Notes From A Delightful Comeback

At one point tonight, the score was 9-7 Red Sox following back-to-back home runs allowed by Yankee reliever Chan Ho Park. It felt like fate that I would end up blogging angrily but hopelessly about how poorly current managers use their bullpens. But then, because God is good and evidently a Yankee fan, Alex Rodriguez and Marcus Thames hit homers in the bottom of the ninth inning, thereby neutering my frustration and rendering me incapable of arguing with the fervor that I originally possessed. Instead, before I go to bed and while I fight this bug I’ve picked up, here are seven notes of varying lengths and importance:

  • Try as I might, I can’t totally ignore the fact that this game featured yet another prime example of all that’s wrong with modern bullpen management. With the Yankees up 7-6 entering the top of the seventh inning, Joe Girardi chose Chan Ho Park to relieve Boone Logan. No problems so far, since the Red Sox were sending solid but not spectacular Darnell McDonald, Marco Scutaro, and Dustin Pedroia trio to the plate that inning. Park, who had just come off the disabled list, managed to retire the side with little difficulty. The top of the eighth inning rolled around, and the Yankees still led 7-6. Of course, now the Yankees had to face the heart of the Red Sox order – J.D. Drew, Kevin Youkilis, and Victor Martinez. I then tweeted the following: “Leaving Park in here to face the middle of the Red Sox order would be a huge mistake, in my opinion. Let’s see what Girardi does.” Girardi left Park in, and one single and two home runs later, the score was 9-7 in favor of the Red Sox, and Park was walking off the mound to a chorus of boos. I will keep my point fairly brief. One day, a manager will look at this situation and decide to bring in his “closer” because he will realize that this situation – a one run game against the heart of the order – is when the game needs “saving,” not simply when the number in the innings column or box or whatever says “9.”  A manager will deploy his team’s Mariano Rivera or Joe Nathan or whomever he deems to be the team’s best reliever and say to him “this is the game right here, go get ’em, and we’ll use [second-best reliever] against the bottom of the order in the 9th.” And more often than not, that move will be the correct one.
  • Marcus Thames has been an absolute abomination in the field this season, so bad that I become uncontrollably nervous even when he settles underneath the laziest of fly balls looking into the clearest of skies on the stillest of nights. But provided he never sees the field again once Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher are both fully healthy, he’s been quite an addition to the team. For a whopping $900,000, Thames has hit .414/.514/.621 against lefties and .263/.348/.263 against righties. Even when the former set declines, it will be hard to say that he wasn’t worth the money. $900,000 isn’t a lot of money to any team in baseball, much less the Yankees, and he’s been worth half a win so far this season. Money well spent, I’d say.
  • Going into tonight’s game, Alex Rodriguez’s career line in “close and late” situations was .279/.380/.540. His overall career line is .304/.389/.574. Clutch God Derek Jeter’s career line in “close and late” situations was .293/.388/.422. His overall career line is .316/.387/.458. We can all agree to never again say that Rodriguez is an un-clutch choker, right? Right.
  • Javier Vazquez throw four pitches in the game, striking out Kevin Youkilis with runners on first and third in the top of the ninth inning. He got the win. What a meaningful statistic.
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka entered the game with a 6.35 ERA. After allowing seven runs in 4.2 innings, his ERA is now 7.89. Is it too early to say that his signing has been an enormous bust for the Red Sox? The hype surrounding this guy was unbelievable in 2007. He was supposed to be a rubber-armed, ultra-competitive, flame-throwing ace. He purportedly threw at least 16 types of pitches, some of which could – separately, of course – cure cancer, defy gravity, clean up oil spills, and figure out what to do with the other arm while spooning. Teams went nuts bidding for this guy, but none more so than the Red Sox, who shelled out $51 million to negotiate with him. Now he’s owed $8 million this season, and $10 million in each of the next two, bringing the total amount invested in him to $103 million. Going into tonight’s awful start, he’s been worth eight wins since his debut. That’s $12,875,000 per win. There’s still time to make the contract acceptable, but it’s hard to say that the trend is encouraging.
  • The older I’ve gotten, the harder it’s been for me to muster up those youthful feelings of contempt for or ill will towards members of the Red Sox. But if there’s anyone who can bring that version of me out of retirement, it’s Jonathan Papelbon (especially when he’s blowing a save in spectacular fashion). That I got to see Kevin Youkilis fall on his keester and Dustin Pedroia impudently complain about a bang-bang play at first was the icing on the cake.

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