Unforced Errors
Finally Done With A-Rod

(Photo by Corey Sipkin/New York Daily News)

In 2007, when 11-year-old me opened up an issue of Sports Illustrated for Kids magazine, eagerly turning to the middle to see who was on that week’s pullout poster, and was greeted by Alex Rodriguez, holding his bat, gazing at the path of a home run. I put the poster on my wall, below Derek Jeter, above Mike Mussina. It stayed there for five years. 

Yesterday I tore it down and threw it in the trash. After years of admiring, then merely observing, then barely tolerating A-Rod, I was finally done. 

Of course, many people would have taken down the poster a long time ago. But when A-Rod’s postseason troubles became a citywide punching bag, I kept my cool. It was a small sample size. Just bad luck. What’re you gonna do? When A-Rod began struggling the past few years, I didn’t overreact. You can’t be the best in the game forever. Have to take the bad with the good. Even when A-rod admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs during his years with the Texas Rangers, I didn’t go nuts. We had seen steroids before, and he hadn’t taken anything in a Yankee uniform. To me, A-Rod was like the dorky kid at school who everyone bullied. It seemed like he was just a scapegoat for the issues of a while team. And regardless, he’s one of the best ballplayers in history.  Sure, he was annoying, but he couldn’t be that bad, right?

Wrong. 

According to a report by the Miami New Times that followed a three-month investigation, Alex Rodriguez had purchased PED’s since 2009 from a sketchy Miami clinic called Biogenesis, meaning a Rangers uniform was not the only one he cheated in. His name is listed alongside the already-busted former Yankee Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz of the Rangers, and Gio Gonzalez of the Nationals in the personal files of Anthony Bosch, the man in charge of the operation. The evidence makes his 2009 admission of steroid use shocking. From his apologetic press conference:

I’m finally beginning to grow up. I’m pretty tired of being stupid and selfish, you know, about myself. The truth needed to come out a long time ago. I’m glad it’s coming out today.”

The Miami New Times didn’t just report that A-Rod cheated on the ball field. They reported that he lied to me and every baseball fan. He said he had cleaned himself up. He said he was done. He wasn’t. And after years of avoiding it, I’m finally jumping on the “I hate A-Rod” bandwagon.

I hate his smug, arrogant personality. I hate how he smacks his bat into the ground when he pops out. And most of all (I’m cringing just thinking about it), I vehemently despise the face he puts on when he strikes out, pursing his lips together, yanking his chin up, putting his bat under his shoulder as he coolly unstraps his batting gloves on his way back to the dugout. It’s like he’s saying, “I don’t even care. I know I’ll be breaking the bank whether I strike out or not.” Watching A-Rod strike out is the most gut-wrenching thing a Yankee fan can suffer through. 

And the worst part is, it’s true. Though the Yankees got the undisputed best player in baseball when they traded for and subsequently signed A-Rod, there’s no doubt that he is worth far, far less than the money he is currently earning. The Yankees are trying to void his contract, but their chances are slim. With Scott Boras as your agent, the language is usually pretty tight. 

Tearing down my A-Rod poster in my room means the end of an era. It means that I finally have given up on my favorite team’s biggest investment ever. But, at least from what I’ve heard, hating A-Rod can be pretty fun. 

Youkilis Picks Out His Clothes, Fans Eagerly Watch

Kevin Youkilis could play for the Yankees. 

The fact still boggles my mind. I’ve been ruminating over it the past few days, wondering why a player who made his living hating the Yankees for years, who I have so despised through season after season, could suddenly suit up in pinstripes and call the Bronx home. It’s a thoroughly unthinkable scenario. 

And yet it has become possible, even probable. The Yankees, according to reports, have offered Youkilis a one-year, $12 million deal that would put him at the hot corner in place of Alex Rodriguez, who will be sidelined possibly until the All-Star Game and beyond as he recovers from hip surgery. 

The possible signing, which may not happen if Youkilis choses to play for the Cleveland Indians and Terry Francona, his former manager in Boston, is another reminder of the truth of a classic cliché. Baseball’s not a game, it’s a business. 

I hate hearing that phrase, and not just because a friend of mine said it as an excuse for trashing my fantasy team a few years back. I hate it because it reminds me of the cruel reality that Jerry Seinfeld so expertly pointed out. When you cheer on sports, you’re cheering for laundry. Players come and players go. If a player moves to a new city, his old fans abandon him. As Seinfeld said, “This is the same human being in a different shirt. They hate him now!” Kevin Youkilis was once so beloved in Boston that fans would utter a personalized tribal “Youk” yell when he stepped to the plate, as Yankee fans dubbed him Kevin Useless. But now Youkilis is changing his shirt, and the roles may well be reversed. 

The worst part is that I, and millions of others, will go right along with it. It might take some time, but if Youkilis signs with the Yankees, I’ll begin to ignore his questionable bald-headed goatee, his annoying batting stance, where he raises his bat above his head with both hands only to retreat to a traditional stance when the ball is pitched, his alleged skirmishes with others in the Red Sox clubhouse before subsequently being traded to Chicago. I’ll root for him, because I like his shirt. Because that’s the way baseball is. 

scutaromarco:

Robinson Cano @RobinsonCano

Very proud day for me, I just became a US citizen, God bless America!

Robinson Cano @RobinsonCano

This is while I was being sworn in

Rally Towel Gimmick Is Getting Old

This year’s MLB postseason contains a variety of teams, players, ballparks and fans. Each postseason series has taken on its own identity, and each stadium has been seen at its best during the exciting week. 

But one fixture is present in nearly all of the postseason ballparks. Once used by only a few teames during their playoff matchups, it has become a fixture of the MLB postseason. 

In every key moment, fans from Baltimore to San Francisco are wielding brightly colored rags, twirling them above their heads with intensity during key moments of the game. Rally towels are present in baseball now more than ever before.

Originally contained to places like Philadelphia, the rally towel epidemic has spread to Great American Ballpark in Cincinatti, Comerica Park in Detroit, and Busch Stadium in St. Louis. And it must be stopped as soon as possible.

I’m not sure why the rally towel was ever introduced to baseball. It looks slightly cool to see fifty thousand of them waving around in a key moment of the game, but I can’t help but feel like rally towels are just a gimmick, something that (with the notable exception of the Steelers’ Terrible Towel) is borrowed for the postseason because everyone else is doing it. 

The Yankees, I am proud to point out, have yet to follow the trend, and are one of a select few that elected not to do so. The Braves (as far as I could tell) omitted towel twirling for their wild-card game against the Cardinals, and the Nationals have yet to play their first game at home in the postseason (though something tells me that when they do, white towels will be everywhere). [UPTADE: The Nats did break out rally towels for their postseason series, though they were red, not white.] But besides that, every other team in the postseason thinks rally towels are cool. 

In reality, they make the teams look bad. Rally towels look like a team is trying too hard to create a raucous atmosphere. The rally towels are a cheap and easy way to make a crowd appear more passionate than it is. And because of this, a rally-toweled crowd looks like it needs to find passion through a gimmick instead of from the heart. 

At least that’s how it seems to me. If teams want to add their own unique fan item (The Braves had foam hammers at the end of last season) that can be charming. But it dosen’t work when every other ballpark is following suit. 

So please, fans, put down the towels and clap your hands like normal people. Let’s forget this ever happened. 

Well, I just finished my history. I probably did a lackluster job. After these hours of scribbling and quarreling and erasing, I can barely tell the difference between Maryland and Ohio. Now I’ve got to get started on my Calc work, which I’m already behind on. I feel sick and tired, and just want to sleep when I know I can’t.

But the Yankees won, and the Orioles lost. What more could you ask for?

This is a special experience to play with Jeter and the Yankees. When I am an old man I will look back and say ‘What an experience it was to play on this team.’ … That is what I envision what it will be like when I am close to dying.

The one and only Ichiro, showing his love for the Yankees like only he can in a New York Post article. Yet another instance where Ichiro’s acts of baseball statesmanship never cease to mystify. 

Hearing that Ichiro had been traded (at his request) to the Yankees in late July was probably the best news I’ve heard all year. During a season where the Yankees are constantly criticized (with good reason) for their reliance on power hitting and inability to “manufacture a run,” Ichiro, champion of the infield single, stolen base, and well-placed bunt, is a beacon of hope. Seeing him gracefully round second on his way to a seventh-inning triple in an August game against Texas was truly awe-inspiring to watch. 

This was not helped by the jeers of the pugnacious man sitting behind me who couldn’t stop yelling about how Ichiro was “over the hill.” and “a waste of money” (even though Seattle is paying the bulk of his salary). The guy’s argument had some basis in fact. Ichiro’s numbers have dropped (he’s hitting .282 this year) and he is found at the bottom of the Yankee order if he is there at all. (The fact that he was hitting third in Seattle’s lineup shows why he wanted out.) Some of the classic kinks in his swing, as inefficient as they were mesmerizing, were removed at the start of this year. 

But he’s Ichiro! The man who begins his elaborate pre-game stretching routine hours beforehand in the clubhouse, then continues to bend over between nearly every pitch, even at the plate. The man who dresses impeccably for press conferences, and will never speak a word of English during them. The man who does everything in his life right-handed, except batting, so he can be that much closer to first base on a ground ball. I will never get tired of seeing Ichiro pull out his sleeve as he takes his stance, especially now that the sleeve is pinstriped. Ichiro is a living legend, a man who trancends the game of baseball. 

When I am close to dying, I will remember quivering with pride when I saw Ichiro play for my favorite team. 

Yankee Fans:

Please, for the love of Pete, stop waving at the center field camera while talking to your friends on your cell phone during the game. It’s extremely annoying, and a waste of a jillion-dollar seat.

Thank you. 

Johan’s No-no Ends Years Of Waiting

Well, I guess that’s it. It’s over. Just like that, a fact of life that had seemed completely unwavering has been instantly taken away, after all of those years, never to return. 

I will never again be able to mention how no Mets pitcher has thrown a no-hitter.

On Friday night in New York City, Johan Santana pitched  complete-game shutout with eight strikeouts, five walks, and zero hits allowed. Flushing rejoiced, having thrown off a remarkably consistent monkey that had been clinging to their back for over eight thousand games since the inception of the franchise.

I’ve always wanted streaks to keep going. There is something inside of me that roots for streaks that I benefit from, ones that don’t affect me at all, and even the streaks whose ending would bring me pleasure, go as long as they can. They make the little aspects of a sport more interesting. They make me pay attention to things I might have ignored. And once a streak is broken, it never will come back. 

Every time the announcer mentions that a pitcher at the plate has a hitting streak going, I root for them to get a hit. Whenever a team is undefeated, or without a win, I hope for it to continue. Something keeps telling me that I’ll Have Another will not become the first horse since 1978 to win the Triple Crown. 

The Mets no-hitter streak was especially close to me. As a Yankee fan, I always enjoy seeing the Mets screw up, whether it was suffering incomprehensible amounts of injuries, committing three errors in an inning, or ending the game on a balk or dropped pop-up. The no-hitter streak stood above these, not simply attacking one moment in the history of the Mets but their very identity, like the team itself was cursed with an aura of ineptitude. Now, of course, it is gone, though I am still getting used to referring to it in the past tense.  

The San Diego Padres are now the only team in MLB without a no-no to their name. That streak could end tomorrow, but I hope it doesn’t.

Good Times Never Seemed So Good


[Michael Dwyer-AP]

The game didn’t matter.

It just wasn’t the Yankees’ day. Freddy Garcia only managed to record five outs, giving up five earned runs and seven hits. The Yankees had fallen behind nine to nothing in the fifth inning, and as the seventh began, the deficit was 9-1. 

I listened to the first six innings on the radio, hearing John Sterling’s voice grow more and more melancholy as the Red Sox hits kept coming. When the Yankees were down 7-0 in the fourth, Sterling and Suzyn Waldman made a point of saying that the Yankees were not to be counted out yet, that stranger things had happened at Fenway Park. 

I scoffed. I thought that they were just trying to keep radio dials turned to WCBS, and returned to my history homework. I turned on Fox during the seventh inning, when my mom told me that Phillip Humber of the White Sox was three outs away from throwing a perfect game. The game was also televised by Fox, and the network sent its Eastern feed to a split screen, with the White Sox-Mariners game taking center stage. After Humber stuck out Michael Saunders to start the ninth inning, the Yankee game was erased from my TV screen. The game didn’t matter. The Red Sox were ahead 9-1. It was over. 

I watched Humber retire the next two batters and complete the 21st perfect game in baseball history.  He was given a dousing from the water cooler by Alexi Ramirez during his interview with Fox at Safeco Field, and the announcers comments on what a fantastic game they had seen. They signed off, and I was taken back to Boston.

"As you may notice," said Joe Buck, "the score has changed."

The next thing I saw was a replay of Nick Swisher belting a home run over the Green Monster in left field to make the game 9-5. There were runners on first and third, and none out. 

"The Yankees, with one swing, can make this a one-run game," said Buck as Mark Teixeira stepped back into the box.

Again, I was skeptical. I had heard announcers mention what a team could do with one swing before, and it almost never happened. But two pitches later, I was proven wrong. A Tex message was sent into the first row of the monster seats. 

And so it began. The Yankees went on to stomp on the Red Sox, scoring fifteen unanswered runs to win the game 15-9. I was ecstatic. 

But the best part of the game for me was not seeing Derek Jeter slide home with the go-ahead run following a double by Nick Swisher, or seeing pitcher after pitcher implode in front of the Fenway crowd. It was looking at new Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, as he stared in disbelief when the Yankees tacked on another run, desperately tried to find a pitcher who could hold the flaming Yankee bats down, and absorb a mountain of jeers with every walk back to the dugout. I saw Valentine as the face of a team in turmoil, whose fans were already frustrated after a crippling September collapse and has now been brought to the breaking point.

It was utter fan euphoria. My team had managed to vanquish its rivals in the best possible way, by making the game seem assured, then turning the game into a blowout of their own. The Yankees only won by six, but they might as well have won by twenty. The Red Sox, their manager, and their fans looked pathetic in my eyes. 

To Red Sox fans, I understand your pain. I know what it’s like to see my team hold a seemingly unshakeable lead only to have it destroyed in front of our eyes despite all of our efforts, followed by a giddy celebration from our archrivals. But Saturday was one of the best baseball experiences I have ever had, rivaling even September 28th of last year, the epic Game 162.

Saturday was everything I love about baseball, the comeback, the home runs, the cheering and jeering fans, and the game’s utter resistance to predictability, something that John Sterling mentions so often. At Boston’s expense, Saturday was truly amazing.

The New York Post from this morning. Quite possibly the greatest headline ever written.

The New York Post from this morning. Quite possibly the greatest headline ever written.