So here’s one from the absolutely-nobody-agrees-with-me file. I hate watching officials – umpires, refs, etc. and the way they affect games. Not that I have anything against them. Ultimately, it’s a generally high-stress, thankless job, and these guys are out there doing their absolute best. For the most part, it’s a downright noble endeavor. The problem is that officials are human. Human, with all of the associated frailties, misgivings and fallibility, and charged with a task that, for the most part, doesn’t call for a human element.
There was a conversation on the Yankee broadcast the other night between Al Leiter, Michael Kay, and David Cone. Two pitchers and a conscientious observer. The discussion was around a conversation that Kay said that he had with Wade Boggs. Why did Boggs continue to take pitches just off the plate, Kay asked, when the umpire was calling the outside pitch? Boggs’s response was that he couldn’t unlearn everything he had learned since he was three years old. The pitchers’ immediately objected, but both couldn’t really come up with a good reason for their objection. You have to adjust to the umpires, was all that they could manage to say. It’s part of the game. Not surprising that this was their view. They’re pitchers. They are almost always the beneficiaries of an ump who decides to make his own rules. Rarely do you hear of an ump who decides he isn’t going to call balls right over the plate a strike. It’s generally a question of how much is the ump going to give you. And I guess the question is – why? Why do the umps get that kind of latitude to change the rules and the game? Why is that okay? What happens, then, is that the road team comes to bat in the first inning with a distinct disadvantage. They don’t know what’s going to be a strike on any given night. A guy like Boggs, or Giambi, lives and dies with their strike zone. An ump with a renegade zone is going to blow a hole in their approach. And I would also offer that most umps will vary the strike zone throughout the course of the game much more than people realize.
I’ve been following the NBA playoffs, and you see the same thing. I’ve talked about this before, but how exactly is it possible that the home team wins almost every d*mn game when being the home team doesn’t have any tangible advantage in any given game? Sorry, guys. There is a problem. And I’m not accusing the refs of being anything more than human. They get caught up in things, just like everybody else. And you can’t watch a game without noticing that they affect the outcome on almost every trip down the court. One call and one non-call and you’ve got 4, 5, or 6 point swing. How many playoff games are won by six points or less? How about if you multiply that by twenty or thirty trips down the court? You can’t ignore it. How exactly did the refs not call the Derek Fisher foul on Brent Barry in that Spurs-Lakers game the other night? It was as obvious as a call could be. So obvious, in fact, that the NBA felt it necessary to apologize the next day. But what was the reason? The ref was right there. He either a) didn’t see it, or b) didn’t think it was a foul. Neither is plausible, as it was the last shot of the game. So why?
The answer, in my mind, is that they’re human. I have no conspiracy theories on this, just that the umps, officials, etc, get caught up. I don’t know a lot about basketball, but I know the finals are going to feature the Lakers and the Celtics. And not for any other reason that everyone just sort of seems to expect it and everyone just seems to fall in line. Now you could also argue they are the best teams. And I’m okay with that, but if you watch the games, you just get the feeling that their opponents are climbing uphill before anything even starts. And it’s no surprise, then, when that no-call comes at the end of that game, and nobody can explain how or why it wasn’t called. Not even the guy who didn’t blow the whistle.
We’ve talked about the ways that umpires affect any given baseball game. The recent talk is about instant replay, and the rash of blown calls around home runs balls, fair/foul, etc. To me this is silly, and easy. There is no good argument against getting the call right via replay. But to me, that’s not the issue. Those plays are cut and dry. Balls and strikes is where the real variable occurs. It’s funny that everyone universally agrees that any of the judgment calls that umpires make are untouchable by instant replay or automation. It’s interesting that the one area in which an umpire’s fallibility is so dramatically on display is the one area everyone seems to agree must be left in their hands alone.
This is where I diverge from the crowd. And where I tend to be on an island. I’m for automation of the entire process. I’m of the opinion that if we can land a spacecraft on top of a penny on Mars, we can come up with technology that will measure whether a pitch is a ball or a strike and flash it immediately. It will immediately level the playing field. And that goes for all of the close plays in the field as well. From a technology standpoint, I have to believe it’s eminently do-able. And frankly, the only argument against it is that it’s not traditional. Some people like the wildcard aspect of “is he going to get the call right.“ To me, it’s completely unnecessary. If that were a valid argument, the fallibility would be celebrated. You would hear things like, “that’s the beauty of this game – you get thrown out to end an inning, but the ump gets it wrong and you score four runs to win the game. It really is pretty to watch.” But it’s not, of course. Umpire mistakes are swept under the rug and aren’t supposed to be talked about. We, led by MLB, are all supposed to believe that all games are won and lost strictly by the play in the field. We’re not supposed to believe that one call can change the entire game. We’re all supposed to say things like, “The calls didn’t beat them; they couldn’t get the big base hit.” Well, the truth is that it’s usually a mix of both. And in some cases, one begets the other. Abreu with a man on second and one out two nights ago saw the first two pitches six inches off of the plate, both called strikes. Now he’s 0-2 and he has to swing at whatever garbage gets thrown a foot outside. So guess what. He didn’t get the big hit. Was it because he simply failed, or was it a foregone conclusion because the umpire changed the rules to his disadvantage at a crucial point in the game? Or a mix of both? There were the Rockies last year, winning a wild-card berth on a blown call in extra innings. Were the Padre players all standing around the locker room after the game going, “Hey, we just got robbed of a playoff berth on a bad call by an umpire, but it sure did make things more interesting, didn’t it?” Do you think back in the ’96 ALCS Tony Tarasco was thinking, “You know, Jeter didn’t really hit a home run in a huge swing game in this series, but I’m still excited about Rich Garcia making such a big call!” I am in favor of eliminating an unnecessary element of the game. Automate everything and level the playing field. You wouldn’t have to watch Kevin Youkilis whine and cry pitch after pitch that he isn’t getting calls, you wouldn’t have to suffer a loss in a huge game because an ump, in all his humanity, got caught up in a big play and made a dead-wrong call for the home team. Of course, you lose out on a reprieve when you’re the guy catching a break, but you have no case if you’re going to walk away bitter because you didn’t get the chance to be given an extra out or run incorrectly. No one can complain.
Umpires and officials as a group are generally coddled by their employers. In fact, they’re almost like Cold War political bosses. You’re not allowed to criticize them, and you’re punished swiftly and harshly for doing so. Must be nice. Again, I don’t blame them. I think they’re simply guilty of being human in a task that doesn’t require a human element. Hearing things like “You can’t call that in such a big game,” or “you’re never going to get that call on the road,” or “hey, the ump is calling it that way for both teams,” are completely counter to the competitive ideal. Make a rule, stick to it, play by it. You can’t change things to suit you as things go along.
I know. It’s drastic. I get pained faces whenever I talk to people about it. But I get tired of fallibility. I’ve seen enough of that with the Yanks this year.
“The Mets are going to win this game.” This was the best I could do in terms of conversation with the missus tonight around 10:30 or so. This is about what I’m good for. Sad but true. The Mets were playing in extra innings tonight against the Marlins. They were also losing by a run as they came to bat in the bottom of the 11th. At home. And if I’ve been horrendously repetitive about anything, it’s that it’s so hard to win in extra innings on the road. And as I watched David Wright stroll up to the plate, I felt the same way I felt about last night’s game. They were going to pull that game out. So that’s when I made that announcement to the missus. So as long as I’m going to be that big of a boring loser, at least I was right. The Mets won. And like the Orioles last night, they only needed one out.
Somebody remind me to yell at Acc. He never texts or e-mails me with good news or in good situations. Anytime I get a text from Acc it means things are really bad or something weird has the potential to happen. It’s his version of being superstitious. He thinks he’s jinxing things if he reports on good news. It’s annoying because I know if he’s sending me texts, things are weird. It’s the polar opposite of Tony Sherry. He loses interest if the Yankees are getting pummeled and shuts the game off. He usually calls or texts to celebrate “the greatest thing he’s ever seen in his life.” A little variety would be nice. I’m not looking for these guys to be predictable.
Jason Giambi made a great comment on the post-game tonight. He was talking about what I think is the biggest reason he struggles so mightily when he struggles. The shift. He said that with all of the Yankees swinging the bat better these days, there are more people on base when he comes up and he faces a less drastic shift. Dead-on comment. Anything that beats that shift is a good thing.
I guess if you look at the big picture, you could probably spin the past week and change to say that the Yanks won a series against Baltimore, swept a series against Seattle, and would have won another series against Baltimore had it not been for a the O’s stealing one in every sense of the word last night. But being that the first 50 games of the season has gone as it has; I am more inclined to think that the Yankees need to prove that they can close before I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.
When I went through yesterday’s game with Acc today on the phone, we both asked why Mo just didn’t come out for a third inning. It’s not unprecedented in a regular season game. Joe Torre used Mo for three in that disastrous game in Detroit last year that went until 4 in the morning. But I actually like Jason from the Heartland’s question better. Why not Joba? Was it so important to wait one more day? Maybe it was. Maybe not. One of my points on the phone with Acc today was that you never want to save Mo for tomorrow when you need him today. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Maybe you’re blowing them out by 10 runs by the third inning. Maybe you’re getting blown out. But guess what. The Yankees needed every inch of both guys tonight. And not surprisingly, they both delivered. So maybe I don’t know anything. But that was brutal last night.
Tonight was a big win. First of all, you can’t afford to slide back to three-games-under .500. But more importantly, after the devastation of last night, it was a big deal that the Yankees could win this game. They didn’t exactly score 15 runs, but this was a nice win. Maybe one of these days they’ll really start to put it all together…
It’s like slow death. There’s nothing worse than watching a tie game when you’re rooting for the road team. That’s what I’m doing as I tap the keys. [Betemit just singled through the right side with one out in the ninth - I'm not fooled]. It’s interesting. Baseball is really one of the only sports in which the home team really does have a tangible advantage. Last licks can’t be overvalued. [Cano just fell victim to what we constantly lament here at BPS - a 3-0 pitch was clearly outside, but home plate umpire Doug Eddings called a cowardly strike, figuring he would give the pitcher a strike so that he could give himself another shot at a ball being hit into play so he would not have to be responsible for a baserunner himself, i.e. giving a runner first base on a walk. That would have been first and second with one out. Now Cano has to swing at the next outside pitch, because the ump just expanded the strike zone. And swing he does, predictably hitting a weak tapper to the left side. Two out. Molina hits a lazy fly ball. Inning over. Thanks Doug. Here it comes.] Once the road team doesn’t score, the home team knows it’s got two shots to win a walk-off. It’s a huge advantage, both psychologically and tactically. Psychologically, there is no danger of a walk-off loss. You’ve always got a shot to even it. And tactically, you know when you’re down and you’ve got to take a chance; bunt, hit and run, steal (anybody remember Dave Roberts?), etc. This is why it’s so hard to win a game in extra innings on the road.
So I ask you – which is more devastating. Coughing up two four-run leads and losing, or coming all the way back from two four-run deficits and then losing? [Here it comes. Mariano, in for his second inning of work, just surrendered a one-out double to Ramon Hernandez. Fasten your seatbelts. I'm preparing myself for the inevitable black helmet, white uniform, bounce-fest at home plate. I can't wait.] For the Yankees, it has got to be tough to swallow. They’ve come back from a deficit of more than two runs exactly once this year, and that was last Sunday. Today, they coughed up two four-run leads twice in the same game. So I really don’t know the answer to my own question. But it’s certainly annoying.
For the uninitiated, it might seem that I am extra pessimistic about the prospects for this game. [Note: I've paused the game to type out some of this stuff. Mo is pitching with one out and a pinch runner on second. The excuse I'm giving is that my mood and commentary will instantly turn even darker when bad things happen, so I'll put my thoughts down before that. The real reason is that I'm putting off watching it, thinking that if I pause it long enough, maybe everyone will forget about it and it will go away.] It’s not this game per se, but again, I have no confidence on the road in extra innings. In any game. And the longer the game goes, the greater the disadvantage. And seeing as the Yankees have lost three walk-off games this year already, I’m even more gun-shy. They’re not exactly a model of resiliency.
So what goes around comes around, I guess. Last year the Orioles and Yankees were involved in almost the exact same game. Rain coming down, Yanks have people on base, and Jeter comes through with a base hit with two outs. The umps pull the tarp, the Orioles go nuts. Their complaint was that the umpires were waiting until the Yankees took the lead to pull the tarp. So tonight that argument was proved silly. Tonight was the exact same situation. Two outs, runners on second and third, and the umps were waiting on one batter. They were waiting on the Ferocious Lion’s at-bat, good or bad. If he made out, the tarp was coming out. If he got a RBI hit, the tarp was coming out. This time, Girardi objected as the at-bat went on, as the Ferocious Lion clearly couldn’t see. He was toweling his face, wiping his eyes, and trying to shield the rain. In other words, the perfect conditions to try and get a go-ahead base-hit. Awesome. He didn’t.
[Time to take my medicine. I'm going to hold my breath and un-pause the game. I've had it paused for 16 minutes. Adam Jones at the plate.]
I have to admit, I haven’t watched this whole game. I came in at 4-4, went to eat dinner, and came back at 8-8. [Strike three to Jones. Two outs.] I was, of course, sick to hear that the Yankees had blown two 4-run leads. [The old Met, Jay Payton is pinch hitting. Michael Kay is talking about walking him to go after Brian Roberts. Really? Walk Jay Payton? Mo just walked him on four straight pitches. Apparently Roberts is 5-9 lifetime against Mo. So why do we want to face him again? Roberts is crying about a strike call. I love that. You should be thanking your stars, dude, with all the calls you’ve gotten tonight. Fly out to center. Yanks coming up. Damon is up. I can’t believe this. Doug Eddings, that coward, just did it again. A 3-0 pitch, clearly outside, and Eddings called a strike. Guess what Damon is about to see twice more….Same pitch. Same bad call. Same pitch again, but too far outside. Damon walks. What’s the famous stat? That 67% of all lead-off walks come around to score? I could go for that right now. Jeter laid down a beauty and the throw went into right field. They’re walking Abreu to load the bases for Allie. Come on guys. They couldn’t possibly sugarcoat this any more for you. If he strikes out I’m going to puke all over my computer. Well, I don’t believe what I just saw. An absolute blast, short-hopped by the drawn in second baseman Roberts and turned into a 4-2-5 double play. I’ve honestly never seen that before, and I’ve never been sicker. Not only do you erase the run, you erase the runner at third. And not even the Ferocious Lion getting a RBI base hit makes me feel better, because it only scored one because the runner at third was erased by the double play. Again, I have never seen that before. Now I’m even sicker. Just minutes after taking a one-run lead I see LaTroy Hawkins on the mound for the Yanks. I literally just screamed “No!” out loud about 8 times in a row. Now I feel even worse. How did it come to this? We have a shot to win a roller-coaster game and LaTroy Hawkins is the best we can do to close? What is Joe Girardi thinking? Hawkins is gasoline. He just got torched by this same team yesterday. What is he doing? You want the truth? I still feel like the odds of winning are less than 50%. In fact, I’ve paused this game again, just so I don’t have to sit through it. First up, Melvin Mora. He’s hitting .600 lifetime against Hawkins. That strikes me as one of the lower averages, frankly. Eddings again just shied away from calling a borderline third strike. Shocking. Then a leadoff base hit. More shocking. Then Markakis hits a ball to the warning track. So close, that was. I get the feeling I know how this is going to go. And there it is. Triple by Aubrey Huff. Still one out. It’s all academic. Please cut Hawkins today. I’m not a pessimistic guy by nature. Seriously. But sometimes you just know. I guess there is something to be said for “not your night.” I mean, come on. Two four-run leads, a positively circus-style 4-2-5 double play with the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the eleventh, and now a bottom of the eleventh comeback. And now the bases are loaded for Alex Cintron, and I’m predicting the winning run will come via the walk. How did I open this thing up? Slow death? Could I have been any more on the money? It is so hard to win these games on the road. Like I said, you know when you have to pull out all of the stops. Every pinch hitter, every desperate pinch runner. Well, I was wrong. A lazy fly ball to right won the game. Abreu didn’t even bother to catch it, as it would have easily scored the run.
Black helmet, white uniform, bounce-fest at home plate.
“You gotta start having more faith in your team,” Big Joe (father-in-law) was chiding me on the other end of the phone. It was late Sunday afternoon, and Big Joe was right. I shut the radio off in the bottom of the 7th inning when I was driving out to my mother’s house with the missus and the boy. I guess something about 0-23 when losing after 7 innings pointed me in that direction. I didn’t even know they ended up winning until Big Joe called. I missed the whole thing. Too bad. I would have enjoyed it.
Fast forward about 24 hours. I was sitting on the bottom step of Big Joe’s pool in Staten Island. Big Joe strolls up alongside the pool. “How’s the water,” he asked. “Good,” I said. “But the Yankees are going to need another one of those comebacks you were telling me about yesterday.” It was 3-0 after a pair of 2-out, run scoring hits by the O’s in the bottom of the 7th. And as soon as he walked away, Aubrey Huff kablastified the game-ender. So much for comebacks. I did stick it out to the end this time though.
So a couple of things to note about the Yankees surge over the last week. Well, one thing, actually. Schedule. The Seattle Mariners are terrible. Thankfully. And that’s why the Yankees were sitting at .500 before today’s game. Since Allie has been back, the Yankees are 5-2. And that’s 2-2 against the very mediocre Baltimore Orioles and 3-0 against hapless Seattle. Those games almost don’t count. So the Yankees are still not out of the woods by any means. Even these last 7 games of rejuvenation have featured 3 games in which the Yankees have scored 2 runs or less. It’s sad to watch these nobody lefties like Oliver Perez, Garret Olson, Jarrod Washburn and Brian Burres look like Cy Young against the Yankees. Sad. The Yankees are still in an offensive no-man’s land. Every single regular in their lineup is hitting at least 13 points below their career average, with the exception of the Ferocious Lion. Most – Cano, Giambi, Damon, Jeter, Melky, Molina – are anywhere from 25 to 80 points below their career averages. They’ve put some nice numbers up in four of the last seven games, but they need to be more consistent.
All of that said, it’s evident that the return of Allie has given the team a boost. You have to respect him, no matter what. And he’s a righty bat. Hopefully Posada will also give them a boost. I would find it hard to believe that 8 out of 9 guys are going to underachieve at the plate for the rest of the year. You’ve already seen Giambi and Cano start to hit. Unfortunately their rise has been alongside the slides of Melky, Jeter, Abreu, and Damon. And I haven’t even gotten to the pitching.
How scary is it that Moose is leading this team in wins? I can’t even begin to tell you. Darrel Rasner has had the right idea, one that Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy should learn. Throw strikes. Just throw strikes. Pettitte hasn’t been that bad. He hasn’t been good either, but he’s been kind of a hard luck loser. It’s hard when you’re measuring a pitcher’s wins and losses, because run support is so key. Wang has gotten zero support. Rasner got zero today. Pettitte has often gotten zero this year. Let’s face it. With the Yankee offense playing the way it has this year, there were plenty of zeroes to go around. The pitching hasn’t exactly been solid, but I honestly don’t think the pitching has been the problem.
So my diagnosis is this. The Yankees, now that they are done playing Seattle in Yankee Stadium, will go back to wallowing around .500 for the time being. Win, lose, win, lose. We’ll see if the return of Posada gives them any kind of offensive consistency. And we’ll see if any of these underachievers can get hot all at once and start scoring some runs. Until any of that happens, we’ll be at .500 for a while. Which isn’t so bad, considering the circumstances. You knew the Yankees were in trouble when they found out they were going to lose Allie for a month and Posada for two. It’s not easy.
So here’s one to ponder for a bit. The Yankees were lucky enough to play the Mariners at home the past few games to get their record back to .500. The Mariners own the worst record in the American League, and as the games were at Yankee Stadium, they also own the worst road record in the American League. Anybody know which team (as of this writing) owns the second-worst road record in the American League? Big Joe’s response when I told him: “Never in a million years would I have guessed that…” The answer? The Boston Red Sox.
“Too much, dude.” We were at Elia’s on Third Avenue, one of the best Greek restaurants in Brooklyn, and Tony Sherry was echoing the sentiments of the girls, who were shaking their heads as if to say they didn’t even want to be associated with ordering five appetizers for four people. “Okay, dude,” I said, “But you know my policy.” My policy has always been crystal clear. Always over-order. You don’t absolutely have to eat everything, but at least you’ll have all the flavors you’re looking for. If you under-order, you can’t go back for something crucial you might have missed. But in this case, I didn’t necessarily disagree with the group. We were doing two saganaki’s (Fried cheese with lemon), grilled octopus and a large Greek salad. With entrees and desserts I knew it would be a lot. I always stagger out of that place. So we capped the appetizers at four. I went with the Australian lamb chops with oregano fries and spinach. Tony went with the veal chop, and the missus went with the lamb ravioli. Mrs. Tony Sherry went with the filet mignon, which, interestingly, came with both potatoes and red wine risotto. I thought two starches was a no-no. Didn’t the two brothers say so in the movie Big Night? I could have sworn. But there it was. Two starches. Each one more delicious than the next, I might add. And the desserts are always crazy. Ek Mek (for those of you that don’t know what that is, go into a Greek restaurant one day and try it), hand pressed yogurt, rice pudding, and assorted gelatos and sorbets dotted our table. It was really over the top. Great as usual, though.
While we were out we could keep tabs on the game at the bar. We couldn’t see it perfectly, but we could see that there wasn’t a whole lot going on. A 1-1 tie. Somewhere along the way I started getting text messages from Petey Goods. I didn’t know the final until seconds before I walked in the door, as I watched the Yankees website update with the news that the Yankees had walked off courtesy of Robbie Cano. I immediately went down to the basement where Big Joe (who was baby-sitting with my mother-in-law) was watching the NBA playoffs. And Big Joe gave me the lowdown on the day’s events. Mets, Yankees, you name it. Petey Goods, in one of his texts, made reference to Girardi doing a Billy Martin impersonation. Big Joe told me why. Interesting play. I have no idea if the thing hit his bat, but you wonder how it was the catcher that talked home plate Chris Guccione into making the call. That was a bit odd, but I’m all for getting it right. So if it hit the bat, it hit the bat. I think everyone gets what Girardi was doing. Putting the Steinbrenners, the fans, and the City of New York on notice that he will start knocking some stuff around if he has to. Fire in the belly always plays well in this town initially. After that box is checked, the characterizations will hopefully get a bit more rational. And it was a good show…
So we’re back to getting Joba back in the rotation. Not that I don’t think he can do it, or should do it, eventually, but I would have liked to see a commitment one way or another for 2008, and then re-evaluate after the season. This is a panic move. And who in the rotation goes away? Moose, Pettitte, Kennedy, or Rasner? Not that any of these guys has exactly tattooed a smile on your face this year, but I hope the front office has a very good plan, here. Because so far I don’t like it.
I hope the Mariners are still the kind of target they were back when we first played them a few weeks ago. Bedard has always given the Yanks fits, but they got him last time. The Yankees had lost three walk-off games before tonight, and tonight was the first time they’ve won one all year. Is a little mini-streak too much to ask at this point?
I never answer the home phone. It’s never for me. If anyone is looking for me, they’re calling me on my cell. If the home phone is ringing, it’s always for the missus. So tonight, as the missus, her best friend Staten Island Mary, and their moms were huddled around the boy, I was ready to ignore the home phone, ringing on the table. But I peeked at the caller ID and could see that it was Big Joe (father-in-law). “Well at least you don’t have to worry about this one,” Big Joe says. Now when Bog Joe drops a line like that on me, it tells me a few things. First of all, without looking at the clock I figured it was 9pm or so, which ordinarily would be way too early to start talking about “not having to worry” about a game, so I knew that Big Joe was telling me that the Yankees were winning in a blow out. I was continuing my abstinence from the Yankees tonight, so this was all I had to go on, as I wasn’t watching the game. But it was enough.
I’m not going to lie to anyone. Rather than subject myself to another one of these nightmares, I decided to continue the non-watch for one more night in favor of the American Idol finale. Of course, I don’t disagree with Mike Sherry’s position. There’s nothing cool about watching American Idol in lieu of the Yankees. But there comes a point when you need a little separation.
Although I still think it’s premature to think that Allie is going to save the Yankees, I guess you have to acknowledge the impact he brings to the team just being in the lineup. The Yankees were complete and utter toast against the most mediocre lefthanders while he was out. Anyone who watched the game last Sunday knows that Oliver Perez didn’t pitch that great a game. The Yankees had a ton of chances with people crawling all over the bases, but their ineptitude with runners in scoring position was transcendent. And that goes the same for any lefties they’ve faced. And it isn’t just lefties. The offense has been, as Chris Woy and others have said, completely unwatchable. But tonight you had Allie, causing some havoc, hitting bombs, driving in runs, turning the lineup over. In other words, doing what no other Yankee outside of the Ferocious Lion was able to achieve in his absence. You can see the difference.
It’s funny. I always tell everyone that whenever there is a clear-cut blown call on a fair/foul-HR/double call, the umps huddle up and almost always get it right. So much so that I was sure they had a “spotter” up in the booth letting them know if a replay showed clearly that they had blown a call on one of those where-did-the-ball-land plays. Because they just always seemed to get it right. So in the span of four days, we’ve seen two big misses by the umps in the same park. Believe it or not, I’m really not going to freak out about either one, as neither ended up affecting the game, although if they had I would probably be furious. So if they don’t have a spotter, maybe they should. Allie should have three bombs in two days. Delgado should have another as well.
See how easy it is to score more than two runs?
So I don’t know what to make of Darrell Rasner. Sure, I’m just as psyched as anyone that he’s 3-0. Believe me, I’ll take it. But who is he going to be? Is he going to be a legit starter in this league, or is he just on an Aaron Small-type tear? Time will tell, but he’s using the Aaron Small formula. Throw strikes, get your outs, and let them hit it. With the Yankee offense behind you, they will get you enough runs to win a good deal of games. Well, it used to be that way, anyway.
Which brings me to another question. The ’05 Yankees were saved by Cano, Small, and Shawn Chacon. The ’07 Yankees were saved by Joba, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Shelley Duncan. Melky and Abreu provided the spark in ’06. Who will be the mid-season savior this year? Will they go make a deal? Will it be home grown talent? Or will it come from the current lineup, i.e. Cano turning it around. Or will they just wither and die on the vine? Is there an obvious answer out there?
Speaking of Cano, one quick observation. It’s not so much the lack of hitting that’s killing us, it’s his whole approach. He’s a pitcher’s best friend. He’s seeing just one or two pitches an at-bat and taking terrible swings. A struggling pitcher with a rising pitch count need only see Cano in the on-deck circle to know that help is on the way.
So I guess I’ll call an end to my brief abstinence. I may tune in just in time to see Ian Kennedy try to go 0-4 tomorrow night. Should be fun.
I was about halfway through a pork chop when I heard the ding. “Who is embarrassing themselves by texting me Yankee updates,” I asked the missus indignantly. “Don’t they know?” It was a dumb question. I didn’t even know. I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. But I knew checking on the Yankees was an incredibly bad idea. Why? I wrote this in the BPS last week: “But the problem is that you don’t get the feeling they’re going to explode and win ten in a row. You get the feeling they’re hanging on for dear life, and that one of these days they’ll just slide off seven losses in a row.” So here we are at four. I also told Acc on Sunday afternoon that they would be nine out by next weekend. Ummmm… check and check.
Sometimes you just know when the sky is going to fall. You know as a Yankee fan, because, incredibly, you’ve seen it not once, not twice, but three times in the last four years. Last year they came back from a cavernous 21-29 in their first fifty games. The only solace you took was that the odds of a good team like the Yankees starting that poorly again were so slim that they were barely recognizable. But you certainly recognize it when it’s coming. And I knew it was coming tonight and we’re not done. The Post trumpeted Allie’s return tonight as “saving the Yankees.” It’s not that simple. So often guys come back, have a huge first game, maybe it’s adrenaline, whatever, and then go into a funk for two weeks. There’s very little you can do about it. It’s just tough to come roaring back when you haven’t played in almost a month. So this is why those two huge injuries were going to have a two-or-so-week tail in their effect on the team. So the good news is we’re into the tail. For Allie, at least. Posada’s another story.
The bad news is, as I’ve said, the team wasn’t this bad last year, even in their lowest point. Tony Sherry said to me tonight on the phone, “I would rather have the worst record we had last year than a .500 record with this team.” He’s got a point. I don’t find myself exactly disagreeing with him. This team is third-to-last in the American League in runs scored, and 26th out of 30 in the entire major leagues, which is just staggering. It will be Wednesday when I finish writing this, and the Yankees have scored more than two runs in a game exactly once in the last 11 days. I’m not sure everybody is getting the comedy of that. In 11 days, the Yankees have scored more than two runs in just one game. That’s two weeks ago this Saturday. You wonder how these other teams do it. It’s the hardest thing in the whole world. Moises Alou hit a two-run single on Sunday by accident, trying to check his swing. That’s nine innings of work for the Yankees. And how is it that the Yankees go 0-16 with runners in scoring position in two games against the Mets, but somehow manage to hit four home runs? You have to laugh? Right? It’s either that or put your fist through a wall.
I was actually considering not even checking the final score before I started tapping out the BPS. The only info I had was Acc’s text, which said, “Shut it off now.” I texted him back when I was done with dinner. “I never even turned it on.” Then he sent another one: “Don’t turn it on, dude. Promise me.” Which was fine by me. Why subject myself to unnecessary carnage? I would rather watch the American Idol and Dancing with the Stars finales blissfully unaware of whatever horrible things had happened and were yet to come. Then I got a text from Tony Sherry. “Who let up the 9 runs?” So much for that plan….
So here’s what I’m saying. David Archuleta has a great voice and can sing like a nightingale, but he’s not a star. He’s a tiny, whiny, weepy wuss. I’m tired of watching him cry. David Cook has an interesting sound. So I’m looking for a David Cook win. Jason Taylor is a more endearing character than Kristi Yamaguchi. He had absolutely no dance training and did well, considering. Kristi Yamaguchi was a figure skating champ, which is one thin skate blade away from being a dancer anyway. But she won. So congrats, Kristi Yamaguchi.
Yup. This is what it’s come to. Sad. I wonder if Kristi Yamaguchi can play catcher….
Poor Big Joe (father-in-law). He’s trying to enjoy a quiet Sunday night with his grandson, and he’s stuck next to a ranting, angry, maniac watching the Subway Series. It was bad enough that our big night with his buddy Charlie got rained out on Friday night. Now he’s trying to enjoy his much-maligned Mets show a glimmer of life, albeit against the hapless Yankees. And there I am, surprising myself that I’m still breathing that much fire in such a lackluster season. Being a jack*ss as usual.
You know who the Mets remind me of? Last year’s Yankees. A team that has trouble winning games; has trouble with consistency. They will win five out of ten by a combined 35-40 runs, and then they’ll lose the other five while scoring less than three runs a game. They have a bunch of guys underachieving, notably Wright, Reyes, Beltran, and Delgado, and some questions about youth and pitching. They are a conundrum. They generate the confusion from which I suffered last year. They’re a team that should be running away with things, but instead wallows in neutral.
And then there are the Yankees. They aren’t at all like the ’05 and ’07 teams that had me so confused. This team doesn’t have me confused at all. They don’t score ever, for anything. Sure, Cano is underachieving horribly. That’s a bit odd. But the rest of them are pretty unremarkable. Giambi is hitting for low average, but does have an adequate number of bombs. Jeter and the Ferocious Lion are hitting well; Abreu is okay. Melky is okay. Damon was okay, but now seems to be fading. But nothing completely shocking. You don’t have Allie and Posada, which is understandably devastating. The guys replacing them are awful offensively, but it’s not like anyone was expecting Gehrig-replaces-Pipp. Nothing totally out-of-school here, guys. That’s what’s so disturbing. As I’ve said, you really don’t know what’s coming without getting Allie and Posada back, but I’m not so sure I have such high hopes for that, at least initially. This team just isn’t that good. Not now, anyway. And the last two days were just ugly.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post has written at least two columns this year detailing the Mets fans distaste for this particular version of the Mets. They’ve booed incessantly, much to the ire of Billy Wagner and others in the Met clubhouse who feel they have been unfair. Many say the sting of last year’s collapse hasn’t sufficiently dissipated. The team doesn’t seem to like each other, which was highlighted by Paul LoDuca last year and has spilled over into this year, punctuated again by Billy Wagner comments. And after watching them this weekend, I can see why the fans aren’t enamored. I was a bit surprised, actually. They came off like a bunch of jerks. I don’t hate the Mets. Frankly, I’m a guy who roots for New York teams. But these guys had me scratching my head. I’ll give David Wright the benefit of the doubt. Generally he strikes me as a stand-up guy. But there he was last night, scoring on a sac-fly – that wasn’t a particularly close play – to give his team a 4-run lead. And he’s standing at home plate, screaming and posing with his fists in the air. Dude, you’re winning by four runs in the eighth inning. It was a sac fly. Shut up, go back to the dugout and sit down. You want to be a star in this town? That’s not the way to go about it. I expect to see Jose Reyes jumping around like a clown while hitting .267 (with a .329 OBP, which is a sin for a leadoff guy…but keep dancing, dude). But not anyone who thinks they’re going to be a star in New York. So needless to say, all around I wasn’t impressed.
I told Acc yesterday before the game that the Yankees would be 9 games out by this weekend. I didn’t need to look at the Red Sox score tonight. I knew. Just like I used to know with the Yankees. And without seeking it out, I saw an internet blurb that Jon Lester pitched a no-hitter tonight. God bless him. Two years removed from cancer. Those Red Sox are really living a charmed life these days….
I don’t know what’s next. If anybody has any ideas, I’m all ears…..
So let’s paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi. Hey BPS, what do you think of the Yankees offense. Well, sir, we’d be in favor of it.
This is sad. I’m actually annoyed that the Yankees scored two runs in the seventh inning today. I would have liked to have been able to say that the Yankees have scored 4 runs in 42 innings. Because that would have been a better indicator of my perception. It’s about as sad as it can get. The Yankees haven’t scored more than two runs in a game since last Saturday. As you guys are reading this it’s Friday. This is the Yankees. It doesn’t get any sadder.
It’s not this bad, of course. The pathetic Yankees have also suffered some bad luck. Today they out hit the Rays and still lost. They’ve spent an eternity this season on the road. The utter failure in scoring situations is a reflection of their ineptitude this year, but it’s also a bit of an anomaly. Sooner or later those hits will come. But make no mistake; there really isn’t an end in sight. You’ve got four starters hitting .217 and below. That’s just not what major leaguers do. You can’t hit .240 and survive in the major leagues, let alone .217. And four guys. I get that this isn’t anything new. I’m not saying anything groundbreaking here. But what can I say? We’re seeing the same cr*p day in, day out. Johnny Damon, after coming on strong the last few weeks, has fizzled back down to .255. I think a lot of this stuff compounds itself. If there isn’t any consistent pressure on the pitchers, none of these guys are going to be facing frazzled, tired pitching. They’re all going to be facing fresh, super-psyched pitchers. It just gets harder and harder.
I keep thinking that sitting around waiting for Allie and Posada is false hope. Although Allie is one of the few guys that can truly make a difference, he’s one guy. What we would need is to replace two of the .217 and below averages – Ensberg and Molina – with .300 plus guys – Allie and Posada – and hope that Cano rides the wave back up into respectability. I would be satisfied – ecstatic actually – with .240 from Giambi. But unfortunately, it seems there is nothing to do but wait, at this point.
Ian Kennedy. Not like this was a big shocker. What did we expect? He’s facing Kazmir, pitching to a white-hot team, and he’s on the road. The odds were completely stacked against him, and the results were completely predictable. It’s actually a little annoying that the Yankees are so predictable. The only guy who isn’t predictable is Moose. Not many of us thought that he would be the only guy other than Wang who could bring some consistency to the mound. Certainly not me.
So now what…. Well, I am headed to the Stadium tomorrow night with Big Joe (father-in-law) and his buddy Charlie. Two life-long Met fans. And to make matters worse, Big Willie is sitting right behind me. Also a life-long Met fan. I told all of those guys that I expect them to be on their best behavior. I really don’t want to incur the wrath of section 24, and more importantly, I just don’t want to deal with a bunch of Met fans making my night even worse. There is very little about this game that excites me. Darrell Rasner, who I fear is about two innings from the clock striking midnight, against Johan Santana. This has unmitigated disaster written all over it. Can’t you just see this being Johan’s big coming-out party? I can see the headlines already. I can’t wait. You wish just once the predictable Yankees would surprise you and win a game they weren’t supposed to win.
Triple J made a good point. As bad as the Yankees have played, they could be a lot further out. But the problem is that you don’t get the feeling they’re going to explode and win ten in a row. You get the feeling they’re hanging on for dear life, and that one of these days they’ll just slide off seven losses in a row. Maybe that’s just me being pessimistic.
So tomorrow I’ll have to select my gear carefully. Nothing but the luckiest stuff I have. I hope it works….
As I stood on the corner of 3rd Avenue in Bay Ridge, I peered down 94th Street, squinting as my slight nearsightedness betrayed my eyes. I couldn’t make anything out, so I walked across 94th Street to see if I could see anything that way. And there, way down the block, I could see what I was looking for. The missus was walking towards me, baby carriage in front of her. The boy doesn’t have his shots yet, so apparently he’s not supposed to be indoors in public places, so we were going to eat outside at Paneantico. The problem was that when we made the plan, it was 70-plus degrees and sunshiny. But by the time I walked out of the subway, it was 57 degrees with a cold breeze blowing. The waitress couldn’t believe we were setting up outside, as we were the only ones out there. The boy was bundled up and sleeping comfortably, but the missus and I were a bit chilly. We started with a house salad, which they do with roasted peppers, eggplant and mozzarella drizzled with balsamic vinegar. The missus then kept with the eggplant theme and went with the eggplant parm, while I went with the steak, onions, and fontina cheese on a brick oven hero. After we ordered, the missus was tinkering with the boy’s hat and I decided to pull out the iphone and see how the Yanks were doing. The website didn’t have any updates yet. I didn’t feel good about it, but I figured I’d just get a quick check. I called Tony Sherry. He answered the phone without saying hello. All he did was hold his phone up so that I could clearly hear the pledge of allegiance being spoken. I knew in an instant he was at his Kiwanis meeting. Yup. Kiwanis meeting. So I decided not to bother with the game just yet. I figured I would wait and check it later.
In fact, I checked the score on mlb.com about ten seconds before I started tapping out the BPS. And I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised. The Yankees still aren’t scoring any runs. They finished up the third inning having scored 2 runs in 27 innings. If they kept up that pace for an entire season, they would score exactly 108 runs on the year. Nice. Then they got exactly two. Two. And who can you thank tonight? Seannie’s boy, the moose. Again. The moose was able to win a game for the Yanks in a game when they couldn’t muster more than two runs. So now the moose has six wins. Last year he had 11 for the season, and I was psyched with that. And I would have been psyched with that this year as well. We’re not even half way through May. And I have to go back to what was kicked around after Moose’s last start. I think some of Moose’s confidence, some of his momentum, can be attributed to Girardi’s allowing him to work through some early hiccups into and out of the fifth inning in a few of these games. Just letting him get that win is a big confidence boost. Because, as we’re seeing right now, the Dice-K effect kicks in. Everyone forgets how ugly the win was, they just grasp onto sound bites like “fifth win in a row.” And as strange as it is, that can be a confidence builder.
I’m watching the NBA playoffs as I write this, and I have a few observations. The home teams in the second round are like 19-1, or something ridiculous like that. When you see something like that, it’s probably not an anomaly; it’s a problem with the league. In fact, in the Jazz/Lakers series, there has never been a lead change in the entire series. That’s unbelievable. Not one lead change, and they’re getting ready to play game six. And I hate to say it, but after watching both the Celtics and Lakers, I can see why. I really don’t care who wins any of these games, to tell you the truth, but it was like every time the road team got close, the avalanche of referee whistles would turn the tide in the other direction. Some were pretty blatant. Guys, 19 of 20? Something’s wrong….
You know, I talked about how fortunate Darrel Rasner was to have walked into a game at the Stadium in which the Yanks were beating up on the lowly Mariners. Ian Kennedy, yet again, has to face a hot team, on the road, while his team is ice cold at the plate. Against one of the top pitchers in the American League. We’ll see how this goes. Just throw strikes, dude.