Monday, September 28, 2009

Yankees 4, Red Sox 2 (Yanks clinch Division Title)

On the whole, I'm rather glad we stayed home from the Astros home finale.

Strong starting pitching, strong relief, timely hitting late, Mo.

Eleven more times.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Another (sort of) vote for Sabathia

Eleven starts, 9-0 in that span.

Yankees win all 11 games.

0.90 ERA.

3-0 vs. Boston in that span.

Joel Sherman.

Yankees 3, Red Sox 0

I loved old Paul Zimmerman's rationale for NFL MVP: look at each contender and ask, "Where would his team be without him?"

Based on that rationale . . .

Ladies and gentlemen: CC Sabathia, your 2009 AL Cy Young award winner.

Grienke has become the chic pick, I know, and he may get there, the same as Karl Malone won his MVP out of sheer boredom from giving it to MJ, and how Kirk Gibson, through Gibson's sheer grit and determination or something became the answer to this glorious trivia question: Who is the only everyday player to win MVP who never, in any season, 1) hit .300, 2) hit 30 homers, 3) hit 100 RBIs, and 4) played in an All-Star game? Darryl Strawberry was the NL MVP of 1988, but Gibson just fit so well with the journalistic idea of an MVP that Straw was screwed. Clearly, this explains his subsequent problems.

Journalists are sometimes prone to overthink and underthink at the same time. When Hillary Clinton was Senator, and clearly gearing up to run for President, her every move was dissected for its brilliance. She was "moving to the center." She was "establishing her foreign policy credentials." Her every position was viewed in light of how it helped her chances for in the 2008 general election, without any thought given to whether her actions were, in fact, based in her convictions. By the time it came for her to actually campaign, there was nothing left of her but the notes. A large portion of the press, assuming her nomination was secure and embellishing her toughness for a run against McCain or Romney or Huckabee, found it impossible to scramble back quickly enough to head off Obama from her left flank. It was too late to simply step back and re-frame her for what she was: a more or less doctronaire liberal, just like Obama.

Sometimes we have to step back and just look at what is what. The second half of the season, CC has been the bull moose, the stopper, the one most responsible for the Yankees' 15-game swing with Boston since the break. Most years this is simple: the clear ace, the 19- or 20-game winner for the best regular-season team in baseball, best down the stretch, overwhelming the historical rival . . . yeah, there's your guy.

See how this goes. For a pitcher's milestone game, like a chance for a 20th or 200th win, the starting Yankee eight usually shows up. Posada behind the mound (unless CC works better with Molina). Tex, Cano, Jeter, A-Rod (yeah, depending on his hip), Damon, Melky, Swisher. Matsui. So we'll see.

Meanwhile, I'll be at Minute Maid watching a team whose last two months belong in the obituaries. If they clinch on the MM manual scoreboard, that's one thing I'll take away.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Yankees 9, Red Sox 5

A weird kind of satisfying game: a lead that was always comfortable enough to make you feel comfortable, yet never felt like a complete blow-out.

AJ and Joba--have they bottomed out and turned upward? One more solid start each and I'll start to believe.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Yanks take 2 and turn 4 home

Laid out here here in the Post.

Okay, guys, once we get past the obligatory barring a major collapse part, the last two games basically sew up the regular season. The Magic Number goes to five versus the Sox (with any one victory over Boston counting as two of the five--okay, we all know that). Thanks to a diasastrous/disastrous/kinda cool football weekend (USC, Patriots, Texans--and memo to Pac-10 haters: both Mark Sanchez and Brian Cushing may be the real deal), I've been feeling 24 hours behind my reall passion.

Some notes of my own:

1. The telling part of the last game, for me, was that Ian Kennedy, of all people, was brought into pitch during Wednesday's minor-panic game, not least because the Non-Mo usually reliable part of the bullpen, right now, would probably struggle to pass the green beans at dinner. Recalls another Earl Weaver quote about pitching: "Either six is too many or ten ain't enough." Today that would translate to: "Either eight's too many or twelve's not enough." Because of the delicate dynamic of a rotation/bullpen, plus the vagaries of the schedule, entire staffs tend to pitch well at once (cf. the 1996 Yankees) or stink all at once (cf. Games Three (yes, three) through Seven, 2004 ALCS). When the starting pitching goes well, all you need are your five starters, set-up man and closer. When the starters get shelled, the rusty middle part of the bullpen, already rusty from inaction, gets exhausted from immediate overwork. Then your eighth- and ninth-inning guys sit around and do nothing, because there's never a lead to protect. When times were going well for the Yankees (roughly 7 1/2 weeks after the All-Star game, when they were 30-11 or some ungodly number), you could almost sense Girardi and Eiland see the bad times coming, and scramble to get Acevedes, Coke, and Bruney work whenever possible. Still, it's never enough. Chop as much fire wood as you want in September; you'll be shivering out there in the woods with your hatchet come January.

Only three weeks ago we were debating Pettitte v. Joba for Game Number Three against the Tigers. Three days ago it was: Can anyone pitch Game 2, and could that be on the road against the Angels? We seemed to have reached a middle now: Pettitte or Burnett for Game 2 (if it's a toss-up, you go Burnett for the lefty-righty effect with CC, right? And when in doubt, always start the older veteran on the road?)

2. Quiz: name the last team the Yankees beat in a playoff series. The Minnesota Twins, 2004 ALDS. And yes, I've seen the Twins creep up on Detroit, and no, I'm not going to openly root for the Twins because such behavior is just major bad karma, whether we're talking about "ducking Verlander in a short series" or not. Consider:

I was living in Binghamton, New York, in the spring of 1989, and barely following the NBA. The Celtics had just begun their (interrupted, kind of, twice, in 1991 and 2002) two decades of ineptitude-at-all-levels. I sort of picked up the sagas of the Patrick Ewing/Mark Jackson/Charles Oakley/Rick Pitino New York Knicks by osmosis, in part because they were a young, running, pressing, fun team to watch, and in part because when the Knicks are good (that used to happen, kids) you pretty much can't escape them anywhere from Perth Amboy, New Jersey, all the way to the Canadien border.

Anyway, the only question the Knicks wanted to know was, Which team would they have to beat to face the Bay Boy Pistons in the Conference Finals? A good young Cleveland team (Brad Daugherty, Mark Price, Larry Nance) had given New York fits all season, so naturally they pulled for Cleveland's first-round opponent . . . Chicago. And when Michael Jordan beat Cleveland at the buzzer in Game 5 with the first truly famous shot of his career, the Knicks themselves were publicly ecstatic. Great, we get to play the Bulls!

You can guess how the next round went for the Knicks. Or, for that matter, the next decade, whenever they went up against Jordan.

Or think of the Democrats.

In 1968, the Dems privately rooted for Richard Nixon to win the GOP Presidential nomination against George Romney, Ronald Reagan and Nelson Rockefeller. Nixon won the nomination, and then the presidency.

In 1980, Jimmy Carter thought he'd stomp Ronald Reagan. Privately, the Dems heavily rooted for Reagan to gain the GOP nomination over Bush I and Howard Baker. Result: Reagan landslide over Carter.

In 1988, the Democrats openly and publicly rooted for Bush I over Dole and Kemp, thinking either Dukakis, Gore or Gephardt would beat him easily. Bush I won the nomination. Result: Bush I landslide over Dukakis.

In 1996, the Democrats privately rooted for Bob Dole over Lamar Alexander. Okay, that went well for the Dems.

In 2000, the Democrats openly rooted for Bush II against McCain, thinking either Gore or Bradley would beat him easily. Bush II won the nomination. Result: Bush II in a squeaker over Gore.

In 2008, the only Republican who scared the Democrats at all was John McCain. McCain won the nomination. Result: Obama semi-landslide over McCain.

Lesson: beware of what you wish for. And never wish to meet any team with players named Mauer and Morneau. I could have rooted for Texas to beat Boston for the Wild Card, or to overtake the Angels, and get rid of one of the Yankees' two nemeses. It would take a total breakdown of Yankee pitching to lose to Texas. But Detroit v. Minnesota? I'm sitting out.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Angels 5, Yankees 2

Damn. Perfect. Wrote about the game and then it all vanished. I'm going to bed.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday, Sunday (Mariners 7, Yankees 1)

When your ten year-old niece calls up to check on you, you know it's been a brutal weekend.

You know your life needs a lift when your two favorite teams (USC, Patriots) both suffer humiliating defeats, but your fantasy team does okay and that picks you up.

Turned on the Yankees to cheer myself up. Losing 7-0. Goodbye, Yankees.

Hello, Angels. And here we go.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

No, really, I feel like an intruder

"You take momentum. I'll take Jim Palmer." Earl Weaver.

Oh, man did that USC loss hit, though it wasn't a surprise.

I wish I was in Vegas to bet a grand on the spread. Ah well.

That Was The Week That Was

Pete Carroll doesn't lose the big games.

He loses the little games.

When will ASU lobby to host USC in September?

More important:

Did anyone notice one Hall-of-Famer (Ichiro) takiing out another (Mo)?

Good Lord, I don't know which season depresses me more.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Yanks drop two

How many people have thrPee computers melt down in a month?

Yeah, thought so. Plus I had nothing on my mind but USC-Ohio State

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Yankees 4, Rays 2

Missed Jeter's three hits--fantasy draft.

And if he goes past Gehrig tonight, I'll be busy watching the 'Stros play out the string.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Yankees 3, Rays 2

Magic number: 15.

Is it me, or does Nick Swisher look like Mark Texiera's younger brother they let put on a uniform?

Neever mind, the shaving cream, I'm guessing, tasted just as good.

Tonight's plan was to race through my evening class and arrive at Minute Maid during the third inning. In the car, Astro-Girl delivered the bad news: eight pm, one hour in, middle of the fifth.

And I had thought Geg Maddux had retired.

Christ, doesn't anyone besides Pujols take a pitch anymore?

So: Off to the sports bar.

2-1, Yankees, in the seventh.

Then: 2-2. Somebody's home run. I as nailing down the boneless wings.

Then Swisher.

Magic number: 15.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Yanks sweep; Sox, Halos lose

"You take momentum, I'll take Jim Palmer."--Earl Weaver

Or: we'll take CC and AJ back-to-back. The only problem is, CC didn't get the win, which may cost him the Cy Young.

And . . . if Texas can catch Boston for the Wild Card.

Division Magic Number: 16.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Blue Jays 14, Yankees 8

Oh, what a terrible game. Just a dreadful game. Four Yankee errors, and the Blue Jay scorekeeper was being generous. If one includes mental lapses and plays-that-guy-usually-makes, you could double that number. Ball under Tex's glove. Hairston getting cute with the slow roller. Help me out, guys, I turned that sucker off four different times.

Call this the okay-you-still-know-nothing's-been-quite-settled-yet? game. And PS: The Red Sox and Angels both won.

SDJ agrees mostly with the post-season roster; I only forgot about the kid Pena, who may squeeze in as pinch-runner/defensive all-purpose guy.

They tell you in the minors: the way to stay employed for a long time is to 1) learn to play all four infield positions, 2) learn to catch, or 3) cultivate a left-handed breaking ball.

I'm with SDJ: Coke is hard to leave off, maybe too hard. Put him in for 23.

Where I now think we are at is one from Mitre/Gaudin and one from Pena/Cervelli.

Mitre didn't do himself any favors today but, sheesh, Lamar High School up the street from me would have knocked down more balls.

If the playoffs started tomorrow (CC vs. Verlander, and don't think I wouldn't cancel class to see it, though those games usually end up 15-12), I'd bet on Gaudin and Cervelli as odd men out.

Yankees 6, Blue Jays 4

I throw in with Robbie-Boy: at 8 1/2 ahead of the Red Sox with three weeks to go, the next mountain is fending off the Angels for home-field.

Word is that Girardi and Eiland will go with Mitre or Gaudin, but not both. Hmm. Another look at October. Start with the for-surers.

Six pitchers (CC, AJ, Pettitte, Joba, Hughes, Mo), and the only difference here is Lefty starting game three ahead of Joba.

Two catchers, Posada and Molina.

Five infielders: A-Rod, Jeter, Cano, Tex, Hairston.

Five outfielder/DHs: Damon, Melky, Swisher, Hinske, Matsui.

We're at 18. Add Aceves. And Bruney.


The way Marte is pitching, probably him. Robertson. Mitre or Gaudin, but not apparently both.


Leaving . . . Cervelli and Coke?

Friday, September 04, 2009

Blue Jays 6, Yankees 0

So Halladay finally has his day, but the Red Sox lose, so the Yanks shave another off their magic number.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

And by the way

From Robbie-Boy;

I am always checking the Red Sox score during a Yankee game. Now? Angels score. Why? Because now it's about winning the home field......

'Cause, in New Yankee Stadium, Johnny Damon turns into Johnny Mize. Or Jimmie Foxx. And the Yankee pitchers seemed to have adjusted.

Yankees 10, Jays 3


1. The Bake sale continues. Marte did himself some good.

2. Allen Barra in the Wall Street Journal (looking for the link) argues for Derek Jeter as MVP on the Paul Newman principle: the notion that someone deserves an Oscar eventually, based upon one's body of work, if not exactly this work. Paul Newman won for The Color of Money after losing for a half-dozen better performances; 2009 is no better than Jeter's third-best season, but it has become the year everyone plumps for him. The funny thing is, Paul Newman's best performance was probably The Verdict, which went up against Dustin Hoffman's best performance in Tootsie, which went also against Peter O'Toole's best performance in My Favorite Year, except that Hoffman had already won for an okay performance in Kramer vs. Kramer, which Oscar itself was a make-back to him from not winning in Midnight Cowboy, for which Jon Voight also didn't win, but would later win for Coming Home . . .

But O'Toole did win for Laurence of Arabia, right?

Um, no.

Oh, and. Newman, Hoffman, and O'Toole, three performances of a lifetime, all lost to Ben Kingsley in Gandhi. Bring me the man who has sat through that film twice.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Yankees 10, Orioles 2

Sabathia now 16-7. It is one of the ironies of baseball that playing for a winning team helps an MVP candidate but often hurts a Cy Young candidate. Remember the immortal Pat Hentgen? (He beat out Pettitte in '96, announced on a day when Lefty, fresh from the World Championship, had already arranged a press conference in Deer Park.)

So now Grienke: 13-8 to CC's 16-7, but an ERA one-and-a-quarter runs less than Sabathia's. Hmmm.

In MVP news: Mauer? Jeter? Now, a renewed case for Tex.

Speaking of Pettitte: If he gets to 250 wins (Official Bob Feller Territory, OFBT), plus four rings, seven pennants, and (not even counting this year) eleven playoff appearances--well, can we now begin to talk about Cooperstown?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Yankees 9, Orioles 6

Worried about AJ? Me too.

Meanwhile, the 9-10-11 pitcher bake-off continues.