Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Little Things

Its been a couple of weeks now, but I am still glowing from the Yankees World Series victory. As you listen to the commentators and analysts, you would think the Yankees dominated this series from start to finish.

But honestly, think about how close this series really was. We won every game not started by Cliff Lee. But there were so many key moments when the momentum of the series hung in the balance and things broke our way.

In game 3, the Yanks are down 3-0 and things are looking bleak. Teixeira works a walk, but ball 4 would probably be called a strike about 80% of the time. If A-Rod comes up with no one on, does he still hit the home run? Does the home run change the momentum as much as it does?

The home run hit the camera. If the original ruling of double is upheld, do the runs score?

Pettitte gets a hit to tie the game. Pettitte.

In game 4, the Yankees looked as if they were going to let this one get away when Joba comes in and gives up the game-tying home run to Feliz. Then, in the top of the 9th, Damon works his magic with the nine-pitch single that seemed to rattle Lidge.

Then, Damon steals second and goes to third because no one was covering. (Inexcusable). Ever seen a play like that? Now, Lidge is scared to throw his dynamite slider, for fear of a wild pitch. He hits Teixeira then grooves one to A-Rod.

In every baseball game there are so many key moments. A ball/strike call. A hard line drive that is just foul.

I love the Yankees and the win was fun. But it could have so easily gone the other way. We won the series with solid starting pitching, timely hitting, and several breaks at turning-point moments.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

How One At-Bat Can Change a Game

I have to admit that I lost faith tonight. The Yanks hadn't been hitting and when the Phillies tied it up in the 8th with that home run (by Feliz???? - you HAVE to be kidding me!) I kind of felt like we might not get it done tonight. If we didn't score in the 9th, who thinks someone wouldn't have hit one out for the Phils?

Matsui-san starts it off with a weak popup in the infield. Then, Jeter works a fairly good at-bat to a full count. Then, he swings at BALL FOUR! I was discouraged. Then Johnny Damon stepped up and had one of the great at-bats anyone will ever see.

Lidge was looking pretty good, but Johnny worked him like a pro. He took a ball inside that almost hit him. Then, he fouled off two good pitches to go to 1-2. Looked bleak. But then he got busy. He fouled off a pitch to stay alive (barely tipped), then took a pitch up (close) and one away to run the count full. He then fouled off two more pitches to stay alive for the ninth pitch he had seen.

He slapped that pitch into left field for a single. He stole second and third (on the same play) then scored on A-Rod's double. Yankees win.

A-Rod and Posada are the heroes, but they would not have had the chance to shine if Damon had not worked one of the great at-bats you will see. A professional hitter who changed the outcome of a game.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A-Rod for MVP

I haven't been writing at this blog for several reasons. I have been sick. I have been busy. And after the Yankee games, I have been so worn out and stressed out I couldn't handle it.

But, if the Yankees go on to win this series (and that's a big "if"), A-Rod should get the MVP even if doesn't get another hit the rest of the series.

Things were going poorly and the Yankees were lethargic. They just looked listless. Couldn't hit. Swinging at bad pitches. I was not encouraged. Andy Pettitte was not sharp and the Yankees were down 3-0 in the fourth inning. It looked like the makings of a Phillies blowout.

Then, Teixeira worked a walk (if I was a Phillie fan, I'd be mad about ball 4). That's when A-Rod stepped up and slapped one down the right field line. It was originally ruled a double, then after the replay, it was ruled (rightly so) a home run. Suddenly, the Yankees come alive.

If the Yankees lose today, they would really have a tough time winning the series. A-Rod turned things around. He is a World Series hero, regardless of what happened in games 1 and 2 or what happens from here.

Friday, October 9, 2009

I'm Having a Coronary

That was one of the most amazing games I have ever watched. If you are a Twins fan (stop reading here, pal), you have to feel like that was one you should have won.

AJ Burnett was wonderful, if wild. He matched Nick Blackburn inning for inning, although his innings were a little more interesting that Blackburn's. Fantastic!

While Jorge didn't like it, Burnett's performance leaves Girardi's decision looking good. Burnett pitches better when Molina catches. He pitched well enough that you have to support the decision that was made. Vindicated!

The umpires were AWFUL in this game. Unless pitch-trak was malfunctioning, these guys should be demoted to Single A ball. Home plate ump was so erratic, no one knew what the strike zone way. And the call on Mauer's hit in the 11th was one of the worst I have ever seen. It was nearly a foot inside the line and he called it foul. I'm glad for the call, but goodness gracious. Pathetic!

A-Rod is hot in the clutch. He got a single with two out in the sixth to tie the game at one. Then, after Teixeira led off the ninth with a single, he tied it again with a long, long home run. He is hitting with both cylinders and is silencing all the critics. Impressive!

Brett Gardner should be shot. He subbed for Jorge in the tenth, after he got a single. He went to second on a steal and third on an error, so they walked Jeter. That brought up Damon. It was first and third with one out. Damon lines a hard shot up the middle. Little leaguers know you hold at third to see the ball go through. If it goes through, you still have plenty of time to score. It didn't. Gardner breaks from third on the contact and the shortstop snagged the line drive and doubled him off third. Inexusable!

Nobel prize for David Robertson. He came in with two on and no out in the top of the 11th. (I will admit that had the inning started with a double as it should have, it would have been a different inning.) He gave up a hit, but Mauer did not try to score, probably figuring with one out, why risk it? Bases loaded with no out - looks pretty bad for the good guys. The next batter lined a bullet, but it was right at Teixeira. One out. The next guy bounces one to Teixera, who goes home for the force. Two out. Third out was a fly ball to Nick Swisher and the Yankees got out of it without a run scoring. Amazing!

I felt that might break the Twins' will. Teixeira took care on that. He lined a shot down the left field line that hit the top of the wall and bounced into the seats. Yankees win and go up 2-0. Incredible!

I don't remember too many games this tense or amazing. It was big, too. The last three years (in the playoffs), the Yankees won the first game then lost the next three. Now, they are up 2-0 and have Pettitte going against Pavano. We should not be as intimidated going into the dome as the Tigers were. We've done pretty well there. Optimistic!

If they get Pettitte, they will have to beat Sabathia next. Then they will have to go back to Yankee stadium and face Burnett again. We've got a good chance to get to the second round. Angels are up 2-0 and looking good.

By the way, are there any teams that do not have a player named Cabrera?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Postseason Pinstripes: The Unique Nature of the Baseball Playoffs

It can hardly be argued that the Yankees are the best team in Major League Baseball this year. Many would have argued for the Dodgers or Red Sox in the first half of the season, but the Yanks rendered those arguments moot with a dominating second half. We have a ten game lead on the Sox. Our record is eight games better than California and nine games better than the Dodgers, who play in the inferior National League.

The Yankees are the best team in baseball. Big Whoop! Baseball is a unique game. In basketball, over a 7-game series, the best team almost always wins. In football, the dominant teams usually make it to the Super Bowl and take home the trophy. I don't know about hockey - who really cares, right?

But the baseball playoffs are unique. Very seldom does the team with the best regular season record win the World Series. A Wild Card team has won several times - they couldn't win their own division in the regular season, but won it all in the playoffs. A couple of years back, St Louis stunk up the league in September and October, and squeaked into the playoffs looking horrible. They won the World Series.

There is a reason for this. Playoff basketball is essentially the same as regular season basketball, just more intense. Same with football. But the nature of baseball changes dramatically in the postseason.

The difference is starting pitching and days off. To win a lot of games in the regular season, you need to have three, four, or five starting pitchers. If you have two dominant pitchers , that is nice, but you still have to run somebody out there three times between their starts. But in the playoffs, two dominant pitchers can win it all (ie Randy Johnson and Curt Shilling on the 2001 Diamondbacks). There are enough days off that the two dominant pitchers can lead the team to victory. Smith wins game 1, Jones wins game two, then Smith wins game 5 (or 6) and Jones wins game 6 (or 7). In the opening series, you can do the same thing if you get the extended series.

In recent years, the Yankees have had a team better suited to win lots of regular season games, but have not done well in the playoffs. I hope this year will be different, of course, but you never know.

Baseball is a quirky game. In a five games series, one team can get hot while another goes cold. The Washington Nationals could beat the Yankees in a five-game series. Not likely, but it could happen.

I am more optimistic this year. The Yankees have some of the best pitchers in the AL playoffs. all the other Cy Young contestants are on teams that missed the playoffs - Halladay (Toronto), Grienke (KC - likely Cy Young), Hernandez (Seattle). CC Sabathia is as good as any of them and better than any other playoff pitcher. Pettitte and Burnett are just about as good as the other pitchers on the teams we will play.

The Yankees have been hitting consistently - we have even beaten some of the really good pitchers.

I'm optimistic about the Yankees' chances this year. We are the best team going in. I am also realistic. Baseball is a strange sport - the best regular-season team does not always win.

But this seems like a GREAT year for #27!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Yankees Tie...The-e-e-e Yankees Tie!

By skunking the Roid Sox 3-0 today, the Yankees clinched at least a tie in both their division, the AL East (best in baseball) and for the best record in baseball and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Yankees were AWFUL today with runners on base. Finally, in the 6th, Cano parked one and then Damon got a two-out bases-loaded hit in the bottom of the eighth. Mariano got his 43rd save and the Yankees lead both Boston and California by 7 games with 7 games left.

Yanks have taken 8 of 9 from Boston and tomorrow will go for the remarkable feat of tying the season series with the Evils, after going down 0-8 in the first couple of months.

Folks, if CC Sabathia does not get the Cy Young, its a rip. This guy has been an absolute stud the second half. The Sox only got one hit against him. Absolute domination.

And there is good hope that CC might still have some strength for the playoffs. Last year, the Brewers rode him like draft horse down the stretch, pitching him long innings on short rest. By the time the playoffs came around, he wasn't sharp.

CC hasn't been going more than 100 pitches or so for his last few starts and has been pitching on 5 days rest (sometimes 6).

The AL playoffs are almost set. The Yankees will play either Detroit or Minnesota - whichever one of them gets out of the woeful AL Central. Boston will go to California for the first round. The Angels should win that, but Boston seems to have their number. The Yanks should have no problem in the first round, but we have to break our bad playoff mojo. We will see.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pass in the Song Books

The good guys beat the bad guys 9-5 tonight, putting the Yankees up 6 games in the loss column and pretty much finishing any chances the Sox have to win the AL East (magic number is 3 with 8 games left).

Significant happenings:

  • Joba looked Very good, for the first time since the Joba rules were imposed. He gave up home runs to Martinez and Ortiz, but he looked in command.

  • Lester got hit in the knee by a line drive. Looks like he's going to be okay, and it is so wrong to cheer for injuries. But if Lester were out of the rotation, Boston's goose would be cooked.

  • The bats were booming. A-rod is hot, Teixeira is going good - lots of Yankees are hitting. We scored 9 runs and probably should have had more.

  • What a comeback in the second half. The Yankees lost the first 8 games of the season to the Red Sox. They are now 7-9. If we win the next two games, we will be even for the season. Not many people would have predicted a split series for the year. We have a chance to make it a reality.