Notes From A Delightful Comeback

May 18, 2010

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.

Joe Morgan & J.D. Drew

May 10, 2010

In last night’s Yankees-Red Sox game, Joe Morgan said that the reason Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew has emerged from his slump is because he is taking fewer pitches, being more aggressive, and swinging earlier in the count. I had a sneaking suspicion Morgan was totally making this up – mostly because he had just seen Drew rip an early-count single into center field off A.J. Burnett. Actually, Morgan’s “thinking” reminded me a lot of the 2:00-2:20 clip in this montage:

“Do you really love the lamp, or are you just saying it because you saw it?” But I digress.

Anyway, I looked it up. From April 4th-April 28th, Drew’s OPS was below .600. He saw an average of 18.1 pitches per game during that span. Since April 30th, his OPS has steadily risen from .695 to .834. He saw an average of 18.4 pitches per game as he emerged from his slump.

In conclusion, Joe Morgan is making things up. Again.


The Granderson Trade, And Other Thoughts On The Off-Season

December 15, 2009

I suppose it’s about time that I post something here. So much has changed since December 2nd. Tiger Woods’ life and reputation have been irreparably changed. Roy Halladay has been traded. In a move that will surely solve all of the franchise’s problems, the Knicks signed former lottery pick Jonathan Bender. And most importantly, I set a new personal record by riding eight separate trains (in order: 1, 3, 2, 5, R, V, D, C) in one day. It is truly a new world.

Other than my epic day of subway riding, the most pertinent development in the last thirteen days has been the New York Yankees trading for center fielder Curtis Granderson. I found out about this the way I usually find out about important sports news – by my phone buzzing incessantly while I’m at work (my phone darn near broke the day David Ortiz was outed as a steroid user). After personally assuring each and every one of my students that, yes, that is my phone that’s buzzing and yes, I’m aware that it’s a terrible injustice that I can have my phone in school and you can’t, I found a brief moment to read one of the six text messages sitting in my inbox. By chance, I happened to see the one co-founder Keesup sent me, which read something like “[Expletive] you. Seriously? Granderson?” He later sent me the details of the trade, and after much contemplation, I’ve decided that I approve of the Yankees’ decision. Read the rest of this entry »


Wrapping Up My Strongest Predictions From The 2009 MLB Season

October 14, 2009

It has been a hard week. My sixth graders are of the unwavering belief that I exist solely to torment them. I’m down to the final days of my early twenties (or perhaps not, as some think 23 still qualifies). There has been no baseball since Monday. I need cheering up, which is convenient, because I’ve been meaning to write a piece reminding my unsuspecting readers of out how right I was about these predictions. Well, I was on 80% of them. Here’s the long final word on these prognostications, in ascending order of accuracy. Read the rest of this entry »


The New York Yankees Are Your 2009 AL East Champions

September 28, 2009

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This is absolutely belated, but in case you haven’t heard, the New York Yankees are your 2009 American League Eastern Division Champions. I will give you two bits of information that make me feel warm and gleeful as I continue working on a slew of season-ending pieces:

  • Number of wins added by the Red Sox’ clever, efficient, low-risk, high-reward, prescient, versatile, crafty signings of John Smoltz, Brad Penny, Takashi Saito, and Rocco Baldelli: 1.9
  • Number of wins added by the Yankees’ nefarious, ruthless, unfair, greedy, gluttonous, shameful signings of C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira: 16.2
  • Number of homegrown players that contributed to the gritty, gutty, scrappy, hustling, playing-the-game-the-right-way, fiery 2009 Red Sox: 11
  • Number of homegrown players that contributed to the soulless, evil, oppressive, corporate, mercenary 2009 Yankees: 14

Hey, I’m still a fan, right?

(NOTE: “Contributed” is, indeed, a vague term. I defined a contributing player as having 50 or more plate appearances or 25 or more innings pitched. I settled on these numbers after looking at the Yankees’ roster and realizing that I had nearly forgotten about nearly everyone below these marks, but remembered everyone above them. International free agent signings [Matsui, Matsuzaka, etc.] were excluded.)



A Hodgepodge Of Links

August 27, 2009

I really wish I had time for a detailed and focused post, but alas, life intervenes. Here are some links that I found interesting to help tide you over:

  • The Red Sox released starting pitcher and failed mega-bargain Brad Penny. Coupled with John Smoltz’ ineptitude and subsequent departure, this development is more than a little bit satisfying considering the praise heaped upon the Red Sox for their low-cost offseason shopping. I have a serious but unrealistic suggestion, though: the Yankees should look into acquiring Penny. The Red Sox couldn’t afford his poor performance because (a) he was effectively their #3 starter and (b) they’re in the thick of the playoff race. Surely, however, Penny would be an upgrade on the Sergio Mitre/Chad Gaudin duo that currently occupies the Yankees’ fifth rotation slot, right? Rob Neyer may well agree with me.
  • Deadspin has a brief but outstanding piece about the damaging role of machismo and toughness in professional football. I’ve often thought about making this same point, but Dashiell Bennett conveys in a few hundred words what would have taken me about a thousand. Beware: some of the language in the accompanying video clip is a little off-color.
  • An appeals court has ruled that the government was wrong to seize the list and samples of the 104 Major League Baseball players who tested positive for banned substances in 2003. Great, this really helps David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez, who have had their reputations and accomplishments tainted by the egregious violation of their basic rights. What do the players think? Most seem to want the entire list released which, as I’ve said, is a horrible idea. Brian Bannister has the right idea though. Just another reason he’s one of my favorite pitchers.
  • Schadenfreude for Louisville (and probably many Kentucky) fans.

Happy Thursday, everyone.


New Steroids Report Reminds Us Of Baseball’s Institutional Failure

July 30, 2009

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As a Yankees fan, my reaction to today’s news can be nothing but euphoric. I have nothing against David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez personally (I rather like the latter), but it’s very, very satisfying to put to rest the notion that the Yankees cheat while the underdog Red Sox scratch and claw and hustle their way to victory.

But when the dust settles, my take on the situation remains the same. It remains shameful that the supposedly anonymous 2003 testing samples had names attached to them, and inexplicable that these samples weren’t destroyed after they had served their purpose. The still-unrevealed players were promised anonymity and don’t deserve to have their names released, but then again, how is that fair to Alex Rodriguez, Ortiz, and Ramirez? At this point, it’s clear that baseball – the league office, team management, union representation, writers, and every other group that comprises the institution – has handled this situation in the worst way possible. For me, the most damaging effect of this saga isn’t the realization that many of the game’s most prominent players cheated their way to fame and into our hearts. I simply can’t get worked up about that. No, it’s the realization that those that were entrusted with protecting and nurturing the game I love categorically failed to carry out their ultimate responsibility. That’s what makes me lose faith in the game, not the cheating.

At least we’re mere days away from “2004*, 2007*” shirts being available for purchase outside Yankee Stadium.