Archives for posts with tag: sports

Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. I don’t know about the rest of you Yankee fans but grief and its ensuing five stages are the main components of my offseason. As announced on Thursday morning, Joe Girardi is out as Yankees’ skipper. Ironically, he suffered the same fate as the manager he replaced, Hall of Famer Joe Torre. In both cases, they were not fired – their contracts just weren’t renewed. Too soon to tell if it’s for the best or how this will affect the Yankees impending era of perennial dominance, but today I am in shock and I am angry.

When I started this blog back in 2012, I thought I had a solid fix on my opinion of Joe Girardi: I didn’t like him. I was still pissed about the manner in which the Yankee brass had handled Joe Torre’s exodus and thought of Girardi as a mere Steinbrenner sycophant. Then, a funny thing happened. The Yankees started to decline. The team got older and more bloated and while they never collapsed, they were no longer a World Series contender. And it was during this period, when the Yankees were struggling to keep their heads above water and keep their title-craving fans at bay that I started to respect Joe Girardi – a lot.

Hard to believe it’s been ten years but it has and maybe that’s the surest sign of what an accomplished job that Girardi has achieved. Despite having a fiery reputation and being billed as the “anti-Torre,” Joe Girardi led the New York Yankees with a steady hand amid waves of turmoil. From the years of missing the playoffs, to the twilight of Derek Jeter’s career, to the multiple high-priced underperforming free agents to the soap opera that was A-Roid, Joe Girardi found a way to navigate his teams to winning records and rarely, if ever, lost his cool (Not including the occasion ejection).

Much like Joe Torre before him, he handled the NY media with a level of mastery that the Trump White House would be smart to study. Girardi was always available, always honest, and always finding ways to deflect. Perhaps the next few months will open the floodgates for disgruntled players to have their say, but during Girardi’s tenure he was always more than willing to take the heat and keep reporters off any potential “blood” trails. This was best exemplified by his handling of all things A-Roid. Not sure what his true opinion of the Yankees genetically enhanced slugger is but Girardi defended him in the presence of any camera or recording device.

I’m sure there are plenty of fanatics and analysts who think that Girardi was holding back the Yankees. And to them I say, what other manager could have pulled off a .562 winning percentage over this past tumultuous decade? Be honest. Girardi had every finger in the dam to avoid true catastrophe. We watched him agonize and age before our eyes. It was like seeing Julian Glover drink the wrong grail at the end of Last Crusade.

2017 should have been Girardi’s salvation but it turned out to be his last stand. I’m not saying that Girardi was the long term solution but he at least deserved an opportunity to see this dynasty re-remerge in 2018 and 2019. The Yankees will be fine with a stacked cupboard of young talent but I do wonder what could have been. As for me, I will continue to grieve. I’m sure I will be on to acceptance by the time Spring Training rolls around, unless the Yankees do something completely non-sensical i.e Bobby Valentine.

Thank you, Joe. Thanks for your guidance, thanks for your compassion, thanks for always finding a way to keep our team in the hunt – even during some truly dire times. You deserved better but something tells me you wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. After all, you got to wear the pinstripes and you wore them with pride.

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When this past off-season saw the usually big spending Yanks only make waves by re-acquiring Aroldis Chapman and giving Matt Holliday a 1-year flyer, most fans and analysts didn’t know what to think. This was not the Yanks of old. This was not the M.O. of a big-spending team that missed the playoffs for three of the last four seasons. This was definitely keeping with the new plan implemented by Brian Cashman at last year’s trade deadline. The Yankees are getting younger as we watch and the future is now…maybe a year off.

This year’s spring training was an introduction of new names and high double-digit numbers to a fan base desperate for a return to October baseball. And it was a very encouraging introduction with the Yankees playing .700 ball in the Grapefruit League. True, spring training is not a highly accurate predictor of the future, like Nate Silver’s election algorithms, but there was definitely something new and exciting on display.

The biggest surprise was the return of Greg Bird. After a 2015 mini-campaign that had him prepared to displace Mark Teixeira immediately, Bird was sidelined for all of 2016 with shoulder surgery. This spring saw him return with a vengeance, hitting .451 with a team leading 8 HRs. Displaying an ability to hit to all fields against righties and lefties, coupled with solid defense at 1B, Greg Bird may be the answer at 1B, this season and beyond.

Gary Sanchez picked up from where his 2nd place Rookie of the Year campaign left off, hitting .373 with 5 HRs and showing plenty of arm strength from behind the plate. I was a big fan of Brian McCann and sad to see him depart to Houston but Gary Sanchez’s talent at and behind the plate will not be denied and will be on display post haste.

Tyler Wade, Billy McKinney, Ruben Tejada, Clint Frazier, and Gleyber Torres all showed glimpses of future days in the Bronx. Torres in particular may see an early call-up, especially if Chase Headley continues to underwhelm in the 3rd year of his four-year deal. The jettisoning of Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman bore many fruits that the Yankee organization is eager to pluck when fully ripe.

And the addition of 7-time All Star Matt Holliday should easily fill the void left when Carlos Beltran was sent to Texas. Holliday had a banged up 2016 campaign, but as a F/T DH should be plenty healthy to provide much-needed power and veteran leadership.

Starting pitching continues to be the biggest Achilles heel. But considering that an almost identical staff in 2016, minus the recently released Nathan Eovaldi, was good enough for 84 wins anything is possible. The right elbow of Masahiro Tanaka continues to be under more scrutiny than Price Waterhouse’s Oscar night decorum. If Tanaka finally gets to 200 innings this season, there will only be four remaining pitching questions marks. CC Sabathia will most likely end up in the bullpen by June and Michael Pineda has yet to find anything mirroring consistency – both will not be around for 2018. Thankfully, this means plenty of opportunities for Luis Cessa, Chad Green and Bryan Mitchell who have all had success in limited MLB exposure. And Luis Severino continues to be the wild card of them all. Will he return to ROY-esque form from 2015 or only be effective from the bullpen as in 2016? I do hope it’s the former but the latter works just as well.

More than likely, the Yankees will not make the playoffs this season. At best they will be in the run for a Wild Card slot, and anything can happen in that play-in game. I would give this year’s squad about a 15% chance of making it to the divisional round. I expect this year to be a repeat of last year, in the mix but not a true contender. I expect the young talent of Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Aaron Judge (who also had an impressive spring) and Luis Severino to gain another year of big league experience in preparation for 2018. 2017 is the new 1995. The future is bright, shining with young talent and hungry veterans prepared to deliver new World Series rings to the Bronx and forcing Joe Girardi to change his uniform number into the 30’s.

The future is bright, Yankee fans, and we may be lucky enough to see Yankee championship history repeat over and over in the next decade….as long as $400 million are not wasted on Bryce Harper. #HeadCase

He didn’t teach you how to win, he taught you how not to lose. That’s nothing to be proud of. You’re playing not to lose, Josh. You’ve got to risk losing. You’ve got to risk everything. You’ve got to go to the edge of defeat. That’s where you want to be, boy – on the edge of defeat.” – Searching for Bobby Fischer

 

All I ever wanted was a chance, just a brief flickering moment to prove what I was worth and that I could shine. You would think someone who graduated from Harvard University and who has completed two marathons would be content, but not me. It’s not fame per say that I was seeking, just some kind of recognition that I was unique and special. Who doesn’t want that?

Thankfully, I got my shot on May 18 of this year when I competed on Sports Jeopardy…..and won…..and then lost. But it’s a little bit more complicated and involving than that. And now that my episodes have aired, I have a chance to share my story. It was a fun ride and I hope you enjoy…..though not nearly as I much as I did.

It all started back in 2012. I had signed up for a Sony Studios newsletter (I have no recollection of why) and received an email invitation to take an online test to become a contestant on Jeopardy. I have always considered myself to be of above-average intelligence….who am I kidding? I’m smart. I may not have the same sharp/honed instrument of a mind that got me in to the Ivy League but I still have plenty of fully-functioning brain cells left. So, I gave it a go.

In preparation, I reached out to my Facebook community for assistance. One of my Harvard classmates was friends with a former contestant. The former contestant, who’s name escapes me, was courteous enough to forward a test packet that he had created. And boy, did the intimidation set in immediately. The test packet was approximately 50 pages of crib sheets of “General Knowledge.” Everything from The Big Bang to the Stone Age to the Middle Ages to the Renaissance to the birth of our nation to modern times. It included a Periodic Table, Multiplication Tables, a List of all US Presidents and major world leaders through history and so on, and so on. If a “brain cloud,” as described in Joe Vs The Volcano, were real I would have had one.

Where do you even start? Yes, the contestants on Jeopardy are super-duper smart but how did they get that way? And did I have to start taking the equivalent of brain steroids just to keep up? So, I did the next best thing. I created a copy of the test packet and leafed through it from time to time. I didn’t focus on learning everything in it. I just used it as a guide to reinforce the things I knew and pick up a few new facts along the way. My strong suits, as based on Trivial Pursuit game nights, were entertainment, sports and literature. I did my best to brush up on History, Geography, and Science.

The night of the big test came and I felt I was as prepared as I could be, at least without taking one of those pills from Limitless. I was ready, I was excited, I was anxious, and I forgot that an online test involves actual typing. The test that Jeopardy offers is 50 questions in about 12 and ½ minutes, offering you 15 seconds per question. That seems like a reasonable amount of time, but not so much when you have to type out every answer. They take a little of the pressure off by requiring only the answer and not needing the question format. But still, I labored. And there were at least two questions I missed because I remembered the answer in the last seconds and didn’t have enough time to type them.

The test finished and while I wasn’t given the results, I guessed that I got about 25 of 50 questions correct. Not a horrible result considering the circumstances and wide range of questions (What is the capital of Lithuania?) but not a respectable one either in my mind. Not surprisingly, I was not contacted back. Ideally, if you score well enough for consideration, which I think is 35 and over, you are then invited to an in-person audition followed by an invite to the big show. But I was not invited.

Nor was I invited when I proceeded to take the test the next three years. Every year I studied that packet, and learned what I could. And every year I failed. I even had my wife type for me one year and she too was stymied by the fast pace of the test, though she was studious enough to enter three answers to questions that stupefied me. She does have a PHD for a reason.

So, getting on Jeopardy was not looking like a possibility. Then fate seemed to intervene. In May of last year, two months after failing the 2015 Jeopardy test, I received an email invitation from Sony to take an online test for Sports Jeopardy. HALLELUAH!

I remembered hearing a while back that Dan Patrick was involved with a potential Sports version of Jeopardy but never heard anything further about production or saw any episodes available for viewing. I would later find out that Sports Jeopardy was an original production courtesy of Sony’s new streaming service/app Crackle. And now I was getting another chance at Jeopardy, that is, a Jeopardy I might actually succeed at.

In June I was scheduled to take the test. This time around I tried a different tactic: don’t study. I had killed myself for four years trying to pass the regular Jeopardy test to no avail, so why not switch gears. Besides, its sports, how hard could it be? And initially, I learned, not hard at all.

The Sports Jeopardy test has the same format as the regular Jeopardy except this time it was only 25 questions. Sample answers included:

Tiger Woods wears red on tournament Sunday’s to pay homage to this alma mater.

What is Stanford?

This HOF Yankee catcher was famous for saying, “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings” and “It gets late early out there.”

Who is Yogi Berra?

This New Jersey Nets center was married to Kim Kardashian for just under three months.

Who is Kris Humphries?

 

As far I could tell, I aced the test. I concluded that I got 22 of the 25 questions correct, with my weaknesses being hockey and college sports. But just like regular Jeopardy, radio silence commenced. Perhaps the test was so easy that I needed to score 25/25 just to be considered. Time went on, and like Jeopardy tests of the past I forgot about it.

In mid-September I received an email from Sony Studios that stated I had qualified for an in-person test and interview. Woo Hoo!!! I had done it or at least made it to the next phase. The nearest locale for the in-person test was Boston, and I would be traveling on my own dime. Thankfully, I have family in nearby Brockton and bought a plane ticket for the trip scheduled for the first weekend of October. Now, it was time to study.

I spent the next week creating my own sports-themed crib sheets, mostly focused on my weakest subject – College Sports. I guess the problem with growing up in Long Island, NY followed by a stint at Harvard is that you don’t really develop a love or particular interest in college athletics. I followed MLB, NFL. NBA, and some NHL, but the NCAA always alluded me. But with potential money on the line the time to learn was now. Over the next two weeks I memorized every Heisman Award winner, NCAA Football Championship team, NCAA Basketball Championship team, and Final Four MVP along with refreshers on the big 4 sports, focusing on World Series winners, Super Bowl winners, NBA Finals winners, and Stanley Cup winners. Depending on your opinion of sports I was either fun to be around or a complete drag.

My wife, to her credit, did comply and quizzed me whenever possible. I also found the Sports Jeopardy game app which I downloaded and played every night. I soon found out that the questions not only focused on sports but also entertainment such as sports movies and athletes in TV and movies. There was a lot to learn indeed and I did what I could to not be overwhelmed.

I flew out to Boston the first weekend in October. I stayed with my Uncle Ricky and his family in Brockton, which is a 40-minute drive from Beantown. It was a little bit of déjà vu as I had just visited them in September when I came to town to see the Yanks and Sawx play at Fenway. I spent the better part of Friday night with Uncle Ricky quizzing me from my crib sheets. After about a half hour he proclaimed, “I think you got this.” I then went online and watched season 1 episodes of Sports Jeopardy on Crackle.com. I started feeling equal parts comfortable and anxious as I saw question after question that I could easily answer hastened by the skepticism that it couldn’t be this easy.

Surprisingly, I got a good night’s sleep. In the morning, Uncle Ricky was nice enough to drive me into the city and drop me off at the hotel where the audition was being held. On the one hand, I was excited for this opportunity. On the other hand, I had plenty more packed into this Boston-themed day which included lunch with my dear friend, Becky, a trip to my old stomping grounds at Harvard Yard and a return to Brockton for another classic Guzman-style game night with family and friends. Oh, the fun that lay ahead.

I arrived in the hotel lobby and followed the signs that stated “Jeopardy Auditions” to the second floor via escalator. I was immediately surprised by the number of female contestants that were present. From the episodes I had seen, there was a significant scarcity in participation from the fairer sex. My surprise would soon be alleviated as I learned that the hotel was hosting both regular Jeopardy and Sports Jeopardy the same weekend. This would make more sense when I learned that the same production team works on both programs. I was directed to the appropriate room for “Sports Jeopardy” and found 19 fellow optimistic SJ applicants, including one woman.

The audition would take a little over two and ½ hours. We were the first group of the day and there would be three groups for both this day and Sunday. Suddenly, I was feeling a little less significant. After all, I was one out of 120 hopefuls here in Boston, and that wasn’t even including the five other cities where auditions were being held this weekend. The odds were not in my favor, but what the hell. I was determined to give it go and have some fun.

As I was told in advance via email, the audition would have three parts: an in-person test (similar to the on-line test), an interview, and a test game. Aside from the immense cramming I had partaken of, my biggest concern was the actual interview. I am, by nature, an introvert so in most social situations it takes me a while to warm up and get comfortable. And yet I am someone who studied tap dance as a 10-year-old and acted in college, someone who has performed in numerous recitals, plays and musicals. Getting in front a big crowd and hamming it up is easy but being put on the spot and having to make a significant impression inside of maybe five minutes felt like a tall order. I harkened back to that time I attended a taping of The Price is Right and wasn’t loud or personable enough to get selected. I refused to lose this opportunity due to a lack of personality, and I was tested early.

A little after 9AM our group filed into the conference room. Following a few minutes of pleasantries and caffeine imbibing, a Jeopardy producer entered with a DJ and the music started. The producer commanded us to dance. She said she wanted to us wake up and show her what we got. The producer was named Maggie and I would get to know her very well over the day and my eventual studio appearance. So, people started dancing. It reminded me of the scene from Fever Pitch where Jimmy Fallon commands his good buddies to dance for Yankee tix. People started dancing, and so did I. And it was surprisingly fun. Everyone was into it and looking equally foolish. One of my fellow combatants even took it upon himself to perform “The Worm” through the center aisle of the room. It was definitely a fun way to start the day as well as a good wake-up exercise.

The music stopped and Maggie began her spiel. As previously mentioned in the email I received, our day would have three components: a 30 question test, an interview, and a live game test. Maggie made a quick impression as someone with boundless energy and someone who is definitely a Hollywood lifer with behind the scenes stories she was happy to share and stories that would require vodka. She reiterated that all of us in the room had proven ourselves to be worthy based on our initial test results but that today they wanted more. This was their opportunity to see what kind of contestants we would be and they wanted us to be loud, proud, fun and smiling throughout. And with cameras recording our proceedings I am immediately went into fake smile mode, till it hurt.

First up: the 30 question test. I quickly learned that becoming a Sports Jeopardy would not be a breeze. Of the 30 questions, I know I only got 15 correct. And there three so hard I had to make up answers which included Fred Flintstone, Josie and the Pussycats, and Cliff Clavin. They were definitely separating the champs from the chumps. I was immediately disheartened. But like the many gut checks I have endured over two stints of marathon training, I knew I wasn’t giving up and I still had time to succeed.

Next up: the interview/live game test. A make-shift Jeopardy game was set up at the rear of the conference room with a laptop, projector screen and three buzzers. They brought us up in groups of three to play the game with the interview sandwiched in-between, like in the real game. I was a part of the third set of potential contestants alongside a twenty-something Black gentleman from Connecticut and our lone woman, also in her twenties, from Andover.

They handed us our buzzers, had us test them, and we were ready to play. The board had six categories and every time a category was exhausted a new category populated. I quickly learned just how quick you had to be on the buzzer, as well as how timely you must be. The system is set up in such a way that if you buzz in early, before the timing light goes off, you get locked out. Additionally, even if you don’t buzz in early, the difference between responding and being beaten to the punch by a fellow contestant was merely 1/10 of a second.

Thankfully, I had time for a run. The category was Base Stealers, and I knew them all from Ricky Henderson to Vince Coleman to Maury Wills, to Ty Cobb. Maggie quipped about my age being an unfair advantage, and she was probably right. Or maybe I just knew baseball the same way my fellow contestants knew Basketball and the Olympics. Regardless, I was feeling much better about my day.

Then came the interview. In preparation for the audition, they had us fill out a three-page questionnaire. It was pretty standard with questions about our background as well questions about our connection to sports: what we’ve played, our teams, our idols, and any real-life encounters. My questionnaire was very Derek Jeter heavy, for obvious reasons if you know me. Maggie asked what I admired about him and I remarked, “He played the game right, for a long time with class and dignity…and he got to bang a lot of supermodels.” For some reason that insight inspired a spit-take from one of the producers and a roar of laughter from the contestant pool. And I was again feeling much better about my day.

The next set of contestants were brought up and my group returned to our seats. As I was getting some coffee another contestant approached me and said, “Way to go!” I thanked him and realized that for all of the alleged testosterone in the room, this was a surprisingly supportive environment. There was no chest-thumping or trash-talking. We all seemed to be in the same boat, equally qualified and anxious. I spent the rest of the session watching others play and interview and took it upon myself to be supportive and cheerful.

Despite the initial dread of the test I bombed, I found myself having fun and more importantly making the impression I wanted to. Just before noon, Maggie explained that we were now all a part of the official Sports Jeopardy pool of contestants. The upcoming tapings were scheduled for November (in a few weeks), February, and May and that we should expect to be contacted. We were dismissed and I was feeling very encouraged. I didn’t think I would get called for the next upcoming taping but thought I had done enough to get an eventual call, hopefully for February.

I met up with my friend, Becky, in the lobby and we had lunch nearby. We reminisced about old times over burgers and I was high on endorphins. It was one of those lunches where you spend a lot of time catching up and then realize that neither one of you has changed that much. Afterwards, Becky walked me over to the nearest T-stop, we said our goodbyes, and I hopped the subway to Harvard Yard. Once I arrived at my old stomping grounds, I spent the next hour or so time travelling back to my truly awkward years as an undergrad and even snuck in a selfie with the statue of John Harvard. After I was thoroughly overwhelmed at where I had been and where I was potentially going courtesy of my audition, I took the commuter rail out to Brockton and joined my family for a much needed night of do-it-yourself pizza and a reminder of my artistic limitations in Telestrations.

My Uncle Ricky and his clan were happy to hear that things went well as I regaled them with tales of my day. Having watched Season 1 eps with me the night before, Ricky was confident that I would get the call soon and get my shot to shine. And he was right, though it would take some time. A lot of time.

November came and went, and I thought nothing of it. I had a feeling I wouldn’t get called that soon, plus, I knew it would be a big hassle to get time off from my job at Barnes & Noble during the holiday season. Then February came and passed. Truth be told, I was pretty occupied at the time as the B&N I had worked at closed its doors after the holidays and I was in full-on job search mode. I was disappointed I hadn’t been called but also staying busy enough that maybe I was ready to move on. And then came the call in late April.

I had recently been hired by Quicken Loans at what I would soon recognize as my dream job, but that’s another blog post. It was the last week of April and after work I noticed a missed call on my cell from an LA based number. I didn’t think anything of it initially because in the preceding weeks I had been getting numerous calls from LA numbers I didn’t recognize because of some job sites I had signed up for. But this time there was an actual message, as opposed to a missed cold call. And there was Maggie’s voice telling me that I had been selected to be a contestant on Sports Jeopardy at Sony Pictures Studio in Los Angeles. Woo Hoo!!!

I called Maggie back, and even though it was a phone call, she had that same enthusiasm and energy that I remembered from my October audition. She congratulated me and gave me the new spiel which included the taping dates in May (5/18 and 5/19), the paperwork I would receive and need to fill out which included a new questionnaire, and the contacts I should reach out to with any questions. The production team shoots four episodes a day over five days and I would be needed for Wednesday and Thursday of this taping schedule. I would be travelling out to LA on my own dime, but I was guaranteed to get into a game and win at least $1000 for a third place finish in the game. I was little iffy about taking time off from my new job, since I had only been there about six weeks but as soon as I told my wife the news she responded with, “You’re doing this.” It was another reminder of how I accomplish next to nothing in my life without my wife’s love and support, and I definitely married the right person.

The next day I met with immediate superior at work and explained the time I needed off, ready to quit if necessary. Thirty minutes later he emailed me and stated, “You’re all set. Good luck!” Yeah, it’s my dream job, indeed. The next three weeks would be another barrage of super-cramming, partly re-learning what I knew October and doubling down on my hockey and college trivia. This time it was for real, I was going to be an actual contestant on Sports Jeopardy. I was eating, living, and breathing sports trivia. I had three sets of crib sheets: one for home, one for work, and one for the car. I was laser-focused on my crib-sheets whenever I was out and about the same way most people are with their smart phones. This was my chance, and I was not going to blow it by not being prepared.

My wife and I planned our trip to LA, as I definitely needed her with me, and having lived there nine years we turned this opportunity into a mini-vacation with site-seeing and meals with friends planned. I was allowed to have guests at the taping so in addition to my wife’s support I would be cheered on by our LA-based friends, Courtney and Javier. We would fly out on Tuesday with my presence needed at the studio on Wednesday and hopefully Thursday, if I were successful, and leave on Saturday. I kept cramming and each day seemed to pass by as slowly as possible. I was anxious, excited, nervous, skeptical, and trying to stay as humble as possible.

Then came the night before we were scheduled to leave. I decided to take the night off, knowing I would have plenty of time to study on the four-hour flight to LA as well as the morning of. And as fate would have it there was Searching For Bobby Fischer on cable. It’s one of those films like Die Hard or The Shawshank Redemption that I have to watch if it’s on. It stars the likes of Joe Mantegna, Joan Allen, Laurence Fishburne, and Ben Kingsley and tells the very entertaining story a young chess prodigy who wants to succeed and make the most of his talent but also wants to enjoy being a kid. Along the way he is coached by a chess master, played by Kingsley with cold detachment, and a local expert from the chess park, played by Fishburne with heart and humor. After spending time with Kingsley, Fishburne notes that the young prodigy is being taught to “not lose” and that he needs to risk everything. For some reason, this scene truly resonated with me that night.

I had spent so much time studying as well as working on game strategy if and when a Daily Double comes my way as well as how to bet in Final Jeopardy. Fishburne’s words kept reverberating in my head about the need to play to win and avoiding “playing to not lose.” In that moment I knew that there may come a moment when I may have to risk everything and go all in. Little did I know this would come to fruition.

We were all packed, which included eight polo shirts because had I won I would need to “return next week” in a different shirt. I also brought along a good luck charm I had recently picked up. In the last few years I had returned to a hobby of my youth: collecting baseball cards. A recent trip to a local card/comic book store netted me a cherished collectible: Reggie Jackson’s 1974 Topps card from his MVP season with the Oakland A’s. The card itself is quite colorful with Mr. October slugging away while dressed in the gold and white Oakland uniform indicative of the 1970’s championship teams. I decided to keep the card in my pocket and hoped good luck would follow. Little did I remember that 5/18, the day of the taping, was also Reggie’s 70th birthday. Things seemed to be falling into place.

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We made it out to LA on Tuesday night and arrived at our hotel around 10pm, after a much needed pit stop at Jack-in-the-Box aka “Crack-in-the-Box.” The hotel we were staying at was less than a mile from Sony Studios and we went the bed, or at least I tried. I soon learned that being a contestant on Sports Jeopardy was a lot like running a marathon:

1.)    Because of the adrenaline, it’s impossible to get a full night’s sleep the night before.

2.)    You undergo months of training in advance preparing to succeed

3.)    Your biggest fear is soiling yourself in public.

Suffice to say, the sack of $1 tacos from JITB probably didn’t help with 1 or 3 but they were still worth the suffering.

I woke up around 7am, planning on another round of last-minute cramming, having a reasonable breakfast with my wife, and then having her drop me off at the studio around 830am, with plenty of time before my official check-in time of 9am. Everything went as planned, even after my wife snatched the crib sheets out of my hand and stated blankly, “You know this.”

I arrived at the studio without incident, presented my ID and paperwork at security and was ushered to a waiting area. After a few moments of solitude and a last minute Shepard’s prayer (“Dear Lord, don’t let me screw this up”) I was joined by a production assistant who wrangled me to join his herd which included my fellow combatants.

After we passed through another security check point, the sizing up ensued. There were 11 of us. All eager, all excited, all ready to go into battle, but in a cordial way. We had endured the same trials which included the online test, in-person audition, and months of waiting, and now we were here. For some reason, I started looking for excuses to hate each fellow contestant, after all, they were standing in my way of wealth and fame. I soon abandoned this strategy when I realized how nice and easy-going everyone was. It dawned on me that we were all in the same boat. Everyone was aware of this opportunity and its inherent capriciousness. Obviously the producers and contestant-screeners had done their job as there was a complete lack of any trash talk. No one acted as if they belonged there, least of all, four-time defending champ, Eric Park (we’ll get to him.)

We were all directed to a green room where we would spend the better part of the day, which was fully-stocked with drinks and snacks. After a few more moments of exchanged pleasantries, Maggie entered and brought with her boundless energy, the day’s itinerary and a mouth that would make Andrew Dice Clay blush. Was I shocked? Not at all. In fact, I found it refreshing and a much needed frankness to get through the day, especially the ensuing 2+ hours of game rules and procedures. Much like the flight safety rules before takeoff, the rules for playing Jeopardy seem obvious and can be a bit dry. Thankfully, Maggie was there to the give proceedings much needed levity and a few Richard Dawson anecdotes to boot.

Maggie explained how the game runs, and more importantly how the taping works. She told us how to play, how to act, what to do, what not to do and focus on having fun. There are a lot of moving parts in bringing Sports Jeopardy to life and Maggie kept us well-informed and entertained during the long stretches of down time. Over the course of the morning, each of us were taken one-by-one for hair and makeup evaluations. After a few minutes and some shading experiments, the staff makeup artist had a sense of my complexion and how to make me shine, or in the case of TV, not shine. When I returned later, I found a tray that had all of our names written on pads with corresponding makeup shades. The things you learn.

Once we concluded our thorough briefing it was time to hit the studio. Sports Jeopardy is shot on the Sony Studios Lot in Culver City, CA and uses the same stage that regular Jeopardy uses, whenever Jeopardy is on break. Like every other time I have been on a set or studio lot I was still surprised at how small everything was in reality. The stage really isn’t any bigger than any other stage you would see in theater or any local high school. And as far as I could tell, the audience didn’t seat more than about 200 guests. But this the same stage that Alex Trebek has made famous for 30-plus years, it was just Sports Jeopardy ready now with a sports-style scoreboard and sporting equipment strewn about.

We met up with Jimmy McGuire, head of the Clue Crew. Jimmy was present at the Boston audition and is one of the invaluable production members who makes the show possible. He showed us the podiums and buzzers as well as the bullpen area in the audience where we would be seated during the taping when not playing. Then it was time for a practice game. Just like in the audition, we were brought up in groups of three to play an impromptu game. I was fascinated by the platforms behind the podium that could be raised and lowered to make all the contestants the same size on TV. Me and my 5’ 9” frame would obviously need elevation. We played for about 30-45 minutes, switching in and out, and some anxiety started to set in as I was definitely not getting the kinds of questions I could answer. Or, when I knew the answer I was being beaten by someone else buzzing in first. Like most things in life, Jeopardy is all about timing. Buzz in too quickly – before the indication light turns off – and the system locks you out. Buzz in too late and someone else gets to answer. I was hoping this was not an omen.

After the practice game, we were shepherded back to the Green Room for a briefing courtesy of the legal staff. This time we were informed about the rules and procedures regarding cheating and collusion. Like any game show, they go through pain-staking measures to make sure the proceedings are fair and above reproach. There was even a mention of Charles Van Doren and the scandal brought to cinematic life in Quiz Show. I had no inclination to cheat and even less to do so after this meeting.

After another 15-20 minutes of nervous down time, Maggie and Jimmy announced we were ready for taping and announced the two contestants who would do battle with Eric. I was not selected. According to Maggie they simply draw names from a hat to see who plays next and for this first game I could watch, praying someone would take down Eric.

Eric Park of Dallas, Texas arrived to tape on Tuesday and promptly won all four episodes. And most of us spent the morning trying to figure him out and more importantly wondering if we could be just as fortunate. I tried to play cool, keep my distance and yet I couldn’t help but like the guy. He was approachable, friendly and had no delusions of being some kind of Ken Jennings-like super being.  Eric was a four-time Sports Jeopardy champ. And I would be watching his first attempt of the day to defend his crown.

We were guided to the bullpen area in the audience and were allowed to pick out seats. There were only ten of us (with both new contestants included) and the remaining seats would be occupied by seat fillers, lest there be any illusion of emptiness on TV. The crowd started to filter in and even though we were advised to not communicate with people we knew, I did feel compelled to wave to my wife and friends. I was excited to be here, disappointed to not be playing even against Eric, and doing my best to take in every moment, and also breath regularly.

And then Dan Patrick arrived. I have always been a fan of Dan from his days on ESPN (which he playfully refers to as “The Mothership”) and his days on radio. He initially had a show on ESPN Radio and once he left The Mothership developed a new show that is syndicated nationally with a live simulcast on the NBC Sports channel. Additionally, he hosts Football Night in America on NBC which is the lead-in to Sunday Night Football. So, he definitely keeps himself busy.

He walked on to the set with a minimum of pomp and touched base with the producers. Then he approached Eric and the other contestants to shake hands and review notes for in the in-game interview. The interview notes were part of the packet I had filled out in advance and were a guide for talking points of interest: our backgrounds, sports interests, and any interesting real-life sports/celebrity encounters we may have had. Your basic talk show patter.

And then the first taping started. The names of Eric’s challengers were announced, one by one, and they emerged from the bullpen area ala The Price Is Right. I, along with the entire studio audience, clapped enthusiastically, Dan Patrick entered as announced and the game began. For the most part, it was like watching at home (or online) except I had to keep myself from blurting out answers. Unlike the finished product, there were stoppages. In this game, one of the contestants was attempting to provide answers before he was officially called on by Dan. In each instance, the taping stopped, an announcement was made and Maggie along with two other production team members talked to the contestant and re-iterated that he needed to be called on before providing any answer. This was merely a matter of someone who was very nervous. I was hoping to avoid this example, though I understood how easily it could happen.

The rest of taping went off without a hitch. It was a competitive game with Eric needing Final Jeopardy to win his fifth straight game. The category was Receivers:

 

An NFC East star 1980-1993, he’s the only receiver in the Top 20 for All-Time receptions who didn’t play a game in the 2000s.

 

Eric correctly answered Art Monk, in the form of the question. I was stumped. Seriously, I have to face this guy? Thankfully my opportunity would be delayed as the two more contestants were selected for the next game, and I was not one of them. On the one hand, I was hoping someone else would knock off Eric. On the other hand, anyone that good would probably be even more imposing.

The second taping proceeded without any issues that I remember. This time, Eric had more than enough points entering Final Jeopardy that his winning was inevitable. And of course he got Final Jeopardy correct. The category was Golf and the answer:

 

2016 is the Centennial year of this tournament, the only major that Arnold Palmer never won (What is the PGA Championship?)

 

Again, I had no idea, even with a one out of four chance. The Final Jeopardy answers for Season 2 were definitely a touch more difficult than the ones posed in Season 1. For Season 1 Final Jeopardy I knew about 95% of the correct responses. Today I was 0-2 and feeling more intimidated by the second.

After the second taped episode, we broke for lunch. We were ushered out of the studio and in the lobby I stole a quick moment with my wife. She asked how I was holding up and I said, “I’m hoping someone beats Eric before I have to face him.” And without hesitation she said, “Don’t worry, you will.” How prophetic this turned out to be. And, yes, there were witnesses.

On the show’s dime the remaining contestants and newly-minted six time Sports Jeopardy champion Eric Park ate at the Sony Studios commissary. It’s basically an upscale food court and if you’re lucky you might see a celebrity. We were not lucky that day in May. We were joined by Maggie and a few of the production assistants. They were there to keep us company, keep up loose as well as monitor us for any possible collusion or tampering. If felt like a nicer version of jury sequestering. Everyone was in awe of Eric, as we should have been, and he continued to be humble and take everything in stride. What a bastard.

I started to wonder about what would happen if I weren’t called that day and had to come back tomorrow. If was definitely a possible outcome and there was even a slight doubt that me made wonder if I would ever get called. I started to panic at the thought of having to watch more games from the audience, games being won by Mega Champ, Eric Park. My mini anxiety attack didn’t last long.

When we returned to the studio it was announced that I would be playing next game along with Ryan.

Before the afternoon session began we had time for another mock game. Just one more time to get a feel for the stage, the podium, the board, and everything that seemed so far away just sitting in the audience. Afterwards the uncalled contestants were sent to the bullpen and Ryan and I were sent to the Green Room for make-up and to get mic’d up.

This was it. This was my moment. This was the culmination of just under a year of testing, auditioning and relentless studying. It was now or never. Eminen’s “Lose Yourself” started playing in my head and repeating. Ryan and I shook hands and we took our seats in the bullpen. I stole a quick glance with my wife as if to say, “Here we go.”

The taping started, Ryan’s name was announced and he did a little dance and made his way to the stage. My name was announced and I did a variation on Big Papi’s pre at-bat routine. I mocked spitting on my hands, clapped them together and prepared to swing. The stage hand cued me to walk to stage and all of sudden I couldn’t breathe. I felt this pain in my chest and my heart was beating 1,000 times a minute. I walked as gingerly as possible to stage and was hoping to be there without having to halt taping. I was having a full on anxiety attack, or what felt like 10 simultaneously. I finally reached the stage and the first thing I saw was Eric reaching out his fist to welcome me. Seriously, what a bastard. And in an instant, everything seemed to return to normal. So not only is Eric a six-time SJ champ, but his fist bump is a healing therapeutic touch. I was so screwed, I thought.

Dan welcomed us to the game and praised Eric for his incredible run, stating that both Ryan and I had our work cut out for us. And did we. The game started and Eric got out to an early lead. Then I got my chance thanks to knowing who Hot Rod Hundley is. I went with the Category “Athletes on Broadway” and started a run with successive correct answers of Joe Namath and Elvis Stoyko. Then I stumbled, embarrassingly. The answer was:

 

In 2016 this Heisman Winner from Ohio State made his Broadway debut as Billy Flynn in “Chicago.”

 

I rang in immediately and for some reason focused on 2016 and Heisman when I incorrectly guessed Derrick Henry, the most recent Heisman winner who more than likely doesn’t have time for musical theater. Thankfully no one else knew the correct answer which was Eddie George. But the damage was done. I wasn’t just wrong, I was waaaay wrong. “Dan, I’ll take In Over My Head for 1000.”

And then we had our first commercial break. Dan approached me and Ryan to go over our interview notes and I let Dan know that Ferndale was a suburb of Detroit. After the break, Dan initiated the interview portion of the show. I wish I had thought of more interesting topics, unless you are riveted by my grandfather being buried with a Joe DiMaggio jersey. Dan found it a tad morbid and he is right. I was just nervous and glad I didn’t make too much of a fool of myself. Ryan and Eric concluded their segments and we were back to the game. I continued to struggle, though I scored some much-needed points in the category “Oberkfell Vs Hodges.” I was definitely being aided by being the “old guy” among these whipper-snappers. But, at the end of the first round, there I was, alone in last place. I was officially blowing this.

After another break we moved into Double Jeopardy. My time was starting to dwindle and this was my last chance to make a move. After a few questions, I got into the All-Star Game category where I correctly answered Carl Hubbell. Again, advantage: Old Guy. Then came my defining moment: a Daily Double.

I had 2750 and was still in last place. It was time to play to win, not to play to “not lose.” I said, “Dan, let’s make it a true Daily Double.”

 

If you watched the episode you can see that this part was edited. I waited for at least ten seconds before I made a response. And this was my internal process:

“What? Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap. I have no idea. Wait, wait, wait let’s just make a guess umm, ummm. North-South or East-West, okay fine, East- West.”

“What is the East-West game?”

Dan paused and repeated my answer, which I thought meant that he was going to ask for clarification. But instead he said the sweetest words I had heard all game, “That is correct.” Cue the applause. I was back in the game.

Then lightning struck twice when I selected the 2nd Daily Double in the category “Get Your Kicks In 1966.” I decided to try to make a little distance and wagered 3000. My initial trepidation disappeared when I saw the pictured figure and correctly answered Bill Bradley. Now, I had a lead and was finally feeling like I belonged.

As Double Jeopardy concluded, I won the last 1500 points of the round when I correctly answered The Beanpot Tournament in “Hockey Hodge Podge.” The round was over and I sat in first place with 13000 points, with both Eric and Ryan tied at 8250. Talk about an improbable run.

The Final Jeopardy category was SEC Alumni and I had another mini anxiety attack. I had come this far and now I was about to be tested in my weakest category: college sports. My strategy was simple: bet enough to cover the other players going all in. During the break, I did the math and set my wager at 3501. We returned and the answer was revealed:

 

These 2 men who both played for Auburn in 1984 had their No. 34 jerseys retired – one in Football, one in Basketball

 

I knew Bo Jackson immediately and then it took another five seconds for me to remember Charles Barkley. I scribbled down my answer and then tried to stave off another anxiety attack as I was 98% sure I was about to win Sports Jeopardy. My body language, as revealed on air, showed someone who thought he had blown it. I was just going through about a million emotions at once – elation, panic, doubt, pride, suspicion – and was just trying to level out.

Both Eric and Ryan answered correctly, as did I. And since I bet enough to cover them I was the new Sports Jeopardy champion. HALLE-FRIGGIN-LUAH!!! Talk about disbelief and being in the right place at the right time. This was my goal since that day in June almost a year ago when I took the initial online test and now it was complete. And to overcome a crappy first round while beating a reigning six-time SJ champ made it even more unreal.

I shook hands with both Eric and Ryan and then we joined Dan in the booth behind the podiums for the Recap portion of the program where we discussed the game and tried to process what had just happened. On the one hand, I think I came off a tad indifferent. On the other hand, I’m glad I defeated the urge to jump to my feet and do my version of “The Happy Dance.”

The crew started to set up for the next episode and me and my fellow participants adjourned to the Green Room. I shook hands again with both Ryan and Eric and thanked them for being a part of this experience. And yes, there was a tinge of guilt at having bested Eric. I almost wished he had been mean so I could have taken some measure of unfiltered delight. But for today, I was following his gracious example.

I was sent to a private room/large closet to change shirts in order to return “next week”. It was then I took a moment to quietly celebrate what I had done. I screamed silently and pumped both fists to honor both the accomplishment and the removing of a huge weight. I had just won Sports Jeopardy. It was all gravy from here on out.

Sadly, the gravy didn’t last. After another ten minutes of set-up time and a make-up touch-up, I returned to the stage to defend my crown against newcomers Jen and Howie. I’d rather not go into too many details because it was a truly hard game with categories like Rodeo, The Olympics and The World Cup that I was ill-prepared for. There was also the embarrassment of the Daily Double I blew when I answered “The Smash Brothers” instead of “The Splash Brothers.” Somehow I had a 3500-point lead going into Final Jeopardy whose category was Ball Sports:

 

Henry Payne Whitney (Yale 1894 inherited $12 million 1904) led a US team that ended British dominance in this sport.

 

I wagered 751 in order to cover Howie, believing he would go all in to catch me. Howie answered correctly with “What is Polo?” I answered incorrectly with “What is Lacrosse?” Howie was the new SJ Champ by 2 points. I spent the better part of the next day and ensuing months about what I should have done differently but in the end I realized that if I can’t answer a 751-point question about Ball Sports, I shouldn’t be the reigning SJ Champ.

And just as quickly as my journey had started, it was now over. The day’s taping concluded with the needed four episodes in the can. I thanked as many people as I could though I wish I had worked up the nerve to say Hi to Howard Schwab aka The Schwab from ESPN’s Stump the Schwab, who is one of the writers for Sports Jeopardy. But at least I was in the presence or immediate area of that greatness.

My wife couldn’t have been prouder and I was glad to earn that pride. We left the studio along with our guests Courtney and Javier and enjoyed some celebratory coffee at a local Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Now began the hardest part of this journey: keeping my big trap shut. My episodes would not be airing until August and in order to receive my $7000 prize money ($5K for my win and $2K for my 2nd place finish) I couldn’t say a word to anyone outside of Sony Studios. It truly hurt to have to play coy with my family, close friends and co-workers but in the end it was worth it when my episodes appeared at Crackle.com and I received my corresponding game checks.

So, I was a Sports Jeopardy Champion (still am) and that was my ride. It’s still surreal to watch myself in the episodes, which I do from time to time because well, I can. And there were so many who helped to make this happen. So thanks again to:

Uncle Ricky and Aunt Karen, for making my Boston audition possible

Maggie, for your endless energy and attitude – you truly earn every paycheck and then some

Jimmy McGuire, the Clue Crew and the entire production staff, for running such a tight and professional day of taping

Dan Patrick, for being professional, patient and not being too weirded out when you caught me gazing at your matinee idol-like coif

My fellow contestants, for making the day long on fun and short on attitude

Eric, for setting an exemplary standard as six-time Sports Jeopardy Champ

Courtney and Javier, for supporting me in-studio and keeping my secret

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Most importantly, a big and heartfelt thank you to my wife, Chera. When times are tough and my ability to doubt myself reaches its apex she is a constant presence with more than enough faith for the both of us. Winning was twice as sweet once I saw her smiling face and knew I had rewarded her belief in me.

So, now, if I ever find myself in a tough situation and I feel the doubt starting to linger, I just have to remind myself there was once a time when I was getting my ass-kicked after the 1st round of Sports Jeopardy. I did not cower, I did not give up, I did not play to “not lose,” and I beat a six-time champ, so, I’ve got that going for me, which is nice…..

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Sports Jeopardy Season 2, Episodes 47 & 48 are available to stream at www.crackle.com or by downloading the Crackle App. Additionally, Sports Jeopardy re-runs are currently airing on the NBC Sports Channel

Tonight I will live blog as David Ortiz takes his last swings against the Yankees. I will do my best to fight through the tears, of joy, as one of the most feared/loathed Yankee killers says a much-anticipated goodbye.

Thankfully both sides still have something to play for as the AL East winning Sawx are competing for home advantage in the playoffs and the Yanks are playing the Sawx – motivation enough.

See you after the 1st inning!

I have to admit, things were getting exciting. After a week that saw the Yanks energized by a 7-game win streak the Bronx Bombers have now crashed back to reality thanks to losing two out of three to the visiting LA Dodgers and dropping three in a row to the rival Sawx with a series sweep possible after tonight’s contest. Leave it the Boston Red Sox to make a statement this week about who the AL East champ should be. Truth be told to, the Yanks were playing above their talent and the Sawx have been nice enough to provide a much needed reality check.

Thursday night’s 7-5 loss which saw the Sawx rally for 5 runs in 9th inning, with four runs charged to “relief ace” Dellin Betances, was a defining moment for both clubs. For the Sawx, it was a reminder of just how intimidating their lineup is and that no lead is insurmountable. For the Yanks, it was another example of going to the bullpen well once too often as well as not being capable of putting opponents away, as best exemplified by the 12 runners left on base. I know that no closer is perfect, not even the great soon to HOFer Mariano Rivera, but if your closer can’t protect a three-run lead in the 9th inning of a September game, your team shouldn’t be playing in October.

On the bright side, this year’s Yankees are still six games over .500 and still capable of another winning season. Not exactly the consolation prize you want, but sometimes you take what you can get. Gary Sanchez continues to carry the team on his back and garner serious AL Rookie of the Year talk with 15 HRs and 29 RBIs in just 40 games played. Masahiro Tanaka is pitching like the ace the Yanks signed in 2014 with a 2.97 ERA as he approaches 200 IP for the season. And the recent signing of Billy Butler has been a much needed shot in the arm with Billy, also known as “Country Breakfast,” going 3 for 7 with a HR and 4 RBIs in his first three games. I do not see him as a long term acquisition but if he wants to use the last two weeks of the season as an audition for the rest of the AL, he can just keep slugging away.

Mathematically the Yanks playoff hopes aren’t over. But as they currently stand at 3.4% I think we can pronounce those hopes dead. It’s been quite the rollercoaster season and with the two weeks left anything is possible…..with the exception of a playoff berth.

The youth movement in the Bronx is continuing to pay winning dividends. The New York Yankees have won seven games in a row and show no signs of slowing down as they play themselves back into serious playoff contention. Not only are they jockeying for position in the Wild Card standings, where they are currently one game out of the 2nd spot, but are now only three games back of the rival Sawx in the race for the AL East. Yep, this is the same team that held an early “Back to School” sale at the trade deadline. And the result? A record of 24-13 and a month long display of what the future may hold in the Bronx.

After a ten game homerless streak where more than a few commentators starting squawking about Kevin Maas, Gary Sanchez returned to early August form with HRs in each of the last two games. The big hitting catcher also pulled a Kelly Leak when he whacked an intentional ball to deep left center, which was good enough to merit a sacrifice fly. Seriously, good luck pitching around this guy. Brian McCann seems to have adjusted to his new role as DH and back-up catcher with a .313 week highlighted by 3 HRs. McCann should easily eclipse the 20 HR mark for the ninth straight season with one more blast. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are back to early season form hitting .391 and .318, respectively, over the last week. Gardner in particular saved Tuesday night’s 7-6 win against the Blue Jays when he tracked down Justin Smoak’s line drive to end the game. And Tyler Austin is making a serious case to be the Yankees new full-time first baseman. Next spring, he will have to complete with Greg Bird, who is still recovering from shoulder surgery that has sidelined him this year, but Austin is garnering plenty of favor after Thursday night’s game winning HR over the Rays. At the very least, Austin should be the new 4th OF with Aaron Hicks now thankfully dispensable.

Despite my reservations, Masahiro Tanaka continues to impress as the much needed Yankee ace. Tanaka has won two games during the current win streak and has lowered his ERA to just above 3.00. Most importantly, he has proved to very effective against the explosive line up of the Toronto Blue Jays. Over three starts this season, he has a 2.60 ERA which will be counted on again as the Yanks have one more trip planned north of the border. Bryan Mitchell’s first start of the year was fruitful as he held the aforementioned Jays scoreless over five innings. And while Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia are having their recurring struggles, Joe Girardi is having no issues using his newly expanded September bullpen to get outs. Luis Severino has blossomed in his new middle relief role. Tommy Layne and Chasen Shreve have found success in their recent outings. And even Blake Parker came up big when he found himself in the unfamiliar role of having to get Dellin Betances out of a jam in Tuesday night’s heart-attack inducing 9th inning. Despite the hiccup, Betances should be fine especially with fellow relief ace Tyler Clippard along for back-up.

Another September and the Yankees are playing meaningful baseball. More importantly, they are hot at the right time and not stumbling to the finish line. Not sure they will challenge the 2007 Colorado Rockies 21-1 run but the Yankees are finding many ways to win with a new hero almost every night. There’s plenty of baseball and plenty of hope left in the season.

The 2016 New York Yankees continue to perform just well enough to be considered relevant. Not exactly what fans of the highly priced Bronx Bombers want to hear but we should take what we can get. After taking three straight series from the playoff contending Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles, and Kansas City Royals, the Yanks faltered this past weekend in another series against the O’s. The Yankees salvaged the weekend by winning yesterday’s finale 5-2 after being shut out in back-to-back losses to start the weekend. Technically, the Yankees still have enough time and opportunities to get in the game for October but mostly we are watching a team playing for 2017 and beyond.

Despite a .174 week, Gary Sanchez continues to impress and intimidate with 11 HRs and a .355 average to start his career. He will not qualify for this year’s AL Rookie of the Year but is definitely making a case for serious consideration next season. Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro have cooled off after their early August starts but are still a formidable DP combo in the AL. Speaking of cooling off, Aaron Judge has turned ice cold after his great start. He is only hitting .177 and looks a bit lost at plate with 32Ks in 62 ABs. Perhaps it’s a good thing the Yankees aren’t playing for October as it will give the young slugger some time to develop. On the bright side, he is not the defensive liability that Carlos Beltran was in RF. And somehow Chase Headley is stepping up his game with a .368 week, though Joe Girardi would still be smart to get regular at-bats for Ronald Torreyes.

Pitching was dealt a considerable blow with the loss of Chad Green for this season, and most likely next season. Not sure what the plan is with the Yankees already short on starting arms after losing Nathan Eovaldi earlier this season. Perhaps we will see more “bullpen games” like in yesterday’s win. Luis Severino is slated to return to the rotation at some point and yet as been his most effective in relief as highlighted by yesterday’s two scoreless frames. With September call-ups in hand, Girardi should take this opportunity to use as many arms as possible to get through games and see who shows potential for future use. And C.C. Sabathia continues to battle and eat up some innings but at this point his days in NY are numbered and his huge salary coming off the books next season should be more than enough to lure a decent free agent signing.

The Yankees have 27 games left, and 24 are against AL East opponents. Unless the Yanks go on historic run, I do not see October baseball. The Yanks are on pace for 83-85 wins which may seem to be a major disappointment but I see as a serious reclamation considering they started the season at 8-16. There’s a month of baseball left in the Bronx and I for one am excited to see what lays ahead this season and next.