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New York Baseball: Moments of Joy

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The following was written by Guest Blogger Daryl Hochheiser.
Yesterday (Monday July 29th) the New York METS beat the  Miami Marlins by the skin of their teeth: 6-5.
Mets Logo
This game was scoreless until the top of the 3rd inning, with 2 outs and 2 on base Daniel Murphy singled to drive in both runs.  The Mets picked up an additional run in the same inning when David Wright doubled to bring Murphy home.  METS Lead 3-0.
Mets gave up a double, followed by a run-scoring triple with one out in the bottom of the 4th inning.  A walk put runners at the corners.  Another walk loaded the bases.  A  misplayed grounder drove in two runs before the third out.  Game tied 3-3.
Mets gave up 2 runs in the bottom of the 6th inning.  METS Trail 5-3.
In the top of the 7th inning the Mets got a one-out double followed by a run scoring single.  Mets tied the game and took the lead with a run-scoring single and a run-scoring double.  METS lead 6-5.
In the 9th inning the Marlins got a one-out single.  With 2 outs and one on base,  a walk put runners at the corners.  A groundout ended the inning and the game.  Mets win 6-5! A Proud Day!
Meanwhile, up in the Bronx:Yankeelogo
On Sunday Yankee Captain Derek Jeter returned after more than two months out of commission. When he came to bat second in the lineup he got a standing ovation–and on the first pitch, hit a wham-bam-thankyou-fans-HOME RUN! The place went crazy. It was a purely joyous moment of the kind that Yankee Stadium had not seen in many moons.  As radio game announcer John Sterling put it, “If they wrote this into a Hollywood movie nobody would believe it.”
The joy in the Bronx actually began well before the game, when Hideki Matsui, former Yankee player, enacted a formal ritual that will allow him to retire in pinstripes even though he’s since played for the Cubs.  He signed a new contract, put on a uniform, and then signed his retirement papers before throwing a first, and perfect, pitch. Japanese media was all over the place, and the fans went crazy. Matsui has always been popular–I myself adore him, and I don’t know why they let him go two seasons back; but then, I never understand when they give good players the boot.
I think it’s fantastic that Matsui wanted so much to retire as a Yankee he asked for this opportunity–and it’s also great that management agreed.  I guess they understood: Once a Yankee, always a Yankee.
It was a fine two days for baseball in New York!
I apologize for this dismal-looking post, but for unknown reasons I’m unable to get correct line spacing today.–MS

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!

The Man Behind the Plate

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After months of struggling to play through shoulder pain, Yankee catcher Jorge Posada finally conceded, after Saturday’s game against Oakland, that he couldn’t go on like this. Dr. David Altchek confirmed that Posada needs surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. He’ll most likely have the operation soon—if he waits until November, he’ll miss most or all of next season: the surgery he needs requires six months of rehab.

This just about breaks my heart, not so much for what it means to the Yankees, though that’s considerable; as blogger Peter Abraham says, “they can make do with Molina’s terrible production.” God knows they’ve already been making do without Hideki Matsui, who was out-hitting everyone at the start of the season, and who’s been out several weeks. Matsui’s been told he needs knee surgery, but is trying to delay it, and may return soon.

Nor am I heartbroken just because I won’t get to see my favorite player for the remainder of the season, though that’s a real bummer. No, my heartache comes from empathy: more than any other player, Jorge suffers when he can’t fulfill his obligation to the team. He expressed those feelings when he went on the DL this season, for the first time in his career. This is surely tearing him up inside.

Tyler Kepner, who blogs about the Yankees for the New York Times, says Posada’s ordeal “has been evident enough just by watching his throws this season. Watching him in the clubhouse has been revealing, too. Some days, he has been short with reporters, curtly insisting that he is a catcher,
period. That was Posada’s pride talking, I think – catchers, more than players at any other position, find much of their identity in the position they play.” He also notes that “Posada is one of few players who speaks from genuine emotion, unafraid to let people know how he is really feeling.”

What he’s feeling is frustration, from months of not performing at his usual high level. Posada just signed a contract for $39.3 million over three years as starting catcher. (Or maybe it’s $52.4 for four years; I’ve found conflicting reports.) Jewish mother that I am, I’m now starting to worry that surgery might leave him less capable than before—I’ll have to look for information about catchers’ abilities following shoulder surgery. Anyone?

Meanwhile, I’m off to get some kind of Get Well card for Jorge–even though he never responded to the witty and wonderful birthday card I made for him two years ago. It must be love.

Laura Posada and their kids. Jorge Jr. (L) has had
several surgical procedures for a neurological condition.

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