George Steinbrenner didn't rip his team in the papers, but he was at the Stadium again last night doing his best Knute Rockne routine. Before the game, he issued the following statement:
"Sure, we got punished badly last night, but winners never quit and quitters never win. We all know that New Yorkers never quit, and we reflect the spirit of New York." (N.Y. Daily News)
Steinbrenner hawked his team from his private box as they conducted batting practice. He was in his finest big-game football form: playing a clip from the movie "Rudy," as well as blasting "When the Going Gets Tough," by Billy Ocean over the sound system. No matter the title, imagine anyone getting pumped up by a Billy Ocean tune? That's a good one. (Why not, "Tuff Enuff," by the Fabulous T-Birds?) Joel Sherman hit the nail on the head:
When the insane get goin', the goin' gets insane.
The Yankees responded behind another money performance from Orlando Hernandez. El Duque allowed a run in the first and then proceeded to shut down the Indians over the next six innings. Tom Gordon gave up two, two-out runs in the eighth which made things tense, but the Bombers added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning and Mariano Rivera recorded the save in the ninth. Jorge Posada hit a two-run bomb, and John Olerud and Miguel Cairo added solo shots. The Yankees remain three-and-a-half up on the Red Sox who beat up the Angels last night in Boston. But as Harvey Araton notes in the Times today, the Yankees are now seven games up on Anahiem. With the wildcard system in place, the bottom line is to make the playoffs, period. This is not to say that the Yankees won't still win the division, but they have a safety net should Boston surge ahead of them.
I missed most of the game on the count of I was in Manhattan having dinner with the founder of All-baseball.com, Christian Ruzich, his wife Darryl and the co-host of The Cub Reporter, Alex Ciepley. But when I got home, I was able to catch the ninth inning and the highlights. I also taped the game just so I could get a better look at one of laugh-out-loud best plays of the season.
Coco Crisp led off the third inning and taped a ground ball up the first base line. Crisp is a fast runner, but Duque got off the mound quickly, fielded the ball and beat Crisp to the first base line by a stride. Crisp put the breaks on about three feet before he reached Hernandez. He threw his arms up and faked left. Duque reached for him first with his bare hand and then swiped at him with his glove. Jack Curry reports:
But Hernández was persistent. He stretched out his arms at his sides like a linebacker waiting to blanket a receiver to prevent Crisp from sneaking around him. The umpires ruled that Crisp was out of the baseline, which caused the pitcher known as El Duque to strike a pose.
Before he went into the pose, Crisp gave up, turned around and walked away. Then--and I'm not kidding--Duque folded his arms in the classic b-boy stance, legs still apart. Oooooh! He kept his arms tucked under his armpits and stood straight up. The crowd was delighted. It was a fitting posture considering that Yankee Stadium is in the heart of where hip hop was born. More than any tired cliche that George Steinbrenner can offer, Duque's move was the kind of chuzpah the Bombers needed. It could be looked at as cocky, but frankly, the Yankees needed a shot of arrogance. Nobody seemed to take offense. There were smiles in the Yankee dugout, and even Coco Crisp was grinning. The YES announcers were laughing, and so I was. That El Duque is some piece of work. Once again, he saved the Yankees' bacon and of course, he did it with style.