Life After Mo

mariano rivera-By Michael Levere, @leverefamily

Today in many ways feels like the end of an era. There’s nothing worse in this Twitter age than checking your phone after yet another devastating Knicks loss to see a tweet from Bill Simmons saying, “Just floored by the Rivera news.” A torn ACL, and a likely end of career from the sounds of it for one of the great all-time Yankees, Mariano Rivera.

The best player of a generation for baseball that will forever be tainted by steroids and scandals, he was one of only three players for whom hearing they did steroids would cause you to spit up your food (along with Derek Jeter and Ken Griffey Jr.).

After suffering a torn ACL, baseball’s greatest closer will likely hang up his cleats for good.

Growing up in an age where the Yankees were no longer laughable losers, the face of the franchise to many was Jeter, but the heart was always Mariano. He was always the one you could count on, the one who never appeared to slow down. In the last few years there were whispers of decline for Jeter, with his worsening range and his penchant for the timely GIDP, but Mariano kept going strong. His ERA’s over the last four seasons since turning 38 were 1.40, 1.76, 1.80, and 1.91. I sense a downward trend! But you’re not reading this to learn about Mariano’s stats, and that’s not why I’m writing it.

In so many ways, it feels like a constant in my life for as long as I can remember has been Mo. From being a giddy 8-year old baseball fan yearning for Buck Showalter to put in Mariano in game 5 of the ALDS against the Mariners in 1995 to the final World Series ring for the modern Yankee dynasty in 2009, Mariano has always been there, marking the passing of the years:

-The perfect setup man for the 1996 team.

-Being in Cooperstown with my grandma watching him blow it against the Indians in 1997.

-Three magical World Series runs from 1998-2000, including a birthday party at Yankee Stadium for Joe DiMaggio day, on the last day of the season when the Yankees won their 114th game in 1998.

-Watching one of the hardest losses I’ve ever experienced in 2001 in my parents bedroom with my sister weeping.

-Holding down the fort for 3 innings to give Aaron Boone the chance to do his damage in 2003.

-Thanking the lord I was in a cabin in the woods to avoid the debacle that was 2004 (editor’s note: One man’s debacle is another’s Triumph!).

-The frustration of 2005-2007 embodied in the midges in Cleveland watching on our Akai TV our senior year of college, with the game certain to be blown once Mo was forced to exit.

-Having the first girl I loved fall asleep on my lap after one of our first dates during the World Series run in 2009.

The Yankees and baseball have marked time and memories in my life forever, and Mariano has always been the constant. There was a moment for Darryl Strawberry, recent Kevin Brown flashbacks with Amare’s foolish punches, Shane Spencer home runs aplenty, but no matter what, there was always Mariano. And while tracking an innocent fly ball, it’s all done.

You knew that one day it would have to happen, that Mariano couldn’t pitch until he was 50. But you always thought it would be on his terms, and that you would be prepared for it. That there would be a final moment in Yankee Stadium with a touching ceremony, giving everyone watching it the chills and bringing many to tears.

That’s what makes it so tough, this sudden unknown where something that has been such a stable steadying force in your life is now gone. Sure, in recent years I may have lost my love for baseball a bit, only getting excited for the playoffs, but there was something comforting knowing that any day I could turn on the Yanks and there was a good chance I’d get to hear Enter Sandman.

When I was younger, I always wondered what people who were the same age as athletes felt like. Was it weird knowing that someone who could easily have been in your third grade class was now out there playing the games that you loved and making more money than you could ever possibly imagine? Yet as I went through college and into the working world, the thought never really bothered me. But today, I suddenly feel a whole lot older.

A childhood hero of mine is likely hanging up his cleats, someone who I’ve been through so much with in my life. There are kids out there today in Los Angeles who will get to spend the next 15 years going through life marking time with Matt Kemp, kids in Boston who will do it with Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury, and kids in New York who do it with Robinson Cano. But for me, now I’m moving on with my life.

I still love the idea of playing baseball, following baseball, watching baseball, but without the best player of a generation, it really feels like that magical, childish aura around America’s past time is gone.


New England’s Wrathful Sports Gods

The End is Nigh, New England! After years of championships and miraculous playoff wins, something has stoked the wrath of the Sports Gods.

First the Pats lost to the Bills for the first time in 15 consecutive games….yeah, seriously. Now the Bosox are teetering on the edge of playoff elimination. The flop-pocalypse is nearly complete. Who will save us now?

With two games left in the regular season, the Red Sox are back to square f*$king one, tied with the same record as the Tampa Bay Rays. This was a team that prior to Hurricane Irene, had 9 games on Tampa Bay and were a lock for the Wild Card. But apparently the real damage wasn’t done to our cities and town, but to our beloved sports teams.

The devastating effects of Hurricane Irene!

In fact, the Red Sox have have gone 7-20 since “Irene ravaged” the East Coast. Since then the Sox starters have compiled an ERA above 7.00, worst in the majors. Were these the winds of change blowing in from Irene or was this an omen? It got me thinking: what is behind this epic collapse (one of the worse in baseball history)? Then it hit me:

We’ve angered the New England sports Gods!

After a miracle-like Boston Bruins Stanley Cup title, the Patriots’ Draft Day Extravaganza and the Red Sox acquisition of not one, but two 100 million-plus contracts to sluggers, we were sure this was OUR year. Possible quadfecta among the Bruins, Pats, Celts and Sox. F the Yankees, we used a payroll to outspend, and supposedly outclass every other team by talent and skill alone. But as a result, we’ve grown arrogant and expecting of victory.

You know we could have gotten Cliff Lee for $30 Mill less than Crawford...just sayin'.

I admit it. I’ve forgotten what it’s been like as a die-hard New England sports fan. The agony mixed with hope and desperation. Cub’s fans back me up on this one. To love your team is to love misery.

Gone are the days hoping for that Championship Banner or that World Series win. Forgotten are moments of deep prayer, deals with God (or the Devil), and of course, Stephen King’s voodoo hex on A-rod in the ALCS. Life has been good to us in the greater Boston area and we’ve moved away from our blue-collar, never-say-die roots.

We, New England, have turned are backs on the sports gods and now we’re paying for our insolence. Save us, JEBUS!

With two games left, and Erik “They got me from Seattle…enough said” Beddard takes the mound as our last attempt at redemption. Life gets worse before it gets a whole lot better, and maybe this rock-bottom low is the kick in the ass the Sox need to make it into the playoffs (knock on wood) and tear it up in the post season.

Throw out your false idols (and those stupid pink Sox hats), don as much Sox gear as you can and make offerings to the Sports Gods (I’ll be leaving cookies out for David Ortiz).

Start chanting more “we believes” and stop saying the season is over. Hope springs eternal and there are still two games left. Just have some FAITH! Otherwise, don’t call yourselves Sox fans, infidels. If only we still had Johnny Damon on our team…

Hayman’s Hatorade: Adam Dunn

By Ryan Hayman
-Drink it up, bitches. 

I’ve been playing fantasy baseball for neigh on a decade now and every single year, without fail, there is always one player who above all others absolutely shits the bed, doesn’t earn anywhere close to his draft day value and aids in the submarining of the unfortunate team that drafted him.

There have been many players who by all accounts have greatly underpreformed this season, be it through injury, ineptitude or a combination of both. Names such as Carl Crawford, Josh Johnson and Justin Mourneau come to mind. But the player that absolutely, hands-down takes the cake is one Adam Dunn.

I have never witenessed such a precipitous drop off not only from one season to the next but from an entire career to the next season. The “Big Donkey” was the model of consistency, averaging 37HR a year since his first full season in 2002, including hitting at least 40HR every year from 2004-2008. We’re talking unprecedented power consistency here folks, an indispensable fantasy asset. You know exactly what you’re going to get year in and year out. And then 2011 happened. After singing the first big-money contract of his career with the Chicago White Sox, four years and $56 million dollars, Adam Dunn forgot he was Adam Dunn. Mark my words, there will be off-season CT scans and psychological evaluations.

As of August 26th, he currently has 11HR with an OPS of .584. .584! Dunn has averaged an OPS of .902 over his career prior to this season. Let’s take a quick look at some of the other Bill Bergen Memorial All-Stars with a higher OPS than Dunn this year: Omar Vizquel, Orlando Cabrera, Miguel Tejada, Angel Sanchez. Super…Adam Dunn has gone from a 6-ft 6-in, 285lb, beef-eating Texan who fucking HATED baseballs to a light-hitting, past-his-prime, Hispanic middle-infielder. Awesome. I’m psyched he was one of my six keepers this year and that I traded away Clayton Kershaw last year to get him.

Luckily I’m still going to make the playoffs because I kick ass at fantasy baseball. I hung onto that worthless donkey for four months, trying to sell it to any and all passers by with no takers, until finally I couldn’t take it any more and put it out to pasture. Two months later it’s still there, as useless as mud flaps on a helicopter.

It begs the question; what on earth caused this? There have been no major injuries or off-the-field distractions. One can’t help but raise an eyebrow in the direction of professional baseball’s skeleton in the closet, “The Man in White”. Although I suppose that skeleton has been out of the closet for some time now. Does that make the skeleton gay? I’m not sure. Is Adam Dunn gay? Couldn’t tell ya…not that there’d be anything wrong with it if he was. Either way, he’s been doing nothing but sucking. In the words of Wes Mantooth, I hate you, Adam Dunn. I hate you.

The Elusive Triple-Play

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the first triple-play turned by the Red Sox since 1994:

It starts with Jed “Dental Plan” Lowrie who had committed a two run scoring error just prior. Jed goes around the horn, stepping on third, gunning it to PD (someone asked why I don’t call him DP…think about it) and then to Agonz at first. To paraphrase the great fictional pitcher, Kenny Power aka la Flama Blanca, “You’re (all) fucking out”.

Then NOISE YOU SHALL SEE. God I love this show. Really hope they come back with a third season, but I digress…

While the triple-play pales in comparison to the walk-off home run (see: JaaaaCOBY) or a run-down at home plate (sorry Buster Posey), it is the most elusive act in all of baseball (more so than hitting for a cycle).Suck it, Comcast. This is the REAL deal.

Fantasy Focus: Baseball buy-lows, Josh Reddick

I was absolutely pissed when Jacoby Ellsbury was taken one draft pick ahead of me, and I only had myself to blame. I knew he’d be a super-stud this year, and should have locked him up the way I did Agonz. My outfield is pretty weak and with G. Sizemore forgetting how to play ball (or heal for that matter), I took a chance on a “role player” who comes out to the plate with bagpipes blaring. Dropkick Murphy’s really are a good judge of character.

His name is Josh Reddick, and this guy is legit. He’s barely owned in any leagues, but the guy IS the Red Sox answer to right field (now and for seasons to come). While his role as a permanent starter is still somewhat in question (although Francona says he is the starter now), it’s hard to argue with his success.

He’s way more Jacoby than Drew, and grinds out every game, beats out plays and lays-the-f-out on everything (Stout?). Just watch this “Reddickulous” home-run-robbing catch. Even Jacobs was impressed:

Reddick is a great fielder (obviously) and beats Drew in the defense department. Would JD have spiderman-ed the catch or just morosely watched it sail into the stands? Would he have even been bothered that the game was lost? Probably not. I find myself asking: JD WHO?

Pretty Swings but you still gotta make contact with the ball...

As for offense, sure JD has a “beautiful” swing–when he strikes out on 1-2-3 fastballs. I think the guy was hitting under .240 before he “went on the DL,” aka he got put out to pasture.  By comparison, Reddick has put up these numbers since being called up to the Majors on June 18th: .316 BA, 8 doubles, 3 triples, 5 home runs, 19 RBI, and 23 runs. I know it’s a small sample size (the guys seen just over 90 at-bats), but he’s demonstrated consistent power and average. There was a reason the Sox didn’t enter the Beltran/Pence right field sweepstakes. They had a low cost alternative with huge potential reward.

Jacoby came up as an answer to a Coco Crisp injury and the sox haven’t looked back since. I knew, watching Jacoby wreck havoc on the Angels in the 2008 post season, that this guy was a franchise player. Now when I watch Reddick’s plate appearances I think the same thing. Get this guy on your team.

Other Fantasy Baseball Buy-lows:

Brett Lawrie (Toronto’s top prospect) — He’s rising though, so get him quick. Hit a grand slam a few days ago and seems pumped up to play for his native team.

Alfredo Aceves (SP/RP Boston) — He’s got 8 wins this year and a save. He’s now a closer/helper when wake or a young guy pitches, but he has saved my ass many a week. He’s a gunslinger for hire. A ronin rolling through late innings and stealing a win.

Javvy Guerra (closer-LAD) — In some leagues this guy is owned by more than 50%, in others, less than 20%. I picked him up way back because everyone in the LAD bullpen was on the DL. Since then he’s done far exceeded expectations: 2-0 for wins and 10/10 in save opportunities. When Broxton comes back, LAD will have some decisions to make. Future or present? Young guns are rising up (as is the closer game).


If Adrian Gonzalez has any competition for the AL MVP, it will likely come from a fellow teammate hitting two spots before him. Sorry Pedroia, I know the lazer show’s back, but Jacoby Ellsbury is the hottest hitter on the Red Sox right now.

He’s got as many bombs as Agonz (yeah, really) and has been more clutch than Ortiz in late innings (bats over .400). Last night’s walk-off home run, with two outs, no one on, in the bottom of the ninth demonstrated that the age of Jacoby is upon the MLB.

Being lucky enough to attend last night’s game (thanks Tom!), I entered Fenway hoping to see Wakefield’s 200th career win in a BoSox jersey. Apparently so did everyone else. He started strong, but couldn’t get the usual heavy run support from his team. After hanging on to a tenuous one-run lead, Wake finally gave up a ground-rule double to tie the game at 3-3. Francona pulled the ancient knuckleballer with 6 and 2/3rds innings pitched. Boos rained down from the crowd as a dejected Tim Wakefield sauntered to the dugout. A magical Fenway moment appeared lost.

As the next two innings passed, marquis sluggers and meat-of-the-order hitters could do little to get on base and generate runs. With no one getting hot, the game appeared headed towards extra innings as the score remained tied 3-3 entering the top of the ninth. Enter Jonathan Papelbon.

Never, ever underestimate the power of the Dropkick Murphys. In Boston, It’s like an Irish war cry. JPaps had just won the game the night before in a dramatic ninth and fans wanted more. “Shipping up to Boston” began thudding in the loudspeakers and, just like that, Bosox fans roared back to life. The feeling that this game would end in nine suddenly became a reality. Paps pitched a 1-2-3 inning and it was rally time.

The bottom 9 started with McDonald pinch-hitting for Reddick. Not sure why, (Reddick was 2-2) but Cleveland countered by replacing pitchers and getting McDonald to fly out. Scutaro was next, and as the remaining “guranteed out” now that JD Drew is cut, no one seemed surprised at his groundout. We had all been waiting for Jacoby, who was 0-4 on the night, and just DUE to crush a ball.

No one wanted to say anything, possibly jinxing it, but as the crowd stood on their feet, you had the feeling that the previous night’s magic, where Jacoby scored a walk-off single to win the game, was about to repeat itself.

This time, however, it would take the long ball. After two down and away pitches, a fastball stayed up on the plate. Jacoby squared up and right away Fenway knew that ball was OUTTA HERE. Dead center field. Deepest part. A monster of a rip. We all went nuts:

The most satisfying play in all of baseball. The walk-off home run. Can I get a JaCOOOOOBY? Next time you hit a bomb, steal a base or rob a base hit say it loud. The guy does it all (.318 BAA, .513 SLG, 18 HR and 31 SB). I overheard someone saying he’s having a Crawford like year. No. He’s having a Jacoby-like year. This guy can hit for power and average. After sitting out nearly all of last season, Jacoby is making up for some lost time. Watch out Agonz, the AL MVP competition is heating up.