Tuesday, April 1, 2014

It's a Long Season, and You've Got to Trust It

In the film Bull Durham, Susan Sarandon plays Annie Savoy, an English professor at a community college in Durham, North Carolina, and a season-ticketholder for the Durham Bulls -- now in the Class-Triple-A International League, but then in the Class-A Carolina League. She narrates the film, and in her opening soliloquy, she says, "It's a long season, and you've got to trust it."

In real life, Susan Sarandon is a Jersey Girl (Edison High School, Class of 1964). At the time (she was 41 when it was filmed), she was one of the sexiest women alive. Now, at age 67, she still looks damn good.

She's also a Met fan. And, in hockey, a Ranger fan.

Put it together, and she still confuses the hell out of my libido.

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Judging by the first game that both the Yankees and the Mets played in the 2014 season, it could be a long one, and not especially trustworthy.

The Mets opened at Citi Field yesterday, against the Washington Nationals. They led 4-2 after just 2 innings, but blew the lead in the 9th, and imploded in the top of the 10th, trailing 9-5, before David Wright homered in the bottom of the 10th, but it wasn't enough. Nats 9, Mets 7.

The Mets retain their financing issues, and last year's ace, Matt Harvey, will miss the entire season due to injury.

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As for the Yankees: They opened tonight in Houston. It still seems strange to me, seeing the Astros in the American League.

CC Sabathia had nothing over the first 2 innings. He gave up a home run to Jesus Guzman in the 1st, the key blow in a 4-run Astro inning. He gave up another to L.J. Hoes in the 2nd, only Hoes' 2nd major league homer. It was 6-0 after just 2 innings!

As an Arsenal fan, remembering the 6-0 loss to Chelsea last month, this was feeling familiar. And disgusting.

The jokes about CC being too thin started making the rounds. For example: His stomach was flatter, and so was his fastball.

There were also a pair of fielding mistakes that contributed to runs, by new catcher Brian McCann and 1st baseman Mark Teixeira. On the Yankees' first regular-season broadcast on SportsRadio 66 WFAN, Suzyn Waldman compared the Yankees to the Bad News Bears -- perhaps remembering the titular team's game in the Astrodome in the 1977 film The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training. And there were a few Twitterers also making that comparison.

But CC settled down after that. From the 3rd inning through the 6th, he allowed just 2 hits and a walk, and no runs. Dellin Betances pitched a 1-2-3 7th, and Vidal Nuno allowed only a single in the 8th. And there were some good defensive plays, too.

The Yankee offense? Awful.

In the 1st, Derek Jeter was hit by a pitch from Astro starter Scott Feldman. Jeter, hit by a pitch? As John Sterling should have said, "You know, Suzyn, sometimes, you can predict baseball." And, for a moment, it looked like McCann was hurt as well. But both turned out to be fine.

But the Yankees didn't even get a baserunner until new right fielder Carlos Beltran singled with 1 out in the 4th. Then, with 2 outs, Teix walked. Then came the first "Yankees RISPfail" (failure with runners in scoring position) of the season, as Alfonso Soriano went back to his old Strikeout Soriano habit. The Yankees got no more baserunners until the 7th, when they loaded the bases with 2 out, but new 3rd baseman Kelly Johnson grounded into a force play to end the threat.

New center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury walked to lead off the 8th. Jeter singled him to 2nd. Beltran moved them over with a groundout. McCann got his first Yankee hit, to score Ellsbury. Teix singled home Jeter. But, again, Soriano ended the threat, this time with a double play. And the Yanks went quietly in the 9th.

Astros 6, Yankees 2. WP: Feldman (1-0). No save. LP: Sabathia (0-1).
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If you think about it, the last 7 innings were pretty good: Some good hitting, some good fielding, and really good pitching. Even the 2nd inning wasn't too bad: It was 2-2 from that point onward. Alas, the Yankees were once again stricken with 2 of the 3 maladies of last season: Onebadinningitis and RISPfailia. (The other being the Injury Bug.)

I'm not worried about the pitching. But we need more health, and less RISPfail. I don't yet have a good feeling about this team, but based on the last 7 innings, I'm not yet ready to go into full Han Solo "I've got a bad feeling about this!" mode.

The series continues tomorrow night. Hiroki Kuroda starts for the Yanks, Jarred Cosart for the 'Stros.

There are 161 games to go.

"It's a long season, and you've got to trust it."

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One more point I want to make. Attendance. So far, as I type this, 15 teams have completed their home openers. Here's how they rank:

1. Texas Rangers 49,031
2. Arizona Diamondbacks 48,541
3. Baltimore Orioles 46,685
4. Milwaukee Brewers 45,691
5. San Diego Padres 45,567
6. Detroit Tigers 45,068
7. Anaheim Angels 44,152
8. Cincinnati Reds 43,134
9. New York Mets 42,442
10. Houston Astros 42,117
11. Pittsburgh Pirates 39,833
12. Chicago White Sox 37,422
13. Miami Marlins 37,116
14. Oakland Athletics 36,067
15. Tampa Bay Rays 31,042

Most of these were sellouts. But the bottom two were not. Both the Oakland Coliseum and Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field have sections tarped off, because the teams don't think they can sell those seats.

Over the weekend, the Olympic Stadium in Montreal hosted baseball for the first time since September 2004, when the Expos wrapped it up before moving to Washington to become the Nationals. Attendance for the 2 games, both exhibition games won by the Toronto Blue Jays over the Mets, was 46,121 for the Friday night game, and 50,229 for the Saturday night game.

Tonight, the Astros got 42,117 for their opener against the Yankees.

Think about that:

* For a game that didn't count, in a city that supposedly didn't care about baseball (the truth was, they didn't care for getting screwed by the team's ownership), in a hockey city in a hockey Province in a hockey country, for a game without a home team, between the cities of Toronto and New York, neither of which they care for, Montreal got 50,000.

* For a game where the home team has lost 324 games the last 3 seasons, in a football city in a football State, Houston got 42,000.

* For a game where the home team made the Playoffs last season, and has done so in 4 of the last 6 seasons, the Tampa Bay organization didn't even bother to untarp over 11,000 seats, because they didn't think they could sell them, and got just 31,042.

Yet again, the Tampa Bay region has proven that they won't support a winning team.

Move the Rays to Montreal. You wouldn't have to realign the Divisions: They could stay in the American League East. They'd keep the rivalries with the Yankees and the Red Sox -- and improve them, as the distance from the Olympic Stadium is 366 miles to Yankee Stadium and only 316 to Fenway Park. It would also restart the Inter-Canada rivalry with the Blue Jays, which only lasted from 1997 (due to Interleague Play) to 2004 (due to the Expos/Nats move), and is only separated by 344 miles.

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