Tagged: Yankee Stadium

Ladies and gentlemen…welcome to the Big Ballpark in the Sky

What more can you say? My words can’t possibly do justice to a legend of Bob Sheppard’s magnitude. Yeah, I’ve lived in New Jersey for most of my life and have seen more major league games at old Yankee Stadium than every other stadium combined…but that’s still not that many. I’m not a Yankee fan, so I only went when my beloved Red Sox were in town, and besides…I’m only in my early 20s. This is more of a job for my father, who grew up in Bergen County, just outside New York, rooting for Casey Stengel’s Yankees, full of Hall of Famers like Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra (and Phil Rizzuto, who probably didn’t really deserve to be enshrined as a player), idolizing Bobby Richardson because second base was his position in Little League and he, too, was named Bobby. The one constant, even then, was Sheppard–who had been working for the Yankees ever since the year Dad was born. Naturally, as soon as I saw the news that Sheppard had passed, I went to tell my dad, who said that it was probably for the best, as Sheppard had been ill for quite some time. I agreed, but still…it’s always sad when someone dies. Always.

Spotlight

I think I’m just going to live-blog this, Bill Simmons-style. Probably should’ve started that earlier, actually…

8:05
PM: I tune in as Bernie Williams is getting a huge ovation. Apparently
they’ve been introducing Yankee greats across time, including the
starting lineup from the first game ever played at Yankee Stadium. Now,
Bob Sheppard with the starting lineup. In centerfield, #18, Johnny
Damon. At shortstop, # 2, Derek Jeter. In right field, #53, Bobby
Abreu. At third base, #13, Alex Rodriguez. At first base, #25, Jason
Giambi. In left field, #22, Xavier Nady. At second base, #24, Robinson
Can贸. The designated hitter, #55, Hideki Matsui. Catching, #26, Jose
Molina. And pitching, #46, Andy Pettitte.

Okay, now that we can
get out of stuffy serious mode, let’s take a look at the rest of
baseball. As I said, a Yankee loss will give the Red Sox a playoff
spot. For tomorrow, Florida is out of the NL East with a loss or a
Philly win. The Cubs will clinch home field up until the World Series
with a win or Philly loss.

8:13: Special guest to catch the
ceremonial first pitch…okay, it’s Jorge Posada, who’s been on the DL
all year. Nice. Throwing out the first pitch is Julia Ruth Stevens, the
Babe’s daughter.

8:15: There’s going to be a “special postgame
celebration” after the game. If Baltimore wins, there’s also going to
be such a celebration in Boston. The Sox may even be back in town in
time to see it, depending on when their plane left/leaves Toronto.

8:19:
Speaking of Chicago Cubs, it looks like ESPN may have rush-delivered
Lou Piniella to New York. Oh, wait, that’s right, the Cubs have a
four-game series at Shea starting tomorrow. Okay, so that makes a
little more sense, but it still seems like they must have gotten the
team to NYC pretty quickly.

8:25: Jon Miller asks, “Who will hit
the last home run at Yankee Stadium? Jeter? A-Rod?” I hope it’s an
Oriole. Preferably Kevin Millar.

8:26: Joe Morgan says it’s not
a must-win game for the Yankees. He later qualifies it by saying that
they will be eliminated from the playoffs this year. I still disagree.
You don’t eliminate yourself, and you definitely don’t close out your
home ballpark by handing a playoff berth to your most hated rival.

Commercial
break means we can discuss more eliminations and stuff. Okay, actually,
we don’t have any more for tomorrow. We have the Phillies clinching a
playoff berth with two wins and a Milwaukee loss…we probably have
others. The game is coming back. 8:30 PM already, and still no pitches
besides the ceremonial one.

8:31: They’re scrolling Yankee
Stadium history across the bottom of the screen. Gag. Now we’re on
all-time Yankee Stadium leaders. Mickey Mantle leads in Games Played
and Home Runs; Jeter leads in Hits, Gehrig in RBI. Now we’re in
“Events”, such as notable boxing matches and concerts. Concerts! I wonder why I’m doing this.

8:35:
Finally, Pettitte takes the mound, to the tune of “Boys of Summer”.
Miller tells us about “the roll call”, that despicable part of the game
when everyone chants the players’ names until they respond, then
wonders if that tradition will move with them to the new stadium.
Morgan, thankfully, tells him that because of the fans’ fervor, a lot
of things will be moving over.

8:37: Oh, no, they’ve got one
camera on those fans and another on whatever player’s name they’re
calling out. Abreu has to ignore them momentarily to catch a fly ball
from Brian Roberts, then Nick Markakis singles to center on the first
pitch.

8:39: Morgan talks about the roar of the crowd, something
I can appreciate, having once identified a classic game on the radio as
being at Yankee Stadium just from the crowd noise. Mora flies out to
Nady, and Huff grounds out to Jeter.

8:41: Was there a commercial there, or just more Yankee Stadium reminiscing? Chris Waters is pitching for Baltimore.

8:43:
The recorded Bob Sheppard introduction of Derek Jeter. Was too busy
looking up Waters’s numbers to see how Damon got out. Waters debuted
with 8 innings of one-hit, shutout ball, and in his most recent start,
had a complete game shutout.

8:44: Apparently Jeter got an award for breaking Gehrig’s record. Tonight, though, he’s out on strikes.

8:45:
Morgan reminds us that Jeter’s playing hurt tonight. My hands can’t
move quickly enough for this…how does Simmons do this? Another
backwards K, and it’s 1-2-3. You don’t think…Nah, there’s no way that
would happen, right? 馃槈

8:49: Miller tells us the Orioles have a
potent offense. They also tell us that Pettitte is on a personal 5-game
losing streak. Sounds good to me.

8:50: Hernandez is down on
strikes. For the second time tonight, we’re told that Ruth said he’d
give a year of his life to hit a homer in the first game at Yankee
Stadium, and that he did. Oh, and that was career strikeout #2,000 for
Andy Pettitte.

8:51: Adam Jones triples off the top of the wall
in right. Millar comes up with a chance to drive in the first run in
the last game at Yankee Stadium.

8:52: Pettitte’s considering retirement, apparently. Allegedly. You know how long southerners’ retirements last, though.

8:53: Full count.

8:54:
It’s a walk. Jay Payton comes up and drives in the run with a
broken-bat grounder to short, too slow to turn the double play.

8:56: Juan Castro flies out to Damon.

Okay, so maybe giving a play-by-play is too much. Best to focus on the important stuff, and on Miller’s inane comments.

Wow,
bizarre. In spite of their OT loss to NC State, East Carolina is still
ranked. Oregon was knocked out by Boise State, and with OK State idle,
they were unable to capitalize on the other losers…so Vandy and TCU
are in. To review: there are only 19 teams from BCS conferences in the
AP Top 25. And one of them is Vanderbilt. And one of those non-BCS
teams is all the way up at number 11.

9:04: A-Rod reached on a walk and is at second with two outs. So, yeah, it’s still possible.

9:04: Whoa! Brian Roberts gets a Web Gem for a diving catch. 2 innings done.

9:08:
Yogi and Whitey are in the booth. Miller calls Ford the greatest
pitcher in Yankee history, then asks Yogi to confirm. Yogi, jokester
that he is, says, “He’s okay.” One on, didn’t see how. Roberts then
steals second. Ford gives a story about warming up in the late innings
of Larsen’s perfect game because “Don gets tired in the late innings.”
Still scrolling facts.

9:14: Showing highlights of Jackie
Robinson stealing home in the World Series off of the Ford-Berra
battery, a call they didn’t agree with. Mora drives in Roberts. Ford
relates a story of Phil Rizzuto saying that he could see from shortstop
that Robinson was safe, but years later, they found out that Scooter
wasn’t even playing that game.

9:19: Finally, inning over.

9:23: Matsui gets the first hit for the Yanks, a single. Now showing, the final pitch of Larsen’s perfect game.

9:26: Three-run homer, Johnny Damon. ****.

9:27: Jeter hits one to almost the same spot, but not far enough; running catch, Markakis.

9:33: Has there been a game going on here? Two walks have given them first and second with two outs.

9:36:
Fly ball to left, ends the inning. Whitey told the story of when he
gave up four hits on his first four pitches and Casey Stengel came out
and asked Yogi if Whitey had anything and Yogi responded, “I don’t
know, I haven’t caught anything.”

9:37: There really was only one commercial there, then a return with “New York, New York” playing. I think it was the Sinatra version, but it didn’t really sound like either of the main versions.

9:42: One-out double for Millar.

9:46:
Now talking about 1976, Chris Chambliss’s home run, the Big Red Machine
and Reggie Jackson as a guest star on the telecasts, saying that the
Yankees needed “a big hitter”–and they would acquire Jackson that
offseason. Tie ball game on a two-out RBI single by Roberts. Inning now
over.

9:54: Two-run homer, Jose Molina. Argh.

10:11:
Brief mention of John Sterling. Yes, I’ve more or less lost interest.
Sterling and Michael Kay were apparently the emcees of the pregame
ceremonies. The official closing of the Stadium is in November. Isn’t
that a bit early for an outdoor hockey game?

10:16: Peter Gammons with David Wells and David Cone, talking to them about their perfect games.

10:18:
Pettitte leaves with one on and none out in the sixth. This means he’s
eligible for the win, and not eligible for the loss.

10:20: Jose Veras on to pitch.

10:25:
Sounds like a “Boston Sucks” chant. Also, celebrities in the stands. We
have Val Kilmer, we have Bobby Knight…do we have others?

10:26: Pinch-hitter? Oscar Salazar comes out to pinch-hit for Juan Castro.

10:43:
Now showing: Reggie’s heroics in the ’77 World Series. Oh, he’s in the
booth. You can tell that I’ve lost interest in this game, can’t you?

10:58:
Seventh inning stretch. Ronan Tynan’s there, of course. Also, a couple
more pitching changes. Phil Coke replaced Veras with two out in the
sixth, Lance Cormier replaced Waters with two outs in the bottom of the
sixth, and Joba–the one and only–replaced Coke with one out in the
top of the seventh. When did Joba return and why is he a reliever
again? I take it he’ll also take care of the entire eighth, then hand
it off to Mariano. It’s the only right way.

11:01: Back again.
While we’re thinking of closers (we knew that regardless of score, Mo
would be pitching the ninth), K-Rod had save number 60 yesterday

11:03:
Michael Kay is taking over in the broadcast booth. ESPN normally shuts
out local coverage, so it’s really nice that they’re handing the mic
over to the YES play-by-play man.

11:06: Abreu singles and steals second. A-Rod’s up, 0-for-1 with two walks tonight.

11:07: Abreu to third on the fly out.

11:09: Pitching change. Cormier replaced by Jamie Walker.

11:12:
Pop-up, bad communication, no one catches it, Abreu scores. Dropped by
Brandon Fahey. Wait, when did he enter the game? Brent Gardner
pinch-running for Giambi, Rocky Cherry replacing Walker.

11:14: Oh, right, Castro left the game. Fahey pinch-ran for Salazar and took Castro’s place at shortstop. We’re back.

11:17: GET FAHEY OUT OF THERE!!! He boots the ball, and Gardner, running on the play, makes it to third.

11:19: Sac fly Can贸, Nady to second. Gonna take quite the comeback for the O’s to pull this off…

11:20: Pudge pinch-hits for Matsui and grounds out.

11:23:
Defensive changes: Gardner stays in at center, Damon to left, Cody
Ransom comes in to play first base, batting in Nady’s spot.

11:25: Two outs already. Damn, that’s quick.

11:28:
First-pitch flyout for Jose Molina, the first time he’s been out this
game. He’s been declared the Chevrolet Player of the Game, though I’m
hoping that will change.

11:31: Fahey finally catches one, but
collides with Alex Cintr贸n in the process. Someone rescue this poor
idiot. Cintr贸n then throws out Jeter for out three. We’re not even
cutting to commercial, instead focusing on the bullpen. Mo throws a
couple more pitches before entering.

11:34: Wow, that was a long
montage of calls. Every no-hitter and perfect game, a few major home
runs…”Enter Sandman”. Payton, Fahey and Roberts due up, but Luke
Scott is in the on-deck circle. So Fahey is given a little mercy, after
all.

11:36: Count is 1-1. Yes, we’ll be going play-by-play for the ninth.

11:37:
Another foul; 1-2. Miller points out that it’s not a save situation,
“not that anybody cares on this night.” Payton grounds out to Jeter.

11:38: Yep, Scott will pinch-hit. Good. Very good.

11:39: Two down. Oh, now this
is cheesy. What do you think this is, an All-Star Game? Jeter leaves
the game, then comes out for a curtain call at the crowd’s request.
Bullsh*t move by Girardi. I hope that the final out, whenever it comes,
goes to shortstop, just to rub it in Girardi’s face.

11:41: Nope; grounder to first ends it. No clinch for the Sox.

11:45: They’ve finished up playing Frankie’s version of “New York, New York”…and started it again.

11:47: Jeter’s got a mic in his hand. Let’s see what he’s got to say.

Eh,
too much to write verbatim. It’s very nice, though, and he did a great
job at quieting down the crowd–although you can still kind of hear the
crowd roar. Big cheers when he calls them “the greatest fans in the
world”. It ends with the organization saluting the fans. Cool, I guess.
Is that even the Stadium PA playing the song this time? Yeah, I think
it is. Of course, it sounds like it’s out of sync with itself. Bad
camera wiring? Is it something recursive, it’s recording itself? Or are
different speakers just playing it at different times?

11:52: Okay, how many times are they going to play that damn song?

12:01 AM: A retrospective of the night.

12:02:
The Yogi Berra commercial…no, wait, it’s different this time. Yogi’s
had a commercial for this final game, but this one is different. Even more
poignant. Oh man…I may be trembling again. Okay, so it’s just an
extended version, here’s the ending I remember. Finally, the full
version…

12:04: SportsCenter begins. This is Passed Ball, signing off.

12:05: Spoke too soon. They’re playing it again!!!

Grand finale

Okay, so Boston lost, and New York won. So obviously, no clinch for Boston yet. As mentioned, if Tampa Bay wins, they’ll clinch a playoff spot. However, this presents an interesting scenario for tomorrow. Remember: it now takes both a Boston win and a New York loss for New York to be eliminated from the playoffs entirely. (A Tampa Bay win alone, or a New York loss alone, will take care of the division.) Remember that if Tampa wins either today’s or tomorrow’s game against Minnesota, the combination of the Boston win and New York loss would guarantee Boston a playoff spot.

Now remember when tomorrow’s Yankee game will be.

The Yankees are scheduled to be on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball tomorrow, along with a big ceremonial show about the end of an era. Yeah, tomorrow’s the last home game. The last baseball game to be played at Yankee Stadium. And there’s the potential that the final game at Yankee Stadium could begin with the Yankees still in the playoff hunt and end with them eliminated and Boston having clinched a playoff spot. Would this not be the ultimate kick in the teeth to Yankee fans? I think so. Make it so, Orioles.

Also: Another way for Tampa to clinch. They still can’t clinch today because of the Yankees’ win, but they can clinch a playoff spot without the win if the White Sox also lose–games remaining sets the effective losses for the AL Central runner-up above Minnesota’s current total if the Sox lose again. Therefore, a Yankees loss and White Sox loss can take care of it for the Rays–and, should they win tomorrow, the Red Sox as well. So, to review: Should Minnesota beat Tampa for both of those games, but Chicago loses at least one to KC, neither Boston nor Tampa Bay would have clinched anything at the start of the Yankees’ game…but both would have playoff spots if the Yanks were to lose. They can now close out Yankee Stadium by handing out two playoff berths, to hated rival Boston and perennial doormat Tampa Bay!!!

Okay, so that seems awfully unlikely right now. Tampa leads Minnesota 6-0 in the bottom of the sixth.

And now, for something completely unexpected!

The Milwaukee Brewers have fired manager Ned Yost, replacing him on an interim basis with third-base coach Dale Sveum. Yes, the Brewers. 83-67 record, tied for wild card lead. Those Brewers. What the hell? Sveum is a former Boston third-base coach, so he knows from pressure. That can only be a positive for the Brewers…right?

I’ve been a bit out of sorts lately, but not many elims while I was gone. Just Detroit from the AL Central. As for that which is current: Tonight’s elimination and positional locking scenarios: Seattle last place AL West with loss and Oakland win. Orioles last place AL East with loss or Toronto win and New York win. (There is no “or” here, really, because Baltimore’s playing Toronto. More of an informative thing for if it doesn’t happen, the next win Toronto gets, if it is not in this Baltimore series, will create the lock as long as New York also has at least one win by then.) San Diego last place NL West with loss to Colorado. (San Francisco, despite having the same number of wins as Colorado right now, does not necessarily need to win because they’ve already clinched the season series with San Diego. In all others, a sum of 163 was necessary because neither New York nor Toronto have clinched the season series with Baltimore and Oakland has not yet clinched the season series with Seattle.) Cleveland eliminated from AL Central with loss to Minnesota. St. Louis eliminated from NL Central with loss and Chicago win. Colorado out of NL West with loss and LA win. Two-day scenarios: Toronto out of AL East with two losses and two Boston wins. New York out of AL East with two losses and two Boston wins. Arizona out of NL Wild Card with two losses and either two Milwaukee wins or two Philadelphia wins and two Mets wins. (Because Arizona is second in the NL West right now, this technically eliminates Los Angeles from the wild card as well.)  San Francisco out of NL West with combination of losses and LA wins adding up to at least three. Houston out of NL Central with combination of losses and Chicago wins adding up to at least three. Positional lock: 4th/5th NL Central with two St. Louis wins over Cincinnati. (That is to say, the exact final positions have not yet been determined, but the bottom two are guaranteed to be Cincy and Pittsburgh in some order.) Washington last place NL East with any combination of losses and Atlanta wins adding up to at least three. Positional lock: 3rd/4th NL East with any combination of Florida wins and Atlanta losses adding up to at least three. Subset of the previous two: Atlanta 4th place NL East with one win, one loss, two Florida wins, and two Washington losses. That should be everything.

Also in the news: Derek Jeter. In the first inning of tonight’s game against the Chicago White Sox, Jeter singled to pick up his 1,270th hit at Yankee Stadium, passing the stadium record held by Lou Gehrig. Furthermore, it was Jeter’s 8,002nd career official at-bat, giving him sole possession of second on the team’s all-time list, also passing Gehrig. (Other Yankees sit higher up on the all-time list, but they were not Yankees for their entire careers. This even includes Babe Ruth, who piled up over a thousand at-bats with the Red Sox and a few more with the Braves). The stadium hits record is particularly significant with the stadium due to host…hold on…a mere six more games, including the one currently in progress.

Addendum: Nope, missed a two-day position lock: 2nd/3rd AL Central with two Minnesota wins over Cleveland. And possibly also needing at least one Chicago win, but we’ve got that already.

Okay, THIS one would be warranted

Sure, sure, five of those seven runs were allowed by the
starter, but the Mets blew a 7-0 lead, they lost in 13 innings, the tying run
scored with two outs in the ninth…it wasn’t great. After the oft-maligned Aaron
Heilman pitched three shutout innings, Scott Schoeneweis came in for the bottom
of the thirteenth and immediately gave up a triple to Shane Victorino. Mets
manager Jerry Manuel made the logical move here, ordering Schoeneweis to
intentionally walk the next two batters to get to the pitcher’s spot. As the
Mets’ announcers told us, Cole Hamels, their best-hitting pitcher, was already
used the previous time the pitcher’s spot came around, and Kyle Kendrick, their
second-best, was warming up to pitch in case it went to the fourteenth. Brett
Myers, 2-for-44 on the year, came up, and after the announcers discussed the
possibility of a squeeze, they decided that Myers had received orders not to
swing. Uh, was Charlie Manuel watching this year’s All-Star Game? If you
weren’t going to let your pitcher swing anyway, why not just leave Rudy Seanez
out there, save Myers for if the game goes 20-some-odd innings and Kendrick
gets tired? The Mets’ announcers had a bigger concern, namely, why it took
Schoeneweis six pitches to strike out a batter with no intent of taking the
bat off his shoulder.
This, too, was a strategical move, avoiding the
possibility of the 1-2-3 double play. The Phillies won, 8-7, on Chris Coste’s
single, capping off a 4-for-4 night that started with a pinch-hitting
appearance in the eighth inning. Wait, whaddya mean “strategical” isn’t a word!
BOOO!!!!!!!!

 

Yeah, there was a lot of booing where I was last night, the
house at the corner of 161st and River–most of it directed at the
home team’s third baseman, at least in the later innings. Heck, they even booed
him when he made a play. Great game. We were originally going to go into
the city by way of public transit, so I opted to forgo my bright red Red Sox
gear for something more subtle. The t-shirt features a dictionary-style
definition of the word “idiot” with the alternative definition “One who sells
his soul to the evil empire”, a clear reference to former Sox outfielder Johnny
Damon. It looked a particularly apt characterization, as Johnny seemed to be
the only one on the team doing anything on offense, hitting two home
runs in a game in which the Yankees only scored a total of three runs. A-Rod
was particularly atrocious, going 0-for-5 with two GIDP and making the final
out of an inning in four of his five PAs. He also had an error. The Red Sox are
now just 3陆 out in the division. Also, they may be getting Mark Kotsay from the
Braves. Kotsay’s current team was only mentioned in that last sentence in order
to provide a segue into the Braves’ stunning come-from-behind win, scoring four
times in the bottom of the ninth to win 10-9. The game had been 3-0 Atlanta at
one point, then 6-3 Florida, and then I think it was tied 6-6 before the
Marlins took their 9-6 lead. I’ll have to double-check that. (Correction–After
6-3 was 6-4, then 8-4, then 8-6 before 9-6.)

 

In other news, Carlos Zambrano broke a record last night. He
picked up a base hit in his thirteenth straight start, surpassing the 12-game
hitting streak by Johnny Sain that had served as the record for a pitcher. An
interesting curiosity. Oh, and the game the Cubs played against the Pirates put
that Braves-Marlins game to shame in lead changes. The Pirates scored the first
three runs, then it went from 3-1 Pittsburgh to 5-3 Chicago in a flash, so
quickly on the out-of-town scoreboard that I assumed a grand slam. It wasn’t; Geovany
Soto had a three-run double, and the other run came…somewhere in that vicinity.
The Pirates closed it to 5-4, then the Cubs scored again to make it 6-4, only
for the Pirates to tie it at 6-6…but then the Cubs took a 7-6 lead, only to
quickly end up down 8-7! Then the Cubs started to get serious. (My dad and I
were on the way home by the time this started, and neither of us were remotely
surprised to hear that Craig Hansen had walked two batters.) It became 9-8,
then 10-8, and then Geo Soto had his second three-run double of the night. The
final score was 14-9 Cubs, with Soto driving in half of his team’s runs.

 

Just another game off the calendar, though, as the Brewers
kept pace in dominating fashion. After eight innings, the lead was a
comfortable 5-0. By the time the Cardinals came to bat in the bottom of the
ninth, though, it was a laugher, as the Brewers put up seven insurance
runs in the top of the inning. The shutout held up for a 12-0 final.

Triumph of the sawbuck

A sawbuck is slang for a ten-dollar bill, aka…a Hamilton.
Okay, yeah, that was a horrible pun; the point is, Josh Hamilton was amazing
last night! At one point, he had thirteen straight home runs without an out.
His 28 home runs in the first round broke the record set by Bobby Abreu, who
had 24 in 2005. I missed most of the first round, doing homework, but I saw
almost all of Hamilton’s performance. My father called me downstairs early on
after mistakenly thinking that Hamilton had done the impossible–drive a fair
ball clear out of Yankee Stadium. (Mickey Mantle once hit one off of the iconic
frieze, the closest anyone has ever come to hitting one all the way out.) The
ball that had fooled my father’s eyes? Only the third longest that
Hamilton hit, estimated at 502 feet. The announcers made a joke about Milton
Bradley actually doing something nice when he came out to towel off Hamilton’s
tired pitcher, who, by the way, adds yet another interesting scene to The
Josh Hamilton Story
. Apparently, back when Josh played American Legion
ball, he promised his coach that if he ever reached the big leagues and was in
the Home Run Derby, he’d bring the coach along as his pitcher. True to his
word, in the long tradition of obscure or otherwise odd Home Run Derby pitchers
(David Wright put on a great first-round show in Pittsburgh in 2006 with Mets
catcher Paul Lo Duca throwing to him), 71-year-old high school coach Claybon
(Clay) Counsil was behind the screen for Hamilton’s at-bats, throwing 54 pitches
in the first round alone. (A second mention of the Star-Ledger in as
many days: this morning’s paper mistakenly identified him as “Clay Council”.
BOOOOOO!!!) By the way, does anyone know what was in the case that Edinson
Volquez set on home plate after Hamilton’s twelfth home run? It added a bit of
intrigue to it all, Volquez of course the other primary in the deal that sent
Hamilton from Cincy to Texas. Hamilton was the last of the eight contestants to
go in the first round, and with the rule change that makes all home runs from
the first round carry over to the second, he had already out-homered everyone
else before he’d even come up for the second round, securing a spot in the
finals; they allowed him to take a few swings anyway, and he hit four home runs
and made four outs in a shortened second round. The “Call Your Shot” contest
was a bust, as even with two left-handed hitters in the finalist taking aim at
Yankee Stadium’s short right-field fence, neither could win a car for the
contest winner, Hamilton’s shot hitting in fair territory in right and then
landing on the foul side of the pole on one bounce, Morneau’s landing in left
field. Oh, that’s right: lost in all of this kerfuffle was the fact that Justin
Morneau won the 2008 State Farm Home Run Derby, with five final-round bombs to
Hamilton’s three. (Wright’s first-round heroics in 2006 likewise didn’t
translate into a win, but that was no big surprise as Ryan Howard had already
taken the stage with a late charge in the second round–five or six gold-ball
home runs, I think–to surge into the finals on the brink of elimination. Howard
also punctuated his amazing run by hitting his Derby-winning home run right at
one of those “Hit it here, win $1,000,000” MasterCard庐 signs, making one lucky
fan a millionaire. As if all of those gold-ball home runs weren’t enough
charity.) Tonight, the 79th Annual All-Star Game, live from New York
City! And remember…”This One Counts!”

 

Correction: It was actually the first round in which Howard
made his late charge, with four of his eight home runs coming with the gold
balls. Furthermore, while the MasterCard庐 signs last night said “Win
$1,000,000”, in 2006 the prize was 500 flights–a slightly lesser prize,
considering that not even first-class tickets should cost $2,000. Of course,
the gold balls were more valuable then–$21,000, for the sponsor at the time,
Century 21, as opposed to the $17,000 that they were this year. He had six of
those, all totaled. Not to mention, while the fact that the donation goes to
the local Boys and Girls Club instead of to a single lucky fan makes it more
charitable, the $50,000 that Justin Morneau earned for charity with his win
last night pales in comparison to the quarter-million that Howard got for his
paired fan. I made a big comment about how charitable Howard was at the Derby
in my ’06 journal–blog-like in nature but not a true blog in that it exists
only on my hard drive.

 

Addendum: Listening to XM 175 on my afternoon commute, they
brought up a good point about closer salaries skyrocketing and how there’s
going to be that type of situation this year with K-Rod, who hasn’t yet
re-upped with the Angels, and I got to thinking, is this one of the best “walk
year” salary campaigns ever? After 95 games, the Angels are 57-38 and K-Rod has
38 saves. Prorated to a 162-game campaign, that’s somewhere around 97 wins for
the Angels and 65 saves for their closer. I did say in an early entry that I
thought the single-season save record would fall, and I even did say it would
be a West Coast team whose closer would set it…but, like most of my
predictions, something was a little bit off. In this case, the league of
the team was off. The NL West was touted as the “most competitive division in
baseball”, and it seemed to be a division rich in pitching and, well, not so
much so in hitting, so it seemed natural that there’d be a lot of low-scoring
games. What I didn’t take into account would be the quintet’s near-inability to
win outside of their division. While it would be ludicrous to believe that
K-Rod really is on pace for 65 saves, 60 sounds like a reasonable enough
number–and that would still best the old record by three. So while I’m changing
the name of the new record holder, I stand by my former statement: Enjoy the
record while it lasts, Mr. Thigpen.

Welcome to the jungle

6/30/08

 

Not quite Yankee Stadium, but Tropicana Field was plenty nasty. I’m pretty sure that Red Sox fans were in the minority. Nobody seemed to be able to pitch in game 1, least of all Chris Smith. We kept waiting for Casey to come in to pinch-hit, and he never did. The fact that the Rays get their last suspended player back tomorrow really irks me, but on the bright side, Iwamura’s return means I don’t have to hear Willy Aybar’s intro music three times a game. (Speaking of intro music, can anyone give me a title and artist for the song that plays at the Trop when Dioner Navarro comes up to bat? It’d be much appreciated.) Last time, Pap said that this wasn’t over. I hope Jason Bartlett leads off the bottom of the ninth tomorrow. After the game, we got absolutely soaked trudging back to our car. We’ll show up earlier tomorrow, and I may be making a sign. (Note at publishing time: I didn’t.) Also, I managed to hear the three-beat prompt without chanting “Yankees Suck”, something I’d never been able to do. I chanted “Tampa Sucks” instead. The new evil empire, indeed. In other news, on Saturday, a no-hitter wasn’t pitched, Jered Weaver going six no-hit innings before departing for a pinch-hitter and Jose Arredondo following up with two perfect innings of relief as the Angels lost 1-0 at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers’ lone run scored in the fifth inning when Weaver made an error to allow a Matt Kemp to reach and his catcher threw the ball away attempting to throw out Kemp stealing second, putting him in place to score on a sac fly. Also losing 1-0 were the A’s, despite seven hits and a two-hit complete game effort by Justin Duchscherer. Marlins backup catcher Matt Treanor made the top spot on that day’s SportsCenter with a barehanded catch of Brandon Webb’s bunt attempt followed by a throw to second base to turn a double play.