The Week Ahead: Hey, isn't that Johnny Damon?


damon-100509.jpgIt’s reunion time in Detroit as the New York Yankees come to town to take on the Tigers. And this means the Yankees get a chance to see Johnny Damon and show him how little they miss him.

OK, so that’s a bit harsh, but at 21-9, New York is cruising right along. Remember the hand wringing when the Bronx Bombers decided to save their Damon money and go with Brett Gardner/Marcus Thames/Randy Winn in left field? Yeah, that was all for a whole lot of nothing wasn’t it?

The Yankees and Tigers already met up in spring training, but the contests in this four-game series count, so I doubt we’ll see any applause from A-Rod this time around.

Damon, who played a huge role in the Yankees’ championship run last season, is having a fine year so for in Detroit, hitting .302/.409/.443 with 22 runs and 14 RBIs as the Tigers sit at 17-14.

Curtis Granderson, the former Tiger acquired by the Yankees in the offseason, will reluctantly miss the trip as he works to heal from a strained groin.

“I was looking forward to seeing friends and teammates that I haven’t talked to over there,” Granderson said. “I’ve got to stay back and get better. I probably wouldn’t have been able to do anything; I’d still be inside getting treatment.”

In addition to a reunion with Damon, the Yankees will get a nice up-close look at Austin Jackson, the player they sent to Detroit in the Granderson deal. Jackson is hitting .370 with nine doubles, three triples and a home run in 29 games for the Tigers.

Nationals at Mets, May 10-12:
Believe it or not, this is a good matchup in the standings, as both teams are 17-14, two games behind the NL East-leading Phillies. Enjoy it while you can, fellas.

A’s at Rangers, May 11-13: Where are the Angels and Mariners? Battling it out for cellar space, that’s where. These two are your top two AL West teams – at least for the moment – with  the Rangers (18-14) holding a slim lead over the A’s (17-15). Both teams are getting some surprisingly good pitching.

Padres at Giants, May 11-13: Neither of these teams figured to have enough offense to compete this season, but that should only serve to teach us not to figure. San Diego (19-12) is tied for the second best record in the NL, with the Giants just a half-game behind.

Twins at Yankees, May 14-16: The Yankees can’t go after Joe Mauer anymore, so they’ll just try to be unfriendly hosts and steal some games over the weekend instead. These Twins, however, don’t look like the same old team the Yankees always seem to beat up on in the playoffs.

Indians at Orioles, May 14-16: They can’t all be Yankees-Red Sox, right? Both of these teams are pretty bad, but that could make for some entertaining viewing in itself. And if the game itself doesn’t make you laugh, maybe the postgame show will.

Monday, 7:05 p.m. ET: Yankees at Tigers (ESPN)
Wednesday, 7:05 p.m.: Yankees at Tigers (ESPN)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Phillies at Brewers (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Astros at Giants (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Mariners at Rays (FOX)
Sunday, 1:05 p.m.: Twins at Yankees (TBS)
Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Phillies at Brewers (ESPN)
*Check local listings

And for those of you who have asked for a schedule of MLB Network games, you may find that here.

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Billy Williams, Bill Murray and . . . Fall Out Boy!

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 08:  Former players Ferguson Jenkins (L) and Billy Williams of the Chicago Cubs throw out ceremonial first pitches before the Opening Day game against the Milwaukee Brewers during the Opening Day game at Wrigley Field on April 8, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Major League Baseball has announced the on-field ceremonial stuff for tonight’s Game 3 of the World Series. There are a couple of good things here! And one bit of evidence that, at some point when he was still commissioner, Bud Selig sold his mortal soul to a pop punk band and now the league can’t do a thing about it.

The ceremonial first pitch choice is fantastic: it’s Billy Williams, the Hall of Famer and six-time All-Star who starred for the Cubs from 1959 through 1974. Glad to see Williams here. I know he’s beloved in Chicago, but he has always seemed to be one of the more overlooked Hall of Famers of the 1960s-70s. I’m guessing not being in the World Series all that time has a lot to do with that, so it’s all the more appropriate that he’s getting the spotlight tonight. Here’s hoping Fox makes a big deal out of it and replays it after the game starts.

“Take me out to the ballgame” will be sung by the guy who, I assume, holds the title of Cubs First Fan, Bill Murray. It’ll be wacky, I’m sure.

The National Anthem will be sung by Chicago native Patrick Stump. Who, many of you may know, is the lead singer for Fall Out Boy. This continues Major League Baseball’s strangely strong association with Fall Out Boy over the years. They, or some subset of them, seem to perform at every MLB jewel event. They have featured in MLB’s Opening Day musical montages. They played at the All-Star Game this summer. Twice. And, of course, they are the creative minds behind “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark,” (a/k/a “light ’em MUPMUPMUPMUP“) which Major League Baseball and Fox used as incessant playoff bumper music several years ago. I don’t ask for much in life, but one thing I do want is someone to love me as much as Major League Baseball loves Fall Out Boy. We all do, really.

Wayne Messmer, the former public address announcer for the Cubs and a regular performer of the National Anthem at Wrigley Field will sing “God Bless America.”

Between that and Bill Murray, I think we’ve found out the Cubs strategy for dealing with Andrew Miller: icing him if he tries to straddle the 6th and 7th innings.

Imagining a daytime World Series game at Wrigley Field

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 27:  A overall shot of the scoreboard showing the postponement of the game in Baltimore because of riots before the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 27, 2015 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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Night baseball first came to the World Series in 1971, when the Pirates played the Orioles in Game 4. The last World Series game played under natural light came in 1984, when the Tigers played the Padres in Detroit in Game 5 of that year’s Fall Classic. The last World Series game played during daytime hours was Game 6 of the 1987 World Series, but that came in Minneapolis, in the Metrodome, so it was still played under artificial light. All games since then have been played in the evening hours.

Ever since, there have been periodic calls for the World Series to include day games. These appeals are often grounded in tradition and nostalgia for bright sunshine making way for long shadows. For memories of sneaking transistor radios into classrooms. For the symbolism of the sun setting on both the day at hand and the baseball season as a whole.

It’s an appealing idea. Baseball in the daytime is a wonderful, wonderful thing. And while day baseball may be occasionally miserable for fans and players in the heat of August, October afternoons are often the loveliest weather there is. There is nothing better than fall sunshine. A baseball game in that fall sunshine seems like the closest one can get to heaven on Earth.

Unfortunately, it’s a wholly unrealistic idea in this day and age. Far fewer people would actually get to watch the World Series if it were played during the day. We complain about late games lasting into the wee hours, preventing kids from watching, but how many kids are going to be able to watch a World Series game when they’re in school? Or at after school extracurricular activities? And how many people can ditch work to watch a baseball game? Some say to put one of the day games on the weekend, but that clashes with other activities and, of course, with football, which is going to win the battle for the remote in more households than baseball would.

Yes, the networks and Major League Baseball are in it for the money and the TV ratings, but the fact is that the money and the ratings are a function of more people watching baseball games in the evening, kids and grownups alike. It’s pretty straightforward, actually. More people watching baseball is better for the people and for baseball, full stop, aesthetics and commercial motivations notwithstanding. For this reason the World Series will almost certainly be played at night for the foreseeable future. And it should be.

Still . . . it’s Wrigley Field, the last bastion of day-only baseball for decades. A place where, even if they now play most games at night, still features more day baseball than anyplace else. And it’s a sunny Friday afternoon on which the temperatures will creep into the 60s. I know it would never happen and certainly won’t happen today, but the idea of an afternoon World Series game in Wrigley Field makes even a hard-headed, bottom-line-appreciating anti-nostalgist like me sorta wish today was a day game. If I close my eyes I can imagine it. I can feel the warm breeze and smell the fall afternoon air. I’m sure many of you can too.

And even if you can’t, can we agree that maybe today should be a day game simply for public health purposes? I mean, get a load of this:

These people will have been drinking for at least 11 hours come game time. Many of them for much longer. You’re probably looking at some dead men walking, here. For the sake of their livers and personal safety, this game should start at 1pm, dang it. If even that is early enough to save them.