Thursday, October 29, 2009


  • Phillies 6-Yankees 1:

Cliff Lee looked ready for a nap:

It was a few years ago after he'd had a couple of useful years in the innings and wins department that Mets GM Omar Minaya was avidly pursuing Cliff Lee, then of the Indians.

I was ambivalent.

Thinking that Lee was little more than a cog in a machine who would win a double-digit number of games; give up a lot of hits and homers; and wasn't a difference-maker, he wasn't worth the price tag even though he'd had an 18-win season under his belt. In 2007, my assessment appeared to be right as he was horrible; pitching so terribly that he wound up back in the minor leagues, was left off the Indians post-season roster and wasn't traded only because they wouldn't get enough back for him to justify any deal.

Needless to say, I was wrong.

Even after he turned his career around by getting into fantastic shape before the 2008 season and honing his mental approach to win the AL Cy Young Award, there still wasn't an easy understanding of how good this guy is. The world is learning now.

Lee continued his post-season domination last night by handcuffing the Yankees with a classic performance. The line----9 innings; 6 hits; 1 run; no walks; and 10 strikeouts----doesn't tell the whole story. Lee was in such a groove that he looked like he was ready for a rocking chair. His control was impeccable; his motion flawless; and his demeanor eerily composed. The Yankee hitters looked completely clueless as Lee changed speeds; mixed pitches; and pounded the strike zone, keeping the hitters off balance and mowing down the fearsome Yankee lineup like it was nothing.

The thing that makes Lee so tough isn't just the above-mentioned attributes, but that his motion is so clean and easy that he repeats it again and again. It's so simple that one has to wonder why other pitchers don't take a similar approach. 1. Step back; 2. Lift leg; 3. Deliver ball.

Pitchers with long, complicated windups have so many more things that can go wrong; Lee doesn't have that issue. And with that simplicity comes the easy repair job when something does get out-of-whack.

The Yankees should tip their hats rather than lament the game because they were overmatched last night. Bottom line.

The difference in managers:

Charlie Manuel does some bizarre things sometimes as manager, but he doesn't adhere to the paranoid book designed to shield himself from criticism that so many other managers (especially the one in the other dugout) do. He does what he does and couldn't care less what anyone says about him.

How many managers would've hit the panic button and yanked Lee after Derek Jeter singled to lead off the bottom of the ninth----six run lead or not? It would've been ignored that the hit was a flare that could just as easily have landed in Chase Utley's glove; the pitch count would've been the reference point to take the ball from Lee's hand and put the opening game in jeopardy by calling in members of the Phillies shaky bullpen.

No doubt the bullpen issues have something to do with Manuel's reluctance to trust them until it's absolutely necessary, but he stayed with his starter; let him thrown 122 pitches; and Lee rewarded him. Would Joe Girardi have done the same thing? No way.

Does Chase Utley aim for the short walls?

I'd think it was impossible for a hitter to intentionally try and hit the ball into a certain spot----especially against a sublime star in C.C. Sabathia----but I swear Chase Utley looked like he intended to pop the ball into the right field corner because it was the shortest spot to get it out of the park. He did the same thing at cavernous Citi Field earlier this year against the Mets when he went deep by continually poking balls into the right-field corner and out. Is it possible that he has that kind of bat control?

Utley's short swing reminds me of George Brett's. I'm not advocating this because his power is such an asset, but if he wanted to and started spraying the ball instead of hitting it out of the park, he could make a run at batting .400. That's what a great hitter he is.

  • The McCourts divorce court:

This looks like it'll get far worse before it gets better.

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, having fired his wife Jamie as club CEO as they're divorcing, has accused her of having an affair with her bodyguard. Jamie is protesting her firing and wants her job back----ESPN Story.

Normally, I wouldn't comment on this stuff, but it's going to affect the team. If the owners are publicly wrestling for control of the team, obviously it's going to permeate the organization. The players are presumably either oblivious to the situation or are shaking their heads at it. Turmoil like this can sabotage the on-field product by osmosis. I've seen it happen before.

  • Astros hire Brad Mills as manager:

I'm becoming aware that a solid resume has nothing to do with how a guy's going to function as a big league manager----being a babysitter and massaging egos is sometimes more important than strategy----but at the very least, new Astros manager Brad Mills has the qualifications to have a chance to be pretty good.

He managed in the minors for eleven years, giving him valuable experience; and he worked on the Red Sox staff for Terry Francona for six years. Working on winning teams is another asset for a new manager and Mills has two championship rings as a coach. It's a good start.

  • Viewer Mail 10.29.2009:

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes:

You should've seen the front page of the Tribune's Sports Section today dude. Huge ugly picture of Girardi -- hailed as "one of our own" 'cuz he's from Peoria and played for the Cubs. Well, while they touted him as a local hero they also forgot to mention that he wasn't good enough for the Cubs managerial job... or that his job with the Yanks has been suspect at best. I hope the Phillies win as you say... and that Girardi's gaffes are-a-plenty.

As much as he denies it, Girardi was lurking for the Yankees job. I can't say I blame him. As you so often repeat, Jesus hates the Cubs. What better way to guarantee perceived success as a manager than to go to the club with the highest payroll and a roster full of stars----and he's still doing his best to screw it up.

The intervening time between his Manager of the Year season with the Marlins and his time with the Yankees has exposed his flaws. They were evident with the Marlins----strategic screw-ups; scraps with his bosses; battles with the media----but no one much noticed. He'll have the number of wins the Yankees accumulated this year on his record, along with the pennant, but knowledgeable observers know the truth, that he's a disaster waiting to happen at any given moment because of his odd decisions based on whatever pops into his head or on the stat sheet.


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Jeff said...

Sure, Ashley sounds like a real person.

I liked the looks we were getting from the Phillies' dugout last night. You're right. Manuel looked as calm as calm could be in the 9th when the Yanks got some runners on base. But a tired Cliff Lee is worth way more than a rested Madson or Lidge or whoever, so I tip my hat to the skipper.