Tuesday, June 4, 2013

That's More Like It, Yankees; Deacon Jones, 1938-2013

Andy Pettitte came off the Disabled List and started against the Cleveland Indians last night, but wasn't sharp.  He didn't get out of the 5th inning, turning a 4-1 Yankee lead into a 4-4 tie.  Still, it was good to see him back on the mound.

How did the Yankees get those 4 runs? A Teix message.

Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the 3rd -- the run coming on an RBI groundout by our old friend Nick Swisher -- Reid Brignac led off with a single.  (Every time I hear that name, pronounced "BREEN-yak," I think of the old Boston Red Sox hitting instructor, Walt Hriniak.) Austin Romine, who thus far hasn't been able to hit sand if he fell off a camel, got a hit.  Brett Gardner walked to load the bases.  Robinson Cano grounded into a force out, 1st to home, eliminating Brignac for the 1st out but keeping the bases loaded.

Mark Teixeira came up, in only his 4th game of the season after starting the year on the DL, and hit one out to right field.  A grand slam.

Unfortunately, the Yankees were unable to score additional runs after mounting another threat in that inning.  Travis Hafner flew out, and while this was followed by singles by Lyle Overbay and Ichiro Suzuki, David Adams flew out to end it.

But Shawn Kelley got the Yankees out of the jam that Andy got into in the 5th, and he, Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera pitched the last 4 1/3 innings of the game allowing just 1 hit and 2 walks, and no runs.

Ichiro led off the bottom of the 6th with a walk.  Adams' groundout moved him over to 2nd.  Brignac struck out, and it began to look like another waste.  But Romine hit a grounder that Cleveland pitcher Justin Masterson couldn't get to in time, and Romine beat it out, moving Ichiro to 3rd.  Romine stole 2nd.  And Gardner singled both of them home.  6-4 Yankees.

Now, it's not true that the Yankees traded Swisher to the Indians for Hafner.  It just worked out that each team signed the other team's available outfielder.  But Hafner homered in the bottom of the 7th.  That made it 7-4 Yankees, and that was the final score.

WP: Kelley (3-0).  SV: Rivera (20).  LP: Masterson (8-4).

Seeing Andy pitch (if not well), seeing Teix hit one out, seeing the Yankees score 7 runs, seeing the bullpen pitch brilliantly... After losing 7 of our last 8, including 4 straight against the Mutts and 2 of 3 against The Scum, and seeing as how current opponent Cleveland is also in the thick of the postseason race, that's more like it.

If Swisher for Hafner was an actual trade, here's how it would be working out, after 57 games:

Plate appearances: Swisher 218, Hafner 163.
Batting average: Swisher .258, Hafner .245.
On-base percentage: Swisher .358, Hafner .356.
Slugging percentage: Hafner .489, Swisher .457.
OPS+: Hafner 127, Swisher 127.
Home runs: Hafner 9, Swisher 7.
RBIs: Hafner 26, Swisher 21.

So it looks like a pretty even not-exactly-trade.

The series continues tonight.  David Phelps starts against Scott Kazmir, yet another good player the Mets let get away.

*
David D. Jones died yesterday, of natural causes.  He was 74.

With such an ordinary-sounding name, he needed a nickname.  He got one: Deacon.  He later got another: The Secretary of Defense.

Born in Eatonville, Florida, outside Orlando, on December 9, 1938, he was a football, baseball and basketball star at Hungerford High School.  But since it was the 1950s, and he was black, he couldn't go to the University of Florida, or Florida State, or any other "white school." So he went to what's now called "a historically black college," South Carolina State; and then to another, Mississippi Valley State.  (You may not have heard of S.C. State, and if you know about MVS, it's probably for a more recent legend: Jerry Rice.) Jones wasn't drafted until the 14th round -- and remember, the NFL Draft only has 7 rounds.  He was taken by the Los Angeles Rams, and this turned out to be a brilliant pick.

With Merlin Olsen (also a Hall-of-Famer), Roosevelt "Rosey" Grier and Lamar Lundy (who really gets short shrift in comparison with those 3 outsized personalities), they formed a defensive line known as the Fearsome Foursome -- although that name had already been just for a Giants line that included Grier and Hall-of-Famer Andy Robustelli, a Detroit Lions line that included Alex Karras, and a San Diego Chargers line that included Ernie Ladd.  The Rams' line is remembered more because, unlike Detroit and San Diego, Los Angeles is a big media center; and, while New York is an even bigger one, linebacker Sam Huff was a bigger star than any of the linemen.  The Rams didn't have an offense to match, and so the closest they got to a title with that line was in 1967, when they went 11-1-2, but lost a divisional playoff (round of 8) to the Green Bay Packers.

Jones was named to 8 Pro Bowls.  But he's best known for doing defensive players a major statistical favor. He decided that a term needed to be created for tackling the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage, something that he excelled at due to his great speed.  He thought it was like putting a bag over the quarterback, and so he called it a "sack."

The stat didn't become official until 1982, 8 years after he retired.  Looking back over his career, someone checked his game films, and determined that he had 194 1/2 sacks on his career, a record until surpassed by Bruce Smith and Reggie White.  (Smith is now the all-time leader, with an even 200, to White's 198.) The official single-season record is 22 1/2 by Michael Strahan in 2001, breaking by half a sack that of Mark Gastineau in 1984, with Jared Allen missing it by half a sack in 2011.  But a retrospective check shows that Jones had 26 sacks in 1967, 24 in '68, and 22 in '64.  These were 14-game seasons, not 16-game like we've had since 1978.

He was also responsible for a major rule change: The abolition of the headslap.  This was not a Leroy Jethro Gibbs NCIS-style minor smack on the back of the head, either: He would slap a player on the side of his helmet, the palm of his hand over the earhole.  You don't want that to happen to you, and so the NFL banned it.

George Allen, who later became head coach of the Rams (and had more success leading the Washington Redskins, with whom Jones finished his career in 1974), called him "the greatest defensive end of modern football." A writer for the Los Angeles Times called him "the Most Valuable Ram of All Time." He was elected to the Pro Football, Florida Sports, Central Florida Sports, South Carolina Sports, and Black Sports Halls of Fame.  He was also named to the Florida High School Association All-Century Team, the Rams' 40th Anniversary team, the NFL's 1960s All-Decade Team, and the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team.  Although it took until after their move to St. Louis, the Rams retired his Number 75, and included him in their St. Louis Football Ring of Fame at the Edward Jones Dome, even though he never played for a St. Louis team.

In 1999, The Sporting News named him Number 13 on their list of the 100 Greatest Football Players, the highest-ranked Ram and the highest-ranked defensive end.  A recent vote for the NFL's Top 100 Players ranked him Number 15, showing that, in spite of intervening years and the rise of new great players, his place in history is secure.

After his retirement, he founded the Deacon Jones Foundation, "to assist young people and the communities in which they live with a comprehensive program that includes education, mentoring, corporate internship, and community service." His wife Elizabeth is the COO of the foundation.

Here's a photo of him, about to come down on the greatest quarterback of his time, Johnny Unitas.  Jones once suggested that Unitas wanted to punish defenses the way Jones himself wanted to punish offenses: "If he scored 40 on you, he'd want to put 80 on you.  I respect that."

*

Revised countdown figures, to correct previous mistakes.

Days until the U.S. National Soccer Team plays again: 3, this Friday night, against Jamaica, at their national stadium, Independence Park, in Kingston, in the last, "Hexagonal" round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers, for the region that encompasses North America, Central America, and the Caribbean nations.  Last week, the U.S. team played exhibitions, or "friendlies," losing to Belgium at Cleveland Browns Stadium, and then beating a strapped Germany team at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington.  I plan to do a post based on that game before the Friday night game.

Days until the Red Bulls play again: 8, a week from tomorrow night, against the New England Revolution at Harvard Stadium in Boston.  (Harvard University is across the Charles River in Cambridge, but the stadium, as with most of Harvard's athletic facilities, is on the Boston side of the river.) For some reason, this game is not at the Revs' usual home, Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, where they are tenants of the New England Patriots.  It's the 4th Round of the U.S. Open Cup, America's equivalent of England's FA Cup.  The Red Bulls blew a 1-0 lead this past Saturday night, and lost 2-1 to the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby," against either the New England Revolution, the Philadelphia Union or D.C. United: See the previous answer.  The next league derby is 19 days away, on Sunday, June 23, away to the Philadelphia Union, at PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania.  Under 3 weeks.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 45, on Friday, July 19.  Due to the MLB office banjaxing the schedule with this 15-teams-in-each-League setup, this first series after the All-Star Break will be the first series between the teams at Fenway this season.  Then another series begins at Fenway on Friday, August 16.  Then another in The Bronx on Thursday, September 5, and another at Fenway on Friday, September 13.  Oh yeah, if you're a Red Sox fan, that's a day you want to play the Yankees: Friday the 13th!

Days until Arsenal play another competitive match: 74, on Saturday, August 17.  The opponent, location and time are as yet unknown, since next season's schedule won't be released until June 19.

Days until the next North London Derby: Unknown, again because next season's schedule has yet to be released.  It's been a long time since Arsenal vs. Tottenham was an early-season game (possibly 1988-89, when it came on September 10, the season's 3rd game).  Usually, they wait until November, sometimes as early as October, for the first meeting of the season between the teams.  I have to remember to do a post on "St. Totteringham's Day."

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 86, on Thursday night, August 29, away to Fresno State University in California.  The first home game of the 2013 season will be on Saturday, September 7, vs. Norfolk State.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 100, on September 12 -- on a Thursday due to Rosh Hoshanah, the Jewish New Year, falling on a weekend.  It's away to South Brunswick.  A little over 3 months.  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.) A new coach has been named: Bob Molarz, who turned nearby Carteret High School, which couldn't buy a win while I was at EBHS, into a team that made the Playoffs 9 seasons in a row and won 3 Central Jersey Group II Championships.  He comes to us from the head job at one of our rivals, St. Joseph's of Metuchen, where he coached their first 2 seasons of varsity ball.  A great hire.

Days until the Devils play again: Unknown, as the 2013-14 NHL schedule has yet to be released.  Most likely, the new season will begin on the 1st Friday of October (October 4).  If so, and the Devils debut on opening night (rather than the next night, Saturday), that's 122 days.  Just 4 months.

Days until the Devils play another local rival: See the previous answer.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 177 (November 28).  Under 6 months.

Days until Super Bowl XLVIII at the Meadowlands: 243 (February 2, 2014).  Under 8 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: 248 (February 7, 2014).

Days until the next World Cup, in Brazil: 373 (June 12, 2014).  A little over a year.


Days until Rutgers' first Big Ten Conference football game: 466, on Saturday, September 13, 2014 -- at home, against our most hated rival, now a league rival for the very first time: Penn State.  Yes, even before the 2013 college football season begins, the 2014 Big 10 sked has been released.  I guess that's the difference between the Big East and a real college football league.  Anyway, that's under 16 months.

Days until the next Summer Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 1,158 (August 5, 2016).  A little over 3 years.

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