Saturday, April 30, 2011

1993 Blue Jays vs. 2007 Yankees

Last night's game at Yankee Stadium seemed more like a game between the 1993 Toronto Blue Jays, back-to-back World Champions, the Pesky Blue Jays at their all-time peskiest; and the 2007 New York Yankees, a team with so much talent and still not getting the job done. Blue Jays 5, Yankees 3.

Robinson Cano hit his league-leading 8th home run off Toronto starter Ricky Romero (2-3), but Jose Bautista (who always hits the Yankees well) and J.P. Arencibia (never heard of him, a 25-year-old rookie from Miami, his name sounds like a disease) both homered off Freddy Garcia (1-1). John Rauch got his 5th save for the Jays.

Both teams left 11 men on base. In the 4th inning, after the Bautista homer made it 3-1 Jays, John Sterling said that it felt like the Jays had a lot more than 3 runs, due to all the men who'd already been on base.

But the Jays made enough of their men on base count. The Yankees didn't. Typical of this was the bottom of the 5th inning, when a Toronto error gave the Yankees bases loaded and nobody out. Mark Teixeira hit a soft liner to right that wasn't deep enough to score a run, and then Alex Rodriguez channeled not his 2009 self, which the Yankees really needed, but his 2007 self, and grounded into an easy double play. He also struck out with men on 1st and 3rd to end the bottom of the 8th. Sound familiar?

This isn't about whether A-Rod has proven himself to be "a clutch hitter." This was a team effort: The Yankees only lost by 2 runs last night, but they still stunk. About the only positive is that Derek Jeter got one more hit, to inch (and only inch) closer to 3,000. But that hit didn't drive in a run, so it was solely a self-improvement exercise. In other words, last night, both Jeter and A-Rod gave us what their respective detractors see in them, and not what their respective supporters see in them.

The bullpen was also a mixed bag. Garcia went only 5 innings, and in the 6th, David Robertson allowed the Arencibia homer for the 1st 2 runs he's allowed this season. But Buddy Carlyle, Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan each pitched a scoreless inning, with only a hit allowed by Logan preventing a perfect last 3 (no walks by any of them), so that's something to build on.

Today, A.J. Burnett goes against Kyle Drabek, son of former Yankee pitcher Doug Drabek.

*

Last night, the Phillies scored 10 runs before the Mets finally got 3 in the top of the 9th. Met starter Mike Pelfrey needed his good-luck charm, me, and I was 70 miles away. He should have left me tickets at the will-call window at Citizens Bank Park.

And now, the Mets have to bat against Roy Halladay. This weekend just keeps gettin' better and better for New York's Other Team, doesn't it?

Fortunately for the Yankees, Boston and Tampa Bay also lost, although Baltimore won.

Jeter 2949 51
Rivera 567 34
A-Rod 618 145
Magic Number 136 (to eliminate Rays & O's, 135 for Jays, 134 for Scum)

Friday, April 29, 2011

How to Really Rank the New York Sports Teams

I was shocked when I saw this: The number of "Facebook likes" and "Twitter followers" that the New York Tri-State Area teams have:

1. Yankees: 3,900,883
2. Knicks: 899,652
3. Jets: 882,221
4. Giants: 799,873
5. Mets: 400,777
6. Rangers: 277,192
7. Devils: 188,564
8. Nets: 142,005
9. Red Bulls: 78,981
10. Islanders: 43,598
11. Liberty: 11,994

Think about that for a moment. The Jets have 10 percent more followers than the Giants, who are not only far more successful but had a 35-year head start on them. That's surprising enough.

But the Islanders? That is a franchise nearly 40 years old, and it had a 10-year head start on the Devils, and have more Stanley Cups and more trips to the Finals than the Devils. Not only do the Isles have less than one-quarter the followers (at least, on Facebook and Twitter) of the Devils, and less than one-third that of the vagabond Nets (who haven't won a title since the ABA in 1976 and are 2-8 all-time in NBA Finals games), but have only 55 percent as many followers as the local soccer team!

I know soccer has grown tremendously in this country, especially in the last 10 years as satellite television has exposed millions of Americans to the international and European club leagues as they'd never been seen before. But, still, the Red Bulls haven't won anything either! One trip to the MLS Cup Final, no trips to the U.S. Open Cup Final, and no Supporters' Shields. (The trophy awarded for the best overall record in the regular season, equivalent to the NHL's President's Trophy.)

And the Islanders have only 55 percent of the followers of the Red Bulls. For the Isles, that is a freakin' disgrace.

I wondered if there was a better way to rank the teams. So I came up with a few, and totaled them up. Check this out:

First, I took those Facebook/Twitter rankings:

1. Yankees, 2. Knicks, 3. Giants, 4. Rangers, 5. Devils, 6. Mets, 7. Jets, 8. Red Bulls, 9. Liberty, 10. Nets, 11. Islanders. Yes, I counted both the Red Bulls and the WNBA franchise. If I had included the Rutgers football team and the basketball teams at Rutgers, Seton Hall and St. John's universities, they would barely have registered. I didn't include the local minor-league baseball teams, either, but the Brooklyn Cyclones have 13,682 followers, putting them a little ahead of the Liberty.

Then, I took the attendance figures, based not on total attendance (which would automatically favor the baseball teams at 81 home games and hurt the football teams at 8), but upon percentage of capacity filled:

1. Knicks, 2. Rangers, 3. Giants, 4. Jets, 5. Yankees, 6. Devils, 7. Nets, 8. Mets, 9. Red Bulls, 10. Islanders, 11. Liberty. No surprise there: The Devils, the Nets, the MLS and the WNBA have perennially struggled with attendance, although the Red Bulls are way up now that they're out of that concrete can at the Meadowlands and into Red Bull Arena; while the Mets have been struggling for the last couple of years and the Islanders haven't won a Playoff series since Bill Clinton's first 100 days.

Next, I came up with a rating system for each team's fans, based on how much they show up (the preceding, thus counted one and one-third times), how loud they get, and whether they get rough (the 2nd category helping the Rangers, but the 3rd really hurting them, because they tend to hurt others):

1. Knicks, 2. Yankees, 3. Rangers, 4. Jets, 5. Devils, 6. Red Bulls, 7. Giants, 8. Mets, 9. Nets, 10. Liberty, 11. Islanders. With the Mets, Nets, Libs and Isles, the fans who show up are pretty good, there's just not enough of them. Giant fans seem to be less into it than Jet fans. As for the Rangers, as much as I hate them and their team, they might have been number 1 if they'd just stop getting drunk and shoving opposing fans -- or even their own.

The next category was buildings. Granted, different fan bases mean different "atmospheres" for teams in the same building. And note that the Nets and Libs are temporarily sharing the Prudential Center with the Devils: The Nets until the Barclays Center opens in Brooklyn, the Libs until the renovation of Madison Square Garden is done. They're doing it in the spring and summer, the NBA's and NHL's off-season, so the Knicks and Rangers don't have to move, but the Libs do. Way to be gender-sensitive about it, Jimmy Dolan!

I judged the buildings on access by car (which really hurts the Garden), access by public transportation (which really hurts the Nassau Coliseum and the Meadowlands facilities), layout, upkeep (in other words, maintenance, including cleanliness), seating (comfort and view), field (diamond, gridiron, pitch, court, ice), scoreboard, food (variety, price, access and taste), restrooms (access, size and cleanliness), and overall atmosphere (the most subjective stat of all).

If this were just 4 years ago, with the Yanks and Mets still in their old ballparks, the Giants and Jets still in Giants Stadium (which hurt the Jets more than we realize), and the Nets and Devils still in the Meadowlands, the rankings would look like this:

1. Yankees, old Yankee Stadium; 2. Mets, Shea Stadium; 3. Knicks, Madison Square Garden; 4. Rangers, Madison Square Garden; 5. Liberty, Madison Square Garden; 6. Islanders, Nassau Coliseum; 7. Devils, Brendan Byrne Arena; 8. Nets, Byrne Arena; 9. Giants, Giants Stadium; 10. Jets, Giants Stadium; 11. Red Bulls, Giants Stadium.

Shea had a lot of things wrong with it, but if it had simply been kept cleaner, it might have been a serious challenger for first. The Knicks rank higher than the Rangers due to fans having a far lower bastard quotient, and both rank higher than the Liberty simply due to the Garden being half-full for their games. Similarly, as bad as the Meadowlands Arena, currently known as the Izod Center, was, Devils games there usually had a good atmosphere, far better than for the Nets. And Giants Stadium, well, former NFL player turned broadcaster and author Tim Green had it right: "Football in a can. Curse the Giants for ever leaving Yankee Stadium." And it was no place for the Red Bulls, with 65,000 people coming dressed as empty seats.

But in their current buildings -- not making allowances for the Nets in Brooklyn, about which we currently know nothing since they have yet to play a game there...

1. Yankees, new Yankee Stadium; 2. Mets, Citi Field; 3. Devils, Prudential Center; 4. Red Bulls, Red Bull Arena; 5. Liberty, Prudential Center; 6. Nets, Prudential Center; 7. Jets, Meadowlands Stadium; 8. Giants, Meadowlands Stadium; 9. Knicks, Madison Square Garden; 10. Rangers, Madison Square Garden; 11. Islanders, Nassau Coliseum.

Of the 11, none is automatically a bad experience. The Prudential Center is a spectacular arena. The new Yankee Stadium combines the best features of the old one with the best features of modern ballparks, though at a very steep price. Despite the presence of thousands of Met fans, I like Citi Field. The new Meadowlands Stadium is much better than its predecessor, although I wish they had done something about the wind that plagued it.

The Nassau Coliseum is worth one visit a year, but, I'm sorry, but one level of concourse for two levels of seats simply doesn't work. At least the Izod Center has twice the floor space on its concourse, but it's still bad. I have 2 problems with the Garden: Those escalator towers at the "corners" can take forever, and the food isn't great. And that's when it's a Knicks game. When it's a Ranger game, there's an additional problem: It's full of Ranger fans. Yes, I know, many of them are also Yankee Fans. They're great people from May to October, but from November through April, they're SCUM!

I rated the Red Bulls as having a 50 percent improvement on their previous home, the Nets 27 percent, the Devils 25 percent, the Jets 24 percent (over their previous experience in Giants Stadium), the Liberty 19 percent (though they will be back in the Garden in June 2014), the Giants 18 percent (over THEIR previous experience in Giants Stadium), the Mets 13 percent (it actually feels like more) and the Yankees 10 percent. Still being in the same buildings, there was no improvement for the Knicks, Rangers and Islanders, though it remains to be seen what the current renovation will do to the Garden.

The next category I had was on-field success. I weighted the number of times a team had finished in its sport's last 16, last 8, last 4, last 2, and as champions:

1. Yankees, 2. Giants, 3. Rangers, 4. Knicks, 5. Red Bulls, 6. Devils, 7. Mets, 8. Nets, 9. Liberty, 10. Jets, 11. Islanders.

The top 4 should be no surprise, as it favors the older teams. But the bottom 6, wow. You would think that, having won 4 Stanley Cups and been to 1 other Finals, the Isles would not be last. Certainly, they shouldn't be behind the Red Bulls, Mets, Jets and Libs. But the Red Bulls and Libs usually make their leagues' Playoffs, while the Isles hardly ever do anymore. No, I didn't weight it in favor of recent Playoffs: Doing so in the Isles' first Playoff year, 1975, was worth the same as making it this season, if they had (the Rangers were the only area hockey team to do so).

The next category is comparative success -- that is, how well have they done in relation to how long they've been around:

1. Yankees, 2. Liberty, 3. Giants, 4. Rangers, 5. Devils, 6. Islanders, 7. Knicks, 8. Red Bulls, 9. Mets, 10. Nets, 11. Jets.

Much better for the hockey teams, especially since, from 1943 to 1967, a team only had to finish 4th out of the NHL's then 6 teams to make it, and the Rangers did, a few times. But look at the jump the Libs get, as the area's newest team (1997) -- though they've lost all 5 WNBA Finals they've reached. The 3 "ets" teams really suffer, though, and having won just 2 of the first 65 NBA Championships socks it to the Knickerbockers.

My final category was Hall-of-Famers. I calculated that a team should get 5 points for every member of the Baseball, Pro Football, Basketball, Hockey or U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame that can be fully credited to the team -- either played most of their career with that team or was a significant title contributor for a few years, thus allowing me to count Enos Slaughter, Catfish Hunter and Wade Boggs as Yankees -- and 1 point for any other Hall-of-Famer who played for a given team, even if only for 1 game. This includes coaches, executives and broadcasters:

1. Yankees, 2. Rangers, 3. Giants, 4. Knicks, 5. Islanders, 6. Mets, 7. Jets, 8. Devils, 9. Red Bulls, 10. Liberty, 11. Nets. And that includes Julius "Dr. J" Erving as a five-point HOFer for the Nets: While he had his biggest years with the Philadelphia 76ers, he had his most talented, most amazing years with the New York Nets of the American Basketball Association, playing his home games at the Nassau Coliseum.

So, counting each 1st-place finish as 1 point, 2nd as 2, and so on, I totaled the rankings, and came up with this:

1. Yankees 12
2. Knicks 28
3. Giants 30
4. Rangers 30
5. Devils 40
6. Mets 45
7. Jets 46
8. Red Bulls 50
9. Liberty 58
10. Nets 59
11. Islanders 64

Considering how often I've used this column to say that I hate the Mets and that the Rangers suck (which... they do), it is surprising that I ranked them both as high as I did.

Should I still be shocked that, putting it all together, the Islanders are last? Probably not. And, let's not forget, once the Nets move into Brooklyn, and have their own arena for the very first time, the gap between 10th and 11th is only going to get bigger.

And with the "LIghthouse" project still going nowhere, the Isles are the only area team seriously in danger of having to move -- not just from one part of the Tri-State Area to another, as the Devils, the Nets, the Red Bulls and (temporarily) the Liberty have all done in the last 4 years, and the Nets will again in 1 year -- but out of the Tri-State Area altogether.

In the immortal words of Elton John (actually, those of his lyricist Bernie Taupin), "It's sad, so sad, it's a sad, sad situation, and it's getting more and more absurd."

A Sampler of Baseball's Royal Nicknames

In connection with the royal wedding of Prince William of Wales and Kate Middleton – now William and Catherine, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Earl and Countess of Strathearn, Baron and Baroness Carrickfergus (one title each for England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, in addition to still being royals of Wales) – I provide this primer on the royal nicknames of baseball.

Many baseball players have been nicknamed “King,” the most notable being the following: 1880s catcher Mike “King” Kelly, 1930s pitcher King Carl Hubbell, 1990s Yankee postseason hero Jim “the King” Leyritz, and current Seattle Mariner All-Star pitcher King Felix Hernandez. Kelly and Hubbell are in the Hall of Fame.

There was also pitcher and longtime pitching coach Clyde King, probably the most notable baseball figure whose surname was King. The St. Louis Browns (forerunners of the Cardinals rather than the Browns who became the Baltimore Orioles) won 4 straight American Association Pennants in the 1880s, and had a pitcher named Charles Koenig, who Anglicized his German name to King, and was nicknamed Silver King. The 1893 change of the pitching distance from 50 feet to 60 feet 6 inches essentially ended his effectiveness. Translating from German to English, there was also 1920s Yankee shortstop Mark Koenig. The Spanish equivalent, Rey, has produced 2 highly overrated Met shortstops, Rey Ordonez and Jose Reyes. The French equivalent, Roi, has never appeared in baseball.

Then, of course, there was the buffoonish slugger Dave “Kong” Kingman and pitcher Brian Kingman. And early black player and baseball historian Sol White, a member of the Hall of Fame, was born King Solomon White.

There were father and son big-league pitchers both named Mel Queen. They should not be confused with any number of players who were “drama queens.” Or any players who may have been gay.

King Carl Hubbell was joined in the 1930s New York Giant rotation by Prince Hal Schumacher. Early Yankee first baseman Harold Homer Chase and 1940s Detroit Tiger ace Harold Newhouser were also known as Prince Hal. Cubs and Giants pitcher, now Giants broadcaster, Mike Krukow was, like singer Bobby Vinton, nicknamed the Polish Prince, and Albert Pujols is sometimes called Prince Albert. The Pittsburgh Pirates had a Hall of Fame broadcaster named Bob Prince, and of course the Milwaukee Brewer slugger is actually named Prince Fielder.

Baseball history is loaded with Dukes. Early Giants catcher Roger Bresnahan was the Duke of Tralee. Prewar Cincinnati Reds pitcher Paul Derringer and postwar St. Louis Browns 3rd baseman Bob Dillinger, both All-Stars, were called Duke. Edwin Donald Snider was nicknamed Duke by his father, well before Dodger fans nicknamed him the Duke of Flatbush. The famed ’61 Yankees had Duane Frederick “Duke” Maas, and Duane B. “Duke” Sims, in the last game at the pre-renovation Yankee Stadium in 1973, not only was the final Yankee starting catcher, but hit the last home run. His 100 career home runs (exactly 100) are the most for any player born in the State of Utah. There have, apparently, been only 2 major league players whose last name was Duke, and 3 with the name Dukes. Of these the best is Zach Duke, the current ace (if you want to call him that) of the Pirates.

Baseball history is loaded with Earls, including Hall of Fame Cleveland Indian outfielder Earl Averill and his son Earl Jr., All-Star Minnesota Twins catcher Earl Battey, and current Yankee pitcher Earl “Buddy” Carlyle. There’s also the Hall of Fame center fielder of the 1920s Yankees, Earle Combs. Hall of Fame pitcher Early Wynn doesn’t count, but Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver does.

What’s the count, ump? Asahel Brainard, of the first professional team, the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, was nicknamed Asa, and it is supposedly from his name that we derived the word ace for a top pitcher. He was also nicknamed Count. The 19th Century pitcher Tony Mullane was also nicknamed the Count, and “the Apollo of the Box.” (When he started, pitchers threw from a flat box, not a raised mound, hence the phrase, “knocked out of the box.”) And Giants pitcher and New Jersey native John Montefusco, briefly a Yankee late in his career, was, due to the Alexandre Dumas novel The Count of Monte Cristo, was nicknamed the Count of Montefusco, and, since he pitched in San Francisco, the Count of Monte Frisco. Usually, though, he was just The Count. No word on whether lightning struck when he counted things. Ah-ah-ah-ah.

There have been recent All-Stars named Marquis Grissom and Jason Marquis. There haven’t been many Barons in baseball, although both 1980s Cubs pitcher (now ESPN analyst) Rick Sutcliffe and 1990s Texas Rangers 3rd baseman Thurman Clyde “Rusty” Greer were nicknamed the Red Baron. (Wonder if they ever got cursed at by a shortstop-playing beagle?)

There was an outfielder for the early Philadelphia Athletics named Bristol Robotham Lord. He was nicknamed the Human Eyeball, and, worse, a shortening of his first name made him “Bris.” Ouch. Or, should I say, Oy vey. But, aside from 1930s Brooklyn Dodger infielder Jimmy Jordan, there appears to have been no ballplayer whose nickname was “Lord.” Granted, there is a religious connotation, but it’s also a nobleman’s title. Oddly, there have been 2 major leaguers, both playing briefly in the 19th Century, whose nicknames were “Lady”: Charles Baldwin and Harley Payne.

The Kansas City Royals were probably not named for the Negro League’s Kansas City Monarchs. Nor were they named for the Crown Center shopping center, which opened in 1971, 2 years after the Royals debuted. There has never been a player nicknamed “Monarch” or “Emperor,” although there have been 4 players whose name is the Gemran for emperor, “Kaiser.” And early 20th Century pitcher Irvin Key Wilhelm was, in that era of World War I, nicknamed Kaiser Wilhelm. There has never been a player with the name or nickname of the Russian equivalent of emperor, Czar.

Of course, both “Kaiser” and “Czar” actually come from the name “Caesar,” and there have been plenty of variations on those, mostly from Latin America: 1960s Minnesota Twins infielder Cesar Tovar, 1970s Cincinnati Red outfielder Cesar Geronimo, 1970s Houston Astro outfielder Cesar Cedeno, longtime second baseman Julio Cesar Franco, and current major leaguers Julio Cesar Lugo, Cesar Ramos and Cesar Valdez. And current Yankee Eric Chavez’s full name is Eric Cesar Chavez, although, as a Mexican-American and a native of Southern California, he was most likely named not for the ancient Roman Emperor Julius Caesar but for the labor activist Cesar Chavez.

Knuckleball pitcher Tom Candiotti (who notably played knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm in Billy Crystal’s film 61*) is, in full, Thomas Caesar Candiotti. And an All-Star pitcher for the 1950s Cleveland Indians had the full name of Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish. He was usually called Cal or Buster.

Finally, of course, there has been one Sultan: The Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruth, who had a slew of similarly alliterative nicknames, including King of Crash (sometimes King of Clout but also sometimes Caliph of Clout or Colossus of Clout). He was also called the King of Swing, although that nickname is usually given to the great clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman.

Yankees Give White Sox a Royal Pounding

Back in 1984, when Yogi Berra was in his 2nd go-around as manager of the greatest sports franchise in the world -- and I don't mean those (George Carlin word)s at Manchester (George Carlin word)ing United -- the story goes that he saw Don Mattingly stay in the batting cage for a long time, and he said, "Donnie, you're going to hit yourself right into a slump."

This from a man who allegedly once said, during a difficult stretch of his playing career, "Slump? I ain't in no slump. I just ain't hitting."

Going into last night's finale of a 4-game home series with the Chicago White Sox, it could have been said of a lot of the Yankees that "They just ain't hitting." In the preceding 3 games, they'd scored only 6 runs on 13 hits, winning only 1 of the games.

Last night, they broke out. They unloaded on the Pale Hose for a 12-3 win.

Brett Gardner, who'd been awful in the season's first 3 weeks, hit his 3rd homer in the span of a week. He's still batting just .169, but he's got his OPS up to .613.

Nick Swisher was also in a nasty slump, striking out when swinging at some awful pitches. But last night, in the bottom of the 7th, he hit a scorching liner down the right field line. The only question was whether it would be fair or foul.

Unless, of course, you are John Sterling. When I heard the radio highlights later (this time, I saw it on TV first), Sterling left no doubt, going right into, "Swung on, and there it goes! Deep to right field! That ball is high! It is far! It is gone!" No pause between "It is... " and " ...gone!" He knew it all the way.

Well, I saw it on TV, and it was just barely fair. Counts the same, though.

And boy did Swish need it. His 1st of the year, for 2 runs, and it capped a 3-for-4, 4-RBI day for him. He's now up to .237, and his OPS is up to .654. This is a guy who hit 160 homers in the preceding 6 seasons, so he's not used to this kind of poor start. He was overjoyed.

Nicholas Thompson Swisher of Parkersburg, West Virginia plays for the love of the game. The fame? The glory? He likes those, too. But you can always tell when a guy loves the game.

Of course, all of this would have mattered very little if the Yankees hadn't gotten good pitching. They got it, from CC Sabathia (2-1), who went 7, allowing 3 runs, none of them earned, on 7 hits and 1 walk. They also got it from Lance Pendleton, who pitched a scoreless 8th and 9th. (Obviously, no save with a 9-run lead and only 2 innings. Had he pitched 3, according to the rule he would've gotten the save.) Edwin Jackson (2-3, winning his first 2 decisions but has now lost his last 3) got the loss for the South Siders.

Jorge Posada remains in the struggle zone: He went 0-for-4, and is now down to a .130 average. Derek Jeter got the night off, and did not get any closer to 3,000 hits. Alex Rodriguez went 1-for-4 with a double, so he got a little closer to 3,000, but no closer to any home run milestones, be they 630 (Ken Griffey Jr.), 650, 660 (Willie Mays), 700, 714 (Babe Ruth), 750, 755 (Hank Aaron) or 762 (Barry Bonds). And, of course, with a 9-run lead, Mariano Rivera got the night off, so he got no closer to the all-time saves record of 601 (Trevor Hoffman).

Tonight, the Yanks begin a 3-game home series with Toronto, those Pesky Blue Jays. Let's hope the Yankee Fans leave The Stadium (II) as happy as the crowds leaving Buckingham Palace this morning, following the balcony reception for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, formerly Prince William and Kate Middleton.

In the reign of Queen Elizabeth II (February 6, 1952 to the present), the Yankees have won 16 Division Titles, 22 Pennants and 13 World Series. Under her father, King George VI (December 11, 1936 to February 6, 1952), they won 10 Pennants and 9 World Series. Under her uncle, King Edward VIII (January 20 to December 11, 1936), they played just 1 season, and won the World Series. And under her grandfather, King George V (May 6, 1910 to January 20, 1936), they won 7 Pennants and 4 World Series.

In the remainder of the Queen's reign, and in the presumptive reigns of the men currently known as Charles, Prince of Wales, and William, Duke of Cambridge, may the glory keep on coming -- for both the royalty of Britain and the royalty of baseball, the New York Yankees.

And while we're on the subject of London... Under George V, Arsenal won the League 4 times and the FA Cup 1; under Edward VIII, Arsenal won the League; under George VI, Arsenal won the League twice and the FA Cup once; and under Elizabeth II, Arsenal have won the League and the FA Cup 7 times each. Hopefully, they'll return to their trophy-winning ways while Elizabeth is still on the throne. After all, I hear she's an Arsenal fan. Prince Harry is one, too, although Prince Charles has been said at various times to support Liverpool and Burnley, and I hear William supports Aston Villa, the Birmingham club.

*

Jeter 2948 52
Rivera 567 34
A-Rod 618 145
Magic Number 137 (to eliminate Rays, 136 for O's, 135 for Scum and Jays)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

How to Be a Met Fan In Philadelphia - 2011 Edition

The Mets have now won 6 straight games. They’ll try to make it 7 tonight in Washington, with Chris Capuano starting against the aging, but apparently still effective, Livan Hernandez. Like I said when I did my “How to Be a Met Fan In Washington” piece, you might have a better chance of seeing a Met win in D.C. than in N.Y.

Going into tonight’s game, the Metropolitans are 11-13, not a bad place to be considering what they had going into this season. But they’re still 5 games behind the Phillies, who at 16-8 have the 2nd-best record in baseball, trailing only the Colorado Rockies.

The Mets will then head up I-95 to face the team that always should have been their arch-rivals, the 3-time defending National League Eastern Division Champion Philadelphia Phillies, at Citizens Bank Park:

* Friday night, 7:05 PM, Mike Pelfrey vs. Vance Worley. Sorry, Pelf, but I won’t be there. You’re gonna have to try to win this one without your good-luck charm. (I had to update this: Joe Blanton was supposed to start tomorrow night, but he's gone on the Disabled List, so the Phils are starting Worley instead.)

* Saturday afternoon, 1:10 PM, Jon Niese vs. Roy Halladay. A mismatch, but it’s a Fox Game of the Week, so who knows? Note that, aside from Fox broadcasts, the Phillies play all their Saturday games at night. In fact, their only day games are on Sundays (barring ESPN broadcasts) and the occasional “Businessperson’s Special” 12:35 start on a Thursday afternoon.

* Sunday night, 8:00 PM, Met Starter To Be Determined vs. the incredibly overrated Cliff Lee, who is now just 2-2 with a 4.18 ERA – and that’s in the NL, where pitchers bat. Yeah, I know, CBP is a hitters’ park, but, still, that’s not why David Montgomery, Bill Giles and Ruben Amaro Jr. are payin’ him the big bucks. Anyway, it’s an ESPN Sunday Night Baseball broadcast.

This is an update of a piece I did last August, a primer for Met fans going, or considering going, to any or all of this weekend's series in Philadelphia:

Not that long ago, the Philadelphia Phillies played at Veterans Stadium, a concrete oval (actually, they officially called its shape an "octorad," which sounds like a made-up word), which seated 62,382 fans for baseball in its final years. Granted, about a third of these seats, 20,000 or so, were in the outfield and well back of the action. But with a few exceptions, during the regular season you could show up at the Vet’s ticket window at 7:00 at night, Monday through Saturday, or at 1:00 on a Sunday, and buy pretty much as many seats as you could afford.

It’s a different world at Citizens Bank Park, which opened in 2004. It’s not a multipurpose facility, it’s a baseball-specific stadium. Every seat has sufficient width, legroom and alignment to view a game in comfort. Behind you will be concession stands that are plentiful and varied, restrooms that are clean and not beset by noxious fumes, and no 2-inning-long lines at either. In front of you are informative and attractive scoreboards and a nice, natural-grass field, instead of the hideous lime-green carpet at the Vet. (It was often called the worst in the NFL. I don’t know if it was the worst in baseball, though: Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium and Houston’s Astrodome had artificial fields that looked even worse to me.) Depending on where you sit, you might even get a good view of the skyline of Center City Philadelphia.

But because “The Bank” is a nice park, and also because the Phillies have been contenders pretty much since it opened, its 43,647 seats go pretty quickly. So I’m beginning this guide by saying...

Before You Go. You should get your ticket(s) in advance. I’m not kidding about this: Although scalpers are plentiful around the South Philly sports complex, for all 4 major sports, don’t even think of patronizing the scalpers while wearing opposing-team gear, especially if it’s the Mets. Or the Los Angeles Dodgers. Or the St. Louis Cardinals. (The Phils have unpleasant histories with those teams as well, although the one with the cross-State Pittsburgh Pirates seems to have fizzled out, as the Pirates have been crap since 1993.)

Most tickets for a Phils game – the tickets that will be available, anyway – will be $36 or less. Superb seats can be had in the 300 level and even the uppermost 400 level for $28. Get a “Power Ticket” for an additional $10, and you’ll receive a $10 credit toward food or merchandise.

Getting There. It’s 99 miles from Times Square in Manhattan to City Hall in Center City Philadelphia, and 111 miles from Citi Field to Citizens Bank Park. (Yes, they both have names of banks slapped on them, and the names are very similar. Don’t be confused, especially since Citi’s dominant logo color is blue and Citizens Bank’s is green, although the parks’ seats reverse those colors, green in Flushing and blue in South Philly.) This is close enough that a typical Met fan could leave his house, drive to the Citi Field parking lot, meet up with friends, head down to CBP, watch a game, head back to Citi Field, pick up his car, and drive home, all within 10 hours. But it’s also close enough that you could spend an entire day in Philadelphia, and, hopefully, you’ve already done this. Having done so many times myself, I can tell you that it’s well worth it.

If you are driving, you’ll need to get on the New Jersey Turnpike. If you’re not “doing the city,” but just going to the game, take the Turnpike’s Exit 3 to NJ Route 168, which forms part of the Black Horse Pike, to Interstate 295. (The Black Horse Pike later becomes NJ Route 42, US Route 322 and US Route 40, going into Atlantic City. Not to be confused with the White Horse Pike, US Route 30, which also terminates in A.C.)

Take I-295 to Exit 26, which will get you onto Interstate 76 and the Walt Whitman Bridge into Philly. Signs for the ballpark will soon follow, and the park is at 11th Street and Pattison Avenue (though the mailing address is "1 Citizens Bank Way"). From anywhere in New York City, allow 2½ hours for the actual drive, though from North Jersey you might need only 2, and from Central Jersey an hour and a half might suffice. But you’ll need at least another half-hour to negotiate the last mile or so, including the parking lot itself.

If you don’t want to drive, there are other options, but the best one is the train. Philadelphia is too close to fly, just as flying from New York (from JFK, LaGuardia or Newark) to Boston, Baltimore and Washington, once you factor in fooling around with everything you gotta do at each airport, don’t really save you much time compared to driving, the bus or the train.

And I strongly recommend not taking the bus. If you do, once you see Philadelphia’s Greyhound terminal, at 10th & Filbert Streets in Center City, the nation’s 2nd-busiest behind New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal, you’ll say to yourself, “I never thought I’d say this to myself, but thank God for Port Authority!” The Philly terminal is a disgrace. I don’t know how many people are in Atlantic City on an average summer day, when both the beaches and the casinos are full (I'm guessing about half a million or one-third the size of Philly), but it has a permanent population of 35,000 people, compared to the 1.6 million of Philadelphia, and it has a bus station of roughly equal size and far greater cleanliness than Philly’s. If you do want to take Greyhound, it’s about 2 hours and 20 minutes each way, and $40 round-trip, and buses leave Port Authority just about every hour on the hour.

If you can afford Amtrak, and that will be anywhere from $48 to $150 each way, most of them being $93, it takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes to get from Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan to the 30th Street Station at 30th & Market Streets, just across the Schuylkill River from Center City. Unlike the dull post-1963 Penn Station, this building is an Art Deco masterpiece from 1933, and is the former corporate headquarters of the Pennsylvania Railroad. (Ironically, it never had the official name “Pennsylvania Station” or “Penn Station.”) You might recognize its interior from the Eddie Murphy film Trading Places. (If you can’t afford Amtrak, or if you can but you’d rather save money, I’ll get to what to do in a minute.)

From 30th Street Station, you can take a cab that will go down I-76, the Schuylkill Expressway, to I-95, the Delaware Expressway, to South Broad Street to the Sports Complex. I would advise against this, though: When I did this for a Yankees-Phillies Interleague game at the Vet in 1999, it was $15. It’s probably $25 now.

Instead, you’ll need to take the subway, which, like Philly’s commuter-rail and bus systems, is run by SEPTA, the SouthEastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. You might recognize their “S” logo from Trading Places, and the bus that hits Tommy Morrison at the end of Rocky V. You’ll have to exit 30th Street Station and cross 30th Street itself to get into the 30th St. station on the Market-Frankford Line.

Philadelphia and Toronto are the only 2 cities left on the North American continent, as far as I know, that still use tokens rather than farecards (or "MetroCards" as New York's MTA calls them) or tickets for their subways. One ride on a SEPTA subway train is $2.00, a shade cheaper than New York's, but they don’t sell single tokens at booths. They come in packs of 2, 5 and 10 (so you'd pay $4, $10 or $20), and they’re damn hard to open.

From 30th Street, take the Market-Frankford Line to 15th Street (that's just one stop), where you’ll transfer to the Broad Street Line at City Hall Station. Being a Met fan, you’ll notice that the MFL’s standard color is blue, while the BSL’s is orange. Blue and orange. Don’t think that means they want to make Met fans feel at home, though.

From City Hall, if you’re lucky, you’ll get an express train that will make just 2 stops, Walnut-Locust and Pattison. But you’ll want to save your luck for the game itself, so don’t be too disappointed if you get a local, which will make 7 stops: Walnut-Locust, Lombard-South, Ellsworth-Federal, Tasker-Morris, Oregon, Snyder and Pattison. The local should take about 10 minutes, the express perhaps 7.

If you don’t want to take Amtrak, your other rail option is local. At Penn Station, you can buy a combined New Jersey Transit/SEPTA ticket to get to Center City Philadelphia. Take NJT’s Northeast Corridor Line out of Penn Station to the Trenton Transit Center. This station is currently in the latter stages of a renovation that has already turned it from an absolute hole (worse even than Philly’s bus station) into a modern multimodal transport facility. At Trenton, transfer to the SEPTA R7 train terminating at Chestnut Hill East. Because there will be a lot more stops than on Amtrak (especially the SEPTA part), it will take 2 hours and 20 minutes, but you’ll spend $49 round-trip, about one-quarter what you’d be likely to spend on Amtrak.

And if you are riding NJT and SEPTA, you’ll still get to 30th Street Station, but you’ll need to bypass it and keep going to the next stop, Suburban Station at 17th Street & John F. Kennedy Blvd. (which is what Filbert Street is called west of Broad Street). Getting off there, a pedestrian concourse will lead you to the City Hall station on the Broad Street Line, and then just take that to Pattison.

The subway’s cars are fairly recent, and don’t rattle much, although they can be unpleasant on the way back from the game, especially if it’s a football game and they’re rammed with about 100 Eagles fans who’ve spent the game sweating and boozing and are still loaded for bear for anyone from outside the Delaware Valley. It’s highly unlikely anyone will give you anything more than a little bit of verbal on the subway ride into the Sports Complex, while they might give a little more gusto to the verbal on the ride back. But despite Philly sports fans’ reputation, this will not be the equivalent of the London Underground on a Saturday afternoon in the 1980s: They might tell you that your team sucks (even if your team is ahead of theirs in the standings), but that’s about the worst you’ll get.

Going In. Coming out of the Pattison subway station, you’ll walk down Pattison Avenue, with a parking lot on the former site of Veterans Stadium to your left, and the site of the Spectrum, the 1967-1996 76ers & Flyers arena, to your right.

Further to your right is the successor to the Spectrum, the building recently renamed the Wells Fargo Center. This building is 15 years old and is now under its 5th name. It was built on the site of John F. Kennedy Stadium, formerly Municipal Stadium, a 105,000-seat structure that hosted all kinds of events, from the Army-Navy Game to heavyweight title fights (Gene Tunney taking the title away from Jack Dempsey in 1926 and Rocky Marciano doing the same to Jersey Joe Walcott in 1952), from the occasional Eagles game that was too big for Shibe Park in the 1940s and ’50s to the U.S. half of Live Aid in 1985. And it hosted the Phils’ victory celebration in 1980, with its huge capacity coming in handy. By that point, it was crumbling, and it surprised no one when it was demolished to make way for the new arena.

Continuing on Pattison Avenue until 11th Street, Citizens Bank Park will be on your left, and the new home of the Eagles, Lincoln Financial Field (a.k.a. The Linc), will be on your right. CBP has 5 statues, 4 of them outside. A statue of old-time Athletics owner-manager Connie Mack that was first placed outside the stadium named for him, and later moved to the Vet, now stands outside the 3rd base stands. One of 1970s-80s Phillies slugger Mike Schmidt is outside the 3rd base gate. One of 1950s Phils ace Robin Roberts, who died a few weeks ago (the Phils are wearing a Number 36 patch on their right sleeves this season), is outside the 1st base gate. And one of 1970s-80s Phils ace Steve Carlton is at the left field gate. The one that’s inside, I’ll get to shortly.

Don’t be fooled by the map: Philadelphia International Airport is 4 miles from the Sports Complex, so you won’t get rattled by plane after plane after plane going overhead, like in Flushing Meadow.

Inside the park, concourses are wide and well-lit, a big departure from the Vet (as Citi Field’s are from Shea Stadium). Escalators are safe and nearly always work, as opposed to the Vet, which did not have escalators, only seemingly-endless ramps. Getting to your seat should be easy.

Food. From Bookbinder and Le Bec Fin to the Reading Terminal Market to the South Philly cheesesteak giants Pat’s, Geno’s and Tony Luke’s, Philly is a great food city and don’t you ever forget it. The variety of food available at Citizens Bank Park is unbelievable. Little of it is healthy (surprise), but all of it is good.

Some of the best is at the outfield concourse known as Ashburn Alley, named for Richie "Whitey" Ashburn, the 1950s center fielder and longtime broadcaster, whose statue is in the Alley beyond straightaway center field. In left field is Harry the K’s, a bar named for Ashburn’s former broadcast partner, the late Harry Kalas. (There’s a movement to put a statue of Kalas in the park. Last I heard, the only remaining thing to decide was where in the park to put it.)

In right field is Bull’s BBQ, named for 1970s slugger Greg Luzinski, a takeoff on the Boog Powell concept at Baltimore’s Camden Yards, right down to the Bull himself often being there to pose for pictures with fans. And Luzinski’s stuff is better than Boog’s. Seriously: As my girl Rachel Ray would say, “Yum-O.”

Ashburn Alley also includes outlets of Tony Luke’s cheesesteaks, and another South Philly legend, Chickie’s & Pete’s. This is a seafood restaurant – or, should I say, “Dis is a fish joint” – famous for its “crab fries.” Turns out, it’s just French fries with Old Bay seasoning mix, not fries with crabmeat. They’re okay, nothing special. Chickie’s & Pete’s 4 restaurants in Philly, including one near the Sports Complex at 1526 Packer Avenue, one on the Black Horse Pike in Egg Harbor near Atlantic City, and one at Mercer County Waterfront Park, home of the Trenton Thunder, a Yankee farm team.

Team History Displays. Next to Ashburn’s statue is a display of every Phillie that has made the All-Star Team at each position. Behind the Alley is their championship pennants: The 1980 and 2008 World Championships; the 1915, 1950, 1983, 1993 and 2009 National League Pennants; and the 1976, 1977, 1978, 2007 and 2010 NL Eastern Division titles.

On the wall holding up these pennants are the Phils' retired numbers. In addition to the Number 42 retired for all of baseball for Jackie Robinson, they are: 1, Richie Ashburn; 14, 1960s pitcher Jim Bunning; 20, Mike Schmidt; 32, Steve Carlton; and 36, Robin Roberts. They also have "P" designations for pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander, who played before uniform numbers were worn, and for 1930s slugger Chuck Klein, who changed numbers so many times it wasn't worth retiring a single number for him.

Along the Alley is the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame. The Phillies used to honor one ex-Phillie and one ex-Athletic every season, with the exception of 1983, the Phils’ 100th Anniversary season, when they posted a plaque for the players voted by the fans to their Centennial Team. When they left the Vet, the A’s plaques were taken to a museum dedicated to the memory of the A’s, while each year still sees the induction of a new Phils hero.

Despite Ashburn having played his last season, 1962, with the expansion Mets, the honoree most Met fans will be interested in is Tug McGraw, Met reliever in the 1969 and 1973 World Series, and the man who closed out so many games for the Phils including the clinching Game 6 of the 1980 World Series. But “Ya gotta believe” that no Met fan will be interested in seeing Juan Samuel’s plaque on this wall.

As yet, Lenny Dykstra, whom the Mets foolishly traded for Samuel in 1989, has not been honored. In fact, Samuel was the most recently-appearing Phils player on the wall until last season, when 1993 catcher/captain Darren Daulton was added. Considering that the other Pennant-winning team that Dykstra played for, the 1986 Mets, also has a complicated legacy due to character issues (such as Dykstra’s drinking and recent financial irregularities, Daulton’s conspiracy buffery and John Kruk’s “I ain’t an athlete, lady, I’m a baseball player” approach to the game), it may be a while before the ’93 “Macho Row” Phils are properly honored. After all, look how long it took the Mets to induct Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden -- or even Davey Johnson and Frank Cashen -- into their Hall of Fame, and unlike the '93 Phils, the '86 Mets actually won the damn thing.

On the other side of this wall is a history of the Phils’ former home fields: Recreation Park, 1883 to 1886; National League Park, 1887 to 1894 when it burned down; Baker Bowl, built on the site of National League Park in 1895 and abandoned in 1938; Shibe Park, built for the A’s in 1909, the Phils moved in during the 1938 season, renamed Connie Mack Stadium in 1952, the A’s left after 1954 and the Phils did so after 1970; and Veterans Stadium, 1971 to 2003.

Stuff. The Phillies love to sell team-themed merchandise, from DVDs (including team histories and a tribute to Ashburn) to books to caps to jerseys to autographed balls. They sell stuffed Phanatic dolls and children's books with the Phanatic as the protagonist, written by Phanatic portrayer Tom Burgoyne, who succeeded original Phanatic Dave Raymond (who wore the outfit from 1978 to 1993). There's even a takeoff on the "build-a-bear" theme, "Build Your Own Phanatic." I am convinced that I’ve never seen so much team merchandise available per square foot at any stadium or arena I’ve ever visited.

During the Game. This is not Veterans Stadium. You can wear your Met gear at CBP without fear of drunken bums physically hassling you. And you don’t have to worry about them making fun of your less-traditional Met gear (such as orange caps or black jerseys). If they do, just remind them that the Phillies' uniforms haven’t always been classy red-pinstripe jobs:

http://billymupp.tripod.com/philuni.html

The 76ers have had some whacked-out togs as well, and don’t even get me started on the Flyers’ 1980s duds. Seriously, long pants for hockey?

http://www.reclinergm.com/bestworst-of-philly-uniforms/
http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://i.a.cnn.net/si/multimedia/photo_gallery/0612/gallery.worstdressed/images/flyers.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.goaliestore.com/board/hockey-talk/85954-ideas-major-nhl-announcement-winter-classic-fenway-2.html&h=662&w=666&sz=74&tbnid=RR28BeKZ_wnliM:&tbnh=137&tbnw=138&prev=/images%3Fq%3DFlyers%2Bpants&hl=en&usg=__w8bL50LYKJdxMCNKoi1wjTjXnBU=&sa=X&ei=iA1bTNG6LJDEsAPSq9WwDw&ved=0CEgQ9QEwBQ

The Mets and Phillies have hardly ever both been good at the same time. This is a good thing, considering the proximity of the two cities. Giants vs. Eagles has been very nasty at times. (The one Eagles game I ever saw at the Vet was the 2001 season finale, when a furious Giant comeback fell just short and the Eagles won the NFC East. It was Christmas/New Year’s week, it was about zero degrees, and the only hot things were the coffee, the hot chocolate, and the tempers.) The Flyers have had hard rivalries with all 3 New York Tri-State Area hockey teams: In the 1970s and ‘80s, Rangers-Flyers was always good for a punch-up, either on the ice or in the stands, Garden or Spectrum; the Islanders beat the Flyers to win their first Stanley Cup in 1980 (do not mention the name of referee Leon Stickle to a Philadelphian), and fans of the Devils and Flyers have been going at it hammer and tongs pretty much since the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals. (I don’t think Ron Hextall has seen that 65-foot wobbler off the stick of Claude Lemieux yet.)

But the Mets and Phillies? I saw the matchup twice at the Vet, and on neither occasion did I see anybody get rough with anybody else. (And on neither occasion did the Mets win, in fact in both games they blew a lead.) Of the 5 seasons with the most combined wins for the Mets and Phils, 3 were 2006, ’07 and ’08. The top 2 were 1986, when the Mets won 108 and the Phils 86; and 1976, when the Phils won 101 and the Mets 86. To this day, 2008 is the only season in which both teams won as many as 88, and only 8 times in their 49 years of joint existence have both teams even finished above .500 – 4 of those, half, from 2005 onward. And 1986 and 2006 are the only seasons in which the Mets and Phils have finished 1st and 2nd, and 2007 and 2008 are the only times it was the other way around. While the Yankees and the Philadelphia Athletics had a real rivalry in the first half of the 20th Century, especially from 1927 to 1932, Mets vs. Phillies just wasn’t of the same caliber.

So, unlike the hatred that exists between Philly fans and the New York Giants (football edition), the Dallas Cowboys, the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the New York-area hockey teams (but not between the 76ers and Knicks or Nets), Mets-Phils is still a recent thing in terms of a rivalry. As a result, while I can’t guarantee anything, you will probably be safe.

Except, maybe, from the Phillie Phanatic. He might come into your section and razz you a bit, but, since he’s supposed to be silent, it’ll be limited to gestures. Nothing obscene, of course, since he’s supposed to be there to entertain kids. But he might blow the kazoo streamer that serves as his “tongue” out of his nose and hit you with it. Usually, though, there’s an usher nearby in case the Phanatic makes a mistake and does it too hard. (This wouldn’t be unprecedented, though: For this and other reasons, he is the most-sued mascot in sports history.)

During the 7th inning stretch, after “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is played, the Phanatic and two young lady ushers will jump up onto the roof of the Phils’ dugout and dance to some song or other. In the 1980s and early ‘90s, it was usually “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry. Now they mix the songs up, and it could be anything from the 1950s up to the present day. The Phanatic usually stays on the dugout roof for the entire bottom of the 7th, and gets back on in the top of the 9th (if the Phils are winning) or the bottom (if they're losing or tied).

If a Phillie hits a home run, the big white Liberty Bell replica over right-center field will light up, and sway from side to side as it “tolls,” complete with sound effects, while fireworks (something Philly knows a bit about) shoot off from the roof. This will also happen at the end of the game if the Phillies win. This bell replaces the one that used to hang from the outfield roof of the Vet, and before that from the Vet’s mezzanine until Luzinski hit it with a home run. (I wonder if it cracked on impact?)

An interesting feature is included in the out-of-town scoreboard: Minor-league games. A running score is kept of the Phils’ farm teams, some of which are not that far away: The Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs in Allentown, the Double-A Reading Phillies, and the Single-A Lakewood BlueClaws near the Jersey Shore. As far as I know, the Yankees and the Mets have never done this, despite each having, since 2001, a farm team actually in The City (the Staten Island Yankees and the Brooklyn Cyclones).

After the Game. The risk of Phils fans getting rough increases, as they’ve had time to drink, but not by much. If it were an Eagles or Flyers game, you might have to worry, but probably not after a Phillies game. After all, just because they like to call CBP “the National League’s answer to Fenway Park” (it isn’t, Wrigley Field is), doesn’t mean that they’ll act like the drunken boors of Kenmore Square.

What you should do at the end of the game depends on what time it is and how you got there. Except for non-ESPN Sundays, the occasional Thursday afternoon “Businessperson’s Special,” and rain-forced day/night doubleheaders, all Phillies home games are night games.

If you took the train(s) down, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting back onto the subway, and to Suburban Station, in time to catch the 10:45 PM SEPTA R7 back to Trenton, which will allow you to get the 12:10 AM NJ Transit train back to New York, arriving at Penn Station at 1:35 AM. If for whatever reason (extra innings, you stopped somewhere along the way, something else) you end up missing this train, there will be another an hour later, but this will be the last train of the night. If you miss this one too, or if you came by Amtrak, the last Amtrak train of the night will leave 30th Street Station at 12:13 AM, arriving at Penn Station at 1:50, and it will cost you $48, which, by Amtrak standards, is cheap.

If you drove down, and you want to stop off for a late dinner and/or drinks (except, of course, for the designated driver), the nearby Holiday Inn at 9th Street & Packer Avenue has a bar that is co-owned by former Eagles quarterback, now ESPN pundit, Ron Jaworski. As I mentioned earlier, the original outlet of Chickie’s & Pete’s is at 15th & Packer. Right next to it is a celebrated joint, named, appropriately enough, Celebre Pizzeria.

(The legend is true: Richie Ashburn and his broadcast partners, Harry Kalas, Chris Wheeler and Andy Musser mentioned their great-tasting pizzas on the air so often that, since Phils broadcasts were then sponsored by a pizzeria chain, they couldn’t mention Celebre’s anymore. So, just as Ashburn’s New York counterpart, Phil Rizzuto, liked to mention birthdays and food, especially Italian food, on the air, “Whitey” rattled off a few birthday wishes, and said, “And I’d like to wish a Happy Birthday to the Celebre’s twins, Plain and Pepperoni! Say, Wheels, how old are Plain and Pepperoni?” And Wheeler said, “About 20 minutes, I hope!” Sure enough, 20 minutes later, the delivery was made.)

Sidelights. If you drove down, or you came by train early on Saturday and have the whole day to yourself before a 7:05 gametime, in addition to the other stadiums and arenas at the Sports Complex, check out these locations:

* Deliverance Evangelistic Church, 21st Street & Lehigh Avenue. This was the site of Shibe Park, renamed Connie Mack Stadium in 1952. This is where the A's played from 1909 to 1954, the Phils from 1938 to 1970, and the Eagles from 1944 to 1957. The Frankford Yellow Jackets sometimes used it in the 1920s, winning the 1926 NFL Championship. The Eagles played and won the 1948 NFL Championship Game there, beating the Chicago Cardinals 7-0 in a snowstorm, and also won the NFL title in '49 (though the title game was played in Los Angeles against the Rams). The A's played World Series there in 1910, '11, '12, '13, '14, '29, '30 and '31, and the Phils (against the Yanks) in '50. Be advised, though, that this is North Philly, and the church is easily the nicest building for several blocks around. Across the street is Dobbins Tech, a high school known for its great basketball program. (Remember the story of Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble? They went to Dobbins. So did Dawn Staley.) By subway, use the North Philadelphia station, and walk 7 blocks west on Lehigh.

* Site of Baker Bowl, southwest corner of Broad Street & Lehigh Avenue. This was where the Phils played from 1887 to 1938, and the Eagles from 1933 to 1943 (though sometimes moving to Municipal Stadium, the one renamed for JFK). The Phils won one Pennant there, in 1915. Same subway stop as Shibe/Connie Mack. The A's original home, Columbia Park, is at 29th Street & Columbia Avenue, but I wouldn't recommend going there.

* The Palestra, 235 S. 33rd Street. Built in 1927, this is the arena aptly nicknamed the Cathedral of Basketball. It even has stained-glass windows. (I swear, I am not making that up.) The home gymnasium of the University of Pennsylvania (or just "Penn"), it also hosts some games of Philly's informal "Big 5" basketball programs when they play each other: Penn, Temple, LaSalle, St. Joseph's and Villanova. Penn, a member of the Ivy League, has one of the nicest college campuses anywhere, but do not be fooled by its Ivyness: In Philadelphia, even the Ivy Leaguers are tough. Take the "Subway-Surface Line" trolley, either the Number 11, 13, 34 or 36, to the 33rd Street stop.

* Franklin Field, right next to the Palestra. The oldest continuously-used college football site, Penn has played here since 1895 (which is also when the Penn Relay Carnival, the nation's premier track-and-field event, began), and in the current stadium since 1922. That year, it supposedly hosted the first football game ever broadcast on radio (a claim the University of Pittsburgh disputes), and in 1939 it supposedly hosted the first football game ever televised (a claim New York’s Columbia University disputes). The amazing building in the west end zone is the University administration building. The stadium is in surprisingly good shape (must be all those Penn/Wharton Business School grads donating), although the playing field has been artificial turf since 1969. The Eagles played here from 1958 to 1970, including their last NFL Championship, December 26, 1960, beating the Green Bay Packers in a thriller, 17-13. Half a century. Penn’s football team has been considerably more successful, having won 14 Ivy League titles since the league was formally founded in 1955. Same trolley stop as the Palestra.

* Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, 34th Street & Civic Center Blvd. This was the site of the Philadelphia Civic Center, including the Convention Hall, where Franklin D. Roosevelt was nominated for President in 1936, and both Harry Truman and Thomas E. Dewey were nominated in 1948 – that year’s Republican Convention being the first televised convention. The Beatles played here on September 2, 1964. (They also played JFK Stadium on August 16, 1966, but did not play in Philly on their 1965 North American tour.) Pope John Paul II said Mass here, and the Philadelphia Warriors played here from 1952 to 1962, when they moved to San Francisco (and now the "Golden State Warriors" play in Oakland), and the 76ers from 1963 to 1967 when the Spectrum opened. So many Philly area greats played here, in high school, college and the pros, but you need know one name -- pardon the pun -- above all others, Wilt Chamberlain. I saw a concert here in 1989, and the acoustics were phenomenal, with a horseshoe of seats and a stage at one end, much like Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City and the building once known as the Baltimore Civic Center. Built in 1931, it was demolished in 2005 to make way for an addition to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. Same stop as the Palestra and Franklin Field, which are a block away.

* Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society, 6 N. York Road, Hatboro, PA. A museum dedicated mainly to the A's, but also to Philadelphia baseball in general. It's 16 miles due north of Philly's City Hall, so unless you want to take the SEPTA R2 line to Warminster (Hatboro is the next-to-last stop, and the museum is 3 blocks away), you'll have to drive.

*

So, to sum up, I would definitely recommend to any baseball fan, even a Met fan, that they take in a Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park. I think it's the nicest of the 1992-present "retro ballparks" -- even if the home fans aren't always nice.

I’d tell you to have fun, but, since you’re Met fans, I’ll say, instead, “Try not to get yourself or anybody else killed.”

Yanks Give White Sox a Colon-oscopy

In 2000, comedian, Bronx native and Yankee Fan Robert Klein, celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the first HBO comedy special, Robert Klein: A Child of the Fifties, hosted Robert Klein: A Child In His Fifties, and, calling upon his Broadway musical background, sang... well, see for yourself:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8lObCTw7Sw

Over their last 3 games, against the Chicago White Sox, the Yankees have gotten just 13 hits and 6 runs. At home. Against a team that, while often noted for good pitching (and defense and baserunning), came into the series with an 8-14 record -- that's a .364 winning percentage, which would translate, over 162 games, to 59-103.

If you only get 13 hits and 6 runs over 3 games, you'll be lucky to win even one of them.

Yes, the Yankees were lucky to win 1 of them. Lucky that general manager Brian Cashman took a chance on the seemingly-washed-up, still-quite-overweight Bartolo Colon... and it worked.

Last night, as he did the night before, Robinson Cano hit an early home run, his 6th of the season, this time in the 1st inning rather than the 2nd. This time, however, he did it with men on base: Derek Jeter led off the game with a walk, and, after Buehrle got the terribly struggling Nick Swisher and the once-again-struggling Mark Teixeria to strike out, Alex Rodriguez blooped a single to set up Cano's 3-run blast, giving Colon a 3-0 lead.

That was all the 5-foot-11, 265-pound Dominican needed, as he gave the Yankees a 2nd straight fine start, going 8 innings (badly needed after Joe Girardi FUBARed the bullpen the night before), allowing 7 hits and only 1 walk. He advanced his record to 2-1, and Mariano Rivera got his 8th save of the season, the 567th of his career.

Mark Buehrle (1-3) has been a hard-luck pitcher so far this season: After the Cano homer, he pitched scoreless ball through the 7th, but, this time, the Yanks got enough. It should be noted, though, that, in 12 career starts against the Yankees (counting last night), Buehrle is 1-8 with a 6.38 ERA. Overall, in his career, Buehrle, author of 2 no-hitters, 1 of them a perfect game, is 149-113, a 3.87 ERA, a 119 ERA+ and a 1.281 WHIP.

"When you struggle against a team, stuff like that happens," Buehrle said. It's true, some teams have a player's number, and vice versa. It's hard to explain why certain players do poorly against other teams but well against the Yankees (Pat Tabler, Scott Fletcher, and, currently Marco Scutaro come to mind), but the Yanks can turn the tables often enough, hitting Buehrle and, not that long ago, Pedro Martinez better than anyone else.

In the 1st inning, Paul Konerko, the slugging 1st baseman who won the Tuesday night game for the South Siders, took a called 3rd strike from Colon, ending the inning, and he argued with home plate umpire Todd Tichenor. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen came out of the dugout, argued with Tichenor, and was ejected. It's so unlike the former White Sox shortstop to get upset, especially with an umpire.

But the motormouthed Venezuelan was quite sane and calm when discussing Colon, whom he managed in 2009. (Colon also pitched for the ChiSox in 2003, the last year before Ozzie became their manager.)

"Colon was amazing," Ozzie said. "Colon was, wow. I thought (current White Sox coach Don) Cooper was a pretty good pitching coach. I don't remember seeing him throwing that good since Cleveland, or when he was pitching in Anaheim.

"It was amazing how that ball had a lot of movement. Buehrle pitched very good. Colon pitched better."

Ozzie may be nuts, but he knows baseball as well as anybody.

Anyway, the finale of the 4-game set, scheduled for 7:05 PM, weather permitting (thunderstorms have been predicted for today), will feature CC Sabathia started against Edwin Jackson.

Jeter 2948 52
Rivera 567 34
A-Rod 618 145
Magic Number 138 (to eliminate Rays and O's, 136 for Scum and Jays)

*

The countdowns have been adjusted, taking my previous errors into account.

Days until the Red Bulls play again: 2, this coming Saturday night, at home, against Sporting Kansas City, formerly known as the Kansas City Wizards.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 15, on May 13 -- a Friday the 13th -- at Yankee Stadium II. Just 2 weeks.

Days until the Red Bulls play another "derby": 44, on Saturday, June 11, against the team that should be considered their biggest rivals, the New England Revolution, at Red Bull Arena. The next play the team that is usually considered their biggest rivals, D.C. United, on Saturday, July 9, at Red Bull Arena. And they next play their closest rivals, the Philadelphia Union, on Thursday night, October 20, at Red Bull Arena.

Days until Derek Jeter collects his 3,000th career hit: 59 (estimated to come on June 26 -- his 37th birthday). Under 2 months.

Days until the next North London Derby: As yet unknown. The 2011-12 Premier League season begins on August 13, so it can't be any earlier than that. The schedule is usually released in the 2nd week in June. It's just as well, as Arsenal, once seemingly within reach of all 4 trophies, are already in "Wait 'Til Next Year" mode, with the only 2 things left to play for -- 2011-12 Champions League qualification and finishing ahead of Tottenham in the League -- both all but assured.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 126, on Thursday, September 1, home to North Carolina Central. Just 18 weeks, or 4 months.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 134, on Friday night, September 9, and the opponent and location are TBD. Just 19 weeks.

Days until the Devils play another local rival: As yet unknown. The next season's schedule hasn't been released yet, save for the season-openers at the neutral but hockey-loving site of Helsinki, Finland, games that will include the Rangers. That will be on October 7. Figure the Devils' season opener will be the next day, which is 177 days from now. Figure they'll probably play a local rival, either the Rangers, the Islanders, or the Flyers soon thereafter, maybe a week after, so, tentatively, I'm going to say the number of days is: 170. Or 24 weeks, less than 6 months.

Days until the Rutgers-Army football game at Yankee Stadium: 198.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 210.

Days until the last Nets game in New Jersey: 360 (estimated, as the 3rd Sunday in April 2012 is the 22nd). Less than 1 year, unless new owner Mikhail Prokhorov decides he'll stay in the Prudential Center, the great new arena he's already got.

Days until the 2012 Olympics begin in London: 456 (July 27).

Days until Alex Rodriguez collects his 3,000th career hit: 767 (estimated).

Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 700th career home run: 889 (estimated).

Days until Super Bowl XLVIII at the Meadowlands: 1,011 (tentatively scheduled for February 2, 2014, although it could end up being moved back a week or 2).

Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 756th career home run to surpass all-time leader Hank Aaron: 1,509 (estimated).

Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 763rd career home run to become as close to a "real" all-time leader as we are likely to have: 1,623 (estimated).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Joe Girardi, You Lost This One, Not Soriano

Saw my first live Yankee game of the season last night. The boss insisted. Not any member of the Steinbrenner family, my boss. (True story.)

It seemed like a good idea. I hadn't yet seen a live Yankee game this season, they were playing a team for whom I have no ill will, the seat was pretty good (down the right-field line, and the view was better than it would have been from the same seat at the old Stadium), the weather was just right, the fans behaved themselves (except for this one incomprehensible drunk behind us, who was yelling at Nick Swisher, to encourage or to slate, I couldn't tell), the Yankees hit 2 home runs, and there was a good pitchers' duel between the two starters.

There was only one thing wrong: The Yankees lost. Through no fault of their own.

Gavin Floyd started for the Chicago White Sox. I last saw him pitch live in 2001, for the Lakewood BlueClaws. The Phillies brought him up in 2004, which turned out to be too soon, and traded him to the White Sox in the Aaron Rowand deal. But he won 18 for them in 2008, including the regular-season finale that forced a Playoff for the Central Division title with the Minnesota Twins (which the Twins won).

He's been reliable ever since, and, last night, he did something increasingly rare: He pitched into the 9th inning. He made 2 mistakes, Robinson Cano's 5th home run in the 2nd, and Brett Gardner's 2nd homer in the 5th. Other than that, he was great, allowing only 2 other hits, both to Derek Jeter, putting him a little closer to 3,000.

Ivan Nova started for the Yankees, and produced the longest and best outing of his career thus far. In 6 1/3 innings, he allowed just 1 run (and that should have been unearned, as a hit was given on what should have been assessed as an error to Cano), 5 hits and 2 walks. He had good control, and seemed very poised.

But he let a couple of runners on in the 7th, and Yankee manager Joe Girardi panicked.

(To the tune of "My Darling Clementine")

Joe Girardi.
Joe Girardi.
Joe Girardi, leave him in!
Game is lost and gone forever
'cause you didn't leave him in!

Miller Huggins would've left Waite Hoyt in. Joe McCarthy would've left Lefty Gomez in. Casey Stengel would've left Allie Reynolds in. Ralph Houk would've left Whitey Ford in. Billy Martin would've left Ron Guidry in. Joe Torre would've... okay, there the pattern ends.

What's that, you say? Ivan Nova isn't yet any of those pitchers? This is true, but how's he going to become any of those pitchers if he's not given a fair chance by his manager?

Girardi brought in David Robertson, who has bounced back from a poor 2010 season, and hasn't yet allowed a run in 2011. His ERA is 0.00. He got the last 2 outs in the 7th.

Did Girardi leave him in to pitch the 8th? If you have to ask, you're either new to the world of the New York Yankees, or you're just, as they say in English soccer, taking the piss.

Girardi brought Rafael Soriano in to pitch the 8th. Big mistake. By all rights, Nova should still have been on the mound: He'd thrown only 92 pitches in 6 1/3, 54 of them for strikes. (Floyd threw only 102 in 8-plus.) At the very least, Robertson should have been allowed to continue throwing well. Or, if Joe really wanted a reliever, he could have called on Joba Chamberlain. But I never saw Joba in the pen (and I had a pretty good view of the Yankee bullpen). Is he hurt? Not that I've heard.

Soriano had nothing. Absolutely nothing. He got the first out, barely, as Alexei Ramirez swung at bad pitches. Then Soriano hit Carlos Quentin, which, in this situation, would have been a bad thing to do accidentally and a moronic thing to do if intentional.

This turned out to be the key moment of the game, and not just for its immediate after-effect, because of who replaced him as a pinch-runner: A player I'd never heard of, Brent Lillibridge, a 27-year-old kid from the Seattle area, who debuted with the Atlanta Braves in 2008, went to the White Sox the next season, has been multi-positional but has played 2nd base more than anything else, and, thus far, has never had more than 112 plate appearances in a season. A utility player.

So there he was, the tying run on 1st with 1 out, and Paul Konerko was up. The Arizonan, the biggest hitting star of the last few years for the Pale Hose, including their 2005 World Championship, he has rather quietly inserted himself into the Hall of Fame discussion. He's just 35, could probably still be productive at 40, and already has 370 home runs. That's as many as Gil Hodges, and more than David Ortiz (who's the same age and needed steroids), Dick Allen, Ralph Kiner, Johnny Mize, Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra. (It's also more than Adam Dunn, now his White Sox teammate, with 356.)

Soriano served up a very saucy meatball, and there was no doubt about it: Home run Number 6 on the season for Konerko, Number 371 for his career, and the White Sox led, 3-2.

That turned out to be the final score. Boone Logan and Buddy Carlyle pitched the 9th for the Yankees, and both were fine. If either of them had been brought in instead of Soriano, the Yankees might have won.

Floyd (3-1) left in the 9th, and everybody was still too mad at Soriano (1-1) to call Sox manager Ozzie Guillen names as he came to the mound to take Floyd out. He left after allowing a leadoff single to Jeter, and things were looking up. Matt Thornton came in, and allowed Curtis Granderson to lay down a nice bunt to get Jeter to 2nd, as the tying run with 1 out. Next up were Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and, if one of them got on, Robinson Cano. I liked the Yankees chances.

Thornton walked Teix, and Girardi took him out for pinch-runner Eduardo Nunez. Now the tying run was on 2nd, the winning run was on 1st, both runners were fast, there was still only 1 out, and A-Rod and Robbie were up. I was liking this.

Guillen replaced Thornton with Sergio Santos. A-Rod looked for all the world like the clutch hitter that some people think he finally became in 2009. I remember thinking about Lisa Swan of the Subway Squawkers blog, the biggest A-Rod fan I know: "If A-Rod hits one out to win this game, Squawker Lisa is going to... " I'd better not finish that thought, but let's say she would have felt real good. (I wonder if she would have noticed that Jeter started the rally?)

Sure enough, A-Rod gave it a ride, deep to right field, the opposite field, right in front of me. And... and Lillibridge, who'd stayed in the game to play right field, made a terrific catch. A-Robbed!

Well, so what. Cano was up. Not a bad last hope to have. True, he'd mishandled 2 plays that were credited as hits but should have been errors. But he'd also homered, and that short porch still beckoned in right field.

Cano got a pitch he liked, he swung, and he sent a sinking liner into right. Surely, this was going to drop for a double. Jeter would score the tying run, and Nunez would have a pretty good shot at scoring the winning run!

Except that blasted Lillibridge, who I'd never heard of half an hour before, slid and made an even more amazing catch! The Stadium went from "Come on, Robbie!" to "Yeeeeahhhh!" to "Awwww... " in about 3 seconds.

Lillibridge, who'd scored the tying run ahead of Konerko on the latter's homer, made two "Holy Cow" plays to nail down the win for Floyd and the save for Santos (his 2nd).

In spite of their record, now 10-14, the White Sox are a good team. But I don't care how good the other team is, 2 games, 7 total hits and 2 losses is unacceptable.

And last night's loss wouldn't have happened if Joe Girardi had simply trusted his eyes, not the pitch count, and not the way pitchers have been handled these last 20 years or so, and let Ivan Nova continue pitching. Nova had earned it. Even if Joe had left Robertson in, or brought in Logan or Carlyle instead of Soriano, the game might have been won by the Yankees.

Joe Girardi, YOU lost this one. Not Soriano. Not Cano's fielding miscues (after all, he drove in a run). You lost it, Joe.

Soriano got the hell booed out of him with almost every pitch, but Girardi is the one who deserved it.

If this were European soccer, especially in Italy, but maybe also in England, the papers, TV pundits and radio hosts would be talking about a "crisis," wondering if the manager was about to be sacked.

That's one of the good things about baseball: A 2-game losing streak is no big deal.

Unless you're the 1949 Red Sox.

*

Tonight, Game 3 of the 4-game series at Yankee Stadium II. Bartolo Colon and Mark Buehrle are the starters. As good as both men have been, could they really pitch much better than Ivan Nova and Gavin Floyd pitched last night? If they do, I wonder if Girardi will let Colon keep going. I'll bet Ozzie Guillen will let Buehrle pitch as long as he wants.

The Mets hung on to beat Washington. Baltimore beat Boston. Toronto clobbered Texas. Tampa Bay got rained out at Minnesota.

Jeter 2946 54
Rivera 566 35
A-Rod 618 145
Magic Number 138 (to eliminate Scum and Jays, 139 for O's and Rays)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How to Be a Met Fan In Washington - 2011 Edition

Tonight, the Mets start a 3-game series against the Washington Nationals, the team known from their 1969 inception until 2004 as the Montreal Expos, at Nationals Park in D.C. The Mets will also be playing in the District of Columbia this season July 29-31 and September 2-4. This is an updated version of the piece I did last September.

I like Washington, D.C., but it’s too bad I can’t do one of these as “How to Be a Met Fan In Montreal.” Instead, we’ll have to settle for the Nation’s Capital.

Getting There. Getting to Washington is fairly easy. However, if you have a car, I recommend using it, and getting a hotel either downtown or inside the Capital Beltway, because driving in Washington is roughly (good choice of words there) as bad as driving in New York.

It’s 229 miles by road from Times Square to downtown Washington, 238 miles from Citi Field to Nationals Park. If you’re not “doing the city,” but just going to the game, take the New Jersey Turnpike all the way down to the Delaware Memorial Bridge (a.k.a. the Twin Span), across the Delaware River into the State of, well, Delaware. This should take about 2 hours, not counting a rest stop.

Speaking of which, the temptation to take an alternate route (such as Exit 7A to I-195 to I-295 to the Ben Franklin Bridge) or a side trip (Exit 4, eventually leading to the Ben Franklin Bridge) to get into Pennsylvania and stop off at Pat’s Steaks in South Philly can be strong, but if you want to get from New York to Washington with making only one rest stop, you’re better off using the Delaware House Service Area in Christiana, between Exits 3 and 1 on the Delaware Turnpike. It’s almost exactly the halfway point between New York and Washington.

Once you get over the Twin Span – the New Jersey-bound span opened in 1951, the Delaware-bound one was added in 1968 – follow the signs carefully, as you’ll be faced with multiple ramp signs for Interstates 95, 295 and 495, as well as for US Routes 13 and 40 and State Route 9. You want I-95 South, and its signs will say “Delaware Turnpike” and “Baltimore.” You’ll pay tolls at both its eastern and western ends, and unless there’s a traffic jam, you should only be in Delaware for a maximum of 15 minutes before hitting the Maryland State Line.

At said State Line, I-95 changes from the Delaware Turnpike to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway, and you’ll be on it for about an hour (unless you want to make another rest stop, either the Chesapeake House or the Maryland House) and passing through Baltimore, before seeing signs for I-895 and the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, Exit 62.

From here, you’ll pass through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel. Take I-895 to Exit 4, and you’ll be on Maryland Route 295 South, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Crossing into the District of Columbia, M-295 will become the Anacostia Freeway. Take Exit 3B for South Capitol Street East, go over the Frederick Douglass Bridge over the Anacostia River, and you’ll be right there. (The official address is 1500 South Capital Street SE.) If all goes well (getting out of New York City and into downtown Baltimore okay, reasonable traffic, just the one rest stop, no trouble with your car), the whole trip should take about 4½ hours.

Washington is too close to fly, just as flying from New York (from JFK, LaGuardia or Newark) to Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore, once you factor in fooling around with everything you gotta do at each airport, doesn’t really save you much time compared to driving, the bus or the train.

The train is a very good option, if you can afford it. Washington’s Union Station is at 50 Massachusetts Avenue NE, within sight of the Capitol Building. But Amtrak is expensive. They figure, "You hate to fly, you don't want to deal with airports, and Greyhound sucks, so we can charge whatever we want." New York to Washington will run you anywhere from $109 to $232 each way, depending on what time you go, and that’s before you add anything like Business Class or, God forbid, Amtrak’s overmicrowaved food. Still, it’s less than 3 hours if you take the Acela Express (formerly known as the Metroliner, this is the $232 option), and 3 hours and 15 minutes if you take a regular Northeast Corridor train.

When you get to Union Station, pick up copies of the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun. The Post is a great paper with a very good sports section, and in just 6 seasons (now into a 7th) has covered the Nats very well, despite the 1972-2004 era when D.C. had no MLB team of its own. As a holdover from that era, it still covers the Orioles well. The Sun is only an okay paper, but its sports section is nearly as good as the Post's, and their coverage of their town's hometown baseball team rivals that of any paper in the country -- including the great coverage that The New York Times and Daily News give to the Yankees and Mets.

Do not buy The Washington Times. It was founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in 1982 as a replacement for the bankrupt Washington Star as the area’s conservative equivalent to the “liberal” Post. (That’s a laugh: The Post has George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Jim Glassman and Bill Kristol as columnists!) Under editor-in-chief Wesley Pruden, the Times was viciously right-wing, “reporting” every rumor about Democrats as if they were established, proven fact, and giving Republicans a free pass. Moon’s “Unification Church” sold the paper in 2009, and Pruden retired the year before. But it has cut about 40 percent of its employees, and has dropped not only its Sunday edition but also its sports section. And now, there’s another paper, the Washington Examiner, owned by the same company as the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard, and it is so far to the right it makes The Washington Times look like the Daily Kos. It is a truly loony publication, where Michael Barone of the American Enterprise Institute and Byron York of National Review are considered moderates.

So avoid the loonies and the Moonies, and stick with the Post. Even if you don’t agree with my politics, you’re going down to D.C. for baseball, and the Post’s sports section kicks ass.

If you don’t want to spend all that money on Amtrak, could you take the bus? Greyhound is much cheaper, $65 round-trip from New York to Washington. But, in this case, you really get what you pay for. While Union Station is a magnificent Beaux-Arts structure that is fit for a major world capitol, the Washington terminal for Greyhound is a joke:

* It’s a glass and steel box: The 1960s were a great decade for lots of things, but architecture was not one of them.

* It’s too small: It’s roughly the same size as the one in Richmond, Virginia (a city half the size) and the one in Atlantic City (even with tourists it’s probably got fewer people than D.C.).

* The location stinks, almost literally: It’s at 1005 1st Street NE, in the middle of a ghetto, and while it’s just 6 blocks to Union Station (easily the closest Metro stop), none of those six is a block you’re going to want to walk.

* Want a taxi from there? Good luck.

* And getting back, the lines will be ridiculous: Whichever bus you were planning on riding back to New York, presume they’ll run out of room and make you wait for the next one.

No, forget the bus: Leave the driving to a friend, or to Amtrak.

Washington’s subway, the Metro, was not in place until 1976, far too late to help either the “Old Senators” at Griffith Stadium or the “New Senators” at RFK Stadium (though both locations are now accessible via Metro), but it works just fine for Nats games. Take the Red Line from Union Station to Gallery Place, and transfer to the Green Line to Navy Yard station. (Those of you who watch the TV show NCIS will recognize the Washington Navy Yard as home base for Leroy Jethro Gibbs & Co. Rule Number 14: Never go anywhere without a FareCard.) Since this week’s games will take place on weeknights, and you’ll be arriving during rush hour, it’ll be $2.40 on your FareCard, but $1.60 on your way back.

Coming out of the Navy Yard station, you’ll be at M Street and New Jersey Avenue SE. Turn right on M, and walk past 1st Street and Cushing Place to Half Street. Yes, between Capitol Street (in effect, the city’s north-south “zero line”) and First Street is “Half Street.” Make a left on Half Street, and in one more block, there is Nationals Park. From Union Station to the ballpark, via subway and then foot, should take 25-30 minutes, about as fast as it does to get from Midtown Manhattan to Yankee Stadium and slightly less than to get to Citi Field.

Tickets. The Nats have been terrible since they arrived, but they’re still doing better at the box office than they did in their last few years in Montreal, averaging 22,334 fans per game this season and 22,568 last season – and that included the Stephen Strasburg sellouts. So getting tickets should not be a problem.

However, a lot of New Yorkers & New Jerseyans may have the same idea as you – and many of them are federal government employees or college students already living and working in the D.C. area. So, for games against the Mets, and maybe also the Phillies, getting tickets might be harder than for any other Nats games. (In fact, the transient nature of the federal government was a big reason the Senators never made it: People came in from places that had teams, and rooted for them, not the Senators, and rarely went back home having been converted to Senators fans. The Nats seem to have the same problem, and we don’t yet know if winning will cure it.)

Field Level seats will run you from $34 to $85, but in the Mezzanine Level, you can see a game for $29. In the third deck, the Terrace Level and the Gallery Level, tickets run from $22 all the way down to $10.

Going In. You're likely to walk in at the center field gate, at N & Half Streets. There, you will see three statues: Walter Johnson, “the Big Train,” the great pitcher for the “Old Senators” from 1907 to 1927, the game’s former all-time strikeout leader with 3,508 and still its all-time shutout leader with 113; Josh Gibson, the catcher for the D.C.-based Homestead Grays of the Negro Leagues, the man so powerful he was known as “the Black Babe Ruth” – although some black fans called Ruth “the White Josh Gibson” – and Frank Howard, the slugger for the “New Senators” known as “Hondo,” “the Monster” (he was 6-foot-7 and 280 pounds in his prime, and was also played basketball at Ohio State and was drafted by the NBA’s Philadelphia Warriors) and, due to D.C.’s status, “the Capital Punisher.” You might remember Howard as a coach for both New York teams and, briefly in 1983, the Mets’ manager immediately before Davey Johnson came in and turned the franchise around. Now 74, Howard works for the Yankees as a player development instructor.

You might also notice the Racing Presidents. Four men dressed as the Presidents whose faces are on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. When I visited on July 26, 2009 (a 3-2 Nats win over the San Diego Padres in 10 innings), the huge-headed Presidents were dancing outside the gate, while “oldies” played over the stadium loudspeakers.

This was bad enough, until “Billie Jean” was played – this was within days of the death of Michael Jackson – and, cue the awkward moment, the guy dressed as Jefferson danced right into my line of sight as soon as Jacko got to the words, “The kid is not my son!” I also noticed that the costumes, all four of them, were filthy. Doesn’t the club wash them?

When the location for Nationals Park was chosen, the idea was to have a view of the Capitol dome and the Washington Monument. Unfortunately, they can only be seen from the first base/right field half of the stadium. But in the outfield, they planted another Washington trademark: Cherry blossom trees. That’s nice, but by late April, the blossoms are already gone.

Food. Very good. Not only do they serve good hot dogs and other standard ballpark fare, but “Frozen Rope” serves good ice cream, and they also have that “futuristic” ice cream known as Dippin’ Dots. The Red Loft Bar, in the second deck in left field, is their version of a McFadden’s.

And the Nats do not have to look up I-95 at Boog’s Barbecue in Baltimore, Bull’s Barbecue in Philly, Brother Jimmy’s at Yankee Stadium or Blue Smoke at Citi Field, and feel any envy. In the right field corner is Teddy’s Barbecue, named for Theodore Roosevelt. I kid you not: They serve the best piece of ballpark food I have ever had, a big hunk of meat named “the Rough Rider” in honor of TR. Eating that gave me more pleasure than any ballpark experience this side of the Aaron Boone homer. It’s $12, but it will be worth every flick of the tongue.

Team History Displays. The “old” Washington Senators played from 1901 to 1960, and moved to become the Minnesota Twins. The “new” Senators played from 1961 to 1971, and moved to become the Texas Rangers. The Nationals have history, but it’s nearly all in Montreal.

Nevertheless, there is a tribute, not just to the history of Washington baseball but to all of Washington sports. The Washington Hall of Stars, originally in place at RFK Stadium, has been recreated at Nationals Park. It honors lots of Redskins, from Sammy Baugh in the 1930s to Art Monk and Darrell Green in the 1990s. It honors Abe Pollin, who moved the NBA’s Bullets from Baltimore and made them the Washington Wizards, founded the NHL’s Washington Capitals, and for these teams built both the Capital Centre in suburban Landover and the Verizon Center in downtown D.C. It honors legendary Boston Celtics coach (and Brooklyn native) Red Auerbach for being a star player at George Washington University and the coach of D.C.’s first NBA team, the Washington Capitols, who made the 1949 NBA Finals. It honors boxer Sugar Ray Leonard for having grown up in nearby Silver Spring, and Olympic Gold Medalist swimmer Melissa Belote. It honors legendary sportswriters Shirley Povich of the Post (father of journalist Maury Povich) and Morris “Mo” Siegel of the long-gone Washington Star.

The baseball figures it honors are:

* “Old Senators”: Clark Griffith, Walter Johnson, Bucky Harris, Joe Cronin, Goose Goslin, Joe Judge, Ossie Bluege, George Case, Cecil Travis, Early Wynn, Eddie Yost, Mickey Vernon (who also managed the new Senators), Roy Sievers, Harmon Killebrew.

* “New Senators”: Gil Hodges (he managed them between retiring as a Dodger and Met player and becoming Met manager), Frank Howard, Chuck Hinton and George Selkirk (the former Yankee outfielder had been general manager of the new Senators).

* Homestead Grays: Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard.

The Expos retired Number 8 for Gary Carter, Number 10 for both Rusty Staub and Andre Dawson, and Number 30 for Tim Raines. All of these numbers were returned to circulation after the move, and, except for the Number 42 retired for all of baseball for Jackie Robinson, the Nats have no retired numbers. Nor do they yet have any Hall-of-Famers of their own, unless you want to count their first manager, Frank Robinson, who was already in the Hall of Fame for 23 years when the team arrived in D.C. And, unlike the Mets, who retired 37 for Casey Stengel even though he won nothing for them – far too close to being literally true – the Nats have not retired Robinson’s 20.

Stuff. There’s a team store called Rushmore’s in the left-field corner. It’s got loads of jerseys, T-shirts, caps, and stuffed toys such as the Racing Presidents and Screech the Eagle.

Looking for team DVDs? You’re out of luck: All they had on my 2009 visit was a commemoration of their first season back in Washington, 2005. They can’t even sell official World Series highlight films, like the Mets’ package of the 1969 and 1986 films, because the only Senators’ World Series, in 1924 (won), ’25 (lost) and ’33 (lost), came before MLB started making official highlight films in 1943. The Nationals franchise never made it to a World Series in Montreal, and they’ve never yet had a winning season in Washington. So there’s nothing celebrating anything like that, because, so far, there's nothing like that. If you’ll forgive the near-Yogiism.

During the Game. You do not need to fear wearing your Met gear to Nationals Park. Despite the boisterousness of Washington fans when they watch their NFL Redskins, there’s a far more relaxed atmosphere at Nats games.

That could, of course, be due to the fact that you have to be over 70 to remember when a Washington baseball team was in a Pennant race. Just as George Washington was said to be “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen,” Washington the city was long said to be "First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League." The old Senators finished 1 game behind the Detroit Tigers in 1945, and that was basically their only Pennant race after 1933. The new Senators had just 1 winning season, a 4th-place finish in 1969. That being the Vietnam War era, it was said that Washington was now “Last in war, last in peace, and last in the American League.

It remains to be seen what Washington fans will do when passion for a winning baseball team is unleashed, but you still probably wouldn’t have to worry. When the Redskins were winning, their fans didn’t really give anybody outside of Dallas Cowboys fans a hard time, unless provoked (and New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles fans, a short trip down I-95 or Amtrak, have been known to do that). Nor do the current, Alexander Ovechkin-led, Washington Capitals generate much ire: Their fans don’t much like the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins, but, as their recent Playoff win over the Rangers proved, they generally leave fans of the 3 New York Tri-State Area teams alone.

The Nats have a fight song, “Welcome Home to the Nationals.” It’s not exactly as stirring as “Hail to the Redskins,” or even “Meet the Mets.” They don’t have a postgame victory song, either. But at least they don’t do “Cotton Eye Joe” like the Yankees and Phillies or “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” like the Orioles.

The Nats have a mascot named Screech, a bald eagle. Sounds natural enough. They also have the Presidents Race. In a takeoff of the Milwaukee Brewers’ Sausage Race, in the middle of the 4th inning, the four guys wearing the Mount Rushmore President costumes, with the huge foam caricature heads, break out of a gate in center field, run to the right field corner, and down the first-base line, where the first to break the tape is the winner. Over their period costumes, they wear Nats jerseys: GEORGE 1, TOM 3, ABE 16 and TEDDY 26, for their places in the chronological order of Presidents. Screech is the referee, in case anybody tries any funny business.

Which leads to, literally, a running gag: Teddy never wins. Sometimes he leads and trips. Sometimes, like the minor-league mascots who race kids around the bases, he gets distracted, as the opposing team caught his attention in the first game at Nationals Park in April 2008. Sometimes he gets sabotaged (as in June 2008, when, in an Interleague game with the nearby Orioles, the visiting Baltimore Bird tripped him just short of the finish line; in a special grudge-match race the next day, Teddy outraced the Bird). Sometimes he just plain screws up: At the final game at RFK Stadium in 2007, a lot of people figured he’d finally win, and the other 3 stayed back to “throw” the race, but Teddy went to the nearly-finished Nationals Park instead.

And sometimes... he cheats. (No doubt the real TR would have been appalled at all of this, but especially at the cheating.) When I went, Teddy got on a motorized scooter (leading me to yell, “Holy cow!” in memory of Phil Rizzuto), and won the race that way. Naturally, “Honest Abe,” who finished 2nd, complained to Screech, who declared Abe the winner.

As of this morning, April 26, the standings for the 2011 season are as follows: George and Tom have both won 4 races, Abe 3, and Teddy none. Overall, since the races started in the middle of the 2006 season, Abe is far and away the leader with 158 wins, Tom has 124, Abe has 158, and Teddy remains stuck on zero.

After the Game. If you’re looking for a postgame meal (or even just a pint), you’re probably not going to find it. Although there are condos going up adjacent to the stadium, it’s not exactly a neighborhood hopping with nightlife. If you’re only down for the one game, the best thing to do is get back to Union Station, grab a bite there, and hop on your train; or, if you’re driving, just hit one of the rest areas on the way back up I-95.

If you’re staying for the whole series, your best bet may be to head downtown, near the Verizon Center (home of the Wizards and Capitals) at 6th & F Streets NW, on the edge of Chinatown. You’ll find a lot of good (and maybe one or two great) nightspots there. I recommend Fado, an Irish-pub-themed place nearby, at 808 7th Street NW. (One of several around the country, including the Philadelphia one I’ve also been to; they’re the same company as Tigin, which has outlets at JFK Airport and Stamford, Connecticut.)

If you came to Washington by Amtrak, and you're not spending the night, you’ve got a problem: The last train of the night leaves Union Station at 10:00 PM (and arrives at New York's Penn Station at 1:50 AM), and since MLB games tend to last around 3 hours, you’re not going to make it unless it’s a pitcher’s duel. The next train leaves at 3:15 AM (arriving in New York at 6:40 AM), but do you really want to be in downtown D.C. from 10 at night to 3 in the morning? Better to go for a weekend series, to come down on Friday afternoon or early on a Saturday, get a hotel, enjoy the sights on Saturday afternoon, see the game on Saturday night, and then on Sunday, choose between going to a second game and seeing something away from downtown. You'll be glad you did.

And since the Nationals are terrible for the time being, you've got a good chance of seeing a Met win.

Sidelights. There aren’t a whole lot of sites in the District related to baseball other than Nationals Park itself. The Ellipse, just south of the White House on the National Mall, has baseball fields. (If you’ve ever seen the original 1951 version of The Day the Earth Stood Still, that’s where Klaatu’s ship landed.)

* Griffith Stadium. There were 2 ballparks on this site, one built in 1892 and one in 1911, after the predecessor burned down – almost exactly the same story as New York’s Polo Grounds. The second one, originally called League Park and Nationals Park before former pitching star Clark Griffith bought the team, was home to the old Senators from 1911 to 1960, and the new Senators only in 1961. The Redskins played there from 1937 to 1960, and won the NFL Championship there in 1937 and 1942, although only the ’42 title game was played there. There was another NFL title game played there, in 1940, but the Redskins were beaten by the Chicago Bears – 73-0. (Nope, that’s not a typo: Seventy-three to nothing. Most points by one team in NFL history, slightly ahead of the ‘Skins’ 72-49 victory over the Giants at RFK in 1966.)

While the Senators did win 3 Pennants and the 1924 World Series while playing at Griffith, it was not a good home for them. The fences were too far back for almost anyone to homer there, and they hardly ever had the pitching, either (except for Walter Johnson). In 1953, the Yankees opened the season there, and Mickey Mantle hit a home run that was measured at 565 feet – though it probably shouldn’t count as such, because witnesses said it glanced off the football scoreboard at the back of the left-field bleachers, still a shot of about 460 feet. The Negro Leagues’ Homestead Grays also played a lot of home games at Griffith.

But by the time Clark Griffith died in 1955, passing the team to his son Calvin, the area around the park had become nearly all-black, and Calvin was a bigot who wanted to move the team to mostly-white Minnesota. When the new stadium was built, it was too late to save the original team, and the “New Senators” were born. Griffith Stadium was demolished in 1965, and Howard University Hospital is there now. Florida & Georgia Avenues NW. Green Line to Shaw-Howard University Station.

* Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. Originally named District of Columbia Stadium (or “D.C. Stadium”), the Redskins played there first, from 1961 to 1996. The new Senators opened there in 1962, and President John F. Kennedy threw out the first ball at the stadium that would be renamed for his brother Bobby in 1969. (There was a JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, formerly Municipal Stadium, where the new arena, the Wells Fargo Center, now stands.)

The new Senators played at RFK Stadium until 1971, and at the last game, against the Yankees, the Senators were up 7-5 with one out to go, when angry fans stormed the field, and the game was forfeited to the Yankees. The ‘Skins moved out in 1997 when their new suburban stadium opened. The Nats played the 2005, ’06 and ’07 seasons there. D.C. United, the most successful franchise in Major League Soccer (although they’re lousy at the moment), have played there since MLS was founded in 1996, winning the league title, the MLS Cup, 4 times, including 3 of the first 4. Previously, in the North American Soccer League, RFK was home to the Washington Diplomats, featuring Dutch legend Johan Cruyff. And the Beatles played there on their final tour, on August 15, 1966.

It was the first U.S. stadium specifically designed to host both baseball and football, and anything else willing to pay the rent. But I forgive it. It was a great football stadium, and it’s not a bad soccer stadium, but for baseball, let’s just say Nationals Park is a huge improvement. And what is with that whacked-out roof? With the Nats and ‘Skins gone, United are the only team still playing there, and plans for a new stadium for them are on hold, so it will still be possible to see a sporting event at RFK Stadium for the next few years. 2400 East Capitol Street SE. Orange Line or Blue Line to Stadium-Armory. (The D.C. Armory, headquarters of the District of Columbia National Guard, is that big brown arena-like thing across the parking lot.)

* Uline Arena/Washington Coliseum. This building was home to the District’s first NBA team, the Washington Capitols, from 1946 to 1951. They reached the 1949 NBA Finals, losing to the Minneapolis Lakers of George Mikan, and were the first pro team coached by Red Auerbach. Firing him was the dumbest thing they ever did: He went on to the Boston Celtics, they went on to oblivion. It was last used for sports in 1970 by the Washington Caps of the ABA. It was the site of the first Beatles concert in the U.S. (aside from their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show 2 nights before), on February 11, 1964. It still stands, and its interior and grounds are used as a parking lot, particularly for people using nearby Union Station and the Greyhound Terminal. Unfortunately, it’s a rotten neighborhood, and I wouldn’t recommend visiting at night. In fact, unless you’re a student of NBA history or a Beatlemaniac, I’d say don’t go at all. 1140 3rd Street NE, at M Street. Red Line to Union Station, and then it’s a bit of a walk.

* Capital Centre. From 1973 to 1997, this was the home of the NBA’s Washington Bullets, who became the Wizards when they moved downtown. From 1974 to 1997, it was the home of the Capitals. The Bullets played in the 1975, ’78 and ’79 NBA Finals there, although they’ve only won in 1978 and clinched that at the Seattle Kingdome. The Cap Centre was also the home for Georgetown University basketball, in its glory years of Coach John Thompson (father of the current coach, John Thompson III), Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and Allen Iverson. Remember those 1980s battles with the St. John’s teams of Louie Carnesecca, Chris Mullin and Walter Berry? Elvis Presley sang there on June 27, 1976 and on May 22 and 29, 1977. (He never performed in the District.) It was demolished in 2002, and a shopping mall, The Boulevard at the Capital Centre, was built on the site. 1 Harry S Truman Drive, Landover, Prince George’s County, Maryland, just outside the Capital Beltway. Blue Line to Largo Town Center station.

* Verizon Center. Opened in 1997 as the MCI Center, the NBA’s Wizards, the NHL’s Capitals, and the Georgetown basketball team have played here ever since. Only one Finals has been held here, the Caps’ 1998 sweep at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings. (Georgetown has reached a Final Four since it opened, but those are held at neutral sites.) But it’s a very good arena. 601 F Street NW, at 6th Street. Red, Green or Yellow Line to Gallery Place-Chinatown Station.

* FedEx Field. Originally known as Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, for the Redskins owner who built it and died just before its opening, it has been the home of the Redskins since 1997. RFK Stadium had just 56,000 seats and was the NFL’s smallest for years, but with close seats even in the upper deck, it provided one hell of a home field advantage. In contrast, FedEx seats 91,704, the largest seating capacity in the NFL (the arch-rival Dallas Cowboys’ new stadium can fit in 110,000 with standing room but has “only” 80,000 seats), but the seats are so far back, it kills the atmosphere. Being out in the suburbs instead of in a hard part of the District doesn’t exactly intimidate the opposition, either. (Think if the New Jersey Devils had been an old team, starting out in an old arena tucked away in a neighborhood in Newark, and then moved to the spartan parking lot of the Meadowlands, and were still there, rather than going back to Newark into the Prudential Center.)

As a result, the Redskins went from 5 Super Bowl appearances, winning 3, while playing at RFK to just 2 Playoff berths and no visits to the NFC Championship Game since moving to FedEx. 1600 FedEx Way, Landover, practically right across the Beltway from the site of the Cap Centre, although you’d have to walk from there after taking the Blue Line to Largo Town Center in order to reach it without a car.

* The Smithsonian Institution. Includes the National Museum of American History, which contains several sports-themed items. 1400 Constitution Avenue NW. Blue or Orange Line to Federal Triangle. (You could, of course, take the same lines to Smithsonian Station, but Fed Triangle is actually a shorter walk.)

In addition, the University of Maryland, inside the Beltway at College Park, can be accessed by the Green Line to College Park and then a shuttle bus. (I tried that for the 2009 Rutgers-Maryland game and it works very well.) Byrd Stadium is one of the nation’s best college football stadiums, but I wouldn’t recommend sitting in the upper deck if you’re afraid of heights: I think it’s higher than Shea’s was. Across from the stadium is Cole Field House, where UMd played its basketball games from 1955 to 2002. The 1966 and 1970 NCAA Championship basketball games were played there, the 1966 one being significant because Texas Western (now Texas-El Paso) played an all-black starting five against Kentucky’s all-white starters (including future Laker, Knick and Heat coach Pat Riley and Denver Nuggets star Dan Issel). Elvis sang there on September 27 and 28, 1974. The Terrapins won the National Championship in their final season at Cole, and moved to the adjacent Comcast Center thereafter.

Remember that Final Four run by George Mason University? They’re across the Potomac River in Fairfax, Virginia. Orange Line to Virginia Square-GMU.

I also recommend visiting the capital’s museums, including the Smithsonian complex, whose most popular buildings are the National Archives, hosting the originals of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; and the National Air and Space Museum, which includes the Wright Brothers’ Flyer, Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, Chuck Yeager’s Glamorous Glennis (first plane to break the sound barrier), and several space capsules including Apollo 11. The Smithsonian also has an annex at Dulles International Airport out in Virginia, including the Enola Gay (the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb), a Concorde, and the space shuttle Enterprise (which is soon to be moved to New York and the Intrepid Museum, to be replaced at Dulles by the shuttle Discovery).

Have fun in the Nation’s Capital. And if Teddy wins, that’s okay. If the Nats win, well, maybe not. After all, it’s the Mets who trade in “miracles.”