"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: July 2011

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Garcia Stands Tall Versus Orioles as Yanks Stand Pat at Deadline

During the winter, Freddy Garcia’s signing was looked upon as a stop gap measure intended to tide the Yankees over until reinforcements could be acquired in the summer. However, when the clock struck 4:00 PM, all was quiet on the trade front, meaning the veteran right hander will now be counted upon to help the Yankees reach the finish line. If Garcia continues to pitch as well as he did today, the Yankees should be just fine.

Leading up to the trade deadline, which passed during the eighth inning, there had been a lot of speculation about the Yankees acquiring another pitcher. However, lost amid the trade talk was the fact that the Yankees currently lead the American League in ERA+, and a big part of that has been Freddy Garcia. In fact, by limiting the Orioles to two runs over six innings, the soft tossing right hander recorded his 14th quality start, and eighth in his last ninth games. Along with fellow veteran retread Bartolo Colon, Garcia has not only helped hold down the fort, but lessened the need for reinforcements.

Garcia’s quality outing was not only a symbolic comfort for the Yankees, but a vital part of winning the series finale against the Orioles. One day after scoring a combined 25 runs in a doubleheader sweep, the Yankees’ bats were a little sluggish in the early going. Over the first three innings, the Bronx Bombers squandered two bases loaded opportunities, but the third time proved to be a charm in the fourth. After Eric Chavez walked to lead off the frame, Russell Martin hit a routine groundball right at Baltimore shortstop J.J. Hardy. It should have been Martin’s 16th double play of the season, but instead, the ball rolled under Hardy’s glove and set the stage for Brett Gardner’s bases clearing triple two batters later.

The Yankees wound up scoring four runs in the fourth, but they also lost their shortstop. One inning earlier, Derek Jeter was struck on the right hand by a pitch from Jake Arieta, but only when his next at bat rolled around was he forced to exit the game. Because of a lack depth on the bench, Francisco Cervelli was sent to play second base for the first time in his professional career, which must have had Brian Cashman reaching for his phone, if only for a moment. However, X-rays on Jeter’s finger were negative, and the Yankees dodged a bullet (also known as Eduardo Nunez’ throwing arm).

Following the four run outburst, the Yankees’ offense went dormant, but the combination of Garcia and three relievers was more than enough to lock down the game. In particular, David Robertson was summoned with two outs in the seventh to retire Hardy, who came to the plate as the tying run. Then, as an encore, Robertson plowed through the middle of the Orioles lineup in the eighth by striking out the side. All that was left was for Mariano Rivera to polish off the game and the homestand, which the Yankees finished at 7-3.

Sunday Chores (The Grass is Always Greener Edition)

Think Brian Cashman has a to-do list before the trade deadline today at 4:00 p.m. The Yanks have been quiet thus far. Does this mean Cash is in stealth-mode or does this mean that nothing is going down? Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, the Yanks have a game. And after yesterday, it would be a disappointment if they don’t handle the Orioles again today.

Stay cool and:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Photo Credit: Herve Bertrand]

Sunday Soul

Cannonball A meets Extra P.

[Photo Credit: Herbert List]

Can you say "Score Truck"? Uh-huh, I thought you could.

When I write a recap for this site, I always try to remember that I’m writing for two distinct audiences, those who watched every pitch, and those who did not watch at all. With that in mind, I have to give something of interest to those readers who already know everything I know about the game, but I also know that those who didn’t watch are looking for something more than they’d get in a generic recap over at the World Leader. They want to get a sense of the feel of the game, they want little details that would only be important to someone who lives and dies with the team. They want these one thousand words to make up for the three hours they weren’t able to spend in front of the television.

So how exactly do you do that for a game like this? Lemme give it a shot.

After registering a fairly convincing win over the Baltimore Orioles in the first game of Saturday’s split double header, the Yankees took no prisoners in the night cap as they scoretrucked the O’s, 17-3.

The home half of the first started out innocently enough, as Baltimore’s Zach Britton struck out Derek Jeter for the first out of the game. But here’s how the rest of the inning went: single, walk, single, error, double, single, single, single, single, pitching change, strikeout!, double, single, home run, walk, ground out.

It was 12-0, and the game was over — except that there were still eight innings left to play.

Ivan Nova was the beneficiary of all these runs, and unlike Phil Hughes a few days ago, he didn’t spit the bit. He made it through seven innings, allowing just two runs on six hits and a walk while striking out six. I listened to the radio feed for the first few innings, and John Sterling kept reminding us that you can’t really evaluate a pitcher when he has a fifteen-run lead, but if I were Phil Hughes, I’d be a little nervous.

Here are a few interesting notes from the game:

  • Robinson Canó finished 5 for 5 with two doubles and 5 RBIs.
  • Yes, I said RBIs and not RBI. Let’s all get over it.
  • Zach Britton is one of the top prospects in the Baltimore system, but here’s the combined stat line from his last two starts, Saturday and July 8th against the Red Sox: 1.0 IP, 13 ER, 13 H. That’s an ERA of 117.00.
  • Not surprisingly, Britton is the first player in major league history with back-to-back starts in which he allowed eight or more runs without completing the first inning in either start.
  • All nine Yankee starters had a hit in the first inning (Canó had two).
  • This was the first time the Yankees had ever scored twelve runs in the first inning.
  • Rafael Soriano made his first appearance since May, striking out two to close out the game in the 9th.
  • Contrary to several reports, this game will only count as one win.
[Photo Credit: Kathy Kmonicek/AP]

Let's Make a Dope Deal

The Yanks play two against the O’s today as the trading deadline enters the home stretch. Rob Neyer has a piece on the summer trade-a-thon in today’s New York Times:

The most important thing to know about baseball trades made in July is that most of them do not amount to much. Few of the stars traded to contenders will be the difference between winning and losing, and few of the young prospects traded for stars will become stars. Still, we have had a flurry of activity leading to Sunday’s deadline for nonwaiver trades (don’t ask), with stars like Carlos Beltran, and numerous lesser lights changing teams and kindling hope among their new teams’ fans.

And although most of these deadline deals are ultimately good for all parties — contrary to popular opinion, baseball executives are generally intelligent — there have been a few notably disastrous deadline trades over the years.

Meanwhile, at the Stadium, Bartolo Colon takes the hill.

1. Gardner CF
2. Nunez SS
3. Teixeira DH
4. Cano 2B
5. Swisher RF
6. Chavez 3B
7. Posada 1B
8. Dickerson LF
9. Cervelli C

Long day of baseball ahead of us. Stay hyrdrated and:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Photo Credit: Natasha Dominguez via Je Suis Perdu]

One Step Beyond

On July 28th, the St. Petersburg Times had nine journalists write about a game between the Yankees and Rays:


Meter tells a story that the box score doesn’t

ST. PETERSBURG — In his taxi parked outside the stadium, Steven “Sven” Erikson cautiously admitted that he is not a big Rays fan. He followed the game on his laptop so he’d have something to talk about with his fares afterward.

In his 60 years, Erikson said he has been a wrangler in Colorado, sold men’s clothing in New York City, attended seminary in Pennsylvania and worked as a financial planner in Michigan. Tired of corporate culture, he moved to Treasure Island a couple of years ago and got a job driving a cab.

Some fans are giddy after a win, or despondent after a loss. Some drink too much and can barely remember where they live. A few offer an opinion on the Rays’ stadium debate. In the first inning, a woman who forgot to lock her car hired Erikson to drive her a mile to where she parked. She didn’t like the $5.80 fare and tipped him 20 cents.

Back in line, the Rays put two men on before Longoria hit it deep to center where Curtis Granderson snagged the ball at the wall.

The Yankees fans he drove home never mentioned it.

Chris Zuppa, Times staff writer

Most cool.

The Smallest Nation

I’m a frequent traveler to New England, got in-laws stretching from Worcester, through Boston, up Cape Ann and into Maine. I lived in Boston one summer. And now I take long vacations there to visit family and friends.

I have never had a bad experience regarding my Yankee hat. Some light-hearted ribbing here or there. Most just ignore it completely. But there’s one caveat to this track record. Every time I’ve been up there for an extended period, the Yanks have been on top.

That summer I lived in Boston? 1998. I think they made it a Federal crime to pick on Yankee fans that year.

So I now I trek up for week’s vacation into the heart of Red Sox country wearing the lessor team’s hat. I wonder if they’ll treat me differently? I’ll let you know next week as I relay the choicest encounters leading up to the Yanks visit next weekend.

Could the Yanks figure out a way to take that series and get back in the Division race for reals? It would certainly make my return to New York all the sweeter.

Delay of Game

AJ Burnett

AJ Burnett is now 31-33 since joining the Yankees.

AJ Burnett is like a golfer who shoots good scores, but has two or three bad holes per round that sully the scorecard. Friday night’s start was indicative of just that. Burnett, for the most part, was solid against a Baltimore Orioles lineup that has some punch. He pitched eight innings, struck out a season-high 10 batters, and walked only two. He ended five of the eight innings with strikeouts. That was the good. The bad: five poor at-bats led to four runs.

In the second inning, Burnett walked Derrek Lee with one out, and then left a fastball on the outer half to Mark Reynolds, who launched it over the right-center field fence into the Yankees’ bullpen. The same part of the order bit him in the fourth inning. Consecutive doubles by Vladimir Guerrero and Lee made it 3-0. In the sixth, Lee victimized Burnett yet again, this time with a home run to right-center. That blast completed the Orioles’ scoring.

Overall, Burnett’s night was the equivalent of shooting 74 or 75, with five or six birdies, but a bunch of bogeys submarining what could have been a fantastic round.

Paul O’Neill summed up Burnett’s night perfectly during the top of the ninth inning on the YES telecast: “AJ Burnett didn’t make too many mistakes tonight — far fewer than in his last game — but the mistakes he did make ended up going for home runs and doubles.”

The loss left Burnett winless in July. It is the third winless month in his Yankees career. How goofy of a season has this been for Burnett? Friday marked the third time this season that he’s pitched into the eighth inning. The Yankees have lost each of those games, and Burnett has been the pitcher of record.

The burden of the 4-2 defeat should not fall squarely on Burnett, though. It was the type of game that if the vaunted Yankees offense did anything to support him, the outcome would have been different. Jeremy Guthrie, a pitcher the Yankees have owned over the last two years, turned the tables and was in complete control. Of the 69 strikes Guthrie threw, 19 were called strikes and 21 were foul balls. He had mid-90s velocity on his fastball with good movement, and he changed speeds effectively to keep the big bats off balance.

Watching the game, the telltale sign that it would not be the Yankees’ night was that the second and third time through the order, usually when they make minced meat of pitchers like Guthrie, the grinding at-bats the Yankees are known for didn’t yield positive outcomes — Mark Teixeira’s solo home run in the sixth inning notwithstanding. When they did put runners on base, Guthrie made a pitch to get the Yankees out. They were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position; a common refrain when analyzing Yankees losses over the course of this season.

A ninth-inning rally against Kevin Gregg fell short when Brett Gardner, who swung through nearly every hittable pitch that came his way in previous at-bats, capped an 0-for-5 performance by striking out swinging to end the game. The key pitch in the at-bat was the fastball Gregg threw with the count at 3-and-1. Gardner thought it was outside for ball four. Gardner turned toward first base and was three steps up the line when home plate umpire Mike Dimuro called the pitch a strike and ushered Gardner back the batter’s box. Replays confirmed the pitch was off the plate by a few inches, but it was too close to take.

Following the whiff, Gardner slammed his bat on the ground in frustration, cracking it in half. Given that the Red Sox lost to the White Sox and another chance to cut into the 2 1/2-game deficit was wasted, they should be frustrated.

For the Boids

Yanks vs. the O’s. Four games. Preview, Clifford.

1. Gardner LF
2. Jeter SS
3. Granderson CF
4. Teixeira 1B
5. Cano 2B
6. Swisher RF
7. Chavez 3B
8. Posada DH
9. Martin C

Never mind the competition, just win, baby and:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Photo Credit: the most gifted Joel Zimmer]

More Big Sexy

Oh, Raquel.

[Top picture via forums france2]

Big Sexy

Hey Now Friday, from that drooltastic site, Worship The Feminine.

Taster's Cherce

Food 52 gives us Flank Steak on Texas Toast with Chimichurri. Why the hell not?

Observations From Cooperstown: Hideki Irabu, Don Wilson, and Danny Thomas

It isn’t often that the death of a former pitcher with a career record of 34-35 makes national news, but that’s what happened on Thursday. On NBC’s Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams included a story on the death of former Yankee Hideki Irabu, a suicide victim at the age of 42. The inclusion of Irabu during a 23-minute national broadcast tells us about his overall impact; he was an internationally known name and a full-fledged legend in his native Japan, where he was often described as the “Japanese Nolan Ryan.”

In major league circles, Irabu was hardly legendary. By the time he joined the Yankees, he no longer had the Ryan fastball. He pitched well for the 1998 Yankees, becoming an important part of their five-man rotation, but he was certainly not spectacular and failed to improve in subsequent seasons. Continually out of shape, he did not improve his conditioning and he did not work hard to become a better pitcher. By the end of 1999, he was out of Yankee pinstripes, and by 2002, he was out of the big leagues. He became a disappointment, a flop, a bust who did not live up to the hype.

Unfortunately, Irabu also became a punch line, largely because of the “fat toad” label that George Steinbrenner pinned on him. Like a lot of other people, I feel bad about that now, after learning that Irabu took his own life. I doubt that the toad jokes had anything to do with his suicide; it’s far more likely that his severe alcoholism, which contributed to incidents involving assault and driving under the influence and ultimately led to the departure of his wife and children, had far more to do with his sad decision to hang himself. Still, it makes me wonder about the cost of making fun of people who have obvious, even blatant weaknesses. Irabu does not seem to have been a bad guy, but simply a lazy one; he deserved a little less cruelty than what the fans and media, including me, gave him.

In the hours after hearing of Irabu’s suicide, I began to think of two other players. One was Don Wilson. The other was Danny Thomas. You might not have heard of either of them, but their tales deserve to be told.

Wilson was one of a flock of blazing right-handers the Astros featured in the 1970s. A smaller version of J.R. Richard, he could throw the ball through a wall, and appeared headed for a long career. He had already thrown two no-hitters, compiled an 18-strikeout game, and struck out 235 batters in a season, all before his 30th birthday.

During the winter that preceded the 1975 season, Wilson’s lifeless body was found in the passenger seat of his Ford Thunderbird, which had been left running in his own garage. Not only did Wilson die from carbon monoxide poisoning, but the gas seeped into the Wilson’s Houston home and took the life of his son, while leaving his daughter and wife in comas. (Thankfully, his wife and daughter would survive.)

Initially, Wilson’s death was reported as a suicide. Because of those initial reports, I assumed that the 29-year-old Wilson had indeed taken his own life. I also considered him a villain because his recklessness had claimed the life of one of his innocent children.

And then, a couple of years ago, I decided to re-visit the Wilson story on the Internet. I read that the official coroner’s report listed Wilson’s death as accidental, and not as a suicide. I didn’t quite understand how the coroner came to that conclusion, but if it happened to be accurate, then Wilson fell into a more sympathetic light.

The Astros gave Wilson the benefit of the doubt. They retired his No. 30 and wore a memorial patch on their uniform jerseys for the entire 1975 season. The Astros continue to honor Wilson at Minute Maid Park, where his plaque is featured on the franchise’s Wall of Honor.

The case of Danny Thomas was more clear-cut, but no less somber. A highly touted prospect in the Brewers’ system, Thomas also had emotional concerns and required psychiatric care. After the 1976 season, he decided to join a religious group known as the Worldwide Church of God. According to the group’s religious beliefs, it was not appropriate to work from sundown on Friday to sundown on Sunday. As a result, when Thomas reported to spring training in 1977, he informed the Brewers that he would have to miss a number of weekend games. Thomas became known as “The Sundown Kid.”

Thomas had enormous power and hit well in two stints with the Brewers, but several disciplinary infractions and his refusal to play on weekends curtailed his career. He seemed to have legitimate mental health problems. Ultimately, the Brewers felt he was too much trouble and demoted him to Double-A; when he refused the assignment, the Brewers gave him his release. In 1979, he attempted a comeback, playing minor league ball for the Miami Amigos in the ill-fated Inter-American League, which folded in the middle of its first season.

The following June, his playing days over, Thomas was arrested on charges of rape and sodomy, a situation made even more complicated because he happened to be married with two young children. On June 12, as he sat in jail awaiting trial, Thomas cut strips from his jeans, tied them to his jail cell, and hanged himself. Like Wilson, Thomas was only 29 years old. To make matters worse, Thomas’ family was so poor that it could not afford to pay for a funeral.

I’m not sure what to make of all this. Perhaps the lessons are two-fold. Athletes, no matter how young and talented, are not invincible or immortal. And athletes, no matter how good they are at what they do, have the same kind of emotional problems that many of us face.

Wilson, Thomas, and Irabu were vulnerable. We all are.

Bruce Markusen writes “Cooperstown Confidential” for The Hardball Times.

Float like a Butterfly

R.I.P. Jerome Liebling. He will be missed.

Butterfly Boy, 1949.

Beat of the Day

Hear the drummer get wicked.

New York Minute

Caught this last night. Yoga in Bryant Park. Hey, now.

Have You Heard the One About?

The trade rumors continue to swirl. Yanks in the mix on many fronts, or none at all.

No game tonight so schmooze-away.

[Photo Credit: David Tribby]

Sad News

There is a report (in Japanese) that former Yankee pitcher Hideki Irabu is dead. It is believed that he committed suicide.

[Photo Credit: Friday 1970]

Afternoon Art

Josef Hoflehner: Photographer.

Gorgeous stuff.

New York Minute

A woman squeezed into the seat next to me this morning on downtown A train. It’s a tight space and tough to maintain personal borders, but we were both trying our best.

About a hundred blocks after she sat down, I finally glanced in her direction. She was reading the same book as me. Down to the same chapter. I smiled and thought to say something, but I had a Kindle and she was hauling the paperback, so I don’t think she could make the same connection.

An unanticipated loss for the urban eReaders out there.

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