Monday, March 18, 2013

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Yankees

In 1979, British writer Douglas Adams published The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the first in a series of science fiction novels that covered a continuing story -- not continuing on Earth, as our home planet is destroyed early in the first book. (Must be that wacky British sense of "humour.")

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the book-within-the-book, is known for its cover, featuring the words "Don't Panic":

It is said that despite its many glaring (and occasionally fatal) inaccuracies, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy itself has outsold the Encyclopedia Galactica because it is slightly cheaper, and because it has the words "DON'T PANIC" in large, friendly letters on the cover.


Yes, I am aware that Arsenal Football Club are mentioned early in the first book, right before the end of the world, which is regarded as a lucky break for them. (It must have been written before the 1979 FA Cup Final.)

But this is not about Arsenal (who, in the last week, won 2-0 away to both Bayern Munich, for all the competitive good that did, and Swansea City).  This is about the first team I ever loved, and still the team that I love the most, the New York Yankees.

First base: Mark Teixeira has a wrist injury, and could be out until June, and could require surgery that will have him out for the season, and may even threaten his career. He is about to turn 33.  His backup will be Travis Hafner, formerly a star with the Cleveland Indians. He'll be 36 in June.

Second base: Robinson Cano is entering his walk year, and the Steinbrenner Brothers may choose to save money by not re-signing him, when he is probably the team's best player.

Shortstop: Derek Jeter is returning from a nasty ankle injury. He will be 39 in June.

Third base: Alex Rodriguez, due to a hip injury, will not play until after the All-Star Break in July; due to a revival of the steroid cloud over him, he may never play for the Yankees again. He will be 38 in July. Slated to fill in for him is Kevin Youkilis. Forget, for a moment, that he was Scum: At the moment, what matters is that he isn't that good anymore. If Youk has to move over to 1st to fill in for Teix, or if either Youk or Hafner is the DH, the 3rd baseman will be Eduardo Nunez, a.k.a. "NunE5."

Left field: Brett Gardner is coming off an elbow injury that kept him out most of last season.

Center field: Curtis Granderson was hit by a pitch in spring training, and had his forearm broken. He is likely to be out until early May. Another former Detroit Tiger, Brennan Boesch, has been signed, and he's got some stick, but there's got to be a reason why the Tigers let him go.

Right field: Ichiro Suzuki is 39.

Catcher: What catcher? As Casey Stengel taught us, "You gotta have a catcher, or you're gonna have a lot of passed balls." Right now the choices are Francisco Cervelli (27 and a career backup), Chris Stewart (31 and a journeyman with a .217 lifetime batting average who's never stuck anywhere), and Austin Romine (22 with 8 career plate appearances in the major leagues, and, even in the minors, he wasn't hitting much).

Starting pitching: CC Sabathia can be counted on. But Andy Pettitte is 41, Hiroki Kuroda is 38, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova have been inconsistent, and David Phelps is still largely an unknown quantity and may appear more in the bullpen anyway. Michael Pineda may never pitch again, and certainly won't appear in the majors until at least June. (On the other hand, while the Yankees desperately need a good catcher, Jesus Montero isn't exactly tearing up Safeco Field for the Seattle Mariners.)

Relief pitching: Mariano Rivera is back for one last season. Forget the injury, he's fine. Forget that he's 43 years old, he's Mariano Rivera. But his replacement as closer has still not been found. Rafael Soriano is gone, and he won't be missed. David Robertson could be the next closer, but he wasn't very good last season. The rest of the bullpen is iffy. Phelps did all right in a middle relief role, but I will never trust Boone Logan, and I have yet to fully trust Cody Eppley and Clay Rapada.

Competition: The Baltimore Orioles greatly improved last season. The Toronto Blue Jays made some key acquisitions, and look much improved. The Tampa Bay Rays have lost a bit of talent, but still have a bit. And the Boston Red Sox cannot be counted on to be as lousy as they were last season. And that's just in the American League Eastern Division.

It sure looks like the Yankees are doomed to their first non-Playoff season since 2008, only their second in a full season since 1993.

It's easy to say, "To hell with that: We are the Yankees, and we will find a way to win." Well, it's hard to see a way through all that.

But you never know: Men have grown old waiting for the Yankees to fall apart, and gone bankrupt betting against them.

Confident? It's hard to be.

Still, we ARE the Yankees.



Hours until the Devils play again: 33, tomorrow night, home to the New York Rangers.  Beat The Scum!

Hours until the Devils play another local rival:  See the previous answer.  Remaining "derby games" in this regular season: Monday, April 1, home to the Islanders; Thursday, April 18, away to Philadelphia; Sunday, April 21 and Saturday, April 27, both away to the Rangers.

Days until the U.S. National Soccer Team plays again: 4, this Friday, against Costa Rica in the last, "Hexagonal" round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers, for the region that encompasses North America, Central America, and the Caribbean nations.  The game will be played at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in the Denver suburb of Commerce City, Colorado, home ground of MLS' Colorado Rapids.  A must-win if America is to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.

Days until the Red Bulls play again: 5, this Saturday, away to the Montreal Impact.  Their home opener, against D.C. United (or, as Metro fans call them, "The D.C. Scum"), was a turgid 0-0 played in a constant snowfall that, thankfully, did not accumulate.

Days until Arsenal play another competitive match: 12, home to Reading.  This week is a break from League play so that national teams can play 2 international matches, a.k.a. an "Interlull."

Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby," against either the New England Revolution, the Philadelphia Union or D.C. United: 12, on Saturday, March 30, home to Philly.

Days until the Yankees play again: 14, on Monday, April 1, at 1:05 PM, at home at Yankee Stadium II, against the Boston Red Sox.  Just 2 weeks.  Beat The Scum!

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: See the previous answer.

Days until the next North London Derby: Unknown, since next season's schedule won't be released until mid-June.  The season will most likely open on the 3rd Saturday in August, in this case August 17, but it's been a long time since Arsenal vs. Tottenham was an early game (possibly 1988-89).  But even if it is that early, that's 152 days.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 164, on Thursday night, August 29, away to Fresno State University in California.  A little over 5 months.  The first home game of the 2013 season will be on Saturday, September 7, vs. Norfolk State.  The schedule is far from complete, with only the first 4 games set, all nonconference games.  The question marks surrounding the Big East, including Rutgers' own bolting for the Big Ten, have forced this.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: Uncertain, since the 2013 schedule has not been released.  But if the usual pattern holds, it will be on the 2nd Friday in September... which, next year, just so happens to be a Friday the 13th.  Oy vey.  Anyway, if that's the way it works out, then it's 179 days.  Just 6 months.  And when it does happen, it will be the first game they play without Marcus Borden as head coach since Thanksgiving Day 1982 (a loss to Colonia High of Woodbridge), as he has left the program.  (Did he jump, or was he pushed? I don't know.)

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 255.  A little over 8 months.

Days until Super Bowl XLVIII at the Meadowlands: 321 (February 2, 2014).  Under 11 months.  Of course, we have no idea who the opposing teams will be.  The possibility exists that either the Giants or the Jets could be in it -- or both.  To this day, no team has ever played a Super Bowl in its own stadium -- in spite of multiple hostings by Miami, New Orleans and various California teams.  Only 2 have done so in their home metro area: The 1979-80 Los Angeles Rams, whose home field was then the L.A. Coliseum, and they lost to Pittsburgh at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena; and the 1984-85 San Francisco 49ers, whose home field, then as now, was Candlestick Park, and they beat Miami at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, which had a much larger capacity than Candlestick.

Days until the next Winter Olympics, in Sochi, Russia: 326 (February 7, 2014).

Days until the next World Cup, in Brazil: 451 (June 12, 2014).  Under 15 months.

Days until the next Summer Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 1,236 (August 5, 2016).  Under 4 years.

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