Friday, July 30, 2010

Last New York Post! (Not the Newspaper)

This is it, gang. I'm leaving the Old Apple. The City of Sleeping Giants. Gothman.

Speaking of nicknames, here are 98 of them for NYC. This is according to some book written in 1970, and a lot of them are a bit ridiculous.

3. Father Knickerbocker

This violates the first rule of nicknaming a city, which is that you shouldn't use something that could double as the name of a creepy old pedophile.

6. The Bagdad of the Subway

I like this one because it's clear and easy to understand. It means that when you consider the "Subway"- in a global sense, I guess- New York's version is a lot like Bagdad, which is a capital city in Iraq if you spell it wrong. In other words, the underground in New York City is more like Baghdad than the underground in other cities. Which, as far as I know, might be true.

14. The Burg

This would be a clever shortened version of a city name that already included 'burg.' Such as Pittsburgh, or Harrisburg, or a bunch of other towns in Pennsylvania. But look close at the name "New York City." What do you notice? That's right: no burg.

15. The Business Capital of the Nation
16. The Business Capital of the World


#15: You always have to try to one-up me, don't you?
#16: What? What are you talking about?
#15: Oh, come on, don't play dumb. I do 'nation,' you have to do 'world.'
#16: Oh God, that's funny. I didn't even notice.
#15: Like hell you didn't. Like hell.
#16: I swear, number fifteen...
#15: Stop. Just stop it. You made me obsolete. You went and made me obsolete.

21. The City at the Crossroads of High Diplomacy

Succinct.

29. The City of Superlatives

Lazy.

53. The Frog and Toe

Why did they leave out 'mallet'? It was always 'The Frog and Toe and Mallet.' What the fuck?

56. The Fun City on the Hudson

This just barely beat out the other Hudson-centric nickname: The Fun City Where You Can Get AIDS By Jumping in the Water With an Open Wound.

65. The Land of Surprising Contrasts

This sounds Chinese to me. Like a proverb about America. I think the author got it from a fortune cookie.

83. The Printing Capital of the World

Our Kinkos stores are models of efficiency.

88. The University of Telephony

As a New Yorker, I get really annoyed at how overused this one is. People are always trying to act like they know New York by dropping this one. Here's my message to those people: only real dorks call it the University of Telephony anymore.

98. The World's Most Exciting All Year Round Vacation Center

Rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it? Also, it sounds like something an overenthusiastic grandmother in a cheap commercial would say about Disney World. Wearing her Mickey Mouse ears. Holding a balloon. Eager kids all around her. It's enough to make you sick.

I'll always remember you, New York. Your taxi cabs. Your Citi Banks. Your crosswalks. Your buildings with glass. I know I'm forgetting a lot. I must be. But those four things have a special resonance, because they're all in this picture of New York I googled.


As for sports? Yankees won again. Another blowout in Cleveland. Spike sent me an e-mail from Amsterdam that amused me:

As a major league pitcher Nick Swisher has struck out a major league hitter.
As a major league hitter Nick Swisher has been struck out by a major league hitter.

Swisher: A Yankee for the rest of us.

Also, Bill Simmons wrote an article calling the Boston Red Sox boring.

And this is the absolute greatest and most hilarious video of all time. Please only view it in places where people aren't easily offended. There's a bit of language.


The way the younger players try to slowly get away the whole time, and how they seem so uncomfortable as he follows them around, intent on finishing the story, is awesome. It reminds me of a well-written awkward situation in a movie or sitcom. And you couldn't script a better last line for George. I was dying. A tour-de-force performance all around.

In terms of the blog, the move from NYC to Chapel Hill doesn't mean anything. At least not yet. Our internet people come on Monday, so there may not be a post then, but by Tuesday I hope to be up and running. Thanks to everyone who has read through the first 445 posts, and special thanks to the Friends of the Blog.

Friends of the Blog, Inaugural Edition

Nick E. - A true SCSD. all-star. This fellow Dukie has written more posts here than anyone except me. And he probably knows almost as much about Duke basketball as I do, which is quite an accomplishment. (Just kidding, he knows way more.) You can find his last post, and links to all his others, here.

Carrie - One of my first readers, and probably the most frequent commenter. My heart is always warmed when I see her name, even if she supports the Red Sox.

Spike - A good pal, Mariners fan, contributor to the blog, and a consistent provider of good content, as you saw today.

William - Another early reader, frequent commenter, and somehow a reasonable human being despite liking UNC.

Brian - Fellow Dukie, good pal, and frequent commenter, even though his comments are usually angry diatribes about something I've written. But Lord knows we need that kind of thing.

Emily - Girlfriend who dutifully learns about sports, tolerates quite a bit, and provides the occasional good story. Such as last night, when I got bit by a spider or mosquito on my middle finger at like 2am, and made her turn on the light until I could flush it out and kill it. Boy, she was not pleased! But I saved her from a possible mosquito bite (it turned out to be a mosquito), so maybe she'll appreciate it more when she thinks about that.

Nick W. - Fellow Tar Heel, contributor, Francona hater, and a dude who has already promised to help me move in for the price of several beers.

My Younger Brothers - Theirs are the only comments I ever delete from this site, because they usually say something like 'this writer is a fag.' However, they read every post, and every blog needs its controversial fringe element.

Tom - Stepfather, consistent reader, and one of the most unreasonable Yankee fans in the world. Probably the chief influence on my irrational fandom.

I'm sure I'm forgetting many, but that will have to suffice for now. Onward to phase 2!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A-Rod Gets Hilarious

Another night, another 0-fer in the home run department, and the 600 madness continues. But a sixth-inning double broke up the dramatic tedium, at least briefly, with a merciful (and palliative) comic respite. From the Daily News:

A-Rod's double provided a humorous moment as he slid into second, where the bag popped out of the ground and into his hands.

"I thought the milestone was doubles, so I took the base with me," Rodriguez deadpanned. "It just popped right out. I've never seen that before."

Look at A-Rod with a sense of humor! That actually made me laugh, and it might be the first time Alex has accomplished that- at least on purpose. And it even came with a fantastic picture:


Seems funny to me, but apparently Dallas Braden thought it was "classless, and a violation of the unwritten rule that you don't take the second basemen's bag. That's his bag."

Despite the fun, the milestone was not doubles, and the world still awaits the big bash. But A-Rod's two hits are a good sign that he's trying to maintain a steady approach and not swinging for the fences. The first two games in Cleveland were a bit dicey, but last night was a step in the right direction. My gut tells me we'll be seeing that home run tonight or tomorrow in Tampa.

The rubber game in Cleveland yesterday ended with a decisive win, and AJ Burnett had his second straight decent outing. The erratic Arkansan lasted into the seventh, striking out 7 and walking only 3 on his way to a 9th win. Fausto Carmona, maybe the best pitcher on the Cleveland staff, got absolutely rocked by the Yankee lineup.

Strangely enough, the Yanks have a pattern of faring well against big-time pitchers while struggling against relative unknowns. As the Times blog pointed out yesterday, the Yanks have fallen to six straight pitchers making their major league debut. The latest came Tuesday, when the unheralded Josh Tomlin held the Yankees scoreless through seven and defeated CC Sabathia. If Tomlin's five predecessors are any indication, he can't necessarily look forward to a brilliant career. The Times does the rundown, and only the Marlins' Anibel Sanchez has had what you might generously call 'moderate success' in the aftermath.

What's the deal here? Six in a row is significant, but the phenomenon seems pretty odd. The only explanation proferred has been that pitchers have the natural advantage in a first encounter, before anyone has the book on them. It sounds logical, but at the same time you'd expect the disciplined and patient Yankee lineup to give nervous debutees (who aren't particularly talented, it turns out) a hard time. Yet somehow, the opposite is true.

I don't have any answers, guys. But I'm fucking sick of it.

Other fun things at last night's game: some d-bag wore a Lebron Heat jersey, and had to be escorted out by security for his own safety. And some fans even followed him all the way to the exit. Yikes. They would've followed him all the way to the parking lot, but the minute they reached the gate, they realized that the area immediately outside the stadium was Cleveland.

-Hey, look at this picture of Dustin Pedroia from ESPN:


What a whimsical little fellow! In this picture, he just saw a fire truck.

-Good news: only 48% of vendors at Yankee Stadium were found to be in violation of federal health codes.

At Yankee Stadium, 48 percent of vendors were found to be in violation of health codes. The OTL report, citing an inspection-report excerpt, said that five hot dogs registered 91 degrees in a hot-holding unit when they were supposed to be no cooler than 140. Inspectors at the Yankees' home also had a vendor dispose of a bottle of Chivas Regal whiskey containing dead fruit flies.

Oh come on, it's still good! Yo, nobody gave Darwin any shit when he worked with fruit flies! That was Darwin, right? The science guy with the boat?

-Just finished reading a book called "A Sense of Where You Are" by John McPhee about Bill Bradley's senior season at Princeton. If you're a fan of college basketball, this book is absolutely required reading. The writing is so good, and Bradley was such a fascinating and awesome player and person, that you'll want to take a time machine to 1965 and watch him work. It's really a thrilling piece of nonfiction, and it follows Bradley's Princeton team all the way to the Final Four.

The descriptions of the games themselves are almost worth the purchase price; it's amazing how much the sport has changed. With the increase in strength and athleticism, interesting parts of basketball have been lost to history (the hook shot and the set shot, for one), and some of the style from those days is lost. Unintentionally, McPhee's words give a lot of insight into why the NBA is so intolerable these days. It's a short book, and if you're like me, you'll blaze through it in a few days. Five stars.

That'll do it for today. Tomorrow will be the last post from the city of New York. The bags are packed, the U-Haul is idling, and Carolina beckons.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I hate #600

I hate #600


It's starting to get hugely frustrating to watch A-Rod try for home run number 600. And that frustration isn't directed at him, but rather at the whole process. It's easy for me to imagine the pressure he feels before each at-bat. A home run isn't like a hit, where even the worst slump will produce a few amid the doldrums. A hit is basic. A hit will happen by accident. A home run, on the other hand, takes a near perfect at-bat. Nobody expects a home run. The odds are too small.

The single best individual season for home runs in the history of baseball happened in 2001, when a juiced-up Barry Bonds hit 73. He connected for a long ball in approximately 11% of his plate appearances. The only other player to top the 10% mark in a full season was McGwire (another juicer) in 1998. Basically, nobody who has played without the benefit of performance-enhancing drugs has ever hit a home run 10% of the time in even one season. Not Maris, not Ruth, not Aaron.

The overwhelming majority of players, even the great ones, actually hit a home run in less than 5% of plate appearances. For his career, Bonds hit one in 6.04% of plate appearances, or roughly 1 of every 20. Hank Aaron managed 5.4%. Babe Ruth was the highest ever, at 6.7%. For comparison's sake, A-Rod's current rate is 5.97%.

So to actively expect a home run in a single, isolated at-bat, like everyone does with A-Rod on the verge of 600, creates enormous pressure for a feat that is essentially pretty rare. He's stuck at 599, and the tantalizing milestone is clearly affecting his swing and his entire batting approach. And the circumstances don't help. Before every at-bat, the umpires actually switch out the regular baseballs with "marked" ones that have been prepared especially for his 600th home run. The game pauses while the exchange takes place, and creates an empty, pregnant space for the hype to develope. The PA announcers and the play-by-play men for tv and radio (both home and away) all build up the anticipation. The murmur grows in the crowd. The flashbulbs are prepared. This could be it. This could be number 600.

Try to think of something you can successfully pull off only once for every 20 attempts. I have a tiny rubber ball at work, and when I'm really bored, I try to bank it off a far wall, have it rebound onto the near wall, and go into the trash can. The throw has to be perfect. If it's well off, it sometimes won't even reach the near wall. If it's just slightly off, it might hit the rim of the can and bounce away. Needless to say, there are long droughts. When I'm on fire, I can maybe get three or four in a row.

Under normal circumstances, I can successfully get the ball in the can roughly once every 15 throws (accurate stats are unfortunately not kept). This is more frequent than A-Rod's home run rate, but for comparison's sake it'll have to do. Now, pretend that my skill at the double-wall-trash-throw (DWTT) became huge national news. The networks brought in cameras, ESPN carried every throw, and they even gave me special balls so that the event could be commemorated. An entire fan base lived and died on every throw. I just needed to make it in the can once, and it would all be over. Sweet relief would be mine. Oh, but two more things: I only have four throws per day, separated by anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour each, and thirty to fifty thousand people are watching live. Some are pulling for me with all their hearts, and some boo me before every throw and delight in my failure.

How would I fare? Answer: terribly. I guarantee my success rate would be much lower than the usual one out of 15. It might take me five years to actually make a single throw under those circumstances, even if I practiced like a madman in the off hours. The pressure in the single moment would be too great. When the cameras were rolling, and everyone held their breath, my precision would suffer. Every missed shot would be a lost opportunity, and the stakes would build for the next one. But what if that one misses too? What if this goes on indefinitely? I only have a 6.7% chance of making this shot when I'm by myself and nobody's looking. How the hell am I ever going to do it like this?

You can see how the psychological difficulty makes things worse. A home run, boiled down to its essentials, is a specialty play accomplished at extremely low rates by even the best practitioners. When all the media and spectator focus turns to A-Rod's particular prowess, and even a long RBI double is greeted with groans of disappointment, since it wasn't the milestone home run, the environment turns absurd. I want so badly for Alex to hit the damn thing and get it over with. So do a lot of fans. So does Alex. Unfortunately, that yearning only makes it more likely that the moment will be deferred over and over again. And so the circus continues, and builds on itself.

And lest we forget, it wasn't long ago that A-Rod was known as a choker. Before last season, he was a postseason pariah, at least in New York, and nobody had any faith in him to produce when it mattered. At the bottom of this whole delay in reaching 600 is the unspoken anxiety that the dormant part of A-Rod that fears pressure will be re-activated by this chase. Maybe the insecurities will come spilling forth, and maybe the clutch performer of last season will be nothing but a memory. The longer we wait, the more frightening it becomes.

Eventually, he'll hit the home run. It has to happen. But the more extended the whole thing becomes, the more his game will decline, and the more the Yankees will suffer. Since hitting #599, A-Rod is 5-for-20 and hitless in 9 plate appearances. He's knocked the ball out of the infield just twice since the road trip began in Cleveland. Pitchers are keeping the ball down and away, knowing he's chasing that elusive home run. They're reacting to the pressure and using it to their advantage. Also, nobody wants to be the guy who gave up number 600. Every pitcher is motivated to avoid that result. Almost no element in this whole fiasco favors A-Rod.

The only upside is that all the anticipation will finally reach a huge exploding point. It's sort of like soccer; we've been waiting forever for a goal, and when it comes we'll all go nuts. Or that's how the casual fan will react, at least. For my part, and the part of most Yankee fans, the home run will be greeted with a feeling more like relief. Rather than enjoyment, we'll beg the ball to get into the stands, sigh when it passes over the fence, and sink a little deeper in our couches and easy chairs. Vicarious tension will fade away. "Thank God that's over."

And see you at 700. See you at 762.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

El Bloggo De Deportes Espanol!

Hola! Yo Soy Romario Segusta Infante de Nieve, el blogador de deportes!

A veces, mi espanol no es muy bueno! Pero yo trato de hacer un bloggo fantastico! Exclamaciones! Picturas!


Todos: oiste sobre el Alex Rodriguez? Solo necesita uno mas JONRON para tener seis cientos para su vida! SEIS CIENTOS, SENORES Y SENORAS! HAY MUCHO, NO?


Pero, no puede batar el bol a los bleacheros! Porque? Porque es muy dificil. El mundo quiere que el bate number seis ciento, pero en la cabezo Senor Rodriguez no esta contento. 'Dios mio,' el dice, 'la presura es demasiado!!'

Oye. Vamos. Es tiempo para un chiste.

EL HORA DE CHISTE!


Chiste para hoy: Cuantos oportunidades necesita El A-Rod para batar JONRON numero seis ciento?

La Respuesta: UN MILLON!


JAJAJA! JAJAJA!

Vaya. Entonces. Ayer, el equipo de Cleveland vinieron a Nuevo York para jugar al beisbol. Los Yanquis ganaron con mucho facilidad. Es simplemente. Ah mi, que es esto? Es hora pare un chiste secundo???

EL BONUS CHISTE!


Chiste Segundo: Que llaman los exportos el equipo mas malo en la liga Americano de beisbole?

La Respuesta: Los Indios de Cleveland!


JAJAJA! JAJAJA!

Dime. Callate. Esto es el diez y siete de julio, y dios mio, la sol esta caliente. La temperatura es alto. Tiempo para la historia de beisbol.

La historia de hoy: un hombre que se llama El Lance Armstrong.


Senor Armstrong gano la Visitacion De Francia, un contesto de bicicleta en el pais de Francia. Uno tiempo en su vida el tuve la cancer de testiculos. Pero demonstro mucho motivacion, y entonces gano el gran contesto. Pero ahora su amigo Floyd Landis dice que el uso los steroidos. Que va a pasar? Nadie sabe.

Buen. Almagre. Entonces nosotros podemos hacer LOS LINKOS MAGNIFICOS!

-Robinson Cano juega al beisbol.

-A-Rod se gusta el jugo de naranja?

-Quien hace la ropa de Joe Girardi?

-Creo quo Derek Jeter necesita la mujer!

-Finalmente, un dia de celebracion para la familia de Brett Gardner.

Caramba. Domingo. La cosa final es un comentario de nuestro amigo, Andres Cantor el anunciador de futbol. Tomalo, Andre!

"Gracias! Ahora es el bloggador Romario Segusta Infante de Nieve, escribiendo...escribiendo...escribiendo...y ahora escribiendo muy rapidamente, de Nieve con el boligrafo, con el computador, las palabras viene, dios mio, de Nieve muy cerca, muy cerca, ahora casi finitio...INFANTE DE NIEVE....

EY-GOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL! GOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL! GOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!"


Gracias Andres, y adios los amigos!

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Thousand for Robbie

Good morning. Just a quick note that during this week, I'll be training my replacement at work (poor bastard), and won't have quite the same access to the quality computer alone time that produces the splendors of the blog. I'll definitely be limited to one post per day, and it may not come in the morning like usual. Hopefully I'll be back to a regular schedule by next Tuesday.


In the last game of the homestand, Sunday against KC, Robbie 'The Crow' Cano reached a milestone where A-Rod failed. With two outs in the bottom of the 9th, he ripped a change-up down the right field line. It hopped into the seats for a ground rule double, and his hit tally offically increased to 1,000. The significance is not lost on Robbie:

"It's one of my dreams come true," said Cano, who went 2-for-5 for the game. "That's something you care about. I ain't gonna lie. I'm the kind of guy that sometimes -- you know what, I look at my stats to see how I do."

You can also see video of the hit at that MLB link. There were only a smattering of fans left at the ballpark to see the milestone, due to a long rain delay, but those who remained saw him become the third-fastest Yankee to reach that total. Only Mattingly and Jeter were quicker.

At the end of a long day of packing, and watching A-Rod try to get home run #600, it was a sweet consolation to see him reach down and pull the change down the line. It was a typical Robbie hit; the bat reached well out of the strike zone, the timing was slightly off, and the pitcher made the right pitch selection, but none of it mattered because of Cano's ridiculous talent. Granted, this is not how every Cano hit comes about. Sometimes he crushes a pitch in the zone, and he's been increasingly patient at the plate. But for a landmark achievement, it was appropriate for Robbie to dig down to his roots.

In other news, it looks increasingly like the probe into UNC football won't result in any suspensions or disciplinary action, which is fantastic. Apparently, the NCAA investigation was started when defensive tackle Marvin Austin posted something on twitter that made it sound like he was getting free alcohol. He wrote: "I live in club LIV so I get the tenant rate...bottles coming like its a giveaway." As you might guess, this was a rap lyric. This whole article is pretty unintentionally hilarious, with this part being my favorite:

Between Feb. 25 and March 8 (the exact date was not available on Google), Austin also lamented his lack of income.

He wrote: "Im [sic] so tired of being broke…somebody make it rain… where is packman [sic] jones when u need em."

"Make it rain" is a euphemism for throwing money, typically single $1 bills, at dancers in an exotic club, a maneuver made notorious by former NFL player Adam "Pacman" Jones.

The fandom is still on.

That's going to be it for today's short post. I apologize if I'm not in worldbeating mode this week. I'll try to trot out some dandies later on.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Jeter vs. Rose: The Hit Kings

Yesterday, I briefly mentioned that Jeter had a shot at Pete Rose's all-time hit record. After the post, I had a conversation in the comments that sent me deep into the bowels of Baseball-Reference. The results surprised me.

(Note: this morning's full post is below...I wanted to isolate the Jeter-Rose discussion here.)


Why Jeter is Ahead of Pete Rose's Pace


(and Why it Probably Won't Matter)



vs.



The whole thing started, as most great ventures do, with Robinson Cano. As he approaches 1,000 hits, I wanted to get a sense of his quality againt Rose and Jeter(conclusion: he's doing quite well, but he's very young). The main stat I used was hit percentage. That's simply the number of hits divided by the number of total plate appearances (PA). I use PA instead of at-bats since ABs discount walks and hit-by-pitch incidents. If we want to know how many hits a player gets per at-bat, we need to factor in how many times they reach base on something other than a hit; a player who walks more will have fewer opportunities to accumulate hits.

The other factor to consider, besides hit %, is age. If we can figure out which player had more hits, and a higher hit %, at the same age, we'll be able to understand who's "winning" the race for the all-time record, and whether their pace is sustainable.

Pete Rose ended his career in 1986 with 4,256 career hits. It's a number that sounds insurmountable. But let's see where he stacks up with Jeter.

First, for no good reason, I made it tough on myself. Jeter turned 36 on June 26, one month ago. I wanted to figure out how many hits he would be projected to have when he turned 37. As of last night, he has 2,855 hits in 10,242 plate appearances. That's a career hit percentage of 27.87.

Jeter has averaged 697 plate appearances per year (742 per 162 games, but we'll go by the first average to play it conservative and account for the bumps and bruises that inevitably plague older bodies). That means that one year from now, he'll have roughly 10,939 plate appearances. But we want to figure out how many he'll have when he turns exactly 37. So we'll take that yearly calculation, and subtract one month. Baseball is essentially a 6-month season (April is not a full month, but it's filled out by the handful of October regular season games), so we'll divide 697 by 6 to get 116 plate appearances per month, then subtract that to deduce that by his birthday next June, a relatively healthy Jeter should have 581 more plate appearances. That gives him 10,823 total.

Now, to figure out how many hits...the easy way is just to calculate 27.87 percent (Jeter's career hit percentage) of 581. But we should allow for some decline, since a ballplayer's productivity naturally abates with age. Rose's hit %, for example, fell a full point between age 37 and the end of his career. On the other hand, Jeter's hit % between 2006 and 2009 was 28.8, actually a full point above his career average. So I'll allow for a very small decline over the next year...let's say 27.6 instead of 27.8. That gives him 160 more hits. When we add that to his current total of 2,855, we get a grand total of:

3,015 career hits (and a 27.8 hit %) for Derek Jeter on his 37th birthday.

Let's see how that compares to Rose. His birthday is on April 14th. When he finished his 'age 36' season in 1977, he had 2,966 hits. By his birthday in '78, when he turned 37, he had 2,977. His hit % was 27.7.

Conclusion: Derek Jeter should be leading the all-time hit race by 38 hits when he turns 37. He'll also have a slightly higher hit rate.

So that was the hard way. Also the fun way. The easier and more mundane way would just be to compare the two at age 36. Here are the numbers:

Derek Jeter, 36th birthday: 2,835 hits, 10,153 PAs, 27.9% hitting.

Pete Rose, 36th birthday: 2,769 hits, 10,017 PAs, 27.6% hitting.

Even better, we can do current stats:

Derek Jeter, 36 years, 27 days: 2,855 hits, 10,242 PAs, 27.9% hitting

Pete Rose, 36 years, 27 days: 2,796 hits, 10,105 PAs, 27.7% hitting

So in all three categories (36th birthday, current age, and projected 37th birthday), Jeter has more plate appearances, more hits, and a higher hitting percentage. He's the better man. By all accounts, you can expect him to break the all-time hit record, right?

Well, no. There are three main reasons why Rose is still the favorite.

1) You'll notice that even over the space of one year, between age 36 and age 37 projected, Jeter's lead diminishes. At 36, Jeter led by 66 hits. Less than one month later, that lead had been reduced to 59. And projecting for age 37, Jeter's lead falls to 38. That has a lot to do with the fact that Rose put together four very solid seasons between '77 and '80 (age 36-39). He hit .307 and tallied 795 hits during that span. Even though he bottomed out a bit after that, Jeter will have to produce impressively to keep pace. So far this year, he's been off a bit, and thus the projected lead keeps falling.

2) Rose played until he was 45. Longevity was his biggest strength. As we've seen, Jeter is a slightly better pure hitter, but Rose lasted a long, long time. And his production only suffered mildly with age; by the stats, he managed over 600 plate appearances every year until his 40th birthday, and he only seriously declined after age 43. Will Jeter even have the desire to play that long? If so, will he stay healthy? Rose was a rare specimen, and though it's possible that Jeter may be a rarity himself, it's not statistically likely.

3) Circumstance. Jeter is an iconic Yankee, and it would be strange if he ever played in a different uniform. Unfortunately, the Yankee standard of excellence dictates that he probably can't play with the club until he's 45. Sentiment only goes so far. In order to duplicate Rose's longevity, Jeter would probably have to play third base for a lower tier club. I don't see that happening.

All things considered, the smart money is still on Rose. But then again, Jeter could surprise us. He's known for keeping in great shape, and his focus on baseball is fairly singular. If anybody can last into his mid-40s and maintain productivity, it's the Captain. As a Yankee fan and a fan of baseball, it would certainly be fantastic to see the crown transferred from one of the game's biggest cretins to a man of Jeter's stature.

Time will tell.

Potpourritic Smorgasboard

I remember my mom used to keep a glass jar labelled 'potpourri,' replete with various rose petals and cinnamon sticks and other fragrant items, in the downstairs bathroom when I was a kid. It was one of the house's best objects. Not only did it smell nice and provide tiny objects to crush, but I liked the word. Of course, never having heard it spoken, I pronounced it in my head like "pot-PORE-ee." An awkward-sounding word, but I liked it anyway.


It was a huge revelation to hear it pronounced correctly. I'm sure I heard it first on 'Jeopardy.' "Pote-purr-EE." Yikes! Life-changing! There have been a variety of words like this, where I've been totally ignorant of the correct pronunciation for years. I didn't know how to say 'caricature' until an embarrasingly late age...22, I think. Before that, it was 'ca-RICK-a-cher." I'm pretty sure it was embarrassing when someone finally corrected me.

Oh, another weird one: a couple of times in books I read 'helluva' in dialogue. I had no idea it was just a weird way of spelling 'hell of a,' and was convinced it was some arcane adjective that nobody ever used anymore. And it was pronounced "ha-loo-va." That word held some magic. But that was back in the day, when we were all innocent.

So. This post will veer wildly back and forth more than most, because there are a few disparate things I want to cover. First, two stories from last night. Only one of them is harrowing.

Not harrowing:

My girlfriend can sleep anywhere, anytime, at the drop of a hat. It's impressive and aggravating. When 10pm rolls around, there's no keeping her awake. I, on the other hand, am a terrible sleeper. If someone rubs two blades of grass together in the next building in the middle of the night, I'm up like a shot. I don't drink coffee, because I have no need of caffeine; the minute the alarm goess off, I'm wide awake. This is good and bad, but at night it's mostly bad. The girlfriend is out like a light while I toss and turn, and because of that, she'll sometimes talk in her sleep. This is something I could never do, because I'd just wake myself up. But whenever she starts to mumble, I immediately try to engage her in conversation. It's rarely effective, but I'm convinced I can get her to say something bizarre one day.

Last night at around eleven, she rolled over toward me, eyes closed, and said "We'll have to find out if he gets it."

I was on the case. "Who?" I asked.

Then she rolled into me, and was silent.

"Who's going to get it?" I asked.

"Hmmm?" she mumbled.

"Is it Ted Williams?" (I have no idea why I said Ted Williams, for the record.)

She paused for about three seconds, then nodded. "Mm-hmm."

That was all I could get out of her. But one day I will unravel the mysteries of the night time mutterings. I'm convinced that it's more than just the random, disconnected outputs of a sleepy subconscious. I think there's a large, crucial story underneath it all, and I have to listen like a detective for clues. Someday I'll put it all together. It could be about a murder!

Harrowing:

At 3am, the locals had their first big fight of the summer. July 22nd is actually pretty late for this kind of thing, which I guess is progress. But of course I woke up while they shouted outside the building. Someone kept yelling about 'respect,' and girls were egging them on, and then there was the scuffling sound of combat. It ended quickly, and the 'respect' guy had clearly won. He started shouting 'get up!' He shouted it for so long that I could deduce that the loser was not getting up. Then, sickeningly, the fight continued. It seems the 'respect' guy attacked again, his anger unsated. Finally it ended, and I was out of my trance enough to get up and watch the aftermath from my living room. Two cop cars came by and asked my neighbor (on the stoop) if there had been any shouting.

"No," she said. "If there was, I would have called you guys." Then the cops sped away. It should be noted that my neighbor is a very nice woman, but apparently talking with the cops is not on her agenda.

Then a crying girl went into the alley to check on something. Then the neighbor walked over to peek into the alley. Then a shirtless teenager walked across the street to get his friend, and they left the scene. Then the cops zoomed by again, and more people went to look into the alley. I solved the mystery for myself pretty quickly: the guy who had his ass kicked was in the alley, possibly in bad condition. This played in my mind, and I realized I should probably call 911. My brain has a way of jumping to worst case scenarios, and all I could think was "holy shit this guy is gonna die and it'll be my fault."

The operator connected me to EMS, and I gave them the info so they could send an ambulance. I waited 10 minutes, but nobody came. Also, the action died outside. I eventually went back to bed, and I have no idea what happened. This was my second 911 call ever. The first happened in the spring, when I heard the sound of crying coming from the alley. My first thought was that someone had left an infant there, so again, I called. (You might be wondering why I didn't simply leave the apartment in either case and just check...and that would be a legitimate question, if the alley wasn't the scariest fucking place in the universe.) The police came, and I met them outside. After some investigation, we discovered that the mewling had come from a pregnant cat.

So basically, if 911 keeps a dossier on everyone who calls, I'm probably known as a reactionary idiot. If something really awful ever happens, I'll call up and they'll be like "oh, great, it's the cat guy!" They'll hang up, and then I'll get cut to pieces by the guy wearing a Mickey Mouse costume who broke into my apartment with a chainsaw.

Now that you're up to date on my night, let's get to some sports. Yesterday, I briefly mentioned that Jeter had a shot at Pete Rose's record. After the post, I had a conversation in the comments, and ran some numbers. I got even deeper into the calculations in the afternoon, so I'd like to share them.

Why Jeter is Ahead of Pete Rose's Pace, and Why it Probably Won't Matter



vs.



The whole thing started with Robinson Cano, when I figured out his hit %. That's simply the number of hits divided by the number of total plate appearances. I use PA instead of at-bats since at-bats discount walks and hit-by-pitch incidents. If we want to know how many hits a player gets per at-bat, we need to factor in how many times they reach base on something other than a hit; a player who walks more will have fewer opportunities for a hit.

The other factor to consider, besides hit %, is age. If we can figure out which player had more hits, and a higher hit %, at the same age, we'll be able to understand who's "winning" the race for the all-time record.

Pete Rose ended with 4,256 career hits. It's a number that sounds insurmountable. But let's see where he stacks up with Jeter.

First, I made it tough on myself. Jeter turned 36 on July 26, one month ago. I wanted to figure out how many hits he would be projected to have when he turned 37. As of last night, he has 2,855 hits in 10,242 plate appearances. That's a hit percentage of 27.87.

Jeter has averaged 697 plate appearances per year (742 per 162 games, but we'll go by the other average to play it conservative). That means that in one year, he'll have roughly 10,939 plate appearances. But we want to figure out how many he'll have when he turns exactly 37. So we'll take that yearly calculation, and subtract one month. Baseball is essentially a 6-month season (April is not a full month, but it's filled out by the handful of October regular season games). 697 divided by 6 is 116, so we can subtract that and deduce that by his birthday next June 26th, a healthy Jeter should have 581 more plate appearances. That gives him 10,283 total.

Now, to figure out how many hits. The easy way is just to figure 27.87 percent (Jeter's career hit average) of 581. But we should allow for some decline, as a ballplayers' productivity naturally decreases with age. As we'll see in a second, Rose's hit % dropped a full point between age 37 and the end of his career. On the other hand, Jeter's hit % between 2006 and 2009 was 28.8, actually above his career average. So I'll allow for a very small decline over the next year...let's say 27.6 percent. That gives him 160 more hits. When we add that to his current total of 2,855, we get a grand total of:

3,015 career hits for Derek Jeter on his 37th birthday.

Let's see how that compares to Rose. His birthday is on April 14th. When he finished his age 36 season, he had 2,966 hits. By his birthday the next year, when he turned 36, he had 2,977.

Conclusion: Derek Jeter should be leading the all-time hit race by 38 hits when he turns 37.

That was the hard way. Also the fun way. The easier and more boring way would just be to compare the two at age 36. Here are the numbers:

Derek Jeter, 36th birthday: 2,835 hits, 10,153 PAs, 27.9% hitting.

Pete Rose, 36th birthday: 2,769 hits, 10,017 PAs, 27.6% hitting.

And we can even do current stats:

Derek Jeter, 36 years, 27 days: 2,855 hits, 10,242 PAs, 27.9% hitting

Pete Rose, 36 years, 27 days: 2,796 hits, 10,105 PAs, 27.7% hitting

So in all three categories (36th birthday, current age, and projected 37th birthday), Jeter has more plate appearances, more hits, and a higher hitting percentage. He's the better man. By all accounts, you can expect him to break the all-time hit record, right?

Well, no. There are two main reasons why Rose is still the favorite.

1) He played until he was 45. Longevity was his biggest strength. As we've seen, Jeter is a slightly better pure hitter, but Rose lasted a long, long time. And his production only suffered mildly with age; by the stats, he managed over 600 plate appearances every year until his 40th birthday, and he only seriously declined after age 43. Will Jeter even have the desire to play that long? If so, will he stay healthy?

2) Circumstance. Jeter is an iconic Yankee, and it would be strange if he ever played in a different uniform. Unfortunately, the Yankee standard of excellence dictates that he probably can't play with the club until he's 45. Sentiment only goes so far. In order to duplicate Rose's longevity, Jeter would probably have to play third base for a lower tier club. I don't see that happening.

All things considered, the smart money is on Rose. But then again, Jeter could surprise us. He's known for keeping in great shape, and his focus is fairly singular among the current generation. If anybody can last into his mid-40s, it's the Captain. As a Yankee fan and a fan of baseball, it would certainly be fantastic to see the crown transferred from one of the game's biggest cretins to the classiest guy in sports.

Time will tell.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Calling All North Carolina Readers! SOS!

I found out today that despite having the YES Network in Chapel Hill, I may not get to see Yankee games.

The Gist: YES carries most New York Yankee games live. However, they don't have game broadcasting rights outside their assigned 'region,' which is New York, Connecticut, and northern New Jersey. Somehow, Chapel Hill is in the Baltimore Orioles' region, and therefore YES can't broadcast games that would compete with them. It would seem that I just spent extra money for zilch...because 'zilch' perfectly describes my interest in the rest of YES' programming.

HOWEVER: I've heard some unverified chatter around the internet that because Chapel Hill is so far from Baltimore, they might show games there. I've specifically heard that the YES network televises games in Charlotte.

So: If anyone in Chapel Hill or Durham or Raleigh has the YES network (if you have DirectTV, for instance, I think it comes with it), it would be a solid favor if you checked the game tonight to see if it's broadcast live.

Anyone who helps will become an official "Friend of the Blog." This status earns you a pin, and is easily good for 2-3 bonus sexual encounters with an attractive member of the opposite sex each year.

This was me when I heard the news:


Crapola. Back tomorrow with Derek Jeter and Pete Rose comparisons. PS, did you know 'Jeter' means 'to throw' in French? WEIRD!

Finishing Strong

I took yesterday off to see the Yankees with my aunt, uncle, and grandfather, and they ended up winning a wild game against the Angels 10-6. That puts my season record at 5-1, which is by far my best personal performance of all time. Dating back to last season, I'm 9-1 in my last 10. I don't believe in luck, per se, but I do think the Yankees should pay me to attend their baseball games.

Something really strange and interesting happened in yesterday's game. With two outs in the 7th, Gardner was at the plate facing an 0-1 count. The pitch was a strike, and he turned to the umpire and said something. Nobody is exactly clear about the exchange, but the ump decided it crossed the line, and he tossed Gardner. Girardi came out to protest, but no overturn was forthcoming. So with the count 0-2, Colin Curtis stepped in to pinch hit. He waited out three balls, then drilled a full count fastball into the right field stands for a 3-run home run.

The score was 7-5 at the time, and the Angels had come all the way back from a 6-0 deficit, so the homer was key- it put the game out of reach. The stadium crowd knew they'd just seen something pretty bizarre and special, so they continued cheering until Curtis' teammates made him come out for a curtain call. Pretty cool stuff. According to the Boston Herald, Curtis saw Gardner in the tunnel to the clubhouse shortly after. "You're welcome," said Gardner.


I'm trying to find out whether this is the first time in MBL history a player has taken over mid-at-bat and hit a home run, but no verdict yet. I imagine somebody, somewhere is on this.

Another highlight was Sweet Robbie Cano drilling a third-inning two-run homer into the bullpen. It was his 995th career hit. I decided to run the numbers and see how he compares to Pete Rose.

Overall:

Pete Rose had 4,256 career hits in 15,861 plate appearances. That means he got a hit 26.8% of the time.

Robbie has 995 career hits in 3,436 plate appearances, good for 28.9%.

Obviously these stats aren't very good for predicting, since the numbers factor in Rose's late years of decline. Also, we have no idea how Robbie will fare in the injury and longevity departments. But just for kicks, let's check out what Rose was doing with a similar plate appearance number.

After 3,357 plate appearances, just 80 shy of what Robbie has currently, Rose had 899 hits. At that point, he was getting a hit in just 26.7% of his plate appearances. In other words, Robinson is about 70-80 hits ahead of the Pete Rose pace. If we assume a similar career arc, and roughly equal longevity (which is a whole hell of a lot to assume, but let's have some fun), Robbie would end up beating Rose by about 150 hits. And for the record, Rose was 26 when that season ended, and Robbie is 27.

Again, though, Rose played until he was 45. And from his numbers, it looks like he was never really hurt, at least until his early 40s. Even then, he never had fewer than 100 hits in a year. So there's a long way to go before we give Robbie the all-time batting crown. But on a smaller scale, maybe it wouldn't be too outrageous to predict that he could eventually eclipse Derek Jeter in the Yankee hit department. Assuming he stays in pinstripes, that is. (While we're here, I should note that Jeter's lifetime hit percentage is 27.8, and if he can stay healthy and play into his 40s, he actually has a fighting chance to overtake Rose...)

The win puts the Yanks 2 ahead of the Rays, and 7 up on the Red Sox. Nothing is impossible, but it may be time to start panicking in The Bean. Beckett returns tomorrow, and his performance over the next month is absolutely critical if they hope to make a run at the Rays and Yanks. Buchholz needs to regain his form as well. After suffering a hamstring injury, yesterday's start was pretty rough. Lester appears to be their only reliable starter at the moment, though Dice-K has strung together a few nice starts. And we don't need to even mention the bats; the Sox are suffering a year of injuries like the Yanks had during the woefully unlucky '08 season.

So in late July, I have to admit I'm feeling fairly confident. The Yanks are sitting pretty atop the east, and if the emerging offense can carry us until Pettitte's return, I believe our position is safe. With Teixeira having reached safely in 37 straight games, and his average back near .260, the middle of the order looks tougher than ever. The stress is still on, but for a moment it's possible to smell the roses and remember that it's good to be a Yankee fan.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Soccer and Other Sports Where You Can Score 1 Point at a Time

I'm reading a book called "Soccernomics" at the moment, and though it's too early to pronounce a verdict, the second chapter was pretty amusing. It starts out like this (keep in mind, the book was published in 2009):

"When the England team flies to South Africa for the World Cup, an ancient ritual will start to unfold. Perfected over England's fourteen previous failures to win the World Cup away from home, it follows this pattern:"

The authors go on to list 8 phases. Here are the first 5.

Phase 1: Pretournament - Certainty that England will win the World Cup

Phase 2: During the tournament - England meets a former wartime enemy

Phase 3: The English conclude that the game turned on one freakish piece of bad luck that could only happen to them

Phase 4: Moreover, everyone else has cheated

Phase 5: England is knocked out without getting anywhere near lifting the Cup

Pretty hilarious. In case you missed England's fate, they were indeed knocked out by a wartime enemy (Germany), and they did have a piece of freakish bad luck when Frank Lampard's goal wasn't counted. Their media and supporters harped on this (perhaps rightly) as the key turning point in the match, and England were eliminated in the round of 16, far away from the championship.

The chapter goes on to argue that England has no right to expect to be good, based on their population and economy and prejudices, but that some sort of imperialist residue lingers from grander times, and the resulting mindset creates unrealistic hopes. It's no fun being England.

On a completely unrelated note, did you know that it's possible to get a safety on a two-point try or an extra point? In college football, either team can receive one point if they score a safety during a conversion.

For the offense to score a safety, they would have to fumble the ball near the goal line. A defender would have to pick it up, run backward into the endzone, and get tackled. This is really, really rare. It's only happened once that anybody knows about, in a Texas-Texas A&M game in 2004 after a blocked extra point.

Amazingly, the defense can also score a point. This has never happened, and probably never will, but if the defense came away with a turnover or recovered a blocked kick, raced all the way downfield, lost the ball near the opposite endzone, at which point an offensive player recovered, ran into his own endzone and was tackled, that's one point to the D.

If it ever happened, it would be the most ridiculous play in football history. I hope I see it in my lifetime.

That'll do it for today. I'm off tomorrow, so no blog, but I return on Thursday. Yanks-Angels tonight, Hughes going for win number 12, and I'll be at the Stadium tomorrow afternoon to buy some hats and watch Javy get all glorious. Thursday's morning post will undoubtedly be a nice piece of Javy Vazquez fan fiction.

15 Predictions for Duke/UNC Football 2010

As you guys read in the last post, I'll be following Duke and Carolina football pretty extensively once I head down to Chapel Hill. When I went to Duke between '01 and '05, I probably saw six football games in four years. The fact that the Devils were one of the nation's worst teams played a big role, but I also had things to do in those days. At least I think that was the case. I remember having friends and meetings and romantic trysts. I can't remember any specifics, or even the name of a single friend, but trust me, I was one of the bigger men on campus. I was so cool that people would actively not invite me to parties because they were afraid that I would 'out-cool' the host.

Now, I have like three friends. The bulk of my time is spent working, writing, and hanging out with my girlfriend. I also find myself doing adult things like yelling on the phone at people that work for Pep Boys. When my girlfriend tells me we have to attend some social function, my first reaction is to fall at her feet, grab her legs, and beg her not to make me go. I take pleasure in horrible activities like jogging. Most of all, I dig sports. Going to a live game is like getting kissed on the mouth by a supermodel for three hours. Actually, it's better, because after a few minutes you'd probably want to stop kissing the supermodel and get a drink of water. I can drink water any time I want at a Yankee game, for a price.

So seeing the Devils or Heels on the gridiron will be the highlight of my week, I'm sure. And if I'm going to get serious about football writing, I need to start doing some research. I know next to nothing about Duke and Carolina football. Butch Davis and David Cutcliffe are the coaches, but I honestly can't name a single player. That will change, but not today. I don't have time to look up specifics. I don't even think it's possible to find rosters online; I'll have to make some phone calls later. Instead, I'll get right to the predictions. Please note that some of the scenarios may be impossible, and most of the names are made up.

DUKE/UNC FOOTBALL: 15 EDUCATED GUESSES FOR 2010

1. First and most important, both teams will go undefeated. They will tie each other in the final game of the season, and then play again for the ACC title. They will also tie that game, and because it will be a down year in the NCAA, they'll meet again for the national title. Duke will win 38-0.

2. Antonio Marcel, Duke linebacker, will record 7 interceptions on September 18th when Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy suffers a mental breakdown and throws him the ball on every possession until being pulled late in the second quarter. Marcel will record 0 interceptions the rest of the season.

3. Duke Coach David Cutcliffe will hold a charity boxing match where he defeats Duke women's basketball coach Joanne McCallie in a split decision after 7 rounds.

4. UNC will not suffer any sanctions at the hands of the NCAA, but they will be barred from holding bake sales in downtown Chapel Hill after offensive lineman Thor Bummel does some suggestive pantomime with a jelly donut.

5. I will start a fan section in Durham called the "Devil Dervishes." Our main thing is that whenever Duke scores, we play Arabian music and spin in circles.

6. I will start a fan section in Chapel Hill called the "Tar Heel Hellcats." It will be a group of sultry women in sparkly black evening gowns and long gloves who write and sing their own fight songs. I stand in front of them, staring icily at the field, wearing a fedora and smoking a cigar.

7. UNC President Nieman Alonzo will make a friendly bet with Duke President Harcourt Brace before the big rivalry game. If UNC wins, Alonzo and Brace will exchange wives for one evening. If Duke wins, same thing.

8. UNC placekicker 'Legless' Andy Little will be the first football player in history to play with an amputated limb. In place of his right leg, Little will have an attached mechanical device that can kick a football 90 yards in a straight line.

9. The Duke offense will pride itself on giving up no safeties. Cutcliffe will herald himself as the 'no-safety' coach. When Duke loses, they'll say things to the media like "well, at least we didn't give up a safety." The whole thing will last until the fourth game, when Duke gives up a safety.

10. There will be a huge riot in Chapel Hill on October 16th when a UVA player says that Carolina's powder blue is 'faggy.'

11. Duke will make the playoffs, but lose to the Baltimore Ravens in the wild card round.

12. Carolina's opener against LSU will be marred when the Tigers show up without helmets to protest the 'wrong-headed' policies of BP in relation to the Deepwater Horizon spill. They'll sustain 8 concussions and lose on a last-second 75-yard field goal by 'Legless' Andy Little.

13. In a bid for the Scholar Athlete of the Year award, Duke QB Rainier McDonald will make a big show of studying a physics textbook on the field between offensive plays. He'll wind up losing a narrow vote to his teammate William LeVance, who will hold bubbling beakers aloft while playing defensive end.

14. Butch Davis will institute a system called 'total football' where the center can snap whenever he senses the defense is at its most vulnerable. Unfortunately, manic-depressive center John Marshall will often stay over the ball for minutes at a time, incurring delay-of-game penalties and bumming everyone out with his listless demeanor. At other times, he'll sprint from the huddle and snap before anyone is ready.

15. David Cutcliffe will go through a 'retro' phase where he swears off the forward pass and encourages the hardiest men from the student body to join the Devils and push the other team off the field in a great mob.



Bonus: Duke and UNC will tie in the race for the 'Horrid Tree,' a highly-coveted football award. Chopped down in 1745 by Amos Arnold, North Carolina's first resident, the Horrid Tree is an eerie maple stump covered in fungi and vines. It's given annually to the team with the best spirit in the entire state.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Future Planning

Some quick things:

*When I get down to Carolina, I plan to attend a football game every weekend. Or nearly ever weekend. Expect a tiny transition into Duke and Carolina football when September rolls around. It won't overshadow the Yanks, but it's something new.

*Also expect a ton of content from the Durham Bulls, the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays and the defending Triple-A National Champions.

Just kidding.

*Get primed: if you ever wanted a college version of the fun-and-gun Phoenix Suns teams led by Steve Nash and D'Antoni, look no further than this year's Blue Devils. With a starting lineup featuring freshman phenom Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry, Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler, and one of the Plumlees, this crew will be fast, furious, and dynamic. I know it's early, but I cannot wait to watch these guys blow teams off the court. Make no mistake: the 2010-11 team will be more talented than their immediate predecessor.

Paradoxically, their title hopes are actually a bit lower than last year's team. As far as I can tell, they lack the Zoubekian/Thomasian inside presence, an earthy, thuggish element that tethers a team to reality and attends to the dirty business that national championships demand. But I've decided not to worry about that until March comes. From now until the end of the regular season, I'm going to kick back and enjoy the style.

Remember how last year's team had the "Goodfellas" theme to their poster? It ended up being pretty appropriate, considering the unsentimenal, rough methods that took them to the top. But this year's team is more ethereal, more free-flowing, and less entrenched. Less fatalistic. I'm thinking maybe "Chariots of Fire"...bunch of Duke dudes running in blue unis on a beach, real small in the upper left corner. Remote. Artistic. Elemental.

I started to get moved just thinking about it, and then I remembered the Chariots of Fire theme song, and now I'm weeping. Guarantee: you will only be able to watch the 2010-11 Blue Devils in slow motion.


I gotta go wipe off some tears, y'all.

Humidity Wave

Apologies for what will be a late and short post this Monday morning. I just finished up my last solo batch of payroll EVER at this place, and boy, was it ugly. But it's done, and I think I'm officially in coasting mode. Or coasting as much as I can in this humid NYC jungle. I leave in two weeks, and I like to think that the miserable weather is New York's way of saying 'don't let the door hit your ass on the way out.' I would expect nothing less.

A lot happened this weekend, and I'm going to trot out a few links and keep things short.

-First, the Yanks took 2 of 3 from the Rays in a big series win. But every rose has its thorn, and this fragrant damask had two.

1) AJ Burnett went apeshit on a clubhouse door, and cut up his hand on the plastic fixtures that hold lineup cards. He had to be removed from the game, and then he lied about the injury to trainers. His story was that he fell while running up the stairs, and before he came out with the truth, Girardi and Cashman had already conveyed the false information to reporters. Pretty embarrassing, but the Yankee management was forgivinmg, as you can see from this chain of quotes.

“I calmed down and realized that’s not appropriate and that’s not the truth and I’m an honest person,” Burnett said.

“I appreciate the fact that he took a step back and stood up to what he did,” Cashman said. “That shows strength. He apologized and I accepted.”

“He told me the truth when I asked him,” Girardi said. “I’ve done some stupid things when I’ve been embarrassed, too. I talked to him and he told me what happened.

AJ has always been a loose cannon, but he seems looser than normal at the moment. Something extracurricular must be happening. To continue the cannon metaphor, he's currently spinning in wild circles and firing backward at his own troops. Hopefully Eiland (ha!) or someone can rein him in. It looks like he won't miss his next start, and he apologized to his teammates, but these things don't just disappear. Right now, I'm just hoping he returns to his usual level of erratic behavior. Please be unreliable in a way we can predict, AJ.

2) Burnett's polar opposite, the steadfast Andy Pettitte, will not be making his next start. In fact, he won't be starting for at least 5 weeks after he suffered a groin injury yesterday.

"I've pitched through a lot of stuff, but there was no way. No way,'' said Pettitte, who at 38 is off to one of the best starts of his 16-year career. "Normally, I can pitch through anything but I was hurting pretty bad."

This is a complete bummer for a lot of reasons. First, I like Andy, and he was on pace to win 20 games this season. That becomes highly unlikely now. More importantly, he's been a dependable centerpiece in a staff that's found itself in a season-long state of flux. When CC struggled in the beginning, Hughes and AJ were fantastic, and Javy was terrible. Then CC started improving, and Javy too, but AJ fell of a cliff and Hughes had a rough month of June. Now CC is dominant, Javy is pretty close, and the other two are nowhere to be found. Throughout it all, Andy was there, pitching deep into games, putting a stop to mini-skids, and accumulating wins. To lose him for a month or more is a really big blow to our stability.

He'll be replaced in the rotation by Sergio Mitre. Unlike a lot of Yankee fans, I like Sergio. When he commands the sinker, he can be highly effective, and the best case scenario is that he'll eventually resemble the "good," pre-ankle injury Chien-Ming Wang. But he's a major step down from Andy at the moment, and his success or failure is almost totally unpredictable, which is an adjective you'd never associate with Pettitte.

But that's life. If Andy can rehabilitate and come back effective in a month, this is a storm the Yanks can weather with relative ease. The emergence of Teixeira and A-Rod is turning the lineup into an offensive powerhouse again, and if Cano can get out of his doldrums, the 2-3-4-5 stretch, beginning with Swisher, is just devastating. D-TOP: Death To Opposing Pitchers.

-Speaking of Swish, it was wonderful to see him get a bit of pie on Friday night.


A lot of people were pumped that it happened after they honored Steinbrenner, so that was nice too. Every clutch hit that Swisher gets goes a long way to erasing the memory of last year's postseason, where his performance was pretty abysmal (6-47). It looks like his offseason work with Kevin Long has paid off. His average is way up, over .300 for the first time in his career, and he hasn't lost power or OBP points. In fact, his OBP is almost at a career high, and his slugging and OPS numbers top anything he's managed in the past. And everyone's estimation of Long continues to rise.

-Louis Oosthuizen, a South African, won the British Open. Unfortunately, aside from brief glimpses on Thursday and Friday at work, I didn't get to watch any of the action at St. Andrew's. But it seems I didn't miss a terribly exciting tourney. Still, good for Oosthuizen; he seems like a good guy, and he pretty much annihilated the field. Gotta respect that. And this is one of the more affectionate trophy photos I've ever seen:


Back for some college football stuff a little later. In the meanwhile, get blown away by Thom Yorke's voice at the 3-minute mark of this video:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Weekend Weekend Weekend x 10^8

With this job winding to a close, you'd think time would speed up. You'd think during the most tedious moments, I could just say "hey, I'm out of here in two weeks." But you would be wrong. For whatever reason, time trickles rather than pours. Every voice, every task, and every view of sludge gray carpet is like molasses poured into the clock. Why won't it move?!

It's also sad when the best moment of your day comes early in the morning. When I woke up, my girlfriend started nagging me that I hadn't yet packed for our weekend trip. She was still groggy, and we had this conversation:

Me: Hey, I'm gonna pack. I can pack in a heartbeat.
Her: You have to.
Me: I'm a great packer. You know what they call me?
Her: A lot of things, and it's never what you want to hear.

That cracked me up for like five minutes. So yes, the best part of the day came at about 6:30, and involved being insulted by my girlfriend.

(For the record, the answer to my rhetorical question was going to be "pack-man.")

This weekend, then, is sweet relief. This was also the first week in some time where I haven't taken a vacation day or pretended to be sick, so it dragged more than usual. A full 5-day work week was like a bad memory, but now I remember that's it al too real. But a weekend is an occasion for joy, so let's check out the joy docket:

1) Yankee baseball!

It's been like 2-3 months since the Yankees played a baseball game, and man do I miss them. Or maybe it's only been four days. In any case, there have been a lot of long nights strung together, pretending I know what to do with myself. Those frightening times are over, the Yanks are back, and they better hit the ground running. The Rays are at the stadium tonight, and they'll be facing CC. Ursa Major is on the lookout for his 13th win, and a good outing will push his ERA beneath 3 for the first time all year.

A strong series against the Rays could set the tone for the second half. I think the Yanks are the best team in the AL East, and the division should be ours as long as the injury bugs stays in Boston and away from the Bronx. Tonight would be a good time to initiate the domination. CC has been red-hot lately, so I'm not worried. AJ pitches tomorrow, and that's certainly a wild card. The best match-up is Price-Pettitte on Sunday. Maybe I'm crazy, but I'm feeling a sweep.

The only other big Yankee news is that nobody showed up for Bob Sheppard's funeral. A lot of the newer Yankees never knew him, but it would've been nice to seem of the old guys stop by, especially Jeter. The captain insists that Sheppard's voice announces his every at-bat, but I guess he couldn't make his funeral. Too bad.

Last, here's an article about Hal Steinbrenner. He's the guy that's been running the team for years now, but I think ESPN is running with the angle that he'll now be thrust upon the big stage.

2) British Open Golf

The wind is just atrocious in Scotland right now, and a South African named Oosthuizen is in the lead. He had the good fortune of finishing his round early, before the bad weather began. But those who teed off in the afternoon are dropping like flies, and Oosty, as I'll be calling him, has a 5-shot lead that could grow even larger by the end of the day.

Sadly, I think I'll have to miss most of this tourney due to car travel. It's my favorite major to watch, even more than Augusta, but it finishes earlier than the others. Maybe it'll rain, or something, and they'll have to finish on Monday. That would be fine with me.

3) Carolina Football

What's gonna happen? Sanctions? Player suspensions? Dissolving the program? Nothing?

UNC can still play, but they can only kick field goals on offense?

They have to wear their helmets backward?

Margaret Thatcher has to be their coach?

Margaret Thatcher has to be their quarterback?

Margaret Thatcher has to be their cheerleader?

We could know more by Monday...and that's it for me. Have a great weekend.

Riddle: What Breaks Your Heart Before You See It?

UNC FOOTBALL


(Also acceptable: a blocked artery.)

Maybe I'm being a bit dramatic, but as you can see in that article and this one from ESPN, UNC's football program is being investigated for possible conduct violations. The NCAA probe seems to be focusing on a handful of draft-eligible players who may have accepted gifts from booster types after last season as an incentive to return to school. (Editor's note: this was a mistake, as reader William pointed out in the comments...the issue was player contact with agents.) As of now, indications are that coach Butch Davis and his staff are not involved, which means that the team itself shouldn't face any crazy sanctions.

When I heard about this last night, though, I wound myself into a panic. See, I've been searching most of my life for a college football team to follow. When I was very young, an offensive lineman from my high school went to Syracuse. He became a starter and then a captain, and we had season tickets for a couple years. We saw Marvin Harrison and Marvin Graves and Donovan McNabb and future Dolphins placekicker Olindo Mare. But then the lineman graduated, McNabb left, and Syracuse has been terrible ever since.

After that, I sort of got into Notre Dame, my stepfather's team, but the passion was never entirely there. Also, they kind of annoyed me; all this arrogance and presumption, and the most they could ever accomplish was to suffer a severe ass-kicking in an undeserved BCS bowl. Then I went to Duke and was face-to-face with a truly atrocious football program. No dice. Last year, I tried to find a team in the northeast and settled on UConn. That lasted about two seconds.

So when I found out I'd be attending UNC, I thought I'd found my team at last. They've gone 8-5 the past two years, and as you read in the articles linked above, they're expected to be in the pre-season top 25. The could even contend for an ACC title this season. Plus, grad students get free tickets. Plus, they have an outdoor stadium. Plus, it's a great compromise that lets me support my new school without abandoning Duke basketball. Perfect.

Then the ticker notice floated across the bottom of the screen while I was watching British Open highlights. At first, I thought they were announcing an investigation into UNC basketball. That tickled me pink. But then it became clear what was happening, and doomsday scenarios went off in my mind. The worst of these was the following: 5-10 of the best players suspended, and a two-year postseason ban. Just enough time to make football irrelevant for the duration of my UNC career. Sheee-it.

Hopefully that doesn't happen, but the timing is terrible. Perhaps my ambitions to find a viable college football team to support are cursed. Perhaps I'm like Odysseus, within sight of home when a foul wind blows me back into uncertainty- into years of torment and chaos. But if worse comes to worse, I have a solution:

Support Duke football.

You heard me. Let's look at their records since 2001:

2001: 0-11
2002: 2-10 (I carried one of the goal posts to the chapel when they broke the 23-game losing streak against East Carolina...the nation's longest)
2003: 4-8
2004: 2-9
2005: 1-10
2006: 0-12
2007: 1-11
2008: 4-8
2009: 5-7

Question: What do you call that?
Answer: Progress.

Granted, they flirted with 'not progress' for a while there, particularly when they peaked at 4 wins in 2003 and eventually bottomed out with a winless 2006 campaign. Sure, those were some dark days. Nobody's pretending otherwise. But here's what the numbers don't tell you: there were some real heartbreakers in '06. A few lucky bounces here and there, and the Devils could've been 2-10. Maybe 3-9. Easy. And I'm pretty sure one of our coaches saved someone's life on a lake once. Either Carl Franks or Ted Roof. (This is a true story, but I can't find the link.)

And guess what? This offseason, the University of motherfucking Tennesee wanted our head coach, David Cutcliffe. And he said no! To a real football team!

Okay, so maybe our coach doesn't make fantastic career decisions. But he's loyal. And he's won more games in the last two years than Duke won in the previous five. If he goes .500 or better this season, I say we start work on the David Cutcliffe monument. (Also, let's make it look like someone famous, maybe Vince Lombardi, because nobody will recognize David Cutcliffe.)

Bottom line: I am not without options. If UNC wants to screw me, I will take my business ten miles down the road to Wallace Wade Stadium. I can't guarantee a lot of things, but I know the Devils will never be guilty of any violations. They're too smart for that. Does that guarantee we'll never play .500 football? I don't think so, necessarily. So on Saturday, September 4th, at 7pm, while UNC is down in Atlanta playing LSU, there's every chance that I'll be in Durham, watching the unheralded Blue Devils take on Elon.

WHO'S WITH ME?!


I SAID, WHO'S WITH ME?!



I CAN'T HEAR YOU! GET LOUD!


.

.

.


FINE! I'LL GO ALONE!



Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Have a Cavity

Been a while since we had some old school clip art hilarity, right?


But it's true. I went to the dentist yesterday for a normal check-up, mentioned some pain I'd been feeling in an upper-left molar, and the x-rays showed a small cavity between the teeth. Balls. It's the first of my lifetime, and I really hate to see this clean streak end. I thought I might make it all the way, and then the powers-that-be could have a special dental tribute at my funeral or something (Catholics do this, right?). Then again, I don't floss, so the cavity tragedy has been a long time coming. People warned me, telling gruesome tales of decay and rot, but I just laughed my way through an easy youth, not a care in the world. I tempted fate, and my hubris brought me down.

According to my dentist, it's pretty rare to get a first cavity this late in life. He asked me if I'd been eating more candy lately, and it seemed like a question I should be embarrassed about. "The textbooks tell us you only see this kind of thing in ten year-olds," he said, determined to feed my shame. He left no doubt in my mind that a cavity is a personal flaw.

If you'll allow me a sexual comparison, it was almost like he was asking me how many times I masturbate each day. Sort of apologetic, but he has to know in order to proceed. And I get squeamish and hem and haw for a while before standing up for my rights. "I'm not comfortable saying, sir, even if it's medically relevant." And then we stare each other down, and finally I break, collapse sobbing, and admit that yes, I'm really pigging out on candy the last month. I finally realized that my mom can't keep me from assembling a black garbage bag full of Sour Patch Kids, so I just went nuts. I've got a sugar haze in my brain like you wouldn't believe, doc. I've only been out of the house to visit the Blockbuster down the block, and I got my picture on their candy wall of fame last Tuesday.

Next week, it's novocaine-and-drill time. The old numb-and-plumb. If you have happy experiences with cavity drilling,* please share them. I need reassurance and coddling.

*Not that kind, ladies. LOL OMG TOO FUNNY BUT SERIOUSLY MAYBE I SHOULD DELETE THIS JOKE FOR NOT BEING GOOD AT ALL UMMM NAWWWWWWWW!!!!

So, the British open started this morning over at the old course in St. Andrews, and Seth Curry Saves Duke! is proud to welcome a special correspondent. His name is Nick, but he's a different human from the other Nick who posts about Duke basketball. This new Nick likes sports, will be attending UNC's J-School with me in a month, and is known in campus magazines as one of the ten coolest people in Chapel Hill. If you want to picture him, he looks kind of like a younger, hipper version of Duck Phillips from "Mad Men." I've never had the courage to tell him that in person, and I hope it doesn't make things weird between us. His last initial is W. The other Nick is Nick E. (Screw this, after today we have a fan vote, and one of the Nicks has to change his name to Nolan Smith Jr.)

Oh, also: Nick's website is called Clearing The Bench, and it has quality sports stuff updated daily. Check it out.

Nick W. is a big golf guy, and he was up at 4am this morning to watch the beginning of the British Open. This is the kind of activity you can enjoy when you have a month before school starts and are not employed. (Please notice that it took him only until 4:50am to crack the first beer.) Personally, I can't wait for this period of my life. I even got in trouble with my girlfriend for wondering aloud whether or not those first weeks in Carolina might be better enjoyed if she had a job...you know, so I could have some free daytimes, or whatever. I dug a large hole that day, my friends. Not my finest hour.

Anyway, since Scotland is in the southern hemisphere and it's winter over there and their clocks aren't magnetized the same way, the rotation and curvature of the sun means that their 'daytime' is slightly different than ours. Nick agreed to live blog his experiences. Enjoy!


BRITISH OPEN LIVE BLOG



4:19 Cheers Golf fans. Weather looks cold but calm as Tiger easily pars the first hole with a two putt. Heating up the course all by himself is none other than long-John Daly. The 1995 Champion won his British Open title at St. Andrews and just made the turn in -5. He has sole possession of the lead! No other players of note are in the hunt.

4:28: The flags are literally laying flat. Guys playing this morning have a big advantage on the field.

4:29: Tiger follows up a precise 2-iron tee shot with a nice mid-iron approach to 12 feet at the second. Despite his pink shirt, he looks sharp. I'll be focusing on Tiger this morning, and ESPN appears to be doing the same. We have yet to see Daly play a shot.

4:30: While John Daly is in the lead, another British Open Champ is on last place. At +2 David Duval is one of only a few players over par in the benign conditions. Again, if the wind starts to blow any players not making a bunch of birdies this morning are going to kick themselves hard.

4:33: Daly nearly drives the short 10th hole and then sticks his pitch shot to a foot. ESPN found a spare camera to show Daly. The best part of watching him hit the pitch shot was the Diet Coke can that he placed right on the ground next to his ball. He is wearing his trademark LoudMouth pants, that look like those old Zebra sweats NFL teams used to sell to fans in the early 90s. His salmon shirt and gray sweater vest are rather tame. It looks like JD is about to go to -6.

4:41: Woods drained his birdie with ease on #2 and split the fairway at #3. He looks sharp and calm. The crowd is sparse this morning, and clearly Woods is in a very comfortable place. If I had a bookie- ok, if my bookie was awake- I’d call him and lay as much as he’d let me on Woods to win.

4:42: John Daly follows up his birdie at 10 by sticking it to 6 feet for another birdie on the par 3 11th. This is awesome.

4:45: Paul Azinger is drooling over Tiger’s “rhythm” right now. With good reason. Woods’ loopy Hank-Haney designed swing is syrup today. He puts it to 10 feet from 105 yards and has another good look at bird at 3.

4:49: The BS meter on ESPN is getting even higher than it was last night during the ESPYs. Azinger and Rocco Mediate are acting like they saw this surge by Daly coming. Apparently while watching his reality show or seeing him barely crack the top 10 in a Nationwide Tour event in Arkansas three weeks ago they saw something Daly himself did not.

4:50: Daly makes his fourth birdie in a row to go to -7 thru 11. I’m cracking a beer.

5:14: My trip to the kitchen for breakfast derailed Daly’s birdie binge. He nearly drove the 12th, but then missed a chance for his 5th straight birdie when his 4 footer lipped out. He recovers nicely by knocking a pitching wedge to 15 feet on 13. Announcers just informed us Daly has not missed a fairway or a green.

5:20: I'm worried about Daly. He just missed his 15 footer. After it slid by he went to mark it, and clearly had trouble placing the mark behind the ball and then dropped the ball while he was trying to put it in his pocket. No, folks, I don’t think JD has a case of the shakes, I think he’s just nervous as well. That combined with the chilly weather is not a good combo for Daly has he approaches the hardest holes on the golf course – 14-17.

5:22: Daly is allowing ESPN to forget Tiger for a moment. Woods hit a bomb off the par 5 fifth, and followed it with a great 3-iron from 222 to setup a 30-footer off the fringe for eagle. His swing is smooth, he looks like he is in a good place. Maybe he met a waitress at breakfast this morning.

5:25: The course is pretty wet. Not splashy like American courses get, but we’re also not seeing 100 yards of run on tee shots like we did last year. Tom Watson is feeling the effects of the lengthened course and chilly weather, as he is +3 thru 4.

5:31: Cue commentary on Woods’ new Nike putter, as he 3 jacks his eagle chance. Tiger is -1 thru 5, but the Woods we’ve seen so far this year usually is not patient when his birdies don’t come in bunches. If he can just avoid bogeys and turn in under par I'd consider that a good sign for Tiger.

5:34: Watson heard me talking smack. He just knocked it to 25 feet for eagle on 5 by hitting a driver off the deck.

5:35: Right on cue (see post at 5:31) Tiger is screaming at himself. He mishit an iron shot on the short par 4 sixth. He’s still got a wedge into the green from the fairway, but he took a huge divot and probably chunked it.

5:40: That’s 2 club slams in one hole for Tiger. He had 155 in on a 353 yard hole that many players will attempt to drive this week. His ball is 50 feet and he’ll have 2 putts to save his par, but clearly the smooth swing and calm demeanor are gone. His red numbers are likely to follow.

5:42: I was nervous about Daly, and I was right. First he was too nervous to handle his golf ball. Now he has taken an unplayable at 15 and was hitting a fairway wood for his 3rd shot into the par 5. He did not hit the green. Given that Daly has not been in contention since a Hooters wing eating contest in 2005, I don’t like where this is going.

5:55: Woods knocks it to 20 feet from 91 yards on 6. He has not made anything so I'm not liking his chances at knocking this on down with the new Nike flatstick.

5:56: Daly, by the way, got down in 2 after whacking it up near the green with his 3rd shot on the par 5 after taking his unplayable. Good sign for John.

5:58: Sean O’Hair is loving life right now. The smooth ball-striker had to be hoping it was calm today. It is, and Sean is -5 through 8 holes and in sole possession of second place.

5:59: Reverse jinx works like a charm on Tiger. Knocks in the putt after ESPN did an in-depth explanation of how the grooves on the putter make the ball roll smoother on these greens.

6:15: Woods scrapes his drive on 9 up by the green. Rory McIlroy eagled this hole after driving the green earlier.

6:19: Woods hits a terrible pitch, leaves himself 20 feet on a hole where his playing partner Villegas has 30 feet for eagle. A 2-putt is a solid front 9 for Woods, but he had to want more than that.

6:20: Daly missed a birdie putt on 16 and nearly collapses as it slides passed the lip. Clearly he is emotionally invested in his round. He sits at -7 going into the treacherous road hole, a 495 yard monster with a blind tee shot that most players would be happy to par twice and bogey twice during the week. If he gets by that one 18 is another birdie chance.

6:21: Woods POURS in his birdie putt. The patience he needed to have after some mishits and missed chances early is on display. -3 at the turn and you can bet players teeing off right now or later today are taking notice that Tiger is on the first page.

6:22: Daly hits a monster, perfect tee shot on 17. Good for him. No matter what happens he is the lead story and the fan favorite today. I’m cracking another beer!

6:24: Woods’ score of -3 is great, but there are a lot of players putting good rounds together. Besides Daly at -7 and O’Hair turning at -5, Hunter Mahan is -4 and Australian John Senden is the clubhouse leader at -65. Guys not making birdies today are going to be pissed – that includes Ernie Els at E thru 8 and Padraig Harrinton at +2 through 6 right now. You have to take advantage of the first 9 holes and then hang getting home. If it’s calm when he tees off expect Mickelson to be licking his chops. He has the mindset to go low, and he rarely is left behind when scoring drops.

6:30: A lot of friends and fellow golfers have told me they love the timing of the British Open. Watching golf or following it early in the day on the weekdays and then waking up early Saturday and Sunday is fun. Breakfast and lunch with golf is the best way to watch it, they say. I tend to agree. While the prime-time finish of the US Open weekend rounds at Pebble Beach is great, I was pretty fatigued by the time it was all said and done. Early coverage gives me an afternoon with a healthy buzz tied on to play some golf or take a quality nap.

7:07: AND WE’RE BACK. Wife is awake and alert after some coffee, questioning my sanity and wondering why I smell like booze. Latest: McIlroy is a beast. He’s bombing drives and knocking it close, and making his 5-8 footers. He’s -7 through 14 holes and in the lead alone. Sean O’Hair is -6 and tied with Daly. Woods has climbed to -4. What a great day of calm weather.

7:48: Showered and ready for my internship now (sobered up) I have kept an eye on McIlroy and Woods. These are the two players dominating this course with ease – through 15 and 17 holes respectively Rory is -8 and Woods is -6. Neither player has made a bogey. If the weather holds Rory’s lead is not safe. O’Hair is already at -7. The weather does not look to be getting any worse. Expect someone to get to -9 or maybe even -10. Maybe Goosen?

7:49: Colin Montgomerie did some commentary before he played, and he is fantastic. He made some good jokes about wishing he hit it like Rory, and also said he was glad he was watching the players shoot low on television so that he knew that he had to do. Whether he makes the cut or not I look forward to hearing Monty on ESPN Friday and over the weekend. He’ll be great.