A bunch of random thoughts as the Yankees begin another week with some ground to make up, There’s not much to add to Goose Gossage’s Hall of Fame entry. The stories SI Writer Emeritus William Nack tells on ESPN.com say everything.
• I try my best to be cognizant of the back-page treatment of the two New York baseball teams during the season, imagining how I would set the news agenda if I was heading any of the local editorial units. I found it odd this week that while the Yankees were racking up victories and gaining ground on the Rays and Sox, the Mets dominated the headlines. The Yankees’ win streak did not go unnoticed, but by normal standards, it flew under the radar and was fairly ho-hum. Certainly, the beat writers and columnists covered the necessary details, including the notes and quotes on the six-player deal with the Pirates (Cliff Corcoran’s analysis in this space was spot-on), but from a broader headline-grabbing standpoint, this week was all about the Mets. In my opinion, that helped the Yankees.
Speaking of under the radar, this sentence from Kat O’Brien’s Sunday Notebook nearly slipped my eyes:
“Kei Igawa was outrighted from the 40-man roster after clearing waivers Friday.”
After Carl Pavano, is it safe to say that Kei Igawa is the most fiscally irresponsible signing in Yankees’ history?
• After seeing the highlight – or lowlight – of Melky Cabrera booting the Denard Span single due to waving to the Bleacher Creatures during Roll Call last Tuedsay, I’m surprised the media at large didn’t overreact. Newsday’s Anthony Rieber made some interesting comparisons coming off the incident.
• SARCASM ALERT: I’m glad neither ESPN nor the locals beat the Pine Tar Game’s 25th Anniversary to submission.
Sunday night marked the second of the automatic Yankees-Red Sox ESPN national games. Joe Morgan was not in the booth, due to his presence in Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. That meant good things for the broadcast. That’s off the field. On the field, the pitching matchup meant bad things for the Yankees. With Sidney Ponson on the mound to preserve an eight-game win streak versus Jon Lester, the game was a throwaway, at least on paper. The 9-2 spanking verified Cliff Corcoran’s prognostication.
Stuff I liked about Sunday’s telecast, and I don’t mean Joe Morgan’s absence:
• Steve Phillips and Orel Hershiser. Both parties provided solid analysis, and the addition of an extra body prevented Jon Miller from lapsing into schtick.
Even better, Phillips and Hershiser proved to be prophetic on many occasions when describing critical game situations. Most notably, Phillips highlighted the effect of the missed double play in the first inning and aptly said that Ponson was playing with fire by continuing to pitch David Ortiz inside. Another gem from Phillips: taking Jose Molina to task for being too far in front of the plate when accepting Xavier Nady’s attempt to nail Kevin Youkilis at the plate in the bottom of the sixth on Manny Ramirez’s single. The only thing he missed was that Jorge Posada has the same preference of the sweep tag over blocking the plate.
Hershiser was equally good. When comparing the failures of Ponson and the successes of Jon Lester, noted Ponson’s inability to locate his fastball as the primary reason for his downfall, and described Lester’s ability to change the hitter’s eye level as a sign of his maturity as a major league pitcher.
The duo’s tag-team analysis of the botched double play in the first inning was excellent. Both rightly criticized Derek Jeter for hanging back on the ball, and called Robinson Cano out for appearing too nonchalant on the pivot. Phillips went one further, saying that with Jeter playing at double-play depth, he was close enough to second base – he was shaded toward the middle – to have fielded Youkilis’s ground ball and handled the DP himself.
• Bobby Meacham’s base-coaching skills did not lose Sunday’s game for the Yankees, but they helped thwart a charge in the top of the fifth inning. Thankfully Mr. Phillips read my mind when he questioned the decision to hold Johnny Damon at third on the short fly ball by Xavier Nady. Jacoby Ellsbury has about as good an arm as Damon, and with Damon’s speed, despite the leg strain, he could have scored. In addition, trailing by five runs, why not take a chance of having the third out occur at home plate? I don’t care how hot Robinson Canó is right now, keeping the bases loaded for him with two outs is almost a guaranteed rally killer (Canó’s Bases Loaded splits were .143/.188/.214 entering Sunday night’s action. The only Yankee regular with worse numbers in such situations is Jason Giambi’s mustache).
• Peter Gammons complimenting Joe Girardi’s managerial job to date. In one of his in-game missives, Gammons recalled a recent conversation he had with Girardi where the skipper compared the initial trials to those he faced while replacing Mike Stanley in 1996. Nuggets like enable me to forgive the fact that when I worked at ESPN.com and was on the editorial distribution list, I noticed the drafts of his columns were rife with spelling errors, many to players’ names. (Maybe it was my naiveté at the time, but I thought writers knew how to write and spell, or at least took care to proof their work a bit. That revelation made me view Gammons and all other scribes differently.)
Stuff I didn’t like about Sunday’s telecast:
• Errors of negligence that fostered the theory that ESPN harbors a dislike for the Yankees bordering on hatred. Specifically, in the bottom of the first inning, when David Ortiz singled and Kevin Youkilis advanced to third, there was a bang-bang play. Bob Abreu (or “A-Brew,” as my father likes to call him), made a perfect one-hop throw to Alex Rodriguez that beat the runner. Replays from all angles showed that A-Rod slapped the tag on Youkilis’s left knee a split second before he touched the bag. Nothing was mentioned about the botched call. At least they didn’t feed the theory further by calling to attention Jeter’s “neighborhood” tag on Mike Lowell at second base. A good no-call for Yankee fans.
• During the Top of the 8th inning, when describing the graphic on Dick Williams’ career highlights (he was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee), Miller pointed out the misspelling of Jim Lonborg’s name (it was posted as “Longborg”) on the 1967 Red Sox portion. Of course, Miller promptly messed up two minutes later and no one called him out on it. Miller, when mentioning the death of Russ Gibson, said he played on “that 1968 Red Sox” team, when he meant to say “1967,” continuing with the theme of the previous graphic. Publicly embarrass the production team one moment, don’t get help in the next. Such is the tightrope the play-by-play man walks.
Until next week … when we’ll have more from the trade deadline, and maybe, just maybe, someone will notice that the looming stretch of 16 of 19 road games could make or break the Yankees’ second-half run.