Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Cy Young vs. Cy Old?

According to the YES Network's radar gun, Felix Hernandez started tonight's game at 97 MPH. The fastball got harder from there. The breaking ball--and looking at it, 80% of the time I couldn't decide if it was a slider or a curve--looked like an optical illusion. No matter what the kid threw, the ball jumped out of his hand.

He started off a little wild, and he got touched up by both the youngster (Robbie Cano) and the old man (Gary Sheffield, fresh off his one-game suspension) in the lineup. Both players got to him on pitches he left up--Cano's was a changeup gone astray, Sheff got his hand on a fastball that was supposed to be down and away and wound up up and over the plate. But overall, the kid's got serious stuff. Final line? 8 IP 4 H 4 BB 7 K 2 ER. Not bad.

As good as King Felix was, he got upstaged by the old man. In the sixth, I thought I was going to have to wake up Brother J with a cryptic warning. A solid double to left shut that down. But still, the Unit perservered, and got some nice relief work from Gordon and Mariano to end the game--a combined shutout.

It didn't look like Randy really had "no hit" stuff. He was bailed out by good defense, mainly by Alex Rodriguez, but also including a nifty play or two by Cano. But Johnson looked better than he had in his other starts, pumping the fastball at 94-95 MPH, going inside on the batter, and having some of the snarl that he has when he's at his best. It'd been a while since we'd seen that snarl, and I'd missed it.

The Yanks go ahead 2-1 in their series with the Mariners, and they have the chance to ice it with a win tomorrow afternoon. Disappointing starter Joel Pineiro, against once-disappointing- then-injured-then-good-then-Lord-knows-what starter Jaret Wright. Your guess is as good as mine.


Since last time...

  • The Yanks took on their second Red Sox DFA of the season, grabbing Mark Bellhorn just before today's deadline. It's a more interesting pickup than the first (lefty reliever Alan Embree is the other) because Bellhorn is playing behind a guy who is not as gooda hitter as he is. Steve Goldman has a great writeup on this in the Pinstriped Bible.

  • Tuesday, Alex Rodriguez became the first righthanded-hitting Yankee to hit 40 homer in a season, since Joe Dimaggio. Now, sometimes records of this sort are self-propagating--you say that righty power hitters suffer in Yankee Stadium, so you concentrate on developing lefties. I think that's the way it is with the "the Yankees have never won a World Series without a 'dominant' lefty starter." Maybe we'll look into that later, but for now, let's just congratulate A-Rod for his accomplishment.

  • On Monday, Joe Torre figured out the way to beat the Mussina Inning(tm)--pull Mussina before the bleeding gets too bad. Unfortunately, Mike was bad leading up to the Mussina Inning, so the Yanks were down 4-0 at the end of the fourth. Luckily, a couple of things happened: first, Aaron Small came out of the pen to pitch well in relief of Moose, and second, the Yankees got fat on the Mariner pitching staff, to bring home a 7-4 victory. The big blows were a couple of homers by Jason Giambi, bringing his August performance to a respectable .250/.437/.500.

That's all there is for right now. G'night, folks, and go donate some cash to the American Red Cross to help all the people who've been left sick and homeless after Hurricane Katrina.

Go ahead. Do it. Now.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Mr. Self Destruct

If you were watching the Yanks/Royals game in the clubhouse at Fenway, or maybe between innings in the visitor's clubhouse in Baltimore or Toronto (where the A's and Indians were playing) you probably thought you were picking up a game against the Yankees. You'd seen Jaret Wright, so strong in his other appearances, implode for five runs in the fifth inning. You'd seen Aaron Small--who hasn't been the same pitcher since he was bumped from the rotation for Wright--give up a pair of insurance runs to the Royals, and you'd seen the Yanks hit high fly ball after high fly ball into the wind, only to be caught by KC's speedy center fielder, David DeJesus. The Royals took a 7-4 lead into the ninth inning.

And then it all fell apart.

Jason Giambi walked to start the inning, but then Jeremy Affeldt whiffed Bernie Williams, and induced Jorge Posada to tap into what should've been an easy double play grounder. Affeldt, with his fate in his own hands, short-armed a throw to Angel Berroa at short. Berroa, who'd gone to the bag to force Giambi, couldn't catch Affeldt's throw.

As they say in the official scoring business, you can't assume the double play. But that was the ballgame right there. Affeldt knew that, too. He fell apart after that play. New acquisition Matt Lawton, playing right field, singled the opposite way. Tino Martinez, hitting for Robinson Cano, hit a seeing-eye single through the right side. Mike MacDougal, the Royals' closer, remained seated as Derek Jeter came to the plate. Shawn Camp, whatever that is, came out of the visiting bullpen in his stead. Single to Jeter, followed by another one of those deep fly balls to center by Hideki Matsui, followed by a double by Gary Sheffield to tie the game.

Even on TV you could hear the chant of "Let's Go A-Rod!" as Alex Rodriguez came to the plate with the opportunity to win the game. One more grounder later, that's all she wrote. At YES, they kept on going back for reaction shots from the Royals' dugout while this happened, and the experience of watching these young kids see this game slip away was excruciating. As painful as watching the Yankees beat someone can be, anyway.

The feeling in the stadium was so strong, that the Yankees would come back in the 9th, that Jorge Posada, after scoring on Jeter's single, immediately put his catching gear back on. The score at that point was only 7-5, but Posada wasn't going to hear anything about waiting until the tying run scores before preparing for the top of the 10th.

That dedication to a positive attitude ties into something from Sam Borden's notebook column in today's Daily News:
INSPIRING, THIS IS: Jorge Posada walked around the clubhouse with a box of T-shirts yesterday, putting one on each chair. The dark blue shirts had the phrase "GRIND IT" written in block letters on the front and the Yoda-esque, "There is not trying. There is only doing or not doing" on the back.
"There is not trying" sounds wrong, but the sentiment is all right. It reminds me of the days when Chili Davis passed out t-shirts to the team with the Napoleon Hill quote: "Persistence is to the character of man as carbon is to steel," to motivate them in the 1999 campaign. For what it's worth, today there was "doing" at Yankee Stadium.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Chacon and On and On

Since last we spoke:

This Victory Brought to You by the Letter "O" -- Shawn Chacon beat the Blue Jays Thursday afternoon. I didn't get to see the game, but so far, Chacon hasn't looked dominating on the mound; he's just produced results. So far, that's a 3-1 record and a 1.80 ERA in pinstripes: five of his six starts have been quality starts, and not the 6 IP, 3 ER variety, either. The peripherals (28 Ks, 15 BB in 40 IP) don't scream that this will go on forever. But as long as it lasts, I will enjoy it. Thursday afternoon's game was dubbed "The Battle of the Vowels" by Steve Lombardi of the Was Watching blog, because it involved Gustavo Chacin in a fight to the finish against Shawn Chacon. Was Watching is one of those blogs I have to add to the Yankee blogroll, the next time I update my links.

Bernie Baseball Breaks Out the Boomstick -- To heck with me. Despite being labeled old here and elsewhere, Bernie had a "do not go gentle into that good night" game at the Stadium against the Royals, going deep twice: once in the sixth inning, with Jason Giambi on base, and again in the 8th, this time bringing Gary Sheffield home with him. All of this was excellent backup to a Big Unit-type start from Randy Johnson--8 IP, 4 hits, 6 Ks--good for a 5-1 win. We'll just try to forget that these guys were starting a horrific 5-9: Angel Berroa, Mark Teahen, John Buck, Aaron Guiel, and Super Joe McEwing. We'll just remember that these same Royals took 2 out of 3 from the A's and Red Sox to draw the Yanks to the top of the Wild Card, and within 2 1/2 games of the AL East lead. Nice going. Now, don't keep that up!

Look At All These Rumors -- Bernie's game was well-timed, since is reporting that the Yanks are close to acquiring outfielder Matt Lawton from the Cubs. I guess this would be a white flag by the Cubbies, who are now 8 1/2 games out of the NL Wild Card, and six games under .500 to boot. For the Yankees, this would be a weird choice, since Lawton hasn't set foot in center in five years. I'd like to see the Yanks add more depth, but I wonder what Lawton would be doing in pinstripes. Would he ride the bench? Play left while Hideki Matsui moves to center? Heck, it would make more sense to pick up Mark Bellhorn (DFA'd by the Red Sox last week).

You Make a Grown Groundskeeper Cry -- Again, scrolling down the ESPN headlines, this one reads "Stones Trash Fenway." Apparently, the Rolling Stones ripped up Fenway's outfield while putting on a couple of concerts during the Beaneaters' road trip. While all this was going on, Curt Schilling was doing his best to show the world that, like Mick Jagger, he has a big mouth, expounding on Rafael Palmeiro and steroids. All that yapping left him a little too tuckered out to focus on his first start since April, in which he allowed six runs over five innings.

Speaking of Big Mouthed Red Sox Pitchers -- Boomer Wells doesn't like Yankee fans anymore. At least that's what he tells Penthouse (via the Daily News gossip column, halfway down the page). Quote: "New York is my city. I love it. But to get the '[Bleep] you, mother[bleep]er' from the fans? I've washed my hands of them. Of all people, I would never expect them to do that."

Let's have a brief history of Boomer, shall we?
  • 2003, Spring -- Writes dumbass book, "Perfect, I'm Not" in which he claims, among other things, that he pitched his perfect game drunk. No sooner did the book hit the shelves, then Wells claimed wasn't drunk, just hung over. Organization suffers black eye, Boomer gets fined $100K. Good Memory or Bad Memory? BAD
  • 2003, Summer/Fall -- Boomer goes 15-7, with a 4.14 ERA. He even pitches effectively in the Division Series against the Twins, and the ALCS against the Red Sox which treats us to a number of shots of his hot wife in the stands. Good Memory or Bad Memory? GOOD
  • 2003, Fall -- Wells takes the loss in Game 1 of the World Series, despite pitching well. He then feuds with Mel Stottlemyre over his conditioning, and goes on to prove the point about his conditioning by begging out of Game 5 with back spasms after a single inning of work. The Yanks never recover, and lose the World Series to the Marlins. Good Memory or Bad Memory? QUITE BAD
  • Winter, 2003 -- Wells agrees to return to the Yankees. Then, after the Yanks pick up Javier Vazquez and Kevin Brown, Boomer decides he doesn't want to be a Yankee, and reneges on his agreement. He signs with the Padres, for more money. Good Memory or Bad Memory? BAD
  • Winter, 2004 -- After a decent season with the Padres, Wells signs with the World Champion Red Sox. Good Memory or Bad Memory? VERY VERY BAD
So if Boomer's wondering why he's getting booed, he could just look at the above chronology. He didn't exactly leave a good taste in New York fans' mouths with how he finished his Yankees career, how he left, or most particularly how he jumped the bandwagon of our most hated rivals. What's so confusing about that, David? Most Yankee fans would boo Stephen Hawking if he were wearing Red Sox colors. You expect to be the Red Sock that we love?

(On the other hand, I'd have to say that I would be hard pressed to boo Wells as a Yankee fan. Too many good memories, pre-2003. But if he keeps up this petulant crap, I might have to revise that policy.)

Doctor K Speeds Away -- Dwight Gooden fled from a traffic stop earlier this week, and was a fugitive for three days, prior to turning himself in at the same jail where his son is currently imprisoned. This is too sad to talk about right now...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Mussina Inning

One of the subplots of this season has been seeing how this team ages--particularly the pitching staff. For Randy "Four Shot" Johnson, it's been a matter of a slightly reduced strikeout rate, and a dramatically increased home run rate, as the Unit's mighty fastball leaves the building, leaving the slider as the tall lefty's only effective pitch. For Kevin Brown it meant chronic injuries finally becoming critical--to the point where Brown's no longer effective, even when relatively healthy. For Bernie Williams it has meant seeing the occasional flash of brilliance as once every great while he connects with a swing that makes you feel like it is 1998 again, followed by watching him flail away weakly, both in the field and at the plate, during the rest of the game. Tino Martinez is much the same, but at least his glove still works.

Jorge Posada's bat is noticeably slower. Gary Sheffield's isn't, but his personality is surlier than ever. Rey Sanchez and Ruben Sierra are injured. A lot. Meanwhile, the Rivera/Gordon/Sturtze Triad are tired out from overuse.

The most interesting story from the Yankees' 34 and over demographic is Mike Mussina. For the most part, he has adjusted to being older and no longer throwing as hard. The side effect has been the Mussina Inning, a thing so scary that YES should get sponsorship for it. Every Mussina start, the opposition gets one inning where Mussina simply doesn't do as good a job mixing it up as usual, and for that inning, he's a sitting duck. Tonight, for example, the Mussina Inning was the fifth, when the Blue Jays knocked Moose out of the game by posting an eight spot against him. That's eight runs in one inning, capped by a three-run homer by (who else?) Vernon Wells.

The Yanks rallied, in too-little too-late fashion, 9-5. It's hard to rally back from a nine run deficit.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Tuesday again, so I was watching the game at the pool hall. Between shots against an opponent who was much better than me, I saw a game which moved at a brisk pace, despite the fact that Al Leiter sucks in the strike zone--that is, if he throws you a strike, you can and will hit it; but if you expand your strike zone even a little bit, old Alois can and will still punk you. Vernon Wells got a hold of one in the strike zone, which he tatooed halfway to the Bronx County Courthouse. But overall, his teammates bit at the bait--one walk versus five strikeouts in Leiter's seven innings of work.

Anyway, I got done fairly early today, so La Chiquita and I went out for a much-needed feeding, over to Planet Sushi. The Planet didn't have their TV working tonight, so I missed out on a few innings while we ate--when I left the pool hall, the Yanks were losing, 2-1.

So we're outside, and walking to get a cab, when I see one of those city opportunities: a bar with huge plate windows and a huge plasma TV that you can see from the sidewalk. The score's 4-4 with two outs in the ninth, and Robinson Cano is up. I stop us in front of the window. La Chiquita looks at me askance, and I simply explain, "I feel that something is going to happen."

Cano works a walk against Miguel Batista, which is a rarity for Cano, and a cry for help by Batista. Batista then falls behind to Derek Jeter. Suddenly I realize that a small crowd is developing outside. A bar patron on a cigarette break--a Yankee Hater of probable Mets/Red Sox vintage--sneers, "That was a strike. They always do that stuff for the Yankees." A guy standing next to us, with what looks like his wife and kid, shoots back "Well, you're in the wrong town, pal." And La Chiquita looks at me with a look that says, "Something happened already, can we go now?"

Nope, we can't go now. After Batista gets to 2-0 on Jeter, the manager calls for the intentional. As you read last week, I'm not a big fan of that move, but it was easier to understand once I saw the on-deck circle: #29, Felix Escalona.

The family guy's kid has wild speculation as to Escalona's identity. He thinks that Escalona is Kevin Reese--which is ludicrous, because the two guys look nothing alike--but at the same time, it gets my wheels churning, thinking that maybe I missed a transaction and Reese has been added to the roster. When I point out that Reese is a petite white guy, the kid speculates that this is Cano. Only when I remind the kid that Cano just walked a few minutes ago, does the kid accept that it's Escalona.

"How long has this guy been on the roster?" the Dad asks. "A week maybe? A little more than that," is all that I can manage.

Batista gets ahead of Escalona, but Escalona--who looks quite a bit like a younger Luis Sojo--comes back with a typical Sojo hit, a ten-hopper a manly liner up the middle, to win the game.

"Now, we can go home," I tell La Chiquita.

You might have noticed the standings in the right hand column of this page. They're new, but it's not a matter of front-running--I'd always wanted a feature like this on the website, but I only figured out how to do it last weekend. At the time I figured this out, the Yanks looked like they were going get dusted, facing the White Sox after a way underwhelming series against the Devil Rays. Wild card leader Oakland was facing the 19-in-a-row losing KC Royals, and the Red Sox...well, the Red Sox looked inexplicably unbeatable. After taking 2 out of 3 over the weekend, and the A's losing 2 out of 3, the situation looks far less dire. The Yanks now share the Wild Card lead with the Cleveland Indians, and the A's are just a pace or two behind.

Hold on. Looks like it's gonna be a white-knuckle ride.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Summer Reading List: Forging Genius

Steven Goldman is simply one of the best people writing about baseball today. He's the author of the Pinstriped Bible/Blog for the YES Network's website, he's an author of the Baseball Prospectus 2005 annual and has a column, You Could Look It Up which he does for BP's website. As if all that weren't enough, he also writes content for the New York Sun, and has suffered the trials of Job as writer/editor/mid-wife of Prospectus' upcoming book, Mind Game: How the Boston Red Sox Got Smart and Finally Won a World Series.

What sets Steven apart from most folks writing about baseball online is that he's a historian first and a baseball writer second. So it's appropriate that his first baseball book is a bio of legendary manager Casey Stengle, focusing on his career up to and including his first season with the Yankees, 1949.

Forging Genius: The Making of Casey Stengel, starts with 1949, and the announcement that Stengel has been retained by the Yankees. Casey was not exactly welcomed to the Pinstriped Family with open arms. This echoes to the events of 47 years later, when the Yankees hired Joe Torre after popular incumbent Buck Showalter quit/was forced out, and the headlines read, "Clueless Joe." As Goldman quotes, the fourth estate's attitude to Stengel's hiring was: "Is this serious? Are they really going to put a clown in to run the Yankee operation?"

Like Torre, Stengel was judged by those writers primarily for his sub-par career record--developed, in Stengel's case, by managing inferior clubs such as the mid 1930's Brooklyn Dodgers and the late '30s and early 40's Boston Braves. Goldman's thesis is that those losing experiences--along with Casey's minor league managing assignments and playing career--shaped Stengel into exactly the kind of manager that the Yankees needed as they made the difficult transition from DiMaggio to Mantle.

Step by step, we see Casey learn the value platooning from his own experiences as a player, we find him learning under the tutelage of Wilbert "Uncle Robby" Robinson and John McGraw, and we see him begin to formulate his managerial style in the face of near-bankrupt owners, prima-donna star players, extreme baseball environments, and most notably under the crushing weight of repeated losing.

The best thing about the book is that Goldman is fluent in his subject, and is able to immerse the reader in baseball of another era. You'd think the author was in his seventies rather than his thirties, based on his vivid descriptions players, ballparks and execs long gone from the face of this earth. Goldman's facility with the material makes the story move along as if on rails.

Unlike the popular treatment of Stengel, Goldman doesn't over-emphasize Stengel's humor or off-the-wall antics. He shares a number of these anecdotes with the reader, but is careful to put the humor in context, as the reaction of a bright and competitive mind to the boredom of non-competitive ballclubs.

There are only a couple of criticisms that I can make of this book. The first is, that on occasion, Goldman is too adept with his material. He shuffles through the rosters of the 1940 Braves and 1934 Dodgers like a dealer at the Belaggio, and if you don't know your Ken Loenecke from a Whitey Wittleman, then you might be in for a moment's confusion, here and there.

The other complaint--and this is one of the nicest complaints that there is--is that I wish there had been more of this book. Stopping the action at 1949, and the first of Stengel's World Series Championships, puts Goldman in good position to follow up this book with one or more forays into Stengel's later career. Given how good Forging Genius is, I'd buy those books sight-unseen. But after all that time spent watching Casey learn the lessons of his pre-Yankees career, I wanted more of seeing those lessons applied.

Nonetheless, Forging Genius is a most satisfying reading experience, and required reading if you have any interest in the great Yankee teams of the mid 20th Century. Very highly recommended.

If you like reading an excerpt before clicking to purchase, Alex Belth published one over at Bronx Banter, which you can read here and here.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Notebooks and Penguins

Two more Notebook pieces this week, dealing with Toronto and Pittsburgh.

For the Blue Jays, I ran down the AL Rookie of the Year race, which features a broad and talented field, currently lead by Toronto lefty Gustavo Chacin. To take on one Yankees issue, Robinson Cano isn't in this conversation right now, and he really doesn't deserve to be. After batting .316 with a pretty decent slugging percentage in June and July, he's been sucktastic in August--.205 batting average with a .500 OPS. That's not just bad, that's Womack Bad(tm). Overall, he isn't the best middle infield rookie (those would be the White Sox's Tad Iguchi and Toronto's Russ Adams) or the most glamorous rookie (hello, Felix Hernandez) or the biggest pennant contender rookie (Oakland has both slugging firstbaseman Dan Johnson and closer Huston Street).

The weirdest thing about Cano's performance is that he's been completely horrible at Yankee Stadium. He's batting .236/.254/.345 at home against .318/.349/.490 on the road. I don't think anyone tracks fielding stats by those splits, but I'd bet an inordinate number of Cano's errors this year have come at home. Cano's done better than expected, and he shows good promise for the future if he can build up more power or learn how to draw more walks. However, he's not an elite rookie, not in this class.

The Pirates piece, which ran on Friday, was about the Pirates rookies. On Thursday, the Mets were dazzled by Pirate rookie Zach Duke, who is 6-0 through nine major league starts, with an ERA of 1.87. Since he came up from AAA in July, Duke's only had one bad outing. Against the Mets on Thursday, he only allowed two hits. He's a keeper, and one of a handful of names (the other big one is Braves outfielder Jeff Francouer) in the NL Rookie of the Year Race. Here's what I wrote about Zach:
Look, I know what you're thinking. That other kid, Burnett, he looked good through nine starts, too. Then he didn't look so good, and then he was looking at a scalpel to the elbow. But you just got to convince yourself that things are going to be better this time. You've gotta think that after Burnett and John Van Benschoten, and all those other guys, McLendon and Spin Williams are going to treat this kid like those penguins treated their egg in that movie.
That Burnett kid is Sean Burnett, who pitched nicely for the Pirates last year, before suddenly losing his mojo and winding up under the knife for Tommy John surgery. Similar story with Van Benschoten. That Penguin movie is March of the Penguins, which I had the good fortune to see last weekend.

March of the Penguins is simply one of the best documentaries I've ever seen. It's your basic National Geographic-style nature doc, about the life cycle of the Emperor Penguin, in Antarctica. The penguins abandon their homes in the sea to come to a relatively remote part of their local ice shelf, some 70 someodd miles away, to meet and greet with penguins of the opposite sex, get it on, and make some penguin babies. In between, they face the trials that nature throws at each new generation of penguins--storms, starvation, predators.

Now, if this is sounding like every other National Geographic nature show, that's because it is. What makes March of the Penguins stand out is that the moviemakers give the penguins' story many of the same qualities as a good sports film: it's about a plucky group of outcasts that come together, and through teamwork--and having a lot of heart and endurance--fight against all odds to achieve the big goal. They come to depend on each other and stick up for each other. Watching masses of penguins huddle against the wind, it's hard not to anthropomorphize them, and think of them as persons acting in cooperation rather than animals acting on instinct. The film is so effective on this level, that the filmmakers don't have to resort to the usual technique of focusing on one particular penguin (or penguin family) and giving them pet names, in order to make the audience bond with them.

You don't need such tricks, because the penguins themselves will win you over. It's a strong enough illusion that at some points, when the penguins don't act like people, it leaves you utterly befuddled. I can't recommend this film highly enough.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Walk-Off Walk

What do you do when your pitcher is having trouble finding the strike zone? Obviously, have him walk the bases loaded.

In the 11th inning of a game in which the Yankees were killed by the immortal Eduardo Perez, Scott Proctor takes the mound in the 11th inning with a man on 2nd and one out. Proctor first balks the runner--the speedy Carl Crawford--to third, 90 feet away from a win. However, Proctor settled down enough to induce a groundout from Jorge Cantu.

With Proctor facing Perez, he threw a curveball that stayed in his hand a bit too long, Jorge Posada was only barely able to block it and save the game. I think (but I'm not sure) that this curveball was Proctor's 1-1 offering to Perez. From that point on, Proctor didn't throw another strike. Clearly discombobulated, Proctor walked Perez, and then, with Aubry Huff at the plate, Torre called for four wide to load the bases for Jonny Gomes. For my money, Gomes is the best batter on this team, and he has a really good eye at the plate.

When I saw Torre call for the intentional walk, I was tempted to call Brother Joe in Cali to call a walk-off hit by pitch. You could see Proctor's control eroding as he threw the intentional walk--his four wide pitches were everywhere. Looking at Proctor's numbers against righties and lefties, it was a logical choice--Proctor's hard on righthanded batters, and allows a .600+ slugging percentage to lefthanded ones. Still, he wasn't throwing strikes, and having him intentionally issue a walk wasn't going to help him find the strike zone.

Four pitches to Gomes later, the game was over. Bad loss

Monday, August 15, 2005

Weird New York Moment #23,472

This is going to sound like a bad Mel Brooks routine, but on my way home on the C Train, I was harassed by what I'm pretty certain was a black gay male street gang.

Before anyone starts acting like I'm Bob Feller or something, let me explain. I'm coming home from work, 9:30 or so, on the 8th Avenue Local. I've got a seat (it's really not terribly crowded that time of night) I've got my MP3 player on, but I don't have reading materials, since this is a relatively short trip. Big mistake. Reading materials are key on any subway transit in New York.

So anyway, I'm minding my own business when these three guys, each over six foot, rush to the front of the car, and stand around my seat. One of them spontaneously starts pole dancing near my seat--y'know, like a stripper--and I think it's touching, for moment. Y'know, "Aw, he's entertaining and perhaps romancing his friends." Still, public entertainment is a long-standing tradition in New York, so this falls under the category of "Nothing to see, here."

That's until I get a load of the pal for whose benefit I thought he was performing his little routine, and he's mouthing stuff I can't hear, but I don't think it's mocking his dancing pal. Then, in a rather balletic move, the guy standing to my left swings one of his legs over the overhead bar, and starts...grinding.

Now, I know how to deal with hundreds of aggressive words and gestures, but I'm completely at a loss on how to deal with an aggressive dance move. Do I answer with my own dance move, like a Michael Jackson video?

Anyway, I slowly unplug my tunes, which allows me to confirm that these fellas are having a little bit of fun at my expense. My instinct is to throw my drink at the pole dancing guy, but I'm limited in that all I have left is about half an ounce of soda, which seems like it would be an empty gesture. Moreover, I'm seated and surrounded by three guys who are bigger than me, meaning that although I'm not in the single worst starting position for a street fight, I'm pretty close.

[For reference's sake, the single worst position to be in at the beginning of a fight is flat on your back, with your opponents on their feet. Virtually guaranteed you'll wind up in the hospital, pretty decent chance you'll wind up in the morgue.]

They decide to abandon freaking on me to do a little bump and grind with each other as the train pulls into West 4th Street. So I decide to simply smile, and tell them in a cheerful tone of voice "You boys have a good night." No response, but one of the men reached back to grab at my jacket as they ran out the doors. How nice.

Ah, New York. If you've lived here long enough, you've probably experienced some racial hazing--stuff ranging from light mockery to assault. Tonight wasn't the ugliest it's been, just the most bizarre.

In my life, it's always been groups of African American men, aged from approximately 14 to 28, and almost always on the subway. In October, near Halloween, they have fun hitting people on the head with eggs. Taking advantage of the moment before the subway car doors close is their favorite routine, since they can strike at someone without fear of reprisal. The worst I've seen was when some particularly enlightened souls decided to hurl a glass bottles at some friends of mine, from the safety of a moving train. Folks like that are one reason that today's New York City subways don't have windows that open terribly far.

And I'm not even white. If all that bullcrap isn't enough to make a bigot out of me, the Christopher Street Bloods weren't going to make a dent. But at other times, it's been tempting.

Just an annoying bit of New York to share with you all.


In other news, Jaret Wright came off the DL (where he was experiencing mal de shoulder) to pitch well against the Devil Rays in Tampa. The one Devil Ray with a live bat, rookie Jonny Gomes, touched Wright up for a home run, but overall Wright allowed just 2 runs and 4 hits in 6 1/3 innings. Yanks won, 5-2 despite some 9th inning excitement against Mariano Rivera.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


The Yanks broke a streak of one-run ballgames yesterday, a streak which went back to the beginning of the White Sox series on Monday, by beating the Rangers 7-5 .

The Yanks were up by two, 5-3, going into the ninth inning, when they brought Mariano Rivera in for the save. The Yankees had scored early on some home run goodness by Gary Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez, and Mike Mussina was cruising until he got touched up for a two run homer by Kevin Mench in the 8th. In the ninth, Rivera allowed three singles and a hit by pitch, which allowed the Rangers to tie the score. Then, in the tenth, Rivera allowed two more singles in a scoreless inning.

Mariano looked gassed. He's pitched five times this week, for a total 6 2/3 innings. Gordon, who was called on in the 8th after Mussina gave up his homer, has five appearances, for 4 2/3 innings. Sturtze has also appeared in five games, pitching 3 1/3 innings with the save in Friday night's win.

To put things in perspective, the 6 2/3 innings Rivera pitched this week equals his total for the entire month of April. Mariano's gone from that ridiculously low total in April, to pitching under 12 innings in both May and June, to pitching nearly 17 innings in July, and on a pace for about that much in August.

The reason for the swing is the fact that the Yanks have managed more close games in the past couple of months. Since Joe Torre lets the save rule govern his use of Rivera, the man who is arguably the Yanks' best pitcher is entirely dependent upon what his teammates do in the first seven or eight innings to determine whether he'll get to play.

While Torre's bullpen use has its bad sides--the Rivera/save rule bit being almost as bad as his philosophy that the bullpen is only three men deep--he'll sometimes improvise in ways that show more flexibility. For example, in Friday's game, Torre used Shawn Chacon--today's starter--to pitch the 8th inning. Yesterday, Aaron Small--who is still presumptively in the rotation--was used to pitch the 10th inning. That's old-school bullpen usage, hearkening to years of old. For example, in 1955, Whitey Ford threw six relief appearances along with his 33 starts. If the save stat had existed in '55, Whitey would have had a couple of saves. Seven Yankees started at least 10 games that season, and all of them made relief appearances. That's unimaginable these days, where everyone--from players and their agents to the managers--seems so obsessed about each player having a defined "role."

You'd think it'd be good enough to tell a pitcher, "Your role is to get outs, when I tell ya to." But it just doesn't fly anymore. That's a shame, because with the Yanks' pitching staff having the assortment of injuries and ineffectiveness that they've experienced, getting guys to pitch in beyond their roles is taking on greater importance. Otherwise, another stretch of close games could render key pitchers like Rivera and Gordon down the stretch in September, and (hopefully) October.

A quick segway--I chose the '55 Yanks somewhat at random, but it's no surprise that a Yankee team that was successful and where the players were used very flexibly was also a team managed Casey Stengel. This week, I'm going to start posting book reviews starting with Steven Goldman's Forging Genius, a look at the experiences that shaped Stengel's management philosophy. Other books on the cue are Will Carroll's The Juice, and Matt McGough's Bat Boy. After that, I'll try to covince the authors to grace this space with a few words about their work.


Yanks up 7-3, in rain delay. They were trailing 3-2 in the fifth inning when, with two outs, Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez each walked, setting up a three-run upper deck homer by Hideki Matsui. Matsui's shot just cleared the foul pole, and could prove a game-winner if the rain keeps coming.

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!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Not the Best of Times

Two more pitching duels, two more losses.

Can't say that I'm all that upset. After all, if you'd told me at the beginning of this series that the Yanks would start Mike Mussina, Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small against the team with the best record in the majors, and that the Yankees would only give up six runs in the whole series, I woulda taken it in a heartbeat, and called a sweep, to boot.

Instead, on Tuesday, Jose Contreras threw zeroes up there for seven innings, showing the Yankees exactly what they thought they were getting when they signed his inconsistent ass three years ago. Today, it went into extra frames, after Small (the Yankees' ace!) dueled Freddy Garcia to a 1-1 tie.

Then there was a triple, and the White Sox scored, and the Yanks lost. And you can't really complain, because right now, the White Sox are a better team than the Yankees. I don't think it's even as close as the score of this series would imply.

So, too, are the Red Sox. They won again tonight, which puts the Yanks five games out in the East, four games out of the Wild Card. Just to make things better, Randy Johnson is missing a start, and Carl "Meat" Pavano has been shut down, possibly for the season. The Yanks are counting on Scott Proctor for tomorrow's start against the Rangers. There are threats that Jaret Wright will start a game soon.


The thing that puts me in this funk worst of all, is Yankee fans being stupid in the House that Ruth Built. During Tuesday's game, some moron by the name of Scott Harper apparently decided to test the tensile strength of the netting that protects folks behind home plate from foul balls. He did so by dropping down onto it from the Upper Deck, about 40 feet. Here's a quote from the Daily News:

Harper’s friends didn’t seem too very worried about his condition. They planned to call him on his cell phone as soon as they finished their interviews. They also didn’t seem to think Harper’s stunt was all that dangerous.

“The people [in the lower deck] would have caught him like a little mosh pit,” Tripi said.

You wear your Yankee colors, and some people just assume you're a jackass. You have to actively convince folks that you're a human being, despite the white NY on your cap.

Idiots like Harper and his friends are the reason why. I could care less if Harper broke his fool neck, and Trippi's along with him. But if that net hadn't held, he likely would have hurt the people sitting below. People who probably weren't dumbasses.

I hope this kid gets to spend a few weekends in jail. I wish the "mosh pit" pal could do some of that time with him. I'd be satisfied if neither of them ever sets foot in Yankee Stadium again.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Dukin' El Duque/Week In Review

The Yanks and Mike Mussina beat Orlando Hernandez tonight, 3-2, at Yankee Stadium. Since Hernandez is one of my favorites, I'm glad that he lost a well-pitched game (the same will not be said of his Cuban countrymate Jose Contreras, who takes a turn tomorrow night).

The damage was done early--a two-run jack by Alex Rodriguez, scoring himself and Gary Sheffield in the first, followed by Tino Martinez scoring on a Derek Jeter grounder in the second. The Bombers only got four hits on the night, but that was all it took. The Yanks survived the Mike Mussina Inning(tm) with only two tallies against them, and after Mussina got through the sixth (allowing 8 hits, 2 runs, and 7 Ks for the night) the Troika (Sturtze, Gordon, Rivera) took over. Happy endings.

For the week that was, the Yanks went 3-3 against the Indians and Blue Jays.

On Tuesday, the Yanks lost a heartbreaker, 6-5. Al Leiter allowed the damage early, and was unable to escape the third inning. Scott Proctor, Felix Rodriguez, and Tom Gordon did an able job relieving Leiter, and the Yanks crept back into it, but the whole thing was too little, too late (this may prove the unofficial slogan of the 2005 Yankees). The Indians' portly closer, former Yankee Bob Wickman, shut the door in the ninth.

Wednesday, the Yanks did not survive the Mike Mussina Inning(tm)--mainly because this time, Moose gave up six runs. They bowed down to the Indians 7-4, followed by the season's forty-eighth team meeting, and its thirty-third Must Win Game.

Luckily, the Yanks won the MWG. What started as a pitching duel between Kevin Millwood and Shawn Chacon turned into a dramatic ninth inning win, as first A-Rod, and then comeback boy Jason Giambi blasted homers off Wickman to stop the slide.

Friday, the Yanks were powered by Aaron Small and Gary Sheffield, to paraphrase my friend Will Carroll. Small scored the Yanks' best start of the week, allowing only one run in 6 2/3 innings for the win, and Sheff rocked GUstavo Chacin with his 22nd dinger in the first inning, putting the Yanks up 2-0. The final was 6-2.

Sadly, Randy Johnson couldn't keep the good vibration going on Saturday, allowing six runs in four innings. In addition to pitching badly, the Unit aggravated his bad back covering first--leading to Dr. Torre diagnosing him with a "barking" back. I'm getting bad flashbacks of Kevin Brown. Hopefully, that's the last time I mention Brown this season.

On Sunday, Senator Al helped the Yankees salvage the week, and win the series at SkyDome, with almost six scoreless innings in another 6-2 win. In a more precise 5 2/3, Leiter allowed four hits, but the indicators that looked so nice in his first Yankee start, against the Red Sox were not there. This time it was four walks, only to strikeouts, but that was good enough to beat the Blue Jays, and keep Leiter in the rotation after unimpressive work in two out of his last three starts.

As last week's news items go, the biggest is that starting rotation. Word has crept out that Carl Pavano, twice penciled in to the Yankee starting rotation, is instead going to visit Dr. James Andrews in Alabama. Surgery would officially make the winter of 2004-2005 the worst off-season in Yankee history, roster-move wise. Possibly the worst concerted set of free agent pick ups ever. Even if Dr. Andrews doesn't get his scalpel, I think you have to write off Pavano as a factor this season, just as we've long written off Jaret Wright and K...I don't talk about that player anymore.

In dumber news, many have used Giambi's July/August power spike--and winning of the AL's Player of the Month honors--as an excuse to accuse him of getting back on the Juice. Someone has gone so far as to crank-call news outlets, claiming that Jason has failed a steroid test. Giambi would have to be the world's dumbest SOB to start with that stuff again, after what should have been a "scared straight" experience with pituitary cancer. I think that Giambi's feebleness last season was a storyline that fit our pre-conceived notions of steroid use--off the juice, Giambi turned into puny Dr. Jeckyll, unable to even get the ball out of the infield. We forgot that Giambi was dealing with very real health problems last season, and that he might recover.

I don't think that Giambi's juicing. I think that the folks who gnash their teeth and rend their clothes on the steroid issue really overstate the benefits of the drugs, with the effect of advertising them for teens and young athletes. That said, all this steroid talk is quite simply the price that Giambi pays for his drug use, going forward. No matter how often you test him, so long as Giambi does well, people will think he's using banned substances. No matter what Rafael Palmeiro says, some will doubt his five hundred someodd homers. Them's the breaks.

The other news of the week was Gary Sheffield, supposedly "blasting" Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez as not being leaders. All of which was greeted with a shrug and a "whatever". Turns out the most substantive complaint Sheffield actually made was being upset with the Yankees for not allowing wives on the team plane. If the worst thing that you can say about a guy is that he wants to keep his wife close to him (must...resist...R. Kelly jokes...) then you ain't saying much.

Friday, August 05, 2005

New Notebook: Manny/Mets Mashup

I've got a new Notebook piece up at Baseball Prospectus, this time about the cross-town rivals. Here's a taste:

As the Mets proceed, Manny-less, down the stretch, the team is a grab-bag of good news and bad news. Pedro Martinez is leading the NL in strikeouts, and on a pace to eclipse the 220 inning mark for the first time since 1998. On the other hand, Beltran isn’t even living up to his tenth percentile PECOTA projection, with an EqA of .260. Jose Reyes leads the majors in outs made, but at least that means he has stayed healthy enough to lead the league in a counting stat. When the surprises are so evenly mixed with the disappointments, it’s the earmark of a .500 team.

The main focus of the piece is the "Manny Ramirez to the Mets" non-trade. It's a matter about which I'm of two minds: on the one hand, Manny's about my age, which means--in most cases-- that he's likely on the decline. Given Ramirez's skills--he's a slow, big masher--his decline could be quick and ugly, when it comes. Add to that the Mets surrendering the top guys in their farm system, after throwing away Scott Kazmir last July, and it's hard to stomach the whole idea, unless the team has a very clear shot at first place.

But on the other hand, it's Manny Ramirez. He's simply one of the deadliest righthanded hitters in baseball. When ALCS games 4 and 5 went to extra innings last Fall, every time the Yankees didn't score, it would send me into a state of horror "No matter what the Yanks do when (if!) they come up to bat next, Ramirez and Ortiz will come to bat again before this game is over. Kill me now." They were just a problem for which you had no solution in the middle of that Red Sox lineup. One of the things that Omar Minaya has done right as Mets GM is that he has the team shopping off the top shelf: they acquired a real ace (Pedro Martinez) rather than a wannabe (Carl Pavano). When they go looking for in-season help, they're looking at Manny Ramirez, not Eric Byrnes.

This is why I laugh whenever someone complains about Ramirez's flakeouts and episodes. When you go to get a guy like Ramirez, you know that you're getting a nutjob, but a nutjob who 1) doesn't seem to be malicious, and 2) can hit like no one's business. Every team has its nutjobs from time to time, and most often you've got to live with them.

As long as your nutjob isn't getting your teenaged ace pitcher hooked on crack, or leading an open mutiny against the manager, I don't buy that you have to get rid of the guy. True, Manny misses the odd game, apparently because he doesn't feel like playing, and he sometimes will dog a few plays during the season. That has a tangible detrimental effect on your ballclub. But at this stage of his career, he's a diagnosed nutjob. Any team that has Manny knows that these things are going to happen. It's no different than acquiring a player that you know has a chronic injury--you know he's going to need the occasional day off, maybe a defensive specialist to spot him in the field. Barry Bonds' knee, Manny Ramirez's brain, same difference.

When I think of Ramirez, I shamefully tend to think of DB Sweeney's performance as Joe Jackson in Eight Men Out. Like Manny, reports differ as to Shoeless Joe's mental acuity, but the Sweeney's portrayal made Jackson out to be a borderline retarded manchild. At one point in Eight Men Out, it's the eve of the World Series, and the White Sox have already agreed with the gamblers to fix the series. Jackson, feeling guilty about the fix, talks to his manager to try to beg out of the lineup.

"Ah dohn wan' play," Sweeney's Jackson tells Kid Gleason in a small, childlike voice.

Whenever Manny pulls one of these stunts, or demands a trade, I think the proper reply is that given by Gleason, as thunderously delivered by John Mahoney: "Oh, you'll play Jackson! YOU'LL PLAY!"

It worked in the deadball era, why doesn't it work now? :)

Monday, August 01, 2005

Thoughts from a Sick Bed...

After a weekend where the Yanks did the improbable--and I got a really nasty summer cold--a few notes:

After I left off Saturday's game, things really got wild. The Yanks pulled a couple of wins completely out of their petards, requiring lots of helps from Los Angeles of Los Angeles which is somehow in Anaheim. The Halos did more kicking than the Rockettes en route to losing the series on Sunday. What you can say in the Yanks' favor was that they never surrendered, even after Chone Figgins' 10th inning lead-off triple. It just didn't feel like the game was over.

So the Yanks leave July minus Buddy Groom and a few prospects, plus Shawn Chacon and Al Leiter, and with as many question marks as a Yankee team has had this late in the season since 1995. Let the excitement continue!


Under the heading "This Time, It Counts!" Raffy Palmeiro is the latest major leaguer to test positive under the major league banned substances policy. Seems like this one has been kept under someone's hat for a while, because it appears (based on Palmeiro's statement and what we know of the policy):

1. That Palmeiro tested positive for a banned substance on MLB's "steroid" schedule;

2. That he received that result within 24 hours, and contested the positive result within two business days of receiving those results, giving the basis for the challenge in writing;

3. That MLB's Health Policy Advisory Committee (HPAC) then sent Palmeiro a "litigation packet" containing info about the test, within three days of Palmeiro's receipt of the litigation packet, HPAC had to convene to discuss the matter;

4. That within 24 hours of that meeting, HPAC had to determine that there was a "reasonable basis" for the challenge (this seems to be the step where Palmeiro's case differs from the prior positive tests; if the HPAC finds no reasonable basis, the Player can still appeal, but his positive test becomes public, and the suspension begins immediately), Palmeiro needed only one vote of "reasonable basis" from the HPAC to proceed to the next step;

5. Within 24 hours, the Commissioner was informed of the HPAC vote, and then, again within 24 hours, imposed discipline--in this case, a 10 game suspension against Palmeiro, which was to take effect within two days. It seems like, based on the policy document, the Commissioner might have some discretion whether or not to impose discipline at this stage;

6. Palmeiro filed a grievance within the two day period. Because of the HPAC's earlier decision, the suspension was delayed pending arbitration, which occurred within five days of the grievance being filed; and

7. "Within a reasonable time" the arbitration panel issued its decision. At this time, for the first time, the Orioles were notified of Palmeiro's suspension, which was then made public and scheduled to proceed "immediately."

So, operating at minimum speed, this process could take about three weeks, from positive test until the whole thing goes public. Check out Will Carroll's take on this matter at Baseball Prospectus.

My opinion? When someone makes as much of a fuss about steroids as Palmeiro did in front of Congress, talking about "zero tolerance" and whatnot, they better not test positive for any banned substance. Once they've talked all that smack--and after an arbitrator finds that their positive steroids test was on the up-and-up--they no longer get the benefit of the doubt, and the presumption of innocence no longer applies.

So if Rafael Palmeiro wants me to believe he's not a user, he better prove it. And I can't even begin to imagine how Palmeiro would do that. It's perfectly fair to believe, now, that Palmeiro was lying when he claimed never to have used steroids, and when he denied Canseco's story about injecting him with steroids.

It's sickening. I'm gonna go back to sleep for the eighth time today.