he pitch count will go up, and the bullpen will make an early appearance. Never good. I didn’t see Hughes’s last start, but the last few years his problem has been the inability to finish hitters off. He had the Dice-K problem. He could throw a lot of pitches for strikes, but everybody would foul off his 2-strike pitches and his pitch counts would go sky-high. I don’t love the match-up in either game.
, Melky Cabrera cannot be a part of your lineup if you want to win. Period. He needs to go.
The audio on the mlb app on my iphone kicked in just as I walked past the Stock Exchange. ”Joe Maddon is managing this game like it’s the seventh game of the World Series,” remarked Suzyn Waldman. ”He’s about to use his fifth pitcher.” Nick Swisher, apparently, had just k’d for the second out in the eighth. Johnny Damon had tied the score earlier in the inning with a double down the line. And Suzyn Waldman was right. Maddon was strangely h*ll-bent on winning this game. Where the h*ll was the Big Boy? He should have been all over this. I should have been getting texts, updates. I got nothing. Luckily, the iphone came to the rescue. Unfortunately, As the 4 train came rumbling into the station at Bowling Green, I clipped out just as Girardi was bringing on Bruney to relieve Pettitte. When I emerged at 95th St in Brooklyn 40 minutes later, the first thing that popped onto my screen was a text from Vino. ”Jeter!” it said. I knew things must have ended well. Quickly tapping the mlb app again, it was official: 4-3. Sorry Joe Maddon. Five pitchers weren’t enough. Neither were six. The Captain strikes again.
Well I thought that went well, no? Awesome. That’s what I call getting things started.
Thursday night, New York City. October is quickly tumbling towards November, and the weather is following along, obediently. The missus is out with her crew in Staten Island. The baby boy is at his grandparents’ house. That leaves me in the blue room, trying to pack my thoughts on the 2008 season into something coherent. I have game 2 on in the other room, but as always, I couldn’t care less. If the Yankees aren’t playing, I’m not really interested.
So let’s begin where we left off. The Red Sox ran out of pixie dust. As I watched game 6 with Big Joe, the Red Sox still peacocking all of their magic down in Tampa, I relayed to him something Acc told me years ago, when the Yanks were in the middle of all of their glory. “Someday,” he said, “This is going to end. It can’t go on forever.” And further to that, I said to Big Joe, when it ends, it tends to come crashing down. I can’t say it crashed down as badly for the Red Sox as it did for the Yankees in 2001, but hey – the bigger you are, the harder you fall. I’ll repeat what I said last week. As a dynasty, the Red Sox were always going to be a fraud. That’s not what they were, for a thousand reasons. But man, they knew how to dig in their heels.
So a few thoughts on the new Stadium. My opinion hasn’t changed from when they first announced this whole thing. Do they need it? No. Do I have an issue with them putting up a new Stadium? No. Does it thrill me? No. Does it kill me that they’re moving the field where Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Don Mattingly, and Bernie Williams played? It crushes me. That totally devastates me. Why would you do that? The field is the thing. Not the building. It’s the field. I hate that they’re moving the field. My thought is, if you’re going to move the field, then you might as well pack the whole thing up and move it to Manhattan. The building is the building, and the Bronx is the Bronx, but the field is the key. So I get that things change, and I’m not against putting up a new building with an opportunity to make millions upon millions more. Honestly, I’m okay with that. But back in ’74, you realized it was better to find temporary accommodations than to lose the one thing that matters. The field. That’s the one thing that bothers me. That they didn’t want to take a bit of a financial step backward for 2 years (if that?!) to keep the one thing that has always made Yankee Stadium Yankee Stadium. The field.
I promised Big Joe and his buddy Charlie that I would do a bit on the Mets, so here goes. The Mets. Man. What can you say. Two years of devastating meltdowns. I was listening to some of the banter on talk radio in the days following, and I was a bit confused by what I heard. Met fans, specifically and particularly the talking head radio and TV personalities, seemed to be coming out in favor of keeping Jerry Manuel on as Mets manager. So let me get this straight. There was one constant in the coaching ranks for two of the most colossal collapses in baseball history. Jerry Manuel. It was cool to blame Willie for a while, and it still is, but who was his bench coach? If you’re going to argue that Manuel didn’t have any accountability for ’07 just because he was bench coach, then why do you have a bench coach? If he’s useless and not accountable, why are you paying him in the first place? I was listening to Joe Benigno (who I love) and Evan Roberts (can go either way) on WFAN as I was driving around on Columbus Day, and anytime a caller would suggest the Mets should get a new manager, they would immediately jump down his throat. “Who?!” they would bark at him. One guy suggested Buck Showalter. “What has he ever won?!” they screamed. But here’s where that falls down. You’re not going to get a new manager because there isn’t anyone available who has a history of winning consistently? That’s completely idiotic. How many of those are there? Four? If that? What did Joe Torre win before he got to the Bronx? What did Terry Francona win before he got to Boston? What had Scoscia won before he started with Anaheim? Or Joe Maddon? Find someone you believe in and take a shot. That’s what winning teams do. Jerry Manuel needs to go, and the Mets need to start fresh. I think they have the right core of players. They need more depth at pitching and they need more consistency from their bats. They shouldn’t, because they have lots of marquee names in that lineup, but they do. David Wright is getting killed in New York for failing to come up clutch. They’re calling him D-Rod. Yikes. But for my money, the guy who needs to go is Jose Reyes. Jose Reyes is bad for a baseball team. I always marvel that Mets fans trip over themselves making excuses for him. He acts like a total *ss, and the fans turn a blind eye. The day before the Mets collapsed again, when Johan Santana came out and threw a gem, there was Jose Reyes, running out to do his ridiculous dancing out on the field when somebody hits a home run. Dude, everybody else in the league knows to keep it in the dugout. Especially when your season is hanging on by a thread. What is your problem? And for the second year in a row, he’s disappeared down the stretch. I know he’s a scary player with a ton of weapons, but guys who carry that kind of bad karma generally don’t win. (See: Bonds, Rodriguez…okay, Manny is clearly an exception). The good news is that the collapse, in a strange way, doesn’t seem as monumental after you watch the Phillies do what they’ve done. It was tougher to swallow last year when the Phillies mugged the Mets and then got swept in the first round.
So let’s get to an annual favorite: the smartest and dumbest things I said this year. As usual, the dumb thing was way dumber than the smart thing was clever. And believe it or not, my insistence that the Rays weren’t for real wasn’t the dumbest thing (although it was plenty dumb, obviously). The dumbest thing I said this year was this, on April 3rd:
“The fact is the Yankees are playing in their second game of the season and the best they have to throw out there is Mike Mussina. I know there are a lot of guys out there who love the Moose, and have for years. People get on me immediately when we kill him in the BPS. But guys – he is a number five starter. Number five. Is there anybody out there who thinks Moose has a better chance to throw a killer game than Phil Hughes? Somebody explain that to me…. Or Ian Kennedy, for that matter…. “
Yup. That’s me, with the razor-sharp insight that Moose was a dumber choice to start a game in 2008 than Ian Kennedy. Further proof that I haven’t the slightest idea what I’m talking about. I owe Sean a beer just on principle.
On to the smartest thing, posted on April 15:
“You’ve seen [Francona] many times over the last few years take risks in order to “write the story.” Dice K is a great example. At least three times last year against the Yankees, and this year’s game makes four, Francona stayed far too long with an ineffective and mightily struggling Dice K to try and get him a win.”
This wasn’t the first time I’ve talked about this. The implication, of course, is that one day this was coming to come back and bite Francona. And bite him it did. Only it wasn’t Dice K. It was Beckett. If he yanks him when he should have yanked him in game 2, the Sox probably win that game and take 2-0 back to Boston. And in one of the few times I’ve ever felt Francona was being disingenuous, he said after the game, “I felt he was the right guy for that spot.” I’m not Terry Francona, but his track record betrays him here. He was trying to get him a win. Period. And he got burned.
Last thing. My heart sank when I read yesterday that Mike Cameron was “high on the Yankees priority list.” As I said to Acc today on the phone, if that’s true, the Yankees are already out of contention for 2009. Not that Cameron himself is the reason (although he would be an awful, awful pick-up), but it would be clear that the Yankees are headed in the wrong direction. I think Mike F had a great tidbit in his comment the other day about Girardi saying that the Yankees “needed to swing early” against the better pitchers. Big Joe confirmed that he heard it also. If that’s his attitude, fire him right now. I’m not kidding. That’s exactly what you don’t do. What you can’t do. And that’s just it. Mike Cameron isn’t the type of player that is going to help you. I have to say, I’m really having trouble with that one. Who exactly in the Yankees front-office was the guy saying, “Cameron might be available?! Get him!!” What sense does that make? He’s hit .242 the last two years with low 20′s in home runs and a million – a million – strikeouts. He is exactly what was wrong with the Yankees last year. If that’s the type of guy they’re going to go after, and the type of team they’re going to be, they’ve already lost. I will note, though, that the Yankees did not confirm the report.
Maybe I’ll stop back in after the World Series. I hope this isn’t going to be a long off-season….
At the end of my last post, I said I had a number of things to go through when I checked back in. And I still do. But I’m not going to talk about any of them. It’s Thursday night/Friday morning, I have to talk about what I just saw. I guess they would have to close it out for this to be perfected, but however it ends, we are watching one of the most incredible teams of all time, in any sport. When the Red Sox won the World Series last year, there were whispers of the “D” word. Dynasty. Two Championships in four years really doesn’t get you there, though, so they were just that. Whispers. They got louder after the first round of the playoffs, and reached a crescendo (so far) after the Red Sox game one win in Tampa.
With that as background, this is probably the right time to point out that there are three people you generally can’t afford full credibility to when they are opining on the Yankees, Red Sox, or Mets, and that’s Yankees fans, Red Sox fans, and Met fans. All of them have a stake in all of the others’ situations. Met fans and Red Sox fans ( in general – doesn’t apply to every case, of course) might tell you that they’re agnostic on the fortunes of the other, but scratch the surface, and they will all probably admit that they like to see the other succeed just because it might p*ss off Yankee fans. My point is, I’m a Yankee fan, so feel free to stop reading here if you feel my allegiance will “Lupica” my credibility in this debate.
As a “dynasty,” the Red Sox were always going to be a fraud. You can argue that it all hinges on what your definition of dynasty is, and you can certainly throw a number at it and say that, say, three, championships in five years or so constitutes a dynasty. Tough to argue. For me, a dynasty is a team that goes out and beats you because they’re the best team every day, every year. The Red Sox have not been that. And I understand that Red Sox fans would want to use the word. It’s a big word; there aren’t too many opportunities to use it in sports. It’s a marquee term. But frankly, to use that term with this Red Sox team would be missing the point of this team. What they aren’t is the team that goes out and beats you day in and day out. In thirteen years, this team has won its division exactly once. One time. And if not for a four-run April comeback in the ninth inning against Mo Rivera, they don’t even finish first that one time. They always say that the season is a marathon, not a sprint. And in this marathon, Boston has just once in thirteen years been able to beat out just four other teams to win their division. Fifty years ago, they never would have made the playoffs.
So what are they. Well, they are simply the most brilliantly, fantastically, spectacularly resilient team I have ever seen in professional sports. I can’t think of a close second, or even a distance second. They own it, entirely. Let’s start from the beginning. In 2003, the year they came of age, the Yankees had run away with the division and the Sox were fighting for a Wild Card. And as the season wore on, I remember laughing with a couple of the boys that the Red Sox just seemed to be able to yank a game out of their butt whenever they absolutely needed it. You could almost predict it. You could look at the standings and the games that were in progress on any given night, and if the Red Sox were going to take a significant ding with a loss, you would see them start some crazy three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth. It was automatic. I always used to say they had a pocketful of miracles. So they ride their miracles into the playoffs, and they find themselves down 0-2 to the A’s and in extra innings. Eric Byrnes should have crossed the plate with the winning run, but the umps ruled (correctly) that he never touched the plate and was called out as Varitek chased him halfway to the dugout to apply the tag. The Red Sox survived and eventually won the game, then followed it with two wins to take the series. Then they face the Yankees, who took a 3-2 lead back to Yankee Stadium. With a Yankee lead in the 8th inning in game six, they got a routine fly ball that got caught in the wind by Nomar, and then a go-ahead shot that sparked a multi-run inning to steal game six. Game seven in 2003 was the one and only time in this decade that their luck abandoned them. Fast forward to 2004. Goes without saying. Then ’05 and ’06 were a bust. Then ’07. Down 3-1 to the Indians, they pulled off the ALCS win. So at that point they had pulled off, in their two Championships, the greatest and the second greatest series comebacks in the history of baseball. Now 2008. Again down 3-1, but this time losing 7-0 with two outs and a man on in the seventh inning. Guys, say what you want. I know ’04 was a 3-0 deficit, and I know it was against the Yankees. For a Red Sox fan, I can understand if that was their favorite. But if they pull this off in ’08, and I would not be the slightest bit surprised if they do, this beats them all. Down 3 games to 1, and losing by seven runs in the seventh inning with two outs, having to not just win, but go back on the road and win two more. I have not seen a more unbelievable feat in my entire lifetime by one team, in any sport. That would absolutely beat them all. And then you would be looking at a team that came back from 3-0, 3-1, and 3-1 down 7 runs with 7 outs to go, resulting in 3 Championships. There is no precedent for that anywhere in professional sports, as far as I know. And I challenge anybody to find me something even close. I know you might think I’m getting ahead of myself here, but am I? Is Tampa really going to snap back from this? Particularly since Big HGH and JD Drew seem to have survived their slumps and gotten their strokes back? Really? I don’t see it. And I certainly don’t have any faith in the National League. Now I’ll admit, I’ve been dogging the Rays all year. I openly admit it. But for the last few days I’ve been telling everybody – Let’s just see them close it out. Let’s see if they really are immune to the Red Sox magic. And wow. Wow, wow, wow.
So why not a dynasty? Because that’s not them. This win tonight made them 12-2 in their last 14 playoff elimination games. Just drink that in for a minute. Fourteen elimination games, and they’ve won twelve. Astounding. And to get it done this year it would be fourteen out of sixteen (at least), including their last ten in a row. So what was the Yankees record in elimination games in their run from 1996-2000? One and one. And that’s the point. They just didn’t find themselves in elimination games. They pretty much just buzz-sawed through everybody. If you’re asking me, that’s a dynasty. But that doesn’t take away from what the Red Sox are. Frankly, there have been lots of dynasties in sports. I don’t know if you’ll ever see another team like this crazy Red Sox team. They are almost beyond explanation.
I know, I know. I’m already giving them 6 wins in their next nine games. Getting ahead of myself. Fine. Is anybody out there betting against them?
“Son-in-law…” It was Big Joe calling from Chicago. He was at a trade show. “I’m here in Chicago, and everyone keeps coming up to me asking if you’re okay. They all want to know why you fell off the face of the earth. I told them you’re busy changing diapers and all that….“ Big Joe was running cover. There’s some truth to what he was saying, I guess, but I would have to say it’s a combination of things. I admit, it’s a lot of work juggling the baby boy’s schedule with side cars like the BPS. Not that I’m doing a lot of heavy lifting where the boy is concerned. To say that I’ve been spending the bulk of my time changing diapers and getting bottles ready would be a disservice to the missus. I am merely an available and sort-of capable assistant most of the time. But it does get tricky trying to fit everything in. And to say that this was the only reason for the slide of the BPS would be kidding myself. I have to admit, as the team slips down in the standings, it’s tough to get as amped up. And not knowing how I would respond to the Yankees missing the playoffs for the first time since I was barely able to drive, I guess I figured I would still be as glued to the proceedings, right up to the last out. And to an extent, I was. Many nights Acc and I would exchange texts to the effect of, “I don’t know why I’m still watching this, but I am.” But not amped enough that I would be storming into the blue room after a tough loss to pound out all of my thoughts on the BPS. Besides, I’ve always warned you guys that I’m the laziest guy in America.
So how do we analyze the 2008 season? Was it the injuries? A lack of clutch-hitting, mismanagement, front-office savvy? Was this team just not as good? After spitting and bleeding thorough six months of Yankee baseball, I’m kind of surprised that after all is said and done, I’m still sitting here wondering what just happened…
First things first. The Tampa Bay Rays. Guys, I’ll stand and take my flogging now. I promise I won’t squawk. Yup, I was the guy. No revisionist history here. I’m not going to say that I hedged on this one bit. I came out many times this year breathing fire that they weren’t for real. That they were the fortunate beneficiaries of a soft, home-friendly schedule in the first half. The end would see the cream rise to the crop. I could go on and on. Bottom line; they got it done. Kudos to them, shame on me for being a non-believer.
It’s not like the Yankees couldn’t beat the good teams. Putting aside the kryptonite-in-their-pocket Angels of Anaheim, who are always a Vincent Price movie for the boys from the Bronx, the Yankees didn’t have a losing record against any of the other playoff teams, including both Minnesota and Chicago. In fact, only Boston was even able to eke out a season series tie in extra innings on the last day of the season. It was a lot of stumbling around with teams like Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City that cost the Yankees this season. The Red Sox again settled comfortably into their familiar second place cubby, although this year with a new Queen Bee to serve at the top. Not sure how they’ll fare in the post-season, but at least they know who they are. The Yankees ended up in first place all these years because they were the best team. The Red Sox snuck into the playoffs all these years because they’re never dead until you kill them. The chips have fallen the last twelve years or so such 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. The Red Sox got their one exception; let’s see if the Angels can get theirs. Funny.
So let’s start at the top. The last deal on the table for Johan Santana was Hughes, Kennedy, and Melky for Santana. Just about no one in Yankee-land wanted this to happen. Way too much, considering the promise shown by those three guys, who by season’s end in 2007 were all starters. Well, you know what they say about hindsight boys. Melky is not a major league baseball player and Ian Kennedy is not a major league baseball player. Phil Hughes, it seems, has a long way to go. You live and learn. That was a colossal mistake. Speaking of Kennedy and Hughes; zero, that’s zero wins between them for the season. Wow. Kennedy was not only awful, he was delusional, thinking he “pitched well” after getting pounded by the Angels. Dude, when you’re wearing the Yankee pinstripes, the only way you pitch well is when you end up with a “w” next to your name. Hughes, when he finally got healthy, was subject to his old bugaboo. He can’t put people away. Gets two strikes pretty easily, and then hitters start to battle him. Even if he gets them, his pitch count goes sky high and he can’t be effective. It’s one of the key reasons the guy had no wins. Even when he pitched well in a game the Yanks would eventually win, like he did in the final two weeks, he didn’t get the win because his pitch count was blown long before he was out of the fifth. Not good. Not sure what kind of major leaguer he turns out to be.
So we know about the injuries. Posada, the Ferocious Lion. Alex Rodriguez was out and/or hurting for about six weeks early on. Wang was lost early on. Definitely a key theme for the collapse, without a doubt. But I can’t say that I’m qualified to say how or why the end came. If I had to pick one thing, I would probably say the general approach to hitting. The Yankees just weren’t tough outs in 2008. Cano, Melky, Molina, Alex, and sadly, Derek Jeter swung far too early in the count at far too many pitches. That’s the key thing for me. It wasn’t just the futility; it was the quick outs and the quick innings. There were too many mediocre pitchers that turned into Preacher Roe facing the Yankees. It would always drive me nuts to hear guys like John Sterling saying, “Boy, you better go up there swinging against a guy like Roy Halladay, because he’s going to throw strikes.” And that’s just what the Yankees did. The problem is that’s just what you don’t do against a guy like Roy Halladay. Okay, he throws strikes. But opponents hit what? Low two-hundreds against him? If that? Bottom line is, you don’t swing against Roy Halladay. Because the odds are great that you’re not going to get a hit. Of course I don’t mean you never swing, but you don’t want to go out there and try to shell Roy Halladay. It’s not going to happen. You do what the Yankees of the past few years were legendary for doing. You wait him out and get to the bullpen. He’s not going to throw three straight strikes to everybody. Make him work for it. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but against a guy like Halladay, you’d rather make out after an 8-pitch at-bat than get a base hit on the first pitch with two outs and nobody on. If the next guy also swings at the first pitch and gets out, you’re no closer on the scoreboard but you’re six pitches behind in terms of getting into the bullpen. The current Red Sox, watching the Yankees all those years, are great at this. I was in section 24 for the last Red Sox/Yanks series at the Stadium, and I distinctly remember at one point (I forget which inning) there was a man on first, one out, and the count was 2-1 on the batter. And the Red Sox had swung at exactly one pitch in the inning. One. Brilliant. The Yankees need more tough outs in their lineup.
Not done yet, boys. I’ll be back with a few more thoughts. What changes need to be made, what can be done better, the old Stadium, the new Stadium, the Mets (ugh, the Mets), etc… See you then.
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!!