Thursday, October 29, 2009

Yankees 3, Phillies 1 (Series tied 1-1)

Strong pitching. Clutch hitting late. Mariano Rivera.

Rinse, repeat.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Yankees 5, Angels 2 (Yankees, American League Champions)

I was standing in a restaurant bar, waiting for takeout, when Andy Pettitte threw his first pitch against Chone Figgins, a slider. Hit the corner. Strike one.

Second pitch, maybe a cutter. Hit the corner. Figgins just looked at it. Strike two.

Suddenly, I was channeling Ray Shalk from Eight Men Out.

"Oh man," I said, in the general direction of the Angels. "You guys are in trouble tonight."

All the years I've seen Pettitte, it's become easy to see if his stuff is on or not. Sometimes with the first pitch. Funny: the team that became famous in the 80s for trading away an All-Star team (Doug Drabek, Jose Rijo, Fred McGriff, Wille McGee, Jay Buhner, Al Leiter) took the field last night with three players who rose in the Yankee organization in the early 90s and kept regardless of all trade inquiries: Pettitte, Jeter, Jorge. And who should end the game but Mariano Rivera, the fourth face on the team's Mount Rushmore.

Well, off we go, to a Phillies team that has terrorized the National League for two years. A month ago, their bullpen was suspect. Now Brad Lidge has found his head. This team is good.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Angels 7, Yankees 6 (Yankees lead series, 3-1)

Ibid, for details, see post below.

Angels 7, Yankees 6 (end 7th)

Saw Burnett come out for the seventh, and nearly somersaulted off my sofa.

First, his pet catcher Molina is gone, replaced by nasty ol' Jorge.

Second, after the rocky first, five scoreless A.J. innings drop out of the sky. You're tempting fate.

Third, you've got a bullpen so rested it's verging on rust. Girardi would have brought in Rivera tonight if the score had reached 13-2. Mo can go two and put his arm in a sling until next Wednesday. Robertson, Coke, Marte, Joba and Hughes can throw six pitches apiece in the seventh.

Tony Doubleday has ruined baseball. Managers! Stop thinking! If an usher had managed the Yankees tonight, they'd be six Mo (post-season ERA: 0.00) outs away from the Series.

Bottom eight.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Off-day thoughts

So the Phillies go to the Series. Their one worry, heading into the post-season, was the bullpen. And now, Brad Lidge seems to remember that he's Brad Lidge. That is: Brad Lidge of the non-Pujols pitching, non-11-save-blowing variety. So: Now we have Lidge, and a lineup of Howard, Rollins, Utley, Victorrino. This team doesn't suck.

I've never thought this about another player, but: does Jorge Posada have some life issues going on, something we don't know about? If so, it's actually completely understandable. In two innings last night, Jorge made three horrendous blunders, three brutal ghastly goofs that, in ordinary circumstances, he might spread out over an entire season. God knows Posada has earned the benefit of the doubt: both at the plate and behind the plate, he's come through too many times to be labeled a choker or lunkhead. So what gives?

The greatest officials in all of sports are Major League Baseball umpires. Let us all say, "My God, have they had a terrible two weeks," and go from there. For now.

CC Sabathia. The Yankees have not had such a calming shut-down stopper like this since Ron Guidry, circa 1977-78. Gator. Now CC.

CC Sabathia. I now know how important it was for the Mets to beat the Astros in Game Six in 1986, just to avoid Mike Scott in Game Seven. How important Randy Johnson was to the D-Backs in 2001. CC not only assumes the role of stopper, he embraces it, and in doing so makes himself a part of the team the way no pitcher has done since David Cone in '96. Coney, with Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez at his back (with Rock Raines available as enforcer), laid down the law for the younger players. Never complain. Stand up and face the press, whether you hit the game-winning homer or strike out with the bases loaded, whether you get the save or surrender the game-winning dinger. Never walk when you can run. Remember all things are possible if you share the credit.

You look at CC, he gets it, gets it all the way back to Allie Reynolds and Eddie Lopat, gets it all the way to Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock. CC is the real deal.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Yankees 10, Angels 1 (Yanks lead ALCS, 3-1)

It was over when . . . A-Rod's ball cleared the left field wall.

As for CC Sabathia. I mean, wow.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Angels 5, Yankees 4 (11)

Or so I think. Astro-Girl had to text me the last 2 innings, out by out.

Eveyone said these two teams were evenly matched. Yeesh.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Travel Day

Had to explain to Astro-Girl what happened.

But: an interesting note. When A-Rod came up with two outs in the bottom of the 12th, bases loaded, tie score, when a hit or run or error would have won the game, I thought, Well, here it is. The fulcrum. A-Rod gets a hit here, and a half-decade of futility vanishes.

Well, didn't work out, and that became forgotten when the Angels' adventures 'round the infield send Hairston home with the winner one inning late. Still, consider:

The 1977 ALCS. The Yanks are tied 2-2 with the Royals in a best of five to go to the Series. Due up for KC, a rested Paul Splitorff, a nasty left-hander who (in the words of Thurman Munson) Reggie could not hit with a canoe paddle. Splittie or not, Reggie has had a brutal playoffs, going 1-for-17 thus far (yes, kids, even Mr. October struck out now again after the leaves turned). His job and his team's season on the line, Billy Martin sits Reggie in favor of Paul Blair, reasoning first (reasonably) that a low-scoring game would put a premium on fielding, and (again reasonably) as soon as Whitey Herzog went to his bullpen, Reggie would be available for an advantageous moment. As it turns out (and never say Billy couldn't run a game) both things happen, and as soon as KC turns matter over to right-hander Doug Bird, Reggie turns up, swinging from the on-deck circle, driving in the run that makes the score 3-2. Bottom of the eighth, in comes Sparky Lyle; in the ninth, the Yankees mow down the weakest part of a really good KC team, their bullpen. 5-3 Yanks. Series.

Then: the Series. And so the legend of Mr. October was bronzed, eventually literally, in Cooperstown.

With or without 1977, Reggie was headed for the Hall. But it was '77 that gave him immortality, the greatest nickname in baseball history. I love The Babe, The Big Train, The Iron Horse, the Yankee Clipper, Old Pete, The Splendid Splinter, Big Poison, Li'l Poison, Ducky, Stan the Man, the Say Hey Kid, The Commerce Comet, Catfish, Gator, and Big Puma.

The greatest nickname of all time?

Mr. October.

Point being: even Mr. October had his down time. But her came through enough.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

So, who exactly gets pie tonight? (Yanks 4, Angels 3, 13)

A-Rod only tied it. Melky's game-winning whatever-it-was (FC-E4-E5?) could have been a double play. Should have been second-and-third, two out, tie score.

Ah, give the pie to Hairston, AJ. Sure. Splat.

How much can we really blame on the weather? How much to freak luck? The Yankees went 0-for-8 with men in scoring position, stranded 12 men, committed three errors . . . and won.

23 men stranded in two games, and the Yanks are up 2-0.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Yankees 4, Angels 1

It was over . . . at the bottom of the first. 2-0 Yanks. We had seen enough of CC to see-see his game-game tonight.

No wonder he yawned. If excited, and I'm yawning right now.

Yankees 1, Angels 0

Monday, October 12, 2009

If your name were Skip Moore instead of Skip Kennedy, your campaign would be a joke

Friday night, after the third, I drive to pick up a cake for a niece's birthday--and, not insignificantly, to treat myself to the dulcet tones of Miller and Phillips in the car.

Run in, grab the cake, run back. Miss, say, five minutes of the game. Game on the radio, but no score announced. Call Astro-Girl. Astro-Girl, half-following the game, says, "Still zero-zero. And, oh, the announcer just said the Twins pitcher has a perfect game."

"Huh?"

"A perfect game."

"Can't be," I says. "Matsui walked the last inning."

"I don't know," she says. "That's just what he said. 'Six up, six down.'"

"He said that."

"Just now."

"Yes."

Five seconds of Is it me or has the world gone crazy? later: "Wait, what inning is it?"

Pause. "Oh, the fourth. Wait, that doesn't make sense."

So consider: Astro-Girl, bless her heart, attended her first baseball game in her thirties. I was there at the time. Let me go out on a limb here and wildly guess that Skip Caray--grandson of announcer Harry Caray, son of announcer Chip Caray--first got out to Wrigley or Fulton County a shade younger than 30. And yet my wife understands that, dating back to before Mel Allen and Red Barber were on the scene, "X up, X down" in baseball terminology applies only to a pitcher's performance since the start of the game. If a pitcher has an impressive run in the middle of the game, it is correct to state that he has retired "X batters in a row," "or "X of the previous Y batters," or else say,"No batters have reached first since the Z inning." Whichever applies.

Substituting "six up, six down" for "six batters retired in a row" is like describing a mighty impressive two-run homer as a "grand slam."

And my wife, supine on the sofa, allowing the Yankees to compete with James Patterson, knows all this, without the two of us ever having discussed it. And Skip Caray, after a lifetime versed in baseball and baseball broadcasting, does not.

And if not for the dearth of Yankee baseball looming before me the next few days, I still wouldn't point it out, but it's always nice to see that Phil Mushnick agrees with me.

And I wish I knew how to let my thing link again.

Yankees 4, Twins 1

So here our Yankees sit, as in 2003 and 2004 vis a vis Boston, with the matchup everyone has been pretty much expecting since the sweep of Boston in July.

This time, they draw the Angels, with a BCS-like build-up of almost a week.

We now know the season turned:

1. When CC finally seemed comfortable with his role of staff ace;

2. When A-Rod seemed healed, or healed enough;

3. When Phil Hughes, to paraphrase Mike Lupica, slid seamlessly into Mike Stanton, circa 1998-2000.

When the Yankees seemed to dig victories out of potentially hopeless causes (think Game 5, ALCS, 1977), Roger Angell, no Yankee-lover he, conceded, "With the Yankees, you cannot open the door a millimeter, for they will kick it down." This is how the Yankees have been playing lately.

Any team can beat any team any day. The 1998 Yankees, one of the greatest five teams in history, lost 50 times, post-season included. It's the nature of things. Shut-outs happen. Home runs happen. Your team is not the only one with talent. Or else your starter sleeps on his pitching arm and gives up five runs in the first. Only . . .

Only . . .

The Twins would have had to have played perfectly to beat the Yankees, and in Games 2 and 3 they almost pulled it off. Two brutal baserunning blunders and one terrible umpire's call over twenty innings were enough to doom Minnesota. Their second-best player was out, their starting pitching (for how well it played in Games 2 and 3) was discalibrated thanks to the Twins' last-week cavalry charge, and their bullpen, from Nathan forward, was simply gassed.

For all that, the series was closer than people will remember, save perhaps Game 2.

Now the Yankees, like it or not, are the position the Twins were in, of having to bring their A-game every inning, every pitch, every split-second decision. CC has to be the bear in the woods, Joba and Hughes and Mo need to be practically perfect out of the pen, the outfield has to run down gappers, and at least three among Jeter, Damon, Tex, A-Rod, and Matsui have to produce big-time at the plate.

Oh, and it wouldn't hurt for both AJ and Pettitte to keep it up.



So there's the assignment.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Yankees 4, Twins 3

Consider:

1) This time they didn't need Jeffrey Maier. That's less a lame joke than a serious observation: after all the salaries have been paid, the spring training suffered through, the slumps endured, the streaks enjoyed, October baseball so often comes down to . . . freak luck. If, in 1996, Luis Polonia hits the ball six more inches, Paul O'Neill doesn't make the catch, Atlanta wins Game 5 2-1, then heads back to New York up three games to two, needing only one win the be the Team of the Nineties, with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine ready to go. Instead, O'Neill makes the catch, the Yankees go up 3-2 in games, and the Braves return to a Bronx they thought they'd not see again, at least not that year, having to do what they'd done a week ago: win two straight games. So: what happens tonight if, in the top of the eleventh, the one-out line drive is hit two feet either way? Tex doesn't make the play. One run for sure, maybe two. What happens if, in the bottom of the eleventh, Tex's shot hits three inches lower? A double, maybe. A-Rod is walked intentionally. Does Matsui bunt? Double play? Never know.

2) Where did these umpires come from? There has not been such atrocious baseball officiating since Eric Gregg's strike-zone-as-wide-as-his-ass noble moment in the 1997 NLCS, the game that brought Livan Hernandez to the world stage. The home plate umpire recalled Whitey Herzog's crack about another Blue Man: "He's lucky he only has two guesses." As for the left field umpire: really, and I say this as a Yankee fan, clearly Joe Mauer was robbed in the 11th. Not only was--Cuzzi, is that his name? Who are these guys--Cuzzi's call brutal, Cuzzi lacked the positioning that the lowliest Little League umpire learns his first game. With a ball heading for the corner, you straddle the line; in left field, you plant your left foot to the left of the line, your right foot to the right. You focus down the line. Thus positioned, you can judge foul or fair from 100 feet away.

Cuzzi, who had all the time in the world, walked up to the left-field foul line from foul territory as if walking to the edge of a diving board, and then leaned over the line and turned his head sideways, as if he meant to count the house or mark the exits. Thus positioned, he made his call based on the ball's trajectory, and not where it actually landed. The ball was headed foul, but clearly landed a foot to fifteen inches fair.

There is no overstating what a brutal call that was for the Twins. I see about 30 baseball games live per season, and maybe another 75 broadcasted, and I might go an entire season without seeing a call so horrible. And this with a crew of four umpires, not six. No, better: I coached a women's softball team for a half-decade, when the home plate umpire (usually some 22 year-old frat boy working through a triphammer hangover on a Sunday morning) was in charge of fair-foul calls of that nature. Always--always--the ump hustled down, positioned himself properly, straddled the line, and made the call that, if one is positioned properly, isn't really hard.

Who the hell are these guys?

3) Pettitte. Pettitte! Get 'em.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Yankees 7, Twins 2

Some thoughts:

1. It was over when . . . not to go ESPN on you, but it was over when Jeter tied it up (see below). If you listened closely, you could hear every Yankee fan from Hartford down to Perth Amboy exhaling: Got 'em. CC might surrender one tie, but not two. After Jeter, just a matter of time.

I remember watching CC pitch his first game as a Yankee, Opening Day at Camden Yards. The way he was throwing, it seemed Sabathia was trying to earn all of his $165 million in the first inning. Fastballs came in at 98 miles per hour, but in one of two heights: either the brim of the batter's helmet or bounced off the plate. There was a little bit of this tonight, early, and helped not a little bit by a Twin-Cities ump who had seemingly decided that, given the Twins' lack of rest, they should be given four strikes apiece. On the radio, Jon Miller, who usually strives to be fair-minded to the detriment of the broadcast (see below), seemed stunned at some of the two-strike pitches that . . . well, here is how he described one two-strike call, verbatim: "That was either at the corner but below the knee, or, um, at the knee and off the corner, or, um, er, at the knee and at the corner." For an equivalent radio moment, think of Glenn Beck calling for General McChrystal to shoot President Obama on sight.

2. What I was thinking of was . . . the ghost of Jim Beattie. In 1978, When the Yankees came back from 14 games down against the Red Sox, pushed their own lead to 3 1/2, found themselves tied with the Sox on the last day of the season, then defeated the Sox in The Greatest Game Ever Played, they still had the small matter of the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS. The series started on a Tuesday, the day after TGGEP. For Game One, what were manager Bob Lemon's options? Ed Figueroa had won his 20th game the previous Saturday. Catfish Hunter had been thumped by the Indians on Sunday. Of course, in the playoff game the previous day, Ron Guidry had started and gone 6 2/3 innings; Goose Gossage had pitched 2 1/3 innings for the save.

In other words, Lemon's four best pitchers were unavailable.

What was Lemon left with, that he could trust in any way? Basically, three pitchers: Jim Beattie, Ken Clay, and a royally pissed-off Sparky Lyle. Lyle had had almost no role in the Yankees' historic comeback (his recount of the season is captured, most entertainingly of course, in The Bronx Zoo.) Lyle had felt badly left out by the emergence of Gossage as the majors' prime closer. The previous day, with two outs in the ninth and the tying run on third base, Lyle had desperately wanted to pitch to Yasztremski, just to prove his worth in some way, had even warmed up to face Yaz with no call from the dugout. Lemon had stuck with Goose, to no Yankee fan's complaint.

So: this was Lyle. With little option, Lemon went with Beattie, with his sparkling 6-9 regular-season record. Beattie, of course, collared the Royals with almost laughable ease, and was ably relieved by Clay. When Reggie hit one of his requisite October home runs, the game was already on ice.

The next day, Ed Figueroa did his annual post-season folderola. Two days' following, at Yankee Stadium, Catfish gave up three home runs to George Brett, but Reggie provided an answer for each blow at the bottom of the same inning of Brett's bombs: first with a home run, then with an RBI single, then with a 400-foot fly ball that scored a run from third. This was merely the prelude to the finale: Thurman Munson's game-winning blast that soared over the fence in left-center field and bouced around the monuments.

Finally, the next day, given sufficient rest, Guidry and Gossage shut down the Royals, 2-1, for the series.

But Beattie was the one who started it.

I kept waiting for the Twins to produce their own Jim Beattie tonight. Jeter's home run, therefore, was a comfort in more ways than one.

3. Nice to see A-Rod, you know, hit. The only thing I was worried about was, Damn, Jeter's doing so well, now A-Rod will swing at pitches that threaten to hit the batboy. Well, yeah, the first two times up. Can we hope that 2 RBIs relaxes him? He's got three of the best clutch hitters in the sport clustered around him (Jeter, Tex, Matsui). The Yankees have a .320 hitter batting sixth. Would it kill A-Rod to force the pitcher to, like, throw a strike or something?

4. Steve Phillips: smart guy. To hear Joe Morgan's colleagues (Miller and Phillips) call the game sans Morgan is like sitting on a long bus ride with a female classmate and discovering the reason you thought you never liked her was because of her asshole boyfriend. Phillips is smart. He's observant. I listened to 90 percent of the game on radio, and Phillips' dissection of CC's pitches was worth my attention all by itself. The reason nobody knows he's smart is that, on ESPN, nothing he says is directly relevant to somebody's "second-consecutive MVP Award."

I hear Morgan may be retiring. I should live so long.

Please, please: to paraphrase John Lennon, ESPN, if my dream comes true, if I should one day end my weekend with a CC-Beckett slamdown at Fenway without Joe Morgan, don't go out and hire Jim Palmer or Bret Boone, or (God forgive me) Mr. October. ESPN, all we are asking, is give the Miller-Phillips team a chance.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Baseball, as midnight passes

Whatever happens, you can never really be upset. Schilling and Unit, combined, appear six times in seven games and either shut the Yankees down or (in Schilling's case, and remember he only won Game One, ND'd Game Four, and was set to lose Game Seven, and all sensors pointed to Clemens as World Series MVP, right at the point where Mo pulled Jeter off the bag), keep the D'Backs close enough to get over.

Remember: These were the 2001 Yankees, who had fought back the upstart A's, walked over the 116-win Mariners . . . and found themselves outmatched in every conceivable category of the game except closer, precisely up until the ninth inning of Game 7.

Nobody knows in a short series. Mauer may hit .600 and slug 1.200, and there's the ball game. Cuddyer could hit five home runs. Gomez would run crazy. Melky could lose the ball in that infernal roof with the bases loaded. Never know.

But, as we pass into the first day of the baseball playoffs, let us consider a few thoughts. From SDJ:

I think all the wags agree that those three free agents were the best 09 signings in all of baseball. Mark Teixeira may end up being the all time great Yankee first baseman. Of course he'd have to be considered better than the "Iron Man".


And Robbie-Boy:

Tex reminds me a lot of Paul O'Neill. But a new and improved O'Neill, a bigger bat and flashier leather.

On a team with CC, Jeter and A-Rod, there is Tex. All season long, quietly, he has been the glue. A guy you never worry about, a guy I'm sure the young players listen to and watch with amazement. A third basemen's dream. Throw it in his area code and he'll dig it out.

I can't really think about 100 wins without this guy. And how long has it been, since we have had that power, and that defense at that spot?


Answer to the last question: Don Mattingly, at his peak, 1984-1987.

1984: Batting title.
1985: MVP (145 RBI)
1986: Triple-Crown threat, 35 homers, .352 BA, second in MVP to Roger Clemens
1987: Triple-Cown threat, lost in MVP shuffle as the Yanks tank in September

And: a Gold Glove at first base, every year.

In short, over a four-year span, the best player in baseball.

Twins 6, Tigers 5 (12)

So, instead of Verlander and the rest of the Tigers' pitching, we get Mauer, Cuddyer, and Young.

Yankee faithful to CC: "The world could not have set this up better for you, Big Boy. Time to step up."

My only regret: 'Round about the fifth inning, a clas I cannot cancel. they used to schedule these things better.

Monday, October 05, 2009

As we head to almost-certainly Wednesday

Deadspin, on the Yankees, pretty spot-on:

This was the season that the Yankees' undignified lurch toward their past dominance actually worked, a cosmic confluence of circumstances that allowed them to sign the best three free agents and have them, lo and behold, to turn out to be pretty damned good. Of all the signings, Mark Teixeira was probably the most steadying. The literal opposite of a diva, he's a robot, a smiling semi-vacant switch-hitting machine, a man so lacking in personality that his at-bat song is "I Wanna Rock" by Twisted Sister. You can almost see the gears whirring and creaking in his brain. I do, in fact, like rock. Particularly Daughtry. What song would be express this feeling? How do I say, 'Boy, I sure could use some rocking right now.' That man doesn't even think in exclamation points. The last few years, the Yankees have needed players they never have to worry about. Mark Teixeira is the living embodiment of Someone Who Requires No More Thought. This is not a criticism of Teixeira. It is what makes him valuable. Well, that, at the .948 OPS.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A-Rod heats up?

Some record here.

Yankee legends are made in October, A-Rod.

Operation Chaos, at a conclusion

Okay, Yankees, now you're on you're own.

I wonder: whatever happened to those people who made a living building those metal television portables, those metal carts with plastic wheels that were used to move a TV from the living room to the bedroom?

I do remember, back in the old house on Second Street, sneaking into my parents' room on a Saturday morning and quietly rolling our RCA black-and-white out to the living room to watch "Kid Power" and "Hong Kong Fooey."

As soon as people decided that it was simply more convenient to buy a TV for every room that might want one, those TV cart people were out of business.

So I thought today, as I raced between Astro Girl's and my four TVs: I've got my own Sports Bar!

Living room: Texans vs. Raiders.

Den: Flipping: Giants vs. Chiefs (Eli et al. fantasy), and Patriots vs. Ravens (game of the day, by the way--defense bails out Brady's awful fourth-quarter management).

Kitchen: Tigers stroll to victory.

Bedroom: Twins stroll to victory.

So we move to a one-game playoff, with, for the Twins and Tigers, both pitching staffs (staves?) in the bully.

It cannot set up better for the Yankees.

First, a Central team whose pitching staff is torn to tatters by so many late-season cliffhangers.

Then, past that, the winner of the glamour Division Series, the Angel-Red Sox potential war.

Then . . . who? The Dodgers don't hit, the Phillies have no bullpen, the Rockies are the Rockies, and the Cardinals . . . well, there you might have a problem.

Tony effing Doubleday. He has out-thought himself out of more World Series than he's won, and he's been the father of more good-ideas-turned-crappy than any manager in history (twenty-one years ago, Tony Doubleday deemed that Honeycutt must pitch the eighth, and Eck the ninth, and every team since then has fallen into lockstep . . .)

(. . . And I'm not saying he's wrong on principle, only does that have to rule have to be ironclad, from here to eternity? Wilcy Moore was the relief ace for the '27 Yankees (only the greatest team of all time, and featuring, beyong Ruth, Gehrig, and Lazzeri, two starting pitchers who made the Hall of Fame, and a third--Urban Shocker--who should be there); and Joe Page was the "closer" for Casey Stengel, and both of them were brought in multiple times with multiple innings to go. In a tight game, in a pennant race, Casey had no problem bringing in Page in the third or fourth. In Game Four of the ADCS, with the Yankees facing elimination, Billy Martin brought in Sparky Lyle to retire the last 15 Royals for the win, and then come in the ninth for the win the following night. The following year, in the historic 1978 Yankee-Red Sox playoff game (aka The Greatest Game Ever Played) there is serious evidence that Bob Lemon considered sending Goose Goosage out to start, hoping he'd shut the Sox down for three innings, then bring in Guidry. As it was, Lemon started Guidry, but put Goose on notice: if Guidry was knocked out of the first, Goose would be the first man out. Go with your best. That was the rule, right up until Tony Doubleday discovered Honeycutt adn Eck.)

Well, if the Yankees can't beat the winner of the Tiger-Twin cage match, I give up.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Lupica exasperates by being right sometimes

How often I've thought it . . .

Get Mike Lupica west of the Hudson River, regarding any sport except golf or tennis, and he's simply out of his element.

No, George W. Bush was never going to pardon Roger Clemens, and anyone who knew anything about George W. Bush, aside from what an intern had downloaded from Huffington Post, knew as much. (Such was Lupica's braying on the matter that the presumptive pardon became a topics of discussion on "The Sports Reporters," even on an episode where Lupica did not appear.)

A few weeks ago he talked about how USC, under Pete Carroll, had "underachieved."

Really.

Start with this.

USC's record in Carroll's first 16 games: 8-8.

USC's record since then: 83-8.

Two Orange Bowl victories, four Rose Bowl victories, two National Championships, one historic loss (Vince Young), one no-shame loss (Oregon, 2007), one loss to an underrated Aaron Rogers/Lavarr Arrington team (2003), and five losses that defy sense and gravity (one to Stanford, two to Oregon State, one to UCLA, and the latest one to Washington).

Still: 83-8.

Back to Lupica. His ten-thumbed dealing with greater sports America makes it almost exasperating when he gets it right, as he does here with Mo.

Before Midnight

Two thoughts:

1. People (well, first my brother John and then Who-the-Hell, the guy on ESPN who lost all that weight, I really can't remember his name) once called NFL Conference Championship Sunday "the best day in the sports calendar."

No: the best day is the first Sunday in October, the intersection between the NFL, a good pennant race, and sorting out what happened in college football.

2. Really: to calm down after a stressful day, turn on the Dodgers on MLB.com. Last inning, Scully: "Base hit to right, and heeeeere comes Furcal." To quote Nabokov: "A poem, forsooth. A poem!" Will future generations marvel at the greatest baseball announcer of all time simply sitting in the booth with a scorecard and a monitor, supplying both the text and commentary with a marvelous baritone combined with an economy of words worthy of Chekohov and Hemingway?

One moment. Manny, who's had a brutal post-suspension season, hits a scorcher to right-center in a 0-0 game with post-season implications. Forty thousand Dodger fans leap to their feet, thinking extra bases. The Rockies center fielder leaps for the ball, catches it . . . only his glove hand hits the field and the ball trickles out. Easy double (or, the way Manny "runs," a single.) But the center fielder, in a crafty bit of gamesmanship, tucks his body around the ball on the ground, shielding it from the second-base umpire. The call: out.

Multiple replays leave no doubt. The catch was a deke. In similar circumstances, Sterling or Harrelson would have broken a blood vessel. Morgan would have brought the play up fifteen times over the remaining course of the game, and I'm not exaggerating.

Scully? He simply says, "Well, you can see the ball trickle out, but 'out' was the umpire's call," trusting that his television viewers have eyes in their heads. Then, just for the seeing-impaired, he waits until the Rocky center fielder comes up again to say, "He got away with a little trick play an inning ago," and leaves it at that--complimenting the player on his craftiness (and it was), rather than calling for the umpire's suspension, if not firing.

Oh, and by the way: the game clinched the NL West for the Dodgers, and, by the way, Joe Torre. Hard not to feel good for Joe.

Operation Chaos (Baseball Version) Lives

Tomorrow's starting pitcher--

(Det) Verlander 18-9

Every little bit helps.

One might ask . . .

. . . who wants to even chance going into the Thunderdome, the way the Twins are playing?

. . . Doesn't a team that wins an extra playoff game go deep into the playoffs (see: Yankees '78, Mariners '95, Colorado '07) as often as not (Astros '80, Cubs '99)?

. . . above all else, aren't we worried about CC?

To which one answers: Maybe not me, yes, and yes.

But I'll take my chances.

Right now I'm watching 1) another historically crappy personal-foul call by the Pac-10 crew working USC-Cal, once again demonstrating that Pac-10 football officials make Big-10 basketball officials look like John Marshall and Oliver Wendell Holmes had given birth to Earl Strom; and, alternatively, 2) a baseball game called by Vin Scully, which I treasure as a college professor would the few nights he can afford to eat out at Morton's or Fleming's. To think all those nights in Los Angeles I could have listened! I was too busy at the library. Or out chasing girls.

Operation Chaos lasts one more day . . .

. . . but the Twins go up against Grienke today, so that may be half the puzzle for the Tigers.

If Verlander pitches on Sunday, though, mission accomplished. A similar situation ten years ago today pushed Cy Young runner-up Mike Hampton to the mound on the last day of the season. He was unavailable until the following Friday, and the Astros, as they always did those years, went down to the Braves.

One consideration. CC last night . . . OUCH.

Four days to turn it around, big man.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Operation Chaos (Baseball Version)

Detroit's Magic Number: 2.

One of the great happenstances of politcs is how, when political opposites become polarized enough, they eventually reach all the way around and eventually agree with one another. So it was that both conservative Evangelicals and rabid feminists wanted pornogrpahy banned. And, back in the 60s, the Ku Klux Klan's favorite boxer was Elijah Muhammad disciple Muhammad Ali, since both the Klan and Muhammad's Muslim sect preached separation of the races.

Today we have Ozzie Guillen. Behaving like an ass and blowhard comes as easily as breathing for Ozzie, so as the White Sox are in Detroit, with the Tigers' magic number is two, Ozzie (who would rather sit with the Bleacher Creatures than watch another team celebrate in front of him) is starting Jake Peavy.

Ozzie is (let me project here) so set on beating the Tigers that his preoccupation over something that, to the White Sox, is essentially meaningless is--when it stretches all the way around--the right thing to do.

If Peavy is sharp, he stays in. Watch. Ozzie's only regret is that he cannot follow Peavy this weekend with Lamarr Hoyt and Billy Pierce in their primes.

Meanwhile, Minnesota gets to face Kansas City, and the immortal Lenny DiNardo, with his sparkling 0-2 record and 7.52 ERA.

Go get 'em, Ozzie.

Rooting for one team over the other: Bad karma. Rooting for chaos? No, that's okay.

Apparently I'm not alone, guys:

Detroit now has to win two, or the 'ole combo win Twinkies loss. Let's hope for a 1 game playoff!

Robbie-Boy

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Whew

I feel as exhausted as CC and A-Rod combined. I was hoping the Twins might hang on long enough to wear down Verlandr's arm a little more (catch his 129-pitch meatgrinder on Monday), but looks like no soap. So, bring on the Tigers, I guess.