Friday, February 29, 2008
Naturally, we have to use this moment to look at all the great leaps in Mets history.
1) Ron Swoboda in the 1969 World Series. Rocky’s diving, sliding gem prevented the Orioles from taking the lead, setting the stage for another glorious Mets comeback. Sprawling on the rightfield sod was Swoboda’s highlight as a Met.
2) N-D! Had Aaron Heilman kept Yadier Molinda as Yadier Molina and not turned him into Yadier Bleeping Molina, this spectacular leap would have surpassed Swoboda as the all-time best Mets catch.
3) David Wright’s barehanded leap will live in highlight reels for pretty much the rest of time.
4) Jesse Orosco’s leap for joy after closing out Game Seven of the 1986 World Series was a thing of beauty – and his glove has yet to fall back to Earth.
5) This is a different leap. A leap of faith. Sure, we all believed that Mo had both healed and slimmed down when we brought him from the Angels for Kevin Appier. Alas he was neither healed nor slim. But we’ll never forget that blast halfway up the Shea scoreboard to teach the vile Yankees a lesson.
1) Costco. Costco rocks! I’m renaming the store Costco BSE! for Best Store Ever! My son bought his iPod in 2005. It died this week. I brought it back to Costco, and they gave me store credit to go buy a new one. He replaced a 20-gig black-and-white version with an 80-gig model with the full-color screen and video – for about $70 less than the first one. And I ate some awesome samples, too.
2) I finally got my hands on the Topps limited edition Mets team set from the end of last year. The Mr. Met card and coaches cards alone make this a worthy addition. But there is some disappointment.
At 55 cards, I was hoping to see everybody in there. But there are 31 cards of players and coaches – and the mascot – then the rest are pretty much the same players on personal highlights and “classic combos.”
Glavine’s 300th win and
But I’m bummed because the set is missing most of the bullpen. No Pedro Feliciano, no Scott Schoenweis, no Guillermo Mota. Mr. Met has a card, Guillermo Mota doesn't. Granted, there were games where I would rather have seen Mr. Met on the mound than Mota. But in a card set, I want to see all the players, even the bad ones.
3) This week I described both Hillary Clinton and a local union as fighting like caged wombats. Then my wife pointed out that wombats are actually cuddly furballs that might lick your hand if provoked. I really need to start watching Animal Planet some more.
5) It is wrong to take pleasure in another person's problems -- unless that person is Roger Clemens.
4) People keep telling me I look like Greg Grunberg, who plays Matt Parkman on “Heroes.” I don’t see the resemblance. Decide for yourself.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
But you have to understand the setting and some of the players.
The paper got us discounted memberships at a health club not far from the office. In its day, it must have been a pretty cool place.
But it appeared there were some financial issues, because the owners seemed to be cutting corners on things like cleaning and maintaining machines. This was confirmed about a year later when it closed its doors for good.
There were about a dozen treadmills and exercise bikes facing one wall, which would stink except that each had its own little television hanging in front of it. If you were lucky, you could get a spot where both the treadmill and the television were working.
A typical night for me would be to arrive after work at 9 p.m. and run on the treadmill for an hour or more. The television program selection at that time of night was pretty lousy, so I’d usually bring my Walkman and listen to music and just flip around the channels to have something to look at.
There were two other runners on most nights. Actually, one was more of a walker, an older guy who always had a headband and a towel around his neck, who seemed to have the treadmill going at its slowest rate. And he’d usually get engrossed in a show and stand straddling the spinning belt.
Then there was a younger woman who seemed to have the treadmill set on “cheetah.” I couldn’t run that fast even with Derek F. Jeter chasing me trying to put a Yankees cap on my head.
I’d typically keep the setting between 5 and 6 mph, which is just fast enough to keep jogging and make you pay attention to what you’re doing.
And in typical health club form, I never had a conversation with either of these people. It was a bunch of people in headphones never communicating with anyone except the kid downstairs who handed out the towels.
Well, one night I discovered the show “Greg the Bunny,” which had Seth Green and Eugene Levy, and was about a show like the “Muppet Show” with people and puppets. It lasted on FOX about as long as Chan Ho Park lasted with the Mets.
In a rare move, I plugged the headphones into the television instead of the tape player.
And in the show, the puppet Greg bought some novelty eyes that played “Mr. Bojangles” when put together. I think there were some Sammy Davis Jr. jokes.
Anyway, Greg was being tormented by a dog owned by Seth Green’s girlfriend, and some of the other characters decided to chill out the pooch by neutering him on the sly. Then they thought the dog’s, um, area, looked deflated and their handiwork would be discovered. So they stuck Greg’s toy eyes in there.
Naturally, the girlfriend came back, the dog woke up and stood up, and “Mr. Bojangles” started playing from you-know-where and they were busted. It’s funnier when you see it.
Which I did. As I was running. I was laughing throughout the show, but when “Bojangles” started playing, I started laughing so hard that I was coughing and couldn’t catch my breath.
At which point, I lost my footing, fell in my butt on the treadmill, which, of course was still rolling since I refused to wear that kill clip on the string.
That sent me rolling off the back of the treadmill and onto the floor, tumbling over in a move that would make Mary Lou Retton proud. I was still barely breathing from laughing so hard. I never caught the full ending of the show until we bought the DVDs last year.
At this point, cheetah girl and slow-mo guy looked over to see me sprawled on the floor, beet red at the embarrassment.
Not that they stopped running – or not running, in the case of slow-mo guy – or even asked if I was OK.
There is no graceful way to recover from this. After picking myself up off the floor and limping back on the treadmill I said something like, “So, um, you guys watching the show with the bunny? Be careful.”
Which is not to say that I don't occasionally fall off the treadmill. But now that we have one in the basement it's not as embarrassing.
No, the embarrassing moments are now saved for more crowded events, like my first Komen 5K and the disastrous first water stop.
Friday, February 22, 2008
How cold, you might ask? I did a local story about the recalled beef and stood in a school district’s massive walk-in freezer that keeps the soon-to-be-banished bovine remains at a constant 10 degrees. And it was warmer in the freezer than it was outside.
One the bright side, I was able to lock a local television news crew in the freezer for a spell. Alpha Dogs get to control the freezer door. Woof.
Hopefully the Deezo Friday Five can take the edge off the chill.
1) Mixed emotions about seeing Johan Santana on the cover of Sports Illustrated. I think SI has a football cover for 48 of its 52 issues, so we won’t see another baseball player for months. Seriously, you know there was a discussion on whether Tom Brady would wear a bikini for the swimsuit issue. On one hand it’s magnificent to see Johann in his pinstripes.
And the article is written by Lee Jenkins instead of Tom Verducci, so we are spared the inevitable “Santana would probably rather be a Yankee to benefit from Derek Jeter’s intangibles” line.
But I’m just worried about the dreaded SI cover jinx. The Mets need to cover him in bubble wrap until the next issue, which I suspect has some Manning brother on the cover enjoying the off-season.
2) Emo kitties. Clearly these people watched a lot of 1980s-era MTV. And I salute them.
3) I’m deep into "Dead Zone" season five as my treadmill viewing project. But season six doesn’t appear to be headed to DVD anytime soon, so I’m leaning toward starting a long-term relationship with "ER," though it takes a couple years before Dr. Kerry Weaver arrives.
Picking a treadmill show isn’t as easy as you think. We need a show with multiple seasons that will interesting enough that you can look down and discover that a half-mile has passed without even realizing it. After the embarrassing “Greg the Bunny” incident in the health club, comedies are not allowed. Damn, that hurt.
4) The Grand Rapids Griffins allowed me to take my five journalism students up in the press box for a game to see how professional sports writers work. I was telling the kids that one of the fun parts about being in a press box is that you never know who might be up there. And moments later, Steve Yzerman walked past. Once in a while it’s nice for them to think I know what I’m talking about.
5) I’ve decided that the 2008 Topps design is the company’s best in years. And I like some of the retro inserts and presidential subsets But it would still be nice to be able to pull a Met from a pack. Any Met, at this point. And I covet this Seaver card.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
That annual debut lost a lot of the luster when companies started offering packs for the main sets before Thanksgiving, and began issuing new sets seemingly every other week.
The market has become a little saner now that the masses no longer believe they can finance their retirement with Mark McGwire rookie cards. Seems like the only people buying cards these days are people like me, who see cardboard rectangles with baseball players on them instead of dollar signs.
Major League Baseball has even decreed that new sets of the year actually have to come out around the time pitchers and catchers report – as opposed to trick-or-treaters.
So once again, I was excited to see new sets come out last week. I bought a couple packs of Upper Deck and a couple packs of Topps. UD is doing the usual minimalist design thing, and Topps is doing the retro thing, which means the world is turning in its proper orbit.
Alas, the only Met I was able to pull was Damion Easley in a rather pedestrian action shot. So rather than celebrate the new, let’s take only last look at the best and worst of 2007.
Let’s start with the worst, which would be this Jose Reyes card from the Topps Allen and Ginter set.
That is, the card says it’s Jose Reyes. Looking at the portrait, it could be Luis Castillo. Or Endy Chavez. Or David Newhan. Truth be told, I can’t tell who it’s supposed to be.
It’s a portrait by Dick Perez, who can be excellent – and not.
I’d say one of two things happened here.
One possibility is that Perez is right-handed and decided to see what it would be like if he painted with the brush in his left.
The other is that Perez became nostalgic for those days when Donruss had him churning out entire subsets of Diamond Kings in about an hour.
Either way, these cards are too expensive to be this bad.
So let’s dwell on the positive. Here are three cards that I thought were the best, and it happens that two came from the same set.
First is this Endy Chavez card from Upper Deck, showing his most-glorious leaping catch of Scott Rolen’s near-homer in Game Seven of the 2007 NLCS. Seeing this card almost made me forget how that game – and the season -- ended.
And note that I said “almost.” Aaron Heilman, you are still not off the hook.
And speaking of things that end badly, check out David Wright’s card from that set. The photo is from the 2006 All-Star Game, just after he smashed the home run that tied the game. Note the Astros coaches in the photo trying to touch D-Wright for some karma.
But heck, everyone knows you’re not supposed to touch an Astros coach during a game. Never. Wright might have been the MVP of that game, too, had Trevor Hoffman not gone Mota with two down in the ninth.
The graphic elements on both are non-existent. But when the photos are this good, that’s OK.
Then we have my favorite Mets card of 2007. Upper Deck did all kinds of neat things with its Goudey retro set, and this photo illustration of Carlos Delgado is just perfect. The pose, the smile, the sun illuminating his face – it’s classic baseball player as American hero.
And in this era of bat-chucking, wife-blaming, alleged B-12-injecting stars, I can appreciate a little hero worship.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Reps. Burton and Waxman looked to be pretty rough, and it's a great relief that, say, unlike Roger, my spouse won't roll over when the subpoena arrives .
So I got that going for me.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
I can imagine the awkward conversation in the Clemens household today.
Rocket: Hello, honey. I was talking to some folks today. They asked about you.
Debbie: Roger, you were talking to congressmen about steroids. You didn’t tell them about me, did you?
Rocket: Me? Sweetheart! Never. I’ll tell you what, though. That Andy Pettitte sure does have a big mouth.
Debbie: Oh great. You are in so much trouble.
Rocket: Well, there’s more. Remember the 2000 World Series?
Debbie: Sure. That’s the one you won, unlike that disaster against the White Sox.
Rocket: Yeah, that’s the one. They had all kinds of questions. But I was pretty smart. I told them that you said, “Wow, how about that Mike Piazza!” and I got all confused and thought you said, “Now, throw a bat at Mike Piazza!”
The Debbie made him do it!
Debbie: You didn’t! Now that’s my fault, too? Am I on the hook for the 2004 All-Star Game meltdown, too?
Rocket: I thought....I thought....
Debbie: See that’s the problem, Roger. You know you’re not supposed to go thinking for yourself. Why didn’t you listen to Rusty? What has he doing when all this was happening?
Rocket: He kept muttering, “I have a blockhead for a client.” And that’s just not true because Chuck Knoblauch has a different lawyer.
Debbie: Roger. Just stop talking.
Rocket: By the way, the Astros, Blue Jays and Red Sox all called. They said it’s OK with them if I want to wear a Yankee cap on the Hall of Fame plaque. That's just swell of them because I have so much on my mind right now and can't make big decisions like that.
Debbie: I don't think that's gonna be a problem.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
There's never a bad reason to enjoy highlights from the 1969 World Series, but pay particular attention to Shea's famous "Sign Man," Karl Ehrhardt, who died last week at 83.
With his Mets derby and massive collection of signs, Ehrhardt was a staple at Shea from the 1960s through the 1980s when there was some kind of falling out.
Watching the video is also a little sad when you think that so many people associated with that magical team are slipping away. We also lost Don Cardwell this year, and Donn Clendennon not long ago.
If there is a Mets Hall of Fame at Citi Field, I hope there is some reference to Ehrhardt, a throwback to the days when stadiums could rely on fans to provide some of the color, and not creepy things like scoreboard dot races.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Mets: With great fanfare the Mets showed off Johan Santana, winner of two Cy Young awards and the well-earned reputation as the best left-hander on the planet.
It was all smiles after the Mets showed dramatic video highlights of Santana’s past glories. He then donned the classic pinstriped jersey and solid blue cap.
Santana then posed around the stadium, with beautiful Citi Field rising in the background – a spot where Johan expects to win more Cy Young Awards, along with an MVP and possibly a Nobel Prize and a Grammy.
There is no proof that John McCain then called and asked him to be his running mate.
Yankees: With no fanfare, the Yankees announced their two main acquisitions: Morgan Ensberg and Chris Woodward.
Ensberg split last season between the Houston Astros and San Diego Padres. The Yankees would be looking at him as a first baseman, where he played just one game with San Diego last August. Note to existing first baseman Jason Giambi. If they’re handing the job to a guy who played one game at that spot, that would be a vote of no confidence in your ability to field a ground ball.
Then you have Woodward, who had two somewhat productive seasons with the Mets before starting down a path of playing for the team’s arch enemies. He hit a robust .216 with the vile Braves last year. He must not have read the post about what happens when Mets go bad and join the Yankees.
There was no press conference, no jersey donning and no posing.
Former employees linked to steroids:
Mets: Former clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski was sentenced to five years probation after cooperating with baseball's investigation. Radomski admitted selling steroids, human growth hormone and speed to dozens of current and former major leaguers.
Not good. But it is rarely noted that he did all this after – not while – he was on the Mets payroll. I’m sure he had other jobs, too, but all we hear about is the one with the Mets. It’s not like he has been accused of giving roids to Mets players while he was there.
Yankees: Former Yankee Bat-Chucker trainer Brian McNamee was making the rounds on Capitol Hill on Thursday in preparation for next week's House hearing.
McNamee allegedly handed over vials with traces of steroids and human growth hormone, as well as blood-stained syringes and gauze pads that might contain Bat-Chucker's DNA.
Then things got crazy. There were reports that McNamee not only injected Bat-Chucker, but Lady Bat-Chucker, too! Allegedly she wanted to look buff before posing with her husband in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
Mets: Announced that Long Islander Billy Joel would perform the final concert at Shea Stadium.
I have to say that I love Billy, despite some nasty Yankee taint. One of his buds is wearing a Yankee shirt of shame, err, jersey on the back of “The Stranger.” He filmed a video performing in the Bronx. And he mentions the Yankees, by name, in at least three songs.
But Billy’s been saying all the right things.”Shea Stadium is one of the most hallowed venues in rock 'n' roll history and it's an honor to help throw Shea the ultimate concert farewell party," he said in a prepared statement. "As a sports fan and a music lover, I will always have a place for Shea Stadium in my heart. I thank the Mets for giving me and my fans a chance to rock Shea Stadium one last time for the ages."
Joel expressed his thanks at the press conference, where he was given a Mets jersey with "JOEL O8" on the back.
Joel apparently said used to be a Dodgers fan – which makes him a legacy Mets fan – and was distressed that the Dodgers left Brooklyn. He even noted watching Mets pitcher Wilmer "Vinegar Bend" Mizell in the 1960s.
"I've been to more Mets games than Yankees games," he said Joel.
Joel also indicated he would have written more songs about the Mets had he known more words that rhyme with "Mets." I know plenty, but it’s not like we require our rock singers to be great scholars.
Friends, I think what we have here is a convert. I can accept that Billy was sucked into the Yankee vortex in those hazy days when he was driving around the Hamptons like Toonces.
It’s also very possible that Christie Brinkley was a Yankee fan, and she led him to the dark side. But the Uptown Girl is gone and Bill has dried up. Let’s face it, we’ve all seen people who look back at their time in the bottle and realized they did some things they regret. In Billy’s case, it was rooting for the Yankees.
Mets fans are forgiving. Our tent is big. We can welcome Billy back – and ask that he let Twisted Sister open the show for him!
Yankees: The Yankees are closing out their dingy playpen this year – and apparently can’t get anyone for a farewell concert.
But this week the team discussed its new stadium. According to one report I read the new “stadium will have party suites, a members-only restaurant, a martini bar and a price tag to match all the luxury -- $1.3 billion, up from a $1 billion estimate last year.
"We tried to reflect a five-star hotel and put a ballfield in the middle," Yankees Chief Operating Officer Lonn Trost said.
Yikes. I don’t know about you guys, but if I wanted to go to a five-star hotel, I’d go to a five-star hotel – not a baseball stadium.
Kind of makes you wonder who the Yankees think their target audience is. I’m a pretty typical baseball fan. I stay at places I can afford, like the Hampton Inn and its breakfast bar with the cool waffle-makers.
And when I go to a ballgame, I like to watch a ballgame, not wander around pricy martini bars.
It’s almost like the Yankees are trying to distract you from watching the game.
Then again, if I was a Yankees exec and I’m looking at the field and seeing Morgan Ensberg at first, Jason Giambi trying to figure out how to wear his glove and whether the people seated in the family box are a little too buff, I’d try distracting the fans, too.
Luckily, we get to see Johan Santana and Billy Joel instead.
Friday, February 08, 2008
One of the joys of blogging is that you get to meet all kinds of nice people. One who found me was Dan, from Ohio, who roots for the Indians and does cool things like play in Wiffle Ball tournaments.
Dan’s blog, Deezo Feezo, was required reading because of his slightly off-kilter take on life -- mostly sports, bad television and his hunt for a decent meal.
My favorite feature was his “Friday Five” -- five things collected for their coolness and randomness. Life goes by too quickly, and once in a while we need to pause and take stock of the little things that make it special.
Alas, Dan put his blogging on hiatus and my Fridays were just not as complete. We exchanged e-mail this week, and he said he hopes to be back someday. I think the Indians’ playoff collapse and the demise of “The O.C.” was just too much for him.
In the meantime, he has entrusted me with the Friday Five. And I shall keep it warm until he returns. And I'll take better care of it than, say, Tim Burton did with the "Planet of the Apes" franchise.
And so, I present to you the Deezo Friday Five.
1) Johan Santana wearing the traditional Mets pinstripes at his introductory press conference.
2) Dancing Bear. How much better would things be today if Dancing Bear was unleashed on an unsuspecting world?
3) Jimmy John’s “Big John.” Best. Sandwich. Ever.
4) “Mutts” homage to “The Big Lebowski.
5) “Dead Zone” Season Four. I watch DVDs on the treadmill and I’m working through DZ right now. I’m not seeing as much of Sarah in this season. I don’t know if that means the writers ran out of things for her to do, or Nicole DeBoer was too busy running around Star Trek conventions to show up on the set.
Enjoy the weekend.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
Shockingly, I’m dealing with a "magic baby sock," leading to my most embarrassing moment with an important politician.
In the sitcom, Kramer and Newman were walking out of Shea as Keith Hernandez -- who booted a ball and cost the Mets the game -- walked by.
Newman sneered, "Nice game, pretty boy!" toward Hernandez, who allegedly spit at the pair, with the loogie bouncing off Kramer and hitting Newman in several places, all captured on Zapruder-like footage.
It's hard to picture Keith doing this. After all, no loogie was fired at my grandmother when she accidentally stabbed him in the belly with a broomstick in a Florida Publix supermarket.
But I digress.
Michigan’s governor was in town Friday to speak at a conference and my journalism students were assigned to join others from the university in covering her address.
I work with the nice folks in the governor’s communications office from time to time, contacted them to learn the topic of the speech and told them about my new class.
And I was thrilled when they said that since my class was small, they’d try to work out something where the governor could meet the students before or after her talk.
And sure enough, we met the staff outside a conference room before the speech,. The governor graciously came out and shook hands with each of the students and asked them about their classes. Out of the 50 students from the university attending the event, only my five had this opportunity.
I was beaming and thinking how I would accept my "Coolest Adjunct Instructor — Ever!" award.
Then it happened.
The governor asked the students if they would like to pose for some photos. I was standing off to the side, holding my packet from the conference.
I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out my camera.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something small and white flutter down and land at the feet of the governor.
I pretended I didn’t see it.
I was the only one who did that.
In fact, everyone else took a step back. Except for the state police trooper assigned to protect the governor. I think he took a step forward.
My mind raced. Did I just throw a snotty tissue at Michigan’s governor? I didn’t want to look down.
But look I did. And rolled up in a ball a foot from the governor was not a snotty tissue, but a baby’s sock. I was relieved because it could not have come from me. It must have been there all along.
But then the governor bent down and picked it up as her press staff stepped in closer.
"Looks like you dropped a sock," she said.
"It can’t be from me, my youngest is in fifth grade," I said. I’m sure I was beet red.
"Well, it’s not from me, I have no kids," said the staffer closest to this unfolding disaster.
The governor kind of made a face and handed it to the staffer.
"Maybe it came from my conference packet," I offered.
I wanted to run and hide. But I’m fairly certain that had I started running, the state trooper would have given chase, body slammed me, maybe used pepper spray just because he could. Then he would have dragged me down the stairs and off to jail where I’d be sitting next to thugs who would immediately move away from me after asking, "What are you in for?" and me replying "I threw a baby sock at the governor."
Luckily, she moved to distance herself from the growing sock-tossing incident and said something like, "Well, let’s take some pictures!"
My mind now thought what the "Most Embarrassing Adjunct Instructor — Ever!" award looked like.
The governor posed with all the kids, and then insisted that I join them for a shot, which was kind considering that I was just accused of throwing infant hosiery her way.
There were only three places this sock could have come from: The conference packet, my coat pocket, or Derek F. Jeter hiding behind a plant.
There would be no reason for it to be in the packet, which was pretty flat except for the name tag inside, and it’s not like I was holding it upside down spilling the contents.
But there is equally no reason for it to be in my coat pocket. My youngest is 10 and her socks are much bigger.
I was around an infant a couple weeks ago in church, but I wear that coat often and load my pockets down with the cell phone, iPod and wallet. Certainly I would have found a sock in there before.
When in doubt, I tend to balme Derek F. Jeter for my woes. Yeah, irate over the Johan Santana trade, bleeping Jeter snuck into the hotel, hid behind a plant and tossed a sock out there to spoil my moment of glory.
Alas, we know Jeter can't move that fast.
So the only thing that makes sense is that this is a "magic sock" that materialized out of thin air near my coat pocket and for reasons unknown to us mortals, decided to heave itself at the foot of Michigan’s governor.
Doesn’t seem plausible. But then, neither do the other scenarios.
The students actually didn’t seem too horrified, and now had something to tease me about. There’s a chance "sockgate" might be mentioned in the next edition of the university newspaper.
Apparently the governor wasn’t too upset. I sent a thank you e-mail to the staffer and got this reply: "You are most welcome and do be sure to let us know the origin of that sock!! Talk to you soon."
Sadly, this isn’t my first embarrassing moment with an important politico this new year. The other would be the "Mitt Romney Cell Phone Debacle," but we’ll save that for another day.