"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Texas Terror

The Yankees won last night’s game 7-6, but that’s kind of like saying the plot of The Sun Also Rises is “a guy watches some bullfights.” I really don’t know where to start with this particular thrill ride, which, around 10 PM, I thought the Yankees had absolutely no shot at winning. (I wasn’t far wrong). In fact, I didn’t really think they had a shot until they actually took the lead and put Mariano Rivera on the mound, and then right away the first batter he faced hit a triple and I still wasn’t so sure. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. They say when you don’t know where to start, you should start at the beginning.

The Yankees were facing Cliff Lee, who, in case you’d forgotten, is mind-bogglingly awesome. Since arriving in Texas he’s walked three batters – two of those intentionally. (Though why the hell Cliff Lee was intentionally walking anybody I can’t imagine). He’s allowed nine walks all season, which makes me think of Joe DiMaggio and that crazy 1941 season where he only struck out 13 times. I’ve had a platonic baseball-crush on Lee ever since he made that sick behind-the-back catch in Game 1 of last fall’s World Series and then shrugged it off with Steve-McQueen cool; I’ve also been looking at him as a bit superhuman, and so I didn’t expect much from the Yankees last night. Especially since Marcus Thames was batting third*.

And, against Cliff Lee, they indeed didn’t do much… except they had some good at-bats, and made him work (though of course not actually walk anybody), which is often really the only thing you can do when facing someone like Lee. The Rangers didn’t beat around the bush, starting their scoring in the 1st with a Michael Young homer, as Javier Vazquez continued to struggle with both his velocity and his location. The Yankees evened things up in the 4th, when Marcus Thames singled and A-Rod doubled him home and I thought, not for the first nor last time over a four-hour span, okay maybe I’ve been a little hard on Marcus Thames; but it didn’t take. The Rangers scored two more in the bottom of the inning (two-run Mitch Moreland single, off the glove of Lance “not Mark Teixeira” Berkman at first), and three more in the fifth (single, single, botched run-down, double, fielder’s choice, single), and when Javy slumped off the mound to make way for Sergio Mitre it was 6-1 and I was thinking about how I should frame the loss in the recap.

But Sergio Mitre was just fine, actually – 1.2 hitless, scoreless innings – and it turned out the Yankees were only mostly dead (“mostly dead is slightly alive!”). In the same way they used to have some success against aces like Pedro Martinez back in the day, they took a bunch of pitches, fouled others off, kept scuffling, and got Lee out of the game after 6.1 innings – which is, by Cliff Lee standards, quite early; as Michael Kay pointed out, Lee had pitched 8 innings or more in ten straight starts. The comeback trail began in the sixth, when Derek Jeter tripled -  seems like it’s been a long time since I wrote that – and scored on a rare Cliff Lee wild pitch, but I don’t think the Rangers were exactly quaking in their boots at that point. The next inning, though, things started to get a little interesting: Robinson Cano doubled, and Austin Kearns singled, hard, and when Austin Kearns creams one like that it’s a pretty good sign that Cliff Lee is probably starting to get a little tired. (It was 100 degrees in Texas last night, which couldn’t have helped any). Lance Berkman hit a ground-rule double, and then Brett Gardner singled, and suddenly it was a decently close 6-4 game. The Texas bullpen is very good, though, and the Yankees were relying on Kerry Wood for two innings, so I remained unimpressed except in a vague, it’s-nice-they’re-showing-some-fight-however-futile sort of way.

Like Sergio Mitre before him, Kerry Wood exceeded my expectations, although he did add a little spice, in the form of two straight singles in the seventh before he induced a Nelson Cruz double play. But he kept things from getting any worse, and so when Marcus Thames led off the 8th inning with a sonic boom of a home run off Frank Francisco – huh, perhaps I really was a little hard on that guy – it was suddenly a one-run affair. Cano and Posada walked… but then Austin Kearns, who giveth and taketh away, ground into a DP of his own and you had to figure that was probably that.

In the top of the ninth inning, Lance Berkman walked and, being rather less swift than a puma these days, Curtis Granderson came on to run for him. And he drew a lot of attention from the hard-throwing Rangers reliever of the moment, Neftali Feliz, but he still hadn’t gotten anywhere when Brett Gardner singled him over. Derek Jeter was getting ready to bunt (grrrrr), but Feliz — perhaps overcome with admiration for Jeter’s selflessness in being willing to sacrifice himself for his team! — threw a wild pitch and both Granderson and Gardner advanced, no bunt necessary. Jeter then bent over, picked a four-leaf clover, and hit a sneaky seeing-eye hopper of a single that came within an inch of being caught by both the pitcher and the second baseman before trickling into the outfield. Tie game. Nick Swisher struck out, but that brought up Marcus Thames, who singled off of Alexi Ogando, scoring Gardner and giving the Yankees their first lead of the game.

You know, it’s possible I’ve been a little hard on Marcus Thames.

Anyway, the one-run lead meant Mariano Rivera for the bottom of the ninth. I’d say he was looking for redemption after the previous night’s rare blown save but, really, Mariano Rivera doesn’t need any redemption; he’s got redemption coming out of his ears. He did, however, give everyone a bit of a start by immediately giving up a whopping triple to Elvis Andrus.

Michael Young flew out, just not quiiiiite far enough to score the run.

Josh Hamilton grounded directly into Rivera’s glove.

Vlad Guerrero took one whole pitch before swinging from his heels and sending the ball to Alex Rodriguez, who made a nice play and tossed him out by several entire feet.

If the Yanks and Rangers meet down the road in October, it could be quite a series. In the interests of being prepared, I recommend you start discussing blood pressure medication with your doctor sooner rather than later.

*There’s no doubt that the Yankees miss Mark Teixeira – that lineup hasn’t been looking all that awe-inspiring the last few days. (Still, to the people who are actually upset that Teixeira is taking several days off to be with his newborn child and wife, I can only say: you’ll feel differently about this down the road, once you’ve matured a bit, and passed puberty.) Ken Singleton made the extremely good point that, as with the Bereavement List, when players leave for the birth of a child, their team should be able to call up a replacement. Teams would therefore feel less of a squeeze when a player like Teixeira does the right thing and spends a couple of days with his family, and there would be less pressure on the player himself to rush back immediately. Paternity leave: get on it, MLBPA.

38 comments

1 monkeypants   ~  Aug 12, 2010 8:50 am

[0] Derek Jeter was getting ready to bunt (grrrrr)

Bunting would not have been a bad move, and certainly not grrrr-worthy when one considers Jeter's relatively poor offensive production and especially his groundball rate this season.

you’ll feel differently about this down the road, once you’ve matured a bit, and passed puberty

Well, i have passed puberty and have in fact been through the paternity leave thing, and I probably disagree with you on this point as well. At least I don't think that it's an open and shut case that missing multiple games was the right thing to do. I'm not saying that it was wrong, but I can see both sides. I don't think this marks me as immature. Rather, I'd like to think that the mature position recognizes that people often have multiple competing obligations, and that decisions affecting competing obligations can be difficult.

2 monkeypants   ~  Aug 12, 2010 8:52 am

1) damn missed tag.

3 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 12, 2010 9:01 am

I still can't believe Mo got out of that.

Excelsior!

4 monkeypants   ~  Aug 12, 2010 9:07 am

3) alex, is that the second time he did something like that this season? i can't recall specifically, but didn't Mo load the bases with no outs earlier this year and get out of it.

Yikes!!

5 The Hawk   ~  Aug 12, 2010 9:26 am

The key is, don't have babies during the baseball season. Problem solved.

6 ms october   ~  Aug 12, 2010 9:27 am

[4] yes at arizona of all places back in june

granted thames is beyond a butcher out in the field, but he is on a fairly short list of players who are living up to what is expected of them or exceeding expectations by mashing lefty pitching. a triple slash 321/406/476 and woba of 387 is pretty damn impressive.

7 The Hawk   ~  Aug 12, 2010 9:29 am

Good god almighty, looking at Rivera's stats on b-r ... I will miss him so.

8 Shaun P.   ~  Aug 12, 2010 9:29 am

[4] I want to say Robertson got himself out of a bases loaded jam earlier this year; I don't recall Mo doing it. But I haven't been paying super close attention so I could very well be wrong . . .

Come to think of it, didn't Robertson get out of a bases loaded jam last year (too)? Was that the never-ending game against the Red Sox, or was that in the playoffs?

[0] [1] I completely respect Teixeira's decision to miss time to be with his wife and newborn/his other kids. That's a very tricky issue, to say the least, because you have a lot of competing interests - not the least of which is the non-newborn kid(s) at home (which I believe Tex has, right?). Having a parent on the road a lot has got to be hard on little kids. Having the other parent - the one you're used to being around all the time - gone too has to be especially tough. When my son was born, my daughter was a little confused about why daddy AND mommy were gone for a day, and she clearly felt better when I came home the next morning.

I'm not sure there's a right or a wrong answer, just what's right for the individual. Everybody's situation is different, right?

I would say MLB ought to be ashamed for not having paternity leave like they have bereavement leave, and bravo to Ken Singleton for pointing it out.

9 RIYank   ~  Aug 12, 2010 9:31 am

Emma, you have picked up just a touch of the Belth/Runyon style, which is not entirely unlike Hemingway although you could count on one nose the number of times a doll like Gertrude Stein would be caught dead at a bullfight with a palooka like Nathan Detroit.

[1] Not touching that one.
[2] Now you'll have a little more sympathy when Posada misses a tag.

10 Dimelo   ~  Aug 12, 2010 9:38 am

[0] Awesome write-up, Emma!!!

11 The Hawk   ~  Aug 12, 2010 9:41 am

Regarding the lessening of activity/intensity here referenced last night, I will say for me the fact they won last year has made me much more relaxed. I haven't even been watching as consistently.

12 Shaun P.   ~  Aug 12, 2010 10:20 am

[11] Agreed. That I'm busier at work than I ever have been is also a contributing factor.

13 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 12, 2010 10:21 am

[1] What he said. Tex is being paid $125,000 per game. The Yankees are in a business where one loss could cost them anywhere from $10mn to $100mn.

Considering the stakes, it is perfectly reasonable to question whether Tex should have been there yesterday.

[7] Miss him? He's never leaving. Never!

[8] Paternity leave isn't a bad idea, but calling up Juan Miranda to replace Mark Teixeira doesn't exactly fill the void.

14 Shaun P.   ~  Aug 12, 2010 10:43 am

[13] No, but its better to have a full 25-man roster than to play a player short for something like the birth of a child.

Miranda <> nothing.

15 Emma Span   ~  Aug 12, 2010 11:04 am

[1] Well, opinions differ and perhaps I shouldn't have been so dismissive... to me, though, unless actual lives or livelihoods are at stake, there's not much more important than having a baby. A baseball game just doesn't come close - for me - certainly not a couple of games in August. But yes, that's really between the individual and his family, I suppose.

All the more reason for baseball to have a few days' paternity leave, though- if the Yankees could replace him on the roster, Teixeira's absence would be less of a big deal (though obviously no one at AAA can replace his production).

16 Emma Span   ~  Aug 12, 2010 11:16 am

[13] Teixeira makes a lot of money because he earns a lot of money for the team. He owes them his full effort, but like any employee he is entitled to a day off for health or family reasons. I don't think you can put a price tag on the birth of a child.

17 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 12, 2010 11:25 am

16) Agreed.

18 Sliced Bread   ~  Aug 12, 2010 11:34 am

I'm with Emma. No doubt in my mind, Tex should be with his family. It's also good for him and his team that he's getting a few days off going into the playoff stretch. But regardless of what time in the baseball season a player takes paternity leave, I believe his first priority should be attending to births, deaths, and serious illnesses in his family.
Kudos to the Yankees for supporting his decision. This makes me admire, and appreciate Tex even more than I did,
On the baseball side of the issue: I have no problem with bench players getting work. This is why they exist.

19 patrick b   ~  Aug 12, 2010 11:59 am

[8] robertson got out of the based-loaded no outs jam against the Twins in last year's playoffs. Mariano got out of at least one or two terrible jams this year but it seemed almost impossible that the game would not at least be tied-up after the lead-off triple last night.

Great, great win last night.

20 monkeypants   ~  Aug 12, 2010 12:17 pm

15, 16) I agree that the birth of a child is infinitely important, but I think you miss the point when it comes to obligation. Look at it this way: What if I promised to watch your house for a week when you went on vacation. In the middle of that week, my wife gave birth (or even better, some other personal crisis came up unexpected). It is reasonable that I would choose my family over watching your house, but that does not mean that my obligation to is abrogated, or that you should not be upset if your house was robbed because I wasn't there to take care of it as promised. You don't owe my family any obligation. I on the other hand have two competing obligations. Whether I was in the wrong in some absolute sense by choosing one obligation over another is immaterial to the reality that people often have competing obligations, decisions about which are difficult, with plenty of gray area. Is a day off enough? Two days? A week?

Teix is in a privileged position (one that he has earned, to be sure): he works in a business in which he does not have to go the office six months out of the year (though when he works, he does have a grueling travel schedule). He is paid handsomely; when he travels for business it is on a charter flight; he stays in nice hotels.

While I don't think it is unreasonable for him to take a couple days off to be with his wife, I also don't see it as unreasonable to expect him to make a concerted effort to get back to the team as soon as possible.

21 Raf   ~  Aug 12, 2010 12:22 pm

It's not like the team didn't anticipate Teix's absence.

22 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 12, 2010 1:04 pm

[16] Teixeira earns a lot of money for the team, but the way he does that is by playing as much as possible. Again, if the Yankees miss the playoffs, it could cost them as much as $100 million. That's a staggering figure. It's probably a little unfair to put that on Tex' shoulders, but his presence has the potential to make the difference in every game. That's why he is paid so well.

Also, Tex did get a day off. He was there for the birth of his child. The day in question is the second day off. I think it would be very reasonable for the Yankees to have asked that he return yesterday (assuming mother and child were doing well). Having said that, I have no problem with Tex taking the extra day if the Yankees will give it to him.

Sure, family is the most important thing, but that doesn't mean other commitments stop being meaningful. Otherwise, you could take your argument to the extreme and say Tex is so rich, he should just retire and spend every moment of every day with his children.

23 YankeeAbby   ~  Aug 12, 2010 1:51 pm

Nice Emma!!! In addition...any time you can pull a quote from "The Princess Bride" (one of MY guilty pleasure movies!) into a baseball commentary is OK in my book!!!

24 kenboyer made me cry   ~  Aug 12, 2010 2:18 pm

[22] Many people who work in NYC at the creative trades get to spend a full week away with their wife and newborn. Cut Tex some slack, with the flights and all, he really is getting maybe a day and half with his family. I know his huge salary and importance to the team amplifies his absence, but even the President spends some family time or in the case of the Texan, clear some brush.

Nice read with the wrap-up. Thanks. And, as a newbie to the Banter, I think it is a great place for fans of a certain ilk to gather. Maybe to some of the founding fathers and mothers interest has declined, but I think it is fabulous, and cannot wait until the playoffs (hopefully) to be covered on the Banter.

25 kenboyer made me cry   ~  Aug 12, 2010 2:24 pm

And what is more amazing to me, is that Jack Curry the baseball analyst, takes two weeks vacation from YES in the middle of the season. He can take all the time he wants from November- March. But again, if the organization gives him the time, why shouldn't he take it?

26 Sliced Bread   ~  Aug 12, 2010 2:26 pm

[20 & 22] do you really think missing 2 games to be with his family under these circumstances is unreasonable? I don't think so.

The watching my house argument doesn't work because a.) you would have anticipated the possibility that the birth would have happened during that week, and would have made contingency plans and b.) it's not like Tex's job responsibilities were left unattended.

27 Crazy8Rick   ~  Aug 12, 2010 2:38 pm

Great write up Emma. I loved the "Princess Bride" quotes too. And yes, we all may have been a little to hard on Marcus lately. As for Tex and the baby, Tex did the right thing. Being a Father is more than just being a sperm doner. The term "Father" means 'life giver.' When you're responsible for new life coming into the world, you damn well better man up and be there to greet it. That's what a real man does, if at all possible. The job ain't going nowhere. It will all be there when you get back to work, just waiting for you. So why doesn't MLB have a paternity leave policy????

28 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 12, 2010 2:44 pm

[26] I don't think I have implied in anyway that Teixeira was being unreasonable. I do, however, think it would have been reasonable for the Yankees to ask him to return yesterday. Baseball is only "a game" to you and me, but to the Yankees it is a business, and making the playoffs can really determine whether it is a successful year from a financial standpoint. That one extra game may not seem like a big deal now, but ask last year's Tigers about the importance of "one game". The financial fallout from that one game is a reason why we are now stuck with Curtis Granderson :)

As for Tex' job responsibilities being left unattended, I would submit they were, to the extent that the Yankees do not have a replacement that comes close to matching his production.

[27] It's great to be able to witness the birth of your child, but being a Father is much more than that. If anything, being a Father mean being there as your child grows up. Unfortunately for most athletes, that's impossible to do. Are we suggesting that athletes are bad fathers? Or does simply witnessing the birth fulfill their obligation?

29 Sliced Bread   ~  Aug 12, 2010 2:57 pm

[28] I just the games that Tex missed are not his responsibility. It's the Yankees responsibility to have replacement players ready to step in when a starter is injured, sick, or needs to tend to a personal matter. If the Yanks miss the playoffs by a game, I'll be disappointed, but not the least in Tex's decision to take these past two games off.

As for the replacement matching his production, I think it's unreasonable to expect that. You're lucky if your bench players can duplicate your starters, but you can't expect that. Tex's job responsibilities were not left unattended. Someone attended to them. When a ball was hit or thrown to first base, there was someone there to catch it. If they didn't, that's not Tex's responsibility. Someone batted 3rd in his absence. Whether they produced in that spot is not his responsibility while he's away.

30 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 12, 2010 3:10 pm

[29] Come on...do you really think the Yankees are responsible for having players capable of replacing the likes of Teixeira? That's impossible. This isn't the "real world" where someone can take a shift or run a meeting. The reason Tex makes $20mn is because very few players can do what he does.

Defining Tex' job responsibilities so narrowly is misleading. The Yankees don't pay Tex to fill a position. They Pay him to be among the best players in the game. It's Tex' responsibility to be on the field as much as possible.

Personally, I think Teixeira should have played last night, again assuming there were no complications from the delivery. I don’t think taking an extra day is an egregious action, especially because the Yankees seemed more than willing to give it to him, but I do think his responsibility to the team is not irrelevant.

31 Sliced Bread   ~  Aug 12, 2010 3:11 pm

[29] you could argue that the Yankees great investment in Tex makes him somewhat obligated to help train his replacement in his absence, offer pointers on fielding the position, helping his replacement become a better hitter -- but I don't think you can hold Tex responsible if his replacement fails to duplicate his usual performance.

32 Sliced Bread   ~  Aug 12, 2010 3:13 pm

[30] agree to disagree with me, Tex, and the Yankees on this.

33 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 12, 2010 3:15 pm

[31] I think we just have a fundamental disagreement. The only responsibility that I think Tex has is to make sure he plays to the best of his ability as often as possible. I think witnessing the birth of a child is an acceptable absence, but I am not so sure about taking a second day.

34 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 12, 2010 3:18 pm

[32] I can definitely see both sides of the coin. I don't think either position is extreme. I do, however, dismiss the notion that it is a cut and dried situation.

35 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 12, 2010 3:19 pm

Speaking of family situations....the Krod fiasco is incredible.

36 Sliced Bread   ~  Aug 12, 2010 3:27 pm

[34] I agree it's not a cut and dried situation. I think each team should handle it however it sees fit. I don't think the Players Association needs to dictate how teams handle these matters. I suspect most teams are reasonable, and I consider 2 days/2 games very reasonable.

bottomline: I don't think Tex's responsibility to play as often as possible is more important than his responsibility to be with his family for a few days under these circumstances.

37 Eddie Lee Whitson KO   ~  Aug 12, 2010 4:28 pm

[0] you have a style that is all your own and I can't read it fast enough. A true gem, you are!
[23] there is nothing guilty about loving the Princess Bride. An absolute classic that I have passed down to my son. And then we won!

No more rhymes now I mean it!

38 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Aug 13, 2010 1:29 am

[35] Crazy crazy..maybe Wally Backman will make it all better!

Oh, and athletes are notoriously awful fathers..I think that is well established by this point?

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