Your 2008 New York Yankees are, obviously, a major disappointment... but they’re not actually bad, either. Last night's 9-2 win was their 82nd of the season, which means they’ll finish at .500 even if they lose every single game remaining. And they’ll almost certainly finish with well over 83 wins, which is more than can be said for the 2006 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. Okay, that's an extreme example, but still: in the AL Central the Yankees would be two games out of first with this record, and they’d actually be winning in the NL West. Now clearly wins do not translate so exactly across divisions, and you cannot aim for 80-odd wins if you’re playing in the AL East, and yes, the Yankees have lots of very real and significant problems, yes the offense was surprisingly mediocre, yes Sir Sidney Ponson started 14 games. Still, technically, this is not a bad team, not by general MLB standards. They’re just not good enough.
They were last night, though, and they thumped the White Sox. The first pitch was more memorable than much of the actual game; it was thrown out by Emilio Navarro, who at 102 years of age is now the oldest living pro baseball player in the world. Navarro is a tiny man, and came up to about the belly button of Jorge Posada, who caught Navarro's first pitch (tossed in from halfway to the plate, but with some zip on it). But he looks amazingly good for his age, walked without assistance, and took his time soaking in the applause on the field, grinning and leisurely tipping his cap to the fans and savoring the moment; he looked like he was having a ball.
Mike Mussina then started things off unpromisingly by loading the bases, twice. But he escaped with just one run allowed, and after that he went on cruise control: five more innings, smooth and easy. Old frenemy Javier Vazquez was pitching for the White Sox, and the Yankees came back off of him right away, with a Derek Jeter single and a Bobby Abreu homer in the bottom of the first – Abreu's first of two consecutive bombs.
The Yankees kept tacking on, one in the third inning and four in the fourth; Ozzie Guillen wisely removed Vazquez before he could face Abreu again, but Horacio Ramirez was not much of an improvement, and the Yankees got a little Conga line going around the bases. They added two more in the fifth, and the New York bullpen trio of Jose Veras, Humberto Sanchez, and Chris Britton finished things off with little incident. In other news, Juan Miranda made his major league debut tonight with two walks, and later in the game Francisco Cervelli stepped in behind the plate, apparently recovered from his controversial broken wrist.
I’d love to see Mike Mussina win 20, but I’ve been pessimistic about it for a while now and I think that’s partly because I still associate Moose with coming excruciatingly close to milestones rather than reaching them: like during that heartbreaking game at Fenway in 2001, where he was just one out away from a perfect game (I think even one strike away, though I may be mentally exaggerating there) when Carl Everett – CARL EVERETT! – ruined it with a single. Anyway, I generally enjoy Mussina's moments of snarky exasperation (at least when not directed at an umpire or errant infielder during a game), but he has some kinda touching moments of sincerity in this nice Bats post from Tyler Kepner.
Finally, apropos of nothing, Alex has requested that I share the below YouTube clip with all of you. (Actually, he asked if I could “work it in” to my recap...but stunningly enough, the topic didn't come up directly in the course of last night's game). So I'll give it to you now with no additional editorial comment.