Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Yanks Mess With Texas & Other Baseball News


It's been an eventful last 24 hours in baseball. Let me get to the most important part: A Yankee win.

The Yankees began a 3-game series against the Texas Rangers, at Globe Life Park in Arlington, in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. The Rangers took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the 2nd inning, but in the top of the 3rd, the Yankees struck back. Chase Headley led off the inning with a single, and Didi Gregorius hit a game-tying home run, his 5th round-tripper of the season.

B.J. Ryan followed that with a triple, Brett Gardner walked, and Chris Young hit a sacrifice fly to score Ryan with the go-ahead run. 3-2 Yankees.

Alex Rodriguez celebrated his 40th birthday in style, driving a 6th-inning pitch the opposite way for a home run, his 24th of the season, the 678th of his career, and the 6th that he's hit on his birthday, an all-time record.

The Yankees tacked 2 more runs in the 7th, with a leadoff walk by Carlos Beltran, a double by Headley, and a single by Gregorius.

Ivan Nova struggled a bit, and only went 5 innings, but 4 scoreless innings from Chasen Shreve, Justin Wilson and Dellin Betances made him the winning pitcher. Yankees 6, Rangers 2. WP: Nova (3-3). No save. LP: Matt Harrison (1-2).

The Yankees' Magic Number to clinch the AL East is now 58.

*

The Daily News, not normally a friend to A-Rod (Bill Madden, in particular, doesn't like him), put him on the back page, with the headline, "THIS IS 40!" But the New York Post made him look like commercial cartoon character Mr. Clean -- complete with bald head and earring.

Lord knows what George Steinbrenner would think of that photoshop with A-Rod and the earring. But he'd love the lack of long hair (never a problem with A-Rod), and he'd certainly love the winning -- the clean winning!

There was an unfortunate incident during the game. Mark Teixeira tried to score, but 3rd base coach Joe Espada said, "Easy!" That caused Teix to slow down momentarily, and when he picked up speed again, it was too late, as he was thrown out at the plate. Then, reminiscent of Paul O'Neill, Teix threw a trash can in the dugout.

This isn't the first time the Yankees have had 3rd base coach issues. I wonder what Mike Ferraro is doing these days?

*

I used to love Shane Victorino, "the Flyin' Hawaiian," when he was the center fielder for the Philadelphia Phillies. Why? Because Met fans hated him. Anybody who pissed off the Flushing Heathen that much had to be worth celebrating.

Then he signed with the Red Sox. And he helped them win yet another tainted World Series in 2013. (Though I have no reason to believe he was doing any of the cheating.)

Now, the Sox have traded him to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. And he cried over it.

Let's see: Leaving organization in disarray, in a place with bad weather and a nasty media... going to one with promise and the money to fulfill it, playing alongside (apparently) clean stars such as the legendary Albert Pujols and legend-in-the-making Mike Trout, in good weather, with a media that usually focuses on the other team "in town"?

Tears, Shane? They should be tears of joy!

Anyway, a player I once liked a lot, because Met fans hated him, is once again likable.

In exchange for Victorino, the Sox got Josh Rutledge, a 26-year-old shortstop who played with the Colorado Rockies, but has spent this entire season at Triple-A, and never got into a game for the Angels. The Sox may have gotten a good deal here, as Victorino wasn't going to make a difference in the future, but Rutledge could be one of the players who does.

But the Angels may have solidified a shot at the Pennant with Victorino, a proven winner in both Leagues.

*

The Toronto Blue Jays have traded Jose Reyes, the greatest shortstop the Mets have ever had, to the Rockies, for veteran shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.

The Rockies also got Miguel Castro, Jeff Hoffman and Jesus Tinoco; the Jays, veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins -- infamously, the only man who dared to wear Number 21 on the Yankees after Paul O'Neill, and was booed right out of it, and never did much for us. I don't expect any of those guys to have much of an impact.

That Tulo was traded is not a surprise, as he's been dangled at the trading deadline (this year, it's this Friday, at 4:00 PM) 3 seasons in a row now.

As for Reyes getting dumped by another team, everybody that's shocked, raise your hands. Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?

Reyes has now played for 4 different teams in the last 5 seasons. He's made 4 All-Star teams, but the last was 4 seasons ago. He's never won a Gold Glove. He's batting a decent .285, but has just 17 doubles, no triples, 4 home runs, 34 runs batted in, and 16 stolen bases. His OPS+ is 98 -- meaning his run production is slightly less than average.

He's 32 years old.

Met fans thought he was the best player in baseball. They thought he was better than Derek Jeter. They thought he would lead them to World Series glory. They thought he would make the Hall of Fame.

Met fans are idiots.

*

The Mets did, however, get former Yankee pitcher Tyler Clippard from the Oakland Athletics for Casey Meisner.

Meisner is filler. Clippard had a decent rookie season with the Yankees in 2007, but was traded to the Washington Nationals for Jonathan Albaledejo. "Who?" I don't blame you for forgetting him. The Nats converted Clippard into a reliever, and since 2010 was the kind of reliever that would really have helped the Yankees, if they had kept him. The Nats traded him to the A's before this season, and now the A's have traded him to the Mets. He's 30, and the Mets do need bullpen help.

The Mets need hitting more. They also need to improve their rotation, which, contrary to what their fans would have you believe, isn't good enough to make the Playoffs.

Certainly, it's not as good as the Yankees' rotation. But, especially with CC Sabathia looking, sadly, done, the Yankees could use one more good starter.

We shall see.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Top 10 A-Rod Moments: A 40th Birthday Tribute


July 27, 1975, 40 years ago today: Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez is born in Manhattan.

He (for want of a better phrase) grew up in Miami. He was taken with the 1st pick in the 1993 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, by the Seattle Mariners.

He made his MLB debut on July 8, 1994, at (interestingly enough, at least retroactively) Fenway Park. He was just short of his 19th birthday. Batting 9th, playing shortstop, and wearing Number 3, he grounded to 3rd in the 3rd inning, flew to center in the 5th, and grounded to short in the 7th, all against Chris Nabholz. He was due to come up again in the 9th, but was left on deck at the last out. The Mariners lost to the Boston Red Sox, 4-3. There was a Yankee 3rd baseman who hit a home run for the Mariners in that game, but it was Mike Blowers.

He played for the Mariners until 2000, and he signed the biggest contract in baseball history with the Texas Rangers. It was in these seasons, 2001, 2002 and 2003, that we are led to believe that he first used performance-enhancing drugs.

On February 16, 2004, the Yankees traded All-Star Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named later, who turned out to be Joaquin Arias, to the Rangers for A-Rod. With Derek Jeter at shortstop, they moved A-Rod to 3rd base. Despite all kinds of crazy things happening -- some but not all of them his fault -- he's still with the Yankees, still wearing Number 13 (because 3 is retired for Babe Ruth), although he's only played 31 games at 3rd base since 2012.

His failings are well-known. His incidents, on-field and off-field, are familiar, from the PED use to the Slap Play in the 2004 American League Championship Series, from his disappearing acts at the plate in postseason play to his domestic shenanigans.

There have been many -- myself included -- who have said, on varying occasions, that the Yankees should just get rid of him, that he had embarrassed the team too many times, and that he wasn't worthy of being a Yankee.

How do we look now? I'll eat my words, if it means I can wash them down with champagne in the fall.

In 2015, with his suspension over, and without Jeter looking over his shoulder, he appears to be a new man. Yes, I know, we've heard that before -- in 2009, when his bat was a huge reason why the Yankees won the World Series. Maybe now, he can help them do it again.

*

Top 10 A-Rod Moments

This is in chronological order. Note that these are the Top 10. The Bottom 10 would be hard to narrow down, but would include his busts, his opt-out during the 2007 World Series, and the Slap Play.

1. September 29, 1996. A-Rod finishes the regular season as the AL batting champion, batting .358 -- a very high figure for a righthanded batter in the post-World War II era. He also leads the league with 141 runs, 54 doubles, and 379 total bases. He hit 36 home runs and had 123 RBIs.

He was 21 years old.

2. January 26, 2001. He signs a 10-year contract with the Rangers, worth $252 million -- doubling the $126 million contract recently signed by Kevin Garnett, surpassing it as the biggest in the history of North American sports.

Nobody thought a professional athlete -- any professional athlete -- was worth that much money. But, after 5 full seasons with the Mariners, including Playoff berths in 1997 and 2000, 4 All-Star seasons, and 2 near-wins in the AL Most Valuable Player voting (2nd in 1997 and 3rd in 2000), few doubted that, at 25, A-Rod deserved to be the highest-paid player in baseball.

3. July 17, 2001. Selected as the starting shortstop in the All-Star Game in his former home park in Seattle, A-Rod suggested to starting 3rd baseman Cal Ripken, once the best shortstop in the game, that they switch positions. They did. It was a classy gesture from a player who people rarely choose to cite for class.

Ripken, like Robin Yount and Alan Trammell, had "changed the game" for shortstops, making them as big and strong as 1st and 3rd basemen and outfielders, giving them the same kind of power numbers, while maintaining the shortstop's traditional mobility and quickness.

A-Rod, Jeter, and Nomar Garciaparra of the Boston Red Sox were the key beneficiaries of this. Since 1998, the debate as to which of the 3 was the best player was like the old debate about the best center fielder in New York in the 1950s: Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays or Duke Snider.

With Nomar's injuries and exile from Boston, and A-Rod's move to 3rd, the "best shortstop" question was forever settled in Jeter's favor. But, statistically, A-Rod remains the best player among them.

4. October 7, 2001. The Rangers were nowhere near postseason qualification, but that was hardly A-Rod's fault. In the regular season that concluded on this date (delayed a week by the 9/11 attacks), he hit 50 home runs for the 1st time, finishing with 52, 135 RBIs, and a .318 average.

He would top that in 2002, leading both leagues by hitting 57 homers -- at that point, a figure topped in baseball history only by Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg, Roger Maris, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds. (Ryan Howard has since been added to that list.) The 57 homers are still a career high, as are his 142 RBIs.

5. September 28, 2003. A-Rod completes his 1st MVP season, batting .298, hitting 47 home runs with 118 RBIs.

He would also win the MVP with the Yankees in 2005, batting .321, hitting 48 homers with 130 RBIs.

6. August 4, 2007. A-Rod hits the 500th home run of his career, a 375-foot (or so) drive into the left field stands at the old Yankee Stadium.

I was there for that one, sitting in the upper deck down the 1st base line, giving me a perfect view of the entire hit from takeoff to landing. This game set records that still stand, as far as my live viewing is concerned, for most runs by either team and by both teams: The Yankees beat the Kansas City Royals, 16-8.

He will finish the season batting .314, with 54 homers (the most ever by a righthanded-hitting Yankee) and 156 RBIs (ditto). The 54 homers are the most by any Yankee since 1961, when Roger Maris hit 61 and Mickey Mantle hit 54. The 156 RBIs are the most by any Yankee since 1937, when Joe DiMaggio had 167. He won his 3rd MVP.

7. May 8, 2009. After missing the 1st quarter of the season with a hip injury, A-Rod plays for the Yankees against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. On the 1st pitch he sees in the season, he swings, and hits a 3-run home run into the left field stands. The Yankees won, 4-0.

8. August 7, 2009. The Yankees had cleared just about every hurdle this season, except being able to beat the Red Sox. But tonight's game at Yankee Stadium II remains scoreless in the bottom of the 15th inning, until A-Rod bats against Junichi Tazawa, making his major league debut. A-Rod gives him quite the welcome, blasting one to left field for a walkoff home run.

After this game, the Yankees pounded the Sox the rest of the way, and even clinched the Division against them.

9. October 7 to November 4, 2009. A-Rod finally became a "Mr. October." (Reggie Jackson considers A-Rod a friend, and probably won't mind me using the nickname in this instance.) He hit game-tying homers against the Minnesota Twins in Games 2 and 3 of the AL Division Series. He tied game 2 of the AL Championship Series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim with an 11th-inning homer, and the Yankees won in the 13th. He hit another homer in Game 4, tying the record shared by Lou Gehrig and Ryan Howard of having RBIs in 8 straight postseason games.

It only made sense that his 1st World Series home run would be controversial, and that the 1st World Series hit requiring review to see if it was a home run or not would be hit by him. It happened in Game 3 in Philadelphia against the Phillies, and it wasn't that controversial: The original call still gave him a double, and the replay showed it was obvious that it was a home run. Finally, in Game 6, he drew a key walk that was more important than any hit he's ever gotten, and he won his ring, as the Yankees beat the Phillies, 7-3.

10. June 19, 2015. After his season-plus suspension for PED use, it began to look like, even if he came back, his bids for milestones such as 3,000 hits, 2,000 RBIs, and 660, 700, 715, 756 and 763 home runs were finished.

But A-Rod started 2015 strong, and, on this date, A-Rod hits a home run against Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium II. It was the 667th home run of his career -- and his 3,000th hit.

He now has 677 home runs (4th-most all-time behind Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth), 2,027 RBIs (3rd-most all-time behind Aaron and Ruth), 3,028 hits, and a lifetime batting average of .299 -- well, .29865. He's not that close to .300. (He'd have to get 13 straight hits to get his average over .2995, to round it up to .300; and 20 straight hits to get it actually over .300. The record for consecutive hits is 12.)

*

Perhaps A-Rod's biggest moment is yet to come. Winning the 2015 World Series, as the most-tested-for-PEDs player in baseball history, would be, if not exoneration, at least full redemption, validation of his greatness, and a giant middle finger to those who cannot bring themselves to forgive him.

1st Place Yanks Beat Twins 2 of 3


I'll have a 40th birthday tribute to A-Rod in my next post.

The Yankees went for their 6th straight series win yesterday, against the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis.

The game was scoreless in the bottom of the 3rd, when the Twins got on the board. But Chase Headley led off the top of the 5th with a home run, tying the game. It was his 9th home run of the season.

The Yankees broke through in the 6th. Brett Gardner led off with a single, then Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann drew walks to load the bases with nobody out.

Carlos Beltran struck out, stoking fears that having bases loaded and nobody out would be wasted. But singles by Garrett Jones and Headley put an end to that, driving in 3 runs between them. Didi Gregorius bunted home another run. And then Stephen Drew, once again confounding people who say that he can't hit anymore, hit one out to deep right field, for his 13th homer of the season.

Nathan Eovaldi lived up to his Nasty Nate nickname, going 8 innings, allowing 2 runs on 8 hits and 1 walk, with 5 strikeouts.

Yankees 7, Twins 2. WP: Eovaldi (10-2). No save. LP: Kyle Gibson (8-8). The Yankees take another road series.

*

So, with 17 of the season's 26 weeks, and (for the Yankees, anyway) 97 of the 162 games in the books, here is how the American League Eastern Division stands:

The Yankees are 55-42, in 1st place, on a 92-win pace -- on the average, just under the 93 wins it usually takes to win the Division.

The Toronto Blue Jays are at .500, 50-50, 6 1/2 games behind the Yankees, 8 games behind in the All-Important Loss Column.

The Baltimore Orioles are 48-49, 7 games behind.

The Tampa Bay Rays are 49-51, 7 1/2 games back, 9 back in the loss column.

And the hated Boston Red Sox are 44-55, 12 games back, 13 in the loss column.

The Yankees' numbers to eliminate these teams -- any number of Yankee wins plus that team's losses adding up to the number in question means they cannot overtake the Yankees for the AL East title -- is 52 for the Sox, 56 for the Rays, 57 for the Jays, and 59 for the O's. Therefore, the "Magic Number" to clinch the AL East for the Yanks is 59.

According to MLB.com, the Yankees' chances of making the postseason are now 90 percent; of winning the Divison, 78 percent. I'll take that chance.

The Red Sox? 2.7 percent that they make the Playoffs. Screw 'em.

If the current Major League Baseball standings hold until the end of the season, the Playoff teams will be as follows, with seedings:

AL: 1. Kansas City Royals; 2. Yankees; 3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; 4. Houston Astros; 5. Minnesota Twins.

National League: 1. St. Louis Cardinals; 2. Los Angeles Dodgers; 3. Washington Nationals; 4. Pittsburgh Pirates; 5. San Francisco Giants.

The Mets are 2 games, 3 in the loss column, behind the Nats in the NL East, and 3 1/2, 4 in the loss column, behind the Giants for the 2nd NL Wild Card.

The Mets did have an interesting weekend, scoring 15 runs on the Dodgers in L.A. on Saturday (when they usually have trouble scoring that many runs in an entire week,), and then winning on Sunday as well, ending Zack Greinke's scoreless streak at 45 2/3 innings.

The Mets' chances of making the Playoffs are now at 48 percent -- pretty good considering how poorly they did from early May to mid-July.

The Yankees now go to the Dallas area to play the Texas Rangers. Time to mess with Texas!

*

Days until the Red Bulls play again: 5, this Saturday night, at 7:00, against the Philadelphia Union, at PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania. The Union knocked the Red Bulls out in the Quarterfinal of the U.S. Open Cup, America's version of the FA Cup. This past week, the Red Bulls played friendlies with a pair of European giants, shocking defending English Premier League champions Chelsea, and coming from behind to beat defending Portuguese league champions Benfica.

Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby": See the previous answer. The next game against the New England Revolution will be on Saturday night, August 22, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The next game against D.C. United will be on Sunday night, August 30, at Red Bull Arena.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 8, a week from this Tuesday, August 4, at 7:00 PM, at Yankee Stadium II.


Days until Arsenal play again (in a competitive match): 13, on Sunday afternoon (8:30 in the morning our time), home to East London club West Ham United. Under 2 weeks.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 39, on Thursday night (why?), September 3, away to Woodbridge. Under 6 weeks.


Days until the U.S. national soccer team plays again: 40, on Friday night, September 4, in a friendly with Peru at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington. Not following the script of the U.S. Women's national team, who won their World Cup, the USMNT lost to Jamaica in the Semifinal of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and then lost to Panama to finish 4th, while Jamaica lost to Mexico -- who got some very favorable calls, in their Semifinal against Panama, in the Final against Jamaica, and in the U.S.-Jamaica Semifinal, setting them up to play the weaker opponent. However, much of the blame for the U.S. defeats can be laid at the feet of manager Jurgen Klinsmann, who can't pick a lineup to save his life. Or anyone else's. He has to go, if we're going to do better than the Round of 16 at the next World Cup.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 41, on Saturday afternoon, September 5, home to Norfolk State.

Days until the Devils play again: 75
, on Friday, October 9, home to the Winnipeg Jets. Under 11 weeks.

Days until the Islanders' first home game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn: 75, also on Friday, October 9, against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. Or, to put it another way, "82 Sleeps Till Brooklyn." Until then, despite having definitively played their last competitive game in the Nassau Coliseum, even with their 4 straight long-ago Stanley Cups, they're just a Small Club In Hempstead.

Days until the Devils play another local rival: 86, on Sunday, October 18, away to the Rangers.

Days until the next North London Derby between Arsenal and Tottenham: 104, on Saturday, November 7, at the Emirates Stadium. A little over 3 months.

Days until the next East Brunswick vs. Old Bridge Thanksgiving game: 
123on Thursday morning, November 26, at 10:00 AM, at EB. Just 4 months.

Days until the Copa América Centenario begins on U.S. soil: 313, on June 3, 2016. A little over 10 months. The tournament will be between teams from the North American, Central American and Caribbean region (CONCACAF) and South America (CONMEBOL, which is celebrating its 100th Anniversary). Although it's a member of CONCACAF rather than CONMEBOL, the U.S. is the host nation, and thus qualifies automatically, as it does for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Days until Euro 2016 begins in France: 320, on Friday, June 10.


Days until the next Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 376, on Friday, August 5, 2016. A little over a year.


Days until Alex Rodriguez's Yankee contract runs out: Officially, at the end of the 2017 season. Game 7 of that year's World Series could turn out to be on Halloween, so, for the sake of this entry, let's say October 31, 2017, which would be 1,193 -- a little over 2 years. Of course, the Yankees could release him before then, but I don't think the House of Steinbrenner wants to take the financial hit from buying him out.

Days until the next World Cup begins in Russia: 1,413, on Friday June 8, 2018. A little under 3 years.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A-Rod's 3, Murphy's Law Lead Yankees to Shock Comeback vs. Twins


Last night's game between the Yankees and the Minnesota Twins at Target Field in Minneapolis was looking as bad as the previous night's game. In that one, the Twins jumped out to a 5-0 lead after 4 innings, winning 10-1.

This time, the Twins jumped out to a 5-0 lead after 3 innings, as CC Sabathia again looked like an old pitcher.

But this time, the Yankees started clawing back sooner. Alex Rodriguez hit a home run in the 4th inning to make it 5-1 Minnesota.

In the 7th, Chris Young doubled, and A-Rod hit another homer. This was followed by a Mark Teixeira double, a Carlos Beltran lineout that got Teix to 3rd, and another lineout by Chase Headley that got Teix home. That made it 5-4.

The Yankees went into the 9th inning still losing. Thus far, they were 0-37 when trailing after 8 innings.

A-Rod led off the 9th, and did it again. Three home runs in one game. This made him the 5th-oldest player ever to do that. And it gave him 23 homers on the season, and 677 for his career -- putting him 23 short of 700, 37 behind Babe Ruth at 714, 78 behind Hank Aaron at 755, and 85 behind Barry Bonds at 762, And it tied the game.

Then Teix singled. Beltran grounded into a force play, eliminating Teix but getting himself to 1st. Headley singled Beltran over to 3rd. And John Ryan Murphy, hardly the kind of guy you would expect even to hit a sacrifice fly to get the go-ahead run home from 3rd with less than 2 out, crushed a pitch into the seats in right-center field. His 1st home run of the season, capping a tremendous comeback.

What could go wrong for the Twins, did. Murphy's Law.

Yankees 8, Twins 5. WP: Adam Warren (6-5). SV: Andrew Miller (23). LP: Glen Perkins (0-2).

The series concludes this afternoon. Nathan Eovaldi starts against Kyle Gibson.

*

Cole Hamels pitched a no-hitter last night. If that was his last start with the Philadelphia Phillies, it's a hell of a way to go out.

It was also the first no-hitter pitched against the Chicago Cubs in almost 50 years -- since Sandy Koufax's perfect game on September 9, 1965.

This does not mean the Yankees should trade for Hamels before the trade deadline this Friday. Considering how much Hamels has struggled since the Phils' 2008 World Series win, this could well be the pitching equivalent of "death throes." After all, David Cone struggled a lot after his 1999 perfect game. So has The Great Johan Santana since his 2012 "no-hitter."

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Yanks' Sweep of O's Followed by Phil Hughes-Led Disaster In Minnesota


So Ivan Nova took the mound for the Yankees on Wednesday night. His first game back from a year off for Tommy John surgery was great. Every game since, considerably less so. The Yanks needed him to bounce back against the Baltimore Orioles.

The Yankees gave him a 3-run cushion in the 1st inning. A double by Jacoby Ellsbury started it, followed by an RBI single by Brett Gardner, a pop-up by Alex Rodriguez, and a home run by Mark Teixeira, the 24th "Teix Message" of the season. Then Brian McCann singled and Carlos Beltran drew a walk, and things were really looking good...but Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius struck out, stranding McCann and Beltran. Uh-oh, you might have thought, those stranded runners could come back to haunt us...

Sure enough, in the top of the 3rd, Nova gave up a home run that made it 3-2 Yanks. But he settled down, and A-Rod hit one out in the 5th, his 20th homer of the year.

You know, for a couple of guys who are "washed-up" and "injury-prone," Teix and A-Rod are doing all right this season.

But in the 9th, Chris Davis homered off Andrew Miller to close it to within a run again, and it was worrying time. But Miller finished it off.

Yankees 4, Orioles 3. WP: Nova (2-3). SV: Miller (22). LP: Kevin Gausman (1-2).

*

Then came the dreaded getaway day game, the dreaded day game after a night game (DGAANG). The Yankees handled it considerably better. Masahiro Tanaka allowed a run in the 2nd, then a pair of homers in the 8th -- but the fact that he was able to reach the 8th was a good sign, after his injury troubles.

Headley and Gregorius made up for the previous night's rally kill with a bases-loaded double and an RBI single, respectively, giving the Yankees a 4-0 lead. In the 2nd, Ellsbury led off with a home run, his 3rd of an injury-curtailed season. In the 3rd, Gregorius singled, so did John Ryan Murphy, Stephen Drew doubled home Gregorius, and a lineout by Ellsbury turned into a sacrifice fly as Murphy scored. That made it 7-1 Yankees. Ellsbury doubled home 2 more runs in the 5th.

Yankees 9, Orioles 3. WP: Tanaka (7-3). No save. LP: Ubaldo Jimenez (7-6). Attendance: 46,875, an extraordinary figure for a midweek afternoon game without Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.

I guess people are starting to believe in the 2015 Yankees.

*

That belief took a hit last night, though, as the Yankees began a roadtrip in Minneapolis, starting a 3-game series against the Minnesota Twins, who have tremendously bounced back from a bad season last year to being one of the few teams in baseball with a better record than the Yankees.

Our old friend Phil Hughes started for Minny. It always drives me crazy when a player, especially a pitcher, that the Yankees let get away does well against them. He pitched 7 innings, allowed 7 hits, but no walks, and no runs.

That's what Phil Hughes did last night. Remember Johan Santana, the guy the Yankees wouldn't trade Hughes to the Twins to get? What did he do last night? Whatever it was, it didn't involve playing baseball: He hasn't thrown a professional pitch since August 17, 2012, and has only pitched 117 innings since September 2, 2010.

I would gladly have taken that from Michael Pineda last night. We didn't get it. The Twins shelled him, and Branden Pinder and the useless lump of mashed potatoes that goes by the name of Chris Capuano were no better. The Twins scored 5 runs in the 1st 4 innings, and the game was effectively over.

Singles by Gregorius and Drew, and a sac fly by Ellsbury, brought home the thinnest of consolations in the 9th inning. Twins 10, Yankees 1. WP: Hughes (9-6). No save. LP: Pineda (9-7).

The series continues tonight, at 7:10 PM Eastern Time, at Target Field. CC Sabathia starts for us, Tommy Milone for them.

Come on you Bombers!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

How Long It's Been: Lou Lamoriello Wasn't President of the New Jersey Devils

This afternoon, 3 months after stepping down as general manager, in favor of former Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero, Lou Lamoriello stepped down as president of the New Jersey Devils.

He was hired as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, by their team president, Brendan Shanahan.

Ironically, Shanahan was indirectly responsible for pretty much all of Lamoriello's achievements as Devils GM. In the off-season of 1991, Shanahan was a star winger for the Devils, when he was signed as a free agent by the St. Louis Blues. Shanny was a restricted free agent, and thus the Devils were entitled to compensation. The case went to arbitration, and the Devils got Scott Stevens, a future Hall-of-Famer.

The rest in history. Under Lamoriello, now 72 years old, the Devils reached 5 Stanley Cup Finals (very nearly 2 others), winning 3 Cups (in 1995, 2000 and 2003), and built the fantastic Prudential Center in downtown Newark. Lamoriello himself was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.

It was, however, time to go. The Devils hadn't made the Playoffs in 3 seasons, and don't look a whole lot closer to it now. Under Shero (son of former Flyers and Rangers coach Fred Shero), we'll see. But it was time for new blood, in the front office, on the bench, and on the ice.

At least now, I'll never have to call Lou "El Cheapo," "El Baldo," or "the Big Bald Cheapskate" again.

He was appointed Devils GM on April 3, 1987. That's 28 years and 3 months. How long has that been?

*

At the time, the Devils were, to borrow Wayne Gretzky's phrase, "a Mickey Mouse operation." The team was in its 5th season in New Jersey, and hadn't made the Playoffs once. The franchise, formerly the Kansas City Scouts and the Colorado Rockies, was in its 13th season, and had only made the Playoffs once, getting swept in the 1st round as the 1978 Rockies.

But a youth movement, led by rising stars Shanahan, Pat Verbeek, John MacLean, Bruce Driver, Ken Daneyko, Patrick Sundstrom, and goalie Sean Burke -- original goalie Chico Resch having found his true calling, broadcasting -- got the Devils into the Playoffs in the 1987-88 season, coming within 1 game of the Finals. Lou had made the right deals.

The Islanders were still the dominant team in the New York Tri-State Area, although that was coming to an end, as Mike Bossy's back was about to force him into early retirement, and Denis Potvin and Billy Smith would soon retire as well, Despite having reached the Conference Finals the year before, the Rangers were a joke, not having won the Stanley Cup in 47 years.

There were 21 teams in the NHL at the time. There was no team in Florida, or Texas, or Tennessee, or North Carolina, or any other former Confederate State. Nor was there a team in Ohio. There was only 1 team in California, the Los Angeles Kings. There was a team in Minnesota, but it was the North Stars, not the Wild. Quebec City had a team, but Ottawa didn't.

With the closing of the Nassau Coliseum this past spring, only 4 arenas used in the 1986-87 NHL season will still be in use in the 2015-16 season. If the arena the Edmonton Oilers are building to replace Rexall Place (known in 1987 as the Northlands Coliseum) opens on time, that will leave just 3 for 2016-17: Madison Square Garden, Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, and the Saddledome in Calgary.

The NHL had several players from the U.S., Sweden and Finland, but still the vast majority of players was Canadian. A few players from Czechoslovakia had defected, but Eastern Europe was not yet willing to let its riches of hockey talent go West.

I was a few weeks away from graduating from high school. The defining players of my childhood had begun to retire, and even go into coaching: Bossy, Potvin, Phil Esposito, Ken Dryden, Bobby Clarke, Darryl Sittler. Guy Lafleur had retired, but would make a comeback. A few of the greats I grew up with were still playing, such as Bryan Trottier, Larry Robinson, Marcel Dionne.

The Devils were then coached by Doug Carpenter, who hasn't coached in the NHL since being fired by the Maple Leafs early in the 1990-91 season. Current coach John Hynes was just 12 years old. Alain Vigneault of the Rangers had just started his first coaching job, with the Trois-Rivières Draveurs in Quebec. Jack Capuano of the Islanders was playing at the University of Maine. Tom Couglin of the Giants was the receivers coach of the Green Bay Packers. Terry Collins of the Mets was beginning the season as manager of the Albuquerque Dukes, the Los Angeles Dodgers' Triple-A team, and would manage them to that year's Pacific Coast League Pennant. Lionel Hollins of the Nets was an assistant coach at Arizona State University. Todd Bowles of the Jets was a cornerback for the Washingon Redskins. Joe Girardi of the Yankees was in the Chicago Cubs' minor-league system. Derek Fisher of the Knicks was in junior high school.

The defending World Champions were the Montreal Canadiens in hockey, the Boston Celtics in basketball, the Mets in baseball and the Giants in football. The Heavyweight Championship of the World was divided between the veteran Michael Spinks and the young Mike Tyson. They were a little over a year from colliding on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, with Spinks taking the brunt of the collision.

The Olympic Games have since been held in America twice, Canada twice, Korea, France, Spain, Norway, Japan, Australia, Greece, Italy, China, Britain and Russia. The World Cup has since been held in America, Italy, France, Japan, Korea, Germany, South Africa and Brazil.

The President of the United States was Ronald Reagan. George H.W. Bush was his Vice President, and his son George W. was on the board of directors of a Texas energy company, having recently quit drinking (or so he says). Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, their wives, and the widows of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were still alive. Bill Clinton was in his 4th term as Governor of Arkansas, while his wife Hillary was working as a lawyer in Little Rock. Barack Obama was a lawyer working as a "community organizer" in Chicago, on various issues related to poverty, while his eventual wife Michelle Robinson was attending Harvard Law School. Joe Biden was Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and was, along with Ted Kennedy, about to lead the charge to keep the archconservative Robert Bork off the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Governor of the State of New York was Mario Cuomo, and of New Jersey Tom Kean. The Mayor of the City of New York was Ed Koch. Andrew Cuomo was working at a New York City law firm, Chris Christie at one just outside it in Cranford, New Jersey. Bill de Blasio was about to finish graduate school at Columbia University.

The monarch of Great Britain was Queen Elizabeth II -- that hasn't changed -- but the Prime Minister was Margaret Thatcher, and of Canada, Brian Mulroney. Liverpool Football Club was the current holder of both the Football League title and the FA Cup, but was about to cede the former to their neighbors Everton and the latter to Coventry City.

Major novels of 1987 included Patriot Games by Tom Clancy, Outbreak by Robin Cook, The Commitments by Roddy Doyle, Misery by Stephen King, Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody, Beloved by Toni Morrison, Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow, and The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. All would be made into major motion pictures. K.W. Jeter -- no relation to Derek -- author of books set in the Star Trek and Star Wars universes, coined the term "Steampunk" in a letter published in Locus: the magazine of the science fiction & fantasy field.

Recently released films included the 1st in the Lethal Weapon series, Angel Heart, Raising Arizona and Blind Date. The Fox Network would make its prime-time debut in 2 days, with Married... with Children and The Tracey Ullman Show. Fox would premiere 21 Jump Street a week later. CBS had recently premiered its soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful. The Love Boat, Silver Spoons, The A-Team and Fraggle Rock had all been recently canceled; soon to follow were Remington Steele, Gimme a Break!, Fame, Hill Street Blues, Scarecrow and Mrs. King and Airwolf,

U2 had recently released their breakout album, The Joshua Tree. The Smiths released Louder Than Bombs, Prince Sign o' the Times, and Whitesnake their self-titled debut album. Former Beatle George Harrison was about to release his album Cloud Nine, while Michael Jackson was about to release his much-awaited follow-up to Thriller, Bad. Actor and singer Dean Paul Martin, son of the Rat Pack crooner and comedian, was killed in a plane crash at age 36.

Personal computers had become commonplace, but there was as yet, no Internet as most people understand it. There were portable telephones, but they were still the large ones known as "bricks." America was still rebuilding its space program in the wake of the Challenger disaster the year before. AZT had just been approved by the Food & Drug Administration for use in the treatment of HIV and AIDS. The current holder of the Nobel Peace Prize was Elie Wiesel, survivor and chronicler of the Holocaust.

In the spring of 1987, the MS Herald of Free Enterprise capsized in the English Channel off Bruges, Belgium, killing 180 people. The Taiwanese army executed 19 unarmed Vietnamese refugees in what became known as the Lieyu Massacre. The Hashimpura Massacre occurred in India when Uttar Pradesh state police rounded up 42 Muslim youths and shot them. An 18-year-old West German named Mathias Rust evaded Soviet defenses and landed a small plane in Moscow's Red Square. He would serve a little over a year in prison. Michael Eisner and French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac signed an agreement to build Euro Disney outside Paris.

The first Rugby World Cup was played in New Zealand, and the host nation beat France in the Final. The World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE, World Wrestling Entertainment) brought 93,173 fans to the Silverdome outside Detroit for WrestleMania III, the largest crowd for an indoor "sporting event" in North America until the 2010 NBA All-Star Game. The Maryland Stadium Authority approved the plan to build Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Indiana University beat Syracuse University, on a last-minute shot by Keith Smart, to win the NCAA basketball title. And the Islanders and Washington Capitals played a Playoff series that went to the 4th overtime of Game 7, the Islanders winning the "Easter Epic" on a goal by Pat LaFontaine.

Danny Kaye, and Maria von Trapp, and Patrick Troughton died. So did legendary drummer Buddy Rich, and the great Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes. Brooklyn Decker, and Maria Sharapova, and Ike Davis were born.

April 3, 1987. Lou Lamoriello is named President of the New Jersey Devils. Although there were some disappointments during his reign, the team became a model franchise, winning 3 Stanley Cups, making the Playoffs in 21 of his 27 seasons, and building one of the best arenas in North America.

Now, the Mulberry Street Marauders will have to get along without him. Since moving to New Jersey, the team has, literally, never made the Playoffs without him. They'll have to learn how to do it without him.

It should be noted that Lou's sons Christopher and Tim will remain in the Devils' organization, Christopher as a senior vice president of hockey operations, and Tim as a senior staff attorney.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Ryan's Double Gives Yanks Hope & Win


William Nathaniel Showalter III -- you may know him as Buck -- took the Baltimore Orioles into Yankee Stadium II to start a series last night.

The Yankees seemed to be taking care of business early. Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a double, was bunted over to 3rd by Brett Gardner, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Alex Rodriguez. In the 2nd, singles by Brian McCann and Chris Young were followed by an RBI double by Chase Headley.

But the Yankees stranded Young on 3rd and Headley on 2nd. For a while, that looked like it might be costly.

Nathan Eovaldi allowed only 1 hit (albeit also 3 walks) through the 1st 5 innings, but he allowed 3 hits in the 6th to make it 2-1 Yankees. Joe Girardi brought in Justin Wilson, and he allowed a single to make it a tie game.

When a guy blows a save, but has not yet been replaced when his team regains the lead, he doesn't deserve to be credited with the win. And yet, that's what happened with Wilson. Then again, the 2nd Oriole run, which he allowed, was rightly charged to Eovaldi.

Sometimes, baseball doesn't make much sense. Or, as the great American philosopher Lawrence P. Berra put it, "In baseball, you don't know nothin'."

With 2 out in the bottom of the 6th, Didi Gregorius singled to left, and Brendan Ryan doubled to left to bring him home. That made a winner out of Wilson.

Yankees 3, Orioles 2. WP: Wilson (3-0). SV: Andrew Miller (21). LP: Wei-Yin Chen (4-6), who normally gives the Yankees a hard time. Not hard enough this time!

The Yankees now lead the O's by 5 games, the Toronto Blue Jays by 4 1/2 (but 6 in the loss column), the Tampa Bay Rays by 5 (but 7 in the loss column), and the Boston Red Sox by 10 (but 11 in the loss column).

The series continues tonight. Ivan Nova starts for the Yanks. Kevin Gasuman starts for the Birds. The Yankees have had trouble with him, but he's winless in his last 10 starts, so something's gotta give.

Come on you Pinstripes!