Brilliant in the warm sun, cool in the shadows. This picture by our man Bags speaks to what it’s like in New York today.
Brilliant in the warm sun, cool in the shadows. This picture by our man Bags speaks to what it’s like in New York today.
Prior to the game the buzz was all about Joe Girardi and that funky, Tony LaRussa lineup he threw out for Wednesday’s tilt with the Rockies. Starting pitcher David Phelps was in the eighth spot, and catcher Austin Romine was ninth. Girardi’s explanation made a little bit of sense — he anticipated using a left-hander to pinch-hit for Phelps at some point, and with Brett Gardner and Robinson Canó at the top of the lineup, he didn’t want to have three lefties in a row. Also, he said he liked that after the lineup turned over, he’d have two hitters in front of Canó. Of course, he could simply bat Canó third like any sensible person would, but none of it really seemed to matter as much as the media wanted it to.
What did matter, was that the top of the lineup produced two runs early and young David Phelps pitched one of the best games of his brief career. Gardner led off with a bloop single down the line in left and — brace yourself — stole second on the first pitch to Canó. Canó later flied out, but when Vernon Wells followed with a shot into the seats in left, the Yanks were up 2-0.
As for Phelps, he found some trouble in the second inning when rising star Wilin Rosario (the loan bright spot on my struggling fantasy team, by the way) smacked the first pitch he saw into the gap in right center for an easy double and first baseman emeritus Todd Helton followed that with a homer to right to tie the score at two. After that? Smooth sailing for Phelps as he retired thirteen of the next fifteen batters, yielding just a walk and a single to finish six strong innings. No one will ever see Phelps as a top of the rotation guy, but I’d love to pencil him as the fourth starter for the next five years.
I have to admit that I fell asleep for the bottom of the seventh and top of the eighth, so wasn’t until a few minutes ago when I looked at the play-by-play that I missed something eventful. First, the Yankees have someone named Preston Claiborne; he pitched a scoreless seventh. Second, and this is the big news, the Rockies took the unorthodox step of using two pitchers at once, bringing in the Rex Brothers for the eighth. Not surprisingly, they used their advantage to set the Yankees down in order.
The ninth inning was all about Vernon Wells. He led off with an infield single, then took for second a few pitches later on what looked to be a busted hit and run. He should’ve been out by about a yard, but shortstop Juan Herrera dropped Rosario’s throw, and Wells was in scoring position with no one out. Lyle Overbay worked a walk, Ichiro bunted them over to second and third, Lance Nix walked to load the bases, but Travis Hafner struck out, leaving things to pinch-hitter Brennan Boesch with two outs. Boesch hit a grounder to third, apparently ending the threat, but Nolan Arenado double-clutched before making the throw, and Boesch was able to beat the play by an eyelash, allowing Wells to score the go-ahead run.
The Great One came on to pitch the ninth, which means the recap would normally end here, but Girardi was up to his old tricks again. When he sent Hafner to hit for Chris Nelson in the top of the ninth, he lost his third baseman. He could’ve kept Hafner at third, except that the Pronkster hasn’t thrown a ball in a major league game since 2007, nor has he played anywhere in the field aside from first base. So with Jorge Posada retired and Francisco Cervelli on the disabled list, Girardi did the only thing he could do — he put Wells at third. (If he doesn’t play Rivera in center before the year is out, I’ll be sorely disappointed.)
Naturally, the second batter of the inning bounced a ball to third. From the upper deck, I’m sure Wells looked like any other third baseman as he ranged comfortably to his left, fielded the big hop, and fired to first for the out. Perhaps he’ll get the start on Wednesday afternoon.
Rivera did the rest, notching his twelfth straight save. Yankees 3, Rockies 2. (Here’s something to watch for. It’s early, but the way this team is constructed, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Rivera actually topped his career high of 53 saves from back in 2004. Then he’d walk off into the sunset with a Cy Young Award, just like Koufax. Wouldn’t that be poetic?)
[Photo Credit: Dustin Bradford/Getty Images]
I live smack in the middle of the N.L. West, but it’s still a complete mystery to me. There’s nothing at all impressive about the San Francisco Giants, except that they’ve won two of the past three World Series. For all the talk of the Dodgers and their cable deal (and their payroll) becoming the Yankees of the West, they’re floundering in last place. There’s no more beautiful city in America than San Diego, and yet the Padres haven’t been able to reel in an interesting free agent since they bagged Garvey in 1983 and added Gossage and Nettles in ’84.
And then there are the Colorado Rockies. With a lineup devoid of superstars, unless you count Todd Helton, who seems to have been playing since the Jurassic era, the Rockies have somehow found themselves at the top of this, the strangest division in baseball.
In many ways, the Rockies must’ve felt like they were looking in a mirror when the makeshift Yankees trotted out onto the field on Tuesday night. Remember when Jim Leyland famously referred to the Yankees’ fearsome 2006 lineup as Murders’ Row and Robby Canó? Well, last night’s group looked like Robinson and the Seven Dwarves, with starter Hiroki Kuroda batting ninth in the National League park.
With Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and Alex Rodríguez all in Tampa and Kevin Youkilis also on the shelf, it’s a wonder the Yankees haven’t simply raised the white flag for the season. It’s been an admirable effort, and at times it’s even been fun to watch, as they’ve kept things together through these first six weeks. On Tuesday, though, they raised the white flag.
Kuroda wasn’t exactly brilliant, but he was certainly good enough to win as he cruised through the first five innings, allowing just three base runners over those opening frames. The Yankees, meanwhile, weren’t doing much more than pestering Rockies starter Jorge de la Rosa with more stolen bases (4) than hits (3), and the game was a scoreless tie as Colorado came up in the home half of the sixth.
The inning started innocently enough as Kuroda needed just two pitches for the first two outs, and when he gave up a single to Jeff Rutledge with his fourth pitch of the frame, there was certainly no cause for concern. Some people might have questioned my earlier statement claiming the Rockies had no superstars, and they would’ve cited Carlos González in their argument. But since I wouldn’t have recognized González if he had been watching the game with me from my living room couch, I’m not ready to elevate him to that elite level. Even after he deposited a Kuroda fastball into the right field seats, I still won’t do it. He’s a good player, I’ll give him that.
And that, essentially, was that. Sure, there was some hope when Brett Gardner pinch hit in the seventh and led off with a walk, but that hope started to fade as Gardner sat on first, refusing to steal second even though he had already watched Lance Nix and Chris Stewart (Chris Stewart!) pull off the trick. It disappeared completely when Colorado’s prodigal son ended the inning by grounding into a double play.
There will be games like this for these Yankees, and if we’re really honest with ourselves, we should be less surprised by games like this than when they somehow rack up seven or eight runs. But who knows? Maybe that surprise is coming tonight.
[Photo Credit: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images]
The sun hung up through the early evening begging for some baseball to be played. Anyway, that’s what I thought. One boy wanted to race scooters with a legion of cohorts. The other wanted to dig for buried treasure – gold, jewels, something ancient. “If it’s valuable, we can sell it and become rich and famous.” I stood with the bat on my shoulder. Baseball had to wait.
We heard the bracing cough before we came through the door. Pregnant to popping and sick with cold and fever, my wife was holed up in bed. We shut her door and proceeded towards bedtime with the boys taking advantage of me when they could, as always. The Yankees were already in the second inning, I guessed. Baseball would have to wait some more.
“The laundry bag looks like a ghost,” Henry said. He has chosen a bedtime story about a boy who imagines monsters for three nights in a row and he’s mastering the racket. Last night is was a painting of a giraffe that’s been stationed on his wall since before he was born. The Yankees must be halfway to a win by now.
When I came out to warm up Chinese food and watch the game, I found my wife stretched out on the couch. “All I want to do is to fall asleep with the TV on,” she said. I didn’t have the heart to suggest a ballgame and I figured I would try to catch the ninth if Mariano was pitching. But to my surprise, she already had the TV switched to the Yanks and Astros.
I came in just as Kuroda found his groove and the Yanks scored some runs. Kuroda was as terrific as you can be after being terrible for a few innings. The first part of the game must have been a sluggish affair with all the base runners and walks.
David Robertson had one of those innings where he looks like the best pitcher in baseball but lets up two runs including a big homer. He absolutely blew the Astros away except for when the Yankee shift turned a ground out to short into a single. He had his chance to strike out Chris Carter, just about any kind of pitch in any spot would have done it, but the one Robertson threw unluckily hit Carter’s bat and ended up 20 rows deep.
Mariano had a night a little bit like mine. He was all set to go when Robertson hit Carter’s bat, but then the Yanks added a whole bunch of insurance in the ninth. Eduardo Nunez had an especially nice game and Ichiro and Hafner chipped in as well. Mariano sat back down, figuring it wasn’t his night. But Shawn Kelley got touched up and the score got close enough for Mariano to earn a save with one sweet strikeout, 7-4.
Winning is always worth the wait.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images via ESPN
One trip through the Blue Jays’ order and Hiroki Kuroda did not look long for this April Night. The first eleven batters racked up six hits, all bullets. Kuroda rolled a double play and stranded some runners, or else Toronto’s two homers would have accounted for more than the three runs they got. The Jays could be forgiven if they thought they were going to romp.
But Kuroda worked through his early-bird specials and began serving up the good stuff by striking out Jose Bautista to end the second. That began a string of 13 of 14 Jays who wouldn’t reach base – the only runner safe on Lyle Overbay’s error in the 4th. It was a resilient performance and the Yankees didn’t waste it.
Robinson Cano again tested the breadth of his back and found it stout enough to carry the team to victory with a three-run shot in the third. Francisco Cervelli and Vernon Wells bookended Cano with solo blasts and the scoring held at 5-3 for a satisfying Yankee win.
Cano’s homer came on a 3-1 “fastball” from Mark Buehrle. Buehrle seemed to hit his spot on the inside corner, but he had two problems – he threw it 86 MPH and he threw it to Robinson Cano. Cano’s so quick on the inside pitch that he can get the barrel to a much faster pitch in the same location. Say what you will about his hitting approach, he doesn’t often get jammed.
Flip to the ninth inning and consider what Mariano Rivera, pitching as well at 43 years old, I’m pretty confident, as any pitcher in Major League history, did to Colby Rasmus with pitches is the same vicinity. Obviously, the cutting action of Rivera’s pitch separates it from Buehrle’s, but even more telling than the pitch action and velocity is the swing path.
As Rasmus whiffed at two of Rivera’s insidious cutters and scragged a bat on a true devil, I drifted off imagining a match-up between Cano and Mo. I think Mariano would be able to use Robbie’s aggressiveness and get him to chase high pitches. But I bet Cano would fair better against the inside/outside cutter gambit than almost any other left-handed batter.
I snapped out of it just in time to witness a true
“Mo-Classic” (I woke up realizing that this should be a “Mo-fecta”) – three up, three down; strike out swinging, broken bat, strike out looking. I wonder how many times he’s done that in his career?
Photo by Kathy Willens via AP/ESPN
The Diamondbacks? In April? Oh, very well.
Brett Gardner CF
Robinson Cano 2B
Kevin Youkils 3B
Travis Hafner DH
Vernon Wells LF
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Eduardo Nunez SS
Lyle Overbay 1B
Chris Stewart C
Never mind the weirdness:
Let’s Go Yank-ees!
[Photo Credit: Bags]
Nothing better than magic hour in the city, especially when it’s warm out. I was reminded of how much I enjoy those precious moments when I saw this picture by our man Bags.
On the way to lunch this afternoon I spotted a shiny new Frito Lay delivery truck, adorned with navy blue pinstripes and a giant interlocking NY on the back door. I tried to maneuver to get a picture for tonight, but a baked potato cart was blocking the good stuff. Ah well, I thought, the Yanks probably won’t hit enough to warrant a score truck picture anyway.
If you didn’t see the game and are reading this for the first time on Wednesday morning, the good news is you had two hits last night and one of them was a homer that went about 420 feet. The Yankees reached .500 with a 14-1 victory over the Indians with an offensive explosion that overshadowed a second fine performance from Andy Pettitte.
The hit parade featured every Yankee starter but Hafner. They pounded out five homers (Cano, Ichiro, Youkilis, Boesch and Overbay) and six doubles. Around those bases the Yankees shall roam.
Speaking of parades, this weekend was the opening ceremony for the Inwood Little League. It’s over-the-top in all the right ways and the kids felt 100 feet tall walking up Broadway.
Google maps tells me the parade route was 1.25 miles. If I asked my kids to walk a quarter mile to get an ice cream soda and meet Spiderman, they’d fall down on their knees in tears accusing me of child abuse. They did this walk without complaint with pants drooping down around their ankles, hats falling over their eyes and carrying a banner designed specifically to make them trip over like the Keystone Cops.
If there are further notable items from our family’s first foray into organized baseball, I’ll let you know.
The Yankees won their first game of the 2013 season like they have won so many others – with Andy Pettitte throwing the first pitch and Mariano Rivera throwing the last. As contemplating the starting lineup remains a daily dose of disappointment, Andy and Mo served much-needed notice to all us sad-sack fans – there is still something very special about rooting for the Yankees.
After CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda issued the Red Sox seven free bases in 6.3 innings, Andy Pettitte reminded us of the benefits of staying in and around the strike zone. He walked only one in eight strong innings and avoided trouble almost all night long. Three ground balls with men on base turned into three double plays. On the third double play, the key play to getting Andy through the eighth, an audible “hoot” leapt from my couch. I was surprised to learn it came from my throat.
Brett Gardner and Francisco Cervelli hit solo homers to give the Yankees a little breathing room in the ninth and set the stage for Mariano’s return to the mound for the first time since his knee injury last May. Mariano’s cutter broke sharply throughout his outing and, as David Cone noted, looks more and more like a suped-up slider every year.
He battled Dustin Pedroia but lost him to a walk when the umpire didn’t bite on a 2-2 pitch just off the corner. It was a ball, but it’s a call Mariano gets nearly every time. Jonny Gomes yoinked a double just over the third base bag which set up Pedroia to score on the second out of the inning. Even though the tying run was up in the form of very impressive rookie Jackie Bradley, there was no need to fret. Mariano gave the lefty-hitting rook a time-capsule experience.
The first pitch was the show-me cutter, hard and low but over the plate for a called strike. The second pitch started on the inner half and rode so far in on Bradley’s hands he could do nothing but foul it off his own chest. And on the third pitch Mariano pegged a blue dart at the outside corner which might as well been a mile away to poor Bradley. It was a ball, but the umpire finally caught on to what was happening and rung him up. Yanks 4, Sox 2.
It was the 69th time Mo saved one of Andy’s wins. But as familiar as it was, it’s also the new blueprint they’re going to have to follow to win while the lineup features the understudies. Starting pitcher keeps it close. A few timely hits and good defense. Bullpen holds the line.
There ‘s no shame about not being geeked up for this season given the injuries and the looming payroll decisions. I’ve haven’t been less personally invested in the Yankees since 1982, but I’m sure glad I watched this one.
After the owners and players agreed on the most recent CBA, the Yankees, and everybody who followed the Yankees, saw there was a giant, flaming loophole begging to be jumped through in 2014. It’s entirely possible the loophole was forged and set aflame specifically to incentivize the Yankees to lower their payroll – temporarily or otherwise.
The Yankees, as gleeful, recidivist violators of the salary threshold, stand to be punished at ever-increasing rates according to the new CBA. However, if they get under the salary limit in 2014 ($189 million), they can reset their clock. The next time they go over, which we all hope and pray will be 2015, they will be punished as first time offenders and save a ton of dough.
Thus a goal was born in the winter of 2011 - to trim annual salary from the customary $210 million down to $189 million within two years. This is made more difficult because the Yankees owe a lot of money to CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira in 2014, and Alex and Teix no longer play up to their paychecks. To field a World Series contender in 2014 would take creativity, starting right then and there.
Spending big on free agents isn’t as easy under these new constraints, but there are other ways to acquire talent. International free agents have no track record and less bargaining power, so their first contracts are often very reasonable. Posting fees don’t count towards the salary cap and the contracts that follow them are also very reasonable.
Of course without the Major League track record comes a huge risk of getting a crappy, Kei-Igawa-level talent. That’s why the Yankees usually have an advantage when it comes time to sign them; they can absorb that hit better than anyone else. The Yankees employed Hideki Irabu, Orlando Hernandez, Jose Contreras, Hideki Matsui and Kei Igawa via these routes and, on the whole, they received excellent return on their investments.
Two major players came down the pike just after the Yankees signed the CBA. The Oakland A’s Yoenis Cespedes was one of the best outfielders in the American League last year. He makes nine million dollars a year.
Rather than find out just how much ground Brett Gardner can cover, the Yankees just gave Ichiro Suzuki a two year commitment for $13 million. And now they’ve pumped more 2014 cash into Vernon Wells, where’s there’s plenty of room where his baseball talent used to be. There no question that Cespedes was a risk, but I have a hard time thinking he was a bigger risk of failure than the players who have already proven they have straight sucked eggs for the last two years.
Yu Darvish was hot topic around here last year and he divided the room. Japanese pitchers have faired poorly in the USA, though not universally, domo arigato Kuroda-san, and Darvish came attached to a big posting fee. He won 16 and struck out 221 in 191 innings for the Rangers. He walked too many and wasn’t a Cy Young candidate or anything, but he sure looks good at $9.3 million a year for the next five years. After one-year deals to Kuroda and Pettitte expire and Phil Hughes files for free agency, the 2014 rotation looks like CC Sabathia and a wishing well.
The Yankees did not seriously pursue either of these players, nor did they get close to Aroldis Chapman, though his courtship took place before the current CBA and its loopholes. Whether that makes the Yankees lack of effort to acquire his raw yet undeniable talent more or less forgivable is up to you.
Either the Yankees don’t know how to evaluate international talent or they are cheaper than we thought. When Chapman came and went without any news of an offer from the Yankees, I was surprised. When they lost with a whimper on Darvish and Cespedes (not to mention Jorge Soler)?
The acquisition of Wells and Suzuki suggest a combination of penny-pinching and incompetence and incompetent penny-pinching that is downright scary.
There’s a slightly surreal quality to a subway station during the day when the light from outside falls inside–through a grate, or in this picture by our man Bags, through the stairwell.
Give thanks because our friend Bags is capturing New York in a beautiful way these days…
… and nights.
Over man Cliff with a good piece over at SB Nation–The Conscience of a Lapsed Yankee Fan:
My favorite baseball books are about losers, oddballs, and failures, and what draws me back to every new baseball season isn’t whether or not the Yankees are going to win 95 or 100 games (they’ve won fewer than 94 just twice in the last 16 seasons), it’s seeing how the teams on the fringes perform. Is that rebuild working? Will this be the year that talented young team coalesces into a contender? Will that big trade acquisition or free agent signing take his new team to the next level? Can his previous team compensate for his loss? Can that talented but star-crossed team can stay healthy enough to contend? Did that perennial playoff loser miss its window for a championship? With that managerial change have any impact? How will that new stadium play? How ugly will those new uniforms really be? How will the new playoff or scheduling format impact the pennant races?
As for the Yankees, I don’t worry about them, and that’s what worries me. I want my daughter to love baseball, in part because I’ve dedicated part of my life to it and don’t want her to feel shut out of that. Baseball is a novel that unfolds over years, individual teams are puzzles that take years to solve. The Yankees, however, are more of a long-running television procedural. They hit all the same beats and catch phrases, the credits roll, and then they do it all over again. I spent my childhood hoping I’d see the Yankees win the World Series during my lifetime (yes, really). I suspect I’m now going to spend my daughter’s childhood hoping she’ll see them have a losing season.
When Pablo Sandoval launched his third homer on Wednesday night, I selfishly rooted for the ball to hit the wall. I didn’t like seeing Reggie’s signature moment so easily matched. It used to be just Reggie and Babe and that properly placed the feat on hallowed ground. And fine, if they had to make room for someone, then living-legend Albert Pujols was the right guy. But in the instant Sandoval’s shot soared towards center field, I decided the guy named after a cartoon Panda wasn’t welcome.
As many decisions hastily reached and selfishly born, this one does not stand up to scrutiny. First of all, two of Sandoval’s homers were off Justin Verlander, the best pitcher in the game right now. Second of all, those first two homers occurred in a very tight game with an unreliable pitcher on the mound for the Giants. And he did it in his own home park – a notoriously hard place to dinger.
I remembered Pujols’ homers did not seem critical in their Game 3 blow out of the Rangers lat year. I know Reggie’s homers like I hit them myself, but I didn’t know much about Ruth’s.
The Yankees were down two games to one against the Cardinals. The Redbirds threw a pitcher named Flint Rhem. Rhem is not a household name, but he pitched over 1700 innings in the big leagues, and in 1926 he led the National League in wins while posting an ERA of 3.21, 22% better than the league. It would be wrong to call him the ace of a staff that included two Hall of Famers (Jesse Haines and Pete Alexander), but he did have the best numbers and the most innings pitched that year.
The Babe did not have the advantage of hitting in a ballpark built to his specs for this game, but Sportsman’s Park was, by the standards of the day, one of the easiest places to hit homers. The Cardinals and Browns both played their home games there, and though the two teams didn’t have much else in common, their pitching staffs finished one-two in homers allowed in 1926 (and 3-4 in 1928).
In the top of the first, Babe Ruth hit a solo homer with two down to draw first blood. St. Louis countered with a run off of Waite Hoyt in the bottom of the first, so it was all tied-up again when Ruth batted with two down in the third. He hit another solo homer, giving the Yankees the lead for a second time.
The Yankees tacked on another run in the top of the fourth inning and the Cardinals put up three of their own in the bottom half. Babe Ruth walked in the decisive Yankee rally in the fifth, which left the score 7-4 in favor of New York. When he hit his third homer, it was a two run blast in the sixth off a relief pitcher named Hi Bell and it put the game out of reach, 9-4. The final score was 10-5.
Looking back over the game, Ruth gave the Yankees two early leads and sealed the victory. His homers accounted for only 40% of Yankee runs however. His cumulative WPA for the homers (hWPA) was 0.31, but then again, two Yankee doubles in the fourth had bigger impacts on the result (by WPA) than any of the homers.
The Yankees needed this game to even the series. They ended up losing in seven games, but this outcome was vital to the extension of the season. Ruth added two walks to his three jacks, scored four and drove in four. His total WPA for the game was 0.35 and his third homer still had impact on the outcome, at 0.09 WPA, something none of the other guys can say.
In a revenge series, the Yankees stood on the precipice of a sweep of the Cardinals in Game 4 in St Louis. The Yankees again turned to Waite Hoyt as the Cardinals pitched Bill Sherdel. Sherdel, like Rhem in 1926, was the best pitcher in the St. Louis rotation that year, leading the team in innings, wins and ERA. But he was one of four interchangeable parts and probably not at the top of the pecking order.
The Cardinals broke a scoreless tie in the third on a sac fly by Frankie Frisch. Ruth knotted the score one batter into the fourth with a solo homer. The Cardinals struck back with a run in the bottom half. Sherdel and Hoyt kept it there until the seventh. Ruth again homered to tie the score. This time Gehrig backed him up and took the lead for good.
It was 6-2 when Ruth took his final hack in the eighth and plopped another solo bonk to finish the Yankees scoring. A few outs and one meaningless Cardinal run later, the Yankees were World Champs, four games to none.
The Babe’s impact on this game was muted slightly because he hit into a double play in the first and grounded out with two on in the fifth. The hWPA was 0.33, higher than in 1926, but for overall WPA he landed at 0.24 since he helped kill two rallies as well. Gehrig’s homer which finally gave them the lead was the biggest play of the game, but Ruth homers occupied the next two places in line.
Of course this was Game 4 of a sweep, so there was more margin for error than during his previous three-pronged attack. But the fact that he clinched the Series is pretty cool too.
Moving to more familiar territory, there’s Reggie Jackson eliminating the Dodgers in 1977. Reggie did it in Yankee Stadium, making good use of the short right field porch for his first two homers. He could have used the Grand Canyon for the third one.
Burt Hooton got the ball for Game 6 and tried to get the Dodgers to Game 7. Like the Cardinals above, these Dodgers featured a deep staff of which Hooton was just one of several good pitchers. He didn’t age as well as Don Sutton or Tommy John, but at the time, he was as good as any of them, leading the 1977 Dodgers in ERA. He pitched 59.7 Postseason innings and went 6-3 with a 3.17 ERA (3-3 against the Yankees from 1977-1981).
Reggie had hit a meaningless homer in the ninth inning of Game 5 in Los Angeles. The Dodgers routed the Yanks 10-4 to force Game 6 and they kept the pressure on when Steve Garvey tripled home two runs in the top of the first. Reggie led off the second inning with a four pitch walk and Chris Chambliss homered to tie the game.
The Dodgers scored again, so when Reggie batted in the fourth with Munson on first, the Yankees trailed 3-2. Reggie hit the first pitch on a line into the right field seats. The Yankees led 5-3 when Reggie faced Elias Sosa in the fifth. Reggie again leaped on the first pitch he saw and ripped it into the stands in right and the Yankees took a 7-3 lead. It was probably a double in most other parks.
For his final at bat of the night, Reggie must have been very happy to see knuckle-baller Charlie Hough on the hill. Hough had pitched a scoreless seventh but Reggie was fortunate they left Hough in to face him. Reggie killed knuckle-ballers. Reggie sent the first pitch into orbit and if you squint at the replay you might see the scorch marks from re-entry as the ball settles way back into the black seats in center.
Mike Torrez gave the Dodgers one more run but he completed the game and the Yankees won 8-4. Reggie had homered on four consectutive swings if you go back to Game 5. His first homer, which gave the Yankees the lead, was the biggest play of the game. He amassed 0.35 hWPA and, overall, 0.39 WPA thanks to his walk, four runs scored and five RBI. His three homers accounted for five of eight total runs, the highest percentage on this list. The margin of victory was also the slimmest, along with Game 4 of 1928.
The Yankees won the Series and prevented a do-or-die Game 7 with a Dodger team that was unlikely to go quietly. It was a happy day at the zoo.
The 2011 World Series will go down as one of the most dramatic ever, and very little of that memory will be devoted to Albert’s three homers. The Cardinals and the Rangers had split the first two games and 14 (!) runs were already on the board at the hitter’s paradise in Arlington when Pujols hit a three-run shot off of flame throwing reliever Alexi Ogando in the sixth. This was a critical blow in the game as it turned a two-run lead into a five run bulge and the Cardinals were not threatened again.
Pujols added a two-run shot in the seventh (off Mike Gonzalez) and a solo shot in the ninth (off Darren Oliver). The sum total of the WPA for those two homers was 0.02 as the outcome was pretty much decided when he hit his first bomb. The hWPA is the lowest of all the three-homer games, clocking in at 0.17. Pujols had himself a very good game overall, going 5-6 with two lead-off, rally-starting singles, but there were so many runs scored in the 16-7 drubbing, that his contribution to the victory was only 0.23 in terms of WPA.
Hey, all World Series wins are huge wins, but being tied at 1-1, this game did not have the pressure of an elimination game nor a clincher. The loser would not love his fate, but neither would he be on the brink of disaster. Fun to watch and an amazing performance, but the context puts Albert’s day at the bottom of this list.
As you know, Pablo Sandoval cracked three homers on Wednesday night. McCarver said that AT&T Park had yielded the fewest homers in baseball this season. This is in a league which contains San Diego’s cavernous PetCo.
Sandoval caught up to a neck-high Justin Verlander heater to give the Giants a 1-0 lead in the first inning. It was the only home run Justin Verlander allowed on an 0-2 all season. With a 2-0 lead and two-outs in the fourth, Sandoval reached down and away and redirected a low fastball into the left field seats. It didn’t look like much off the bat, but it certainly did the trick. The two-run homer made the score 4-0 for the Giants.
Verlander missed by a lot on the high heater in the first. He got the elevation, but instead of forcing Sandoval to reach to the outside corner, he threw it right over the plate. This second homer was off a nastier pitch: down, hard and slicing away from the left handed batter.
The Tigers were trailing 5-0 and pinch hit for Verlander in the fifth. So Al Alberquerque got to give up the Panda’s third dong. He threw a decent breaking ball but Sandoval is gobbling up nasty pitches right now, so don’t bother with decent. His homer made the score 6-0. The two teams traded runs and the game ended 8-3.
Sandoval’s homers gave the Giants 0.26 hWPA, but his single in the seventh didn’t move the needle, so his total for the game was also 0.26. Obviously, that number does not take into account the fact that Barry Zito was facing the best pitcher in baseball and nobody had given the Giants much chance of winning this game.
If you rank the homers by hWPA, it goes Reggie, Ruth (28), Ruth (26), Sandoval and Pujols. If you consider the pitcher faced, the score of the series, park effects and anything else you want to throw in there (Bronx Zoo stuff, the spectre of Pujols leaving St. Louis etc), it gets cloudier. I think we can safely put Pujols at the bottom and then work from there.
Reggie’s homers depended on the cozy dimensions of right field in Yankee Stadium. Babe Ruth may have had similar help in Sportsman’s Park. I like that Ruth gave the Yanks two different leads in 1926 and two different ties in 1928. I like that Sandoval abused Verlander. I can’t forget the fact that the Yankees lost the 1926 Series. I also know that the first game of a Series is probably the least important – maybe even less important than Game 4 of a sweep given the scars we now wear from 2004.
The only real knock against Reggie’s game is that one of the homers was a true Yankee-Stadium Special. He did it in a clincher deep in the Series with a charging opponent. He turned a deficit into a lead and then he turned a narrow lead into a safe one. And I’ll admit bias; it’s the foundation stone for my interest in baseball. Reggie’s got the top spot for me and I’ll call it a tie between Sandoval and the two Ruths.
So make room for the Panda, he deserves to roll around and hock bamboo chunks on this hallowed ground.
This Friday night, of the hundreds of bands that will play New York City, Special Patrol Group will attempt to blow the doors off Arlene’s Grocery at 7pm. It’s a tall task to blow the doors off a rock-n-roll club. It’s taller when it’s 7pm.
But for Special Patrol Group, this is a sweet slot. Their fans, largely drawn from the coveted demographic overlap between young parents and parents of young children, require a decent bed time so they can make pancakes and attend soccer practice at 9 AM the next day.
I know Special Patrol Group because I met one of the founders of the band, Matthew DeMella, at one of those Saturday morning soccer practices a couple of years ago. He’s a music teacher, a dad, a husband, and a fellow harborer of inappropriate expectations for post-toddler soccer players. And after we talked about that stuff, he told me about his band.
Here at Bronx Banter, Alex lends us insights about the creative process, almost on a daily basis. One of the things that he says a lot, and that I take to heart, is that just showing up counts for more than you’d think. I think that’s a Woody thing. And when Matt told me about Special Patrol Group, I immediately thought about the importance of showing up.
Special Patrol Group was formed in 2005 and they’ve been recording and “touring” ever since. But when you’re a teacher, a dad, a husband; when you attend soccer practice, make pancakes, and consider those events as essential, what’s left? How the hell can you rock and roll in a sliver? Hint: a big part of the answer is having an amazing wife who says, “O.K.”
The band is comprised of four regular members. Matt and his brother Jon play guitar, Katie Patrizio provides the vocals on more than half the cuts, and Mike Blancafor is on drums. Logistics present as big a challenge as anything else.
Jon DeMella, gifted with not only musical talent but also the unflinching ability to advocate for gigs that the band may not actually deserve, does promotion. He’s awesome at it. He lives in Seattle. Katie Schmidt had to miss a gig last Halloween because she got snowed in and caught pneumonia. It would be like Derek Jeter missing three months of the season.
Special Patrol Group , as expected from a band that only plays four gigs a year, is not flawless. But they’re comfortable on stage and with each other and that gives them sufficient leeway to find their groove before long. When they do, they’re a mash of seventies and late-nineties influences that suggest a group of musicians who’ve been loving and leaving different kinds of music their whole lives.
The songs are intelligent, unafraid of complexity, and often contain some stretch that you will be humming to yourself on the way home. Matt says “Belle and Sebastian, Elvis Costello and Dinosaur Jr.” I think I hurt his feelings when I said “Pavement,” but that was intended to be a compliment.
After last year’s Halloween snowstorm, when their lead singer and most of their fans were unable to leave their homes, they played before an audience of two. Not their fault, but still, that had to sting. On some nights, they’ve had venues give them crap about not bringing enough paying customers through the door and they wonder why they signed up for this. But there are more nights when they fill it up. There are nights when the band clicks and the fans all get sitters and, in that sliver, they’re rock stars.
When Matt told me he was a teacher and had a band, I thought of Robert Pollard, the patron saint of teachers-with-bands. Pollard taught fourth grade as he pounded out a dozen lifetimes worth of dingy, unforgettable riffs. Guided By Voices was an influential band, and can mount credible reunion tours for each of their many incarnations. They packed in venues like Irving Plaza and Hammerstein Ballroom and us sardines chanted G-B-V until our throats ran red. And the prevailing wisdom on Guided By Voices is that they never made it.
“Making it” is important to most, and it’s attractive to all, but it’s an obvious trap. A saner calculation utilizes your own proprietary formula and measures things privately. I can’t speak for Special Patrol Group, but it strikes me that they wouldn’t dedicate this small space in their lives to something so big unless it made them feel good. They might aspire to more, but this is what they’ve got right now. And on Friday night they’re showing up, again, and that’s pretty great start.
For more information about the band and a list of available songs, click here.
It was already 1-0 when I got on the train to come home this evening. It was 2-0 when I went out of cell service deep beneath Harlem. I held my breath as the train climbed up from 191st St to Dyckman, 6-0 and the season was over before I even got to my stop.
The Yankees completed their crash out of the ALCS with a loss to the Tigers, 8-1. Swept for the first time since 1980. They had only two hits to finish the series batting .157 as a team. If justice prevails, this will not be remembered as Arod’s Waterloo but rather as lineup-wide systemic failure.
The roots of this sweep are buried in Game 4 of the ALDS when the Yankees failed to finish the Orioles. They could have started CC Sabathia in Game 1 of the ALCS and then who knows? Some will say it doesn’t matter, that the Yankees didn’t hit enough this series to bother entertaining “What If” scenarios, but for three games out of four, they were one hit, or one call from an umpire, away from winning.
CC Sabathia pitched a whale of a game in Game 5 of the ALDS, but he didn’t have anything left for this one. For the first time in nine games, the Yankee starter didn’t give the lineup a chance to win. CC came up small, no way to sugarcoat that. I think his two games against the Orioles probably speak louder than this stinkifesto, but we’ll see how the fans react.
I know Alex Rodriguez was bad in this postseason. He looked incapable of hitting a right handed pitcher and I don’t fault Joe Girardi for seeking other options. Eric Chavez pinch hit for Alex Rodriguez in Game 4 of the ALDS. He replaced Alex for 12 at bats in total in the Postseason and went 0 for 12 with six strikeouts.
As disappointing as this series was, from Jeter’s injury to the Alex-drama to today’s drubbing, I refuse to be crushed about this outcome. The Yankees played a very gutsy series with Orioles, and won even while hitting like shit. They played three tough games with the Tigers and lost, while hitting even worse. They have been playing playoff-tension-level baseball since early September and have answered every must-win game with a win until the ALCS. They have earned a lot of respect.
I refuse to be crushed because I am part of a household that is just learning about baseball and if you can’t take losing, you can’t enjoy this game. I am part of a household, that for reasons that will never be entirely clear, cares as much about the Pittsburgh Pirates as the New York Yankees. In this environment, disappointment is allowed but rending of garments is exposed as self-centered silliness.
I rarely felt like I was watching a World Champion when the Yankees played this year, but they were the best team in the American League for 162 games and they own as much claim to the “best team in baseball” as anybody. Admittedly, 2012 didn’t feature a truly great team, but hey, maybe that means 2013 is wide open, too. The Yanks don’t have that much to do to be right back in it again next year.
Photo via Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images