There are three things to consider when assessing the deals that were made over the past few days. The first, of course, is how much your team has improved. The second is how much your rivals or key competitors have improved. The third and last, is how much the rest of the competition has weakened, i.e. who will be a weaker opponent.
Brian Cashman and his Yankees would probably take a realistic look at this season and consider themselves AL East contenders and Wild-card contenders. I guess it’s tempting to bang your fist on the nearest table and scream that the Wild-Card is not an option; that it’s division or bust. But that’s just emotion talking. That’s not really an intelligent way to approach things. So considering that the Red Sox are priority one, with the White Sox and Twins a close second, followed not-as-closely by the Blue Jays, the early outlook looks pretty favorable for the Yanks.
Abreu first. The most important thing is that he’s an upgrade over Andy Phillips. In my perfect world, Giambi would go back to first, Bernie would DH and Abreu would get slotted in right. On days you want to rest Bernie, Wilson plays first and Giambi DH’s. The problem with this is that I know Joe Torre is going to get very comfortable with Wilson or Phillips at first, and Bernie is going to lose at bats. It’s not that I’m against Bernie getting more down time. Sure, Bernie is my favorite player, but if they can upgrade, fine. But not if it’s to get Craig Wilson and Andy Phillips more at-bats. Because I’m not believers in either one of those guys. Abreu, again, is an upgrade from what we’ve got right now. My issue with him will come next year. There certainly doesn’t appear to be room on this team for Abreu and Sheffield, and Abreu is not the player Sheffield is. He’s just not. He doesn’t scare you as much, and he strikes out way too much. Sheffield doesn’t strike out a lot. Abreu’s got a nice OBP, but he doesn’t strike me as clutch. So next year we will be taking a step down. A huge step down if Sheffield ends up on the Red Sox aiming at the monster. But that’s next year. For now, Abreu makes the Yankees better. And we didn’t lose anything. The Chacon/Wilson deal is not as definitive, for me. It would have been fine if the Yankees had immediately dealt or optioned Phillips. But there was Joe Torre, insisting that Phillips was still “very much a part of this team.” Why? He is instantly unnecessary. I also hate to see Chacon go, in a way. I still have to believe that, unless there is a physical issue, somewhere in there is the guy that was money last year. He was 4-1 this year, albeit not a great 4-1, when he got that bone bruise, and he’s been garbage ever since. I don’t get it. But they got Lidle, who is competent. He just needs to follow the same formula – keep the Yankees in the game; their bats will win it for you most of the time. So we’ll see.
The Red Sox did little or nothing, the White Sox made some small moves, and the Twins didn’t make a big splash either. So all-in, the Yanks came out looking pretty good.
The third element has gone and reared its head right up already. There were the Indians, sitting with a 2 run lead in the bottom of the ninth at Fenway, but with no Bob Wickman to close it. So what happened? What else. The Big HGH himself, yet again. Shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. This is the Red Sox, circa 21st century. They are always second-best and never good enough to be in first in the standings when all is said and done. But they have a pocket full of miracles. It’s how they stay close. Witness two out of the last three games at Fenway. Always Big HGH and Manny bailing them out. It makes them exciting. You have to give them that. No wonder they have sold out almost 300 straight games and the media has fallen in love with them. They are as exciting as anything you’ll ever see. And because of the Wild-Card, they get their shot in the playoffs. The problem is you run out of miracles. They got their one ultimate miracle in ’04 coming back from 0-3, so big it was the only time it ever happened in the history of the game. But you’ll only get one of those. If you’re not the best team, you’re not going to win plural championships. And the Red Sox have never been the best team.
So Big HGH to the rescue again. Every time I see the guy come up, I wonder. In the post Landis, post-Gatlin, post-Bonds era, how are the Red Sox fans going to feel when this guy gets exposed one day? It has to happen. He’s right in his ultimate glory prime, so he can’t fade away like McGwire or Sosa or Raffy. Sooner or later, they’re going to get him. The guy who played for six years in the Homer dome but could never hit more than 18 bombs in a season. The guy who was cut by the Twins after his tenure there, only to reappear as an overnight ultimate Super-human in Boston while the Twins clubhouse people were (and are) whispering that his hat has gone up two sizes. And he’s supposedly still only 30 years old. Right. Not even the Red Sox front office believes that one. In the tradition of Soriano, Edgardo Alfonzo, El Duque and countless others, the “birth records were misplaced.” But what will the Boston fans say? Do they try and justify it, the “everyone was doing it” approach? Or do they point the finger back at the Yankees – Giambi, Sheffield, and who knows who else? Tough to say. But the Yanks never won a World Series with Giambi and Sheffield, so that’s a tough sell. At least not yet. Besides, in the Winston Churchill, RAF spirit of “never has so much been owed to so few by so many,” David Ortiz was the 2004 playoffs. Period. So it will be tough. I think that’s probably part of the reason the Red Sox and their fans are failing to notice the emperor’s new Red Sox uniform. There’s too much at stake.
So the new-look Yankees will take the field tomorrow night. The standings have leveled off, and not because anybody has been playing any better than anybody else. Just because the schedules have started to flatten. All of these teams are very evenly matched, so I expect that things will grind from here on in. Hopefully the new guys get their uniforms dirty early.
The Mrs. and I were waiting on line to get on the cable car back to the hotel when the first text message came in. The big boy. “2-0 T2.” He didn’t clarify that the good guys were up, but I knew that the message would have been different if the Yanks weren’t on top. The Mrs. had ducked in to a gift shop right next to the turnaround to get some Christmas ornaments (she likes to get them from anyplace we go on vacation). When she got back out she asked me what I wanted to do about dinner. I was in no rush, as we had had a late lunch of clam chowder in sour dough bread bowls. “Are the Yankees on TV?” she then asked. Quickly I tried to retrace my steps. Of course I knew the Yanks were playing on ESPN tonight at 5pm pacific. But had I mentioned it? Am I that big a loser that ‘when the Yankees are on’ passes for conversation when I’m on vacation? “They are, but I don’t need to watch it,” was my lukewarm reply. The Mrs, it turned out, was going to take a nap before we went back out anyway, so I had a perfect window.
By the time I had flipped it on in the hotel, the score was tied 2-2. I figured this game was going to be real tough to win. Everything was stacked against us. We had Jaret Wright on the mound, we were facing a very good team that was trying to avoid getting swept at home, and the Rangers were due to stop getting beat by the Yankees, frankly. Law of averages stuff. Anyway, the wheels started coming off quickly. I started explaining to the Mrs that it wouldn’t really bother me if the Yanks lost, but it was annoying that we had 8 hits and only two runs. Like she cares. Why do I do it? I’ll never know. Why do I torture the poor girl? Luckily, as usual, she was a good sport. She listened and feigned interest. She did, however, probably make a tactical mistake in lying down on the couch next to me in the parlor area rather than in the bedroom. As she started to nod off, things started to get weird in Texas. Damon on first and nobody out in the 7th. A 3-2 count on Jeter. Torre starts Damon to stay out of the double play. Good so far. Then the pitch comes in and home plate umpire Chris Guccione (any relation to the **** mogul Bob Guccione, I wonder?) decides to make one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen, calling a horribly inside pitch a strike to start a strike-em out, throw-em out DP. I was incensed. At that point that was a colossal call in this game. The Yanks were down two and should have had two on and none out for Giambi and Allie-boy. Instead, we got ugatz. I was trying to take deep breaths and contort my face to avoid screaming at the TV. Not just because the Mrs. was napping peacefully next to me, but also because I could hear the people in the room next to us pretty clearly, and if I started going nuts they definitely would have heard me. No sense in making a jerk of myself all over the country, I figured. And while we’re on that play, kudos to Eric Karros. He was doing the game on ESPN with Dave O’Brien, and immediately called out Guccione for a terrible call. You don’t often see broadcasters willing to challenge umps on balls and strikes. But Karros showed a pair. In fact, his quote while watching a replay of the pitch was, “Oh yeah. That thing was so inside it isn’t even funny.” Good for you, Eric. And no, it was pretty effing far from funny.
By the time the Allie-Boy had come up clutch (again), and the Melk-Man popped his huge double to give the Yanks the lead I was furiously text-messaging Acc. We were both flabbergasted to see that TJ Beam was coming in the game. I was mystified. I have since seen that Farnsworth’s back locked up, but at the time I was hoping this wasn’t another case of Torre trying to see if a kid has cajones in a tough spot, as Ras suggested. Turns out Beam wasn’t so sturdy. So that didn’t work out. I had a funny feeling that huge play by Chacon was going to loom large, though. Again kudos to Eric Karros, who said before the start of the ninth that the Chacon play gave you the feeling that the momentum had swung back to the Yanks, even though they were down a run. And Jeter singles, and Giambino…..wow.
The standings have been completely revamped as of today, with the Yanks in front in the wild-card and a loss-column game back in the AL East. It won’t stay this way for long. There are too many good teams that will be battling all year long. It is, however, a confirmation of what we’ve been saying at BPS all along. The Yanks are right there with all of these teams. They played the teeth of their schedule early on, and nobody else had. Now it’s starting to even out. And the Yanks beat everybody. Good teams, bad teams, doesn’t matter. They know how to win. The big news of today isn’t that the Yanks are back into a playoff spot. It’s that the Yanks are tough as nails, and have proven it time and time again. If we do get any meaningful contribution from The Lion, Sheffield, or Dotel this year, we will be better than everybody. Everybody.
I was watching some ESPN show this morning, and Steve Phillips was spewing so much mis-information about Allie-Boy that I wanted to puke. “The fans have turned against him.” “He gets booed when the line-ups are announced.” “They’ll never be happy with him.” “Yankees fans have been tremendously unfair to him.” Hey Steve, how many Yankee games have you watched, let alone been to? Are you kidding me? Dude, I’m at these games. I’m in the stands, and if I’m not I’m watching on TV. It is a fair representation to say that there is a noticeable smattering of boos when he makes out. It is not a resounding chorus of boos. The vast majority of Yankee fans are rooting for him every time out, and are just as disappointed as he is when he makes out. The media has created this story, so I guess they figure they’ll ride it for all it’s worth. But anybody who is looking to retain any credibility should get the facts first-hand.
Headed to Alaska tomorrow, boys, so I’m not sure if I’ll be in or out of pocket. I’m back in NY on Monday. Worst-case scenario I’ll see you then. Till then, Ras, they’re all yours….
I guess I had what would have to be described as a sneaky smile on my face as the Mrs. entered the room. “Look what you found,” she said with an I-should-have-known look on her face. There on the TV was the Yankee game, broadcasting quite clearly on ESPN’s Monday Night baseball. And things were going swimmingly, as the Yanks were putting the finishing touches on a 6-2 victory. Nice. They were due for some wins. A tough three out of four in Toronto took a bit of wind out of the sails, and took the Yanks two back in the loss column in the standings. So this hit the spot. Ordinarily the Mrs. walking in to me watching the Yanks is no great shakes, but this was a bit different. We were on vacation in Napa, and we were about to head out to our 8:45 reservation at Tra Vigne, a restaurant on route 29 in wine country. ESPN does have a love affair with the Yanks this season, which is okay by me. Gives me some more opportunities to catch some of the games while on the road.
No such luck on ESPN tonight, as we headed into San Francisco for leg 2 of the vacay. The good news is that the internet was working, which allowed me to log on and keep up. The wireless card was giving me all kinds of problems in Napa. And I have my trusty MLB gameday audio to follow along. Tonight the Mrs. was getting out of the shower just in time to hear John Sterling warbling from the laptop… “Yankees win; thuuuhhhh….” This was going to make my night better. Interesting being on the west coast. Most games are on at 4pm and over by 7:30 or so. Tough if you’re trying to watch any if the games. Mo is warming up by his tree in the pen by the time you get back from work. In any case, more good news from Texas tonight. Moose followed a big win by Randall with his own win, number 12. More theatrics from Aaron Guiel. Fascinating. I’m wondering if that guy is for real…
Have to apologize for the past couple of days, boys. Again, couldn’t get on-line until today. Apparently Ras got so tired of waiting he went and started his own blog. Good for you, Ras. Mark Newman and his band of merry men at mlblogs should have picked you up and put you on the roster by now. I think the first thing they do is put you on the “Rookies” list. The easiest thing to do would be to post a comment on Mark’s MLBlogosphere blog. This should alert them that you’re on board. And post the link on the BPS as a comment so I can attach a link on the BPS homepage.
As a side note, the Red Sox are staying at the same hotel that we’re at in San Francisco. The lady behind the desk asked me if “I was with the Red….” catching herself before she spilled the beans on what is not supposed to be public info. So I said, “I guess you didn’t notice my Yankees t-shirt [the Paul O’Neill shirt],” at which point she smiled. I text messaged the news to Acc, who had a few suggestions for me, none of which would have sat well with hotel security.
Back to business. Very often the best way to measure records is to look at the loss column. The idea being that any team with more wins could have more games played, and a team with fewer losses controls their own destiny. So with that said, when looking strictly at the loss column, the Yanks have the third best record in baseball. Better than the entire National League and behind only the Tigers and the Red Sox. Third best in baseball. Yet if the season ended today, they would be out of the playoffs. Sure, that makes sense. In the past I have questioned the need for the division format. I don’t know why everybody buys into the system so willingly and wholeheartedly. A team like the Indians got completely hosed last year, while a team like the Padres made it in. I get that MLB is trying to generate excitement, but adding more divisions seems to be causing more problems than it’s worth. I don’t have a whole lot on that at this point, but I’ll throw it out there.
So Mr. Wright gets another shot tomorrow. I have no idea what to expect from him. Or Sid. Who knows. My posts may be sketchy this week, guys. But as always, keep posting the comments.
I got home kind of late, and the Mrs. was ready with the spaghetti arrabiata right when I walked in the door. I took my time with dinner, because I figured the game tonight was going to be tough. Halladay on the mound and the Yanks coming off the bust game of a huge run of ten wins in eleven games. Usually you get a little bit of a lull after a run like that, and the Halladay effect had me thinking that tonight wasn’t our night. Today would have a good day for an off day, actually. In fact, before I headed up to the loft the Mrs. asked me why I didn’t seem to be in any hurry to turn on the game. I told her I didn’t have a good feeling about it, so I was taking my time. So after my moping around, when I finally flipped on the TV I was pretty surprised to see we had a 3-0 lead in the 6th. But just as I saw the score the Jays and Halladay were walking off the field about to hit in the bottom of the sixth. I flipped to the Mets. I didn’t want to watch. I still had a bad feeling, and I also know how Mussina works. When he does get into trouble he goes into super slow-mode. And if he gives up runs it’s like slow, painful death watching it. So I waited the entire inning of the Mets game in which the Reds put two on with nobody out and eventually failed to score (it wasn’t until later that I realized that it was a replay of a day game that had been over for about 5 hours). But it must have taken ten minutes. So I flipped back to YES and hoped for the best. Now it was 3-1 with a man on second and one out. My stomach immediately started to tighten. Like I said, slow death. Then they showed the play that scored the run. Allie boy. Ugh. But I’ll get to that. Frank Catalanotto has been a thorn in the Yankees side for years. I’d love to know his lifetime average against the Yankees. It just seems like he’s always getting base hits against us. And Vernon Wells and Glaus just put the hits together in the right place at the right time. An error, a bloop, a bleeder, and a ball that was fair by about 6 inches and missed Allie Boy’s glove by another six. There it was; 4-3 Blue Jays. Now I was pacing downstairs, explaining my pain blow-by-blow to the Mrs, who humored me, God bless her. I had very little confidence that we would pull this out. But I forgot how plucky these b*stards are. And when Gibbons yanked Halladay at 93 pitches and went to Ryan with two outs and nobody on in the 8th, I figured that was a strange move. Maybe we could capitalize. So there’s Giambino with two strikes, two outs, and nobody on sneaking one through the left side for a base hit. Allie boy walks, and Posada bloops us tied. Tying it with a bloop. How did they like it?
But it wasn’t meant to be. My original hunch was right. There is a bright side, I guess. We took BJ Ryan for 36 pitches, which in all likelihood makes him unavailable for tomorrow. We’ll see if it works out. The Yanks got beat with Mo, which is rare, but it happens. The Jays needed every one of their key guys to step up, and they did, with Wells, Glaus, and even Catalanotto coming up huge, getting 7 of the Jays 9 hits, all at the perfect time. And the Yanks fought back, again. But losing bites.
I’m calling A-Rod Allie boy because I’ve decided A-Rod is a Seattle nickname, given to him by a Seattle broadcaster, and isn’t working in New York. So I’m giving him a New York nickname. Like Paul O’Neill becoming Paulie when he got to the Bronx. It’s not permanent. I don’t know how long I’m going to go with it, and I might think of something else, but for now this is what I’ve got. And these throws have got to stop. I watched him make three errors at third the other night, all on easy throws. Another tonight, and it may have cost us the game. If he gets the yips it’s going to be very difficult to break out of it. Mackey Sasser, Knoblauch, Rick Ankiel, Mark Wohlers. Once it gets in there things get real weird.
The Sox have got a two game lead in the loss column, but they have some tough games coming up. Twelve straight games against the Angels, A’s, M’s, and Indians, with a six-game west coast trip thrown in the mix. The Yanks, in the same span, don’t have a picnic either, with seven games against Toronto and three against Texas, albeit with a three gamer against Tampa Bay thrown in. If the Yanks continue to win or tie every series, they’ll pick up ground. Because the Red Sox don’t play well on the road, and they are two games under .500 against winning teams (it gets way worse when you exclude the Mets, which you probably should, along with the entire worthless National League).
So this was tough. Moose was better than Halladay, who wasn’t great. And we got to him, but again, a few well-timed bloops and bleeders did us in.
Jaret Wright has had a few competent starts in a row, but if he was ever going to decide to join us on this journey, now would be a good time. The Jays are a markedly less scary team without Hillenbrand. I have to say….
Series after series. That seems to be the theme so far, courtesy of Umair and Lucky. I do like Med’s and Ras’s suggestions, however. Rocco, how about this one for you – “Any day that’s less than 130 degrees that I don’t end up with more sand than sweat in my shorts is a good day”. Level, I agree with you, dude. This year is the year. But I have to admit, I say that every year. Kind of crushes my credibility with one fell swoop, I guess. Jason, great analysis over at Baseball and the Boogie Down. If anyone hasn’t checked it out, it’s worth the click, as they say.
I can’t imagine how it’s not worse than this. I really can’t. But I guess that’s why last Sunday even Lupica compared this Yankee team’s toughness with the late 90’s bunch. He quickly added that they’re not as good, of course, but he admits they’re just as tough. But don’t kid yourself; they feel the effects of the injury situation almost on a daily basis. It has manifested itself in two ways, basically. First, the Yanks don’t win as many games as easily as they should. Rarely do they get to enjoy laughers. Second, we do lose some games directly because of being forced to go with second-tier guys. Today was a bit of an example of both.
Game after game we have to use our premier bullpen guys, game after game we have to pinch-hit guys that are supposed to be getting a day off. Tuesday’s game is a good example of that. It could very easily been a 4-2 loss, with the three starters on the DL plus Posada getting a day off and A-Rod getting a day to rest his big toe. But we went for it, and we got it, at a price. Posada went into the game late, as he has almost every time he’s gotten a day off, and A-Rod went in as a pinch hitter. Both ended up playing a few innings. Tough to say what the eventual toll will be on Posada, as catchers tend to tail off offensively towards the end of the season for a reason. But the toll on Tuesday was pretty specific. A banged-up finger that took him out of the lineup today and probably tomorrow in Toronto. This is one of one of those cases where you can directly point to the loss of Posada and see how it affected the outcome. Posada doesn’t have a history of throwing balls into center-field trying to throw out would-be base stealers. Stinnett, on the other hand, doesn’t have a history of playing in a lot of baseball games. Tough break. It was also evident when Posada wasn’t available to pinch-hit with a man on third and two outs. Stinnett gave it a ride, but more importantly, it was a bad time for Bernie to whiff.
Even in losing, the Yanks did not go quietly. The Mariners got some extraordinary luck today to put them over the edge. I hope all of the whiners who cried about the call on Tuesday were paying attention today. Are those people that were so offended by the travesty of justice around now, when the Yankees were victimized? At least Tuesday’s call was bang-bang. I’ve always said that you can’t complain about a bang-bang call. Sometimes the umps are going to blow those. I will acknowledge, though, that the call on Tuesday was pretty obvious. But what was that out there today? Third base umpire Andy Fletcher making Phillips go back to second because he (Fletcher) called time-out? Are you kidding me? Why did he, or would he, call time-out? That makes absolutely no sense. Rene Rivera, the Mariners catcher, got burned by a heads-up Phillips, who scampered to third as Rivera was whining about A-Rod being called safe at the plate, and Fletcher decides to bail him out entirely? It’s not as if Rivera had any clue whatsoever that Fletcher had supposedly called time out. Or the third baseman Adrian Beltre, for that matter. Those guys thought they had been caught napping, and were just as surprised as anybody when Fletcher sent Phillips back to second. How big was the call? Would have been the go-ahead run on third with nobody out. As it was, the Yanks had to burn an out to get him to third. You want to play the pre-determined outcome game that everybody wanted to play Tuesday? Stinnett’s fly ball would have gotten Phillips in easily. Either way, it was an absolutely tremendous call in terms of the game.
More bad luck for the Yanks today. Ichiro lucks out when the ball travels about four feet on a full swing off his bat in the eighth. He is fast as h*ll, of course, and he just beat the throw. That call could have gone either way as well. Then he gets third on Stinnett’s overthrow.
Even through all of this, Cairo puts a tough AB on Putz in the ninth, and gets himself on base. Then Bernie smashed a ball to center that would have been a game-tying double if it was two feet in either direction. Never say die. Never give up. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out for you. But we won the series again. The train keeps on rolling.
The pathetic Boston Red Sox could only muster two runs in two games, but of course, they have been wearing a lucky horse-shoe this year. In those two games their opponent happened to be the worst team in the American league, the Royals, who might even be worse than some of the teams in the NL (maybe not – let’s not crazy). And it gets better. The only guy on the team that can hit, Reggie Sanders, has been out all series with a groin injury. So the Royals scored zero runs in two games. Such is life for the Red Sox. Must be nice. And of course everybody is blowing up Beckett for his dominating performance today. Why are they trying to make this guy a hero? Why is it that every time Beckett goes out and pitches lights-out against the NL or the Royals, everybody in the media goes nuts for him, but when he faces real teams like the Yankees or the A’s, they gloss over the fact that he doesn’t make it out of the third and stretches his ERA towards the stratosphere? I don’t get it. But I’ll tell you this. That lucky Red Sox horseshoe won’t last for a full season. They’re going to get what’s coming one of these days.
What’s up with Shea Hillenbrand? That guy must be a complete d*uchebag, because he hits the cr*p out of the ball everywhere he goes, but then gets sent packing. He was murder against us when he was on the Red Sox, and he picked up right where he left off when he went to Toronto. And now they have designated him for assignment. He was saying some real jack*ss stuff, from what I’ve read. Good riddance. I hope he goes back to the NL so I don’t have to deal with him. Although I’m sure his name will come up for the Yanks. He has always hit like a monster at the Stadium. Not sure I love the guy, but I’ve made my position clear. You put on the pinstripes, I root for you. I root for the laundry….
Umair, sorry for the confusion. The Cardinals cut Ponson so that they could sign Jeff Weaver, as I understand it. And I’m sure the Cardinals would have loved to get from Weaver the game the Yanks got from Ponson. Amber, technically it wasn’t my TV, it was Acc’s. But you’re right. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss that. Med’s, I always like when a guy is enthusiastic about coming to the Bronx. I hadn’t heard that story. Good stuff. Ras, I remember those t-shirts Posada gave out. Here’s a good question, open to all. What do you think this year’s T-Shirts should say?
Seannie! Your boy’s up!
“Good thing he didn’t just call that a strike, or I would have had to rip that TV out of that compartment and shred it; and then there would have been babies crying, people yelling at me and all kinds of weird stuff.” That was the ultimate psycho (me) after the first pitch to Posada in the ninth. Mike Rumble was laughing his usual Herman Munster laugh. I guess he found it amusing. The Rumble brothers, me, Brian Rumble’s kid Emma (6 months) and the Big Boy’s kid Chris Jr. (2) were all at Acc’s house waiting for the girls to get back from the Bon Jovi show at the meadowlands. Yup. Bon Jovi. What do you want from me? So we’re watching the game, grinding through the futility, and finding ways to amuse ourselves. Those guys had buckets of chicken and boxes of donuts waiting when I got there. I have to stop trying to eat with those guys. It really is hilarious. At this point we were in the ninth against a closer names Putz – they have to be kidding with that one… So after Posada’s grounder to second, there were four idiots jumping up and down in the middle of the floor, trying to be perfectly silent (failing – but no babies woke up). First of all, there wasn’t even a run scored. But we smelled it. Amidst the jumping, we were all talking about how preposterously out Posada was at first. Which brings us to the multiple storylines on tonight’s game.
First, Ponson had a nice outing. In fact, the Yanks as a group had a nice outing. As Michael Kay pointed out, they had five all-star caliber players not in the starting lineup tonight, including A-Rod and Posada, who both started on the bench. Combine that with the fact that their starting pitcher had recently been cut by a team that desperately needs pitching. Cut to make room for Jeff Weaver, if we’re going to get technical. Sidney Ponson did some good things tonight. He did not heed my one key piece of advice, however, which was to throw strikes. Three walks came home to score. But he did stay tough up there. He has freely acknowledged that he loses his composure on the mound when he gets into trouble, which is a rare thing for somebody to admit in professional sports. Everybody likes to think they have nerves of steel. But Sidney held it together tonight. He didn’t blow up and lose it, and he certainly could have in the disastrous first. And he went six and two-thirds, which is a gift from heaven for this Yankee team. Nice job. A heck of a lot better than Weaver last night. Kill the walks and you’ll have the makings of a resurgence.
Next up, the call. You can’t tell the story of this game without acknowledging that first-base umpire Mike Reilly blew it in the ninth calling Posada safe. Posada was out, out, out. If I was on the other side of that I would have been plasma-onto-Third-Avenue –mad. To put it into perspective, it wouldn’t have been the third out, but it sure changed the whole dynamic of the game. You can’t say that Johnny Damon would have done the exact same thing and flied out with the runner on third (the fallacy of the pre-determined outcome, as Michael Kay likes to say), but I’m not going to insult anybody by saying it would have been anything other than a tremendously tall order to knock that runner in from third with two outs. Tough break for Seattle. I don’t like to see anyone lose that way. But to be fair, we got hosed on a pile of bad calls early in the season, game after game. I said I was going to have faith that it was all going to even out, because it usually does. So here you go…
I was stomping around Acc’s living room at one point, demanding to know why Torre was pinch-hitting Aaron Guiel for Nick Green, who had three hits. And then he pounded a huge base hit through the hole. So what do I know…
Eleventh inning. Johnny Damon playing first and Andy Phillips playing second. Kind of a carnival atmosphere. Still a surprising amount of fans in the park, though. But I wasn’t expecting the end. That was something else… The Melk-Man cometh again. I stole the title of this post from Michael Kay, by the way. That was his line as Melky crossed the plate. A few posts ago I congratulated Melky on his first home run and told him to do it again. I guess he was just waiting for the right moment…
“What innings are we going to do dippin’ dots today? Second, fifth, and seventh?” asked Mikey Juice. The most remarkable thing about Mikey Juice is that he was sitting in the first row talking animatedly with Tony Sherry. Which is fine, except that it was 98 degrees and Acc and I were ready to fall flat on the concrete. “Juice,” I asked, “How are you sitting there like everything’s totally normal with relatively little sweat on you?” It was a fair question. Mikey Juice is probably tipping the scales at 260 these days. “Shhh,” he says to me. “I’m doing it all with my mind right now, and I don’t know how long it’s going to last.” Two innings later he was begging Acc for another napkin. For his forehead. “I’ve never felt more fat and disgusting than I feel right now after eating that cheeseburger. I’m going to be sweating that cheeseburger out for the rest of the night.” The cheeseburger was courtesy of the big boy, who had gone out and loaded up at “The Grill” in the food court opposite section 24. His version of “gearing up.” By then it was about the fifth inning, and we were all a helmet of dippin’ dots and a few beverages deep. Tony Sherry, wearing a brand new green Yankees shirt that we had geared up at the Yankees Clubhouse store at the Seaport before the game, was similarly uncomfortable. “It’s official,” said Tony, “I’m never eating another french fry again for the rest of my life.” As Juice laughed and countered, “There’s no chance I’m eating anything until tomorrow night.” Then he looked back at Acc. “Unless Acc tells me he only wants half of that sausage.”
There were some boos for A-Rod tonight. It was evident. I looked around to see who was making the noise. Juice, for one. Plenty of others. People standing; p*ssed. Short memories. Huge hits against the Mets, walk-off jobs, a big day yesterday in the field and at the plate. Tough crowd. I guess some people just can’t get past the fact that he makes so much money. They really have to get over it. Like it or not, A-Rod has already earned his money from the standpoint of the business of the Yankees. The Yanks were drawing in the high three millions before he got here. Now they draw four million and sell more merchandise. He has paid for himself and then some every year, love him or hate him. Technically, that is why he, and every professional ballplayer, gets paid. He gets paid to draw fans, i.e. paying customers, to the park, in order to sustain the game in an economically viable way. It’s romantic (and I don’t mean that in a Johnny Drama/Turtle crossing swords kind of a way) to think that ballplayers get paid to help their teams win games. That’s the way we look at it as fans. And we know that often one follows the other. But they are mutually exclusive. The truth is that if a team wins and the owners still don’t see it as a viable going-concern, or at least something they can squeeze a buck or two from, many owners will send those players packing (see Florida Marlins circa 1998 & 2004). Through all of the ins and outs of the business, the players are trying to win because they are part of a team and they are trying to uphold the spirit of the game; which places the good of the team – winning – before the individual. And I think A-Rod takes that to heart. Joe Torre says A-Rod puts a tremendous amount of pressure on himself. He doesn’t have to say why. He puts all that pressure on himself because he wants to help the team and he wants the fans to see the team win. Not because he’s afraid he’s not going to get paid – his money’s guaranteed. Give him some credit for that. Give him some credit for the fact that he cares so much about wanting to win and do well for the fans. For us. He had an awful game tonight. He had a tremendous game last night. You want to boo him, boo him. That’s your right. But know what you’re booing. If you’re booing him because you don’t feel he’s earning his money, go ask The Boss’s accountant if A-Rod has paid off. If you’re booing his performance, double check his numbers against everybody else in the league and see if he’s not performing well. If you’re booing him because you think he isn’t trying or doesn’t care, look at his face when he strikes out. When you’re done with that, take a minute to think about what else there is to boo about…..
Nobody, absolutely nobody, in the stands at the Stadium thought that 4-0 KC lead against Boston lead was going to hold up. Looks like Wakefield’s got back problems. “Mister me,” Curt Schilling, has carried the staff. Beckett is his old self. Inconsistent. And the big move to Boston hasn’t helped him, it seems. His ERA is through the roof. Sounds like the Red Sox might be in the market for a starter. Joe Buck had a great line about Piersynski the other day. My first thought was that you could say the same about Schilling. “When he’s on the other team you hate him. When he’s on your team you hate him less.”
The Wang-er has 10 wins. And an ERA under four. But apparently “The Gambler” started the All-Star game. Check back with me at the end of the season and let’s see who has the better numbers.
I think everyone was surprised to hear Enter Sandman queued up in the ninth. We figured he was cooked because he went two yesterday. But I like what Joe is thinking. Get the win today, because you never know what’s coming tomorrow.
Maybe I’m way off base, but I think the key to getting Sidney Ponson’s game off right tomorrow (tonight) might be run support. But I guess that’s not really going out on any kind of limb.
Throw strikes, Sidney. If you do that, the wins will follow. I promise.
Ninety-five degrees in Jersey today. Me, Triple J, and Grossman were watching the end of the Yankee game while waiting for the rest of the foursomes to finish up their rounds. Actually, we had stumbled onto the game, as four or five kids who worked at the course were huddled around the TV in the clubhouse. Having walked in right in the middle of things, I was barking out questions at these poor kids, who were leaving me wildly unimpressed with their lack of cognizance of the game going on right in front of them. Mo was in the game in the eighth with men on first and second and nobody out. Unusual. Clearly whatever was going on, Joe Torre wasn’t fooling around. Mo for six in the 95 heat. I guess you play for keeps when there are footsteps all around you.
I’ll say it again. The White Sox are a tough out. They don’t lie down easily. But I think you’ve seen another example of the difference between the Yanks and everybody else. Mo. The White Sox can pull off magical comebacks against whatever clown closers they’ve seen so far, but nobody else has the ability to shut it down like Mo. Now some could argue, and I would listen, that Mo gave up two on Friday night, and simply lucked out. But if you watched the game, or you were there like me & Rud, it was apparent that it was a typical-atypical Mo sequence. Mo is difficult to hit. Piersynski said it best, “You keep waiting for him to make a mistake and he doesn’t make one.” When he gets hit, it’s just like Friday night. Two Little League-caliber bloops and a bleeder ground ball right between third and short. It’s going to happen sometimes. Teams are going to sneak a few through. The difference is that those are going to be finite. The White Sox got three in a row on Friday. That’s about the quota for a few weeks used up in one inning. They paid the price for those today. Two DPs and the infield-fly rule. Something new for Ozzie this year. Even Papelbon puked it up with two outs in the ninth against him. Good thing he did, and good thing the Sox pulled that game out in 19 innings. Otherwise they would be 0-6 against the Yanks and Red Sox this year and I would really be killing them.
So Jaret Wright continued to improve today. He didn’t make it out of the 6th and he didn’t get to 100 pitches, but he did something more important. He won. He’s beaten the Red Sox and White Sox this year. If he can be competent for 5-plus innings, I’ll take it. With a good offense and a sound couple of guys in the bullpen, you’ll win a lot of games that way.
A-Rod hit another high-profile home run in a high-profile game, and he and Giambi have quietly put almost every RBI on the board for the Yanks over the last couple of months. And Jeter finally popped the big fly. Speaking of Jeter, he came out snapping against the press, asking why everyone was assuming the Wild Card was coming out of the Central. Of course, he stated, nobody was gunning for the Wild Card, but it was also silly to start anointing anybody playoff-bound with 70 games to go. Particularly when they are all of two games up in the loss column. Great point. Maybe he reads BPS…
Following on that point, John Sterling made a good point on the radio yesterday afternoon. He said that the rest of the baseball season would basically constitute a full NBA or NHL season. So anything can happen. The best teams will rise to the top. We’ll find out who they are.
Also on the topic, what have we been saying here at BPS for a few months now….hmmm…. trying to remember…..oh yes… The sizzling, this-is-their-year-to-win-the-East Red Sox had yet to face two of the toughest second-half teams out there, the A’s and Angels. The Yanks are already ten games deep with those guys. Resonant of the old (new?) adage, show me the standings in June, and I will say three things. Schedule, schedule, schedule. And along those lines, enjoy it while it lasts. The Sox start their set with the Royals next. So we’ll see this slip a bit, most likely. But that’s okay. We’ll get there eventually.
Rocco, you are the BPS Hercule Poirot. Meds, I concur.
Me, Tony Sherry, Mike Rumble, Mikey Juice and the Big Boy in section 24 tomorrow (Monday) night for the Wang-er.
We brought one back tonight, boys. And **** it if Rud didn’t know what he was talking about. That’s why the kid is a pro. We go way back. We were babies in downtown NYC a decade ago when the Yanks were putting the finishing touches on their first World Championship since 1978. Together we figured out the secret to guaranteeing their success. We would go across the street to the deli on Water Street for a cup of tea every morning at work (Irish guys drink tea, what do you want from me?). During the Yanks run to the finish, we figured out if we ran over and touched the first piece of Yankee paraphernalia we saw on the way back to the office, the Yanks seemed to come out on top. We rode it all the way to the finish. I still remember the last one, on the Friday morning after the Pettitte/Smoltz 1-0 game, before they came back to the Stadium on Saturday for the Jimmy Key/Greg Maddux matchup in game 6. I had bartended the night before on the Upper East Side, and Rud was there watching the game, so we were both a little groggy that Friday morning. As we were walking back out onto Water Street, I saw a cab stopped at a light. The cabbie was wearing a satin Yankee jacket, as it was a crisp October morning. As I barked it out, Rud and I sprinted towards the cab, and as we got close the guy was kind of freaked out, so we screamed out “Go Yanks!” and pointed to his jacket. As we stuck our hands out, he thought we were there to high five him. We left his hand high in the air as we both tapped the Yankee patch on the sleeve of his jacket. As the light changed green, he shrugged his shoulders and gave the patch a tap himself. I don’t think I need to tell you the rest….
So the White Sox went down. Contreras went down. Anybody who goes for 17 in a row deserves some credit. But he hasn’t been pitching lights out. In three of his last five starts, he left the mound losing, in some cases badly, but was bailed out by the offense. And tonight Ozzie left him in one batter too long. So he took the L. I guess you can see why Ozzie didn’t want to go to the pen. The White Sox pen doesn’t impress you outside of Jenks.
They are a good team, the White Sox. They are very tenacious, and have become very comfortable winning. They battle you right to the end. And the media still loves them. Chicago and Detroit are the go-to stories in the AL this year. I think everybody in the media is sufficiently relieved not to be talking constantly about the Yanks and the Red Sox, again. Well maybe I’m stupid. The White Sox last year were the first team since 1995 that did not have to go through the Bronx to win a pennant. So forgive me if I’m silly enough to think that being able to beat the Red Sox and Yankees is really the only true measuring stick as to how good you are in the AL (I’m not even going to bother with the awful NL in this comparison). So the media darlings, the Tigers, are 2-5 against the Yanks and Red Sox this year. The still feel-good story, the White Sox, are 1-3 so far. There are a lot of games to be played, but let’s start to look at some of those important match-ups. Everyone seems to be insisting that the AL Wild Card is coming out of the Central. Hmm. The Yankees, the resident second place team in the East, and therefore current de facto Wild-Card contender, are four games in the loss column behind the White Sox. A nice lead for the Sox, but hardly insurmountable. There are a ton of games to be played head-to-head between those Central division teams. And that includes the resurgent Twins. There are only so many games you can play against the Royals. These teams are going to start to lose some games.
So who should we be talking about? The A’s, perhaps. Always a strong second-place team, they currently sit in first place in the West. More importantly, they are 5-0 in their last five games against the Yankees and Red Sox. That’s impressive. There is no other team in baseball that can say they won 5 in a row against those two teams. Watch out for Oakland, gentlemen.
Some notes. The Ferocious Lion is apparently looking pretty good for mid-August. Don’t act so surprised. When he went down they said three months. He’s right on target. It was the doomsday alarmists who kept screaming that his career was over. Sheffield’s on track for September 1. Cano will be back in a week or two. Which will give him a full month out, as the BPS reluctantly predicted. Dotel is scheduled to throw in a rehab game, and seems to be about two weeks away. The latest talk is Freddie Garcia or Javy Vazquez for Aaron Heilman. What do you think, Grossman? If it’s Garcia I like it. If it’s Vazquez I don’t. Vazquez is a bum. I’m also hearing Melky to the Pirates for Craig Wilson and Burnitz. Which to me means Melky for Craig Wilson. Burnitz should retire. I have no faith in Craig Wilson. Mediocre numbers playing in Pittsburgh in zero-pressure games where nobody cares. Besides, I’m not trying to be sentimental, but Melky’s kind of growing on me.
I was splashing around in Big Joe’s pool last Sunday afternoon. As I listened to the end of a tough loss on WCBS 880, and heard the grim news that the Red Sox enjoyed a late lead against the White Sox, I resigned myself to a four-game deficit at the All-Star break. After playing exactly one game since then, the Yankees are one game out in the loss column. Shows you how fast fortunes can turn in this game. It’s going to be interesting.
Seannie! Your boy’s up!
I just got off the phone with Tony Sherry. One of those deals where I call him and he starts yelling that he’s parking and about to smash his car if he doesn’t hang up. Then he calls me back 30 seconds later, obviously in the middle of a crowded bar (most likely Anthony Cheerios’ “3” Lounge on Forest Ave in Staten Island). I told him I was watching the Red Sox game. “Dude, I figured it out,” I started. “Figured what out?” “You know when you’re playing cards, and there’s some dude who has no idea what he’s doing, and yet he’s winning a ton of hands early on because he’s just getting lucky with good cards?” “I know exactly what you’re talking about. Some leper with glasses who keeps getting bailed out by the river. It makes me crustify my destruction.” Now, I don’t know where the glasses part came from, but I thought it was one of the funniest things I ever heard and almost fell off the sofa I started laughing so hard. But I continued. “That’s what it’s like for me watching the Red Sox right now. I just don’t feel like they’re that great. But stupid stuff keeps happening so they sit there in first place.” He had long since stopped paying attention to whatever it was I was saying. So that was that….
What do I know? Not much. I said the same thing about the White Sox last year. I’m just curious to see if every single starting player with the exception of Crisp and Varitek can continue to play either way over or at the very vertex of their talent level. Maybe they can. But I need to see it. And the two rookie starters. I have to believe the other shoe has to drop at some point. That’s not to say that that will make the road easier. I also feel like Toronto has more in the tank, and I think they’ve been underperforming a bit. They’re right there.
[As I’m typing this the A’s have tied the game. But unfortunately, the Red Sox own the A’s at Fenway. We’ll see how this ends up.]
Eric! Welcome back, bro. Sorry to hear you canceled your blog. I made it over there a few times, and I liked what I saw. Of course, we’re happy to have you back at the BPS. Feel free to jump in as we do a couple of series’ with the White Sox. Raoul, I haven’t heard the Little Mo nickname, but from where I’m sitting, Private Papelbon doesn’t look like Little anything…. “What’s the matter with you Private Papelbon, your mommy and daddy didn’t love you enough?!” Happymeds, you are referring to the incomparable R. Lee Ermey. He was actually hired by Stanley Kubrick to be the consultant to help train the actor who was going to play the role. They quickly got a load of him and figured they would have to be insane not to use him.
[Apparently Big HGH and Manny have decided that they are simply not going to make out for the rest of the season.]
Ras, I’m going to respectfully disagree with one thing you said. The Yanks and Sox have 9 games left. I am always a believer that the head-to-head series’ rarely decide the division winner. I mean, it could happen, sure, but it hardly ever works out that way. Inevitably the teams split. If the Yanks and Sox have nine left, somebody will be 5-4, and somebody will be 4-5.
Long live Mike.
JD, good point about Gonzalez. He snuck up on me, probably because Raoul has been too preoccupied with the donnybrook to bring him up. Happymeds, I didn’t even realize Gorilla Monsoon was dead. That’s devastating… Lucky/Nick, I just saw the news about Ponson. Certainly Mr. Cashman has one and only one thought. Lightning in a bottle. A la Chacon and Small ’05. Unfortunately Kris Wilson did not pan out to be the ’05 Small; we’ll find out quickly if Ponson turns out to be the ’05 Chacon. Me, I’d like the ’06 Chacon to be the ’05 Chacon. Ponson was always the pillar of inconsistency. He had his moments, particularly against the Yanks. He’s got talent. He’s just a total meathead. He’s the type of guy that p*sses you off because he hands it to you on his best day, and then p*sses you off more when you watch him give up 15 runs in his next three starts….
Umair, I am still waiting to see a body of work from Cashman to make a judgment. I know that sounds insane, particularly since he’s in his 9th year as GM, but I honestly believe his power has been severely limited until now. The Boss notoriously used his “committee” to make any and all baseball decisions, the two factions in Tampa in NY, and he himself demanded certain things be done anyway. I don’t think Cash has ever been free to make his own moves until this year. And even that might be an overstatement.
I will be in section 24 with Ruddo tomorrow night. Me and Rud trying to start the second half right…