Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Best Team in the American League

Forewarned: the paltry nature of this post may leave you disgusted. Let's go back to bullet points- it's all I know.

*When Brian Cashman had his feverish dreams, over the past two years, about the Yankee offensive dynamic, the elusive visions must have somewhat resembled the current reality. Briefly: we are hitting the shit out of the ball. Almost everyone is "healthy," for the time being, and top to bottom the Yanks are a fearsome bunch. Of course, any mention of collective health should be accompanied by furious knocks on the thickest tree in the Bronx (see the current leader here). Our tenuous hold on physical wellness is like watching a fat man walk up a wet teeter-totter- he's upright for the time being, but it would take a miracle to save his obese derriere.

Still, it's mentally unhealthy to look beyond the present, and other than Nady's absence and A-Rod's slow start, it couldn't be rosier. Jeter, Damon, Teixeira, Matsui, Cano, Posada, Melky...all are locked in at the plate, while Swisher and Gardner contribute the occasional spark. Other than Cano, all players are also showing the imperative ability to work a pitcher, induce walks, and get into the opposition's bullpen early. It's very reminiscent of the dynasty years a decade ago.

*AJ looked good again, but still can't seem to avoid the one-inning collapse. In the bottom of the third, with a 2-0 lead and two outs, he had an 0-2 count on Michael Young. What happened? He got too fancy, lost Young to a walk, gave up a double to Blaylock, and a three-run homer to Cruz. Just like that, the lead was gone. Two more singles followed before a deep drive was barely caught by Gardner to avert further disaster and end the inning. It's the same as always- in the blink of an eye, after a stupid mistake, Burnett has a huge let-down that damages the team. In this case, we ended up scoring 12 runs and it didn't affect the outcome. But against stronger pitching, these lapses of focus will be devastating. Six great innings of scoreless pitching doesn't matter if they're sandwiched around a mental collapse that costs your team the game.

Call me ungrateful or pessimistic, but AJ needs to find a way to deal with this post haste. If he doesn't, I'm not sure he's viable as a big-game pitcher. Right now, his record is 4-2. The scores of the games he won were 11-2, 7-2, 9-2, and 12-3. In other words, he's great in a blow-out. But the four games the Yankees lost when AJ started were against Boston, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, and Toronto. Three AL East rivals and the reigning world champions. The pitchers he faced in those games were Josh Beckett, Andy Sonnanstine, Roy Halladay, and Brett Myers. Other than the Boston game, when Beckett also imploded, he was outdueled by the big names. Things may improve with the onset of summer, but unlike Joba his velocity was at normal levels from the season's beginning, and this seems more like a question of mental toughness. Not a great omen.

*Federer is about to start playing his quarterfinal match at Roland Garros (current time: 10am). If you're bored at work, you can follow it in a gamecast-type format at this site. Click "live scores" at the right. It beats working, anyway. If Federer does manage to reach the final, you can bet I'll be tape-delay blogging for Monday. I can't recall any previous sporting event where I could say, without a doubt, that a 'greatest of all time' label was at stake. If Fed makes it to Sunday's championship, that's what we'd be witnessing. A win in Paris would tie him with Pete Sampras for most grand slams of all time, and he'd have won the career slam (at least one title in each of the four grand slam events), which Sampras never accomplished. That's enough for me; he'd be the indisputable best. Today, he faces Gael Monfils, a Frenchman, which means the crowd will be slightly hostile. My plan is to follow the action from work and then hopefully catch the end somewhere at lunch. Quite exciting, if you're a tennis fan.

*That's it for today. Some NBA stuff tomorrow, as the Finals kicks off. Hopefully my general fatigue level will have abated; my new place is awesome, but I've had horrible dreams the past two nights that wake me up every two hours. I'm not generally a nightmare person, so I'm wondering if the apartment is haunted or something. My plan now is to ask the neighbor kids (high-schoolers) if anything weird ever happened in the apartment, and judge by their reaction if there's something they aren't supposed to tell.

Last night's dream involved me stuck in the middle of a Middle-Eastern conflict (and it was hilariously stereotypical and historically muddled- people in white robes were fighting people in black robes with pitchforks and bayonets around burning teepees, and everything was gray and misty), and when I escaped from the battle I found myself at my childhood home, but people were trying to break in through all doors and windows to finish me off. It was truly one for the shrinks. When I woke up, there was a very actual thunderstorm going on, so it became a situation where dream life and real life blended in a mass of confusion and vague, uncentered anxiety.

To divert this weirdness into something interesting, here's a music video that was a little like my dream, but way more artistic and enjoyable, and less frightening. Probably less offensive, too.

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