This series still matters

jeter_250_092509.jpgRED SOX REDUX
The alliterative phrase “possible playoff preview” is overused, but here we have one of those series that could be exactly that. If the current seeding holds through the end of the season, the Yankees would face Detroit in the first round and, if they survive that test, see the winner of a Red Sox/Angels match-up in the second round.

Facing either opponent emphasizes the importance of maintaining the division lead and home field advantage, because the Red Sox are a .500 club on the road to date, and despite the recent successful action in Anaheim, the Yankees want to see as little of California as possible. Beating the Tigers only to find out one has to play up to four games in Anaheim might be the only time in sports history that the line, “I’m going to Disneyland!” would signify a negative.

Announcer: Hey, Derek Jeter! You just thrashed the Tigers in the first round of the playoffs! What are you going to do now?

Derek Jeter: I’m going to Disneyland! Aw, [expletive, expletive, expletive]!”

Thus, this series does matter in a real way, beyond the usual Red Sox-Yankees hoopla. There are also three pitchers undergoing key tests: Joba Chamberlain gets yet another chance to lower his post-Rules ERA from 8.50, and against a pitcher, Jon Lester, who has been almost unhittable since getting off to a rough beginning to the season, so there’s not a lot of margin for error. On May 26, Lester was 3-5 with an ERA of 6.07. He’s made 20 starts since then, going 11-2 with an ERA of 2.13. I hope that you readers won’t fault me too much when I say that I root for Lester as a fellow cancer survivor in spite of the uniform he wears. Some things transcend petty rivalry. I don’t mind if the Yankees beat him, of course, but I’d rather it was by a 2-1 score than a 15-1 score. In any case, much as with Joba’s most recent start in Seattle, the Yankees stand a good chance of being lulled to sleep if Joba allows the Sox to score an early touchdown.

On Saturday, CC Sabathia gets a chance to continue his recent dominance against a resurgent Daisuke Matsuzaka, which is really just a game of minimal expectations: You don’t have to win, but don’t pitch so badly that people start to wonder if you’re hurt, or have turned into Joe Cowley or something. On Sunday, Andy Pettitte will get a chance to put his shoulder fatigue further behind him, drawing Paul Byrd as his opponent, Byrd being Boston’s placeholder for a guy named Hypothetical Better Starter that We Don’t Have.

In short, it’s a weekend of confidence testing, of pulling back from a 3-3 road trip. The playoffs are assured and even the shape of the playoffs as far as the Yankees goes seems largely locked into place, so the key thing here is to not fall apart. That doesn’t seem like very much to add.

DARN PLATOONING
Lester on the hill means Melky Cabrera in the lineup. Last year at Triple-A, Brett Gardner batted .324/.407/.495 against southpaws. This year in the Majors he’s hit .302/.393/.415 against them. Cabrera has hit .261/.335/.418 against them, and those rates have slid in the second half — whereas Cabrera hit .267/.345/.480 against lefties through mid-July, since then he’s hit only .256/.326/.359 against them, which is actually a pathetically poor number for a right-handed hitter against left-handed pitching.

This year, all right-handed hitters in the Majors are batting .268/.341/.431 against lefties. All right-handers have a built-in ability to hit left-handers, but not Cabrera. His career averages against southpaws stand at .254/.323/.354, and as with so much about his post-April work, his final numbers are going to be reflective of what he’s done in the rest of his career rather than what he did earlier this year. Joe Girardi really needs to forget about what he thinks he saw this spring and move on with things.

AMERICA, AMERICA
I note Baseball Think Factory:

Van Buren Elementary fourth-grader Nathan Johns thought his teacher was kidding when he instructed him to go to the bathroom and turn his Yankees T-shirt inside out.

The blue shirt read “New York No. 52” on the front and “Sabathia” for the New York Yankees’ pitcher CC Sabathia, on the back.

” I thought to myself ‘Is he serious or is he kidding,'” said Nate, 9, a student in Peter Addabbo’s fourth-grade class. “But he had this look like he wasn’t kidding at all.”

Nate complied, and said he was later told to wear it that way until dismissal. At lunch, Nate said the fifth-graders made fun of him because he wearing his shirt inside out.

“It was such a horrible day.” Nate said. “I don’t ever want anything like to happen again.”

Nate said he felt he was treated unfairly.

“Just because my teacher doesn’t like the Yankees I should still have the right to wear a Yankees shirt,” Nate said Thursday after school. The teacher has Boston Red Sox paraphernalia all over the classroom on display, he said.

I have long felt that one of the problems with the educational experience in our country is that school is a place where they teach you about your rights and then fail to honor them. As an aspiring columnist in high school, I simultaneously learned about first amendment rights and was subject to prior restraint and press censorship because the administration didn’t like my choice of topics.

Apparently, now you can also be bullied because the teacher doesn’t like your choice of teams. Had the kid been wearing an Obama T-Shirt, or for that matter a Richard Nixon T-shirt (a friend actually did wear one in high school, albeit as a kind of ironic statement), the violation of his rights would have been much more obvious and probably wouldn’t have been contemplated. Instead, the kid, a fourth-grader, all of nine years old, was singled out in a possibly traumatic way. The petty tyranny of some teachers over children is astounding to behold. They indulge in arbitrary behaviors that they would never, ever have the guts to pull with an adult.

Longtime readers know that I am no fan of the teaching profession. As time goes on and my own children get further into the school system, and I read of matters like this one, I see little to change my mind. This incident was wholly inappropriate and the teacher should be disciplined — and although this is a Yankees-centric feature, I would say that even if the roles were reversed, and an educator who was a Yankees fan told some helpless child to reverse his Kevin Youkilis T.

Since he’s such a brave Red Sox fan, his punishment should be to stand outside of Gate 4 of Yankee Stadium this weekend and ask everyone coming in to reverse their T-shirts. I’d like to see the reaction of people old enough to answer back. Pathetic, pathetic, pathetic.

10 Comments

Steven…you struck a chord with the story about the teacher bullying a nine year old. I had a rather nasty experience with a math teacher in the 7th grade that has stayed with me to this day, and I am 59 years old. Public humiliation for not understanding what was a complex problem was enough to turn me off completely for years. I eventually got past it, but never forgot it. Some of these so called professionals do not understand the damage they can do to kids, and they get away with it….. I agree about Melky, I think he will be part of a trade package this off season. Joba needs to just go out and pitch, stop nibbling, let it fly, and listen to his catcher (who has a lot more experience than he does). Thanks….Mark

I guess you never get tired of pointing out Melky’s perceived shortcomings. You’ve been overly hard on him ever since I can remember. Seemingly, you would like everyone to believe that he went into hibernation after his nice start this year. He does have his flaws and is still too streaky for my taste, but he far from the failed player that you continually paint him to be. Make up your mind Steve. After he hit for the cycle in Chicago you suddenly did a 180 and became effusive about him. Now you bash him every opportunity you get. Keep in mind he is barely 25. In his last 112 at bats he is hitting .295, with 19 runs batted in.. That’s a healthy span of 32 games. Not too shabby. In case you haven’t noticed, he’s not in hibernation.

I had a similar experience as that kid and mark7ent. The first day of first grade (also my first day in a new school), my teacher was having problems with kids talking and singled me out, even though she didn’t actually see me talking (she admitted that to my mother later). Who would I talk to? I didn’t know anyone! Anyway, she made me stand in a corner as an “example”. I assure you that the actual example she set was not the one she was intending. It still upsets me to this day, 32 years later. There are some people who are most interested in maintaining control over others and some professions attract them more than others. It’s unfortunate that one of those professions is teaching, when the person being persecuted is the most vulnerable. Personally, I think he should have to experience the exact same level of embarrassment – he should have to stand in front of the entire school, apologize to the kid and explain what he did, why it was wrong and why he’ll never do it again. He should also have to wear a Yankees jersey for the remainder of the semester like a scarlet letter.

As you stated, the actions of this teacher were “wholly inappropriate and the teacher should be disciplined.”

As disgusting as it is, whenever certain individuals have power over others (physical, intellectual, authoritian) some degree of bullying will occur. Such bullying is particularly pernicious when children are the objects.

Here comes the “but.”

Your attempts to make a greater point about the teaching profession come across as the sentiments of a precociously articulate adolescent.

You say that you are “no fan of the teaching profession.” Do you mean that you do not like the people that choose to teach or the existence of the profession itself? If it is the former, I contend that bullies are both attracted to and created by positions of authority. Thus you will inevitably find some bullies in teaching, police departments, management positions, and even the windows of the DMV. Quite obviously, we should try our best to screen these types from ever entering positions of authority and terminate them when they display abusive behavior.

If your point is that the profession of teaching is, by it’s very nature, an affront to the liberties of children, I would ask you to offer a sensible alternative. The extreme minority with a strong autodidactic bent might actually become even more brilliant without exposure to teachers. However the masses are better served by the presence of this profession.

As a child, I had a couple of terrible teachers who mistreated their students routinely. I have also had several otherwise good teachers who behaved inappropriately on occasion. Even then I realized that over the course of 9 1/2 months, humans (even teachers!) are going to show some warts.

As someone who has taught at 2 different schools, I have worked with a couple bullies, a few morons, and several teachers that demonstrated no passion for their jobs. The unions have made it far too difficult to remove such incompetents from their positions. But the overwhelming majority of the teachers whom I have met are dedicated, fairly intelligent, and fundamentally decent people. Even the best of ’em are imperfect.

I am a big fan of your baseball analysis and even many of your asides into politics and pop culture. I don’t want to discourage you from continuing to express your non-baseball thoughts in these digressions. However in the absense of a particularly traumatic experience, I find this diatribe inexplicable.

Hi Steven,

I am a long time reader of yours (in spite of your beliefs about teachers) and I find it surprising that someone who prides himself on logic & rational thought should trot out such casuistry. Perhaps you should drink a little less, as all that alcohol seems to have besotted your rational faculties. What’s that you say? You don’t drink? Well, by your own logic, that’s impossible, you must be a drunk, because I know a number of writers who are alcoholics.

Professing to be “no fan of the teaching profession” is as absurd as wanting to abolish law enforcement because there are corrupt cops or being opposed to fire hydrants because they are sometimes illegally used as sprinklers by citizens. Whatever their drawbacks and shortcomings, these services and institutions are so obviously a part of the public good that making categorical hyperbolic claims against them just smacks of sensationalism and bitterness. And while I understand that your personal experiences with teachers will necessarily color your beliefs about them, your argument would be on much sounder footing if it were that the abuses of teaching are systemic, in the way that racial profiling is often systemic in law enforcement (I happen to think that there are systemic problems with the educational system, but that licensing or encouraging mistreatment of students isn’t one of them).

One of the great challenges of being both a writer and a teacher is that, in order to do your job well, you have to bring your full capacities as a person to bear on your work. None of us, even the best of us, are ever fully up to the task. And while it is unfortunate that someone as emotionally and intellectually stunted as Nathan Johns should occupy a post with such dominion over children, the fact remains that the majority of teachers, even the lesser ones, would not ever dream of abusing their power in such a horrific and oafish fashion.

– Louis

Steve, I think we know your position on Melky vs. Gardner. How about a little analysis on Nick Swisher — has he been resting himself for the playoffs since April?

Teaching is a profession with the potential for life altering tragedy and triumph.

I am not surprised that an internet shut-in whose life’s work is baseball punditry is “not a fan.”

Does this mean I can piss on the internet blogger “profession” any time one of you people makes an *** of himself?

The average student has over 50 different teachers before they leave high school. The odds are good that one or two of them will be *****. And believe me, there are a lot of ***** in the teaching profession. However, the odds are also good that they will have one or two teachers that make a meaningful difference in their lives, and the rest won’t have much of a noticable impact one way or another. Just like every other group of people, there are your good, your bad, and your mediocre.

As for your freedom of speech “infringement” in high school, I’d love to know what you were not allowed to publish, and I’d love to know what professional newspapers allow writers to publish whatever they want without editorial oversight (which includes the power to kill pieces). A school newspaper is not your personal soapbox, and the administrator had no power to stop you from saying what you wished in alternative venues. Now it may be the administrator was being an imbecile in their decision to kill your stories, but that is the right they earned when they got their job, just as you at PSB have the right to deal with disagreeable posters or publish biased stories as you see fit.

so, what happen to the “educator”? any sort of discipline?

The reason Cabrera was in the lineup facing Lester is simple. Going in, he was 6 for 16 against him. Going out he was 7 for 18. Get over it. Cabrera is better than Gardner. Gardner has a light bat. He won’t hit enough. Period!! He’s best suited to be a pinch runner in the playoffs. That way he’s certain to get on base. Cabrera’s history against Lester should have been included in your piece. Please don’t give us half the story. You seem to enjoy playing with numbers. Enjoy this. In his last 36 games, almost 25% of a season, Cabrera is 37 for 126. That translates into a .294 batting average. He also has 21 runs batted in during that span. Not too shabby for a guy you claim has pretty much stopped hitting after May. You haven’t been paying close enough attention. Cabrera is having his best year. I don’t know how they really feel about him, or where he’ll be next year. One thing I do know; where ever he is, next year at age 25/26 will be his breakout year. Enjoy it.

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