Thanks to my cousin for bringing this to my attention today.

From Bombers Beat at the MLBlogs Network:

70 years ago, a dying Lou Gehrig stood on the field at Yankee Stadium and said goodbye to baseball, making what can only be considered the most memorable and greatest speech in the game’s history.

Today, this Fourth of July, every Major League team playing at home will conduct a special on-field ceremony to commemorate his farewell. The Yankees are hosting a special “4-ALS Awareness” ceremony on the field this afternoon at 1 p.m. and will recognize Michael Goldsmith, a lifelong baseball fan who contributed to the development of the “4-ALS” initiative.

In addition, to honor Gehrig, a “4-ALS” logo will appear on top of first base in every ballpark around the Majors. All on-field personnel will wear a patch honoring the initiative, and Yankees players will help recreate Gehrig’s speech in a video tribute.

There is a great display inside Gate 4 at the Stadium which has a large photograph of Gehrig speaking on July 4, 1939, accompanied by a continuous loop of the audio. Today would be a great day to stop in and check it out if you’re headed here.

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky.

When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift – that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies – that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter – that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body – it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed – that’s the finest I know.

So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.”


233 Years Today

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

My 2009 All Star Ballot

American League
1B: Justin Morneau. Youkilis currently leads in the voting but he doesn’t quite approach Morneau or Teixeira in power and run production. Miguel Cabrera’s .330+ batting average puts him in the discussion but the other three are much more complete players while Cabrera is really just a hitter. There’s some temptation to attempt a case for Teix on the grounds that Morneau has been slumping in the past month but Teix’ production seems ultimately tied to ARod and how well he’s producing behind him, so I’ll stick with the clearer choice.

2B: Very tough decision. I think Aaron Hill edges Ian Kinsler. Very similar power production and both are excellent defensive players. But I think Hill’s superior batting average (.301 to .263) trumps Kinsler’s 16 – 3 advantage in steals. Kinsler is currently just edging out reigning MVP Dustin Pedroia (who might not even belong in the top 5) followed up by Cano and Hill in a distant 5th place. Notable mention to write-in candidate Tampa utility player Ben Zobrist who has started 32 games at 2B (more than any other position for him) and has put together a stat line comparable to Kinsler and Hill.

SS: Jason Bartlett has been absolutely raking since early April and shows no signs of slowing down. From a Yankee fan perspective it’s terrific to see Jeter leading all American League players in votes, assuring his 10th All Star game. But Bartlet, in distant second in the SS voting (with fewer than half of Jeter’s votes) is the more deserving player. Fortunately, Bartlett is a lock to be selected for the bench by Tampa manager Joe Madden.

3B: Evan Longoria. Nice to see the fans getting one right. Interesting question on whether ARod deserves second-place honors here. Obviously his production this season doesn’t warrant any consideration, but he is Alex Rodriguez and he appears to now be playing very near the level we expect of him.

C: Joe Mauer. Another strong fan consensus for the correct selection. Mauer is third in AL votes at any position after Jeter and Longoria. Kind of annoying to see Varitek and his .234 batting average in second place, especiallu with such strong seasons so far from Victor Martinez and Mike Napoli.

OF: Carl Crawford and Torii Hunter are the easy choices for the first two OF slots. Ichiro Suzuki beats out the rest of the pack, notably Nelson Cruz, Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu, Jason Bay (the current AL RBI leader and leader in voting among American League OF).

National League:
1B: Albert Pujols leads all MLB players in All Star votes – and deservedly so. Prince Fielder has been pretty awesome this year, but there’s no comparison.

2B: Chase Utley is second among all MLB players in All Star votes. Head and shoulders above his competition in the National League.

SS: Hanley Ramirez is another easy choice for the fans. Rollins, Reyes and Furcal just aren’t getting it done this year. So far, National League fans seem to have much easier selections.

3B: And I can also go along with the fans’ choice of David Wright. With batting average and steals both near the top of the league, I can forgive his dearth of home run power this year and mediocre defensive play. Helping him is that his best competition is Mark Reynolds, who’s defensive play could be flatteringly described as “clunky”.

C: With no clear standout, I’ll go with Brian McCann over the fans’ choice of defensive stud Yadier Molina. Not a very exiting group to select from.

OF: The NL fans get it right here as well with their selections of Raul Ibanez, Ryan Braun and Carlos Beltran. However, Beltran’s injury will keep him out of action through the All Star Game. So my vote for the third NL outfielder goes to Justin Upton, with respectful nods to Brad Hawpe and Michael Bourn.

Feels kind of strange not voting for any Yankees, but in my best effort to be as objective as possible, this is what I come up with. If fans voted on pitchers I’m sure I’d vote for Mariano Rivera and perhaps I could make a case for CC Sabathia. It’s interesting to note that (this year, anyway) the American League is much more of a popularity contest with players like Youkilis, Jeter, Varitek, Dustin Pedroia and Josh Hamilton amassing vote totals far beyond what their production should warrant. Some might argue that the National League simply has fewer stellar players to choose from. Whatever the case, the National League voting far better reflects the best of the league at the mid-point of the 2009 season. Whether this will translate into better than recent success for the senior circuit remains to be seen.

Kiwi!/Jules Mashup

Kiwi! was an animated short that went viral fairly early in the era of Youtube.

I’d never seen this version until someone brought it to my attention very recently, but the short was set to Gary Jules’ cover of Mad World only a few months later.

Probably old news for most but I loved it and had to share:

Today was his 6th consecutive day of live blogging the Iranian election fallout. He’s been invaluable in assembling order to the chaotic stream of information coming thorugh. Earlier he linked an excerpt from a Council on Foreign Relations interview with Carnegie Endowment Iran analyst Karim Sadjadpour:

The weight of the world now rests on the shoulders of Mir Hossein Mousavi. I expect that Khamenei’s people have privately sent signals to him that they’re ready for a bloodbath, they’re prepared to use overwhelming force to crush this, and is he willing to lead the people in the streets to slaughter?

Mousavi is not Khomeini, and Khamenei is not the Shah. Meaning, Khomeini would not hesitate to lead his followers to “martyrdom”, and the Shah did not have the stomach for mass bloodshed. This time the religious zealots are the ones holding power.

The anger and the rage and sense of injustice people feel will not subside anytime soon, but if Mousavi concedes defeat he will demoralize millions of people. At the moment the demonstrations really have no other leadership. It’s become a symbiotic relationship, Mousavi feeds off people’s support, and the popular support allows Mousavi the political capital to remain defiant. So Mousavi truly has some agonizing decisions to make.

Rafsanjani’s role also remains critical. Can he co-opt disaffected revolutionary elites to undermine Khamenei? As Khamenei said, they’ve known each other for 52 years, when they were young apostles of Ayatollah Khomeini. I expect that Khamenei’s people have told Rafsanjani that if he continues to agitate against Khamenei behind the scenes, he and his family will be either imprisoned or killed, and that the people of Iran are unlikely to weep for the corrupt Rafsanjani family.

Whatever happens, and I know I shouldn’t be saying this as an analyst, but my eyes well when I think of the tremendous bravery and fortitude of the Iranian people. They deserve a much better regime than the one they have.

In fact after listening to samples from the Tiny masters Of Today’s earlier releases, I’m not convinced that young man could play his guitar at all prior to the recording of their current album, Skeletons.

Regardless, there is something to a child act that can achieve credibility in so rich an indie punk scene as Brooklyn’s. The Beastie Boys (who received a major nod in the video above) would seem like the obvious comparison. They also started as a NYC punk act, getting their first taste of local notoriety at 14 and 15 years old. Ada and Ivan were 10 and 12 years old when Newsweek picked up on the home-made music tracks on their Myspace page going semi-viral.

At 13 and 15, they’ve now released two full length studio albums and also two EPs, and will be performing at this year’s Siren Music Festival on Coney Island.

I didn’t believe the Yankees’ silence on Mark Teixeira was an indicator that they weren’t interested. Signing him made too much sense, within both the Yankees’ free-spending approach and in more pragmatic terms, as well.

Contrary to what some might think following my recent rant, I’m not generally opposed to seeing the Yankees’ sign top tier free agents. I just think they need to be much smarter about it than they have been. Their lack of long term planning often means they are forced to fill immediate holes in the lineup by taking on big contracts with players that aren’t a very good fit. For example one deal I wish they did make was for Carlos Beltran back in 2005. They knew Bernie Williams was in serious decline and that if they held off, there would not be a comparable CF available in the coming years. Indeed, the following year they found themselves in a bind and spent relatively big money on the best option available, Johnny Damon, who turned 33 that year and has been a decent offensive player when healthy but a defensive liability at the position they signed him to play. And he hasn’t been very healthy at all in the last two years, missing 40 games and nursing injuries at DH in another 70.

So, here are this Yankee fan’s pros and cons on signing Mark Teixeira (cons first):

1. Recently obtained 1B/LF Nick Swisher, whom I was excited to see receive a chance to play every day, is the biggest loser in this deal. Unfortunately, the Yankees don’t obtain players like Swisher as their first choice to start at any position. Swisher, like Wilson Betemit (who was traded to the White Sox for Swisher last month) was brought in as an insurance policy in case they didn’t obtain a more marquee player in the offseason and to step in should another starter get injured. This is only a one-year problem for Swisher. If he is able to distinguish himself in part-time duty this year, he will have more opportunities for playing time as the contracts of both Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui will expire after the 2009 season, leaving left field and designated hitter open.

2. The Yankees would be wise to leave 1B/DH/LF as open as possible in the short and long terms. They have several aging core position players with multiple years remaining on their contracts who might be able to continue to produce offensively but would have to move to less demanding defensive positions. The first issue is Posada. We don’t know whether or for how long he will be able to continue to be a viable starting MLB catcher. The official word is that the shoulder that ruined his 2008 season is responding well to rehab but the front office would never readily acknowledge that the shoulder was shot if that were the case. And even if it does heal up fine, he turns 38 next season and is signed through 2011. Next is Jeter. His contract is up after the 2010 season, during which he turns 36. Assuming he’s still producing offensively, the Yanks will probably give the modern face of the franchise (and link in the historical chain of Yankee greats) 4 years or so to wind down his career. He’s already lost a step at shortstop and however things work out, he will probably have to find another position before his tenure in pinstripes is finished. And then ARod is only 1 year younger than Jeter and is signed through his 41st birthday. Personally, I’d really hate to see Jeter or Posada finish their careers anyplace else and ARod’s contract is probably untradable.

3. The Yankees have proven with the greatest World Series dynasty of the last half century that you don’t need a major thumper in the middle of the lineup to reach the promised land, much less two. Through each of those 4 Championship seasons, no Yankee player hit more than 30 home runs. During his tenure with the Yankees, Tino Martinez hit over 30 twice, in 1997 and in 2001. Interestingly, those were the only two years during Tino’s first go-round in the Bronx in which they didn’t win the World Series. While superfluously adding power hitters to the lineup may be the modern Yankee way, it has not in any way shown itself to be a of model for success for the modern Yankees. It does, however, add legitimacy to complaints about the Yankees’ excessive use of their resources and chiding of their recent playoff futility despite the unprecedented spending.

Now the pros:

1. This is the Beltran deal they didn’t make in 2005. It’s a major signing that brings short, medium and long term benefits. While it would be nice to try to remain more flexible than locking up a first baseman for 8 years will allow, this player is a top talent who still has most of his prime seasons ahead of him. He will be 37 in the last year of the contract, an age at which he is likely enough to still be productive. Next year there will not be a better player who is a better fit who Teixeira stands in the way of. There will be no need to sign another Johnny Damon next offseason. There will be no search for an offensive boost during the 2009 season. Precluded are any trades for some other team’s midseason salary dump.

2. Thanks to the Sabathia and Burnett signings, they can’t do any more major damage to their 2009 draft. With the two new pitchers, the Yanks’ 1st and 2nd round picks are already gone. I assume they will now lose another, since Teixeira is a type-A free agent, but at this point who cares about their 3rd rounder? They might as well take advantage of the opportunity to sign a top tier type-A free agent without having to sacrifice a 1st or 2nd round draft pick.

3. Boosting the offense isn’t such a bad idea. Improved production from Posada, Matsui and ARod over last year should replace some of the production lost from Abreu and Giambi, but the Yanks were 10th overall in MLB in runs scored last year and that number could stand to improve. Adding Teixeira should also re-establish offensive dominance over the Red Sox, who were Teixeira’s most touted suitors before this afternoon. This should leave the Sox unable to add the marquee power hitter they were seeking –obviously, they can’t counter this move by siging Manny Ramirez. As their lineup now stands, Bay and Youkilis are fine middle-order hitters, but they won’t provide Ortiz with anything like the protection that Manny did. And there are questions about Ortiz’ health, to boot.

4. Team chemistry. Teix has a great clubhouse reputation, which is a factor the Yankees seem to be focusing on this offseason. There’s no denying that Alex Rodriguez is a bit of a head case who likely stands to benefit from another marquee name relieving some of the pressure he feels to carry the team.