Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Desperately Seeking Relief

  • Phillies 8-Yankees 6:

It's amazing they got this far:

One of the reasons I picked against the Phillies in both the NLDS and the NLCS----the main reason----is their unsettled situation at closer. Given how horrific Brad Lidge was this entire season, and how he's a mentally fragile and skittish train wreck when one thing doesn't go according to plan, there was no reason to believe that he'd be able to regain any semblance of the form that was the main factor in the Phillies championship in 2008. The other options weren't any better.

Ryan Madson? Great stuff, prone to the home run ball.

Chan Ho Park? It's a roll of the dice with a veteran who's never closed before.

Scott Eyre? Gutty and more useful against righties than he was ever given credit for, but he's got elbow issues and is openly talking of retirement after the season.

Brett Myers? He's done the job before as closer, liked it and was pretty good at it; also gets touched up by the home run ball and doesn't appear back to 100% after surgery for a torn hip labrum.

Chad Durbin? No.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel had little choice but to use Lidge and hope that he'd have one of his streaks in which he was performing physically and able to maintain his sanity to get on another roll. It worked in rounds 1 and 2; it's not working now.

After Johnny Damon fought, battled and clawed his way on base against Lidge in game 4----an achievement that led directly to the Yankees win----Lidge came apart. It wasn't simply the hits he allowed to Alex Rodriguez or Jorge Posada; it was his vapor locking on an elementary play that he should've known was his responsibility in covering third on Damon's steal of second; it was the look on his face that his world was collapsing after this one hiccup.

One would think that a pitcher of Lidge's talents and accomplishments would be able to recover from one bad game, but he goes into a tailspin whenever something like this occurs. It led to his trade from Astros and it's resulted in the Phillies current circumstances in the late innings where they have to piece everything together and hope to hold on.

Not only was Madson used to close the game last night (he performed a high-wire act himself), but Myers was warming up in front of Lidge in case Madson blew up completely. They've made it to game 6 of the World Series on the backs of their offense and Cliff Lee. Somehow, some way, they've got to piece it together to win two more games at Yankee Stadium with a bullpen that resembles a group therapy session in Fight Club more than a battle-tested defending champion. My advice would be to score as often as possible to keep the game out of the hands of their relievers----and even that might not be enough.

What options did the Yankees have for starting pitching?

When the decision was made to go with a three-man starting rotation for the playoffs, there was always this underlying risk that they'd have to deal with C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte running out of gas if they were extended further than expected. The panic and second-guessing shouldn't be as intense as it is now.

The Yankees made this mess when they instituted the ridiculous Joba Rules/JOBA RUINATION on Joba Chamberlain with the ill-thought-out attempts to make him a viable starter while keeping him in an airtight sarcophagus not to keep him healthy, but to avoid criticism if he got hurt. Becuase of that, he was not an option to start a fourth game. They made this mess by trading for Chad Gaudin rather than a playoff-tested and gutty Bronson Arroyo to take a fourth start if necessary. The issue should've been addressed as soon as Chien-Ming Wang was out for the season. It wasn't. They're in this circumstance now because of Brian Cashman's attempts to overthink and accrue credit for himself.

The idea that the extra work affected Burnett last night is questionable at best. Even when Burnett had his full complement of rest, was working with his catcher of choice and was beatifically happy like Eliot Spitzer at a high-class whorehouse, there was never any way of determining which Burnett would show up. Is it the Burnett who blew away the Twins and Phillies? Or is it the Burnett who got attacked by the Angels and Phillies like he'd peed on their post-game food spread? It just so happened that last night was the "bad" Burnett. His velocity was good, the Phillies adjusted their approach and didn't let Burnett get ahead in the count to whip in that nasty curve. It had little, if anything, to do with rest or a lack thereof.

They're not going to start anyone other than Pettitte and Sabathia in games 6 and 7 because they can't start anyone else. Chad Gaudin isn't going to see the mound except in an emergency. This is what the Yankees have, win or lose. If Pettitte and Sabathia are exhausted and collapse right before the finish line and the Yankees lose, the blame won't be on the players, but the front office for creating this mess in the first place.

One major concern for the Yankees in games 6 and 7 (if necessary):

Ryan Howard has been so rotten that he couldn't have done much worse against lefty pitchers if he decided----mid-World Series----to give switch-hitting a try and went up there batting right-handed. This has saved the Yankees to some degree because Howard has killed so many potential rallies with strikeouts. On the other hand, eventually someone's going to pay if Howard wakes up at the wrong time. If it happens in game 6 and 7 (if necessary), he could demolish a game all by himself. Then the Yankees are going to have a problem. They'd better score and score early against the Phillies starting pitchers to mitigate any Howard-bust out.

Much ado about nothing with Cole Hamels's comments:

Cole Hamels's whiny statement to the tune of "I can't wait for this season to be over" has gotten a lot of play and great concern as to the struggling pitcher's mental state. I think he was speaking out of frustration at the questions regarding his health; how tired he is after his workload over the past two years; that he's repeatedly falling apart in the middle-innings; and looks ready to cry at any adversity.

The Phillies have to trust Hamels in game 7 one way or the other and hope for the best. Game 7s are no time to wait for a pitcher to find himself, so if Hamels is pitching poorly his season will be over pretty quickly anyway. Now's not the time to dissect, analyze and deconstruct any player based on knee-jerk responses to the same questions over and over again.

  • When the Mets ran New York:

If anything brings back memories of the glory-filled 1980s for Mets fans it's the return to the moderate spotlight of former Yankee ├╝ber prospect Hensley "Bam Bam" Meulens as the new hitting coach for the San Francisco Giants----ESPN Story.

Much like the glory days of the early part of the 20th century when the Jew gangsters controlled New York, such was the case as the Mets ran the place. Year-after-year the Yankees----struggling to keep pace and remove the shackles of mismanagement and disarray and mask the laughingstock they were----tried to create an aura of building from within and competence. No player exemplified this more than Meulens.

From the nickname, Bam Bam; to the stories of his mythic power; to the anticipation of a home-grown slugger of their very own to compete with the growing legend of Darryl Strawberry across town, there was no way for Meulens to live up to the hype especially since he wasn't that good to begin with. He did receive a chance to play for the Yankees and did absolutely nothing----stats.

That he's back and expected to be a savior for the hitting woes of the Giants is bringing me back to those years. The Giants had better hope there isn't a similar result for them with Meulens as there was for the 80s Yankees.

  • Viewer Mail 11.3.2009:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes:

Sorry you got screamed at by your coach. I would have started sobbing. It does seem elementary that when you put a shift on like that, SOMEBODY has to cover third, presumably the pitcher. Also, in the pre-game on Fox, they were talking about Hamels saying he can't wait till the season is over. If true, I'm sure that didn't go over well in the clubhouse.

I never minded getting yelled at. I can take screaming if I deserved it; I wouldn't take abuse. Plus, it helped my state of mind because it showed at least they were paying attention.

That team was filled with a bunch of characters. There were two drug dealers; several petit criminals; a couple of pot/acid addicts; one guy who'd inhabited the persona of Will Clark straight down to the scowl; a 25-year-old who refused to accept the fact it was time to move on with his life and leave college after seven years; another who insisted on trying to screw his teammates' girlfriends and kept getting beaten up for it----and me.

There was one incident where I arrived at winter workouts on time, but just a tad late to witness what had happened the previous day. Our loud-mouthed catcher was already sheepishly walking up to the front of the gathered group with hands in his pockets and a look of contrived contrition on his face; the players were seated on the gym floor and listening to his apology for a verbal and near-physical confrontation with one of the student coaches.

I had no clue what was going on, so I had the now-customary bewildered look on my face, neatly combined with a half-smirk, I looked at the other guys with the rapid head swivel of a confused owl. One-by-one my eyes locked with the others; one-by-one, they saw me and covered their faces with their gloves to keep from laughing and making things worse.

The faux apologetic catcher himself later said, "I saw Lebowitz laughing and couldn't keep a straight face."

I wasn't laughing; I just didn't know what the hell was going on.

Not much has changed.

After practice, we all walked into the locker room. I gently placed my glove and equipment on a bench and grandly queried, "Okay fuckers, what the hell happened?"

The room fell on the floor in hysterics.

1 comment:

She-Fan said...

You had a few hilarious lines in this one...."a bullpen that resembles a group therapy session in 'Fight Club.'....'beatifically happy like Eliot Spitzer at a high-class whorehouse.'" Good work! I agree about the Yankees pitching situation. It's not Girardi's fault that he wasn't given a #4 starter. It's Cashman's. Chad Gaudin was never the answer.