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Baseball Midseason / Rivera’s Long Goodbye

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English: Baseball with clock to represent a &q...

Baseball with clock represents a current sports or baseball event. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Baseball fans of my blog might have noticed that posts on that topic have been more sparse than usual this season. I’ve been kind of disinterested this year thanks to the dismal state of Team Yankee—if I’ve written anything on baseball, it’s been about that. A 3-game run against the Boston Red Sox begins Friday, starring the ragtag group I call Strangers on the Field–and here comes the cherry on top of this mess: no Robinson Cano in the series: he was hit by pitch at the All-Star Game (which is why, incidentally, some players don’t attend the ASG). Some might see the situation as pure happenstance, nobody’s fault—but there are a few moves management made that contributed to the situation, like getting rid of Raul Ibanez and Nick Swisher. I know, I know: a lot of fans were in favor of the moves, in particular of dumping Swish. Not me. I’m not big on lateral trades and team re-organization. I need look no further than my own backyard for evidence: the Oakland As are in an eternal state of flux, always doing yet another re-org.

The All-Star Game was played at CitiField this week, with the American League the winner. The big event this year was a farewell to Mariano Rivera. Manager Jim Leyland sent him to the mound in the 8th inning, in case they didn’t play a  9th, to ensure he’d be out there for a planned tribute. When The Sandman reached the mound he was surprised to be the only player out there. The rest of them were in front of the dugouts leading a standing ovation. Rivera later said it was a highlight of his 19-year career, second only to his World Series wins. (More on Rivera’s farewell tour later).

Red Carpet Parade

Red Carpet Parade

Playing host to Major League Baseball, New York pulled out all the stops, beginning with carpets on Times Square for the Red Carpet Parade in which players rode through the Canyon of Heroes.

NPR’s sportscaster (sorry, I never got his name) delivered a mid-season recap starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates, which he defined as the season’s Big Story.  Having paid less attention (i.e., none) to the Pirates than to the Yankees, I hadn’t noticed. It’s true that after 20 losing seasons, they seem to be turning things around. More  Pirates—5 of them–played in the All-Star game than at any time since 1972, and their pitching staff leads the majors in shutouts. Still, his report was somewhat skewed.

AllStar Game logo

For instance, he paid special attention to California, saying our teams aren’t up to snuff, particularly last year’s champions, the SF Giants. We’ve also had poor performances from the Anaheim…excuse me, Los Angeles Angels and the Brooklyn…excuse me, Los Angeles Dodgers. Well? Does anyone else notice a glaring omission? Not one mention of the Oakland A’s, who IMO are as Big a Story as the Pirates: any time a team as poor as the A’s lands on top of their division for most of the season, it’s a Big Story.

Finally, he ignored the Yankees, except to say he “usually talks too much about them” (to me there’s no such thing). And he also ignored the Mets, which is indefensible considering they hosted the ASG, which he was in New York to cover. Arggh! Commentators! 

Rivera’s Long Goodbye

English: Photo courtesy of Keith Allison on Fl...

Photo courtesy of Keith Allison on Flickr. Mariano Rivera  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most fans are no doubt aware of Mariano Rivera’s impending retirement and the way he’s saying his goodbyes. Rivera’s been thinking it over for some time, and with the Yankees’ director of communications, Jason Zillo, came up with a plan to visit the people who work for each team—administrative staff, chefs, janitors, refreshment vendors—doing something different before the games. He delivered a pizza to the offices of the Oakland A’s, sat around in a suite talking baseball in Minnesota with invited guests that included, among others, the team chef , and hung around outside some parks holding baseball rap sessions with local  kids. Reported The New York Times: “With all their money and success, the Yankees may be the most widely disliked team in baseball. A rival executive once branded them the Evil Empire, and few people came to their defense. But in stadium conference rooms and offices, Rivera thanks rival fans, charms them, regales them, awes them. And he turns many Yankees haters into admirers.”

The teams, even arch rivals, (I can hardly wait to see what the Red Sox offer!) are showing enormous respect for the best closer of all time by giving him farewell gifts and donating to the Mariano Rivera Foundation, which focuses on the needs of children in his home country of Panama. As I reported a few days ago, the Twins outdid them all with The Chair of Broken Dreams.

For the past decade my favorite players were Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera—who together were the Yankees’ closing battery, a team within a team. Posada was pushed out two years ago and I’ve missed him like crazy. Now goes Rivera. (Going soon: Derek Jeter.) I’m not sure how I’m going to withstand the loss.

What Mariano Rivera is doing with his final season is unprecedented—then again, his whole career has been unprecedented. No pitcher in history, as far as I know, ever built a remarkable record with one—count it, one!—kind of pitch. Rivera says God gave him his cutter. As a non-believer, all I can say is what Shakespeare said in Hamlet:

“There are more things on heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Mariano Rivera

(sung to the tune of “Maria”)


I just saw a pitcher named Mariano

And suddenly I see how wonderful a pitch

Can be.


I just saw a closer named


And suddenly the game

will never ever be the same to me.


Pitch it fast

And they just can’t hit it

Pitch it slow

And the catcher will catch it.


I’ll never stop loving


{sing operatically}

Ninth inning–


Baseball Today

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Baseball Today is an occasional series written by my son Daryl Hochheiser.

YankeelogoThe Yankees Beat the Cleveland  Indians 7-4

Andy Pettitte, making his return from the DL, for  his 1st start since 5/16.  He pitched 4&2/3 innings.  He walked 3 batters & struck out 3 batters.

Mark Teixeira, who only recently returned from the DL, hit a Grand Slam to score 4 runs.

Lyle Overbay (who played 1,272 games@1st base), made his 1st Major League start in the outfield (right field) tonight.

Shawn Kelley pitched 1&1/3 innings.  He walked 1 batter & struck out 2 batters.  He won his 3rd game

Joba Chamberlain pitched one inning.

Mariano Rivera picked up his 20th save

A's Logo

Oakland A’s beat the Milwaukee Brewers 10-2

Coco Crisp led off the game w/a home run.

The A’s scored 6 times in the 5th inning.

Tommy Milone  Pitched 7 innings.  He won his 6th game


Neither the Mets nor the Giants played today.GiantsLogo

He’s a Giant! He’s a Catcher! He’s Busta!

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Buster Posey was voted the National League’s Most Valuable Player on Thursday. This season Posey had returned after being out more than half of last season after a collision at home plate that left him with a devastating leg injury. Not only did he fully recover, but in 2012 Posey set career highs with a .336 average, 24 homers and 103 RBIs. He helped the San Francisco Giants get to the World Series and win it in four games, becoming the World Champions for the second time in 3 years. Posey is the first catcher in four decades to win the award, determined by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Posey’s 2011 collision

My admiration for catchers is immense. In my opinion, they do the hardest job in the game, squatting for 9 or more innings, up and down, up and down–the physical wear and tear alone is enormous. Then there’s the psychological aspect of managing pitchers, who, as I’ve pointed out before, are frequently psychotic.  

Catchers are underpaid and underrated. Jorge Posadawas my favorite player partly because of his position. I used to call him “Jorge-He-Does-It-All” whenever he hit a clutch home run or a Grand Slam. He was a catcher who hit well.

Jorge Posada

Not superlatively, but well; some catchers can barely connect bat to ball. They’re also notorious for not running very fast on those wobbly “catcher’s legs” that are always going up and down, up and down…okay, no need to belabor the point. It’s a tough job.

That’s why, when a Buster Posey comes along, give credit where credit is due. He’s only 25 and just starting his career–with a bang. It’s going to be fun watching him mature and get even better. Go Buster!

Slideshow: Baseball’s Greatest Catchers


SF Giants Sweep Detroit Tigers to Become 2012 World Series Champs

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Giants Win

After Game 1, all bets were off. I never expected them to win, or come anywhere near winning, that first game. When Detroit announced Justin Verlander as their first starting pitcher—no surprise—I  mentally crossed off Game One. This was even before I knew Zito was the opposing pitcher—when I learned that, the deal was sealed. So when the Giants turned out to be the only team in the Majors that can actually hit Verlander, nothing was etched in stone anymore. Then again, with baseball it never is.

As much as I wanted the Giants to win here at home, and as much as I wanted to see Barry Zito give another sterling performance, losing two games might have demoralized them and stopped their incredible drive to victory, so I rooted for the final win in Detroit last night—and got it. That was another magical event in this series: nobody expected the Giants to beat Detroit in their own house. When they left San Francisco on Monday, a lot of fans prepared themselves for a possible loss or two by looking forward to the win and celebration next Tuesday. Then we got it last night; the team was geographically far away, but still in our hearts, as well as on a Jumbotron in Civic Center. I wonder if other cities televise their teams’ games in big public plazas? If I’d forgotten SF is special, I was reminded of it last night.

About that magic: the Giants were inexplicably sensational. Every time they hit a home run it was a stunning surprise, maybe ‘cause they just kept hitting them. Every time they put a Tiger out of business, the play was so unlikely that its victim recoiled in disbelief and stomped, scowling, off the field. Magic: Pablo Sandoval hit three—count ‘em, 3—home runs in Game One, becoming the fourth player in the history of the game to do so; the others are Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, and Albert Pujols. That’s Pablo Panda Kung Fu, the guy who contributed hardly anything to the 2010 series and was so out of shape he was told to deal with it…or else. Magic: Barry Zito, left out of the 2010 World Series, was front and center this time and pitched the best game of his life. Magic: The same pitcher who rarely hits, did hit two of Verlander’s unhittables at key moments.

The Elite World Series Triple-Home Run Club: Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, Albert Pujols, Pablo Sandoval


Victory is sweet. The SF Giants are World Champions for the second time in 3 seasons, and they’re the only players who can hit Justin Verlander! Word is he was last seen checking into some kind of rest home to get over the trauma.

SF Giants Beat STL Cardinals 5-0 in NLCS

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Barry Zito

Now that the Yankees are out of World Series contention, I’m moving on, putting my eggs into the SFGiants basket. Last night in GAME 5 OF THE NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES they SHUT OUT the St. Louis Cardinals 5-0, led by the hip, beautiful, and much challenged Barry Zito on the pitchers mound. He threw 115 pitches in 7.2 innings of SHUTOUT BASEBALL and picked up the win. His ERA for 2012 was 3.97, fairly respectable considering what most of his Giants years have been like; in fact, they’re calling this Zito’s comeback season. It’s been rough, watching him sink as soon as he crossed the bridge from Oakland to SF six years ago, going up and down—mostly down—after becoming the highest paid pitcher, at that time, in the majors. Booed and battered (literally!) he managed to weather it all with dignity, but who knows what went on inside the poor guy’s head and heart.

Anyhow, back to bats and balls: The whole team was in fine form last night. They broke the game open in the 4th inning, scoring 4 and knocking Lance Lynn, the Cardinals starting pitcher, off the mound.   Pablo Sandoval led off the top of the 8th inning with a solo home run—and that’s all she wrote. The Cards never scored and the game ended at 5-0.

St. Louis’ advantage was cut to 3-2. The big gain is that the series comes back to San Francisco now to play Game 6 in front of the Giants’ avid and loyal fans on Sunday. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, 11 of 76 Major League Baseball teams that have fallen behind 3-1 have come back to win a best-of-7 series. If anyone can do it, it’s the Giants. Their 2009 World Series involved constant fan torture as they squeaked through each inning and each game.

Not to over emphasize Barry Zito’s part, but according to MLB reporter Chris Haft, “It could be suggested that this game alone justified Zito’s seven-year, $126 million contract, which made him an object of scorn among the media and many Giants fans during his struggles on the mound. But, as Giants manager Bruce Bochy observed, ‘He’s always been a standup guy with everything.’”

Zito was as cool about winning as he is when he loses:   “If you get too caught up in the hype and everything else, things get erratic out there,” Zito said. “I was focused on slowing everything down. … I was living pitch to pitch, moment to moment.”

Written with assistance from Daryl Hochheiser

More of My Posts on Barry Zito:

Barry Zito’s Chatter
The Return of Barry Zito
Zito Razzle-Dazzles
All Barry, All The Time (Includes “The Ballad of Barry Zito)
Giants Beat Cards in NLCS 2012



Barry the Beautiful

If The Yankees Aren’t The 2012 Champions…

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When I was a kid it was clear to me that when the New York Yankees weren’t the World Series winners, things were not right. Thus, if they’re not the baseball champions of 2012, things are not right. At this moment things are so not right I am led to speculate: who’s going to live in the White House come January? If the Yankees aren’t World Champs, will Mitt Romney serve as President? That’s the way I thought when I was ten years old, and in some part of my brain I still think that way. Baseball runs on a lot of superstitious beliefs, and in some reflexive, irrational area of my mind, the connection between world champions and U.S. Presidents is so ingrained that after Justin Verlander did his usual thing, it seemed like a logical question.

The analysts, pundits and moneyballers are getting on board with their itemized lists of reasons for the Yanks’ end-of-season collapse after playing so thrillingly up until August; I have a few of those myself. But first, here are some reasons that deserve more weight for the losses than they might get.

1. The Disintegration of The Core Four.  Jorge Posada: Retired. Mariano Rivera: Torn knee ligament. Derek Jeter: Busted ankle. Andy Pettitte (who was, ironically, coming back to The Core): Fractured Ankle. All the injuries occurred early on, except for Jeter’s, which came at perhaps an even worse time: during playoffs. It’s not that the Core alone carried the team; it’s the psychological toll this kind of disintegration takes on a team, institution, or group of any kind.

2. The Disintegration of A-Rod. The highest-paid player in Major League Baseball–and, some say, the most disliked–seems to have begun a descent that comes to all those who age, even professional athletes. It’s more than just regular aging issues than what it is for regular people. Who knows what having his hand smashed and broken by pitcher “King” Hernandez  did to A-Rod’s psyche this season? When he was younger, he probably could have shrugged it off a lot faster; now, it might’ve made him skittish at bat–and we saw the result. Think of Buster Posey, beaten up so badly last year, and bounced right back: he was 19 years old! Alex is 20 years Posey’s senior. Like the rest of the Yanks (who have no such excuse) he stopped hitting, and by playoff time was doing so badly there was no choice for Manager Girardi but to bench him. He was a good sport about it, which did nothing to help the team get over it or win games.

Joe Girardi

3. Management’s Handling of the Above and Other Bungled Behavior. I can’t possibly know what goes on behind the scenes, but my sensory antenna along with hints and indications tell me, first of all, that Posada’s “retirement” was, let us say, encouraged. There were signs of nastiness coming from Joe Girardi during the 2011 season, for which he tried to atone when the fans vociferously expressed their displeasure. It’s been noted that fans haven’t warmed up to Joe Girardi (to put it mildly) and I suspect neither have the players. He’ll never be able to fill Joe Torre’s shoes, (again putting it mildly); Joe #1 is a warm, hamische guy, while the heart of Joe #2  is impenetrable.  When people are closed off and mysterious about what’s going on, my imagination gets going, and in this case I’m convinced a lot of undercurrents move in and around the Yankee locker room that we on the outside know nothing about.

4. My Diminished Enthusiasm. A manifestation of baseball superstition. In my defense, I couldn’t help it once they sent Jorge away. I developed big love for “He’s So Cool Raoul” Ibanez as the season progressed–but I never really got back to my full Yankee mojo.

More Reasons, Facts, Stats, and Trivia Gleaned from ESPN:

This was the first time in 32 years that the Yankees were swept in a postseason series. It hasn’t happened since 1980, in a best-of-five ALCS against Kansas City. The last team to sweep four straight against them was Cincinnati in the 1976 World Series.

The Tigers are the first team to win three straight postseason series against the Yankees. (I give Verlander the credit blame).

The team’s .188 batting average was the lowest ever in a postseason series. The hitting was abysmal throughout:  Robinson Cano was at .075 (3 for 40) with no home runs, including a 29 at-bat hitless streak. Curtis Granderson was 3 for 30 with 16 strikeouts, Nick Swisher hit .167 (5 for 30) with two RBIs, Russell Martin hit .161 (5 for 31) with one RBI and Eric Chavez finished 0 for 16 with eight strikeouts. “It wasn’t one guy. It wasn’t two guys,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It was a bunch of guys.”

 On The Other Hand: Detroit’s starting pitchers came into the last game with a combined E.R.A. of .42–the lowest of any postseason series in history. They say it’s pitching that wins ball games–but Yankee batters have a helluva lot more to answer for than their pitchers do.

If I sound harsh, it’s a cover-up. The truth is, I’m in mourning. And I feel sad that so many of the guys suffered injuries that, because of their advancing ages, they just couldn’t recover from quickly; it’s going to take A-Rod for instance the entire  off-season to get over that broken hand. I was furious the night Hernandez attacked my guys, and recalling it now is stirring my wrath all over again. I’ve gotta get over it, though, if I’m going to successfully transition to the next thing: rooting for the SF Giants. Even if the dream of a Giants-Yankees World Series is over, SF can still move ahead to face Detroit and Justin Verlander (gulp). When they won in 2009, the city was more fun than Coney Island, so let’s hope for a grand reason to party.

Oh, and as far as the Yankees go, as Mets fans say:


Written with assistance from Daryl Hochheiser.

Hot Baseball in Cool October

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Can Jeterless Yankees Win?

Derek Jeter, who has started all 158 postseason games the Yankees have played since 1996, ranks among baseball’s most prolific playoff performers:

Games 158
BA .308 (200-650)
Runs 111 *
HR 20 *
RBIs 60 *

* Jeter ranks in the top five all-time in these categories
  – ESPN Stats & Information

Then again, it’s Cool Raoul–Raoul Ibanez–who’s been carrying the team with magic home runs. I say magic because he hits them exactly, precisely, when the team most needs them. He even hits the exact, precise number that are needed. Sometimes, like two games ago, his heroics save the game. Other times the rest of the team, sadly, just doesn’t come through. But Raoul is becoming so clutch that everyone’s calling him cool, even announcers and  headline writers. I hate to brag (like hell!) but as far as I know, I’m the first one to dub him Cool Raoul and make up song lyrics to fit.

The thing is, even if the Yankees do overcome the loss of Derek Jeter in playing, the situation is just too sad. Jeter’s had one of his best years; at the age of 38, he’s been playing with guns blazing. Playoffs are his thing. He loves October. The year the World Series went late because some crazy guys drove airplanes into buildings in New York Jeter was dubbed Mr. November. He’ll put a good face on, and he’ll be there to support his brothers–but it’s a drag he has to do it from the dugout.

So here we are facing Detroit for the American League Championship, and the chance to move on to the World Series. We haven’t yet faced Justin Verlander in this series, and he’s scary as hell. He made short shrift of the poor A’s by pitching in both their first and last games.

I’m still hoping for a Yankee-Giants World Series: it would mean watching the games from the back fence in the SF park, major fun, and hanging out in nearby sports bars. Of course, I could be taking my life in my hands, rooting for the Bronx in San Francisco. Would they throw me into the bay? Then again, Giants fans don’t beat up the opposition, though they sometimes get beaten up by violent LA fans. But this is the City by the Bay, where peace, love, and sex rule. I can always wear my SF shirt and my Yankee cap. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to give the Bronx Bombers a real San Francisco treat….uh, welcome.

Barry Zito


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