There’s not a lot to take issue with when you’re 20-8 and coming off a 10-3 drubbing of Josh Beckett and your archrivals, but there is one major cause for concern: all three of Cashman’s off-season acquisitions have conspicuously come up snake eyes so far. Curtis Granderson struggled mightily at the plate (.225, 2 HR, 7 RBI), then proceeded to strain his groin last weekend and is expected to spend a month on the disabled list. Nick Johnson has been downright awful when he’s actually been on the field (.167, 2 HR, 8 RBI) and, after missing a few games in April with back stiffness, is now–SURPRISE–headed to the DL with an undisclosed right wrist injury. Then, of course, there’s the enigmatic Javier Vazquez, who has been so dreadful that the fact he has been the only one of the three to stay healthy could actually be considered unfortunate.
Has there been a more positive development for the Yankees over the first month of the season than the emergence of Phil Hughes, who pitched seven innings of scoreless ball today to move to 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA? Hughes is finally starting to realize his immense promise as a starting pitcher now that the Yankees are done putting him on the Scranton shuttle and moving him in-and-out of the rotation. His strikeouts are up, his walks are down, and he’s been all but unhittable-almost literally, in the case of his start in Oakland. This is the phenom who dominated the minors and skyrocketed through the farm system.
This Sunday’s Phillies-Mets game will mark the third consecutive week New York’s junior varsity team has appeared on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. The Metropolitans’ April 18 matchup in St. Louis was broadcast by ESPN, as was this past Sunday night’s game against the Braves from Government Bailout Field. I guess the geniuses at ESPN think people can’t get enough of a team that finished 23 games out of first place last year.
According to a report from The Nielsen Company (the same company that publishes the Nielsen television ratings), it’s the Cleveland Indians in an upset. What did the Indians ever do to anybody? They haven’t won the World Series since 1948, they haven’t had particularly polarizing players, and their fans seem alright. Is it Chief Wahoo? What’s the explanation for all this alleged Indians hate?
During the broadcast of tonight’s Yanks-O’s game from Camden Yards, Michael Kay gave voice to one of the most infuriating, oft-repeated lies in the sports media by claiming that Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor, a Bronx native, is a “big” Yankee fan. Obama propagated this lie last year when he introduced Sotomayor as his nominee to fill a vacancy on the Court, she disingenuously peddled it (she claimed “few judges could claim they love baseball as much as I do” and that she “grew up…watching the sport”), the press ran with it, and the Yankees bought it hook, line, and sinker, going so far as to have her throw out the first pitch at a game last season and visiting her yesterday at the Supreme Court as part of their Washington, D.C. victory lap for last year’s championship. Unfortunately, Sotomayor’s asserted life-long affinity for baseball and the Yankees is a demonstrable lie, and had members of the media actually done research–that is, done their job–they would know they were being used by Sotomayor and the White House to help craft a compelling, humanizing (and artificial) narrative that could be exploited to ease the confirmation process.
This is the kind of start that Yankee fans have expected but all to often not received in recent years. Accustomed to coming from behind and mounting improbable mid- and late-season comebacks, the Yanks are finally setting the pace out of the gate while their rivals to the north struggle. Ultimately, all that matters is where you finish, as Girardi has noted, but it is refreshing to run from the front for once.
I hate it. It’s stupid. It’s contrived. It’s another classic and regrettable case of grandstanding by both the league and the commissioner, complementing similar ostentatious displays put on for Mother’s Day (pink bats!), Father’s Day (baby blue wristbands!), and Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and 9/11 (Oakland wearing green, yellow, and bright red!). These gimmicks serve only to cheapen the game, making a mockery of the solemnity with which it has been played for over a century. (Just try and imagine Joe DiMaggio facing down Bob Feller with a pink bat in his hands.)
It wasn’t enough that MLB took the unprecedented step of retiring Jackie Robinson’s number across all of baseball in 1997. It wasn’t enough that April 15 was re-christened “Jackie Robinson Day” within the league. It wasn’t enough that the league decided to allow select players to wear Robinson’s number on his new holiday as a way of honoring him. It wasn’t enough that an annual “Civil Rights Game” was created to celebrate the racial barrier-breaking exploits of pioneers like Robinson and Larry Doby. No, none of that was sufficient. The league had to somehow go even further, mandating that every player wear #42 to commemorate Jackie Robinson Day and, in the process, making a complete farce of the whole thing, leaving spectators and television viewers with no way to actually tell players apart. It’s enough to make one think of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer, participating in a charitable AIDS Walk, is accosted by organizers who attempt to compel him by force to wear “the ribbon” like everyone else.
Good job, Bud! Way to confuse and inconvenience the fans, as well as show complete disregard for team histories and traditions, for the sake of a cheap publicity stunt!
What ever happened to a tasteful patch on the sleeve or the side of the cap to mark special occasions? Must we now turn ball games into conspicuous platforms for seemingly every social and political cause under the sun, completely undercutting the whole point of uniforms and uniform numbers to prove a point about how much we “care” and “remember” and “honor?” Would it not be more fitting to honor the memory of Jackie Robinson with a simple uniform patch and by remembering to play the day’s game with the same trademark intensity Robinson did?
What’s more, everyone understands the importance of Jackie Robinson, but he wasn’t the only important person ever to play professional baseball, and singling him out for such excessive special treatment opens up a whole can of worms. What about Babe Ruth, indisputably the game’s greatest player and its most important ambassador? Shouldn’t he have his number retired across baseball and be honored with an annual “Babe Ruth Day” for his contributions to the game? What about Roberto Clemente? Isn’t he deserving of the same kind of treatment due to his Robinson-like importance within the Hispanic community and his important humanitarian work?
Not surprisingly and not without justification, supporters and family members have lobbied Bud Selig and the powers-that-be for Ruth and Clemente to be given the full “Jackie Robinson Treatment.” The commissioner, however, has not been receptive to such requests, though he should be based on the unfortunate precedent he set with Jackie Robinson. That he hasn’t marks him as a hypocrite, as well as a second-rate promoter.
MLB needs to stop fetishizing Robinson’s number ad absurdum and commemorate special occasions like Jackie Robinson Day/Mother’s Day/Memorial Day/Father’s Day/Fourth of July/9-11 in more reserved, tasteful fashion, showing proper solemn respect to both the subject of veneration and the game itself. Jackie Robinson loved the game of baseball and always played it hard and with great respect–this is a man who opted to retire rather than accept a trade to the arch-rival Giants; I don’t hesitate to say that he would probably find the specter of every player on the ball field wearing the same number in “honor” of him tactless and abhorrent.
- The highlight video shown before the start of the ring ceremony was a bit of a disappointment–too short and not enough of a narrative. I thought the Yankees could have put together something a little more dramatic and comprehensive to commemorate the 2009 championship.
- The diamond-encrusted white gold ring is absolutely beautiful. Elegant. First-class. It’s probably the nicest championship ring design in sometime. Oftentimes teams get carried away and design a gaudy monstrosity, losing sight of aesthetics in pursuit of excess. Not the Yankees. This is a ring that manages to do majesty to Yankee dominance while simultaneously remaining stylish and tasteful enough to wear without shame.
- The standing-ovations for Matsui were well-deserved and all class, and I expect Johnny Damon to receive the same kind of treatment when Detroit visits the Bronx in August. Unlike the rabble in Boston, we don’t deride and torment our former heroes, we honor them.
- Flying all 27 championship pennants along the roof of the Stadium was a great way to honor Yankee tradition. My only minor criticism is that the pennants themselves were kind of bland–simple blue lettering on a plain white background. It would have been nice if each pennant included the World Series logo from its particular year.
- I also thought they should have made the raising of the 2009 champions flag a highlight of the ceremony, as it has been in years past when dignitaries like Yogi, Reggie Jackson, or Rudy Giuliani would do the honors at the flagpole in Monument Park to culminate the festivities. This year, however, YES did not even televise the flag raising, and the championship pennant was already flying at the start of the ring ceremony. Very disappointing.
- YES dropped the ball with the first pitch. They were late coming out of commercial and viewers missed Bernie’s introduction and the crowd’s reaction to it.
- Speaking of Bernie–what an embarrassing first pitch for such a great player! He’s only been (unofficially) retired since the end of the 2006 season, he played during last year’s WBC for Puerto Rico, and yet he unleashed a shocking 50-footer to home plate. Everyone knows Bernie’s arm was never one of his strengths, but still, this was downright Obama-like.
- As for the game itself, the Yanks couldn’t have drawn it up much better. Pettitte was terrific, Jeter and Johnson treated the crowd to a couple of long home runs, A-Rod knocked in a couple, and Signor Magnifico wrapped it up with a nice little bow. The only cause for concern is the continuing struggles of Dave Robertson, marked yesterday by a grand slam home run from Bobby Abreu that made the final score closer than the game actually was. Robertson emerged as an integral part of the bullpen last year with nasty strikeout stuff, but has been getting pounded to the tune of a 15.43 ERA in 2 1/3 IP in 2010. The Yankees need him to get on track if the relief corps is to be as big of a strength this year as it was last.
It seemed destined, didn’t it? After spectacular defensive plays by Tex, A-Rod, and Cano in the sixth, seventh, and eighth, it sure had that no-hitter “feel.” But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Kelly Shoppach broke-up C.C.’s no-hit bid with two out in the eighth and Yankees Universe had to settle for a mere stellar pitching performance, not a historic one, and a 10-0 drubbing of a division rival. What better way for the Yanks to respond after the Rays rubbed their noses in it last night?
With the Red Sox locking up Josh Beckett this week with a contract extension and the Phillies and Royals having done the same recently with Roy Halladay and Zack Greinke, respectively, it’s looking like slim pickings in next year’s crop of free agent pitchers. Jason Stark lists the top pitchers on the 2010-2011 market, in order, as Cliff Lee, Javier Vazquez, Jorge De La Rosa, Aaron Harang, and Ted Lilly. And things look even worse for 2011-2012, with Tom Verducci projecting Mark Buehrle as the best of a very weak class.