Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Three Series, Three Rubber Games

Winning series is pretty much the key to having a successful regular season. Sure you can go on really hot/cold stretches that might skew your win total relative to series won or lost, but for the most part you are pretty well defined by how many series you do or do not win. A big part of winning series is just playing well. Another big part of it is winning rubber games. Tomorrow the Yankees will be faced with their third such scenario in as many series to open the season.

In baseball, I'm a believer in "it's early", but only to a certain extent. That extent is more big picture. A team off to a hot start can fall off a cliff. A team struggling early can have a great season. Just because those two things are truths, however, doesn't mean the early games don't matter. That's where people lose me on the early stuff. You should want to win tomorrow as much as you'd want to win a rubber game in August. It's not early for winning baseball games, especially when you are looking to set the tone as a team that is going to win rubber games.

It would be nice to see Phil Hughes pitch well. First, to get his legs under him and take pressure off of himself early. Second, so we don't have to revisit the Joba/Hughes debate for the next six months. There's plenty of time for that in the offseason, so we don't need it now.

Taking three straight rubber games against these three teams to start the season would be about as good as could have been expected.

Some DV style points:

- The reception Matsui got yesterday was one of the great sporting moments I've witnessed live. The Yankees nailed that one announcing him last. Before Michael Kay could get, "Now, we have one last ring to present" out of his mouth, the place was going bananas. It was twice as loud as the cheers for anyone else, even the other big ones like Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte, Posada, and Rodriguez (which were the next five biggest). I watched it later last night on TV to see what it was like, and it did everything justice but the Matsui presentation. You couldn't tell how much louder the chorus was for him. His teammates surrounding him and hugs all around was hollywood. I'm really going to miss this dude. Good job by the Yankees getting this one right.

- Spinning off of yesterday's comments section, I don't want to get left out of naming my least favorite Red Sox I've seen play. In reverse order:

5. Trot Nixon/Kevin Millar - I get to list them together because they are basically the same player to me. Not very good at baseball, crushed the Yankees. Had facial hair and likely requested to not have uniforms washed, both of which means Red Sox fans liked them way more than they should have. These players seemed to feed off that and conduct themselves in an even more grunt and fart kind of manner as a result. Also had what in my opinion were two of the biggest plays in the 2004 ALCS. Roberts ain't stealing, and Papi ain't a hero, if Millar doesn't walk in Game 4. Papi ain't a hero again if Trot Nixon doesn't make a catch in Game 5 he had little business making, somehow picking a Matsui liner off of his shoelaces after the Yankees had reloaded the bases after Jeter had already cleared them in the same inning to put the Yankees up 4-2. 7-2 and it's probably goodnight. For these two plays alone these guys would make this list.

4. Jason Varitek - No punching people when you have a mask on. It makes me giddy that we have this on a player who likely prides himself on playing hard-nosed baseball. No C's on the uniform unless it's hockey. Especially when you've had about four good seasons

3. Pedro Martinez - One of the best pitchers I've ever had the pleasure of watching, but would be battling for #1 had he not A.) played places after Boston, B.) given us the Whose Your Daddy chant, C.) allowed Posada (of all people) to double in the tying runs in the 8th inning of Game 7 of the 2004 and D.) taken two big fat L's in the 2009 World Series, including the clincher at Yankee Stadium (just too sweet). Mostly just A., but I wanted to get the other three out. I don't dislike Pedro that much until I start thinking about him in a Boston uniform again. While he may not take the top spot, there has never been an athlete I disliked at the height of my dislike the way I did him. There were at least 10 occasions where I was not just screaming at the TV, but pointing my finger at the screen hoping there was a way I could jump through it.

2. Jonathan Papelbon - I don't even want to give him the credit of such a high ranking, but I have to. Even putting all the obnoxiousness aside, seems to have a disconnect from reality regarding his own abilities, and while there is nothing wrong with confidence that's annoying. Also the kind of guy that acts really tough on the field, but you can just see that when push comes to shove he's softer than you know what, and we saw that in Game 3 of the ALDS last year. Might be higher on the list, but I have to give him credit for consistently making a face so scary and intimidating when he pitches that I find myself scared and intimidated watching on TV. Very impressive.

1. Curt Schilling - Tremendous player. Better person. Too much of a drama queen/into the personal spotlight for me. A few weeks after talking about only wanting to go to Philly or New York he was acting like Boston was the only place he'd ever dreamed of playing. I totally understand why he would do this after he was traded to that team instead of another one (I think anyone would), but still annoying. Also was at the forefront of the two toughest sports losses I've ever absorbed ('01/'04 - in that order).

Josh Beckett would make this list if he was a better player. Kevin Youkilis would make this list if he wasn't such a good player.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

PF

Your choices of Nixon/Millar/Varitek as some of your least favorite players hits on what bothers me most about certain opposing players: there is nothing worse than an average/below average player making big plays against the team you root for (although in all fairness, you have to check out Nixon's 2001-2004--his OPS+ numbers were 128, 110, 149, 123--better than I'd have thought, that's for sure).

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

Gunn,

How do you feel about Frank Catalanotto and Mike Blowers? Although killing the Red Sox and sucking against everyone else is a good way to get paid $36 million to play shortstop for the Red Sox. Nice move, Theo.

Pat,

No Mike Myers on this list? On a serious note, it's good to see Matsui get some appreciation. As I wrote a few times this offseason, he seems like the forgotton piece, often overlooked and underappreciated with the gaggle of bigger or at least more ostentatious stars on that team. Good to hear he got his due.

PF said...

that comment about nixon in particular was really just a dig because i don't like him. i always thought he was a pretty darn good player, and that's because he was. i was in the camp after 2006 that the sox should have brought nixon back on a one year deal until a better RF option presented itself than jd drew. even still, whatever his talent level was, it seemed like he played 10x better against the yankees.

from yesterday's comments, i want to point out that my 180 with rodriguez is not only about the winning. you can go back and see that he was turning me during the 2009 season, and that's because of the changes he was making in his approach to this game. it wasn't contrived or about him, it was about letting his talent take over, the team, and winning. it worked. i think you are right, gunn, in a lot of the things you pointed out. but to be fair he changed a lot of those things and that's a big part of why i find him so likable now.

it's rare that i disagree with you, gunn, but i did in regards to the PED analysis. not on why rodriguez used - i'm sure it had a lot to do with him wanting personal fame - but on that making him different from most anybody else. i think most of these guys had nothing but themselves in mind, and singling rodriguez out because he might have had himself in mind more than others on a non-PED basis is unfair. as it relates to PED's, whether you're a nice guy like ortiz or generally considered a character like manny doesn't matter, because in this situation they were all like rodriguez was pre-2009 in general. they all wanted more and they wanted it for themselves.

Anonymous said...

PF

I don't think we disagree about PED's, I just don't think I was clear about the message I was trying to convey.

Anytime a player uses PED's it's for his own benefit, financially and otherwise. No question. People don't 'accidentally' use them and being dimwitted is no excuse.

What I was trying to say is that of anyone who used steroids, ARod using them just seemed like something he would: his entire personality was artificial, so it only made sense that he would use an artificial substance to produce artificially inflated numbers.

I did not mean to say that ARod's usage was more selfish than anyone else's--it wasn't. It was just so much more microcosmic in his case than for most other players.

DV

I have mentioned Frank Catalanotto on this space on more than one occasion--he might be the all-time "journeyman who crushes the Red Sox." As for Mike Blowers, the only memory I have of him was back in 1995 when Wakefield was in the midst of his tremendous winning streak (14 straight decisions? Right?)--I decided to stay up late and watch Wakefield start in Seattle. By about the fourth inning Blowers had hit a three run homer and a grand slam. That about put that winning streak to an end.

--the Gunn

PF said...

gunn - totally understand now. thanks for clarifying.

gunn/dv - talking about the list of players that aren't that good but crush your team is always fun. completely agree that this is one of the most annoying/frustrating types of opposing players. there are much bigger samples with other players for both of our clubs, but as an example yankee pitching pretty much had their way with the minnesota lineup last ALDS. nick punto hit .444 with a 1.139 OPS. he also tossed in 3 walks for an obp of .583. they could not get him out. i know anyone can get hot for short stretches, but my goodness, if you're getting the rest of the lineup out why not just get him out too? and it's not like he's a career yankee killer. in fact they own him: he's a career .159 hitter with a .429 ops in 104 plate appearances against the yankees. that kind of guy lighting you up in a short series is annoying, but also what makes baseball so great.