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Reflections On YED, The Upcoming World Series, and A Rave for the Met's "Tosca"

Shortly after midnight on Mon Oct 24, YED - Yankee Elimination Day - was celebrated for the thirteenth year in a row as the Houston Astros completed a sweep of the Yankees, winning a back-and-forth game, 6-5, at Yankee Stadium.  


The Yankees have not been in the World Series since they beat the Phillies in six games in 2009. It

was manager Joe Girardi's rookie year as skipper. He wore #27 to highlight the 27th world title he was confident would come to the Bronx.  


Starting in 2010, he tempted fate by switching to #28 but that title has never come.  

When Aaron Boone replaced Girardi before the 2018 season, he was more modest in his uni choice of #17, but the title drought continues.  


The Yankees did win the AL East in 2022 for the first time since 2017, but trust me - there will be no AL East banner raised at Yankee Stadium next year.  It is World Series Title or bust in Yankee land though

Hal Steinbrenner, George's younger son, seems committed to keeping Aaron Boone as manager.


If I read tea leaves correctly, though, he is yet to endorse re-hiring of Brian Cashman whose contract as general manager expired with the end of the Yankee season.  Most media people think Cashman will

return since he has been associated with the Steinbrenner family since they ran a horse business in



The big decision facing the team is the free agency of Aaron Judge that will happen less than a week after the end of the World Series. I would be surprised if the Yankees let Judge leave as a free agent.  


He's a rare home-grown star in the Cashman regime, and he should be an eternal member of the Yankee

pantheon. He is a rarity indeed, someone who draws praise from many YED celebrants, including yours truly. 


In one of the interesting twists that make baseball history so intriguing, Joe Girardi, after staying visible by doing the almost-obligatory baseball TV commentary, was hired by the Phillies in 2020. He was dismissed after Philadelphia started 2022 at 22-29.  


Rob Thomson, Girardi's longtime assistant with both the Yankees and Phillies, led the team to the playoffs with 65 victories of his own. They swept the Cardinals in two games in the wild card round and dispatched the defending world champion Braves and surprise-conqueror of Dodgers, San Diego Padres, in five games each.


Houston is undefeated in 2022 post-season play and is favored, but I think the Phillies will give them a tussle. With timely home runs and unbridled passion, Bryce Harper is seemingly on a mission to prove that he is worth his mega-contract. 


Unable to play the field because of an injured arm, he can still serve as the DH and Houston will have to

contain him.  I have never loved the DH, but baseball needs its stars on the field.    


If Philadelphia splits the first two games in Houston this weekend, look out for what the raucous Phillie

fans might do to will their local heroes to victory in the middle three games of the Series. Not unlike

what the Mets did to the Orioles in 1969. 


But I want Dusty Baker to win his first World Series as a manager - the Astros lost last year to the Braves in six games and in 2002 his Giants fell in seven games to the Angels. Astros ace Justin Verlander has a lot to prove, too, since he is 0-6 in previous Series games. 


On the music scene, on the same October 24 that YED was celebrated, I attended David McVicar's

production of Puccini's "Tosca" at the Metropolitan Opera. I have seen the opera many times, but never

has the love story between diva Floria Tosca and artist and freedom fighter Mario Cavaradossi 

been presented more convincingly.


Mario was sung beautifully by Montclair NJ  tenor Michael Fabiano, whose first appearance on stage was greeted with a lot of home town applause.  Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak in the title role was also in top form.


Singing the role of police chief Scarpia, one of opera's most loathsome villains, baritone George Gagnidze from Tbilisi, Georgia was in chillingly good voice.  Carlo Rizzi, from Rome, Italy, led the great Met Opera orchestra with customary aplomb.   


There are three more chances to see this production.

Th Oct 27 at 730p

M Oct 31 at 8p with veteran Roberto Alagna singing Mario

F Nov 4 at 730p, again with Alagna.


In the spring, a new cast and conductor will again perform "Tosca".

Th Mar 30 at 730p

Su Apr 2 at 3p

Wed Apr 5 at 730p

Sa Apr 8 1p - national radio broadcast

Wed Apr 12 730p

Sa Apr 15 at 8p


For more information including availablity of rush tickets, see www.metopera.org


That's all for now.  Always remember:  Take it easy but take it, and more than ever,

stay positive, test negative.

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Three Cheers for Justin Verlander's Third No-Hitter, Two Boos for His Recent Boorish Behavior

There is no doubt that the Houston Astros ace pitcher Justin Verlander is one of the great moundsmen of our era.  He proved it again on the first afternoon of September by no-hitting the Toronto Blue Jays, 2-0, in a dramatic game at Toronto in which the only runs were scored on a two-run ninth-inning homer by the rarely used first baseman  Abraham Toro. 


Verlander was exuberant after the game as well he should have been.  His second no-hitter was also pitched at Toronto in 2011 when he was still a member of the Detroit Tigers.  In a post-game on-field interview he said he was glad that his former Tigers teammate Don Kelly, now the Astros first base coach, could be there.


Unfortunately, to me some of the glow of Verlander becoming only the sixth pitcher in MLB history to throw three no-hitters is dimmed because he has recently acted very boorishly.  When the Tigers in a rare 2019 victory beat him on a ninth-inning home run, JV threw a Trumpian fit after the game.  He wanted Detroit beat writer Anthony Fenech thrown out of the clubhouse.  Evidently he didn't like something Fenech had written. 


In a subsequent start, JV got thrown out of the game by the plate umpire for profanity.  He thought the ump had missed a call on a pitch. When his next pitch got ripped for a double into an outfield gap, he blew his stack at the ump.  The score at the time was 9-0 Houston. 



I thought Verlander understood some of the basics of how to behave on the field. I have a pleasant memory of a Memorial Day at Yankee Stadium a couple of seasons ago when JV tipped his cap to booing Yankee fans after he shut down the Yanks down for almost seven innings.  


I also remember vividly after Verlander got knocked out of a playoff game in Baltimore in 2014 - the last season that the Orioles seemed a legitimate contender - someone in the crowd held up a big sign:  KATE UPTON IS HOT; VERLANDER IS NOT.  (For those not in the celebrity sports cycle, supermodel Upton is now the wife of JV.)  


I have never bought the line that athletes should be "role models".  At best they should be seen as "craft models" that work their butts to attain excellence.  The great ones sustain excellence by continuing to work their butts off. 


Yet since athletes are more than ever constantly present in the public eye, there should be a code of minimally decent behavior.  I sure hope JV doesn't sink below this standard again.  


At a much more tragic level, it is now clear what I had long suspected.  An autopsy of the late Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, 27, found dead in a Texas hotel in early July has shown that he died of a fatal combination of alcohol, opioids, and fentanyl, a drug of a far greater potency than heroin.  


I think of all the players who wore Skaggs' #45 on their caps and uniforms.  Ditto the gesture of players three years ago, displaying the #16 of the late Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez who died in a Miami boating accident that took the lives of two of his friends.


Please, players and fans.  Think of your departed heroes as craft models not role models. And never forget:  "There is no wealth but life." 


Back next time with I hope less tragedy on the agenda, and a look at the playoff scrums in both leagues with the Yankees and Dodgers clearly pennant favorites but hardly shoo-ins.



Always remember:  Take it easy but take it.  

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