“Big Joe, if it starts getting late here and things don’t improve, you say the word and I will yank these kids out of this stadium so fast their Met jerseys will still be sitting in the seats without them.” I was calling him from Shea in the fourth inning on Friday night. He thought that was a bit drastic. And he was probably more tuned into the repercussions that that would have had with the women of the family, most notably my mother-in-law. As it is she doesn’t like any talk about the missus’ little cousins, her nephews and niece, being notorious, indisputable mushes. But as I sat near the left field foul pole on Friday night with Louis, Andrew, Charles, and Vanessa, and the Mets fell deeper into their hole, I was ready to do whatever was called for. And I knew that if it was the Yankees, and there were mushes in the house, I would need them gone. “Let’s hope something good happens,” was all he said. Later, as we were walking out of the Stadium, eight year old Vanessa summed it up. “I feel guilty that they lost,” she said, soliciting a sympathetic look from the missus. “Me too,” I muttered to myself, well out of earshot of the missus (and Vanessa, of course), “For bringing you….”
I have no words for what happened to the Mets. The BPS was adamant last year that the Mets needed to make that Milledge-for-Zito deal. They were so sorely lacking solid starters this year that it was unconscionable not to make at least some sort of move. Oliver Perez is a serviceable starter, a guy in his prime who has pitched his share of games in this league. But other than him, you’re either drastically old or drastically inexperienced. I love the Duke, but he’s 96. Glavine is 78. And Pedro is only 34 but his arm and his shoulder are 55. John Maine had pitched in exactly 27 games total before the start of this season. Bad formula. There was desperately little attention paid to the pitching staff by the front office starting from the last game of the NLCS up until now. And they paid for it. “Maybe Omar Minaya couldn’t find any Spanish starters available,” said many radio callers bitingly over the last few weeks.
So speaking of the Mets, their number one fan, Mike Lupica, was ready to talk about them today in the Daily News. He had this to say about this historic Met situation: “[Pedro Martinez] is 3-1. He has started 13 fewer games than Roger Clemens and still has half as many wins.” He also went on to say this about the Mets: “Say it again: The Yankees better win the World Series and Family Guy Clemens better have a hand in doing that, or the pro-rated $28 million salary is as big a waste of money as Kei Igawa…Oh yeah, he better give them a bang for their buck in October.” Hmmm. Mike, you probably like to think of yourself as an objective sports reporter. Maybe not. I don’t really know. But I do know that you write your column like it’s an anti-Yankee blog. A particularly bitter, spiteful anti-Yankee blog. And you know what, I’m not going to get into the columns upon columns that you wrote earlier in the season crushing the Yankees and lionizing the Mets. I’ll let those stand for themselves. And I’ll give you a pass on the fact that the Mets, for better or worse, did something notable in the history of New York baseball over the last three weeks, and yet you thought it was relevant to bring up Kei Igawa. Fine. I won’t get into that stuff because I understand that you are a silly little man, a whiny, Yankee-hating Met fan if there ever was one. But what I will do is defend the Roger Clemens signing, because if you get the Yankees, and you understand that the Yankee rise from the dead this year was almost as unlikely as the Met collapse, you’ll understand the role that Clemens played. I said back in May that I had a different take on this Yankee team than I did on the ’05 team. I felt that the ’05 team had just suffered an unprecedented run of bad luck early on. The numbers did not reflect a team that should have been 11-19, which is what they were. This year, I had the same feeling, but I also said that I wasn’t sure that they had the right pieces to the puzzle. Maybe it was the lessons of ’05 talking, as that run was precipitated by monster performances from Aaron Small, Chien-Ming Wang, Robbie Cano, and Shawn Chacon. This year the “newness” spark was provided by Melky playing everyday, a solid performance from Andy Phillips, by the “Wiz Kids” of the pitching staff, as the Post dubbed them in the caption to the picture of them in their Wizard of Oz gear last week, and by Roger Clemens. Clemens was huge. Okay, he won six games. True. So take those six out of the Yankees win column and what are they doing right now? Getting ready to watch the playoffs, most likely. And that doesn’t scratch the surface of what he gave you this year. In four starts in which he gave up 2 runs or fewer in six innings or more of innings pitched, he got two no-decisions in games the Yankees later won, including that tremendous performance in Fenway, a hard-luck loss against the Mets, and a heart-breaking ND in that Angel game that was lost in extra innings. And the stability he gave the rotation was crucial. His locker was right next to Joba’s, and he would hold court with Joba and Phil Hughes regularly, the same way Alex Rodriguez would with Melky and Cano. He made the Yankees tougher. Allie still talks about the game in Toronto in which he got plunked by the adolescent Blue Jays for a months-earlier incident, and how Clemens stepped up and started throwing retaliatory fireballs back at them, shutting them up for the rest of the game (and the season, as it turned out), subsequently taking the suspension and fine without a peep. Allie hasn’t forgotten. The Yankees haven’t forgotten. This is what Roger Clemens gave you. Not worth $28 million? Out of the overflowing Yankee bank account? That’s insane. The Yankees paid $28 million and made the playoffs. And you know what else? If the Mets had gotten him, they would be readying him for his post-season start right now. Disagree, Mike?
I was informed by Big Joe’s buddy Charlie Mule tonight that he is now officially behind the Yanks all the way. Devastated by his Mets, but not willing to root against the New York logo. Now that’s what I call a New Yorker. Regardless of where he might be hanging his hat these days…
The playoffs are here. Lots to talk about before we start, and plenty of time to do it, as the Yanks don’t get started until Thursday. I’ll kick things off tomorrow…
“Dude, I don’t think you really understand. I don’t think I’d be able to stand another Yankees/Red Sox series in the playoffs. I would turn into a fat, stressed ball of horror,” Tony Sherry tells me on the phone tonight. I wasn’t having it. “Dude, are you talking to me? I’m pretty positive you don’t understand. I stop eating solid food and assume a completely different personality for a week-and-a-half, including using aliases…” “Well, I’ll tell you what,” he said. “That’s pretty much what I would be doing if I was the Mets right now…”
Man. I simply do not have any idea what I would do if I was a Met fan right now. I can only imagine Big Joe and his boy Charlie Mule are feeling true-life physical pain right now. I know I would. Physical pain. I really don’t have any explanation for what’s happening there. The pictures of the fans at the end of that game said it all. The last few games they’ve just been viciously booing. Today, it was just despair. They were wearing it on their face like a funny hat… Only not so funny…. But they need to look on the bright side. They are facing the one guy I would probably hand pick as the opposing pitcher if I need a big win in New York. I am talking about the fabulous Mr. Byung Hyung Kim. See guys… All is not lost.
So let me try and rescue Chris Woy. CWoy@hotmail.com, as he is known here, is actually our boy Chris Woy, former roommate of Mike Sherry and me in Astoria, Queens, and brother of the incomparable Robbie Wonderful. Chris Woy is a dyed-in-the-wool Yankee fan who has, somewhere along the way on the BPS, been mistaken for a White Sox fan, I think. Maybe we’re confusing him with “myp?” Not sure… But anyway, Woy is clean… And yes, he is asking about the Third Annual Wifflemania at Acclestick Park, which is this Saturday. “Blue Balls” will be trying to defend its title with its twin aces, Paddy B and Stevie Lightning, who is also the reigning MVP. “The Bombers” will be trying to reclaim the title, and “Jeremy’s Wig” will try to prove last year’s walk-off grand slam win against “The Pig” wasn’t a fluke. “Burger Boys” will be trying to make it out of the first round. For the first time. Ever. If McHale isn’t bombed by the second inning of the second game this year, maybe my team’s got a shot…
Michael Kay pointed out on the broadcast tonight what the BPS boys (and others) have been saying since Joba broke in. He fanned B.J. Upton on a big heater on the outside corner to end the eighth, and then pumped his fist like Tyson in the 31 seconds he was in the ring against Trevor Berbick…or Michael Spinks. Upton threw his bat down and glared out at the mound. I don’t blame him. There’s really no reason for that. Kay mentioned that the Yankees always bristle when K-Rod does it out in Anaheim, and he’s right. I know I do. There’s nothing more annoying. Papelbon also does it up in Boston, but Boston – and I truly don’t mean this as a knock on Boston – isn’t known as an act-like-you’ve-been-there-before type of team. I mean, let’s face it…the “veteran leader” of the staff is Curt Schilling. So you almost give him a pass. But the Yankees are above all that cr*p. They beat you again and again because they’re better than you are, and it’s never an accident. And that’s (generally) the way they carry themselves. Frankly, I’m a little disappointed that Pettitte or Mo or Rocket or Jeter or Posada hasn’t pulled him aside and told him to cool it.
Joseph, you’re oversimplifying. Because someone wins four games at the right time doesn’t mean they are the best team. If you want to award them the honorary title, “best team,” go ahead. But understand that it’s honorific in the same way “ALCS Champion” is honorific. The NLCS Champion St. Louis Cardinals were not the “best team.” I guess you’re trying to argue that because this year’s AL playoff teams are close in talent, that this will somehow prove out who is the best team. You can say it all you want, it doesn’t make it true. All it means is that they won the right four games at the right time. And if they played it four times, you might get four different winners. If the Mets lose tomorrow and the Phillies win, the Mets would be out of the playoff picture. If this was fifty years ago and there were only 154 games, they would already be in the World Series. Does this mean that fifty years ago you could have confidently called them the “best team,” but this year you couldn’t? Sometimes the best teams win, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes a team with a big lead hangs on because they’re saved by the bell. If they decided at 245 Park Avenue to add 10 games to the season this year and the Mets went on a roll and got in easily, would they be the best team again? I hope you get it, dude. The “best team” is too fluid to really proclaim, most of the time. I know. It’s tempting to make “once-and-for-all” statements, because people want closure. So again, you can brand them “best team” if you want, and they might be, but just winning those four games will never make it so.
So this division is still open. I knew it would be. They’re going to drag this out. Although Joe Torre is really officially sticking up his middle finger at the whole idea. And tonight he uses Joba again. Okay, I get it, you want him to get used to pitching two nights in a row. But I still don’t get why you wouldn’t have brought him in last Tuesday in a game they easily could have won. I don’t know…Sometimes, I admit I really have no idea what that guy is thinking…
I’ll be at Shea tomorrow night with all of the missus’ little cousins. We take them every year, but they are notorious mushes. As a matter of fact, given the magnitude of the game, I may get a call from Big Joe tomorrow afternoon with the “stand down” order. And if that’s what has to happen, that’s what has to happen. But that isn’t going to change the fact that the Fabulous Mr. Kim will be on the mound… Maybe, as my 9th grade Math teacher, Brother Hornberger, used to say; “All shall be well….”
She calls me from the cold
Just when I was low, feeling short of stable
And all that she intends
And all she keeps inside, isn’t on the label
She says she’s ashamed
And she can take me for a while
And can I be a friend, we’ll forget the past…
She dreams a champagne dream…
– From Shimmer by Fuel
So we’re in. If I really felt like it I could go back and dig up all of the comments that we had back in May and June from people insisting the Yankees wouldn’t make the playoffs. But I won’t. It was amazing, though. Some people simply don’t learn. The best was from the people that scoffed at the idea of Roger Clemens coming in and saving the season. Roger Clemens was a phenomenal addition to this club. The leadership, the example he sets, the stability. Awesome pick-up, regardless of his record. Awesome. I remember suffering through the rantings of one of the missus’ friend’s cousins in early July, who identified himself as an Orioles fan, who thought it was “funny” that the Yankees were paying Roger Clemens $20mm, and he wasn’t even going to get to play in the playoffs. Right, dude… I hope you were watching….
Acc called me as the celebration went down in the clubhouse. I knew exactly what he was about to say, word for word. “Joe Torre’s crying, dude. I love him because he’s a guinea like me.” He says it every time Joe Torre starts bawling his eyes out.
I don’t know how many people saw the pictures of the rookies dressed up like the Wizard of Oz the other day, but it was one of the greatest things you’ll ever see. I don’t know what was better…the fact that Kei Igawa was the flying monkey, the fact that Edwar Ramirez was the wicked witch, or the fact that Joba had a black dot of shoe polish on his nose as part of his cowardly lion costume. Gentlemen, that’s entertainment.
Anybody remember when Steve Phillips said that neither the Mets nor the Yankees were going to make the playoffs? I do. Granted, the Mets are in a dogfight (two poodles?) with the Phillies right now, but I still think they’ll make it. If they don’t my credibility is going to take a major-league ding, because I’ve been telling Big Joe all year they’re going to the World Series. And for some crazy reason, I still think they’re going to do damage in the playoffs. Maybe I’m a jack*ss….I’m definitely a jack*ss….
I said yesterday that in the next few games, Joba and Mo would be pitching mop-up, while yesterday we took a perfectly unnecessary “L.” Any questions?
Speaking of the Mets, Tony Sherry fired me a top-notch text while Wagner was puking up two runs in the ninth. “Oh no. Enter Sad-Man.” I actually called him to verify that he made it up and that it wasn’t a typo. And make it up he did…
To the mailbag. Level, I’m looking for Cleveland. And it looks like a done deal at this point. The bottom line is that the Yankees are better than the Indians. If you’re a karma or a possession arrow kind of a guy, you’ll say that the Indians are due for some wins against the Yanks. I don’t disagree. And we stole, STOLE, one from them on an Allie walk-off, so they might be due one of those. But they’re not the type of team that gives the Yankees fits. They’re not rabbits. They have a few guys that can run, but they try to beat you with their bats. And they can’t do that the way the Yankees can do that. Their bullpen has a few fresh arms, but Joe Borowski is by no means an elite closer. They have two top-line starters, but you can make them throw pitches and get them out of the game. The Yankees need to be patient. The bottom line is that the Indians didn’t have a winning record against any of the playoff teams, and their record against the Yankees and Sox was abysmal. So of course you never know, but that’s who I would prefer.
Last thing from the woman-who-couldn’t-resist-doing-one-last-super-vindictive-thing-to-spite-her-former-boyfriend-who-is currently-running-around-with-a-27-year-old-supermodel-category… Yankee fan Tom Brady’s ex-girlfriend named their baby John Thomas Edward Moynahan. That’s Moynahan…
In a related note, his future nursery school class has just named John Thomas Edward Moynahan “Most likely to change his last name the day he wakes up and realizes his dad is Tom Brady and his last name is ‘Moynahan’.” See you in the playoffs, homeboys…
I’m just as stunned as anyone else right now. I’ve always liked Brian Bruney. I liked that he came in last year and was one of the only guys who could throw hard and had a good bender. He was a guy that you could have some faith in. His issue this year has been his inability to throw strikes. This year he simply could not be counted on to throw strikes. And tonight he was single-handedly responsible for puking away a four run lead. I should mention that I’m in the blue room a bit early and listening to the game, which is currently in the bottom of the seventh. Another excruciatingly long New York Yankee game. Joe Torre is notoriously quick with the hook under normal circumstances, but give him 16 pitchers in his bullpen, like he’s had lately, and he’s good for a four hour game. And it looks like we’re headed in that direction tonight.
The strange thing is that right now I’m not sure who I’m more p*ssed about; Bruney or Bobby Abreu. I realize the right answer is Bruney, but Abreu has still got me pretty lit up about his at-bat last inning. The Rays have a lefty on the mound. Damon led off with yet another base hit, and Jeter battled like a ninja at 3-2. Eventually he smashed a ball off the pitcher’s leg and got thrown out at first, Damon to second. Up comes Abreu. Before you know it he’s ahead 3-0. None of them were close. Then the obligatory pump-it-over pitch, which was a debatable strike. So it’s 3-1. So what does he do? Swing at a bad 3-1 pitch. The guy can’t find the plate, he barely got it over when he was trying to put it right down the middle, and Abreu swings at a bad 3-1 pitch. Absolutely awful. Dude, you need to be smarter. Especially when it comes to playoff time. So he popped out weakly on what would have been ball four, and then with a base open and two outs, the Rays practically fell over laughing intentionally walking Allie. With first and second with one out, you have to pitch to him because you can’t load the bases with one out for the Ferocious Lion. And pitching to Allie would have necessitated changing pitchers, because they aren’t going to leave the lefty in the pitch to the MVP. So needless to say, we don’t score. Although the Ferocious Lion got pumped out on an awful strike call. [Posada just led off the eighth with a double. And there’s Acc calling. Okay, while I was on the phone with Acc, the Yankees tied the game when Bronson Sardinha, running for Posada, kicked the ball out of Dioner Navarro’s glove as he crossed the plate. He would have been out by a country mile if not for Navarro losing the ball. Then Damon got his fifth base hit of the night, and they held Cano at third. The ball was hit right to Gomes, who had just gunned the previous ball that Navarro dropped. Then Jeter struck out to end the inning on a 3-2 pitch.]
I’ve said this many times. Make Gomes throw you out. I know he just threw a bullet that had Sardinha gunned, but make him do it again. There are two outs. Make him gun you. You know how hard it is to do it once, let alone twice? If he gets you he gets you. Odds are you aren’t getting another hit, so you might as well take your shot. Worst-case scenario you have Jeter leading off the next inning. Instead they got out anyway. I just think you need to keep them on edge. Scoscia would have been running even if it was Garret Anderson…..
So what are we headed straight towards? A walk-off win for the Devil Rays. This game is going to be their season. They really don’t care after this. And the Yankees don’t finish well. They have trouble coming back, and when they do come back they stall at “tie” and still end up with the “L.” They have had a lot more instances this year in which they have coughed up a big lead to lose than those in which they have made up a ton of ground to win. This has been their lot this year. I don’t know if there is rhyme or reason to it, but it’s just been that way. [Allie is clearly snapping out of his funk. He already has a bomb tonight, and he just hit a line drive to the warning track that was caught because Johnny Gomes was literally playing him on the warning track, much to Michael Kay and Al Leiter’s surprise.]
Michael Kay actually brought up an interesting point during the broadcast concerning home field advantage in the playoffs. He said that the winning percentage for the home teams in the playoffs during the Wild card era was about .533, which is only slightly better than flipping a coin. The one game is which it plays a huge role is the seventh game of the World Series, where, in the Wild Card era, the home team is 8-0. He was making two points. First, he likes to say that baseball is the one game in which there is not such a stark home-field advantage. I don’t necessarily agree, as I think that last licks things is a pretty big advantage, particularly in an extra-inning game. [Here we go, bottom of the ninth. I do not have a good feeling about this… And man are we close to four hours deep here…again…] The second point he was making was that the one game in which it does make a difference historically, the seventh game of the World Series, isn’t even decided by the best record. It’s either alternating or it’s the winner of the All Star game. So I guess the point is that winning the division doesn’t get you a whole lot. [Jose Veras just walked Carlos Pena with one out in the ninth. These walks have really crushed us. B.J. Upton is up. Which is good because he’s only hitting about .480 against the Yanks this year… Well, he just got a ball call from Gerry Davis – Hey Gerry, how’s your buddy Willie Bloomquist doing? Good? Full count. And then he got a close strike call on the very next pitch. And then he jawed with Davis for about two minutes on the call. How is he not getting thrown out of this game? Three outs. This is sad. The Yankees have out hit the Rays 12 to 4, and yet we’re in extra innings again…]
Well there it is. Dioner Navarro in the 10th with a walk-off bomb. The Yankees are now 4-8 in extra inning games. I hope this evens out come playoff time, because these Yanks just do not finish well. Well, the Tigers live another day, and the Red Sox can breathe a sigh of relief. The Tampa bullpen, which has an ERA over 8, limited the Yankees to one run in five innings, and that’s only because Navarro dropped the ball that would have had Sardinha gunned. Way to go guys. And Joe Torre is already squarely in coast mode. You know, don’t they always tell you that coasting is a bad idea? Like senioritis in high school? Torre had already conceded the game, preferring instead to throw every call-up in the clubhouse out there. First he lets Brian Bruney walk in a run and then continue to pitch, and then he puts the extra inning game in the hands of Jeff Karstens. Once again, winning is lower priority for him than using all of these clowns. I’m really not the most pessimistic guy in the world. But I knew as soon as this game was tied and the Yankees didn’t come right back on the board that this was over. Case in point, I started this post with the game in the seventh inning saying it wasn’t going to be good. Why should that be? Why is this game being handed to Jeff Karstens? He has no shot at making the postseason roster. There is no need to see “how he responds” because he’s going home on Sunday. This was just an out and out concession. I guarantee you Joba and Mo will be pitching in garbage-time games over the next few days just to get them work. And yet they could have contributed to such an eminently winnable game tonight and Torre chose to throw in the towel. Honestly, I hate it. I don’t think it’s the right approach and I hate it….
Me: What’s going on?
Mannino: 4-0 Bad guys.
Me: I knew we were going to lose this game.
Mannino: You need to shut up
That was Mannino instant messaging me earlier this afternoon. Big Joe called later. “Well, you kept saying all day yesterday that they were going to lose today….” Apparently I was being a bit obnoxious about the Yankees not having a shot today. I didn’t care who was scratched and who was being sent out there to pitch. In fact, I first told Acc on Friday night, as he was breaking the game down for me as I was driving home from my cousin Mike’s wedding in Jersey (Mike apologized to me before we left for making me go to Jersey, as he knows I turn into a complete idiot when I’m Jersey) that they were going to lose on Monday. The way I saw it, that Friday night game was going to be the difference between 3-1 and 2-2. I knew they would win two games, and they would probably need to steal the third. And that was their shot. Because if there is one thing I’ve learned (the hard way – in person), it’s that the 2007 Yankees don’t win day games at the Stadium during the week. So 2-2 it was.
So why does this have me concerned? Because MLB, in its maddening out-reach program, is desperate to create hype. And the Chicago Cubs are just their ticket. They desperately want that Chicago market to rally around that TV and finally kick the outside-the-NY-metro-area playoff ratings into gear. They had some success with it in ’03, when the Cubs made a run, so you can bet they’ll give them the prime time games again. And then I have to listen to McCarver tell me how awesome it is that the Cubs get to play in prime time…And that means the two teams from New York, the Yankees and the Mets, will be stuck playing day games. What a joke. The ratings will still blow the doors off of the Cubs, but MLB is willing to take that hit to try and create some sort of Midwest drama. So we have to suffer through day games during the week. Which the Yankees s*ck at. And not just day games. Day games that could potentially be against the Angels. Talk about an f’ing conspiracy… Why don’t you just bring Edgar Martinez out of retirement while you’re at it?
Mannino, in her text messaging today, insisted that the Yankees will take down the Sox for the division. Two against Oakland and four against Minnesota. Interesting. Conventional wisdom says you split the series with an even number of games. Even so, the Yanks would have to go 5-1. If the Yanks had won today, I would have said that they were squarely in the driver’s seat. Now, uphill battle. Odds are they finish exactly one game back, and the Red Sox can look back and pat themselves on the back for every single miracle finish they pulled off this year. No worries. I really just want to win the World Series. Although if you told me back in April when they blew that game in Boston that they were going to lose the division by one game, I probably would have needed to be talked down off the ledge. Now, that’s a bit unfair, because we highway robbed a game right back last week, but still. One game? That would be a bit of a kick in the nuts.
The good news is we’ve got six games to see what happens. The Yankees are not going to lose six in a row, and the Tigers are not going to win six in a row. So the worst-case scenario for the Yankees is that they make it into the postseason and see what happens. In their day games…..
Nick, I have to thank you, dude. And Joseph. As of 10:30pm I had zero comments on the BPS. That has officially never happened before. I was major-league bummed. I actually held off on tonight’s post in hopes that a comment would arrive before I started. So, at 10:32pm, Nick skysurfed in and saved the day, followed by the Statistician Magician. Close….
Breaking news, guys. The crack BPS investigative team has just gotten a copy of a letter that was sent to MLB commissioner Bud Selig by Red Sox president Larry Lucchino. The team, led by Ras, H8N, and Mike W up in Mass, were able to hack into the Red Sox systems, where they uploaded the letter onto a disk and hand it off to Lucky and TS Mike to pass along to Nick, who skysurfed it down to the BPS headquarters in New York. Happymeds provided security. A copy of the letter is below, posted on the BPS before it hits any of the news wires… D*mn that Lucchino! I knew he would pull something like this…
Dear Mr. Selig,
I was wondering if I could impose on you to ask for a small favor. As you know, I am the president of the Boston Red Sox, and I have a request that I’m sure you will consider very minor and will certainly not carry any negative consequences for your league. You see, every time my team has been hit with a bit of adversity this year, a tough loss, a tough run of losses, whatever, we have always been able to count on a nice easy series with the Devil Rays to bail us out. And every time we look up at the scoreboard and see that the Yankees are creeping up so close to us that Giambi and Big Papi could be squeezing the same HGH needle into their butt cheeks, we always know we can turn it up and steal a game from the Rays at the last minute to save our skin. I mean, just look at last week in Fenway, Saturday night in Tampa, well, let’s face it; I could go on and on… And think about it; it makes a difference. Just think, if we hadn’t won every single one of the 13 games that we’ve won against Tampa this year, we would be tied in the loss column with the Yankees. And we don’t own the tie-breaker, I might add. Anyway, I took a quick peek at the schedule, and I see that we don’t have any games with Tampa left. This is where you come in. My request has two parts. First, if possible, I was wondering if we could play our final six games against Tampa Bay. I know it might force you to tinker with the schedule a bit, but we would even be willing to play on the road if we had to (although we really would like to do this at home). Would it really be that big of an inconvenience? And think about it…the D-rays have nothing else to look forward to. Wouldn’t they feel better about themselves as a franchise if they could have a direct impact in the Red Sox winning the division instead of the Yankees? I mean, come on. No one likes the Yankees. Everyone is so sick of them, and besides, they’re mean. Don’t tell me you don’t think so. And everyone loves the Red Sox. I can prove it. Didn’t you see how happy the national broadcasters who have nothing to do with the Red Sox, like Peter Gammons, Tim McCarver and Joe Morgan were when we won in ‘04? We even came up with a really original, fun name for it. We call it “Red Sox Nation.” Cool right? I’m sure you’ve heard of it, but even if you haven’t, just think of the college football teams that have done it for years, like Seminole Nation or Sooner Nation, or one of the NFL teams that popularized it, like Raider Nation. Well, it’s just like that. Except ours is even better, because we gave ours initials. “RSN.” See what I mean? How cool is that! So you see, everyone wins if you could do this for us. And the other part of the request is just as simple. I was wondering if we could alter the playoff format just a hair. Because sometimes I find my team gets a boost from playing the Devil Rays, I was wondering if, in the event that the Red Sox are forced to play in an elimination game, we could play a few games against Tampa Bay. The games would count in the series, and would therefore give us a chance to tie it up or maybe even win. I don’t know why, but my team would just feel a little bit more comfortable if we could stick that in the format this year. And think how excited the fans in Tampa would be? It would almost be like playing in the playoffs for them! So what do you think, Bud? I know we’re on the same page, here. I hope to have your agreement by tomorrow so Terry can set the pitching match-ups. Thanks again, Bud.
Your partner in “doing the right thing,”
Okay Yankee fans. If I asked you at the beginning of the season, or last November, for that matter, to design your least comfortable playoff match-ups for the 2007 post-season, what would you have said? I have to believe the vast majority of you would have though about it for a second, come up with your teams, then thought for another second, and then put it in order. And after about two-and-a-half minutes, you would have said exactly what I would have said. And my guess would be that it would look like this:
First round – Angels. For starters, the Yankees have never won a playoff series against them. Second, they are the only team in the Joe Torre era with a winning record against the Yankees. And they just seem to be in the Yankees heads. As I’ve said many times, every Superman has his kryptonite. And you could probably stop there. But here’s another reason to fear this opponent. Mojo aside, this is not a good match-up for the Yankees. The Yankees do not do well with this style of opponent, the super-aggressive, always-running, hyperactive, Dennis-the-Menace type of team. The Yankee pitchers do not hold runners on well, at least one of their outfield arms is garbage (Damon), and if you’ve got Giambi at first, they will test him until his glove bleeds. And for some reason, their rabbits, Chone Figgins and Orlando Cabrera, seem to run their on-base-percentages up to about .700 when they’re playing the Yanks. They can’t get them out, and it always causes them major problems. Then you’ve got guys like Garrett Anderson, who channels Edgar Martinez in that he always seems to be about two or three swings away from retiring until the Yanks come in, at which point he looks like the love child of Roy Hobbs and Dottie Hinsen. Okay, maybe “looks like” isn’t right….but definitely “plays like”…. And lastly, the team plays halfway across the stratosphere. Not good. You could argue that the starters aren’t too deep, but all the more reason why you don’t want them in a short series. Awful first-round match-up.
Second round – Red Sox. On the surface, this is a lot better match-up for the Yanks. The Sox don’t do a ton of running, they don’t take a ton of extra bases, and they’re old. They just want to slug it out with you, and that’s not usually a problem for them, except when they have to play the Yankees. The Yankees actually match up very well. And you can tell yourself that all day long, and this would still be the last team you want to face. Why? One word. Emotion. This series will go seven, and it will be filled with twists and turns, gut wrenching moments, some extra innings, five-hour games, and media attention from Taiwan to Venezuela by way of Siberia with a left turn at Portugal, and everyplace in between. Even of you get past it, you run the risk of staggering so badly out of the ALCS that you get run in the Series by a clown car like….let me think of a good one….I don’t know…the Marlins? Now, the Sox carry a lot of baggage into this as well, but they have one thing in their favor. They’re the Red Sox, and the Yankees are the Yankees. After Harlem Globetrotters versus Washington Generals, this might be the most one-sided rivalry in sports. It would be like the old Tom and Jerry cartoons, except that it would be Tom the big bad cat who was constantly kicking Jerry the mouse’s a*ss. So the problem with that is that there’s nowhere to go but down if you’re the Yanks. It becomes a no-win situation. If you win, well, of course you won, you’re the Yankees. And by the way, you’re mean. But if you lose, it’s the most colossal world event since the Battle of Hastings. This is a lot to have hanging over your head. And the fact that this will drag out for seven games is why you don’t want this match-up in the ALCS. But that’s where you would get it. So all of this equals, for me, stop eating and stop talking to people for about ten days while it plays out. Same for Acc, except replace “stop eating” with “add meals”…..
World Series – Mets. The National League, in and of itself, is a joke funnier than all of Ellen DeGeneres’ put together. But the Mets can hit. Their pitching is in a bit of a shambles, with the linchpin being our favorite son, a man who has thrown about four games since having the most major of all pitching surgeries. And after that just a ton of question marks. There isn’t a lot to like about the bullpen either. But they’ve got one key thing that makes them a bad match-up for the Yankees on the field. Rabbits. Namely Jose Reyes and Luis Castillo. Not what the Yankees handle well. And add to that the other albatross. Again, emotion. And again, media overload. Although this time it gets concentrated into the New York metro area, and somewhat beyond, even though everyone around the rest of the country pretends that they are completely disinterested in New York vs. New York. Really? How interested were you in Detroit vs. St. Louis? The TV ratings said, “not very.” And you’ve got a similar dynamic with the Mets that you have with the Sox. If you win, it’s because you were supposed to win. If you lose, it’s bigger than the second coming. Except instead of 90 years of their own baggage, the Mets have to carry around 90 years of baggage left over from the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants.
So what will we get? Anybody’s guess. But my money says it will look something like the above….
“You don’t run this town because somebody says you run it, you run it because people think you run it. And when they stop thinking it; you stop running it…”
– Gabriel Byrne as Tommy Reagan in Miller’s Crossing
So I guess you guys saw that Boston Herald thing. Big Joe was with his boy Mike Maz tonight, who got on the phone and told me about it, and I see you guys have been kicking it around in the comments all day. I wonder if the boys at the Herald were reading the BPS last week when we went through the Boston panic button…
So let’s talk about “it.” My two favorite text messages were from Vino and Chris Woy. Vino’s said “I want first place.” He actually said the first place, but I’m assuming that was a typo, because it would have sounded a bit weird otherwise, so I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. But I think that encapsulates what the Yankee fan is all about. All or nothing. Don’t talk to me about any stinking wild card. If that’s all I end up with I’ll take it, but otherwise – no sleep ‘till first place. The other one was Chris Woy’s “Grand Slam Papelboner.” Has my crew really gotten to that point in our lives where it took two years of playing against that guy for one of us to think to call him “Papelboner?” That’s kind of sad. Way to be on top of that, Chris Woy….
So the Statistician Magician made the point that the BPS doesn’t seem to be as needle-full-of-adrenaline psyched as many Yankee fans are about this run towards first. Good observation. I’ll tell you exactly where I stand on this. Say what you want, but I have one goal. See the Yankees win the World Series, preferably from section 24. If that doesn’t happen I consider the season a failure. Through many sessions of intervention from family and friends, they have finally gotten me to accept that it’s okay to look back with fondness at a ballgame in a season that didn’t end in a championship, and consider it a “good memory.” Especially if all of the boys had a great time, it was a big win, etc. And I’m sort of there. I guess. But the point is, all of my motivation is geared towards a championship. And in my opinion, ending up with a division title really doesn’t come with as many benefits as it might. It would be nice, particularly for the home-field angle, but recent history has shown that it just doesn’t make that big of a difference. It’s not like the NFL, where two division winners get a bye and home games. That’s a huge advantage. And the fact that the wild-card teams in baseball have proved to be so tremendously successful has spurred MLB to come up with this lame “the-team-with-the-best-record-can-pick-the-7-or-8-day-series” gimmick. There’s just not a lot of advantage to winning the division. I’m the type of guy that worships at the altar of the law of averages. I believe that in 162 games, the best team will usually rise to the top. A few games either way probably means it’s too close to call in terms of the better team. But generally, you’re going to learn a lot in 162 games. So the way I’m looking at this, I don’t want the Yankees to peak too soon, and I’m a little bit worried that the possession arrow is pointing squarely at the Red Sox. The Yankees have won 9 of the last 12 games between the two teams. I think, looking at it objectively, that part of the reason for that is because the Yankees are the better team at this point in the season. Okajima is spent, Dice K is spent, there is really only one reliable starter for the playoffs, etc. But they’re not 9-out-of-12 better. The margin is still very close. Put Manny back in that lineup and it’s razor-thin. The Red Sox are just due to win some of these head-to-head games against the Yanks. That’s what gives me pause. The Tigers also swooned themselves out of first and into the wild-card last year, and we’ve talked about the ’06 Cards and ’05 White Sox. Okay fine, and the ’04 Red Sox. Given those examples, can a strong first place finish be that important to winning the World Series? Now, in the event that neither the Yanks nor Sox win it all, it’s good for bragging rights. Sort of. Because in that case, if I’m a Red Sox fan and somebody’s breaking my chops about choking away a 14 ½ game lead, my stock response would be, “Cool. How do you guys do in the World Series? Whoops.” So I’m not going to worry about bragging rights. If we get it we get it. But it appears to me that recent history tells us that it’s not necessarily going to make a huge difference in the pursuit of my goal, and that’s to see the Yankees win the World Series. That’s why it’s not my primary focus. Although I admit I’d be pretty psyched if it happens…
If it’s any consolation to the Red Sox fans (and it definitely isn’t), this is exactly what Yankee fans went through in April/May on a much grander scale. You find new, crazy ways to lose seemingly every single night, and every single time you look at the scores, your fiercest rival is winning. It’s maddening. So…..yeah….sorry…….
Last thing. Dougie Fresh. For most of this season, even when he was out injured, I had him stuffed into a big red bag with “Everlast” written down the front of it, and I was doing my best Chuck Liddell on him. And along with life-crushing him, I’ve also written about fifteen posts in which I railed about defense at first base being overrated. Well, that’s why I’m sitting in the Blue Room and Joe Torre and Brian Cashman are taking calls from potential biographers. Even if it’s only been for a few weeks, Dougie has certifiably contributed, and is probably directly responsible for about three wins by himself. Good stuff, Dougie. But I’m still not going to risk carpal-tunnel by spelling out your full name. Was the name-shortening guy at Ellis Island on a mutton break when your relatives passed through, bro?
Probably won’t be the most uncomfortable day in Boston tomorrow. Shame….
“You just did it to him, you know that, right?” I was pulling the quick-change in our secret parking spot on the street near the Stadium, ditching the work duds and throwing on the gear. Tony Sherry was asking me this question while pointing at Anthony Cheerios on his phone as I was pulling the Bernie Williams batting practice T-shirt over my head. Anthony Cheerios had nonchalantly asked me what I thought about the game a few seconds earlier, and then was immediately on the phone laying a few bucks on exactly what I had said. He was still kicking himself for not taking the Angels when I nonchalantly made a comment that it would be a miracle if the Yankees beat them in a particular game a few weeks ago, before they got pounded. Now, anyone who reads the BPS regularly knows that I am Dewey-Defeats-Truman wrong as much as I am right, probably more. But Cheerios had it in his head that I knew what I was talking about. I said I liked the Yankees and the over (which was 11, incidentally) with Moose going. I also told him that if you put a gun to my head to take one or the other, I’d go with the over.
Fast forward to the bottom of the fourth. I was explaining to the girls behind us (Cousin Nicky’s crew) that you had to do something a bit pronounced in our seats when the ball comes our way, because you’re going to be all over the TV and highlight clips, and you want to be able to pick yourself out later on. Two seconds later Jeter singled right by us. The camera shots cut away before we got in the view, unfortunately. Then Abreu singled literally right next to us. So if anyone’s interested, if you check the highlights package on Yankees.com, and click on “Yankees six-run fourth,” I’m the guy in the green Yankees hat and number 51 Bernie Williams shirt pumping my fist hanging over the wall as the ball scooted right to us.
As we watched the game, and watched Moose dealing, the scores all scrolled by on the screens. The Red Sox were winning and the Tigers were winning. And then the floodgates opened on the field in front of us and the Yanks started blambasticrating the ball. Anthony Cheerios, who was looking at the over all the way, was forced to look for more and more love from the Yanks, as it didn’t appear Baltimore even wanted to score. And when Cano finally slid home with the twelfth run, the Cheerio man was leading a raucous party in section 24. Most people didn’t understand why we were going so nuts with a 12-0 lead, but hey; sometimes you’re looking for your boy to rally.
And just when you thought all the drama had been ****** out of the place, we see Cleveland taking down Detroit. Detroit was and is now officially on life-support. And then we see Gagne was pitching in the Boston game. Hope sprung into the crowd. A few minutes later, we saw the score was tied on a bases-loaded walk. So not only was the game tied, but the bases were probably still loaded, depending on how far behind the updates were. And then a roar went up in the crowd. Toronto had taken a 4-2 lead. Man. Talk about injecting some atmosphere into the Stadium. The party continued right through to Francis Albert’s second verse of New York, New York. “Now it’s nuts,” Tony Sherry said out loud to nobody in particular. “It’s officially nuts.”
So if you’re the Red Sox, or the Mets for that matter, here’s some good news. Two years ago the White Sox choked away a pile of games down the stretch and almost got jumped from behind by Cleveland, up and out of the playoffs. The lead had been squandered down to about two, and then they righted the ship at the last minute to win the division. Oh yeah, and the World Series, incidentally. Last year, the Cardinals were even worse. They had frittered away the lead to a microscopic bulge over Houston. They hung on, and then…let’s see….won the World Series. And that’s what the Mets and Red Sox are doing. Not exactly the way they drew it up, I’d imagine, but if recent history is any indicator, maybe they shouldn’t panic at this point….
As for our Yankees; it’s time to take care of business. And at the moment, business is good….
The phone rang about twenty seconds after I hit “send” on the text message. It was Acc. “Dude, I’m stuck in Ohio h*ll. What’s going on?” Now, in fairness, the poor b*stard was reacting to my text, which said simply, “I can’t watch this cr*p. Why do they always do this after beating Boston?” I actually forgot the big boy was stuck in Ohio, or I might have been a bit less abrupt. So after shocking him out into the hallway of whatever function he was at, I gave it to him straight. “Not good, bro.” He sounded a bit distressed. “What is it like 10 – nothing?” I realized at this point that perhaps I was being a bit overdramatic. “No, dude. Actually it’s only 2-0.” “That’s it? What inning? Why did you make it seem like it was life fifty to two?” “It’s possible I might have overstated it somewhat. It’s the second inning, and Cabrera just hit Giambi. First and second, nobody out.” “Nice, *sshole. I almost had a heart attack in front of about 200 people I don’t know. What’s going on now? Who’s up?” This last part was what was really important. Good news solves everything. I proceeded to walk him through the entire inning, right through Dougie’s game-tying base hit. We were on our way…
I caught a little of the replay of WFAN’s Mike & the Mad Dog show on YES tonight, and two points stuck out. Unabashed Yankee-hater Chris Russo was screaming about pitching to Jeter on Sunday night in the eighth. Jeter’s done it to them so many times in that spot, he said, so why do you pitch to him instead of Abreu. If Abreu beats you, so be it. But you don’t want the bat in Jeter’s hands there. I see his point, but you also don’t want Schilling out there for another batter. Jeter hit the 90th pitch from Schilling, and you can’t expect that he had a whole lot more in the tank. He had pitched a great ballgame up to that point, and pitching to Abreu probably would have meant bringing in the lefty. I think he liked his chances better with Schilling. And there was one other factor. I think he wanted to get Schilling a win. Francona is known as a player’s manager, and I think he has a bit of a tendency to leave a guy in there in one batter too many, hoping to give the guy an opportunity to get the win. He did it a few times this year against the Yankees with Dice-K, and it worked in a few of the early games and it didn’t work later in the season. But I think that was partially behind the decision to pitch to Jeter. Besides, Abreu isn’t exactly Paul Zuvella. It’s not like that’s a great option either.
The other point I thought was interesting was when Mike Francesa made the point that Boston’s lineup without Manny just isn’t scary. I completely agree. It’s a good lineup; lots of tough outs. But that Ortiz/Manny combo is what makes that lineup go boom. Even when he’s not having the greatest year, he’s always scary. Manny’s health will be a huge factor as they get closer to the playoffs.
I was flipping back and forth to Baseball Tonight on ESPN as I watched the end of the Yanks, looking for updates on the Tigers. There was a good moment as they went through the in-progress Yankee clip. Karl Ravech was running through the Millar strikeout with the bases loaded (worth noting that I would not have complained if he was given the walk on either one of those first two strike calls). He made a comment that “The Yankee bullpen has really tightened it up.” Steve Phillips commented “Well, they’re giving up base runners, but they’re finding ways to sneak out of it.” Ravech then hit him with, “Man, Steve is just jones-ing for the Yankees not to get in.” Then Kruk piled on. “Why don’t you just say you don’t like them?” The former Met GM and loser of the 2000 World Series to the Yankees just laughed. But didn’t argue.
So Detroit finally blinked. Sooner or later it’s going to get you. You can’t win every game. At this moment, the Yankees are closer to Boston than Detroit is to them. If the Yankees can go 7-5 in their last 12, Detroit has to go 10-1. And that’s just to force the one-game playoff at the Stadium… Maybe now’s the time for Detroit to start freaking out to the commissioner’s office at 245 Park Avenue about having the fifth best record in baseball and not being allowed to participate in the playoffs, while all these National League ******* are vying to get in and pull a “Cardinals.” That’s what Steinbrenner would have done. Before he checked his marbles, the poor guy. Or maybe this is just punishment for the Tigers after letting the Cardinals humiliate them last year. I’d be okay with that.
Joseph, I completely agree with you. I’ve always been against “protecting the plate.” If you start swinging at balls out of the zone because you’re trying to “protect the plate” with two strikes, you’re going to make an out. So why is hitting the ball weakly by swinging at a pitch that you can’t drive better than letting the ump do his job and call a ball, giving you a better count? There aren’t too many good outcomes if you swing at a ball out of the zone. I guess fouling it off is the best one. But there are so many bad outcomes. So if you take it, and let the ump do his job, most likely you’ll improve your count. The umps usually get it right. And even if he does punch you out, it’s no worse than if you trickled one back to the pitcher. So we agree. How about that… Maybe we can all just get along….
Seannie, your boy’s up!! (I don’t want to mention that I’ll be there with the fellas in section 24 tomorrow, because of the obvious issue of my record. But I’m determined to bring back a win….)