"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Daily Archives: March 17, 2010

Now It’s On

An ugly spring debut from Damaso Marte helped the Phillies beat the Yankees 6-2 in Clearwater, but the story of the game was a strong four-inning appearance from Joba Chamberlain, who, having heard the gun, is finally keeping stride with Phil Hughes in the race for the final spot in the Opening Day rotation.


L – Brett Gardner (CF)
L – Nick Johnson (DH)
S – Mark Teixeira (1B)
R – Alex Rodriguez (3B)
R – Marcus Thames (LF)
S – Randy Winn (RF)
R – Francisco Cervelli (C)
S – Ramiro Peña (SS)
R – Kevin Russo (2B)

Subs: Juan Miranda (1B), Reegie Corona (2B), Eduardo Nuñez (SS), Jorge Vazquez (3B), Mike Rivera (C), David Winfree (RF), Reid Gorecki (CF), Jamie Hoffmann (LF), Jon Weber (DH)

Pitchers (IP): Andy Pettitte (4), Damaso Marte (four batters), Amaury Sanit (1), Joba Chamberlain (4)

Big Hits: Francisco Cervelli went 3-for-3 with an RBI double and is hitting .583 on the month. Brett Gardner went 2-for-3 with a triple courtesy of a missed diving catch by Shane Victorino in center. Gardner also stole his first base of the spring.

Who Pitched Well: In his first actual game action (he previously threw two simulated games, one to avoid travel, the other due to rain), Andy Pettitte struck out four in four innings against just one walk. He did allow a pair of runs on five hits, but threw just 55 pitches. Amaury Sanit retired all three men he faced, striking out two. He hasn’t issued a walk or allowed a run in 3 2/3 innings this spring.

Most importantly, Joba Chamberlain answered the bell with four strong innings (including an unofficial bottom of the ninth with the home-team Phillies in the lead). He did allow a run, but on a well-placed bloop double over Kevin Russo’s head and a single. He also struck out five against just one walk after getting just two Ks against six walks in his previous 3 2/3 innings. Like Hughes on Tuesday, he did it over the game’s final four innings, but he faced a better group of hitters than Hughes did against a split-squad Astros road team. Having needed just 47 pitches to get through those four frames, Joba threw about 15 more in the bullpen. During the game, Chamberlain was not only efficient but was working quickly, showing the aggressive approach that so often seemed missing last year but showed its head in his three strong starts after the All-Star break. That is a very good indicator, as is the fact that his slider had that nasty break to it as seen in the highlight reel found here. Both of those things suggest that this fifth-starter battle could live up to its billing after all.

Who Didn’t: In his first spring appearance, Damaso Marte faced four batters without getting an out. Switch-hitters Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino singled. Righty Jayson Werth hit a three-run home run. Lefty Ryan Howard then singled off Marte, bouncing him from the game.

Ouchies: Howard’s liner hit Damaso Marte in the lower back and left a bruise. Marte was doing his exercises before the game was over and said he was fine after, but the Yankees might push back his next appearance to be on the safe side.

Other: Having finally faced major league batters, Andy Pettitte may have to start a minor league game his next time out so that Chamberlain can get his full pitch load in the major league game.

Art of the Night

Milton Caniff.

Taster’s Cherce

All I wanted was a slice, is that too much to ask?

I got off the R train at Union street in Brooklyn and walked up to Fifth avenue. But the pizza shop on the corner–Fifth Avenue Pizza–was closed. So I turned left, in the direction of Flatbush avenue. Four-and-a-half blocks later I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t passed a Pizzeria. On a commercial street chock full of restaurants no less. 

I didn’t want to keep moving away from Union street, where I was eventually headed, so I doubled-back, crossed over Union Street and continued on, figuring, again, a pizzeria would be a stone’s throw away.

Nope. Nada. Bubkus. I was apoplectic, hating hipster Brooklyn like never before, when I finally found a spot, on 3rd Street just off Fifth Avenue called Villa Rustica. I went in and ordered a couple of slices and sat down to eat.

Now, unless I’m at a fancy pizza shop, one of those places that claims to be “the best,” I’m not overly picky. What I’m looking for is a representative slice. Something I could offer an out-of-towner as an example of a good New York City slice. (Talk about a new spin on VORP–value above replacement pizza!) Well, the slice at Villa Rustica was just that–and better than any of the local pizza I have around my way in the Bronx.

It wasn’t spectacular, didn’t re-invent the wheel, but it was satisfying and delicious and it made my anger go away.

Ah, the restorative powers of a good, representative, New York City slice.

[photo credit: akuban]

A Cause for Celebration

As I mentioned earlier, Emma Span’s first book was released yesterday. Here at the Banter we are bursting with pride at Emma’s accomplishment, because she’s one of us, and also because she’s simply one of the best writers to emerge from the blogosphere, a truly original voice. Smart and funny. I think the world of her, as a writer and as a friend–and yes, she’ll be back to blogging here in the very near future.

So join us in giving her props and don’t sleep–go pick up a copy of her memoir.

Ya hoid?

Steve and Robbie

Over at the Pinstriped Bible, our pal Steve Goldman has a couple of posts on the prospect of Robinson Cano batting fifth:

Cano’s batting average ranked sixth in the league. His True Average (formerly Equivalent Average) of .293, which measures the sum total of his contributions on offense on a scale identical to batting average, ranked only 29th among players with 400 or more plate appearances. Among those finishing ahead of him: Jorge Posada (.301) and Nick Swisher (.300). You really don’t need the statistics to appreciate the basic reality of this: Posada and Swisher simply reached base more often. Unless Cano hits .350 this year or learns to take a walk, both spectacularly unlikely, and assuming business as usual on the part of either player, they are going to reach base more often this season.

Given the purpose of the batting order is to promote offensive production, what purpose is served here? Over the course of his career, Posada has been the superior hitter with men on, and his career OBP stands at .379. Like Cano, Swisher struggled to deliver baserunners to the plate, but still reached base 40 percent of the time in those situations. His strikeouts, viewed as an annoyance by the less sophisticated fan, meant he hit into a double play in only 11 percent of opportunities vs. 17 percent for Cano. Posada, despite his typical aged catcher legs, hit into a twin killing in only 14 percent of his opportunities.

We also haven’t considered another possibility, which is that not only does Cano not hit .350, he doesn’t hit .320 again either, instead falling back to his career averages of .306/.339/.480. Were he to do that, his OBP would barely escape the league average.

Beat of the Day

A soul classic (love the intro):

You Don’t Say: A Conversation Piece

Last night, I went to a book release party at a bar in Park Slope, Brooklyn, for our own Emma Span’s memoir, 90% of the Game Is Half Mental: And Other Tales from the Edge of Baseball Fandom, which was officially released yesterday (more on that to follow). I was talking with Diane Firstman, Jay Jaffe and Ben Kabak when a petite brunette with a firm handshake introduced herself to us.

“I’m Mara,” she said, “I used to work with Emma at the Voice. I wrote a book last year.”

And how do you do?

Me: What was your book about?

Mara: Orgasms.

Diane: Was it illustrated?

I immediately thought about the MOMA cocktail party scene from Manhattan (1:40 into this clip):

Me: Really, what about orgasms, exactly?

Mara: It was about my search to have one.

Me: Okay, so without ruining anything, did you have one?

Mara: I did.

Me: That’s great. I love a happy ending.

Jay: What, did you guys rehearse this on the way over?

We did not. But it felt scripted. We laughed and enjoyed a true New York moment.

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