“Whoa. Now that’s what I’m talking about.” There it was. Yankees 11, Houston 0.” I was genuinely surprised. It was the annual Father’s Day get-together for the missus’ family at my in-laws’ house on Sunday afternoon. I was in the screen house with Cousin Anthony and little Andrew, and I had just flipped over to the Yankees from the Mets, who were in the middle of a furious comeback that would eventually fall short. So the Yanks finally did it. Finally. They came out and smashed the game home right out of the box. A nice, easy day watching the ballgame. See how easy that is? What took you guys so long? The TV was quickly turned back to the Mets.
Is this it? Is this the winning streak I was looking for? Four games out of first in the loss column. The only team in the AL East with a winning record on the road. Legitimate offensive threats up and down the lineup. This is what I signed up for. Next thing you know even Cano is going to start hitting. Now we’ve just to worry about the pitching.
So our boy Wang is out until September. At least. And Phil Hughes is out until August. Ian Kennedy should be out until he’s ready to be a major league pitcher. So where does that leave these guys? The big talk is C.C. Sabathia. Probably the right move, in my opinion. Even with Wang healthy, I don’t think many Yankee fans were convinced that he was a legitimate number one starter. I like Wang, and he gets his wins, but he’s not exactly a shut-down guy as a number one. Sabathia gives you that.
So George Will wrote a column today about the looming use of replay in MLB. Lamenting it, in fact. George Will is a great baseball fan and a great writer. But I have to say, his arguments were terrible. He meekly offered that the replays would take too much time and lengthen the game, but that wasn’t his key theme; more of an afterthought, actually. Sure it would take too long. But that’s a short-term problem. As I wrote a few weeks ago, you don’t need replay. There is technology that could be employed that uses lasers, algorithms, and Ito Calculus that could pinpoint base runners who are safe and out, home runs, whether or not a swing was checked, and just about every other judgment call. The balls and strikes are already called via Ques-Tec. And it’s accurate to something like 99.999%. His real theme was that the fallibility of the umpires adds to the drama of the game. “Human error is not a blemish to be expunged from sports, it is part of the drama,” he wrote. That’s a bit of a cleverly worded copout, in my opinion. I don’t think anyone would disagree with the sentiment as written, because he’s right. When you’re talking about the players, that is. Not when you’re talking about the umpires. Umpires blowing calls does not add to the drama in any charming kind of way. If it did, it would be celebrated by the league, fans, and media alike. But it never is. In fact, it is dutifully swept under the rug by all. The league censors its internet highlight packages to eliminate huge, game-changing plays in a game if it turns out that the call was blown by the ump. Plays that would ordinarily have been front-and-center on the highlight package. Coaches, players and the media line up to insist that a huge blown call was not why a given team lost. You’re seeing it right now in the NBA. Does anyone believe that referee interaction hasn’t effectively turned any playoff games in the last ten years? And no one is celebrating the wonderful drama of it all. They’re aggravated. And rightfully so. The credibility of the game is very much in doubt. William Rhoden, writing in the New York Times last week, said it best. To paraphrase, he said that it’s not that there is any kind of conspiracy to “fix” an outcome. It can be a simple as the ref/ump, etc. internalizing what outcome he thinks will please his boss. And David Stern makes no secret of his desire to get the sexy teams into the Finals every year. Anyone notice it’s never teams like Sacramento getting a million calls to beat the Lakers? We’ve talked about this before. In one round of the NBA playoffs this year the home teams were something like 21-1. Anyone besides me think that’s indicative of a problem? All of the debate has always assumed that the officials were always trying to make the right call, but would occasionally miss it. What this episode from the NBA reminds us is that there is more to being human than just occasionally, and innocently, missing a call. Sometimes officials fall victim to human nature. We’ve talked about umpires who are afraid to “affect an outcome.” Yesterday’s second Mets game was a great example. The bases were loaded and Luis Castillo was up with two outs in the sixth inning. The score was 4-2 Mets. Still very much in doubt. After getting ahead 3-0, Castillo looked at a strike. Then Kasan Gabbard threw one way off the plate. Should have been ball four a hundred different ways. Home plate umpire Bob Davidson (we’ve heard his name before on the BPS) called it a strike. Now I can’t get in his head, but it all the world looked – again – like he gave him a strike so that he could give the pitcher/hitter one more chance to put the ball in play and avoid having to make a call that would directly affect the game. And sadly, it worked. The next pitch came in and Castillo grounded out weakly to end the inning. Davidson was content that he had nothing to do with it. The pitch came in, it was hit into play, and that was that. The truth was that he completely b*stardized that at-bat by not accurately calling the fifth pitch a ball. The bases were loaded. That should have been a run. The Mets could have breathed a little easier. And just for good measure, the MLB.com gamecast shows that the sixth pitch was hit into play, but it only shows five of the colored dots (green for a ball, red for a strike) around the strike zone. Hmmm. The point is – this “adds to the drama” stuff is garbage. And as you read through the piece, you got the feeling his real lament was that old song; he just didn’t want to see the game he knows change. Fair enough. But George is a big boy. His points are weak.&n
Hank Steinbrenner came out with a statement admonishing the National League for having no DH after Wang’s MRI. Seriously, do you laugh or cry? Weird a statement as it was, the purists/NL-types are all falling all over themselves to say how outrageous and idiotic a statement it is. Relax, guys. Relax.
I’ll be in section 24 with the boys tomorrow (Tuesday) night. Anxious to bring back another win….