"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: April 2011

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Weight Watchers

Sometimes it seems like the Yankees must have their weight scrutinized more closely than any group besides models and female actors. Just this spring we had C.C. Sabathia’s diet tips (hint: cut out one box of Cap’n Crunch per day) and a flurry of stories about Joba Chamberlain’s weight gain. Now it’s Phil Hughes’ turn. From Joel Sherman in the Post:

I talked to a person with strong ties to the Yankees who threw out a theory I had not yet heard on what happened to Phil Hughes’ velocity: He lost too much weight.

This person said that while everyone was focused on Joba Chamberlain’s weight gain and his having to go for individual workouts following the standard spring training workouts in order to shed pounds, it was missed by the media that Hughes also showed up overweight and was dispatched also to what the team refers to as “The Fat Farm.” This person said he believes Hughes is a player who needs the extra bulk to pitch and that it was possible the loss of the bulk explains the decreased velocity.

I asked Yankees GM Brian Cashman about the theory and he essentially said: “hogwash.” He did confirm that Hughes was sent to “The Fat Farm,” but said that he was not asked to drop below last year’s playing weight and, in fact, was still above it a bit when the season began.

This manages to pull off the neat trick of calling Hughes both too fat AND too thin, a treatment usually reserved for starlets in tabloids. Look, I don’t know what’s wrong with Phil Hughes… maybe there’s something to this, maybe not. I certainly don’t blame Sherman for bringing it up – it’s what his source told him, and he’s passing it along. But as an explanation, it feels to me like grasping at straws. It seems a bit more logical to point to the fact that he pitched many more innings last year than he ever has before, but of course that’s just speculation, too.

Meanwhile, the show must go on. Is that a “baby bump” I see on Freddy Garcia?!

Nothing Semi-About Colon

Well, well, well. Bartolo Colon, huh?

Coming into the season, Colon was the subject of many of my jokes about the Yankees, not just because I’m spiritually twelve years old and enjoy making colon puns, but because as As Diane noted in her recap of last night’s game, the Yankees biggest reclamation project kicked some ass last night. He had already been surprisingly solid, almost dominant, in relief, but this was his first major league start since 2009. I wasn’t surprised to see him being smart with his off-speed stuff, but a 93-94 mph fastball? I wasn’t predicting that. Neither was Colon, apparently.

When I think of pleasantly surprising Yankees, the first to come to mind are probably the Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon duo of late 2005. Small, especially, was a journeyman struggling to hang on in the majors when he inexplicably (well – explicably, but still surprisingly) went 10-0 for the Yanks down the stretch and, along with some solid work from Chacon, helped them make the playoffs despite numerous injuries. Small only ever started three games in the majors after that, but as witnessed by how clearly I remember it six years later, he made an impression.

Colon, having been a great pitcher in the past, is a horse of a different color – it’s surprising that he still has something, but he’s no journeyman. I remember disliking him intensely when he was on the Angels (at a time when I generally disliked anybody on the Angels) and I have particularly fond memories of Alex Rodriguez taking him deep three times in one game – also in 2005, as it happens. Still, given the expectations I had coming into the season, even if he flames out next month he’s given them more than I’d hoped.

Anyway, like most people I can’t help loving an underdog, and the Yankees have fewer of those than most teams, so while my expectations are still not what you’d call sky-high, I’ll be rooting for Colon. Although I make no promises about cutting down on the colon jokes. For a nickname, might I suggest “The Yankees’ Large Intestine”?And can some fans start showing up on days he starts with signs that just say “:”?

Who do you remember as the most pleasantly surprising Yankees?

Afternoon Art

Tan Tan

[Picture Credit: Tropical Toxic]

Break it Down Like This

Next Thursday, the National Geographic Channel will air, “Break it Down: Yankee Stadium,” an exclusive look at the demolition of the Stadium.

Looks like a must-watch for us.


Taster's Cherce

Serious Eats offers 30 simple ways to upgrade your ramen noodles.

True, indeed.

True West

Home on the range.



Photographs by William Albert Allard

Million Dollar Movie

Things that go bump in the night…

Polanski’s “Repulsion.”

Beat of the Day

The Fat Lady Sings the Dodger Blues…Period

Jon Weisman on the sad–okay, infuriating–turn of events for the Dodgers:

I haven’t been at Dodger Stadium in the past week, and I’m also familiar with no-shows dotting Dodger Stadium in the best of times, but there have been too many reports to ignore from longtime Dodger watchers that things had really changed. I’ve been a passionate skeptic of fan boycotts, but even I have to concede that there was a statement being made here. More and more people just didn’t want any part of this.

The thing is, it hasn’t been an organized boycott, not on any widespread level. It’s been people on their own coming to the conclusion that life was too short to waste on a franchise in this condition.

This includes people like my father, who chose during the offseason not to renew my family’s season tickets for a 30th season. It also includes the people who typically would improvise their ticket purchases after the season was underway.

That’s not to say Dodger Stadium was or would be empty. Some still show up because they love the team through thick and decidedly thin. The game’s pull remains strong. I myself have been trying to figure out when to get my kids to their first game of 2011.

But things haven’t been this low at Dodger Stadium before, have they? I think back to 1992, the worst team in Los Angeles Dodger history playing against the backdrop of a city torn by riots, and there was not such bitterness over the state of ownership.

The Weighting is the Hardest Part

The last time Bartolo Colon started a major league game was 635 days ago . . .  July 24, 2009.  On that date, Phil Hughes still had a 94 mph fastball, Derek Jeter was hitting .320/.396/.451 and Joba Chamberlain started that night’s game, throwing 7+ innings of two-hit ball.

Much has transpired within the Yanks starting pitching ranks since then, and retirement/injury/inefficiency thrust the well-traveled (and fed) Colon into the starting rotation for tonight’s matchup against the Blue Jays, and their own “Hefty B.C.”, 6’1″ 235-pound Brett Cecil.  Cecil started five games against the Bombers in 2010 and went 4-0.  But he had been dealing with his own Hughesque decline in velocity and it continued in this game.

The Yanks eschewed their usual smashmouth offense for much of the game, jumping out to a 5-1 lead after six innings, with four of the runs scoring on either sacrifice flies or groundouts. Meanwhile, Colon turned the clock back to his Cy Young form of 2005, flashing a fastball at 93 or 94 and mixing in lots of late-breaking off-speed stuff.  His only mistake was a hanging slider that J.P. Arencibia parked in the left field stands leading off the second.  Through the first six innings, Colon allowed only two flyballs and two other hits (both singles).

Colon started to tire in the seventh, and the Jays were poised for a huge inning.  With one out, Juan Encanarcion doubled to right and Arencibia followed with a walk.  Travis Snider then singled sharply to right, and Nick Swisher charged the ball and threw a strike to cutoff man Mark Teixeira, holding Encanarcion at third.  The only problem for the Jays was that Arencibia never stopped running, rounding second too far with his head down, and he also ended up on third.  Teixeira ran over and tagged anyone with a Blue Jay uni on, and suddenly it was two outs and men on the corners rather than one out and bases loaded.

That was Colon’s 89th and final pitch (56 of them for strikes).  David Robertson came in and Jayson Nix battled him for eight pitches before driving an RBI single to center to cut it to 5-2.  Robertson held the fort there as he got John McDonald swinging.

In the 9th, Curtis Granderson greeted Frank Francisco, making his 2011 (and Blue Jay) debut, by slamming the first pitch over the RF wall for a 6-2 margin.  With Mariano Rivera needing a day off, and a four-run lead, Joe Girardi summoned Lance Pendleton to close it out.  Pendleton walked two of the three batters to face him, and Rafael Soriano had to put out the mess.  He managed to do that despite walking the bases loaded.

Final: 6-2 Yanks

Notes: Teixeira had three doubles, to three different parts of the park.  Derek Jeter went 0-5 with one of the RBI groundouts, but four ABs ended with the ball in the infield.

The Infamous Bomb Squad

Yanks look to bounce back from a tough loss last night.

Derek Jeter SS
Nick Swisher RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Andruw Jones LF
Jorge Posada DH
Russell Martin C
Curtis Granderson CF

Alex Rodriguez returns to the line up; we keep rooting…

Let’s Go Score Truck!

[Painting by Heidi Malott]

Taster's Cherce

Apricot tart from Orangette.

[Picture by Nicole Belle]

The United States of Brooklyn

Now Dig This: “The Boys in the Bank,” a life magazine story by P.F. Kluge and Thomas Moore upon which “Dog Day Afternoon” was based:

“If they had been my houseguests on a Saturday night, it would have been hilarious,” Shirley Ball recalls. “Especially with John’s antics, the way he hopped around all over the place, the way he talked. John called me ‘mouth’ because I was the talkative one. It was, ‘Hey, mouth, do this’ and ‘Hey, mouth, do that.’ I really liked them both. They tried to be nice-except when they were cornered. Such aboveboard guys, they even told us they would kill us if they had to.”

“I’m supposed to hate you guys, but I’ve had more laughs tonight than I’ve had in weeks,” bank manager Barret tells John Wojtowicz.

Recalls Barrett: “We had a kind of camaraderie. Every time he’d stress a point he’d walk around the floor three times gesturing, speaking in a real Brooklyn accent. He’d spot a police sniper outside and say, ‘What d’ya think of that sonofabitch! He really wants me, he wants me in the worst way.’ And I’d laugh and say, ‘Yeah, John, I guess he does.’ ”

Sometimes in the lengthening night, John Wojtowiez shares some of his puzzled thoughts with Barrett. He wonders aloud: “Now, I can shoot you and they won’t give me the gas chamber. But if I shoot a cop, I get it. Now I wonder: if I put a gun at your head and another gun in your hand and made you shoot the cop, would you get it?”

Paternity Test

I wasn’t going to write about this Colby Lewis paternity leave debate, because it seems like such a cut-and-dry issue to me. Basically: Lewis missed a start last week to be there for the birth of his child; a Dallas Observer writer thought that was “ludicrous”; many people begged to differ. But I remember from our discussion here of Mark Teixeira’s missing games for his child’s birth last year that many people have a different take, so maybe it’s worth bringing up again. For one thing, Rob Neyer, a generally eminently reasonable guy, played devil’s advocate and thought the Obvserver writer had a point.

I guess there’s an argument to be made for a player staying with the team rather than taking paternity leave (which has a three-day maximum limit, by the way), although I would certainly not make it myself. But what rubbed me and, I think, many other people so much the wrong way about Richie Whitt’s blog post was its obnoxiously scornful tone:

But a pitcher missing one of maybe 30 starts? And it’s all kosher because of Major League Baseball’s new paternity leave rule?

Follow me this way to some confusion.

Imagine if Jason Witten missed a game to attend the birth of a child. It’s just, I dunno, weird. Wrong even…

…Baseball players are paid millions to play baseball. If that means “scheduling” births so they occur in the off-season, then so be it. Of the 365 days in a year, starting pitchers “work” maybe 40 of them, counting spring training and playoffs.If it was a first child, maybe. But a second child causing a player to miss a game? Ludicrous.

See, you can disagree with a player taking paternity leave… but “ludicrous”? Of course it’s not ludicrous. That’s a massively entitled attitude for any fan or writer to take. A team, the player’s employer, might have a right to ask a player to stay with the club – ask, not tell – but what right do the rest of us have to make that kind of demand? Anyway, there were about 80 comments on the piece last time I checked, most of them calling Whitt a jerk. Rob Neyer, however, is not a jerk, and here’s some of what he had to say:

What if we’re talking about your favorite NFL team’s quarterback? Do you want him skipping Sunday’s big game to attend the birth of his third child? Yeah? What if it’s the Super Bowl?

The answer’s not so obvious now, huh?

I’m going to be honest here, as I have been since the first time this came up, some years ago (official paternity leave is new, but players taking a game off to attend childbirth is not) … As a human being, I think this is fantastic. As a baseball fan, though? If my team’s in the playoff hunt, I’m sorry, but I don’t want one of my starting pitchers taking the night off. We’re not talking about some guy who works on the assembly line for the Integrated Widget Corporation. We’re talking about one of the most talented pitchers on the planet, not easily replaceable. What if your team finishes one game short of the playoffs? Was it really worth it?

Neyer’s much more reasonable than Whitt, as you might expect, but I don’t find his argument remotely convincing here. There are dozens of moments and events that cause a team to miss the playoffs by one game; to blame that on a player missing a start makes no more sense than blaming it entirely on one pitch, one play, one middling relief pitcher. I’d also add that players miss games all the time – for the flu, for a sore back, for a stiff neck – for reasons that, while they may be physical and therefore a different beast, are also vastly less important than a birth. Most players miss a few games here and there during a season, and every team expects it. Beyond that, in the U.S., the only jobs I can think of for which employees are expected to miss childbirth are military positions – and even then, when it’s possible the army will arrange a soldier’s leave so that he can be there for childbirth. As much as I love baseball, Colby Lewis’s presence in any given game is hardly a life-or-death issue or a matter of national security.

What if it’s a playoff game, a World Series game even? Well, that’s a harder decision, but one that the player and his family should be allowed to make for themselves. I wouldn’t judge someone on that either way. And I know if I ever have a baby, I would absolutely not be okay with the father missing it for his job, unless we needed that particular paycheck to survive or unless he was literally saving lives. Neither is the case for a pro athlete, though, however much a World Series win might mean for fans.

I know that not all of the Banter’s regular commenters agree with me on this, though, so marshall your arguments below…

Ready to Feel Old?

Don Mattingly turns 50 today.  Happy Birthday to Donnie Baseball!

(image: Topps Heritage)

Dancing with the Stars

Just to show that we appreciate more than the female form round these parts, dig this beauty, none other than the great Baryshnikov.

Beat of the Day

Matt B says, “What if this music started up every time you got in your car?”

Love and Marriage

I was All-Schoolyard, tell her, Max.

“Sports to me is like music…It’s completely, aesthetically satisfying. There were times I would sit at a game with the old Knicks and think to myself in the fourth quarter, This is everything the theatre should be an isn’t. There’s an outcome that’s unpredictable. The audience is not ahead of the dramatist. The drama is ahead of the audience, and you don’t know exatly where it’s going. You’re personally involved with the players–they had herioc demensions, some of those players. It’s a pleasurable experience, though not intellectual–much like music. It enters you through a diferent opening, sort of…

You see, life consists of giving yourself these problems that can be dealt with, so you don’t have to face the problems that can’t be dealt with. It’s very meaningful to me, for instance, to see if the Knicks are going to get over some problem or another. These are matters you can get involved with, safely, and pleasurably, and the outcome doesn’t hurt you.”

Woody Allen to David Remnick, 1994

Well said, though I’m sure some fans would argue about not being hurt. Last night’s loss was a tough one, doesn’t matter that the Celtics should have mopped the floor with them. Carmelo Anthony was brilliant but Jared Jeffries will be the memory that doesn’t go away from this one. And that hurts, man.

Marathon Man

R.I.P. Michael Sarrazin.

With Jane Fonda in Sydney Pollack’s “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”

Kind of Blue

Sure, the Knicks kicked another one away tonight in Boston but at least we’ve got the Yankees who took at 5-3 lead into the ninth inning. Enter Sandman…

Mariano allows a lead off double.

No sweat.


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