in Greenwich Village. It is taped in New York, but has since moved from Teletape Studios on the Upper East Side to Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens.

The easy answer would have been I Love Lucy, but I was never a big fan. I could also have named The Odd Couple, and Aristophanes is still ridiculous. I could also have named Barney Miller, which was so funny it was criminal. And then there was Life On Mars, but that went all across the City. Don't even think of putting Seinfeld in this spot, even with all its Yankee references. (Note: Although Castle, like Barney Miller set in the NYPD's fictional 12th Precinct, had debuted by this point, I hadn't started watching it yet.)

New York -- Long Island: Everybody Loves Raymond. The Met-fan Barones lived in Lynbrook. There haven't been many shows set on The Island, such that Growing Pains is the runner-up, with the main family being the Seavers (they were Met and Islander fans) and their next-door-neighbors being the Koosmans.

New York -- Westchester on up: The Dick Van Dyke Show. Work scenes in Manhattan, home scenes in New Rochelle. A close second is Tuckahoe's Maude.

New York -- New Jersey: House, M.D. Set in Plainsboro, just 20 miles from my home base, although that actually makes it slightly closer to Center City Philadelphia than to Midtown Manhattan. And, no, it's not lupus. What, no Sopranos? No, no Sopranos. It was good, but not great. Incredibly overrated. The reputation far exceeds the reality. It's the Nolan Ryan of TV shows.

New York -- Connecticut suburbs: My Wife and Kids. Appropriately enough for a show with a mostly-black cast, Damon Wayans set it in Stamford, which is where Jackie & Rachel Robinson lived for most of their lives together. I Love Lucy was in Connecticut in its final season, but that was kind of what we would later call a "jump the shark moment." Who's the Boss? was set in nearby Fairfield, and it was good, but it wasn't better than My Wife and Kids.

Oakland: Hangin' With Mr. Cooper. Standup comedian Mark Curry's sitcom was, unfortunately, one of the few shows ever set in the East Bay, but it was all right.

Philadelphia: American Dreams. A period piece based around a 1960s Catholic family, whose teenage daughter becomes a dancer on Philly-based American Bandstand (which I'm not counting because it was non-fiction).

Bill Cosby's cartoon Fat Albert is also a serious contender. The ABC soaps All My Children and One Life to Live are set in fictional Philly suburbs. And, no, it is not always sunny in Philadelphia. As much as I love that city, no big city looks worse in the rain. New Brunswick, definitely. New Haven, maybe. But those are smaller cities.

Phoenix (Arizona Diamondbacks): Alice. Linda Lavin was great, and Vic Tayback as Mel was a classic. "Pickup!"

Pittsburgh: Mr. Belvedere, set in the suburb of Beaver Falls, Joe Namath's hometown. Not a lot to choose from here, either. Not having Showtime, I never saw Queer As Folk. And while Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood was taped from a Pittsburgh studio, it didn't really advertise its location, as it was supposed to be "any neighborhood," or even "your neighborhood."

St. Louis: The John Larroquette Show. Set in the city's bus station, this sitcom was highly regarded but didn't last long. As he proved on Night Court and Boston Legal, Larroquette is a great supporting player, but doesn't carry a series by himself.

San Diego: Simon & Simon. Despite great weather and beaches, San Diego has never been a city with TV producers looking for it. The next-best, if you want to go out as far as Oceanside, was the later Major Dad, which also co-starred Gerald McRaney, and that series moved after just 1 season, as Major MacGillis was transferred to Marine Corps headquarters in Quantico, Virginia.

San Francisco: Full House. Party of Five is more highly regarded, but I just loved Full House. Actually, I think I just had a crush on Candace Cameron, who has since married a hockey player -- the other Bure brother. Too Close For Comfort, Ted Knight's post-Mary Tyler Moore sitcom, was also set in San Francisco and was terrific. It was good to see him play a guy who was smarter and nicer than Ted Baxter.

Some people like The Streets of San Francisco, but I wasn't quite old enough to remember it, and, besides, I'm still not ready to forgive Michael Douglas for marrying Catherine Zeta-Jones. I do remember that show a little, and also Ironside, but I've never seen enough reruns of them to judge properly.

In the various Star Trek series, the location of Starfleet Command and Starfleet Academy is said to be the site of the Presidio military reservation (including the SF anchorage of the Golden Gate Bridge), but none of the Trek series can really be said to have been "set" in the city. After all, the focus was "Space, the final frontier."

Seattle: Dark Angel. Sorry, Frasier fans, but who would you rather look at: Kelsey Grammer or Jessica Alba?

Tampa Bay area: Cougar Town. The fictional Gulf Haven is in Sarasota County, and that's as close as we can come. Too bad, because I love Courteney Cox, but the show isn't very good. It would have been better off as a feature film, over and done with in an hour and a half, instead of a sitcom whose premise was already beaten to death after the pilot.

Toronto: Degrassi Junior High. Few Canadian TV series have been shown in the U.S. -- or, at least, few shows obviously set in Canada, although quite a few have been filmed there in order to save money. Degrassi and its spinoffs are pretty much the only Canadian-based series that Americans knew prior to the growth of satellite TV.

As far as U.S. viewers are concerned, the next-best show would have to be... Due South? Although there was Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. It was set in L.A., but it was filmed in Toronto, and the map on the precinct wall was obviously of lower Ontario.

Washington: The West Wing. In a landslide. Though NCIS is growing on me, and my parents are crazy about Bones. (I gotta admit, Emily Deschanel looked damn good in that Wonder Woman costume.)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Top 10 Reasons to Hate Dallas

The Yankees swept the Texas Rangers, the Dallas-Fort Worth "Metroplex" area's team, this weekend.

On Friday night, the Yankees won a rain-shortened 5-1 game over the Texas Rangers. Yesterday, the Yankees won, 7-3. Alex Rodriguez hit his 584th career home run, surpassing Mark McGwire for 8th on the all-time list. Next up is Frank Robinson at 586, Sammy Sosa at 609, Ken Griffey Jr. at 630 (and "counting"), Willie Mays at 660, Babe Ruth at 714, Hank Aaron at 755, and Barry Bonds at 762.

Of course, a lot of those are steroid-aided... including the ones A-Rod hit from 2001 to at least 2003, possibly thereafter. At least we know he hasn't been caught using steroids as a Yankee.

It was only A-Rod's 1st homer of the season. Today, Mark Teixeira hit his 1st homer of the season, in a 5-2 Yankee win. Imagine that: The Yankees are 9-3, kicking some serious tush, and it took until this weekend for their2 best power hitters to hit their 1st homers.

Last night, Red Bull New York -- or, if you prefer the New York Red Bulls, still called "Metro" by some fans who remember them as the New York/New Jersey MetroStars -- also played a Dallas-area team, FC Dallas, which play at Pizza Hut Park in the suburb of Frisco. The Red Bulls won, 2-1, on two goals by captain Juan Pablo Angel, including a penalty kick in the 89th minute.

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Now, like all sports fans with taste, I hate Dallas. Can I come up with 10 reasons why? How about limiting it to 10: That might be tougher.

Top 10 Reasons to Hate Dallas

Dishonorable Mention: The Weather. It's too damn hot!

10. FC Dallas. Why would anyone hate a soccer team from Dallas? (Well, except for fans of the Houston Dynamo.) Mostly the name. "Football Club Dallas"? Where's the imagination? The baseball team is the Texas Rangers, the football team the Dallas Cowboys, the basketball team the Dallas Mavericks...

Okay, the hockey team, formerly the Minnesota North Stars, became the Dallas Stars, when they should have become the Dallas Lone Stars. But look at the 2 major colleges: SMU is the Mustangs, TCU the Horned Frogs. Now that's imagination.

Dallas was previously home to the Dallas Tornado, a pretty successful team in the North American Soccer League (NASL), including winning its 1971 championship. There was also a Dallas Sidekicks in the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL).

The team now known as FC Dallas was the Dallas Burn from the 1996 founding of Major League Soccer (MLS) until the name change in 2005. What's wrong with "Tornado" -- or, better yet, "Tornados or "Tornadoes"? What's wrong with "Burn"? (Okay, "Burn" might confuse people, what with MLS also having a Chicago Fire.) But... "FC Dallas"? Come on!

9. What They Did to David Clyde. In 1973, their 2ond season, the Texas Rangers had the 1st pick in the Major League Baseball Draft. They chose a Texas kid, David Clyde, a recently graduated 18-year-old high school pitcher from the Houston suburb. Desperate for attendance, they put him on the mound at Arlington Stadium without ever having appeared in a minor-league game, let alone a college one.

Unfortunately, the worst thing that could have happened to him was that he won his 1st major league start. And his 2nd one. So they kept sending him out there, and, as it turned out, he was far from ready. When the year was over, he was 4-8 with a 5.01 ERA. By 1975, he had arm trouble and was in the minors. He pitched his last professional game in 1981, at age 26, going just 18-33 in the majors.

He began drinking heavily, and ruined 2 marriages with it. He stopped, married a 3rd time, worked for his father-in-law's lumber business, and eventually ran it and coached a youth baseball team, before retiring to take care of his ailing father. He turned out all right, no thanks to his initial bosses.

8. Texas Stadium. Cowboy fans liked to say that the ridiculous facility in the northern suburb of Irving had a hole in the roof "so God could look down on his favorite team." Since when can God not look through a stadium's dome?

It had awful artificial turf. It had what we would now call skyboxes pushing the upper deck way too far back, well before most stadiums did -- in fact, the post-1971 stadium that most resembled Texas Stadium in terms of seating positioning was the much-maligned Metrodome in Minneapolis.

According to a column in today's Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Hole Bowl is also the forerunner of "personal seat licenses," another reason to hate it. And longtime Cowboys executive Gil Brandt said this was also a reason why the dump never hosted a Super Bowl, as its replacement, Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, will do this coming February:

<< In a forerunner to today's seat licenses, the Cowboys sold what were called seat bonds, for $250 a pop. Season-ticket holders could buy bonds that gave them ownership of their seats for any and all events at the stadium.

Although the bonds were not interest-bearing, the seats increased significantly in value as the team became a perennial winner, meaning the Cowboys could never regain control of them.

Super Bowl crowds are comprised largely of out-of-towners -- officials, dignitaries, corporate types and players, coaches and team executives -- and Brandt said the Cowboys "couldn't guarantee the NFL seats."

"People had those seats for any event, no exceptions, even the Super Bowl," said the 77-year-old Brandt. "Clint borrowed money from people going to the stadium so it would help pay for it.

"He wouldn't have done it that way again. Consequently, it wasn't about not trying to get the Super Bowl, but not being able to." >>

If that's what caused the Cowboys to never play a Super Bowl on their home field, good.

7. Norm Green. He bought the North Stars in 1991, and moved them to Dallas. To this day, Minnesotans call him "Norm Greed."

6. Bob Short. In 1960, he moved the greatest basketball franchise the world had yet seen, the Minneapolis Lakers, to Los Angeles. In 1971, he became the first man to rip the hearts out of two sets of fans, by moving the Washington Senators to the Dallas area, where they became the Texas Rangers.

At the Senators' last home game, a banner hung from the upper deck at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, reading, "SHORT STINKS." I guess it wasn't yet acceptable to use the word "sucks" in that context.

Going back to the previous point, Rangers manager Whitey Herzog said that Short was desperate to keep up the attendance that Clyde brought that he told Herzog to leave him in games longer than he should have. In only his 1st big-league managing job, Herzog didn't have the confidence to stand up to the bastard, and by the end of the season, Short fired Herzog, hiring Billy Martin.

Dishonorable Mention: What Dallas did to Billy Martin. Made him feel like a cowboy. Made him want to be a cowboy. Fed his already unpleasant drinking problem. Made him even more of a paranoiac than he already was. If Billy had never managed in Texas, he might not have killed himself in a drunk-driving accident at age 61.

5. Southern Methodist University. The football edition of the SMU Mustangs are the only college sports program ever to have been given the "death penalty." In 1987, following nearly a decade of dominating the Southwest Conference, and with SMU already on probation for recruiting violations, they were caught doing it again. Their 1987 season was cancelled, and due to what they would have lost through players not involved in the scandal being allowed to transfer out without losing any eligibility, they cancelled their 1988 season as well.

At the time, there were bumper stickers all over the Lone Star State: "Support Pro Football. Watch the SMU Mustangs." They have since rebuilt their program in the lower-profile Conference USA.

4. The Cowboys Cheat. Lee Roy Jordan knocking out Philadelphia Eagle running back Timmy Brown's teeth in 1967. Drew Pearson with the most blatant offensive pass interference in history in that 1975 Playoff game with the Minnesota Vikings, and getting away with it. And I'm still not sure the way they managed to get the top pick in the 1977 NFL Draft, enabling them to get Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett, was on the up-and-up.

3. "America's Team"/"God's Team." The Cowboys decided that all by themselves. There was no election, and, if there had been, they would have been easily outvoted.

If God is such a Cowboy fan, why did He not tell "God's Coach," Tom Landry, to get his drug-addicted, boozing, philandering players off the field and into treatment? And why, then, did He let Jerry Jones buy the team, and hire a corrupt college coach, Jimmy Johnson, and turn Texas Stadium into a bigger Sodom & Gomorrah Southwest than Dallas' Southfork Ranch ever was?

2. Conspicuous Consumption. Nine years before Michael Douglas, in the film Wall Street, gave his "Greed is good" speech (and 12 years before Douglas broke my heart by snagging Catherine Zeta-Jones), the CBS-TV drama Dallas, starring Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing, paved the way for the Reagan era of presuming that being rich was noble and being poor was your own fault.

Which is insane, because most of the rich people on Dallas were incredibly immoral. Heck, even Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) wasn't always angelic. Kristin Shepard (Mary Crosby) should've gotten a medal for shooting J.R.

Of course, the TV show was a case of art imitating life. Dallas, as a city, is despised in Houston, the State Capital of Austin, and especially in nearby Fort Worth. In fact, there are those who like to say, "Dallas is not in Texas." The city is hated for being a center of oil, of banking, of insurance, things that are often hated by the general populace. And those industries are usually controlled by...

1. Right-Wing Fanaticism. Cowboys owner Clint Murchison was an out-and-out flake. So was oil baron H.L. Hunt -- thankfully, his son, Lamar Hunt, kept his politics quiet, and can be praised as the founder of the American Football League and the Kansas City Chiefs (formerly the Dallas Texans), the co-founder of the Super Bowl and the Chicago Bulls, and a key figure in the history of American soccer (the American equivalent of the FA Cup is named the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup).

This link will send you to a handbill that was handed out in Dallas on November 21, 1963. President John F. Kennedy saw it, and told his wife Jacqueline, "We're headed into nut country tomorrow." Anybody who thinks Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone is a fucking fool -- if, that is, Oswald had anything to do with it:

Dallas and the surrounding area also sent to Congress Richard K. Armey. In 1994, Dick Armey, then the Republican Party's 3rd-ranking member in the House of Representatives, stood in the well of the House and told the Democrats, "Your President isn't that important to us." Your President? Our President, Dickhead. Yours, too.

From 1995 to 1998, Armey was the House Majority Leader. He once opposed a bill raising the minimum wage by telling of his days as a college professor, and finding out that the retarded janitor who worked there was laid off because the school couldn't afford the rise in the minimum wage. A reporter checked out the story and found it to be a big fucking lie. Dick Armey, a man who would rather lie about a retarded janitor than give people a living wage -- this is the kind of politician Dallas calls a "moderate."

Oh yeah: The SMU campus in Dallas is also going to be home to the George W. Bush Presidential Center. Notice they're not calling it a "library," even though his wife was a professional librarian. The most right-wing President ever, and they love him in Dallas.

I'm sure the vast majority of people in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex are reasonable people, with at least some intelligence, and don't deserve to be hated or told that they suck.

But, in the words of Angelo Cataldi, the morning man on Philadelphia's all-sports station 610 WIP, "I've seen it, fathers with three, four, five-year-old kids, and the kids know four, five, maybe six words, and two of them, taught to them by their fathers, are, 'Dallas sucks!'"

Angelo is a wacko, but he knows what he's talking about: DALLAS SUCKS. And for reasons that go well beyond sports.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Leave Javy Alone

At the risk of sounding like the kid who did the "Leave Britney Alone!!!!" video...

Booing Javier Vazquez is stupid. He didn't lose that 2004 ALCS Game 7. Kevin Brown did. Granted, Vazquez played the hand he was dealt that night very badly, but, like Jose Contreras in Game 5 of the previous year's World Series when David Wells spit the bit over his bad back, he wasn't expecting to, for all intents and purposes, start.

Pitchers' minds work in strange ways, and, like Contreras the October before, Vazquez wasn't properly prepared to pitch a huge game. Contreras, at the least, knew that, however important the game was, it wasn't a backs-to-the-wall, win-or-go-home game. Vazquez had that pressure on him, unexpectedly, and he didn't handle it. Fine, criticize him.

But that loss was only slightly more his fault than mine -- and I wasn't in the ballpark, or even in the State of New York that miserable night of October 20, 2004.

Besides... how can it be anyone's fault that the Yankees lost, except for the people who supplied David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez (and perhaps others as yet unproven) with steroids?

Now, having pitched 2 games so far this season, 1 of them at Yankee Stadium Mark II, and having pitched poorly in both of them, a few Yankee fans (notice I do not capitalize the F in "fans" this time) are booing him.

Let me refresh your memories of certain players who have gotten off to rough starts as Yankees: Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Bobby Murcer, Chris Chambliss, Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage, Don Mattingly, Tino Martinez, Roger Clemens (the 1st time around, anyway), Mark Teixeira. And they all ended up doing pretty well.

Granted, there are some who didn't end up doing well, at least not in Pinstripes: Bobby Bonds, Dave Collins, Steve Kemp, Steve Trout, Ken Phelps, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens (the second time around).

But there are enough of these slow-starters-made-good to suggest that Vazquez, who got off to a very good start his first time around here only to be remembered solely for the last game he pitched that season, to give him the benefit of the doubt for his second time around.

And, for crying out loud, we're 6-3. It's not like Javy is bringing the whole team down. He had 2 bad outings. So the hell what? It's not like they came in September when the race is down to us and some other team for the Wild Card.

In spite of his bad start, the team is off to a very good start, taking 2 out of 3 from the Red Sox in Boston, the Rays in St. Petersburg, and the Angels at home. That's 6 out of 9 from the 3 best teams in the American League, and probably 3 out of the 5 best teams in all of baseball (in each case, aside from the Yankees).

A fan has the right to boo whoever he (or she) wants, for whatever reason. But with rights come responsibilities and, often, consequences. In this case, the responsibility is to recognize that Vazquez is not, as yet, a major problem; and the consequence is being called a moron. Anybody who has booed Vazquez thus far is a moron. Even if you were a genius in the other games.

I mean, we're talking about Javier Vazquez here. Not Kyle Farnsworth or Carl Pavano. He hasn't earned the booing yet. If he does, I'll get in line to boo him. But, as with every fan, I reserve the right to decide for myself when he's earned it -- and I think most real Yankee Fans will agree with me that, for the moment, he hasn't done nearly enough harm to earn that.

After all, I may be a sick, twisted, demented Yankee Fan, but I am not a moron.

Planet of the Pinstriped Apes

I went to the Yankee game last night, but didn't get in: The cheapest seats they had were $60, and I also wanted to eat dinner that night.

It was my first chance to see the ruins of the old Yankee Stadium. Strangely, it didn't hit me as hard as I thought it would. I guess having seen the TV footage and newspaper photos properly prepared me.

Nevertheless, I kept my vow, to use the line that Charlton Heston used at the end of the original Planet of the Apes, when he saw the ruins of the Statue of Liberty:

"You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!"

It wasn't really "blown up," as there were concerns about damaging neighboring buildings on River Avenue and the elevated Subway line. But the rest of it holds.

When I said it, I suddenly realized that I had given anyone who heard it one of those moments: "If you see something, say something." I had said the words "maniacs," "blew it up" and "God damn you all to hell." I must've sounded like, well, a maniac, devoted to some religion to an unhealthy degree.

Well, ballparks have often been called "cathedrals."

The game itself, which I had to watch on TV elsewhere, was good: Yankees 6, Angels 2. Robinson Cano, who was named for Jackie Robinson and usually wears Number 24 as a reverse of Jackie's 42, hit 2 home runs on Jackie Robinson Day. Phil Hughes pitched fairly well, but, not used to starting these days, ran out of gas in the 5th inning, but the Yankee bullpen pitched well. Hideki Matsui hit a home run for the Angels, and got a standing ovation.

If baseball is going to honor Jackie by retiring his number for all of the game, why bring the number back into circulation every April 15 -- especially by making every player wear it? There's a reason baseball players have uniform numbers: To tell them apart. An annual Number 42 patch commemorating Jackie's role in changing the history of the game makes far more sense.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Four-Time Loser

Yesterday afternoon, the Yankees dropped a 5-3 decision to the Disneyland Angels. Then Arsenal lost to arch-rival Tottenham Hotspur, 2-1. Then the Devils lost to the Philadelphia Flyers, also 2-1. Finally, the Nets closed out the worst season in their history, losing 94-86 to the Miami Heat in double overtime.

I never expected my 4 favorite professional sports teams to all lose on the same day.

There have been many times when the Yankees and Arsenal -- whose season somewhat overlap, in April and May, and again in August and September and sometimes into October -- have played on the same day. The last, before yesterday, was on November 4, 2009, when Arsenal won a Champions League match, and, 3 1/2 hours later, the Yankees began Game 6 of the World Series, which they won. I saw both on TV in New York, and while there were half a million people in Times Square when the Yankees won, and most of them were wearing Yankee caps, I was (almost certainly) the only one wearing an Arsenal scarf.

As far as I know, however, due to the time difference, and the fact that English soccer games generally start in the morning, U.S. time, this was the 1st time, certainly the 1st time since I've been aware of Arsenal, that they and the Yankees played at exactly the same time.

The Yankees losing a game to the Angels, even at home, after having started the season 5-2, is tolerable. But Arsenal losing to Tottenham? It hadn't happened in this century. Seriously: The last time Arsenal lost a League game to Spurs, it was November 1999. (They haven't lost to them at home since May 1993.)

There was a Carling Cup Semifinal in 2008, when Spurs' first team beat an Arsenal team made up largely of reserves, but the true mark of "not a big club" in English terms is that you still care about the tournament formerly (and sometimes still) known as the League Cup.

Yesterday was supposed to be St. Totteringham's Day, the day when Arsenal ensure that Tottenham cannot finish above them in the League standings (or "table" as they say over there). Instead, it will happen on the weekend, when Arsenal (almost certainly) beat Wigan Athletic.

Arsenal have had more injuries, including injuries to key players, than the Mets, and still, going into yesterday, they had a chance to win the League. But Spurs had some injuries (and a notable suspension) as well. Their fans are a lot like Met fans: Just as the Flushing Heathen like to talk about being "the real New York baseball team," the Spuds (I won't use the other word Arsenal fans usually use for them, as it is anti-Semitic) talk about how they are "the real English club in London" in terms of style of play and the makeup of their roster.

(Yes, Spurs have plenty of fine English talent, from Roman Pavyulchenko to Luka Modric. He said, dripping with sarcasm. And, last I checked, Gareth Bale, who scored for them yesterday, was from Wales -- still British, but not English.)

Arsenal played like crap, and when defender Thomas Vermaelen had to leave the game after just 20 minutes due to becoming the latest injured player, with Arsenal already down 1-0, and Mikael Silvestre came on to once again prove that he should have retired about 4 years ago, I knew the game was over.

Arsenal have 4 games left, all in League play. They will finish at least 3rd, and could finish 2nd. But their loss yesterday all but officially hands the title to Chelsea, another London club. And, in their League, there's no appreciable difference between 2nd and 3rd. There is a difference between 3rd and 4th (Champions League automatic qualification vs. needing a play-in game), a huge difference between 4th and 5th (CL play vs. Europa League, formerly the UEFA Cup and the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup), an even bigger difference between 6th and 7th (Europa League vs. no Euorpean play at all), and the biggest difference of all between 17th and 18th (in the 20-team English Premier League, the bottom 3 teams, 18th, 19th & 20th, get relegated to the 2nd Division, while the top 3 from that Division get promoted. Good thing for the Mets that baseball doesn't do that.)

Essentially, Arsenal's season is over.

The Devils seemed to suggest they were trying to end theirs, too. They were never really in this Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. And they were at home. And to lose to the Philadelphia Flyers made it worse. The Devils have now played 8 Playoff games at the Prudential Center, and lost 7 of them. This is unacceptable.

The Nets? They didn't finish with the worst record in NBA history, as seemed likely for much of the season, but at 12-70 they became the 5th team in the league's 64-year history to lose at least 70 games.

So unless the Devils can pick themselves up, it looks like I'm paying attention to just baseball until the World Cup starts in June. And, considering the likely exit of the U.S., I won't be paying close attention for long.

Phil Hughes starts for the Yankees today. Starting for the Angels is Scott Kazmir, whom they picked up last year for the stretch drive, helping them win the American League West.

You remember Scott Kazmir, don't you? Another brilliant Met trade, going to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (and helping them win their first Pennant) for Victor Zambrano? Or are you trying to forget? Nah, if you're reading this, you're probably a Yankee Fan, in which case you never let the Mets forget trades like this. And Otis for Foy. And Ryan for Fregosi. And Staub for Lolich. And Seaver for 4 forgettable guys. And Kent for Baerga.

Just remember: If the Yankees hadn't traded Jay Buhner, who never won a Pennant in Seattle, they wouldn't have gotten Paul O'Neill.

UPDATE: An injury-wracked Arsenal team blew a 2-0 2nd half lead, and lost. The game became known as The Wigan Capitulation. And, as of 2016, Tottenham left back Danny Rose is still, as they say in England, "nicking a living" based on the goal he scored in the abovementioned North London Derby, for which Tottenham fans still love him, even though he has proven time and time against that he is rubbish.

I guess that makes him the Bucky Dent of Tottenham, except Dent was, at least, very good on defense.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Another Great Yankee Stadium Opener

Ballgame over. Opening Day over. Yankees win. Theeee Yankees win.

New York Yankees of The Bronx 7, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 5. A little scary in the 9th, as David Robertson gave up a home run to ex-Yankee Bobby Abreu, but Mariano Rivera slammed the door, following 6 shutout innings by Andy Pettitte. Nick Johnson and Derek Jeter homered for the Bronx Bombers, and the Halos no longer seem like such nemeses to the Loyal Sons of the Bambino.

(Hey, if Jerry Izenberg of The Star-Ledger can call the football Giants "The Loyal Sons of Mara Tech"... )

Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford were on hand, and they got 2009 World Series rings, to go with all the others they'd won.

The Yankees are now 5-2. Going into today's night games, they are tied for 1st in the American League Eastern Division with the Toronto Blue Jays, 1 game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays, 2 ahead of The Scum (you might know them as "the Boston Red Sox"), and 4 ahead of the Baltimore Orioles, who are not only off to a 1-6 start -- worse even than The Other Team in New York -- but drew just 9,l29 fans to Camden Yards last night, a 4-1 loss to the Rays.

Remember when you couldn't get into Oriole Park at Camden Yards (at least they never gave it a corporate name) without a crowbar? It was 46,000 every game, 81 games a year? Now, they're down to just 9,000 fans. Even the Nets do better than that!

O's owner Peter Angelos spent much of the 1990s and early 2000s trying like hell to keep Major League Baseball from putting an expansion team, or a moved team, in Washington, D.C., because studies showed that one-quarter of his fans came up from the D.C. area.

Well, the Oriole attendance dropped precipitously well before the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals, for one very big reason. It wasn't that the O's stopped playing good baseball, they still came after the 1996 & '97 Playoff seasons. It was because Cal Ripken retired. Suddenly, there was no reason to come out to the ballpark anymore. Except maybe for Boog Powell's barbecue stand, which, with the additions of Greg Luzinski's in Philadelphia and "Teddy Roosevelt"'s in Washington, isn't even the best in the Northeast anymore. (I haven't tried Luis Tiant's at Fenway, mainly because he's Cuban and I can't stand spicy food.)

Maybe Oriole fans should check to see if, A, Angelos is talking to Mayflower moving vans; and, B, if Indianapolis is seeking an expansion of their new Triple-A ballpark. Could this be the second coming -- or going -- of a Baltimore team to Hoosierville?

Anyway, the Yankees' Magic Number to eliminate the Rays is 155, for the Red Sox it's 154, and for the O's it's 152. A little early to discuss that? Yes, it is. As New Jersey native Susan Sarandon (Edison H.S. Class of '64) taught us, "It's a long season, and you've got to trust it." (Then again, in real life, she's a Mets fan. And a New York Rangers fan. I don't care how good she looks at age 63: That's a double anti-Viagra.)