Monday, June 1, 2009

Hardball Cooperative

I've been given a great opportunity to write some stories for the collaborative baseball blog Hardball Cooperative . Check back here as I post linked stories I've written there. Here's my first story: an examination of what's gone wrong for the Tampa Bay Rays this season.

What's Wrong With the Rays?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Game 42: NY Yankees vs Philadelphia Phillies Live Blog

Hey hey kids! I know you've missed me and my witty musings lately. I had a serious spyware issue and then a head cold, but I think my laptop and I are finally germ-free!

Game 42 sees the Yankees take on the WORLD CHAMPION PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES. How snazzy are those capital letters? Wouldn't it be fun if the Yankees could have their name and title capitalized like that? Based on my pre-season prediction, the Yankees only have 74 more wins to go to make the playoffs and get started on the road to capital letter-ville. Can you feel the excitement?

We'll get to the housekeeping notes regarding Wang and the roster in a moment, but meanwhile...

Top of the 1st

Hey, this is going well! Lead-off home run by Rollins and a HBP to Utley. Ooh, and look at that; a single by Ibanez! Good thing we've got Burnett for 4 more years, right? And here I was just thinking that Burnett was due for a shut down start. Boy, was I wrong. For now, anyway.

Roster notes: Chien-Ming Wang is in the house, y'all! More specifically, he's on the active roster. Wang will be available out of the bullpen for long relief and, presumably, will make his case for the rotation the next go-around. Albaladejo, bless his heart, was optioned out. Alby is like last year's Ohlendorf. He got used too often as mop-up and his pitching suffered.

1-0 Phillies

Bottom of the 1st

The Phillies are a hard-nosed team and they play tough. Raise your hand if you're surprised that Myers threw behind Jeter? I wonder how many Phillies fans are here tonight. It's only, what, a two-hour drive from Philly to the Bronx?

Burnett only threw 16 pitches in his half of the inning. Considering there were two hits and two strikeouts in there, that's a respectable pitch count.

Should have been a double play there. Yankees got a break that the ball spun out.

I thought for sure that Damon would score on Alex's double. That was an outstanding relay by the Phillies. Rob Thompson's usually a better third base coach than that, but I suppose it's hard to fault him for that. Like I said, I thought for sure Damon would score there. Nice to see Alex ripping the ball down the line, if nothing else

Top of the 2nd

How did Burnett not come up with that ball? If he snags it, Stairs is out, contrary to what Leiter just said.

This is going well. 3-0 Phillies. Go Mets!

What are your thoughts on throwing the opposing players' home run balls back? Why not just give the ball to a kid? Or, heck, give me the ball! I've never gotten a baseball at a professional game. Despite my best badgering efforts, Kyle Farnsworth did not give me a baseball at Yankee Stadium last year. Guess who got one? Kids! Not fair, I say. Children have longer to live than I do, and therefore more chances to get baseballs at professional games.

Why is Kevin Cash playing in a major league baseball game? What's Austin Romine up to lately? PJ Pilitere? How about Sal Fasano?

Bottom of the 2nd

Michael Kay calls trotting Harry Kalas in his casket out onto the field and having the entire team touch it a "touching moment." I call it creepy.

Glad you showed up ready to play, Matsui.

1-2-3 go the Yankees, and Rollins shows us what it's like to have an older shortstop with range. I'd like to see the lead cut to 3-2 by the end of the third. Let's see. Bythe way, Mets are leading the Red Sox 1-0.

Top of the 3rd

Oops..Boston just tied it. Varitek, of all people...

Could it be? Could it? A scoreless inning? Maybe?

Yes indeed. Thank you, Teixeira!

Bottom of the 3rd

Maybe this will be one of those games where the starting pitcher falters early but settles down in time for his offense to come back. A girl can hope, anyway.

Hey! It's Melky! In case you're new, you should know that I'm Melky's biggest fan in possibly the entire country. Just below his mother.

On that note, Melky was just barely beaten out on a revolutionary new approach at the plate. Ahem.

Mike Stanley? John Flaherty? Jim Leyritz isn't busy these days, is he?

Cy Myers came to pitch today. 33 pitches through three. Is it to early to call this live blog a bust?

Top of the 4th

It's not possible that blowing that 6-0 lead to the Red Sox has had that much of an effect on Burnett, is it? Because he hasn't really been the same since.

I'll say it: I miss Mike Mussina. And Burnett is making Ruiz look like Babe Ruth.

Wouldn't it be great if the Mendoza Line were named for Ramiro Mendoza? I would love it so much if it were.

Again...any other catchers available? Can Girardi suit up?

Bottom of the 4th or, as I like to call it, Go Time!

That was a good piece of quality hitting for Tex. Has anyone noticed that all of Teixeira's teammates pronounce his name "Tex-share-a?" I think we've all been lied to.

Nice to see Matsui bailing on every single pitch. And by nice, I mean it makes me want to throw something at my television.

God bless Matsui and his blazing speed throwing off Rollins. Tying run at the plate. What does Swisher do?

1) Walk
2) Hit a home run to right
3) Swing and miss at three consecutive pitches

And he does none of the above. Thanks to Cy Myers, he grounds out 4-3. God bless the Mets for taking a 3-1 lead on the Red Sox.

Top of the 5th (really? already?)

I went to watch the Mets/RS for a few minutes and I come back and there's already a baserunner. Color me surprised.

Mark Teixeira is my hero. That was a great move to go to 2nd, too, especially with his body already angled that way.

A.J. Burnett is not so much my hero. 5-0 Phillies and that's all for me tonight. I'd love to stick around and watch the Great Yankee Comeback, but I have too much to do before my early bedtime. Look for a brand-spanking-new blog post this weekend. Cheers!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Thank You, Selena Roberts

They taught us well. Really they did. Muddled among the coffee-fueled hours in the television studios and the meticulous editing of our print copy were real, practical life lessons. Like how to maneuver the forever-conglomerated media markets. How to write so the weary, bleary masses will take pause. And how, for those of us with XX chromosomes, to stay strong in a field that may never take anything we have to say with even a modicum of respect.

I had some fine college professors in my quest to prepare myself for the cutthroat world of journalism. And, Steinem knows, it's not easy to be a woman in most professions, even in this generation of ceiling-smashers. But no one breathed a word of perhaps the biggest obstacle facing women in sports journalism--one that could cause a society of the here-and-now to forget the inroads that have been made in the largest boys' club in America.

Thankfully, Selena Roberts is around to fill in the gaps--to demonstrate that the most insidious threat to women in sports journalism is, well, other women in sports journalism.

In her opportunistically-timed tabloid biopic, A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez, Roberts aims for shock and empathy, playing both heroic whistle-blower and armchair psychologist. She attempts to paint Rodriguez as an attention-hungry liar, doomed from the start to a life of meaningless accomplishments and empty relationships. Roberts takes great pains to expose Rodriguez for everything she thinks he is and to make her own star shine a little brighter as the long-suffering hero, dutifully reporting the facts so the public will no longer be duped by such a cheater.

Except there will be no ticker tape parade for her efforts. Instead, Roberts comes across as more Perez Hilton than Bob Woodward, relying on hearsay and unnamed sources to support her claims. This leaves her statements easily refuted. Rodriguez was 'roided up in high school? Not so, say his teammates and coach. Pitch-tipping? Texas Rangers' infielder Michael Young doubts the accusation. And we're inclined to believe them. Whether many are willing to admit it or not, Rodriguez represents a generation of baseball heroes fallen. That's not an easy pill to swallow for those who swooned over Mays and imitated Mantle. Without any solid sources or documented evidence, public opinion easily and willingly pokes baseball-sized holes in her arguments.

This would all be unbearable coming from a man--boorish and obnoxious--but, for a female sports journalist, with the bar set all that much higher, it's borderline detestable. Because women have to be that much better and that much smarter in order to gain and maintain credibility in the world of sports analysis and reporting. To use a baseball term, women need a much higher VoRP than men just to earn respect. There is no place for an Eric Byrnes in female sports journalism. It's Albert Pujols or bust.

Selena Roberts first made headlines in mainstream sports media in 2006 as the bulldog behind the New York Times' investigation into the Duke lacrosse rape scandal. Embolden and undeterred, Roberts, armed with a sense of indignation that would have made Bill O'Reilly proud, led the charge against the accused lacrosse players. She condemned the accused before anyone had access to facts, and she condemned them over and over again. Seemingly using the athletes as effigies for an entire culture of misogyny in sports (on their own, her arguments against the glorification of inappropriate expressions of masculinity in sports are valid and well-written), Roberts ultimately discredited herself. She took what could have been a thought-provoking investigation into the dangers of sport and the brotherhood mentality and turned it into a baseless condemnation.

When the dust had cleared and the original accusations were dropped, Roberts had, unintentionally, garnered sympathy for the athletes. In doing so, she also discredited herself as a sportswriter. Her overreaction and refusal to acknowledge fact before what many saw as a personal agenda did nothing to help the image of women as smart sportswriters capable of brilliant and objective analysis.

This is not to say that Roberts is to blame for the public perception against female sportswriters or the difficulty involved in gaining respect. Society clearly needs to evolve from its backwards notions of women and sports. But Roberts, with her modern-day brand of yellow journalism, has done more harm than good for a group that needs to bring the cleanup hitter to the plate every inning simply to break even.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What a Difference $10 Million Makes

Melky Cabrera, through 64 ABs:

Avg: .344
OBP: .408
SLG: .563
OPS: .971
RS: 13
RBI: 10
HR: 4
SB: 2/3
BB: 7
SO: 10

Mike Cameron, through 92 ABs

Avg: .293
OBP: .389
SLG: .598
OPS: .987
RS: 14
RBI: 16
HR: 6
SB: 2/2
BB: 15
SO: 18

And, just for fun...

Brett Gardner through 65 ABs (one more than Melky):

Avg: .231
OBP: .292
SLG: .277
OPS: .569
RS: 14
RBI: 4
HR: 0
SB: 6/7
BB: 6
SO: 14

Monday, May 4, 2009

Game 25: Boston Red Sox at NY Yankees. Live blog

Thank you to the Yankees for holding off the start time until 9:30 just for me. I got home from work not too long ago (just in time to see Tallett lose his no-hitter. Ha!) and I warmed up a hamburger, so I'm ready to roll.
I have a diatribe about Selena Roberts in my blog queue, so you'll get to read my thoughts on her later tonight.

Hey! Aceves is here! Whaddaya know! I mentioned him on my bullpen post.

How creepy do the guys in the booth look speaking to the cameras while looking up so high? It's contrived and odd.

Headed to Baseball Reference to look up some stats on the team. Hey, B-R, I appreciate your website, but I don't have $370 to throw around to sponsor the "2009 Yankees" page.

Phew, Swish is back. That means we're not sending Gardner out every few innings to strike out looking.

First pitch: a ball, outside. Let's roll!

Top of the 1st
Is it me, or has Robbie Cano been all over every single pop-up this year? I'm sure Alex will appreciate that when he comes back this week.

(Finished my hamburger. That was delicious.)

You've got to really be in love with your breaking ball to throw it in a 3-ball count. Hughes didn't walk anyone in his last start. Now he walks the #2 elf hitter. If you're Hughes, you've got to go after Ortiz here. He's the perfect double-play candidate.

It's interesting to me that no one really brings up David Ortiz's association with banned trainer Angel Presinal. Or the fact that Alex Rodriguez's associations with him don't necessarily mean anything insidious. The mainstream media really loves the Red Sox, don't they?

Double down the line. Hughes has awful career first-inning numbers. I'd like to see him get out of this jam, if for no other reason than as a confidence-booster. (And you really don't want to be trailing against Lester)

Never mind. 1-0 Red Sox. Molina looked shocked at the location of that pitch.

Hughes looks a little wild today but not terrible. He's certainly not as sharp as he was last week, and it's too early to call "squeezed!" so we'll see what happens.

1-0 Red Sox

Bottom of the 1st
Has anyone purchased Gameday Premium? It satisfies the baseball geek in me but $20 seems like a lot of money for not a lot of information right now. I've got student loans, people!

This is how every single one of Johnny Damon's plate appearances goes: look at a pitch, look at a pitch, slash-swing at a pitch (usually fouling it off toward third base), big swing-and-miss at an inside pitch, look at a pitch. I'm just saying.

Lester looks good early. This would be a great game for Teixeira to get going. No, seriously, Tex. Please start hitting.

Yankees strike out in order. I'm pretending this isn't a portent of things to come and I'm going to get more hamburger.

Top of the 2nd
Oh. Well, okay. 2-0 Red Sox on a Mike Lowell first-pitch home run to left

Michael Kay just echoed my thoughts about the Blue Jays and their soft April schedule. As my father says "but wins are wins."

They can show that Melky 6/6/06 catch as many times as they want. That's one of my favorite Yankee memories since the last pennant. Have I mentioned I'm a big Melky Cabrera fan?

Now I remember why Phil Hughes frustrates me so much: just when I think he's the Real Deal, he goes back to looking like a neophyte.

Bottom of the 2nd
Is Swisher trying to pull the ball with that open stance? Why cheat toward the big part of the ballpark?

Holy Moses that was a nice grab by Nick Green. How come he was awful with the Yankees and is all of a sudden Ozzie Smith with the Sox?

Jorge Posada is red. hot. I missed that big ol' butt last year.

Kay just announced that Melky is hitting .600 off Lester. This would be a good time to go .636.

Two outs with RISP. Good thing we have Albert Pujols at the plate! Oh...wait...

Yikes. That was a deflating inning. And I still haven't gotten my burger. I may miss the top of the 3rd. This is serious business.

2-0 Red Sox

Top of the 3rd
Well, I'm back. What'd I miss? Looks like nothing except PHIL HUGHES LOSING COMPLETE CONTROL OF THE STRIKE ZONE!

Ahem...sorry. A 5-4-3 DP does the trick to calm me down.

Here's how it works, Hughesy: When you get ahead in the count, you have a far better chance of recording outs than you do when you consistently throw first-pitch balls. Forget getting squeezed; he's all over the place tonight.

Oh he was so close. How do you berate a pitcher for giving up a bloop single?

Yankees need to string some hits together. Time to make their move.
3-0 Red Sox

Bottom of the 3rd(that's it? Seriously?)
Somehow, Berroa's strikeout makes me angrier than the other five. If you don't get much playing time, you have to produce more frequently.

Now Derek's only 4-21. I like seeing him pull the ball, even though everyone in baseball loves his super special inside-out swing.

Let's talk about Melky some more, shall we? Share with me your favorite Melky memories.

C'mon, Yankee fans. The booing is classless. This is why everyone in baseball hates you.

Top of the 4th
Okay, I'm calling it here: 1-2-3 inning for Hughes. Except not on that whiffed pop-up by Molina.

Out 1: F8 by Nick Green

Johnny Damon Not Making a Play 1: Ground-rule double by Ellsbury. And bonus creepy points for the fans trying to touch Damon's prone body.

Out 2: F8 by Pedroia and a close play at third on the gun of the Melkman.

Phil Hughes Being Unable to Retire Ortiz 2: RBI double down the right field line. And Swisher impressed me by gunning that ball in.

(I'll say it: Kevin Youkilis's batting stance really bothers me. He looks like a toddler trying not to wet his pants)

Um. Did the Red Sox first base coach just call Girardi a p*ick?

Out 3: Backwards K to Youkilis.

Phew. I'd like to see the Yankees cut the lead in half this innings, but you know what? Everytime I see that, they whole team simultaneously pops out while swinging and missed. Impossible, you say? Not for these guys.

Bottom of the 4th
What'd I say about pulling the ball, Swish?

I wonder if cameramen for NFL games look at MLB cameramen and laugh at their wimpy ways. These are the things that go through my head when the Yankees are trailing. Also, David Cone is a relentlessly optimistic broadcaster. I'm like the 25 year-old female version of him, minus all the infidelity and greenies.

No comment from me on Melky. And no comment on the Yankees' chances in this game. It's been a long night.

Top of the 5th
Aceves is pitching. I mentioned him before, like I said. He's got a lot of upside. I saw him pitch the weekend before last here in Rochester and he looked great. He does give up quite a few home runs, though.

Oh, okay. I see, blue. That was a strike for Lester but suddenly it's not anymore. I gotcha.

Aceves looks very studly in his "mugshot". Check out Gameday.

Nice inning for Double-A. (Ha! You're not the only one who can give players nickname, John Sterling)

Bottom of the 5th
Hip Hip Josey!

Someone remind me why Berroa's playing? Pena's a switch-hitter. Berroa has virtually no upside.

Wow, Jeter towers over the umpire. Good for Girardi coming out and getting ejected. I'm sure that's strategy, but I like it. I do not like another strikeout.

Home run for Johnny Damon into the right-field seats. I called that (in my head) about 20 seconds before it happened. I really should start digitally streaming my thoughts onto the internet. On second thought...

And Mark Teixeira jacks one to left!! Whatever Girardi did, it sure as heck worked.

4-3 Red Sox

Top of the 6th
Jeter's got to make those plays. Pitching and defense win championships and, as it stands, this team has very little of both.

Okay, I take back my Berroa comment--for now. Aceves looks pretty good through two. Think of how many games the Yankees could have won this year with a long man in the 'pen from Game 1.

Bottom of the 6th
I'm not going to lie--I won't cry if Youkilis needs to take a few days off. Meanwhile, I love how stadium crowds get so excited over fly balls. It's not always easy to judge the distance of balls hit into the outfield when you're watching it live. There are so many more factors that go into watching it on television that allow us to realize when a ball is routine or not.

Dear God,
I don't ask for a lot. I know, I know, I asked you to let Melky hit that walk-off against Oakland. But I really need to ask one more favor. Please don't let Posada be hurt. Pretty please? He's really important to the team.
Thank you,


Top of the 7th
You've gotta love Aceves. Strikes out Bailey and then plunks Drew.

I'm the biggest jinx today. 6-3 Red Sox

Molina's a mess today. If we're going to need to see this every day (assuming Jorge's injured) we're in trouble. Luckily, he's never shown us that kind of sloppy play consistently throughout his career.

Bottom of the 7th and Kate Smith's annoying voice
I'm not too proud to admit that this game is giving me a monumental headache. And, while I generally respect the opinion of River Ave Blues, I'm puzzled by their newest Tweet: "Can we get over this myth of "Al Aceves knows how to pitch" already? Al Aceves knows how to pitch poorly."
Maybe I'm overly optimistic, or maybe I'm naive, or maybe I know very little about baseball, but I don't understand this statement. Aceves gives up home runs; this is true. But he's shown he's a very capable pitcher, with strikeout stuff. Sometimes RAB is much too quick to make snap judgments, like too many baseball fans.

Yankees go 1-2-3. Headache.

Top of the 8th
Sometimes this team looks like a Little League club and I have to close my eyes because they just can't get it together. I'm anxious to see them clean up their act. Right now, baseball feels a little bit out of sorts to me.

Walking Ortiz to pitch to the rookie? I hope this doesn't come back to bite them.
Whoa. Wait. He's not a rookie, is he? He looks like a soccer coach-dad. Like his name should be Steve or Greg.

Greg strikes out. Clock's ticking for the Yankees.

Bottom of the 8th
Teixeira ate his Wheaties this morning. 6-4 Red Sox

Now Swish is turned around to the short field. Let's see if he can get his power swing going at home.

Not, uh...not like that.

Yep, yep, Posada's hurt. I'm praying this isn't a DL situation.

Walkin' Robbie does it again. Clearly this means the Yankees are going to win the World Series this year. Meanwhile, Papelbon is coming in for a 5-out save.

For the record, I have no problem with Papelbon's celebrations, as long as they're done at home. I believe it's disrespectful to gloat and celebrate at another team's ballpark. However, if he wants to do that at Fenway, more power to him.

Melky extended his hitting streak to eight with that hit.

It'll be interesting to see what effect, if any, that pitch-leeching out of Papelbon's arm has.

Top of the 9th
Molina's probably thrilled that that pop-up landed in the seats.

I don't like this move of Ramirez for Aceves. I don't trust Ramirez is any game situation at this point.

See? No one is throwing any strikes coming out of that bullpen. The bullpen was such a strength last year and it's the biggest liability that's now starting to spill over into the rotation and lineup. Ramirez has got to go.

Not many things make me seethe more than relievers who can't come in and be effective. I need a Xanax.

Phil Coke up next on the Great Bullpen Experiment. Good lord, I need some sleep.

Coke is apparently going to laugh in my face about my need for sleep as he can't find the plate, either.

Phew. Let's see how good Papelbon really is against...oh, no. Berroa, Damon and Jeter.

Bottom of the 9th (otherwise known as "How Soon Will Elizabeth Get to Sleep?"
I wonder if Papelbon picked the best time in the world to hit Jeter? I'm sure that was no accident.

Now Teixeira is going to swing for the fences and strike out. I betcha. These are professional hitters. Why can't they hit like them in clutch situations?

Like I said...

You have two runners on, no one out, and you get nothing? That's the New York Yankees thus far in 2009. Still not more frustrating than a bullpen that can't throw strikes, though.

If I have a heart attack and die mid-post it will be all Michael Kay's fault. Sheesh.

Here we go. The entire ball game comes down to Robinson Cano vs. Jonathan Papelbon. If this were last May, I'd be crying already. As it is, I may be crying anyway. Maybe more so, because Cano's been so clutch all year.

This is Pap's 30th pitch, coming up...

Well, at least I'll get some (fitful) sleep tonight.

Final score: 6-4 Red Sox. Yankees are now 13-12 and Red Sox are 16-10