Monday, February 28, 2005

Baseball Tonight

I just watched the first Baseball Tonight of the season. It's permanently set to record every episode in my DVR so I don't miss a single one. And, in case you were wondering, during the season I not only watch the one that is before the 11PM SportsCenter, but I also check out the one that is after the 11PM SportsCenter. Dedicated, yes. Obsessive, maybe. Crazed, not yet, but toeing the line.

But, what's not to love? Karl Ravech is a superb moderator who provides the perfect tempo to the show. Harold Reynolds has amazing insight and provides levity and the player perspective that is necessary to establish credibility. And, Peter Gammons is God. In fact, he's one of the people that I would invite to my dream dinner. I'm just not sure who I would seat him next to. Probably Keith Richards.

I also like the supporting cast, though Rob Dibble needs to lighten up a bit and not take himself so damn seriously. And, Krukker, what's up with your weight? I couldn't believe how trim he's looking. It smacked of something awfully familiar. Hmmm... What could it be? Oh yeah, I know what it is. He looks like a perfect cross between Bagwell and Giambi at the beginning of spring training 2004. Maybe ESPN decided to start testing for The Cream and The Clear in Bristol...

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Book Review: “Faithful”

My pal Nathan gave me the book “Faithful” by Stephen King and Stewart O’Nan. It wasn’t Christmas. It wasn’t my birthday. It wasn’t Valentine’s Day. He just gave it to me because he’s a good dude. And he’s a true sportsman and a great baseball fan- maybe the best I’ve ever met - because it was less than a month after the World Series and he was probably still stinging. In fact, as long as we’re on the subject, Nathan is such a good dude that he was the 1st person to congratulate me after the ALCS and the 2nd to congratulate me when they won the World Series. (2nd only because my friend Big Tony called me after Johnny D hit his dinger in the top of the 1st, prematurely proclaiming “IT’S OVER! POP THE CORK!” I shouldn't have answered the phone.)

So, thanks Nathan. In the immortal words of "Old School": Blue, you’re my boy! YOU’RE MY BOY, BLUE! Here's my NY Times book review:

> I recently finished “Faithful” and can recommend it to all Sox fans. How can you not enjoy a book that documents the greatest baseball season ever – with writers who are great at telling stories? Having said that, if you’re NOT a Sox fan, this book will be completely useless to you. Don’t even bother.

The book moves quickly, and the authors’ moods swing from high to low to high again as they recap all 162 games. (Being a fan is tough business, they remind us, because YOU HAVE NO CONTROL.) They get a little too excited in May and then a little too down in July. They are appropriately outraged in late September as both Francona and the Twins’ Gardenhire sabotage golden opportunities to gain on the Yankees with bonehead pitching rotations. (Remember?)

The authors start counting their non-baseball blessings after ALCS Game 3, then ever so slowly come to the realization that they’re witnessing a historic turn-around. Amusingly, neither world-class writer can find the words to describe the final 8-game streak. After Foulke flips the ball to Mientkiewicz for the final out of the Series, O’Nan just sits there saying “Wow, wow, wow...” King can’t come up with his own words, so instead he quotes radio announcer Joe Castiglione (though Joe’s call didn’t have the spontaneous emotion one would expect, probably because the Series was such a blowout) and he also reprints all of the short and sweet headlines that appeared in the papers the next day.

King and O’Nan are very funny and generally on target with their observations. King is a bit of a doomsayer and O’Nan is a believer and optimist, which makes for interesting exchanges. The authors try to watch the games on TV or be in attendance whenever they can, but like us, they often have to settle for snippets on the radio or watch the highlights on SportsCenter or NESN. The daily recollections are amusing either way. When they can’t watch the game, they’ll describe the mood of the NESN announcers who provide the highlights.

King is at his funniest and most passionate during the Sox losing streaks (especially in July) and whenever they lose to the Yankees (especially the sweeps). He invents some spectacular variations on the F word that will really impress the kids. Though I’ve always been a Stephen King fan, two diatribes in particular prove once and for all that we are soul-mates: One Birkhead-esque rant in which he drives an irony-free stake through the idiotic notion that “all literary men must be Red Sox fans”... And another in which he RIPS the Boston sportswriters and radio morons for creating an aura of negativity around the team, around Nomar, and in the city. Brought tears to my eyes.

O’Nan is a bit of a baseball freak. I enjoy his writing but I could never go to a game with him. He frequently goes early to games with a giant fishing net to shag BP balls. He tramples little kids to get autographs. He screams at players as they get out of their cars in the parking lot. He goes down to the field during warm-ups and says obnoxious things right to the players faces (including Jeter). He’s sort of overly involved if you ask me, but it makes for good anecdotes. He’s close enough to the dugout to overhear a sarcastic Billy Mueller remark, when Mueller sees Varitek penciled to bat 2nd on the lineup card: “Aren’t we trying today?”

To his credit, O’Nan foreshadows the victory ahead more than once, by explaining that all it takes is ONE WIN for a city to reverse its reputation. His basic premise is that a World Series win is inevitable, just given a frequent playoff team and the law of averages. And how smart does he look now?

The book won’t be useful as a historical reference, however. Both authors are so enamored with 2nd-fiddles such as Daubach, McCarty and Youkilis that they forget to clue you in that Manny, Ortiz and Schilling are carrying the team from game to game. In August there’s a jarring comment that Ortiz, who has barely been mentioned in the book, is having an MVP-type season. There are similar late season footnotes about Manny and Johnny D, Schilling and Pedro. It feels like there are lots of missed opportunities to talk about the bread-and-butter guys. For example, the authors are never sold on either Cabrera or Mientkiewicz, though each clearly had a major impact in August and September (Dave Roberts, however, they are quickly sold on).

For his part, O’Nan starts the book giving elaborate recaps of every game, pivotal or not, which is a little tedious. And he has the annoying habit of not updating the score in his summaries. So I found myself re-reading each of his recaps just to figure out which team was ahead or behind in each game. Over time he starts pacing himself and learns to only deep-dive on the important games.

King’s approach is better. He gives you just the highlights, etches the big plays into memory, and is better at explaining what you're most interested in: how he's feeling. King’s problem is that he talks about himself too much and plugs his creative projects a little more than necessary. Having said that, it is kinda cool that he’s recognized everywhere he goes as a Sox fan. And he’s not shy about reminding you about how good his season tickets are, right next to the Sox dugout. And O’Nan, understandably, is constantly leeching onto the seats whenever King can’t go to a game, which is kinda funny.

Both guys are big on pop culture references and know the history. Like me, O'Nan wonders out loud if King's little girl still loves Tom Gordon. (We never get a straight answer - I guess only if he's traded back to the Sox.) And since it's a Sox book, the clever bleacher rejoinder "Who's your dealer" scores more points than than the media-driven "Who's your daddy."

It's a blast to relive the rollercoaster ride, and if you're missing Summer it's a nice Winter read.

But this, ladies and gentleman, is how "Faithful" will be judged by Red Sox fans: During the darkest moments of July - and when down 3-0 in the ALCS - both authors dig deep to find reason to believe. Faithful indeed.

> My next review: The upcoming art movie “Fever Pitch,” coming to a theater near you April 8th. Jimmy Fallon is no genius but he was great when he played a Sawx fan on SNL... and better Jimmy than Ben. So in other words, I JUST CAN'T WAIT!!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Dirt Dogs (and other pressing issues)


Those words appeared today on Are there any sweeter words in the English language? Spring has sprung! The onset of workouts in Ft. Myers has energized and motivated me to chime in on some of the hot "Rivals" topix of the day:

> Dirt Dogs

Andrew is technically correct of course- no one was a dirt dog before 2003. For fun, I was extending the concept back through my time machine. The guys at are the best ones to ask, but I think you just know when someone's a dirt dog - there are no gray areas. But to spur more conversation on this all-important topic, here is my attempt to put on paper the qualifications for being a dirt dog:

- Must be on the Red Sox and must be a gamer.
- Must be either rugged (Trot) or ragged (Pokey).
- Style of play must be aggressive enough to endear you to Sox fans.
- Must be covered in dirt and/or grass at the end of every game - blood is good too.
- Must take head first slides and dives at every opportunity.
- Must be in the middle of every brawl.
- Must be the type of player that does whatever it takes to win.
- Must be a role player, and, I hate to say it, but this is key: Once you're an All-Star you can't be a dirt dog anymore, i.e. Manny, Ortiz, Schilling. (Varitek is the exception that proves the rule. He has a lifetime membership.)
- Must hate A-Rod.

> Trot pops off about A-Rod

Trot's diatribe about A-Rod not being a true Yankee was, um, way out of right field. Spontaneous, hilarious, and eerily similar to what I wrote about A-Rod just last week. But two things are worth noting:

1. If you read Trot's exact comments, I think in a bizarre dirt-dog way he's trying to pay the Yankees a complement. He directly complements Jeter, Bernie and (of all people) Posada. I think Trot's saying the organization is classy with a proud history of hard work and achievement - and that, hey A-Rod, you'll never fit in if you do things like slap the ball out of people's mitts. And that's true... right?

2. HIS COMMENTS WERE SPECTACULARLY UNNECESSARY! So, Trot, we need to know: what prompted this outburst? Were you reading "The Rivals"? Do you hate A-Rod so much that this has been festering all winter and it just bubbled over? Anger management for you! One thing for sure: I think you should stop sleeping through those the media training sessions.

> So... is A-Rod a true Yankee?

Mmmmm, no. He's really not. But he can overcome it. And since it would be better for all of us if he is, here's some advice:

Lose the pretty boy thing - Jeter already owns that turf and he pulls it off better... Start playing like a dirt dog (see above)... Think Paul O'Neill - Yankee fans love Paul O'Neill ... Be a leader like Jeter - he's a winner... Respond angrily to Trot - start trash talking the Sox! ... No more mitt-slapping - one more desperation play like that and you're toast... And your quickest route to becoming a real Yankee: get them to the World Series... and be the Series MVP... twice!!

> Sheffield pops off about Giambi

Is this how it's gonna be? First you tell the world with a straight face that you "didn't know" you were using steroids - and now you call the guy who told the truth a crybaby? Is it just me? Were you in Trot's media class? (Boy, this is going to be a REALLY fun season!)

> Sheffield in the clutch

My bad. I read what I wrote and it was contradictory. To clarify: Sheffield was extremely clutch regular season and in fact was the scariest guy in the line-up... by far. But he was not clutch post-season, when he really really really needed to be clutch.

Deja Vu

I was just cleaning out my email and I came across this little nugget of pain/joy, depending, of course, on your allegiance:

October 20, 2004

Boston 10, NY Yankees 3 at Yankee Stadium

Winning Pitcher - Derek Lowe (1-0)
Losing Pitcher - Kevin Brown (0-1)

Boston wins series 4-3

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Sports I Give a Crap About

1. Baseball. I guess I would say 'DUH!', but all you readers of THE RIVALS don't necessarily know that baseball is my favorite sport. I mean, I could have other blogs that are specifically dedicated to other sports. Like curling. Or bowling. But, I don't.

2. Poker. Not sure if this is a sport or not, but it's competitve and I watch it all the time. Gus Hanson and Daniel Negreanu are my favorite players because they play aggressively (opposite of me - I play tight), don't take the bad beats too hard, and are very gracious when they win. There's nothing worse than sore losers and bad winners. They drive me nuts. My favorite game is RAZZ (7-card stud low). I only watch the WSOP on ESPN and the Deuce and the World Poker Tour on the Travel channel. Don't give me any of this celebrity poker crap. They don't know how to play and it will teach you bad habits.

3. Football. I dig the NFL, but only from November - January. My team is the Buffalo Bills. Yes, 4-time losers. And yet I still watch and follow them. For those of you who thought I only supported the Yankees because they are winners, you're wrong. I like loser teams too. This proves it. Much to my chagrin.

4. Golf. I love watching golf. I think it's because I can half-watch it. It's a sport that lets me multi-task. I'm also partial to it because I was a greenskeeper for 3 summers during college. It allowed me to play every day and mowing fairways every day gave me such an appreciation for a course's layout and grooming that I really enjoy looking at those immaculate, penal, spectacular courses the pros play at.

5. College Sports. I'm on the fence about this one. I even wrote about it here (my first blog). Check it out. To summarize: I just can't decide whether I like the Ramblin' Wreck of Georgia Tech or the Terrapins of Maryland.

6. X-Games. Because the athletes are absolutely crazy. And, they all seem like regular people, just like you and me. They're not freaks of nature. They're just super-dextrous and fearless.

7. Bass Fishing. Because I can't ever sleep past 10AM on Sundays, even if I was out drinking until 5 in the morning, and this is the most soothing thing in the world to watch when you have a brutal, tequila-driven hangover.

8. Hockey. It was much higher before today. Maybe 4th in my list. But, because they cancelled the season, it drops to 8. It'll go up again next year, but only to 6. It's like baseball after the strike-shortened season of 1994 (btw - Tony Gwynn got screwed that year, though you Boston fans are probably thankful...). It takes a while for me to get over the grudge. My favorite team is the NY Rangers. They won in 1940. Then went 54 years without a cup. Then they won in 1994. It was heavenly. But then they sucked again. And they still suck.

9. Professional Bull Riding and Nascar (tie). Because they can die.

10. NBA. Having the NBA make this list is a gift. I hate professional basketball. They're all freaks, thugs, or both. Walking around like they're #1, running their mouths, talking nonsense, trying to get on highlight shows, caring more about themselves than their teams. They piss me off. I hate even giving them space in this blog. It bastardizes THE RIVALS. Those bastards.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Let the Season (and Trash-Talk) Begin

Today is the start of the Yankee spring training. It's what I've been looking forward to since game 7 of the ALCS. Woohoo!

Also, came across an interesting
article in which Trot Nixon has some comments about A-Rod:

Two days before the official opening of Boston’s training camp, the Red Sox outfielder praised Rodriguez’s playing ability but said the third baseman wasn’t the “Yankee type.”

“I don’t look at him as that. He might be in a lot of people’s eyes,” Nixon said. “He’s done some great things on the field. He’s one of the baseball players in the game and probably will be when it’s all said and done. But when people ask me about the Yankees, I tell them about (Derek) Jeter and Bernie Williams and (Jorge) Posada. I don’t tell them about Rodriguez. ... He can’t stand up to Jeter in my book or Bernie Williams or Posada.”

I do agree with Trot that A-Rod isn't a true Yankee. However, the three people that he compared A-Rod to have been in the Yankee organization a total of over 30 years! Of course he's not a true Yankee yet. It's only been one year! In fact, he will probably never even come close to reaching monument park. Sure, Saint Schilling, who went out of his way to get into the hearts of Sox fans via the Sons of Sam Horn website and Boston talk radio was enshrined in the Boston hearts in only a year. But, he's the exception. Usually it takes players years and years to become an ingrained member of a team - any team.

I ask you this: Shouldn't a Dirt Dog be a gamer? Shouldn't he have left his blood, sweat, and tears on the field? Shouldn't he be an integral part of the soul of the team? Are Keith Foulke, Mark Bellhorn, and Bronson Arroyo really Dirt Dogs or are they honorary members based on the World Series win? It's just my opinion and I don't bleed Red Sox red, but I personally don't think those guys are in the same league as Manny, Damon, Big Papi, Millar, and Nixon. Just like I don't think A-Rod is in the same league as Bernie, Jeter, or Posada. What do you think?

Monday, February 14, 2005

The E List

Favorite Yankees (current)

1. Flash Gordon – The leader of the universe is my fave Yankee of course. Though I often wonder if Stephen King’s little girl still loves him...
2. Giambi – I’m actually hoping he turns it around. Isn’t it ironic that the steroid poster boy is the only guy who told the truth? Sheffield and Bonds and the other liars will get theirs. (You heard what God said...)
3. Bernie – But then I’m partial to all guitar-playing hippies who play baseball on the side.
4. Mariano – Respect for his HOF career, the way he carries himself, and extra sprinkles on top since we’ve figured out how to beat him.
5. Randy – Scary... but cool. I guess I have to start hating him now though. My question: Why would anyone want to be a Yankee these days? It’s a lose-lose proposition. If you lose, you should have won. And if you win, you're 1 of 27 (yawn).

Least Favorite Yankees (current)

1. A-Rod – Gay Rod is what New Englanders call a “loo-zah”. If I were a Yankee fan, I would want him drawn and quartered after Season 1. His numbers were good - if you're Gary Gaetti. And it was capped off by his feminine ballet and desperado slap down the 1st base line. It said to his teammates, “we can't win this the regular way, but maybe THIS will work.” I’m no Yankee fan, but he’s no Yankee.
2. Posada – Hey, look what I found: his picture is in the dictionary under “lame.”
3. Kevin Brown – Classless. Doesn’t fit as a Yankee. More like a Met. Don't you think?
4. Mussina - Doesn't do anything for me. I get the No Emotion thing, but I like the way Mr. Spock does it better.
5. Tanyon Sturtze - Sort of makes my skin crawl. A Boston kid should be much cooler, and he's not half as cool as Paul O'Neill.

Yankees I’m on a 12-Step Program to Learn to Understand

1. Jeter – Last year turned me around. Jeter is a true leader and a class act right down to the phone calls to congratulate the Sox. I have come to terms with the fine line between jealousy and respect. (Caveat 1: There’s still not enough mustard in the world to cover this hot dog; Exhibit A - the fake nosedive into the stands. Caveat 2: If he has that smirk going on opening day in Fenway when they unfurl the banner, I reserve the right to change back. And to hope that Ortiz walks over and spanks it off his face.)
2. Sheffield – Great hitter, clutch, fun to watch. But I keep a-thinkin’ he’s a-lyin’ and a-cheatin’.
3. Matsui – Good in the clutch because he’s so fundamentally sound. Minus 10 points because it seems like he always runs up his stats in those runaway games.

Favorite Yankees (alltime)

1. The Iron Horse – BTW, Cal Ripken is not even in the same league.
2. Yogi - And his pal Boo Boo.
3. Mickey Mantle – Based entirely on his Letterman appearances, his restaurant on Central Park South, and 61*.
4. Donny Ballgame – A ray of light during the glorious drought of ’78-’96. Woulda been a perfect Sox, like Dwight Evans younger brother.
5. The Babe – Read the book “Babe Ruth and the 1918 Red Sox.” You’ll see why. Imagine the marketing possibilities if Barry Bonds had Kevin Millar’s personality.
5. (tie) Roger Maris – Should be in the Hall.

Least Favorite Yankees (alltime)

1. Nettles – Public enemy #1. A graduate of Slitherin.
2. Bucky – A pimple on the butt of baseball history.
3. (tie) Reggie & Billy – The trailer and the trash of baseball history.
4. Thurman Munson – A thug. Don’t believe the New Age revisionist history.
5. Dave Winfield - “Mr. May” and a seagull killer.
5. (tie) Joe DiMaggio - An ego as big as his batting streak. And he truly stole some MVPs from Ted Williams, who by the way, is a REAL American hero.

Most Clutch (Yankees and Sox only)

1. (tie) Ortiz, Schilling
2. Jeter
3. Foulke
4. Johnson
5. (tie) Manny, Billy Millah

Least Clutch (Yankees and Sox only)

1. A-Rod
2. Posada
3. Sheffield
4. Renteria? I’m scraping here...
5. Mark Malaska (I know I should have some real Sox on this list... but they were all so MONEY!)

Favorite Sox All-Time (hitters)

1. Yaz
2. Manny
3. Dewey
4. Mo Vaughn
5. The Boomah

Favorite Sox All-Time (pitchers)

1. Schilling
2. Foulke
3. The Spaceman
4. El Tiante
5. Bruce Hurst

Favorite Sox (Current)

1. Manny
2. Ortiz
3. Johnny D
4. Schilling
5. Foulke

Favorite Dirt Dogs (Current)

1. Tek
2. Billy Millah
3. Trot
4. Kevin Millaaah
5. (tie) Timlin & Embree

Favorite Dirt Dogs (All Time)

1. Freddy Lynn
2. Bill Buckner
3. Hendu
4. Troy O’Leary
5. Bernie Carbo

Least Favorite Sox All-Time

1. Roger - traitor
2. Jimmy Piersall - embarassment
3. Hawk Harrelson – fah-reek!
4. Jose Canseco - loozah
5. (tie) Calvin Schiraldi and Bob Stanley

Will Miss:

It seems like we lost a lot of gamers:
1. Dave Roberts
2. Pokey
3. D-Lowe
4. Scott Williamson
5. "Welcome Back" Kapler.

Won’t Miss:

1. Pedro
2. Curtis Leskanic
3. Mike Myers
4. Ramiro Mendoza
5. BK Kim (we are getting rid of him... right? RIGHT?)

Holy crap! I trust my co-poster as far as I can throw him!!! It's funny how Evan decided to base most of his list on the last 8 games of 2004. As someone who shared an office with him during the ENTIRE 2004 campaign, I can honestly state that this list is about as clean as Giambi's urine sample. He used to talk about how awesome Sheffield was and now he shows up on the list of least clutch players. And, this is after he says earlier in his list that Sheffield was a clutch player! Which is it? Huh? It's also funny how he doesn't mention Saint Schilling's little crying episode. He lost a bet last year over that! And, I find it interesting that he doesn't mention what he said last season about Foulke, and that he can't be an effective closer because his out pitch is a changeup... I'm really starting to think that this 2004 WS win went straight to his head. I am very disappointed...

All true. In fact I plan to base the rest of my life on the last 8 games of 2004.

If that's how you're gonna do it, do us all a favor and take Tom Gordon off the pedestal, because he is, by your definition, the least clutch of ANY of the Yankees. He single-handedly blew the ALCS for the Yankees. More than Posada. More than Sheffield. More than A-Rod. It was all Tom "Pukin' in the Bullpen" Gordon's fault. He is worst than 'least clutch'. He's a damn choker.

An Open Apology

I would like to apologize to the fans, the media, and my co-workers for my actions. I know you might want more, but at this present time because of all the legal matters, I really can't get into specifics. Someday, hopefully, I will be able to. When that day comes, believe me, you will know.

There's been a lot of distraction, definitely, and I'm sorry for that, I really am. I feel I let down all those around me. I feel I let down Blogger. I feel I let down all of you guys who read THE RIVALS. I accept full responsibility for it. I'm sorry, but I'm trying to go forward now. I know it's going to be hard. I understand how you feel. I'm sorry.


The authors of THE RIVALS would like to tell you that we welcome all comments to our posts, no matter how trivial (read: spelling errors). We will even add responses. That's how much we care.

Spreading the Love

A few of you have asked me if I love the Patriots. The answer is OH YEAH. Part of the DNA as well. (Not really the Celtics though... and not the Bruins, either, as if it matters). And yes, I definitely believe the Super Bowl win generates more good karma for the Sox. It did before.

The Pats are very special to me – they were the first team of mine that won a championship in my lifetime. They got the monkey off my back. They made me see that it was possible. I had to wait 40 years before I could taste the champagne – that’s four-oh, kids! - but it was worth it.

Having said that, I should explain that football is 3rd on my depth chart. The two sports that take me through the year are really MLB and college basketball, thanks to my Syracuse upbringing (and alumni status - Masters Class of '83 baby!). So starting back in 1970, baseball takes me from April to October... then hands off to college hoops... and then hoops takes me from October to April. Whenever one let me down, the other is there to pick me up. Football is a nice diversion after the World Series and before college hoops gets serious in February.

Here’s how it works:

1a. Sawx
1b. Orange Hoop
2a. Orange Football
2b. Pats

This little lifecycle was more like the 9th ring of Hades - until recently. And when it rains it pours. Since the Pats broke though, I’ve been on a snowballing win streak that includes Pats ’01, Syracuse hoops ’03, Pats ’03, Red Sox ’04, Pats ’04. And counting! The 21st century has been bery bery good to me. I’m just gonna ride the wave all the way into shore.

Are the Sox and Orange going to become dynasties now as well? The Cuse certainly has the horses to win it all again next month. And the Sox – Why do I already have a feeling it’s gonna come down to Schilling-Johnson, Game 7?

Hey Blue, tell us who else you root for!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Lowdown

Current Yankees, Most Loved:
* Gary Sheffield because of his bat waggle, killer arm, and clutch play.
* Ruben Sierra because I love the sandwich and because he rides the bench without complaint.
* Tino Martinez because he has heart and is a leader.

Current Yankees, Most Hated:
* Jorge Posada because he is the opposite of clutch and will only strikeout when you need anything BUT a strikeout.
* Jason Giambi because he hasn't done crap since he put on the pinstripes.

Current Red Sox, Most Loved:
* Manny Ramirez because he has more fun than anyone playing the game. And because he always seems high.
* Tim Wakefield because he took losing in style and is one of the most charitable players in the majors.
* David Wells because deep down, he bleeds Bronx blue. And he likes to drink. A lot.

Current Red Sox, Most Hated:
* Curt Shilling because you shouldn't talk about God on TV and you really shouldn't be using baseball to support a political figure, Democrat or Republican.
* Bronson Arroyo because his hair styles suck ass.

Old Timer Yankees, Most Loved:
* Mickey Mantle because he could outdrink the entire lineup of the 1961 Red Sox.
* Craig Nettles because he had a rifle arm and a killer swing. And because I imitated his stance when growing up.
* Don Mattingly because he's a gamer. Because he never won a ring. Because he played as hard during every second of every game, even when losing.

Old Timer Yankees, Most Hated:
* Joe Dimaggio because he was an arrogant snob who had a head that was bigger than Yankee Stadium.
* Reggie Jackson because I hate strikeouts and egomaniacs.

Old Timer Red Sox, Most Loved:
* Yaz because he was the last to win the triple crown and was always classy.
* Freddie Lynn because he was fun to watch and because he popped that grand slam in the all star game to help the AL win.

Old Timer Red Sox, Most Hated:
* Ted Williams because he was an arrogant snob who had a head that was bigger than Fenway Park.
* Carlton Fisk because he hated Thurman Munson and because he doesn't deserve to be in Cooperstown.

Yankee Clutch Players:
* Gary Sheffield because he can be clutch in the field and at the plate. If you need an outfield assist, he's your man. If you need a double, a home run, or a sac fly, he's your man.
* Derek Jeter because he's everywhere.

Red Sox Clutch Players:
* Manny Ramirez because he's THE Yankee killer.
* Bill Mueller because he always seems to pull out an opposite field hit when you need him too. And because he does it from the eight spot.

Yankee Chokers:
* Jorge Posada because he's slower than paint drying and he only hits when you don't need it.
* Tom Gordon because he can't handle the pressure (see: 2004 ALCS game 5).

Red Sox Chokers:
* Jason Varitek because unlike every other Boston player, he can't hit in Yankee Stadium.
* Byung-Hyun Kim because he does more for the Yanks than the Sawks. Does this guy have money on the Bombers, or what?

Yankee Manager Issues: Torre gives players only one chance. If they happen to have one bad day, he sends them down to the minors. It's not fair and they end up being trade fodder and do sometimes do great on other teams (see: Ted Lilly, David Delucci, Mike Lowell).

Boston Manager Issues: Francona is a Toadie and won't stand up to his management or players. The whole Pedro/Nomar thing last year was pathetic. Have some balls, Terry!

Yankee Brass Issues: Steinbrenner doesn't know when to leave well enough alone. Cashman doesn't stick with players if they've had a bad season and trades them away too easily.

Red Sox Brass Issues: Epstein and I are cool. However, the rest of the brass aren't baseball guys. John Henry looks like a nerdy rich guy who has baseball as a hobby. It shouldn't be a hobby. It should be an owner's life.

Yankee Predictions:
* Yankees with the AL East.
* Randy Johnson starts out 0-3, then goes 17-2 from there.
* Tom Gordon will be a head case.
* Giambi will be decidedly mediocre, hitting .268 with 22 HRs.
* A-Rod and Sheffield will have 40 HR seasons.
* Matusi will hit .320 with 30 HRs.
* Womack, Bernie, and Posada have all jumped the shark and will all have bad seasons.

Red Sox Predictions:
* Boston will get the wildcard.
* Shilling will come in second in the Cy Young race.
* Arroyo will win 15 games.
* Manny will win the triple crown.
* Kevin Millar will be involved in some funky sex scandal. While wearing a Cowboy Up shirt.
* Wells will go on DL for 2 months but walk only 10 throughout the year.
* Foulke will have the most saves in the AL.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Blue Collar Pitching Staffs

I was laid up sick at home for a couple of days and while surfing channels I landed on this gem called Blue Collar TV. I know I'm twisted, but for whatever reason, those three dudes reminded me of all the new pitchers in the AL East:

1. Randy Johnson is a ringer in more ways than one for Jeff Foxworthy...
2. Matt Clement is the eager-to-please Bill Engvall (though I almost went with Jared Wright)...
3. And a no-brainer: David Wells is Larry the Cable Guy.

Randy Johnson's 2005 Salary: $16,000,000
Matt Clement's 2005 Salary: $8,000,000
David Wells' 2005 Salary: $4,000,000

I'm sorry, but based on the above salaries, only David Wells qualifies as being blue collar. Johnson and Clement are, unfortunately, over the $7,500,000 per year salary threshold that separates the blue collar and white collar workers. Just like in society.

Monday, February 07, 2005

No Radio For Me

Arrgh. Looks like my days of listening to the Yankees on the radio have gone the way of the Dodo. Why, you ask? Two people: John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman. Can you think of a more grating duo in the radio booth? I'd rather grind my teeth against a curb than listen to those two run their mouths. The stuff they say is usually totally banal or totally wrong, there's absolutely no insight into the game and it's strategy, and they aren't swift enough to come up with meaningful statistics of the Yankees or their opponents.

Suzyn Waldman sometimes talks like she has marbles in her mouth, stumbles over facts left and right, and can't seem to come up with an anecdote that is meaningful or germane to the action on the field. Her interviews are totally boring and never hard hitting. It's like she's afraid to offend the Yankee brass and players. Maybe that's why Steinbrenner likes her. Who knows. All I know is that I can't stand the woman.

And that brings us to John Sterling. Sterling cracks me up. He just can't wait to give his little signature call. He's like a little chihuahua who gets all excited and wets himself. At least once a game you hear him say: "Swung on and there it goes! That ball is high! It is far! It is............. caught by the right fielder in front of the warning track." I mean, c'mon! He's like a real-life version of Joe Buck's Slam-a-lama-ding-dong commercial, but for balls hit inside the freakin' stadium. So, John - Please... pretty Please... with sugar on top... if you're not sure it's a home run, don't give a home run call. It doesn't do anyone any good for you to get your panties in a bunch over a near miss.

So that's that. It's only TV for me this year. Now I'm gonna have to start getting to work at 7AM so I can rush home to watch the games with Kay, Kaat, Murcer, and Singleton. I guess the only good thing about this setup is that Evan still gets to hear "The Yankees win! The-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh Yankees WIN!". It's his absolute favorite thing in the whole wide world.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Why I Bleed Red Sox Red

Unlike my pal Nathan, I didn’t have a specific incident or experience that swayed me one way or another. I also grew up in Upstate New York, but I come from a Boston family (on my Mom’s side). I inherited the recessive Sawx gene, so it’s physically inside of me. IT’S IN MY DNA.

I didn’t know anything about this until 1970. I guess that year I became old enough to be entrusted with the family jewels. That summer, at my grandparents house in South Wellfleet, Mass., we listened to Ken Coleman (a believer) and Ned Martin (a doomsayer) describe every game on a little transistor radio. We would prop up the radio in the window sill, facing it west across Cape Cod Bay, toward Boston, for better reception. The Sox were out of the race early but Yaz was in the batting race down to the last day. He lost by percentage points to Alex Johnson of the Angels.

Grandma and Grandpa Gartner told stories about Ted Williams and Jimmy Foxx and Babe Ruth. (My Mom was partial to Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr: “He always got the hit you needed. If you need a double, he got a double. If you needed a home run, well, he hit a home run!”) I heard all about the 1967 Impossible Dream team, which was still fresh in everyone’s memory. We listened to the vinyl record that had all the ’67 highlights and the so-square-it’s-cool song about Carl Yastrzemski. Grandma taught me about lefty-righty matchups and how to keep score by numbering the fielders 1 thru 9.

We talked about how the park opened as the Titanic sank (yet they won the Series that year!), about Dom DiMaggio (better than his brother Joe!), and about 1918 (when Ruth was the star PITCHER!). The stories about DiMaggio and Williams were filled with such heroics and mutual respect – I found out the truth later on - that I really couldn’t imagine a whole lot of tension in the Rivalry. Not on the Varitek/A-Rod Richter scale anyway. That changed in a couple of years...

They were just stories. There was no REAL pain and suffering associated with any of this – although there were a lot of JOKES about pain and suffering. It was just a love of the local team and its legends. (Remember this was before 1978, ’86 and ’03, each of which twisted the knife to the point of absurdity.)

So I was hooked. Stricken. Starting in 1970, we made the pilgrimage to Kenmore Square every year. The following summer, I started playing Little League. LIFE HAD A PURPOSE! I showed up at spring training with the Yaz batting stance: back straight, bat vertical, and elbows up around my ears. And I actually hit the ball now and then. And I wore #7: Reggie Smith, of course, who had cool sideburns (and 7, serendipitously, rhymes with Evan). Eventually, I even chose to attend college in Boston because, in June 1978, the Sox had a 12+ game lead on the Yankees and I figured I’d be able to go to some games. I did. More on that later. (Or come to think of it... NOT.)

And for the record, Grandma Gartner lived to be 101. She wasn’t long-suffering or in any way scarred by the Sox. Her life was 100% complete. Don’t believe the impressions of Red Sox Nation you read in Sports Illustrated – THAT’S NOT HOW IT WORKS! Yes it’s bad. Yes we’re addicted. Yes 86 years reflected a ridiculous number of generations with increasingly cruel close calls. And yes, 2004 was one of the best things that ever happened to us.

But for the love of God, everybody - people in New England actually DO understand the difference between losing at baseball and losing at nuclear war. Whenever the Sox blew a lead or fell behind in the standings, Grandma would just shake her head and tsk-tsk them. She would ask me what I could do to fix Ken Tatum or Bill Lee or to get Rico Petrocelli to start hitting. Then she would quietly assert her position that Roger Moret (or whoever) should be assigned to the bullpen (or better yet, Pawtucket). And then she would go back to her real life. THAT, my friends, is a New Englander.

BTW – Back in the early ’70s, Syracuse was the AAA team for the Yankees (now they’re the Blue Jays). The Yankees were pretty benign in those days, always 2nd division. The scariest team by far was the Orioles. Four 20-game winners, F. and B. Robinson, Boog Powell, a couple of World Series. The other big teams were the A’s, Pirates and Reds. The A’s were by far the coolest (with more than a few similarities to the ’04 Sox).

After four decades of clear dominance, there was a glorious Yankee drought from 1962-’77 (and remarkably - after back-to-back titles - another drought that lasted until '96*). Looking back, except for the brief flare-up in ’78, the Rivalry itself had been on the side burner since the Summer of ’49. So I would go to Yankee day at MacArthur stadium and cheer on Bobby Murcer, Mel Stottlemyre and Felipe Alou without reservation (well... maybe with SOME reservation). Our local TV stations showed the Yankee games, and I used to get a kick out of the Scooter’s broadcasts.

I didn’t REALLY start to hate the Yankees guts until Steinbrenner took over and brought in buffoons like Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson. (To be fair, they brought in some cool guys too, like Catfish Hunter). But the point is, it seemed like all their guys were bought, and all our guys were home-grown. And then they started to win again...

And of course, by any definition the Yankees of 1996-’05 are again a dynasty and the team to beat. The more things change...

Footnote (*) - The 1980s shall be heretofore referred to as TBDE - The Best Decade Ever.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Baseball Lit 101

That was a well-written coming of age story – a tear-jerker in fact! - and I promise I'll write the reasons I bleed Curt Schilling red before the season starts. Nathan’s essay reminded me of the historian type of baseball writers – David Halberstam, Ken Burns, Leigh Montville – who I tend to like. Of course, one synapse led to another in my brain and made me realize I have a little author-related 'roid rage I need to put on paper. Here goes:

I've always been repulsed by the "literary" wing of the baseball library. And I’m embarrassed that, whenever it’s time to cue the violins, the poets’ go-to team is always the Sox. You know who they are. Fenway is a metaphor for America; the "lyric little bandbox"; New Englanders are like harsh New England winters; blibbety blibbety barf.

Baseball is baseball, folks. It's not life, it's not poetry. It's just a really really great sport that lends itself to unbearable suspense and spectacular plot twists. So just tell it to me straight – baseball doesn’t need any embellishing. I wouldn't trade one Roger Angell for 162 of your Updikes. I fall for the romance of The Natural and Field of Dreams, but if allowed one movie on a desert island, I'll take Bull Durham.

Which reminds me: it’s not just an American pastime. I’ll bet it’s equally if not more integral to the fabric of the Dominican, for example. Or Japan or Taiwan. Don’t you?

And as long as we're on the subject of writers, you can keep the doomsayers too. Dan Shaughnessy, I'm talkin’ to you! Since ’78 and then ’86 you not only stoked the coals of the curse, you profited from it. You did everything you could to extend it by creating dissension and controversy on the team. You became the curse. You and your negative karma, your Globe buddies, and those nit-picking weasels at WEEI. Now, do us all a favor and move to Chicago. Since your propaganda got Nomar thrown out of town, you should be forced to live with him. And Mia. You idiot.

Greatest baseball writers:

1. Roger Angell – Although I was disappointed in the low energy he mustered for his 2004 wrap-up
2. Peter Gammons – He understands - yet maintains his integrity
3. Stephen King – Read his New Yorker piece on the little league world series, circa 1990
4. David Halberstam – BTW: ’49 was the definitive Sox-Yanks pennant race – there was much more color - not ’78 or anything from the Mo Vaughn era
5. (tie) Leigh Montville, Robert Creamer

Idiot baseball writers:

1. Dan Shaughnessy - He's an idiot.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Why I Bleed Bronx Blue

I grew up in upstate New York, around 3 hours north of the city. When I was young I was infinitely more active than I am now. Our activity of choice wasn't TV, radio, video games or books. Certainly we watched TV on Saturday mornings and in the evening. We loved music and listened to it often (PYX 106 was the best radio station of all time!). We played video games, handheld and console. Most kids had an Atari 3600 or 2600 and a few even had Colecovision. We also were encouraged to do a fair share of reading both at the library and with the 5 books we were allowed to bring home with us. However, what we really loved doing more than anything was play sports. Year round. It didn't really matter what we played, as long as we were active. But, a few rose to the top. Here was the schedule:

Winter: Football, snowball fights, and sledding
Spring: Baseball
Summer: Baseball, bicycling, and tennis
Fall: Baseball and football

That's what we did every single day after school, all day on the weekends, and throughout the summer. From our age group there was myself, my brother, our next door neighbors (Miki and Sonny Singh), our other next door neighbor (Doug Williams), the family from down the street (John and Scott Stevens) and two other kids who we didn't really like but let them play with us anyway (The Bendalls). On top of that, there were around 8 other kids that would come and go as they pleased (or as their parents let them). In our neck of the woods, there were only two teams to root for: The Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees. If you think about it, it makes sense. Our town was equidistant between Boston and New York City. Pennant races galore. Trash talk. Rivalries. It was all laid out for us to choose. And, choose we did. Here's how it happened for me...

There was a neighbor who had a large piece of land and his son, who was older than us, decided to build a baseball field on it. Well, it wasn't a huge piece of land, but big enough. In order to make it harder to hit a home run, he decided to make a very large wall in left field. Well, since he and all his friends were Red Sox fans, he named it, appropriately enough, the Green Monster. Not very clever, but still very cool. The problem was this: He was a bully. And most of his older neighborhood friends were as well. When we had snowball fights, they would capture us and make us stand against a wall so they could whip icy snowballs at us like a firing squad. They used to knock us silly when were playing tackle football. They used to throw chin music. They belittled us and made fun of us. All of which is fine. I mean, that's part of the initiation of growing up, right? The older kids do that to the younger ones and it toughens you up for the rest of your life. That's why, to this day, I don't back down from fights. That's why I have such a quick temper. That's why I always have something smart to say when someone insults me. It's because they made me grow up and defend myself.

A side effect of all this, however, was team allegience. Do you choose to root for the same team as them or do you choose the one that they hate? Which will get you more friends? Which will get you made fun of? Well, we chose to put our allegience in the team that was the opposite of their favorite. After all, this was war. Since they loved the Sox, we chose the Yankees. When we played baseball against them, they always chose to be Sox players (Yaz, Fisk, Rice, and Lynn were the most popular) and we always chose to be Yankees players (Nettles, Gossage, Guidry, and Mickey Rivers were the most popular while no one wanted to be Reggie). Naturally, it extended beyond the field to baseball card collections. Those older kids were always eager to unload their Yankees cards to us if we would trade them Sox players in return, and vice versa. To this day, I still have those cards and there are a massive number of Yankees and almost zero Red Sox.

It's funny to sit back and figure out why you like the teams that you do. What I find remarkable is that when I was only 6 years old I chose to become a Yankee fan just because a couple of neighborhood douchebags were Sox fans. Just think, if they had liked the Yankees, I would be writing this weblog in red... Oh, the irony.

Pre-Spring Training Regiment

Evan and I are going to do some pre-spring training blogging to get ready for the season... Some of the things that we will be tackling are:

* Favorite current players on the Yankees and Red Sox
* Most hated current players on the Yankees and Red Sox
* Favorite old timers on the Yankees and Red Sox
* Most hated old timers on the Yankees and Red Sox (and yes, Ted Williams and Thurman Munson are fair game!)
* Players that are most clutch

* Players that are least clutch
* What drives us nuts about our managers
* What drives us nuts about our GMs and owners
* Predictions
* Trash talk

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Talking with God

Coincidentally – on the very same day we’re starting our 2005 Sox-Yankees web journal – I had a quick chance to chat with God. Here are the highlights of our conversation:

Me: Good morning God. Thanks for taking time out of your busy day.
God: Well, you picked a good day. The Super Bowl’s a week away and all these darn elections are finally over and done. Now if Trump would just shut up...
Me: First things first, God. I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank you for the outcome of the playoffs and World Series last year!
God: Oh gosh. I’d like to take credit, but that was all the Bambino. After that kid who lives in the Babe’s house got hit in the face with the foul ball, the Babe couldn’t take it any more... You didn’t really think I would influence a baseball game. Did you?
Me: Hmm. I guess not. But what about David Ortiz?
God: [blushing] Oh yeah. Well, that part was me.
Me: And Curt Schilling’s ankle?
God: Not telling. I’ve said too much already.
Me: Well it worked out great.
God: Ha! Yeah. Knock on wood. If you’re from Revere it did!
Me: So what’s in store for us this year? Any chance the rest of baseball can continue to shut the Yankees out?
God: Well, I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you. JUST KIDDING! You should have seen the look on your face! But seriously, that would ruin the fun, wouldn’t it?
Me: I suppose. But can you tell us if it will be close again?
God: Well 2003 and 2004 had a special yin and yang. They will be eternally paired. So let’s just say that if this saga is a trilogy, the ending will be truly Homeric (pardon the pun). In 2005, there will be intrigue and surprise where you least expect it. Keep your eye on the other divisions. There’s more to life than the AL East.
Me: Um... There is?
God: Ha! Just kidding again! I just wanted to make sure you were listening!
Me: Whew. OK. Well, I guess we’re out of time. Anything else you’d like to tell the fans?
God: Just to let everybody know I’m working on the whole Bud Selig thing...
Me: Great, thank you! How ’bout the steroids?
God: You know the answer to that. Remember: what goes around, comes around.
Me: Ha! Yep. I figured. Well, thanks so much for stopping by. What’s next for you?
God: Do you have to ask? Pitchers and catchers report in two weeks!

Pitchers and Catchers

Baseball just can't come soon enough. This past Sunday I re-watched the 13 inning game between the Sox and Yanks from 7/1/04. The wife rolled her eyes. What can I say? I'm in withdrawal. Big time. But, we got this blog going a full two weeks in advance of spring training, just to get the juices flowing. So, with that said, here are the dates that matter:

Yankees: Pitchers and catchers report on 2/15/05. First workout on 2/17/05. Position players report on 2/20/05. First full squad workout on 2/22/05.

Red Sox: Pitchers and catchers report on 2/17/05. First workout on 2/18/05. Position players report on 2/21/05. First full squad workout on 2/22/05.

May the best team win. And may the rest of the AL East suck. That includes you, Sosa!