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Hey Nineteen
2008-09-23 21:59
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

With one out in the bottom of the third inning of last night's game against the Blue Jays, Toronto's rookie left fielder Travis Snider hit a comebacker that ricocheted off Mike Mussina's pitching elbow and shot into foul territory, allowing Snider to reach base with an infield single. The ball hit Mussina flush on the head of his radius, and when trainer Gene Monahan and manager Joe Girardi ran out to attend to their veteran ace, the conclusion to Mussina's terrific comeback season was clearly hanging in the balance. The Yankees had a 1-0 lead at the time, but Mussina needed to finish the third and pitch two more innings without giving it up in order to qualify for his nineteenth win and keep his hopes for his first twenty-win season alive.

UntitledMussina asked the assembled group to let him throw a few pitches, and after tossing a fastball and a sharp curveball, he declared himself fit to pitch. He was right. Despite a large red welt on the outside of his elbow the size of a golf ball, Mussina allowed just one more hit before being pulled after going the minimum five innings required for the win. By then his lead had doubled to 2-0 thanks to Jason Giambi's 32nd home run of the season.

The Yankees added a third run in the seventh when Robinson Cano doubled off Blue Jays starter Jesse Litsch, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a passed ball. Never mind that Cano was actually out at home as the ball bounced right back to catcher Gregg Zaun, who tossed to Litsch, who made a great play sliding across the opposite side of the plate and tagging the sole of Cano's foot as it came down to touch home. Home plate ump Larry Vanover blew the call and spent the rest of the game calling strikes in a manner that found the middle ground between a sea lion and the Swedish Chef (strike one: "BORK!" strike two: "BORK!" strike three: "ARF! ARF!").

The Jays got that run back in the bottom of the seventh when lefties Adam Lind and Lyle Overbay singled and walked against Damaso Marte and Scott Rolen greeted Joba Chamberlain with a single that scored Lind. With two out and none on in the eighth, the Jays loaded the bases against Chamberlain thanks to some sloppy defense by Cody Ransom, who replaced Derek Jeter and his sore left hand at shortstop just before game time (Jeter said after the game that he couldn't swing), and an intentional walk, but Chamberlain won a seven-pitch battle with Lyle Overbay on a slider breaking down and away for a called strike three (ARF! ARF!). Otherwise Phil Coke, Brian Bruney, and Mariano Rivera were perfect in relief, nailing down the 3-1 win and giving Mussina his nineteenth win.

Hard Times Befallen The Soul Survivors

Untitled

Unfortunately, the Red Sox also won, putting up a five-spot against likely Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee at Fenway to squeek out a 5-4 win behind Tim Wakefield and a quintet of relievers. The decisive run was scored by Dustin Pedroia on a two-out single by Jason Bay in the fifth ("sweet things from Boston, so young and willing"). With that, the Yankees have been eliminated from the postseason for the first time since 1993, the last year before the Wild Card was introduced.

That year it was Toronto that won the AL East, though the Yankees avoided being eliminated head-to-head by beating Todd Stottlemyre and the Jays behind Jim Abbott in their final game at SkyDome that season. The Yankees won again the next day, beating Rick Sutcliffe and the Orioles 9-1 behind Scott Kamieniecki (playing right field in place of an injured Paul O'Neill, Jim Leyritz homered in both games), but the Jays clinched anyway by beating the Brewers 2-0 behind Pat Hentgen and a trio of relievers that included Mike Timlin. The Jays would go on to win their second consecutive World Championship that October with Joe Carter delivering the Series-ending home run off Phillies closer Mitch Williams.

Please take me along when you slide on down.

Comments
2008-09-24 05:04:03
1.   Sliced Bread
Nice! Sure looks good... um,hmm-hmm, skate a little lower now...
2008-09-24 05:29:14
2.   williamnyy23
Although disappointing, this season was definitely interesting and memorable. Having the opportunity to attend the All Star Game and walk on the field before the final game will definitely rank among my favorite Yankee Stadium moments, so missing out on the post season doesn't seem as bad in retrospect. Now, it's time to enjoy the post season (I am rooting for either the Phillies or the Cubs), gear up for the Hot Stove and then welcome back baseball early with the WBC in March.
2008-09-24 05:39:43
3.   rbj
Well good. I'll be able to get a decent amount of sleep this October.

Yes, I'm grasping at straws here.

2008-09-24 06:11:04
4.   OldYanksFan
This is a must read. It may be 'old news', but documents the point and drives it home. It also addresses this 2008 offseason.

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?columnist=olney_buster&id=3589629

I don't think people realize that even with some mistakes, Cashman has saved this franchise. If George et al had been at the helm for the last 3 years, we would really be in a deep hole.

And on the 'List of 10', check out the top 3. Pretty sad.

2008-09-24 06:17:21
5.   Alex Belth
I was hoping that'd be the headline. Cliff Corcoran ROCKS.
2008-09-24 06:44:21
6.   Dimelo
I hate to bring up Alex, not the good Alex from the banter, but the other Alex .

When Kay AND Leiter started talking about how hallow ARod's numbers are, if you've actually watched the game, then I believe he was speaking for a great many Yankee fans.

If one looks purely at ARod's numbers then yeah, he's had a decent year, but when you watch the games and look at the numbers I know I am left dumbfounded and confused as to when he delivered THAT production.

2008-09-24 06:45:30
7.   williamnyy23
4 It's an interesting article, and Cashman definitely deserves credit for refocusing on the draft, but the premise is still patently false. The Yankees have not "fallen from grace" because they neglected the farm. In fact, it could be argued that neglecting the farm contributed to the Yankees historic rise to and maintenance of grace.

Consider this excerpt:

From the fall of 2001 through 2005, the Yankees sacrificed nine high draft picks to sign free agents

OK, so what did the Yankees do during that period? They won an AL pennant and won the division all 4 years. Isn't that the point? Over that period, the Yankees had more success than all of the other teams cited in the story, including the Red Sox (who used high priced free agents/veteran trades to win their World Series in 2004). There is such a disconnect of logic in this article that it is bewildering how one could write such a long piece without realizing the flaws.

Now, regarding signing big name free agents this off season, Olney writes, If they take that approach, of course, there will, again, be a high-end cost. They probably will lose their first-round draft pick, and their second-round draft pick, and further retard their player development system that was, in the early '90s, the best in the major leagues.

First off, I don't believe you can lose your 2nd round pick. Secondly, this analysis fails to recognize that the Yankees stand to gain picks from losing their own big name free agents. Drafting poorly retards your player development system; not building a food team that wins too much.

Also, there's this gem: "The bottom line is that there is a lot of value, in the big picture, to have a down year now and then," said a rival GM,

Hopefully, that rival GM is in the AL east. The Yankees have already proven that there are many ways to build a winner. The notion that you have to exclusively rebuild with youth is a myth. For 15 years the Yankees have used both approaches in varying degrees of proportion and had more success than any other team.

Finally, by focusing on the draft, this article conveniently ignores the international free agent market, where the Yankees have come up with Wang and Cano, for example. Ignoring this facet completely destroys the remaining credibility of the article.

2008-09-24 06:50:50
8.   williamnyy23
6 I've watched just about every game this year and definitely feel as if Arod had a positive impact. I think the disconnect comes as a result of expectation. So, when Arod doubles home two runs in a close game, so what...he gets paid $30mn and should have hit a HR anyway. But, when he fails, the world stands on its end. Basically, when he come through it counts only half as much as when he fails. In the game of baseball when you fail more often than not, that's a lousy formula.
2008-09-24 06:55:22
9.   Dimelo
8 I never once mentioned his salary. It comes down to constantly watching him fail when you expected more. No one ever expects him to be successful 1.000% of the time, those are impossible expectations. But you can expect him to be better than what he has given the New York Yankess this year.

I look at the Yankee record and I can remember more games that ARod could have made a huge difference than I can remember when he actually did make a difference. That's the crux of the problem, you can get emotional if you want but I am hardly alone here.

2008-09-24 07:03:00
10.   williamnyy23
9 I wasn't implying you mentioned salary, but was summarizing what I think is the subtle approach that many fans take toward Arod: He is supposed to come through, so it is only noteworthy when he does not. That's why I think many people probably "remember more games that ARod could have made a huge difference than I can remember when he actually did make a difference". After all, every AB by Arod is a chance for him to make a difference. He is that potent. I know I envision a HR every time he comes to the plate. With expections that high in a game based on failure, it is easy to see why Arod fails to win appreciation.

I was hoping that dismal way the offense performed when Arod was on the DL would have finally dispelled the notion that Arod doesn't mean a ton to this team, but it seems otherwise.

2008-09-24 07:06:34
11.   Shaun P
7 Olney also fails to mention the years in which the Yanks lost free agents to other teams and picked up first round picks as a result.

Pettitte's move to Houston gave them Houston's 2004 1st round pick = Phil Hughes.

Gordon's move to Philly gave them Philly's 2006 1st round pick and a supplemental pick = Kennedy and Joba.

And you're right, william - Montero and Tabata are other excellent examples of international free agent signings by the Yanks. And Soriano and Juan Rivera too, if we go back far enough.

The problem isn't that the Yanks signed so many free agents and lost so many draft picks over time. Its that the people in change of the draft from 1999 to 2003 for the Yanks had no clue what they were doing.

2008-09-24 07:12:08
12.   williamnyy23
9 Just as a quick example, so far Arod has had 22 go ahead hits. Pujols has had 25. Ortiz has had 17. Manny had 28. Vlad had 20. On the Yankees, Giambi had 20; Jeter had 12; Abreu had 17; and Damon had 9.

Of course Arod failed more often than he succeeded. This is baseball! The fact that we are even discussing the fact that Arod did not come through more often than he failed illustrates how absurdly high we have placed our expectations for him.

2008-09-24 07:19:57
13.   3rd gen yankee fan
Didja see what Pete Abe said about Moose's elbow? "The Moose's elbow looked like it had been dragged over gravel when he showed it to us. It was red and missing chunks of skin and appeared swollen." Man that Moose is one tough old coot.
2008-09-24 07:20:10
14.   Shaun P
7 Nothing like ESPN synergy! If you liked Olney's article, william, you'll love this piece by Mr. Gammons:

http://tinyurl.com/4b8qea

Not his fault, as he doesn't write the headline, but the headline has nothing to do with the article.

2008-09-24 07:21:30
15.   Dimelo
10 When ARod came back from the DL and was back in the NYY lineup, Matsui and Giambi were hot and producing. When Matsui went down a few weeks later, ARod just couldn't shoulder the load.

That's what I remember, but I'm sure you have some stat that shows that my memory is incorrect. Once you do that, then you will only prove Kay and Leiter's analysis correct. What the numbers say and what Yankee fans have actually seen are two totally different perspectives.

BTW, it's even harder for me to applaud Kay for bringing this up in last night's game because I can't stand the guy.

2008-09-24 07:35:44
16.   williamnyy23
15 Doesn't it make you wonder why Giambi and Matsui improved significantly when Arod returned? Also, doesn't Arod get credit for the OPS of 1.185 over the first 20-plus games or so of his return? Also, how can you give Matsui credit for having an OPS of .867 in Arod's absence, but then consider Arod's .953 OPS in Matsui's absence evidence of "not shouldering the load"?

I just don't get why so many people feel the need to completely throw objective analysis out the window in favor of a battle of memories. I guess blaming Arod is kind of a cathartic experience.

2008-09-24 07:40:24
17.   Raf
7 There is such a disconnect of logic in this article that it is bewildering how one could write such a long piece without realizing the flaws.

No, what's bewildering is that many will take such a flawed article as gospel.

2008-09-24 07:40:48
18.   williamnyy23
14 It's actually a decent article by Gammons. Incredible how the headline writer didn't even bother to read it.
2008-09-24 07:43:33
19.   Dimelo
16 Maybe it's because Matsui's OPS happened when us fans were most on the edge of our seat.

Do you remember most driving into work everyday or the near accident you had because of black ice on a frigid January day? I bet you forget the mundane much easier and always remember that near accident. It's called human nature. Objective analysis says, "I went the entire year without even coming close to a car accident", your brain and what you saw is saying, "holy shit, I almost died on this January day".

People don't remember those 500 foot 3rd inning homeruns.

I also loved when ARod was being interviewed by Kim Jones on Sunday and she asked him what's his greatest personal memory at Yankee stadium and he starts off by saying, "That is so hard for me to do because I am so consumed with winning", then ARod does his bite the lower lip thing and says, "it has to be when I hit the 3 homeruns".

He always seems to be trying to prove how he's such a team player.

2008-09-24 07:47:18
20.   Ken P
15 "What the numbers say and what Yankee fans have actually seen are two totally different perspectives."

This is the fundamental flaw with all anti stat arguments. What the numbers say is exactly what the fans have actually seen. No more, no less. The problem is between what the numbers say and what the fans choose to remember most prominently. Human memory is incapable of producing a complete, accurate and unbiased account of everything a person has seen, hence the need for stats in the first place.

2008-09-24 07:55:06
21.   Dimelo
20 I love stats and numbers, but I don't take them 100% at face value. There are some players where the stats reflect exactly what your eyes have seen, within some high confidence interval, but I don't think that rule applies with all players and their respective stats.
2008-09-24 07:55:59
22.   Raf
19 I thought that interview was pretty funny. Did you also catch the part when he said that his fondest memory was watching Reggie hit 3 home runs off Charlie Hough? :)
2008-09-24 07:56:37
23.   pistolpete
19 >> He always seems to be trying to prove how he's such a team player. >>

Ugh.

My favorite 'Stadium memories' from former and current players over the last few weeks have had more to do with the experience itself rather than the accomplishment.

I wanted to hear what the players were thinking, or if they were aware of the fans, or if their heart was beating out of their chest as they rounded the bases... Listening to Whitey and Yogi in the booth on Sunday night, you wonder if A-Rod will ever truly enjoy his time in baseball, or if he's just here to prove a point.

Reading that quote to Kim Jones, I almost expect his HOF speech someday to be a complete recollection of statistical milestones.

"Then in 2007, when I hit my 500th HR..."

Again ... ugh.

2008-09-24 07:58:24
24.   Raf
23 His HoF speech won't be any drier than Nolan Ryan's, who spoke about salaries.
2008-09-24 07:58:32
25.   Dimelo
20 When I buy Ron Shandler's forecaster to prepare for my baseball fantasy team, the stats are ultimately my guide. However, when I root for my favorite baseball team then I take the stats along with what I see.

I don't think there's a flaw with that approach at all. You cannot remove the emotional investment that one makes when you root for a team. If you do, then what you want is a fanbase that's all drones and spews out numbers all day.

2008-09-24 07:58:54
26.   williamnyy23
19 Perhaps, but I think this analogy works better: what do you remember more...the 100 times you drive into work without a problem, or the 1 time you get into a gigantic traffic jam (I take the subway, so maybe this one doesn't really work for me). Just like you remember the 1 negative driving experience, it seems as if most fans remember Arod's negative performances, which is exacerbated by the fact that all baseball players fail much more often then they succeed.

I am the first to admit that Arod has had a disappointing season by his lofty standards, but his relative underperformance is so far down the list of things that hurt this team that it seems gratuitous to mention it as Kay did, and many others do here.

2008-09-24 07:59:55
27.   pistolpete
20 >> What the numbers say is exactly what the fans have actually seen. >>

To a degree, but what goes in the record books as a single or a double is very often a potential double or triple if a guy isn't hustling. And one error is only one error, but if it comes in the 9th and it costs your team the ballgame ...

So yes, technically it's what we've all 'seen' ...

2008-09-24 08:02:40
28.   Dimelo
22 Yes I do!!! Not only is he misremembering, but also how can he reference Reggie when he was probably 4 years old? How the hell did he remember that? ARod and me are about the same age and I sure don't remember, other than television replays.
2008-09-24 08:03:08
29.   Ken P
21 The stats reflect exactly what the player has done. Period. End of story. If you favor your memory over the raw numbers, then you have an incorrect understanding of what the player actually did, like it or not. You can argue about the relative value of the numbers, but you can't change the facts.
2008-09-24 08:04:33
30.   williamnyy23
25 Of course...emotion is much more important than statistical anlysis when it comes to rooting for your favorite team. That doesn't mean however that you ignore objective analysis when discussing the team. It's one thing to pile on Arod after he strikes out with the basesloaded, but I have a hard time accepting the argument that Arod only hits when it doesn't count in the cold light of day. If an observation is really true, it can be verified.

Having said that, I realize that many people want to dislike for Arod. You can kind of tell that by the way that everything he says is micro-analyzed. So, in that instance, the old adage seems to apply: when the truth conflicts with the legend, print the legend.

2008-09-24 08:05:42
31.   Dimelo
26 I take the car AND subway. Speaking of traffic, it has been horrible this week with the UN delegation here.

So yes, I keep remembering that gigantic traffic jam. It's been Groundhog Day everyday this week.

2008-09-24 08:15:31
32.   Dimelo
30 I don't dislike ARod, I don't think he's cut from the Randy Moss mold. The guy does a lot of things well, he really does but he's also someone you can't count on when the game is on the line. He crawls into the fetal position.

The thing I love most about ARod is his hustle, he runs hard. That goes a long with me. I remember John Harper writing how the Yanks were losing in spring training by a pretty bad margin, the game was in the latter innings and ARod ran hard down the line and almost beat out a grounder to short. He said nobody noticed or clapped, but it says a lot about the person.

ARod ain't no Derek Bell, but he ain't no Pujols either.

2008-09-24 08:21:38
33.   Raf
30 Clearly it's because he's "good-looking, biracial, makes the most money, plays on the most popular team ..." :)
2008-09-24 08:26:26
34.   williamnyy23
33 I actually believe that all of the reasons play a role. I also think that a lot of fans think they exhult Jeter by tearing down Arod.

I can understand why fans around the league would hate Arod because jealousy is a powerful motivator. I think it is kind of sad, however, that there is a segment of Yankee fans who also dislike him. I am just glad that I am able to enjoy one of the greatest players to ever wear pinstripes without worrying about how sincere he is.

2008-09-24 08:42:38
35.   JL25and3
Somehow, this has become the story line: the Yankee offense sputtered this year because Alex Rodriguez (and others, barely mentioned) didn't hit in the clutch.

The Yankee offense did decline this year, but all the stats declined. Relative to the league, they did worse this year than last in almost every offensive category. In particular, they went way down in walks, doubles and homers.

The major reason for that decline is obvious enough, and it has nothing to do with Rodriguez. For almost the entire season, the lineup had three spots hitting near or under replacement level: CF, C and 2B. You can't give up three spots in the lineup and expect to score runs.

Rodriguez seems to stand out for a simple enough reason: if he didn't do it, it wasn't going to get done. That magnified every at-bat, and especially every failure. but he wasn't the problem, the sinkholes at the bottom of the lineup were.

2008-09-24 09:00:22
36.   Shaun P
35 Yep.

Of course, Cano, Melky, and Molina aren't all the things Raf said in 33 . Or the youngest to 500 HR. Or the one likely to break the all-time HR record, held by whats-his-name, the cheater. /sarcasm

Jay Jaffe has shown its damn near impossible to go to the playoffs with one "Replacement Level Killer" on a team - the Yanks tried to do it with three of them! And almost made it.

From that perspective, its astounding the Yanks did as well as they did, and a testament to just how good a player A-Rod is.

2008-09-24 09:02:44
37.   Raf
34 I think it is kind of sad, however, that there is a segment of Yankee fans who also dislike him.

To be fair, there are few players that are universally loved by their team's fans.

I enjoy watching Rodriguez play, I really don't care whether he's sincere or not.

35 Now, now, now, that's just silly talk. The reason the Yanks did so poorly this year is because they didn't trade for Santana... :/

Seriously, it was a perfect storm of injuries and ineffectiveness that doomed the offense. I think the defense needs a bit shoring up as well.

2008-09-24 09:05:15
38.   Mattpat11
4 If I thought he had any ability to evaluate major league pitching, I'd love him.
2008-09-24 09:13:46
39.   Dimelo
35 Well, yeah those players did badly and underperformed but how come when the Yanks needed the big hit Giambi and ARod were nowhere to be found? It happened countless times this summer. The middle of the Yankee order really wasn't threatening, I feel the first 3 hitters did well trying to develop opportunities for the big hitters. The big hitters failed from my perspective.

Where it was bad with the bottom of the order was when the Yanks would lead off an inning with ARod/Giambi/Matsui/Xavier and those guys would get on base w/ less than 2 outs and Molina, Cano and Melky came to bat and sucked even more.

It's easier for me to overlook the bottom of the order than the middle of the order. Especially when considering the plethora of opportunities Giambi & ARod had. Yes, I am putting more blame on the combo of Giambi and ARod than I am at Cano, Melky, or Molina.

Why you ask? Because the difference between the Yanks and Sox is quite simply a few games. The Yanks weren't 20 games out of a playoff berth, it was just a few games and if in some of those games those guys would have done something or anything then I think we would be viewing October baseball.

Why am I not THAT angry at the pitching, I guess I got more than what I expected out of the starters and bullpen. It was, quite simply, the hitting - specifically the middle of the order.

2008-09-24 09:17:44
40.   JL25and3
39 Sorry, you have it backwards. The bottom of the lineup was a problem all the time, not just when ARod was on base. They made outs constantly. They failed to produce anything at all. If they had done anything at all, you wouldn't have felt like ARod had to produce at every opportunity.

He may not have had his best year, but he was fine. If it had been anything more than a 6-man lineup - at best - you wouldn't have noticed.

2008-09-24 09:51:14
41.   JohnnyC
38 That's one reason they sent Gene Michael to Japan recently to scout pitching.
2008-09-24 09:55:27
42.   Mattpat11
41 That's all well and good, but if the man at the head of the organization still acquires every career mediocrity coming off one good year, there's only so much Gene Michael in Japan can do.
2008-09-24 14:58:49
43.   JohnnyC
I generally like Cashman but, Matt, if you recall, Cashman fired Gene's major league scouts after the 2006 season. Don't know enough about the kind of job they were doing (seemed o.k. when they were winning championships)but that looked like an uncharacteristic scapegoating on Cashman's part. As you know, the Yankees (Cashman?)fired their Japanese League scouts earlier this summer.

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