Thursday, July 30, 2009

Seriously, Cleveland?

To give a little taste of what's to come in today's post, check out this quote from Ichiro Suzuki. To clarify, that's Japanese native Ichiro Suzuki, the baseball player living in Seattle, who has only been in America 8 years. Thanks to my friend Spike for sending it along:

"To tell the truth, I'm not excited to go to Cleveland, but we have to. If I ever saw myself saying I'm excited going to Cleveland, I'd punch myself in the face, because I'm lying."

Even foreigners have that instinctive anti-Cleveland sentiment. But before I get there, props go out to this man:

That's three stellar games in a row, a feat he he'd yet to accomplish all year. Can we chalk up the early season woes to growing pains? Hard to say, but after 8 innings of shut-out ball against Tampa Bay, it's a tempting conclusion. I listened to last night's game on the radio, thereby missing the usual Joba fanfare: narrow, close-set eyes, the fleshy cheeks that hold both yokel mirth and yokel malice, the flat brim hat pulled ominously low, and the fierce, turbulent outbursts of triumph. But it's somehow easier to envision without the visual aid, and easy to enjoy since the masterful effort came in a crucial rubber game against a division rival. The win leaves Tampa 7.5 games back, and though "anything can happen," the Rays have a long, long road stretching before them.

Interesting aspect of Joba Chamberlain: in almost every game he starts, particulary the successful performances, he either hits or brushes back an opponent with a pitch that looks intentional. Kevin Youkilis is a frequent target, though nobody really knows why. Last night, cruising with the lead, he chose to throw a fastball over Evan Longoria's head, prompting a somewhat-appropriate retaliation from Garza.

It's easy to see Joba as the loveable hick with a goofy grin, but there's an element of cruelty to his game that shouldn't be ignored. And it's the anger that so often propels fastball hurlers to successful careers. Nolan Ryan had it. Clemens had it. Randy Johnson had it. And it's the sort of mean behavior with a random, hidden element, as though it comes from a source too deep (and possibly irrational) for others to pinpoint. For example, I bet Kevin Youkilis doesn't know why Joba targets him specifically. It could be a gesture Kevin made that Joba misinterpreted, or it could be something as indirect as his facial similarity to a different person Joba hated as a kid. In either case, instead of resolving the issue or moving forward, the Yankee fireballer prefers to nurse the grievance, let it fester, and feed off the negative emotions thus engendered. The origin may be false, but the roiling destination is real enough.

Okay. Changing gears, Cleveland served up pitcher Cliff Lee on a silver platter to the defending World Series champs. Lee, whose record is only 7-9, is nonetheless a strong pitcher. His ERA is an impressive 3.14, and many of his losses can be attributed to a struggling Indians offense. In his last three starts, he's 3-0 with two complete games and 4 ER combined. Last year, he won the Cy Young Award, and there's nothing to indicate that he can't be a dominant pitcher this year and well into the future. Aside from Roy Halladay, he was the hottest item on the trade block. So what did Cleveland get from Philly in return? Jack shit. Four minor leaguers, and not even the top three prospects with whom it was thought the Phils would have to part.

Yo. Cleveland. We didn't realize you were giving talent away. As a team that made the playoffs as recently as '07, it seemed like maybe you'd demand a little more than a club like, say, the Pittsburgh Pirates. But since that's not the case, the Yanks would like to let you in on ten offers for Cliff Lee we would've made, had we known the paltry asking rate. Each one surpassed what you wound up pulling from the City of Brotherly Love. They were yours to choose from, Tribe. Damn shame.

Offer 1: Cody Ransom, Ramiro Pena, and two authentic seats from the Old Yankee Stadium.

Offer 2: Cody Ransom, me, and an old-fashioned microphone Lou Gehrig might have used for his "Luckiest Man in the World" speech. (I like to play shortstop.)

Offer 3: Cody Ransom, George Steinbrenner, and Derek Jeter's dad.

Offer 4: Cody Ransom, and the right to have Mariano Rivera wear a Cleveland Indians jock strap when he's inducted into the Hall of Fame. (Jock strap not visible.)

Offer 5: Derek Jeter's dad, Cody Ransom, a free tour of Monument Park, and one-day passes to New York's Bodies Exhibit.

Offer 6: Cody Ransom, the Bronx, and a dozen cream pies officially endorsed by AJ Burnett.

Offer 7: Cody Ransom, Mariano Rivera Hall of Fame jock rights, and a one-time positive quote from Joe Girardi ("I think this team is really building something interesting") right after the next time we sweep you.

Offer 8: Sperm donation from Cody Ransom, Derek Jeter's dad, and your choice of 7 New York Mets.

Offer 9: Cody Ransom's sperm, Jeter's mom, Rivera HoF jock rights, me, and ten dollars for every home your city forecloses in the next calendar year. (Remember: shortstop.)

Offer 10: Ransom Sperm, the Jeter Family Christmas Card (2003), George Steinbrenner, Hal Steinbrenner, Omar Minaya, Spike Lee's documentary "Kobe Doin' Work," an actual body from the Bodies Exhibit, $6.13 in crusted change we found in Nick Swisher's couch, and the weekend bar scene in Midtown Manhattan.

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