Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday Lightning 10.18.2009

  • Yankees 4-Angels 3:

This was a helluva game. Let's take a look.

The Angels missed opportunities on the bases:

You can't get away with leaving 16 runners on base against normal teams with normal lineups. Against the Yankees? Forget it. Eventually, something's going to happen where they're going to get you and this was exemplified with Alex Rodriguez's game-tying homer and the way the game ended. There's no let up whatsoever aside from maybe Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner; and even they have attributes that make them dangerous. Cabrera has something of a flair for the dramatic and Gardner might be the fastest white guy I've ever seen, right up there with former Buffalo Bills wide receiver Don Beebe.

Vladimir Guerrero is so aggravating in his impatience, but every time you start to scream, "what are you swinging at?!?", he does something to justify his approach; but not last night. The Angels simply must cash in on opportunities to score and cushion a lead especially against a struggling A.J. Burnett and the second and third tier Yankee relievers like Alfredo Aceves, Damaso Marte and Phil Coke.

On another note of missed opportunities, how many more calls have to be blown on the bases?

I'm iffy on the safe call on Erick Aybar's "neighborhood play" in which umpire Jerry Layne didn't give Aybar the leeway to make a play that's rarely, if ever, called. Technically, Aybar didn't touch the base, but the call is almost never made and no one would even have noticed had Layne called Melky Cabrera out. Then again, the rule is what it is and if Aybar didn't touch the base, then Layne made the right call even if it was fussy.

It also appears that on every close call at first base, the umpires are starting with a template of "out" and only calling a runner safe if he has no other choice. The majority of those calls have gone against the Angels.

ARod's homer:

While teammate Derek Jeter is rightfully feted for his florid genius and skill at knowing what to do at all times, Alex Rodriguez isn't credited for being as baseball-smart as he is. ARod is more cagey and stealth about it, but it's no less important.

From the way he tries to sneak peeks back at the catcher to see where he's set up; to his defensive craftiness; to his lulling pitchers to sleep with bad swings designed to look bad to get the same pitch later in an at bat and be ready for it, this is a function of ARod's longtime "aw shucks" attitude going back to his days as a high school phenom. Teammates with the Mariners, Rangers and Yankees always looked at ARod's calculating nature----replete with behaviors and statements designed to portray an image rather than be real----with reactions ranging from disdain to bewilderment to scoffing.

ARod knows how gifted he is and it's only been this year that his personality has been closer to that of a human being than what some PR firm suggests he be for maximum marketability. The steroid revelations ended up being a boon to this more likable, real and playoff clutch version of ARod.

The game-tying homer was a slick version of lulling a pitcher into doing what the hitter expected and the hitter having the skills to take advantage of it.

Brian Fuentes jumped ahead in the count by challenging ARod with fastballs. The two-strike pitch was perfect. Fuentes fired a fastball high and inside designed to force ARod to collapse his forearms and----supposedly----spend his power. Tom Seaver was a big believer in that pitch. If a hitter is too quick and reacts normally, he'll spin his hips and hook it deep, but foul...but ARod was ready for what Fuentes was going to do. Had ARod taken the pitch for a ball or fouled it off, the next pitch would've been a slider in the dirt that more-than-likely would've gotten most hitters out; but ARod was savvy enough to bring his forearms in, get the bat head on the ball and drive it over the right field wall to tie the game. It was not an accident; it was a student of the game outsmarting his opponent.

Joe Girardi's overmanaging:

Before getting into Girardi, one question: how many conferences at the mound are needed for the Yankees pitchers and catchers to get together on strategy?

When's enough enough?

Jose Molina and A.J. Burnett are supposed to have a symbiotic relationship that requires the Yankees to bench Jorge Posada in favor of Molina, but they were having a romantic interlude between every other pitch. It may be time to start considering limiting the number of visits a catcher gets to make to the pitcher in an inning. Three perhaps would be sufficient. It was enough already.

With Girardi, what was the reason he yanked Joba Chamberlain after facing one batter? For putting Phil Hughes in a tie game in the eighth? For using Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning in relief of Hughes? For leaving himself with the likes of Damaso Marte to get important outs? For relegating himself to using Chad Gaudin in what could've been a long relief appearance rendering him unavailable for a possible game 4 start?

If Girardi comes out with the crap that "the eighth inning belongs to Hughes" or some similar nonsense, then he's a fool. There was no earthly reason to pull Chamberlain after one batter; no reason to use Hughes when he did; or to put Rivera in so early when he might've needed both in the ninth inning and beyond.

These were more examples of Girardi "doing stuff" just because. He spends his bullets far too soon in these playoff games and it's going to cost him eventually. In a metaphor apropos for last night's game, you can only dance through the raindrops for so long before getting soaked, and it's only a matter of time.

There's a lot of series to be played:

This series is reminding me of the 1999 NLCS between the Mets and the Braves in which the Mets fell behind 3 games to 0, came storming back to take two straight and get the series back to Atlanta, appeared on the verge of tying the series with heroic comebacks in game 6, but eventually lost in extra innings.

While 2000 was a great season for the Mets and their fans, the 1999 team holds a special place with me because of how they got as far as they did. They were widely acknowledged as the best team in baseball in August only to stumble down the stretch (sounds familiar) and look to be on the verge of elimination before a four game sweep of the Pirates to end the season and a lot of help from the Brewers, who took two of three from the Wild Card leading Reds, forced a one-game playoff in Cincinnati.

I'll never forget the Sunday night image of Reds manager Jack McKeon sitting in the dugout and surveying the scene, waiting out the Milwaukee rain delay with his ever-present humongous cigar sticking out of his mouth. Then, in the one-game playoff, Edgardo Alfonzo homered in the first inning; Al Leiter pitched a masterful 2-hit shutout; with the final out is still etched in my memory as Alfonzo caught a line drive, pointed toward the sky in thanks and Leiter punched the air with both arms in relief and joy, then wrapped Mike Piazza in a bear hug as the team rushed onto the field.

John Franco, beside himself with his first trip to the post-season, looked ready to cry; and Bobby Valentine was hugging everyone in sight including arch-enemies Bobby Bonilla and Steve Phillips. Then the NY Daily News headline said one simple word over a photo of the Mets celebrating: BELIEVE.

The Mets, heavy underdogs to the Diamondbacks, attacked Randy Johnson like he owed them money and won the NLDS on Todd Pratt's walkoff homer. Finally, they got to the Braves, fell behind 2 games to 0 in Atlanta before their feet had landed on the ground from the previous week, lost game 3 amid the John Rocker sideshow/fiasco; and fought back from oblivion in game 4. Most people point to Robin Ventura's "grand single" in game 5 as the most memorable moment; but to me, what exemplified the sheer guts of that Mets team was how they were running out of pitchers and the game 4 starter, Rick Reed, who'd been brilliant in staving off elimination, was pumping throws in the bullpen to come into the game in relief the next day.

That was playoff baseball.

They got the series back to Atlanta, Leiter gave up five in the first inning and the Mets played catch-up the rest of the night. Piazza sent the entire state of Georgia into a combination of shock and panic with a rocket over the right-center field wall off of John Smoltz to tie the game. The Mets bullpen blew two saves and the Braves won the pennant, but that Mets team refused to quit. Had they won game 6, they would have won game 7.

I see a similar dynamic in this Angels club.

They don't quit.

Two games to none Yankee lead or not, this series is coming back to New York.


  • Viewer Mail 10.18.2009:

Michael Fierman writes:

One thing you are SO right about...Girardi's over managing is gonna kill them one of these games. I can't believe it didn't do them in tonight. but they are at home and don't lose at at home.. still he makes me nuts...

What's even more aggravating is the lack of excuses for it. With many managers, you can provide the caveat that they're not that intelligent to begin with, so they get a pass for being stupid or dogmatic. They might be lucky; or they might have the force of personality to handle a clubhouse which mitigates any overt lack of brains, but they get a pass for their limited natural abilities for what they can do. With Girardi, such is not the case. He's a really, really bright guy. He should know better.

Like a talented individual who----for one reason or another----doesn't fulfill his potential, it's frustrating to see the same mistakes over-and-over again.*

*One of my professors in college doubled as my individual tutor. She helped me tremendously----Donna Masini, she's a published poet and novelist and is slightly discombobulated----and once said the following to me, verbatim:

Y'know Paul, sometimes I just wanna STRANGLE you!"

I might've taken it as an affectionate joke between teacher and pupil if she hadn't been shaking with rage and a look of utter frustration (that I seem far too skilled at eliciting) and her hands clenched an inch apart as if she was already committing the felony.

I have that affect of people. I get an emotional response. It's my gift. It's my curse.

Girardi is going to cost his team a game because of his tinkering and fiddling. There's no need for it, but he's surrounded by sycophants and yes-men who agree with everything he says (where's Don Zimmer when you need him?) or he's ignoring advice. He's walking the tightrope and if he falls, he'll bring the Yankees season down with him.


Jeff said...

2009 ALCS Game 2 was an instant classic. I watched this game at a bar with about 200 like-minded, non-Yankee/Angel invested drunkards and you woulda thought we were watching USA v. the SOVIETS the way we were hootin' and hollerin'. Wish they were all that grand.

Jeff said...

I should also mention that I wasn't pleased with the result, which is probably why I woke up this morning with a raging headache.

She-Fan said...

I liked your analysis of A-Rod's at bat against Fuentes. I kept saying, "They're trying to jam him so he can't extend his arms." And then he managed to hit that homer. I agree he would have been out if he'd gotten a slider in the dirt. I also think the Angels' bats aren't going to remain dormant forever. This isn't over by any means. But winning two at home was sweet.

Anonymous said...

can you believe a girl is reading about sports. lol :) i can't help it i love it!

mandie reed