September 30, 2011

Game 162: It Started With a Psychic and Ended With a Bang.

On Wildcard Wednesday, I had dinner with a psychic. To be clear, I do not believe in such things as healing powers and visions and auras and, well, psychics. The psychic, a bewitching woman with a mess of blonde hair and crystal clear blue eyes, knew this. My amusement, skepticism, and outright cynicism. The psychic is a very good friend of mine and a fellow attorney. While I do not buy into such crap, at least on an academic level, I am beyond curious about what she claims to see. As we caught up over steak sandwiches and baybreezes, I anxiously checked scores on my Blackberry, but never thought to ask her – the visionary before me who believes in destiny to a fault – if she sensed anything special was about to unfold. I am not sure that anyone in the world could have predicted what would happen. Game 162, 2011: The Best Night of Baseball Ever.

After dinner, I rushed back to my apartment. While I did not learn the fate of any baseball team, I was later informed that my dead mother is trying to communicate with me through my best friend/gay husband. Totally normal. And not creepy at all. To be honest, I really wish I had learned this earlier, because I am certain that mom probably said something along the lines of, “Jesus Christ, it is just baseball. I do not understand why you aren’t watching Revenge instead. You know it was shot in Wilmington, right? Really, there must be a better way you can spend the next five hours of your life. You have no idea what it was like to sit in the bleachers all those years, in freezing temperatures, just to watch you run around in a square. But you got your athleticism from me, you know; I was a phys ed teacher at one point. Still, we did not force you to play the flute and attend arts and crafts classes and laughable attempt to get you to join Girl Scouts just so you would continue to obsess about this sport that takes forever to play. Listen, I have dinner plans with Farrah Fawcett and Princess Di, so I have to fly. Ugh, fine. All of the animal teams will win. But the Native Americans, oh it is so sad. They will be used, beaten, and extinguished…again. This time, not by disease, but by bigger assholes than Christopher Columbus. And I like the Stingrays too, but that Joe Maddon really needs to cut his hair.”

I gave up on the Yankees-Rays game after Mark Teixeira hit his grand slam. I don’t think I have ever been so pissed off at a Yankee home run in my entire life. Disgusted, I flipped back to ESPN, where the Red Sox were still torturing me in a 3-2 game. But then the skies opened up and the rain poured down. I believe in Biblical omens much like I believe in psychic powers. Nevertheless, I refused to watch the Yankees usher Boston into the playoffs, so that led me to the MLB Network, where Craig Kimbrel – Rookie of the Year for Joe Girardi’s Braces – was in the midst of a blowing a heart-wrenching save for the Braves. His baby-face looked exhausted, exasperated, and overworked. I felt badly for perhaps 45 seconds, before going back to YES due to lack of better options.
And, holy mother of god, the Rays somehow scored six runs in the eighth inning and were now only down by one. I frantically searched the internet to find out how this ridiculousness happened. The Rays had two hits up until that point, two hits! Amazed, I read reactions on Twitter, just as the Cardinals sealed up their 8-0 victory. Now in the ninth inning, the Rays were down to their last out and they sent up Dan Johnson to the plate. My first thought was, “Weird, he looks like Owen from Grey’s Anatomy.” My second thought was, “Dan Johnson? Really?!” After all, Dan Johnson is a baseball lifer, who has nearly 1,000 games in the minor leagues and was playing in Japan only two years ago; Dan Johnson had a .108 batting average and had not gotten a hit since April; and Dan Johnson had only ten hits all season, with one home run. I do not normally doubt Joe Maddon, but at that point, I was pretty much petrified. With two strikes, Dan Johnson then proceeded to lace a brain-exploding homerun just inside the right-field foul pole to tie the game at 7-7. I almost peed my pants.
Shortly thereafter, the Sox-Orioles game resumed in Baltimore. I was having a minor panic attack trying to figure out how to get a picture-in-picture on my big screen so that I could watch both games, but I ultimately failed, thereby causing me to flip back-and-forth between channels like Rain Man. Eventually, the Braves were painfully taken out in the 13th inning on a pathetic broken-bat single by former teammate Hunter Pence. I respect the Braves, the longevity of their relevance and success, but they totally deserved this; their bats disappeared and their infallible bullpen fell apart. At this point, I had the Yankees ruining Scott Proctor’s career for the second time, pitching him until he dropped or the Rays eventually took the game we were subtly trying to hand them. I had a feeling that it was not a matter of if, but when, the Rays would seal the deal and – at the very least – guarantee a Game 163. So I decided to stick with the ninth inning of the Red Sox game.

My precious Orioles were down to their last three outs, the bottom of their order was up, and Jonathan Papelbon looked like he was throwing fire. I was annoyed, waiting for the inevitable fist pump and infuriating smirk as he walked off the mound. He struck out the first two batters and looked, literally, like flames would come out of his nose. It reminded me very much of Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling, both of whom I also detest. Then Chris Davis knocked a two-out double. Followed by Nolan Reimold’s ground-rule double that tied the game. I was ecstatic. You could see the looks of dread and fear on the faces of the Red Sox, and I felt my own dread turn to hopeful glee. I quickly checked on the Yankees to make sure they hadn’t fucked this up for me, but the game was still tied. Back with my nemesis Jonathan, I watched Robert Andino, who had screwed the Red Sox last week, step up to the plate with the game on the line. Win or lose, the Orioles had genuinely impressed me; unlike the Red Sox, they were playing like they this game meant everything to them. They were laying it all out on the field. And that is when the Curse of the Great Andino was instilled into baseball lore. I stood up from the couch as I watched his sinking liner to left field sink…and sink…and the underachieving neck-tatted Carl Crawford slide…and the ball seem to go into his glove…but wait, is that a flash of white on the grass…did he drop the ball?...oh my god, he dropped the ball, he didn’t fucking catch that clearly catchable ball!....this is almost fitting considering his horrendous season….but are the Orioles really….no…oh my god, they are….THE ORIOLES JUST WON THE DAMN GAME. I allowed myself a moment of pure shock, I watched the replay, and then rewound it again, the stunned and horrified look on Papelbon’s face enough to sustain me for life. It was better than sex.
I flipped back to the Yankees-Rays game to find Evan Longoria stepping out of the batter’s box. He was distracted by the 46 fans left at The Trop, who were going insane as the final score of the Red Sox game was announced. And when he stepped back in, mere minutes after Boston collapsed, he laced a line-drive homerun that just made it over the wall in left field. He raised his arms as he ran to first, and the Rays poured out of the dugout, jumping around like little kids. It was unbelievable, unpredictable, unscriptable, and simply magical. With one violent hack and his second home run of the night, Evan Longoria ended the Red Sox season, propelled his team into the playoffs, and made baseball history, joining the ranks of the once incomparable Bobby Thompson and his Shot Heard ‘Round the World.
There would be no need for Game 163. And I am not sure that we could have handled it. As humans. Across baseball, Game 162 had enough anxiety inducing, heart breaking, career changing, and miracle making moments for an entire season, let alone one night. It was, by far, the best night of baseball I have ever watched. And I could not be happier for the Tampa Bay Rays. Stuck in an awful stadium, with a $41 million payroll, a roster full of nobodies, a pathetic fan base, a superstar (and juiced) DH who abruptly retired during the first week of the season*, down nine games in September, their season down to the last strike, the Rays had no business making the playoffs. But they did. And I adore them for it. I find the Rays charming, much like the Butler Bulldogs. There is so much to admire about tenacity and heart and hustle. About professional athletes wearing collegiate letterman’s jackets on road trips. Or training a chubtastic furball to mingle in your student section. There is so much to be said about chemistry, which the Red Sox clearly lacked this season. So if Brad Stevens is the Harry Potter of college basketball, then Joe Maddon is my Dumbledore. The Rays earned this. And while it is nice to revert to being a normal Yankees fan again, I will say this: if Justin Verlander knocks us out of the playoffs, Tampa Bay has found their biggest supporter for the rest of 2011.

*I cannot believe Manny didn't just serve his suspension. He would have been in the midst of the greatest playoff race ever, against his former club.  Maybe he and his wife beating ways would have been the wedge that tore the Rays apart. But maybe he would have saved them long before Game 162.  Now he wants to un-retire, he still has to serve his suspension, and he needs to convince a team to sign him with this suspension, after he hasn't played baseball in a year.  Manny, you should really stop being so damn Manny.  

Unbelievably, Wildcard Wednesday began with a psychic. And it somehow ended with the stars aligning, destiny unfolding into sheer perfection, and the Red Sox imploding into a fatalistic and all-too-realistic hell. It turned me into a believer. Good god, baseball is the greatest game on earth. And anyone who thinks otherwise did not see Game 162.

September 29, 2011


Considering the title of the post, this also seems rather fitting. 

The Red Sox lose to the Orioles on Jonathan Papelbon's blown save and Carl Crawford's failed catch. The Rays win moments later on Evan Longoria's walk-off homer in the bottom of the 12th.  And this was after the Braves blow a save in the ninth inning, only to lose in the 13th, thereby securing the Cardinals miraculous wild card berth?!?! There is simply too much to digest right now to properly recap it all.  And there are simply too many Red Sox message boards to gleefully read at the moment.  

More tomorrow on the best night of regular-season baseball that I have ever had the pleasure of watching.  Wow.  Just WOW. 

September 26, 2011

I Vote for Jorge to Play Centerfield.

I am not even sure why I was so invested in the second game of the Yankees-Sox double-header.  It didn’t matter. We have clinched the AL East and can coast until the first round of the playoffs.  Last night had no bearing on our team except to unnecessarily tire out of our bullpen (and cause me to miss both the season premieres of The Good Wife and Desperate Housewives, which did not please me, especially for a 14-inning loss).  Regardless, I wanted to win the game.  If anything, simply to plunge the Red Sox deeper into the nightmare they have been running from since September began and to, of course, twist the dagger deeper into their current state of doom. For kicks.  We still won the series, so I can’t complain.  But damn you, Jacoby Ellsbury.  I was confused why Scott Proctor was pitching, since this isn’t 2006 and Joe Torre is no longer trying to see if his arm will physically detach on the mound.  But there he was, blowing games as usual, which is not all that surprising, considering his arm has still not completely reattached from the aforementioned Torre-induced torture of the mid-2000s.  
A cheerful reminder of past glory.
So here we are, the last week of the regular season, and the AL wildcard spot is still up for grabs.  Had we won last night, the Sox and Rays would be tied; however, the loss allowed the Red Sox to retain a one-game lead with three games left to play.  They travel to Baltimore, which has the fourth-worst record in all of baseball, and will be throwing Beckett, Bedard, and Lester.  Not bad for a three-game series that will make-or-break your playoff hopes.  The Rays, on the other hand, host the AL East Champion New York Yankees.  I kind of sort of maybe perhaps want the Yanks to roll out their bench squad over the next three days to give the Rays an edge in taking the wild card.  Would that count as some type of illegal collusion and lack of sportsmanship? I am not suggesting that we throw the series – just (wink wink) rest all of our important players and give some rookies the chance to shine.  Or, maybe we can try out a new defensive scheme.  I have always wondered whether Jorge Posada would make an excellent centerfielder or if Andruw Jones could handle the hot corner, and this seems like the perfect time to experiment. 
I am not sure if that is even a smart strategy; maybe the Yankees would prefer to play the Red Sox in the postseason.  But, considering our dramatic anything-can-happen historic rivalry, I would rather see Boston exit as quickly as possible, and ideally not make it at all.  The Rays are playing much better baseball right now.  They have excellent young starters, reliable relievers, and an offense anchored by Evan Longoria.  They also have the quirky and creative Joe Maddon, who takes risks and always manages to make lemonade out of lemons.  But once the playoffs begin, the slate is wiped clean. And the Red Sox will be out for blood.  They may have sucked in April, and they may suck right now, but I fear that middle period, those months throughout the summer, when they played, by far, the best baseball in the Major Leagues.  Lester and Beckett make a formidable one-two punch, maybe the strongest starting pair, and Boston’s lineup – when producing and healthy – is downright scary. Pedroia, Crawford, Gonzo, Ellsbury, Big Papi, and Youkalis? They can break-out at any moment.  I would rather take the Rays’ scrappy bunch of Jennings and Zobrist and Damon and company, even if their overall starting pitching is stronger than the Red Sox, any day.  So I look forward to seeing Ramiro Pena on the mound tonight with Robinson Cano behind the plate.  Fun times in Tampa Bay. 

September 20, 2011

It Was Over When The Fat Elvis Sang.

There is really not much I hate in life more than losing. This has been the case for as long as I can remember. I have read that you shouldn’t initially feed a baby delicious food, because then it never develops a taste for disgusting things, like peas; instead, you should start with peas and progress to yummy peaches. Well, sometime immediately after my birth, I must have been given a hearty bottle full of winning. And since then, I have had a succinct and adverse reaction to failure. Maybe this has to do with the fact that when my mother went into labor, she refused to go to the hospital until an episode of Dallas, her favorite TV show, was over. She had a goal and, baby JHop be damned, she was going to achieve it. My mother was a winner. And she made me want to be a winner, too. Perhaps too much. Some little girls are allergic to pollen; I was allergic to pop-outs and passed balls. You know all about my childhood softball adventures, which seemed like life or death at the time. I may have mentioned my forays into all-boys roller hockey and basketball. As a kid, my parents banned me from bowling, because I would stomp around when I threw a gutter ball and cry when I saw a final score of, like, 38. It was not until college, when I could become appropriately wasted, that I dared to venture into a bowling alley again. I have always hated losing. When I finally gave up competitive sports for college, I replaced them with beer pong championships and flip cup games. From crossword puzzles to chemistry tests to cross-country meets, I have never dealt well with failure. That said, win or lose, competition has always been part of my life; it is why I love sports, it is my crack cocaine. And when a void appears, I tend to fill it – at times, unknowingly.

That is what happened to me with fantasy baseball. As I explained before, I was invited into this league full of awesome people, I had no idea what to make of it or what I was doing, and in the purest of terms – I fell head over heels in love with it. I “know” baseball, so I expected to enjoy it and I expected to eventually be good at it. I had no idea just how much I would love it, or the everydayness of it. It became part of my routine. Setting my line-up was a game I got to play each night, against both myself and my opponents. I enjoyed comparing statistics, predicting slumps, and analyzing match-ups. I made the waiver wire my bitch (and I take pride in that, as ridiculous as it sounds). I fostered some really incredible friendships with other managers. I loved everything about it. I finished the regular season undefeated in head-to-head match-ups, I won my division by 48 games, and I breezed through the playoffs. Which brought us to last week’s championship.
Last week was also my Central Park softball championship, which had been rescheduled due to torrential rain; back-to-back titles were on the line. I had a ton of court cases, bond hearings, and document deadlines. And, to top it all off, my little brother began living on my couch again. So, I know it has been awhile here at CDTF, and for that, you have my sincerest apologies. But the following touches upon some of the craziness of last week, and more importantly, highlights my seven-day lesson in humility.

I woke up exhausted, because I stupidly stayed up until 4:00 a.m. finishing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  Having read the book twice before, it is not like I was anxious to find out what happened. I was just determined to finish it, I love getting swept away in the Battle of Hogwarts, and I didn’t want the weekend to end. It was like my brain’s way of warning me that I was better off being wrapped up in a fictional wizard than anything or anyone else. Instead, I begrudgingly got up, showered the fuzziness away, and then remembered I somehow dominated my first week in fantasy football. I still do not know how that happened, but it gave me five minutes of confused-but-I’ll-take-it amusement. In spite of this, I know that I am not very excited about fantasy football; it just doesn’t do it for me. Not like baseball, at least. And when I thought about baseball, about how Joe Girardi’s Braces went 12-0 the week before, I felt a twinge of anxiety for the first time all season.

I went to the office and met with clients, before running to court for the afternoon. I did not expect to be there very long, but it turned into a three-hour clusterfuck. Without going into detail, I have an incredible client, a refugee with an extremely sad story, who has done everything to make the most of his/her life in the United States. Because of errors by a previous attorney, the case is so screwed up that I am not sure if I will be able to fix it. By the time I finally left court, my brain was fried and I was beyond frustrated. I was so late that I did not have time to eat lunch, so I just grabbed my uniform and hauled ass to the softball field. I could not stop thinking about my poor client.
We played on this atrocious astroturf field all the way on 128th Street. We had never played there before. I thought we were going to this special field, allotted particularly for the championship. Wrong. There was literally a pothole in the batter's box, which we had to either stand in front of, behind, or straddle. There were used condoms in the dugout. We joked around about not sliding in case there was a needle and someone got the HIV. A high school football team was practicing in the outfield. And it was right next to the highway - one foul ball almost took out a windshield, while sirens blared out anything the ump said in the outfield. Speaking of which, our umpire was the same one from the week before; you know, my best friend who threatened to give me a ticket for smoking, who emphatically called me out at home, and who almost ejected me in the first inning. Yup, that one. We were down 6-2 the whole game (and three of those runs were bases-loaded walks), until we tied it in the bottom of the sixth. Then, after holding them in the top of the 7th, we had first and second with no outs in the bottom half. Our last hitter fouled out, our lead-off hitter lined to third, and…I came up with two outs, tied game, runner in scoring position for the championship. And I grounded sharply to second to end the threat. I had hit so well all game, too, which only made it worse. So we went to extra innings. We gave up two runs in the top of the eighth, only scored one in the bottom half, and the game was over. We should have won the championship and my last at-bat will haunt me until next season. 
On my way home from the Softball Field for Homeless People in Guam, I replayed the last inning in my head. I wondered how The Braces were doing on this first night of the fantasy baseball championship. But I mostly kept thinking about my client. I sort of look at an individual case like my fantasy baseball team – it is a puzzle, with an assortment of moving pieces, with weaknesses to overcome, holes to fill, and strengths to attack, which ultimately needs to be figured out in some logical manner. I mean, cases like this are why I became a human rights attorney. And the fact that I may not be able to figure this one out or help this person? It drives me up the wall, much more than losing any softball game or fantasy baseball series.
When I finally got home, I checked on The Braces, only to discover that they had apparently decided to take Monday off – we were getting our ass kicked by The Peave. Worried? Not yet, it could have been worse and it was far too early in the week to matter. But my team had been hitting miserably, clearly in a slump for days, and it left me rather uncomfortable. Especially because The Peave batted around .400 and players like Darwin Barney were getting steals. I went to bed feeling dejected and mostly relieved that Monday was over. Tuesday could not possibly be as bad.

I was wrong. Today was pure insanity. I went on an adventure to the criminal court in Queens, where I had never been before, which took nearly three hours. I felt like I was, again, in Guam. When I finally got back to the office, I checked on the Braces because there were a bunch of day games – and saw that they continued to suck. A whopping 10 for 57. I was still not worried, though. It was only Tuesday. Plenty of time to dig myself out of this ginormous hole. The Braces were built as an offensive powerhouse and there was simply no way that all of my sluggers could go into a collective slump. I went home, still exhausted from Monday, and passed out surprisingly early.
The middle of the week crept up slowly and then smacked me across the face. I was in and out of court all day, but all of my cases went really well. The Braces, on the other hand, were atrocious. Simply awful. No one could hit. Everyone was injured (ARod, Nelson Cruz, Matt Holliday, Jimmy Rollins, Mike Morse, Kyle Farnsworth, and Brett Lawrie). Every single one of my starters imploded. I was officially pissed off. The Peave kept texting me to rub this in, which, again, pissed me off. If I had acted like such an obnoxious asshole for the first 23 weeks of the season, when I easily dispatched of everyone week by week, they would have kicked me out of the fucking league. I tried to convince myself that I had greater things to worry about than fantasy baseball – and clearly, I did – yet I could not stop brooding over getting a measly 10 hits again.
This was one of those days where there were only, like, eight baseball games and everyone else had the night off. I figured this would give The Braces a chance to close the gap, at least somewhat. Wrong. It was just as horrible as the previous three days and The Peave kept rocking the hell out of the ball. I stopped looking at the stats. For the first time all season, I could not even look at the fantasy baseball website. At the end of the night, I glanced at the score and saw that I was down 10-1, the greatest deficit I had ever been in and the latest point in the week that I had ever been down in a series. I was behind by 20 hits and nearly 40 total bases, practically insurmountable deficits. I knew it was over. To get my mind off of my hopeless fantasy baseball situation, I started to read The Night Circus, a new book by Erin Morgenstern. Within three chapters, I was completely, magically, enthralled.
I got up super early – I had a bond hearing at a criminal court, documents to file at the Immigration Court, and a divorce to file at the Supreme Court. No time to write CDTF, as much as I wanted to. I finally checked our league website and perused the messages from the other managers. Sigh, yes, I knew that I was getting my ass kicked for the first time all season. And, yes, the score was really surprising. So I responded:
I have thankfully been so slammed this week that I haven’t even had time to care much about fantasy baseball [a lie to make myself feel better]. Or the fact that my team is being murdered by The Peave. Listen, it was bound to happen at some point. The Braces just picked the worst time ever to go into a collective slump, both pitchers and hitters, or get injured. I am shockingly not bothered by it, because the whole week has been such a comedy of errors. And The Peave’s team has played unbelievably awesome. So, as far as I am concerned, he has earned the championship. I have pretty much accepted defeat, although I would never count my team out until it is officially over. Is it possible to somehow tie this up? Um, sure. Is it likely? Not at all. And I am cool with it either way. I am just so happy/relieved it is the weekend. I hope you have a good one, and regardless of what happens, it has been so much fun playing with you all this season.
At the time, I really thought this message was the turning point in my week. I felt like Harry Potter entering the Forbidden Forest to face Voldemort for the last time; the golden snitch, emblazoned with the words “I open at the close,” would only open when Harry finally admitted, and accepted, that he was about to die. For the first time in my entire life, I admitted, and accepted, defeat – something I did not think was possible for me to do. I had lost. This match-up was over. There was just no way to come back from such a deficit and I knew it. So, as graciously as possible, I tipped my hat to the league for a well-played season and sat back to watch The Peave sprint across the finish line.
And that is when The Braces woke up. They were on fucking fire. Like Harry, I had to calmly accept inevitable defeat to have a second chance at victory! I finished Friday 17-for-46, with three home runs, three steals, ten runs, and 29 total bases. While behind in most categories, I was all of a sudden back in this thing. I still did not get my hopes up, but there was a sliver, just a sliver, of promise. The Braces refused to roll over and die. And I loved them for it.
From the first game on Saturday, the Braces were unbelievable. They went 22-for-57, with two homers, ten RBIs, 13 runs, and 31 total bases. I was not only still in the series, I was now winning it. But barely. I was up by two hits, two total bases, and like three RBIs. I safely had the saves and runs categories. He safely had wins and ERA. But the other eight categories were up for grabs. All week long, I had dropped my starting pitchers, the ones who no longer had any starts left, to pick up relievers in order to chase the “holds” category. I mean, I said adios to Dan Haren and picked up…Rex Brothers?! Who the hell is Rex Brothers? I didn’t care. He had three holds in the past seven days and I needed him (he came through, too). But on Saturday, I dropped everyone possible and picked up four starters for Sunday. I decided to go after WHIP and strikeouts. As long as I held onto hits or total bases or RBIs; OR if I took WHIP and strikeouts; OR if I overtook steals and strikeouts – I could win. I spent most of Saturday sleeping, reading The Night Circus, and being amazed at my team returning from the dead. The whole season was going to come down to Sunday, a Game 7 of sorts, with the championship on the line. And all I needed was for my team to play…normally.
Rex Brothers, Sassy Pose
I got up at the crack of dawn, because I had to be in Central Park at 7:00 a.m. to volunteer at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. It was heart-warming and heart-breaking all at once. On one hand, it was incredible to see thousands of people raising awareness and donations for breast cancer. On the other, it made me think about my mother, the woman who has always inspired me to win, and how much about my life she never got to know. Like my obsession with fantasy baseball, for instance. I raced home to set my line-up and debated whether I should shower. See, I had disgustingly not showered since Friday morning – right before the Braces went on their tear. I am too superstitious to fuck with karma, so I just threw on sweats, grabbed The Night Circus, and plopped myself on the couch, greasy ponytail and all. And then I proceeded to watch the Braces suck all day. It started with the Yankees – both ARod and Robbie went 0-fer. And it continued with…everyone. But as we were nearing the end of the day, The Peave was up 6-5, my strategy of picking up strikeouts and WHIP worked, and we were still tied with hits. All I needed was one hit! That is it. Since I had won all of our regular season match-ups, I could win the championship with a tie. So…one hit. ONE.

The season came down to the Cards/Phillies game at 8:00 p.m. I had Lance Berkman and Jimmy Rollins playing, while The Peave had Chase Utley. Ironically, my team slogan all year had been “It’s not over until The Fat Elvis sings.” As the game went on, Jimmy had one hit, Lance had one hit, and Chase had…three. Three fucking hits! So it all came down to Lance Berkman’s last at-bat. If he got a home run, we tied, and I won. But The Braces lost the championship. It was officially over when the Fat Elvis sang.

I fell asleep after finishing The Night Circus which, like the fantasy baseball season, I did not want to end. The Peave totally out-played me all week, except for Friday and Saturday, and he deservingly won the title. A big congrats to him. In retrospect, I think it would have been easier to lose 10-1, like the score was going into the weekend, than to lose by one hit, one homerun, or one steal. But The Braces choked during Game 7. Baseball is funny that way; I lost one series all season, by one category, and it was the only point that mattered. I was disappointed, sure, but not as much as I had expected. Joe Girardi’s Braces still had one hell of a rookie season. And I cannot wait until next year.

September 13, 2011

Just Manny being Manny?

He only slapped his wife in the face, which led to her crashing into the headboard, which led to her calling the police, which led to him being arrested for battery.  Not much is worse than a 100-game suspension for steroids, but domestic violence sort of beats it, hands down. You know, I was always amused by Manny on the baseball field – probably because he was (thankfully) never a Yankee, so I never had to endure his shenanigans.  Now? Just sort of disgusted by him.  Good riddance, assclown.   

But as a farewell, let's just watch this video one more time:


September 12, 2011

A Potential Trifecta of Ridiculously Important Championships.

1. Tonight is the Softball Championship, pitting the Wolfpack against ILX, which is, shockingly, not an airport abbreviation. We are playing somewhere up by 128th Street, which is so far away that I am pretty sure it is considered the borough of Guam. We are looking for a repeat of last week – hopefully with much less drama and a much less douchier umpire. And more importantly, we are looking for a repeat of last season – back-to-back titles, baby. I am pumped!
2.  As expected, it is The Braces vs. The Peave in the Fantasy Baseball Championship, which also begins today.  Joe Girardi’s Braces swept through the semi-finals, going 12-0 for the week, riding on the coattails of some excellent pitching by Stephen Strasburg, Dan Haren, and Brandon Beachy, as well as some timely hitting by Eric Hosmer and the always amazing Ryan Braun.  I am nervous about this week, though; Byrnes When I Peavey has some really solid, streaky hitters.  I have not dropped more than three points since Week Ten, but that means absolutely nothing at this point and my hitters have been struggling lately.  This should be a good one, but The Braces have the edge.   
3.  In somewhat surprising news, Rex Ryan’s Fantasies dominated Week 1 of fantasy football, beating the SoHo Crew 145-96 (and I still have one player left).  I think the Peave said something along the lines of, “Are you kidding me? Beginners fucking luck. 145 points!? Fuck everything about that.”  And by “said something along the lines of,” I mean that is what he emailed to our league at 12:27 a.m.  On one hand, I believe this is simply Phil Jackson-esque media tampering and mind games on the eve of our fantasy baseball championship.  On the other hand, he should know by now not to underestimate my mad natural skillz in fantasy sports.  Just because I did not know what a W/T was before Friday and still have no idea who Jacoby Ford is (he sounds like a guy I dated at Duke who we later found out was gay), does not mean that this is all due to beginner’s luck.  It’s a gift; don’t be jealous. I would like to thank the Atlanta offense for sucking so badly, two nice men whom I just met named Ray Rice and Kenny Britt, Plaxico’s prison friends, Dylan for explaining was a W/T is, and foot fetish films everywhere for inspiring my team to Week 1 greatness.  We are not called Rex Ryan’s Fantasies for nothing.  (My apologies to the Soho Crew for falling victim to this ridiculousness. It really is a gift).  
Week 2 brings The Fabulous Penguin into town, of Borg Baseball Blog fame and Countless Screaming Argonaut commissionership.  You know, fantasy football just might be growing on me. To the point that I apparently signed up for a second league, which also includes The Peave and The Fabulous Penguin.  My team in that league, which drafts Wednesday night, is called Dumbledore’s Army.  I still have little idea what I am doing, but that seemingly works for me. 

On that note, I am off to court on this very exciting Monday afternoon.  Go Wolfpack, Braces, and Fantasies! We are going for a trifecta of championships here at CDTF, two-thirds of which involve make-believe teams. Clearly vital stuff, folks.  Have a good day and check back tomorrow (when I will hopefully be hungover from celebratory Coors Lights). 

September 9, 2011

Lebron James's Long Lost Little Brother.

Just as a farewell on this gorgeous Friday, I wanted to share another gem from the SI Vault. You're welcome.  The original caption read, "A security guard restrains a fan who tried to deliver a rather disconcerting personal message to the King during an exhibition game at Shanghai Stadium in -- where else? -- Shanghai."  

First of all, I am really grateful that Sports Illustrated felt that they needed to clarify where Shanghai Stadium is, because, quite frankly, I was confused.  It perhaps would have made more sense to say "where else? -- China," but whatever. They don't pay 'em the big bucks over there for nothing.  Second of all, there is nothing disconcerting about the personal message other than the fact that the dorky Asian kid is surprisingly witty. The ginormous "J" may have been pushing it, but I will let that slide, simply for his personal drive and ambition.  Even with the Chubby security guard, cheek full of tobacco or maybe Big League Chew or perhaps vomit, trying to hold him back, Dorky Asian Kid was on a mission, backpack and all, to deliver his home-made family heirloom to Lebron James.  And you know what? I give him major props for that.  He even gets bonus points for what looks like an attempt at a hug.  If only because of the "what the fuuuuck" look of confusion on The Whore of Akron's face.  Listen, we already know that Lebron's mom has been rumored to, um, share her special places with an odd assortment of characters, so who am I to doubt that she didn't bang one of his Chinese teammates back in the day and out popped lil' Dorky Asian Kid James?  I heard that he has mad ups and is sort of a self-centered prick, so for all intensive purposes, the resemblance is uncanny. 

The David Tyree of Fantasy Baseball? Um, Sure.

So fantasy football kicked off last night.  I’m not going to lie: this is not rocking my socks off…yet.  At least, not like baseball.  In part, this is because I have no fucking idea what I am doing.  Give me a CI or MI any day, but a W/T or W/R? What the hell is that? I just don’t know football like I know baseball.  I am obviously familiar with the studs and stars, major story lines, team drama, latest arrests for assault or driving under the influence, as well as any sex fetish tape related to the Jets.  But I don’t know details.  And, in my opinion, to kick ass at fantasy sports, it is all about the details – knowing who is available, who you should target, what your weaknesses are, and how to stay one step ahead of your opponents.  I have now mastered this for baseball, but I started with a much stronger foundation of knowledge; football could ultimately be a disaster. I am prepared for it and tempering my sore-loser tendencies. 

My team, Rex Ryan’s Fantasies – named after its sister squad, Joe Girardi’s Braces – is seemingly strong.  Like with baseball, I did not participate in the draft; instead, for my rookie season, I let the computer go to town for me.  Hopefully it didn’t do quite as shitty of a job as it did during baseball season, because I will not be as adept at fixing it.  I have solid running backs in Frank Gore and Ray Rice (along with Darren Sproles and Felix Jones).  My tight end, Jermichael Finley, is also awesome.  More importantly, he has a totally bitchin’ name (as if his parents were huge fans of the Jackson 5 and combined The Gloved One with his loser brother’s name to create Jermichael magic).  I am proud to have a convicted felon on my roster in Plaxico Burress. In fact, our team slogan is “It’s not over until we shoot ourselves in the thigh. Literally.”  As long as he stays healthy, Plax excites me; I think he is going to have a big Fuck-You-and-Welcome-Back-from-Prison Party on the field. But I also have his nemesis, Eli Manning, as my starting quarterback, and that, quite frankly, scares the hell out of me. Nevertheless, the season has only been one-day long and I am already losing – something that I have not experienced this year in baseball. 

Speaking of baseball, this is the second week of the playoffs, and Joe Girardi’s Braces is rolling right along. After winning the regular season by 48 games and going undefeated in head-to-head match-ups, we were gifted with a first-round buy.  And heading into tonight’s games, I am currently up 11-0 for the week.  It is much closer than the score reads, however; some categories are still too close for comfort.  Am I worried?  Um, no.  I am still angry at Jimmy Rollin’s groin and Nelson Cruz’s hamstring for their untimely injuries, though.  Dustin Ackley and Brett Lawrie have been filling in perfectly (both players are going to be household names in the near future), so I really can’t complain.  I picked up Stephen Strasburg about a month ago and just let him sit on my disabled list until he was called up – which, I can’t help thinking, was rather brilliant.  He was lights-out unhittable on Monday.  I wish I could keep my entire team next season (only on the condition that Strasburg shaves the ridiculous beard of pubes off of his chin); I am that attached and proud of them.

Next week is the championship, and barring any disasters, my team will probably play my good friend Dylan’s.  He has my favorite team name in our league, "Byrnes When I Peavey."  Dylan eked into the playoffs in the sixth and final spot, and he has been kicking ass ever since.  I should be excited that the championship will pit my powerhouse against his scrappy believers – but I am not.  I am fully aware that, with one bad week, my house of cards – albeit, a sturdy house made with super glue and cement – can come crashing down.  This is how Duke or the Yankees must feel; when you are expected to win it all, when you should win it all, it sort of ratchets up the stress and takes the fun out of it.  There is just tremendous pressure to perform – and I am inanely talking about my fake team here.  Nevertheless, I have the talent to win, no doubt.  And I should win, on paper.  But that means nothing.  My 48-game cushion was erased when the playoffs began.  But it seems sort of dumb that a head-to-head championship can be decided by whose pitchers have two-starts or whose players are being rested by their real-life managers in the final week.  Still? Not worried.  Call it cockiness, but I would like to think it is more like factually based confidence.  I write that with a smirk.

Last night, when I was stressing over my cluelessness concerning fantasy football, I g-chatted Dylan to ask some questions.  Part of our conversation went as follows: 
JHop You only set one roster for the week in fantasy football? Like, once a position is used, it’s gone for the week? I feel like I am missing something here. This seems MUCH more boring than fantasy baseball. I also have no clue what I’m doing, but whatever
Dylan:  I believe that's how it works...You set your lineup for the week, that's that
JHop Super lame
Dylan I mean, most games are all in one day... plus they play 1/9th the games they do in baseball....So it’s like, 1/9th the work...Haha
JHop: Sigh, I will not be anywhere near as proficient as I am in baseball.  Speaking of which, you have a good lead this week!       
Dylan: Yesssss. 7-4. And all my guys pitch this weekend.  We’ll see what happens next week. I'm looking forward to it... You've been undefeated all along. I'm gonna make the Patriots out of you.
JHop: Lololol.  You are the David Tyree of fantasy baseball. 
JHop: Briiiiing it. Although, I will say, I fear your team more than Curley’s.
Dylan Haha good. Fear the Peave.
This was after he graciously explained what those ridiculous W/T and W/R positions are, as if those symbols should make sense to a casual participant.  Regardless, I am really going to miss fantasy baseball.  I was hoping that football would tie over my obsessive craziness until next April, and it still might, but I have to sit down and figure shit out first.  Until then, I will continue to bask in the success of Joe Girardi’s Braces, while simultaneously fearing The Peave.  But I will be damned if anyone is going to compare me to the 2008 New England Patriots and live to brag about it. I come from the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, fools.  And we are going undefeated, all the way, baby.    
A big thanks (and good luck) to The Peave.  I hope you all have great weekends, stay safe if you are in New York City or D.C., and please check back on Monday. 

September 7, 2011

Baseball, Beer, and Cheese.

I love food almost as much as I love baseball.  But here at CDTF, we do not venture much into delicious discussions involving dinners or restaurants.  Mainly because I am a boring eater.  I like my burgers with cheese and ketchup and nothing else; please put any strange sauces or mayos on the side; and do not take me for sushi or we will no longer be dating.  That said, today is a special day, folks.  One of my closest friends – Jenny, a fellow Blue Devil – owns a restaurant on the Upper East Side with her husband; and today, their restaurant, Earl’s Beer and Cheese, was written up by the New York Times.  

I mean, this isn’t some brief mention on a foodie website – this is a complete glowing review in the dining section of one of the most well-read newspapers in the world.  A huge fucking deal. And I am so proud of her.  I remember when she was just riffing about an idea they had to own a pub…and now, less than two years later, they are gracing the pages of the New York Times.  Be forewarned, though, Earl’s is not your typical restaurant – it is so much better.  It is an old-school-type bar with a wide array of beers, which happens to serve delicious appetizers and plates of eclectic and cheese-centric food.  You can order everything from grilled cheese with potato chips to crisp bites of pork belly to Asian-styled gnocchi to mouth-watering bread pudding.  If you are in or around Manhattan, I urge you all to trek up to 97th and Park and check out Earl’s; as the Times said, “it’s a late-night kitchen experiment gone wonderfully right.”

Okay guys, I unfortunately have real work to do now.  Please check back tomorrow – good stuff is coming involving Mariano Rivera and other treasures found in the SI Vault (although, I am not sure that anything could compete with the picture posted on Friday). 

September 2, 2011

Before they were All-Stars: ARod and Derek Jeter’s Boy Band Photo Shoot.

Like VH1’s Behind the Music, this is CDTF’s journey into yesteryear to investigate the truth behind some of baseball’s…oddest and most intriguing moments.  
While fooling around on on Tuesday night, one unnecessarily long article led to another, which then turned into some photo gallery, which eventually led to the above-pictured treasure.  For the record, the original caption from the Vault was “Jeter poses with Alex Gonzalez, Edgar Renteria, Rey Ordonez and Alex Rodriguez for a 1997 SI cover story on the next generations of shortstops.”  What it fails to mention, or should have said, is that “Jeter poses shirtless with two busts, a dude named Edgar, and his future nemesis, Princess Alex the Juiced of Miami.”   

Who – I mean really – who in their right mind was like, “You know what? Let’s put these five twenty-something-year-old breakout stars together, make them take off their shirts, and…wait. Let’s give them all thick gold chains for some pizzazz.  No, not there. Sit them in a slightly awkward position – close, but not too close, to convey that they are both friends and competitors – fucking genius.  And then just ask each of them to exhibit a completely different facial expression.  Derek, boy genius, make him flex, but just slightly, and then simultaneously smirk, barely, just barely, with the opposite side of his mouth. The opposite side only.  Behind Derek, let’s hide Rey Ordonez; he just plays for the Mets.  Give him the cheapest gold chain we have and direct him to express a look of bashful constipation, or like he is auditioning for the future pilot of To Catch a Predator.  It is imperative, however, that his freakishly long fingers are displayed like a vulture’s talons.  It is 1997, so I guess we can still be a little racist, so just throw Edgar Renteria back there, too.  Give him the best bling we have to make up for it. Sure, throw in a bracelet, too. I would like him to look somewhat confused, though, like he is contemplating bolting for the door and wondering why his agent signed him up for gay porn.  Alex Gonzalez, on the other hand, should be positioned directly between Edgar’s thighs, seductively leaning forward, as if he is very much enjoying the gay porn that his agent signed him up for.  Finally, let’s sit the important Alex right up front, next to his best shirtless buddy, and ask him to smile as creepily as possible.  His obscenely large lips should be the focal point of the photo.  Thankfully, he already shaved his chest. Then, on the count of three, have everyone yell out ‘We play with balls!,’ or whatever gets them as excited as we are for this epic shoot.”

*         *          *
When this shindig was over and the cameras were packed up and the editors went home and everyone took off their pants, the photographer muttered aloud, “Well, at least if the baseball thing doesn’t work out for them, this photograph will make the perfect cover of their first boy band album." The five shortstops signed 221 baseballs, even though no one asked them to, and then went back to Derek Jeter's apartment, waking up the following morning amongst an array of empty Zima bottles, condom wrappers, and voicemails from their mothers.

Seriously, how amazing is this picture? Almost as amazing as a three-day weekend.  Have a good one, guys!

September 1, 2011

Comeback of the MotherF#&king Year. Or, I am on a drinking team with a softball problem.

I am pretty much drunk. For good reason. But we should just establish that right off the bat. Oh please. I am not wasted at 9:00 a.m., or whenever this will be posted (probably just hungover).  I debated whether I should write this at all, since it is not exactly “professional” to be intoxicated and simultaneously want your blog to be taken somewhat seriously; however, tonight was simply too epic to not write about, at this very moment, right this second, whether under the influence or not.  Strangely, I already had a post all ready to go. It was funny, too.  BUT TONIGHT WAS EPIC.  And we simply must recap it right now. 

It is approximately 1:10 a.m.  I just got home from Blondie’s, our “softball bar” on the upper West Side, after a $24.00 cab ride. I have no fucking idea why it cost so much, nor do I really care at the moment.  I am rocking out to Rihanna’s “S&M” like I am auditioning for American Idol, and I give myself about seven minutes before one of my neighbors complains about this incredible, albeit impromptu, concert.  We will also pretend, for the moment, that the Yankees did not just lose to the Red Sox.  (Fuck Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon, both of whom I detest more than anyone else in baseball, as well as Big Papi, who has gotten surprisingly skinny, and 87-year-old Jason Varitek.  Thank god he wears that “C” because I wouldn’t be able to pick him out on the field without his walker. Nope, not bitter at all). 

Seriously and shockingly, I am not bitter at all. I don’t even care that real baseball took place tonight or that the Yankees lost. Why is that? Only because I played in one of the greatest softball games of my entire life tonight.  I mean, we have been over this many times and I have said this before.  But I am not just saying it now because I am drunk – this was one of the greatest games that I have ever been part of, and I am still reeling from it.  Obviously, fueled by pitchers of Coors Light and a few ill-advised kamikaze shots (because I am lame and cannot handle real shots) at the end of the night.  My team, the Wolfpack, of previous come-from-behind infamy, was in the…well, I guess it would be the semi-finals, the final four, the game before the championship, whatever the hell you’d like to call it.  Because of our second-place regular season finish, we had a buy in the first round of the playoffs, and we hadn’t played together in weeks.  Tonight, it showed.  The game see-sawed in a tantalizing and completely frustrating manner.  To be totally honest here, I was not in the mood to play; I had a crazy day at work, I wanted to watch the Yankees and then the Pretty Little Liars finale (yes, important stuff), I was starving (and still haven’t eaten), I am in the middle of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (the last book of my HP 2-Week Re-Reading Marathon), and I…just wanted to lay on my couch and do absolutely nothing. 

And then I became pissed off before the game even started.  I got to the field early, while another game was still being played, and I was sitting on a tree stump behind the backstop, hidden amongst trees and a swarm of gnats.  I was secretly smoking a cigarette (you can totally judge me, I know I need to quit immediately; it is an awful and unhealthy habit and I never should have started in college), even though smoking has been outlawed in Central Park.  I am a (stupid) badass, I know. All of a sudden, as I am rocking out to some pre-game Britney and checking baseball scores on my Blackberry, I hear something like, “You better put that out or I will give you a ticket.”  I look up and it is…an umpire; one who looks like he takes himself much too seriously, mustached, bald and glaring, kind of jacked with a too-tight uniform, his hands on his hips.  I responded, something along the lines of, “with all due respect, I will put it out in two seconds, if you don’t mind, when I am done with it.”  He turns his back, and I keep smoking.  I look up again, and he is two steps closer and growls, “You will put that cigarette out right now.”  Call it the snarky lawyer in me, but at this point I was thinking, “Ummmm, who the fuck do you think you are? And when did Bloomberg deputize intramural softball umpires?”  I wanted to be like, “By all means, please write me a ticket and I will pay it immediately, Officer…oh, I’m sorry, I can’t read your badge, assclown.” But I did not.  I did not know if he would later be my umpire and I did not want to play with fire.  I bit my tongue and begrudgingly put it out.
(I should probably ask before posting this, so if you guy wants me to remove it, I totally will.)
Yup, Officer Baldy was totally my umpire.  Figures, right?  So in the bottom of the first inning, I was on first after I grounded into a thrilling fielder’s choice.  Our three-spot hitter, we will call him Hollywood because he is a fucking stud with flowing locks, drove a ball to right.  (He is hilarious, a super PR exec, and one of the coolest people I have ever met). I held up, waiting to see if the tiny elf-bitch in the outfield would catch it; that was probably a mistake, because elf-bitch was not going to catch the ball, even if it was soft-tossed to her from three-feet away.  I turned it up a notch, expecting to be held at third, only to find myself being waved around.  A few feet from home, I did not see or sense the ball in any regard – again, a mistake.  I slid directly into the plate, rather than to the side…and directly into (what I most definitely thought was UNDER) the pitcher’s glove, which was, of course, holding the damn ball.  I popped up, signaling safe like an asshole, because I genuinely believed I was safe.  And Officer Baldy emphatically called me out. Like with gusto and verve and passion and emotion. And I was LIVID. Livid, I tell you.  I stormed back to the dugout and muttered, “You must be kidding me, I was totally under that tag.”  And Officer Baldy responded! He. Fucking. Responded. He retorted, “If by under, you mean right into it, sure.”  Which prompted me to sneer back, “Thanks for the commentary! Really appreciated. And totally unnecessary.”  And that is when he threatened to eject me. And I shut my big mouth. 

The game went back and forth.  We were up 1-0 in the first (which, again, should have been 2-0 because, um, I WAS SAFE), but then they tied it in the second inning.  You know, now that I have referred to the other team as “they,” I should mention their name: Bonobos Blows.  We had already played them earlier this season and I had forgotten how much their name irked me. First of all, I have no idea what company “Bonobos” is.  I tried googling it and they are either related to men’s clothing or vegetarian food, neither of which is very appealing to me.  Second of all, why would you ever name your team “Blows?”  Isn’t that like naming your team “Sucks?” “New York Sucks takes on the Boston Red Sox.” “Texas Blows, huge game against the New York Yankees tonight.” I mean, what the hell is that? So, yes, Bonobos Blows tied the game. 

The third inning, however, really seemed like a turning point…at the time.  Our pitcher, an awesome guy who looks like C.C. Sabathia, led-off with a single down the third-base line. Our lead-off hitter, perhaps my favorite Mets’ fan in all the land, followed with a single. I hit a shot to left, loading the bases.  And then Hollywood, as expected, hit a towering grand slam.  5-1, Wolfpack.  We are an extremely talented team and I really, truly, completely thought that it was an insurmountable lead.  I was very, very wrong. 
In the fourth inning, we traded two runs, bringing the score to 7-3.  One of the Blows’ runs never should have happened, though.  There was a play at the plate, a close one, where our catcher, a really sweet girl, was unnecessarily taken out and the runner was called safe. As C.C., being the supportive pitcher/captain/coach that he is, argued with the umpire about the play, another run waltzed in, undetected, to score – as C.C was standing there, his back to third base, ball in glove, directly on home plate.  No tag.  He didn’t even notice the second runner, although the ball was still live.  I blew the fuck up.  Screaming from center field, like obnoxiously so.  As was my partner-in-crime, Favorite Mets’ Fan, from left-center and our third baseman, an outstanding former minor-leaguer (the best natural player I have ever played with, in my whole life).  I ranted and stomped around, basically throwing a tantrum.  You should never show up or call-out one of your teammates, and I felt really badly afterwards, but good godddddd, it was such a sloppy play.  When we finally got the third out (it was 5-3 at the time), Officer Baldy tried to say that the Blows scored three runs, instead of two.  We all argued with him, the other team told him we were right, and he agreed.  I still hated him.  We got the two runs right back, and the score heading into the fifth was 7-3, Wolfpack.  Still absolutely no worries. Still arrogantly wrong.  I really thought the game was in the bag.

Ugh, the fifth inning was super sloppy.  Some tiny girl, probably the non-catching elf-bitch from right field, hit a dribbler to third, a sure out, which was then, ludicrously, ricocheted around the infield in a series of we-are-trying-too-hard-to-force-outs-type throws, which, again ludicrously, turned into a triple.  By the time the half-inning disaster was over, the score was a very manageable 7-5, Wolfpack.  Nothing happened for us in the bottom of the fifth, but I trotted out to center in the top of the sixth fully confident that the game was over.  They tacked on another run, making it a one-run game, and we could not get any insurance runs in the bottom half.  Still? Not worried.  We are good, defensively sound, and we had our best defensive set-up, by far.  But then the seventh inning happened.

I mean, we just had to hold them.  Just three outs.  Championship game on the line.  We could SO do this. But then the Blows started the inning with a lead-off triple.  And I was like “fuuuuuuuuuuck.”  Literally, that is what I said aloud, to no one, in deep right-center. They followed with two singles; we responded with a few errors.  Players kept rounding the bases.  I was depressed, hands-on-my-hips infuriated, cursing like an angry pirate.  I now thought the game was over.  At the end of our untimely melt-down, it was 10-7 Blows.  We were shell-shocked and seething.  It was terrible.  Like just awful.  The whole season was over because of one horrendous half-inning.  I was so mad.  I love my softball team, as previously established, and I was not yet ready for the season to come to a close.  I glared from the sidelines, leaning against the dugout fence between third and home, waiting for an at-bat I did not expect to arrive.  Our six-hitter was up, a feisty chick who can really play ball, and she lined a single to start things off.  This did not instill hope in anyone.  If anything, it seemed like a big cock-tease.  One of our best hitters, hot married laid-back Mets’ fan, got under one and hit a high fly to right for the first out.  Our already-minimal hope extinguished further.  C.C. Sabathia grounded into a fielder’s choice, which left him on first, down by three runs, with two outs.  I was, again, muttering like an angry pirate and pacing near our third-base coach.  We pinch-hit for our last batter; Cee Lo Green, one of my favorite dudes, who I previously referred to as a member of Diddy’s entourage, hit a single, prolonging our agony for at least one more batter.  I was starting to get nervous at that point, because it was now the top of the order, and there was an extremely good chance I would actually get to bat.  I was right.  Favorite Mets’ Fan, a little guy with a big bat, hit a shot over third, loading the bases.  Which, obviously, brought me up to the plate.  I used to live for these moments when I was a fearless, cocky kid.  I now wanted to pee in my pants. 

So it was the bottom of the seventh inning, the bases were loaded, we were still down by three runs, we still had two outs, and our season was on the line.  I would be lying to you if I said that my heart wasn’t thundering in my chest.  In retrospect, that seems sort of silly, considering the, you know, gigantic stakes of Central Park softball, but jesus, I was amped up.  It had been such a long time since I came up to bat with a game on the line, with the whole fucking season on the line, or simply in a game that mattered.  I went through my little routine, putting one foot in the box, taking one final practice swing while assessing the outfield, drowning out everything except the pitcher, before tapping the far corner of the plate and stepping in.  They played me in, which ticked me off.  The first pitch was a ball, but the next one was belt-high and on the outer half, right in my wheelhouse…except that I totally got on top of it and I immediately knew it.  It was a slow grounder between the pitcher and third, I knew it sucked, and I ran like my life depended on it.  And I was somehow, miraculously safe.  I felt like I was dying on first base.  Yes, another reason to quit smoking.  That said, I may now feel like I am 64-years-old, but I can still leg the hell out of an infield single.  So it was a pathetically hit and useless RBI-single, bringing the score to 10-8, Blows.  But the bases were still loaded, the game was still alive, and I thankfully had not ruined our season.  Hollywood was up again.  Mind you, he had already hit one grand slam and, all of sudden, this game seemed strangely winnable.  It seemed foretold that he would deliver in some way.  And he did, with a ginormous two-run double to deep right-center, easily scoring married Mets’ Fan and Cee Lo, and tying the game, 10-10!  Holy crap.  I, now the winning run, was huffing and puffing on third in a state of utter disbelief.  And now, LP, one of my closest friends in New York and a fellow ACC girl, was up to bat with a chance to win it for the Wolfpack, save our season, and send us to the championship on Tuesday night….  

And then on the first pitch, LP drove a no-doubt, clean line-drive to left-center field.  On third, I instantly raised my arms, bouncing home, literally jumping up and down, in Little League World Series-esque, overly dramatic, and absolutely merited exuberance. Final Score: 11-10, Wolfpack.

As soon as I stepped on home plate, everyone poured out of the dugout, ran to first base and mobbed LP, who deservingly was given the game ball later on at the bar.  In the ensuing madness, we slapped hands with the stunned Blows’ players, bidding them a fond farewell and happy off-season (but, I mean, if their team name is Blows during the actual season, I can only imagine what the rest of the year is like for them).  Like a herd of sweaty, ecstatic teenagers, we skipped out of Central Park, giddily recapping the ridiculous, unfuckingbelievable finish.  And confidently discussing how, for the third year in a row, the Wolfpack is headed to the championship.  With back-to-back titles on the line.  And Tuesday cannot come soon enough.  

You know what? Screw it, let’s just post this right now. Real-time. I’ll add pictures when I get up in approximately five hours. So enjoy it, guys. And please come back tomorrow, when I am sober will wow you with a blast-from-the-past sort of hilarious baseball post. Have a good night, a good morning, a good whatever it is right now. Pretty Little Liars and then bed, fools.