I’m in a strange place, I must admit. The Yankees lost. They got beat by the Red Sox. In a huge game with mucho playoff implications. They blew chances and opportunities all night, and cost themselves the game with a huge error and walks (I didn’t see the sixth, but Acc felt there was some squeezing, at times). And there were some bad signs. The Sox bullpen did not come as advertised. They threw strike after magical strike. Wells looked perfectly healthy. The Sox came up clutch, winning despite having just four hits in the game. But with all that, I have to tell you, I’m feeling pretty good.
I know that may sound crazy, but here’s the deal; the Red Sox won a big game, the Yankees lost a big game, but then they both won again, more so the Yankees. What am I talking about? I am talking, of course, about the White Sox. Yes, the same go-go White Sox that have generated so much chatter on this blog all year came up humongous. With a shell of a team that myp correctly predicted, they took down Clevelan-d’s varsity in 13 innings, escaping jam after jam. I watched most of the game on ESPN, after the Yanks/Sox. I have to admit, I was cursing Ozzie Guillen for throwing a triple-A lineup out there. I couldn’t believe they were even in this game. I cursed him for playing the infield back in the 9th. I cursed him for not pinch hitting one of the thumpers in big spots. But it didn’t matter. They got it done. Myp, Eric – kudos to your team for a gutsy game. Ross Gload (??), who I was mocking on the phone to Big Joe (father-in-law) just moments before, snaps an 0 for 5 and hits a rocket to the wall in center for the winner. Nice.
What does it all mean? Math is on our side now. Follow me here, because I may blow this. The Yankees need any combination of 2 Yankee wins or Indians losses in those teams’ next four games combined to clinch a playoff spot. And any combination except one (Yanks and Clevelan-d both drop the next two) will actually win them the division. In other words, if the Yankees win either of their next two and Clevelan-d loses either of their next two, the Yanks win the division. That puts the pressure on Bosto-n to have to sweep. More good news. Any Yankee win or Clevelan-d loss will force at the very least a play-in game, maybe two. So in the last four meaningful games, the two Sox/Cle and the two Yanks/Sox games, I only need one positive outcome to force a playoff, and two positive outcomes to win the division. The numbers are on our side, and we’ll take all the help we can get with the kind of year we’ve had. I kind of blew it with my scenarios yesterday (as JBrill pointed out – what can I say, dude, thanks for noticing), mostly because I was being lazy, trying to fit it all into one sentence. But I’m pretty sure I got it now.
Although I don’t know what I’m getting excited about. Winning the division most likely means facing the Angels. Anybody want that? I don’t. They’ve been giving us fits for years. Those guys are tough. And the Yanks have a precarious one game advantage for home-field in that series, with the Angels having the tie-breaker. I would have to think Scoscia’s crew would be the odds-on favorites to win it when the playoffs get underway. Although I was talking about it today with my boy Hun-Tak, who is a big O’s fan from Virgini-a, and he actually said he felt that with all the cr*p the Yanks went through to get here, this was their year. Hun-Tak, who is Korean, also mistakenly called the Cy Young award the Cy Wong award, which I thought was pretty mint.
So how does this change the BPS prediction? It doesn’t. I have to stick with it. Clevelan-d is the odd team out.
I like Randall tomorrow to make it 5-0 against the Sox this year. I say this is the one. Wakefiel-d is not going to be as sharp as he usually is. Cold weather does it to the knuckler. The success of the Sox bullpen today will give them beer-muscles to make a move early tomorrow. The Yanks will prove that to be a bad decision. Look for the Yanks bats to not miss the pitches they missed today in big spots, particularly late in the game.
One last thing. True to my promise to Paul R, another White Sox fan friend of the BPS, in the big spot today I was rooting for myp’s MVP, Scotty Pods, to steal. Not because it made sense. It was first and second with two outs. I did it because I was told that’s just how you’re supposed to root for Pods. In any case, it worked out. Scotty Pods crossed the plate and the White Sox pushed us a little closer. Good looking out, boys.
Big Joe (father-in-law) and I had this one all the way. Regardless of the scores. Big Joe said the Yankees were going to jump out to a quick 3-0 lead just to stick it to Bosto-n when they looked up at the scoreboard. Then Giambi clipantricated the ball off the warehouse. And what do you know; 3-0. Then they started piling on, and all was well. Small throws strikes. That’s step one. You play for a team that kills the ball. Just throw strikes. You are going to win most shootouts, if that what it comes to. We also knew how the Bosto-n game was going to end. Bosto-n was losing 4-1 when we sat down to eat some stuffed shells and chicken parm. “Big Joe,” I said, “Don’t kid yourself. This one’s not going to end well.” There were some striking things about that game, though. First, the look on Clement’s face when Catalanotto’s ball went out. And Trot Nixon’s body language when it went out. Those guys genuinely looked scared. But we knew what was coming anyway. Acc calls me when it was 4-3 Jays. The idea that the Red Sox would lose never crossed our minds. We knew how it was going to go. I told Acc and Big Joe that it would be Ortiz with a bomb in the eighth to tie. But I thought it would go 12 or so, with a walk or something closing the deal. The other striking thing about that Sox game is the relievers they used. This was a game they simply could not afford to lose, and who do they bring in? Mike Meyers and Jonathan Papelbon. This, apparently, is who they are trusting their season to. So we can expect to see those guys when things get weird for Bosto-n this weekend. I have to feel good about that. Their only (sort- of) dependable reliever is Timlin, who is the de facto closer, but he is by no means dominating or lights out. He can be shaky. And when was the last time you saw a team go out and get a guy just to face one team for four games? I have to admit, it’s a good move. Theo Epstein is trying to get his team into the playoffs. He traded for a guy for one weekend. In any case, I have a feeling Bosto-n at some point is going to have the same feeling that I had last year when, at key points in playoff games, my season was resting in the hands of Esteban Loiaza, Javy Vazquez, and Kevin Brown. The “how-did-it-come-to–this” moment.
The good news for the Yankees is that they can’t complain about how they’re going in. They’re going in with most of their key guys hitting well, relatively healthy, and their key relievers rested. Our middle relief is no prize, either, but at least we have Flash and Mariano. Mo being the guy with the star next to his name. And we have Sturtze, who has pitched well at times, and at least has been on the team all year, unlike the Red Sox guys. And the reality is that we have six starters throwing the ball well. If you go with four starters in the playoffs, Randall, Moose, Wang, Chacon, then you have Small available for middle relief, and potentially Jaret Wright. Not bad. The starters have pitched well of late, except for Mussina, but he tends to get up for big games in Fenwa-y. Wang has pitched very well, and deep into games. Randall has been great against the Sox this year. David Wells is a big game pitcher who does exactly what the Yankees (and the Red Sox, for that matter) hate. He throws strikes, and he’s got that big, looping lefty curveball. The problem is he does not look healthy. He has come up short lately in some big spots, and if his back is balking, or if his body is cranky, his performance suffers and he starts hanging balls. Wakefiel-d, as the BPS has said so many times, is a slightly better than 50/50 guy in his career. The numbers make no mistake about it. He has been a killer his last few games, so he’s due to have a tough one. It can come at any time. And Schilling. Well, if he doesn’t have an 8-run lead, he hasn’t exactly been the legend that he is in his own mind. The play-in game would be Chacon vs. Arroyo. I like that matchup. Although he got hit hard against the Sox last time, Chacon has been great his last few games. And I’m certainly not afraid of Bronson Arroyo, who has struggled big-time lately. The other choice would be Clement on 3 days rest. As I overheard one old guy on the street saying to another today, “This ain’t gonna be no Derek Lowe vs. Kevin Brown.” Amen.
Do I think it’s going to get to the play-in game? Sure I do. Going to Fenwa-y, the land of magical make-believe for the Red Sox, and winning two of three is a stretch. But the reality is this. The Red Sox need to beat the Yanks three out of the next four. Nothing less. Or else they don’t win the division. And looking at the Red Sox man for man; they have no certifiable ace starter, nobody lights out in the bullpen, and they are wholly dependant on two guys to come up with exactly the miracle they need at exactly the right time. With that said, I don’t think they have what it takes to beat the Yankees three of four, with one at the Stadium, to knock them out. One man’s opinion.
So let’s take it one step further. Clevelan-d is in the driver’s seat. All they need to do is win two of three from the White Sox and they’re in, because somebody is going to lose two of three in the East. Credit to Ozzie Guillen, he says he’s going to play his starters, because he wants to be fair to the Red Sox and Yankees. All I know is that if I were him, I wouldn’t. But the BPS is sticking with its prediction. Clevelan-d loses two of three. So then what? According the ESPN “Hunt for October,” the following applies:
Any one-game tiebreakers would be scheduled for Monday, Oct. 3, with times to be determined. Here’s where each tiebreaker matchup would take place:
East: Boston at New York
• New York at Cleveland
• Cleveland at Boston
NOTE: If three clubs finish the season with the same winning percentage and one team will be a division winner and another will be the wild card, the games will be played as follows: The two teams tied for the division lead will play the one-game tiebreaker, with the winner being declared the division champion. The losing team will then play the club from the other division for the wild card.
The interesting part there is the note. If Clevelan-d loses two of three, and nobody sweeps the Yanks/Sox series, the Yanks and Sox will have to play for the division, with the loser playing the Indians for the WC. Which I guess would push that game to Tuesday. If that’s the case, the Indians are going to lose. They aren’t going to beat the Bosox at Fenwa-y, and by that time the Yanks would have to lose their fourth game out of five games to not get in. I have to believe that isn’t going to happen. The BPS predicts that the Yanks beat Bosto-n at the Stadium on Monday, Mo redeems himself, and Bosto-n beats Clevelan-d the next day in beantown.
So let’s talk about the MVP. As I’ve said, I don’t have a real strong opinion. I’m okay with either guy. And plus I think it’s all moot, because I think the anti-Yankee bias is going to give it to Ortiz hands down. It won’t even be close. You heard it here first. But I thought that the talking heads on ESPN were getting a bit excited about the “How do you not pick Ortiz stuff”. Couple of things. Their numbers are very similar. A-Rod’s BA is 22 points higher. OBP is 27 points higher. Ortiz has 17 more RBI, but A-Rod has more runs scored, more total bases, and more hits. And he’s got speed; he steals bases (20), he’ll go first to third, score from second, and we’ve all heard the argument that he plays gold-glove defense, while Ortiz plays no D. So why Ortiz? Well he always seems to have a miracle in his pocket, and his team depends on him like no other team depends on one guy to continuously bail them out. And we’ve all seen those stats that show from the 7th inning on with a chance to tie or take the lead, Ortiz leads the world. But here’s the catch. The award isn’t MDP (Most Dramatic Player). A game is nine innings. It doesn’t matter when you get the winning hit. I did not realize until recently – A-Rod actually has more game-winning hits than Ortiz. Ortiz’s are just later in the game, more dramatic, and play better as highlight clips for ESPN. When I saw that, I decided. A-Rod. I realize I have no credibility because I am a Yankee fan, but that also goes for every Yankee-hater that is screaming for Ortiz.
So it looks like Giambi and Ortiz both ate their wheaties (vitamin B12 – right) today. Ortiz better be careful. If he keeps it up at the rate he’s going with the HGH, he’s going to have to start changing his uniform every inning.
Four games to glory. Starting on Friday at Fenwa-y. It’s on.
Big Joe (father-in-law) breezed over to Acc just after he walked in. “What’s going on?” he asked. As Acc later recounted the story, he thought he knew what Big Joe was asking, but he wasn’t 100% positive. He tried to be coy. “You know, its going okay, but…” Big Joe cut him off. “Scores,” he says. “Right,” said Acc. "Yanks down 1-0 in the 3rd, Bosto-n losing in the 3rd 3-1, and Indians / Rays no score.” Big Joe was unmoved. “We got this,” he told Acc, “Don’t even worry about it.” So that’s all we had to go on for a while. Acc did tell me that Chacon was throwing strikes. That was a good sign. If he’s throwing strikes and could keep them off the board, we needed to hit just enough. Just enough.
Chacon has really been a revelation. He’s tough to figure out. Was he really a solid pitcher just waiting for a chance to play somewhere other than a mile up in the air? Or is he just enjoying an inexplicable run? It’s not like he just happened to show up on a team that scores him a million runs. You can make an argument that Aaron Small is a guy who throws strikes for a team that scores him a million runs. Not so, Chacon. The Yankee bats are strangely silent when he pitches. The guy has been 7-3 for them, yet one of those games was a Clemens-esque 1-0 loss. And in another he pitched 6 shutout innings only to get a ND. Ditto for a game against Clevelan-d where he gave up 2. The only reason his Yankee ERA is as high as 2.76 is that Torre let him bleed out there that one day in Seattl-e, and he got torched that one day against Bosto-n. Otherwise, that guy has been a bona-fide monster.
Later on tonight, Big Joe says to me, “We need to update these scores. Where’s the rookie?” Now the rookie is the guy that needs to fully earn his stripes. He’s usually a guy on his way into the family. But you don’t officially get in until you make a purchase on 47th st, which is, of course, the diamond district. The rookie, these days, is the Mrs.’s cousin Lauren’s boyfriend, Brian. Nice guy. So big Joe calls him over and tells him, “Rookie, we need to update these scores.” “I’m on it,” the rookie says. He comes back with half a story. “Yanks are up 2-1 in the 7th with two on and A-Rod up.” That was good. “What about Bosto-n and Cleve-land?” we demanded. “Uhh, I’ll be right back.” Rookies….. He comes back a few minutes later with good news all around. The Indians were losing and the Bosox were down 7-2. We were so psyched we were considering promoting him out of “rookie” status. But that was a bit unrealistic. That would have to get agreement from a lot of different people. The kid did good, though.
I got home in time to “assume the position” up in the loft with the Yankee street sign (for those that may have forgotten, you hold the sign sideways, like you would hold a guitar, when you need to get big outs from Rivera). It worked, of course. And ESPN had the BoSox game on, so I got to watch the last few outs there, as the Mrs. brought me up a cup of tea and some chocolate chip cookies. Nice.
So what does all this mean? Here’s the deal. The Yanks are a game up, and their magic number is 3. I’ve checked the math up and down, and Bosto-n needs them to lose at least three more games, out of four or five (with a playoff), to have a shot to win the division. Of course, they will have a say in it, but still. Any little edge we can get helps. Can Bosto-n pull this off? Of course. Look no further than last year, obviously. You just squirt a few more vials of HGH into Ortiz and wait for the magic. How hard is that? You just need to make sure you have hat sizes big enough for the escalating size of his head.
How about Clevelan-d? I still say they’re not done losing. I’m not saying that they’ll get swept by the Rays (although I wouldn’t be shocked), but I will say they’re going down two of three to the Chisox. Our prediction still stands. Clevelan-d is the odd team out.
Why doesn’t Chacon go against the Sox, asks H810Bos10. Great question. Three reasons. Because he would be on short rest, because he got lit up like a Christmas tree the last time he faced Bosto-n, and because we would need someone to pitch that play-in game, or game 1. Reason number 2 is kind of unfair, because he has pitched some tight, must-win, no-room-for-error ballgames against some good teams this year. The A’s, Angels, Indians, and Jays, to name a few. And he has shined. So I wouldn’t discount all of that. But all three reasons combined – you rest him. Of course, it could come down to “empty the bullpen” time anyway, but hopefully it won’t.
As far as playoffs matchups go (again; the BPS is never afraid to get ahead of itself), it would look like LA, or Clevelan-d. Which I don’t want to even think about. Nothing against Clevelan-d, but LA has always been our kryptonite. Only team with a winning record against the Yanks in the Joe Torre era. I’ll worry about that when I have to. Until then, I’m not going to think about it.
For now, as the LT so eloquently pointed out, the flags are flying in the correct order. And we’ve got one hand on the prize. Let’s get ourselves a good grip.
You know, this **** team really never ceases to amaze me. Just when we’re cruising along, coming up clutch exactly when we need to, they have one last (hopefully) kick in the groin for us. Exactly how does a team that likes to consider itself a playoff team come out and get knocked around like Ken Norton Sr. against Gerry Cooney? Now I understand that the Orioles led the American League East for sixty-something days. Fine. But the only thing this team has led lately is rats off a sinking ship. Sosa retired to the DL when he realized that his juice-less biceps couldn’t hit the warning track at Camde-n Yard-s. Palmeiro took his chances, not wanting to suffer the same fate. He lost. Brian Roberts had a hard-luck ending to his season last week, and Sidney Ponson was effectively kicked off the team. And the pitchers looked like they were just going out there goofing around, seeing what worked. And that’s exactly what they did tonight. The only problem was that every pitcher the Yanks sent out to the mound did his best to imitate Carlo when Sonny Corleone got a hold of him in the street in the Godfather.
So we lost. Pretty bad. Not good when you score 9 runs and can’t win a game. Not good when none of your pitchers can get anybody out. None. Anybody. Not good when the guy slated to pitch the last game of the season against Bosto-n got carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey. Scary.
I wasn’t able to watch the first part of the game, but Acc was religiously text messaging me when something happened. Or so I thought. The big boy skipped the part where we took the lead, 7-5. It’s for the best, too, because the devastation when I finally saw the eventual score would have gotten weird. Up 7-5 in the 4th against that team, I would have considered close to a lock. What do I know….
The good news, as Big Joe (father-in-law) reiterated when he later called me, was that everybody else lost. No harm done. Keep your eye on the D-Rays. They will continue to make Clevelan-d’s life difficult. The Red Sox split, sliding us back into a tie. That’s how it goes. The Yanks, Indians, and Red Sox all have the exact same record. Two games left before this weekend launches the madness. It will make you laugh, make you cry – it’ll be better than Cats. You all have the BPS predictions. I’m sticking with them.
Got some interesting comments today. Is that dude’s name really “Raoul?” Welcome to Julialnyc, and welcome back Grossman. Along with the drama of a loser-goes-home series, I think the added bonus for Mets fans is that they don’t have to deal with both teams in the playoffs. Ras, I agree with you, they can’t look ahead to this weekend on the field. The good news is, we can on BPS. And we will. We would look ahead all the way to the World Series, if we thought it would help. And I hope the coaching staff is looking ahead, cautiously. It’s looking more and more like this weekend will be empty-the-benches time.
I’m going to look on the bright side. At least we’ve been able to give Flash and Mo a two-day rest. Very much needed, I think we would all agree. Let’s hope Chacon shows up to pitch tomorrow, and let’s hope he can go deep into the game. If he gets lit up, I really don’t want to see any of those bullpen stunadas in the game tomorrow night. I had enough trouble digesting tonight.
Back to business in Balt. I was with Acc, Johnny Fantastic, Brian Rumble, Sean Lee, and Ciampi earlier tonight to watch the game. Since the rain delayed things, all we succeeded in doing was putting away baked clams, buffalo calamari, antipasto, steak tidbits, chicken tidbits, beers, cokes, and diet cokes. Whether or not any of that was productive I’ll leave up to you. As we talked about baseball, the group seemed to be split down the middle in terms of what they were looking for the rest of the season. The Yankee fans – Acc, Sean Lee, Brian Rumble and I – wanted the Yanks to make the playoffs, as quickly as possible. Why go through an extra “for-all-the-marbles” series with the Bosox before you even hit the playoffs? Those games take a lot out of you. The Met fans – Johnny Fantastic and Ciampi (somewhere Grossman was with them in spirit) – wanted to see a winner-gets-in, losers-go-home series this weekend. I get it. It would be more entertaining baseball. It’s just not my preference. I’ll take Clevelan-d disintegrating this week and the Yanks and Sox playing to cut up the division title and a wild card spot.
Randall and the Yanks took care of things tonight, after a long delay. Randall had great command, for the most part. This was his last start before the unofficial start to the playoffs this weekend. The lineup looks sharp in terms of hitting. While watching the game tonight, I was thinking to myself that Flaherty in the line-up was almost like having the pitcher hit. But I was also thinking how valuable it was to give Posada every fifth day off as a routine, no questions asked. It has proved immeasurable in crunch time, as Posada is as hot as he’s been all year. Usually he struggles this time of year. So I was thinking that I would take the trade-off. But then Flaherty had one of the key at-bats of the game, working a walk from 0-2 to load the bases with one out and Bubba coming up. I figured maybe I shortchanged Flash. The Yanks eventually got 6 runs that inning; all with 2 outs (looks like Giambi got another shot of B12, h8nBos10). Flaherty also got a base hit and scored 2 runs. The win would serve to knock out the “half” that still separated the Yanks and Indians records. It also forced the Red Sox to win an extra game to keep pace.
The Sox were rained out tonight. Most baseball people will tell you that it puts them at a bit of a disadvantage. Maybe yes, maybe no. In any case, they have to play two tomorrow, and apparently the vast majority of double-headers are split. If the Yanks can play tough enough tomorrow to put another “w” on the board, the Sox would be forced to try and sweep the Blue Jays, a pretty good team, to keep pace. Apparently they feel that their rotation will sustain the twist, because Wakefiel-d can always go out and throw eight innings on three days rest, which is what he’ll try and do next weekend. I remember when the rain saved the Red Sox in ’03. They had just dropped game 3 to the Yanks at home to go down 2-1 in the ALCS. They were sending out John Burkett to face the Sox killer David Wells in the next game, staring at the prospect of being down 3-1. But the rains came, and the Sox pushed up Wakefiel-d for their desperation game, and the Yanks chose to send out Moose, who struggled. The rain bought them some time and new life. Let’s see how it treats them this time around.
You have to feel bad for the Orioles. They have had to put up with a lot of garbage this year, and they are probably ready for a fresh start. I’m hoping and thinking that the D-Rays and Jays don’t feel the same way, of course.
Keep the comments coming, boys. This thing is getting red hot. And to our White Sox fans, myp and Eric, great points on all counts. I appreciate that you back up your positions with evidence and numbers. The good news for you guys is that soon it won’t matter who anyone thinks “deserve to be in the playoffs (including BPS).” Teams will either be in or they won’t, and all of the merit arguments can and will be settled on the field.
Thanks for the well-wishes guys; I’ll pass them along.
I was waiting for something to happen. Everybody was winning. Except the Yanks. Acc and the Lt were text messaging me early, and we were all thinking the same thing. We needed this one, somehow. It was the 5th, and Big Joe (father-in law) and I had just walked in the door and flipped on the game. It was just before the Captain came through with two outs one more time, and the camera kept flashing back and forth to Robbie Cano. The Yanks were down. “He must have done something wrong,” Big Joe said, referring to Cano. “They keep showing him.” Base-running blunder, apparently. Then Jeter came through, but that was it. One run down. I gotta believe we’re not going to lose this game by one run, I was thinking to myself. So Robbie stepped up and redeemed himself, the way big-time players on big-time teams learn to do. Posada continued his late-season surge with a base hit, and Cano pulled the Yankees right back up into a first-place tie with a big Yankee Stadium swing. To seal it, Flash Gordon looked good, his only “hit” allowed coming when Crosb-y crashed into Jeter to knock a ball out of his glove that was perilously close to being foul anyway. And Mo got the outs he needed to get, before he started lobbing it over in the 9th with a 5 run lead. Which is the right thing to do, after all.
The Yanks kept pace. Let’s hope the Blue Jays can get tough in Fenwa-y. They certainly didn’t lay down against the Yanks. I still say both teams will win 3 of 4, with Bosto-n pulling off a major league miracle in at least one of the games, maybe two. Whatever. We know what we need to do next week. It’s time.
I’m going to publicly do something I claim I never do. I’m going to ask that we hang on to Bernie Williams, my favorite Yankee, for at least one more year, if only because I’m not ready to see him go. Sue me. Just watch him come playoff time.
And look who got a bad bounce. The Indians finally lost. Lou’s Rays will come in and play them very tough. Earlier in the year the BPS said Lou should be fired. We were half-serious, half tongue-in-cheek. The point was that the Rays truly looked like a different team against the Yanks than against the rest of the league, and why couldn’t they play like that against other teams? So whatever Lou did, he got them to channel that talent into everyday ballgames. But we also realize he’s probably the best thing that ever happened to that team. But back to the Indians. They will have to fight for every inch of real estate the rest of the way. One again, there is a three way tie in the loss column for the AL East and WC spots. What a week ahead.
I’m going to stray from the script a bit today. I want to talk about one of the many unsung, regular guys who made this town what it is. The Mrs.’s grandfather is a guy affectionately known to all as Papa Joe. He was born in 1909 and grew up in Little Italy, a hardscrabble kid in a town that made you grow up quick. He didn’t make it much past elementary school, but he learned that hard work meant that he would always find a way to scrape by. He got married to a pretty Italian girl he had met in new yor-k city’s smallest borough, staten island. Her name was Mary, and in a melodious twist of circumstance, Mary and Joseph were both born on Christmas Eve. To make ends meet and feed their family, Papa Joe drove a truck on a garment-district route most of his life. Finally, when he was older with plenty of grandchildren, his sons opened their own business, where he worked doing repairs and keeping things together. I met him in 1996, when I started dating his granddaughter. The first thing that struck me about the guy, that struck everybody about the guy, was his stories. The guy was 86 years old at the time, but he could tell you detailed and elaborate stories about anything in his life. He took me on a journey through 20th century new yor-k city and americ-a, told from a guy who had watched it all unfold right before his eyes. It always amazed me that he could remember and articulate his stories so clearly. He talked about things I’ve never seen. How election days used to be big holidays, like street fairs. He talked about when Capone’s face got slashed in brooklyn. He knew the guy who did it, and he knew what he had coming. He talked about people I had never met, and he talked about people I had met long after the toll that life takes had robbed them of their personalities. Some of the guys he told stories about were kids that never made it out of the streets, guys who had been dead 80 years. I always found it fascinating that there was probably nobody else in the world who even knew of their existence, let alone could tell you anything about them. But he brought them all to life, and it all became clear when I listened and thought about it. Papa Joe rooted for the Yankees, and when he was a teenager he would get into the bleachers for a quarter to see Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Every once in a while he would ask me what things cost at the stadium these days, and he would shake his head. He was very good at keeping up with things that were important to you. After 9/11 he wanted to know how my friend Brian Russo was doing. He remembered that Bri was a fireman. I would sit with him at barbeques or the Mrs.’s family parties, and we would talk about songs that we both liked. He went for mostly Dean Martin and Jerry Vale, not so much Sinatra, and he would translate the Italian songs into English for me. I would always marvel that I was having a very normal, interactive conversation with a guy in his nineties. And he always showed a special patience for me, the Irish kid, the newcomer.
Papa Joe died today in staten island at the age of 95. And, as life goes when you get to be that old, almost none of the people in his stories, the people he once knew in the wonderful polyglot of new yor-k city, would be around when it happened. So I figured maybe this time, just this once, I would tell everybody about him. The old guy was my window into the past, my chance to see the world that my own father and grandfather lived in. But he was also my friend. And I’m going to miss him.
Just got back from the San Gennaro festival with the Mrs. I haven’t been there in a few years. I’ve breezed passed it a few times, but I haven’t actually showed up since Rudy kicked out the mob. Looked to me like they’re not entirely gone, I’ll say. Anyway, the Mrs. was looking for some zeppoles, so we took a ride to mulberry street to hook it up. It was jammed, as expected. A blend of nervous tourists, opportunistic locals, and bubble-headed college kids. We had dinner at Il Cortile, which was good, but we got out too late for the zepps. Most of the booths were closed. The Mrs. is still bummed. What are you gonna do…
Well, the Yanks blinked. I said yesterday that in a micro-thin race like this, whenever you lose you feel like you fell off a cliff. Well that’s pretty much how it went down today. Yanks lose, everybody else wins. Like Pink Floyd once sang; one slip and down the hole you fall. That’s how it goes. Big Joe (father-in-law) usually knows when is a good time to call and when is not a good time to call. But today he calls me right after Jaret Wright took another ball off his uniform. “Can you believe this?” he says, “It’s like this guy has a bull’s eye on his body.” He was right, of course, and it is certainly freakish how bats and balls keep finding this poor bast*rd, but at the time I was more concerned that he was digging an unmistakable trench for my team in the second inning. A big deal was made of the fact that we made two errors for five unearned runs, and it’s not without merit. But if you watched the game, you could see that both teams were having trouble with the treacherous sun. Aaron Hill dropped a simple pop-up to second base for the Jays. The Ferocious Lion dropped one in left. Hill’s came with nobody on and two outs. The Ferocious Lion’s came with the bases juiced. And Cano’s E came on a rocket that he should have played, probably, and could have been a double play to get them out of the inning. It was a tough E, to be honest. Anyway, bad luck. But that’s why you don’t win every game, even if you’re the better team. Sometimes the ball bounces the other way.
The Red Sox won, as was fully expected. I was explaining to the Mrs. this afternoon that if one was a betting man, now would be the time to bet your family on the Red Sox in Balt this afternoon. Having watched this rivalry and having been unwittingly tied to the fortunes of that team for the last few years, I have a very good feel for their personality. I really felt like the fact that the Yanks had already lost before they took the field would relax them just enough to allow them to light the O’s up. But they really didn’t. They pulled it out, though. I will give the team credit on a few fronts. Most notably, they play their best with their backs against the wall. Down 3-0 last year is an obvious one, but also in extra innings of game 3 against Oaklan-d in 2003, already down 0-2 in the series. Also down 3 games to 2 coming back to the Stadium in 2003. And countless other times when they were about to fall out of the wild card and pulled off stunner after stunner to stay in it. The walk-offs, the comebacks, the miracles. This is a team that relies on the miracle. That’s just the way they do it. And generally, it’s not a good way to live. And in the end, it has failed them every time. Except once.
So that brings us to the weekend BPS. I was floored when I saw 10 comments on yesterday’s post. The weekend edition of the BPS usually gets about as many comments as a WNBA post would. So I was pretty psyched. Perhaps I subconsciously throw out the more controversial stuff on the weekend to try and generate some feedback; good or bad. So yesterday it looks like I tweaked Mr. Guseric. But I appreciate that he took the time to comment, so I’ll explain a bit. You mentioned you are a first time reader, so I’ll fill you in on the broader position of the BPS. We are not intelligent men, it could probably be said, but we are not foolish to come out against the idea that a team should attract and retain high-priced talent. The Yankees are great at it. Our position is quite the opposite, actually. It’s a shame that more teams don’t go get better talent. We rail against the teams spending all of The Boss’s revenue-sharing money remodeling their daughter-in-law’s summer cottages. The fact is that “buying the team” is one of the more tired, knee-jerk rants that Yankee-haters are quick to fire off. The Red Sox and their fans used to do it religiously, until they looked in the mirror. Our point is simply that it becomes very difficult to perpetuate that argument when they are throwing 5 of 9 position players on the field from their system. Doesn’t mean they shouldn’t go after the best guys. They should, and they do. Your team should too, as should all teams. It’s not like nobody in baseball has any money but George. We’ve said many times; George Steinbrenner isn’t even in the top half of richest owners in baseball. But at least he’s willing to spend his money. The Yanks certainly go get big-time free agents. And they like to come here because the Yankees have a commitment to winning, and are willing to pay you if they feel that you’ll help the team win. And to clarify because you asked, the R. Johnson and A-Rod acquisitions were the result of trades for two home grown guys, Nick Johnson (by way of Javy Vazquez) and Soriano.
I’ll say for the umpteenth time, we have no beef with the White Sox, and if you end up facing the Red Sox in the playoff, the BPS will be squarely behind the south siders. But the truth is that the Chisox are the worst of the teams in contention in the American League. And Triple J is right. They aren’t winning the World Series. And unless they do some major off-season re-vamping, they will be a .500 team next year. Sorry, dude. Your team just isn’t that good. Last thing on the negative side. The Chisox haven’t blown it yet. Although they blew 13 ½ games off of a 15 game lead, they’re still in first. But the fact is, if they do blow it, it will be one of the major chokes in baseball history. That’s a fact. As h8tnBos10 explained accurately, the Yanks have a nice chunk of that themselves. We’re going to have to hear about 2004 every single time any team gets down 3-0 in a series. But if the Sox blow their lead, you will hear it every time a team is looking for a rallying cry when they find themselves way back at the break or later. But it’s different for the Yanks. They have a million great moments to balance it off. They have 26 championships and 39 pennants. That’s a lot of winning to fall back on. Unfortunately for the White Sox, if they blow this lead, the 2005 choke and the Black Sox will be the two most notable things about the team.
But now for the good news. The BPS prediction is that the White Sox will not blow it. They will win the Central. The BPS still predicts that the Indians will be the odd team out of the playoffs. Here’s how we see it playing out. The Indians have won 17 of their last 19. That’s basically .900 baseball, .895 to be exact. Nobody plays .895 baseball. The law of averages is going to get them. They will most likely finish off the lifeless Royals tomorrow, but I think they will be unpleasantly surprised to get a load of the pesky, scrappy D-Rays. I think Clevelan-d runs into trouble this week, for no other reason than that its time. And I think the Chisox will beat them 2 of 3 next weekend, regardless of whether or not they’ve already clinched. As I said, sometimes the ball bounces the other way. The Yanks and Red Sox will play pretty even. The Yanks have the slightly easier draw, four in Balt, but the Sox will find a way to win 3 of 4 against the Blue Jays. Just wait until you see the special miracles they’ll pull out this time. They will either be tied or one up in either direction by the big showdown at Fenway. Either way, somebody is going to have to win 2 of 3. The BPS predicts that Mariano will exact his revenge on the last day of the season on the mound in Bosto-n. We might be right, we might be wrong, but we’re never afraid to stick our neck out.
I’m not surprised that the boys once again leaped to the defense of the Yanks against the blogosphere. In spite of the fact that Mike Sherry is on vacation and not around to lead the counter-attack. Ras, The Snare, h8nBos10, Petey Goods, Sean, and Triple J took care of things. Well said, boys.
Saif, I have to give you a lot of credit, dude. For a dude who just got back from Ira-q, you have a wonderfully sunny disposition. Two comments, though. “The Yankees sure aren’t playing like a championship team right now,” you wrote. Dude, they’re 10-2 in their last 12, winning one-run games like it eating donuts. Give them a break. Second, to the outsider it may seem like “hating on both sides,” but the passion behind the fans is what makes the atmosphere so electric. It’s what makes the Stadium feel so supercharged in a big game or a big series. If you’ve ever been at Yankee Stadium for a big moment, it’s like nothing I can describe. You just wouldn’t get that if everybody was just sitting around happily enjoying great baseball. And that’s okay. That’s why we live for this.
It really is a shame that one of these teams isn’t going to make it. Currently three games separate the four best records in the American League. The best records in baseball, after of course, the Cardinals, a difficult team to gauge because they play in such a thin (to put it kindly) National League. Eight teams total will make it, but one of the five best won’t. There is a logical answer, I think, but their fans aren’t going to like it. Of the four teams with the best records in the junior circuit, the White Sox do not belong. I know, I know, I know. They have the best record. I can hear the words searing the eardrums (eyeballs?) of White Sox fans everywhere. But the truth is that the White Sox have not shown they can consistently beat any good teams this year, not having won a season series against any of the current playoff hopefuls aside from the Indians. And that was before they ran into the phone booth and put on the red capes. Lately the only way they could beat them was with 10th inning magic from Joe Crede. The White Sox built a great record, as the BPS has said many times, by walloping the truly bad teams early on, catching them perfectly when they were at their worst. They haven’t impressed anybody since about June. They are not the same team they were then. They don’t play with the same composure, enthusiasm, or aplomb. Their record was impressive, but it made no sense. As a baseball fan looked at the numbers to see what was going on, there was no explanation for this team having pulled it off. The BPS has been promulgating the law of averages all year. It has caught up to White Sox. They still may make it. As the BPS stated yesterday, chipping away at a lead is never easy. And they have a three game lead on a playoff spot, at least a wildcard. But they aren’t scaring anybody. Their starters have fizzled. Garlan-d, in particular, has truly come back down to Earth, where he has played most of his career, incidentally. The line-up doesn’t score runs; they don’t have anyone consistent in the bullpen. This team is not a playoff team. They may hang on early, but it would take some intervention from the baseball gods for them to do any damage. The good news? You never know. I’m sure those same baseball gods had to intervene when a certain team was up 3-0 last year. The Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, and Angels are the class of the American League right now. Of baseball, really. They have stepped up and shown their mettle when it counted. They have done what they have needed to do to keep the line moving. All of these teams can play great baseball. I’m including the upstart Indians. You have to, at this point, considering what they’ve done.
What makes this so interesting is that there is no room for error right now. The way they are positioned, any team losing a game could take them from first place in their division to shut out of a playoff spot. The pressure is on all over the place. Every game has major implications. It’s going to come down to the wire.
I watched the game with Big Joe (father-in-law) tonight. He was the one that told me last weekend that the Yankees would be in first place by Monday morning. He was off by a little bit. It was Wednesday night.
What else can you say about Chacon? Michael Kay on UPN 9 stressed early that he wasn’t as sharp as last game, but his line ended up even better. Eight innings, three hits, no runs, as opposed to eight innings, four hits, no runs last time. Do I feel conflicted about Small going to the bullpen? Not really. You’re only as good as your last start. Smalls wasn’t as good. Besides, we’ll find out soon if Moose and Wang are truly healthy enough to go in a regular turn. I think it’s the right move.
Another nugget. On nights that former State-n Islan-d Yankee Wang pitches, 5 of 9 position players – Posada, Jeter, Bernie, Cano, and Wang, are homegrown Yankees. And Mo to close. So let’s try and get the story straight with the “The Yankees buy their team” garbage. The Yankees are remarkably homegrown for a team that high profile. How many Red Sox position players are home grown on any given night? One. Trot Nixon. And that’s on the nights he plays. (I’m not counting Big Papi taking HGH as “homegrown”)
There was a good stat in the Times the other day, talking to the MVP question. It was a stat that showed players that had gotten the most hits to either tie or take the lead in the seventh inning or later in a game that was either tied or one run up or down. The top five guys, I think it was. First on the list by a mile was no surprise. Papi. But the Yankees on the list were interesting. The Ferocious Lion and Bernie Williams.
Baseball just keeps getting better. As we march towards Fenwa-y.
First things first. That’s all you need to know. I was in Detroi-t last night, and I’m in a bar around 10:30 with a few guys I work with. As I’m talking to one guy I was looking behind him at the scores that were flashing on the TV screen behind the bar. I knew Pat Bechtle was in section 24, courtesy of the “ESPY play of the day” award from Wifflemania. I’m trying to be discreet, but in the middle of his sentence he says. “Sorry, dude, let me just check this for a sec. The Yankees already won and the Red Sox are losing. I just want to see if it’s final.” He was doing the same thing I was doing with the TV behind me. I completely lost my composure. “Yeah??!!” I ran over to the TV.
Out of this whirlwind came the truth. As the bell tolled midnight, and Wednesday stepped aside for Thursday, the world righted itself just a little bit. The New York Yankees were in first place. Our team. The team that we believed in all year. The team that had showed us throughout the season flashes of the talent and gumption that has always defined their uniform, without ever really cracking through. This was their night. As the LT pointed out in his comment yesterday, the outfield flags have been adjusted, and if I’m George Steinbrenner I call the union guys in on OT and have them switch them right then and there. Just so they would feel more at home by gametime tonight. Blue flag lead left, red flag second. Just as it should be.
Now the tricky part. Make it stick. The Yanks knew what they had to do tonight. They just did it in the same crazy way. It’s like watching the same game every other day. The Yankees win one game in a squeaker, 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, and then jump out to a huge lead in the next game that they promptly give right back in huge bunches, only to have Flash and/or Mo have to come in and nail it down. Its nuts. And nerve racking. But it’s worked. The Yanks are winning when they need to do just that. I’m not going to insult the world by complaining about it. I couldn’t be more psyched. The Yankees are doing what they should do with this competition. This is the time to get it done, and the Yanks have very little cushion. The Blue Jays are a better team than the O’s. We’ve got them for three at home, and four with the O’s on the road. Traditionally, we’ve played well at Camde-n Yard-s, but it’s not the same as four at home. Although I suspect you’ll hear a noticeable Yankee contingent at the games. The Sox have three in Balt and four at home with the Jays. I’m inclined to call that even. The Yanks have one more game with the team that’s suc*king more wind, but one less game at home. And although I think it’s true that the Red Sox have had some trouble keeping their balance lately, it’s not that tough to win 4 or 5 of 7 in that stretch against teams that are holding tryouts, essentially. I think the Yanks will do the same. That would leave us a game up by the last weekend. And that’s what the world is waiting for. We’re ready if that’s the way it’s got to be.
The reason I like the Yankees chances at this point is that they are doing everything well, with the exception of garbage-time pitching. They are getting contributions from everybody in the line-up. They are getting solid starting pitching, with gutty one-run, low scoring wins. And they are closing games the same way. Tough to beat. Jorge Posada is finally getting hot at the right time. Gary Sheff is getting healthier by the day, although his inability to play the outfield would cause problems, if it continued indefinitely. Giambi’s back is a concern. They Yankees are so much more dangerous with him hitting well. We’ll see how Sean’s boy, Moose, bounces back from the gem he threw tonight. Good call on that, by the way, Sean. If he can stay healthy, we have the makings. Especially since we have some other guys on the team you may have heard of. The Captain, The MVP, and The Ferocious Lion. And Crosb-y, Lawto-n, and Cano might get you once or twice, just for good measure.
As I’m getting off the plane at LaGuardia tonight, I run in to hit the head. Phone rings. The big boy. “Dude, what the **** is going on?” Since I was in progress, I answered honestly. “I just got off the plane at LaGuardia. I’m at the urinal.” “What?” he says. “I was in Detroi-t last night.” “Oh yeah.” He says. “I knew that. Everybody’s going nuts, dude. People are freaking out. What happened to the blog today?” It was a great question. “I brought my laptop out there, but I had a problem with the connection. I couldn’t get logged on. My bad, dude.” He was unimpressed. “Don’t tell me, bro, Chris Woy thinks something might have happened to you.” So I blew it. I couldn’t get the connection going and I had to bail. Didn’t want to do it on one of the biggest nights of the year, but it was dumb luck. I’ll try not to let it happen again. That’s one I owe you guys.
But the important thing is that we’re in first place, and we’ll be in first place tomorrow, and no matter what happens, we’ll be in first place on Saturday morning when we wake up. Even if it’s in a tie. It’s hard to make up ground. Wins don’t come easy most of the time; and losses for your rivals are going to come just as tough. As I type I can hear sirens outside. I wonder if some White Sox fan in town for a conference is on the ledge of a building. What’s going on in the Central is unbelievable. Is it possible the White Sox blow that thing? Looking at their schedule, it’s going to be close. They have three more with the Twins as the Indians will be thumping the hapless Royals. That probably means the Indians pick up another game by the end of the weekend. But here’s what the Chisox have going for them. The Indians have got three next week with the ultimate “you never know” spoiler. The D-Rays. They have been nothing short of a minefield for contending teams this year. The White Sox will have four with the fading Tigers during the same stretch. Look for the White Sox to take one (and maybe another half) back. That’s going to take that one to the final weekend in Clevelan-d. That weekend is really going to be say a prayer and hold your breath time.
Good work on the comments, boys, despite “the night the blog went out.” H8nBos10, I like where your head’s at. You either walk or hit Pill Papi every time up. You can’t let that guy beat you. Hopefully Sam Perlozzo is listening.
Okay, boys. It’s time to get excited. You’d never know it by the weather in NY, but its stretch time. Acc will be in section 24 with Mrs. Acc tomorrow night. Check out the outfield flags while you’re there, big boy. I hear they look nice this time of year.
At about 2’oclock this afternoon I see Tony Sherry’s cell phone number pop up on my phone at work. I answer it. It’s Tony with Mikey Rumble in midtown. They had just seen Randy Johnson coming out of his building. The exchange is well chronicled by both of them in their comments to yesterday’s post. Apparently he was a bit cranky (at least we know it was really him). But as Tony said, “I’d be pis*sed too if two fat guys in suits were screaming my name in the middle of the street. Let’s hope he’s just as surly tomorrow night on the mound.
[I’m toggling back and forth to the Indians/White Sox game on the gamecast as I type. They’re in the top of the tenth. I made the prediction to Mike Sherry early this evening that tonight was the night Clevelan-d fell off the magic carpet. I said that they were going to lose the next two to the White Sox and then go about 6-4 in their last ten. I’m sticking with it. I thought I had it, but Clevelan-d refuses to die. They pushed a huge run across in the ninth to tie.]
Aaron Small is our minor miracle. The man went from the scrap heap to 9-0. The Red Sox have Ortiz, who is getting to the point where all you can do is laugh out loud. He is defying all logic and probability. He may finish with 55 bombs. Amazing what modern “medicine” can do. Speaking of which, Barry hit one into the Potoma-c Rive-r tonight. But his best moment came when he was asked about his steroid use, and he answered by chastising the individual reporters for not contributing enough to the Katrina victims. ???
[Bottom 10, Joe Crede, second pitch. Boom. Just ran inside to try and catch a replay. We have ourselves a three-way tie in the loss column. NICE! I had a feeling this was going to be it for the Indians. I read an article today by Mike Vaccaro in the Post, saying how impressive it was that Clevelan-d had won 12 of 15. What? Those crazy bast*rds had won 13 of 14. Get it right, dude. You know what’s tough? They were just two games back in the loss column in the wildcard race. Then they rip off 13 out of 14. Then they lose one game in extra innings. And now they’re tied in the loss column. After all that magic, they pick up only two games.]
Acc only called me once tonight, and only after he left the game. He was surprisingly frustrated. The big boy is usually a pretty even-keeled fellow. He was annoyed that we had to use Flash and Rivera after we had a seven run lead for the second time in a week. The kid has a point, sure. Nobody else can get anybody out. I was surprisingly nonchalant about it. Winning will do that to me. Apparently Leiter has asked to be the lefty specialist. Embree seems to have complied with that request, after su*cking again tonight. One interesting stat that Michael Kay pointed out, though. Embree hasn’t walked a left-handed batter since coming to the Yankees. That’s a stat I like. I know, he’s not getting a lot of people out, but I’ve watched the individual at-bats. He’s getting a lot of 0-2 counts and guys are battling him. He’s not pitching particularly nasty, but he’s not throwing batting practice, either. I like that he won’t walk guys around; that he’ll make you beat him. But again, he just hasn’t gotten the outs of late.
The Yankee bats simply overpowered the Triple A Oriole team that Sam Perlozzo trotted out there tonight. They need to keep it up. Pitching duels this time of year take all kinds of energy. Interesting game also tonight in that all 18 players in the batting orders got a hit. The O’s pounded out 18 hits total. We have to consider ourselves lucky that Newhan so horribly mis-timed his jump on Gary Sheff’s granny. Maybe it was because he could hear Acc putting the whammy on him from about 35 feet down the line in section 24.
The Red Sox came out angry tonight. Maybe they were still mad at the headline from the Bosto-n Herald that Ras pointed out. In any case, I’m not surprised. They’ve got a lot of games left to win. They are still a lot better that almost everybody. Almost. I still see a footrace to Fenwa-y for the last weekend.
I went in to see my barber today. Tony Annunziata. He’s about 80, and he is on the 17th floor of the building in which I work. He used to cut David Rockefeller’s hair until recently. He speaks with a pretty thick accent, so he’s not always easy to understand, but I knew that today was his second day back from vacation. He and his wife went on a cruise. Apparently he had a blast. Loved that he could eat non-stop. Luckily he was only gone for a week, because my hair was getting pretty shaggy. And he had some hot peppers for me. From time to time he’ll give me either hot peppers that he grows in his garden, or olives. I brought them back to Brookly-n, handed them to the Mrs, and she threw them right in the Chicken Scarpariello. Perfect. And hot as h*ll. But anyway, Tony was still psyched about his vacation. “Nothing like cruising”, he said. And he’s right. It’s not always a smooth sail, but there’s nothing like cruising.