Haven’t Needed to Check Reality in a While

AJ_Ball.jpgIt’s true: Happiness does breed complacency. The busy season at work is breathing down my neck, but truthfully I haven’t been writing about the Yankees because I’ve been so satisfied watching them lately. (Let me be clear that this has nothing to do with being fair-weather, but more to do with the fact that I’m at my best when I’m complaining. Just asked my husband. He thinks it’s the greatest show on earth when I get up in arms about something.)

But, recently, with the Yankees, it’s been a big ‘ole love fest. Until last night.

I didn’t mind that they lost the last game in Seattle. It’s crappy luck when three pitchers all don’t have it on the same day. But last night was some lazy-*** ****. Things I did not like:

  • Managing to leave every man on base who got into scoring position.
  • Getting the feeling you get with a number-9 hitter every time A-Rod came up.
  • The atrocious double play A-Rod hit into with the bases loaded and maddeningly weak hacks by others
  • The swinging-at-the-first-pitch fest that had me tucked into bed at 12:15 a.m. I’ve never seen a Yankees game end that fast. 

(BTW – Derek Jeter is always exempt from these critiques in my world, mostly because he just keeps hitting the ball no matter what goes on.)
 
There are nights when you think your team ran into a buzzsaw. And then there are nights when your pitcher balks in a run and your offense looks like they’d rather be playing cards in the clubhouse. At least they didn’t have to tax the bullpen. It looked like it might happen in the fourth, but A.J. miraculously recovered his cool. The offense? Not so much.

Still, the Oakland A’s are no buzzsaw. We have the Angels and apparently the Rangers for that. So, pretty please, boys can we get the mojo back tonight? I know you’ll be okay in the long run but it’s best not to let the lazy become ingrained.

Blowouts are Fun! Except When Your DVR Changes the Channel

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Kooky night at the Trop for the Yankees. A.J. was a live wire again. I don’t care, as long as it works for him. The Tampa Bay announcers were obsessed with the fact that Kate Hudson was in the house, although they made no mention of the fact that she was sitting next to Todd Bridges of Different Strokes fame. Weird. A-Rod was in a quarrelsome mood at the plate. And Swisher and Cano were on fire. Here’s a gratuitous shot of Robbie smiling after his home run in the sixth:

Robbie_smile.jpgNot to be outdone, Swisher went yard about a minute later. Take that, haters! And by haters, I mean my husband. (Btw, the Swisher battle in my house is becoming epic: Tim simply refers to him as “the S-word.”

Swish_pointing.jpgSo, I was enjoying the romp (and some mint chocolate chip ice cream) when the channel switched to Bravo of its own accord. Damn you, DVR. Because Weeds and Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List were both taping, I couldn’t watch the rest of the game! There’s got to be a way to fix that you can’t tape two shows and watch a third at the same time, right? I mean, besides making us buy actual Tivo?

When I turned back I saw that Swisher had jacked another one, and that Johnny Damon had hit his 200th career homer.

JohnnyD.jpgIt has taken me a while to warm up to Johnny Damon, and not just because he came from the Red Sox. I know he’s still crazypants on the inside, but he seems to have matured a bit with the Yankees, if only in a relative kind of way. (Also, he dreams about A.J.)

So, congrats all around! Hopefully the Trop and Scotty Kazmir continue to be good to the Yanks tonight.

It’s Official: I’m Bad Luck

Saturday, Tim and I set off to the gleaming new palace in the Bronx at 7:30 a.m.  Our trip consisted of an uneventful drive to New Haven to pick up the new Yankee Stadium Metro North train. This is unquestionably the best thing they ever did. (And, after the game they have separate trains leaving for those who are only going as far as Stanford and those going on to New Haven, so no overcrowding. Bless you stadium planners, whoever you are!)

The Stadium itself is really a lot to take in all at once. Tim and I agreed that it is now an awesome place to see a game.

Before, it had the mystique but not the comfort. Here’s my sad little no-zoom-lens picture of Pettitte and Molina warming up:

Pettitte_Molina.jpgAnd speaking of comfort – Saturday was friggin’ boiling hot. It was brutal out there. We were in Section 205 in right field, right above the Utz Potato Chips sign. Nice view.

Stadium_View.jpgIn fact, we had a perfect view of the Swisher Salute during the roll call. I think Tim might have sprained his muscles from rolling his eyes so much. Then, just because it wouldn’t be a Yankee game for us unless Tim felt tortured, they played a montage of Swisher highlights on the enormous screen during the changeover in the middle of the first inning. Delightful. Here are two of the many Swisher fans in our section (I thought I would be in the minority):

SwisherFans.jpgAndy looked good through the first six. The game was flying by. Everything was going good (well, not everything. WTF, A-Rod???). And then, the wheels came off. Andy suddenly couldn’t throw a strike; they took him out in favor of Aceves. I have a lot of faith in Aceves, but on this day, it was not to be.

Now, it might have been something I said. Something that was not so nice. About the family of a certain senator from the great state of Massachusetts. I don’t even know why we were talking about that. But whatever it was, Tim said I was about to be struck down by lightening, and immediately Aceves started coughing up runs. Finally, David Robertson got the Yankees out of the inning. With a 6-1 deficit. Great.

At this point, Tim and I had spent our first-born’s college money on bottles of water. I had brought a travel-sized bottle of sunscreen, which was down to its very last bit. But I wasn’t going anywhere. I’m a ride-the-game-out-no-matter-what kind of girl. So, we baked in the sun some more, and I was rewarded with a two-run homer by Jeter that just barely went over the fence and a sweet right-field shot by Tex.

In the top of the ninth, Nomar Garciaparra came up to bat, and the fans booed him as they had been doing all day. Tim, once again, rolled his eyes. “He’s been on three different teams since his was a Red Sock, ” he said. “Well, they’ll stop booing him when you guys stop booing Johnny Damon at Fenway. Get over it.” (Note: I actually like Nomar. I don’t consider him part of the Boston teams that I have grown to hate.)

“Get over it” may have been a little too strong, considering my karma wasn’t that great at the moment. We did get to see Brett Gardner make two great catches in center field, but later found out he’d broken his thumb. The Yankees ninth-inning comeback didn’t materialize, and I was forced to ride the train back to New Haven with a smirking hubby. Here I am smiling before things took such a disappointing turn:

Kristin_Stadium09.jpgWhen we got home that night, I told myself that I was not going to watch the game on Sunday. I held to it for about an hour and a half after game time. I didn’t want my terrible karma to interfere with another Yankee win.

But soon curiosity got the better of me, and I turned on the tv….just in time to see Phil Coke give up the lead! Poor Phil Coke – I definitely have a soft spot for him. Thankfully, the Yankee bats came back this time, and Hughes, Bruney, and Mo tied the win up with a nice, neat bow. I guess three out of four isn’t bad. Next time I’ll be nicer in my thoughts about the Kennedys.

Umm, Phil? I Don’t Want to Scare You, But…

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…I think my adolescent school-girl crush on you has become a full-on love fest.

What with the badassery coming out of the pen and the longer devil-may-care locks, and the aggressiveness right out of the gate, you may just be my new imaginary baseball boyfriend.

And then you say things like this: I don’t want them getting on base for free. I want them to earn it,” and my heart goes all aflutter. You’ve cranked it up to a whole new level of awesomeness, and I am seriously digging it.     

Why Does Work Have to Interfere with Baseball?

AJ-point.jpgSo I missed yesterday’s funfest because I was at work and only monitoring the Gamecast every once in a while. I’ve also been away from the computer a lot lately due to both the day job and some freelancing. I did see Matsui’s walk-off, which was completely and totally adorable. We usually only see him with the stoic face on. It was nice to see a smile. And, btw, doesn’t he look about ten years younger with his batting helmet off?

Anyway, yesterday was apparently a roller coaster of dropped fly balls, tremendous pitching from AJ, amazing catches from the same person who brought you the drop, uneven pitching from Bruney, Phil/Mo awesomeness, and ice cream metaphors. That’s the kind of craziness I can get behind.

I haven’t seen highlights of Swisher’s drop in the third inning, but it looks like he more than redeemed himself with this:

At the wall.jpgAnd this:

Cletemarks.jpgNotice the clete marks. I’ll admit, it’s hard to advocate for Swish when he has his lapses in the field. But seriously, who’s going to try to argue that Hinske makes those two plays? Not a chance. And how was Swish able to make those plays after he’d botched one so badly? He’s able to put things away right after they happen and focus (relatively) on the next play. People undervalue that skill.

Oh, intangibles. How we love you. Or hate you. Depending on who we are. If you’re a stat-head, you don’t care about the psychological aspects that come into play. But Swisher certainly has a boatload of those qualities: he’s a good teammate, he’s not afraid to get banged up out there, he’s patient at the plate, he’s relentlessly positive, and he likes playing in New York and handles everything that goes along with that well.

To wit, this quote via NorthJersey.com: “That’s when I’m at my best, when I’m having fun and laughing and
joking around,” Swisher said. “I think there’s a lot of people in this
world who would trade their right arm to trade spots with me.”  Which brings me to Brian Bruney.

I’m not one of those fans who writes people off without ample evidence, so I won’t write Bruney off as a pitcher. However, the one thing I really can’t stand is when someone acts like the friendly, goofy guy when things are going good and then turns around and becomes a sarcastic jack*** when he’s forced to take responsibility for a mistake. Sure, you can be disappointed in yourself and you don’t have to be a shiny happy person like Swish. Just say, “Yeah, I know I still have some stuff to work on.” How hard is that? Apparently, snapping at the beat writers is just easier.

Bumbling Through Anaheim

In honor of the pop-up-dropping, the hideous pitching, the errant throwing, and the lack of timely hitting that characterized the Yankees-Anaheim series this weekend, I herewith bring to you a list of things I would have rather done than watching them attempt to play like major leaguers:

1. Get a root canal.

2. Opened the door for some Jehovah’s Witnesses

3. Read Vanity Fair’s article about Sarah Palin (as if we haven’t heard enough about her to last a lifetime.)

4. Gambled at Foxwoods (probably would have had better luck than any of the Yankees starters)

5. Watched a bunch of Michael Bay movies

6. Spun around in circles on my front lawn until I got dizzy and passed out

7. Tried on either jeans or bathing suits (when this is preferable to watching Jeter, Swisher, and Joba we have a real problem.)

8. Spent the afternoon riding It’s a Small World at Disney over and over again

9. Cat sit for someone I hardly know. (Now the sarcasm is really coming out.)

10. Sleeping. A nice, deep, peaceful unaware-of-what’s-happening sleep.

Let’s not ever do that again, okay?  

Get on Board for an A.J. Adventure!

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There’s no way around it: A.J. Burnett is a badass. (He also gets extra points for not being as mean and nasty about his badassery as his buddy Josh Beckett. But I digress.)  Last night he didn’t really have control of anything but his fastball, but you gotta respect the way he battled. I was surprised to be thinking in the seventh inning that they should have kept him in there a little longer.

Yes, three wild pitches and four walks are not ideal. But when he needed an out, he buckled down and got an out. That’s the kind of resilience I want to see. Joba should stop arguing with Jorge and start asking A.J. what he does to calm down in those situations.

Speaking of needing to calm down, and people thinking you need to calm down, we have Phil Coke and Nick Swisher.  Always eager to add to the adventurous nature of a game, Phil Coke seemed to have a bit of a hyper moment out there, giving up a home run to Joe Mauer.  I often want to tell him to count to ten, do some yoga, picture Joe Mauer in his underwear. (Whatever works.)

Swisher on the other hand loves being out in the field so much that he needs to dispel some of that pent-up energy with little hops, skips, and jumps up against the padded walls. He must have been an exhausting little kid.  I kind of understand why Girardi talked to him in the dugout about it, but I tend to think that Girardi is Debbie Downer. C’mon man, Swisher is high on life and you’re just killing his buzz.

Swisherout.jpgAll in all, the game moved a little slowly for my taste. My boy Brett Gardner was actually the only one trying to inject any speed into the proceedings. My fondness for Brett continues to grow with each passing day. I don’t care what people think the racial implications of calling a white ballplayer “scrappy” or “gritty” are.  That’s not how I see it. White, black, Latino, Native American: if you exceed expectations, prove you can help the team, and don’t take your spot there for granted, you’re good in my book. I want you on my team and I will call you scrappy, gritty, gutty and, occasionally, awesome. Keep it rolling, Brett the Jet.

Gardner.jpgFinally, I just want to say how endearing Francisco Cervelli’s comments were about his time in the big leagues.  Now that he has returned to AAA-Scranton, and even though I have a soft spot for Jose Molina, I think more people than just CC and AJ are going to miss him. 

Quick Hits from a Busy Weekend

  • Normally, I think I’m being more sensitive to the Yankees than people who are fans of other teams. That’s just natural, right? But yesterday my husband, who provides the barometer for my crazy fandom, said to me, “Why is it that Posada just doesn’t call a good game for Chamberlain?” Now, I don’t dislike Jorge. But, I think some people mesh better with others, especially in the pitcher-catcher relationship. So, it might not be all Jorge, but for some reason these two just do not agree with/understand one another.
  • Seriously? Ian Kinsler has to rely on the final fan vote to get into the All-Star Game? To that I say, in 90s Clueless fashion, whatevah!
  • Dare I say it? I kind of like the idea of keeping Phil Hughes in the pen.  Aside from his success there, I like the confidence he’s gaining in that role. He’s also sporting the rock-star shades and the longer hair. Good times all around.

More to come…

Delayed Reaction

First of all – who in the world does not love this man?

Mo_smile.jpg I know I’ve said it before, but it bares repeating that Mo is an impressive figure both on and off the field. He seemed confused by the fact that the Yankees would have him throw out the first pitch to last night’s game. Nobody else was confused – they all wanted to give him the standing ovation he deserves.

But I think I sort of had a delayed reaction to the 500th save and all the hoopla surrounding it. I actually got choked up last night with save no. 501. And not because I’m crazy or anything, but because I thought about watching this team in light of the way my grandfathers watched the team and my mother and father watched the team. They all had those players of mythical status that they could say they were lucky enough to watch play: Joe D., Mantle, Yogi, & Maris (my mom’s fave). Of the veterans on the current team, Jeter and Mo fill those spots for me.

I know things are different now. Players’ lives are de-mystified to the point where we have to separate liking the player from the person. But I’m glad I’ve had the chance to root for two old-school type players like them. I always wonder if my kids (should I have any!) will have the same kind of fan experience.

All right, enough sentimental girly stuff. On to a few tidbits that others have mentioned today, but I need to second:

  •   Brian Bruney shaved the catapillar on his upper lip but it didn’t help him any. Also, he apparently went to the Ian Kennedy School of Quote-Giving.
  • Joe Girardi, what goes on in that crazy little head of yours? Phil Hughes is throwing heat, getting outs. Why not bring him out for the next inning? Why, for the love of god!
  • Related to the item above: Phil Hughes has moved into second place on my baseball boyfriends list, knocking Joba down to fourth.
  • As Pete Abraham noted today, somebody’s got to get the fight back into Joba. Get on that, Dave Eiland. I would hate to have to drop him another couple of spots on my totally ridiculous list.Griffey.jpg
  • Ken Griffey Jr. had a sad look on his face last night. He’s not hitting well, but even worse, he looks like the reality might be setting in that he’s not the player he used to be. I feel for Junior. He lost so much time with injuries, and now his age has become a factor. On the upside, he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer and the first person mentioned whenever someone asks who has/had the sweetest swing in baseball. Plus – great smile.
  • Oh, Nick Markakis, you make me love you more each day.  Although I don’t know what that country at-bat music is all about.

Simply the Best

Mo-Jete.jpg Last night, it was sweet to watch Mariano Rivera record his 500th save (and his first-ever RBI).  Today, people have written all about Rivera’s legacy and what the numbers mean and all that other stuff.

For me, as a fan, it comes down to one thing: He has been as close as there ever was to a sure thing.

There are so many facets to a MLB win: hitting, starting pitching, relief pitching, defense, base running, fan interference…

But being the closer always seemed to be the position in which you have to have immense courage and a zen-like nature to excel. There’s not much worse that losing a game on one pitch that came out of your hand.

Mo almost never seemed phased by the responsibility of being that guy. Even after blowing a save to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, he seemed able to put it in its proper perspective. He was disappointed, obviously, but many lesser closers and lesser men would have let something like that destroy them.

Over the past few years, Mo may not have looked as sharp as he did in the prime of his career, but I still thought he could make things better. Young guys out in the pen? Let Mo teach them all his secrets. Wang having a crisis of confidence? Mo should have a talk with him. Set-up men nervous about facing certain hitters? Have Mo tell them his philosophy: Even in batting practice, when the guys know what’s coming, they don’t hit it well all the time. So, just throw your very best stuff in there and don’t be afraid of the contact.

I know people are wringing their hands over what happens when Mo retires, and I worry about that too. But if anyone in the ownership still has half a brain left, they’ll have him hired as a coach immediately after his farewell tour as a player. He’s still got a lot more he can share with this team.

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