Friday, October 7, 2011

Quick End To A Long Season

I'm going to keep this short, because I really don't have much interest in recapping a tough elimination game loss. And frankly that won't be too difficult. You play in enough of these things - and I've been fortunate enough to see quite a few - and you come to realize that sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose even though you don't play that badly. Yes, I'm a believer to a certain extent of the crapshoot nature of short playoff series. Baseball isn't the type of sport where the better team wins 80% of the time like football or basketball. But I'm not even totally talking about that here. Sometimes it's just a close series and it doesn't come out your way. That's what happened here.

Don't get me wrong. The Yankees had guys who didn't play well, and Girardi didn't manage a series that other managers will study and try to emulate for years to come. But the Yankees also had guys who played absolutely out of their minds, and Girardi managed certain elements of the series spectacularly. He also did certain things during the season (like constantly backing A.J. Burnett when there was little reason to) that came back to really help the Yankees in this series (like Burnett having some semblance of confidence left to pitch well in a big game, when other managers might have lost him mentally months ago. Girardi found a way to keep him in this season.). They just got bested by another really good team in a really close series. It happens.

It doesn't make losing fun, but at least it wasn't a frustrating performance. The Yankees played hard and played largely well. The thing that really gets me after an ALDS exit is more the investment in the long season followed by such an abrupt end. You watch for 6 months, pay close attention for 8 including Spring Training. You analyze every point. You spend 6-8 weeks talking about playing seeding and the last month looking at playoff strategy. And then it's over in a week. No other sport has anything close to this. The NFL is a shorter season, and the playoffs can be as much as 25% of a regular season. The NBA is longer than football, but much shorter than baseball. It also has a best of 7 first round, and with 9 off days in between each game, even if you lose that first round series you feel like you were around for a little while. If you make a deep run you can play, in terms of total days, for as much as 30-40% of what the regular season is. Baseball you play for 6 months, 162 games, and you can be done in a few days and a few games. It's a very bizarre feeling, like it just vanishes.

One last thing about the series itself. There will be a lot of analysis all over the place about the Yankees offense, and who, what, and where they came up short. And it won't be off base. But I'm going to stick up for the offense because what will get overlooked is the pitching. The Yankees scored 28 runs in 5 games. The two games they won in this series, their offense scored 9 and 10 runs. They got 4 off of Justin Verlander. Meanwhile the Tigers won the series never scoring more than 5 runs in a game and only scored 17 runs all series. Which means they basically won 3 pitching games. The Yankees won zero pitching games. Their offense got them two wins, free and clear. And granted, it's a bit of tough luck because those also happened to be 2 of the games where they got the best pitching (in addition to tonight). But Yankees pitching couldn't best Tigers pitching in any of those other three games, and all they needed was to win one of them. So while you are going to hear this guy hit .200 and that guy struck out in the big spot, the pitching just wasn't tough enough in this series. It's not that the offense is blameless; they certainly could have done more, and could have completely carried the team in this series as opposed to just performing very well. It's just that it's tough to blame them for everything when they win two games for you with 9 and 10 runs.

Finally, I want to end talking about Jorge Posada. If this is indeed his last game in pinstripes - something I don't see as much as a guarantee as I did 3 months ago - the way he played this game and this series epitomized his tremendous career. He hit .429 and got on-base more than half the time in this series. This after a rocky season in which he had to make a late charge with his performance to even be given the chance to contribute in the playoffs. But he just kept grinding away. All season. All series. When a proud player like him gets embarrassed publicly as his skills decline, it's easy to shut down. Especially in this day of pampered stars and entitlement. But Posada is a throwback, an old school competitor. He was angry about it (as anybody who really cares would be - that part of it seemed to be very misconstrued), and after getting past that turned anger into motivation. And then he worked his way back into the lineup not by whining about it or talking about it, but by letting his play do the talking.

The way he spoke in his postgame, it was so incredibly palpable how much he cares about this team and this organization. Which is really refreshing. Posada developed the saying for those late 90's teams "We grind it". No phrase could be more fitting for him as a player. A tough, no excuses, doesn't care how it looks just that it gets done, competitor, wants to win above all else and can't stand to lose. That was all on display in this series, and again, that it came after a long season for him personally is just further tribute to the kind of person and player he is. If he's played his last game for the Yankees, it's been an absolute pleasure to watch him play for and lead this team. With the 7th highest OPS in Major League history for catchers (no pun intended here), and more homers and RBI's than anybody at his position for more than 10 years, I certainly hope he ends up in the Hall of Fame. He deserves to be there.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

PF/DV

What a disappointing end to the last year of HYD Baseball. Before the start of the season it wasn't unrealistic to expect Boston and New York in the ALCS (and as recently as late August it appeared to be all but done). Instead we have the Sox having arguably the worst September in baseball history and the Yankees losing to a clearly inferior team at home.

We can rehash all of the terrible things that are true of the Red Sox and lament the short comings of a quality Yankees team, but at the end it's just deflating. I had hoped for more from both teams. Maybe a great ALCS, maybe and exciting World Series appearance. Instead, we have a winter coming up that has more questions than answers (especially for the Red Sox).

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

PF,

Agreed - that was a really fast ending for the Yankees. Can't say that I watched as many innings as you did of the ALDS, but I'm also in the camp that the Yankees didn't play all that badly in the series. I paid particular attention to the Burnett game, and he delivered.

You can't say the offense was bad. But a Yankees team is usually expected to be able to win 7-6 thrillers instead of losing 4-3 thrillers. They had not really ever steamrolled over anyone this year, and that continued. The Yankee teams we're used to do not score 9 or 10, they score 12 or 13. These teams were evenly matched, and yeah, sometimes you lose 3 out of 5. Just a rough time to do it.

And, sorry, if you are truly an elite team, you need more out of the starters than the Yankees got.

As far as Posada goes, let's just say that if he were in the other dugout and got benched in a Yankees-Red Sox Sunday Night game, he would have pouted the rest of the season. Actually, maybe he could have had the proper rest he deserved and left early so he wouldn't have to arrive at the next destination at 4AM.

But seriously, after that, Posada turned it around. Like 46 may have this past year, he turned the negative into a positive. The majority of the season is a testament to his character, as is the playoff performance. He didn't earn the $52 million he was paid in this controversial contract, but he was rarely a liability.

As far as the Hall of Fame is concerned, I agree with Pat: He's probably in. And not just because the 7th-highest OPS of all Major League catchers in history is slightly more accomplished than the second-highest OPS of all AL outfielders.

Gunn, echo your sentiment on an underwhelming end to the blog's run on the Internet. I promise that we still both have some stuff to say, and I think we'll focus on that more than we'll focus on what's happening on the field. Beside my upcoming post ripping the ownership group in similar epic style to yesterday's Post 1603, I have no less than four senior theses to post up here just to get the last word in. I'm sure Pat does, too.

We'll also at least try to find some of the "best of" before we sign off for good.

the gm at work said...

Another brief note about the "disappointing end to the last year," and I say this with the fear that I'm going to sound like John Henry, but the day after the Red Sox were eliminated from the playoffs, we had about 70% more traffic than we do on an average day. Since I started keeping score in May 2010, it was our highest volume day ever by about 10%.

Yeah, I sound like John Henry, but I thought it was a fun fact.

Ross Kaplan said...

I'm going to have to disagree with you Pat, I put the onus on the offense for losing this series.

With the rotation the way it was constructed we all knew that if Detroit scored 5 or less runs that was the best we could hope for to put the team in a position to win the game. The pitching staff kept Detroit at 5 or fewer runs in all 3 losses, I put full blame on the offense for not producing more runs.