Friday, July 31, 2015

No airing of grievances for Cespedes!

The Mets' trade for Yoenis Cespedes truly is a holiday for the rest of us! He's exactly what the Mets' lineup needs - a righthanded power hitter. And the Mets didn't panic and give up too much after the Carlos Gomez trade fell apart. Good work, Sandy Alderson!

When I first heard that the Mets got Cespedes, I didn't find out right away what they had to give up. If it had been Zack Wheeler for a two-month rental, I would have been the one crying in the middle of the Met game. Detroit's Dave Dombrowski is a shrewd GM (as Squawker Lisa knows from how many times he has fleeced Brian Cashman), and I knew he wouldn't let Cespedes go for the proverbial bag of balls.

Michael Fulmer was a big-time prospect a couple of years ago, but he fell off the radar due to injuries. This year, he is healthy and has become a good prospect again. The pipeline watch lists Fulmer as the no. 7 prospect and Luis Cessa, the other prospect going to Detroit, as no. 16.

By contract, the Tigers received Toronto's top prospect, Daniel Norris, and their #11 and #19 prospects for two months of David Price.  Price is a star pitcher who is worth more than the streaky Cespedes, but with top hitters at a premium, Alderson was able to land Cespedes at what looks like a reasonable cost.

Alderson was willing to take on salary. He was willing to go against his usual plan and take on a player who rarely walks. And he didn't worry about what will happen to his big acquisition from last winter, Michael Cuddyer, when (if?) Cuddyer is healthy again.

And now we can look forward to Cespedes performing his feats of strength for a Mets team that suddenly has a lot more credibility in their bid to get to the postseason for the first time in nine years. Happy Cespedes, everyone!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Jennry Mejia, Duaner Sanchez and losing a setup man just before the trade deadline

On July 30, 2006, almost exactly nine years ago, the Mets lost valuable setup reliever Duaner Sanchez when he separated his shoulder in a taxi accident. With just a day to go before the trade deadline, the Mets scrambled to find a replacement, trading starting rightfielder Xavier Nady for reliever Roberto Hernandez and a struggling starting pitcher named Oliver Perez.

At least this time around, Sandy Alderson already had a replacement lined up when Jennry Mejia was suspended again for PEDs. I wasn't sure why Alderson was worrying about the bullpen with the lineup in such disarray, but perhaps he knew the Mejia suspension was coming. The Tyler Clippard trade looks that much better now.

Hernandez, 41 years old at the time of the trade, had a 3.48 ERA in 22 games with the 2006 Mets. The real replacement for Sanchez turned out to be Guillermo Mota, who was acquired in late August and had an ERA of 1.00 in 18 games down the stretch.

After the 2006 season, Mota was suspended for steroids, but the Mets still gave him a new two-year contract. Mota never approached his 2006 form and was traded away the following season.

Somehow, I don't think Mejia will be getting a new contract from the Mets. But Mejia does have something in common with Mota. In 2012, Mota, now with the Giants, was suspended for steroids a second time.

Thoughts on A-Rod turning 40, Teix's hissy fit, the Tulo-Reyes trade, and Shane Victorino, the Cryin' Hawaiian

I was excited to see Alex Rodriguez homer on his 40th birthday last night (his sixth on his B-Day, which sets an MLB record), but I went to bed early. So I missed the Mark Teixeira shenanigans. After he was thrown out at home plate by Leonys Martin, who robbed him of a homer earlier in the game, Teix threw the mother of all hissy fits, tossing around a trash can in the dugout. Turns out that Yankee third-base coach Joe Espada told Teixeira "easy" when rounding third, and it cost him the chance to score. And Mark openly criticized the coach to the media after the game.


Then I woke up this morning to see that the New York Daily News actually had a positive back page about A-Rod! I can't remember the last time that has happened, or if it has ever happened. Oddly enough, though, Bill Madden hasn't written about Alex lately. (Remember, Madden said Alex was "finished" as a player and would never play again. Hardball Talk lists the most egregious Madden pronouncements on Rodriguez.)

The New York Post, on the other hand, had a negative cover of Rodriguez, regarding him telling reporters yesterday that he was "clean." Pretty nifty Photoshop, though. Glad they made sure the "Mr. Clean" A-Rod had an earring!

But the News' back page wasn't the most shocking thing in the baseball world I saw this morning. No, the Troy Tulowitzki-Jose Reyes trade takes the trade for that. Toronto, along with Baltimore, is seven games behind the Yankees. But they are clearly going for it this season -- they haven't made the postseason since 1993, as Joel Sherman notes.

I think the Yankees have to be considered to be in the catbird seat for the postseason. But they still need another starting pitcher. Will it be Cole Hamels? Or David Price? Or somebody else?

And what about the Mets? They traded for ex-Yankee Tyler (The Yankee) Clippard last week. But they need a big hitter. Will it happen?

The trading deadline is this Friday at 4 p.m., just around the time I have to phone in to find out if I am going to be in jury duty next week! So that should be a momentous afternoon in a variety of ways. (Squawker Jon said this comment is very solipsistic, even for me!)

In other trading deadline news, Shane Victorino, aka the Flyin' Hawaiian, got traded from the Red Sox to the Angels. Victorino cried -- repeatedly -- in the presser announcing the deal. Dude, you should be happy to get out of Boston! The Angels actually have a playoff-worthy team!

Squawker Jon and I were talking about the trade, and I mentioned that Victorino is retiring the use of Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" as his at-bat music. That song became a rallying cry for Red Sox Nation in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent World Series championship.

Jon knew the song but didn't know the title, so I had to mention the lyrics about "every little thing gonna be alright." His excuse was that he wasn't a Deadhead. Huh? What do the Grateful Dead have in common with Bob Marley? Oh, wait!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Maybe Sandy Alderson is a baseball revolutionary after all

Take the worst-hitting team in the league, add two fringe players and a prospect generally considered to be not ready, and in their first game together the Mets score 15 runs. Pretty good initial return to baseball activities from Sandy Alderson!

I was away all weekend and did not get to see any of Saturday's or Sunday's games. These days, you can keep checking the score on your phone, but I couldn't help but think of what my reaction would have been had I found out about the Mets' unbelievable outburst the old-fashioned way. In the early days of the Mets, they scored 19 runs in a game and the story went that when one fan was told this, his response was, "Did they win?" If I had asked someone Saturday night how the Mets did and had been told that they scored 15 runs, my response would have been, "I mean today, not for the week."

And if Squawker Lisa had called with such an update, I would have told her, yeah, right, next you'll be telling me that A-Rod homered three times today.

And, in the days before box scores in your pocket, if someone had told me that not only did the Mets score 15 runs, but the starting pitcher for the Dodgers was a guy named Zach, I really would have thought I was hallucinating, Of course, it was Zach Lee pitching Saturday, not Zack Greinke. Lee was making major league debut, but considering that the Mets were already no-hit by an unheralded rookie this year (Chris Heston), it's still impressive.

I wonder if the Dodgers figured they would ease Lee into the majors by letting him pitch against the hapless Mets offense. Now his next start is scheduled against Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and the Angels. Good luck!

The Mets offense returned to Earth against Greinke Sunday, though they did end his shutout streak at 45 2/3 innings (on an RBI by Jacob deGrom, naturally.)And we went back to the typical story with sensational pitching by Met starters: "How many runs did deGrom give up today? Zero. Did he win? Of course not."

But the Mets did win, even after Jeurys Familia blew the lead in the ninth. It was a great weekend, and I'm sorry I missed it. When was the last time I could say that?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Shocker! It's an A-Bomb, and another A-Bomb, and another A-Bomb from A-Rod!

A-Rod smirks after his first homer last night.
I was home last night working on a writing project, but I didn't get all that much done. That is because the Yankee game, which looked like a blowout loss for much of it, turned out to be arguably the best win of the year.

Although CC Sabathia had another step back, putting the Yanks in a 5-0 hole, Alex Rodriguez carried the Yankees on his back by hitting three homers, the last one to tie the game in the ninth. Then John Ryan Murphy improbably hit the game-winning homer.

This was my reaction at home while watching all of this unfold:

And none of the three homers Alex hit were cheap home runs; the first one even went into the third deck of Target Field.

Squawker Jon had just finished crowing to me about what a great game the Mets were having last night, with Matt Harvey pitching well, Michael Conforto going 4 for 4, and the Mets having the most runs and hits they had had this season, beating the Dodgers 15-2. And then it looked like A-Rod's third homer -- and the Yankee win -- would steal the back page from the Mets. Snicker.

However, Jon got the last laugh. the New York Daily News treated the Mets' game as bigger than the Yankees' win, featuring the Mets on the front and back pages, while the Yankees' win was only mentioned at the top of the back page. The New York Post also kept the Mets on the back page, although they did put A-Rod on the front page. Oh, and both tabloids used the phrase "Trey-Rod"!

Now to the elephant in the room. Is Alex juicing again? I don't think he is, but I can't say for sure. And I think it is understandable for people to speculate -- that's part of the price you pay for getting caught twice doing performance-enhancing drugs.

What I do know is that this is so much fun to watch. Can you imagine if A-Rod can somehow lead the Yankees to No. 28? Wouldn't that be amazing?

ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand had a very good piece last night on Rodriguez's resurgence. He also touched the third rail of Yankee coverage, actually criticizing Derek Jeter. Check this out (emphasis added):

One truth that can't be denied is that A-Rod is a leader on the club. He is different than his all-time frenemy Derek Jeter. Rodriguez is vocal. He goes out of his way to be involved. He is very willing to laugh at himself.

"He's a teacher," Girardi said. "He brings people together because he teaches, but he also likes to have fun. I have said a lot of times, people around him are laughing a lot. It is important during a long season."
It amuses me to no end to see that, after the past decade of building up Derek Jeter as this awesome captain and great clubhouse leader, to see somebody in the media write something negative about Jeter like this. And to praise Rodriguez as a leader, too. 

We fans have been fed the myth of A-Rod=Bad, Jeter=Good. But the truth is more complicated than that binary look at things. And now that Jeter is retired, we are finally getting a more realistic look at him -- and a less one-sided negative view of Rodriguez.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Mets get player most similar to Ben Zobrist

Sandy Alderson has resumed baseball activities! Three good moves in one day: Acquiring Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson for fringe prospects, promoting Michael Conforto and designating John Mayberry Jr. That won't win the pennant, but things certainly look more hopeful than a day ago.

I haven't understood the obsession the hitting-starved Mets seem to have with Ben Zobrist, whose days of flirting with 20-20 seasons are well in the past.  This season, Zobrist has just 6 HR, 33 RBI and a .254 BA in 233 at bats.  This season, Johnson is actually doing better: 9 HR, 34 RBI and a ,275  BA in 182 at bats.

And for what it's worth, according to Baseball Reference, the player most statistically similar to Johnson over his career is... Ben Zobrist!

And all the Mets had to give up for two professional hitters were low-level prospects John Gant and Rob Whelan. (My first response was going to be "Who is John Gant?" but I didn't want people to think I was trying to quote Ayn Rand.)

The most frustrating thing about Alderson's dithering over promoting Conforto was that it appeared to hinge on whether Michael Cuddyer would need to go on the DL. Cuddyer has not exactly been irreplaceable, with 8 HR, 30 RBI and a .250 BA in 292 at bats. Not only is Johnson doing better this year, but so is Uribe: 8 HR, 23 RBI and a .272 BA in 232 at bats.

But Cuddyer was Alderson's big signing last winter, and Mayberry was his other main addition to the Mets' hitting. These moves have proven to be just as bad as they looked at the time, but Alderson's reluctance to DL Cuddyer and designate Mayberry made it seem as if he were still trying to justify having these players on the team. Finally, Mayberry is gone, and Cuddyer can get the rest that he's needed and perhaps make a more substantial contribution down the road.

Conforto may not be ready, but the Mets need to do whatever they can to help this offense.

I remain skeptical that the Mets will make a move for a top hitter, not only because of their unwillingness to spend (the Mets did take on $3.15M in salary in yesterday's trade, but even that amount required the Braves to include some cash, according to ESPN) but because it also doesn't make much sense to give up too much for a rental of some of the names being mentioned. Justin Upton, for example, hit .196 in June and is hitting just .111 in July. And it's not because he plays in San Diego - he has a home BA this year of .291. Upton is currently battling an oblique issue. If you're going to ship out major prospects, you need to do better.

Ultimately, the Mets must realistically assess their chances. They are now 3 1/2 games out of the second wild card spot. They are also 3 1/2 games ahead of the Atlanta Braves, who have conceded their season with the salary dump of Uribe and Johnson. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

The New York Times' Harvey Araton sez Barry Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame. I agree.

Like many baseball fans, I have had a number of thoughts and emotions over the years on what MLB should do/should have done about performance enhancing drugs. It is bizarre to me the way this has all shaken out. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who are HOFers even if you cut out their steroid years, are left out of the Hall. Meanwhile, Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa, and Bobby Cox, who won championships based on PED users, are in the Hall.

Oh, and Matt Williams is an MLB manager, Mark McGwire is a trusted hitting coach, and Nelson Cruz and Ryan Braun make it to the All-Star Game, and Jason Giambi was a beloved elder statesman of the game. Andy Pettitte is getting a monument plaque in Monument Park and a retired number. All admitted PED users. There is little or no consistency.

Not to mention that the players who use PEDs assume all the risks and the punishments, while the ownership that profited and still profits off their use just gets to cash the checks.

Anyhow, the New York Times' Harvey Araton has a terrific column that touches on this issue. Now that the feds have finally dropped their last remaining charge against Barry Bonds, after the obstruction of justice count was overturned on appeal, Araton argues that Bonds deserves to be in the Hall.

The whole thing is worth a read, but here are some of the most relevant points (emphasis added):

It has long been argued that Bonds had pretty much earned a spot in the Hall as Skinny Barry, with a decade’s worth of greatness before the 1998 preponderance of steroid benefits produced by McGwire and Sammy Sosa seemingly, and rather infamously went to Bonds’s head. What came after was surely a distortion of his previously immaculate stats. But in the context of continued revelations about baseball’s culture — foremost among them the Mitchell Report, which fingered Roger Clemens and shattered all notions of steroids as primarily a slugger’s scourge — the achievements of the bloated Bonds can no longer be permanently and completely discredited, viewed in a vacuum.
And this:
Baseball’s original sin wasn’t that it had — and certainly still has — athletes surreptitiously seeking an edge. It was management’s willful neglect of the problem for the sake of profits along with an obstructionist union wrongfully working to shield the guilty at the expense of the innocent.
As I always say, do you think Brian Cashman didn't know that A-Rod was juicing before they re-signed him? Heck, he could have known before trading for him in the first place!

Speaking of Rodriguez, Araton cites him as a positive example of somebody who has been accepted again into the game:

For many, it would no doubt be painful to hear an induction speech from Bonds, Clemens and the like. But wasn’t the notion of A-Rod again circling the bases after all that went down equally distasteful just months ago? Now what you hear is that he’s a great teammate, who served his time, paid his dues. So, in many ways, has Bonds, albeit with a smirk or a sneer. But how he has acted is not the point in the grand scheme. He deserves to be in the Hall, and baseball deserves to have him there, to deal more realistically, or honestly, with the industry’s original sin.

Ultimately, to me, it comes down to a number of things when it comes to putting PED users in the Hall:

  • Bonds et al had to compete against pitchers who were juicing (and we will probably never know the full extent of that!) And Clemens had to compete against hitters who were juicing. And they were still superstars.
  • PEDs themselves don't make you a great player, or Jeremy Giambi and Randy Velarde would have been big names.
  • Bonds, Clemens, Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, etc. were the best players in the game in their era. How can you represent their generation in the Hall if they have been left out? 
  • Jose Canseco has said there is at least one PED user already in the Hall. When that ever comes out, what will be the justification for keeping the rest out?
  • What about players (cough, David Ortiz) who get a pass for PED use? Should they go in because writers like them, and they were never punished for such use?
It is a complicated subject, to be sure. But it seems to me that Bonds (and Clemens) need to be in the Hall of Fame. It's time for some consistency on this issue. If Torre, Cox, and LaRussa can be in, then so can Bonds and Clemens.

One other note on Bonds: for a guy who is supposed to be such a jerk, Greg Anderson, his trainer and childhood friend, literally went to jail -- twice! -- so as not to testify against him. Think about that for a second. I don't care how much money one could be given for doing so (some have suspected Bonds paid him off). Nothing is worth sacrificing your freedom that way. It says something about Bonds that Anderson did so for him.

If you think A-Rod's stop, drop, and roll slide was graceless, wait until you hear about my own shenanigans!

He's safe!
I was at work yesterday afternoon when the Yankees-Orioles game was going on, so I missed seeing the final game in the Yanks' sweep. But I saw my Twitter feed blow up afterwards with talk of Alex Rodriguez's crazy successful slide to home plate in the first inning.

Instead of a traditional slide, Rodriguez did a stop, drop, and roll maneuver, with somersaults and barrel rolls and everything!

It took a while for somebody to post video of this crazy slide that only A-Rod could pull off, but it was even more glorious than I expected. Here is a GIF showing what happened. And yes, he was safe!

Speaking of crazy moves, I ended up taking not one but two dance classes yesterday, both of them way outside my comfort zone. But isn't that where the magic happens, as the saying goes? (I can picture Squawker Jon rolling his eyes at what he would call the "navel gazing" nature of this, but oh well!)

A little background: although I love music, I haven't really danced in many years, and I was never very good in the first place. Back in the day, in addition to my punk slamdancing, I used to actually go out to nightclubs and stuff and dance. You know, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth! Put it this way -- the last time I really went to the club and danced, people were doing the "Macarena." And not ironically.

So in my fitness/weight loss journey, I have been making a point as of late to get back into the modern world and take some dance-related classes at the gym, even though, as I said, they are way outside my comfort zone. I am far from a natural at it, that's for sure!

I have done Zumba a number of times (and I will do so again this weekend.) All the many moves confuse me, and my enjoyment of the class is directly related to what music they play, but I have at least been trying to get better at it!

I have also done Urban Rebounding, which features a few dance-type moves, like the Tick Tock, on a personal trampoline. That is probably my favorite of the dance-related stuff I've been doing, because of the feeling of defying gravity while doing so.

Last week, I took a PonDeFLO class. I didn't really care for that, because we had to do floor work (burpees and mountain climbers) in the middle of the class! Wait, what? I wanted to dance to Caribbean-style music, not be doing Spartan Race stuff in the middle of it! So I wasn't as impressed by that.

Anyhow, yesterday I took two dance classes at my gym, the New York Health and Racquet Club. Both of the classes were not what you would normally expect me to do.

The first was a Belly Dancing Abs class! The description says it is "a 30-minute belly dance inspired workout that targets your core muscles." And that was basically it, with Middle Eastern belly dance type-music in the background. We did a lot of hip (as in body part hip, not "cool" hip) movements around the room. I also found myself really enjoying it, to my surprise! The moves were challenging for me, but not impossible. Stephanie, the instructor, was fun and a good teacher. And yes, it was a real workout. I am sore today from it!

Then I took a Masala Bhangra class taught by the same instructor. The description for this is that the class is "a blend of traditional Bhangra dance steps and Bollywood moves" What a trip! I felt like I was in a Bollywood movie! We learned various dance moves and performed them to high-energy Indian music.Again, the moves were challenging for me, but not impossible. And man, was it fun! We did a whole routine of going around the room doing these various moves, and I can't believe how much I enjoyed it!

I will definitely be back at the Masala Bhangra class, as well as the Belly Dancing Abs class. Who knows? Maybe I will actually show some sense of rhythm on the dance floor one day!

I have joked for years with Jon that we need "Subway Squawkers: The Musical." So now I have at least one scene mapped out: we do a group dance Masala Bhangra style!  Jon said we could call the number "Slumdog Squawker!"

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Women's Running put a heavy woman on their cover. Why doesn't that impress me?

I've seen a lot of talk on social media and the blogosphere over the past week about the August cover of Women's Running. Instead of the usual cover with a woman with a typical runner's body, the latest cover features an overweight woman runner. A lot of people thought that the cover showed big progress. I myself was at first excited by the picture, but then I read about the model and felt very mixed emotions, including feeling more than a little cheated by the whole thing. Let me explain.

First of all, the article on their website describing Erica Schenk, the "cover runner," as they call her, does not list her age, but says she has been running for 10 years. Really? That depressed the heck out of me. I've been busting my butt to get in shape for roughly the past two years, and have lost 45 pounds so far. But I still have a ways to go, and I would hate to think that eight years from now, I still wouldn't be thin again!

Schenk is in the magazine promoting, as they call it, "new running gear for women with curvy frames," and she talks about how while "some women believe that since they have curves they can’t run or shouldn’t run," that running is for every body anytime." I may be in the minority on this, but I really hate the word "curvy" being used to describe what Schenk is, and what I am, which is fat. Curvy is a ridiculous euphemism. After all, I was curvy when I was thin, as many women are. If you want to say overweight or big or plus-size, that's fine. But enough with the "curvy" sugarcoating. There are plenty of thin and curvy runners out there, but they aren't the ones who have had issues buying running gear. It's the fat folks like myself who have!

Then I saw some articles elsewhere about the "cover runner." Turns out, according to People magazine, this woman, who has been running for 10 years, is 18 years old and is a plus-size model. Not exactly your typical overweight runner. Funny how Women's Running never mentioned either of those very relevant facts in their gushy story about her. (And frankly, I thought she was at least 10 years older. Would never have guessed from the cover that she was 18.)

Eonline also did a story on Schenk, in which it says she runs once a week. So this is role model for the rest of us? Somebody who runs just once a week? Then I looked up Schenk on Athlinks, a website that tracks race results throughout the United States. There isn't a single record of her doing any races. Hmmmm. Again, I am supposed to be inspired by this runner? Isn't there anybody else in the United States that Women's Running could have found to put on their cover? Like a heavy runner who actually is out there in the trenches running regularly?

In that Eonline article, Schenk says: "Many companies are making money off women's insecurities," she said. "With diets, workouts, pills, surgeries, and everything else we forget to love ourselves and our so called flaws. Real change takes generations. I am so proud that I am here not only to witness but to help with the effort towards body acceptance." She also says, "I've had so much positive feedback. I can feel the masses begging for more. They want to be able to relate to the struggles, success, and celebration of people just like them."

I don't really see my struggles in an 18-year-old plus-size model who is literally making money off being overweight. Sorry. And the reality is that being fat IS life-limiting behavior. Sure, it would be wonderful if overweight people didn't experience prejudice and judgments, but this is not the world we live in. Since I was thin until I quit smoking when I was 37, I know that all too well. It was a real eye-opener to experience that for myself.

Everything is harder in your life when you are fat, from exercise to dating to even looking for a job. Across the board, you get treated worse than thin people do. That is reality. Not to mention the health issues involved when you get to a certain age when overweight and find yourself winded just climbing the subway stairs. It's no picnic. Again, it would be great if fat people didn't experience prejudice, or health problems. But that is not reality.

Runner's World magazine also recently did a story about an overweight runner, but I could relate to her much more. Mirna Valerio, 39, lost 50 pounds from running, but is still fat. However, even at 5 feet 7 and 250 pounds, she does trail running and ultramarathons. She has completed six marathons, two ultramarathons, and a slew of road races (she has a big record in Athlinks!) She also writes the Fat Girl Running blog.

The article does a pretty good job of capturing the double takes people give Valerio when they see her running -- double takes I know all too well!

I also could relate to what she said about her weight: “Of course, deep down, I would like to be thinner,” she tells the magazine. “Accepting my weight doesn't mean I'm satisfied with my weight. You meet a fat person who says otherwise, she's lying.” She also admitted: "I'm just not interested in starving myself on some 1500-calorie-a-day plan, losing a bunch of weight, then gaining it right back because my diet is totally unrealistic," which at least explained why she is still overweight despite all of her races.

But I could have done without this snarky remark from the author in the article: "Valerio runs at about an 11-to 13-minute-mile pace, roughly the same rate at which Terry Fox ran across Canada on one good leg and one prosthetic leg in 1980." Geez, I wish I could run 11 minutes a mile! Sorry that Runner's World thinks that is such a pathetic number.

Anyhow, while I am more interested in weight loss than Valerio is, I was very impressed by her mileage and her speed and her endurance. Interesting story, too. Much more relatable story than the Women's Running cover.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Mets leave an entire 25-man roster on base

Before reverting to Eeyore mode, I'll give the Mets some well-deserved praise for hanging tough through 18 innings to defeat what many consider to be the best team in baseball. The Mets are trying, at least. And now, back to Eeyore mode.

Trying? Trying my patience, and that of everyone else watching this team (except, apparently, the front office). 25 men left on base, tying a franchise record. 1-for-26 with runners in scoring position. Dead last in the National League in runs, ahead of only the White Sox in MLB. Dead last in MLB in batting average. But 17th in walks, so I guess Sandy Alderson's moneyball approach must be working.

But if there's anything that brings out the Eeyore in me and many other Met fans, it's that behind our shouts of "Sandy, do something!" there's another voice muttering, "Sandy, don't make things worse." Last winter, everyone knew the Mets needed offensive help. So Alderson went out and got... Michael Cuddyer and John Mayberry Jr. And he was willing to give up a first-round pick for Cuddyer. If Alderson wants to mortgage the future, he needs to do a lot better than that.  Instead, we could get something like Alderson pulling a reverse Zack Wheeler trade. Hey, he's hurt - out of sight, out of mind, so let's trade him for someone who could help us now, like Carlos Beltran! If nothing else, he'd make Cuddyer seem healthier and younger by comparison.

Of course, it all comes down to money, and as long as the Mets are unwilling to spend, it's all a moot point. They won't even take on payroll to bolster their pathetic bench.

Late in yesterday's game, the SNY feed went out. The game went to audio only, and not broadcast-quality audio either, more like someone listening over the phone.  I wondered if perhaps the Mets had run out of money to pay for the overtime the broadcast  was accruing.  At least you could still hear Keith Hernandez's sighs.


Shocker! I am actually feeling a little confident about the 2015 Yankees' chances!

I know I can be a bit of an Eeyore when it comes to how I think the Yankees will do. (Although Squawker Jon was the one who recently got called that by one of our readers!)

After all, in my preseason predictions, I figured the Yanks would finish in fourth place in the AL East, not win more than 80 games, and have a worse record than the Mets. And even though the Yankees have exceeded everyone's expectations, and are in first place, albeit in a pretty weak division, I still keep on waiting for the other shoe to drop. For Masahiro Tanaka's arm to finally get that Tommy John surgery. For other teams in the division to get hot.

But after Sunday, I am about as positive on this team as I have been all year. Two things impressed me. The first, of course, is that the Yankees got a series win against Seattle, winning a game that King Felix started, with CC Sabathia pitching like the CC of old. CC even roared and pumped his fist after striking out Robinson Cano! Also, Mark (Gluten-Free) Teixeira continued his phenomenal year with the game-winning homer.

The second was that Carlos Beltran did a fundraiser for his baseball academy Sunday night with an "80s Strike Back" theme, and many members of the team showed up, wearing goofy 1980s-style outfits. Although I don't remember some of these styles, and I lived through the 80s!

However, I did so many fashion and hair monstrosities back then, it's not even funny! I do think somebody should have worn a skinny leather tie with parachute pants -- that was a popular guys' style when I was in high school.

My favorite looks from the photo above are from Michael Pineda (the man in the yellow hat), CC Sabathia rocking the overalls, Garrett Jones as Bruce Springsteen and Chris Young with the Run-DMC look. The worst is A-Rod -- he should have gone for a Miami Vice look instead of the generic blazer and shirt!

Anyhow, one of the reasons for the team's success in 2009 seemed to be that they really liked each other. They had the walkoff pies and the kangaroo court and all sorts of silliness. I get the feeling that this 2015 team really likes each other as well. These sorts of bonding events are great for team chemistry.

So I don't know if this team has what it takes to win it all. But Sunday is the best I have felt about their chances all season!

One sour note about Sunday -- was sad to see Rob Refsnyder sent down to the minors. The incriminating picks Stephen Drew must have on Brian Cashman must be really something!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Who let the dogs out? A-Rod! Yes, Alex Rodriguez was responsible for the song being a hit

I loved the Ken Jeong/Alex Rodriguez apology skit at the ESPYs this week (see clip below). The comedian read apologies from A-Rod for inventing gluten, for the Knicks (as well as even for the TV show "The Knick"!) and for a slew of other silly items. The clip got Mike Lupica so angry that the Daily News writer channeled his inner Mushnick and wrote a whole column about how offensive it was.

There is one thing, though, that Alex still needs to apologize for: making "Who Let the Dogs Out" popular!

No joke. This is the 15th anniversary of the song, and Ben Reiter of Sports Illustrated looked back at it as part of their "Where Are They Now" issue. Even NPR (!) got into the act, interviewing Reiter about his article. And yes, it was A-Rod who made the song a hit!

Here are some fun facts about the Baha Men's "Who Let the Dogs Out":

  • The Seattle Mariners were the first team to play the song. They initially did so as a goof on "a country-western catcher named Joe Oliver," Reiter said. The team "played it one time, then another player on the Mariners said, 'You know what? I want you to play that song as my at-bat music.' That player was Alex Rodriguez — A-Rod was really the one who first made this song popular."
  • Steve Greenberg, the song's producer, also produced Hanson's "MMMMBop," thus making him responsible for two of the worst songs of all time.
  • In the 2000 MLB playoffs, five of the teams "(the Cardinals, Giants, Mariners, Mets and White Sox) were playing 'WLTDO' as their rally song," Sports Illustrated notes.
  • I had moved to New York City from Texas in the fall of 2000, and my uncles took me to see the Mets in a postseason game -- they clinched the first round of the playoffs against the San Francisco Giants. I don't remember much about the game except for them playing "Who Let the Dogs Out" after they won!
  • But the SI article notes that when the Mets met the Yankees in the Subway Series that year, actually hired the Baha Men to play their hit before Game 4 at Shea Stadium. To which I note, no wonder Derek Jeter had to shut fans up with his leadoff homer in that game! 
  • Nelson Doubleday hated the song: "I can’t stand that ‘Let Out the Dogs’ song," he said then. "I have three dogs of my own."
So c'mon, Alex, you have to apologize for this song, and the fact that it's stuck in my head right now and won't go away!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Questioningly: How I got thrown onstage at a Ramones concert, and the shocking thing I found out about this many years later

Nothing sez "surfing" like Joey Ramone!
This is a story about the Ramones. This is also a story about friendship…and betrayal. Well, kind of. Let me explain.

I was running along the Hudson River in lower Manhattan last week, listening to the Ramones on Amazon Music, when I was struck by an amusing notion – that the Ramones were a big part of the soundtrack of my childhood. No wonder I’m weird; I grew up hearing about pinheads and lobotomies and hustlers and shock treatment and cretins and thorazine and carbona (not glue).  

I first heard about the Ramones in 1976, when I was nine years old. My brother Patrick started sneaking into CBGBs when he was 13 or so, and he saw the Ramones for the first time that year. Patrick brought home the band’s first album and played it incessantly, bought each one of the other Ramones’ albums as they were released, and saw the Ramones in concert a bazillion times. (In later years, my brother ended up introducing his daughter Amy to the Ramones when she was nine, taking her to a show!)

Now, I didn’t like or understand their music at first -- it sounded like "nightmare music," to use my mother's expression. But by the time of “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” or so, I finally “got it.” (I also thought Riff Randell was awesome – she was who I wanted to be, but I was never as cool as her!) And I remember hoping that the Ramones' Phil Spector-produced "End of the Century" album would be their breakthrough record.

You have to remember that the Ramones were basically never popular or cool in the mainstream until after they had broken up. They weren’t doing Archie comics with the Ramones back then, or playing their music at baseball games!

The album my brother brought home.
Spike Lee’s movie “Summer of Sam” wasn’t a great film by any means, but one of the things that rang true to my brother and me was the way the Adrien Brody punk rock character got treated poorly, beaten up, and even suspected of being Son of Sam! My brother got a lot of grief for his Ramones fandom. As did I, when I did a report in elementary school music class about the band and everybody laughed at me and mocked me. 

Back then, punks were seen as weird and creepy and dangerous. Like Sex Pistol Sid Vicious, who stabbed his girlfriend to death, then ended up ODing on heroin. 

Take a look at this hysterical “20/20” news report on punk rock to see what I am talking about when it came to how people thought of the music genre then.

So that rebellious edge was very appealing to me. I was so much into music back then -- straight-ahead rock, as well as new wave music, hip-hop, and punk, of course. But I gravitated towards punk music -- and the punk look -- more than anything else back in the day.

I also used to go to shows all the time in high school and college. As time went on, I got to see the Ramones, Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks, and other punk bands in concert. I slamdanced a lot and even ended up with a black eye one time after a night in the mosh pit at a Circle Jerks show!

I went to some of these shows with my good friend Bobby Meehan. We both attended the University of Texas at Austin and we were both huge music fans.  So it was natural when the Ramones came to town that we would go see them together. As best as I can tell, it was January 1988 when we saw the Ramones in concert at The Back Room, a small club in South Austin.

My friend Bobby, fellow Ramones fan
The most noteworthy thing about the show was that I (unintentionally) crowdsurfed and literally got thrown on stage during the show. This happened during “Surfin’ Bird,” if I remember correctly. Back then, I was six feet tall and about 150 pounds or so, and I was wearing leather (I wore lots of leather back then – it was the 80s!) and Chuck Taylor high-tops. 

That night, some guy who was much taller and bigger than me recognized me from school. He felt that I shouldn’t be at the show. (Suffice it to say that my politics were much more conservative back then than they are now, and this annoyed him! I guess I was supposed to be at a Lawrence Welk show or something!) So this guy said something to me to that effect, asking why I was there. Then he literally grabbed me, picked me up and held me above the crowd.

You know how musicians sometimes stage dive into the crowd? Well, this was the opposite. I was being held above the crowd by punk fans I didn’t know, crowdsurfing without intending to! I couldn’t get down by myself, and I was terrified that somebody was going to drop me. I screamed, “Bobby, help me!”
After all these years, Bobby is
still smug and unrepentant!

But that didn’t help. All that happened next was that the crowd ended up tossing me onstage with the Ramones! While it was kind of cool to be on stage with the band, I was scared when I got thrown through the air that 1) I was going to crash into someone – or something – onstage and get hurt, or 2) I would somehow get thrown out of the concert (no pun intended!).

Fortunately, neither thing happened. Shortly thereafter, after that, someone in the band’s security detail ended up tossing me off the stage, but I was able to resume watching the show with Bobby. Luckily, I emerged unscathed from this scary event with nothing but a good story. As time went on, I really liked telling this story, as it showed my punk bona fides.

Fast forward to this past weekend. After thinking about how the Ramones’ music was so important in my early life, I thought I should ask Bobby for his recollection of the night I got thrown on stage. Here’s how it went down: 
No, Bobby. This is what cool looks like!

Me: “I was just thinking about us at The Ramones today! Was going to Squawk about it. Remember when the guy threw me onstage at The Ramones' show at The Back Room? I am pretty sure Surfin' Bird was playing, but I can't say 100% for sure. What a moment!

Bobby; “YES!! I conspired with those guys to get you up over the crowd and near the stage. Squawk it!!! I remember that, Blitzkrieg Bop and Bonzo Goes To Bitburg. I totally slammed during those songs!”

Me: “Did you really? I thought that guy just found me at random!  I remember calling your name for help! Who knew that you conspired against me! I WILL be Squawking about this!”

Bobby: “That guy knew we were together, so he and his buddies asked me to help them get you up.”

Say what??? I was shocked to hear this. My good friend Bobby (who shared my politics then, by the way) was partially responsible for me being thrown onstage at the Ramones concert! And I had no idea of his role in these shenanigans. Until now. 

I will get you for this, Bobby!  Well, not really. I actually think the whole thing is actually hilarious. And makes a good story even better. So thanks!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Can Captain Kirk and the Mets beam up a playoff spot?

The pitching staff has Matt Harvey, the Dark Knight, and Noah Syndergaard, aka Thor. On Sunday, Captain Kirk Nieuwenhuis became the first player in Mets history to hit three homers in one home game. If only the payroll weren't the size of Ant-Man.

Nieuwenhuis hitting three homers is like something out of the miracle year of 1969, when Al Weis, who had two homers in the regular season, homered in the World Series-clinching Game 5. A more appropriate Star Trek nickname for Nieuwenhuis would be Redshirt, after the anonymous member of the landing party who often gets killed. This year alone, Nieuwenhuis was dropped by the Mets and picked up and dropped by the Angels before ending up back with the Mets.

In recent games, the Mets have also won games with the help of a Harvey homer and a four-RBI debut from Steven Matz.  Great pitching and timely hitting from unexpected sources. Could this be 1969 all over again?

As a longtime Met fan, I can only have one answer for that - no.

Along with Weis, Donn Clendenon also homered in Game 5. Clendenon was acquired at the trading deadline that season to bolster the middle of the lineup. He went on to be World Series MVP.

If the Mets are able to acquire a legitimate middle-of-the-order hitter at the 2015 trading deadline, the outlook for the rest of the season will obviously look a lot better. But even if such a hitter were available, and the Mets could land him without surrendering a top pitcher, two big ifs, I won't believe this franchise is willing or able to take on payroll until I see it happen.  And in five years, Sandy Alderson has shown the ability to acquire prospects, but not established players.

As Adam Rubin of ESPN noted, the Mets have now scored their last 15 runs with home runs, after recently failing to homer in nine straight games. This would be unsustainable if the lineup were made up of power hitters like Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton, much less than if you are relying on hitting heroics from the likes of Nieuwenhuis and the pitching staff.

At least Lucas Duda hit two homers against Arizona. A return to last year's form for Duda would probably help as much as any deadline acquisition.
As for Nieuwenhuis, I hope he has more days that bring up memories of 1969. But 1969 was also the year that Captain Kirk's original Star Trek was canceled.

My shenanigans this weekend, including a (slightly) new look

This is about as good as my hair
will ever look!
I had a busy weekend, and that doesn't even factor in Yankees-Red Sox! On Friday, I finally got a haircut (I was waiting until after the Grateful Dead farewell concert to do so!) It is a slightly different look for me, with fuller bangs, and actually seems to go well with my glasses!

Then I got home and watched the Yankees-Red Sox win, although I missed seeing A-Rod's first-inning homer live.  I also found out some shocking news from a friend (it involves a Ramones concert we attended in college) which will make it into a future Squawk.

Saturday morning, I had to get up early for the Staten Island Pride run in Snug Harbor. It was a fun race, and the only one at that location. I am getting better as a runner, with increased strength and stamina, but I will never be a great runner. No matter. I still enjoy being out there doing it -- something I never could have guessed that I would!

After the race, I checked out the Pride festival, with attendance and sponsors and vendors that would have been unthinkable on Staten Island just a few years ago. The country has evolved rapidly on LGBT issues, and that's a good thing! Then I watched Saturday's Yankees-Red Sox game, although I also missed seeing A-Rod's first-inning homer that night!

Sunday morning, I got up early again -- this time to do a five-mile run with my running club. Then I went to Manhattan to the Bastille Day Festival at Le District in Battery Park City. I am a francophile who hopes to get to France one day. I also studied French in college. So every year, I go to a Bastille Day festival -- usually the 60th Street one. But this year, Le District, which is basically the French Eataly, but less claustrophobic, and with better prices, had their own Bastille Day festival. Since they are much closer to where I live, and since the 60th Street festival has gotten more pricey and crowded in recent years, I thought I would give it a try. Good decision!

The health club Equinox had a 45-minute outdoor spinning session as part of the event. I ended up getting the chance to do the class, which was a lot of fun. (I also have the feeling I might have my picture in the paper today, as some professional photographers were snapping away at us!) The club gave us water and towels, including wet eucalyptus-scented towels. I have been trying to do a spin class each week, so I can get better at it. And I actually am getting better, although I am still pretty weak compared to others. The hardest part of this class was the heat. About a half hour in, I was ready to give up, because it was so hot. But I didn't for two reasons -- I didn't want to look like I couldn't hack it, and a cool breeze came in to make the heat a little more bearable!

Afterwards, Equinox let us shower in their facilities. My current gym, the New York Health and Racquet Club, is pretty nice -- it is like a Holiday Inn, compared to the Y, my old gym, which was like a Days Inn. But the Equinox is like the Ritz-Carlton. The showers alone were phenomenal, with built-in changing rooms for each one and Kiehl's products. The towels were huge and soft. The whole place was like being in a spa.

After showering, I checked out the rest of the festival. A number of stores in Brookfield Place had free champagne and wine tastings. One even had truffle-flavored Umani Burger sliders, which were fantastic! I also checked out Le District. It is very cool -- separate stands for cheese, sandwiches, rotisserie chicken, pastries, meats, and fish. Extremely friendly staffers, too. There are also bars and restaurants. Brought home some delicious rotisserie chicken for dinner last night.

Anyhow, this concludes my self-indulgent post for the weekend. We now return you to your regularly scheduled Squawking!

My thoughts on the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry and whether Rob Refsnyder has soul (Seoul)

Do you ever find that people you couldn't stand when you first met you end up really liking? That's how I feel about the folks at Monstah Mash. They are a Red Sox fan site who discovered me a few months ago, back when I wrote an article fact-checking David Ortiz that got some traffic in the blogosphere -- and in the Boston Globe.

Anyhow, Nick Piccione, one of the writers on their site, saw the piece and the followup, wrote something slamming me, and sent it to me on Twitter. I read it, thought it went way too far in personal attacks against me, so I ended up blocking him and the Monstah Mash Twitter account. Then, after Squawker Jon encouraged me to, I read Nick's article again. And I realized that despite his cheap shots at me, he was actually both pretty funny, and a good writer as well. (Believe me, I don't give those compliments out lightly -- especially to a member of Red Sox Nation!)

Also, dare I say it? There was a little bit of a Subway Squawkers tone to the Monstah Mash site! So how could I be against them?

Anyhow, I ended up unblocking them on Twitter, and started talking. Long story short, this weekend, we did a little good-natured trash talk on Twitter this weekend about the Yankees-Red Sox series. It was fun. We each got in some good digs, but still kept the tone (mostly) light. (Edited to add that they are bitter and cranky today over their team losing the series!)

But it reminded me what such a conversation would have looked like 12-13 years ago. It would have been a lot more intense and angry! Heck, I ended up missing parts of the games this weekend, which would never have happened circa 2004. (Squawker Jon is still bitter that I showed up late to his birthday party that year because I was watching the end of the A-Rod/Varitek fight game!)

Also, the writers at Monstah Mash are in their early 20s, which means they were kids when The Curse was broken. So they don't have the history of Red Sox angst and heartbreak that, say, my pal Sully at Sully Baseball does. They more remember the three rings in a decade for their team (and oy, you don't know how much angst I feel writing those words!) So they are, gulp, used to having their team win World Series championships!

It's a whole new world, folks! I'm just glad the Yankees won two out of three, giving me bragging rights -- for now, at least!

* * *

In other news, Rob Refsnyder got called up this weekend, even though Brian Cashman has made it clear he doesn't want to keep him up here. But Refsnyder got his first MLB hit -- and also his first homer -- yesterday. (John Sterling's call was Rob Refsnyder's got Seoul, a play on his heritage.)

I think Refsnyder should be given a chance at second. It's not like Stephen Drew is the second coming of Robinson Cano. He is hitting .182, for goodness sake!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

From half-empty stadiums to the Canyon of Heroines: how did we get here?

Remember how I wrote a few days ago about how enthusiasm is really appealing, like the way Phish singer/guitarist Trey Anastasio was so passionate when playing as part of the Grateful Dead last week? I was reminded of that enthusiasm when I saw my friend Brent Nycz talk so excitedly about the U.S. women's soccer team, and their win in the Women's World Cup this week. Brent, of course, showed up at Friday's ticker tape parade. I asked him to write for the Squawkers on this subject, since he is so enthusiastic about it! Brent is also a special education teacher in a New York City elementary school, a fellow Yankee fan, and an all-around good guy. Anyhow, without further ado, here is Brent's article. -- Lisa 

Four years ago, the United States women's national team (USWNT) played one last match against Mexico as a warm-up for the 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany. The match took place at Red Bull Arena, a true modern soccer stadium only a PATH ride away from New York City that can fit 25,000 people at capacity. The women's team had their struggles to even make it to the World Cup, losing to this same Mexico team 1-0 in their qualifiers and had to win a playoff against Italy to claim the last spot, so buzz around this team was minimal at best.

I was at that match, my first-ever time watching the USWNT play in front of me. I've been a fan since the mid-90s, but my fandom didn't grow until the start of this decade, partly because I started to find people who loved the team as much as I did. After watching the match (a US 1-0 win after a late goal by Lauren Holiday), I couldn't help feeling if people still cared.

5,852 people showed up. Just a little more than 1/5th the capacity of the arena.

Four years later, on the tail end of their celebrations after winning their third World Cup, the USWNT was greeted with a crowd up and down the Canyon of Heroes on Broadway, looking like this.

Thousands upon thousands lining up the street and the media going crazy reporting the parade. This all coming after the US final against Japan broke TV rating records across the board and a warm-up match series that saw three straight sell-outs in the matches prior to the World Cup, including, yes, Red Bull Arena, which drew 26,467 people in the last warm-up match.

From half-empty stadiums to the Canyon of Heroines, how did we get here?

* * *

I could regale you all with the storied history of the team: their first international match in 1985 (a 1-0 loss to Italy), the struggles of funding from the US soccer federation, the 1991 world championship win and how the media decided not to give it full coverage. I could even start with the 1999 team (also known as the 99ers) and the impact those women have had on soccer here in the US in numerous ways, but that's been covered to death in the last 16 years. 

In fact, the shadow of the 99ers has fallen on this team and every team following 1999 in every move they make. The outdated tactics used, focusing on physicality and athleticism, rather than creativity and procession of the ball, relying too much on players who may have lost a step or two while young, skilled players are waiting in the wings, and clinging onto coaches who are steeped in the tradition of the past, instead of modern coaches skilled in the evolution of the game are all signs of the 99ers' shadow. The biggest demonstration of this was shown in the 2007 Women's World Cup semifinal, when then-coach Greg Ryan decided to beach his starting goalie Hope Solo (who got three World Cup clean sheets up to that point) in favor of the 99er Briana Scurry, 36 years old and hadn't played a competitive match in three months.

The game went as you could have predicted: a 4-0 Brazil win. Solo then spoke her infamous words in an interview that caused her to get shunned by the veterans and old-guard on and off the team: 

"And the fact of the matter is it's not 2004 anymore. It's not 2004. And it's 2007, and I think you have to live in the present. And you can't live by big names. You can't live in the past. It doesn't matter what somebody did in an Olympic gold medal game in the Olympics three years ago. Now is what matters, and that's what I think."

Honestly, watching the USWNT play early on in the World Cup, I almost felt like Hope. The shadow felt hard on the team, focusing their scoring efforts through the legendary Abby Wambach, who started her international career two years after the 1999 World Cup win and is one of the best women soccer players ever. She has also lost a step and struggled to keep up with the pace of the game, even as the team tried feeding her the ball to help her score. Head coach Jill Ellis also used the same 4-4-2, focusing attacking midfielders like Carli Lloyd to play a holding defensive midfielder position and forwards like Christen Press as a flank midfielder. Those group game matches along with the Columbia Round-of-16 game were all painful to watch.

However, as the games got more meaningful and the pressure was on, the USWNT didn't bend or break as they had the last three World Cups before. This US team, I saw something... different. This team did as much as they could to escape from the 99ers' shadow and to carve their own legacy. 

Yes, part of it was Jill Ellis finally waking up, taking Abby out of the starting eleven, putting the super-talented 22-year-old Morgan Brian as a holding midfielder, and putting Carli Lloyd higher on the pitch to give her more scoring opportunities. Part of it came from the players themselves. The back-line of Ali Krieger, Meghan Klingenberg, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Julie Johnson helped provide an incredible backline that made it almost impossible to score (the USWNT only let up 3 goals the entire tournament [7 games]). Abby Wambach did her leading off the bench, encouraging the team with her words as well as she did with her actions previously.

The rest is history. The previously-misplaced Carli Lloyd ended up scoring a goal in the last three games of the World Cup, including her hat trick in the final, finishing it with one of the best goals I've ever witnessed.

In fact, when I watched her hat trick goal, I was at a host bar for the American Outlaws (national fan-supporter group) in Oakland. I was flanked on my sides by my girlfriend and numerous supporters from all over the Bay Area. When the ball hit the back of the net and in, I fell on the ground, laid on my back, and looked up at the ceiling, laughing and in shock.

That feeling of shock, of joy, of excitement, those feelings of exuberance and inspiration that brought those thousands to New York City on Friday, those aren't unique feelings. We've felt them as a nation 16 years ago, when household names like Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain captured our hearts as a nation and the hearts of young girls all over. But those feelings are now theirs, the 15ers, as they are now called. Those feelings those young girls felt in 1999 are the same feelings 23 of those girls-turned-women are giving back to the nation and to young girls all over again. Girls, boys, and even women and men (like, um, me) are wearing and want to become like our new household names: Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, and many more.

The 99ers had their legacy. Now, the 15ers have their own legacy and their own shadow to build. As a fan, I can only hope that shadow is not one that is dark and brooding, but one that builds and evolves over time as the game evolves. 

* * *

As awesome as the World Cup win was, I can't pretend and say that everything is hunky-dory in regards to the state of the team
  • As mentioned before, Jill Ellis made some head-scratching moves from the warm-up games up to the Quarterfinal game against China. With Wambach possibly retiring and other veterans considering their fates, the USWNT needs a coach who can adjust to the young talent waiting at the wings to join the team and make their own mark. Also, as the world continues to catch up to us in women's soccer, the same coach should understand how the modern game is being played and beat it all over again next year in the Olympics and in 2019 in France.
  • Aside from Sydney Leroux and potentially Christen Press, the USWNT is made up of white women. I don't feel it's a race issue as much as it's a monetary issue. Girls who are talented enough to pay at a higher level can be recruited to play on travel teams and club teams, even as teenagers. Those teams aren't free, costing parents thousands of dollars. Club and travel teams can lead to some girls being picked for the U-20 and U-23 US teams, but to get to that stage, money does have a huge part to play in all of it, money that lower-income families may not have. Making soccer more accessible to girls and boys in all areas and cities/towns should be a major priority going forward, not for racial equality, but more for getting as much of the best talent as you can get.
  • I'd be remiss if I didn't speak a little on the Hope Solo facing two misdemeanor counts of assault in the fourth degree. My thoughts are way too detailed for just a paragraph, but long story short, I feel US Soccer did a terrible job handling the situation. If the federation suspended Solo while the charges were being dealt with, the story would have been dropped once the charges were dropped in January. Now that the case is going back to court on a special appeal, the situation may do even more damage in the future.
  • And of course, the state of the NWSL, which may change drastically if ticket sales continue to grow from the World Cup. Considering the failures of the last two women's soccer leagues in the US, it remains to be seen if the NWSL can overcome those same pitfalls and become a stronger league.
Regardless of these issues, the 23 women that represented our country in Canada this summer did an incredible job in showing what the best of our country can look like on a grand scale. These women has shown their humanity and, being a fan of many sports and teams, I feel the women handle themselves with a level of genuineness I rarely see in sports anymore.

Just like thousands of others, I was at the parade on Friday. The crowd was a lot more friendly than the 2008 NY Giants parade I went to and, yes, a lot less drunk people. My favorite moments at the parade were seeing how, despite being on top of the floats, the players did their best to acknowledge all their fans along the sides of the street. In fact, one of the players acknowledged me in a very cool way, which I wrote on my Tumblr here.

Being acknowledged by a few of the players left me feeling starstruck and pretty damn good that entire day and I'm a 27-year-old Puerto Rican male special education teacher who can't kick a soccer ball if his life depended on it. Imagine if you were a young girl or a young boy, watching these women kick butt and, while at the parade, one of them waved at you and smiled. Imagine if one of them answered a question you asked in Times Square or tweeted at them. That's possibly a life-changing experience for many young people growing up.

Hopefully, we can see that impact sooner than 16 years. Let's go, USWNT!


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