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Archive for December, 2009

The Righty Hopes to Improve Upon His Last Yankee Performance

The last time Javier Vazquez was seen in a Yankees uniform in October of 2004, he was serving up a grand slam to Johnny Damon (then as a member of the Red Sox) in relief of Kevin Brown in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS as Boston went on to complete the greatest comeback in baseball postseason history. 

Considering that was the worst experience for any Yankee fan in the history of the world, Vazquez doesn’t exactly come back into open arms.  And on top of that, in this trade New York gave up one of its more popular characters on the team in Melky Cabrera.

After the ’04 collapse, Vazquez was shipped to Arizona in a multi-player trade that brought Randy Johnson to the Yankees.  Since then, Vazquez has jumped from team to team and finds himself full circle on the Yankees again.  How bizarre, do-do-do, do-do-do, do-do-do, how bizarre, how bizarre.  Oh baby, (oh baby), you’re making me crazy (you’re making me crazy).  Enough.

To begin his Pinstripe career, Vazquez was originally obtained in a 2003 trade with Montreal for…drum roll…Nick Johnson.  I don’t know how either player will do, but this just shows that the Yankees are never fully satisfied and are constantly tweaking the team to make it better.

As a projected No. 3 or No. 4 starter in the Yankee rotation, I think this deal makes a lot of sense.  And despite the negative terms Vazquez left under, I think the Yankees starting just got a whole lot better. 

This deal effectively puts Phil Hughes back in the bullpen as a setup man to Mariano Rivera and Joba in the rotation as the No. 5 starter.  Even though Brian Cashman, the Yankees GM, says that both Hughes and Chamberlain will battle for the No. 5 starting role, I don’t think it makes much sense to have Hughes go through the same “Joba rules” that Joba had to endure the last few years when Joba is ready to be a full-time starter beginning in 2010.

I like the move even though this temporarily weakens the outfield.  To address the hole in left field created by the trade, the Yankees’ options are to either sign Jason Bay or Matt Holliday or re-sign Damon.  But I know that the team is looking past 2010 and would love to get Carl Crawford if he becomes a free agent after next season.

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Whether John Sterling ever meant it that way, Johnny Damon’s absurd contract demands with the Yankees have ended and the 36-year-old has decided to search elsewhere for a long-term deal after turning down the Yankees’ latest reported offer of 2 years worth about $14M.  According to the NY Post, the two sides were “off [the requests] big time” after negotiations started breaking down a few days ago.

Free-agent negotiations are such a funny thing because if a deal is not reached, both camps will always argue that the other camp is essentially trying to screw them over.  And while both are trying to get the most bang for the buck, they also both argue that they obviously want the deal to work but were unable to do so.

I don’t think New York really wanted Damon back anyhow, and they have to be ecstatic after what they got from him during his four-year contract.  With the Yankees, despite giving them shotty defense from the outfield oftentimes, Damon did give them production from the plate and was stellar in helping them win Game 4 of the 2009 World Series on their way to their 27th Championship.  I would think that both sides got what they wanted from the original contract and anything more would just be pressing it for the Yanks.  Here are Damon’s numbers in his fours years with New York:

In the words of Michael Kay, “See ya!”

The signing of Nick Johnson, who spent the first three seasons of his MLB career were with Yanks, is returning to New York and will most certainly take Damon’s place in the No. 2 spot as the full-time DH.  While Johnson’s defense is shotty at best, his bat has been superb (when he’s healthy) and he should fill in nicely in this on-base-machine lineup for New York.  In his career, Johnson has an OBP of .402, which is just what the Yankees need for their No. 3 and No. 4 hitters.

I don’t remember what Sterling’s call was when Johnson was with New York earlier, but I’m hoping it will be something like “Oh, that was a big Johnson.”

Damon moving on after Yankees give Johnson one-year deal [NY Post]

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It’s no secret that the Mets and Yankees had vastly different results to their 2009 seasons.  At least now someone is willing to summarize it succintly and put it on record.

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Music Takes Serious Blow

I assume Billboard is not talking about Nickelback the band.  If they are, clearly music was not the determining factor.

It’s rumored that in gratitude for the recognition, Nickelback is going to release a book entitled “One Habit of Highly Successful Bands,” in which they detail how to write one shitty song and then rename it multiple times to create an entire shitty album.

By the way, this is proof that just because something is popular doesn’t mean that it is good.

Best Artists of the Decade [billboard.com]

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I am not a fan of reality TV and would never schedule time to sit down and watch an entire show.  This isn’t because I don’t think it’s good programming, but it’s more because I am bothered by how contrived everything is and I don’t believe that any of it is real, which, to me, goes against the entire basis of reality TV.  I maintain that the best reality TV has and always will be sports, which is why I enjoy them so much. 

But every now and again I will catch snippets of reality shows as I’m flipping through the channels, in between innings or during a timeout, and on a rare occasion I will stay and watch a few minutes if I see something interesting.  This was the case tonight as I randomly flipped through the channels and landed on a show that one of my friends at work had mentioned—“The Sing Off” on NBC.  After he told me that one of the judges was Ben Folds, my interest was immediately piqued, although I could certainly do without the Ryan-Seacrest-wannabe Nick Lachey.

When I turned to the show, I understood by the title that there would be a singing competition of sorts, but I didn’t know that it was a capella groups or what kind of music they would be singing.  So as the show was coming out of commercial, Nick introduced the next group and mentioned that they would be singing a medley from The Who.

I thought it was great as the group began with “Behind Blue Eyes,” which morphed into “Who Are You,” and ended with “Baba O’Reilly.”  Once they were done, Nick asked each of the judges their opinions, beginning with Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls.  Nicole’s comments were directed towards the group’s performance as she pointed out the energy that they sung with and the smiles.  Constructive criticism it was not.  Next, Shawn Stockman, of Boyz II Men fame, gave his thoughts on the performance and also focused on the entertainment factors of the group, mentioning how much of a rock star one of the performers appeared to be.

But when Ben Folds began to critique the group, he blew the other two judges out of the water.  He hit upon the concept of how old records were focused on the lead singer and how, especially with “Behind Blue Eyes,” the melancholy was the essence of that song.  You could get the sense that Ben, who may not be as marketable as the other two, as far as looks are concerned, has made an in-depth study of music in his life, and is focused on harnessing the art of his craft.

As someone who firmly believes in a difference between the art of music and the appearance of music, it was nice to see that NBC promotes those, like a Ben Folds, who believe in that too and try to bring out the best in what he writes and listens to.  This is why, although it takes more time and effort, I try to seek out the best in music regardless of how someone looks or performs.  Justin Vernon or Sam Beam, for example, look nothing like some of these corporate pop bands, but their music is incredible and is well worth the time invested in getting to know it.

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[Editor’s note: it may seem redundant to state both “Men’s bathroom” and “urinal,” but this is to clear up the confusion that these rules apply to little boys as well.  Believe me, these rules would never apply to my two sons who like flaunt their own junk without inhibition.]

While the concept of having to urinate in public is embarrassing to begin with, gun-shy pissers everywhere were clearly given little thought by the creators of the urinal.  And because no formal rules have ever been written, I decided to make a concerted effort to set forth some sort of guideline to give a little privacy to what should be a private matter.

  1. Hide Your Shame—When you enter the bathroom, quickly survey the situation and apply this most basic rule of distance and space.  Take the urinal that provides the least likely possibility of seeing each other’s junk.  If the bathroom has only a trough, stand as far away as possible from others.  Splashing may occur, but it can be minimized with proper aim and technique.
  2. Choice and Accountability—In concert with rule #1, you must take the urinal furthest from the door and, therefore, closest to the far wall.  Depending on the number of urinals available, the next choice is to put at least one urinal between you and the next guy (see picture above).  If there are two guys positioned like the picture above, it is okay to take the middle urinal.  However, with any choice in life, there is accountability.  If you get splashed because of poor choice, you have no one else to blame but yourself.
  3. I Don’t Know What to Do With My Hands—The unoccupied hand (i.e. the hand not holding the junk) MUST be used to block/obstruct exposure of the junk.  To further explain, the unoccupied hand cannot rest on the top of the urinal, or remain in your pocket, or be holding a cell phone, which we’ll address later.  Also, you absolutely cannot strike a Superman pose with both hands on your hips, which will surely decrease accuracy.
  4. Close Encounters—You must stand as close to the urinal as possible.  There is to be no bending of the knees, no rotating of the hips, no stretching of any kind, no rainbows from five feet away, and absolutely no excessive spreading of the legs.  Shoulder width or urinal width is an appropriate measuring stick.
  5. Spray it Forward—I don’t think this needs to be overly complicated, but you’re not painting a mural.  The direction should be either straight out or straight down.  Don’t try to out think a urinal.
  6. No Talking—Get in and get out.  There is to be no conversing with the guy at the urinal next to you, with someone in a stall behind you, or especially with someone who is not even in the room (i.e. no cell phone conversations).
  7. Keep Your Eyes Forward—If you find that your eyes tend to wander, just try not to look down while you’re standing at the urinal or at least not in the direction of fellow pissers.  You may find that checking out each others’ junk is the most overblown cliché, but it certainly can lead to the most anger and discontent.
  8. Rock and Roll—When you’re done, you can certainly shake the junk once or twice to avoid PPD, but also try to avoid excessive bouncing or jostling.  Moreover, try not to make it seem like it’s a difficult task to get your over-sized gun back into its holster.

There might be more or better rules available, but these are a few of my thoughts based on informal and casual observation.  If you learn nothing else from this post, please keep this in mind that the underlying theme of urinal etiquette is to do your business without making it any one else’s.

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How does a fan become a fan? I was very young when I “became” a Yankees fan, and, as such, I don’t quite remember how it happened.  Whenever someone asks me, I generally reference one main contributing factor that may have led to the best (unimportant) decision of my life.  But who’s to say that this is the actual reason?

The main justification that I use is that my uncle played for the Yankees intermittently from 1986-1989, when I was 6-9 years old.  Although this is more of a significant reason than the average fan may have, I don’t ever remember seeing him pitch live, which is probably because he played about 3,000 miles away and television distribution in the ’80s wasn’t what it is today.

I do remember that whenever my cousins and I got together and played RBI Baseball on Nintendo we always argued over who would be the AL All-Star team because this was the only way to get a Yankee player—Donnie Baseball—on your team.  [In the late ’80s, mind you, the Yankees fielded some of the worst teams in its history.  Consequently, Nintendo felt compelled to leave the entire organization out of the game.  I couldn’t say I blamed them since the game was called RBI Baseball and the Yankees (outside of Mattingly, of course) consistently had the fewest RBIs in the league during those years, but without New York in the game, baseball fans in general were deprived of other Yankee greats such as Willie Randolph, Dave Winfield, and, of course, my uncle.]  Anyway, I use these lousy teams as an arguing point that I’m not a band wagon fan because who would have jumped on a band wagon that was missing three wheels and an axle?

Once this base was established, my fanaticism was solidified when the Yanks returned to glory in an improbable World Series win that saw them overcome an 0-2 series deficit against the Braves in 1996, winning their first title since 1978.  I remember Wade Boggs riding around the field at Yankee Stadium on the back of a police horse and the bitter-sweet feeling that Mattingly wasn’t there to do the same after retiring in 1995.

The rest of that dynasty was incredible as well, although I was out of the country for the 1999 and 2000 championship runs and had to relearn the team and renew my passion when I returned in May of 2001.  It wasn’t difficult, however, as the Yankees took the city of New York, and seemingly the entire country, on its back after the attacks of Sept 11 as it marched through the postseason, coming back from an 0-2 series deficit to the Athletics and then just destroying a Seattle Mariners team that had won a major league record 116 regular season games.  Even though the Yankees lost the 2001 World Series in as dramatic a fashion as there can be in baseball, I was enamored with the series and was never prouder to be a Yankees fan after their consecutive come-from-behind wins in Games 4 and 5 at Yankee Stadium.  I still maintain that the 2001 World Series was the greatest World Series I’ve ever seen despite the crushing loss in Game 7.

This last championship in 2009 was great to see after the 2003 World Series loss at home to a wild-card Marlins team, the debacle in 2004, consecutive first-round defeats in 2005-2007, and missing the playoffs altogether in 2008.  I understand that not many teams see as much winning or success as the Yankees do, and I cringe when anyone complains how long it’s been since the last championship, but I realized with this most recent World Series victory how difficult it is for a team to not only make the postseason but also win the whole thing.

Now as a 29-year-old adult, I am much more cognizant of how I, as a casual observer, have become a fan of any one team or sport, such as the New York Giants.  While there were several contributing factors that led to becoming a fan of the New York Yankees, I was certainly at a much more impressionable age than I am now, and as such, it’s been interesting to see the developmental process of how I now root for a team in a sport I didn’t grow up watching or much less care about until a few years ago.  I wouldn’t necessarily say that my rooting interest for the Giants runs very deep or that I use them for much more than a bridge between the World Series and Spring Training, but I enjoy some of the players and have really come to appreciate the level of talent it takes to be in the NFL.

Because I’m a Yankees fan, I listen to a lot of New York sports talk radio.  One of the main interviews each week during the NFL season in Eli Manning, who, in my opinion, received so much unfair negative criticism when he was drafted.  To use a misunderstood cliché, I really liked the cut of his jib and started rooting for him just because of how he accepted the unreasonable expectations and deflected a lot of the negativity and monotonous, repetitive questions by the New York media and Giants alike.

Anyway, as I started making time to watch each of the Giants games in 2007, I was impressed by Manning’s leadership on Sunday and looked forward to his interviews the next day on Monday.  I enjoyed following the team throughout the postseason run, and, like the rest of NFL fans, I was absolutely blown away when the Giants shocked the undefeated New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl that year.  Again, I don’t think my fanaticism for the Giants will ever run as deep as it is for the Yanks, but it was certainly solidified with the improbable, upset victory in Super Bowl XLII.

So, using both of these examples, how does one become a fan?  I think like anything in life, something or someone becomes stronger when faced with adversity, whether it’s deserved or not.  Without getting too dramatic about sports, which is, after all, a form of entertainment, my fanaticism for both the Yankees and Giants went through relative adversity.  First with the Yanks in the early ’80s as they stunk, which was even more painful since my uncle was on the team, and second with Manning and the Giants and undeserved criticism was heaped upon him for the most part.

But, again with the dramatics aside, both teams rose from the depths and persevered.  In 1996, an overacheiving Yankees team overcame great odds to win the World Series.  Likewise, in 2007, the wild-card Giants won three consecutive games on the road (Tampa Bay, Dallas, and Green Bay) just to reach the Super Bowl and face arguably the greatest NFL team ever in the Patriots.  But with an incredible drive late in the fourth quarter, led by the once-maligned Manning, the Giants scored with under a minute remaining and gave New England its one and only loss on the season.  Manning would go on to win the Super Bowl MVP.

Again, who knows what any of this means.  In light of bandwagons and front-runners, this is all just a way to be able to explain away one’s passion without appearing to be a total flake.  In any case, Let’s go Yankees!

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