World Series: Injury to Insult

lidge_choochThis very well may be a case of injury adding to insult. In fact, it’s a two-fold thing… call it a rich tapestry of absurdness and irony. Like an onion, this story has many layers and the more that is peeled, the more it stinks.

OK, that might be a bit dramatic, but it truly is bizarre that both closers in the 2009 World Series were suffering through different states of injury.

For Brad Lidge, there very well could be a logical explanation for his poor season in which he posted 11 blown saves in 42 chances as well as the worst ERA in history for a pitcher with at least 25 saves. Though Lidge was decent in a handful of outings in the postseason, he took the hard-luck loss in Game 4 of the World Series and never seemed to gain the full trust of manager Charlie Manuel.

It seemed as if Manuel used Lidge only when he had no other options even though he had five scoreless appearances in the NLDS and NLCS.

The World Series, however, didn’t go so well.

So maybe we can chalk that up to the fact that Lidge will undergo surgery to have a “loose body” removed from his right elbow. Scott Eyre is having a similar procedure to his left elbow on Monday, too. The difference with Lidge is he will also have his right flexor/pronator tendon checked out. If it shows so much wear and tear that surgery is required, don’t expect Lidge to be recovered by the time spring training starts.

But if the tendon is fine, then all Lidge will need is to have that elbow scoped.

Of course Lidge also spent time on the disabled list in June for an injured knee. It was because of his knee pain that Lidge says he altered his mechanics, which may have led to his ineffectiveness. Now we know that those mechanical issues just might have led to the loose body and tendon trouble in his right elbow.

Not that Phillies fans are looking for a cause for why Lidge had such a difficult year, but there it is. However, it seems as if the price tag on a second straight trip to the World Series was pretty costly now that we see that Lidge, Eyre and Raul Ibanez are all headed for surgery.

Surgery might not be necessary for Mariano Rivera, who as it turned out was a little injured during the World Series. The New York Times reported that Rivera says he injured his ribcage by throwing 34 pitches in a two-inning save in Game 6 of the ALCS, though manager Joe Girardi says the injury came in Game 2 of the World Series where the closer threw 39 pitches in a two-inning save.

mo riveraWhenever it happened, chances are Rivera might not have been able to pitch had the World Series extended to a seven games.

Imagine that… a World Series Game 7 with the Yankees and the Phillies and Rivera can’t go?

“I don’t want to talk about it now,” Rivera told The Times with a smile.

Certainly the Game 7 question is a bit silly considering Rivera got the final five outs in the clinching Game 6. To get those last outs, Rivera needed 41 pitches—the most he’s thrown in a playoff game since throwing 48 pitches in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

“It was real important we close it out in Game 6,” Girardi told The Times, stating the obvious.

Meanwhile, it seems as if the Yankees tried to pull off a little misdirection of their own in order to hide Rivera’s injury. During the games in Philadelphia, Rivera was seen clutching a heating pad against his ribcage. When asked why he needed the heating pad by the press, Rivera said it was because he was cold.

That’s a reasonable answer, perhaps. Then again, the game-time temperature for Game 3 was 70 degrees and it was 50 for games 4 and 5.

So maybe Rivera might have been better off biting down on a bullet after a couple of belts of rye whiskey instead of the heating pad? After all, he must have been dealing with a lot of pain to pile up those four outings in the World Series.

“I had to go through it,” Rivera said, gritting his teeth on an imaginary bullet. “There’s nothing you can do about it.”

Now get this… Rivera says he wants to play for five more seasons. For a throwback closer who has no qualms about piling up the innings, five more years sounds like a long time—especially when one considers that Rivera will be 40 at the end of the month.

World Series: Howard’s End

Ryan HowardNEW YORK—In 1983, Mike Schmidt had one of those playoff series that people remember forever. In four games against the Dodgers in the NLCS, he very well could have been the MVP if ol’ Sarge Matthews hadn’t hit three homers and driven in eight runs in four games.

The fact of the matter is that Schmidt and Lefty Carlton single-handedly won Game 1 with a homer in the first inning of a 1-0 victory. All told, the Hall-of-Fame third baseman went 7-for-15 with five runs, a pair of walks and a .800 slugging percentage.

Statistically speaking, the 1983 NLCS was far and away Schmidt’s best postseason effort.

The thing is no one remembers how good Schmidt was in the 1983 NLCS because he was so awful in the ’83 World Series.

So it’s kind of odd that he followed up the success against the Dodgers with one of the worst showing by a Hall of Famer in World Series history. In fact, take away the 0-for-21 effort by Brooklyn’s Gil Hodges in the seven-game defeat to the Yankees in the 1952 World Series, and Schmidt’s 1983 World Series could go down as the worst by a superstar.

Schmidt went hitless in his first 13 at-bats with five strikeouts in the series against the Orioles. Had it not been for that broken-bat bloop single that just made it past shortstop Cal Ripken’s reach, Schmidt would have gone 0-for-20 in the series.

Not quite as bad as Gil Hodges in 1952, but pretty darned close.

After wearing out the Dodgers to get the Phillies to the World Series, the Orioles had Schmidt’s number. There was the hit against Storm Davis and a bunch of oh-fers against Scott McGregor, Mike Flanagan, Sammy Stewart, Jim Palmer and Tippy Martinez.

Schmidt had no chance.

Kind of like Ryan Howard against the Yankees in the 2009 World Series,

Just like Schmidt, Howard wore out the Dodgers in the NLCS with eight RBIs and four extra-base hits out of the five he got. Moreover, with six walks, Howard reached base in 11 of his 21 plate appearances.

Mix Howard’s NLCS with his performance in the NLDS, and it truly was an epic postseason. With an RBI in the first eight games of the postseason, Howard tied a record set by Lou Gehrig. Then there was the career-defining moment in the clinching Game 4 of the NLDS where trailing by two runs and down to their last out, Howard blasted a game-tying double to the right-field corner.

After the Rockies took the lead in the eighth inning, Howard paced the dugout during the top of the ninth and calmly told his teammates to, “Just get me to the plate, boys.”

That’s pretty darned cool.

celebrate1983But will anyone remember the RBI streak, the production in the NLCS and that clutch at-bat in the ninth inning of the NLDS after the World Series Howard had?

Better yet, how does Howard get people to forget about the World Series?

Needless to say it will be difficult. After all, Howard whiffed a record-breaking 13 times in six games. He managed just four hits and one, stat-padding homer in the final game. Until that homer, Howard had just one RBI. After piling on 14 RBIs in the first eight games, Howard got one in next six games before that meaningless homer.

“Sometimes you’ve got it and sometimes you don’t,” Howard shrugged after the finale.

Actually, the Yankees had Howard’s number largely by scouting the hell out of the Phillies for most of the second-half of the season. So what they saw was that the best way to handle Howard was with a steady diet of left-handers. Howard batted .207 with just six homers against lefties in the regular season so that was the strategy the Yankees used.

Against the Yankees, Howard faced lefties in 18 of his 25 plate appearances. And against righties he didn’t do much better by going 0-for-6. Charlie Manuel calls Howard, “The Big Piece,” and clearly the Yankees saw the Phillies’ lineup similarly.

Schmidt said the one thing that bothers him the most about his career was his 1-for-20 performance in the 1983 World Series. If that’s the case for Howard, he has been as candid about it—of course he doesn’t have the luxury of time and space to properly analyze his showing.

“I feel cool,” Howard said. “The only thing you can do now is go home and relax and come back for spring training.”

For now, that’s it.

World Series: When Reggie met Chase

110409-reggie_chaseNEW YORK—When people think of Reggie Jackson’s baseball career, inevitably the three-homer performance in Game 6 of the 1977 is the first moment that comes to mind. Three pitches have not just defined a man’s professional career, but also his life.

Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth are the only players to hit three home runs in a World Series game, and Jackson was the only player to hit five homers in a single World Series.

Until now.

Chase Utley, playing for the team Jackson followed as a kid while growing up in Wyncote, Montgomery County, tied the all-time record for homers in a series when he belted a pair in Game 5 at Citizens Bank Park. For Utley, it was the second multi-homer game of the series, which also ties a record set by Willie Mays Aikens who had a pair of two-homer games in the 1980 series against the Phillies.

But aside from the home runs and the clutch performances in the World Series, there really isn’t much that Jackson and Utley have in common. Oh sure, both players are known for their streakiness and strikeouts. After all, not only has Utley homered in five straight regular-season games during his career, but he also struck out five straight times in the 2007 NLDS, including four times in one game on 13 pitches.

Jackson, of course, struck out more times than any player in the history of the game. The thing about that is Jackson’s strikeouts were just as epic as his home runs. Nope, Jackson did not get cheated.

“I was known for postseason, not what I did in the regular season and I had great years,” Jackson said. “But you play to win. Our club, our organization is just hell-bent, from our ownership to our general manager. They’ve built it to win here. The conversations that we have are about winning a championship.”

Utley hasn’t been cheated either. Though Jackson pointed out that the ballparks in Philadelphia and New York are “small,” Utley hasn’t hit any squeakers. The homers Utley hit in Game 5 were gone by the time he made contact. In fact, Utley uncharacteristically pulled a bit a Reggie on his first-inning homer on Monday night when he flipped his bat aside and watched it sail toward the right-field fence ever-so briefly.

Jackson, of course, was famous for posturing on his homers. His style was the antithesis of Utley’s but as far as that goes, Jackson is a huge fan of the Phillies’ second baseman. In fact, Jackson greeted Utley when the Phillies came out on the field for batting practice before Game 6 on Wednesday to congratulate him on tying the record.

As far as the comparison between the two World Series home run kings go, that’s about all they have in common. Jackson demanded attention on and off the field. Utley gets the attention because of what he does on the field. He’s not interesting in having it any other way.

“We’re different type of players,” Jackson said. “But he hit 30 home runs, [and] that’s a lot of home runs. I don’t want to compare he and I. He’s a great hitter. But it’s not about style—it’s about winning. That’s what is important.”

Said manager Charlie Manuel about Utley: “Actually he don’t like for you to say a whole lot of things about him. But he’s one of the most prepared, one of the most dedicated, he has the most desire and passion to play the game that I’ve ever been around.”

After the brief conversation with Utley, Jackson walked away even more impressed, especially when Mr. October was told that the record only matters if the Phillies win the World Series.

Otherwise, who cares?

reggie_1977“He’s old school,” Jackson said about Utley. “When you talk to Chase Utley and hear what he focuses on, he really doesn’t care to talk about it much. They’re down 3-2 and that’s where he’s at, and I admire that. I admire that professionalism.”

The notion that Utley could become the first World Series MVP to come from a losing team since Bobby Richardson got the award when the Yankees lost to the Pirates in seven games, has been quite popular. Certainly Utley has to be a candidate on the strength of belting five homers in the first five games, but Jackson got the sense that the All-Star second baseman wouldn’t want the award if the Phillies did not win the World Series.

“You have to win the World Series,” Jackson said. “I don’t want the MVP award if I don’t win. I don’t care—I’d want to win [the award], but you play to win. What was it that Herman Edwards said, ‘You play to win the game.’

“It’s all really about winning. You’d rather hit three home runs and win the World Series then hit seven and not. You have to win, the rest of it doesn’t matter much.”

Utley is trying to make it all matter. Plus, he could have two more games to break Reggie’s record… if he does it, will Utley get a candy bar named after him, too?

The Throwback World Series: Phillies in Six

cliff leeWe’re riding the rails to New York City for the World Series the way Robin Roberts and Richie Ashburn probably did on their lone trip to the big city for the big series nearly six decades ago. Only this time around, we media types don’t travel in the club car with the ballplayers and team execs. Those days ended a long time ago.

Frankly, everyone is pleased about that. Oh no, taking the train is fantastic. In fact, why the railway infrastructure in the U.S. is as paltry as it is (compared to other industrialized nations) is a sin. It’s a crime, too. A crime and a sin.

Nope, ballplayers and media guys don’t mix anymore in the same way that people don’t dress up in smart, tweed suits or fedoras to travel anymore. There are a lot of reasons for this, and it’s probably a smart idea not to get into it here, but make no mistake about it…

We’re on the trains.

Fact is, when the Yankees finally figured out a way not to mess up the series against the Angels, the first thing I thought about was the fact that I wouldn’t have to get on a plane and jet off clear across the country to Orange County. Nope, a short ride to the train station for the trip up to Penn Station was all it took.

Just like they used to do it back when the baseball, not the hype, was the star. Back then, the story was Jim Konstanty coming out of the bullpen to make his first ever start in Game 1. This time Jay-Z and Alicia Keys are going to “sing” a song before Game 1 or something like that.

The big story should be the huge matchup between ex-teammates Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia in Game 1. This, to use an old-timey term, is a dream matchup up. Think about it—Lee and Sabathia won the Cy Young Award the past two seasons when they both played for the Indians. But as it works in the days without the reserve clause, Lee and Sabathia had to be dealt away from Cleveland because they were too good.

Success equals a higher paycheck in Major League Baseball. Talk about a slice of Americana.

Oh, but Game 1 might not be the only time this dream matchup occurs and riding the train to and from New York from 30th Street Station might not be the only relic of a bygone era. In fact, Lee and Sabathia could challenge convention wisdom and post-modern baseball smarts by pitching twice on three days’ rest if the series goes seven games.

How cool would that be?

Instead of Yankees manager Joe Girardi digging through sabermetric-riddled binders for his next baseball move while Charlie Manuel leans against the rail in the dugout and chews gum (he already has all those books memorized), it will be like Casey Stengel and Eddie Sawyer are going at it all over again.

Let the pitchers pitch? Oh yes, this might happen.

The fact is, starting pitchers rarely get three starts in a World Series anymore. But then again the World Series doesn’t go seven games all that much these days, either. Curt Schilling made three starts in the 2001 series against the Yankees and Jack Morris famously started three games in the 1991 World Series.

Before Morris, the three-time starters in the World Series are few and far between. Bruce Hurt in 1986 and Luis Tiant in 1975 made three starts in the World Series. Otherwise, the last time two pitchers squared off three times in a single series was 41 years ago when Bob Gibson of the Cardinals and Mickey Lolich of the Tigers went at it in 1968. Better yet, both guys pitched three complete games.

Gibson, of course, was a freak. He made three starts in the 1964, 1967 and 1968 World Series and pitched 27 innings in each one.

Nevertheless, aside from New York-Philly, Amtrak and Lee and Sabathia, there are other reasons why the national media is hyping the 2009 World Series as a chance to be epic. After all, these very modern ball clubs also are contradictions within themselves in that they are throwbacks, too. This applies more to the Phillies than the Yankees, because of that whole un-Yankee like behavior with the pies, post-game celebrations, A-Rod and whatnot.

Nevertheless, this might not be the last time the Phillies and the Yankees are squared off in the World Series.

At least that’s what the Phillies think.

cc“If you look at our core players, we can contend for quite a while,” Charlie Manuel said. “Every time I talk to our team, I just say if we just keep what we got, we’ll be OK. I mean that. I don’t want them changing. I want them to keep the same kind of attitude, the same desire and passion, and I want them to make all the money in the world that there is to make, and keep them happy. If they do that, we’re going to be OK.”

Don’t worry about it, Charlie.

“We have a club that can get to this level every year,” Jayson Werth said. “Not looking too far ahead, we’ve got a good young club, and we don’t really have any guys coming up for free agency that we’re going to lose. Potentially, we have a chance to do this every year for a long time.”

Wouldn’t that be something? That’s the way it used to be with the Dodgers and Reds in the 1970s and the Yankees during, like, forever.

So how does it play out? Who wins? Why is this so short on analysis?

Forget about the analysis. That stuff doesn’t matter. And forget what the national pundits are predicting—they don’t know what they’re talking about. The bottom line is we’re talking about history, dynasties and all of those other media buzzwords. You want analysis? OK, the Phillies have better recent experience. There.

Take the Phillies in six games.

Revenge for 1950? Really?

Robin_RobertsThe Phillies brought out Robin Roberts, the Hall-of-Fame pitcher and one of the all-time great guys in the history of the game, so he could talk about his one and only World Series appearance on Monday afternoon. The significance, of course, was that Roberts and the Phillies were swept by Joe DiMaggio’s Yankees in the series that took place 59 years ago.

Some folks around these parts haven’t forgotten about the 1950 World Series mostly because it used to be that the Phillies didn’t play for the championship all that much. After all, before 1950 the Phillies had been to the World Series just once—in 1915—and never again until 1980.

With that kind of track record, it’s obvious to see why the Phillies in the World Series is such a big deal to the old-timers. It’s easier to see why it’s a big deal when they are faced up against the Yankees. They beat them in four straight in 1950, for gosh sakes!

But the world changes, time marches on and all that kind of stuff. The A’s don’t play in Philadelphia or Kansas City anymore. Yankee Stadium has been replaced by a newer Yankee Stadium and Connie Mack Stadium (or Shibe Park depending on your preference or demographic) was like two stadiums ago.

Check this out: my five-year old was born into a world where the Red Sox have won it twice, the White Sox once and where the Phillies are going to the World Series in back-to-back years. It’s crazy. Crazier still, the Yankees haven’t won it since 2000. Think of it… he has never been alive long enough to see the Yankees win the World Series.

Yet 1950 is a big enough deal that they have to push Robin Roberts in front of the microphone so he could talk about Bubba Church, Curt Simmons and, of course, Jim Konstanty.

“The Konstanty thing was a miracle,” Roberts said about the league’s top reliever making his starting debut in Game 1 of the 1950 World Series. “(Manager) Eddie Sawyer gave him the ball and he went out there like he was doing it his whole life. … That really was a miracle. If he would have won that would have been something they talked about forever, but because he lost people kind of forgot about it.”

Yeah, it’s funny how that works.

Then ol’ Robin had to talk about pitch counts and things like that.

“If you ever saw Stanky play…”

Sorry, let’s just cut him off there. If you ever saw Stanky play? Robin, good sir, we never saw you play. No one from the regular group of scribes and definitely not the players knew anything about Roberts or the 1950 Whiz Kids. In fact, on the Phillies coaching staff only two guys were old enough to have vague memories of Roberts’ Phillies. Charlie Manuel was six and Davey Lopes was five when the Phillies last played the Yankees.

They are much older now.

No, the 1950 World Series is about as meaningful as those three games the Phillies and Yankees played back in May. I watched ESPN trot out stats from the series played in May when the Phillies won two of three even though Brad Lidge got two blown saves.

Really? May?

“We’ve played about 200 games since then,” Jayson Werth said, exaggerating slightly. “It doesn’t matter.”

Live in the now, that’s what Robin Roberts does. He says he has the MLB Extra Innings package so he can watch all the games and follows the Phillies just like any die hard baseball fan.

So yeah, Roberts wants the Phillies to get “revenge” for the 1950 World Series. You know, not that he thinks of it that way.

“I really enjoy watching the games,” Roberts said. “It would be awful nice to see them win it again, not just because it’s the Yankees but because they are bordering on something really extraordinary.”

***
Since we’re on the subject of Philadelphia vs. New York in the World Series, how come no one is talking about those A’s and Giants matchups? In three different World Series, Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s beat John McGraw’s New York Giants in two out of three.

The Giants took the 1905 World Series in five games, but Philadelphia bounced back in 1911 in six games and then again in 1913 in five games.

So there’s that, too.

Sizing up the rotation now and later (a.k.a. Hamels for Halladay)

pedroWhile we’re waiting for the Angels and the Yankees to decide the American League champion, and as the Phillies take that last official day off, maybe we oughta play a little hypothetical…

You know, just for fun.

So let’s dive right in with the World Series starting rotation. We know—though not officially—Cliff Lee will pitch in Game 1. Chances are Lee will pitch in Game 4 and Game 7, too. After that, it kind of depends on which team the Phillies play. If it’s the Yankees, who wouldn’t want to see Pedro Martinez take the mound at Yankee Stadium? In fact, in the celebratory clubhouse after the Phillies, Pedro was lobbying/serenading pitching coach Rich Dubee about starting a game at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees have to get there first, which is another story, but also Pedro has an ERA near 6 in his last handful of appearances in the playoffs against the Yankees. That’s where all that “Who’s your daddy” stuff came from.

Of course, Pedro pitched a two-hit, 12-strikeout gem against the Yankees in the 1999 ALCS, but that game was at Fenway Park. In Yankee Stadium during the playoffs, Pedro has 15 strikeouts and 14 hits in 13 1/3 innings of two starts. The Red Sox lost both of those starts with Pedro checking in with a 0-1 record and a 5.40 ERA.

The Yankees don’t play in that stadium anymore, though. It’s still standing there empty with overgrown grass and a crumbling interior while the Yankees and the city of New York argue over who gets to tear it down.

No, these days the Yankees have a new Yankee Stadium that cost more than a billion dollars to build, has cracks on the cement ramps that reportedly will cost millions of dollars to repair, and the best press-box food in the business.

So there’s that.

Even though it’s not the same place and Pedro pitches for the Phillies and not the Mets and Red Sox, the New York fans are still obsessed with the guy. If the TV Networks are going to ruin the organic nature of the game by forcing longer commercial breaks between innings, night games in November and Joe Buck upon us, couldn’t they mandate that Pedro pitch a game at Yankee Stadium?

Man, that would be fun, wouldn’t it?

“I don’t think you can go wrong with Pedro Martinez,” Brad Lidge said. “He’s such a big-game pitcher. And then when you see what he did against L.A., he’s pretty impressive.”

And oh yeah, Pedro wants it. He lives for the show and the drama. The Yankees in the World Series at Yankee Stadium? Oh yes, bring it on.

“That’s my home, did you know that? That’s where I live, you need to understand. The Yankees? Get your ticket, you’ll find out fast,” he said as champagne dripped off his face following the clincher over the Dodgers.

But does it make sense? With the DH and the American League-style of game in the AL park, the Phillies might be better served with Cole Hamels pitching in Game 2… or would they?

Numbers-wise, Hamels stinks in these playoffs. Six of the 20 hits he has allowed in his 14 2/3 innings have been homers, which is amazing when one considers that Hamels gave up zero homers in seven of his last regular-season starts and just seven total runs in five postseason starts in 2008.

Still, it’s interesting to wonder how different Hamels’ NLCS would have been if Chase Utley would have been able to make a good throw on a potential inning-ending double play in the fifth inning of Game 1 at Dodger Stadium. Hamels made the pitch he needed to get out of a jam.

As (bad) luck would have it, Hamels gave up a homer to Manny Ramirez a couple of pitches after the botched double play.

So what do we have other than Cliff Lee in Game 1 and Pedro and Hamels in one of the next pair of games? Well, there’s Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ who both will start the World Series in the bullpen. If needed, one of those guys could get a start in the series but that probably depends on the opponent.

In 15 career games against the Angels Blanton is 3-7 with a 3.48 ERA and two complete games. In four career starts against the Yankees, Blanton is 0-3 with an 8.18 ERA.

Happ has never faced the Angels, but in his first start of the season in 2009 at the new Yankee Stadium, he gave up a pair of runs on four hits in six innings.

cole_hamelsMeanwhile, both the Yankees and the Angels hit .286 against lefties this season, though the Yankees’ lefty hitters were significantly better against lefty pitchers.

Still, it’s worth noting that the debate seems to be using Hamels in either Game 2 of Game 3 and whether he’s ready to face the Yankees lefties in Yankee Stadium. But as long as we’re throwing things out there, how about this:

Would you trade Cole Hamels this off-season? Oh, not for just anyone because good pitchers have tough seasons all the time. Hamels is only 25 and his best days are clearly ahead of him—why else would the Phillies have signed him to a $20 million deal last winter?

But the Phillies will be a contender for the World Series again next year, too, and there were times when the starting rotation lacked consistency. Certainly Hamels was one of the biggest culprits in that regard.

So here it is: Let’s say the Blue Jays come back to the Phillies looking to move Roy Halladay, who is headed into the final year of his contract…

Would you send Hamels to the Blue Jays for Halladay? Would that be the one pitcher the Phillies could trade away Hamels for?

Hey, nothing is going on (as far as we know), but think about it—Hamels for Halladay?

Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay at the top of the rotation followed by J.A. Happ, Pedro Martinez and Joe Blanton… that could work, right?

No one goes there anymore… it’s too crowded

yankeePerhaps the biggest story of the early part of the baseball season has not been the home runs or the pitching or anything happening on the field. For a change there hasn’t really been all that much talk about MLB’s drug and alcohol problems or the crazy contracts some players got from a few clubs.

And to think, Manny Ramirez and CC Sabathia didn’t even have to wear a mask or play the Powerball to get all that cash. Good for them.

No, aside from the tragedy of Nick Adenhart and the deaths of Harry Kalas and Mark Fidrych, the biggest story this season has been all about the new ballparks in New York City.

As if it could be anything else.

Clearly there is the New-York-as-the-center-of-the-universe silliness at the forefront. After all, when something happens in New York it’s as if it never happened anywhere else. That’s the way they think – never mind that every team that was ever going to build a new ballpark had already done so, how can it be possible that Pittsburgh has a nicer ballpark than the two New York teams.

Apparently that’s the case. Not only are there a cavalcade of stories out that the Mets’ Bailout Ballpark and the Yankee Tribute to Avarice and Greed Stadium are, well… underwhelming, but the fans aren’t turning out either.

Who builds a $1.5 billion stadium in the South Bronx anyway? The poorest Congressional district in the country has the most expensive ballpark ever built… funny how that works.

It’s also kind of funny to see all those empty seats behind the dugouts in the new joint, too. The really funny part is all those smart guys running things for the Yankees didn’t get that a lot of folks don’t want to pay $295- to $2,625 for one baseball game. Really… what were they thinking? They still play 162 games per season, right? They’re on TV and everything, too…

“I’m sure they’re thinking, ‘It’s just April,’ ” Jon Greenberg, executive editor of the Team Marketing Report, told The New York Times about the lack of sellouts. “But it’s lost revenue they anticipated getting. This is the worst possible time to debut a stadium.”

Yeah, that’s where the arrogance part enters the picture. Despite the fact that nearly every business is tightening their belts, the Yankees still had the belief that they were immune to the global economic crisis. You know, because if a family has $2,625 burning a hole in its pocket, the thing they need to spend it on is one ticket to a Tuesday night game at the new Yankee Stadium against the Kansas City Royals.

Otherwise, the reviews indicate the new ballpark is pretty nice. It might not be $1.5 billion nice, but nice nonetheless. In fact, one person who has been to the new parks says the Mets’ park might be nicer, but neither is as good as Camden Yards, the park in Pittsburgh or San Francisco, which sounds a bit sacrilegious.

Heck, CBP in South Philly has its charms like two big highways filtering down to the complex as well as plenty of parking. There’s even public transportation nearby. Who doesn’t love the Broad Street Line?

The Yankees aren’t the only New York team struggling to get people to the park. Even the NL East contending Mets are drawing just 37,740 per game, which is 89.9 percent of the capacity at the new ToxicAssets Park. There are more variables at work here, too. One is that it costs 60 percent more to buy food and other extra items not included in the price of the ticket at the Mets’ new park.

But the most interesting part is that the Yankees and Mets appear to be operating like the airline industry. Here’s what the Times wrote:

But the slow start in New York is striking considering how much the teams here spent to build and promote their parks. Like airlines that break even on economy tickets and rely on first-class travelers to turn a profit, the teams need to sell their most exclusive seats to help repay the hundreds of millions of dollars of tax-free bonds they issued to finance their new parks.

The unfilled seats in New York are even more glaring compared with how robust sales have been for previous stadium openings. The Baltimore Orioles sold out 67 of their 80 home dates in 1992, when Camden Yards opened. The Cleveland Indians sold out 36 games in the strike-shortened season in 1994, and were filled to capacity 455 consecutive games from 1995 to 2001.

After moving to their new park in 2001, the Houston Astros drew 3.1 million fans, 300,000 more than they ever attracted at the far larger Astrodome. The Pittsburgh Pirates, a perennial second-division team, sold 2.4 million tickets in 2001 when PNC Park opened, 700,000 more than they ever sold at Three Rivers Stadium.

The answer for the Yankees? Yeah, that’s right… they’re going to raise ticket prices by 4 percent.

The most interesting part about the Mets and Yanks struggling to draw fans to their pricey castles to themselves is that the early leaders in attendance are a pair of teams that have no intention on building a new ballpark…

Ever.

The leaders:

1.)    Red Sox 101.6 percent of capacity

2.)    Phillies 96.9 percent

3.)    Cubs 96.3 percent

4.)    Angels 92.7 percent

Wrigley and Fenway aren’t going anywhere, and CBP clearly is just digging in. Maybe the answer isn’t so much as building a new ballpark as it is fielding a good team with reasonable prices?

Anyway, check out the story on how the Red Sox make do with tiny and out-dated Fenway… can’t manufacture history.

Charlie not pleased

chuckTAMPA, Fla. — After the 12-0 loss to the Yankees at The Stein on Monday afternoon, Phils’ skipper Charlie Manuel was most displeased. No, he wasn’t upset about the loss – that stuff happens in Grapefruit League games. Instead it was the way in which the Phillies lost.

It wasn’t pretty.

“We made mistakes,” Charlie said after the 12-run, 20-hit and two-error showing against the Yanks had mercifully ended. “We made a helluva lot of bleepin’ mistakes.”

It wasn’t pretty. On defense the team threw the ball around, misplayed a few and generally looked sloppy as their Grapefruit League record dipped to 6-10. Offensively, the Phillies got six hits, stranded eight and went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position. Worse, it lasted more than three hours turning it into the baseball equivalent to waterboarding

Nope, not one for the vault.

“I think any game like that pisses you off and the best thing you can do is bleepin’ get out there and get on that bleepin’ bus and forget about that sonofabitch. That was a horebleep bleepin’ game and if I played in a bleepin’ game like that, I’d definitely bleepin’ take some good inventory of myself. That was a horsebleep bleepin’ game. They don’t get much worse than that. It was terrible.

“I’d say we hit bleepin’ rock bottom there for a while.”

Charlie might be trying to simply motivate the kids he has in the lineup with Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino off playing in the World Baseball Classic and Chase Utley and Pedro Feliz still mending from off-season surgery. Still, on the day the team made its first cuts of the spring, Charlie might have expected some crisper play.

Nevertheless, Charlie says the quality play will improve greatly in another week or so.

“The last 10-to-12 days we’ll really work on the fundamental parts of the game,” Charlie said. “But Rollins and Victorino aren’t here and Utley and Feliz are hurt – we want to get people back and ready so we can really key on that. But today it was just bad playin’ and, you know, what the hell? That’s why I said if I was in that game I might take inventory of myself.”

Hamels: ‘Nothing to worry about’

Cole HamelsTAMPA – Just drove over the Causeway to George M. Steinbrenner Field from Clearwater where the Phillies will take on the annoying (and pretentious) Yankees this afternoon. Clearly the biggest story here – after Cole Hamels, of course – is Kyle Kendrick taking the mound in what could be a make-or-break outing.

But back to the Yankees for a minute … they certainly have a right to strut the way they do because they almost made the playoffs last year.

Still, the WFC Phillies must have breathed a sigh of relief this morning when Hamels told us that his left forearm trouble is something that occurs every year and might clear up with a shot and/or some rest.

Meanwhile, Hamels says he’s going to feel good about getting out of Florida for a few days.

Stay tuned to CSNPhilly.com because we will be updating the main stories over there throughout the day.