Friday, August 12, 2005

Odds and Ends for the Weekend

Another Notebook piece is up. This time, writing about the San Diego Padres and recalling the 1994 work stoppage. Today's Notebook is also special because it's the first time in more than half a year that someone else has written the monthly Prospectus Triple Play/Notebook Yankees comment. This month the honor goes to Paul Swydan, who does a great job of sizing up the Yanks' playoff chances. Paul also takes this opportunity to get a Red Sox-themed dig at Yankee fans, which is what the 2005 season has been all about, I guess.

I'm keeping the faith. My head says that this season is done, that the Yanks don't have the pitching, and that the Red Sox, A's and Angels will not be denied. Intellectually, I understand that the Yanks are in that second tier, hanging out with the Cleveland Indians. That second tier has gotten thinner in the past couple of days, with the Twins and Blue Jays seeming to drop out of it.

But my heart isn't giving up. If the season ended today, both the Athletics and the Astros would make the postseason. Two months ago, both those teams were DOA. I remember because I wrote a piece when the New York papers were talking about the "secret deal" to bring Roger Clemens back to New York. At the time, one of the reasons I listed why the Astros wouldn't make such a deal was because they'd come back from the depths to make the playoffs last year. I was half-joking, because I didn't logically see the Astros getting back into the hunt with an anemic offense. I wish I'd listened to the part of me that wasn't joking. From June 6 until today, the Astros chances of making the postseason have grown from less than 0.5% to over 50%, as per BP's Playoff Odds Report.

If the Astros can compete against all odds, and the A's can come back from their early season duldroms to take first place like they did last night--they scored the winning run when Francisco Rodriguez, the closer for the division-rival Angels of Los Anaheim in California, dropped the routine throw back to the mound from his catcher (it was a moment out of the Mackey Sasser memory bank)--then anything is possible in this game.

So, against better judgment, I leave my heart open that something spectacular could happen here. Miraculous recoveries by Randy Johnson and Chien Ming Wang. Aaron Small continuing to pitch like a younger Mike Mussina. Something--and I can't even imagine what--happening to fill the gaping hole the Yanks have in center field.

The Yanks are five games behind the Red Sox, who have won 12 of their last 14. Three and a half games out of the Wild Card, and the Angels and Indians both have the upper hand against them. In the words of Steven Segal, "Come and cut my heart out, guys."


Proctor didn't do a bad job in his start against the Rangers yesterday, giving the team five innings, three runs allowed. Unfortunately, the bullpen made the game a wild ride, which the Yanks just barely survived, 9-8.

My face still aches from that head-on collision between Mike Cameron and Carlos Beltran. I'd heard about the collision before I saw it, and even knowing that both guys were OK, I still thought "Oh my heaven, he's dead!" after I saw the replay for the first time.

For reasons I can't fully explain, I am fascinated by Jacob Luft's CNN/SI blog today. The subject is simple: best and worst baseball announcer catchphrases. Luft's favorite, Hawk Harrelson's "Hegone!" is one of those cultural phenomena that has passed me by. Kinda like "Git 'er Done!" I don't understand them, and I'm not sure I want to understand.

Naturally, John Sterling makes the "worst" list, not once, but twice. As Luft puts it "Announcers who can alienate both his team's fans and those of the opposition are rare, but he [Sterling] pulls it off."

For my own part, all I can say is that when I hear John Sterling, I feel exploited. There's something false in all the "the-huh-huh Yankees win!" hystrionics. It's like having someone around you who's a total suck up, and who you know would never hang out with you for a single second if you didn't have something they want. Sterling's made a pretty penny telling Yankee fans how great they are, and doing the broadcasting equivalent of laughing a little too hard at our jokes. It's a nice living, but I bet that he would bring the same fake enthusiasm to the table to announce the Milwakee Brewers, or the Detroit Shock. Or pitching Dannon's light yoghurt.

I've often had a hard time defining why I liked Phil Rizzuto so much as a broadcaster. Like Sterling, he was a big homer, like Sterling, he had catchphrases. Unlike Sterling, he was utterly genuine. It felt like even if the network wasn't paying him to tell you stories and occasionally keep track of the action, he'd be doing the exact same thing in the stands, or at home in front of the TV.

Sure, someone could prove me wrong tomorrow. But if Scooter's schtick was an act, it was an act worthy of Olivier, a Houdini-class illusion.

One more thing about Luft's blog--the first comment to that entry embodies my personal pet peeve cliche: "I used to unfortunately live in N.Y., and as a Sox fan the only games I got to watch or listen to were covered by the Yankees broadcasters..."

I don't know what possesses a New York-phobic, Yankee-hating New Englander to set up shop in the Big Apple. But if you do, don't whine. I mean, unless you're a member of the armed forces, somehow assigned to New York, or a prisoner at Riker's Island, you chose to come to NYC. Be a man about it.

If you hate Yankee fans so damn much, New York might not be the place for you. The place is lousy with 'em, you might have heard. If you dislike the broadcasters--as you see above, I don't blame you if you do--don't tune in to them. In this day and age of cable superstations, games on ESPNs 1 and 2, MLB Extra Innings, and both audio and video feeds on, there is precious little excuse to bitch about "having" to watch the Yankees or listen to their announcers.

Heck, New York City even has a spare major league ballclub for you to follow, in case you can't stomach the Yankees. They play in Shea. Who else is this considerate?

But if you really dislike New York, can't stand the Yankee fans, and can't deal with the YES Network, no matter how hard you try, don't sit around and whine about how you're a Sox fan with the hideous bad luck to be "stuck" in New York. Don't waste your time kvetching about Yankeeography and John Sterling.

Just leave. Now.

Look, I know from what I speak. I did my time in the heart of the Red Sox Nation, a stone's throw from Fenway itself. I wore my colors, even when I went to the park, and I took a fair share of crap for it from ignorant jackasses and stupid drunks. But I didn't complain, 'cause this is what I signed on for. If I didn't like it, I could always leave.

By the way, the Segal quote above was delivered with the master's patented over-the-top Brooklyn accent, as one word: cummacumyheartout.

In happier Red Sox fan news, I'm happy to report that Chris is back on the case at From Back Bay to the Promised Land. Welcome back!

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