- Yankees 3-Phillies 1:
The good Burnett shows up:
There's never been a question of A.J. Burnett's stuff. His abilities are among the best in baseball. The questions surrounding him have always been about his durability; his mental approach; and his command. No matter what anyone says about Burnett, he was up-and-down this year. Such has been the hallmark of his entire career.
Whether it was the continuous injuries; the apparent "click" that went off in his brain whenever the carrot of big money at the end of certain seasons was dangled in front of his face; or his maddening inability to ever put it all together for an extended period and dominate consistently as he's shown the intermittent talent to do. Observers were rightfully paranoid if Burnett would deliver in what amounted to a game the Yankees needed to win to have a chance to win this series. In response to the realists and concerned loyalists, Burnett spun a gem.
I'm still dubious about the big money the Yankees doled out on Burnett. His injury history and the fact that he's been predominately healthy over the past two seasons makes him a ticking time bomb for something to go haywire over the next year or two with his health; but if his start last night keeps the Yankees in this series and gives them a chance to win when it was starting to appear as if they were in deep trouble against a Phillies team that can match them almost pitch-for-pitch, player-for-player, I'm sure the Yankees will accept whatever happens over the next four years. Burnett's already done more for his money than Carl Pavano did in his four years as a part of the roster (I won't call Pavano a member of the team).
Last night showed the Burnett's good enough he might justify the big contract because of his wicked, almost unhittable, power fastball and devastating curve. He delivered the goods.
Charlie Manuel did not go too far with Pedro:
There's endless debate on whether Phillies manager Charlie Manuel pushed Pedro Martinez too far in letting him start the seventh inning.
Pedro was masterful last night not as the Pedro Martinez from his Red Sox days in which he could overpower, intimidate and trick with a superlative combination of fastballs, breaking pitches, changing speeds, control and out-and-out meanness, but as a crafty, wily veteran who can still rise to the big occasion and do his job with little more than his brain.
What would've been the justification of yanking him after the sixth inning? His pitch count was reasonable; he'd rolled along until then (the Hideki Matsui homer the previous inning was on a pitch that Matsui went down and nailed----it wasn't a fat pitch); and the bottom of the Yankees lineup was due to hit. Why wouldn't Manuel try to squeeze another inning from a grooving Pedro?
It would be another thing if the Phillies bullpen was trustworthy, but they're still walking the fine line of getting the job done or torching the place; Pedro was the best option to get through the seventh and it didn't work. Ripping Manuel for that isn't just second-guessing, it's stupid second-guessing.
Part of the reason the mistakes the umpires are making have become so magnified and such a cause célèbre is that people are looking for them now. For every 100 calls an umpire makes, he's going to screw up a couple of them. It's not an easy job and for the most part, they do pretty well at it.
As for this talk that MLB has to take control of the training and selecting of umpires, has anyone been watching the way MLB goes about it's business in recent years? What makes you think that MLB itself is going to be any more competent at training the umps than the private schools run by veteran umpires are? Given the ineptitude and cluelessness that's been a hallmark of the Bud Selig-run MLB and how they repeatedly miss opportunities to better the game, the results of an umpiring program would probably make things worse, not better. That's history at work.
The stat zombies are in lust with Nick Swisher because of his batting eye and power, but he's been horrific this post-season so to me, benching him wasn't an issue. Jerry Hairston Jr's numbers against Pedro were the proffered reason for him being in the lineup, but as I said yesterday, those numbers were accrued while Pedro was at the height of his powers----he's not the same pitcher, so the stats are again taken out of context. If it were me and I made the decision to bench Swisher, I would've stuck Eric Hinkse in right field and hoped he ran into a pitch to take deep.
Girardi's smart moves:
While there were moments of terror for Yankee fans (why was Alfredo Aceves warming up behind Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning?), manager Joe Girardi had a good game. He rode his starter, Burnett, deep into the game and handed it right off to Rivera in the eighth inning; and the fake bunt from Melky Cabrera, followed by a hit-and-run single was a great move. This led to the removal of Pedro Martinez and an important insurance run. In a shaky post-season, it was a winning night for Girardi.
Orioles decline option on Melvin Mora:
Mora was a Bobby Valentine favorite. Valentine insisted that Mora was one of the best defensive outfielders in the game when he arrived with the Mets and had Steve Phillips not felt the need to replace the injured Rey Ordonez with a more defensively-inclined shortstop in Mike Bordick, Mora would've blossomed with the Mets.
Mora's a very sound fundamental player; is versatile; is a good guy in the clubhouse and would be a perfect addition to the Mets as a roving utility player to get 400 at bats playing a variety of different positions. He had a bad year with the Orioles in 2009, but I think that was more of a byproduct of being concerned about his contract and the way he felt he was being mistreated in Baltimore. Even at age 38, Mora has a great deal to offer a club as veteran presence and an example of how to comport oneself on and off the field.
- The saddest part of the Steve Phillips mess in a baseball sense: