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Baseball Returns

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Here we go again! It’s baseball season, and all I can do is grumble. You’d think I was a Mets fan, or that my team was any one of a number of basement dwellers, the way I feel. I’m a Yankee fan, I’m supposed to be on top of the world all the time—that’s what ol’ G. Steinbrenner demanded, win the World Series every year or you’re losers. Okay, that, I think, went a little too far in wrecking morale. Still, he may have been a tyrant, but what’s gone on since Georgie’s demise is a nightmare.

As the 2014 season opens, I am facing the loss of Mariano Rivera (gracefully retired), Andy Pettite (ditto), Curtis Granderson (sold to the Mets by some moron in the Yankee org) and Robinson Cano (also moronically sold). Even outside of the Yankees I face a heavy loss: Barry Zito, former Oakland A and SF Giant, one of my favorite players and human beings, seems to have vanished after the Giants failed to renew his contract (and who could blame them? But that’s another story.Zito2012

 

 

 

DerekJeter

Last but not least, as we raise the curtain on another year of baseball, the one Yankee remaining on the team that saw its last period of glory during the late ’90s and early ’00s, Derek Jeter, announced this year as his Swan Song—so don’t bother shouting “Next year!” if things hit bottom. And, indeed, the guys lost their first game yesterday against one of my most hated teams, the F.O.B. (Friends of Bush) Houston Astros.

My allegiance to the New York Yankees is, like some people’s allegiance to a particular religion, by birth and by choice. I’m a Yankee fan by birth: I was born in the Bronx. But I chose to be a Yankee fan because in this one area of life, unlike politics and a few others I’ll decline to mention here, with the Bronx Bombers I get to be a winner more often than not. Unlike the hapless Met fan, I get to experience joy more frequently than pain. At least, that was the deal for decades. Now my Yankee fandom is going the way the aging experience goes: it’s all about loss, as beloved players and managers leave. No choice have I but to butch it out and adjust, the way I do over the loss of teeth and energy.

One thing I don’t have to lose, though, is hope: the Yankees might be great this year. As the little kid in Angels in the Outfield says of the improbable all throughout the movie, “Hey, it could happen!”

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So Play Ball!

 

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The Question

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God quoteWho has and has not? That is the question of our time.

You know that saying: I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes, until I met a man with no feet. Material wealth is relative. Well, up to a certain point, anyway. Or I should say, down to a certain point. When you don’t even have money for necessities like food and housing, it’s no longer relative. But otherwise it is. For instance, for most of my life I thought I was sort of poor—I used to call it broke, actually—until I really was! I can pay for necessities, but at a fairly low level. Still, I frequently recall with wonder the days when I could occasionally rent a car, and, even further back, when I owned one. I even went on a few seaside vacations. And I thought I was poor!

I just visited friends who think of themselves as ordinary people who, like everyone else, are struggling to get by. Their refrigerator is bursting with vast containers of food bought in bulk, and they frequently go out to eat. To many people they possess unimaginable riches. All relative.

Still, what’s happened here in America is unspeakably unjust. Nobody should go to work every day and be poor. I don’t care who they are, what kind of education they had, or what kind of work they do. When I worked as a secretary I wasn’t exactly poor, but I could barely make ends meet. That is the worst life of all: to get up every morning, go to a place you have to stay at for nine hours, do someone Nickel and Dimedelse’s tedious or difficult work, and have hardly any time to yourself or your family and friends, yet still go without, pinch pennies, beg the phone company not to shut you down. Some people work two and three jobs these days and live in hotel rooms. (Read Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, Nickel and Dimed). I’m poorer now than when I worked for low wages, but at least my time is my own. The working poor are in a terrible position.

I don’t know if everyone knows this—younger people, for instance—but it wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time in America if you had a job you might actually own a house, a car, feed a family of four, and even save some money! For the past 50 years workers’ lives have gone steadily downhill. We’re moving towards becoming the England of Charles Dickens’ time. It’s taken a lot of maneuvering on the part of the upper classes, busting unions and such, but now they have the majority of the population dancing like puppets on strings.

It’s a complicated, convoluted and depressing situation, and I haven’t much else to say about it, so I’ll move on to another source of my depressed mood, trivial by comparison…

DEREK JETER ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT AFTER THE 2014 SEASON

derek-jeterI —we—were lucky enough for over a decade to watch a fantastic team of New York Yankees, with the Core Four at its center: Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, and Andy Pettitte. One by one they left, not only the Core but other greats as well. All but Posada, who was shamelessly and unforgivably pushed out, retired by choice. Captain Jeter, a fan favorite with his boyish dimpled good looks and extraordinary playing, is the last to go. I’ve had trouble enough continuing to follow the Yankees since Joe Torre was bumped and Girardi the incompetent became manager, so once Jeter leaves I don’t know what I’ll do.

I’ve tried to develop love for one of my home teams—the SF Giants or the Oakland A’s—but it just doesn’t fly. They never seem to hold my attention long enough to get to know them, let alone root for them. The A’s are constantly coming and going, thanks to Billy Beane and his Moneyball sabermetrics system. The Giants are erratic: champions one year, in the basement the next. I suppose I could jump on board, with my masochistic son, and root for the other New York team, but I don’t like losing all the time. So much for them Mets.

As the Yankees have crumbled, so too has my enthusiasm for writing about baseball. Anyone who’s followed DIRTY LAUNDRY for any length of time might have noticed I blogged a lot on the topic at first, and slowly dribbled down each season. Of course, my posting in general has fallen off, from daily to every other day to a few times a week to a few times a month. Shit happens. I don’t know what’s in store for my blog this baseball season, but I’ve been thinking of reorganizing anyway, combining DIRTY LAUNDRY with my business blog, BOOKBUSTER, and concentrating on the writing life and business. Stay tuned.

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Brian Wilson Turns Down Yankees

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Logos and uniforms of the New York Yankees

Logos and uniforms of the New York Yankees (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Brian WilsonBrian Wilson, former closer for the SF Giants, turned down a chance to play for the New York Yankees rather than cut off his beard. This is surely a first in baseball history. My poem on this sad state of affairs is now up on Yanks in Exile.

Baseball: Instant Replay Reviews

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COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Calling it a historic moment, Commissioner Bud Selig said Thursday that Major League Baseball plans to expand its video review process next season, giving managers a tool they’ve never had in an effort to dramatically reduce the number of incorrect calls made in games.

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I’ve always been in favor of using video to decide iffy plays in baseball, and I still am. In the past few years (if not forever) some umpire calls have changed the fate of games, series, and teams; even some players’ lives have been affected  by erroneous calls. Last season an umpire realized a mistaken call almost immediately afterward, and not only ‘fessed up and apologized, the guy suffered regret and guilt for a long time.

That said, I have some reservations about what’s coming down the ‘pike.

The primary reason instant replay hasn’t been used all these years is of course that it might–hell, it has to!–lengthen games that are frequently out of control in that respect already. According to the powers-that-be, “replays under the new system will take 1 minute, 15 seconds.” Not so bad, right? Additionally,  “managers will only be allowed one challenge over the first six innings of a game and two from the seventh inning.” After yesterday’s game between the New York Yankees and the LA Angels, however, I’m a little concerned about what micro-managers like Mike Scioscia might do with this new tool.

The game was going on four hours–yes, FOUR EFFING HOURS–the score was 8-2 Angels, and it was the top of the 9th inning. With one out, the Yankees put two men on base, one of whom was Alfonso Soriano, who scored seven! RBI’s in the previous two games between the teams. And Mike Scioscia called for a change in pitcher. A pitching change in the 9th inning with two measly outs to go! Yes, miracles happen, especially in this particular sport. But hey, Soriano, the most feared and most likely to cause damage, was already through with his at bat. The Yankees were playing nothing like they did in this series up until this, the fourth and final game. Scioscia might have at least waited one more at-bat. Not only didn’t he wait, when the Yankees got another base hit and scored a run, he called for another pitching change!

scaredBy now I was losing my mind. It was hot indoors, I was waiting for the game to be over so I could move along with my day and do something productive–I’d already skipped my writing time in order to watch–and Mike Scioscia, a classic example of a paranoid manager, was stretching this game beyond the four-hour mark. On top of all this, I’d had way too much coffee and chocolate during the game and was jumping out of my skin.You might wonder why I didn’t just leave. Baseball fans, even the most devout, frequently leave the stadium when the end is a foregone conclusion. And though some Yankee fans might have thought what was happening was deliciously suspenseful, with a possibly joyful climax, I didn’t.  I figured the Yankees would probably score a couple of runs, but not enough to tie up the game.  I just knew, considering how they were playing, that they wouldn’t catch up, and after their last two magnificent trouncing of the Angels I was okay with it. Still, I could not leave.

I don’t walk out of concerts before they’re over to avoid the traffic jams, and I don’t walk out of baseball games (though I do leave lousy movies). Maybe it’s because once I walked out in the eighth inning and by the time I got home everything had changed, and my team, on the verge of victory, lost. Or maybe it’s because in this case there was that slim chance….in any case, I stayed until the bitter end, which was indeed bitter. Angels won 8-4.

Having read this morning that MLB finally voted to allow replay reviews, all I could think of was Mike Scioscia biting his bones in the dugout yesterday, repeatedly calling the bullpen. So all I can envision now is Scioscia, or another nervous manager, calling for every review allowable and dragging the game into five long hours.

Joe Girardi, the current Yankees' manager

Joe Girardi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(P.S. Despite all I’ve said,  Yankee Manager Joe Girardi could actually use a lesson from Scioscia, as he’s so much the opposite; I blame him for an Angels’ Grand Slam in yesterday’s game. But that’s a whole other blog.)

The Chair of Broken Dreams

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jea 0294 twinsyankees-tuesFrom one class act to another! Teams throughout Major League Baseball have been honoring Mariano Rivera during his final round of shutting down their games with the New York Yankees. Some are giving gifts, others donating to Rivera’s foundation. The Minnesota Twins just might have outdone them all: they presented Rivera with this “Chair of Broken Dreams” made entirely of broken bats!

It’s a perfect way to honor the man who’s probably caused more broken bats with his cutter than many a pitcher with a bevy of fancy tricks.  Good for the Twins! Good for Rivera! Good for Major League Baseball!

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Strangers On The Field

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It’s been a sad season so far, with the Yankees decimated by injury. Though a bunch of strangers took over and did well for them at first, last week the Mets sweptYankeelogothem, and this week it was the Oakland A’s. One by one the injured players re-join the team, but it doesn’t seem to be helping. Yesterday’s final in the A’s series sweep went 18 innings, ending when A’s batter Nate Freiman hit Mariano’s cutter–a rare occurrence.

Mariano Rivera throws a pitch against the Balt...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the brighter side, Mariano Rivera is making the most of his Swan Song, and apparently enjoying himself enormously. He’s designed a final season unprecedented in baseball history, and unimagined by anyone else. Rivera is going out by making the rounds of Major League Baseball full of surprises and gifts along the way. He delivered pizza to the administrative offices at the Oakland Coliseum–A’s staff was stunned to see him come walking in with their dinner, and he stayed for pictures and chat. At another park he spent almost an hour talking to a bunch of kids before a game, and he’s been visiting workers in baseball all around the country–those who, with little fanfare or ceremony, do their jobs invisibly, without whom baseball couldn’t happen at all, at least not on the scale and in the way to which we’re all accustomed. The papers call them “the little people.” Mariano calls them friends.

It does not matter if you are not a fan of the New York Yankees or myself,” Rivera tells them. “You are fans of baseball. And that’s important.” Each night at Coors Field, even in rain, he would stand on the outfield side of the Rockies’ dugout, signing autographs for nearly an hour for the fans who were stunned to see a superstar so approachable.”They are the people we play the game for,” Rivera said. “They are the reason we are here.”

Not only is Rivera showing his gratitude towards those who keep baseball going–rival teams are presenting him with all kinds of farewell gifts and honors. In Cleveland, the Indians and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame combined to present Rivera with a framed gold record of Metallica’sEnter Sandman,” his entry song at Yankee Stadium for nearly two decades. The A’s donated $10,000 to the Mariano Rivera Foundation, which primarily funds projects for youth, many of these in Panama, his homeland. Most recently the Foundation furnished computers for underprivileged schoolchildren

In the past Rivera’s given generously to his family and his home town in Panama, La Chorrea. He says he never forgets where he came from.

Last year, when Rivera tore his right knee, he swore he’d come back to play again, that he wouldn’t go out in such an undignified way. And he did, he came back in 2013 to orchestrate a farewell tour as elegant as any Last Waltz. I’m going to miss Rivera–an understatement.

Too bad his last waltz is being danced by Strangers On the Field (song in progress) and Kevin YouKillUs, as I call him.

To the tune of “You Send Me”–take it away:

Kevin, You Kill Us
Boston sent you to kill us.
I know you will kill us.
You already did, already did, already did,
wo wo oh no!

And the Yankees soldier on.

Baseball Today

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In 20 Innings Lasting 6 hours and 25 minutes, the METS Lost to the  Miami Marlins 2-1

 

It was:

–The Longest Game In Citi Field History (CF opened in 2009)
–The longest Major League game in more than three years; the last one also involved the Mets, who beat St. Louis 2-1 in 20 on April 17, 2010
–The Mets’ fifth game of 20 or more innings in franchise history
–THE LONGEST METS GAME EVER WAS A 25 INNING GAME ON 9/11/74
– After the 14th-inning stretch the stadium played Chuck Berry‘s “No Particular Place To Go” but only a few hundred of the faithful were still in the stands.

METS scored the 1st run of the game in the Bottom of the 2nd inning when Juan Lagares doubled to drive in Ike Davis.  METS Lead 1-0.

Marlins tied the game on a sacrifice fly in the top of the 4th inning.  METS 1 Marlins 1.

METS had the potential winning run@2nd base w/1 out in the bottom of the 9th inning. Then the winning run was@2nd base w/2 out. Then they had 2 on w/2 out–but a groundout ended the inning.  Game Tied 1-1.

METS had runners@1st & 2nd w/2 out in the bottom of the 10th inning.  John Buck fouled out to end the inning.  Game Tied 1-1.

METS had the winning run@2nd w/no outs in the bottom of the 12th inning.  Duda hit a long fly advancing the lead runner to 3rd w/1 out.  Marlon Byrd hit a long fly ball that was caught&the runner coming home was tagged out.  Came still tied 1-1.

METS had 2 on w/2 out in the bottom of the 14th inning.  They did not score.  Game still Tied 1-1.

METS had a runner@2nd base w/1 out in the bottom of the 15th inning.  Then w/2 out and a runner@2nd, Omar Qintanilla  Struck out.  Game still Tied 1-1

In the top of the 20th inning, Shaun Marcum, the Mets’ eighth pitcher, threw an outside cutter that Adeiny Hechavarria hit into left field for a run-scoring single.

MARLINS win 2-1

Mets Pitching:

Matt Harvey was on the mound 5 days after giving up 10 hits & 4 runs against the Marlins, in his worst inning of the year.  He ranks 7th in the Majors w/a 2.17E.R.A.  Harvey is the 1st pitcher in franchise history to be undefeated thru his 1st 12 starts & the 1st METS pitcher to begin a season 5 & 0 since 2011,when Dillon Gee Began 7 & 0.  today, he pitched 7 innings.  He gave up 1 run on 6 hits.  He Struck out 6 batters.

Brandon Lyon
Shaun Marcum picked up his 7th loss.  He is winless.

Mariners Pitching:

Jose Fernandez, fresh off 7 scoreless innings in a win against the METS last Saturday, pitched 6 innings, giving up 1 run on 3 hits.  He walked 3 batters & struck out 7.
Chad Quails
Kevin Slowey, the 7th Marlins pitcher, pitched 7 innings & picked up his 2nd win.
Steve Cishek picked up his 6th save.

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


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Note: A hilarious short story about a baseball game that goes on forever is TC Boyle’s “The Hector Quesadilla Story.” For an audible version go to PRI; or download the story from The Paris Review; or buy Boyle’s collection, Greasy Lake and Other Stories.

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