Monthly archives: October 2005
As expected Theo Epstein will remain in Boston as the general manager of the Red Sox. Not much in the way of Yankee news today, but the Daily News reports that Luis Sojo may accept the managerial position down in Single A Tampa club, and Tony Pena might be offered the first base coaching gig with the big league club. The article suggests that Pena would be helpful both with the Latin players on the team as well as with the catchers.
Clock Turns Back: Yanks Look to Fill Out Coaching Staff, Bullpen
In a column today about Billy Wanger, Murray Chass lists some of the big name free agent relievers who will be on the market this winter: Trevor Hoffman, B. J. Ryan, Bob Wickman, Todd Jones, Octavio Dotel, Kyle Farnsworth, Tom Gordon, Roberto Hernandez, Mike Timlin, Tim Worrell, Ugueth Urbina, Matt Mantei and LaTroy Hawkins. Timlin is reportedly close to re-signing with the Red Sox. It's likely that Boston and New York will engage in a bidding war for B.J. Ryan, or Wagner or maybe even Everyday Eddie Guardado. Anyone else on that list get you all hot and bothered?
Hey, in true glutton fashion--this is a Yankee site after all--how about throwing caution to the wind and signing both Ryan and Billy Wagner? Never happen I know, and maybe it wouldn't even be money well spent (Wagner is getting on in years for one, and there'd be whole lot of ego out there in the pen), but a boy can have his Christmas List can't he? If the Yankees can manage to assemble something close to what they had in 1996, or what the Angels and White Sox had this year, that would be tremendous. They can probably do it cheaper than inking Wagner and Ryan, but it seems inevitable that at least one high (over?)-priced reliever will be wearing pinstripes next year.
According to Tyler Kepner and Sam Borden the Yankees will not keep Neil Allen as their bullpen coach next year. Maybe this creates a job for Guidry before he moves into the high-profile position of pitching coach. It makes sense to me that Joe Kerrigan will eventually get that gig. But who knows, maybe Gator gets it and Kerrigan slides into the pen.
Josh Byrnes, one of the more celebrated assistant general managers in baseball is leaving Boston to become the GM of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Meanwhile, Theo Epstein is close to signing a new contract in Boston. (The Sox are dealing with their first Manny Ramirez rumblings of the winter as well.) Out West, it appears as if the Dodgers have given up on Paul DePodesta. Jon Weisman has the lowdown over at Dodger Thoughts.
Here in New York, the Yankees will hold their organizational meetings early next week. In addition to filling out the coaching staff, the team is expected to focus on landing a center fielder and relief pitching.
F.U. means what again?
If I could go back in time one of the things I would do first is see the original Broadway production of "The Odd Couple" with Walter Matheau and Art Carney. Of course, I grew up watching Tony Randall and Jack Klugman do the roles of Felix and Oscar and have seen the movie version with Matheau and Jack Lemmon many times. Watching Lemmon, I can't help but imagine what Carney would have been like opposite Matheau. From what I hear from those who saw them it was comic nirvana.
I never did see Mathew Broderick and Nathan Lane in "The Producers" but when I heard the two were going to star in a revival of Neil Simon's famous play I thought, 'Aren't they gilding the lily?' And with Lane playing Oscar and Broderick playing Felix, surely they've go the casting mixed up. Looking at the still photographs in today's papers, Lane looks all wrong for Oscar. Remember in the movie version of "La Cage Aux Folles" when Robin Williams tries to get Lane walk like a manly straight man and Lane can't help but look like a Queen? The joke is that he's incorrigibly effeminate. Seeing Lane dressed up Oscar seems like an unintentional extension of that joke.
In an excellent review today, New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley notes:
As this set-to-a-metronome production, directed by Joe Mantello, demonstrates with such clarity, the comic languages of "The Producers" and "The Odd Couple" are not the same. The humor of "The Odd Couple" is rooted in watching ordinary guys, equipped with an extraordinary arsenal of zingers, turn each other into irreconcilable caricatures of themselves, the way people do in bad marriages. The characters in "The Producers" are stylishly drawn cartoons, shaped by the performers' delighted awareness of belonging to the intoxicating, heightened reality of musical comedy.
Brantley's write up is worth checking out; the production sounds like it's worth missing.
"If you have to hang in there beyond your time for the applause, if your happiness is in the hands of others, you're in trouble. After you quit, though, there's a long time between Monday and Friday."
I ran across the quote and couldn't help but think of the situation Bernie's in--almost at the end of the road. Will he come back next year as a part-timer, or go someplace else and be a part-timer? Hello Walt Frazier on the Cavs? Will he call it quits? Bench retired when he was 35. Remember Brosius hanging it up pretty early a couple of years ago? Never know when a guy is ready to walk away do you?
I could see Bernie moving on from the game pretty easily. But you never know, maybe it'll be tough for him as well. I'm sure it's not that simple either way. He's only been playing baseball his entire adult life.
No matter what Bernabee decides to do I wish him the best of luck. Bernie has had an excellent career and I like him as much as I've ever liked any Yankee. I'd love to see him back in Ruben Sierra's role next year but I'm also fine if he's gone too. It'll be down to Mariano and Jeter and Jorge. Time marches on, what are you gunna do?
To see Bernie's career numbers check out the nifty new "Yankees in Flux" link section that Cliff hooked up to your right. Proper.
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Cash in Control...?
"I'm the general manager, and everybody within the baseball operations department reports to me," he said. "That's not how it has operated recently."
With reports from the Times, the Daily News (plus Lupica), Newsday, and the Bergan Record (Klap).
Meanwhile, ESPN reports that Larry Bowa will be the Yankees' new third base coach. Good way to fire up the ol' Hot Stove season, huh?
Sox it to Us?
A year after the Boston Red Sox ended their long championship drought, the Chicago White Sox, their cousins in futility followed suit and won the World Serious for the first time since WWI. The White Sox defeated the Astros last night 1-0 to complete a four-game sweep of Houston. Chicago became the first team since the 1999 Yankees to go 11-1 in the postseason.
It was fitting that the Red Sox had to beat their arch rivals last year to get to the Serious (and the way in which they toppled the Yanks likely helped sooth a few old sores too!), but superstitions aside I don't think anyone could have been truly shocked that Boston won it all last year. They had an excellent team were one of the favorites all season. It is also fitting that the White Sox, whose legacy apart from the infamous Black Sox scandal is that they are a losing team without a legacy (or curse if you'd like) won it all this year. They were a solid team and they played very well this year but I doubt that many fans would have predicted that this was their year at the begining of the season. (Not surprisingly, this Serious didn't draw in viwers like the 2004 Serious did--the White Sox ain't the Red Sox and the Astros aren't the Cardinals.) Eric Neel and David Schoenfield debated the relative merits of the Serious over at ESPN. I like Neel's take:
I see this Series as worthy of some credit because the White Sox just got off an 88-year schneid, trumping their whining North Side brothers and providing a welcome antidote to all the Red Sox logorrhea we've been subject to these last 11 months, and doing it with a bunch of pretty likable and unlikely heroes. I further give this series, regardless of the level of play, some credit because it's got heartache at it's heart. What's happened to the Astros here -- the return to form of their offense after a brief period of productivity, the injury to Clemens, the struggles of Brad Lidge, their one "sure bet," the repeated closeup shots of those terrible Chuck Norris beards -- added up to another chapter in the star-crossed history of the franchise. The week began so promisingly, and it's ending so familiarly. It's sad. And there's a kind of pathetic greatness in that. This club that's waited 40-plus years for a shot is shooting nothing but blanks. I know that's not entertaining, but it is strangely gripping, I think.
Finally, it is also somehow fitting that the Cubs should be the last team standing here as well. (Now the Indians and Giants have replaced Boston and Chicago in the two and three slots, but 1948 and 1954 feel a lot different from 1908.) I have a feeling they'll hold onto that dubious distinction for a little while longer but who knows? What if they go for the trifecta next year? Wouldn't that be something?
Anyhow, congrats to the White Sox and their fans.
Meanwhile, on the home front, it appears that Brian Cashman and the Yankees have settled on a three-year deal worth just less than $6 million that will keep Cashman in New York. There has been no official announcement yet but that is because Bud Selig didn't want anything to distract from the Serious. I figure Cashman and the Yanks will make a statement later today or tomorrow. Good news. I'm glad to have Cashman back.
Getting Late Early
My girlfriend is rooting for the White Sox to win the World Serious but more than anything she'd like the Astros to win a couple of games just to extend the season some. She isn't ready for it to end. I can relate. I was exhausted after the 2003 and 2004 Yankee-Red Sox wars and welcomed the winter rest, but spring training can start tomorrow as far as I'm concerned. Em and I snuggled up on the couch last night and as we talked about the game, I realized how fortunate I am to have a partner who not only tolerates baseball but thoroughly enjoys it as well. Ms Shorty, all foot foot and three-quarters of her, announced to me that she was going to name every team in the American League. Which she did, slowly but surely, followed by every team in the National League. She nailed that too, and clapped her hands excitedly at the accomplishment and then insisted that I mention her feat in this space today (and just who am I to say no). Boy, was she ever proud of herself. Like I said, I'm mad lucky.
We actually turned in before the game went to extra innings and I kept waking up in the night wondering what had happened. I even dreamt about the outcome--which had the Astros winning 6-5. Much to my surprise--and I won't lie, delight--the White Sox pulled it out in 14 innings. It was the longest game in Serious history: goodness. While most of America is tuning this Serious out, there at least are some diehards that got precious little sleep last night.
Speaking of sleepless, the perputually sleep-deprived Brian Cashman--baseball's answer to Jeff Van Gundy--is expected to sign a new contract to remain the general manager of the New York Yankees. Again, nothing concrete went down on Tuesday, but Joel Sherman reports that there are two possible deals on the table: one for four years at $8.8 million, and another for three years at $5.6 million. (Meanwhile, Theo Epstein, whose contract is also due to expire next week, is negotiating with the Red Sox.) The season isn't over and yet the beat goes on for the Yanks and Sox.
Yesterday came and went and still no definitive word about Yankee GM Brian Cashman. However, Tyler Kepner reports in today's New York Times:
Brian Cashman may announce his intention to return as the Yankees' general manager as early as Tuesday. Cashman's contract expires next Monday, but he has interviewed coaching candidates for the Yankees in recent weeks and has given no internal signals that he intends to leave.
We all know Boss George has deep pockets. According to Jon Heyman in Newsday, the Yankees have offered Cashman a three-year, $5 million deal. The Yankees also plan to make Larry Bowa their new third base coach and Lee Mazzilli Joe Torre's bench coach. Luis Sojo will be offered the position of first base coach but it is still uncertain whether he'll accept the job or not. Ron Guidry is thought to be one of the leading candidates to replace Mel Stottlemyre as the Bombers' pitching coach.
"C" is for Closers
Watching Bobby Jenks and Brad Lidge both get smacked around last night simply made me appreciate what we Yankee fans have in Mariano Rivera even more than I already do. Sure, Mo's got two famous blown saves to his credit ('97 and '01), but hey, you wouldn't be human as a reliever if you didn't have a few big losses in there, right? And in Rivera's case those two blips hardly overwhelm his great success.
I first-guessed Chicago's choice of bringing Jenks in the game in the first place. With a rested bullpen, it just didn't seem necessary. Just as they broke for commercial, Fox introduced Jenks like they were making the next rock star closer: cool name, throws gas. But Jenks' location was awful and he allowed two runs to score tying the game at six. The night before he sent Jeff Bagwell down swining at hard stuff up in the zone. Last night, with the count 2-2, he throws a fastball down, and Bagwell was able to reach out and poke a single to center. Jenks made virtually the same pitch, low and away to Jose Vizcaino, who slapped the game-tying single into left (that hit must have brought back some fond memories for Yankee fans, as it was the same kind of single that won Game 1 of the Subway Serious back in 2000). King Kong one night, mediocre in two-thirds of an inning the next night.
Then Lidge served up a belt-high heater to Scott Podsednick of all people, who lined a home run to win the game for Chicago. Lidge is tremendous but has now blown two consecutive games. Pujols, you can understandable, but Podsednick is tough to swallow.
Would You Believe?
...That the Yankees have contacted Larry Bowa about coming on to coach third base? Well, believe it. According to reports, the thinking is for Bowa to coach third, Lee Mazz to be Torre's bench coach, and Luis Sojo to move over to first, leaving Roy White out of a job. Ron Guidry is also being seriously considered to replace Mel Stottlemyre. Guidry was one of my favorite players when I was growing up and he's always seemed like an professional, competent guy. What qualifications he has for becoming a professional pitching coach, I wouldn't know. Hmmm.
With Joe Torre's situation now resolved, the Yankees next order of business is how they want to handle GM Brian Cashman, whose contract is due to expire at the end of the month. Meanwhile, Joe Girardi will leave New York to take over as the new manager of the Florida Marlins. While I'm pleased for Girardi, who has always been a favorite, I couldn't help but think about Willie Randolph yesterday. For the longest time I refused to buy the race card when it came to Randolph repeatedly being passed over for managerial positions. He had never managed before, I reasoned. If he was willing to go down to the minors for a year or two and then still couldn't get a big league job that would be different. But here comes Girardi, also with no prior experience as a manager, and just one season as a coach, and not one, but two teams were aggresively persuing him. Again, I'm excited for Giardi, something feels fishy about the whole thing.
The Yankees also lost out on landing the services of pitching coach Leo Mazzone. It appears as if the Braves pitching guru is headed for Baltimore where he'll join longtime friend, manager Sam Perlozzo. (That's a whole lot of zzzz's, bro.) According to The Baltimore Sun, a deal could be announced later today. This is a bummer for the Yanks, of course. Fortunately, the Orioles pitching staff have already had a terrific pitching coach in Ray Miller for the past season and a half, so maybe Mazzone won't make them that much better. (One can always hope, right?) The good news is that Girardi isn't managing in the AL so he'll be easy to pull for; the bad news is that Mazzone is now in the AL East.
Good to Joe
"Joe and I had a great meeting yesterday," [Yankee owner, George] Steinbrenner said in a statement. "We both look forward to bringing a championship back to New York and our great fans."
Joe Torre spoke to the media earlier today and declared that he will return as the manager of the Yankees in 2006. Torre said that he had some doubts about what he wanted to do, but after talking it over with his family and then meeting with George Steinbrenner in Florida yesterday, he is looking forward to coming back. According to the Associated Press:
"I realize I still want to do this thing. I still want to manage," he said. "There's only one place to manage in my estimation. It's been the best time I've ever had, these 10 years."
I love that last line. Say what you want about Torre as a tactician but I've never questioned his sincerity, or underestimated his ability to deal with both Steinbrenner and the New York media. I know I'll be happy having him around for another season. Now, let's see what George has in store for Cashman...or vice versa.
How Much is that Pitching Coach in the Window?
According to Tyler Kepner in The New York Times, the Yankees have asked and received permission to speak with Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone. It might be pie-in-the-sky day-dreaming but it sure would be exciting to see Mazzone, who along with Johnny Sain is probably the most famous pitching coach in baseball history, working (and rocking) alongside Joe Torre in the Bronx.
And speaking of Joe, the Yankee manager is expected to address the media soon, possibly as early as this afternoon. At the same time, Brian Cashman is working behind-the-scenes with the Yankees about possibly returning as the team's GM next year. Fortunately, Cashman's current deal expires at the end of the month, which means that things will pan out soon enough.
The Way it is
I'm not saying nuthin, I'm just sayin: Pettitte, Clemens, Contreras, Duque. Maybe the White Sox are exorcising the spirit of the Black Sox cause they benefitted from every call--good and bad--in the ALCS. Four consecutive complete games? Wow, take a bow, that's impressive.
The (Continuing) Education of Alex Rodriguez in the School of Hard Knocks
Alex Rodriguez is one of the greatest players of all-time. In his second year in New York he had one of the ten best seasons any third baseman has ever had yet his poor showing in the ALDS will haunt him throughout the off-season. Some writers act as if Rodriguez's lousy series is some kind of character defect or moral failing on his part, suggesting that Rodriguez doesn't have what it takes, doesn't have the toughness, the right stuff, in order to perform well in a pressure situation. Rodriguez's playoff history shows that while he's never had a career-defining monster series in October--though the 2004 ALDS sure wasn't bad--he's been anything but a bust (he was batting .330 in the postseason coming into this year). To Rodriguez's many critics, it's as if last year's ALDS and the first three games against Boston simply didn't exist. Or at least it didn't fit their angle.
I don't think Rodriguez helps himself either. When he fails, it looks as if he's trying too hard. It feels as if he's pressing. How else can we explain why the best player doesn't play the best ball in the biggest spots? Rodriguez was quick to give himself the beatdown after the series ended, which was the correct move. He understands that he's the highest-paid, most-talented and best-looking star on the most famous team in the sport. If he is anything but brutally honest and accountable, he gives fans and journalists another reason to pile on. But Luis Sojo is probably just one member of the team who thinks that Rodriguez is being too hard on himself and I agree. Had his teammates picked him up, we wouldn't be having this conversation. I don't mean to minimize how his performance contributed to the Yankees' loss, but I don't think he needs to take all the heat either.
Steven Goldman, as usual, gave this issue some historical perspective earlier in the week:
The Yankees wouldn't have gotten anywhere at all without Alex Rodriguez. The press and the fans can pillory him for his poor postseason performance, but it's just scapegoating. A lot of Yankees didn't hit in the Division Series. These things happen. Babe Ruth went 2-for-17 in the 1922 World Series. Joe DiMaggio went 2-for-18 in the 1949 World Series (though the Yankees won). Yogi Berra was 1-for-16 in that same series. The key for both Berra and DiMaggio is that their teammates picked them up. A-Rod's didn't. We could go on: Mickey Mantle, 3-for-25 in the 1962 World Series (Yankees won), 2-15 in the 1963 classic (Yankees lost).
I felt badly for both the team and for Rodriguez after the ALDS was over. That double play in the ninth really hurt. But as my partner Cliff mentioned to me on the phone, for the Yankees it should have never come down to that. The series should have been won already by that point. And you know what? If Rodrgiuez manages to stay healthy, and if he is fortunate enough to have some more opportunities to play in October, I think he's going to be just fine. How long did it take Bonds to get the playoff monkey off his back? A looooong time. If he gets the chance, Rodriguez will eventually have his day in the sun. I've little doubt about that. In the meanwhile, he'll come back next year more motivated than ever to prove his worth. I don't think he needs to prove anything to anyone, but until he has a great post-season, I'm not so sure he'd agree. And there are a lot of people out there who'll take his side in this one. So be it.
But if I ran into homeboy on the street, I'd tell him, Chill out, dog. You had a great season. It was very much appreciated. You had a forgettable playoff series. That was disappointing. Keep your head up, you are going to be just fine.
While the Yankees collectively lick their wounds over the teams first round exit, the first order of Hot Stove League business concerns the immediate future of General Manager Brian Cashman whose contract is up at the end of the month. Cashman, Torre and Stick Michael have been a successful management team for New York, but in recent years they have been competing with a trio of advisors (Billy Connors, Damon Oppenheimer and Bill Emslie) in Tampa who are close to George Steinbrenner. The Yankees proved this year that they could out-perform huge off-season mistakes, but you have to wonder if that can continue to happen indefinitely.
In a perfect world, Cashman and Stick Michael would be allowed to run the team without interference, but we do not like in any kind of world as simple or clean as that (as a matter of fact, George King reports in the Post today--without any direct quotes--that Michael wants out). There is too much money and too much ego involved. Nobody really knows what kind of mental and physical condition Steinbrenner is in but it is evident that a nasty power-struggle is going on behind the scenes with the Yankees.
Mike Lupica thinks that Joe Torre would be nuts to commit himself before Brian Cashman's situation is resolved
Understand something: Cashman doesn't hate working for Steinbrenner. He hates working around the weasels in Tampa, guys who would be getting Brian Cashman coffee if they worked in the same office. Steinbrenner is the one who made the weasels matter as much as they do. Now he has to make them matter less.
I'm not saying that the Yankees won't continue to do well after Cashman and Torre leave, but my hunch is that it could get a lot worse before it got better. We've seen George screw up his good thing before so there is every reason to think he's capable of allowing it to happen again.
Stott to Trot (Who'll be next?)
The season is over. The season has just begun. Here in the northeast we look forward to the leaves turning colors and then gradually falling to the ground. This year, due to the steady rain we've seen for the better part of the last week, the foliage may not be so wunnerful after all. Though we need the water, all this rain is bound to sperl the autumnal beauty as it were.
As usual there are a lot of changes to be expected in Yankee land (Bernie, Girardi, Ruben, Leiter, Torre, Cashman). The first significant move happened yesterday when pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre officially stepped down. This comes as no particular surprise as Stottlemyre has been chided by George Steinbrenner and his Tampa Faction for several seasons now. Some fans will be quite happy to see Stottlemyre leave. Yet the main concern is how will this effect Joe Torre and Brian Cashman if at all. The word is that Torre will most likely stick around and manage the team again next year while it looks as if Cashman is done. That would be an unfortunate development. Disrupting the Torre-Cashman alliance could be far more damaging than splitting up Torre and Stottlemyre.
Torre will eventually speak with reporters and address his situation as well as his feelings about what went down this season. Whether that happens this week or next week, your guess is as good as mine. Needless to say, the local media is waiting with baited breath.
Pack 'Em Up
The Yankees' cockamamie season came to a fitting conclusion the other night in California. In a game that decidedly pitted the Baseball Gods against the Bronx Bombers, the Yanks lost one that they should have won. Give the Angels credit for being opportunistic and taking advantage of the Yankees' mistakes and blame New York for not playing their best ball when it counted most. Alex Rodriguez is getting killed here in New York, and he'll just have to take the hit. He's the teams' marquee player and he had a bad series, so it comes with the territory. It doesn't take away from his great season, but it sure was a lousy way to end it.
Still, as disappointing as losing to the Angels is, I feel curiously peaceful. The Yanks rebounded after a horrid start and played well enough down the stretch to win their divison and make the playoffs again. That is nothing to sneeze at. I've said this before but I think part of what distinguished the 96-01 teams was that they collectively appreciated how hard to was to win a World Series. It was a quality that made their run even more impressive because it wasn't lost on the players how special their accomplishments were. However, I think some Yankee fans began to buy into the sense of entitlement that is peddled by George Steinbrenner and think the Yankees had somehow patented winning baseball. Now, the Yanks are becoming more like the Braves with each passing season--and I don't mean that as a diss (or as literal comparison between how the two organizations are run). Ain't so easy to win it every year. And as the old refrain against Steibrenner goes, you can't arrange for success.
Don't Hate The Players, Hate The Lords Of The Game
As a whole, the players that made up the New York Yankees overachieved this year. Hamstrung by the worst offseason in franchise history and besieged by injuries to their pitching staff, the Yankees dug themselves out of a 11-19 hole, building momentum as the season went on, finally breaking free of .500 as July began, posting a 56-28 (.667) record from July 2 through the end of the regular season. As the season drew to a close, they played their best baseball, winning 15 of 18 at one point in September and clinching their eighth-straight AL East title by defeating the Red Sox in the penultimate game of the season.
Ever since the Yankees won four of five World Series from 1996 to 2000, it has become common for those around the organization, both in and out of uniform, to say that any season that does not end in a World Championship is a failure. I disagree. That the Yankees were unable to win the American League Division Series, while certainly a tremendous disappointment to fans, players and front office alike, should not be seen as a failure, but as the inevitable outcome of a season that extended beyond it's rightful endpoint.
Game Five (Dyin Time's Back)
After last night's stirring Yankee victory, both teams are making the long haul back out to the coast for tonight's Game Five. Both starting pitchers--Mike Mussina and Bartolo Colon--are already in California, and presumably well-rested. My gut feeling is that tonight could be a lot like Game Three--wide open. I felt good about Moose in Game One, but I can't imagine he'll be that impressive this time out. Sure do hope I'm wrong. And just why can't the Yanks catch up to Colon again? Randy Johnson could play a big role out of the pen. Let's hope that the bats do their thing--Mr. Rodriguez we turn out eager eyes to you. So long as it is a clean-played game like the one we saw yesterday, I'll be able to live with the outcome. May the best team win.
Go Yanks. Bombs away.
Fire and Ice
In a taut game that was in almost every way the polar opposite of Game Three, the Yankees beat the Angels 3-2 to force a Game Five tomorrow night in Anahiem. John Lackey and Shawn Chacon were both outstanding, the Yankees scratched out just enough runs against the Angels bullpen and Mariano Rivera pitched two scoreless innings to prolonge the season for the Bombers.
Chacon and Lackey have different approaches but both were stunningly efficient through the first five innings. Chacon finessed the Angels, getting them to chase balls out of the strike zone, and keeping them off balance. Lackey was far more aggresive throwing strikes. His curve ball had a tight spin and it looked great, particularly as it was mixed with a fastball that was clocked in the low nineties. Lackey froze Matsui with a breaking pitch to start the second, buckling the slugger's knees but good, and caught Rodriguez looking with a 2-2 curve--that was flat-out nasty--to end the third. Chacon wasn't throwing as hard and yet, according to the Fox broadcast, after five full innings, each pitcher had thrown exactly 68 pitches (and their splits 42 strikes and 46 were the same too). Each had allowed just a single hit.
Jarod Washburn will evidentally not start tonight. From what I can tell, he's been scratched due to a fever. John Lackey will start instead. Shawn Chacon hopes that his magic carpet ride in the Bronx isn't over just quite yet. The Yankees have their backs up against the wall. It's do or die for our boys tonight.
Go get 'em Bombers. We luh yas.
The Waiting (is the Hardest Part)
It's still raining up here in the sticks. Another day of sitting on our hands hoping that they'll be able to get in Game Four tonight down in our beloved Bronx.
"One thing about what's gone on in sports, because of the scheduling, is that you just accept whatever comes down," Yankees Manager Joe Torre said. "Because if you start getting lost there, you're going to wind up getting distracted and using it as an excuse, and this is no time for excuses."
Chacon v. Washburn and--rain or no rain--what promises to be another late night for Yankee fans close to home.
Don't Forget the Creedence
From our pal Rich Lederer in sunny L.A...
"Who'll Stop the Rain?"
There's actually quite a bit you could do with those CCR lyrics...
Long as I remember the rain been comin' down.
Meet Cliff At Coliseum Books
With today's game cancelled and rescheduled for tomorrow evening, I will be joining the Pinstriped Bible's Steven Goldman and the Futility Infielder's Jay Jaffe at Coliseum Books today at 6:00 to promote the new Baseball Prospectus book Mind Game. I made a small contribution to the book and thus will be appearing as a co-author, my first in-store appearance!
Anyone in the NYC area with some extra time on his or her hands this evening, please come out and say "hi." Coliseum Books is at 11 West 42nd Street in Manhattan (between 5th and 6th).
"If I would have paid a ticket to watch me pitch, I probably would have booed me, too," said Johnson, who made the shortest postseason start of his career. "They've come to expect a little more out of me. I've come to expect more out of myself."
The best news for Yankee fans came before the game yesterday when the White Sox completed a three-game sweep of the defending champion Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Former Yankee El Duque Hernandez was the hero, working out of a nail-biting bases-loaded, one-out jam in the seventh inning and pitching three innings of relief in all. So Boston is done. Right now the Yankees are one game better than their arch rivals and are alive to play one more day, and that's about it. With a loss today they will join the Sox as a first round loser.
Cruising around the papers here are a few links of note: Lupica and Verducci on the Big Unit, John Harper on El Duque, and Chris Snow on the Red Sox.
I'm in Vermont with Emily for the weekend. It hasn't stopped raining since we arrived late yesterday afternoon. I can only imgaine it is still coming down in New York. Though I am not overly confident in the Yankees chances today, my mood is certainly colored by the weather. And hey, they pull one out today and anything can happen tomorrow. So, nertz to the pessimissm and Go Yanks!
Soggy Bottom Blues
On a thoroughly miserable night for baseball in the Bronx, the Angels out-slugged the Yankees 11-7 to grab a 2-1 series lead. It rained throughout, and though the grounds crew did an admirable job of keeping the field in order, there were puddles on the warning track and the fielders consistently had problems getting a good handle on the ball all night long. This was a game that Yankee announcer Michael Kay would no doubt call "unmanagable." It featured awful starting pitching, and some predictably sloppy fielding, however it also boasted some fine hitting, timely relief pitching and a few crucial defensive gems too.
Neither starting pitcher was sharp. Randy Johnson, in one of his worst games of the year, had nothing. In his biggest start as a Yankee, he decidedly came up empty. After getting two outs in the first, Vlad Guererro singled to right and then Benji Molina hit a high fastball (out of the zone but over the plate) into center for a base hit. Garret Anderson followed and golfed a long three-run dinger into the bleachers (the first of four terrific "guesses" he'd have on the night). In the third, Orlando Cabrera drove an 0-2 fastball that was around his eyes into right for a double. Two batters later, Molina--having the time of his life--hit his third home run in as many games, and the Halos were quickly up 5-0.
There's a 90 percent chance of heavy rain starting tonight around the scheduled first pitch of Game Three and continuing through Sunday. In downtown Manhattan it's been overcast and unseasonably humid all day and as I look out the window now at 4:00, there are darker clouds rolling in and the wind has picked up considerably. The odds of the Yankees getting rained out to night seem very high. Still, on the off chance that the game is played tonight, here are my thoughts entering Game Three:
This is the eleventh time in eleven years that the Yankees have participated in a best-of-five ALDS, so we all know the deal by now. The road team is pleased to come home with a split, but Game Three is crucial. Much like on a 1-1 count to a batter, the difference between being up 2-1 or down 1-2 is tremendous. Thus, outside of the actual clincher itself, Game Three is easily the most important game in the series.
Good thing then that the Yankees have their ace ready to take the hill. Randy Johnson has faced the Angels twice this year. The first time he pitched six strong innings, but caught his spikes on the Angel Stadium mound, tweaking his back and forcing Joe Torre to turn to his bullpen early. After a classic case of Torre's bullpen mismanagement, Vlad Guerrero hit a grand slam off of Tom Gordon to hand the Yankees a 6-5 loss. In Johnson's next outing against the Angels, this time in New York, he had less success, allowing a pair of homers to the Molina brothers which drove in four runs. That time it was the Angel bullpen that blew the game, leading to an 8-7 Yankee win in eleven innings. Take away those two mistakes, however, and Johnson's line in that game improves to 7 1/3 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 7 K.
As Johnson has allowed just three home runs in his last eight starts of the season (two legitimate shots to Vernon Wells and Manny Ramirez and Tony Graffanino's fly ball to the red line atop the Green Monster) one hopes he'll be able to keep the Angels in the park tonight. Over those eight starts, Johnson has gone 6-0 with a 1.93 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP, proving to be the ace the Yankees traded, ultimately, Dioner Navarro, Brad Halsey, Randy Choate, Nick Johnson and the Angels' Juan Rivera for. Take out his ejection-shortened start in Toronto and his line improves to 49 2/3 IP, 27 H, 8 R, 2 HR, 11 BB, 42 K, 1.45 ERA, 0.77 WHIP in seven starts.
Paul Byrd, meanwhile, faced the Yankees just once this year, allowing three runs on nine hits and a walk over seven innings. Byrd is essentially Jon Leiber. Not only is he a righthanded sinkerballer who pitches to contact, owns righties (.211 GPA this year), struggles with lefties (.271 GPA), and absolutely refuses to walk anyone (just 28 walks on the season, 1.23 per 9IP), but since 2003 his career has followed the exact same path as Leiber's. Both pitchers signed a free-agent deal with a perennial playoff team before the 2003 season, then missed that season due to Tommy John surgery, finally joining their new club with the 2004 season underway. Both then became a crucial part of that team's rotation, pitching them into the playoffs where they made their postseason debuts, only to sign with a different club for 2005. What's more, the two pitchers were born just six months and one day apart in 1970 and were later drafted out of college. Of course, Byrd is smaller than the 6'3" 220-pound Leiber, and Leiber in no way resembles Kelsey Grammer.
Rain, Rain, Go Away
Well, rain is definitely in the forecast for the next five days here in New York. It is uncommonly muggy and warm for this time of year and we can only hope that games Three and Four will be able to be played without too much disruption from Ma Nature. (All I can think about this morning is how there was a one-day delay between games Six and Seven of the '86 Serious between the Mets and Sox.)
According to Tyler Kepner in The New York Times:
The weather has emerged as a factor. According to the Penn State Department of Meteorology, rain will start falling about the time Game 3 begins at 8:19 tonight in the Bronx, and it might prevent play. Steady rain is expected to continue through tomorrow afternoon, which means the scheduled 4 p.m. start of Game 4 could be pushed back several hours.
The chief concern for the Yankees has to be not wasting Randy Johnson in an aborted game. Nothing much for us to do but grind out teeth, look up to the heavens and pray for the best.
And you say New York City
Today gives a day of rest for the Yankees and Angels, as well as the New Yorkers who stayed up late to catch Game Two. As discouraging as last night's loss was, Yankee fans must feel good that Randy Johnson will start Game Three. The obvious hope is that the Bombers offense will get rolling against Paul Byrd, the veteran pitcher who bares an unusual resemblance to Doctor Frasier Crane.
I had a nightmare last night that perhaps the good doctor could have helped me with. I dreamt that the Yankee and Red Sox were playing late into the night and that I fell asleep with the Bombers ahead 12-11. When I awoke, Emily and I were surprised that the game was still going on even though it was eleven o'clock in the morning (by which time Boston had a 18-12 lead). I was beside myself. Shortly thereafter, I found myself on the kitchen floor, red in the face, throwing a bonafide tantrum. I just couldn't believe the Yanks were blowing it. Then a foul ball was hit toward the Yankee dugout where George and Barbara Bush were sitting. Jorge Posada tried to make the catch but missed the ball, which smacked Barbara in the head. This refocused my rage and I laughed at Barbara Bush. Emily scolded me for taking pleasure in someone else's pain, and that even if I didn't like Babs it was plain bad vibes to mock her. Em told me to stop crying and get my act together or else.
No Margin For Error
Chien-Ming Wang and John Lackey both brought their A-game to Angel Stadium last night, but Game Two of the ALDS wasn't decided by pitching, it was decided by defense, third-base defense especially. The Angels played errorless ball, lead by several outstanding plays by Chone Figgins at third and Darin Erstad at first. The Yankees turned a number of excellent plays of their own, but also committed three errors, two of which, including a crucial one by Alex Rodriguez, led directly to four of the five Angels runs. The result was a 5-3 Angel victory to even the series at one game apiece.
The big question entering tonight's match-up between Chien-Ming Wang and John Lackey concerns whom Joe Torre should start at first base, designated hitter and in center field. I'll take the third part first. Torre should start Bernie Williams in center, there's really not much debate to be had. Wang's ground ball rates are so extreme that Williams could play the entire game without having more than a chance or two in the field. Most of the action Bernie's likely to see will come on base hits, most of which either shoot through the holes to the corner outfielders, or will be grounders up the middle (assuming they can get past Wang himself) that will be hits long before Bernie gets to them, and which Bernie will be charging anyway, reducing the length of whatever throw he'll have to make. Thus there's no need to force the Yankee line-up to carry Bubba's bat against a man many consider the Angels' best pitcher entering this series.
Before I get to the 1B/DH situation, let's explore that belief. Among the four men in the Angels' ALDS rotation, Lackey is first in K/9 (8.57) and homers (a mere 13), and second in ERA (3.44), but last in BB/9 (3.09) and WHIP (1.33, tied with Jarrod Washburn). None of those numbers are terrible. What they really tell us is that there's no clear ace on this staff. I still believe Bartolo Colon has the most potential to be dominant, as he was last night after the first two innings. An argument could even be made for Paul Byrd, who despite missing the entire 2003 season due to injury, has been a top-line pitcher ever since his break-out campaign with the Royals in 2002 at the age of 31.
What has everyone so excited about Lackey is likely his age and potential for improvement. Just 26, Lackey experienced a dramatic up-tick in his strikeout rate this year to combine with a two-year decrease in home runs allowed from 31 in 2003 to just 13 this year. He also recovered from a shaky April to post a 2.57 second-half ERA, going 8-1 over the season's final three months
That said, I doubt Jason Giambi had those stats in mind when he remarked after last night's game that Lackey was sure to win a Cy Young award if he kept improving his game the way he has. Nor do I think Giambi was basing that evaluation on his personal experiences hitting against Lackey. Giambi is 10 for 20 with a double and a pair of homers against Lackey, which is one reason I think the Yankees can afford to stick him at DH tonight. Giambi's production may decrease when he sits between at-bats, but his success against Lackey should counteract that. Meanwhile, though Tino Martinez hasn't actually been all that much better than Giambi in the field this year (91 Rate to Giambi's 88, with both men at -8 Fielding Runs Against Average), the sheer volume of ground balls the Angels are likely to hit tonight will likely expose Giambi's inferiority in the field, no matter how slight. For evidence, all we need to do is look back to Wang's last start.
The only problem with starting Tino at first is that unlike with the centerfield situation, where Bubba can come in as a defensive replacement if Wang hands a lead to the bullpen (and make no mistake, Bubba should come in as soon as Torre takes the ball from his starter unless the Yankees are behindBernie has hit a solid 5 for 17 against Lackey with two doubles and a homer), Torre can't move Giambi into the field in the late innings without sacrificing the DH. Still, I think it's worth a shot. Yes, Ruben Sierra has gone 3 for 8 against lackey with a home run, but that makes even the other tiny samples I've quoted seem large. What's more, the Ruben Sierra the Yankees have this postseason is not the same one that produced that line against Lackey, even if the Angel starter has only been in the league since 2002. Sierra missed most of the season due to a pair of injuries and has yet to find his stroke since returning. It would be a Scioscia-level mistake for Torre to put Ruben's name in the line-up regardless of how well he matches up against a given pitcher.
Tonight will be Lackey's first postseason start since his Game Seven win as a rookie in the 2002 World Series. He's faced the Yankees twice this year, picking up a win both times and assembling this line: 11 2/3 IP, 12 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 0 HR, 5 BB, 12 K. The one thing to watch out for with Lackey facing the Yankees is that the Yanks have been able to make him work, both times driving him from the game in the sixth due to a pitch count over 100. Indeed, Lackey is the one Angel starter that the Yankees can effectively work the count against (Byrd, for example, is almost Wellsian in his refusal to issue a base on balls). The only problem there is that the Angel bullpen is so dominant that the Yankees actually decrease their chances of scoring by driving Lackey from the game after the fifth inning.
As for Wang, this is not only his first postseason start, but also the first time he's face the Angels. Of course, as a rookie, Wang's season has been full of firsts, and he's taken them all in stride. The lone exception being a brief bout of nerves in the first inning of his previous start against the Red Sox, but, other than a brief issue with his control, he pitched well enough to win that game, holding the majors' best offense to three earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. My only concern is that the Angels are exactly the type of team that can cause trouble for a groundball pitcher such as Wang. They make a lot of contact, which is fine as Wang pitches to contact, but they also have a lot of speed throughout their line-up. The only team that really managed to get to Wang this season was the Devil Rays. Of course the D-Rays got to all of the Yankee pitchers, but against Wang it was their speed, not their power that was the problem. The Devil Rays were the only team other than the Cardinals (against whom Wang was abandoned by his defense) to collect more than a hit per inning against Wang this season.
Game time is 10 p.m. eastern. If the Yanks can pull out another win they'll return home with a chance to sweep with Randy Johnson on the mound.
Here are the line-ups. Torre got it right again. Scioscia drops Erstad behind Molina and Rivera, but there appears to be some confusion as to where Anderson and Rivera are starting [Update: Anderson's in left again, Erstad is actually hitting ahead of Rivera, cleary YES's Angels sources are not as reliable as their Yankee sources]:
The reoccurring elbow injuries which limited Andy Pettitte to fifteen starts last year and ended his season before the playoffs made his departure from the Bronx a lot easier to take than I expected. And in a way, that complicates makes my reaction to the monster season he just had (2.39 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 17-9, 222 1/3 IP, 188 H, 171 K, 41 BB, all playing his home games in Minute Made Park, mind you).
Pettitte is on the mound in Atlanta, facing off against Tim Hudson in Game One of the Astros-Braves NLDS (Andy already has a 3-1 lead in the third).
At 8:00, another member of the Yankees 2003 rotation, David Wells faces off against Mark Buehrle in an attempt to even the All-Sox series heading home to Boston.
Anyone watching these?
Takin' It Easy
The first pitch Bartolo Colon threw in last night's game buzzed past Derek Jeter at 95 miles per hour for a strike. The second pitch he threw resulted in a Jeter groundout to third. Colon then struck out Alex Rodriguez on three pitches and got ahead of Jason Giambi with strike one. The Angel ace was dealing. After his seventh pitch was called for a ball, the first he threw on the night, Colon unleashed another 95 mile per hour heater that tailed down and in on Giambi.
Giambi, who at the beginning of the season appeared incapable of getting around even on low-90s heat, turned on the pitch and lined it into right for a single. Colon then got ahead of Gary Sheffield 0-2 and attempted to put him away with a similar pitch on the outside corner, but Sheffield stuck out his rear and poked the pitch into right for another single, pushing Giambi to second. Hideki Matsui followed with a seven pitch at-bat that ended with yet another single to right, loading the bases for Robinson Cano's first postseason appearance.
After a quick visit to the mound by Angels pitching coach Bud Black, Colon started Cano off with just his second ball of the night. The rookie second baseman then took a strike to even the count and fouled off another to fall behind 1-2. After Colon again evened the count with another ball, Cano hit a laser down the third base line foul, then creamed the sixth pitch he saw over Garret Anderson's head in left, clearing the bases and giving the Yankees a 3-0 lead.
As it turns out, that was all the Yankees would need. Despite Joe Torre's confidence, even Mike Mussina wasn't sure what he'd bring to the mound pitching on six days rest and coming off a dreadful outing in Baltimore (2 2/3 IP, 7 H, 5 R) last week. As it turns out, Mussina had everything working. His fastball hit 91 miles per hour, his control was excellent, and his knuckle curve was sharp.
The line-ups for tonight's game are posted over on the YES Network site.
So far, so good. Torre is going with Crosby in center, and Bernie at DH, while Scioscia is running Erstad and Finley out there, with Anderson resigned to DH, Juan Rivera in left [Update: actually, reverse that], and Adam Kennedy burried in the nine-hole. Dig:
R - Derek Jeter (SS)
R - Mussina (P)
S - Chone Figgins (3B)
R - Bartolo Colon (P)
The only thing Scioscia did right is put Molina behind Guerrero [Update: actually, he screwed that up too]. Kotchman and DaVanon are left to rot on the bench. Check the YES link above to see these line-ups along with their triple-crown stats and OBPs, the latter of which are particularly enlightening.
Still no word on the Yankees final playoff roster, though honestly, the last man on the bench and in the bullpen shouldn't see any action in this series, let alone play an important role. If he does, it's likely going to mean bad news for the Yanks.
The roster is set:
1B - Jason Giambi
L - Tino Martinez (1B)
R - Mike Mussina
R - Mariano Rivera
As Cartman told Starvin' Marvin in South Park's first Thanksgiving episode
"You see Starvin' Marvin, these are what we call appetizers. This is what you eat before you eat, to make you more hungry."
In the game already underway, Jake Peavy is getting rocked by the Cardinals offense while Chris Carpenter is rolling.
At 4:00 Matt Clement, the pitcher I think the Yankees should have signed this offseason, and Jose Contreras, the one I'm glad they traded last year, match up in Chicago.
If anyone's interested in chatting about this afternoon's action, this is the place to do it.
Los Los Angeles Angeles de Anaheim
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2005 Record: 95-67 (.586)
Manager: Mike Scioscia
Ballpark (2004 park factors): Angel Stadium (99/99)
1B Darin Erstad
L - Casey Kotchman (1B)
R Bartolo Colon
R Francisco Rodriguez
L - Dallas McPherson (3B) (60-day)
S Chone Figgins (3B)
The Yankees and the Angels enter the ALDS with identical regular season records of 95-67. They also had the two best records in baseball over the final weeks of the season, the Angels finishing 14-2, the Yankees 16-5. But despite displaying an equal ability to win, they've gone about it in drastically different ways.
Yanks Tough First Round Test Starts Tonight
There are previews galore in the papers this morning, but with all due respect to the analytical acumen of the print media, there isn't anybody's take on the Angels that interests me more than that of my pal Rich Lederer. Lederer, who co-runs the fine Baseball Analysts site with Bryan Smith, was born and raised in Long Beach, California and has followed the Angels forever. He was kind enough to burn the midnight oil last night to provide us with his scouting report on the ALDS series between the Bombers and the Halos. Here it goes:
By Rich Lederer
Hitting: The Yankees can flat out hit. Outside of Vladimir Guerrero, the Angels can not hit. The Bronx Bombers slugged 82 more home runs this year than the Angels. That's two extra dingers in a four or five-game series. Although the team batting averages are nearly the same, the Yankees have a much better on-base percentage, thanks to almost 200 more walks during the regular season. Yes, the NYY drew 44% more BB than the LAA in 2005. Garret Anderson is a shell of what he once was and is nothing more than a guess hitter who can look good when he's right or bad when he's wrong. If I'm the Yankees, I don't let Guerrero beat me. Treat him like Barry Bonds. Make someone else get the big hit. Unlike Bonds, Guerrero lacks patience and may get overanxious from time to time, particularly in a playoff situation. The AL MVP in 2004 was 2-for-12 with 4 SO against the Boston Red Sox in last year's ALDS. Vladi is a very dangerous hitter, but he can be had. I just don't know if the Yankees have the type of pitching that can neutralize him.
The Angels led the majors in stolen bases but their SB percentage was lower than the Yankees. Mike Scioscia's club can and will run with Chone Figgins leading the way. They will also try to take extra bases, if and when they can.
Fielding: The Angels are strong up the middle with Bengie Molina at catcher, Orlando Cabrera at short, and Adam Kennedy at second. Steve Finley is no longer a Gold Glove CF although he shines out there in comparison to Bernie Williams, who could well be a big liability out there against the Angels. Darin Erstad is heads and shoulders better than Jason Giambi at first base, not only in terms of range but watch him dig out balls in the dirt. He does that better than anyone in the game. Guerrero has one of the strongest and most respected outfield arms in all of baseball. Alex Rodriguez is better than anyone the Angels can put at third, but I don't think the Angels would necessarily take a backseat to any other matchup defensively.
Starting Pitching: What can you say when Kelvim Escobar can't even make your five-man rotation? Bartolo Colon and Kevin Lackey are about as good of a 1-2 punch in the AL as any other tandem. Colon is a bulldog and Lackey is one of the most underrated pitchers in the league. The Angels appear to be undecided about who they will start in games three and four. Jarrod Washburn just might be the odd man out. Yes, the lefty with the fourth-best ERA in the AL may not get a chance to start in this series. Instead, he may be relegated to the bullpen--a role I don't think he is well-suited for--to give the Angels a long reliever or a LOOGY, if need be.
The Angels, believe it or not, actually have four starters with better ERAs than Randy Johnson. That said, I would take the Big Unit over all of 'em if I could only pick one starter out of the bunch to win a game. The problem for the Yankees, though, is that Johnson isn't scheduled to start until Game Three on Friday. He will be well rested, but I'm afraid the New Yorkers may be down 0-2 going into that tilt. Colon and Lackey have to be heavy favorites to beat the Yankees in Anaheim in Games One and Two. Let's face it, Joe Torre has no idea what he is going to get when Mike Mussina takes the mound tonight. A victory in Game One would give the Yankees the home-field edge as well as the confidence and momentum to take the series.
Ervin Santana may be asked to start on Friday or Saturday in New York. I would hand him the ball in Game Three against Johnson and, as an up and down type pitcher, hope he comes through because he has the stuff, if not the experience. The Yankees, however, would be prohibitive favorites in a game featuring Johnson at home vs. Santana. The rookie has been nothing short of awful on the road this year. [Ed: As it turns out Paul Byrd will start Game Three, while Washburn gets the nod in Game Four.]
Colon in Anaheim in a potential Game Five matches up well to any pitcher not named Johnson. The Yankees can only hope they clinch it in four games or less because the odds of beating the man who may wind up winning the Cy Young Award in the rubber match will be long at best.
Bullpen: With Mariano Rivera on their side, Yankees fans may not want to hear--much less believe--that the Angels have a decidely better bullpen. The AL West champs simply have better depth than the Yankees. Look for Scioscia to go to Scott Shields in the eighth inning and Frankie Rodriguez in the ninth almost every chance he gets. Escobar could be a difference maker. He gives the Angels another power arm out of the 'pen. Torre doesn't have the luxury of going to an Escobar. What it comes down to is that the Angels' bridge between their starters and closer is much stronger than what Torre can put out there.
Rodriguez has been relying more and more on his big breaking ball in crucial situations. He only throws his once unhittable fastball about half the time now. The key is not to go fishing for his nasty sliders that, more often than not, end up low and/or outside. Rest assured that K-Rod will face A-Rod at least once with the game on the line in the ninth inning.
Manager: Two of the best. Distinctly different styles. Yankees players and fans rightfully love Torre. Angels players and fans admire Scioscia. Torre will probably be questioned for who he does or doesn't start, while Scioscia will more likely be second-guessed if the Angels run into outs on the basepaths or use up outs by playing small ball. Call it a draw. Both of these guys have won it all and want nothing more than to win another one.
Keys for the Angels to win: Not letting Mussina beat them in Game One. A second or third bat (Casey Kotchman or Juan Rivera, anyone?) to step up and take some of the load off Guerrero. Beating Randy Johnson.
Keys for the Yankees to win: Winning Game One. Getting quality starts from each of their starters. A healthy Jason Giambi throughout the series.
Head to Head
The Yankees played well down the stretch and earned their way into the playoffs. The Angels, winners of 14 of their last 16 have been even hotter. The Halos took the season series from the Bombers, 6-4. There were a couple of memorable comebacks (Vlad's grand slam, K Rod and Shields blowing saves on consectuive days) as well as Alex Rodriguez's big night in April. Here's a quick rundown of the Yankee-Angels games, via the Bronx Banter archives.
In New York
April 26: 12-4 Yankee win. Alex Rodriguez hits three home runs off of Bartolo Colon.
April 27: 5-1 Angels win. Jarod Washburn pitches a gem, Mike Mussina makes critical mistakes.
April 28: 3-1 Angels win. Yankee offense snoozes as Kevin Brown pitches a good game.
July 21: 6-5 Angels win. Vladi's grand slam off of Flash Gordon spoils a decent performance from The Big Unit.
July 22: 6-3 Angels win. In his second outing as a Yankee, Al Leiter is roughed up by the Halos.
July 23: 8-6 Angels win. Kevin Brown gets bombed.
July 24: 4-1 Yankees win. With the Angels star relievers resting, Mike Mussina outduels Jarod Washburn.
Back in New York
July 29: 4-1 Angels win. A decent performance from Moose is not enough.
July 30: 9-7 Yankees win. A tired K Rod folds in the ninth as the Yanks rally to win it.
July 31: 8-7 Yankees win. A similarly fatigued Shields blows a late lead.
Second Season (Dis Mus Be De Place)
Derek Jeter drove Curt Schilling's first offering off the green monster in the first inning yesterday. But Manny Ramirez expertly fielded the ball and threw Jeter out at second base. It was a sign that it wouldn't be the Yankees' day. Jeter bruised his right knee sliding into the bag and was removed from the game in the fourth inning. The Bombers actually had three hits in the first but weren't able to score. Schilling wasn't dazzling but he was effective enough, especially after this teammates started beating Jaret Wright and company around but good. By the middle innings the win didn't much matter to the Home Nine after the results of the White Sox win over the Indians were posted. Toward the end of the game, there were scrubinies on the field for both sides as the Sox pounded the Yanks, 10-1 in the regular season finale.
The teams finished with identical records of 95-67. The Red Sox will travel to Chicago to take on the White Sox in the ALDS, while the Yankees are on their way to Califorina to tackle the Angels, a team who has given them fits over last several years. We'll spend plenty of time looking at how the two teams match-up over the next day-and-a-half, but before we move on, I'd like to take a moment to give thanks to this Yankee team for reaching the playoffs once again.
Sure, with the kind of dough they spend you'd expect nothing less. Yet the most infuriating aspect of Yankee culture these days is the sense of entitlement that surrounds the team--from the owner down to many of the fans. What's lost in being seduced by this atmosphere of high (win-or-else) expectations, is often a genuine appreciation of just how hard it is to make the playoffs year-after-year. Joe Torre was not choked up and crying for nothing on Saturday evening. However, considering how disastrous their off-season was--some contend that it was the worst in the team's storied history--and how poorly they played to begin the season, it is some accomplishment that they are still playing in October. Virtual no-names like Chien-Ming Wang, Robinson Cano, Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon played vital roles. So did veterans did Jason Giambi and Randy Johnson and Flash Gordon. Hideki Matsui, Gary Sheffield and Derek Jeter all had the kind of All-Star seasons we've come to expect from them. And Mariano Rivera and Alex Rodriguez were simply brilliant.
When Rivera was hurt in 2002 I began to count the days. Who knew how much longer he'd last? How long can a stopper remain elite? Well, his last three seasons are three of the best he's ever had in his career. After a rough first couple of games against the Red Sox, where everybody and his uncle had a theory about what was wrong with him and what he needed to do to rebound, Rivera was dominant for the rest of the summer. Rodriguez was rock-steady at third base, putting up perhaps the most impressive season at that position that anyone has seen since the days of the great Mike Schmidt and George Brett. His defense wasn't great early in the year, but by the end of the season, he proved himself to be a Gold Glove caliber fielder. Offensively, he was outstanding, and amazingly even--look at the splits, month-by-month the guy was $ in the bank.
Yes indeed, there were many frustrating moments this year, but there is also a lot to be thankful for as well. The Yanks have made their fans proud. We are blessed to root for such a successful organization. Let's hope they keep playing well and who knows what could happen?
Yankee fans have the luxury of kicking back this afternoon and enjoying the final game of the season. Sure, there are still things at stake, but it isn't the do-or-die scenerio that it could well have been. If the Yankees win, they'll most likely host the Angels Tuesday. If they lose and the Angels win, the ALDS will begin in Anahiem. The Red Sox are a pretty good bet to make the playoffs themselves. If the Indians lose, the Sox are in. If the Sox win, they are in. Should Boston lose and Cleveland win, the two teams would meet at Fenway Park tomorrow in a one-game playoff (I think that both the Indians and the Sox will win today and that'll be that).
Jaret Wright will start against Curt Schilling today, and several Yankee starters will get some rest (I'm thinking that Sheff and Giambi will not play, but would be surprised not to see Jeter, Posada, Rodriguez and Matsui out there). Anyhow, let's just hope that nobody gets hurt, and that a couple of guys can pad their stats a 'lil bit.
The Bronx Bombers are headed to the playoffs again. Four months ago I wasn't so sure that'd happen. Today is a good time to take pause and appreciate just how hard the players worked to earn this playoff berth, and for us to really take in how fortunate we've been to root for such a special team since Joe Torre became the manager in 1996.
Enjoy the day. Let's Go Yan-Kees!
It was an uncommonly beautiful day in Boston yesterday. Not a single cloud could be found in the deep blue sky and the mid-day sun cast harsh shadows across the field at Fenway Park. In many ways, it was reminiscent of the afternoon 27 years ago today when Ron Guidry and Mike Torrez faced off to decide the American League's Eastern Division, and with the temperature a crisp 64 degrees, there was more than a hint of playoff baseball in the air.
After 160 games, it had come to this. The Yankees and Red Sox were tied atop the AL East. The winner of this game would clinch a tie for first place. More significantly, a win by the Yankees and a loss by the Indians in Cleveland would hand the division to New York outright. On the mound for the two teams were a pair of veteran aces. Forty two-year-old future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, 4-0 in five starts against the Red Sox this year was set to face 39-year-old Tim Wakefield, the pitcher who almost single-handedly defeated the Yankees in the 2003 ALCS only to, in a cruel twist of fate, surrender the series-ending home run in relief in Game Seven. Three weeks ago the two had matched up in a grueling 1-0 pitchers duel won by Johnson in the final match-up of the year between the two teams at Yankee Stadium.
On this day, things would be a little different. Wakefield's knuckler, which in that September 11 match-up was as good as it's ever been, resulting in a career-high twelve strikeouts for Wakefield, simply didn't have as much movement, and the Yankees, several of whom took batting practice against a former Yankee hurler who had learned the pitch from Wakefield himself, took advantage.
The winner of today's game will clinch a tie for the American League East. If the White Sox win in Cleveland, the loser of today's game will clinch a tie for the American League Wild Card.
The Yankees and Red Sox are each sending their best pitchers to the mound. At Yankee Stadium on September 11, Randy Johnson pitched seven shutout innings to defeat Tim Wakefield 1-0 on a first-inning home run by Jason Giambi off a Wakefield curve ball, with Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera nailing down the win.
Giambi starts at DH today after making a crucial throwing error in last night's loss. Tino Martinez gets the start at first, batting behind Robinson Cano, who hits sixth after having one of just three Yankee hits off Wakefield three weeks ago. Bernie's in center. Flaherty's behind the plate.
For the Red Sox, Kevin Millar's in at first. Bill Mueller moves up to the six spot ahead of catcher Doug Mirabelli. With Gabe Kapler out for the year with an Achilles injury, Trot Nixon stays in the line-up against Johnson and drops to eighth.
The Holy Trinity: 1949
Since 1904, when the embryonic Yankees lost the AL Pennant to the then Boston Pilgrims in the penultimate game of the year due to a series of infield errors and a sore-armed ace, the fortunes of the two teams had changed dramatically. The Boston club, who started calling themselves the Red Sox just a few years after their season-ending conflict with the New Yorkers, went on to become the dominant team of the next decade, winning four World Championships in the teens before owner Harry Frazee began selling off his stars, most notably a young pitcher-turned-outfielder named Babe Ruth who would go on to lead the Yankees to their first pennant in 1921, their first World Championship in 1923, and five other World Series appearances in his fifteen years in New York, four of which saw the Yankees emerge victorious.
Meanwhile, the Boston Club fell into despair, failing to produce a winning season during Ruth's tenure as a Yankee, nine times finishing dead last in the American League. Under new owner Tom Yawkey, the Red Sox finally pulled themselves out of their almost two-decade-long funk at the end of the 1930s, a revival that was solidified by the arrival of a scrawny left-handed hitter named Ted Williams.
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About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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