Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Think Scott Boras is feeling the heat?

The assumption Buster Olney has gone with all week is that Boras surely had something worked out, something in place of the $75 million had had, guaranteed, or the $225 million more the Yankees would have happily paid him?

If that were the case, would Boras be speaking in a tone that sounds suspiciously like a whine?

Boras maintained Wednesday that the Yankees should treat A-Rod the same way they deal with reliever Mariano Rivera and catcher Jorge Posada, who also are free agents.

"Why is it that Alex is the only Yankee who can't become a free agent?" Boras said Wednesday. "That question was not answered, and we think it's a question that's going to be asked for years to come."

Or not.

Monday, October 29, 2007

More A-Rod

Some thoughts:

1. Buster Olney was all over ESPN today claiming there has to be a deal in principle, somewhere, else no way A-Rod opts out on a moment's notice without even talking to the Yankees. Which would be tampering, of course--not that Boras cares or would be penalized. If a team was talking to Boras or A-Rod while A-Rod was still the property of the Yankees, that is tampering, and millions in fines. Think Boras cares?

2. In the Daily News Yankee blog, one last look is given to Boras's "Yankee team in turmoil" caper. Mike Feinsand writes:

The idea that Alex Rodriguez ever wanted to stay in New York is preposterous. If he wanted to stay, the Yankees were going to offer him a boatload of cash, and despite his concerns about guys like Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte, it's unlikely that all three of these guys – if any of them – were going to bolt.

The Yankees are not in a rebuilding phase, even with A-Rod gone. This team won't be dropping $100 million off its payroll. As of now, here's what we know for 2008: Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera, Jason Giambi, Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy.

This isn't the Royals.

Add in the likely return of Posada, Rivera, Pettitte and Bobby Abreu and the only questions are first and third base. They will figure it out. Are they in a lock to make the playoffs? No. Were they a lock this year? Not at 21-29. Without A-Rod, they wouldn't have gotten there, but that doesn't mean it will be the same next year.

Suddenly, the why of A-Rod's last-night-of-the-World-Series announcement makes sense.

The Yankees (who, like all the other teams, are proscribed from making major announcements during the World Series, absent the commissioner's permission; agents and players are under no such restriction) announced Joe Girardi today, on the first afternoon it was possible to do so.

It is possible to think that waiting one extra day, with Girardi in place, would have undercut the A-Rod/Boras "Yankees in turmoil" canard . . . I mean, just a little?

It is clear the Yankees want Posada, Rivera, and Abreu back, and would be happy to pay Andy Pettitte's option and slot him in as second starter, giving them a rotation (assuming Mo's presence) of Wang, Pettitte, Hughes, Joba and Kennedy, with anything Moose can contribute a bonus. Posada is coming off the best season of his career, Pettitte became stronger as the season went along, and Mo is Mo. The three remain wildly popular with the fans and have eleven rings--eleven Yankee rings--between them. Abreu, for his part, was the only Yank besides Cano to, you know, hit the ball or anything.

The only reason any one of the above would go to another team is money, and money is the one thing the Yankees will never run out of. (In addition to, by the way, $35 million per season freed up with A-Rod's and--please, merciful God--the Rocket's departure.)


So Scott Boras exhibited one of the hardest of human traits: Lying when everyone knows he's lying.

And A-Rod's departure may, yes, be better for the Yanks in the long run.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Red Sox Sweep; A-rod opts out

Red Sox as new Yankees . . . developing.

Meanwhile . . .

A-Rod opts out of the final three years of contract. Story here.

In times like this, if only for comic relief, one looks for the requisite Scott Boras helping of crapola, and here it is:

Boras said during a telephone interview Rodriguez made his choice because he was uncertain whether Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte would return to the Yankees.

"Alex's decision was one based on not knowing what his closer, his catcher and one of his statured pitchers was going to do," Boras said. "He really didn't want to make any decisions until he knew what they were doing."

Hilarity. Hey, Boras, A-Rod just made a decision. Or aren't you his agent or something? Ten days before he had to.

Oh, well. Accusing Scott Boras of lying is about as useful as accusing a cow of taking a dump in the barnyard. They're going to do it, and be unashamed about it, so why waste your breath?

For heaven's sake, when A-Rod went to the Rangers seven years ago, for seven million more per year than anyone else was bidding, it was his contract in and of itself that prevented the Rangers from pursuing "a closer and a statured pitcher." (They could only get Chan Ho Park, and for that they had to throw fifty million to the winds.) Luckily, the Rangers already had a catcher in Pudge (who was, by the way, plying his trade for several million a year below market value, in part because he felt at home as a Spanish-speaking Central American in Texas), but the pinch of A-Rod's contract was, in part, the reason for Pudge's departure--and a major reason why the Florida Marlins and Detroit Tigers won pennants, and the Marlins the series in 2003.

"A closer and a statured pitcher." My eighteen year-old English students come up with better explanations for why their Hemingway essays are a week late.

The Yankees have said to A-Rod, again and again and again: Opt out, and you and we are finished. You want to talk extension, fine, and we'll fill your sacks with gold. But we won't get into a bidding war already $20 million in the hole (20 mil being the precise amount the Yanks would have to make up, as an opt-out would relieve the Rangers of their share of A-Rod's contract).

Well, I hope they stick to it.

For myself: I'm not bitter, I don't feel betrayed, and when A-Rod comes to a ballpark near me I won't boo at all. I only hope the Yankees stick to their guns and say something approximating the following:

A-Rod, we had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the Sun, and we join together now in wishing you a fond farewell.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

ASU 31, Cal 20

Home from a literary conference bang at 9 pm, Central Time, I sat down to Arizona State with one question to answer. Call it the Butch and Sundance question:

Who are those guys?

I knew Rudi Carpenter, sure. But as the week went along, I was faced with the very real and somewhat embarassing fact that I could not name one other player on the team.

Enter SunDevil Joe.

On that, more in a minute.

But first, in general, a few things impressed me about the Devils:

1. Both times I've seen them this season, the Devils refused to panic when things went south. Tonight, an early ASU turnover resulted in a Cal defensive touchdown. Bang, 7-0. This was followed by two long Cal drives, during which the ASU secondary seemed not only overmatched but downright confused. However, the defense dug deep with the shortened field and held Cal to two field goals. Someone reading the scoreboard, but not watching the game, might find an early 13-0 Cal lead disheartening. Anyone watching the game knew otherwise: ASU was only one touchdown away from getting back into it, whereas Cal had to be wondering why it wasn't ahead 21-0. The fulcrum was Dimitri Nance's first touchdown, which made it 13-7 and announced to everyone, We Officially Have A Game.

2. The cliche of this autumn is: The Red Sox are the new Yankees. It is too soon to tell, but the Devils may, right now, be the new Trojans. Like the Carson/Williams/Leinart/Bush Trojans, they don't panic early, they adjust well, and they hit a fresh gear at about the 10-minute mark of the third quarter. From the fifth game of the 2002 season straight through to the Washington-Stanford-Arizona poo-poo platter, the Trojans were college football's Seabiscuit, the team that might play you even through the backstretch, then turn to you, smile, say, "So long, Charlie," and score, oh, 35 unanswered points. Devil fans well remember a few of those games. Now they get to enjoy them. The longer the third quarter went on, the faster the Cal pocket collapsed, the less time DeSean Jackson had time to get open, the more panicked Tedford's offense (which is predicated on time in the pocket and turning the game into streetball) became, the worse things looked for Cal.

This, more than anything, has to be emphasized: Cal's second-half rash of injuries were not the cause of ASU's dominance, they were the result of ASU's dominance.

3. No, I have to stay on this ASU/USC comparison. The greatest game of my lifetime was the 2005 Orange Bowl: USC 55, Oklahoma 19. There were about eleventy billion things about that game I love, but the one that sticks out was when I knew the game was over. The muffed punt? Jason White's twenty-seventh interception? No, I knew the game was over when the score stood Oklahoma 7, USC 0. White was throwing off his wrong foot falling backwards, Adrian Peterson was being stood up at the line, and Lofa Tatupu and Sean Cody were missing sacks by mere inches. The Sooners converted two third-and-longs on absolute flukes, broken plays turned into cross-field passes. I thought: No way you can play like that for 60 minutes. And sure enough . . .

Now, I didn't know tonight's game was over at 13-0. But I did know the Devils had dodged a couple of bullets and were gaining confidence. They gave Cal a quarter-and-a-half. Not much. But the Bears needed to take it, and they didn't.

4. Big thanks to SunDevil Joe, who provided me with some of the names I needed to watch. A short honor roll: Dimitri Nance (three touchdowns), Keegan Haring (crucial yardage splitting time with Nance); receivers Michael Jones, Kyle Williams, Chris McGaha (how does Rudi love to distribute); and, crucially in the fourth quarter, cornerback Justin Tryon and linebacker Robert James--Tryon, for locking down Jackson as best as anyone could, and both Tryon and James, for coming up with knee-buckling fourth-quarter interceptions on consecutive Cal possessions.

Am I reading too much into two games?


And Oregon--on the road--looms next week.

But this was some performance.

ASU 21, Cal 20 (3rd Quarter)

I am sitting here, and I am stunned. The first half ended at 11:10, two hours and ten minutes after the opening kickoff.

Two run-and-shoot WAC teams, circa 1991, could not accomplish this.

And yes, incomplete passes will slow things down, but helping in no small way was the work of the usually brilliant Pac-10 officiating crew.

To sight one example:

Second quarter, minute to go, ASU punts. Deep in his own territory, Cal return man cathces it, starts to run, is hit, juggles the ball. Before he hits the ground, the back judge crosses his arms above his head, signaling "down," but--and you had to be there--does not blow his whistle.

Incredible. Thirty-two years of watching football, that's the first time I've seen anything like that.

To continue: the relevant players, who are all locked on the ball, do not see the back judge's motion, so the scrum on the field continues.

Result: ASU's ball, inside the 15.

Okay: review. Was the return man down?

Long about now, the the play-by-play man says, for about the third time, "Umm, I didn't hear a whistle back there."

Official's Conference.

Head set for the ref.

More conference.

Back to the head set.


Then finally, "There was no whistle, but the ball was signaled down."

Is there anything--anything--that can keep a Pac-10 official from looking like a 15 year-old umping his first Little League game?

Update: 24-20, Arizona State. Discussing the first half with Astro-Girl, in terms she would relate to, I said, "If this were a baseball game, you'd say Cal left too many men on base. They're letting the Sun Devils hang around at home, which is never smart."

Now, in the early part of the fourth, I wonder if . . .

Whoa. I was about to type, "I wonder if ASU isn't emulating Cal in the second half. No excuse for the offense to receive the gift of a Justin Tryon interception, repeatedly blow Cal off the line of scrimmage, move briskly down the field and wind up with no points."

Just as I started this thought, Robert James intercepts for ASU. And the Devils move briskly down the field.

Oregon 24, USC 17

Draw a line across this game, as it indicates the end, for now, of USC's hegemony in the Pac-10--and to a lesser extent, in the nation.

No stunning, historical upset (Stanford). No being caught flat-footed against a zealous rival (UCLA, 2006). No being shocked by a suddenly competent foe (Cal, 2003). No carnival of turnovers (Oregon State, 2006).

No one can say USC didn't know the stakes coming into this game. No one can claim they were stunned by the quality of competition.

No: USC had a road game against a better team, and played their hearts out, and lost. That, really there was no shame in losing that game is the biggest shame of all.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Houston/Katrina record corrected

Nice to know I wasn't the only one to catch ABC's--and correspondent Mike Von Fremd's--imbecilic swipe at Houston, namely lumping it with New Orleans as a city of "chaos" during the Katrina evacuation.

Apparently the editorial board at the Houston Chronicle was watching, too:

It bears remembering that the scenes at New Orleans' Superdome and Houston's Astrodome and George R. Brown Convention Center were direct opposites. The Superdome was dark and without needed provisions or relief workers. In Houston, public officials and thousands of volunteers, given little or no notice, welcomed more than 200,000 Katrina evacuees. The residents of flooded New Orleans, many of whom lost everything, were met with clothing and food donated by citizens and local businesses. Doctors from the Texas Medical Center and other facilities assembled to give all the evacuees complete health care.

In short, the Houston operation, jointly led by Houston Mayor Bill White and Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, was a model of speedy and efficient disaster relief.

To his credit, Von Fremd apologized for his error. Based in Dallas, Von Fremd noted that he and his family are now Texans, that he had covered Katrina and that he was all too familiar with Houstonians' commendable efforts and the "spectacular job" they did caring for the Katrina evacuees.

Which begs the question: Why such shoddy reporting?

There was also this, which I decided not to point out, but which is often on the mind of every Houstonian:

Many Katrina evacuees made Houston their permanent home, and Houston has paid a price for its largesse. The city experienced a surge in violent crime in part attributed to Katrina evacuees who were both the perpetrators and the victims. It risks a spike in its homeless population when housing assistance for Katrina victims is exhausted.

The editorial is here.

Oh, and, there is this, from one commenter:

The atmosphere provided at the Dome rivaled anything going on now at Qualcomm I assure you. There was plenty of food, water, air-conditioning, cots, rest-rooms and medical attention. They were right however to heap criticism on local New Orleans officials for not having the Super-dome ready. Notice this week you seldom hear the acronym FEMA. Why ???? Because local and state agencies are largely handling things themselves in San Diego with FEMA providing support and filling in the gaps.

Yes: no matter how far Mike Brown put his head up his ass (and he nearly disappeared) the failure in New Orleans during Katrina starts with Ray Nagin and works outward to Governor Blanco.

But . . . an argument for another day. Those of us who were here during Katrina owe it to one another to remain forever vigilant in keeping the record straight.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Thinking about this for a few days.

And I'm late in the game, and I want to hear back, but:

There was no way this ended well.

Absent Joe Torre's Yankees winning a World Series, then carrying Torre off the field and into retirement, this was going to end badly.

As it always does in baseball.

Other sports are sometimes immune to this.

Basketball, with Red Auerbach, Bill Russell, and even Phil Jackson zooming off on his motorcycle, give us the storybook.

College basketball. John Wooden. Al McGuire.

Pro football. Vince Lombardi. End of story. (Quick story: Astro-Girl hadn't heard of Vince Lombardi until I told her. But she had heard of the Lombardi Trophy. So when I said, "Vince Lombardi," her response was, "Lombardi Trophy Vince Lombardi?" Yes, dear, the man whose name is affixed to the second-most prestigious team trophy in sports, right after Lord Stanley's Cup. That Vince Lombardi.)

Some attempted comebacks, didn't work out. Lombardi died coaching a Redskins team that George Allen would take to the Super Bowl the following year. Bill Russell: Seattle, Sacramento. Not so much. How Russell was such an executioner on the basketball court and so lazy everywhere else--bench coaching, announcing, relating to the smallest degree to a fan base that would have worshiped him, had he let them--remains a mystery for the ages.

But all of the above had their moments: I win, I'm out.

Not so much in baseball. Has anyone noticed?

Tally up the glorious exits of baseball managers--that is, managers in the oldest professional team sport in America--and how many graceful exits do you find?


Miller Huggins was the skipper of Murderer's Row (Ruth, Gehrig, Lazzeri, Meusel), a hard-hitting team whose power hid a terrific defense (Gehrig again, plus Earle Combs in center, Mark Keonig at short and Joe Dugan at third, and don't forget the Babe, who had a pitcher's rifle arm in right), a top-flight rotation (Hoyt, Pennock, Shocker, Shawkey) and probably the first legitimate closer (Wilcey Moore).

When it occurred to the Yankees to place monuments in centerfield (on the playing field, if you're scoring at home), to commemorate the greatest among them, three monuments were erected.

Miller Huggins was the name on one monument. Next to two guys named Ruth and Gehrig.

So . . . how did Huggins escape an inglorious cleaning-out-of-the-desk?


He died on the job.

And Connie Mack?

He quit the Philadelphia Athletics when he decided to.

And why?

Ummmm . . . he owned the team.

For everyone else, things have ended badly.

Just to deal with the most famous Yankee managers:

Joe McCarthy: Four rings in a row. Fired, it was said, over a drunken tirade in a hotel.

Casey Stengel: ten pennants in twelve years, seven rings. He lost the seventh game of the 1960 World Series to Pittsburgh by a single run, and was fired.

Yogi Berra: lost the 1964 World Series, seventh game score: 7-5.

And everyone knows about Billy Martin, Lou Piniella, Buck Showalter.

The Yankees wanted to make a change.

God help them if Donnie or Girardi or Tony isn't the fit.

But it was bound to end ugly.

Because it always does.

My first Bleg (Blog plus beg)

So this is Showdown Saturday, Part I.

SunDevil Joe, Blue, Robbie-Boy: I'm starting to warm to the Sun Devils.

I know Rudi Carpenter.

So who else should I know?

I've seen one game, en toto.

What should I look for?

Houston and New Orleans

Last night, I saw the first part of "20/20," during which some airhead commented that the scene at Quaalcom was in marked contrast to the chaos in "Houston and New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina."

Ummm--what? Houston and New Orleans?

Look: We here in Houston have grown used to never being thanked for our city's finest hour, certainly not by Mayor Asshole, and not really by New Orleanians in general, with a few glorious exceptions, such as writer Richard Ford, who came here to give a reading and nearly broke down in giving thanks.

Well, fine. We did what we did--everyone I know played some role, in money, time, or supplies, some in all three--and we would do it again ten, a hundred times, gratitude or no.

But, gee whiz.

What correspondent Know-Nothing speaks of as "chaos" was confusion over who would be admitted to the Astrodome. On the Wednesday afternoon of that week--the first day the big crowds started to arrive--only those on designated buses were admitted. Before dinner the matter was resolved, with Mayor White stating emphatically that any evacuee who made it to the Dome was welcome.

That's it. In all, a few hours.

Otherwise, if by "chaos" the correspondent meant "The greatest act of charity by one city toward another," he pretty much nailed it.

And, for Pete's sake, the very Astrodome pictures ABC used to supposedly illustrate the "chaos" in Houston actually showed the truth: that the Astrodome was a sanctuary in those times.

Now it is a place of honor.

ABC ought to be ashamed of itself.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Well, lookee here

Pac-10 conference standings:

Arizona State 4-0
UCLA 4-0
Oregon 3-1
USC 3-1
Cal 2-2
Oregon State 2-2

The next few weeks should be interesting.

USC 38, Notre Dame O

Hard to gauge this team.

I'm reminded that, years ago, during the baseball season, the Yankees and Mets would play an exhibition called the Mayor's Trophy Game. This was eventually cancelled when Steinbrenner--who was obsessed with beating the Mets anyway possible--would be furious at the Yankee manager for not starting a frontline pitcher, or for benching a starter or two.

Anyway, the game I'm thinking of was in 1978, which threatened to go into extra innings, at which point Yankee third baseman Graig Nettles announced to the dugout that, if it were the case, he would start heaving any grounder hit to him into the stands, just to get the damn thing over with.

Understand: these were the late-70s Mets, a team that would challenge their '62 forbears for title of worst team ever.

Anyway, that game was won by the Yankees, due to heroics by a rookie infielder Brian Doyle (who, come October, would have his moment in the Sun in place of regular second baseman Willie Randolph).

After the game, Sparky Lyle, who was writing a book about the season ("The Bronx Zoo," consult remarked, "I guess we played well. But the Mets are so bad, who can say?"

Thought about that quote today.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Joe Torre out

Well, what's done is done. Guys, feel free to opin here. I'll be back tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Whither Torre?

Issue number one for the departed Yankees is, of course, Joe Torre, and Bill Madden, in the Post, basically echoes what this fan said virtually a year ago today:

Fire Torre if you want.

But you'd better come heavy with his replacement.

I love Mattingly and Girardi. Have for a long time. It is well to remember Girardi's heroics all those years ago, Game Six, 1996 World Series, when Girardi tripled off Greg Maddux, tripled over Andrus Jones's head, and gave the Yankees just enough of the margin they would need to finish off the Braves.

(And if you don't think baseball is a game of freak luck and freaskish bounces, remember the Yankees' margins of victory in Games three through six. Two runs. Then two runs. Then one run. Then one run. If Rivera doesn't strike out McGriff, if Wohlers doesn't groove one to King Leyritz, if Avery throws a strike to Boggs, if O'Neill doesn't run a country mile to haul in Polonia's fly ball over his shoulder, if Andruw Jones plays ten feet further back on Girardi, if Lemke punches the ball through the left side against an exhausted Wetteland--if any one of seven or eight things go the other way--the Yankee dynasty ends before it begins.

Likewise, imagine the Series if Joba doesn't deal with one of the Seven Deadly Plagues. Yanks go up, 2-1; Torre--no reason to panic--starts Moose in Game 4. Who wins. Or else loses. Then Wang, extra day of rest, goes in Game 5 with Pettitte in the bully.

Not to diminish the loss. But let's not go crazy. Two very-good-but-not-great teams played this past week, and one beat the other. That's all. Okay, back to the post.)

Love Girardi. Love Mattingly, who--as the one-man (occasionally supplemented by Rickey and Dave) bridge between the Reggie-Nettles-Goose-Munson-Gator Yankees of the late 70's and early 80's and the O'Neill-Tino-Jeter-Rivera Yankees of the late 90's--was often the one reason to watch the Yankees.

Love them both.

Neither will do, not for a team that (until yesterday) had four first-ballot Hall-of-Famers, one big possibility (Moose) and one (Pettitte) who'll get there, if he's got three or four 14-16 win seasons in him, enough to boost him into Ferguson Jenkins territory.

Someone has to come in, someone with stature, presence. You know the drill.

So who's left? Who would fit?

Piniella, sure. Or Leyland.

Can't get them.

Piniella was last year's possibility, went to the Cubs, bullied the Cubs to a Division title.

Leyland won a pennant in Detroit, saw the Tigers fall apart down the stretch. Comes back next year, still has all that young pitching.

So who's left?

Davey Johnson?

Err: probably not. Too much Met baggage, too much memory of a dynasty-that-shoulda-been gone up in a cloud of coke and hookers.

(And if you've never seen a cloud of hookers, believe me . . .)

In the Post, Madden nails it.

La Russa.

Has to be La Russa. No one else but La Russa. Dead in the water without La Russa.

Well, let's see.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Tribe 6, Yankees 4 (Cleveland wins Series, 3-1)

Robbie-Boy, Blue, SDJ, have at it. I'm going to bed. We will, as they say, talk in the morning.

The difference? The Tribe hit with men on and the Yankees didn't; I'm not sure, but with three more tonight, I'll bet anything they set a record for the most solo home runs in a losing series of any length, at any level. I'm counting five just sitting here.

This isn't necessarily ascribable any failing, moral or otherwise. Sometimes, the other man is just better. I would no more psycho-analyze someone I'd never met than drink a Bronx cocktail. I will note, however, that seventy-five percent of A-Rod's base hits happened either when the Yankees had already regained the lead (last night) or were four or more runs down (tonight).

Goodnight now.

(This originated in a comment I was laying down in a comments section of an Irish Trojan post re the Stanford game. Thank God for Tom Brady and the guys, or this would have been one big red-letter weekend for me.

Oh: and I am happy for Arizona State.)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Yankees 8, Tribe 4 (Cleveland leads series, 2-1)

Nice of the offense to finally show up.

Plus a look at the future: Hughes (who should have started) and Joba, bug-free.

Still a mountain to climb.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Tribe 2, Yankees 1 (Cleveland leads series, 2-0)

Oh, man, just as you think you've seen it all.

The nation saw the Joba we know, the Joba who closed out the seventh.

Relieving the magnificent Pettitte start (7 1/3 innings, zero runs), Joba came in, eighth inning, two on, one out.

Five pitches later: two more outs, end of the seventh.

Then the eighth.

And the plague, during which every mosquito off that diseased lake seemed to congregate at the pitcher's mound.

The back of Joba's neck looked like a scene from a cut-rate horror film, circa 1978: Bugs.

Joba's sweat, his youth, and the precise moment when the swarm was at its worst was his own perfect storm.

Even after a walk, a wild pitch, a run-advancing hit, and a screaming line drive straight at Menk, the game came down to Grady Sizemore being one foot faster than a second bug-induced wild pitch coming back to Posada on a perfect bounce, and Joba there to apply the tag.

So: 1-1.

The next two innings were pro forma. Mo Rivera. Bugs? Freaking bugs? The Hammer of God could snap off his cutter with a brass band playing in his ear. Looking almost half-asleep, Rivera worked around a passed ball, a bogus hit batter, and sundry other distractions, for two more shutout innings.

And then, the eleventh.

Yeah, let's face it. The whole Yankee post-season is based on no more than four innings of crucial relief per game: two from Joba, two from Mo. Everyone else should pay their way in.

Ahhhh. We go to Game Three.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Tribe 12, Yankees 3 (Cleveland leads series 1-0)

Oh, that fifth inning.

Time will show if Posada'a at-bat was the fulcrum of the Yankee season.

Trailing 4-3, one out, bases loaded, Posada at 3-0, Sabathia looking as though he'd require a stretcher to carry him off the field . . . five million Yankee fans were on the the same page:

Got 'em.

It was not hard to see the Yankee strategy with Sabathia (not hard because it's pretty much their strategy for everyone): work the count, foul off pitches, exhaust the starter, get to the pen.

The strategy was not surprising. What was surprising was how well it was working. By the time Posada reached the plate, Sabathia had allowed only four hits--but also five walks, two homers, and three runs, and he had thrown 100-plus pitches.

Furthermore, this I knew: if Posada either reached base via hit or walk or tied the score with a sac fly, Sabathia was done for the night, and some Long-Man Louie would face Matsui with the score tied at worst.

So: the count goes to 3-0.

Posada, green light, misses by that much a pitch that he usually drives, a pitch that would have tied the score or--maybe--emptied the bases.

Well, okay. It's 3-1, and Sabathia can't find the strike zone.




Just like that, C.C.'s two best pitches of the night, one after the other. Two absolutely filthy fastballs up in the zone, two pitches Georgie swung clean through.

Good afternoon.

And good night.

After that, Matsui's pop-up was a formality.

Then the onslaught. Botoom of the fifth: six runs? Ten? Did it matter?

Then, the bucket brigade of Tribe relievers, as Sabathia made off in the getaway car, his W secured, his pitch count now moot.

And now?

Now the Yankees have to win three out of four.