Friend of the blog Will C. has taken the reign here, guestblogging for CYC while I get my bearings about the demise of a season... MANY thanks, Will. Where the Yanks failed in clutch, you certainly made up for. More on my own thoughts to come in the next few hours... I need a little more than 24 hours to regroup on this. Sigh. Thanks again, Will....
* * * * * * * * *
Like most die-hard Yankee fans, the wound is still fresh and the bitterness of no fall classic in the Bronx has not yet transferred into acceptance. While all Yankee seasons that do not end in a championship are disappointing, I found this season particularly frustrating based upon a series of poor decisions which were made throughout the ALCS. As a fan, the only thing more frustrating than poor hitting, pitching and fielding is poor managerial decision making. Here are a few decisions that stand out:
Not starting Andy Petitte Game 2:
Andy Pettite has 19 career postseason wins, a Major League Baseball record. He is arguably one of the best big game pitchers in the history of the most successful franchise in sports. As Yankee fans, we love Phil Hughes. He is young with a great future ahead of him. However, his postseason resume consists of two wins and a 5.86 ERA.
Phil Hughes is not Andy Pettite – not yet at least. The time to play match-ups is from April through September. Not October. The sight of Andy Pettite, THE WINNINGEST PITCHER IN POSTSEASON HISTORY, scratching his head in the dugout as the fate of the 2010 Yankees was left to a 24 year old kid was gut wrenching. Hughes’ ERA exceeded 4.00 in his last eight starts of the season and was not hot.
Yes, he looked good in April and May, but let’s not let a few early starts in Arlington be the reason he is getting two starts in the ALCS and not Pettite. Above all else, the Yankees finally returned to their winning ways against Minnesota, where Hughes looked great in the game 3 home start.
The formula worked with CC and Pettite on the road and Hughes at home. We had an incredible come from behind win against Texas in Game 1, and at that point all the momentum, and then we alter that recipe based on statistics. What statistics? Did anyone check out Pettite’s postseason statistics?
These are only numbers that should truly matter. Also, if you are in the camp of a lefty pitching at Yankee Stadium to shut down Hamilton and the other left handers, you were thrilled for 2/3 of an inning until Josh went deep in the top of the first inning and all but ended the game with an unhittable Cliff Lee on the mound. And a great start from Pettite in Game 3 – wasted.
He makes that start in Game 2, Yankees are likely up 2-0, have won five postseason games in a row, and well on our way to 28.
Walk Murphy, Pitch to Molina:
Scenario: Yankees up 3-2, top of the 6th 2 outs. A.J. looking normal for the first time in months. What to do, what to do? Here’s a brilliant idea let’s walk David Murphy (who?) to face a historic Yankee killer. Joe, for a manager who essentially manages the game from a computer or a match-up chart, did you think to look at Bengie Molina’s career postseason numbers vs. the Yankees?
Here are some figures from the 2005 ALDS when Molina last faced the Yankees: 444 AVG, 3 HR, 5 RBI’s, 17 TB. Not too shabby. I don’t care what the book says or what the recent figures may dictate, be wary of Yankee killers. Ortiz, Guerrero, MOLINA – they are scary – certainly don’t walk David Murphy to face a Yankee killer.
Maybe Josh Hamilton but not David Murphy. Murphy, in the 2010 ALDS, his FIRST career postseason series, was a solid 1 for 7, a 143 AVG with 0 RBI’s. Please can someone tell me what numbers support an IBB to face a Yankee postseason killer?
Don’t give me the righty on righty nonsense. Take Burnett out of the game and bring in Boone Logan, your lefty specialist, to face Murphy. The 3 run homerun is not on you A.J. but incompetent mismanagement. Logan retires Murphy, Kerry Wood and Mariano lurking in the pen, I like those chances. Yankees win 7-2 on Wednesday afternoon, go back to Texas with a 3-2 lead and the whole psyche of the team is vastly different.
Bring in Robertson with the season on the line:
Scenario: Rangers 3-1, runner on second, two outs. This is the save situation, not only for the game but the season. Give up a homerun and the season is all but over – the chance of another multi-run late inning rally is not impossible but highly improbable.
What does Joe do, bring in Robertson who relinquishes that back breaking homerun. Season over with CC, Wood and Rivera sitting in the pen waiting to be used next year, I can only guess. I never understand when play-off elimination games are managed like regular season games or play-off games where there is a next game.
There is no tomorrow if Robertson gives up a homerun there so why not win or lose with the best on the mound. Bring in the best, being CC or Wood for two innings and then Mariano for an inning or two. Keep the game at a manageable 3-1 deficit and every runner that reaches base will provide an opportunity to tie the game with one swing.
For a team with the homerun capabilities of the Yankees this is not too great an obstacle to overcome. Further, the 2010 Yankees have not had the best at-bats in big holes (of course there are exceptions). Everyone from ARod to Cano and Swisher starts trying to win the game with one swing, instead of working the count, reaching base and moving the line along with singles and doubles.
Robertson, like Hughes, is a great young pitcher and this is not a personal attack on him. Let’s not forget his bases loaded, no out, Houdini act against the Halos in the ALCS last year. But I’m sure he would agree, that he is not CC and has not had the recent relief success of Kerry Wood, and thus, did not provide the highest percentage option to keep the game at 3-1.
The Bats Were Not Hot:
This is more of a commentary than a decision, but certainly influenced by the above three decisions. I understand the bats weren’t sizzling, and have heard this from many Yankee fans, and here is the story. Bats are seldom hot in the playoffs. Cano and Hamilton this year, ARod last year – yes there are exceptions – but for the most part good hitters are cold in the postseason.
Why? Because good pitching trumps good hitting any day of the week and the postseason consists of predominantly good pitching. Hitting is also a very psychological and momentum based process. We were hot coming into the series, with a 3 game sweep of the Twinkies, and had an electrifying, red hot 5 run 8th inning in Arlington Game 1.
Getting back to point 1 of this summary, pitch your second ace, Andy Pettite in game 2, and keep the momentum flowing. Bats respond to good pitching not early deficits. I will concede that the clutch hits were not there in bundles as they were in 2009, and the Yankees certainly saved a pretty penny on walk-off whip cream canisters in 2010, but poor management decisions can inhibit offensive output.
In October, put your best product on the field for a seven game series. CC, Andy, Phil, A.J., CC, Andy and Phil. That is the best Yankee product, and had this been the rotation, I would most likely not be writing this.
I like Joe Girardi as a person and while I am grateful to him for winning a 27th championship in the new house, I have trouble looking past a few of his recent decisions - most notably - the Pettite fiasco.
I have been watching Andy Petitte dominate postseason play for 15 years and he has earned the right to have two starts in the first six games of a seven game series over a non-proven Phil Hughes. I fear that with the core unit of Rivera, Jeter, Posada and Pettite showing some age, this season was an opportunity lost. Not too say I will not enjoy some rebuilding years and watching the next generation come into form.
I grew up in the Donny baseball era, with zero play-off appearances and nothing but history to lean upon. I still loved the Yankees and cherish my childhood memories at the stadium, as sparse as the crowd may have been.
As a true fan, it is not always about winning but, when you are in a position to win, make the right decisions.
Oh well, we will be back.
God bless the Yankees.
* * * * * * * * * *
My own analysis on its way, as soon as I can think about it without getting upset.
Good grief, Big Puma.
Sometimes you go to a game and you sit next to the Most Annoying Person in the World. Sort of like this guy.
I hate how I'm about to reference this movie, especially because I know this isn't the first time I've done it, but there's really no better way to explain what I felt last night.
In Fever Pitch, when Jimmy Fallon misses a Red Sox Yankee game for the first time in his life, and at first he's okay with it because they're losing 8-0 or something. Then the Sox end up coming back and beating the Yankees 9-8 with an 9-run 2-out rally in the bottom of the 9th or something. And he turns on the tv and every single person in Boston is screaming and celebrating in the streets saying how it was the best game in the history of life.
Last night, I was at work.
"Yeah, we'll definitely be done by 7:30."
"Ok, because, um, you know the game starts at 8, and..."
"I know, I know."
At 8:20, I was still working, and I get back to my desk, John Sterling had been prattling for a good 15 minutes in my empty office, and then I hear the raucous celebrating that didn't sound too good, considering the Yanks weren't the home team.
"And the Rangers take a 3-0 lead in the first, what a shot by Josh Hamilton!"
I don't know if anyone else had to listen to the CBS broadcast of the game, but John Sterling sounded like he had gotten possessed by the hater demons of the world. Seriously. I think I would have rather listened to Joe Morgan announce the game. It was bad enough hearing the score, it was infinitely aggravated by the fact that Sterling was practically giddy, giggling, etc.
"And this is really bad, I mean things couldn't get much worse for the Yankees right now. CC is just flat out AWFUL tonight, and the Yankees are really just LUCKY they got out of that inning with only 3 runs. Because I mean if they hope to have ANY shot at this game, they have to pull CC and figure out SOMETHING because right now, I gotta say it doesn't look like this game is ever gonna get better, just worse."
Sweet Christ, John.
I was devastated. I turned off the radio and continued working with the GameCast playing on my computer. I could have watched on MLB.tv but when the Yankees are losing, I find it a little more palatable to see the score on the sterile stat listings of a computer, rather than have it exacerbated by 10s of thousands of screaming fans.
I can count on 1 hand the number of times I've been that upset at work that I felt like crying, and last night was #2 all time.
I was trapped there. It's easy for people to say, "OMG just LEAVE! I can't believe you WORKED on a playoff game!" as if I wanted to do that. As if there was a choice involved and I decided to do the productive, responsible thing.
To make matters worse, Strange--usually my go to buddy for support in Yankee-induced anxiety--was texting me "I'm not gonna lie, this game is absolutely brutal."
But then it happened.
A text that changed the face of the night.
"I'm sitting in the bathroom with a corona."
It was from my sister.
And I knew what that meant.
Whenever I watch games with her, as soon as it starts to be a critical point in the game, everyone in my family exiles my sister to the bathroom. A superstition which I'm sure she just LOVES.
"I'm sitting in the bathroom with a corona."
She was sitting in the bathroom...
..And would she do that if she was still watching a 5-0 game??
I peaked at the score.
OH. MY. GOD.
The Yankees were doing it.
They were chipping away at the lead. I immediately looked away.
(It would have been really, really depressing if "I'm sitting in the bathroom with a corona" just meant something like "It's too cold in your living room, so I'm just hanging out in bathroom alphabetizing your toothpastes.")
Then I couldn't take it anymore, I had to watch. I was too nervous to turn on the game and find out it was over, but I was even more nervous to turn on the game and find out it was over.
With no outs, the Yankees tied the game in the 8th.
And then took the lead.
And I missed all but 15 minutes of it.
I went out last night, and NYC was havoc. All my buddies were screaming when they saw me, "HOW FUCKING AMAZING WAS THAT??!?! YANKEES !!!! HOLY SHIT!!! AHHHH!!"
"THAT WAS THE MOST AMAZING THING I"VE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE!!!"
I wanted so badly to be able to share in their recounts of their emotional rollercoaster, but I could just be a captive audience.
But they did it.
THE YANKEES GAME BACK FROM 5-0 AND WON.
It was like they were waiting for alllll the haters to get comfortable in the whole "HAHHAHAHA you guys are a joke, you're gonna get SWEPT!" mentalities...and then decided to swoop in, all "Go kick rocks, small fry. We're not going anywhere."
My buddy Super Rob may have said it best when he said, "I think I'm in love with being a Yankee fan."
You know what? I gotta say that as profoundly exhilirating as that game was, it was just as invigorating to be among Yankee fans who watched the whole game. Because I gotta be honest, when the Yanks are getting embarrassed, it's not like I give up on them, but watching it is hard to stomach. I'll mute the tv, or I'll change the channel for 5 minutes and then really quickly flip back hoping the score hasn't ballooned out of control out of our favor.
It's hard to watch loved ones tailspin like that.
But it's like the line in the Godfather,
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE NEW YORK YANKEES FOR BECOMING THE FIRST TEAM TO ADVANCE TO THE LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES!!!
I hate to be a typical Yankee fan here, but that seemed too easy.
Of course, I didn't think it'd be this painless when I was watching Game 1 on Wednesday, when the Yanks were losing 3-0 and all we could think about was how terribly they'd played in September, how amazing the Twins had done in the last stretch.
But, cmon. We're the Yankees. They're the Twins.
The history against them is record-breaking. Literally. I don't think any one team has ever so severely owned another team in history.
Oh, well, except for the Sox, of course. Barring that one little 2004 mishap.
Oh, speaking of mishap...does anyone else nothing something wrong here:
Wishful thinking, ESPN?
I know you hate the Yankees and all, but let's try to adhere to some semblance of journalistic integrity, yeah?
So the Twinkies get ushered into the postseason thanks to the 7-inning shut out brilliance of Phil Hughes.
My buddy Hannon pointed out that he thinks there's some kind of conspiracy movement among the umps to purposely call atrociously inaccurate games, in an effort to force the need for instant replay.
You know how I feel about this. Not favorably. At all.
It's so dumb. Instead of having umps who are good at their jobs, they'd rather blame the errors on human nature and insist on some kind of "flawless" technological solution. If I wasn't good at my job, they'd hire someone better than me. They wouldn't chalk up my mistakes to "hey, happens to everyone!"
Instant replay is basically the equivalent of inplementing mandatory "spell checks" on all manuscripts. Because THAT'S always foolproof, right?
I saw a stat on the tv last night which was 100% astounding. Minnesota didn't get back to back hits THE ENTIRE SERIES???
Is this even possible???
After leading the major leagues during the regular season with a .285 average with runners in scoring position, the Twins couldn't get a single clutch hit in the playoffs. With runners in scoring position, they went an almost impossibly bad 0 for 14 before Denard Span's too-little, too-late single in the eighth off Kerry Wood.
This is kind of like when my ex told me he'd rather go 18-0 and then lose the Super Bowl, then 14-5, and then win the Super Bowl.
I'm sure I can find millions and millions of Giants fans who would beg to differ, but whatever. The point is that I'd rather suck for the last month of the season, choke away the division lead, settle for the Wild Card, and then blaze through the hottest team of the league with ease in a matter of 3 days.
The Yanks took an early 1-0 lead when Posada drove in Cano after his leadoff triple. It was then I wondered if the whole game was gonna be this easy. I'm sorry, I'm know it's a bitchy thing to say, but it's true.
Tex drove in Swish in the 3rd. Timms hit a moon shot 2-run homer in the 4th, followed by GGBG's sac fly that brought in Grandy. And later on in the 7th, Swish chipped in a solo bomb.
6-0 after 7 innings. And then the Yanks did that thing where the most effective reliever of the year comes in and someone manages to completely implode in the postseason, much like Hughes did last year, and much like Kerry Wood did this game.
O-Hud singled (brought in Span).
Ok, enough of Wood. D-Rob and Boone came in to close out the 8th with no more than 1 run's worth of damage.
And Mo...well, we know what Mo did. Because he's Mo.
So there are like a million different stats about absurd the Yanks' domination of the Twins have been, but here's my personal favorite stat of the day:
The Yankees get their 13th postseason series sweep, more than twice as many as the teams with the next-most (Reds, Braves, each with 6).
That's just ridiculous. Is there a greater testament to how otherwordly the Yankees are?
You know what else I like? How all of a sudden, the sports writers of the world are recanting their "PHILLIES EASY PICK FOR 2010 CHAMPS!" claims.
Now all of a sudden I'm seeing a lot more, "Why the Yankees Can Repeat" type of articles.
THAT'S RIGHT, FOOLS. DON'T AX LIKE YOU KNOW.
After the game, my buddy Hannon also pointed out that I seemed pretty subdued for someone whose name is "Crazy Yankee Chick."
"You seem happy, but...not like psychotically excited."
He's right. I am happy. But this is only 3 down.
There's 8 to go.
And as my dad used to always say... It's a long way to Tippararie (sp?)
But at least we didn't use up that much gas on the first leg of the trip. Thanks, Twinks!
There's a saying I learned while I was a Theater major in college: "One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it"--a principle known as "Chekhov's Gun."
And that's what I thought of tonight when Lance Berkman and all his newfound pinstriped glory, drove in the go-ahead run in the 5th with a long bomb, and then a tie-breaking ribbie double in the 7th.
I admittedly HAD wondered when exactly this whole Lance Berkman acquisition thing was going to come into play. But I guess I should never doubt the Yankees, who evidently are honoring Chekhov's mandates.
Never put an OF on the playoff roster if you're not planning on seeing some important run production from him later on.
It also made me think of the game broadcast from a few months ago (or actually, it could have been a few days ago, I have zero concept of time anymore), when I think it was Sterling who said, "So pretty much 2 out of the 3 guys the Yanks got at the trade deadline, are paying off huge dividends."
He then rattled off Kearns and Wood's stats, while notably making no mention of Lance Berkman and all his DL'ed glory.
But that's all immaterial now, much like everything else that happens prior to October 6.
People get all fired up about March Madness because of all the Cindarella teams and all the upsets, etc (society likes to think it's their humanistic pathos that drives them into the arms of the underdogs, but for my money, I'd say there's actually no greater example of the pervading schaudenfraude that keeps sports fans from cheering on the favorite).
But anyways, so people love the NCAA, but really there's just as much chance as an upset in the MLB playoffs, just given the wild variability that exists as a function of pitching matchups.
And what a pitching matchup it was tonight.
I don't mean in the legitimate sense of the word, a la 14-K performance from The SF Freak. Or the historic no-no from Doc. (PS not to be a contrarian or anything, but technically Halladay's no-hitter wasn't history-making. A perfect game already precedes him. He can be history-CONTRIBUTING. But he didn't MAKE history. Which isn't to say it's anything short of mind-blowingly impressive. Just not mind-blowingly novel. Just saying. You know I'm nothing if not literal to a fault.)
So, yeah, game 2 of the ALDS did not feature any semblance of a history matchup, but it did feature one of the biggest losers ever to taint the Yankees' roster vs one of the biggest heroes and monuments to class ever to grace the Yankees' franchise.
It's hysterical to me that Minnesota, in all their good-natured and guileless fandom, actually embraces Carl Pavano. In fact, those present at Target Field were all wearing stick-on mustaches. (And, as TBoss astutely pointed out, everyone there was somehow managing to wear roughly 10,000 different iterations of Twins' jerseys. How are there that many versions? It was like the most diversity the midwest has ever seen.)
Now might be a good time to make some mustache delineations.
I won't go into too may subtleties. Let's just boil it down to a couple for the sake of this post:
Nick Johnson (ie Don Mattingly, Tom Selleck, most firemen)
Gary Sheffield (ie Patrick Ewing, most 1940s jazz musicians)
Mike Ditka (ie Joel Quenneville, most Down-To-Business control freaks who had a family that they're secretly very devoted to)
Rollie Fingers (ie, Clay Zavada, most men tying damsels in distress to a train track)
Carl Pavano (ie Mark Spitz, Prefontaine, most pedophiles and serial rapists)
So it's one thing if you wanna emulate the look of a fireman or seasoned sax guru.
But Minnesota is celebrating the hallmark feature of every registered sex offender.
Anyways, moving on from THAT...
The Yankees won. 5-2.
Once again, the Twins took the lead early with a sac fly from rookie Valencia. Arod tied it up 2 innings later with a sac fly of his own, and then Sir Lancelot homered to take the lead.
Orlando Hudson followed suit to tie the game, and Target Field had renewed life in them.
(Seriously, Target was the only corporation they could get to sponsor this? Target Field could not sound any less like a sports arena, and any more like a military base, if it tried.)
HOWEVAH, this renewed life was short-lived, as the wild and krazy kooks that are umpiring the game, let Berkman break the game open again.
And boy was Gardenhire PISSED!
So pissed that he got all crafty and staged a prolonged mound visit just to orchestrate home plate ump Wendelstedt to come up to him.
Very clever, Minny.
Upon seeing him, he let loose on the whole bizarro strike zone thing, prompting his swift ejection.
Ok, YES, you're right in the sense that the balls and strikes are really more ill defined than a freshman girl's relationship with upper class men sorority girls during the first semester of college.
HOWEVAH...get over it.
It is what it is. I hate using that expression, but seriously. We all have to deal with it, and sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it goes the other team's way. At this point the only thing you can do is try to capitalize on baserunners.
Which you haven't been doing. At all.
I mean, in fairness (sort of) you only had 3 runners in scoring position all night, none of which you drove in.
On the other hand, NY was 4-10 with RISP. 3 doubles. A homerun. The perfect combination of run manufacturing and long ball.
Pettitte brings out the best in us maybe.
And what is there to say about Mo?
1-2-3. See ya, Twins.
Enjoy your travel day. But in the words of Iowa Jeff, "Don't unpack. It's gonna be a short stay here."
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.-Shakespeare on CC's bad outing
So I’m hearing a lot of “Yeah, we don’t want to face Cliff Lee anyway!” but truth be told, I REALLY wanted the division. I wanted to show we weren’t gonna settle for anything. Also, I hate the Wild Card as a rule. Also, I WANTED HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE.
My sister was over on Saturday (I know, something new and different) and in the 9th inning I said, “Oh wow, it’s the 9th inning and it’s tied, and I didn’t even realize.”
“Oh God, you’re right. There’s still like another 15 innings left of baseball today alone.”