I truly don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I literally walked in the door and flipped on the game two seconds before Johnny Damon’s base hit gave us a 4-2 lead in the seventh. Seconds later, I flipped off the TV and walked down to Sofia’s on Third Avenue with the missus. Opened with the mozzarella and prosciutto in a fig leaf wrap, and followed with the Capellini ala Sofia’s, which is nuts. All the while content in my vision of the game. Once again, the ultimate ****** was convinced that this win was in the bag. I really am a spectacle. Am I just a glutton for punishment? Am I just incomprehensibly delusional? What’s my deal? I truly believed this game was as good as over. And not only that, I was actually dreaming up some elaborate scenario in which the Yankees were pounding out tack-on run after tack-on run as we were passing the mob in front of Cebu on our way down to 85th Street. This is why I can’t be trusted. This is new territory for me. I guess, as Geto Boyz once said, “My mind playin’ tricks on me….”
Now, what I’m talking about is the Yankees, again, puking this lead up in the very next half-inning. Good thing I missed it. There would have been a 30-inch LCD falling three stories through the Brooklyn night. So then down 6-4, they needed to score at least three runs in to win this game, and it was already going to be the eighth inning by the time they got up again. Why not? Why would that be a problem? So what if except for a magical 14 inning vacation in San Fran, the Yankees had only scored ten runs in the equivalent of their last seven games…
So I have to confess. I don’t know the rule here. At first, I’m looking at this and I’m thinking that this is just the ultimate thing that could happen to this team. I’m thinking that in a game suspended by rain, the game is called, with the last full inning counting as the last inning. Thus, when the Yankees put four on the board in the top of the eighth, I thought those things come right back off and this game is over, Yankees lose. I used to think that the game just ended when they called it. That as long as you’re past the top (if the home team is winning) or bottom of the fifth (if the away team is winning), the game is official, and as soon as they call it – it’s over, regardless of how weird the situation is. And right now, I really don’t know. I keep checking the Yankees website, but they’re not saying anything. Bad job by them, I have to say. They changed it from “delayed” to suspended,” so somebody must be awake at the switch. Somebody’s pushing the buttons. So why wouldn’t they, as soon as they told you it was suspended, tell you what that means? Maybe everyone in the world knows but me. That’s possible. Do they suspend it and finish it up some other time? That’s kind of weird. Not that anyone cares about these two teams or this game, but what if this game mattered? You would just have to sit around until the next time we’re in Baltimore and hope that we can hold a two run lead in the eighth? And some other team would be sitting there for a few months holding out hope that the O’s could pull off a big comeback and win this game? What if this was the last time they played? Would they have to wait for the last game of the season to play 2 and 1/6 innings? Isn’t that a little insane? I guess… But again, I’m not sure what the rule is. [Note; I just checked ESPN.com, and they posted the Associated Press article that gave the answer: the game will resume at its current situation on July 27, the next time they are in Baltimore.]
Reid, good luck with the new site. Happymeds is right. The Boss paid Howard Spira, who was continually noted as a “known gambler,” to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield, because he was in some sort of dispute regarding Winfield’s foundation. Pretty nuts, no? That’s back when the Boss was a full-blown psycho. Ras, that guy would have had fired Cashman four times by now, and would have us on our third manager just this season alone. And what exactly is a “known gambler?” Is that just a nice way of calling somebody a mobster? Or is there really some sort of magical line that you cross? “Careful, dude. You throw those dice one more time you will officially be considered a ‘known gambler’ on the registry…” Not sure. But that’s what he got dinged for. And Fay Vincent suspended him. So he left his son and son-in-law in charge. But it’s cool; they weren’t allowed to talk shop around the dinner table….
Well, a nine-game road trip in the books…. sort of…. And I think it went well, don’t you? Seannie, let your boy out of the cage tomorrow. It’s time…
The beep came, as expected. It had been yet another banner travel day in America. I spent most of the day in Boston, and I was supposed to be on the 3:30 shuttle back to LaGuardia, which would have got me in at around 4:30. Yet here it was, 9:15, and we had just touched down. Don’t ask… So this beep was going to be my voicemail telling me my car number. But it wasn’t. It was a text from Petey Goods, saying “They s*ck. Wifflemania is more exciting.” ‘No way’, I thought, exasperated. I checked the score. It was 0-0 in the fifth. Believe it or not, I wasn’t worried. I really thought they would win. Just like last night, I was convinced they were going to win that game. I’m not sure why. I know, better than anyone, I think, how futile they are in close games. And by the time I got back to Brooklyn, and got the next text from Petey Goods that said, “They should all be shot,” I was truly surprised.
So what exactly is it that made me think they were going to pull out a game that was close late? I have no idea. Maybe it’s just force of habit. The Yankees are a better team than the Orioles. That can’t be disputed; I don’t care what happened yesterday or today. And generally, in a close game, you like the better team to pull it off. So maybe that’s it. Of course, the later you go in a tie game, the home team has more of an advantage, but that will only go so far if you have the less talented team. And I guess I figured the runs were due to come. Well, aren’t they? As I stressed the other day, they are second in runs scored (at least they were two nights ago, and I’m too miserable to look up whether they still are). So they’re going to get their runs somewhere. They just are. And generally I think I have a pretty good feel for the Yankees ability and inability to score runs. They just don’t go that long without scoring runs. Their absolute max in their worst funks over the last few years has been around 15 or 16 innings. And then they usually pound out of it. And the O’s are truly terrible. So I guess I just figured the O’s were on very borrowed time. I guess…
So just because it’s fun, let’s examine. The Yankees have scored five runs in their last 35 innings. And they scored 5 runs in 27 innings in Colorado. That’s 10 runs in what amounts to the equivalent of about 7 games. And then they had that one 12-inning stretch in San Fran when they scored 10 runs. They can rip off five runs in an inning without batting an eye. But somehow, then, they can’t. And they’ve had losing snaps of 7-in-a-row, 5-of-7, and 7-of-8. But they had a winning streak of 9 games, the second-longest of the Torre era. The Orioles couldn’t put together a 9-game winning streak. Neither could most of the teams in baseball. But the Yankees have that ability. They are fifth in the league in run differential, right up among all of these division leaders and playoff teams. Yet they are three games under .500. They are a team of drastic contrasts, a polarized dichotomy. It truly doesn’t make any sense. If anything sticks out, it’s the close games, which, as you guys may have noticed, I’ve become obsessed with. I don’t know if there is a reason for it; in fact I probably don’t think there is one, even though I know people love to assign reasons to everything. I rather think it’s just a startling, random, confluence of events.
I didn’t see any of the game tonight, so I really have no idea how things went down. Anything further than “not good,” anyway. But whatever it was, I’ve seen it all before.
So indulge me here. I know they didn’t lose this game by one or two runs, but I’m going to illustrate my favorite stat for you guys one more time anyway, just to see if I can get any of you guys as excited (and not in a good way) about it as I am. Let’s say George Steinbrenner ran over one of the gypsies from the Stephen King movie Thinner. And the curse they put on him was that, for the first three months of the season, the Yankees wouldn’t get credit for a win unless they won by three runs or more. But because gypsies just like to mess with you, they said he could have a pass on six games. They were allowed six wins if they won by less than three, but just six. Once they hit six, they would have to win by three or more to get credit for the win. Until the all-star break. And, as you guys all know because of the anticlimactic way I’ve presented it, their record would be the exact same as it is right now. Where’s Joe Mantagna when you need him…. So try that little nugget out on your friends… That is, if your friends are dorks who are obsessed with the Yankees/baseball. You know….like us…..some of us….
Pssst. Joe…. Joe…. Just a thought. Just a thought, now. Scott Proctor… You see, he’s already walked the leadoff hitter, also the fastest guy on the team. The only guy on the O’s with speed, who you could really go after a hundred percent and not worry about making a mistake over the plate, because he’s batting 9th and hitting .224. A guy to whom you can legitimately just throw pitch after pitch directly down the middle of the plate. But he walked him. And then Brian Roberts blooped a ball on him. And the two of them battled him like ninjas for 15 pitches, proving that he really wasn’t fooling anybody. And then; a miracle. A bunt that pops up in the air. He makes a great diving play, but brain cramps on doubling the runner – you remember, that fastest guy on the team who you desperately want off the bases – at second. Patterson was practically in Allie’s shorts at third. He almost didn’t even bother running back to second, he was such toast. Complete brain cramp. Michael Kay and Ken Singleton were making excuses for Proctor on the broadcast, preferring to focus on the good catch and gloss over the equally awesome failure to finish the play and save the inning and the game. So he limps around a little, perhaps purporting to have been too shaken up to make the throw to second. Whatever. But you left him in there, Joe. You left him in there after he limped around and bent over, drawing the trainer out. You left him in there. Okay. So then, Joe, he walks Nick Markakis on four straight pitches. In other words, as if it weren’t bad enough that he didn’t take advantage of the miracle he got on the popped-up bunt; then he gives it right back by walking the next guy on four straight pitches and moving the runner to third anyway. But this was even better for the O’s. Now the bases were juiced, and all they needed was another walk. Why not? It had worked for them so far… And while we’re at it, does it make a lot of sense to keep a guy in there who is bent over and shaken up after a play? Maybe. Does it make sense to leave the same guy out there after he walks the following batter on four straight pitches? Joe? So now the bases are loaded. Maybe there still could be some salvation. There’s still time to yank him. But apparently you’re going to stick with him. You’re going to leave him in there. Okay. Ramon Hernandez. He’s hitting .237. Ball one. Joe? For heaven’s sake, there’s still time. Please take this guy out. Strike one. Next pitch – hits him. Game over. But wait…. Apparently it didn’t hit him. Oh well, it’s the speedy Corey Patterson on third, so he’s going to score anyway, before the ball even gets dirt on it. Game still over. But wait again. Patterson had a brain cramp of his own. He stayed at third. Hallelujah. The miracle we needed. Two in one inning. Now we had to take advantage. Even though it’s a 2-1 count, please pull Proctor anyway. Just do it. For the love of everything sacred, he just missed (maybe) hitting a batter to lose the game. You have to see that he doesn’t have the command necessary to win this game. You have the world’s fastest, most relentless, flash-of-lightning hook in baseball, why don’t you use it? The other night you pulled Igawa when he was in the middle of his windup. Put in Mo. He hasn’t pitched since my mom was president of the RVC newcomer’s club. But no. You leave him in. Full count. What is it? Do you not think it’s possible for him to walk three batters in the ninth inning to lose this game? More sweating. More stomach cramps. I accidentally spill my tea all over the loft. Then a foul ball, just to give you a giggle. Just to prolong the absolutely inevitable. And then, the screaming finally, mercifully, stopped.
Tony Sherry texted it best, and Acc reiterated. “Why?” Why, indeed. Why does Joe Torre feel so nervous about a three run lead that he feels compelled to use Mo for 5 outs on Friday, but then won’t use him in a tie game on either Saturday or today? I have no idea. Maybe for the same reason he used Jeff Weaver for two innings against the Marlins to lose game 4 in 2003, because he was so desperate to save Mo to…………..sit on the bench for the entire remainder of the series, never to be needed again. Why does he set land speed records vaulting himself off the bench to pull some guys, while he leaves Proctor out there to walk in the winning run, his third of the inning? This whole “guys he trusts” thing has got to end. If he doesn’t have it, he doesn’t have it. What are you saving Mo for, dude? I’m not saying Mo couldn’t puke a game up, too, but is there anyone out there who wouldn’t feel more comfortable with Mo out there? At least if you go down, you go down with your best. Didn’t you learn your lesson from 2003? Don’t play for tomorrow when you’re in a dogfight tonight. You never know what tomorrow will bring. Regardless of tonight, the O’s still s*ck. They’re going to s*ck tomorrow. And odds are, the Yankees are going to come out and score a million runs in one or both of the next two games (although, admittedly, I’ve been saying that for a week). Or maybe you get pounded by a million runs. The point is, odds are you won’t need Mo. You’re probably not going to be locked in another dogfight with the lowly Orioles, no matter how bad you’re playing. And then you’re going to be faced with the ridiculous prospect of throwing Mo out in a game “just to get work.” Imagine that. Two games go by where you were tied and desperately needed him. Playing two very beatable teams. And yet his two appearances in that time could very well be a three-run game and a game where you’re just trying to get him some work. Brilliant.
Well you guys know what I’m going to say. They are now 6-23 in one and two-run games. Amazing, amazing, amazing. And Proctor and Torre are easy targets, I know. I could easily be killing the whole team for not getting runners in from third with less than two out, not moving guys over. I could kill home plate umpire Rob Drake, who, even though he had no problem squeezing Proctor in the ninth, certainly seemed to give that same Corey Patterson a break on a “ball” call that should have been strike three to end the fourth inning before he could dunk the saddest-looking rbi blooper in to score a huge run. I picked on Torre, but I could kill anybody and everybody. Except Pettitte. Boy, did he deserve better…..
“You gotta be kidding me.” That’s Big Joe’s line. He starts a conversation with it regularly when he calls you with a ballgame on. That’s the negative version. The positive version is, “Are you kidding me?” Tonight it was the former. “I’m here with Charlie watching these Mets,” he said. Not sure why he threw out the first line, but I imagine the Mets had just run into a mild problem. “One-one, bottom of the eighth,” he followed. He was hanging out with his buddy Charlie, his friend from forever, another South Beach kid from Staten Island. Only now Charlie hangs his hat in Virginia. Doesn’t stop him from rooting for the Mets, though. And tonight he was back in Staten Island with Big Joe, and they were living and dying with every pitch, just like old times. “Big Joe,” I said, “Tell Charlie I said to put it in the books. The Mets will win this game. Remember, the later you go in a tie game, the more the home team has the advantage.” An hour and change later the phone rang again. Big Joe, with Charlie in the background. Shawn Green had just hit a walk-off for the winner. “I told Charlie you said not to worry. So now he wants to know if you’re going to write about the Mets tonight.” Why not. They’re worth writing about. Charles – way to bring a win back from New York. Makes your trip worthwhile.
And the good news continues. The Yankees did not continue their losing ways tonight, as they landed in Baltimore somewhere in the AM, battered and bleeding. From the National League, of all things. How embarrassing. This from the team with the all-time best record in Interleague history.
So where to go from here. Happymeds, the sergeant-at-arms of the BPS, disputed the BPS call for a Helton deal the other day. I welcome any body splashing some cold water on my face, because I admit I know very little about this game. The more I watch, the less I know, I think. And, I admit, I didn’t give the Helton remark a whole lot of thought at the time, I just kind of threw it off the cuff. And I had a lot of assumptions built into my statement. The most important, I think, is one that my man Happymeds touched on himself in another comment (regarding Clemens) on the same post. And that is that you won’t have to give up anything for him. I agree with Happymeds’ statement that the Clemens deal is a good move any way you look at it for the Yankees. So it costs you money. So what? As I’ve said many times, I’m not watching the game like a general manager, worrying about someone else’s dollars and cents. If you’re that guy, go read Moneyball and play fantasy baseball. I prefer to watch like an eight-year old kid. I want to win every game. So reality is what it is. Maybe where Happymeds and I diverge is that he thinks that the Rockies won’t move Helton without getting solid, top-tier prospects. I don’t. Helton is way past that. There comes a point in the career of every quality player who plays for a team not called the Yankees when keeping him is more expensive than jettisoning him. This happens famously in the NFL when a player is going for some sort of career record and a team is forced to suffer three years or so of not contending because you need to hand a ball to a guy (Emmitt Smith comes to mind) or let a guy throw the ball (Dan Marino comes to mind) as many times as possible. Granted, it’s a whole different deal because of the salary cap. But that’s just the point. The Yankees don’t have a salary cap. George Steinbrenner has never run his team to make money. He’s played to win, every single year. He’s just been smart enough to realize that winning will bring the money in much more thoroughly than running your team like Mr. Bookman from Good Times. There is no such thing as an albatross salary that chokes off anything with the Yanks. Whatever, whoever it is, they can pay for it. The Rockies can’t. They look at Helton and know that there is only a four or five team market for him. And they love their young hitters, who are the talk of the National League. Dump Helton and you could fill in the pieces of the puzzle with more pitching, a better bullpen, a stronger bench. Next thing you know they’re serious contenders. They know it, and every GM in baseball knows it. They’re not going to contend this year, and by the time they’re ready, Helton is going to be a few years older (he turns 34 in a month). They would love to move him. And if they thought they could get one of those four or so teams to bite, they’d do it, just to dump the salary. And regardless of what they said out loud or told their fans, they wouldn’t care what they got back. Just like the Phillies with Bobby Abreu. Again, one man’s opinion.
And while we’re at it, what’s the usefulness of the high-priced, past their prime veterans? This is a bad habit that the Yankees have fallen into lately, right? Isn’t this what has gotten the team away from the glory days of the late 90’s? Those teams didn’t need to do that. They built their teams from the ground up, from the farm system, no? Well, maybe Cecil Fielder, David Cone, Jimmy Key, David Wells, Glenallen Hill, David Justice, Roger Clemens (part I), Rock Raines, Chili Davis and the million Yankee rings they have between them would disagree. You can argue that you have to make those trades “wisely,” I guess. But can you? Who knows which guys are going to pan out? You make the moves and hope for the best. People talk about “mortgaging” the future. Can anyone give me the smoking gun; the guy who we gave up to mortgage our future for one of those guys, or for that matter, anyone we have on the roster currently? Honestly. Think of all the names you can. Brandon Claussen, Eric Milton, Willy Mo Pena, Ricky Ledee, Jake Westbrook, Drew Henson, Randy Keissler? You have some average guys there, but nobody that wasn’t entirely expendable. You can say Soriano if you want, but we got back Allie, who is the same age and one of the greatest players of all time. And you want to talk about failing in October? How about Mr. Soriano, the guy who set the record for most strikeouts in the postseason, by swinging and missing at every single curveball thrown at him for three straight weeks in October, 2003?
So my point here is, until somebody shows me, I have yet to be convinced that the high-priced veterans are a bad idea. In fact, they are a good idea. They are necessary. The Tigers are watching Sean Casey and Sheffield, a guy I hated to see go, juicehead or no juicehead (and he is most definitely a juicehead, as I had said many times when he was here) complement their team perfectly right now. The Mets are probably going to the World Series because Omar Minaya was smart enough to build around two young guys with nothing but fat-cat, expensive veterans. Unseemly as it may be to some fans, this is how you win in the major leagues. And it has always been. Go look at some of the players the Yankees picked up in their golden years, guys like Enos Slaughter and whoever they-felt-like off of the Kansas City roster. The truth is that no team in recent memory has won the World Series with a bunch of home-grown guys. The Yankees probably came the closest, and the Red Sox were the furthest, with only one guy, Trot Nixon, out of their own system. It just doesn’t work that way, gentlemen. And it didn’t work that way in the late nineties. In fact, the Yankees themselves are showing that futility right now. You want home grown? The Yankees in the last week have fielded a starting nine made up of seven home-grown players. Posada, Cano, Jeter, Melky, Wang (or Pettitte), Andy Phillips and Kevin Thompson. How many other teams can say that? How many want to say that? They’re not getting it done. What is it doing for us? Not much.
Let’s hope we can get back on track. Pettitte. For starters….
Memories are short, they say. And after the Colorado series I was ready to say that the Yankees haven’t played a worse three games in a row all year. But I figured that they must have during the seven-game losing streak or one of the other funk runs. So I backed off of it. But I will say now that the Yankees have not played a worse six games in a row all season. And maybe I’m forgetting the early-season pain, but regardless, I’m going to lay it down. This was stunning. The Yankees were starting to play like the Yankees over the prior two weeks, and you really felt like the worst was behind us. And the injuries hurt us, no doubt. But this was just a wasteland. Bad plays, bad decisions, inexcusable managing, an inability to execute and lots and lots of other stuff, none of it good. Where to begin…
Let’s start with my favorite stat. After Saturday, the Yankees are 6-22 in one and two run games. For some reason I’m not getting that you guys are having as much fun with this as I am. The extent to which this simply does not add up is staggering. The Yankees, still, after six disgusting games on the coast, are second in the major leagues in runs scored. Second. And you would think that a team that is constantly losing one-and two run games is losing them because either a) they can pitch, but they can’t hit, so they’re losing games 2-1, 3-1, 4-3, or b) they can score a ton of runs, but not as much as the other guys, as they lose every game 7-5, 8-6, etc. And neither is true. Along with being second in runs scored, they are smack in the middle of the pack when it comes to team ERA. And they have a run differential of almost plus-one per game. These numbers just don’t add up to a one-game under .500 record and being 6-22 in one and two run games. Let me throw some fun facts at you. The Yankees are fifth in the major leagues in run differential. None of the four teams above them are less than ten games over .500. Of the top seven teams in run differential, the Yankees are the only one that wouldn’t make the playoffs if they started today. All four teams above them are division leaders. Of the 15 teams that are either even or positive in run differential, the Yankees and the Cubs (tenth) are the only two that have a losing record. Five teams that have a run differential of at least 9 runs worse than the Yankees are at least 9 games over .500. Guys, this is statistical anomaly at its finest. The Yankees are doing everything they should be doing. They’re just doing it at the wrong time. What this tells us is that the ability is there, that they will tack on till the cows come home, but it seems they consistently fail in the clutch.
So let’s start at the top, with the manager. Joe Torre had probably his worst three games as a manager in San Francisco (acknowledging again that memories are short). Colorado was Colorado. We didn’t hit a blind lick. That’s how it goes. But San Fran was a mess right from the word go. Friday night, Kei Igawa comes back after reconstruction, reeducation, re-whatever. He had a truly lights-out first four innings. A triumph for the system. He gets in trouble in the fifth. Torre yanks him with a lightning-bolt fast hook with two outs and two runs in. Awful. You have to let him finish that inning. You yank him there he walks off the mound a failure. And he doesn’t get the win, which was wrapped up in a package for him, cementing the outing as a failure. You have two outs and the Giants can’t hit. You have to take your chances there. The Yankees already knocked out Cain, and we hitting the ball hard. You need to let Igawa finish there. He gets that one more out; he walks off with a win and is a huge success story. That was Torre panicking. And he didn’t stop there. With a three-run lead, he throws Rivera out in the eighth inning. Again, awful. More panicking. What happened? They desperately needed him the next day, but he was only available for a “one-inning save,” according to Torre. Why? Because he was bled from the night before. Panic equals failure. And then you lose a killer on Saturday. Thirteen innings and a dramatic game-tying jack from Allie. All for naught. Okay. So what does Torre do? Well, the Yankees homepage says that the Yankees lost today despite “pulling out all the stops.” What? What Torre did was send out a triple-A team on Sunday. Why would you do that? You just lost a heartbreaker on Saturday, so on Sunday you’re conceding the game and the series by throwing out a team my mom’s bridge club (yup, my mom plays bridge – pretty sure she doesn’t apologize for it either) could embarrass? It doesn’t make any sense. First of all, can we please end this silly charade of using Wil Nieves as Mussina’s personal catcher? Nieves is not a major league baseball player. Period. And when you also have the pitcher hitting, and you decide to rest Bobby Abreu on the same day (?!), you have a truly terrible batting order. Which is just what San Fran needed to have a chance today. And they took advantage. I was listening to the game splashing around in my in-laws’ pool, and John Sterling made the observation many times that the Yankees, and this lineup in particular, can’t fall behind any team, because “they don’t hit a lick.” But he missed what I thought was the key to why. Great example. Lowry pitching in the third. Having lots of trouble finding the plate. I believe he had five walks in five innings, but he should have had about nine. Nieves is leading off, ahead 3-1 in the count. He smashes the next pitch deep, but it was caught. Sterling made the comment that “that’s the best ball he’s hit all year.” What he didn’t say is that he shouldn’t be swinging there. Lowry couldn’t string three strikes together all day. He was all over the place. Nieves: you’re leading off. You have five hits in the last five years (not an exaggeration – that is an actual fact); you need to look for the leadoff walk. The chances are exponentially better that he walks you after going 3-1 than that you get a hit. The case was only made stronger by the fact that the very next thing Lowry did was walk Moose – the pitcher – on five pitches. Just in case anyone wasn’t convinced he had trouble throwing strikes. So he walks the pitcher, which meant that 7 of the 10 pitches he had thrown that inning were balls. So what does Melky do as the next batter? Do you have to ask? He swings at the first pitch and grounds into a double play. So Lowry came off looking like he had an easy inning, 1-2-3 on eleven pitches. But in truth he was on the ledge. And the Yankees let him off.
Last thing. The Yankees got absolutely butchered on the bases this past week. The Mets, Rockies and Giants sent absolutely everybody on the base paths. There were three guys forty or older attempting stolen bases this past week, and a ton more under forty. And getting aggressive taking extra bases. It was also evident that the Yankees pitchers can’t hold anybody on, as Moose demonstrated perhaps better than anyone today. Many times the broadcasters made the point that runners are stealing on the pitchers, not the catchers. Suzyn Waldman made the point again today, pointing out that when the Yankees time Posada from the ball crossing the plate to his throw arriving at second base, his numbers are “phenomenal” (she didn’t elaborate on what that meant, but it’s not hard to imagine, because his throws are usually strong and accurate). This would make our friend Mr. Morrissey’s articles in the Post last week even sillier. But getting a reputation as a team to run on is doubly dangerous, because in general, teams should probably be much more aggressive than they are. It takes a lot to throw a guy out. You need to come up with the ball cleanly, make an accurate throw, and the ball has to beat the runner. That’s a lot of things that need to happen. The runner just has to go as fast as he can in a straight line. So having a reputation for weak outfield arms, pitchers who can’t hold runners on, or catchers who can’t throw them out, will serve as a catalyst to get teams doing something that would probably have a pretty good rate of success even if their opponent was good at all of those things. And that’s what the Yankees are up against right now. Teams are running, and the Yankees are finding out just how hard it is to make those plays.
Happymeds, you can always feel free to disagree with me. But I’ve got a bunch of facts and figures to toss around on the subject of “overpriced veterans” and home-grown guys that I will hold off on for now since tomorrow is an off-day and this is getting pretty long. See you then.
“There it is,” Acc said, as if he were Gonzo Gates calling the time of death in the O.R. “Sweep.” “Yup,” was my bitter, resigned answer. He called me at work, and we were both following along on the gamecast. And we were dead on. But here’s the sad part. It was only the fifth inning, and Proctor had just surrendered a sac fly to make the score 4-2. But with this team, in this funk, like a movie star from the thirties in “one of her spells,” you knew this was it. I haven’t the slightest idea how to put my finger on it. But I knew, and Acc knew. And although we said the words out loud, we hadn’t needed to. It was over.
That’s not to say that there wasn’t some drama involved. I didn’t see the game. Not one pitch. But some of the tidbits on the gamecast intrigued me. Like this gem, “Johnny Damon lines into double play, third baseman Garrett Atkins to second baseman Kazuo Matsui. Robinson Cano doubled off second,” taken from the top of the fifth with two on and one out. Or this little slice of heaven, “Alex Rodriguez reaches on a fielder’s choice out, shortstop Troy Tulowitski to third baseman Garrett Atkins to second baseman Kazuo Matsui. Derek Jeter out at third. Two out.” Or this one, which popped up a few times, always killing us, “With (insert whoever) batting, Kazuo Matsui steals second base.” Awesome. And then there was the cherry on the cake, when Andy Phillips was batting with two outs in the ninth, representing the tying run. The little dot showing you where pitch number five, a 3-1 pitch, crossed the plate on the ESPN gamecast (the mlb.com gamecast was about four innings behind, for some reason) was sitting squarely outside the strike zone, yet somehow it glowed bright red, signifying that it was a called strike. On what would have been ball four to put the tying run on base, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate with the top of the order. Two pitches later, Phillips had struck out. Again, I didn’t see it; I can only tell you where it was on the gamecast. Joy.
Well, they did it again. Rodrigo Lopez, our old friend from his Baltimore days, was the third pitcher to hold it together nicely out there, although he pitched the worst of the three. And he got a little lucky. And our guy, for the third game in a row, pitched well enough to win. And didn’t. Betrayed by the offense, who should really be ashamed of themselves. Clemens didn’t make the trek from Houston to lose two starts in which he pitched killer ball. Five runs in three games at Coors. I might puke.
And the small ball got us again. But it’s not the small ball that gets me so much; it’s that they pulled off the necessary clutch hit afterwards almost every time. The vast majority of them with two outs. What are they? The most clutch team ever? The Yankees are now 6-21 in games decided by one or two runs. How is that possible? In theory, your record should be exactly the same in those games as it is overall. Which means the Yankees should be around .500 in those games. If it really is psychological, you would have to wonder when the word “gutless” started to become appropriate…
Yesterday I said you could set your watch by this team when they’re in the sloppy funk. The minute they take a lead, they spit it back up the very next half-inning, and then immediately follow that by laying down one-two-three in the following half-inning. Acc made mention of the fact today that the Yankees already had one out in the top of the third before the Rockies were finished batting in the bottom of the second. You could set your watch by it. You could also smash your watch by it. If you were so inclined.
So now I’ve seen Helton, and I have two questions. One, why would you not want him, and two, why would the Rockies be looking to deal him? I guess the short answer to both of those questions can be answered with dollar signs, but I’m a Yankee fan. We’re not trained to think that way. Make the deal. I’m in.
So I’m not going to watch any highlights (as if there were any), I’m not going to watch Sportscenter, Baseball Tonight, nothing. I’m not going to think about it, I’m not going to do a BPS post – wait, scratch that one – and I’m going to try to regroup. In fact, the missus is dangling some chocolate ice cream in my face as I’m tapping the keys. So here’s my last thought. When you’re feeling low, down and out, in the middle of a bad streak, who’s there to save the day? Kei Igawa… Nurse! Time?!
This bites. For the second night in a row, I’ve been forced into the Blue Room early, not liking what I’m seeing. We’re in the bottom of the fifth with no score. But it’s not good. First of all, in a tied-up pitchers duel, the odds drift further and further towards the home team with each passing inning. The most electric offense in baseball has scored exactly one run in 14 innings in the greatest hitters’ park ever built. Great….
[Torrealba just grounded into a double play to end the sixth. Michael Kay’s enthusiasm was matched by the collective groan of the Coors Field crowd. Apparently they didn’t like the call.] Besides the fact that the home team has a distinct disadvantage, the Yankees can’t win a close game to save their lives. So we need to explode for a big pile of runs, or we’re going to lose. Period. [Ran back in to the living room to watch the Yankees try to rally after Melky doubled. The captain got us a big hit. Then the Yankees strand two. So what do the Yankees do when they’re in “funk-mode”? They puke it right back up in the next half. You really can set your watch by these guys. Again the victims of clutch two-out hits. So now we’re down 2-1, and the Yankees stuck to their funk-mode script. Went down 1-2-3 in the next half on only eight pitches. And that’s with Francis at 92 pitches at the start of the inning. We even got a gift on a call. Helton was safe at the plate, but was called out.] As the Red Sox learned when they played the Rockies, Interleague is not the time to lose games. Everyone that matters in the American league is in the process of pounding the pathetic National League. Some of the lucky teams like Detroit and Cleveland have the luxury of playing some truly awful teams. This is where having to play the Mets six times really kills you. [More pain. More two-out thunder from the Rockies. What are they, the greatest, most clutch team in history? Five two-out runs in the bottom of the seventh to pretty much end this game.] Acc just called. He’s miserable just to be up this late. I’m miserable because we’ve scored two runs in the greatest hitter’s park in history. In history. In a park where the balls are kept next to the Cohibas and the walls have been following another manifest destiny outward in a desperate attempt to keep baseballs in the yard. Yesterday I said that Fogg and Francis would have to pitch the games of their lives to beat the Yankees two games in a row. Well. Guess what… What is it, exactly, that makes the Yankees all forget everything they’re good at in close games? Is it just that they haven’t won enough of them to understand how it’s done? They lunge at balls, they don’t take pitches, they’re impatient. That’s not how you win.
Well, another really frustrating game is close to being in the books. I have to believe the Yankees are going to pop. They’re just too good. If not tomorrow, it will come. But my money is on tomorrow. They just don’t go that long with only two runs.
I’m leery of this Andy Phillips move. I know it’s a great story, and I would love to see the guy do well, but I just don’t know. He just hasn’t hit at this level. You can’t just plug him in there everyday and watch him become another Dougie. You just can’t suffer a .225 career hitter at the back of the lineup. Especially in the National League parks. Wouldn’t this make more sense to try in the AL parks? Who knows. Maybe he kills the ball. But he sure hasn’t started off well.
Again, I didn’t see the whole game, but I’ll say that I can only assume there was a wide strike zone again tonight. I saw Abreu’s punch-out to lead off the ninth, and it looked real dicey. The game was long over, but it still looked dicey. But more importantly, eleven Yankees struck out. When eleven Yankees strike out, it probably makes sense for the home plate umpire to go back and review his game, just to make sure he’s comfortable with the way he’s calling balls and strikes.
I don’t have a lot more to say. This was a miserable two days of baseball. I would say there isn’t anything good to talk about, but Moose and Pettitte both turned in what MLB designates as a quality start – six innings of three runs or less. But it was back to what it was last month; they’re pitching worried about every base runner, because they have absolutely no margin for error. Pettitte came unglued in the seventh, but it shouldn’t have come to that. You pitch that well in Colorado; your team should already have the game in hand by the time you’re cooked.
Looking for a Rocket boost…
I sat down in the Blue Room about 20 minutes ago. As I sat down I could still hear the TV in the living room, and apparently Brian Bruney had just gotten the last out in the bottom of the seventh. I was going to type as I listened to the game and followed along on the gamecast. But as I was about to get started I heard the Yankees coming up in the eighth, with Damon leading things off. I hadn’t seen much of this game, as I was at 101 on Third Avenue with the missus tonight. Some lobster ravioli, baked clams, and whole wheat pasta later, I was back at home, watching the Entourage that we DVR’d on Sunday. By the time I tuned in to the game it was the bottom of the seventh, and I was already right annoyed at the full-count ball that home plate umpire Lance Barksdale called to put Todd Helton on, moving Matt Holliday over to second with two outs. I could only assume that Barksdale had a wide strike zone tonight, because that was one of those discretionary strikes; they’re not strikes, but if the ump’s strike zone is there all night, you live with it. Sometimes it helps you and sometimes it hurts you. But it’s annoying. So rather than sit here and type, I figured I would go inside and see what we could get going. Damon started 2-0, and then Rockies reliever Manny Corpas threw the same d*mn pitch that Mike Myers threw to Helton on 3-2. The one he didn’t get. “Strike,” said Barksdale this time. How frustrating. It was ball three, without a doubt. A leadoff walk makes all the difference in the world. So what does Corpas do? He did exactly what you should do in that situation. He nails Barksdale to the wall by throwing the exact same pitch five more times in a row. Once he’s got that umpire, he’s got him. So Damon, knowing he has to swing at that probably unhittable wide strike, just helplessly fouls balls off until hitting a weak fly out. Okay. That’s life. But I was annoyed that Helton got the pitch and Damon didn’t, changing the entire at-bat, and consequently the inning. But fine. Then the Yankees proceed to load the bases with two outs, and I had two thoughts in my head as Posada strolled up to the plate. First, they’re wasting the good part of the lineup right now with this low percentage two-out rally. An out in that spot would be worth a lot more to the Rockies than if they had gotten the Yanks three up, three down. Because three up, three down would have meant Abreu, Allie, and Posada in the ninth. And now that Posada was hitting, if he makes out, you’ve got the Ferocious Lion, Cano, and a pinch hitter (turned out to be Cairo) against the lefty closer in the ninth. The second thing going through my head was that I would much rather have had the Ferocious Lion protecting Allie than Posada. I know Posada is having a tremendous year, and he deserves to start the all-star game, and without him the offense would have sputtered a thousand times. But as much as I hate to say it, he has nowhere to go but down. He just isn’t going to end up the season hitting .345. The odds are furiously, overwhelmingly against it. He’s already way over his lifetime .274 average, and his body is going to show the wear and tear of catching towards the end of the season. The Ferocious Lion is just hitting his stride. He’s a thoroughbred RBI man, and he is in the zone right now. He is on the way up. And you would have a better lefty-righty matchup, because you would still follow Allie with a lefty, and you would also insert Posada between The Ferocious Lion and Cano. I know hindsight is 20/20, but that was the second thing going through my mind. So Posada hit it hard, but no dice. And of course the Ferocious Lion puts one off the wall to start the ninth….
The Yankees, as we have followed all season, have had their problems winning these close games, both while they were struggling and when they are red-hot. They are now 6-20 in games decided by one or two runs. I imagine some of it is psychological, as even watching, you didn’t get the sense they were going to win when they were down 2-0 to the Mets the other night, and you didn’t get the sense they were going to win tonight. Again, small ball beat them. Bunts and stolen bases followed by clutch two-out hits. It makes sense, I guess. Small ball is how the Yankees lost the last two they lost, and small ball only works when you’re not down by a bunch of runs. Watch the Yankees come out in one or both of these next two games and splatter the ball all over Colorado. And once Colorado is forced to swing away, they won’t be able to keep up with the Yankees. But if the Yankees could ever figure out how to win a couple of close games, they would truly be unstoppable.
So here’s the good news. The Yankees continue to trot elite starter after elite starter out there night after night (until Igawa, anyway). So Josh Fogg had to pitch the game of his life tonight to walk out with a win. Can Jeff Francis do it again tomorrow when we throw Andy Pettitte out there? He’ll probably have to. The Yankees don’t go too long without scoring. Just ask the Mets. But we’ll find out…
I clicked on my phone as I walked in the door tonight. It beeped immediately. One voicemail. “Please tell me you just saw the fat dude pass out.” Tony Sherry. Let’s see; it was Monday night. I knew what this meant. H*ll’s Kitchen. Gordon Ramsay. He’s obsessed with that show. I flipped on the TV and dialed the phone. Only I wasn’t interested in Gordon Ramsay. Tony picked up on the first half-ring. “If you didn’t see the greatest moment in the history of TV, I’m hanging up the phone.” “Dude, I’m way more interested in the pestilence the Braves are inflicting upon the Red Sox right now.” “That’s true too. I’m flipping back and forth….”
I have a couple of things to take issue with tonight. I’m going to call out Michael Morrissey of the New York Post for simply not being thorough. He wrote a few articles in the last few days calling out Posada for being the second-worst catcher in the American League in caught-stealing percentage. Today (Monday) was the latest. Says Morrissey, “The Yankees and Posada have had a difficult time stopping the running game this season. Entering yesterday, Posada had the second-worst caught-stealing rate among qualified starting catchers, throwing out 11 of 64 would-be stealers for a 17.2 percent rate. Only Boston’s Jason Varitek, at 9.1 percent (two of 22), was worse.” This is after he wrote an article on Saturday detailing how the Mets ran roughshod over Posada on Friday night. Yup. The Mets did a lot of running. No question. But here’s my question for you, Michael. Did you watch the games? Have you watched the Yankees this season? You wrote an entire article on Posada not being able to throw out the Mets on Friday night, but you neglected to mention that replays showed that Reyes was clearly out on one of his attempts. You did give the usual “He nearly nabbed Reyes on a bang-bang play shortly thereafter.” Bang-bang play… Okay. That it was. But he was out. There wasn’t really a lot of debate about it. If you want to say it was bang-bang to excuse the umpire for missing it, I’m totally on board. You can’t get them all right, especially when they’re that close. But that doesn’t mean you write an entire article about a subject which is predicated upon something that everyone saw to be incorrect on a very clear replay. If Reyes is correctly called out there, Posada throws out three of seven would-be stealers, putting his percentage at 43% for the night, which would make your article pretty silly. But don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story, right Michael? But okay, let’s say you missed that one. Does the name Willie Bloomquist ring any bells? Last month he was out by about four feet according to another pesky replay, but Gerry Davis called him safe. Whoops. And there were two plays in which Coco Crisp stole second and was called safe incorrectly. But don’t take my word for it, dude, go watch the replays. And listen to Michael Kay or Sterling and Waldman. They’re professional media, just like you, and they bring it up constantly, even now. That’s four bad calls. I haven’t seen one yet this year that Posada’s gotten a gift on, or I would throw that back in the mix too. Fair is fair. But again, are you watching any of these games? So, just as a for-instance, if you reversed the four bad calls, Posada’s caught-stealing percentage becomes 23%. Still not great, but significant. The story loses a lot of pop when you add the facts back in. Not saying these calls are going to get reversed anytime soon. That’s part of the game. The percentage is what it is, officially. But to keep quoting it like it means anything is folly. It’s a bogus number. What are you going to do for your next article, gush about how incredible it is that Barry Bonds can still hit this many home runs at his age? Or how Ashlee Simpson’s new makeup makes her nose look really different?
While I’m at it, there was a lot of talk in the media today about the Orioles and their firing of Sam Perlozzo. Steve Phillips on Baseball Tonight opined that it’s not Perlozzo’s fault. It was the organization for not giving him the talent. I agree. They cited the example of the O’s wasting their money trying to shore up the bullpen. I agree again. And I’ll go one step further. Has anybody noticed that a team’s bullpen tends to rise and fall with the fortunes of its offense? When your team is winning games by five-six runs every night, watch how good your bullpen is going to look. No pressure, the other team might throw out their mop-up guys, plenty of margin for error, and opposing bats that very well may be already resigned to defeat. The Yankees may be the best example of this. When the team was struggling, I continuously cited the amazing stretch in which they lost 18 of their first 23 games that were decided by either one or two runs. Constant, unrelenting pressure for the bullpen. You throw that kind of pressure at any bullpen, they’re going to show cracks. And worse, if they’re being trotted in to mop up games in which they’re already getting banasticrated, it’s going to be bombs away. That’s just the way it is. I’ve said this many times. Relievers are in the bullpen for a reason. Except for closers (some closers), they’re in there because they don’t have starter stuff. So right off the bat you never know what you’re going to get. And in the last few weeks, you’ve heard that the Yankees bullpen has had a miraculous turnaround. Amazing. Think that has anything to do with the fact that they’re being trotted in to protect six runs leads?
Last thing, while I’m at it. Ken Singleton gave us a familiar line on Saturday during the YES broadcast. A bloop by Cairo dunked in front of Shawn Green to score Robbie Cano in the fifth. “It’s going to look like a line drive in the box score tomorrow in the paper,” crowed Singleton. Now I like Ken Singleton. And he’s right. All four people who still get their baseball news from the box score in the paper will think he hit a line drive. For everybody else who is watching one of the fifty highlight shows later that day, it’s going to look like a bloop that Acc’s three-year old could hit. But I’ll take it….
Mike Sherry, awesome comment as always. Too bad you only stop in twice a year. Which is two more than your brother, at least…. Seannie, your boy’s up…
“He’s unconscious,” uttered Big Kenny at my in-laws’ house tonight. There was the usual gaggle of Met fans gathered downstairs in front of the TV watching the game tonight, and Allie Boy Rodriguez had just smantasticrated a Duke curveball, large into the New York City skyline. It was the usual Father’s Day gathering at my in-laws’, who host the family every year. Not sure why they all ended up Met fans, as the late Papa Joe, the patriarch, was an old-school Yankee fan. But they did. And they are. So I try to lay low. Don’t get too up in anybody’s face. Not that that’s my style anyway. Quite the contrary. I’ve learned in my young life that it always comes back to you in spades. So in this case I peered into the room where Big Joe, Big Kenny, Little Kenny, Charlie boy, Andrew and cousin Nicky were all disgustedly watching Allie circle the bases. Big Kenny looked over at me. “He’s unconscious,” he said again. I shook my head. “I don’t know what it is, dude. He’s crushing everything.”
The Yankees are just catching up, as I’ve said many times. They were and are better than that 21-29 travesty they threw up in their first fifty. The evening-out process is serving to soothe nerves all over the city right now. There’s also been an interesting sidelight to the subway series this year, as the city has agreed to light half the Empire State Building in Yankee blue and white and half in Met blue and orange for the duration of the series. And then the winner of the series gets to enjoy their colors exclusively for Monday (at least Monday, maybe the rest of the week too). Just a perk to enjoy. Maybe Yankees Chick will get us a picture.
Cousin Nicky, little Kenny, and I were around the pool this afternoon talking about Reyes and Jeter. Because they both play in New York, the comparisons are inevitable. But they play games that are so very different. There were some great graphics on the ESPN broadcast tonight comparing Jeter’s career with Pete Rose’s. A brilliant comparison, as I’ve always said that, intangibles aside, anybody who questions Jeter’s contributions and status in the game hasn’t taken note of what a wonderfully pure hitter he is. And this is what sticks out in any comparison with Reyes. Jose Reyes, you could argue, is more of a weapon on any given day in a baseball game. He’s deadly on the base paths, he uses his speed to get on base, and he’s getting better at being more selective to get the OBP up. And plays killer D. He’s the guy who makes you roll your eyes when he works out a walk to start an inning. Talk about “things not to do in a baseball game.” Number one, don’t scream F-you at an ump after he calls a ball (or strike, depending on your vantage point), number two, don’t walk Jose Reyes to start an inning. He’s an assassin out there. Even though Posada did gun him twice this weekend (one official, and one that the ump blew – yet again). But his skills are finite, particularly long term. First of all, he hasn’t proven himself to be a .300 hitter yet, even with the speed. Last year was the first year that he scraped .300 for the season, landing on that mark exactly. But I think the key difference is that his talent relies almost exclusively on his speed. And that will go. Not in the next six or seven years, probably, but eventually. It always does. And if he’s a .288 career hitter with the blinding speed, he’s probably a .275 hitter without it. Not terrible, but not hall-of-fame stuff. Jeter, you could argue, doesn’t bring as much to the table in any single game at this or any stage of his career, but the dude can hit. Always could. And when that graphic on the ESPN broadcast showed that Jeter was ahead of Rose through the same number of games, and younger than Rose was through that same number of games; that is an interesting stat. You can bet on that….. There’s still time for Reyes to learn more about hitting and playing this game. But Jeter’s game doesn’t rely on speed. He’s fast, he can steal, all that stuff. But that’s not his game. His game is he can hit the ball. And one of the great credits to him is that he could probably hit 10 more home runs a year at the expense of 20-25 points on his batting average, but he plays to win. Not because chicks dig the long ball. Jose Reyes seems to have learned that lesson this year, as he doesn’t seem to be trying to throw up the gaudy number of jacks (19) that he did last year. It probably cost him 20 points on his average. Either way, it’s fun to debate. Either guy is money out there. Then there are those who say that the best shortstop in New York is Allie. Whatever. He’s playing third, so that talk doesn’t interest me.
Not a big surprise out there this weekend. The Yankees are playing great ball, the Mets are in a bit of a swoon. Besides, as Big Joe and I agreed before this weekend, fair is fair. Each team gets to win two in their own house. The good news is that Wang and Clemens were dynamite. Clippard, as Michael Kay mentioned during the broadcast on Saturday, was going to be sent down to make room for Igawa, who the Yankees have declared is ready; delivery newly reconstructed and with a new change. Fine. I’ll believe it when I see it. Clippard was not good in his last two starts. The Yankees won, but he wasn’t good. In fact, they won five of the six games he started. So maybe that means that even if Igawa trips on the pitching rubber and falls flat on his face, we have a shot to win if we continue to hit.
Big Joe, Mike Sherry, Acc, Seannie, Bri Rumble, Chris Woy, Mikey Juice, Brooklyn’s Own Mike Dantone, Nicky the Sack, and all of the boys out there in BPS land – Happy Father’s Day.