Saturday, October 31, 2009

So You Think You Can Injure Some Baseball Players

We’ve already gone over the fact that November starts two and a half hours from now and therefore the baseball season should be over as Game 3 of the World Series starts.  Inevitably, it’s very rainy in Philadelphia tonight, creating less-than-ideal conditions for both the fans in attendance and the baseball players playing the game.  If it’s raining in Philadelphia the same way it’s raining here in New York tonight, this game should be rained out.  However, it is not rained out.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m an advocate of playing through a lot of bad weather conditions.  After working in the sport for three years, I think baseball players are a lot of crybabies because a lot of them don’t like to play unless it’s 75 and sunny.  But you can tell that baseball probably shouldn’t be played in Philadelphia tonight.

But sure enough, it is being played.  With all eyes on this game, baseball is supposed to be showcasing its two best teams.  But Johnny Damon’s slipping on the warning track, employees are squeegeeing the outfield fervently, and the game started when rain was still falling—something that rarely ever happens in baseball.

Why?

I’ll tell you the answer.  FOX doesn’t want to rain this game out, because they’re planning on broadcasting “So You Think You Can Dance” during the scheduled off-day on Tuesday.  Nobody’s actually saying this, but you know it’s true.  It has to be true.  Why else would you actually play baseball tonight?

What if in the first inning Damon, while slipping on the warning track (which he did, by the way), tore his hamstring?  Maybe good news for our boy From the Bronx, because it means Brett Gardner’s getting more at-bats.  But one of the best baseball players available in this game is out of action.  It might cost him several million dollars as his contract is coming up this winter.  But Commissioner Selig is in bed with the producers at FOX, and among the many things that Selig doesn’t care about is the well-being of his players.  The commissioner cares about the broadcast network (who does a poor job in the first place) being happy broadcasting an awful show on a scheduled off night instead of the marquee players of his own sport.

The fact that “So You Think You Can Dance” is among the worst shows on television (insert Steve Harvey Show joke here) is irrelevant.  Every postseason we see another way baseball’s lack of planning (“Holy crap!  It might rain at the end of October in the Northeast!”) and pathetic leadership leads to another mishandling of baseball’s most precious gem.

FOX should already be ashamed of themselves after Scooter the Talking Baseball, the “RIGHT NOW!!11” graphic, and almost a decade of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.  But Major League Baseball should be ashamed that FOX prioritizes shows like “So You Think They Can Dance” over their own freaking sport.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Back In The Series

Tremendous job by the Yankees tonight getting right back in the series.

Not a ton to the game. In the biggest start of his career, AJ Burnett was at his best. It was the best game I have seen him pitch as a Yankee. In control pretty much start to finish. Went with almost exclusively two-seamers, and located to both sides of the plate. Pulled very few fastballs, and had very few leak on him. With his velocity and movement both can be a problem, but neither were tonight. The only mistake that he got hurt on with the fastball was the one that leaked back to Ruiz for the double. When he's hitting spots and not making mistakes with his fastball, he's going to be tough. When, in addition, he is not only burying his curveball down for swings and misses but tossing it for strikes, he's almost unhittable. And he had all that going tonight. I haven't seen that curveball for a strike to the right-hand side of the plate, mostly back-door to lefties, that consistently all season. The run he gave up should not have been, and even though it was he did not let it shake him remotely. Awesome stuff.

Pedro was very good tonight as well, but his final line was just average as he got beat by the long ball twice and caved a bit in the 7th. He had the Yankees' all sorts of off balance all night.

Until Teixeira went downtown to right-center. That changed the entire complexion of the game. Huge hit. Pedro still pitched well after, but the at bats were stronger. They worked the count, made him work harder, and scratched a few more runs in. Who knows what happens if Teixeira doesn't break the ice. But he did. Huge hit.

Matsui proved tonight why you keep his bat in the lineup, because he'll just have a takeover game like that. Massive knock from him as well taking Pedro deep for the winning run. Also impressive work from Posada, coming off the bench - and I'm sure he was very unhappy about not playing - and getting a big pinch-hit RBI single to tack on an insurance run. Really good job by these three bats tonight.

Girardi pushed all the right buttons tonight. I disagreed with playing both Molina and Hairston. I had no problem with the Hairston move, but thought if you were going to do that you had to play Posada. Otherwise it's a B lineup. But Molina was brilliant behind the plate blocking balls and picking a runner off, and also worked a walk. Whether there is a casual connection or not, he was behind the plate for a pitcher that turned in a very special performance tonight, and both he and the manager who stuck with him deserve some credit for that. Hairston got a single off of Pedro that started the rally in the 7th, with Gardner pinch-running for him and ultimately coming around to score. That right there made it worth it. And you can't blame Girardi for going to Mo for 6 outs the way the pen has been lately and being down 0-1. It was a risky move so early in the series and stretching out such a critical player for that many pitches, but with the off day tomorrow I think it was the right one.

Now Game 3 becomes a a critical one in this series. The Phillies did their job getting a split. As good as tonight felt, it is important to remember that it is the Phillies who come out of the first two game winners. Now the Yankees have a chance to take that back by winning Game 3. Conversely, the Phillies can further what they started with their split in New York and take charge of this series early with a win. I think the Yankees have a guy they like in that spot in Andy Pettitte. He'sbeen in a lot of big spots and has been very good so far this postseason. Hopefully the offense can continue to build upon the little bit of production they started to put together later in this game. They could use a game where they really break out up and down the lineup, and Game 3 would be a great time to do so.

Go Yankees.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's 6:15 AM. Do You Know Where Arod Is?

0-8, 6 K 1 deserved but uncredited error in the World Series so far.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Moving On

This game was almost all about Cliff Lee. Sometimes that happens, and you just have to move on to the next game. The Yankees - Teixeira, Posada, Matsui, and Swisher in particular - took some really weak at bats, but it's difficult to tell when a pitcher is that good how much of that just has to do with pitcher. Sabathia didn't have the stuff he had in his first three postseason starts initially, but he hung in there until he found it and 7 innings 2 runs against that lineup in a World Series game is a very good effort. I don't know how you throw Chase Utley back-to-back 0-2 fastballs that he can get his bat on - the second of which resulted in his second home run - but everyone makes mistakes. That was on CC too as he shook Posada off multiple times on pitches away on the pitch he gave up the second home run on. In general the Yankees are going to have to be much more careful with Utley. I talked about it in my preview, but this guy just doesn't get the credit he deserves. He seriously warrants whatever the next level below Pujols treatment is. And the Yankees did not give him that tonight. You have to throw him borderline strikes, especially with the bases empty, and if you walk him, walk him. He's the one member of the Phillies that you can walk. In the end though, this game was mostly about Cliff Lee.

It should have been totally about Cliff Lee, but it wasn't. In the 9th inning of a 4-0 game, Joe Girardi brought in Brian Bruney. Brian Bruney, who has been so good he was left off both the ALDS and ALCS rosters. He also hasn't pitched in a live game in three weeks. That would be tough on anybody, and it's probably going to be particularly tough on a guy who hasn't been very good this season. It's about two things. One, maybe, just maybe, the Yankees can come back if they hold it at 4-0. No doubt, 4-0 looked like 40-0 (reader/commenter Ross Kaplan texted me that it felt like we were down 40 during the game, and he was right) the way Lee was pitching. And no doubt, you want as many arms available for tomorrow night's critical game. But two, you want to put pressure on the Phillies in that spot. Make them make a few moves. Make Madsen or Happ or Lidge come into the game and have to get some tough outs. Shake their confidence a little bit. Make them sweat. It changes the tenor of the way the game felt, even if the result is unchanged. When you are going to play the same team in a crucial game the next night, stuff like that matters. Instead, 4-0 turns into 6-0 and the game is totally out of reach, even from a standpoint of rattling them a little bit. At 4-0, that 1st and 2nd nobody out with Teixeira up is a spot in the 9th. At 6-0 it's almost a nothing. The Yankees clearly have 7 relievers they like more than Brian Bruney, because they took that many ahead of him in the first two series. Since some of them barely pitch, maybe one of them keeps it within reach, at least in terms of shaking the cage a bit for tomorrow. Instead the Phillies just dominated the game all the way through.

A few other thoughts:

- It is utterly perplexing how many 2 out runs the Yankees give up, and how many 2 strike hits they give up. I've lost track this postseason, but the 2 out runs is off the charts. 4 of the 6 runs tonight with 2 outs. It has to stop. The problem is, this has been happening all season, so it seems to just be an issue this team has. It is one that I do not understand, and don't think there is any explanation for, but it is a problem.

- I do not understand why Yankees' batters allow pitchers who like to work quick to work quick. I have been wondering this all season. This is supposed to be a veteran team. You shouldn't let any pitcher work at his pace, let alone one as good as Lee, and even more so a pitcher in the rhythm he was in. Step in, step out, step in again. It's basic stuff. I was screaming at the TV all night for them to do this from early in the game. My boy Skip texted me irate that they were letting Lee work at his speed. I'm sure everyone saw it. Why they don't do this, I really do not know. If they won't do it on their own, why their manager doesn't make it a point in between innings and mandate that they step out before the first few pitches of the at bat or they are coming out of the game, I also don't know.

- Tricky spot for Girardi with the lineup tomorrow. You don't want to give up on your guys, but you also don't want to stick with guys for too long. With a righty on the mound, might be time to give Brett Gardner over either Nick Swisher or Hideki Matsui. Quite honestly, it might be time to give Eric Hinske a shot. At the very least, they can't be any worse than the two who have played have been. Not just in terms of results, but awful looking at bats and swings. Not even putting anything remotely close to good swings on the baseball, and it's been going on for a while. At the very least, Matsui needs to be dropped. He's crippling the lineup batting 5/6. What's tough is that he's streaky, and could turn it on at anytime. I don't envy Girardi trying to deal with this.

- Pretty much a must win tomorrow. Series is obviously not over if they lose, but going down 0-2, and losing to Pedro in the process, is tough. It's especially so when you consider the 2-3-2 format, and how easy it is to take homefield advantage back, which the Phillies have already done. Going down 0-2, and then having to go to Philly for 3 on 3 consecutive days, the Phillies would be in complete command of this series. Going to need to have the good Burnett, and going to need to have a very quick hook if it isn't. With the off day Friday, the hook has to be particularly fast. If I were Girardi, I would do what some managers do in Japan. Have a short reliever warm at the beginning of the 1st inning. If it doesn't look good early, use the short reliever to get out of the inning, and then get a long guy loose for the 2nd. Tomorrow's game is way too important to try to hang with Burnett if it isn't the good Burnett. 3 or 4 runs before the Yankees come to the plate won't be the trick tomorrow.

All said, the Yankees just have to move on to Game 2 now. Besides taking away whatever lessons they can from tonight, preparing for tomorrow is one of the only things they can do baseball wise. Go Yankees.

Can I Get A...

It might take a few minutes for Pat to digest a tough Yankee loss in Game 1, so it might be a few hours until something is put up. So I'll fill the void with some observations looking backwards. First, however, I have to preview Jay-Z performing at New Yankee Stadium.

Joe Buck will see that over the course of the song, Jay-Z will drop the N-word three times, the S-word once, and promote the use of a prescription drug (Ambien) without a prescription. He will call it a disgusting act and proclaim it unfortunate that it was shown on the air live. He will also slow down his speaking cadence a lot whenever something happens, and slow it down even more when he says the word "Yankees." I listened to some of this game on the radio tonight: John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman are more listentoable than Buck.

Tim McCarver will wonder why the singer on the field is referring to himself as Hoza and J.D. He will then break down in excruciating detail why it's especially offensive that Jay-Z is grabbing his crotch with the middle finger in addition to the other four fingers.

"Talk about looking for a reason!"
"Absolutely!"

Anyway, I'm pretty glad I forgot to post a comment on this morning's post saying that Cliff Lee will get a "welcome back to the American League" moment at some point. I would have said something like he wouldn't be able to toss any complete games against the Yankees because there weren't any pitchers hitting. He walked zero, and the Yankees walked five.

Turns out, the Phillies didn't have to hand the game to the bullpen after all, as Lee pitched a gem. Made a lot of the Yankees look stupid tonight. Teixeira and Arod hit like pitchers today. A day after Pat told me that I was "pretty much wrong about everything" regarding Teixeira, his boy's batting average dipped under the Mendoza Line for the entire postseason. Way to lay down.

My boy John was at the game tonight, and he said that CC pitched like Daisuke Matsuzaka tonight. Despite CC walking the bases loaded in the first, he escaped, and Buck decided to say--in the second inning, no less--that pitching was dominating the game.

Welcome back to earth, Triple-A Aphiliate.

This Yankee loss was probably more fun than 50% of the Red Sox' wins this year. In these games, you don't have to root for Jason Varitek to bring you happiness.

RBIs Don't Matter

While the general manager of a team who got swept in the first round continues to talk about how smart he is on talk radio, it's time to talk about two teams that got a lot of RBIs this year, because they're the ones in the World Series. Pat already addressed a lot that needs to be addressed, but for other stuff, let's go Sore Glove Hand style:

-Although Theo Epstein told me OPS is the only statistic that really matters, the home run thing is extremely important in this series. The Yankees' homefield advantage as far as home runs go is virtually neutralized, as five out of eight Phillies starters are also left-handed. A lot has been said about the Philadelphia power, as the team has 224 home runs. Using some mathematics, if they had a DH instead of a pitcher and the DH was just average compared to the rest of their lineup, they would have hit 251 home runs, more than the Yankees. Citizens Bank Park helps.

-Speaking of which, we're talking about two hitters' parks. So fly ball pitchers might struggle more than they normally would. It seems that out of the two teams, Cliff Lee and JA Happ have the lowest ground out to fly out ratio among starters. Phil Coke, Alfredo Aceves, and Phil Hughes are also low, so those are the guys who might get hurt the most. It's an understatement to say that Lee and Happ are more of a concern there.

-I can find a lot of nice things to say about the Phillies' offense. But of course I'm from Boston, where we only look at OPS. So I'm going to ignore the fact that the Phillies had four guys who went 30/90 this year. Okay, maybe not. Think about that. It's like having four Jason Bays in your lineup. They don't walk as much as the Yankees, and they strike out a lot more than the Yankees. They're an impressive lineup, but they're probably not as good as New York's. However, it should be easy to watch. Have AJ Burnett toss a couple of walks in a row and it seems like a big inning is inevitable. Shane Victorino will inevitably hit a double down the line. Or Ryan Howard will hit one into the upper deck. Pat believes Chase Utley is the most underrated player in baseball, and it's hard to disagree.

-As OPS is the only thing that matters, it is fair to say that the team that walks more will probably win this series. I'm not being sarcastic here. It's similar to the way the Angels faced the Red Sox. Keep guys off the bases and crushing extra-base-hits will not happen. The Yankees have to find the strike zone and strike people out.

-This series is between two good teams. It's about who cracks first. Things will happen this week to lose games. Maybe umpiring will happen. I predict that Girardi will lose a game for the Yankees somewhere, and if Burnett pitches twice, he's prone to imploding. Pitchers with fly-ball tendencies will become liabilities at some point, and Pedro can certainly dig the Phillies into a hole at some point, especially if the Yankees win Game 1 (as Pat already went over).

The Yankees should be in a good position to win games 1 and 2. Let's schedule the Girardi loss for Game 3. We'll give CC the edge in Game 4, predict the Burnett implosion for Game 5, and Pedro riding the momentum on regular rest in Game 6. The Yankees shouldn't let it get to seven. But if they do, they'll give CC a chance to be one of the biggest playoff heroes of all time.

But hey, wouldn't it be hilarious if Arod went 0-for the series and the Phillies won? That might be almost as good as the Red Sox winning it all.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

World Series Preview: Yankees vs. Phillies

It really does feel good to be back in the World Series. That probably goes without saying but I wanted to say it anyway. When you spend as much time on the Yankees as I do the four years inbetween appearances feels like a long time. An enjoyable time on the whole, but a long time and ultimately a disappointing time because they weren't winning it all or even getting to the biggest stage. Now they are American League Champions for the 40th time in team history and back to the biggest stage. Now onto trying to get four more wins and win on that stage.

OFFENSE:

This is listed first because, although pitching controls the game, especially in the postseason, when you put two offenses of this caliber together it is likely to play a bigger role than usual. And I think this is particularly true from the Yankees' perspective. And that is because of Philadelphia's ability to hit the home run, which is something the Yankees have not yet dealt with in these playoffs. They have allowed three home runs in nine games. A lot of that has been their dynamite pitching, no doubt. But some of it also has to do with facing two teams that ranked 11th (Angels) and 13th (Twins) in home runs during the season. Now the are facing a team that tied for 2nd. Despite not having a DH and having a pitcher in the lineup almost every game, they hit 224 home runs, which was not only the best in the National League, but more than every American League team but the Rangers (tied) and the Yankees (only 20 less). Think about how many home runs the Yankees hit. Then think about having no DH and adding a pitcher and still hitting only 20 less home runs. That's how much pop this Philly team has. What's more, they are slugging .478 as a team (Yankees are at .441) this postseason and have jacked 14 balls out of parks (Yankees are at the same number). The first way you combat this is by scoring more runs yourself, and that is something the Yankees need to do. They have gotten clutch hitting, and they have shown flashes of scoring big, but they need to do so more consistently. They have not had that up and down the lineup, 1-9 flow going. The Phillies are more likely to hit three home runs in an inning than they are to do so over a full series, let alone two. And the Yankees need to be prepared for that. If Philly puts up a 3-spot they can't get put on their heels for multiple innings, they have to score themselves. They may need to win a few games 8-6 to win this series, and that is something they are capable of as they demonstrated during the regular season. They just haven't shown in consistently during the playoffs yet. Now would be a good time to start.

STARTING PITCHING:

Hard to ask for much more from the Yankees' starters so far this postseason, but as referenced above they are up to their biggest task yet. Not that the Twins and Angels aren't formidable lineups, but the difference is they are now facing a lineup that can and will take them out of the park at any moment. Even the Angels, for all their ability up and down the order and scoring the second most runs in baseball, don't come close to have that ability. Keeping them in the yard is not easy, and I would say that is their second concern. The first concern is making them hit their way on. Walking/hitting batters is a great way to serve up a three-run homer to this team. No matter how much you try to limit them, they are going to hit homeruns. So you have to make as many of them solo jobs as possible. If they are going to hit multi run homers, make it because they hit their way into that position. As far as limiting the home run itself, this really is a tough lineup to pitch to because of the various strengths of the lineup, meaning there is no one way to pitch to them collectively. Rollins and Victorino have as fast a set of hands and hips you'll see in baseball. They can beat you to your best fastball inside and drive it out. You have to keep your fastball away from them and when you come inside come in offspeed. Howard, Werth, and Ibanez will crush you if you let them get their hands extended, especially if they can time your fastball and do so. Howard and Werth have foul pole to foul pole power as well, so you really have to keep fastballs in on them. I would pitch Ibanez a little more honest/evenly, with an empahasis on fastballs in, and then just pound Howard and Werth on the hands all series mixing in offspeed away and likely out of the strikezone. Feliz and Ruiz are not to be taken lightly either. They are ideal bottom of the order guys in that both have the penchant for the big hit and both can drive their pitch if they get it. Very scrappy, and you have to make sure you don't let them beat you. And then there is Chase Utley. For some reason he doesn't get the recognition he deserves as being one of the Top 5 players in baseball. After Pujols and Rodriguez, he's right there with Joe Mauer and Hanley Ramirez, especially when considering position. While he gets some attention, it's not as much as it should be. Guy is a stud. You have to approach him as such. It's a deep lineup so you can't always pitch around him. But where you can you should. There is no one way to pitch to him, he can beat you anywhere, taking you out to all fields. Yankees starters need to keep the ball down and to corners, minimize mistakes, and not pitch to anyone in this lineup's strengths. As for the Phillies, their rotation is a bit less settled than the Yankees, even though the Yankees only really have three starters. They have a lot of potential, but outside of Cliff Lee nothing is really a known at this stage. The Yankees need to jump on these guys early and get into the Phillies bullpen. With Lee, you have to approach him just like you would any dominant starter. He's one of the best in the game, and you just have to work him and hope to get him out early as well.

BULLPEN:

A few weeks ago this would have looked like a huge advantage for the Yankees. And maybe it still is. The Yankees' pen has not been great, but Philly has really had problems back there. The Yankees would do well to work the Phillies' starters hard and get into the middle of this bullpen as early as possible every single game. Even if they aren't getting to the starters bigtime, if they can get them out after 4 or 5 innings that is huge. On the flip side, the Yankees need better execution out of their bullpen in conjunction with better management of that bullpen. The Yankees have played nine playoff games, and in four of them Yankee relievers have given up the tying or winning run or both in the 7th inning or later. That's not bad, that's awful. This Philly lineup may very well be even less forgiving, and a continuation of that kind of percentage may not bode well in this World Series, so they need to get this corrected. Girardi needs to keep it simple, and the relievers need to do the same and just do their job. Game 6 of the ALCS was a perfect example, and perfect is the word because it was managed and executed perfectly. Pettitte was given one baserunner in the 7th with a lead. Once he let it up, Joba got out of the 7th. Then Mariano went two to close it out. That is keeping it simple, and that is what you want to do. Go with your best guys and let them decide it for you. Mariano can't go two every night in this series, but when he can he should, and when he can't Joba and Hughes pick up the extra outs.

Living with two big Mets fans and just being a fan of the game in general, I get to see a lot of the Phillies and I know how good they are. They're also a really fun team to watch. Watching them this postseason they have affirmed that they really are that good. It's great to be back, but the Yankees will need to play better baseball than they have to win this series. In particular they are going to need to score more runs and get better relief pitching and relief pitching management. They also can't afford to have a letdown in the other areas of the game where they have been playing very well - starting pitching, clutch hitting, and defense. They need to bring the total pacakge to beat the Phillies, because the Phillies are the total package.

I'm so pumped for tomorrow night. Go Yankees!

Monday, October 26, 2009

F These Guys

At least everything in the universe is starting to feel normal again. The Red Sox are long gone from the playoffs after a season characterized by questionable managerial decisions, frustrating underperformance on the field, and beefs between the team and the media/fan base. Despite about twelve runners left on base tonight, the Yankees are back in the World Series. And this successful Yankee team, as well as their fans, are extremely dislikable.

The last few years, especially since the 2007 World Series, I have probably preferred to talk baseball with Yankee fans compared to Red Sox fans, because Red Sox fans were talking about how flawless and untouchable their guys were and couldn't carry an objective conversation. The love for Derek Jeter started to subside to the point that I could actually respect the player instead of irrationally hating him for unnecessary dives into the stands and incessant fist pumping.

Guys like Girardi were fun to watch because they made dumb mistakes. Guys like Frank from Gloucester on the radio were fun to listen to because they were talking about the merits of a disfunctional team. Now the same clown from Connecticut is calling both Boston talk radio stations talking the same nonsense about how Jeter is the best because "he's the captain and he has four rings" instead of citing anything of substance.

Clearly the Yankee fans are back to their normal ways, the Red Sox fans are throwing their previously-invincible closer under the bus, and the team is just as detestable as it has been since 1999, 2003, or 2004--in my opinion, the most-hatable Yankee teams of my lifetime.

There is no Karim Garcia, jumping over a wall to beat the crap out of a groundskeeper. There is no Jeff Nelson except on MLB.com. There is no Aaron Boone, doing the soccer-style airplane celebration despite a Nick Swisher-level playoff performance before his home run. There is no Knoblauch except for in the police blotter. And there is no Clemens.

However, there was a point I think in Game 5 when Jeter did the same-old 1999-2003 fist pump and my admiration of the Lou Gehrig record, the 200 hits per season every season, the improved defense, and all that was gone. It was less than two months ago that I thought Jeter should win the MVP as part of a "lifetime achievement" provision. Now I detest him for exaggerating pitches on each corner as he has done since 1996. I am happy that Pedro threw at his hands in 2003.

The other members of the Four Rings crew are still around, and years of Yankee fan modesty have made me forget how much HGH user Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada (who insulted Pedro's mother) sucked. Rivera was fine, and always has been despite his unconscionable contract demands. In addition to Rivera, there are a few players (e.g. Swisher, Gardner, Molina, even Matsui) with whom I have no problem.

However, this Yankees team is really easy to root against, especially now that they're facing Pedro Martinez again. Damon sucks due to his alacrity to talk about his contract, how much he's been disrespected, and other things discussed on this blog. Burnett is an overrated, overpaid head case who is a lot more entertaining when he's melting down. Chamberlain is a headhunting punk. Coke reminds me of Darryl Strawberry for obvious reasons. Hughes is similar to Burnett, because his failure is just about a hundred times more entertaining than his success because Yankee fans like Pat just start to cry about it. Cano and Cabrera are immature, inconsistent players who have questionable work ethics a lot of the time. Alfredo Aceves has been compared to Ramiro Mendoza, who killed the Red Sox as a member of the Yankees...and as a member of the Red Sox. Jerry Hairston Jr. did steroids prescribed by a dentist and enjoys female fertility drugs as much as Manny Ramirez.

Mark Teixeira's personality looks as artificial as Barry Bonds's home runs or Joan Rivers's face. The fact that Red Sox fans still whine about not getting him (see future post) makes me despise him even more. Everything he does seems scripted and contrived, as if he's still lobbying for more money. News flash: You cannot be Derek Jeter (and a part of me just died when I saw Jeter, Arod, and Teixeira hugging all by themselves in the infield). It's people like Mark Teixeira that make me question the merits of capitalism.

And Alex Rodriguez may be one of the worst people to ever walk the earth. I come in early to do stairs when everyone else is sleeping or taking their kids to school. People hate me because I'm good-looking and biracial. I like the gap between Madonna's teeth. I was young. I was stupid. I was naive. Jeter is a #2 hitter. I am more important than the World Series. I do boli. Talk to the union. I passed out when my daughter was born. I saw Bride Wars. And, just in case you don't remember, I come in early.

Go Phillies.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Nine Outs Away

Editor's Note: Pat wrote this post at 4:11 AM Friday morning, when for some reason Blogger was not working. In a separate email to me, he dropped twenty-six (26) F-bombs about how someone as "jumpy" as Girardi all postseason was so willing to stick with AJ Burnett. I read somewhere about how you can't kill Girardi for overmanaging one game then undermanaging two games later. But they both resulted in losses--and they further display Pat's main beef with Girardi--lack of consistency. Without further ado, "Nine Outs Away."

There were many times tonight that the Yankees did not execute. Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguex, and Hideki Matsui in the 1st inning. AJ Burnett in the 1st inning. Phil Hughes in the 7th inning. Nick Swisher pretty much any time he gets near the batters box.

There were also times when they did execute. AJ Burnett after the 1st inning. Melky Cabrera, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Hideki Matsui, and Robinson Cano in the 7th inning.
Many will be quick to point to the former, that the Yankees could have won this game going away. That of course ignores that they easily could have lost going away. Ultimately, the balance of these two things was that the Yankees had a 6-4 lead in the middle of the 7th inning, 9 outs away from their first AL Pennant and World Series berth in six years. And Joe Girardi flushed that chance right down the toilet.

It is difficult to remember a time when I was as angry with a manager/coach of a team I rooted for as I was tonight. Granted, I've been lucky to root for teams that have had some pretty good coaches to say the least. Some of the primary coaches I was exposed to growing up: Joe Torre with the Yankees, Lou Holtz with Notre Dame, Lou Carnesseca with St. John's, Tom Coughlin with the Giants, Pat Riley with the Knicks (followed by Jeff Van Gundy, who is no slouch). I'll let you figure out where Joe Girardi figures into that equation.

I've been beating this drum for a while now: after 6, if the Yankees have a lead and CC Sabathia is not on the mound, it's bullpen time. There is no reason not to. Especially with AJ Burnett, who can have wild swings in performance from inning to inning. I don't care if he had a one-hitter going, you get him out of that game after 6 tonight. Because whether he is pitching lights out or getting lit up, he is liable to do just the opposite the following inning. There is no reason to run that risk, especially 9 outs from the World Series. It is only more so when Burnett is sitting in the dugout for however long he was while the Yankees were busy tossing up 6 runs in the top of the inning.

As always, what compounds this is the lack of consistency. In Game 3 of the ALDS, Girardi pulled a more dominant and productive Pettitte at less pitches. Yet tonight Burnett gets to keep working. This makes absolutely no sense. It is frustrating on so many levels I'm not even sure how much sense I'm making.

What worsens it even more is that there were many times this season when Girardi asked Hughes and Mo, arguably the best 1-2 late inning punch in baseball (they were numbers wise), for 9 outs with a lead. After 6, it was Hughes to Mo. Now for some reason, when those 9 outs mean a trip to the World Series, this is no longer an option? These two blew four saves all season...combined. The fact that he didn't let Hughes start the bottom half of the 7th against 8-9-1 is beyond baffling.

Going even further, Girardi has always been a guy to ride the hot hand. It is difficult to be hotter out of the pen than David Robertson. If he really didn't want to go to Hughes that early (or Joba for that matter) for whatever reason, how about D-Rob? He's only got a 0.00 ERA in the playoffs and has looked absolutely dominant doing so.

If anything, you give Burnett one baserunner. He was definitely going well after the 1st, and maybe you send him back out there for the 7th. But it should be batter by batter. He has to go 1-2-3 or he's coming out. First baserunner, he's out. No way am I letting a guy as inconsistent as him work to the tying run when I'm that close to the World Series. I'm just not. Burnett has been very valuable to the Yankees this year. He has things he does very well. And he actually did a decent job tonight, putting up five zeros and giving the Yankees a chance to get back in the game, which they did and then some. But when Burnett has given you 6 with a lead, that's when his day is done. He's not a Sabathia, or a Halladay, or a Lincecum, or a Greinke, or a Lee, who you trust to go back out there inning after inning and be consistent. He very well might, but he also might not. And it can go either way at any time. That's not who I want pitching 9 outs from the World Series. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The Yankees are built to win just that very way. They have the bullpen to do it.

Instead Burnett allowed back-to-back singles to the 8 and 9 hitters. Not only did this set the Angles up, but it allowed exactly what you didn't want to happen to happen - relievers to have to come in and face Abreu, Hunter, and Guerrero with runners on. That is not setting your team up for success. Sure, sometimes that situation happens. But it didn't need to tonight. A reliever - I would have gone Hughes, but you can certainly make a case for Joba or Robertson - should have had a chance to attack the bottom of the order and control their own outcome, not try to clean up the mess Burnett made. That is part of a reliever's job, and again they (particularly Hughes) did not execute. But in this particular situation, there was no need for the mess to be created. There just wasn't. That's an awful job by Joe Girardi. It's a Pennant-clinching game. Everyone is available.

With that and the strength of the Yankees' bullpen in mind, there is no reason Burnett should be pitching with a lead that close - 9 outs - to the win.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It's Wheatgrass

So Joe Torre ducked out of another playoff series last night after actually deciding that starting Vicente Padilla instead of Clayton Kershaw was a good idea in an elimination game. I've been saying this is asinine for several days now. Why? "It's the way he's pitched lately. His experience."

I feel like we've been down this road before. Joe Torre not trusting young players, sitting them on the bench in favor of journeymen. Oh wait, that's part of why he left New York.

Look, I understand that Kershaw got absolutely shelled in Game 1 of this series. I also understand that Padilla has pitched well since he came to Los Angeles after being waived by the Texas Rangers. But we're talking about Vicente Padilla, the guy who really hasn't done anything worth mentioning for five or six years now. The only thing he's really good at is hitting people on purpose, and while (yes, I'm recycling my jokes from last night's comment section) it's sometimes nice to have a guy on your staff who can "goon up" like John Cheney's players, it doesn't mean he should be starting an elimination game. Especially as a flyball pitcher in Philadelphia.

Sure enough, Padilla's "experience" of, well, zero postseason games before this month, resulted in walking a guy on four pitches and giving up a home run to the next guy.

Sure enough, ain't life grand, Kershaw came in anyway. At this point, he was out of his element as a starting pitcher and his team was already dug into a hole. I'm just glad that Manny Ramirez isn't going back to the World Series, and I'm also glad that we're done with TBS coverage for the year.

There's a reason Joe Torre had a losing record before joining the Yankees. Thinking the experience of a mediocre pitcher is more important than a 2.79 ERA, a 1.22 WHIP, and only seven home runs in almost 180 innings might be one of those reasons. It's wheatgrass.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

ALCS Games 3 and 4

A lot to catch up on it seems. This series has been wild. I would try to cover the games separately, but too many things cross over both games. So I'll just go with a DV style list.

- CC Sabathia is a man. I've been saying it since that game in Baltimore back in early May, he is just one of those guys that has that something that goes beyond talent. When you put that something with the immense talent he has, it's really special. He is quickly becoming one of my favorite Yankees ever. Just flat out competes, and it's a pleasure to watch.

- Alex Rodriguez. It looks like he's playing video games out there. It's getting historic in a lot of ways, and is one of the best performances I've ever seen in the postseason. Another pleasure to watch. Just awesome.

- The decision to pull Robertson for Aceves yesterday was one of the worst and most bizarre managerial decisions I have ever seen. Girardi's logic seems pretty clear. Kendrick hits fastballs well. Robertson relies heavily on his fastball. Aceves has a bit more varied stuff. That part of it makes sense. What gets ignored in this thinking, however, is that Robertson is a better pitcher than Aceves. To use an extreme example, if Kendrick crushed cutters you wouldn't pull Rivera to bring in someone else, because Rivera is better than everyone else. Finally, if you were really so concerned about Kendrick you could just be careful with him (Robertson also has a filthy curveball that he can try to tempt hitters with out of the zone), and then let the better pitcher in Robertson go after a .220 hitter in Jeff Mathis with a runner on 1st. Putting the winning run on base is not traditional managing, but it sure beats what Girardi did.

- The bigger problem with that is that Girardi has been doing this type of stuff with his bullpen all postseason, and his offense (mainly Rodriguez) has been bailing him out. In Game 2, he used Joba and Hughes, probably his two best relievers outside of Rivera (though Robertson is certainly making a case to be ahead of Joba and behind Hughes), for all of three outs...in a tie game. With a lead, fine. But in a tie game you can't just manage for that inning, especially if the circumstances aren't dire. You have to think about the game potentially continuing. Girardi did not do that, and that is why he ended up with a reliever that isn't as productive pitching the the 11th inning. It's not that Aceves isn't good, he's been and continues to be a valuable piece. But when your starter gives you 6.1 innings like Burnett did, and you have your top 4 relievers (Rivera, Hughes, Joba, Robertson) all fully capable of going 2+ innings, you shouldn't be to your 5th (at best) reliever as soon as the 11th. It is mostly getting overlooked because Rodriguez bailed him out, but Girardi basically messed up the bullpen in Game 2 as well.

- The Yankees have been a power team all season. I think everyone associated with the team or who roots for the team would like to see them manufacture more runs. But it just isn't the way they are, and they did win 103 games playing the way they did. Those wins involved a lot of big hits, especially of the extra-base hit, and even more so home run variety. Many of them were with runners on base. They weren't pinch running all the time, they were just playing it a bit safer and having confidence someone would get the big hit. As we all know, it happened a lot. Now they are pinch running all the time. I'm not saying never do it. Down a run, really good pitcher on the mound, sure. But in all these situations it just isn't necessary. Especially in a tie game when you lose the bat you pinch ran for if there spot comes up again.

- Related, Brett Gardner has pinch run four times this postseason. The results: doubled off third with one out as the winning run in extra innings of a tie game, the first out of a double play in a tie game, caught stealing as the tying run, and caught stealing. The reason such a talented runner is having all these issues is not important at this stage. The results are. And they are overwhelming. It's not like they should stop pinch-running, Gardner and Guzman can still be a major advantage. They just need to be a bit more selective about it.

- Didn't like Girardi's visit to Pettitte during the Guerrero at bat. I know he said he wanted to make sure they were on the same page as Posada was already out there, but I think you have to trust your veterans there and let them try to stay in a rhythm they were obviously in considering Pettitte's results to that point in the game.

- I also wouldn't have let it get to that point. With the tying run at the plate in the form of two really dangerous right-handers, I would have gone to Joba. I said before that inning that Pettitte shouldn't be pitching to Hunter or Guerrero if Figgins or Abreu got one. When Abreu singled, with a two run lead in the 6th inning, you go to the pen. Everyone was quick to point out that Pettitte's pitch count was low, but this isn't the regular season, it's the postseason, pitch count isn't that important. Whoever gives you the best chance to get outs does. Considering that Hunter bats .019 (.288 vs. LHP, .269 vs. RHP) points higher vs. lefties than righties, that Guerrero has great numbers against Pettitte, and that Joba had gotten Hunter to dribble an infield single and Guerrero to strikeout on 4 pitches in Game 2, that was time to go to Joba. I think you have to be more aggressive protecting a 2 run lead in the 6th inning against really good hitters in that spot.

- The biggest issue I have with all of this is that it's a pretty significant departure from how Girardi managed the regular season, where the Yankees won 103 games. Every manager is going to be a little more "all hands on deck" in the postseason, as they should be. But Girardi is taking this too far, and he is overmanaging. Not just with the constant pitching changes either, which as pointed out above is out of control. But with the pinch running and visits to the mound and things of that nature. You have to be who you are as a team, and while the Yankees are having success, they have gotten lucky a few times. They need to play their game, which they did get back to tonight which was great to see. And Girardi also needs to realize his players need to play the game. He can't control everything. Right now it seems like he's trying to do that.

- Back to Rodriguez, he's beating you inside on really good pitchers. That homer tonight was on a great pitch, two-seamer down and in, probably even off the plate. When he's beating you to that spot, he's really tough, because he's going to beat you out over the plate to right field most of the time too.

- Back to Sabathia, this lineup is no joke. Second most runs in baseball this year. 16 innings pitched and 2 earned runs, with half of that coming on short rest. I'm still amazed by the effort I just watched. Didn't have the same stuff he had Friday night either, but he just kept battling and got the same results. His breaking ball, that was so filthy in his start against the Twins, has been inconsistent in the first two games of this series. But his changeup is as good as I've ever seen it. Dancing away to righties, and sits in the strikezone too. Really plays nicely off the two-seamer he continues to throw more and more, as they have similar movement just with a 5-7 mph difference in velocity. Really tough.

- The Yankees are up 3-1, but the way they have played offensively and mentally they could easily be down 3-1 if not for their pitching. So many runners left on base. So many issues with RISP. So many opportunities wasted with a runner on 3rd and less than two outs. So many baserunning mistakes. To that end, Posada not going halfway and as a result not scoring on Cano's double, and then the two of them getting doubled off (though it wasn't called such - more on that in a second), is just inexcusable. As is Posada almost running off the field with only two outs thinking there were three. Swisher getting picked off 2nd base (though it wasn't called such - more on this in a second too) and then almost getting picked off 1st. The whole team really just needs to tighten it up in one way or another save for Jeter, Rodriguez, CC, and Mariano, who have been tremendous in pretty much every way possible so far in these playoffs.

- The umpiring this entire postseason has been atrocious. And this series has probably been the worst. Blatant calls right in from of umpires that they are getting completely wrong. Some of them aren't even close. The umpiring has been awful for a while now, but they are taking to a whole new level in these playoffs with how condensed all of the bad calls have been in really big games. At least it seems to be going for and against every team for the most part.

- There is no way you can get comfortable. Feeling good, feeling confident, and playing in a way that reflects that are all good things. But not comfortable, they have to know that there job is not nearly done. With that in mind, Girardi and the Yankees should treat Game 5 Thursday like it's Game 7. With the off day tomorrow and another off day Friday if necessary, there is no reason not to because they aren't compromising a potential Game 6 by doing so (unless they do something outrageous, which I wouldn't think they would). Robertson, Joba, Hughes, and Rivera should all be available for at least one and possibly two, so if for some reason Burnett doesn't have it, you can be aggressive with the bullpen early. If Burnett does have it but then gets into a jam in a tight game late, you shouldn't be afraid to go to the pen earlier than you normally would. Hopefully AJ just has it and the bats show up.

- After 2004, being one win away from the World Series, while exciting, is incredibly nerve racking. This now being the first time the Yankees have been in this position since 2004, I'm even more nervous. Obviously I'd rather be one win away than not be one win away, but this is tense. Brings back those bad memories of just needing one win and not being able to get it. Hopefully they can turn that back around with this opportunity.

- I don't want to lose sight of the fact that the Yankees are playing really good baseball. The reason I point out all of these negative things is simply because of how quickly a postseason series can change. We see it all the time. Maybe not 3-0 like 2004, but the last two years a 3-1 ALCS lead went to a Game 7, with the trailing 3-1 team winning once and losing once. It would help the Yankees to avoid that if their manager and some of their players would, to use the phrase again, tighten things up a bit. They have shown that they can play well enough to overcome these mishaps, but it would probably make things easier if they made a few simple adjustments. But I don't want to take away from the overall good baseball and good managing that they are in large part getting thus far. It's been really great and a lot of fun to watch, and I hope it continues.

Go Yankees.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Francona Does Not Agree With This Post

Note: look for a post from Pat tomorrow. I have a feeling it might be about being cute with the bullpen.

I may have written about this briefly a year ago when continued lack of foresight on the behalf of Commissioner Selig (he's not my bud) almost resulted in a five-inning elimination game in the World Series. But another winter is upon us in October and baseball is being played in downright nasty conditions...again. Not that things are looking up too much either: It's looking pretty likely that baseball will be played in New York or Philadelphia...or both.

This is just not necessary. At all. There is a solution to this bad weather, and though it will not totally mitigate the problem, as it will not prevent snow in Denver in early October, it can help relieve some headaches. As things stand now, baseball this late in the season sucks. It sucks for the players. It sucks for the staff. And, most importantly, it sucks for the fans. My solution doesn't involve shortening the regular season like the clown at BostonDirtDogs.com wants to do. It doesn't involve playing in March. It doesn't involve planned doubleheaders (though the season could be shortened a week with each team playing one doubleheader a month against a division rival. On a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday? Not too painful. Feel free to discuss that. It doesn't suck that bad unless Jason Varitek's your backup catcher).

The solution is fewer days off once you get to the playoffs. The increase in quality of play that comes with the extra rest is offset by the fact that the game's potentially being played in slush or potentially injury-causing conditions. Did you know that before today, the Yankees have played five (5) games in fourteen (14) days? They have played 14 games in 14 days on six different occasions this year, including 17 games in 16 games at one point. So why on earth is it a good idea to only have them play five games in a week. Even if the ALDS had gone five, that would average a game every other day. That's not baseball. The least they've done at any point of the season is ten games in 14 days. Baseball can (and should) be played on the Wednesday after the season's over.

Look, we know why it's like this. TBS doesn't want to compete against FOX when both networks are showing baseball. MLB wants to maximize ad revenue, and BlackBerry wouldn't pay as much if baseball fans are missing the "All You Need Is Love" commercial on one channel because they're watching it on the other. But it's a no-win situation for anyone, even FOX, TBS, MLB, George Lopez, and BlackBerry, if baseball drags into November and is played in awful conditions. If the World Series is over by October 2oth, it minimizes exposure to the 30s, meaningful football games, cold rain, the Treehouse of Horror series, snow, and "dEREK JEETER IS MR NOVEMBUR!!!1" references.

You don't need global warming to solve this problem. You don't need a shorter schedule or regular season games on St. Patrick's Day. All you need is fewer unnecessary rest days.

And love. Obviously.

Like You're Down 0-2

That's how the Yankees need to play today. DV called me last night and said that I must be feeling pretty good right now. Yeah, better than tied 1-1 or down 0-2, for sure. But we've been here before recently, and it didn't work out to well. Up 2-0 can change in a hurry. I feel good but nowhere near comfortable, and I'm sure the YankeesThat's why the Yankees need to play like they are down 0-2. In that sense it's good to have Andy Pettitte on the mound today, because he's a professional and he'll have the right mentality. Hopefully he'll set the tone.

A great weekend. Friday night was just too much CC Sabathia. One of the best performances I've ever watched in my time as a Yankee fan, considering production relative to circumstances.

Saturday was obviously a lot more interesting. Wild game, one in which both teams played great and both teams played sloppy. Burnett was very good again, and was in total control outside of the one shaky inning in which he allowed the two runs. Then a series of massive outs from the bullpen. Joba works around an infield single to strike Guerrero out swinging with the bases loaded. Hughes worked around a Jeter error on a routine double play ball to get a big strikeout to end an inning. Rivera coming in and recording almsot twice as many outs as he had all season and barely breaking a sweat. Seriously, that guy is incredible and we shouldn't overlook these types of awesome performances just because he's made us expect it. If he doesn't come back out for that third inning of work, maybe Roberston is done by the 12th and in the 13th the game is in the hands of a guy in Gaudin who hasn't seen a mound in a live game in two weeks. Just a big performance from Mo. Good job from Aceves and Robertson again.

That's clearly been the theme of this playoffs for the Yankees: pitching. Starting pitching, relieve pitching, everything. They've allowed 9 earned runs in 5 games across 53 innings. While that is exactly what you want, the offense also needs to pick it up. They had a million chances Saturday to end that game earlier and never got the big hit. Save Rodriguez, who has set a postseason record with 3 game-tying or game-winning homers in the 7th inning or later of the same playoffs. There may be times when the pitching isn't as stellar as it has been, and it would be alright with me and presumably everyone associated with the Yankees in some way if the offense carried us for a game or two at some point. Now, they've been incredibly clutch. It isn't like the offense has been bad. But part of their clutchness is the pitching keeping the game so close that they have a chance to get teh clutch hits. Again, that is all fantastic. But it would be great to see the offense come out and hang a 4 or 5 spot early today and then keep going.

Two minor critiques:

1. With a lead, burning Joba and Hughes as fast as Girardi did would not be a problem. In fact it would be ideal bullpen management. But in a tie game that is risky. It worked for Girardi Saturday, but that was in part because Rodriguez saved him. While you could argue that the Yankees should have scored before the 11th anyway and Girardi's bullpen management gave them ample opportunity, sometimes that isn't always going to be a reality. With Joba's ability to give you at least two innings, Hughes' ability to give you at least two innings, and Mariano's ability to give you at least two innings, the Yankees should not be to Alfredo Aceves in the 11th when their starter gave them 6.1 innings. No offense to Aceves, who does a good job. But he isn't those three. You don't want Aceves deciding it for you in the 11th with Hughes and Joba haven given you 3 outs combined.

2. If you are going to pinch run Gardner and Guzman in a tie game, they really have to be running. It goes back to the same thing as above. With a lead, if they don't run at least you have a faster runner on base in case the ball is put in play. But in a tie game that could go on and on and their spot in the order could keep coming up, if you are going to pinch run that and lose a bat like Swisher's or Matsui's - like the Yankees did Saturday - they need to be giving you a distinct advantage on the bases over the guy they pinch-ran for. And that means taking second base, because by staying on first and being part of a double play they are doing exactly what either of the guys they pinch ran for are going to do. If they don't feel like they can get a good read on the pitcher/catcher, then don't pinch run them. It's not enough of an advantage having increased speed on a ball in play to pinch run in a tie game. That's not enough to lose two major bats for multiple ABs later in the game. They have to take second base, because that's a big advantage, big enough to lose the bats for later in the game, even if it doesn't work out and they don't score. So when you pinch-run them, you have to be sure they are going to be able to at least attempt to take second base off the pitcher/catcher.

Outside of these two things, Girardi really is managing a teriffic series and a teriffic playoffs. And the team really is executing. That's the combination you are looking for. Hopefully that keeps going starting today. Go Yankees.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Boston: Whom To Root For?

First of all, a great conversation on Thursday regarding a lot of different things. It's going to be an interesting offseason in Boston, and (as I'd prefer to talk about in a future post) perhaps inevitably a frustrating offseason where the things the Red Sox did in life echo in time. I promise there will be a Willie McGee reference some time this winter. But this kind of stuff, I don't like to talk about it until after the postseason is over.

Going back to the baseball games that are still going on, it might be hard for Red Sox fans to choose whom to root for. Obviously not the Yankees, but I plan on enjoying every Yankee game similar to the way I enjoy college football games. Following a rich family tradition, watching college football is about rooting against teams you don't like, namely USC, Purdue, USC, Michigan, and USC. With a team headlined with so many dislikable characters like Pettitte, Arod, Teixeira, Burnett, and Damon, I very well might root against this team more strongly than I rooted for the crybaby team that got eliminated last weekend.

(Chip Caray is terrible, by the way. In a two-run game in the bottom of the eighth, with two men on as I write this, he said that Dodger fans are looking for another home run from Manny Ramirez. Is a double inadequate? I really wonder if this guy ever watches baseball the other eleven months of the year.)

As far as the other three teams go, there's a lot of reasons to root for any of the three. Even the Yankees have players like Gardner, Swisher, Sabathia, Jeter, and Rivera that I have little specific beef with other than their laundry. I like the Dodgers, though I dislike their left fielder and manager. It's fun to watch this team. I like their pitching staff, as well as Loney and especially Matt Kemp. It would be fun to see the Phillies win again despite a combustible bullpen...unless it means that people on Sports Radio will continue to propose trades bringing Ryan Howard to Boston this winter. And like any other red-blooded human, I like the Angels' story. I'd also be okay with Vlad getting a ring before is career totally goes downhill.

There's also a lot to root against for each of these teams. The Dodgers have Manny and Torre. The Phillies have had guys like Brett Myers and JC Romero at times this year. The Angels have a long history of crying to officials like Tom Brady against the Ravens (usually with good reason lately though), and I really don't like the way Torii Hunder has been talking and talking and talking all year since an early-season Brad Penny incident.

It's also notable to add that it will be additionally difficult to root for either the Angels or the Phillies, because they both have World Series championships this decade. The Red Sox have two, and this second one by whichever team would tie things up. I still can't get over the Manny thing, however, and this eliminates the Dodgers. Between the McCourt family buckling under his pressure to get him the money he wanted, the fact that the sycophant fans are still in love with this guy, and the fact that the franchise exploited a loophole to allow him to play in Albuquerque during his suspension.

The Angels could have won my support this postseason, but this hope is fragile and if you slam it against the dugout ground in a gesture of "F You, Red Sox," it will not bounce back like Torii Hunter's helmet did. So the Angels are out.

The Phillies today left Myers off the postseason roster. They are showing us, a lot more quietly than the Red Sox and Yankees, howe to put together a big-time contender, with the acquisition of Cliff Lee being a key instance of why you trade during a "now" period. Jayson Werth seems like someone who would run through a wall. Plus, unlike Yankee fans (needless to say), Angels fans (rally monkey), and Dodger fans (Manny suck-ups), the Phillie fans are passionate and cynical. They hate JD Drew. After fifty years, they don't just deserve one title, but two.

Go Phillies.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Yankees vs. Angels ALCS Preview

I could not be more excited for the ALCS. Here’s something of a preview.

Starting Pitching. Very close here, and I’ll wash it. The Angles have more depth, but I like the Yankees up top. I could not be more in support of Girardi’s (seemingly imminent) decision to go with a three man rotation. Only one pitcher would have to pitch on short rest, it would only have to be one time, and that pitcher would be CC Sabathia. This is a good thing, not a bad thing, at least on paper. However the weather forecast for this weekend in New York is not good. It’s actually very bad. While that could easily change, or they could get the games in anyway, if it doesn’t or they don’t, the Yankees will likely have to abandon the three man rotation. Enter Chad Gaudin (you simply can’t take Joba out of the bullpen, more on that in the next paragraph). While he has been very good for the Yankees, this becomes advantage LA of A. Outside of Lackey in Game 1, I’m not sure how they are going to line up. They seem to be leaning towards not pitching Weaver in Game 2 in the Bronx, and this is prudent given his immense fly ball tendencies, the Yankees’ entire lineup’s tendency to hit homeruns, and Yankee Stadium being smaller than Angel Stadium. But no matter which way they go, Kazmir, Saunders, Weaver, and Santana all have an edge over Gaudin. So let’s hope for good weather. Nothing against Gaudin, but CC is one of the best pitchers in the game. You want him out there three times in a seven game series.

Bullpen. It is weird to write what I am about to write. The Yankees have a distinct and sizeable edge over the Angles in relief pitching. Especially the way they are presently constructed. Joba pitched more like 07/08 Joba in the ALDS than 09 regular season Joba. That makes an already strong Yankee bullpen perhaps the team’s biggest strength, which is saying something considering their offense. And just like CC on short rest, I’m all about the decision to keep Joba in the pen. Every starter in the regular season is important. That’s why Joba should start instead of relieve over 162 if he can do so effectively. But in the playoffs a 4th starter will see the field 3 times max as a starter. A really good reliever might pitch in 12-15 games (that’s high, but it’s possible). Joba can impact more games as a reliever. He can also create a situation where the Yankees can ask their top three relievers – Joba, Hughes, and Mo – to get at least 12 outs with a lead. That’s nearly half the game. One of the beautiful things about the Twins series, Joba got reintroduced to the pen and Hughes got to deal with a little adversity. Hopefully they are both better for it moving forward. Finally, Robertson, Coke, and Aceves haven’t exactly been slouches. This is a good bullpen. The flipside of the weather potentially playing to the Angles edge in starting pitching depth is that more games in a shorter amount of days probably means more bullpen work for both teams. This favors the Yankees. So you hope if there is bad weather, these two things at least cancel themselves out, if not favor the Yankees.

Something general that applies to all Yankee pitchers. The Yankees, for whatever reason, have a history of letting guys like Nick Punto have the success Nick Punto had in the ALDS. I don’t understand this, it frustrates me at a very high level, and I definitely don’t have an answer. These scrappy types drive me crazy, and they just torment the Yankees. The problem here is that the Angles are full of these types of players. Figgins, Aybar, and Iztris just to start. I know the Yankees did a pretty good job with Denard Spahn, and that’s great. He definitely is one of these types of players, and they largely neutralized him. But they couldn’t stop Nick Punto. He seriously almost changed the series for the Twins on multiple occasions. All of the Angels types like this are better than Nick Punto, so the Yankees need to bear down and limit their production. Have a team meeting, whatever. Just stop them. Oh, and this goes for every Angles hitter, not just the scrappy types, but don’t walk guys. Please. The Angels will make you pay for that. We saw that in their last series against Boston.

Offense. Definitely advantage Yankees, but not by much. Not by much at all when you consider the way playoff baseball can favor a small ball game as opposed to a big ball game. The key for the Yankees is to realize the Angels are going to score. They are. Just like with the Twins series, they have to answer. This will be critical. What is even more important is the need for the Yankees to attack early. They did not really do this in the Minnesota series. You need to put LA of A on the defensive. When they get on the offensive, they are as dangerous as any team in baseball. They are pretty good on the defensive too, but I’d rather deal with that than when they are running around the bases like wild. Scoring early, putting pressure on their pitchers early, and making their offense play from behind is absolutely a key to this series. This ties into the final point, which is to get into that bullpen. Getting to their starters early will accomplish this. If that can’t happen, makes sure you are working counts. Close games after the 5th inning that get decided by the bullpens should favor the Yankees. So get to their pen.

As we saw in the ALDS, the Yankees have a lot of different ways they can beat you offensively. Mark Teixeira didn’t have a huge series, but he was still in the mix, being a big contributor (obviously) to the Game 2 win. By not disappearing, he didn’t detract from Rodriguez, Jeter, and Posada carrying the Yankees. Really only Johnny Damon absolutely disappeared in the ALDS. This is the key, not having guys disappear. Especially Rodriguez. He doesn’t have to perform the way he did in the ALDS for the Yankees to be successful. With their talent, someone else is likely to step up or continuing stepping up. Clearly you’d like everyone to do this, especially Teixeira and Rodriguez. But the reality is that baseball is a game of failure, and everyone getting hot at once isn’t likely to happen. What you want to have is for everyone to be, to use Rodriguez’s words, “in the mix”. Because if you are in the mix you aren’t giving back some of the positive production that the guys who are producing are providing. This has been a problem for the Yankees in recent playoff series. It was not a problem in the ALDS. They need this to continue against the Angels.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Two Down, Two To Go

It was great to win a postseason series for the first time in 5 years. It was even better to hear the players talking about how this was only Stage 2 (Stage 1 being winning the division and making the playoffs). Obviously there are two more to go. There will be plenty of time this week to preview Stage 3, the ALCS, so let's look back at the good and the bad of the ALDS win against the Twins.

The Good:

- Starting pitching. Sabathia, Burnett, and Pettitte combined for 19 innings and allowed 3 earned runs total. There's not much else that needs to be said about that.

- Alex Rodriguez. Nothing else needs to be said about that. UPDATE, Tuesday, 1:17 PM: He dominated this series in basically every way you could want him to. It was awesome. There are so many great things to say about the way he played it would be tough to condense it into a paragraph. I'll just leave it at the fact that he was outstanding, it was a lot of fun to watch, and I hope it continues.

- Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera (and Andy Pettitte, who was already mentioned). It's amazing. They just seem to get right down to it when the lights go on in October. I don't want to be one of those people that over-hypes everything the guy does, especially because hype runs counter to the way he plays. Because he doesn't play "hype". He plays, as my buddy described the play he made Sunday night in a text, "heads up". The hype play would have been to rush/force a throw to first trying to get a speedy Denard Spahn, who probably the best defensive shortstop in the game isn't even getting, most likely allowing Punto to score in the process. The heads up play is to make sure you keep the ball on the infield, and then turn to check Punto at third. Jeter did that, and when he saw Punto rounding made a conservative one hop throw home (trying to make a perfect throw might mean a mistake on the throw/catch, allowing the run to score, so the smart play is to play it safe if there is not imminent danger of the runner scoring, which there wasn't). The Yankees got Punto and a major threat was avoided. The hype play probably loses there, and the heads up play won. Which is why it's kind of funny that everyone is always debating over-hyping/under-hyping him. Because all he does is play heads up. A lot of teams, including the Yankees, could be a lot better if they had more guys who just played heads up instead of trying to make the hype play.

- Answering (Clutch Hitting). There was only one inning the entire series where the Twins scored and the Yankees didn't answer with the same amount of runs or more in the following inning. My two biggest pet peeves in baseball are not getting runners in from 3rd with less than two outs and giving up runs the half inning after we score runs. The flip side of that, which is ultra-important, is answering right after the opposing teams scores. Especially in the playoffs. Cripples momentum and is a major confidence blow to the opposition. This was tremendous all series long. In general the Yankees just seemed to get a clutch hit every time an opportunity presented itself. Obviously this is not the case, but pretty close. They haven't had a lot of that in recent playoff appearances, and the October magic was back for these three games. Hopefully it continues.

- Jose Molina. Will get totally overlooked but he handled all the hoopla like an absolute pro and got Burnett through his start with immense success despite less than stellar peripherals. Count me as being wrong on this one. Molina was awesome Friday night, and considering how quickly it seemed like Posada was able to pinch hit, I am fully behind this moving forward.

- Relief pitching. 10 innings in this series, 2 earned runs. That's going to get the job done. Joba-Hughes-Mo in particular was a major development. See below for more on this.

We could really go all day about positives. The Yankees were outstanding in this series in every phase of the game. But the Angles are not the Twins. They are a whole lot better and just swept a team that is a lot better than the Twins too. Nothing against the Twins or what the Yankees did, you can only play who you play, and the Twins are a good team in a lot of ways. But the reality is the Angles are very unlikely to let the Yankees get away with some of the stuff the Twins did, and that's the point. So let's take a look at some of the things that need to be addressed before Friday, many of which have been a problem all season.

The Bad:

- 2 out runs. All 6 of the Twins runs this series came with 2 outs. Now of course, if you told me the Yankees were only going to allow 2 runs per game, but they had to come with 2 outs, I'd sign up for it. But like most negative trends, it is likely to catch up with you. The Angels are probably going to score with no outs or one out sometimes. So if you allow this ridiculous number of 2 out rallies - not just runs, but rallies, as in nobody on base with 2 outs and runs end up scoring - it is probably going to hurt even more than it did in this series. This seriously has to stop. I don't know if it's focus, finishing, a combination of the two, or something else. But the pitchers on this team have to start closing innings much stronger than they did in this series. The Twins barely scored any runs in this series, and 2 out runs kept them in two of the three games. If they had been able to do anything otherwise, the Yankees would have been in some trouble. I think it's fantastic that the Yankees are doing such a good job with 0 and 1 outs, but they have to solve this problem.

- Girardi getting cute with the bullpen. Another season long issue. It's already gotten a lot of press in New York, so I won't go into it at full length again, but Friday night was over the top. With 2 outs in the 7th of a 1-1 game and Joba Chamberlain having just allowed a groundball single to Joe Mauer, he did not need to come out of the game. Yes, Phil Coke got Jason Kubel. But Joba probably had a decent shot at him too. That burned two relievers, and the Yankees ended up in a spot where Damaso Marte had to face Mauer and Kubel in the 11th. If Joba gets through that inning, then Coke is available for the two lefties later in the game. With a lead, based on matchups, maybe. But even then I'm more comfortable with Joba-Hughes-Mo. But in a tie game there is no reason to burn relievers like that. If the Yankees have a lead after the 5th inning and the starter is done, there really isn't much reason for the Yankees to be going to anyone else besides Joba-Hughes-Mo. This is listed under "The Good" because it was one of the biggest developments of the ALDS. These four should be able to get you as much as 12 outs with a lead, which is almost half the game. Being able to shorten the game like this is an incredible advantage, and one that the Yankees should be using whenever they can.

- You can make a serious case that Johnny Damon should not be in the starting lineup in Game 1 Friday night. Since September 3 Damon, not including the playoffs to date, Damon was .215/.319/.278/.597 with no homers, 7 RBI, and 17 strikeouts. It seemed like Damon was getting more days off than the rest the last month, and you have to wonder if something is going on physically. If that is the case, I admire Damon's desire to try to help the team win and I admire Girardi's recognition that because of his experience and history of postseason success, Damon at less than 100% can still really impact a game. But after a 1-12, including 0-4 with 4 K's in Game 3, it gets tough to keep running him back out there. Especially batting between Jeter, Texeira, and Rodriguez. He's like a break in the chain, and the chain between those three is the most important chain the Yankees have offensively. I know they like Damon's ability to change a game, and I know they like Gardner's ability to impact the game with his legs pinch-running late. But a case can be made for giving Gardner 3-4 chances to impact a game with his legs by starting him. I know an issue with Gardner can sometimes be that you can't steal first base. But right now, Johnny Damon can't get there anyway.

- Phil Hughes looks a little tired. Not way off, but a little off. This gets filed under the bad because they need Hughes to be better. He wasn't disastrous by any stretch, and it wasn't like he was getting knocked all over the place. But they need him to be shutdown like he was all season. The Angles are going to keep coming at you late in games, and the Yankees need to cut that off. Hughes is a big part of that. Hopefully these days off will be good for him, and he'll get that little extra knock back on his ball that he was missing outside of a few moments in this ALDS.

- Going back to the point on Jeter, the Yankees need to tighten things up and capitalize on every opportunity. Brett Gardner is great at what he does late in games: get to second base. But he needs to be smarter. He really does have a lot of talent in certain ways, but he's just not a cerebral player. You'd like to have all your players, but especially your role players, play smart in addition to playing well. Gardner getting doubled off 3rd in the bottom of the 10th inning is inexcusable. With Tex on deck and only 1 out you have to be absolutely sure you are going to score before going. A line little liner to the shortstop is not included in plays you are sure you are going to score on. Everyone knows you freeze on a line drive, that's little league stuff. It didn't come back to get them there, but that is a spot they have to capitalize on. Damon isn't off the hook either, as he has to do a better job with that at-bat. What's more, a good throw would have had Gardner at third by a few feet when he took third on the failed pick-off attempt. With Derek Jeter at the plate, there is absolutely no reason to go to third base unless you are sure you are going to get there. Gardner couldn't have been sure because the throw beat him by a good amount. It isn't just Garnder. Damon, Posada, and Swisher all had issues executing in certain spots in this series. A lot of it comes back to just playing simple, heads up baseball. Against the Angels, I have a feeling that not capitalizing in certain situations will be much more damaging than it was against the Twins.

None of this is meant to take away from the series the Yankees just played. Overall it was dominant and a lot of fun to watch. Rather I mention it in the context of their upcoming series with a team that is likely to be far less forgiving.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Red Sox Season Over


Read below. Go Twins.


The Law of Averages

Papelbon is so intense on the mound. The guy has been absolutely awful all year, and everyone who's seen him pitch instead of looking at the stats knows that. Every single outing he's walked guys, given up hits, loaded the bases, et cetera. But every single time he reaches back and dodges the bullet.

I've said all year that the law of averages will catch up to Papelbon, that his tendency to pitch sloppily, pitch unimpressive, hittable pitches, and walk the bases full on a consistent basis. We've all said it. He's been the relief version of Matsuzaka in 2008. I'm sure while reading this, people have wondered, "why is he fretting about this while they still win?" Because it's an indication that he's getting worse every year, and that ineffective pitching would eventually catch up to him.

Today it caught up to him, and the Boston Red Sox' trail of tears, otherwise known as the 2009 baseball season, is over.

As ironic and fitting as it is that Papelbon is the goat of this season because of his ineffective but lucky pitching all year, his goat-ness is even more fitting because he's the one with the biggest mouth. He's the one leading the trail of tears this year. He began by bashing the fans about criticizing his terrible performances where he narrowly escaped situations like today. He said that throwing 25 pitches and walking a ton of guys in 2009 is just like throwing 15 pitches in 2006.

He's the one who for years now has been talking about how he wants to pretty much do away with the reserve clause, saying he wanted to be a trend setter in terms of how relief pitches are compensated.

And he's the one saying that the acquisition of Billy Wagner, who (with the exception of today, also) has been a vital addition for this bullpen that could not stay consistent, was a bad idea. He said the bullpen was already okay. He said that Wagner's acquisition was "kind of like the Gagne thing." Turns out, the Gagne of this team when push came to shove today was Papelbon himself.

Memo to Francona: Pinch-hitting a guy who hits .143 is never, ever a good idea. I don't care if you're putting in Mark McGwire in his last year in baseball. It's not. Especially if it's Jed Lowrie.

Jason Varitek looked especially smug, probably about to blame the loss on the fact that he wasn't behind the plate calling the game. Perhaps the best thing about the conclusion of this season is that he might stop playing baseball.

Papelbon used to be the closer. Then he decided to become Cinco Ocho. Then he decided to be a labor crusader, a general manager, and Skip Bayless, second-guessing the real GM's decisions.

Turns out the idiot should stick to pitching and shut the hell up.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

No More Tears

Two days from now, there will be no more tears. The 2009 Red Sox team, categorized by a lot of whining, crying, and unnecessary letters on the front of players' jerseys, will very possibly be history and it's time to turn the page. In the first two games, it looks like Francona has given up the Bigelow Green Tea and has instead decided to drink whatever Pete Carroll drinks before he inspires his team to not show up in the first half of football games. Somebody might want to tell him that they're not trying to set up the playoff rotation anymore and it's time to do things they haven't done for three weeks now: win baseball games.

Meanwhile, Mike Scioscia (and probably Torii Hunter, I will finally give that guy some credit) has gotten his team ready to play baseball games. They've shown up with this F-you attitude while the Red Sox are taking the Derek Jeter approach of "don't worry, we always beat these guys." That might work if you're the best baseball team far and away, like the Yankees were when Jeter said that. It doesn't work when you have an inconsistent lineup that doesn't hit on the road, starters with questionable health, and a bullpen that you really can't trust that much. The Red Sox can't do what USC does, shlep through the majority of the playoffs, and bear down when it matters. They're not good enough, and Anaheim's not bad enough to let that happen. Anaheim is pissed about the Red Sox being favored in this series. Anaheim's pissed that they have lost about a hundred series in a row to the Red Sox. Torii Hunter's not spiking helmets and guys aren't high-fiving each other as hard as they can because they're having fun playing baseball. They're on a mission. And the Red Sox, even when playing well, have not looked that way for a long time.

If they do get jacked up about things, it's because they're the victim of something. Lester, Beckett, and Youkilis were the victims of bad calls. Papelbon's the victim of a front office who doesn't agree with his infallibility. Drew's the victim of sore glove hand and a slave driver in Francona who makes him play through sore groins. Francona says that David Ortiz has been a victim of media criticism (maybe he should have been more careful with his use of vitamins and supplements) and that he deserves an apology. Well, it's good to know that Francona's priorities are in the right place, congratulating his guys for a job well-done instead of F-ing people up in the postseason. The complacency is sickening. And part of me is a little relieved that at some point next week, there will be no more tears for a few months. The Yankees are inspired. Look at A-Rod. Look at Teixeira. Look at that whole team. The Angels are inspired. The Red Sox are uninspired. Too much Bigelow Green Tea.

Other fun stuff:

JD Drew walked tonight, which probably matters more than the Angels' four runs because it helped his OPS. Alex Gonzalez walked to the plate and was humiliated by Jered Weaver to end the inning. If there were runners on second and third, the same thing would have happened, as Theo Epstein and Drew believe RBIs don't matter. October 2, 2011--if we're lucky.

Weaver, by the way, was the best I've ever seen him tonight. Excellent command, mixed pitches great, threw almost exclusively off-speed stuff to Drew who swung and missed at several balls in the dirt tonight. The ball may have been hit sharply off of Weaver twice all night. Great work.

Meanwhile, Beckett, while he was okay and effective, didn't have the Blister Curveball tonight. The other stuff was there. But he was discovered by the time the seventh came around.

Would Lowell's diving catch have been spectacular at all two years ago?

You'd think that with such a deep bullpen, with about eighty closers in the bullpen, the Red Sox would lift Beckett once he started to crack in the seventh. Like Lester last night, there were a lot of high-intensity, high-stake pitches thrown. But I think Francona's actions tonight, sticking with Beckett for as long as he did, is an indication of his confidence that Daniel Bard, Billy Wagner, and Jonathan Papelbon can hold a tie. Red Sox fans: Can you blame him? For a lot of things, yes. But not for not trusting those three.

Wagner, that being said, is fun to watch. He just throws the ball as hard as he can every time out. He still seems pretty inspired. Maybe everyone on this team needs Tommy John surgery so they can have something to prove again. And the manager is celebrating accomplishments and asking for apologies.

Good.

By the way, how the F does Joe Nathan have the capacity to be a closer? Did some Yankee fans threaten his life to get him startled for this appearance? He was a train wreck out there tonight. F.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Let's Go Twins

While I'm sure I'm not the only one rooting for Minnesota this weekend, I'm actually giving a shoutout to my two teammates, the Wheeler twins, who will be representing our upstart adidas New England team at the ING Hartford Half-Marathon. They're featured under the New England's Finest program after tremendous college careers and perhaps even a more impressive year and a half after graduating from the University of Southern Maine. Nick and Curt, both of whom are occasional readers of How Youz Doin, will both be in contention for top-five spots in Hartford. After they led our team to top-two finishes in Grand Prix races in back-to-back weeks, I seriously considered getting an old-school Minnesota "TC" hat to wear to races. Because the way they've been running, every town hosting them in a race becomes a Twin City.

Hartford's next on Saturday morning. Let's go Twins.

And let's go Minnesota, too.

Pitchtoable

When not talking about Tony Romo and/or the Bruins on the two Boston sports radio stations on the first day of the baseball playoffs, there has been a lot of conversation about how you can "pitch to" the Angels' lineup. It's possible to shut this offense down as long as you execute. To a certain extent, you can say that about every team, even the Yankees. But if you really think about it--and it's hard not to after last night's game--the easiest team to pitch to this postseason may be none other than your Boston Red Sox. And that's what John Lackey did last night. Four singles and a walk all night. And this was accomplished by attacking the strike zone. Really the key to getting the Red Sox out is to not walk guys. The Baltimore Orioles can't do that. John Lackey can. Don't walk guys and beat the Red Sox. Every time.

Other issues of varying relevance from last night's game:

-Lester was okay last night. He walked guys and those walks hurt him big time. Yes, all he had to do is throw that one bad pitch to Torii Hunter, even with the bases empty, to lose this game because the offense was worthless, but walking guys is not a good way to win games. Good teams--yes, even the Red Sox, as evidenced in the previous paragraph--capitalize on walks. While I'm on the topic of Lester, gotta give him some ups for, you know, caring. He was fuming after a blown strike three call, screaming obscenities when he got the subsequent out, and the first one in C.B. Bucknor's face when he f'ed up the first call he f'ed up.

-Bucknor made two errors at first base. Good job. A great umpiring squad for Red Sox playoff history would be Tschida, Rick Reed, Bucknor, and (for the old timers) Larry Barnett.

-Ramon Ramirez: He's probably my favorite Red Sox player this year, and the fact that he drilled Hunter is one of the main reason's he remains that way. This is not the first time he's just come in and intentionally drilled people--I think he did it in a Yankees series in August. But it was absolutely intentional after that punk Hunter flipped his bat, chattered all the way around the bases, and did celebrations in the dugout that would get most people a 15-yard penalty and a fine from Roger Goodell.

-That said, it's probably not a good time for it. Combined with a walk and a hit, he was not ready to do anything except for drill Hunter last night. He's had four days to prepare for this outing. What has he been thinking about for four days?

-I don't know why Hunter is popular in his own clubhouse after throwing his teammates under the bus the last time they played the Red Sox.

-While on the topic of the late innings, it looked like in the seventh nobody knew where the ball was going, and who was throwing where. Buck Martinez said Takashi Saito had to have a lot of faith in his catcher to bounce a ball in the dirt with men on base. I don't know if that's true--he just doesn't have any freaking idea where the ball's going when it comes out his hand. The double play was bizarre. But we'll give some ups to Nancy Drew for throwing a guy out at the plate.

-Mike Lowell not being able to move was particularly harmful last night, with every at-bat magnified according to Glenn Ordway. I wish there was a way to DH him without taking Santa Claus out of the lineup.

-Lackey kind of looked like Manboobs Mickelson last night.

-How did everyone else feel about Scott Boras being in the crowd? I was pretty uncomfortable. As many of you know, my girlfriend the Franchise is still at Colby, and most of the people she hangs out with now, I don't know too well. So when I show up to visit, I go to parties with her and there are these dudes who know her but I don't know them. They're just kinda lookin over and I feel paranoid that they're trying to put the moves on her when I'm not around. While it's likely that she's just cranking the Heizman on those hoes, it's just uncomfortable to have those eyes following her.

At the game last night, I had 20 girlfriends on the Red Sox' roster, no homo. That would be everyone minus Byrd, Santa Claus, Captain K, Nancy, and 46. I don't want Boras to be looking at them as if he's going after them. It was not unlike the Colby situation.

Also notable to say that he was not watching JD Drew's at-bats. No wonder he can put together such a flattering free agent portfolio for Drew--he doesn't watch him play.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Varitek: I have more sense than that

Varitek, October 2009: "It's not the time of year to be selfish."

Shaughnessy, October 2008: "Do not underestimate the residue of hard feelings in the wake of Francona hitting for Jason Varitek a second time in these playoffs. Tito lifted Varitek for J.D. Drew against Dan Wheeler in the ninth inning of Game 2. It's refreshingly bold given Tito's reputation at a 'player's manager' and it makes good sense, but be assured the captain sees this as an act of abject betrayal.

Rick James: What, would I just jump up and grind my feet up on somebody's couch 'cause it's something to do? Come on, I have a little more sense than that.

Rick James: Yeah I remember grinding my feet up on Eddie's couch.

$3 million player option for 2010. Not even Boras will overplay this hand. Can't wait for another year of this guy.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

1-0

1-0. That's what matters from tonight. A few other things.

I was at the stadium tonight (with Ross Kaplan and The Big Ticket), and it was the first game I have been to at the new stadium that felt like a Yankee game. Lot of two strike energy for CC right from the start, lot of willing rallies on, and very loud when good things were on the verge of happening, happening, and after they happened. Really awesome. The Yankee Stadium homefield advantage was back for at least one night. Hopefully it continues.

Really good job by Sabathia. Threw a lot of pitches in the first and third, but that is going to happen in the playoffs. Also a few more two out hits than you'd like to see, but again that's going to happen in the postseason. As both of these things are nitpicking, I'm not pointing them out to critique CC. Quite the opposite. Perhaps the most impressive part of his outing was how he overcame these things that are going to happen when offenses are grinding in October to turn in a terrific outing. CC was just fantastic tonight, and it was a lot of fun to watch him put on a performance like that, in that environment, live.

Alex Rodriguez getting going early. Outstanding. What you hope continues to be one of the Yankees' biggest strengths is the depth of their offense. You don't have to rely on any one player or group of players every night, and you can hopefully withstand off nights from key guys. Tonight was a perfect example. Jeter, Rodriguez, Swisher, and Matsui did the heavy lifting, Posada, Melky, Damon were contributors, and Teixeira and Cano didn't do much (I say much instead of anything because Cano did a great job scoring on that Swisher double. Otherwise they did nothing offensively.). Then it could be a totally different mix the next night. You obviously want your key guys to do it consistently, but the Yankees are lucky in that they have a lot of key guys. You just have to hope they stay loose up and down the lineup like they seemed tonight.

Derek Jeter. Yikes. There were a couple of moments in this game. CC putting up a zero after the Yankees re-tied the game at 2-2. Swisher's 2-out double to take the lead. Rodriguez's 2-out single to expand the lead, and just get himself on the board. Hughes striking out Cabrera to end the 7th and keeping the lead at 7-2 with two runners in scoring position. But none were bigger than Jeter's two run homer in the bottom of the third, down 2-0. After the Twins scored twice in the top of that inning, there was the only lull in the crowd all night. Almost a mini "here we go again" feel. It was pretty quiet. But Jeter put an end to that. He's one of those rare athletes that just does it again, and again, and again. Bigtime.

It's always nice to be up 1-0. It's even nicer when you have an off day tomorrow. What's even nicer than that is getting to 2-0, and that's what the Yankees have to be focused on now. They won Game 1 in both the 2005 and 2006 ALDS and went on to lose the series. Winning Game 2 would be a great start to guarding against that. Further, allowing Minnesota a split and to get back to the Metrodome, which can be a circus, feeling good and on the offensive would not be optimal. You have to keep coming after them. That starts Friday night. Go Yankees.