"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

California Love

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When I was a young boy growing up in Southern California but obsessed with a team that played three thousand miles away, I often went to sleep listening to Dodger games.  In those dark days of the early 1980s when not even George Jetson dreamed of the internet, there were three ways that I could get a Yankee score.  One, I could wait until the next day and read about it in the morning paper; two, I could wait for the sports report on the local news at about 11:20 and hope they included out of town baseball scores; or three, I could listen to the Dodger game and hope I could stay awake to hear the scoreboard recap.

I usually chose option number three, which meant that I would lie in bed and listen to Vin Scully spinning yarns about Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays and Stan Musial.  Thirty years later, I sometimes watch Dodger games — not for the game, but to listen to Scully.  And so when faced with the choice this afternoon between spending ninety minutes in traffic and $300 in tickets to take the family out to Chavez Ravine, or watching the game on the couch with Vin Scully on the mic, I chose Scully.  (The added bonus being that I could spend the afternoon rearranging the garage, much to my wife’s delight.)

Leading up to this series, I focused completely on all the feel-good stories.  Grandpa Joe Torre would get to see the four kids he raised into Hall of Famers (I know you want to quibble with that, but that’s not really the point), Captain Don Mattingly would pose for photos with Captain Derek Jeter, and people like Tommy Lasorda and Reggie Jackson would have good fun recounting past battles.  What’s funny to me is that I didn’t remember the snarky angle — Alex Rodríguez would be on the same field as Torre, the guy who sold him out to SI’s Tom Verducci in September of 2006, dropped him to eighth in the lineup in an elimination game a month later, and then finished the job by going back to Verducci for last year’s tell-all, The Yankee Years.  Even if I forgot all this, the Associated Press did not, as almost half of their game recap focused on the Torre-Rodríguez rift.  (For the record, I love Joe Torre, but I hate the way he handled A-Rod.)

But there was an actual game played on Friday night, and it was a good one.  On the Dodger side, things started out nicely as they scratched out a run against CC Sabathia in the first inning with a lead-off walk and stolen base by Rafael Furcal, a ground ball to first by Andre Ethier to move him to third, and an RBI-single to right by our old friend Manny Ramírez (more on him later).

The Yanks immediately answered back in the top of the second when A-Rod led off with a double down the right field line and came around a few minutes later on a single by Jorge Posada.  After three scoreless frames, A-Rod gave his team a lead when he led off the sixth inning with a no-doubt home run to left.  Like we’ve been saying, the swing appears to be back.

That 2-1 lead would prove to be enough for Sabathia, as the cruised through the rest of the night.  He was particularly proud of his fastball, which regularly clocked in at 95 and 96 MPH, but his slider was also effective.  During his eight innings he tallied twenty of the twenty-four outs on strikeouts and ground balls, and even with that thin one-run lead, the outcome of the game never really seemed in doubt.

Ah, but there was lots of drama.  Dodger starter and noted headhunter Vicente Padilla plunked Robinson Canó in the ass in the top of the fourth inning.  Canó took his base without incident, but when Padilla came up with one out in the bottom of the fifth, Sabathia nailed him with his first pitch, then stared him down as he walked to first, escorted a third of the way by Posada. Nothing happened from there, but it might be something to monitor on Saturday and Sunday.

The highlight of the game came in the ninth inning when Mariano Rivera entered to face Manny Ramírez.  If you add Mo’s 542 saves to Manny’s 554 home runs, you get a total of 1096.  I don’t have any friends at Elias who can confirm or deny this, but I’m guessing that’s the highest total ever for a batter facing a pitcher.  (You get extra credit if you can either confirm or deny this in the comments.)  On the telecast, Scully set the matchup by rattling off a series of statistics, then suggested, “And now, let’s watch…”  What we saw was Mo being Mo, as he struck out Manny for the first out of the inning.  Matt Kemp followed with another strikout, and then James Loney ended the game by striking out without lifting the bat from his shoulder.  The first two called strikes were probably out of the strike zone, but strike three was a perfect pitch, right on the outside corner.  Loney tossed his helmet and bat into the air in protest, earning the rare post-game ejection, Torre argued from the dugout, and Mattingly looked ready to explode as he tossed several f-bombs towards home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi.  So much sound and fury, signifying nothing.

For his part, Mariano simply bowed his head and walked off the mound.  Yankees 2, Dodgers 1.

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1 knuckles   ~  Jun 26, 2010 6:58 am

Barry Bonds faced Trevor Hoffman twice in 2005. As of the end of 2004, they had combined for exactly 1096 HR/SV. However both these 2005 PA's occurred in late September, and Bonds hit 5 HR that year while Hoffman saved 43 games, so they would have been well over 1100 by that point.

2 RIYank   ~  Jun 26, 2010 7:32 am

I knew if I went and looked up Trevor Hoffman vs. Barry Bonds that (i) I would find an at bat with more HR + S, and also that (ii) by the time I got back here someone else would have posted it :-)

So, My Little Foot Injury is on crutches and will be out for at least a few days. I hope the Sox call on Gil Velazquez. It would certainly improve their Scrabble score.

3 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jun 26, 2010 7:56 am

Great re-cap, nice win. CC is the Man..I think Padilla is a bit off his rocker but even he isn't going to charge the mound against a scowling CC..

4 RIYank   ~  Jun 26, 2010 8:24 am

Oh yeah, Mr. OK reminds me: it might be something to monitor on Saturday and Sunday.
I doubt it, Hank. The best part of the NL rules is that little problems like this can be confined to a single pitcher. CC didn't have to hit someone else on the Dodgers, so the Dodger pitchers don't feel like they have to protect their guys, etc. Padilla is a schmuck, Padilla gets plugged, nothing to see here...

I do wonder if the NL will cure Padilla of his little control problem. I bet it will -- not cure, really, but ameliorate.

5 RIYank   ~  Jun 26, 2010 8:43 am

I'd forgotten that Padilla pitched quite a stretch in the NL before he was in Texas. Indeed, in the NL his HBP rate is one for every 71.8 Batters Faced. In the AL it was one for every 54.2 BF.

6 TheGreenMan   ~  Jun 26, 2010 9:43 am

On Aug 3rd of last year, Manny Ramirez made the final out of a game against Trevor Hoffman and the Brewers. Going into that matchup, Hoffman had 577 saves and Manny had 538 dingers. A total of 1,115. Not sure if that is the highest total, though.

7 Dimelo   ~  Jun 26, 2010 9:45 am

The thing that I still don't get about the Torre book is why people call it a tell-all, I know Torre's name was on it, but there were a lot of quotes from Borzello (pretty damning quotes if you ask me), Moose, Cone, and a slew of others.

When I was reading the A-Rod chapter, I felt it was more Borzello than Torre but that could be my miscounting.

There were things that were pretty messed up that just didn't come from Torre. Though, I do agree there were some things Torre should have kept quiet, but I have no problem with him going after Pavano and Brown, I don't think he said anything that we didn't already know about A-Rod - our superstar is needy. I think the Cashman stuff was very critical, but was he really wrong? There were some suspect FA pickups between 2000 - 2008. If people get bothered by with the "Saint Torre" thing, then why should Cashman be treated like a Saint? I like Cashman, but we all know there have been some suspect decisions from the guy.

I felt the book was really good, I thought the hype made it sound like it was something that was written from the British Sun, but after reading the book I came away quite impressed with Verducci.

8 Dimelo   ~  Jun 26, 2010 9:51 am

BTW, I love CC. I think that was best FA signing ever by Cashman. In terms of total package, pitching, off the field stuff, the big ass smile, the hat to the side, I seriously have a man crush on the guy. I was kind of hoping he would have hit Padilla in the forehead. I know, that's mean.

My gf does tell me it looks like has a load in his pants because his uni is so baggy, now I can't stop laughing every time I see him on the mound, but I have a feeling he'd laugh at himself too.

9 a.O   ~  Jun 26, 2010 10:21 am

After all the times Padilla has hit our guys, watching CC nail him was pretty damn sweet. But the best part was that you could tell Padilla would have charged anyone else. But not the Big Man.

That was some beautiful, beautiful justice right there.

And I suspect that if Mr T was still in his tell-all mode, he would tell you that he also thought Padilla deserved it.

10 Hank Waddles   ~  Jun 26, 2010 10:42 am

[1, 2, & 6] Thanks for tracking down the save + HR stats. Tim Kurkjian would be proud! Speaking of Kurkjian, there's something else I had meant to include in the recap but forgot. He loves to say that every time you go to a baseball game, you just might see something you've never seen before, and last night I saw something I never thought I'd see. Brett Gardner hit a ground ball to second base in the seventh inning. Dodger second baseman Jamey Carroll had to dive to his right to make the stop but was still able to jump to his feet and throw out Gardner by an eyelash. Girardi came out to argue, but I think it was only because he, like me, assumed it would be a base hit as soon as Carroll left his feet. It was an amazing play, and one I thought I'd never see.

11 Just Fair   ~  Jun 26, 2010 10:51 am

[8] Agreed. Moose holds the mantle for pithcers so far. But CC is off to a pretty good start to his Yankee career. As for Padilla, I LOVE that he got plunked. Fuck him.

12 RIYank   ~  Jun 26, 2010 10:58 am

Hank, I saw James Loney get thrown out of a game after it was over. I'm pretty sure I've never seen that before. Is it even possible? Could the ump have added, "... and I'm also throwing you out of that game I called on Sept. 7th, 2008"?

13 Raf   ~  Jun 26, 2010 11:06 am

[5] Are you counting his time as a reliever? His HBP rate is pretty consistent as a starter in both leagues

14 RIYank   ~  Jun 26, 2010 11:09 am

[13] Yes, I was counting all his appearances.
Should that make a difference? In the NL, I guess I'd expect more HBP by a reliever, since they aren't subject to retaliation...

15 Raf   ~  Jun 26, 2010 11:27 am

[14] While in the pen for AZ and Philly (1999-2001), he hit 2 batters over 454 batters faced, he didn't become a starter until the 2002 season.

16 RIYank   ~  Jun 26, 2010 11:34 am

[15] Okay. So it could just be his approach that changed.
Still, since then he hit a batter in the NL every 60.5 BF, in the AL every 54.2.
There could be some other explanation than fear of retaliation, but that's a very large sample size so it's unlikely to be just noise.

17 Hank Waddles   ~  Jun 26, 2010 11:43 am

[12] RIY, I've definitely seen guys get thrown out of games after the final out, something I always find amusing. In fact, I'm almost certain that I remember seeing a highlight of the same thing happening to someone else earlier this week. You'd think an umpire could just walk off the field at that point, but some guys can't let anything go.

On a related note, I remember several years ago that Torre was thrown out of game before it even started. Still upset about a call from the night before, he started arguing about it again when he took the lineup card out before the game. The umpire tossed him.

Two more extra credit opportunities there...

18 The Hawk   ~  Jun 26, 2010 11:59 am

Certainly the way Torre handled A Rod was at times sub-optimal, but I think that tells a lot about A Rod and his weridness. Torre had a great reputation and rapport with 99% of his players. It seems logical to me to see the A Rod thing as the exception tot the rule, not indicative of a defining characteristic of Torre's.

I missed CC hitting Padilla but I wish I'd seen it.

19 monkeypants   ~  Jun 26, 2010 12:08 pm

[12] while amusing and silly from a logical standpoint, I wonder if such an ejection has even a small real world effect. For example, does MLB fine managers or suspend them after a certain number of ejections, or are all ejections subject to league review and subsequent fine or further disciplinary action, etc? In other words, did the ump do that to put it 'on the record' ?

20 williamnyy23   ~  Jun 26, 2010 12:25 pm

[16] I think part of the reason for the higher HBP rate in the AL is because of the need to pitch inside more because of the better hitters. I think the notion of having to bat being a deterent is way overblown. Extending that logic, a pitcher wouldn't need to fear being beaned because theoretically the opposing hurler would fear getting hit too, creating a never ending loop of apprehension!

[18] Torre had a great rapport with "his guys", but more than a view "outsiders" groused about their treatment under Torre. I don't think there is anyway to absolve Torre for how he handled Arod. Even though Sheffield, for example, was struggling just as much Arod, he wasn't dropped to eighth. Also, the Verducci article (there's that name again) earlier in the season was another hatchet job. Arod has every reason to feel as if Torre didn't support him.

[19] It's basically a fine (in fact, the ump mouthed, "that's a fine" when Loney threw the helmet), but for most players, they probably don't even notice the expense. There is no automatic suspension for a number of ejections, but a rap sheet could impact disciplinary decisions.

21 Raf   ~  Jun 26, 2010 12:30 pm

[16] Looking at the numbers year by year, it seems to be pretty consistent, the rate that Padilla hits batters

22 monkeypants   ~  Jun 26, 2010 12:32 pm

[20] plus, as I suggested last night, even if a pitcher wants to retaliate to protect his players, it makes little sense to bean the opposing pitcher except in the most extreme cases. This is because you wouldn't typically want to hit the worst hitter to get to the top of the lineup. Also, most NL pitchers only bat a couple of time before being lifted for a PH or reliever, especially these days when pitchers do not go as deep into game a. Evenif you wanted to exact revenge on the opposing pitcher, there are fewer opportunities to do so.

So yeah, i agree, the whole pitcher-batting-deterrent seems overblown to me as well.

23 The Hawk   ~  Jun 26, 2010 12:51 pm

[20] I don't think it's more than a few. The only other grouser I can think of is Sheffield and he's a known headcase, just like A Rod. And like I said, Torre didn't handle him well, but my point is that A Rod is an outlier; Torre's main positive attribute was handling his players, so my assumption is the A Rod situation was a "special case" and not damning of Torre overall.

I mean, everyone knows A Rod is a weirdo, there's no mystery there. Seems to me Torre simply didn't know what to do with such a specimen.

24 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jun 26, 2010 2:43 pm

I know everyone hated Alex batting eighth but frankly, I was all for it. Joe's willingness to shuffle the lineup according to performance was one of the things I appreciated about his management.

Alex wasn't hitting. I understand what a low blow it was as far as Alex' psyche was concerned, but as a pure baseball decision I had nothing against it.

25 JeremyM   ~  Jun 26, 2010 3:34 pm

Well, on the other hand A-Rod came into the playoffs smoking hot, but Torre batted him 6th in the first game of the playoffs after batting him 4th all year. So it wasn't just a matter of batting him 8th as he had already drawn attention to A-Rod's "struggles" before the playoffs even started.

26 RIYank   ~  Jun 26, 2010 5:18 pm

Probably this thread is all done, but:
JC Bradbury studied the deterrent factor, and he found that it's pretty significant. He controlled for hitter quality, and a bunch of other things.

[21] Not sure what you mean. I posted the numbers in [16]. It's clear that he hits more batters in the AL than in the NL, even leaving out his relief appearances. Those are the actual rates that I posted.

[22] Sure, but we know it happens. You aren't claiming that it doesn't happen, right? So it probably doesn't happen as often as it might if there weren't such a significant cost (putting the worst batter on base). But, CC did it, with one out in a very tight game, so it's going to be hard to argue that pitchers won't do it!

27 Raf   ~  Jun 26, 2010 11:45 pm

[26] Break them down year by year. When he was a FT starter, he hit a batter about every 50-55 faced.

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