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Category Archives: World Series

Barry Zito’s Chatter: The Loneliness of the Ace Pitcher

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Barry the Beautiful

I had to laugh when I checked my stats today and saw Dirty Laundry got its second highest number of views of all time yesterday. Under “Search Terms” were several variations of “Barry Zito Talks To Himself.” The phrase linked readers to the many posts I’ve written over the years about Zito, who I’m obviously mad about (if only he wasn’t so much younger than me…).

Anyhow, it’s true: Barry talks to himself on the mound with no shame or embarrassment. I don’t know if he’s conscious he’s doing it, but he must be, since he’s such a conscious human being–he meditates and does yoga regularly. I’d love to be a fly on the mound so I could hear what he’s saying. His chatter must help him in some way with pitching. Besides, pitchers are known to be the quirkiest players in baseball; some are nearly psychotic. I wrote a post about this once–but I left Zito off the roster of loco pitchers, since he’s so sane compared to the others. I mean, what’s a little muttering on the mound? It’s not like breaking a player’s hand (Hernandez to A-Rod) or throwing broken bats at them (Clemens to Piazza) or knocking down old men (Pedro Martinez to 70-something Don Zimmer).

When I was a kid I had a friend who talked to herself. She was an only child, and she told me she did it because she was alone all the time with nobody else to talk to. I’ve been talking to myself more and more as I get older, even in public; I’ve tried to control it, but cannot seem to stop. Part of the reason I do  it is because, like my old friend, I’m alone a lot these days.

Maybe that’s also Barry’s reason: up on that mound, he’s so very alone. Maybe his self-conversing is an antidote for The Loneliness of the Ace Pitcher. Whatever the reason, if it helps him do what he’s doing these days, he can do as much of it as he wants.

Go Barry Baby!

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

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:

Statistic
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

Hot Stove in The Wintertime

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Baseball with clock to represent a "curre...

Image via Wikipedia

Yanks Lose Lee

Cliff Lee either has more integrity than most baseball players, or he’s a doofus; I have a feeling it’s the former. Lee did what few baseball players ever do: he turned down more money and the chance to be a New York Yankee in favor of returning to the Phillies, the team he loves.

The Yanks made no bones about wanting Lee, and it would’ve been a great acquisition, considering that last season’s pitching rotation of CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, Andy Pettitte, and JJ Burnett contributed to a dismal post-season. Sabathia’s an ace pitcher, and Andy’s as reliable as ever – but both had their off days in 2010, while Hughes and Burnett, especially the latter, stank. Which is not to say the rest of the team were much better: except for Robinson Cano, who was almost the league’s MVP of the year, they were a sad sight. Still, you know what they say: good pitching wins the game. And 2010 was the Year of the Pitcher, when other teams’ aces pulled off some astounding feats.

That’s why Brian Cashman’s attitude about losing Lee is so baffling – and so maddening.  “I really don’t think we’ve got a lot of holes,” he said, referring to the rotation. “We’ve got one of the best in the league in CC. We’ve got a kid who won 18 games for us last year in Phil Hughes. And I really believe that A.J. Burnett is going to bounce back for us next year.”

Groan. That inane mantra about Burnett was repeated endlessly last year, to no avail. The Cash Man’s remarks are sour grapes and, worse, they reek of laziness. I was under the assumption that the Yankees’ top priority during the off season would be to resolve their pitching problem. I wonder if they’re pursuing anyone else now that Lee rejected them.  I also wonder what the ineffectual Girardi thinks of the situation. I get the sense that the whole staff is lackadaisical. Which leads me to what’s really on my mind vis-a-vis the NY Yankees: George’s departure into the ether. Clichés are so true:  You don’t miss your water till the well runs dry and You don’t know what you got till it’s gone.

If King George was still around, it’s quite possible the Yankees would have snagged Lee. Someone would have persuaded him to say yes, either his good friend Sabathia, or Cashman, or Girardi, or the scouts who do this sort of thing. While they offered Lee the usual mega-bucks, money, as was proven here once more, is not everything, not even when it comes to the Yankees. When George Steinbrenner wanted a player, by god, he got him.  He pushed and pressed and flogged everyone until they sweat their balls off and the deed was done.

Unfortunately, George’s heirs, Hal and Hank, don’t seem to give a damn. Nor do they have the vaguest notion as to how their father did what he did. Those negotiations with Derek Jeter, for instance, were downright shameful, and I am seriously concerned about the future of the team. Will the House that Ruth Built and the team that George maintained come undone over the next few years? To quote the kid in Angels in the Outfield, Hey, it could happen.

SF Giants Rule

Meanwhile, I’m lucky to have other baseball pleasures to keep me from a Yankee-induced meltdown. These pleasures are closer to home – to my current home, that is, not my heart-home in the Bronx. In the Bay Area I’m smack dab in the middle of the place that in 2010 witnessed one of the most dramatic World Series in the history of the game. Up until now, though I swear I tried, I just couldn’t get into the Giants. Couldn’t stand Barry Bonds, yet once he left, the team lacked charisma. I’ve been in love with Barry Zito for years, but his Giants performance has brought mostly heartache. For a few years I followed the A’s, but with Billy Beane relentlessly decimating the team, I couldn’t stick it out; it was too gut-wrenching to watch players leave every other week.

And then along came the 2010 Giants, suddenly making headlines in September. I perked up, tuned in, and saw charisma to spare. I don’t have to tell anyone what a thrilling WS it was, or how much fun these guys were, or how the city went insane with joy. I watched one WS game from a café near the stadium, and another third of a game from the back fence where you’re allowed to stand for up to three innings. Thus, I was among the crazy partying crowds – and nobody knows how to party like San Francisco. When it was all over, I realized that in 2011 I’ll actually have a home team to root for! I’ve purchased tickets to one Giants game and now I’m waiting for a friend who knows someone who knows someone who sells her season tickets at face value.

Matsui Comes to Oakland

But the Grand Slam came yesterday, when Hideki Matsui, ex-Yankee and the sexiest Godzilla from Japan, with his dimpled smile and twitching shoulders, signed with the Oakland A’s as DH. Now I have to buy some A’s tickets (I usually go see them once a year when they play the Yankees). All the Bay Bridge games are a must. I don’t know how I’ll afford to support my baseball habit with this sudden embarrassment of riches; but I’ll also be able to see the games on local TV, something I don’t get to do as a Yankee fan. It’s going to be  busy baseball season. Only 105 days till it starts!

Autumn

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Fall. My favorite time of year, the most beautiful, refreshing season, full of wonderful smells and sights and memories. Fall signifies Beginnings – ironic, considering it’s the beginning of the end of the year, when the leaves and the grass die, some animals go into hibernation,  and people face, metaphorically if not actually, a slowing-down in life.

Hawk on friend’s balcony in NYC. Photo: Joan Max

Two major events insinuate themselves into this enchanting time of year to predominate the national consciousness: the World Series (or football for those of a different persuasion I suppose) and elections. As a child I conflated the two, somehow connecting the competition between Dodgers vs Yankees and Democrats vs. Republicans. I hate to admit it, but I think I equated the Yankees with the party of Grampa Ike, the paterfamilias of the 1950’s.

This time around I’m a lot older and hopefully a bit wiser. I’ve learned to accept the loss by my hometown Yankees and rejoice in the rise of my adopted city’s Giants. Can I learn to accept ex-witches and anti-masturbationists as the new lawmakers? Are these clowns any crazier than the others? The answers are No, and Yes. Can you imagine a Congress in which a law against masturbation is seriously debated? Actually, I’d love to turn on my tv to find Susie Bright and Carol Queen heading up a panel of experts who’d explain to the red-faced Senators why masturbation is beneficial to the masses. Can you picture it? This is one of those times I wish I were a visual artist.

Then there’s Halloween. I wish I had the energy and wherewithal to dress up, but I haven’t done it in decades. Once you have kids, the creativity of costumery goes into theirs, and  it shifts your direction so that you stop dressing up yourself, even after they’re grown. At least that’s what happened to me – and I had kids at 19. When they were 2 and 4, I dressed all three of us up as hippies, a shocking concept to our  suburban neighbors. A year later I actually was a hippie – so were the kids, by default – but that’s another story.

Today I’m going over to Piedmont Avenue to watch the little munchkins parade up and down the street in their costumes. I wondered why they’re doing it today rather than tomorrow, the real holiday; my son says it’s so the little ones can avoid the older kids with their pranks, whipped cream, and even, in our neck of the woods, guns. It’s more likely Christianity’s influence: can’t get dressed as witches and devils on a Sunday morning. In any case, I love seeing the little fairies and ghosts stumbling down the street, confused, clutching their plastic pumpkins full of candy. Candy. Obesity. Is nothing purely joyful anymore?

The Giants are, and so is San Francisco. In SF any excuse for a party will do, and on Thursday night, when I went into the City to watch the game in a bar near the ballpark, they were out  in full force, wearing Giants regalia, beards and “Fear the Beard” t-shirts, with orange orange everywhere. Too bad they had to take their orange and black uniforms to Texas for Halloween, but I’m sure the locals will carry on regardless. It was a blast watching the game with a roomful of strangers, bonding for a few hours in a common goal. It helped that the Giants kept slugging the ball, racking up nine runs to the Rangers’ zero. I cannot for the life of me figure out how these bozos beat the Yankees. (I’ll bet they – the Yanks – are watching and thinking the same. Shame on them!) I love it when the camera closes in on Nolan Ryan’s unhappy face, though I don’t like seeing Ron Washington go down. Better yet are the faces of the SF players themselves, who can hardly believe what they’re doing. I always said that once they got the weight of Barry Bonds off their backs they’d take off.


As for the elections, I cannot remember a more annoying, intrusive, pointless campaign season. I groan whenever I open my mailbox and imagine the number of trees felled to create the latest batch of junk. My phone’s going to break from my childish slamming down on robo calls. With all this relentless harassment, there’s little real information, and I still don’t understand what’s up with Oakland’s mayoral race. I’m not looking forward to Monday, when I’ll finally sit down and read the pile of election books I’ve gotten to figure out WTF I’m voting for. Or against. Our political system is rapidly devolving, and I’m afraid nothing will save it but a complete overhaul. Nonetheless, it still behooves us to…

SF Mime: A Perfect Day

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A few small things in this world never disappoint me: M&Ms; West Side Story, no matter how many times I see it; the Alvin Ailey dancers; the San Francisco Mime Troupe. Today I got to see the latter at Yerba Buena Gardens. I’ve been to see the Troupe in North Beach’s Washington Square Park, Mosswood in Oakland, Live Oak in Berkeley, and Delores Park, and I must say, Yerba Buena wins my golden seal of approval: spacious, no street noise, shady trees, and they even supplied chairs — after I’d schlepped mine across the bay on BART.

The Death of the Worker, this year’s show, is typical Mime fare, so if you like what they do, you’ll like it. Oppressed workers are cruelly laid off,  but  they form a collective when the owners take off, and socialism rules. The seven or eight songs in this year’s play stood out for me as high quality, and I wondered if the group sells soundtracks (check out their site).

I’m a big fan of these guys, and I go to see them every year. They do high quality, meaningful theater all over the Bay Area, and charge nothing. They pass the bucket at the end — I’d guess that if everyone feels as good as I do by that time, they give generously. The Troupe survives primarily on grants.There’s not a better cultural deal in town, so check out the schedule for the rest of the summer and get thee to a city park!

This might be my last post for awhile. I just started a writing gig that’s going to suck up most of my writing energy. ( I seem to have only so many words to spend per day, so when I’m working on a big project, I’m unable to write anything else other than email, if that.)

Dozens of current topics, like the so-called mosque at so-called Ground Zero, are bursting to be addressed, but I’ll just have to squelch my need to write about them. There’s plenty of posts to read on this blog and my two others, though, so do a little exploring. The only stuff that’s really obsolete are the posts about baseball from seasons past. Speaking of which — I hope I can at least steal some blogging time when the Yankees hit the World Series! Go Yanks!

The Trouble With Angels

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This weekend the Yankees played the Angels, allowing me to reassess my antipathy towards them. The (so-called) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are high on my shit list of  Major League teams. Oddly enough, every team on my shit list wears a red uniform: the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Angels, and Atlanta Braves. Maybe it’s a blue state/red state thing.

Why do I dislike the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim?  We can begin right there, with the phony name. These guys are based in Anaheim, not in LA, near America’s Great Escape, Disneyland. The Dodgers are the team that’s IN Los Angeles. Several years ago the Angels decided they wanted to be called the LA Angels, and insisted that everyone line up behind them. Pure pretension, revealing a pathetic aspiration to be seen as urban hip. Well, it takes more than a name to be hip, and an Angel by any other name would still be hopelessly provincial.

My antipathy for the team began way before the name change, though; it started when they played the SF Giants in the 2002 World Series. First it was the thundersticks, which their fans beat incessantly, creating a deafening roar of static on the televised games. Then there was that ridiculous lucky monkey of theirs; as the Giants’ charming catcher at the time, Benito Santiago, said, with real passion, “I don’ wan’ see that damn monkey!” Another thing: the original owner of the team was the late Roy Rogers, and while  I’ve nothing against him, the players were forever saying they “did it for the cowboy” in a tone of false sentimentality — ironically, they were actually then owned  by the Walt Disney Corporation. (In 2005 ownership changed hands again, to Arte Moreno.) All this stuff grated on my nerves. And, of course, being from the Bay Area, I was rooting for the Giants — who, sadly, lost, thanks to muddled management.

But hey, it’s nuts to carry a grudge for so long, and besides, during this weekend series I realized that very few of the  2002 players are still with the Angels; in fact, the most irritating ones are gone. There was David Eckstein, the twitchy little pest who had the distinction of being the most hit-by-pitch player in baseball; to my mind he got hit on purpose because it was the only way he could get on base. Then there was his sidekick, Darin Erstad. The sneering John Lackey. The ferocious, scary Troy Percival (whose pitching I  grudgingly admired).Vladimir Guerrero, Troy Glaus, and Chone Figgins — all of whom seemed to lack personality and a sense of humor.

Every one of the players I’ve named is gone. In their place is my beloved ex-Yankee, Hideki Matsui, and Bobby Abreu, another ex-Bomber. The rest of the guys on the current team seem to be less annoying than the earlier group.

So I’m letting go of my 8-year grudge. However, I’ve got a new, perhaps even more serious, reason not to like them: they lack proper respect for the Yankees. This was confirmed by an announcer, who noted that, unlike almost every team in MLB that’s in awe of the Yanks, The Angels remain nonplussed. To them, the Yankees are just another team to beat (and they did so in two out of three games). Lacking respect for the Yankees is a major transgression in my book. So, while I’m turning over a new leaf and letting go of my 8-year grudge, I’m counting up the Angels’ current sins in a new case against them. No Surrender!

Note: David Zirin, Sports Editor of The Nation, is calling for a boycott of the Arizona Diamondbacks as protest of AZ’s new draconian immigration law. Zirin says he won’t be writing about the D’Backs as long as the law is on the books. Ditto (though I rarely write about that team anyway.)

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