New York City is covered in snow.
[Photo Credit: fiveoutsiders.com]
I recently picked up a used copy of Baseball Prospectus 1997, which was the first mass-produced annual from Messrs. Sheehan, Davenport, Kahrl, et. al. (The 1996 edition was self-published).
Here are some of the player comments based on the 1996 seasons for the now “Core Four”, and the current manager:
Impressive debut, overshadowed by the historic season of Alex Rodriguez. Jeter hit a little better than expected and his defense, questioned in the minors, was steady all year. Odd development during the year: he hit .277 with a good walk rate and very little power in the first half, .350 with more power but few walks in the second. I expect him to keep the average and power, improve the strikeout and walk numbers and be a great player. . .
. . . quite possibly the most important player in baseball in that his dominance, or more accurately the threat of it, dictated the flow of the postseason. Rivera has a great fastball and not much else, which is why his current role may actually be perfect for him, allowing him to go through the lineup once but still be used more than a typical closer.
Recent history tells us that 100-inning relievers disappear quickly, but there are reasons to believe Rivera will be an exception: 1) despite the high IP total, he wasn’t used in an abusive way. No 70-pitch outings or being used for 25 pitches four straight nights; 2) he was a starter, so he’s used to a higher workload than the relievers who have burnt out and 3) he doesn’t throw a dangerous pitch, like a split-finger or slider.
Here’s hoping you all have a great holiday no matter what you are doing. I had a terrific pastrami sandwich today in Brooklyn and then saw “True Grit.” I enjoyed it–it was really funny and also brutal–though I don’t think it makes my Coen Brothers Top Five (which is, in no order, “Raising Arizona,” “Miller’s Crossing,” “Fargo,” “The Big Lebowski,” and “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?”).
Now happy to be home with the Mrs and our kittens.
Merry Everything, folks.
Okay, here she goes…
Over at The Hardball Times, I’ve been writing about my favorite baseball cards of all-time, a series that is coinciding with Topps’ countdown of the company’s 60 greatest cards. So naturally the whole process got me thinking of my favorite Yankee card ever. In the past, I’ve written about cards depicting Joe Pepitone (1968), Mickey Mantle (1969), Alex Johnson (1975), Cliff Johnson (1978), Aurelio Rodriguez (1981), John Mayberry (1983), Mike Easler (1987), Lance McCullers (1990 Score), and Matt Nokes (1991), among many others. Mantle’s was special because it was his final card. The Johnson card featured some odd airbrushing. The Rodriguez, Mayberry, and Easler cards all showcased the players with intriguing action shots. In some cases, I really enjoyed the card, or I really liked the player, and sometimes I liked both. But I don’t know that I would call any of these my favorite Yankee card.
After considering the question further, I thought I needed to pick an action card, since those have always been preferable to posed or portrait shots. It would need to be a card from one of Topps’ better sets, one with a good, perhaps innovative design. And it would certainly help if the card depicted one of my favorite Yankees. So using those three criteria, I arrived at this card as my choice:
Along with Bobby Murcer, Thurman Munson was the Yankee I felt most attached to during the 1970s. This card came out as part of Topps’ memorable 1971 set, which featured distinctive black borders. It was also the first Topps set to feature regular player cards in action shots. This was one of the best action photographs in that set, as Munson is shown, amidst a thick cloud of dirt, applying a tag to an unknown Oakland A’s player. I can only guess that the umpire called the runner out, based on the firm grip that Munson has on the ball and the position of his glove in relation to the runner. Whether the runner was out or not, the card captures Munson, a superb defensive catcher, guarding the plate in his usual attack-dog fashion. As an added bonus, Topps has included its trademark yellow trophy, signifying Munson’s status as a member of the Topps all-rookie team for the 1970 season.
So what’s your favorite Yankee card? You don’t have to pick a Topps card; it can be a Fleer, or a Donruss, or an Upper Deck. Any company is fine. Just pick a card, but more importantly, tell us why it’s No. 1 on your list.
And while you’re thinking about your favorite cards, be sure to have a Merry Christmas!
Bruce Markusen lives in Cooperstown, NY.
A Christmas Carol has remained popular and continually adapted for several reasons. The first is that it is a timeless, joyful story with themes that still resonate today; the second is that it’s in the public domain. Dickens’ classic has been reimagined (and sometimes mangled) so many times over by now that I don’t feel too bad about jumping in, with assistance from fellow Banterers/muppets Alex, Diane, Will, Jon, and Matt, with yet another version and a new cast.
Our protagonist this time is no cheapskate Scrooge, but Brian Cashman, an elf/businessman in the middle of a difficult offseason. This Christmas Eve, he’ll undergo a life-altering experience…
STAVE 1: MARLEY’S GHOST
There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. If we were not perfectly convinced that Hamlet’s Father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot — say Saint Paul’s Churchyard for instance — literally to astonish his son’s weak mind.
Scrooge never painted out Old Marley’s name. There it stood, years afterwards, above the warehouse door: Scrooge and Marley. The firm was known as Scrooge and Marley.
Marley: George Steinbrenner, of course.
Bob Cratchit: Joe Girardi, who will have to break it to his family that thanks to his bosss, they won’t be able to have a Cliff Lee or even a Carl Crawford for dinner this year.
Tiny Tim: head Bleacher Creature Bald Vinny.
‘A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!’ cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.
‘Bah!’ said Scrooge, ‘Humbug!’
He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge’s, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again.
‘Christmas a humbug, uncle!’ said Scrooge’s nephew. ‘You don’t mean that, I am sure?’
Scrooge’s nephew Fred: Nick Swisher.
STAVE 2: THE FIRST OF THE THREE SPIRITS
It was a strange figure-like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some supernatural medium, which gave him the appearance of having receded from the view, and being diminished to a child’s proportions. Its hair, which hung about its neck and down its back, was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it, and the tenderest bloom was on the skin. The arms were very long and muscular; the hands the same, as if its hold were of uncommon strength. Its legs and feet, most delicately formed, were, like those upper members, bare. It wore a tunic of the purest white; and round its waist was bound a lustrous belt, the sheen of which was beautiful. It held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand; and, in singular contradiction of that wintry emblem, had its dress trimmed with summer flowers. But the strangest thing about it was, that from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light, by which all this was visible; and which was doubtless the occasion of its using, in its duller moments, a great extinguisher for a cap, which it now held under its arm….
…’Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?’ asked Scrooge.
The voice was soft and gentle. Singularly low, as if instead of being so close beside him, it were at a distance.
‘Who, and what are you?’ Scrooge demanded.
‘I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.’
‘Long Past?’ inquired Scrooge: observant of its dwarfish stature.
‘No. Your past.’
The Ghost of Christmas Past: This ghost changes its shape as it moves through Ebenezer’s past; at one moment, it looks like Carl Pavano; at another, Mike Mussina; at times, it takes on the ghostly form of Sir Sidney Ponson.
Old Fezziwig (under whom Scrooge apprenticed): Gene Michael.
Belle, Scrooge’s former fiancee, who released him from their contract when he became too concerned with “gain,” and her joyful current family: Cliff Lee and the Phillies.
STAVE 3: THE SECOND OF THE THREE SPIRITS
It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation. The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove; from every part of which, bright gleaming berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney, as that dull petrification of a hearth had never known in Scrooge’s time, or Marley’s, or for many and many a winter season gone. Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. In easy state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see, who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty’s horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door.
‘Come in!’ exclaimed the Ghost. ‘Come in! and know me better, man.’
Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit’s eyes were clear and kind, he did not like to meet them.
‘I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,’ said the Spirit. ‘Look upon me!’
The Ghost of Christmas Present: C.C. Sabathia.
Mankind’s children, Ignorance and Want: Kyle Farnsworth and Kei Igawa.
STAVE 4: THE LAST OF THE SPIRITS
The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.
It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.
He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.
‘I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?’ said Scrooge.
The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its hand.
The Ghost of Christmas Future: Sergio Mitre.
STAVE 5: THE END OF IT
‘A merry Christmas, Bob!’ said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he claped him on the back. ‘A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!’
Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him. He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!
The beat of the day is brought to you by Jay Jaffe:
Sergio Leone once told Martin Scorsese that “The King of Comedy” was Scorsese’s first mature movie. There was no fancy camera moves or cutting in what I find to be one of Scorsese’s most disturbing movies. Over at The New Yorker, Richard Brody picks “The King of Comedy” as his DVD of the week. I haven’t seen it in years but I get the willies just thinking about it. Maybe it’s time to check it out again.
At Progressive Field in Cleveland…let it snow!
What happens is something marvelous: a film that never raises its voice (its loudest and most assertive sound is that Ferrari) or panders to your emotions, but that nonetheless has the power to refresh your perceptions and deepen your sympathies. As it proceeds from one careful, watchful, slow shot to the next, a sad and affecting story emerges, about a father’s loneliness and a daughter’s devotion. But the experience of watching “Somewhere,” shot in lovely tones of Southern California haze by the great Harris Savides, is like reading a poem. The scenes play off one another like stanzas, producing patterns and echoes that feel like the camera’s accidental discoveries, even as they are the surest evidence of Ms. Coppola’s formidable and subtle art.
Diane requested it, I spins it:
Quick hit from Snootsville:
While I’ve always been partial to Tazo’s “Awake” tea, Harney and Sons English Breakfast tea might be even better.
“Bottom line is, there was a price to pay for waiting for Cliff Lee. Now, part of that price is definitely going to be a loss of previous opportunities that were existing,” Cashman said Tuesday. The Yankees general manager added that in addition to a dearth of pitching talent now available on the market, lefty Andy Pettitte is “leaning toward retirement,” and “not officially in play.”
“There’s no official announcement that (Pettitte’s) retired. We’re obviously focused on those players in the free-agent market and trade market. Andy currently is not one of those guys,” Cashman said. “If he chooses to be, obviously he knows we’d love to talk to him.”
(Christian Red, N.Y. Daily News)
Not much of a Christmas for Yankee fans. Poor little rich boys!