Monthly Archives: December 2009

Reindeer Race

I threw an Christmas Party last week and overall, it was a huge success. I had hosted two other parties previously, but nothing too fancy. My birthday was in August and I hosted a small party for our friend Lindsey in early November.

I went to a little more trouble to put this one together and it was a huge success. For the first time, I served something other than simple snack foods like chips and munchies. I decided to do something fun, easy and that wasn’t a whole lot of work for me – kebabs. I twisted it up a little and had a “Make Your Own Kebab” night and provided steak, chicken, peppers and mushrooms for people to create whatever kind of kebab they wanted. Some people had all veggie-kebabs and I even saw a few meat-babs. Overall, it was a huge hit.

Fires have become a staple at my parties simply due to the presence of a nice firepit in the backyard. This time, with a little help from Mason, I built up a bigger fire than before and kept it burning long into the night. It was a nice change of pace for people that wanted to get away from the games, dancing and music going on inside. It was chilly that night, but fortunately not unbearably cold.

Being the complete belle of the ball that I am, I was looking for ideas of what I could do at my party that would be a lot of fun and something that people would remember. After a few weeks of thinking, I decided to hold a Reindeer Race. No, I couldn’t catch a real reindeer for the race, so I settled for the next best thing – my riding lawnmower with antlers and a big red nose. Didn’t get a great picture of the finished product (it was dark outside and I didn’t think to photograph it beforehand) but with the mower’s headlights serving as eyes, it looked pretty convincing.

I bought 24 small wooden stakes at Lowe’s and used them to mark out a simple loop course that ran from the backyard, up to the frontyard and then back again. I worried about how to illuminate the course, but when the mower’s headlights worked, that wasn’t a problem.

The night of the party came and the poor mower wouldn’t start – turns out the engine had a warm-weather carburetor – who knew? I ended up jumping the battery from my car and everything worked out. We had 17 people compete in the Reindeer Race – some taking multiple turns.

The winner for the men was Bradley, completing the course in an astonishing 32.8 seconds. The winner on the women’s side was Jenn at 34.8 seconds.

Jenn wins the women's competition - 34.8 seconds

Men's 3rd place winner - Justin!

Mason finished 12th, but he had the most fun!

Even the dog had a turn!

Every good race needs a photographer who forgets the lens cap is still on!

I like to think it was a great night had by all, if I’m not being too assuming. I know I had a lot of fun. It really was a great way to end a great semester.

Hey there!

The men of the party do a Christmas shot!

I'm gonna miss the heck out of that little guy!

The Curious Case of Johnny Damon

No, he doesn’t age backwards, but Scott Boras might have you believe that he does.

Johnny Damon is coming off a spectacular season for the Yankees in which he posted a triple slash line of .282/.365/.489. He’s also coming off a 4-year/$52 million deal that he signed after the 2005 season.

The Yankees have expressed interest in retaining him, while Damon has said he’d love to return to the Yankees. However, that is where the similarities end. Damon is seeking not to take a pay cut, while the Yankees would prefer to pay market rate to retain him.

Damon’s over all numbers from 2009 indicate that he deserves another large contract, but it’s well known the new Yankee Stadium quickly became Damon’s personal playground.

Home stats: .279/.382/.533 – 17 home runs
Away stats: .284/.349/.446 – 7 home runs

As evidenced by his splits, he’s a much more dangerous hitter at Yankee Stadium than he is on the road. At Yankee Stadium, he’s the number two hitter with decent pop and great on-base skills. Away from there though, he’s the slap hitter he was in his early years. To the Yankees he may be worth upwards of $10 million a year, but is he worth that to a team without a cozy right field?

That’s a question Damon seems willing to gamble on. ESPN’sBuster Olney and The Times’ Tyler Kepner both accurately point out the lack of visible interest in Damon outside of New York.

If no other team is willing to gamble that Damon could duplicate his 2009 numbers away from Yankee Stadium, why should the Yankees be in any rush to throw additional dollars and years at him? This isn’t disrespect to what Damon’s done for the Yankees and for New York, but business acumen. You wouldn’t bid $200 on an eBay iPod when the highest bid is currently your own. And the Yankees wouldn’t bid against themselves either.

Damon and the Yankees remain a perfect fit for each other and I expect the two sides to come to some sort of compromise before we hit 2010. I expect Damon to realize he’s better off with the Yankees and the Yankees are better off with him.

Yankees Acquire Curtis Granderson

In a three team trade this afternoon, the defending champions traded CF Austin Jackson, SP Ian Kennedy and RP Phil Coke for centerfielder Curtis Granderson.

This trade basically came down to did the Yankees feel that Austin Jackson would eventually be as good as Curtis Granderson is now? Since they made the trade, I assume they believe that Jackson will not reach that level.

While losing Ian Kennedy and Phil Coke will be sad, they are completely expendable trade pieces to a team like the Yankees. Phil Coke is a decent left-handed relief option, but will probably be remembered first for allowing two home runs in one World Series inning. Coke proved to be very home run prone in the major leagues, which is a trait that nearly always spells trouble for a pitcher. Losing him is of no import as the Yankees have several arms that can step in and do just as good a job as Phil Coke, beginning with Mike Dunn and Zach Kroenke.

Ian Kennedy was starting pitching depth and not much more. He used to be a highly-rated prospect for the Yankees, but has had performance and injury problems. He has four pitches and decent command, but doesn’t project to be a huge asset in the AL East. In the NL West though, he’ll be a serviceable back-of-the-rotation arm for the Diamondbacks. The Yankees have some starting pitching depth and can choose to replace Kennedy with a similar player when they choose first in the Rule 5 draft later this week.

So Austin Jackson is the only player dealt by the Yankees in this deal that they foresaw playing a large role for them moving forward. While he was the second-best position player in the Yankees system behind catcher Jesus Montero, Jackson has never projected to be a superstar player, but rather a solid contributing regular.

Granderson has poor platoon splits against lefties, but I’ll gamble on him if all I have to give up is an Austin Jackson and a couple of spare parts. This is a trade where the Yankees are trading something that could be for something that is. Jackson has had modest success in the minor leagues. Granderson has had that same success, but at the major league level. Granderson is a fine centerfielder and I’ll trust my hitting coach to work with Granderson on his lefty struggles.

As a Yankee fan, I’m all for this trade. The chances that Austin Jackson develops into the player that Curtis Granderson is are moderate at best. The same can be said for the chances of Phil Coke and Ian Kennedy playing major roles for the Yankees in the next few years. Brian Cashman’s approach for the bullpen in the past few years has been to collect a ton of options and find the most successful ones. If he feels that he’s got better arms than Phil Coke, then I agree.

Granderson is under contract for reasonable money until 2013, not that money is ever really an issue for the Yankees. From all reports he’s a great personality that will fit in well with the attitude and persona that the Yankees have started to build the past few years. His drop in production in 2009 is similar to Nick Swisher’s drop in 2008 – a lower BABIP and a higher fly ball rate. A simple market correction in his BABIP will help his numbers bounce back and moving from a pitcher friendly park to one that seems to play well for left-handed batters will undoubtedly help Granderson.

Obtaining Granderson is probably only the beginning of the Yankees offseason moves. They still have some issues in their starting rotation, and will probably start to address that with Andy Pettitte here in the next few weeks and then maybe add another veteran arm – Ben Sheets, Joel Piniero or someone similar. They still have to make a decision regarding Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, but those are less pressing needs now with Granderson on board.

This trade makes the Yankees significantly better moving forward, and shouldn’t that be the most important factor when making a trade?