"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

The Sky Is Falling

Some games bother me more than others. This one bothered me a lot. It all started well, with Bartolo Colón dispelling fears of his demise with the type of outing we had become accustomed to during the first few months of the season. Once again featuring fastballs, fastballs, and more fastballs, Colón demonstrated how a 92-MPH pitch on the corner can be much more effective than a 96-MPH heater down the middle. He struck out at least one batter in each frame and pitched into the seventh inning with his only trouble coming in the fifth when he yielded a booming triple to Sam Fuld (from… Stanford University!) and an RBI single to Reid Brignac. He would finish with an impressive line: 6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K.

Colón’s opponent on this day was young Jeremy Hellickson. According to everything I’ve heard about Hellickson, he’s one of the best young pitchers in baseball, and he did nothing on Tuesday to make me think otherwise. Like Colón, Hellickson was dominant all night long, and like Colón, he had only one troublesome inning. His was the third, when Mark Teixeira laced a two-out double down the line in right, and Robinson Canó followed with an extra large home run just to the left of center field.

Through the middle innings, as Colón was rocking back and firing darts to one corner of the plate or the other, the game seemed to be unfolding perfectly. In the sixth my youngest daughter looked up from her Polly Pockets, noticed the score (“We’re winning, Daddy!”) and innocently asked me which team I thought would win. Was there any doubt? Colón would finish the seventh, David Robertson would take the eighth, and He Who Need Not Be Named would close the windows and lock the doors in the ninth.

But then things got crazy. If you didn’t watch the game, you might have scanned the play-by-play and figured that Joe Girardi waited too long to pull the trigger and pull Colón, and then foolishly chose Boone Logan to replace him. That’s not the way it happened.

Let me tell you the story of the most ridiculous inning of baseball I’ve ever seen. First, B.J. Upton struck out. That’s not ridiculous, that’s just what B.J. Upton does. Next Robinson Chirinos pulled a grounder deep into the hole at short and beat Derek Jeter’s jump throw by an eyelash. When Sean Rodríguez rifled a single to right, Girardi went to Logan.

The next line on the play-by-play says “J Ruggiano singled to center, R Chirinos to third, S Rodríguez to second.” In your head that probably paints an image of a line drive hit directly to Curtis Granderson with such pace that Chirinos had no choice but to stay at third. Not so. Justin Ruggiano (pinch hitting for Fuld) lofted a lazy fly to straightaway center field, and as Granderson moved a few steps towards the ball it looked like Logan was an out away from squelching the rally. But then Granderson’s arms suddenly flew out from his sides in the universal gesture for “I can’t believe we’re playing baseball in this ridiculous stadium.” A second later the ball fell at his feet and the bases were loaded.

Rays skipper Joe Maddon smelled blood in the water, so he immediately played his ace in the hole, the fearsome Elliot Johnson. Johnson pounded a simple one-hopper back to Logan, a picture-perfect double play ball that would end the inning, preserve the lead, and usher in Robertson and the Great One. But the ball skipped off the top of Logan’s glove for an error, Chirinos scored, and the game was tied at two.

According to the play-by-play, Johnny Damon came up next and hit a sacrifice fly to center. You might picture a blast to the warning track, but that’s not quite what happened. Logan jammed Damon on an 0-1 pitch, breaking his bat. The ball floated out towards no-man’s land behind second base, but Granderson was able to race in to make a sliding catch not more than ten or twenty yards behind the bag. Since he had to leave his feet, though, Rodríguez was able to tag up and score from third and the Rays were up to stay. Final score: Rays 3, Yankees 2.

Oh, one other note for those clamoring for the return of Ivan Nova: we probably won’t see him for a while. He left his start in Scranton on Tuesday night with an ankle issue.

But don’t worry. Everything will be okay. I promise.

[Photo Credit: Mike Carlson/Associated Press]



Categories:  1: Featured  Game Recap  Hank Waddles  Yankees

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1 a.O   ~  Jul 20, 2011 9:39 am

The Tampon dome is a disgrace to baseball.

2 rbj   ~  Jul 20, 2011 9:57 am

Not going to stress last night. Sometimes there are quirky games. Colon looked good, should have won, but, eh, things happen.

[1] Yup. The Rays need to put up a new ballpark.

3 kenboyer made me cry   ~  Jul 20, 2011 12:09 pm

Just one snake bit inning that was quirky and not of bad play by the Yankees (save for Boone's botch) flipped the script and they lost. Colon was great as was Hellickson and it was a tight game. I hate that they lost it...elite teams find a way to win these (like they did the night before).

[1] That stadium is ridiculous and dangerous, did you see the light shatter over the field in the Sox-Rays game over the weekend? But even if a state-of-the-art stadium is built, will fans come? The Tampa area is populated by fixed income seniors (less affluent than South Florida retirees), and after early bird dinner cannot afford a baseball game that ends too late. The retired NYers and NEers fill the stadium when their life teams come to town, but I don't believe a local fan base in Tampa will ever reach critical mass.

My wild idea for today, is for the Rays to move to Portland, OR so they have a natural rivalry with the M's and the A's in the West, and for the Marlins to switch over to the AL to fill out the East division for the pleasure of the displaced Yanks and Sox fans in South Florida. The Marlins are getting a new stadium in the Miami area, and would certainly look forward to the sell-outs with these visiting teams and other Northern teams with lots of Florida retiree fans (Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland). Then, move Pittsburgh to the NL East to equalize the divisions.

And there you have it, 15 teams per league.

4 a.O   ~  Jul 20, 2011 12:55 pm

[3] You are absolutely correct about the stadium and about the fans in Tampon Bay. Even Joe Maddon last year said he was worried that the stadium, specifically the rings around the roof, would have some undue effect on a playoff game. MLB should deem the stadium unfit and give the Rays a couple of years to do something else. And I think it was clear from their extremely poor attendance during the penant races of the past few years that the city(ies) is not capable of supporting a team. How embarrassing must it be to have more Yankees fans than Rays fans at your home games? And who would want to watch baseball indoors in Florida anyway? The whole concept is absurd. Not to mention the irony of the team's name.

I love your idea for re-alignment. I was part of the group (Bring Major League Baseball to Portland) that made the original push in the early 2000s for building a dedicated baseball stadium downtown or sufficiently renovating PGE Park to make it MLB-ready. And we got hammered by public opinion. Portland or any other governmental agency like Metro or Multnomah County will probably never approve any sort of public funding for a baseball stadium, even in good times, and it is questionable whether Portland would (not could) support a MLB team. You may know that we just lost the Beavers, the PCL franchise we've had for something like 90 years after they were run out of town by the soccer baron who has set up shop here in PGE Park with the Timbers. And Portland has now gone crazy for the Timbers, making baseball even less viable. Sigh. Anyway, Portland's probably a no-go for the foreseeable future. But it is continuing to grow, and the Portland Development Commission has shown a willingness to fund things that bring people downtown, so maybe someday...

5 Hank Waddles   ~  Jul 20, 2011 2:16 pm

[3] and [4] We took a trip to the Northwest last summer and spent a couple days in Portland. I think it would be great to see a team there. It's a great city, and all great cities should have baseball.

6 kenboyer made me cry   ~  Jul 20, 2011 3:23 pm

[4] Portland is the largest metropolitan area in the U.S. without a MLB team, except for Riverside-San Bernardino which really is a secondary market to LA/Orange county. Just a non-scientific feeling, but if a team is brought to Portland, the fans will come. The market is affluent and growing, and supports a major sports team with the Timberwolves. It would also be great if Nike, based in Beaverton, led the charge. Portland is perceived as second fiddle to Seattle in the NW, and the rivalry with the Mariners would be thick, and probably take on Yanks-Sox proportions in time.

7 kenboyer made me cry   ~  Jul 20, 2011 3:34 pm

[6] Oops...I meant to say Trailblazers (not Timberwolves). I hate these senior moments that are beginning to surface as I reach my middle 50's.

8 a.O   ~  Jul 20, 2011 3:56 pm

[6] Nike was a big part of the Bring MLB to Portland group. We put together all sorts of socioeconomic statistics to show Portland *could* support a team (even though DC was a way better economic option and, of course, won the Expos). The backlash was substantial. People were driving around with bumper stickers that said "Bring Major League Education to Portland." Our polling showed that nearly 70% of Portlanders were against using public funds for a baseball stadium, so it was politically impossible to get any momentum for that. And without public funding, a stadium was pretty much DOA. If anything, the political situation is worse now because of the recession. On the other hand, the economic impact of the Timbers (our MLS franchise) has been huge and that serves as a good example for what MLB could offer. If we revive the effort, the success of the Timbers will be our cornerstone.

The Portland-Seattle rivalry is a funny one. It has definitely taken off with the Timbers-Sounders games. But it's a bit like the America-Canada rivalry. Portland takes it very seriously, but Seattleites seem to hardly know Portland exists. And for most people it's more about who has the better beer, restaurants, and bands than who has the better sports team.

Anyway, I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one dreaming of a Seattle-Portland baseball rivalry. I'd steal a team from Florida or Oakland or anywhere else in a heartbeat if I could. A downtown stadium on the old Post Office site with a view of Mt Hood would be a dream come true for me.

9 kenboyer made me cry   ~  Jul 20, 2011 4:17 pm

[8] Keep the dream alive!

I also believe that direct public funding should not finance a MLB stadium. Infrastructure improvements, maybe even guarantying bonds but not direct funding. A successful baseball team brings in tax revenue, and enhances private investment. They didn't want the new stadiums in Seattle or SF either, but now everyone supports them. I believe that bicycle riding women wearing plaid shirts in Portland would eventually love their local nine. a.O, you are more of an expert than me on the subject so I know I'm preaching to the choir.

10 a.O   ~  Jul 20, 2011 4:37 pm

[9] Girls on bicycles is my other dream (fetish?), one that's much more real in PDX these days.

We need Phil Knight to just pay for a stadium himself -- we know he can afford it! But probably you're right that there is some financial model that avoids direct public investment that would be acceptable to Portlanders. You're also definitely right that the former opposition in places like Denver, Seattle, and SF is now long gone and they are all success stories for urban economic (re-)development.

I feel like it's mostly about finding a good window of opportunity. We probably rightfully lost out to DC on the Expos, but now they're out of the running and as you point out that pretty much leaves just us as the last good market without a team.

But there actually are some other intriguing options. As soon as Vegas loses its stigma, it will immediately become the front runner. And San Jose could perhaps support a third Bay-area team. I'm a little surprised Vancouver, BC has not been considered for a team. It's a huge market and they like baseball up there. The sacrilege of Canadian baseball has already proved successful to some excent and it would give Toronto a natural rival despite the geographic distance. Then there's Salt Lake. Baseball is sufficiently wholesome for Mormons. It would give the Rockies a natural rival and we would get another high-altitude launching pad where clowns like Giambi could finish out their careers.

But I digress.

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