"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Angels and Demons

by Hank Waddles

I am optimistic to a fault. There are some things that I worry about, I suppose, but in general I assume that everything’s going to work out for the best. Perhaps that’s what drew me to baseball as a boy. Baseball is a game of hope, much more so than any other sport out there, in the long term as much as the short. If you’ve ever watched until the last pitch with your team down seven runs or thought about your team’s playoff rotation in the early days of March, you know what I mean. Baseball is hope.

Except when the Yankees are playing the Angels. I can’t explain what happens to me when these two teams hook up, especially when the games are in Anaheim. Take Tuesday night, for instance. A normal person would’ve looked at that early 5-0 lead and felt confident. The optimist would note that Ervin Santana was getting hit hard and that Chad Gaudin looked remarkably like a number four starter, but the pessimist would answer that Santana’s diving changeup had led to seven early strikeouts and that Gaudin was, well, Chad Gaudin.

The optimist would look at all those two-out, two-strike counts and head for the kitchen to grab a snack, but instead I sat nailed the couch, certain something bad was on the way. Sure enough, something bad usually was. It started in the fateful fifth, when an Angel hitter worked a full count after two were already out. (The name on the jersey said Figgins, but we all know it could’ve been any of a dozen pesky Angles, all cut from the same bedeviling cloth. In fact, I’m not sure why they don’t just stitch ECKSTEIN on everyone’s back and be done with it.) Rather than striking out and grabbing his glove, Figgins lofted a pop fly to right which slithered around the foul pole. It was cheaper than any Yankee Stadium home run, which seemed just about right. Damn those Angels.

Two batters later, our old friend Bobby Abreu earned another full count, but Gaudin walked him, and to borrow a phrase from Vin Scully, the Angels finally had a look at the game. Up next was Vlad Guerrero, who quickly hacked his way to an 0-2 count. If ever there were a time to throw a pitch about two feet off the plate, this was it, but instead Gaudin spun a little breaking ball belt high across the center of the plate. The only surprise was that the ball stayed in the park. Minutes earlier Gaudin had been a single pitch away from five shutout innings and a shot at a win; now he was walking slowly to the bench.

Vulture Aceves quickly got out of the fifth inning, but the Angels kept chipping away, scoring their third run when pinch hitter Gary Matthews, Jr., lined an 0-2 (!) pitch to right, and their fourth when Abreu drew a bases-loaded walk on a 3-2 pitch. In the eighth, Yankee-killer Howie Kendrick reached on an error by Canó, then took off for second on the first pitch and kept going to third when Posada’s throw sailed into the outfield. Moments later Kendrick was trotting in behind a Macier Izturis single, and the game was tied. Damn those Angels.

But then a funny thing happened. Brett Gardner walked up to the plate to lead off the ninth inning, and my optimism returned. “If Gardner gets on base here, the Yankees will win,” I told myself. “He’ll steal second on the first pitch and someone will knock him in.” I had it almost right.

Gardner singled and stole second on the secondpitch. The Yankees managed to survive some questionable bunting decisions (Jeter squared on a 3-0 pitch, but I have to believe he was taking all the way, and Damon followed with a risky two-strike bunt that pushed the runners to second and third) and A-Rod game up with a chance to win the game. He turned on the first pitch he saw from Darren Oliver, sending a sac fly to left and plating Gardner with the winning run.

Rivera closed up shop, and my optimistic heart started pumping again. Instead of worrying about a sweep, I was now expecting A.J. Burnett to bring home a series win with a good start on Wednesday. Instead of worrying about the division lead, I noted that the Yankees had clinched a playoff spot, ending our long national nightmare. Instead of obsessing on the Angels, I thought about the Twins and Tigers and a path to the World Series.

Is it too early for that? Of course not. Baseball is hope.

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1 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Sep 23, 2009 9:16 am

Great post, thanks.

Another afternoon game is not pleasing to us across the Pacific..hope I wake up to a win!

So happy to see Matsui and A-Rod being so clutchity-clutch in games that matter..keep it up boys, and get ready to knock that goatee off of Verlander's face in Game 1!

2 Sliced Bread   ~  Sep 23, 2009 9:24 am

Nice recap, Hank. But let's face it. The Angels have us right where they want us. Baseball is hope, but Angels baseball is pure evil. They're a team of confidence men, and we're the mark. Their endgame is to steal our hope, rip it right out of our chests and minds.

Heh. It's not like that at all really, but I like thinking of the Angels this way.

I had to be in the city early today so I went to bed up 4-zip. Glad to see the Yanks didn't celebrate. Why take a victory lap when you haven't finished the marathon?

3 Rich   ~  Sep 23, 2009 9:24 am

I was confident even when the game was tied, despite how long Girardi had left Aceves in the game. It was a refuse to lose type of game (which is easy for me to say as a spectator).

Given the current state of the pen, and Girardi's apparent unwillingness to get Melancon into the mix (even though Albaladejo and Bruney kind of suck), if they aren't going to use Joba as a starter in the playoffs, they should conider transitioning back to being a reliever right now.

4 RIYank   ~  Sep 23, 2009 9:25 am

Nice job, Hank!

I'm not exactly sorry I didn't stay up for that one (early mornings for me all week). If only Mr. OK Jazz and I could do some kind of averaging thing, we could both watch the games happily.

I scanned the large comment section of the game thread, but really I needn't have. It was fairly predictable. Who writes these scripts, anyway?

5 Rich   ~  Sep 23, 2009 9:32 am

[4] Who writes these scripts, anyway?

They write themselves.

6 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Sep 23, 2009 9:34 am

[4] Indeed..if MLB ever goes back to day WS games I will be in big trouble!

The Game Threads..they do have a bit of Waiting for Godot to them, don't they? Or perhaps Hokusai's paintings of Mt. Fuji from 62-kajillion different angles..I've grown to appreciate the rhythm of the comments..cyclical, hypnotic and somewhat comforting...then again, I listen to a lot of free jazz so...now time for some sleep cycles, Go Go AJ, no-hit these bums and let's fry us up some rally monkey!

7 Sliced Bread   ~  Sep 23, 2009 9:37 am

[1] seriously, ARod and Matsui, how great would it be to watch those guys celebrating a championship? When I allow myself to think about winning it all this year, those are the first two guys I think about. They've beared the sluggers burden, and have more than paid their dues.

8 RIYank   ~  Sep 23, 2009 9:40 am

[6] You should check out some of the old game threads from Gaudin's games. Ms. October and I had a lengthy running "Waiting for Gaudin" joke going. (When he pitches against Beckett it's just perfect, of course. And best of all when the home plate umpire is Jim Joyce.)

I, uh, don't know Hokusai. I'll stick with the free jazz. (And the modernist playwrights.)

9 Diane Firstman   ~  Sep 23, 2009 9:51 am


You've inspired me ...

Joe Girardi was an engineer,
Joe Girardi had a plan we hear,
He had a bullpen that he used a ton,
He used Gaudin plenty (sadly) and hoped to score more runs.

Girardi says...'Love my Gaudin plenty'!
Girardi says...'really rings my bell'!
Girardi says...'love my Gaudin plenty'
It is Gaudin's shaky pitching that we hate to hell

10 Sliced Bread   ~  Sep 23, 2009 10:00 am

[9] could be the opening number of a Gaudville show.[rimshot, cymbal]

11 RagingTartabull   ~  Sep 23, 2009 10:01 am
12 Paul   ~  Sep 23, 2009 10:11 am

if they aren’t going to use Joba as a starter in the playoffs, they should consider transitioning back to being a reliever right now.

You're talking too much sense. I'm afraid it's not going to happen. If they didn't transition him two months ago (because of the hyper-paranoid fear of the 2008 shoulder issues) they're not going to do it now.

The thing that's really been killing me is that Joba obviously isn't comfortable on irregular rest. So why the hell would he even be in the discussion for a start that may or may not come in the post-season?

13 RIYank   ~  Sep 23, 2009 10:13 am

[9] Not in the final Tampa Bay series, please. The "bell" theme is already giving me a headache.

14 Chyll Will   ~  Sep 23, 2009 10:14 am

[11] Take my wife, please...

15 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Sep 23, 2009 10:48 am

[14] I take my wife everywhere, she keeps coming back! [ba-da-DUMP!]

16 BuckFoston   ~  Sep 23, 2009 2:28 pm

Hank, great recap. Only you missed one pivotal moment in the 9th. After Mo walks the leadoff man, they pinch run with Willits, and many of us were thinking "uh-oh". Then Mo proceeds to K the next batter and Po makes a perfect throw to second to easily nail the runner for the DP, and the game was pretty much over. Big play.

17 Raf   ~  Sep 23, 2009 2:31 pm

[16] I woke up just in time to see that :)

18 thelarmis   ~  Sep 23, 2009 2:39 pm

Hank Waddles

I am optimistic to a fault.

you sure you're in the right place, pal?! ; )

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