"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: March 2011

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Beat of the Day

Soul in the Hole

Last week, the gifted Jeff MacGregor, who has unfortunately been buried somewhere in the ESPN wilderness, offered up this gem about the cage down on West 4th:

There is no inside game at all, except on the putback. Nobody drives, nobody works down low or inside. Sometimes the airball falls straight from the sky, is caught, is lifted back or is lofted downrange. But it is a shooter’s game without shooters.

This is strange, because the game at West 4th is historically tough, all elbows and grunt and hard feelings. The miniature court rewards ruthlessness and body mass, not speed. Games here in August, played by older, angrier men, unfold like long-form fistfights in the heat. Not today.

The Cage is filled instead with city peacocks. Black and white and brown. Dazzling and radiant and useless.

Perfect.

[Photo Credit: NYC Gov Parks]

New York Minute

My first few apartments in New York were near the 6 Train. Using the 6 Train as your primary train is like eating from a salad bar and filling your bowl with only croutons. It may work for you, but only if you have specific, limited requirements and a tiny imagination.

It was several years before I felt comfortable with the rest of the system. If I was on the West Side and I needed to get to Yankee Stadium, I had to actually consult the map and think twice.

Now I live Uptown, work in Midtown, and have a wide variety of routes at my disposal. The labyrinth went from over-my-head to back-of-my-hand, though I can’t pinpoint the moment when the information fully settled. But it’s there now and it feels good to master something that seemed so complex at first.

As long as we’re not talking about Brooklyn and Queens. That’s just a mess.

2011 New York Yankees, Assemble

Well, the Yankees pretty much have their team together now — yesterday they crossed most of their t’s and dotted the bulk of their i’s.

Eric Chavez? In.

Edward Nunez? More reluctantly in.

Austin Romine and The Jesus? Minors, AA and AAA respectively.

Gustavo Molina? In, and may god have mercy on your soul.

Mark Prior? To A-ball, for the weather.

Romulo Sanchez? Sold to a Japanese team.

Ronnie Belliard? Fed to the sarlacc.

Things will change, of course, especially this year. I don’t know which of Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon and Ivan Nova will spend all season with the Yankees, but I very much doubt it will be all three. And this Molina situation (that’s what I insist on calling it – “this Molina situation” or “this Molina issue”) is very much temporary. I really like the Eric Chavez signing, and I like that Edward Nunez will not, barring disaster, see much playing time. The core of the Yankees is another story althogher  – we’ll get a lot of C.C. Sabathia and Robbie Cano and so forth, with just a soupçon of Colon. If you will.

Still: the Yankees’ fringes are quite fringe-y this year, aren’t they? I suppose not much more than usual – but having the two rotation spots to plug up somehow rather than the standard one does give the roster a bit of a different feel.

I’m guessing this won’t be a popular choice in these here parts, but in my preseason picks for Baseball Prospectus and The Daily, I had the Red Sox winning the division and the Rays getting the Wild Card, with the Yankees coming in a respectable third. I could easily be wrong, of course – I very often am  – and I certainly wouldn’t be shocked if the Yanks finished better than that. I don’t think they’ll be a bad team, by any stretch – it’s just that the AL East is so tough, and looking at the Yanks’ pitching, I don’t see it being enough.

I’m sure looking forward to finding out, though.

What Your Life Can Truly Be (Encore, Encore)

Brian Costello on the Yankees’ shining star, Robinson Cano:

“He could very easily be as good as anyone in baseball,” said Larry Bowa, the former Yankees coach and now an MLB Network analyst. “The reason I say that is because the position he plays. I’m sure there’s going to be guys that hit more home runs and drive in more runs. I’m talking about the overall position this kid plays — in the middle of the diamond, involved in everything. He could be as good as anybody. He’s got unbelievable talent.”

[Drawing by Walt Simonson]

Million Dollar Movie

Check out this Vanity Fair piece on Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

 

[Drawings by Larry Roibal]

Shall We Dance?

I was poking through a book of interviews with Al Pacino and found this:

I don’t go to fights. I saw De La Hoya fight because he invited me. I was put in a seat pole; I kept looking to see it on the monitors. It was weird. It’s easier to see on television. Except when you’re there you really see the craft of a fight, which you don’t see on television. You see the dance. Everybody thinks they’re fighting, but they’re doing something else. They’re thinking, they’re measuring each other, countering. You can see it in the ring, it’s beautiful to see live. I know it’s brutal, and I don’t want to like it the way I do, but it’s a great sport.

I really love Al because as crazy as he is, the man is serious about his craft.

Beat of the Day

2011 Season Predictions – Part 1

Let’s poll the Banter masses regarding which teams will be playing meaningful games in October:

[poll id="71"]

[poll id="72"]

[poll id="73"]

(more…)

What in the World Were You Thinking?

Here’s Peter Gammons writing about Game Six of the 1986 World Series in the ’87 SI Baseball Preview:

“Last year should be remembered not for one inning or one game,” said veteran relief pitcher Joe Sambito, “but what for most of us was the best of times.”

The worst of times, of course, came in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 6 of the World Series, when the Boston Red Sox turned a 5-3, two-out, bases-empty lead into a 6-5 loss to the New York Mets. In order, Gary Carter singled, Kevin Mitchell singled, Ray Knight singled to score Carter and send Mitchell to third, Mitchell scored on a wild pitch as Knight went to second, and Knight scored the winning run when Mookie Wilson’s grounder went through Buckner’s legs. Though it has been used many times before, the first paragraph of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities truly does describe Game 6: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way….”

Game 6 has now taken its place with the other great World Series contests: Game 8 in 1912, Game 4 in 1947, Game 7 in 1960 and Game 6 in 1975. But in a way it stands alone as the greatest “bad” game in Series history. The Mets, who in 1986 won more games (116) than all but two teams ever, were facing the Red Sox, who hadn’t won a World Series since Babe Ruth pitched for them. For much of the Series, the two teams bumbled around like a couple of September cellar dwellers. And managers McNamara and Davey Johnson, otherwise sound strategists, often seemed to be off in other worlds.

I was in 10th grade when the Mets beat the Red Sox and was pulling for Boston all the way (I knew more Mets fans at school and even though the Red Sox beat my second favorite team, Reggie’s Angels, in the playoffs, I was an American League man first and foremost). I wasn’t crushed, of course, when the ball went through Buckner’s legs but I was furious thinking of all the mess the Mets fans would be talking at school the next day.

New York Minute

When you leave New York people tend to be more open, easier with saying “hello” or “thank you” if you hold the door open for them. That doesn’t mean that we’re unthinking brutes, even if we are rough around the edges. It’s just that New Yorkers are more measured with their kindness. It doesn’t come automatically, which makes you appreciate it more when you find it. I’ll tell you this, though–I’m a hopeless snob against people who move to New York and are unfriendly. Maybe they are just trying to fit in, but hey, pal, it doesn’t hurt to be nice.

(more…)

T Minus

Doesn’t matter how cold it is, we’re almost there, Opening Day. This will be the ninth season for me at Bronx Banter and I’m as happy as I’ve ever been as a blogger. Of course, I’ve written more about the arts and New York culture over the past few seasons than I did in the early years and that has helped sustain my passion and focus. But following the Yankees remains central to why we gather round and I’m stoaked to experience another season with you.

Thanks for coming, and coming back.

[Painting by Roger Patrick]

Wrap 'Em Up in Cellophant

Alex Rodriguez has enjoyed a monstrous spring. Here’s hoping the good times roll into the season.

View to a Kill

Kansas v VCU and UNC v Kentucky. Let’s hope for some more hoops goodness this afternoon.

Sundaze Soul

Git up n go-ski…

Saturday Nite Hoops

The Final Four will be set by tomorrow night. Enjoy the games. And in the meantime, dig the realness brought to you by our pal, Repoz:

Beware of Molinas, Part 17: The Molina Is Coming From INSIDE THE HOUSE!

While no formal announcement has been made, it sounds like Gustavo Molina will probably start the year as the Yanks’ backup catcher. He’s not one of those Molinas, but he is a catching Molina (it’s not just about blood) and I am therefore wary. The Yankees would have some valid reasons for choosing him: Montero and Romine aren’t ready behind the plate and would be better served by playing every day, and Molina is an excellent defensive catcher.

In fact I’ve never seen Molina play – but you know how I know he’s an excellent defensive catcher? Because, in his major league career, he has hit .122/.158/.146 with zero home runs and an OPS+ of -19. Yeah. They’re not keeping him around for his bat.

Of course, his “major league career” is only 23 games and 45 plate appearances over four years. If you look at his minor league numbers, over 11 seasons, they are significantly better — but still pretty lousy. I never expected to miss Francisco Cervelli so very much. But it’s spring, and a new season, and a time of optimism and hope generally, so who knows? Maybe Molina will guide Phil Hughes and AJ Burnett to success while improving his batting average to something crazy like .200. Stranger things have happened. Probably.

Then again if I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times… beware of Molinas, dammit.

Next Plateau

Yeah, this is pretty wunnerful (thanks to Mr. Cliff for the hook up):

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