Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Bucket of Ice and Some Plastic Protective Covering, Please

Cuz we 'bout to get messy with some bubbly, y'all.

Carsten Charles, the 161 million dollar man, delivered AGAIN last night, shutting down the Angels on 3-days rest to give the Yanks a crucial victory and hoist us to within one game of the pennant.

I have to say, yesterday's game was one of the most fun I've watched all year. The RISP hitting woes disappeared after the 4th inning, and it just became an exhibition of why this team is so great. All the so-called momentum from yesterday's Angel walk-off disappeared beneath the huge, sweeping arm of CC. What can you say about this guy? His fastball hit 97 on the gun. His slider stayed low and unhittable. And his change-up...oh mama, that change-up. A devastating dying quail that looks and acts just like the heat, except it's 10-15 mph slower and has a bottom that vanishes about a bat's length away from the plate.

Quick aside: CC needs a nickname. First, check out a picture of the man himself.

I'm not one of those people who sees an animal in every human face and body they encounter (though those people fascinate me), but I have never seen a more bear-like creature than CC. First, he's huge. But it's a kind of lumbering size, and his movements when he's not exerting himself are slow and almost plodding. Second, he's fat, but again, it's the kind of fat you'd see on a bear; the kind that doesn't look grotesque or slothful, just natural and really powerful. His body is rounded everywhere, especially at the shoulders and hips, endowing his kinetics with that slow sinuous movement you've seen a thousand times on nature documentaries. Even his head is ursine; the circular shape, the slightly protruding ears, the broad nose, the small, dark eyes, and the fleshy innocence of the face.

I realize this description keeps getting stranger, but the guy honestly looks like a big, cuddly bear. His whole physical presentation screams 'gentle giant.' And then you see him in athletic locomotion, and it's flabbergasting that such a large, slow creature can move with effortless agility, speed, ferocity, and grace. Frightening and awesome.

I can say, after combing through memory, that no human has ever reminded me of a bear as much as CC. His nickname must do honor to this resemblance. The obvious choices would be 'Black Bear' or 'Brown Bear.' Unfortunately, these are tainted by uncomfortable racial connotations. Also, a black bear is more vicious, narrow, and sinister than the other variants of its species, so that doesn't work anyway. I just looked up the eight types of bears in the world, and there's one called 'Sun Bear,' which would be pretty perfect since CC is from Southern Cal. Unfortunately, the sun bear has a streamline, otterish countenance that doesn't quite work. As far as I can tell, the only choice is "Grizzly Bear." It's not quite perfect, though. If anyone has a better idea, sound off.

Okay, returning to last night's game...A-Rod is LOCKED IN. There's no better formulation than that tried and true cliche to describe how this man is hitting. His eyes literally lock onto the ball, and the bolt mechanisms activate across his body, transfer to his bat, and fix lumber onto leather. Hard contact is inevitable. It's gotten to the point that I'm aware of his presence in the order two or three batters in advance, and I start actively rooting for scenarios where first base isn't open; that way, he can't be intentionally walked. Last night, when Teix led off the 5th, I thought, "I hope he doesn't get a double." Teix singled, and then A-Rod hit a two-run homer, an act that will only to serve to reinforce my strange thinking. And if I'm hyper-aware of his presence, imagine how other teams feel.

Favorite quote from A-Rod's press conference last night, after the question "how do you explain yourself in regards to this turnaround?":

"Well...I don't really have to explain myself anymore. Which is a good thing."

The only negative I take from last night is the curious case of Nick Swisher. While trying to explain CC's success in the postgame interview, Girardi said something like "he's always the same person. He never gets too high or too low. Some guys, they get so pumped up that they can't really focus, but CC's never been like that." It was hard not to imagine him thinking about Swisher as he spoke of that hypothetical player. The right fielder's intense, chaotic energy seems to be working in direct opposition to the team's goals.

While Teix, Damon, and Melky look to be emerging from their slumps, Swish keeps striking out, hitting weak grounders, and wasting RISP opportunities. And last night, he got picked off second, except he was called safe before karma served the Angels when he was incorrectly cited for leaving third early. Later in the game, he almost got picked off first. Later, he backed up three steps on a shallow fly ball that ended up landing five steps in front of him.

These mistakes are mental and inexcusable. They're the type of gaffes that can lose a game. While Teix goes through his offensive troubles, he continues to rescue us with his amazing glove. His focus is razor-sharp in the field, betraying no residual effects from his plate struggles. Swisher, meanwhile, is all wound up and seems to be completely out of sorts. He needs to calm down and stop aggravating his hitting woes. He's been a huge negative for the Yankees all postseason, and Girardi needs to bench him for game 5 to send a message: get your emotions in check, or you don't have a place on the field.

Okay, time to deal with the nonsense of the day:


This video, captured and commented upon by some pathetic, desperate Angel fan, purports to show Rivera spitting on the ball in an attempt to gain an unfair advantage in game 4:

Pretty compelling, right?

Well, sure, until you consider the following:

1) Mariano has never been seen or accused of spitting on the ball in the past.

2) If he did want to spit on the ball, he surely wouldn't have done it in such an overt, idiotic way, in front of eighty billion cameras on live TV.

3) Spit doesn't do a damn thing to the movement of a ball, which is why the chief ingredient in a "spitball" is vaseline, or sometimes pine tar. The term itself was coined in the early 1900s, and never meant to be taken literally. As someone on a Yankee message board put it, saying you throw a spitball by spitting on the ball is like saying you babysit by sitting on a baby.

4) Mariano throws a cutter with very specific right to left movement, to an incredibly consistent degree, while a "spitball" makes a ball move unpredictably.

But still, all that being said, there's the video, right? Why focus on logic when there's compelling evidence that one of the classiest players in the game CLEARLY SPIT ON THE BALL.

Except that he didn't. As you can see in this link, the spit clearly misses the ball. And the above video, slowed down, shows the same thing beyond the shadow of a doubt:

Ahhhh, unfortunately the video has been taken down. But the photographs in the link above are enough, and it's time to end this absurd conversation. Angel fans and Yankee haters will have to find something else to blame. Try the umpires, or if things get really bad go for that old reliable hobbyhorse, payroll.

In the NLCS, Philly looks to wrap things up against the Dodgers tonight and ruin my postseason predictions. Their walk-off win in game 4 was beyond huge, and though LA could extend the series, I can't see them winning three straight. Especially with Cliff Lee on reserve for game 7. I'm already thinking about the Phils...I went to two interleague games at Yankee Stadium with the defending champs this season, and their fans are the absolute worst. And yes, that includes Boston. I'm pumped and angry. Just one more from the Angels, and we're going to sack the city of Brotherly Love.

I leave you now with this .gif captured from Fox's coverage last night.

The poor girl, obviously distraught and now something of an internet sensation, shows us a few things:

1) The Angels have at least one real fan.
2) The "Mariano Spit!" crowd have a spokesperson for their cause.
3) Good parents teach their children to root for the Yankees.

To be serious for a second, I feel for her. I remember the days before alcohol and beating my girlfriend, when the only way to deal with a miserable loss was to shed a few tears.

But honestly, little girl?

Grow up. It's a hard world, and this is Yankee Universe.