Monday, April 5, 2010

Opening Day Circus

When you combine pitchers in their first game of the season with a nutty hitters park like Fenway you're bound to get a sloppy game. And that is just what the Yankees and Red Sox provided us tonight. You have to go back to April 16, 2008 to find a game played at Yankee Stadium where the Yankees and Red Sox both scored a modest 7 runs or more. Tonight marks the fifth time the two teams have done so in Fenway since that day. The place is just a freak show and certainly no lead is safe. I'm glad the media is finally starting to pick up on this as it happens enough to garner a little attention. It's like watching the same game on loop.

A few thoughts in some semblance of chronological order.

Josh Beckett cannot sign that extension fast enough. The more money and years the better. It's not just that he has a career 5.33 ERA against the Yankees (before tonight). That's actually secondary. The most important thing is that I wouldn't want the Red Sox spending that money on someone better.

Nice to see Granderson homering in his first at-bat as a Yankee and walking against a lefty later in the game. Getting him off to a fast start could be a key for both he and the Yankees. That knock was no doubt power from a center fielder.

I don't abide by conventional notions with pitchers. Just because Sabathia was cruising and just because he's way shy of 100 pitches doesn't mean I'm going to stick with him if he's not cruising anymore. Anyone watching saw that he started to lose it a little bit in the 5th. When he walks Pedroia to lead off the 6th - which is about as un-Sabathia-like as it gets - I'm certainly getting ready to pull him. When Martinez ropes a double, I'm definitely not letting him pitch to Youkilis. In July, that's different. But in the first game of the season no way. But that remains one of Girardi's biggest weaknesses as a manager, when to pull his starters, so why not get right to it in the first game of the season (literally as I'm typing this, Girardi just said in the post game that they figure they had CC for 105 to 110 pitches, so that's where they were going to let him go tonight. This makes sense. Never mind how a guy is pitching. Figure out how many pitches you have him for, and let him go to that).

Not sure what David Robertson did wrong, but he must have done something at some point. Guy pitches his tail off all of 2009, playing his best baseball when it mattered most in the playoffs, and Chan Ho Park shows up and is the 7th inning guy? I know it's just the first game of the year, and the bullpen under Girardi will be fluid, but if anything that's more of a reason why Robertson would be pitching and Park wouldn't, because Robertson has done it. He was already in the game, just let him pitch.

Really sloppy defense on both sides, from Gardner throwing the ball 30 feet off line, to Swisher taking a terrible route to Youkilis' triple, to Posada not being able to catch the baseball, to the Yankees getting the Red Sox on one of the oldest tricks in the book. As I said in the beginning a lot of this is to be expected. You probably just don't expect all of it in one game.

The Red Sox are tough to beat at home because of their fans. When you have a group that has the discipline to take time away from the game in the 8th inning when the score is 8-7 to do the wave, you know you have something special. Best fans in the game.

We'll have to wait and see what happens, but I would say it is very possible the Yankees have taken an unhittable reliever, toyed around with him for two years to get him to the point where he could show if he is a starter or not, then denied him that opportunity, all in all turning him into a good reliever, which is different than unhittable. An analogy I saw the other day that I'm going to take a step further. It's like taking a world-class 100 yard sprinter, making him a marathon runner because that's tougher to find, getting him to the point where he can run 25 miles, then shutting it all down just before 26.2 to be a 100 yard sprinter again, which he can't do like he used to. Awesome.

This might be the only day of the season where blowing a 5-1 lead is not completely inexcusable. At times it didn't even feel like the regular season. Still stings, just not break things sting. One thing the Yankees are going to have to figure out is how to finish the game after the pound Beckett early. It seems like they are always lighting him up and then leading the Red Sox back into the game. That's for later I guess. The issue now is the one thing anyone who has been reading hear for a while knows I say to avoid every time the Yankees go to Fenway, and that's a sweep. Anytime you can go to Boston, especially early in the season, and take 1 of 3 it's usually going to be just fine. At home, no, and late in the season, no, but at this stage you just want to avoid giving the Red Sox an unnecessary early head start. Unfortunately, this was by far and away the Yankees best pitching match-up, as Sabathia is a lot better than Beckett. Now you're staring at a very clear Red Sox edge in Burnett/Lester and a toss-up all equal in Pettitte/Lackey that swings Lackey's way since it's at Fenway. The Yankees will have to hope for more offensive circuses. Thankfully at Fenway the likelihood of that happening is always high.

13 comments:

Ross Kaplan said...

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that was a pretty poorly played game all around. But as both Pat and DV referenced to, this was the first game of an arduous 162-game season and all of the kinks left over from spring training still need to be worked out.

Speaking of arduous, does anyone think that we will ever see another Yankees-Red Sox game that finishes in less then 3 and a half hours. Seeing as it's a holy time for the two major religious groups I'll refrain from taking the Lord's name in vain, but Holy Buddha these games are slow! Even having gone 5 months without seeing a meaningful baseball game being played against a heated rival I found myself having to change the channel after a while.

from the bronx said...

i think we can now safely say that all of the problems with joba are unrelated to him being a starter or a reliever. PITCHf/x had his average fast ball last night at 92.5mph. when he was starting in 2008, we was throwing 98 into the 8th inning. something is either wrong with his shoulder or he has just stopped working out or both. i am now starting to think he's going to be known as one of the all-time "can't miss" guys that flamed out and missed. very sad.

Anonymous said...

It's nice to see that Pat is already launching a Fenway smear campaign to take the heat off the Yankee Stadium launching pad issue. I personally don't mind. Fenway is a minor league ball park. We should bulldoze fenway and build a real stadium.

Still, definitely a chaotic game last night that was fun to watch. What's inexcusable is for the yankees is to go up 5-1, then squander the lead, then go back up 7-5 (that should have been the end there- you took the rally and then delivered what should have been the knockout blow) and then lose the game.

Beckett is not a very good pitcher. CC Sabathia is a candidate to join Jamarcus Russell on a celebrity edition of the biggest loser.

bandi

Anonymous said...

PF/DV

I know it's only one game. And for Josh Beckett it's only one start. But at this point you have to think that 2007 was an aberration. Last night Beckett looked like he did so many times during his career--shaky, tired, leaving pitches up, no snap on his curveball. He may end up being a terrific third starter in Boston (nothing wrong with that, by the way) but thinking of him as a stopper or a guy who can shut down big time line-ups is outdated.

But, great to see Boston score nine runs last night. Especially seeing new guys Cameron, Scutaro and Beltre all contribute on offense.

Lastly, and this goes directly to what Bandi mentioned, but I could not believe how big CC Sabathia looked last night. I mean, he's not a small guy by any means, but he looked markedly heavier than last year. To the point where, if someone told me he weighed 350 pounds, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised.

--the Gunn

Anonymous said...

Gunn,

There is no way CC is under 330.

bandi

TimC said...

Hey, when a team plays its home games in a big tent, the more clowns with solid gloves, the better! Here is an excerpt from a WSJ article I was sent this morning:

"When Boston let go of outfielder Jason Bay and filled his spot with Mike Cameron for this season, the team not only saved five runs, it also saved almost $9 million in average annual salary."

So this "savings" includes the loss of runs that the Bay-Cameron switch creates in the lineup, right? It is incredible that the WSJ can use the word "savings" with less responsibility than Matsuzaka's interpreter. That said, I wonder if superior UZR ratings contributed to Japan's dominance of the WBC?

PF, you know I love analogies, so I have to applaud the marathon/sprinter one. Not sure where you got it but it is a real winner that I am sure can be applied to other areas of life.

Kaplan, were you more impressed with Neil Diamond or Chan Ho Park last night?

I also agree with most of you that Beckett just does not cut it as a staff ace and I am starting to use a Red Sox fan's opinion of Beckett to determine just how pink their hat is.

the gm at work said...

Tank, seventeen more games.

Bronx, good insight. While I do understand Pat's analogy, the fact that you have numbers about the guy STARTING and throwing heat in the eighth is telling. Organizational misuse there. He can always be a taxicab driver in Nebraska though.

Bandi, Pat's backlash against people whining about NYS is similar to my backlash against people hating on C. Crisp. We get it. I agree that Fenway should be leveled though. I'm too tall for those seats, and you're nine inches taller than me.

Gunn and Tim,

Scutaro's performance will be very interesting this year. And Beckett is a third starter with occasional brilliance. $18 million for him is a hell of a price.

jason said...

im surprised gunn didnt mention gardners good start at all

Anonymous said...

Jason

I think you're getting me and the Bronx mixed up. Though it should be noted that Brett Gardner will probably end up in the Melky Cabrera/Miguel Cairo/Luis Sojo/Karim Garcia mold of 'guys who aren't good at baseball but friggin' kill the Red Sox."

--the Gunn

PF said...

ross -

as much as i love baseball, that kind of slow game on opening day is too much. in august yankees/red sox games are a blur even when they are 5 hours long, because there is so much tension. on opening day it just seems drawn out, even when there is as much action as there was last night.

ftb -

right. there is no doubt he has lost quite a bit of stuff no matter what capacity he pitches in. the question is not whether his stuff is better as a starter or reliever, but rather did all the shuttling back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen (he's been from starter (07), to reliever (07), to starter (08), to reliever (08), to starter (08), to reliever (08), to starter (09), to reliever (09), to starter (10, to reliever (10)) cause this decline in stuff? that's a lot of change in roles that have two totally different physical requirements, and i can't imagine it's a good thing. maybe it had nothing to do with it, and it's all about the shoulder injury or physical condition, but i can certainly see a scenario where it would. or even if it didn't directly cause the decline in stuff, did it cause injury or something else that lead to the decline in stuff?

bandi -

facts are facts. i could care less about the new yankee stadium. what i care about is playing wiffle ball 9 times per year at fenway. total circus.

totally agree on your second point. blowing a 5-1 lead with CC on the mounds is not something that should be happening, but on opening day i can see it. what really should never happen no matter when is absorbing the other team's best shot, then giving them a shot right back, and still losing the game. when you absorb that shot and knock them right back the game should be over. not sure why chan ho park gets the 7th inning right off the bat.

gunn -

i personally am way beyond the point of thinking 2007 was an aberration. there is little to suggest it wasn't, and barely ever was. that's why i'm so hopeful the red sox sign him up for a bigtime extension.

the fact that david robertson threw adrian beltre - a straight fastball hitter who struggles with breaking balls - a first pitch fastball when robertson has the curveball he has, as a reliever just into the game with the tying run on third, makes me wonder how prepared the yankees were to play last night mentally. and that wasn't exactly the only sign that may be the case.

timc-

the entire joba situation is very confusing to me. glad you liked the analogy, but as i mentioned i can't take credit for it. i just took it a step further.

Ross Kaplan said...

I really hope we're all wrong about Joba, but only time will tell. There's a very strong possibility Joba was one of those guys who suddenly came on the scene without much hype and left just as quickly because of perhaps unreasonably high expectations of someone who had 4 very good months from June to October of 2007 and has been pretty mediocre ever since that weird night in Cleveland. But once again I need to keep telling myself, Joba is only slightly older then me and we're 1/162 into the season so why don't we just wait and see what happens before we rush to judgment.

from the bronx said...

pat, all of the stuff the yankees did with joba could have taken a toll, but i think it is more likely it is a combination of two things, one we know about and one we sort of know about but don't talk about that much. the first thing, which we know, is that joba was pitching great deep into games as a starter in 2008 and then got shut down. when he came back in 2009 in spring training, the velocity was way down and he has never been the same pitcher since - in relief or starting games. that happened before the shennanigans of last year when he was making 3 inning "starts" on 8 days rest, or whatever it was he was doing. the injury impact may still be an issue, as he hasn't been right since.

the other issue which we sort of know about is that joba is a mess off the field. some of the comments girardi and cashman have made this spring indicate they are getting fed up with it - drinking and partying, plus the issues with his mom he really can't control - and i think it is reasonable at this point - his 4th year w/ major league service time - to ask how mature this guy is and if he's ever going to grow up and treat his body like he should.

John said...

Hey guys,

Myself and a couple of the other guys on the blog were at the game last night and I have to say, not only will it go down as one of the best games that I have ever been to, that the atmosphere was amazing. Obviously it was semi-dead while the yankees were up 5-1, but as soon as the Sox started to come back the crowd was alive.

Lots of yankee fans there, most noticeably the FDNY employee sitting next to me who proceeded to complain for the first 4 innings about Fenway and then left. I don't mean that as a bash against all Yankee fans(I think we will all agree we have fans who are annoying/stupid/pink hatted), I just was really annoyed by him and needed to get that out. I don't know how that many Yankee fans can get tickets to opening day at Fenway when it is very hard for Sox fans to get them. My only guess, and it is most likely the reason, is that they will pay more on ebay or stubhub or wherever to get the tickets.

The best part of the night was when the Sox announced Mike Lowell who got easily the loudest and longest standing ovation of the entire night. I thought it was a very nice thing of Sox fans to do considering he was all but traded to Texas and he clearly has been a fan favorite and done everything he could for this club, especially when you consider he was a throw in to the Beckett trade.

There is probably a lot more I could talk about, but can't think of any decent points to make at the time. If you have any questions about the game from a standpoint of being there, let me know.