Sometimes you need somebody to tell you why you’re a bad guy. Sometimes you just know. For the last hour or so, the missus has been upstairs tending to the boy’s first-ever sniffle, and I’ve been fielding calls from Tony Sherry, laughing so hard I’m crying hysterically as we watch Scare Tactics, hosted by Tracy Morgan on the Sci-Fi Channel. Dude, if you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor. My boy is fighting a cold, and my face hurts right now from laughing. Bad guy.
Mike Sherry called me today on the way to Yankee Stadium, guaranteeing a win. Bold. Usually people talk about doing their best, making winning a priority, etc. Rarely do you get the outright guarantee. At 11am, no less. Nicely done, dude. And I promised you a shout-out for your boy The Goose for going into the Hall. He was, as you said, a great Yankee.
So it was towards the end of the thumping that the Yankees were handing the O’s today that the news came in. Pudge. Funny. Most of the guys I talked to were pleased, but strangely, Farnsworth had grown on everybody. He had gotten good press of late, even pitching the equivalent of a 10 inning no-hitter in his 10 outings prior to the Boston series. There was a lot of talk about Girardi, having caught him in Chicago, knowing how to get the most out of him, etc. Acc summed up the sentiment pretty well. The bullpen wasn’t broke, so why are you messing with it? My answer – because the bottom of the order was most definitely broke, and you needed to fix it. The question is this. How many games did you win this year because Kyle Farnsworth got the job done when somebody else would not have? And we’ll never know the answer. And how many games did the Yankees lose because they couldn’t hit Jose Canseco if they were Vai Sikahema? Again, we’ll never know. But man, I have to imagine it’s a big number. There have been so many failures at the plate this season, particularly when it counted. So I’ll take Pudge and some tough at-bats at the back end of the order.
Manny. I’ll believe it when I see it. The Red Sox desperately, desperately, do not want to deal Manny. They want to bring him back to do what he always does. Rake. It’s like a drug. So tough to quit. It’s hard when you sell your soul for championships. I think the Red Sox would have been content to do what they’ve always done. They’ve always hated dealing with his antics, but in the end, they always suck it up because they can’t live without his production. But now he’s publicly calling them out. Taunting them. So now, they’re at least going through the motions of acting like they’re going to try and trade him. Like I said, I’ll believe it when I see it. Bottom line is that nobody does what Manny does. If they go get Jason Bay or whoever, they would be a worse team than they are now with Manny. That’s why I don’t think he’s going anywhere.
One of the tenets of the last ten-plus years in the AL is that the Yankees can’t beat the Angels, the Angels can’t beat the Red Sox, and the Red Sox can’t beat the Yankees. So now that the Angels have won eight straight against the Red Sox, maybe it’s time for the Yankees to turn the tides on the Angels…. A guy can dream, can’t he?
Can we talk about Josh Beckett for a second? One of the knocks on him before he got traded to the Red Sox was that he was one of those “he’s got great stuff, why doesn’t he win more consistently?” guys. His record, season-by-season starting in ’01: 2-2, 6-7, 9-8, 9-9, and the “breakout year” in ’05 was 15-9. Then he went to the Red Sox and slipped down to 16-11 with an ERA over 5. Then last year there was “breakout year II,” a truly great year at 20-7. Then this year he’s right back to 9-8 with an ERA over 4. So Beckett, billed as one of the best pitchers of this generation, is averaging what – 10 wins a year in his first 8 seasons? And I know he’s supposed to be a great postseason guy, but I don’t know if the sampling knocks me over. He’s got great numbers. He’s 6-2 with an ERA under 2 in the postseason, but I don’t know. Eight postseason games is fine, but it isn’t 28 postseason games. Not sure what to make of Mr. Beckett.
Get ready for the four best games of perennial Yankee-killer Garrett Anderson’s season. He’s salivating, I’m sure.
One of the few reasons I’m bummed the Yankees don’t play in the NL East is because I don’t get to hear things like this from Keith Hernandez yesterday; “With two outs and two on the Mets now have to face an extremely dangerous hitter in Cody Ross.” Must be nice, when Cody Ross passes for an “extremely dangerous hitter.”
One comment again? Come on guys…. Thanks, gjp….
Mr. Pettitte. Show them what they came to see.
The dings were still coming on my phone, every few seconds. “I think this is good,” I said to the missus nervously as she held the just-asleep boy in her arms, just as nervously, as every sound I was making was like a pin sticking in her. I knew I was about five minutes behind the action, so I figured if things warranting dings were still happening five minutes hence, that was a good thing. I couldn’t check any of them, of course, because I was behind. As it were I was watching Wilson Betemit hitting with the tying run on second with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. So as the air was filling with dings, I was thinking something good was about to happen. And then Betemit struck out to end the game.
I think the Acc texts were taking a few minutes to go through. I was getting Giambi texts as Betemit was hitting. And then Petey Goods was lamenting the weak bottom of the order. All of it conspired to fake me out. And not in a good way.
I hate the bottom of the Yankee batting order. What can I say. I’m going to be honest. I hate it. I said it yesterday and I’ll say it today. I am completely fed up with these lightning fast at-bats. I really don’t know what to say anymore. Sometimes you hear this ridiculous wisdom that sounds like this; “You have to swing early in the count against this guy tonight, because he’s throwing strikes up there and you’re not going to get another good pitch to hit.” And it is sound wisdom. If you are looking to lose. This is not how the Yankees won four championships. It’s not how any good team wins. Daniel Cabrera owns the Yankees this season, and that’s sad. Daniel Cabrera is the quintessential Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. “Sometimes he walks people all over the park, and sometimes he’s lights out,” said Paul O’Neill on the broadcast tonight. So let’s assume, for a second, that it’s true. He’s either awesome or terrible. Just like it’s okay to wait for your pitch, it’s okay to wait for your pitcher. So he comes out on fire. You have to bleed him. Make him work, get his pitch count up, and get him out of the game. The Yankees used to do this stuff in their sleep. If your guy can keep it close, you’re in business. Especially if you clearly have the better team, as was the case tonight. And you know what you don’t do when you’re trying to get a guy out of the game? You don’t swing early in the count because you’re “not going to get another good pitch to hit.” If you make out, you make out. But try and take your five or so pitches up there. You and the rest of your team will see that many more pitches from the guy, and you’ll make him work a little bit. And you’ll get him out of there so you can light up the bullpen. Exactly what the Yankees did tonight, with a little help from the home plate ump doing what the Yankees couldn’t do – get Cabrera out of the game.
What I’m saying is that one begets the other. Cabrera is Dr. Jekyll because the Yankees allow him to be Dr. Jekyll. Cabrera gets himself into trouble by walking people. The Yankees never let him get there, because they constantly swing at the first and second pitch. Particularly the bottom of the order. I can’t take Melky anymore. I can’t take him. I’ve said this a thousand times. It’s not so much that he’s hitting .247 that bothers me. It’s that every out the guy makes is on the first or second pitch. So over 75% of the time he’s the ultimate rally killer. And Betemit is just as bad, he just plays less. And when it comes to making quick outs, Cano is right there with them. He’s a better hitter, and he’s got a higher average, but he’s not a particularly tough out. And when he makes out, it’s a lightning fast out. Tonight was a great example. The Yanks are down 2-0, Allie belts a bomb, and Giambi follows it with a base hit with nobody out. Cabrera was at 83 pitches in the sixth inning and starting to get wild. Up comes Cano. One pitch, double play. Dude. You need to know the situation. Cabrera is about to unravel. Make him work. You can’t let him off the hook like that. You can’t. And then Betemit comes up next and really mans up. Two pitches. So after putting Cabrera on the ropes, it takes them three pitches to send him right back to the dugout. And after a quick seventh, there he was, on the mound starting the eighth. Bottom line. I hate the bottom of this lineup.
So Nady. Big spot again there in the eighth. Two on and two outs. Damon and the real hitters on deck. Whiff. And swinging at bad balls again. Nice, dude. Nice. Especially considering Damon, Jeter, and Abreu led off the following inning with a single, walk, and double. Dude, all I can do at this point is hope that you aren’t Ed Whitson.
I’m leaving Molina out of this discussion because of his defense. But he’s also a lightning-fast out. Add them all together and you’ve got every also-ran starting pitcher and then some standing on the mound to start the eighth inning. What do you do? Fire the hitting coach? Get new players? I don’t know. But this was such an eminently winnable game. And this would have been such a nice game to win, with Boston laying down against the Angels. Not likely they’re going to get swept, so you’re either staying where you were or losing a game if you go out and get swept tomorrow afternoon. And all of it totally unnecessary, as far as I’m concerned.
Joseph, thanks for the comment, dude. The one and only one today.
I hate the bottom of this lineup.
So let’s start at the top. I am going to be going to Elia’s on Third Avenue this Thursday night with the missus, Tony Sherry, and Mrs. Tony Sherry. We’re probably going to do what we always do. We’ll start with the Saganaki, with maybe the grilled octopus and a Greek Salad. Then Tony and I will probably go with the grilled lamb chops with sautéed spinach and Greek fries with feta. Maybe I’ll get nuts and go with the moussaka. Then I’ll cap the whole thing off with the Greek pressed yogurt, and the missus will go with the Ek Mek. Nothing we haven’t done a hundred times. This time, though, I’ll be settling a score. Tony Sherry, who has been on a righteous prediction streak, was sick of me saying the Yankees were going to go up to Boston and get spanked, so he declared that Joba was going to start things off by beating Beckett, that he was going to pitch a shutout, and he might throw a no hitter. And he told me that if Joba got the win and Beckett got the loss, I owed him dinner at Elia’s. So this Thursday as we sit down, I will gladly pay my due to Mr. Chamberlain’s fastball and Mr. Sherry’s prescience.
So what to make of the Red Sox. After an interesting weekend, here’s what I think. They can hit. Like mad. Tough outs up and down the lineup. And they’re going to win a bunch of games just for that. But as I’ve said all year, they’re not as good as advertised. And they’re not as good as they think they are. Plain and simple. The pitching is the culprit. Beckett is solid, of course. Dice K is wildly overrated and can’t be trusted in a big spot, Wakefield just doesn’t scare you, Buchholz is currently in over his head, and Jon Lester has pitched extremely well but is a kid. Then throw that together with a shaky bullpen and a closer with an ERA of two-and-a-half and you see where the problems begin.
So some observations in no particular order. Peter Gammons wrote a great piece about Manny today on his blog. I understand that as a Yankee fan, I have zero credibility in this discussion because you know where I’m going to come out, but man did he draw it in living color. You can make a case, he said, that the Red Sox sold their souls to solve their 86 year old problem, and Joe Hardy showed up in the form of Manny Ramirez. Indeed, to Gammons’s point, no Manny, no championships. Period. The problem is when you start to look in the mirror and don’t like what you see. Gammons is pretty tough on Francona (“Chief Enabler”) and the Red Sox fans (“sycophants”). Tough but fair. Francona is all over the place saying that you need to have two different sets of rules – one for the stars and one for everybody else. That everybody does that. Hmmm. Maybe he and Jerry Manuel can take a page from Charlie Manuel’s book. His star Jimmy Rollins fails to run out a pop or shows up late for the biggest rubber game of the year against a chief rival in the pennant race due to traffic; he sits. Sits. Talk about the polar opposite of the Red Sox approach with Manny. Manny assaults a 64-year old man in his clubhouse, Manny’s out there the very next day. Manny comes up with ailments against pitchers he doesn’t want to face, he’s out there the very next day. In fact, the Red Sox threaten to take action if he doesn’t play. What exactly would it take for them to sit him down? To suspend him? I opined that perhaps they did just that against the Yankees in that famous Sunday Night game, prompting him to look at three straight pitches from Mo in a loss. I gave them too much credit. Apparently the deal was more like a six-figure fine and anger management classes. And a spot in the lineup the very next night. So that’s how it goes, I guess. You win, so I guess that makes it all okay, right? As long as you can look at yourself in the mirror as Manny taunts you, saying you don’t have the nuts to trade him. Anyone want to tell him he’s wrong?
Tonight had letdown game written all over it. For the Sox and the Yanks. You could see it coming from a mile away. I can only hope that this was a blip game for Moose. As Sean correctly pointed out a few days ago, I was certainly not the guy predicting this run of success for the Moose. I’m loving every second of it, but admittedly I’m also waiting for the other shoe to drop. And I’m hoping this wasn’t it.
My concern with Xavier Nady before they got him was simple. He’s a National Leaguer, and the National League is a bush league. Hitting .330 in the NL doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. I don’t think 3 games is a great sampling, but my thought is that he’s swinging at way too many balls. Way too many. Tonight I watched him swing at five balls in a row before he hit that solo bomb. Glad he got the hit, but he hasn’t exactly been clutch of yet. Like I said, the sampling hasn’t been that big, but if I wanted to see somebody swing at bad balls, I would watch Melky.
The Yankees still need to be more patient. Cano is red hot, but he’s swinging early in the count. If he’s not hitting a double he’s a quick out. Melky is always a quick out, as is Molina. And Jeter has been seeing far fewer pitches as well. You’ve continually got these average starters going seven or eight innings. They shouldn’t be going anywhere near that deep.
As I feared, the minute the Yankees get Sexon, they start sitting Giambi against lefties in huge games. Guys, you can’t sit Giambi. He’s one of the toughest outs on the team. Get him his rest against chump lefties. Don’t sit him against the Red Sox. Or Angels. Stop being ridiculous.
Watching the Angels/Sox game a bit tonight on ESPN reminded me why I love the way Mike Scoscia’s Angels play the game. They run, run, run. They always take the extra base. If you get them once or twice, fine. They’ll get you the other two times, and they’ll sacrifice and squeeze bunt a run or two in. Beautiful stuff. The Yankees are way too station-to-station. And somebody explain to me how Damon wasn’t tagging yesterday with a medium fly ball to center with one out. Run! You have to run! Now you’ve got two outs and you need a base hit. Meanwhile, you have a better than average shot to push a run across with a fast runner and a guy in center who isn’t known for throwing anybody out. You can’t stand there. Do Damon and Bobby Meacham realize that? And another thing along those lines. Why don’t the Yankees run on Varitek? He doesn’t throw anybody out. Ever. Why aren’t they running? The Angels are….
I commented the last time the Yankees played Boston that Jon Lester was stomping around the mound pouting about calls from the umpire with a seven run lead. Last night ESPN deified Lester for pulling the ump aside and apologizing for a similar episode that the ump hadn’t noticed while Lester was facing Abreu (I hadn’t noticed it either). But what they didn’t mention was that Lester was at it again the very next inning, this time throwing his head around and pouting when he didn’t get a strike-three call from the ump with Melky at the plate. What is it with you, dude? You can’t help yourself? Shut up and pitch. You seem to be really good at it. Again it speaks to the Varitek/Youkilis Red Sox. Whine, whine, whine.
I have a bunch more, but I’ll save them for now.
Great work by Vino coming back from Fenway with a win.
Daniel Cabrera again. Ugh. And then Burress, who always seems to save his best for the Yanks. Double ugh. And then the Angels. Hopefully the Yankees get tough here….
“Yo.” I saw Acc’s number pop up on my caller ID. “What’s up, captain. It’s 5-0 good guys.” This is what I wanted to hear. “Who made it nice,” I wanted to know. “Justin Christian, Sexon, and A-Rod. Moose is sick, dude.” Nice. And at the time the possibility was still out there that the Red Sox could lose and the Yankees would be just one out in the loss column going into this weekend.
Not to be.
Was that ever really in doubt? I just couldn’t imagine a scenario in which the Red Sox would allow themselves to lose to the worst team in the league to give that crack of an opening to the Yankees. Although the shakier and shakier Jonathan Papelbon almost coughed up another one. Turns out that was some double play the Sox turned in the 11th with first and third and nobody out. So we’re stuck at two.
It would have been nice to have been just one out to start this weekend, as you could have dropped two out of three and still walked out of there just two games back. Doable. Now you’re looking at three games back. Less doable.
I keep walking around telling everyone the Yanks are going to get swept this weekend, and everyone keeps telling me I’m insane. So maybe I am. Maybe I’ll soften my prediction to the Yankees stealing one. I’m just not sure how it’s going to happen. I’m thinking Wakefield is the best bet.
So I’m back onto this Wild Card. I’m thinking the one scenario I didn’t lay out yesterday was the Tigers taking the Central and the White Sox dropping back. I like the chances of staying ahead of the Sox better than I do the Tigers. You never know, but I’m just thinking out loud here.
So I’ve heard Washburn, I’ve heard Brian Giles, and I’ve heard A.J. Burnett. I don’t hate any of them. It all depends on who we would be giving up. And I haven’t heard boo about that. But really I’m still looking for a bat. This whole idea that Posada is going to stick around and be a DH/1B is not making me warm and fuzzy. At this point I really don’t see a scenario in which Giambi should be sitting out. He’s the toughest out in the lineup. I get that he’s old and rickety, so rest him if you need to, but don’t start pulling him out against lefties so you can get Sexon and Posada at-bats. That’s a bad idea. In the meantime, I’ll be the guy in the corner with his fingers crossed that the Yanks can work out a deal for a solid bat who can play the outfield. Either that or the AL institutes a 10-man lineup with a second DH.
So why not make some predictions for this weekend, just for a goof. Here goes. Beckett will get in trouble in the early innings on Friday night, but the Yankees will bail him out by swinging at bad pitches, and he’ll then settle down. By the fifth inning or so, when it becomes clear that he’s out of the woods and the Yankees have missed their opportunity, Yankee fans everywhere will be thanking whoever they pray to that the game isn’t nationally televised so that they don’t have to listen to Buck/McCarver/Jon Miller/Joe Morgan gloss over every jam and insist that Josh Beckett is the second coming of Cy Young, regardless of the fact that he’s 9-6 with a 4.00 ERA. Then he will coast through the seventh and either be pulled out or get back into trouble. Joba will pitch well, strike out a bunch of guys, not make it out of the sixth, and get another loss or no decision. On Saturday, Pettitte will wiggle out of jams in the first three innings, and will have thrown 75 pitches with no outs in the fourth. This will be your high-ish scoring game that goes into extra innings. Sid off the skids will pitch better than anyone expected on Sunday and be a huge story – for three innings. Then, not so much. David Ortiz will hit a bomb, probably in a huge spot, but will not have found his rhythm enough to hit a lot in the rest of the series. Manny will rake. And do something stupid. Youkilis will argue every ball and strike. Yankee fans will feel a twinge every time they see Pedroia step up to the plate, Lowell will hit balls off the Green Monster, and Varitek will argue every close call with the umps. He will also take an overly demonstrative passive-aggressive posture with one of the Yankees for a perceived slight, while the two national broadcast teams gush over him, despite the fact that he’s hitting .217. Many fans will think they’re funny wearing Madonna masks in the stands. They won’t be. It will be less funny after Allie hits his bomb. Giambi will get one too. Francona will leap at the chance to throw Papelbon back out there, even with a 10 run lead, just to attempt some sort of offset for the fiasco at the All-Star game. The fans will give him a huge ovation, as if he was somehow a victim and didn’t get himself into his own hot water. Cano will continue to hit, Molina will throw somebody out, Varitek won’t throw anybody out, but the Yankees won’t take advantage anyway. Okijima will continue to be shaky, and the Farnsworth bubble will burst. I will waste a lot of valuable time watching/stressing about these games, and that will confuse my mother-in-law. Last but not least, this series will not decide the AL East.
Or something like that….
Okay. So the Yankees, as I tap the keys, are three-and-a-half out of first place. They are two behind Boston in the loss column, and could conceivably be one behind Boston if Seattle can man up tonight (never going to happen). They are undefeated coming out of the all-star break, and the offense, finally, has shown signs of life. How’s that? Everybody feeling good? Good. Because I’m going to send it crashing down.
I’m not a negative guy, and I’m certainly not a negative Yankee fan. I started this blog back in ’05 because I thought I had a good cache of reasons why the Yankees weren’t as bad as that 11-19 record. Last year when they were 21-29 I kept saying that there were anomalies that hadn’t righted themselves yet. All three seasons of the BPS I insisted the Yankees were a playoff team, and they were. I’m not that guy this year. At least not right now. Here’s my problem. I’m looking at the Yankees. I’m looking at the personnel; I’m looking at the schedule. They just are not, in my opinion, one of the four best teams in the American League. Forget Posada for a minute. Right now, the Yankees are playing the role that so many other teams played when the Yankees were perennially on top of the hill. This year they are the beneficiaries of the MLB scheduling game instead of the victims. Quick two-part trivia question for those of you who have followed the BPS – which is the only team in Major League Baseball with a winning record against the Yankees in the last 10 years? Easy. The Angels. Now. Which is the only team in baseball outside of the AL East that the Yankees have played 9 or 10 times every year for the last ten years? You guessed it. And they always play more in Anaheim than they do at the Stadium. Funny how that coincidence keeps happening year after year with the one team that owns the Yankees, no? So, this year, instead of front-loading the Yankees schedule with the tougher teams to create the illusion of a race, they did it to the Red Sox, who were the preseason favorites. And it worked. Here we are, on July 22nd, and everyone thinks we have a race. We don’t. The Yankees have played exactly 100 games. They have 62 games left. And 19 of those games, basically one out of every three games the Yankees will play for the rest of the year, will be against the Angels or the Red Sox. And 12 of those 19 are on the road. Not going to work, guys. At least not with the lineup the Yankees are trotting out there these days. It’s not enough.
The Red Sox and Angels are the class of the American League. What can you say. What’s true is true. As I’ve been saying all year, the Red Sox aren’t as good as they think they are, and they’re not as good as they were last year, but there isn’t another team that can play with them, save for the Angels. And the Angels can’t beat the Red Sox when it counts. The difference between the Yankees and the Red Sox is that the Red Sox have a lot of tough outs up and down the lineup. Youkilis, Pedroia, Lowell, Drew (this year), and Manny are all tough outs. They all get their money’s worth at the plate, and any one of them can start a rally against anybody. The Yankees do not have a lot of tough outs. They have a lot of guys who swing at the first pitch. The crazy thing is that Sean Casey would probably bat third in the Yankee lineup, but he doesn’t even start in Boston. And I don’t know why the Red Sox have been so horrid on the road. It really doesn’t make any sense. But my thought is that they will gravitate towards the middle of the two polar ends of the spectrum that they’re on right now – magic at home and the Royals on the road.
The Yankees have still not shown they can consistently score runs. The good news is that Cano has turned the corner coming out of the break, and if you can get anything at all out of Melky, you might be able to put some more runs on the board. But the Yankees have just played too many games in which the runners could not score and the bats just drifted off to sleep. Of course the team is just so much better with Damon in the lineup, but now Posada and the Ferocious Lion are both most likely out for the year. The Yankees need one more big bat to knock in runs. And that guy, by the way, is not Ritchie Sexson, although I liked to see him succeed with a ribby single in his first opportunity. And I love that the one name you’ve seen on the Yankees radar as the trading deadline nears is Brian Fuentes. A middle reliever. Please. That’s the one thing they don’t need. You’re trotting Darrell Rasner and John Goodman, aka Sid the Kid out there two out of every five starts, you’ve gone a stretch of nine games in which you’ve scored 14 or so runs, and you’re chasing a middle reliever. Nice….
So here’s the next problem. With this schedule, they are going to have a problem with this Wild Card. I’m not really worried about the recently castrated A’s, and the Twins don’t scare me either. The Rays are enjoying the last of their 15 minutes. The team that worries me is Detroit. They’re still loaded with talent. I’m looking at them to sneak in and steal the Wild Card. The Yankees have too much stacked against them with that schedule. I hope I’m wrong. But that’s the way it looks to me.
I got an email from Mannino and a comment from Mark (mlblogs) mistaking the Manny incident for the Pedro/Zim incident of a few years back. Here’s a blurb from the Boston Globe about the theory that was first put forth in the BPS on July 9th.
Mikey Juice, Tony Sherry, Vino, Big Willie, and I were in section 24 last night (Monday) for a big win. Vino was back in section 24 tonight, and Acc will be there tomorrow. Bring home a win, big boy…
So I guess I’ll come clean. I was at the stadium for the All-Star game. I was there with the Big Boy and Tommy Spiff, while Corvetti and Mikey Juice were running around with some sort of all-access passes, always with a mixed drink in one hand and bouncing in and out of section 24 with tales of giving Matthew Broderick the headlock noogie and hob-nobbing with Brooks Robinson and the Baseball Tonight crew. Still not sure who they were hooked in with, but somehow they were completely macking. And I have to say; all the while I really didn’t know who to root for. Well, I guess I did, but I was conflicted all over the place.
I think I’ve decided I don’t much care for this winner-of-the-all-star-game-gets-home-field-in-the-World-Series idea. Here’s why. I don’t have a lot of faith in the Yankees this year. Not a big surprise here guys. They have given me no indication whatsoever that they can turn the ship around. So I really felt like I was just going to be sitting there rooting for the Red Sox to have home-field advantage in the World Series. So how exactly am I supposed to get excited about that? I really didn’t know which way I was going. Of course, I was cheering like a psycho for Allie and Jeter and Mo. But I have to admit, I was literally cheering for Tejada to take third on the ball thrown into center field so the run would score against Papelbon. And I loved it even more when I saw the DVR replay later on and watched Joe Buck and Tim McCarver trip over themselves trying to defend Papelbon against the chants of “over-rated” and “Mariano.” “Papelbon is saying, ‘you think I’m over-rated? Take that!’” McCarver crowed as he Dan Uggla struck out swinging. And yet, moments later, as the go-ahead run scores and Papelbon had officially failed again, those two clowns were both talking about the slide by Tejada, the weather, the presidential race, anything to avoid having to go back and eat their words. As for me, I was loving the idea that Papelbon was going to get the loss and lose home-field advantage for his team. Enter Billy Wagner…. Anyway, point is, I was all over the map. And as we were sitting there at 1:30am and there hadn’t been a Yankee not named Mo anywhere near the field in almost four hours, I decided I would rather this just be an exhibition game so I could just root for the AL and feel good about it.
So back to Papelbon for a second. Papelbon is a jack*ss. A first-class jack*ss. Let’s walk through it for a second. He made a few statements that some construed as not respectful enough to Mo. Then he got killed in the New York papers. Then he showed up at the Stadium for the press events on Monday, walked in and proceeded to drop 12 or 15 f-bombs and assorted curse-words. The next day he took heat from the crowd in the MLB Red Carpet Parade down Sixth Avenue. Then he took the field at the Stadium, got crushed by the crowd, gave up a run and was on the hook for the loss as he left the game. Then finally after the game, he claimed that the crowd at the Parade threatened his pregnant wife. So let’s take it one at a time. First of all, do I think Papelbon’s comments were directly insulting to Mo? No. Do I think Papelbon was horrifically tin-eared in not understanding what the correct answers are in that situation? Absolutely. Why are you even going there? You’re talking about the greatest closer of all time. This is so simple. You do what David Wright does whenever someone asks him if he’s replaced Jeter as the Prince of New York, or Paulie O’Neill used to say when someone would say that his Yankee numbers were comparable to Donnie Baseball’s. You say the question/comment is idiotic, that of course I’m an amateur compared to him, etc, etc. Instead Papelbon treads around the question, conceding that he wanted to close, but that he would “defer to his elders.” Whatever. Not a big deal. But to avoid all of the nonsense, you just don’t go there. Part of the problem, as I’ve always said, is that they really don’t have a strong, level-headed leader in the Red Sox clubhouse. Varitek is the captain, and he might be the biggest baby of all, with his silly whining about the Yankees, constantly inventing slights (see the ESPN game a few Sunday Nights ago when he glared in at the Yankee dugout because he thought Allie was getting ready to bowl him over in a potential play at the plate) arguing with umps and making asinine comments to the press. It starts with him. Manny gets away with throwing 64 year-old men on the ground, Kevin Youkilis argues and whines after every single pitch and gets in fights with his teammates, and Dustin Pedroia, who is as hard-nosed a ballplayer as they come, embarrasses himself slapping his hand against the ground five times while screaming, “No!” at an umpire after he was gunned at second trying to stretch a single (he was clearly out). There is a distinct lack of leadership in terms of how you’re supposed to carry yourself. Say what you want about Jeter, but you just never see him get himself into these messes. It would be one thing if Papelbon was going to take the attitude of, “I don’t care what you guys think, I should be closing.” But that’s not what he did. He came out after everything was over claiming he specifically told Francona that Mo should close a few days before the game. He completely backtracked. And whether that did or didn’t really happen, the little game he and Francona played about not saying who the closer would be was incredibly ill-conceived. Even at the parade, just hours before the game, when asked by Jeannie Zelasko who would be the closer, he said, “You’ll have to wait and see.” And that’s just the point. You have to know better than to get yourself in that spot. Know your role, dude. Especially since you’ve got four blown saves and an ERA of two-and-a-half, which is positively awful for a closer. And how fitting that you puked up a run.
But you know what really p*ssed me off? That he can just baselessly claim that the crowd was threatening his pregnant wife and have anybody take it seriously. What a cheap little way to try to get the masses to show you some sympathy after you act like a moron. I know a bunch of people who were at the parade, and neither they, nor anybody in the media could recall a single comment directed at his pregnant wife. Why is he allowed to make such an insulting claim towards an entire city, my city, without having to produce a shred of evidence? What a jack*ss. I hope you continue to get clobbered this year, dude.
I felt a little bit bad. It was probably the wrong time, but Acc needed to be called out. As the Yankees were loading the bases in the seventh inning, I heard my phone ding. My blood immediately began to boil. A ding means an incoming text message, and since I knew Tony Sherry was on a cruise around Manhattan, I knew it was Acc. And a text from Acc is always what I like to call “the ding of doom.” Acc, as I’ve said many times, only texts with bad news. He thinks he’s jinxing things if he texts with good news. But this is a problem, because in a case like tonight, I was about 5 minutes behind on the DVR. So as I’m seeing Derek Jeter walk with two outs to load the bases, I hear the ding of doom, and it completely lets the air out of my sails, because I know something bad happens next. Interestingly, Bobby Abreu came up next with a two run base hit. For once, I thought, Acc must have sent a text with good news. I reached for the phone to check it. “Can arod ever be clutch this year,” he said. Cue the “whammy” sound from the old “Joker’s Wild” game show. Allie grounded out to end the inning. I fast forwarded through to the commercial, as I knew Acc did it to me again.
So before I get to today’s game, a quick statement. The Rays are not true contenders. I’ve been dancing around it all year, and now I’m just going to go right at it. They’re just not. Take a look around that lineup. Eric Hinske, Gabe Gross, Iwamura, Bruntlett, Navarro, Gomes, Cliff Floyd, Carlos Pena… I’m sorry. They’ve got some okay players there, but certainly not an all-stud team. I know there’s always that song about a “team attitude,” and they “play well together,” but I don’t buy into that as a long term strategy. They’ve got Kazmir, who’s always had great stuff but doesn’t ever seem to be a consistent winner. I know his team has always been bad, but this year they have the best record in baseball and he’s 7-4, while a guy like Lincecum is 10-2 on an awful team. They’ve got Garza, who is okay but in two years with the Twins was very mediocre, Edwin Jackson, et al. I don’t know guys. Not as bad as they have been, but not yet a contender. And although I keep harping on it, it keeps ringing true. They are not a good road team, and they only play 31 more home games the rest of the season. They will not make the playoffs….. Yeah, I know. Circle this one and come back and kill me for it if it blows up in my face…
On to tonight’s game. I have to say, this may have been the most perfect microcosm of the Yankee season as you could have asked for. Perfect. Let’s start at the top. First of all, bad breaks. This was the make-up for a game that was called when the Yankees were winning 3-1. And, by the way, beating up the same schlemiel who they couldn’t touch tonight. Second, they can’t score any runs. Third, they get beat by a bad team because they can’t score runs. Fourth, the Yankees let an also-ran pitcher finish the eighth against them because they are undisciplined and continually swing at bad balls and first balls out of the zone. Fifth, they’re playing with half-a-team. No Damon, no Giambi, no Ferocious Lion. Damon and the lion were injured, and Joe Girardi made a bad managerial decision sitting Giambi down against the lefty. Joe Girardi, listen carefully. You sat down Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, and Cano against a shlub like Oliver Perez a few weeks ago because “righties hit better against him.” You missed the point then, and you missed it tonight. Oliver Perez has issued the second-most walks in the National League. Abreu and Giambi are the two best hitters you have at taking pitches and working a count. When you take them out, you play right into the hands of a guy like Perez or Maholm. Those guys were both able to breeze through the Yankee lineup as guys like Molina, Justin Christian, Betemit, and Melky waved at the first pitch all night long. Tonight was a great example. Giambi came in to pinch hit in the ninth, against the lefty closer, by the way, and worked an 8 pitch at-bat. If he had been up four times against Maholm, there is no way Maholm would have made it through the eighth. And why is Giambi going in the category of a lefty who can’t hit lefties? He hits lefties hard. Just like you would never sit A-Rod or Jeter against a righty. Stop. The guy is a borderline all-star, and you desperately need to get to bullpens. Next up, lack of power. The Yankees don’t hit home runs, and they don’t hit for power. One bomb tonight, it was the difference in the game, and the Pirates hit it. This is one of the key reasons the Yankees don’t score runs in bunches, and one of the key reasons they don’t score runs at all. The Yankees, in their last 11 games, have scored more than 4 runs just three times. Twice they scored 5, and the other was that ridiculous 18 run game, which at this point p*sses me off more than anything else. Last year they averaged six runs a game. In their last 11 they’ve scored that many once. The crazy thing is that they’ve won most of those games. Which brings me to the last thing. They got a great pitching performance by Moose and wasted it. Perfect. An absolutely perfect representation of the 2008 season.
Is the Ferocious Lion done or is that still to be determined? Acc told me that 1050 ESPN radio in New York reported yesterday that he was having surgery. Today WFAN radio in New York was saying he was coming back. Not sure what the real story is, but wow do the Yankees need his bat desperately. I made the statement a few days ago and I’ll repeat it now. The Yankees aren’t going anywhere without the Ferocious Lion’s bat. Or they need to go get a bat. Strange, though. I’ve heard all kinds of talk about the bats the Mets, Red Sox, and Rays might get. Bonds, Griffey, Raul Ibanez, Randy Winn, and others. Some good, some bad, whatever. But I haven’t heard boo from the Yankees about adding anything. Nada. There was some Sabathia talk once upon a time, but they didn’t make any kind of a serious run at him. What’s the deal? And nothing about any hitting. Do they think they’re good enough? Do they think they don’t need anybody? I don’t get this.
I expect more of the same tomorrow. Joba will be good, Halladay will be good. The Yankees won’t score a lot of runs. Hopefully the Jays don’t either. Same old, same old….
The phone ring a little after 10:30. Big Joe (father-in-law) calling from Chicago, where he’s working for a few days. “Looks like we had a New York sweep tonight,” he said. His Mets made quick work of Tim Lincecum and the Giants tonight, so he was absolutely right. Then he went back to bragging about his grandson….
I was walking in downtown Manhattan today on Whitehall Street, and I stumbled across one of the interesting All-Star attractions that MLB has put together as part of the events next week. I got the pamphlet in the Post last week detailing the locations of all of the mini Statue of Liberty statues representing all of the major league teams, and since then I have seen four – the KC Royals statue is on Broadway, the Colorado Rockies statue at One New York Plaza, the Red Sox statue in the new American Sports Museum on Broadway, and the Brooklyn Dodgers statue that I stumbled across today on Whitehall Street. I think it’s pretty cool that they’ve got a statue for both the Brooklyn Dodgers (my grandfather was a die-hard) and the New York Giants (my dad grew up a NY Giants fan). Nice New York flavor for this All-Star Game.
So on to the game. I suppose you guys think I’m going to gloat about how I’ve been saying the Rays aren’t that good on the road, that they got shut out, etc… Well, I’ll only reiterate my earlier point. I think they are a good team, and they very well might shock everybody. I still say we should just relax and let the season play out before we anoint them. Looking at their lineup, I just don’t see them knocking off the Yankees and Red Sox. There have been a lot of good teams that didn’t have an identifiable star, but rarely have they come out of nowhere to sustain an elite level of play. I know they’ve got a huge lead on the Yanks, and that could prove decisive, but they will play 30 of their last 42 games on the road. If they don’t get better on the road, they won’t have a prayer. As I’ve been saying, you have to factor in that the Rays have enjoyed a crazy schedule anomaly in which they have played 50 of their 88 games at home. In fact, when you consider that the Rays will only play 31 more home games the rest of the season, you start to see that it actually might be an uphill climb for them.
Man, it is nice to see Andy Pettitte pitching like this. Warm weather, his arm feels strong. Looking good. And after watching him out-duel Johan Santana and Scott Kazmir over the last week and a half, you wonder why he’s not playing in the All-Star game instead of the 7-4 Scott Kazmir. Certainly instead of the decidedly mediocre Jonathan Papelbon, who is quite simply only in this game because his manager is picking the pitchers. Four blown saves and an ERA over 2 for a closer is terrible. Remember, most of the time closers have low ERA’s by definition, because usually one or two runs and the game will end before they have a chance to blow up. So Papelbon is a terrible selection. Moose and Pettitte are better options. I would even understand Dice K more than Papelbon, although he would probably come in and throw 35 pitches and load the bases when he got in the game.
So the last place Indians and the last place Mariners have the two worst road records in the American League. Anyone know who has the third-worst record in the American League? Of course you guys know the answer. The Boston Red Sox. What is it about the Red Sox that make them so magical at home but so vulnerable on the road? I don’t know. But unlike the Rays, I think the Red Sox will start to play better on the road. I think their road record is a bit of an anomaly.
I see the Ferocious Lion took some swings today. Keep an eye on that, because my view is that as the Lion goes, so go the Yankees. Without him healthy, I don’t think the Yankees make a serious run. And while we’re at it, I know the conventional view is that it’s good that the Yankees didn’t trade any of their prospects for Sabathia. But it’s not my view. Sabathia is a young, lefty, hard-throwing stud. Does anybody still really feel as good about Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy? Just asking….
Tomorrow afternoon in section 24 will be my mom, my Aunt Gerty and Aunt May, who has been a Yankee fan her whole life but never made it to Yankee Stadium. Bring back a win, ladies.
So since the Yankees are off tonight, let’s talk about the Red Sox. Fascinating institution. If you look long enough, you notice that everything about the Red Sox is viewed through the context of the Yankees. The Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, and arguably the bigger story was beating the Yankees in the ALCS. Granted, it was a historic comeback. But still. Every move the Red sox make, every free agent signing, every trade, every call-up; anything. It’s all colored by the Yankees. It’s tough to dispute. When the Patriots won the Super Bowl for the first time, the parade crowd chanted “Yankees S*ck.” So how big for them that they’re having their own little run of success.
Here’s the problem. Now that they’ve finally cracked through and won two championships, their identity is gone. They were, as I’ve said many times, the darling team of the poets and philosophers, who reveled in their perfect Sisyphean metaphor. In the process, the closer they got, the more fans rallied around them. By the time they pulled it off, they had rallied a group that had called itself, sadly unoriginal as it may have been, Red Sox Nation. They were uniquely original themselves though. They were the lovable, heartbreaking story of the gang that couldn’t quite ever get to the top, like Charlie Brown never getting to kick the football. So then they won. And then….
They were just another team that would never be the Yankees.
But here’s the good news. They have had a chance to reconstruct their identity over the last few years. They aren’t the lovable Charlie Browns anymore. They are now the preferred team of all of the people in the world who love to hate the Yankees. So after the last five years, instead of pulling away, they have become even more indelibly linked with their hated archrivals.
Talking to a few of my buddies the other day, I learned something interesting but not surprising. That my buddies from Boston and my Met fan buddies were voting for the exact same all-star slate. Loaded with Mets and Red Sox. “Really?” I said. “Yup,” they all said, “just to p*ss off the Yankee fans.” That’s not everybody, of course. But the sentiment is out there. And it’s easy to understand, being in New York and understanding the way that not just the Met fans, but the old Brooklyn Dodger fans and the New York Giants fans have always despised the Yankees. So there you are, Red Sox. Enjoy your new life. Another team that hates the Yankees because they want to be the Yankees.
So here is the theory that Big Joe (father-in-law) and I came up with last night as Manny sat on the bench. It has no basis in fact whatsoever, but we both thought it had merit. The Red Sox, it’s been well documented, started Manny the very next game after he threw their 64 year old traveling secretary down to the ground because he couldn’t get him 16 tickets to one of these Yanks/Sox games in his own home town. And they took a tremendous amount of heat for it, rightfully so. So Big Joe and I have this theory. We think the Red Sox decided to bench Manny for last night’s game. Are we really supposed to believe that Manny Ramirez, who has used trips to Yankee Stadium to bust out of every slump he has ever been in in his life, would be best served by sitting out a Yankee game? That the Red Sox really felt they had a better chance to win without him? Please. We think the Red Sox were calling this the “we’re dealing with it internally” game, which was a major cop-out, by the way. And here’s the kicker. We think that, Manny being Manny, he said ‘F-You Red Sox. You’re going to sit me down, I’m going to sit here at the plate with the bat on my shoulder and let Mo strike me out on three straight pitches.’ And that’s why he didn’t take the bat off his shoulders. Hey. Just a theory. Sounds about right though, doesn’t it?
So the Yankees held on for a split, but they’ve got problems. With Damon and the Ferocious Lion out, they are going to continue to struggle to score runs, and they are going to wallow along at .500 for an uncomfortably long period of time. The Red Sox, although they are awful on the road and are not nearly as good as they (and many others) thought they were at the beginning of the year, remind me of the Yankees last year. They have the potential to go on a big run. They’re loaded with tough outs, they’re in almost every game, and they are famously resilient.
Why is it such a surprise to everyone that Okijima has been a major disappointment this year? Here at the BPS we had him pegged at the end of last year, when he started to unravel down the stretch. He has a funny motion, we said, and every pitcher who gets by with a funny motion eventually gets figured out. And he had turned into a pumpkin by the end of the season last year. And that’s where he is today.
Jason Varitek is an all-star? Supposedly because the players voted him in? Unacceptable guys. Unacceptable.
Rays on the road. We’ll see…
Whew. I was feeling a little out-of-sorts there for a minute. There were the Yankees, blasting the ball all over the field on Wednesday, scoring runs, hitting with guys all over the bases, hitting bombs with people on base… It really had me feeling like the world was upside down. Luckily, tonight in the first inning, the Yanks had men on first and third with one out. And Allie and Giambi both struck out. That’s when I knew the world was back to its warm, fuzzy, comfortable self. Nice feeling….. Nice feeling….
Kudos to Jon Lester. He pitched a great game. He was around the strike zone all night, which is where you want to be against the Yankees. Just don’t walk them. Give them a chance to get themselves out. They’ll take care of the rest. Lester made his own good fortune by throwing strikes, but he also saw everything fall into place for him. How about this stat. Every single inning the Yankees put a runner on base they hit into a double play. Four double plays. I know the stat sheet says it was three, but anybody who watched the first inning saw quite clearly that Abreu was o-u-t, out. Not that Lester really needed those double plays. But as I said, everything just kind of fell into place. He faced just four over the minimum. One note for Lester, though. I counted four or five times he held his followed-through pose and stared at the ump when he didn’t get a strike call that he wanted. You know what? I’m okay with that in the first inning when you are trying to expand the zone, but he was doing it in the eighth inning with no one on base and a seven run lead. Jon – shut up; get back on the mound, and pitch.
So with all that went right for the Red Sox tonight, you’d think the Yankees were due to get some breaks tomorrow, right? Wrong. The Yankees are going to lose tomorrow. Why? Because they’re supposed to lose. Darrell Rasner is facing Josh Beckett. And the 2008 Yankees lose every single game they’re supposed to lose. I could be wrong. Lord knows I’m wrong enough. But I don’t think I will be.
So here’s my captain obvious, you’ve-all-heard-this-a-million-times stat. The Yankees have scored 25 runs in their last 6 games. Not good. An average of just over 4 runs a game. That’s not going to get you a whole lot of wins. And then consider that 18 of those runs came in one game, and the other 5 games produced a grand total of 7 runs. Yeah. That’s 7 runs in 5 games.
Can anyone explain to me why I’m forced to watch Wilson Betemit night after night? Apparently Joe Girardi and the Yankee announcers are convinced this guy is a great hitter. What exactly is giving them that impression? They go on and on about how Girardi wants to get him going because he’s so good with the bat. I’m not getting it. This is his fifth year in the league. He’s going to turn 27 this year in November. He’s a .260 career hitter with a career OBP of .329. He’s got 40 home runs lifetime. If he was going to be any good, wouldn’t he have put up better stats than that by now? I’ll tell you what I’m watching. A guy who is simply not a tough out. Not even close. He exemplified the Yankees ineptness tonight. A double play and two strikeouts swinging at balls that almost bounced off of his spikes. Not a tough out. Two other guys who are not tough outs. Melky and his buddy Cano. Cano is better than the other two because he makes up for his shortcomings with one of the prettiest swings in the league. But even though he can hit when he’s right, he’s not a tough out. He may go 2-4 any given night, but he’s just as likely to pop up to the infield or hit into a double play with bases loaded and one out in a one run game. And Melky might be streaky enough to get himself up to the .275 range, but he’s not a tough, disciplined hitter. This is a problem.
This is the post that no one will read, unfortunately, or fortunately, as I hope everybody will be out celebrating the USA tomorrow with family and friends. Best wishes for everyone on this Fourth of July.