Tuesday, October 11, 2005

RIP: The Greased Poker Chips Universe

BORN: APRIL 4th, 2005
DIED: OCTOBER 11TH, 2005

Well, it looks like we've reached the end of the line, the last stop, the final destination, one step beyond the penultimate.

With the Yankees' elimination from the postseason, Greased Poker Chips has nowhere to go.

The tabloids have no more Yankee games to get hysterical about. Their baseball coverage will go into hibernation, emerging only occasionally for rumor-mongering and the celebration and/or derision of off-season acquisitions and departures.

Al Leiter will pitch no more. Not just in 2005, but possibly ever. He leaves the game as a left-handed specialist, much like the late, lamented John Franco. He didn't qualify for the ERA title in 2005, but he stayed in the hunt for 162 innings pitched until the last month of the season. Although he didn't make it to that coveted number, he did end the season with 162 career wins, a fitting number for Al to retire with. Sadly, he will not pitch on his 40th birthday, either. He was two weeks shy of the four decade mark when he made his final appearance, earning the win in the Yankees' 3-2 victory on Sunday night.

Julio had a solid campaign, marred by a late-season slump that just so happened to coincide with his 47th birthday on August 23. He will definitely be back in 2006, marching with unbridled optimism and faith towards his 50th birthday.

We here at GPC have yet to determine the future of the site, for the offseason and for 2006. We truly thank the smattering of folks who stuck with it from beginning to end, and appreciate everyone who visited. If we return for 2006, we must reach out to more readers. The mere existence of GPC will no longer be motivation enough.

With that in mind, please let us know what you liked and didn't like about GPC in 2005.

And take a look back through the archives. It makes you realize how long a baseball season truly is, and how hard you have to work to chronicle it effectively.

We're worn out. But perhaps there is still more to come?

Back-Page Barometer Postseason Edition #5 (10/11)


In which we track the Yankees' Postseason Exploits Through the All-Seeing Eye(s) of the New York Post and the New York Daily News.

GAME: Game 5 of the American League Division Series between the AL East Champion Yankees and the AL West Champion Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

RESULT: Angels 5, Yankees 3

SUMMARY (25 Words or Less): Adam Kennedy's two-run triple was the difference in the game as the Angels beat the Yankees, 5-3, to advance to the American League Championship Series.

HEADLINE EDGE? After putting up MVP-caliber numbers during the regular season, Alex Rodriguez went a woeful 2-for-15 in the playoffs, further cementing his reputation as a player who doesn't come through in the clutch. A-Rod's last at-bat of the season was his biggest failure, as he grounded into an around-the-horn double play in the ninth inning after Derek Jeter had led off the frame with a single.

Still, baseball is a team sport, and the YANKEES lost this series, not A-ROD. For that reason, we're going to have to choose the Post as the superior back cover. Yes, A-Rod is on the back of both covers, but in the Post he is used as a symbol of the Yankees' failure, not the root cause of it. "Bronx Bum$" is a bitter jab at the entire organization, and their inability to win despite a monumentally large payroll.

"A-Dog" is a great headline in and of itself. If it had been used during the regular season, we here at GPC would have loved it. But for the News to go with such a frivolous choice the day after the collapse of the entire season seems a bit misguided.

No doubt the tabs will be full of hysterical rumor-mongering in the coming weeks and months regarding the state of the Yankees. Perhaps we here at GPC will continue to cover such developments. The future remains to be seen, however, as we are due for a bit of soul-searching regarding not just this blog but for life in general. Please check back.

The Franco-Files Post-Season Edition #3 (10/9)

In which we track the exploits of Julio Franco, the oldest player in the postseason.

Game 4 of the National League Division Series Between the Braves and Astros.

Where to begin when talking about such a monster of a game, which the Braves lost, 6-5, in 18 innings? It was the longest postseason game of all time, one in which Julio entered in the bottom of the eighth inning and still managed to get five at-bats.

Well, that's where we'll begin...from where Julio first appeared. Let's break down the performance of 47-year-old Julio in what turned out to be his final game of 2005.

BOTTOM OF THE EIGHTH: Julio enters the game as a defensive replacement for Adam LaRoche, whose
third-inning grand slam was the primary reason that the Braves held a comfortable 6-1 lead. At the time Julio came into the game, the general thinking was that his stint would last one and a half innings as the Braves put the finishing touches on a win that would force a decisive Game 5.

However, Lance Berkman's grand slam with one out in the frame made things a lot less comfortable, bringing the Astros to within 6-5 heading into the ninth.

TOP OF THE NINTH: With two outs and no one on, Julio grounds out to shortstop against 27-year-old Chad Qualls, whom Julio had not faced in 2005. No big deal, right? The Braves were still only three outs away from victory.

BOTTOM OF THE NINTH: With two outs and no one on, Brad Ausmus homers to tie the game at 6-6. Eric Bruntlett then strikes out to end the inning, but the damage has been done. Julio, the Braves and the Astros are going into extra innings!

TOP OF THE 11TH: With two outs and runners on second and third, Julio has the chance to be the hero. Facing the 28-year-old Brad Lidge, whom he had singled against in Game 3, Julio grounds out to second base to end the inning and the Braves' threat.

TOP OF THE 14TH: Andruw Jones walked to start the inning, so Julio comes to the plate with one goal and one goal only: to advance Jones to second base. Facing 27-year-old Dan Wheeler, who retired him on a ground ball to second in Game 3, Julio lays a bunt down the first-base line. Wheeler thinks it may go foul, so he watches it...and watches it...and accidentally kicks it into fair territory as he waits for it to go foul. So Julio ends up with something better than a sacrifice bunt, he ends up with an infield single that put runners on first and second with no one out!

Jeff Francoeur then laid down a sacrifice bunt to put Jones and Julio at second and third, respectively. The Braves had a great shot to take the lead. However, after Ryan Langerhans was intentionally walked to load the bases, Brian McCann struck out and pinch-hitter Pete Orr (in a rare not-replacing-Julio-on-the-basepaths appearance) grounded out to end the inning.

AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!

TOP OF THE 16TH: With the Astros' bullpen depleted, manager Phil Garner is forced to turn to none other than 43-year-old Roger Clemens, baseball's oldest pitcher, to finish the game in his first relief appearance since 1984.

And who better than Julio, the game's oldest player, to be the first batter to face Clemens? We here at GPC were loving this moment, especially after Julio was deprived of the chance to bat against Clemens in Game 2. Unfortunately, Clemens won the battle. After working the count full, Julio was called out on strikes on a pitch that he considered to be out of the strike zone. This made the normally mild-mannered Julio livid, as he turned around and gave home-plate umpire Gary Cederstrom a piece of his mind. Check the picture at the top of this post.

TOP OF THE 18TH: Rematch! Batting with a runner on first and one out, Julio once again goes head-to-head with Clemens, a batter-pitcher battle with 90 cumulative years of life experience. Roger wins again, as Julio pops out harmlessly to shortstop Jose Vizcaino.

BOTTOM OF THE 18TH: Batting with one out and no one on, Chris Burke (who entered the game as a pinch-runner in the bottom of the 10th) launches a homer into the seats in left fieldto send the Astros to a 7-6 win. The Braves are eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, the fourth straight season in which this has occurred.

Julio's Performance (game): 1-for-5
SERIES: 2-for-9 (.222)
CAREER POSTSEASON (1996 with Cleveland, 2001-05 with Braves): 22-for-94 (.234), 2 homers, 5 RBIs. The only time Julio has been a part of a winning postseason series was in 2001, when the Braves beat the Astros in the Division Series before losing to Arizona in the NLCS.

And there it ends. Thank you for following Julio with us this season, he'll be back next year, so will we!

Al Leiter's March to His 40th Birthday (#4)

In which we track our favorite non-ERA qualifying YANKEE lefty in his quest to pitch on his 40th birthday (October 23, 2005)

APPEARANCE: October 9 against the Angels in Game 3 of the American League Division Series.

AGE ON DAY OF APPEARANCE: 39 years, 11 months, 16 days

SITUATION: With the Yankees losing 2-1 in the seventh inning, on the brink of elimination, Al enters the game in relief of starter Shawn Chacon. There is a runner on first and one out. The Yankee stadium crowd was vocal in its displeasure as Al entered the game, wishing that Torre would go with a reliever capable of posting a sub-6.00 ERA in the regular season. But Al's a lefty-specialist now, and his job was to face lefty Darin Erstad, 0-for-3 in the series thus far against him. Make it 0-for-4, as Erstad grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. That was it for Al, as Mariano Rivera came on to pitch the eighth.

SUCCESSFUL? Yes, of course! Al got two outs on one swing, keeping the Yankees in the game, in a game they absolutely had to win. And win it they did, scoring two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to take a 3-2 lead, a score that held up through nine.

That's right, the Yankees took the lead immediately after Al pitched, making him the game's winning pitcher! It was the first post-season win for Al since Game 1 of the 1993 World Series, when he was a 27-year-old member of the Toronto Blue Jays. That's a World Series that we here at GPC would rather not talk about.

Will this be the last win of Al's career? Will it be his last appearance? So many questions, and they all will be answered in due time. Check back.

Back-Page Barometer Postseason Edition #4 (10/9)


In which we track the Yankees' Postseason Exploits Through the All-Seeing Eye(s) of the New York Post and the New York Daily News.

GAME: Game 4 of the American League Division Series between the AL East Champion Yankees and the AL West Champion Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

RESULT: Yankees 3, Angels 2

SUMMARY (25 Words or Less): Derek Jeter's RBI groundout allows Jorge Posada to score the game's decisive run as the Yanks edge the Angels, 3-2, to keep their season alive.

HEADLINE EDGE? Obviously, we've got two very similar headlines here. Pushed to the brink of elimination, the Yanks won to keep their season alive. What else is there to say, when the alternative is permanent extinction? Some sort of clever play on words? An pop-culture allusion? Snide in-jokes? No, no and no! Being alive is the only thing that matters, and you have to come to the brink of death to fully appreciate it.

The play that kept the Yankees "alive" was Jorge Posada scoring on from third on a grounder to third base. It was a bang-bang play. He just made it in safely. Obviously, both tabs went with this defining moment on the back cover.

We're gonna go with the News as the superior back cover, simply because "Alive!" is a better headline than "Alive for 5!", which is redundant. If the Yanks are alive, of course they're gonna play game 5. When one emerges from the smoldering rubble of a horrific car crash, do they exclaim "I'm alive for tomorrow!". No, they just say "I'm Alive". The present is all that matters, and all that will ever matter.

Even after winning Game 4, the Bombers are still on the brink of elimination for Game 5. They're not out of the woods yet. Everyone is wondering how this is gonna turn out, no?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Franco-Files Postseason Edition #2 (10/8)

In which we track the exploits of Julio Franco, the oldest player in the post-season.

Game 3 of the National League Division Series Between the Braves and Astros.

Julio sat out Game 2 of the series, unfortunate because Roger Clemens, the oldest pitcher in all of baseball, started the game for the Astros. It would have been very interesting to see 90 years worth of life experience combine in a head-to-head batter-pitcher match-up.

Julio had faced the Rocket during the regular season, on April 18. He went 0-for-3 with two groundouts and a strikeout against Clemens, so perhaps that's why Bobby Cox went with Adam LaRoche at first base for the ballgame. That's irrelevant, as the Braves won the Game, 7-1. Of course, when Julio faced Clemens in April, Roger wasn't the oldest player in all of baseball. He wasn't even the oldest pitcher on the Astros. That honor, obviously, belonged to John Franco, and we here at GPC are very disappointed that our similarly monikered heroes will not get the chance to go up against one another in the postseason.

Anyway, let's get to the matter at hand. No, not the matter that is always at hand, the eternal now...ah, the hell with it.

Let's talk about Julio's performance in Game 3. Julio was called into the game in his first pinch-hitting appearance of the postseason. The situation? One out and no one on in the ninth inning, with the Braves losing, 7-3. Julio was batting for Atlanta reliever Jim Brower, facing dominating Astros closer Brad Lidge.

Julio went 1-for-3 against the 28-year-old Lidge during the regular season, with his hit coming on May 7, the same game in which he homered off of Andy Pettitte. Julio is now 2-for-4 off Lidge in 2005, as he golfed a 2-2 pitch out of the dirt into left field for a base hit. This was Julio's first hit in the postseason in four at-bats, raising his average to .250.

Pete Orr, whose role on the Braves seems to be Julio's exclusive pinch-runner, immediately replaced Julio on the basepaths. Orr did not advance past first base, however, as Rafael Furcal flied out to right and Marcus Giles struck out to end the game. Atlanta loses, 7-3.

Like the Yankees, the Braves (and, by extension, Julio) are on the brink of elimination. They are staring death in the face. Root for Julio to help extend Atlanta's season today against the Houston Astros!

GPC wants to live, dammit!

Al Leiter's March To His 40th Birthday (#3)

In which we track our favorite non-ERA qualifying YANKEE lefty in his quest to pitch on his 40th birthday (October 23, 2005)

APPEARANCE: October 7 against the Angels in Game 3 of the American League Division Series.

AGE ON DAY OF APPEARANCE: 39 years, 11 months, 14 days

SITUATION: Al enters the game in a very tough situation: bases-loaded and no outs in the seventh inning, with the Yanks losing, 8-6. New York City held its collective breath as our enigmatic hero strolled to the mound, wondering if his left arm, approximately 14,600 days old, still had enough life to get out this intimidating jam.

SUCCESSFUL? Yes...then, no. Let's break it down. In the seventh, Al struck out Darin Erstad for the first out of the inning, making the Angel first baseman 0-for-3 against Al this postseason. The Angels then pulled off a well-executed squeeze play, as Jose Molina scored on Steve Finley's bunt down the first base line. That wasn't Al's fault. Adam Kennedy then flied out to left to end the inning.

Way to go, Al. That's some excellent work right there.

Pushing his luck to the limit, Joe Torre left Al out there for the eighth inning. Chone Figgins tripled to lead off the inning. After Orlando Cabrera flied out to shallow center, Al intentionally walked the dangerous Vladimir Guerrero to put runners on the corners with one out. That was it...Scott Proctor came on in relief and allowed both of Al's runners to score. The Angels won the game, 11-7.

Al's line: 1.1 innings pitched, two runs allowed on one walk and one hit. Postseason ERA: 9.00 (three runs allowed over three innings spanning three appearances).

This could be Al's last appearance ever if the Yankees lose tonight...that would be tragic. Al turns 40 in just two weeks!

Back-Page Barometer Postseason Edition #3 (10/8)


In which we track the Yankees' Postseason Exploits Through the All-Seeing Eye(s) of the New York Post and the New York Daily News.

GAME: Game 3 of the American League Division Series between the AL East Champion Yankees and the AL West Champion Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

RESULT: Angels 11, Yankees 7

SUMMARY (25 Words or Less): The Yankees scored six unanswered runs over the fifth and sixth innings to erase a five-run deficit, only to have their bullpen blow the lead.

HEADLINE EDGE? The tabs are understandably and hilariously in panic mode here, so neither headline is particularly witty or incisive. When humans are forced to confront death, we usually do so in terse, cliched terms. The gravity of the situation precludes meaningful dialogue and distorts one's perspective.

The same is true for the Post and the News here. They don't seem to know what to say, so they resort to cliche. A Randy Johnson "Big"-themed headline seemed inevitable this postseason, as it recurred throughout the regular season as reliably as a beautiful rainbow appears after a light summer's rain. Still, "Big Trouble"?, that's as boring as they come.

We're gonna go with the Post's "On the Brink". No, it's not a particularly engaging three words. But check out the picture -- A-Rod staring death in the face, maintaining a resolute stoicism even as he and his teammates face "doomsday".

We here at GPC are constantly thinking about death and the painful realities of our mortality. The tabs help us in this regard, illustrating the struggles of those who have come to the precipice of existence.

The Yankees aren't dead yet, however. Will they win their staring match with the grim reaper, and be granted a brief reprieve? Tune in tomorrow to find out!

Comment!

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Franco-Files Postseason Edition #1

In which we track the exploits of Julio Franco, the oldest player in the post-season.

Game 1 of the National League Division Series Between the Braves and Astros.

Julio got the start at first base in the Braves' first game of the postseason. The Astros sent Andy Pettitte to the mound, and in their last match-up, on May 7, Julio went 2-for-3 with a HOME RUN off of Pettitte.

Unfortunately, Game 1 of the playoffs was a different story. Not only did Julio's Braves lose, 10-5, but Julio himself went an anemic 0-3 with two strikeouts and a walk.

The two strikeouts and a walk came off of the 33-year-old Pettitte, while Julio's last at-bat was against John Franco's one-time bullpen buddy Dan Wheeler.

In his first at-bat of the season against the 27-year-old Wheeler (on April 18), Julio grounded out to second. The result was no different on Wednesday, as Julio yet again grounded to second.

Julio will have a chance to redeem himself in the near future, we're sure. But, for now, his postseason average sits at .000.

Al Leiter's March to his 40th Birthday (#2)

In which we track our favorite non-ERA qualifying YANKEE lefty in his quest to pitch on his 40th birthday (October 23, 2005)

APPEARANCE: October 5 against the Angels in Game 2 of the American League Division Series.

AGE ON DAY OF APPEARANCE: 39 years, 11 months, 12 days

SITUATION: Al enters the game in the bottom of the seventh with two outs and no one on base with the Angels leading, 4-2. Garret Anderson is at the plate.

RESULT: Al got Anderson to fly out to right field to end the seventh, and returned in the eighth. After inducing Vladimir Guerrero to fly out to left field, Bengie Molina hit a homer to increase the Angels lead to 5-2. Darin Erstad then popped out for the inning's second out, after which Al was yanked in favor of Scott Proctor.

SUCCESSFUL? We should say not. Although Al should be commended for retiring the dangerous Anderson and the even more dangerous Guerrero, the homer to Molina makes this a disappointing outing. Al's ERA in the postseason is now 5.40. Root for Al tonight at Yankee stadium as he attempts to pitch in the third week of the 12th month of his 39th year!

Back Page Barometer Post-Season Edition #2 (10/6)

In which we track the Yankees' Postseason Exploits Through the All-Seeing Eye(s) of the New York Post and the New York Daily News.

(note: Due to a combination of unforeseen errors we are unable to display the News' back cover, so we'll just post the Post and move on. Our apologies.)

GAME: Game 2 of the American League Division Series between the AL East Champion Yankees and the AL West Champion Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

RESULT: Angels 5, Yankees 3

SUMMARY (25 WORDS OR LESS): Orlanda Cabrera's RBI single broke a 2-2 tie in the seventh inning as the Angels took advantage of two costly errors to win Game 2.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Al Leiter's March to his 40th Birthday (#1)




In which we track our favorite non-ERA qualifying YANKEE lefty in his quest to pitch on his 40th birthday (October 23, 2005).

APPEARANCE: October 4 against the Angels.

AGE ON DAY OF APPEARANCE: 39 Years, 11 months, 11 days

SITUATION: Al enters the game in the bottom of the sixth in relief of starter Mike Mussina, with Vladimir Guerrero on first and Darin Erstad batting. There are two outs. Yankees winning, 4-0.

RESULT: After working the count on Erstad to a ball and two strikes, Guerrero was thrown out stealing to end the inning. Al returned in the seventh, taking care of his unfinished business by striking out Erstad for the inning's first out. He was then yanked in favor of Tanyon Sturtze, who immediately allowed a home run to Bengie Molina.

SUCCESSFUL? Of course! Although Al only faced one batter, he "pitched" 2/3 of an inning without allowing a baserunner. His postseason ERA is 0.00. 19 days until the big 4-oh! We're off to a good start.

Back-Page Barometer Postseason Edition #1 (10/5)



In which we track the Yankees' Postseason Exploits Through the All-Seeing Eye(s) of the New York Post and the New York Daily News.

GAME: Game 1 of the American League Division Series between the AL East Champion Yankees and the AL West Champion Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

RESULT: Yankees 4, Angels 2

SUMMARY (25 Words or Less): Mike Mussina pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings and Robinson Cano smoked a bases-loaded double as the Yankees take Game 1 in Anaheim.

HEADLINE EDGE? We have to go with the News on this one. Their headline is a play, obviously, on The Mouse That Roared, a satirical novel on nuclear annihilation that was later made into a movie starring Peter Sellers. In the movie, that "mouse" that does the "roaring" is the tiny country of Grand Fenwick, which declares war on the United States and eventually creates mass hysteria by stealing the most powerful bomb in the country.

The News is attempting to shift how we view the Yankees. The Yanks are on the road, in an underdog situation. They are the tiny country of Grand Fenwick. Their leader, at least in Game 1, was Mike "Moose" Mussina, analogous to the character of Tully Bascomb in the movie.

The Yankees aren't known as the "Bombers" for nothing. But did their win in Game 1 provoke the people of Anaheim to a mass hysteria fueled by Cold War-style nuclear paranoia? Probably not. The Yanks have already been beaten by the Angels in a Division Series, in 2002. The people of Anaheim know not to get too worked up. You can only get scared of Grand Fenwick once.

Regardless, we here at GPC always like it when the tabs go high concept, so the News was a no-brainer here.

If anyone disagrees, please let us know about it!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Franco-Files #23 (9/21-10/2)

in which we track the exploits of Julio and John Franco, baseball's two oldest players. They are both named J. Franco. Don't forget that.

Another season in the books for our heroes. For John, it was his last season (barring some sort of miracle). Julio? Well, he keeps rolling...and we hope he keeps rolling all the way to his 50th birthday. According to Julio: "I want to play until I'm 50 years old. I know that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and I want to keep my body healthy. I believe the key to that is discipline and obedience."

Julio has a relationship with God. We here at GPC are still working on that.

But, let's get back to the matter at hand. No, not the matter that is always at hand, the eternal now, the manifestation of God through the acute awareness of the everlasting present. Not that.

The matter at hand is this: how Julio ended his 2005 campaign. Let's check it out:

Since we last checked on Julio (on 9/21), he appeared in nine games, starting three of them. Over these nine games, he went 3-for-13 with a double and two walks. Not disastrous, but not very exciting, either. This 3-for-13 showing lowered Julio's average to .275.

47? Julio's lackluster end to the season was just a continuation of a disturbing fact: since Julio turned 47, he has been in an atrocious slump. Since his birthday on August 23, Julio is batting .174. He has not homered. His season average dropped 24 points. He did not become the oldest player of all-time to hit a home run. He did not pass Heinie Manush on the all-time hits list.

That is disappointing, but not very concerning. Julio will bounce right back. Baseball, like life, is full of ups and downs. Julio will recover. God is in control.

POSTSEASON! Now, we could attempt to ponderously analyze the final 2 weeks of Julio's 2005 season. We will not! Because Julio's season has not ended. He is in the playoffs, with his Atlanta Braves up against the Houston Astros in the National League Division Series.

We here at GPC are not fans of either team. No, not by a long shot. But we are very disappointed that John is not on the Astros, for if John and Julio went head-to-head in the playoffs it would be a momentous event in the world of Greased Poker Chips.

John, however, is back in Staten Island, contemplating life after baseball. We wish you well, John. Really, and truly, we do. As soon as we figure out how to get to Staten Island we'll come visit.

Well, as baseball is not resting, we can't either. Let's post some numbers regarding Julio's 2005 season, and then move on. It's always best to move on. Root for Julio in the playoffs!!!

Oldest Pitcher Faced (week): Todd Jones, Marlins, 37 (74 cumulative years in that match-up).
Oldest Pitcher Faced (year): Roger Clemens, Astros, 42.
Youngest Pitcher Faced (week): Dontrelle Willis, Marlins, 23.
Youngest Pitcher Faced (year): Zack Duke, Pirates, 22.
Total Pitchers Faced (week): 11, who were a combined 191 years younger than Julio (avg. 17.4 years younger).
Total Pitchers Faced (year): 126, who were a combined 2123 years younger than Julio (avg. 16.8 years younger).

Julio 2005: 108 games, 233 at-bats, 30 runs, 64 hits, 12 doubles, 1 triple, 9 homers, 42 RBIs, 27 walks, 57 strikeouts, 4 stolen bases, .275 average.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Al Leiter Battle for ERA Qualification (9/26-10/2)


in which we track the 39 year-old YANKEE lefty in his quest for 162 Innings Pitched.

For the final time, we check in on Al and his progress towards 162 innings pitched. Yes, we all know that he wasn't able to make it to that hallowed mark. But let's check the final totals:

Yankee Games: 162
Al's Innings Pitched: 142.1
Qualifies: No, -19.2 innings off the pace.

There you have it folks. Al ends the 2005 regular season 19.2 innings short of ERA qualification. Previous to this year, Al had tossed 162 innings or more in 11 of the past 12 season. His 142.1 innings pitched were the fewest he's thrown since the strike-shortened 1994 season. Meanwhile, Al's ERA of 6.13 is a career-worst (discounting 1987, 1991, and 1992- seasons in which he tossed a combined 27.1 innings).

None of this bodes well for Al's future as a major leaguer. Perhaps he has reached the end of the line, and will not return in 2006.

Well, okay. But we're not gonna worry about that. Let's stop all this doom and gloom. Let's switch up the tone to one of pure joy: AL LEITER IS ON THE YANKEES' POSTSEASON ROSTER!!!

That was by no means a guarantee, but apparently Yankee manager Joe Torre is a fan of Al, and the fact that he has ample big-game pitching experience (having appeared in the postseason with the Blue Jays in 1993, the Marlins in 1997, and the Mets in 1999 and 2000.

However, it looks like the ghost of John Franco will be be living within Al during the playoffs, for Al will be a left-handed relief specialist! We here at GPC are delighted to see Franco's legacy kept alive by his former teammate Al. We are whole again.

So, yeah, 2005 was not the best of seasons for Al. So what? The playoffs are what matters now. Root for Al in the postseason, and stay tuned to GPC for updates on every one of Al's appearances as he marches toward his 40th birthday on October 23.

October 23 will be Game 2 of the World Series. Think Al can make it that long? That he'll celebrate the big fore-oh in pinstripes? Stay tuned!

Back-Page Barometer (9/24-10/3)





In which we gauge the popularity of New York’s major league franchises by using the ultimate indicator: appearances on the back page of The Post and The Daily News.

Visit here to see the headlines each day:
www.nydailynews.com/front/covers
www.nypost.com/frontback.html

The regular season is over!!! Let's skip right to the season totals. Take a look at the year that was in the back page:

Season Totals:

(there were 4.2 Yankee covers for every Met cover).

Baseball Covers: 329 (183 positive, 142 negative, 4 neutral)*
News: 160 (86 positive, 72 negative, 2 neutral)
Post: 169 (97 positive, 70 negative, 2 neutral)

Yankee Covers: 262 (147 positive, 115 negative)
News: 128 (69 positive, 59 negative)
Post: 134 (78 positive, 56 negative)

Met Covers: 62 (36 positive, 23 negative, 3 neutral)
News: 31 (17 positive, 12 negative, 2 neutral)
Post: 31 (19 positive, 11 negative, 1 neutral)

*(there have been four baseball covers unrelated to the 2005 Mets or Yankees, and one featuring both equally).

Now, we realize that folks generally gloss over the totals. But, really, take a look. Because ain't no more gonna be added to these totals. We've reached the end of our (regular season) journey together.

YANKS CLINCH: Was there ever any doubt? After their 8-4 win over Boston on October 1, the Yanks clinched the A.L. East.

Obviously, both papers went with purely celebratory covers the next day (front and back). In fact, take a look at the News' front cover the next day, with it's nod to Alfred E. Neuman: "Worried? Us? Never!" Keep in mind that this is the paper that declared "The Sky is Falling" on August 10. The News didn't even let it's Yankee optimism spill into the next day. As Derek Jeter and his bruised knee limp into Anaheim for the playoffs, the News went with the headline "Westward Woe". For crying out loud, guys! No matter what the Yanks detractors might say about them (and we here at GPC generally consider ourselves Yankee detractors), they fought like hell to get to the playoffs. Celebrate them! They are your team!

THE POST UNDERSTANDS: The Yin to the News' Yang, the Post did celebrate the Yanks as they head into the playoffs. Instead of worrying about Jeter's knee, they put a picture of him running hard, with the headline "Away We Go". That's the attitude. Not "Away We Woe", News, "Away We Go!". With both teams' logos worked into the headline, no less. Damn, we went into this season with a News bias, which has slowly been eroded by the Post's relentless dedication to baseball on the back page. Hey, we're lucky the News even went with baseball at all. Reportedly, Larry Brown had a bowel movement yesterday...that's the sort of story those guys can't seem to resist.

METS=M.I.A The Mets ended the season with a formidable streak intact: 27 days without a back cover. As it became clear in early September that they were pretenders and not contenders, they vanished. Ka-poof! Just like that. And we, for one, can't blame the tabs. While it may seem unfair in May and June when the Yanks monopolize the back covers, in September it's justified. The last month of the season is put-up-or-shut-up time, and the Mets had nothing to do but play spoiler (though they did that remarkably well, as any Phillies fan will attest).

We wish we could get into more detail about the last 10 days, and the season as a whole. But Major League Baseball does not rest, so neither shall we.

Back-Page Barometer playoff edition begins October 5, with daily updates on every single postseason back cover. Please check back.

Friday, September 30, 2005

The Status of GPC


Apologies for the lack of updates this week. The final week of the season has left us here at GPC a bit perplexed as to what direction we should head.

Enjoy the belated "Al Leiter Battle for ERA Qualification Update" that follows this briefing.

The final regular-season "Back-Page Barometer" has been pushed back until Monday so we may incorporate all of the regular season's headlines into our totals and analysis. This "Back-Page Barometer" will be part of a double posting that will also include the final regular season "Al Leiter Battle for ERA Qualification". "Franco-Files #23" will appear the following day (October 4) and will include the final totals from Julio's 2005 campaign.

Then...the postseason. We will update every day in the post-season in which something relevant to our universe has occurred. The Braves are in the playoffs, so this will definitely include "Franco-Files". Should the Yankees make the playoffs, we'll have "Back Page Barometer" updates after every game. And, should the Yankees make the playoffs AND Al Leiter is on the post-season roster, we'll have "Al Leiter's March to his 40th Birthday" updates every time he makes an appearance.

There. That's what's going on. Thank you for reading.

Al Leiter Battle for ERA Qualification (9/19-9/25)

in which we track the 39 year-old YANKEE lefty in his quest for 162 Innings Pitched.

Last week, we here at GPC made the gut-wrenching and controversial decision to officially concede Al's quest for 162 innings pitched. Following his transfer to the bullpen, Al's ability to reach the 162 innings pitched mark was damaged beyond hope. We understand the disappointment and anger of those who were hurt by this decision. Hell, we were disappointed and angry as well...at ourselves. You see, all year we made statements in which we intimated that we would NEVER give up on Al's ability to reach ERA Qualifying Status. Yet, we did.

However, there are moments in life in which one must let go of delusional ways of thinking, in order to proceed to higher planes of mental clarity. This was one such moment. So, while our about-face was admittedly disingenuous, it did let us transcend false modes of thought so that we could proceed unencumbered towards a more fully realized vision of the TRUTH.

Al's Innings Pitched: 139.1

Yankee Games: 154

Qualifies: No, 14.2 innings off the pace.

The above was just a formality.

Last week, Al made one appearance. In relief, of course, on September 22nd. Al entered the game at the start of the seventh inning with the Yankees winning, 5-1. He cruised through a 1-2-3 seventh inning. No fuss, no muss, so far, so good. Then, the eighth inning came. Allow issued a pair of walks to start the frame (NOT GOOD), then an RBI single and an RBI double. He was summarily yanked, having not recorded an out in the frame. Tanyon Sturtze came on and allowed Al's remaining baserunners to score. Fortunately for Al's self-esteem, the Yankees still won the game, 7-6.

So, for his outing on the 22nd, Al tossed one inning, allowing four runs on two hits and two walks. His Yankee ERA skyrocketed to 5.31. Overall, it's at 6.07 on the year. Again, not good.

Last week, we suggested some new goals for Al as he closes out the 2005 campaign. Let's check in on them.

THE AL LEITER BATTLE FOR MORE STRIKEOUTS THAT WALKS: Al did strike out one batter in his last outing, but, as we already mentioned, he walked two. He now has 96 walks on the year, compared to 94 strikeouts. There is still hope on this one, however slim.

THE AL LEITER BATTLE TO ALLOW LESS THAN 100 RUNS: The four runs charged to Al on the 22nd gave him exactly 100 runs allowed on the year, so this goal is now out. 2005 marks the just the second time in his career that Al has allowed 100 runs in a season, when he yielded 107 over 213 innings pitched.

THE AL LEITER BATTLE TO PLAY PAST HIS 40TH BIRTHDAY: Al turns 40 on October 23. Stay tuned. It will be very interesting to see if Al makes the post-season roster, should the Yanks make it into the playoffs.