"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: August 2008

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Fumblin’ with the Blue(Jay)s

As Tom Waits put it so succinctly, "it’s hard to win when you always lose."

New York has emptied out for Labor Day weekend – every year at this time I wish I had a car, just so I could park it – and judging from the game thread, outside of the Stadium there were about 17 people watching the Yankees play Sunday afternoon. This is probably for the best. In a performance that wasn’t so much lousy as just listless, the Yankees lost to the Blue Jays 6-2.

It was a fairly gutty outing from Andy Pettitte, but not a good one. He recovered from an ugly three-run first inning (not helped by Xavier Nady, who lost a fly ball in the sun) to allow just a solo shot in the second and nothing else until the seventh, going deeper than expected. But then he ran out of steam all at once, and Jose Veras couldn’t pick him up; in the end Pettitte was charged with all six earned runs. Meanwhile, the Yankees’ only scoring came on solo shots from Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi, and while they had several promising opportunities with runners on base… stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

The game’s only silver lining was the long-awaited appearance of Alfredo Aceves, scourge of the Mexican Leagues — and of Toronto, apparently. For some reason, I was expecting him to be some scrawny kid, but instead Aceves is brawny and tough-looking, with a shaved head, wearing #91 in honor of childhood hero Dennis Rodman. He threw two perfect innings, with three strikeouts.

Against All Odds

That’s what it’s going to be for the Yanks to miraculously qualify for the playoffs let alone being able to get passed Roy Halladay and the Jays today. It is another beauty of a day out there. Not that the weather helped matters any yesterday. (I was painting my apartment and had the pleasure of hearing John Sterling deliver the bad news.)

Still, today is a new day and you never know what’s going to happen on a baseball diamond.

Let’s Go Yan-Kees.

Girardi: “I Felt That We Gave That Game Away”

The Yankees took a 6-2 lead into the seventh inning yesterday afternoon. Robinson Cano and Ivan Rodriguez had delivered consecutive solo home runs in the fourth to break a 2-2 tie, and Hideki Matsui had delivered a two-run double with the bases loaded in the fifth, all four runs coming with two outs in their respective innings. Darrell Rasner was cruising, having thrown just 67 pitches through six innings, 52 of them strikes.

Adam Lind singled on Rasner’s first pitch of the seventh. Lyle Overbay then hit what looked like an easy double play ball to second base, but rather than side-arm the ball to Derek Jeter for the pivot, Robinson Cano tried a back-handed flip from a bit too far away. The ball dove and skipped past Jeter and both runners were safe. Jose Bautista, who was 0-for-August entering that inning, capitalized by singling Lind home. Rasner then walked Gregg Zaun to load the bases and got the hook in favor of Brian Bruney, a pitcher more capable of a much-needed strikeout. Bruney delivered exactly that, striking out rookie Travis Snider, but Joe Inglett followed with a single that plated Overbay and Bautista to bring the Jays within one run. After Brandon League struck out the heart of the Yankee order in the seventh, the Jays got back to work against Bruney, Damaso Marte, and Edwar Ramirez in the eighth, tying the game on singles by Vernon Wells (off Bruney) Adam Lind (off Marte), and Bautista (off Ramirez), and taking the lead when Gregg Zaun just barely beat out a double-play relay on a dribbler to the left side on which Alex Rodriguez made a nice play.

Facing Scott Downs in the eighth, the Yankees put a runner in scoring position with two outs on an Ivan Rodriguez infield single and a stolen base by pinch-runner Brett Gardner, but Johnny Damon grounded out to strand Gardner. Facing B.J. Ryan in the ninth, the Yankees mounted a bigger threat when Derek Jeter led off with a single and Bobby Abreu followed with a walk to bring Alex Rodriguez to the plate. Rodriguez, who had driven in the first run of the game in the first, worked the count full, then ripped the payoff pitch hard down the third base line, but that man Bautista made a slick play on the ball, raced to third to force out Jeter, and fired across the diamond to get Rodriguez by inches (the total distance by which Zaun was safe and Rodriguez was out couldn’t have added up to more than a foot). With that double play, the rally was reduced to Abreu on second with two outs and Cody Ransom, who had come in as a defensive replacement for Giambi in the eighth with the Yankees still leading by a run, at the plate. Ransom swung at the first pitch he saw and flew out to left to end the game and hand the Yankees a painful 7-6 loss.

Today they face Roy Halladay.


Rubber Game?

With Roy Halladay pitching tomorrow, one suspects it’s today’s game, which pits Darrell Rasner against John Parrish, that will decide which team wins this series.

Since he was briefly removed from the rotation, Rasner has posted a 4.19 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP in four appearances (three starts). The best of those was his 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Blue Jays in Toronto two starts ago. The worst was his last, when he failed to get out of the fourth inning against the Orioles.

Parrish, who spent most of his major league career as a lefty reliever for the Orioles, was recently recalled from triple-A Syracuse. He’s making his fifth major league start of the season and his first in more than a month. He posted a 4.71 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP in the first four. His only other start against the Yankees was his major league debut in July 2000.

Joe Girardi’s lineup makes no concessions to the opposing lefty.

For those who missed it, the Yankees swapped David Robertson out for Alfredo Aceves before Thursday’s game. The 25-year-old Aceves, who pitched well in his final two starts for Scranton (12 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 5 BB, 16 K) and posted a 2.62 ERA in 140 2/3 innings across three minor league levels in this his first professional season, will work out of the bullpen. He’s also the first Yankee to wear number 91 during the regular season.

Dress Down Friday

After my last guest shot on New York Baseball Today the producer said that I should feel free to dress down the next time. “You can be casual,” he said, explaining they were looking to capture the true fan experience. So I wore a t-shirt yesterday. The producer, who is a good guy, nearly gasped when he saw me and when we were finished he mentioned that the t-shirt was too casual, which just goes to show everyone has their own idea of what is casual.

Ted Berg and I had to do three takes because of various screw-ups on our part and also because we kept going long. It’s amazing what a skill it is to not only sound articulate when you are looking into a camera but to be able to get your point across in a pointed and succinct manner. Especially when your natural inclination is to be expansive. I tripped over a bunch of my words during our third and final take but still had a good time with Ted. Hey, it’s a learning process, right?

Anyhow, here’s the bit:

In other news, here is an update on the story about the police at Yankee Stadium during “God Bless America,” and something to make you really depressed: the high cost of watching the Yanks play in their new ballpark.

And, oh, one last note: how beautiful was Mariano Rivera’s performance last night? It was vintage stuff, wasn’t it?

Wonder of Wonders, Miracle of Miracles

Or maybe it’s just that even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and again. Either way, the Yankees finally beat A.J. Burnett last night, and did it largely thanks to six strong innings from Carl Pavano, who has now won both of his starts since returning from his long injury-induced exile, thereby doubling his win total from the previous 38 months.

Pavano wasn’t great. Typically a slight groundball pitcher, he got 13 of his 18 outs in the air, many of them hard hit balls either right at infielders or to the deepest parts of the outfield. Still, he gave up just three hits in those six innings, walked just one, and held the Blue Jays to one sixth-inning run when Jays’ rookie Travis Snider bounced a ground-rule double over the fence in center for his first major league hit, and Marco Scutaro singled him home.

Pavano needed just 72 pitches to get through those first six innings, but Joe Girardi decided to count his blessings at that point as the Yankees held a slim 2-1 lead.

The Yankees got their runs in a wacky fourth inning. Johnny Damon led off by hitting a ball off the top of the right field wall, directly on the white stripe of the foul line. In the first Yankee game eligible for replay, first base umpire Jeff Nelson got the call right without argument and Damon pulled up with a 314-foot single. Two pitches later, Damon stole second. Catcher Rod Barajas’s throw beat Damon, as did second baseman Joe Inglett’s tag, but Inglett caught the ball high in the webbing of his glove and the force od Damon’s slide knocked it loose as he slid by. Burnett struck out Derek Jeter on three more pitches, one of Burnett’s eight strikeouts in his eight-inning complete-game loss, but Bobby Abreu served a 3-1 pitch into the gap in left-center for a double that plated Damon with the game’s first run. When Alex Rodriguez chopped Burnett’s next pitch in between third base and shortstop, Abreu, somewhat misguidedly, took off for third base, perhaps thinking that the ball would get through. Shortstop Scutaro made an awkward attempt to backhand the ball, bobbled it, then threw late to third base as Abreu made an even more awkward slide into the bag, deciding at the last second to slide and almost stopping his momentum before dropping into a bent-knee split and touching the bag with his back foot. It wasn’t pretty, but it put runners on the corners with out out. Jason Giambi then flared the next pitch foul down the left field line where left fielder Snider almost overran it and had to leap backwards to make the catch, allowing Abreu to tag and score what proved to be the winning run.

Buoyed by that extra run, Girardi had Brian Bruney and Damaso Marte split the seventh inning, then brought out Jose Veras for the eighth. Veras gave up a leadoff double to Barajas, then walked Scott Rolen on five pitches, so Girardi brought in Edwar Ramirez to face the lefty Snider, whom Ramirez struck out. Going for the throat, Girardi then called on Mariano Rivera, who got a groundball and a strikeout to strand both runners, then worked around a one-out single by Vernon Wells to nail down the win in the ninth.

The 2-1 win was particularly uplifting for the monkeys it brushed of the team’s back (specifically Burnett and Pavano), and because it lasted a mere two hours and 36 minutes. The Red Sox, Twins, and Rays all won as well, so it did little to revive the Yankees moribund postseason hopes, but small victories like this are what they have left to offer this season, and the last two games have done a lot to remind the spoiled Yankee fanbase that there’s joy to be had in small victories, too.

Toronto Blue Jays V: Killing the Set In Stone with Two Birds Edition

Untitled The Yankees are 1-6 in games started by A.J. Burnett and Roy Halladay this season. Burnett (3-0, 1.61 ERA vs. NYY this season) starts again tonight against former rotation-mate Carl Pavano. Halladay (3-1, 2.48 ERA vs. NYY this season) starts Sunday against Andy Pettitte. That is a major reason why the Yankees’ failure to sweep the Red Sox this week all but officially eliminated them from the playoff hunt.

No Excuses

The Jays lost Dustin McGowan for the season in early July, Shaun Marcum hit the DL a few weeks later and is currently back in the minors trying to straighten himself out. Second baseman Aaron Hill suffered a season-ending concussion on May 30. Vernon Wells broke his wrist in May and strained his hamstring in July, missing a month with each injury. Scott Rolen broke a finger at the end of spring training, which cost him most of April, and he just got back from a second stint on the DL earlier this week. B.J. Ryan made a quick and successful return from Tommy John surgery, but within weeks of his return, last year’s closer, Jeremy Accardo, was lost for the season. Set-up man Casey Janssen has missed the entire season. Several les- significant relievers have also missed less-significant time due to injury. Shortstops David Eckstein and John McDonald landed on the DL on the same day in early May, and Gregg Zaunn, Shannon Stewart, and now Brad Wilkerson have also spent time on the DL. Rolen has been barely league average when healthy, and Stewart and Matt Stairs slumped their way off the team entirely.

Despite all of that, the Blue Jays could pull even with the Yankees by sweeping this weekend’s series, which given the fact that both Burnett and Halladay are due to pitch, isn’t as unlikely as it might sound. Meanwhile, the Jays’ Pythagorean record is already four games better than the Yankees’.


Observations From Cooperstown–The Relics of Shea Stadium



With Yankee Stadium’s long run coming to an end, apparently in September and not October, it might be fitting to look at those Yankees who never played a single home game at Yankee Stadium during their careers. How is that possible, you might ask? The answer is Shea Stadium, which housed the Yankees for two mostly forgettable seasons in the mid-1970s and is simultaneously closing its doors this fall after a stretch of four and a half decades. At the suggestion of Bronx Banter chieftain Alex Belth, we’ve decided to launch a series on those players whose Yankee careers coincided only with the Shea Stadium seasons of 1974 and ’75.

During the spring of 1974, Yankee GM Gabe Paul engineered an unusual three-team deal with the Indians and Tigers. The swap sent backup catcher Jerry Moses to the Tigers and brought back pitchers Ed Farmer (from Detroit) and Rick Sawyer along with outfielder Walt Williams, the latter two coming from Cleveland. Concerned about their lack of right-handed bats, the Yankees planned to use the singles-hitting Williams as a backup outfielder, giving him occasional starts against left-handers and also employing him as a pinch-hitter.

At five-feet, six-inches, Williams didn’t look like a typical major league outfielder. (My goodness, even Luis Polonia is taller than Williams!) Built like a fireplug, Williams was extraordinarily well developed in the chest, with muscles in his upper torso seemingly obscuring the length of his neck. That’s why Williams’ former Houston Colt .45s teammate John Bateman came up with the nickname of "No Neck" for the stocky outfielder. Given his unusual build, including the nearly complete absence of a neck, Williams became an iconic figure, especially in the Markusen household, in the 1960s and seventies. When I first became interested in weightlifting, my father admonished me, offering a cautionary tale. He told me repeatedly, "Don’t overdue it lifting those weights. You’ll end up looking like No-Neck Williams!"

With stories of his neck preceding him, Williams joined the Yankees during spring training in 1974. He also came with a reputation as a free swinger—one who rarely walked, but also rarely struck out. Defensively, Williams possessed a weak arm, but had worked diligently to make himself an adept outfielder capable of playing all three positions in the "outer pasture," as Art Rust, Jr. used to say.

Williams immediately impressed his teammates and coaches with his upbeat personality, everlasting smile, and sincere enthusiasm for the game. He hustled at every turn, running out ground balls and pop-ups with equal degrees of verve. He also took time to talk to fans, making him a popular figure at Shea Stadium. Clearly, no faults could be found with Williams’ personality.

His physical well being proved a bit more problematic. Williams couldn’t stay healthy in 1974, as he appeared in only 43 games and took only 53 at-bats. When he did play, he didn’t hit. A .113 batting average and a matching slugging percentage left everyone around the Queens ballpark disappointed with his first year in pinstripes.

Duly motivated by a season lost to injury and futility, Williams reported to spring training in Ft. Lauderdale determined to make a far better second impression. Toiling as hard as a 24-year-old rookie trying to prove the merits of being included on the 25-man roster, Williams sweated his way to a spot on the team. In an effort to make himself more versatile, he even learned how to play second base, a position he had never played in nine previous seasons.

Hard labor paid off. Filling a valuable role as a utility outfielder, DH, and occasional infielder, Williams batted a respectable .281 with five home runs in 185 at-bats. He appeared in six games at second base, predictably showing little range but handling all chances without an error. With his attitude, versatility, and revived bat all weighing as plusses, Williams made himself into an effective bench player.

During his two seasons in New York, Williams also firmed up his reputation as one of the most voracious eaters in the game. Williams regularly accompanied Yankee first baseman-DH Ron Blomberg and shortstop Gene "Stick" Michael on trips to local Burger King restaurants, where they gladly consumed large quantities of hamburgers at 39 cents a pop. The burgers blended well with No-Neck’s 185-pound frame.

Williams’ legendary appetite stood out as one of the highlights of his brief term in the Bronx. Although he hit fairly well in his 1975 bench role, the Yankees surprisingly released him prior to the 1976 season. That decision robbed him of an opportunity to play in the newly renovated Yankee Stadium. It also denied him his first postseason, as the Yankees went on to win the AL East and the League Championship Series before bowing to the power-packed Reds in the World Series.

Spurned by the Yankees, Williams took his amiable act to Japan, where he played for two seasons. Beginning in 1980, he played in the Mexican League and throughout the winter leagues before finally calling it quits in 1985, 18 years after making his major league debut. He then coached briefly for the White Sox and Rangers in the late 1980s.

Now out of baseball, Williams is doing his best to help out youngsters in the Houston area, where he resides. An employee of the Houston Youth Recreation Center, Williams also performs volunteer service in and around the city. Still the hard worker after all these years, Williams sounds like the same fan-friendly, down-to-earth guy who made those two seasons at Shea Stadium a little more enjoyable.

Bruce Markusen writes "Cooperstown Confidential" for MLB.com.

A Last Time

Yesterday’s game was the last the Red Sox will ever play at the first Yankee Stadium. It was also the last I’ll ever see from the seating bowl of the old ballpark. I have two games remaining in the bleachers this season, including the Stadium’s final game against the Orioles on September 21, but that final game will be overrun with hype, anxiety, and mixed emotions. In providing two other, more specific “last”s, yesterday’s game provided me with a sense of personal closure regarding the old park.

Twenty years ago almost exactly, I saw my first game at Yankee Stadium from a seat in the front row of the upper deck in right field. The Yankees won that night on a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth by Claudell Washington. Yesterday afternoon, I was a few rows higher behind home plate and the Yankees won on a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth by Jason Giambi. I’ll save my reminiscences of the games in between for another time, but I wanted to share a few of the photographs I took of yesterday’s game.



Only in Dreams, In Beautiful Dreams

So I’ve been getting up early all week, and as I’m generally an insomniac night-owl type, it has not been going particularly well. Last night I made the mistake of lying down for a few minutes while watching the game; I fell asleep around 8 PM, and woke up long, long after it was over. The thing is, I was absolutely, 100% positive that I’d seen the Yankees win it, on a Johnny Damon home run… and it wasn’t til this afternoon that I realized I must have just dreamed it.


Today, however, I was wide awake when the Yankees beat the Sox 3-2, in dramatic fashion, with Jason Giambi singling in the winning run off Michael Flatley Jonathan Papelbon. (Have I really been reduced to making stale, cheap “Lord of the Dance” jabs out of pure bitterness? Yes. Yes I have. Try and stop me). This is one of those seasons where you just have to appreciate the small victories: so yes, the Yankees lost two of three to the Sox (though I could have sworn… man, that was a vivid dream), and are almost certainly not going to make the postseason this year; but it was a good game, and the last that Boston will ever play in the old Stadium.

Mike Mussina was excellent, again, but when he left the game was tied, and he didn’t get the win. I don’t think he can make it to 20 now — and because the BWAA changes its thinking at roughly the pace of a frail, elderly snail, that may well hurt his Hall of Fame chances, etc, etc. But it’s been such a pleasure to watch him do his thing this year. Today his fastball was actually quicker than usual (a whopping 89 mph at one point! Heavens!), and he allowed two runs on five hits in seven strong innings. The Sox only scored in the fifth, when they strung together a single, a hit by pitch, another single (an RBI for Varitek), and a fielder’s choice.

Meanwhile, the Yankees couldn’t do much more than peck at Jon Lester until the 7th, when Cody Ransom (he of the awesomely badass name) doubled, and Jason Giambi (he of the awesomely badass Porn ‘Stache of Doom) homered. That was it until the bottom of the ninth, when – on a night when the Yankee bullpen really couldn’t have handled many extra innings – the Yanks loaded the bases, the Sox summoned Papelbon from the pen, and the ‘Stache took matters into its own hands.

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to blogging about the playoff games I’ll dream about this fall. Will the dream-Yankees be able to beat the dream-Twins in the ALDS? Or will dream-Abreu morph into a giant aardvark and swallow my high school English teacher whole, as he did in the fall of ’06? Tune in and find out. There’s only one October!

Naming Rights TK?

I was at the game today (Emma will be along later with the recap), and the Yankees were giving away DVDs of a “Virtual Tour” of the new Yankee Stadium. I haven’t watched the thing yet, but opening up the front flap I saw this:


If nothing strikes you as odd about that, look a little closer:


I’m speculating wildly here, but that image in the background looks a lot like a mock-up designed for companies interested in acquiring naming rights to the new Stadium. I’ve not seen any other conceptual image of the new Stadium with any letters to the right of the center field video screen, so I’m guessing whomever layed out this DVD package is in a boat load of trouble right now.

Update: I watched the DVD and, again, there is no lettering to the right of the video screen in any image shown.

Our Man Moose

It is a gorgeous day in New York City.  I picked up some San Marzano tomatoes at a nearby Farmer’s Market and then noticed a twenty dollar bill on the pavement.  Two gentlemen were standing a few feet away from me and they saw it too.  I was closer so I bent over, picked it up and looked around to see if anyone would claim it.  One of the men said, "I think it was that girl in the white t-shirt, go after her."  So I did.  I hustled half a block away and asked the woman in the white shirt if the bill was hers.  She looked confused. 

Ethics, Belth, ethics

I could have kept the dough.  It didn’t look like it belonged to her.  But I gave it to her anyhow and said, "Welp, if it ain’t yours, at least you are twenty dollars richer now."  I held out my hand for her to slap me five, but she balked.  Maybe she thought I was asking for half of it in return.  Ah, people just don’t slap each other five like they used to, do they?

I walked away and when I passed the two guys I told them I didn’t think it was hers.  "Well, maybe you’ll get it in return someday," one of them said, "and much more than twenty bucks."

Who knows?  Karma is a funny thing.  Speaking of which, the Yankee season has boiled down to me rooting for Mike Mussina to win twenty games more than anything else.  Knowing his "luck" he’ll end up with eighteen or nineteen.  But luck can change at the drop of a dime.

Enjoy the day, and let’s go Yankees.


Book Review: Yankee for Life

MurcerAs has been discussed in numerous Banter posts over the years, Bobby Murcer was one of the few bright spots for the Yankees during the initial post-Mantle years. Murcer wasn’t Mantle, but he had enough similarities and attributes to merit the comparisons.

Murcer’s affiliation with the Yankees lasted over 40 years, from his being drafted by them in 1964, through his call-up to the big club for good in 1969, to his 2nd tour of duty with the Bombers beginning in 1979 and then his ascension into the broadcast booth in 1983.

What made Murcer so likable? Undoubtedly it was his easy-going, self-effacing manner. He rarely spoke poorly of anyone. His love for the Yankees was always easy to see. His voice was certainly Southern, but easy on the ears of those tuned to the games.

So, when news of his brain cancer diagnosis and surgery hit the wires in late 2006, it made what was planned to be his relatively straight-forward autobiography into something much more spiritual and intimate.

Released on his 62nd birthday, "Yankee for Life: My 40-Year Journey in Pinstripes" reveals the soul of the man who wouldn’t be (and couldn’t be) Mantle. We open with Bobby and his wife Kay recounting his headaches, forgetfulness and the lethargy during the latter part of 2006, and after numerous tests, the shocking diagnosis, delivered to him on Christmas Eve. Though Murcer is understandably rocked by the news, his upbringing helps him see through the darkness and begin the fight.

With that foundation, the book takes us back to his Oklahoma City roots, and the seemingly classic sports fable. A boy from the not-quite-well-to-do part of town, born with a seeming congenital desire to play baseball for the Yankees. A natural athlete …. a multi-sport star in high school and college. He marries the quintessential girl next door / high school sweetheart Kay. He signs with the team of his dreams.

Of course, if you have seen Murcer’s CenterStage or Yankeeography, and/or you’ve followed Murcer’s career to some extent, you know most of the rest of the story. Nonetheless, "Yankee for Life" is a candid, humorous and forthright insight into a man whose passions can be boiled down to family, God and baseball.

Part of what keeps this book from being a stale read is the almost conversational style of writing throughout. As assisted by Glen Waggoner, Murcer laces his stories with "let me tell you"s and "you know how …".

In terms of new material, Murcer devotes entire chapters to

  • "Pinstripe All-Stars 1969 to today"
  • Recollections of his announcing partners
  • An entire chapter to his favorite partner, Phil Rizzuto
  • His love of New York City
  • His opinions on various hot-button issues in baseball (he’s got some interesting thoughts on the Mitchell Report, vis a vis Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens)

Late in the book, Murcer states his ultimate goal of throwing out the first pitch at the new Stadium in 2009. Sadly, that won’t happen. But "Yankee for Life" will keep Murcer in our memories long after they tear down the old ballpark, and is a worthwhile addition to the library of every Bomber fan.

Cupcake Kitty

I looked up from the morning paper this morning on my subway ride to work. We must have been near Columbia University.  A young woman with a bob of red hair and thin, square glasses that made her look as if she stepped right out of an underground comic book, got on the train and stood above me.  She was wearing a black t-shirt with white lettering: "Make Cupcakes Not War."  

That’s mad corny, I thought to myself and went back to my paper.  A little while later, I put the paper away and took out my headphones when I looked down and noticed that the girl had a tatoo of a cupcake on the top of her right foot.  She was wearing flip flops and the tatoo was beautifully done.  The cupcake had pink frosting and a red cherry on top.  The girl’s toes were painted yellow, her fingernails, pink.

I couldn’t resist so I stood up a minute before I was to get off the train, pulled off my headphones and asked her if she was a baker.


"What’s with the cupcakes?"

She smiled and looked down.  "My roommate and I just love cupcakes.  We make them all the time.  It’s a little weird, really."

"No, that’s cool.  I guess you guys are big fans of Magnolia."

"Naw.  We make much better cupcakes at home."

"Very cool."

With that I excused myself and headed off to work.

Yanks Get the Stink Eye

Youse guys stink, says Hank.


Aw, heck, while we’re at it, Yanks get the Gas Face too:

The Lambs Lie Down on Broadway

Okay, well they weren’t technically on Broadway but close enough.  Point is, the Yanks got served again by the Red Sox.  Thought they’d get saved by the mercy rule, but you’ve got to be down by ten for that to kick in, and right now there is no mercy for the Yanks or their fans.

It was close for a minute–a two run game after seven–then Jose Veras and David Robertson got bombed in the eighth and that was that.  11-3 was the final.  Sidney Ponson gave up four runs and didn’t make it out of the fourth while Paul Byrd kept the Yankees off balance allowing just a couple of runs over six (I think the Bombers must have hit three or four homers foul against him.)  Alex Rodriguez had a pair of doubles in his first two at bats, bouncing back from a tough game on Tuesday but that turned out to be a minor positive note in what turned out to be another uninspired loss. 

The Yanks are making this easy.  The way they are playing it’s as if the end of the season can’t come soon enough.  They don’t seem to have any fight in them right now.  Man, even if they are going to miss the playoffs it’d be nice to see them play spoiler.  That seems like a stretch though doesn’t it? 

Meanwhile, even more upsetting is this piece from Deadspin.  Reportedly, a fan was escorted from the Stadium recently for wanting to use the restroom while "God Bless America" played.  Did you guys even know the Yankees had a policy about fan movement during the playing of "God Bless America?"  I sure didn’t.  Over at Futility Infielder, Jay Jaffe pulls no punches:

I’ve taken many a restroom break during “God Bless America” during my days and nights at Yankee Stadium, and I’ve not only never been harassed by anyone for doing so, I was never aware that they actually had a policy — almost certainly illegal and blatantly unconstitutional — to try to quell such activity. Nonetheless, given the ever-eroding quality of my own experiences at the stadium in recent years, I fear that the allegations are true.

Yankee Stadium security deserves no benefit of the doubt here, nor in this instance does the Steinbrenner family if they’re the ones who have ordered the policy be implemented. Forcing paying customers to stand at rapt attention during a song isn’t some cute little attempt at patriotism to bolster the legacy of Mr. Born on the Fourth of July Steinbrenner, it’s FASCISM. Roughing them up over their failure to stand still during a canned recording of a song that’s been drained of all meaning by its endless repetition is in diametric opposition to what the song and the country it so proudly celebrates stand for; this is about as un-American as you can get.

Furthermore, this incident puts the lie to any claim regarding “the hallowed ground of Yankee Stadium” at a time when the ballpark’s history is being celebrated and its demise mourned. The Yankees deserve to reap all of the bad PR they’ve sown with this, and the Steinbrenner family can cram it up their Yankee Doodle Dandies until they figure out why they’re in the wrong.

I didn’t know about this Yankee Stadium policy but I think it an outrage. It doesn’t exactly surprise me but it is beyond disappointing.

No Point in Steering Now

Sho nuff, this has been a down year for our boys.  Games like last night just underscore what has been a frustrating season this has been.  Still, there’s thirty games left.  Soon enough, fall will be upon us and there will be no more baseball until the spring.  It’s looking like there won’t be October baseball in the Bronx, which only makes me appreciate what an impressive run the Yanks have enjoyed since 1995.  So even if they team isn’t that wunnerful, at least we get to watch baseball for a little while longer.  And that’s nothing to sneeze at.

Ponson vs. Byrd tonight.  Can’t get any worse.  And even if it does, we’re prepared.  Damn the torpedos and let’s go Yan-Kees.

Beating a Dead Horse

I’m as guilty as anyone of beating a dead horse as far as Alex Rodriguez is concerned.  Course it ain’t as bad as it was a few years ago, but since it is the theme of the day, here’s one last link to ponder.  From It’s About the Money, Stupid, the question is asked: Who is more clutch: Alex Rodriguez or Derek Jeter?



Competitive Suffering

I called a friend of mine who roots for the Mets this morning to comisserate about a pair of tough losses last night.  In no time, it became a competition to see who is suffering more, to figure which loss was more devastating.  Misery does love company, don’t she?

The Mets blew a 7-0 lead and lost in 13 innings to their division rivals, the Phillies.  That makes for a rough, sleepless night.  However, the Mets are just a half-a-game out of first place.  

The Yankees, on the other hand, are almost out of it completely.  They aren’t "officially" sunk yet, but last night’s loss seems extra painful because it was a game that sums up their entire season.  Right now, the Yankees are simply not a team that creates many opportunities, and when they do have opportunities they are not cashing in on them.  Spiritually, they are the antithesis of the Dynasty teams.  Toss in the fact that the loss came to a Boston team that is not at full strength, and that ain’t helping matters.  Neither is the thought of the Yanks needing a win with Sidney Ponson on the hill tonight.  Granted, Ponson hasn’t pitched badly for the Yanks. Still, y’all what I’m talking about. 

After the game last night I was apoplectic and I sent my friend Rich Lederer an e-mail:

"A Rod picked the wrong time to go into a slump.  Was 0-5 tonight.  Hit into two HUGE double plays.  They were booing the sh** out of him at the Stadium and for once I can’t defend him.  He really came up small when they needed him.  For as great as he is, he’s just not steadily the kind of big game hitter as Pujols or Vlad or Manny are.

Rich, who was born and raised in California, and is a level-headed sort, replied:

I know you have been an A-Rod supporter, but I believe you are being overly harsh when judging him.  He had a bad game tonight.  Big deal.  The truth of the matter is that he is held to a different standard than all the other Yankees.  It’s so silly.  The better he does, the more fans expect.  Hell, it’s no surprise to me that he doesn’t come through given the burden he carries.  The whole thing is so silly.  As much as I like Guerrero, I will trade you Vlad for A-Rod right now.  And every other day of the week. 
Funny, no mention of Pettitte’s poor performance.  Or Giambi.  Even though both are making the big bucks.  Giambi, in fact, makes more than any player not named Rodriguez.  But nary a word.  Why?  Because you don’t expect as much out of him.  As such, he gets away with it.
Look, I’m not here to defend A-Rod’s poor game tonight.  These things happen.  But I will defend him (inclusive of tonight).  He is a great player.  No single game will change that.  His clutch stats over the course of his career are just fine.  Unfortunately, they are not measuring up this year.  Bring back Morgan Ensberg.

For the record, here are Rodriguez’s rate stats with runners in scoring position since 2000 (thanks to Diane Firstman for the numbers):

Season BA OBA Slug%
2000 .295 .414 .597
2001 .307 .402 .647
2002 .366 .479 .752
2003 .281 .383 .527
2004 .248 .346 .439
2005 .290 .410 .484
2006 .302 .431 .508
2007 .330 .457 .659
2008 .246 .400 .413


Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2008 New York Yankees.


Last night in the comments section, Schteeve asked, "If the 2008 Yankees were a character from fiction who would they be?" 

Chyll Will offered: "Gollem: Seems he was good maybe five hundred years ago…Garfield: Old, fat, and not nearly as entertaining as he used to be. Or The Family Circus: stuck in a time warp and way out of touch with reality." 

Mr OK Jazz TOKYO wrote:  "Charles Foster Kane: Started out with ideals and became a bloated, pompous mess with no friends, spending money wildly and ending up alone in an over-priced tomb."

Jeb had a bunch of winners: "Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby: Looks good, but has no integrity and will ultimately disappoint you. How about Dorian Gray? Seemingly young and virile, but with a picture of themselves in the attic that’s aging beyond belief…For some reason I initially kept thinking of Bob Ewell from To Kill a Mockingbird but there was no way that could work unless Yankee fans are Arod’s daughter and we’re put Cashman on trial for Arod’s sins….Hey it does kind of work."

Man, our readers are so cool.  What else ya got?

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver