October 30, 2011

Review: The Art Of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Chad Harbach's debut novel, The Art of Fielding, has received an amazing amount of buzz and praise, both for the quality of the writing and for the ten-year path the manuscript took to publication*. Baseball America called Harbach the literary equivalent of Stephen Strasburg.

* If you are interested, Keith Gessen explores the world of book publishing in the October issue of Vanity Fair. Gessen's article uses Harbach's experience as a springboard (the two men are co-founders and co-editors of n+1). An expanded version of the article (19,000 words or so) is available as a $2 e-book: "How a Book Is Born: The Making of The Art of Fielding".

From Gregory Cowles's glowing review in the New York Times (which includes plenty of plot details (aka information that does not belong in a book review because it can ruin your reading experience):
The novel centers on the Westish College Harpooners, a Division III team from the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan that sees its fortunes rise and then rise some more with the arrival of a nearly magical young shortstop named Henry Skrimshander. Henry is an infield savant, scrawny but supremely gifted, and by his junior year he's chasing records and being scouted by the majors as a top draft prospect. Then, in the baseball equivalent of a werewolf movie, it all goes terribly wrong ...

[I]t feels exactly right that Henry's crisis is precipitated by over­analysis - he's paralyzed by thought, by an inability to simply act (or react). This is credible from a sports point of view, and fraught with significance from a literary one. Thinking, after all, is a writer's primary weapon, but every writer knows it's double-­edged; live too much in your head and you don't live enough in the world. This is Hamlet's quandary, and, as one character unsurprisingly notes, also Prufrock's: "Do I dare, and do I dare?" Harbach's achievement is to transfer the thinking man's paralysis to the field of play, where every hesitation is amplified and every error judged by an exacting, bloodthirsty audience.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Art of Fielding (I received a copy from the publisher, Hachette Book Group). Harbach, a Brewers fan, treats baseball as a form of art, and he is as deft at writing about the game as Skrimshander is at playing shortstop. And while there is plenty of baseball in the novel, Harbach is more concerned with his characters*' struggles with figuring out who they are (or who they want to be) and the attendant hard work, and the setbacks and dead ends along the way. Or, as The Atlantic's Reeves Wiedeman puts it:
What do you do when the thing you're best at, the one thing you truly love, suddenly causes you the most pain?
* Besides Skrimshander, the other main characters are: Mike Schwartz, Westin's catcher and the guy who discovers/recruits Henry; Owen Dunne, Henry's dorm mate (and teammate); Guert Affenlight, the college's president; and his daughter, Pella Affenlight.
While wondering why great sports novels are so rare, Wiedeman quotes from David Foster Wallace's essay (from Consider the Lobster) about his (DFW's) disappointment at Tracy Austin's memoir, and the realization that athletes often are unable to give us any real insight into what they do.

The real, many-veiled answer to the question of just what goes through a great player's mind as he stands at the center of hostile crowd noise and lines up the free-throw that will decide the game might well be: nothing at all.
Being a top athlete is such a physical, instinctual act, that it is one that its actors struggle to consider, and, indeed, deliberate on only at their own peril.
It may well be that we spectators, who are not divinely gifted as athletes, are the only ones able truly to see, articulate, and animate the experience of the gift we are denied. And that those who receive and act out the gift of athletic genius must, perforce, be blind and dumb about it - and not because blindness and dumbness are the price of the gift, but because they are its essence.
The value of the sports novel, then, is to explain not only to fans, but also to athletes themselves, just what the heck is going on inside their heads. Athleticism is a level of human performance so misunderstood by those who partake in it, that it begs for our best fictionalists to explore.
Salon's Mike Doherty writes that
Harbach exposes an issue that's integral both to the sport and to American democracy: the tension between the individual and the collective, where the pursuit of personal happiness is pitted against the good of the whole. ...

Baseball heroes uphold the standards set out for great men by Ralph Waldo Emerson in his essay "Self-Reliance" - they think for themselves and value "the independence of solitude" but accept "the society of [their] contemporaries" and "the connection of events," and come into their own as "guides, redeemers and benefactors." Such prose may seem grandiose in context, but Harbach's collegiate characters are given to quoting Emerson and other American Renaissance authors, who wrote at a time when baseball was becoming "the national pastime." Westish's baseball players are forced to examine how their roles on the team affect their trajectories in life.
Henry Skrimshander uses the same baseball glove he received on his ninth birthday: "The glove seemed huge back then; now it fit him snugly, barely bigger than his left hand. He liked it that way; it helped him feel the ball."

He is also rarely without his well-worn copy of Aparicio Rodriguez's The Art of Fielding, a collection of 233 aphorisms - bits of wisdom about baseball and life tinged with eastern philosophy. From the novel:
By this point in his life, reading Aparicio no longer really qualified as reading, because he had the book more or less memorized. He could flip to a chapter, any chapter, and the shapes of the short, numbered paragraphs were enough to trigger his memory.

26. The shortstop is a source of stillness at the center of the defense. He projects this stillness and his teammates respond.

59. To field a groundball must be considered a generous act and an act of comprehension. One moves not against the ball but with it. Bad fielders stab at the ball like an enemy. This is antagonism. The true fielder lets the path of the ball become his own path, thereby comprehending the ball and dissipating the self, which is the source of all suffering and poor defense.

Aparicio played shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals for eighteen seasons. He retired the year Henry turned ten. He was a first-ballot Hall of Famer and the greatest defensive shortstop who ever lived. ...

There were, admittedly, many sentences and statements in The Art that Henry did not yet understand. The opaque parts of The Art, though, had always been his favorites, even more than the detailed and extremely helpful descriptions of, say, how to keep a runner close to second base (flirtation, Aparicio called it) or what sort of cleats to wear on wet grass. The opaque parts, frustrating as they could be, gave Henry something to aspire to. Someday, he dreamed, he would be enough of a ballplayer to crack them open and suck out their hidden wisdom.
Here are a few quotes from interviews Harbach has done in the few months since the book's publication:
I think the book is about a kind of crisis moment where what the characters have always done and have always relied on turns out not to be enough at these critical moments. ... [I]f you're not constantly transforming yourself for real, at a certain point you get stuck and reliant on a way of thinking about things you do that's not working anymore.

For Henry the diamond is safety and refuge - he knows what will be demanded of him out there, and he knows that he can provide it. The game is complex, of course, but it holds out the hope of being perfectly knowable. Life is much scarier, its demands much more shifty and unknowable. I guess what happens to Henry is that he's spent his entire career striving to make life as simple as baseball. It works for a while, but it's a doomed project, and suddenly baseball becomes as complex as life.

The Art of Fielding is in large part a book about the varieties of male friendship, from the antagonistic and the competitive to the deeply affectionate and the frankly sexual, and so Moby-Dick, taking place as it does in a very intense world of very intense men, seemed like the ideal analogue. A baseball team is a lot like a whaling ship: in each case, a group of men who might otherwise have little in common spend an inordinate amount of time in close and not-so-comfortable quarters, excluding the world, in pursuit of a common goal.

For Henry, I think the question is more: is there life outside of baseball? Until now, he's been so "regular and orderly" in his life, as Flaubert recommended, and that dull regularity has made him a great athlete but has stunted him in other ways. There's a tension between the demands of life and the demands of art; that's what he's trying to resolve. Can he do the strange, surprising, scary things required to become a real human being with a real inner life, and still devote himself to his craft?
That all sounds very exciting to me as a reader, but Harbach doesn't go into it as deeply as I would have liked.
There are apparently scores of literary references (to Melville and others) throughout the book, but I am not savvy enough to catch them. However, Melville does use the noun "skrimshander" in Chapter 57 of Moby-Dick:
Throughout the Pacific, and also in Nantucket, and New Bedford, and Sag Harbor, you will come across lively sketches of whales and whaling-scenes, graven by the fishermen themselves on Sperm Whale-teeth, or ladies' busks wrought out of the Right Whale-bone, and other like skrimshander articles, as the whalemen call the numerous little ingenious contrivances they elaborately carve out of the rough material, in their hours of ocean leisure. Some of them have little boxes of dentistical-looking implements, specially intended for the skrimshandering business. But, in general, they toil with their jack-knives alone; and, with that almost omnipotent tool of the sailor, they will turn you out anything you please, in the way of a mariner's fancy.
The last name of Westish's Adam Starblind seems similar to the Pequod's Starbuck. And Owen Dunne recalls Owen Chase, the first mate on the Essex that set sail on a sperm whale-hunting expedition in August 1819. In November 1820, a whale rammed the ship and it sank. Chase alone survived to tell the tale, which fascinated Melville. (Dunne is also possibly linked to John Irving's Owen Meany.)
Praise for The Art of Fielding has not been universal. Robert Sternberg (Globe and Mail) states that
the cultured and literary baseball fan eager to be taken deep into the unknown world of Division III college baseball will be disappointed ... The book is too unfocused, heavily plotted and weighted down by the author's many contrivances, idiosyncrasies, indulgences and wearisome, not to mention unnecessarily topical, preoccupations. ...

In Moby-Dick, Melville often digresses from his simple plot to expound eloquently on various facets of the commercial whaling industry. Harbach becomes so wrapped up in the twists and turns of his elaborate plot, and the frequently inane repartee of his slippery characters, that he rarely allows himself such digressions, so by the book's end his subject, baseball, seems incidental.
I disagree with Sternberg's complaints, generally. He's not entirely wrong, but I do not pick up a book expecting to love every paragraph; I know I will likely encounter sections that I might describe as unnecessary or contrived or boring. That was rarely the case with The Art of Fielding, thankfully. However, I do agree that baseball ultimately ends up playing second fiddle to the various off-field dramas of the main characters. (Which doesn't necessarily sink the book. I simply wanted more baseball!)

Andrew Ivers labelled it a "professional failure" and Biblioklept (which quit reading after 100 pages) said it was
run-of-the-mill literary fiction ... The book is not entirely terrible. It just isn't very good, certainly not good enough to warrant the excessive praise that's been heaped upon it. Cardboard characters, cliché after cliché (plot, character, prose), and plenty of bad writing.
(Many reader reviews, good and bad and effusive, can be found at Good Reads.)
Vanity Fair published a lengthy excerpt entitled "Phumber 405" (Chapter 2 of the novel). The book begins between games at a "no-name tournament" in the heat of August with Mike Schwartz watching as Henry takes infield practice after his South Dakota team has been eliminated.
Schwartz didn't notice the kid during the game. Or rather, he noticed only what everyone else did - that he was the smallest player on the field, a scrawny novelty of a shortstop, quick of foot but weak with the bat. Only after the game ended, when the kid returned to the sun-scorched diamond to take extra grounders, did Schwartz see the grace that shaped Henry's every move. ...

Now when the kid reached the worked-over dust that marked the shortstop's spot, he stopped, bouncing on his toes and jangling his limbs as if he needed to get loose. He bobbed and shimmied, windmilled his arms, burning off energy he shouldn't have had. He'd played as many games in this brutal heat as Schwartz.

Moments later the South Dakota coach strolled onto the field with a bat in one hand and a five-gallon paint bucket in the other. He set the bucket beside home plate and idly chopped at the air with the bat. Another of the South Dakota players trudged out to first base, carrying an identical bucket and yawning sullenly. The coach reached into his bucket, plucked out a ball, and showed it to the shortstop, who nodded and dropped into a shallow crouch, his hands poised just above the dirt.

The kid glided in front of the first grounder, accepted the ball into his glove with a lazy grace, pivoted, and threw to first. Though his motion was languid, the ball seemed to explode off his fingertips, to gather speed as it crossed the diamond. It smacked the pocket of the first baseman's glove with the sound of a gun going off. The coach hit another, a bit harder: same easy grace, same gunshot report. Schwartz, intrigued, sat up a little. The first baseman caught each throw at sternum height, never needing to move his glove, and dropped the balls into the plastic bucket at his feet.

The coach hit balls harder and farther afield - up the middle, deep in the hole. The kid tracked them down. Several times Schwartz felt sure he would need to slide or dive, or that the ball was flat-out unreachable, but he got to each one with a beat to spare. He didn't seem to move faster than any other decent shortstop would, and yet he arrived instantly, impeccably, as if he had some foreknowledge of where the ball was headed. Or as if time slowed down for him alone.

After each ball, he dropped back into his feline crouch, the fingertips of his small glove scraping the cooked earth. He barehanded a slow roller and fired to first on a dead run. He leaped high to snag a tailing line drive. Sweat poured down his cheeks as he sliced through the soup-thick air. Even at full speed his face looked bland, almost bored, like that of a virtuoso practicing scales. He weighed a buck and a quarter, maximum. Where the kid's thoughts were - whether he was having any thoughts at all, behind that blank look - Schwartz couldn't say. He remembered a line from Professor Eglantine's poetry class: Expressionless, expresses God.

Then the coach's bucket was empty and the first baseman's bucket full, and all three men left the field without a word. Schwartz felt bereft. He wanted the performance to continue. He wanted to rewind it and see it again in slow motion. He looked around to see who else had been watching - wanted at least the pleasure of exchanging a glance with another enraptured witness - but nobody was paying any attention. The few fans who hadn't gone in search of beer or shade gazed idly at their cell-phone screens. The kid's loser teammates were already in the parking lot, slamming their trunks. Fifteen minutes to game time. Schwartz, still dizzy, hauled himself to his feet. He would need two quarts of Gatorade to get through the final game, then a coffee and a can of dip for the long midnight drive. But first he headed for the far dugout, where the kid was packing up his gear. He'd figure out what to say on the way over. All his life Schwartz had yearned to possess some single transcendent talent, some unique brilliance that the world would consent to call genius. Now that he'd seen that kind of talent up close, he couldn't let it walk away.

October 27, 2011

Cardinals Win A Historic Game 6

Rangers   - 110 110 300 20 -  9 15  2
Cardinals - 200 101 012 21 - 10 13  3

Matthew Leach, MLB.com:
The Cardinals trailed five times in the game, including by two runs in the ninth and again in the 10th, but an irrepressible club kept coming back. ... The win means that the World Series will go to a seventh game for the first time since 2002. ...

The Cardinals overcame one of their sloppiest games of the year for one of their most improbable wins. They committed three errors plus a costly wild pitch, lost a runner on a critical pickoff and had trouble for much of the night turning baserunners into runs. But after repeatedly getting down to their final turn at bat, they simply would not die.
The Rangers did not trail in the game after the top of the second inning - until David Freese hit his game-winning home run in the bottom of the 11th!

This was only the third time that a team came back to win a World Series game after being one out from elimination:
1911 Game 5 - New York Giants beat Philadelphia A's (but lost Game 6)
1986 Game 6 - New York Mets beat Boston Red Sox (and won Game 7)
2011 Game 6 - St. Louis Cardinals beat Texas Rangers (??)
The home team has won the last eight Game 7s:
1982 - Cardinals 6, Brewers 3
1985 - Royals 11, Cardinals 0
1986 - Mets 8, Red Sox 5
1987 - Twins 4, Cardinals 2
1991 - Twins 1, Atlanta 0 (10)
1997 - Marlins 3, Cleveland 2 (11)
2001 - Diamondbacks 3, Yankees 2
2002 - Angels 4, Giants 1
The last visiting team to win a Game 7 was the 1979 Pirates, who beat the Orioles 4-1. Pittsburgh trailed in that series 1-3 and won the last three games.

Seven Years Ago

October 26, 2011

Would Red Sox Seriously Consider Sabathia?

Anthony Mccarron, Daily News:
While they would never admit it, you have to think the Yankees got a shiver when they heard Tuesday that Boston's John Lackey will miss all of 2012 due to Tommy John surgery, news that could make the winter as sticky as a humid summer for the Yankees. ...

[W]hat if their rich rival makes a play for the Yankees' own ace, CC Sabathia, if - when? - Sabathia triggers the opt-out clause in his contract?

Losing Sabathia to any team would be damaging to a Yankee rotation that has only Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova signed for next season. Losing Sabathia to the Red Sox? Potential baseball disaster. ...

The Red Sox may already have too many big contracts to pursue Sabathia ... If Sabathia opts out, he would be spurning the last four years of his contract, which is slated to pay him $92 million, so he would want more years and more cash.
The rest of Sabathia's MFY deal is 4/92, which is $23 million a year. He had the second highest ERA+ of his career in 2011. In the last two seasons, Sabathia has pitched 237.2 and 237.1 innings.

The last Red Sox pitcher to have 237 IP was Roger Clemens (1996). The last Boston pitcher to do it in consecutive seasons was also Fat Billy (1991-92). That's 20 years ago! However, several Sox pitchers have topped 215 innings recently: John Lackey (215 in 2010), Tim Wakefield (225.1 in 2005), Pedro Martinez (217 in 2004) and Curt Schilling (226.2 in 2004).

Would the Red Sox want to pay the hefty hurler, who turns 32 next July, something like $25 per (5/125? 6/150?!?) through 2016 (or 2017)? Even with slim pickings among free agent starters this winter, I don't think so. (The 2013 FA list is here.)
George A. King III, Post:
By the time two days of meetings in Tampa end tomorrow, the Yankees will develop a plan they hope will keep CC Sabathia from opting out of a contract following the World Series. ...

"Their hope is to present Sabathia with an offer he is agreeable with before he opts out," said a person with knowledge of the Yankees' thinking.
Sabathia has three days following the end of the World Series (a possible Game 7 is scheduled for Thursday) to make his decision. We'll have an opt-out answer no later than November 1.

October 25, 2011

Lackey Will Miss 2012 Season After TJ Surgery

John Lackey will have Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, according to Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, and will miss the entire 2012 season.

Cherington said that Lackey had "some intermittent elbow soreness throughout the season". Back in late June, Peter Gammons mentioned the possibility of Lackey needing TJ surgery, but at the time both Lackey and the Red Sox denied it.

Dr. Lewis Yocum, who operated on Daisuke Matsuzaka earlier this year, will do the surgery.

Theo Epstein Explains It All

As Theo Epstein begins his new job with the Chicago Cubs, he further explained his decision to leave the Red Sox in an editorial published in today's Globe:
I grew up in Brookline just down the road from Fenway Park, living and dying with every pitch, every win or loss, and every Red Sox season that fell painfully short. My whole outlook on life changed at age 12 as my twin brother and I writhed on the living room floor, devastated by Game Six of the '86 Series.

Had you told me then that the Red Sox would go on to raise not one but two World Series flags, I wouldn't have believed you. And had you told the 12-year-old me that I would someday walk away from my dream job as general manager of the Red Sox completely of my own volition, I would have thought you were crazy.

I think that kid would appreciate an explanation - and so might some of you. ...
In Chicago, Epstein has been nicknamed the "Savior" (even before he officially took the job). With quotes like this one from Curt Schilling - "If he spends the same amount of time he spent in Boston in Chicago, you'll have a World Series" - I guess that hype and hope is inevitable.

Epstein, at Wrigley Field:
I was so lucky to spend a decade in the Red Sox organization, and I consider myself very, very lucky to be a Cub today. ... To me, baseball is better with tradition. Baseball is better is with history. Baseball is better with fans who care. Baseball is better in ballparks like this. Baseball is better during the day. And baseball, best of all, is better when you win. ... Over time, I believe we can build a consistent winner, a team that is playing baseball in October regularly.
See Extra Bases for lots of press conference stuff.

1908 was 103 years ago. Good luck, Theo!

October 24, 2011

MLB Will Investigate Clubhouse Drinking

Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, says he will investigate the reports of drinking in the Red Sox clubhouse and may institute a ban on clubhouse beer.
If we do happen to bar alcohol from the clubhouses, you have to understand the intent of this thing ... [W]e should be role models for the youngsters and how they behave.
There are 12 or 13 teams (depending on which of the above links you read) that allow adults to consume alcohol in their clubhouses.

Torre was the manager of the Yankees when Roger Clemens and Jason Giambi (reportedly) routinely drank beer in the dugout during games.

Of course, MLB is not so concerned that it would reduce (or even consider reducing) the number of beer commercials shown during broadcasts. No, resurrecting Prohibition is the way to go.

October 23, 2011

Infinite Thanks

In Theo We Trusted.

... and the wonderful (and unprecedented and, at times, surreal) results forever changed our lives.
This full-page "thank you" from Epstein ran in today's Globe.

October 22, 2011

Pujols Ties Four World Series Records In Game 3:
Three Home Runs, Five Hits, Six RBI, Four Runs Scored;
Sets Record With 14 Total Bases - And Hits In Four Consecutive Innings

Albert Pujols is the third player to hit three home runs in a World Series game. He went 5-for-6 on Saturday night as the Cardinals beat the Rangers 16-7 in Game 3 in Texas, with six RBI and four runs scored.
Pujols also became the first player in World Series history to have a hit in four consecutive innings. He singled in the fourth, singled in the fifth, homered in the sixth, and homered in the seventh. He hit his third dong in the ninth. ... And he set a World Series record with 14 total bases.

Three HR In World Series Game

Babe Ruth - October 6, 1926 - Game 4 against Cardinals at St. Louis
1st - solo HR
3rd - solo HR
5th - BB
6th - 2-run HR
8th - BB
Yankees won 10-5, lost series in 7 games
Babe Ruth - October 9, 1928 - Game 4 against Cardinals at St. Louis
1st - 3U-6 DP
4th - solo HR
5th - 1-3
7th - solo HR
8th - solo HR
Yankees won 7-3, sweeping series in 4 games
Reggie Jackson - October 18, 1977 - Game 6 against Dodgers at New York
2nd - BB (4 pitches)
4th - 2-run HR (1st pitch)
5th - 2-run HR (1st pitch)
8th - solo HR (1st pitch)
Yankees won 8-4, winning series in 6 games
[Jackson homered in his last at-bat in Game 5, so he hit
four home runs on his last four swings of the World Series]
Albert Pujols - October 22, 2011 - Game 3 against Rangers at Texas
1st - 5-3
4th - 1B
5th - 1B
6th - 3-run HR
7th - 2-run HR (1st pitch)
9th - solo HR
                  AB  R  H RBI
Ruth    10/06/26   3  4  3  4
Ruth    10/08/28   5  3  3  3
Jackson 10/18/77   3  4  3  5
Pujols  10/22/11   6  4  5  6
Most RBI, World Series game: 6
Bobby Richardson, Yankees, October 8, 1960, WS 3 against Pirates
Hideki Matsui, Yankees, November 4, 2009, WS 6 aganst Phillies
Albert Pujols, Cardinals, October 22, 2011, WS 3 against Rangers
Most Hits, World Series game: 5
Paul Molitor, Brewers, October 12, 1982, WS 1 against Cardinals
Albert Pujols, Cardinals, October 22, 2011, WS 3 against Rangers
Most Runs Scored, World Series game: 4
Albert Pujols, with nine others
The Cardinals became the first team in World Series history to have four consecutive multi-run innings.
Cardinals - 100 434 211 - 16 15  0
Rangers   - 000 330 100 -  7 13  3
They have also scored first in their last 10 post-season games - an MLB record.

Most runs by a team, World Series game
October 2, 1936 - WS 2 - Yankees 18, Giants 4
October 6, 1950 - WS 2 - Yankees 16, Pirates 3
October 24, 2002 - WS 5 - Giants 16, Angels 4
October 22, 2011 - WS 3 - Cardinals 16, Rangers 7
Most runs, both teams, World Series game
October 20, 1993 - 29 runs - Blue Jays 15, Phillies 14 (Game 4)
October 21, 1997 - 25 runs - Marlins 14, Cleveland 11 (Game 3)
October 22, 2011 - 23 runs - Cardinals 16, Rangers 7 (Game 3)

October 21, 2011

Ben Cherington Will Be Named Red Sox GM On Tuesday

Ian Browne, MLB.com:
The Cubs will hold a news conference on Tuesday, at which time they will announce the hiring of [Theo] Epstein [as president of baseball operations]. Also Tuesday, the Red Sox are expected to elevate assistant GM Ben Cherington. While Cherington has long worked under Epstein, he actually predates his former boss in the Red Sox organization.

Cherington was hired by the Red Sox in 1999 as a mid-Atlantic area scout and joined the baseball operations department in May of that year.
A statement issued by the two teams stated:
The Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs jointly announce this evening that, effective immediately, Theo Epstein has resigned from the Red Sox in order to become the new President of Baseball Operations for the Cubs. The clubs also have reached an agreement regarding a process by which appropriate compensation will be determined for the Red Sox and that issue will be resolved in the near term.

Both the Red Sox and the Cubs intend to hold press events on Tuesday, October 25 during which the Cubs intend to announce Mr. Epstein, and the Red Sox intend to announce his successor as General Manager. Out of respect for the World Series, both clubs have agreed to forego further comment until Tuesday, the next scheduled non-game day.

Daily News: Yankees Routinely Drank Beer In Dugout

Daily News:
According to one of the insiders, Jason Giambi and Roger Clemens would routinely drink beer on the dugout bench when they played for the Yankees, passing back and forth what Giambi called his "protein shake," code for a cup of beer, the source said.

And they weren't the only ones who partook. ... "Guys would drink them all the time, on the bench, in the clubhouse, in the training room. It's common."
Giambi and Fat Billy played together on the Yankees in 2002-03 and 2007. ... Maybe that wasn't actually green tea in Joe Torre's paper cup?

The story also mentions a game in which Jose Canseco "drank a can of light beer, went out and hit a home run, went back into the clubhouse and drank another can, hit another home run, and did the same thing a third time. Three lights, three homers."

Canseco hit three home runs in a game only twice - July 3, 1988 (with Oakland), and June 13, 1994 (with Texas). However, the source does not specifically say Canseco did it during his season with the Yankees (2000). Canseco did not hit more than one Ballantine Blast in any game with New York.
In actual baseball news, Curt Young is no longer the Red Sox pitching coach. He has returned to Oakland.
I swear this front page is legit:

October 20, 2011

Epstein-to-Cubs Announcement Could Come Today

The Chicago Cubs have received permission from MLB to hold a news conference on Friday to introduce Theo Epstein as the team's new president, if the deal can be completed.

CSN Chicago's David Kaplan, on WEEI:
I think the deal is basically done. ... I would be shocked if I'm not standing at Wrigley Field tomorrow at a press conference. ... They have built Theo up to be the God here. The messiah to come save the Cubs.
However, John Henry told the Globe the two sides are "not close". And the Sun-Times reports that "leak[s] in Chicago early in the day of a deal being nearly done turned out to be premature and appeared to rile Boston brass". A CSN Chicago story posted tonight also says news of a resolution was premature.

ESPNChicago reports that the Red Sox initially asked for shortstop Starlin Castro as compensation. After the Cubs said, "Are you insane?", the Sox suggested Matt Garza. At one point, Boston reportedly proposed that the Cubs take John Lackey's contract (which may have been crazier than asking for Castro).

Minor league players ("solid but not exceptional prospects", says WEEI's Alex Speier) are expected to be the compensation package.

October 19, 2011

WS107: Rangers - Cardinals

The 107th World Series begins tonight at 8:05 ET in St. Louis (game thread).

              Rangers          Cardinals
G1 - Oct 19 - C.J. Wilson      Chris Carpenter 
G2 - Oct 20 - Colby Lewis      Jaime Garcia
G3 - Oct 22 - Matt Harrison    Kyle Lohse
G4 - Oct 23 - Derek Holland    Edwin Jackson 
G5 - Oct 24 -
G6 - Oct 26 -
G7 - Oct 27 - 
The Cardinals are playing in their 18th World Series. They are 10-7, with their last two titles coming in 1982 and 2006.

The Rangers have been in Texas since 1972. They are 0-1 in World Series play, having lost to the Giants last year.

Beyond the Box Score:
Rangers in 5 ... As of right now, all four St. Louis winning outcomes are less likely than all four likely Texas winning outcomes. We expect Texas to sweep more than we expect St. Louis to win the series in any number of games.
21 of the 25 "experts" at ESPN also pick the Rangers.

October 18, 2011

WHDH-TV Reports Beckett, Lester, Lackey Drank Beer In Dugout During Games. All Three Players Say Story Is "Completely False", "Not True".

Joe Amorosino, WHDH-TV, NBC Boston:
Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey drank beer in the Red Sox dugout during games, according to two Red Sox employees who witnessed the drinking on multiple occasions at Fenway Park.

On nights when they were not pitching, Beckett, Lester and Lackey would exit the dugout as early as the 6th inning, walk back to the clubhouse, and fill cups with Bud Light beer. They would then return to the dugout with cups of beer and drink while watching the game. It didn't make a difference whether the Red Sox were winning or losing at the time and the practice became more frequent later in the 2011 season. One Red Sox employee said Beckett, Lester and Lackey appeared "bored on nights they weren't pitching and this is how they entertained themselves."

Another Red Sox employee described the routine like this: "Beckett would come down the stairs from the dugout, walking through the corridor to the clubhouse and say 'it's about that time'. Becket was the instigator but Lester and Lackey were right behind him. It was blatant and hard not to notice what was going on with all three guys leaving at once."
Peter Abraham says the Globe "has confirmed the report via a team source".
The Red Sox released a statement at 11 PM with denials from all three players, and former manager Terry Francona.

The accusation that we were drinking in the dugout during games is completely false. Anonymous sources are continuing to provide exaggerated and, in this case, inaccurate information to the media.
I cannot let this allegation go without response; enough is enough. I admit that I made mistakes along the way this season, but this has gone too far. To say that we drank in the dugout during the game is not true.
There are things that went on this season that shouldn't have happened, but this latest rumor is not true, and I felt that it was important to try to stop this from going any further.
In 32 years of professional baseball, I have never seen someone drinking beer in the dugout.
Gordon Edes, ESPNBoston:
A Red Sox employee who was contacted by ESPNBoston.com on Tuesday evening to react to the latest story said he had heard complaints about players drinking in the dugout during the 2010 season but did not personally witness it either that season or in 2011. He added, however, that it would not come as a surprise to him if it were true.

Another Red Sox staffer who was in the dugout during every game said he never saw Beckett, Lackey or Lester drinking in the dugout, nor had he heard anything about that happening.
In an interview with the Globe's Peter Abraham, Jason Varitek said reports of a dysfunctional clubhouse were "grossly exaggerated".

I didn't agree with that [Francona's comments about not being able to reach players]. I believed that this team, regardless, pulled for each other and those things have been so grossly distorted. It's just baffling that you can feel that way. ...

That's Tito's personal opinion and based on what was going on with him personally and maybe how he related to the team. ... But I didn't see him change. We lost because we played poorly and we had some health issues and we probably taxed the bullpen too much. ... We didn't lose because of some issue in the clubhouse. That's a lot of crap.

October 17, 2011

Lester Admits Pitchers "Pushed The Envelope" With Francona

Note 3: Lester also spoke with ESPNBoston's Gordon Edes (here).
People are making us out to be a bunch of drunk, fried-chicken eating SOBs, playing video games. ... [O]ne person writes an article, and things have gotten blown way out of proportion, almost to another planet. We're getting crushed. ... [W]hat people are trying to do is a witch hunt. ... [W]e lost because we did not play good baseball. ... I'm not making excuses for what we did. I'm owning up to what I did. ... It was our fault. That's the message I'm trying to get across. It's not about beers, it's not about Tito, it's not whether there were no rules, it's not anything. It's performance. And we didn't do it.
Note 2: Lester was also interviewed by the Providence Journal (see here and here).

Note: The original Extra Bases post has been expanded with more quotes.

Jon Lester spoke to the Globe:
I love Tito and he did a great job for us when he was here. ... But there comes a time when your authority is no longer there. You kind of run your course. People knew how Tito was and we pushed the envelope with it. We never had rules, we never that that iron-fist mentality. ...

I never saw guys purposely breaking rules or doing the wrong thing in front of him and rubbing it in his face. But this particular team probably needed more structure. ...

There's a perception out there that we were up there getting hammered and that wasn't the case. Was it a bad habit? Yes. I should have been on the bench more than I was. ...

We probably ordered chicken from Popeye's like once a month. ... Most of the times it was one beer, a beer. It was like having a Coke in terms of how it affected you mentally or physically. ...

But nothing happened that had me unprepared to pitch. ...

Consider us a unit when it comes to these accusations. We either fall together or rise above it all together ... I'm not a follower. I'm a grown-ass man. I made my decisions. [Beckett] wasn't twisting my arm like I was in high school.
Gordon Edes, ESPNBoston:
The fuss made over the fried chicken and beer consumed in the Sox clubhouse by the starting pitchers was greeted with amusement by at least former major leaguer, who told me that when he played, in the '70s and '80s, it was not uncommon for a player to pop into the clubhouse to do a line of cocaine before returning to the dugout.
Ah, the good old days!

October 15, 2011

Packing On The Pounds

The Globe's sports section continues its de-evolution into a supermarket tabloid with a photo series entitled "Did the Red Sox Pack On The Pounds?"

It features spring training photos of six players - Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Tim Wakefield, and Jason Varitek -- alongside other pictures taken late in the season. "Take a look at side-by-side photos of some of the players in question and make your own judgment."

Is this all that different from The Star's "Best & Worst Beach Bodies"?

Deadspin continues the investigation: "Did These Boston People (And Inanimate Objects) Pack On The Pounds, Too? Judge For Yourself"

October 13, 2011

Yay! Some Good News!

Jacoby Ellsbury was named the American League's Comeback Player of the Year.

After playing in only 18 games in 2010, Ellsbury turned in an MVP-caliber season. He played in 158 games, batting .321 (5th in AL, 8th in MLB), slugging .552 (5th/9th), with 119 runs (3rd in MLB), 212 hits (3rd in MLB), 46 doubles (3rd in MLB), 5 triples, 32 homers (5th in AL), 105 RBIs (6th/10th), 39 steals (4th/9th), and a .928 OPS (5th/10th).

He led all MLB players with 83 extra-base hits and 364 total bases - and became the first player in Red Sox history to have 30 HR and 30 SB in the same season.

I know what I'm capable of doing. I know everybody has been surprised by the power numbers, but it's always been there. ... [E]very year, I've consistently gotten better. This is what I was looking for last year.
Dave Magadan, hitting coach:
He's played with a chip on his shoulder. There were strides made in 2009. Certainly there were concerns after missing the whole year last year. He picked up right where he left off and improved upon it.
Gordon Edes, ESPNBoston: Schilling accuses Sox owners of 'character assassination' & A primer on Cherington, GM-in-waiting

Transcripts of WEEI interviews with Dustin Pedroia, Peter Gammons, and Curt Schilling.

WEEI's Arielle Aronson has gathered links to a dozen stories from Chicago re Theo Epstein.

Ortiz: "I Don't Know If I Want To Be Part Of This Drama Next Year"

David Ortiz, speaking to ESPN's Colleen Dominguez on Wednesday:
There's too much drama, man. There's too much drama. I have been thinking about a lot of things. I don't know if I want to be part of this drama for next year. ... The owners need to take care of it right now so everybody can come in with a fresh mind next year and do what they're supposed to do.
Would Ortiz consider playing for the Yankees?
That's something I gotta think about. I've been here on the Red Sox a long time, and I've seen how everything goes down between these two ballclubs. [The Yankees organization is] great from what I hear. It's a good situation to be involved in. Who doesn't want to be involved in a great situation where everything goes the right way? They lost just like we did, they just went to the first round of the playoffs. I ain't heard nobody coming out killing everybody just because they lost.
Nice work, David. Create more drama by saying you hate all the drama. Jesus Christ. (Though when he says "everything goes the right way - they lost just like we did", is he even listening to himself?)

Maybe if there would have been less drama if Ortiz had stamped it out. Who else on the team could lay down the law, if he truly wanted to slap some sense into various players? As long as Ortiz is on the roster, the Red Sox are his team. And yet he checked out. By his own admission, he didn't care beyond punching his time card and working his shift. Two weeks ago, Ortiz admitted:
I am nobody to determine who was doing the right thing and who wasn't. I'm another player, I'm not a boss. I'm nobody's babysitter. We have rules and they need to be followed. This case, I did what I needed to complete the rules. If others weren't, it's the bosses job to let them know what's up.
During that interview, he also said, "Of course I want to be on the Red Sox."

Most of this seems like standard free agency posturing, but considering all that has happened since the end of the season, coupled with Ortiz's "no babysitter" comment, he's probably hurting his chances at a Red Sox contract with this crap.

But he can still hit. With OPS+s of 123, 101, 137, 154 over the last four years, I'd like him back for two more years at something like 2/25, which would be the same salary he made in 2011.

October 12, 2011

Globe Report: Inside The Collapse

The Globe's Bob Hohler, Nick Cafardo and Peter Abraham conducted "a series of interviews ... with individuals familiar with the Sox operation at all levels. Most requested anonymity out of concern for their jobs or potential damage to their relationships in the organization." Their report was posted today.

Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and John Lackey had a
habit of drinking beer, eating fast-food fried chicken, and playing video games in the clubhouse during games while their teammates tried to salvage a once-promising season. ...

Francona spent the season living in a hotel after he moved out of the Brookline home he shared with Jacque, his wife of nearly 30 years. But he adamantly denied his marital problems affected his job performance. ... Team sources also expressed concern that Francona's performance may have been affected by his use of pain medication, which he also vehemently denied. ...

By all accounts, the 2011 Sox perished from a rash of relatively small indignities. For every player committed to the team's conditioning program, there was a slacker. For every Sox regular who rose early on the road to take optional batting practice, there were others who never bothered. For every player who dedicated himself to the quest for a championship, there were too many distracted by petty personal issues. ...

Sources said Beckett, Lester, and Lackey, who were joined at times by Buchholz, began the practice late in 2010. The pitchers not only continued the routine this year, sources said, but they joined a number of teammates in cutting back on their exercise regimens despite appeals from the team’s strength and conditioning coach Dave Page. ... For Beckett, Lester, and Lackey, the consequences were apparent as their body fat appeared to increase and pitching skills eroded.
There is more (buying the players $300 headphones?!?!), including Theo Epstein being explicitly fingered as the man who pushed against management's doubts to sign Carl Crawford. If Epstein is truly having a "heart vs head" debate about whether to head to Chicago, waking up this morning to this article may clear his mind.

Elsewhere, there is also a report of Beckett telling teammates that he no longer cared about the outcome of the season once his chances at the Cy Young faded away. Lou Merloni stated on WEEI this morning that the team meeting in Toronto was focused on Beckett.

Hohler lists Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Alfredo Aceves, and Jonathan Papelbon among the team's hardest workers. WEEI's Rob Bradford writes that he does not completely agree with the characterization of Ellsbury's relationship with his teammates as "chilled" after 2010's Ribgate.
Ellsbury clearly socialized and regularly interacted with more than just one player — Jed Lowrie — as the report suggested.
A dysfunctional team can win (e.g., 1972-74 A's and 1977-78 Yankees, for two famous examples), but the wide-spread unprofessionalism - like when at least 4/5 of your starting rotation has oodles of time to eat fried chicken and play video games, but not to exercise - is a sign that things are seriously fucked up.

The big questions are: How much housecleaning has to be done to demonstrate that a weekend softball beer-league mentality will not be tolerated, and who gets cut loose or traded?

Wakefield and Varitek will probably not return in 2012, and that has as much, if not more, to do with their declining skills as any behind-the-scenes issues. Still, Pedroia was the only player to speak on the record to the Globe, while Varitek, the team's captain, "chastised a reporter for calling him at home and otherwise declined to comment".

Looking at the "I Like Beer" trio: Beckett and Lackey are both signed through 2014, with Beckett making $15.75 per and Lackey at $15.25. The team could get more value for Beckett (though he has 10-5 rights), but how can Lackey remain in Boston? The boos he got in September will likely seem like cheers compared to the reception he'll hear next spring.

Beckett, in a late August interview:
Baseball isn't my No. 1 priority anymore. ... I definitely find myself thinking about [my wife Holly and the baby] whereas a lot of times I used to be thinking about how I was going to get this guy out, or what I needed to do that day. ... I have three more years of obligation here and at that point my family is going to be even more important ... Can we get a job closer to home? Do we want to play in Boston still? Do we want to go out to the West Coast and be in the nice weather?
Lester has two years remaining, with 2012 coming at the bargain rate of $7.6 (he will be paid $11.6 in 2013 and the team has a $13 option for 2014).

Kevin Youkilis, who has been hampered by injuries and, according to the Globe, "by nearly all accounts, grew more detached and short-tempered as he tried to play through his ailments", is in the final year of his contract, though the club holds an option for 2013.

As if that wasn't enough, SoSHer BroodsSexton points out: "There is going to be a constant effort by the press to stir shit up next year based upon the expectations set by these stories."

If only the team could get rid of the mediots who believe they are (or deserve to be) co-stars in the on-going story (drama, soap opera) of the Red Sox. But they can't, so we have to tolerate people like Peter Abraham, who suggests (with a straight face) that the Red Sox allow possible managerial candidates to be interviewed by the local media as part of the team's evaluation process.

[Other pertinent articles linked in comments]

October 11, 2011

Herald: Theo On Brink of Joining Cubs

Steve Buckley, Herald:
Two baseball sources have confirmed that Theo Epstein is on the cusp of leaving his job as general manager of the Red Sox to accept a position with the Chicago Cubs that is believed to include powers greater than he has in Boston, with an announcement expected to be made "within the next 24 to 48 hours."

The hangup in the negotiations has been twofold. One of them is that Red Sox ownership was still hoping to have Epstein remain with the team. The other is compensation: If Epstein is to leave Boston, said one source with knowledge of the negotiations, the Red Sox are going to want "something real."

Whether that involves a player, money or a combination of the two remains unclear.

"But this is going to be resolved very soon," said a second baseball source.
If true, this will be one hell of a winter.
Peter Abraham, Globe:
Major league sources said tonight that no deal is in place for Theo Epstein to join the Chicago Cubs in an upper management capacity. But a resolution is expected in the coming days. ...

But his interest in the Cubs has progressed to a point where the expectation is that he will leave. ...

There also is at least some chance that Epstein could come to an agreement with Henry to stay. But the Cubs represent an opportunity for him to move into a higher echelon within the game and affect more than just the roster. As team president of the Cubs, Epstein would have far-ranging power within that organization. ...

The Red Sox have put their search for a new manager on hold while waiting Epstein to make his decision.

October 9, 2011

Red Sox Bloggers Vote On BBA Awards

There are 13 Red Sox blogs in the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, but votes were received from only seven bloggers. Not every voter filled out a complete ballot, so the totals may be off. (In counting the votes, points were given on a 3-2-1, 5-4-3-2-1, 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.)

The full BBA awards will be announced throughout the month.

Connie Mack Award - Best Manager

                      1  2  3  Pts
1. Joe Maddon         6  1      20
2. Jim Leyland           2  1    6
3. Ron Washington        1  3    5
4. Joe Girardi        1          3
5. Manny Acta            1       2
Willie Mays Award - Rookie of the Year
                      1  2  3  Pts
1. Eric Hosmer        2  2  1   11
2. Jeremy Hellickson  1  1       8
3. Desmond Jennings   2          6
4. Michael Pineda     1  1       5
5. Ivan Nova             1  2    4
6. Dustin Ackley         1       2
7. Brett Lawrie             2    2
8. Mark Trumbo              1    1
Goose Gossage Award - Best Reliever
                      1  2  3  Pts
1. David Robertson    3  1      11
2. Jonathan Papelbon  2  2      10
3. Mariano Rivera     1  1  3    8
4. Jose Valverde      1  1  1    6
5. Brandon League        1       2
6. Greg Holland             1    1
7. Neftali Feliz            1    1
Walter Johnson Award - Cy Young
                      1  2  3  4  5  Pts
1. Justin Verlander   7               35
2. CC Sabathia           2  3         17
3. Jered Weaver          4            16
4. Dan Haren                1  2  1    8
5. James Shields            1  1  2    7
6. CJ Wilson                1     1    4
7. Doug Fister                 1       2
Stan Musial Award - MVP
                      1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  Pts
1. Jacoby Ellsbury    4  2  1                         66
2. Jose Bautista      2  3                            47
3. Miguel Cabrera           3     3                   42
4. Justin Verlander   1  1  1        1                32
5. Dustin Pedroia              1  1  2                23
6. Evan Longoria               1     1     1  1       17
7. Curtis Granderson        1     1           1       16
8. Robinson Cano               2                      14
9. Alex Gordon                       1  1     1       11
10. Ian Kinsler                1        1             11
11. Adrian Gonzalez            1                       7
12. Adrian Beltre                       1  1           7
13. Michael Young                    1                 5
14. Alex Avila                          1         1    5
15. David Ortiz                            1           3
16. Paul Konerko                                  1    1
17. Jered Weaver                                  1    1

My picks:

1. Joe Maddon, Rays

1. Desmond Jennings, Rays
2. Michael Pineda, Mariners
3. Eric Hosmer, Royals

1. David Robertson, Yankees
2. Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox
3. Greg Holland, Royals

1. Justin Verlander, Tigers
2. CC Sabathia, Yankees
3. Dan Haren, Angels

1. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
2. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
3. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
4. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox
5. Curtis Granderson, Yankees
6. Justin Verlander, Tigers
7. Alex Avila, Tigers
8. David Ortiz, Red Sox
9. Alex Gordon, Royals
10. Paul Konerko, White Sox

October 8, 2011

ALCS Game Thread

If you are interested, it's here. Terry Francona will be in the booth for the first two games.
Bonus: Back of today's Post:

October 7, 2011

Everybody Loves A Contest #9

Update (only 18 people love a contest):
Zack P.     Tigers 7    Brewers 5
Matthew S.  Tigers 6    Brewers 6
Michael B.  Tigers 6    Brewers 6
Peter L.    Tigers 6    Brewers 6
Jeffrey C.  Tigers 6    Cardinals 5
Richard     Tigers 6    Cardinals 6
Steve L.    Tigers 6    Cardinals 7
Jim G.      Tigers 5    Brewers 6
Jeff M.     Tigers 5    Brewers 6
John L.     Tigers 5    Cardinals 6
Paul R.     Tigers 4    Cardinals 6
Rob W.      Rangers 7   Brewers 6
Dan R.      Rangers 6   Brewers 6
Chris S.    Rangers 6   Brewers 6
Kap F.      Rangers 6   Brewers 7
Tim L.      Rangers 6   Cardinals 7
Ken C.      Rangers 5   Brewers 6
Kathryn L.  Rangers 5   Cardinals 6
          4G  5G  6G  7G
Tigers     1   3   6   1  - 11
Rangers    0   2   4   1  -  7
Brewers    0   1   9   1  - 11
Cardinals  0   1   4   2  -  7

           1   7  23   5
I have two DVDs - 1975 World Series Game 6 and 2004 ALCS Game 4, part of A&E's new "Baseball's Greatest Games" series - to give away.

ALCS: Rangers / Tigers
NLCS: Brewers / Cardinals

Pick both pennant winners and the length of each series (e.g., Tigers in 6, Brewers in 7). Email your guesses to me at joyofsox@gmail.com before the first pitch of ALCS 1 on Saturday night. The person with the most accurate entry can choose one of the two DVDs.

We will have a similar contest for the World Series for the remaining DVD.
Other games in the A&E series:
1960 World Series Game 7 - Pirates 10, Yankees 9
1975 World Series Game 6 - Red Sox 7, Reds 6 (12)
1979 Wrigley Field Slugfest - May 17: Phillies 23, Cubs 22 (10)
1985 NLCS Game 5 - Cardinals 3, Dodgers 2
1986 World Series Game 6 - Mets 6, Red Sox 5 (10)
1991 World Series Game 7 - Twins 1, Atlanta 0 (10)
1992 NLCS Game 7 - Atlanta 3, Pirates 2
1993 World Series Game 6 - Blue Jays 8, Phillies 6
2003 ALCS Game 7 - Yankees 6, Red Sox 5 (11)
2004 ALCS Game 4 - Red Sox 6, Yankees 4 (12)
I'm curious about the 23-22 game, but I really want to see Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. Only a 40-second clip was thought to survive, but about a year ago, it was reported that a complete recording of the game had been discovered in Bing Crosby's wine cellar.

Schadenfreude 124 (A Continuing Series)

Rob Parker, ESPNNewYork:
[I]t's all set up for the Yankees to take the next step toward another shot at a World Series title. They just have to play.
George A. King III, Post:
The eyes were red and moist. ... Heads hung so low chins were almost on the dark clubhouse carpet in a room so quiet you could hear the mice burp.

As they moved toward the Yankee Stadium exit for the last time the sting of defeat had them shuffling as if they wore ankle weights.

The Yankees looked and talked like losers after the Tigers ushered them into the offseason last night ...

The Yankees missed a strong chance to score in the fourth against Doug Fister when they had the bases loaded and one out. But Russell Martin popped up and Brett Gardner fouled out.

Rodriguez took the air out of the seventh-inning rally when he whiffed with the bases loaded and one out. ...

The Yankees' final chance to force extra innings or win the game came in the ninth ... But Granderson flied to left. Cano, who homered in the fifth off Fister, swung at the first pitch and flied to center. That left it up to Rodriguez and he punched out on a 1-2 pitch that turned out the lights on 2011. ...

"This is devastating," Rodriguez said. "I have a hard time getting 2004 out of my mouth, but this is devastating."
Mark Feinsand, Daily News:
Nova walked to the mound with the same poise and swagger as always, but it didn't take long for the Tigers to put a dent in that confidence.

Don Kelly, starting his second game of the series, launched an 0-1 pitch from Nova into the right-field seats. Delmon Young drilled the next pitch into the left-field stands, putting Nova in a 2-0 hole after only one out and seven pitches.

Mike Lupica, Daily News:
So now it is five times in the last 10 years that the Yankees cannot make it out of the first round and one other year when they did not make the playoffs at all. And another year when they blew a 3-0 lead to the Boston Red Sox. This isn't the way October is supposed to go at Yankee Stadium. Only now the Yankees go home, again.
Bryan Hoch, MLB.com:
Sabathia [in the first relief appearance of his career] served up a run to put the Tigers up by three, as Austin Jackson stroked a leadoff double and Victor Martinez responded to an intentional walk issued to Miguel Cabrera with a clean RBI single to center.
John Harper, Daily News:
The worst part of all for the Yankees, not just Thursday night but in looking to the future, was how overmatched Alex Rodriguez looked at the plate in his final two at-bats.

Overmatched or inside his own head the way he used to be every October. Or maybe both.

Either way it is awfully ominous, considering that at 36, A-Rod has six years remaining [and $146,000,000] on a contract that is looking more and more like the worst kind of albatross for the Yankees. ...

[T]here was Rodriguez, striking out swinging with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, when even a single likely would have tied the game, and then striking out swinging to end the game.
Jim Leyland: "I would be lying if I said it didn't give me a little extra satisfaction to do it here in the fifth game."
Joel Sherman, Post:
There were many goats. ...

"I have a lot to prove and I am looking forward to the challenge," Rodriguez said in a champagne-free clubhouse. "I am coming back with a vengeance."

He left with the stink of failure. ...
Mike Vaccaro, Post:
Off the bat, it had a chance, didn't it? The men on the Yankees' bench jumped to their feet, climbed the dugout steps, because they thought it did. ... Fifty thousand witnesses thought it did: For much of the game they'd sat in muffled silence, but not now.

Now, there was hope. Now there was a chance. Now there was a baseball climbing toward right field off the bat of Derek Jeter, one on and two out in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Yankees down 3-2, down to their final four outs, begging for a hero, desperate for a savior. ...

The roar died ... as Don Kelly settled under the ball ...

The Yankees expired a few minutes later. ...

Alex Rodriguez, who would make the 27th out of an elimination game for the second year in a row, hit an appalling .111. Mark Teixeira? A buck sixty-seven. Russell Martin: .176. Nick Swisher? A microscopic .211. Jeter's .250 felt like something Ty Cobb would be delighted with compared to the surrounding anemia.

Worse, they seemed tight at the absolute worst moment possible. ...

The richest team in baseball history, the most talented in the game, and you could almost hear the players' knees knocking over the din of the crowd. ...

It's always up to the losers to do the hard arithmetic of failure. The Yankees will have a long winter to figure all of that out.