"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

You Gotta Have Wa

As crazy as it might sound, I don’t get as much pleasure out of watching the Yankees beat up on Josh Beckett anymore. He’s still the bad guy, but it simply isn’t as much fun when you expect him to get rocked, you know? Heck, even Red Sox fans are tired of him, so it’s hard for me to summon the energy to despise him. The cocky, young kid who silenced the Yankee bats to clinch a World Series almost a decade ago has somehow become just another pitcher, kind of like the neighborhood dog that chased you mercilessly when you were a kid, but years later couldn’t rise from his front porch.

And so it was on Sunday night.

Derek Jeter jumped on Beckett’s second pitch of the night and sent it deep over the head of Jacoby Ellsbury in center field for a double, and eventually came home on a two-out double from Curtis Granderson, and the Yanks were off and running. Beckett was stewing.

That one run almost looked like it would be enough. Hiroki Kuroda was on the mound for the Yankees, fresh off his two-hit shutout of the Texas Rangers, and he picked up right where he left off. He set down the first eight hitters without incident before Nick Punto singled, then cruised through the next three innings allowing just another harmless single. Suddenly it wasn’t much of a stretch to imagine him starting Game 1 in October.

To give Kuroda a bit of a cushion, the Yankee hitters chipped in a run here and a run there. With one out in the third, Jeter replayed his first inning at bat and crushed another double over Ellsbury’s head, this one bouncing over the wall. Nick Swisher followed that with a walk, and then Jeter and Swisher pulled off a double steal without a throw. Beckett’s next pitch skipped away from Jarod Saltalamacchia, allowing Jeter to score, and it was 2-0.

In the fourth inning, Ichiro came up to the plate with two outs. I always liked watching Ichiro hit, so it hasn’t been hard for me to start rooting for him as a Yankee. You would always here people talk about how he would effortlessly put balls into the seats during batting practice and claim that he could hit twenty or thirty homers a season if he wanted to, and he gave proof in this at bat. Beckett left a pitch up in the zone, and Ichiro jumped all over it, rifling it into the seats in right for a 3-0 Yankee lead. Two innings later he shot another ball into the bleachers, just because he could. I know the Moneyball folks led an OPS-driven backlash against Ichiro early in his career, but as he stepped to the top of the dugout steps, lifting his helmet to reveal his greying hair as he acknowledged the cheering crowd, I could only think that this was one of the best hitters ever to play the game.

Kuroda was still on the mound in the top of the seventh when the revitalized Adrian González homered to right. Since González plays first base for my fantasy team (Mike Pagliarulo Fan Club), I couldn’t get too broken up over it, and neither did Kuroda, though perhaps for different reasons. He finished the seventh, then ended his night by setting down the Sox in order in the eighth. Rafael Soriano untucked the ninth, and the game was over. Yankees 4, Red Sox 1.

[Photo Credit: Jason Szenes/Getty Images]

Categories:  1: Featured  Game Recap  Hank Waddles  Yankees

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1 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Aug 20, 2012 7:26 am

Go Go Ichiro! Love watching him and Jeter, so much more fun than three-true-outcomes dinosaurs-in-a-tar-pit players like Adam Dunn.

2 ms october   ~  Aug 20, 2012 7:50 am

watching the two thin, grey haired old dogs last night was very rewarding.
they both seemed to have beckett timed perfectly. when ichiro stepped in the box for his second homer he seemed to be lining it up, and jeter seemed to be able to turn on those two doubles pretty easily.

i admit i as a bit concerned the kuroda might have a tough time adjusting to the al east and yankee stadium given some of his peripherals the last few years, but he has been outstanding and a real treat to watch.

3 monkeypants   ~  Aug 20, 2012 9:22 am

[1] The funny thing is that I agree. I have long felt that Ichiro is vastly overrated, and still do. But that being said, I far prefer his and Jeter's game aesthetically to the way the game developed in the 90s (though the development traces its roots back, of course, to Babe Ruth).

Offense is down this year. Who knows, maybe the league will cycle back to the 1970s and 1980s, so speed and contact players may be more valuable?

4 monkeypants   ~  Aug 20, 2012 9:27 am

Oh, and beating a dead horse. Where Jeter will end up on the all time hits list really depends on what he does the next couple of seasons (obviously). Of course the most likely path is steep decline and/or injury. But what if he has more of a Rose or, better, Appling career arc?

Appling had fine seasons from age 39 through 42, averaging about 140 G/season and 160 hits, all while playing SS. If Jeter does the same, he would end his age 42 season at around 3900 or 4000 hits, and then things get really interesting.

The odds are certainly long, but...

5 RIYank   ~  Aug 20, 2012 9:31 am

Hank, you don't think Kuroda has a fantasy team?

6 Jon DeRosa   ~  Aug 20, 2012 9:58 am

[4] If Jeter gets to 4000 hits by 42, I think he plows through and takes the record. After you get to certain points in your career, like Ripken and Rose, the pursuit of the record is more important to everybody than being any good.

7 ms october   ~  Aug 20, 2012 10:00 am

[4] it is going to be really interesting to see how it plays out.
if arod continues to spend significant time on the dl over the next few years, that should help jeter's quest as well, since it opens up dh at-bats for him.
just so many different factors.

8 rbj   ~  Aug 20, 2012 10:27 am

[6] I had to drop the game thread last night, as my touchpad decided to become "uncooperative." If Derek does get to 4000, he goes on to pursue the record, and the Yankees find a spot for him. He's not going to get the record as a Royal.

Just not sure he will feel the need to go for the record, his legacy is intact, no need to add a tarnished ending to it. Productive Jeter plays, unproductive record chaser Jeter doesn't play.

9 Jon DeRosa   ~  Aug 20, 2012 10:31 am

[8] I agree unless he gets close enough for the enitre baseball world to sniff the record. And to get close enough, he'd have to be pretty productive, so it's all kind of saying the same thing. But, if I had to guess, he's not getting to 4100 and hanging them up.

10 krad   ~  Aug 20, 2012 10:37 am

Minor correction: Ryan Lavarnway was catching -- Saltalamacchia was the DH -- so the wild pitch that scored the second run got by the Yalie.

11 rbj   ~  Aug 20, 2012 10:50 am

[9] No one is getting to 4100 and hanging them up. Barring catastrophic injury. And I don't think anyone would gainsay such a person. If you're 157 hits away from the record, everyone is going to pull for you. Probably some opposing pitchers are even going to serve you some meatballs.

12 Jon DeRosa   ~  Aug 20, 2012 11:03 am


Using Pete Rose as the example, it's hard to imagine Jeter putting up a year like Rose did in his 42 year old season, being 266 hits away and signing up to come back.

13 Chris   ~  Aug 20, 2012 12:57 pm

Watching Ichiro take Beckett deep twice last night was super sweet for me. He's hitting .322 with 3 HRs in 87 ABs with Yanks. Not only is he not overrated, he's not washed up either.

14 krad   ~  Aug 20, 2012 2:13 pm

Pete Rose was also aided in his pursuit of the hits record by a very understanding manager -- Pete Rose, the last of the player-managers, who put his record ahead of what was good for the team.

15 monkeypants   ~  Aug 20, 2012 2:30 pm

[14] There's a little bit of bullshit in that analysis. Rose was traded in the middle of the 1984 season to the Reds, where he became player manager. He was only player-manager until the middle of 1986. He broke the all-time hits record near the end of 1985. He played pretty well for the Reds in 1984 while playing himself in only 26 games (he was pretty bad for the Expos and Phillies in the previous couple of seasons). He was not terrible in 1985 (99 OPS+) and again played himself in only 119 games. It was really only in 1986, after he had broken the record, that he played himself to the severe detriment his team.

The reality is that once he got close to the record, by say 1983 or 1984, breaking it was inevitable. No manager---Pete Rose or otherwise---was going to *not* play Pete Rose enough to prevent him from the record. His attaining the record was enabled far more by his non-Pete-Rose managers in 1982-1984 than it was by himself writing himself into the lineup.

16 monkeypants   ~  Aug 20, 2012 2:32 pm

[15] And don't get me wrong: Rose was and is a royal jackass and one selfish sumbitch.

17 kenboyer made me cry   ~  Aug 20, 2012 2:39 pm

Without Wa players, the Yankees probably don't compete in the playoffs. Kuroda is the consummate professional who knows the art of pitching.

Can't say enough about Ichiro. He swings the bat like he's playing tennis with it. Maybe he now realizes that the can reach the short fence in right at will, and will go that way more. He's on to something...

It's so great having a cartoon superhero on the Yankees roster for us fans.

18 Boatzilla   ~  Aug 20, 2012 6:41 pm

[14] [15] Wait up. Rose had good money on those games. ;>) If he hurt the team he had plenty of reason too. Don't bust I guy for going with the odds.

19 Boatzilla   ~  Aug 20, 2012 6:43 pm

Great title, Hank. That was a very pleasurable victory for me.

I wonder if Ichiro is going start coloring his hair blue, or green or fuchsia, like so many oldies do here. I kid you not, we have 80-year old grannies looking like punk rockers.

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