Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Yankees Find Their Recipe

  • Yankees 10-Angels 1:

The Yankees have finally found the recipe to win. Presumably in a silent contract among the players, it must've been decided that in order to make sure no Barry Switzeresque mistakes were made, they had to remove their collective fates from the hands of skittish manager Joe Girardi. After the game 3 debacle of inexplicably removing Dave Robertson in favor of Alfredo Aceves (and watching it end in a loss almost immediately thereafter), Alex Rodriguez and C.C. Sabathia combined to demolish the Angels last night in a 10-1 blowout.

ARod continues his reinvention as a more real, likable human being with an awesome display of power. Sabathia was masterful as he handcuffed the Angels and worked his way around several jams. What this game came down to was the Yankees repeatedly getting on base against Scott Kazmir, and Sabathia's skill at getting the big outs.

The Angels have not hit in the clutch for this entire series and they've continuously put the Yankees into a position for big innings with walks. As poorly as the Yankees have performed with runners on base so far in the series, it was only a matter of time before they busted out and put up a crooked number. In order to beat them, the home runs they hit must be of the solo variety. Any team that keeps giving them one opportunity after another will be made to pay as the Angels were last night.

The Yankees baserunning was atrocious again with the ridiculous and humiliating double play that went uncalled by the usually superior umpire Tim McClelland at third base. Both Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano were off the base at third when they were tagged by Angels catcher Mike Napoli. Cano has something of an excuse because he's a space cadet (and it's the Yankees own fault for enabling his laziness), but Posada? His head is spending more and more time firmly entrenched in his ass at the plate, on the bases and in the field.

Moving forward, the Angels need to focus on one pitch at a time and get at A.J. Burnett early in game 5. John Lackey will keep them in the game, but they have to score if they want to win. Getting the series back to New York and letting the panic start to set in about Girardi and what he might pull in a close game to sabotage his team is the plan of attack. One ultra-important facet the Angels must implement is giving Burnett a chance to get nervous and wild. Don't let him get his mechanics and groove together. Patience within an aggressive framework is the key; it's a fine line to walk, but so is being down 3 games to 1 to that Yankees lineup with a blazing hot ARod.

And if the Angels weren't sufficiently motivated by staring into the abyss of a 3-1 deficit and the prospect of going home, there's the following...

  • The Yankees are putting World Series tickets on sale:

Spitting into the face of karma with such unfettered arrogance seems to be the Yankee way; even this is a little out of line considering what a resilient team they're playing, but they're doing it anyway.

Beginning today at 10 AM, the Yankees are putting a limited number of World Series tickets on sale----Newsday Story.

Don't they have something to do first?

A little something called winning the pennant?

It's stunning how a team can be so self-important despite having won nothing for eight years. It brings me back to the 80s when the Mets were running this city (ah, glory days) and the Yankee fans with their laughingstock of a club were still strutting around as if they'd won six titles in eight years.

If I were Mike Scioscia, this (very) early sale of tickets to a World Series that still might not happen goes up on the Angels bulletin board in gigantic block letters to let his team know what the Yankees organization thinks of them and their chances at a comeback. Envisioning the joy of celebrating in the middle of Yankee Stadium amid the tears of a shocked crowd would stifle the arrogance----for a while anyway.

  • Who gets the Indians job?

It sounds like Manny Acta has been impressive as he's just completed the second round of interviews for the Indians job. The Indians are a good spot for Acta and he's probably the best fit. He's young, the players like him and he knows what he's doing.

They've also had a second interview with Bobby Valentine, but I still find it hard to believe that the Indians are going to pay Valentine and cede the control over the roster that he's going to want. There's always the possibility that Valentine is so desperate to get back into the big league managerial ring that he takes less money and control than he normally would, but given the shaky status of several managers in prime places starting early next season (Joe Maddon in Tampa for example), it makes little sense for Valentine to settle for a job that's not the right fit.

My guess is that Acta will get the job and he'll be a good choice.

  • Speaking of managers:

For those who diminish the importance of a manager during the regular season and, especially, in the post-season need to seriously reconsider their misplaced belief in the nonsensical and self-absolving theory of the playoffs being a "crapshoot".

Joe Girardi's screw-up in game 3 may or may not come back to haunt the Yankees, but it's not unheard of for a clueless manager to make gigantic mess of his team's post-season hopes. On the same token, there are circumstances in which the manager had nothing to do with anything the team accomplished positively or negatively; and there are situations where the manager has steered his team to victory through strategic brilliance and/or force of will.

The 2008 Rays made it to the World Series in spite of manager Joe Maddon's absent-mindedness and baffling strategic decisions. (The most egregious being his failure to use David Price as the suspended game 5 resumed.) Talent can carry a team far, but not past a manager's screw-ups. There's no guarantee that Price would've been any better than Grant Balfour and J.P. Howell, but he ended up using Price for the eighth inning anyway. Price should've started the inning when the suspended game resumed.

Even with all of the criticism he receives for the number of times his teams have faltered in the playoffs, the failures weren't due to any strategic mishaps----the Rick Ankiel fiasco being the notable exception----Tony La Russa was the one most responsible for righting his staggering Cardinals in 2006 as they almost collapsed out of the playoffs and went on to win the World Series. With any other manager, the Cardinals would've been dispatched in the NLCS by the Mets in 5 games and possibly by the Padres in the NLDS.

The 2001 Diamondbacks functioned with the equivalent of an empty suit as a manager in Bob Brenly. Brenly wrote the lineup card and made the moves, but aside from that was of very little value or was much of a detriment. You hear longtime managers and coaches say that no team is self-sustaining, but that Diamondbacks team----with the likes of Steve Finley, Mark Grace, Luis Gonzalez and Matt Williams; plus the devastating duo of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling----made the group one that was hard to make into a mess. To Brenly's credit, he held his ego in check and kept his hands off.

You can't blame Brenly for the blown World Series games by closer Byung-Hyun Kim. Brenly had a lead and his closer in the game, what else was he supposed to do? Of course, he doesn't get credit for the wins either. But he has a World Series win as a manager, and that's something that can't be taken away.

The manager is important in that he can very easily destroy something that could've been good. Don't let anyone diminish his importance in most instances. A good manager is worth 5 wins a year; a great one from between 10 and 15 wins. They do make a difference.


Jeff said...

Listening to the reports, it seems like Torii Hunter was mixed up in second guessing his own teammates (Brian Fuentes especially) and calling them out on it, which caused some in-house bickering (rare for an Angel club I admit). Surely seeing the Yankees arrogant pre-sale of World Series tickets prior to clinching the pennant will make all that go away and get these guys fired up.

Michael said...

yeah you're right those angels need to be motivated. those world series ticket sales will be just "the ticket" to get them going !!! you can punch their ticket to a world series parade in disneyland baby-- heck yeah!

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