Monday, June 25, 2012

Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens; Fern Flaman, 1927-2012


Before this weekend's Yankees-Mets series began, Met closer Frank Francisco said this about the Yankees:


"I can't wait to face those chickens. I want to strike out the side against them.I've done it before... I said what I said. I'm not sorry. That's what I think. I think they complain too much about everything."


Chickens?


On Friday night, the Mets backed their closer's idiotic words up. In the bottom of the 1st inning, the Mets tagged Andy Pettitte for 5 runs. After that, Pettitte and 3 Yankee relievers allowed just 1 run on 5 hits and 2 walks, but the damage was done. Home runs by Alex Rodriguez (his 12th), Andruw Jones (his 7th) and Robinson Cano (his 15th) gave the Yankees a chance, but it wasn't enough. Mets 6, Yankees 4. WP: Jon Niese (5-3). SV: Francisco (18). LP: Pettitte (3-3).


Saturday night was a different story, with a better ending. The Mets took a 3-0 lead on Ivan Nova and, well, as they say in English soccer, "Three-nil and you fucked it up!"


Top of the 7th: Mark Teixeira leads off by drawing a walk. Nick Swisher doubled: In an apparently bad year, this was Swish's 20th double of the season and we're still in June. And Raul Ibanez, now 40 years old, tied the game with his 11th homer. (I still can't figure out why the Phillies let him go.)


Met manager Terry Collins replaced starter Jon Rauch with Chris Young, who promptly struck out Russell Martin. Then, seeing as how this was a ballpark in the developmentally ignorant National League, and the designated hitter was not allowed, the pitcher's spot in the batting order came up. Yankee manager Joe Girardi decided to pinch-hit for reliever Clay Rapada with Eric Chavez, who had never hit a pinch-hit home run before.


This must be the Mets' year for "things that have never happened before." Chavez hit one out, his 5th homer of the year. Final score: Yankees 4, Mets 3. WP: Rapada (2-0). SV: Rafael Soriano (14). LP: Rauch (3-7).


Now, you could blame the Met bullpen for blowing this one. But it wasn't the bullpen, or even the manager who brought it in. It was the starting pitching, the hallmark of Mets success (on those rare occasions when they have success), that blew this one.


Which brings us to last night, because the Yankees reversed the process. But they still managed to not lose the game. Because they are not the Mets. They are the Yankees.


It was the most-hyped pitching matchup of the season, the battle of the initials: CC Sabathia vs. R.A. Dickey. And yet, neither man had his good stuff. The Yankees took a 4-0 lead in the top of the 3rd, thanks in part to Swish's 11th homer. (Bad year? He's now batting .268.) The Mets pulled a run back in the bottom of the 3rd. The teams traded runs again in the 5th. The Mets tied the game in the 6th, chasing CC with the "help" of the Yankee defense, which made 3 errors. Dickey didn't make it to the 7th, either.


The game was decided in the top of the 8th, with Cano's 16th homer. With 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, the Mets got the tying run on, but Rafael Soriano slammed the door. Yankees 6, Mets 5. WP: Boone Logan (yes, Boone Logan, now 2-0). SV: Soriano (15). LP: Miguel Batista (1-2).


So the Yankees take the series at Pity Field, 2 games to 1, and win the season series, 5 games to 1.

And where, you may ask, was Frank Francisco, he of the big mouth, who backed it up Friday but didn't appear in the last 2 games? Was he scared to show up? Was he... chicken?

No. He was injured. Yesterday, the Mets put him on the Disabled List, not with flapping gums, or a swollen ego, or even with hurt feelings, but with a left oblique strain.


The Mets are now 39-34, still something of a surprise, in 2nd place in the NL Eastern Division, 3 1/2 games (5 in the loss column) behind the Washington Nationals. (The Nats have 3 games in hand.) Take out the Mets' usual poor performance against the Yankees, and they'd be half a game out, even in the loss column (and they'd have 3 games in hand).


The Yankees? They are right about where they should be: 43-28, 2 1/2 games (3 in the loss column) ahead of the Baltimore Orioles, 3 1/2 (4) ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays, 5 1/2 (6) ahead of the Boston Red Sox, and 6 1/2 (7) ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays.  (The other 4 teams all have a game in hand on the Yankees.)


The Yankees' Magic Numbers to eliminate these teams are 84 for the Jays, 85 for the Sox, 87 for the Rays and 88 for the O's.


Derek Jeter now has 3,180 career hits. Alex Rodriguez has 2,844, putting him 156 away from joining Jeter in the 3,000 Hit Club.


A-Rod has 641 home runs, 19 short of catching Willie Mays, 59 short of 700, 73 short of Babe Ruth, 114 short of Hank Aaron, and 122 short of surpassing Barry Bonds to become the all-time leader -- by the measure officially in place now. Yeah, I know, but until they officially strike Bonds' name from the record books, A-Rod's total, however artificially boosted, will also have to count.


*


Speaking of the Red Sox, they traded Kevin Youkilis, he of the poor attempts to imitate Elvis Presley with his hips, to the Chicago White Sox.


This means that, 5 years later, they have only 8 players remaining from a World Championship * team: Dustin Pedroia, J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and, of course, the big fat lying cheating bastard David Ortiz.


Curt Schilling, another member of the 2004 and '07 World Champion * Red Sox says he lost all his baseball savings, about $50 million, in a video game company, and is blaming the government of the State of Rhode Island, including Governor Lincoln Chafee. Chafee, who like his father John has served as both Governor and a U.S. Senator, is a Republican-turned-Democrat. I'm guessing that doesn't sit well with Crybaby Curt.


Hey, Curt, it could be worse: You could be a Met! After all, they haven't won a World Series since 1986!


And even that one, they got lucky: They faced the Red Sox. Who, as we now know, haven't won a World Series without cheating since 1918. 
Schilling would probably like to blame Woodrow Wilson for that, and Ted Kennedy for 1986.

But who's in first place in the AL East?


As the legendary bandleader Louis Jordan, arguably the inventor of rhythm & blues, would say, "Ain't nobody here but us chickens."


*


Fern Flaman died 3 days ago. In hockey, he was what we sports fans call "a lifer."

Ferdinand Charles Carl Flaman was born on January 25, 1927 in Dysart, Saskatchewan. He played minor-league hockey in our area, for the Brooklyn Crescents in 1943-44. He was called up to the Boston Bruins for 1 game in 1945, for another in 1946, and in 1947 was called up for good. 

His teammate, and later neighbor, Milt Schmidt, said, "If there was anyone tougher than Fern Flaman during my career, I can't imagine who it would be."

Having married a woman from Boston and established a home there with her and their daughter, he was upset to be traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs early in the 1950-51 season. But it worked out, as he helped them win the Stanley Cup. It would be his only title -- as a player.
In 1954, knowing how much Fern loved Boston (he still kept his off-season home there), Leafs general manager Conn Smythe offered to trade him back. He stayed with the Bruins through the 1961 season, becoming their Captain.
He was still one of the best shot-blockers in the League, and his body-checking fit well with the Boston Garden's narrower-than-usual rink and the team's image, which would later get them labeled "the Big Bad Bruins" and "the Lunch Pail Athletic Club."

No less a hockey speed merchant that Jean Beliveau of the Montreal Canadiens said, "When I go near that fellow, believe me, I look over my shoulder." And the greatest hockey player of all time, legendary Detroit Red Wings scorer and tough guy Gordie Howe, said, "He's the toughest defenseman I ever played against."

In 1961, the Bruins offered to make him a player, the head coach, and the GM of their nearby top farm team, the Providence Reds (now the Providence Bruins). He held all 3 roles through 1964, then coached in the minors until 1970, when he returned to Boston proper as head coach at Northeastern University. He coached them for 19 years, being named national Coach of the Year in 1982, and winning the Hockey East title in 1988.

In 1989, he was hired as a scout by the Devils, and helped build the Cup winners of 1995, 2000 and 2003. In 1990, he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
He died this week, from cancer, at the age of 85. The Bruins, the Leafs, the Devils, Northeastern University, and all hockey fans have lost one of the game's great people.

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