Rebecca's blog has moved from blogger to Wordpress and may now be accessed at:
Most of you won't have to change your bookmarks, but some of you may.
Intense Debate comments did not survive the import, so for any post made between 04/09 and 10/09, the comments can be found here.
It's a bit rough, I know, but in the long run it will be worth it.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Rebecca's blog has moved from blogger to Wordpress and may now be accessed at:
Friday, October 30, 2009
1) Watch this video.
2) Tell me what you see.
If you saw the same thing I saw, you saw a) a short hop to Ryan Howard, b) no stepping on first base, and c) a throw wide of second base.
In theory, the Yankees should have bases loaded, one out, with Mark Teixeira at bat.
Instead, the play was ruled a double play--that Howard caught the ball and tagged the runner--and instead of being able to expand their lead and perhaps momentarily avoid using Mariano Rivera, the Yankees had to call on their 39 year-old closer for a 39 pitch save.
I was seated in the right field grandstand last night (check the photos from the post below), and, with Howard's back to me, I knew it was a blown call.
How did I know? If it really was a double play, Howard had utterly no reason to throw to second base.
It seems, that with every round there' yet another botched call, and each one increasing in severity after the last.
It has now gotten to the point where every play, even ones that should be utterly routine, have become the subject of much dissection.
Umpiring along with journalism has one single, cardinal rule: never become the story.
Alas, in the 2009 postseason, the umpires have.
So this is what the World Series, the real World Series, feels like, huh?
What with the pitching and the timely hitting and the Mariano-ing and the Hoosierdaddy-ing and the mid-game-change-your-luck-Tweetups with Amanda Rykoff and Brent Nycz and the OHMIG-D YOU DID NOT REALIZE PAUL O'NEILL WAS THROWING OUT THE FIRST PITCH!
This is what it feels like.
It feels pretty darn good.
This isn't just baseball.
This is love.
Unlike last night's cold, rainy and windy drudge, tonight felt like October baseball.
There was, first of all, getting off the subway and walking, in the pale, dying sunlight, across the street to the Stadium. There, you find yourself transported to another world, one in which nothing matters except baseball. Nothing.
There was, in the pregame, the Jay Z/Alicia Keys mini-concert.
I'm not even a Jay Z fan, but the show the two put on seemed to set something off: the Stadium came alive, as if, finally, finally, we realized what it is our team has accomplished.
We're here, in the World Series.
We've reached the last round, we will play in the last Major League baseball game on the 2009 calendar; we will play into November.
The National Anthem is sung by John Legend and there's a flyover which goes right over my head, all of which is utterly awesome and makes it hit me again: HEY THIS IS THE WORLD SERIES, but it pales in comparison to the reaction when Paul O'Neill comes out to throw out the first pitch.
We are ready for this game to start.
AJ Burnett takes his warm up tosses not to the 300 soundtrack as normal, but instead to Marilyn Manson.
I don't know if today will be Good AJ or Bad AJ, not yet, but the music choice soothes me: almost every other time I've seen Burnett pitch this season with his normal warm up music, he's been bombed. Maybe the change will do him good.
After a few innings, after the Phillies take a 1-0 lead and Pedro Martinez refuses to let the Yankees do anything besides chant "Who's Your Dad-dy?", Amanda Rykoff and I start texting. She's scored a last second ticket to the game and we're talking about a mid-game tweet-up, along with Brent Nycz, to change the Yankees' luck. We decide: Top of the fourth inning, by section 413.
So, we meet and we walk over to one of the concession stands so I can buy myself some Twizzlers.
We watch the game on the screens, which are about 10 seconds behind the actual play on the field.
We watch AJ Burnett pitch a 1-2-3 inning, and then we watch Mark Teixeira hit a game-tying home run into the Yankees' bullpen, and we decree the tweet-up a success: our luck has been changed.
After we part, Burnett pitches as though he has taken it to another level. Slowly, we stop holding our breath with every pitch AJ throws, and instead begin to long for the next one. It may not be Lee's dominance, but you could have fooled us.
In the seventh inning, the crowd senses that this is something spectacular. So we chant: "AJ! AJ! AJ!"
Later on, while speaking to reporters, he'll say it's "the funnest I've ever had".
In the bottom of the seventh, with a one run lead, the Yankees threaten for more. With first and third and no one out, a Melky Cabrera singles makes the score 3-1 and knocks Pedro Martinez from the game. Hoosierdaddy!
After a pinch-hitting Jorge Posada reaches, Derek Jeter bunts foul ("I was stupid", he is rumored to have said) and Johnny Damon comes to the plate.
I'll examine this in more detail tomorrow, but from our seats, what we saw was him ground to Ryan Howard, who, without touching first, threw the ball wide of second base. It should have left the Yankees with the bases loaded and no one out, but it was instead ruled a double play.
Somehow, you get the feeling, that it's impossible to conduct a 2009 postseason game without some sort of major umpiring scandal.
Still, the umpires' awful call notwithstanding, the Yankees took no chances, and went straight to Enter Sandman.
With the top of the Phillies' lineup due up in the eighth inning, going to Mariano Rivera is, in terms of, leverage-baby-leverage, a no-brainer. With the off day tomorrow, the Yankees could afford to do it, and so they did.
Rivera did make things a little exciting, but, being the great Mariano, he found a way.
Ball game over, Yankees win, theeeee Yankees win!
I found and purchased a "Got Pie" t-shirt. It's a much better souvenir than the program, which cost $5 more than normal and is mostly a reprint of the LCS program.
I still can't get over the umpires' call in the bottom of the 7th. I will address tomorrow, likely in the afternoon.
Any photo taken after the fourth inning is credit Brent Nycz. The video of the final out (will be uploaded in morning) is credit Amanda Rykoff.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
For the first time this postseason, the Yankees find themselves behind, down in a series and in much need of a win.
While comparisons to 1996 invoke a certain romanticism, it is not a position in which any Yankee fan wants to find his team--as fun as a come-from-behind series win would be, a series tied at one game a piece is still a much better option than being down 0-2 and having to go on the road.
So it falls to AJ Burnett to shut the door.
AJ Burnett, who has been so predictable--the same pitcher that surrendered six runs to Baltimore in one inning is also the one who one-hit the Red Sox through eight.
Burnett's unpredictability is nothing new--in fact, it's probably the most consistent thing about him.
Tonight, the Yankees need the "good AJ" to show up and shut Philadelphia down, and, well, not repeat his outing the last time he faced the Phillies.
AJ wants to be a big game pitcher; this is his shot.
He still needs a little pie, after all.
If there's one thing that's surprising about the Yankee postseason thus far, it's this: the bullpen has struggled more than we expected.
Mariano is still Mariano, but nearly everyone else has struggled at some point--even Robertson had a less than stellar appearance last night.
Despite the fact that the malaise seems to be so widespread, there's just one Yankee pitcher that seems to bear the brunt of everyone's emotions: Damaso Marte.
The thing is, although Yankee fans are generally astute (I hope, anyway), Marte might not actually deserve all the blame that is being heaped on him.
While it's true that Marte struggled in Game 2 of the ALDS, allowing two hits with no outs in extra innings, he has not allowed anything in the two innings (spread out over four games) he has pitched since then--no hits, no walks, no nothing.
While you might be thinking that spreading two innings over four games may not say much, keep in mind that, as a LOOGY, this is exactly how Marte is supposed to be used: to nab the left handed bats and no more.
In other words, then, what Marte has been doing is simple: his job.
It doesn't sound like much, but when you consider how much the other, normally reliable, relievers are struggling, it does matter.
Would I advocate, like I did with Robertson, for Marte to be used more? No, not really--being used as he is is the best way to use him, and the track record of using him too much isn't pretty--but what I would suggest is that perhaps he does not necessarily need to bear the brunt of our ire.
At any rate, tonight the Yankees need AJ Burnett to be solid. As important as Damaso Marte may or may not be, he will still not be important as the starting pitching the Yankees receive.
(A response to this)
You exit my apartment.
Walk south to the end of this block and the next, hang a right, walk two more short blocks and find yourself in the heart of the Bronx's own Little Italy.
You could get yourself a thick crust slice at Full Moon, to stay or to go, or you can sit down for a full meal at Zero Otto Nove.
You can sample fresh seafood at the outdoor clam bar next to Umberto's or buy a fresh baked loaf of olive bread at Madonia brothers.
This is New York.
You hop the D train up by Fordham Road.
While you're riding it past 161st and River, a Mariachi band--complete with accordion--boards and somehow, even though you really hate accordions and you want to resist, you still find yourself drumming along to the music.
You get out at Columbus Circle.
You contemplate going to the Park. Sure, it's splendid in the sun, and brilliant in the winter snow, but it's this proposal in the rain that'll get you every time.
You contemplate turning west, towards Lincoln Center, but it's not quite Nutcracker season just yet. You contemplate walking just a little bit further, to where you could get cheap Chinese food at Ollie's, and you smile. Ollie's Noodle Bar, this is where you came this summer, after every afternoon win, a tradition between you and one of your best friends. He always gets the fried rice, you the steamed fish. The food comes so fast that you have time to eat and digest your meal and not miss a single firework on the Fourth of July.
Your stomach, however, is full from that slice at Full Moon, so instead you turn east along Central Park South, and you walk until you reach the Plaza hotel.
Across from the hotel where you once stayed as a kid the same night the Toronto Raptors were in town--you were in the elevator with Tracy McGrady, only you didn't realize it at the time, not till you read the name on the gym bag later--there's the Apple Store, which exists all underground, where you got your brand-spanking new computer four months ago, and there's FAO Schwartz, where you duck in just because they've got candy and you've got one hell of a sweet tooth.
This is New York.
You continue to walk along Fifth Avenue. You pass St. Patrick's Cathedral, where you step inside and light a taper for a Catholic friend who is in a really bad spot, and you pass by stores ranging from the ultra upscale Bergdorf Goodman to the NBA Store where you remind yourself that your brother's birthday is in two months and you haven't gotten him a gift yet.
You were here, you remember, on St. Patrick's Day, when all the world seemed to be one giant college party and you found yourself longing for your undergraduate days. You can still hear the sound of the bagpipes, a reminder of the city's Irish heritage even as you contemplate getting sushi in SoHo for dinner.
You walk past 42nd street--Times Square is to the west, and you remember spending your New Year's there, just that once, just to be able to say that, yes, you were there, that you braved the nearly 0 F temperatures and did so without gloves and somehow did not get frostbitten.
You continue, you walk past the back side of the Empire State building, so tall that you can crane your neck and still not see all of it, and you reach 34th street--Penn Station, from where you've taken trains to your parents in Jersey, to your family in Long Island, to Shea in its last year and Citifield in it's first, and the Amtrak to Boston last Christmas.
This is the same place as Madison Square Garden--and though the Jersey fan in you can't stand the Rangers and remains indifferent to the Knicks, the annual Big East tournament is a source of pride. You're not sure which you enjoyed more: winning it all in 2006, the wins against Cincinnati, hated UConn and Georgetown all coming on last second shots or that game in 2009, six overtimes against that same UConn, that game that wouldn't end, that seemed destined to continue for all eternity, and you smile.
Foley's isn't too far from here, either--this is where you met with other bloggers, most of whom you read religiously or follow on Twitter--and this is where you had lunch with the folks who are still trying to save Gate 2 from the old Yankee Stadium, and where Nick Swisher has made an appearance a few times this season, too.
This is New York.
You walk down some more, and at 23rd street you think about walking west a few blocks--here is where your other brother lives, with his wife and your sixth month old nephew. He's getting so big now, your nephew, that he can no longer fit into the Yankee baby clothes you bought for him the day he was born, if only because you were at the Stadium that day, and the opportunity presented itself.
Your brother and sister-in-law are still at work, however, so you instead continue, following Fifth Ave, until it ends abruptly at Washington Square Park and the NYU campus. You remember the last time you walked through Washington Square Park with your boyfriend, where he bumped into an acquaintance of his, nothing more at work here than two people in the right place at the right time.
From here, you know you could walk through Greenwich Village, and past that venue where you and a friend once saw the Daily Show's John Oliver in a stand up performance. You could continue down to Soho, walking past Houston and along Sullivan till you wind up at Purl, your favorite yarn store, where you think that they have to be sick of you by now.
You could continue much further south and you'll find yourself in the Financial District, and near the 9/11 memorial site, where you wish they'd hurry up already and build something there, where every year those lights still go up, and you still remember.
Instead, though, you get back on the D train and take it all the way to the end, all the way to Coney Island in Brooklyn. You get off the subway, walk past the site of the famous Nathan's Hot Dog contest (it's always the skinny guy, the Chestnut or the Kobyashi) and towards the pier. You stop short of the pier, however, as you pass by where the Cyclones play, and the field next to it, where you remember that on one August night, here is where you hurt your shoulder because you thought that there could not possibly be any harm in throwing too many pitches to your friend, the only ones to reach his mitt being knuckle-ball types. You remember how after you decided you absolutely had to test out the fast pitch, and registered at 30 miles an hour.
As bad as the thirty was, you laugh, it was still better than the 22 mph you threw when you went to Trenton, although that had consequences of its own.
From the pier you can see the amusement park, and just for a moment you wish you were a little bit less wimpy, hated roller coasters just a little bit less...
Against the sunset, you decide it's time to head back, so you get on the subway again (and damn, you think, that unlimited card comes in handy), and you ride all the way up.
You pass by 145th street, where you'd get off and switch to the A to visit that same friend on 173rd, the one that urged you to throw those knuckleballs, who lives in the way-too-much maligned neighborhood of Washington Heights, that same place where Manny grew up. You can literally see the George Washington Bridge from his apartment, and it glitters in the moonlight. You keep thinking about all the baseball games you went to this year--the game the day your nephew was born, that loss against the Nationals back in June, the walk-off on July fourth, the game that didn't start till 9.30 on July 23rd because of rain, that same game that saw the kids from Camp Sundown, that game the day after Derek Jeter broke that record, the very first game of the postseason, and now one more--the second game of the World Series. Not to mention the Staten Island, Brooklyn, Trenton and Scranton games you went to, improvising transportation and going just because you love baseball, and no other reason.
You think about the nights you spent in that apartment--once without even working electricity--because it was too late to go all the way back. You think about how when there was no roommate you could sleep on the spare bed, but now that there is one you sleep on the futon that's never really been pulled out, and how badly your back hurts in the morning, and how much you just don't care.
As you pass by the Stadium, you think about this.
You think about how you were there that first exhibition game against the Cubs, the night before you had to be at a conference at 8.30 AM but you still wouldn't have missed it for the world, about the ALCS game three viewing, where you sat in the expensive seats for free and about how you were totally fooled by the Johnny Damon lookalike sitting two rows behind you.
You realize you've been to so many games this year that you've lost count. Sure, you were lucky enough to sit in the expensive seats a few times, but your favorite memories are when you got the tickets the day before, sitting in the 400s or the bleachers, and that sense of pride...you are a Yankee fan. That itself is enough.
It takes a while, but the subway reaches Fordham Road again.
You exit along E 188th, and walk downhill, past the markets, the Indian or Pakistani woman on the street selling children's books, the community health center, the pediatrician and the weight loss clinic. You walk past the stairway to nowhere (well, that's what you call it, anyway), the Chinese take out, Dominican barber shop, brand new bar and the fried chicken joint on Webster. Along the way a tall, strong, imposing man stops you--asks you, because of your hat, if you're a Yankee fan. He asks how the Yankees will do, and without even thinking about it, you tell him,
"They're going all the way."
You bump fists.
You continue, past the playground and the basketball courts--oh, how you wish a recruiter would stop by, discover the next LeBron--and play with fate herself as you cross 3rd Ave.
You walk those last few blocks, past Arthur Ave again, and end up right back where you started.
You are exhausted, but you don't care. The City teems with life and you love every bit of it.
The kicker, though, is that you know, you know more than anyone because you've lived here, that you still ain't seen nothing yet.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Sometimes things don't go the way you want.
It has happened before, and it will happen again.
It wasn't as though CC Sabathia collapsed or had some sort of awful performance--the two runs surrendered were the same as in his ALDS game one performance--it was that Cliff Lee pitched the game of his life.
To have beaten Cliff Lee tonight, the Yankees would have had to pitch perfectly.
Until the ninth inning, the Yankees had just one batter reach second base, and none reach third.
There's not much else to day--it wasn't a bad managerial move that cost the Yankees the game; the other team simply pitched better.
Okay, so perhaps Brian Bruney should not be anywhere near a postseason roster, but this isn't really the point here.
You can debate how you would have pitched the top of the eighth--my faith in Robertson didn't work out the way I'd hope, but it happens--but it wasn't a bullpen that blew the game.
With the way that Lee pitched, even if the score had remained 2-0, the Yankees' chances were still slim--he was that good.
The first six innings, at least--before the Yankees went to the bullpen--were everything that a neutral fan would want to see in a World Series game: good pitching, good fielding, and played in a crisp manner.
Alas for us, we have a rooting interest that was on the wrong end of that game.
So what now, then?
For the first time this postseason, the Yankees find themselves trailing in a series, faced with their first real must-win of the month. Lose tomorrow, and it's 0-2 going to Philly--although, as we all remember previous occasions, it's not as though the Yankees haven't overcome that obstacle before.
The Yankees don't have to face Cliff Lee tomorrow; they have to face Pedro Martinez which is an entirely different story for reasons probably already familiar to you.
There is no reason to think that the Yankees will not fight. We've seen this team play too long this year with their swagger. They always seem to find a way.
As Douglas Adams would have said, DON'T PANIC.
There is still a lot of baseball left to play.
I will be at tomorrow's game. If you are going and would like to say hello, send an email or tweet my way.
Where were you the last time the Yankees won a World Series?
What were you doing? How did you celebrate? What feeling are you most anxious to feel again?
I remember getting so nervous as Mike Piazza hit a deep fly to center, thinking it might never come down...and then Bernie was there, and the Subway Series complete.
I remember being a freshman in a high school that leaned strongly towards the Mets, and I remember the naivete: the fourteen-year-old feeling that, yes, we were invincible.
So what about you? What do you remember from last time? What do you want to remember from this time?
Via LoHud, Yankee Stadium will open to fans on Sunday so that they may view the road game four.
With luck, this game could be especially significant (although my gut tells me this is unlikely).
Having gone to the viewing party for Game 3 of the ALCS, I must say that if you have the chance to go on Sunday, I highly recommend it.
There's really nothing like watching the game with a few thousand fans of the same team. It is, after all, the same reason you congregate in bars and friends homes to watch the postseason, especially the latter rounds in any sport.
The event is free (save for concessions), so you needn't worry about cost. Just get there early--if you're there early enough, you can even try out some of the Legends Seats!
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
By now you've likely heard the news: Pedro Martinez will start Game 2 of the World Series for the Phillies.
In New York.
This, of course, would be the same Pedro who once uttered, "just call the Yankees my daddy", spawning non-stop "who's-your-daddy?" chants at the Stadium.
Pedro was once dominant against the Yankees--holding them to one hit in the 1999 ALCS--but has struggled lately, with an ERA close to six in his past five starts.
While he did pitch well against the Dodgers, the Yankees could easily be another story.
Charlie Manuel is taking a huge gamble--Pedro has been better than Hamels this postseason, sure, but Pedro's home/road splits are worrying at best and somewhere the law-of-averages is waiting to rear its ugly head.
Live chat at 7.30. Be there
The World Series is supposed to be about the two best teams in each league duking it out for supreme bragging rights.
Often, this fails in favor of two teams that simply get hot at the right time, but this year, it is, in fact, the league's two best teams going at it.
In one corner, you have the team from Philadelphia. A group of "gamers" as some have described them, defending World Champions, a National League team with a lineup that mashes on an American League score.
In the other corner, the Bronx Bombers. Despite the motley of expensive free agents, this team also boasts one of the highest percentage home-grown rosters in the league. The team that took off in May has flat-out dominated since then, cruising to its best record since the record-breaking 1998 season.
Both teams have lost just two games in the postseason, both have survived playing in utterly frigid conditions in New York and Colorado, and both have their own lofty expectations.
While it may have been easy to pick the Yankees over the Twins or the Phillies over the Dodgers, predicting a World Series winner is another thing entirely. I am a die-hard Yankees fan, but I would be shocked if the series went less than six games. These teams are, simply put, too good.
This, though, is how it should be.
A World Series, by definition, should go to seven games. It should have a bit of everything (except blown calls, of course), and it should make you love the game all that more.
The Phillies-Yankees series holds that promise: baseball as it should be.
More later, including a live chat at 7.30 pm, so make sure you're there!
Monday, October 26, 2009
When we talk of the Yankees' dynasty at the end of last century, three teams consistently enter our mind:
The 1996 squad, a combination of pure grit and utter youth, of the waning days of the likes of Cecil Fielder, Doc Gooden and Jimmy Key, and of the coming out of the likes of Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera (Jorge Posada would debut later).
The 1998 team, sheer and utter domination. Wells and Cone, Duque and Pettitte, and an offense that always found a way to win. A team that won 125 games over all, lost only fifty and is considered by many to be one of the best teams in any sport of all time.
The 2000 team, Subway Series champions that survived more on luck--winning the World Series with just 87 wins--than anything else. This was a team that got their game winning hits from Jose Vizcaino and Luis Sojo, and the team whose pitching staff was anchored by the Rocket Roger Clemens.
The one team, it seems, that we never pay any mind, is the 1999 squad.
Why is it? The 1998 team may have been more dominant in the regular season, but the 1999 team lost just one game in the postseason--a one-hitter against the Red Sox and a Pedro Martinez in his prime.
Maybe it has to do with the regular season being, well, regular. There was the death of Joe DiMaggio in Spring Training, and David Cone's perfect game in July--neither of these events insignificant, but in 1999 that the Yankees would go on to win the World Series seemed simply a given, that there was no one there who could rightfully challenge them.
Much of the 1999 team boasted the same roster, just a year older than the 1998 team, and so perhaps we saw that team as a continuation of 1998, a comfortable plateau of hey-we're-the-best-and-no-one-is-even-close.
You see, that's what happens when a dynasty reaches its zenith: nothing is there to challenge it, and so, for the moment its successes seem inevitable and unremarkable.
It is only after the dynasty has fallen that we realize just how impressive the dynasty has been.
By the end of 2001, there were teams to challenge the Yankees: a 116-win team in Seattle and the eventual World Champions in Arizona, and the dynasty would come to an end.
Followed by years of disappointment, first round exits, and The Great Evil of Which We Do Not Speak, the Dynasty Years quickly accrued a glory usually reserved only for the greatest of our moments.
In 2009, the Yankees have a chance to give rebirth to that pride that makes us Yankees fans in the first place.
All that remains to be seen is which team the similarities are most drawn: is it the gritty 96ers? The dominant Team of the Century? The dynasty's least-written about 99ers, or the 00 squad?
The answer is probably a little of all four.
When Mariano Rivera began to warm in the seventh inning last night, there were a variety of reactions. Some liked the move, some did not, and I admit that, at first, I was a little worried--what if something happened, Rivera pitched two innings, the Yankees lost the game and then Rivera wasn't able to pitch a Game Seven?
Fortunately, I soon came to my senses, and remembered that I do believe in the concept of use-the-best-reliever-in-highest-leverage, as this is exactly what Girardi did last night.
In the top of the eighth inning, in a game that was still a two-run score, Girardi went with his best reliever to get the top--and then the meat--of the Angels' batting order: Figgins-Abreu-Hunter-Guerrerro-Morales.
Just as recently as Game 5, Phil Hughes struggled against that same part of the lineup, unable to get the one out he needed, and as big a Robertson fan as I am--and I'm a big one--when you have the option to go to Rivera, you take it.
Now, according to Fangraphs, the fourth inning in which the Yankees scored their first three runs was the highest-leveraged situation of the game, but at that time the starter was still pitching, and, well, ideally you don't remove a starter in the fourth inning.
Still, as the graph indicates, the leverage situation in the eighth inning was still much higher than that in the ninth.
The Yankees, last night, employed Mariano Rivera in the most effective way that they could. How is the mood repaying them?
The team's off to their fortieth World Series.
Stay tuned for more World Series/Turnpike Series goodies. I've got somehwere to be this afternoon, but plan on a Live Chat Tuesday evening, round 7.30. I will post a reminder tomorrow.
(photo credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
I had forgotten what it felt like.
Not the winning, but the euphoria.
This feeling, that nothing can touch us, that nothing can stop us, that for this moment, the baseball gods have smiled.
The Yankees, though, the Yankees were there to make sure I remembered.
No one said that beating the Angels would be easy, and it wasn't.
Six games, six games in which every emotion as a fan was tested: there was anxiety, nervousness, pleasure, pain, face-palming and, at long last, euphoria.
To be the champions of your league, you have to beat the best along the way.
The Angels were the only team in the league that played the Yankees well consistently all season, and so it was fitting that the road to the World Series would have to go through Anaheim.
When it came down to it, it wasn't just that the Yankees had ALCS MVP CC Sabathia and the Angels didn't, or that the Yankees had Alex Rodriguez and the Angels didn't, it was that the Yankees never forgot how to play fundamental baseball.
Fundamental errors cost the Angels games two and six; even just costing them one of those games would have been too much.
It is only fitting that Andy Pettitte was on the mound tonight.
He was there in 1996, he should be there again this season, when comparisons to the late nineties Yankees have been so apparent.
It was fitting, and Pettitte was vintage.
He only pitched into the seventh inning, but he kept the Angels to just one run, and you get the feeling that once the Yankees scored, the Angels never really had much of a chance.
There was Pettitte, and then there was Joba, where we held our breath, and then there was Rivera.
I've gone back and forth on Rivera in the eighth, but ultimately it was the right decision. As a proponent of the leverage argument, tonight's use of Rivera is exactly what should have been done, with him facing Figgins, Abreu, Hunter, Guerrerro and Morales in the the eighth inning, in a two run game.
You knew Rivera would be on the mound for the final out, regardless of the score.
It just wouldn't be right without it.
The work isn't done.
Philadelphia's not just a good team, they're the defending World Champions and with good reason.
Yet, you get the feeling, if anyone can beat the Phillies, these Yankees can.
We have watched this team, all season, dazzle us, surprise us, enthrall us and, most of all, make us believe.
And so we do believe.
The quest for 27 remains, and it closer than ever.
This team is showing us that they are of the Substance, that they are Yankees.
The euphoria is back.
Anything is possible.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
For some reason, off days during the post season feel longer and more drawn out than those in the actual off-season.
Aside from the off-days which provide for cross-country travel, the other off-days seem an absurdity, especially when one considers that baseball is a sport that is predicated on the ability to play every day.
Really, even with the delay caused by the WBC, there's no good reason we should not have at least already started the next round by now.
Ah, well, at long last the Yankees can try again for a trip to the World Series tonight.
It is only a game six, but I don't think there's a single fan out there that would suggest the mood is anything less than a game seven atmosphere. There are too many reasons to not go to a game seven that might actually make this game the biggest must-win game of the season.
Now, just in case you're worrying, that's no reason to get negative.
After all, the Yankees are back in New York, they have their most experienced postseason pitcher on the mound, a rested bullpen, and CC Sabathia in their back pocket.
This is 2009, not any other year that might be entering your memory.
The Yankees have every conceivable advantage tonight; it's up to them to make it matter.
At long last, we have baseball.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
...but since baseball tonight has been postponed, here's something to mull over:
MLB knew for days that a) the Philadelphia Phillies would not need to play a game six, and b) that the forecast called for massive rain in New York on Saturday evening.
Even so, they did nothing to change the start time of the game.
An announcement could have been made at any point Thursday or Yesterday about starting or attempting to start the game at, say, 4.30, or even 4.00, and they did not.
Then again, with a guaranteed game now being televised on a Sunday--and not a Saturday night...
At any rate, here is hoping you find a nice way to occupy your now-free Saturday evening.
Me? I baked a loaf of bread. Yeah. I'm a sword-wielding, baseball-blogging, Bronx-living, domestic. Awesome.
Since we have so many entries I've decided to extend the vote--voting will now end next Friday, at midnight.
No more entries will be accepted.
The entries can be found here.
To vote, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the name of the entrant.
You may vote for yourself.
Friday, October 23, 2009
With some fans still seething after yesterday's game, I figure what's a better time for a healthy dose of Optimism?
The Yankees still lead the series, and only need to win one more game. It won't be easy, but it's still less of a task than that which faces the Angels in having to win two games in New York.
The Yankees are a good team. They aren't soft. You don't win all those walk off games if your team is soft; you win them because your pitching is good enough to hold your opponent and your hitters refuse to die.
This team has surprised, amazed and surpassed many expectations--almost no one thought this team was going to win 103 games, and it did.
You can win one or two games by virtue of luck; you cannot with 103 this way.
The Yankees played .500 against the Angels during the season, and thus it should be no surprise that this series has turned into a long one. All the Yankees really needed to do was win one game in Anaheim--one game in a place where they have not historically played well--and they did just that.
At any rate, given everything that's happened this year, you almost have to agree that there is something idyllic about clinching at home, in the rain.
Baseball, after all, might be built on failure, but it is sustained by optimism. Every Yankee fan knows this.
In his book Birth of a Dynasty, Joel Sherman opens with the 1995 postseason.
He makes mention that Buck Showalter had a young Mariano Rivera in the bullpen--ostensibly along for the ride--but did not use him correctly, to close out, in that fatal game five when it would have mattered most.
I won't bore you with the details of that game, we remember well enough what happened.
Now think about this:
As I have stated previously, the best reliever not named Mariano Rivera on the Yankee staff right now is David Robertson.
More than once this postseason, Robertson, who debuted last season, has been single-handedly responsible for keeping the Yankees' game hopes alive.
It's easiest for me to remember his game 2 ALDS performance since I saw it in person, and to be honest, the performance was nearly Mariano-like.
This really shouldn't surprise any of us.
Robertson's strikeout per nine this season is twelve. That's an astounding rate--Mariano, in his historical campaign last season was at nearly thirteen (for contrast, this year he's at a pedestrian six).
Yet, despite Roberson's success, Girardi seems, at times, to be reluctant to use him.
Sure, Robertson had a masterful performance in the ALDS, but at the time the only pitchers Girardi had to use were Robertson and Gaudin--so the choice was more or less made for him.
As far as Game 3 is concerned, most, if not all of us agree that Girardi should have left Robertson in to pitch to Kendrick in the 11th inning, and I needn't go into Girardi's explanation for removing the young right hander.
So, what gives? Why does Girardi seem so reluctant to use the one non-Mariano pitcher that has consitently come up big this postseason?
I can think of two possible explanations, neither one of which I particularly enjoy:
1) Girardi is attempting to mask some sort of injury. This sounds far fetched--and it's nothing more than a hunch on my part--but given Robertson's Andrews visit in September, I can't brush it off entirely.
2) Like Showalter and Rivera, Girardi doesn't know what he has in Robertson. While on the surface this seems to be the much more plausible explanation of the two, it actually makes less sense to me.
Robertson has been up with the Yankees for the majority of the season, and has progressed from low leverage situations to playoff situations where one bad pitch ends the game--and you don't get much more high leverage like that.
There is an argument to be made for experience, but the only other reliever with any significant postseason experience is Mariano himself.
I can understand not using Robertson in favor of the lefties when the situation warrants (although you can debate which lefty should be used), but I'm not so sure, at this point, that Chamberlain or Aceves should be used ahead of our very own D-Rob.
Bullpens are notoriously fickle things--at the start of 2009, let's not forget, it was Mariano Rivera and the Arson Squad of Doom.
That said, that's all the more reason that when one reliever is proving himself to be a hot hand, he should be the manager's first choice, not his last.
The Yankees have a bullpen advantage over Anaheim; Girardi has to make it work.
*wherefore, the common Shakespearean term, means not where, but why. Thus, 'wherefore' is not the appropriate title for the blog post. Head explode yet?
Leverage is a funny word. A loaded word, if you will.
For one thing, it's more or less responsible for the financial collapse of America.
In baseball parlance, leverage refers to an on-field situation--the inning, number of outs, score, pitch count, etc--and how likely the result of that on-field situation is to have an effect on the game.
Example: Bases loaded, no one out, top of the eleventh inning as it was in game 2 of the ALDS is a high leverage situation, because the result of the next pitch (or, if you prefer, at bat) is likely to have a significant impact on the game's final outcome.
Other example: Top of the ninth inning, two outs, runner on second, your team is up 10-1. This is a low leverage situation. At this point in the game, because of the score, whatever happens with the batter at the plate is unlikely to have a significant impact on the game's final outcome.
With this understanding of leverage, one can put forth a very simple concept:
Teams should use their very best relievers in the highest leveraged situations.
Simple, direct, easy to understand, right?
Here's where we have a problem: there is a pervading belief among many, especially those that read only main stream media (MSM), that the highest leverage situations are automatically the ninth innings in close games. In other words, situations that would warrant a "save".
This is not necessarily the case.
The ninth inning can become a high leverage situation, but many, if not most, games are decided before the ninth inning.
In the seventh and eighth innings, for example, you are likely to encounter a situation in which the starter has been removed from the game but where most (okay, right now, all) teams will consider it too early to go to their "closer"--who is often the team's best reliever.
Take tonight's game, for example.
In the top of the seventh inning, John Lackey was (wrongly) removed for Darren Oliver with the bases loaded and two outs.
With the score only a four run differential, this was an incredibly high leverage spot, especially with Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez--two power hitters--due up. Now, one can argue whether or not Brian Fuentes should be a closer, but what is clear is that Oliver is not the Angels' best reliever. Jepsen, Fuentes and Bulger are all arguably or factually better than Oliver.
So the Angels and the Yankees were left with a situation where the Yankees were batting against the "soft underbelly" of the Angels' bullpen in a close game, and a team as good as the Yankees doesn't usually miss.
It's not much of a surprise, then, that at the end of that half inning, the Yankees lead 6-4.
At that point in time, Mark Teixeira's at bat shapes up to be the single most important at bat of the game. Never mind what followed afterwards, but at that very moment, it seemed likely that Teixeira's at bat could very well dictate the final outcome of the game.
Think of it this way: if you're the Angels' skip, are you sure you pitch Oliver there? Or would you be better off, if you're determined to take Lackey out, by bringing in Bulger or Fuentes?
So now we come to the Yankees and the bottom of the seventh inning.
Let's start here with a couple of knowns or supposeds:
A) Mariano Rivera is the best reliever the Yankees have on staff.
A1) Right now, this is likely followed by David Robertson, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Coke, Damaso Marte, Alfredo Aceves and Chad Gaudin, with Gaudin not being used except to mop up a blow out or to pitch extended work in extra innings.
B) Pitching the ninth inning of any game is not an easy thing to do, even if it's not necessarily the highest leveraged situation of a game. Just watch this interview after Phil Coke's first Major League save:
Thus, while one tries to address leverage, one cannot ignore a ninth inning where the leading team leads by no more than three or four runs as being a non-factor.
After tonight's loss, there was much conversation about the seventh inning and what should or should not have been done.
There is no arguing that the inning was the most critical part of the game--just look at the WPA graph:
(image credit: Fangraphs)
The bars on the bottom indicate the leverage of a situation--the ninth inning ended up turning into quite the critical situation, but it doesn't matter if not for the seventh.
As it was, a simple refresher:
With a two run lead, AJ Burnett went back to the mound with 80 pitches, and the first two Angel batters quickly reached base. At this point Girardi pulled Burnett for Damaso Marte, who retired two batters while allowing one run. Marte was then pulled for Phil Hughes, and, well, we know what happened from there.
Here's the leverage argument:
Because of the importance of the situation, with the tying runs on base and the Angels' best hitters (Hunter-Guerrerro-Morales) due up, Girardi should have gone to Mariano Rivera.
It's a claim that much of the MSM and their readers/viewers will brush off as being too reactionary, but it's based on the single, simple premise discussed above:
Teams should use their very best relievers in the highest leveraged situations.
At the time, there is utterly no way to predict that the ninth inning will matter or how much it will matter.
What you know, however, is that at the time, the two potential tying runs on base are the two most important runs you want to prevent from scoring if you are the Yankees.
A tie game will automatically favor the home team, since they always have the final at bat and one less half inning to pitch, so it is imperative to keep that from occurring.
Most (okay, all) teams will use these situations for their set-up men, and this is where those like Mike Francesa start oggling over the eighth inning guys. The fallacy here is the the eighth inning guy, almost by definition of the term, is not a team's best reliever, but the team's second best reliever, the one that teams most trust to get to their best reliever.
Has your head exploded yet?
At any rate, after tonight's game, I had a conversation with Ben Kabak of River Ave Blues.
I had previously asked via Twitter how many would have pitched Mariano in the 7th, and a large number of respondents said either that they would or that they would at least think about it.
I then brought up the issue that if you pitch Mariano for the seventh and maybe the eighth, and the Yankees don't score again, you are still left with a high-leverage ninth inning in which you cannot use Mo (the Hammer of G-d is, after all, 39) and have to choose from the remaining pitching staff.
Ben proposed this solution--and I swear your head IS going to explode--
You have Andy Pettitte pitch the ninth.
It's not abnormal for a starter to pitch in relief in the playoffs.
Starters are, by definition, better than relievers, and many teams, even playoff teams, lack a solid relief corps outside their closer and maybe one other guy.
We saw Jered Weaver pitch in relief tonight; in the past we've seen Mike Mussina do it in an ALCS game 7 against the Red Sox. There are other historical examples, as well.
You don't, as Ben suggests, pitch David Robertson in the ninth in a save situation, because there is an intangible aspect to a save that can't be ignored--see the Coke video above.
You go, instead, with the experienced hand.
In this scenario you don't even need to worry about Pettitte's start on Saturday--because you've effectively used Mariano, perhaps piggybacked with Robertson in the eighth, so you still have the lead in the ninth. Pettitte grabs three outs and the ALCS is over.
I am not the first person to suggest that a reliever's most important role is the ninth inning and I doubt I'll be the last.
Some day, a manager will come to the same conclusion and pitch their closer in the seventh to get through another team's 3-4-5. If that manager succeeds, he'll be branded a hero, visionary and genius, and if he fails, he'll be branded whatever his city's equivalent of "Clueless Joe".
The beauty of baseball is that it is a game that evolves, and that someone, somewhere, will try.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
We assumed and we started to plan, as though all that was left was tying up some gift ribbons and signing the greeting card.
We forgot, in the process, that the Yankees still had to win the game.
They had to win the game, in Anaheim, against the best Angels pitcher. Even on paper it was no easy thing.
We assumed, and we were wrong.
You can attach blame wherever you'd like, though only assigning blame does not do much. As my father has told me, some are in love with assigning blame and others prefer to fix problems.
So, here we go:
Some will blame AJ Burnett, some Joe Girardi, and some Phil Hughes.
I am no baseball manager and I've never played in an organized baseball game, but this is what I would have done:
In the seventh inning, I let Burnett come out to start the inning. He's at 80 pitches and has more or less been doing all right since that let's-not-talk-about-it first inning.
Once Mathis reaches, that's when I replace Burnett, instead of giving him the chance to put the tying run on base.
The reliever I bring in is not Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain, but David Robertson. I know, it doesn't make a lot of sense, but both Hughes and Chamberlain have been hit this postseason and Robertson has more or less worked some miracles.
At this rate, Robertson right now is the most valuable reliever not named Mariano Rivera.
This isn't to detract from what Hughes or Chamberlain have done this season--and without Hughes, especially, the Yankees aren't even playing tonight--but both have had issues this postseason.
If I leave AJ in to face the first two batters and they both reach, I consider bringing in Mariano Rivera. It's undoubtedly the highest leverage situation at that point, but my issue arises if the Yankees don't add any more insurance runs and the game goes to the ninth still a two run game and your team on the road.
Unlike most of you, I suspect, I'm not all that bothered by Girardi's decision to pinch run for Alex Rodriguez in the ninth.
With two outs, and down by one, you do anything you can to tie the score, and while Rodriguez isn't a Molina, Guzman is much more likely to score from first. Again, your team is down two outs, so you don't have any more outs with which to work.
Nick Swisher, of course, killed us all with the 3-2 pop up. I don't know if he was swinging at ball four or not, but the Yankees lost the game in the seventh, after coming so close to winning.
So we go back to New York.
The forecast on Saturday calls for rain and thunder.
After everything that's happened this season, the possibility of being able to clinch at home, in the rain--possibly even, well, you know how--has a certain romanticism to it.
October baseball lives on.
Okay, not that "turnpike" and "dream" should ever really be used in the same sentence, but here we go.
End the ALCS tonight.
Don't let it linger, don't let it go back to New York.
There will be at least two more games at Yankee Stadium this season, but I don't want those two games to be played this round.
Close this out, and once and for all excise 2004. Excise it from our conscience, excise it from our memory. Get rid of it, and everything it symbolizes.
We want to remember what it is to feel that glory.
We want to vicariously join you in that dog pile, to know euphoria.
We've been waiting since Tuesday, since April, since, well, you know.
We don't want to wait any longer.
The Jersey girl in me is positively squeeing at the possibility of a Turnpike Series, and a chance for some North Jersey domination.
[Congratulations to the Phillies on their NLCS win. The best NL team is going to the World Series and you can't ask for more than that.]
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
I hate off days.
I hate them in the winter when all is cold and gray, and I hate them in the summer when they mean I can't just plop down on the sofa and watch some baseball while eating my dinner.
I hate them, most of all, in October.
I know why they're there, so the TV networks can get their audiences, and I know their hidden benefit: without them, the Yankees can't start Sabathia three times in a seven game series.
I still hate them.
I hate the way they drag on, delaying time when all you want is to play now, to finish it, to get to the next step, to be able to say what, out of sheer superstition, we will not yet say.
Perhaps this is wrong; perhaps I should love the off day.
The off days, after all, let the baseball season linger just that little bit longer, and make that off-season just a little bit shorter. When you live, breathe and die by baseball, anything that makes an off-season shorter should be welcome. Theoretically.
Really, though, who am I kidding?
I hate off days.
Vote for the winner in the first ever PBP Caption Contest!
You may vote in a comment or via email. I'd ask that you only vote once, but since commenting is open it'll have to be an honor system here.
You are, of course, allowed to vote for yourself.
Voting ends Friday, at midnight, winner theoretically announced Saturday.
Yes, there will be a prize.
If no one says anything, you know the umpires are doing their job.
As with any officiating, the most successful are those that go unnoticed, unheeded and forgotten as though they've never been there in the first place.
Alas, if this is the case, the MLB umpires responsible for officiating this postseason have done a pretty awful job.
It's so bad, received so much notice, that in last Sunday's New York Times, former commissioner Fay Vincent penned a column outlining the biggest problems with the current umpiring system, among them:
- Umpires are not trained by MLB but by a separate union entirely so MLB does not have control over what umpires do and do not call.
- Postseason appointments are not done on the basis of regular season performance as they are in football.
The outrage here isn't just that the umpires are blowing calls--blown calls are going to happen as they are part of the game--but that the blown calls haven't been particularly close. They have been relatively easy calls to make. If we, fans sitting on our couches or bar stools, can make the correct call with our own naked eyes, than shouldn't the umpires be able to do the same?
Replay on the bases would help, sure, but the calls being blown are calls that shouldn't need the aid of replay in the first place.
The teams still playing right now are the four best teams in the league, no question. They've made it this far in the postseason on the basis of solid play (for the most part, anyway); the reality that a season could be prematurely ended by a blown call is, alas, becoming a realistic possibility.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
[I will do a separate post detailing the umpiring or lack thereof in the morning. For the moment, let the Yankees' win in spite of the umpires speak for itself.]
For mere humans, starting a Major League baseball game on three days' rest is asking for disaster.
For one Carsten Charles Sabathia, starting on three days' rest is just another way to earn his paycheck.
We, lesser men and women, can only marvel as Sabathia is pictured in the dugout, yawning during the Yankees' at-bats.
This, of course, would be the best spot to mention how Scott Kazmir took forever between pitches, never looked quite comfortable and flirted with disaster the entire night. We'll get to the Yankee offense in a moment.
For now, Sabathia.
The Yankees' ace--and if he has not yet earned that moniker, he never will--was so good that he was still throwing mid nineties when his pitch count was roughly equal to that.
Sabathia was so good that his line is deceptive. He struck out five, but this has more to do with the fact that Sabathia was consistently getting outs early in the count--he walked just two through eight innings.
The last time the Yankees asked a starter to go on three days' rest in the postseason was Chien Ming Wang in 2007 and it didn't work out so well--the Yankees were eliminated that game.
That, in my mind, is all you need to know. In 2007, pre-foot-that-led-to-shoulder injury, Wang was a very good pitcher.
Sabathia, however, is an ace.
Aces do heroic things.
In the grand scheme of things, pitching a baseball game is hardly worthy of comment, but for us Yankee fans, tonight was heroism. Pure and simple.
Of course, if one starts talking heroes, one will have to bring Alex Rodriguez into the discussion.
Rodriguez hasn't just shattered the notion of postseason demons; he's gone way past obliterating them into ridiculous, other-worldly, and now...well, profound.
Rodriguez keeps asserting that nothing profound has happened, and that he's just in a good place, but, really, what he's done this October is, itself, profound.
There's no other way to describe it than that. Profound.
If the ALCS was over today, and you had a vote for the MVP, do you give it to Sabathia or Rodriguez, who has not only exceeded this round, but is perhaps the reason the Yankees made it this far in the first place?
It's a tough call.
While you're busy oggling Sabathia's and Rodriguez's performances (and oggle you should), don't forget the production the Yankees received tonight from one Melky Cabrera.
Cabrera had two RBI early that put the Yankees up 3-0, and then two more late, after the game had reached the 'pouring-it-on' stage.
Many have remarked that the Yankees' bottom of the order is not producing, but Cabrera is batting .353 in the postseason.
If we expect an all star, Cabrera will disappoint, but if we expect a number nine hitter who stands a reasonable shot of getting on base as anyone, we ought to be well satisfied.
There are rumors that Cabrera repeated a certain phrase that he uttered after hitting for the cycle, but these are thus far unsubstantiated and I do not have DVR.
The Yankees now have a 3-1 series lead and will have their chance to close it out on Thursday. They needed to take at least one game in Anaheim and they've done that; now they're out for Angel blood.
The kid, no more than six or seven, sees the pitcher warming up in the bullpen.
"Is that Mariano?" He asks, his eyes wide with excitement.
"No," says the man sitting next to him. No, it's not Mo warming up in the bullpen, it's Damaso Marte.
One is 42, one is 43, and yet there are such different emotions attached to the two numbers.
What's the difference between 42 and 43?
What's the difference between the sun and the moon, night and day, water and land?
One enters the game and there is an air of inevitability, even when he does his job: the Yankees will lose this game, it's just a matter of when.
One enters the game and there is an air of inevitability, because he does his job: we are witnessing the Hammer of G-d.
In his sci-fi series, Douglas Adams humorously proposed that the number 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything.
For the Yankees, 42 is the answer, the solution to any ailment, any ill, any misstepping reliever.
Number two might be an icon, the number most readily associated with the team, but 42 is something else entirely.
Forty-two is legend. Myth. Forty-two cannot be mortal. It cannot.
Forty-two has had his failures, just as the Greek gods had theirs, but the failures are noticeable only because the successes are so great.
Of the eight teams to enter the 2009 postseason, midway through the LCS, only one has not blown a save opportunity. Only one.
You have three guesses.
You'll need one.
There is one reason that the legend grows: he does not lose himself in it.
He does not promote himself as the Greatest of All Time; he lets others do it for him.
When did we know?
Have we always known?
It's grown over the years, grown to the point that we cannot imagine life without Forty Two.
Sometimes they say that the most important ballplayers are the ones that you don't think about until after they are gone, but he has transcended this.
We know he can't pitch forever, but we hope, and he teases us.
He has the greatest season of his career at an age when most athletes have already begun to break down, with an injured shoulder to boot, and he follows it with 2009, with his 500th save, first career RBI, and a flat-out magic act last night.
Forty-two doesn't need any Chuck Norris facts, any internet memes or doctored videos. He doesn't need the promotion.
He just does his job. No more and no less.
He misplays the bunt.
Going to third is the right decision on the play, the out is right there for him to take, but he slips on the grass and we groan.
We hold our breath. Any other pitcher on the mound and surely some of us would have left, but we can't leave here. All he needs is a chance. A strike out and then a double play, maybe. A broken bat grounder. If anyone can do it, he can.
Chone Figgins grounds out to first. Mark Teixeira makes the put out.
Bobby Abreu is intentionally walked to set up a force, and then Torii Hunter grounds to Teixeira who gets the out at home.
We exhale, a little. An out can't score a run. Vladimir Guerrerro grounds out.
The Stadium explodes.
In this moment, anything is possible.
The legend grows.
I know thinks are whack in California, but SERIOUSLY?
The Greatest Closer of All Time, and not-quite-mortal, and you think the Panamanian is throwing a spitball?
Sheesh, dude, if you forgot, you won the game yesterday.
Yeah, I know, you won in spite of Rivera's 1st-and-3rd, no out heroics, but, dude...
I mean, this is Mariano freakin' Rivera. He could probably beat you
throwing one handed. blind and throwing with his left hand. 'Scuse me, I should have been clear about that.
He don't need no spitball.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Generalizations never achieve much, but in this occasion, one generalization can explain a lot.
The Yankees lost game three of the 2009 ALCS because Joe Girardi managed a road game as if he were still home.
You can call it over-managing if you'd like--and indeed, it probably was--but managing the game the way Girardi does at home is not nearly as much of an issue as it is on the road, especially in extra innings.
1) At home, one run by your team in extras and the game is over. You don't have to worry about scoring, and then pitching again in the bottom of the inning as you do on the road.
2) On the road, one run from the other team and the game is over. Your offense doesn't get another shot.
So here's the breakdown.
1) The Yankees' biggest issue in this game--and, it's looking like their biggest issue this series--is a lack of hitting with runners on base. Every Yankee run today was via a solo home run, and while the Yankees have had decent enough pitching to win when they score four runs much of the time, much is not all. The Yankees had golden opportunities to add to their lead, and they did not. Andy Pettitte made one bad pitch, and well, boom. A 3-1 cushion is not a big cushion, at all.
2) I don't have an issue with leaving Pettitte in to face Guerrerro although I admit that, since I did not have a computer handy, I don't know what his pitch count was at the time. My issue is with the pitch Pettitte threw: there was no reason, in that situation, to give Guerrerro anything to hit. Guerrerro swings at, well, everything. Sabathia and Burnett can blow it by the former Expo; Pettitte cannot.
3) Chamberlain looked awful. Girardi was quick with his hook, but, alas, not quick enough. Someone--and I can't remember where I read this, so apologies to whomever I should be citing--said that this postseason, Joba's fastball has been there but his slider has not, which may explain why he's been hooked quickly.
The great thing about going to games with well-informed fans is that you get excellent analysis as well, and I thus agree with the commenter known as TSJC: Joba tends to overthrow, as though he is too amped and trying to do too much. It's been an issue with him as long as he's been with the Yankees.
4) I did not agree with Girardi's decision to leave Hughes in to start a third inning. Hughes hasn't pitched more than two since what, June? May? And against the heart of the Angels' order, as well, it just didn't make sense to me. Girardi thus made the right call to bring in Rivera, and, well, Mo is simply not mortal.
First and third, no one out, and Rivera got out of the jam. At the time, the Stadium exploded and we thought it was perhaps destiny that we'd win.
5) The biggest issue I had with Girardi's overmanaging was bringing in Aceves to face Kendrick. Robertson had already had two outs, had little history vs Kendrick (if any at all) and is a strike out pitcher. Aceves, on the other hand, has a propensity for giving up fly balls, and as we all saw, the ball certainly carried today. At home, if the other team hits a home run, you still get a chance to get the run back the next day, but on the road, you do not.
As it were, Kendrick singled and Mathis drove him in with a long fly off the wall, but it is my belief that Robertson could have gotten the third out.
6) TSJC had an issue with Girardi replacing Damon with Hairston, not that he did it but when he did it. With the bases loaded and less than two outs, anything hit to left field is likely going to score the winning run, anyway. It makes little sense.
7) If Gardner is inserted into the game to pinch run, he has to run. He has to go on the first pitch--where there's pretty much no chance of a pitch out. Gardner's not in there to hit home runs, and the only reason to remove Matsui's bat is because you are going for the win right then, and need the RISP. If Gardner steals successfully, Posada's home run is a game winning, and not game tying (fallacy of the predetermined and all).
8) GOOD: Jeter's third pitch home run, holy crap what is A-Rod smoking and where can I get some, that Melky-Jeter-Teixeira play in the 8th to nab Abreu (where the heck was Canó on that? We were trying to figure it out!) Mariano is not mortal, and Teixeira is (again) worth it for his defense alone.
Okay. I think I touched on most of the important things. You can argue whether or not Sabathia should have pinch hit for Rivera instead of Cervelli, but there is no way Rivera was going to go out and pitch a second inning.
If Andy Pettitte pitches to Guerrerro a little differently, the Yankees are probably looking at clinching the American League pennant tomorrow and Girardi's overmanaging is a non-issue.
Such as it is, the Yankees will send CC Sabathia out on three days' rest, and a stop-loss here would be crucial.
We said going in that this series would be a dogfight, and with two extra inning games already in the books, it has thus far lived up to its billing.
[Because there is so much about today's game to digest, I will do so in two posts, one talking about watching the game at Yankee Stadium, and the other about the game itself.]
As you likely know, Yankee Stadium opened its gates to the general public to watch today's game, free of charge.
Being otherwise unoccupied, I decided to go. The idea is one of which I am a fan--it gives fans a place to enjoy the game together without feeling obligated to purchase drinks or having to worry about being the only one interested in the game.
There were a large number of people that had the same mind set as me--many with young kids who arrived straight from school.
At the start, only the field level sections along the right field line were opened, but so many showed up that they eventually opened up the field level sections behind home plate, too.
They played the game on the large screen, and instead of commercials, we got DiamondVision shots of the crowd.
Out of all the fans there, the most striking man was a Johnny Damon lookalike, whose resemblance was so strong other fans were asking him for pictures. When Damon made a great catch late in the game, the section started chanting Johnny's name. The poor fan took it all in stride.
In the interest of his privacy, I won't post his picture, but, damn, he had me fooled.
At any rate, for your enjoyment, some pictures from this afternoon-turned-evening
No long lines, just the Stadium against an azure sky.
The Great Hall, in a late autumn light.
They also played the game on the TV in the great hall, but with the cushioned field and even Legends seats open, most opted to watch the game from the Stadium proper.
Our view of the screen. We--that would be Brent, RAB legend TSJC and I--sat in the section furthest right. 109, row 14. The seats filled up fast and we were lucky to get the ones we did.
You can sort of see how all of the seats were filled. I don't think they anticipated this many, although for an evening game they would have likely had to open all field and main seats, at least.
Some watch in the Great Hall. I went to the team store to get one of the gray sweatshirts the team's been sporting, but they only had them in sizes extra large. Maybe it's G-d telling me not to by a sweatshirt just yet.
The one criticism of the experience I could find, besides, you know, the game itself, was that there were not enough open concessions, and thus lines for beer and food tended to be extremely long.
It's a very minor caveat; the experience itself outweighs that one negative.
Anyway, getting a few thousand people to chant "Lets go Yank-ees" and "Mar-i-a-no" is a pretty cool thing.
Stay tuned for a post about the game itself, and what, exactly, went wrong.
Via @YankeesWFAN [Sweeny Murti] on Twitter, the Angels' fans will be employing thunder sticks in full force this afternoon.
Reason number 1892738 it's better to be a Yankee fan:
We don't need thunder sticks, or terrible towels, or any gimmicks to support our team. We're there. We're loud (and sometimes obnoxious). We know our team, we know the game.
We can get the entire Stadium to chant the name of just one player--like CC or Derek or A-Rod--and we can do it without any prompting from a screen.
We're in a long term relationship with Aura and Mystique.
There is no place in October that's better than the Bronx.
In today's Record, columnist Bob Klapisch makes the '98/'09 comparison.
It's a comparison we've seen before and we will see again.
After all, this year's squad has won more games than any team since 1998, and seems poised for great things.
Yet, I wonder, must we compare the 2009 Yankees to the 1998 squad?
Does not the 2009 squad have an identity and a legitimacy in its own right?
I know we're Yankee fans. I know we don't think of any team as legitimate unless it wins the World Series, or else KO's Boston in the postseason. This is our hubris, will forever be our hubris, and it is also the number one identifying factor of being a Yankee fan: We expect to win every year, and no other baseball team can lay claim to that.
That said, we will remember the 2009 team.
We will remember this season, and we won't need to remember 1998 for 2009 to mean something.
We remember the way the 1998 team dominated; we will remember the way the 2009 fought--17 walk off wins, the ties season series against Boston after starting 0-8, the way the team just never, ever gives up.
In 1998 we remember perfection, in 2009 we will remember pies.
In 1998, the rotation dominated so completely that we did not give much thought to the bullpen and certain overused arm (I'm looking at you, Ramiro Mendoza); in 2009 the bullpen is the unsung hero of so many come-from-behind and walk off wins.
When it comes down to it, here's the answer you're looking for:
Can the 2009 Yankees beat the 1998 Yankees?
This is a really, really, really good Yankees team we have been able to watch this season.
While we're off comparing this year's team to a team that played in what was, at the time, a weaker division, let's not forget that.
The 1998 Yankees, on paper, are a better team. Better in the outfield and more pitching depth.
Knowing what we know about the 2009 Yankees, however, one must assume that on any given day, in any given conditions, this year's team could be the 1998 Yankees. Most likely in a walk off.
I plan to head to the Stadium to catch at least some of this afternoon's game. If you're going and would like to say hello, drop me an email.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
The Yankees announced on Sunday that they will open the Stadium Field Level and Great Hall to the public to watch the Yankees face the Angels in Anaheim as New York tries to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the ALCS.
"We wanted to provide a place for our fans to come together to cheer for our team, even if the game itself is taking place across the country," Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said in a news release. "This is a way of saying 'Thank you' for their continued support."
Turnstiles between Gates 4 and 6 will open at 3:30 p.m. ET for the 4:13 p.m. game -- broadcast on FOX -- and fans can watch it in the Great Hall or in the open sections of the Field Level. Food and concession stands, as well as NYY Steak and Hard Rock Café, will be open and available to fans.
Don't know about you, but I plan on going. I don't know if I'll stay for the whole thing, but for a 4.30 game, I will certainly stay for most of it. The weather, at least, should be slightly nicer.
At the very least, this is (and we presume it's free entrance since no prices have been announced) an awesome opportunity to watch the game with other fans without being in a crowded bar.
There's something special brewing this year, and the Yankees are letting us take part.
There are many heroes to choose from in last night's game.
The most obvious of these is easily Alex Rodriguez, who has gone from having a "Yankee moment" in game 2 of the ALDS to having a "Yankee postseason", pure and simple, but others should not be overlooked.
Like, for example, David Robertson.
Before this season started, we knew a few things about Robertson: he was rumored unhittable when he threw strikes, did not always throw strikes enough, and tended to have issues in high leverage situations.
Well, I must say, the ability to watch a pitcher mature throughout a season is a favorite pastime of many.
Phil Hughes would be the most glaring example--and no, I don't think he's slated for the bullpen permanently, but watching him turn from a question mark to a secret weapon to a not-so-secret weapon has been awesome.
One should not, however, forget Robertson.
In April, there is perhaps no way you trust Robertson in such a high-leveraged spot; in October he's now save the Yankees' collective behinds twice.
The ALDS game 2 performance is certainly flashier--bases loaded, no one out, and not giving up a run--while the ALCS performance involved pouring rain and pitching into Sunday morning.
It does say something about how important a pitcher is perceived by the fans when, as Girardi went to bring in Marte, Twitter was afloat with comments mostly akin to the tune of "we want D-Rob!"
As the Yankees postseason run continues--they are, at the very least, guaranteed at least four more games--more heroes will emerge.
The remaining games the Yankees have to play, however, would have a remarkably different tune without the contribution from the young right hander.
Fundamentals. Fun-duh-MEN-tuls. Noun. 1) Something that is part of the foundation of another thing. 2) In sports, the key concepts that must be mastered before attempting advanced work.
Example: A fundamental concept of baseball is the ability to correctly catch and throw a baseball.
Example 2: Another fundamental concept of baseball is that when one's team takes the lead, that team is supposed to keep the other team from scoring.
Were the New York Yankees fundamentally sound tonight? No, not really--they had three errors in the game.
The difference, however, is that while the Yankees worked around their fundamental mishaps, the Angels did not.
Sure, AJ Burnett's wild pitch that led to the Angels tying the game at 2 could be considered an error if you'd like, but that was more typical bad-inning-AJ than it was poor fundamental play on the part of the Yankees.
On the other hand, the Angels' second error of the game directly caused the Yankees to score the winning run, a ground ball that should have gone for the sure out that went instead sailing past the target and allowing Jerry Hairston Jr. to score.
It won't be cast as an error, but attention should also be paid to the game tying home run Alex Rodriguez had in the eleventh inning.
From the Yankees' point of view, their third baseman has been the unequivocal MVP of the postseason thus far (though there is obviously a lot of way left to go). Rodriguez has hit three home runs this postseason, and every single one of those home runs has been a late-inning, game-tying shot; the two at Yankee Stadium coming in what, to that point, would have been the Yankees' last at bat.
From the Angels' point of view, it was a failure of their closer, Brian Fuentes, as the Angels now join the ranks of the teams that have blown a save or late-inning lead this postseason--Red Sox, Twins, Rockies, Phillies and Cardinals are all guilty here.
Well, the legend of Mariano Rivera still grows.
He pitched two innings tonight, did not reach 30 pitches, and was simply outstanding.
According to the folks at Baseball Prospectus, teams that win championships need good defense, strike out pitchers and lock-down closers.
Is it any wonder, then, that the Yankees are the only team in 2009 to have not lost a postseason game?
There will be many comments about Joe Girardi overmanaging the bullpen. Indeed, this is my gut reaction as well.
The more I think about it, however, the more I'm not that bothered by it. Who expects a postseason game to go 13 innings, after all?
With the off-day tomorrow, all of the relievers will get their day of rest, so by the time they play again on Monday, it will be a non-issue.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
(image credit AP)
Have at it. NinjaCanó captions are especially appreciated.
Winner gets a small prize.
1) Try to keep the captions clean, okay?
2) Don't copy anyone else.
Go for it. NinjaCanó can use the loving.
Friday, October 16, 2009
When you can get 45,000+ fans all chanting your name in a LCS in your first year in New York, you're obviously doing something right.
Yeah, I don't know about you, but I'd say that new guy did pretty well for himself.
Sabathia and the Yankees were also helped by some pretty poor fundamental play by the Angels--the one play we'll remember years from now was a Luis Castillo-esque dropped pop up (well, not so much dropped as no one bothered to try to catch it) by Eric Aybar that directly led to the Yankees 2nd run in the first.
The two runs were all that the Yankees--and Sabathia--would need.
Sabathia was helped by solid fundamental play and good defense on the part of his team, and the Yankees simply outplayed the Angels.
The Yankees did not get a ton of offense, but they had enough to take advantage of the Angels' misplay. Tonight was only the second time ever there had been a game at the new Yankee Stadium without a home run, but the Yankees were able to tack on the two insurance runs to provide the extra cushion everyone likes so much.
Maybe it has something to do with the cold...New York is a cold weather city, after all...then again, when one considers the way Robinson Canó looked more like a ninja than a baseball player, maybe not.
The best moment of levity came late in the game, when FOX aired a conversation between Joe Girardi and Tim McClelland, the home plate umpire, as Girardi went to bring in Mariano Rivera. Rivera, who has more postseason saves than anyone else in history. You may have heard of him. It went something like this:
Girardi: We're bringing Rivera.
Girardi: This new guy we got.
McClelland: Up from AAA?
Well, for what it's worth, that real new guy, CC, was worth every single cent tonight.
To: Philadelphia Bullpen
From: Pedro Martinez
Please for the love of all things holy, I gave you seven shut out innings. I made like it was 1999. Please don't blow this!
To: Pedro Martinez
From: Philadelphia Bullpen
Erm. We tried.
To: Philadelphia Bullpen
From: Pedro Martinez
I thought I left the Mets?
Irish tenor Ronan Tynan sings a first-rate “God Bless America,” at Yankee Stadium, but his attempt at telling a joke offended a Jewish doctor who found it to be anti-Semitic.
Tynan apologized, telling WNBC, “I would never want to hurt anybody’s feelings. It was stupid of me to be so callous.”
But the Yankees still canceled his appearance at the stadium Friday night.
The trouble started when Tynan, 49, bumped into a real estate agent showing an apartment in his East Side apartment building to a doctor from NYU Medical Center.
The agent told Tynan, “Don’t worry, they are not Red Sox fans,” according to apartment-hunter Gabrielle Gold-von Simson.
“I don’t care about that, as long as they are not Jewish,” was Tynan’s reply.
I'm Jewish, and I'm not easily offended. Without actually being there or hearing how it was said, it'd be foolish of me to embark on any sort of crusade.
That said, for a public figure in New York--and Mr. Tynan, now, certainly is--to make any sort of comment that could even be just even just a little bit anti-Semitic or construed by one as anti-Semitic is a really, really bad idea.
Again, I'm not offended. My gut tells me that it was simply a joke gone awry. However, there are some--such as this doctor fellow--that will be. And, well, when that happens things tend not to end so well.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Dear fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers:
Your team is in the NLCS, one step from the World Series. One of the four remaining teams in all of baseball.
It's the ninth inning of the first game and your team is only down by two runs, and the Phillies have notoriously not-very-good-in-2009 Brad Lidge coming in, which is a golden opportunity for your team to make its move.
So why, exactly, are you leaving early?
I don't know what it's like in LA, but in New York even the cheapest seats are going for high prices--they've come down recently because there's a freaking nor'easter that has it snowing in New York in October--but the point remains, if tickets are that expensive you don't leave a playoff game early.
There shouldn't be any empty seats in Dodger Stadium.
Surely you realize this?
Please, do your team proud. If you show up for the game, and you don't have a major emergency or the apocalypse isn't just around the corner, stay till the end.
You never know what you might miss.
This from today's Daily News:
Named after his dad's favorite player, 16-month-old Jeter Villacis is recovering from a delicate, lifesaving heart transplant at Montefiore Medical Center last week.
Little Jeter underwent the nine-hour surgery Friday afternoon, just a few miles away from Yankee Stadium
While Weinstein was operating, the Bronx Bombers took Game 2 of their playoff series against the Minnesota Twins in a dramatic, come-from-behind victory.
(Bold my emphasis, Click the above link for the full article)
The Yankees, of course, are no strangers to mixing kids, miracles and baseball.
The most famous might be when Babe Ruth visited a sick kid, promised to hit a home run, and then does so, but there have been others.
There have been some more recent karma-boosting examples, however.
Like when Matsui was a representative of a program aimed at"fostering international exchange between American and Japanese children. " The kids asked Matsui to hit one home run; he hit two the next day.
Then, just this season, Brett Gardner visited a girl waiting for a heart transplant, didn't promise any home runs (he's Brett Gardner) and then proceeded to hit an inside-the-park home run, anyway.
Also this season, the Yankees had their "HOPE Week", where the most memorable event may have been when the team hosted a group of kids with a rare disorder, XP, that makes them allergic to the sun. As you probably remember, the kids stayed all night, as did various Yankees, such as AJ Burnett, having a carnival on the field.
What you might also remember is that the Yankees did not lose a single game during the entirety of HOPE Week.
Karma or coincidence, take your pick.
Now, all young master Villacis needs is a visit from his namesake, and, well...
Oh, and watch this video. It's full of awesome.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
MLB.com has some pretty amazing video archives. They go quite a ways back, and, well, I've been hooked, looking up all of the moments I've enjoyed, this season and previous.
So I figured, why not share some of them?
Here are some of my favorites. I'll put a link to this post on the sidebar, so you can always come back and find it without needing to bookmark it.
I'll add more as I find them--still need A-Rod's bottom 15th inning HR, and all of the other walk offs, but I figure it's a start.
If there's something you'd like me to try to find, just leave it in a comment.
MLB.com doesn't provide an embedding option (yet), so for the moment, they are just links.
Yankee Moments, 1996-2003
Chris Chambliss 1976 ALCS walk off home run
Jim Leyritz home run ties Game 4 of 1996 World Series
Joe Buck with the call.
Final out, 1996 World Series
Final out, 5/17/98, David Wells' perfect game. Jim Kaat calls.
Final out, David Cone perfect game. Tim McCarver calls.
Tino Martinez grand slam, 1998 WS game 1. Joe Buck calls.
Tino Martinez bottom 9 two out game tying home run and Jeter's game winning HR, 2001 WS. Joe Buck calls.
Scott Brosius bottom 9 two out game tying home run, 2001, Joe Buck calls.
Aaron Boone game winning home run, 2003 ALCS. Joe Buck calls.
2009 Yankee moments
Melky Cabrera, walk off home run vs Oakland, April, Micheal Kay
Jorge Posada, walk off single vs Anaheim/LA, May, Michael Kay
Walk Off Weekend, May, various calls.
Swisher, Canó and Cabrera go back-to-back-to-back, May, Michael Kay.
Melky Cabrera, walk off single vs Phillies, May, Joe Buck
Luis Castillo drops pop up, June, TV and Radio calls
Mariano Rivera's RBI, June, ESPN, John Millar, Joe Morgan, Steve Phillips
Jorge Posada, walk off single vs Toronto, July 4th, Michael Kay
Hideki Matsui, walk off HR vs Baltimore, July, Michael Kay
Melky Cabrera hits for the cycle, August, CWS broadcast
Alex Rodriguez bottom of the 15th HR vs Red Sox, August, John Sterling
Damon and Teixeira hit back-to-back home runs to sweep Red Sox, August, ESPN and radio calls
Robinson Canó walk off hit, vs Toronto, August, Michael Kay
Robinson Canó walk off home run, vs Chicago White Sox, August, Michael Kay
Nick Swisher walk off home run, vs Tampa Bay, September, Michael Kay
Francisco Cervelli walk off single, vs Toronto, September, Michael Kay
Juan Miranda walk off single, vs Kansas City, September, Michael Kay
Alex Rodriguez game tying HR ALDS game 2, October, TV and radio calls
A-Rod ties it and Teixeira wins int, game 2 ALDS, October, TBS, Chip Caray
A-Rod ties it in the eleventh, game 2 ALCS, October, Fox, Buck and McCarver
Hairston scores winning run on error in 13th, game 2 ALCS, October, Fox, Buck and McCarver
TV/Radio calls of the ALCS game 2 winning play
TV/Radio calls of Alex Rodriguez game-tying HR
Final out, 2009 ALCS, Fox, Buck and McCarver
TV/radio calls of final out 2009 ALCS
Thanks to Replacement Level Yankees Weblog for the list of the 2009 walk offs!