Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ugly Betty

Game 25 - Mets

Mets 5, Pirates 4 (11 inn.)

Record: 14-11


Well, that took a little more doing than it needed. This game was in hand, it was just that nobody told the Mets that. Or the Pirates. Or Hunter Wendelstedt. Ugly baseball plays and calls marred this game, but to sound like Hawk Harrelson, the good guys came out on top.

Johan Santana continued his early season-pattern, one of relative dominance except for a few walks, high pitch counts, and some outing-sullying long balls. No matter. The Mets were set to blow open the game after Freddy Sanchez ripped a tailor-made double play to shreds. Bases loaded, 3-2 count on Ryan Church, and the Bucs pitcher threw one well -- well -- into the right-side batter's box. Strike Three called. Inexplicable. That, of course, brought up the talk radio topic of the hour, Carlos Delgado, who naturally fanned.

Hunter Wendelstedt, or as he's known around the bigs, Mr. Wendel, has the freedom to make such lousy calls -- a freedom that you and I think is dumb. Free to be without the worries of a quick-to-diss society, for Mr. Wendel's a bum.

Mr. Wendel helped us out right back, however, later on when he turned a "safe at home" into an "out at home" for the Pirates. Close play; Gary Cohen deferred to the man in blue, I did not. Thanks, Mr. Wendel. I never thought twice about spending on an old bum until I had the chance to really get to know one.

Duaner Sanchez had thrown a series of very tidy innings up until last night. That he dirtied up his impeccable record nearly cost the Mets the game, but it was bound to happen, and that Sanchez muscled up and got out of it with but one run permitted was actually very nice to see. I continue to be a very big fan (above the belt, Rob might chime in) of Duaner's.

Enter Wagner. Enter Sandman. Enter the Dragon of all save situations, the error on the first play of the 9th inning. Jose Reyes was calm, cool, composed . . . and about two steps late as he scooped up the grounder in the hole, so to compensate he fired the ball somewhere in the direction of Delgado's cleats. Like the office of beat writers for The Virginia Gazette, there aren't too many big scoops happening there. Wild pitch and a single later, game tied. Unfortunate for Wags, but again -- he responded. Good to see.

And then, predictably, our hero and savior David Wright knocked in the game-winner in the 11th. And we can breathe easy, having not botched one of the 35 gonna-win games.

The Return of the Native

Game 28 - Red Sox

Red Sox 1, Blue Jays 0
Record: 16-12

In order, the biggest reasons why the Red Sox won last night:

1. Jon Lester got tired of being the object of hand-wringing doubt and learned, if only for one night, that strikes are neat and pitchcounts, like golf scores, are best when they're low.

2. Dustin Pedroia flung his wee body around with absolute disregard for his own safety.

3. Kevin Youkilis took advantage of Roy Halladay's really hard luck (4 consecutive complete games with only one win to show for it) and doinked a clutch single to center (see #5 for the rest of the story).

4. Jonathan Papelbon awoke from his week-long slumber and (with Pedroia's notable help) dispatched the Jays in the 9th.

5. David Ortiz scared the ever-lovin' strike zone out of Halladay to draw a walk, moved to second on a single by Manny Ramirez, then so scared Vernon Wells for Gregg Zaun's safety that the Jays' centerfielder dropped Youkilis' single rather than be responsible for killing his teammate on a play at the plate. Mercy buckets, Vernon.

The greatest of these, then, is Lester's response to the wailing of the masses. Close to being relegated to afterthought behind Clay Buchholz and Justin Masterson, and surely worried about the comparison with the rest of rotation's recent outings (of considerable note, Sox starters over the last 5 games have put up 35 innings of 1.80 ERA and 0.91 WHIP, striking out 33 and allowing only 16 hits - and lost 4 of the 5.) Lester once again flashed his sizable potential. (Of equally considerable note, I've seen a quite different Lester flash, and sizable is not a word we'd generally choose to characterize his "potential".) This should serve to keep the wolves at bay in the hyper-critical Nation for at least 5 days.

And, ahem, Mr. Matsuzaka and the afore-maligned Red Sox offense, we'll be watching tonight.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What's Eating Gilbert Grape?

Games 22 through 26 - Phillies

Brew Crew 5, Phils 4
Phils 3, Brew Crew 1
Phils 6, Buccos 5
Phils 8, Buccos 4
Buccos 5, Phils 1

Record 14 wins, 12 losses

Well, it didn't happen until games 23, 24 and 25 but the Phils finally strung together more than 2 consecutive wins for the first time this season. I am not certain but I am comfortable positing anyway, that in order to finish ahead of everyone else, you need to have several streaks of 5 or more wins. That is what gives a team the 20 or 22 game cushion between 91 or 92 wins and 71 or 70 losses. In most years, that record puts you in the money. Of course, last year - the year of the outlier which gave us the improbable September runs by the Phils and Rocks - threw such convention out the window.

Fact is, the team is starting to play like a division favorite. They went on the road and took a two game series from last year's party poopers, the Rockies and then split with every one's perennial team on the cusp - Milwaukee. Finally, as the order of the universe dictates, the Phils took 2 of 3 from their Keystone brethren in baseball's best (new) park, PNC.

The flip side to this good feeling about the week that was is that something is amiss with Brett Myers. Seems he's lost velocity and is now throwing his fastball in the mid- to high-80s which makes it barely distinguishable from his off-speed stuff. Brett leads all major league pitchers with 10 home runs surrendered. In fairness, he is a power/flyball pitcher toiling away in a park with Pony League dimensions but there is no doubt he isn't blowing anyone away at this point. Apparently, the big dispute is whether Brett should participate it the "long toss" which sounds more like a church picnic event than a legitimate major league pitcher's maintenance workout. Brett says it's unnecessary while pitching coach Rich Dubee disagrees. There seems to be some issue with workout routines now that he is back again as a starter. Whatever the case, Brett must return to form if there is any chance the Phils could repeat as NL East Division champions.

On the injury front, Victorino and Rollins are returning soon which will hopefully make this offense truly offensive. The way these cats swing, they need the top of the order on base to force pitchers to throw strikes because the good Lord knows, they'll be hacking regardless of pitch location.

With April almost in the books, the Phils will finish with at least a .500 record for the first time since '03. Given the injuries and slow start out of the gate from their division rivals, that's acceptable.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Dark Knight Returns

Game 27 - Red Sox

Rays 3, Red Sox 0
Record: 15-12

In the words of the immortal Jack Nicholson, this (team) needs an enema. Or a day off. If I didn't know better, I'd say that the Sox appear for all the world like a team that just played 20 games in 20 days.

As noted elsewhere in my limited interwebby travels, the Justice League of Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett put together a spectacular 15 IP, 7H, 3ER, 22K, 3BB combined line Saturday and Sunday, and were rewarded with 1 run of offense on 7 hits and a pair of hard losses. The offense, she has come a cropper, with J.D. Drew's early-season Superman replaced by his mild-mannered doppleganger, David Ortiz down with a bruised knee, and the Wonder Twins at the top of the lineup suddenly taking the form of Kevin Cash, who had way too many at-bats in Jason Varitek's absence over the past week. Meanwhile, Professor Xavier couldn't find a way to get Wolverine out of the pen in consecutive one-run losses to the Rays, meaning that Jonathan Papelbon will enter Tuesday's game with the Blue Jays having not unfurled his adamantium claws for 7 full days.

And yet, here I sit calmly rationalizing the current 5-game losing skid - too tired, too sick, too unlucky, long season, lotta ball left. That's a superpower I didn't know I possessed. I'm just hoping a game against Roy Halladay isn't my personal kryptonite, 'cause this happy-go-lucky Alfred E. Neumann routine is wearing thin.

Step By Step

Games 20 through 24 - Mets

Mets 7, Nationals 2

Nationals 10, Mets 5

Braves 6, Mets 3

Mets 4, Braves 3

Mets 6, Braves 3

Record: 13-11


Yep, 13-11.

We'll save further holistic analysis for the upcoming 25-Game Check-Up, but it's a rather pedestrian pair of numbers for a ballclub slated for postseason contention. Fortunately, we're comforted by the Phillies and Braves taking it slowly in this initial chapter of the season, too. And with teams like the Marlins, White Sox, Rays, and Orioles still somehow in 1st place . . . well, it's obviously still early and things are pretty damn goofy in baseball right now.

The Nats, as requested, look exactly like balm I asked for in the first of the two games -- and for the first part of the second game as well. Somewhere between Oliver Perez's one-man interpretation of Into the Wild and Aaron Heilman conducting T-ball practice yet again, things went sour. Last year's skim kind of sour.

Heilman and Jorge Sosa have really come on like gang-busters lately. Give us your tired, your poor, your glove men, your slap hitters, your career sub-.600-OPSers, your power-deprived, your middle infielders, your utility players, the wretched refuse of the bottom of the lineup. Baltimore Specials and Grand Salamis will be issued out like BLT's at a lunch-counter. Order up!

But taking two of three from the Atlanta Braves will nearly always satisfy. Doing so against Tim Hudson and John Smoltz -- and limiting them to a combined seven innings -- is even more gratifying. The Bravos and the Phils have suffered some fairly deleterious injuries thus far, keeping their progress in check and legions of redneck/cheeseball fans waiting. We'll take the modicum of success we've had against those two teams so far every time.

Things aren't perfect; Jose Reyes is batting a whopping .237, Beltran is seriously scuffling, Brian Schneider was hospitalized, and the aforementioned pair of agitators-- uh, I mean "relievers"-- raise the levels of angst amid the Township all too frequently. But things seem a little better than 13-11.

Maybe it's because Carlos Delgado had the kind of day yesterday that makes a man forget all about Roberto Alomar. That may only last a day or two, but it's such a pleasant cleansing of the mind, isn't it?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Angels & Demons

Games 25 & 26 - Red Sox

Rays 5, Red Sox 4 (11)

Rays 2, Red Sox 1

Record: 15-11


Well, well, baseball deity, you think you're quite clever, dontcha? In the words of one our greatest living senile sportscasters, "Not so fast, my friend." Or, to appropriate a more closely aligned phrase, "I say 'Fuck You, Jobu', I do it myself". In other words, it'll take more than a little flu and injury-fueled losing skid to get me off this team.

Though it'd be nice if Josh Beckett stems this little rough patch in advance of the Sox' first day off in nearly a month.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Hot Zone

Games 23 & 24 - Red Sox

Angels 6, Red Sox 4

Angels 5, Red Sox 3 (in progress)

Record: 15-8 (9?)


Yes, well, that was predictable, wasn't it. I still love 'em, even if I wouldn't go anywhere near 'em right now, what with the Bubonic Plague ravaging the locker room. Jason Varitek's had a temperature over 101 for 6 days, Josh Beckett was so flu-ridden that he hurt his neck trying to chug a bottle of Benadryl, and Daisuke Matsuzaka missed a start because of the damned bug.

As a result of the various ailing cogs, Jon Lester had to move up a day and AA sinkerballer Justin Masterson got to make his major league debut today in a emergency role. Guess which of the two pitched lights out?

Shame for Masterson, as the bullpen's gone and turned his 6 inning, 2-hit, 1-run effort into a pile of gold-plated shit, thanks to a healthy Javier Lopez' inability to get an out. The net of which was to require the flu-ridden Manny Delcarmen to come into the game and share Lopez' fate. That Hideki Okajima just got out of a bases loaded, no-out situation with no runs is small comfort.

And still, even with a second consecutive loss, the Sox are out of the gate far faster than I'd have predicted looking at their March-April skeddy. They've also got this cute little habit of winning games they shouldn't, so I suppose I'll keep watching this one for a few more minutes.

Oh, and Teejay? I'm the one that works blue here, mmmkay?

A vacation from my problems! You bet I will!

Games 11-22 - Yankees

Yankees 4, Red Sox 1
Red Sox 4, Yankees 3
Red Sox 8, Yankees 5
Yankees 8, Devil Rays 7
Yankees 5, Devil Rays 3
Yankees 15, Red Sox 9
Red Sox 7, Yankees 5
Orioles 8, Yankees 2
Orioles 6, Yankees 0
Yankees 7, Orioles 1
Yankees 9, White Sox 5
Yankees 6, White Sox 4

Record: 12-10


"Hi. I'm Bob. Would you knock me out, please? Just hit me in the face."

Who missed me? My guess is absolutely no one. You've seen mea culpas and excuses from Whit and Nick in the last few days...I have none of those. I've been hanging with world leaders, vacationing on the Gulf-side of America's Wang and generally ignoring this site like it has herpes simplex 10. My Yankees have played 12 games since last you saw me, and guess what, the consistently inconsistent play continues (they're 6-6 since last I logged into Mediocrity Loves Company). 12-10, eh boys? Nice work. You're costing me tons of beer losing to our Lilliputian Red Sox fan, and you're getting worked over by the Orioles? Simply atrocious.

But hey, at least there will be no tooth decay in the locker room. Coach Joe, I'm thinking treating a veteran group like kindergartners ain't the best move, but what do I know?

"Baby step to four o'clock. Baby step to four o'clock."

The Chairman and Captain HGH are 7-1 I believe...the rest of the rotation, 2-8. The kids (Kennedy and Hughes) have ZERO wins. Hank Steinbrenner (seriously, I have neither the time nor the energy to address Hank today) thinks Mike Mussina should try to emulate Lazarus Moyer, which, surprisingly, actually did occur last night vs. the White Sox. LaTroy Hawkins is LaAwful. Kyle Farnsworth gives me the hives. Thank god for the vaudeville team of Joba and Mo. And Brian Bruney hasn't made me want to kill any puppies...yet.

[Random aside - today is apparently "Bring Your Kids to Work Day". I guess that means the Jack In The Box in Elkhart, IN currently employing Shawn Kemp has 7 extra fry cooks today.]

"...baby steps get on the elevator... baby steps get on the elevator... Ah, I'm on the elevator."

Harro? Hideki Matsui has a fantastic .429 OBP. Alex Rodriguez is who we thought he was...it is April after all folks. Derek Jeter has started slowly, but still pulls more ass than a toilet seat, but not necessarily more than Nate Dogg (anyone sick of my shameless self-linking yet? Admit it Nick, you're sad you don't have some other goofy blog to link to). Bobby Abreu doesn't have to worry about any girlfriends banging dudes on reality shows these days, so he seems to be in a comfort zone. HOWEVAH, Jason Giambi, can I talk to you for a second? Jason, do you realize you're hitting .135 on the year? No, well, pay closer attention, because that is the worst average of any guy qualifying in the American League. You suck balls pal.

Rack me, I'm out.
Wait, I hate that fucker Jim Rome, I can't end like that.

Seacrest Out.
Wait, I hate that pillow biter Ryan Seacrest, I can't end like that.

C U Next Tuesday? Yep, that works for me.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Games 17 through 21

(Don't ask me for scores - you have a computer, use it.)
  • Phils lose to the Mess
  • Phils lose to the Mess
  • Phils eek out a win over the Mess on Sunday Night Baseball hopefully reinforcing in the mind of the casual fan that the Phils still own the Mess.
  • Phils come from behind late to beat the Rockies
  • Phils come from behind late to beat the Rockies again. (No consolation to assuage the humiliation from last year's NLDS sweep.)
Record: yawnnnnnnnnn 11 up, 10 down. Tied with the aforementioned Mess for 2nd.

It's been about five days since I have opined and in that time, not much has changed at all. I think I could conceivably type this line over and over until August which is historically the time this club starts to win more frequently than lose. No matter though, my public demands my artfully crafted insights into the brand of baseball played at the nexus of Pattison and Broad Sts. in lovely South Philly.

Oh, the picture? I am actually using my home laptop to blog today instead of my work machine. Not out of guilt mind you. Pure necessity. Wifey's getting close to go time and she wanted me around today because she might be feeling something. Turns out it was a false alarm but I got to stay home. I keep the goofy Phillies logo on my work PC. I am too lazy to go find it especially since it's pathetic to begin with. OK, I hate to admit it but classic uniforms begin and end with the Yanks and Red Sox home unis. The Mess recent pimping out of their caps to black mar an otherwise sharp look. There is nothing classy or cool about the Phils logo and uniform. I hate uploading that shitty picture every time I post. What you see up there now is a photograph of my most public, of many, humiliations. Last year, my wife guilted me into disco dancing at my daughter's dance recital with other similarly gelded dads. The enormous joy my daughter sensed was countered by my son's profound disappointment. Oh well, he was bound to find out one day.

Wow, that's one hell of a digression.

The 2008 Phils are peculiarly similar to the recent years' editions. They score in bunches but are prone to going 2 or 3 games with less than 3 runs scored. The pen is admirably holding up. The starters are at times brilliant, mostly solid and occasionally putrid. The manager is continually flummoxed. The fans are patiently biding their time waiting for Saturday's NFL draft where they will probably display their genius by booing a future Hall of Fame pick. While I am on the topic of Philly fans, nowhere are fans as passionate about a football team that has rewarded them so little as these idiots. I am galled that 50% of the typical Citizen's Bank crowd comes from the cretins who cheer E-A-G-L-E-S by the 3rd inning but I do enjoy the fact that they are paying customers. Conversely, Steelers fans don't waste their hard earned cash on $7 Arns while watching the Buccos. At least they are honest about their indifference to baseball. It's a deranged commonwealth, my home state. Perhaps there is a grain of truth to Barack's generalization. I think he misspoke. He meant to say they cling to their Eagles and Stillers. But they are bitter, not doubt.

Back to the state of the Phillies - point is, they are eerily similar to editions past. Some of the parts have changed. Rollins has already missed more games this year than he has his entire career to date. So Taguchi and Jayson Werth are everyday players replacing Aaron Rowand (nice move Sabean) and Shane Victorino but still this club marches on as if nothing has changed.

I suppose that while I am not likely to be as effusively in love with this team as Rob is with his Sox, I do appreciate that they are a fairly decent collection of players who despite their lack of baseball instinct (Utley not included) are nevertheless gutty and persistent. The names have changed but so far, the results are the same.

Out.

P.S. I Love You

Games 20 through 22 - Red Sox
Red Sox 6, Rangers 5
Red Sox 8, Rangers 3
Red Sox 7, Angels 6
Record: 15-7

(Note: several passages in the following text will probably make male readers uncomfortable in places they don't like to talk about at sports bars. It's metaphorical, dummies.)

There's a powerful appeal to the early stages of a relationship, when all is uncertain and heady, the thrill of the new and unknown driving away any doubts, obscuring rationality in the service of possibility. And in the tradition of the Baseball Poets, while I'm talking about women and men (our less traditional readers may feel free insert their own gender-on-gender preference here), the same holds true for baseball seasons.

While I know that first blush of passion doesn't last (note to my wife: instead, it can turn into a much deeper and fulfulling thing), the shine and spark replaced by the routine, that recognition does nothing to diminish the captivating power of new romance. And so, dear friends, I stand before you today in love with the 2008 Boston Red Sox. I say this with full knowledge of the potential perils of the long season, of the real potential for this team to falter in the face of baseball's infinite randomness, and of the idiocy of such an obviously premature proclamation.

But I just can't help myself. This team is winning pretty with speed and grace and power. They're winning ugly with grit and guile and luck. They're playing great defense (Mr. Lugo notwithstanding), stitching together improbable relief performances, hitting the ball from top to bottom, and interspersing it all with occasional otherworldly dominance (Messrs. Ramirez and Papelbon, of note). The Sox are getting critical contributions and lift from players young (Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia were 7-for-10 last night with 2 HR and 3 doubles, Kevin Youkilis has turned into one of the league's great clutch hitters, Clay Buchholz has been good to great in all but one start, and Papelbon, well, gracious), old (Jason Varitek has shut me up, Ramirez is ablaze - even for him, Tim Wakefield continues to soldier on), and everywhere in between (Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, J.D. Drew, Sean Casey, crazy Julian Tavarez, and even David Aardsma have played key roles already). And I haven't even mentioned the rolling carnival of joy wearing number 34.

Pedroia, Ellsbury, Buchholz, Manny Delcarmen, Jon Lester, and even Jed Lowrie - all products of the once-barren farm system - give hope for the present and the future, not only producing on the field, but doing it with both flair and a commitment to fundamental prowess that bespeaks the hard work done by the front office in the name of total organizational excellence.

This team is good in a great number of ways, and despite the backlash-happy zeitgeist and its rote contrarianism, its roster is peopled by a bunch of likable, silly, loose guys. I'm really just giddy like a schoolgirl and I don't care who knows it. I'm like Jerry Maguire screaming to Rod Tidwell, only the script has changed slightly. I'm like the father at the end of Heathers, proudly announcing, "I love my dead gay son", only the object of my affection is neither dead, gay (jury's out on Lugo, I suppose), nor related to me.

I say all this in full knowledge that my words are likely to catalyze a 7-game losing streak and a handful of thuggery-related criminal charges. And I'd still love these guys.

[Repeat]

Game 19 - Mets

Cubs 8, Mets 1
Record: 10-9

Well, on the plus side, I don't have to dig very deep to come up with my half-witted analysis as to why the Mets were embarrassed again. This game was as close to a carbon copy of its predecessor as consecutive baseball games get. Dammit.

Silent Metbats? Check. (For the uninitiated, Ted Lilly is no Carlos Zambrano, though he may be Victor Zambrano.)

Shoddy defense? Check. (No errors in the box score is a generosity of some note.)

Bullpen implosion? Checkmate. (Uh . . . wow.)

Once again the Mets found themselves on the ass end of a slim margin entering the late innings. Once again the final tally was a whacking. Once again reliever extraordinaire Jorge Sosa served some balled-up ground beef, this time a grand slam to the uber-slugging shortstop Ronny "Roger" Cedeno (lifetime slugging percentage: .357). On the plus side, Cubs fans again have a Sosa to cheer mightily for; on the minus side . . . yeah, you probably can figure that part out.

Worth mentioning is Carlos Delgado's free-fall into . . . dare I say it . . . oh, man, do I actually mean this? . . . fine, I'll say it . . . Robby Alomar Territory. True, the Mets got a decent (not All-Star) year out of Delgado, whereas the bait-and-switch began immediately with Mallomar. But considering Delgado's glove, or the cast-iron woodchuck trap he calls one, the comparisons aren't ludicrous. Where an inordinate amount of ability becomes liability, that's the crossroads where the Mets acquire guys.

It's the type of thing to drive a GM to drink. As fans, we're miles past that.

I'm not sure what these two-game series are all about, but swapping out two more games at Wrigley for a pair at Nationals Stadium right now is a blessing. On the Mets' worst days, they're infinitely more talented (and actually perform better) than the Nats. We've just seen the Mets' worst days, I pray, so let the Nats be a balm for what's burning the Metropolitans' hind quarters.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Prison Break

Game 18 - Mets

Cubs 7, Mets 1

Record: 10-8


Aaron Heilman, what you're doing with slim leads . . . I'm not seeing it.

If you merely scanned the scores from last night, you might figure that this was one of the 30 or 35 oft-referenced, predetermined losses, a laugher lost to a good club. And you'd be wrong. This was a tight 2-1 contest through 7 1/2, one featuring top-shelf starters throwing well, minimizing damage and leaving their fates in the hands of their respective relief corps. That last phrase contains the rub, though. Carlos Zambrano enlisted members of Kelly's Heroes or The Dirty Dozen to see it through. John Maine handed it over to the soldiers from F Troop and In the Army Now, and they proceeded to wease the juice right out of this game.

Herr Heilman sends big thanks out to Err Reyes for booting a grounder to open the bottom of the 8th. The way Heilman's been going, you just knew that would come back to kick us in the groin. And though he battled just about each hitter he faced, Heilman retired just two of the next five Cubs, so the score was 4-1 instead of 2-1. 9th inning dramatics seemed to drift from the Mets' reach.

Enter Jorge Sosa, fade to black. He faced pinch-hitter Felix "Unger for a" Pie. (Author's Note: I recognize that his name is not pronounced like "pie"; I intended to go with the more original Felix "Pittsburgh" Pie, but it was deep enough that my editors overruled me and went for that terrible gag. My apologies.) Anyway, Sosa served one up to the scrawny, .143-hitting, no-pop Pie. 7-1 just like that. Well executed, 'pen.

In truth, the Metbats didn't help the cause, scratching but one run across on a GIDP in the 6th. Zambrano was tough, David Wright looked abundantly human, Raul Casanova was a lover of inside pitches on 3-ball counts, and it just wasn't the Mets' night.

But the bullpen needs to chill. Grab some Z's, mack on some grindage, maybe get some fresh nugs, and get after it tonight, bud-dies. Don't make me talk Pauly to you any more, it's very annoying for everyone.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Without a Trace

Games 8 through 17 - Mets

Mets 4, Phillies 3
Mets 4, Brewers 2
Brewers 5, Mets 3
Brewers 9, Mets 7
Mets 6, Nationals 0
Mets 5, Nationals 2
Mets 3, Nationals 2
Mets 6, Phillies 4
Mets 4, Phillies 2
Phillies 5, Mets 4
Record: 10-7

Hi there. Remember me?

Not sure exactly how it happened, but I spent the last 10 days away from MLC, save a quick visit here and there to keep up with doings in Red Sox Nation. Somehow a perfect storm of work, family time, friends in town, jaunts out on the town, episodes stressful and blissful, poker, darts, chores, and [insert other lame excuses here] created enough blogging inertia where I ignored you people like weirdos at the airport. My apologies. Won't happen again, at least any time soon.

While I walked away from my duties as MLC cornerstone, I didn't ignore the Metropolitans. I caught between a few innings and every pitch of nearly every game, and I'm utterly rife with analysis on this ballclub.

So what to make of the New York Mets now? Beats me.

Seems like things are going just a touch short of ideally in the Township these days. Let's start with the good, and there's a fair bit. Dee-Dub and Reyes are generally doing what superstar idols do. Sure, Dave flirted with the yips for a few games, and Jose seems to be buying into "Thou shalt not steal" more than we'd like and remaining decidedly not down with OBP. But Reyes' exuberance seems to have returned, and David Wright seems poised to will this team to wins.

In less predictable and therefore more pleasant successes, the ex-Nats the Mets got for Lastings Milledge are producing in the early going. Hey, we can't help but keep a comparative eye on Milledge and wonder if we got a good deal. 'Stings has a decent if unspectacular OPS and that same sizable upside. Meanwhile, Schneider & Church have managed to rap out a number of timely hits and look good doing it. Schneider got dinged up and has slightly less power than a Richard Marx song, but a .308 BA (and SLG, natch) so far to go along with his catching skills is gravy. Church is eminently likeable (you don't hear that much in the modern era) and could be a fan fave.

Angel Pagan -- more than just a name ripe for sacrilegious jokes. Too early to start thinking silly thoughts like whether we want Alou back quite so soon, but I'm thinkin' 'em.

Luis Castillo -- dear Lord, you're overpaid, sir. You flail that bat like you're Luke Skywalker with a light sabre battling that robot ball on the Millennium Falcon, except less athletic. In softball we'd occasionally play one of our outfielders as the "short-fielder," roaming somewhere between SS and left-center; he's the guy who catches the gorks, bloops, and dinks hit by nancy-boys and flair-wearers who can't clear the fence. Other teams need to seriously consider this possibility against Castillo.

Sorry, I quickly leapt from the good to the bad. I had intended to praise the starters on the whole, highlighted by surprising adequacy -- even dominance at times -- from the likes of Nelson Figueroa and Mike Pelfrey. Maine's shaking out the shakiness, Ollie's pitching like he's in a contract year with only occasional bouts of needing a GPS for home plate, and Johan Santana has performed decently while strategically leaving himself room for improvement. Nicely done.

And the pen . . . so I've got mixed emotions, I must say. On the one hand, Aaron Heilman seems like a real swell guy, don't ya know, and on the other, he seems to suffer from what doctors are calling "gopher balls," so it's hard to say. Actually, Heilman does remind me of Ed Grimley when he's out there, and that's not good.

The biggest reason for optimism, though -- albeit tempered -- is the return of Duaner Sanchez. He may have been missed the very most last year. You know, say, in September when late-inning leads were slicker'n two eels in a bucket of snot? He's back, and it's easy to get caught up thinking he looks really good.

Bench hitters have sucked, not so much to do anything about it except get them more AB's at this point, but they've sucked. Rob, haven't they sucked? They've sucked.
And you know, I was going to leave you two clowns alone to figure yourselves out, but so far Beltran and Delgado are reminding us a lot of the last time we had two Carlos's in one Met lineup (Baerga & Mendoza, 1997). Carlos, Carlos . . . get it together, dudes.

10-7, half a game behind the "give them time" Marlins. Unfortunately, the Braves and Phillies both look like they've got the horses for the long haul. This could be a long and storied summer in the NL East, and just a long summer for the Nats and Fish.

That's it for now. You're starting to wonder why you wanted more from me, aren't you? Well, too bad -- I'm back, refreshed, and ready to grace you with my snippets of uninteresting tripe for quite a while. Let's Go Mets.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Johnny Tremain

Games 18 & 19 - Red Sox

Red Sox 11, Rangers 3

Red Sox 5, Rangers 3

Record: 12-7

Guess that 17-4 pasting will have to wait another day.

Papi hit a grand slam to open the series against the Rangers and Manny clubbed a pivotal homer late in the second game, a neat set of bookends to two just-the-facts-ma'am victories. We'd still like Matsuzaka to go more than 5 1/3 innings, and Jon Lester to fire less than 100 pitches in 6+, but you can't quibble much with the Sox' results at the moment.

I got a giggle out of the following photo for its familiarity (I've played the Pedroia role in a score of similar shots) and for the snapshot of organizational excellence. Papi was one of Theo Epstein's great free agent signings, and Pedroia, Ellsbury, and now Lowrie are all products of the Sox' farm system, each highly-touted, and each contributing to various degrees with the big club. The future, she has me wearing shades.


And finally, while I'm not a Patriots fan, nor a Celtics booster, I still do pull for the Boston Bruins. Pretty cool to watch them come from behind to force a Game 7 against Montreal in roughly the same half-hour that Manny hit the game-winner yesterday.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire


[Warning, the following text is meant to be entirely snarky]


Dear Rob-


I sincerely regret not keeping pace with you here at MLC. I selfishly coached my daughter's baseball game on Tuesday and my son's baseball practice on Wednesday. In between I thoughtlessly attended to the multitude of domestic duties at my household which have fallen squarely into my lap as the result of having recklessly impregnated my wife for the fourth time. This is a direct result of my unreasonable adherence to the doctrinal beliefs of my Catholic faith.

As you can see, I have forsaken MLC for at least 3 days. I am sorry.


[Turn off snark]


Sorry Rob, I got a little agitated being lumped in with the woefully inarticulate Gotham half our our foursome. I cannot keep up with you but I am certainly more prolific a poster of late compared to those knuckleheads. A little acknowledgement from you would suffice. I'd like to think our shared historical experience of misery has earned me the benefit of the doubt.


Now, back to our regularly scheduled program. It's pretty obvious to the casual observer that ESPN sooooo wants the Mets-Phils to approximate the Sox-Yanks rivalry and tonight's match up at the Bank has the very real possibility of enhancing that likelihood.




Ease up fellas, I believe that statement was appropriately couched so as not to offend the Lords of Baseball.
Cole Hamels will face off against Moses aka as Yo-han Santana to begin the series and that should get us off to a rollicking start. The teams enter the game having started sluggishly out of the gate but playing fairly well of late. Each team has injuries that have slowed them down. The Phils are without the services of Jimmy Rollins which really spoils the title of this post. I so wanted to type "Move over rover...." J-Roll might get to start Saturday but I suspect that as long as the club treads water, there is no hurry to rush the little fella back. Read "if the Phils win tonight, Jimmy will rest tomorrow." In addition to Rollins, Shane Victorino will be out another 10 days or so. The Mets too have their share of DL dwellers.

I can't help but think a win tonight will do much more for the Phils' confidence than it would for New York. Just like the Mets winning the series at Shea, the Phils stand to gain the most here. It's time to counter punch and I really like Hamels of late. He's been pretty dominant. Tomorrow will likely be a free for all with Moyer going for Philly vs. Oliver Perez. Both pitchers pitched well a week and a half ago up at Shea but that was Shea and this is now. I get the feeling that the rest the bullpens get tonight will pay off tomorrow right around the 5 inning or so. Sunday night, the teams square off on Sunday Night Baseball in what one would suspect is the best ratings earner outside of any game at Fenway or in the Bronx. The Mets will send Doug "Bats in his" Pelfrey against the born again Adam Eaton. Each pitched well in Shea against their rivals. It's a night game so it should be cool and conceivably, the advantage should go back to the pitchers.


I am obviously hoping for a sweep but realistically I think we can take 2 of 3. Look, I know all about the great Johan but I think Hamels is locked in right now so I think the Phils take game one. Game two could go either way as could game three so I will be happy with a split if the Phils can win game one. That would be the desired counter punch to the hotly contested series up in Flushing a week ago.


That's it for now. I hope to return triumphant.


P.S. Hey Rob - I saw the real Big Papi yesterday at Nationals Park. A pretty awesome scene all around.

The Man

Game 17 - Red Sox

Red Sox 7, Yankees 5

Record: 10-7


At some point, the Yankees will realize that pitching to Manny Ramirez just isn't a high-percentage play. Or at least, Mike Mussina will realize that leaving his 85 mph straightball in the middle of the plate against Manny tends to yield loud, unpleasant results.

Manny made the Yankee fans make that noise again, Josh Beckett overcame one scruffy inning to give the Sox 8 full frames, Jonathan Papelbon chose a different entertainment medium than his normal domination, allowing a shrug-it-off 2-run homer to Melky Cabrera before recording the final out, and the Sox returned home winners of 3 out of 4 games in Cleveland and New York. Tidy.

Courtesy of the far more diligent research team at Joy of Sox, here are Manny's numbers against the Yankees since 2006:
       AB   H  HR  BB  BBI  AVG  OBP  SLG    OPS
2006 45 25 7 17 6 .556 .667 1.111 1.778
2007 51 20 4 8 4 .392 .475 .686 1.161
2008 19 10 3 2 0 .526 .571 1.105 1.677
115 55 14 27 10 .478 .573 .922 1.495
We're getting beyond small sample size and into the rarified Holy Hot Shit! territory. No wonder Yankee fans cheered like it was Free Burning Garbage Night when inbreeding research project Kyle Farnsworth buzzed Manny's upper region with a 7th-inning fastball last night. The Gammons was mouth-foaming angry, as apparently was Commander Kickass(TM - all rights reserved by Surviving Grady). Me, well, my reaction was "meh". I'd probably do the same thing if a guy had taken my lunch money for the better part of 3 seasons. 'Course, I'd be smart enough to throw at his thighs or hips, but I suppose Farnsworth's Ph.D. thesis has been stalled in committee for a reason. The Sox and Yanks do, however, play each other 13 more times this year, so I wouldn't be shocked to see this one come back later in the summer.

Bygones, then, because if there's anything we lack here at MLC, it's Ally McBeal references. That, and posts by anyone other than me. Honest to God, the rest of you clowns are off to a worse start than Papi. (Who is now 7-for-63 with 1 HR and 4 RBI. Whimper.)

Sox back to Fenway to face the Rangers over the weekend, and despite their need for a rest, they don't get one until the 28th. Says here they're overdue for a 17-4 drubbing at the hands of somebody.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Grimm's Fairy Tales

Game 16 - Red Sox

Yankees 15, Red Sox 9
Record: 9-7

Gather around children, and witness the sound of one blogger blogging. Though not for long, for as Thumper's Daddy once said, if you don't have anything nice to say, you really shouldn't say anything at all.

Today's first nursery rhyme features a little girl (boy, actually) with a curl (curveball, really), who when she (he) was good was very, very good (threw a no-hitter against the Orioles last year) and when she (he) was bad, was awful. Okay, that's not entirely fair. Clay Buchholz made his Yankee Stadium debut last night and the results, while decidedly mixed, were as much bad luck as they were bad pitching. Though there was enough of both to go around. Buchholz' line (3 2/3 IP, 8H, 7ER) was the product of a few meatballs (to Bobby Abreu in the 1st and Derek Jeter in the 4th, notably), a handful of bad pitcher's counts borne of frustration, and more than a few fluky bloop hits (see Giambi, Jason and Moeller, Chad in key spots). Oh, and a ridiculously good batter hitting a good pitch (Alex Rodriguez' 1st-inning moonshot).

Odd as it may sound given his line, this humble blogger saw quite a bit to like about Buchholz last night. He's got killer stuff, including a curveball that made Joe Morgan swoon and he's got a little bit of the arrogance that an elite starter needs. Sometimes you get got, that's all.

Unfortunately for the Sox, while the Big Bad Wolf of their offense huffed and puffed with some aplomb (beating the ever-lovin' Wang out of the Yankees' starter), only 1 of the 3 Little Pigs in the bullpen built his home out of solid stuff. David Aardsma's brick house stayed standing, but Julian Tavarez' and Mike Timlin's cottages of loose-packed shit crumbled to the tune of 8 runs over 2 1/3 innings.

And the Yankees lived happily ever after. At least until they had to face Josh Beckett, who's more than a little pissed about having to wear a Goldilocks costume.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Good Man

Game 15 - Red Sox

Red Sox 5, Indians 3

Record: 9-6


Spotted on Theo Epstein's desk late last night: a carbon copy from a Western Union telegram. (Work with me - it's got more scene-making grit than an email printout.)

To: Mark Shapiro
From: Theo Epstein

Re: Thanks


Mark,


Please pass along the gratitude of the Boston American League Baseball Club to your manager, Eric Wedge, for his kind actions over the past two nights. It was one thing to bring in Borowski when Betancourt was just killing us on Tuesday, but when Wedge removed Paul Byrd after 6 innings and only 78 pitches last night...and then brought in Jorge Julio to boot? Words fail us - truly a mensch you've got running your team.

Sincere Regards,

Theo


Jed Lowrie drove in 3 runs in his major league debut to pace the Sox (and tie him with David Ortiz for RBI on the season. Oof.), Tim Wakefield struggled and puffed through 6 innings of 2-run ball before the bullpen tried hard to blow another game, and Jason Varitek finally rescued the Sox with a 9th-inning pinch-hit homer to plate the eventual winning run.

But the story of this one was Wedge's inflexible and robotic game management. The Indians led 2-1 after 6 innings, with Byrd confusing the Sox with his maddening slowball arsenal. Everyone watching the game from Bangor to Berea would have kept Byrd in the game, especially given the fact that stud relief arm Rafael Betancourt was unavailable to the Tribe after throwing 23 high-stress pitches on Monday. Eric Wedge doesn't truck with popular opinion, dear reader. Instead, he brought on old friend of MLC Jorge Julio (sorry, Whit) to open the 7th in place of Byrd.

Predictably, Julio walked the first 2 Sox batters he faced and was promptly lifted. The runners eventually came around to score, and the musical relief pitchers doomed the Indians to have to rely on Jensen Lewis for 35 late-inning pitches - including the one that Varitek smoked over the fence. Textbook overmanaging by Wedge and a gift of a series sweep handed to the Sox.

Two more against the Yankees starting tonight, with More Wang! Combine C.M.'s dominance of the Sox with Clay Buchholz' Yankee Stadium debut this evening, and I'm already ducking for cover.

The Sound and the Fury

Game 14 – Red Sox

Red Sox 6, Indians 4
Record: 8-6


It’s been said that baseball is a feast for the senses. We’ll ignore for a moment the certain truth that the originator of that sentiment is an effete flower-sniffer, as it helps set up today’s theme. Regardless of the provenance of the though, it is true that the sights, smells, and sounds of the ballpark are a huge part of our enjoyment and our memories.

There’s a sound that’s unique to baseball, a collective reaction to a dramatic change of fortune. When a crowd witnesses something shockingly bad for the home team, a low gasping groan escapes, as if each individual in the collective simultaneously received a punch in the solar plexus. The sound is involuntary, immediate, and unmistakable. And to the chagrin of Joe Borowski and the Cleveland Indians, it’s the soundtrack that ran through their dreams all night.

The Cleveland crowd gasped in stunned wonder as Manny Ramirez unloaded on Borowski in the top of the 9th, sending the erstwhile Indian closer’s mediocre fastball deep over the fence in left-center to complete the Sox’ comeback from a 4-1 deficit. I’d forgive the Tribe’s backers if they develop an intense hatred for this era’s Red Sox outfit, for I know the exasperating feeling all too well, having been on the wrong end of a similarly frustrating rivalry for too long.

Overlooked by many in the clamor following Manny’s game-winner and Jonathan Papelbon’s again-dominant 3-batter save was the brilliant work of wingnut reliever Julian Tavarez. The clown prince came into the game last night with the Sox trailing 4-1 with a single out in the bottom of the 5th , the bases loaded with Indians after starter Jon Lester struggled through yet another control-addled inning. Not only did Tavarez whiff both batters he faced to stem the tide in the 5th, he breezed through the 6th and 7th innings to give the Sox a fighting chance. Of such efforts are winners made.

But chicks dig the longball. And that sound was the best thing I’ve heard all season.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Lather. Rinse. Repeat


Games 11, 12 & 13


Phillies 5, Cubbies 3

Phillies 7, Cubbies 1

Cubbies 6, Phillies 5


Record: 6 up, 7 down.


The title of this post comes from an obscure indie film released in 2002 that, as near as I can tell from its entry at IMDB, was nothing more than a boring chick flick featuring no Hollywood luminaries. I am not exactly sure what the protocol is around here regarding blog posts. I gather we can use movie titles, famous quotes, song titles or musical acts' names. This seems to be a formidable obstacle to posting. I posses neither the wit nor the creativity for such a task - at least not on a routine basis. By my count, neither do the other 3 members of the MLC quartet. In fact, I think on more than one occasion since I debuted on this forum, the spectre of coming up with a crafty title has extinguished the burning fire to post. (Perhaps that is a built-in safety valve created by our venerable founders. If so, that would seem to be counterproductive to frequent posting in favor of quality posting.)


Where I lack wit and creativity, I believe I have made up with expediency. I am quite sure it is infinitely easier to come up with a theme for the blog and then simply Google it to see where it has occurred in popular (or not so popular) culture. Google and Wiki were invented for this and I intend to go that route more often than not. If our founders are purists, I care not at all. Perhaps you should do a better job vetting your prospects before throwing out the invitations. Don't look now Clark but cousin Eddie is pulling the RV into the driveway!


[Insert segue here.]


Its clear the 2008 Phillies are not yet aware that the instructions on the bottle are not to be followed ad infinitum.


2 losses. 2 wins. Repeat.


There is not enough data at this point for me to get a good read on this squad. It is encouraging but hardly surprising that Cole Hamels has returned to stellar form. I also take heart that Mr. Myers has straightened himself out. Jamie Moyer has not surprised nor has Kyle Kendrik unfortunately. The big stories so far would be the above average performances turned in thus far by the much reviled Adam Eaton and the inexplicable sudden inability of the entire team to play solid defense. I read today that the club has surrendered 13 unearned runs in 13 games which puts them on pace to almost triple last year's total of 54 unearned runs. One would have to suppose that this is an anomaly that will disappear sooner rather than later. The only other headline makers are the Rollins' ankle and Shane Victorino's 15 day DL stint as the result of his tweaked calf. Being rather ordinary injuries, I don't plan on sweating it just yet.


Steady as she goes...


By the way, after two weeks, it appears that the 'M' in MLC could justifiably stand for mediocrity.

Brave New World

Game 13 – Red Sox

Red Sox 8, Yankees 5
Record: 7-6


“Be vewwy quiet. I’m hunting wabbits.” -- Elmer Fudd

With all due respect to the portion of the American League not located in Boston and New York, those far-flung franchises have stood in for the abovequoted bumbling bunny-hunter in very large part since 2003, chasing the Sox and Yankees without a great deal of sustained success. If any of those teams were paying attention over the past 3 days, though, they might well have run immediately to their pantries in pursuit of ingredients suitable for a tasty Wabbit Stew. For if we learned nothing else during the season’s first clash between Boston and New York, we saw clearly that both teams are eminently vulnerable.

The Yankees are young and inconsistent on the mound, except where they’re old and ineffective. The Bombers are also counting on offensive production from guys like Jason Giambi, Jorge Posada, and Johnny Damon – all of whom are inarguably talented players equally unquestionably on the wrong side of their careers. Meanwhile, while the Sox may be more balanced on offense and theoretically more experienced on their rotation, this weekend exposed significant concerns in the Boston bullpen, especially if Mike Timlin’s slated to play a major role.

As the long-standing MLC mantra holds, there’s a lotta ball left, and the Sox and Yankees are both willing and able to invest to fill holes if necessary. And I’m not sure how meaningful a three-game set 13 games into the season really can be. That said, color me unimpressed with important parts of both of the AL East’s recent beasts.

Oh, and Daisuke-san. Straight ball, please to be throwing.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Time of the Hero

Games 11 & 12 - Red Sox

Yankees 4, Red Sox 1

Red Sox 4, Yankees 3

Record: 6-6


Two games into the season series between the Sox and Yankees, baseball is the winner, if I may be so trite and all-too-premature. Two games, two man-sized pitching performances, a raft of drama, enough weirdness to keep the Baseball Poets gainfully engaged, and a tasty little setup for the first prime-time Sox/Yanks tilt of 2008.

Teejay's favorite Hebrew ballplayer, Chien-Ming Wang, brought his big-boy pants to the game on Friday night, absolutely stoning the Sox in a complete game 2-hitter. Hard to do anything but offer congratulations after a performance as good as Wang's. Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz was terrific, and he still threw more pitches in 6 innings than Wang fired at Sox batters for the game.

Yesterday, Josh Beckett matched Wang's mastery for 5 frames before visibly tiring and giving up 3 runs in 6 2/3. Beckett left with a 4-3 lead that remained intact until the top of the 8th, when things started going plaid. The Yanks put runners on first and second with 2 outs, and when Terry Francona summoned the barely-warm Jonathan Papelbon from the pen to face Alex Rodriguez, Fox baseball executives couldn't even bother to be embarrassed by their public turgidity.

And then the rains came. More than 2 hours elapsed before Papelbon finally threw his first pitch to the Yankee third baseman, enough time for the third-round leaders to play nearly the entire back 9 at the Masters, Fox to warm up its NASCAR coverage, the Bruins to fall behind the Canadiens, Papelbon to warm up and sit down twice, and me to cycle through a nice painkiller high.

In the series' second 'did you see that?' pitching performance, Papelbon dominated Rodriguez, blowing a fastball by the 2007 MVP to end the threat emphatically. The Sox' closer proceeded to strike out the first 2 Yankee hitters in the 9th before retiring Robinson Cano on a weak grounder to second to end the game. After, mind you, the FOX Sports team decided to switch over to the beginning of a 6-hour race while Papelbon was literally in the middle of a potential game-ending pitch. A POX on your houses.

Paps is likely out for tonight's game, and so may be David Ortiz, mired as he is in the midst of a 3-for-43 season opening drought. As Papi goes, so too goes my early-season fandom. I'm struggling to get a firm grip, a combination of personal issues, professional priorities, fractured scheduling, and other sports-related distractions pushing the Sox well behind their normal Springtime place in line. I keep telling myself not to press; that the unhinged and affirming lack of perspective will come in due time. But back there, somewhere, the seeds of doubt cast around for purchase.

I hired you people to try to get a little track laid, not to jump around like a bunch of Kansas City faggots

Games 8, 9 and 10 - Yankees

Upstart Royals 5, Yankees 2
Annoying Royals 4, Yankees 0
Yankees 6, Royals 1
Record: 5-5

Andrew HGH and his 6-1 victory last night saved you, the loyal reader(s), from having to read an utterly useless, expletive-filled post about the Kansas City Royals sweeping the Yankees. And it allowed me to have a little fun watching YouTube clips all morning of perhaps the funniest movie ever made. I give you the Royals/Yankees series (and really, anything else I feel like throwing in), via the magnificent quotes of Blazing Saddles:

[Editor's Note: I am so hungover right now the typing hurts. This was started in earnest at work yesterday, with venti coffe in hand, so at least you know it had potential. And now I ruin it like Lucas when he put Jar Jar in that "new" Star Wars]

"Ooh, baby, you are so talented! And they are so DUMB!"
Whit, I bet Omar and the Mets could use a guy like Brian Bannister right now, eh? The same Brian Bannister who provided 5 solid if not spectacular innings, giving up 2ER and striking out 6. The Mets got who for him exactly? Oh right, future HOF-er Ambiorix Burgos. How could I forget.

"Go do that voodoo that you do so well!"
Coach Joe mixed up the lineup in the 6-1 win, using the convenient excuse that the Royals were throwing a southpaw. He didn't have A-Rod hit eight. I had something to say here about the Yankees and runners in scoring position, but looking at numbers would kill me right now.

"Badges? We don't need no stinking badges."
Jeter stand-in and rookie Alberto Gonzalez. Is this racist? Who knows...but I'm paying homage to Blazing Saddles remember? I mean, could you imagine trying to pitch that movie to the studios in this day and age?

"Mongo only pawn... in game of life."
Apparently Ian Kennedy is made of paper mache and can't pitch in the rain, because Girardi yanked him and started career reliever (and 2008 Whipping Boy Nominee) Brian Bruney in the inevitable 4-0 loss. By the way, kudos to Alex Karras for being both Mongo AND Webster's adoptive dad.

Qualifications?
Rape, murder, arson, and rape.
You said rape twice.

I like rape.

What Kyle Farnsworth does to every bullpen he enters.

"I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists."
Recruiting ad for Fenway bleacher seats.

"Gentlemen, please rest your sphincters."
To my fellow Yankees fans. Look at it this way - the current 5-5 start sure feels a lot better than the last three years abortive Aprils. [Remember, I wrote this yesterday...before the Chairman's CG win last night made me very very happy about being 6-5.]

"What's a dazzling urbanite like you doing in a rustic setting like this?"
I just love this one. Perhaps the best delivered line in the movie. The other one I can't type...bad word.

"You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons."
Jason Giambi.

"Excuse me while I whip this out."
I get it. Yours are bigger.

Yeah, I know what starts tonight [Again...slight delay. By the way I'm listening to the Fat Boys sing "Fat Boys". I've always felt it took balls to just name a song the same thing as your band name. Balls...maybe lazy? Not sure] Bring on the Red Sox. Rob, shouldn't we finalize that beer bet before first pitch at Fenway tonight?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Games 9 & 10 - Red Sox

Tigers 7, Red Sox 2

Red Sox 12, Tigers 6

Record: 5-5


(Note: Coming to you live this morning courtesy of a healthy (but controlled) dose of Percoset, so if any of the following skews bizarre, well, that's my excuse. It'll nearly certainly be a disorderly mess.)

To wit, my computer screen tells me that David Ortiz is batting .083 with a .433 OPS through 10 games. Which is so preposterous it must be the product of my blissfully addled state of mind. Especially since the same source tells me that J.D. Drew's carrying a .440/.483/.720 line through the season's opening fortnight, and is tied with Jason Varitek with the team lead in homers with 2.

The Sox as a team have muddled through the season's opening stages, a development that was eminently predictable based upon the unusual travel schedule and the abbreviated exhibition season. Tellingly, not a single Sox starter has lasted more than 6 2/3 innings and the rotation is averaging less than 5 1/2 innings per outing. The corresponding burden placed on the bullpen has already led to some less than auspicious efforts, with Mike Timlin's injury requiring more innings from David Aardsma, Brian Corey, and the late, not-so-lamented Kyle Snyder. And I'm no rocket surgeon, but that would seem to me to be a recipe for less-than-optimal results.

Tonight brings the Yankees to Boston for the first of the season's 19 games between the (insert hyperbolic blather here) rivals. And I can't tell you how all-fired...indifferent I am. I noticed this phenomenon a week or so ago when I turned to YES to catch a few innings of Rays/Yanks action. My whole life, even a glimpse of the pinstripes had a visceral impact - a combination of disdain, fear, and animosity instinctively rising up in my gut. Now, eh, I still despise them, but it's a healthy, bile-free hatred (and good thing, because I'm now gallbladder-free, so bile isn't so good for me.) And so 2004 and 2007 pay yet another dividend. As Pigman exclaims at the end of the wildly underrated PCU, "A Bridge Too Far. Caine and Hackman in the same movie. This is my thesis man! This is my closing argument! I CAN STOP WATCHING TV!" Or at least, I can stop watching Sox/Yankees games with my hands over my eyes.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Wax on... wax off. Wax on... wax off

Games 5, 6, and 7 - Yankees

Devil Rays (I don't accept the name change) 6, Yanks 3
Yanks 2, Devil Rays 0
Yanks 6, Devil Rays 1

Record: 4-3

After dropping the first two games against the horribly renamed Rays of Tampa (seriously, were that many people offended by "Devil" Rays? Shit, do they even have enough fans to form a quorum of dissent?), the Bronx (ahem) Bombers rebounded to win 2-0 and 6-1 behind the excellent pitching performances of CM Wang and, gasp, Mike Mussina. Of course, the 6-3 loss came courtesy of the star witness in US v. Roger Clemens, Mr. Andrew "PED use makes your balls" Pettitte. His Mussina-esque 3 earned in 5IP helps no one, but on the bright side, he's not in jail (yet). And kudos to Rays' octogenarian closer Troy Percival, who earned his first save since 2005 in the 6-3 Tampa Bay win.

Well, yes, I know you could've figured all that out yourselves by simply reading the header...my early season analysis is definitely lacking. But boy aren't these game recaps compelling...and rich? Fine, you want analysis, how about this:
W, L, W, L, L, W, W


That's the Yankees' results through the season's first seven games. Guess what, that ain't gonna fly. And take a wild guess what the key ingredient has been in all these games? No, Millhouse, it most certainly has nothing to do with the offense (or lack thereof). It's all about the starting pitching. Gee, real shocker - you start a season with Wang, Pettitte, the corpse of Mussina and all the kids and you expect something else to be the X factor? Of course, you can mark down a "W" anytime you see a box score progression like this:
Wang, Chamberlain, Rivera


Sure, it might sound like an ambulance-chasing law firm, but right now those are the only guys on the staff you can even remotely trust. Kyle Farnsworth, don't you dare look in this direction. Brian Bruney, take a fucking seat. Moose, hope you enjoy Toby Keith, because that 6-1 start is going to define your season - "I ain't as good as I once was...But I'm as good once as I ever was"


And finally, yes, Jeter did get hurt in the 6-1 win, and yes, it's a groin injury, which as Sam Malone will tell you is a brutal injury to have. But it was good to see Jeter try to take a piss on Akinori Iwamura before he had to leave the game.

Dark Side of the Moon


Games 8 & 9


Phils 5, Mess 2

Mess 8, Phils 2


Record: 4 up, 5 down



And now, my yang to Whit's ying (or the ying to the yang.)


First, can we please dispose of the notion that the Phillies' surreal and tantilizing 9 game winning streak vs. their "archrivals" to the North was a product of the Mets' "handing" the games to Philly? Likewise, Philly didn't hand the game to the NYM last night despite the 4 errors. We must agree that good teams don't kick 4 balls around the dirt and expect to win very often. In fact, teams that commit multiple errors a game are not to be considered very good at all, at least on that night. Games are won and lost almost as frequently when one team avoids errors/makes plays as when a team exposes 3rd starters, weak middle relief or a slow footed left fielder.


Winning is about making the plays. Making errors is the other side of the same coin. If Eric Bruntlet-piglet-wiggleitjustalittlebit makes errors because he is a weak substitute for Jimmy Rollins, well then the Mets were a better team last night. (By the way - Hey Jimmy, your guarantees stand a better chance of coming to fruition when you are in the lineup so heal fast - without HGH!)


Other than this, I have not much to say. The 162 game schedule ensures that the better team rises, blah, blah blah....


Now Whitney, please go slap Billy Wagner.

Laugh-In

Game 7 - Mets

Mets 8, Phillies 2

Record: 3-4


Yesterday I asked for an end to the losing streak against the Phils; specifically, I believe I asked for "busting out . . . in impressive fashion." Well, the Mets managed five hits, committed a fairly hideous error, and Mike Pelfrey threw 100 pitches in five innings. Not altogether impressive.

Yet the Mets won in a laugher, with us chuckling mostly at the mitten-wearing fielders on the Philadelphia Phillies.

Big thanks go out to the Phillies for taking it upon themselves to provide six (6) unearned runs. I'm quite sure the Mets would've managed to botch this game without the gift-wrapped favor. Now that is brotherly love.

With Jimmy Rollins out with a sore ankle, understudy Eric Bruntlett made a couple of comically poor plays that directly led to runs scoring. The heralded Chase Utley booted another costly one; the Phils had four errors on the night, and each hurt.

To flog the demised equine, let's take a look at how the Mets scored:
D Wright safe at first on error by second baseman C Utley, J Reyes scored.
D Easley singled to left, C Delgado scored, R Church to second.
J Reyes safe at first on error by shortstop E Bruntlett, R Church scored, D Easley to third, M Pelfrey to second.
A Pagan doubled to left, D Easley and M Pelfrey scored, J Reyes to third.
D Wright safe at first on error by shortstop E Bruntlett, J Reyes scored, A Pagan to third.
J Reyes grounded into double play, second to first, D Easley scored, B Schneider out at second.
(As an aside, Jose has darted out of the gate with a .475 OPS and no SB's since 9/15 of last year. At least the hypotheses that it was fatigue are being debunked.)

The point of all of this, if there has to be a point, is that the Mets didn't exactly lace 'em up and get after it last night, so there's much more row to hoe. Pelf did acquit himself fairly nicely, and there was definitely a timeliness to the Mets' offense last night, one that had gone missing since . . . sometime around Rosh Hashanah. But this game was a gift, make no mistake, one which led to one of the more macho text message transmissions during the middle innings, my message to Rob that if the mets blow this i am throwing a serious hissy fit.

So let's thank the Phightin' Phils for it. As Crash Davis would say, when you speak of them . . . speak well.