Monthly archives: July 2004
Ahh, what are you gunna do? This kind of loss is easier to stomach than the extra inning affair in Toronto the night before. The Yanks are seven-and-a-half games ahead of Boston who did not play (the Red Sox visit the Twins this weekend). With the trading deadline approaching there has been no movement on the Randy Johnson front. Most of the media believe he will not be going anywhere. (What, no prospects?)
In other news, Alex Rodriguez received a four-game suspension for his part in last Saturday's scuffle with the Red Sox. Tanyon Sturtze was hit with three games as were Trot Nixon and Gabe Kapler. Boston catcher Jason Varitek was also suspended for four games. Rodriguez plans to appeal his suspension.
Blue Jays 3, Yanks 2 (10 innings)
The Yankees lost a disapointing game in Toronto last night. However, they won the series and didn't lose any ground to the Red Sox who were defeated by the Orioles in Baltimore. I call the loss disapointing because Jon Lieber was excellent, pitching into the eigth inning, just what the Bombers needed. With the Yankees up 2-0, Lieber allowed a run in the seventh and with two out in the eighth he was removed after walking Vernon Wells. Felix Heredia--insert curse words here--came in to face Carlos Delgado, and gave up a run-scoring double on a 2-2 pitch. It was yet another poor night for Heredia. Wells would hit a solo dinger to left with one out in the tenth inning off of Scott Proctor to give Toronto the win.
Again the Yankees (Lofton, Clark, Jeter) hit the ball hard but right at Toronto defenders. They also made two careless plays which proved to be costly. After Gary Sheffield launched a solo bomb into the fifth deck in the first (career homer #401), Alex Rodriguez singled. With two out, Hideki Matsui slapped a liner to left, but Rodriguez got an awful jump and was thrown out at third to end the inning. It was nothing short of an embarassing play. Then, in the seventh inning, when Delgado lined the double off of Heredia, Gary Sheffield threw the ball into second base and not to the cut-off man. They surely had a play at the plate, but it wasn't to be. (Sheffield and Matsui did collect assists though.) Derek Jeter hit the ball hard in his final at-bat, but had a poor offensive night. He has slumped for the past week.
Finally, the strangest play of the night came in the top of seventh. With two out and men on first and second, Enrique Wilson fouled a 3-1 pitch off of his own helmet. He knocked himself down, cracked the helmet, but came up laughing. Then he floated a single up the middle to give the Yankees their second, and last run of the game.
Lieber's fine outing was wasted, and because of Heredia's ineptitude, Paul Quantrill and Scott Proctor worked the game. The trading deadline is only a few days away and New York could use some pitching help. But all of their eggs are invested in the Randy Johnson basket. As it stands, the two teams are playing a game of chicken. (Cluck, cluck.) Some observers think that it is likely that Johnson will stay put. Regardless, the Yanks do not seem to be persuing any other options. It will be a relief when Saturday has come and gone. It will also be interesting to see what Kevin Brown has to offer tomorrow night when he is expected to start against the Orioles at the stadium.
Yanks 7, Blue Jays 4
The Yanks finally caught up to the Jays in the eighth. Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter singled. Sheffield walked, and Alex Rodriguez hit a sacrific fly to right which tied the game. Jorge Posada followed with a three-run bomb to right field. In the ninth, Bernie Williams and Gary Sheffield hit solo homers. It was the 400th home run of Sheffield's career.
Tom Gordon allowed a couple of runs in the ninth, but the Yankees held on for the win. New York is eight games ahead of the Red Sox, who were rained out in Baltimore last night.
Yanks 6, Blue Jays 5 (10 innings)
But Rivera allowed a two-out single that tied the game (3-1 fastball over the heart of the plate), blowing his second game in his last two chances. However, the Yankees added a run in the top of the tenth (Tony Clark's RBI double was almost run down in center field by Vernon Wells), and Rivera worked another inning (this time, 1-2-3) for the win.
El Duque pitches tonight against Ted Lilly. At some point the Yankees are going to need to spell Quantrill, Gordon and Rivera; they need the starting staff to give them some length. Is it too much to ask Hernandez--who pitched brilliantly against the Jays in New York last Thursday--to be that man? Perhaps. Kevin Brown could return this weekend, and of course, the $64,000 question around baseball for the next several days is: Where will Randy Johnson land when it is all said and done? The Yankees are in the running, but it remains to be seen if they can pull a deal off.
Red Sox 9, Yanks 6
The Red Sox pounded Jose Contreras one more time...Surprised? While the Yankees didn't go easily (Timlin, Foulke), their pitching failed them once again as the Sox took two of three over the weekend. Saturday's histrionics aside, the Yankees can't be too upset about how the weekend panned-out considering who they were throwing against Boston (Kevin Millar was a one-man wrecking crew). After Friday's demoralizing loss, the Sox bounced back and won two games they had to have. The Yankees lead is seven-and-a-half games (eight in the loss column). John Harper reports in the Daily News:
One thing is almost certain: Boss George has put a full-court-press on his general manager Brian Cashman to get a deal done this week. The Yankee pitching staff is in bad shape. So let the rumors fly. Newsday reports that the Los Angeles Dodgers are a darkhorse candidate to land Randy Johnson--who struck out 14 batters yesterday. It has been widely reported that the Yankees do not have enough good prospects to complete a trade. However, according to the New York Times, Bryan Lambe, an Arizona scout thinks the Yankees have some talent to offer:
Red Sox 11, Yankees 10
Storm and Stress=Ugly Mess
The Red Sox won a messy affair against the Yankees on an overcast afternoon at Fenway Park. It was a dramatic win for Boston and a frustrating loss for the Yanks. The game was delayed for an hour and according to the Fox announcers on TV, the Yankee team was under the impression that the game wasn't going to be played at all. The players had changed and the buses were fired up to go when the team was informed that the game was in fact going to be played. Joe Buck and Tim McCarver first reported that it was Red Sox management that chose to play the game; later, they had heard that the decision to play came directly from the players.
Regardless, I'm certain the Red Sox are pleased that they played. The two teams finally brawled; both scored a boat-load of runs, and Mariano Rivera took his turn being humbled, blowing a two-run lead in the ninth inning. In a game that the Red Sox needed to win, they were resiliant. It was the kind of see-saw, turgid exchange that we are used to seeing from these two teams. It wasn't pretty, but it didn't lack for excitement. When the Yankees went ahead by five runs, my girlfriend Emily clapped on the couch and cheered. I told her not to get cocky; anything short of a ten-run cushion makes me nervous against Boston with four innings left to play.
The brawl was full of nasty feelings; fortunately nobody was seriously hurt (though Taynon Sturtze looked as if he just stepped out of "Star Trek II: Wrath of Kahn" when it was all said and done). With the Yankees ahead 3-0, Alex Rodriguez was plunked with two outs and nobody on in the top of third. Was he hit on purpose? Perhaps. Rodriguez had some words for Bronson Arroyo, Boston's starting pitcher, as he unwrapped his protective sleeve and made his way to first. First of all, Rodriguez isn't out-of-line barking at Arroyo, cause this kid is known to hit guys. Jason Varitek, walking in stride with A Rod, effectively told Rodriguez to piss off. Rodriguez quickly re-directed his fury at Varitek and before you know he was motioning toward the catcher saying, "You want to go? Come on."
Without discarding his mask, Varitek so was inclined (if not delighted) to accept the invitation. He mushed Rodriguez in the face and then reached under his crotch in the hopes of turning A Rod over. But Rodriguez held his ground and the two men were overcome by the crowd. At this point both teams were in a scrum. Rodriguez and Varitek fell on the ground. Schilling was out there. Lots of violent pushing and shoving; a few mad moments.
Resident Goonie Bird Taynon Sturtze, the Yankees starting pitcher, grabbed Gabe Kapler in a choke hold for no apparent reason, and the burly pitcher was tossed on his nut by Kapler, David Ortiz, and Trot Nixon. It was predictable that it was Sturze to act like a putz. He's lucky he didn't get more of a beat down.
Varitek and Rodriguez were both ejected. Varitek played his role as the chief Dirt Dog, and the Sox, brimming over with frustration, came out biting. For his part, Rodriguez, was aggresive himself, which should play well with his teammates. The Yankees have been hit often this season. Over the past several years they have been hit a lot by the Red Sox. The Red Sox are slumping; their two stud pitchers lost back-to-back heartbreakers against New York. Someone was bound to crack sooner or later. Red Sox fans feel good that their boy Varitek doesn't take any shit and Yankee fans feel good because Rodriguez isn't going to take any shit either. So nobody is going to pack shit, capice?
Sturtze wasn't thrown out, but he was done. Fat ass went back out there and gave up two runs in the bottom of the third and was through for the day. Boston skipper Terry Francona got himself tossed arguing a close play at second later on which added to the contentious spirit of the afternoon. The Sox took the lead, Yankees grabbed it back, then the Sox came back again. Where have we seen this before?
I left the apartment in the seventh inning. That was it. (I'm mature, see?) Ruben Sierra led off with a tremendous solo home run and then the Yanks loaded the bases on three consecutive Red Sox errors. Nobody out. But they could not score. It was at that point that I couldn't take it any longer. I just had a bad feeling the game was going to last forever, it wasn't going to end well and that it was basically an insufferable afternoon. The pitching was horrendous, the Yankee bullpen--with the notable exception of Scott Proctor--was awful, and the worst possible thing that could happen happened: Mariano gave up the game.
But I didn't watch it, OK. I was out taking a nice long walk. Trying to calm myself. It rained most of this week in New York and it has been humid on top of that. But today was overcast but unseasonably cool, without a trace of humidity. It is the kind of weather that can make me nostalgic for Belgium, where my mom's family lives. This is that kind of summer weather you catch over there, or in England. The breeze was chilling as I walked, refreshing. If they lost, I wasn't going to let it ruin the evening, which turned out to be chill (Scrabble--for for the first time ever--followed by Stanley Kubrick's first important movie, "The Killing).
When I arrived back at the apt, Em gave me the sorry details. How's this for the kicker? Our old pal Ramiro Mendoza pitched well and got the win for the Sox. Oy. It was an uncomfortable loss for the Yankees and Yankee fans and a galvanizing victory for Boston and Red Sox Nation. Still, I calmed myself down by remembering that the Yankees are eight-and-a-half games ahead and kept battling back all day long. It was a bigger game for Boston, though that doesn't entirely remove the sting if you are the Yankees.
What I like the most about rooting for this Yankee team however, is knowing that they will come out tomorrow playing very hard, wanting to win badly, as if it were a playoff game. I don't doubt the teams' intensity one bit. And that does wonders for the digestion. Today's loss smarts, but I still like the way the team played. The Yankees' biggest flaw--their pitching--was simply exposed. Jose Contreras and Derek Lowe, players who have confounded their respective teams, pitch on the ESPN Sunday Night Game of the Week. Expect lots of sound and fury.
Will this wake the Sox up? Will it wake the Yankees up? I don't know, I think everyone is plenty awake. The two teams don't play again until September when they go out it six more times. In the meanwhile, let's hope we see a better-played game tomorrow night. Both pitcher is capable of shutting the other team down for seven innings. Contreras has been good lately, but Boston murders the guy. It would be a break-through game for Contreras if he performs well. And Lowe would do wonders for his own battered esteem if he wins at home after Saturday's win. All of these things. We shall see. Rarely a dull moment, right?
Yanks 8, Red Sox 7
Variations on a familiar theme. The Yankee lead now stands at nine-and-a-half games.
Yankees 1, Blue Jays 0
The Yankees go up to Boston eight-and-a-half games ahead of the Red Sox, who split a double-header against the Orioles yesterday. The pitching match-ups for the weekend decidedly favor the Sox. As far as I'm concerned, so long as the Bombers don't get swept, it'll be a decent weekend and I'll be able to digest. However, from Boston's pernt of view, they need to sweep New York, especially with Schlling going against Lieber tonight, and then the mighty Tanyon Sturtze pitching tomorrow, and Boston's own personal whipping boy Jose Contreras throwing Sunday night.
Although he's ready to go yesterday, it looks as if Joe Torre will sit Derek Jeter tonight. Figure he'll get some burn over the next few days though. Jason Giambi's cancer tests came back negative and he should play too.
Yankees 10, Blue Jays 3
Javier Vazquez was not impressive last night, but the Yankee offense was, as the Bombers rolled over Toronto on a muggy evening in the Bronx. It was a blow-out but it didn't seem to come easily for the Yankee pitchers. On the YES broadcast, Jim Kaat explained how Vazquez's motion has become too long in recent outings. In the first few innings--when Vazquez threw an awful lot of pitches--it was clear that he was trying to shorten his stride. He didn't bend his back as much as he usually does. In fact, it looked so odd at first, I thought Vazquez was doing his best Tim Wakefield impression. But while Vazquez attempts to work himself out of this mid-season rut, Gary Sheffield continues to mash, hitting his 398th career dinger. He had company last night too. Every Yankee starter collected a hit; yo, even our boy Bernie Williams had a couple of hits, as well as two RBI.
Derek Jeter sat out with a broken bone in his right hand (he may miss today's game too, but it appears as if he'll be ready to play in Boston over the weekend), but looked to be enjoying himself in the dugout. He laughed at Alex Rodriguez in the top of fifth inning, when Rodriguez caught a high pop fly for the first out of the inning. Catching fly balls, especially ones behind him, does not come naturally to Rodriguez; in fact, it is one of the few acts that he isn't able to make look graceful on a baseball field. In the bottom of the fifth, Rodriguez beat out a slow dribbler for an infield single. He was the last Yankee regular to collect a hit. Again, Jeter was on the top step of the dugout laughing at his pal.
Jason Giambi did not play either. He left the Stadium in the middle of the afternoon to have more tests done on his ailing body. After the game, he spoke to reporters, and mentioned that he was being tested for cancer. According to the Daily News:
Carlos Delgado was removed from the game in the middle of the seventh inning. Mercifully, Michael Kay wasn't working the game for YES, and Kaat and Singleton didn't mention Delgado's politics. I didn't hear much from the fans through my TV set. Cliff Corcoran was sitting in the bleachers; perhaps he had a different experience (expect a write up from Cliff later in the day).
Yankees 4, Devil Rays 2
Since his family defected from Cuba Jose Contreras has pitched five times. With the exception of the disaster at Shea Stadium, he has pitched well, as he did again yesterday in Tampa Bay. The true test for Contreras will come Sunday night when he will face the Red Sox. If he pitches well in Boston, it will be hard not to give Contreras props. According to the New York Times:
Gary Sheffield had the big hit--a two-run homer to left field--which put the Bombers ahead for good. After Derek Jeter was struck in the hand by a pitch from Victor Zambrano (initial x-rays were negative, but Jeter eventually had the leave the game), Sheffield followed and nearly twisted himself into the ground swinging at the first pitch. Then he launched a long line drive foul before Zambrano left a fastball out over the plate. Pi-yah. Though he is still hurting is there anyone Yankee fans would rather see in a big spot this year than Sheffield?
Mariano Rivera recorded another save as the Yanks remain seven games ahead of the Red Sox who beat the Mariners in Seattle yesterday afternoon. Boston returns home for two games against the Orioles (Pedro pitches tonight) while the Yanks are in the Bronx tonight and tomorrow to square off against Carlos Delgado and the Blue Jays for the first time this season.
There is no progress to report on the Randy Johnson front. Arizona owner Jerry Colangelo is vacationing in Italy and won't return until next Tuesday. Nothing is expected to shake down until he returns to the states. But as Joel Sherman reports this morning--with a helpful hand from Will Carroll--even if the Yankees do land the Big Unit, it doesn't mean that they will necessarily win the World Serious.
p.s. Here is part two of the Athletics Nation interview with Michael Lewis.
The Athletics Nation interview with Michael Lewis.
Brian Gunn's excellent account of clown-town last night in Chicago.
Aaron Gleeman's account of the recent SABR convention.
The latest edition of the Pinstriped Bible by Steven Goldman.
Pat Jordan on guess what, a pitcher who never made it.
More rumors and gossip from Peter Gammons.
Alex Graman has good stuff according to Joe Torre, he just fights himself too much. He was too keyed up last night, didn't trust his stuff. You know the company line. The Yankee rookie didn't make it out of the first inning and placed New York in a 5-0 hole. The Yankee pitching problems aren't going away. While the Bombers eventually fought back to tie the game, an egregious error by Kenny Lofton (with some help from Godziller Matsui) in the sixth inning, led to two runs, as the Devil Rays prevailed, 9-7.
Tanyon Sturtze replaced Graman and pitched reasonably well for several innings. He left in the sixth, replaced by Felix Heredia. A run scored and with two out and men on second and third Juan Padilla relieved Heredia. Padilla did his job and got pinch-hitter Robert Fick to loft a fly ball to left-center field. Matsui drifted over poised to make the catch, and so did Kenny Lofton. The two didn't communicate properly, the ball fell in, two runs scored and Fick was awarded a double.
The Yankees were down by three runs instead of one, so Ruben Sierra's two-run, pinch-hit bomb in the eighth--complete with cha-cha steps and plenty of mustard--didn't save the day. The Rays added an insurance run in the ninth off of Paul Quantrill.
Gary Sheffield too feels weak and may seek another cortisone shot for his gimpy shoulder. Derek Jeter is swinging the bat well though; he's pulled several inside fastballs over the past few games instead of inside-outing them to right field.
The only bit of good news for Yankee fans was that Boston lost to the Mariners in agonizing fashion last night in Seatttle. Keith Foulke blew the save and Brett Boone hit a grand slam in the 11th inning to give the M's the win. The Sox remain seven games behind New York.
More good news for the Yanks. Graman won't start in Fenway this weekend. Most likely, he'll be replaced by Tanyon Sturtze. Happy?
BRONX BANTER INTERVIEW: WILL CARROLL
My label-mate Will Carroll was one of the first Internet writers that I developed a relationship with after I started Bronx Banter in the fall of 2002. (Carroll contacted me in the spring of 2003 after I wrote a short piece about Roberto Alomar.) For a year-and-a-half, I’ve enjoyed many rambling conversations—via e-mail and over the phone--with Carroll, who writes about injuries for Baseball Prospectus. He’s a thoroughly engaging guy, passionate, self-deprecating and slightly out-of-his-bird. I had the chance to hang out with Will at the winter meetings in New Orleans last December and found him to be even more entertaining in person than he is in print. I have long thought that he’d been a fun guy to interview and with the publication of his first book, "Saving the Pitcher" we found the ideal opportunity to chat. So without further ado, here is our conversation. I hope you enjoy.
Bronx Banter: Hey, you’re a Will Jr. right?
BB: You’re, Will Carroll Second. No one ever called you “junior?”
BB: That’s random. Now, how did your father get into sports medicine?
BB: Did he grow up in an athletic family?
BB: So you grew up in Indiana.
BB: How many different places did your dad work when you were growing up?
BB: Where is your mom from?
BB: And she didn’t mind traveling all across the country like that?
BB: Did you stay with her?
BB: Has your mom lived in one central place all this time?
BB: Is that why you live in Indianapolis?
BB: On your mom’s side?
BB: Huh. So your grandmother is from your pop’s side?
BB: Did growing up around a father who was involved in sports encourage you to get into them yourself?
BB: Did you play all kinds of sports growing up?
BB: Did you get interested in sports medicine at all as a kid? Was it impressed on you that this was the family business?
BB: My dad was in the TV and movies business.
BB: Wait, let me backtrack. Where did you go to high school?
BB: How did you do?
BB: Were you a pitcher?
BB: What was Alabama like for you?
BB: Did you leave high school looking for a college where you could play baseball?
BB: Why where you so young when you graduated?
BB: What college did you eventually go to?
BB: And had you ever been seriously hurt before going to college?
BB: This was before your growth spurt, when you were 5’5?
BB: Was baseball big in Texas too?
BB: If you’re moving around all the time growing up, what major league team did you root for?
BB: Because of WGN.
BB: That’s funny, because we got WGN in the eighties in New York too. From I’d say 82 through 87 I saw a lot of games because they’d always be playing in the afternoon when we came home from school.
BB: Did you play ball during your first year of college, at Bethany?
BB: Where was your dad in all of this?
BB: What? Classic son-father strudel?
BB: When was this?
BB: And you obviously continued to travel and move around.
BB: Did you continue to follow the Cubs while you were in the service?
BB: Did you miss your family?
BB: Did it give you the focus and structure that you had been looking for?
BB: Did you serve in the Gulf War?
BB: How scared were you when you found out that you were going?
BB: What did you think, “Let me do the most dangerous thing I can possibly think of?”
BB: How did you stay whole mentally?
BB: Where did you go when you left the Navy?
BB: Who rebuilt it?
BB: Was that a connection you made through your father?
BB: And your dad was the trainer.
BB: So you’re out for a year. Did you rehab with your dad?
BB: When in doubt, right…"I ain’t quittin’ dammit!"
BB: And that’s your career.
BB: Were you into computers and the Internet early on?
BB: And the two of you hit it off?
BB: I could see that. You could be cousins.
BB: You talked about how between the ages of say 17 and 22 you felt directionless, when all of your experiences during that time informed what you do now. What makes it interesting to me is that you are being true to what you know and yet you’ve accomplished something that very few people have been able to do on the Net and that’s create your own niche.
BB: How did this lead you to write a book about pitching?
BB: Now that you have a platform, what is this book about?
BB: Did you see your job then as primarily being a facilitator?
BB: Is the book more directed to coaches and parents?
BB: If the book is an instructional tool, what does it have to offer the average baseball fan like me?
BB: You mentioned earlier that you don’t consider yourself a good writer. Given that, how do you feel about it now that it’s finished?
High Def, Mos Def
During the 2001 and 2002 seasons, I wondered how much longer Mariano Rivera was going to last as an elite closer. He was still very good of course, though not dominant. Perhaps Rivera's time was about up; after all, even the greatest relievers only have about a half-dozen peak seasons. But then Rivera rebounded with a terrific 2003 season, and has been even better in 2004. Over the weekend I was perusing through "The Sound of Two Hands Clapping," a collection of essays by the brilliant critic Kenneth Tynan, when I ran across a passage that fits Rivera to a tee (from an unpublished 1970 interview for Playboy):
Nate Robertson out-pitched Jon Lieber on Joe Torre's 64th birthday as the Tigers earned a split of the weekend series against the Yankees. They also won the season series from New York, 4-3. Lieber wasn't terrible, but the Yankee offense just couldn't help him out. Ruben Sierra launched a two-run homer, but the Yanks hit into three double plays. Jason Giambi and Jorge Posada had the day off, and Gary Sheffield uncharacterisitcally whiffed three times. The Yanks lead over Boston stands at seven after Curt Schilling and the Sox defeated the Angels.
The Yankees have an odd week. They play two games in Tampa Bay, and then are back in the Bronx in the middle of the week for two games against the Blue Jays. This will be the first time the Yanks see Toronto all season. But before they get a chance to really know each other, the Bombers are off to Boston for a three-game weekend series. While the Yanks won't face Pedro Martinez, the Sox certainly won't face either Kevin Brown or Mike Mussina, and if my figuring is correct, they won't see Javier Vazquez either.
Yankees 5, Tigers 3
The Yankees and Tigers finally played a close game last night, with the Bombers holding on for the win, 5-3. El Duque got his second victory in two starts although he was far from stellar. Gary Sheffield was the offensive hero--and later, tabloid provocateur--collecting three hits, including a two-run homer and an RBI single. Ruben Sierra was the DH in place of the slumping Bernie Williams and hit a solo home run. Kenny Lofton and Derek Jeter added two hits each, and Alex Rodriguez had three hits. Jason Giambi was 0-5 and continues to struggle offensively, but made the defensive play of the game robbing Eric Munson of a game-breaking double with a sensational catch. Paul Quantrill was hit hard, but Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera were absolutely dominant. The Yankees gained a game in the standings after the Angels beat up on the Red Sox last night, 8-3. Their lead in the AL East stands at eight games.
High and Low
The Yankees started the second half of the season by winning one in impressive fashion and then getting dominated in the following game. Jose Contreras hurled his finest game as a Yankee on Thursday night against the Tigers, pitching into the ninth inning for the first time in his Yankee career. He walked the lead-off man in the first, allowed a run in the second, and was his usual plodding self. Contreras allowed a triple to start the fourth but pitched out of trouble without the run scoring, and was on his way to retiring fifteen consecutive Tigers. For their part, the Yankees mustered just five hits all night. However, they were all solo home runs--Matsui, Jeter, Lofton, and two by Rodriguez--which gave the Yankees all the runs they would need in a 5-1 victory.
I caught the last half of the game and thoroughly enjoyed it. What a pipe dream of a game. There was no tension, just the Yankees in cruise control. Some may find this kind of game dull, but not me. It's just the kind of victory that I love. Mariano Rivera came on in the ninth and K'd Pudge and Young and then got a ground out to end the game.
I watched entire game on Friday night and the shoe was squarely on Fate's other foot. Mike Mussina was placed on the DL yesterday due to soreness in his pitching elbow, a day after Kevin Brown was knocked around in his first rehab assingment since being disabled himself. This news became more distressing later in the evening when Javier Vazquez suffered his worst outing of the season. (Just how badly do you think George Steinbrenner wants Randy Johnson now? These must be long days for one B. Cashman.) The Yankees were one-hit by southpaw Mike Maroth as the Tigers bombed New York 8-1.
The Tigers have mauled the Yanks in three of the five meetings between the two teams this season. With El Duque and Jon Lieber lined up today and tomorrow, let's hope one of these two soft-tossing veterans can help stop the bleeding. The Yanks remain seven games ahead of Boston, who have dropped one (Lowe) and won one (Pedro) against Anahiem. (F'schizzle Ortizzle.)
BRONX BANTER INTERVIEW: ALAN SCHWARZ
Bronx Banter: First things first, when did you start becoming a baseball fan?
BB: Are your parents American?
BB: As a kid were you more into playing baseball or studying it and getting into the numbers?
BB: You were the sports guy. Did you do any other kind of writing for the paper?
BB: So there wasn't a writing background in your family?
BB: Were your parents mathematicians?
BB: So did you play Strat-O-matic as a kid?
BB: During your teenage years when you first got into baseball, did that include reading baseball literature?
BB: So you didn't read the Bill James Abstracts when they came out during the eighties?
BB: You've been a baseball writer for what, almost a dozen years now?
BB: How long have you had the idea to do a book?
BB: So after you learn about Lindsey from professor Morris, are you thinking about writing an article? Or are you already thinking, "I've got a book here."
BB: Why is that?
BB: Had you ever had a desire to write a book?
BB: How did you go about getting it published?
BB: I think one of the strengths of the book is that the prose is straight-forward and to the point, and you pretty much get out of the way and let the story tell itself.
BB: Are you trying to reach a wider audience than just baseball fans with this book?
BB: In telling the stories of so many people, what did you find that connected them all?
BB: Because it's so quantifiable?
BB: Isn't that what Lindsey said about Hockey, which was his first love?
BB: Did you have an idea of how to pace the book? You cover a lot of people and are economical in how divide your time. Was this something you were conscious of?
BB: Do you feel that you had to cut a lot of stuff out?
BB: When during your research did you realize that you really had a narrative with this subject?.
BB: Are there any characters that you are particularly fond of?
BB: You mentioned how one thing that connects a lot of the guys who were interested in numbers is that most of them had wanted to be players at one point. That is so reinforced today: It's the sabermetricians versus the Old Guard of baseball jocks.
BB: There is a real polarization between the old school and the new way of thinking. This was a central theme in Michael Lewis's book, "Moneyball."
BB: Do you think that the extreme attitudes are a result of the fact that you are dealing with very competitive people who are threatened by each other?
BB: Do you feel that in five or ten years there will be more teams run in the mold of the A's, Jays and Red Sox?
BB: We are so inundated with numbers these days. One aspect of your book that I appreciated was how the Elias annuals in the 1980s helped create this sense of random statistics that didn't necessarily mean anything, though Bill James was often the target of those who criticized statistics.
BB: Toward the end of the book you talk about women becoming more interested in numbers.
BB: Do you think we'll see a lot more women involved in the future?
BB: Are these women necessarily baseball fans?
The American League beat the snot out of Roger Clemens in the first inning last night and cruised to a 9-4 win, securing home-field advantage in the World Serious this year. Manny Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano hit homers off of Clemens. Later, Clemens returned to the field to be presented soemthing or other by Bud Selig. The Rocket, accompanied by his wife and four sons, looked mortified.
Meanwhile, the Randy Johnson rumors are heating up. How about a three-way that would send Nomar to the Cubs, prospects to Arizona and Johnson to Boston? What about the Mets and the Yankees? (The Bombers, lacking the sufficient minor league talent would need to include a third team for sure.) The Hot Stove is alive and well and it's hotter than July. The Johnson hub-bub is expected to go down to the wire. The trading deadline is July 31st.
Big Unit Movin?
If he lands in New York, expect to see a lot of wailing in the press. (Never mind talk radio.) Mike Lupica is sure to lead the charge, but Murray Chass already isn't nuts about the idea:
For more on the Big Unit, head on over to The Futility Infielder. Jay Jaffe provides a telling excerpt from a profile that Pat Jordan wrote on Johnson several years ago.
El Duque returned to the fold yesterday and was up to his usual tricks. He threw two kinds of curveballs, a slider, a change, as well as an eephus pitch (thrown twice) to go with his fastball. There has been some vague talk about the Yankees acquiring junkball specialist Jamie Moyer before the trading deadline, but with Hernandez on the squad, why bother? Stepping in for Mike Mussina, Duque was decent yesterday, allowing two runs off of five hits, and three walks in five innings of work (he also struck out five). While he isn't the answer to the pitching problems in the Bronx, physically, he looked great. Cool as ever, the Yankees' answer to Yul Brenner. It seemed like he was just pitching for the Yankees last week. Not much has changed.
Duque got some help from his defense early on. Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Cairo made a nice play in the third, and later on, Jorge Posada gunned down Carl Crawford for the second time in the series. Posada added a long solo home run into the Yankees' bullpen and an RBI single before he left with a sprained ankle (x-rays were negative). The game was close for a minute but the Yankees lumber was simply too much for the Rays. Six straight hits scored five runs in the third, and Godziller Matsui and Gary Sheffield added solo shots of their own. My girl's favorite Yankee Tony Clark hit two dingers as the Yankees rolled.
Sheffield's homer was memorable. Batting in the bottom of the eighth inning, Sheff was knocked to the ground on a 1-2 pitch from Danys Baez. Sheffield has so much torque in his body when he strides that he looked like a horse getting shot in an old western movie, going down. As he twisted back, his front leg collapsed under him making the brush-back look more serious than it actually was. Baez continued to challenge Sheffield who fouled off several fastballs. Then Baez left one out over the plate and Sheffield promptly deposited it over the left center field wall. Sheff admired his shot for a minute and then trotted around the bases.
The Rangers beat the Red Sox yesterday, so Boston ends the first half seven games behind New York. The Yankees go into the break with the best record in baseball.
Yankees 6, Devil Rays 3
It was Old Timer's Day at Yankee Stadium yesterday, which is equal parts fun, nostalgic, sanctimonious and pathetic. Luis Sojo ended the game with a home run to left field off of Ron Guidry. Sojo styled his way around the bases like Reggie Jackson and everyone had a good laugh.
The Yankees were down 2-0 in the regular game when the slumping Alex Rodriguez tied the score with a monstrous blast that landed in the left field upper deck. Good grrruh, it a man-sized homer and Rodriguez knew it immediately. It must give a hitter the kind of feeling that Popeye felt when a spinach-fix hit him in the biceps. Good Lord. When Rodriguez got to home plate he let out an "Oh yeah!" rebel yell as he high-fived Jason Giambi.
The old Cardinals teams of the sixties were famous for keeping each other in line. If a rookie had a terrific day and started talking with his chest puffed out to reporters or teammates after the game, Bob Gibson or Dick Groat or Curt Flood would sharply remind them to keep it in perspective. What's the old saying? Don't get too high when you win or too low when you lose, right?
In his own way, Derek Jeter did something similar to Rodriguez yesterday. Just making sure A Rod's head didn't start to swell. Shortly after he hit the blast, Jeter strutted along the Yankee dugout mocking Rodriguez's celebration at home plate. He finished his comedy routine by sitting next to a smiling Rodriguez. This is a role that Tim Raines once played for the Yankees. How many guys could get away with busting Rodriguez's chops like that? (Rodriguez grounded into a double play and struck out in his last two at bats.)
The score remained tied at two until the seventh when, you guessed it, Derek Jeter broke the game open with a two-out double which scored three runs. (Jeter would advance to third and then score on an error.) Although Tom Gordon gave up a run in the eighth, Mariano Rivera worked a scoreless ninth for the Yankees' third straight win. Jon Lieber pitched effectively again, scattering hits, throwing strikes and working out of trouble. The Bombers lead over Boston holds steady at six games after the Red Sox won their fifth straight yesterday.
Mike Mussina was scheduled to start this afternoon, but has been scratched due to a sore elbow. This makes way for the return of one of my favorite all-time Yankee pitchers, El Duque. Orlando Hernandez has been rehabbing with the Columbus Clippers of late. I have no idea if he'll have anything today, but it sure will be fun to see the Yankees' International Man of Mystery back in the pinstripes.
Yanks 5, Devil Rays 4
I spent yesterday afternoon into the evening in some far off place called Bergenfield, New Jersey, chilling with my old friend Steinski listening to records. In truth, Bergenfield is just about ten minutes away from the George Washington Bridge. Stein moved out there just about a year ago. He took me to a pond near his place that was littered with duck dung and, well, ducks. The place could have been called Shoe Polish Pond as the water was as black as the night.
Now, I was chased by a white swan one time when I was a kid, so I've never really been down with the duck posse. But Steven wasn't ascared and we walked right through a school of them to a park bench. Some of the real schnorrer's in the group came pretty close to us looking for food, looking at us all sideways, jerking their dopey necks around. That made me type skittish, but I held it together.
When Stien's wife came home they took me to a barbeque joint in Hackensack called Cubby's. The outside of the place looks similar to a Sizzler's, and Cubby apparently is a cartoon pig who loves his barbeque. I had a b-bque chicken sammich and let me tell you, it was outstanding. Nothing like pigging out in Hackensack.
Afterwards, Stein was kind enough to drive me back home to the Bronx. All of which is a long-winded way of saying that I walked into the apartment and the Yankees were leading Tampa Bay 4-3 in the seventh inning. Emily informed me that it had been a good game. That Javey had another tough outing, walking the bases loaded, and committing a balk, something she had never seen before. But Quantrill saved the day, got out of the bases loaded jam and the Yanks had the lead.
I caught the last two-and-a-half innings. Just in time to see Sweet Lou throw a tantrum and get himself run from the game. He didn't kick or throw or bite, but he was plenty pissed, which is always good for a laugh. Tom Gordon was great in the eighth and the Yanks tacked on a run in the bottom of the inning. However, Mariano Rivera had a rare off-night, and his pitches were up. He allowed a lead-off double to Julio Lugo who would eventually score on Tino Martinez's pinch-hit, RBI single. With the score now 5-4, Rivera loaded the bases. Two outs, and Rocco B at the plate. Rivera goes to a full count before getting Rocco to pop up to Tony Clark in foul territory to end the game.
Whhheeeww. The Yankees remain six ahead of Boston who shut-out Texas at Fenway Park last night. Today gives Old-Timer's Day in the Bronx. The geezers play at 2:00 and the regular game starts at 4:00. Em and I are headed down to Chinatown to eat and shop. She's running full-steam ahead with operation Feng Shui, so we need to get chimes and colored paper and a whole host of nonsense. I'm easy, so I'm just playing the old "Yes, dear," card, and everything is rosey. Hey, whatever floats your boat, right? A small trade-off for a woman who watches baseball with me (not to mention by herself).
Yankees 7, Devil Rays 1
On the other side, Victor Zambrano was his usual wild self. Zambrano stands with his legs wide apart when he's in the set position; he looks like a wishbone ready to be snapped. The guy struggles with his control, but his pitches are incredibly nasty, and they move a lot. He walked the bases loaded in the first, and the Yankees scored a run on Jason Giambi's sac fly to left. Derek Jeter drove in the next two runs, and Hideki Matsui drove in two more when he hit a grounds rule double with the bases loaded. Gary Sheffield yanked a slider into the left field seats in the ninth for the final two runs of the game.
In all, it was a good night for the Yankees, who remain six games ahead of Boston, who beat Oakland in extra innings at Fenway Park. After a rough time against New York and Atlanta, give the Sox credit for sweeping the A's at home.
The Yankees lead over Boston was reduced to six games last night. What are the odds that it'll be five after tonight? Jose Contreras goes against Yankee-killer Victor Zambrano while Curt Schilling will face Rich Harden. Hmmm. Glad I'm not a betting man. (How amped is Lou Piniella to come into New York with his surging Devil Rays?) However, the Yankees have Vazquez, Lieber and Mussina lined up for the weekend. Hopefully, they can help stop the bleeding as the Yankees have lost their last two series.
After another awful performance by Yankee pitching yesterday, Newsday is reporting that both Brad Halsey and Brett Prinz will be shipped off to Columbus today. The duo will apparently be replaced by two right-handers, Juan Padilla and Sam Marsonek.
I've been way too upset about how the Yankees have played over the past week. I called Cub fan Alex Ciepley to complain yesterday and he essentially laughed in my face. But the Yankees have dropped five of six I moaned. "Well, the Cubs have lost for 92 years..." That shut me up right quick. What did I expect? A Yankee fan calling a Cub fan for sympathy. Doh. Cliff Corcoran, a level-headed Yankee observer, calmed me down when he e-mailed me after the game:
Of course, trade rumors are flying about. Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald writes how the Red Sox are in the thick of the so-called Randy Johnson sweepstakes, while Boston's GM Theo Epstein denied any such doings in the Boston Globe. Meanwhile, Joel Sherman wonders if Roger Clemens could find his way back to the Bronx before all is said and done. Actually, Sherman make a strong case for southpaw reliever Eddie Guardado, a move I've been dreaming about for a few months now.
Finally, Hideki Matsui is the seventh Yankee to make the All-Star team. While Matsui is having a fine season, it would have been nice to see a non-Yankee fill out the AL roster, like future Hall-of-Famer Frank Thomas for one.
Tigers 9, Yanks 1
Everything started so well for Mike Mussina. Working on three days rest, Mussina was sharp through the first four innings last night, striking out five of the first six batters he faced. After brushing back Bobby Higgenson with a fastball, Mussina caught him looking on a beautiful curve ball. But in his second at bat, Higgenson crushed an 0-2 delivery for a two-run homer, and that was the begining of the end of Mussina and the Yanks. That Higgenson flipped his bat and hot-dogged it around the bases didn't help my digestion any. Jason Johnson, who pitched a terrific game, allowed the Yanks to score a run before the Tigers put up five in the sixth.
There wasn't much to remember from this one. The Yankees put some good swings on the ball but didn't have much to show for it. Also, Bernie Williams badly misplayed a ball during the Tigers sixth inning. And Taynon Sturtze plunked Pudge Rodriguez in the ninth. Rodriguez left the game and Ugie Urbina returned the favor by throwing behind Gary Sheffield in the bottom half of the inning. Sturtze was not run from the game like Esteban Yan had been the previous night. Both teams were warned after Urbina threw at Sheffield.
The Yankees lead over the Red Sox is down to seven games. Thank you very much, Mr. Zito. There were many writers in the New York and Boston media who believed the Yankees won the AL East last week. I'm not one of them. Not only do I think the Red Sox are alive and well in the wild-card race, I don't think it's beyond them to win the East either. (Ed Cossette however, remains cautious...)
Yanks 10, Tigers 3
Mets 6, Yankees 5
The Yankees needed a solid effort from Javier Vazquez yesterday and didn't even come close to getting it. While Vazquez wasn't as awful as Jose Contreras had been on Saturday, he was far from impressive as the Mets took it to the Yankees once again. Horrific pitching, and cockamamie base-running did the Yankees in on Sunday as the Mets swept the Yankees for the first time since Inter-league play began in 1997. In addition, the Metropolitans beat the Yankees in the season series for the first time as well.
Vazquez struggled with his control from the begining. He looked gassed, his body lanugage tense, and he ostensibly had nothing. It was painful to watch. But I was impressed that he hung in there and didn't spit the bit completely. Felix Heredia was useless and Flash Gordon looked fatigued as well. I don't think the Yankees will miss Richard Hidalgo much, huh?
The Yankees didn't lie down. The offense chipped away. Bernie Williams went 4 for 5, but made a crucial mistake on the bases, limiting a Yankee rally. Jorge Posada later pulled his own numb-nuts move (that the Yankees filed a protest on the Posada play speaks to their level of frustration more than anything else). Williams' solo home run off Jay Seo was the highlight of the day for the Yankees. Seo left a pitch up and over plate which Williams smacked high and deep to right. As soon as he hit it, Williams dropped his head and shoulders comically. It wasn't a David Ortiz, let-me-admire-this, hot dog move. It was a "Oh, man, did I ever kill that," reaction. At the same instant, Seo swiped at the air with his right arm, "Drat!" Head bowed, Williams paused for a moment and then went into a home run trot.
Alex Rodriguez continues to struggle offensively. He is not performing well with men on base at all. But the Yankees offense wasn't the problem this weekend, it was pitching, pitching, and more pitching. 11 runs, 10 runs, 6 runs: 'nuff said. The only silver-lining for New York was that Derek Lowe and the Red Sox were torched in Atlanta. For the Yankees to get swept and only lose a game in the standings is a lucky break if I've ever seen one. Of course, it doesn't get any easier this week, with the improved Tigers in town for three, and then the D-Rays here for four to finish out the first half. The Yankees dragged their way through the weekend; they need to stay sharp this week before they can exhale and get a break during the All-Star festivities.
Jason Giambi, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez will be starters in the All-Star game; Gary Sheffield, Flash Gordon and Mariano Rivera were elected as reserves.
Mets 10, Yanks 9
I'm ashamed to admit that a two-game losing streak to the Mets is enough to get my blood boiling. But there it is: today's loss had me rampaging like a four-year-old. The Yankees and Mets played an exciting game with the Mets coming out on top by a single run. Tony Clark had four hits, including two homers. Jason Giambi had a pinch-hit double. But I'm more fixated on what went wrong. Jose Contreras was nothing short of putrid (I have no idea why Torre had him out there to start the sixth inning), and Alex Rodriguez was a bust offensively. I don't even want to re-live Posada's at-bat against John Franco in the eighth. It wasn't an exciting game, it was garbage. And Schilling is pitching tonight for the Sox. Bah-fuggin-humbug.
Anyhow, while I cope with my anger management issues, it was a terrific win for the Metroplitans. Luckily, Javier Vazquez is going for the Bombers tomorrow, who will try to avoid being swept, and losing a season series to the Mets for the first time since Inter-league play began in 1997. However, erstwhile Yankee, Shane Spencer is thinking big:
You said it superstar. But hey, no matter how immature and furious I am, at least I can take comfort knowing that George Steinbrenner is even more immature and more furious than me. And that's the truth: tttthhhppppt.
Mets 11, Yanks 3
The Yankees came into Shea Stadium last night as not-ready-for-prime-time-players after their draining three-game series vs. the Red Sox. Derek Jeter was in the starting line-up though. He had a bandage on his chin and a nice shiner under his right eye and was greeted by a mix of boos and a standing ovation during his first trip to the plate. Jeter's right eye was blinking steadily all night, but it didn't keep him from playing. With one out in the first, he made a nice back-hand stab and with some help from Tony Clark, threw out the speedster Kaz Matsui. That was as good as it would get for the visiting Bombers. Mike Piazza followed with a ground ball that took a funny hop and skipped past Alex Rodriguez for a single. Then Hideki Matsui dropped a long fly ball by Cliff Floyd for an error; Bernie Williams followed by taking a poor route to a fly ball by Richard Hidalgo and the Mets quickly led 2-0.
With two out in the second, Miguel Cairo apparently robbed Jose Reyes of a hit to end the inning, but Reyes was called safe, the ump blew the call and Kaz Matsui followed with a three-run shot, his first of two homers on the night. That was the kind of night it was going to be. But while the Yankees were half-asleep, give credit to the Mets, who were in good form.
Steve Trachsel had a nasty splitter going and he continues to be an excellent pitcher at Shea Stadium. Richard Hidalgo added another dinger off of Mike Mussina--who is no doubt pleased that he won't have to face Hidalgo again this season.
Just like last Friday, the Mets opened with a bang vs. the Yankees. Fortunately for the Bombers, the Red Sox lost another heartbreaker in extra innings; this time, 6-3 in Atlanta. The Bombers remain eight-and-a-half ahead of Boston. Curt Schilling goes for the Sox this afternoon.
Dan Shaughnessy thinks it is time for the Sox to trade Nomar Garciaparra:
Over at the Herald, Tony Massarotti thinks Garciaparra should stay:
As Jack Nicholson asked himself in Prizzi's Honor: "Do I ice her, do I marry her? Which one of dese?"
Meanwhile, Jack Curry gives props to the Bronx Bombers:
Jose Contreras will face Matt Ginter this afternoon in Flushing.
Christmas in July
As expected, there was some very good coverage of last night's Yankee-Red Sox game. Steven Goldman does a beautiful job of it for YES, while Joe Sheehan delivers his take from the west coast for Baseball Prospectus (subscription required). Far from a sentamentalist, Goldman gives Jeter his props:
Sheehan correctly notes that while Jeter's catch is getting most of the press today, Alex Rodriguez's double play was equally as impressive plus an even more difficult play to pull off to boot. But, he continues:
Sheehan's boyhood pal, Derek Jacques was at the game and was was our man in the field Cliff Corcoran. (Ex-Yankee, Chuck Knoblauch, looking rounder in the face, was there too, with a skinny-looking blonde by his side.) Cliff is still recovering, but will have his say shortly. Dee reports:
Over at ESPN, Bill Simmons, an avid Red Sox fan, comments on one of the game's most compelling storylines:
Simmons is right. In the late '90s when we wondered how the future would treat the Big Three, who would have thought it would come to this? Each player figured dramatically in last night's game. Jeter was valiant, Rodriguez, brilliant, and Garciaparra was impotent. This morning, BDD posted a rumor that would have Nomar packing his bags for Los Angeles. A three-team deal including Toronto would bring Odalis Perez and Carlos Delgado to Beantown. While nothing has happend yet, it's likely that Theo Epstein will make a bold move soon (he was at work acquiring two pitchers in two different deals this afternoon). There is still a lot of season to play and the Sox aren't done yet. But Garciaparra certainly looked like a short-timer last night.
All of which leaves me feeling incredibly sad. Sad that Garciaparra is so unhappy, sad that a franchise player like Nomar is likely to leave Boston disgruntled and bruised like Lynn and Fisk and Clemens and Vaughn. I'm especially sad for Red Sox fans. I don't know how most of them feel about what has transpired with Garciaparra, but Ed Cossette's resignation said a lot this morning:
I can only imagine how I would feel if Bernie Williams found himself in such a spot with the Yankees. Like Mo Vaughn before him, Garciaparra was a Red Sox that I respected and admired more than I ever hated. I like the idea of him being a Red Sox. I like the idea of him being pitted against Jeter as positional rivals. Ideally, I'd like it if he played his entire career in Boston. I take no pleasure in watching him go out like this, if these are indeed his final days in Boston.
Welcome home, Jay. We missed ya. And you missed us.
Yanks 5, Red Sox 4
Sleep must not have come easily for either Yankee or Red Sox fans last night. As I lay in bed, still feverish, my adreneline throbbing, I stopped worrying about how tired I would be for work this morning, and concentrated on just how fortunate Yankee fans have been for the past ten years. The state of exhaustion and joy, which borders of nausia, is not an unfamilar sensation. The Yankees had just won another thrilling game in dramatic fashion. That is came at the expense of the Red Sox made it even sweeter. This won't last forever, this kind of success. I try to appreciate every ennervating, wonderful moment of it.
Emily thought I was a crazy man. She didn't know what was going to get broken first--a piece of furniture or my hand. My face was red for most of the second half of the game, and I was cursing up a blue streak. "I thought you said this game didn't matter since we already won the series," she asked innocently. "You don't understaaaaaand," I replied. "This is the Red Sox. Everything is different. Aaargh."
It was one of those games that was hard to piece back together; so many memorable moments stand out. I am not lucid enough to write a logical summary. Here are some of the images that made up this one...Gary Sheffield stepping out of the batter's box twice in his first at bat vs Pedro Martinez, then Martinez promptly drilling him in the shoulder. Sheffield walked to first, glared at Pedro and said, "Not me." Tony Clark hitting a two-run homer off Martinez, and then Jorge Posada, long Martinez's whipping boy, smashing a solo shot into the upper deck in right field. David Ortiz blooping a double just beyond the reach of Hideki Matsui, followed by Manny Ramirez's homer off of Brad Halsey. The Yankee rookie pitching more than admirably. Kenny Lofton's error in center field. Pokey Reese making a sensational basket catch before tumbling into the stands along the third base side; Alex Rodriguez making a great diving play on a liner hit by Reese in the fifth. Later, Rodriguez snaring a liner off the bat of the Greek God of Walks. Sheffield almost blowing a routine fly ball in right field.
Then the drama...Ruben Sierra's terrible pinch-hit at bat with the bases loaded. Later, Sierra allowing a fly ball to drop in front of him for a single. Jason Giambi striking out weakly. Alex Rodriguez's brilliant double play, robbing Kevin Millar of a double and nailing Gabe Kapler at the plate, with the bases loaded an nobody out vs. Mariano Rivera. "Triple play, a triple play," I yelled, echoing Michael Kay on the YES network. No, calm down, chill, it's a double play, dude.
Derek Jeter's courageous catch, taking a hit away from Trot Nixon, sacrificing his body, and adding to his legend in the process. Gary Sheffield getting hit for a second time, then later playing third base. Manny's blast--Pie-yah!--off of Tanyon Sturtze. Nomar Garciaparra--who did not play--sitting alone, sullen, apart from his teammates. How did that make Red Sox fans feel? Then Ruben Sierra's single, Miguel Cairo's double (on a 1-2 pitch), and finally, John Flaherty's game-winning single.
Gary Sheffield told the New York Times:
Still, Joe Torre was upset when Gary Sheffield was plunked for the second time, and Curt Leskanic wasn't tossed. Earlier, both teams had been warned. According to Newsday:
Regardless, the Yankees swept Boston and are now eight-and-a-half games in first place. Both teams played their guts out last night. It was a crushing loss for the Sox and another elating one for the Yankees.
Cliff Corcoran was at the Stadium. He should have an incredible post up later in the day. For a coherent and articulate account of the game, head over to The Hardball Times and read Larry Mahken's excellent write up. Expect another stellar report from Joe Sheehan later today at Baseball Prospectus.
One thing seems sure: Theo Epstein is on the spot to make something happen. Rumors have it that Nomar Garciaparra will be moved. Previously, this would have been unfathomable, but right now, it makes sense, especially if Garciaparra is firm about not returning to Boston next year. Epstein has performed admirably thus far as GM of the Sox. It will be interesting to see what he can cook up. Obviously, Red Sox fans fear that Randy Johnson could wind up in pinstripes. I'll counter that by worrying that he could join his pal Schilling in Boston. However, Peter Gammons is saying that Anahiem is a more likely scenerio for the Big Unit if he moves at all.
Meanwhile in New York, there is a growing perception that Jason Giambi isn't a gamer. OK, those who have thought that Giambi was soft have thought so for more than a minute now, but in light of Gary Sheffield playing through obvious pain, Giambi looks bad being disabled with a bizarre stomach condition. This isn't fair, but Sheffield plays baseball like a linebacker, just the kind of spirit that the football maven George Steinbrenner covets. Meanwhile, Giambi is becoming a fallen star in New York. fair or unfair. Was Sheffield calling his teammate out last night when he told reporters, ""They're paying me a lot of money to play and not sit and watch." I don't know. But I'm holding out hope that Giambi can get healthy and start enjoying the game once again. I know I'm rooting for him. If he continues to falter, he could become George's whipping boy and a target of the boo boids in da BX; worse, he could become the second-coming of Mo Vaughn. Or he could be the best hitter in the line up. Which one of these?...
Yanks 4, Red Sox 2
Bring the Pain
We are prone to hyperbole in New York and Boston when it comes to our baseball teams, but I don't think it's a stretch to call last night's game an agonizing affair for Red Sox Nation. Boston received a brilliant performance from Tim Wakefield, but the offense was unable to hit with men on base, and the Sox were ultimately undone by poor fielding for the second-consecutive night. The Yankees swiped this game, one of the most satisfying victories of the year according to this observer. The Yankees now lead Boston by seven-and-a-half games.
Jon Lieber left several pitches up in the zone early in the game and the Sox pounced all over him. The first three Red Sox hitters reached base. With a 1-0 lead, two men on and nobody out, the Red Sox could not score another run in the first. The first two men of the second reached as well, but again Boston could not score. Lieber was aided by two key double plays and then he settled down and pitched well. Wakefield dominated the Yankees, scattering a few harmless singles. Bother pitchers worked quickly, and the game breezed along.
David Ortiz connnected for a solo homer--a blast--and Lieber allowed two men to reach in the seventh before he was yanked. Brett Prinz came on to get one batter, and he walked him. The bases were loaded with nobody out. Enter Felix Heredia. This was not a welcome sight for Yankee fans, especially with the top of the order due up for the Red Sox. Johnny Damon hit a ground ball to Tony Clark, who came home for the force, one out. Then Mark Bellhorn lofted a fly ball to left field for the second out. It was not deep enough to score Mirabelli from third. Finally, David Ortiz was called out on strikes. It was a close call, but Heredia earned his pinstripes for the year by getting out of the jam:
The Stadium, which had been subdued for a night-and-a-half, was now rocking. Wakefield plunked Gary Sheffield to start the bottom of the seventh. With one out, he walked Godziller Matsui, the last batter he would face. Scott Williamson replaced him and struck out Bernie Williams. Then Jorge Posada walked to load the bases. Williamson came up lame and was replaced by the hard-throwing Mike Timlin. Tony Clark hit a bullet on one-hop to Ortiz at first and the ball scooted through Ortiz's glove into the outfield. Two runs scored and the game was tied.
Ortiz examined his glove much like a tennis player inspects his racket after making an error. The glove was not broken, but it the pocket was so loose that the ball simply scooted through it. Unbelievable. A freak play if there ever was one.
Gordon worked a perfect eighth, striking out two, including Manny Ramirez to start the inning (another close call that went the Yankees way). Kenny Lofton led-off the bottom of the frame with a ground ball to Nomar Garciaparra's right. Garciaparra rounded the ball and hurried his throw. Ortiz could not pick it and suddenly the go-ahead run was on second base. It was scored as a single and an error but it could have just been a straight error. Regardless, Jeter sacrificed Lofton to third and then Gary Sheffield had one of the most memorable at bats of the year.
Timlin pounded fastballs inside and Sheffield fouled off eight pitches. On two occasions, Mirabelli stood up, looking for the high cheese; Sheffield swung, fouling the pitches straight back up in the air foul. He also got ahead of two pitches and pounded shots foul into the upperdeck; he also hit a rocket line drive into the third base seats as well. According to the New York Times:
On the tenth pitch of the at bat, Mirabelli pointed outside, but Timlin shook him off. At home I couldn't believe that Timlin wanted to challenge him inside again. Maybe it was a macho thing. Sheffield later told reporters:
And that's just what he did, slapping the pitch past a diving Mark Bellhorn down the third-base line for a double. The Stadium erupted and the Sox were all but cooked. Alan Embree replaced Timlin and gave up a run-scoring single to Matsui.
Mariano Rivera blew the bottom part of Boston's order away in the ninth, striking-out the side. I don't recall the last time he did that. Again, it was a tremendous win for the Yanks, and a painful loss for the Red Sox. Some pundits suggest that the AL East race is over, but I think it's too early for that kind of thinking. Boston is in a slump, and will eventually awaken. They hope that Pedro Martinez can stop the bleeding tonight when he pitches against a rookie.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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