"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Category: Staff

Where & When: S2 Game 9

Hello again, welcome back to Where & When! As we return to our regularly scheduled mayhem after the holiday, we adjust our pictures to take a peek into the past and ponder this photo as it unfolds:

Where & When S2 Game 9

A relatively easy one to figure out; obvious clues and all. Perhaps we can find out the name and address of the edifice above, as well as the date this photo was taken, then the first person to correctly deduce both will get a nice barrel of root beer to enjoy throughout the week.  The bonus of course would be to tell us both the history of this building and what, if anything, stands in its place now; that will garner you a sundae of your choice.  All the rest of us will receive a complimentary glass of cold cream soda.

So, you probably know the rules at this point so don’t let us down; enjoy and we’ll see you back in the afternoon.  Cheers!

Photo Credit: Shorpy

When & Where: S2 Game 8

Hey, here we are with another challenge from Where & When!  Yesterday was pretty easy, so I promised to give an interesting (read: toughie) locale that is also relative to certain recent events.  As far as things go, this mention was well earned:

Where & When S2 Game 8

I really like this one; plenty of intriguing details. I don’t have to provide any clues on this one, but not because I find it particularly easy (it will fool a lot of you for a while), but because the picture basically tells on itself the way I like. What I’d particularly like for you to do is figure out the name of a couple of these buildings, the general address and locale and a good idea when this picture was taken.  The first person with the exact answers, or the closest to the right answers will win the jug of cold root beer today.  As usual, all participants will get a chalice of cold cream soda for their efforts.  And I’m giving out a tray of brownies to the person who figures out why I chose this picture today.  (and if you do, I’ll be happy to explain myself).

You know the rules… yunnow, I have to just type them up and set them up as a reference page somewhere so I don’t have to repeat myself each time… well, have fun with this one (which I know you will) and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.  Take care all, and… well, you know the deal.

Photo Credit: Shorpy

Where & When: S2 Game 7

Here we go again with another round of Where & When! I’m just going to jump right in with this one, because it’s fairly easy and I spent hours trying to find something like it, so I want to go to bed now…

Where & When S2 Game 7Some might look at this right away and know exactly what it is, some might just blink twice and wait for the experts to chime in.  But it’s a nice photo regardless, and that’s always a big part of why the game exists, no? So you know the drill by now; tell us where and when this photo was taken (show your math of course), and feel free to kick in any ancillary information about this photo or location; i.e. history, current conditions, future events and/or any interesting trivia associated.  Cold root beer for the first person to get the correct answers, and cream sodas for all participants.

I’m going to bed (Sunday night as I write), see you all later!

Photo Credit: Shorpy

Where & When: S2 Game 6

Hey there, got time for another game of Where & When? Well so do I; I was so busy with early and long calls last week that I couldn’t get a post in edge-wise. But the holidays are approaching and the weather is starting to get a bit frightful (or annoyingly inconsistent if you’re in the east like me), so why don’t we take advantage of this little smattering of downtime and press our luck on this:

Where & When S2 Game 6Another easy one, so I won’t offer any clues.  What I would like you to do is figure out the location of this photo and when it was likely taken, plus give us at least five modern landmarks that obviously don’t appear in this picture when it was taken (they could also be in the general vicinity if not exactly within the range of the photo).  As a bonus question, name one landmark that was fairly recently replaced by another, in or within range of the picture (tough one for you non-Noo Yawkuz out there!) Here’s a hint for that: “whatever it is I think I see…”

So have at it, people.  In respect to the weather, I think I’ll substitute a bowl of chicken noodle soup for the first person to get all the answers I seek, and a bottle of cold root beer for the bonus.  Everyone else gets a fortune cookie… don’t ask me why, I’m just playing it by ear today because of the weather.

Have fun, show your math and complete answers for credit.  Don’t peek at the photo credit and I’ll chat with you later!

Photo credit: NYC Past

Where & When: S2 Game 5

Well now, how about another round of Where & When? We’ve had a pretty good week with some interesting challenges, and I certainly would like to keep that run going.  So everyone grab their root beer mugs and their cream soda flutes and follow me:

Where & When S2 Game 5Plenty of clues in this one and definitely a set year this photo was taken.  So what I’d like for you to find out are the names and locations of the low building in the foreground and the tall building in the background as well as the name of the general area, plus the evident year this photo was taken.  As usual, a cold mug of root beer to the first person to give us all the answers and how they determined them, and a tall glass of cream for the rest of us.  I’ll be checking in throughout.  I think this is a pretty easy one, so no bonus today unless you come up with something really interesting about something in the pic or some event that occurred in the general region at that time.

Have fun and don’t peek at the credits!

Photo credit: Wired New York

Where & When: S2 Game 4

Hello again, welcome back to Where & When.  Yesterday’s game was a bit too easy for my tastes (though it was a very nice pic I couldn’t pass up), so I thought I’d track down another tough one and throw it at you.  This one is tough not so much for the location, but for the time. Here, you take a look:

Where & When S2 Game 4As you can see, there are a lot of clues about the location, but not too many about the time.  I suppose if you’re a history buff you can pinpoint the year by certain visual evidence and deduction… the resource I have doesn’t have a conclusion, so it’s up to us to gather where and when this was taken.

A cold barrel of root beer of choice for the one who can actually get the answers with specific references supporting both answers, a cream soda for everyone who plays.  I’ll throw in a scoop of french vanilla for anyone who might get my inside reasoning for possibly choosing this photo (and I know, it’s not fair but keep it to yourself and use any specific term or phrase I’ve often used if you get it).

Have fun, folks and I’ll be back again soon.  Show your path to enlightenment and don’t peek at the credits!

Photo credit: New York City Black & White

Where & When: S.2 Game 3

Welcome back to Where & When; our third episode of the new season.  Let’s keep the ball rolling along with a new stumper; I loved how you guys all teamed up with your clues on the last game, so lets put our noggins together on this little brainteaser:

Where & When S2 Game 3This shouldn’t be too hard to figure out, since it’s fairly distinctive and there are very strong clues all over.  Figure out the location and time period of this photo and you’ll get the usual first prize of a thought of cold root beer swishing around in a frosty mug approaching your mouth.  All of our contestants will get to pacify themselves with cool thoughts of a sweet cream soda doing the same thing.  As usual, I’ll check in when I have time throughout the day to cajole you if necessary and maybe even declare a winner. So as always, have fun, feel free to share your stories and don’t peek at the phot credit!

Photo credit: NYC Past

Where & When: S.2 Game 2

Greetings, kids and kittens, welcome back to another edition of Where & When. Our season premiere was very solid and we had a pretty good turnout (though I was remiss in declaring a winner since it seemed to be a group effort, so everyone gets a root beer), how about we follow up with some more excitement and discovery?

I’ve somehow stumbled upon some pretty interesting locales and buildings, so I’m rather amped to share them with you this week; provided of course that I have time to set them up like this. So c’mon, let’s get to the game, shall we?

 

Where & When S2 Game 2

This looks like a rather unique structure for New York, doesn’t it? It sort of reminds me of a beach resort hotel… well, at least one of those thoughts is relative to the location, or close to it.  The region was likely not as developed as it is now, but a place like this would certainly stand out in any era.  As usual, your job is to determine where this picture was taken and when.  There are enough clues in the picture to get a good idea when, but where is going to take some thinking.

There’s a frothing decanter of root beer waiting for the first person to answer both questions correctly, and a bonus scoop of ice cream for the one who can answer the bonus question of what this region looks like now; i.e. what has become of what you see in the photo.

All participants with good guesses or good stories will get a equally frosty glass of cream soda.  Cheers to all involved and I’ll try to get back sometime during the day (but as you can tell, I make no promises).  Enjoy!

photo credit: Library of Congress

Where & When: Season 2!

Greetings ladies and gents and welcome to a new season of Where and When! No, it wasn’t a dream or a passing fancy of some lunatic minds, it was and is a rather fun puzzle game for our readers to utilize their deductive skills in tracking down the answers to life’s important questions… well, trivial maybe, but all games involve a certain amount of seemingly useless knowledge. Back by popular demand (and a moment to spare in a busy work schedule), I’ve brought to you something new to disseminate and ponder.  But before we get down to the nitty-gritty, a little background for the newcomers to Bronx Banter and/or this game we play…

Earlier in the year, Alex posted an interesting picture here from another site of a New York City landscape from the early part of the 20th century (so near, and yet so far) in which the writer asked help in identifying the location depicted in the picture.  After some pondering and sharing of our observations within the picture, several of our loyal readers (myself included) concluded that the picture was an early photo of Manhattan’s West Side along the Hudson River; facing north from the busy piers near Midtown and peering far into the distance where the George Washington Bridge was just under construction.  By this we were also able to determine the probable date the photo was taken.  Riverside Drive was the dominant roadway, but the Henry Hudson Parkway was also under construction at the moment the picture was taken.

It was a fun undertaking, as I later wrote to Alex, and I suggested making a game out of it.  “You’re hired” he responded, and I’ve been the administrator of this effort ever since. I’ve experimented with rules and formats throughout, trying to make it fair and more involving for everyone as our readers are so widely dispersed that some miss out on the game due to the difference in time from here to there part of the globe, but I’ve compensated in creative ways to involve them as well.  In the end, I settled for a free exchange of ideas and suggestions with the stipulation that whoever answers he questions fully explain the process they used to find the answers (the journey can be equally as, if not more entertaining than the destination itself).  The winners (the first person to answer the questions correctly) would receive a theoretical root beer; a Banter tradition that began with the jinxing of anyone who posted an identical comment to the comment prior to his or her own.  The rest of the players were given cream sodas as a consolation prize for playing.  I had something special in mind for the person who tabulated the most wins in a year, but because my work schedule began to interfere with regularly scheduled postings, I tabled that idea for the time being (but it’s still under consideration).

About the scheduling; I tried to adhere to a two or three-a-week schedule of games, but I ran into two big problems: life (big problem, supersedes everything fun) and supply.  I am a bit of a perfectionist, so I try to find interesting challenges for these games and generally avoid stock footage of standard New York City easy-to-identify landmarks. There are many sites with different photos of many places around the city, but even some of those are nondescript and would not provide a fair amount of clues to present as a challenge.  So with those limitations, I’ve often found myself painted into a corner concerning what to present.  Alex and I have discussed this at length and he has encouraged me to open my definition of what I consider interesting challenges as it were, bearing in mind that some people may be seeing these locales for the first time.  With that in mind, I am being more open minded about what to present so that I don’t run out of material and also to allow one of my main goals to come into fruition: to educate and enlighten our readers and players about the history and appreciation of our great city and its region of influence.  The most important thing to remember is that it is a game and was born from and meant for fun.

So let’s have some fun, shall we?

Where & When S2 G1 C

Here we have an aerial photo of a region within the city that you may or may not recognize from certain features within the picture.  I think this is an easy one, but I’m sure that those of you not native to the region will want to look up some of the details in whatever manner you use to research. I can say this much, the features in this picture give a good indication of the time period of this photo, so I don’t have to drop many hints.  If you get it within the correct decade, you’ll get credit for the when answer.  So, if you answer Where this picture dipicts and When it was likely taken, you will win our traditional first prize, a frosty mug of high-quality root beer (which is always up for discussion).  As a bonus, if you can identify at least two major features within this photo with proper names from the time it was taken, you will get a scoop of ice cream to add to your root beer, making it a root beer float of course.  All players who participate in the discussion will receive a cold mug of cream soda for your efforts.  I will try to return during the latter part of the day to reveal the answers and discuss any trivia or history that’s associated.  You are all free to discuss whatever you like about it, but please avoid using the direct link in the photo credit (unless you find it during your research) and also as discussed before, show your math.

So ladies and gents, welcome back and have fun!

photo credit: Wired New York

Filth in the Fifth

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Brett Gardner batted with bases loaded and two outs in the fifth. He represented the tying run. The home plate ump rang him up on a pitch that split the border of Weehawken and Hoboken. Gardner unleashed the power of a thousand exploding suns, or at least a bunch of frustrated Yankee fans.  He got ejected and, yeah, it was worth it.

It’s hard to believe, but the Yankees actually had a legitimate shot to win this game before Gardner got tossed. They opened that inning with five straight base runners. But because Carlos Beltran could not score from second on a double over the head of Cespedes (he got a bad read, he’s old, he’s slow, the there were no outs, the ball was somewhat close to being caught, all true, but gotta score on a clear double from second base unless your hamsting rips apart) Martin Prado ran up the back of Brian McCann at second and was tagged out. They still ended up scoring two runs in the inning, but with the gift out on the bases and the bridge and tunnel whiff of Gardner, the Red Sox only needed to get one out on their own. 

That’s not to say the Yankees didn’t get walloped. They lost 9-4 as the youngsters from Boston clobbered homers off an off-model Shane Greene. I know this is heresy, but I like both Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts and am kind of excited to see what they become.

The loss was awful and the Yankees look less and less like a team that will play meaningful baseball in September. That’s OK. When they lost four of six in Detroit and Toronto, that was the official sign to stop thinking about October. Of course there’s no reason to write them off until they’re eliminated, but I no longer feel the need to check the standings or the scores of the more realistic contenders. If they play improbably great baseball for the rest of the month and get back into it, fabulous.

 

Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

No Horseplay, Please.

KelleyHorse

My glass is always half full, but I had a bad feeling heading into this game. When the news first broke that Jusin Verlander was being pushed in favor of a kid making his major league debut, the prevailing thought was that the Yankees had caught a huge break by avoiding the former Cy Young winner. My first response? “Oh, no.”

I seem to remember seeing some statistics indicating that the Yankees don’t perform as poorly as we think they do against rookies, but my memory tells a different story. Even when the Yankees were regularly running roughshod over the American League, unknown pitchers were their Kryptonite, and so it was on Thursday afternoon at Comerica Park in Detroit.

Hiroki Kuroda, as usual, was good enough to win, even though he didn’t. He pitched seven strong innings, giving up just two runs while allowing only four singles and a walk, an effort the team would clearly have signed up for on Thursday morning.

The problem, of course, is that Detroit’s Kyle Lobstein was just as good — or more accurately, just as effective. He didn’t strike out a single hitter, and Yankee batters were able to hit several balls hard, but it never amounted to anything. He lasted six innings, yielded only four hits, a walk, and two runs (one earned).

As a result, the game zipped into the late innings tied at two, with each team desperate for a win to get closer to a playoff spot, and each team squandering opportunities. Dellin Betances took over for Kuroda in the eighth and eventually found himself facing the best hitter on the planet with two outs and the potential winning run on second base. Demonstrating his growing confidence and maturity, Betances didn’t give in to the temptation to prove his strength by overpowering Miguel Cabrera with a triple-digit fastball. Instead, he froze him with two consecutive 82 MPH curveballs. Cabrera let the first go by without a swing, then waved feebly at the second to strikeout and end the inning.

In the top of the ninth, facing Grizzly Chamberlain, the Yankees mounted a two-out rally. Mark Teixeira walked, Carlos Beltrán singled him to third, and Brian McCann came to the plate needing only a single to put his team in position to win. Joba elevated his second pitch, and McCann absolutely crushed it — but it hooked to the wrong side of the foul pole, leaving the Yankees only inches from what would’ve been a three-run lead. Joba pumped two more pitches past him and the inning was over.

Betances had thrown only 13 pitches in the eighth, so I hoped he’d come back for the ninth, but instead we were treated to Shawn “Horsehead” Kelley. The trouble started immediately. Victor Martínez led off with a double deep into the right field corner, then J.D. Martínez milked a seven-pitch walk and the Tigers had runners on first and second with none out. From there he dug his hole even deeper, working himself into a 3-2 count on Nick Castellanos before recovering with a perfect pitch on the outside corner for a called strike three. Next he toyed with pinch hitter Torii Hunter, overpowering him with 95-97 MPH fastballs and teasing him with marginal sliders before finally finishing him with the heater.

There was hope. As I saw the rest of the game in my mind’s eye, I imagined Kelley overpowering Alex Avila — perhaps striking him out on three pitches — and charging off the mound and into an energized Yankee dugout. His teammates would undoubtedly parlay that momentum into a tenth-inning rally, David Robertson would come in for the save, and the Yankees would escape from Detroit that much closer to the playoffs.

In the time that it took that daydream to wind its way through the corners of my optimistic brain, Avila strolled to the plate, took a hack at Kelley’s first pitch (an inviting slider rather than a crackling fastball), and rocketed it towards the wall in right center. Ichiro raced out towards the gap, but he wasn’t able to make the play (replays showed that perhaps he should’ve made the play), and the game was over.

Kelley was beaten with his second-best pitch, and he seemed to know it. He slammed his mitt to the turf in frustration, and when asked afterwards about how he felt, his answer was direct. “About as bad as I’ve felt walking off a mound in my career. Not good.”

Is this loss worse than any of the other bad losses we’ve suffered through this season? Probably not, but it stings a bit more simply because it reminds of who this team actually is. They simply aren’t going to win six of every seven games they play, but there’s still hope. Masahiro Tanaka is pitching simulated games, Michael Piñeda continues to dominate, Shane Greene has been great, Brandon McCarthy has been much better than anyone could’ve expected, and Hiroki Kuroda has now had three solid starts in a row.

Games like this are frustrating, but it’s not the end of the world. I promise.

Deep Sixed

All losses at this point are tough ones. Even the games that don’t hurt, hurt. But let’s be positive. Maybe the Yankees have stumbled on the recipe for October baseball. Let’s see if they can follow: Win five, lose one. Repeat until the end of the year.

secret-six-bronze-tiger-catman[1]

In this game, like real estate, location was everything. As in, the Tigers had men located on the bases for timely hits late in the game and the Yankees scattered nine hits in such a way that two Ellsbury bombs accounted for two measly runs. As in, Brandon McCarthy, who had only walked seven in eight starts for the Yanks, walked in the first run of the game on a 58-foot worm-killer.

I have fond feelings for McCarthy. Fond enough to stick with him as he let the game slip away in the sixth? Maybe. I definitely didn’t want to see him in the seventh, though. The final score was 5-2, but maybe there was a closer game in there somewhere.  

The Yankees squeezed three games out of four against the Tigers after the trade deadline. The series was a ray of hope quickly obscured by the shittiness of mid-August and forgotten just about the time they dropped their fourth game of five tries against the Astros. Now they face Price and Verlander (though that means something vastly different this year) and need to start a new streak.

Oh, the rollercoaster of the mediocre. But it was this way when they were good too. Then it was the best record in baseball  or an annoying Red Sox team that hadn’t had it’s will broken yet that was causing the turbulence late in the season. Maybe it’s only the really bad teams, like this year’s Red Sox, sorry defending World Champion Red Sox, whose will came broken in the box, that flatten out in the dead of August.

Thank these Yankees for playing just well enough to still matter as we creep towards September. They will need an excellent stretch, with very few games like this one, to extend this any further than that. And it needs to begin now. 

Drawing by J. Calafiore, Sinister Six #17, 2010, DC Comics

 

You’re Allowed to Laugh

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That was fun. Strange and fun. But mostly fun last night and then more strange this morning when I looked up the following information:

1) At 8-1, the seven run margin of victory was the third largest of the year.

2) That eight run total was only the tenth time this year they’ve scored eight or more runs.

3) At 68-61, their current seven game bulge over .500 is the high water mark of the year.

Back to the fun bits. Michael Pineda, who defines for me the scouting term “big frame”, was excellent. Apart from the Red Sox incident (and you know, barely taking the mound in almost three full seasons) he’s been great every time out there. I was guilty of only seeing him pitch once or twice in Seattle and attributing much of his pre-trade success to Safeco. But his stuff will play in every park, if you know, he actually pitches in that park. And while I’m impressed with how few people he’s walked thus far, I think it we’d have to invent the three-pitch walk to give a free a pass to a Royal. They play only hack-a-thons.

The Yankees tagged James Shields, who has been good-not-great this year. I think Shields is a fine pitcher and I’m not too concerned about this most recent ass-kicking, but I can envision a Yankee press conference introducing him this winter and I fear that would be… sub-optimal. The imagined justification: we like Lester way better, but we only had to commit four or five years to Shields. The sooner the Yankees stop this penny-pinching crap and get back to trying to win every year, including the year we’re actually living in, the better. And if they’re going to pinch pennies in the rotation, just pinch the shit out them and re-sign McCarthy.

Speaking of Brandon McCarthy, he’s battling Martin Prado for my favorite acquisition of the trade deadline. McCarthy has the stellar performance and the fun internet presence. Prado has had big hits and weirdly, looks like he’s always worn a Yankee uniform. His power outage in Arizona made him a buy-low and, if it returns, he’s a borderline All-Star.

In closing, the Royals are in a position to end years of futility by making the Postseason. They might even win the division, thus skipping the Wild Card peril and ensuring themselves a home game in front of delirious fans. Among those fans will no doubt be some of the vile lot that abused Robinson Cano in the All-Star Game in 2012. There was a time when I would have liked the Yankees (or even the Mariners, new home of the abused) and the Tigers to give them a big shit-burger to eat. But I’m letting this go because a path of tallying offenses doesn’t lead anywhere I’d like to go.

The season looked lost when they showed their stink side to the Astros last week. But a winning streak cures all and that’s what’s underway. Keeping up the winning ways this road trip will be a challenge, so at least they are starting off laughing.

 

 

(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

 

 

 

 

 

Tigers, Minus the Bite

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Justin Verlander is broken; that’s the word anyway. He had off-season surgery on his core muscles and he’s responded with possibly the worst season of his career. (It’s definitely due to my ignorance of the human anantomy, but when I hear “core muscles” I think of some heavily-fortified, organic power core, like the center of the Death Star.) We know something about this kind of stink – CC Sabathia fell off dramatically last year and instead of rebounding, looks like he’s crashed through floor and it’s an open question whether or not there’s a crane in existence equipped to lift him out.

Verlander is not Sabathia however. He’s younger, slimmer and still taking the ball every fifth day. His diminished velocity had him throwing in the 91-93 range last night with the power to kick it up to 95 mph when facing Carlos Beltran in a big spot in the fourth. Verlander owerpowered Beltran with the fastballs and then put him away with a baffling change-up.

With a curve ball bending mostly to his will, Verlander did not look broken last night. He didn’t look like the pitcher he was in 2011-2012, but he was good. The Yankees didn’t get to him at all until the fourth and they didn’t do any real damage until the fifth. 

Credit Paul O’Neill with the blueprint for how to beat him last night. After watching Verlander cruise through the early part of the game, O’Neill said he might only make a few mistakes tonight and that the Yankees better hope those mistakes end up in the seats. Chase Headley did the honors in the fifth, clubbing a less-than-baffling change into the second deck in right. And then Brian McCann did the same to one of those low 90s fastballs in the seventh. 

Another solid contribution from the booth accompanied McCann’s blast as Michael Kay noted that Verlander’s late-game velocity was nothing like it used to be. Hard to imagine McCann turning on that high fastball on the outer edge if it was 97 instead of 91. (We get on the announcers a lot so it’s only fair to point out when they make a good point, no?)

But how to make two solo homers stand up against the division-leading Tigers? Chris Capuano dealing is one way I guess. Derek Jeter booted the first play of the game and that set-up the Tigers’ only run off Capuano. Thanks to change-up that did not deviate from baffling all night, he never really faced any trouble until the Tigers paired two-singles in the seventh. Adam Warren shut down that inning and then stuck around to help himself out of what could have been a back-breaking eighth.

After Stephen Drew made corned beef hash out of a grounder, the tying and go-ahead runs were on third with one out. Adam Warren fell behind the suddenly dangerous J.D. Martinez 3-0 and pumped three fastballs in there for the crucial whiff. Strikes two and three were of the giddy-up variety, challenging Martinez high in the zone and blowing him away.

The Yankees scored insurance runs in their part of the eighth, which are truly some of the best kinds of runs for my money. Warren’s heroics after Capuano’s heavy-lifitng gave both Betances and Robertson a much deserved night off and the Yankees won 5-1. The Yankees look to take a shocking-but-necessary three of four from the Tigers this afternoon. This typically would be a day for a house money lineup, but not this is not the season for one. All hands on deck please.

Image via moggyblog (Copyright by the owner)

The Unbelievables

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Think back to spring training and those lovely days of innocence when all things seemed possible for these New York Yankees. Raise your hand if you thought that the first week of August might see Brett Gardner leading the Yankees in all three slash categories and just one off the team lead in RBIs? Who thought Dellin Betances would emerge as one of the most dominant pitchers in the league, or that he would team with David Robertson to form perhaps the most formidable eight-nine combination the Yankees have had in more than a decade? And even if you had wanted to imagine the loss of 80% of the Opening Day starting rotation, who ever could have dreamed that the team would not just stay afloat but even contend in the American League East?

No one in his or her right mind would ever have predicted any of that nonsense, but all of it has come to pass, largely because of the work of general manager Brian Cashman, who has done some of his finest work this season in cobbling together something that doesn’t remotely resemble the powerhouse teams we’ve grown used to seeing in this Derek Jeter era but still might send the Captain out with one more playoff appearance.

How good has Cashman been? More big names than usual exchanged jerseys in the days leading up to last week’s trading deadline, but the Yankees either chose not to get involved or failed to take advantage of the free for all. We’ll never know if the Yankees ever had a shot at Jon Lester or David Price (probably not) or if they even came close to getting Marlon Byrd, but look at the small pieces that they were able to acquire. Chase Headley, Stephen Drew, and Martín Prado were all in the lineup against the Red Sox on Sunday night, and each player makes the Yankees marginally better than they were a few weeks ago. Cashman didn’t add a frontline starter, but he did get Brandon McCarthy and Chris Capuano and dip into the minors for Shane Greene. Those three don’t look like Lester, Price, and Jon Lackey, but they don’t look much like Vidal Núño or Chase Whitley, either. (Okay, maybe there are some similarities there, but let’s keep this positive.)

But here’s the point. When the Yankees opened this series against the Red Sox, just hours after the Boston Fire Sale saw management jettison their top three starters and one of their best bullpen arms, I felt that anything less than a sweep would be a disappointment for the Yankees. After Esmile Rogers (!), Betances, and Robertson shut down the Sox over the last five innings (no hits, two walks) and allowed the Yankee bats (!) to pound their way back into the game before Gardner rocked a homer that would be the deciding run in an 8-7 win, I changed my mind.

With contributions from their 2014 MVP (Gardner, 3 for 4, 2B, HR, 3 RBIs), a cast-off from Toronto (Esmil Rogers, 3 IP, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K), and a player the Red Sox gave away as an afterthought (Drew, 2 for 4, 2B, 4 RBIs), this game seemed like a microcosm of the Yankees’ entire season. Yes, I had expected a sweep, but when you look at this lineup and rotation, you realize that maybe it doesn’t make sense even to expect a single win, let alone three in a row. These Yankees have no right to be winning games, and no right to be in the playoff hunt, but there they are.

These Yankees are the Unbelievables.

[Photo Credit: Jim Rogash/Getty Images]

Park At Your Own Risk

bugs-bunny-baseball-2-o_thumbI’ve never been to Fenway, but I have driven past it a couple of times.  It does seem awfully close to the road, and I can’t really imagine parking my car too close to it, considering the propensity for balls flying out of it is probably higher than the Green Monster itself.  Ask Shane Greene. Mike Napoli hit the crap out of one of his offerings and nearly caught a windshield in the third inning, giving the Sox a 2-0 lead in the second inning, and a third run came in by the end of the inning. I’m guessing this was another one that seemed to have “oh well, let me mow the lawn” written all over it, except that Boston’s pitcher Allen Webster wasn’t really all that good as he promptly gave up the lead the next inning, starting  with three straight walks.  After a visit to the mound to exchange recipes, Jeter dinked a double to right field, pushing in two. Ellsbury followed with a run-soring ground out, and you’d think it was pretty much over after Teix grounded out, but it only got better for the Yanks as Beltran (getting his second wind, no doubt) singled and scored Jeter from third. Two walks later and Mr. Webster took his dictionary to the showers. Such is life in the big leagues.

Oh, and remember that long home run Napoli hit in the second? In the fifth, Teix said, “that’s nothing” and smacked one over the wall just a few feet less, but just as impressive as it flew over Lansdowne Street and bounded past parked cars and rolled to a stop, pondering the realities of life in the big leagues; maybe took stock in what just happened and thought about its next step in its career. That and in the seventh switch-teamer Stephen Drew doubled in Beltran to add another insurance run, which was good because the Sox tried hard to mount a comeback after that, but only managed to get one of the runs back on an Ortiz sac fly off of Betances in the bottom of the inning that was charged to Adam Warren.  But other than that, it was a bullpen win as Shawn Kelley ended up with the win and Betances and David Robertson nailed down the last two innings respectively.

So in essence, the Yanks smacked back at the Sox with this one 6-4, and look to claim the series before heading home to deal with the Tigers and their new addition to the rotation (but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we?)

Kids These Days (boy, I tell you…)

big-shots

AB: I know I should be above it, I know not to expect too much from this team, but when they lose to the Red Sox, I’m 8 years old again, more upset than I really should be. (censored, LOL)

CW: It just seemed inevitable. Between the combination of mediocre and under-performing talent with Girardi’s bemusing insistence on managing by the numbers, I feel almost drained following them this season.

Which is really worse when you put it into the context of professional sports? A bad team in a weak division that commits seppuku at the trade deadline with an eye towards resurrecting itself in the near future or a mediocre team in the same division that makes small moves to keep itself going and hope it can overtake the other weak teams? I can’t help but get philosophical as Alex and I bantered about the effects this rivalry has on fans who have been following two teams that have been slow since last winter (even though one had just won the Whirled Serious a couple of months before).

It was journeyman thirty-something  Chris Capuano for the visiting Yanks facing twenty-something rookie Anthony Renaudo for the home team. That’s right; no Lester, no Lackey, not even a Dubront or anyone we would have heard of this season for Boston (except for Clay Buchholz; who like our own Hiroki Kuroda is the last man standing in the rotation, although for entirely different reasons), and considering how the Yanks have lost four-fifths of it’s starting rotation to injury and replaced it with spit, gristle and a little bit of luck, we’re really in no position to talk. Capuano himself had been purchased from the Colorado Rockies’ farm system; having signed with the organization three days after being dumped from the team he was about to face.  His younger counterpart, born and raised in Freehold, NJ (home of The Boss, Bruce Springsteen) was making his major league debut. You know what that means…

AB: I only get drained when I expect more than is reasonable…like any time they play the Red Sox. But I suppose I really want them to make the second wild card so that Jeter’s final game isn’t at Fenway Park. Then again, would that be worse than flying to Anaheim and getting trounced in a one game playoff game? At least the Sox fans will appreciate DJ properly.

CW:Exactly; it’s more discouraging to me when they make the playoffs and get wiped out because it prevents them from getting a better pick (crucial when you consider how close they were to getting Mike Trout) and gives them the false impression that they are better than they are constructed.

Though a valiant second wind from the likes of Brett Gardner, having a career year with heretofore unrealized and hopefully unplugged power, not to mention a surprise appearance of contribution from Carlos Beltran and a big pop from The Captain, the Yanks were simply not capable of overcoming their Achilles Heel: The Unheralded Rookie Pitcher.  Couple that with some mishaps from Ichiro in right that turned a single into a double and let runners get into scoring position, cashed in by the actual hitters in the Sox lineup, and you had the makings of a frustrating night.  It did get somewhat interesting when Junichi Tazawa gave up a booming shot to Jeter over the Monster to bring the game close, but Ellsbury’s shot to deep center was grabbed by the fleet-footed Mookie Betts, a converted second baseman playing center who made an awkward leaping catch that will inevitably be played over and over again in yearly highlights. It was an important grab because Tazawa was hit hard that inning, and had Ellsbury been on base he would have scored and tied the game. Such is the luck of the Yanks this season. Sox closer Koji Uehara relieved the otherwise ineffective Tazawa and shut down the Yanks.

AB: Right. Whom do you prefer, the A’s or Tigers? No who do you think will win but who’d you root for? Or would you pull for the O’s to upset them?

 CW: I think the Tigers would win, but I’d be rooting for the A’s. I can’t root for the Peter AngelO’s.  Plus Buck has gotten to be more of an ass as he ages. If you don’t mind, I’m going to incorporate this conversation into the recap :)

 AB:  Sure thing. Just don’t mention that (redacted, blah blah blah, none of your business)

CW: Copy that.

Yanks lose 4-3

The One with the Sideburns

The Yankees swept through Texas on the way to World Championships in 1998 and 1999. When they faced off in the Division Series, each squad featured a team OPS of over .819. They were two of the better hitting teams in a juiced-up era.

In last night’s game, each lineup featured exactly one player who can top the team OPS of 15 years ago – Beltre for the Rangers and, here we have to cheat a little bit, Cervelli in a limited roll for the Yanks. If we don’t get to cheat, then the Yanks top starter was Brett Gardner, though his .789 OPS is well short of what the 1999 Yanks could do.

No player is better-suited to thrive in today’s game than Brett Gardner. A glove-first speedster who could get on base a little but couldn’t hit it out of the infield, he’d never have made it on the field in the late 90s. The Yanks weren’t sure how to account for stellar defense and weren’t too sure how much it was worth to them anyway. In recent years, even powerless, Gardner became one of the Yankees’ better players. In 2014, reaching a dozen homers while the calendar still says July, he’s added enough power to his game to be a star and the Yankees MVP. And a rarity – a very good contract.

The Yankees were very fortunate to have him last night, as he got them on the scoreboard and gave them a real chance to win with two solo homers. He now has four career homers off Yu Darvish which strikes me as near-impossible. But David Phelps couldn’t retire J.P. Arencibia when it mattered most and lost the game 4-2. J.P. Arencibia is hitting .153 and getting on base at a .198 clip. He’s indistinguishable from a statue except the statue would probably take more walks. Phelps allowed all four runs on two-out hits in the fifth.

The Yankees threatened a couple of times and really handled Darvish as well as you can possibly expect them to, but they could never get the meaningful hit with men on base. When Darvish attacked McCann with a 91 MPH heat-seeker aimed at his back leg in the seventh, it was like watching Mariano’s cutter gone feral. McCann struck out of course, but the pitch just kept boring in past the point of recognition and carved out a unique-looking trajectory.

***

 

250px-Carl_Yastrzemski

The last batter of the game was Derek Jeter and he stung a one-hopper to short but Andrus handled it easily. That put an end to one of Jeter’s best games of the year. Three hits and a walk. One of them a double!

The third hit, a perfectly executed hit-and-run before the McCann whiff in the seventh, was his 3420th and sent Jeter past Carl Yastrzemski into seventh place by his lonesome on the all-time hit list (according to Elias and MLB.com). Honus Wagner is up next, 10 hits away, and that’s as far as Jeter can get this year. He’d need another 94 hits in the Yankees remaining 57 games to catch Tris Speaker for the fifth spot.

I watched each of Jeter’s at bats with an enthusiasm I have not been able to muster since Masahiro Tanaka got hurt. I wish there were a few more doubles sprinkled into Jeter’s season, but otherwise, he’s had a very enjoyable year and I look forward to the last two months. I would not be surprised at all if his batting average keeps creeping up towards .300, like in 2008 when the Yanks season was crap and the stadium was closing and he rallied the fans around his pursuit of the previously obscure Stadium hit record.

 

Image from simpsonswiki.com

 

Nolascoscorsumruns!

The Rubber Duck - Convoy

Apparently there was an early Score Truck sighting (a rare breed this season) as the team decided to do a few things done early today; of import to the game was scoring nine runs off of surprisingly happless starter Ricky Nolasco and his understudy in the first four innings with contributions from just about everyone in the lineup (except Beltran, who might want to reconsider surgery to remove those bone chips in his elbow at this point).  Of note, the Captain got hit number 3,400 for his career with a single in the ninth; the eighth player in baseball history to do so. That’s rather significant when you stop to take that in.  Hiroki Kuroda pitched into the sixth and gave up four runs; he was fairly cruising in the early innings when the Yanks were scoring, but he started getting pretty iffy near the end. The tired bullpen (which has been a source of mostly inspiration for the Yanks this season) gave up a few more runs to turn a laugher into a near picklement, but managed to hold off a disastrous wave of bad karma (that seems to be the notion of the weekend), with Tha Hamma saving it once again for a 9-7 win. If this continues, the Yanks might convince themselves they can make a run at the playoffs (uh-oh…) and make some moves to help them in their endeavor. Let’s not hold our breaths on that just yet, though clearing some current roster flotsam might be in order.

Among the other things the Yanks did early was trading a sort-of young lefty starter in Vidal Nuño (who’s pitching had grown old a whole lot quicker) for righthander Brandon McCarthy from the Arizona Diamondbacks. If the name strikes a bell, he’s the same pitcher who was on the almost tragic end of a line drive through the mound a few years ago with the Oakland A’s and has since bounced around a couple of places and was having as much luck with the Diamondbacks as Nuño was with the Yanks. What the Yanks hope McCarthy brings, besides a veteran presence (he’ll be 31 on Monday, helluva birthday present) is a consistent ability to miss bats, a low walk ratio and a high propensity for ground balls; something the 26-year old Nuño was sorely lacking in a hitter-friendly park (and will likely continue to haunt him in a new hitter-friendly park). Both pitchers were having a rough time to the tune of plus-5 ERAs, though with McCarthy it seemed more a product of a porous defense. He still has to deal with the same issue of pitching in a hitters park, but the defense will be somewhat more of a help (more often than not, you hope). McCarthy will take Chase Whitley’s spot in the rotation, with Whitley moving to the bullpen and Shane Greene for now taking Nuño’s spot.

The other early move, which had become as much of an unfortunate necessity as sending down Port Jervis a few days ago was, was to DFA Alphonso Soriano. Sori had become a virtual black hole in the lineup, and this was coming like a Pinto stuck on a train track with a diesel engine bearing down on it, but it’s sad considering the trade for him brought about some positivity in a frustrating season last year when he made an immediate impact with several key homers and extra base hits (he finished with 17 HR for the Yanks, 34 for the season with 101 RBI in total with nearly identical numbers in each league) and nearly helped push the team over the hump and into the playoffs. Also, as thelarmis noted, Sori needed 11 stolen bases in order to join the exclusive 300-300 club (300 HR/300 SB). Sori is said to be considering retirement at this point, so it’s likely he’ll never reach the door for that club. And all nostalgia aside, it was the right thing for the Yanks to do as they were getting practically nothing from him in any part of the lineup and looking very bad in the process.  For all the complaining and such we’ve done about Jeter’s visible decline this season, the decline and fall of Soriano, who was also a perennial All-Star at one point in his career, has been far more pronounced from last season to this.

I think in the balance he will be fondly remembered mainly for his early career when he was a young phenom international free agent signing who played in Japan and spoke Japanese as fluently as he spoke his native Spanish, wore his socks up to his knees and swung the bat like he was trying to smack the opposing team clear out of the old Yankee Stadium in one fell swoop. One can only think of what may have happened if Cashman had not answered the phone that February ten years ago…

I’m Just Going To Watch Soccer Because My Karma Is All Wrong For This Game

Dalai Lama

Boy you said a mouthful, RI.

I’ll skip all the gory details and just note that when Francisco Cervelli, filling in for Brian McCann who had a sore foot before the game, tossed the salad in the bottom of the eleventh with the bases loaded and the score tied at one, soccer suddenly became a really interesting sport. All things considered, the Yanks would probably do well to switch to MLS at this point, wouldn’t you agree?

If you still care to know (and I can’t possibly imagine why you wouldn’t), Yanks lost 2-1.

[photo credit: AP/Peter Dejong]

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