"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: August 2011

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Saving Face

It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. With five games scheduled against the Orioles in Baltimore over the weekend, it seemed like a golden opportunity to get fat at the expense of the worst team in the league. But after dropping the opener on Friday night, having Saturday washed out by Hurricane Irene, and splitting a doubleheader on Sunday, Monday evening’s game became a must-win affair. Losing three of four in a series that a week ago looked like at least four wins would have been unacceptable.

Thinks looked a bit bleak at the outset, with both Derek Jeter and Alex Rodríguez out with nagging injuries, and something of an unknown quantity on the mound, as Freddy García was making his first start since coming back from the disabled list.

Hometown boy Mark Teixeira started things going in the right direction early on with a double to right to score Curtis Granderson for a 1-0 lead, but that would be all anyone would get for quite a while. García was in full Junkball Magician mode. After giving up a harmless two-out double to Adam Jones in the first, García cooly set down the next eleven Baltimore hitters before Mark Reynolds snapped the string with a solo homer in the fifth.

The Yankee hitters weren’t faring much better against the Baltimore starter, someone named Alfredo Simón. After Teixeira’s first-inning double, Simón took care of the next nine Yankees to come to the plate before running into a bit of trouble in the fourth. Robinson Canó flared a single out to left, and then Mr. Happy (you may know him as Nick Swisher) followed with a home run to right for a 3-0 Yankee lead.

It wasn’t a lot of support, but on this night it would be enough. García left after six successful innings with a terribly efficient line: 6.0 IP/2 H/1 ER/1 BB/4 K. (If you’ll excuse my editorializing, that line makes me think that a rotation of Sabathia, Hughes, Nova, Colón, and García might work from now through the end of September. But what do I know?)

The bullpen took over for the final three frames, and they were lights out as usual, save for one shocking exception. Rafael Soriano yielded a walk but struck out two in a scoreless seventh, and The Great One was flawless in the ninth, but David Robertson made things a bit sticky in between. After overpowering Nolan Reimold for the first out and popping up Robert Andino for the second, Robertson gave up a home run to J.J. Hardy. The two-run lead was cut in half, so there was some immediate importance to this, and when Nick Markakis then walked and stole second to put the tying run in scoring position it loomed even larger. But Houdini wriggled free yet again as Robertson was able to strike out Adam Jones to end the threat.

How good has Robertson been this year? This good. It was the first home run he’d allowed all season, and the first run he had given up on the road.

With a 3-2 victory and the split salvaged, they head to Boston. I don’t need to tell you what the standings say, I don’t need to tell you how the Yankees have done against the Red Sox this year, and I certainly don’t need to remind you about how Sabathia has fared against them. I won’t tell you that Tuesday night’s series opener is a must win game for either the team or the man, but a win would certainly be nice.

[Photo Credit: Nick Wass/AP]

Fred’s Bank

Freddy G is back. Here’s hoping the Yanks win tonight to earn a split with the O’s and head off to Boston in a good mood.

No Jeter, no Rodriguez.

Brett Gardner LF
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Jorge Posada DH
Eric Chavez 3B
Russell Martin C
Eduardo Nunez SS

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Photo Credit: One of my favorites, Joel Zimmer]


Beat of the Day

Exactly who you callin’ a witch?

Taster’s Cherce

What’s your favorite frozen food? These were always big in the special treat department when I was a kid.

[Photo Credit: bitchassbidness]

From Ali to Xena: 29

The Road to Philly

By John Schulian 

I know how I ended up in Philadelphia: I drove.

What I don’t know is why I ended up in Philadelphia.

The Daily News, home of one of the truly great sports sections of the last half of the Twentieth Century, already had three stellar columnists, Ray Didinger, Stan Hochman, and Mark Whicker. Bill Conlin was covering baseball with idiosyncratic fervor, conducting a running feud with the Phillies, delivering history lessons in his game stories, and flirting with scatology every chance he got. Long before I hit town, he set the standard for blue wordplay by quoting Dusty Baker, who had dropped a fly ball, as saying, “I had the motor faker right in my glove.” The quote only lasted one edition, but Conlin was the one guy in all of sportswriting capable of getting away with even that much.

None of the other beat writers came close to him in terms of sheer outrageousness, but each was an intrepid digger: Phil Jasner on the 76ers, Jay Greenberg on the Flyers, Paul Domowitch and the young Rich Hoffman (not long out of Penn) on pro football, Elmer Smith on boxing, and the inimitable Dick (Hoops) Weiss on college basketball. These guys were passionate about what they did. And smart. And aggressive. And competitive. I realize that the Boston Globe was regarded as the gold standard for sports sections back then-–and I know what a joy it was for me to read the Globe–but I still think the Daily News gave it a run for its money.

The Daily News certainly didn’t need me to do that. Even with a hole in its lineup after Tom Cushman, who was so solid on boxing, college sports, and track and field, left for San Diego, the paper still had all the talent–and all the egos–it needed. The Daily News hired me anyway.

No matter how good a sports columnist I was, I was hardly a marketable commodity after my inelegant departure from the Sun-Times. It was pretty much what I expected. There are more than a few newspaper editors who love to have a reason to think they have the upper hand on the talent. In my case, they could go tsk-tsk and say I was a troublemaker or that I was out of control. On the other hand, there was the reaction my blow-up got from Pete Dexter, who was a city columnist at the Philadelphia Daily News and whom I had yet to meet. Pete told our mutual friend Rob Fleder, a world-class magazine editor, “I don’t know Schulian and I don’t know exactly what happened, but I know he was right.” Which, of course, earned Pete a place in my personal hall of fame.

But guys like Pete don’t run newspapers. Guys unlike him do. And the hell of it was, I couldn’t argue with them, even though I’d been provoked and maybe set up. I was wrung out. Getting fired and divorced in a four-month span was all I could handle. I didn’t write a word for the first two months after I left the Sun-Times. I just rode my bike and ate pizza and watched the Cubs on TV. As if to spite me, they almost had a great season, but their muscle memory finally kicked in and they fell apart in the playoffs.

I didn’t put words on paper again until Eliot Kaplan, GQ’s managing editor, called because Vic Ziegel, may he rest in peace, told him I was massively available. Eliot was looking for someone to profile Mike Royko and I convinced him that I was his man. In the course of conversation, Eliot told me he’d read me when he was a kid. It wasn’t exactly what I was hoping to hear, but the truth was, he really was a kid. He couldn’t have been more than 26 or 27 when he became Art Cooper’s right-hand man at GQ. As for Royko, he couldn’t have been a more cooperative subject, right down to musing forlornly about the death of his first wife and dancing with the woman who would become his second wife on the sidewalk outside the Billy Goat Tavern.

Just like that, I was a made man at GQ, which was becoming a home for first-rate writing and reportage instead of pretty boys in clothes guaranteed to get their asses kicked. I wrote for the magazine whenever I could for the next 20 years, until Art got forced out. He died not long afterward, while having lunch at the Four Seasons. The man had style.

Looking back, I wonder if I should have lobbied for a three-story deal with GQ that would have allowed me to stay in Chicago. John Walsh, when he was running Inside Sports, told me he thought I was a natural magazine writer, and he may have been right. Magazine work certainly was a better fit for the way I approached writing than a four-times-a-week column was. The column chewed me up, and yet, when the Daily News called, I threw myself back in the meat grinder. It was partly because I was afraid let go of the identity a column gave me and partly because I was infatuated with the history of the sports section that Larry Merchant had built for glory 20 years earlier.

I saw myself joining a parade in which George Kiseda, Sandy Grady, and Jack McKinney had marched. Merchant had made them the Daily News’ pioneers in trenchant reporting, salty prose, and raucous laughter. Stan Hochman, who was there at the beginning with them, once told me about the old warehouse the paper had called home when it was known as the “Dirty News” for its emphasis on crime and cheesecake. The building wasn’t air conditioned, and one sweltering summer day, with huge floor fans shoving hot air around the newsroom, some genius got it in his head to open the windows. The fans proceeded to blow every piece of paper that wasn’t weighted down out the windows and to hell and gone.

I should have been smart enough to realize there was no recapturing those days or the spirit that infused the Merchant era. Instead, I acted according to Faulkner’s theory that the past is never really past. Faulkner didn’t play in Philly, though, and soon enough I was a man out of time, out of place.

Click here for the full “From Ali to Xena” archives.

Morning Art

“Large still life with coffee pot,” By Giorgio Morandi (1933)

Open Court

Here’s a nice little essay by Geoff Dyer:

Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner living in an overcrowded city on a tiny island where courts are in short supply, but I love seeing tennis courts: from a plane as it descends (there never seem to be any on the way up) or from speeding trains and cars. This is a purely aesthetic — i.e., pointless — pleasure, but if I am out walking or cycling, this fondness for court-spotting has obvious practical advantages. Over time, in London, I have discovered every public court within a playable distance of home.

…It is in America that you encounter true abundance, both public and private. Descending in a plane over California — or North Carolina or Texas — it seems that tennis courts are more potent than swimming pools as symbols of freedom from the realm of necessity. Which raises the question: What profiteth a man if he gains a world of free courts yet lacks a partner? For life is not just a search for tennis courts; it is also a search for someone to play with.

[Photo Credit: Roosevelt Islander]

New York Minute

The subway trains ran this morning, but for whatever reason, there weren’t too many people underground. Originally the Mayor said we shouldn’t expect public transportation to be operational today. Maybe some people just left it at that. Maybe they had aftermath to quell.

There are days like this, usually around the holidays, when the crowd on the train shrinks past the usual density into something comfortable and quiet. It sets up a gentler day, and that’s certainly welcome after the big storm.


Photo by Kitty

I Can See Clearly

This is one of my favorite weeks in New York, the last week of summer. The town is quiet, but this morning it was especially still. It was also cool too, a distinct hint of autumn in the air. It was a relief to hear the chugging sounds of the subway. Back in business.

[Photo Credit: Herve Bertrand]

Well Golllly

Ivan Nova stumbled around during the first couple of innings on Sunday night. The O’s led 2-0 when Curtis Granderson hit a three-run homer but Nova gave it right back. Then he righted himself and got stronger as the game progressed. The game was tied at three in the sixth inning when the Yanks hit back-to-back-to-back home runs–Cano, Swisher, Jones. Grandy hit another homer in the seventh and now leads the American league in both home runs and RBI. Not bad for a skinny kid.

The O’s had a beating coming to them. Nice to see the Yanks deliver it with a flourish. Yeah, there were some nervous moments in the eighth when the O’s loaded the bases with nobody out, but then David Robertson struck out the side, dropping the hammer for the third strike on Vlad, Mark Reynolds and Ryan Adams. And Shazam, Yankee fans went to bed heppy kets.

Final Score: Yanks 8, O’s 3.


Here and Now

The Yanks turn to Nova to stop their two-game skid.

Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Andruw Jones DH
Russell Martin C
Eduardo Nunez 3B
Brett Gardner LF

No excuses, win a “w,” please.

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Hung Over

It was all lined-up. The Yanks drove Zach Britton’s pitch count up while Bartolo Colon kept his down. Britton threw 120 pitches over seven innings but he had the Yankee hitters off-balance with soft stuff away and a cut fastball inside. They didn’t get a runner past second base. Colon blinked first, giving up a double and a single in the seventh inning, and the Orioles had a 1-0 lead.

The game moved along briskly. In the bottom of the eighth, a couple of bloop hits put runners on the corners with nobody out for the Orioles. The game in the balance. A ground ball back to Colon, who checked the runner at third, then threw to second for the force. Then a strikeout, three pitches, caught-looking. But J.J. Hardy lined a single through the left side–fastball up–and Colon’s day was over.

In the 9th, the Yanks sent up Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez against Kevin Gregg. Granderson struck out on a full count fastball. Teixeira hit an 0-2 pitch off the first base bag, good for a single. The fans chanted, “Let’s Go O’s.” Rodriguez hit into a 6-4-3 double play and—thud.

O’s 2, Yanks Zip. First place, slipping away.

It was a long night in New York. The storm wasn’t as bad as predicted, at least not here on the high ground of the Bronx, but the constant news coverage and the anticipation was exhausting. It was a relief to watch baseball, to see the Yankees play, but the results were less than satisfying, despite Colon’s performance. The Yanks have now lost four of their last five, against the A’s and O’s.

Summertimes Blues, indeed.

[Picture by Cloni]

Double Time

The Yanks and O’s will play two today. Here’s the lineup for Game One:

Derek Jeter DH
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Andruw Jones LF
Eduardo Nunez SS
Francisco Cervelli C

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Photo Credit: Joel Zimmer]

Whatever Gets You Through the Night

It’s All Right.

[Photo Credit: Koolaidfr0zenpizza]

Anybody Home?

There will be no cooking tonight. Therefore…

The rain has begun in the Bronx.

Batten Down the Hatches

No games today. Just storm watch. We got batteries, life jackets, water, an ark. We should be good to go.

Hope everyone stays safe.

[Photo Credit: Craig Robinson]

T-Boned Burnett

Imagine you’re sitting at home watching the game as you put your feet up on the couch to get ready for a relaxing, if stormy, weekend. You have high hopes because you don’t think things could go worse for A.J. Burnett than his last outing, and you know this is an important game — no one wants to lose even a single game to the lowly Orioles. But things go bad quickly. You smirk at the screen as Burnett muddles through the first inning, then implodes in the second. He pitches the entire inning, but it’s a disaster: groundout, homer, double, double, double, double, homer, E-1, 6-4-3 DP. When the inning finally ends the Yankees are down 6-0, and a loss seems inevitable.

You pick up the remote in disgust and are just about to call your wife to watch Project Runway, when you remember something. Doesn’t this seem an awful lot like yesterday? Didn’t you feel disloyal when you gave up on the Yankees when they were down 7-1? Didn’t you miss 21 runs and the beauty of Jorge Posada playing second base all because you lost faith?

You can’t let that happen again. So you put the remote down and get ready to watch the rest of the game. Seven innings later, you realize you made the wrong decision two days in a row. You remember yesterday’s bile as tasting good compared to what you’re feeling now.

After falling into that 6-0 hole on Friday night in Baltimore, the Yankees didn’t show quite the fight that they had on Thursday afternoon against the A’s. There was a home run from Posada in the fifth, cutting the lead to 7-1 (sound familiar?), but Burnett coughed up two more runs in the bottom half, then a two-out error by Robinson Canó in the sixth led to a three-run home run by Matt Wieters, and the Yanks were down by eleven.

Alex Rodríguez snapped the second-longest home run drought of his career when he went deep in the seventh, Swisher continued his hot hitting with a two-run homer later in the inning, and they tacked on another run in the seventh, but that did nothing more than change the final score. Orioles 12, Yankees 5.

It’s never fun when the Yankees lose, but there is obviously a much bigger concern here. Here’s a hint: it starts with A.J. and it ends with Burnett. His overall record right now sits at 9-11 with a 5.31 ERA, but if you want to know how bad he’s really been, read on. But be warned — what follows is not for the faint of heart.

We know what quality starts are, but Burnett’s season thus far has been measured by blow-up starts. Friday was his fifth outing where he allowed more runs than innings pitched. His last quality start was on June 29th against Milwaukee. Here’s his line since then:

56.1 IP/47 ER/70 H/27 BB/52 K/7.51 ERA/1.72 WHIP

On the surface, those are some pretty bad numbers, but they look even worse when you realize that they came against mediocre competition at best. Over those ten starts Burnett has faced Cleveland, Tampa Bay (twice), Oakland, Baltimore (twice), Chicago, Anaheim, Kansas City, and Minnesota. Those eight teams have a combined record of 491-550.

So we can agree that Burnett’s been bad for the past two months, but when we narrow our focus to August, it gets worse still. In his last five starts he looks like this:

22.2 IP/30 ER/44 H/9 BB/17 K/11.91 ERA/2.34 WHIP

Believe it or not, it gets comically worse. His last three starts have come against the three worst teams in the league. Many pitchers would be padding their stats against competition like this, but Burnett has actually gone in the opposite direction:

12.1 IP/19 ER/24 H/6 BB/8 K/13.87 ERA/2.43 WHIP

After Burnett’s last start, I used this space to defend him — or, more accurately, I attacked those in the media who attacked him. Now I’m here to tell you that the time has come for the Yankees to do something. Scranton is calling.

[Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/AP]

Extra, Extra: Stormy Davis Weather Ahead

The Yanks start a series in Baltimore tonight. They are scheduled to play five games in the next four days. I say they get a couple in, maybe three.

Cliff’s go the preview.

Here’s the line-up:

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

We’ll be around this weekend. Who knows what this weather will bring. The subways will stop running tomorrow afternoon as the city prepares for the worst. If you don’t see any updates it’s because we’ve lost power temporarily. Hopefully, it won’t come to that, although the wife did buy an ark today at Costco just in case.

Never mind Mother Nature:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Photo Credit: Lewis W. Hine]

The Dust Brothers

[Picture by my man Nynex]

Taster’s Cherce

Can you be a slut for a restaurant? Course you can. And that’s just what I am for L’Artusi, the Italian restaurant in the village. It’s run by chef Gabe Thompson and his wife, Katherine, who does the desserts. They are s0me kind of talented pair, boy.

All of the food is tasty. I’ve mentioned the crispy potatoes and the spaghetti with green chilies before.

The olive oil cake alone is reason to make the trip. And so is this salad with tomatoes and watermelon over a slab of pancetta. The saltiness of the pork is balanced by the sweetness of the watermelon, the acid from the tomatoes, and there is an extra kick from little cubes of pickled watermelon rinds. It’s the kind of dish that makes you wish summer would last indefinitely.

 Oh, and the service is warm, the wait staff knowledgeable and friendly. Again, can’t recommend this jernt enough. And if you like it, dig Dell’Anima, also in the west village, owned by the same good folks.


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