Hideki Matsui Reprint from Flickr (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The following post was written with assistance from Daryl Hochheiser.
Here we are again, it’s that most wonderful time of year. The 2012 baseball season already started, but not in the U.S. In Japan, for reasons I cannot fathom, the Oakland A’s and Florida/Miami Marlins got the ball rolling. If anyone has any idea why these teams traveled halfway round the world to open the baseball season—and the A’s didn’t even take Matsui with them—please enlighten me via the Comment box.
As some readers know, I was born in the Bronx, where the two best features are a top-notch zoo and the New York Yankees, the team I love, watch, and write about the most. (Note to Red Sox fans and other Yankee haters: I erase all Yankee trash talk from my blog, so don’t even bother.) Living in Northern California, I also keep tabs on the SF Giants and Oakland A’s; and, since my son’s a fanatic Mets masochist, I follow the other New York team as well. Welcome to Dirty Laundry’s unique take on the 2012 season.
New York Yankees
For the first time in 17 years Jorge Posada won’t be squatting behind home plate. He won’t be in the locker room, and he won’t be coming up to bat. He’s probably on a beach somewhere with his wife and kids. Though Jorge’s leadership will undoubtedly be missed, the team will survive. The question is: will I? He was my favorite player, and my heart aches as I contemplate watching Yankee games without him. Meanwhile, my second favorite player showed up late for Spring training to announce he had big news, but maddeningly still hasn’t shared it; I and everyone else suspect that Mariano Rivera will be retiring at the end of this season. No longer can we relax during a close or winning game when they make it through the 8th, knowing that when The Sandman takes the mound in the 9th it’s a done deal. The next few years are gonna be tough on us Yankee fans, as the old guard retires one by one. Meanwhile, miracles do happen: providing a compensatory lift, Andy Pettitte is coming back to the mound! Incredible! It makes me wonder if the Yanks have a revolving door; players are always coming back, either to play or coach or manage.
The biggest rivalry in baseball, Yankees v. Boston Red Sox, gets an infusion of yet more rancor this season with Bobby Valentine taking over as Red Sox coach. He jumped into the fray
immediately, saying he hates the Yankees now, and fondly recalled when retired Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek ‘‘beat up’’ Alex Rodriguez in 2004. If this is how it’s gonna be, the Yankees better hire a sarcastic witty writer to feed Girardi some snappy comebacks.
San Francisco Giants
What a time these guys have had. They win the World Series in 2010, are feted in maniacal style by a super-adoring city, they enter the 2011 season still on a high…and on May 26th, the Marlins* Scott Cousins slides home cleats first and rams himself directly into catcher Buster Posey, the team’s latest greatest asset, sending him to hospital with a broken bone in his left ankle and god knows what else, ensuring he can’t play for the rest of the season at least. I happened to have tickets to the next day’s game, and let me tell you, the place was like a funeral parlor. The regular lineup was replaced by the second-string (is that what it’s called?), and the air was literally heavy with despair. The Giants played listlessly and lost, and who could blame them?
But hey, Posey’s back! Being young and healthy, it’s possible he’s fully healed and recovered. I just hope he’s learned how to situate his body in such a way that when a runner’s heading home he isn’t directly in the line of fire. And I hope the guys can recapture some of their 2010 glory.
(*By the way, the Florida Marlins seem to have changed their name to the Miami Marlins. I can’t help but wonder if they’re pulling a Tampa Bay, those devils who transformed themselves 3 years ago with a simple name change. (See Tampa Bay story here.)
Update on Brian Stowe, victim of the vicious beating that occurred at Dodger Stadium after a game against the Giants: These guys have almost as intense a rivalry as their East Coast compatriots mentioned above, with a history that goes back to their days as NY teams. After many months in hospital, Stowe is home now, in a wheelchair, with severe memory loss and trouble speaking. Motivated by the incident, California is considering a law that would ban people with a violent history from attending sports events; they’re trying to figure out how to implement such a law, since anyone can buy someone else a ticket and they can slip in unnoticed. On top of having lousy security, the Dodgers were, until recently, in big financial trouble due to the owners’ divorce and the money battles that always go along with breakups. Last week, however, Magic Johnson and his company bought the team. We shall see what happens next…
The Giants home opener isn’t until a week into the season, on—shudder—Friday the 13th. At that time they’ll celebrate the 50th Anniversary of The World Series Team Of 1962; on hand will be Willie Mays, Don Larsen, Juan Marichal and Willie McCovey. The team itself is 130 years old, with 55 of them having been spent in SF. On that day there’s bound to be a huge crowd, making it difficult to score free viewing in the Giants’ secret observation site. Now keep this under wraps: I don’t want mobs to overrun the place and ruin a good thing. To get to the secret site, just walk around behind the stadium, halfway down the boardwalk and the bay, and you can’t miss it. There’s usually a small crowd waiting to get into an enclosed area behind the fence at the outfield. Yes, it’s a long way from home plate, but you can practically reach out and pat an outfielder on the ass. Each viewer gets 3 innings before they have to make room for someone else. Sometimes there’s a guard around to hustle people along, but not always; still, people pretty much follow the honor system here. Of course, if nobody’s waiting, which is frequently the case, you can stay and watch the game as long as you want. Now sssh!…remember, this is a secret!
In Japan, The Seattle Mariners won the first game, and the A’s evened things out by winning the second. As I said above, Hideki Matsui, another of my favorite guys, was missing in action—he still hasn’t signed a contract with the A’s. If he’d been there, he would likely have gotten a hero’s welcome in his native country, where he was a star in high school and for the Yomiuri Giants. Matsui’s one of several former all-stars who’s still looking for work; others include Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee, Miguel Tejada, Johnny Damon, Magglio Ordonez, Ivan Rodriguez, and Felipe Lopez .
Miguel Tejada has said he wants to end his career where he started it, in Oakland, but so far the A’s haven’t responded. They do have one exciting new player: Manny Ramirez. He of the fabulous hits and hair is an Oakland A now; unfortunately, he can’t even begin playing until 50 games of his suspension go by, punishment for substance abuse.He will not be punished by anyone, however, for abusing his wife: since she won’t cooperate, domestic battery charges were dismissed.
On my mind is whether or not Billy Beane will stop compulsively trading away players every 5 minutes (see The Oakland A’s Diaspora). On everyone else’s mind, the big issue is the perennial question “Will they stay or will they go?” The A’s are always leaving Oakland for somewhere, anywhere, that’ll give them a decent stadium. Who can blame them, when they share the one they currently inhabit with the Raiders? I’d love it if the city would build one down by the water near Jack London Square, but I’m not holding my breath: Oakland can’t even buy textbooks for its schools, so building a stadium doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
New York Mets
To rectify problems with their new stadium, the Mets built a new wall closer to home plate. The wall was the least of their problems: the team was somehow mixed up with Bernie Madoff, and on March 19th agreed to pay $162 Million to trustees of victims in the case. As a result, their finances have been damaged, and they’ve had to slash payroll. Despite this, they’ll have new uniforms, bearing a patch for the late Gary Carter, who died of brain cancer on February 16th, and another patch marking the team’s 50th anniversary. By all accounts we shouldn’t expect too much out of the Mets this year. Those poor, long-suffering Mets fans!
Okay! Let’s PLAY BALL!