Monday, May 31, 2021

Lest We Forget

Memorial Day Weekend is over. May is over. And the Yankees...

As a New York legend in another sport, Bill Parcells, would say, "You are what your record says you are."

Jameson Taillon started this holday matinee opener of a 4-game home series against the streaking Tampa Bay Rays. As all teams are doing today, they wore red poppy patches for Memorial Day, the way British soccer teams do on their closest home game to Remembrance Day (November 11, which is Veterans Day here). Lest we forget.

Taillon's 1st 3 innings were good. His last 3 were not, and he was removed in the 6th before getting anyone out. The bullpen was all right: Lucas Luetge pitched a perfect 6th and 7th, Wandy Peralta a scoreless 8th, and Luis Cessa a perfect 9th.

All the Yankees needed to make a winning pitcher out of Taillon -- or Luetge, or Peralta, or Cessa -- was to score 4 runs.

This bunch of gutless wonders? Ha. They stranded a runner on 1st in the 2nd, on 1st and 2nd in the 2nd, and on 1st in the 4th. A Brett Gardner walk with 1 out in the 5th was wasted when DJ LeMahieu grounded into a double play.

There was a glimmer of hope in the 7th, when Miguel Andujar hit an opposite-field home run with 2 out in the 7th. And Gary Sanchez, not exactly known for a good batting eye, drew a walk. But Gardner struck out. Rougned Odor doubled with 2 out in the 9th, but Andujar struck out.

Ballgame over. Rays 3, Yankees 1. WP: Rich Hill (4-2). SV: J.P. Feyereisen (3). LP: Taillon (1-4).

Memorial Day Weekend is over. May is over. The season is 27 percent over. "You are what your record says you are." The Yankees are 29-25, and 5 1/2 games out. In their last 7 games, they have been outscored 29-13, an average loss of 4-2. They are 1-6 over that stretch.

Look at these OPS's:

Aaron Judge .951
Giancarlo Stanton .819
Kyle Higashioka .751
Gary Sanchez .709
Gio Urshela .705

That's not so bad. But it gets worse:

DJ LeMahieu .684
Rougned Odor .680
Gleyber Torres .674
Aaron Hicks .627 (Now injured and out for the season)
Clint Frazier .600
Tyler Wade .595
Mike Ford .588
Mike Tauchman .552 (Since traded)
Miguel Andujar .545
Luke Voit .530 (Currently injured)
Brett Gardner .523
Jay Bruce .466 (Shamed into retirement)

This is the team that Brian Cashman built. It is time for him to go. #CashmanOut

Because the job of the general manager of the New York Yankees is to build a team capable of winning the World Series. Lest we forget.

Time to Turn It Around, Or Tell a Sad Tale

Just when you thought the Yankees would never hit and win again, they started hitting and winning like nobody's business. Just as quickly, just when you thought the hitting and winning would never stop, they did. Stopped cold.

This past weekend's series with the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park should have gone very differently. The Tigers were 19-31. In the American League, only the Baltimore Orioles had a worse record.

But the Yankees just didn't hit in the 1st 2 games. They got 1 run in regulation on Friday night, losing 3-2 in 10 innings. They got 1 run on Saturday afternoon. And Sunday afternoon would be no better.

The injury crisis meant that Mike King would be the starting pitcher, neither Zack Britton nor Darren O'Day would be available to relieve, Giancarlo Stanton would be the designated hitter, Clint Frazier would have Stanton's place in let field, Tyler Wade would be in cener field, and Miguel Andujar would be at 1st base.

And it was a bad game. King didn't get out of the 3rd inning, allowing 4 runs, although only 2 were earned. Nestor Cortes had been called up, and should have stayed down. Nick Nelson pitched 2 scoreless, hitless innings, but, by then, it was too late. Gio Urshela made an error, and Gleyber Torres made 2 of them.

The Yankees actually got 9 hits. Frazier, DJ LeMahieu, and the much-maligned Gary Sanchez each got 2 of them. But it was already 6-0 after 3 innings, and the only Yankee runs came in the 8th, on RBI singles by Torres and Sanchez.

After his error in the 3rd, Torres got mad. One fan on Twitter said, "Gleyber Torres going full Paul O'Neill in the dugout, beating his glove against everything in sight. Haven't seen that from him before." So at least he cared about how badly he was doing.

In the 9th, the Yankees made it slightly interesting. Andujar led off with an infield single. Frazier singled him to 3rd. But Wade struck out, and LeMahieu popped up. But Stanton walked on 4 pitches, and, suddenly, the bases were loaded. The tying run was at the plate, and it was Aaron Judge, batting against Michael Fulmer.

Judge swung at 2 way-outside breaking balls. A 3rd was outside for ball 1. Then, like a dope -- or like Carlos Beltran with the 2006 National League Pennant on the line for the Mets -- he took strike 3 right down the middle to end it.

Tigers 6, Yankees 2. WP: Tarik Skubal (2-7 -- that's right, he came into this game 1-7). No save. LP: King (0-2). It was the 1st time the Tigers had swept the Yankees in Detroit since 2000.

The Yankees were 1-for-24 with runners in scoring position in the series.

After the game, Judge said, "What we've been putting out there right now is not our best, and it's unacceptable. That's where we just have to kind of dig down deeper and make some changes. You just can't keep coming to the plate, trying to do the same thing and expecting different results."

And manager Aaron Boone, sounding like a broken record (kids, if you don't know what that means, ask your parents): "This is just a bad ending to a terrible weekend. We've got to get better."

*

So, today, Memorial Day, the last day of May, the Yankees are 29-24, for a winning percentage of .547. Over 162 games that would be a record of 88-74, possibly good enough to make the Playoffs with a Wild Card berth.

The contemptible Tampa Bay Rays lead the AL Eastern Division. The despised Boston Red Sox are 1 game behind them. The Yankees are 4 1/2 games back, the Toronto Blue Jays 6, and the Baltimore Orioles 16 1/2. In the loss column, the Rays and Sox are even, the Yankees are 4 back, the Jays 5, and the O's 16.

And these OPS+'s, by and large, are not good, and that's with improvements for some, keeping in mind that 100 is exactly average: Aaron Judge 170 (fat lot of good that did him yesterday), Giancarlo stanton 136, Kyle Higashioka 108, Gio Urshela 104, Gary Sanchez 100, DJ LeMahieu 100, Gleyber Torres 98, Rougned Odor 87, Aaron Hicks 79 (and now out for the season due to injury), Clint Frazier 72, Tyler Wade 70, Mike Ford 69, Luke Voit 53 (and currently injured), Brett Gardner 52, Miguel Andujar 34, Jay Bruce 34 (and shamed into retirement).

The pitching has carried this team thus far. But with Corey Kluber injured, Luis Severino still not back, and Jameson Taillon not yet proving to be a good answer, there are now 3 holes in the rotation.

This afternoon, the Yankees begin a 4-game home series against the Rays, followed by one of 3 games against the Red Sox. This week may well tell the tale of whether the Yankees turn it around, and make the Playoffs, or not.

If not, it will be a sad tale to tell.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Yankees Again Gutless Wonders, Lose In Detroit

Yesterday, I wrote of the preceding night's game, "When an opponent is willing to give you the game, never, ever give it back. The problem was, the Yankees had already given the game back, and we just didn't know it."

Yesterday afternoon, in the middle game if a series away to the Detroit Tigers, the Yankees never really had the game to give back.

Rookie Deivi Garcia started in the rotation slot of the injured Corey Kluber. He's still only 23. He's still not ready to face major league pitching. He only pitched 4 1/3rd innings, allowing 5 runs (4 of them earned) on 5 huts and 1 walk, with 2 strikeouts.

Spencer Turnbull, who pitched a no-hitter 2 starts earlier, only got into the 6th inning, allowing 3 hits. But those would be the only 3 hits the Yankees would get.

Gleyber Torrrs led off the top of the 2nd inning with a walk. This one would not invoke any cliches, though. Gary Sanchez singled, and Mike Ford drew a walk to load the bases with nobody out.

And then, Brian Cashman's gutless wonders blew it. Miguel Andujar grounded to short, resulting in a double play, with Torres scoring.

Clint Frazier walked to re-load the bases. And then Brett Gardner grounded into a force play, to end an inning where the Yankees loaded the bases twice, once with nobody out, and got the gift of 3 walks, but scored only 1 run.

And that would be the only scoring the Yankees would do all day. Four Tiger relievers went 3 1/3 innings, allowing just 1 baserunner, a wall. Overall, the Yankees struck out 12 times, and it seemed like more than that.

Tigers 6, Yankees 1. WP: Turnbull (4-2). No save. LP: Garcia (0-2).

On Twitter, a woman named Samantha (I don't have her last name) wrote, "From BronxBombers to The Interstate Imposters Tired face #Yankees"

Metropolitan Miquetoasts? Tri-State Tankers?

My 2017-present nickname "Gutless Wonders," though not alliterative, will do just fine. The performance that earned that nickname once again will not. 

This series, wholly embarrassing so far, concludes this afternoon. Michael King, like Garcia not yet (and, also like Garcia, perhaps not ever) good enough to face major league pitching, starts for the Yankees. Tarik Skubal starts for the Tigers.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Never, Ever Give the Game Back

Last night, the Yankees opened a 3-game weekend series with the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. The Tigers are struggling: In the American League, only the Baltimore Orioles have a worse record. And Gerrit Cole was a pitching for the Yankees. Cole went 6 innings, allowing 1 run on 6 hits and 1 walk, striking out 5. He did his job.

The Yankee batters didn't do theirs. Aaron Judge singled with 2 out in the 1st inning, and doubled with 1 out in the 4th. Those were their only baserunners in the 1st 4 innings. Rougned Odor led off the top of the 5th with a home run, to tie the game. The rest of the inning was a missed opportunity: Clint Frazier singled, Kyle Higashioka struck out, Brett Gardner singled, DJ LeMahieu struck out, and Giancarlo Stanton struck out.

The Yankees got men on 1st and 3rd with 2 out in the 6th, but didn't score. Gleyber Torres and Odor singled with 2 out in the 8th, but Frazier hit a ground ball right at Tiger shortstop Harold Castro, and that was that.

With 1 out in the 9th, Miguel Andujar pinch-hit for Gardner, and singled. Tyler Wade was sent in to pinch-run. A wild pitch got wade to 2nd base. LeMahieu drew a walk. Now, it was men on 1st and 2nd with 1 out, and 2 of the most dangerous hitters in the game coming up: Judge and Stanton. Both struck out.

That's where the Yankees lost the game: Having a glorious opportunity to win the game in the 9th inning, instead, they playing 9 innings against a team that is, to put it politely, struggling, and only scored 1 run.

Aroldis Chapman, having been sick for a couple of days, was brought into pitch the bottom of the 9th. He was due for a bad game, and he began by walking Jonathan Schoop. You know how you "just know"? Well, the cliche about walking the leadoff man hit me, and I was sure that Schoop -- or, rather, pinch-runner Akil Baddoo -- would score.

Except Gary Sanchez, much-maligned for his defensive play as a catcher, picked Baddoo off. Chapman took that gift, and got the next 2 batters out.

Extra innings. Meaning, the ghost runner on 2nd. For the Yankees, that would be Judge. Gio Urshela struck out. Torres hit a grounder that got Judge to 3rd. The Yankees didn't look like they wanted to win.

Then, Tiger reliever Bryan Garcia threw a bad pitch. Catcher Jake Rogers couldn't handle it. It was ruled a passed ball. Judge scored, and it was 2-1. The Yankees had seemingly refused to take the game, and the Tigers had seemingly given it to them, anyway.

Odor singled, so there was a chance for more. But Frazier struck out, and 2-1 it stayed.

Justin Wilson was brought in to pitch the bottom of the 10th. I can't fault Aaron Boone for this: Chapman had been sick, and Zack Britton and Darren O'Day are still on the injured list. Pickings were slim.

Wilson got the 1st out. He got the 2nd out. But there was still the ghost runner, Eric Haase, who had advanced to 3rd base.

The batter was Robbie Grossman. Wilson got to a 2-2 count on him. He threw an outside curveball that just missed the strike zone. Lots of #YankeesTwitter people were sure it was a strike. The replays on the YES Network proved it was a ball by the slimmest of margins.

The next pitch was hit by Grossman for a home run. Tigers 3, Yankees 2. WP: Bryan Garcia (1-1). No save. LP: Wilson (1-1).

I wrote on Twitter, "I got my 2nd Moderna vaccine 28 hours ago. I was fine all day today. Now, I feel sick. Than you SO much, @Yankees."

In this game, the Tigers were a convict that tripped and fell into the electric chair. And the Yankees were the warden, flipping the wrong switch, and executing themselves.

When an opponent is willing to give you the game, never, ever give it back. The problem was, the Yankees had already given the game back, and we just didn't know it.

*

Brian Cashman lost this game, building a team designed to bomb opponents out of the yard, and ending up not being able to do so. In 31 games so far this season, in which they have scored 4 or fewer runs, the Yankees are 11-20. In 27 games scoring 3 or fewer, they are 10-17. In 18 games scoring 2 or fewer, they are 6-12. That includes 3 straight games (May 19-21) where they scored 2 and won.
And in 6 extra-inning games, they are 3-3.

A lot of people forget that losing is a team effort, just as winning is, and will say nasty things about Justin Wilson. The heck with 'em. This game wasn't lost because of one pitch he threw. It was lost because of several pitches the Yankees didn't hit.

The series continues this afternoon, with a first pitch of 4:10 PM. Deivi Garcia makes his 2nd major league appearance of the season, starting against Spencer Turnbull.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Yanks Barely Scrape By Blue Jays

I got my 2nd Moderna vaccine yesterday. Right now, I'm tired, I'm cranky, and my back hurts.

In other words, the usual. That's not from the vaccine.

In other medical news, the injury crisis is back at Yankee Stadium: 

* Aaron Hicks, the switch-hitter who is the closest thing the Yankees have to a reliable lefthanded hitter, is out for the season (or so it appears) with a wrist injury that will require surgery.

* Corey Kluber, so soon after his no-hitter, went on the Injured List. He will be out for at least 2 months, and the fear that he is out for the season can't be ruled out.

* Luke Voit has an oblique strain, and will be out for a week.

* According to manager Aaron Boone, Aroldis Chapman has been "sick," and unavailable. He could return tonight.

* Some good news, though: Luis Severino is reported as being close to a rehab assignment. He could return before the All-Star Break.

* Zack Britton is set to make his 1st rehab appearance of the season tomorrow, with the Class AA Somerset Patriots.

* And Giancarlo Stanton is expected to be reactivated today, following a quadriceps strain.

*

On Tuesday night, the Yankees began a 3-game series, home to those pesky Toronto Blue Jays. Kluber started, but struggled, and only lasted 3 innings. The bullpen didn't do much better. And the Yankee bats struggled against former Met phenom Steven Matz. Aside from RBI hits by Kyle Higashioka in the 7th and 9th innings, the Yankees only got 5 hits.

Blue Jays 6, Yankees 2. WP: Matz (6-2). No save. LP: Kluber (4-3).

*

In the middle of Wednesday afternoon, with rain not yet having arrived, the Yankees looked at the weather report, and decided to postpone the game, setting up a twi-night doubleheader for yesterday, meaning 2 games of 7 innings each under the current stupid rule.

Domingo Germán started the opener. He allowed back-to-back home runs to Marcus Semien and Bo Bichette in the 3rd inning. Other than that, in 7 innings, he and Lucas Luetge allowed no runs on just 2 hits and 2 walks. It should have been enough to win.

But a depleted Yankee lineup was only able to produce 2 singles by Miguel Andújar, and a walk each by DJ LeMahieu and Rougned Odor. This was against Alek Manoah, who was making his major league debut. Once again, the Yankees were able to make a kid pitcher look like the next Roger Clemens.

Blue Jays 2, Yankees 0. WP: Manoah (1-0). SV: Jordan Romano (2). LP: Germán (0-3).

It did not escape my notice that, as they had in 1978, when I attended my 1st live major league sporting event, the Yankees hosted the Blue Jays, and didn't hit nearly enough, and had significant injury issues, and lost.

*

So the Pinstripes needed to win the nightcap to avoid an embarrassing home series sweep. The needed a good start from Jordan Montgomery, and didn't get it. He allowed 3 runs in the 3rd inning, and didn't get out of the 5th. But, the rest of the way, Jonathan Loáisiga, Wandy Peralta and Chad Green pitched shutout ball.

The Yankees got a run in the 1st, on a single by LeMahieu, a walk by Aaron Judge and a double by Gio Urshela. In the 3rd, down 3-1, LeMahieu singled, and Judge hit a long home run to tie the game. In the 4th, Gary Sanchez hit an even longer one to give the Yankees the lead. Judge nearly hit another in the 5th, but it was long enough to be a sacrifice fly to bring home another run.

Yankees 5, Blue Jays 3. WP: Loáisiga (4-2). SV: Green (20). LP: Robbie Ray (2-2).

*

So here's how things stand, as we head into Memorial Day Weekend:

* The Yankees are 29-21, a winning percentage of .580. If that pace is held over the full 162 games, it would be a record of 94-78.

* They are 2 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Eastern Division, 1 game in the all-important loss column. The Boston Red Sox are 1 game behind the Rays, even in the loss column. The Jays are 5 1/5 back, 4 in the loss column. And the Baltimore Orioles are already 14 games back, 13 in the loss column.

* If the current standings hold, the American League Wild Card Game would be the Yankees playing the Red Sox at Fenway. In the AL Division Series, the Yanks-Sox winner would advance to face the Rays, who would have home-field advantage; and the Chicago White Sox would have home-field advantage over the Oakland Athletics.

* The National League Wild Card Game would be that League's biggest rivalry, its parallel to Yankees vs. Red Sox, the Los Angeles Dodgers hosting the San Francisco Giants. In the NL DiIvision Series, the Dodgers-Giants winner would advance to face the San Diego Padres, who would have home-field advantage, and the St. Louis Cardinals would have home-field advantage over the New York Mets.

* Yes, the Mets are in 1st place in the National League Eastern Division, while the Yankees are not in 1st place in the AL East. That said, the Mets are 24-20, .545, not nearly as good a record as the Yankees. The Mets are also going through an injury crisis. So to see both New York teams doing as well as they are is, to borrow a word from the Mets' lexicon, Amazing.

Tonight, the Yankees begin a 3-game series away to the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers are not doing well, just 19-31. Gerrit Cole starts for the Yankees, and Casey Mize for the Tigers.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Scores On This Historic Day: May 26, 1989, The Anfield Finale

May 26, 1989: Arsenal clinch the title in England's Football League, beating Liverpool, 2-0 at Liverpool's ground, Anfield. The way the tiebreakers worked, Arsenal had to beat Liverpool by 2 goals, and get the 2nd from Michael Thomas in the last minute of the last game of the season.

Both soccer teams are among England's most historic. Liverpool had dominated the League in the 1980s, and were the defending Champions, having also reach the Final of the previous season's FA Cup. Arsenal were on the rise, having won the 1987 League Cup.

Liverpool were managed by Kenny Dalglish, who had played on those late 1970s to mid-1980s trophy winners, and had still not officially retired as a player, although he hadn't played in the 1988-89 season. Arsenal were managed by George Graham, a key midfielder on their 1970-71 team that won both the League and the FA Cup, "The Double." (Dalglish had led Liverpool to that in 1986, as player and manager.) Dalglish was from Glasgow, Scotland; Graham, from a suburb of Glasgow.

There was history between the teams: Arsenal had beaten Liverpool in the FA Cup Final in 1950, and again in 1971 to win The Double. Liverpool edged Arsenal out for the League title in 1973. The teams had played an epic FA Cup Semifinal against each other in 1980, requiring 3 replays before Arsenal finally won it (and then lost the Final). And Arsenal had beaten Liverpool in the Final to win the aforementioned 1987 League Cup.

On New Year's Eve, December 31, 1988, Arsenal beat Aston Villa of Birmingham to take 1st place, while Liverpool lost to Manchester United on New Year's Day, leaving them 9 points adrift.

Arsenal remained on top at the end of January. At the end of February, Arsenal were still top, with Liverpool in 8th, 19 points back -- but with 4 games in hand, meaning, if they won all 4, they'd be only 7 points back. They did go on a tear: At the end of March, they were only 5 points behind League-leading Arsenal, with a game in hand.

Arsenal were still top on April 15, beating Newcastle United 1-0 in a League match, while the FA Cup Semifinals were scheduled for neutral sites. Both Merseyside teams had gotten that far. Everton beat Norfolk team Norwich City 1-0 at Aston Villa's Villa Park. And Liverpool were set to play East Midlands team Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Stadium in Yorkshire, home of Sheffield Wednesday.

But just 6 minutes in, the game was abandoned, as fans came onto the field. This was not a hooligans' invasion: It was a disaster. A combination of too many fans let into the wrong section by the police, and perimeter fencing, designed to prevent a pitch invasion, led to people being crushed. Over 700 were hospitalized, and 94 died that day. Another died 3 days later. Another was in a coma for 4 years before finally passing away, bringing the death toll to the sad and now-familiar 96.

Games were postponed for the next 2 weeks, including Arsenal's visit to Anfield, which was set for the following Saturday. Games were resumed on May 1, a Bank Holiday Monday. Wins that day, at home at the Arsenal Stadium, a.k.a. Highbury, to Norwich, and on the following Saturday, away to North Yorkshire team Middlesbrough, meant that Arsenal only had to win their 2 remaining home games, and they would be League Champions no matter what Liverpool did.

Those 2 home games would be against East Midlands team Derby County in the originally-intended League finale on May 13, and against South London team Wimbledon in a rescheduled game on May 17. Win those, and they would have won the League, regardless of what happened at Anfield on May 26. But Arsenal didn't win either game: Derby beat them 2-1; and Wimbledon, winners of the previous year's FA Cup in a stunning Final upset of Liverpool, forged a 2-2 draw.

Meanwhile, Liverpool kept winning, with the city rallying around the team and the survivors of the victims. They went to Glasgow for a fundraiser for the victims on April 30, and beat Celtic 4-0. Both teams had adopted the Liverpool-based band Gerry & the Pacemakers' 1963 recording of "You'll Never Walk Alone," from the 1945 Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Carousel, as a theme song. In the wake of the Hillsborough Disaster, it came to mean more than ever.

They played the rescheduled Semifinal against Forest on May 7, and won 3-1. They beat Wimbledon on May 13, avenging their Cup Final defeat of the year before. And on May 16, they beat West London team Queens Park Rangers. This, combined with the points Arsenal dropped the next night against Wimbledon and the Saturday before against Derby, moved Liverpool top of the League.

And, on May 20, Liverpool beat Everton 3-2 in extra time, in an All-Merseyside FA Cup Final. Liverpool's season of tragedy included a major trophy. On May 23, they beat East London team West Ham United.

With only the Arsenal match 3 days later to play, Liverpool led the League by 3 points, and had the 1st tiebreaker, superior goal difference. So even if Arsenal, who once led them by 19 points, beat them at Anfield, something they hadn't done in 15 years, it might not be enough: A 1-goal win by Arsenal would give Liverpool the title, and The Double. Arsenal had to win by 2. There seemed to be nobody who thought they could do it.

British TV had the same idea with soccer that American TV had once had with baseball: Why give the product away? So few games were broadcast live. Instead, they would be filmed, and later videotaped, on the Saturday afternoon, and then shown in a package on Sunday afternoon, on the BBC's Match of the Day and ITV's The Big Match.

Only the biggest of matches -- such as the FA Cup Final, or the European Cup Final, whether an English team was in it or not -- was shown live. Well, this was the biggest of matches: At the time, the 2 biggest teams in the country, going at it for the League title. ITV broadcast it, live in prime time.

A crowd of 41,783 people shoehorned themselves into Anfield. Judging by how many Arsenal fans have said they were there, one could sarcastically infer that the attendance may have been 10 times that.

There were no goals in the 1st half. In the 53rd minute, Liverpool Captain Ronnie Whelan committed a foul just outside the penalty area, narrowly avoiding a major gaffe. It's a lot harder to score from a free kick, which is what referee David Hutchinson correctly awarded Arsenal, than from a penalty.

Nigle Winterburn took it. Arsenal Captain Tony Adams looked like he was trying to head it in -- ITV announcer Brian Moore said, "Adams has made a darting little run in there" -- but stumbled. But Alan Smith, who had already clinched the League scoring title, was right behind him, and headed it into the net. As the later song would say, "One-nil to The Arsenal."

In a tactic as old as the sport itself, the Liverpool players surrounded the referee, demanding that the goal be disallowed. Hutchinson saw no foul on the play. He called the linesman over. The linesman confirmed: There was no offside, there was no interference, and Smith had actually touched the ball. With all his questions answered, Hutchinson awarded the goal. Later, John Aldridge took a pass from John Barnes, and put it in the net, but it was correctly disallowed for offside.

Two minutes of stoppage time (or "injury time") were added. Arsenal's Kevin Richardson had enough left in his tank to deny a drive by Barnes, and to get the ball to goalkeeper John Lukic, who threw the ball halfway up his own half, to Lee Dixon. Dixon sent a long through ball to Smith. Smith found Michael Thomas, who was followed by Steve Nicol.

Finally, at 91 minutes and 23 seconds of the match, with Nicol practically stepping on his heels, Thomas shot. Liverpool goalie Bruce Grobbelaar couldn't stop it. Moore had the call:

Arsenal come streaming forward now, in what will surely be their last attack. A good ball by Dixon, finding Smith, to Thomas, charging through the midfield! Thomas! It's up for grabs now! Thomas!

Right at the end! An unbelievable climax to the League season! Well into injury time!

The Liverpool players are down, absolutely abject! Aldridge is down, Barnes is down, Dalglish just stands there, Nicol's on his knees, McMahon's on his knees!

It wasn't quite Russ Hodges' 1951 "The Giants win the Pennant!" Because it wasn't over yet. The celebration meant that there would be a 93rd minute. And Liverpool did make one last go at it, but couldn't get close.

Moore saw Graham, 45 years old, in his dark suit, and Dalglish, 38 and not yet officially retired, in his Adidas jacket, and mentioned that they would both like to get out there and see if they can make a difference.

Finally, at 92 minutes and 49 seconds, Hutchinson blew his whistle. Arsenal were the Champions. For Liverpool fans, after all they'd gone through, it was a crushing defeat, and it's almost as if the FA Cup they'd won was an afterthought. As Arsenal fan Dermot O'Leary (no relation to David) put it while hosting Arsenal: 501 Goals, "For many Arsenal fans, the greatest night of their lives. And, if you have to ask why, you're either too young, or you've bought the wrong tape."

*

May 26, 1989 was a Friday. The NFL was in its off-season. The NBA's Conference Finals were underway. In the East, the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons were on an off-day, tied 1-1. The Pistons would win the series in 6 games. In the West, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Phoenix Suns, 110-107 at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. This gave the Lakers a 3-0 lead, and they would clinch 2 days later. However, in the NBA Finals, the Pistons would sweep them in 4 straight, to win their 1st title.

In the NHL, the Stanley Cup had been clinched the night before. The Calgary Flames beat the Montreal Canadiens, 4-2 in Game 6, to win their 1st Cup. (It's still their only one.) It was the 1st time a team had clinched the Cup against the Canadiens at the Montreal Forum. (In 1928, the New York Rangers had clinched the Cup at the Forum, but that was against the Montreal Maroons.)

There was a full slate of Major League Baseball games that night:

* The Yankees lost to the Oakland Athletics, 4-0 at Yankee Stadium. Three A's pitchers -- Todd Burns, Rick Honeycutt (who got the last out in the 7th inning) and Eric Plunk (who pitched the 8th and the 9th) -- combined to allow just 1 hit, an infield single by Rickey Henderson in the 4th. Soon, the Yankees would trade Henderson back to the A's, who would win the World Series.

* The New York Mets beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 8-2 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

* The California Angels beat the Boston Red Sox, 5-0 at Fenway Park in Boston. Chuck Finley pitched a 1-hit shutout to beat Roger Clemens. The only hit was a 2-out single by Jody Reed in the 8th, so Finley came within 4 outs of a no-hitter.

* The Toronto Blue Jays beat the Chicago White Sox, 11-3 at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto. Two days later, on May 28, the Jays beat the ChiSox 7-5 in the last game at that stadium, before moving into the SkyDome (now the Rogers Centre).

* The Houston Astros beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-2 at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.

* The Baltimore Orioles beat the Cleveland Indians, 5-2 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium.

* The Cincinnati Reds beat the Chicago Cubs, 10-8. Rolando Roomes won the game in the 12th inning, with a home run, 1 of just 9 he would hit in a brief career.

* The Seattle Mariners beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 7-2 at Milwaukee County Stadium.

* The Texas Rangers beat the Minnesota Twins, 5-3 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

* The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Atlanta Braves, 3-0 at Busch Memorial Stadium. Scott Terry allowed just 2 hits over the 1st 7 innings. Ken Dayley allowed 3, and had to be bailed out for the last out by former Kansas City closer Dan Quisenberry.

* The Kansas City Royals beat the Detroit Tigers, 6-3 at Royals (now Kauffman) Stadium in Kansas City.

* The Montreal Expos beat the San Diego Padres, 5-0 at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego. Bryn Smith pitched a 6-hit shutout.

* And the San Francisco Giants beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 6-1 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Top 10 Bob Dylan Songs

May 24, 1941, 80 years ago: Robert Allen Zimmerman is born in Duluth, Minnesota, and grows up in Hibbing, Minnesota, also the birthplace of baseball legend Roger Maris, and the hometown of basketball legend Kevin McHale.

Bob Dylan, his character, was born in Minneapolis sometime in September 1959 in Minneapolis. Ah, but he was so much older then. He’s younger than that now.

He hasn't always been a good guy. He hasn't always been a great artist, either. Like anybody else -- Satchmo, Sinatra, Elvis, the Beatles, Jacko, etc. -- he's had some clunkers. In the end, it doesn't matter a damn.

Top 10 Bob Dylan Songs

These are in chronological order, by date of recording. What Bob recorded from July 9, 1962 to March 10, 1966 stands up with just about anybody's entire output, ever. It makes us forget that what he did after that, especially from late 1967 to 1975, would be enough to make most songwriters a legend.

Honorable Mention: "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," November 14, 1962; "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall," December 6, 1962; "Masters of War," April 24, 1963; "With God On Our Side," August 7, 1963; "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," January 15, 1965; "Highway 61 Revisited," August 2, 1965; "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" (a.k.a. "When You're Lost In the Rain In Juarez"), August 2, 1965; 8. "Just Like a Woman," March 8, 1966; "Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35" (a.k.a. "Everybody Must Get Stoned"), March 10, 1966; "All Along the Watchtower," November 9, 1967; "Lay Lady Lay," February 14, 1969; "Forever Young," November 1, 1973; "Jokerman," April 14, 1983.

1. "Blowin' in the Wind," July 9, 1962.
2. "When the Ship Comes In," October 23, 1963.
3. "The Times, They Are a-Changin'," October 24, 1963.
4. "My Back Pages," a.k.a. "I Was So Much Older Then," June 9, 1964.
5. "Subterranean Homesick Blues," a.k.a. "Johnny's In the Basement," January 14, 1965.
6. "Like a Rolling Stone," June 16, 1965.
7. "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again," February 17, 1966.
8. "I Shall Be Released," September 24, 1971.
9. "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," February 1, 1973.
10. "Tangled Up In Blue," December 30, 1974.

I am aware that Bob wrote "Catfish," about Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees pitcher Jim Hunter. It's good. It's not one of his Top 10. It's not even one of his Top 50. That's how good he is.

Honorable Mention: "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," November 14, 1962; "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall," December 6, 1962; "Masters of War," April 24, 1963; "With God On Our Side," August 7, 1963; "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," January 15, 1965; "Highway 61 Revisited," August 2, 1965; "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" (a.k.a. "When You're Lost In the Rain In Juarez"), August 2, 1965; 8. "Just Like a Woman," March 8, 1966; "Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35" (a.k.a. "Everybody Must Get Stoned"), March 10, 1966; "All Along the Watchtower," November 9, 1967; "Lay Lady Lay," February 14, 1969; "Forever Young," November 1, 1973; "Jokerman," April 14, 1983.

And, of course, a lot of Bob's songs, especially his early ones, were covered, and done better, by other performers:

* "Blowin' in the Wind" was a hit in 1963 for Peter, Paul & Mary, and in 1966 for Stevie Wonder. Stevie sang it at the 30th Anniversary tribute concert that Columbia Records held for Bob at Madison Square Garden on October 16, 1992 -- or, as Neil Young called it, "Bobfest."

* "When the Ship Comes In" was a song he sang publicly even before recording it, at the March On Washington, August 28, 1963. The best version is by The Clancy Brothers, Irish accents and all, and they sang it at the Garden concert.

* "My Back Pages" was a hit for The Byrds in 1965, as was "Mr. Tambourine Man." On the former, The Byrds cut the 3rd and 4th of the 6 verses. At the Garden concert, after Byrds lead singer Roger McGuinn sang "Mr. Tambourine Man," "My Back Pages" was sung by, in order on the verses: McGuinn, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Dylan himself, and George Harrison.

"I Shall Be Released" was recorded by The Band 4 years before Bob recorded it himself. They sang it together at The Band's farewell concert at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, on Thanksgiving Night, November 25, 1976. It was filmed for Martin Scorcese's film The Last Waltz. Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders sang it at the Garden concert.

Dylan is one of those performers where, if you get 25 people together and ask them what their favorite song of his is, you could get 25 different answers. That's how far he has reached -- even if every distance is not near.

It Wasn't Easy, But Yanks Sweep ChiSox

The Chicago White Sox came into Yankee Stadium II this weekend with the best record in the American League. Since the teams have been in separate Divisions since 1969, and have never faced each other in the Playoffs, these may have been -- however early in the season they were -- the most significant games between the South Bronx and the South Side since the end of the 1964 AL Pennant race, in which the Yankees finished 1 game ahead of the White Sox (and 2 ahead of the Baltimore Orioles).

The Friday night game was a struggle that the Yankees won. The Saturday afternoon game was considerably easier, and the Yankees won that, too. The Sunday afternoon game turned out to be harder than it looked like it would be at first.

Jameson Taillon, brought to the Yankee rotation this season on a slim hope that he could once again be the pitcher he was in 2018, had his best start in Pinstripes, going 5 innings, allowing no runs, allowing 2 hits and 2 walks, with 5 strikeouts. If he's the "weak link" in our rotation, I'll take it.

But every pitcher needs run support. In the 1st inning, Luke Voit reached 1st base on an error, Aaron Judge singled him over, Gio Urshela moved them over with a groundout, and the scorching-hot bat of Gleyber Torres singled them home.

It was still only 2-0 Yankees going to the bottom of the 5th, so Taillon had to keep it close, and did. DJ LeMahieu led off that inning with a single, Voit and Judge drew walks to load the bases (and you know what can happen with those), and Urshela's grounder got LeMahieu home. Unfortunately, it was a double play, preventing more runs, which would matter.

The White Sox closed to within 3-2 in the top of the 6th, when Wandy Peralta gave up a home run to José Abreu. But in the bottom of the inning, Gary Sanchez drew a leadoff walk (and you know what can happen with those), followed by a Clint Frazier single that got Sanchez over to 3rd, and a Brett Gardner fielder's choice that got Sanchez home. 4-2 Yankees.

But Chad Green gave up a home run to Yasmani Grandal in the top of the 7th. It was still 4-3 New York going into the top of the 9th.

Aroldis Chapman entered today's game with 65 batters faced and no earned runs. That was the most batters faced without allowing an ER by any pitcher this season. He was also 11-for-11 in save opportunities. But he gave up a game-tying home run to Andrew Vaughn. Then he made the inning more Aroldislike, giving up a walk and a wild pitch, before getting out of it. His ERA went from 0.00 to 0.47.

It doesn't seem fair that a pitcher who blows a lead should get credit for the win if the team then wins the game. On the other hand, I don't particularly care how my team wins a game, as long as we don't break the rules. (I am not a Boston sports or Houston Astros fan.)

Aaron Bummer pitched the bottom of the 9th for the Pale Hose, and lived up to his name. He gave up a leadoff single to Frazier. He struck Gardner out, but Frazier stole 2nd. With 1st base open, LeMahieu was intentionally walked. But Tyler Wade hit a soft grounder, fielded by 2nd baseman Nick Madrigal, who couldn't make a play at any base.

Tony La Russa, the South Siders' elderly manager, brought Liam Hendriks in to pitch to Judge, probably hoping to strike him out as much as to get him to ground him into a double play.

Judge had never gotten a walkoff hit in his career, at any level. He still hasn't. In this case, he didn't need to. Cliché Alert: A walk is as good as a hit. Not always, but, this time, it was. And... Cliché Alert: Walks can kill you.

Yankees 5, White Sox 4. WP: Chapman (4-0). No save. LP: Bummer (0-3). Sweep.

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So, 47 games into the regular season, or 29 percent, the Yankees are 28-19. They are half a game out of 1st place, even in the loss column with the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays, who are both 29-19. The Toronto Blue Jays are 23-22, 4 1/2 back. The Baltimore Orioles are 17-29, 11 games back.

There have been injuries and illnesses, and still, the Yankees are right in the Pennant race. Because the pitching has been (mostly) good, and the hitting has been just enough.

The Yankees have today off, and then the Blue Jays come to town for 3 games. Then a trip to Detroit, then back home for 4 games against the Rays and 3 against the Red Sox, a week that could go a long way toward shaping the rest of the season.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Another Gleyber Day Sends Yanks Past Southsiders

For a month now, since April 21 -- minus sitting out with a 2nd round of COVID-19 -- Gleyber Torres has been playing like the player we were always told he was going to become. As much as Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, or any pitcher, he has been a reason why the Yankees have gone from 6-11 to 27-19.

Yesterday afternoon, Gerrit Cole to the mound in the middle game of a home series with the Chicago White Sox. His last start was his worst as a Yankee. This time, he was back to normal: 7 innings, 0 runs, 4 hits, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts.

But even Cole needs runs -- at least 1. The game was scoreless until the bottom of the 4th, when Torres nearly hit one out, driving in Gio Urshela and Aaron Judge. It became back-to-back doubles, when Rougned Odor drove Torres home.

With the bases loaded in the 5th, Torres singled home Brett Gardner and Luke Voit. In the 6th, Mike Ford, playing 1st base (Voit was the designated hitter) and usually an automatic out, crushed one to the right-center bleachers, 447 feet. Miguel Andujar added an RBI double in the7th, scoring Torres. This made Torres involved in 6 of the 7 Yankee runs. The Southsiders just couldn't stop him.

With a big lead, this was not the day to put your best relievers out there. Rather, it was the day to send out 2 relievers who need work and straightening out. Both who were sent out sure looked straightened out: Justin Wilson pitched a scoreless 8th, and Luis Cessa pitched a perfect 9th. Yankees 7, White Sox 0. WP: Cole (6-2). No save. LP: Dylan Cease (2-1).

With the Boston Red Sox again beating the Philadelphia Phillies, the Yankees remain a game and a half out of 1st place.

This series concludes this afternoon. Dallas Keuchel, whom I wished the Yankees had gotten when they had the chance in 2019, starts for the Pale Hose. Jameson Taillon, whom the Yankees actually did get this past off-season, and hasn't yet lived up to our hopes, starts for us. Hopefully, he can pitch well enough to give the hitters a chance to secure the sweep.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

How Long It's Been: The Yankees Pulled a Triple Play

Last night, the Yankees beat the Chicago White Sox 2-1, on an RBI single by Gleyber Torres in the bottom of the 9th inning.

In the top of the 9th, Aroldis Chapman was brought in to pitch, and he let the 1st 2 men get on base: A walk to Yermin Mercedes, with Billy Hamilton pinch-running for him; and a bunt by Leury Garcia, which Chapman tried to handle himself, and couldn't.

All I could think of was the old line from Star Wars: "I've got a bad feeling about this!"

The batter was Andrew Vaughn. He hit a hard shot toward 3rd base. Gio Urshela got it, and stepped on 3rd. 1 out. He threw to 2nd, where Rougned Odor stepped on the bag. 2 outs. Odor threw to 1st, and Luke Voit got it before Vaughn could get to the base. 3 out.

A triple play. I've seen footage of triple plays after the fact before, but this is the 1st time I can ever remember seeing one as it happened, either live or on TV.

It was the 1st one pulled by the Yankees since April 17, 2014. It happened on the horrible carpet of Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Yankees ended up beating the Rays 10-2, thanks to home runs by Alfonso Soriano, Brian McCann and Yangervis Solarte.

The triple play came in the bottom of the 2nd. CC Sabathia allowed a leadoff double to Evan Longoria, and then walked Wil Myers. Sean Rodriguez hit a ground ball to 3rd base, where Solarte took it, stepped on 3rd, and threw to 2nd. Brian Roberts took it, stepped on 2nd, and threw to 1st. Scott Sizemore caught the 3rd out.

That was 7 years, 1 month and 4 days before last night's Yankee triple play. How long has that been?

*

For one thing, of the 14 Yankees who played in that game, only Brett Gardner, a late defensive replacement, is still playing for them. The only other one still playing in the major leagues is Dellin Betances, with the Mets. (He relieved Sabathia, who pitched 7 innings for the win.) Solarte is still playing, but in the Mexican League. No other Yankee then on the roster is still there, although Adam Warren has left and been brought back.

The Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers have opened new ballparks. The Oakland Raiders have moved to Las Vegas, the St. Louis Rams and the San Diego Chargers have both moved back to Los Angeles, and all of them have built new stadiums. So have the San Francisco 49ers, the Minnesota Vikings and the Atlanta Falcons. The Vegas Golden Knights began play. They, the Edmonton Oilers, the Sacramento Kings, the Milwaukee Bucks, and the Detroit Pistons and Red Wings have opened new arenas.

Bob Melvin of the Oakland Athletics, and Terry Francona of the Cleveland Indians are the only MLB managers still running the same teams they were at the time. Head coaching changes have since come to the Yankees once; the Mets, the New York Rangers, and the New York Islanders twice each; the New York Liberty and the New York Red Bulls 3 times; the New York Jets, the New Jersey Devils and New York City FC 4 times each; the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Nets 5 times, the New York Knicks 6 times.

The San Francisco Giants, the Kansas City Royals (who hadn't done it in 30 years), the Chicago Cubs (who hadn't done it in 108 years), the Houston Astros (who had never done it in 56 years of trying), the Boston Red Sox, the Washington Nationals (who had never done it in 15 years of trying) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (who hadn't done it in 32 years) have won the World Series. The Mets, the Cleveland Indians and the Tampa Bay Rays have won Pennants. The Yankees haven't won either.

The defending World Champions were the Red Sox, the Seattle Seahawks, the Miami Heat and the Chicago Blackhawks. The Heavyweight Champion of the World was, aw, who the hell knows, the title's been split so many ways. The Olympic Games have since been held in Brazil and Korea; the World Cup, in Brail and Russia.

The President of the United States was Barack Obama. The Governor of the State of New York was Andrew Cuomo (that hasn't changed), and the Mayor of the City New York was Bill de Blasio (that hasn't changed, either). The Governor of New Jersey was Chris Christie.

The Prime Minister of Britain was David Cameron. The Pope was the same as now, Francis. There have since been 3 Presidents of the United States, 3 Prime Ministers of Britain, and 1 Pope.

The films Divergent, Muppets Most Wanted, Noah, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Draft Day and Oculus were in theaters. Jimmy Fallon had just become the host of The Tonight Show. Chicago P.D., Bitten, Wahlburgers, Black Sails, Chrisley Knows Best and The 100 had recently debuted on television. Psych, How I Met Your Mother and Being Human had recently aired their last first-run episodes. The Number 1 song in America was "Happy" by Pharrell Williams.

Inflation was such that what $1.00 bought then, $1.13 would buy now. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed that day at 16,408.54. There was no TikTok yet, and Vine has both come and gone.

In the Spring of 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 crashed into the Indian Ocean, killing all 239 people on board. Russia annexed the Crimea from Ukraine, causing the other 7 members to suspend them from the Group of 8. Islamic fundamentalists kidnapped 276 girls from a school in Nigeria. A Korean ferry sinks, killing 304 people. And, in order to save money, the City of Flint, Michigan changes the source of its water from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the considerably less-regulated Flint River, starting the Flint Water Crisis.

Maya Angelou, and formerly imprisoned boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, and Brazilian soccer legend Hilderaldo Bellini died. Nobody yet particularly famous was born yet, but Clint Frazier, Tyler Wade, Miguel Andujar and Michael King were just 19 years old, and Gleyber Torres was only 17.

April 17, 2014. The Yankees pulled off a triple play. Last night, they did it again, 7 years later.

Does it matter? In 2014, it didn't: They missed the Playoffs. If they make the Playoffs in 2021, that triple play might end up having had something to do with it.