Friday, April 29, 2011

The Last of the Short Posts

Cora Munro: You've done everything you can do. Save yourself! If the worst happens, and only one of us survives, something of the other does, too.

Hawkeye: No, you submit, do you hear? You be strong, you survive... You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Is Fat Bart the Savior?

I got an e-mail last night from Patrick (of Countless Screaming Argonauts fame) that said this:

After a very short sample of the season so far, with all that has gone on, could you make the arguement that Bartolo Colon is this year's MVP - 2 great relief appearances early for Hughes and now two outstanding starts. He could be the "round mound on the rebound..."


That gave me the idea to make a Yankee MVP list. I'm still plagued by the end-of-year school stuff, so this will be a little hasty. That said, lessgooo!

The 2011 Premature Yankee Team MVP List

1. Alex Rodriguez - Unquestionably one of the 10 best players in baseball. If he stays healthy, he'll compete for a League MVP.

2. Bartolo Colon - The Yankee starting pitching was highly questionable coming into the season, and that was assuming Hughes would be effective. When he went down, we basically needed a miracle. So far, Bart has been a bit of a miracle man. He started as long relief for Hughes, giving us a chance to win after Hughes put is in a hole for in three straight appearances (on the third, the Yanks beat Baltimore in extra innings). He earned a spot in the rotation, and he's won his first two starts with excellent command. Last night, he went 8 innings and held down the White Sox to end a 2-game slide.

3. Russell Martin - Unbelievable production from a huge question mark. He's been a huge boon for the offense, and it also lets the Yanks be patient with Montero in AAA.

4. Curtis Granderson - He's been bashing for the past two weeks, and it's a big reason why the Yanks got on their roll. After a rough start, he's now a top-25 offensive threat in the majors.

5. CC Sabathia - He's been tremendously unlucky so far. He could easily have 5 wins under his belt, but his 2.73 ERA speaks to his effectiveness.

6. Mark Teixeira - A very nice start by any standard, but especially wonderful when you consider his previous April slumps. With the assumption that he'll improve as the season wears on, a .409 wOBA to start is great.

7. Mariano Rivera - He technically has two blown saves, but at least one was quite unlucky. From the look of how he's pitching, it seems like he's the same reliable closer we've known for three decades. Not worried about Mo.

8. David Robertson - Make him the 8th inning guy, please. He hasn't allowed a run in 8 innings, his strikeout rate is insane at 10.8 per nine innings, and he seems to deal well with stress.

9. A.J. Burnett - Pretty okay start with a solid 3.52 ERA. Lots of swinging strikes, some moments of dominance, and a lot of question marks.

10. Robinson Cano - Great power numbers, decent average. Here's a trivia question you'll hate, though: between Cano and Jeter, who has a higher OBP? Obviously, the answer is Jeter, and by a fair margin. Cano's average is .299, his OBP is .303. Last season, he seemed to be taking more walks and getting on base (.319/.381). This year, he's back to old habits in the early going; swing at everything, get a lot of hits, never walk.

11. Andruw Jones/Eric Chavez - I'm grouping these guys together because they've both given the Yanks great production as replacements. To the point that benching Jorge and Brett in their favor is starting to seem tempting.

12. Freddy Garcia - So far, so good Freddy. It almost seems like too much to ask for he and Colon to contribute, but I'll ask it anyway.

13. Ivan Nova - He's still learning. I don't love his ERA, but I do love some of the excellent starts he's made, including Tuesday's. He's only going to get better.

14. Jorge Posada - He's got 6 home runs to his name, but his average is a terrible .138. You have to wonder if he likes the DH spot. If not, the hope is that he'll come through the transition and adjust.

15. Derek Jeter - Only two doubles on the year. No triples, no home runs. Most of the singles I've seen have been grounders up the middle. He seems to have no range and no bat.

16. Nick Swisher - Looks utterly lost at the plate. What happened to everything he learned from Long last season?

17. Joba - His stuff looks amazing at times, but he'll absolutely kill you every time he enters a game under any kind of pressure.

18. Rafael Soriano - Uh-oh.

19. Phil Hughes - Crap.

20. Brett Gardner - If Carl Crawford died tomorrow, Brett would be the worst player in baseball.

There's the list. What do you think?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Obama's Birth Certificate is Fake!

Sorry to get all political, guys, but I'm looking closely at the full version of Obama's birth certificate the White House just released, and I'm noticing some HUGE problems.

1 - Why is it green? Did they even have the color green back then?

2 - His dad has the same name, so shouldn't Obama be a Jr. instead of a II? GOOF UP BY THE WHITE HOUSE FORGERY SQUAD!

3 - Why is his mother's name 'Stanley'? Isn't that usually the name of a man who works in a tool shop? What is everyone trying to hide???

4 - Why did it take 3 DAYS after the baby was born until the mother signed the birth certificate. What was she doing???

5 - Where is the giant picture of Ronald Reagan riding a horse that adorns every American birth certificate?? (Or is that just a personal touch by my parents?)

6 - Did they even HAVE the color green back then?

I don't know about you guys, but I'm taking all my money out of the bank and shorting Obama's birth certificate, which I'm pretty sure is now a public company that just opened at BULLSHIT DOLLARS PER SHARE.

Ahhhhhh I'm loopy from school work! I know I said I'd have some good sporting material today, but I lied. The work continues, probably until the end of this week. After that, we're all in for some good times.

I did get to watch a Yankee game last night, and it was kind of incredible. Ivan Nova kicked ass into the seventh, Gavin Floyd held the Yanks in check, and at the end of 7 we led 2-1. Which fed perfectly into Rafael Soriano, who makes approximately $87 million per year and has made a habit of fucking things up. He let 2 runs in and was lucky not to concede more, and going into the bottom of the 9th the Yanks were down 3-2. Jeter and Teixeira reached base, and with one out, A-Rod and Cano were due up.

And then this happened.

Brent Lillibridge, whose birth certificate confirms he's an actual Lilliputian, made two ridiculous catches in right field to end a game that should have been ours. LOOK AT HIM SMILE, GUYS.

He hates us.

I have to end there today. But I've been getting a lot of e-mails lately that look something like this:

Hey Shane,

Why don't you do more stuff about the evolution of tennis? Quit being a son of a bitch and tell us exactly how the game has changed in text, video, and graphical form. Douche.

PS Please send money,


Well, I finally have something for you guys. It's THE EVOLUTION OF TENNIS, a website I created in Multimedia class and finished up yesterday.

Try not to ruin your whole workday by playing the game.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What's the best song with the word 'Rain' in it?

That's the question for the comments today.

On my last day of extremely hard work this semester, a few brief thoughts:

1 - The Yanks lost 2-0 to the White Sox and a pitcher named Phillip "Humbert" Humber. The old devil held us hitless until the 7th despite the fact that most experts still aren't sure he plays major league baseball. Still, I loved this quote from the game story:

"When I was young I had big dreams. I thought I was going to go out there and dominate every time," Humber said. "It hasn't worked out that way to this point."

A former phenom coming to terms with the realities of the world in a somewhat world-weary fashion? I'll nod my head meaningfully at that six days a week and twice on Sunday.

2 - In this article, Michael Vick and the Humane Society take issue with a dog-fighting Droid app called 'Dog Wars.' The HS Prez used a variation on the classic 'video games are making our children violent' argument to bolster his point:

Human Society President Wayne Pacelle said, however, the game could be used as virtual training ground for would-be dogfighters.

Sorry, dudes, but if a game like Grand Theft Auto exists, where you can literally walk around a street killing women and children, we'll probably have to tolerate 'Dog Wars.'

3 - I thought this was really good, except for the fucking horrible seizure-inducing droid advertisement on the sidebar.

4 - This article on ESPN insider was an interesting first-person take on the art of trash-talking. Using aggressive investigative reporting tactics, Seth Curry Saves Duke! was able to obtain the full transcript despite being way too cheap to pay whatever ESPN charges for insider access. The best part was a bona fide Jordan Story from the day:

Legend has it Gary Payton, who vets say talked an endless stream of trash, once told Jordan that he drove a better car than MJ. "The cars I got are just like yours," Jordan replied. "Except mine were free."

5 - In a half-on, half-off kind of way, I've been enjoying the NBA playoffs. To be fair, the enjoyment is a little abstract; I haven't had time to see any full games, and it sucks that the Knicks lost. But the portions of the Thunder-Nuggets Bulls-Pacers games I've seen have been pretty great, and I'm excited to hopefully watch Chris Paul for the first time tonight as the Hornets try to shock the Lakers. Also, the second round of the Eastern playoffs are going to be amazing; Chicago vs. Atlanta/Orlando, and Boston-Miami. And now the Spurs are losing too? Yikes.

Anybody else getting the feeling that OKC could easily sneak into the finals?

6 - I just want to take a quick moment to applaud the judges in this whole NFL lockout mess. It's good to see base greed go unrewarded once in a while in this country.

Tomorrow we get rolling again. I AIN'T NEED NO SCHOOL!

Oh, and the rain has stopped in Chapel Hill, but here's my playin-it-kinda-safe vote anyway:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Limping to the Finish Line

We're almost there. The year is ending, the work is coming to a close, and the blog is about to undergo a transition. There are a couple of hard days of work left, though, and while that's happening, I'm going to keep it brief.

1 - I'm on a podcast! The fellas at Countless Screaming Argonauts had me on their show to chat about sports, politics, journalism, and etc.

Take a listen to Part 1 and, if you dare, Part 2.

2 - This is just a fascinating article about the relationship between Jeter and Cashman.

3 - Yanks won 6-3 in 11 innings last night after a lengthy rain delay. All three of our runs came on infield singles, which has to be some sort of record. Jeter had four hits, Granderson continues to pound the hell out of the ball, and Freddy Garcia had another really nice start. Joba blew most of the lead in the 7th, and Mariano did the rest in the ninth to let the Orioles back in.

And in case you couldn't decipher from this brief recap, I saw none of this game. Or any other game. Please, please end, school.

4 - I'll close with a reader e-mail from John, a big Duke fan. He has a strong take on the Kyrie situation, and I thought it was well-written and salient enough that it'd be interesting for everyone to read. Have a good Monday.

Let’s talk Kyrie Irving. Admit it, the more time has passed from that awful ending to a good season, the more angry you’ve become with Kyrie for choosing to spurn the Blue Devils. Admit it. Despite your satirical post addressing this very subject, Kyrie’s premature Duke defection burns you up as much as it does me. ADMIT IT!!!! Come on, you can tell me.

Not ready yet? Ok, fine. But hear me out for a second...

At the risk of sounding like a spoiled Duke fan – that would be a first, right? – I’m gonna try to convince you of why I think we’re all letting Kyrie off the hook a little easy here.

Now, before you go there, let me say this – I get it. I get it that Kyrie was always “supposed” to be a one-and-done talent. I get it that this was “supposed” to be the only year for us to enjoy the magnificent basketball abilities from our “once every ten years New Jersey point guard.” I get it that a kid considered among the favorites for the number one overall draft slot is “supposed” to go pro. I get it.

Here’s the problem, and there’s really no getting around this. Kyrie was SUPPOSED to play more than 11 games this year – not become the best cheerleader Duke has ever seen. He was SUPPOSED to be the missing piece that returned Duke basketball to its up-tempo days of domination – not return from injury just in time to screw up our chemistry when it mattered the most. SUPPOSED matters about as much as Larry Drew II now, doesn’t it? Side note – the number of UCLA fans who think that they’ve found their point guard savior is amusing, at the least.

Not yet convinced? Let’s keep going. There are essentially four players with a reasonable chance to claim the number one overall draft pick this season – Sully, Prince Harry, Perry Jones, and Kyrie. Even though all four are essentially guaranteed a slot in the elusive lottery, complete with a first contract worth millions, 75% of the above group have already committed to returning to school! The only one jumping ship? Kyrie! I SIMPLY DON’T GET IT!!! WHY, KYRIE, WHY?!?!?!?!?!?! WHAT DID WE EVER DO TO YOU?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Wait, I saved the best for last! THRE’S NOT EVEN GOING TO BE AN NBA NEXT SEASON!!!!! No matter where the kid gets drafted, he’s going to be playing exactly zero basketball next year! None! Zip! Zilch! Squat! Squilch! – combination of squat and zilch. UGH!!!...Breathing deeply and collecting myself...

As much as I’ve tried to be ok with all of this, I simply cannot support a decision that involves a basketball loving kid choosing to not play basketball next year. And what’s so bad about another year at Duke? Outside of his injury – Matt Howard’s revenge – it seemed like he had a pretty good year, right? Seemed like a happy, fun loving kid living the college life to me. Why not come back for one more year of that? Not to mention that the team that he would be leading next year would be - to say the least – FUUUUUUNNNN! Throw in a pre-season top five ranking, a chance at a National Championship, and what’s not to like? If Kyrie’s decision is final – I’m simply never going to understand. Sigh.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don’t give me the “he might hurt his draft stock” argument. For one, he’s too talented, and there’s too much of a premium in the NBA for point guards of his caliber for his stock to fall considerably. Secondly, I counter with an obvious assertion from the season – for every Kyle Singler (player whose stock unfortunately drops during his senior season) there’s a Nolan Smith. Period.

Ugh. I’m depressed. I haven’t seen any headlines telling me that Kyrie is “rethinking” his decision. Alas, what’s there left to do - keep bitching?

Maybe I’ll pray for a miracle- it is, after all, almost Easter Sunday.

Dear God,

Please don’t make us play a stacked UNC team next year without Kyrie. Please don’t make us play a stacked UNC team next year without Kyrie. Please don’t...

Friday, April 22, 2011

What's your LIFE CHANGING song?

I know there are some varying opinions on the movie "Garden State," but for this post I'd like you all to accept my premise, even just for the moment, that it was a steaming pile of overwrought, pretentious trash.


And the worst part of Garden State- i.e. the worst scene of what might be the worst movie ever- can be seen here. If you think I'm going to embed that shit, YOU ARE WRONG MY FRIEND. I won't sully the free, poorly-designed pages of blogger with even a second of Zach Braff. I will, however, transcribe the scene in question. I don't remember character names, thank God, so I'll just use 'Zach' and 'Natalie.'

The two are in a hospital, or auditorium, or plane, or something. Natalie is listening to music.

Zach: What are you listening to?

Natalie: The Shins. You know 'em?

Zach gives a thoughtful pause.

Zach: No.

Natalie: You gotta hear this one song. It'll change your life, I swear.

She leans over, but Zach is filling out forms or something.

Natalie: Oh, I'm sorry. You're filling out forms. Conundrum! Do you think you could, uh, listen while you fill out the forms?

Zach responds to her light teasing with an unamused 'yeah, I get it' demeanor.

Zach: I think I can handle it.

Zach puts on the headphones. He's totally skeptical. But then...SOMETHING HAPPENS. 40 consecutive shots show Zach and Natalie smiling at each other. A life is changed.

Even watching that scene so I could transcribe it was painful. I hate, hate, hate the way they hammer you over the head with the song. Music is supposed to support a movie (see: Wes Anderson), not an overt advertisement that tries to jam emotion down your throat. My throat is closed, Braff. But here's why I really hate that scene:

Back in the second semester of my junior year in college, late to the game, I came across the album 'Chutes Too narrow' by The Shins. It's fair to say I listened in a state of moderate awe. Song after song was spectacular. I was convinced this was the best pop album I'd ever heard.

When I get into something, I tend to get a little obsessed, so I took to the internet to research The Shins. I discovered they had another album, 'Oh, Inverted World,' released a couple years earlier. So one day I borrowed a car and drove to the mall to buy it. I can't remember if I even owned an iPod then, or if I was still rocking the discman, but one way or another I brought it out with me to the Duke Gardens for a listen.

It was a gorgeous spring day, and I immediately loved what I heard on the album. It was a little more melancholy and brooding, maybe, than the driving pop of 'Chutes Too Narrow,' but equally full of excellent melody and poetic lyrics. I had a new favorite band.

Then track number 6 came on. "New Slang." And, uh...

Well, I'm not going to repeat any words mentioned in a Zach Braff script. I'll put it this way: I'm not a big crier. I can go through some bad stuff, or witness horrible things, without ever shedding a tear. It just doesn't occur to me. But for some reason, when a piece of art hits me in the gut, tears will come to my eyes. By the cry test, I seem to have strict tastes (thank God, or I'd be crying all the time and wouldn't have friends), so it's a rare phenomenon. But it's consistent; to give a quick example, I cannot watch the part at the end of the "The Royal Tenenbaums" where Chas loses it and says, "I've had a tough year, pop," without breaking down. Seriously, even writing that sentence and remember the scene makes my eyes water.

Sitting in the Duke Gardens, listening to "New Slang" for the first time, I started crying. It pains me to admit this, believe me. But that's what happened. I probably hit repeat 10 times in a row, and with each listen the sheer heartbreaking beauty of the song just shattered me.

"Life-changing" is a huge term. I'm not sure listening to "New Slang" changed my life in any measurable way. But it's hard not to be grateful for those moments where you feel truly affected, and until I grow old and my memory dies, I'll remember listening to that song for the first time.

And then Zach Braff cheapened the living hell out of it by writing that scene. You can't do that! You can't force your moment down other people's throats! I was hesitant to even do that here, on a simple blog. It can't work that way. Everybody has to have their own moment.

After "Garden State," the snide fuckheads in the indie music community would use that scene to devalue The Shins. If you mentioned liking any of their stuff, especially "New Slang," the inevitable retort would follow: "Did it change your life???"

So a big thumbs down to Braff. I still love the song, but he kind of spoiled it for a lot of people.

Anyway, here's the point: another great moment I had hearing a song for the first time was "White Winter Hymnal" by the Fleet Foxes. It's less obviously brilliant than "New Slang," but it has the same elusive, sad quality that appeals to me in music. It's something I always have trouble describing, and in the end can only explain it the way people sometimes explain that they believe in God: "I just kind of feel it."

Which is probably annoying to hear. Here's the song, along with a great video:

In a couple weeks, the band's next album is coming out. I've been waiting on that for three years, and I'm hoping there's a few gems in there.

My question to you is this: what's your "Life Changing" song. You can tell the story, or just list the song. I'm curious to find which specific tunes really get to people. Hopefully we get a nice cross sampling of genres and old versus new, and maybe I can make a mix or something.

Sound off in the comments. Happy Friday, and we'll be back to sports next week.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Skeleton Crew Rattles On

But they don't rattle their sabres. They keep making the ghost walk across a dark misty meadow.

The skeletal madness will be over sometime around next Wednesday, but until then here's what the bone peddlers have on offer:

1 - Yanks won 6-2. Granderson is just hitting the stuffing out of the ball in the past few games. Fat Bart was fantastic in his first turn since replacing Hughes in the rotation. A-Rod's back, 0-2 with a couple walks. Jeter 0-5 with a trademark GIDP and two ground-outs each to short and second. Gardner out of the lineup.

2 - My pal Mike sent me this article about the Brewers shift defense. Based on spray charts, manager Ron Roenicke has his infielders shifting on a constant basis. It's the percentage play, and I've wondered why teams don't do this more. Still, there are a couple vulnerabilities. Unlike power hitters, contact hitters who are shifted upon are more capable of just rolling a ball to one side of the infield. Also, the Brewers haven't quite mastered it yet, so they've allowed a bad steal or two because their third baseman was away from his bag. It'll be interesting to see if something like this is sustainable. Obviously it's wise from a numbers perspective, but the times when it fails tend to make everyone very stupid. More so than the successes make them look smart. And while not doing it can cost a team wins, it's not necessarily an identifiable thing; it's just normal hits that went through. But when shifting costs a team the win, the failure is on display for everyone to see. So kudos to Roenicke for having the balls to accept those public gaffes in the service of a greater strategy.

3 - HOLY SHIT. For the first time anyone can remember, Major League Baseball has actually had to assume control of a team. And somehow, that team is not the Mets.

The LA Dodgers are experiencing hard times with the messy, expensive divorce of Frank and Jamie McCourt. They've also had to borrow large sums of money recently ($30 million from Fox, specifically, when they wanted $200 million), while payroll and attendance are both down. Looks like the franchise desperately needs a white knight. This is pretty unprecedented stuff in baseball.

4- A robot tried to throw out the first pitch at a Phillies game, and the Philly Phanatic called for a relief pitcher.

<a href="" target="_new" title="Robot throws first pitch">Video: Robot throws first pitch</a>

Here's more video of the Philly Phanatic, baseball's best mascot. See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Humanizing the Evil UNC Basketball Team

Good morning, pals. I got to see exactly 0% of the Yanks-Blue Jays game last night due to school work, and I'm kind of glad.

After holding a 5-3 lead into the ninth, Mariano blew it and the Yanks lost in extra innings. Man, I hate that guy. WHEN IS GIRARDI GOING TO FINALLY BENCH HIM?!

We're going to be quick as hell this morning again, but luckily I've got some goooood shit to share. My boy Daniel over at Reesenews has unleashed a killer video that deserves to go sports-viral.

The idea was that when the UNC men's team went to Newark to play their Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games, Reese would give a camera to D.J. Johnston, one of the 'Blue Steel' walk-ons. Johnston agreed, and came back with almost 50 minutes of footage.

Daniel, who has a seriously deft editing touch, put it all together into a compact, fascinating package. Yesterday he asked me to watch it with another staffer, and the girl I was with asked how long it was. "12 minutes," he said, and I felt my stomach drop. Twelve minutes is an eternity to watch bad video.

Lucky for me, it kicked ass. Warning to Dukies: this might make you like UNC basketball players on an uncomfortably personal level. D.J. Johnston himself is bright and hilarious, and the perfect guy to be holding the camera, but some of the big names are pretty good too, especially Kendall Marshall. And what's really great about the whole thing is that it presents an unfiltered snapshot of the players' personalities at a time in big college sports when that is really, really hard to find.

My favorite part comes with this exchange in the team bus at 6:20:

D.J. Johnston: My argument is that the north is better than the south. The argument is that there are people around.

Voice: There are people?

D.J. Johnston: There's no people in the south. Hey Dex, the north better than the south?

Strickland: Absolutely. I mean, look at the view.

(Camera pans to the Newark landscape.)

There's also the hilarious part where they make Zeller lead off a beat game, play catchphrase in the locker room, and have a discussion about David Dupont's undiagnosed tuberculosis.

Definitely do Daniel and his partner Pressley a solid and go read the story at Reese.

Video below; let's hear your reactions, Dukies.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Yankee Blog Naming Contest

The skeleton crew is even more skeletal than usual today. Lots of work plus Yankee off day = lame post.

As I mentioned yesterday, this blog will be splitting in the near future into a Duke blog with the same name and a Yankee blog with a different name.

Today we will get closer to deciding that name. Here's what people tossed out yesterday:

The Pinstripe
The Yankee Yodeler
Robinson Cano Saves The Yankees
Sweet Robbie Saves The Yankees
The Blog That Ruth Built
The Robinson Ca-Know-It-All Report
The Yankee Bandits

If you want to endorse one of those, that's cool. If you want to suggest another, that's cooler. I'm partial to names that include 'Yankee' in the title, and also ones that are somewhat evocative. One of my favorite blog names ever was 'The USS Mariner.' Everybody was on the ship! But these guidelines can be broken if you've got something awesome.

Winner gets a slice of internet fame and possibly sweet prizes down the line.

Yanks-Jays tonight, with Burnett facing his old club on the turf. Toronto has turned into one of those teams I hate in a kind of surprising way. It's mostly Jose Bautista's fault. Wrap-up tomorrow.

A couple days ago, in a Business Reporting class, we had a mock press conference with a Public Relations class. Each of us represented a different publication, and mine was the New York Post. The PR class adopted a company. We faced the 'Apple' PR contingent, and their big announcement was that Steve Jobs had died in a motorcycle accident. We had to write an article after it was over, but I remembered from my NYC days that the big draw of the Post was the cover. So I spent most of my time on that instead:

I got an 85 on the assignment.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Go Home, Texas: Games 12, 13, 14

Note 1: Yeah, yeah, I saw it. Roy has built himself a national title favorite. Flopsy Z and Ken Doll and Baby John and Prince Harry will be pretty good. However, I offer this thoughtful counterpoint: go to hell, Carolina.

Note 2: Over the next two weeks, posts may be abrupt and colorless. Fair warning. We're running a skeleton crew around here. A quick update on our writing team:

Mandigo LeValenz: Revolutionary instincts got the better of him; he ran off to North Africa to fight where he's needed. Managed to watch El Clasico on Saturday in an improvised 'tent bar' with the Libyan rebels. Says the Mediterranean is beautiful this time of year.

Friendly Ted: Still trying to break into the church newsletter business. Got some good feedback from an arch bishop in upstate South Carolina last weekend, who told him there's a place for humor in the genre, but it has to be very, very tame. Like it or not, the target audience still trends old, and old people don't like to be shocked.

Yasmine Ferrinseaux: Focusing on a lumber jack story that's been in the works for 2.5 years. She hopes to pitch it to The Atlantic when it's finished, but in some ways there won't be a resolution until there are no more lumberjacks or no more trees.

Cliff the Shameless: Seeing how long he can stand naked in the window of his apartment before some action is taken.

Maximilian the Fearless Terrier: Just barkin' away!

Ergon 7-U: Visiting his home planet for the X4T holiday. Still hates when earthlings call him 'Argon,' which is a totally unrelated noble gas.

Shane: So much school work over the next two weeks it's making him blush (school work is embarrassing).

In two weeks, this blog will undergo a severe identity crisis. Seth Curry Saves Duke will be transitioning to (go there now to see rudimentary site design and a pretty amateur tennis graphic I made for class!), and there will be ANOTHER, SECOND blog that sort of "buds" from this one. The new one will be all about the Yankees. I've come to the unfortunate conclusion that cracking the Yankee internet world with a blog called "Seth Curry Saves Duke!" is a non-starter. So I've basically decided to split this blog in two. SCSD! will be operational all year round, but only updated daily during basketball season. The new Yankee blog (name suggestions welcome) will run daily during baseball season. Lucky for me, the seasons don't really overlap. Each blog will include the usual smorgasboard of thoughts and ideas and departures into other sports.

Hopefully that all made sense. Now, vamos to baseball!


This was a very, very, very good series win against a strong team. Especially since the Yanks somehow won the Freddy Garcia-Derek Holland match-up on Saturday. I personally hate Texas so much that I feel the urgent need to post this picture:

The Good

*Freddy Friggin' Garcia, who somehow went six innings and only gave up two hits on Saturday. He only elicited 3 swinging strikes in 84 pitches, and his fastball peaked just below 88mph, but he got himself some outs against a very strong hitting team. Michael Kay and Ken Singleton kept praising his meticulous, obsessive style on YES, and maybe they're right; maybe the attention to detail paid off. Maybe we've got a Greg Maddux/Jamie Moyer on our hands. Maybe he's going to win 20 games. Probably not, but hey, for a fifth starter he looked damn good.

*Robbie Cano, who hit a big home run in each of the Yankee wins. It's been an interesting start for Robbie, who has a very nice .403 wOBA due to some extreme power, but who, despite hitting .310, is only getting on base at a .322 clip. That's largely due to impatience; he's walked just one time this season, a 1.7% rate that's down from last year's career high water mark of 8.2%. He's swinging at more pitches, especially ones in the strike zone, and that's resulting in quite a few ground-outs. In some ways, this is the old Robbie; no plate discipline, and you either get a hit or an out every at-bat. But in other ways, this is something entirely different- we haven't seen this kind of power from Cano. It's early, but his slugging percentage is about .100 points higher than it's ever been. We could be witnessing a strange transition. A singles hitter becoming a power hitter, but without the attendant rise in walks. Bears watching.

*CC. The guy clearly doesn't love pitching in cold weather, and he's had no luck getting wins this season, but he's got that wonderful quality of grinding out decent performances when things don't start out magnificently. Last night was quintessential cold weather CC; struggled in the early going, never looked dominant, but lasted into the 7th and left with a lead. In a perfect world, CC would be the best #2 starter in baseball. As it is, he's an indefatigable ace.

*Rafael Soriano, who did this last night:

The biggest concern with him was the velocity, but he appears to be recovering the mph he lost. Everything else should start to fall in place. This is not, thank God, a Hughes scenario.

*Russell Martin, who continues to be the best positional pick-up the Yanks have made in a long, long time.

The Bad

*Jeter. 3-11 on the series, more ground outs, and a general blah performance. I won't believe he can hit line drives consistently until I see it.

*Joba. Looks like a world beater in some games (Saturday), and then comes out in pressure situations and walks people in 4 pitches and gives up huge runs (Sunday). There's no consistency to the guy. He's hitting 96 on the gun, but I still don't feel good when he enters a close game. It might be time to recognize the fact that he'll always be something of an enigman, and always a bit unreliable.

The Ugly

*Brett Gardner. Spike sent me this analysis from FanGraphs, which shows that Brett the Jet is a compulsive non-swinger. It's a really good statistical portrait of a guy who takes an average of 1 strike per at-bat before strike 3. He's excellent at making contact, but in 2010 he let 55% of strikes go by without swinging. 55%! That is simply not sustainable, and it's no small wonder he's seeing 70% first pitch strikes from pitchers this season, compared to 56% last year. Time to get the bat off the shoulders, Brett.

*Phil Hughes. Girardi's move to put him on the DL says it all; his arm is dead. Hopefully his career isn't soon to follow.

Off day today. In other news, I hate Boston more than ever after yesterday's game Knicks-Celtics game, and Oklahoma City seems like the most fun place to play basketball in the NBA. And now, Monday is here.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Someday, We're All Gonna Pie: Game 11

Or here, if you like quality and don't want to see some guy's trophy collection.

I've got an early morning obligation today, so I'll be quick this morning and add more around 11am, but here are the basics:

*Hughes was a disaster again.

As you can see from his velocity chart, his fastball didn't get past 91, and his cutter didn't cut, fooling the PitchFx tool into thinking his cutter was actually a slow fastball. It also seems like he's lost some confidence in his curve (best pitch) and change.

*The bullpen, especially game MVP Bartolo Colon, kicked ass.

*Down 5-4 in the ninth, Jorge wasted no time tying the game against Orioles closer Kevin Gregg.

*A-Rod continues to be the best player in baseball.

*Cano is hitting the hell out of the ball too.

*Joba looked amazing and touched 96mph on the gun. Mariano's ERA is still 0.00 after 6 appearances.

More later...

AND I'M BACK. It's almost noon and I don't have a ton to add. Here's the fairness factor plot:

It was a good day for the Yanks, who were +4 in favorable calls. That brings us to -8 on the year, and only -2 at home.

On a down note, the Gardner bench watch is now on full alert. His unbelievably awful .157/.227/.225 line is among the 10 worst in baseball. Hurray for his speed, and all that, but that's a bit like having a fast motorboat in the middle of a desert.

Jeter isn't faring much better, unfortunately. He's secure since he's Jeter and we don't really have another shortstop, but his numbers are only marginally better than Gardner's. He's leading baseball right now with a 78.9% ground ball rate, and most of them aren't hit hard enough to find holes. (Interesting, Joe Mauer is second in that category in the midst of a bad beginning by any standard and a terrible one by his own.)

It's Harrison vs. Nova tonight as the Rangers come into town with the best record in the American League. Don't know about you, but I haven't forgotten last season. Let's hope Ivan brings it tonight. If he doesn't, we have to rely on Freddy Garcia tomorrow before CC comes back on Sunday. If we want to win this series, tonight's game is a must-win.

See you Monday.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

From Great to Good: Game 10


Through 6 and a third, AJ Burnett cruised. The Yanks had a 7-0 lead, the win was all but guaranteed, and AJ had top command. The seventh would be his last inning regardless, and there was no reason to expect he couldn't close it out in style, especially against the bottom of the Oriole order. He retired Jones on a grounder to Teixeira, but then things started to go bad. Double to Reynolds. Home run to Weiters. Walk to Andino, the 9th hitter. Home run to Roberts. The hook from Girardi. 7-4. Blech.

Still, this was a quality start. Before the late fireworks, the Orioles only mustered 4 hits and 1 walk. AJ had 5 strikeouts, 8 swinging strikes, and 69 strikes to 53 balls. His excellent command on the season continued unabated. The strikeout-to-walk ratio after three starts is 3.20, which is better than any season-long total in his career.

In a feature on AJ's performance, Wallace Matthews at ESPN plays psychologist (like so many people love to do with AJ) and touches on a few possible keys to his success:

1 - AJ likes Larry Rothschild, the new pitching coach, and they relate better because he keeps it simple. Matthews starts with a subtle dig at Eiland, who we already know isn't AJ's favorite guy:

He has a new pitching coach, Larry Rothschild, who rather than boggle his mind with dissertations on mechanics tells him to just go out and let it fly.

Wednesday night, after walking Matt Wieters in the second inning, Rothschild trotted out to the mound. It was not his idea.

"First time in my career I ever called a pitching coach out," Burnett said. Turns out he was being troubled by the way his heel was landing on the mound and wanted Rothschild to help him correct it.

"Forget about that," Rothschild told him. "Just let it fly."

2 - Ivan Nova, of all people, is helping to keep him loose and control the anger that's hurt AJ in the past.

And he has a most unlikely mentor, the rookie right-hander Ivan Nova, who has taken on the role of stabilizing force in Burnett's clubhouse life.

"Last year, I would get really [ticked] and blow up, but no more of that," Burnett said, referring to his blowup last year after a bad inning against the Rays caused him to smash his hands into the clubhouse door, forcing him to leave the game with an injury.

This year, he's got Nova, a happy-go-lucky type who is as unflappable as Burnett is volatile, to remind him, "Don't get so mad. Don't get so mad."

"Do I have to follow you around everywhere?" Burnett said Nova asked him last night.

"Yeah, maybe you do," Burnett replied.

3 - Russell Martin is making him throw the change-up.

But most of all, there was Martin, who recognized during spring training that Burnett had a third pitch to go along with his live fastball and nasty hook, as Burnett refers to his curveball.

"It took me 12 years to throw a changeup," Burnett said, "and Russ has me throwing it more and more. Tonight, he kept putting it down and I kept throwing it. Lefties, righties, fastball counts, you name it. I think it's going to be a big pitch for me."

For Martin, Burnett's third pitch is a change he can believe in.

"It doesn't have great differential in velocity but it has good action to it. He works it off the same plane as his fastball and the next thing you know it dips, so he gets a lot of groundballs on it," Martin said. "In spring training, I had to keep telling him, it's a good pitch, you got to trust it, you got to trust it. And I think he's starting to figure it out."

Let's take a look at AJ's velocity chart from last night with pitch type:

You can see they count 14 pitches as change-ups (yellow), but in the post-game interview, AJ claims to have thrown 16. The blue dot that represents a "sinker," a pitch that isn't really in AJ's arsenal, was probably a change, as was that 89mph "fastball" grouped with the other change-ups. Let's call it 16 for the sake of argument. That's by far the most AJ has ever thrown in a game (with the exception of an anomalous outing in Florida when he threw 44 to piss off his manager), and according to Brooks' linear weights stats, it was his most effective pitch, just beating out the fastball.

The only real concern with AJ right now is his line-drive rate, which is uncharacteristically high at 25%. We're dealing with a super small sample size, of course, but that number combined with a pretty low .280 BABIP might indicate that he's been a little lucky not to be touched up for more runs so far this season (the basic gist of these two stats: although more batters are hitting line drives, their batting average is lower, which indicates they're hitting it right at people).

As the guys at River Avenue Blues point out, the bullpen was terrific again, with the only mild concern being Rafael Soriano's lack of velocity. He didn't break 90 last night, and he hasn't broken 95 yet this season. Still, he's had five appearances and four of them have been good, so it's just a minor blip on the radar at this point. It shouldn't be forgotten, though, that his one bad start cost us a win. Too many more of those and the lost velocity will bear further examination.


Guess who's leading the majors in wOBA? Guess who's healthy? Guess who's tearing up the league?

He started it off right yesterday with an opposite-field bomb to stake the Yanks to an early 3-0 lead, and he finished the day 2-3 with a walk. That's already his 4th home run of the year (HE'S ON PACE TO HIT 64.8!!!!!), his OBP is a disgusting .474, and he leads the majors with a 1.280 OPS. This is vintage A-God, right here.

Briefly, otherwise:

-Jorge broke out of his slump with his 4th home run, which seems to be the only kind of hit he gets.

-Grandy (0-3) and Gardy (1-5) are both seriously struggling. Their averages are well below the .200 Mendoza line, and they seem lost at the plate. What's really interesting about Granderson is that opposing pitchers are only throwing him fastballs 44% of the time. He's seeing a majority of junk, which has never been true in his career before (lowest previous fastball % was 54.5). This might be statistical noise due to a small sample, but it also might mean pitchers have learned how to handle him. It makes perfect sense when you see his pitch type values from previous years. He's always best when facing the straight stuff, and this year he's not seeing it.

Gardner, on the other hand, sees 68.3% fastballs, a good indication that opposing teams do not fear his bat. Not even a little.

-Robbie Cano is still finding his form, to some extent. He hit a 2-out double last night, and his average is a strong .317, but his OBP and slugging are still low by his standards. He's not in a full rhythm yet.

-Jeter managed two hits. Gulp.

-Though he's hitting for some power, Teixeira's average is still super low. This is still his best start as a Yankee, though, and his OBP (.364) and OPS (.919) are more than fine. If he follows the upward trajectory of previous seasons, this could be an amazing year.

The Fairness Factor

Let's check in on the umps.

Doug Eddings was being real stingy in the lower left side. It hurt Baltimore more than it hurt us, though things more or less evened out. The Yanks missed out on 6 valid strikes and got the benefit of 4 bad calls. The Os missed 8 valid strikes but got lucky 5 times. Overall, it's +1 for the Yanks, which falls into the "basically even" category.

On the year: -12

Majorly Screwed: 3
Minorly Screwed: 1
Basically Even: 3
Minorly Favored: 2
Majorly Favored: 1

Home: -6
Away: -6

The Annals of Lame

Since I'm in North Carolina, I watch Yankee games on MLB TV. Unfortunately, we're technically in the Baltimore cable jurisdiction, despite the fact that Baltimore is 6 hours away. That would be fine, though, if MASN, the Orioles network, was actually available down here. It's not. So we're blacked out of MLB TV, but we also don't get the normal cable feed. Basically, there's no way to legally watch Yankee-Orioles games. Which is bullshit.

Luckily a pal hooked me up with an online stream, so I wasn't in the dark. Otherwise, it was John Sterling/Suzyn Waldman time. And man, that just ain't sustainable.


Brace yourselves, Yankee fans. It's a Phil Hughes start. The Orioles are offering up Jake Arrieta, who we should batter and bully. But as we saw against the Sox, prolific scoring isn't always enough with Hughes on the hill.

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

El Clasico Viene!

Happy Hump Day.

That's at least the 8th time I've used that picture on this blog, which must be the saddest record of all time.

Since the weather failed us yesterday and the Yanks got rained out, I'd like to spend today talking about SOCCER!

My involvement with The World's Favorite Sport is pretty typically American. I love the World Cup, I'll sometimes flip on an English premiership game if it's a weekend and I need something to occupy roughly one-third of my attention, and maybe I'll watch the occasional Champion's League or EuroCup game. No big deal. I'm not getting any awards.

But we have a situation developing in Spain, folks.

First, quick context for the uninitiated. You know how people complain about baseball's inherent unfairness since teams like the Yankees have a higher payroll than teams like the Royals?

Well, European soccer is like that, except totally unapologetic and magnified to an absurd degree. It works how actual business works, in third-world economies; the rich constantly get richer, and the odds against an underdog ever reaching the top are ridiculously small. The best teams have ungodly sums of money, and the system is set up so that they get financial rewards for succeeding. There's no draft or revenue sharing or any of the other checks and balances that strive to bring parity to American sports. The deck is so stacked that it's not uncommon for a home city to cut sham property deals with a team to ease financial burdens, or for the biggest teams to operate with astronomic levels of debt.

What that means, in short, is that each European league has anywhere from two to four teams that regularly dominate. It's an oligarchy that's near impossible to crack. If you look at the English Premier League, for example, you have to go back to 1994 before you find a champion not named Manchester United, Arsenal, or Chelsea. In Germany, Bayern Munich has won 9 of the last 14 Bundesliga titles. In Italy's Serie A, three teams (Milan, Internazionale, Juventus) have won 16 of the last 18. And in Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona have combined for 22 of the last 26 La Liga championships.

It's a top-heavy system, and while this is fun in some ways and horrible in others, it does create compelling match-ups between the very rich. Which leads me to my main point:

Over the next couple weeks, there are going to be some fireworks in Spain. Barcelona and Real Madrid will meet 4 times between April 16th and May 4th.

The ultimate accomplishment for a European club team is winning something the Brits call a 'Treble.' My gut instinct is to call it a 'Triple' since we're in America and I've hated the English since they stopped massacring people in Boston, but in the end 'Treble' is kind of a fun word, so what the hell.

Basically, there are three titles up for grabs for every team: the league title, the league cup, and Champions League (the European club championship featuring the best from every country). The Treble has been accomplished only six times in European history, most recently by Milan's Internazionale in 2010.

In the upcoming 18-day span, Real Madrid and Barcelona are going to meet on four occasions with every single title on the line.

First, this Saturday, they meet in a La Liga match. Barcelona is currently first in the "table" (British for "standings"), and Real is second. A win by Barca, and it's all over but the shouting. A win by Real, and they have a small chance to catch their rivals.

Second, they meet a week from today, April 20th, for the final of La Copa Del Rey (King's Cup), Spain's league cup competition. Somehow, the teams haven't met for this title since 1990, when Barcelona won 2-0.

Third, and fourth, they'll meet on April 26th and May 3rd in the semifinals of the Champions League. It's only the third time they've ever met in European action, the last being in 2002 when 500 million people worldwide watched Real (with Zinedine Zidane) advance.

This schedule is fairly incredible. Barcelona and Real Madrid have a very long history. In fact, they hate each other. When they meet, the game is called 'El Clasico.' During the Franco years, Real was considered the team of the Fascist state. Barcelona, located in Catalonia, came to symbolize that region's pride in the face of the dictatorship. Phil Ball, a really amazing sports writer, is quoted on that Wikipedia page as saying that it's a "re-enactment of the Civil War" whenever they play.

Real Madrid leads the all-time series 85-82-42.

This year, El Clasico arguably features the two best soccer players in the world. Cristiano Ronaldo, who you all might remember as the super annoying Portugese dude with the obnoxious hair being swooned over by every female during the last World Cup, plays for Real. Lionel Messi, the diminutive 5'7" Argentine genius, plays for Barcelona. Messi scored his 48th goal of the season for Barcelona yesterday, setting a club record, and he leads all scorers in La Liga competition with 29 goals and 17 assists. Ronaldo is second with 28 goals and 8 assists.

In a great article about the rivalry, Graham Hunter came to this conclusion:

It comes down to this: Messi really doesn't care about the rivalry, while Ronaldo, by his admission, desperately wants to become acknowledged as the greatest player of all time.

Yet the adoration of Messi stings Ronaldo. Messi stands in Ronaldo's way.

Five times over the past two years they have gone head-to-head on a pitch. Even if you favor Ronaldo, you can't ignore the results. Against United and Madrid, Messi has won three, drawn and lost once. Ronaldo hasn't scored against Messi's Barcelona -- even missing a penalty -- while Messi has two goals in those mano-a-mano clashes.

Each team also has some other fun players. On Barca, you've got a legion of great Spaniards, including Carlos Puyol, the guy who looks like he's from the movie "Spinal Tap." Xavi, Iniesta, and David Villa are also on Barca. Real features Sergio Ramos, Xabi Alonso, and the Frenchman Karim Benzema.

The last time the teams met, earlier this season, Barcelona humiliated Real in front of 98,000 people at the Camp Nou, their home stadium. They currently have La Liga in a stranglehold, and Messi looks like the frontrunner for player of the year. In order to salvage their season, Real will have to win the King's Cup or beat Barca in the Champions League.

In my mind, there's a clear good guy and bad guy in this match-up. On one side, you've got the brilliant Messi, the greatest of them all, and a fun Barcelona side that scores like crazy. On the other, you've got the remnants of a Fascist regime and Cristiano Ronaldo, an egomaniacal pretty boy with an envy complex.

Over-generalizing? Probably. But as far as soccer goes, the next two weeks should be pretty awesome. Lots of Clasicos. If you've ever wanted to get into the sport, Saturday at 4pm on ESPN3 (maybe regular tv too, but I'm not sure yet) might be a good time to start. It could be, as the Spanish say...Epico.*

*Not sure if the Spanish say that, too lazy to look.

What follows might be the greatest YouTube video compilation ever. When I started, my plan was to fast forward to the top 10 goals. I ended up watching all 11 minutes. For the record, my favorite was #16.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Yanks Are Getting SCREWED! Or Are They?

Good morning my friends. Or afternoon, if you're reading this later. Or evening. OR 2087, IF YOU'RE AN ALIEN.*

*In 2087, only aliens can read. They took it from us, guys. It made us too powerful.

Today, we're on the look-out to see if the Yanks are getting completely jobbed by the umpires. There's a new tool on the already-awesome Brooks Baseball site called a "StrikeZone Map." Loosely, it documents called balls and called strikes for every game in major league baseball. Let's take a look at the Yankees-Red Sox map from Sunday night (a 4-0 Red Sox win), and then we'll look at how to read it:

Here's the deal with this map:

1 - As you see from the key, squares are Boston pitches, triangles are Yankee pitches. Again, these are pitches thrown by that team.

2 - Called strikes are red, called balls are green.

3 - Foul balls, balls in play, and swings and misses are not documented here. That would screw up the results.

4 - This from the umpire's perspective. So on tv, what we see as the left corner (from the pitcher's perspective) is actually on the right here.

5 - "Normalized" means that instead of just having an arbitrary box for every player, Brooks adjusted the strike zone for each player's height. Obviously, a player standing 6'8" will have a different zone than a diminutive weasel like Dustin Pedroia, who can't be thrown a strike unless the pitcher skips the ball in the dirt just in front of home plate.

That being said, what do we see here? Well, first off, plate umpire Mike Winters doesn't call the low strike. In general, his strike zone seems skewed to the right side of the plate. But between the teams, we can quantify the 'fairness factor' by looking at the bad calls and splitting them into 4 specific categories:

1) Boston called strikes that should have been balls: 11
2) Boston called balls that should have been strikes: 3
3) Yankee called strikes that should have been balls: 9
4) Yankee called balls that should have been strikes: 8

(Note: any time an icon touches the box on the chart, I'm treating it like a ball that touches the corner: strike)

Boston's game +/- (category 1 is good for them, category 2 is bad) was +8. The Yankee game +/- (category 3 is good, category 4 is bad) was +1.

For the game, Boston had a +7 advantage in the Fairness Factor. Here's what that might tell us:

A - Josh Beckett made smarter use of the strike zone. We can see on that plot that Boston had fewer low pitches in general. Did Beckett see early on that the low strike was a non-starter, or is he just generally less reliant on the low pitch than CC?

B - Those of us who thought the Yanks were getting hosed on calls were right.

C - It's impossible to say exactly how that affects the game (beyond the fact that they had a nice edge in favorable ball/strike calls). In my opinion, the Yanks were more prone to swinging at bad pitches because they were conscious of the awful strike zone, but I have no way to prove that. Still, it can only have a net negative effect beyond the actual numbers.

So, that being said, I thought it would be fun to keep a running tally for the year. Here's my arbitrary categorization rubric for the Fairness Factor. This is subject to change based on the results I find:

Majorly Screwed: -6 or greater
Minorly Screwed: Between -3 and -5
Basically Even: Between -2 and +2
Minorly Favored: Between +2 and +5
Majorly Favored: +6 or greater

To catch up, I went back and checked on the first few Yankee games. Here's how we stack up on the year:

Majorly Screwed: 3
Minorly Screwed: 1
Basically Even: 2
Minorly Favored: 2
Majorly Favored: 1

And the overall Fairness Factor for the Yankees this season is: -13. That's an average of -1.4 per game, which fits into the 'basically even' category. But, as you see, that average rarely plays out within a single game. Instead, it seems to be a balancing of extremes so far.

Fairness Factor has correlated to wins and losses in exactly 4 of 8 games. So, you doesn't seem to mean much. Yet. But it's still fun.

Everything largely evened out on the season until I got all the way back to opening day, and viewed this monstrosity by Dale Scott:

Well done, Dale. It's one thing to give Detroit 7 outside strikes. It's another when Yankee pitchers threw 6 pitches in the same spot or closer and didn't receive the benefit of the call. You suck.

That game was -11 against the Yanks, the biggest margin so far in either direction.

If the powers-that-be think I'm not pursuing this project to the end of the season, they've got another thing coming. This is a revolution, baby.


Baltimore comes to town tonight. Normally this is an occasion for great merrymaking and ribald commentary, but the Orioles are actually leading the AL East right now. We need to sweep them before the trash talking begins. Unfortunately, that's mathematically impossible; Hughes is pitching tomorrow.

AJ takes the mound tonight. At this point, he's become the starting pitcher I look forward to the most. I love CC's consistency, and he's most definitely our horse, but AJ's got that wild man quality that keeps you at the edge of your seat. And unlike last year, he doesn't seem to be a walking, talking, human mess. It's actually reasonable to expect positive results in 2011. That's always nice.

The big question for the Yankees right now is how long can Girardi reasonably keep Gardner and Jeter at the top of the order? They were automatic outs against Boston, and it's a huge drain on our offense to have nobody on base when murderer's row comes up. And if they move down, what's the next best option? Swisher batting second? Granderson leading off?

These questions desperately need resolution. Otherwise, the Yankee offense is half-castrated.


I would like to tell a quick story of extreme embarrassment before I go.

Details: I'm taking a sports writing class in school right now with a former SI writer who may or may not want to be mentioned by name on a blog this crass. It's a fantastic class, one of my favorites of all time, and the other students (mostly undergrads) are great too. They all hate Duke, and me by extension, but other than that...nice folks.

Anyway, last Wednesday we played kickball as part of class, and the assignment for Thursday was to e-mail the professor a blog post about the game. He divided the teams by in-state versus out-of-state, and our squad won 21-8. For the post, I decided to write a rhyming poem in the "Casey At The Bat" style.

Now, a couple things. First, Casey At The Bat parodies have been done to death. I'm not sure why I chose it. Second, were there a couple clever lines? Maybe. But just maybe.

The prof sent me an e-mail saying something along the lines of, 'this will be read in class.' I experienced a shiver of anxiety, but it was relatively small since I assumed he would be reading it, with his nice, easy baritone. He's got one of those voices that makes even mediocre writing sound like Shakespeare when read aloud.

Unfortunately, it emerged yesterday that a few of us would be reading our blog posts ourselves. My voice, already not the world's most powerful instrument, was suffering from a late Saturday excursion and was more hollow than usual. Also, I had to go last.

So I spent the whole class listening to everyone else's blog posts. A lot of them got huge laughs, and deservedly so. When it was my turn, I briefly considered faking some kind of illness. Instead, I went the opposite way: no disclaimers, no whining, just read it and let the consequences follow.

And holy shit, guys, if you've never had the experience of reading your own poetry aloud, pat yourselves on the fucking back. It is brutal. When I lose my voice, I either sound like a 90-year-old mafia don with a tracheotomy, or, when I try to raise the volume, like a squeaky pubescent teen. Picture that voice reading a rhyming poem about a kickball game, forced to pause after every single laugh line, and progressively realizing that for the first time in this life, I actually underestimated how shitty the experience was going to be. There were a few token laughs from the nicer people in class, but overall it was an unmitigated disaster. I finished to complete silence, and my friend Nick, sitting to my left, just said "wow."

If this had happened 20 years earlier, it might have socially devastated me. Now, I think it's pretty hilarious. It will probably be the one and only time I read a poem in front of an audience, and the result was as awkward as expected. And yet, I came through it. Another badge of endurance in an unpolished life.

Did I lose the respect of some people? Maybe. Did I fail to entertain? Yeah, I did. Was there any upside? No, there wasn't. Would I give anything to undo it? I would murder your entire family to reverse time.

But guess what? It happened. It's in the books. And if that doesn't count for something, then what are we even doing here?


Monday, April 11, 2011

Automatic Outs



Friday, April 8, 2011

The Boston Red Sox and I Both Have 0 Wins

Well, yesterday was fun. The blog set a new all-time record for hits, and by the time all is said and done, it might set the comments record as well (currently at 99, the record is this post with 138). At the very least, it'll definitely become the second post in SCSD! history to earn 100 comments.

These stats are unofficial, but here are the five highest-trafficked days in blog history:

1. Yesterday - writing in the voice of the worst human possible.
2. The day after the 2010 title - addressing Duke haters in a...defiant fashion.
3. Duke losing to Arizona - schadenfreude
4. Pissing off sportswriters
5. Writing something nice about Tyler Hansbrough

The lesson: write reasoned, cautious treatises on American sports if you want to build an audience. Avoid controversial opinions.

Or, the opposite of that.

Then I realized: I'm just about the last person to learn this lesson. The New York Post learned this stuff years ago. So from now on, the top of every entry is going to be a Post-style cover picture with a controversial headline. Starting NOW:


The Red Sox, amazingly, have started 0-6. A stat I keep hearing from Yankee fans is that no team has ever won a World Series after starting 0-4, which means the Red Sox should just quit now. As of now, the two best teams in the AL East are Toronto (4-2, +16 run differential) and Baltimore (5-1, +13). The Yanks stand at a less dominant 4-2, and the Rays and Sox are at the bottom.

The world is on its very head.

Let's hit some Yankee highlights and lowlights heading into the 3-game series at Fenway.


1. AJ Burnett. YES. This is what dude is supposed to look like. After looking pretty good in his fever-inflicted first start, he looked even stronger yesterday. Girardi worked him up to 99 pitches over six innings, and he struck out 5 while only walking 2. He still isn't dominant (6 swinging strikes compared to 17 called strikes), and he had his struggles in the fourth, but he's on his way to being a high-quality #2. I'm psyched. I really think the ghost of last year is behind him.

2. CC Sabathia. Lost in all the Kyrie mess the past two days was his gem against the Twins on Tuesday. He struck out 6 through seven innings, had 10 swinging strikes, and allowed only 2 hits and a walk. When he left, the Yanks were up 4-0. Then Soriano blew it in the 8th (whatever, it happens; he's been great otherwise and unlike other Yankee fans I don't kill Girardi for the move), and the Yanks lost 5-4 in extra innings. The perfect example of why 'wins' is a terrible measure of a pitcher's ability.

3. Teixeira. Four home runs already? Gracious. This is the opposite of a typical Teixeira start. His OPS is a disgusting 1.280, and he has 18 total bases in 21 at-bats. Not bad.

4. A-Rod. He's right there with Teixeira, just a half-step below on the production ladder. His OBP is .400, his OPS is north of 1.000, and he has 2 home runs and 2 doubles that were almost home runs. Our 3-4 are mighty, mighty men.

5. Russell Martin. Holy shit! He's a hitting machine! CAN NOTHING STOP HIM?

Other quick bright spots: Andruw Jones' performance in the last two games, the bullpen minus the one anomaly, Swisher's very decent beginning.


1. Derek Jeter. Sorry, Yankee optimists. Until I see evidence to the contrary, I'm not going to believe that he's a strong option at short. We know about his fielding; he's a little too slow, a little too old to be anything more than competent. But the big hope was that Kevin Long would improve his hitting from '10, an historically bad year. Believe me, I'd still love to be surprised, but as now it just ain't working out. He's 5-21 with only 6 total bases. The slugging % is a haggard .286. His ground ball percentage, which was a career-high 65.7% last year, is now 80%.

I know we're still dealing with a small sample size, but it's the way he's accumulated the numbers that are worrisome. It'd be one thing if he was hitting line drive shots that kept getting caught. But the truth is, all the problems that plagued him last year are persisting. At the very least, I'm becoming more and more grateful that the Yanks took a hard line in contract negotiations this offseason.

2. The Get-Your-Shit-Together-Club: Granderson and Cano. Come on, guys, you're too good for this. I think Robbie's about to find his stride, but I'm more worried about Grandy. What happened to the great end to last season and the strong spring training? 3-19 ain't your style, man.

3. Gardner. I'm just not sure he can hit, period. Having his speed as a weapon is like having a bullet without a gun. He just can't get on base. He's striking out at a higher rate than normal this year (27.8%), and the funny thing is, he's seeing mostly fastballs (75% of all pitches; for comparison's sake, Robbie Cano faces fastballs only 52% of the time). I don't see why he can't drive the ball unless the talent itself is missing.

4. Posada. Jorge's kind of a mixed bag. His average is very poor and he's looked a little off at the plate, but he does have 3 home runs. The power's there. You just worry that, like Jeter, age has eroded the timing mechanisms that served them so well in the glory days.

5. Hughes. We went over his poor first start earlier this week. I'll refrain from piling on further until we see how he does at Fenway this afternoon. I'm really hoping we see some swinging strikes, though. If he can't find his strikeout pitch, the Sox will eat him alive.

I'm psyched for the game. It's at 2pm, and my pal Nate tells me the MLB Network is carrying it. We'll be getting Bob Costas and Jim Kaat on the call. Yanks-Sox, for the first time this year. Baseball season has begun. Vamos.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Kyrie, Bro, We'll Never Forgive You

Kyrie Irving went pro.


Let me tell you a story, guys. This is a story about business, and about ideals, but it's mostly a story about loyalty.

Back when I was young, around 7, my dad was a CFO (that's Chief Financial Officer, in case you live under a fucking rock) for a manufacturing firm in upstate New York. I'm not going to tell you the company name, because it's none of your business, but believe me when I tell you we could have bought and sold you and your family, and whatever pets you owned, okay?

This was serious stuff. While your mom was worrying over some ungrown tomoatoes in the 5x5 strip of garden next to whatever highway you lived by, mine was trying to figure out whose palm to grease so we could cut down the pine trees in the backyard and put in a pool. It was that kind of life. I had kids coming over begging to use our ping-pong table downstairs, or the indoor gym, or the shuffleboard court. I'd tell them to take a hike 9 times out of 10. The place was full of townies.

Anyway, a group of liberal do-gooders in the local government started bleating about run-off from the main plant where my dad worked. Some of the industrial waste was coming out in culverts near a creek, and all the sudden this was a "bad" thing. Hilariously, my dad had made the choice to dispose of the stuff that way a few years before. It was one of like three options, and that was the cheapest. Since my dad knew business, he looked at the bottom line and went for the culverts instead of something more involved. The man knows his stuff, and some people still say he's responsible for some of the largest annual profits the company's ever made. He basically cut the waste disposal bill in half, and that was the company's largest expense.

Then a couple townies started claiming to be sick around the culverts. Whatever. It was basically a couple dozen isolated incidents, but of course the liberals started raising a stink. Mind you, they NEVER proved that the waste from the factory was toxic. Ever. But facts don't seem to matter when you can parade a couple sick kids around and start a class action lawsuit.

Long story short, the CEO sat my dad down and told him he had to take a hit for the team. The business had to continue, and they might lose some money with the class action, but more than anything they needed a scapegoat to prove the plan was unilateral, and not company-wide.

My dad could have tried to save his own skin. He could have pointed fingers, and acted remorseful, and cried and begged forgiveness. But he didn't. He stood up proud, as a businessman, and took the hit. He never even blinked an eye. You know why? Because he came up with that company, made his fortune with them, and he was loyal. He respected the institution.

The sons of bitches on the jury gave him 5 years in prison. They even had the gall to lecture him when they read the verdict. Believe me, I haven't forgotten their family names. But the company was saved. Today, that place mints money, and that wouldn't be true if my dad hadn't stepped up in their time of need. When he got out of prison after 3 years on good behavior (and what a prison! Believe me when I tell you it was nicer than most of your homes; white collar all the way), the parachute he got from the company was so golden it would make your fucking eyes bleed.

He couldn't work for them again, but he got paid. Loyalty begets loyalty. He knew something about being on a team. Last year, the company honored him in a small, private ceremony that the governor attended, and he still gets inside investment tips from the higher-ups before the rest of the market knows what's about to happen. He's seen as a hero, and that's how I see him too.


Kyrie Irving, you are nothing like my father. You know why? You don't know your place.

And before anyone goes and makes this whole thing racial, you can shut your fat liberal mouths. It's not about race. I'd say the same thing about any player, white or black. In fact, I have a lot of black friends. The color of a person's skin doesn't matter to me, as long as they come from the same type of background. Maybe that sounds tough, but I honestly can't relate to people who grew up poor. We're just not the same. Call me what you want, but I don't want anything to do with them until they improve themselves. This is America, guys, it's not that hard.

Back to Kyrie. He's an athlete. People can say what they want, but the truth is that athletes exist for our entertainment. That is their single and only purpose. Without my money, and the lesser money of other fans, the athletic structure wouldn't exist. Nobody would play sports professionally if they couldn't make a living, and if nobody played professional sports, the college sports scene wouldn't be nearly as strong.

That's part of the deal. We pay money, and for our trouble we get entertained by these people who can run a little faster and jump a little higher and shoot a little better than the rest of us. Pretty simple equation, right?

Apparently not. Because in a system like that, there's some expectations. You give your money, and you expect that an athlete will respect the system. Like, gee, maybe Kyrie will stay and win a championship at Duke instead of money-grubbing the first chance he gets. As someone who has a good amount of cash on hand, let me tell you that there's nothing more ugly to the higher class than someone desperately trying to get rich. It's sad and pathetic.

You owed us, Kyrie. I do not blush when I say that. YOU. OWED. US. You were going to make your NBA money, and then you could blow it however you wanted. That was all in the cards.

But you broke the deal, dude. And that's cool. Sure, maybe you'll get a little cash. But you'll also get this: me and all my friends heckling the shit out of you any time you play within a hundred mile radius in the NBA. We're going to make your life hell, man. You just fucked with the wrong hallowed university. We're Dukies, brah. We've got loud voices and we don't know shame. If you think we'll take this lying down, you got another thing coming.


Fuck that. That's the risk you take. We put him at Duke. We took him and gave him a free education. We paid his medical bills, for God's sake. And you're telling me he didn't owe us four years? Those were the terms of the deal.

But it's just like an athlete to break the deal, isn't it? They don't understand how things work, and they probably never will. I wish we'd just sent him home and let him heal his own toe.


I want to talk a little about Duke, too, because that's what this is really about.

It's the best school in the universe, and I'll pay someone to fight anyone who says otherwise. People want to piss and moan about the fact that it's selective, but guess what? That keeps the rabble out. It really does.

People get pissed because we party harder and longer, and study harder and longer, than anyone else in America. People get pissed because we bring it consistently, 24/7, and we never get tired. Everyone is hotter at Duke. Everyone is richer. Everyone is, to put it plainly, better. Don't get mad at the truth, dudes. Truth ain't gonna change.

I still remember everything about my four years there. I'm set up nicely now, but I still say those were the best years of my life. The memories are always with me. Now that it's spring, I remember sitting on the quad bench with my frat brothers. We'd just watch the people go by and maybe shout a comment or two. Sometimes we'd get bored. Then we had this game where when we saw a nerd go by, we'd call him over to the bench. "Check out the size of this spider, man!" we'd say. The nerd would come over, and bend down to look, but he wouldn't see a spider. "Weird," we'd say. "He must have laid an egg." Then one of us would come racing over and smash an egg on the back of the kid's head.

God, it still makes me laugh. The way the yolk would run down their heads, it seriously doesn't get better than that. We even got one kid to drop out of school because it screwed him up so much (foreigner, go figure). Hilarious. We called the game 'Spidey-Sense.'

And the parties. Oh man, the parties. Alcohol and throwing objects and hooking up with girls. Especially the latter. Believe me, when you have money you can get girls that wouldn't look at you twice if you were poor. The right clothes and attitude are all it takes to have the gold-digger crew hanging all over you. And at Duke, bro, they were all gold diggers. But most of them had the good grace to leave in the morning, and if they didn't, a little public humiliation was usually enough to send them on their way.

We weren't above having a "booty bulletin board" hanging in the hallway with headshots of every needy chick who spent the night. The school tried to get us to take it down, but one call from my dad to the dean ended that nonsense. Eventually it became a point of pride. Girls would do anything to get on that bulletin board. We practically had to have interviews. Finally we took a vote and decided on a second bulletin board. The day we announced it, you wouldn't believe the girls who "just stopped by on their way to class" looking for a chance to make the big leagues.

And then there were the classes. I still get a chill every time I think about walking past that dark Duke stone, those gorgeous neo-gothic buildings where the smartest people in the universe go to teach and learn. The conversations we had inside those walls would blow your mind. If you could understand them, that is, which you probably couldn't. No offense, but it was some high-level stuff. We'd talk philosophy, and human psychology, and the meaning of life. And that was just in a beginner's tennis class.

I hope you're starting to get the point; Duke is unlike any other place on Earth. Because it has the most money and the best facilities, it gets the best faculty, and because of that it gets the best students. I would honestly support a fellow Dukie over my best friend if it came down to a life or death situation. That's just the way it is for us. That scenario wouldn't actually happen to me since my best friends are all Dukies, but you see what I mean. We support each other in business, and love, and everything else. I personally get pissed when one of my friends marries outside the Duke family. I understand having one as a mistress or something, but come on bro, keep it real in the public eye, you know?


This is the gift we gave Kyrie. The gift of Duke. The place my dad went, where I went, and where all my kids are going to go, no matter how smart or dumb they are. Kyrie wouldn't have been here without basketball. He rolled the dice in life and got extremely lucky. And did he ever say thank you, or put his head down and work on making us proud of him? Did he ever even try for our approval? No. He hurt his toe, cost us a championship, and left.

This is what happens when you extend a hand to someone below you. You just get bit.

My dad was a hero. Kyrie is nothing but an ungrateful punk. In the end, he was never meant for Duke. I just wish we'd known it sooner.