That is all.
You know, it’d be easy for us to curse those Baltimore Orioles who have won six-in-a-row and who seem to have forgotten how to lose in extra innings. However, I wonder how the Orioles–and their fans–felt last night, after having won, after seeing that the A’s went ahead by four runs in extras against the Yanks only to have the Yanks pull it out.
With more than a little bit of luck.
Reading this description by Zach Schonbrun in the Times makes me wish I’d been there:
When the game seemed over, Ichiro Suzuki led off the bottom of the 13th inning with an infield single. A misty rain had begun to fall, like the soft spray in a carwash. The low sun through the clouds covered the stadium in a strange orange glow.
The game had started just after 1 p.m., before the long September shadows had started their slow march across the infield, but by the 13th, the stadium lights were on, and the scoreboard shined, and the game took on a surreal feel.
What a wild game it was. Did I mention Steve Pearce’s diving catch? And Raul Ibanez, not only with the two homers but a hustle double that brought Paul O’Neill to mind and a tough collision at home plate to boot.
Course the O’s could win again today, Yanks could lose and we’d end the weekend on a down note. But let’s face it, this is some good shit.
The Yankees had lost three straight going into last night’s game and frustration built by the inning as Chris Young was stingy and kept the Bombers off the board. Frustration turned into irritation when Young hit a two-out RBI single in the sixth inning to put the Mets up, 3-0.
And then, over the course of four pitches, the game changed.
Mark Teixeira led off the seventh against Young and worked the count full. He hit a foul tip that was dropped by the catcher, Josh Thole. The next pitch was over the plate but low for ball four. Close, and on a different night with a different umpire it could have easily been called a strike. Nick Swisher took a big swing at the first pitch he saw and it was likely his swing that caught right fielder Lucas Duda off-guard. Duda stepped back, hesitated, and then ran forward. Swisher hit the ball off the end of the bat and was so sure that he’d made an easy out that he ducked his head and loafed out of the box. But Duda’s hesitation was costly as he ran ahead and dove for the ball. He missed and the ball squirted behind him. Teixeira moved to third and even without hustling Swisher made it to second.
Before Yankee fans could say “runners in scoring position” Raul Ibanez hit a line drive on the first pitch he saw from Young. It was a seed, headed for the right field corner, and whoosh! it went over the fence, a three run homer. Four pitches and the game had changed.
Jon Rauch relieved Young, struck out Russell Martin and got ahead of pinch-hitter Eric Chavez 0-2 when he looked to waste a pitch up in the zone. It was at Chavez’s shoulders but the lefty fought it off and hit a fly ball to left. It appeared to be a long foul ball, but it stayed fair and went over the fence to put the Yankees ahead 4-3.
That’s how the score remained as the Bombers worked out of trouble in almost every inning–David Robertson pulled his usual Houdini act in the eighth, walking two and striking out the side–as it was the Mets’ turn to come up short with men on. Raphael Soriano got the save. The last out, a long fly ball off the bat of Daniel Murphy, looked scary coming off his bat. But it didn’t have that good sound and it fell into Swisher’s glove.
It was only the bottom of the fourth inning and the Yankees were feeling good about themselves. Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira helped the team out to a 5-1 lead. Hisanori Takahashi, the long man in the Angels bullpen–a junkballing nibbler–walked Russell Martin to start the inning and then Brett Gardner fouled off a bunch of pitches before hitting a single to center field. Derek Jeter took the first three pitches, all balls. Then he snuck a look over at someone in the Yankee dugout.
I figured the look, the hint of a smile, meant he was going to swing, 3-0 if he got a meatball. Sure enough Takahashi laid one right down the middle. Jeter took a huge swing and almost came out of his shoes. It was a swing to make Reggie proud. The ball was fouled back. Jeter fouled off the next pitch too. Then he smacked one over the fence in right field for a three-run homer.
Ivan Nova gave two back in the fifth and another run in the sixth. Could have been more trouble in the sixth but Rodriguez made a nice play to end the inning.
But because this is Sunday Night Baseball things are not meant to be brief or easy. So Rafael Soriano walked the lead-off hitter in the seventh and that man came around to score on a base hit by Albert Pujols. Soriano recorded two outs but left the game with the bases loaded, the Yanks lead cut to 8-5. Fortunately, our nerves were settled when David Robertson got Mark Trumbo to fly out to right field on a 2-2 pitch.
(My mind was calculating: does this set up Mariano vs. Albert?)
A walk and stolen base by Robbie Cano and then a two-out single by Nick Swisher put the Yanks back up by four. Better still, Jason Isringhausen came in and gave up an absolute bomb to Raul Ibanez.
Fuggin thing reached the upper deck in right field.
All Tori Hunter could say was: “Wow.”
Mariano vs. Albert would have to wait. Tonight, it was Logan vs. Albert and Logan struck him out, go figure that.
Final Score: Yanks 11, Angels 5.
A nice way to start the week.
The late Gary Carter never played a game for the Yankees, a fact that should be regretful for any Yankee fan who remembers the 1980s. If Carter had played even one season in the Bronx, the Yankees might just have won a World Series title that proved so elusive during that decade of frustration.
The winter of 1984-85 brought me some of the most difficult times of my life. My mother was dying from abdominal cancer, a horrible experience under any circumstances but particularly difficult for me as I was trying to muddle through a challenging sophomore year at Hamilton College. One of the few diversions that helped me forget about my mother’s terminally ill condition involved the winter meetings that December. Both New York teams made blockbuster trades at those meetings, the Mets acquiring Carter for a package of Hubie Brooks-plus, while the Yankees nabbed Rickey Henderson for a group of young players headlined by Jose Rijo. The news of those two trades, which happened within five days of one another, made that December and that January, when my mother finally passed, a little bit more bearable.
The Yankees ended up with a good team in 1985, a 97-win club that finished only two lengths behind an exceptional group of Blue Jays. Led by Billy Martin, who replaced Yogi Berra after a handful of games, the Yankees came within whiskers of matching the Blue Jays for the AL East title, even with little contribution from their starting catcher, Butch Wynegar. A two-time All-Star, Wynegar was well past his prime at the age of 29, and would later undergo treatment for debilitating depression. What would have happened if the Yankees had added Carter for the 1985 season? Carter, buttressed by a strong left-handed hitting backup in Ron Hassey, would have given the Yankees one of the missing links to an otherwise sterling lineup.
Sure, it would have been a lot to ask Yankee GM Clyde King to swing blockbuster deals for both Carter and Henderson in the same winter, but the Yankees had both the minor league resources and the major league talent to make it happen. They could have centered a package for Carter around Dan Pasqua, who at the time was a top-tier hitting prospect coveted by numerous teams. They could have included a young Doug Drabek (whom they would eventually trade in a regrettable deal for Rick Rhoden) and tossed in a young infielder from among a group of Rex Hudler, Bobby Meacham, and Andre Robertson.
Not only would have Carter solidified the chronically weak catching corps that plagued the franchise in the mid-1980s, but he also would have given the Yankees exactly the kind of rah-rah leader that would have perfectly complemented guide-by-example types in Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield. With Carter behind the plate, improving both a potent offense and perhaps coaxing more from a thin pitching staff, the 1985 Yankees could well have leapfrogged over the Blue Jays into the postseason. And then who knows what might have happened?
Of course, all of this is wishful thinking, and more than 25 years after the fact. Perhaps the Expos would have preferred an established infielder like Brooks, who had the ability to play both shortstop and third base while hitting with game-changing power. Maybe the Expos foresaw that Pasqua would fall well short of the stardom forecast for him. But the idea of Carter-as-a-Yankee was just one of the thoughts that has gone through my mind in the aftermath of his premature death at the age of 57.
I had the privilege of meeting Carter several times; he never failed to deliver the goods with his friendly nature, boyish enthusiasm, and sincere regard for the concerns of others.
Back in 2003, I interviewed Carter at the Waldorf Astoria, exactly one day after he had been elected to the Hall of Fame. Bruce Brodersen, a friend of mine who heads up the Hall of Fame’s multimedia department, arranged and oversaw the interview. Bruce, a diehard Mets fan like few others, immediately took notice of Carter’s 1986 World Series ring. Noticing the interest, Carter told Bruce that he could wear the ring during the duration of our 20-minute interview. I cannot imagine many players, Hall of Fame or otherwise, offering to let a perfect stranger wear a cherished world championship ring. But that was Carter.
Gary Carter as a Yankee? It’s nothing more than a dream. But imagine if it had happened. Any Yankee fan who cares about integrity, character, and winning would have been proud to watch the man known as “Kid” wear the pinstripes.
In contrast to yours truly, Yankee hitting coach Kevin Long is legitimately excited about the addition of free agent Raul Ibanez, whom he calls an “RBI machine.” For the Yankees’ sake, I hope Long is right; batting in the lower third of the Yankee order, Ibanez figures to have plenty of RBI opportunities batting behind the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Nick Swisher.
Of course, while Long drools over the RBI possibilities, he doesn’t mention Ibanez’ relative lack of power in 2011 (as evidenced by a slugging percentage below .450) and an inability to draw walks or to reach base in any kind of consistent manner. These could be concerns for the Yankees, whose collective offense will be one year older and will have to hope for bounce back seasons from A-Rod and Tex. At the very least, the Yankees will have a capable offense in 2012, but will they have a dominant one? If they don’t, Ibanez will be exposed as a less-than-effective DH.
Having said all of that, I’ll be rooting for Ibanez. He visited Cooperstown last summer, accompanying his son during his week-long participation in the Cooperstown Dreams Park. According to my sources, Ibanez made a good impression with his friendly and receptive manner. That jives with what baseball people have said all along, that Ibanez is one of the game’s good guys, a man of character and a powerful presence in any clubhouse.
So this is no Elijah Dukes here. It will be easy, if somewhat frustrating, to root for Raul Ibanez. I just hope that Joe Girardi uses Ibanez with caution. He cannot hit left-handers anymore, so his at-bats against southpaws should be restricted as much as possible. Furthermore, Ibanez needs to be kept out of the outfield. A brutal defender with little arm, Ibanez should only the play the outfield if the game is a blowout–or if the Yankees simply run out of outfielders. If Girardi follows this plan, he can minimize the damage that Ibanez can do, and allow his other role players to pick up the slack.
[Picture Credit: Aya Francisco]
Bruce Markusen writes “Cooperstown Confidential” for The Hardball Times.
According to two reports (Buster Olney, Joel Sherman) that I found via Craig Calcaterra at Hardball Talk, the Yankees have agreed to a 1-year, $1 million deal with Raul Ibanez. He’ll be the left-handed DH presumably and will be able to play the field if the need arises. I haven’t heard any Yankee fan or analyst that likes the move and perhaps they are right. I just can’t get myself too worked-up over the part-time DH. If he’s a bust, they cut him and make a move later in the season, cause that’s how they roll in Chinatown, Jake.