Tagged: Jonathan Papelbon

Well, It’s Not The Worst Thing To Be The Wild  Card

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I’ve made no secret about how much I wanted to win the division and secure home field advantage. And I thought it was doable. Seriously doable. But, as I said, the situation could be worse for the Yankees; at least we’re going to Minny as opposed to heading for the golf course or hunting lodge like some teams.

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And today wasn’t a total loss. It’s always fun to score off Papelbon. The bigger issue confronting us fans right now is the state of the Bombers. Moseley did a pretty good job, I thought. Just a couple of mistakes that my dearly departed grandmother could have hit out of the park. Robertson looked exhausted, Joba did his usual high-wire act, Logan was ineffective and I don’t think Ring has a prayer of making the postseason roster. And then there was the persistent problem of stranding runners. It was painful to watch Jorge hit that dribbler with bases loaded, for example. On the positive side, Gardner has been gaining confidence at the plate, in the field, on the bases. He’s ready to do battle. Lefties. Righties. Doesn’t matter. And Tex is hot at the right time. Plus no worries whatsoever about Cano, who is, quite simply, a beast.
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So today isn’t about doom and gloom. It’s about celebrating the achievement of getting back to the postseason. And how better to celebrate than to visit with our old pal Surf Dog Bill, the grand prize winner of last year’s She-Fan Video Awards.
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For newcomers to the blog (or those with short term memory loss), Bill Connell is a local icon here in the Santa Barbara area. A huge Yankee fan, he and his hot dog stand are must-stops both for the hot dogs and the conversation.

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Here’s a recent article from the Santa Barbara Independent that’ll give you an idea of just how passionate Surf Dog is.

Baseball Drama

When the L.A. Dodgers Play the S.F. Giants, Wackiness Ensues


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Whenever the Hot Dog Man, aka Bill Connell, visits Dodger Stadium, things seem to get stirred up. He was there late last month when the Dodgers took a 6-2 lead over the New York Yankees into the ninth inning. “All theL.A. fans went home,” said Connell, an ardent Yankee fan since his boyhood in New Jersey. “The Yankees scored four runs against [Jonathan] Broxton to tie it. In the 10th inning, Robinson Cano hit a home run to win it. The only people in the stadium were wearing Yankee caps.”

Not only were Connell's hot dogs a hit with the crowd--to the bewilderment of the gourmet chefs at the party--but Jacobs, impressed by the vendor's evident passion for baseball, gave him temporary custody of a genuine 2009 World Series championship ring, encrusted with 119 diamonds.

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Courtesy Photo

Not only were Connell’s hot dogs a hit with the crowd–to the bewilderment of the gourmet chefs at the party–but Jacobs, impressed by the vendor’s evident passion for baseball, gave him temporary custody of a genuine 2009 World Series championship ring, encrusted with 119 diamonds.

Connell recently wore quite another Yankee adornment. He was among the caterers at a party hosted by Jeff Jacobs, a Montecito denizen with lofty connections in entertainment and sports. Guests included Chris Bosh, the newly minted center of the Miami Heat, and Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges. Not only were Connell’s hot dogs a hit with the crowd–to the bewilderment of the gourmet chefs at the party–but Jacobs, impressed by the vendor’s evident passion for baseball, gave him temporary custody of a genuine 2009 World Series championship ring, encrusted with 119 diamonds. “There I was, handing out hot dogs, with this New York Yankee ring glittering on my finger,” Connell said. “Can you believe it?”

Only a couple days later, Connell hit the trifecta–another memorable trip to Dodger Stadium. This time, he took 50 people with him on a chartered bus from his Surf Dog stand in Carpinteria. We expected to see a low-scoring duel between two of the game’s best young pitchers, Tim Lincecum of the Giants and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers. Instead, we were treated to an evening of wacky incidents that stoked up the L.A.-San Francisco rivalry.

Much to our surprise, the Dodgers got to Lincecum for five runs in the first three innings. Kershaw was in command until the fifth inning, when the Giants got a break, thanks to Xavier being Manny–rookie Xavier Paul, subbing for the injured Manny Ramirez (more slug than slugger these days) in left field, had a flyball drop out of his glove. Three runs later, the Giants trailed just 5-4.

In the bottom of the fifth, after brushing back Matt Kemp with a pitch, Lincecum nailed him with another. A smattering of boos was directed at the Giants hurler. When relief pitcher Denny Bautista threw a fastball under the chin of L.A.’s Russell Martin in the sixth inning, the natives grew even more restless. They rose to their feet–almost a third of them to boo, the rest to get more beer. The home plate umpire took offense to an animated scolding by Bob Schaefer, the Dodgers’ bench coach, and ejected him.

Kershaw’s first pitch leading off the seventh inning squarely hit the Giants’ Aaron Rowand. Next to “It’s not about the money,” the most laughable sentence in a ballplayer’s repertoire is when a pitcher says about a retaliatory delivery, “It just got away from me.” That was Kershaw’s unconvincing explanation for his last pitch of the game. After he was ejected, along with manager Joe Torre, reliever Hong-Chih Kuo retired the next six San Francisco batters, preserving the Dodgers’ one-run lead.

I could not understand why people were leaving the stadium in droves. I guess they got what they came for–a James Loney bobblehead–but they missed a deliciously bizarre scene in the ninth inning.

Broxton, L.A.’s massive closer, made his usual dramatic entrance to the thundering sound of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” and promptly loaded the bases. Then Don Mattingly, filling in as L.A.’s manager for the departed Torre, made an ill-fated visit to the mound, which technically became two visits when he stepped off and back on the dirt, which prompted Giants manager Bruce Bochy to remind the umpires that was a no-no. They ruled that Broxton, who had begun pitching to Andres Torres, must immediately be replaced (their interpretation was later called into question). Out of the bullpen came George Sherrill, whose first pitch was hammered by Torres to the wall in left field for a two-run double. The Giants went on to win, 7-5.

Connell and his busload, predominantly Dodger fans, stayed to the end. “We got our money’s worth,” the Hot Dog Man declared cheerfully.

Surf Dog is always “on” whenever I stop by his hot dog stand, and yesterday was no different. He took a few minutes to chat with me. Wait – let me amend that; he took a few minutes to deliver a monologue about the Yanks. Take a look.



OK, the Joba part about getting a start? I don’t think so. Otherwise, he’s been pretty accurate in his predictions. At least he was last year. I’ll be visiting him throughout the postseason (let’s hope it lasts awhile) and will pass along his pearls of wisdom. I wish I could pass along his hot dogs too. They’re really good.

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Tonight’s Game Nearly Killed Me

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I’m serious. I mean, how is a fan supposed to deal with up innings and down innings and pitchers who can’t pitch, followed by miraculous bottom-of-the-ninth home runs? How? All I know is this:
* My heart soared when the Yankees went up 5-0 in the first inning off Dice K. I figured, “Wow. We’re gonna crush them.”
* My heart sank when Hughes made it clear he wasn’t as sharp, aggressive or efficient as he’s been and allowed the Sox to climb back in it in the fifth.
* My heart soared again when Thames’s RBI gave us seven runs. Shouldn’t seven runs be enough to win a ball game?
* My heart sank again when Chan Ho Park was forced to come back for the eighth (having literally just been activated) and gave up not one but two shots. 
* My heart soared again when Vazquez, the forgotten pitcher, got Youkilis to strike out to end the top of the ninth. The crowd was cheering for him instead of booing him! Sweet!
* My heart jumped into my throat when A-Rod hit Papelbumkin’s first pitch into the seats to tie it up. It was clearly not the Irish jigger’s night, but A-Rod has been nothing but clutch.
* And my heart swelled as I watched Thames – Thames! – win it with his own two-run blast. Obviously, he’s well liked in the clubhouse because the players couldn’t wait to hug the guy and show him some love. And yes, I teared up, even when I watched the replay about 16 times, pie and all.
So you see why I said this game almost killed me. I just hope it didn’t kill any of the Yankees. If I wake up tomorrow and find out that Cervelli is our latest casualty because he got hit on the arm, I’ll be very unhappy. He and Gardner are about the most exciting Yankees in years.

Anyone Have A Cardiologist On Call?

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I know. That thing looks gross, but the point I was trying to make is that my heart can’t take these Yankees-Red Sox games. Must they always be so, well, heart-stopping? First, there was that collision between Pettitte and Ellsbury at first, with Andy taking a tumble.
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(Oops. Wrong sport.)
Then Andy gave up an RBI single to Lil’ Mami, and the Sox went ahead 1-0. Both starters were effective through six, but – as with the previous two games in the series – neither would last long enough to get a decision. With Boston bringing in Schoeneweis (did I put too many “e’s” in there?), Posada, the king of doubles, doubled. In came Bard, up came Swisher and home came JoPo, who also took a tumble.
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(Sorry. Still wrong sport.)
Suddenly, we had a tie game in the seventh and my nerves really kicked in. I mean, 1-1 at Fenway? Anything could happen, right? When they brought in Papelbon for the ninth and tenth and he gave everybody The Stare…
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…I thought the Yankees were in big trouble, but no! Granderson, that tower of power who’s making himself a hero already, took JP deep for 2-1. But with such a slim lead, I hardly allowed myself a breath. “Insurance,” I kept saying to the TV. “We need insurance.” 
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(Am I the only one who can’t stand those Progressive commercials? Especially when the actors start yelling at each other?)
Anyhow, I asked for insurance and the Yankees obliged. After walks to Gardner and Jeter, Papelbon headed for the dugout. His replacement, a guy named Atchison who looks like a high school science teacher, walked the ever-walkable Johnson to load the bases. A dribbler by Tex was enough to score Gardner, and Mo took the mound with a 3-1 lead – and held it. Which gives me yet another excuse to flash his pic.
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Kudos to Chan Ho Park for his three scoreless innings of relief, although those warning track fly balls in the ninth almost sent me to the hospital.
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Oh, and Pettitte popped one on Youkilis’ helmet and Lackey nailed Jeter on the arm, and the ump issued a warning. But it was all very Aren’t-we-grownups, so no harm done.
I’m glad the Yanks are off tomorrow. They usually have a letdown after playing the Red Sox, and I want them hungry when they face the Rays.
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P.S. Here’s your nightly reminder about the Cooperstown Cookies contest. The deadline for entries is April 11th at midnight, PST.

Is Cockiness Really Necessary?

In today’s MLB.com story about new Tigers closer Jose Valverde, he boasted that he could save 74 games this season and said of himself, “I’m the best on the mound.” 
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Clearly, he’s a guy who gets fired up, if this photo from his Diamondbacks days is any indication. So maybe he meant, “That’s what I tell myself when I go out to pitch, just to psyche myself up.”  You know, like for self-motivation. And he wouldn’t be the first closer with a flair for the dramatic.

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But when you start bragging about how good you are and how many games you’ll save, aren’t you going a little too far in the cocky department and setting yourself up to fail? I’m just wondering because Mo is so totally different from the above brand of closers.
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Sure, he trots in to the high-energy “Enter Sandman,” but if he had chosen his own entrance music it would probably have been…no music at all. He knows he’s good, but he never beats anybody over the head with it. In fact, he shrugs off all the compliments and accolades and simply goes out there and does his job. Which is why Valverde’s comment got my attention. I read it and thought, Mo would never say that. I know. I know. I deify him every chance I get. I’m a broken record.
 
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But he’s such an anomaly in the world of closers who thump their chests to show us how much heart they have. Please. We know you have heart or you wouldn’t have made it to the big leagues. Lots of players guarantee victories and shoot their mouths off. It’s part of sports these days. But Mo? He just collects saves – and World Series trophies. No words necessary.
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Presenting The 2009 She-Fan Awards, Part 3

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Last night I announced the 2009 She-Fan Award for Best Postseason Enemy – the opposing player who best helped the Yankees win the ALDS, ALCS or World Series. Congratulations again to Brad Lidge.
Tonight’s award goes to the opposing player who contributed mightily to this year’s most exciting phenomenon: the walk-off victory. The Yankees had 15 walk-offs during the regular season, some more significant than others but all a great source of pleasure for Yankee fans – and for A.J. Burnett.
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And the nominees for Best Regular Season Walk-Off Enemy are…
Brian Fuentes, Los Angeles Angels
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Yes, Fuentes was one of last night’s nominees, but he merits another look in this category. On May 1st, he allowed a bases-loaded walk-off single by Posada in the ninth, and the Yanks beat the Angels 10-9 after having been down by five runs in the game. A big win against a big rival.
Joe Nathan, Minnesota Twins
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Another return nominee, Nathan was on the mound on May 15th, which, by the way, marked A-Rod’s debut at the new Stadium as well as the game in which Brett Gardner had an inside-the-park home run. In the ninth, Gardner tripled off Nathan, Tex singled, A-Rod walked, Cano was walked intentionally, and – with the bases loaded – Melky blooped a two-out single to win the game 5-4. The Yanks went on to sweep the Twins with three consecutive walk-offs.
Brad Lidge, Philadelphia Phillies
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Yet another return nominee, Lidge pitched the ninth on May 23rd. The Yanks were down by two runs, but the Phillies closer walked Damon, gave up a game-tying homer to A-Rod, allowed a single to Cano, who stole second, and served up a walk-off single to Melky. A foreshadowing of things to come.
Luis Castillo, New York Mets
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We all know what happened on June 12th, but here’s the recap. The Yanks were down by a run in the ninth when K-Rod came in to close it out for the Mets. Jeter singled, stole second and K-Rod intentionally walked Tex to pitch to a struggling A-Rod, who popped up to Castillo for the third out. Inexplicably, L-Cas dropped the ball, and Tex and A-Rod scored the winning runs. The best part was watching K-Rod celebrate – prematurely.
Shawn Camp, Toronto Blue Jays
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July 4th was George Steinbrenner’s birthday and the 70th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” speech. So it was only fitting that Roy Halladay did not get the win on this day. Instead, he left the game in a funk after Damon’s two-run shot tied the score in the seventh. It wasn’t until the 12th that Posada singled in the winning run off Camp, who is a double She-Fan Award nominee for the walk-off single he gave up to Cano on August 12th.
Junichi Tazawa, Boston Red Sox
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Who can forget the August 7th game that lasted 15 innings and five-and-a-half hours? It was Burnett against Beckett, two former Marlins, and the score was 0-0 when A-Rod stepped in against the rookie Red Sox pitcher and belted one into the seats with Jeter aboard for a 2-0 walk-off. The win expanded the Yankees’ lead in the AL East to four-and-a-half games.
Kyle Farnsworth, Kansas City Royals
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No, the game on September 29th against the Royals hardly mattered in terms of the pennant race. But seeing old friend Farnsy was a treat nonetheless. With the September call-ups in the lineup, Cervelli got the Yankees’ ninth-inning rally going with a ground ball that deflected off Farnsworth for a single. Cisco moved to third on Hinske’s single and scored on Cano’s sac fly. Up to the plate stepped another call-up, Juan Miranda, whose grounder off Farnsy’s leg scored Hinske. The Yanks won 4-3 and all was right with the world.
The envelope please.
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And the 2009 She-Fan Award for Best Regular Season Walk-off Enemy goes to…
***** Junichi Tazawa *****
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The sentimental favorite would have been Castillo, of course. But an interleague series against the hapless Mets that didn’t really count for a lot except in entertainment value? Conversely, the 15-inning game against the Red Sox was huge. They had beaten us eight straight times coming into the series, and first place in the division was on the line. Once A-Rod hit that shot off of Tazawa, they had to settle for a Wild Card berth. Congratulations to Mr. Tazawa. Oh, wait. Mr. Tazawa is out of the country and can’t be here to accept his award. Accepting it for him is his teammate.
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“Oh, wow,” said Mr. Papelbon. “The She-Fan Award is really heavy.”
“That’s because it’s solid gold,” I said. “Maybe you’ll win one next year.”
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Yankees-Red Sox: No More Goose Egg

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Well, that was a relief.
Still, I wouldn’t call the Yankees’ 13-6 victory over Boston a well-played game. Not when our pitchers walked TWELVE batters…when Joba had his worst start since the break…when Posada inexplicably trotted home instead of sliding. But the offense pummeled Smoltz and Traber, and their effort put the Yanks up by 3 1/2 in the division. It was an honest-to-goodness drubbing – the kind of game where you can sit back and just enjoy the show. I had to leave the house after the fifth to teach my writing workshop, but I watched the rest when I got home. It was late by the time I saw Vicky Martinez make the final out, but it was worth staying up for. Beating the Red Sox is delicious, any way it happens.
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Now it’s on to Friday night with AJ facing Josh Beckett. Clearly, Beckett isn’t Smoltz. We’ll be facing a pitcher who isn’t on the verge of retirement (or should be). So how can we beat him and take two in a row in this series? Once again, I went to the videotape for answers.
#1) Obviously, Josh Beckett likes jewelry. That watch is the size of my head. But it’s his Phiten titanium necklace (Joba wears one too, and look how that worked out) that gives him a sense of health, energy and well-being. If I’m the Yankees, I steal Beckett’s necklace before the game. He’ll be convinced he’s lost his magic power and possibly freak out.
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#2) He said, speaking of his health: “The last time I was a hundred percent, I was sixteen years old.” That would suggest he has a few aches and pains – not a surprise given how knock-kneed he is. If I’m the Yankees, I not only make him throw a lot of pitches but bunt early and often, forcing him to bend over.
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#3) As for the Papelbon part of the video, if he comes in to pitch I would simply show him a picture of himself with his celebrity look-alike and wait for him to implode.
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Speaking of look-alikes, I hear David Ortiz is having a press conference on Saturday with Peter Gammons standing by to report. Will Ian McKellen play Gammons in the movie version?
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