- Yankees 7-Phillies 4:
Joe Girardi's smart moves:
Aside from one or two decisions that could've been quibbled with, Yankees manager Joe Girardi had his second straight solid game running his club and has them on the brink of a World Series win.
He rode his starter C.C. Sabathia as far into the game as he felt he could go before Chase Utley again took Sabathia deep; he trusted Damaso Marte; he made the gutsy decision to switch the eighth inning role from Phil Hughes to Joba Chamberlain; and he allowed Johnny Damon to steal in the ninth inning in a bandbox ballpark with the power hitters at the plate.
I said at the time that I would've left Sabathia in to pitch to Ryan Howard even after Utley's homer. It has to do with stature and salary and that I do not trust Marte to maintain his level of good work even though he's always handled Howard. (Howard's never gotten a hit off of Marte and has now struck out five times in six at bats.) Sabathia's the man, the big money guy and he's the one I'd trust. Eventually, Howard is going to get to Marte. That said, it worked. Marte struck Howard out and made him look terrible in doling it.
The Chamberlain move to pitch the eighth inning with a one-run lead was curious and ripe for second guessing. There are two schools of thought. One, Hughes was the eighth inning guy all season long and to make the change now could be seen as panicky----you ride the boat that carried you sink or swim; two, Hughes has been struggling, but so has Chamberlain. I would've stayed with Hughes; Chamberlain blew away the first two hitters before Pedro Feliz too him deep; it's nitpicking to give Girardi a hard time for the decision even though Chamberlain gave up that homer.
Johnny Damon's steal of second and third on the same play was the game-breaker. In that Phillies ballpark, I might've played it safe and, at most, put on a hit-and-run with Mark Teixeira in case he hit one into the gap. Allowing Damon to steal won the game for the Yankees.
The Damon steals:
I've never seen that before in my life and the fault for Damon being able to swipe third on that play falls on Brad Lidge, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and his coaches.
If a club is putting on such an exaggerated shift in which the third baseman is covering second on a steal, the pitcher must, must, must, must have it drilled into his head that as soon as the throw goes through to second, he has to take off to cover third.
There's no excuse. Lidge's mental fragility and implosions as soon as one little thing goes wrong can't come into play when keeping his mind on what he's supposed to be doing. I'm all for coddling a player to get the best out of him----to a point----but it's as if they're treading lightly around Lidge to keep him from collapsing into the fetal position and sobbing uncontrollably. It was inexplicable.
The only thing I could think of when I saw that was when I was in college and we were in the gym during winter drills, working on various bunting situations. All the pitchers would take turns going to the mound, the coach would call a specific numbered play where we'd either cover third, go after the ball, cover first, etc. Three times in a row, he called the same number in which I was supposed to cover third...and three times in a row I screwed it up. After the third time, he lit into me:
"HOW MANY MORE TIMES DO WE HAFTA RUN THAT PLAY BEFORE YOU GET IT RIGHT?!? THAT'S THE FIFTH TIME YOU'VE FUCKED IT UP, LEBOWITZ!!!!! GET YOUR FUCKIN' HEAD OUTTA YOUR ASS!!!!!
This coach was not a screamer unless he got frustrated to the point where he exploded. (I did have some use in that regard.) And this was a person who liked me. (There's no accounting for taste.) In retrospect, it was for the best that I didn't point out that it was the third time I'd screwed it up, not the fifth. Everyone was standing around, trying not to laugh; I pawed at the gym floor with my foot, hands on my hips and head tilted, looking sheepish. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
My turn came up again, he called the same play and I got it right. Hallelujah.
It did show the value of one thing that I've carried through since----the value of screaming like a raving lunatic. It works surprisingly well.
The Philles weren't throwing at ARod:
Alex Rodriguez thought the Phillies were throwing at him and the umpires were concerned enough about the escalating tensions that after ARod was hit again in the first inning, they issued warnings to both benches.
I can totally understand where ARod was coming from in believing he was a target. If a pitcher is trying to hit a batter, he throws to the exact spots where ARod's gotten hit----the back and ribs. That said, I think the Phillies were trying to pitch ARod inside and high and their control was off. If pitchers pitch inside, they're going to hit batters once in awhile.
The strategy of busting ARod in high and tight has precedence. If you remember the 1999 ALCS when ARod was with the Mariners, Roger Clemens fired a 98-mph fastball at ARod's head in the first inning of his masterful and dominating 1-hit shutout in game 4. ARod was shaken up and a non-factor for the rest of that game. That's how ARod must be pitched to stop him.
Brushing him back makes sense; throwing at him to hit him doesn't. The Phillies are loud, but they're not stupid. They weren't trying to hit ARod.
- Well, it's offensive anyway:
Derek Jeter deserves almost all the credit he gets for his intelligence; his leadership; the way he plays the game and comports himself as a professional at all times, but that shouldn't translate into undeserved awards. That's exactly what happened though as the Hank Aaron Award winners were announced yesterday.
Albert Pujols won in the National League, as he should've; Jeter won in the American League, which is absurd.
The award is voted on by the media and fans. According to Wikipedia, the fans vote counts for 30% of the vote. The only way that Jeter won this award over Joe Mauer is if a conspiracy between ballot-box stuffing fans and Michael Kay was completed with greater diabolical skill than the elections in Afghanistan and Iran combined. Apart from that, there's no explanation.
Jeter had a great year, but even he knows he didn't deserve the award in comparison to Mauer.
It's a farce.
- Viewer Mail 11.2.2009:
Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the "sombrero" debate and Cole Hamels:
Thank goodness that sombrero thing has been straightened out once and for all. Now I can sleep at night! I was very surprised by the turn around with Hamels last night. He looked unhittable - and was - for three innings. Then he unraveled. Pitchers fascinate me.
I wouldn't go so far to say that it's straightened out. People in general don't listen to me until it's too late, if then.
With Hamels, people keep talking about how tough the Phillies are, but both Hamels and Lidge unravel on and off the field at the slightest pushback. This should be a lesson to the Mets that they need to shove the Phillies back with force next year; like most bullies, the Phillies are showing evidence that they cower and collapse when challenged.
Jeff at Red State Blue State writes:
I will spread the word as soon as this hangover goes away. Speaking of which, they had the game going at the bar last night and I quickly remembered how blindly idiotic the masses are. By the 9th inning, in Chicago bar, suddenly I'm surrounded by an influx of Yankees fans? Please. I know that winning can be infectious, but Chicago let me down last night.
If it was a Cubs bar, you can understand the need to cheer at some team doing something positive. This type of series with two teams that are so despised can forge strange alliances and allegiances. I certainly don't want to hear Yankee crap all winter long, but the sight of those despicable Phillies fans on the verge of tears and/or slitting their wrists created a smile bigger than anything not involving a positive outcome for the Mets or a real (or moderately) good woman----and that's up for debate as well.