April 27, 2011

For Love of the Fist Pump.


I don’t know if you guys caught the preview of Ian O’Connor’s book, The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter, on ESPN, but it provided a really interesting glimpse into the strained relationship between Brian Cashman and the Yankees’ all-star shortstop.  You should read the whole piece; it offers insight on Jeter’s fury over his leaked contract talks, his successful pleas to Randy Levine for additional performance incentives, the failure of a bromance with Alex Rodriguez (and Jeter’s attempts to fix it), his desire to become a better ballplayer and improve his defense, and the overall drama and details of a professional relationship that has soured and changed over time.  

For example, in 2006, during a Yankees blowout loss to the Orioles, a pop-up was dropped between shortstop and third base; afterwards, Jeter was allegedly caught glaring at ARod.  Cashman took sides in the matter, reprimanding Jeter: “Listen, this has to stop. Everybody in the press box, every team official, everyone watching, they saw you look at the ball on the ground and look at him with disgust like you were saying ‘That’s your mess, you clean it up.’”  In response, Jeter argued, “Don't you think I've tried? I try, and sometimes I've just got to walk away and come back and try again, but you know I've tried. And every time I try, he'll do something that pushes me away.”  It has some genuinely juicy bits laced throughout that made me excited to read the whole book.   

The dynamic between Cashman and Jeter is much more complicated and intriguing than I originally thought.  Do I fault Cashman for doing his job? For demanding more production from an employee he paid $20 million per year? For wanting the Yankees to be better, no matter what the cost - financial or emotional?  Not really. If I did, Bernie Williams would still be playing centerfield. Derek Jeter has the special honor of being our captain, one of the few in Yankees’ history, and that title comes with extra responsibilities.  He should be implored to improve chemistry in the clubhouse, even if that means burying the hatchet with the douchebag he used to call his BFF.  Brian Cashman was just acting like a cut-throat, win-at-all-costs general manager.  And as a Yankees fan, what more could I possibly want?

In fact, the most surprising thing that Brian Cashman said was that he said anything at all.  It is more interesting that he made these comments publicly, while Jeter is still playing, than the details of what he actually shared.  But this should no longer surprise us.  Brian Cashman, especially over the past two years, has become more and more open with the press.  He told us that did not like the Soriano signing, he informed Jeets to go check out the market during contract talks, he let us know that we shouldn’t expect Pettitte back, he mentioned a future position switch for the Captain, and made it clear that Jorge better get used to his DH role.  Brian Cashman has simply told us the truth, and I do not fault him at all for that.  I appreciate the candor and due diligence. 

In many ways, this comes down to the question of whether Derek Jeter deserves to be treated differently than any other employee.   And the answer is, at least in part, yes.  Like with other Fortune 500 billion-dollar businesses, important employees often get a golden parachute and the dignity of fading happily into the sunset. Do I support that when it comes to Goldman Sachs or any of its other sleazy counterparts on Wall Street?  No, I do not. But I am a hypocrite here, because I think Derek Jeter is the exception to every rule.

Really, in my whole life, I have never idolized or adored an athlete, like I have with The Baseball Jesus. The origins of that nickname should be understood and packed with my teenage adolescent glee.  He has earned every last penny the Yankees have paid him.  He has won us five World Series titles.  He has been the face of Major League Baseball and the city of New York for over a decade.  He has represented the Yankees with dignity and pride.  I don’t have to go through his career.  But you think about The Flip, Mr. November, all of his Captain Clutch moments, and you try to argue that Derek Jeter has not, at the very least, earned the right to be treated with a special level of respect.  So, while I do not blame Brian Cashman for oversharing or for trying to be the best damn GM he can be, I also can’t help but think that this was a battle he never should have waged.  Even as his skills diminish before us, Derek Jeter is in a league of his own.  And he always will be – no matter how many groundball outs he makes or how many sharp grounders up the middle that he misses.  

The Yankees have always been my favorite reality show – and this book, this public drama, is what makes it worth watching.   The 27 world championships do not hurt either.  

April 26, 2011

Batting Practice, Bitches: The One with PhillieBot, Dumb Jocks, the AL East, and Samantha Posey.

This is like CDTF's version of Hot Topics, minus Baba Wawa, Tracy Jordan's wife, that cranky conservative bitch, the menopausal liberal, and that Mel Gibson-loving reggae lady. An awkward setting, fueled by mutual animosity/adoration, where we tee up against softball topics and discuss things that do not matter in any way, shape, or form. 
It is time for your favorite morning show. No, not SoapNet reruns of Beverly Hills, 90210.  Amber, Carrie, Jill, and Robin are back!  Guest hosts in the past have included La La Vasquez, Christina Aguilera, Brittney Griner, Jessica Biel, Laura Vikmanis, and Pia Toscano. But this week they are joined by rookie celebrity, Samantha Posey.

Hi, y’all!  I am not sure if y’all know me, but don’t worry, you soon will.  I‘m Samantha Posey, Buster’s younger sister, a junior third base woman for the Valdosta State softball team. I grew up in Leesburg, Georgia with my three brothers, but my mom thinks I’m the “most athletic” with “the most tools,” so at least I have that going for me. Listen, I am used to everyone swooning over my big bro, and I love him to death, but I am sort of awesome, too. I may or may not have hit for the home-run cycle last Monday.  In a doubleheader against Albany State, I was five for seven with four homeruns, five runs scored, and 11 RBIs.  And the homers, well, the homers are what made the cycle – a one-run, two-run, three-run, and grand slam homerun.  I am kind of hitting .468 with a .909 slugging percentage. So, yeah, I wasn’t kidding when I said I am sort of awesome. I had no idea I even hit for the homerun cycle until my teammate told me, but Buster was all excited to see me on SportsCenter. And, if we are being totally honest, here? As I hit for the homerun cycle, Buster only went one for four in the Giants’ game.  He did help me hit in high school, so I give him a lot of credit, but maybe it is time that I teach him a thing or two.  You ladies are, of course, invited to the batting cage with us. 
Sam: So I was sitting at the ballpark the other day, wishing that I had a jocketbook – like a jock strap for women – and thinking how a jocketbook would be somewhat useful and all, playing the hot corner.  Because – I hate to be the bearer of bad news here – but that shit hurts for women, too.  And it got me thinking, y’all.

In light of the recent creation of PhillieBot, what invention would you like to see created to perfect/enhance a sport, or simply to entertain the masses? 

Carrie: Oy, vey. The PhillieBot was such a sad experiment. And like not even a true experiment? Because I still don't really understand how it differed from a pitching machine? Except that it didn't pitch as fast? I feel like if the MIT lab went to work on something to enhance the Red Sox, they'd get something real useful. Like a bat sapper, or a helmet shiner. I don't know, at least something that didn't already exist. But all I know about Penn State is they drink a lot. So I'm sure PhillieBot seemed like a fucking brilliant idea at the time.

Amber: Last week, on Extreme Makeover Home Edition, there was a guy who had been the college baseball phenom and then was in a terrible accident and became paralyzed, and Ty and company made him a pitching machine that he could use with his mouth. It was amazing. Tears were streaming into my glass of cabernet.  PhillieBot does not seem as cool, 'cause, why? Like, why is the PhillieBot there? ANYWAY, I don't think sports should be any easier, right? Maybe there should be machines to make things safer or more comfortable? Like, I think it's cool that basketball players don't wear Chuck Taylor's anymore. Those things have NO support. The short shorts could come back though. Maybe electronic caddies? Don't we call those golf carts? I dunno. Maybe there should be a machine that makes famous athletes think before they do dumb stuff--like have sex with 1,000 cocktail waitresses, or take pictures of their winkies and send them via text, or do crack or STEAL, like that guy Mike Leake.

Robin: Duh, easy. Condibot. I want a device that makes it so the ketchup and mustard (and recently relish. Have I told you lately that I have fallen in love with relish?) does not spill from my hot dog onto my clothes. How does this ALWAYS happen? I LOVE me some condiments. Spicy mustard? Nothing like it. But it always gets on my clothes at sporting events. I hate it. It stresses me out. I can't pay attention at the game. There has got to be a better way to do this. Is anyone listening? Come on Condibot, help a (sloppy) sister out.

Jill: Considering that Philliebot failed, it seems important that the next sports-related invention actually works. It was embarrassing for Philadelphia that their useless pitching robot could not, you know, pitch.  Not as embarrassing as Phillies’ fans themselves, but that is not the point.  I would like a zip-line from the bullpen and a caped uniform for Mariano Rivera.  As “Enter Sandman” blasts in the background, Mo would ride the zip-line, dropping perfectly onto the mound in a cloud of rosin bag smoke, while the crowd cheers wildly for the only real superhero left in Gotham City.  I would also appreciate a football/baseball helmet that protects the brain and that doesn’t look like something an astronaut would wear.  I am sorry, but that is the best I can come up with. If I could think of some fabulous invention, I wouldn’t be slaving over immigration files; I would be sitting in my box seat at Yankee Stadium every game, laughing at how cheap my $12.00 beer is compared to the price of mojitos on my private jet, and scheming to beat Mark Cuban in our high-stakes fantasy baseball league.  So whoever wrote this question is sort of an idiot.  (I wrote this question). 

Sam
: I still think the jocketbook would be more useful, but I am also biased here.  Since my brother plays for the Giants, I am very familiar with West Coast baseball.  But, what do you girls think:

When all is said and done and the dust settles in October, what will be the standings in the AL East and who will be going to the playoffs?

Amber: Dang, I had to do some work for this one. I didn't know what AL East was, and then I decided to do some real research and look at stats, but then that got boring, so I am ranking by best mascot: 1. ) Tampa. The Rays are BADASS. I also love that they embrace Florida in their uniform color choice; 2.) Toronto. My mom bird-watches, blue jays are her favorite; 3.) Baltimore. Orioles sort of look like robins to me? My mom also loves them; 4.) New York. 'Cause REALLY, what IS a Yankee? Like, doodle dandy? Or a term that some white people in the south call people from above the Mason-Dixon line? Isn't their ACTUAL mascot a baseball with a hat on? That's stupid; 5.) Boston. Like REALLY, the name Red Sox is a shortening of the term 'Red Stockings', cause that's what they used to wear. NOT GANGSTA, Boston. Dumb.  In reality, I feel like this list should maybe be flipped? I will not be watching to find out. Baseball on TV makes me SO SLEEPY.

Sam: Oh, you are one of those people? There are baseball people, wise individuals who enjoy a leisurely four-hour game of precision and hand-eye coordination, and there are The Others, people who think baseball is boring and would prefer to watch reality shows about fixing up houses and construction and whatnot.  Come on, ladies, help me out here. 

Jill: So, right now, things are back to normal after a crazy start to the season: the Yankees are in first place, the Rays are in the second, the Red Sox are three games back and creeping up from behind, still no one cares about the Blue Jays, and the Orioles are back in last place.  According to CoolStandings.com, the Yankees are predicted to win 96.8 games, while the Rays will wind up with 83.2 and the Sox with 84.2.  Sigh, I do not buy that.  The Red Sox are a much better team than how they played throughout April.  And while I never count out Tampa Bay, I don’t think they will top Boston come October.  Angry Bird Adrian, Laser Show, Lumberjack Youk, and the pitching staff are too talented.  That said, their line-up, as good as it is, still doesn’t compare to the Bronx Bombers.  And bomb, we have. The Yanks have 36 homers, 15 more than the next AL East team (Baltimore).  Bottom line:  We are in for a wild summer and a neck-and-neck fall, but the Yanks will win the AL East and the Sox will grab the wild card. Tampa will hold onto third place, while the Orioles and Jays battle it out for cellar dweller. 

Robin: Because I honestly don't care (but want the Sox to win and beat the Yankees, because I love me some Kevin Youkilis), I would like to take this opportunity to question why there are different rules for each league. Like why in the Bronx do they have a special hitter-only position, but in Queens the pitcher has to earn his full paycheck by also hitting? Doesn't this just seem dumb? Maybe I would also root for the Orioles (they are in the AL East, right? I think I remember seeing them on the Green Monster's standings a few weeks ago), cause like I've been watching The Wire, and life is really tough in Balti. So, yeah, even with all the rules confusion: Red Sox, Orioles, and then Anyone But the Yankees (Tampa Bay, right? I didn't even google that. I just really only like baseball when I am at Fenway, watching it live. I'd rather watch Sister Wives at home).

Sam: And Toronto, but I think it was already mentioned that no one cares about the Jays.

Carrie: Well, after Bizarro April, the universe is coming back to its correct course, with the Orioles slipping (sort of quickly) from their spot atop the AL East and Red Sox rising from the ashes of misery at the bottom on a steady uptick, so I think it's going to be an exciting year. I think when push comes to shove, the Sox have the bats and the pitching to go the long haul. Depending on who the Yankees purchase from the trade deadline brothel, they will likely stay in the mix. I think it would be most exciting for Boston to win the pennant seeing as how they've now (cleverly! strategically!) positioned themselves as the come-from-behind underdog sweethearts.

Sam: Oh, do you know who is not a sweetheart? That dude who was arrested at the mall.

Mike Leake is a klepto.  He stole six t-shirts while he had $250 bucks in his pocket.  He also makes $425,000/year.  Why are some athletes so fucking stupid? And who else would be put into this fraternity of dumbass jocks? 

Robin: I sorta have a feeling that Mike Leake might be BFFers with Lindsay "LiLo the Klepto" Lohan, cause like what the hell were they thinking? And Blowhan got to post bail and there will probably be some Congressional hearing about perjury and felonies and we'll probably learn that Mike Leake is doing performing enhancing drugs. (Wait, who is Mike Leake again, I didn't click on the link, I just wanted to rant about Halle James – one of the twins LiLo played in The Parent Trap). So like yeah, total imbecile, but if you're looking up to Kady Herron as an idol (I wonder if Mike Leake even knows who Lohan is, cause I sure as hell don't know who he is), than you can't really blame him for his dumbness. 

Jill: Think of the awesome power that a threesome between Leake, Linsday Lohan, and Winona Ryder would yield.  They would somehow be able to rob a bank just from the energy that their combined/corrupt special places would emit into the atmosphere. Okay, I think Leake has a problem; no one earns a six-figure salary and steals t-shirts simply out of stupidity.  Maybe it is for kicks or out of laziness or some mental issue. The fact that he was caught, however, with credit cards and $250 in cash IS stupid.  If you are going to steal shit for fun, at least hide your ability to pay for it. As for the frat, other members should include: Manny Ramirez, Social Chair (he has played everywhere and knows everyone after being caught for steroids three times in three places); Marvin Austin, Secretary (Prince of self-destructive documentation, including tweets and Facebook messages); Pete Rose, Treasurer (I bet this gamble will pay off?); Plaxico Burress, Vice President (shooting yourself in the thigh, ruining your career, and going to prison for two years earns you such a title); and Mike Tyson, President (no explanation necessary). 

Carrie: This is sort of the same deal as Wino Forever and the whole Saks thing. At least Winona had the sense to steal in the thousands of dollars of merch, but tee-shirts? Come on. But really, it is probably an instance of mental instability and something pretty seriously fucked up in Leake's brain that made him do it, so I feel like it cannot be flippantly discussed by the amateur likes of me. But? As luck would have it, I think $250 sounds like a fairly decent hourly rate to find a shrink and make sure it doesn't happen again, Mike.

Amber: HONESTLY, I feel like there is some bizarro sense of entitlement happening. Maybe he felt like he shouldn't have had to pay for the t-shirts. Maybe he just wanted thrills. Macy's though? Not even trendy, fancy American Apparel Pima Cotton? Silly. I feel like every recent scandalized athlete needs to be put in the fraternity. I have YET to hear a story where I think, "Damn, he was smart and slick with his shit. How did he get caught?" 

Sam: Speaking of people getting caught, there was some recent controversy surrounding two of basketball’s most infamous coaches.

Bobby Knight
started all kinds of hoopla by criticizing Kentucky, John Calipari, and the concept of "one and done." Thoughts?

Robin: Whether he should have used his ESPN "pulpit" to make such a statement is a different story than talking about what doesn't really seem like a lie. It is really a joke to call anything John Calipari touches credible or good. In fact most of it (i.e. the New Jersey Nets) turn to hell on earth. So like maybe they made the Final Four. Maybe one player graduated. Maybe the players ended in good academic standing (cause they have smart tutors), but that school is an NBA factory that pretends to be something else. I don't think that Bobby Knight owes the fans and alums an apology. I think Calipari owes an apology to the fans and alums for having to learn the truth from Bob Knight and not from their alma mater. There are basketball players that can read and write and do math. They go to Butler, not Kentucky.

Amber: He just straight up lied. From what I can tell, there was no thoughtful commentary on college athletes and their real role at universities, or them maybe not living the most rigorous of academic lives. So like, stop lying Bobby Knight. There is plenty wrong with college athletics without him making shit up.

Sam: Yeah, NCAA athletics are, for real, sleazy.  And Demp and Traci, the ‘rents, want me to get a degree. The softball thing probably isn't going to work out like baseball did for Buster...

Jill: The point isn't that Bob Knight lied or insulted John Calipari; it is that “one and done” is a huge problem, utilized by different schools in different ways, with varying degrees of shadiness and success.  Kentucky just happens to be the Overlord of One and Done, which is why Knight brought it up, even if his facts were incorrect.  Calipari is running a Division 1-level one-year basketball program for high schoolers who want to get their NBA degree.  One-and-done is bad for academics, team building, and universities – things that the NCAA is supposed to prioritize. You can choose to go to work or go to school at 18-years-old.  But once you become an amateur athlete and enroll in college, you should be required to stay there for at least two years.  And if you drop out early, you should have to repay the school for the scholarship.  Because this one-and-done thing is not working out well for sports. It is driving some athletes overseas and causing others to throw away an education for a dream that will never transpire.

Carrie: I am unfamiliar with this story. Am I to believe that Bobby Knight and John Calipari had a one night stand and Bobby was left wanting more? Because my "thoughts" on that are: we've all been there, Bobby. Suck it up and buy a carton of Ben and Jerrys. I highly recommend the new Late Night Snack flavor. In which there are chocolate covered POTATO CHIPS.

Sam: That sounds rather delicious. Maybe we can grab some sundaes after the batting cages and gym, but bitches have work to do first.  You ladies are still coming with me, right? Right? Hello? Well, tune in next week, while I figure out where the hell everyone went.


April 25, 2011

Awkward Moments in History that Almost Happened: Klan Night at Redland Baseball Field

Who doesn't get excited when there is a promotional day at the ballpark? It is better than the toy at the bottom of a box of Cracker Jacks. Bat Day. Back-to-school Trapper Keeper Day. Old Timer's Day, Hat Day, Visor Night, Yogi Berra Bobble Head Day, Lunch Box Day (June 25, 2011 at Yankee Stadium, write it down bitches). And...Klan Day?
Well, the Ku Klux Klan wanted such a day on July 20, 1924 at Redland Field in Cincinnati.  On May 31, 1924, O.W. Baylor, a Klan leader, wrote a letter to the President of the Reds, August Hermann, requesting that the KKK be allowed to make a special presentation before the game on July 20th.  Specifically, the Klan wanted to:
Yes, bouquets of flowers.  They also wanted to “furnish our organization band of fifty pieces.” Roses and an orchestra – it is like a romantic dinner gone bad.  Maybe they were just trying to get some of the players to put out, who knows? As the letter states, the “greater majority” of “Klaverns,” or self-entitled local KKK organizations, were loyal Reds’ fans who simply wanted to eat some peanuts, wave a white hood, and rock out at the ball field with their non-minority friends.

What is funny about the letter is its sheer arrogance and bravado. It is written as if the Reds would be ridiculously stupid NOT to invite the thousands of bigots to the stadium. In the letter, Baylor reminds Mr. Hermann that membership in the local Klaverns “exceeds 100,000,” and is the fastest growing organization in Ohio.  I mean, the Klan just wanted to give some pretty flowers to their favorite baseball players and share their mutual discrimination and hatred of others with the city of Cincinnati.  What is so wrong with that?!  In fact, Mr. Baylor’s manners are rather impeccable, including the veiled threat found at the end of the letter:
I shall appreciate an early reply to this request and I trust that I shall be able to report to the organization you [sic] favorable acceptance. I am sure that you will readily appreciate the fact that this request comes from thousands of your loyal supporters.
It may as well just say “You will agree to our forced invitation to your baseball field, or else our thousands of loyal supporters will burn that motherf--ker to the ground.”  Fortunately, the Reds declined the KKK’s request; however, they did not decline because of civil rights or peace or equality.  Please. They declined because, “under no consideration could we designate a Sunday for any organization of any kind and particularly where the New York Giants are concerned.”  So, yes, they were worried about ticket sales.  The Reds responded to the KKK letter by stating that “Sunday tickets for the New York games are always sold several weeks in advance.”  It is sad because the early invention of Stubhub really could have salvaged this historic moment.

While the KKK was ultimately rejected from Redland Field, they can take solace in the fact that their bigotry had seemingly nothing to do with it. Now, their ancestors wait patiently for John Rocker Jersey Day to be scheduled accordingly. 

April 22, 2011

When Comedy Becomes Reality: Will Ferrell's Hunt for Yankee Gary Sanchez

It is Friday, a particularly Good one. I am stuck at work, when I should clearly be in church, but such is the life of a legal crusader. Like that? I did. But I would also like to wear a cape. One of the paralegals in my office, a sweet, older woman from the Dominican Republic, just told me (in a dead serious tone) that in her country, no one has sex on Good Friday because "tradition says you will get physically stuck together." I just thought I'd pass along the warning. Regardless, yaaaay for Friday!

So the Yanks head to Baltimore tonight, where they will hopefully avoid being mugged, and C.C. is taking the mound against Brad Bergesen, whose name, for whatever reason, has always reminded me of a Will Ferrell SNL character.  The Os started the season super hot, but have fallen back to earth over the past two weeks, losing nine of their last 11 games. That looks to continue tonight, as C.C. has a 14-2 record and 2.86 ERA against Baltimore in his career.  Curtis Granderson has been on fire, all of the Yankees (except Jeter and Gardner) are hitting bombs, our scrap heap pitching has been stellar (a high five to Big Colon and Freddy Garcia), and we seem to be cruising along at the moment. 
Speaking of Will Ferrell, there was recently an entertaining piece in the New York Observer about his hunt for Gary Sanchez, a promising minor league catching prospect for the Yankees  See, in the past, Will Ferrell regularly used the fictitious name “Gary Sanchez” when he stayed in hotels.  It became an ongoing joke, so he decided to name his production company “Gary Sanchez Productions.” There is even a profile for the fake Gary Sanchez on Ferrell’s website, calling him a “Paraguayan entrepreneur and financier.”  When told of the coincidence at Comedy Central’s Comedy Awards, Ferrell exclaimed, “We have to go hang out with him!” And his production partner, Adam McKay responded:
It's so shocking, man . . . All I can tell you is that he's welcome at our offices anytime. If he wants his silhouette to become the official symbol for our company, we're open to it—and we in no way will be pursuing any trade lawsuits against his existence.
So not only did Gary Sanchez, an 18-year-old from the Dominican Republic, get the largest rookie signing bonus in franchise history ($3 million in 2009), he now has a personal and standing invitation from Will Ferrell. That is pretty fucking cool. Color me impressed and ready to see the kid in action. Call me, Gary, we can all get together and hang out at Will’s pad. I will bring the sangria.
Enjoy your weekend, everyone; do not have sex today or you might get stuck; at least apologize to Jesus if you do; let’s go Yankees; and check back later, as I nervously watch the Knicks take on the Celtics tonight for Game 3 in MSG!

April 21, 2011

Chicks Dig Conspiracies: The Black Sox, the Red Sox, the Cubs, and Baseball “Treachery”

To preface this post, you should know that I am total conspiracy theorist. In most cases, it is not that I necessarily believe there is an uncovered hidden truth, I just simply like the mystery and uncertainty behind historical events – especially those related to sports. The Knicks winning the 1985 lottery (and Patrick Ewing). Michael Jordan’s “retirement” from the NBA and alleged gambling addiction. The Soviets winning the 1972 Olympic gold medal in basketball. The 1988 Wayne Gretzy trade (and later, his wife’s gambling ring). Tonya Harding, Mike Danton, and Pete Rose. Danny Almonte and the 2001 Little League World Series. The UNLV and SMU scandals. And, of course, the greatest sports conspiracy out there – the 1919 Chicago Black Sox.

The Black Sox, immortalized by Eliot Asinof in Eight Men Out, threw the 1919 World Series after being paid off by professional gamblers. Recently, the Chicago History Museum released a 1920 deposition by Eddie “Knuckles” Cicotte, a pitcher for the Black Sox and one of the eight players permanently banned from baseball. The deposition scandalously suggests that the Black Sox were inspired to fix the World Series by the Chicago Cubs – who had done it one year earlier.  Specifically, Cicotte stated that “the boys on the club” discussed how members of the Cubs were offered $10,000 to throw the 1918 World Series against the Red Sox, which they wound up losing 4-2 in a tight match-up.  He said that during a train ride from Chicago to the East Coast, “the ball players were talking about somebody trying to fix the National League ball players.” After explaining how the Cubs were paid to lose to Boston, “[s]omebody made a crack about getting money, if we got into the Series, to throw the Series." He does not provide many details – failing to mention names or strategy – but the implications are so intriguing.  

I have always naively looked at the Black Sox as an anomaly; one particularly greedy baseball team that, in the shadow of their evil owner, took matters into their own hands and put money ahead of the game.  But the deposition blows that theory out of the water.  If true, it implies that this sort of scheming and game fixing was almost commonplace. Especially in Chi-town.  This was a time before baseball players were treated like celebrities and paid like movie stars. Before free agency or a union. Players constantly griped about their low salaries and, more vehemently, about their greedy owners.  It makes the possibility of a fix not only plausible, but probable. 

Sean Deveney, a reporter for The Sporting News and author of The Original Curse, asserts that the Cubs “had the incentive to do something like that” and that “there were definitely some suspicious plays” in the 1918 World Series.  At that time, the Cubs and Red Sox were frustrated with their owners because they would not agree to equitably share profits from the Series.  It was so tense that, before the start of one game in Boston, both teams refused to take the field until they were paid upfront. The owners would not comply, and the players were aware that they would be criticized for not playing, especially in the midst of World War I. So maybe, just maybe, they took advantage of the little control they still had and threw the 1918 World Series. While there is no glaring or conclusive data, let’s act like Nancy Drew and investigate:

Game 1 (9/5/1918 in Chicago): Babe Ruth dominated and pitched a shutout. In the fourth inning, some dude named Stuffy McInnis had the game’s only RBI, which he hit off some other dude named Hippo Vaughn.  The battle of Stuffy vs. Hippo was the most interesting thing that happened during Game 1, unless you count “The Star Spangled Banner,” which was sung for the first time ever at a sporting event.  In fact, it wasn’t even declared our national anthem until 1931.  Red Sox 1, Cubs 0. 

Game 2 (9/6/1918 in Chicago): This game was equally uneventful.  The Cubs carried a shutout into the ninth behind Lefty Tyler’s strong pitching.  He also had a two-run single, helping his own cause.  Cubs 3, Red Sox 1.

Game 3 (9/7/1918 in Chicago): So this is when things get a little weird.  The game remained in Chicago because of war-time restrictions on travel, and Red Sox pitcher Carl Mays was effective, but not dominant.  He allowed seven hits and a lot of base runners, but the Red Sox led by one run going into the ninth.  The game ended, however, when the Cubs’ Charlie Pick curiously attempted to score on a passed ball and got caught in a rundown between third and home.  Red Sox 2, Cubs 1. 

Game 4 (9/9/1918 in Boston): Okay, now we officially step into the land of crazy.  Right fielder Max Flack was picked off twice in this game.  In the fourth inning, as Babe Ruth came to the plate, Lefty Tyler noticed that Flack was playing really shallow and motioned for him to move back.  Flack just stood there.  Ruth then proceeded to smash a triple over his head, scoring two runs.  He remains the only starting pitcher in World Series history to bat anything other than ninth.  After the Cubs tied the game in the eighth, the Red Sox went on to win in a wild bottom half of the inning.  First, there was a passed ball by catcher Bill Killefer, allowing runners to advance.  Then, relief pitcher Phil Douglas fielded a soft grounder and hurled it over first base, which allowed the winning run to score.  Have no fear, we will come back to Mr. Douglas later.  Red Sox 3, Cubs 2.
 
Game 5 (9/10/1918 in Boston): This one was pretty boring.  My boy Hippo finally won a game, throwing a five-hit shutout.  Cubs 3, Red Sox 0.

Game 6 (9/11/1918 in Boston): After his stellar Game 4 performance, Max Flack decided to step it up a notch. In the third, he somehow turned an easy fly ball into an error, allowing two runs to score. Those two runs were all Boston needed, sealing their World Series title.  Red Sox 2, Cubs 1. 
So there we have it. Please note that the Cubs’ team ERA for the World Series was a ridiculous 1.04. Either the Boston hitters completely sucked (um, they had Babe Ruth) or the Chicago pitchers weren’t in on the fix.  That said, there were undoubtedly some fishy things that happened. Only 19 runs were scored throughout the entire Series.  All six games were incredibly close.  But because they were so close, it makes the possibility of a fix more likely. Sean Deveney concluded that while “it didn’t take much to throw a game . . . Baseball didn’t want to investigate. They wanted to make it all about the Black Sox and say, ‘Okay, gambling’s gone.’” But, as Pete Rose would later make clear, gambling was never truly gone.  It never will be.

And doubts linger.  For example, Pitcher Claude Hendrix was accused of fixing a game in 1920, but he immediately retired and was never officially suspended. On the other hand, Phil Douglas (of Game 4 infamy) was accused in August 1922 of what the New York Times called “treachery” and was banned for life from baseball.  Specifically, he wrote a letter and proposed that a rival team pay him to abruptly quit the Giants, who he played for at the time, and “go fishing.”  He claimed in the letter that the Giants “can’t win [the Pennant] without me.”  Besides being a total prick, it is even easier to hate him knowing that he may have gifted a World Series to the Boston Red Sox.  A victory they would not taste again until 2004. 

What do I take from all of this?  A few things: 1) Chicago is a city of cheaters.  If you are from there, visited there, lived there, or ever found it on a map, you have probably cheated at something or on someone.  Chicago = dirty bastards. I’d bet Sammy Sosa’s corked bat on it.  2)  The Red Sox did not in any way deserve to win the World Series (ever), but especially in 1918 – which would have extended our taunting of them for an additional two years. You took that away from Yankee fans everywhere and such “treachery” can never be forgiven.  3) It is an extremely wonderful thing that baseball players now get paid an obscene amount of money.  Whew, no more cheating. We now only have to worry about steroids, human growth hormone, forged birth certificates, tipped-off PED testing, bribery for prospects in Latin America, and humidored balls.  God, I love a good sports scandal.

April 20, 2011

When Robots Take Over the World/Baseball Field

If you would like to see science play sports, you should totally check out the Phillies-Brewers game tonight.  Because tonight is the debut of PhillieBot.  Who, who is PhillieBot you ask?  He is a “one-armed, three-wheeled robot” with the ability to pitch, created by engineers at the University of Pennsylvania and inspired by Science Day at Citizens Bank Park.  And he will be throwing out the first pitch tonight.  

The idea for PhillieBot came about a couple of months ago. A few dorks with way too much time on their hands basically took a Segway, gave it a robotic pitching arm, added a third wheel, and inserted a “pneumatic cylinder, which delivers a burst of compressed carbon dioxide to power the pitch.”  You can also adjust its “brain” to alter pitch speed and trajectory; however, when tested, PhillieBot could throw no faster than 30-40 miles per hour. 

This is great and all, and I am sure that some people are super excited about seeing a robot pitch slower than, say, Tim Wakefield, but I am also confused about one semi-important thing: what is the point of PhillieBot? Don’t we already have pitching machines? With wheels and mechanical arms?  Haven’t I been using them in batting cages since I was like six?  I am all about supporting science and technology, but I feel like engineers at UPenn probably have something more essential to develop than a below replacement-level middle reliever. Next thing you know, they will be creating machines to give us money at banks instead of tellers, trucks that double as mobile restaurants, and telephones that also work as cameras.  Oh, wait.

So go ahead and get excited, Philadelphia.  But personally, I will only care about PhillieBot when he replaces Roy Halladay in the rotation – which, after the way he pitched last night, is not a distinct impossibility.  That said, I would not be opposed to replacing someone like Jonathan Papelbon with a silent machine-like creature which lacks the ability to be an asshole or demand more money.  So take notes, Red Sox.  I would also support a robot who can perhaps teach Brett Gardner to hit again or Mike Leake not to be a klepto.  And in the world of baseball robots, I would still take the MoBot3000X, even if he blew a save last night, over this piece of junk metal.  I did not think it was possible to make a Segway more useless, but it seems like the geniuses in Pennsylvania did just that. 

[In other news, a big middle finger to the Knicks, who again lost a close one in the final minute last night, and the Yankees, who lost in the tenth after leading all game.  You guys frustrate the hell out of me. And hating on PhillieBot was just the next best thing on this fine Wednesday morning.]. 

April 19, 2011

Woods Finally Wins Golf Tourney!

Oh, did you think I was talking about Tiger? I was not. I was talking about his kickass awesome niece, Cheyenne Woods, who just won the ACC women’s individual golf title on Sunday.  While 50 fans followed around the Demon Deacon junior throughout the day, more than 200 people were there to witness her final putt.  She finished a career-best five under par with the victory.  Then Uncle Tiger tweeted, "My niece, Cheyenne, just won the ACC golf title by 7 shots! That's awesome, I'm so proud of her.”  He added “Now I am going to pick up some whores, a six-pack of Miller Lite, and it’s off to the blackjack table!” Okay, so he didn’t tweet that, but he very well could have.  

It has been awhile since any “Woods” has been atop the leader board, but I love that it is Cheyenne’s impressive feat making headlines, rather than her horny uncle’s shenanigans.  To be clear, the last time Tiger won a tournament was at the Australian Masters in November 2009 – only two weeks before The Incident.  Like her famous uncle, Cheyenne’s first coach was Earl Woods Sr., Tiger’s dad.  Before attending Wake Forest, she played golf for Xavier College Preparatory and won back-to-back Arizona state championships in 2006 and 2007.  In total, she has won more than 30 amateur tournaments, although the ACC title is arguably her greatest victory.  And in 2009, she received an exemption to play in the LPGA tour, but missed the cut by four strokes.  I do not think we will be saying that very often in the future.  I also like the fact that she has replaced Michelle Wie as golf’s next “It” Girl.  Hopefully she will thrive under the pressure and scrutiny. Hopefully no one will run after her with a golf club and post her embarrassing sext messages online.  Then again, hopefully she won’t bang it out with hookers all over the United States, but whatever, I am not one to judge (um, I totally am).  

Crazily, Cheyenne Woods is the third straight Wake Forest golfer to win the individual title.  On the other hand, UNC won this year’s team championship.  I mean, really. WTF, Blue Devils? You need to represent on the hardwood and the greens.  I have pretty much given up on the football or baseball field, but come on – we used to be dominant in women’s golf. They were like the only championships we won while I was in school.  But losing to UNC and Wake? What’s next? N.C. State and Miami?! Unfuckingacceptable.  While we are talking about The Dark Side, it should be noted that Prince Harry has decided to return to Carolina, along with the Muppet twins, Zeller and Henson. I wish I could mock this or make fun of him, but I give him props for making a great decision and putting school (and winning) ahead of money.  God, I hate when UNC does something admirable.  

Okay, I have to run. Enjoy your Tuesdays and check back later, guys!