11th and Washington

11th and Washington: June 2005

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Bizarro Yankees

What a game at Yankee Stadium tonight.

Why is it that with the Yankees and Devil Rays, you always expect something wacky to happen? Or at the very least, we should be expecting a 20-2 Yankees win, but we're not that surprised when Tampa Bay (with its $38 million payroll less than 20 percent of the Yankee's $205 million) goes up 10-2, and even less surprised when the Yankees put up 13 in the eighth to win it.

The Devil Rays are totally the Bizarro Yankees.

The New York Yankees' ownership is based in Tampa; the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' ownership is based in New York.

The Yankees have no limit to their spending, the Devil Rays have virtually no spending and they're immediately at their limit.

The Yankees have no prospects in their system to help them as Yankees, or in trades for established stars; the Devil Rays are loaded with prospects in their system, but won't trade them for established stars and won't bring them up to help the big club.

The Yankees' Sean Henn pitches all his major league games against Tampa, and loses them all; last year, Kevin Brown pitched, what, his first four games against Tampa and won them all.

The Yankees play in one of the most historic sports sites in the world, a place with lots of charm and character; the Devil Rays play in an antiseptic dome in The Sunshine State, a "ballpark" with all the character of a mausoleum in a city (that would be St. Petersburg) with absolutely no sports history -- unless you count shuffleboard, or the baseball game Jack Kerouac invented and no doubt played when he lived his last days there. There's more history in the Yankee Stadium sprinkler system than in St. Pete.

With the exception of adding the "NY" to the home jerseys, the Yankees haven't changed their general uniform design in eight decades; the Devil Rays haven't existed for a decade and have changed their general uniform design about eight times. (OK, five when you count not one, but two alternate jerseys. Seven if you count two spring training tops.)

So I'm going to the Bronx tomorrow to experience this dichotomy in person.

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Not a good sign from those Mets

Something didn't sit well with me as we left Shea Stadium on Sunday. That wasn't a good way to end the homestand, not a good way to head out on a season-high 12-game road trip. The Mets went 6-6 on their longest stretch in Queens for the season, losing two of three to the woeful Astros and letting the rubber game against the first-place Angels of The O.C. slip away.

Winding down the ramps, I had the feeling that this was the beginning of the slide that they'll be talking about in September.

Of course, I hope I'm wrong, but Tuesday's lifeless start to the road trip (a 5-0 loss to a weak Oakland club and a starter, Joe Blanton, who was 1-6 with an ERA over 5.00 coming into the game) and last night's additional bullpen failure only strengthened my initial hypothesis. The Mets need Kris Benson to be a stopper this afternoon.

On June 16 last year, the Mets were 30-34, so their current 32-32 record is just two games better. They reached 43-40 on July 7, 2004, and 44-41 two days later, but they went into the All-Star break at 44-43 and emerged from it by losing four of six to fall to 46-47, and it spiraled from there.

These are games the Mets should be winning. Tom Glavine and Victor Zambrano have pitched well of late, while Blanton and Dan Haren have struggled. Why did the Yankees win 10 in a row in May after falling eight games below .500? Because they played 12 straight against Oakland and Seattle. The Mets should've taken two of three from both of those teams, but now to go 4-2 on this West Coast swing, they'll need to win the last four — one in Oakland and three in Seattle.

July 18 was the last time the Mets were above .500 in 2004; July 21 was the last time they were at the break-even mark. They're going to have to fix some things in order to surpass those marks this season.

* * *

Just twice in the past 50 years have two Ivy League players started for the same team. The second pair is the Rangers' Chris Young (Princeton) and Mark DeRosa (Penn).

Just found that interesting.

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Monday, June 13, 2005

Where do I apply?

Maybe it's from too many years of playing fantasy baseball (combined with a close reading of Moneyball), but I'm starting to think I could do a better job at running a team than some of these executives in the major leagues.

I think trading Kaz Matsui for Edgardo Alfonzo would be a low-risk move for the Mets, but there's no way the Giants should be considering a trade involving Jason Schmidt. He may be 32 and struggling this season (with a few injuries), but on that Giants team, 32 is young. He's the best they've got to build around for 2006, if not beyond. This is the time they've got to start building for the era A.B.B. -- after Barry Bonds -- and it's not like they've got a slew of young studs throughout the lineup. Pedro Feliz is 30 and Jason Ellison is 27 -- they're both late bloomers. The only other regular with more future than past is Lance Niekro, and though his start (.308-7-23) is promising, his big-league career is just 117 at-bats old, so I don't know if you can tell whether he's the kind of player you will be building your team around in the near future.

Now the Devil Rays' designation of Alex Sanchez appears even dumber, but the truth of the matter is Sanchez should have never been signed in the first place. I mean, this guy was cut by the Brewers and Tigers, two teams that, at the time they booted him, had a greater need for outfield and top-of-the-order help than Tampa Bay. Lou Piniella had a point when he ripped the Devil Rays' owners. Why go out and sign a twice-released veteran like Sanchez when your minor-league system is considered one of the better ones in the league? What's the point of bringing in a guy like Sanchez or Roberto Alomar when you could be giving Joey Gathright or B.J. Upton a shot? At least the fans would come out to see them. Surely there will be growing pains, but if you're going to suck, why not suck with some promise?

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Vote for Pedro

Is there no baseball etiquette anymore? What happened to the days when no one would mention a no-hitter in progress? Fans would wink and nod, but say no more. Announcers would work around it with phrases like, "the Mets have all the hits in the game" or some other indication that there were zeros in significant places on the scoreboard. In the dugout, the pitcher would be seated all by himself at one end of the bench.

Tim McCarver thinks he's above the law, above the baseball gods. He'll mention it after the pitcher's gone through the opposing lineup once. Ralph Kiner, though, is just a nice old man who might not know any better. I can't be as mad at Ralph. But I'm surely annoyed, because tonight, in about the sixth inning, when the Mets did indeed have all the hits in the game, he mentioned Pedro's no-hitter. And, of course, in the seventh a Houston homer ended the bid.

I did my part. I didn't move from my seat on the couch (though that's never worked before. I remember one David Cone bid where I laid in the same position for about an hour and a half). I didn't switch away from the game during the commercials. I continued exploring the same website. So it's not my fault.

But the game was plenty exciting after that. Pedro was dealing, Roy Oswalt was reeling and Cliff Floyd was feeling ... hurt. Painfully so.

People talk about Gary Sheffield's wonderful "restraint" when he went after the fan in Boston, but true restraint was shown by Floyd tonight.

The history: Floyd drilled a grand slam off Oswalt's slow curve last season and had an RBI double earlier tonight.

The situation: A passed ball had just moved Carlos Beltran to second with two outs in a 2-1 game and manager Phil Garner came out to talk with Oswalt and catcher Brad Ausmus. The next pitch drilled Floyd in the elbow.

The reaction: Floyd spun around as he was trying to get out of the way of the pitch, got hit, dropped his bat and whirled to face Oswalt. He took one lunging step and then stopped. Restraint. He pointed and jawed at Oswalt as the benches emptied. Oswalt walked towards Floyd as Ausmus and the umpire got in between him. Marlon Anderson and Willie Randolph made sure Floyd didn't get kicked out of the game and suspended.

But he walked down to first base.


Sheffield hit the fan. He showed some restraint by not going into the stands, but Floyd showed true restraint.

Oh, and it's 2-0 Milwaukee in the seventh. Ha.

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