Friday, April 14, 2006

Sweeps are good...

So it’s a three-game sweep of Kansas City in Yankee Stadium. Without being arrogant, that’s as it should be. One of the announcers on ESPN commented, “These two teams shouldn’t even be in the same stadium together.” But last year the Yanks got swept by the Royals in Kansas, and no, damnit, I haven’t forgotten. Sports Illustrated made the argument that close games fill seats, but watching your team romp all over another team has it’s merits as well.

The game was on ESPN the other day, and I got home to catch the last bit of it. The announcers were saying that managing a team like the Royals or the Devil Rays is all about preaching winning baseball. With no 5-tool players, and a serious shortage of 3- and 4-tool players, you have to make the most out of opportunities – when luck turns against the dominant team, the less talented team has to be there to take advantage of it. Still that could be a pretty sizable mental roadblock to overcome – to lose game after game and still maintain enough energy and enthusiasm every day to SEE opportunities when they present themselves.

Gotta say, I much prefer Damon bashing in a three-run homer in pinstripes with no trace of red in the uniform. The Yankees may not have needed the bat, but wow, it sure as hell doesn’t hurt.

I am half-listening to the game while doing several other things – the problem with listening to the game in the other room is John Sterling. “It is HIGH!” -- I drop everything, tell whoever I’m on the phone with to wait a sec-- “It is FAR!” --- I run into the next room – “IT IS....caught at the baggie by Ford.”


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Much better

I got wound up last night when Matsui hit that solo shot in the 9th inning, but it wasn’t meant to be. For once, I couldn’t blame Randy Johnson, either.

That was tasty today though – hoo, a perfect Yankee victory, a very relaxing, solid thumping. I can’t believe how much attention this past week’s losses have gotten. I guess the media have to do something to fill all that air, but to say “Well, it’s silly to ask ‘what’s wrong with the Yankees?’ this early in the season”, but then spend the next 15 minutes discussing what’s wrong with the Yankees seems a little contradictory.

I’m watching “Baseball Tonight” hoping to see some of the shots from the game, especially Mariano’s play at first base. John Sterling is usually pretty good at calling the web gems. “Oh what a play by Mo!”

And ARod. Incredible – even my Red Sox buddies have started grumbling about what a good ball player he is. To do so seems to cause them physical pain, so it must mean something. People seemed to be thinking that he was freaking out by taking a midnight batting practice last night – I don’t get it, what is the big deal? Don Mattingly pointed out that one of the worst things to have to do after a bad night on the field is to go back to an empty hotel room and try to sleep – nothing to distract you from it and nothing to do but go over and over every detail in your head. ARod seems like someone who could wander into overthinking-it territory, and if it takes an early am batting practice to reset himself, leave the lights on and leave him to it. It appears to have worked...

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Well....Opening Day was good.

Ugh, I have a massive head cold, and the last time I looked out the window it was actually snowing. Not helping matters is the fact that I stayed up late all week to watch baseball (so much for strict limits on my baseball habits!), and the Yankees being on a first week skid. It’s one thing to stay up late to listen to your team win, quite another when you crawl into work the fan of a losing team. If that losing team happens to be the Yankees, there is no mercy. A lifelong Orioles fan walked up to me and said “just so you know, my Birds are over your Yankees in the standings.” “Oh. I’m sorry, is it September?” “No, but like I’d pass up any opportunity to gloat.”

So it’s Saturday and I’m too sick to go out. I’m wrapped up in as many layers of fleece as I could find that weren’t packed away for the summer, and I’m going to listen to the game, hoping that the Yankees turn this freighter around.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Baseball is back!

Oh YEAH baseball is back! I was losing my mind there, but the Yankees return. They really weren’t kidding when they said they were ready for the season to start.

I tried to fix my jones by watching WBC games and Grapefruit League games – it’s just not the same, people. WBC was an interesting diversion, but I found myself really missing regular season play. Many people said that the WBC was more for other countries besides the U.S., which would make sense, but didn’t change my “who are these people?” disorientation. Then I started to listen to Grapefruit League games, but there would be so many player changes that I would have a hard time figuring out what was going on. I know that the whole point of Spring Training is to work out the kinks and give absolutely everybody you might even consider for the starting squad a chance to play, but damn, when I’m watching a Yankees/Phillies game and I don’t recognize anyone, it gets a little confusing. (The ball went where? Who caught it? Wait, who’s at bat? And who’s running for him? What’s on third, that much I do know.)

And I know it’s only the first game of the season, and I know that injury hangs over this team like a very localized thunderstorm, and I didn’t miss the fact that the run Randy Johnson gave up was a home run, and that Damon apparently didn’t attend Kevin Millar’s Boys and Girls Club lesson on hitting the cut-off man ( a little early for Jeter to be talking to his glove and sporting that “will be talking to you about that later” look, eh?) .........BUT!!!! Oh the hits! And the drawn walks, and Hideki with the three-run homer, and ARod with the Opening Day grand slam --- oooo, yeah, that was good, that was especially good. I had forgotten how much fun it could be watching that line-up scare pitchers like Barry Zito (Barry Zito!!) off the mound. Woo hoo!

One question? Who plonks Posada? I don’t mean that as any kind of slam to his hitting. Posada is a guy who never does anything to anybody, and that poor man has taken more knocks over the past couple of weeks than a football player. I’m hoping he makes it all the way through April, never mind the rest of the season.

It sucked that the game was on so late. I kept telling myself “Ok, ten more minutes, then you have to turn it off.” And the Yankees score ANOTHER run! “Ok. Ten more minutes.” I am so wiped out today, so I am on strict orders – directly to bed, do not even THINK about turning the TV on to see how things start.

But already I’m thinking....How’s Mussina going to pitch? Will they have the big hits tonight? Hmmmm.....Nothing like waking up in the middle of the night and deciding that it’s worth it to pay extra on the phone bill to check the score on my cell phone browser. Yeeeeehp. Totally hooked.

Baseball’s back!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Hot stove!

Well, Merry Christmas, and man did I ever speak too soon about there not being anything going on in the trades. Looks like the Yankees found their centerfielder. I have to say, I still have a ton of misgivings – I still think Damon may be too old and too injured, but then again, not one major league baseball team has ever called me to ask if I would be interested in being their general manager.

I must admit, I really can’t help myself, GOD is it funny watching the Red Sox Nation FREAK OUT about this. I am spending Christmas in New England, and really, being in the heart of the Nation is definitely the best vantage point. “How COULD he???” Uhhhh....the Yankees acted like they wanted him? I mean, I’m sorry, people couldn’t see this coming? It was obvious to everyone that the Yankees were desperate for a centerfielder last season. TONY WOMACK was playing centerfield, that would have been your first clue. The Red Sox have an All-Star centerfielder whose contract is up, and has been expressing discontent in various small ways all season. The Red Sox blew it by not making sure that Damon knew beyond all doubt that he was very much wanted and that they were willing to work with him to keep him – please, it’s not like Boston is hurting for money. I know a big deal is made about the Yankees being the best team money can buy, but it’s not like the Red Sox are the Royals or the Devil Rays. And New England LOVES Damon – so pay the guy! Because, see, there’s Brian Cashman standing right over there, drooling, with one of those really big Yankee paychecks.

Johnny looks good with his short hair, and will look even better as a lead-off hitter in pinstripes – no disrespect to Jeter, who was not exactly a slouch in that role. Quite frankly, thinking about that batting order is making me dizzy – I just start laughing, and can’t stop. No predictions as to what might happen in April – God knows, Randy Johnson taught me to not count chickens, etc. But December feels reeeeeally good.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Missing baseball

I was going to be a purist about this and not write anything until Spring Training, but I couldn’t wait.

First of all, how much do I miss baseball? At first it was nice because I had all this TIME. I have read so many books, seen so many movies, and have returned all of my email in a timely fashion. I can hold a phone conversation without having one eye swiveled rudely toward the score – when did I turn into the people I hate to date? But I’ve caught myself doing it more than once. “Uh...huh. What? Oh....yeah.” Not good!

But enough, thank you. I want baseball.

I just found out that my Dad got us tickets to Yankee Stadium to see a game in May. How cool is that?! We’re sitting on the third base foul line – I have to bring a glove. If I don’t, I’ll have Sheffield-pounded foul ball where my nose and orbital bones used to be.

Not much going on trade-wise. Tino’s gone (maaaaan...), and I still don’t quite understand what’s happening with Bernie. Tom Gordon went to Philadelphia. (Actually, Philadelphia should abandon the Eagles and focus on the Phillies – they’ve been quietly building themselves a very interesting team.) Nomar went to the Dodgers, Womack went to the Cubs, and the Yankees still need a starting centerfielder.

It made for lively breakroom discussion when Torre made the off-hand comment about Jeter or ARod playing centerfield. The tabloid media had a field day about how that was a serious consideration, but both platinum-caliber players had a fit, and Torre backed down. I don’t buy that, mainly because in the same statement Torre also mentioned that Mariano Rivera was a talented enough athlete to play centerfield. I don’t think that will be happening any time soon. Although it is sort of entertaining to imagine any one of those guys with throwing arms that strong and all that room to run.

And ARod. ARod ARod ARod. That guy has no off-season from the media – they seem to enjoy picking him apart as much for his spare-time activity as his play on the field. The thing is, as bad boys go, he’s really boring. The best he can do is be seen in a place with illegal poker games? Please. Not running around on his wife with some skanky stripper, not starting bar brawls, not getting mixed up in a sex cruise, not getting pulled over for DUI – what exactly is it about him that acts as the blood in the water for the press? He gets paid a lot. So? A lot of people get paid a lot. He didn’t know what team he was going to play for in the World Baseball Cup? So? If Mike Piazza can play for Italy when he was born in this country, I don’t really understand why it would be such a scandal for ARod to play for the Dominican. (God knows, they don’t have ANY other big names or anything, no team at all, really) I wonder if he decided to just sit the whole thing out because he realized that he was never going to win this one, and why risk getting hurt on top of it all. When in doubt, ask yourself – what would Hideki do?

I was really glad he got the AL MVP – very much deserved. I’ve even heard Red Sox fans admit that he deserved it over Ortiz, and that’s no small thing. And that, ultimately, I think will be the path that Alex Rodriguez needs to take to win over the hearts of the doubters. He’s never going to have that “Jeter thing” – his way may be by continuing to play his ass off and ignoring the media howling.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Walk On...

I guess the Yankees’ charter plane had some sort of mechanical trouble and they didn’t get into New York until 3:00pm yesterday. Yeeeeeikes, imagine being trapped on that plane – there are times when many millions of dollars a year may not be enough.

The knives are out, and the sharpest ones seemed to be aimed at ARod. He’s not the only one, though, I’ve heard just about everybody hacked up. The only ones who were spared attention were Small, Chacon, and Giambi, and the only Yankees I’ve heard spoken of positively was Jeter. I don’t think that would be much consolation to Jeter at this point.

The focus on ARod as the problem is utter bullshit, though. I’m not going to lie, when ARod grounded into that double play in the top of the 9th in Game 5, eliminating Jeter, I realized very suddenly that it was over, and I was furious with Rodriguez (“THE WORST POSSIBLE THING YOU COULD HAVE DONE IN THAT SITUATION!”). Having gotten some perspective, it wouldn’t have come down to that if they had been playing to their potential throughout the series. I seem to recall through a haze of bitterness that Chone Figgins and Vlad Guerrero were pretty well shut down by the Yankees throughout the series, and yet (ouch) the Angels (ouch) still won. Baseball’s a team sport, and it’s impossible for one guy to lose a five game series all by himself.

Steinbrenner released a thank you to the fans that was the most menacing show of gratitude I’ve ever heard. “WE WILL DO BETTER.” [Brian Cashman drops to the floor gasping, eyes bulging, trying to remove the unseen hand that chokes him.]

I’m still smarting – baseball isn’t fun to watch yet. I’m working my way into watching the ALCS but the first game was peppered with bad Yankees performance, and that sucked to watch the first time. I had to turn it off. I was able to watch several innings of tonight’s game – it’s weird though. I’m not that familiar with either team, and it’s like wandering into a stranger’s party.

It’s interesting when people scream about the payroll and the salaries. I was thinking about how much money I’ve actually spent on the Yankees this year, and I came up with the startling figure of …$15. I bought a subscription to Gameday Audio. For that piddly sum I got a season of baseball that was frustrating, exciting, suspenseful, and ultimately entertaining. I suppose if I had season box tickets, I might feel differently, but that not being the case…I could have spent ten times that amount, and still feel like I got way more than my money’s worth.

I know that that isn’t good enough for the Yankees, and I love that about them – none of this “We’re used to losing” rationalization crap. I’m sad that they didn’t ride the coaster deeper into the postseason, but as October moves on and I begin to think about putting away my t-shirts and washing my battered Yankees rally hat…

Is it April yet?