Big Joe was animated. I was watching part III of “the Mets meet reality” when the phone had started to ring. “Are you watching this?” “I’m watching Big Joe. Unbelievable.” “The guy flew through the air,” he continued. “I’ve never seen a guy fly through the air!” He was talking about Coco Crisp. I knew how he felt. The Sox, when they are nice and comfy at home and on a roll, will pull off some unbelievable stuff on you. I’ve seen it all. Nothing surprises me. “And now this effing guy…” he said as Big HGH cracked a clincher out to center field. “That’s it. I’ll talk to you later.” “Later, Big Joe.” He was miserable. There was nothing I was going to say that was going to make him feel better, of course, but he’s suffered through enough of my Yankee ups and downs, so I was with him in spirit.
The good news, if you’re a Met fan, is that these three games didn’t mean a thing. The lead in the division is all but insurmountable, and everybody else who might be considered a contender is currently in the process of being dragged around on their face. So in that sense there is nothing to worry about. But there is a problem. Tony Sherry called me a few times today to tell me that they were crushing the Mets all day on the radio, specifically Mike and the Mad Dog on the FAN. Absolutely skewering them. Roundly dismissing them as just another pathetic NL team that can’t cut it against the mighty American League. The issue for the Mets is that this is what is going to stick in people’s minds all year. Everyone was starting to look at the Mets as a legit powerhouse in the majors. They were popping up in first place on power-rankings, etc. Everyone was talking about the Mets, including the BPS, at times. But now they have failed horribly in what might be considered their only test. They can still play well against the Yankees this weekend, but even a sweep of the mighty Yankees wouldn’t erase the skepticism that has crept into the commentary on this team. The Subway Series match-ups have always been high-emotion series’, regardless of how good the Mets were. It’s never shocking for either of these teams to win two-out-of-three in any given series. Besides, this isn’t even the real Yankees. This is the crippled version. So the Mets are going to be stuck with this for a while. When the topic of the Mets comes up, some will say that the Mets can’t beat any of the good teams, just like the rest of the National League. In some camps, they will be dismissed for the rest of the regular season. But there is a silver lining, and it’s this; they will be in the playoffs. They realize that they need to fill a few gaps, perhaps, but now they know. They are measured. All they need to do is put a team out there that can win 11 games at the right time. It’s a nice problem to have. Besides, the Tigers have gotten gob-smacked every time they have played a good team, but look how quickly the media forgot. After a few days they all went right back to gushing about what an unbeatable team Jim Leyland’s Tigers are. To close the thought, Mike Francesa relayed a comment that was directed to him on Wednesday night when he and the Mad Dog did their radio show from Fenway. He said that a fan came up to him as he was walking out in the sixth inning, the game already way out of reach. “Next time you make the trip up from New York,” the fan said, “Bring the team that can play….”
The Yanks have had a day to rest, which is always helpful for this “all-infirmary” squad. The Moose will be taking the hill against our old buddy El Duque, who has been very hot and cold this year. I have a feeling he will come to play tomorrow. But the Mets will have to go to their bullpen early, because he throws a ton of pitches. Their bullpen has been good and stretched by the Sox over the last few days, and they will be needed again. The other issue with that is that this Mets bullpen that has had so much success this season has been thoroughly knocked around by the Yankees and the Red Sox. They aren’t going to come in brimming with confidence like they did last time around. I have to believe nobody on the Mets is exactly brimming with confidence right now.
I will be in section 24 with the Mrs. tomorrow (Friday) night. That’s right, the Mrs. She was there when the big boy and I were cutting up the tickets, and she asked if she could go to a Subway Series game. So we’ll see how she does. I’m expecting big things from her, as she is generally acknowledged to be a Yankee good-luck charm. Seanny, unleash your boy!
“Roscoe di Boscoe.” It’s a standard phone greeting from Mikey Juice, who was on the other end of my phone late this afternoon. I was at work, of course, as were the Yanks. I wasn’t having much luck following the game on the gamecast, as the thing was spotty again. But I knew that the score was 3-2 Atlanta in the bottom of the 12th with one out and Giambi at the plate. He had already fouled off about a thousand pitches. “Again!” I hear Mikey Juice yell as he’s watching the game while talking to me. I could hear Mikey Rumble’s unmistakable voice in the background also. They were both watching, apparently. Mikey Juice is the guy with the information. He’s the guy to call when you need to know what’s going down in the street. Mike Sherry and I like to check in with him once a week or so, just so we’re up to date on everything. He asks me if I’m watching the game. Just then I could hear Mikey Rumble scream, “Yes!” in the background. For a split second I thought that maybe Giambi had done it again, but I quickly realized that Mikey Juice was less enthusiastic. “Nice,” he said. “Ball four to Giambi.” Tying run on first. So that’s it, I thought. Here we go. The star of the show is going to get another chance. Man, if he blows it again he’s going to get so booed he might curl up in the fetal position and start crying right at home plate….
Twelve miles uptown in another borough and another world, an anxious man took a few steps toward the center of the universe. He tried to tell everyone that it wasn’t bothering him. He tried to explain that there was nothing to explain. He insisted that there was nothing to see here. The problem was that many of the fans had agreed. He deserved better, certainly. But he accepted his fate, at least outwardly. He was being paid a lot of money to leave no doubt. But doubt hung in the air like the muggy summer humidity. Even he couldn’t deny that. He didn’t claim to be at peak performance; in fact he admitted that he had to do better. The crowd that had gathered was desperate to be proven wrong. The frustration had long since overcome the human instinct of compassion, and had manifested itself in a collective negative voice. And it grew louder with each shortcoming. But this modern-day Casey-at-the-bat had what Casey never got. A fresh chance to make it right.
“Is he gonna do it, or is he really gonna have to run for his life out of the Stadium,” asked Mikey Juice in the Rock, as he and Mike Rumble watched things unfold on the YES network. I was still suffering with the gamecast, which had seemingly gotten stuck with Giambi at a full count. That thing is useless, I thought. Things started off well. He got ahead in the count, which was good news. A little room for error goes a long way. He pushed the count to 3-1, and I was thinking that a walk would put the tying run in scoring position for….I couldn’t remember. “Who’s up next?” I asked Juice. I heard him relay the question to Mikey Rumble, who replied “Bubba Crosby” with the appropriate lack of enthusiasm. Not good. So I tried not to think that far ahead. Maybe we could pinch hit… “No f*cking way!” I heard Mikey Rumble scream as if he were standing right next to me. “This might be it! He might have done it!” Juice was screaming. In the background, Mikey Rumble exploded into indistinguishable sound. Juice was laughing hysterically, but managed to yell, “He did it!” about four times into the phone.
As the ball sailed through the air, the crowd was strangely quiet. There was a lot riding on this thing. Not since a crisp October night in 2003 had one ball carried with it so much tension and anxiety. At the center of the universe the anxious man in the pinstriped suit knew right away. After all, he had done this enough times to know what it felt like. But maybe never like this. This ball was carrying his recent troubles far, far away. At least for a while. He flipped the bat and looked at his teammates in the dugout with his arms outstretched as if to say – I can’t believe that this is happening. A walk with light feet, as the poets say. Or in this case, a trot. He circled the bases with his face all lit up like a firefly.
Today was the last day of school for the kids in New York City. It was also the last day of school for the teachers. Since Pedro and the Mets were throwing my prediction right in the bagnerol (which proves yet again that I am very consistent – I rarely know what I’m talking about), I told the Mrs. I would go get us some ice cream to celebrate the end of the school year. Grossman sent me a text message right as I was walking out the door. “I can’t watch anymore.” I felt better about bailing on the game if Grossman was bailing on it. So I strolled down 95th St. towards Baskin Robbins. It was muggy but not so hot. A decently comfortable night. The kids were out all over the place. They were as happy as could be. Last day of school, after all. They were out on their bikes, out on their roller blades, playing catch, shooting hoops. It was summertime in Brooklyn. Car radios were playing, people gathering on street corners. I walked out of Baskin Robbins with the bag swinging in my hand. Chocolate chip cookie dough for the Mrs, and pistachio walnut with chocolate sprinkles for me. I walked down 94th St. on the way back, just for a change of pace. I walked past an Irish guy talking two porches over to a Russian guy, telling him a story about something that happened in Jersey City. I crossed Third Ave and walked past another group of young kids playing in their front yard. They had stopped whatever they were doing for a minute, and were all gathered near the sidewalk. As I got closer I could see what it was they were looking at. Nighttime in June in New York City always means fireflies. They were all over the place. The kids were all scrambling around after them as they floated through the Brooklyn night, glowing intermittently in a silent game of Marco Polo. One of the kids was a girl in a pink “Dora the Explorer” t-shirt. She looked like she was about six. She announced confidently to the group, “When they light up it means they’re happy.” That sounds right to me, I thought to myself. Finally happy…..
It ends here. The Red Sox streak I mean. I really can’t tell you what the Yankees are going to do from game to game now that Cano is gone. The Red Sox have won 10 games in a row, and except for tonight, each game has been against an opponent that was progressively worse, with the last seven coming in the friendly confines of Fenway. As far as ten game streaks go, it’s not very impressive, but hey – they won 10 games in a row. You have to give them credit for that. So tonight they got to the Mets soft underbelly, the kid Soler. The Sox threw out their kid, Jon Lester, who didn’t fare much better, throwing way over a hundred pitches in four-plus innings. Except for a disastrously played pop fly by Milledge, the two of them basically canceled each other out. But in the end, the Sox kept their magic alive. It will end tomorrow with Pedro. Write it down.
Back in the Bronx, the lifeless Yankee offense was sputtering on. They made another also-ran pitcher look like Cy Young, and in the midst of their posting another zero, I made a sour observation in the 7th inning on the phone with Tony Sherry. Aside from two swings from Jason Giambi, the Yankees hadn’t scored a run in 24 innings. And even worse, if you take away those two skew home runs from Giambi, they had scored just 2 runs in their last 37 innings. That’s more than four full 9-inning games. They eventually tacked on two garbage runs. Donnie, we have a problem. It’s not so much the kids. Phillips and Melky have hit pretty well, but the veterans have been slumping. Giambi has been sitting out every few games due to “back stiffness,” or “spasms,” or something, Jeter has been in a slump, and A-Rod has been absolutely lost. He seemed to be coming around on the road trip, but he is clearly trying too hard at the Stadium. Wrong time to hibernate. The fans are starting to crush his life.
Before we get too nuts, a win from Wang tomorrow gives us yet another series win, and that’s all you can ask for. Consistency. Let the Red Sox win ten in a row. Their happy-place (Fenway) is coming to an end on Thursday, and they will start to lose. We just need to continue to win series’.
But I will say that the last few games have exposed some real areas of concern. Not a surprise, when you have lost every single member of your starting nine to injury or illness for multiple games and it’s only June. There are going to be weaknesses. Particularly when they’re currently without their second and third best rbi men of the last two years, and three all-star starters at the same time. There’s not a lot you can do to protect yourself against that. The always first-class Gary Cohen, broadcasting the Mets game tonight, made a great comment. Reyes had slammed his shoulder into Varitek blocking the plate at one point, and he was sprawled out at home plate writhing in pain before heading off to the locker room. He ended up coming back out to play. Dioner Sanchez was last seen being walked off the field a few days ago holding his dangling pitching arm with his other hand. He was back tonight. Remarked Cohen, “That’s what happens when you’re going good. You have two incredibly dangerous-looking injuries turn out to be nothing.” Well said. Cohen always “gets it.” The Yankees have gotten no such good fortune. They have had to fight, claw, and scratch for everything they’ve gotten this year. Sounds funny when you’re talking about the Yankees, but this year it is what it is. Every time they try and gather some steam, they face another devastating blow.
One thing you can’t do is blame the starting pitching for any of this malaise. The starters have kept them in this thing, including another solid performance tonight from Jaret Wright. Every loss for the last two weeks can be hung squarely on the shoulders of the offense and the bullpen. I have to believe Dotel will be a boost. You have to figure that between Dotel and Farnsworth, somebody will be able to get people out on a given night. But the first thing Farnsworth needs to do is throw consistent strikes…
That’s that. I don’t know what we’ll get from the Yanks tomorrow. I’ll take a win, certainly. Wang seems to rise to the occasion. We need some offense though. I think we’ll get it. We’re too due. It would be nice, because we’ll pick up a game when Pedro takes down Beckett. You heard it here first.
The Mrs. came over with the phone just before she went to bed. She had just spoken to her mother, so I knew what she was about to say. “Big Joe,” she said as she handed me the receiver. “How about Giambi,”” Big Joe said. “Let’s go Mets,” was my reply to my father-in-law, a Met fan by trade. “Well, we’ll see if we can give you some help with those Red Sox…” Sounded good to me. “Please do Big Joe. Appreciate it.” It would be the first time anybody in that rotting cesspool of a league did.
Petey Goods was the man in section 24 tonight. Waving the Yankee flag all over the joint, and self-described as “eating everything in sight.” That’s what I’m talking about. Welcome to section 24, Petey. Acc gets the big gas-face, his shamelessness reaching new heights with yet another embarrassing excuse.
Randall came to play tonight. So did Giambi. Glad to keep rolling on. We’re not on one of the many “It’s Christmas in June – here comes the National League” streaks going on right now, but the Yanks have been more consistent. They’re winning series after series with injury after injury. I’m looking at all of these teams on streaks, and I can’t help but take it all with a grain of salt. Don’t talk to me about the big streak you’re on against the National League. Don’t embarrass yourself. Come talk to me when you start beating good teams. We went over the Tigers last night. Now let’s take the Red Sox. They look really strong, right? I whet your appetite last night, let’s close the thought tonight. Quick – how many series’ this season have the Red Sox won against teams over .500? For the entire season – three. And all three by 2-1. No sweeps and no 3-1 margins. Tough to believe? Not if you’ve been watching how the season’s progressed and kept your eye on the schedule. Three. Still really impressed? The Yanks have won twice that many, including a sweep and a three-out-of-four. The Red Sox are not that good, folks. They are destined to fail. Wait until their day of reckoning comes in the form of a few good teams. Don’t get me wrong. I still think they’ll be a wild card….
Not-as-bad-as-it-could-be news on Cano. He says he didn’t feel the hammy pop, just “grab.” At least I’m taking that as a good sign. They’ll probably DL him, and I think they should, but he might avoid being out a month. I can’t take this much longer, watching some of these guys. I’m sorry, I know some of you guys like him, but Bubba Crosby is terrible. I don’t think I’ve ever seen somebody look as bad as he looked last night against the Marlins. The guy was swinging at balls that almost hit him. A lot.
Yes Raoul, somewhere in Boston and NY, two guys are light a few extra doses of HGH, because apparently today was “double-up” day.
JD, keep calling the bombs, bro. Because I’ll take them all. H8n, sorry the weather didn’t cooperate. That’s how they get you. Six hours of hot dogs and beer at $10.00 a pop. Guava/Ras/Jason, I saw the article in the Times today about Hughes. You never know with those guys early, but when they get to about the double-A level and they’re still money, you might have something. Cashman specifically said nobody was untouchable, but he would command a high price were they to deal him. They already turned down Reggie Sanders for Hughes, which should benchmark him a little (but not a lot). Happymeds – believe it. Series wins. That’s what we’re all about. Lucky, Umair posted a comment late the other night questioning how much we could really expect to get out of The Lion and Sheffield this year. Here’s the way I see it. Keep it close until mid-August. Neither one of those guys will have their swing fully back before mid-September. But all you need to do is make it in. And then they’ll be ready. And then; these guys are going to explode with furious thunder. Kaylee, I don’t know how this series with Boston and the Mets is going to shake out. The Mets have no idea how good they are or aren’t. They play against high school teams every day. They won’t get swept though; not like the rest of these gutless single-A teams the NL puts out there.
Grossman, focus on bringing us a few collaborative wins, dude. You have a couple of free days. The England match isn’t until Saturday…..
Just before 8, me & Big Joe downstairs waiting for the Yanks to start. Cell phone rings. The big boy. “Where are you, dude?” “My mother-in-law’s. Where are you?” “Mother-in-law’s. What did you eat?” “Pot roast. How about you?” “Pork loin.” “I guess we’re both eating Irish food today. You going to watch the game?” “Yeah. Christopher!,” I hear him yell to his son, “Uncle Hot Dog’s on the phone. You want to say hello?” That’s me. I’m Uncle Hot Dog. And proud of it…. But apparently Christopher wasn’t interested in talking to his Uncle Hot Dog. So I continued. “Dude, apparently some kid is pitching his first game in the major leagues tonight against us.” Acc groaned. “Oh no.” Acc knows, of course, what most people know by now. The worst thing for the Yankees is to face somebody they’ve never faced before. But as I explained to Acc, there’s one major condition. He has to throw strikes. If the Yanks have never seen somebody and he can’t get the ball over, he’s a dead man. If he’s throwing strikes, he’s going to remember the night for the rest of his life. And don’t think that fact was lost on Joe Girardi, a very clever manager. Not particularly psyched that he’s taking advantage of a distinct Yankee weakness, knowing them as well as he does, but you can’t fault the guy for wanting to win. So anyway, you know the rest. The kid threw strike after strike and the Yanks did him all kinds of favors by jumping out of their shoes to swing at pitches early in the count. And we got shut out for the first time all season.
But I’m going to look on the bright side. If you told me the Yankees were going to score 2 runs in 18 innings of baseball today, I would have grimaced and prepared to take two “L’s” square in the mouth. But thanks to Mr. Mussina, we were able to pull out one of two. Like Michael Kay always likes to remind us, 80% of double headers end in a split. But the Moose, Sean’s boy, was a killer today, taking out Dontrelle Willis on a day that the Yankees simply decided they were not going to hit. And he notched his 2500th strikeout. Good stuff from an old warhorse.
Last year when I watched Ruben Sierra pop his hamstring getting a huge base hit, I prognosticated right here on BPS that night that he was going to be gone for a month. The official word was day-to-day. I have awful hammy’s, and when you truly pop it, or strain it, I know it’s brutal. He was out a month and four days. Very often players will pull them or tweak them, which is not as severe. But straining it? That’s a month. So simply out of sheer desperation, even though the official word is left hamstring strain, I will not say that about Robbie Cano, only because I don’t know that this team can bear another long-term injury to one of its all-stars. But I would be surprised if Cano is able to make his first all-star start. I hope I am making too much of this. I didn’t see the play. Turns out Big Joe, who has DIRECTV, wasn’t getting the Yankee game feed on ESPN, he was getting the White Sox. Apparently DIRECTV didn’t get the memo that the East Coast was supposed to get the Yankee feed. So I was relying on sporadic updates via text message from Acc. It never ends. They really are Baseball’s version of Job…
I had to laugh watching the White Sox game on ESPN with Big Joe. Every time they talked about the best teams in baseball, they neglected to mention the Yankees. At least now everyone is acknowledging that the National League is a full-blown joke this year, but the teams everyone wants to talk about are the Tigers, White Sox, and Red Sox. I have no issue with those teams, but I’ll leave it at this. Remember the schedule. I find it odd that people are so quick to forget that the Tigers have really only faced one test this year. They’ve played six games against the White Sox, four against the Yankees, and three against the Red Sox. Their record in those 13 games is 3-10. And all but three of those games were at home. The Tigers have proven pretty good at beating bad teams. They can not beat good teams. Somebody write this down. The Tigers will not make the playoffs. Period. They will spend the second half of the season playing thirteen more against the White Sox, who are legit, and the Angels, Rangers and A’s, who have all gotten better and will be starting their annual second half push, and more with the Yanks and Sox. That’s when you will see them start to sink. The Red Sox will be facing some of the same. The Red Sox are sitting on top of the AL East by 2 ½ games right now by virtue of their ability to beat bad teams, namely, the National League. The Red Sox are 5-8 in the month of June against teams with a winning record. Their dirty little secret is that they also have trouble beating good teams. Meanwhile, a Yankee team that has been limping around desperately the last two months has won all but two series’ in June. The debacle against the Nats and the sweep at the hands of the A’s. The Yankees beat good teams and bad, and they have kept on winning, lurking, through all of the decimation. If they can hang on until The Lion and Sheffield get back, watch out. Because right now, they are not the best team out there. If The Lion, Sheffield, Cano, Dotel, etc. come back healthy early enough, they are the best team out there. With the possible exception of the White Sox, who impress me more every day. They are, when healthy, certainly better than the Red Sox. If they can keep it close they will shoot to the top by September, just like they did last year.
It’s funny how clear the picture becomes when you realize the role the schedule plays. The Red Sox are in first. Everyone is talking about them in the AL East. They are ahead of the Yanks in everybody’s power rankings, etc. Does anybody realize that the Red Sox have yet to play the Angels, A’s, or White Sox this year? They haven’t played one single game against these teams, some of the toughest in the league. That’s going to represent 22 games for the Red Sox in the second half. That’s almost a month’s worth of work. I’ve said it before; this happens every single year. The Yanks schedule is front-loaded with what MLB considers to be the better teams (they’ve already played 12 games this year against those teams), and the Red Sox schedule is back-loaded. Every single year. Does anybody think it’s a coincidence that while the Yankees have finished first to Boston’s second for 8 straight years, they have had to overtake the Sox around the same time every year? Every year. Same story. MLB knows how to market. The Yanks finish first every year because they’re better. MLB knows this. If the schedule is even, i.e. they’re playing the same teams around the same time, the Yanks will most likely pull ahead sooner, and there is no race. This way, if the Sox have an easier schedule up front, they can pull ahead for a while and create the illusion of a race. I’d love to say it was because the Red Sox were big choke artists (that might be part of it), but it’s really not. I said the same thing in BPS last year, and it happens pretty much every year. It works. And every year people are duped. And we would be headed for the same exact thing this year. The only thing that might derail it this year is that the Yankees are suffering injury after confounding injury. But if they keep it close the Yanks will pull ahead by September, just like they always do.
I will be in section 24 with the big boy tomorrow (tonight – Monday). He gave away his tickets, but I told him to use my extra. I know he really doesn’t want to go, just because he’s lazy, but he couldn’t think of an excuse fast enough when I dropped it on him earlier today. He left himself a little window, saying he had to check with his wife. This will buy him some time tomorrow to see if he can wiggle out of it. Again, just because he’s lazy. Mrs. Acc, I know, will have no issue, and he doesn’t like to blame her, because then it might get back to her and she’ll call him out. Usually he’s kind of shameless about making up excuses, but the thing that will get him to go tomorrow is he knows I’m fresh back from Europe and haven’t been to a game in a while. Most of the time he’s good like that.
The Sox are due to lose, and we’re better than the Braves. So I like my chances to bring one back tomorrow night. And Grossman, I will be a big Met fan on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. They better not let me down. Ras, are we going to need to trade for a second baseman now or what?
“Make sure you wear these badges around your neck at all times,” said our host, Karl, in choppy but effective German-accented English. That is not a problem, I thought to myself, as I looked at the words “Skybox 2 – Hospitality Programme” printed clearly on the red badge, with the lanyard dangling from it like some sort of ID card. I was in a swarm of World Cup-frenzied soccer fans outside the stadium, most of them staring longingly at this red badge like it was worth its size and shape in solid gold. Pretty much was, I guess, as we were told the skybox seats for a Brazil game went for about 4000 Euros.
It was Thursday night, and I was being hosted at the Brazil-Japan game in Dortmund, Germany. The fans were a sight to behold. The Brazil fans were as flamboyant as any you’ll ever see. All geared up with yellow and green, wigs, banners, flags, women with yellow and green Brazil bikinis and faces and bodies painted everywhere. They were forming parades and dancing Brazilian Sambas in growing circles outside the stadium. These guys had obviously built a long tradition of rooting for their team and their country. The Japanese fans were outnumbered and overwhelmed outside of the stadium, but I think all of us were surprised once they made it inside. They were incredibly organized and unified. They started with the chants and songs early, and obviously they were all on the same page. I was sitting next to a guy from Spain and a guy from Germany, and although they were impressed with the Japanese fans’ energy, they were getting a laugh at their obvious inexperience. As soon as the ball crossed the midfield line, the Japanese fans would start going nuts. It reminded me a bit of when you see fans in a place where baseball is brand new, or newly popular. Specifically I thought of the 2002 playoffs in Anaheim when their amateur fans would start going crazy for every pop fly to the outfield, not having any idea how to judge the ball. Another example, I had to admit to my new buddies, was when the admittedly hopeless American soccer fans were packing houses to watch the Women’s World Cup in 1999. But the European fans here were not fooling around. I had watched the England/Sweden game a few nights earlier in Antwerp, and the English guys were on one side of the bar while the Swedes were on the other. The difference was stark. The Swedes clapped politely when their team scored, while the English guys almost ripped the bar stools out of the floor when they scored. And on Thursday the Japanese were louder in the minority than the practiced and heavily-favored Brazilians. They weren’t particularly creative, as most of their chants were set to old American tunes like “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin, but they were all in unison. And they almost blew the roof off the place when Japan scored first on the stunned Brazilians. I called Grossman (the only guy I could think of who would possibly give a cr*p), just to hold the phone up so he could hear the roar of the crowd. And it held up for almost the entire first half. And then it was over. Brazil just completely overpowered them, finishing off a 4-1 thumping.
Most of my nights last week followed the same pattern. My eyes would pop open around 3:30am or so, and that was it. Lots of staring at the ceiling for the next few hours. Acc was dutifully text-messaging me with Yankee scores at about 4:30am every night, so I had that to look forward to, but for the first part of the week I couldn’t buy a win. I was thinking that between Puerto Rico and Europe, the Yanks were 0-6 in my absence. Luckily they strung together a few wins after that. I got back early enough yesterday to head over to the in-laws’ pool with the Mrs. Big Joe put on the game right after we finished up some burgers and dogs, and I was able to sit down and enjoy the Yanks win their third straight.
I sat and watched the Red Sox game today on Fox HD, barely moving off the couch all day. Yawn, Big HGH summoned up all of his juiced-up, HGH-filled muscle to hit another walk-off in extra innings. What else is new.
One good bit of broadcasting from Buck and McCarver today, and one bad bit. In about the third inning, Joe Buck came right out and blurted, “The National League right now is just not good.” McCarver immediately followed, “No,” in agreement. Finally someone in the national media said it. Everybody had been pretending the emperor was wearing a new suit of clothes. Before I left last weekend, I was watching Baseball Tonight, and somebody said to Tim Kurkjian, “Tim, the American League is 12-2 today against the National League.” Kurkjian replied, “True, but I wouldn’t read anything into that.” Really, Tim? You wouldn’t read anything into that? What about now, after a week of the AL beating the snot out of the NL yet again? Are you finally convinced? What exactly would it take? Anyone who has their eyes open can see the truth, and Buck and McCarver finally got into it today. “Outside of the Mets and maybe the Cardinals if they’re healthy, there’s not a team that impresses you in the entire National League,” Buck continued. Well said, Joe. Even today as I’m sitting here the AL is 5-0 on the day.
The bad bit of broadcasting was the inability of those two guys to get past their obvious idol-worship to broadcast responsibly. All they wanted to talk about for the first five innings was how dominating Schilling was, and how he was “back,” and how he had whatever number of strikeouts. What they neglected to mention, not one single time, was that Schilling was not particularly sharp, which manifested itself in his throwing 92 pitches in the first five innings. Now, I’m not going to sit here and insult anyone’s intelligence by insinuating that I have any credibility talking about Schilling. I look at the world through Yankee-colored glasses, of course, and my opinions are going to reflect that. But in this case, I think these two guys were missing a key piece of what was happening in this game. I turned out to be right, in this instance, when Schilling loaded the bases with nobody out and coughed up the lead in the 7th. When Francona went to the bullpen, Buck remarked, almost astonished, that Schilling was at 113 pitches after six-plus innings. Atta boy, Joe. Way to be on top of that…
The Yanks are mired in a rain delay right now, and this one is going to be tough to get in. If they do get it in they’ll be playing in front of zero fans. I can’t imagine anyone is sticking around. The weather isn’t going to get any better for a while, either. It’s supposed to rain all week here in the New York area. That might mean a lot of make-up day-night double headers, which is probably a bad thing, because as Michael Kay likes to remind us, those almost end up in a split. As I’m writing, they just called it. Make-up is tomorrow.
Apologies for the lack of BPS over the last few days, boys. My access was limited. In any case, good work to everybody who propped things up with the comments. Ras, Lucky, Happymeds, Raoul (Raoul, it seems like we always see more of you when the Sox move back into first – either way I’ll take the participation), JD, Triple J, Sean, and Nick. BPS will be back in action all week.
The best news of the last few days was that The Ferocious Lion and Gary Sheffield have both gotten good doctor’s reports. That will be humongous, when those two guys get back. We just need to stay close until then, boys. Just stay close.
I guess I know how the guy felt. Many hours and thousands of miles away Ryan Zimmerman had sent me off with a genuine kick in the nuts while I was in the car headed to the airport. So this morning when I get into the cab at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, I thought was picking a safe topic of discussion. When I was in the Air France lounge at JFK, France had what looked like a comfortable lead against South Korea in their World Cup game. So as I was in a cab this morning headed to downtown Paris I asked the cabbie in my broken French, “Le France…victoire en le futbol avec Correa de Sud?” The guy turned fully around – while driving in traffic – and screamed, “Non!” Whoops. He was still looking at me, p*ssed. I was looking at the road, nervous. “Le France, un. Le Correa, un.” Then he continued to rant something about Zidane getting thrown out of the game. Good perspective-setter for me. As miserable as I was about p*ssing two wins right down the side of a mountain against a terrible NL East team, these guys are all ready to start kicking windows in courtesy of the World Cup. Although I was pretty miffed. That was almost enough to make you want to quit watching. Almost…
JD, your Azzuri were as advertised. Pampered, spoiled, babies. Soccer in general has surprised me with all of the diving and crying. Everybody rolling around on the grass with hyper-exaggerated theatrics, and then they’re fine. Aren’t those guys embarrassed at all? Honestly, it reminds me of professional wrestling at times. In baseball, which will never be held up as the standard-bearer for tough-guy sports, even the umpires refuse to rub when they get smantanticrated with a 95mph heater.
I was sitting in a café in between meetings today, checking the Blackberry. As the boys started to stumble into work back in the states, they started pelting me with e-mails scolding me for not posting yesterday. As I’m sitting here I’m low on sleep, so it’s probably going to be a bit weak. Honestly, one of the main reasons I had to get something up was to correct the headline, which is incorrectly stating that we are still on top. We are, of course, nothing of the sort.
Tomorrow I’m heading out to Holland, and then Belgium later in the day. If I can get a connection tomorrow maybe I’ll get back on the horse. If I can’t, I’ll see you when I see you. Worse case scenario, I’m back Friday. Get me some wins, boys….
“It’s 5-2 in the ninth inning with two outs, and I still don’t think they’re going to win this game!” I was in the living room yelling to the Mrs, as I was waiting for her to whip me up a cup of tea and a plate of cookies (that’s right… tea and cookies….I don’t apologize for that). The “they” I was referring to was the Minnesota Twins, because I had no faith that a cooked Joe Nathan was going to be able to prevent Ortiz and Manny from imposing their will. And as I bit into a frosted oatmeal I looked like I knew what I was talking about. “Now it’s 5-3 with 2 outs, and I still don’t think they’re going to win.” The Mrs. offered a disinterested, “No?” as she walked away with the bowl of grapes that had preceded the cookies. She couldn’t have cared less, of course, and nor should she. But she feigns interest, partly to humor me and partly to shield herself from making the critical mistake of provoking me into elaborating on whatever ridiculous thing I’m saying. The only reason I was watching the game in the first place was that she was getting ready for bed. I have limits to my madness. She sits through enough Yankee games; I wouldn’t make her sit through games that other teams in the division are playing….at least not in June, anyway…
Well Joe Nathan did come back from 2-0 to “k” Manny for the second time and get a two-inning save. So what do I know? And the Yanks remained in first despite the fact that they are playing some decidedly mediocre baseball at the moment. I was on the phone with Big Willie (aka Bronx Johnny) today, and we were talking about the Mets and the Yanks. We both agreed that there was nobody in the NL East, and perhaps the whole d*mn National League, that could catch the Mets, and we both agreed that the Red Sox are not nearly as good this year. They got a nice shot in the arm with Papelbon, but the staff has been a bit of a disappointment. Clement has been getting torched, and now there’s talk of an injury. Wells is a fat b*stard who also happens to be 40-something. Not a good combo. Wakefield, Mr. 50-50, has been very average thus far, but not too far from normal. Sometimes he’s lights out, sometimes he’s awful, and sometimes he’s in between. I think the difference for him this year has been that the offense hasn’t been there to bail him out and get him wins. Schilling has been excellent, much as I hate to admit it. Still a d*ckhead, but a d*ckhead who’s throwing the ball pretty well. Beckett has had some nice moments, but has been his same old inconsistent self. He can be dominating, but he’s not one of those guys you can hand the ball to every five days and know you’re going to be in the game. He’ll blow up on you. So what have you got? You’ve got a team that hasn’t been quite good enough to take advantage of a wounded, limping Yankee team that should probably be 5 games back right now. To somebody. And Toronto is all of one game back right now. That one’s interesting. If they stay healthy they can absolutely contend. Halladay, Chacin, Burnett, with Ryan closing. Interesting. Worth noting that the Yankees are light years ahead of them in pretty much every pitching category right now. So we’ll see. I still think the AL East will come down to this and this alone. If the Yankees are up or close by the time The Ferocious Lion and Gary Sheffield come back, they will win the division. When healthy, they have a substantially better team than the Red Sox and Blue Jays. Speaking of which, I do think both The Lion and Sheffield will be back this year. I’m not sure why everyone is insisting that The Lion might not be back. He has a three month injury. If he were to miss the season it would be a five-month injury. I just don’t see that as realistic. It’s not like he mutilated his wrist. He broke it, they operated, fixed it, and now it’s healing. Happens all the time. Give him September to find his swing, and come October he’ll be destroying people’s lives…
Not a lot to say about the game today. The gamecast was sticky, so it was tough to follow. Disappointed in the Moose, but as Sean has pointed out many times, it’s tough to pitch with no margin for error all the time. No run support, at least not until Moose was gone.
Nick, you’re scratching me right where I itch. Every time my brother-in-law comes in from L.A., I always end up at L&B. The BPS’s own Petey Goods is a believer these days as well. Guava, Level, Ras, Nick, Sean, Jason, happymeds, we’re all in agreement on Randall. Good stuff from him, stepping up for his team. Happymeds, Perez hit two bombs off Randall last year. I agree with you. Good timing. Lucky, Level, A-Rod has one big-time moment that I can think of. Besides doing everything right in the games they won in the playoffs last year, he hit that come-from behind bomb to beat Schilling in the 9th at Fenway last year after Sheffield put one off the monster. That was big-time stuff. One or two more of those and you start to get the makings of a reel.
Interleague. The Nationals. The Yanks can beat these guys. Soriano will hit 7 bombs in the series, but the Yanks will win. I’m sure of it.
“Did you ever notice that A-Rod swings and misses a lot?” I was sitting in Tony Sherry’s apartment glancing at the menu from Tony’s Pizza on Bay Street in Staten Island. “It’s true, now that I think about it,” he said. “Have you ever tried the white clam sauce pie from this place? It’s fun-taculous.” “Let’s do it,” I said. I had gotten in from Toronto about an hour before, and I knew the Mrs. was at dinner with her teacher-friends, Janine and Allison. Tony’s wife was out of town. He called me as I was in the cab from LaGuardia. I went right over. Now we were deciding what kind of hero to get with the white clam sauce brick-oven pie. “Dude, we need to get ‘the Sofia’.” It dawned on me that I hadn’t eaten anything since my Tim Horton’s Canadian Maple donut this morning. “Okay by me.” Tony was on board for whatever. Didn’t hurt that he had already polished off a bowl of soup while he was waiting to order. “Dude, you should put something in the blog tonight about A-Rod and how people are booing him. They were talking about it all day on the radio today.” I always get a kick out of Tony Sherry. The kid reads the BPS about as often as he reads the Financial Times of London.
I was sprinkling some red pepper flakes on my half of “the Sofia” (chicken cutlet, roasted peppers, mozzarella, garlic and oil) as Bernie came up with two outs and A-Rod on third. I think I spit a roasted pepper about ten feet when he put one off the wall. Bernabe Williams, Jr. You can’t say enough about that guy. We would be completely hosed if he wasn’t around in the absence of The Ferocious Lion and Sheffield. I think it’s even helped him. I think it gives him a little juice to be in the middle of everything. I think he was a little lost when he was hitting at the bottom of the order (imagine that – when our team is healthy Bernie would probably hit ninth). In any case, when Andy Phillips went yard it was time to celebrate with another slice of white-clam sauce pizza.
The Posada incident came shortly thereafter. Let me list for you the problems I have with that exchange. Zero. I thought it was just what the team needed, actually. Jim Kaat immediately questioned Posada’s jawing with the pitcher Jason Johnson, and he and Michael Kay harped on it again when Randall got tossed. Jim Kaat, who is an excellent broadcaster, is, I think, sometimes too cerebral for his own good. It’s not often that it’s going to make sense in the context of a game to allow a runner to reach base, often early in an inning, often with one or no outs. So very often Jim Kaat, and many other broadcasters, forget that this is a team game, and there are 162 games to play. Sometimes you have to put the team before the game. Sometimes.
I’m not a lip reader, so I don’t know what Posada was saying to Jason Johnson. But immediately Kaat assumed Posada was yelling at him because he thought he hit him on purpose. Maybe, but who knows? It’s entirely possible that Posada was yelling something to the effect of – “Don’t try and come inside if you’re not getting your pitches over. You’re gonna hurt somebody that way”. In other words, he might not have thought he hit him on purpose, but after watching him knock down Jeter twice and then get hit himself, he was fed up. Nobody likes to get hit. Jeter and Giambi just missed a few games because of it. Jeter wasn’t right for over a week. If a pitcher is recklessly trying to pitch inside in a genuine effort to get guys out when he knows he’s having trouble locating, then it’s true. He might hurt somebody. Does that mean that the pitcher should stop trying to come inside? No, not necessarily. He’s still going to try and get guys out. But you can understand why players would be annoyed by it. And just like the pitchers have a right to come inside, a guy has a right to call you out if you can’t locate your pitches and yet you start throwing up and in. So to sum that up, I have no issue with what either guy did. So they get warnings. I don’t love that rule either. I don’t think anyone does.
I loved what happened next. Randall put one high and tight to Eduardo Perez, sending him sprawling to the ground. Phenomenal. Watching Randall stand up and fire a cannon shot on behalf of his teammate was a thing of beauty. Camaraderie worth a thousand high fives or pats on the back. And from a guy who supposedly didn’t get along with Posada. That was a big moment for this team. Kaat blamed Posada’s earlier “overreaction” for forcing Randall to retaliate, and continued to harp on the whole incident. All of this while Yankee fans stood and roared their approval, their appreciation that one teammate was sticking his ugly, super-long neck out for another. Michael Kay alertly brought up the fact that this team had been criticized for refusing to come inside at all, and rightfully so. Time and again we have watched Jeter get plunked and plunked and plunked (see: Boston Red Sox), while the Yankees just keep rolling merrily along. This was a real shift in modus operandi. Maybe they learned something from Mo in the Boston series a few weeks ago. Either way, check the box next to “approve” for me. And put Vino in that column as well, based on his comment yesterday.
Worth noting that this was the very first time mlblogs chief Mark Newman has stopped by the BPS with a comment. Welcome, Mark. And just as a reminder – we’re the current holders of the “best community blog” award on mlblogs, and we still have the best community.
Levelboss and happymeds made a good point. Wang deserves some all-star consideration. We’ll see how Ozzie feels. Ras, JD, did you guys get to watch this game? The ESPN game was blacked out here in NY, but I think it was the Mets. Speaking of the Mets, Grossman, nobody is catching them. They are in preparation-for-the-playoffs-mode starting now. Word of advice – find a way to rest Pedro and Glavine. They aren’t going to last until October otherwise. Rocco/Nick – not a bad night for the Unit, no? I’ll take it even if he starts throwing up a lights-out start every other start. Funny that he has as many wins as Sean’s boy, the Moose. Lucky, I’ve done the LA- San Diego drive in 1 hour, and I’ve done it in 3 ½ hours. That traffic is fascinating.
Sole possession of first place, after the week we’ve had. I will take it, take it, take it. Seanny, un-cage your boy!
I’m sitting in a hotel room in Toronto at the moment. I was watching the Blue Jays beating up on the O’s, Halladay dealing all night. After the game, they cut to bonus coverage of the Yankees game. Farnsworth was on the mound with a man on second. Instant heart attack. Then I saw that there were two out. Nice. He got him with a good hard stuff. Then I was pleasantly surprised when the good people at Rogers Sportsnet went back to the Blue Jays announcers for interviews, etc., and then went back to the Yankee game for the bottom of the eighth! Without ever cutting to a commercial! That was truly unbelievable. Not only do the Yankees (and all US) broadcasts jam a million commercials into the games, but they also throw a million “in-game” commercials in there. “Great play by Jeter. Your tri-state Ford dealers remind you that they have great deals…..” It’s pure torture. And forget about the post-game shows. Those are nothing but commercials. Probably 75% of the post-game show is commercials. After the 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth I called Acc. He didn’t even begin with “hello”. “When is A-Rod going to get going, bro?” “I don’t know, dude. But he’s starting to look real frazzled out there.” It’s true. It’s got to be getting to him.
What can you say? It was fashionable over the last month or so to say how silly the national media, NY media, and Yankee fans have been for thinking that A-Rod is never clutch. How can you put up those kinds of numbers without having any clutch hits, they said. How can those ridiculous pundits believe that this guy hasn’t been just as clutch as anyone else, they said. I don’t really have a good answer. They have a point, but so does the other side. Watch the games. Believe me; nobody wants to root for him more than Yankee fans. Yankee fans would love nothing more than to embrace the guy and put him right up on a pedestal with the other Yankee heroes. I can tell you that there are no Yankee fans out there looking for reasons to be down on somebody, particularly a superstar. The truth, if you watch the games, is that he just isn’t the guy you want up with the game on the line. It isn’t as bad as people are making are making it out to be. But once it gets in peoples heads, its hard t get it out. We’re big law of averages people here at BPS, as most of the crew knows. So I think there is an element of bad luck to go along with this. We’ve seen it. In the extra-inning Met game, A-Rod smashed a ball against Glavine with the bases juiced. All Cliff Floyd could do was jump up and stick his glove in the air. He couldn’t have hit it any harder, and Floyd would probably be the first one to tell you that if it were one foot to the right or left, he never would have made the play. It would have cleared the bases and probably put the game out of reach. Instead, third out. The Yanks eventually lost in extras. Sooner or later, he’s going to get a break on one of those. But there are problems. For one, he seems to swing and miss a lot. Not foul balls off, not hit weak balls, but swing and miss. That hurts him. Strikeouts are killers.
But tonight, Wang was the guy. Still a pathetic, lifeless offense, but Wang did just what you need him to do when you only score one run. You hold them to zero runs. Not the first time he’s done that either. Farnsworth and Mo deserve some credit too. And Cano, of course. As we said last week, Jeter has this pattern of getting hurt, playing hurt, not playing well while he’s hurt, and then finally snapping out of it. Guavapaste touched on it with his comment yesterday. I think the fact that he didn’t play the field for a while tells you how his wrist was really feeling. Hopefully his two hits tonight are a sign that he’s ready to play again. I didn’t even realize Giambi was hurt again while I was away. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Melky, Thompson, and Phillips all in the lineup in the same time is one kid too many, as far as I’m concerned. Maybe it’s me.
As I’m typing, Boston has taken the lead against Minnesota in the top of the 12th. Shocking. I’ll say this about Boston. I can’t even begin to count the number of times in the last few years that they pulled out a win after the Yankees had already won a game that would have put them in at least a tie for first. They have a “desperation gear” that they kick into, I guess. But they still always finish second when all is said and done.
Umair, JD, nice town you have here. Happymeds, has ESPN banished Gammons to “sideline duty” at the Sunday Night games? You don’t see him on Baseball Tonight these days. Rocco, finally a game worth staying up for. It must be about 150 degrees in the sandbox by now. Lucky, the sound you heard tonight was George agreeing to give Howard Rubenstein one more day before he releases the statement that they have probably already prepared. Vino, the wedding was most likely an excuse to belly-up to the craps table. Nick, I would like nothing more than to spank the Tribe with one collective BPS backhand. Ras, what do you think? Do we make a move? Pitcher or outfielder?
Grossman, what’s up with the US soccer team? I wasn’t prepared for that kind of humiliation…
Two more against the Tribe before “interleague month”. I’d love to make them count. Well look at that… Just as I’m about to sign off, Jason Kubel hits a grand salami to win it for Minnesota. Beautiful. Things are looking up. Welcome back to first place, boys.