"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: June 2014

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Pick it Up, Pick it Up

ROB KALMBACH PHOTOGRAPHY

Let’s see what our so-so Yanks have in store for us this week.

First up, gives the Rays.

Brett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter SS
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Brian McCann C
Carlos Beltran DH
Kelly Johnson 3B
Brian Roberts 2B
Ichiro Suzuki RF

Never mind the mediocrity:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Photo Credit: Rob Kalmbach]

Million Dollar Movie

rosie

Twenty-five years ago today I saw the second showing of Do The Right Thing over on 8th Avenue in a theater that no longer exists. I’d just graduated high school and I went with two classmates to see Spike’s new movie on opening day.  A few few years earlier we’d seen School Daze on its opening day in Times Square. On both occasions we were the only white people in the theater. I remember the cheers at the end of Do The Right Thing when a passage from Malcolm X was shown on the screen.

 

Beat of the Day

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Oh, Watch Out Now.

New York Minute

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Droppin’ some NYC. 

Taster’s Cherce

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Did you know there was such a thing as Popsicle Week? Neither did I. Dig.

And check out this lovely-looking variation: Smoked peaches and cream.

Morning Art

DEGas

“Woman at a Window” by Edgar Degas (1872)

The Not-So-Evil Empire

Kelley

Because I’m a teacher by trade, I can’t just sit idly by and allow my children to spend their summer galavanting in the cul-de-sac or staring mindlessly at a television screen for ten weeks. Sure, that was good enough for me, but like all parents everywhere, I want better for my children. Summer is a time for cultural enrichment, so this vacation we’re exploring one of the greatest stories ever told, the Star Wars saga.

We’ve watched three of the movies so far. I started them with Star Wars and Empire, but jumped back to Episode I and we’ll watch Episodes II and III next, saving Return of the Jedi for last. (My youngest daughter, Kate, wasn’t happy about this; she really can’t wait to find out what happens to Han Solo, who’s currently frozen in carbonite, but my son Henry loved the idea of meeting Darth Vader as a little boy and can’t wait to see him next as a teenager.)

I want my children to know the story of Luke and Obi-Wan and Vader not just because I grew up believing in Wookies and trying to turn my lights on and off by using the Force, but because few stories are so ingrained in American culture. When Red Sox president Larry Lucchino invoked Star Wars lore in response to New York’s signing of José Contreras in 2002, famously referring to the Yankees as the Evil Empire, it warmed my heart. Sure, there are lots of heroes on the Yankees — Derek Jeter as the obvious Skywalker figure, Don Zimmer as Yoda, perhaps even Joe Torre as Obi-Wan — but the Yankees are better when they’re villains.

Or perhaps, more accurately, they’re more villainous when they’re better. These Yankees? They’re more like Jar Jar Binks than Darth Vader, and never is that more apparent than when they’re matched against the Red Sox. Late Saturday afternoon, as Masahiro Tanaka (this season’s version of Boba Fett) was cruising through a dominant performance against the Sox, I felt victory was certain and imagined that I might be writing about a sweep on Sunday night.

It didn’t work out that way. The Red Sox scraped out a run in the second inning off of Yankee starter Chase Whitley when Mike Napoli, who makes like Babe Ruth when facing New York, led off with a double and scored two batters later on a Stephen Drew single. An inning later things got a bit uglier when David Ortíz (Jabba the Hutt) launched his 450th career home run (a three-run shot) almost 450 feet (actually, just 424) into the second level of the bleachers in right field.

Overcoming a four-nothing lead for these 2014 Yankees seems almost as daunting as successfully navigating an asteroid field. (The odds, as we all know, are 3,720 to 1.) But Jeter never wants to hear the odds, does he? He came up with two outs in the bottom of the third and Ichiro just ninety feet from home. He battled Boston starter John Lackey (remember the bartender from the Cantina on Tatooine?) for eleven pitches, finally rifling a single between first and second to plate the Yankees’ first run.

In the fourth inning Mark Teixeira hooked a solo homer around the right field foul pole, and two batters later Carlos Beltrán socked a no-doubter into the stands in right, and suddenly the Yankees were down by just one at 4-3.

And then came the fifth inning. Whitley walked Jackie Bradley, Jr., on four pitches, so Joe Girardi lifted him in favor of Shawn Kelley, who walked Brock Holt on four pitches. Kelley finally managed to throw a couple strikes to Daniel Nava, but he walked him anyway to load the bases with none out. Just when it was looking like the Rebel Base was in range, everything was about to explode.

Dustin Pedroia, the cutest little Ewok you’ve ever seen, singled to right to drive in two for a 6-3 Boston lead. After David Huff came in and got Ortíz to pop up to shallow left, it looked for a moment like he might be able to minimize the damage. With runners on first and third and a full count, Pedroia took off for second  – but Huff had him picked off. But for the second time in a week, the Yankees botched the run down. They managed to get Pedroia (1-3-4), but they let Nava score in the process, and the Sox had a four-run lead at 7-3. Naturally, the next pitch was a ball, and Napoli walked, the fourth Boston batter to do so in the inning.

The top of the fifth ended without further incident, and the Yanks gamely fought back in the bottom half. Ichiro led off with a triple, then came home on a double by Brett Gardner, who eventually scored on a Jacoby Ellsbury ground ball. It was 7-5, but the Yankees would get no closer.

Boston plated another run in the top of the sixth. Huff started by walking rookie Mookie “The Wookie” Betts (if it seems like there were a lot of walks, you’re right; Yankee pitchers issued eight free passes) and then consecutive singles to Bradley and Holt to load the bases with none out. Girardi then came to the mound, and any lip reader could tell you that when he handed the ball to the new pitcher, he said, “Help me Dellin Betances, you’re our only hope.”

(A quick side note about ESPN’s coverage. Their field microphones are everywhere and bring fans closer to the game than ever before. On the one hand, I loved hearing Teixeira greeting Betts after his first career base hit: “Congratulations, rookie. Have a great career.” But when the bullpen phone rang during Holt’s at bat, the viewing audience clearly heard bullpen coach Roman Rodriguez tell Betances, “You got the next guy.” It seemed like too much information. Betances’s entry into the game wouldn’t have been a surprise even without this tip, but it still felt like ESPN had crossed the line.)

Girardi needed Betances to strike out the side if they had any shot at getting back into the game, and he quickly dispatched Nava on three pitches. But Pedroia followed that with a short sacrifice fly to right, and the Sox had that extra run and an 8-5 lead — and that was that.

It would be easy to give up on these Yankees. The free agents not named Masahiro have been vast disappointments, and they’re the only American League team over .500 with a negative run differential (and it’s very negative, -32; the Mariners, just for the sake of comparison, are +50).

But let’s not give up on them. Instead, let’s think about CC Sabathia, who should emerge from his carbonite encasement sometime after the All-Star break. No, he probably won’t ever be the old Sabathia, but he has to be better than the new Vidal Nuño. Beltrán and Brian McCann can’t hit .220 and .221 during the second half, can they? They certainly can’t get worse.

Through it all, the Yankees are still essentially in first place, tied with the Blue Jays and Orioles with 39 losses. There’s hope for this team. May the Force be with them.

[Photo Credit: Kathy Willens/AP Photo]

The Paper Chase

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The thought of Chase Whitley against the Red Sox is not a calming one. I don’t care how much the Sox hitters have struggled this year. Ortiz sees him some Chase Whitley and he’s going to want seconds. But…Chase has also pitched well. Sure be nice to see him come up with six solid innings tonight.

And the Sox have Lackey, ugh, that guy again. The gunslinger. Always a pain in the ass.

How about s’more from McCann and Kelly Johnson? Maybe Carlito breaks out of his slump.

Brett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter SS
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Brian McCann C
Carlos Beltran DH
Kelly Johnson 3B
Brian Roberts 2B
Ichiro Suzuki RF

Never mind the idiots:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Picture by Moebius]

I’ll Fly Away

In the ninth inning of a classic duel with Jon Lester, Masahiro Tanaka needed one more strike to Mike Napoli to send the Yankees to the home half of the ninth in a 1-1 deadlock. After several innings of excellent pitch selection and execution, his fastball up and out over the plate snarfled the elephant. Napoli extended his arms and smacked the ball just over the wall in right to win the game 2-1.

Masahiro Tanaka takes you all the way. That’s a rare feature in a starting pitcher in 2014. He pitched a complete game gem tonight – like it fell right off the Ace Manufacturing Co. assembly line. But the Yankees lost because Jon Lester straight up beat him.

Tanaka, for all his brilliance, can’t keep the ball in the yard. Nobody’s on base when it happens, but it happens. When an opposing batter lofts a fly ball, it’s got about a 15% chance of clearing the fence. Egads, that’s awful. Perhaps it’s unsustainable and he’s going to find the number descend towards league norms, about 10%. Or maybe it’s Yankee stadium, where he’s allowed nine of his 13 homers.

Most of the time, a solo homer or two won’t beat him. Tonight it did. And though we don’t discuss pitcher wins too much, this game had the distinct feel of two pitchers locking horns while the lineups were just there for window dressing. Jon Lester got a much deserved win and on the other side of that, I think Tanaka’s loss is an accurate measure of this game. He blinked. He blew that pitch to Napoli seven ways to Sunday in a spot where he absolutely couldn’t let up a dong.

How about the ninth inning? Uehara, don’t sleep on this, is half-way through his second season in row where he makes Mariano Rivera’s best closing seasons look ordinary. The guy threw pitches to McCann and Beltran (the two players running neck-and-neck for most likely to cause a broken plasma screen this season) that seemed to turn to mist when they got into the hitting zone.

Great baseball game played by two mediocre teams with a retched ending.

***

Today was also the last day of the Little League season here in Inwood. The boys got trophies and pizza and sun screen rubbed in their eyes. I had a blast coaching, but I could have done a much better job. I’m happy that the kids improved batting and throwing, but I don’t think I adequately conveyed the beauty of the game nor the logic of the game over the past three months.

It’s my fault because I wasn’t prepared for the vast spectrum of prior knowledge my 15 players would to the season. Some of these crackerjacks were 6 going on 16 while others were 5 going on 5. Even today I had kids ask me where first base was.

On this the last day of the season, with the aforementioned trophies looming, my own kids made sure I knew that baseball was “boring” and that they “never want to play again.” (They also got pumped up to bat and run the bases and had fun and those words were mostly cruel forms of Saturday morning protest when they’d rather be playing Minecraft or whatever instead of putting on their overly complicated uniforms, but when 15 kids are baking in the sun waiting for a ball that never comes, I understand what they’re saying.)

A lot of the parents asked me if I’ll coach again next year and I couldn’t give them a straight answer. But I’m sure as hell looking forward to swimming class tomorrow where I sit far away from the side of the pool and just watch.

 

 

Uptown Saturday Night

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It’s Tanaka Time, again.

Only trouble is, Lester’s starting for the Sox. Maybe Sori or Port Jervis run into one…Maybe Beltran turns one around.

Brett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter SS
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Carlos Beltran DH
Alfonso Soriano RF
Brian McCann C
Brian Roberts 2B
Yangervis Solarte 3B

Never mind the tough southpaw:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Picture by Bags]

Attsa Nice

ROB KALMBACH PHOTOGRAPHY

Man, oh, man, what a pleasant win for the Yanks.

Nuno pitched well–hell, everyone pitched well–and a couple of lefties finally got off the schneid, as Kelly Johnson and Brian McCann hit impressive home run.

Final Score: Yanks 6, Sox 0.

[Photo Credit: Rob Kalmbach]

Back to the Grill Again

loloo

The so-so Yanks host the crappy Sox this weekend in the Bronx.

Hey, Nuno, try not sucking:

 

Brett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter SS
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Carlos Beltran DH
Brian McCann C
Brian Roberts 2B
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Kelly Johnson 3B

Just don’t get swept, fellas.

Never mind the horseshit:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

 

Beat of the Day

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Get Funky.

[Photo Credit: Josh Soskin]

Push it Along

bussti

Slow Summer Friday here at the Banter. Tonight gives Tanaka vs. the Sox.

[Picture by Bags]

The World is Watching

worldcup2

U.S. vs. Germany open thread.

[Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images]

Taster’s Cherce

limeadd

Mint Limeade. 

Morning Art

sunnyday

Picture by Vittorio Giardino.

Step by Step

buildiron

A good start from our man Hiroki, fine effort by the bullpen–especially David Robertson who had his breaking ball working–a nice hit-and-run from Francisco Cervelli and Kelly Johnson, a homer by Mark Teixeira, and a big night from Jacoby Ellsbury (3 hits, 4 RBI), gave the Yanks a 5-3 win over the Jays in Toronto.

Today, we can relax.

[Illustration by Adi Granov]

Under Construction

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Yanks were on a nice little run, now they’re on a crappy little jag. That’s how it’s been for them and practically everybody else in the majors this year.

Tonight gives our man Hiroki and the hope the Yanks avoid getting swept.

Derek Jeter SS
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Carlos Beltran DH
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Brian Roberts 2B
Kelly J0hnson 3B
Francisco Cervelli C

Never mind tomorrow:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

A Good Run

eli

R.I.P. Eli Wallach. 

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