By Jeff Freier on April 30th, 2010 9:56 AM
The Yankees went to the White House to mingle with the leader of the free world on Monday, which is one of the perks of winning the World Series. Mainly flying under the radar is the little-known fact that every team that makes the playoffs gets to meet a president (not the president, mind you). The World Series−losing Phillies will shake hands with the president from 24 next week. The AL Championship−losing Angels met with former fictional president Martin Sheen a few days ago. The NL Championship−losing Dodgers are going to visit the grave of Peter Sellers, who portrayed the president in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. And the other four 2009 playoff teams will all be taking a trip to Mount Rushmore. The teams that didn’t qualify for the postseason don’t get a meeting with a president, but instead they are introduced to a VIP of one stripe or another according to their place in the standings. Here’s a list of who they get to meet this year during a scheduled off-day, all with much pomp and circumstance:
Giants (88-74): The Burger King
Marlins (87-75): Alan Thicke
Rangers (87-75): Manager Ron Washington’s dealer
Braves (86-76): Elvin from The Cosby Show
Tigers (86-77): Paul McCartney’s ex-wife’s prosthetic leg
Mariners (85-77): The Hamburger Helper hand
Rays (84-78): Those guys who sang “The Macarena”
Cubs (83-78): The kid from Two and a Half Men
Brewers (80-82): A Tiger Woods mistress – whichever one’s available
White Sox (79-83): A Larry King ex-wife – whichever one’s available
Reds (78-84): Larry King
A’s (75-87): Ozzie Canseco
Padres (75-87): Brent Musburger
Blue Jays (75-87): The Situation
Astros (74-88), Mets (70-92), Diamondbacks (70-92), Royals (65-97), Indians (65-97), Orioles (64-98): Greg, Marcia, Peter, Jan, Bobby and Cindy from the Brady Bunch, respectively
Pirates (62-99): Jon Gosselin from Jon and Kate Plus Eight
Nationals (59-103): A rock
Here are the top stories of the week in the world of New York sports.
An Amazin’ Homestand: The Mets swept the Braves over the weekend, then they swept the Dodgers in an old-fashioned doubleheader on Tuesday, then they swept the series on Wednesday, they tied for a franchise-best 9-1 homestand (1969, 1988), Jason Bay’s starting to hit and finally blasted his first homer as a Met, David Wright got his 1,000th career hit and is breaking out of his slump, Ike Davis hasn’t stopped hitting, they’ve won seven games in a row, Frankie Rodriguez and Pedro Feliciano have ERA’s in the zeroes, Hisanori Takahashi is a godsend and has more strikeouts than any other reliever, Rod Barajas actually walked twice in his last four games to get his OBP higher than his batting average, they’re catching all the breaks and capitalizing on their opponents’ mistakes, they’ve won games that John Maine and Oliver Perez started, Mike Pelfrey and Johan Santana have shutout streaks going, Pelfrey tied Nolan Ryan (1970) for the franchise record with the lowest ERA in April . . . Stop me now, before I explode. Or is this all just a dream?
Chinks in the Armor: The Yankees lost their first series of the year in Anaheim thanks to a combination of disaster Javier Vazquez and Joe Girardi’s indecisive managing, with only Andy Pettitte saving them from getting swept. And they even lost a game to sad-sack Baltimore on the road trip. For the Yanks, losing three out of four is the equivalent of a 10-game losing streak for everybody else. But they rebounded nicely in their last two games in Baltimore, with a big boost from early MVP candidate Robinson Cano. The quote of the week, though, goes to Girardi: “This isn’t a family reunion softball game.” He made the comment after Mark Teixeira controversially bowled over Angel catcher Bobby Wilson without stopping to give him a get-well card. The real controversy, though, involves Teixeira’s hair. Did you see him at the White House? With the millions and millions of dollars he makes, can’t he at least splurge for a haircut that doesn’t make him look exactly like Alfalfa from the Little Rascals? Or did he pattern his ’do after Hideki Matsui’s in the hopes that a bad haircut is the key to a World Series MVP? Nick Johnson changed his uniform number from 26 to 36 this week, trying everything in his power so people won’t recognize him, what with his .143 batting average and all, though #36 didn’t work out very well for Steve Balboni in 1982, when the big first baseman hit .187.
Cold and Heartless: The Jets were ruthless on draft weekend, when they traded the popular Leon Washington and also dumped Alan Faneca, after jettisoning team-leader Thomas Jones over the winter. The team’s hierarchy obviously doesn’t place much emphasis on character, chemistry and leadership. Sure, they made it to the AFC Championship game, but they only went 9-7 in the regular season and gifted their way into the playoffs, so not standing pat is a reasonable decision, but the way they did it is causing some grumbling among their own players and fans. Here are the Jets’ 2010 draft picks: CB Kyle Wilson, guard Vladimir Ducasse, running back/return man Joe McKnight, fullback John Conner.
Waiting . . . and Waiting . . . and Waiting: The Giants waited until the fourth round to fill their most urgent need – a middle linebacker, when they selected Phillip Dillard. Rolando McClain was long gone, but will they regret passing on Sean Lee? Otherwise, they went with projects and depth guys. Here’s their full list of draft picks: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, DT Linval Joseph, safety Chad Jones, Dillard, guard Mitch Petrus, linebacker/DE Adrian Tracy and punter Matt Dodge. The Giants also invited 33-year-old former Marine, feel-good-story Brandon Crawford to try out for the team. He was the oldest player in college football at Ball State this past season. And Jeff Feagles is retiring due to “physical issues,” which mainly include feeling like a normal 44-year-old and having to say, “Oy, my sciatica” every morning when he gets out of bed. He leaves the game holding the record for most consecutive game splayed (352) and most punts (1,713). Crawford was hoping Feagles would at least be hanging around camp as a distraction from his own oldness – “Ya think I’m old – look at that bald guy standing over there. Who’s that, George Blanda’s grandfather? Hey, who wants to watch Gossip Girl with me tonight?”
So Long, and Thanks for the Trap: Jacques Lemaire surprised the Devils and retired from coaching this week. He won one Stanley Cup as a coach with the Devils and eight as a player with Montreal in a 12-season career, played in two All-Star games and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984. In 16 seasons coaching Montreal, New Jersey and Minnesota, he compiled a 588-441-124-60 record, led his teams to the playoffs 10 times, won two Jack Adams Awards (1994 and 2003) and set a record this year by changing lines an average of 19 times a game, and 1,560 times during the season. And his defense-first philosophy helped make the NHL what it is today – a fringe sport in America that only longtime diehards can stand to watch anymore.