Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Close Don't Count
2005-08-10 04:57
by Alex Belth

When Bernie Williams pinch-hit in the ninth inning last night, I held my breath and hoped that the Yankee veteran would come through. There were two outs and men on the corners with the Yanks down a run. Williams lashed the first pitch he saw from Dustin Hermanson. By my count it must have been the fifth or sixth ball a Yankee batter had hit on the screws during the game. Unfortunately, like the other hard hit balls--with one exception--it went directly to a White Sox fielder. Bernie's liner was caught by the first baseman Paul Konerko, the game was suddenly over, and Chicago had won, 2-1.

"You can hit the ball but you can't steer it," said Yankee announcer Jim Kaat. It was just one of those nights, one where the Yanks couldn't buy a break. Both Jose Contreras and Shawn Chacon pitched exceedingly well. Contreras was filthy, mixing his pitches, working efficiently. When he is on, he can be overpowering. (El Duque may be the better pitcher, but Contreras has much nastier stuff.) Chacon worked in-and-out of trouble, but turned in another admirable performance. For a low-scoring affair, the game wasn't exactly crisp, but it was exciting. Tony Womack and Hideki Matsui made nice catches for the Yanks, Derek Jeter turned a difficult double play in the first, and Aaron Rowand continues to suck up everything hit to the gap in right-center and left-center field.

For the most part it was a clean loss for New York. The rub was Joe Torre's decision to let Alan Embree start the ninth inning. After Embree got the Yankees out of trouble in the eighth, he gave up a long solo home run to Konerko on a 3-2 pitch to start the ninth. Alex Rodriguez's dinger in the bottom of the inning made it close but not close enough. The Yankees lost a game in the AL East standings as Boston beat Texas in extra innings. They remain three-and-a-half behind Oakland in the wildcard, who were pounded by the Vlad and company last night.

The YES cameras showed Rivera warming up as the Yankees batted in the bottom of the eighth--an inning that will be remembered for a suburban teenage fan jumping from the upper deck into the netting behind home plate (ah, the medicinal wonders of booze). Kaat assumed Mo would pitch the ninth. I thought bringing Rivera in would make perfect sense too. Instead, Embree remained in the game and gave up what proved to be the difference in the game. George Steinbrenner was in the house and, ever the gracious loser, criticized Torre after the game:

I'm not pleased with the manager...I don't know about why they left the lefthander in," Steinbrenner said, dressed in his vintage blue blazer. "He had a good inning and they kept him in there. He should never have pitched to Konerko - he's their best hitter."

Steinbrenner vocalized what a lot of fans must have been thinking--or shouting at home. Considering how well Chacon pitched, it was a difficult loss. But credit Contreras for pitching like an ace. Speaking of which, Randy Johnson will not start Tomorrow against Texas, Scott Proctor will instead.

Um, discuss.

This is the first time I've seen the White Sox all season and I have to say that I don't dislike them as much as I expected to. Of course, having Rock Raines on the coaching staff helps. They are not a flashy or overly cocky team. I like their second baseman Iguchi. He is solid, and put together some tough at bats that reminded me of Edgardo Alfonzo when he was in his prime with the Mets. Nothing special about the White Sox offensively, but their pitching sure has been good.

Another critical game for the Yanks this afternoon. How much more can we expect out of Aaron Small? Hopefully, just a little bit more. Plus a healthy dose of offense.

2005-08-10 06:04:51
1.   yankeefan1
was anyone able to catch the postgame show? i'd love to hear torre's take on why he left embree in or why he had jeter sacrfice womack to 2nd...................absolutely pitiful managing
2005-08-10 06:10:41
2.   Dan M
Dear God, I agree with George. Postgame, Torre mumbled something about Konerko strikes out a lot against lefties. But leading off an inning - no outs, nobody on - why are you playing for a strikeout?

So much for the SmallBall ChiSox. Two runs, both on solo home runs.

2005-08-10 06:17:19
3.   yankeefan1
thats terrible if he said that, im sure konerko strikes out a ton against right handers as well hes not a very disciplined hitter and i would say hes very similar to an adam dunn. this reminds me exactly of when sheffield hit that bomb homerun off embree earlier this year, when are managers going to start realizing guys like embree are for LEFTIES only.
2005-08-10 06:40:26
4.   jedi
Went to the game last night...

I can reassure everyone who wasnt there that the whole stadium either couldnt believe or didnt realize Embree came into the ninth. It all happened so fast, even I thought Rivera came in and gave up the homer. You do not understand how silent the stadium was after that.

I usually have good intuition and I had a feeling the yanks would come back in the ninth. The place went bizerk when Arod hit that homer. As much as I am impressed with the Sox pitching staff, it was getting to them and it showed later in the game. Giambi walks and Tino singles. My intuition never fails me. Then Posada comes up and every single notion that yankees can come back from this one got swept away into a black hole. THREEE friggin pitches and strikes out swinging.

Everyone talks about how they are tired of Torre. How they are tired of Steinbrenner not making the right moves over the years. Tired of how these Yankees are not the typical "Yankees." Well, you know what I am tired of? I am tired of friggin Jorge friggin Posada!

I am tired of his foolish swings on breaking balls, I am tired of his crappy baserunning blunders like he is stuck between two cupcakes on second and third, I am tired of his crappy throws to second like its a practice throw, I am tired of him pitching out and not getting the runner out on second like he did with Rowand last night because he was too fat to get up from his knees and make a decent throw. I am tired of his weak ass MTV "Crib" segment on YES where he shows his home with pictures of Joe Girardi everywhere, I am tired of him calling pitches behind the plate and making great pitchers look ungreat, I am tired of him and his fake Jack Daniels Volkswagen commercials, I am tired of him not being able to communicate on a decent level so that our ace has to revert to our backup catcher every time he pitches, I am tired of him always being on my fantasy team and giving me crap everynight...

And finally,

I am tired of him striking out swinging/looking on three pitches in the bottom of the ninth and not working the count when the game is on the line.

Thanks Jorge for the memories, but your career is winding down. When you are ranked below Piazza in yahoo/cbssportsline position player ratings the past two years i think it's a sign to start reevaluating your contribution to the team.
Just calling it a hunch...

2005-08-10 07:02:08
5.   Cliff Corcoran
Did Torre name Proctor for Thursday's start after the game? Last I heard it was between a Proctor/Franklin patchwork start and Jorge DePaula, but the decision had not been made.

Painful loss last night. Torre bullpen blunder was devistating, but what burns me most is the Yanks getting dominated by Contreras. It's one thing when the Yanks give up a pitcher who goes on to success elsewhere and comes back and dominates them (be it Ted Lilly, Jake Westbrook, David Wells, El Duque, or any of five or six pitchers in the NL), but Contreras has not been that good this year. He's been better, but the things that haunted him in New York (inconsistancy, walks, failure to trust his stuff) have not gone away. But they were nowhere to be seen last night. I'm glad I missed the first seven innings.

2005-08-10 07:08:11
6.   JohnnyC
jedi, I feel you on Posada. But, this is all predictable. Aging catcher whose real value was his offense not his defense. For about 3 years Jorge parlayed some remarkable plate discipline to post some outrageous OBPs for a catcher and his occasional big power made him a cut above. But all along as a converted infielder turned catcher, he was a nightmare technique-wise and his game-calling abilities never overcame his pitching coach (hence pitchers prefer Flaherty's willingness to improvise over his sinker-or-swim philosophy). Now, approaching his mid-thirties, he's inexplicably lost his eye at the plate, making too many futile swings at breaking balls at his feet. He is still top tier offensively among catchers but, in too many important respects, he's not the equal of, say, Bengie Molina--a better defensive catcher and contact hitter. There was a lot of talk earlier in the season of whom on this roster was a tradeable asset. Few pointed out Posada. Despite his double-digit millions contract, he would have been the best choice to trade. Each passing week and month makes him more untradeable, a la Mike Piazza.
2005-08-10 07:11:22
7.   Alvaro Espinoza
Once again, poor managing was rampant in the ballpark last night and it wasn't exclusive to the guy in the 1B dugout.

Ozzie Guillen starts the 9th in a 1 run game against arguably the best hitter in baseball w/ Cliff Politte. Then he compounds this folly by bringing in Damaso Marte for a classic lefty-lefty match-up. One problem (actually two): lefties are hitting almost .300 off Marte and Matsui hits 60 points higher against lefties than righties.
Ozzie tried his best to give the Yankees the game in the 9th. I know his team is running away w/ the Central but was this really a game in which to "test" certain players?

Credit where it's due: Contreras was Seaver last night (and boy did that rub me in a really wrong way). Particularly from a guy who showed no guts, NONE, in pinstripes.

I really like Cano but him and Jeter back-back just doesn't seem to be clicking consistently. Since Bernie is going to have shoulder problems for the rest of this season (career?), why not lead off Bubba, bat 2 second and knock Cano down to the bottom at least 2x a week?

2005-08-10 07:25:21
8.   jedi
When are the yankees gonna start taking care of business and brush some of these overrated hitters. I would have liked to see Chacon hit Posednick to lead of the game to send a message to the white sox hitters, but instead I see Contreras taking care of business and hitting AROD in the first for his bush league" play the game before.

IMO, AROD interfered in that play yesterday. Love the guy's production but hate his bush league tactics...its borderline skeemer how he plays it off.

2005-08-10 07:28:46
9.   Nick from Washington Heights
Man, if there was ever evidence that pitching and defense can guide a team to a great season the White Sox are exhibit A. Frankly, I can't believe how weak their line-up is. Timo Perez batting 5th?! Wow!
2005-08-10 07:29:04
10.   JohnnyC
Alvaro, you must be kidding. You expect Torre to actually do something that makes sense? And, frankly, I'm not concerned with Guillen's mistakes. As for his use of his bullpen, at least he was consistent with his own gameplan. Hermanson's numbers against the middle of the Yankees' line-up were horrendous. Guillen "trusts" his bullpen...all 7 of the arms he has. Unlike the great god Torre who acts like he's managing the 1972-74 Oakland A's with their 8 man staff. I don't see the practical reason for the Yankees having a 25 man roster when he barely uses 20 of them.
2005-08-10 07:38:30
11.   Shaun P
I'm pretty upset about Posada's last AB, too. But what can be done about it now? You can't bench him! His offensive value has gone way down, but Flaherty is an insta-out, whatever value he brings in calling a game. The Yankees cannot afford to have 3 insta-outs (Womack/Bernie, Tino, and Flaherty) playing every day.

I'm not sure what, if any, value there is in looking at one season's worth of numbers with RISP, but FWIW:

"Close and Late": .280/.419/.360 (AVG/OBP/SLG), 50 ABs
RISP: .226/.312/.462, 93 ABs
RISP with 2 out: .091/.245/.114, 44 ABs

( defines "close and late" as "results in the 7th inning or later with the batting team either ahead by one run, tied or with the potential tying run at least on deck")

Finally, also FWIW:
Konerko vs LHP: .265 isolated power, 19K in 87 ABs (1K per 4.58 ABs)
Konerko vs RHP: .244 isolated power, 58K in 311ABs (1K per 5.36 ABs)

IMHO, Mariano should have pitched the ninth.

2005-08-10 07:45:49
12.   Alvaro Espinoza
On a somewhat more positive note, if I were able to get out of work today, I'd get my butt down to the Stadium and procure some tix. It's going to be a beautiful day.
2005-08-10 07:52:55
13.   yankz
On a completely irrelevant note, there's been a lot of noise on ESPN lately that Rivera should get the Cy Young. On "Around the Horn" 3 out of the 4 guys said theyd vote for him. One said that since this year, nobody's running away with the award, he has no problem voting for Mo as a "Lifetime achievement" award. Another said that because Buehrle won't have 20 wins and Garland's ERA will be too high, they'll split a lot of votes and Mo will come through. Today's ESPN poll was a perfect example of that- when I took the poll, 29.2% had voted for Buehrle, 29.5% for Garland, and 35% for Mo. That would be awesome.
2005-08-10 07:55:17
14.   Scott Long

While the part of Contreas pitching that well was an anomaly, the game itself was a microcasm of the White Sox season. Starting pitching generally always gets them to at least the 7th inning and then the bullpen shuts down the opposition. The offense doesn't have any great OBP, but the best in this category are in the first 2 slots of the order, but they do have consistent power in the 3 through 9 slots.

Currently, with Timo Perez in the DH position (WTF!)they are giving away an out. The loss of Frank Thomas is a big blow to the offense, though Carl Everett has been okay. THe Sox could use a power bat in the lineup more than anything else.

2005-08-10 08:03:42
15.   Alvaro Espinoza

Did any of those ATH blockheads mention Halladay?

2005-08-10 08:06:24
16.   yankz
Alvaro- they didnt. I'm thinking everyone assumes that his injury seriously hurt his chances, and since nobody knows how effective he'll be if he comes back in time to make another run, I dont think hes getting much consideration right now.
2005-08-10 08:07:36
17.   Alex Belth
Yeah, Timo as your DH does not bode well. The Sox are going to have to really be on a roll in order to go deep into the playoffs I think.

I too was frustrated with Posada's final at bat. This has been such a disapointing season for him.

Also, I should have mentioned this in the write up but Jeter's double play in the first was really a fine play and an example of what Jeter does well defensively. First of all, Iguchi's at bat was exciting. Scott Podsenick reached base on a bloop single. He then took a sizable lead. Chacon threw the ball over a bunch of times. I counted four that were close, two that were very close. Iguchi kept fouling pitches off---anyone know how many it was in all? Finally, he hits a ground ball to Jeter up the middle. Jeter used his length to touch the base with the left foot an instant before Podsednick got there.

At first I simply thought Jeter got a reputation/hometown call. But the replays showed that he got his foot in there. It was a sharp play. But the entire sequence was exciting.

2005-08-10 08:14:20
18.   Alvaro Espinoza
Iguchi's AB's were maddening. He fouled off 7 pitches (including strike 2) in that AB. Saw 11 pitches in all. He fouled off 6 his next AB.
2005-08-10 08:18:15
19.   Zack
"IMO, AROD interfered in that play yesterday. Love the guy's production but hate his bush league tactics...its borderline skeemer how he plays it off. "

I still don't see what is so "bush league" about trying to win the game." If Jeter did the same thing, it would be racked up to his smarts and would be one more reason for everyone to love him, but with A-Rod, it's "bush league." The slap was a bit effeminate perhaps, but it was the freaking playoffs. He was going to be out had he not, so why not try it? The other option was knock Arroyo over, which would certainly have been more "bush league." And by deflecting that ball the other night, he avoided a double play. You can call that "bush league" but I will take that kind of play any day. Since when is baseball all about adhering to the rules as they are written? Isn't it all about bending them ever so slightly to your advantage? Not to the extend of steroids, but for example, using the batter's box slightly illegally, or running slightly out of the baseline, or trying to steal signs.

I am so sick of all of this "bush league" crap. it stinks of Schilling...

2005-08-10 08:23:45
20.   KJC
"Since when is baseball all about adhering to the rules as they are written? Isn't it all about bending them ever so slightly to your advantage?"

I hope this is either a joke or written by a Mets fan...

2005-08-10 08:28:15
21.   Murray
Over the past nine years, Torre has consistently demonstrated the belief that batting order positions are as important to a player's comfort as regular positions in the field. Maybe we'd like Torre to do creative things with his lineup, but he can't do that any more than I can grow taller at my age. Players' managers like Torre believe that the benefit from the manipulation is marginal at best, but at a high cost in terms of personnel management.

It's a fundamental difference between Torre and his predecessor, Buck Showalter. I prefer the Showalter/Stengel "A Mighty Impatience Is Our God" model, but Buck has the bad habit of wearing out his welcome quickly.

Regarding the Embree homer, Beavis and Beavis on the Yankee radio network didn't make it clear that Konerko homered off Embree either, so those of you at the ballpark weren't the only ones who were confused. (Why Beavis and Beavis? Because they're both the stupid one.)

2005-08-10 08:28:34
22.   Simone
I was not thrilled to see Embree in the 9th and of course, it went bad immediately. I think it was definitely a bad decision by Joe.

Proctor is starting? Well, that isn't good.

2005-08-10 08:33:42
23.   jedi
I second that, KJC, remind me not to play wiffle ball with that guy! He screams of calling the garbage can foul when its clearly the lightpost!!!

Hate to see him play touch football...I can see it now:

"One mississippi, two mississippi, three, four five! RUSH!!!!"

2005-08-10 08:42:01
24.   Alvaro Espinoza
Murray, I agree w/ your point that Torre has a proven history of being... well, Joe Torre and that's not about to change. Actually I think Torre and Showalter have the identical problem - an unbending philosophy damned whatever the situation may be.

And that's where their weakness lies. Any good manager must adjust to his team in certain instances. W/o getting too far into it, the Yanks are a better team w/ Bubba in CF than Womack. Bubba is also more of a natural fit in the leadoff spot than Jeter. I don't think substituting Bubba for Womack and pushing Cano to the 8 or 9 spot is classified as "creative". I classify it as assessing the talent each player gives you and then building a lineup around their contributions that puts the team in the best position to win (AKA what a manager is supposed to do).

2005-08-10 09:03:29
25.   KYK
"Of course, having Rock Raines on the coaching staff helps."

Raines made for some amusment between innings. While ARod, Jeter and Cano were tossing the ball to Tino, Raines would trot down the first base line "trying" to beat out the throw :-).

2005-08-10 09:22:19
26.   aboveavg
Bubba is not a natural leadoff hitter. He stinks almost as bad as Womack, the only difference is that Bubba is better on defense.
2005-08-10 09:24:17
27.   Murray
They aren't similar managers with unbending styles. Showalter is much more of a problem-solver by nature, whereas Torre is more of a leader of men. To flesh out what I mean here's an example:

Lt. Showalter would stay up all night, study the strenghts and weaknesses of his platoon, what kind of weapons he had at his disposal, where the best ground cover was, and would identify the weakest point in the enemy's position. Then he would formulate a plan of attack. But Showalter might not be able to get his troops out of the foxhole. Torre might not have a plan other than "let's attack here and now," but he'd be able to get his guys to go over the top for him.

Each style can work. But it's rare to see leaders who combine the IQ and the EQ. Torre is more an EQ kind of manager than an IQ manager. It worked great in 1998. It might not be so appropriate for 2005. But he isn't going to change. Be thankful: at least Torre doesn't pinch run for Jason Giambi any more late in games when Giambi is the trailing runner.

2005-08-10 11:29:17
28.   uburoisc
If next year Brown, Woemack, Bernie, Posada, Torre, Wright, Pavano and Mel were all gone, I wouldn't be dismayed. That's a lot of dead weight.

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