Jim Henneman's MLB Playoff Diary
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com
November 6, 2009: Still All About Pitching
In retrospect, which is nothing more than a fancy way of saying it’s 20-20 hindsight, the wonder of it all is that the Phillies even made it this far. To survive with pitching like that is an indictment of what’s going on in the National League these days. You can argue it’s basically the same team that won it all a year ago -- but that was only because the Tampa Bay Rays became unglued for the same reason the Phillies stumbled this year -- a lack of depth in the pitching staff.
The second wonder of it all is that it took the Yankees six years to get back to, and nine years to win another World Series. The open checkbook philosophy still prevails, but often you have to overspend to get the goods.
And the real joke of it all was the constant harping about pitchers working on “short” rest. It was almost as if Yankee manager Joe Girardi was breaking child labor laws by employing a three-man starting rotation, when he really had no other choice. He wasn’t going to play a seven game series without using CC Sabathia three times -- and if it meant having A.J. Burnett and/or Andy Pettitte somewhat below par for one turn, so be it. As it turned out the Yankees split the games Sabathia started, losing the one he worked when he had more rest than normal and winning when he went on “only” three days rest.
The way this thing played, those more concerned with pitch counts than wins and losses had it worked out so that one of the manager’s would be the so-call “goat” -- Girardi for using pitchers every fourth day if the Yankees had lost, and Charlie Manuel for not doing the same thing with Cliff Lee once the Phillies were eliminated. Here’s how ridiculous it was -- everybody mentioned how ineffective Burnett was in Game 5 working after three off days, but nobody said anything about how Lee was hardly any better in the same game -- working his normal routine. Or that Burnett was 4-0 in other games he started with three days of rest.
They even carried it so far to say that Pettitte would be one of only a handful of pitchers in the last century to win on “short rest.” Left unsaid was the fact that “short rest” for the first half of the last century was two days, not three -- and you might want to ask Bob Gibson and Mickey Lolich had that all played out.
The strangest thing about the way this World Series played out is that Sabathia didn’t win a game and for the most part the middle of the Yankees’ batting order, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, remained quiet. Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui were the three that did most of the damage. For his part Teixeira had to be content with being the most dominating defensive player of the post-season -- and when’s the last time you ever heard that said about a first baseman. A-Rod had his moments, but even then he had to take a back seat to the TV camera along the right field foul line.
If somebody had said the Yankees wouldn’t get a win from Sabathia (they did win one of his two starts) and little production from their No. 3 and 4 hitters, you’d say their chances of winning were next to nil. But on the other side, Ryan Howard, the Phillies’ No. 4 batter and Tex’s first base counterpart, had a horrible Series and the tattered pitching staff really had no chance over the long haul. It was especially evident in the deciding Game 6, when he stayed with the aging and tiring Pedro Martinez as long as he could stand it, that Manuel had no desire to go to his bullpen except when forced to do say.
Manuel could have pitched Lee five times in the Series and it wouldn’t have made any difference. The guy he needed to take charge, Cole Hamels, last year’s World Series MVP, couldn’t protect a 3-0 lead midway through Game 4 and as soon as that game was decided, you knew it was over.
What both managers learned was that, until you get to somebody like Mariano Rivera (a luxury Maneul didn’t have) going to the bullpen can be a crapshoot. If the rest of baseball learned anything from this World Series it should be to rethink the value of a four-man rotation, so that three days off is not considered labor abuse, and get away from the idea that you have to change pitchers every time you take a lead into the ninth inning.
If today’s players are really bigger, faster, stronger, which we’d be foolish not to believe, there’s no reason why they can’t pitch longer and more often. If the game wants to improve the pitching and help those who throw the ball for a living, it can start by raising the height of the pitching mound from 10 to 12 inches and reducing the size of the starting rotations from five to four. Until somebody comes up with documented evidence that it’s detrimental, there’s no reason to think pitchers of today can’t perform at the same frequency level of those who toiled a half-century ago.
With the accepted benchmarks now six innings per game and 200 innings per season, almost a one-third drop from 50 years, there’s no reason not to try. But don’t hold your breath.
November 3, 2009: Chase Utley Can Play
We've seen enough of the early returns now and we confirm the verdict -- Chase Utley can play this game. Okay, so we had a few hints earlier, but just thought it needed to be re-enforced. Especially after those car salesmen people who sponsor the World Series declared Cliff Lee as the outstanding player in Game 5 of the World Series.
Huh? What episode were they watching? Two home runs, one of them a three-run shot that negated an early score by the visitors, in an 8-6 win that enabled the Phillies to outlast the Yankees and last at least another game clearly established Utley as the night's premier performer. With his slicked back hair and sharp features Utley looks like one of those characters from "The Sting" or one of those "Godfather" movies, but this dude can flat out hack, as they would say in the dugout.
It's been a long time since there's been a left-handed hitter who stands his ground against quality pitching of the same persuasion (see CC Sabathia) as good as Utley, and last night he showed there is no prejudice by taking A.J. Burnett deep before the right-hander had a chance to gain control. Without Utley's presence last night, the Phillies would've been buried by mid-game. At least that's the consensus in this corner and we're sticking to it.
Once Burnett, and later Lee, left the building and the game was turned over to the respective bullpens it was only a question of who could squeeze 27 outs the fastest. Fortunately the Phillies had a six-run cushion to work with. Even though it was quickly cut in half when Lee departed in the seventh, the head start was just enough.
The real fear for both these teams is that this World Series might be determined by the bullpens. That would favor the Yankees because of Mariano Rivera -- but only if they can find a way to get to their future Hall of Fame closer. The Phillies don't have the luxury of that kind of stopper, which probably doesn't bode well for the defending champions. If Brad Lidge could consistently throw strikes with his devastating slider it might be a different story, but when the hitters lay off that pitch (not easy) and he has to go to the fastball it's too often a hitter's paradise.
Philly manager Charlie Manuel appears reluctant to go to anybody late in the game, which perhaps might influence him to stay with anybody who is able to escape the eighth inning. With a three-run lead and the leadoff man on base, last night would've been a good time to try that philosophy. But instead of just letting Chan Ho Park attempt a sacrifice bunt (just imagine, this corner championing a bunt!) and see if he could get three more outs to close the game, Manuel went for the kill -- and almost got killed. One DP, one run and one more baserunner and the Phillies had to dodge the tying run at the plate not once, but twice.
The Phillies earned their way back to Yankee Stadium, where Manuel has no choice other than Pedro Martinez to start Game 6. He can't take the chance of losing this Series without sending his oldest reclamation project to the mound one more time. And it would be a good idea to keep Utley healthy.
Posted November 3, 2009
November 2, 2009: Make No Mistake
Make no mistake about it, Johnny Damon's nine-pitch at-bat was the reason Game 4 of the World Series was decided in regulation time. The Yankees might have prevailed anyhow -- that's something we'll never know -- but they sure weren't going to do it without extra innings had it not been for Damon's classic duel with Phillies' reliever Brad Lidge, who ultimately gave in and gave up the hit that set the stage for the Yankees' very deceiving 7-4 win.
And it should be noted that the vastly overrated "shift" with all the infielders except for the third baseman on the right side of the diamond during Mark Teixeira's abbreviated at-bat, also played a significant role in the outcome. After Lidge went away from the devastating slider that had Damon fouling off pitches with a lunging, defensive swing and gave up the single to leftfield setting the stage for a three-run, two-out rally by the Yankees, the Phillies went to the overloaded defense against Teixeira for reasons only explained by the scouting report.
The one thing the Phillies needed to guard against in that situation was an extra-base hit, not a single through the infield -- at least until Damon proceeded to steal two bases on the very first pitch. That's right, two bases because the third baseman was covering second, leaving the next station unguarded and an easy mark for Damon who easily beat the short-hop throw to second and continued on like it was in his game plan all along -- and very well might have been, judging from his postgame comments.
Until then, Lidge had shown an overpowering fastball and a devastating slider, striking out Hideki Matsui and Derek Jeter and appearing to have Damon set up for a similar fate until the count finally went to 3-and-2 and the right-hander went away from the breaking ball. With Damon now on third base, the wicked slider, at least the one that broke sharply into the dirt, seemed to be taken out of consideration. Teixeira was hit by the second pitch, A-Rod rifled a shot to leftfield to break the 4-4 tie and Jorge Posada provided the exclamation point with a shot to left-centerfield that plated the final two runs.
Why the Phillies chose to overplay the right side against the switch-hitting Teixeira, who has displayed power to both sides of the diamond from both sides of the plate became a moot point after A-Rod jumped on a second successive fastball from Lidge. The dramatic turnaround came just when it appeared the Phillies would have a chance to even the series without having to go through Mariano Rivera. Instead, they are left with a deflated feeling now appearing to face the inevitable.
Tim McCarver kept preaching the sermon last night about how the Phillies' left-handed hitters weren't heeding hitting coach Milt Thompson's advice to take CC Sabathia's slider to the opposite field. Lost in the conversation was the fact that Chase Utley had two home runs (soon to be three) and a double, and Ryan Howard a run-scoring single -- all on balls hit to the right side.
Meanwhile Joe Buck was making Sabathia's pitch count the lead story as early as the third inning, noting it had hit 46 going into the fourth inning, which is an average of slightly more than 15 per inning, which by most counts is considered efficient.
When A-Rod hit the two-run homer that began the turnaround for the Yankees in Game 3 Saturday, you couldn't help but wonder if maybe the guy working the Fox camera in right field was Jeffrey Maier. That ball was never in danger of being caught, and the ruling (changing it from a double to a home run) was probably the correct one. But you could make a case the evidence wasn't indisputable. What helped was the clarification the next day that the umpires, after touring the facility prior to Game 3, had determined any ball that hit the camera would be a home run -- a decision they could've made on the field before retreating to the replay booth.
Of course, the camera had no right being there in the first place. Is the angle that much better being inside in fair territory, rather than outside in foul territory?
Not sure if it was Buck or McCarver who kept urging fans to be sure to turn their clocks back Saturday night, finally emphasizing you wouldn't want to be late watching your favorite game the next day, forgetting about "fall back" when it comes to standard time.
Posted November 2, 2009
October 30, 2009: Yankees Tie Series
The last time Pedro Martinez convinced his manager he was good to stay in a postseason game, the Red Sox were in the process of extending their streak to 86 years without a World Series win -- and Grady Little was about to lose his job.
The Phillies may or may not win this World Series, but Charlie Manuel isn’t about to lose his job as manager because he let Martinez hang around until the seventh inning last night. Given the state of his bullpen this year, nobody is going to question his decision, not even in Philly where they tend to question everything that doesn’t work. Come to think of it, though, that doesn’t make Philly any different than B’more or any other major league city.
The home run that Hideki Matsui hit off Martinez to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead with two outs in the sixth inning was one of those “chip shots” that wouldn’t get out of many minor league parks, but was just good enough in the new and cozy Yankee Stadium (might have made it in Philly too). It was after that homer that Pedro, despite later admitting he has been under the weather, convinced Manuel he was good to go back out in the seventh inning. It would eventually lead to an all important “add on” run, actually surrendered by the bullpen when Pedro left after facing one more hitter.
Manuel couldn’t really be second guessed for that decision, any more than he should have been for not starting the runners when Chase Utley hit into a double play against Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning. Manuel’s reasoning was sound in both instances -- but sound reasoning doesn’t always work.
Speaking of sound reasoning, take note that Joe Girardi has become a bridge jumper. Not to insinuate he’s ready to jump off one – just that he’s now pretty much committed to jumping over the one Phil Hughes used to provide in order to get to Rivera in the ninth inning. In what many hope might be a continuing “back to the future” scenario, Girardi went right to Rivera in the eighth inning, with six outs to go and a 3-1 lead. The guess here is you will see that every chance Girardi has the rest of the way, bypassing Hughes, the unpredictable Joba Chamberlain and assorted lefthanders available in the bullpen.
An eighth inning lead, especially a slim one, will be reason enough to summon Rivera, who is 38 going on 28 and looking like he might last as long as Hoyt Wilhelm.
This is shaping up as potentially one of the most entertaining Series in a long time (there really hasn’t been one since the last time the Yankees participated, and lost, six years ago). Naturally it suddenly isn’t shaping up as a home run derby, as widely predicted in many corners, including this one. But, really, that’s the way it usually goes during Fall Ball. There’s an occasional outburst, but pitching ultimately determines who survives.
Both teams need to get to the other bullpen early to get any offense established. Rivera still looms as the big difference, and the way Girardi has used him this off-season suggests he should be in line for two shares of the World Series payout, because the “bridge” may not be salvaged.
October 29, 2009: Game 1 Throws Off Yanks' Pitching Plans
A not so funny thing happened to the Yankees during their preliminary preparation for Game 4 of the World Series. In the process Game 1 got out of hand, and “Mariano’s Bridge” was found to be in serious need of repair.
The only plausible reason CC Sabathia was removed from Game 1 Wednesday night was because Yankees manager Joe Girardi is planning on a 1-4-7 assignment for his portly left-handed ace, with Sabathia starting three times in a potential seven-game series. After the first return was in, the Yankees would probably settle now for a guarantee of a seven-game schedule.
Trailing only 2-0 after seven innings, with six more outs still available to their heretofore potent offense, the Yankees were hardly in early surrender mode, even though Cliff Lee was doing his best Mike Cuellar impersonation. The Yankees have been known to score two runs before the opposition can get a new pitcher warmed up -- as both the Twins and Angels can attest.
The guy charged with the responsibility of keeping the game under control, and the guy who is supposed to provide the bridge between the starters and closer Mariano Rivera is Phil Hughes -- and, after a very successful second half of the season, he has come up empty during the postseason, so much so in fact that you can bet Girardi will shy away from the young right-hander at the next opportunity.
Hughes faced only two batters, but that was enough to set the table for the four eighth-inning runs that enabled the Phillies to remove any doubt about the outcome, giving Lee enough of a cushion to escape a mild scare in the ninth inning and letting manager Charlie Manuel stay away from the back end of the bullpen that has given him a lot of trouble this year, after being almost perfect a year ago.
Suddenly the biggest advantage the Yankees’ supposedly had, their late-inning relief highlighted by Rivera, the best finisher of his time and maybe all time, is as jumpy as a handful of Mexican beans. Hughes in particular has not given any indication that he’s ready to handle the setup role, meaning Girardi has to find somebody else, and find him quick, to get to Rivera. If he doesn’t the Phillies may nor treat the Yankees with any more respect than they gave the Tampa Bay Rays a year ago while winning this thing in five games.
It’s hard to believe the Yankees’ will be as inoffensive throughout the World Series as they were in Game 1, but they better not be letting any more games get out of hand the way they did in Game 1.
October 26, 2009: All Aboard For The Amtrak Series
Twenty six years ago, baseball fans were treated to the I-95 Series between the Phillies and Orioles. Two years later it was the I-70 Series in the state of Missouri between the Cards and Royals, four years after that came the Earthquake Series between the Giants and A's, and now we've got a rematch of the mismatch between he Bronx Bombers and the Whiz Kids in 1950.
If there is any consolation for those who wanted to see anybody but the Yankees or Red Sox, it is the fact that there can be little argument the Yankees and Phillies represent the best the American and National Leagues have to offer. Neither got there as easily as it seemed, despite losing only three games between them in the first two rounds of the postseason.
At first glance, this World Series shapes up as a home run derby, but as always pitching will dictate this outcome, as it does most of the time. The staggered schedule of the postseason games to date gives a definite edge to the pitchers, who have an easier time than hitters maintaining their routine.
Both sides will be able to align their pitching rotation however they decide, which wouldn't have been the case had a Game 7 been necessary in either league. On the surface that should give the Yankees a huge advantage -- but there's a hidden factor here. CC Sabathia undoubtedly will be put on a schedule that would allow him to start three times in a seven-game series -- but don't forget the Phillies put an end to the portly lefthander's brilliant run a year ago, when the swept the Brewers in the opening round enroute to their first World Series Championship since 1980.
Game 1 on Wednesday night should provide some added intrigue as a pair of lefthanders, both former Cy Young Award winners, who were teammates on a different team a year ago face each other in a scenario neither could have dreamed of at the start of the 2008 season. That's the year Cliff Lee won the award as the AL's top pitchers, shortly after Sabathia, the 2007 winner, had been traded to the Brewers.
This time it was Lee who got traded into the postseason, and his run is a lot longer than the one Sabathia had a year ago. Sabathia took the more conventional (in this day and age) way to the World Series by opting for free agency and following the money.
It should be an entertaining matchup.
Posted October 26, 2009 at 9:40 a.m.
October 23, 2009
When the Yankees loaded the bases without a hit in the ninth inning, you could almost hear the collective refrain from the left to the right coast: “Here we go again.” It just wasn’t going to be Mike Scioscia’s night. Pull the starter before he had allowed a run -- oops. Issue an intentional walk to put the potential tying run on base -- oops. Sticking with a relief pitcher who couldn’t find the strike zone with the bases loaded -- almost oops.
Somehow the Angels survived to send the American League Championship Series back to New York for a Game 6. And back on the right coast, nestled in the City of Brotherly Love, were the real winners -- the repeat National League champion Phillies, with a tattered but rested pitching staff chomping at the bit and relishing the thought that the neither the Yankees nor the Angles could be in an ideal position to start the World Series. There is rain in the forecast for New York tomorrow -- and a postponement would leave Yankee manager Joe Girardi, who hasn’t exactly come off as a mastermind thus far, in an interesting predicament.
Girardi had carefully set up his rotation so CC Sabathia could pitch three times in a seven-game series, and he would pitch Sunday on regular rest. So, should Saturday’s game get postponed, would the skipper bring CC back for Game 6 and risk losing him for Game 1 and the potential of three more starts in a seven-game World Series? Or would he stay the course and risk going to the seventh game?
Decisions, decisions. If only the situation could be resolved with a pinch runner. Girardi would make the move in an instant. He used two more in the aborted ninth inning rally in Game 5 and somebody needs to explain his reasoning behind removing Alex Rodriguez, thereby risking the loss of his No. 4 hitter if the game went into extra innings, which certainly was a possibility. There was a left-handed pitcher on the mound (Brian Fuentes) and with two outs, Girardi didn’t even think about risking an attempted steal.
It made no sense, and that quizzical look that A-Rod seems to have painted on his countenance looked a little more confused than normal as he leaned up against the dugout railing, close to Derek Jeter, and in easy range of the TV cameras. Had the Yankees scored once and the game gone into extra innings, Girardi would’ve been without the fourth and fifth hitters in his lineup -- similar to moves he made earlier in the series. Go figure.
Two innings after Mark Teixeira shed a huge pair of goat horns with a bases-loaded double that drove in the first three runs during the Yankees’ six-run seventh inning -- his first RBIs of the series -- there stood Nick Swisher, who has lived up to that name throughout the postseason thus far. He was looking for his first RBI as well. It looked like déjà vu all over again, especially when the count went to 3-and-2 as Fuentes used his slingshot delivery while giving his best Don Stanhouse imitation.
Fuentes survived, but I wouldn’t count on him being the Angels’ closer beyond this year.
Give the Angels credit. Most teams would’ve folded easier than your daily circular after falling behind 6-4. But Girardi’s sudden distrust of his bullpen probably aided their three-run answering rally in the seventh. His decision to stick with starter A.J. Burnett is being widely criticized, not necessarily because of the number of pitches that had been thrown (80-something). The length of time on the bench while the Yankees were scoring six runs probably had more to do with Burnett’s meltdown than anything. And actually he was something of an unsung hero for keeping the Yankees in the game that long after surrendering four runs after only five batters had come to the plate in the first inning.
In what may have been his final game at home as an Angel, John Lackey turned in his routine gutty effort, surviving several hanging curve balls in the first inning, and clearly wasn’t of a mind to come out of the game with Teixeira batting and the bases loaded with two outs in the seventh. Teixeira's bases-clearing double justified Lackey’s faith in himself, but if Scioscia had left his starter in to give it up in that situation, with the season on the line, he’d have been deep fried faster than your favorite fast food.
The huge shadow of Sabathia still lurks over the Angels, but you get the feeling this might not be as easy as everybody thought it would be for the Yankees. And, when you go back over some of the things that have happened that could have tilted the scales differently, even back to the ALDS against the Twins, the Yankees haven’t been as dominant as it seems. All of which should make Saturday very interesting, weather or not.
October 22, 2009
I’ve been writing Jayson Werth’s name so long I figure he’s at least as old as Melvin Mora, who used to swing a strong right-handed bat for the Orioles. I knew better, but still I have to admit I was stunned when I actually looked up his age for the umpteenth time.
Werth, former O’s No. 1 draft pick (22nd overall) in 1997, the last year they were relevant, turned 30 years old last March. Going into this year he had played more games (736-619) and had more at-bats (2530-1965) in the minor leagues than in the big leagues. The Orioles drafted him as an 6-foot-5, 18-year-old catcher. They traded him at 21, after two full years in the minor leagues, as a catcher-first baseman-outfielder, to the Toronto Blue Jays for lefthanded pitcher John Bale. Werth is still ONLY 30 years old….Bale is still ONLY left-haded.
This is not to suggest that Werth was one of those can’t miss, five tool players you never give up on -- after all he has been traded twice for relief pitchers, the second time from the Blue Jays to the Dodgers for Jason Frasor, and then allowed to walk as a free agent. It says something that his salary never reached seven figures until 2008, so people weren’t exactly knocking doors down to get his services.
But, I repeat, he’s still only 30 years old. He’s been around for what seems like a long time. And he’s going to the World Series for the second straight year. And, yes, it hurts that the O’s are in the market for a legitimate righthanded hitter with a little pop. I don’t know what took Werth so long to hit his peak, but I got a pretty good idea when I looked as his minor league numbers -- when the O’s were busy trying to rush him to Class AA almost before it was time to shave, as they did with a lot of players in those days. He had less than 1500 of those minor league at-bats in the O’s system, and they gave up on him as a catcher, though he was still wearing those tools when he was traded the first time.
Here’s what I believe -- you don’t give up on a No 1 draft choice after two years, especially a position player with some tools in exchange for a specialty relief pitcher. It’s an easy second guess now, I know (though it has been brought up many times before)…but the bottom line is you better be careful when you pull the trigger on a high school draft choice -- before you pick him, and before you give up on him.
As Werth heads for his second straight World Series after hitting two home runs in the Phillies’ clinching win over the Dodgers last night, the Orioles are contemplating the makeup of their 40-man roster for 2010. One of the decisions they face is whether or not they should protect Billy Rowell, a 6-foot-5-inch shortstop-turned third baseman-turned outfielder, who was drafted No. 1 as an 18-year old in 2006. Scouting reports on the potential lefthanded power hitter have been mixed, enough so that the O’s face a similar decision that was made nine years ago on Werth.
Based on what we’ve seen the last couple of years, the best words of advice are simple: Trader beware.
October 21, 2009
It used to be the only time you heard about the pitch count was to relate balls and strikes -- as in 1-and-0 or 2-and-2, but last night it seemed like every time CC Sabathia raised his powerful left arm, Tim McCarver or Joe Buck reminded us ... pitch count 53 ... pitch count 81... etc. The fact that CC was breezing with only a brief hiccup was almost lost in the conversation. And, oh yeah don't forget, he was working on "only" three days rest (which was only normal down time for roughly a half-century. Before that it was a couple of hours or so).
Those of us who pine for the return of the four-man rotation shouldn't get our hopes up though. CC is 6-foot-7 and about 300 pounds and needs the extra work just to maintain a routine. Judging him on three days rest as opposed to say, Chris Tillman, is like ... well, you get the idea.
It didn't make any difference in last night's blowout as it turned out, but the Angels seemed to be pushing the envelope by playing the infield up with men on second and third in the fourth inning. As it turned out they probably would've needed a shutout to win, but the maneuver, in addition to ultimately costing at least one run, indicated the Angels held little hope of doing much damage against Sabathia.
Off days between Games 4 and 5 in a seven game series should be outlawed.
The Yankees get a day to rest before resuming their assault on the Lakers, er Angels, just as the Phillies did last night after taking a 3-1 bump against the Dodgers. So much for the Freeway Series. Amtrak anyone?
Now that A-Rod has his mojo back in the postseason (after being AWOL for five years), he's bound to become the new darling in the Big Apple. But trust me, he's not going to replace Derek Jeter at the top of the popularity poll.
How good a night did Tim McClelland have last night? And here's the bad news -- he's rated top umpire in the game. How many times do you see two calls blown at third base in one game? Remember when they wouldn't let teams show controversial (translation: close) plays on the scoreboard? Now they're on TV sets all over the park courtesy of the networks. The umps are not going to come out looking too good on the highlight film this year.
At this stage of the game, we might as well hope the ALCS series ends in five games. There's another day off scheduled after each Game 5 anyhow, and the Fall Classic won't start until Wednesday regardless. And don't even wonder why they can't move it up. Travel logistics make the uncertainty of World Series cities almost impossible as it is. October is the busiest month of the year for conventions, and hotels don't look kindly at blocking off thousands of rooms only to have them cancelled at the last minute.
It's a good thing Tex brought his glove to this postseason. And how good has it been? By modest count he's taken at least a half-dozen outs away from the Angels in only four games. I know Mariano Rivera is the best ever at his craft, but not even he is good enough or smart enough to be able to induce three straight hitters to hit the ball to the best defensive player on the field. But he did just that with the go-ahead run on third base in Game 3.
Posted October 21, 2009 at 10:05 a.m.
October 20, 2009
Watching Joe Girardi manage this postseason is like reading the Baltimore Tribune's account of what's going on -- you don't know whether to laugh or cry.
While Girardi is trying to pinch-run and pinch-pitch his $200 million payroll to the World Series, our local paper is doing its best to keep us confused -- if indeed anybody is relying on the local Tribune supplement for information pertaining to anything of interest outside of Chicago. For those who may not have lasted until the bitter end Monday night (actually it was kind of fun watching JG manage like he was running a Little League team in a league that required full participation and it wasn't all that late), despite what the paper's game account told you, Andy Pettite did not give up the triple that led to the Angels' fourth run of the game. That distinction belonged to Joba Chamberlain (as the box score noted), a slight fact that escaped not only the writer but also the editor. Oh well, minor miscalculation.
Meanwhile, Girardi has emerged as a manager who manages -- and oh, how he (over) manages. Not even Tony LaRussa gets his fingerprints on this many games in such a short time. Sixteen pitchers in two games? Using a lefty to replace a lefty to pitch to a righty? And a righty to replace a righty to pitch to another righty? Well ... you get the point. And, oh yeah, let's keep pinch-running for the No. 5 hitter and leaving the lineup bare in the late (not to mention extra) innings.
The only thing saving JG right now is CC Sabathia -- which makes Game 4 enormous. The only reason Girardi hasn't managed himself into a 2-1 hole is because of the brain cramp Angels reliever Brian Funetes had in Game 2, when he decided two inside fastballs to Alex Rodriguez for strikes were a mirage and something away (where A-Rod could extend himself) might trick somebody -- on an 0-and-2 count.
Can't imagine what might happen if the Yankees make it to the W.S. With his National League background you have to wonder if JG will double-switch that $200 million payroll into oblivion. You can bet that the Angels are looking at tonight's Game 4 like it is a one-game series -- much like the Red Sox did in 2004 with Game 5. In order to get to the W.S. the Angels figured they'd have to beat CC Sabathia at least once -- and given the circumstances, this might be their best (or only) opportunity.
Posted October 20, 2009 at 2:45 p.m.
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com