June 28, 2007

Don't Say That

It's been a while since I've posted; but it's the summer and there's plenty to do, including watching baseball. Writing about baseball takes time and is not a very enticing activity when the sun is shining outside and the beach is beckoning. The only time Mr. Grudge gets to enter anything into this space is at work...oops, I mean at night.

Speaking of Mr. Grudge's tentative employment at this current company, one of my favorite baseball associates came in to the office where I work discuss the events of the weekend when the Yankees put up football sized scores against the minor-major league Tampa Bay Devil Rays. This writer joked that the explosive offense displayed by the Yanks over the weekend was all of the production for the rest of July and for all of August spent in one spot over a few days, and that no one needs to worry about them getting a hit for the rest of the season. A young man was waiting for assistance nearby, and he scoffed at my mildy amusing little quip.

After that, my baseball buddy and I discussed the relative futility of the Yankees offensive efforts as they have to win better than 85% of their games for a run at a wild card berth (maybe not that much, but close, un-scientifically speaking). One may or may not agree with that statement, but realistically, unless Cleveland sputters and falls completely, the Yankees have to turn it up two notches, not just one, and keep the heat on for the rest of this very short season to have a chance at the wildcard.

The man waiting in our office, whom both me and my buddy were ignoring at that point, reacted to our conversation by saying "Don't say that, don't say that. They're going all the way." Talk about denial. I told him to pull the bill of his Yankees cap back up so he can see better and look at the standings. This team plays sporadically between fairly good and just plain awful. Their upcoming schedule may look soft for a couple of weeks, but that is no guarantee of success. This team hasn't put together enough wins in a row all season to stay above .500 consistently, let alone making a run at the playoffs. The best they can hope for is to become spoilers.

Call me crazy, cynical, uninformed, or whatever else you feel like. But that's writer's opinion, and I'm sticking to it.

June 27, 2007

Get Rid Of Them All: A Frustrated Fan Rants

Scott Proctor is either very good, or very bad. He's one of those pitchers who Joe Torre can rely upon. That means he gets to trot to the mound every day and throw the ball until his arm breaks off. That does not mean that he gets off the hook for walking in the game winning run against the Baltimore Orioles Tuesday night.

Without recounting the gory details, it was one of those scenarios where this writer, while watching the game with the sound on mute to help keep my blood pressure lower (it's difficult to listen to someone give a play by play of crappy baseball), knew that the Yankees would lose. It was especially infuriating to lose with Proctor walking in the winning run.

When the Yankees return to Yankee Stadium Friday to face the Oakland A's, stadium personnel should dispense with the organ music, and all of the other song clips and sound effects and merely play circus music for the entire game. That would not only make me feel good, it would be appropriate for the way the season is going.

Before the trade deadline, the Yankees not only should trade Proctor, they should donate him to a team in need of a mascot. They could give him a name like "Whizzo The Clown" to describe the hard throwing circus geek who can throw 96 MPH, but couldn't strike out Stephen Hawking at the plate with a bat on his lap. Kids could take turns spinning him in circles and watch him try to throw a ball at a barn-sized wall and miss to simulate the way he pitches during actual games.

I don't want to pick just on Scott Proctor. There's plenty of blame to go around this three ring circus of over-paid, complacent millionaires with visions of millions more of your dollars dancing in their heads. Next time you lay out a week's pay to take your family to Yankee Stadium for a game while sitting up in the nosebleed seats, take a gander at the 200+ million dollar team and see if you don't resent the fact that these clowns are the reason you're paying $12 for a hot dog.

This writer wouldn't mind seeing the whole team shipped off to other teams (where they'd flourish) and replace them all with minor leaguers. I'm thinking that some small market team might need guy who could go three for four with a walk in games where the team is winning 15-1, and go "0" for four in games where they're losing by one run. Can anyone say "Bobby Abreu?" The bullpen doesn't just need a rest, they need to be put to sleep, and brittle Johnny Damon should grow his long hair and beard back and stand in the dugout waving pom-poms because he's not good for much else. The guy has drive and plays hard. However, he's been injured ever since he became a Yankee and this writer doesn't care what else his problem is. Ever wonder why the Red Sox let him go? The reason is staring you right in the face: he's falling apart.

I could go on, but what's the point? There is no October, the team is toast, and it will take divine intervention for them to land a wild card berth let alone (ha ha ha) win the division. You can bet that Joe Torre will lose his Subway commercials with Willie Randolph along with his job as Skipper of the Yankees come October 1st when the Bronx Bombers scatter like school children sent home on the last day of school for the off season. Though, I can see him eventually doing commercials for life insurance for "seniors over the age of sixty five." By the way, notice how I didn't say "post season?" There is none, Yankee fans.

June 26, 2007

Looking Towards October

The division is out of reach for the Yankees this year it seems. However, the Wild Card may be the most attainable goal for the Bronx Bombers. With the way they're playing, nothing seems possible, though. One of my baseball colleagues at my job observed that the Yankees pulled Joe Girardi from Tuesday night's broadcast in Baltimore. Most likely, it was because the Yankees didn't want Girardi to have to discuss why he turned down the managerial job with the Orioles. Also, the Yes Network didn't want the Girardi story to become a distraction to the game. As my friend quipped, "The way they're playing, they can use all the distractions that come their way."

He's right. The only thing as a Yankees fan this writer has to look forward to is the All Star Game. After that, it's the long slide until the end of the season and my interest then focuses on football and whichever of the "New Jersey" teams are doing well. You just know that there are hunting and fishing magazines laying around the Yankee's clubhouse.

I'm a dedicated and fervent baseball fan, and a fair weather football fan. It's sad, that at this point in the season, I'm already looking for my Jets and Giants tee shirts in the closet. I can't wait to see the commercials during the Super Bowl.

June 22, 2007

New Image Of Mr. Grudge

Special thanks to Stephen Ingram for the painting of Mr. Grudge. This image has developed over time, and he's captured Mr. Grudge in a good mood. You can view Stephen's Blog, and his terrific drawings and paintings here: http://www.stepheningram.blogspot.com/. Please visit his blog and enjoy!

Mr. Grudge Goes Fishing

Have a great weekend all. Even though this is baseball season, I do my best baseball writing in the off-season. Just kidding. It's V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N time. Go Yankees, I think. Oh, hell. I should care about the lives of millionaires?

June 13, 2007

Underdogs Instead Of Underachievers

While listening to ESPN's Mike & Mike this morning, Mike Greenberg gave a brief re-cap of the Yankees victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks Tuesday night. Immediately, Mike Golic sarcastically asked "Did they pick up a game against Boston?" The answer of course, is no. He further went on to state that it would take a "colossal" failure on the part of Boston for the Yankees to overtake them and that the wild card was a more reasonable objective for this Yankees team. His tone didn’t suggest confidence for either of those scenarios happening.

Everything Mike Golic stated could very well be true, and the Bombers could wind up bombing even worse than they did for the first two months of this season, injuries or not. However, according to this writer's eye, this team has apparently hit its stride and looks as if they are ready to pounce. Pounce on what, I'm not sure. But, if the wildcard is what they need to shoot for in order to make it to the post season, then so be it. Nobody sneered at the Boston Red Sox when they won the World Series as a wild card team. For some reason, now that the Yankees find themselves in that position where they can only reasonably shoot for the lower tier berth for a chance at the post season, everyone is quick to mock them.

After all is said and done, no one can predict what is going to happen this season. The Yankees, if they continue to persevere, can win the division. With one hundred or so games left, and with solid pitching from their rotation, and maybe a key trade come the July 31st deadline, this team is perfectly capable of of over-taking Boston. There is no rule which states that teams can't continue to surge after they begin to surge. In other words, there’s no reason to suspect that they won’t stop playing this well after they’ve only recently started to play better baseball.

This combined pack of pinstriped mercenaries and homegrown winners constitute a ball club with not only big money contracts, but top shelf talent. They've already been beaten down by injuries, plagued with poor play and listlessness. But, Joe Torre, the man with his hand on the magic buttons which he pushed to orchestrate his teams from 1996 to 2000 to World Championships, has pushed these buttons again, more frantically than before, and many more times, and he seems to have programmed this group to play cohesively and to pitch like a true, professional, Major League starting rotation. It doesn’t hurt that they also have a lineup which can pound an opposing team’s pitcher for six or seven runs per game. The acquisition of Roger Clemens also has brought some momentum to this heretofore inert team. However short lived this momentum that The Rocket brought with him to the Bronx lasts, they now have a fighting chance with him here.

It has been said that there is a sign in the Yankees clubhouse at Legends Field in Tampa which states "Unless you're the lead dog, the view never changes." Well, the Yankees are no longer the lead dog in this race. This writer prefers to think of them now as underdogs. There's a lot to be said for underdogs; and, fans tend to root for the underdog. The question is, will the spoiled Yankees fan root for them?

June 12, 2007

A Plate Of Crow, With Ketchup, Please

One of the anonymous baseball fans quoted frequently in this blog came to this writer Tuesday morning with a grin on his face. It was a classic "I was wrong" grin which I knew immediately had to do with his position on Alex Rodriguez and the current state of the Yankees. This writer's position on A-Rod has been consistent in that it is my contention the he should not be traded, allowed to leave, or faulted as not being clutch in the post season. We all want the Yankees to be heroes in October, but, they need to get there. This season, more than any other in recent history has illustrated fact more distinctly. Alex Rodriguez is having a phenomenal season, and the A-Rod haters want him to fail in the post season, should the Yankees actually make it there, so they can watch him leave.

That has been the unswerving stance of the aforementioned Yankees fan that arrived at my desk this morning, ready to be contrite. "Is something happening here?" He asked, that wry smile indicating that he was having a change of heart. "Can the Yankees actually have a chance at overtaking Boston?" What my baseball friend was alluding to was that a nine and one half game deficit in early June in the A.L. East does not seem so insurmountable with a hundred or so games left in the regular season. "A-Rod has exceeded my expectations." My friend continued. There was so much he wanted to say, that he was popping off all of his comments sporadically. "I'm ready to eat crow," He said finally, shaking his head. "If he (A-Rod) keeps this up, in September, I'll as for a big plate of crow, covered in ketchup."

After assuring him that I'd be happy to break out the BB gun from my attic to track down and kill such a crow for his consumption, he hesitated, raised a finger and added one caveat "I'll wait until October. If he bats one-fifty, then the deal is off." We both laughed, and he went off to his office, trying to both feel confident about his favorite baseball team and their post-season chances and reconciling his feelings towards a player whom he previously had no confidence in. The joke is that he'll never eat an actual crow, but he's man enough to admit he may have been too harsh in his analysis of Rodriguez in the past.

Needless to say, hoping to keep his offer of culinary contrition alive, I told him as he held the door to the office open and turned back to see me, that it didn't matter what Alex Rodriguez batted in the post-season, as long as he helped get them there. This was a point I was happy to repeat to him for maybe the one hundredth time. He smiled, and walked away. He does not know it, but crow does taste better with ketchup. I've had to eat it plenty of times in my life. Go A-Rod.

June 11, 2007

Yankees Quick Check: What A Difference A Fan Makes

Those who visit Mr. Grudge are aware of how very seriously he takes the dedicated baseball fan. Over the course of this very difficult 2007 season, this writer has polled the only other resource available, besides print media, websites (Gotham Baseball Magazine, for one) and merely watching games, and that is interviewing fans. For better or for worse, baseball fans carry the history of baseball, readily available to those who will listen, as part of their own personal history. Some tell the story of baseball and how it fits into their analysis of the game, and how it affects their lives better than others. That is why this writer polls the same individuals on a regular basis. Though I don't mention names, or give descriptions of my fan-analyst contributors, I do try to distinguish them by writing about their experiences and predictions etc, at different times. Today is no exception, and I am ready to introduce readers of Mr. Grudge to a personality who has a wealth of baseball knowledge, and a keen eye for trends, trades, and many other things vital to a die hard baseball fan's world such as confidence in one's team.

The gentleman in question, who shall remain nameless, is one of those fans who do not get emotional regarding his favorite team. He's been a fan longer than most of today’s Yankees fan contingent for whom Derek Jeter is the only shortstop they even saw in pinstripes. When everyone else this writer queried over the course of the last few weeks regarding the Yankees deep hole in the A.L. East standings ranted wildly, demanding trades, predicting gloom and the absence of a post season berth, and secretly wishing that Joe Torre be yanked off the bench in full view of the fans the team in the middle of a game with a giant hook, my quiet baseball acquaintance countered with his own view of the Yankees season.

"All they need to do," He said "is chip away at Boston's lead by winning series. They'll get better, they have to, and other teams will hit rough patches. If they reduce their deficit to fewer than ten games by the All Star break, then a wild card berth seems plausible. They don't have to overtake the Red Sox."

This writer didn't believe him then, though he was very confident as he gave me his analysis, offering a knowing nod for reassurance. As of yesterday, after sweeping the Pirates, my friend's scenario didn't seem so far-reaching after all. Their nine and one half games back behind Boston, and Five and one half games behind Detroit, and tied with Minnesota in the Wild Card standings. This is all well before the All Star break. Maybe, the older gentleman was right? Could this be true? An average fan with an above average baseball I.Q. calmly predicts that the Yankees will right their ship and they will give themselves the chance to make it to the post-season. That's the kind of poise and maturity needed for a true baseball prediction.

Of course, one of the others often anonymously quoted in this space commented on the Yankees sweep of the Pirates: "It's only Pittsburgh." He said. To that point, this writer countered "Yes, but they need to beat everybody they face, and they did this time." After that, I gave him a two minute drill down of the man quoted in this space about chipping away at Boston's lead by winning series. He agreed, reluctantly, choosing the path of the cynic rather than believing what is apparent for all to see, that the Yankees have suddenly surged, hit their stride, or done whatever it needs to take to get themselves back on a winning track. This is what good teams do, and what is expected of this team. Way back, a few weeks ago when they were in the cellar with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, no one was chatting around the water cooler at work wondering what Tampa needed to do to get into the post season. The Yankees are expected to play in October, and the Rays are perennial bottom feeders. The fact is that right now they are one game below five hundred, and there is still plenty of baseball left.

The same Yankee fan who quipped "It's only Pittsburgh" did offer one comment which Mr. Grudge thought useful: "The Red Sox are one Big Papi injury away from big problems themselves." Let's hope Big Papi doesn't get injured, as one does not want to win that way and it is not very sporting to wish for players to be injured so your team can have an easier time of it; although, it would be nice if Ortiz went into a forty or fifty game batting slump.

June 8, 2007

Mussina Throws, A-Rod Slams

In Thursday's invective laden tirade against Mike Mussina, Mr. Grudge stated in a very un-Mr. Grudge like tone about Mussina: "He's an intense player who's quick to criticize others, has finicky habits about getting ready for his starts, and his skills are diminishing. That's not to mention that he's a bad "clubhouse guy" who keeps to himself and huddles over crossword puzzles with a haughty air or self-assurance."

It's time to apologize, if not to Mussina, who will never, ever read this column, but to my readers for absolutely blowing it. It’s one thing to make bad predictions about a game or an entire season; but, to personally attack a player simply because he hasn’t performed up to his usual level is unprofessional. Mussina did an excellent job of pitching last night and needs to be congratulated. Many people kept telling me that Mussina will come around, and this writer turned into a spoiled Yankee fan, tossing a fit because his favorite team is in the toilet. Mussina has not been the only problem the Yankees had with the few bad starts he produced. And, if the team didn’t sink to the bottom of the AL East in the standings, his performance in those games would not have mattered. With that said Mr. Grudge vows to return to his usual, objective self and not go off on emotional outbursts when one player turns in a bad performance for one game, like Josh Phelps for instance. Just kidding.

After all of my apologizing in the previous paragraphs, my support of Alex Rodriguez has been consistent from the inception of this blog. Mr. Grudge was the one making the case to keep him when everyone else wants to send him back to Texas, or some other baseball version of Siberia. There was one article I wrote criticizing him for wanting to opt out of his contract; but, by and large, my support for him has been constant throughout. This writer believed then, and still does now that A-Rod is a keeper. I've heard others tell me that in spite of the terrific season he is having, including the grand slam he had in the ninth inning against the White Sox Thursday that they'd like to see him do that in the post season. This writer's answer is that the Yankees have a very deep hole to climb out of to even think of getting to the post season, and Alex Rodriguez is one guy that can make that happen. Forget the post season; let's see them get to .500 first. Keep hitting them out of the park, Alex, and mea culpa, Mussina.

June 7, 2007

Wang Keeps Up The Momentum

Chien-Ming Wang gave the Yankees exactly what they needed facing the White Sox Wednesday night. Not only did he pitch well, he pitched a one run complete game. He looked like the Wang we all came to know and love when he started as a rookie, all the way up until his name started to be mentioned in the same sentence as Cy Young's last season.

The Yankees need momentum. As this writer mentioned in his previous column, quoting the old baseball adage that in baseball, momentum ends with the next day's pitcher, then Yankee fans have every reason to be nervous with Mike Mussina scheduled to take the mound against the White Sox Thursday night in Chicago. Without going on a rant, this writer will just state that he has very little confidence that Mussina will give a good performance. There's no need to compile stats when offering up the observation that Mussina pitches well until he decides its okay to give up a home run or two. His game will sometimes fall apart after that. This season, it seems to happen more often. He's an intense player who's quick to criticize others, has finicky habits about getting ready for his starts, and his skills are diminishing. That's not to mention that he's a bad "clubhouse guy" who keeps to himself and huddles over crossword puzzles with a haughty air or self-assurance.

Maybe it's just a fantasy that fans such as me believe that baseball players cluster together in groups around each other's lockers looking for inspiration, and coaching each other so they can win games. We saw the Red Sox become a bunch of idiots and win the World Series. Johnny Damon, a veteran idiot is a "clubhouse" kind of guy who could possibly bring the same type of mood to this team of Yankees. If Mussina takes a break from poring through his dictionary and thesaurus, he could wander over to the group of guys congregating near his locker and learn that the answer to number one, across "What the Yankees need to rescue their season, eight letters", is pitching.

Unless Mussina is a total flake and cares about nobody but himself, he should go out there tonight and try to keep up the momentum that began a few days ago with young Tyler Clippard and continued with fan-favorite and trusted arm Chien-Ming Wang. It doesn't hurt that the Red Sox have had their own troubles facing the Oakland A's and losing five of their last six games. This is the time to capitalize on all that is going good for the Yankees, and all that is going wrong for their rivals.