Monthly archives: September 2003
Bob Ryan has a piece on the Yankees today in the Boston Globe, and remembers how excited New York was when the Bombers finally made it back to the playoffs in 1995.
Ben Jacobs offers his analysis of the Yanks-Twins Serious, and he is on point as usual.
If you have some time to kill before the start of the game today, go over and check out Jay Jaffe's last posting of the regular season. It is a treat (so what's new?).
Thanks, and let the games begin.
MORE THAN A CONTENDER
I know this may not be the right time for non-baseball stories, but I did want to mention the passing of Elia Kazan. Kazan was one of the most influencial theater and film directors of the 20th century. A member of the Group Theater in the 1930s, Kazan was one of the founders of The Actors Studio. He directed the stage versions of "Skin of Our Teeth," "Death of a Salesman," "A Streetcar Named Desire," and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." Kazan also made his mark in the movie world, directing the film version of "Streetcar" as well as "On the Waterfront, " "Viva Zapata!" and "East of Eden."
Kazan is perhaps most famous for naming names during Communist witch hunt of the early 1950s. The Times had an excellent, and even-handed appreciation of the director, who was 94, in yesterday's paper. It's well worth reading, as Kazan is well worth remembering.
If you haven't seen "On the Waterfront," I suggest you rent it once the season ends. (Check for Fred Gwynne--aka Herman Munster---in a bit role as a gangster in the begining of the movie.)
A NICE TUESDAY
It isn't chilly this morning in New York: it's cold. But the skies are blue and it should be an absolutely beautiful day for playoff baseball. I'm going to be stuck at work, so I'll miss the damn thing. But if I have to miss one game, I suppose Game 1 is a safe bet.
The Yankees have been playing well and so has Minnie. New York isn't overly confident, and the Twins aren't cowed. Mike Mussina has owned the Twinkies during the course of his career, and Johan Santana is a devastating young pitcher who seems to be unfazed by the pressure he faces this afternoon. All the makings of a good game, right?
The local papers are filled with special sections today. Most of them aren't telling you anything you probably don't already know, but if you are interested, head over to BaseballNewsstand.com and check it out.
Peter Gammons gives the Bombers "props"---heh heh---in his latest column. He also hits the nail on the head when he writes about the great expectations facing this year's squad:
This past Saturday I figured I would try a joint that I spotted on Broadway and 240th street. This is a few blocks from the end---or the begining---of the IRT, Broadway local 1 and 9 trains. Manhattan college is a short walk up the hill, and even further up the hill is Riverdale, where I now live. There used to be a row of bars on Broadway, but there was constant trouble between the locals and the college kids; things got nasty at one point and the city shut many of the places down.
As I walked from my neighborhood down the hill, I day dreamed about the coming playoff games at the Stadium. At one point, I took a short cut through the woods. (This was the first time I made the trip, so it felt like an adventure.) When I got to the bottom of the hill, I noticed a young kid with a Yankee cap, and a mitt, having a catch. I couldn't see who he was throwing the ball to at first, and when I got closer, I realized he wasn't having a catch with anyone: he was pitching the ball against a big tree.
He was a thin, fair-skinned kid with bright eyes. He missed the tree, and as he went after the ball I called out to him. "Getting ready for the playoffs?" Indeed he was. We chatted for a few minutes. He told me that he favorite pitcher was Mike Mussina and that Jason Giambi and Alfonso Soriano were his favorite players. I asked him a few more questions. It's amazing how a kid's face will light up when you aske them what they think.
I didn't want to make him feel strange, so I kept the conversation brief and continued on, walking past the train yards, down to the barber shop. The moment I walked in, I knew I was in the right place. A black guy and a big Latin guy were cutting heads; hip hop music was pounding on a stereo.
I had a nice conversation with big Looie, and he gave me a good buzz. I don't need to go to Brooklyn anymore.
On the way home, my new friend was still pitching. I saw him wind up and miss the tree once again. Got to work on his control, I thought. When I reached him, he was poking around the woods, looking for the ball---an old, muddy ball. God, that brought me back. How familiar was that sight?
I couldn't resist, so I asked if I could have a catch with him. We hung out for about fifteen minutes and talked a lot about baseball. I obviously didn't have a glove, but that was OK. He was careful not to throw the ball too hard, and each time he made a poor throw he follwed it with an immediate apology as he ran after it. He was 13 years old, and plays center field. But he wants to be a pitcher. I told him about some of the pitchers I like and asked him a lot of questions about who he likes, and why.
I could tell he was energized by our conversation and that made me feel good. I felt boss about making a connection with a kid, and I felt good that it clearly meant something to him as well.
Baseball doesn't seem to matter to kids the way it used to. At least white and black kids. (I was spoiled living in a Dominican neighborhood for three years.) But if you look hard enough, you'll still see the die hards playing whiffle ball with tied up socks, or a ball of tin foil. Or you'll see a kid pitching by himself on a Saturday afternoon, gearing up for the playoffs.
As I walked away, back through the woods, I heard the ball miss the tree again and crunch through the leaves. The air was getting crisp, and the fall is almost here. He may keep missing for a while, but he's showing up. And that's a beautiful thing.
Ah, go peddle your papers, man.
After losing to the Angels in the first round last year, it is hard to feel too confident in the 2003 squad. These Yankees have to prove themselves. Still, I won't lie. If they lose in the first round, it would be a disappointing way to end the season. What worries me even more than losing however, is what will happen after they lose. Here is a portion of a letter I got last week from Alan, a Bronx Banter reader:
The Boss George Hot Stove Show is an annual event. It cannot be avoided. I just hope that it doesn't get too ugly. But if the Bombers lose, it undoubtedly will. The only way to prevent heads from rolling, is for the Yankees to win.
Or else. (Cue cliff hanger organ music.)
ALLS WELL THAT ENDS WELLS
The Yankees final record is 101-61, which tied the Braves for the best in the game. The Bombers led the majors in attendance, and broke the team's all-time mark, which was set last year.
TALKIN' THE TALK
Hmmm. He's got the nerve to say it, let's see how he backs it up.
WOO-HOO, WE'RE NUMBER TWO
Listen, I'm happy for the fans and the team---or as happy as a Yankee fan can ever be with such a thing. Theo Epstein assembled a fine squad, and they play with a lot of character and moxie: they are an entirely admirable group of players. If the 1996-2001 Yankees were hard to hate, so are these Red Sox. But calm down, now. Wait until you've won something meaningful before you go throwing a ticker tape parade.
Last night's Love-In will seem hollow if they can't make it out of the first round. Then again, it is just the begining if they can make it all the way to the Championship.
Oh, and a special congrats go out to Scott Adams, Ed Cossette, David Pinto, Ben Jacobs, and my man, Johnny fuggin' Red Sox---all Red Sox fans of the first order.
My blogging pal, and fellow New Yorker, Steve Keane, sole owner and proprietor of The Eddie Kranepool Society, recently took exception with an article written by Daily News columnist Filip Bondy. The article in question was a puff piece about one of Bondy's beloved "Bleacher Creatures." It is a trivial little column, and I'm certain that this isn't the first time the Yankee-friendly Bondy has chapped Keane's---or any other self-respecting Met fan's---behind:
While I can't disagree with Keane's assessment of Bondy, I do want to offer some clarification regarding the Yankees race record. They were one of the last teams to integrate, but when they finally promoted Ellie Howard to the majors in 1955, there were still three teams that remained all-white: the Phillies, Tigers and of course, the Red Sox.
The Yankees' racist management, and the casual bigotry of Casey Stengel and some of the players is indeed a shameful mark on the team’s history. Interestingly, they initially had been one of the first clubs to sign black players. In 1949, GM George Weiss recruited Artie Wilson, Frank Austin, and Luis Angel Martinez; next, they bought the contracts of Bob Thurman and Taborn from the Kansas City Monarchs. But none of these players came close to making the big club, who by then, were in the process of reeling off five consecutive championships.
According to Jules Tygiel’s scholarly history of integration, “Baseball’s Great Experiment:”
The Yankees acquired Elston Howard for the Monarchs in 1950, and later that season they also picked up a 19-year old Peurto Rican phenom from the independent Provincial League named Vic Power. Power was a flashy and exciting prospect. Perhaps entirely too exuberant for the Yankees liking. He toiled needlessly in the farm system for several years. According to Tygiel:
Funny, but a combative young star like Power would seem to have fit in well with the likes of Billy Martin. Too bad Billy and his employers were so short-sighted. Power was eventually traded to the Philadelphia A’s in the winter of ’53. Instead of promoting a Cassius Clay, the Yankees would wait another full season until Howard, their Floyd Patterson, would break the color barrier.
Mike Mussina was denied his 200th career victory yesterday because the White Sox scored eight runs off of him in the sixth inning. Esteban Loaiza picked up his 20th win of the season as the White Sox rolled over the Bombers, 9-4. Bernie Williams hit a homer and so did Jason Giambi.
I think that Bernie will catch fire next week against the Twins. And I'm mostly saying that because he's had a terrible season and he's my favorite Yankee.
Jack Curry has an article in The Times today about why Jose Contreras should be considered as a viable option for a start in the post season:
Meanwhile, Christian Ruzich and Will Carroll must have been happy after the Cubs shut out the Reds last night to remain a game ahead of the Astros. I did manage to catch the Barry Bonds at bat vs. Billy Wagner replayed on ESPN last night. Bonds was pinch-hitting in a one-run game and Wagner was throwing nothing but cheese. He whiffed the best hitter on earth with his 100 mph fastball, and somewhere in Ft. Lauderdale, Pat Jordan was smiling.
DOOMSDAY: NO JOY IN YANKEELAND?
Fortunately, I only have to root for the Bombers and I get a tremendous amount of joy following the team. I also appreciate the joy that Derek Jeter derives from the heat of a pennent race. He shows it in little ways in practically each game. I think that between the lines, there is joy to be found on the Yankee team, regardless of the pressure they face from their owner, the press, and the demanding fans.
Heck, some fans may only be happy if the Yankees win the Serious, but as I mentioned earlier today, you are setting yourself up for a long, cold winter if that's the only thing that will make you happy.
Bob Klapisch, a longtime New York reporter, delineates the possible outcomes for the Yanks should they lose in the playoffs or Serious this year. One thing is for sure---and I'm sorry to say this---but unless they win it all, Cashman and Torre's coaches won't be back.
I'd pay to see a steel cage match between Barra and Lupica any day---or even a head-to-head trash-talking contest, like the one Norman Mailer had with Gore Vidal on the old Dick Cavett show.
ONE UNHAPPY REDBOID
AND THAT'S THAT
As some of the older Yankee players said during the postgame celebration last night, this just doesn't get old. The Yankees blanked the White Sox, 7-0 and clinched the AL east for the sixth consecutive year. This was a volatile campaign for the Yankees, who will play the Twins starting next Tuesday in the first round of the playoffs, with shades of the ol' Bronx Zoo strudel threatening to disrupt the harmony of the Joe Torre era.
For many Yankee fans this is only the begining. "Now, the real season starts," is what some of the more thoughtless fans will bark today as if they were following basketball. As if the regular season was an afterthought. But regardless of what happens over the next couple of weeks, we should take a moment to appreciate another fine season.
I still pinch myself regularly to remind myself of how fortunate I am that a team I root for has been this succesful for so long (I root for the Jets and Knicks, after all). I don't expect it to last. Why should we be so fortunate? I figure that one year, fate, or injuries or Boss George or the Red Sox will put an end to the current run. Maybe it will happen next year or the year after. But for now, the Yankees have made us proud once again.
One of the great pleasures of watching the Yanks win is getting to see Joe Torre get blubbery. I'm sure it must make Yankee-haters ill, but it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It has to do with the fact that Torre is a native New Yorker, and an Italian man of a certain temperment and disposition. Go to Gravesend, or Carroll Gardens or Bensonhurst in Brooklyn and you can find men like Joe.
Torre is grave and paternal, firm but fair, and he manages the circus around the Yankees better than anyone before him. It is fitting that he gives it up for us in the end, the ol' softy. He lets his guard down, his voice starts to tremble, and then come the water works. I've always had the sense that he appreciates how meaningful the Yankees' success has been. It's not just cliches with Torre, he's not distant and removed, he's like one of the family; that's why he's known as Saint Joe around these parts.
Jose Contreras was brilliant last night and will allow us to go into the off season thinking that he wasn't a $32 bust after all. The Red Sox came from behind to beat the O's in dramatic fashion at Fenway last night; later on, the Mariners lost, and now the wildcard race is all but done. The YES cameras caught Jeter checking out the scoreboard in the 8th inning last night. The O's had taken a 5-2 lead in the top of the 9th, only to tie the game on a Todd Walker homer in the bottom of the frame. Jeter peeked at the scoreboard in center field, and then did a double take. He smirked, ala Robert DeNiro, as if to say, "Whaaat? Don't those guys ever die?" Never a dull moment for the Yankee captain.
Jason Giambi hit a grand slam in the 9th inning for his 40th homer of the year. He also hit a double to left center field which is a positive sign indeed. Giambi is the first Yankee to record back-to-back 40 dinger seasons since Mickey Mantle. Not bad for a guy who has played with injuries all year. According to John Harper in The Daily News:
Giambi doesn't need to apologize to anyone. With Jeter, Nick Johnson, and Bernie Williams all missing significant time, Giambi couldn't afford to get healthy. As a result, his numbers dropped, but he still put together a fine season. His effort has not gone unappreciated.
CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
Newsday columnist John Heyman has a piece today about why the Yankees should be licking their chops at the prospect of facing the Twins in the first round of the playoffs. Sure, they might appear to be a better match for New York than Boston, Seattle, Oakland or even Chicago, but I wouldn't discount the Twins either. And the fact that the Yanks have won 13 straight over Minnie doesn't fill me with confidence, it gets all of my superstions working overtime.
CHIP OFF THE OL' BLOCK
I used to hate Chipper Jones when he was a young player for the Braves. I simply didn't like his looks, and I didn't like the fact that his country ass didn't like New York (why the nerve). But then he got too good for me to hate. Plus, I don't root for the Mets, so I didn't really need to hate him anyway. Now, not only do I appreciate him, but I actually root for him as well.
This summer, I've been thinking about how steady he's been for the Braves, and yet despite his classical jock handsomeness, and the fact that he plays for America's Team, Jones doesn't receive a lot of national attention. Not as much as A. Jones or Gary Sheff, or Maddux or Smoltzie. I may be wrong about this, but that's the impression I get.
Fortunately, Rich Lederer has a pointed analysis of Jones' career accomplishments over at Rich's Weekend Baseball Beat. Just in time to scratch my itch. And yeah, Chipper Jones has been one of the best in the game ever since he started playing.
HOLD UP, WAIT A MINUM
Alfonso Soriano led off last night's game with a home run off big, bad Bartolo Colon. It was 'lil Sori's 13th lead off dinger of the year, a new record. He followed that with another solo shot in his next at bat. But Colon and the Chicago bullpen was able to work out of several jams, and the Sox eventually defeated the Bombers in extra innings, 6-3. Magglio Ordonez smacked a 3-run shot off Jeff Weaver to put the Yankees celebration on hold.
The Sox were streaking a few weeks ago, while the Yanks struggled. Now, Chicago must settle for moral victories and sour grapes. Wha' happened? Jack Curry posed the same question in The Times:
Take Two tonight. Jose Contreras will start, and it looks like Mike Mussina will be getting a Game 1 start in the playoffs.
What does it mean? It means that Greg Maddux has been very fortunate, and very good for a very long time.
Or as Rob Neyer noted a few weeks back:
Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada are two Yankees that I've had short fuses with over the years. I don't mean to suggest I haven't appreciated their contributions, or that I don't like them, or think that they are losing players, but you know how it is: some guys burn you up faster than others. It's as much about me as it is about them.
But both longtime Yanks have had terrific seasons. Pettitte won his 20th game of the year on Saturday, the second time he's won 20 in his career. Whatever uncertainty existed about Pettitte's health will most likely be overlooked now, and I would be surprised if he didn't return to New York next year. (Of course as good as Pettitte's been, Mike Mussina has been the best pitcher on the staff---just ask my man, Cliff.)
Posada is being considered as an MVP candidate. I heard Joe Morgan mention it on ESPN last night. Wow. He's been great offensively, but I'm really impressed with his his poise behind the plate. There have been times in the past when Posada let his emotions get the better of him. This year, he has delivered a mature, all-star performance. I guess he can get away with calling his teammates out after losing in the first round last year, after all.
The Yankees swept the Devil Rays in Tampa this weekend and are on the brink on clinching the American League East. But things got nasty before it was all said and done. On Saturday night, the Yanks and Rays exchanged hitting opposing batters, and yesterday, emotions boiled over.
D-Rays starting pitcher Jeremi Gonzalez---a high-strung, square-jawed kid with a yellow mop of hair who looked like he just stepped out of a David Lynch casting session---threw high and tight repeatedly to the Yanks during the early going yesterday. He moved Bernie, Godzilla, Boone, and Enrique Wilson off the plate, before finally plunking Nick Johnson in the 5th. He brushed Jorge Posada back later in the inning too.
Posada took exception, stepped out of the box and glared into the D Rays dugout. Well, that was all it took to get Lou Pinella going. Sweet Lou yelled something at Posada who promptly grounded out. But on his way down the first base line, Jorge had some cherce words for Gonzalez. The pitcher charged Posada at first, but both players were restrained. The benches cleared and who do you think was in the middle of things, yelling the loudest?
That's right, Sweet Lou himself. According to the morning papers, he called the Yankees "a bunch of crybabies." Then, there was a Yankee yelling back. Wanna guess who? None other than Sweet Pea himself, Bernie Williams. Now that was worth the price of admission.
No punches were thrown, and nobody was ejected. Roger Clemens had a 3-0 lead at the time, and he got through the 5th and 6th inning before he retaliated. With two out in the 7th, the Rocket airmailed one over catcher Javier Valentin's noggin (he nipped him with the next pitch). The Yankees won 6-0.
Who is the cry baby here? Joe Torre remained calm.
Meanwhile, after losing a crusher on Saturday, the Red Sox came back with their ace and a win yesterday, and Boston continues to lead Seattle by 2 1/2 games for the wildcard. (It would take a monumental collapse on Boston's part to miss the postseason now.) The Twins and A's--thank you Mr. Lily---all but have their divisions locked up.
AFTER THE STORM
Meanwhile the Sox beat the D-Rays and the Mariners lost to the Rangers. Boston trails the Yanks by five games, but leads Seattle by two and a half; the Yankees magic number for clinching the division remains at six.
With the M's starting a weekend series against the A's it may be time to say goodnight. Incidentally, there is an article out of Seattle today which pits Pat Gillick vs. Billy Beane.
Gillick further took shots at Oakland's "Moneyball" approach:
Gillick has taken much heat for not improving his team when he's had the chance. It appears as if the Mariners will win 90+ games again this year and miss the playoffs. Still, he's got an impressive track record, and has been one of the best GM's of the past 25 years. But he comes across as petty and spiteful here. Think chasing the A's once again has anything to do with it?
WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?
Bunch of greedy sombitches...
I know I'm a couple of days late on this, but Pat Jordan had a piece on flamethrowers in The New York Times magazine last Sunday. I don't think the article was one of his best---it felt slight---but it is still worth reading. I was, however, taken with Jordan's portrait of Houton's Billy Wagner. While interviewing the diminutive southpaw in the Astros locker room, Wagner's two young boys sat in a nearby chair watching TV:
Jordan has always been able to find the tremendous vunerability in the athletes he writes so well about. That's probably due to his own experience as a bonus baby prospect, who never made the major leagues. It's certainly why I find him to be one of the best baseball writers going.
SHAMELESS PLUG FOR A FAT MAN
Several years ago my old friend Russell started doing a lounge singer routine in the downtown scene here in New York. I had limited patience with the scene, but I did manage to see him perform as Johnny Fayva once. It involved Russ dressed up in a wild leisure suit, with a blond wig and blond mustache. He sang old rock tunes like Dean Martin, karate-chopped like Elvis, and by the end of the act, he had stripped down to a thong---something neither Dino nor the King ever attempted.
Russ moved out to LA a few years ago, but Johnny Fayva is alive and well. If you want a cheap laugh---and what better kind of laugh is there---stop by his webpage. Be sure and check out the "Iraqi Freedom" video.
If indeed Rivera can put up two more All-Star seasons, will he have a legitimate shot at the Hall of Fame? It's a tough one to figure simply because great closers like Sutter and Gossage have yet to be recognized. I keep thinking that once Eck is elected, the thinking on closers may change. I would guess that if Rivera continues to be very good in the regular season, and sensational in the postseason, he'd have a decent chance at making it into Cooperstown somewhere down the line.
STORM'S A BREWIN'
David Wells was gunning for his 200th career victory last night, but he gave up five runs in the early innings, and the Yanks couldn't score enough runs to help him out. (They managed eleven hits, to no avail.) Wells stayed in the game and pitched well after that, but the Yankees lost, 5-3. The game took all of two hours and twelve minutes.
The Bombers played the game as if they had a plane to catch. If it were up to them, that's exactly what they would have done. With a massive storm headed up the east coast, today's game has been rescheduled as an afternoon affair. The only snag is that the game is about the only thing that will go ahead as planned in Baltimore today, as the schools and local government will be shut down.
Mike Mussina will pitch for the Yanks today, and has a chance to earn his 200th career victory.
The Red Sox were shut out by the D-Rays in Boston last night, while the Mariners finally beat the Rangers (thank you, Mr. Moyer). Boston's lead in the wildcard is down to a game and a half. Johnny Damon missed last night's game, and the Sox, who have been relatively injury-free throughout the season, are starting to show some bumps and bruises.
The A's won behind a strong effort from Barry Zito, and their magic number---like the Yankees'---is down to six. The Twinkies beat the White Sox again and now lead Chicago by two and a half games in the central. Finally, Doc Halladay pitched a complete-game shut out against the Tigers and may have earned himself the Cy Young award.
THAR HE BLOWS
Is old man Steinbrenner starting to look out the front door? Maybe yes, but on the other hand, certainly not. According to an article by Richard Sanomir today's Times:
Love him or hate him, the Yankees will be forever altered when the old elephant shuffles along. I've mostly disliked Boss George since I started rooting for the Yankees in 1979, but I'm also grateful that he's been dedicated in providing us with a winning team, despite of his unsavory methods. I've been thinking a lot about the day when he's gone this summer. Everything that I know about the Yankees, the way they operate with free agents, with the media, with the rest of the league, is rooted in the Steinbrenner Era. I can't help but wonder if I'll actually miss the big bully when he's gone.
In the late 1980's and early '90's, I remember wishing that George would not only leave the Yankees, but God's green earth as well. It was the only way the Yankees would have a chance to win again I figured. Of course since then, George has enjoyed a Nixonian twilight. Some teams wish they had a guy like Steinbrenner running their team---just ask Christian Ruzich.
Just goes to show, you got to be careful what you wish for, huh?
Greg Maddux failed in his second attempt to win his 15th game of the season last night. Javy Lopez caught Maddux for the first time since Christ was a Cowboy, and the Maddog left with a three run lead. But Atlanta's bullpen coughed up both the lead and the game. David Pinto has several good posts regarding Maddux over at Baseball Musings for those of you who are interested.
WAKE ME UP WHEN THEY'VE WON
The show is essentially a slight, self-aggrandizing tribute to Red Sox Nation. Thanks primarily to historian Glenn Stout, there is more balance and attention to accuracy than can be found on any Yankeeography. But overall, the show was unfocused and trite, rehashing familiar moments. Perhaps, if you are a Sox fan, the show was oddly gratifying. I found it a bore, which is a shame, because the Sox are such a rich subject.
If you are a Chicago fan, I'm sure you are thinking, "Cry me a river, fellas." Of course, the highlight of the piece was getting to see Edward Cossette's fat head. Edward had several quotes that made the cut, and my only complaint is that there wasn't even more of him.
O'S CAN'T SPOIL YANKS WINNING WAYS
In Boston, Pedro Martinez pitched a complete game, and the Sox edged the D Rays, 3-2. The Red Sox are now 2 1/2 games ahead of the Mariners, who lost to Texas. Alex Rodriguez smacked his 44th home run of the year; Rob Neyer thinks it's time for us to stop worrying and love the bomb---give the man the MVP already. Here, here.
This is not a good time to be a Mariners fan.
Last night was gravy night for the Yanks in Baltimore as they pounded the O's, 13-1. Andy Pettitte won his 19th game of the year and will likely have two shots at winning 20 for the second time in his career. 'Lil Sori hit two homers and has now reached the 30-30 club in consecutive seasons. Soriano led off the game with a blast, his 11th lead off dinger of the year, which puts him one behind Brady Anderson for the single season record. Aaron Boone added two homers of his own.
Jason Giambi hit his 39th of the year and collected his 100th RBI; not to be outdone, Hideki Matsui, fresh off his Pimpzilla fashion display, notched his 100th RBI as well. Jorge Posada added bases clearing double for his three RBI and he now has 95 on the year (his career high is 99).
Since beating the Red Sox 3-1 in New York nine days ago, the Yankees are on a roll. Even my pessimistic arse doesn't have much to crow about these days. Instead, I'm grateful that we'll get another opportunity to experience playoff baseball in New York. Joe Torre and the Yanks are gearing themselves up for the post season. According to The New York Times:
The Red Sox crushed the Devil Rays in Boston, 8-2 and gained a game on the Mariners, who lost to the Rangers. (The Sox will go down in history as the first team to have nine guys hitting at least .285 with 28 homers and 95 RBI.) Boston is 1 1/2 games up in the wildcard race with 13 games left to play. They trail the Yanks by 5 1/2. It looks as if the Mariners will be the first to wilt, blink, and fade but don't say that too loudly around any card-carrying member of Red Sox Nation. There is still too much time for something cruel and unusual to happen.
Speaking of which, Ben Affleck narrates an HBO documentary on Red Sox Nation tonight at 10 pm. (Richard Sandomir reviewed it in The Times yesterday...watch out now.) It would be easy to throw potshots at Affleck, but with our ex-mayor being Yankee celebrity fan #1, I think I'll just keep my mouth shut on this one. I'm going to watch the show in the hopes that Edward Cossette's talking head made the final cut. It will be a nice day for the blogging community if Ed is indeed in the documentary. Cossette is one of the original baseball bloggers---I believe this is his third season---and continues to put out one of the best columns out there.
Don't sleep, take a peek.
YANKS HEM 'EM UP (LIKE BELL BOTTOM JEANS)
Have I picked the right woman or what?
The Yanks won three of four from Tampa Bay and increased their lead over the Red Sox to 5 1/2 games. (The Red Sox lost two of three to Chicago in Boston.) Their magic number for clincing the division stands at nine games with thirteen left to play. It would take a Gene Mauch-like collapse for the Yanks to miss the post season at this point. It's hard to see Joe Torre going out like that.
It was a wet and humid weekend in New York, and until yesterday's 5-2 loss, the Bombers had reeled off eight consecutive wins. Jason Giambi is starting to swing the bat well again, and Bernie Williams enjoyed his 35th birthday in style.
Jose Contreras was nasty yesterday and struck out a career-high eight batters. (He then showed off his playa threads as part of an annual rookie hazing after the game.) I don't have a great feel for him yet. It might not be fair to compare him to El Duque, but I keep thinking about the Yankees' erstwhile Cubano as I watch Contreras.
Contreras has much better "stuff" than El Duque, but he doesn't seem to have the same competitive poise. When he gets ahead of batters, and is "on", Contreras looks impressive. His forkball---a splitter that sinks in a floating motion not unlike a knuckle ball---is especially effective. But when he falls behind, he unravels quickly.
It's also hard to tell much about Contreras' personality on the mound. He looks like a sleepy hulk. If El Duque was an international man of mystery--the Yankees version of Yul Brenner, Contreras comes across much more like a gentle giant, our very own Herman Munster (actually, that's not a great call, but it's the best I can come up so far...OK, he looks more like a combination of Delroy Lindo and Shrek). Hernandez was a red ass, and he was difficult to deal with when he wasn't completely healthy, but he also possessed an inimitable style on the mound that Yankee fans won't soon forget.
It is hard not to be curious about Contreras, especially considering that he's gonig to be around for a minute. With Antonio Osuna taking a beating again yesterday, it is likely that the big man will serve as a reliever during the playoffs. Whether that is a good thing or not remains to be seen.
YANKS COMPLETE SWEEP ON SOMBER NIGHT IN THE BRONX
The game moved along at a brisk pace. During the seventh inning stretch, the Yankees played a video tribute in honor of 9.11. The video was characteristically maudlin, but what was truly chilling was the moment the presentation ended, the clock read 9:11.
The Yankees host Tampa Bay for four games at the Stadium starting tonight. Jeff Weaver will get a start in a day-night double header tomorrow.
COMING UP SHORT
DO YOU BELIEVE?
Count Boswell in. Tom Boswell, one of the great baseball writers of the last 30 years, believes that this will be the Red Sox year. Hey, if the Angels could do it last year, why not dream big like Jayson Stark and imagine a Sox/Cubs World Serious, right?
You would think that veteran writers would know better than to choose Boston, despite the very real evidence that the Sox could in fact pull it off. Even Boswell's wife knows this:
But that's what makes all of this fun. The bigger the expectations, the bigger the celebration, or in the case that history repeats itself, the harder the fall.
As soon as I finished reading Boswell's article, I recieved the following news from Lee Sinins:
What if the White Sox end up being the "cursed" team to win it all?
MADDUX GOES FOR RECORD TONIGHT
Maddux isn't talking too much about it either, but the rest of the Braves are:
He's got four more starts left in the season. Good luck Maddog.
But it is meaningful to remember the lives that were lost on that day. It is 8:00 a.m now. In an hour, there will be a moment of silence around town. I will be at Yankee Stadium tonight. I'm sure I'll get the chills during the seventh inning stretch.
WE DO THIS EVERY DAY
King Kaufman has an interesting article on the derth of football blogs today at Salon.com. Both Edward Cossette and I were quoted in the piece. To be honest, I don't read much about football, so I don't know exactly why it hasn't caught on in the blogging world.
My guess is that most football writing centers around front office and locker room gossip. But that wouldn't make it much different from any other sport really. Statistics are not the lifeblood of football like they are in baseball.
Considering how popular statistical analysis is in baseball, it's confusing why football hasn't attracted a similar audience. Kaufman opines:
The problem with football is that you only have games once a week. What are you going to write about: practice?
The Yankees and Tigers played a game that felt like it was staged by Mack Sennett last night at the Stadium. There were eight errors, three each by first basemen Nick Johnson and Carlos Pena. But if the state of affairs was ugly, it was also amusing for Yankee fans, as they bombed Detroit 15-5.
Johnson made up for his fielding nightmare by scoring four runs. Godzilla hit a homer, and had three RBI; he now leads the team with 99 (Giambi, who was hit by a full-count pitch with the bases loaded, has 96). Aaron Boone hit his first homer at the Stadium and Jorge Posada had seven RBI (89), including a salt-in-the-wounds grand slam in the eighth inning.
The Tigers followed Jorge's 28th homer with three more errors. Oy.
The Yankees lead remains at 3 1/2 over Boston, who shut out the Orioles yesterday, 5-0. Prince Pedro Martinez pitched eight commanding innings, allowed three hits, walked two, and whiffed nine. Both Oakland and Seattle won too, so there was no change in the playoff standings.
BRUSH UP YER BASEBALL
There are several good articles out there which may be of interest to you, so without mincing words, here they are:
3. Steven Goldman is back with another installment of The Pinstriped Bible. Goldman's column is a must for Yankee fans:
4. I enjoyed Ken Rosenthal's take on the Manny Ramirez controversy (remember that?):
5. Speaking of the Sox, Aaron Gleeman provides a link to the now infamous Kevin Millar/Bruce Springsteen video tribute. Worth a look for a cheap laugh.
6. Jon Weisman writes a good recap of last night's impressive Dodger victory over The Big Unit and the D-Backs.
7. And Ed Cossette has another terrific, literary-minded post today over at Bambino's Curse.
8. The Baseball Crank offers a cool piece on the 1928 clash between the Philly A's and the Bronx Bombers.
9. Jay Jaffe, who is always on point, comes through as usual, with his report on Monday's game at the Stadium.
10. And finally, Irina Paley, a native of Washington Heights, has a new Yankee-based blog. Best of luck Irina. Welcome to the club.
A WIN IS A WIN IS A WIN
The Yankees didn't exactly break out a can of whup ass on the lowly Tigers last night. Instead, they struggled to earn a 4-2 victory. According to The New York Times:
But never mind how frustrating the game was to watch, they got the win and that's all that counts. Jose Contreras started off brilliantly, but fell apart after he tweaked his ankle fielding a grounder. The bullpen did a fine job, and Mariano Rivera survived a ninth inning error and a long foul ball to earn the save.
PANIC VS. DETROIT
Larry Mahnken has been doing an impressive job covering the Yanks this season. He has a good critical eye and he's a passionate screwjob too. It's been fun to read his column and watch how he tries to balance his emotions vs. his intellect.
Think the Yankees series against the Tigers is critical? Mahnken does:
SAME OL' SONG?
Edward Cossette, author of the fine Red Sox blog, Bambino's Curse has an especially good post today. Ed and I are kindred spirits. Even though he's a stinkin' Sox fan and I root for the lousy Yankees, we share similar sensibilities about art, music, and literature, which of course, effects how we write about baseball.
Today Ed writes about the literary tendecies of Red Sox Nation (check out the linked articles by Simmons and Boswell too):
The "Myth of Sisyphus" by Albert Camus would be required reading of course.
MAKE ROOM (FOR THE TEAM WITH BATS THAT THUMP)
The Yankees got just what the doctor ordered on Monday as their dormant offense exploded for 16 hits and nine runs in an afternoon game against the Blue Jays. Derek Jeter had three hits, Jason Giambi added a couple of his own (to go with a couple of walks), and Hideki Matsui went 3-5 with 3 RBI on Godzilla bobblehead doll day at the Stadium. Mike Mussina wasn't in top form, but he was good enough, and the Bombers cruised to a 9-3 win. Nice way to break the tension fellas. Thanks.
Jay Jaffe, the Futility Infielder was at the game, so stop by his site later today for his write-up. While you are at it, check out Jay's piece about Sunday's game, and his celebrity sighting of note.
The Red Sox offense didn't skip a beat either, pounding out ten runs of their own against the O's. But their pitching and defense let them down in a rather royal way and Baltimore escaped with a 13-10 win. B.Y Kim took the loss, and there were a couple of crucial calls that went against the Sox too.
The Yankee lead in the AL East is 3 1/2 games (4 in the loss column). Jose Contreras will start against the Tigers in the Bronx this evening.
BOSOX BATTER BOMBERS BUT BOOMER AND BERNIE HELP SALVAGE THE SERIOUS
The Red Sox rolled into the Bronx this weekend and smacked the Yankees all about the mouth and face on Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Pedro Martinez was back in good form on Friday as the Sox bulldozed the Yanks, 9-3. Andy Pettitte gave up a lot of hits, but I didn't get the sense that he was creamed; it just wasn't his night.
But Boomer Wells pitched arguably the biggest game of the season for New York on Sunday afternoon, and he responded in typical fashion, throwing 7.1 innings of shut out ball. Jeff Suppan matched Wells, and pitched a terrific game too. (Whaaat?!?!) The Yankees didn't hit a ball well against him until Bernie Williams connected for a two-run homer in the seventh.
Derek Jeter made a surprise start on Sunday, indicating just how desperate the Yankees were for a win; he collected a single, stole a base, and then made a crucial one-out error on a Johnny Damon grounder in the eighth. It led to Boston's lone run of the day, which came on Manny Ramirez's bloop single to right.
Alfonso Soriano returned the favor in the bottom of the inning with a bloop double of his own. After stealing third base---and almost sending me into cardiac arrest in the process---Nick Johnson singled him home. Mariano Rivera, who replaced Wells with one out in the eighth, allowed a single in the ninth, but that was all, and the Yanks won, 3-1.
The Yankees win the season series against the Sox, 10-9, giving them the tie-breaker should the teams finish tied for first to end the year. The Bombers' lead is 2 1/2 games (three in the loss column). Massacre averted.
Still, that didn't stop Boss George from blowing his horn. If you are interested in that sort of thing, pull up your boots, cause the horseshit was thick and deep.
I was at the ballpark yesterday, sitting somewhere in upstate New York, along the left field side. It was a gorgeous day in the Bronx, sunny and clear, with a slight fall chill in the air. You could cut the tension with a knife. There was a nervous edge to the roar of the Yankee crowd. Every play they made felt like it was the seventh game of the World Series.
There were more Yankee fans than Red Sox fans, but not by much. And believe me, the Nation was vocal. That was cool. When they cheered for their guys when Bob Shepard announced the starting line ups, that was cool. But when they booed the Yankees line up, I started fuming.
The battle of the chants went back and forth all day long. It usually started with a Red Sox rally cry, which would quickly become so strong, that the Yankee fans then felt compelled to drown it out with boos and chants of their own. The most popular word of the day was "sucks," proving that when it comes to creative thinking, there isn't much that separates Sox and Yankee fans at all.
I went the game with my friend, Johnny Red Sox, and we had Sox fans behind us and in front of us as well. At one point in the middle innings, with the Sox rallying, a middle-aged Sox fan said to me, "Hey, you are pretty quiet down there." I looked up from my scorecard incredulously.
"Well, there isn't much for me to make any noise about is there?"
"No, there isn't."
And your point is? Well, I kept quiet. But as I passed this guy on our way out, I couldn't resist taking the low road.
"Hey, you are pretty quiet up there."
He laughed. I wished his team good luck, and declined suggesting that he take a flying fuck at a rolling donut.
The Yanks host the Blue Jays this afternoon at the Stadium for a make-up game. Kelvim Escobar starts against Mike Mussina. The Red Sox are in Baltimore tonight. The Orioles and Devil Rays had a good time spoiling things for the A's and M's over the weekend; they could be give both Boston and New York some trouble in the next three weeks.
NEWSFLASH: YANKEE FANS TOUGH, UNSYMPATHETIC BUNCH
I can't kill Hammond here. Sure, he sounds a bit naive, but what he's saying is essentially true: from Mickey Mantle and Jason Giambi down to Bobby Meachum and Antonio Osuna, New Yorkers are not shy about booing until they are blue in the face (or until you give our spoiled, demanding asses something to cheer about).
RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE
The Yankees lost on Wednesday, while the Red Sox nipped Chicago in extra innings. But the Yanks bounced back last night to avoid a sweep in Toronto; Boston had the night off, and the Yankees' lead now stands at 3 1/2 games (four in the loss column). No matter what happens in the Bronx this weekend, the Bombers will remain in first place.
But there is a feeling that the Yanks are increasingly vunerable while the Sox are surging. Internal controversy has engulfed both teams of late; the Red Sox have done a better job of shrugging it off, and not letting it bother their performance. Don't believe me? At least the Sox sound convincing:
Joe Torre held a meeting before last night's game. Just the kind of pep-talk that Boss George loves. But Joel Sherman warns today that if the Yankees should collapse in the final weeks of the season, Torre and GM Brian Cashman won't be around next year.
Pedro Martinez goes against Andy Pettitte tonight; Clemens faces Wakefield tomorrow and Boomer Wells will pitch against Jeff Suppan on Sunday. Look for Pedro to exact a measure of revenge tonight.
Derek Jeter will not play in the series. But Luis Sojo might (cough, cough) after Erick Almonte hurt his leg warming up yesterday.
How many homers will Ramirez hit in New York this weekend? I'll be conservative and start with two...
THE GREAT ONE
DAY OF REST FOR GIAMBI, YANKS
Meanwhile, Joe Torre tells George King that working for George isn't a bed of roses:
And this is a Post Exclusive. Hard to believe why Lee Sinins loathes the New York press. Oh, brother.
SOX INCH CLOSER TO YANKS
That's a good one, huh? The Sox front office does not want to suspend Ramirez. According to their GM, Theo Epstein:
You think the Red Sox are a better team without Manny? Mmmm. Let's see if they are still a better team without him when they return to New York this weekend. (Manny will probably respond by crushing the Yanks.)
Ramirez might in fact be unhappy in Boston, but this story won't hamper the team. The Sox can roll their eyes and offer the usual, "Manny is Manny," and then sit back enjoy the production he gives them in the middle of the order.
WELCOME BACK, WHERE YA BEEN?
Minnie Minoso, eat your heart out.
Labor Day in New York gave rain. It was moving day for me, so go figure. What's another curve ball? It was a long, emotional day, but I'm all moved in to the new crib; Emily will be moving her stuff in on Thursday. Two more days of limbo, and we're good to go.
When I discovered that the Yanks got pounded 8-1 by the Jays, I said, "Fine. Today feels like 8-1 anyhow." Doc Halladay did his thing, and continues to be a leading candidate for the AL Cy Young. Boomer Wells and Jiffy Pop Weaver were beat up but good for the Yanks. Jason Giambi went 0-4 and is now 0 for his last 24, which counts as the worst slide of his career.
The Red Sox won another wild affair to gain a game on New York; Boston now trails by 4 1/2 games. The Sox and Phillies played an interleague make-up game and it was a back-and-forth contest. Drama, anyone? But how are you going to have confidence in the Phillies? Trot Nixon hit a grand slam late and Boston won 13-9.
Meanwhile, Manny Ramirez, who missed last weekend's serious vs. the Yanks, is in the headlines. Apparently, the ailing slugger was spotted in a hotel bar with the Yankees' futility infielder Enrique Wilson on Saturday night. Oops. Not exactly the kind of move that will endear Manny to his teammates, but one that is sure to keep sports editors happy throughout New England.
SAYING GOODBYE: HOW SWEET IT IS
I walked from my old apartment up to my new place this afternoon in the middle of the Yankee-Red Sox game. It was a great day to be out, and I was going stir crazy with all the boxes and packing anyhow. Our new place is a good 10 minute hike from the nearest subway station (238th street), and it is a 20 minute walk from my old pad. It's not only a walk; it's a hike. Way up a big hill.
When I returned, I watched Clemens pitch the seventh with the Yanks leading 8-2. Boston's defense was terrible and it helped the Yankees out to the big lead. There were errors all over the place. Johnny Damon sat today after his Pete Reiser act yesterday. Manny Ramirez, out with the same flu-like sickness which sidelined Pedro, didn't play again. (In fact, he didn't show up to the Park it was so bad.)
Two runs came in for Boston and Clemens left with the bases juiced. The Boston crowd gave him an ovation, and after Clemens left the field he came back out and tipped his hat and the cheering got louder.
It was the classy kind of act that you'd expect from the Boston fans. Say what you want about them but they know their baseball. I wouldn't expect anything less from them.
Gabe White pitched the eighth and Nellie came on to pitch the ninth with a four-run lead. Two men reached on scorchers to Boone at third. He couldn't handle either of them and two men were on with no out. Nellie came back to get the next two men out (which included a nice pick this time by Boone), but he couldn't shut the door, walking the bases loaded. That was it for Nellie; Torre called for Rivera to get the final out. First batter: Nomar. Boffo time.
Even when the Yankees seem to have a comfortable lead, the Sox are always in the game, ready to pounce. Rivera had a dramatic outing on Saturday, but he handled Garciaparra effectively today for the final out of the game, striking him out on five pitches. Whoopee. Yankees win, 8-4. Clemens won his 13th on the year and his 100th career game at Fenway Park.
The moment the game ended, I addressed my apartment and said aloud, "It's been real, you've been great. But on that note I can leave a happy fan and a happy man. C ya..."
The victory puts the Yanks 5 1/2 up on the Sox (6 in the loss column). The Sox lose ground in the wildcard race as both Seattle and Oakland won again this afternoon. The A's have won nine straight and lead the M's in the west by two games. Somewhere, a distracted Michael Lewis, who is currently following Ah-nold around the country, must be pleased. The M's lead the Sox by a game and a half in the wildcard.
The Yanks head to Toronto to face Roy Halladay tomorrow afternoon. Welcome to Canada: Bon chance. Boomer Wells will try to pitch his way back out of the doghouse for the Bombers. The Sox head to Philly for a make up game with the Phillies. Next, they are off the Chicago to face the White Sox. That should be festive.
Jeter had to leave the game with a "slight" muscle tear on his left side. Giambi went 0-4, though he did hit the ball on the screws his last time up. Giambi is one of the worst slumps of his career; he hasn't had a hit in over 20 at bats. Posada had a couple of more hits today, while Wilson started in place of Soriano again. Matsui isn't hitting and Bernie is hot and cold. Boone is looking better and Nick Johnson is proving why Yankee scouts have been crazy for him for all these years.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01