Tuning Back In

Sorry to have been out of touch for a couple days. I have yet again been without Internet access–and a phone telephone, since both operate out of the same non-functioning modem–at the house and, much to my chagrin and despite the assurances of ComCast (one of a few companies that illegally spied on Americans, by the way), no one has been out to the house since the outage/modem failure Friday afternoon. I saw that PaVoldemort pitched a heck of a game Friday night in out-dueling A.J. Burnett, 2-1. Four years too late and $40 million too much. Sorry, I’m just not impressed. Nice job, #45, in your audition for another team on the Yankees’ bill. I also saw that the Yankees blew a big lead yesterday, dropping a 7-6 decision to the Jays after leading 6-2, with another bullpen implosion blowing Rasner’s good start.

I had a few other things going on. Without Internet and since ComCast would allegedly call me on my cell phone, we went as a family to a big corn maze nearby, with GLG and her friend challenging my wife, son, and me to who could find the hole punchers strategically placed around the maze, fill the card, and get out first. We did within 45 minutes, kicking butt. We’ve done it every year for a few years, and it’s always a blast. Since we always seem to go when it’s 85 and sunny, we sunscreen the kids and bring bottles of water. My son was a trooper, leading us to the last hole puncher and the subsequent bragging rights. As a treat, my wife and I actually got to go out last night on a date, one of very few we actually get to take, going to a local restaurant for appetizers and a drink before seeing “The Dark Knight.” Brilliant movie with extremely good acting performances from Heath Ledger as the very creepy, anarchistic, completely insane Joker (far better than Nicholson’s very good performance), Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent, Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes, and great special effects. The chase scene when Dent was in transit in an armored car was classic and highly intense. It’s impossible to over-estimate how good and downright creepy Ledger was as The Joker. If you’ve not seen it, you’re missing out. Don’t. As a side note, a mother had her 3 or 4-year-old daughter behind us at the movie, and the poor girl was just crying and complaining to leave. The obnoxious, pathetically stupid mother adamantly refused to do so, and really had no brains or business taking her poor daughter to that long, truly frightening movie. My son is older than that girl and I won’t take him. It’s in no way appropriate to young children. This movie is far from Adam West’s hokey TV show. My wife and I had to stifle the urge to yell at the woman to usher he daughter out, and a good part of me wishes I had told her off, but figured no good would come of it. Amazingly stupid person this mother was.

Following up on the last couple days’ events, it seems that the McCain campaign’s main meme will be that VP choice Palin has credentials to lead based on presiding over an oil-rich state, her right-wing views, her being an outsider in line with pseudo-maverick McCain, and that she has more experience than Obama. In fact, watching this morning’s “Meet the Press,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty continually changed the subject from Palin to Obama when discussing questions on Palin’s lack of experience. This to me illustrates how odd the choice of Palin was, and how on various fronts, as I discussed Friday, this compromises certain arguments McCain has tried to make about Obama. One can argue whether or not Obama has sufficient leadership and political experience to become president. Personally, I think this matters little, as the recent manifestation of Bush has shown about being governor and therefore “chief of [a] state.” More importantly for this post and I think in general, McCain’s campaign has no way of effectively making the case in favor of Palin’s supposed credentials while criticizing Obama’a supposed lack thereof.

The outsider argument about Palin is a bit funny, since her being chosen purportedly to help fix a “broken Washington system” is to join a man who has been in Washington for three decades. So let me get this straight. Palin can help clean up Washington by…joining the ticket of a man who has either not done enough to fix Washington on his watch, or has downright helped to “break” Washington’s federal political system? Sure. That’s not a campaign trope I can believe in–not that right-wing politics has traction or ever has with me, anyway. This is meant to help bolster McCain’s faux image as a “maverick.” Here’s a question: what did maverick McCain do during the biggest do-nothing Congress in American history? Play along, go home early, help pass late-night and early-morning appropriations bills but reconvene Congress for the Terry Schiavo fiasco, and vote with Bush 9/10 of the time.

Since we just passed the third anniversary of the Bush administration’s utterly abject, grotesque, inhumane failure in handling the disastrous Hurricane Katrina, what did McCain do when Bush was strumming a guitar at a f%*#ing hootenanny, a modern-day Nero on the lyre? Join him to share in some cake as America saw one of its oldest, most important cultural and economic centers destroyed. Let’s not forget this incident, good readers. While it should not have been a mystery to people how ill-equipped the governor of Texas was and has been for the job of president (at the same time that another GOP governor has been chosen as VP candidate), this image was all anyone for some reason either enamored with or uncertain about the effectiveness of the Bush presidency should have needed to assess his concern about effective governance:

Strumming a guitar at a f%*#ing hootenanny, with McCain in attendance, as Katrina blasted New Orleans’s city structure and culture apart. Three years ago. If you weren’t enraged by Bush’s inaction, ignorance, wanton foot-dragging, and naked pandering to employers by waiving Davis-Bacon prevailing wage provisions in what modest and painfully slow clean-up and rebuilding of New Orleans has thus far occurred, I have nothing polite to say at all. Let’s just leave it at that. This lens into Mr. “Heckuva Job, Brownie” and his merry band of miscreants was more than a last straw. It was also a glimpse into the past about how McCain viewed and reacted as Senator to this. How important a late August hurricane has become in the aftermath, and on the anniversary of the natural and Republican disaster that was Katrina, to the GOP.

[Edit: The above post was written early this afternoon but, since the Wi-Fi cafe where I wrote it limits lunch-time Internet access to 30 minutes, I couldn't quite finish it before I was booted. Ah, the travails of the Internet era. That said, it obviously doesn't include anything about today's 6-2 loss, which I was checking up on the cell phone during the afternoon. Halladay got staked to a first-inning 3-0 lead and never looked back, while Pettite struggled through 6 1/3, allowing 6 runs. Amazing how pitching can shut down one "vaunted" offense while making a mediocre one look potent. Yet again this year, we all know which one was which. The Yanks are now 7 behind Boston for the Wild Card (Magic # = 20), 12 1/2 behind Tampa in the East (Magic # = 15). Ugh and ugh.]

Published in: on August 31, 2008 at 5:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

POLITICS: McCain’s Curious VP Choice

I must say that McCain’s VP choice of Sarah Palin surprises me somewhat. In some ways, certainly ideologically, the choice makes sense since Palin is staunchly against abortion. I’m convinced that, in the same way that Obama chose Biden in some part to protect himself against criticism of his lack of foreign-policy experience, McCain picked Palin to shore up criticism–this time primarily from within the GOP–of his lack of fundamentalist credentials. I don’t need to tell Republicans who may read this how much it matters to those on the right; nor do I need to tell people in my neck of the woods about its relevance. It does–a lot. I also think that picking a younger woman may be an attempt to garner women’s votes across the political spectrum–hardly a startling insight, I know. Yet how successful that will be is another question.

Why this pick puzzles me is for primarily three reasons. Palin does nothing to help McCain in key battleground states. Her selection also removes a key trope that McCain has been using in criticizing Obama of late, that he lacks the experience and leadership because of his relatively new status on the national stage, to lead America. Just as importantly, as I’ll discuss below, Palin is involved in a potentially significant scandal in her home state over whether or not she used her gubernatorial power to remove a state official over acts, or non-acts, concerning her soon-to-be ex-brother-in-law.

On the first point, Palin is from Alaska, which has all of 3 electoral votes. Bush won the state easily in 2004 and, while Hays Research has Obama ahead in Alaska, it is hardly a key battleground, swing state–no offense to an Alaskans. My rather populous state isn’t either, primarily because it’s solidly Democratic and Obama will certainly win it. Vice-presidential candidates don’t have to be from swing states, but it doesn’t hurt since their main role is to stump for the presidential candidates. Being from a region, and Alaska isn’t contiguous to any other state, as well as from a state, can do much for one’s presidential aspirations. Palin brings nothing of value on that front, though as stated above, she should help galvanize the right-wing base of evangelicals. Wise move ideologically, strange move geographically.

On Palin as political newcomer, she has been Alaska’s governor for less than two years. As of July 1, 2007, it’s 47th in state population. Simply put, Palin lacks experience and also lacks experience governing a large bureaucracy. Alaska is far from unimportant, being a vital source of oil and fishing. Economically, it’s key disproportionate to its population. However, the point is that McCain’s point of attack on Obama’s lack of experience and especially in Washington is now gone, for his own VP choice has less experience and in a smaller venue than Obama. McCain simply can’t continue to travel down that path without being harshly criticized or severely mocked. Essentially, McCain shot himself in the foot by taking away one of his most serious, and somewhat effective if baseless, attack that Obama lacks the necessary experience to lead the nation. Obama has no less experience than his own VP candidate who, should McCain get elected and God forbid die, would then be the president. I’d argue that McCain’s campaign and primary strategy has been to do much more to define Obama as certain things–inexperienced, not quite American, elitist, selfish instead of selfless as a public servant, and more–rather than define himself. Obama did an amazing job of defining himself and his goals in key areas in last night’s speech. McCain’s choice doesn’t help him retort Obama’s trajectory and momentum. In fact, I think it hamstrings his ability to hamstring Obama through a campaign that’s been essentially negative, for McCain now stands in stark contrast as more experienced–than his own running mate, not necessarily his opponent.  It’s akin to George H.W. Bush choosing Dan Quayle.

I’m most shocked by Palin because of the third reason, the possibility that Palin abused her authority to fire Alaska’s head of the Department of Public Safety Walt Monegan over his refusal to fire state trooper Mike Wooten, who is apparently going through a nasty divorce from Palin’s sister. Full disclosure: I knew nothing of this probe and potential scandal until this morning, through TPM Muckraker. Whether or not it’s true, I don’t know. But early indications signal at least smoke, if not fire, for the TPM Muckraker report links a recorded phone conversation involving a Palin aide, Frank Bailey, who Palin said did this on his own (which I don’t believe for a second; it makes no sense) who said:

“The Palins can’t figure out why nothing’s going on,” Bailey said in the recorded phone call. “So Todd and Sarah are scratching their heads saying ‘Why is this guy representing the department, he’s a horrible recruiting tool.’ You know? So from their perspective everybody’s protecting him. . . Audi probably disagrees with me, Walt [Monegan] does and I understand it’s really touchy, but I just want you to understand that cops that use excessive force or go out of the lines, they just have no tolerance, because they’ve seen the facts personally.”

Now there’s much to this quote–the possibility that Wooten was in fact a “horrible recruiting tool” and worthy of bring fired. I don’t know. But I do know that there is at best the allusion of impropriety when the governor fired the person who refused to fire her soon-to-be ex-brother-in-law when the first sentence above, which was recorded, certainly implies a strong personal interest in Wooten’s being fired. Coincidence? Possibly, but I don’t think so. Given that McCain introduced Palin as “…exactly who I need, she’s exactly who this country needs, to help me fight…the same old Washington politics of me first and country second,” this possible scandal not only bears watching, but also if true reeks of “the same old Washington politics” of scandal, revenge, and unaccountability that has long infested Washington, as brazenly as ever under Bush and the Republicans. Did McCain and his staff think the possible scandal, which is being investigated, wouldn’t matter, wouldn’t get reported, wouldn’t become news? How much vetting did they do? We’ll see how it’s covered, and McCain has largely gotten a pass from an allegedly liberal mainstream media (which it hardly is) for his allegedly maverick image (which he isn’t and which the allegedly liberal mainstream media has done so much to cultivate and propagate). But this is a potentially serious matter and blow to McCain. Again, an odd, risky move.

On the whole, from an analytical standpoint, choosing Palin has more negatives than positives for Mccain in my view. I don’t know if McCain figured he’d make a “maverick” choice with this, but it might cost him.

Published in: on August 29, 2008 at 3:16 pm  Comments (7)  

POLITICS: More Than Messianic

I actually feel sorry for people who didn’t tune into Barack Obama’s acceptance speech tonight. By God, I really do. It wasn’t just that Obama yet again proved what a great speaker he is. It isn’t just that Obama nailed a great speech, most of which he quite likely penned as is his wont, unlike the ill-equipped charlatan McCain. It isn’t just that Obama threw down the gauntlet on that pear-faced poseur, that pseudo-everyman, marrying-into-money, wanna-be, faux upper cruster, and actual classist elitist McCain, concerning a variety of issues from the adequate competence to govern to delivering great line such as, “in an ownership society…it’s time for them to own their own failure.” It isn’t just that Obama rightly attacked both McCain and Bush while anticipating and deflecting against anticipated attacks. It isn’t just that Obama again differentiated himself from McCain and Bush on Iraq specifically and foreign policy generally while rightly tying them together, since McCain is by any honest assessment pandering to the same group that visualized, constructed, implemented, defended, compromised, and hamstrung America’s failed war effort in Iraq. It isn’t just that Obama reached out to a broad base of Democrats, Republicans, independents, undecideds, workers, students, soldiers, parents, children, veterans, young adults, educators, and more.

It’s that, in one of the truly great speeches of our generation, Barack Obama delivered a clarion call in stark detail for change that at once unified wide polities of the electorate, challenged everyone to pick a side, did so in brilliant and commanding terms, and maintained the positivist core values that have undergirded Obama’s campaign for the presidency–all the while performed in a massive, outdoor theater that commanded and redefined convention politics as we know it. Obama’s speech was incredible, incredibly well delivered, brilliantly written, searing in its analysis and political framework, and captivating for over 40 minutes–long without being long-winded. More than that, Obama transformed an enormous and brilliantly planned outdoor event in a massive arena–well beyond the scope and seating of any other convention event, setting, and speech ever planned–into a forum on America, its promise, its vast yet still unrealized potential (despite its dominant if somewhat tenuous hegemonic position), and what America can and under Obama may well offer the rest of the world–somewhat contingent upon whether or not you believe in Obama’s implicit but nonetheless pervasive belief in American exceptionalism.

Even more so, Obama defied convention practice–and in extremely rare agreement my agreement with neo-fascist Pat Buchanan–and eschewed the common and oft-effective practice of inserting faux dramatic pauses into the speech to build momentum within the acceptance speech. Like Buchanan, I thought that the key would be the strategic usage of dramatic pauses to accentuate key points. It’s not a bad strategy and, in fact, has merit, precedent, and basis for the Fall. However, more importantly, Obama inverted the traditional and brilliantly held 75,000 people and delegates in rapt attention, more and more as the speech wound on, beholden to listening to his ideas if not buying into them outright. Obama transfixed the audience, including the broader nationwide viewers and listeners, in such a transformative way as to make what could have been the grandiose into the intimate, the overarching into the personal, the great into the accessible. Obama did more than deliver great, grand, goal-oriented ideas to an American public and electorate (too often divergent) too long starving for them. Indeed, Obama invited us as Americans, as people, as sentient citizens, into a vision of something grander than what we’ve heretofore and without question recently experienced, something better than what we’ve endured, something more beatific than what we’ve pointless tolerated for nearly eight years.

Obama brilliantly inserted himself into history. Tonight, August 28, 2008, the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Obama delivered nothing short of one of the greatest speeches of the early 21st century. If you weren’t watching, listening, or reading, you missed history. I’m thankful that my family and I witnessed it.

Flush with details of a grander, more successful America, and despite my deep-seated concerns for what Democrats do that I have (to me rightly) long held, believed, and practiced, I just witnessed a Kennedy-like moment from our next president. By any sober comparison–and I’ll gladly debate and discuss with any and all readers–we just witnessed the coming-out party for our next, and first biracial, president. On November 3rd, 2008, I’m going to party like a rock star over the election of Barack Obama. He won’t be perfect by any means and, as the great scholar Cornel West has said, I’ll be a friend and critic to Obama. However, this guy should and will stomp McCain in November. I can’t wait to see it happen.

It will be long overdue that America elects a person of color president. Count on it in 67 days. Obama was more than presidential tonight. He was accessible at just the time when people demand greatness with the dispassionate distance to observe and absorb. That was his genius tonight–not simply sounding or presenting himself as presidential, but rather giving himself to the nation. It was masterful, as was this: “But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the naysayers don’t understand is that this election has never been about me. It’s been about you.” Don’t count on McCain matching it by any means. Old pear-face will embarrass himself in a week in the Twin Cities. Tell me how McCain can match this in rhetorical quality or historical accuracy: “I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that’s to be expected. Because if you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.” It won’t happen.  [Edit: I neglected to add that this line of Obama's reminded me of Frank the Sage's line about the right's primary trope--"Better living through fear."]

Again, I have my own problems with Obama and have routinely criticized him from the left. But tonight was brilliant, detailed, and direct. McCain got his ass kicked before getting into the convention ring.

Published in: on August 29, 2008 at 12:15 am  Comments (7)  

Yankees 3 Red Sox 2: Giambi Was The Offense; Yanks Win Last Game @ Yankee Stadium Vs. Sox

Well, it was a moral victory of sorts, with the Yankees coming from behind to beat Boston 3-2 in the final game between the two storied rivals at this manifestation of Yankee Stadium. Jason Giambi entered in the seventh and hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer off Okajima to tie the game at 2, then drove in the winning run off Papelbon with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to win it. Nice moment against Boston in this last game at the old ball park, and I’ll save the “but…” until later.

Mussina and Lester were dynamite, though neither got a decision. Each blanked their opponent through the first four innings, with Mussina allowing one hit and Lester three during that period. The Yankees had the best chance to score through four when Jeter and Abreu hit back-to-back one-out singles in the first, but A-Rod fanned (the first of three for him today, another terrible day) and Nady grounded into a force. Boston scored their two in the fifth. Lowrie singled, Cora was hit by a pitch, and Varitek’s single to right scored Lowrie, 1-0 Boston. Ellsbury’s 4-6 force scored Cora, 2-0 Boston, but it should have ended the inning, for Cano had the much easier play had he just taken the ball himself. Yet he took extra time with the toss to Jeter, whose throw after that couldn’t get the speedy Ellsbury. Poor choice from Cano.

A poor non-call nearly cost the Yankees in the top of the sixth. With Pedroia at second and Youkilis at first with one out, Bay hit a grounder to A-Rod, who tried to tag Pedroia but couldn’t because he was waaaaay out of the baseline, running onto the infield grass to avoid the tag–something that got Youkilis called out earlier this season. Yet third base ump Tim Timmons blew the call which should have ended the inning; terrible. But Mussina prevented any runs by fanning Kotsay. The Yankees blew another opportunity in the sixth when JD was hit by a pitch and Jeter singled (part of his three-hit day) to lead off, but although Abreu’s F8 moved JD to third, there he sat for A-Rod popped out to Varitek in foul territory, prompting vociferous booing, and Nady ended the threat with an F8. Terrible job again by A-Rod and this time Nady in the five-hole.

Cody Ransom doubled with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, ending Lester’s fine work. Giambi just pasted an 0-1, chest-high fastball to nearly dead center to tie the game, a clutch shot for the designated home run hitter, his 27th of the year and 391st of his career. With far more than the series sweep on the line but in fact the Yankees season (since they’re still mathematically in it), Mariano entered in the top of the eighth and worked around a lead-off E6 in the ninth, part of two innings of no-hit, excellent bullpen work. The Yanks won it in the bottom of the ninth when Nady singled, Cano lined out to third, Gardner pinch-running for Nady stole second prompting an intentional walk of Matsui, Pudge worked a walk and, with papelbon in to face him, Giambi lined an 0-2 fastball on the outer half to center, 3-2 Yankees.

Jeter was big, going 3-4 and getting robbed of a fourth hit by Ellsbury in the eighth, batting .297. Giambi was the offensive MVP today, going 2-2 with all three Yankees RBIs, his 81st of the year with his 27th homer of the year and 391st of his career. Cody Ransom’s double in the seventh makes him 3-4 this year, and the guy should play a bit more. Abreu and Nady had hits, but the offense was sluggish again. Lester had a lot to do with that, as did the usual bane of poor RISP for the Yankees. A-Rod was 0-4 with 3 K’s, JD was 0-3 with 2 K’s, Nady blew chances, Cano was 0-4, Matsui was 0-3, and Molina 0-2. The Yankees were 2-7 with RISP, both hits coming from Giambi, a terrible RISP hitter this season. Better late than never, I suppose, though it’s really late. A-Rod was terrible in the series, going 2-13 with 5 K’s and 2 GIDP. I understand people booing him because they’re frustrated. But Giambi has deserved the obos as well, being a bust and downright awful with RISP this year, today’s heroics notwithstanding. I know he various reasons why people are booing A-Rod, but it’s not productive. It also ignores many other culprits.

Mussina deserved a better fate, matching Lester very well and allowing just five hits, two runs earned, two walks, and fanning six on 113 pitches/73 strikes. He was great but, unfortunately, so was Lester, depriving him of his 17th win of the year and making the elusive 20-win season that much more difficult down the stretch. The Yankees now sit six behind Boston in the Wild Card race with 29 to play.

Nice that the Yankees won their last home game against Boston before moving to the new digs. They also prevented a sweep and kept their desperately faint playoff hopes alive. They might have provided themselves some crucial momentum with this late, dramatic victory. But to add a little perspective before anyone gets too jazzed up about the victory. Boston put another game between themselves and the Yankees, handily winning the first two games of the series and keeping the Yankees’ offense in check all series, allowing only 9 runs–three per game. The Yanks now have three fewer games now to make up six, instead of five, games in the Wild Card. Boston still leads the season series. The Yankees still haven’t shown a powerful offense with any consistency to prove that they can mount a miraculous comeback. I’d love for the Yankees to prove me wrong and somehow do it. I still just don’t see it happening. One win does not a miraculous comeback make, not even close.

Still nice to finish the old place on a high note against Boston, however. I can’t deny that.

Published in: on August 28, 2008 at 5:07 pm  Comments (3)  

Red Sox 11 Yankees 3: Kiss The Playoffs Good-Bye

After tonight’s stink bomb, you can officially forget the post-season because it ain’t happening. No way. It’s been at best a small chance for some time, really since Joba got hurt. But watching this team not only fail to hit, not only fail to hold Boston down, but to absolutely roll over and die seals the deal. The biggest series of the year, the last time the Yankees will play Boston in the old stadium, and the Yankees played poorly then, near the end, indifferently. Yet again this year, the Yankees have disgraced themselves. Sadly, they have 14 games left in Yankee Stadium before moving into the new one next year. Sadly, they won’t have any more playoff games in it. Sadly, they often played like chumps the last year the Stadium is open. Sadly, I’ve watched most of it with the expectation, then hope, then desperate hope, then mounting unlikeliness, then in futile helplessness that they would play well, make the playoffs, and make a run to the Series.

Forget it.

Injuries have mattered a lot, as I’ve consistently posted. But come on now, this is a team with tons of talent and most of the same core, plus some new and good talent added late with Nady, Marte, and Pudge. Don’t tell me that this team, with those players, couldn’t at least be a playoff team, couldn’t at least outscore teams and keep up, injuries notwithstanding. The poor start was an early killer, but the grotesque inconsistency, well before the injuries piled up so badly, before Wang and Joba went down, call the injury excuse seriously into question.

Start with the star-laden roster, for they are mainly the same guys who have at least made playoff runs before. A-Rod seems to have focus every other year and, while he’s having a darn good statistical year, is a joke with RISP. Giambi’s contract can’t expire fast enough for me, that two-trick steroid shooter who lived up to his massive deal all of one year and in blazing spurts in stretches of a few others, but never consistently, never for average any more, never for a whole year. His swing-for-the-fences approach is just the bane the Yankees need to eviscerate from the roster and fast. He’s deserved to be yanked from the five-hole for the last few weeks, but there he sits like so much non-clutch excrement, not to mention his so-called brain taking a powder in the 7-3 loss in the field. Pathetic through and through.

Cano had one of the worst first-half runs I’ve seen for such a talented player, looking clueless, pouting, and lacking any discernibly intelligent approach at the plate for over three months. He’s needed Bowa, whose loss is one of the great casualties of the last off-season. He’s needed a Red-Ass, and Bowa was that to a tee. Melky was a joke when he was up, making stupid mental mistakes in center field–and Melky is NOT the Yankees’ center fielder of the future–and looking even more clueless at the plate than Cano as the season wound on. Melky clearly regressed and, if rumors of his partying with Cano are true, Melky needs to shape up or be gone, and might be banished in an off-season move. Cano too.

Speaking of Red-Asses and the excesses and mistakes of youth, exactly where has the veteran leadership on the Yankees been the last few months? Other than trite platitudes from Pettite, whose wearisome apologies for his poor starts are nice and the right things to say (since he assuredly cares about winning) but nonetheless increasingly bothersome, and shallow banalities from Jeter about picking up the play, where has the leadership come from? Last year, I heard a lot about how Mariano increasingly became the voice of veteran leadership. From whom has it come this year? I realize there’s only so much we as fans can know about what’s happened behind closed doors. But I read the same blogs and papers that I did last year when so much was made of veteran leadership, and I have heard precious little in them this year about who has stepped up to lead this team, especially without Posada, the guts of the team in my opinion. That’s pathetic. Losing seems to have snowballed on the Yankees and engulfed them.

I’m not impressed in the slightest with how the team has responded to the latest stretch, utterly failing to show against Boston. I’m also not impressed with how Girardi has handled the team. He’s well prepared, he works hard, he means well, and he was the best candidate for the job of the three interviewed. I believe that and the rest above. But he hasn’t gotten results, and those results have gotten steadily worse. Various people, from Sam Borden to regular reader Mike have questioned, rightly, what job Girardi has done especially compared to what Torre had done. Whatever his other faults, Torre successfully motivated similarly built Yankees teams, and certainly the offenses were not this woeful, not with this much talent. Whatever the issue, whatever he has or hasn’t said and done, Girardi must bear a good deal of the blame for this team’s routinely wilting. And wilt they have, many times throughout the year and without question now. They seem to have quit.

Jeter bears responsibility as well. With being the captain comes accountability, surely that’s no surprise to him. I’m sure he and others play important roles privately with players, and likely say and do more than we as fans know, and much we’d want them to say, do, and more. But this team has wilted on his watch as well. He’s picked it up of late, but whatever he’s done as captain and leader hasn’t come close to being enough. Again, I hear nothing about who has stepped up. This team has lacked leadership, and I’m sick and stinking-ass tired of watching this team get stomped as the players sit quietly in the dugout. I don’t need water coolers smashed, just some good vocal leadership, some rooting each other on and not just when things go well. The morale on the Yankees appears to have been muted, or downright stunk, most of the year.

The 2008 Yankees have been downright poor for a lot of reasons and in some key situations. They’re not mathematically eliminated yet, but only a miraculous turnaround–something they haven’t shown all year–and the outright collapse of Boston and Minnesota can prevent them from missing the playoffs. I don’t see that happening. I’m not a believer of flipping a switch and playing, getting, doing better at anything. The last games, days, weeks–months–have seen plenty of opportunities and necessities for that and it hasn’t happened. It won’t now simply because the level of desperation and necessity has increased.

I don’t say it because I want the Yanks to stay home this October, because I don’t care, because I don’t believe in them. I say it because there are no signs that this woefully under-achieving, overpaid group will achieve such a historic turnaround. I’ve watched, analyzed, waited, and hoped for 132 games through a lot–A LOT. I’ll be there for the final 30, but the final 30 they will be for 2008, sad though it is to say.

It’s not mathematically so yet, but it’s painfully obvious and–let’s be honest–has been so for a while this year. The Yanks are done for 2008, and they’re playing like it more than ever. They’re playing out the string regardless of what pronouncements to the contrary they make.

[Edit: I added a link to Mike's comment from last night, which I forgot to do.  It's well worth reading.]

Published in: on August 28, 2008 at 12:52 am  Comments (9)  

Red Sox 7 Yankees 3: Aimlessly Adrift

It was my intention to write the post last night but, having been up very late the night before and having a full day of running the kids to and from different activities, I conked out about 10:30 ET. We also got a new dog, a beautiful six-year-old cocker spaniel whose previous owner couldn’t (and didn’t from what I can tell) take adequate care of her, so when she hunkered down next to me in bed, I was even less inclined to get up. She’s a terrific dog, very sweet and gentle, and fetches a ball like it ain’t nobody’s business. She’s also extremely smart and quick to learn, a real joy.

I got back from picking up GLG from soccer practice just as the Yankees fell behind 3-2. JD led off the bottom of the first with his 10th homer, a blast to right, but Boston responded with a run in the top of the second with three straight two-out singles–Pettite’s bane all night. The Yanks used the same method–three straight two-out singles–to retake the lead 2-1 in the bottom of the second, but Boston took the lead for good in the top of the third with back-to-back doubles from Ortiz and Youkilis and an RBI single from Bay, 3-2 Boston. Abreu’s third-inning single was erased on A-Rod’s first of two DP balls, earning him boos by the late innings.

Pettite struggled with two-out situations all night, and wasn’t helped by a floating strike zone from home plate ump Jim Reynolds, who certainly squeezed Pettite with a fourth-inning walk to weak-hitting caddie catcher Cash. That and more squeezing to Ellsbury prompted a conference at the mound with Girardi that seemed to last half an hour. It seemed to help on Ellsbury’s being called out on strikes, but that’s about it, for Pettite was chased from the fifth with yet another two-out rally. Bay, Lowrie, and Crisp used the consecutive-singles method to make it 4-2, Crisp stole second, and Bailey’s (first baseman who, with Lowell out–more about that later, moves Youkilis to third) hard-hit ball caromed off third. A-Rod made a great play to field it cleanly and in stride, stopped and threw to first but couldn’t beat Bailey. Giambi then either thought that the call was out and had a total brain fart or, with his sad rag arm, didn’t trust his ability to throw home for, as the apoplectic Giambi stood and wandered off first, Crisp barely paused in rounding third and scampered home, 6-2 Boston. Perfect metaphor for the Yankees season right there, head up the ass baseball.

JD homered again to right, his 11th of the year, in the bottom of the fifth to cut it to 6-3 but, after Jeter and Abreu singled to mount a rally and potentially big inning, A-Rod and Giambi flew out to end that. Three walks in the top of the sixth from the generous Bruney allowed a sac fly from Bay to make it 7-3. Yet again the Yanks mounted a rally that was left unrequited in the bottom of the seventh. Pudge fanned–he’s done precious little since the pox-on-both-houses trade with Detroit–JD walked, Jeter singled, and Abreu walked to load the bases. But A-Rod as the tying run killed it with an easy 6-6-3 DP, with Cora well positioned up the middle, precipitating the aforementioned boos. A throwing error from A-Rod in the top of the eighth only worsened the booing, which I understand but don’t agree with.

Another Yankee rally in the eighth died from seemingly natural causes when Giambi reached on an E4, Nady singled, but Okajima fanned Matsui looking on a borderline curve and got Cano to pop weakly to second. Papelbon then entered and got Pudge to ground out. Nothing came of Jeter’s reaching on an E5 in the ninth, and the Yankees lost.

The top of the Yankees order went 6-13 with 2 runs and 2 RBI–both scoring stats from JD’s two solo shots. Jeter is up to .294 and Abreu .298, while JD continues to have an excellent year at the plate, hitting .313 with 11 homers and 57 RBIs. But A-Rod and Giambi were a combined 0-9, with A-Rod fanning twice and hitting into two DPs.  In his last 19 games, A-Rod has grounded into 9 DPs.  With his error, A-Rod couldn’t have had a worse game. He was horrible. The team left 10 on base, 3 in scoring position, and had one two-out RBI. Boston left 13 on, 6 in scoring position, but had 4 two-out RBIs–similar stats but with the one big difference. The Yankees were 1-8 with RISP, the same-old same old and the same-old culprits. A-Rod is now batting .246 with RISP with 6 GIDPs, and Giambi is an atrocious .203 with RISP.

Pettite was poor, going 4 2/3 and surrendering 10 hits, 6 runs earned, 3 walks, and 3 K’s in 101 pitches/60 strikes. He contributed to his own inefficiency with pitches by allowing so many two-out hits. Sure, he got squeezed at times, but Pettite was his own worst enemy.

One final note–I’m really a bit tired of hearing so much about the Yankees’ injuries being so responsible for their woes. It’s certainly true but only to a degree. Why? Look at Boston. Schilling is probably done and hasn’t pitched a lick this year–though how good he’d have been is another question. Beckett has been injured, Ortiz spent considerable time on the DL with a bad wrist, Lowell has been hurt, Drew has a bad back and is laid up, Boston traded away one of the greatest hitters of all time in Ramirez, and still they’re several games ahead of the Yankees. Having better pitching has something to do with that and therefore the Yankees’ injuries of Wang and Joba matter considerably, but there’s much more to it than that. It’s having people step up and play well, and for all his struggles this year, Ellsbury has certainly outplayed Melky, as has Crisp. Pedroia has outplayed Cano. Youkilis has certainly outplayed Giambi. The injuries argument is somewhat hackneyed to me, especially when discussing the Yankees’ offense. Yes, Matsui and Posada missed lots of time and that hurts. But I can’t be told that there wasn’t enough talent on the Yankees to perform at a much higher level this season. Their approach seems to be to swing for the fences, as I and others have often discussed. Boston has outhit the Yankees with runners on (.279 to .272) and with RISP (.273 to .260). That also occurred last night and Boston didn’t have Drew and Lowell.

Get it done or don’t Yanks. Nothing more, nothing less. Lose this series, and the Yankees are already down six in the wild card race, and you can just kiss the post-season–already rather remote–good-bye.

Published in: on August 27, 2008 at 9:49 am  Comments (4)  

Catching Up

Yesterday was my son’s birthday and we had a good day and party with my father and stepmother, so I didn’t see any part of the game until highlights at night.  After being ahead 7-2, a loss would have been nothing short of terrible, so the Yankees’ pulling out the win after Cano homered in the seventh was vital.  With Boston’s extra-inning win, the Yankees are still five back in the Wild Card.  Rasner struggled, the errors certainly hurt, but the Yankees hit the nemesis that is Cabrera well.  Five players had multi-hit games, including Cano with four and the game-winning homer (more about him below), his 12th of the year, JD with a three-run shot in the second, his 9th this season, Nady with a double and 2 RBIs, Abreu with 3 and A-Rod with 2.  Among the starters, only Jeter (0-5) and Giambi (0-4 with a sac fly) went hitless.

The Yankees really need a sweep of Boston in the series that starts tomorrow.  Winning the series wouldn’t exactly be awful since they’d gain a game, but due to their struggles and current position, it’s really not enough to win series against teams ahead of the Yanks in the playoff race anymore.  In fact, the Yankees need to win at least 5 of the remaining 6 games against both Boston and Tampa, and to sweep the White Sox in September.  There’s really no way around it.

Pete Abraham gave a heads-up over the weekend about a brief but excellent piece on The New York Times “Bats” blog by Jack Curry on Larry Bowa’s impact on Cano.  It’s really something and illustrates how crucial Bowa was not only in being a great third-base coach (and note how Bowa reacted to Cano’s not following his sign) but also his being a tough-love mentor.  Coaching is hard work and takes consistency in effort over time as well as in approach.  Bowa undoubtedly had a huge, positive impact on Cano, and the Yankees have missed him in more ways than one this year.  Mike Sommer has said that the president of the Lehigh Valley Yankee Fan Club has it from a very good source that part of Melky’s being sent down was his negative influence on Cano, with the two of them doing a lot of late-night partying together.  Some things don’t change in sports.  More importantly, it’s a poor habit for a kid to be in, and one that the Yankees have ill afforded this year.  I sure wish Cano could have gotten a loud earful or three from Bowa after one of his late nights on the town.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again, Joe Girardi and the Yankees routinely lie about injuries, as this hilarious exchange illustrates.  Sorry, there’s just no need to lie about a guy being hurt.  What benefit to the team and public is there in lying when anyone speaking to Marte, as Pete Abraham and Ed Price did, and seeing his arm packed in ice knew that Marte hadn’t been “fine” as Girardi falsely said?  Trying to delude an opponent into thinking they might have to face someone and plan accordingly, as they would anyway?  Smart, well-prepared teams can handle such possibilities regardless.  It’s just dumb and engenders distrust.

Published in: on August 25, 2008 at 10:26 am  Comments (8)  

USA Gold Stories

One of the less reported but nonetheless compelling stories of the 2008 Beijing Olympics has been the US Men’s Olympic Volleyball team, which endured the murder of the coach’s father-in-law at the beginning of the Olympic games. Last night, the US men’s volleyball team beat a talented Brazilian team in four sets to win the gold medal. Great win and, for the US men’s the first Olympic win since 1988. They were big, tough, and talented.

I just watched the US men’s basketball team survive a physical, poorly officiated game against a game but over-matched team from Spain, beating them 118-107. To be fair, Spain was tough and played a very good game, hitting lots of tough shots and playing hard. But to be honest, this was a one-sided racket that the US was lucky to win. Spain got away with lots of physical play–intentionally–as well as a dozen moving screens, while gaining the benefit of multiple cheap foul calls, especially in the first half. Without a doubt, the US didn’t play its best game and, to be sure, Spain devised an ingenious game plan that stuck to the man-to-man defense while penetrating almost at will against a gun-shy US defense. But this was exacerbated by the officials calling fouls on non-foul calls, calling an amazing 15 fouls in the first quarter alone including two cheap ones on Kobe and LeBron alone, and doing its very best to keep what should have been a blowout close. In the end, the result was as it should have been–US with the gold. It’s just an abject disgrace that the officials in international continue to vacillate between allowing moving screens and inside physical play on the one hand, and on the other not allowing opponents to breathe or look at opponents. Dwayne Wade and Kobe were giants, Bosh was again huge, Prince was big off the bench and, with Bosh, one of the few players knowledgeable enough to smack the ball off the rim or into the basket in under international rules, and guard play again carried the day for the US men.

A big-time congratulations to the US women’s team that trounced Australia. Leslie, Bird, Parker, Taurasi, Thompson and more–great tradition for the women, who impressed on the court and with their tenacious team play. A great gold for the women.

Published in: on August 24, 2008 at 3:54 am  Comments (3)  

Yankees 5 Orioles 3: PaVoldemort No Longer Idle

Well, he was better than I expected. PaVoldemort returned for his first start since April 9, 2007 and, other than a rough second, held the Orioles in check through five as the Yankees won their second straight in Baltimore, 5-3. The Yankees got two runs in the first off the troublesome Guthrie, two more in the third off a huge Giambi homer to center, and added an insurance run when Matsui hit a solo shot in the seventh. The bullpen was very good, with Bruney throwing two very good innings, Veras solid in the eighth, and Mariano closing it down for his 30th save of the year and his 473rd of his illustrious career.

The Yankees ably assisted PaVoldemort with two runs in the first when JD singled and, with two outs, A-Rod tattooed another drive very high off the center field wall, nearly out, to score JD. Yet again, however, Bobby Meacham did his best to get a Yankee base runner thrown out when he sent JD despite Jay Payton’s throwing the ball in from center before Damon had even reached third base. Also, had Ramon Hernandez applied a proper tag and blocked the plate, JD would have easily been called out. But he left home plate open and, as ump Joe West rightly called and gesticulated, tagged JD in the chest after his foot had slid across home. Horrible call from Meacham again. He long ago deserved to be fired. A-Rod took third on the throw and scored on Giambi’s single, 2-0 Yankees.

PaVoldemort worked through the first despite allowing three singles. With first and second and no outs, Mora lined to second and cano swipe tagged Roberts for a terrific unassisted double play. PaVoldemort got into trouble in the second, really his only bad inning. Scott led off with a double that nearly left the yard, Millar walked, and Payton singled to load the bases. Castro’s sac fly to left center scored Scott but, since JD wrongly called off Nady and took the ball, also allowed the other runners to advance on Damon’s rag arm, 2-1 Yankees and a great call by Sterling on the play. Roberts’s slow 6-3 scored Millar to tie the game, and Markakis’s single made it 3-2 Orioles. Mora then K’d on PaVoldemort’s 28th and final pitch of the inning, but not without some controversy for the ball skipped into Pudge’s glove, yet he never tagged Mora nor did he throw down to first. However, Mora was called out for “abandoning the chance for first by walking toward the dugout.” Sterling called it “convenient” for West initially made the call right away. It seemed a cover for Orioles manager Dave Tremblay, who was summarily ejected for arguing with West–Pudge neither tagged Mora nor threw to first to retire Mora–who never tried to advance, either. However, it was ultimately the right call and not simply “convenient” for, as the MLB rule book, Rule 6.09(b) states, “A batter who does not realize his situation on a third strike not caught, and who is not in the process of running to first base, shall be declared out once he leaves the dirt circle surrounding home plate.” Odd way to end the second, the Orioles’ only good inning. By the way, while Sterling got the call wrong on Mora’s K, he really did have a very good game behind the microphone. He nailed Damon’s stepping in front of Nady right away, among other solid observations.

The Yankees responded right away in the third with two outs. A-Rod was hit above the elbow and, on a 3-2 hanging slider belt-high, Giambi deposited it deep into the right-center field bleachers, 4-3 Yankees. Hand it to PaVoldemort for good work in a 1-2-3 third, and also working out of a jam–and being a good teammate–in the fourth when, after hitting lead-off batter Millar and allowing a single to Payton, PaVoldemort then struck out the side, including Roberts and the tough Markakis looking. He also worked around hitting Mora to lead off the fifth, not allowing a runner to get past first. His line after 5–7 hits, 3 runs earned, a walk, and 5 K’s on 91 pitches/54 strikes–was fairly good, especially for having surgery and about 500 days between starts. He gave the Yankees what they needed–a decent start, a chance to win, and held the O-Birds–a team that has played the Yankees well this year–in check. Kudos to the bag of excrement. He’s earned himself another start–if he doesn’t slip on the bar of soap in the hotel shower and lacerate his pancreas on the spigot.

Matsui’s homer to lead-off the seventh provided big insurance for the bullpen, ripping into a 2-1 fastball and launching it to right center, 5-3 NY. Bruney was very good, allowing only a single to Payton in the sixth. Veras worked around a lead-off single to Hernandez in the eighth, fanning 2 and looking good, and Mariano entered in the 9th and cleaned up for the save.

Giambi–who by the way has grown his mustache back–was 2-4 with a run and 3 RBIs, giving him 76 RBIs on the year, and belting his 25th homer of the year and his 389th of his career, tying him with Cincy catching great Johnny Bench. A-Rod was 1-3 with 2 runs and his 78th RBI. Matsui’s solo homer was his 9th of the year and the 38th RBI was his 500th as a major-leaguer and a Yankee. A hearty congrats to Matsui, one of my favorite Yankees. Nady, Cano, JD, and Jeter each added a single, and Jeter’s extended his hit streak to nine games.

So the Yankees got something out of PaVoldemort this year. I never would have thought it. He was also better than I would have expected, which I today would be mediocre. He wasn’t great and was understandably rusty but, other than a bad third, was not bad. He left too many pitches up and needs to gain more velocity. He also allowed too many base runners. I’m also far from sold on the guy simply because of one start. But the guy, like him or not and I certainly can barely stomach PaVoldemort, gave the Yankees a quality effort for the win.  It might not have hurt that PaVoldemort threw to his old catcher Pudge from 2003 with the Marlins, to settle him down a little.  With Boston’s loss and the White Sox’s loss, the Yankees sit 5 games behind the Red Sox for the Wild Card. Their fate isn’t exactly in their hands since the Yankees have to contend with a team from the Central–either the Twins or the White Sox–against whom they only play three games the rest of the way (against Chicago in September). Yet with six games remaining against both Boston and Tampa–who have been better than the Yanks but who each have injury woes of their own–the Yankees are in an unlikely but not impossible position. It will take lots of wins, a great streak for several weeks that they’ce barely shown themselves capable of this year, and some help and luck.

Could today’s win–from PaVoldemort of all people–be a spark of something positive the rest of the way? Don’t hold your breath. But you can’t yet rule it out, either. As I’ve said a thousand times already this year, we’ll see.

I likely won’t be in touch much the next day or so since tomorrow is my son’s birthday and we’ll be busy. Darrell Rasner (5-9, 4.93 ERA) faces the difficult Daniel Cabrera (8-8, 4.98 ERA) as the Yankees go for the sweep.

Published in: on August 24, 2008 at 12:14 am  Comments (1)  

On Jeter, History, and Perspective

It must either be a slow-moving Saturday for people, or the Yankees’ recent malaise has people in such a funk that commenting on a win and Jeter’s milestone just isn’t that engrossing an idea. I can understand either–or another–scenario, and hope people at least partied it up on a Friday night to mitigate some of the blase feeling the Yankees have unfortunately given us of late. For us as Yankees fans, it’s been a sluggish, trying year.

I myself got up later than usual this morning and, with my wife having a yard sale, was bound to duties of assisting with peripheral matters such as retrieving plastic bags, grabbing donuts, danish, and coffee, and making and obtaining change–most of which we had ahead of time. So far, it’s been a pretty decent haul–about $150 through 2 1/2 hours–but few of the big things have gone yet. We really need to ditch our new-old microwave, a “gift” from my sister-in-law that’s been a dud from day one (thereby falling into my motto about any machine and/or appliance–once a dud, always a dud–and far worse than our old, big, but highly reliable microwave that I still miss) and some good winter clothes have yet to go, probably in no small part that as cold as winters here can be people just might not be thinking or in the mood to think winter when it’s regularly been over 80 degrees. Who can blame them?

Similarly, who can blame anyone for not being jazzed by the Yankees beating the Orioles last night? I can’t, nor can I blame people for not jumping out of bed to chinwag about Jeter’s milestone which, upon reflection, has me feeling pleased about something with the Yankees for the first time in quite a long time. Jeter has more hits during his tenure with the Yankees than anyone else in baseball during the same stretch. Next year will really be the barometer to see how much of his power–never overwhelming–has diminished, but his inside-out stroke is tailor made to help counteract attrition and slowing bat speed due to age, and it should serve him well as he pushes to 3,000 hits and likely beyond. To give credit where due, Jeter has really stepped up his play of late, going 18 for his last 37 during an eight-game hitting streak. Without being dour, there are 11 K’s and only 1 XBH in that very fine streak, but that he’s hitting consistently is paramount. The Captain has been very good at the most crucial junction of the year, and deserves credit for being someone to have stepped up his game, if a bit belatedly. His milestone is a tremendous accomplishment.

I’m not convinced that Jeter’s hot hitting, should it somehow continue through the end of the year, will be enough to carry the Yankees to the post-season. A-Rod’s numbers with RISP (.244, 39 K in 123 AB) are abysmal, especially in contradistinction with last year’s sterling all-around performance (.333 with RISP). Giambi with RISP is a train wreck (.202, 31 K in 114 AB). That is, the clean-up and five-hole hitters are a combined .224 with 70 K’s in 237 AB with RISP. That’s absolutely haunted the Yankees from the get-go.

So has the fact that yet again the Yankees started slowly out of the gate. This, to me, is the “big-picture” reason why the Yanks are where they are, the aggregate of early-season and continued aggravation that has only mounted this year. 20-25 by May 20th, the utter inability to play consistently well and string together victories, the inability to score. We all know the recent historical drill: 21-29 in 2007, 11-19 in 2005. Those didn’t serve an older Yankees team well, either.

Here is a more serious example, to me, since this team–unlike the 2005 and 2007 Yankees, did not get to the playoffs but would by today’s format have been granted a Wild Card–the 1985 Yankees, who started 6-12, still languished near .500 in late June, then exploded to finish 97-64 yet lost the division by 2 games to the pace-setting Blue Jays. Toronto was in first from May 12 to the end, though the Yankees came within 1 1/2 games in early September. The Yanks needed to sweep the division-leading Jays in the last series of 1985 to force a one-game playoff but, after winning the first game 4-3, lost the second 5-1 to the annoying Doyle Alexander, giving Toronto the AL East. That Yankees team led the AL in scoring at 5.21 runs/game, was first in OBP at .342, first in stolen bases with 155, struck out the second fewest times, and was 3rd in the AL in ERA at 3.69. Why not first? The slow start, also going 24-24 in one-run games while Toronto was 26-21, hitting .269 with RISP compared to Toronto’s .284. and Toronto was first in team ERA at 3.31.

In more macabre detail, the 1985 Yankees had three dead spots in the lineup–catcher Butch Wynegar (.223/.356, 5 HR, 32 RBI; 17-107 [.205] with RISP), shortstop (yes, the same) Bobby Meacham (.218/.302, 1 HR, 47 RBI; 33-128 [.258] with RISP), and third baseman Mike Pagliarulo (.239/.324, 19 HR, 62 RBI; 22-84 [.262] with RISP. In fairness to them, Wynegar tailed off dramatically in 1985 from previous years and was playing hurt, while Meacham (24) and Pagliarulo (25) were kids and new to playing full time, with the latter two hitting better with RISP than otherwise. My point is this: in this season when the Yankees had a tremendous offense and pretty good pitching, when Mattingly won the MVP (.324/.371, 35 HR, 145 RBI, 41 K; .314 with RISP), beating out Rickey Henderson (3rd in MVP) who was nothing short of outstanding (.314/.419!, 24 HR, 72 RBI, 80 SB; .288 with RISP), with a very productive Dave Winfield (.275/.328, 26 HR, 114 RBI; .317 with RISP), and Gator Guidry’s last great year (22-6, 3.27 ERA, 259 IP, 143 K, only 42 BB), the Yankees still missed the post-season due to some of the same pitfalls besetting the 2008 Yankees–hitting with RISP (to a lesser degree than the 2008 Yanks), a few under-achieving regulars (this year it’s Cano, the banished Melky, catcher [in no small part from Posada's injury], Jeter, Giambi and A-Rod with RISP), and yet another dreaded slow start. These issues have undercut better teams and better Yankees teams than the 2008 squad.

It’s been a tough year thus far, but remember that this too shall pass, that we as Yankees fans have been very fortunate to have witnessed an incredible string of successes for the team and for individuals that have transcended the sport and the era. Jeter’s fits among that, the most prolific hitter of his era, playing his hardest and improving his game at the time when the Yankees have long needed players to step forward and step up their play. It may not be enough to salvage a tough 2008, but at least Jeter’s doing it and adding to his lore in the process. If we as Yankees fans have 2008 as the worst we’ve had the misfortune to weather lately, we should consider ourselves most fortunate indeed. If you think this is bad, try being a Pirates (no winning seasons since 1992) or Royals (one winning season since 1995, when the Yankees’ playoff streak began) fan. Many fans of these once-proud and historically successful franchises would love to have the “problem” of being eight games above .500, of having a great player like Jeter reach the 2,500 hit milestone, to be preoccupied with whether or not their team’s 13-year playoff run will end.

We’ve had it pretty damn good as Yankees fans, regardless of the outcome of the 2008 season.

Published in: on August 23, 2008 at 12:06 pm  Comments (7)  
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