Umpire Weekend

I was planning to write a humorous obituary on the 2013 New York Yankees, but it’s already been done to death (excuse the pun). And who wants to relive a season that was so painful to watch? Girardi lost more than $100 million of payroll due to injuries and used 56 different players this season. So let’s stop thinking about the bad baseball we saw this season and enjoy some good baseball known as the World Series. And last night’s game was an instant classic.

The Red Sox lose in the bottom of the ninth on an obstruction call on their third basemen, Will Middlebrooks. Say what?! If that would have happened at Fenway, the fans would have clambered over the Green Monster like the zombies in World War Z. Pedroia made an excellent play to the plate, proving that he is the best 4-ft. tall second baseman ever. But Sox catcher Saltalamacchia zinged a throw past Middlebrooks and chaos ensued.

Now, for the past few days, the Boston sports media has been singing the high praises of the umpires with the emphasis on “they got the call right” on the Wednesday night play at second base. It was unprecedented—a gathering of all the umpires to discuss and reverse a call made at second base. Yes, it was the right call, but Cardinal manager Mike Mathany said that it was a tough one to swallow. And ironically, that’s exactly what Middlebrooks, Farrell, and the Boston media said after last night’s game! Now, the umpires aren’t getting an invitation to the postgame party in Boston.

At the press conference after the game, it was nice to see our old friend Joe Torre make an appearance and clarify the obstruction rule. (And I swear I heard him whisper, “Aaron Booooooone” as he moved the microphone around on the table.) Torre even mentioned the play with Miguel Tejada in 2003 where the obstruction rule favored the Red Sox. What goes around comes around.

Joe Torre:  "I'm actually enjoying this."  (photo by Ed Medina, boston.com)

Joe Torre: “I’m actually enjoying this.” (photo by Ed Medina, boston.com)

And to add another level of irony to it, the New England Patriots last Sunday had an obscure penalty called on them that allowed their opponent to kick the winning field goal. However, the Patriots team took the high road by admitting that the call was right. They owned the loss even further by saying that they’d had plenty of earlier chances and plays to win that game. They just didn’t capitalize on it and they lost as a team.

The Sox are doing the opposite with whines like “What else is Middlbrooks supposed to do after ending up in the dirt after missing the throw?” I’ll tell you what you do—come off the bag and catch the throw. Better yet, don’t make the wild throw to begin with—it had no chance of getting the runner. Bottom line: don’t make any more throws to third base from home plate. It has cost the Red Sox two games now. But don’t listen to me—I’m just a Yankee fan who’s finally enjoying some good baseball.

It gets late early out there.
–scooter

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Enemy Headquarters

Living in the Boston area, if I want to see a professional baseball game, I’ve got to fork over the big bucks to go to Fenway Park. But being a Yankee fan, it pains me to cough up anything but insults for Red Sox Nation. Over the years, I’ve written a lot of negative things about Fenway (see previous blog post). I mean, how can MLB allow a park to seriously change the dimensions of the basic playing field?!?! Does the NFL permit a team to change the width of the field and then make it longer to compensate? Can an NBA team change the height of the goal at one end of a seriously sloped court? Let me know when that happens, please. But I digress. As I said, I hate to give my money to the Red Sox and their dinky field, but when an opportunity arises for me to go see a game for free…well, that’s a different story.

Last weekend, my wife and I fell into some free tickets to Fenway to see the Red Sox toy with the Chicago White Sox. We tried to cheer for the White Sox, but Robin Ventura’s team really gave us no opportunity to do so. The highlight of the evening was showing off my Yanks-in-Exile t-shirt in the bleachers!

Is that Boston fan looking at my butt?

Is that Boston fan looking at my butt?

The Red Sox fans in the bleachers were in a good mood, so no one gave me a hard time. However, the muscles in my neck were tense. Why, you ask? Well, we were sitting in the center field bleachers. Now you would assume that my view would be basically staring at a far-away home plate. Nope. This was my view sitting in my seat looking straight ahead:

2013-08-31_20-56-09_690
Yep, that’s the right field yellow foul pole. I had to twist in my seat 45 degrees to see the infield. What kind of insane person builds a section with those seats? What kind of insane person buys a ticket to sit in those seats?! Not me, man. I went there for free, but I’ll be trying to send my chiropractor’s bill to the Red Sox medical staff.

(As I write this, the Yanks just lost in extra innings to the Red Sox after mounting a great comeback. Yeah, we lost tonight, but at least we lost in a proper stadium.)

It gets late early out there.
–Scooter

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Let’s Give Thanks

We are all thanking Ryan Dempster today. Hey, thanks for throwing at A-Rod and lighting a passionate flame under our butts. And don’t give me that “I was trying to establish the inside part of the plate” business. We all know what you were doing. Oh, and another thank-you-very-much should go to Umpire Brian O’Nora for issuing warnings but not ejecting Dempster from the game. Paybacks are a bitch, Ryan. An A-Bomb from A-Rod in your face. How’s that working for ya?
But, fellow fans, you should also be thanking ME for the two wins over Boston (and also blaming me for the loss on Saturday). Being in Boston, it gets really tense when the Yankees come to town; my cell phone goes silent and my friends stop liking my FB posts. But this time, not only was I a pariah, but I was also a jinx. I’m an educated man, but I’m not afraid to admit it. On Friday, I turned the game on right before the Red Sox scored two runs in the 7th inning. I had checked the score and thought “Oh, goodie! We’re winning 7—1.” Almost immediately Pedroia scores, then a hit, a walk, and another hit. I recall saying to my wife, “Turn that crap off.” And she did. The next morning The Boston Globe headline “Scuffling Sox Battered by Yankees” made me feel better.
On Saturday, there I was listening to the entire game. Kuroda struggles, calls don’t go our way, Lackey gets the better of us, Big Poopy hits a homer, and we end up with a loss. That’s two days in a row that my “active involvement” in the Yankee game obviously cast a pall over the team’s performance.
So I did what any superstitious Yankee fan would do: avoided Sunday’s game on TV, radio, the internet, Twitter, text messages, smoke signals, etc. Anything for a guaranteed NY win. Done deal. You’re welcome.

How I watched Sunday's game.

How I watched Sunday’s game.

From here on out, we need all the help we can get. So for the rest of the season, if the Yankees are losing, feel free to email me (sbokun@verizon.net) or tweet to me (@ScottBokun) and tell me to stop what I am doing. I’ll turn the game on or off, change clothes, take my Yankees cap on or off, chug beers, cross fingers, toss salt over my shoulder, whatever it takes to get luck back on our side. Now if you don’t mind, I’ve got to catch up on all the hoopla from last night’s four hour game. Where’s my rally cap?!?

It gets late early out there.

–Scooter

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News Alert: Season on the Brink

In my last diatribe, I wrote that I was going on the Fan DL and that I needed assistance to get my New York Yankees groove back. It was your basic cry for help. Cheering for a team plagued by bad injuries, bad luck, and bad play was becoming a chore. (Not to mention the continuous A-Rod news alerts constantly chiming on my IPad’s ESPN app.) And while I did get some encouraging words, the majority of comments questioned my manhood, er, fanhood.

NEWS ALERT: The author will be issuing a statement about when he’s going to issue a statement about A-Rod later in this column.

A common sentiment was “we don’t need no fair-weather fans here.” I agree and I ain’t no fair-weather fan. I’ve toughed it out through the eighties with the Yankees and earned my stripes when I became further entrenched after moving up to the Boston area. Still, the majority of you told me to suck it up and take it like a man. Every year can’t be a championship season, but you can’t turn your back on the pinstripes. It’s not over till the fat lady sings mathematically. So, I’m declaring myself off the DL, skipping the rehab games, and joining the team immediately wearing my Yankees paraphernalia.

This is NOT me.  (cartoon by Mick Stevens for the New Yorker)

This is NOT me. (cartoon by Mick Stevens for the New Yorker)

NEWS ALERT: A-Rod has just finished brushing his teeth. His Listerine bottle has been booing him throughout the morning.

Well, after last night’s (or was it this morning’s) extra inning loss to the Chicago White Sox, do I think I acted too quickly? Simple answer: no. Still believe in the team. But did the Yankees play poorly in Chicago? Hell, yes. I think they were 3-for-33 with runners in scoring positionin the Chicago series. That is atrocious. And they managed to lose last night’s game twice. Pettitte pitched poorly. Kuroda deserved a win. And CC was not an ace. So what else is new?!? You dance with the one who brung ya.

NEWS ALERT: The author will be making a statement about A-Rod at the end of this column. Which is right now.

Which finally brings me to A-Rod. A-Rod rejoined the team but didn’t really help…unless you call boosting the YES ratings being helpful. He’s innocent until proven guilty, but it’s hard to see any innocence in the situation. There are a ton of feelings swirling around the A-Rod event, but one of my fellow fans, Shelley Puls Tamasi, put it nicely:
“How will it look to see him take the field for the first time this year? How will the rest of the team feel? How will the fans react?
I know how I will feel. He is a cheat, a liar and possibly a criminal. He doesn’t deserve the privilege to don that uniform and take the field under the Yankee starting roster. Any contribution he makes will be forever tainted.
He does not now, and, in my mind, has never embodied the meaning of being a true Yankee–to have the willingness to put the team first, to have a strong work ethic, to always be a positive role model, and to have a love of the game we all adore.
I just hope the rest of this is resolved quickly so we can get back to baseball as we know it. This season has been hard enough without all of soap opera of Biogenesis looming like a dark cloud.”

NEWS ALERT: It’s getting late early out there.

–Scooter

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Going on the Yankee Fan DL

I turned the game off last night. We were up 3 to nothing and, as is becoming the norm, we couldn’t put the stake in our opponent’s heart. By the end of the 6th inning, we were down 4 to 3. My patience had run out, and I was not willing to invest any more time in sloppy baseball. (I had already put up with a 4 hour, 46 minute loss to the Red Sox a few days ago.) So, when I read the paper this morning, I was happily surprised to see that we came back against the Rangers and won. But my fan ego is bruised and wearing thin. My fan ego needs a break. And that’s why I’m heading to the Fan DL.

I’m not giving up on the Yankees this year. There’s still a lot of baseball to play, but I need a little rest from the daily grind. It’s the same old, same old. Trying to figure out who is playing third base. Waiting and waiting for star players to come off the DL. Watching our second- and third-stringers get injured. Accepting that a few won’t be back this year. Cursing out our offense. Gazing at our pitchers gazing at home run balls sail out into the night. Finding out that no win is an easy win. Hoping that we don’t waste Mo’s last season with the team. Geez, it’s the Bad News Bears with Hiroki Kuroda playing the Tatum O’Neal part.

The Bad News Bears starring Walter Matthau as Joe Girardi

The Bad News Bears starring Walter Matthau as Joe Girardi


Not to mention the fact that there’s an A-Rod story floating through the media channels every day. But we should thank Ryan Braun for taking the heat for a few days. And speaking of doping, I will admit it—yes, I am putting large amounts of alcohol into my bloodstream while I watch the Yankees play.

So I’m heading to the Fan DL, where I can keep up with the team but not actually travel with the team. I’d like to rehab quickly and get back to cheering for the Yanks on a daily basis, but I need some encouragement. I am appealing to you, Exiles, to get me back on track. Send me a pep talk, a Knute Rockne humdinger to get me excited about Yankee baseball again. Leave a few choice words in the comments section. Talk me off the ledge. I’ll check back with you when I come back from my MRI appointment.

It gets late early out there.
—scooter

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Bumpy Blame Game

We are half-way through the season and it is not looking good. We started off surprisingly strong, but now the Yankees are back down to earth. And we are seeing them for who they really are: a bunch of second and third stringers with a few regulars trying to play like the dynamo that Yankee fans expect. Nobody tries to lose (unless you’re the 1919 Black Sox), but trying your best isn’t always good enough. So who do we blame for the weak performances on the field?

Not playing the Blame Game.  photo by Brad Penner, US PRESSWIRE

Not playing the Blame Game. photo by Brad Penner, US PRESSWIRE

Do we blame Jeter and A-Rod for getting old and breaking down? Do we blame the injuries that no one saw coming (Granderson and Teixeira)? Do we blame the injuries we did see coming (Youkilis)? How about Cashman and Girardi? What about the Steinbrenner family? Let’s throw Kevin Long in there, too. And don’t forget that the actual players are accountable as well. But I mostly blame Bumpy Jones.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking–“Who the hell is Bumpy Jones?” Of course, I have a story to explain it to you. Years ago, my brother-in-law was working with a friend to sell t-shirts. They would take these cool photographs, colorize them to make them extremely eye-catching, and then print them on t-shirts. One of their shirts had a printed picture of this old wrinkly guy wearing a hat and a plaid jacket. When they were trying to sell these shirts for distribution, the foreign buyer wanted to know who this old guy was. So they said he was jazz legend Bumpy Jones. “You don’t know Bumpy Jones!?!?!” My fast-thinking, fast-talking brother-in-law made up a whole biography for Bumpy to keep the distributer interested!

So I blame Bumpy, a made-up figurehead designed to make the sale and make us feel better about the product. Because in actuality, there is no one person who should get the blame. Plenty of it to go around. But mostly we should blame our own expectations. All fans of dominating sports clubs are guilty of getting used to success that leads to championships. No different with the Yankees. We just expect them to be contenders. But let us not forget that there were plenty of down years–who here remembers the late eighties and the early nineties?!? Since then, we haven’t missed the playoffs. In 1998, we won 114 games, for crying out loud!

At the start of the season, we got excited and kept our expectations high because the team was getting it done. Didn’t we all know deep-down that the Yankees couldn’t keep this up? So once we realistically lower our expectations, the losses don’t hurt as much. Oh, you can still cheer for the Bronx Bombers (I’m not giving up), but you have to realize that this team, as it is built at this moment, is not ready for prime time. My favorite Yankee blog “An A-Blog for A-Rod” (which you should check out ) slapped me in the face with this before Sunday night’s loss to the Orioles:

- The Yankees have lost 4 of their last 5 games, 6 of their last 9, 11 of their last 16, and 19 of their last 31.

- They’ve scored 4 or fewer runs in 6 of their last 10 games and 14 of their last 20.

- In the month of June, they rank dead last in MLB in: Runs (83), Home Runs (17), SLG (.326), wOBA (.270), and wRC+ (65)

- They rank second to last in: Hits (181), RBI (80), Batting Average (.221), and OBP (.287)

- For the season, their team batting line is now down to .239/.301/.379 (.297 wOBA, 83 wRC+). If the entire Yankee offense was one player, they would be Drew Stubbs.

Drew Stubbs. Big oucher, man. But let’s change that last sentence to “If the entire Yankee offense was one player, they would be Bumpy Jones.” There. I feel better now.

It gets late early out there.
–scooter

(Actually, there really is a Bumpy Jones. He was a member of the 1952 US Olympic swim team. He’s still alive today and holds many Masters swim records. FYI)

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Tick, Tick, Tick

I am exhausted. With the Yankees playing on the West Coast this past week, the first pitch lands in the catcher’s mitt just when I’m thinking about hitting the hay. And then when you add the NBA Finals and the late night hockey games into the schedule, especially the triple overtime Bruins/Blackhawks game, I’m getting to bed way too late and way too jazzed to fall asleep right away. So as the clock ticked past midnight again, I thought to myself, Are baseball games taking longer than usual? Or am I just getting older and crankier? (Wait, don’t answer that.)

Being a Yankee fan, I am used to a Yankees/Red Sox game lasting forever (see my blog entry from September 2011 http://lifebehindenemylines.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/yankees-red-sox-infinitas/). But even in a Seattle/Kansas City game, the game is stretched. Batters put on a show between every pitch, not just when stepping up to the plate. The hitter’s got to retighten his batting gloves, spit, dig in, tug at his shirt sleeve, readjust his package, ferociously blink, talk to God, whatever. A Turrets convention has fewer tics. And on the mound, some pitchers are guilty of holding the ball in their glove until it sprouts roots.

Amalie Benjamin of The Boston Globe recently wrote an excellent piece on why the game of baseball is longer now than it was decades ago. (http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2013/06/08/why-baseball-games-take-long/wikaeRMGatBDGDefpbFE1H/story.html) Fifty years ago, the average game was around 2 hours, 25 minutes. In 2012, the average game is 2 hours, 56 minutes. A typical Yankees/Red Sox game is now 3 hours, 19 minutes! (And guess which MLB team on average plays the longest games—the Red Sox, coming in at 3 hours, 11 minutes.) But being a baseball fan, you know what you are signing up for: a game that moves slowly but is still full of tension. Yet in the real world, who’s got three hours plus to spend every day watching a game?!? My solution is to listen to the radio broadcast of the games (good ol’ John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman). That way you can multi-task easier and still get the gist of the national pastime.

So as I listened to yet another pitching change, wondering if baseball’s extra minutes were really that noticeable or annoying, it hit me. Twenty-five extra minutes are painful… when you are losing. As I said, a baseball fan knowingly submits to a game that moves at a slower pace than most other sports. But when your team is playing like a squad that couldn’t make the Little League World Series, then any extra playing-time is excruciating. Listening to the Yanks put men on base only to strand them again and again in an 18-inning loss to Oakland made me feel like I was wasting my time.

time

Let’s hope the Yankees pitchers don’t feel like their time and efforts are wasted. Let’s hope that the offense breaks out of their slump after this awful West Coast trip. Let’s hope that Girardi can keep this group of players on the right track as we wait for the regulars to come off the DL. With a little more than half the season to go, it’s time to twist an old Yogi-ism–let’s hope it doesn’t get too late too early out there.

–scooter

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Flipping Out

Okay, it’s been a bad week for the Yankees. Getting swept by the lowly Mets and then losing 2 out of three to the Red Sox is a blow to the ego and a kick to the crotch. After a rain-delayed loss late last night, frustration and lack of sleep both contributed to the black cloud that is following me around today. But I also rediscovered something last night, a silver lining behind the thunderclouds, and hopefully it charges the Bronx Bombers as well.

It happened when Red Sox DH David Ortiz stepped up to the plate in the 6th just as the rain was starting to fall. Kuroda was struggling (and again so was the offense). The pitch came in and Ortiz sent it out, way out. And then he had to do this:

Now I remember why I don't like you.

Now I remember why I don’t like you.

And even though Boston sports-talk radio has spent 95% of today talking about the Bruins, Tony Massarotti of 98.5 FM the Sports Hub managed to squeeze in a comment about Big Papi’s bat flip. He called it “Mickey Mouse, minor league crap.” This is not the first time that Ortiz has pulled this low-class expression of disrespect. He’s done it his whole career, but I remember specifically an incident with the Yankees in June 2011 (check out my blog post from back then: http://lifebehindenemylines.wordpress.com/2011/06/)
It was a jerk move then and it’s a jerk move now.

So as the big tub chugged around the bases and then did his pointer-fingers-to-the-heavens gesture, I could feel my blood boiling. At the beginning of the season, I did not actually hate the Red Sox since they had cleaned house after the Bobby Valentine debacle. Their roster was significantly different, and I didn’t have a history with these Sox. They were not a part of the rivalry yet. But thank you, good ol’ David Ortiz! Thanks for bringing the hate back for me. I remember your arrogance. I remember your self-aggrandizing tone. And I remember it being reported that you had tested positive for steroids (and I remember you saying that you never took steroids knowingly). That immature bush-league bat flip brought it all back to me. And hopefully, it sparks the veterans in the Yankee line-up. It’s time to get up off the mat, put the pinstripes back on, and play with some passion and pride. And if you start to get complacent, just check out that gif of Ortiz and I promise you’ll get flippin’ mad.

It gets late early out there.

–Scooter

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The Baseball Gods Having a Laugh

Being a teacher, I always find it difficult to keep up with Yankee games as we head into the end of May. There are just too many end-of-the-school-year events and curriculum pieces that have to be completed. And there’s only so much time. So for the past two weeks, I really haven’t been listening to or watching the Bombers. But every morning with my cup of coffee, I pick up the Boston Globe and check out the sports scores. And every morning, this is what it looks like:
Shocked-Troy-Walks-Into-Fire-With-Pizza-Community[1]

It seems that during every game somebody gets injured. A line drive to the leg. A pulled groin. A broken finger. A bad back. A bruised ego. The hits just keep on coming. The Yanks are dropping like zombies in a bad horror movie. And yet we are still fighting for first place in the AL East. (As I write this, I’m listening to the Yankees play the Mets. John Sterling just announced that Reid Brignac got a hit. I had to stop and think, “Is he on our team?”) I’m not sure if the Baseball Gods are laughing at our injuries or are laughing at the teams we beat.

We’ve made it through almost a third of the season with this patched lifeboat of players. And the regular crew is getting closer to joining the party. Teixeira and Youkilis are getting ready to play in the minors. Joba was back tonight. Stewart played tonight. And Jeter…well, I recently saw a picture of him getting coffee at Starbucks…but he looked good. To paraphrase the Blues Brothers, no one said getting the band back together was going to be easy. But it’s gonna happen.

It gets late early out there.

–Scooter

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Insult To Injury

We all held our breath when we saw Mariano Rivera hit the ground in Kansas City last year. Then A-Rod needed surgery. Then Jeter broke his ankle. Our faces turned blue. Then Teixeira hurt his wrist. And then Granderson got hit by a pitch. And then we all passed out due to lack of oxygen. At least the NY Yankees can joke about it, as witnessed in KC this weekend. Even Mo can laugh about it now.

Mo has the last laugh at the spot of his injury in KC.

Mo has the last laugh at the spot of his injury in KC.

But is it just me or are there more injuries in baseball than ever before? I’m not just talking about broken bones–fluke injuries due to being hit by a pitch or crashing into an outfield wall. I’m talking about the weird injuries like the one that happened to Nunez. Pulling a muscle near the ribs while taking practice swings in the on-deck circle? ARE YOU SERIOUS, DUDE? I can pull a muscle springing out of bed to answer a late-night phone call, but I’m almost fifty! Nunez is only 25!!!

Suzyn Waldman on the radio broadcast went off the handle when Nunie was replaced in that game. What is wrong with players today? Her answer was that too many players are in the weight room too often, during the season AND the off-season. And that leads to stress on the body. (Hmmm…could it also be the use of steroids in the weight room as well?) Waldman and Sterling went on to reminisce about all the ballplayers who were definitely not bench-pressing anything except beers after the game. David Wells, who never cared about muscles, was quoted as saying “You can’t pull fat.” Maybe there is something to that. If anyone out there has any answers or possible reasons for the huge list of injuries around the league, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. I’ll check the comments section after I ice my wrists after all this typing.

It gets late early out there.

–Scooter

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