"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: August 2010

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Gimme Five

Tuesday night’s 9-3 rout of the Oakland A’s was the Yankees’ 82nd victory, thus ensuring their 18th consecutive winning season. That’s a remarkable feat. What’s even more remarkable is that the streak isn’t even halfway to the team’s record of 39 straight winning seasons, done from 1926-64.

Phil Hughes started the game and watching his first few innings over again — isn’t DVR great? — it didn’t look like his stuff was that bad or that he was too far off with location. He wasn’t sharp, to be sure, but he didn’t appear wild enough to have issued five walks. There were some pitches that looked like they painted the outside corner or were within that two- to three-inch window to be called strikes, or were over the plate on the lower border of the strike zone. In short, they were pitches that were close enough that many umpires would have given the benefit of the doubt. The fastball had life, the curveball was good enough to get outs, and the changeups and cutters he mixed in enabled him to pitch out of jams.

More of a concern was the fact that three of the four hits Hughes allowed came when he was ahead in the count. The worst offenses came in the fourth inning, when he grooved an 0-1 fastball to Kevin Kouzmanoff that resulted in a hard single up the middle, and next, after two straight curveballs that kept the bat on Mark Ellis’s shoulder, Hughes threw a belt-high fastball on the outside corner, allowing Ellis to extend his arms and line it to right for a single. This is the same issue, not coincidentally, that has been plagued both of Javier Vazquez’s Yankee tours. A strikeout pitcher has to be able to put away hitters when he’s ahead in the count. Vazquez hasn’t demonstrated that with any consistency this year, and Hughes didn’t on Tuesday.

Michael Kay summed up Hughes’s start in the YES postgame: “When you look at his numbers, 16 wins, how can you complain? But when you watched this game, that’s not the way Phil Hughes wants to pitch.”

Indeed. Despite earning that 16th win, a total which is second-most in the American League, Hughes didn’t do much to instill confidence in Yankee fans that there’s a lock-down guy in the rotation behind CC Sabathia. Hughes seems to be the epitome of why wins can be a misleading stat when rating pitchers. With Andy Pettitte’s injury situation still in flux — he’s throwing another bullpen session before tomorrow’s game — A.J. Burnett as schizophrenic as ever, and any combination of Vazquez, Dustin Moseley, Sergio Meat Tray or even Chad Gaudin behind that, many have been waiting for Hughes to step up and be the No. 2 guy, and he hasn’t. Since the All-Star Break, he is 5-4 with a 4.65 ERA. His performance over the past two starts, particularly the number of pitches thrown — 200 in 8 2/3 innings — is helping to enforce the innings limit. He has thrown 149 1/3 innings now, and figuring he has at least five more starts, if the limit is 175 innings, Hughes is essentially a five-inning starter down the stretch.

Those are the negatives. The positives in this victory were all on the offensive side. The nine runs were scored in the first four innings. Nick Swisher (25th), Curtis Granderson (15th), and Mark Teixeira (30th) all homered for the Yankees, who scored six of those runs with two outs.

Teixeira’s home run marked the seventh straight year he’s hit 30 home runs, and he’s five RBIs away from his seventh straight 100-RBI season. He also scored his Major-League leading 100th run. What a turnaround for Tex. Three months ago, in this space, I wrote a column trying to prove that while Tex’s batting average was hovering near .200 and he was getting a free pass from the mainstream media, we in the blogosphere were not being as dismissive. Now, his average is up to .264 and with a month left, .280 or even .290 isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Tex’s batting average is now just two points behind that of Derek Jeter, who after another oh-fer has just one hit in his last 25 at-bats and is getting summarily hammered at all angles. Is this the beginning of the end? Is the contract on his mind? How can he command $20 million a year if this is the level at which he’ll be finishing his career? I heard one talkie late last week even compare Jeter’s recent slide to Willie Mays with the Mets in 1973. Are we there yet? I don’t think so. The Yankees have been able to cover for him in the same way they did Teixeira earlier this year, but we’ll see what happens in October.

The other positive of the evening: Toronto blasted Tampa, so the eight-day deadlock atop the AL East is broken. The Yankees hand their longest winning streak since the All-Star break to A.J. Burnett. Maybe a new month and a weak-hitting team is what he needs to get on the path to being right.

Hughes Got It


Mr. Hughes goes for the Bomb Squad tonight.

Flip it, kid.

Chad Jennings has the line-up:

Brett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter SS
Mark Teixeira 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Jorge Posada C
Marcus Thames DH
Curtis Granderson CF
Ramiro Pena 3B

Let’s Go Yan-Kees!

Afternoon Art

Today, Picasso paints a cat in action:

Like it was Yesterday

Want to see something cool? Dig Sherwood Harrington’s Flicker Page:

Beat of the Day

Since I brought up Joe Jackson yesterday, here’s a cut from a cool record of covers he once did:

Taster's Cherce

David Lebovitz takes a food tour of New York.

Dig in.

Million Dollar Movie

I come from a bookish family but I didn’t much like reading as a kid. Then, in middle school, like so many other kids, I tore through S.E. Hinton’s four novels. Later, I saw all of the movie adaptations, but the one I like most was the first one, Tex.

It is an unaffected movie that features the easy, natural gifts of its star, Matt Dillion. Meg Tilly and Emilio Estevez are winning too, and yup, that’s old Ben Johnson who plays their father. Jim Metzler is also strong as Tex’s put-upon older brother. There is nothing loud about this movie, but the yearning and discomfort of a parentless home is evoked in such a way that seems authentic and true. I feel sad and anxious just thinking about it.


Can a New Yorker feel sad about the closing of a mega-store? Well, the big Barnes and Noble at Lincoln Center is going to close in a few months. And I think that’s a bummer cause I fall through that store relatively often.

The Match Game

Man, what’s the call on Marcus Thames? I can’t figure it out.

This is as close as I can get.

Getting Old Fast

When you watch as much baseball as most of us do, it’s hard not to feel fatigued at times, like when a pitcher gets a dead-arm. Add blogging to the mix–and not just blogging during the season but every day of the year–and it’s hard not to just want to turn everything off and feel some sense of calm. All this information, all the access we have at our disposal, is addicting and exhausting. Not only that, but information is processed at light speed these days. Hell, blogs are practically old-fashioned now in the Twitter-Age.

What we sacrifice with technology is time to think and contemplate, to digest. I got to thinking about this last night watching Derek Jeter, who continues to struggle offensively. What’s wrong? Is he hiding an injury, is this the start of the finish? Maybe he’s just playing the way most 36-year-old shortstops do. Sure, he made a nice play in the field, and yup, there he was giving Marcus Thames a great straight-face after Thames hit another long home run. Same ol’ Jeter, as if nothing was wrong.

I don’t pretend to know if this is just a slump for Jeter, an off-year, or what. What I think is compelling is that he’s having his worst season as a major leaguer in a walk year. Things have always come up roses for Jeter. Not that they’ve come easily, but he’s never really been up against it. His legacy is secure, he’s going to join the 3,000 hit club soon. How much more baseball does he have left? And at what level?

Can a play age gracefully these days? I wonder.

Heart of the Order

Nine huge hits from the three big guns in the middle of the Yankee offense blew the doors off Trevor Cahill and the A’s. Left spinning in the dust on the back of the mound was the license plate and the once-sterling (still fantastic) ERA of a fringe Cy Young candidate. Yankees 11, A’s 5.

Mark Teixeira, after missing almost two full games with a bruised thumb, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher combined for four doubles, two home runs, and seven RBI. And since a proper one has four chambers, Marcus Thames with six homers in his last five starts, ably fills out the current heart of the order.

(About a month ago, having given up hope of rebounds from Jeter and Arod, I asked Alex if Cano and Teixeira could carry the Yanks to the division title. He said big Teix would come through and it looks like Cano and Swisher will be in the trenches with him. Thames has been amazing, but I’m not counting on it to continue, though for no other reason than he’s never been this good for this long before.)

Dustin Moseley was the beneficiary of the outpouring, not because he picked up the win (that honor went to Javy Vazquez for his four-plus innings of very effective relief) but because it spared him the loss of what probably should be his last meaningful start of the 2010 season.

Vazquez deployed a slow, loopy curve ball which sat in the high sixties. He has been throwing his curve ball both more often and harder this year than in his incredible 2009 campaign. Whether or not that factors into his poor results thus far, there’s no denying that the A’s were flummoxed by the new curve. Let’s see how it looks against the hard homerin’ Blue Jays before we get too excited.

I won’t mind if I never have to watch another Daric Barton at-bat. At least when he’s facing the Yankee pitching staff.


Home is Where the Heat Be

The Yanks are back in the Bronx. They kick off their longest home stand of the year tonight against the Oakland A’s. Here’s Ted Berg with a preview:

And of course, our man CC does his thing.

Let’s Go Yan-Kees!

Art of the Day

I’ve always loved this drawing by Pablo Picasso:

Taster's Cherce

When in doubt, turn to Jacques:

Million Dollar Movie

Let’s do a week of sleepers, movies that were overlooked but are worth checking out.

First up, this early Debra Winger movie that went straight to HBO:

Nice soundtrack by Joe Jackson, to boot.

Swing Dat Axe

Lists are fun if inherently dorky.

Here’s one to stir you up. The L.A. Times Magazine ranks the 50 Greatest Guitarists of all-time.

Charlie Christian make the cut but no love for Grant Green:

Bring the (beautiful) Noise:


Belated but hearty congratulations go out to Eric Nusbaum of the stellar Pitchers and Poets site. Eric’s story, The Death of a Pitcher, was selected for the Best American Sports Writing 2010, edited by Peter Gammons.

Write on, dude, great job.

If you aren’t already a regular, bookmark Pitchers and Poets, it is as good as they come.

Beat of the Day

Let’s rip into the week with some style:

On the Mend…

Mark Feinsand on Andy Pettitte:

Team trainer Gene Monahan told Pettitte to throw at the same 75% strength he did on Friday, but once Pettitte felt comfortable enough with his leg, he turned it up for his final 20 pitches.

“I heated it up pretty good,” Pettitte said. “I went out there planning on kind of being nice and easy like I did the other day, and it ended up being a little more intensity – and it felt really good. Just another good step in the right direction.”

Pettitte is slated to throw another bullpen session either tomorrow or Wednesday, after which he’ll likely throw a simulated game or live batting practice. There is no firm timetable for his return, but Pettitte estimated that without any further setbacks, he could be back in the rotation by mid-September.

“It just depends on what they want me to do, if they make me throw a couple batting practices and a simulated game,” Pettitte said. “I think the quickest I could get ready would probably be about two weeks or so.”

“That sounds about right,” Joe Girardi said. “As long as we don’t have any setbacks, that’s realistic.”

[Photo Credit: via The New Yorker]

Hurts So Good

The Future Hall of Famer, Frank Thomas, aka The Big Hurt, had his number retired before the game today in Chicago. Then Ivan Nova, who is a pretty big kid himself, pitched into the sixth inning and left the game with a 2-1 lead. Boy, was he impressive, throwing hard and throwing strikes. He also had a good curve ball. Seven K’s and just one walk.

Marcus Thames–whose hacktastic swing sometimes looks straight out of a beer softball league–hit another home run and Brett Gardner singled home Francisco “4 for 4” Cervelli, putting a couple of runs on the board for the Yanks over the first three innings. After that, it was too much Nova and the Bombers’ bullpen. Kerry Wood slipped out of a bases loaded jam in the sixth and Joba Chamberlain hit 100 mph on the radar gun on his way to 1.1 scoreless innings.

The Great Mariano worked around a one-out walk in the ninth and got Omar Vizquel to pop out in foul territory to Cervelli to end the game.

Final Score: Yanks 2, White Sox 1. That’s win number one for Mr. Nova.

A terrific win for the Bombers on a day when the pitching was good and the fielding was slick–the White Sox turned a lovely 6-4-3 double play in the second inning that is bound for the highlight reels.

Sox and Rays go tonight on Sunday Night Baseball.

Sit back, relax, grab some eats, have a beverage and enjoy. See ya in the a.m.

[Picture by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images and Gourmet Magazine]

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