Tuesday, October 19, 2010

MLB Playoffs: Rangers/Yankees ALCS Game 3

Game 3 was over for maybe three minutes before my instant message client started popping with the sounds of people who never talk to me about baseball IMming me to talk about baseball. Texas Rangers starter Cliff Lee was sublime. No, on second thought, he was just vicious. Or, as a guy I know named Jim put it:
JIM: In three starts, Cliff Lee has thrown 34 Ks and walked one batter.
ME: I know.
JIM: If your blog about his pitching doesnt include the word "nasty," you should find a better synonym that sounds nastier than nasty.
ME: Filthy.
JIM: Pornographic. Although you're going to be posting about balls being thrown, so that may cross the line.
ME: Ahahaha.
JIM: Just say that it was "some Harry Potter golden-snitch-type shit."
It was. Cliff Lee threw his cutter as if he had bewitched it, striking out 13 Yankee batters and holding them to two hits — one a broken-bat blooper — through eight innings. But if you saw the game, you know that, and you're here for something else. You want the abuse, and the commercials and announcer scorn.

Call me Mr. Sharon Jones and dap-king me, motherfucker! Blog it! BLOG IT! Bwooooosh!


Your cretins for this game appear courtesy of TBS. On play by play we have Ernie Johnson, with John Smoltz and Ron "Hello, Darling!" on color. By the end of the game, Smoltz will have appeared funny and rational, Darling will remain unchanged, and Johnson will have his mic cut off for a prolonged attempt at an Orson Welles impression.

This has been a thing with every bit of bumper music for every TBS game this postseason, but can someone explain to me what the fuck Kid Rock's "I WAS BAWRN FREE? I WAS BAWRN FREE? I WAS BAWRN FREE?" has to do with baseball? Seriously, just read this shit. If the rest of the album is anything like this, I'm pretty sure this is the first time someone ever cut an LP with the aim of selling Chevy trucks on TV for half a decade and spending the rest of his life having his face airbrushed on American flag tank tops. Also, my kid brother can probably grow a better 'stache than Kid Rock. Fuck anybody who gets in a truck with or because of him. You can't trust him, not with that Frenchie-stache action.

This guy I know named Andy pointed out that Hello, Darling! sounds really oddly like James Woods. You're welcome. Now you know what was bothering you, but now you also cannot unhear it. The next time I turn on an ALCS game this postseason, I expect to discover this voiceover playing at me:
Tony, you're my agent. You have to do something about this. ... How can it be the same movie if they've changed my character from a convenience store clerk to a jittery eskimo firefighter? ... Uh huh... uh huh... mm hmm... well, actually, that's a pretty good explanation. OK, good: book me a flight, rent me an igloo, and tell those dorks at the Kwik-E-Mart that boom—I am outta here. I'm a dot, I'm gone, OK? ... What do you mean, "I gotta give two weeks' notice"? Why you frickin', no good, motha— — — — —cheese. ... No, not you, I'm just talking to my oven.
This would instantly make it the best TBS broadcast in history.

Ernie Johnson has this strange commitment to sounding really stuffy, which is obvious whenever he gets excited, because some of the forceful tucked-chin into-the-chest baritone pitch drops away and he sounds completely normal. At the moment, what he makes me think of is the nasal nerdlinger voice of Joe Buck trying very badly to do an impression of Thurston Howell.

If Craig Sager killed himself, would anyone need to ask why? I mean, besides people who love him and care about him. But they'd be too close to the situation, too "forest for the trees." Step back. Be America. Look at him, and there's no doubt. He's currently wearing a purple velvet sportcoat and a paisley tie like "Dedicated Follower of Fashion"-era Kinks. Picture him kicking down Ray Davies' door in New Orleans in the dead of night for a closet-directed home invasion. Davies quickly discovers the purpose of the robbery and actually tries to help him take the old costumes, but Sager is too in the moment. Too method. He pistol-whips Davies for no reason. Craig Sager is a madman.

Andy Pettitte has 19 postseason wins, the most of all time. That's probably 14 more than the number of postseason wins he had when he wasn't taking steroids.

Seriously, can we throw away postseason records or at least divide them meaningfully? Wild Card postseason numbers are meaningless next to Championship Series postseason numbers next to pure-pennant postseason numbers. Does it make sense to put Whitey Ford and Andy Pettitte on the same list? Even though they're both Yankees and wildly skew the total for their respective eras, the comparison seems unfair to Ford and Pettitte.

Andy Pettitte looks like what I would imagine if you told me the new mascot of Lebanon was a giant cartoon Lebanese eagle.

"Waaaauuuuuhhh!" Yankee Stadium emits an oh-good-grief moan after two balls are called balls for no better reason than that they missed the plate by a combined six inches. Now if only a line drive could knock Pettitte into the air and all his clothes off until they were scattered around the mound like discarded needles. Except his underwear; he can keep that on, please.

Michael Young goes down 0-2, works it back to 3-2, then hits a single, opposite to right field, ending the no-hitter.
ERNIE: Pettitte's got a great move to first!
We know. It's called a balk.

Josh Hamilton smacks a two-run homer to right. I suppose that's what you get when you have a goofy-ass short porch in right. Vladdy follows it up by flying out to right after four pitches, and Nelson Cruz strikes out. But that's okay because I WAS BAWRN FREE. I WAS BAWRN FREE. I WAS BAWRN FREE.

Apart from Conan, has anything advertised on TBS preceding "Very Funny" ever actually been faintly funny? The answer is no.

Bottom of the 1st: Lee throws five pitches to Derek Jeter. Odd. This is four more than Jetes normally needs to groundout at the beginning of a game or with men on base.

When someone signs as a free agent with the Yankees, I wonder if they ever think, "Yeah, the money's sweet. But the real benefits are that I will never be cheered by anybody again who isn't a frontrunning piece of shit, a diseased Bronx asshole or the 1-in-50 Yankees fan who's a human being. Plus, I get to be loathed by anybody else who even remotely fucking respects baseball." I'm probably overthinking this. They probably just grab loose wads of money and stuff it into their underwear until they sport a massive Ben Franklin codpiece.

Swisher grounds out to the mound, and Ernie, Smoltz and Hello, Darling! start talking about Cliff Lee's hat. It has rosin on it. But Yankee fans, perhaps trying to dispel fears of Lee's Yankee-killing prowess or just reliving Kenny Rogers and the whupping they got at the hands of the Tigers in 2006, began speculating that it was a foreign substance used to give him an unfair advantage. Lee's response is great:
The Texas Rangers ace had a white patch on the back of his weathered cap during the division series against Tampa Bay and it became a topic on sports-talk radio in New York last week.

Lee, scheduled to start Game 3 of the AL championship series Monday night against the Yankees, assured reporters that it's simply resin on his hat, which is perfectly legal.

The left-hander had a sense of humor about the commotion, too.

"It definitely makes me way better. I know that much. Without that hat, I don't know if I could do it,'' Lee deadpanned. "I go to the resin bag quite a bit. I touch my hat in the same place over and over. And it just accumulates. I couldn't pitch without it for sure.''
To his credit, Yankees manager Joe Girardi doesn't give a shit about the hat.

Mark Teixeira's batting stance seems to be all about how much he can shake his ass. And he can shake it back to the dugout because it just got SAAAAAAAAAAAACKED.

Top of the 2nd: Jeff Francoeur has just a huge white man's overbite. It has the candlepower and dental shimmer of ten Presbyterian weddings. Massive albedo on the Francoface right now. He swipes at the first pitch, which is garbage, and swings at the second, which is garbage, and he's out. Same old Jeff Francoeur. If only anyone on the Tampa Bay Rays had gotten the memo that JEFF FRANCOEUR SWINGS AT DOGSHIT.

Wikipedia tells me that Pettitte is Italian-Cajun from Louisiana. This is probably true, but I've just figured out what Pettitte looks like in profile, which is frequently the image we see of him while pitching. It's bugged me for years, seeing his olive complexion and slightly semitic curving nose and his fleshy and flesh-colored lips. He holds the glove near his face and seems to scowl downward, in concentration, but his mouth remains neutral, almost distracted, maybe idly opening a little. And suddenly it comes to me. It's like a neck-up shot of a clean-shaven Yasser Arafat getting a blowjob.

Speaking of blowjobs, here's the Pettitte we all know and love, in classic postseason form, where he gets called strikeouts on curveballs a solid three inches off the outside of the plate.

Bottom of the 2nd: Lee strikes out A-Rod looking at the outside corner and strikes out Marcus Thames. In between, he gets Robinson Cano on a broken-bat groundout to shortstop.
SMOLTZ: Everything from Lee looks like a strike.
That's because he throws them. For reference to someone who does not so far, see: Pettitte, Andy. But Smoltzy follows this up with a line that I think summarizes the amazing and at the same time seemingly impossible thing about Cliff Lee and his way of throwing 70+ strikes per game: "His way of pitching around [great hitters] is through the strike zone." It's really stunning and sort of counterintuitive. How can someone — especially someone who does not blaze it by over 95 mph — hit the strike zone again and again and have the ball miss everything?

Top of the 3rd: Mitch Moreland works the count full by letting Pettitte throw balls to an inch off the ground. Elvis Andrus also works the count full, followed by Michael Young doing the same. Not good times for Pettitte. Somewhere in the middle of Michael Young's at-bat, I realize that he looks like a bad-skin version of character actor Garret Dillahunt — who's been awesome in Life, Burn Notice, Law & Order and a bunch of other stuff — but is still probably best known for Deadwood as the coward, Jack McCall, who shot Wild Bill Hickock in the back, and later as Francis Wolcott, real-estate agent, fixer and murderer of prostitutes.

While I'm thinking about TV, I remember that Derek Jeter is dating Esquire's "Sexiest Woman Alive," Minka Kelly. I think my point is: it's really unfair that he's not gay. Look, gay men everywhere would think it was awesome that a Hall of Fame-bound athlete was gay, and straight men would think it was awesome that he was not fucking really hot ladies. This is a win-win. He's in Metropolis already, for fuck's sakes. Let's turn the metrosexuality up to 11. Regardless, I think it's totally fair to tell your kid to aspire to be Derek Jeter. My friend Brad's wife just gave birth to their first child, a son, tonight; even now, he could whisper that into his baby boy's ear, "Son, you could grow up to be the next Derek Jeter. Except," he would naturally add, "you should be good at defense."

Young grounds to short and Jeter does that fucking jump-throw that he always does and is almost always stupid, and the ball makes it barely halfway to first before bouncing. I'm pretty sure the thought process here is, "I'm Derek Jeter. I'm Mr. November. I make the plays. I make all the plays. The plays—I make them. It's time for me to grit this sucker out and make it. I address you now, Play: consider yourself about to be made" (grunting noise) "whoops!" Unfortunately, from the outside, it looks like the thought process is, "I know: the way I will get the ball to first base faster is by LEAPING into LEFT FIELD and throwing ACROSS MY BODY! Also, this alcohol has made me feel sick and inebriated. I need to induce vomiting to inhibit its effects on my body. I will do this by drinking more of the alcohol very fast. And what's this? A fire! Surely this gasoline will douse this spreading wildfire. Now I am on fire."


Bottom of the 3rd: Posada strikes out looking. Do you think anyone likes Jorge Posada in real life without there being some kind of quid pro quo exchange of benefit? Can you imagine his wife consenting to have sex with him before he shows her the monthly deposit slip to her personal bank account? Is he even married? Posada looks like the sort of person whose own grocer would throw him out of the store on general principle if it weren't for the fact that suburbanite New York dipshits will actually shop at the same place because, "THAT'S THE SAME PLACE JORGE POSADA TOUCHES POTATOES AND CANS OF BROTH."

Ahahaha Brett Gardner dives for first base and either his slide makes him bounce on the ground and miss the fucking bag, or he moves his hand away to avoid its getting stepped on. I know the best way of beating someone else to first base: putting as much of my body surface on the ground as possible to generate maximum friction and impede my progress!


The hits keep coming, man. Now it's insurance.
ME: (singing) Like a good neiiiighbooooorrrrr, State Farm is theeeeere!
STATE FARM AGENT: Hi, uh... (checks clipboard) "Mo Beaut Sees Secko."
ME: Hi. This doctor says my child might have Crohn's Disease.
STATE FARM AGENT: How much are you paying monthly in health insurance?
ME: About $1,800.
STATE FARM AGENT: Oh, sorry, it's not covered.
ME: What's not covered?
Let's try to come up with a nice jingle for something like, "America: where you get a strange frightening ache in your body and then, without even going to the doctor because the consultation might put some horrifying disease onto the list of your preexisting conditions, evaluate its severity and treatment necessities by how good you think your insurance probably is."

Bottom of the 4th: Lee blows it by Jeter. This is the cue for Ernie, Smoltz and Hello, Darling! to start talking about how Cliff Lee was supposed to go to the Yankees. That's literally the word they use for it. Supposed. Nothing speaks to the disgusting sense of entitlement constantly exuded by the Yankees organization and their fans than the fact that they feel free to deem whether it is appropriate for players not under their control to opt to go to destinations other than New York — and that the national media plays along with this as just an inevitable condition. I'm not exaggerating. Look at the headline and opening grafs in the New York Post from the morning after Seattle traded Lee to Texas:
Yankees Angry at Mariners for Trading Lee to Rangers

SEATTLE -- The Yankees moved fast to swoop in and nearly obtain Cliff Lee today, then, they feel, the Mariners pulled a fast one and sent the ace lefty to the Rangers.

That left the Yankees without a piece that would turn their rotation from strong to perhaps unbeatable now and in the postseason, and it also left them livid at how Seattle behaved during the process.

Yankees officials went to bed Thursday believing a deal had been finalized with the Mariners for Lee, pending acceptance of the physical reports on Yankees prospects Jesus Montero, David Adams and Zach McAllister.
Basically, the Yankees thought they had a deal; it wasn't in writing; it wasn't finalized; the Rangers made a better one; the Yankees were left out. But this wasn't right, and we should be angry, and if you'd been reading message boards that day, Yankees fans would have told you that much. The Yankees had the right to have their rotation go from strong to unbeatable, from nonpareil to ludicrous. Aside from the Boston Red Sox, the 29 other teams in the league exist to serve as farm systems for the New York Yankees. Their job is to find great new players, train them, demonstrate their superiority, then remit them to the New York Yankees as soon as it becomes obvious that the team they are on cannot beat the New York Yankees in the ALCS or World Series. Who are you to resist? Who the fuck do you think you are having Cliff Lees lying around non-Yankily?

Admittedly, I like the Red Sox and hate the Yankees, but I hope that Cliff Lee has zero interest in going to the Yankees when he becomes a free agent after this season. I hope he acts like he wants to go there, talks about how he's great friends with CC Sabathia and would love to hang out with his homeboy again, driving up the price the Yankees are willing to give him. But — and they've mentioned this during broadcasts this postseason — he doesn't really take baseball that seriously. After his little boy developed leukemia as a toddler, baseball receded as a cosmic inconsequence. It's just a game, and I think maybe he enjoys fiddling around and treating it like a game. Namely, he is very good at beating the Yankees, the most fearsome hitting team in the game, and he seems to like this quite a bit. I hope he takes the money they're willing to overpay for him, gets someone else in the AL to match it, then goes right back to beating the Yankees like it's the taxing physical equivalent of following a brown-bag lunch with a fruit cup. It would be perverse and delightful, and it's exactly what is not supposed to happen, which is exactly why it should.

Lee gives up his first walk of postseason. To his credit, Smoltzy immediately says, "Well, now I wouldn't want him."

Bottom of the 5th: Posada's broken-bat blooper to right breaks up the no-hitter. If that had been hit solidly, it would have been an out. Anyway, Posada stands on first and whines and shakes his arms at the umpire, because he NEEDS the ball looked at because there MIGHT be pine tar on it from his BAT and nyahhh! nyahhh! nyahhh! nyahhh! nyahhh! nyahhh! nyahhh! nyahhh! My god, Jorge Posada's having an episode because we've missed giving him his 9:40 p.m. juice box! Unless he gets his counting blocks and can play with them in front of Thomas the Tank Engine, he might rock back and forth on first base and hurt himself when people try to play the game around him.

Top of the 6th: Hamilton misses another two-run homer by about a foot and a half. Next, Vladdy is called out looking on a ball juuuuust on the edge of the plate, and my dog farts, like, five times in quick succession, like someone trying to start a hand-cranked car from the First World War. My sentiments exactly.

Bottom of the 6th: Gardner singles up the middle, then steals second base. Jeter has to take a pitch during the steal attempt, which gives him strike two. The voluntary strike two seems sort of academic when Lee blows the third one by him for his tenth strikeout of the night and Jeter's second. Still, things are tense, as the Yankees threaten for the first time in the game.

I wonder if being Nick Swisher on a team as uptight as the New York Yankees is like being a really generous and freewheeling kid who loves to play guitar and sing songs and who gets forced by his dad to work over the summer before college with a bunch of undertakers who are all over 50 and spend their waking moment combatting decay in the body and sin in the soul.

Top of the 7th: Bengie Molina is so slow that A-Rod throws him out after having to dive into foul ground practically in left field to get the ball. His throw skips low in the dirt, and, before it even gets there, Teixeira turns away to protect his face!—his beautiful face! Amazingly, he still caught the ball. He holds his glove aloft as if to say, "Would you fuck me? I'd fuck me."

Speaking of fucking: it's time for God Bless America. This hot woman's voice is strangely nasal; it sounds like a completely unrelated woman with a cold is singing it. And she sounds sharp and stuttery and very un-melodic. One way to solve this is to stop singing this fucking song during the 7th Inning Stretch, since it's easily the worst sports-related hangover of the 9/11 attacks. Really, where do we go from here? If there's another major attack on U.S. soil, how do we tart up sporting events to be more patriotic and martial? I haven't put a lot of thought into this, but I have two suggestions off the top of my head:
1. Every game opens with the Fan Man flying into the stadium. Only it's not the Fan Man: it's Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler, FIGHTING SOLDIER FROM THE SKY, FEARLESS MAN WHO JUMPS AND DIES (but not really)! Then he sings "The Ballad of the Green Berets" and everyone jumps in place.
2. Each All-Star Ballot must be signed, dated and include an address, because the bottom of it is a loyalty oath.
Let's do this, America. Let's get back to work. (Not literally—no socialest.)

And the bumper music knows what time it is, because: I WAS BAWRN FREE. I WAS BAWWWWWRRRRRRN FREE.

Lee keeps dealing, and Kerry Wood comes in and gets three outs. We go to commercial for a John Hancock ad, right as I'm talking to my buddy Rose, who's a die-hard Phillies fan (who I have never forgiven for 2008) and always taunts me about going out to Citizens Bank Park for no reason other than that she can, goddamnit:
ME: I love all these ads for people texting their lifelong spouses on the commuter train or at the Starbucks about the total despair of the economy, and then one of them says some homiletic garbage or a polyanna question and it's like, "Oh, that's it! Investing! That's what's going to solve our NOT HAVING ANY MONEY." It just makes me want to figure out a way to hack commercials and spam them with a quote from the Guardian that [Mark Brendle, our Criterion Collection reviewer] drew my attention to last week: "Americans have been living a middle-class lifestyle on working-class wages – and bridging the gap with credit. And it's over."
ROSE: I know, and the commercial has these post-middle-aged people, like even if they had money to save, they can establish an entirely new portfolio at this point.
ME: It's like the entire premise of the ad is, "Well, we fucked the economy and our savings. But it's cool. We're Boomers. We can do anything. We'll just build a new portfolio by carving it out of our children and grandchildren's job markets for the next 1.5 decades. Then we'll retire and call them self-interested failures who want something for nothing. Wait a minute—endlessly expanding real estate market, double my money with no work? I CAN'T LOSE."
You know why the John Hancock ad doesn't work on me? NO ROTOSCOPING.

Bottom of the 8th: Lee strikes out Posada. I bet Jorge Posada's dog lies to other dogs and claims he belongs to someone else.


Top of the 9th: Hamilton gets a leadoff double off Boone Logan, so Logan's gone. And in comes NBA legend, The Admiral, David Robinson! Oh, waiiiiiit... is this a real small white person? It's David Robertson, and Vladdy singles to left off him. Hamilton moves to third. Nelson Cruz finally shows up as well, singling to left and sending Hamilton home, 3-0. Vladdy's pinch runner (official score sheet lists him as SOME DUDE) makes it to third.

Wow, just look at these no-class Yankees fans leaving the stadium like this, before the game's even over. Maybe they don't know what to do when they're not clanging their cowbells or banging their rally monkey or buying $3,000 landscape paintings in a first-baseline art gallery made out of Kobe beef burgers.

Annnnd... it's basically over. The Rangers score 6 in the top of the ninth, including an RBI single from Bengie Molina, after the Yanks use an intentional walk to bring him to the plate to induce a double play, and a wild pitch from Sergio Mitre (his first pitch of the game) bounces off the backstop enough that Posada easily throws out Moreland at the plate, only Mitre loses the ball.

Bottom of the 9th: Rangers closer Neftali Feliz hands Jeter his third strikeout of the game, making him 0-4 on the night. At this point, I wonder if Rangers manager Ron Washington even knows where he is. Because for one thing, he just wasted his best closer defending an 8-run lead. Compare this to Game 1, where he watched his team's 5-1 lead over the Yankees erode to a 6-5 Yankees lead, all the while making five pitching changes that did not include his best reliever.


The Yankees have lost. All that could be right and just in this world, for one night, simply is.

Craig Sager corrals Cliff Lee to harvest him for fresh clothing, having depleted all the New York-area mortuaries of their freshest duds or otherwise being chased away by their employees, many of whom have the dour, humorless, chinless expressions of an army of Posadas. He describes the game as "eight tense innings," despite the fact that Lee was only ever in trouble once, in the 6th inning, and then had a relatively effortless 8th before his team put up six additional runs in the 9th inning to establish an eight-run lead. Oh, well, it's not like anyone pays Sager to actually watch these things.

TBS throws everything back to the studio, where the cool things you've just seen can be robbed of drama and meaning via the interpretation of them. Jim IMs me for the first time tonight, launching into his JK Rowling theory of major league pitching and asking, suddenly:
JIM: Is the fat bald guy doing commentary really Boomer?
ME: David Wells? Yeah.
JIM: That dude looks like Kevin Youkilis went on a three-week-long turkey leg binge.
ME: Ahahaha.
JIM: Goddamn, you fat bald motherfucker.
ME: Nobody believes me, because I neglected to screencap it, but on the first day of the Division Series games last year, he was in the studio in a t-shirt and brown Members Only jacket, and he looked like someone who had just been released from prison after doing a dime for inappropriately photographing children who rode his bus.
JIM: Goddamnit, I fucking love baseball now.

See you tomorrow!