I can't even wrap my head around the things that I would have done had the Yankees not gotten a single hit that game, let alone lost.
"Well, you sound a little happier tonight," says Iowa Jeff on the phone last night, who is growing increasingly concerned that he may never leave NYC alive should the Yankees play a bad game during his visit.
I guess I can see where this trepidation stems from. When there was a perfect game bid going on against the Yanks last night THROUGH 5 INNINGS, I texted him: "You don't even want to know what I'll do if the Yanks suffer through a no-no tonight."
"Wow. Oh man, just turned it on. Does it help that the pitcher's name is Kris?"
It was lucky I was at work during this offensive fasting, since I didn't have any TV to kick, and only a static-y radio to plot homicide against. In the 5 minutes it took me to check on a project 4 floors up, the Yanks tied the game at 1 and had a little "3" in their hits cell of the box score.
I don't know who was more relieved, me or Iowa Jeff:
"Thank God. My survival chances just increased...slightly."
Watching the highlights of the game, I saw the Brett Gardner getting picked off play that every one of my friends watching the game had furiously texted me about.
It was indeed a horrendously bad call, but I can see how the ump missed it. HOWEVER, it's Brett Gardner. He doesn't get picked off. So if I were the ump, I would have given him the benefit of the doubt and assumed a policy of "tie goes to the kid who can run faster than my Miata."
And this play demonstrated that the Yankees are as malleable as Play-Doh, and that if they were in grade school, they'd be the kids who fell for, "Well, you're probably right. You're not cool enough to leave a frog in Miss Simpson's desk anyway. Nevermind."
"I am SO cool enough. Watch, I'll prove it."
All it takes for the Yankees to get a little spark in their eyes and a charge in their bats is for their manager to get thrown out.
"Oh yeah?? WE'LL SHOW THEM, WON'T WE, BOYS?"
After Girardi came out and made an aggressive show of his indignation, in his most earnest Norman Dale impression.
Replays showed Gardner was safe, but it was not an egregiously bad call by Bill Welke.
No matter. Girardi raced out of the dugout and stomped his feet while pointing in various directions for a few minutes.
"Do you want me to throw you out?" Welke finally asked.
Girardi did and the umpire obliged. As their manager hooped, the Yankees took the lead a few minutes later and went on to beat the Atlanta Braves 8-4 before a crowd of 42,315 at Turner Field.
I should perhaps commend Girardi on his Spicoli-like commitment to doing the absolute bare minimum to skate by on his managerial duties. It's not easy, I would imagine, running a team based on a work ethic that dictates doing as little as possible. But this may be the absolute perfect solution. Get thrown out once every few games to light a fire under the team's ass, and wipe your hands of any remaining coaching duties for the remainder of the game.
It's a safe bet that even a wholly intoxicated Shooter Flatch would do a better job running the game.
But a win's a win. And from what I've seen from the Yankees in the past years, they're the type of club that just needs one good game to put them back on their feet. There are 2 types of people in the world: people who treat every misfortune as an isolated incident and not indicative of any bigger picture pattern...and people who see every tribulation, every setback, as "just one more thing."
It's easy to right the ship when adversity isn't perceived as a continuing plague, but when you start marinating in the slump, it's a lot harder to dig yourself out of it. Though the media and fans like to harp on the emotional anarchy that is ARod's psyche, the Yankees as a team often exemplify that same penchant for getting caught up in their hardships. Which is understandable, of course, since the entire spors world is constantly gunning for them and holding them to nothing short of flawless standards.
They're caged in a perennial lose-lose situation: if they try to develop their farm (a la their refusal to trade Melky for Santana a few years ago), they're panned for moronic decision-making. If they go for the big names, they're "buying their team." They have the most expensive line-up in the game, and anything short of perfection is carved up by every cynic and hater in the free world.
A game like last night may not have been the epitome of silencing their backseat drivers, but it was enough to get them off their backs for at least a little, especially since the offensive outburst was spearheaded by little Cervilli, who knocked in his first major league homerun.
ARod finally reunited with his long-last pal, the ribbie, on an 0-2 count no less! With the bases loaded! Not bad for a guy whose career accomplishments are constantly threatened with a reputation of "not being clutch."
It's interesting how you can never really escape what people have branded you. Ex-RB for the Jets Curtin Martin once said, "People define you before you define yourself." New York's been calling Jeter Mr. Clutch for over a decade, so when he comes up to the plate, are we still thinking, "Thank GOD he's the one up right now"? Yes, he's slumping, and he'll surely bounce out of it. He's one of the Yankee's best career batters ever. But is he as clutch as we make him out to be? ARod's been panned for choking in the clutch time and time again, but why?
A-Rod has come to the plate 68 times in the 7th inning or later when the Yankees are within one run of their opponent. In those plate appearances, Rodriguez is hitting .328, has a .412 OBP, and has 6 home runs and 19 RBI. It gets better. In 46 ninth inning at bats, Rodriguez is batting .447 with 8 home runs (one per every 5.8 at bats) and 20 RBI (one per every 2.3 at bats). He also has four game-winning walkoff hits, two of them home runs, one off Jonathan Papelbon.
Carl Bialik also chimes in with some surprising stats:
So how did ARod become the worst clutch hitter and baseball and Jeter the best? I wonder which stigma's worse, actually.
Eh, I digress. In terms of yesterday's game:
Joba was pitching a lot smarter than usual, killing Atlanta by making them chase balls over the plate. Hitters went 0-6 with 4Ks on inside pitches, with 44% of batters chasing pitches outside the zone. That's Joba's wheelhouse, and that's yet another reason he should stay in the pen. He can throw effective strikes and borderline outside corner pitches that will fool some of the batters some of the time.
Why isn't a big deal that Hughes, who's technically a starter, is sent to pen, but when the Joba-as-starter argument is broached, the first thing debaters default to is that he was originally a starter in Nebraska? By that logic, shouldn't our other original starter be just as justified in the rotation?
The highlight of the game and the entire season to date was unquestionably Mariano Rivera's at bat. I loved how the announcers could barely even focus on the batters at the plate, because all they kept doing was considering the chain of events that would result in my favorite all-time Yankee to get the chance to step up to the plate. "The Yankees haven't had much to laugh about, but they're really getting a kick out of Mo having to bat."
Nothing in the 2009 season has brought me as much joy as watching Melky prep Mo for the big at-bat. (A close second was Melky tripping rounding 1st and Cano's hysterical reaction to it, on May 24 against the Phillies.)
Melky's very helpful. "Here's your helmet. You can borrow Aceves'." (Ha! Aceves gets his own helmet and Mo doesn't appear to even know what a helmet is.) "And here's my batting gloves you can borrow. Now you have to stand on deck. That's over there." (This is, of course, how I imagined the conversation to go, and based on what we saw from the tape, it isn't a stretch.)
I think it's probably better Mo didn't get a grand slam there, because that officially would have been the end of me. There isn't a snowman's chance in hell that my body or brain would have been able to accommodate the astronomical levels of shock and delirium that would have inevitably struck.
The shock that ensued when I saw Girardi had him swinging ended up being high enough. You'd think the Aesop's Fable of Wang and the Pinch Running would have served up a lesson about protecting your pitchers with the everything short of taping a pillow to their chest and sticking a football helmet on them.
But Mo swings away, flashes a blinding grin as he trots to first, and it was the happiest I've ever been to see a Yankee strand 3 runners on base in the 9th inning.