Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sox Hit Cervelli. Yanks Win. Neither Is an Accident.

So the Yankees went into Scumway Park tonight, needing to send a message to the goddamned lying cheating bastard New England Scum.

Am I being too rough on the Red Sox? No. For reasons that were repeated again tonight.

Eric Chavez singled home Robinson Cano in the top of the 2nd, to make it Good Guys 1, Scum 0. In the bottom of the 2nd, CC Sabathia struck out that big fat lying cheating bastard David "Too Big To Suspend" Ortiz. The Sox put CC in a minor jam, but he pitched out of it. They put him in another jam in the bottom of the 3rd, but again he struck out Oritz, this time to end the threat.

In the top of the 4th, Cano hit his 36th double of the season, to score Curtis Granderson. 2-0 to the Good Guys. Nick Swisher walked. Chavez singled Cano home again. 3-0 to the Good Guys. Sox starter John Lackey was on the ropes.

In the bottom of the 4th, Carl Crawford homered for the Sox to make it 3-1. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Darnell McDonald hit back-to-back singles, then CC fanned Jacoby Ellsbury, but Marco Scutaro doubled home Saltalamacchia -- but McDonald couldn't score. 3-2 Yankees. CC then struck out the dangerous Adrian Gonzalez to end the inning and hold the lead.

Top of the 5th. Francisco Cervelli, backup catcher, hit one over the Green Monster. Just his 2nd homer of the season, but easily the biggest (if not necessarily the longest) of his career. 4-2 to the Pinstripes. Cervelli hit a home run: Remember this for later.

CC got in trouble again in the bottom of the 5th. He stuck out Dustin Pedroia, but the big fat lying cheating bastard got a hit. Then Jed Lowrie doubled to left, but the combination of the nice close left-field wall and Ortiz being a big fat bastard (as well as a lying, cheating one) -- no, not just like Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, as far as I know Christie has never cheated -- meant that Ortiz couldn't score. CC then got Crawford to line out to Cano, and he struck out Saltalamacchia. Threat over. Yankees still lead.

Remember Cervelli's home run? On the first pitch of the top of the 7th -- the first pitch -- Lackey hit Cervelli with a 91 MPH fastball.

You're goddamned right it was on purpose! Cervelli yelled at Lackey. The Yankee bench, led by CC, yelled as well. Did home plate umpire Ed Rapuano (who used to be okay with me) throw Lackey out of the game for yet another Boston purpose pitch? Is the Pope Buddhist?

No. Instead, 3rd base umpire Mark Wegner threw a Yankee out of the game, pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
Afterward, the normally soft-spoken Rothschild, better known as the first-ever manager of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, said:

Obviously a difference of opinion. I thought Lackey threw at him. Ed didn't, and I respect his opinion. He's a good umpire. I've known him a long time.

Difference of opinion. Not really, more like a difference in boss. Rothschild, being a Yankee coach, gets paid by Hank and Hal Steinbrenner. Rapuano, being a Major League Baseball umpire, gets paid by Commissioner Bud Selig, who has a monetary interest in the Red Sox winning.

Did I just call Rapuano corrupt? He kept in the game the pitcher who threw the obvious purpose pitch, and allowed to be thrown out of the game a coach from the aggrieved team. I'm not saying Rapuano, the crew chief who could have overruled Wenger's running of Rothschild, is usually corrupt. I am saying, however, that an idiot would call the choice of who to toss and who not to toss "fair."

Brett Gardner singled Cervelli to 3rd. Derek Jeter grounded into a double play, which scored Cervelli. 5-2 Yankees.

Nice job, Red Sox, you dumb fucks. You had a 2-run deficit, and because you had to be cheating bastards, you made it a 3-run deficit -- no longer, as Yankee broadcaster John Sterling would say, "a bloop and a blast." Or a walk and a wallop.

Bottom of the 7th. Joe Girardi brings Cory Wade on in relief of CC. He gets Pedroia to fly out, but walks Big Cheati. Then Lowrie singles.

Get him out of there, Joe!

Joe got him out of there, and replaced him with...

Boone Logan?!? Seriously, Joe, are you trying to kill me and the season?

Crawford singled -- thank God it was to left, with the Wall keeping the bases loaded and no runs scoring.

Boone Logan again, I can't look...

Logan struck out Saltalamacchia and McDonald to end the threat. That's 2 really big outings for him against The Scum at Fenway this season.

Afterward, Logan said:

That was probably the most excited I've gotten all year after an outing. I'm not usually pumping my fist after I get out of situations like that. But tonight I left it all out there and had a good feeling I was going to get these guys.

Good man. Not always a good pitcher, but a good man.

Rafael Soriano walked Ellsbury to start the bottom of the 8th, but got the next 3 batters out. On came Mariano Rivera, just 9 saves short of becoming the all-time leader...

And that fucking Ortiz doubled down the right-field line! No, Mo, No!

Easy does it, "Crazy Mike." Mo struck out Lowrie. He got Crawford to pop up.

And then... he hit Saltalamacchia!

Look, I'm in favor of The Scum getting a taste of their own medicine, but that brings the tying run to the plate! At Fenway Fucking Park! Mo, what in the name of Sparky Lyle are you doing?!?

He got Josh Reddick to line out to left to end it.

Whew!

Ballgame over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeeeeeee Yankees win!

5-2! We beat The Scum, 5-2! We beat The Scum, 5-2! We beat The Scum, 5-2!

WP: Sabathia (18-7). SV: Rivera (35). LP: Lackey (12-10).

And now we're just a half-game behind them, dead-even in the All-Important Loss Column.

Ladies and gentlemen, what we got here is a good old-fashioned Pennant Race. Bring it the fuck on!

*

Jeter hits 3059 DONE
Rivera saves 594 8
A-Rod homers 627 136
A-Rod hits 2765 235
Magic Number 29 (to eliminate Scum, 20 for Rays, 13 for Jays, 2 for O's)

Out of the Hurricane, Into the Fenway: Beat The Scum!

Now, where were we?

Baltimore. Against the Baltimore Orioles, who will be the first team to be eliminated from Playoff contention in the American League. (In the National League, the Houston Astros have already been eliminated, and it's still August.)

The Friday game, played with Hurricane Irene bearing down on the Northeast, including the Chesapeake region in which this game was played, was a disaster. A.J. Burnett took the mound, and once again was "Bad A.J." In fact, his won-lost record is now the phone number for emergency services: 9-11. Which is also shorthand for a very different, far more serious, New York disaster.

A.J. gave up 6 runs in the 2nd inning, and, for some reason, Joe Girardi left him in. To punish him? Or does Joe really have so little faith in his long relievers? A.J. was allowed to stay in for 5 innings, allowing 9 runs. Luis Ayala then allowed 3 runs -- none of them earned. On the plus side, Cory Wade and Rafael Soriano, between them, pitching 2 scoreless (but also meaningless) innings.

Tommy Hunter (3-2) wasn't brilliant, but was effective enough for an Oriole team mourning the death of 1979 AL Cy Young Award winner and 1983 World Champion Mike Flanagan, who always used to pitch well against the Yankees. (He was the pitcher whose pitching dropped Ron Guidry from 15-1 to 15-2 in his 25-3 1978 season.)

Despite 3 home runs -- Jorge Posada's 12th, Alex Rodriguez' 14th, and Nick Swisher's 19th, the Yankees were never in this game. Orioles 12, Yankees 5.

*

Then came Saturday, and both halves of what was already a rain-forced doubleheader were washed out by that bitch Irene. The Mets, at home, cancelled both the Saturday and Sunday games of their series against the Atlanta Braves. But the Yanks and O's played 2 on Sunday.

The Yanks needn't have bothered showing up for the opener-- and practically didn't. Zac Britton (8-9) threw 7 shutout innings, and solo homers by Mark Reynolds and Nick Markakis sent an otherwise-strong Bartolo Colon (also 8-9) down to defeat. Orioles 2, Yankees 0. That's 2 straight losses to the worst team (record-wise) in the American League.

*

The nightcap was another story, with a happy ending. Good bats in the 1st game that was actually played in this series, but poor pitching; good pitching in the 2nd, but no hitting; this time, we got both.

Curtis Granderson finally took the major-league home run lead from Toronto's Jose (Can You See Me Take a Steroid Test) Bautista, hitting his 37th home run of the season for a 3-run Yankee 3rd, and his 38th as a solo shot in the 7th. By the time that happened, the Yanks had already put it away: In the top of the 6th came 3 homers in a row. Robinson Cano hit his 23rd, Swish his 20th, and a rejuvenated Andruw Jones his 11th.

Ivan Nova backed that up with solid pitching, allowing single runs in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd, before the Yanks broke it open. Nova bent, but didn't break. Yankees 8, Orioles 3.

WP: Nova (14-4). LP: Brian Matusz (1-7). Which also happens to be his uniform number, 17.

*

And then last night, the Yanks managed to take a split of this series. Swish's 21st homer, off Alfredo Simon (4-7), made the difference. Freddy Garcia (11-7) returned from the Disabled List -- probably to the deep chagrin of Bad A.J. --and except for a Reynolds homer in the 5th, was fantastic for 6 innings. Soriano threw a scoreless 7th. David Robertson allowed a J.J. Hardy homer in the 8th, to make it a little dicey, but Mariano Rivera nailed down his 34th save. Yankees 3, Orioles 2.

*

So here's where we stand: The Yankees are 80-52, a game and a half behind the Boston Red Sox -- 1 in the loss column. The Sox' Magic Number to clinch the AL Eastern Division is 29 -- but any number of Yankees wins and Sox losses adding up to 30 will give the Yanks the Division Title. The Tampa Bay Rays are 9 back, with an elimination number (or "Tragic Number," if you prefer) of 21. The Toronto Blue Jays are 15 1/2 back, EN/TN 14. The Orioles are 28 1/2 back, EN/TN 2, so they could be eliminated tonight, if they lose and the Sox win.

Ah, but the Sox must not win tonight. Because tonight is the start of a 3-game series between the Yankees and the old enemy. The Scum.

Tonight, CC Sabathia pitches against John Lackey.

Tomorrow night, Phil Hughes against Super Punk, Josh Beckett.

And on Thursday night, A.J. Burnett against Jon Lester.

The Sox have dominated the Yanks this season. That must end tonight.

And since August is not A.J.'s month, starting him on September 1 just might be a good idea.

BEAT THE SCUM!

*

Jeter hits 3059 DONE
Rivera saves 593 9
A-Rod homers 627 136
A-Rod hits 2765 235
Magic Number 30

*

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 2, this Thursday night, home to North Carolina Central.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 10, a week from this Friday night, at Monroe.

Days until Arsenal play again in a competitive match: 11, a week from this Saturday, home to Swansea City, the hometown club of Catherine Zeta-Jones. Although both the Swans (or the Jacks, if you prefer) and their arch-rivals Cardiff City (the Bluebirds) both played a few seasons in the old English Football League Division One, this is the first time since the founding of the Premier League in 1992 that a Welsh club has gotten to the top flight. Although Arsenal did qualify for the Champions League proper, they also got slaughtered by Manchester United on Sunday, 8-2 -- which I didn't see thanks to the hurricane. That's 1 point from 9 league games. I may have more to say this week on the subject of Arsenal.

Days until the Red Bulls play again: 11, a week from this Saturday night, at the Colorado Rapids.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series (after this one) begins: 24, on Friday night, September 23, at Yankee Stadium II. About 3 weeks.

Days until the next North London Derby: 32, on Saturday, October 1, at White Hart Lane. Just over a month.

Days until the Devils play another local rival: 39, on Saturday, October 8, at 7:00 PM, in their season opener, at home, against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Prudential Center. Under 6 weeks. The first game against the New York Islanders is a day-after-Thanksgiving matinee, Friday, November 25, at the Nassau Coliseum. The first game against The Scum isn't until Tuesday night, December 20, at the Prudential.

Days until the Red Bulls play another "derby": 51, against the Philadelphia Union, in their regular season finale, on Thursday night, October 20, at Red Bull Arena.

Days until the Rutgers-Army football game at Yankee Stadium: 74. Under 11 weeks.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 86.

Days until the last Nets game in New Jersey: 232, on Wednesday night, April 18, 2012, against the Chicago Bulls, at the Prudential Center. Under 8 months before New Jersey no longer has an NBA team.

Days until the 2012 Olympics begin in London: 332 (July 27). Just 11 months.

Days until Alex Rodriguez collects his 3,000th career hit: 679 (estimated -- adjusted for his current injury). Under 2 years.

Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 700th career home run: 810 (estimated).

Days until Super Bowl XLVIII at the Meadowlands: 887 (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: 1,421 (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: 1,535 (estimated).

Monday, August 29, 2011

I Got Through Irene Okay

I got through Hurricane Irene okay. So did the rest of my family. No major damage.

I'll have a proper update to this blog later today.

UPDATE: I won't be able to have a proper update today. Tomorrow morning, when we're about to start a new Yanks-Scum series, I'll have to. Until then, good night.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Billy Joel Has a Message for Cesc Fabregas

He wanted to leave Arsenal to go "home" to Barcelona, where Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique could get him in a threesome.

Well, Francesc...

Baby all the lights are turned on you.
Now you're in the center of the stage.
Everything revolves on what you do.
Ah, you are in your prime, you've come of age.
And you can always have your way somehow.
But everybody loves you now!

You can walk away from your mistakes.
You can turn your back on what you do.
Just a little smile is all it takes.
Yeah, you can have your cake and eat it, too.
And loneliness will get to you somehow.
But everybody loves you now!

Ah, they all want your white body!
And they await your reply!
Ah, but between you and me and the Staten Island ferry...
So do I!

(Yeah, for target practice!)

All the people want to know your name.
Soon there will be lines outside your door.
Feelings do not matter in your game.
Yeah, 'cause nothing's gonna touch you anymore!
So your life is only living anyhow!
And everybody loves you now!

Close your eyes when you don't want to see.
Stay at home when you don't want to go.
Only speak to those who will agree.
Yeah, and close your mind when you don't want to know!
Ah, you have lost you innocence somehow!
But everybody loves you now!

Ah, you know that nothing lasts forever!
And it's all been done before!
Ah, but you ain't got the time to go to Cold Spring Harbor
no more!

See how all the people gather 'round?
Ah, isn't it a thrill to see them crawl?
Keep your eyes ahead and don't look down!
Yeah, and lock yourself inside your sacred wall!
This is what you wanted! Ain't you proud?
'Cause everybody loves you now!

*

Do I, through a Billy Joel song, have a message for that other greedy little twit, Samir Nasri? Yeah, you had to be a big shot, didn't ya?

The Storm Before the Storm: 3 Grand Slams

So the Yankees' game on Wednesday night was another frustrating one. CC Sabathia, pitching against the Oakland Athletics, the team he grew up rooting for, was fine for 7 innings, but let in 2 runs in the 8th. But then Mark Teixeira hit his 35th home run of the season in the bottom of the inning, and it went to extras.

Unfortunately, Rafael Soriano pitched the top of the 10th, let a couple of runners on, and Covelli Loyce Crisp hit his 2nd home run of the game. Yeah, 2 homers in 1 game by Coco Crisp. Cereal Man made it 6-3 A's in the 10th.

Former A's slugger Nick Swisher hit his own 2nd homer of the game (18th of the season) in the bottom of the 10th, but it wasn't enough. A's 6, Yankees 4.

WP: Fautino De Los Santos (2-0). LP: Soriano (2-2), who had been pitching pretty well since he came off the Disabled List, but this time put up an inning like the ones he'd thrown earlier in the season, before he went on the DL. As they said in the football movie Wildcats, "U, G, L, Y, you ain't got no alibi, you ugly!"

Yesterday afternoon was a different story. Hurricane Irene is coming up the East Coast, and has a very good chance to disrupt the series that starts tonight in Baltimore, between the Yankees and the Orioles -- who will be the first team to be eliminated from the American League Eastern Division race, and soon, especially if these games are actually played.

It's also likely to wreak havoc with the Mets' home series against the Atlanta Braves, and the Philadelphia Phillies' home series with the Florida Marlins -- who are probably thinking, "We got out of South Florida to get away from hurricanes, and look!"

Phil Hughes, who seemed to be back on track, got rocked in the 3rd inning. The A's led 7-1, and it looked like they were going to sweep the Yankees in Yankee Stadium II.

But the Yankees came back. Their scoreline for their last 5 innings was 1 4 4 6 6 -- which, in case you're wondering, is the ZIP Code for Hemlock, New York, south of Rochester at the western edge of the Finger Lakes.

Every now and then, you'll hear a baseball fan say that the great thing about baseball is that you never know when you're going to see something that you've never seen before.

Russell Martin, one of the men who made it happen, said he'd thought everything had happened before in baseball. Nope! Not this!

The Yankees did something no other Major League Baseball team had ever done before: Hit 3 bases-loaded home runs in 1 game. Three grand slams in a game!

Martin actually hit 2 homers. His homer in the 4th, off A's starter Rich Harden, started the comeback. In the 5th, the Yankees loaded the bases, and Robinson Cano cranked one, his 22nd homer of the season. That made it 7-6 A's.

Boone Logan pitched the top of the 6th. In fact, he got 4 outs, and allowed no baserunners. Yes, Boone Logan, the same guy I've wanted to run out of town on a rail. He ended up being the winning pitcher (4-2).

In the bottom of the 6th, the Yankees loaded the bases again. De Los Santos (2-1) came in to put out the fire. Instead, he got tossed into it. Martin hit his 2nd homer of the game (his 17th of the season), and it was 10-7 Yankees.

One run in the 5th, 4 in the 6th, and that wasn't even close to being the end of it. Imagine scoring 9 runs against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium -- and it's not even half-enough! The Yankees scored 6 in the 7th and 6 more in the 8th, including yet another grand slam, this one by Curtis Granderson.

It was the Grandy Man's 35th homer of the season, tying him with Teixeira for the team lead. Jose "Won't Test Ya" Bautista of the Pesky Blue Jays of Toronto has 37 to lead the majors.

Final score: Yankees 22, A's 9. That's right, it's no typographical error: Twenty-two to nine.

You wanna talk about RBIs? Grandy had 5, giving him 103 for the season. Teix had 2, giving him 98. Cano had 5, giving him 93. Martin had 6, giving him 59. Derek Jeter had 1, giving him 48; Brett Gardner had one, giving him 32; and Andruw Jones (who closed the scoring with his 10th homer) and Eduardo Nunez each had 1, raising each man's season total to 27.

The Yankees could have used 2 of those 22 runs on Tuesday and 3 on Wednesday: It would have meant winning "only" 17-9 yesterday, and they would have swept the series. Alas, it doesn't work that way, and they lost 2 out of 3, at home, to an A's team that isn't exactly the 1971-75, the 1988-92, the 2000-06, or even the 1980-81 vintage of Oakland baseball.

That's the way these things work sometimes: In 2004, the Cleveland Indians came into the original Yankee Stadium and won 22-0 -- and then the Yankees won the next 2 games of the series. The Indians ended up not making the Playoffs, the Yankees did -- for all the good it did them.

So the A's get 2 wins in New York, but are probably still glad to get out of town, out of the line of fire -- of Hurricane Irene and the Yankee bats. But now they have to go to Boston to face The Scum -- weather permitting. If they can take 3 out of 4 there, in the words of the legendary but nutty English soccer star and manager Kevin Keegan, "I would loove it, loove it."

*

And so the Yanks head down I-95 (probably better to bus it, instead of flying, considering the weather) to face the reeling Orioles. To make matters worse for this series, it's a 4-gamer, with a doubleheader tomorrow, due to the makeup of a rainout. Marlins at Phils, and A's at Red Sox, will also have makeup-inspired doubleheaders -- weather permitting. Although, considering that Irene is supposed to hit New York on Sunday, and then head out to sea, the series in Boston is probably safe, unless the Sunday game goes to extra innings.

A broadcaster long ago, I forget who and for what team, said that a doubleheader was rained out, and they'll play 4 tomorrow.

Assuming the games are played this weekend, all will be on the YES Network. Here are the scheduled times and pitching matchups:

Tonight, 7:05, A.J. Burnett vs. Tommy Hunter.

Tomorrow, 1:05, Ivan Nova vs. Brian Matusz.

Tomorrow, 7:05, Freddy Garcia (off the DL) vs. Zach Britton.

Sunday, 1:35, Bartolo Colon vs. Oriole starter to be determined.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Boone Logan: Meatball Sub (Suffering from Felixheredia)

Imagine. It's October 27, 2011. Game 7 of the World Series is being played at Citizens Bank Park. It's the bottom of the 7th inning, and the New York Yankees lead the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-4. There's 1 out. The Yankees are 8 outs away from their 28th World Championship.

But CC Sabathia, who has already won Games 1 and 4, is pitching on short rest again, and he's exhausted. He loads the bases. The next 2 batters are Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, both lefties, both powerful sluggers.

Manager Joe Girardi takes CC out, and has to bring in a reliever. But, at this point in the game, who?

In 1927, Miller Huggins would not have hestitated to bring in Wilcy Moore.

In 1939, Joe McCarthy would not have hestitated to bring in Johnny Murphy.

In 1949, Casey Stengel would not have hestitated to bring in Joe Page.

In 1952, Stengel would not have hestitated to bring in Bob Kuzava.

In 1956, Stengel would not have hestitated to bring in Bob Grim.

In 1961, Ralph Houk would not have hestitated to bring in Luis Arroyo.

In 1977, Billy Martin would not have hestitated to bring in Sparky Lyle.

In 1978, Bob Lemon would not have hestitated to bring in Goose Gossage.

(For the record: Moore, Murphy, Grim and Gossage were righthanded; while Page, Kuzava, Arroyo and Lyle were lefthanded.)

And, on the other side, in 1950, Eddie Sawyer would not have hesitated to bring in Jim Konstanty (righthanded); while in 1980, Dallas Green would not have hesitated to bring in Tug McGraw (lefthanded).

Times are different now. There's no way Girardi would bring in Mariano Rivera (righthanded). For the 8th, maybe, but not the 9th. And for the 7th? No, he wouldn't bring in David Robertson (righthanded), in spite of Robertson having had the best season any Yankee "middle reliever" has ever had, except for Rivera in 1996 when he was the bridge to John Wetteland.

No, Girardi would do it by the book. And he would bring in the lefty to face the lefty. And, since Damaso Marte is still hurt, the lefty is Boone Logan.

The hope is that Logan will get Utley to ground into a double play. Or that he'll strike him out. Or pop him up. Anything other than a hit or a fly ball that would score the tying run from 3rd base. And then get Howard for the final out of the inning.

Instead, Logan throws one pitch. A meatball right over the plate. And Utley sends it over the Walt Whitman Bridge. Phillies 8, Yankees 5.

In the top of the 9th, the Yanks make it 8-7 and load the bases against Brad Lidge, but Alex Rodriguez -- okay, for Squawker Lisa's sake, I'll make it somebody else, maybe somebody she doesn't like, say, in his last big-league at-bat, Jorge Posada -- comes up, and, as the late, great Phils broadcaster Harry Kalas would say, "Swing and a miss! Struck him out! The Philadelphia Phillies are World Champions of baseball!"

Then Hal Steinbrenner hears the question, "Who's your daddy?" And he answers, by firing Girardi, and general manager Brian Cashman. The new GM is Jim Hendry (who, in real life, has just been fired as Chicago Cubs GM), and he releases Logan, not that he needed orders from Hal and his brother Hank.

The new manager is Don Mattingly, and the Curse of Donnie Baseball returns to New York: No team with Don Mattingly in uniform has ever won a Pennant, and none ever will.

This, plus the Tampa Bay Rays continuing to cut payroll on their way toward moving to Charlotte for the 2015 season (they may need a season or two in an expanded version of the current Triple-A ballpark before a proper facility can open), Peter Angelos living to be 100 and thus keeping the Baltimore Orioles in stink mode, and the Canadian economy preventing the Toronto Blue Jays from contending, means that the Boston Red Sox dominate the American League East in the 2010s, while the Yankees get the occasional wild card but end up losing every postseason series they get into, until Hal finally realizes, "You know what, the fans hate me anyway, so I might as well become the owner who fires Don Mattingly as Yankee manager."

And he does, and the Yankees win the 2020 World Series under manager... Jorge Posada. And general manager... Derek Jeter, newly elected to the Hall of Fame. Alex Rodriguez, not yet eligible for the Hall, throws out the ceremonial first ball before Game 6, and bounces it, but the fans only laugh instead of boo. After all, A-Rod did help the Yankees win one World Series.

Boone Logan, by this point, is a college pitching coach, wondering where it all went wrong.

And, of course, the Mets still haven't won another Pennant. Mark Zuckerberg, who bought the team from Jeff Wilpon in 2016, can't understand why the team doesn't win.

So there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but that end is a long way off.

*

Flash back to last night, August 23, 2011. Bartolo Colon doesn't have it again, and it may be time to start worrying about him. Or, once we get to the postseason, he becomes "the next odd man out," as we go from a 5-man to a 4-man rotation. Girardi brings in Boone Logan to face a lefty batter. He throws one pitch, a meatball, and it gets turned into a 2-run double, turning a 3-0 deficit into Oakland Athletics 5, New York Yankees 0.

And that's the game, in one pitch. Homers by Posada and Nick Swisher, and a bases-loaded walk with 1 out in the 9th, make the score 6-5 in Oakland's favor. But Mark Teixeira pops up, and Robinson Cano can only hit one to the warning track.

WP: Brandon McCarthy (7-6). SV -- even though he didn't pitch well in the 9th -- Andrew Bailey (17). LP: Colon (8-8). (Note: McCarthy would later be acquired by the Yankees, but not yet.)

*

Remember Felix Heredia? (Not to be confused with Gil Heredia, also not a good reliever.) A not-so-good relief pitcher for the Cubs in the early 2000s, the Yankees claimed him off waivers in late 2003, and he blew a few games for the Yankees in 2004. I said then that his name sounded like a skin condition. "The Heartbreak of Psoriasis" had nothing on The Hearbreak of Felixheredia.

Somebody on a message board I was on then (under the name of Xsvfan -- "Excessive Fan") noted that not only was Heredia throwing meatballs, but he was a meatball. (That's an old, decidedly TV-acceptable insult for an undesirable person.) So, noting that he was a reliever rather than a starter, I started calling him the Meatball Sub.

The Yankees released Heredia after the 2004 season -- ironically, in that ALCS collapse against The Scum, he was fine, pitching to 4 batters and only allowing 1 of them to reach base, and he didn't score -- and he pitched in only 3 more major league games. All for the 2005 Mets. He was done at 30. Even being a lefty specialist -- or a Lefty One Out GuY, or LOOGY -- didn't save the Dominican.

Boone Logan has an acute case of felixheredia. He has followed in the footsteps of Bob Shirley, Greg Cadaret, Tim Stoddard, Brian Boehringer, Tanyon Sturze (a.k.a. Sturtze So Bad), Scott Proctor, and Kerosene Kyle Farnsworth as a Meatball Sub.

The classic definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result."

Logan is now directly responsible for 6 Yankee losses this season: April 5 vs. Minnesota, May 7 at Texas, May 27 at Seattle, July 19 in Tampa Bay, July 23 vs. this same Oakland team, and last night. True, he was also responsible for a win in Boston.

But think about this: The Yankees are now tied with Boston for 1st place, a game ahead in the loss column. If Logan had only blown half as many games as he has, we'd be 3 games up, 4 in the loss column, with 36 games to play.

Boone Logan has proven that he does not belong on the New York Yankees. He must go.

Before he reveals himself to be a Meatball Sub in a game considerably more important than last night's.

Game 2 of this home series against the A's is tonight at 7. CC goes against Trevor Cahill, who's 9-12, including getting rocked by the Yankees for 10 runs in 2 innings on July 22. I'd be fine with half of that tonight (5 runs in the first 2 innings), as long as CC pitches like he did from April through July.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Is Hideki Matsui a Hall-of-Famer?

Does Hideki Matsui belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame? This is a tricky one, since most of us have never seen enough of his Japanese play to judge. And, like the Negro League greats who didn't get the chance to play in the white majors (at all or until they were in decline), in Japan he was not facing major league quality pitchers in every at-bat. (Granted, there are a lot of pitchers in the majors who aren't major league quality, but let's open that can of worms another time, shall we?)

Matsui is 37. He's not what he was before injuries in 2006 and again in 2008, and has declined again this season. But he's still got 11 homers and 61 RBIs -- a better year than his ex-teammate Jorge Posada. Aside from rumors of a massive porn collection, he's never had a hint of scandal about him, and is generally regarded as a good guy. Those factors will help, but they can't make the difference unless the performance is there.

His lifetime batting average is .287, on-base percentage .366 (hard to believe it's lower than Posada's), slugging percentage .472 (ditto), OPS .837, OPS+ 121. His career hit total is 1,212 -- less than half Cooperstown standard. He has 172 homers and 240 doubles –- good for half a career, but we can't know what the 1st half of his career would have been like had it been all in North America.

He's been an All-Star just twice (but 9 times in Japan), a Pennant-winner twice and a World Champion just once (3 times in Japan). He's never won a Most Valuable Player award here, but won 3 Central League MVPs over there. He was a pretty good fielder up until a 2006 injury, but has never won a Gold Glove.

For a single season, he's batted .300 twice, in 2005 and '06. Only once, in 2004, has he hit 30 home runs, but on 4 others hit 20. In his 1st 4 full seasons in North America (2003, '04, '05 and '07), he had at least 100 RBIs.

Baseball-Reference.com, a website which is your friend whether you know it or not, has a Hall of Fame Monitor, on which a "Likely HOFer" is at 100. Right now, with what he's already done through this past Sunday afternoon's game, Hideki is at 34. B-R also has a Hall of Fame Standards, which is weighted more toward career stats, and according to this the "Average HOFer" is at 50. Hideki is at 22. Put these 2 figures together, and his candidacy is a joke.

B-R also has "10 Most Similar Batters," which are weighted not just toward similarities of stats but also toward players of the same position, to make it easier to compare apples with apples and oranges with oranges, or so to speak. According to them, the 10 batters most similar to Jorge are: Ripper Collins (1930s Cardinal Gashouse Gang), Rusty Greer, Leon Durham, Alvin Davis, Jason Bay (yes, Met fans, that Jason Bay), Trot Nixon (cough-steroids-cough), Justin Morneau, Gavvy Cravath, Larry Hisle and Preston Wilson (Mookie's son).

None of those guys is in the Hall of Fame. None is even close, although Morneau might get there if he stays healthy, Hisle might have been on his way if he hadn't gotten hurt, and a case can be made for Cravath, the top National League slugger of the 1910s, for whatever that's worth.

Based on these facts, and only on these facts, there's no way in hell that Hideki Matsui should be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

But what about what he did in Japan? Recently, he hit his 500th professional home run. Can we simply ignore what he did over there?

What Japanese-league players were good enough for the Hall? Sadaharu Oh hit 868 home runs. His Yomiuri Giants teammate, Shigeo Nagashima, was, effectively, Lou Gehrig to Oh's Babe Ruth: Oh batted 3rd and Nagashima 4th for the Giants' teams of the 1960s and early 1970s, and Nagashima hit 444 home runs. Katsuya Nomura set records for most seasons played, career hits and RBIs. Masaichi Kaneda, a teammate of Oh and Nagashima in his last few seasons, is the only pitcher to win over 400 games in the Japanese leagues. (They also have 2 leagues, and, just like ours, they use the designated hitter in one league but not the other, in this case the Pacific League uses it, and the Central League does not.)

It's not "The Major League Baseball Hall of Fame." True, it is "The National Baseball Hall of Fame" -- but that Hall has players from other countries:

* Canada, Ferguson Jenkins.

* Cuba, Tony Perez, and Negro League legends Martin DiHigo, Jose Mendez and Cristobal Torriente.

* The Dominican Republic, Juan Marichal -- and, over the next few years, Marichal will be joined by a few more. (UPDATE: Pedro Martinez was elected in 2015.)

* Panama, Rod Carew (although he grew up in New York) -- and, someday, Mariano Rivera.

* Venezuela, Luis Aparicio.

* And, if you count Puerto Rico as a separate country, Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda and now Roberto Alomar. (UPDATE: Ivan Rodriguez was elected in 2017.)

So can we really deny the best Japanese players from our Hall of Fame? And can we really say, about certain players, that because the first part of their careers were in Japan, that they don't have the stats to make it?

At this rate, the only player born in Japan in the 20th Century who will make it to Cooperstown is Ichiro Suzuki -- who may end up with 3,000 hits in the U.S. alone. (He currently has 2,385, although he's currently batting .269, making this the 1st of his 11 North American seasons in which he won't bat at least .310, let alone .275.) What about Matsui? What about Hideo Nomo (123-109, 8.7 K/9 IP)?

And let's not forget that Matsui reached the postseason with the Yankees every year from 2003 to 2009, except 2008, and in postseason play is a .312 hitter with 10 homers and 39 RBIs in 235 plate appearances. And he was the MVP of the 2009 World Series. On the other hand, he kind of disappeared in the 2005, '06 and '07 American League Division Series, and while he hit well in Games 4 and 7 of the '04 League Championship Series, his 1-for-10 with 1 RBI in Games 5 and 6 was one of the reasons the Yankees lost those last 4 games.

I don't think Hideki Matsui will ever be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. But I think he should get more consideration than he is likely to get. Regardless, I think he deserves a Plaque in Monument Park. And unless Russell Martin turns out to be a Hall-of-Famer himself, I would recommend the retirement of Number 55 for Matsui.

Is Jorge Posada a Hall-of-Famer?

Does Jorge Posada belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame? He just turned 40, and it looks like the career statistics I’m about to cite aren’t going to increase by much. Aside from his recent tiff with manager Joe Girardi, he’s never had a hint of scandal about him, and is generally regarded as a good guy. Those factors will help, but they can’t make the difference unless the performance is there.

His lifetime batting average is .274, on-base percentage .375, slugging percentage .474, OPS .849, OPS+ 121. His career hit total is 1,654 – not good. He has 271 homers and 378 doubles – not Hall-worthy numbers, but then, he has been a catcher, so that needs to be taken into consideration. He's been an All-Star 5 times and a World Champion 5 times (or 4 times, as he really wasn't there for most of the 1996 season).

He's never won a Gold Glove, but once Sandy Alomar Jr. and the steroid-aided Ivan Rodriguez got old, Jorge was, for a few years, a legitimate contender for the title of best-fielding catcher in the American League. Certainly, as long as (the possibly steroid-aided) Mike Piazza was on the Mets, Jorge was the best-fielding catcher in New York.

For a single season, he's only batted .300 once. That was in 2007, when he hit .338, with his next-highest average being .287 in 2000. That's almost a Norm Cash 1961-like discrepancy. Only once, in 2003, and then just, has he hit 30 home runs in a season; but he's hit at least 20 in 8 seasons, and just missed in 2 others, which shows good consistency. Only once, also in 2003, has he had 100 RBIs, but there are 4 others in which he’s had at least 90.

Of all players who were primarily catchers, Jorge ranks 16th all-time in OPS+. He trails Piazza, 1880s Chicago White Stockings (forerunners of the Cubs) star Mike "King" Kelly, 1970s A's slugger Gene Tenace, 1880s Giants star Buck Ewing, 1920s A's and 1930s Tigers star Mickey Cochrane, his own former manager Joe Torre, Yankee legend Bill Dickey, Johnny Bench, 1900s Giant Roger Bresnahan, 1930s Cub star Gabby Hartnett, 1930s Reds star Ernie Lombardi, Yankee legend Yogi Berra, Yankee not-so-legend Cliff Johnson, Brooklyn Dodger star Roy Campanella, and former White Sock and Angel Brian Downing. Among players from the post-1969 Divisional Play Era, he trails Piazza, Tenace, Bench, Johnson and Downing, for 6th.

Kelly, Ewing, Cochrane, Dickey, Bench, Bresnahan, Hartnett, Lombardi, Yogi and Campy are in. Piazza, eligible in 2013, will make it in, unless he's proven to have used steroids before he gets in. Tenace, Johnson and Downing will never get in.

Based on that, it's hard to say that Jorge will ever get in. In fact, on the all-time OPS+ list, he trails some other Yankee stars who will probably never get in: Roger Maris, Bobby Murcer, Don Mattingly and Hideki Matsui.

Baseball-Reference.com, a website which is your friend whether you know it or not, has a Hall of Fame Monitor, on which a "Likely HOFer" is at 100. Right now, with what he's already done through this past Sunday afternoon’s game, Jorge is at 98, which means he's practically there. B-R also has a Hall of Fame Standards, which is weighted more toward career stats, and according to this the "Average HOFer" is at 50. Jorge is at 41, which means he has a little bit to go.

B-R also has "10 Most Similar Batters," which are weighted not just toward similarities of stats but also toward players of the same position, to make it easier to compare apples with apples and oranges with oranges, or so to speak. According to them, the 10 batters most similar to Jorge are: Javy Lopez, Hartnett, Lance Parrish, Joe Gordon, Bill Freehan, Bret Boone (but not his father Bob Boone, who, unlike Bret but like Jorge, was a catcher), Benito Santiago, Bill Dickey, Vern Stephens and Lombardi.

Of those, all are retired. Hartnett, Gordon, Dickey and Lombardi are in the Hall of Fame. Parrish sure looked like he was headed for the Hall before injuries broke him down. Cases could be made for Lopez and Stephens. But Freehan and Santiago fall a bit short, and Boone is actually less worthy of the Hall than his father, who does deserve some consideration. So there's 4 of Jorge's 10 Most Similar Batters who are in the Hall, and 2 others who, at the least, deserve another look.

B-R can also look at 10 Most Similar Batters through the current age of the player in question. Jorge’s top 10 by that standard are Carlton Fisk, Hartnett, Parrish, Dickey, Santiago, Lombardi, Ken Caminiti, Gary Carter, Jason Varitek and Sherman Lollar. Fisk, Hartnett, Dickey, Lombardi and Carter are in – that's 5. Although I'm not sure that this helps Jorge much.

There are 17 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame who were elected, primarily, as catchers: Bench, Berra, Bresnahan, Campanella, Carter, Cochrane, Dickey, Ewing, Rick Ferrell, Fisk, Josh Gibson, Hartnett, Kelly, Lombardi, Biz Mackey, Louis Santop and Ray Schalk.

Gibson, Mackey and Santop played their entire careers in the Negro Leagues, which means that, as good as they may have been (and some people have called Gibson one of the very best players, never mind catchers, ever), they were not playing major league caliber opposition every game. So that leaves 14. Bresnahan, Ewing and Kelly played their entire careers in the pre-1920 Dead Ball Era, which means they were playing something of a different game.

So that leaves 11: Bench, Berra, Campanella, Carter, Cochrane, Dickey, Ferrell, Fisk, Hartnett, Lombardi and Schalk. Of those 11, about how many of them can you say, "He wasn't as good as Jorge Posada"? Ferrell and Schalk got in mainly because of their fielding. So that's 2 out of 11. The other 9? While Jorge has played on more Pennant winners and more World Champions than all of them except Berra and Dickey, I can't say he was a better hitter, or a better catcher, than any of them.

Based on this, I'm thinking that Jorge Posada, unless he returns for the 2012 season and has a really good one, and maybe pulls out one more good season in 2013, will probably never make it to the Hall of Fame.

But he does deserve a place in the Yankees' Monument Park, and the retirement of his Number 20. Sorry, Bucky Dent, but, in spite of helping the Yankees win 3 Pennants and 2 World Series, at this point, you're going to be remembered for one swing of the bat. Jorge will be remembered for much more.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bad A.J. Is Yanks' Biggest Concern; Pete Pihos, 1923-2011; Norm Willey, 1927-2011

I hate having to do weekend round-ups. Especially when it's nearly a full week.

On Wednesday night, the Yankees closed out a series in Kansas City by losing 5-4 to the Royals. Bartolo Colon (8-7) had one bad inning, the 3rd. A comeback fell short against Bruce Chen (8-5) and Joakim Soria (22nd save). Hector Noesi pitched 3 scoreless innings of relief, and homers came from Curtis Granderson (his 34th) and Russell Martin (his 13th), but a comeback from 5-2 down fell short. Still, taking 2 out of 3 on the road is good.

On Thursday the Yankees went into Minneapolis to play the Minnesota Twins, decidedly better results. CC Sabathia broke a personal 3-game losing streak (17-7), outpitching Brian Duensing (8-12) with help from Granderson gunning down 2 Twin runners at 2nd base, and home runs from Mark Teixeira (33), Nick Swisher (15) and Andruw Jones (8).

On Friday night, Phil Hughes allowed a 1st inning homer to Trevor Plouffe (Who?) but cruised the rest of the way, saving his place in the rotation with a beautiful effort (4-4) that saw him not allow another hit until the 8th. The Yanks pounded Kevin Slowey (0-1) thanks to 2 homers from Martin (15) and 2 doubles from Teix, producing an 8-1 Yankee win.

Saturday night was a stink bomb from "Bad A.J." Burnett allowed 7 runs in the first 2 innings and the Yanks never recovered. Andruw Jones hit his 9th homer but a late comeback from 9-1 down fell well short. Thanks to the pitching, the bad from A.J. and the good from Francisco Liriano (9-9), the Yanks lost 9-4.

Which brings us to yesterday's brilliant performance from Ivan Nova: 7 innings, no runs, 5 hits, only 1 walk, for the win (13-4 -- Cliff Who?). David Robertson pitched the 8th, and Mariano Rivera the 9th for his 33rd save (and some people thought he was getting old).

Alex Rodriguez returned to the lineup and went 0-for-5, but played flawless 3rd base including a great throw. Granderson tied Jose (Go On, Test Me) Bautista for the home run lead with his 35th -- an inside-the-parker. And Teix made it a rather strange back-to-back job with a screaming liner juuuust over the left field fence, a near-copy of the shot he hit to beat the Twins in Game 2 of the 2009 American League Division Series. He's now right behind Grandy and Bautista with 34.

Yankees 3, Twins 0. Phil Dumatrait took the loss (1-2).

*

So, the Yankees are 77-48. In the AL Eastern Division, they are a half-game, a full game in the loss column, ahead of the Boston Red Sox; 8 ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays; 13 ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays, and a whopping 29 1/2 ahead of the Baltimore Orioles, who may just get eliminated from the Division race before August is torn off the calendar. In the chase for home-field advantage throughout the AL Playoffs (due to the All-Star Game they won't get it in the World Series), they are 5 1/2 (7 in the loss column) ahead of the AL West-leading and defending AL Champion Texas Rangers, and 9 1/2 (10) games ahead of the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers.

Mariano is now 8 saves short of 600, 9 short of the all-time record set by Trevor Hoffman (who got his Number 51 retired by the San Diego Padres yesterday), and 10 short of becoming the sole all-time leader. There are 37 games left in the season. Frankly, I don't think he can be stopped from getting it this season, unless the Yankees simply win too many blowouts, thus denying him the save opportunities.

But, as Hank Aaron reminded us in 1973 as he was closing in on 714 home runs, a career record doesn't have to be broken in a particular season. Then again, as Roberto Clemente reminded us in 1972 as he was closing in on 3,000 hits, "I have to get that hit this year. I might die." We'll never know if Roberto was kidding, but he did turn out to be prophetic. And as Thurman Munson showed us Yankee Fans, tomorrow is promised to no one.

The injury situation is as follows: A-Rod, Hughes and Rafael Soriano are back. Freddy Garcia is eligible to come off the Disabled List tomorrow, but probably won't, but should be back soon. Ramiro Pena had his appendix taken out, and both Damaso Marte and Pedro Feliciano may be close to returning from rotator cuff surgery; Pena may be back for September call-ups, and the other 2 may also be back in September, although that would preclude them being on the postseason roster.

Joba Chamberlain (who also had appendicitis, but is out due to Tommy John surgery) and Colin Curtis are out for the season, and while Curtis should be fine for spring training, Joba may miss Opening Day and have to start the season in the minors, but he won't be out for a huge chunk of next season. (Huge chunk? Joba? Save your jokes.)

*

Right now, the Yanks' biggest concern should be Burnett. Garcia going on the DL solved the question of who would be the odd man out when the 6-man rotation had to become a 5-man rotation, but once Garcia comes off the DL, there may not be a place for A.J. Who you gonna take out? Not CC. Not Nova. Not Garcia. Colon has been a concern lately, but I wouldn't take him out except maybe -- maybe -- to move him to the bullpen in the postseason. And Hughes seems to be fully back.

Mike Lupica said in his Sunday New York Daily News column, "I'm just hoping some of these young Yankee pitchers turn out to be as good as, well, Ian Kennedy."

You might remember Kennedy: He, along with Phil Hughes and catching prospect Jesus Montero, was one of those players the Yankees refused to send to the Twins in a trade for Johan Santana in the 2007-08 off-season.

Kennedy was a bust in New York, and contributed just 1 major-league inning in the 2009 season. After which, he was part of the 3-team deal that dumped Phil Coke (and no smile) and prized prospect Austin Jackson on the Tigers, while getting the Yankees Granderson. Kennedy ended up with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and is 15-4 this season, leading the National League in wins. His ERA+ is 123, and his WHIP is 1.131.

Is Ian Kennedy a great pitcher? This year, he's every bit as good as the pitcher the Yankees supposedly couldn't live without, Cliff Lee. (Who is pitching for the Phillies against the Mets tonight. I suspect he is going to win.) But is Kennedy, this season, a serious upgrade over Colon? Over Garcia? Over Nova? Over an again-healthy Hughes? Not really. And if Manny Banuelos and Dustin Betances (the Killer Bs) turn out to be good replacements for Colon (who's 38) and Garcia (who's about to turn 35), then, really, do the Yankees need him (or Lee)? No.

And perhaps I have to remind Lupica, the man who, for the last 30 years, has been New York's biggest sports columnist (though a native of Nashua, New Hampshire, a graduate of Boston College, and an inveterate Red Sox, Met fan and Yankee hater) that Ian Kennedy pitches in the National League West (including against pitchers and their late-inning pinch-hitters), while the Yankees pitch in the American League East.

Remember: Casting eyes on a pitcher who did well for the Arizona Diamondbacks doesn't mean he'll do well for the New York Yankees. Ask Javier Vazquez. Hell, ask Randy Johnson, who's only the best lefthanded pitcher of the last quarter-century (and maybe more).

At least Lupica had the decency to also write in yesterday's column, "Capt. Jeter must have totally missed the memo about being washed up, no kidding."

Subway Squawker Lisa couldn't be reached for comment. She's probably still hosting her party honoring A-Rod's return.

Hey, if he hits like the old A-Rod, and fields better than Eduardo Nunez (not hard, unless you're, well, me), and the Yankees win another title, I'll not only celebrate with her, I'll even drink what she drinks. Even if it's some whacked-out recipe invented down at the University of Texas.

Jeter hits 3050 DONE
Rivera saves 592 10
A-Rod homers 626 137
A-Rod hits 2762 238
Magic Number 38 (to eliminate Scum, 30 for Rays, 23 for Jays, 10 for O's... that's right, 10)

*

Two old-time Philadelphia Eagles died recently: Pete Pihos and Norm Willey.

Pihos, one of several athletes nicknamed "the Golden Greek," was born in Orlando in 1923, and attended Indiana University, and may have been that great basketball school's best football player ever.

He played end on both offense and defense, starring with the Eagles from 1947 to 1955. In each of his first 3 seasons, the Eagles won the NFL Eastern Division, and advanced to the NFL Championship Game. In 1947, they lost to the Chicago Cardinals at Comiskey Park. In 1948, despite a snowstorm dumping a foot of snow on Philadelphia, they got their revenge on the Cardinals at Shibe Park (later renamed Connie Mack Stadium). And in 1949, defying the line "It never rains in Southern California," a torrential downpour on the Coliseum didn't stop the Eagles from beating the Los Angeles Rams.
Pihos was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1970. He was able to attend a big 40th Anniversary reunion of the 1948-49 Champion Eagles at Veterans Stadium in 1988, but was not there for the 50th Anniversary in 1998. He had been battling Alzheimer's disease. He was 88.

"Wild Man" Willey, born in West Virginia in 1927 and playing at that State's Marshall University and then with the Eagles from 1950 to 1957 -- like Pihos, as an end on both offense and defense -- was not a Hall-of-Famer. But by the standards of the 1950s, he was a pretty good defensive player. He made the Pro Bowl in 1954 and 1955.

And, supposedly, he once collected 17 sacks.

Not in a season.

In a single game.

Against the New York Giants, no less.
A contemporary newspaper account is what suggests this: It says that he tackled the Giants' quarterback behind the line of scrimmage 17 times. It was October 26, 1952, at the Polo Grounds, in a game the Eagles won 14-10.

It wasn't until many years later that Los Angeles Rams defensive end Deacon Jones coined the word "sack" to describe tackling a quarterback for a loss. And it wasn't until 1982 that the NFL started officially counting them.

So Jones doesn't get credit for being the NFL's leader in sacks for a single season: 26 in 1967, ahead of the record currently (and perhaps dubiously, if you remember that last game of the season) held by Michael Strahan with 22 1/2 in 2001. Nor does Jones get credit for being the NFL's leader in sacks for a career: 194 1/2, which would have been surpassed thus far only by Reggie White with 198 and Bruce Smith with 200.

And Willey doesn't get credit for appearing to have gotten an excellent season's worth of sacks in the space of what was probably no more than half an hour of actual game time. He was just short of 84 when he died.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Top 10 Jorge Posada Moments

Happy 40th Birthday to Jorge Rafael (Villeta) Posada. He was born on August 17, 1971 in Santurce, Puerto Rico, of Cuban émigré parents.

Jorge has been with the Yankee organization since May 24, 1991, making his major league debut on September 4, 1995, as a defensive replacement for catcher Jim Leyritz (no at-bats) in a 13-3 Yankee win over the Seattle Mariners at the old Yankee Stadium. Another rookie, Andy Pettitte, pitched 8 strong innings for the win. Still another rookie, Derek Jeter, was a late defensive replacement at shortstop for Tony Fernandez. Bernie Williams went 3-for-6, including a home run and 4 RBIs.

Jorge made only 15 plate appearances in the 1996 World Championship season, reaching base only twice (a single and a walk, though he did score a run) and there are those who suggest that he shouldn’t be considered one of the dynasty-starters of that season. He got in more games in 1997, and from 1998 to 2010 was the Yankees' regular catcher. If you count 1996, he has played on 7 Pennant winners and 5 World Championship teams. He has made the All-Star team 5 times.

In 2003, a Pennant season for the Yankees, he finished 3rd in the American League Most Valuable Player voting, behind a player on a last-place team (Alex Rodriguez of the Texas Rangers) and a player on a 3rd-place team (Carlos Delgado of the Toronto Blue Jays). Well, at least he can’t say it was an anti-Hispanic bias.

There are those who say that Jorge is finished. Certainly, this season he got off to one of the worst starts any Yankee regular has ever had. But even in a "bad year," 3/4 finished, he has 10 home runs and 37 RBIs.

Top 10 Jorge Posada Moments

10. July 10, 2001, Safeco Field, Seattle. Jorge is introduced as a member of the American League All-Star Team. And out ran Jorge Posada, wearing his Yankee uniform, Number 20. Except it was Jorge Posada III, the catcher's son, a shade over a year old, and with a grin that seemed to take up half the infield. Jorge the father came out next. A classic moment. Too bad Jorge III inherited his dad's ears. I hope he also inherits his dad's bat.

9. November 2, 2007, Yankee Stadium I, New York. Jorge signs a new contract with the Yankees, openly turning down an offer from the crosstown Mets, and gives a vote of confidence to his predecessor as Yankee catcher, Joe Girardi, as new Yankee manager. These were 2 great gestures that showed a great Yankee's dedication to the team.

If you're aware of my Arsenal fandom, and you think my mention of this means that I'm still mad about the Cesc Fabregas situation, and the as-yet-unresolved Samir Nasri situation, you're right.

8. October 18, 1998, Yankee Stadium I. Jorge hits his 1st World Series homer, taking Andy Ashby deep, assisting Orlando (El Duque) Hernandez, and giving the Yankees a 9-3 win over the San Diego Padres, in what turns out to be a Series sweep.

7. October 11, 2009, Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis. Quite a season for Jorge, hitting the first home run in the new Yankee Stadium, and hitting the last home run in the Metrodome. In the top of the 7th inning, he homered to give the Yankees the lead over the Minnesota Twins in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, enabling the Yankees to sweep the series and close down a stadium most Yankee Fans hated.

6. September 21, 2008, Yankee Stadium I. Unable to play in the last game in the old Stadium, due to injury, Jorge was included in the game ceremonies, when he caught the ceremonial first pitch from Julia Ruth Stevens, daughter of the Babe. The Yankees, without Jorge's further help – in fact, it was backup catcher Jose Molina who hit the old Stadium's last home run – won the game, 7-3 over the Baltimore Orioles.

5. April 16-May 1, 2009, Yankee Stadium II, New York. Connecting himself further with Babe Ruth, who hit the first home run in the old Stadium, Jorge hits the first home run in the new Stadium. Unfortunately, the Yankees lost, 10-2.

Three days later, the Stadium's 4th game, I visited for the first time, and Jorge homered again, this time providing the margin of victory in a 7-4 Yankee win. On May 1, Jorge collected the 1st walkoff hit in the new Stadium, a single to beat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 10-9.

4. October 26, 2000, Shea Stadium, New York. Jorge goes 1-for-3 with a walk, the walk coming in the 9th inning, and he scores an insurance run that finishes off the Mets, 4-2, as the Yankees win Game 5 and clinch the World Series. This was Jorge's 3rd (or 4th) ring, and should have shut up any Met fan who thought that their catcher, Mike Piazza, was ever better. Of course, as we now know, Met fans never shut up.

3. May 17, 1998, Yankee Stadium I. Jorge catches David Wells' perfect game. Joe Girardi caught Dwight Gooden's no-hitter in 1996 and David Cone’s perfect game in 1999, but Boomer’s perfecto was Jorge's.

2. October 16, 2003, Yankee Stadium I. Jorge's double, the last in a string of 4 straight hits, brought the Yankees even with the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2003 ACLS, and knocked Pedro Martinez out of the game.

It was especially appropriate that Jorge was the one to do this, since in Game 3, he and Pedro the Punk had been yelling at each other, Jorge from the Yankee dugout, Pedro from the Fenway Park mound, in Spanish so there could be no mistranslation. Jorge pointed to his head, as if to say, "You can't do that! That's felonious assault! Hell, that's attempted murder!" And Pedro pointed to his head and then to Jorge, as if to say, "Look, puto, if you want to be next, I can arrange it!"

Five days later, Jorge knocked him out of the game, which was won by Aaron Boone's Pennant-clinching home run.

Now, how can you top that? Aside from doing what Boone did, that is. Actually, he did top it. By a lot.

1. January 21, 2000, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Jorge marries Laura. (Jeter was Jorge's best man.) If you've ever seen her (and I have – she looks just as phenomenal in person), then you know why this is Number 1. Laura is a model and fitness instructor. And a lawyer. Yeah, all that and brains, too. 

When Jorge III was born with craniosynotosis, the couple set up the Jorge Posada Foundation, to raise funds for research into this and other childhood disorders. Jorge III underwent what is expected to be his last corrective surgery earlier this year, and I suspect that this was weighing on his father's mind and causing his slump. The Posadas also have a daughter, Paulina.

Is this going to be Jorge's last season? It probably should be. So let us, all of us, him included, make the most of it. And he knows what "making the most of it" means. He's been a part of that 5 times already.

And in case Squawker Lisa of Subway Squawkers is reading this, she likes to quote the line that someone (I forget who) used: That, of the Yankees' 1996-2003 Dynasty, Jorge was "the Ringo." It must be because of the ears. Well, the Beatles would not have been the Beatles without Ringo Starr. Pete Best was not a good drummer!

Yanks Take Back 1st With Cano HR, Strong Pen

Is the pen truly mightier than the sword? Last night in Kansas City, Ivan Nova did not have his good stuff, but as my Grandma (admittedly, a Brooklyn Dodger fan who became a Met fan) would say, "It's not just whether you can win when you play good, it's whether you can win when you play bad."

The Yankee bullpen pitched 4 2/3 perfect innings. They faced 11 batters, and got them all out: Boone Logan (3), Rafael Soriano (2), David Robertson (3) and Mariano Rivera (3, for his 32nd save of the season, 591st of his career, 11 short of breaking Trevor Hoffman's all-time record). So Nova was still the winning pitcher (12-4).

As for Danny Duffy, the proverbial "pitcher the Yankees have never seen before," well, maybe that proverb no longer applies. The Yanks pounded him, including a 2-run doubles by Derek Jeter and Russell Martin, and a 3-run homer by Robinson Cano that chased Duffy (3-7) in the 4th.

Yankees 9, Royals 7. So the Yankees have taken another road series, and with a game still to play. This, coupled with the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays splitting a rain-forced doubleheader (Sox took the opener 3-1, Rays the nightcap 6-2), means the Yankees are in first place, half a game ahead of The Scum -- one full game in the AILC, the All-Important Loss Column. There are 42 games left to play for the Yankees, 41 for The Scum.

The Yanks-Royals series concludes tonight, with Bartolo Colon (great comeback story) starting against Bruce Chen (who could use one). Then the Yankees head up Interstate 35 (or, more likely, fly) to Minneapolis to start a 4-game series with the Minnesota Twins. Then it's home to face the Oakland Athletics.

Things are looking up. The bats are working. The pitchers, while not always great, are getting the job done. The defense isn't causing the Yankees to beat themselves.

If the current standings hold to the end of the season, the Playoffs would be:

* AL West Champion Texas Rangers vs. AL East Champion Yankees, a rematch of last season's ALCS -- and this time, the Rangers don't have Cliff Lee.

* AL Wild Card winner Boston Red Sox vs. AL Central Champion Detroit Tigers.

* NL West Champion Arizona Diamondbacks vs. NL East Champion Philadelphia Phillies.

* NL Wild Card winner Atlanta Braves vs. NL Central Champion Milwaukee Brewers -- the current Milwaukee team facing the former one.

Remember, in either League, the Wild Card winner cannot face the Champion of their own Division in the Division Series. But, as we have seen, the Yankees and Red Sox can face each other in the League Championship Series, as can the Phils and Braves (which did happen in 1993, although they were in different Divisions at the time).

*

Jeter hits 3041 DONE
Rivera saves 591 11
A-Rod homers 626 137
A-Rod hits 2762 238
Magic Number 42 (to eliminate Scum, 33 for Rays, 28 for Jays, a mere 16 for the O's)

*

Days until Arsenal play again in a competitive match: 3, this Saturday, home to Liverpool, at 12:45 local time -- 7:45 AM our time. I only recognize one 7:45 per day, and that ain't it. But for The Arsenal, I'll make an exception. They beat Italian club Udinese 1-0 in last night's Champions League Qualifier, with the 2nd leg coming in Udine next Wednesday. With injured and suspended players coming back, they shouldn't have much trouble qualifying for the Champions League proper.

Days until the Red Bulls play again: 3. See below.

Days until the Red Bulls play another "derby": 3, this Saturday, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. And they next play their CLOSEST rivals, the Philadelphia Union, in their regular season finale, on Thursday night, October 20, at Red Bull Arena.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 13, on Tuesday night, August 30, at Fenway Park. Under 2 weeks.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 15, on Thursday, September 1, home to North Carolina Central. Just 2 weeks.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 23, on Friday night, September 9, at Monroe. Just 3 weeks.

Days until the next North London Derby: 45, on Saturday, October 1, at White Hart Lane. Under 7 weeks.

Days until the Devils play another local rival: 52, on Saturday, October 8, at 7:00 PM, in their season opener, at home, against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Prudential Center. Under 8 weeks. The first game against the New York Islanders is a day-after-Thanksgiving matinee, Friday, November 25, at the Nassau Coliseum. The first game against The Scum isn't until Tuesday night, December 20, at the Prudential.

Days until the Rutgers-Army football game at Yankee Stadium: 87. Under 3 months.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 99.

Days until the last Nets game in New Jersey: 245, on Wednesday night, April 18, 2012, against the Chicago Bulls, at the Prudential Center. Just 8 months before New Jersey no longer has an NBA team.

Days until the 2012 Olympics begin in London: 345 (July 27). Under 1 year.

Days until Alex Rodriguez collects his 3,000th career hit: 692 (estimated -- adjusted for his current injury). Under 2 years.

Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 700th career home run: 823 (estimated).

Days until Super Bowl XLVIII at the Meadowlands: 900 (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: 1,434 (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: 1,548 (estimated).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Good A.J. Saves His Job For Now; Thome's 600th

The Yankees' 6-man rotation is going to become a 5-man rotation. But which starter will be the odd man out?

1. CC Sabathia. Unlikely. He is an ace.

2. Bartolo Colon. Unlikely. He is the comeback player of the year.

3. Freddy Garcia. Unlikely. He has also made a good comeback.

4. Ivan Nova. Unlikely. After a brief glimpse last season of what he could do, he has shown he is worthy of staying in the rotation.

5. Phil Hughes. Possible, although less possible given his last 2 starts.

6. A.J. Burnett. There's been "Good A.J." and "Bad A.J.," and in 2 1/2 Augusts, he had never won an start as a Yankee. Although he was a key figure in the Yankees' 2009 World Championship (including starting and winning Game 2 of the World Series), he was 10-15 last season, and came into last night's start with a losing record.

Last night, in the first game of a 3-game series in Kansas City against the Royals, Good A.J. showed up. In 5 2/3 innings, he allowed 10 hits, but just 1 walk, and 3 runs. From there, the Yankees got 2 outs from Boone Logan, 2 from Rafael Soriano (who did allow an additional run), 3 from David Robertson and 3 from Mariano Rivera.

As for the bats, the Yankees pounded Felipe Paulino, dropping him to 7-30 for his career. No home runs, but 3 hits and 3 RBIs from Derek Jeter, 2 hits each from Brett Gardner (2 RBIs), Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher, and RBIs from Mark Teixeira and Andruw Jones.

Yankees 7, Royals 4. WP: Burnett (9-9). SV: Rivera (31). LP: Paulino (1-9).

With the win, the Yankees tied the unscheduled Red Sox for 1st place in the AL East, at 73-46. So it is once again possible to post Magic Numbers for clinchings and eliminations.

Jeter hits 3039 DONE
Rivera saves 590 11
A-Rod homers 626 137
A-Rod hits 2762 238
Magic Number 44 (to eliminate Scum, 35 for Rays, 29 for Jays, and a mere 18 for O's)

Game 2 of the series is tonight. Nova starts against Danny Duffy. (Who?) A 22-year-old lefthander from the Santa Barbara, California area, who's made 15 major league appearances, all of them starts, none of them against the Yankees. A young pitcher that the Yankees have never seen before. On the road. And a lefty to boot. In the immortal words of Scooby-Doo, "Ruh-roh!"

*

Congratulations to Jim Thome. The slugger, still believed by most sources to be steroid-free, hit the 600th home run of his career last night, for the Minnesota Twins, off Daniel Schlereth of the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. He had hit his 599th earlier in the game.
Note the 3 on his jersey, in memory of Harmon Killebrew.
"The Killer" hit 573 home runs, nearly all for the Twins.

He is the 8th player to reach the mark -- but, as far as we can tell, the 5th to do it without cheating:

1. Barry Bonds 762 *
2. Hank Aaron 755
3. Babe Ruth 714
4. Willie Mays 660
5. Ken Griffey Jr. 630
6. Alex Rodriguez 626 *
7. Sammy Sosa 609 *
8. Jim Thome 600

One of these days, I'm going to have to do a 500 Home Run Club piece like the one I did on 3,000 Hits for Derek Jeter.

Thome also has 2,453 career strikeouts, just 144 short of Reggie Jackson for the all-time record. I don't want him to have the stigma of being the all-time whiff leader. I do, however, want it removed from My Man.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Posada's Deli: Order for a Hot Grand Salami

On Friday night, the 2 aces went at it. But David Price brought his best stuff, and CC Sabathia didn't. CC managed to avoid putting on a lot of runners, but it didn't matter: The Rays hit 5 solo home runs off him.

Giving up home runs to former teammate Johnny Damon and Evan (Not Eva) Longoria is no shame. But Casey Kotchman? Kelly freakin' Shoppach? At least I'd heard of them; who in the name of Steve Trout is Elliot Johnson? Isn't that the kid that helped get E.T. home?

WP: Price (10-10). LP: Sabathia (16-7 - his 3rd straight defeat after starting the season so well).

The Saturday game was more like it. Phil Hughes (3-4) pitched his best game of the season, 6 innings, 2 runs, 4 hits just 1 walk, 6 strikeouts -- showing that maybe he should not be the odd man out as Joe Girardi cuts his 6-man rotation down to 5. Cory Wade was solid in the 7th and 8th, and Hector Noesi pitched a perfect 9th -- 2 young guys who needed, very badly, to get back on track, and both did.

As for the Yankee bats, again, they scored enough runs that it would have been nice if they could have transferred some of them to another game in the series. Jeremy Hellickson (10-8) started for the Rays, and probably wishes he'd been scheduled to start on another day. Curtis Granderson struck again, hitting his 3rd homer in 3 days, a 2nd-inning blast giving the Yanks a 2-0 lead and tying him with Jose Bautista for the American League lead with 33. (Bautista has since hit a 34th.)

Then, in the bottom of the 5th, the Yankees loaded the bases, and Jorge Posada, supposedly finished, called the deli and ordered a grand salami. (Love that expression.) The Yanks went on to win, 9-2.

*

In this game in which he went 3-for-5 with 6 RBIs, it was his 10th home run of a season in which he'd just been given up for dead for at least the 2nd time, and the 271st in his career.

In fact, if you look at the Yankees' all-time Top 10 in home runs, you'll see just how big Jorge has been. Remember, this is a list of only those home runs the players in question hit as Yankees, not for their entire careers (though some are one-club men):

1. Babe Ruth 659 (out of 714)
2. Mickey Mantle 536
3. Lou Gehrig 493
4. Joe DiMaggio 361
5. Yogi Berra 358
6. Bernie Williams 287
7. Alex Rodriguez 281 (out of 626)
8. Jorge Posada 271
9. Graig Nettles 250 (out of 390)
10. Derek Jeter 238

Surprised? Reggie Jackson hit "only" 144 of his 563 homers in a Yankee uniform. Don't forget, he was only there for 5 years, and the last of those was not only strike-shortened but a bad one for him. Even throwing in his postseason homers for the Yankees, his total rises to 156.

As for the rest of them, throw in the postseason, and the numbers look like this:

1. Babe Ruth 674 (out of 729)
2. Mickey Mantle 554
3. Lou Gehrig 503
4. Yogi Berra 370
5. Joe DiMaggio 369 (That's right, counting the postseason, Yogi had more than Joe D.)
6. Bernie Williams 309 (His 22 means no one has hit more postseason home runs that Bernie has -- without being outed as a steroid cheater.)
7. Alex Rodriguez 291 (out of 639)
8. Jorge Posada 282
9. Graig Nettles 255 (out of 395)
10. Derek Jeter 258

Bobby Murcer? 252 in the regular season, 175 as a Yankee, none in the postseason for any club.

Paul O'Neill? 281 in the regular season, 185 as a Yankee, 10 postseason homers as a Yankee (plus 1 for the Cincinnati Reds).

Jorge Posada is 39 years old. He's been a part of 7 Pennant winners and 5 World Championships. He's caught pitchers from David Cone and Roger Clemens (stars of the 1980s) to Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova (who, hopefully, will still be winning games in the Yankee rotation into the 2020s). He is married to Laura Posada, a feat worthy of a plaque all by itself. They have 2 children. They have raised millions for medical research.

He would seem to have nothing left to prove.

And yet he proved something on Saturday: "Don't count me out. Not yet."

He still wants to win another title, and at this point, you'd have to be a fool to say that he won't have something to say about how the 2011 baseball season will end.

As Mike Lupica -- no Yankee Fan, he -- put it in Sunday's Daily News: "Somehow Jorge Posada got three hits Saturday even while being shoved out the door, no small feat. And if you weren't happy about the way No. 20 hit the ball on national TV, check to see if you still have a heart."

Friday, August 12, 2011

How to Be a Yankee Fan In Minnesota

The Yankees begin a 4-game series a week from tonight, in Minneapolis, against the Minnesota Twins.

By a weird twist, when my twin nieces were born, 4 summers ago, the Yankees were playing, you guessed it, the Twins. The Yankees won. Nevertheless, the girls have become Yankee Fans.

I’ll teach them the irony of it all, but, personally, I have nothing against the Minnesota ballclub. I used to, but then they got out of the (George Carlin word)ing Metrodome.

I know, I sometimes curse on this page, but these “How to Be a Yankee Fan In…” pages are meant to be family-friendly.

Before You Go. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune website is predicting good weather for the weekend, with the exception of thunderstorms on Friday night, thus putting the schedule in question. The St. Paul Pioneer Press Kansas City Star is saying Thursday night may also have thunderstorms. Therefore, ignore the legend of cold Minnesota winters that last from October to April (you’re not visiting in one of those months, anyway), and dress for warm afternoons, and bring an umbrella.

Getting There. It’s 1,199 road miles from Times Square in New York to Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis (the spot where Mary Tyler Moore threw her hat in the air in the opening sequence of her 1970-77 CBS sitcom), and 1,204 miles from Yankee Stadium to Target Field. Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there.

But it’s kind of an expensive flight. Even if you order early, chances are you’ll have to pay at least $1,200 round-trip, and change planes in Chicago – or even Dallas (which would piss off not just the New York Giants football fan that you might be, but also the Minnesota Vikings fans you may be flying to Minneapolis with). But when you do get there, the Number 55 bus takes you from the airport to downtown in under an hour, so that’s convenient.

Bus? Not a good idea. Greyhound runs 3 buses a day between Port Authority and Minneapolis, all with at least one transfer, in Chicago and possibly elsewhere as well. The total time is about 31 hours, and costs $333 round-trip. The Greyhound terminal is at 950 Hawthorne Avenue, at 9th Street North, just 3 blocks from Nicollet Mall, 2 from the Target Center arena, and from there just across the 7th Street overpass over Interstate 394 from Target Field.

Train? An even worse idea. Amtrak will make you leave Penn Station at 10:05 in the morning, change trains in Chicago at 8:45 AM and 2:15 PM, and then Empire Builder, their Chicago-to-Seattle run, will arrive in St. Paul (NOT Minneapolis) at 10:31 PM. From there, 730 Transfer Road, you’d have to take the Number 16 or 50 bus to downtown Minneapolis. And it’s $632 round-trip.

If you decide to drive, it’s far enough that it will help to get someone to go with you and split the duties, and to trade off driving and sleeping. You'll need to get into New Jersey, and take Interstate 80 West. You'll be on I-80 for the vast majority of the trip, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Ohio, in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I-80 will merge with Interstate 90. From this point onward, you won’t need to think about I-80 until you head home; I-90 is now the key, through the rest of Ohio and Indiana. Just outside Chicago, I-80 will split off from I-90, which you will keep, until it merges with Interstate 94. For the moment, though, you will ignore I-94. Stay on I-90 through Illinois, until reaching Madison, Wiscosin, where you will once again merge with I-94. From here, you will be concerned solely with I-94, taking it into Minnesota and the Twin Cities, with Exit 233A being your exit for downtown Minneapolis.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 4 hours in Ohio, 2 hours and 30 minutes in Indiana, an hour and a half in Illinois, 2 and a half hours in Wisconsin, and half an hour in Minnesota. That’s 17 hours and 45 minutes. Counting rest stops, preferably halfway through Pennsylvania and just after you enter both Ohio and Indiana, outside Chicago and halfway across Wisconsin, and accounting for traffic in both New York and the Twin Cities, it should be no more than 23 hours, which would save you time on both Greyhound and Amtrak, if not flying.

Tickets. The Twins’ success of the last 10 years and the building of Target Field have led to an average per-game attendance of 39,441, pretty much a sellout every night, in spite of their not having a very good season (mainly due to injuries). In other words, if you want in, you’re going to have to order early, or pay through the nose with StubHub or a scalper.

If you do somehow manage to get a ticket for face value, said value will be as follows: Diamond Box, $50; Field Box, $39, Skyline Deck, $34; Home Plate Terrace, $38; Skyline View, $19; Field View, $17; LF Bleachers, $26; RF Bleachers, $24; Home Run Porch Terrace, $27. In other words, despite the Twins’ history of frugal (or even blatantly cheap) ownership, it’ll be expensive.

Going In. Target Field is at the northwest edge of downtown Minneapolis, in a neighborhood called the Warehouse District. The Metro Transit Hiawatha Line, Minneapolis’ light rail system, has a Target Field Station. The fare is $2.25, currently the same as the New York Subway.

Target Field is bounded by 5th Street (left field), 3rd Avenue (right field), 7th Street (1st base) and the Hiawatha Line (3rd base). Parking lots are all over downtown, although if you’ve driven all this way, most likely you’ll be walking or taking public transit from your hotel. If you’re walking from downtown, you’ll most likely be arriving over the I-394 overpass and entering at the right field or home plate gates. If you’re arriving by light rail, the station is outside the left field gate.

The ballpark faces northeast, and in stark contrast to the Metrodome, the place is open at right field, has no stupid roof with stupid lighting, and has, yes, real grass. The double-decked left field bleachers will be reminiscent of the original home of the Twins, Metropolitan Stadium, and, from some angles, also bear a resemblance to Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego and Mile High Stadium in Denver. Looking at the 1st base/right field stands, you may see a resemblance to Camden yards in Baltimore. Target Field does seem to have a mixture of 1970s funkiness and 1990s convenience. Outfield distances are 339 to left, 377 to left-center, 411 to center, 365 to right center and 328 to right – favoring lefthanded hitters, although the ball doesn’t fly out the way it did at Metropolitan Stadium or the Metrodome.

Above center field is a sign saying “TARGET FIELD,” with the words separated by the Target store logo. Above that is the original team logo, with two ballplayers against an outline of the state. One is wearing an M logo on his sleeve, another an StP logo on his, and they’re reaching across a river to shake hands. This symbolizes the old minor-league teams in the American Association, the Minneapolis Millers and the St. Paul Saints, who went out of business when the original Washington Senators moved to Minnesota to become the Twins in 1961.

Food. Considering that Minnesota is Big Ten Country, you would expect their ballpark to have lots of good food, in particularly that Midwest staple, the sausage, including German, Italian, Polish and Kosher varieties. And you would be right, as the influence of regional rivals Chicago and Milwaukee has taken hold. Something called Kramarczuk’s Food Network Creations is at Section 114 (lower level behind home plate), and Mexican and Asian specialties also dot the walkways.

At Section 133 (right-center-field bleachers), they have “State Fair Classics,” including Pork Chops on a Stick, Roasted Corn on the Cob, Corn Dogs, and Walleye Fingers – this is not something I would eat, but walleyes are very popular in Minnesota, a native fish. The start of walleye fishing season is so big, the Twins always request to be on the road that weekend so as not to hurt attendance. Being Midwestern, the Twins believe in beer and lots of it. Being American, the Twins believe in ice cream and lots of it.

Team History Displays. The Twins are celebrating their 50th Anniversary season in 2011. They have banners representing their titles on the exterior promenade of the ballpark: The 1965 American League Pennant, the 1969 and 1970 AL Western Division Championships, the 1987 and 1991 World Championships, and the 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2010 AL Central Division Championships. The Twins have never reached the Playoffs via the Wild Card.

No mention is made of the titles won as the “old Senators”: The 1924 World Championship and the 1925 and 1933 AL Pennants. Nor is any mention made of the Pennants won by the Minneapolis Millers (1896, 1910, ’11, ’12, ’15, ’32, ’35, ’55, ’58 and ’59) and the St. Paul Saints (1924 and ’48).

The Twins’ retired numbers are shown in stanchions on the facing of the upper deck in left field: 3, Harmon Killebrew, 3rd base and 1st base, 1961-74; 6, Tony Oliva, right field, 1962-76 and serving the club in several capacities since; 14, Kent Hrbek, 1st base, 1981-94; 28, Bert Blyleven, pitcher, 1970-76 and 1985-88; 29, Rod Carew, 2nd base and 1st base, 1967-78; and 34, Kirby Puckett, center field, 1984-95. Oddly, the numbers are listed in order of their retirement from right to left: 3, 29, 6, 14, 34, 28 and Jackie Robinson’s 42. Blyleven’s is newly-added, as is a black mourning band across Killebrew’s number stanchion, as he died earlier this season. This is, pardon the pun, twinned with a black 3 on the right sleeves of the Twins’ uniforms. Killebrew, Oliva, Carew, Hrbek and Kirby Puckett Jr., standing in for his father, threw out the ceremonial first balls for the first game at the new park on April 12, 2010.

The Twins have a team Hall of Fame, although I don’t know if it is on display anywhere in the park. Aside from the preceding, the members include: From the 1965-70 teams, founding owner Calvin Griffith, original team executive George Brophy, catcher Earl Battey, shortstop Zoilo Versalles, left fielder Bob Allison, and pitchers Jim Kaat and Jim Perry; from the 1987 & ’91 teams, owner Carl Pohlad, minor-league director Jim Rantz, manager Tom Kelly, shortstop Greg Gagne, 3rd baseman Gary Gaetti, and pitchers Frank Viola and Rick Aguilera; from the 2000s, pitcher Brad Radke; and spanning the eras, Hall of Fame broadcaster Herb Carneal and public address announcer Bob Casey.

No mention is made of Millers legends Joe Cantillon, Joe Hauser, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Monte Irvin, Ray Dandridge, Hoyt Wilhelm, Orlando Cepeda, Felipe Alou and Carl Yastrzemski. (The Millers were a Red Sox farm team, then the Giants, then the Red Sox again.) Or of Saints legends Duke Snider and Roy Campanella. (The Saints were a Dodger farm team.)

Stuff. The Twins have Team Stores throughout the ballpark. The usual items that can be found at a souvenir store can be found there.

Books about the Twins are not exactly well-known. The staff of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune put together Minnesota Twins: The Complete Illustrated History in 2010. Cool of the Evening: The 1965 Minnesota Twins is Jim Thielman’s look at Minnesota’s first major league Pennant winner.

There is, as yet, no Essential Games of the Minnesota Twins, or of either Metropolitan Stadium or the Metrodome; but the official 1987 and 1991 World Series highlight film packages are available.

During the Game. Because of their Midwest/Heartland image, Twins fans like a “family atmosphere.” Therefore, while don’t especially like the Yankees, they will not directly antagonize you. At least, they won’t initiate it. You’ll probably be all right if you don’t say anything unkind about Killebrew or Puckett, especially now that they’re both dead.

The Twins do not have a mascot. Nor do they appear to have a theme song, or a song to use after “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the 7th Inning Stretch, or a postgame victory song. They do, however, still sell the Homer Hankies made famous during their 1987 postseason run. Though they did not originate the idea: In 1977, the Cleveland Indians, desperate for attendance, held “Hate the Yankees Hanky Night.”

After the Game. An unfortunate part of the Twins’ legacy is the fact that, when Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith, who would never have moved the team, died in 1955, his son Calvin Griffith wanted out of the increasingly-black D.C. He freely admitted that he moved the Twins to Minnesota because it was mostly white. So the Twins exist primarily because of racism – albeit that of just one man. Nevertheless, This racial homogeneity has kept Minneapolis comparatively safe – although the Twin Cities have since attracted more blacks, and had already produced some famous black people, including baseball legend Dave Winfield and music superstar Prince Rogers Nelson. At any rate, regardless of the races of the people you see on the streets, you should be safe.

If you want to be around other New Yorkers, I’m sorry to say that I can find no listings for where they tend to gather. Even those sites that show where expatriate NFL fans watch games in cities other than their own came up short.

Sidelights. Minnesota’s sports history is very uneven. Teams have been born, moved in, moved around, and even moved out. But there are some local sites worth checking out.

* Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Home of the Twins from 1982 to 2009, the University of Minnesota football team from 1982 to 2008, and still home of the NFL’s Vikings, although with that infamous blizzard and roof collapse late last season, the desire to get out and build a new stadium for the Vikes has intensified. The Twins won the 1987 and 1991 World Series here – going 8-0 in World Series games in the Dome, and 0-6 in Series games outside of it. The Vikings, on the other hand, are just 6-4 in home Playoff games since moving there – including an overtime defeat in the 1998 NFC Championship Game after going 14-2 in the regular season. From October 1991 to April 1992, it hosted 3 major events: The World Series (Twins over Atlanta Braves), Super Bowl XXVI (Washington Redskins over Buffalo Bills), and the NCAA Final Four (Duke beating Michigan in the Final). 900 South 5th Street at Centennial (Kirby Puckett) Place. Metrodome station on Light Rail.

* Mall of America and sites of Metropolitan Stadium and the Metropolitan Sports Center. In contrast, the Vikings were far more successful at their first home, while the Twins were not (in each case, playing there from 1961 to 1981). The Vikings reached 4 Super Bowls while playing at The Met, while the Twins won Games 1, 2 and 6 of the 1965 World Series there, but lost Game 7 to the Los Angeles Dodgers on a shutout by Sandy Koufax. (So the Twins are 11-1 all-time in World Series home games, but 0-9 on the road.) The Vikings were far more formidable in their ice tray of a stadium, which had no protection from the sun. In fact, it had one deck along the 3rd base stands, and in the right field bleachers, two decks from 1st base to right field and in the left field bleachers, and three decks behind home plate. Somebody once set the Met looked like an Erector set that a kid was putting together, before his mother called him away to dinner and he never finished it. At 45,919 seats, it has a capacity that was just fine for baseball; but at 48,446, it was too small for the NFL.

Prior to the 1961 arrivals of the Twins and Vikings, the Met hosted the Minneapolis Millers from 1956 to 1960, and 5 NFL games over the same stretch, including 4 “home games” for the Green Bay Packers. (Viking fans may be sickened over that, but at least University of Minnesota fans can take heart in the University of Wisconsin never playing there.) The experiments worked: The Met, built equidistant from the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul, in Bloomington, was awarded the MLB and NFL teams, and Midway Stadium, built in 1957 as the new home of the St. Paul Saints, struck out and was soon demolished.

The NHL’s Minnesota North Stars played at the adjoining Metropolitan Sports Center (or Met Center) from 1967 to 1993, before they were moved to become the Dallas Stars by owner Norm Green, earning him the local nickname Norm Greed. The Stars reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 1981 and 1991, but never won the Cup until 1999 when they were in Dallas.

The Beatles played at Metropolitan Stadium on August 21, 1965. Elvis Presley sang at the Met Center on November 5, 1971 and October 17, 1976. 8000 Cedar Avenue South, at 80th Street. A street named Killebrew Drive, and the original location of home plate, has been preserved. Accessible by light rail.

* Site of Nicollet Park. Home of the Millers from 1912 to 1955, it was one of the most historic minor-league parks, home to Ted Williams and Willie Mays before they reached the majors. With the Met nearing completion, its last game was Game 7 of the 1955 Junior World Series, in which the Millers beat the International League Champion Rochester Red Wings. A few early NFL games were played there in the 1920s. A bank is now on the site. Nicollet and Blaisdell Avenues, 30th and 31st Streets. Number 465 bus.

* Site of Lexington Park. Home of the Saints from 1897 to 1956, it wasn’t nearly as well regarded, although it did close with a Saints win over the arch-rival Millers. The site is now occupied by retail outlets. Lexington Parkway, University Avenue, Fuller & Dunlap Streets.

* Xcel Energy Center and site of the St. Paul Civic Center. Home of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild since their debut in 2000, and site of the 2008 Republican Convention that nominated John McCain for President and Sarah Palin for Vice President. The place is a veritable home and hall of fame for hockey in Minnesota, the most hockey-mad State in the Union, including the State high school championships that were previously held at the Civic Center. That building was the home of the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the World Hockey Association from 1973 to 1977. The Fighting Saints had played their first few home games, in late 1972, at the St. Paul Auditorium.

Elvis sang at the Civic Center on October 2 and 3, 1974, and April 30, 1977. The Civic Center is also where Bruce Springsteen and Courteney Cox filmed the video for Bruce’s song “Dancing In the Dark.” 199 Kellogg Blvd. West.

* Target Center. Separated from Target Field by Interstate 394 and 2nd Avenue, this arena has been home to the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves since the team debuted shortly after its 1989 opening. The T-Wolves have only made the Western Conference Finals once, and are probably best known as the team Kevin Garnett and GM (and Minnesota native) Kevin McHale couldn’t get over the hump, before Garnett went to McHale’s former team, the Boston Celtics. The WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx also play here. 600 N. 1st Avenue at 6th Street.

* Site of Minneapolis Auditorium. Built in 1927, from 1947 to 1960 this was the home of the Minneapolis Lakers – and, as Minnesota is “the Land of 10,000 Lakes,” now you know why a team in Los Angeles is named the Lakers. The Lakers won the National Basketball League Championship in 1948, then moved into the NBA and won the Championship in 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953 and 1954. In fact, until the Celtics overtook them in 1963, the Minneapolis Lakers were the most successful team in NBA history, led by their enormous (for the time) center, the bespectacled (that’s right, he wore glasseson the court) 6-foot-10, 270-pound Number 99, George Mikan. The arrival of the 24-second shot clock for the 1954-55 season pretty much ended their run, although rookie Elgin Baylor did help them reach the Finals again in 1959. Ironically, the owner of the Lakers who moved them to Los Angeles was Bob Short – who later moved the “new” Washington Senators, the team established to replace the team that moved to become the Twins. Elvis sang at the Auditorium early in his career, on May 13, 1956. The Auditorium was demolished in 1989, and the Minneapolis Convention Center was built on the site. 1301 2nd Ave. South, at 12th Street. Within walking distance of Target Field, Target Center and the Metrodome.

* TCF Bank Stadium and site of Memorial Stadium. The new home of the University of Minnesota football team opened in 2009. It was designed to resemble a classic 1920s college football stadium, with a reddish-brown brick exterior and a horseshoe shape, much like the 56,000-seat Memorial Stadium, where the Golden Gophers played from 1924 to 1981, before the Metrodome was built. Although its capacity of 50,805 makes it the 2nd-smallest stadium in the Big Ten behind Northwestern’s Ryan Field/Dyche Stadium, the Gophers’ lack of success over the last 40 years or so means they have trouble filling it. The Vikings played a home game here in 2010 after the Metrodome roof collapse, but the capacity (much like that of the even smaller Metropolitan Stadium) makes it insufficient as a permanent new home for the Vikings. The Vikings played a home game at “Old Memorial” in 1969 due to the Twins making the Playoffs that season. The new stadium is at 2009 University Avenue SE, about a block up University Avenue from where Old Memorial stood until its 1992 demolition. The light rail system is expected to be extended to the stadium by the 2014 season.

* Museums. The Twin Cities are very artsy, and have their share of museums, including one of the five most-visited modern art museums in the country, the Walker Art Center, at 1750 Hennepin Avenue. Number 4, 6, 12 or 25 bus. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is at 2400 3rd Avenue South.

Minnesota is famous for Presidential candidates that don’t win, including Governor Harold Stassen (failed to get the Republican nomination in 1948 and then ran several more times, becoming a joke), Senator Eugene McCarthy (failed to get the Democratic nomination in 1968, then ran in 1976 as a 3rd-party candidate and got 1 percent of the popular vote), Vice President Walter Mondale (Democratic nominee in 1984, losing every State BUT Minnesota), and now Governor Tim Pawlenty (who’s already bombed out of the GOP race) and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (who could, conceivably, get the GOP nomination, but is too crazy, stupid and dishonest to win the general election).

Most notable is Hubert Horatio Humphrey. Elected Mayor of Minneapolis in 1945 and 1947, he became known for fighting organized crime, and in 1948, while running for the U.S. Senate, he gave a speech at the Democratic Convention supporting a civil rights plank in the party platform, a movement which culminated in his guiding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through the Senate. He ran for the Democratic nomination in 1960 but lost to John F. Kennedy, then was elected Lyndon Johnson’s Vice President in 1964; won the nomination in 1968, but lost to Richard Nixon by a hair; returned to the Senate in 1970, he ran again in 1972 but lost the nomination to George McGovern; and might have run again in 1976 had his health not failed. He would have been 100 years old this year. Not having been President, he has no Presidential Library, but there is the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, 301 19th Avenue South, only a short walk from the Dome that led former Twins manager Billy Martin, as Yankee manager, to channel his old teammate Yogi Berra and say, “It’s a shame a great guy like HHH had to be named after it.” Hubert and his wife Muriel, who briefly succeeded him in the Senate, are laid to rest in Lakewood Cemetery, 3600 Hennepin Avenue.

St. Paul is the capital of the State of Minnesota. The Capitol Building is at University Avenue and Capital Blvd.

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Bob Wood, a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and a graduate of Michigan State University, wrote a pair of books in the 1980s, about his trips to all 26 stadiums then in MLB, and all the Big Ten stadiums. He said, “How can you not like Minneapolis? No, Minneapolis is lovely. It’s the Metrodome that sucks!” Thankfully, the Twins now play at Target Field, and, from what I understand, Minneapolis and St. Paul are still terrific cities, including for sports. A Yankee Fan should definitely take in a Yankees-Twins game there.