Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Baaaasebaaaall, movies, and the Mets

It's been a long time, I shouldn't'a left you,
Without a dope post to read (or two)
Think about all the weak posts you slept through --
Time's up! Sorry I kept you...

(apologies to Rakim, and for this post title, more apologies to the guy who wrote that baseball song that he then customized for every major league team)

But it has been too long since a new post has shown up here. I created a post offline last night, then forgot to save it to my flash drive so I could take it to work and post it from there. They always say the memory is the first thing to go. (grin)

So the Yankees, embarrassed and angry that the $200-million-plus paid to their band of suspects didn't get them past the first round of the playoffs for a second straight season, want to fire Joe Torre and replace him with Lou Piniella. Well, they're right about someone having to lose their job for incompetence and lack of foresight. Too bad that somebody can't be George Steinbrenner.

In yesterday's NY Daily News Mike Lupica makes all the all the right noises to avoid sounding like a Steinbrenner hatchet-man when he says, in so many words, that Torre isn't responsible for the free-agent acquisitions that turned the Yankees from a team to a bunch of individuals who take the field at the same time and play wearing the same uniform. He admits that firing Torre won't make the pitching staff any younger or any better. It won't solve Alex Rodriguez' protracted I-problem. But then he says that some kind of change has to be made, and that nobody gets to be Yankees manager forever, not even Torre.

Well, he's right that nobody gets to be Yankee manager forever, and I never thought Torre would even try to bend that rule. But firing him for the failures of his team is the wrong move. What they need to do is get rid of the guys who are too wrapped up in themselves (Alex RodrIguez, Gary SheffIeld) to be team players. A caller to a radio call-in show on WFAN here in New York pointed out this past Sunday that during post-elimination interviews, Jeter's sentences were dominated by "we," while Pay-Rod's were dominated by "I" (hence my mention of his "I-problem"). Kinda vindicates Steve Phillips, former Mets general manager, for breaking off negotiations with Rodriguez back when he was a free agent, claiming that Pay-Rod wanted his own publicity staff and an office with a secretary. Phillips probably exaggerated when relating what he says Rodriguez wanted, but A-Rod definitely turns any team from a unit of 25 players to a "24+1" unit, and that never works. Even Reggie Jackson, king of I-problems, knew that he couldn't be that separate from the team for very long and expect success. At least I think he did...

Bill Madden of the Daily News suggests that some apparently believe that if Piniella is hired in Torre's place, he might be able to get more out of Rodriguez. They got along well when Piniella was managing the Seattle Mariners and Rodriguez was their start shortstop. But that same story also points out that it was after Rodriguez left, winding up in Texas with a $252 million contract and a nickname ("Pay-Rod") I'm sure he hates, that the Mariners set a regular season record with a 116-46 record. I'm sure that's not a coincidence.

Even Derek Jeter gets some of the blame in the Daily News stories, which point out that Jeter was quick to come to Jason Giambi's defense when the sterioids stories began hitting the news, while doing and saying absolutely nothing to bring A-Rod into the fold when he began floundering. Maybe Jeter, the team captain, could have been more supportive of A-Rod, but that wouldn't change the fact that Jeter is a team player, and Rodriguez is not. Case closed.

Meanwhile, there's a report that, if Joe Torre is indeed fired, the Texas Rangers would be interested in hiring him, since the recent firing of Buck Showalter leaves the managerial position open. If Torre goes down there and tears up the American League the way the Mets did the National League this year, Buck Showalter will be vindicated in the claims he made back in 2002, that he planted the seeds that grew into Yankee world championships in the late 90s and the Arizona Diamondbacks championship in 2001. After all, Showalter, who was given an unusual amount of say in personnel decisions, helped create the teams that went on to win it all in New York and Arizona. If Torre gets fired in NY, takes the Texas job, and wins it all in 2007 or 2008, it would probably be right to conclude that Showalter should be in the front office, not on the field. Not that he's a bad manager, per se, but if Texas winds up being the third consecutive team he helped put together that goes on to win a World Series within two seasons of firing him as manager, he should seriously consider seeking a front office job and leave the field managing to others.

There's also an article in the sports section of yesterday's Daily News suggesting that maybe Torre isn't as close to being fired as all the screaming headlines suggest, that this might be Steinbrenner's way, though an underling, of making sure the Yankees remain the top baseball story in New York, even though the Mets are the only New York baseball team whose season is not over. Wouldn't surprise me at all; they say Steinbrenner hates it when the Mets make the front or back pages of the NY newspapers for any reason, baseball-related or not. Even in the aftermath of 9-11 it became an issue when Mets players were in the Ground Zero area volunteering their services -- visiting the injured in area hospitals, helping to feed the rescue and cleanup workers, etc. -- while Yankees players were conspicuously absent. The Yankees players, no doubt egged on by the front office, accused the Mets players of grandstanding to make the papers, while the Mets players accused the Yankees of not taking the opportunity to do something to help.

Meanwhile, outside the stadium...

This, from yesterday's New York Daily News, near the very end of the Lupica article calling for Torre's dismissal and replacing him with Lou Piniella:

Across Rupert Place, a couple of kids from the neighborhood, Nelson and Alvin G, from 162nd and Woodycrest, were playing basketball at Macombs Dam Park, which will be razed soon for the new Yankee Stadium.

"What did you think about the Yankees?" Nelson G was asked.

The kid smiled. "Let's go, Mets!" he said. Then, he was chanting it. "Let's go, Mets! Let's go, Mets!"

Then there were two more kids coming from the next court... laughing and yelling for the Mets across the street from Yankee Stadium.

Take that, General von Steingrabber!

"The Last King of Scotland"

Stanley Crouch, professional grouch for the NY Daily News, has good things to say about this movie, namely how it personalizes Uganda dictator Idi Amin Dada, generally portrayed by history as a monster in a uniform. Crouch says it does a good job of showing how Amin was able to sway people into seeing him as "not the animal he's made out to be," and that in doing so Forest Whitaker does the "unimaginable."

What I want to know is, why is this movie called "The Last King of Scotland"? I know a pivotal part of the story is how Amin manages to get a young doctor from Scotland to agree to be his personal physician, and how this man tries to reconcile the man he knows as his patient with the animal Amin was made out to be by the rest of the world. But it's a bit... disconcerting, to see a pic of a maniacally-grinning Whitaker, in uniform as Amin, with "The Last King of Scotland" as the caption to the photo.

"One team plays games, the other plays baseball"

That is the headline at the top of Lisa Olson's story comparing the Mets NLCS team and the Yankees' failure to launch.

She make some good points in comparison, but the point, not mentioned in the story, that resonates with me is this:

Pedro Martinez, the staff ace, was unavailable for much of the season, and totally unavailable for the postseason; Orlando Hernandez, not the staff ace but maybe the best postseason pitcher in the game, was also unavailable for the postseason -- and still, the Mets swept the Dodgers. They needed a lot of help from the bullpen -- in fact, no team that has swept the first round of playoffs has had the starting pitchers consistently leave the games so early -- but the bullpen came through, as bullpens are supposed to, and the Mets are in the league playoffs while the Yankees can only "participate" in the postseason as spectators.

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