“Dude, did you read my comment?” This was Mike Sherry a few days ago. Generally a pretty clever cat, but he only posts when he feels like it. If he posted a comment, something must have caught his eye. “No. Let me look.” And it was clear in a minute what it was that enticed him onto the comments board. Raoul had posted a quote from Conan the Barbarian, which Mike felt compelled to answer times ten. Silly me, like many of us perhaps (or perhaps not), I thought Raoul was talking about Conan O’Brien. Something out of the “in the year 2000” sketches, perhaps. What do I know… I was just psyched that I got a comment from Mikey Juice and Mike Sherry in the same week…
The Joe Torre situation. Let me start with what I wrote last year in my wrap-up post in October (Mr. Lazy digging up old material again):
“Joe Torre will, most likely next year, pass Casey Stengel for second place in victories as Yankee manger, right behind Joe McCarthy. He also has a real shot at the Hall of Fame. But he will most certainly get his number retired, a plaque, and all the trimmings from the Yanks. To clip him for poor performance with one year left on his contract would have put a big black mark on all of that. It would be much easier to let him finish next year, retire on his own terms, and start fresh in 2008. This way he gets to retire with dignity, the Yankees don’t have blemish on their legacy and tradition, and regardless of what happens next year, they don’t have to deal with the distraction of “will Joe be fired,” because everyone knows he’s retiring at the end of the season. Or, it could be that since the boss may or not be thinking clearly, no one had the cajones to be the guy who clipped Joe Torre. Or maybe they really do think he is the best man for the job going forward. Where do I come down? Not sure. But I found myself glad that he was still around when the smoke cleared, do I guess on some level I think it’s the right move. But if you see Joe Girardi hired as bench coach for next season, you know what’s coming next October.”
So where am I on this now? Somewhere in the middle. Again, I wouldn’t be surprised if the contract was already written. When the Yankees hired Girardi as an announcer right after the season ended (not as a bench coach, as I predicted in that October post), I felt like I had hit it on the nose. This was going to be Torre’s last year, and they had already promised the job to Girardi. Why else would he not have taken a managing job? He was manager of the year. The offers would have been pouring in. Torre was going to announce sometime before the playoffs that this was it, he would pass Stengel in wins, Monument Park would be fitted for another plaque, and Joe would start rehearsing his Hall speech. But now I’m not so sure. First of all, all the talk last winter was that Donnie Baseball was going to get the job instead. And I could see Steinbrenner going in that direction. He loves bringing back the old heroes. But I’m not so sure The Boss is running things anymore. You just don’t see him… But with that said, I’m also not sure the team is that organized that they would have figured this out already. So maybe it is a situation where it’s Torre’s job until he loses it.
What do I dislike about Torre? I think he tends to over-manage. He has a notoriously quick-hook, and I think his bullpen is very much worse the wear because of it. I don’t see it is so much as a case of needing to leave the starter in there to wilt and burn some innings; I would like to see him not be so fast with the hook on the other relievers. If Proctor has had a few successful outings in a row, he’ll yank Farnsworth if he walks the leadoff guy to go right back to Proctor. You need to leave a guy in every once in while to get out of his own jam. Because now, even if you win, you have a burned-out Proctor and a not-confident Farnsworth. But it’s not easy business. Bullpens are so up and down. I think Torre goes back to what has worked for him in the past. He remembers yanking Roger Clemens for Moose in the ’03 ALCS, game 7. He remembers how well it worked, and he’s always looking to replicate it. He also over-manages the base paths and the defensive replacements. We’ve talked about Giambi. Torre can’t wait to replace him late, either on the base paths or defensively. The problem is, he’ll do it in a tie game and it comes back to burn him, as we’ve gone over a million times.
What do I like about Torre? He has the perfect temperament, history, and level of respect to be the ideal guy to handle this collection of stars. And I think that trumps the other stuff. You can’t fire this guy halfway through the year. Because that would be devastating. As far as I’m concerned, it’s his as long as he wants it. And if it’s not him, it has to be Girardi. I love Donnie Baseball, but it has to be Girardi.
The ’05 episode we later referred to as “Nightmare I” (as you may remember, it was followed eventually by Nightmare’s II and III) two years ago was wiped away in a flash. The Yankees ripped off a ten game winning streak right after they dropped to 11-19, and then rode a streaky roller coaster to the all-star break, when they were bolstered by those typical big-name, bought-and-paid-for, high-priced, mid-season imported Yankee stars named Small, Chacon, Cano, and Wang. You know how those big spending Yankees are. As I touched on in yesterday’s post, I don’t expect that it will be as easy to rip off ten in a row this year. The talent out there is tough. But if we could fall into 1-8, there’s no reason we can’t rip off a bunch in a row. You know what would help? Sit Dougie and play Giambi at first. His defense isn’t so bad as to outweigh a guy who isn’t going to clear .200 any time soon. That guy is an oasis in the desert for opposing pitchers. Then you move Damon or the Ferocious Lion to DH, and put Melky’s bat and D out there. Melky has been awful as well, but he’s better then Dougie, he has speed and he has upside. Dougie has zero.
One more thing on the Cousin Eddie story. Sort of reminded me to stop and smell the roses sometimes, even when we’re stuck in such a rut. We were on the Upper East Side at Dorrian’s on Saturday night after the game. Mikey Rumble was bartending. Tony Sherry, S.I. Brad, and I were with Cousin Eddie, looking at the Posada ball. He was telling us how, after the game, he stood near the player’s exit; thinking about getting the ball signed, but instead happened to meet and shake Donnie Baseball’s hand. “Man, what a day; you got the game-winning Posada homerun ball against the Red Sox and met Donnie baseball,” we said as we passed the ball around. Cousin Eddie gazed down at the ball in front of him. “Greatest day of my life,” he said softly to no one in particular, “Greatest day of my life……”
“Good morning gentlemen. Nice day for murder.”
- James Cagney as Rocky Sullivan in Angels with Dirty Faces
Great movie, but that quote is a bit strong for April. Although this seems to be what a portion of the national baseball media are projecting relating to this past weekend’s events at the Stadium. The initiated are more wary, the sting of embarrassment still fresh in their minds from ’05, when many prematurely reported the demise of these Yankees of Joe Torre and Derek Jeter. I’ll admit we’re at a low period, but this team has earned the benefit of the doubt.
It wasn’t all bad. The boys and I were in section 24 on Saturday afternoon. Kei Igawa. Bless him. That was just the kind of inspirational story you could picture shooting a spark of life into this team. And it was inspirational. We had a memorable crew in the house. Tony Sherry, Acc, Mikey Rumble, Ciampi, me, Ryan, the Cheerios brothers, and S.I. Brad. We also had another member of the crew out in right field, former Archbishop Molloy ballplayer Cousin Eddie. The crew was exuberant from the get-go, and determined to bring home a W. And we let Manny have it early and often. The highlights referred generally to his hair (“Serena – you look like you’ve gained some weight!”, “Stevie Wonder, you haven’t had a hit since ‘I Just Called’,” “Malcolm-Jamal, when’s the Cosby show reunion?!”) or his baggy uniform (“Manny, Ruben Studdard wants his uniform back” (also worked with Al Roker and Oprah). Tony Sherry was responsible for most of the witty banter, and Ciampi supplied the fire. And we brought back that W. But Sunday only brought more April showers….
So I had two options for this post. I could go into the numbers and answer some of the curiosities that I have noted as I was watching these games, or I could look this trying fortnight on a broad level. I’m going with the latter. The former will probably be tomorrow’s post.
Two years ago, when we started the BPS, we came out of the gate unleashing the fury of facts and figures that had us convinced that their unexpected early maelstrom was an anomaly, and that the Yankees did, in fact, have one of the best teams, certainly playoff caliber. We based our position on facts and figures. We just didn’t insist on some baseless unjustified blind optimism, because if you have understood what we try to do here at the BPS, it’s to give an honest assessment. If you just come down on the side of optimism for optimism’s sake all the time, your opinion is immediately null and void, because it’s predetermined. And in ’05, we were proven correct.
This year is trickier. But this much is certain. The Yankees are not this bad. We have often repeated that the ’07 Yankees score the most runs per game in all of baseball. That’s because they’re a great hitting team. And aside from Tampa Bay, they haven’t played any creampuff teams. Even Baltimore has spent most of the year above .500. The Yankees hit against every one. Last year the Yankees averaged 5.7 runs a game, best in the majors. This year they’re averaging 5.7 runs a game, also best in the majors. So no leak there. Now let’s look at the pitching. Not so good. So here’s the good news. The Yankees are fourth worst in team ERA at 5.02. And they are sixth worst in runs allowed. So how is this good news? Because as we always say, the 162-game baseball season will always allow you to revert to the mean. Or close to it. Provided you don’t get tripped up by myriad injuries. But even then, there are enough games that you still have time to right the ship. The point is, the average ERA in the major leagues last year was 4.51. The Yankees, when all is said and done, will not have the fourth-worst ERA in baseball. They just won’t. Not when you consider they have guys like Mussina and Wang and Pettitte. And their bullpen will not be this bad all year, because the pitchers are better than that. So for their numbers to revert to the mean, the ERA will be substantially lower for the rest of the season than it has for the first month. It happened in ’05 and it will happen again. Guys like Moose, Pettitte, Rivera, and Wang just don’t disappear overnight. That ERA and runs-against will improve. And when it does the winning percentage will take a different trajectory.
Here are my reservations on ’05 vs. ’07. A few things. First, Moose and Rivera were two years younger then. There were the same rash of injuries, but we got a somewhat miraculous 17-3 out of Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon. It’s less miraculous when you consider that they, especially Small, were the beneficiaries of the Yankee run support, something that many Yankee starters will also be this year, eventually. The last thing is that the talent in ’07 is a lot more clearly stockpiled in the American League. The American League is a gauntlet this year, and it will be a lot less forgiving when certain elements of the game aren’t clicking 100%. The runs have been there this year. The last few losses have not been the aberration of the season. In those losses (and the one win) the bats were absent. That’s going to happen from time to time. The aberration was the previous six games, when we were pounding out six runs a game and still losing every game. That was the quirk. And quirks will happen in a long baseball season. Hopefully, we got it out of the way early.
So what do you think if you’re the Red Sox? You have to be waiting for the other shoe to drop. This is right around that time of the year, every year, when Mike Lupica tells us that “this” Red Sox team is different. That “this” Red Sox team will be the one to take the AL East crown. It happens every spring, as the movie title once said. Like clockwork. The difference in the series has been that the Red Sox got their one highway robbery from Rivera (the Yankees will get one back, they always do), and they have gotten timely hits from the bottom of the order. Those are finite. Their starters have been the beneficiaries of timely hitting. Schilling, Beckett, Dice (twice), Wakefield and Tavares have all puked up leads, been pulled while losing, or got bailed out by the bullpen. Each has been hit hard or had base-runners every inning, or both. So they don’t particularly worry me. Although there are other teams out there that might.
Last thing. This Yankee run has given us lots of great moments. A bomb like Posada hit on Saturday was one of those. The atmosphere was tense, but that swing set the Stadium on fire. It was a majestic shot. Posada turned around the inside knuckler and sent it soaring into the Bronx gloaming. It sailed high in a true arc, high over the wall and into the upper deck. Down in section 24 we broke into a frenzy, piling on each other and screaming ourselves hoarse. But up near the rail of the upper deck was the guy with a shot to grab it. The old second baseman wasn’t going to drop this one. Not the game winner off the bat of Jorge. Not the way he learned to play back at Archbishop Molloy… Nice catch Cousin Eddie….
I was on a three-way call with Acc and Tony Sherry at work. We were discussing the game on Saturday, as we will be in section 24. It was probably 7:20pm or so. Twelve miles uptown it was top of the first. “Uh –oh,” they both said at the same time, “Over Damon’s head…That’s a run.” And that’s how the Phil Hughes era began at 0-1. Nothing else to report. I got home at around 8:30 or so, and turned my phone on. No texts, no voicemails. That wasn’t good. It meant nothing good had happened since I left work. About fifteen minutes later the phone rang. I was in the middle of dinner, but I peaked at who it was. Big boy. “Not good,” I said out loud to the missus. “Acc only calls with bad news.” And it’s true. Acc thinks it bad luck to call you when something good is happening. Tony Sherry will call you any time. Mike Sherry will call you only when it’s really good or really bad. Juice same. That’s when it’s most interesting for them. If Big Joe (father-in-law) calls, you know its good news. Big Joe doesn’t call unless things are basically in the bag. “Light the cigar,” he likes to say when I answer.
So by the time I got upstairs in the loft, I guessed it would be 3-0. If they had done anything, I would have had some type of message, and if they were getting absolutely pounded, I would have heard from more than just Acc. So I figured I was in the ballpark. It was 4-0. Did I take a sick, twisted sense of pride in being close with my guess? Not as much as I thought I would. I was kind of preoccupied with this mess. I figured if they won this game, I could convince myself that this was just a bad little stretch. If they lost this game and brought the streak to six, we would have an undeniable, full-blown situation. So that’s where we’re at.
The Yankees, and this has been meticulously documented in the BPS the last three years, seem to find the real thin edge of the normal distribution at this time of the year. And not in a good way. Out past three standard deviations, as Prof. Pardew used to say back in the Lion’s den. Vino’s boy.… And it always seems to come in April and May. The statistical improbability of this is vast, although not as vast as that 11-19 start two years ago. Not including tonight, you had a five game streak in which the Yankees were outscored 37-29. That’s slightly more than one run less than their opponent per game for five games. Say it another way, the Yankees scored 44% of the runs in those five games, and their opponents scored 55%. Not a big swing. The statistical probability, then, that their opponents would win 100% of the games is crazy. It’s even more nuts when you consider that the Yankees, still after being shut out tonight, have scored the most runs in the major leagues. The Yankees average a full six runs a game. The Devil Rays, Red Sox, and Blue Jays average five. Big difference. You could argue that the Red Sox big strength was their pitching, not their hitting. Right… Not against the Yankees. They got pounded. But they were able to score two runs above their average every game. The Devil Rays, three runs above their average. You want to argue it’s because of the weak Yankee pitching? Fine. But I don’t care who you throw out there. When you have to score, on average, seven runs to beat a team, and it happens six games in a row, it makes you scratch your head. What’s the bottom line? The Yankees pitching is not this bad. They will settle down, they will get healthy, and as the season progresses, they will revert back to their mean. And in that universe, you’ve got Mussina, Pettitte, and Wang giving you quality starts, who knows with Pavano, and I don’t know how long they stick with Hughes. I say let the kid breathe in triple-a. But in any case, as the pitching improves, teams will have a very difficult time finding seven runs a game to beat the Yankees.
The Yankees will win tomorrow night (Friday). If not Friday, Saturday definitely. Not because the team is getting healthier, I would argue they’re not, with Jeter, Damon, and Posada still not right, and Giambi limping around the bases tonight. They’re just going to win because it’s time. You know who was rooting for the Yanks tonight? The Red Sox. Because the Red Sox know the Yanks are due. They aren’t going to lose nine in a row. And the Yankees usually don’t go more than twelve or thirteen innings max without scoring a single run. They are the highest scoring team in the major leagues (worth repeating myself), and they will score their runs. I don’t care who’s pitching. And they’re at ten scoreless innings right now.
A little light on the comments tonight. A bit of melancholy, perhaps. Mannino, good work on the link. Did Schilling splash the sock with red paint? No. Is it real blood? Yes. Is it Schilling’s? Sure. Was the blood really soaking his sock as he was pitching? Absolutely not. First of all, there is absolutely no way Schilling didn’t realize that was going to be picked up by TV cameras. If he wasn’t such a total donkey, he would have changed socks before he went out there. I’m not even saying the blood was from his ankle. He just made sure to get it on that area of his sock…Mirabelli’s choice of words was interesting. He just kept saying it was blood. He never said where the blood was from. If his foot was actually bleeding, of course, he would have been in the clubhouse getting it cleaned and dressed between innings. And he would have changed socks. And there would not have been “a bloody sock,” there would have been many “bloody socks.” Did he do it for the drama? I don’t think so. I think that was an added benefit. I think mostly he did it because he got his doors blown off in game one of that series, and didn’t make it out of the second inning. And he wanted an excuse in case he got torched again. But what do you want… That’s Schilling. A total donkey.
Saif, I’m going to correct you. Statistics never lie, and no statistician will tell you they do. People lie with statistics. Big difference. I’m looking at a copy of How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff right now as I tap the keys. Required reading once upon a time from, again, Vino’s boy Pardew. Although nobody read it…except Grossman… The best way to calculate probability is get as wide a data sample as possible. If you have enough data to run a Monte Carlo simulation you can get real close to an exact mean. So right now we have data for about 39 years (considering the game changed significantly when they lowered the mound in 1968). And there is still no evidence to support the “pitching and defense” camp, but lots to support being able to score more runs. I’m also going to point out the flaw in your theory that when “a ball is thrown by a man to be hit by another man [with apologies for the gender-specificity of your statement to the girl in Little League who struck out half my team once – I won’t comment if I was among the victims] the pitcher always has the advantage.” I’ll also try not to take note of your superfluous use of CAPS. If the goal was simply to get a hit I would agree with you. But that’s where you miss. That’s not the goal. The goal is to reach base safely. The “other man” doesn’t have to hit the ball. The pitcher needs to throw the ball in a few-square-feet zone, and if he doesn’t, he loses the at-bat (a loss being the batter safely reaching first, a win being the better makes out). The hitter just has to stand there. He doesn’t have to do anything. If the pitcher doesn’t throw strikes, the batter walks without doing anything. The Eddie Gaedel effect. If both guys just kept throwing and swinging until a batter either struck out or hit the ball, again, I would agree with you. In fact, a batter’s chance for success drops the minute he takes the bat off his shoulder. But as it is, for him to “win” an at-bat, he has to succeed a number of times by throwing strikes. A hitter can “win” an at-bat by succeeding or by the pitcher failing. And the pitcher’s position weakens, as I said, with every pitch his throws, while the hitter’s improves.
Have a fun weekend, guys. It’s time.
So what do you do on a night when the Yankees get rained out? Depends. Tonight I sat down to watch TV with the missus. Always unusual for me during baseball season, but it was only a month ago I was doing this every night, so I still was sort of up to speed on the shows the Missus watches.
I got back from DC in the late afternoon/early evening, and in the cab on the way back from LaGuardia it had already started. More than a drizzle, but not quite full-blown rain. The cabbie had the radio tuned to 880 AM, and they didn’t seem to think they were going to get the game in. By the time I got to Brooklyn there was an e-mail on my blackberry from Yankees.com that the game had been postponed. Not sure how I started getting those really. I think our man on the inside Seannie had something to do with it. So that changed my whole night. I quickly switched gears. The missus made spaghetti, with brick-oven bread from Paneantico on Third Avenue. Things slowed down. I wasn’t wondering what mind-boggling debacle was befalling the Yankees as I was throwing a few extra red pepper flakes onto the missus’ sauce. Spaghetti is, after all, a slam dunk for the missus. Always one of my favorites, but me – the Irish kid – I grew up eating sauce strictly out of a jar. So I’m not exactly a connoisseur. It all tastes good to me.
So what was the missus gearing up to watch on TV? What else? “Idol Gives Back,” the American Idol version of a telethon. A good cause and a noble endeavor, but there’s something about Madonna lecturing me about anything that inevitably turns me off. And someone needs to recognize that Simon Cowell, as brilliant as he is at being a d*ck to the contestants (because he’s the only one who says exactly what he thinks, regardless of the mood of the crowd), is woefully miscast when it comes to being compassionate. He was the guy, on the trip to Africa with Ryan Seacrest, who mostly just walked around grumbling the word “appalling.” The show was up and down. Jack Black was hilarious, but the scripted judges’ response to him was so hard to watch that I wanted to slam the “off” button on the cable box. I also thought Earth, Wind, and Fire hit it pretty hard. I’m not a huge fan or anything; I probably only know the songs that everybody else knows. But they ripped down a medley of Boogie Wonderland, Shining Star, and September with old-school flair. Everybody else could have used a little more bounce. The other thing I liked about the show was Philippi Sparks’ face when he thought his kid was going to get voted off. The former Giants D-Back looked like he was ready to bum-rush the stage.
Yup. This is what it comes down to on rainy nights in April. But the BPS was a-spark with chatter all day. The comments this year have been consistent, well-thought out, provocative and informative. All-around spectacular job by all. Most of the BPS crew knows that when the comments dip into the single digits I’m like a diabetic whose blood sugar is dropping. Except more p*ssed….
Happymeds, for those of you that haven’t noticed, is the resident commandant (a role created by Mike Sherry, who will still fire away when he feels like posting a comment). He’s been with us since the first year, and he deals swiftly with interlopers. Especially ones who don’t have particularly good points. If “Idol Gives Back” only had a nickel for all of the Red Sox fans who have jumped in here in April and May and said that the Yankees were finally going to lose the division because their pitching wasn’t good enough….But Mark Roderick, you’re a military man, so maybe Happymeds will go easy on you.
Myp, myp, myp. I like the fact that you look at the world through White (sox) colored glasses, but your point today wasn’t your best. I’m going to give you a homework assignment. Go back fifteen years and tell me how many World Series Champions led the league in ERA or fewest runs allowed. Then come back and tell me how many World Champs led the league in runs scored. And just for kicks, tell me how many led the league in defense. But that one is just for kicks. Dude, I don’t generally rely on conjecture. I generally believe the numbers. The numbers do not bear out that “pitching and defense” wins championships at all. Not even a little bit. If you don’t want to use the numbers, if you’d rather use common sense, then do that. What team had the best pitching throughout the 90’s? Certainly wasn’t the Yankees. Most would say Atlanta. The numbers would probably bear that out. And how about those Hudson/Mulder/Zito A’s teams? What did those teams win? But better yet, let’s stick with your example of 2000. The White Sox led the league in runs scored. True. So who did they get swept by? The Mariners. That lights-out, pitching juggernaut that featured those pitching legends Aaron Sele, John Halama, Paul Abbot, Jamie Moyer, and Freddie Garcia. Dude, they got beat by bats. And frankly, bats that were way better than the White Sox, a point which was borne out in spades the following season. So what of the rest of the playoffs? Let’s see, who won that year….hmmm, I’m drawing a blank….ah yes, the Yanks. So who did they beat? The A’s, the Mariners, and the Mets. The jeopardy question to that answer would be; who are three teams that allowed fewer runs and had an ERA anywhere from twenty to sixty points lower than the eventual champs? And that theme is pretty consistent across the Yanks’ run. Some may point to 2001, but that doesn’t work either. As we have pointed out, when Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling left the mound for the final time in 2001, their World Series pitching finished, their team was losing in the ninth inning of the seventh game. It took the hitters to bail them out. But don’t take my word for all of this. Go see for yourself. A little homework never hurt anybody…
If you think about it, there are reasons why good pitching will not, as a rule, beat good hitting. The Yankees in their heyday are the world’s best example. The basis is simple. You don’t look at Derek Jeter at bat in the ninth inning and say, “Man, he’s getting tired doing all of that hitting. He’s lucky he can hold the bat up.” The pitchers are at a distinct disadvantage in the course of a ballgame because they get weaker with every pitch, whereas the batters get stronger, as they see more of the pitcher’s repertoire and begin to time him. Part of good hitting, as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels have proved so well, is being selective and going deep into counts. Exploiting the natural disadvantage that the pitchers suffer. Pedro Martinez is probably the greatest pitcher of this generation. But the most telling stat is the one that tells you that Pedro’s teams are at about a .400 winning percentage against the Yankees in games he pitches. His record against them is right around .500, but in the games he pitches, he’s gone with a no-decision by the sixth, because the Yankees bleed him to death. And then the pitching has to start all-over again, and who knows what any reliever is going to give you on any given day? The hitters are the same, and they’re not going to change (unless you yank them for pinch-runners, but I won’t do that right now). You’ve got to slog your way through the line-up inning after inning. I know. Old habits die hard. There are a lot of ******* out there who are going to continue to believe something just become someone has been telling you the same BS your whole life…
Mannino, thanks for the story. I think that guy posted here a while ago, asking for help trying to sell his book. Which I have objection to, I’m just not good at following up on stuff like that. By the way, Mannino is one of our original commenter’s, who also happens to be…..a girl…..
So. Phil Hughes. Do I like it? Not really. Do I feel strongly about it? Not really. Is it intriguing? Yes. Let’s hope this works…
I shook my head. The Yankees had just taken a lead in the game. Now it was the Yankee offense and bullpen against the Devil Ray offense and bullpen. Once again, the Yankees had faced down the starter, and now had the advantage. I don’t care how bad the bullpen had been, or how many balls just kept finding holes. You put the Devil Ray bullpen & offense against the Yankees, and spot the Yankees a one run lead with just three innings to play, I have to believe we are finally going to get one. Cue the music. A sad, old-school saloon song, perhaps, or maybe one of those upbeat silly songs, the kind they play for blooper reels. Not sure which is appropriate. Because, like clockwork, things were progressing downward. Many of us have made the remark, and Tony Sherry reiterated it yesterday when he called me about Allie’s second bomb, that the hallmark of this skid is the immediate cave-in. Every time the Yankees have battled back to tie or take a lead, the other team gets the runs back the very next half-inning, often before the first out is recorded. I really don’t know how to explain it. So here we were again. The Yankees battle back, take the lead, get a few breaks (finally), and are stuck with second and third with one out. I texted Acc, “Why do they keep putting in Vizcaino in the big spots? He’s a disaster.” Immediately my phone rang. Acc. “Dude, please don’t tell me we blew the lead. I just walked out of the house for two seconds. We just took the lead!” “Dude,” I said, “That’s what’s so maddening about this team. This is what they do.” “So what happened?” he asked. “Nothing yet. But they’ve got second and third with one out. And your boy Vizcaino is about to walk this guy.” I started doing an over-the-phone play-by-play. “OH! Harris just smashed the ball, but it was right at Cairo. That’s our break, dude! This is the cr*p that was happening to us for the last four games. We finally got one. Two outs.” Acc was a little relieved. “Okay, dude, here’s the rules. Text me if they get out of it, but don’t do anything if it turns weird here, because then it’s just pain.” I said, “Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll text you if they give up no runs or one run. Because even if we give up one run, I have to believe we’ll win this game.” He agreed. So in came Myers with two outs. Cue the theme from Halloween. Two-two count to Crawford. Goodnight. The funny thing was – it was a great pitch. Just like the two home runs Lowell hit in Boston and the line drive home run Upton hit yesterday. They were great pitches. When you see it again, you think – how did that guy get around on that? But he did. This pitch to Crawford was a beautiful low slider, starting way inside and skimming the strike zone. He literally swung one-handed at the thing, the most defensive looking swing you’ve ever seen. You can only stand there and wonder.
Acc called me five minutes later. “I’m changing the rules, dude. I need to know what happened. And don’t you dare tell me he hit a grand slam with two f-ing outs.” I knew he wouldn’t be able to sit tight with no text, knowing something bad happened. But I had to be the bearer of yet more bad news. “That’s exactly what he did. I wish I was kidding around, but I’m not,” I said, correctly anticipating his next question. Acc started laughing. The evil laugh. The it’s-been-so-bad-that-I-guessed-the-worst-thing-because-the-worst-thing-has-happened-so-many-times-already-that-it-can’t-possibly-have-happened-again laugh. And as laughs go, that’s not the one that they’re talking about when they say that laughter is the best medicine.
So now Jeter’s dinged up. And Posada and Damon are playing at probably a fraction of 100%. But at least they’re in there. Tony Sherry’s favorite player, the Ferocious Lion, came back with a bomb today. And a RBI base hit. The BPS haughtily declared that there was no way he would be back so soon with a hammy. Again, shows you what we know. Tampa Bay, by the way, is hitting .274 as a team, second in the AL, incidentally, right behind the Yankees. But against the Yankees they are hitting .333. Fascinating…
And tomorrow, for the first time in a while, the Yankees will not be facing one of the top pitchers on the opposing team’s staff. Boston sent out their three best and Tampa sent out their two best. We haven’t seen a four or five starter since Cleveland… Hopefully the bullpen doesn’t cost Pettitte another win tomorrow.
As I type this, I hope the Yankees are airborne and out of Tampa, and away from Boston and safely on their way to New York, New York. Not much of a trip, I think it’s fair to say. Last place. Nowhere to go but up.
The tradition of baseball has, from time to time in its storied past, captured the imagination of the poets and artists. Somewhat unique among professional sports, at least in this country. I am sure I am wildly overstepping my bounds here, but I don’t know that there are reams of verse describing English cricket players or footballers. Maybe there are. But it’s unique here.
So one of the simpler alliterative phrases that caught on in the last century described the relationship of two star pitchers and their team’s chance for success. The old Milwaukee Braves teams of the 50’s were the inspiration. The phrase was known to Braves fans everywhere: Spahn, then Sain, then pray for rain….
Simple, clever, yet it tells you all you need to know. It has spawned successors in later years. I can remember the Texas Rangers teams of the late 90’s saying: Sele, Helling, then take the shelling (I know what you’re thinking – if Aaron Sele and Rick Helling were the two guys before the shelling, that’s got to be one h*ll of a pounding). Or the 2001 Diamondbacks with a bit of a rip-off: Johnson, Schilling, then take the shelling. Too bad this current, banged-up version of the Yankees staff doesn’t have a second guy after Pettitte who can pitch so we could make one of those clever verses… Preferably one whose name rhymes with b*tch-slapping…
But that isn’t my reason for bringing up Johnny Sain, who was later known as one of the very best pitching coaches in the majors. Former Yankee broadcaster Jim Kaat used to tell a great story about one of Sain’s techniques, and regular readers of the BPS know that I trot this thing out on occasion, particularly when I’m about to remind everyone that the Law of Averages is the great equalizer, and that in a 162-game season the best teams will rise to the top. Sain would, as Kaat told it, take all of his pitchers out every so often to watch batting practice. They wouldn’t pitch, just watch. Some would actually stand behind the BP pitcher in back of the net. Some would stand right behind the batting cage. The point was this: these pitches were coming in at medium speed, fat-as anything, right down the middle. And the exercise was for the pitchers to take note of where the balls were being hit. Some were smoked, but many more were ground balls, foul balls, pop flies, etc. Sain was reminding his pitchers that hitting a baseball is one of the hardest things to do in sports. Even if you know what’s coming, and there’s no movement on it at all, there is no guarantee that it’s going to go where you want to hit it.
And my point in relaying this story is also a gentle reminder. I understand the Yankee starters have been awful. You can kill the bullpen, and they certainly have not been lights-out, but if you have watched the last four games, I think a more logical conclusion is that the Yankees are just having a bad week. To further Johnny Sain’s point, if you have ever watched the home-run derby, which I happen to think is one of the most boring things going, you will notice that it’s rare that somebody hits four consecutive home runs. And that’s the best home run hitters in the game, with their own guys throwing to them. It’s just very difficult. So there is a lot of bad luck (or good luck, Raoul) that has gone into this. I was on the phone with Acc watching part of this game tonight, and we were both shaking our heads. The D-Rays get a home run on a line drive that skimmed the outside of the 315 ft. foul pole, and then get what turned out to be the winning runs on a three-run double down the foul line that was fair by a foot. The Yankees, with two on and none out in the eighth, and later with bases loaded and one out that same inning, popped up two foul balls that hung on just enough that the third baseman was able to reach into the stands and make the put-out. Those are the breaks, guys. Sometimes they go against you. Balls are getting hit against us, and they are all finding holes. We’re losing all of these close games that could easily have turned on one play here or there. And they will even out. I said it two years ago (it was the reason for starting this blog, actually, as I was contending that the key indicators showed that the Yankees would break out of the throes of that 11-19 start), and I said it last year. The Law of Averages tells you that things will revert to the mean over the course of a 162-game season. Anyone want to guess what team has scored the most runs in the major leagues so far this year? The Yankees. I just spent about five minutes bouncing through the mlb.com statistical archives, and for the last seven years (probably more, but I didn’t feel like going back any further), the team that had scored the most runs in the major leagues has made the playoffs every single year, and twice won the World Series. Yet another rebuke for the silliest myth in professional baseball, that “pitching and defense win championships.” Sounds good, but the numbers don’t bear it out, and have never borne it out. The team with the best EREA has not ever won the WS in the last seven years, and twice hasn’t even made the playoffs. And the team with the best fielding percentage tells you nothing. Only two of those have even made the playoffs.
So what do we know? Only what we’ve known all along. The Yankees are good. You score eight runs in a game with thirteen hits, and you will win almost every time, regardless of who you throw out there. Tonight was just not our night. You average over six runs a game for four games, and you will win three out of four more often than not. Sometimes you will get an unusual bunching of the losses. It will even out. You want to argue and scream that it’s the bullpen and the lack of depth at starter, go ahead. I’m not saying they don’t have an issue at the back-end of the rotation. I’ve been saying since spring training that I didn’t think Igawa was going to make it very far here. But that’s not the big picture. Everybody wants to point to a reason why the Yankees will fail. I heard the same in April the last two years. And at the end of the season the Law of Averages won out. Again. The Yankees are a very good team. Their offense has proven itself to be elite, and when the starters get healthier, the wins will come.
Welcome to the some of the new crew, tswechtenberg Mike, no.1yankfan, and welcome back to saif. Good to see you making your first appearance of ‘07. And Umair. I was beginning to worry that you joined the foreign legion, dude.
Myp, thanks for the comment as always – just as a point of clarification, I wasn’t trying to insinuate that everybody was biased against the Yankees, just that everyone who is “into” the rivalry is either a Yankee or Red Sox fan. I was looking for somebody with a totally objective viewpoint, one who could opine on which points were valid and which weren’t with a truly un-biased eye. And to your point, even people who don’t root for either might hate one or the other more.
Last thing on the New York fans and the Allie-booing fiasco. First of all, I’ll say it again; it’s a shame he has to be doing all of this while the Yankees are losing. If the Yankees were winning these games we would be talking about him instead of the bullpen or whatever else…. But this booing thing. I agree with Jason’s description. I go to a lot of games. I have been there, I have witnessed the booing, I have seen the fans at all stages. As the BPS repeatedly pointed out last year, did anyone notice the thing that was conspicuously absent from the endless media droning about Allie getting booed at Yankee Stadium? There was no smoking gun. Nowhere did you see a clip of fans booing loudly in unison at Allie. Do you know why? For all of the chatter, do you think that they didn’t look? It’s because there weren’t any such striking moments. I was there. Guys, there were boos, yes, but always a smattering, and always relatively quickly drowned out by people cheering them down. And there were definitely Yankee fans booing, but there were also tons of non-Yankee fans booing with mischievous smiles on their faces, knowing they were perpetuation a story. I was there when they booed Jeter, Giambi, Allie; I’ve been at Shea when they booed Piazza and Al Leiter. It happens. Fans are passionate. But get the story right. And another thing. What makes a worse fan, a guy who shows up and wears his heart on his sleeve, or a guy who doesn’t show up at all? You want to kill New York fans? Yankee Stadium is 45-50,000 deep every game. Best around. Say what you want about them. They show up.
I know this is asking a lot, but I wonder if there is anyone out there who follows the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry without having any stake in it. Not just the Fox game or the ESPN Sunday night game; I’m talking about watching all of the games for pure love of the best rivalry out there. Watch the teams, knowing the lineups, keeping up with the media on both sides, all of it. My guess is no. Maybe I’m wrong. But I guess you wouldn’t waste all of that time without giving a crud one way or another. Certainly it isn’t the national broadcasting teams. Buck and McCarver did a better job than Morgan and Miller tonight, but both broadcasting teams were severely lacking in general knowledge about both sides. So they wouldn’t be included in that category of someone who follows the rivalry closely. So I’m not sure if there would be anyone.
The reason I ask is that sometimes you would love to get a truly objective opinion of the way a series played out, without it being colored one way or another by someone with a rooting interest. Because it would help to point out where assumptions are exaggerated or validated. You can take everything I say and blow it out of the water because I’m a Yankee fan, if you want. I won’t argue. We at the BPS truly try and bend over backwards to look at things objectively, but the truth is the truth. We’re rooting for the Yankees. So more often than not we’ll come out on that side of the tracks.
So all that said, here’s what I thought. The Red Sox came into this series all set up. They were on a roll, they were in first place, they were 100% healthy, they were starting their three best pitchers, and they were at home. Further to that, the Yankees came in banged up. They were hitting the ball well, but the injuries were piling up. No Ferocious Lion, no Wang, no Mussina, no Pavano. Then, after the fourth inning of the first game, no Posada, and for the second game, no Damon, and a banged up Damon for the third game. Now let’s be fair. Who knows what Pavano gives you. He’s not exactly a tough guy out there, regardless of who he’s playing. But regardless, you would feel better with him than two kids who had eight starts in the majors between them. So things weren’t looking good from before the plane even landed. The interesting thing is that, based on all this, I would argue that the pressure was actually squarely on the Red Sox for this series. They knew that the big knock on them last year was that they couldn’t take advantage of the Yankees’ injuries, and if they didn’t sweep this thing, many people would still be accusing them of not being able to take advantage. And sweeping any team, let alone the Yankees, is hard enough. So they had a tough task. The Yankees were realistically only looking for one win here, and would probably have considered it a victory were they to get it. So what did the Red Sox do? They won the games. All three. And showed some intestinal fortitude along the way. They did what they needed to do.
But here’s the bad news. And this is where I get to my guy-who-watches-without-an-angle question. If you watched these games, and you know what both teams were trying to accomplish, the Red Sox didn’t at all make the statement they were hoping to make. The big story, supposedly, was pitching vs. hitting. The BPS scoffed at that, and we were proven correct (don’t read into that, as we readily acknowledge that we get it wrong just as often as right – but this time we nailed it). This series was all about hitting. The Red Sox had a tremendous stake in their starters making a good showing. The Red Sox know they need Schilling to return to form, they need Beckett to not be the guy he was in the second half last year, and they need Dice to not be a great big, fat, wildly overrated waste of money. It had been so far, so good with all three of them. They all came in sporting gaudy numbers, although Dice had a losing record. They were trying to convince themselves that they could ride a wave of dominating starting pitching this year, and there is no better way to truly find out what they’re made of than throwing them out there against the Yankees. So how did they do? Guys, there is only one way to say it. Not good. Schilling – five runs in seven innings. Beckett – five runs in 6 2/3 innings, and Dice – six runs in seven innings. I’ll say it again; those are not good outings, no matter how you slice it. And it was made worse by the fact that these Yankee lineups featured Wil Nieves, who hasn’t had a hit in the major leagues since 2002, Melky Cabrera, whose sophomore slump has taken his BA below .200, and Dougie, who is squarely under .200 with no relief in sight. On Saturday it also included Kevin Thompson, who is a triple-a player at best, and only on the squad because of the injuries. Only one of these four players would be featured in the regular Yankee line-up, Dougie, and I have a feeling he isn’t going to make it through the season. How many times in this series did the Yankees have something going, smacking the ball, scoring runs, or even just putting men on base, only to see it fall away because the next guy(s) up had no business being in the lineup? How many times did the Red Sox pitchers get bailed out because the Yankee lineup was half-castrated? I can’t even count. And even Private Pyle-pelbon looked shaky, needing forty pitches in two days to close these games, walking two, getting to three-ball counts on four batters, and giving up a smash to Bobby Abreu that didn’t tie the game only because it went to the deepest part of the park. Not exactly lights out.
And even with all of that, the Red Sox outscored the Yanks by a total of just four runs in the series, winning by the thinnest of margins, always needing to come back and always with the tying Yankee run on base or at the plate when the game ended. And further to that, it took a miracle on Friday and a spectacular but also very lucky play at second by Pedroia in the eighth tonight to keep the win. I won’t dwell on the umpiring, but Sam Holbrook had an awful day behind the plate. The ESPN k-zone showed him way off on a bunch of gifts to Dice. Can’t help but wonder if he got caught up in the hometown crowd and the Dice hype…. I’m okay with Wright, Bean, and Henn getting squeezed, as they are rookies, but Dice is a rookie too, Sam. Don’t hand it to him. Make him earn it like everybody else.
What does all this mean? It means that if you have watched these teams play each other the last few years, you know that in 18 games, the breaks will even themselves out. Dominating performances and a more talented team are one thing. This four-run-total-differential series showed we don’t have that, at least not from the Sox side. We haven’t seen the real Yankee team yet. But I doubt they’re that dominating either. But forget the injuries for a minute. I’m just talking about these games and exactly what needed to happen for the Sox to take all three. It’s these kinds of games will even themselves out. You’re not going to get Mo for four runs again. Maybe a run or two here and there, but you’re not getting another four run comeback on two grounders and two bloops. You’re just not. That was your one. And there will be a game, I can say with certainty, when not Pedroia, but Cano, or whoever, is going to make a play that saves the tying run from scoring, just because he was in the right place. And those two ground balls on Friday night will find a glove, those two bloops will not come when guys are altering where they set-up because of men on base due to a previous seeing-eye grounder. There will come a game when JD Drew hits a pop-up to left and it’s caught for an out because there is no green monster, instead of dinking off the wall and ending up as the middle run of a three-run blast in a one-run game. He’s also not going to come in hitting 80 points above his lifetime average. This is eerily familiar, boys. How often have we seen the Red Sox use their possession arrow up in April? Same story, different year.
But fair is fair. They won the games. Are the Yankees going to sweep next weekend in the Bronx? No. Are they going to win two of three? Maybe, maybe not. But this was an aberration. And they way these two teams play each other, you don’t want to use up three of your could-have-gone-either-way wins this early, because chances are things will be tight when they meet in September.
That’s it on that. On to Tampa…
Well, I thought that went pretty well, no? Whew. I just got back from Tony Sherry’s house in Staten Island, where I watched the game. Regulars BPS folk know that I very rarely post on weekends, unless something truly off the map goes down. So here I am.
Well, the BPS declared that this was the best game of the series on paper, and it will be tough to top, if you’re an agnostic baseball fan. It would be tough not to top, if you’re a Yankee fan. On a broad level, the Yankees are going to have a very difficult time winning one of these next two games. Posada left the game with a bruised thumb, which ended up looming oh-so large. And he’ll probably sit at least tomorrow. So by the end of this game, we had a lineup out there that was missing Posada, Giambi, and the Ferocious Lion. And tomorrow we’ll start with Jeff Karstens. You almost have to laugh. The Red Sox last year couldn’t take advantage of the many Yankee injuries. So this is their big shot.
But here’s where the news wasn’t all bad. First of all, the Red Sox had taken some joy in having a bit of a mental finger in Allie’s eye. Those games seemed to bring out the worst in everything that was troubling him last year. So much so that at one point last year Big HGH was trying to help Allie settle himself a bit when looked like he was about to hyperventilate. So he ripped the cover off of that. And Schilling was good, but he got beat. He got bailed out, but he got beat. Pettitte, God bless him, was as advertised. Talk about a bulldog. Dude, go get your Zito’s and your Chris Carpenter’s and your Jake Peavy’s and you know what else? You can have your Johan Santana’s. I’ll take Pettitte in a huge game any day. And he won the battle tonight.
The other part of this is that it was the Lemony Snicket game. An unfortunate series of events. You want to kill the Yankees’ bullpen? Kill away. But it’s not like they gave up smash after smash. Far from it. You want to kill Rivera? Go ahead. But look at the at-bats. Ortiz first. Clean double. Then Manny walked. Then Drew grounded out. So in comes Mo. First batter, Lowell. Seeing-eye soft grounder between third and short. Next batter, Varitek. Bloops a ball in front of Abreu, as Abreu was playing deep to avoid a ball going over his head. Next batter, Crisp. For some reason, Doug M, who is supposed to be a good first baseman, was playing him way off the bag at first. One day someone will explain to me how and why in that situation he wasn’t guarding the line against exactly what happened. If he’s where he should be, it’s two outs, first and third with Alex Cora up (Lucky, agreed with your comment, but I don’t think they turn two with Crisp running, although it was hit hard). And then a silly bloop that would have been the easiest catch my sister ever made, but Jeter was playing in. So that was it. So what did you have? You had a seeing-eye single, a bloop that fell in because they decided to play Abreu deep, a triple that avoided being an out because Doug M. had chosen to play off the bag, and a bloop that fell in because they decided to move Jeter in. Sh*t happens. It’s not like Mo got rocked. It just fell in place perfectly. This is the mistake that people make with Mo. That’s what batters’ do against Mo. They bloop balls. Usually it doesn’t work out. Every once in a while you see something funky. Although that Scutaro shot I will never understand.
The other piece of this, of course, is that once again Torre fell into the trap with Giambi. You can’t help Posada being taken out, but boy, did we feel that hole in the lineup with Giambi getting yanked for a pinch runner. I’m going to try to keep a running count of how many times it succeeds and how many times it fails. So let me clarify the criteria. A “should” includes only when pinch running for him works, i.e. scores a run that Giambi himself would not have also scored, and the game is won without needing Giambi’s spot in the order later on. A “shouldn’t,” includes every time the runner doesn’t score and Giambi’s spot comes up again with the game still undecided. It also includes any time Giambi is not pinch-run for, and he succeeds with his spot in the order later on, e.g. the second game in Oakland. The tally so far this season? Shouldn’t – 4, Should – 0. The four were the second game against Tampa Bay (pinch-runner didn’t score and Giambi’s spot came up later with the game on the line), the first game in Oakland (ditto), the second game in Oakland (they did not pinch run for him, and he hit the game-winning jack in extra innings), and tonight (pinch runner didn’t score, and his spot came up with the game on the line later on). If I was more tech-savvy I would perpetually keep the tally on the side of the blog… But back to the issue; is Joe Torre ever going to figure out that pinch-running for a batter like Giambi is a huge ******-bet? Looks like a good idea; isn’t.
And what a shame to waste those headline moments from Allie. I have no words for this kid right now….
But guys, what did you expect? This is what you get from the Red Sox. Haven’t all of you learned this by now? They always do this. They always break your heart. They always find a way. They always get you in the end. They always beat you………in April.
You have to be kidding, I thought to myself as I crossed in front of the Liberty Island ferry dock at Battery Park. I went out for a walk at lunch, which I often do, trying to get a little exercise. I waited until about 2pm, knowing the game was on. And here I was, listening to a 1-1 game as Melky stroked a base-hit in the fourth, and the batteries on my radio headphones died. I couldn’t understand it. I had just put those things in for Opening Day. Alas, I knew the problem was that the thing had been jostling around in my briefcase since then, so I’m sure it had accidentally turned itself on and off a thousand times. So now it was dead. The thing is ancient, and in this instance that was good news. I was able to stroll into a deli on Water Street and purchase two triple-a’s to get myself back in business. As I continued along, the Yanks poked and plodded away, but by the time I had to get back to the office the game was still tied. When I got back I put the gamecast up on my screen and kept one eye on the goings-on as I went about my day. Finally things got to be weird. It was 6-2 in the top of the ninth. You know what, I thought. Let it go. You don’t need to hang on every pitch of a game that you’re not supposed to win and hang on to the hope that there will be a miracle ending. Which is what I usually do. And what I definitely would have done if I was at home watching.
So that’s why, when Mikey Juice’s number popped up about twenty-five minutes later, I had no idea why he was calling. I figured it was more fallout from “it.” But I was wrong. “Please tell me you’re either in front of a TV or have access to one,” he said. “I am not, and I don’t,” I replied, although I nervously started to get my hopes up. “But you better not be doing it to me right now. If you’re even thinking about telling me what you could be calling me to tell me, I will slam this phone down right now, because I’m not ready for the things that might happen.” He continued. “So you don’t about the situation.” “I’m telling you, dude, don’t do it. Because I know for a fact it’s impossible. It could not have happened.” “Really?” he asked before he dropped the kicker, “He did it.” Now this meant one of exactly two things. The first was that Mikey Rumble had just won a provolone eat-off. But I knew that if that were it, Mikey Juice would most definitely have worked the word ‘disgusting’ into his opener. The second… well, gentlemen, we know what the second thing is. It is, of course, that he did it…. As I’m talking to Juice, the other line lights up. Big Joe. E-mail comes in. Vino. Text message comes in. Joey Puma. And so on and so on…
I definitely do not know where to start. Talk about a guy who deserved this. Talk about a guy who could feel his eyes blinking last year, he was so uncomfortable. Vindication, validation, and last but not least, victory. The kid has more homers than the rest of the team combined. Well deserved, Allie. Well deserved…
So I guess the disproportionate price I talked about last Sunday was made whole today. This team is not afraid to put you on a roller coaster. The fight that you need to show to come back from a four run deficit with two outs and nobody on is off the charts. This could be a tough team. I think we would all probably agree that the toughness level in the team grew last year after the injuries to Sheffield, Matsui, et al. It could very well be said for this year also. Let’s hope they can ride this wave for a while.
So on to Boston. I don’t buy into the pitching vs. hitting idea. I think for this series it’s more about whether the Yankees can hang in there with one starter and steal a win or two. The Red Sox can hit better than almost anybody, but frankly, their pitching continues to be suspect. They’re in a groove right now, but I don’t believe that the Red Sox starters are elite. Schilling pitched well last year, but a closer look shows that he pitched astronomically better against sub-.500 teams. He did pitch well against the Yankees, with a 2-1 record and averaging 7 innings per start. But he had an ERA close to 4.50 against them. And Beckett, who has proven that he isn’t a winner and doesn’t play with mental toughness, was a disaster against the Yankees, with an ERA over 9. Started okay, but if you recall, in his first start against the Yankees, the one that gave everyone such high hopes, he had a seven-run lead by the third inning. It’s a lot easier to pitch with no stress. Just ask Chase Wright. And Dice is just another rookie pitcher with phenomenal stuff, a guy who may have a major-league make-up and may not. There were a few guys who were always known for unbelievable stuff who could never really put it together to be an elite major league pitcher. Kenny Rogers comes to mind as that guy. Always had the best stuff on the staff. But he was a notorious big-game zero. No major-league fortitude. Unless you want to count a few fortuitous pine-tar assisted games last October. You could argue Hideki Irabu was another. Point is, the fact that you have good stuff is just one component to being a great pitcher. Until Dice proves he can win in the major leagues, he’s just another rookie with good stuff…..and a losing record.
Phenomenal work on the comments, boys. High double-digits every day. Not sure what the record is, Reid. I’ll have to check. I had forty-something at one point, but that was one of those off-season jobs that sat there for months… Can’t count that, of course. Juice, I like your Red Sox idea for humiliation, but since I’ll probably be sitting next to him (as will you); I don’t want to get beer dumped on me all night… So I think Happymeds’ idea of the taser might get my vote.
Well, let’s get it going. Tomorrow night is the best game of the series on paper. We’ll see….
I walked in the door a little before eight. I pulled my cellphone out of my briefcase, turned it on, and put it on the table. The missus was putting the chicken-orzo frittata on the table. Before I made it halfway to the blue room to change my clothes, my phone started chirping and beeping, telling me that I had both voicemail and text messages waiting. I glanced at the clock. Probably good news, I thought. Juice was in section 24 tonight, so he might be giving me updates. I changed my clothes and came back out to the living room. I flipped on the TV to check the score as I began to check my voicemail. YES told me the score was 3-2 Yanks, and they were threatening. Just before I heard the first message, a base hit by Cano made it 4-2. First message, Mikey Juice. There was a problem. Juice had this mix of fury and anxiety in his voice. Not a good combination. Still, I held out hope that somehow he was either kidding or possibly juicing the situation. Next message, Tony Sherry: “We have a disaster on our hands…,” he started. Uh oh. That means Juice wasn’t kidding around. He was going to be a ball of fire. Next message, Mike Sherry, who was with Tony watching the game in Staten Island: “Dude, Juice right now is in his car with his family and on his way home….” Oh man. Tony was right. This was a true-life disaster. What could possibly have happened? Well, let’s leave it at this. We learned something tonight. If you e-mail tickets from your season-ticket package to somebody, make sure you e-mail them the right game. Because if you blow it and e-mail that night’s tickets accidentally (I won’t name names here, but something tells me Juice will call him out on the comments), it voids the paper tickets automatically, and the guy with that night’s paper tickets will show up at the Stadium and be accosted by security for trying to use “fraudulent” tickets. In front of his family. And then have to turn around and go home. With his family.
So needless to say, things got weird. For me, everything tends to be less stressful when the Yankees are beating teams senseless. That’s when all is right in the world. I showed up at Three Lounge on Forest Ave in Staten Island to meet the Sherry brothers around 9:30. Juice called me as I was walking in. “It’s amazing how much better food makes you feel. It really truly helps.” He sounded better. “Glad to hear it bro.” A few minutes later, as I was watching the highlights of Allie Boy’s rip, I got a text message from the missus. “Sanjaya’s in the bottom three.” Then another one a few minutes later. “He’s out, and he’s crying hysterically.” I knew Tony would be psyched. I showed him the phone. “Sanjaya’s out?!” he said excitedly. Then he kind of yelled it out to the bar. They all looked at him with a curious expression, not sure what he was talking about. “It is my secret favorite show,” he said firmly.
But let’s not stray too far here. John Sterling described Igawa’s performance as “masterful.” I don’t know if that’s the right word based on his line score, but I didn’t see a lot of the game, so I’ll leave it to you guys to comment on how you thought he did. Similar to Chase Wright last night, anyway. Keep the ball down, go six, don’t walk a lot of guys and let bullpen work its magic. It’s amazing how many options we have out there in the pen. And that’s good, because we don’t have a lot in the rotation. Speaking of which, apparently Boston is throwing its best at us this weekend. Schilling, Beckett, and Dice. The Yankees are set up with Pettitte, Karstens and Chase Wright. Not good on paper….
But the story is the offense. Everybody is getting into the action. Almost everybody. You’re right, Nick. The Melk-man needs to chill with his boy Cano so some of his offense can rub off on him. And Dougie is….well, not going to hit anytime soon. I know he hit a bomb yesterday, but he’s going to be flirting with under-.200 for most of his time here, I’m afraid. Allie has got this team firmly on his shoulders, and he’s crushing. The offense and the bullpen. Deep, baby…
That’s it for tonight, boys. The Sherry brothers dragged me out to the diner late-night, so I’m feeling pretty weighed down. Day game tomorrow, so work is looking like it’s going to be pretty productive (!). Still not going to get out of the 40’s here in NYC though. Good luck to anybody heading out there. Go get ‘em Darrell.