Saturday, October 31, 2009

Rebecca's Blog has moved!

Rebecca's blog has moved from blogger to Wordpress and may now be accessed at:

Most of you won't have to change your bookmarks, but some of you may.

Intense Debate comments did not survive the import, so for any post made between 04/09 and 10/09, the comments can be found here.

It's a bit rough, I know, but in the long run it will be worth it.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Yankees win, Theeee Yankees win! On video!

Via Amanda Rykoff:

View her game 2 photo gallery here

Argument for Instant Replay gets stronger

1) Watch this video.

2) Tell me what you see.

If you saw the same thing I saw, you saw a) a short hop to Ryan Howard, b) no stepping on first base, and c) a throw wide of second base.

In theory, the Yankees should have bases loaded, one out, with Mark Teixeira at bat.

Instead, the play was ruled a double play--that Howard caught the ball and tagged the runner--and instead of being able to expand their lead and perhaps momentarily avoid using Mariano Rivera, the Yankees had to call on their 39 year-old closer for a 39 pitch save.

I was seated in the right field grandstand last night (check the photos from the post below), and, with Howard's back to me, I knew it was a blown call.

How did I know? If it really was a double play, Howard had utterly no reason to throw to second base.

It seems, that with every round there' yet another botched call, and each one increasing in severity after the last.

It has now gotten to the point where every play, even ones that should be utterly routine, have become the subject of much dissection.

Umpiring along with journalism has one single, cardinal rule: never become the story.

Alas, in the 2009 postseason, the umpires have.

"The Funnest I've Ever Had"

So this is what the World Series, the real World Series, feels like, huh?

What with the pitching and the timely hitting and the Mariano-ing and the Hoosierdaddy-ing and the mid-game-change-your-luck-Tweetups with Amanda Rykoff and Brent Nycz and the OHMIG-D YOU DID NOT REALIZE PAUL O'NEILL WAS THROWING OUT THE FIRST PITCH!

This is what it feels like.

It feels pretty darn good.

This isn't just baseball.

This is love.

Unlike last night's cold, rainy and windy drudge, tonight felt like October baseball.

There was, first of all, getting off the subway and walking, in the pale, dying sunlight, across the street to the Stadium. There, you find yourself transported to another world, one in which nothing matters except baseball. Nothing.

There was, in the pregame, the Jay Z/Alicia Keys mini-concert.

I'm not even a Jay Z fan, but the show the two put on seemed to set something off: the Stadium came alive, as if, finally, finally, we realized what it is our team has accomplished.

We're here, in the World Series.

We've reached the last round, we will play in the last Major League baseball game on the 2009 calendar; we will play into November.

The National Anthem is sung by John Legend and there's a flyover which goes right over my head, all of which is utterly awesome and makes it hit me again: HEY THIS IS THE WORLD SERIES, but it pales in comparison to the reaction when Paul O'Neill comes out to throw out the first pitch.

We are ready for this game to start.

AJ Burnett takes his warm up tosses not to the 300 soundtrack as normal, but instead to Marilyn Manson.

I don't know if today will be Good AJ or Bad AJ, not yet, but the music choice soothes me: almost every other time I've seen Burnett pitch this season with his normal warm up music, he's been bombed. Maybe the change will do him good.

After a few innings, after the Phillies take a 1-0 lead and Pedro Martinez refuses to let the Yankees do anything besides chant "Who's Your Dad-dy?", Amanda Rykoff and I start texting. She's scored a last second ticket to the game and we're talking about a mid-game tweet-up, along with Brent Nycz, to change the Yankees' luck. We decide: Top of the fourth inning, by section 413.

So, we meet and we walk over to one of the concession stands so I can buy myself some Twizzlers.

We watch the game on the screens, which are about 10 seconds behind the actual play on the field.

We watch AJ Burnett pitch a 1-2-3 inning, and then we watch Mark Teixeira hit a game-tying home run into the Yankees' bullpen, and we decree the tweet-up a success: our luck has been changed.

After we part, Burnett pitches as though he has taken it to another level. Slowly, we stop holding our breath with every pitch AJ throws, and instead begin to long for the next one. It may not be Lee's dominance, but you could have fooled us.

In the seventh inning, the crowd senses that this is something spectacular. So we chant: "AJ! AJ! AJ!"

He dazzles.

Later on, while speaking to reporters, he'll say it's "the funnest I've ever had".

In the bottom of the seventh, with a one run lead, the Yankees threaten for more. With first and third and no one out, a Melky Cabrera singles makes the score 3-1 and knocks Pedro Martinez from the game. Hoosierdaddy!

After a pinch-hitting Jorge Posada reaches, Derek Jeter bunts foul ("I was stupid", he is rumored to have said) and Johnny Damon comes to the plate.

I'll examine this in more detail tomorrow, but from our seats, what we saw was him ground to Ryan Howard, who, without touching first, threw the ball wide of second base. It should have left the Yankees with the bases loaded and no one out, but it was instead ruled a double play.

Somehow, you get the feeling, that it's impossible to conduct a 2009 postseason game without some sort of major umpiring scandal.

Still, the umpires' awful call notwithstanding, the Yankees took no chances, and went straight to Enter Sandman.

With the top of the Phillies' lineup due up in the eighth inning, going to Mariano Rivera is, in terms of, leverage-baby-leverage, a no-brainer. With the off day tomorrow, the Yankees could afford to do it, and so they did.

Rivera did make things a little exciting, but, being the great Mariano, he found a way.

Ball game over, Yankees win, theeeee Yankees win!


I found and purchased a "Got Pie" t-shirt. It's a much better souvenir than the program, which cost $5 more than normal and is mostly a reprint of the LCS program.

I still can't get over the umpires' call in the bottom of the 7th. I will address tomorrow, likely in the afternoon.

Any photo taken after the fourth inning is credit Brent Nycz. The video of the final out (will be uploaded in morning) is credit Amanda Rykoff.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

All Hangs on AJ

For the first time this postseason, the Yankees find themselves behind, down in a series and in much need of a win.

While comparisons to 1996 invoke a certain romanticism, it is not a position in which any Yankee fan wants to find his team--as fun as a come-from-behind series win would be, a series tied at one game a piece is still a much better option than being down 0-2 and having to go on the road.

So it falls to AJ Burnett to shut the door.

AJ Burnett, who has been so predictable--the same pitcher that surrendered six runs to Baltimore in one inning is also the one who one-hit the Red Sox through eight.

Burnett's unpredictability is nothing new--in fact, it's probably the most consistent thing about him.

Tonight, the Yankees need the "good AJ" to show up and shut Philadelphia down, and, well, not repeat his outing the last time he faced the Phillies.

AJ wants to be a big game pitcher; this is his shot.

He still needs a little pie, after all.

Damaso so good?

If there's one thing that's surprising about the Yankee postseason thus far, it's this: the bullpen has struggled more than we expected.

Mariano is still Mariano, but nearly everyone else has struggled at some point--even Robertson had a less than stellar appearance last night.

Despite the fact that the malaise seems to be so widespread, there's just one Yankee pitcher that seems to bear the brunt of everyone's emotions: Damaso Marte.

The thing is, although Yankee fans are generally astute (I hope, anyway), Marte might not actually deserve all the blame that is being heaped on him.

While it's true that Marte struggled in Game 2 of the ALDS, allowing two hits with no outs in extra innings, he has not allowed anything in the two innings (spread out over four games) he has pitched since then--no hits, no walks, no nothing.

While you might be thinking that spreading two innings over four games may not say much, keep in mind that, as a LOOGY, this is exactly how Marte is supposed to be used: to nab the left handed bats and no more.

In other words, then, what Marte has been doing is simple: his job.

It doesn't sound like much, but when you consider how much the other, normally reliable, relievers are struggling, it does matter.

Would I advocate, like I did with Robertson, for Marte to be used more? No, not really--being used as he is is the best way to use him, and the track record of using him too much isn't pretty--but what I would suggest is that perhaps he does not necessarily need to bear the brunt of our ire.

At any rate, tonight the Yankees need AJ Burnett to be solid. As important as Damaso Marte may or may not be, he will still not be important as the starting pitching the Yankees receive.

This is New York

(A response to this)

You exit my apartment.

Walk south to the end of this block and the next, hang a right, walk two more short blocks and find yourself in the heart of the Bronx's own Little Italy.

You could get yourself a thick crust slice at Full Moon, to stay or to go, or you can sit down for a full meal at Zero Otto Nove.

You can sample fresh seafood at the outdoor clam bar next to Umberto's or buy a fresh baked loaf of olive bread at Madonia brothers.

This is New York.

You hop the D train up by Fordham Road.

While you're riding it past 161st and River, a Mariachi band--complete with accordion--boards and somehow, even though you really hate accordions and you want to resist, you still find yourself drumming along to the music.

You get out at Columbus Circle.

You contemplate going to the Park. Sure, it's splendid in the sun, and brilliant in the winter snow, but it's this proposal in the rain that'll get you every time.

You contemplate turning west, towards Lincoln Center, but it's not quite Nutcracker season just yet. You contemplate walking just a little bit further, to where you could get cheap Chinese food at Ollie's, and you smile. Ollie's Noodle Bar, this is where you came this summer, after every afternoon win, a tradition between you and one of your best friends. He always gets the fried rice, you the steamed fish. The food comes so fast that you have time to eat and digest your meal and not miss a single firework on the Fourth of July.

Your stomach, however, is full from that slice at Full Moon, so instead you turn east along Central Park South, and you walk until you reach the Plaza hotel.

Across from the hotel where you once stayed as a kid the same night the Toronto Raptors were in town--you were in the elevator with Tracy McGrady, only you didn't realize it at the time, not till you read the name on the gym bag later--there's the Apple Store, which exists all underground, where you got your brand-spanking new computer four months ago, and there's FAO Schwartz, where you duck in just because they've got candy and you've got one hell of a sweet tooth.

This is New York.

You continue to walk along Fifth Avenue. You pass St. Patrick's Cathedral, where you step inside and light a taper for a Catholic friend who is in a really bad spot, and you pass by stores ranging from the ultra upscale Bergdorf Goodman to the NBA Store where you remind yourself that your brother's birthday is in two months and you haven't gotten him a gift yet.

You were here, you remember, on St. Patrick's Day, when all the world seemed to be one giant college party and you found yourself longing for your undergraduate days. You can still hear the sound of the bagpipes, a reminder of the city's Irish heritage even as you contemplate getting sushi in SoHo for dinner.

You walk past 42nd street--Times Square is to the west, and you remember spending your New Year's there, just that once, just to be able to say that, yes, you were there, that you braved the nearly 0 F temperatures and did so without gloves and somehow did not get frostbitten.

You continue, you walk past the back side of the Empire State building, so tall that you can crane your neck and still not see all of it, and you reach 34th street--Penn Station, from where you've taken trains to your parents in Jersey, to your family in Long Island, to Shea in its last year and Citifield in it's first, and the Amtrak to Boston last Christmas.

This is the same place as Madison Square Garden--and though the Jersey fan in you can't stand the Rangers and remains indifferent to the Knicks, the annual Big East tournament is a source of pride. You're not sure which you enjoyed more: winning it all in 2006, the wins against Cincinnati, hated UConn and Georgetown all coming on last second shots or that game in 2009, six overtimes against that same UConn, that game that wouldn't end, that seemed destined to continue for all eternity, and you smile.

Foley's isn't too far from here, either--this is where you met with other bloggers, most of whom you read religiously or follow on Twitter--and this is where you had lunch with the folks who are still trying to save Gate 2 from the old Yankee Stadium, and where Nick Swisher has made an appearance a few times this season, too.

This is New York.

You walk down some more, and at 23rd street you think about walking west a few blocks--here is where your other brother lives, with his wife and your sixth month old nephew. He's getting so big now, your nephew, that he can no longer fit into the Yankee baby clothes you bought for him the day he was born, if only because you were at the Stadium that day, and the opportunity presented itself.

Your brother and sister-in-law are still at work, however, so you instead continue, following Fifth Ave, until it ends abruptly at Washington Square Park and the NYU campus. You remember the last time you walked through Washington Square Park with your boyfriend, where he bumped into an acquaintance of his, nothing more at work here than two people in the right place at the right time.

From here, you know you could walk through Greenwich Village, and past that venue where you and a friend once saw the Daily Show's John Oliver in a stand up performance. You could continue down to Soho, walking past Houston and along Sullivan till you wind up at Purl, your favorite yarn store, where you think that they have to be sick of you by now.

You could continue much further south and you'll find yourself in the Financial District, and near the 9/11 memorial site, where you wish they'd hurry up already and build something there, where every year those lights still go up, and you still remember.

Instead, though, you get back on the D train and take it all the way to the end, all the way to Coney Island in Brooklyn. You get off the subway, walk past the site of the famous Nathan's Hot Dog contest (it's always the skinny guy, the Chestnut or the Kobyashi) and towards the pier. You stop short of the pier, however, as you pass by where the Cyclones play, and the field next to it, where you remember that on one August night, here is where you hurt your shoulder because you thought that there could not possibly be any harm in throwing too many pitches to your friend, the only ones to reach his mitt being knuckle-ball types. You remember how after you decided you absolutely had to test out the fast pitch, and registered at 30 miles an hour.

As bad as the thirty was, you laugh, it was still better than the 22 mph you threw when you went to Trenton, although that had consequences of its own.

From the pier you can see the amusement park, and just for a moment you wish you were a little bit less wimpy, hated roller coasters just a little bit less...

Against the sunset, you decide it's time to head back, so you get on the subway again (and damn, you think, that unlimited card comes in handy), and you ride all the way up.

You pass by 145th street, where you'd get off and switch to the A to visit that same friend on 173rd, the one that urged you to throw those knuckleballs, who lives in the way-too-much maligned neighborhood of Washington Heights, that same place where Manny grew up. You can literally see the George Washington Bridge from his apartment, and it glitters in the moonlight. You keep thinking about all the baseball games you went to this year--the game the day your nephew was born, that loss against the Nationals back in June, the walk-off on July fourth, the game that didn't start till 9.30 on July 23rd because of rain, that same game that saw the kids from Camp Sundown, that game the day after Derek Jeter broke that record, the very first game of the postseason, and now one more--the second game of the World Series. Not to mention the Staten Island, Brooklyn, Trenton and Scranton games you went to, improvising transportation and going just because you love baseball, and no other reason.

You think about the nights you spent in that apartment--once without even working electricity--because it was too late to go all the way back. You think about how when there was no roommate you could sleep on the spare bed, but now that there is one you sleep on the futon that's never really been pulled out, and how badly your back hurts in the morning, and how much you just don't care.

As you pass by the Stadium, you think about this.

You think about how you were there that first exhibition game against the Cubs, the night before you had to be at a conference at 8.30 AM but you still wouldn't have missed it for the world, about the ALCS game three viewing, where you sat in the expensive seats for free and about how you were totally fooled by the Johnny Damon lookalike sitting two rows behind you.

You realize you've been to so many games this year that you've lost count. Sure, you were lucky enough to sit in the expensive seats a few times, but your favorite memories are when you got the tickets the day before, sitting in the 400s or the bleachers, and that sense of are a Yankee fan. That itself is enough.

It takes a while, but the subway reaches Fordham Road again.

You exit along E 188th, and walk downhill, past the markets, the Indian or Pakistani woman on the street selling children's books, the community health center, the pediatrician and the weight loss clinic. You walk past the stairway to nowhere (well, that's what you call it, anyway), the Chinese take out, Dominican barber shop, brand new bar and the fried chicken joint on Webster. Along the way a tall, strong, imposing man stops you--asks you, because of your hat, if you're a Yankee fan. He asks how the Yankees will do, and without even thinking about it, you tell him,

"They're going all the way."

You bump fists.

You continue, past the playground and the basketball courts--oh, how you wish a recruiter would stop by, discover the next LeBron--and play with fate herself as you cross 3rd Ave.

You walk those last few blocks, past Arthur Ave again, and end up right back where you started.

You are exhausted, but you don't care. The City teems with life and you love every bit of it.

The kicker, though, is that you know, you know more than anyone because you've lived here, that you still ain't seen nothing yet.