Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Yanks Lose, Arsenal Fans Rooting for Spurs, USA 2-0 Panama, Belichick & Tebow

I've been sick for a few days.  Last night's Yankee game didn't help.  It was the opener of a 3-game series against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland Coliseum (whatever they're calling it this season).

CC Sabathia (6-5), despite pitching in the park where he grew up as a baseball fan, a pitcher's park no less, didn't have his good stuff, allowing single runs in the 1st and 2nd innings, then 3 in the 4th and another in the 6th.  Preston Claiborne pitched a perfect 7th and Joba Chamberlain a scoreless 8th -- lowering their respective ERAs to 0.47 and 4.73 in the process -- but, by then, it was too late.

Bartolo Colon (8-2), a Yankee in 2011 and a newly-minted 40-year-old, was phenomenal, throwing 6 scoreless innings.  To mix up my sports metaphors, we could barely lay a glove on him.  We wasted some opportunities:

* 1st: Brett Gardner led off the game with a single to right.  Robinson Cano walked.  Mark Teixeira flew out, but Travis Hafner walked.  Bases loaded, 1 out.  But Kevin Youkilis popped up and Lyle Overbay flew to right.

* 2nd: Chris Stewart got a 2-out single, but Gardner grounded to first.

* 4th: Youkilis led off with a single, but Overbay took a called strike 3, Ichiro Suzuki grounded into a forceout, and Jayson Nix flew to right.

* 5th: Cano drew a 2-out walk, but Teix grounded to 2nd.

The Yankees got a bit closer in the 8th.  Three straight singles by Gardner, Cano and Teix brought a run home.  After a Hafner lineout and a Youk forceout, Vernon Wells (pinch-hitting for the increasingly slumping Overbay) singled home another.

With 1 out in the 9th, Stewart singled.  Gardner struck out.  But Cano doubled Stewart over to 3rd.  Teix singled home Stewart and Cano.  So now it was 6-4 A's, and the tying run was at the plate.  But Grant Balfour (16th save) got Hafner to fly to left.

This defeat leaves the Yankees 2 games behind the Red Sox, though only 1 in the loss column.  (The Yankees have 2 games in hand on the Sox.) The Baltimore Orioles are 2 1/2 (2) back, and the Tampa Bay Rays 4 (3) back.

The series continues tonight, with Phil Hughes starting against Dan Straily.  No, I'd never heard of him before, either.  He's 24, from Oregon, and wears Number 67, which is not surprising for a pitcher whose major league debut was less than a year ago (August 3) and has made a grand total of 16 appearances (in his case, all starts).  He was 2-1 with a 3.89 ERA and a 1.322 WHIP last year; so far, this year, he's 3-2 with his ERA rising to 4.67, but his WHIP dropping to a fine 1.135.

Straily is not, however, the proverbial "pitcher we've never seen before." He was, this past May 5, at The Stadium, and on that occasion, while it wasn't pretty, he fit the type.  He barely got into the 6th inning, but the A's still won the game, 5-4.  The main reason the A's won the game is not that they made the Yankees face a pitcher they'd never seen before, but because Boone Logan allowed the go-ahead run in the 8th.  (I may have mentioned this before, but Logan is a bum.)


Better news: The San Antonio Spurs beat the Miami Heat last night.  Clobbered 'em, 113-77, and took a 2-games-to-1 lead in the NBA Finals.

Think about this: The Spurs are going for their 5th NBA Title.  If they get it, then, between them, the Spurs, the Boston Celtics, the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers, and the Chicago Bulls will have won, between them, 44 titles.  Every other team combined? 23.

When you count only those titles won in the teams' current cities, that drops the Lakers' total a bit, but those 4 teams would still be at 39; every other team combined, 16.

It's difficult to be an Arsenal fan at this time: Not only do you have to put up with all the transfer gossip, nearly all of which will turn out to be baloney, and the Wenger Out Brigade demanding giant sums of money be spend on big names (forgetting that Liverpool spent £35 million -- $55 million at the current exchange rate -- on Andy Carroll, who turned out to be one of the great busts in sports history), but, if you have any taste at all, you have to root for a team called "Spurs." And, for a club whose arch-rivals are the loathsome Tottenham Hotspur, a.k.a. "Spurs," that's a hard pill to swallow.

Then again, my illness has made swallowing hard enough.


Better news: Last night, in Seattle, the U.S. soccer team beat Panama, 2-0, and moved to the top of the "Hexagonal" table for qualification for the CONCACAF places at the 2014 World Cup.

Manager Jurgen Klinsmann and forward Jozy Altidore, two misfits if I ever saw one, apparently have begun to work well together.  Altidore, who also did so in the friendly against Germany I attended on June 2 at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington, opened the scoring, this time in the 36th minute.  Eddie Johnson added a goal in the 53rd.

Slight problem: 4 U.S. players picked up yellow cards for fouls: Altidore, goalie Tim Howard, defender DaMarcus Beasley and midfielder Geoff Cameron.  Accumulation of cards can result in suspension; unavailability of certain players could be a problem later on.

Nevertheless, halfway through the Hex, the U.S. has 3 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss, for 10 points.  Costa Rica and Mexico, who played each other to a turgid 0-0 draw last night, resulting in the Mexican fans yet again booing their own team, each have 8 points.  Honduras has 7, Panama 6, Jamaica just 2.  I should note that all 6 teams have played at least 5 of these Qualifiers, but Mexico and Jamaica have played 6.

The top 3 teams advance to the World Cup.  The 4th place team advances to a playoff, the winner of which gets in.  The U.S. still has to play Honduras at home, on June 18 at the home of Real Salt Lake in the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy, Utah; Costa Rica away, on September 6; Mexico at home, on September 10 at Columbus Crew Stadium; Jamaica at home, on October 11 at the home of Sporting Kansas City at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas; and Panama away, on October 15.

If we win our home games, that will give us 19 points, and so even if Costa Rica (23), Mexico (17 -- remember, we've got a home game against them) and Honduras (19 -- remember, we've got a home game against them) win all their other games, we qualify without needing the Playoff.

Our fate is in our own hands: To borrow a cliche that is especially popular in American football, we control our own destiny.

A side note: The word "turgid" seems to have been coined to describe boring nil-nil draws, doesn't it?


Speaking of American football: Once the shock of Tim Tebow actually signing with another NFL team wore off, is anybody really surprised that it was the New England Patriots?

Seriously: Bill Belichick is the kind of guy who will do something just to rub it in, especially to his team's biggest rivals -- in his case, the Jets.  He is a man out of a Johnny Cash song: He would shoot a man just to watch him die, and he would name his son "Sue" -- not so he'd "have to get tough, or die," but for a laugh.

I looked it up: Belichick has sons named Stephen (for his own father) and Brian, and a daughter named Amanda.  He had an affair with a receptionist in the Giants office, breaking up both their marriages.

Not exactly the kind of behavior of which Tebow would approve.  But, what does he care? He's gettin' his money, whether he plays or not.  "Prosperity gospel," indeed.

And you know this is going to come back to bite the Jets in the ass.  Look, I'm not a Jets fan.  I have no personal stake in this.  I don't have to cringe when I type this.  But in some Jets-Pats game, possibly as soon as this coming season, Belichick will put in a trick play that will involve Tebow -- possibly as passer, possibly as something else -- and it will end up being as embarrassing to the Jets as Dan Marino's fake spike on November 27, 1994.  Like that day, it will be a day which lives in Jet infamy.

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