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Oh, boy. Where to start with this one.

It's amazing that the recap started with that line, because 2 hours into the game, I was so mindnumbingly bored that I found myself actually flipping over to watch RADIO FLYER. Yeah. that's right. The Elijah Wood movie about the brothers who make their red wagon into a flying contraption to escape their abusive alcoholic father. Which would be the 2nd movie in 2 nights whose ending is utterly flummoxing to me.

1.) Radio Flyer: Seems like a normal, Lifetime Movie of the Week-type flick. Then at the end, the little brother flies off a cliff with an airplane he built out of a wagon. Right. No problem! (To say nothing of the fact that the 8 year old flies off to escape the physical perils of his homelife, as if flying a makeshift flying wagon alone off into the world is the airtight course of action for safety.)

2.) Summer Catch: I saw this around 3am last night, and I'd thought I'd seen this movie before, or maybe just felt like I did after reading the amazingly phenomenal book "The Last Best League." But I knew I hadn't seen it when the ending rolled around. I definitely would have remembered an ending that involves a no-hitter playoff game from which the pitcher removed himself because he came to one of those cinematic revelations preceded by a montage of snapshots of the object of his affection. "Oh my God. It just came to me. I love her! And I gotta tell her now!"

A.) Is this something that actually happens in real life, people just realizing they like someone? I can't imagine ever being in the middle of playing Super Mario and then all of a sudden abruptly dropping my remote because I remembered about an infatuation with someone. B.) He left his no-no with 2 outs in the 9th. Really? Couldn't have gotten that last out before running off the field? No one would do that. It's just as unlikely as a guy giving his extra opening day ticket to a girl he just started dating, a la Fever Pitch.

The confusion didn't really end with the aforementioned terrible movies, though. Tonight's game was like one of those nights at a bar, that I'll be pretending-to-watch-golf-highlights-on-SportsCenter bored. Or overly-engrossed-in-the-jukebox bored. And then right when I'm about to just call it a night and head home, some twist of fate will spin the dynamic around 180 degrees, and suddenly it's a whole new ballgame and life is grand.

The Mariners and Yanks were making my eyelids heavy, literally. Like I was watching Bob Ross painting shows. They were playing sloppy, Joba's pitching was extremely Kevin Brown-esque. Seattle seemed to be running around like chickens with their heads cut off, which was advantageous for them on the basepaths, (4SBs, 1 extra base hit), but not so beneficial on defense. Chris Woodward looked like Dan Uggla in last year's All Star Game, committing 2 errors on one play, and almost banking a 3rd shortly thereafter. Jeter was playing a tired SS, and everything in general just felt like it was happening under water.

It started off good for NY, putting 2 on the board right off the bat. But then it dragged on. 2-0. 2-1. 3-1. 3-2. 3-3. Sooo deceptive. Looks like it should've been a glued-to-the-tv kind of a game, based on the scoring trend.

Then: 5-3. 5-5. UGH. What's going on here. If it's going to be this dilatory, then can't it be because the Yanks are having batting practice and teeing off to 10-0 home run derbies? It just shouldn't have gotten to the point of being a poor man's nail-biter.

Melky, being Melky, is the factor that turns it around and makes it a true game. I'm not sure why it took this long to get the game fired up. Or even why the game hadn't given the impression of being fired up for the first 7 innings. Because it looks pretty good in the retrospective boxscore light:

The Yanks were 4-16 with RISP. 3 doubles. Only 1 GIDP. And 1 NASA launch of a rocket HR from A-Bomb himself. He even was a little Manny-like after he connected. I mean, he didn't wait 4 minutes before making the courtesy move towards first base. But he definitely looked like he was giving at least a thought or 2 to an errand he could get done first before starting his jog around the basepaths.

And despite all this, it wasn't until Melky hit the 2nd clutch shot of the night that things heated up. (A-Rod gets the #1 spot on that, which is corroborated by the Ford Drive of the Game. Again with the limitations of prematurely deciding this award. Lots could happen after the top of the 8th.)

Amidst this momentum building, Girardi distracts us once again with his Adventures in Unexplainable Bullpen Moves. Phil Hughes has been extraordinary in relief. Flawless, really. And Kay shares with us a story of when Mo started out, how he had said, "Well I'm a reliever now, but I know I'll get back to the rotation soon enough." Which is exactly what Hughes is now saying. If his story even remotely mirrors that of Mo's, I'm ok with him never stepping foot back in the rotation.

Girardi, however, didn't have any interest in Hughes stepping foot back onto the field, after he retired the side with 9 F-ING PITCHES.


Out. Out. Out.

How did this riddling move play out? Girardi: "Ok, this is good, this is good. Nice, I'm glad my young arm's not wasting too many pitches. Great. Ok, 9 pitches. That's a lot. Wait, no it's not. How many were Joba's? Oh, shit. Was I supposed to take JOBA out after 9 pitches? DAMMIT SOMEONE BRING ME A COPY OF THE JOBA RULES! And yank Hughes until I know what's what. I don't care who you put in. Is Tanyon Sturtze still on the active roster? Call him in. Or whoever's there. Just go alphabetically. BUT NOT ACEVES. I can never remember if he's good or not."

So Bruney trots in, puts the ball in play as much as humanly possible and supplements it with a healthy serving of BBs. Gives up 2 runs to allow Seattle to tie it at 5, and still makes out like a bandit when he logs the big W.

Then there's my favorite reliever. The start of all things good in baseball, the end of all games won for the Yankees. He threw out the ceremonial 1st pitch, after a HS softball team surgically attached themselves to the Yanks, right before the National Anthem started playing. I should have known the game was going to be the opposite of predictable, just from the odd sequence of events punctuating the pre-game ceremonies.

"The answer to the ultimate question of life, universe, of 42."
--Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galazy

And to make Mo's 501th save even that much sweeter, we have the Sux down in Baltimore doing God knows what to relinquish a 9-run lead. Against the O's. It was sort of the same pattern of game-intensity that Yank fans suffered through. Flipping-the-channel uneventful...turns into Oh crap, we really got a tight one on our hands now.

Papelbon blows the save. Which means I'll officially stab someone in the face if I ever hear even ONE suggestion and insinuation that these 2 pitchers are in the same universe...cough SportsGuy cough...

On June 21, 2006, Bill Simmons writes the following:

Papelbon struck out the side for the victory. It was the kind of thing Rivera would have done.

And that's the right comparison: Mariano Rivera. We have watched dozens of quality relievers over the years, but only a few were dominant forces: Rivera, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Eric Gagné, K-Rod. That's about it. You can always overspend for Billy Wagner or call up someone like Chris Ray, but how far will that get you? Can we even quantify Rivera's worth compared with that of the average closer? Was there a more indispensable player over the past decade, a bigger disparity between the No. 1 and the No. 2 guys at any other position? We rarely consider closers as MVP candidates, but name another player who came through in the playoffs more times. With the way October baseball works in the 21st century -- three rounds and 19 possible games over four weeks -- an extraordinary reliever might be the single greatest asset for any team.

I remember the date and content of this article so vividly because I keep on file the hate mail I send to him. And hence have this on my hard drive:

You gotta be kidding me with your Papelbon story. It's one thing to assert yet another one of your "bold" claims, acting like you, Bill Simmons, has noticed something special before anyone else did, that your "papelbon is awesome!" contention is BRAND NEW INFORMATION. But as you are usually disposed to do, you have to take it a step further, weaving in your flat, trite, and vapid Rivera comparison. Come on. Seriously? It's Mo. What Mo forgot about baseball, NO ONE will ever come close to knowing. (And not for nothing, but I'm disappointed in you--your comparisons usually have a little more color and acuity than "They are both great closers. Pap must be the next Mo.") Please. Give it up. Try eckerlsey if you insist on using Pap's 12 weeks numbers as a basis of comparison between men who have refined their stats for years. You're just falling in the ranks of all the "Babe or Bond? It's really a question worth debating!" school of thought. It's no wonder ESPN doesn't keep their archives accessible--I can only imagine the similar hopped-up comparisons that were made for Brady Anderson/Brian Roberts/Bill Swift. But since I know you and your cohorts will continue to play Sports Nostradumus just like every other "Boy who cried sleeper," at least make it plausible. And if it's not too much trouble, try to make it interesting.

Now I feel like the guy in Billy Madison with the People to Kill sign.

The point is, the Sux gave up a 9 run lead to the worst team in the AL East. Which meant the Yanks closed in to 2.5 games back. And which also means Yankee fans with the MLB Extra Inning Package got to feast on a 1-2 punch: immediately following the Rivera bookend game, I switched to channel 435 to see the Papelbon look ending game. Symmetry was otherworldly.

I just wished I had caught some of the other games going on. My sister was watching the Mets game out and sent me a text at around 9:22pm that said, "Omg funniest Mets play ever. Look it up. Pop up to center. I can't even describe what happened. But it looked like the CF had money on the other team."

If it wasn't already 2:30am, I'd spend more time trying to locate this Fernando Martinez web gem online. Fortunately, the Mets defense has become the backbone of SportsCenter highlight reels, providing a ready-made 3-ring circus of beauties handed over to the ESPN producers every night they play. And as such, I don't think I'll have to wait long before I see the latest Jerry Manual ulcer splashed across my TV screen.

A final note on the day: releases an unconfirmed list of the 103 names of steroid users in 2003, from which ARod's name was originally extrapolated. I don't know how valid this is, but then again, how was the Mitchell Report developed? Hearsay. According to, Rotoinfo informed them that the source was highly trusted which was why they were not hesitant to release list on their website.

Sister's reaction:

5:46 PM Lauren: ? how did you find that? my first question is: what sort
of order is this in? from most steroids to least steroids?

While I remain somewhat skeptical, I'll echo my buddy Keith's sentiments here: "Those names just don't come out of nowhere. Nothing's completely arbitrary." And in the meantime as I wait for its validity to be confirmed or denied, I will absolutely not waste any time marinating in the delight upon seeing the names populating the Top 10.

And with that, I'm signing off. A.k.a. watching Baseball Tonight and hoping they go for the juggular(s) in their highlight reels.

UPDATE! 11:17 AM

Dear Diary,



"That (Mariano) Rivera guy, we don't need to face him anymore. He needs to pitch at a higher level, ban him from baseball. He should be illegal."
- Twins Manager Tom Kelly, April 28, 1996

Speaking of illegal, I'd say it's a safe bet that someone should keep eye on K-Rod for the next day or two, because I wouldn't be surprised if some Santiago-like Code Red is ordered on Castillo.

More illegal activity includes the egregious rejection of anything that could possibly be construed as intelligent sports commentary, streaming from the ESPN booth.

I don’t know what exactly it is about the Mets that makes them such a joke, that jenny say qua [sic] that gives them their inimitable breed of Mets-ness. But it’s almost like it’s inescapable sometimes. I mean, the Yanks put WANG on the mound. They gave Wang something that has eluded him for the entire first half of the season.

And as much as I’d like to think that maybe Wang is improving, I think if he was pitted up against most other teams, he’d discover the standard “Sinker Ball? More lke DING-er ball!” treatment.

And I say this because watching him pitch last night, I saw little (if any) difference in his pitch movements. I DID see the predictable lack of control, evidenced by 3 BB and 1 hit batter in the first 3 innings.

See, I know everyone’s gonna make a big deal out of Wang’s alleged slow but steady return to form, but it’s a little too much like the prodigal son to me. Who cares if he can go a touch beyond 5 innings, and only let up 2 runs? Shouldn’t it be telling the powers that be something that we’re getting excited over a season-high 5 1/3 innings, with his ERA ALMOST in single digits? And against the Mets? Who look like they don’t have enough coordination to execute a high-five?

All things considered, the Mets got off easy. If it weren’t for Mo’s historical moment(s), there’d be a lot more negative attention paid to the Mutts, instead of showering the Yankees with glorifying praise. They owe Mo some thanks for that, because if not for his RBI walk and 500th career save, we’d likely be seeing Castillo’s sheepish mug plastered across every NY paper, instead of Mo’s million dollar smile.

And when you saw Mo after the game with his teammates, beaming and hugging everyone, you couldn’t help but think that this day couldn’t have happened to a better guy. I fall in love with him a little bit more every time I see him play and especially when I see his post-win interviews. He’s the reason I love the Yankees, and the reason I am hypersensitive to antics characteristic of the Red Sux. He's exactly the type of athlete I'd aspire to be, if I was aspiring to be an athlete. But his attitude towards the game, his work ethic, his class, and commitment are all traits of a person I'd want to emulate. He handles himself more nobly and gracefully than any other player I've ever seen, in any sport.

He has the perfected the unduly admirable skill of the proverbial cliche: "Act like you've been there before"--a critique bestowed upon endzone dancers and dramatic fistpumpers and generic showboaters. He is the best of the best, untouchable and incomparable, and his demeanor is stunningly humble and understated.

In the postgame interview with the Trifecta of Imbeciles lolling around in the ESPN booth, Mo manages to make heads/tails of their inane questioning. (So multi-talented!)

"So is this a big deal? Is it exciting?"

Mo: "I hate you." (Actually, "It definitely is." I swear to God, out of everything this legend did last night, the most impressive might have been talking to Phillips/Morgan/Miller for longer than a minute without pointing out that they have as much value to society as asbestos, with a combined IQ on par with a giraffe goldfish.)

And at the same time, he has an unerring competitive impetus that's defined his excellence since his first save on May 17, 1996. (That day in history might be the best the Yanks know.)

They were talking about Mo's recent at-bat against Atlanta where he lined out to left center, and apparently Girardi had instructed him not to swing.

And when that opportunity presented itself on Wednesday, Rivera jammed on a borrowed batting helmet and listened to explicit instructions from the bench not to swing. The 39-year-old closer nodded his head, promising that he wouldn't swing.

But Rivera knew that, in the final years of his Major League career, this at-bat in the final inning of an 8-4 Yankees victory over the Braves would probably be his last. So Rivera broke that promise, putting a solid cut on reliever Manny Acosta's 0-1 fastball and lining out to center fielder Nate McLouth.

"I've got to take a swing," Rivera said. "I apologized to my pitching coach and manager, but I had to do it."

Well, yes, Mo. I agree. With 2 outs, you do have to swing. I suppose with an 8-4 lead, you got a little breathing room, and technically you could just take the out and leave the bases loaded. But then, what’s the point of even coming to the plate at all? In co-ed softball leagues, if a guy gets walked on 4 straight balls and has a girl hitting after him, the chick automatically gets a base.

But what fun is that? Swing away, Mo. Girardi’s decisions regarding, well, pretty much everything, had been nothing short of utterly baffling. Watching his managerial moves and buying into his coaching wisdom seems to me like putting your faith in a hammered buddy’s ramblings because he keeps saying, “No, seriously. I’m not even drunk.”

So how exactly does it get more comical than the way it unfolded? The only reason Mo got to bat at all was because Posada (or Cano, according to Jon Miller), hit one of his trademark bloop popups that somehow manages to move often than not elude the infield/outfield. And it's exacerbated because you're playing the Mets who I'm pretty sure have a copyright on the 3-fielders-colliding-on-routine-popup move, which Hollywood later bought the rights to and have applied it to every baseball movie montage ever.

Castillo does his trademark move, which is give K-Rod more and more legit homicide motives. And then soon thereafter, we get another hilarious segment when the Yankees try to "trick" the Mets into thinking Cervelli (and not Mo) is batting after Jeter. It was the most personable I'd ever really seen Jeter, when--after getting a first pitch strike--gives this look like, "Umm, ok. You, uh, know who you're facing next, right? Just checking."

Fantastic. Great comedic timing especially from someone who has residual flu symptoms. I don't crack a smile when I'm sick, let alone make awesome funny faces like this one.

But really, the game's oddities just kept coming. The Yanks didn't get a hit after the first inning, and didn't score again til Mo's RBI in the 9th. But despite their lack of hits, they were definitely seeing some OBP, with the Mets issuing a cool 11 BBs. Ridiculous.

The US Soccer team should send the Amazins a nice gift basket with cured meats and sesame crackers, to thank them for diluting the embarrassment of forfeiting a 2-goal lead on Brazil. Because as bad as that is, nothing trumps one of the best closers in the game walking THE best closer in the game.

Just as baseball needs the Yankees to be their universally loathed Evil Empire, baseball needs the Mutts for their universally embraced follies.

Have there been more than a normal amount of close calls? CC keeps getting closer and closer. And AJ had literally ONE bad pitch last night.

And I just realized that the last time there was a 1-hit game by the Yanks, I was there, too. June 30, 2006. Mike Mussina was pitching amazingly. Absolutely stunning. Then the skies opened and there was a monsoon, and Cone Moose is not, so I was shocked he even returned to the game after having to suffer through that little 63-minute rain delay hiccup.

I also remember committing on of my finer moments of idiocy, later texting the guy who took me to the game: "Hey, thank you so much for going to game with me. Call me when you get good." Yeah, "good" is the same thing as "home" in predicative text. Should have proofread.

I think I would be so mortified if I had to watch the Yankees sit through a perfect game or no hitter. But on the flip side of the coin, sitting through 7 innings of tension last night was pretty brutal, too. After about 4 or 5, I stopped being all "Wow! What a great night! Baseball in the summer! Woohoo!" and started being like, "WHY ARE THERE PEOPLE TALKING RIGHT NOW? DIEDIEDIE" I'm a real pleasure sometimes.

ESPN is currently airing the Mets-Yanks game, so I'm not much more convivial tonight. I hope I get to hear more about how 3 to zero means that one team has scored 3 runs and the other team has not. I'm not kidding, this is real in-game analysis from the only people involved in the game with more ineptitude than Chien Ming Wang.

My first trip to Shea Part II...and saying the news digs are better than their old ones would be like saying Pujols is a better batter than Alex Cora. It was quite stunning in there, I was admittedly floored at how well it was constructed, in terms of accessibility and sight lines, etc.

Then there's the team it houses.

Let's cut the Mets a little slack, seeing as their entire team is basically depleted and they're playing with the understudies for "Beer League."

Not to mention that AJ and CC are pretty good pitchers. Amazing, even. (Despite what anyone has been saying otherwise. Lately it seems that people are going out of their way to opine that both of these hurlers are 100% overrated, overpaid, and worthless. This seems to make about as much sense as Mets fans breaking into "Yankees suck!" chants when the score became 5-0. If the Yankees suck, and you can't get more than 1 hit against them, what does that make you? Just something to think about, I guess.)

But I'm not too sympathetic to their hitting plights, even with the Yanks foray into offensive anorexia last week, because my feathers are getting a little ruffled with these subtle digs from opposing players about their Yanks' payroll. After the Yanks beat Florida last Friday 5-1, losing pitcher Sean West says, "It's a good lineup. The best money can buy."

Then today, Ryan Church gives us, "They had great stuff. They why they get paid the money they do."

Settle down, small fries. Just take the loss, and stop being all Boston-ed out by doing that whole knee-jerk default to the "buy your team" snark. I would much rather be seen as a team that lost rather than an embittered player who takes his cue from Boston's unique patented blend of inferiority complex and pathetic rationalizations. But to each his own, I guess.

Other game notes:

  • Opposite field homeruns from Jorge and Swisher. Generally speaking, the entire team was hitting on the screws--it seemed like the ball was being roped all over the field, albeit some directly at the Mets outfielders. The Mets fans behind me realllllly stuck it to me when they said, "Yeah, those would have been homeruns in your stadium dump." I have approximately zero idea of what exactly superfan99 was going for with that.
  • It's a good thing Posada went yard, because I think it made everyone in the world forget/overlook the fact that in the 6th inning, HE WENT UP AND TALKED TO BURNETT. I don't understand how this hasn't been the linchpin of every single game recap. How can you do that, Jorge? Why? Is that not a real superstition that athletes uphold? If Swingers has taught us anything outside the fact that Vegas, baby and You're so money will never leave the lexicon of fraternity pledges, it's that if your obsessive dumped pal goes a day without bringing up his ex, you don't mention it. And that if your pitcher's throwing a no-hitter, you don't talk to him. (at 5:10)
  • Melky is one of the best outfielders in the game. His value is going to significantly mushroom in about a year, with defense becoming an increasingly expensive comodity in the league. It's not just his ability, but the discernible improvement he demonstrates every game along with the unmistakable "giving it 100%"* effort he puts forth.
  • A-Rod's swing is breathtaking. It's yet another example of how superficial boxscores are, and the related dangers of using them as honest indicators of a player's performance. (That sounds a little bit like a parent of a child who banked a 810 composite score on his SATs. Maybe I'm rationalizing things because I'm so impressed with the way he hits the ball, but maybe I'm just of the mindset that when I'm playing ball, I'd rather go 0-3 with 3 line-outs to the warning track, then 1- or 2-3 with meager infield grounders. Because the former means that you're hitting. The latter means you're lucky. Contrary to what Lefty Gomez may say, I'd rather be good than lucky.)

  • Fantastic team effort from the pen. Bruney becomes the latest Yankee to join the "Yeah, I got injured. So what, I'm back in spades, bitch" club. Welcome!

  • There was a guy wearing a full Michael Jordan UNC uniform. It wouldn't have been odd to me if the dude was one of those, "Look at me, I don't give a shit what people think! Please, look at me so I can tell you as much!" guys. But rather, I think he might have seriously thought everyone who WASN'T wearing one to be weird.

  • During the game, a moisturizer lotion sponsor had an ad play on the jumbotron that demanded, "Mets fans! Raise your hands if you got the soft hands!" So I see this little boy, no more than 4 years old and wearing a Jeter tshirt, jump up and down and wave his hands. His mother was on him like white on rice. "JASON!!! STOP THAT RIGHT NOW!! YOU ARE NOT A METS FAN. Oh my God. Unbelievable." It was awesome because she wasn't even remotely joking around.

  • Second night in a row of bizarrely, surreal skies. Friday night's game looked like someone upstairs spilt all their cotton balls during a mani/pedi. And Saturday? Well, the sun just set on the Mets bats, really.

  • It's all over but the screaming, 8th inning, 5-0. Most of the stadium's exited to catch the next LIRR or 7 train. I applaud the Mets fans who stayed, even the 2 douchebags behind me who were mindnumbingly unfunny. ("HEY! WHAT DOES MICHAEL JACKSON HAVE IN COMMON WITH RONALD REAGEN?" "WHAT?" "THEY'RE BOTH DEAD!" That was one "bit" they did. I wished my sister had been there so she could have countered with, "What does Michael Jackson have in common with the Mets? They both wear one glove for no apparent reason at all.") And around this point in the game, 2 Mets fan shuffle by me walking up the stairs in the Promenade section and I overhear one say to the other: "Is this gonna last forever?"
It was impossible to tell if he was paying homage to David After Dentist, or just asking out of Mets-like despair.


*Along with "stepping up to the plate," "giving it 110%" ranks with my all-time most infuriating expressions. How can you give more than 100%? And if you can, isn't 110% kind of unimpressive? Why not 432%? Same thing goes for when you ask someone, "On a scale of 1-10..." and they answer with an emphatic "11!" 11 ISN'T ON A SCALE OF 1-10. JUST ANSWER 10 IF YOU NEED TO UNDERSCORE IT.

If I never hear another Michael Jackson song, it will be too soon. I swear to God, if I go to Citifield tonight and if there’s so much as one mention of MJ, if one player decides to change his at-bat music to Thriller, if there’s a cheesy sign paying homage to him in the hopes of making it on TV…I will become murderous. I almost did last night when I was trying to enjoy a nice game of Beirut and the bar’s DJ insisted on showcasing his respect of pop culture by leaving his MJ playlist on the “repeat all” setting of his iPod.

Get it? Because he died? It was topical. I get annoyed if there’s a millimeter of space between cups when I’m playing Beirut, become enraged when opponents get distracted and take too long to throw, and am out for blood when someone decides to play some dirge-like blast from the past on the jukebox like “How’s It Gonna Be?” So when I was subjected to hour upon hour of Billy Jean and Beat It, et al, I had steam coming out of my ears.

I actually did get a little too aggressive about things, and have the bruises to show for it. I felt like I was Steve Sanders in the 90210 episode when he decides to take steroids. Fueled by the rage of having a seedy musician’s death govern the night’s soundtrack, my post-win celebratory elbow bumps were unnecessarily aggressive, and now my entire right arm is swollen and lined with ridiculous purple patches.

Good move, Kris.

Thank God the Yanks won, I don’t even want to think about the physical repercussions of how I would have been with a loss on my mind on top of the icepick to my brain background noise.
After a train wreck road trip to Washington and then Atlanta, the Yanks looked like their sparky selves again last night. Even though they were on the other side of town, they were still back in NY, and outta the south. I know that feeling.

Bart Hubbach of the NY Post said it best in his lead paragraph:

“If that was CC Sabathia with a sore biceps, then the Mets don’t want to see the
big left-hander when he’s healthy.”
It’s interesting because the Yankees have wrestling with injury plagues for the last couple of seasons, an expected consequence of their handful of aging players, not to the mention their overwhelming reliance on big bats due to an ineffective bullpen, plus the abusive sweat shop labor Torre used to bestow upon said bullpen.

So dealing with their everpresent spats on injury issues is nothing new. What IS novel is the fact that they seem to actually play better when the jump back into the game: Consider this season’s notable performances:
  • ARod’s first pitch ding in first game back after hip surgery
  • Gardner’s batting after he slams fullspeed into the center field wall like a bull attacking a matador’s red curtain thing
  • Damon’s batting after it’s discovered his caffeine intake is making his eyes useless entities
    CC’s 8K, 0BB, 3 hit, 7 inning mow-down of the Mets last night after pulling a muscle in his last start (plus his delightfully fat RBI)

Of course, there’s one notable exception. It’s like Wang sucked up all the Recuperation is Not Something I’m Interested In juice from the poorly chosen fake Holy Grail. Now the rest of the team is playing like they went to the fairy pond in Zelda and got all their life-hearts instantly replenished.

Jeter was out of the lineup yesterday because of a cough. (On his BIRTHDAY! That’s like my sister’s vision of hell, who believes birthdays to be the ultimate nirvana of everything. I guess boys aren’t as big into birthdays, and maybe he’s getting at an age when he starts getting paranoid about being old so he’d just as soon ignore his bday altogether. But still. Sick on your birthday? Poor Jeter. Unless he was just calling in sick so he could go to Dave and Buster’s or capitalize on every bar that offers free drinks on your big day.

Update 2:55AM 6/28…

Just got back from seeing the latest Yanks win over the Mutts at Citifield. Got a whole slew of fantastic anecdotal evidence to bolster the burgeoning campaign towards Mutts-patented ridiculousness. Might have to spend all of Sunday on this one. To be cont…

Oh, wait. I'd be remiss in not logging in these 2 gems before I passed out. Both were within the span of 45 minutes from cab drivers in Long Beach:


"You're going to the Yankee game? Better off staying home and watching them lose from there. Redding's going whip you guys' ass."

"Really? Redding?"

"He's been amazing."

"He's 1-2 with 9.00 ERA against the AL."



"You got a GIFT last night. A GIFT. CC wasn't overwhelming, the Mets just made a bunch of mental errors."

"He had 8Ks."


Mutts fans are categorically averse to logic. And hide it really, really well.*

*"Well"= absolutely not at all.

The Yanks didn't waste any time teeing off on Lowe. I expected more from him, but was happily surprised when they started batting around all over the place.

Oh, also. A child molester died and facebook became real beehive of activity with all the "RIP MJ" and "such a sad day! :(" laments. I don't understand people. I guess he's a cultural icon, but so is Charles Manson, and I would hope that no one is going to cry any tears over his eventual demise. Plus, is there any need for EVERY freaking bar in NYC to play only Michael Jackson songs ALL night? I practically had to sell my soul to the jukebox to get it to play "This is Why I'm Hot." Are we going to have to suffer through the same monotonous eulogizing when Celine Dion or Nick Lachey dies? Sweet Christ.

Maybe I don't have that historical perspective that others have. And by historical perspective, I mean even a crumb of knowledge about current events or pop culture, as demonstrated by the following exchange with my sister:

Kris (7:28:53 PM): michael jackson died??

Laur (7:29:28 PM): yes. and farrah fawcet :(

Kris (7:30:19 PM): whos that

Laur (7:31:15 PM): the former sec of defense

Kris (7:32:41 PM): ha i was way off i thought she was woody allens daughter



Kris (7:59:01 PM): thats not true

Thanks, Laur. Exploit my raging idiocy. No problem.

And thank you, HapyKorean for running to my defense on this one: "ha. but Kris, you could name all the Yankee HOFers chronologically. and isn't that really all that matters?"

Which brings me back to the more important issue, which is baseball. Specifically the game last night in which the Yankee bats woke up--ARod's most notably.

Of course. It was only a matter of time before they started acting like the Yankees again. It didn't hurt that Atlanta logged 3 errors. I actually thought it'd be more than that, every time I looked up from my wings and at the tv, there was another errant throw. Turner Field looked a pinball machine.

And the Yankees capitalized on everything, and played like they should be. The box score looked beautiful this morning:

Look at all those hits! Jeter 4/5, Damon 3/4, ARod, 3/5... it was just a site for sore eyes.

But I'd remiss in not mentioning the pitching, with Mariano Rivera locking up his 499th career save, one away from tying Trevor Hoffman as the only 2 pitchers to have 500.

Aceves looked aces, only letting up 2 hits in 2.1 innings, no runs. Rest of the bullpen only letting up 1 run in 4.4 innings. Well done, guys! That's great!

And to make the win even more enjoyable, the Sux lost to the Nats. See, it's not that easy, is it? Maybe you pathetic fans shouldn't have lambasted the Yanks so much last week, huh.

Shorter recap today, in light of having my first summer Friday of the year and spending it skipping around NYC, despite the awful, awful weather. I don't think I'd even mind this crappy weather so much if it weren't for the fact that people are like chemically dependent on umbrellas, and hence take up 2x as much space on the sidewalk. I opt to take one for the team and not use one to minimize the eye-poking.

And the other reason is that my poor ACL isn't crazy about this weather and whines alot in humidity.

But, semantics. Off to the batting cages to cheer up my ACL. And thanks to Iowa Jeff for this completely non-sports related, but still undoubtedly hilarious gem from my future husband, Duncan.

I can't even wrap my head around the things that I would have done had the Yankees not gotten a single hit that game, let alone lost.

"Well, you sound a little happier tonight," says Iowa Jeff on the phone last night, who is growing increasingly concerned that he may never leave NYC alive should the Yankees play a bad game during his visit.

I guess I can see where this trepidation stems from. When there was a perfect game bid going on against the Yanks last night THROUGH 5 INNINGS, I texted him: "You don't even want to know what I'll do if the Yanks suffer through a no-no tonight."

"Wow. Oh man, just turned it on. Does it help that the pitcher's name is Kris?"


It was lucky I was at work during this offensive fasting, since I didn't have any TV to kick, and only a static-y radio to plot homicide against. In the 5 minutes it took me to check on a project 4 floors up, the Yanks tied the game at 1 and had a little "3" in their hits cell of the box score.

I don't know who was more relieved, me or Iowa Jeff:

"Thank God. My survival chances just increased...slightly."

Watching the highlights of the game, I saw the Brett Gardner getting picked off play that every one of my friends watching the game had furiously texted me about.

It was indeed a horrendously bad call, but I can see how the ump missed it. HOWEVER, it's Brett Gardner. He doesn't get picked off. So if I were the ump, I would have given him the benefit of the doubt and assumed a policy of "tie goes to the kid who can run faster than my Miata."

And this play demonstrated that the Yankees are as malleable as Play-Doh, and that if they were in grade school, they'd be the kids who fell for, "Well, you're probably right. You're not cool enough to leave a frog in Miss Simpson's desk anyway. Nevermind."

"I am SO cool enough. Watch, I'll prove it."

All it takes for the Yankees to get a little spark in their eyes and a charge in their bats is for their manager to get thrown out.


After Girardi came out and made an aggressive show of his indignation, in his most earnest Norman Dale impression.


Replays showed Gardner was safe, but it was not an egregiously bad call by Bill Welke.

No matter. Girardi raced out of the dugout and stomped his feet while pointing in various directions for a few minutes.

"Do you want me to throw you out?" Welke finally asked.

Girardi did and the umpire obliged. As their manager hooped, the Yankees took the lead a few minutes later and went on to beat the Atlanta Braves 8-4 before a crowd of 42,315 at Turner Field.

I should perhaps commend Girardi on his Spicoli-like commitment to doing the absolute bare minimum to skate by on his managerial duties. It's not easy, I would imagine, running a team based on a work ethic that dictates doing as little as possible. But this may be the absolute perfect solution. Get thrown out once every few games to light a fire under the team's ass, and wipe your hands of any remaining coaching duties for the remainder of the game.

It's a safe bet that even a wholly intoxicated Shooter Flatch would do a better job running the game.

But a win's a win. And from what I've seen from the Yankees in the past years, they're the type of club that just needs one good game to put them back on their feet. There are 2 types of people in the world: people who treat every misfortune as an isolated incident and not indicative of any bigger picture pattern...and people who see every tribulation, every setback, as "just one more thing."

It's easy to right the ship when adversity isn't perceived as a continuing plague, but when you start marinating in the slump, it's a lot harder to dig yourself out of it. Though the media and fans like to harp on the emotional anarchy that is ARod's psyche, the Yankees as a team often exemplify that same penchant for getting caught up in their hardships. Which is understandable, of course, since the entire spors world is constantly gunning for them and holding them to nothing short of flawless standards.

They're caged in a perennial lose-lose situation: if they try to develop their farm (a la their refusal to trade Melky for Santana a few years ago), they're panned for moronic decision-making. If they go for the big names, they're "buying their team." They have the most expensive line-up in the game, and anything short of perfection is carved up by every cynic and hater in the free world.

A game like last night may not have been the epitome of silencing their backseat drivers, but it was enough to get them off their backs for at least a little, especially since the offensive outburst was spearheaded by little Cervilli, who knocked in his first major league homerun.

ARod finally reunited with his long-last pal, the ribbie, on an 0-2 count no less! With the bases loaded! Not bad for a guy whose career accomplishments are constantly threatened with a reputation of "not being clutch."

It's interesting how you can never really escape what people have branded you. Ex-RB for the Jets Curtin Martin once said, "People define you before you define yourself." New York's been calling Jeter Mr. Clutch for over a decade, so when he comes up to the plate, are we still thinking, "Thank GOD he's the one up right now"? Yes, he's slumping, and he'll surely bounce out of it. He's one of the Yankee's best career batters ever. But is he as clutch as we make him out to be? ARod's been panned for choking in the clutch time and time again, but why?

From BaseballSuite101:

A-Rod has come to the plate 68 times in the 7th inning or later when the Yankees are within one run of their opponent. In those plate appearances, Rodriguez is hitting .328, has a .412 OBP, and has 6 home runs and 19 RBI. It gets better. In 46 ninth inning at bats, Rodriguez is batting .447 with 8 home runs (one per every 5.8 at bats) and 20 RBI (one per every 2.3 at bats). He also has four game-winning walkoff hits, two of them home runs, one off Jonathan Papelbon.

Carl Bialik also chimes in with some surprising stats:
So how did ARod become the worst clutch hitter and baseball and Jeter the best? I wonder which stigma's worse, actually.

Eh, I digress. In terms of yesterday's game:

Joba was pitching a lot smarter than usual, killing Atlanta by making them chase balls over the plate. Hitters went 0-6 with 4Ks on inside pitches, with 44% of batters chasing pitches outside the zone. That's Joba's wheelhouse, and that's yet another reason he should stay in the pen. He can throw effective strikes and borderline outside corner pitches that will fool some of the batters some of the time.

Why isn't a big deal that Hughes, who's technically a starter, is sent to pen, but when the Joba-as-starter argument is broached, the first thing debaters default to is that he was originally a starter in Nebraska? By that logic, shouldn't our other original starter be just as justified in the rotation?

The highlight of the game and the entire season to date was unquestionably Mariano Rivera's at bat. I loved how the announcers could barely even focus on the batters at the plate, because all they kept doing was considering the chain of events that would result in my favorite all-time Yankee to get the chance to step up to the plate. "The Yankees haven't had much to laugh about, but they're really getting a kick out of Mo having to bat."

Nothing in the 2009 season has brought me as much joy as watching Melky prep Mo for the big at-bat. (A close second was Melky tripping rounding 1st and Cano's hysterical reaction to it, on May 24 against the Phillies.)

Melky's very helpful. "Here's your helmet. You can borrow Aceves'." (Ha! Aceves gets his own helmet and Mo doesn't appear to even know what a helmet is.) "And here's my batting gloves you can borrow. Now you have to stand on deck. That's over there." (This is, of course, how I imagined the conversation to go, and based on what we saw from the tape, it isn't a stretch.)

I think it's probably better Mo didn't get a grand slam there, because that officially would have been the end of me. There isn't a snowman's chance in hell that my body or brain would have been able to accommodate the astronomical levels of shock and delirium that would have inevitably struck.

The shock that ensued when I saw Girardi had him swinging ended up being high enough. You'd think the Aesop's Fable of Wang and the Pinch Running would have served up a lesson about protecting your pitchers with the everything short of taping a pillow to their chest and sticking a football helmet on them.

But Mo swings away, flashes a blinding grin as he trots to first, and it was the happiest I've ever been to see a Yankee strand 3 runners on base in the 9th inning.

I don't remember the last night I've been this cranky. Granted my posts and recaps aren't exactly stripped of bias and emotional investment to begin with, but today particularly I may be infusing a little more bile than usual into my accounts. But I'm about 16 hours removed from last night's game now, so I've calmed a lot. Some.

So the Yanks lose 4-0 to the Atlanta Braves, or as my buddy Andy calls them, "the Triple A lineup."

Re: dirty souf

are you licking your chops to face our Triple A lineup? fortunately we scored the comically named chinaman for the series opener. kid is a horrowshow. good news for you, robin williams, and matthew broderick is that we are contractually obligated to lose games in which the other team scores more than 2 runs. out to an early lead...we'll see.

caught a game at fenway last weekend. dope.

PS. mccann is cashmoney. put him on your allstar ballot, young sports literati (don't know singular, forgive).

I'm not too thrilled about this. I can't throw Wang under the bus because he wasn't as abysmal as starts past, but since the kid still hasn't logged a W this year, I'm admittedly frustrated.

Text exchange with fellow die-hard:

"Odds of Wang bringing ERA to below 10."
"Your glassful outlook is admired."

Comments with Keith over tense beer:

"All he'd have to do is give up less than 9 runs over 4 innings to bring his ERA down."
"Around that. How hard is that?"

This is before I prematurely left my half full (or half empty?*) beer on the bar, leaving a note for Keith apologizing for early exit:

"Sorry, took off. I can't stomach watching this anymore, and I'm kinda off to begin with. -CYC"

From the AP:

New York managed just four hits and left 12 runners on base as Chien-Ming Wang (0-6) lost his sixth straight start.

"It's hard to win when you get only four hits," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We're just not swinging the bats."

NOT SWINGING THE BATS? Were you watching the same game as me, Joe? From where I was sitting, the Yanks were swinging away like they were at the cages and wanted to get more bang for their tokens but going for every ball the machine spit out at them.

Jeter and Swisher especially decided they weren't really interested in sitting on pitches and found it much more exciting to ground into double plays and give the freaking Braves easy outs.

More lines from the game that make it possibly the most disconcerting game they've played to date:

  • Wang gave up 6 hits, 3 runs, and a walk.
  • His ERA DROPPED to 11.20.
  • "It was one of the better starts he's had," Girardi said. "He just had one inning that cost him the game."
  • Posada struck out 4 times, the first time he's done that since 2002.
  • Tex and ARod both blanked at the plate
  • ARod's average is among the worst in baseball.
  • According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the Braves pitched a shutout and allowed 10 hits but none for extra bases was in 1973 when Carl Morton had a 10-hit complete game.

All that being said, here's my reaction:
  • Wang is done. It doesn't matter how much historically brilliant accomplishments on his resume, he hurt himself last year running the bases, and he's never going to be the same. It happens. People get injured and they never return to form, no how much training and medical competence is applied. It's the story of the game. You put yourself at risk every time you take the field in any sport, and it doesn't matter if you're so saturated with natural ability that you sometimes trip over it getting out bed in the morning. Wang's done.
  • The sooner Girardi comes to terms with this, the sooner we can plug up his timebomb of a spot in the rotation. But unfortuantely, Girardi is acting like every single chick in the world who stays with a bad boyfriend despite being all too familiar with his faults. "But...but...he used to be so sweet! And everything was so perfect! I just want it to go back to that." It's not going to. We are who we are. People don't change. Cut your losses and start looking for the rebound pitcher, Joe.
  • Posada's old, but he's good. I don't seem him being much of a liability to this team. And I think once the team as a whole gets out of their slump, he'll follow suit. Still, I don't think it would hurt to give Cervelli more play. He's playing sharper, quicker, and the pitchers have better outings when the Ital's behind the plate.
  • ARod is one of the best players that ever lived. He's young, and just in a slump. Anyone who doubts that he's going to be back into slugfest form in the near future is just criminally insane. Seriously, it's unquestionable that this recent performance is an anomaly rather than the norm for someone like him. He isn't a pitcher who's lost his stuff. He's a batting struggling with the ubiquitous concern that forever plagues major leaguers--cooling down. If Pedroia was slumping like this, would anyone for a second consider the possibility that he's not inevitably going to bounce back?
  • Hanson's got decent stuff. Reminds me of Kazmir. I'm not too ashamed of being shut down by this guy. It's just because it's against the snarky BRAVES, who, despite playing under .500, are cantankerous enough (or their organist is anyway) to play Madonna at ARod's at bat and "Mrs. Robinson" for Cano.
  • By the way, the Yankees have the 3rd best record in baseball.
  • And lead in the Wild Card.

I think I need to start following my own maxim of life and "run my own race," aka stop paying attention to what other fans are saying or what other teams are doing, and just watch the Yankees in their own right. Because a loss shouldn't throw me into this much of a mental crippling. It wouldn't if my mind wasn't spinning with all the asinine haters who are loving this.

It's That Guy who's so wretchedly pathetic and so laughably devoid of anything going for him, who bitterly has been wrestling with inferiority complexes in one form or another his whole existence, who lazily accepts his mediocrity in life and indifferently embraces complacency, whose priorities are a muddled mess of going through the motions, who leverages misery by using his energy delighting in a Yankees loss, who can't be happy unless Yankee fans are's this ilk of negative haters who ruins baseball for Yankee fans. And they're all over the place!

And what kind of person or fan would I be if I assigned even a modicum of consequence to these Schaudenfraud-loving small fries?

Yankee fans are better than that.

"Vos es subter supter mihi. "

* * * *

Other notes from the day:
  • Text message from Iowa Jeff, who's in hell for a conference: "I'm usually not one that notices this type of thing, but for the record, I'd like to state that Boston sure does have a lot of ugly people."

  • MVP goes to Kevin who last night unwittingly dragged me outta hell with this text: "American Psycho is on IFC right now." (Nothing dilutes the violent depression of a loss like watching a movie that makes you contemplate situations where you could use lines like, "Not if you want to keep your spleen." Seriously. At least, that's what my grandfather always said.)

*It occurs to me how this half empty-half full metaphor for pessimism/optimism doesn't seem to hold water, pun intended. I left my beer half full. Which meant I didn't get to drink all of it. Isn't that worse than looking at it as half empty, which would suggest that, on the plus side, I DID get to drink half my beer? Like the Silly Race in Marble Madness, everything you know is wrong.

Saw this movie 2 nights ago, and it was scary but not terrifying. Entertaining, for certain. I texted my sister the highlights and wound up with this text exchange (I swear I talk to people in person too sometimes. Just not as much during baseball season.)
"There was a talking goat at the end of the movie. He was not cool with being possessed."
"That might be the weirdest text I've ever received. Congrats."

So I guess this is the Yankees' new thing now. Bring the game to within one run, somehow beg borrow and steal to get Gardner and his cartoonishly fast legs on 3B. Then end the inning by grounding out. Yesterday they mixed it up a little things from getting too stale for the fans, but stranding Teix on 1B, but still kept the Cano-Game-Ending-Double-Play element.

Today, the new twist was that it was Jeter grounding out. But since all Jeter's done in the last 7,012 at-bats is ground out, it didn't really surprise any fans.

Poor CC got taken out with an injury after 1 inning. Our best shot to go deep into the game and avoid the sting of the Chenns. Tightness in the biceps. I can't really hear about a CC muscle injury without automatically thinking "stroke." Fortunately, the fat man'll be back in business soon enough.

My 2nd favorite bullpen gem took over, only giving up 1 hit in 2.2 innings, and then handed the game over to the Chenns who predictably did their best (and succeeded) in putting the Yankees' offense in an even bigger hole to dig out of.

The Yankees were, in fact, up 3-1 at one point. But since Girardi thinks it's more fun to position Joba as a good but not great starter, instead of a unquestionably needed reliever, the game soon became 3-3.

But why stop at that? The bullpen then gave up a solo bomb, then another 2 for good measure, as the bullpen is want to do. They're probably the only people on the team studying the videos. Because it certainly looks like they've done extensive research to determine exactly how many runs are too much for the Yanks to overcome in the 7-8-9 innings. Which would explain our penchant for 1-run losses, especially after throwing up fake-rally runs prior to ultimately flatlining.

I love how Girardi decides to become a manager in the most pointless aspect of the game, when he calls the Marlins out on a roster discrepancy after a double-switch.

From the AP:
In an odd mixup, Chris Coghlan started the top of the eighth in left field after Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez had removed him in a double switch. Alejandro De Aza batted for pitcher Renyel Pinto in the seventh and was supposed to take over in left, but never ran on the field.
Leo Nunez threw a pitch, then Girardi came out to protest. After about a 5-minute delay, Coghlan was removed, Jeremy Hermida went to left field and the Yankees played the rest of the game under protest. They were trailing 6-3 at the time.
Girardi thought Nunez should have been ruled out of the game as well once the mistake was recognized.
"But I'd like to keep the two runs I got in the ninth," Girardi joked.

Yuk it up, Joe. Losing is HILARIOUS. Congratulations for catching Florida in trying to pull the wool over everyone's eyes. What was the best thing that could have happened here? We get a consolation run thrown up on the board? If Girardi wants to pantomime manager-type moves, I'd prefer it if he used this keen eye, attention to detail, and dedication to the book, towards the more meticulous management of his team. How can you be so on top of everything that you can notice this err in the double-switch, but can't manage to see the most fundamental problems eroding at the strength of your club?

The latest lapse in judgment stems from Girardi's unwillingness, or maybe it's just ignorance, to slow down the opposing pitcher. He just lets the game fly by, watching his unassailably skilled team get mystified by pitchers. One after another. Look, if you're going to patently refuse to do any kind of research or preparation for the game, help out your players a LITTLE bit by interrupting the pitcher's groove. Call time outs. Have the batters step out of the box. Do avoid helping the pitcher settle into his zone.

The off day today couldn't have come at a better time. Let your weary, NL-ed out club get some rest. They're dealing with a legion of insignificant slash significant injuries that are manifesting themselves in small slash consequential ways. Jeter's ankle. ARod's fatigue. CC's muscles. Gardner's headache. Damon's blindness.

In the meantime, I have discovered the joy of the Yes Network's "Yankees on Deck." I watched it yesterday, which originally just started out as having it as background noise while I did the crossword. But then Al Leiter comes on screen, and charmed the hell out of me. Back off. Some people have Orlando Bloom or Josh Duhamel, I have Al Leiter and Mark Teixeira. (PS I definitely had to do a google search to find out names of men considered hot right now. The only name I could come up with was Brad Pitt, and I don't know if that's considered old news. Like Kirk Cameron or something.)

So yesterday on Yankees on Deck, we join Brian Bruney, CC, and Swisher on a fishing outing. I don't really know what the theme of this show is. First we have Leiter in a classroom giving us 2 quick lessons on weird baseball rules. (1. You're not allowed to steal first from second in an effort to confuse the catcher. So noted. 2. You can't blow a fair ball foul because it's interference.)

Then we cut to the 3 aforementioned Yankees in a boat about the size of hammock. Bruney is apparently the fishing guru and looks and talks like he wants to throw the other 2 out of the boat for making a mockery of "catching," the proper term for fishing. Swisher asserts early on that he's there for the sandwiches, "which are just TREMENDOUS! What's this one? Turkey? I don't care, I'm eating it whatever it is." CC looks like he would have been more comfortable if someone told him he had to be the keynote speaker at a molecular engineering conference.

So Bruney's catching one fish after another, Swisher gets a couple, CC becomes a cartoon and manages to only catch some kind of rubber boot looking thing. But his narration of the whole thing is all-time, "Bruney's on his 17th fish or something. Swish's got a couple, but all he wants to do is eat now, so he's doing that. And I haven't really caught anything. I got this though," as he holds up a box of goldfish crackers. "And I'd say there's like a lot in here, so I got the most fish of anyone today."

As much as I'd like to say CC gets Badass of the Day for that, it's really not even a contest since the prize most certainly goes to my dad. Not just because of Father's Day, but because he, for certain, had the Best Day Ever.

I hope he dropped some White Men Can't Jump line, (well, on everyone except for this Aaron Gustavson guy.)

"I don't mean to brag...but I'm the greatest."

But I pretty much picture my dad playing poker the way Vince Vaughn plays Madden in "The Break Up."

Ok. They went up against Josh Johnson. It's not exactly the easiest guy in the league to hit off of. I can forgive the bats. Sort of. I don't really think there's ever any real excuse to get shut down when you're boasting the type of lineup the Yankees put on the field every day. PARTICULARLY when it's been a bit of a pattern for them in the last week:

Since Tuesday, 6/16

5-3 (W)
2-3 (L)
0-3 (L)
5-1 (W)
1-2 (L)

13 runs in 5 games. In the game before Tuesday, they scored 15 runs off the best pitcher in the game. It's completely staggering, baffling, disconcerting, and alarming.

But again, I'll try to look past the offense because it wasn't like they were getting shut down by the winless pitcher du jour. It was Josh Johnson. The fantasy beast.

This game can be boiled down to 1 play. And there's zero question about that. Even the culprit himself proactively absorbed all the guilt.

Johnny Damon. Dropped a routine fly ball. That let the game-winning run score from 1B.

Just to refresh everyone's memory, this is the 2nd time in 2 weeks that Damon allowed a can of corn to pop out of his glove like he was trying to catch a skybounce ball with a tennis racket.

The last time the exact same thing happened, he sat out the next game, after discovering he had "caffeine-related eye problems."

Clearly his inability to field the most basic of hits and jeopardizing his team's overall performance wasn't a compelling enough reason to lay off the Starbucks.

I know what that feels like, I know exactly how caffeine affects your eyesight. I obviously am not playing with the same kind of stakes as a professional baller, but I can attest to the drastic difference in performance this optical hitch had on my playing. I noticed it at the batting cages, when I was having trouble making contact with enormous neon yellow dimpled softballs coming in at like 3 mph. It wasn't just a matter of blurry vision. It was affecting depth perception, clarity, and location even. It appears 5 inches or so off its actual location. And it's unbelievably frustrating.

After laying off the caffeine and treating it with eyedrops, the difference was otherworldly. It was as if the omnipresent waxpaper coating everything I saw, was replaced with hi-def, clarifying, magnifying saran wrap. I couldn't believe that I had actually been walking around like that, but after a while of having the eye affliction, I had just gotten used to it and accepted it.

If Damon only knew how much better it could be...

But instead, the amazing pitching performance from AJ was completely wasted. 8 strikeouts in 6 innings. Nasty, nasty curve. And his slider is working out pretty well, too.

Or maybe we should focus on the fact that for the lion's share of the game, AJ was the only Yankee who actually knocked a hit off Johnson, in the 3rd inning. The next hit wouldn't come til the 7th.

I keep coming back to the fact that Johnson is a wizard, and as such, I'm not going to come down too hard on the Yankees' offense. Regardless of the quiet bats yesterday, and barring the inexcusable error from Damon, there is one pervasive issue disintegrating the Yankees' strength: JOE GIRARDI.

This morning I was talking to my buddy about this, and he said it more perfectly than I have ever heard:

"Joe Girardi is just in way over his head with this team."

That's it. Right there. It's the equivalent of asking me to be the Executive Vice President of Creative Operations. I have experience, I'm a good writer, I have some ideas. But that's way beyond anything I would be prepared to do. It's too tall an order at this point. The Yankees lineup is built for a championship. There are verrrry few holes in their system.

But this doesn't mean the team can run itself.

There's a big hole in the bullpen, so why is our best reliever in the starting rotation?

We're getting killed---KILLLED---on double plays. So why aren't we capitalizing on the rampant youthful speed punctuating our lineup?

We have an egregious inability to hit pitchers we have no experience against, so why isn't the video scouting working overtime to do preemptive research?

If I were Girardi, I'd consider turning this team over to a baseball clinic. Because the longest the club persists in this laissez faire, passive approach to attacking opponents, they're going to be wildly inconsistent. The face of the game changes with every pitcher, every team. You can't expect the Yankees to default to their inherent talents to answer these challenges.

Call Dom Scala. I'd feel infinitely more comfortable if the team was in the hands of someone who actually coaches, rather than a manager who acts like he's playing in a fantasy league with a limited number of roster moves.

In other news:

  • Terrifying. Is it me, or does the photoshopped Papel-in-Pinstripes resemble Joba?

There has only been one time I can remember that my Dad was wrong about something. On my first day of kindergarten, I whined that I needed a booksack, and he said that no one gets homework on the first day of school.

But 6 hours later I stomped home with an armload of paper and forms spilling out of my arms, declaring that indeed, a booksack would have been a useful commodity, and that in light of this early hitch in my academic career, I was done with the whole school thing.
"I don't think I'm gonna go back," I casually asserted.

My parents informed me otherwise. But there it was. I was 5 years old, and it was the first and last time I ever remember Dad steering me wrong.

Twenty-three years later and he's the only one with a greater error-free streak than the New York Yankees.

The first thing I ever remember Dad telling me is a lesson that has served me well over the years. If he hadn't passed along this sage nuggest of wisdom, my life would undoubtedly be drastically different than it is today:

"No matter what you do, don't EVER root for the Mets, the Nets, the Jets, or the Islanders."

What if he never taught me this? Would I be a Mets fan? Or worse? Would I even care about sports at all if my father hadn't instilled into me an unapologetic streak of competitiveness? Would I have developed a fierce devotion to sports and an uncompromised appreciation of the game had my dad not put a wiffle ball bat in my hands?

I remember when I was growing up and wanting nothing more than to spend time with my dad, a sentiment which he wholeheartedly and gratefully shared. Whether it meant "auditing" his advanced level accounting classes he taught at Iona College, or watching Sunday football with him while he patiently explained the rules. (I still reduce the game to "you get four tries to get what's called a 'down.'" I can't say I learned as much from his accounting classes. I don't know if any of the college co-eds in there did, either. I watched him grade papers sometimes, and they were pretty bad.)

He was never wrong. And his opinion trumped everyone else's. When I was playing 2B in my softball league last year, I was strangely unfazed by the fact that a co-ed league meant one screaming grounder after another hit to the chick infielder. And barring one or two hungover games, I was good. "My dad told me that if I stay in front of the ball, I would never get hurt," I bragged to my team.

"Well, that's just blatantly not true," they countered.

"Whaa..? Yes, it is! Wait, it's not?"

"NO. We play on crappy fields in Central Park. A bad hop off a stone and it doesnt matter if you're Honus Wagner, you're getting smashed in the face."

I took this information back to my dad.

"KRISTEN. I never said that. I said if you stay in front of the ball, it'll never get PAST YOU. But, who the hell are they anyway? Don't listen to them, just follow my advice, please."

So I did. And have. And haven't gotten hurt yet. I should have listened to him when he said to stay away from soccer--if I had, I'd still have my ACL and wouldn't be sidelined for the duration of the summer.

He taught me to never swing at the first pitch. I don't know why, since the more I read, the more it seems this isn't advantageous. But I struck out less than anyone on the team in high school. He doesn't trust anyone, and neither do I. He doesn't waste his time or energy on people he doesn't like. He never graded on class participation. He uses cookie cutters to make cheese circles for hamburgers so no excess cheese corners fall onto the grill. He bought me a shirt in 8th grade that said, "Second best is first loser." He is wildly emotional and passionate about things...for about 15 minutes and then forgets about it.

He seems to know a little something about everything, and I don't think I've ever once heard the phrase, "I don't know" escape from his lips. He drew caricatures of me on my lunchbags instead of just writing my name, making me either the weirdest kid in 3rd grade or the coolest, I'm not sure which. He is inexplicably obsessive about how much gas in the car at any given point. He is averse to buying batteries, out of principle since companies can make batteries that last forever, but don't. He is never happier than when he's with his wife and 3 daughters.

I'm pretty sure he hasn't liked a single guy I've ever dated, since he insists on calling them all "Sean," the name of a guy I dated about a decade ago. "What do I got to learn their names for?" he reasons. "You're not gonna marry any of em." This is hysterical to me, not to any guy I bring home whose name isn't Sean.

He watches movies of the Vietnam War like I watch Yankee Classics, suspending any knowledge of the fact the outcome has already been determined and hooked to the tv as if he was watching it unfold live for the first time. He has an ordered rankings list of his favorite sorbets. He hates how other fans stand up after 2 strikes since it was a Yankee trend that began with Rod Guidry.

I idolize the ground my dad walks on. I'm cut from the same mold as him, and there are few phrases I've heard more often than, "You are your father in spades." (With the possible exception of, "Have you lost your mind?") Any quirk, any idiosyncrasy, anything good to my credit, is a direct result of being his daughter. He taught me everything. After he drilled the mnemonic lesson about team loyalties into me, he told me that the two most important things in life are your family and to do the right thing. (Food a close third.)

I don't know where I'd be today without him. Maybe Citifield. But I know I'd be a paled version of what I am now. So on Father's Day 2009, I'm celebrating the man who's never steered me wrong. I looked to him in the bleachers for signals when I was playing little league, and at 28 years old, I'm still looking up to him. I couldn't have asked for a better coach.

Thanks, Dad--Happy Father's Day.

In honor of Father's Day tomorrow, I'm putting up something I wrote for my dad a few years ago...tomorrow I'll have a 2009 edition, though. Cheers!


"A Real American Classic: A Father's Day Tribute"
by YankTank

I only applied to one school, only wrote one college essay, waxed philosophical on only one “best advice I ever received” topic. I’m 24-years old, and now I look upon most baseball metaphors with a disdain usually reserved for ESPN writers. But I still hold my father’s sound wisdom, his insistence that I never let a fastball go by without swinging, as one of the finest gems of wisdom anyone has ever instilled into me. This Father’s Day, I’m reminded of all those countless “Keep your eye on the ball!” yelps that took up permanent residence on the sidelines of every single one of my softball games. “Good eye, good eye,” “wait for your pitch,” “Level swing!”–they all still resonate robustly in the archives of my mind.

Even back then, “Never go down looking” meant more than just that. (How do I know? Because his original on-deck pearl was, “Tis far better to dare mighty things and risk failure than to live in the grey twilight that knows neither darkness nor dawn.” I was 11, about to bat, and more confused than Boston fans in the 8th inning of the 2003 ALCS.) Once he gave me the abridged version, I could more easily wrap my head around this metaphorical life motto. He just wanted, as every father does, for his kid to try her best.

There are very few great athletes of our day that started their careers with electronic pitching machines, or by shooting hoops by themselves in the driveways of their childhood homes, or by tossing a football through a tire and fetching it themselves. I imagine that someone’s dad was tossing batting practice, getting rebounds, and perfecting his son’s spiral.

So this Father’s Day, instead of celebrating conventional sports classics like the NBA finals or the meaty stretch of baseball punctuating my summer, instead of lionizing Ginobili’s postseason stats or Giambi’s renewed “True Yankee” title; I’m honoring another great American classic: my dad.

Some of my earliest memories involve a 26-inch Louisville Slugger bat, my backyard, and my father. And beyond that preliminary conditioning, I can’t think of a single at-bat that man missed. He remembers my career batting average from high school, every strike-out, every hard line drive. He remembers my Little League All-Star game when I struck out my 6th grade nemesis on a change-up. The day I got benched after a missing a game when he took me to visit colleges. The afternoon I unsuccessfully tried to steal second with 2 outs in the 9th, with the go-ahead run on third. The game I was one out away from a perfect game, and he remembers how enraged I was when I didn’t get “Athlete of the Week” for that one-hitter. (Well, we both remember that.)

Me? I remember a 50-year old man catching 100 pitches for me every night while my sister sat off to the side with a counter, keeping track of how many balls and strikes I threw. I remember him telling me to move up in the batter’s box on slow pitchers, and stay back on the fast ones. Never swing at the first pitch. Throw low and inside fastballs to clean-up hitters.

I remember him taking me to a pitching coach so I could get good enough to start on my high school Varsity team. I remember him bringing coolers of sodas to my game for the rest of the team, and I remember how my favorite part of any game was having our own personal post-game analysis on the ride home.

My dad and I are carbon copies of each other, and I think every win or loss affected him as much as it did me. He wanted it just as much as I did, which is why “Never go down looking” was the best advice anyone could have ever given me. Age has limited his sports to making a name for himself in online poker rooms and tearing up the competition in pool tournaments. But just last week, after going 1 for 6 at a pickup game in Central Park, the first thing I did was get my dad on the phone: “YOU NEED TO COME TO THE CITY AND HELP ME WITH MY SWING ASAP.”

See, there’s a point in your life when you don’t need your mother to dress you, and your parents can’t write sick notes to get you out of work. But I swear, I doubt there will ever be a moment when I’ll be able to cut myself off from my dad’s seeming omniscient support. Even if it WAS, “You went 1 for 6? Here’s some advice: don’t tell anyone you’re my daughter.”

I gave away my Boston/Yankees tickets a few weeks ago in favor of watching the dismal 17-2 rout on television, exchanging expletive-ridden commentaries with my dad sitting right beside me. When I was watching the Twins game with him the following week, I told him about how I had run into Carl Pavano at a New York City bar after that sad loss, and how I had pointed him out to my little sister who then walked right up to him.

I narrated to my dad, “Yeah, she just said, `Are you Carl Pavano?’ and he just looked at her and said, `No.’ Definitely him, though.”

My dad looked over and said, “Would you admit to being Pavano if you had just given up 11 hits in one inning to the Red Sox?”

And before we could turn back to the game Pavano was currently pitching, he deadpans: “You know what? Now I hope Minnesota scores 20 runs off him.”

I could only laugh, realizing that my father had thrown the New York Yankees in the same pit as our revolving door of boyfriends, as men not good enough for his daughters. And as I much as I love the Yankees, I love my father’s unrelenting desire to protect us from strange men in bars even more, (even if said weirdo was a young MLB pitcher).

Maybe he can’t watch me play in my summer leagues in Manhattan anymore, and maybe trekking to Yankee Stadium is a little too much for him now. But Dad is still the first person I call after a game, and the person whose opinions I consider to be paramount guidance.

Without those 24 years of making me laugh, driving me crazy, and cultivating a competitive edge matched only by his own, I would only be a shell of what I am today. He made me better than I ever could have made myself.

And maybe next week, ESPN will be barking about how Duncan was San Antonio’s salvation, or how Larry Brown was Detroit’s champion factor, but either option pales when placed alongside my biggest fan and my all-time starting hero–Dad.

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