Saturday, October 23, 2004

A Conspiracy of "Good Guys" and their (P)Sycophants

My company conspired to steal my ability to "enjoy" the ALCS.
Octobers are, traditionally, hair raising at AH Inc, as Sales/Marketing
routinely over-promises for 1/1 deliverables and my group
and our buddies (IS) have to scramble to build content, applications,
reports, etc. without letting all the little day to day things fall
through the cracks.
I have to admit to being more and less sanguine than Brother D. I can block out
games when I have to, but tolerate less well sloppy play and poor execution. And so it was that I decided to avoid watching the first few games between the Yanks and those other guys. So I missed watching most of Moose's 6 2/3 innings of perfection and only saw game 2 because we had tickets. And, in spite of the cold hot dog in the 7th that had me puking most of the next day, I enjoyed watching the Yankees play good, clean, well executed baseball.
Game 3 I was out having dinner and missed half of the most lopsided, ridiculous game I've ever partially seen. And that is when I made the mistake of losing my detachment, let myself become emotionally involved in the outcome of this series.
It's happened before of course, I had a patient with advanced AIDS in
1996, when we only had AZT and he was dying in front of me. His Mom would
bring us cookies and good coffee and basically lived with us as her son
died. He lasted 7 long days with a collapsed lung and a total oxygen
level which would have been insufficient for most bacteria to grow in.
It took me a long time to get over his death. Like the cookies and the coffee the 3-0 start got to me, sucked me in and made me forget how badly we fared all year against this team. I took my eye oof the ball, started planning for the next series, going through matchups. Stupid.
But I knew Sunday night as I watched Rivera lose a game that would have allowed us to put the cork in all these loud, obnoxious, annoying Sox fans, who seem to believe that an 86 year draught entitles them to something. And as they came from behind to tie it up and then win, Iknew. I knew this annoying crew, put together expressly to beat the Yanks, would win and I made myself stop thinking about it. Didn't let
myself get emotional about possibly being the first team to be swept
after leading 3-0, didn't think about this disjointed Yankees team's
luke-warm luck running out. Nope.
I had to travel Monday and Thursday (helping Sales sell) and I didn't
watch game 6 or game 7. I just went to bed, struggled with insomnia, fought my urge to get up and turn the game on and, eventually, fell asleep. Until, on Tuesday into Wednesday, I dreamt I heard yelling and celebrating and woke up thinking that the Yanks had won. I ran to the TV and was treated to watching the infamous ARod karate chop incident(or as our chief counsel called it "assault and battery"). Let's just say I didn't get any sleep after that.
But on Wednesday night, with a 6 AM flight and a 4:15 pickup I again
went to bed, and I didn't let myself get up.
Thursday morning, I was treated to many hundreds of gloating Sox fans,
lolling around Newark airport, ear to ear shit-eating grins. But that
didn't bother me, nah. I was upgraded to first (the only good thing
about how often I travel this year) and got parked right next to a
nasty gloating Sox fan-girl.. laughing and giggling on her cellphone.
But that didn't piss me off, nah.
You know what got to me?
The SVP of Sales, an Indians fan (though he has never lived in
Cleveland and has never seen a game at the Jake-and what the hell is
that about, anyway? Picking what team to be a fan of, with no
consideration for where you grow up? No thought for the team you're
siblings root for?) whom I got up at 3 in the morning to help make a
deal walks up behind me and says "who's your daddy?" (My response? A
rapid-"not you", as fuck you didn't seem appropriate). That, I must
admit, annoyed me. But still I had gone through the 5 stages of
grieving on Sunday night, I was above it.
The sucker punch though was the call that a Met fan social worker from
the hospital left on my answering machine, a 3 minute catharsis of bile
and good-humored unsolicited sodomy, expressing the perfection of the final
result. I have, on occasion gently chided PB for her love of a
mediocre team and, yes, even given her some shit.
But her call real felt like a slap with a simultaneous knee to the
groin, topped off by a little spittle on my face (you know, just for
good measure).
So while I won't sit to watch any of the coming games, I may sacrifice
small animals to Arioch in exchange for a continuing to deny these
unpure heathens from winning.
And oh, by the way PB thanks for your call, I'll be sure to call you
next year when your team (with all due respect to Omar and
Willie/Rudy/Valentine 2) fails to win 75 games. Cause, you know,
spittle can be good.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

PLAYOFF POST-ITS: ALDS Game 1

I'm at the office (don't ask). Between innings in the fourth, and this game is eating me up inside.

The Yankees have gotten baserunners against the Big Bad Wolf, Johan Santana. Four singles and a walk so far.

Those baserunners have then run themselves off the bases. Bottom 1st, 1st and 2nd w/ 1 out, on an A-Rod single and a Sheffield walk. Result? Strike 'em out, throw 'em out double play, with Alex out trying to steal third.

I had to read that twice. What's the old axiom about you never make the first out or the last out at which base?

Bottom second. One out, runners on 1st and 3rd for John Olerud. The runner on 3rd's Posada. Flyout/throwout double play this time, Torii Hunter to Henry Blanco.

Bottom third. By now the Twins are up 1-0. Jeter singles and is stranded by the heart of the order.

Bottom fourth. Bernie singles. This time Posada grounds into a double play. Matsui doubles, and is stranded.

Bottom fifth. Olerud on first, one out ... yep, that's right, more double play!

[BREAK]

OK. Now it's the middle of the 7th. Moose has given us seven innings of two-run ball, with nice peripherals. This is what we were asking for. He's at 95 pitches on the start.

But the DP kids (yep, I know, sounds like a porn title) haven't given him a single run on a night Santana was vulnerable. UGH!

To quote Eric Cartman: "Screw you guys... I'm goin' home."




Saturday, September 04, 2004

All good things.........

I'm sure I don't need to complete this thought.
I admit that I'd forgotten this kind of Yankee team, had blocked the less pleasant memories of teams where wins were few and far between. I'd forgotten that my Yankee experience was grounded not in the winning teams of 77-78 and (almost) 81, but by the loveless desert of 1985-1994.. Long ass years, when the only thing that brought us to the Stadium was Donnie, Winfield, Gator and the odd flash in the pan (Kevin Maas, Sam Militello, a young Al Leiter).
I suppose that those of us who came of age during that time can understand the overwhelming sense of foreboding that the Beantown fans have carried with them all these years. I recall the sense of incredulity that gave way to unmitigated joy and then to heartbreak (damn Joey Cora). It made '96 all the easier to ignore, until the facts smacked you in the face, and there we were going back to Turner field. The ensuing years bred a certain arrogance, added a certain swagger, erased the bitterness of no ring for Donnie and really bad Stadium beer.
Well, at only 2.5 games up and 6 games left to play and Krazy-eyes left hand broken and Giambi suffering from some odd Pituitary tumor and ARod apparently unable to hit with runners on and Iron Sheff a strong candidate for MVP...I say
"Laisez le bontemps rouler" Bring it.
The Chemistry maybe wrong, their chakras maybe jammed, they might be breathing out of the wrong eyelid and finding spectacular ways to lose and this Sox team may have won the majority of the games vs. so far but this team won't lay down. This Sox team will have to take it. The way things things are supposed to be.
The Wild Card is good for ratings and for "small market" teams (yeah right) and it's also a great way for teams to sneak in and win.
So I'm going to say a horrible, scary thing, I don't want the wild card, it's the penant or send me home early and refund me for the tickets I prepaid for.
So bring our buddies down from Boston, D and I will be there all 3 games and look forward to the challenge. The way it should be....
Then we'll see how this article's title ends.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

August 31, 2004: Indians 22, Yankees 0

My yesterday was a blur. I was in the middle of running to chase down my secretary (please, don't ask) around 8:00 last night, when I get a voicemail from my Brother, T.

"If you're not watching the Yankee game, don't. [Inaudible] Vazquez [inaudible]."

Luckily, I was nowhere near a TV set, because those inaudibles would have forced me to turn on the TV. It's like when you tell someone "Don't look behind you". The first thing they do is look over their shoulder, to see what they shouldn't be looking at. It's human nature.

Fortune was then to supply me a sizeable source of booze, and made me forget I hadn't really eaten anything that day (I'd actually ordered and started eating lunch, but was called away before I could get halfway through).

End result? A nasty hangover and a sense of melancholy. I'm not blaming Javy Vazquez for this mind you (well, maybe the melancholy) -- at this point, all I had was Brother T's cryptic and sometimes inaudible warning.

At one point during my drinking binge a Red Sox fan comes up to me and says "You know, I don't actually hate the Yankees. They're a better team than this." I still hadn't seen or heard the score.

So it was only when I got home that I heard that the Yankee loss was historic. Then, in the "remember, alcohol is actually a sleep suppressant" stage of my evening, I caught some of the infamous game on replay.

Ugh.

There was a moment in the fifth inning, that I think summed up the situation perfectly. Travis Hafner hit a groundball foul. CJ Nitkowski runs after it, but is blocked by Hafner running up the line. Nitkowski then got to helplessly watch as the ball spun fair, hugging the grass just inside the foul line. Base hit.

Sometimes, stuff like this is going to happen.

But you can't just dismiss this loss as an inconsequential anomaly.

Here's Javy Vazquez, pre and post All Star break, before yesterday's game:

Pre: 10-5, 3.57 ERA, 118 2/3 IP, 105 H, 32 BB, 95 Ks
Post: 3-2, 6.39 ERA, 43 2/3 IP, 48 H, 10 BB, 25 Ks

I left out yesterday's outing so it couldn't be said that one bad outing was skewing the results. He's almost doubled his ERA, and he's lost 2 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched since the All Star game. Those are bad signs.

This is the anchor of the Yankee rotation, and he's looking rusted through right now. It's been masked by El Duque's performance, Loaiza's badness, and before that, Contreras's inconsistency. It would matter less if Kevin Brown or Mike Mussina were pitching like a top starter, but it's been a while since we've seen anything from those guys, either. But this Yankee rotation is completely disfunctional, and I don't see any cure for it.

I'm not panicking, or throwing in the towel (the Sox fans that threw in the towel in July are now trying to fish it back out of the ring in August), but suddenly the race to the postseason has gotten real interesting. It might be the fates toying with the Red Sox again, but they're 3 1/2 games back with just a little more than a month left to play.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Whiny Moose

Second Delay Angers Mussina (Newsday.com, Baumbach): "there was an additional 15-minute delay to accommodate the ceremony for Cheek, who broadcast 4,306 straight games before sitting out a game in June because of his father's funeral. He then learned he had a brain tumor and recently underwent surgery.

'I congratulate the man who got 4,300 games, but sitting for 15 extra minutes before the game was supposed to start - that was worse,' said Mussina, whose second pitch of the game was hit over the centerfield fence by leadoff hitter Reed Johnson. 'When they say 2:15 and it's 2:25 and they're still on the field ... I don't want to take anything away from him. That's a tremendous accomplishment. But tell us 2:30 instead of 2:15. That's all.'

It was unclear whether Mussina fully understood the gravity of Cheek's medical
situation."

This is why I've always stayed kind of cold about the Moose -- there's a whininess and lack of tact that makes Mussina unlikeable. This time he's complaining about an extra 15 minutes spent by the SkyDome crowd honoring Tom Cheek, the Jays' longtime radio voice, who has a brain tumor.

It's not quite Lou Gehrig's farewell speech, maybe, but I'm sure it was an important and emotional moment for Cheek, his family, the Blue Jays, and their fans. Ceremonies go long all the time at Yankee Stadium and elsewhere. Why can't Mussina just deal with the minor inconvenience, like everyone else does?

Watching individuals deal with adversity is the big appeal of sport. Mike Mussina's definitive "Yankee Moment" so far -- coming in in relief in Game 7 of the ALCS -- was appealing precisely because it was unscheduled, unprepared, and inconvenient. He was called upon unexpectedly and came up big. Yankee fans loved him for that.

This year, he started off by complaining about the Japan trip. A lot. Now he's whining because a pregame ceremony went long, after a power outage at SkyDome. I know these kinds of things are annoying, but complaining about them is so weak. It shows no character.

The big irony of it is, doesn't seem like the delay affected Mike at all. He was totally effective for the first six innings -- up until the very moment I started watching the game. Then he got shelled, of course.

Following Mussina was Paul Quantrill. Quantrill came in with the Yanks trailing 3-2, 2 men on, 1 out. Assisted by a Derek Jeter error, Quantrill left the game 6-2 Jays. Q's becoming a big problem, since the starters aren't going 7 innings, and there's only so much pitching Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera can do.

So what do you guys think? Is Moose a candidate for Most Annoying Yankee? Is Quantrill going to right the ship, or do we have to count on a trade for a reliever who can make it through the 6th and 7th innings?

Saturday, August 28, 2004

How to win a game 18-6 and still lose

Yeah, I know. You was just starting to think "why don't he visit anymore?". But I have to admit to going through a little baseball overload in mid-late August. But after the first quiet Saturday of the past month, while I was clicking though the channels I just happened to come upon the Yankees game and watch the Samwich hit his third grandslam of the season and 300th carrer homerun. Score at the time 14-6, though it was 18-6 by the time the final out was recorded. 18-6 against the Jays, a late Saturday August afternoon, outside of being there to watch, what could be better?
Well, I'll tell you, probably would have been a good thing to not see the Iron Sheff suppinate (thats internal rotation) his left ankle while sliding into third base, going past the bag, getting tagged and then rolling around the ground in obvious horrible pain.
I'm going to be blunt, without Sheff the Yanks wouldn't be in first, wouldn't have the 5.5 game lead they have over the Crimson Hose, wouldn't be a force to be feared in the post season. Sheff is the Yanks MVP, no questions, no doubt about it. Should this injury be anything more than an ouchie (that's a medical term) this tem will be in deep crap. This teams motive force is it's offence, the pitching will improve somewhat as we head to the important games but the hit machine is what wins games for this iteration of the Pinstripe Machine. And Sheffs the engine that keeps this team moving.
Wrap it up Sheff, ice for the next 24 and increase your Vioxx dose to the max allowed, then walk it off babe, you can rest it after we've brought the trophy home and dumped confetti on ya.
Here's to normal MRIs.....

Monday, August 23, 2004

The Yankees Week in Review: 8/16-8/22

Lemme steal some of Steven Goldman's thunder, here: if the Yanks don't get an "F" grade for this past week, then you're grading on the wrong curve.

The Yanks went 1-5 on the week, and that one win was a win that almost slipped away.

The Yankee lines on the week:

Offense: .254/.297/.385, 21 runs scored in 6 games.
Defense: 1-5, 7.24 ERA, 43 runs against in 51 innings of work, with 9 homers against.

So the Yanks got outscored 2-1 on the week, and more than half of their runs for the week came in one game. That adds up to a series lost in Minnesota, and a sweep, at home, by the Angels.

Now that the Mariners suck, the Angels could be my Most Hated Team (AL West Division). Seeing Garret Anderson swing against the Yanks gives me the same sickening feeling that I used to get watching Griffey, Jr. paste the Yanks as an M.

Playing with one working arm, Gary Sheffield was the Player of the Week for the Yanks. He hit .348/.400/.826 with three homers and two doubles, leading the team in OPS, runs and RBI. This in a week where only two other batters weren't actively stinking up the joint: Hideki Matsui (.884 OPS) and Suspension-Rod (1.128 OPS in three games).

There is no Pitcher of the Week in the Bronx. Best performance was Jon Lieber, and he allowed 13 baserunners in 6+ innings.

Three awards going out for complete and total cypherdom this week. Paul Quantrill allowed 8 runs in 4 games pitched. He got a total of four outs this week. But at least he belongs on the team, which is more than can be said about C.J. Nitkowski. His line -- five baserunners and two runs versus three outs in four games pitched this week -- were practically a plea to bring back the Run Fairy.

Playing in every game this week, Enrique Wilson posted a .286 OPS. Not batting average, not on-base percentage, OPS. Miguel Cairo's .222 OPS was actually worse this week, but Wilson's overall performance makes his lack of production this week all the more galling. More galling still was that the Yanks might have a better utility infielder than Wilson in the organization (Andy Phillips), that the guy spent two games with the club this week, and that he couldn't get into a game.

Anything else interesting happen this week, other than gatting punked by the Twins and Angels?

Shane Spencer got a minor-league contract, after washing out of the Mets organization with DUI problems. Nice to see that the Steinbrenner Home for Wayward Boys is back in operation. I was afraid that once Darryl Strawberry left the organization, the Boss's missionary spirit would find no outlet.

Mike Mussina re-joined the club after elbow problems, and didn't look good. Is this news?

Yankee Stadium suffered a power outage Friday night. Considering that the Yankees scored four runs for the entire weekend, sometimes, the metaphors are just too obvious.

Looking forward to next week, the Yanks play seven games. They start with a three-game set at Jacobs Field against the Indians, who were resurgent but just got swept by the Twins, to effectively end the AL Central division race. The Yankees then move on to Skydome, hopefully to get healthy against the Blue Jays.

And the Yankees had better get healthy, fast. While they've been dozing, the Red Sox put together a 6 game winning streak, to leave them 5 1/2 games back coming into this week. This is why you can't really declare a division race over in July. If the Yanks keep looking like dogs for the next four weeks, the Red Sox could return to the Stadium with a puncher's chance at the division title.

What do you guys think?
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