The baseball season can be a long and tedious ordeal, so players often have to find inventive ways to break up the monotany. For the New York Mets and reliever Tim Byrdak, that meant bringing a new mascot into Citi Field over the weekend for the Mets’ series against the cross-town Yankees. Inspired by closer Frank Francisco’s comments to reporters before the series began, Byrdak purchased a live chicken to have run around the locker room before the games. Turns out, he may not have thought this all the way through.
Officiating can be a difficult profession. It’s a thankless job and one that EVERYBODY thinks they can do better. No matter how fairly you try and call a game, one side is always going to end up disappointed with the calls that didn’t fall their way. Nowhere is that more true than in baseball, especially for a home-plate umpire. Calling balls and strikes can be incredibly stressful with the naturally arbitrary nature of the “strike zone” combined with pitches coming in at over 90 mph, so it’s pretty common for people to get bent out of shape over the calls of balls and strikes. Every home plate ump has to deal with it in their own way, though. For umpire Laz Diaz, his way is to be a dick.
During the offeseason, one the biggest trades to happen in baseball was between the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners. The M’s, flush with young pitching, sent rookie phenom Michael Pineda to New York in exchange for Jesus Montero, the most highly touted hitting prospect in their farm system. Montero had been linked to attempted deals in the past couple of seasons for Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez, so the Yanks had a high opinion of the young slugger. However, an aging rotation stretched then by injury and an increasingly crowded competition behind the plate made the Yankees and GM Brian Cashman more open to trading him, and they felt they got a good young piece to build up the starting rotation for the future. Turns out, the future’s going to have to wait for a bit.
One of our long-running series here at Mild Mannered is the “Who’s not impressed with Tim Tebow?” stories where we break down what disparaging things people are saying about or doing to the most “aw shucks”-iest quarterback in football. It’s been a while since we checked in with where the Tebow hate is coming from, and it’s been a tumultous offseason for Tim. After seemingly locking up the starter’s job in Denver with sheer force of will and a serendipitous run to the playoffs, including a playoff win over Pittsburgh, Tebow found himself on the trading block when the Broncos won free agency by signing Peyton Manning, making the services of Tebow expendable.
The Broncos ended up trading Tebow to the New York Jets, who had just given incumbent disappointment Mark Sanchez a rich extension. Officially, Tebow comes in to be the backup to Sanchez and to run some special packages that new Jets OC Tony Sparano will work tirelessly this offseason to come up with a new name for other that “wildcat.” Will it start a quarterback controversy when Sanchez starts crumbling in big moments? Well, it wouldn’t be a Jets season without inner strife, now would it?? Tebow’s national popularity is expected to be a pretty big distraction for a team that’s been nothing but distractions on their way to a disappointing 2011 campaign, and nobody is crystal clear on how the quarterback time share is going to work, but one thing is for certain: there’s plenty of excitement about Tebow in the Big Apple…unless you’re a New Yorker who sees Tebow out supporting the home-town Yankees, that is.
When I was a kid, I had a friend who had a trampoline in his back yard. We weren’t allowed to jump on it because my friend’s dad didn’t want some neighborhood kid hurting himself on the trampoline and their parents suing and blah blah blah. It didn’t make sense at the time to me because it’s a trampoline, an instrument of joy! All we’re going to is bounce up and down and up and down, I mean what’s the worst that can happen? Well, thanks to Joba Chamberlain and the worst father-son outing in history, I now know about the horrible death traps that trampolines really are. It may cost Joba his career, but I think we can all agree that you can’t put a price on a lesson like that.
The New York Yankees have fallen on hard times. The Bronx Bombers have won just one World Series in the last decade (gasp!) and the best team money can buy just isn’t satisfied with that. One of the big reasons for the epic drought has been the reliance on aging veterans to act as the backbone of the team. Derek Jeter is now 37 and widely recognized as having lost a couple of steps but remains the center of the team and its captain. Jorge Posada has hung around for several years while his play declined before finally hanging his cleats up this offseason at the ripe young age of 40. Mariano Rivera remains the backstop of the bullpen at 42. Alex Rodriguez is the young buck of the group at 36. The free agent acquisitions throughout the years haven’t helped either, bringing in an over the hill Randy Johnson, for example, in an attempt to bolster their bullpen. The Yankees have gotten long in the tooth and their age has come back to haunt them down the stretch almost every year but their 2009 World Series run. With the retirement of Posada and the trading of Jesus Montero, the Yankees are in the market for a new bat, and they’re looking at some free agents…some oooold free agents. According to ESPN, the Yankees are looking to sign either Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, or Raul Ibanez in order to really put a geriatric strangle hold on that label of being old. After the jump, we break down this crop of possible new Yankee sluggers.
Jorge Posada has spent his entire careers as the signal caller for the New York Yankees but now the 40-year old free agent is looking for a new place to play. The 2011 season was the worst offensive season in his long career, in which he hit .235 with 14 home runs and 44 RBIs, including a miserable .092 batting average against left-handed pitching. Posada was phased out from the defense, getting replaced at catcher by Russell Martin, and got relegated to DH-duty for the first time in his career. At one point, he decided to take himself out of a game because he got dropped to ninth in the batting order and speculation ran rampant on whether or not he would make the Yankees postseason roster. Now, as a free agent with “no percentage” chance of returning to the Yankees, Posada is venturing out and gauging interest in his services from around the league. One of his first reported stops on his “will you sign me?” tour was the other team in New York, the Mets.
As a society, we should probably feel bad about reveling in the misery and misfortune of professionals when they fail miserably at their jobs. I’ll work on that tomorrow, though, cause today marks the end of the inevitable free falls of the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves. Both held nine game leads for the wild card early in September, but then each of them began a nosedive that destroy their seasons. Yesterday, on the last day of the season, both teams found themselves tied for the wild card with the teams that they had “insurmountable” leads over just one month ago, and three of the four teams decided to end the season as they had played it; dramatically.
By virtue of proximity to their home studios, ESPN seems convinced that the Yankees and Red Sox are the most important baseball teams in history. One of those teams is flirting with missing the playoffs. Hint: they overpaid for Carl Crawford this offseason.