Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Series Blog, Games 2 & 3: Corporate Whore Stadium and, Like, Double Guitars

As I explained at painful and unfunny length in the Game One blog, I'm sports superstitious. Sure, I'll be ironic and dismissive about it, but I still take it seriously behaviorally. Sort of like a guy who constantly busts on fat chicks yet has unprotected sex with a different one every night. I might dismiss my sitting in a weird position for "Good Luck," and even mine some good jokes from doing so, but I'm still the one sincerely doing something inadvisable or aesthetically wanting with my body.

Because the Phillies had won Game One while I was chitchatting with people online, I had to do that for Game Two, right? I didn't want the Phils to lose. The problem was, the people I'd been yammering at weren't online. Thankfully, one of my few Pennsylvania buddies, a former online writer I know, was around and willing to be bugged. Let's play ball!


World Series Game Two

Pedro Martinez is starting for the Phillies, which a lot of people disagreed with because the game is at Yankee Stadium. Back in 2004, when he was still with the Sox, Pedro acknowledged the Yankees' recent success against him by saying, "What can I say? They're my daddy." Naturally, in the 2004 ALCS, Yankees fans serenaded him with huge chants of "WHO'S YOUR DADDY," which seemed to change the tone of those games. If I remember correctly, Red Sox manager Terry Francona brought Pedro into Game Seven to pitch in relief, whereupon Pedro immediately gave up a double, instantly recharging a dead crowd and bringing them to full throat with those chants. So let's just say that a lot of people had a case for this starting decision's being karmically bad.

Personally, I agreed with it. Pedro's a better pitcher than the shaky Cole Hamels and the human question mark that is Joe Blanton. With Hamels, it's a question of when he'll start to lose his poise, not if; and with Blanton, you never know if he'll fully check into the game at all or instead come out firing on all cylinders of Bad Joe Blanton. With Pedro, you know you get 90-100 pitches, which should usually make for 5-6 innings. You know you'll give up a run or two.

Besides, and this is important: 2009 Pedro and 2004 Pedro are different pitchers separated less by ability than by mentality. 2004 Pedro kept trying to pitch like 2000 Pedro: dominating speed and 12-6 curveballs, but he'd clearly lost that. His fastball no longer topped out at 97 when he needed it, and the curve seemed to be thrown constantly at about 2:35 on the clock face. At the time, he hadn't yet acknowledged the inevitable truth that he had to change his strategy for getting guys out, that effort or emotion wouldn't make a tiring arm perform the way it had years before. Now, though, the 2009 Pedro understands that, be it wisdom or the cruel reality of his recurring injuries forcing a conclusion on him. He pitches like a guy who know's his stuff has to elude and dupe rather than dominate and overwhelm. He basically went from being Wild Thing Rick Vaughn to veteran spitballer Eddie Harris in Major League, and I think it'll work out.


As in 2004, the Yankees' organist is goosing the "WHO'S YOUR DADDY" chants by playing the "LET'S GO, YANKEES!" music in between what seems like every pitch. But this is a different stadium. It's nowhere near as loud; acoustically, the widened upper decks, rising outward, don't contain and reflect noise in the same way as the almost cosy upper decks of the old Yankee Stadium. The old stadium had metal girders in the lower and upper decks supporting the stadium structure, which allowed the upper deck to be situated closer to the field at the expense of obstructed views, making the venue more intimate. Because the Billion-Dollar Corporate Kickback is actually designed to increase interior commercial space and to charge more for seats, it flares up and outward, increasing the stadium's girth and essentially letting all that noise rise up and out. Think of the containment properties of a highball glass versus a martini glass, and you have a good working example of the difference between the old stadium and the new corporatized abortion. The old one harnessed atmosphere. This one harnesses dollars. Unfortunately for the Yankees, you can't fire up your team and oppress the visiting players with the sounds of cash registers. It's much quieter in there now.


It's also quieter because, no matter how much the organist is trying to goose chants along, he or she is playing to the deaf. Say what you will about the ugly barbarism of old school Bronx Bleacher Creatures, but they made noise. The Yankees not only reduced hardcore-fan presence proportionally within the stadium by the design of its seating, they also did so via the pricing. Postseason games are already so punitively expensive that they tend to price out all but bankers, brokers, lawyers and other assorted predators and whores, but to say that the regular-season pricing in Corporate Kickback stadium requires a personal loan just to gain entrance misstates the case. You don't have enough credit to qualify for that kind of loan — certainly not in this economy. A 20-man construction crew makes substantially more noise than 20 junior traders at Salomon Brothers, but guess which group Yankees ownership wants to be able to actually get into the building? The organist can pump away at that LET'S GO YANKEES!/WHO'S YOUR DADDY riff all he or she wants, but a much larger proportion of the people in the seats are too busy texting on fucking iPhones to give a shit. That is, assuming they're not inside buying thousand-dollar art or a $100 Kobe Beef burger.


I should also point out that the WHO'S YOUR DADDY chant isn't working because Pedro struck out two batters in the first inning.


I'm getting nervous because I realize that the Phillies aren't crushing the ball yet, and I'm not chatting with anyone, so maybe it's my fault. I find my buddy J-Shap online:
ME: Are you watching the World Series? I feel like absolutely nobody I know is watching the World Series.
J-SHAP: Literally it is on muted to my left.
ME: You missed the Yankees' organist pumping the "LET'S GO YANKEES" notes over and over to start the "WHO'S YOUR DADDY" chant.
J-SHAP: Are we in Bush's first term again? Is John Paul Deuce still poping hard? Terri Schiavo? Napoleon Dynamite?
ME: Vote for Pedro Martinez.
J-SHAP: Textbook execution there.


Raul Ibañez loops a ball just barely in fair territory, sending home a run. The Phillies are up 1-0. It should also be mentioned that this postseason's officiating has been so abysmal that Buck and McCarver take time to point out that the fair/foul call was correct. Buck and McCarver have been surprisingly decent so far, despite a willingness to praise Pedro so lavishly that you'd expect they had money on the Yankees and were trying to jinx the Phils. Still, Ibañez's hit is good juju, leaving me to think this chatting idea wasn't so bad.
J-SHAP: I believe one of The Onion's keys to victory was for Raul Ibañez to "keep Raul Ibañezing it up."
ME: I still sort of wish I played guitar so I could buy an Ibanez and then do the obnoxious newscaster thing of talking in a normal tone of voice and then mention my guitar with an out-of-nowhere heavily accented Ibañez.
J-SHAP: haha
ME: "Shitchyeah, brah, thing is, Jimmy Page was the first dude to ever play, like, a double-necked Eeh ban ñez back when he was tourin with the Yardbirds, bro."
J-SHAP: I remember their legendary gig in the Bolivarian Republic of Baynazwayla.
ME: They had to make the Dodgers play on the road because they sold out Hugo Chavez Ravine for five shows even though they were only booked for two.
J-SHAP: The venue originally known as Chan Ho Park.
ME: lmao
(we go to the next inning, where Ibañez makes a great diving catch)
ME: That's a good defensive guitar.
J-SHAP: Just perpetually Ibañezing here.


I really really hate the fucking Yankees, so I'm just all kinds of nervous during this game. I'm just trying to ignore everything and distract myself. Which means more chat nonsense:
J-SHAP: My favorite annual World Series tradition is the outcries of why the World Series can't be played at dinnertime so the kids can watch the games, and savor it with their childlike innocence, with their mitts, and catch the foul balls and the crackerjacks spit out of the TV, and so pitchers would pitch complete games like they used to all the time back before there were relief pitchers or black people or black relief pitchers.
ME: I can't believe Taco Bell's not requiring the stolen base to qualify for the free taco this year. This kind of terms-free consumerism disgusts me.
J-SHAP: Bahaha really? OBAMA GRR.
ME: lol
J-SHAP: Tim Raines and I miss our country.
ME: What did Tim Raines do?
J-SHAP: He earned all his tacos with meritocratic stolen bases, sliding bootstraps first.


This game is reaching really unnerving levels. Pedro has given up two solo home runs. I'm just talking about anything at this point:
ME: Here's a question: am I the only person who gets drunk and eats too many chips at once or bites into an over-toasted slice of bread on a sandwich and cuts and scrapes up his gums and the top of his mouth?
J-SHAP: Destrooooooooooooooyed the roof of my mouth on some toasted rye bread.
J-SHAP: Like, genuinely torn up, didn't even notice it happening.
J-SHAP: And then I was like hey — ahh.
ME: haha
ME: Well it's good to know that I'm neither uniquely clumsy nor do I have a wussy mouth.
J-SHAP: It's the subtlest killer this side of a carbon monoxide leak because you would never expect BREAD to do you like that.
ME: I thought my wife was trying to kill me with sandwiches for a while there. Because she'd toast the shit out of them, and I was like, "There are shards in my mouth. Fucking SHARDS. What are you doing to me?"
J-SHAP: Once you start chewing you're basically flossing with a bed of nails.
ME: Here's something the FOX crew won't tell you about Teixiera: he stabs and murders drifters. Also, do you think Buck and McCarver could be trying harder for the last inning to jinx the shit out of Pedro?
J-SHAP: Pedro is apparently the greatest interview in the game.
ME: You know who else gave good interviews? Hitler.


And here's the thing with Pedro: not only are Buck Buck B'cCarver! trying to jinx the shit out of him, it's working. He's given up two unlucky-pitch solo shots (one that hung, one that was a meaty curve low to Matsui, who loves a low curve), and he's already at nearly 100 pitches. And Phillies manager Charlie Manuel leaves him in. This is bad news.


And the bad news pays off with another Yankees run. I almost talked myself into Manuel's decision. Almost. See, here's the thing: Joe Posnanski — who's just a really great sportswriter and generously talkative blogger — has this kind of ongoing debate with himself over whether Greg Maddux or Pedro Martinez is basically the best pitcher ever. He comes down on the side of Pedro, but what he has to say about Maddux is both effusive and totally justified. Maddux pitched with a gift for accuracy and strategy in a way we may never see again. His fastball wasn't fast; it was, by standards of pure velocity, nearly a gag. But he could almost always put the ball exactly where he wanted it, usually in relation to what a hitter liked and how he preferred to hit.

Stories about Maddux's baseball brain are legion. Supposedly he once turned to a teammate in the dugout and told him to move because the ball was going to be coming his way soon; sure enough, the batter fouled the ball into the Atlanta dugout. On another occasion, he supposedly told teammates to watch the base coach, because he was about to nearly get leveled by a foul, and of course the batter pulled a screaming liner right by him. The point to all these stories was that Maddux wasn't obsessed with being BIGGER than the batters, or being bigger than the game. He just wanted to be smarter. Showing who was boss was immaterial next to knowing what was likely to happen with a given batter and a given pitch. If he studied his opponent better than his opponent studied him, he might know where the ball would wind up, if the guy hit it at all. My favorite Maddux quote — which may be apocryphal, but expresses a central truth to the man anyway — is an exchange a friend of mine is fond of quoting.
REPORTER: What's your "perfect" game?
MADDUX: 27 straight groundball outs.
Nothing about being overwhelming, nothing about making batters look foolish. Hell, the guy's even willing to let them put the ball in play. He just wants them to hit the ball to a defender each time.

Here's the thing: based on what he did tonight, if Pedro pitches another year, the argument has to be over. Maddux was only Maddux; whereas Pedro started out his career as Pedro and can end it as another Maddux. His numbers in his prime are sick. He had the talent, but now it's obvious how crafty he is as well. During this game, he kept silencing that WHO'S YOUR DADDY chant by nearly striking out the side over and over. And the strikeouts were just ridiculous. I can't remember who it was — I want to say Teixeira — but Pedro struck someone out on three changeups so slow that altogether they might have amounted to 97 mph. He also struck out Jeter by fast-pitching him, shortening the interval between his pitches, leaving the Yankee captain swinging suddenly at a ball he wasn't expecting to be thrown for another ten seconds or so. It was like watching Maddux again. If he does this for one more season, I think we put the discussion to bed. Pedro Martinez is the greatest pitcher in history. There's nothing else you have to learn about him.

Unless you're Charlie Manuel or Grady Fucking Little. Because if you're either of these men, you haven't yet realized that Pedro Martinez is absolutely, positively, always-will-be, completely done after 100 pitches. You have to pull him from the game.

From the moment Manuel sent Pedro back out there after 100 pitches, the game was over. The score remained the same through the end of the game, and we go to Philly with the Series split 1-1.


World Series Game Three

I didn't watch this because I was at a Halloween party out of town for hours. I took one look at the final score and decided not to bother the next morning. My head hurt too much, and I needed the room on my DVR for more World Series baseball, seven hours of NFL Red Zone and the Packers-Vikings game in its entirety on the off chance it wasn't a BREAT FRRV nightmare. (It was.) Since there's no blog content for this game, why not consider reading this amazing article on Deadspin about the travesty that is the New Yankee Stadium?

It's devastating. You already knew that that the stadium is a monument to luxury, a giant sybaritic boil on a city with increasing third-world-level income inequality, a nauseating eruption of boom-year largesse in the middle of a lower-class neighborhood riven by bust-era misery, corporate welfare conspicuously celebrating its consumption in an area where real welfare may not keep people from succumbing to poverty.

There's not a single part of the article that isn't astonishingly quotable, but to pick something, try this passage, responding to the question of why the new stadium sucks:
Because the $400,000,000 direct public investment is the equivalent of 8,000 teachers or cops or firemen at $50,000 per year.

Because the remaining $800,000,000 of the city's bonding authority was supposed to go to build things that we actually need, like the Second Avenue Subway, improved parks, or new or improved schools, police stations, firehouses or hospitals.

Because it would have only taken about $40,000,000 to fix up Macombs Dam Park, the Park that "new Yankee Stadium" sits on top of, while it will cost $120,000,000 to demolish Yankee Stadium and build replacement parks.
And if there were any doubt about the fact that there is nothing even remotely good that can be said about the new Yankee stadium, remember this: the Yankees play there.

More gameblogs to come.

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Et tu, Mr. Destructo? is a politics, sports and media blog whose purpose is to tell jokes or be really right about things. All of us have real jobs and don't need the hassle that telling jokes here might occasion, which is why some contributors find it more tasteful to pretend to be dead mass murderers.