Friday, July 31, 2020

Judge Saves Yanks' Bacon In Baltimore

The Yankees should have cruised to an easy victory over the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards last night. Instead, they blew it -- until Aaron Judge came to the rescue.

DJ LeMahieu grounded out to start the game, but then Oriole starter John Means hit Judge and then Gleyber Torres with pitches. Torres ended up having to leave the game, but he should be fine for the series starting tonight.

Giancarlo Stanton singled Judge home. Aaron Hicks drew a walk to load the bases. And then Luke Voit crushed one to center field, for a grand slam. So it was 5-0 Yankees before the Orioles even came to bat.

But J.A. Happ wasn't going to let it be easy. He allowed 2 runs in the bottom of the 1st inning, and 2 more in the 2nd. It stayed 5-4 Yankees, through an hour-long rain delay in the 6th inning. Adam Ottavino pitched the 5th, but the delay meant Brian Cashman, the real manager of this team (whoever is his field manager is essentially his press secretary), sent in a new pitcher, Jonathan Loaisiga.

He did okay in the 6th and the 7th. But in the 8th, he hit Anthony Santander with a pitch, and then allowed a home run to Pedro Severino. No relation to the Yankees' Luis Severino, but a reminder that, if our Sevy weren't out for the season, he might have started this game, and done better than Happ and Loaisiga.

Top of the 9th. The Yankees remembered that they are playing the Orioles, whom they do not lose to in recent times. Cole Sulser was now pitching for Baltimore. Cliche Alert: Walks can kill you, especially the leadoff variety. Sulser walked Gio Urshela. He got Mike Tauchman to fly to left. But LeMahieu singled.

That brought Judge to the plate. The big man drove one 413 feet to left-center, to save the Yankees' bacon. Speaking of meat: Happ and Loaisiga need to go halfsies and buy Judge the biggest steak they can find.

Zack Britton shut the O's down 1-2-3. Yankees 8, Orioles 6. WP: Loaisiga (1-0, and hardly deserved, ut the letter of the rule says he is the winning pitcher). SV: Britton (2). LP: Sulser (0-1).

The Yankees thus swept this hastily-rearranged series with the Orioles, and come home to finally, at the end of July, play their 1st home game of this Coronavirus-addled season, starting a series with The Scum, the Boston Red Sox.

They come off a 4-game, home-and-home series with the Mets. The road team won all 4 games: The Mets won both games at Fenway Park, while the Red Sox won both games at Citi Field.

The starting pitchers are currently listed as follows:

* Tonight, 7:00, on YES: Jordan Montgomery for us, Ryan Weber for them.
* Tomorrow, 7:00, on Fox: Masahiro Tanaka makes his season debut against Zack Godley.
* Sunday, 7:00, on ESPN: James Paxton vs. Matt Hall.

In addition to Torres' HBP not being especially series, the Yankees got more good news: Closer Aroldis Chapman, who had been stricken with COVID-19, has been cleared to return to play.

So, Yankees vs. Red Sox. The Hundred Year War. Come on you Pinstripes!

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Hasty Rescheduling Benefits Yankees, Hurts Orioles

In the early 1990s, I tried to write a baseball-themed novel. I got about 1/3rd of the way through it, and, for reasons I've long since forgotten, I stopped.

The setting was Garden City, named after New Jersey, the Garden State. I imagined that Newark, Jersey City, Paterson and environs were one large city, with multiple boroughs like New York, with about 3 million people -- at the time, about the same as Chicago and Los Angeles. I made maps, complete with a rapid-transit system.

The Meadowlands Sports Complex was included, with a baseball team that I called the Garden City Knights, which I named after the fictional New York-based team in The Natural. But they had their own NFL team, the Tornadoes, named after a briefly-existing NFL team in Newark. So, in this reality, the Giants and Jets were still in New York City, not the Meadowlands.

And the basketball and hockey teams at the Arena were old ones, not new ones. Calling the NHL team the Generals worked, but I couldn't think of a good team for the NBA team, and ended up with "Palisaders," which I was never satisfied with.

My main character was a sports columnist for a Garden City newspaper. I named him Donald. This was before Trump went into politics, and before I started working for another businessman from New York named Donald. If I were to start over, I would not name this character Donald.

I set the novel in what was then the near future: The year 2000. Obviously, not knowing that the Yankees and Mets would play each other in the 2000 World Series, I meant for the Knights to go on a Pennant run, winning Game 6 of the World Series in a 16-inning 1-0 thriller, and then winning Game 7 in the bottom of the 9th, on a hit (not a home run) -- by the 1st woman to play in Major League Baseball. (This was before the TV show Pitch, and my pioneering character was a catcher, not a pitcher like on that show.)

One other storyline I put in: I correctly predicted that the Florida Marlins would change their name to the Miami Marlins, and I also correctly predicted that they would have a season curtailed by a disease outbreak. In the book, they were nicknamed the Malaria Marlins.

*

Come back to real-life 2020. Major League Baseball does not have a Coronavirus problem. The Miami Marlins have one. One team.

So the Yankees' 4-game, 2-in-Philly-2-in-The-Bronx series with the Phillies was postponed, due to the Marlins having infected the Phillies' visiting clubhouse. The schedule was rearranged and, since the Yankees were already just down the road in Washington, they went up the Parkway to Baltimore, to play a series with the Orioles.

From the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, regardless of how good the Yankees were, the Orioles were good, and drove the Yankees crazy. The rivalry was rekindled in the mid-1990s, but tailed off once the Orioles did. It got going again in the early 2010s, but the Yankees have dominated the last few years.

At least this time, due to virus restrictions, the Orioles didn't have to deal with Yankee Fans "taking over their ballpark." The only people allowed in Camden Yards were essential employees. Unfortunately for the Orioles, those essential employees included the Yankee players.

The Yankees didn't waste any time. On the 1st pitch of the game, DJ LeMahieu hit a home run off Asher Wojciechowski, who may have Met pitcher Noah Syndergaard's hairstyle, but not his stuff. It was the 1st of 4 hits that "LeMachine" got on the night.

The Yankees scored another run in the 1st, before the O's got 1 of their own. From there, the much-hyped Gerrit Cole cruised into the 7th, before allowing a home run to Dwight Smith Jr., son of the former Chicago Cub Rookie of the Year. Cole was not happy about it.

But he had to be happy about the runs support he got. It included home runs by Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks, and some sloppy Baltimore defense. Yankees 9, Orioles 3. WP: Cole (2-0). No save. LP: Wojciechowski (0-1).

The Yankees improved to 3-1. Elsewhere in the American League Eastern Division, the Tampa Bay Rays are 4-2, the Toronto (Buffalo) Blue Jays 3-3, the Orioles 2-2, and the Boston Red Sox 2-4. The Sox dropped the 1st 2 games of their series with the Mets at Citi Field, before coming from behind to win last night.

The Minnesota Twins and the Colorado Rockies are 4-1, the only teams with a better record than the Yankees. The Red Sox are 1 of 9 teams at the current bottom of MLB, at 2-4.

The Yankees and Orioles are scheduled to go again tonight. J.A. Happ and John Means are listed as the starters. If all goes well -- and I'm not talking about winning and losing here -- the Yankees will have their home opener tomorrow night, against the Red Sox.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

How Long It's Been: A Major League Baseball Game Was Played In Buffalo

Tonight, at 6:05 PM, the Toronto Blue Jays will play their COVID-19-delayed home opener, against the Washington Nationals. Because of restrictions in Canada and Pennsylvania, and Florida being just too damn dangerous, it will be played in the closest large American city to Toronto: Buffalo, New York, at the ballpark currently named Sahlen Field.

Built in 1988 as the home of the Class AAA Buffalo Bisons of the International League, it was built with a cabability for addition, in case Buffalo got one of the 1993 expansion teams, raising seating capacity from 19,500 to 40,000. It didn't happen, and capacity is now officially listed as 16,600, still the largest in Triple-A ball.

It was known as Pilot Field until 1995, then North AmeriCare Park until 1999, then Dunn Tire Park until 2009, then Coca-Cola Field until 2019. Sahlen is a local meatpacking company.

The Blue Jays were founded in 1977. From then until midway through the 1989 season, they played at Exhibition Stadium. Since then, they played at the SkyDome, now named the Rogers Centre. Both stadiums were built for football, and had artificial turf. So this will be their 1st regular-season home game at a stadium designed for baseball, and their 1st home game on real grass.

More than that, it is the 1st Major League Baseball game played in Buffalo since...

Well, that depends on how you define "major league." Buffalo had a team in the Federal League, which only lasted 2 seasons. The Buffalo Blues finished 4th out of 8 teams in 1914, going 80-71; and 6th in 1915, going 74-78.

Players of note included former Yankees Russ Ford (a pitcher renowned for his curveball, and no relation to Whitey) and Hal Chase (often hailed as the best-fielding 1st baseman of all time, but known to throw games and later banned from baseball); Solly Hofman, an outfielder who had helped the Chicago Cubs win the 1907 and 1908 World Series; and Hugh Bedient, a pitcher who had helped the Boston Red Sox win the 1912 World Series.
Hal Chase in a Buffalo Blues uniform

They played at the International Fair Association Grounds, a few blocks away from Olympic Park, where the Triple-A Bisons then played. That ballpark would be replaced by Offermann Field in 1924. In 1960, the Bisons moved into War Memorial Stadium, which had been built for football in 1938, and was home to the AFL's/NFL's Buffalo Bills until 1972. The ballpark scenes from The Natural were filmed there in 1983. It was demolished after the Bisons moved to Pilot/Sahlen Field in 1988.

But if you don't count the Federal League as "major," then the last MLB game in Buffalo was played on October 7, 1885, at Olympic Park. The Bisons, then a National League team, got swept in a doubleheader, 4-0 and 6-1, by the Providence Grays. Despite winning the Pennant the year before, this was also the last day of competition for the Grays. Rhode Island has not returned to the major leagues since, and, except for the Federal League, Western New York hasn't, either -- until now.

Although Buffalo has an NFL team and an NBA team, and it has an in-city population of 261,000 that isn't that much less than those of St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, its metropolitan area population of 1,135,000 ranks it 51st among American metro areas. The current smallest area with an MLB team, Milwaukee, has over half a million more: 1,671,000. If you count Canadian cities, Buffalo drops to 56th.

It makes more sense to use the FL Blues, rather than the NL Bisons, as the basis for this post. By that measure, the last MLB game played in Buffalo, or anywhere in Western New York, was on September 8, 1915, before the Blues went on a season-ending 17-game roadtrip: It was a doubleheader, and the Blues swept it, beating the FL version of the Baltimore Orioles, 4-0 and 5-4. Attendance was listed at 5,000, but even that may have been exaggerated.

So that's a little less than 105 years. How long has that been?

*

Had you been around back then, you would have had to be in the ballpark to find out what happened as it was happening. There was no Internet, because there were no computers. There was no television. There was radio transmission, but not radio broadcasting the way that there would be from 1920 onward.

There were no photocopies, credit cards or automatic teller machines. Air conditioning was hardly known. Very few people had telephones. In spite of the fiction of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, no one had yet launched a rocket toward space.


Had you been around back then, if you were in the home country of the home team, you were probably safe from being drafted to fight in World War I. But Buffalo is a border city, and some people at the game might have come over from Canada. Some of them stood a good chance of being drafted – not for their own country, so much, as for the British Empire, to which Canada was still, essentially, a client nation.

Today, Queen Elizabeth II is Canada's head of state – officially, she is "Queen of Canada" – but this is largely a ceremonial post. Her grandfather, King George V, was commander-in-chief, and Prime Minister Robert Borden (now on Canada's $100 bill) answered to him.

Not counting the Federal League, what we would now call Major League Baseball had 16 teams. None was further west than St. Louis. None was further south than St. Louis, Cincinnati or Washington. There was a National League team in Boston, an American League teams in Philadelphia and St. Louis. The New York Yankees had only been the Yankees officially for 3 seasons, as they were the Highlanders before that. And they had never won a Pennant.

All of these facts are no longer true.

There was professional football, but no National Football League, and the governing body of Canadian football was the Canada Rugby Union, not the Canadian Football League. There was basketball, but not really any professional basketball to speak of. There was no National Hockey League.

There was the National Hockey Association in the East, and the Pacific Coast Hockey Association in the West, and the champions of those leagues would face each other for the Stanley Cup until 1917, when the NHL replaced the NHA. Then, the NHL and PCHA champions would face each other for the Cup, until 1926, when it became an all-NHL affair. 

The Vancouver Millionaires had won the Cup. No Vancouver team has won it since. The Boston Braves would still be baseball's World Champions for another few days, before being succeeded by the nearby Red Sox.

The idea of flying an airplane anywhere was risky; that of flying one across the Atlantic Ocean was lunacy. Charles Lindbergh was in junior high school. The automobile was becoming more affordable, and thus more popular, but most cars were still open rather than enclosed. Only in this year were the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts (specifically, New York and San Francisco) linked by telephone wires. Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison were both still alive, and would be for several years to come.

Babe Ruth was a rookie, and mainly a pitcher. So was George Sisler, who went on to become one of the best hitters, and one of the best 1st basemen, the game has seen to this day. Baseball's biggest stars, as they had been for a few years, were Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Walter Johnson, Eddie Collins, and "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. Christy Mathewson and Nap Lajoie each had 1 more season in him; Honus Wagner, 2 more.

Lou Gehrig was 12 years old. Joe DiMaggio was 10 months old. Ted Williams, Bob Feller, Stan Musial and Jackie Robinson would all be born over the next 5 years and change.

The top player in pro football, such as it then was, was Jim Thorpe of the Canton Bulldogs, the 1912 Olympic decathlon champion. The Heavyweight Champion of the World was Jess Willard, who had taken the title by knocking out Jack Johnson, the 1st black Champion, earlier in the year. Willard ended up defending his title just once, in 1916, before getting slaughtered by Jack Dempsey in 1919.

None of these sports stars of 1915 would live to see 1977. Mathewson wouldn't even live to see 1926, Johnson died in 1946, Ruth in 1948, Collins and Jackson in 1951, Speaker in 1958, Lajoie in 1959, Cobb in 1961, and Sisler made it to 1973.


Such was medicine at the time. There were no antibiotics. This, alone, helped to keep the average human life expectancy at around 50. Also, artificial organs were not yet possible. Transplantation of organs was not possible. There was no polio vaccine. Insulin was known to exist, but was not yet used to treat diabetes. There was no birth control pill, but there was no Viagra, either. 

The English Football League was won by Everton, the blue club in Liverpool. The FA Cup was won by Sheffield United, the red club in Sheffield. Due to wartime travel restrictions in London, the Final was played at Manchester United's Old Trafford ground, even though the other team, Chelsea, was a London club.


This was the last season of English soccer before the end of the war, and when the game resumed, Liverpool and Manchester United were punished for fixing a match at the end of the 1915 League season. This led to the sports-administration equivalent of a plea-bargain: In exchange for the support of London club Arsenal against a rougher penalty, those clubs would support Arsenal's admission to the League's Division One – at the expense of the team that finished last in the last League season of 1915, which just so happened to be Arsenal's arch-rivals, Tottenham Hotspur.

(And now you know the story behind Spurs fans' claim of how Arsenal "cheated" to get into the first division: They didn't. And Spurs were not yet in North London, or in London at all: The city's boundaries would be redrawn in 1965, and that's how "the Middlesex club" got into the city.)

The Mayor of Buffalo was Louis P. Fuhrmann. The Mayor of New York was John Purroy Mitchel, the Governor of New York was Charles S. Whitman (no relation to the 1966 University of Texas sniper), and the Governor of New Jersey was James F. Fielder. None of these men would live to see 1955.


The President of the United States was Woodrow Wilson. Former Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft were still alive. So were the widows of James Garfield and Grover Cleveland. Warren Harding had just been sworn in as U.S. Senator from Ohio. Calvin Coolidge was a State Senator in Massachusetts. Herbert Hoover was running food-relief efforts to Europe as it was stricken by World War I. Franklin Roosevelt was Assistant Secretary of the Navy, a position his cousin Theodore had once held. 

Harry Truman was farming in Missouri. Dwight D. Eisenhower was about to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Lyndon Johnson was in elementary school; Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan hadn't yet started school. John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, both George Bushes, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden were not yet born.

The Motion Picture Directors Association, forerunner of the Screen Directors' Guild, was founded in 1915. The films they made were all silent. Audrey Munson, a sculptor's model, became the first woman to appear nude in a mainstream film, Inspiration. (No print of this film survives, but a few photos of her so unclothed do – and, how can I put this politely, she was a good choice.)


Broncho Billy Anderson, Harold Lloyd, Theda Bara (the first actress to be called a "vamp" and the performer with a higher percentage of lost films than any other actor with a Hollywood star on the Walk of Fame), Mary Pickford, and a young Charlie Chaplin were the biggest film stars of the time.

Vaudeville star W.C. Fields made his film debut, in Pool Sharks. Douglas Fairbanks (not yet married to Pickford) made his film debut, in The Lamb. The film Regeneration was released, and is considered the 1st gangster film.

D.W. Griffith premiered his film The Birth of a Nation, with its pro-South and pro-Ku Klux Klan propaganda; Griffith gave President Wilson a private screening in the White House, and Wilson said, "It is like writing history with lightning," (true, I suppose) and, "It is all so terribly true" (the hell it was).

Indeed, the American Civil War had only been over for 50 years, and there were still living veterans of the Mexican-American War (1846-48) and the Texas War of Independence (1836) – which included the Battle of the Alamo, which Griffith made into the film Martyrs of the Alamo. I wonder if he knew that the Texans were slaveholders? Maybe he did, and still didn't think the victorious Mexicans were the good guys.


J.R.R. Tolkein was about to graduate from Exeter College, Oxford. C.S. Lewis was studying at Lurgan College, in County Omagh in what is now Northern Ireland. F. Scott Fitzgerald was at Princeton University, and James Thurber was at The... Ohio State University.

Ernest Hemingway was 16 years old, Margaret Mitchell was 14, John Steinbeck was 13, Theodor Seuss Geisel was 11, Ian Fleming and Richard Wright were 7, and Tennessee Williams was 4 (and still going by Thomas Lanier Williams III). Albert Camus and William S. Burroughs were babies. Arthur Miller was born the next month. The births of Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, George R.R. Martin and J.K. Rowling were well into the future.

Edgar Rice Burroughs had published Tarzan of the Apes just 3 years earlier. He preceded every superhero, none of whom had yet been created; indeed, Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had been born only the preceding year, and Batman creator Bob Kane was born the next month.

Laurel & Hardy had not yet met. Nor had Abbott & Costello. The Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges had not yet begun their acts. No one had yet heard of Zorro, Hercule Poirot, Our Gang (a.k.a. the Little Rascals), Charlie Chan, the Hardy Boys, Mickey Mouse, Popeye, Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon.

Inflation has been such that what $1.00 would buy then, $25.52 would buy now. A U.S. postage stamp cost 2 cents, and a New York Subway ride 5 cents. The average price of a gallon of gas was 15 cents, a cup of coffee 15 cents, a movie ticket 7 cents, a Ford Model T $390, and a new house $3,200. Don't ask what a burger-fries-and-Coke meal cost: French fries, as we now know them, didn't exist yet, and the hamburger hadn't yet caught on. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed that day at 81.16. No, that is not a misprint: Eighty-one point sixteen.

The tallest building in the world was the Woolworth Building in New York. There were no telephone numbers as we now understand the term: You just asked the operator to connect you with someone else's phone. There were no ZIP Codes, either.

There was a World's Fair in 1915, the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, and it marked that city's coming-out party as a completion of its comeback from its 1906 earthquake and resultant devastating fire.

This expo introduced the mainland U.S. to the ukulele. Popular songs of 1915 included "I Love a Piano" by Irving Berlin, "M-O-T-H-E-R" by Howard Johnson (not the hotelier, or the 1980s Mets 3d baseman), "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" by Alma Gluck, and the World War I-themed songs "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" by John McCormack, "Pack Up Your Troubles" by George Asaf, and "I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier" by Alfred Bryan.

In the late Summer and early Autumn of 1915, the Ottoman Empire was undertaking the Armenian Genocide, leading to the deaths of 1.5 million people. Britain's military made the combat debuts of the tank and the aircraft carrier. The British also used poison gas for the 1st time, at the Battle of Loos, after the German Army had debuted it earlier in the year. The Imperial Russian Army abandoned Warsaw, allowing the Polish capital to be occupied by Germany.

In events unrelated to sports or World War I, construction had recently begun on the Lincoln Memorial. The Pennsylvania Railroad began electrified commuter rail service, between Philadelphia and Paoli. John B. Gruelle patented the Raggedy Ann doll. And the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that persons from the Middle East were racially "white," and had the right to become naturalized U.S. citizens. (Try getting a federal court with Bush and Trump appointees to make that ruling now.)

Paul Ehrlich, and Anthony Comstock, and Albert Goodwill Spalding died. Ingrid Bergman, and Hall of Fame basketball coach Pete Newell, and Hall of Fame hockey goaltender Frank Brimsek were born.

September 8, 1915. A Major League Baseball game is played in Buffalo, New York. With the Buffalo Blues playing the rest of their season on the road, and the Federal League then folding, no MLB game has been played in Buffalo since.

Tonight, that will no longer be the case, as the Toronto Blue Jays "host" the Washington Nationals. For the 1st time in 105 years, "The City of Light" will host baseball at the highest level.

It will only be for the next 2 months -- 3, if the Jays make the Playoffs. But maybe this will show people that Buffalo should be treated as a major league city.

Top 5 Reasons You Can’t Blame George Steinbrenner for Hiring Billy Martin 5 Times

July 24, 1978: Billy Martin resigns as manager of the New York Yankees.

Over the course of the 1977 season, Billy said that team owner George Steinbrenner had fired him 5 times, and he'd "fired himself 3 times." The Yankees won the World Series anyway.

But in '78, injuries mounted, and so did tension between Billy and George, and between Billy and Reggie Jackson. On July 17, Billy suspended Reggie for disobeying a sign. On July 23, when Reggie returned, Billy was getting on a plane for the team's roadtrip to Kansas City, and a sportswriter asked him what George thought about all of it. Referring to comments Jackson had made and team owner George Steinbrenner's 1972 violation of campaign-finance laws: "They're made for each other. One's a born liar, the other's convicted."

That was it: Billy had to go. George flew out to Kansas City, too, and Billy knew the game was up. He announced his resignation, but who was kidding who. He was replaced by Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Lemon, who had previously managed the Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox.

July 29, 1978: Old-Timers' Day at Yankee Stadium. A big question was whether Billy would be invited -- and, if so, whether he would accept. He did, and public address announcer Bob Sheppard read an announcement that Lemon would remain the manager through the end of the 1979 season, and then become the general manager. At which point, the field manager would, again, be Billy Martin.

Billy ran out onto the field in his Number 1 uniform, and got the greatest ovation of his career. And, under Lemon, the Yankees rebounded, got healthy, and won another World Series.

Billy's first tenure as manager was his most awkward -- but also, by far, his most successful. Although he returned in mid-1979, for the 1983 season, for most of 1985, and for the start of 1988, he only managed another 470 games for the Yankees -- almost exactly as many games as he managed in his first tenure (471).

And while he came very close to getting the Yankees into the postseason in 1985, by 1988 he was a neurotic relic. He died in a car crash on Christmas Day 1989, and there are those who believe that George was thinking of hiring him for Billy VI.

Why did Billy keep accepting George's offers? Because managing the Yankees meant everything to him. Too much.

Why did George keep bringing Billy back?

Top 5 Reasons You Can’t Blame George Steinbrenner for Hiring Billy Martin 5 Times

5. The Death of Jerry Lemon. On October 27, 1978, just 10 days after Bob Lemon managed the Yankees to win the World Series, his son Jerry was killed in a car accident. Bob was not emotionally prepared to manage the Yankees in 1979, and, in mid-season, George moved him to a scouting position, and brought Billy back.
Had Jerry not been killed, the plan would have been kept in place: In 1979, Bob manages; in 1980 and onward, Billy manages and Bob is GM. Would Billy have survived the contretemps over Mike Ferraro in the 1980 American League Championship Series? Maybe: I can imagine Billy sacrificing a coach to keep his job. Then, Billy could have won the 1981 World Series. And then, who knows?

4. Dick Howser. Once Billy's 3rd base coach, he got the Yankees to the AL Eastern Division title in 1980, but they lost the ALCS to the Kansas City Royals. George and Dick got into a huge argument, and Dick said the heck with this, I'm out.
He never returned to the Yankees. Ironically, despite having won the Royals their 1st Pennant, Jim Frey was fired as manager the next year, and replaced with Howser. He got the Royals to the AL Western Division title in 1984, and then took them all the way in 1985. But he developed cancer, and died in 1987.

Had George and Dick worked things out, Dick might have won it all in 1981. After all, a returned Lemon got them to within 2 games of a title. Things might not have fallen apart under Dick in 1982, the way they did under Lemon and then Gene Michael.

Dick might have managed the Yankees all the way until the 1986 All-Star Game -- which was the last game he ever managed, before leaving the Royals to focus on his health, unsuccessfully as it turned out.

Dick can hardly be blamed for not sticking with George. But if Dick I had not ended, there might still have been a Billy II later, but there probably wouldn't have been a Billy III, a Billy IV, or a Billy V.

3. George Was a Sucker. He loved a hard-luck story. Yes, putting one over on the Mets was why he acquired Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and David Cone, and it might also have had something to do with why he hired Joe Torre. But Darryl and Doc, especially, had fallen on hard times, and George thought that, if someone showed faith in them, they could rebound and help the Yankees. He was right.

And nobody in baseball was a rebound guy as much as Billy Martin. George always thought Billy could be redeemed. And, competitively, this seemed to be true. It was off the field where Billy ruined himself.

2. Billy's Loyalty. Here's a list of men other than Billy Martin who managed for George twice from Billy's "resignation" in 1978 until George's ban in 1990: Bob Lemon, Gene Michael, Lou Piniella. Once in that stretch? Dick Howser, Clyde King, Yogi Berra, Bucky Dent, Stump Merrill.

George liked to say that he never fired anybody, he just moved them around in the organization. In the case of Lemon, Michael, Piniella, King and Merrill, that was true. But Howser, Berra and Dent all said, "Forget it," and didn't come back. They quit on George. I can't blame them.

Billy never quit on George. Even the 1st time, when, officially, it was a resignation, it wasn't, "I've had enough of this guy." It was, "I blew it, and I have to go, and I know it." But he came back when George apologized.

This makes it sound like Billy was a battered wife, always returning to the domestic abuse. Well, Billy abused George a bit as well.

1. Winning. The 5th time: The Yankees were doing okay, until an injury crisis hit. On June 22, 1988, the Yankees lost for the 4th straight time in Detroit, the last 3 in walkoff fashion, but they were still only 2 1/2 games out of 1st place. It was off-the-field stuff that led George to fire Billy. They were 40-28. After that, with Piniella in charge? 45-48. They ended up 3 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox.

The 4th time: They were 6-10 when George fired Yogi on April 29, 1985, and Billy led them to 91-54 the rest of the way. They finished 2 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays. On June 11 and 12, the Yankees lost to the Jays, at home, in extra innings. Had they won either of those games, the AL East race would have ended tied.

Given the injuries the Yankees had, it might have been Billy's best managing job ever. Again, it was off-the-field stuff that led George to fire Billy.

The 3rd time: In 1983, the Yankees went 91-71, 7 games behind the Baltimore Orioles. There was little wrong with Billy's managing that year. And, given that the Yankees had been awful the year before, and were in a bit of a transition, this was a good job.

The Detroit Tigers ran away with the Division the next year, but if Billy had been kept on, to build with that team, the 1985 race might have had a very different ending. This time, it's not clear why George fired Billy. Certainly, a 12-game improvement can't be considered a failure.

The 2nd time: As I said, Lemon lost his son to a car crash right after the 1978 World Series, and his heart wasn't in managing. Replacing him on June 18, 1979, with the Yankees at 34-31 and in yet another injury crisis, was the right thing to do.

Was bringing Billy back the right thing to do? From that point onward, they went 55-40 under Billy -- including 31-23 after Thurman Munson was killed in a plane crash on August 2. So they didn't fall apart after Thurman died. Billy got them back on the right track, although the Orioles ran away with the Division. So why didn't George keep Billy for 1980? Again, an off-the-field incident.

So Billy did well as Yankee manager in runs 2 through 5, but not quite well enough to make the Playoffs.

But the 1st time? He won. Let's face it: If the Yankees hadn't won the Pennant in 1976, George probably would have fired Billy outright in 1977, instead of giving him several "one last chance"s, and he might not have won the Pennant in 1977, either. And he might never have won a Pennant, under any manager.

And then, George would have gone down in history as the blowhard who wasted all that money on the Yankees and got nothing out of it.

Billy needed George. But George needed Billy, too.

VERDICT: Not Guilty.

Monday, July 27, 2020

You Want to Keep Politics Out of Sports? You Can't.

You want to keep politics out of sports? Dream on.

You don't want people kneeling as the National Anthem is being played before a game?

In case you haven't noticed, playing the National Anthem before the game is a political act. So maybe we should just stop playing it before games.

Hell, just having a City's or State's name as part of a team's name could be considered a political act.

Would you rather do it the way Japan does it, and have corporate names in place of city names? The 2 teams in Tokyo in Japan's baseball league are the Yomiyuri Giants, named for a newspaper; and the Yakult Swallows, named for a dairy.

We could have the JPMorganChase Yankees, the CitiGroup Mets, the Blue Cross Red Sox (that sounds dumb, but Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is already one of their sponsors), the Wrigley Cubs, the Budweiser Cardinals, the Coca-Cola Braves, and...

The Dodge Dodgers. And, with a supermarket chain, the Giant Giants. There is no longer a 1st Mariner Bank, so the 1st Mariner Mariners is out. One name that could work out is if Kraft bought the naming rights to the Phillies, and named them after their brand of cream cheese: They would still be the Philadelphia Phillies.

But, "Keep politics out of sports"? As if.

Nobody says, "Stick to sports (or whatever it is that you do professionally), leave politics out of it" when they agree with your politics. None of these "patriots" (in New England or otherwise) is telling Mike Ditka to shut the hell up about the kneeling and stick to football.

And as for the people telling entertainers to stop talking about politics: Fool, you voted for Donald Trump, because you saw him on television and you thought he was rich and competent -- and he is neither.

You want to keep politics out of sports? No, you can't. Don't even try.

So put the sweatiest of socks in it.


Torres Sparks Yankee Comeback In Washington, But Fear Floats In Philly

The Yankees were totally flat on Saturday night at Nationals Park, so they needed a big rebound game yesterday afternoon. And, for most of the game, it looked like it wasn't going to happen.

With Masahiro Tanaka unavailable due to concussion comeback protocol (he pitched a simulated game in Scranton), and Domingo Germán unavailable due to being suspension without the due process of law (based on the word of one man who is too much of a coward to identify himself or his evidence), it was another "cast of thousands" pitching performance. Or, as Brian Cashman calls it, "All part of the plan."

Jonathan Loáisiga went 3 innings, allowing a run on 2 hits and a walk. Not bad, if your team will hit for you. David Hale allowed a run in the 4th. The Yankees got a scoreless 5th inning from Adam Ottavino, and Chad Green, frequently the starter in a situation like this, pitched a hitless 6th and 7th.

But you gotta score runs. And Patrick Corbin, a Yankee target each of the last 2 seasons but stinking with Washington, retired 18 of the 1st 19 batters he faced. It looked like it wouldn't be our day.

With 1 out in the 7th, Gleyber Torres, recognizing once again the words of the poet Robert W. Service -- "Now, a promise made is a debt unpaid" -- hit a home run. Nats manager Dave Martinez decided it was time to pull Corbin. This "Cashman made me do it, but I can't actually say that, so I, as the manager, have to look like an idiot before the public" move backfired, as Martinez brought in Will Harris, and Luke Voit homered off of him to tie it.

Cliche Alert: Walks can kill you, especially the leadoff variety. Aaron Hick walked to lead off the top of the 8th. Gary Sanchez struck out, but DJ LeMahieu singled. Aaron Judge flew out to left, but Torres came through again, singling home Hicks to make it 3-2 Yankees.

Tommy Kahnle got into a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the 8th -- partly thanks to an error by Cashman's golden boy Torres, putting the hero in position to be the goat instead, and I do mean goat, not "G.O.A.T." -- but worked out of it. Zack Britton, in place of the COVID-afflicted but recovering Aroldis Chapman, finished it off.

Yankees 3, Nationals 2. WP: Green (1-0). SV: Britton (1). LP: Sean Doolittle (0-1).

Now, the Yankees have to go to Philadelphia, where the Phillies just played the Miami Marlins, who had a COVID outbreak, and will be using the same visitors' clubhouse.

I am not blaming the Phillies. After all, the Marlins are in Florida, which, right now, is "the front" in this war, because Governor Ron DeSantis is a Trump-pandering asshole.

And Trump canceled his August 15 first ball ceremony at Yankee Stadium, because he says he's focusing on the pandemic. The real reason is that he doesn't want to see the players kneeling in a Black Lives Matter gesture. The coward.

Just our luck, half the team will come down with it -- and the Scranton callups will come through, until they don't, which will be when the regulars would come back, but they'd reach the postseason, and then..

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. It's 2 games in Philly, followed by 2 games with the Phillies in The Bronx. Come on you Bombers!

Back in New York, the Mets got clobbered 14-1 by the Atlanta Braves, after a 9th-inning bullpen meltdown the night before.

So, it's a typical season for the Mets: The highlight was a win on Opening Day, and now, it's late July, and they're terrible.

Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame Brian Cashman for Trading for Alex Rodriguez

July 27, 1975: Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez is born in Manhattan, and spends most of his youth -- I won't say, "grows up" -- in Miami.

February 16, 2004: The biggest trade in baseball history -- in terms of money and hype, if not in terms of number of players -- is announced.

The Texas Rangers got Alfonso Soriano, age 28, one of the most exciting talents in baseball, who had mainly been a 2nd baseman, but could also play shortstop and 3rd base; and a player to be named later, who, on April 23, turned out to be Joaquin Arias, 19, a minor-league infielder who ended up playing 474 games in the major leagues, including winning 2 World Series rings as a backup with the 2012 and 2014 San Francisco Giants.

The Yankees got Alex Rodriguez, a shortstop, soon to be 29, accepted by some as the best player in baseball, and the last 7 years of the biggest contract ever signed in professional sports to that point: $252 million.

I had to explain about Arias. But we know what happened to the 2 big names. Soriano bounced around, including back to the Yankees at the end, finishing with 412 home runs and 289 stolen bases, including (as far as we know, he was clean) the only honest season in MLB history with at least 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases, with the 2006 Washington Nationals.

And yet, he got traded again, not because the Nats no longer wanted to deal with him, but because the Chicago Cubs were going for broke, and he did help them reach the postseason in 2007 and 2008.

As for A-Rod: He moved to 3rd base, because Derek Jeter had earned the right to keep playing at shortstop for the Yankees, and ended up helping the Yankees reach the postseason 7 times, but won only 1 Pennant, 2009, also winning the World Series. His regular seasons were solid, sometimes spectacular. His postseasons, 2009 excepted, were horrendous.

He seemed personally responsible for the Yankees' failures to show up in the 2005 American League Division Series, the 2006 ALDS, the 2007 ALDS, the 2010 AL Championship Series, the 2011 ALDS, the 2012 ALCS, and the 2015 AL Wild Card Game. And it all seemed to start with his stupid "Slap Play" in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS.

He finished his career with 14 All-Star berths, 3,115 hits, 696 home runs, 2,086 RBIs, 329 stolen bases, a batting title (before he was a Yankee), 2 Gold Gloves (both before he was a Yankee), 3 AL Most Valuable Player awards (2 as a Yankee)... and 1 World Championship, the category that Yankee Fans should care about.

And he frequently embarrassed the Yankees. If it was just little things, like the various manifestations of his huge ego, I could have lived with it. After all, my favorite player of all time is Reggie Jackson, and I lived with his similar issues.

But Reggie never cheated, as far as we know. A-Rod got caught cheating. Twice. And that was on top of his many postseason failures, and his single postseason success.

No player in the history of baseball has ever polarized fans more. If that's incorrect, then, certainly, none has ever done so within the fandom of his own team.

Since he retired in August 2016, the Yankees have not given uniform Number 13 back out. But they probably won't officially retire it. He may never get a Plaque in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium.

And, while he will be eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2022, don't count on him being elected. Ever. Meanwhile, David Ortiz, who cheated, lied about it, got caught, and still lies about it, becomes eligible at the same time, and will get in on his first chance.

*

So, was it a bad trade? Was A-Rod more trouble than he, and the 1 World Championship he helped bring, were worth? Saying we would have won more without him is, at best, a guess.

But the trade made sense at the time.

Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame Brian Cashman for Trading for Alex Rodriguez

5. Third Base. In the Abbott & Costello routine "Who's On First?", the third baseman's name is "I Don't Know." And 3rd base has been a troublesome position over the years. In the 1980s, Sports Illustrated did a story examining why the Hall of Fame had fewer players at 3rd base than at any other position. And, a few times, they used the line from the routine: "I don't know. Third base."

The position has often been problematic for both New York teams. The Mets, in particular, made some dumb trades over the years, looking for the right 3rd baseman. After the 1969 World Series, Ed Charles retired, leaving them with Wayne Garrett. In hindsight, trusting Garrett would have left them better off.

Instead, they traded Amos Otis to the Kansas City Royals for Joe Foy. Otis became a star, while Foy was already struggling with drug addiction that shortened his career and, later, his life.

Two years later, they traded a fireballer struggling with his control to the California Angels for Jim Fregosi. Fregosi had been a fine shortstop, but was injured. The Mets were betting on him recovering and being able to play 3rd base. They lost that bet. And the pitcher they traded away? He found his control. His name was Nolan Ryan.

Even in their World Championship year of 1986, they platooned at 3rd base, because Howard Johnson, while he had power and speed, was a lousy fielder, and so Ray Knight played there frequently, enough to be named the Most Valuable Player of that year's World Series. And the Mets' all-time leader in most hitting categories? David Wright, who is now best known for his injuries and his unavailability than he is for any actual achievements or good qualities.

The Yankees have struggled at the position as well. Name a Hall of Fame 3rd baseman for the Yankees. Go ahead. I'll wait.

They had Joe Sewell in 1932, and Wade Boggs in the 1990s. But both made the Hall for what they did earlier. The Yankees have had some very good 3rd basemen, including Red Rolfe, Gil McDougald, Clete Boyer, Graig Nettles and Scott Brosius. But none of those is going to the Hall.

In 2002, following Brosius' retirement, the Yankees alternated between the veteran Robin Ventura and the struggling prospect Alfonso Soriano. In 2003, Soriano didn't seem to want the job, so Aaron Boone was picked up in midseason, and hit the Pennant-winning home run.
Alfonso Soriano

Then Boone wrecked his knee, and the Yankees, once again, needed a 3rd baseman. So the Yankees made the same bet on A-Rod that the Mets made on Fregosi, 32 years earlier. In regular-season play, it worked. In the postseason, not so much.

4. Public Relations. The Red Sox had signed Curt Schilling, to go with their already-loaded team. The Yankees thought they needed a big signing. And the Red Sox almost got A-Rod. This was a chance to put one over on them. Because...

3. Alex Rodriguez -- At the Time. These were A-Rod's OPS+'s from 1996, his 1st full season, until 2003, right before the trade was made: 161, 120, 136, 134, 163, 160, 158 and 147. He had led the AL in batting average once, slugging percentage once, hits once, doubles once, home runs the last 3 seasons, runs batted in once, runs scored once, and total bases 3 times.

And he had won a regular-season MVP award, and the Gold Glove at shortstop -- over Jeter, mind you, and over Boston's Nomar Garciaparra, too -- the last 2 seasons. And he was 28 years old, at his peak.

True, he would be playing a new position, and hitting in a ballpark much far less friendly to righthanded hitters like himself than to lefthanded hitters. But he looked like the prime acquisition of all time. And, needless to say, the Yankees could afford it.

He remains the only active player who had never yet played for the Yankees to have been interviewed by Yankee broadcaster Michael Kay for his YES Network talk show CenterStage. (Kay later brought him back as a Yankee.) Kay told him, "You playing in Texas is like putting the Mona Lisa up in the bathroom."

Alex laughed, because he knew what Kay meant: Dallas is a big metro area, but not a big baseball market, and the Rangers, then as now, were a joke franchise. With his skills, he needed to be at a high-profile team. The Red Sox tried to make that happen. The Yankees succeeded.

What about the red flags? He didn't do well in the postseason for the Seattle Mariners in 1995, but he was 20 and not yet a full-time player. He hit very well in the Playoffs in both 1997 and 2000. And the Texas Rangers were far from Playoff contenders while he was with them, so that wasn't an issue.

The other red flag? His personality? That was barely even a rumor. It was like Michael Jackson before 1991: There were whispers about him being weird (although in very different ways from Jackson), but nothing that was being taken remotely seriously. It was only with the Yankees, and the attention of the New York media, that his quirks were brought to the forefront.

2. Alex Rodriguez -- As He Became. These were A-Rod's OPS+'s from 2004 until 2010, his last full season until injuries and steroid-related suspensions started costing him time (he had 1 more full season, in 2015): 131, 173, 134, 176, 150, 138, 123. He led the AL in slugging 3 times, total bases once, runs twice, home runs twice, and RBIs once.

He won 2 MVPs, and the only season in that stretch in which he wasn't named to the All-Star Game, 2009, he was the leading factor in the Yankees winning the World Series.

And was his postseason performance really that bad? In the 2004 AL Division Series, he batted .421 and a homer and 3 RBIs. In the AL Championship Series, he disappeared over the last 4 games, but in the 1st 3, he had 2 homers and 5 RBIs. He was awful in 2005 and '06, but so was just about every other Yankee in those ALDS's. Even in 2007, he batted .267 with a solo homer.

In the 2009 postseason, he batted over .400 in both the ALDS and the ALCS, and finished with 6 homers, including the only one he would ever hit in World Series play (and even that was controversial: The 1st potential World Series homer ever reviewed by instant replay), and 18 RBIs -- 6 in each round.

In 2007, Major League Baseball expanded the Babe Ruth Award to be the MVP of the entire postseason, the way hockey does with the Conn Smythe Trophy. In 2009, A-Rod got it, and deserved it. (Hideki Matsui got the official World Series MVP Award.)
Along with the chance to hold the Commissioner's Trophy,
which goes to the entire team.

A-Rod was weak in his subsequent postseason appearances, but, again, in each case, so was pretty much every other player on the Yankees. He could have hit well and inspired them to do better, but the defeats were hardly all his fault.

So, in a regular-season sense, the trade for A-Rod was justified. In a postseason sense? There's the $64 million question.

1. George Steinbrenner. Ultimately, The Boss could have put the kibosh on the deal. But it was exactly the kind of move that he loved, and he jumped at it.

So even if you do think the trade wasn't worth it, it was Steinbrenner who should be held responsible, not Cashman. Cashman guessed that this was what the Boss wanted him to do, and the Boss confirmed it.
VERDICT: Not Guilty. In 2019, on the 15th Anniversary of the trade, I did a "What If?" post, suggesting that the Yankees would have been better off not doing it. But that's just speculation, and I could have been way off.

Without knowing for sure what would have happened, it's difficult to make a serious case that Cashman shouldn't have made the trade. There have been many transactions made by Cashman that made him look like a fool, but this isn't one of them.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

ENNUI-20

We all knew the Yankees weren't going to go 162-0 -- or even 60-0. Still, this was a bad loss.

It shouldn't matter that we were playing away to the defending World Champions. We should do better than this.

Instead, last night, the Yankees made their fans suffer -- not from COVID-19, but from ENNUI-20. I hate losing, but, worse, is not even putting up the effort.

James Paxton started, and didn't even get an out in the 2nd inning, allowing 3 runs before Aaron Boone pulled him. Had he gone the "Chad Green and a cast of thousands" route used too often last season, it wouldn't have been any worse. Mike King came in, and he had no answer, either. Jonathan Holder and David Hale didn't allow any runs, and Ben Heller and Luis Avilan only allowed 1 run each. But the damage was done.

The Yankees didn't get the job done with the bats, either. DJ LeMahieu drove in a run in the 3rd inning, and Giancarlo Stanton -- after taking a knee, along with Aaron Hicks, during the playing of the National Anthem -- hit a tremendous blast to left-center in the 4th, to close it to within 3-2. So, despite no one being on base, that was a clutch hit for him.

(It was also, it appears, the longest home run in the 13-season history of Nationals Park. Officially, the longest was hit by Domingo Santana, then of the Milwaukee Brewers, in 2017, 476 feet.)

But that was it. After the 4th inning, when it still could have made a difference, the Yankees got nothing going. Nationals 9, Yankees 2. WP: Tanner Rainey (1-0). No save. LP: Paxton (0-1).

The series concludes this afternoon. Jonathan Loiasiga starts against Patrick Corbin. Come on you Bombers! Fight for it this time!

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Should the NFL Play the 2020 Season?

There are 55 players on an NFL team roster. There are 32 teams. That's 1,760 players. The COVID-19 death rate in America is 3.75 percent.

Imagine. It's 2040. It's been 20 years since the pandemic. At the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, an official memorial is dedicated to the 66 players who died from it.

There were 131 players selected to the Pro Bowl at the end of last season. At that rate, 5 Pro Bowlers will have died from it. It could be 3 players who might make the Hall of Fame anyway.

Because the NFL remains as tone-deaf as ever, the unveiling of the memorial is done by the Commissioner, Jared Kushner, who bribed the team owners into selecting him.

*

This past Wednesday, the NFL mandated that all fans coming into games wear masks. The Giants and Jets went a step further: In line with Governor Phil Murphy keeping restrictions on large gatherings in New Jersey, they won't let any fans into their respective home games at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.

Somebody once told me that, with the TV rights and the merchandising, the NFL could play all 16 games a week behind closed doors, and still make a profit for that week.

It may come to that.

None of the major sports played in North America has as much physical contact as football. No sport is sweatier. No sport gives the Coronavirus a greater chance of being spread.

The NFL is considering special helmets, with faceguards, as shown in the sample Baltimore Ravens helmet shown above, to better protect against the virus.

Will it work? I don't know. Several people in sports have caught it. Nearly all have recovered. But all it takes is one death to make us wonder what else we could have done, short of canceling the season.

Given how much damage football does to the human body, even without COVID-19, maybe canceling one season wouldn't be the worst of ideas.

Exhibition games may end up being canceled outright. For now, the regular season starts on Thursday night, September 10, with the defending champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, hosting the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium. That gives the current Commissioner, Roger Goodell, 47 days -- a little under 7 weeks -- to make the big decision.

We shall see.

*

Each of the following is tentative, and we don't yet know which of them will actually have anyone in attendance:

Days until Arsenal play again: 1. They play tomorrow, at 11:00 AM my time, home to Hertfordshire team Watford. Arsenal can finish as high as 8th in the Premier League if they win, as low as 10th if they lose. Either way, it will be the worst finish for the team in 25 years. And all the "real fans who actually go to the games," and "care," told us that anybody could do a better job managing the team than Arsène Wenger. They were wrong. Unai Emery couldn't. Mikel Arteta is trying, and he's gotten Arsenal into the FA Cup Final on the following Saturday, at 12:30 PM my time, at the new Wembley Stadium in London, against Chelsea. As for Watford, they need to win to avoid relegation, so they will be ready for us.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 20, on Friday, August 14, at Yankee Stadium II.

Days until the New York Red Bulls play again: 21, on Saturday night, August 15, home to the Chicago Fire. They crashed out of the MLS is Back Tournament, which is being held entirely behind closed doors at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, which is part of the Walt Disney World Resort, in the Orlando suburb of Bay Lake, Florida.

Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby": 29, on Sunday night, August 22, home to New York City FC.

Days until the next North London Derby: Unknown. The 2020-21 Premier League season is now scheduled to begin on Saturday, September 12. That's 49 days, or 7 weeks. But the fixture list can't be set until the League knows who's getting promoted and who's getting relegated, and it will take another couple of weeks to get all the answers. But it's incredibly unlikely that Arsenal will open the season against Tottenham.

Days until Rutgers University plays football again: 63, on Saturday, September 26, at noon.Just 9 weeks. The Big Ten's non-conference schedule has been canceled. So it's only league games this season, presuming they don't cancel it all outright. The 1st game is away to Ohio State. Pray for the Scarlet Knights. And Greg Schiano is back as head coach, but he is no god.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: Unknown, and if they play at all this season, we don't know if fans will be let in. I have heard that it will be on Friday night, October 2, which would be 69 days, almost 10 weeks, but I can't be sure.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge football game: See the previous answer.

Days until the next Presidential election, when we can dump the Trump-Pence regime and elect a real Administration: 101on November 3, 2020. A little over 3 months.

Days until the next Rutgers-Penn State football game: 126, on Saturday, November 28, at home.

Days until the New Jersey Devils play again: Unknown, since the 2020-21 NHL schedule has not yet been released. We do know that the regular season won't start until at least December 1, which is 129 days away, and it is unlikely that the Devils will open the season against a nearby rival.

Days until the New Jersey Devils next play a local rival: See the previous answer.

Days until the U.S. national soccer team plays again: Unknown.

Days until a fully-Democratic-controlled Congress can convene: 162, on January 3, 2021. A little over 5 months.

Days until Liberation Day: 179at noon on January 20, 2021. Note that this is liberation from the Republican Party, not just from Donald Trump. Having Mike Pence as President wouldn't be better, just differently bad, mixing theocracy with plutocracy, rather than mixing kleptocracy with plutocracy. But it is now under 6 months. You've made it this far. Stay with us.

Days until the Yankees' 2021 Opening Day: 250, on Thursday afternoon, April 1, 2021, home to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Days until Euro 2020 begins, a tournament being held all over Europe instead of in a single host nation: 321, on Friday, June 11, 2021. Under 11 months.

Days until the next Summer Olympics begins in Tokyo, Japan: 363, on July 23, 2021. Under 1 year, or under 12 months.

Days until Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz become eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame: 535, on January 11, 2022. Under a year and a half, or under 18 months. We will then find out if it's okay for a Red Sox steroid cheat to be in the Hall, but not for a Yankee steroid cheat.

Days until the next Winter Olympics begins in Beijing, China: 559, on February 4, 2022. Under 2 years, or under 19 months.

Days until the next World Cup is scheduled to kick off in Qatar: 849, on November 21, 2022, in Qatar. Under 3 years, or under 28 months.

Days until the next Women's World Cup is scheduled to kick off: 1,080, on July 10, 2023. A little under 3 years, or a little under 36 months. Australia and New Zealand will be joint hosts.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Opening Day (Night) At Last, Yankees Win

Finally: Baseball is back. It was Opening Day at last. Or Opening Night. And even that got cut short, for reasons that no one in the stadium could control.

But it's results that count.

Before the game between the New York Yankees and the defending World Champion Washington Nationals at Nationals Park in Washington last night, both teams took a knee, in recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement. And, instead of the usual lining up on the baselines for player introductions on Opening Day, they held a black tapestry, again in solidarity with BLM. This was before, not during, the playing of the National Anthem.

There are currently 2 BLM signs at Nats Park, which is just 3 miles from the White House. A BLM logo was also drawn on the pitcher's mound.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the fight against COVID-19, threw out the ceremonial first ball. It was an awful pitch, way off to his left. True, he's 79 years old, and he's been busy. But he's from Brooklyn. Baseball should be in his blood.

On the other hand, we're not paying Fauci to play baseball, and we're not paying Giancarlo Stanton to find a vaccine.

What we are paying Stanton to do is get hits with men on base. If he can do that, as he has done seemingly so rarely in his 1st 2 seasons with the Yankees, then the rest of baseball is in trouble.

With 1 out in the top of the 1st, Aaron Judge hit a double. And then Stanton hit a tremendous blast to left-center, 459 feet from home plate. Already, the Yankees were up 2-0.

Gerrit Cole made his Yankee debut. He allowed a home run to Adam Eaton, but that was the only hit he allowed. He struck out 5 and walked 1.

The Yankees got to Max Scherzer again in the 3rd, with Judge doubling home Tyler Wade. Then they loaded the bases in the top of the 5th, and Stanton singled home a run.

There were 5 innings completed, making it official if there was inclement weather. Sure enough, in the top of the 6th, the umpires called for the tarpaulin. They waited about an hour before calling, it, and, with the weather reporters not encouraging, called it.

It must be weird for John Sterling to be on the radio and get the word. He might be like, "Well, they just called it, because of the weather. So, ballgame over, Yankees win. The-e-e-e Yankees win."

Yankees 4, Nationals 1. WP: Cole (1-0). No save. LP: Scherzer (0-1).

The teams will take today off, and then play again on Saturday night at 7:15, with James Paxton starting for the Bronx Bombers, and Stephen Strasburg for the... uh... District Destroyers. They go again on Sunday afternoon at 1:00. Patrick Corbin starts for Washington, and this is where the Yankees had hoped to start Masahiro Tanaka, but, due to that line shot off his head a few days ago, they decided to scratch him from his 1st start of the season. So Sunday's starter is undecided at press time.

The Mets open at home this afternoon, at 4:00, against the Atlanta Braves. In the other direction, the Phillies open at home tonight, at 7:00, against the Miami Marlins.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

How Long It's Been: We Had Baseball

Tonight, at 7:08 PM, the New York Yankees will play the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park in Washington, District of Columbia.

It will be the 1st time since August 16, 1925 that the Yankees have played a Washington team that had won the World Series the year before. They beat the Washington Senators 3-2 at Griffith Stadium. That was a little short of 95 years ago.

More to the point, this game, and today's slate of games, will be the 1st regular-season Major League Baseball games that count since the Nationals won Game 7 of last year's World Series, beating the Houston Astros, 6-2 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas.

That was on October 30, 2019. That was 266 days ago. Almost 9 full months. Three-quarters of a year. A full-term pregnancy. How long has that been?

Surely, the world hasn't changed that much in 266 days, has it?

*

For one thing, I finally had the hip replacement surgery I've needed for 50 years. I can now do pretty much everything I could before it -- but that was also limited. The other hip will also have to be replaced, and that could happen before Opening Day 2021.

Fortunately, the replacement was done before the COVID-19 epidemic shut so many things down. With it having killed over 147,000 Americans -- equivalent to the 9/11 attacks 49 times over -- one of the jokes going around is that 2020 is only half-over, and, already, we've added several new verses to Billy Joel's song "We Didn't Start the Fire."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the lead man on our response to the virus, has gone from someone who name was known by very few Americans to perhaps the most trusted person in the country. The Nationals invited him to throw out the ceremonial first ball on Opening Night.
Although born and raised in Brooklyn,
he has worked in the D.C. area since 1968,
and is an avowed Nationals fan.

This is a direct slap in the face to Donald Trump. Historically, when the Washington Senators were the team of the Nation's Capital, they invited the President of the United States to throw out the first ball on Opening Day.

It started in 1910, because they knew that, unlike his predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt, who preferred other sports, William Howard Taft loved baseball. From then until the Senators left after the 1971 season, it was usually the President who did it, though sometimes a substitute (the Vice President or some other official) was sent in his place. In 1984, with Baltimore as the closest MLB city to Washington, Ronald Reagan revived the tradition, and he, both George Bushes, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama did it.

But Trump has never been invited to do it. He attended Game 5 of last year's World Series, on what was, to this day, his best day as President, with the news of U.S. Special Forces having killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS.

He had not been asked to throw out the ceremonial first ball. It was Washington-based celebrity chef Jose Andres. Trump took his wife Melania. He did not take Barron, his 13-year-old son who is a known sports fan. The World Series was 2 miles from his house, and he had tickets, and he didn't take his 13-year-old son.

Yeah, sure, it's a school night. I think a note from the President of the United States would carry some weight. Well, it would, if it were any other President.

When a group of veterans was shown on the scoreboard, the sellout crowd of 43,910 cheered them. When the image shifted to Trump, it was about 60-40 boos, and the boos were louder than the cheers. Fans chanted, "Lock him up!" The scoreboard operator had to switch back to the camera on the veterans, and the crowd went back to cheering.

Washington Nationals fans, for this, you, and your team, for beating the cheating Astros in that World Series, you have my thanks forever.

A whopping 10 out of the 30 MLB teams have changed managers. However, 2 did not do so by choice, and 1 did, and then had to do so again, not by choice. The Astros' cheating scandal meant that the Astros had to fire manager A.J. Hinch, and they replaced him with Dusty Baker. The Boston Red Sox had to fire Alex Cora, who was an Astro coach during their 2017 World Championship season, and replaced him with Ron Roenicke.

For merely competitive reasons, the Mets fired Mickey Callaway, and hired Carlos Beltran, who had finished his career with the 2017 Astros. With the scandal growing, Beltran agreed to step aside, and was replaced with Luis Rojas.

Also for competitive reasons, the Philadelphia Phillies fired Gabe Kapler, and replaced him with former Yankee manager Joe Girardi. Bruce Bochy retired as manager of the San Francisco Giants, and they hired Kapler. Joe Maddon left the Chicago Cubs at the end of his contract, and they hired former Cub player David Ross. The Los Angeles Angels fired Brad Ausmus, and hired Maddon.

Ned Yost retired as manager of the Kansas City Royals, and they hired former St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. The San Diego Padres fired Andy Green, and hired Rangers coach Jayce Tingler. And the Pittsburgh Pirates fired Clint Hurdle, and hired Minnesota Twins coach Derek Shelton.

The only new arena that has opened since is the Chase Center in San Francisco, the new home of the NBA's Golden State Warriors. The Texas Rangers were supposed to open Globe Life Field in Arlington, their replacement for a 26-year-old ballpark that had replaced a 29-year-old ballpark. That opening, as far as fans are concerned, will likely have to wait until April 2021 -- if then.

Major League Soccer debuted Inter Miami CF, owned by David Beckham, but they only played 3 games before the shutdown. With the "MLS Is Back Tournament" underway, they've now played 5 games, and lost them all. Beckham had played for Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Los Angeles Galaxy. Not so easy when you have to pay the referees out of your own pocket, is it, Becks?

The Yankees signed Gerrit Cole, a big reason why the Astros won 2 Pennants in 3 years. The Red Sox refused to sign Mookie Betts to a contract extension, and traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who, yesterday, extended his contract. For a while, it looked like Dodger fans' dream of seeing Betts play for them would never happen, as his contract would end at the end of 2020 whether there was a season or not. Now, it is Sox fans' dream of getting Betts back for 2021 that appear to be dashed.

In the New York Tri-State Area, the Giants, the Knicks, the Brooklyn Nets and the New Jersey Devils have all changed head coaches. Except for the Nets, each of those has also changed general managers.

The Kansas City Chiefs won their 1st Super Bowl in 50 years, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers won their 1st Grey Cup in 29 years, the Seattle Sounders won their 2nd MLS Cup, the Raleigh-area-based North Carolina Courage won the NWSL title. Liverpool FC won their 1st title in the top flight of English soccer in 30 years, while Arsenal and Chelsea advanced to the FA Cup Final.

The NCAA awarded its football National Championship to Louisiana State University (LSU), but, with the COVID-19 shutdown happening as Conference Tournaments got underway, canceled its Tournaments for both men's and women's basketball.

Anthony Joshua took the IBF Heavyweight Championship of the World back from Andy Ruiz Jr., and Tyson Fury took the WBC edition from Deontay Wilder. The WBA version is currently held by Mahmoud Charr, but he hasn't fought in 3 years. He should have been stripped of it by now, for failing to defend it.

The Washington Redskins agreed to change their name, effective with the 2021 season. The Edmonton Eskimos changed their name immediately, taking the interim name of Edmonton Football Team. Neither team has selected a permanent new name yet. The Cleveland Indians are also considering changing their name.

Abiy Ahmed has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, for his efforts in settling the border dispute between his native Ethopia and Eritrea. Boris Johnson increased his majority and remained Prime Minister of Britain, while Justin Trudeau saw his reduced, but kept enough to remain Prime Minster of Canada. Benjamin Netanyahu faced 2 inconclusive elections, and forged a coalition government that will allow him to remain in power until November 17, 2021, when he hands the office over to Opposition Leader Benny Gantz. But Netanyahu was also indicted on corruption charges, and may be gone sooner than that, anyway.

Major films in theaters when we last had baseball included some reboots of classic stories: Joker, Dolemite Is My Name, The Addams Family, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, and The King, starring Timothee Chalamet as King Henry V of England. There was also a sequel to the TV show Breaking Bad, titled El Camino; the sequel Zombieland: Double Tap; and Jojo Rabbit, which a boy in World War II Germany has Adolf Hitler -- as Germans then perceived him to be -- as an "imaginary friend."

Two days after that World Series ended saw the releases of Terminator: Dark Fate, Motherless Brooklyn, and The Irishman, described by one reviewer as "Martin Scorcese has made The Avengers of Mob movies."

Since we last had baseball, The CW Network brought its superhero shows together for the 5-part crossover epic Crisis On Infinite Earths, saw Ruby Rose leave as the title character of Batwoman after just 1 season, and debuted the "Earth-2" superhero show Stargirl.

We've also seen the debuts of the Star Wars series The Mandalorian, the sequel series Star Trek: Picard and The L Word: Generation Q, the companion series FBI: Most Wanted, a series version of High Fidelity, a show based on the video game The Witcher, and a reboot of Perry Mason, set at the beginning of the original novels, in 1932, with Mason, played by Matthew Rhys, then a private investigator, not yet a crusading lawyer.

The Number 1 song in America when we last had baseball was "Truth Hurts" by Melissa Viviane Jefferson, a.k.a. Lizzo. In between, "All I Want for Christmas" by Mariah Carey set a record, reaching Number 1 25 years after it was first released.

And, since Game 7 of the 2019 World Series, we have seen, from COVID-19 and other causes, the deaths of many people we cared about, including, but not limited to, the following:

* From Sports: Harrison Dillard, Peter Snell, Martin Peters, David Stern, Hans Tilkowski, Rob Rensenbrink, Kobe Bryant, Harry Gregg, Éva Székely, Henri Richard, Dana Zátopková, Peter Bonetti, Stirling Moss, Norman Hunter, Trevor Cherry, Jerry Sloan, Bobby Morrow, Wes Unseld, Pete Rademacher, Tony Dunne, Mario Corso, Jack Charlton and Wim Surrbier. 

* From Acting: Michael J. Pollard, Shelley Morrison, D.C. Fontana, René Auberjonois, Caroll Spinney, Danny Aiello, Claudine Auger, Sue Lyon, Edd Byrnes, Buck Henry, Terry Jones, Kirk Douglas, Orson Bean, Robert Conrad, Zoe Caldwell, Diana "Baby Peggy" Cary, James Lipton, Max von Sydow, Stuart Whitman, Honor Blackman, Shirley Douglas, Brian Dennehy, Jerry Stiller, Fred Willard, Ian Holm, Carl Reiner, Naya Rivera and Kelly Preston; and directors Lynn Shelton and Joel Schumacher. 

* From Music: Allee Willis, Jerry Herman, Marie Fredriksson, Neal Peart, Andy Gill, McCoy Tyner, Kenny Rogers, Bill Withers, John Prine, Millie Small, Little Richard, Betty Wright, Jimmy Cobb, Vera Lynn, Johnny Mandel, Charlie Daniels and Ennio Morricone.

* From Politics and Public Service: Paul Volcker, Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman, Hosni Mubarak, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, Betty Williams, Jean Kennedy Smith and John Lewis.

* From Other Fields: Ram Dass, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Jim Lehrer, Mary Higgins Clark, Clive Cussler, Katharine Johnson, Freeman Dyson, Jack Welch, Alfred Worden, Terrence McNally, Margaret Burbidge, Michael McClure, Roy Horn, Astrid Kirchherr, Larry Kramer, Dennis O'Neil, Hugh Downs and Grant Imahara.

October 30, 2019. A Major League Baseball game that counted was played.

July 23, 2020. 266 days later. They count again.

You may not be able to Take Me Out to the Ball Game, and you can't put me in, Coach, I am by no means ready to play today. But it's still A Beautiful Day for a Ballgame.