Perfect. Perfect, perfect, perfect. You could not have designed this game to be a better microcosm of the Yankees season. In fact, every game seems to be a microcosm of their system. Except for that ridiculous aberration on Sunday.
So let’s go over a few themes from this game. Nothing we haven’t seen before. A.J. Burnett was spectacular. Fine. He was awesome and he deserved to win. Cito Gaston took a gamble leaving him in with 110 pitches through seven, and it paid off in every possible way. He got a quick inning, he finished the eighth, and he got the win. Perfect.
Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi struck out seven times between them. Seven. And Abreu had a phenomenal game, so twice when they went down, Bobby Abreu was standing on second base. Seven times. Alex was particularly useless. It seemed like each time he was a dead duck before he ever got up there. Perfect.
We got the perfect defensive miscue at the perfect time. The last I heard, and it’s been a while, I’ll admit, the Yankees had the fewest errors in the AL. But yet they always seem to find the perfect time. Johnny Damon, who was anointed the starting center fielder today (after I’ve been screaming for it for two months), just flat out drops not one, but two fly balls. Unbelievable. Plain, simple, drops. Not sure I’ve ever seen someone do that twice in one game before. And in purely devastating fashion. Drops the third out with the go-ahead run on the bases in the eighth inning. Wow. Perfect.
We wasted a great pitching performance of our own. Darrell Rasner, who has gone out and gotten knocked around many times this year, was awesome. One bad pitch and they hit it out to tie. Not a hit with a runner in scoring position, mind you. They were 0-3 in those spots. They got two runs without getting a hit with a runner in scoring position. Perfect.
The futility. This is what I mean when I keep saying that I find that “batting average with runners in scoring position” stat maddening. Maddening. Last Friday and Saturday the Yankees were what, 3-18 with RISP, pr something like that. But it was so much worse. First of all, one of the hits on Friday night was Alex Rodriguez hitting an infield single that didn’t score a run. And they hit into something like four double plays in those spots as well. So 3-18 was really more like 2-23. And to make matters worse, they go out and torch the overworked and under-talented Kansas City bullpen on Sunday (although they couldn’t even touch those guys on Friday and Saturday). So when you look at their “batting-average-with-runners-in-scoring-position” totals for the weekend, they were actually quite good. And if you look at their BA W/ RISP numbers over the last five or so games, they also look really good, as all of the numbers are skewed by that one game. But the real story was that they were 2-3 in those five games, with the only other win coming in a 13 inning affair that should have been an easy seven-or-so run victory in 9 innings. And the story was that they were stunningly impotent with runners in scoring position. Perfect.
A.J. Burnett is a nice pitcher. Always more talented than his record. But he’s not spectacular. His numbers don’t knock you over by any means. Why is he so automatic against the Yankees? I don’t get it. He never misses against them. Always career performances. A million strikeouts, manageable pitch counts, guys looking ridiculous swinging at balls all over the place. He wins every which way. And on top of everything else, he got a win because Johnny Damon just happened to drop his second ball of the game at the perfect time. Perfect.
Seven strikeouts from Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi. Whoops. Did I say that one already…. And flailing at balls way out of the strike zone. Seven.
A perfect – perfect – play from Lyle Overbay to nail Alex at second base leading off the ninth. I don’t blame him for going. You have to go. That was absolutely a fluky double all the way. Every single thing broke perfectly for Overbay in making that play. Give him credit. But does is seem like the fiftieth time this year that somebody made the play of their career to save/win a game against the Yankees? Maybe it’s me. Perfect.
I know, I know. Tampa keeps winning. Hey, if they pull this off, I will gladly serve as the foiled Gargamel in their Smurf village… To the victors go the spoils.
A couple of quick things on the Olympics. The Opening Ceremonies are probably my least favorite “sporting” event. Somebody tell me if this is wrong, but it always seems to me to be about an hour of watching the countries walk in and about three hours of interpretive dance. Thanks. I’m good.
That 4×100 relay might have been one of the most exciting sporting events I have ever seen in my life. Speaking of perfect, that was pure Hollywood. And with the French serving as villains with their condescending, snarling, boasts! Who does that? And the French! And then to watch the historically underperforming Jason Lezak come from out of nowhere to turn in the race of his life when it counted most. And to save the eighth gold for Phelps? Hollywood, dude. Wow.
Here is my issue with the NBC coverage. It could very well be me, but why does NBC think I care when the host Chinese win a medal? They’re the hosts. I get it. You don’t need to cut away from something interesting to show me another Chinese opportunity to win a medal. Call me a bad guy. There are a million American Olympians competing in events I don’t see. And with the results long since determined earlier in the day, why did NBC show an hour and a half in the key primetime slot, 8:30- 9:50pm, of diving. Diving. The American guy came in sixth. But the Chinese won gold and bronze! How exciting! And everyone had to wait until 11:30 to watch the marquee event, the women’s gymnastics.
So let’s get to the gymnastics for a second. This is why it’s difficult to root for the Chinese. First of all, they are cheating. And not cheating. Preposterously, brazenly cheating. These girls are quite clearly between 12 and 14 years old, and have been busted by multiple sources. Now I have to say. Here in the States, the media would never stand for this. People would be tearing their hometowns and official records apart to try and bust them, American or no American. There would be a race to break the story. So where is the outrage in China? I get it. You want to win medals. But wow. This is insane. Apparently the only check is a passport, which the Chinese girls all dutifully supplied. The New York Times dug up Chinese newspapers that reported the girls ages as 12, 13, and 14 in the last few months, which means that this was no oversight (the Chinese news websites that held this information were promptly taken down when the Times reported the inconsistency). Official stuff. The Chinese government had to issue these girls bogus passports. So they falsified some documents and records. You know. No biggie.
And while we’re at it, the whole thing smells. You think I’m a conspiracy theorist in baseball? When it comes to the judged sports, gymnastics, figure skating, and even boxing, I am Oliver Stone. I loved when the French judge got busted for trading favors with the Russian judge in the 2002 Winter Olympics to quid pro quo an ice dancing medal for a pair’s figure skating medal. I think that stuff goes on all the time. And some of this 2008 gymnastics judging smelled rotten, like when the Chinese girl landed a vault on her knees, but somehow won a vaulting bronze medal.
Do or die time for the Yankees. Do or die.
I’ve already admitted I’m the biggest loser in the world. Anybody who lets something as silly as a baseball team affect their moods and their disposition is just an idiot. I really don’t know how else to put it. But that’s me.
These days my stomach gets tight before I ever turn on the TV. I suppose a trip out to Anaheim will do that to you. This is about the time of the year when I start griping that MLB, always acting in the best interests of the bottom line, sticks the Yankees with ten games against the Angels every year. The Angels are the only team on the schedule outside of the division that you can mark down for ten games every single year. In fact, they are the only team outside the division that the Yankees face ten times ever. I’ve said this a million times. This is no coincidence, guys. MLB understands that these are marquee teams, and in the salad days of the Yankees the last few years, the Angels were just what the doctor ordered – a team that owned every pinstripe on the Yankees’ backs. So you can be sure that Texas was only going to get 7 games against the Yanks but the Angels were going to get 10. So now that my gripe is out of the way, let’s look at what happened.
The futility with runners in scoring position is getting to the point of otherworldly. And as I’ve said, the only measure we’ve got is the pathetic batting average with RISP. But it’s so wildly lacking in telling the whole story. The awful Melky Cabrera (I’m going to come back to him) comes up with runners on first and third with one out tonight. He swings at the first pitch (shocking) and hits into a double play. That counts as 0-1 with RISP, but it was a bone crushing two outs recorded with one swing, and even worse, the first swing. And the Yankees are legendary for it. They will have a pitcher on the ropes at 70 pitches in the third inning, and will swing at the first pitch and give him two outs. This bails him out of two jams – the one where he’s got a runner on third with less than two out and the one where his pitch count is out of control and he’s staring at a fifth inning shower. Yup. That’s where we are. The Yankees are so bad at something, there isn’t a stat that’s descriptive enough to capture it. And there’s one other useless stat. Ken Singleton on Sunday afternoon put a number to the recent suffering of Yankee fans. “The Yankees are less than 60% in getting the runner in from third with less than two out,” he said. What?! Less than 60%? If you’re dumb enough to watch every Yankee game, like I am, you wouldn’t have signed up for that number being any higher than 15%. Where the h*ll is he getting “less than 60%?” And then you realize what comprises that useless stat. That includes all of the garbage time blowouts when the Yankees actually do put a ton of runs on the board. Like the 7 run outburst against LA at the Stadium last week. Yes, it’s true. They got lots of runs home from 3rd with less than two outs. And it was all window dressing. Nothing that did us any good. But it pads the stats and makes a dumb number even dumber. Show me how many times they’ve gotten it done when it counted.
I’m going to say something stupid. I honestly don’t remember the last time the Yankees hit a sac fly. And I’m not trying to be funny, or to exaggerate. I honestly do not remember. It really is something.
I have to tell you. Joe Girardi is not impressing me as a playoff-run manager. In fairness, Joe Torre never impressed me in that regard either, but Girardi is making me sick. Kudos to Michael Kay on the YES broadcast tonight asking why Girardi, so adamant in the pre-game that “every game is crucial right now,” goes out tonight and sits Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi down. Giambi is an easy one. I said when the Yankees got Sexon that my one fear with getting Sexon is that they’re going to play him. And by that I didn’t mean that I didn’t like the move, believe it or not. I meant that you need to recognize him for what he is. He is a pinch hitter to face a lefty specialist. And a late-inning defensive replacement. That’s it. I meant that you cannot start platooning him with Giambi. You can’t sit Giambi down. He’s too important to the lineup, as even when he’s making out, it’s a tough out. He takes a lot of pitches, and on this free-swinging team, you can’t afford to sacrifice that. When Giambi isn’t in the line-up, pitchers go deep in games against the Yankees. Count on it. So what does Girardi do? Ughh.
Here is the crux of my problem. The Yankees are in the last leg of a grueling stretch of 20 games that will decide whether or not they will have a shot at making up the distance to a playoff spot. Knowing this, Girardi unnecessarily pencils three outs into the lineup last night, and he pencils three outs into the lineup tonight. And he pencils in one or two almost every night. First, yesterday. Sexon, Justin Christian, Molina. We’ve talked about Sexon. Justin Christian is not a major league hitter. He cannot be in the lineup. He’s a pinch runner. And why was Pudge not playing? Is he still hurt? I didn’t see anything to that effect in the news. The Yankees got Pudge not because they were afraid Molina couldn’t hold up to the rigors of being the starter. They got Pudge because he’s hitting .293, and Molina’s hitting .220. So why was Girardi putting Molina out there on Sunday? So tonight Girardi gets a little smarter and sits Molina. But he still played Sexon, Christian, and Melky. And what was the result of those combined three spots in the order for those two games? How about 1-17 with 6 strikeouts and 8 men left on base? How does that sound? Good?
So here’s my next question? Is Johnny Damon hurt? I get that he can’t throw the ball very hard. What else is new. But us he legitimately hurt? Because if not, he needs to be in the lineup and in center field every single day, period. I don’t care that he can’t throw. He’s leading AL in hitting, guys. Why is he sitting? Nady plays left, Damon plays center, and Abreu plays right. Every day. Pudge catches every day that Moose doesn’t pitch. And Giambi plays first base every day. If you want to DH Giambi and use Sexon at first against a lefty, fine. But you can’t sit Giambi. In that line-up, Sexon becomes your eight or nine hitter. Where he belongs. Certainly not sixth or something outrageous like that. You want to use Betemit on the other days, fine. Melky is not a major league hitter. He needs to go. Brett Gardiner is a better option as a pinch runner and defensive replacement, because that’s all Melky gives you.
I said this last week, and I’ll reiterate it now. I’m not inside Melky’s head, but I’ll tell you what it looks like from my perspective. Melky Cabrera does not share the same goals as his teammates. Melky is desperately trying to save his hanging-on-by-a-thread career, and to do that he needs to get his batting average up at all costs. And when the Yankees need him to be selective, take a pitch, let a pitcher walk him, move a runner over, etc, he can’t afford to do it. He needs to get hits to bring his average up. And the best pitches to do that are often early in the count. So he’s going to be up there swinging. Every single time. And that’s not going to help the team. You’re better off bringing up Brett Gardiner as a pinch runner and defensive specialist, because Melky is a rally cancer right now, and probably will be for the rest of the season.
I have so much more, but I’m going to give it a rest.
Seannie!! Your boy!!
I just heard the news. Favre is going to the New York Mets. Wow. It’s big, dude. What can you say. It’s a huge story here in New York. Everyone’s talking about it. And just in time, too. Wagner’s hurt, John Maine is on the DL…. The only question is what to do with him. Can he start, can he relieve? Tough to say, as he hasn’t technically played baseball in his sixteen year professional sports career. Doesn’t really matter, though. The guy throws gas. Brett and the Mets is a good fit. Just the other day Jose Reyes was doing his Brett Favre imitation, waving his finger in the air from home plate to second base after he hit a home run. It was the sixth inning, but hey, he’ll learn. Brett will teach him the difference. The only question left is – will this officially seal the NL East for the Mets? I don’t think there’s any way that…whoops….wait a minute….never mind.
Sean’s boy, the Moose, has now tied Cliff Lee for the American League lead in wins. Dude, I’ll just say it. I’m flabbergasted. I had absolutely no idea this was coming. I was listening to the radio broadcast tonight as I was driving back from my mom’s house, and Suzyn Waldman had an interesting nugget. Early in the season, when Moose had put up his second great start after the somewhat rough start, Suzyn Waldman commented to Mariano Rivera, “That was vintage Mussina tonight, no?” And Mo replied, “No that was vintage David Cone. Moose has re-learned how to pitch. You’ll see.“ Interesting insight. Well done, Suzyn Waldman. And I think that somehow our boy Sean has had something to do with Moose’s big start. I’ve noted that Moose just happened to start his run this season the day his daughter Ava was born.
So I’ll touch on it because I haven’t touched on it yet. Jason Bay is a nice player. He has started out like a house on fire for the Red Sox, and they were smart to get him. And I love Brian Giles. He’s another high OBP, grind-it-out guy who wears down pitchers and knows how to hit in situations. When you can send guys like Casey, Youkilis, Pedroia, Giles out there every night, you are going to torture opposing pitchers. And I know the Red Sox faithful would like to believe that they haven’t missed a beat with Bay. But they took the same posture when Scott Cooper replaced Wade Boggs. The bottom line is this. The Red Sox don’t get guys to put up numbers or to help you beat the Royals on the road. The true test for anyone wearing a Red Sox uniform is this. What will you do with the tying run on second with two outs in the ninth inning and Mariano Rivera staring at you on the mound? Manny was a fearless hurricane in those spots. And the Red Sox will have a tough time getting that back.
So maybe Joe Girardi can explain this to me. The Yankees are down three runs to the Rangers last Tuesday night. Giambi walks to load the bases with one out. You’ve got Pudge Rodriguez and Melky Cabrera available. You’ve already hit for Molina with Giambi, so Pudge is going in the game regardless. So Girardi sends in Pudge to pinch run for Giambi, and Melky to pinch-hit for Justin Christian. Help me here. Melky, who can’t hit but can run, gets to hit, and Pudge, who runs okay for a ninety-seven year old but is the all-time hits leader for the Rangers, is sent in to pinch run. Joe. Please listen. Melky is terrible. Take the lefty-righty match-up page in your manager manual, rip it out, and throw it away. Today. Please. Melky never hits before Pudge. I don’t care if he can hit lefty. That’s almost as dumb as Billy Martin sending up Mike Pagliarulo to hit righty against a left-hander. Come on, dude.
Allie. Wow. Ken Singleton and David Cone were talking about his being 0-15 in this series. That doesn’t begin to tell this story. He also hit into four double plays, three with two guys on base, and stranded everybody with less than 2 out while not moving anybody over. He was thoroughly and completely lost. I can only hope he finds what’s missing in Anaheim.
The Yankees have six games left in this brutal 20-game stretch they’ve been on. They’re 7-7 so far. You knew they were going to bleed some games in the standings. If they can hang on, somehow, over the next six games, they’ll be in a good position to make a move over the last month-and-a-half. It won’t be easy. They’ve got Ian Kennedy, Dan Giese, and probably Rasner going against the best team in baseball over the weekend in their own little private house of horrors. I’m trying to be optimistic, here, but I need somebody to point me in the direction of which game is our best chance to win. I guess it’s the Friday game, as they’re going against Weaver, who can be had. So let’s see. I’m saying our best chance to win this weekend is Ian Kennedy, who is 0-3 with a .741 ERA and hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since sweatshirt weather. Just wanted to revisit that for a second. Let’s move on.
Apologies for the choppiness of the posts lately, as I’ve been on vacation this week and will be part of next. Looking for 3-3 in the last 6 on the road. Looking for it. See you next week.
I knew the texts and calls were probably coming in fast and furious, but I didn’t want anything to do with them. The Yankees were losing 5-4 in the sixth and I was switching over to watch Mad Men with the missus. We DVR’d it last night, and something in my stomach was telling me that it was an eminently more appealing way to spend the next hour than watching the Yankees. When Mad Men was over it was a little after 11, so I started the Yankee game where I had left off (also on DVR), knowing that I could blow through it if it got tough to watch. And considering the DVR was only programmed to go until 11:30, I saw two on with one out in the bottom of the ninth with an 0-2 count on Michael Young. Long story short, I found out what happened on the post-game.
I knew it was bad news when Bob Davidson handed the Yankees a free run in the third or fourth, whatever it was. Johnny Damon was awarded second on a bogus balk call, and after moving to third on a ground ball, was awarded home on a less-bogus-but still-ticky-tack balk call. David Cone was on the YES broadcast saying that Davidson loves to call balks, and loves to inject himself into games. Bad news for a ballgame. Joe West is another guy like that. Keith Hernandez on a Met telecast the other day was saying that Joe West thinks the fans come to see him, and he’s so right. Joe West even calls himself “The Cowboy,” in case anyone wasn’t really sure what a pompous jack*ss he is. So tonight it was Davidson, another guy who loves to grab the spotlight whenever he gets a chance. So there he was, giving the Yankees a run on bogus balk calls. And I said out loud to the missus (who wasn’t remotely interested, as well she shouldn’t be), “I love that we got a run, but this isn’t good news. This umpire will find a way to inject himself back in this game.” So fast forward an inning, and there’s Bob Davidson jumping in to reverse a call in a tremendous spot in the game. Now, to start, I’ve always said the most important thing is to get the call right. So if that means reverse a call, reverse a call. Get it right. But I’ve seen the replay about 50 times, and none of them seem conclusive. Certainly not that you would come in from wherever and reverse the call that the home plate umpire, a guy who was standing about a foot away, had already made. And the one thing that the replays did show conclusively was that if the ball did touch him, he was most definitely in fair territory, not in the batter’s box, so the call was incorrect anyway. If it hit him the correct call was batter out, runner (who had been on the move) goes back to first on the dead ball. So either way, Davidson came in, reversed a call that the home plate ump had already made, and got it wrong. And how huge a spot. It went from two outs and no one on to two on and no one out. And of course you can’t assume things would have played out the same, but the next batter flied out harmlessly. Could have been the third out. Instead, two batters later Michael Young hits a three run bomb. Absolutely unbelievable.
Love to see a little bit of tenacity in the form of the X Man, who has really been all that you could have asked out there.
I’ll tell you what got me almost as mad as the Davidson intervention was the fact that in the very next inning, the Yanks put two on with nobody out. Then Vincente Padilla, at well over 100 pitches, goes 2-0 on Cano. And he swings at the very next pitch. I can’t say this enough times. You have to do your job up there. Cano can hit. Give him a full season and he generally will be at or around .300. But he does almost everything else wrong at the plate. He doesn’t know when to take a pitch; he doesn’t hit well in situations, i.e. move runners over or hit sac flies. He swings at far too many first pitches, he’s not a tough out and his at-bats don’t last very long. So with a 2-0 count, he hits a lazy fly ball to left. No advance. Inning dead. You had them right there, and nothing.
I’m glad that Melky finally had to sit. I couldn’t help but think that with Giambi sitting against lefties, Damon resting regularly, Abreu getting days off occasionally against lefties, etc, how was it that Melky got to play every single day? He can play D. Great. So can a million minor leaguers who can’t hit a lick. Great defenders grow on trees, folks. He can’t hit and he is pure cancer to rallies. One or two swings and he’s out. He never moves runners and he never hits sac flies. Not ever. Guaranteed quick out. I think now the problem is compounding itself, because Melky can see that his spot on this team is in big-time jeopardy. And he knows if his average stays where it is, he is gone. This means he can’t afford to do things that will help his team, like taking walks and moving runners over. Those things help you win, but they don’t help your batting average. So he’s willing to sacrifice that stuff to swing at the first pitch or two, because it might be the best pitch to get him what he covets above all else. Base hits that will raise his average and keep him in the major leagues. The result, unfortunately, is that the biggest loser is the team. Then comes Melky, who is a goner regardless of what he does from here on in.
Is there no way Damon can play center? I’ll take the weak arm. Give me Damon in center and Nady in left. I can’t take Melky anymore. Justin Christian is fine. As a pinch runner. You start putting him in the lineup, you’ve got two problems. He’s a near automatic out, and then he’s not available to pinch run, which is what he’s there for.
What else is new… The Rangers hit three home runs and the Yankees hit three home runs. The Rangers hit a two-run shot, a three-run shot and a grand slam. The Yankees hit three solo shots….
This is the problem with playing on the road. Losses just kind of find you sometimes. This was a crazy game that never should have happened. Davidson needs to let his umpires do their jobs. Get the call right, but don’t come in and reverse it just to get on TV. And then get it wrong, to boot. The Yankees never recovered from that tonight. Add in a sore shoulder for Joba and a devastating walk-off loss, and you’ve got the makings of a real encouraging trip here. Fun…