Friday, July 30, 2021

Scores On This Historic Day: July 30, 1965, Medicare and Medicaid Become Law

July 30, 1965: President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Social Security Amendments of 1965 into law, in a ceremony at the Harry S Truman Presidential Library and Museum, in Independence, Missouri, outside Kansas City.

Former President Truman had tried to get a national health service, offering universal coverage, similar to Britain's passed in 1949, but failed. Holding the signing ceremony at his library was a tribute to his efforts. Also in attendance were each man's wife, Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson and Elizabeth "Bess" Truman, and Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Also, Governor Warren Hearnes of Missouri, for whom the University of Missouri's arena is named.

Although the Amendments increased benefits for people who met the legal definition of being disabled, the two main components were Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare provides coverage for healthcare for people aged 65 and up. Medicaid helps with health care costs for people of limited income, including nursing home and personal care services, which Medicare doesn't cover.

Medicare and Medicaid joined the Office of Economic Opportunity (a.k.a. "the War On Poverty"), and two major education reform bills to form Johnson's "Great Society." Within days of signing this bill, LBJ would add the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It remains the high point of American liberalism.

Canada passed National Health Service with universal coverage in 1967. Australia did so in 1984. In both cases, they use the term Medicare. In America, however, that term is still limited to health care for senior citizens.

*

July 30, 1965 was a Friday. It was the offseason for the NFL, the NBA and the NHL. However, there was a full slate of Major League Baseball games played:

* The New York Yankees lost to the Cleveland Indians, 5-0 at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees were shut out by Sonny Siebert, who allowed only 4 hits, 2 of them by Elston Howard.

* The New York Mets lost to the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-3 at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia.

* The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Chicago Cubs, 3-1 at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.

* The Cincinnati Reds beat the Houston Astros, 7-1 at Crosley Field in Cincinnati.

* The Detroit Tigers beat the Chicago White Sox, 3-1 at Comiskey Park in Chicago.

* The San Francisco Giants beat the Milwaukee Braves, 9-2 at Milwaukee County Stadium.

* The Minnesota Twins beat the Baltimore Orioles, 3-2 at Metropolitan Stadium in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington, Minnesota.

* The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the st. Louis Cardinals, 4-2 at Busch Stadium, formerly Sportsman's Park, in St Louis.

* The Washington Senators beat the Kansas City Athletics, 3-1 at Kansas City Municipal Stadium.

* And the California Angels beat the Boston Red Sox, 9-2 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. From 1962 to 1965, the Angels shared Chavez Ravine with the city's National League team, before opening Anaheim Stadium for 1966, now named Angel Stadium.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Yankees Rebound vs. Rays, Make Puzzling Trade

After getting humiliated in Boston -- much more doing it to themselves than letting the Red Sox do it to them -- the last thing the Yankees needed was a trip to the white elephant in St. Petersburg, Florida. Nevertheless, that was next on the schedule: a 3-game series away to the Tampa Bay Rays. 

Fortunately, Jordan Montgomery kept his recent hot streak alive. He pitched 5 shutout innings, allowing 5 hits and 3 walks, with 5 strikeouts. 

Of course, his big problem lately has been almost no run support at all. This time, after 4 innings, that looks like it would be the case again, as the game was scoreless. But Greg Allen led off the top of the 5th with a double, and DJ LeMahieu singled him home, to make it 1-0 Yankees. 

The top of the 6th begin with Gleyber Torres and Rougned Odor hitting singles, and being driven home on a double by Gio Urshela. Now, Montgomery had a 3-0 lead. 

But Aaron Boone didn't send Montgomery out for the bottom of the 6th. Instead, he let Chad Green pitch it, and he allowed to walk and a home run. Why does Boone make these decisions? Is he an idiot? Or is he following Brian Cashman's orders, and Cashman is the idiot? We may never know for sure, unless Boone gets managing job somewhere else, and gets to prove what he can really do -- good or bad. 

Jonathan Loáisiga rebounded from his Fenway disaster to pitch a perfect 7th. Ryan La Marre hit a home run in the top of the 8th. But Zack Britton allowed another run in the bottom of the 8th. And so, when Aroldis Chapman was sent out in the bottom of the 9th, it was to protect a one-run lead against Tampa Bay, away. 

He got the 1st 2 outs, then issued a walk. Cliché Alert: Aroldis gotta Aroldis. But that also means he's capable of the game-ending strikeout, blowing the last hitter away, and that's what he did. Yankees 4, Rays 3. WP: Montgomery (4-5). SV: Chapman (19). LP: Shane McClanahan (4-4).

The series continues tonight. Nestor Cortes starts for us, Michael Wacha for them.

After last night's game -- indeed, after midnight, in the kind of bush-league move you would expect from the Mets -- the Yankees announced a trade, a puzzling one. They sent Luis Cessa and Justin Wilson to the Cincinnati Reds for a player to be named later.

This is a classic Cashman close-to-the-trade-deadline move. Cessa and Wilson have both been bad relief pitchers, but both have been considerably improved lately. So now, when they're actually strengthening the bullpen instead of hurting it, Cashman hurts it by trading them. And for what? So far, nothing. 

It is widely suspected by Yankee Fans on social media that this is simply freeing up salary, mostly Cessa's, so that Cashman can bring in a big name before the deadline. Or maybe he's just being a cheap prick, like so many other times before. 

The difference between this trade and the white flag trades he made at the deadline in 2016 is that, at that point, I thought the Yankees still had a chance at the Playoffs. This time, I don't think they're going to make it. And even if they do, they won't get very far. That's on Cashman, too. 

Another wasted season, unless whoever Cashman brings in -- either from the Reds or is it part of a 3-way or even 4-way deal -- turns out to be a blockbuster, a game-changer, a season-changer, or even, in Cashman's case, a historical reputation-changer. Because if this there's one guy on the Yankees who needs his reputation changed, it's not any player, it's Cashman.

We shall see.

Scores On This Historic Day: July 28, 1932, The Rout of the Bonus Army

July 28, 1932: The Bonus Army is chased off Capitol Hill by the United States Army.

Those words might not make sense to you. Let's go back, much further than 1932:

The practice of war-time military bonuses began in 1776, as payment for the difference between what a soldier earned and what he could have earned had he not enlisted. America first did this, as you might expect, in the War of the American Revolution. 

In 1783, as the war ended, hundreds of veterans from Pennsylvania marched on the nation's capital, Philadelphia, demanding an increase in their bonuses. They surrounded the State House, soon to be renamed Independence Hall. Congress evacuated, and a few weeks later, the U.S. Army arrived, and kicked them out. Nobody died.

The U.S. entered World War I on April 6, 1917, and made the difference for the Allies, gaining the Armistice on November 11, 1918. In 1924, Congress passed a bill awarding that war's veterans $1.00 per day of domestic service, up to $500; and $1.25 per day of overseas service, up to $625.

Lest you think that Republican Presidents being conservative assholes is a relatively new phenomenon, President Calvin Coolidge vetoed the bill. Congress overrode his veto, and the bill became law. But here's the kicker: This bonus would not be made available to the veterans until 1945. (Which turned out to be the year that World War II ended.)

Then came the stock market crash of 1929, and the Great Depression. President Herbert Hoover did not cause these things, but in 1930 and 1931, he didn't seem to be trying very hard to turn them around. (He never publicly said, "Prosperity is just around the corner," and he knew it wasn't. The)

By early 1932, one out of every four men in the workforce could not find a job. Many of these men were veterans of the war. Some men sold their medals to get money for food, bringing to mind the expression, "What price glory?" The plight of unemployed veterans worked its way into songs, including Bing Crosby's "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?", although that song was not released until a few weeks after the Bonus Army march.

Not for the first time in human history, and not the last, men asked the question, "I was there when my country needed me, so where is my country now that I need it?" And now, Hoover had to run for re-election.

On March 11, 1932, Oregon veteran Walter W. Waters organized a group of fellow veterans and began leading them East toward Washington. Taking their name from that of American troops in France in World War I, the American Expeditionary Force, he called them the Bonus Expeditionary Force. Most news reports just called them the Bonus Army.

They arrived in Washington 43,000 strong -- 17,000 veterans and their families -- on May 28, and camped in tents to the south of the U.S. Capitol Building, on the Anacostia Flats. Like so many other encampments of the homeless across America, it was quickly labeled a "Hooverville."

They demanded that Congress pass, and Hoover sign, a bill into law paying their 1945-due bonuses immediately. On June 15, the House of Representatives passed such a bill, 211-176. There was hope.

That hope was crushed only 2 days later: The Senate voted it down, and it wasn't even close, 62-18.

There seemed to be very little reason for the Bonus Army army to stay. But they did. Through the 2nd half of June. And almost all the way through July.

Finally, on July 28, Hoover had had enough. He ordered Pelham Glassford, the Superintendent of the District of Columbia Police, to get the Bonus Army out.

The Bonusers refused to leave. The police opened fire, and killed 2 of them: William Hushka, 37, an immigrant from Lithuania who became a butcher in Chicago; and Eric Carlson, 38, of Oakland. Both, as they were legally entitled, were buried across the Potomac River in Arlington National Cemetery.

Finally, Hoover ordered Secretary of War Patrick J. Hurley to use the current real Army to get those aggrieved heroes away from Washington. Hurley gave the order to the U.S. Army's Chief of Staff.

This 4-star General sent in cavalry and tanks, and told his troops to do whatever it took to disperse the Bonus Army. Nobody else died, but many were brutally beaten.

Had modern television coverage been available at the time, the outrage throughout the country would have meant that this General would have been forced to resign. Instead, his career continued. His name was Douglas MacArthur.

On November 8, 1932, Hoover was defeated for re-election, losing 42 out of the 48 States then in the Union to the Democratic Party's nominee, the Governor of New York, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In 1933, there was a smaller march on Washington demanding the Bonus. FDR responded by offering them federal government jobs. Those who accepted were better off. Those who refused were given transit fare home.

In 1936, with the Depression easing but by no means over, Congress passed a bill awarding the Bonus, now just 9 years ahead of schedule. FDR vetoed it -- something his hagiographers usually don't mention. Congress overrode his veto, and the Bonus was paid.

In 1944, determined not to make the same mistake, FDR asked Congress to pass a G.I. Bill of Rights. It did, and the returning veterans of World War II got immediate benefits far beyond what those who returned from World War I got.

Walter Waters was never prosecuted for anything he may have done with the Bonus Army. He lived until 1959. First MacArthur, then Hoover, died in 1Got.

*

July 28, 1932 was a Thursday. It was the off-season for the NFL and the NHL, and the NBA hadn't been founded yet. But these games were played in Major League Baseball:

* The New York Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians, 10-1 at League Park in Cleveland. Babe Ruth hit 2 home runs in support of Red Ruffing.

* The New York Giants got swept in a doubleheader at the Polo Grounds. The Pittsburgh Pirates beat them in the 1st game 10-7, and in the 2nd game 9-1.

* The Brooklyn Dodgers split a doubleheader at Ebbets Field. They beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the opener, 9-6, before dropping the nightcap, 8-6.

* The Chicago Cubs beat the Boston Braves, 4-1 at Braves Field in Boston.

* The Cincinnati Reds beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 7-4 at Baker Bowl in Philadelphia. 

* The Detroit Tigers beat the Philadelphia Athletics, 4-2 at Navin Field in Detroit. (It was renamed Briggs Stadium in 1938 and Tiger Stadium in 1961.)

* The Boston Red Sox beat the Chicago White Sox, 2-1 at Comiskey Park in Chicago.

* And the St. Louis Browns beat the Washington Senators, 6-4 at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Yankees Can't Stop Digging

The first rule of being in a hole is "Don't dig." The Yankees are in a hole, and yet they can't stop digging.

In the 4-game weekend series against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, the Yankees had leads in all 4 games. They had their chances to win all 4 games. Doing so would have put them right back into the American League Eastern Division race, and would, at the least, have solidified them as a legitimate contender for an AL Wild Card slot.

Instead, still in a hole, they kept digging.

Domingo Germán started the series finale. He hadn't pitched well lately. This time, he was fantastic. He allowed a walk in the 3rd inning, and through the 1st 7, that was it: A no-hitter. At Fenway Park.

That kind of performance deserves a lot of support. But the Yankees wasted a leadoff double by DJ LeMahieu on the 1st. Two walks and a Roughned Odor single got a run home in the 3rd. A Gleyber Torres doubled and a single by the returning Gio Urshela made it 2-0 in the 4th.

The Yankees wasted a leadoff single in the 5th. Odor led off the 6th with a home run. They wasted bases loaded with 1 out in the 7th, thanks to a Giancarlo Stanton strikeout and Odor flying out. Still only 3-0.

A Gary Sanchez triple and a Torres single began the 8th, and it was 4-0. But they couldn't get anymore.

No matter: Germán for 3 outs in the 8th and Aroldis Chapman for 3 in the 9th, right?

Wrong. Germán starts the 8th by giving up a double to Alex Verdugo. And Aaron Boone takes him out. 

Not because he's obviously tiring. He's not. But because he's thrown 93 pitches, and with Brian Cashman's rules for pitchers, Boone isn't allowed to let a pitcher throw that much. Unless he's pitching a no-hitter. Gotta leave him in as long as he's got that. It's good for publicity. 

So Jonathan Loáisiga is brought in. He's been good most of this season. This time, he allows RBI double (and YES Network viewers could already feel the wheels beginning to come off), RBI single, single, RBI double. He gets nobody out, and it's 4-3.

Boone brings in Zack Britton. Injury has left him a shadow of his former self. He actually gets the next 3 outs, but the 1st 2 are a groundout that brings home the tying run and a fly ball that brings home the winning run.

Had Britton been brought in instead of Loáisiga, the groundout might have moved Verdugo over, and the fly ball might have brought him home, but it would only have been 4-1 Yankees at the end of the inning. 

Instead, it was 5-4 Red Sox, and the worst part is just how inevitable it all felt when it was still 4-1 Yankees.

But, what the heck, it's still only a 1-run deficit. At Fenway. Surely, the Yankees could overcome it. Well, these are not your father's Yankees (of 1996 to 2003), or even your big brother's (of 2009).

Cliché Alert: The Yankees went down quietly in the 9th. Greg Allen flew out to left. LeMahieu grounded to 2nd. Stanton singled. Boone sent Tyler Wade in to pinch-run for him, and he stole 2nd. There was the tying run. But Odor, who had done so well earlier in the game, popped up to 3rd to end it.

Red Sox 5, Yankees 4. WP: Brandon Workman (1-2). SV: Matt Barnes (21). LP: Loáisiga (7-4).

*

So, needing at least 3 out 4 in Boston to legitimately get back into the AL East race, the Yankees had leads in all 4 games, but ended up losing 3 out of 4. They are 51-47, 9 games behind the Sox, 8 games in the loss column. They are 3 1/2 games out of the AL's 2nd Wild Card slot, for all the good that would do them.

Once again, I am enraged. Really, the "quality" of the game should matter more than the identity of the opponent. But I have hated the Red Sox as long as I have loved the Yankees, and this is unacceptable.

I looked it up. The Yankees have had 16 bullpen meltdowns this season. If they had half of them, 8, and at least 1 fewer against the Red Sox, they would be tied for 1st place.
Blame Boone for bad pitching changes all you want. The fact that we don't have a reliever capable of preventing half of those losses is on Cashman.

The hole is getting deeper. Still, Cashman's has the "DIG WE MUST" sign out.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Scores On This Historic Day: July 25, 1965, Bob Dylan Goes Electric

July 25, 1965: Bob Dylan crosses a rock and roll Rubicon. He performs with The Paul Butterfield Blues Band at the Newport Folk Festival in Newport, Rhode Island. They use electric instruments, something the festival had never allowed before, as folk music has traditionally been all-acoustic. 

Dylan had been born Robert Allen Zimmerman on May 24, 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota. He grew up in Hibbing, Minnesota, but found life there dissatisfying on multiple levels. Early early rock and roll stars of the mid-1950s appealed to him, and so anyone who has studied his entire life should have seen this coming. But most people didn't know about that when they became fans of him in the early 1960s. 

In 1961, having dropped out of the University of Minnesota, he came to New York, renamed himself for Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, and started singing folk music in the clubs of Manhattan's Greenwich Village, where Thomas had lived and performed for the last few years of his life. 

He had adopted a persona like that of is that of earlier folk singer Woody Guthrie, with scraggly clothes and a nasal twang. He combined traditional folk songs with his own new compositions, and it didn't seem to matter that he couldn't sing in the traditional sense, or that he wasn't an especially good-looking guy. People were mesmerized by his performances. Soon, men wanted to be him, and women just wanted him.

On April 16, 1962, at Gerde's Folk City on 11 West 4th Street, he first performed "Blowin' in the Wind," and it was a sensation, with its 3 short verses citing the civil rights and antiwar movements. This was less than a year after the Freedom Rides, but a year before American TV viewers saw the firehoses and police dogs of Birmingham, and most hadn't yet heard of Vietnam, let alone realized that we already had troops fighting, killing and dying there.

His self-titled debut album had been released on Columbia Records the preceding March 19. Shortly after the Gerde's premiere, he began recording The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. Released on May 27, 1963, it included "Blowin' in the Wind," "Masters of War," "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," and "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" -- the latter the first in a long line of great breakup songs he would write. 

Any 1 of those 4 songs would have been a great triumph for any writer. Dylan had all 4 on 1 album. He was 3 days past his 22nd birthday, and he was already a musical legend.

That July, he appeared at Newport for the first time, along with the biggest active legend of folksinging, Pete Seeger. (Guthrie, to whom Seeger had introduced Dylan, was still alive, but sidelined by the condition that would kill him 4 years later.) 

Also there were Peter, Paul and Mary (Peter Yarrow, Noel Paul Stookey and Mary Travers), the folksinging trio who recorded what remain the biggest hit versions of "Blowin' in the Wind" and "Don't Think Twice." And Joan Baez, the leading female soloist of "the folk revolution," who helped make Bob famous, then became his girlfriend. Together, these and others closed the show by joining hands and singing a song Seeger, though he didn't write it, made the anthem of civil rights: "We Shall Overcome."

Dylan then began recording his next album, finishing it before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, but not released until afterward, on January 13, 1964: The Times They Are A-Changin'. It included the title track, "Ballad of Hollis Brown," "With God On Our Side," "Only a Pawn In Their Game," "When the Ship Comes In," and "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll." His previous burst of creativity was thus proven to be no fluke.

Just 25 days after the release, The Beatles arrived in America. Each influenced by other tremendously, and it may have been The Beatles who influenced Dylan to switch to electric instruments. Before he did though, he recorded Another Side of Bob Dylan. Released on August 8, 1964, he told music critic Nat Hentoff, "There ain't no finger-pointing songs." There was "All I Really Want to Do," "Chimes of Freedom," "It Ain't Me, Babe," and "My Back Pages," on which the 23-year old Dylan sang, "Ah, but I was so much older then. I'm younger than that now."

Fame and the expectation of his peers were getting to him. Until now, except for a couple of songs on the latest album where he had played piano, it had been just him, his guitar, and the harmonica he wore in a neck brace. No other musicians. For his next album, he went electric, and it was titled Bringing It All Back Home.

Released on March 22, 1965, this was a revelation. It was a reminder of his rock and roll roots, about which his "folkie" fans seemed to know nothing. It began with "Subterranean Homesick Blues," with its angry declaration that, "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

It included "Maggie's Farm," which certainly sounded like a folk song, but the electricity behind it give it a bigger punch. It included "Mr. Tambourine Man," which he recorded in 3/4 time, but the band The Byrds would later switch it to 4/4 time, and give him his 1st Number 1 hit as a writer.

It included "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," with its declaration, "He not busy being born is busy dying." If that wasn't a message to the people who wanted him to remain the 22-year-old golden boy of the Greenwich Village clubs forever -- just as there were others who got upset when The Beatles moved beyond being "The Lovable Mop Tops" -- then the last song on the album certainly was: "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue." 

And on July 20, he released a standalone single, a 6-minute reminder of how their delusions of him, not himself, had let them down: "Like a Rolling Stone." (Rolling Stone magazine was named for this song, not the new British band of the same name.)

So when Dylan, backed by The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, took the stage at Newport on July 25, nobody knew what to expect. Here's what he gave them: "Maggie's Farm," "Like a Rolling Stone," and "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry," each electric.

There was booing, but there's dispute over why. Some have said it wasn't because the electric instruments were blasphemy to the folkies, it was because the sound system was bad, and Bob and the band couldn't be heard properly. The surviving film suggests that this is true, because the songs don't sound much like they did on the records. 

Another legend, that Pete Seeger yelled at show producer George Wein, to turn the amps off, and that, having been refused, the "purist" Seeger tried to chop the cord with an ax, were denied by Seeger himself. He admitted that the problem was the sound system, not Dylan's audacity.

Dylan played 2 more songs, just him, his guitar, and his harmonica: "Mr. Tambourine Man" and, providing a definitive last word for them, "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue." He soon wrote one of the nastiest songs ever written in the English language: "Positively 4th Street," opening with, "You got a lot of nerve to say you are my friend," and going on to really let them have it.

By this point, he had further enraged the folk music community by breaking up with Joan Baez, and marrying someone else, Sara Lowndes, for whom he wrote some of his more interesting songs thereafter.

Dylan would go through many more changes to his career, and did not appear at the Newport Folk Festival again until 2002. As of this writing, he is 80 years old, and still performing. Few people now doubt that going electric was good for him, and good for music.

*

July 25, 1965 was a Sunday. It was the off-season for the NFL, the NBA and the NHL. But, being a Sunday, there was a full slate of Major League Baseball games, including doubleheaders:

* The New York Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians, 3-0 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Mel Stottlemyre pitched a 4-hit shut out, and was backed by home runs from Tom Tresh and Joe Pepitone. Mickey Mantle went 1-for-4.

It was the 1st game of a doublehader. Despite the opener giving Yankee Fans hope, the nightcap prices that, for the old Dynasty, it was all over now, baby blue. The Indians won it, 7-4. Al Downing got clobbered, allowing 6 runs in the 1st inning. Mantle hit a home run in the losing cause.

* The New York Mets split a doubleheader at Shea Stadium. They beat the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1st game, 8-1, but lost the 2nd game, 3-1.

* The Minnesota Twins beat the Baltimore Orioles, 8-5 at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.

* A doubleheader was split at District of Columbia Stadium in Washington. The Washington Senators won the 1st game, 4-3. The Kansas City Athletics won the 2nd game, 5-3. (In 1969, the stadium was renamed for Robert F. Kennedy.)

* The Boston Red Sox beat the California Angels, 5-4 at Fenway Park in Boston.

* A doubleheader was split at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. The Chicago White Sox won the 1st game, 10-6, and the Detroit Tigers won the 2nd game, 13-2.

* A doubleheader was split at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The Pittsburgh Pirates won the 1st game, 3-2. Del Crandall won it with a home run in the top of the 13th inning. The Chicago Cubs won the 2nd game, 5-0. Bill Faul pitched a 3-hit shutout, beating former Cub pitcher Don Cardwell.

* The Cincinnati Reds beat the Houston Astros, 3-1 at the Astrodome in Houston.

* The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the St Louis Cardinals, 5-1 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

* And the San Francisco Giants beat the Milwaukee Braves, 2-1 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

Yanks Get Most Improbable Win In Strangest Season

This is, beyond any doubt -- and beyond a statement I made in a post in 2014 -- the strangest season I have ever seen the New York Yankees have.

Given what the starting pitching matchups were projected to be in this 4-game series with the despised Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, yesterday afternoon's game seemed like the least likely for the Yankees to win. And after dropping the 1st 2 games, with much more favorable matchups, that was depressing. 

But, as Yankee broadcaster John Sterling likes to say, "You just can't predict baseball."

Jameson Taillon started for the Yankees, and allowed 1 run in each of the 1st 3 innings. Ordinarily, in Fenway, that might not be so bad. But the way the Yankees have been hitting this season, pretty much any lead the opponent gets can be considered safe.

This time, Taillon settled down, and got through the 7th without allowing another run. It was still 3-0 Sox.

But former Yankee Nathan Eovaldi was pitching, and the Yankees couldn't touch him. They got a man on 1st with 1 out in the 1st, the 1st 2 batters on in the 3rd, a man on 2nd with 1 out in the 6th, and a man on 1st with 2 out in the 7th. None of them scored.

This was the Yankees' season in a nutshell, the organization driving their fans nuts because they're a shadow of their former selves.

But Eovaldi tired in the top of the 8th. Rookie Estevan Florial led off with a double. Rob Brantly's fly ball advanced him to 3rd base. DJ LeMahieu's fly ball wasn't deep enough to score him. But Brett Gardner singled him home.

That convinced Sox manager to take Eovaldi out, and bring in another former Yankee, Adam Ottavino. He embarrassed the Yankees with them last season, and he's  embarrassing them for the Red Sox this season.

But Giancarlo Stanton greeted him with a ground-rule double. Aaron Boone, whose guesses have been pretty bad lately, smelled victory, and pulled the DH Stanton for pinch-runner Tyler Wade.

Roughned Odor doubled home Gardner and Wade. Tie ballgame. Gleyber Torres singled home Odor. 4-3 New York. The Yankees could get no further, but Jonathan Loáisiga, back from the COVID version of the Injured List, got our of a jam in the bottom of the 8th to keep it 4-3.

Now, it was time for Boone to send Aroldis Chapman out to protect a 1-run lead at Fenway Park. My blood pressure was Oy/Vey. So were my pronouns.

He got Alex Verdugo to ground out. And he struck Kevin Plawecki out. So far, so good. But, Cliché Alert: Aroldis gotta Aroldis. He walked Hunter Renfroe. Then, the wacko nature of Fenway Park resulted in another ground-rule double, this time by Christian Vazquez, that meant a man on 1st had to stop at 3rd. 

The batter was Enrique Hernandez, and a lot of Yankee Fans couldn't look. Chapman struck him out. 

Ballgame over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeee Yankees win! Yankees 4, Red Sox 3. WP: Taillon (6-4). SV: Chapman (18). LP: Ottavino (2-3).

In their strangest season that I can remember, the Yankees got their most improbable win.

The series concludes this afternoon, with Domingo Germán starting against Martin Perez.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

The 2021 Yankees Are Obscene

In 1964, there was a case before the Supreme Court of the United States. In Jacobellis v. Ohio, one of those groups of self-appointed moral arbiters wanted the Court to judge that a particular film, The Lovers, released in 1958 by French director Louis Malle, was pornography, that it was obscene, and that the conviction of the manager of a theater in Cleveland Heights, Ohio who showed it should be upheld.

In a 6-3 vote -- oddly, the Chief Justice of the time, Earl Warren, normally a liberal Justice, voted the more conservative way -- the Court ruled that the film was not obscene, and vaccted the conviction. One of the Justices, Potter Stewart, wrote in his opinion that the 1st Amendment protected every form of artistic expression except, as he put it, "hard-core pornography." And he refused to flat out define that, giving only this definition, which entered the American lexicon: "I know it when I see it." He said this wasn't it, and the self appointed moral arbiters lost.

By the standards of France, where the film was made, it was not a big deal. By the standards of early 1960s America, it was pretty racy, but tame by today's standards.

In 1969, Irving Wallace published a novel titled The Seven Minutes. There was a book within the book, also titled The Seven Minutes, declared to be the most obscene book ever written, because it was about a woman's thoughts during 7 minutes of sex. It was made into a movie in 1971, and yesterday was the 50th Anniversary of its release.

As with the book it was based on, the film tried to make the point that there is a difference between art and obscenity, and that the people should decide for themselves, without any group ordering them to accept a definition.

*

What does this have to do with baseball? This: At some point, we need to decide whether the 2021 New York Yankees are art, or obscene.

Last night, the 2nd game of a 4-game series against the hated Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, may have been the game they most needed to win this season, and they couldn't do it, not even with Garrett Cole as the starting pitcher. It ended up going similar to the game before it, as the Yankees threatened to break the game wide open, but only got 1 run, stranding baserunners, and living to regret it as the game went on.

Gary Sanchez led off the top of the 2nd with a walk, followed by a single by Gleyber Torres and a double by Brett Gardner. And Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez left the game, with a migraine as we later found out. So Phillips Valdez was brought in to relieve, and the Yankees had a 1-0 lead, men on 2nd and 3rd, nobody out, and the Sox bullpen needed to get 24 outs at Fenway. And Gerrit Cole on the mound.

This was set up to be the Yankees' best game of the year.

Instead, Chris Gittens struck out, Ryan LaMarre was hit by a pitch, Greg Allen struck out, and DJ LeMahieu struck out. That was it for the inning.

Giancarlo Stanton led off the top of the 3rd with a walk, and was stranded. Gittens singled with 2 out in the 4th, and was stranded. With 2 out in the 5th, Stanton walked, an advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch, but was stranded. Think about that: Giancarlo Stanton drew two walks, and we did not reward this unexpected plate discipline with any runs.

And then the final nail may have been driven into the Yankees' 2021 coffin in the bottom of the 5th. Cole ended it with 104 pitches. He began it with a strikeout, but allowed a single to Enrique Hernandez, a double to Jarren Duran, a sacrifice fly by Xander Bogaerts, and a home run by Rafael Devers. It was 3-1 Red Sox, and that was it for Cole.

A 3-1 deficit, at Fenway, against the Boston bullpen, should not be too much to overcome -- for a good team. The 2021 Yankees are not a good team. They have shown flashes of past Yankee teams -- 1978, 1996 and 2009 come to mind -- but they are not getting the job done.

Gardner walked with 2 out in the 6th. Stranded. With 1 out in the 7th, Allen was hit with a pitch, and LeMahieu singled. Both stranded. Nestor Cortes, back from the COVID version of the Injured List, gave up 2 singles and a home run by Devers, and it was 6-1 Boston. In the 8th, with 1 out, Torres was hit with a pitch. With 2 out, Gittens drew a walk. Both stranded.

The Yankees mounted a 2-out rally in the 9th, but it was too little, too late: Stanton singled, and Rougned Odor doubled him home. But Rob Brantly popped up to end the game.

Red Sox 6, Yankees 2. WP: Yacksel Rios (3-0). No save. LP: Cole (10-5).

The Yankees are now 9 games behind the Red Sox in the American League Eastern Division, and 4 1/2 games out of the AL's 2nd Wild Card slot. According to Baseball-Reference.com, they have an 11.7 percent chance of making the Playoffs, and this chance has dropped 14.6 percent in the last 30 days. Since the All-Star Break, they are 6-for-55 with runners in scoring position, a batting average of .109.

Yankee RISPfail: As Michael Corleone would have said, "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!"

I'm reminded of a story I once saw in Mad magazine. A character based on Joe Namath interviews a judge, who turns out to be corrupt. He asked the judge, "What kind of cases do you enjoy the most?" The judge said, "Pornography cases! I have to view all the films to see if they're obscene! Isn't this great?" And the Namath analogue says, "It sure does beat looking at old football films. Except for the last few games of my career, which really were obscene!"

In that sense, the 2021 Yankees are obscene. No, they are not pornography. There is nothing about this team that excites a person. Not sexually, not any other way. But they are obscene, with no artistic value. I know it when I see it.

The series continues this afternoon, for all the good that does the Yankees. Especially since the starting pitchers are Jameson Taillon (who, to be fair, has pitched better for the Yankees lately) and Nathan Eovaldi (who has spent all the time since Cashman got rid of him pointing out what a mistake that was).

I may have reached the point where reporting the details of every game the Yankees have left this season is no longer worth it.