"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Joe of Little Faith

Prior to last night, Mike Mussina’s last loss came on August 3 in Cleveland when, after pitching four scoreless innings, Mussina fell apart in the fifth, giving up six runs and getting pulled from the game.

Prior to last night, the Yankees’ last loss came this past Sunday in Chicago when, after cruising through the first three innings, Randy Johnson fell apart in the fourth, giving up six runs, which would be all the White Sox would score and also all they would need.

Last night, Mike Mussina combined those two outings by cruising through the first four innings before falling apart in the fifth, giving up eight runs and getting pulled from the game. A ninth run charged to Mussina would score with reliever Felix Rodriguez on the mound. Those nine runs would be all the Blue Jays would score and also all they would need.

What I had hoped would be a dispiriting loss for the slumping Blue Jays turned out to be a dispiriting loss for the Yanks. Mussina’s collapse was particularly upsetting as the game had all the makings of a thrilling pitchers’ duel through the first four innings, with both Mussina and Toronto starter Dave Bush seemingly at the top of their game, the latter backed up by some spectacular defense.

Adding insult to injury, after the Yankees failed to drive a run across in the fifth and sixth, Joe Torre put his subs in, taking Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield and Jorge Posada out in favor of Felix Escalona, Bubba Crosby and John Flaherty respectively. The logic, I suppose, was to give these crucial players a breather in anticipation of today’s day game. But considering the success the Yankees had had against the Toronto bullpen the previous two nights (8 runs in 3 2/3 innings) and the fact that the Yankees are indeed the second best offense in baseball, I find it unforgivable for Torre not to have allowed his team a chance to come back at full strength.

As it turns out, the move immediately came back to bite the Yankee skipper as in the bottom of the seventh Robinson Cano and Tony Womack lead off with singles off Jason Frasor and were driven in by a Hideki Matsui double. Matsui was hitting in the two-hole yesterday, so had Torre left his starters in, he would have had two in and Sheffield and Rodriguez due up with a man in scoring position. Instead he had Bubba Crosby and Felix Escalona. To his credit, Crosby singled, but Escalona struck out, as did Jason Giambi, ending the inning.

In the bottom of the eighth, Tino Martinez lead off with a single but was promptly doubled up by John Flaherty.

Finally, against Vinnie Chulk in the bottom of the ninth, Jeter and Crosby singled to bring the clean-up spot to the plate with two outs. Again, it was Escalona, not Rodriguez who was due up. Torre went to the last man on his bench and pinch-hit Bernie Williams. Bernie worked the count full then crushed a ball into the upper deck in right for a three-run homer to close the gap to 9-5 only to have Giambi make the final out. Too little too late.

I’m certainly not blaming Joe Torre for last night’s loss, but his overt lack of faith in his team made this an even more painful loss than it should have been.

Incidentally, watching Tony Womack’s adventures in center last night (he played a warning track shot by Hinske in to a triple in the eighth) and his futility at the plate (his seventh-inning single notwithstanding), in contrast to Crosby (who went 2 for 2 and, playing right, caught a sinking fly in shallow center that should have been Womack’s but clearly had Tony flumoxed) greatly intensified my belief that Womack must be released and that Crosby (with or without help from Columbus) must be given his share of the centerfield starts (idealy those against opposing righty starters with a fly ball pitcher on the mound–right now primarily Chacon and Leiter–for the Yanks).

Both Boston and Cleveland also lost last night (to the Royals and Devil Rays respectively), while the A’s beat up the Tigers to pull back into a three-way tie with the Yanks and Tribe in the Wild Card race.

Today, the Yanks look to avoid a split, sending Shawn Chacon to the mound to face the Jay’s best active pitcher, Mr. Gustavo Chacin. Chacon has posted a 1.69 ERA in his five starts as a Yankee and is comming off a fantastic eight shutout innings against the White Sox on Saturday. Chacin was a hard-luck loser in his last two starts and is 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA and a 1.81 WHIP in two starts against the Yankees this year, both in Toronto.

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1 mikeplugh   ~  Aug 25, 2005 1:39 am

1.  Hey all.

I'd like to start this post off with a final thing about the Jeter...clutch....criticism...debate we were having a couple of posts ago. I wasn't able to get anything else in and I want to just put a cap on my thoughts.

There are two ways to look at Derek Jeter.

1. By comparing him to his peers, especially those paid like him.

By this way of analyzing Jeter, there are dozens of players who put up a better 162 games. No argument. There are guys who mash home runs, drive in runs, score runs, play their positions like acrobats. Jeter doesn't do anything better than many of these players, with the exception of run the bases and make the fade away throw to first.

Look at Tejada and A-Rod (before he moved to 3B) at SS. You've got Pujols and Sheffield and Matsui and Andruw Jones and Vlad Guerrero and Barry Bonds, etc, etc, etc......

Over 162 games Jeter will compete with this group in runs and hits, and probably little else.

2. You can evaluate Jeter by what he's meant to the team in big situations. All I need for the rest of my life to give Jeter a permanent benefit of the doubt was his diving head first into the stands against the Red Sox in a regular season game.

Beating the Red Sox means that much to him. As a Yankee fan, anyone who in his heart and soul wants to give himself up to beat the Red Sox is my hero. That's the stuff that legends are made of.

He has the post-season numbers to go along with everything else. I accept that the Yankees as a team won those titles and have put together a great stretch of playoff appearances, but I look at it this way. In 22 post-season series he hit below .316 eight times. Those eight times he was pretty bad. But if you take those 8 series out of the mix, over the course of 14 post-season series, Jeter hit .382 against some of the best pitching in baseball.

Again, I'm not saying that Jeter deserves all the credit for the great Yankee success, I'm just combining it with what he means to the team from a symbolic standpoint, and by the fact that a guy who makes 18 mill a year would dive headfirst into the stands in a regular season game against his arch rival.

I can't say whether or not Barry Bonds would sacrifice his body and run into an outfield wall at top speed to beat the Dodgers in May. I can't say whether Manny Ramirez would either. I believe that Varitek would dive headfirst into the dugout to catch a game saving pop up against the Yankees, and that's why he's the captain and one of the most loved players on the Red Sox. He combines heart, passion, and guts with his hitting.

That's how I see Jeter. A guy who is generally outstanding in all phases of the game, sacrifices himself for the team, plays best in the spotlight of October, and does it all the right way.

Finally, I can't fault anyone for their opinions on this subject. I think it's really okay for us to see this differently. I take the position that we will continue to see Derek Jeter excel for the Yankees through the time he gets his 3000th hit, hopefully his 5 and 6th rings, and when he tops virtually every post-season record list. The Yankees will have been the team that helped him get all those chances to shine, but when some players dim in the spotlight, Jeter will make play after play that you will look back on in 25 years and smile.

Just my opinion. I could be wrong. :)

2 Joe in Jersey   ~  Aug 25, 2005 3:44 am

2.  I don't get all these stat hounds. There has been only one shortstop who has been in the league for more than 2 years that has a higher career OPS than Jeter, and it ain't Tejada. AROD is the guy. Tejada has a career OPS of .819 according to ESPN stats as of this morning. Jeter's career OPS is significantly higher at .846. Now this year Tejada's is higher, and some day he may or he may not catch Jeter. So aside from everything mikeplugh had to say about his clutch hits, all-out and smart plays on the field, and let's face it nobody tracks down a pop fly like Jeter, nobody not even AROD, the facts are that Jeter has been a better hitting shortstop than anybody except AROD.

3 jdrennan   ~  Aug 25, 2005 5:07 am

3.  Did anyone else notice YES' problems with the blue screen ads in the background? It seemed like the blue in the bluejay logo on the batting helmets was the same color as the blue on their bluescreen so the ad was imposed right into the left handed hitters head.

Probably the influence of reading "juicing the game"... but if that is the case, do you think Bud would make them change to logo so it doesn't interfere with the ads during the telecast?

4 rbj   ~  Aug 25, 2005 5:15 am

4.  And why the hell didn't the fans go for Sheff's foul ball that was in the stands. Instead that's another out. C'mon, there's a reason for home field advantage.

5 jedi   ~  Aug 25, 2005 5:20 am

5.  jdrennan,

I saw those "blips" last night as well, but I noticed it when Matsui was up to bat in the early innings. His hands and face were all messed up with the blue screen in the back. It seems it was not necessarily a problem with the blue jay logos, but with the blue screen and cameras.


I rather have fans not interfere at all than interfere. Main reason, sometimes at a game, with all the drinking, fun and commotion, a fan doesnt always realize who is at bat. (i.e. the cub's infamous fan, Bartman)

6 JVarghese81   ~  Aug 25, 2005 5:26 am

6.  Joe in Jersey,
I am a HUGE Jeter fan but I would suggest you read some really good writing by CLiff in the archives.


After Jeter's GG and improved fielding (better than last year according to the rate stats) this year as well as Nomar's injury problems, it might have changed a little bit but still, really good reading.

7 domvjr   ~  Aug 25, 2005 6:11 am

7.  I agree with everything that Mike wrote. I think its just the age we live in. I am sure if there was a blog in the 40's and 50's, people would be bitching about Joe D, being brittle, and the Mick striking out to much. I for one am enjoying everything that Jeter brings to the Yanks, his enthusiasm for the game, that he brings every day. Players like him and Mo, don't come around very often. I have no problem the criticism that he occasionaly receives, but we will all miss him when he is gone.

8 Dan M   ~  Aug 25, 2005 6:38 am

8.  Womack also turned Catalanatto's flyball into a double in the 1st. Any non-Yankee centerfielder catches that ball. When it was the only baserunner through four, I said to myself, "Mussina is going to lose a perfect game because we don't have a f---g centerfielder."

So much for that fantasy.

9 Shaun P   ~  Aug 25, 2005 6:58 am

9.  Dan, speaking of plays by the CF, when I saw Vernon Wells's spectacular catch that took a home run away from Giambi, all I could think was, "There goes all the runs we need to win this game, the way Moose is pitching." Oops.

Now I see why there are 98 comments in the next thread. Can't wait to read people's thoughts as it all came apart.

10 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Aug 25, 2005 7:13 am

10.  Okay, two quick things and then let's try to move on from this Jeter thing, which borders on the creationism/evolution thing in terms of the ability of one side to convince the other:

1) Rodriguez is terrible at tracking flies, he's said so himself. That's not a useful comparison.

2) I was at that July 1 game when Jeter dove into the stands. It was the greatest game I've ever seen in person and that was a thrilling, game-saving play. But it was July 1. When you're such an important player, giving up your body mid-season, regardless of the opponent, is not brave, it's foolish. I'm not coming down on Jeter for it. I'm sure he didn't think about anything other than recording that out. But a player's willingness to risk a mid-season injury to save a game shouldn't be applauded. Had Jeter landed on the DL as a result of that dive, it could have handed the Red Sox the division, which would have been mighty ironic.

11 sam2175   ~  Aug 25, 2005 7:15 am

11.  The CF situation is really atrocious. We need a pureply defensive guy who will just run and track down flyballs. Terrell Owens? I hear he is not in camp right now. j/k.

Joe in Jersey, love your enthusiasm about Jeter, as I share it, but factually, you overlooked Garciaparra. His career OPS is .912. Now part of that could be Fenway, but even after ballpark adjustment, I believe his overall numbers would be significantly better than Jeter.

I think JVarghese81's post covers that anyway.

Moose's fifth inning ERA must be approaching hundred or something.

12 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Aug 25, 2005 7:44 am

12.  Tony Womack's rate in CF this year: 87
Bernie Williams' rate: 94

Batters vs. Mussina innings 4-6: .318/.352/.486 (.280 GPA)

Batters vs. Mussina pitches 76-90: .353/.364/.578 (.308 GPA)

He becomes dominant again in innings 7-9 and pitches 91-120.

13 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 25, 2005 8:04 am

13.  The other thing about that July 1 game was that Rodriguez made a far more difficult play in terms of skill when he turned a 5-2 double play with bases juiced to help save Mo's behind. http://bronxbanter.baseballtoaster.com/archives/14289.html

As Joe Sheehan wrote about that game:

"All of the attention after the game was focused on Derek Jeter, who tore up his face diving into the third-base box seats after making a running catch to end the top of the 12th. Without taking anything away from Jeter, though, the play of the game was Alex Rodriguez's double-play turn in the 11th. On a ball that took a strange bounce just to stay fair, Rodriguez made a stab, a tag of the base, and a perfect, only-line-he-had throw to the plate to prevent the tying run from scoring.

Nothing against Jeter, whose catch--of a ball that I think was going to land fair and score two runs--required a great jump and excellent raw speed, but Rodriguez had to do about four things correctly in less than two seconds to get the optimum result, and he did. Jeter's play was simpler, although the requirements of making it--a sprint into short left field--led him to injure himself after completing the catch.

We're dealing in gradations of excellence here, which is really what last night was all about. Keith Foulke wiggles out of a jam? OK, here's Mariano Rivera escaping a tougher one. Pokey Reese makes a highlight-reel catch? Here comes Rodriguez, and then Jeter, pushing him to the cutting-room floor. Manny Ramirez comes up with another huge hit with his team up against the wall? Nice, but the Yankees get down to their last strike, more stars on the bench than in the lineup, and get back-to-back hits from the waiver-bait segment of the roster."

14 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Aug 25, 2005 8:40 am

14.  Excellent point, Alex.

15 Ravenscar   ~  Aug 25, 2005 9:04 am

15.  #8

That is, any other CF in the game but our backup Gerald Williams, who cost Jae Seo another shut-out last night.

16 Dan M   ~  Aug 25, 2005 9:24 am

16.  I forgot about Ice. Yes, he's terrible - and he also messed up Pedro's then no-hitter in LA two weeks back.

17 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Aug 25, 2005 9:38 am

17.  Someone suggested that Ice was getting Pedro back for that HBP he took to start Pedro's near-no-no against the D-Rays a few years back.

18 JL25and3   ~  Aug 25, 2005 11:08 am

18.  I've loved Jeter since I first saw him play ten years ago. I don't have any illusions about him - among other things, he's got no range at all, especially going to his left. But last night he gave another great example of why I love having him on my team. Bottom of the ninth, down 9-2, one out - even Joe's given up on this game. But Jeter hits a slow bouncer towards second...and he hustles, full tilt out of the box and every step down the line. He doesn't give a damn about the situation or the score or anything else; he hustles all the way, all the time, every single time.

On a different subject: does anyone understand why Joe refuses to use Aaron Small?

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver