The Yanks developed a number of compelling storylines in Chicago. We had Cano's triumphant return on Tuesday, albeit in a losing cause; Mariano blowing a save by allowing a big home run to Paul Konerko; Randy Johnson's six and two-thirds no-hit innings on Wednesday; Farnsworth's meltdown that made that game a nail-biter; A-Rod's error on Thursday that opened up the floodgates against Mike Mussina (that storyline seems familiar); Johnny Damon's "stiff right groin"--which would be funny if it didn't point out a weakness on the Yankee roster.
So the Angels come into town, three games over .500 and 3.5 games behind the A's, in second place. Since the Red Sox are still playing crappy teams, the Yanks need to keep up the pressure. The Halos will go with Joe Saunders, Kelvim Escobar, and unbeaten rookie Jered Weaver against Corey Lidle, Jaret Wright, and Chien Ming Wang.
After taking August off, I've done a couple of Game of the Week pieces for Baseball Prospectus, covering the National League. The first one was a battle of the NL Central, with the Milwaukee Brewers facing the the Cincinnati Reds, Ben Sheets facing the underrated Aaron Harang. Good, close game, but I was a bit distracted by side issues:
Now, since we’re in Milwaukee, and it’s the top of the seventh, sausages are racing. It looks like Hot Dog and Bratwurst in the lead, absolutely dusting the Polish and Italian Sausages. We’re looking for the spicy new pan-Latino sausage, Chorizo, who’s either a huge slowpoke, or not even in tonight’s race, fired before his second day on the job. Maybe they found too much testosterone in Chorizo’s urine sample after he raced Saturday night. This would be a dark day in the history of sausage racing, indeed, if we’re all waiting for the results of El Picante’s B sample before he can race again.
During the seventh inning stretch, an Internet search reveals that Chorizo, despite making his major league debut on Saturday night, is ineligible for any further sausage races this season, not because of performance enhancers, but because of the “major league rules regarding the introduction of mascots.” Because of MLB’s stringent vetting process for all new mascots, Saturday’s Hispanic Appreciation Night performance was a one-shot deal for Chorizo, at least for this season.
I’m sure that the rules are only meant to encourage competitive balance, and keep the Yankees from dominating the mascot market. Still, how can it take until next season to get a new sausage approved? I sense a cause coming on: Joe Sheehan had Free Erubiel Durazo, Aaron Gleeman had Free Johan Santana, and now we here at Game of the Week have Free El Picante, the Racing Chorizo. Feel free to email the Brewers, the Commissioner of Baseball, or your local congressman, for that matter, with that subject line.
The other piece was a look at the Mets as they run away with their division, facing the not-as-horrible-as-we -were led to believe Marlins. Another pitcher's duel, Pedro facing the D-Train, Dontrelle Willis. I'd touted Dontrelle staying in Miami in a recent Notebook column, so I was really nervous that during the week between that article and the trade deadline, the Marlins would find a way to trade away their star lefty and make a fool of me. Luckily, the D-Train stuck around, and pitched a nice game against the Mets, one the Marlins eventually won with a big inning against Aaron Heilman.
Speaking of the Marlins and Mets, one storyline that I prepared writing about, but didn't, was the confrontation between two ex-Yankee coaches, Willie Randolph and Joe Girardi. One of the ideas I wanted to discuss was that the two could wind up fighting for the Manager of the Year award, Willie as the skipper of the best team in the NL, Girardi as the manager who has managed to field a competitive team comprised primarily of rookies and inexpensive players, with the lowest payroll in the majors.
One of the ideas I wanted to discuss was the thought that Joe could overcome Willie in such an award faceoff, based upon the two managers' media relations skills and public perceptions. Girardi was inordinately touted as a managerial candidate, before his playing career even ended. Contrast that with Randolph, who waited years as managerial position after position passed him by--to the point where people wondered what was wrong with him--until he found his current job with the Mets. While Girardi seems to remain in the press's good graces, Willie is often regarded as "angry" or "sullen." It's a shame that somoene who used to have so much fun with the game--my memories of Randolph's Yankees career often had him smiling and joking with his teammates--now only seems to smile in those Subway commercials he does with his former boss, Joe Torre.
Luckily, I didn't write about Girardi's Manager of the Year chances, since a) the Marlins could still go in the tank this season, and b) Girardi might not end the season as the team's manager. Turns out, he actually was fired last Sunday, only for Marlins owner, Jeff "Angel of Death" Loria, to retract the termination at the last minute.
Which raises the question, can you be manager of the year if your ballclub fires you before the end of the season?
One last thing to belabor with the Marlins and Mets. One of the players that changed hands between the two teams last off-season, Mr. Heart & Soul, Paul LoDuca, suffered a double tabloid whammy this week, as his divorce and infidelities dominated the front page of the New York Post (seriously, it took the British terrorist plot to kick LoDuca and his really hot wife off the front page). Then, the Daily News lit into LoDuca's rumored gambling debts. Ouch.
Bad news for phenoms, current and former. Prior's start on Thursday was brutal, he simply had nothing. Liriano's a good enough prospect that I actually thought how horrible his injury is for baseball as a whole before it occurred to me that his injury was devastating for mine and Brother J's roto team. I'm sure we'll survive, though I can't say the same for the Twins.
Good Yankee material around the net this week, as Jonah Keri analyzed bad trades from the Yankees' past on the YES Network website, and swing doctor Jeff Albert broke down Alex Rodriguez's swing (and Andruw Jones's) for the Baseball Analysts website.
Crime and Punishment in the Bronx, as 2006 13th round pick Daniel McCutchen has been suspended 50 games for using performance enhancers, and the Upper Deck Jumper receives a lifetime suspension from the House That Ruth Built, and its succesor(s).
In real legal news, MLB lost a case which could cost them their stranglehold on Fantasy Baseball products, as a Federal Judge ruled that the MLBPA ballplayers' publicity rights do not cover their baseball statistics--in other words, that those stats are facts and their expression is protected by the first amendment.
I love McSweeney's, so this "explanation" of the league's waiver rules really opened my eyes.
Under the category of unintentional comedy, there is Michael Kay going nuts on the radio.