July 27, 2011

The Carson Palmer Clusterfizzle.

This whole Carson Palmer controversy is oozing with hypocrisy.  And that is why I am so fascinated by it.  As he promised us in January, Palmer has decided to retire rather than return to his soul sucking existence in Cincinnati.  He demanded a trade which was purposely ignored by management, and now, instead of simply sucking it up for four years, he is throwing away his career and leaving $50 million in base salary on the table.  I mean, that is how badly he wants out. 

You would think that the Bengals would reluctantly concede, simply to get some sort of return on their investment, right? Who are they going to rely on? Carson’s kid brother, Jordan Palmer, who had a total of 18 yards last season? He was three-for-three in pass attempts, though, so at that rate, he will be an incredible replacement.  And sure, they could grab someone in the draft or sign a mediocre veteran.  But wouldn’t it make sense to at least try to score some promising players and find a favorable trade? Sort of like how NBA teams, after the Whore of Akron debacle, now realize that they must trade their young studs away before they leave in free agency? The decision may not leave you or your fans happy, but it is the right move to make…if you care about the future of your club.

Um, the Bengals apparently do not care about the future of their club.  This should not come as shocking news to anyone.  Even though many teams have inquired, their owner, Mike Brown, has obstinately refused to trade Carson Palmer. As he made clear yesterday to the Cincinnati Enquirer, “Carson signed a contract, he made a commitment. He gave us his word. We relied on his word and his commitment. We expected him to perform here. If he is going to walk away from his commitment we aren’t going to reward him for doing it.”  So, Mike Brown is giving Carson Palmer the finger and calling his bluff, while screwing the rest of his team, his fan base, and his future? It does not make any sense.

Listen, I get it.  It sucks that Carson is trying to force his way out of a contract he clearly regrets.  In free agency, he went for professional security over personal satisfaction; that was his choice and he should have to live with the consequences.  If he did not want to play for Cincinnati, if he did not want to endure annual failure, he should not have accepted an additional four years and $50 million.  It is a bitchy temper tantrum at its core.  And, in many ways, it makes him no better than Lebron James or Carmelo Anthony or Manny Ramirez. [After thinking about this, I am not sure if Manny was more evil or just smarter.  He purposely tanked it on the field while collecting paychecks, forcing Boston to trade him.  At least Carson respected his teammates and franchise, and simply retired.  He could have followed in Manny’s shoes and perhaps the Bengals would have no choice but to trade him. I look forward to him trying this tactic next season].  So I understand why Mike Brown does not want to “reward” his behavior.  It is about commitment and contract and honor and words and blah, blah, blah.  Yes, the moral high ground (and lecture) is nice.  From like a college professor or police officer. 

But let’s not kid ourselves here.  How many NFL teams prematurely cut players before their contracts end? Whether it is due to injury, inability, or inanity, how many owners selfishly eliminate contracts that are no longer favorable to them? Contracts are not guaranteed, so it seems sort of ridiculous that the Bengals are preaching about honor and principle, when they are just as guilty, if not more so, of pulling this stunt in this past.  They have no legitimate reason for ignoring potential trades other than to prove a point.  Undoubtedly, they have the power and leverage to call Palmer’s bluff, but is “winning” an argument really worth the future success of your club? Whatever points Mike Brown earns for being admirable, he immediately loses for being stubborn, short-sighted, and stupid.  Carson Palmer retains a lot of value at the moment; he could very likely bring the Bengals useful players in return.  Rather than making the best out of an admittedly frustrating situation, Mike Brown will relinquish any chance to profit.  It is illogical.  And I would rather have a franchise quarterback or a few draft picks than moral fiber, but that is just me. 

And, really, can we blame Carson Palmer?  The Cincinnati Bengals are a fucking disaster.  They were rated as the worst franchise in professional sports by ESPN The Magazine, while their former players despise the club.  Carson gave them everything he had for years and they repay him by…stealing his ability to play football? By forcing his hand and making him look like an asshole? I appreciate that the Bengals do not like being held up at gun point, but they are lucky that he did not turn that gun on himself long ago. I mean, Cincinnati hasn’t won a playoff game since 1991. The Bengals have no talent, have not taken any genuine steps to improve, and have not provided Palmer with any reason to want to stay. And their actions have only extended this saga for another year; I pretty much guarantee that Carson Palmer will be back next year, if only to use his exorbitant salary as leverage to force the Bengals to trade him again.  He is still giving up football for a year, though, and that is an eternity in the NFL.

Every now and then, right or wrong, you have to cut your losses; instead, Mike Brown has ensured that everyone loses in this situation.  The Bengals (and fans) do not get any players and Carson Palmer cannot play football for the next four years.  That is one big hot mess that turned into a tepid puddle of lameness. A Carson Palmer clusterfizzle.

July 26, 2011

A Somewhat Factual History about Kei Igawa and his Adventure to America.

Although the New York Times recently posted a nice profile about Kei Igawa, legendary New York Yankee, it did not cover his real story.  So we bring that to you now:

Once upon a time, under a rising July sun, in a rice paddy near the Ibaraki province of Japan, a strange and unique creature was born.  Abandoned by his mother, a prostitute named Lulu, and left for dead by his father, a rodent named Bucky, an impish child with large teeth and sideburns floated aimlessly on a thick piece of bamboo.  The boy-creature was found by a Spanish speaking panda who kept muttering, “What the fuck is this thing?” Hence, the boy’s nickname became “Que,” or Kei, in colloquial Japanese.  Raised by the panda to play with his balls and swing a big bamboo stick, Kei quickly became enamored with the sport known as baseball.  He dreamed that his face, as disturbing as it was, would adorn the Mount Rushmore of Japanese baseball heroes, like Hideo Nomo, Ichiro Suzuki, and Hideki Matsui. The legend of Kei Igawa became as well-known as the soy sauce martini, spreading across continents and inspiring tens of people.  

In 1998, when he was 19-years-old, Kei Igawa was drafted by the Hanshin Tigers.  The Tigers celebrated their surefire stud, certain he would rival the Philly Phanatic in popularity.  Although he was originally pegged to become the team’s next mascot, his pitching skills impressed his coaches.  Dominating the mound, Kei’s rookie years were highlighted by sub-3.00 ERAs, strikeout titles, and all-star appearances.  He brought his team the Central League pennant in 2003, while compiling a 20-5 record and earning MVP honors.  He also won the Eiji Sawamura that year, a cross between the Goblet of Fire and the Cy Young award.  In 2006, after conquering Japan, Kei decided that his island nation was inhibiting his quest for greatness and begged the Tigers to post him on the international market. 

An up-and-coming team named the New York Yankees, in a pissing contest with the Boston Red Sox and in need of a positive pitching influence for Mariano Rivera, bid a ludicrous $26,000,194 for Kei, as 194 represented his extraordinary strikeout total from the 2006 season, as well as the number of times he masturbated to his favorite movie, Mr. Baseball.  Kei’s dream of playing in the Major Leagues paled in comparison to his desire to meet Tom Selleck. A few months later, Kei Igawa signed with the Yankees for a five-year, $20 million contract. Kei knew that, win or lose, he had already made a fool out of the Americans.  In January 2007, he flew to the United States on a dragon, landing on the Hudson and subsequently swimming to the Bronx.  This episode would later act as inspiration for one Charles B. Sullenberger. 

On May 7, 2007, after only a few starts, Kei was demoted to the Florida State League to work on his mechanics which, like his sideburns, did not seem to translate successfully in the Western Hemisphere.  He returned to the Big Leagues on June 22nd, only to again be demoted a month later.  During his first off-season, Kei won the Myrtle Beach Sand Castle Building Contest, got a tattoo of Sonic the Hedgehog on his upper thigh, and penned a book of romantic haikus. The following season, Kei’s luck did not improve on the field.  He did not make the major-league roster out of spring training and was shamefully forced to wait until Ian Kennedy was injured.  But, as soon as he was called up in May 2008, Kei was knocked around for eleven hits and six runs in three innings by the Detroit Tigers.  Kei cried on the mound, convinced that his former team had relocated to the Midwest simply to humiliate him. 

Kei’s mortification only grew deeper, as he was placed on waivers and removed from the 40-man roster.  He spent the rest of 2008 and 2009 brooding in the minors, making hand puppets, and posting online yoga videos.  To this day, Kei swears that his greatest highlight in America is earning 433 hits on YouTube – almost as many hits as he gave up as a pitcher for the Yankees.   On July 27, 2009, he set a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre record for most-career wins, with 33.  He cried again, drinking sake from a Gatorade cup, and singing karaoke alone until 4 a.m. in a seedy bar on Fulton Street.  Although he earns approximately 130 times more than the average minor-leaguer, he takes no pride in the record, which acts a testament to his failure in the Majors. Subsequently, the Yankees tried to return him to Japan, but he refused to go; he tried to visit a brothel in Chinatown, but they refused to have him.  Sexually frustrated with no where to pitch, Kei returned to the minors.  He tried to start a pen-pal relationship with J.K. Rowling but she did not respond, disturbed by the drawings Kei included of himself soaring on a Hippogriff.  He did not see the Big Leagues in 2010 and currently plays for the Double-A Trenton Thunder.

Sadly, Kei can no longer stand to watch Yankees games and he does not follow the team at all. Instead, he watches Pretty Little Liars on his iPad and listens to jazz.  Now 32-years-old, 2011 marks the last year of Kei's monstrous contract. Although he will never live up to it, he does not stop trying.  This fall, after he removes his pinstripes for the last time, Kei intends to harness his dragon and fly to the Grand Canyon with his interpreter Subaru Takeshita, where they plan to go white water rafting and make Native American dreamcatchers, determined to inspire others like this great country has inspired them.  His memoir, An Utter Kei-tastrophe, will be released in March 2012. 

[In all seriousness, the New York Times piece is excellent.  It tells the sad story of a once-successful man who wanted nothing more than to achieve his dream of pitching in the Major Leagues and his admirable refusal to relinquish that dream]. 

July 20, 2011

More than America’s Pastime: How Baseball, with the help of a rag-tag group of teenagers, is saving Japan.

I can bitch about how crazy my life has been lately (and apologize for the lack of posts), but then I read pieces like this in the New York Times, and it puts things in perspective for me.  Over the past year, Japan has been rocked by an earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant disaster; it has truly been a clusterfuck of Mother Nature-related catastrophe and suffering.  In comparison, my world, which is defined by court hearings and baseball games, is really rather calm and predictable.  I mean, these poor people do not even have baseball fields on which to play.  As the New York Times explains, northern Japan was so devastated by the natural disasters and in particular, the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, that towns were evacuated, entire high schools were shuttered, and athletic teams were disbanded.  Instead of becoming crippled by hopelessness or abandoning something as seemingly irrelevant as sports, baseball has become a “steadying factor in lives that have been forever changed.” 

Each summer, there is an amateur baseball tournament near Osaka, which determines Japan’s national champion.  This competition, which began last week, is rife with honor and pride; however, it appeared as if many teams would be unable to participate in this year’s tourney, since many teams no longer exist.  Three high schools in this predicament – Tomioka High School, Soma Nogoyo High School, and Futaba Shoyo High School –banded together in rag-tag fashion to field enough players to enter the tournament, even if their chances of winning are slim to none. These young men, who are now members of the Soso Rengo team, have lost family and friends, their schools, and their homes.  They may have all started out as strangers amidst unexplainable chaos, but it is their common love for baseball that brought them together.  And now, as friends and teammates, they are trying to achieve the impossible, while inspiring the rest of the country in the process.  
The logistics of blending three baseball teams has been difficult and, at times, controversial. Because the players are strewn throughout disaster-laden Japan, the team could only practice one day each weekend in preparation for the national summer tournament.  In fact, the team was only able to practice twice before their first game.  Some players still live in refugee centers, while others travel hours just to make it to their weekly practice.  The players have had to compromise over which uniforms to wear, which rally songs to sing, and which players have leadership roles.  They have had to deal with the guilt of being able to participate while many of their friends and former teammates cannot.  Because radiation levels remain dangerously high, the Fukushima High School Baseball Association is monitoring conditions every day at each of the five regional locations.  If radiation is above 3.8 microsieverts per hour, all games at that location are postponed.  Crazily, if it rains, players will be forced to wear rubber gloves and radiation levels will be checked again before play continues.  The risks that these young men are taking simply to play a game they love is not only admirable, but amazing.

Even though their lives have been turned upside down, baseball has given the Soso Rengo players motivation, and in effect, it has given the entire country hope.  Due to the improbable circumstances of fielding enough players, let alone players that are actually talented, the team has received heart-warming media attention and accolades throughout Japan.  They have been praised for their selflessness, loyalty, and perseverance. Their story deserves recognition in the United States, too.   Here, we are worried about things like steroids and Roger Clemens and attendance and Bud Selig and the trade deadline – all of which are meaningless when compared with the game itself.  Our love and respect for baseball.  Our ability to enjoy and play it freely, without constraint from Mother Nature or anything else.  We take it for granted.  And tonight, when I turn on the YES Network to watch the Yankees or rearrange my fantasy team or wash my softball uniform, I will remember how lucky I really am.  

July 18, 2011

Matt Brooks and the 11.12.13 Challenge: Duke Athletes Doing Kickass Awesome Things in Real Life

Last week, I received a really cool email from a really great guy. My good friend, Matt Brooks, a former Duke football player, is in the midst of the 11.12.13 Challenge to support his friend’s mother, who currently suffers from a unique and degenerative joint disease. Matt was the Blue Devils’ kicker from 2001 to 2004, and we often had the same crazy political science professors while we were in school. Since leaving the Gothic Wonderland, Matt has taken his talents to New York, where he practices law and runs half-marathons to save lives.

See, after the mother of Matt’s friend Kathy had knee replacement surgery, she was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of Psoriatic Arthritis; this disease leads to intense pain, immobility, the erosion of joints, the need for joint replacement surgery, and at times, a shortened life span. Kathy’s mom was diagnosed with the most severe form of the disease and has suffered tremendously. She is taking experimental medications to combat its symptoms and progression, but unfortunately, the pain and immobilization is both chronic and permanent. In the future, she will have to undergo further joint replacement surgeries, as doctors search for a cure to this curious and agonizing condition.
In such an impressive and admirable manner, Kathy created the 11.12.13 Challenge to not only support her mother, but all victims of Psoriatic Arthritis. The 11.12.13 Challenge stands for 2011, 12 races, 13.1 miles each – meaning, one half-marathon for every month of 2011. Her goal is to raise $13,100, and her father has pledged to match the donation, thus raising the total to $26,200. This money will be donated to the National Psoriasis Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to research and fight this horrible disease. Kathy has already raised $7,578, while Matt has personally run in seven races so far, with his eighth scheduled for August 2011. He wrote:
From the time I have spent around her mother, she is a caring mom who loves her daughters as much as she can. You can tell that every day is a struggle for her, but whenever her girls are around she does everything she can to get up and spend time with them, make them breakfast and be around them...even if that means that she will be laid up in bed for 3-4 days after they leave (which often happens). Obviously seeing her mother fight this disease on a day to day basis has been tough on Kathy as it would be for any child. I know that when I look back on my life and the important events I have experienced along the way, my parents have been at every single one they could possibly attend and if I thought they could no longer be a part of my memories because of a painful disease, I am not sure how I would react.
So Matt took it upon himself to do everything possible to bring awareness and support to this cause. He started a blog, Brooks Runs The Challenge, which chronicles his races and Challenge-related work. On the right side of his website is a link to the charity’s donation page, which I humbly ask you all to please check out. Any gift that you can make would be very much appreciated. If that isn’t an option, maybe you would rather run a half-marathon to support the cause; everyone and anyone is welcome. In fact, I think I am going to run one myself in October. Please realize that Matt did not ask me to write this post; I simply think what he is doing is incredible and deserves to be recognized. I really hope that we can help out him and Kathy, and more importantly, all of the people suffering from Psoriatic Arthritis throughout the United States.

While we already knew that the world’s best athletes hail from Duke University, it is really refreshing (and so impressive) to see those athletes giving back to the community in a way that affects much more than a scoreboard. A huge gold star to Matt Brooks and everything he is doing for Psoriatic Arthritis. It truly makes me proud to be a Blue Devil.

July 13, 2011

Live from New York, it’s...the MLB All-Star Game.

Um, Pre-Game: It is 8:40-something. I rushed home from softball (which was an utter disaster; perhaps the worst game that the Wolfpack has ever played) to watch the All-Star game, thinking I’d miss the first few innings.  The game hasn’t even started yet! What kind of ridiculous pre-game show/introduction ceremony did they have?! Did they all watch last year’s game on the big screen together before they felt comfortable playing this one? I do not understand. And how can Major League Baseball expect any kid to be able to stay up later than, say, the third inning? YAWN. Let’s play some fucking baseball already.   

This gives us a chance, however, to gush about how adorable Robbie Cano was last night. I am not talking about his monster homeruns or victory in the Derby. I am talking about how he jumped into his dad's arms right afterwards, how he dropped his bat and lifted his hands to the sky while smiling like a little kid, how he wanted to cut the trophy in half to give part of it to his Pops. I decided last night that when the Baseball Jesus retires, Robbie will take his place as my new Yankee crush.  He is just so smiley and humble and clearly loves every minute he is on the field. I adore him. What a week for the Bombers. Derek joined The 3,000 Club and Robbie is the new Homerun Derby Champion. Also? I would just like to mention that whenever I see Ron Washington before a game, I imagine him snorting lines off of the line-up card and listening to 70’s porn music in his office. His glasses really do it for me.

Top 1: Finally, Curtis Granderson steps into the box. And proceeds to line the first pitch to Prince Fielder at first base.  Let’s at least make Doc work a little bit and let the other guys see some pitches, okay? That was basically the worst lead-off at-bat ever.  Asdrubal Cabrera is up. He is on Joe Girardi’s Braces and I still cannot spell or pronounce his name. Which means it is ridiculous.  I am an immigration attorney; my profession is dealing with unusual names. And I still think it is simply a ludicrous name.  Halladay strikes him out.  Gonzo, the Angry Bird, steps in.  I really thought he was going to take the Derby last night (before Robbie lit up the world with his pearly whites).  And he grounds out. Sigh, Doc makes it look so easy.  

Bottom 1: Oh wow. Brian Wilson and that animal on his face that he calls a beard are acting as sideline reporters at the moment? Awesome.  He calls Halladay a cyborg robot, or something equally amusing.  Rickie Weeks also swings at the first pitch and grounds out to first.  What is wrong with these All-Star lead-off hitters? I understand they are looking for a first-pitch fastball to drive, but still.  Take some damn pitches, do your job.  Beltran strikes out on a beautiful change-up. Well, at least we can look forward to Fred Wilpon insulting him tomorrow. Oh we have our first base runner! A walk to Matt Kemp.  Prince Fielder drives one to left, but Josh Hamilton makes a nice shoe-string-like catch to end the inning. 

Top 2: Joey Bats, which I think is basically the coolest nickname ever, swings at the first pitch and pops it up to shallow center. I really am not grasping this swing-at-the-first-pitch-overly-aggressive approach by the AL. Whoa. What is up with Josh Hamilton’s facial hair? It is bad enough that we have Papi’s chin strap and Gonzo’s perfectly manicured goatee; we have to deal with this weird facial pubic hair, too? Thank god the Yankees and Duke – two of the most successful and classiest teams world-wide, in my completely unbiased opinion – have rules against this hair-rible trend we are seeing here.  He grounds out to third. Serves him right.  Beltre is battling up there, which I appreciate. The first five batters saw about one pitch each.  He rocks one to right, but it is caught. Still no score. 

Bottom 2:  Wait. I am SO confused.  David Robertson is pitching?! Like the Yankees eighth-inning guy? Who was added to the roster like three days ago or whatever? We have a whole roster of actual All-Star-caliber pitchers, and David Robertson is on the mound in the second inning??? Maybe Washington really IS doing lines of coke between innings.  Really, I am so confused at the moment.  Perhaps this is because he can warm-up quickly, unlike a regular starter? Don’t we have better middle relievers/closers? Oh. We were just informed that Josh Beckett tweaked something in his knee while warming up.  My condolences, Red Sox Nation.  I do not say that in a sincere manner.  Holy crap, Jose Bautista just made an incredible sliding catch in right-field foul territory on Brian McCann. David Robertson was smiling and pumping his fists in appreciation.  Fat Elvis is up; he has been a wonderful surprise all season.  And he gets the first hit of the night, a hard grounder up the middle! Now Matt Holliday is up. He is one of the players who has impressed me the most this season. I think, in my own head, I had always underrated him.  I was wrong. He is outstanding. I am still confused why the best the AL could offer us in the second inning was David Robertson.  But he strikes out Holliday and then, after Berkman steals second, his hand comes off the base and he is tagged out. Weird double-play (failed hit-and-run?) and there is still no score.

Top 3: Cliff Lee is pitching for the NL. I am really not a big Cliff Lee fan after his disparaging comments about the Yankees being old and whatnot. I do not care if it is true. I badly want to beat him in the World Series.  Papi grounds out. Robbie is up! Why is the Home Run Derby Champion batting so low in the order? Again, I am confused by Ron Washington’s decisions here. He grounds out, too.  And Avila grounds out, as well.  Well, that was boring.

Bottom 3: Michael Pineda is pitching for the AL. He gets Troy Tulowitzki to fly out to center. And then Scott Rolen strikes out. Rickie Weeks, with his Jose Reyes wannabe hair, also strikes out. Really impressive inning from my rookie stud.  Dear fantasy baseball gods, please do not let him be on an innings limit.  Thank you. XOXO, Jill. 

Top 4: Maybe someone can score at some point; that would be swell. This game is reinforcing the theme that 2011 is the “Year of the Pitcher.” Curtis lamely grounds out to second. Tyler Clippard is warming up in the bullpen, so apparently the NL wants to bore us with middle relievers, too. Asdrubal flies out to center.  This is turning out to be a riveting game.  And just as I type that, Adrian Gonzalez takes Cliff Lee deep for a solo shot! Joey Bats pops up behind first-base, but Prince cannot make the play.  He went for the over-the-shoulder bucket catch and failed. I wonder if that will be a hit.  Prince is being booed loudly.  Apparently the crowd hates him for not selecting Justin Upton for the Homerun Derby. We already knew people from Arizona are assholes, based on their immigration laws, so this is not all that surprising.  What IS surprising? Cliff Lee is being taken out after Josh Hamilton just hit a single up the middle.  Interesting. Tyler Clippard’s glasses are nuts. Just nuts.  Beltre hits a line-drive to shallow left, but Pence throws Bautista out at home. Awesome, right-on-target kind of throw.  1-0, AL.

Bottom 4: Carlos Beltran leads off with a single to shortstop off of C.J. Wilson.  And now Justin Timberlake is being interviewed by the outfield swimming pool about his new movie, which I actually want to see.  Matt Kemp hits a single, too.  Fielder is up with men on first and second, no outs. And he ROCKS one to left for a three-run homer! Well, that is one way to endear yourself to Arizona fans.  McCann pops out, Upton lines out, and Pence strikes out, but the damage is done.  3-1, NL. 
Top 5: David Ortiz is up against Clayton Kershaw, but he strikes out. Robbie grounds out weakly to first. And Avila grounds out, too. LAME.  3-1, NL.

Bottom 5: Jordan Walden is now pitching. Ron Washington’s pitching decisions sort of blow my mind. Why do we have a closer in now? Troy T. starts the inning with a liner to center. He is replaced by Starlin Castro, who immediately steals second.  Starlin is a bitchin’ name.  Scott Rolen strikes out…again. A good showing for him tonight. No, really. Rickie Weeks is up, but Castro takes third on the passed ball.  He weakly grounds to the pitcher, but Castro breaks for home and is thrown out by four feet.  Ethier is up. Rickie Weeks steals second on the first pitch.  Maybe Walden blows saves because, um, anyone can run on him? This is not science, folks.  Ethier hits a single to right field,  but he is caught between first and second to end the inning. Weeks scored on the play. I blame Ron Washington for all of this.  4-1, NL.

Top 6: Jair Jurrjens, who has been unbelievable this season, is pitching for the NL. Their pitching decisions seem to make much more sense, you know? We need to get something started here.  And Ellsbury strikes out to start the inning.  Those fucking Red Sox, always screwing everything up (yes, I am aware that the only run by the AL was scored by a Boston player). Peralta flies out to deep right, which brings up the Alcoholic, Miguel Cabrera.  He proceeds to ground out to second. He will secretly take a swing from his flask now. 4-1, NL. 
Bottom 6: Chris Perez is pitching and Matt Kemp is up. I have never watched this dude pitch, but he has a crazy delivery. It is sort of sidearm/submarine-ish.  I am intrigued.  Kemp flies out to right.  Joey Votto strikes out.  But Yadier Molina hits a shot to left for a stand-up double. Chris Perez laughs at his ex-catcher, which amuses me.  But Justin Upton flies out to right to end the inning.  4-1, NL. 

Top 7: Carlos Quinten pops out to first. Oh, Matt Joyce is up. I feel like we got close and personal on Saturday, since I sat five feet behind him in right field at the Yankee game.  He grounds out. But Youk lines one to center for a single.  Paul Konerko is up and Craig Kimbrel is in.  Other than a two-week blip, he has been stellar all season. And I love that he broke Papelbon’s rookie record for saves. Sigh, but he walks Konerko. See, this is Kimbrel’s one problem. He walks way too many guys.  But Kendrick grounds out to second to end the threat. 4-1, NL.

Bottom 7: Since we are entering the seventh-inning stretch, are we going to be entertained with some sort of special performance? Yes, yes we are. Michelle Branch is singing “God Bless America.” Jordin Sparks and now Michelle Branch? This is not 2006. All of the talent really flocks to Arizona, huh? Brandon League is now pitching for the AL. Um, let’s talk about his stats for a minute. His record? 1-4. His ERA? 3,44.  HOW IS HE AN ALL-STAR?! That is simply ridiculous. Yes, I know he has 23 saves, second most in the AL. But so what?! And, again Ron Washington, why is he pitching now? Especially with that heinous neck tattoo. Hunter Pence leads off with a single through the left side.  But Starlin strikes out.  Pablo Sandoval, who has a fabulous nickname, arguably better than Joey Bats, is up.  Hunter Pence goes first to third on a passed ball. Matt Weiters didn’t move to catch a somewhat perfect pitch and then couldn’t find the ball as it rolled away from him. Terrible play.  Panda makes him pay! He rockets a ball into the left-field corner for a ground-rule RBI double.  Brandon Phillips flies out to left and Gaby Sanchez pops out to second to end the inning.  5-1, NL. 

Top 8: Johnny Venters, who is having an incredible season, is pitching; he gets Weiters to ground out on the first pitch.  Ew. We now see Tim McCarver and Joe Buck on the screen. It is bad enough we have to listen to them. Also? Joe Buck, in his purple shirt and green tie and crossed legs, looks absolutely ridiculous.  Ellsbury strikes out. Heath Bell is coming in, sprinting in, and he slides into the pitcher’s mound. Seriously, that just happened. He has a huge grass stain on his leg.  The camera man running behind him, trying to keep up, was the best part of that sequence actually. Hilarious.  He gets Peralta to pop up to first. Thank you for the entertainment, Heath Bell.  Especially because the AL is super lame tonight.  5-1, NL. 
Bottom 8: Alexi Ogando is pitching and gets McCutchen to check-swing hit to the mound for an easy out.  Joey Votto grounds out to short. Jay Bruce is up, but….Gio Gonzalez is coming in? Really? Don’t get me wrong, he is fantastic. But this is when David Robertson would have made sense, Ron Washington!!!! Is anyone else a little baffled? Am I just expecting too much? I know this game is part-exhibition, part-serious-affair, but shouldn't there be some sort of strategy by the coaching staff? Why wouldn't we save our relievers/closers to mix and match in the last few innings? This makes no sense! Sigh, he strikes out Bruce to end the inning.  5-1, NL. 

Top 9: Home-field advantage for the AL is not looking good, folks.  Michael Young leads off against Joel Hanrahan.  And promptly strikes out.  Quentin hits a groundball to short, but the ball is thrown away by Starlin Castro.  Matt Joyce singles to right, the ball is erratically tossed around a bit, and we now have runners on second and third. Brian Wilson and his beard pet are coming in.  I love that he dyes his beard, I really do. He gets Michael Cuddyer to fly out to right on the first pitch. Wait…no tag? What the hell? I guess the out means more than the run at this point.  It is all up to Paul Konerko to keep the game going.  But Wilson strikes him out, does his crazy post-game symbol thingy, and it is over. A poor showing by the American League and a less-than-entertaining game on the whole. When the highlight is a Heath Bell slide into the pitcher’s mound, you know your All-Star game has been lackluster.  5-1, NL.  

July 12, 2011

I saw Derek Jeter hit #3,000 and all I took were these 300 photos.

Since yesterday, I have tried to post all 292 photos, but Blogger just keeps crashing.  So we are going with these for now.  There is no way to truly capture a moment in history, to accurately describe what it is like to witness something that will never happen again.  Even with all 300 photographs.  I went to the Stadium on Saturday hoping to see Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit – the first Yankee to ever do so – and I left with a memory that I will treasure for the rest of my life. This is my best attempt at putting the Baseball Jesus and his epic Saturday into words.  I, for one, will never ever forget it.  

11:55 a.m.:  My brother and I are on a packed subway, filled mostly with people in pinstripes, and a crazy man is screaming he is diabetic.  Let me state upfront that I am going to be incredibly bummed if Derek Jeter gets to 3,000 tomorrow. See, months ago, when these tickets were first offered to me, I had the option of taking Saturday or Sunday – I chose today.  I also had tickets to last night’s game, but it was postponed.  So now that Tampa Bay has refused a double-header, I may or may not flip out if Derek does not join The 3,000 Club this afternoon.  Although, if he does make it, I will be grateful that this was not a double-header; 12 hours at the Stadium is an eternity, even for a baseball junkie like me.

Funny story about last night: So I met my friend Amanda around 5:45 p.m. at her office uptown, which is on the way to the Stadium.  We were sitting there, drinking from a flask (because we are sketchy and hardcore). I already knew the game was rained out; however, I did not understand why Amanda kept refreshing her browser.  Finally, around 7:15 p.m., I was like “Um, why are we still here?” She looks at me quizzically and says, “Aren’t we waiting to see if the game eventually gets played tonight?” Mind you, the game had been canceled for approximately 90 minutes at that point.  Clearly, she confused the difference between a rain delay and a postponement.  After I broke the news and she got over her disappointment, we went back to her apartment, rocked out, and finished the bottle of vodka. Needless to say, my head is pounding and these crazy subway fuckers are not helping.  

12:45 p.m.: HOLY CRAP!  We are sitting in the front-row.  Like, hanging over the right-field wall first-row, Section 105. Until this very moment, I thought we were in “Row 10,” and we are – but apparently in the outfield, Row 10 is the first row.  AND I AM AMAZED!  I probably shouldn’t be – these seats were gotten through ESPN, so I should have assumed they would be great.  But I had no idea how great.  I have been to probably 50 or more Yankees’ games, but I have never ever been this close to the field.  It is incredible. Like, I can’t get over how incredible these seats are.  I can obstruct any ball hit to right field. Andruw Jones and I may become best friends by the end of the afternoon. Jeffrey Maier 2.0? Yes please. Look for me getting arrested on SportsCenter tonight, thanks. 

12:55 p.m.: My dream in life is to catch a foul ball or homerun at a baseball game.  This is my fucking chance, people. I have this planned out already. I got Andruw’s attention (and a nod), so I made inroads there. A wink-wink and a promise of sexual favors should get me at least a foul ball hit into the corner, right?  I have also decided that, for a homerun, a broken hand is totally worth it. I mean, I would break my face for a Yankee homerun ball.  I told my brother that he has my permission to push the old man with the cane next to us.  But I also told him that if a ball is hit directly to us that he better move out of the way, since I am clearly the family jock.  He nodded in agreement. I like that he knows I am absolutely serious. 

1:04 p.m.: The game is about to start and the atmosphere is electric. You can tell that everyone here is anxious, nervous, and excited to see greatness.  The seats are packed already, it is hot as a motherfucker, and the jumbotron is showing Jeter highlights on repeat.  Good god, I adore him. 

Top 1: A.J. is on the mound.  He, his former-convict tattoos, and his inconsistency scare the hell out of me, but what else is new?  He ends the inning on a swinging K.  I am sorry, but I still can’t get over how amazing our seats are.  In fact, I keep saying it over and over again. All girls love diamonds, I am just not sure if I prefer the kind you get in the Bronx or at Tiffany’s.  Potential suitors out there, please note that lifetime season tickets are the equivalent of any sort of commitment ring for me. 

Bottom 1: Here we go! The crowd is roaring. It is crazy to think that, in reality, everyone is here only to see four or five at-bats by one man.  And we are going to get the first one right here, as the Baseball Jesus leads off against David Price (it does not excite me that he is on the mound).  Everyone is on their feet.  I love the home-made signs that decorate the crowd; they are witty and worshipful. I don’t know if worshipful is an adjective, but let’s go with it.  It seems DJ is up there to swing – and I love that. Everyone is hanging on each pitch with bated breath.  AND 2,999 IS IN THE BOOKS!! A ground ball through the left side.  That is one way to take some pressure off of himself. Everyone is going crazy – you would think he just belted a game tying homerun.  Granderson flies out to center and Tex hits into a double-play to end the inning. But who cares? The Baseball Jesus is one away from history!

Top 2: I am going to be totally honest here.  I am drinking beer on a gorgeous day in the front-row at Yankee Stadium and I cannot promise that this retro-live-blog will be as detailed as it normally would be.  I will cover the big stuff and all of Derek’s at-bats.  I may miss some stuff in between, but I will make up for it in kickass awesome pictures later. Is that cool? Good. Glad we had this talk.  Kotchman grounds out.  B.J. Upton, who I used to watch all of the time when he was a Durham Bull, strikes out swinging. But DAMN. Matt Joyce just rocketed a homerun directly over my head – like in the second-tier, directly above our seats.  Someone else grounds out – I was too busy drinking and trying to figure out why Twitter hates me to care. My tweets have apparently stopped working. 1-0, Rays. 

Bottom 2: Let’s hit around and get the Baseball Jesus his second at-bat, shall we Bombers?  Yeah, they didn’t listen.  Robbie was hit by a pitch (which does nothing to help Joe Girardi’s Braces, so thanks for nothing David Price), Andruw Jones walked, and everyone else grounded out. Lame.  1-0, Rays.

Top 3: Um, no one cares about this half-inning. We are too excited about the bottom-half. So can we hurry this along? AJ does exactly that, impressive.  He strikes out two and gets Johnny Damon (who I also love, even with his ridiculous faux-hawk) to ground out.  Baseball Jesus time!!!!  1-0, Rays. 
The pitch Derek Jeter knocked for #3,000.
Bottom 3: Brett Gardner grounds out, a bang-bang play, but whatever. DEREK IS UP!  Oh my god, could this be it?  Everyone is on their feet again.  The excitement is palpable.  One hit away… “Der-ek Je-ter, clap-clap-clap-clap-clap!” is being screamed at a deafening volume.  Full count…  HE DID IT!!!!!!!  NUMBER 3,000 IS IN THE BOOKS!!!  HOLY CRAP. The Stadium is going insane.  And, god, he did it in such story-book fashion.  A no-doubt homerun to tie the game.  WOW. JUST WOW.
The bullpen running in to celebrate.
I cannot believe I am here.  I cannot believe that just happened! Everyone is still going nuts. Random people are hugging strangers.  My brother just high-fived the two fat men behind us.  Derek is getting mobbed at the plate; the jumbotron shows him as all smiles.  OH MY GOD I LOVE HIM.  Everything he stands for, everything he has done for my baseball team and my city, everything. I can’t stop smiling or jumping up and down. 
THIS IS SO COOL. He comes out for a curtain call. We are all still going insane.  It is about 100 degrees and I have chills.  What an incredibly special moment to share, to be here for.  Oh my god, he did it!!!!! 
Captain Clutch, from his first hit to his 3,000th.  I don’t even know what happened the rest of the inning.  I am in the best type of awe there is. 2-1, Yankees.

Top 4: The Rays came out and clapped for Derek, which I thought was really nice. And the Stadium is still buzzing.  It is a hushed buzzed, though.  An appreciative one. Everyone seems amazed that we are the lucky ones who got to see history. I wonder who the fat guy is who caught the ball and what he plans to do with it. I would give it back – Derek Jeter earned that baseball – but I would negotiate with the Yankees for a shitload of swag and autographs, season tickets, and perhaps a futon in Derek’s spare bedroom. A mini-vacay, just the two of us, to Harry Potter World? A monthly phone call to discuss his swing and why the Red Sox are such assholes? Eh, I would probably negotiate for a job with the Yanks. Wow, I cannot get over the moment, my seats, or just the atmosphere. I was here for Game Six of the ALCS in 2009 and I am not sure it ever reached this level of excitement.  Or sheer happiness. 
Like, we all received exactly what we came for today – and more. B.J. Upton just hit a two-run shot and I don’t give a damn.  I really don’t care if the Yankees lose 17-2 at this point.  If that makes me a bad fan for today, so be it. That moment, seeing that one hit, was amazing.  And nothing, not even a blow out, could take away from getting to witness it first-hand. This is awesome.  3-2, Rays.

Bottom 4 – Top 5: You guys have to understand, I have idolized Derek Jeter since I was thirteen. He IS baseball to me. How you should play the game.  Why I love the game.  He is a team-first, play every game as if it is your last, leave it all of the field type of icon. He represents New York with such class and such ease. I have been lucky enough to grow up inspired by him.  And today just seems like it all came full-circle. Maybe he is just one of the first players whose careers I have witnessed from start to (nearing the) finish.  Maybe that is why I am especially attached.  But we, all of us fans, seem part of this.  Like we are celebrating with him, not for him, today.   A chance to give him one huge standing ovation for everything he has done for the Yankees, and more personally, our lives.  How many moments of joy and excitement he has brought me.  How many times I have screamed at the television in glee because of some crazy play he has made or some clutch hit.  I can think of specific Derek Jeter-related memories from high school (like reenacting “The Flip” during softball practice) and college (like watching Game 7 of the World Series on the third-floor of Wilson with my new dorm friends).  He is this person that I do not know, who I will never know, and yet he has, in so many ways, affected my life.  In incredible ways. Like a decade worth of playoff berths and five world championships. He deserves this today. This uninhibited adoration from 50,000 cheering strangers.  And I am so thankful to be part it.   Sports are my life, the Yankees are my heart, and Derek Jeter swept me off my feet ages ago. Baseball happened, but it is still 3-2 Rays.

Bottom 5: I guess we should pay attention, because Derek is about to be up again.  Can we go for 3,001? YES WE CAN!! He shoots a double to left field (what is with all of this left-field business today? Especially when I am sitting in the perfect Derek-Jeter ball-catching position in right?!).  Wow, three-for-three.  I think he is a triple away from the cycle.  I mean, would that not be AMAZING?! Granderson hits an RBI single, tying the game at three.  Tex gets a hit, too.  Well, we are getting history AND a really good baseball game, apparently.  A two-for-one special here in The House That Derek Built. The Yankees knock Price around (I think he is done), drive up his pitch count, and score two runs in the process.  A fine inning all around, fellas.  4-3, Yankees. 
Sixth inning: The Rays do not score any runs, so woo hoo. Two outs, but Derek is up!! Can he get 3,002? HOLY SHIT, he gets another hit!  This is crazy! He is four-for-four! Everyone is going nuts, more in stunned disbelief at this point.  Isn’t he batting like .250-something?   The Rays get out of it, but who cares? This is unbelievable.

Seventh inning: Before the inning started, they showed an interview with the guy who caught the 3000th hit – he is giving it back to Jeter! He is all smiley and seems so thrilled to be here.  Awwww, I like him. It was the perfect interview.  He deserves a big gold star for being a really good guy.  I am still marveling at how sweet the lucky fat guy is.  Whoa, three huge beers, a hot dog, the sun, and Derek Jeter have my head spinning a bit. In a terrific way.  But I feel like I should offer that disclaimer.  Players not named Derek Jeter try to hit and score runs but do not.  4-3, Yankees.

Top 8:  Robertson, that bastard, just let the Rays tie the game.  Really? We could not just end this day on the perfect note? Because it was sort of perfect until that. It made me miss Joba, which says a lot.  Sigh. Tied fucking game.  4-4.

Bottom 8: Nunez leads off with a double.  Gardner sacrifices him to third.  And now Derek Jeter is up, with one out and the winning run a base away.  Everyone is on their feet and showering him with verbal affection.  Captain Clutch.  Can he possibly add this feat to his magical day of awesomeness? Like, I don’t even mean a hit. Just a sac-fly game-winning RBI (with a guaranteed save from the MoBot3000X).  ANOTHER HIT.  FIVE FOR FUCKING FIVE.  The Stadium is shaking! This is insanity.  “De-rek Je-ter” chants are thundering.  5-4, Yankees.
Top 9: Mo saved the game, duh.  I mean, did you have any doubt that would happen? I do not really want to leave my seat. Can I just live here? It seems no one really wants to leave. But “Start spreading the news….” is hinting that I should probably mosey to the subway.
The Mo Montage.
Derek is being interviewed by Kim Jones down by the dugout and everyone chants his name one last time.  It so SO loud in here and the game is already over.  He waves with his hat and my day is complete.  Sigh, what an incredible game. What a moment. #3,000 on a homerun! A five-for-five, game winning RBI, historic record kind of day for the Baseball Jesus. I can’t believe I got to witness it. 5-4, Yankees.  
Now, in retrospect, after having some time to reflect, I am still in total appreciative shock over the fact that I sat in the first-row to see Derek Jeter make history. More photos in a separate post.  But one more thing before we go.  The series of pitches before Derek Jeter hit #3,000 after the jump: