"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: May 2010

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The Score Truck Arriveth

And how. It ripped into the piece this afternoon delivering line drive-bat-crackin’-goodness.

It was a close game for six innings, good pitcher’s duel between Andy Pettitte and Mitch Talbot. Every team in baseball wore white hats today, including the Yankees. I usually don’t go in for alternative NY caps, aesthetically not morally, but these looked good. And Pettitte looked regal and in command in the middle of the beautiful field on a nice spring day, hot but with a breeze.

Alex Rodriguez hit a solid line drive to right center field for a two-out RBI in the first. He whiffed in his next at bat and then got hit with a pitch. Now it was the bottom of the seventh and the bases were juiced because the Indians intentionally walked Mark Teixeira to pitch to him, Yanks holding a 2-1 lead.

Paul O’Neill had been talking about Alex being due to bust out sometime over the next couple of days on the YES broadcast. So Rodriguez gets into a fastball and hits a bomb to dead center, good for the 20th grand slam of his career. Only Manny and Lou Gehrig have more. Rodriguez needs four more for the all-time lead.

Robbie was hitching round the back bumber of the score truck, stepped up after the slam and lined a solo homer to right. Later, Rodriguez added an RBI double. Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher had two hits each, and Brett Gardner had three. Eleven runs in all, a series win, and a damn fine way to make up for what happened on Saturday.

Final Score: Yankees 11, Indians 1.

Good show boys, good show. And oh, by the way, Andy Pettitte is 7-1, with a 2.48 ERA. Not bad for an old man.

(Here we go, yo)

It’s gunna be a good summer.”

[Photo Credit: Bags and AP Photo/Frank Franklin II]

Hot in the City

Hazy, too. Good day for a picnic or a baseball game…

[Picture by Bags]

Knucksarella

This is just so cool.

[Photo Credit: Jakarta Globe]

From Dog Meat in the Dog House to Dog GONE Dinger

How best to follow-up Saturday’s disastrous loss? How about having a guy who hasn’t won a game since last August stick it up your ass? Well, that’s just what happened today, an otherwise gorgeous day in the Bronx. Justin Masterson, last seen around these parts working out of the Red Sox bullpen, is a big, broad-shouldered guy who throws a good sinker. He’s had some rough luck but was in good form today–struck out eight, got plenty of ground balls and made short work of the Yankees for six innings.

The Bombers didn’t have many chances. They put runners on second and third with one out in the fourth and didn’t do dick with it (Nick Swisher and Juan Miranda stuck out to end the inning). Meanwhile, AJ Burnett cruised, until two outs in the seventh when he hit a batter, Jeter made a throwing error, and a fly ball sailed over Nick Swisher’s glove in right for a triple. Swisher, who made a good catch and ran into the wall earlier in the game, came up slowly.

The Indians had a 3-0 lead and the Stadium was silent. But the Yanks rallied in the bottom of the inning. Swisher led-off with a single to center and moved to second on a force out by Miranda. Brett Gardner was next and he slapped a grounder past Masterson for base hit. Masterson didn’t miss fielding it by much, bad luck. Runners on first and third, one out. Francisco Cervelli pinch-hit for Chad Moeller in the nine hole and whiffed on a good sinker, down-and-in. Then Masterson got two strikes on Jeter and tried to bury a sinker in on his hands just like he did to Cervelli but the pitch didn’t snap and Jeter jumped all over it and banged a single to center. Everything happened fast. The line drive, the throw home, Gardner’s slide, the umpire’s call–safe!

That was it for Masterson, who was replaced by the lefty Tony Sipp. Curtis Granderson doubled to right, Jeter moved to third, and then Teixeira, batting right-handed, quickly fell behind 0-2. He took a couple of balls, fouled pitch off and then hit a bomb into the left field bleachers.

Exhale and cheer!

Burnett came back out and pitched a scoreless eighth, striking out the final two batters.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Insurance Truck showed up: Cano, single, Swisher, single, Miranda, double. Swisher dangled his right arm as he ran the bases like he was doing his best Jeffrey Leonard. Gardner flied out to shallow right, not deep enough to score Swisher but Cervelli drove a ball far enough to bring Swisher home (Swish has been incredibly hot, let’s hope he’s not too hurt).

Our man Mariano pitched the ninth. Struck out the first two batters and then broke a bat on a dribbler to mound. Mo jumped up with both feet like a frog, avoided the bat, landed, fielded the ball, smiled and then threw to first for the out.

Ball game, smiles: Relief.

Yanks 7, Indians 3.

[Photo Credit: AP Photo/Kathy Willens]

How About Not Sucking?

The less said about yesterday’s game the better. I’m willing to forget the whole thing if you are.

New day, new game. Let’s get it right today, will ya, boys?

[Picture by Bags]

Bantermetrics: 15 Years of “Jeterian” Splendor


Saturday marked the 15th anniversary of Derek Jeter’s major league debut.  On May 29, 1995, he went 0-5 with two putouts and two assists in an 8-7 Yankee loss at the Kingdome.

He would go on to compile a .250/.294/.375 line in 15 games with the big club in ’95 . . . and got the starting shortstop nod in ’96.  The rest is much-repeated history.

Here are some stats to munch on . . .

Since his debut, Jeter leads in games played (2,185, 2 ahead of Alex Rodriguez), games started (2,176, 11 ahead of A-Rod), at-bats (8,868, 293 ahead of Johnny Damon), hits (2,807, 248 ahead of A-Rod). He’s second in runs (1,602), 3rd in batting average (.317), 10th in OBP (.387), 14th in doubles (448) and 14th in stolen bases (310).

Over his 15 seasons, he’s faced 1,089 different pitchers. His worst 0-fer is against Jorge Julio (14 ABs).  He’s gone yard the most against Sir Sidney Ponson (5 times in 88 ABs).  Of those pitchers he’s had at least 40 plate appearances against, his best batting average is against Rodrigo Lopez (.448).  Oh, and John Lackey has plunked him the most (5 times in 57 plate appearances).

Jeter has had 41 different hitting streaks of ten games or more in his career (12 of these were 15 or more games). On the flip side, he’s had only seven instances of going hitless in four or more consecutive games.  All this while amassing only one major stint on the disabled list.

Here’s to you, Captain!

(photo credit: Cardboard Icons)

Make It Stop

“It’s a bad loss. There’s no doubt about it. It’s a bad loss. You know, you gotta believe if you’re up 10-5 going into the seventh inning that you have a good chance of winning. We didn’t do it today. And they never stopped fighting, and, uh, they scored more runs than we did.”

–Joe Girardi

“You’re not going to be up until 3am again, are you?”

–my wife

It took the Yankees nearly four and a half hours on Saturday afternoon to build up a huge lead over the Indians then, slowly, like a mighty mountain being eroded by the wind, give it all back plus some for a soul-crushing, mind-numbing, eye-gouging, 13-11 loss to the hapless, punchless Indians. Indians broadcaster Tom Hamilton had a flight to catch out of Newark International, the last flight of the night back to Cleveland where his daughter was having a graduation party later that night and her graduation on Sunday. Between innings late in the game, he told Yankee announcer Michael Kay, “I cover a team that never scores and today they score 12 runs.”

It was ugly in almost every way that a game could be ugly. In the middle of a third-inning rally, Alex Rodriguez lined a ball off the forehead of Indians starter David Huff, who fell face-first onto the mound and lay motionless for several minutes before being strapped to a board and carted off. His family was in town to see him pitch. They wound up spending the afternoon with him at New York-Presbyterian hospital where, thankfully, his CT scan came back negative (“they x-rayed my head and found nothing” goes the classic Dizzy Dean line). He was back at the ballpark soon after the last out.

What he missed was the Yankees adding a third run to his ledger in the bottom of the third, then a fourth inning in which the two teams combined for nine runs. CC Sabathia, who looked sharp in the first three innings, suddenly started to struggle again, perhaps due to the long delay from Huff’s injury. He couldn’t seem to get in sync with catcher Francisco Cervelli and threw 31 pitches in the inning in the process of allowing the Indians to tie the game at 3-3 on an infield single, a wild pitch, a walk, an RBI single, and a tw0-RBI double by Matt LaPorta, the key player the Indians received for Sabathia back in July 2008.

Facing Huff’s replacement, fellow lefty Aaron Laffey, the Yankees picked up their struggling ace with a six-spot in the bottom of the fourth, the key hit being a two-RBI double by Robinson Cano, but Sabathia let the Indians chip away at that 9-3 lead with a run in the fifth (which the Yankees got right back to go up 10-4) and a run in the sixth.

Out after 113 pitches in six innings, Sabathia yielded to  David Robertson, but after allowing a run on a hit-by-pitch, stolen base, and RBI single, Robertson, who had been hit in the back by a Joe Mauer comebacker in his previous appearances, came out of the game with a stiff lower back. That caused another long delay in the game as Sergio Mitre took some 30 pitches to get warm on the game mound only to complete a four-pitch walk to Jhonny Peralta and get pulled in favor of Damaso Marte as Joe Girardi began playing matchups with a four run lead in the seventh.

Marte got his man, but he was promptly replaced by Joba Chamberlain, who didn’t. Having entered the game with a four-run lead, runners on first and second, and two outs, Chamberlain proceeded to cough up the lead via a single, walk, back-to-back doubles by rookies Lou Marson and Jason Donald, the eighth and ninth men in the Cleveland batting order, and another single. By the time Chamberlain finally got the third out of the inning, the Yankees were down 12-10.

After Derek Jeter erased a leadoff walk to Brett Gardner by hitting into a double play in the seventh, Chad Gaudin, effectively the last available man in the Yankee bullpen save for Mariano Rivera, gave up a solo homer to Russell Branyan in the eighth, but the insurance run was unnecessary. After stranding a two-out Robinson Cano single in the bottom of the eighth, the Yankees did push a cross a run against closer Kerry Wood in the ninth when Curtis Granderson drew a pinch-hit walk, was balked to second, and scored on a Jeter double, but that was all the Yankees would get.

I don’t know if Hamilton made his flight or not, but the game, which I didn’t start watching until the evening due to a busy day with my daughter and some preparation work for her first birthday party on Sunday, did indeed keep me up until 3:00 am, even with the benefit of the fast-forward button on my DVR. All totaled, the game saw 402 pitches thrown, 159 of them balls, across the course of 92 different plate appearances resulting in 24 runs scored on 26 hits, 13 walks, and three hit batsmen.

I’m glad Huff is okay. I hope Robertson is (Girardi said he was day-to-day). I also hope Sabathia’s problems had more to do with the long delay fouling up his rhythm, as Girardi suggested, than with his poor outings against the Mets and Tigers. I also hope I don’t have to watch a game like this one again anytime soon, and that someone takes the time to read this recap before we all move on to Sunday’s 1:05 matchup between Justin Masterson and A.J. Burnett, a pitching pairing that doesn’t seem to suggest the clean, crisp game we all deserve after Saturday’s mess.

I also hope I don’t pass out in my daughter’s birthday cake. My wife would not be pleased.

YUI Orta

Phil Hughes got back on track against the weak-hitting Indians Friday night. This afternoon it’s CC Sabathia’s turn. Two of CC’s last three starts have been duds (total line in those two games: 11 IP, 19 H, 12 R, 11 ER, 4 HR, 2 BB, 10 K), and in his last four starts, Sabathia has allowed six home runs, many of them on two-seamers up in the zone. CC has quite simply been off his game, and now’s the time for him to put it back together.

Sabathia has faced his old team just once since being traded to Milwaukee in July 2008. That came one day shy of a year ago, when he twirled a solid seven innings against them in a 10-5 Yankee win in Cleveland. Today, he faces fellow lefty David Huff, a 25-year-old with little to offer who has made just two quality starts in eight tries this season and has gotten just 2.57 runs of support on average on his way to leading the American League in losses. Huff, who faces the Yankees for the first time this afternoon, is a fly ball pitcher with poor velocity who doesn’t strike anyone out (he’s struggling to keep his strikeouts above his walks this season). The Yankees should eat him alive.

Should.

Alex Rodriguez and Francisco Cervelli return to the lineup, while Curtis Granderson sits against the lefty in favor of Kevin Russo, who will start in left. Nick Swisher bats second. Bottom four below Cano: Thames (DH), Cervelli, Russo, Gardner (CF). Girardi says he’s “easing” Granderson back in. Old pal Shelley Duncan draws the DH start for the Tribe against the lefty Sabathia.

Fatten Up

As our man Hank Waddles pointed out in his recap of last night’s game, the Yankees on Friday night began a stretch in which they will play 13 of 16 games against the three worst teams in baseball: the Indians (four games in this current wrap-around Memorial Day weekend series), the Orioles (six games, three home, three away), and the Astros (three games at home to end the stretch). Of those 13 games, ten of them come at home, and the only winning team the Yankees will face during that 16-game stretch is the overachieving, third-place Blue Jays.

This is the time for the Yankees to fatten up, and they did exactly that Friday night.

Phil Hughes opened the game by striking out the first five men in the Indians order. In the bottom of the second, Nick Swisher launched a two-run home run off Tribe starter Fausto Carmona that hit the right-field foul pole maybe a foot from the top. Clinging to a 2-1 lead in the 6th, the Yankees added another couple of runs via a bases-loaded, no-out rally that was cut short by the feeble bottom of the order on a day that Joe Girardi opted to rest Alex Rodriguez and Francisco Cervelli, both of whom needed it. Then in the seventh, Robinson Cano, who went 3-for-4 with a walk while batting cleanup for the first time in his career, launched a grand slam off lefty reliever Tony Sipp that iced the game.

Hughes gave up a second run in the seventh on a Russell Branyan solo homer that got out so quickly that Michael Kay’s only description of the action as it was in progress was “there that went”, but that was the extent of the damage in Hughes’ seven innings of work as he struck out eight in total against just one walk. Sergio Mitre and Chan Ho Park wrapped things up without incident, and the Yankees won 8-2.

Heading into Friday night’s game, Hughes needed a good start, and the Yankee offense needed to put a big number on the board. Both ate well. Here’s hoping the Yankees continue to feast for the next couple of weeks.

2010 Cleveland Indians

There are four basic steps to rebuilding a ballclub. First, trade your marketable stars and veterans for prospects, retaining only the core, team-controlled players around which you plan to build. Second, evaluate your new assets to determine which will hit, which will miss, which might benefit from a position or role change or a particular mechanical or coaching fix, and identify what holes are likely to remain on your roster once those players have graduated to the majors. Third, once those players are established at the major league level, compliment them with one or two big free agent signings and perhaps another trade that target the remaining holes. Step four: win.

It’s not that easy (not that it sounds easy), but that’s the plan. The Indians are currently in Stage Two. Beginning with the trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers in July 2008, Cleveland has traded CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez, Casey Blake, Franklin Gutierrez, Rafael Betancourt, Ryan Garko, Kelly Shoppach, Ben Francisco, and Mark DeRosa. That’s a pair of Cy Young award winners, more than half of their 2008 starting lineup, an ace set-up man, a productive back-up catcher, and their 2009 Opening Day third baseman.

That has left them with a core of center fielder Grady Sizemore, 27, middle infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, 24, (both, cruelly, on the disabled list at the moment with injuries that could keep them out for a significant portion of the season), right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, 27 and the team’s best hitter for the last two seasons, and right-handed starter Fausto Carmona, 26. Travis Hafner, Jhonny Peralta, and Jake Westbrook are still around, but Hafner is tied down by a bad contract, the market for Peralta dried up last year when he moved to third base and stopped hitting, and Westbrook was frozen in place by his June 2008 Tommy John surgery.

To that core, the Indians have added these young players and prospects via trade:

2B – Luis Valbuena (from Seattle for Gutierrez)
SS – Jason Donald (from Philadelphia for Lee)
C – Lou Marson (also for Lee)
C – Carlos Santana (from the Dodgers for Blake)
OF/1B – Matt LaPorta (from Milwaukee for Sabathia)
OF – Michael Brantley (also for Sabathia)
RHP – Mitch Talbot (from Tampa Bay for Shoppach)
RHP – Justin Masterson (from Boston for Martinez)
RHP – Chris Perez (from St. Louis for DeRosa)
RHP – Jess Todd (also for DeRosa)
RHP – Carlos Carrasco (also for Lee)
LHP – Scott Barnes (from San Francisco for Garko)
RHP – Nick Hagadone (also for Martinez)
RHP – Bryan Price (also for Martinez)
RHP – Rob Bryson (also for Sabathia)
RHP – Jason Knapp (also for Lee)
RHP – Connor Graham (from Colorado for Betancourt)
RHP – Joe Smith (from the Mets in the Gutierrez deal)
LHP – Zach Jackson (also for Sabathia)
RHP – Jon Meloan (also for Blake)

Valbuena, Marson, LaPorta, and Brantley were in the Indians Opening Day lineup at second, catcher, first, and left, respectively. Talbot and Masterson are in their rotation. Perez was their closer while Kerry Wood was on the disabled list. Donald is now their starting shortstop with Cabrera on the DL. Santana is expected to be called up in June to push Marson into a backup role. Of those 20 players, only relievers Jackson and Meloan are no longer with the organization (both were throw-ins that yielded no lasting value for the team).

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The Kid From Left Field

Randy Winn has been DFA’d as Curtis Granderson rejoins the team. It was for the best. Seems like a nice guy, like he’s cousins with Bernie Williams or something, but he couldn’t catch up with a good fastball. It was time to go.

On a more somber note, Gary Coleman passed away today. He was 42.

I was a huge fan of Diff’rent Strokes when I was growing up. Coleman was a major comic influence, right up there with JJ from Good Times. Reggie was a guest star on Diff’rent Strokes and so was Ali, who helped Arnold deal with a bully named the Gooch. Along with Steve Martin’s “Wild and Crazy Guy” bit, “Whatchu talkin’ ’bout Willis?” was a seminal catch phrase, the can’t-miss-sure-to-make-you-laugh-schtick. The rasberry. The verbal banana peel. He delivered it well.

My sister and brother loved it, kids at school loved it. The beauty part was that we waited all week for him to say it and so did he. My favorite part was how Coleman sometimes looked like he was going to break character and crack up, because it was that funny. Just like they used to crack up on the Carol Burnett  Show.

I visited my grandparents in Belgium for the summer when I was twelve. Summer of ’83. I was starved for the English language. They had Happy Days and Starsky and Hutch on TV but they were dubbed into French. Fortunately, a Belgian TV station played what they called  Arnold in English with Flemish subtitles. It was life-saving.

Colman was like Spanky McFarland from the Our Gang comedies–irrepressibly great when he was young. Completely charming. Effortless.

As they got older, the freshness wore off and they weren’t as natural or cute. They became self-aware, polished. The downside of child acting–washed-up at fourteen. Still, Coleman hit the high notes plenty of times and set the bar for child stars in the Eighties. Few of them could touch Coleman at his best.

R.I.P.

Beat of the Day

Vacation Friday. Bump it.

Busta!

Breaking the Waves

Our man Hank Waddles has a good interview with Norman Ollestad. Nice job, once again, Hendree.

Dig.

[Photo Credit: Quicksilver]

Card Corner: The Boss and Thurman

With Bill Madden’s new book on George Steinbrenner topping many of the sports bestsellers lists, it’s an appropriate time to look back on the first year of “The Boss’” reign as the game‘s most recognizable owner. That would be 1973, when the Yankees were in the midst of a 12-year absence from postseason play. Still three years removed from ending their lengthy playoff drought, the Yankees embarked on a new era not fully aware of how life would change under the thumb of “Big George.”

Coming only weeks after he purchased the franchise for less than $10 million, Steinbrenner’s first spring would not pass without major controversy, though it had nothing to do with his ability to rant and rave. The flames were instead fanned by two unconventional left-handers, Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson, who decided the time was right to announce that they had swapped wives, children, and family pets. One could not have blamed Steinbrenner for questioning his new investment right then and there, what with 40 per cent of his projected starting rotation daring to do something that much of the civilian population would never even have considered.

The Yankees had other personnel problems, too. Their middle infielders, Horace Clarke and Gene “Stick” Michael, carried lightweight bats that would have made them utility players in today‘s game. The Yankees lacked a quality all-around right fielder, a position that featured the over-the-hill talents of Matty Alou and Johnny Callison. Their first baseman, the 38-year-old Felipe Alou (Matty’s older brother), had not been a premium player since the late sixties, when he played the outfield for the Atlanta Braves. The pitching staff, though featuring top-tier talents like Mel Stottlemyre and Sparky Lyle, lacked the depth of some of the other elite staffs in the American League and could not carry an offense that ranked tenth among 12 teams in runs scored.

(more…)

Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are In My Neck

Sir Christopher Lee just turned 88 years old on Thursday. Lee isn’t just a splendid actor, he’s also a very special icon to kids who grew up with “Chiller Theater” and horror movies on the late show. Younger moviegoers probably know him best from Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy and George Lucas’ recent Star Wars prequels. No matter what kind of roles Lee has played over his long, illustrious career, from Sherlock Holmes to Saruman the White to Scaramanga (The man with the golden gun, in the 007 flick of the same name), for many move freaks all over the globe, he will always be Count Dracula.

Of course, Lee wasn’t the first screen Dracula, and there have been many since, but for my money, he was the best. Watching him in his first appearance as the Count, in 1958′s The Horror of Dracula, I’m still scared. Another terrific British actor, Peter Cushing, played Van Helsing versus Lee’s Dracula and starting in the late ’50s they created one of the all-time great screen pairings.

Looking back at his impressive body of work, it’s clear what a great screen presence he is: erudite, charming and radiating intelligence and sexuality–even when he’s playing the Mummy. Here’s a snippet of Lee in one of his greatest non-vampiric roles, as Lord Summerisle in the 1973 cult classic The Wicker Man.

Happy Birthday, Sir Christopher–-here’s hoping you’re around for a few more… C’mon, you didn’t think I wouldn’t give you a little taste of Dracula, didja?

Yankee Panky: Intentional Pass?

On Monday, as I was continuing to gather research for the column I thought I’d be writing this week, Alex Belth sent me an e-mail with a topic idea that I found so intriguing, I had to put my other one on the back burner.

Why has Mark Teixeira received a free pass from the NYY fans and the NY media?

Interesting question, no? He hasn’t really gotten a free pass from the Bronx Banter community. We don’t apologize for anybody. Hell, I was still killing Brett Gardner when he was catalyzing the offense. But the question is warranted. It got me thinking.

Naturally, on my way home from work that night, I threw on WFAN and Steve Sommers had the recently engaged Sweeny Murti on to schmooze, and Sommers immediately asked him about, among other things, when Teixeira would start hitting. I wondered if Alex’s question had merit. When the Yankees arrived in Minny, Tex’s line was .209/.327/.378. Thanks to his efforts of the last couple of games, Teixeira is over the .215 mark and a little further away from the Mendoza Line. But the consistency hasn’t been there; he has gone hitless in exactly half of the Yankees’ 46 games. He had the big three-home-run game in Boston and has only four dingers in the other 45. We know Tex a slow starter, but April’s supposed to be the only bad month. We’re nearing Memorial Day, and Mark Teixeira’s numbers look like they should be on the back of Steve Balboni’s baseball card, not his.

(Speaking of the “baseball card” theory, can we put a moratorium on that whole thing? The premise that players off to bad starts will ultimately rise to the stats that appear on their baseball card is just tired. It’s not a real answer to the short term, even if that ultimately will be the case.)

And yet the majority of the local scribes, while maybe not letting him slide, haven’t heaped criticism upon him like the Boston writers have done with David Ortiz both last year and this year. Last season, when Teixeira got off to the slow start, the “he’s a slow starter” refrain was common, and he was still taking a lot of walks and getting on base, which helped deflect some of the criticism that could have come his way.

In all my years of Yankee fandom and in the time I covered the team, the only person I can recall who got similar treatment during this bout of adversity was Bernie Williams. Bernie would routinely hover near .200, .225 or .250 for the first six weeks of the season (in 2002, he was a .236 at the end of April and ended up hitting .333), and then when Memorial Day came around, find his stroke, usually from the right side of the plate, and go through long stretches when he’d carry the offense.

Alex offered up a list of reasons why he thought Tex was getting off easy:

1. The Yankees are winning.
2. He’s a good fielder.
3. He’s good with the media.
4. The Yankees are winning.
5. He plays with A-Rod.
6. The Yankees are winning.

(more…)

Pork Chops and Applesauce

Okay, let’s start with the good news.  At 28-19, the Yankees have the second-best record in all of baseball, tied with the San Diego Padres, if you can believe it.

Now for the bad news, which will take a bit more than one sentence to describe.  On Wednesday the Yankees made like bullies, calmly taking the Twins’ lunch money yet again as they swept a makeshift double header.  Just a day later, though, things don’t look quite as good.

Problem number one is that this team suddenly can’t score any runs.  Derek Jeter led off the game with a single, then dashed to third on Mark Teixeira’s single two batters later.  You could make the argument that even though we were only ten minutes into the action, this was the biggest moment of the game.  With Javier Vazquez on the mound, a pitcher who has been, shall we say, less than dominant this year, it was probably important to get off to a quick start.  It didn’t even need to be a big inning; just a 1-0 lead would have done wonders.  And with Alex Rodríguez coming up with runners at first and third and only one out, even a lazy sac fly would do.  Instead, A-Rod tapped weakly to short and produced a 6-3 double play to end the inning.

When presented with the exact same scenario in the bottom half of the inning — first and third and one out — Justin Morneau did his job and lofted a fly ball to centerfield, easily scoring Orlando Hudson to give the Twins a 1-0 lead.

The game was essentially over right then and there, but since they played eight more innings, I’ll give you the highlights — or lowlights, as the case may be.  The first thing you need to know is that Javy Vazquez was awful, as you might guess from this line: 5.2 IP, 8H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 2K.  The second thing you need to know is that he was actually worse than that.  Included in those eight hits were four doubles, a triple, and a home run, and there wasn’t a cheapie in the bunch.  It seemed like every ball the Twins hit off Vazquez was a rocket, even the outs.  As shaky as his confidence already seemed to be, it will be interesting to see how he bounces back from this.

Jason Kubel, who had already driven in a run with a second-inning double, led off the sixth inning with a monstrous home run to right, stretching the Minnesota lead to 5-2.  Vazquez lasted another two batters, but he was a dead man walking at that point.  Joe Girardi brought in Chan Ho Park with two outs, and was just as effective as you might think, giving up a harmless single before closing out the sixth but then starting the seventh by walking Joe Mauer and giving up a single to Morneau before Girardi lifted him for Damaso Marte.  Marte got his man (Jim Thome), and Girardi brought in our old friend Chad Gaudin with two on and one out, hoping to keep the game close.

It didn’t work.  After Michael Cuddyer struck out, That Man Kubel came up and rocked a home run into the Land of Pork Chops on Sticks.  8-2, Twins.

So now that it’s all said and done, I’m left with three burning questions, and I’d appreciate some answers.

1. Why is that when I watch televised games from Target Field, it still looks like the games are being played indoors?

2. When will the Yankees start scoring runs again?

3. Exactly how many beers does it take to convince someone that it would be a good idea to sneak up and take a bite out of a pork chop in Kim Jones’s hand while she is using it as a prop during a live shot?

As we wrap this up, let’s end with something positive.  Take a look at the next sixteen games:

4 games vs. Cleveland (17-28)
3 games vs. Baltimore (15-33)
3 games @ Toronto (27-22)
3 games @ Baltimore (15-33)
3 games vs. Houston (16-31)

Luck Be a Score Truck Tonight

Yanks go for the quick sweep of the Twins. Minnie won the last game in the New York series and now try to save face at home. Nice-looking new ball park out there, too. There were some gorgeous shots of the sunset and the moon against the city skyline on the YES broadcast last night.

We’ll see if Javy’s finger is a problem. Or anything else for that matter. But he’s had a couple of decent starts. Hope he builds on it.

Be nice to have have the Score Truck show up and take ‘em back home to the BX in style.

Whadda ya say, boys?

[Picture by Bags]

The Spaceman and Me

Even by his own high standards, Josh Wilker’s piece on meeting Bill Lee stands out. He kilt it, as they like to say.

I’ve been having trouble writing since I got back from my book tour through the Northeast, possibly because the foundation of my writing has always been whining and complaining, and what’s left to whine and complain about if you get to meet Bill Lee at the Red Sox Team Store right outside Fenway on Yawkey Way?

…I could have talked baseball with him all night, but he was of course besieged by fans. I noticed that he always asked each person where they were from, and wherever it was, he had been there and had a story to tell about it, a way of connecting. Everyone walked away smiling.

When the signing was over, we watched an inning of the game on a television in the store. Bill didn’t want to go across the street to the game because he’d be mobbed.

“When I go I make sure to always have a cup of beer in both hands so people can’t ask me to sign stuff,” he said, “but then people just buy me more and more beer and I end up getting hammered.”

Excelsior!

Afternoon Art

Display Cakes, By Wayne Thiebaud (1963)

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