October 31, 2012

WSWS: The World Series And Militarism

James Brewer, World Socialist Web Site:
Whether a Democrat or a Republican wins the presidential race, plans for advancing war on a global front will proceed apace after November 6. So it is hardly surprising that the powers that be have taken every opportunity to infuse the events around the culminating contest of "America's pastime" with patriotism and glorification of wars, past present and future. ...

The promotion of US nationalism and super-patriotism at an event called the "World Series" must resonate as contradictory at best with a large portion of the population. The big-business organizers of the games are no doubt aware that the US policy of expanding wars is increasingly unpopular. The constant reminder that war is with us is aimed at breaking down popular resistance to US military actions. Just as corporations and banks dictate policy to the politicians and decide what is acceptable in the country's "democratic" debate, they use their wealth to attempt to dragoon the population into a warrior mentality.
Why This Red Sox Offseason Will Be Different: Uncertain Contender Status Will Impact Roster Building
Alex Speier, WEEI

Why John Farrell Picked Brian Butterfield To Become The Red Sox Third Base Coach
Rob Bradford, WEEI

Lovullo A Natural Fit As Bench Coach For Farrell
Ian Browne, MLB.com

Season Review: Clay Buchholz
Ben Buchanan, Over The Monster

Decision 2013: Starting Rotation, Corner Outfield Spots, Behind the Plate, Shortstop,
Gordon Edes/Joe McDonald, ESPN Boston

Baseball America: Red Sox's Top 10 Prospects

Please, Tim McCarver. Just Retire.
Al Yellon, Baseball Nation

October 27, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

Schadenfreude 150 (A Continuing Series)

Ken Davidoff, Post:
If A-Rod isn't going to set the all-time record for home runs, then he might just establish the unofficial mark for required maintenance. The Yankees are constantly working overtime to manage the mistake — and yes, while not a complete bust, it's an obvious mistake — they made five years ago.

The Post confirmed a report by CBSSports.com in which general manager Brian Cashman acknowledged that manager Joe Girardi, in the middle of a playoff game earlier this month, called up to request that Yankee Stadium public-address announcer Paul Olden introduce a pinch-hitter, but not the player being pinch-hit for: A-Rod. When Raul Ibanez pinch-hit for Rodriguez in Game 3 of the American League Division Series — before hitting a game-tying home run in the ninth inning — Rodriguez's name was not mentioned, as is traditionally done when a pinch-hitter comes to the plate. ...

This maneuver says as much about Girardi as it does about A-Rod. ...

Five years and $161 million in, five years and $114 million to go on this albatross, with $6 million bonus payments coming if A-Rod hits enough homers to surpass the big names on the all-time chart. His durability is no longer an asset, his range on defense has faded and we will see whether he can climb back to respectability against right-handers. And just when you think he has grown up some, he produces tabloid gold like his in-game romancing.

Anthony McCarron, Daily News:
It might not have seemed like it, but Joe Girardi was concerned about Alex Rodriguez's fragile ego during the Yankee slugger’s latest playoff flop.

After deciding for the first time to pinch-hit for A-Rod in Game 3 against the Orioles, Joe Girardi called the press box to ask the PA announcer to only announce that Raul Ibanez was pinch-hitting, not that he was subbing for Rodriguez, the proud, but struggling former superstar.

The move was perhaps designed to save Rodriguez at least one round of embarrassment. It's custom that the player who is pinch-hitting is announced, as well as the player he is replacing. ...

Rodriguez had a dreadful postseason, going 3-for-25 (.120). Against right-handed pitching, he was 0-for-18 with all 12 of his postseason strikeouts. He did not start the deciding Game 5 of the division series or Games 3 and 4 of the ALCS, though he got two at-bats in Game 4. He was pinch-hit for three times in the playoffs.

October 24, 2012

How Can You Tell Bobby Valentine Is Lying? His Lips Are Moving.

On August 1, Bobby Valentine told this story:
It happened 2½ months ago [June 17]. ... [Will Middlebrooks] came into the dugout, he made a couple of errors, and I said, "Nice inning, kid." I had thought I had established a relationship with him where I could say something like that to him, kind of smile, relax him a little. Maybe he grimaced, I don’t know. Somebody overheard it and decided that it was a very dreadful thing for a manager to ever say to a young player ... That person didn't go to the locker room when I went to Will after the game and explained to him that I made three errors in a game when I was 21 years old and fans booed me off the field. And how I got through it and other people got through it and it's a great learning experience. I don't think Will has been mortally wounded by that 2½-month-old comment.
At the time, Middlebrooks said he had no recollection of the incident.

With good reason (maybe). Valentine told Bob Costas in an interview that aired last night that the incident never happened. There was no comment to Middlebrooks. There were no players overhearing. And no player went to the front office to complain. Costas failed to ask the blindingly obvious follow-up question: So why did you invent the story in the first place?

While Valentine was telling that lie back in August, he added that his error-filled game has happened on Seat Cushion Night at Dodger Stadium, and that angry fans threw seat cushions at him. Gordon Edes reports: "A newspaper account in the Los Angeles Times of the game in question made no mention of Seat Cushion Night or anything being thrown at Valentine."

Valentine also told Costas that he believed that David Ortiz quit on the Red Sox, refusing to come back from his Achilles' tendon injury during the final weeks of the season:
Ortiz came back after spending about six weeks on the disabled list and we thought it was only going to be a week. He got two hits the first two times up, drove in a couple runs; we were off to the races. Then he realized that this trade meant that we’re not going to run this race and we’re not even going to finish the race properly and he decided not to play anymore. I think at that time it was all downhill from there.
Rob Bradford offers an excellent point-by-point rebuttal to Valentine's stream of bullshit. As far as the BV-WMB incident, Bradford believes it did happen.

October 23, 2012

Q&A: Bluebird Banter Talks About John Farrell

Tom Dakers, one of the main writers at Bluebird Banter, was kind enough to answer some questions about John Farrell's two seasons at the helm of the Blue Jays.

How was Farrell presented to Jays fans when he was named manager (either his perceived strengths or how he compared to the other candidates)?
John's intelligence was talked about a lot. His experience in baseball, time spent as Indians' "Director of Player Development" was talked up. He was said to be thoughtful, intense and a hard worker.
Could you tell me a little bit about his styles/tendencies as a manager? How was he as an in-game tactician, bunting, running, lineups, etc.?
He is a strange combination of things I like and things I hate. He doesn't bunt much, a good thing. He rarely calls for intentional walks, a very good thing. He made good use of his coaching staff, he seemed to get along well with all of them and made sure they knew they were valued.

He loves the running game. Loves it. He especially loves the steal of third. I'm sure we lead the league in players caught stealing 3rd with 2 out in each of his two seasons here*. He never seemed to catch on to the idea that there was a cost to having runners caught. Farrell used the hit and run a lot. Perhaps too often.

Lineups? To be fair, John wasn't helped out by the roughly 74 injuries the Jays, but that wasn't a strong point. He doesn't seem to understand left/right splits. Adam Lind, with his .202/.250/.303 slash line against lefties, would often bat clean up against them.

[*: In all attempted steals of third, the Jays were 33-of-41 (80%) in 2011 and 32-of-38 (84%) in 2012. The team's overall SB% was 72% in 2011 and 75% in 2012]
Did he have a quick/slow hook with his starters? How was his bullpen management?
Farrell was a slow hook this year. Surprisingly to me, he didn't seem to be able to tell when a starter was tiring; maybe his hope was to build endurance, but starters always seemed to be left in a batter or two too long. It seemed like in 2011 he was a quicker hook.

Bullpen management was likely the one area that fans got on him the most about. He had troubles picking a closer in each of his two seasons with the Jays. He also would bring in the right-handed reliever with poor numbers against lefties to face a left-handed batter. Or bring in the lefty reliever to face right-handed batters. At times he would used his better arms in low leverage moments, then use the lesser arms in the important moments. Surprisingly, even as a former pitching coach, handling the pitching staff didn't seem to be a strong point.
Did his style change at all over the two years he was in Toronto?
His style didn't change much but he did seem to learn and improve some in small ways. He went in with the idea that the team should be aggressive on the base paths, but didn't seem to get that there are moments you shouldn't be so aggressive.
Did he work well with GM Alex Anthopoulos?
I thought so. Farrell himself said that reports of "friction" between the two were disrespectful, irresponsible and unfounded. I have no reason to think he was lying. I'd imagine any manager and GM that went through a season like they did would have moments of disagreement but I thought they worked well together.
What did you think of Omar Vizquez's comments late in the season that seemed to take a shot or two at Farrell's style of running the team, claiming that players who made stupid mistakes in games were not properly spoken to?
He may have had a point, though I'm not sure why he didn't go directly to Farrell with his concerns. Some of it seemed self-serving for Omar. Omar talked about the need for veteran presence in the clubhouse, but seemed to overlook that veteran presence was why he was on the roster.

You'd often see Farrell speaking to a player on the bench, after that player had made a mistake. So it did seem like he would address issues, but then some mistakes were made over and over again. I don't remember Farrell ever sitting a player to drive home the message about mistakes, which might have been a good idea.
Dakers also pointed me to this longer examination of Farrell from about a week ago.
More stuff re Farrell:

Mark Zwolinski, Toronto Star, October 22, 2012:
Farrell, according to several players who were interviewed at the close of the 2012 season, probably waited too long to put an authoritative stamp on the clubhouse. While there were meetings throughout the season, Farrell, according to several players, staged a closed-door session in the clubhouse last month at which he challenged every player to question his authority.

That meeting came months after a host of incidents — from Brett Lawrie's helmet-slamming antics to the Yunel Escobar eye-black scandal — combined to undermine Farrell’s role and the level of respect he had in the room.

Zaun was the first to note the lack of discipline in the clubhouse, and now-retired infielder Omar Vizquel remarked on the same subject near the end of the season. ...

When Farrell's departure was first rumoured last week, reports surfaced of rifts he may have had with his front office.

Anthopoulos said he was disturbed by those reports, since, he said, they were not based in fact.

While the subject can be debated, Farrell didn't appear to send a necessary message to some players. Lawrie kept playing despite repeated baserunning blunders, emotional outbreaks and even good-natured attempts by Farrell to educate him and prevent such instances from happening again. ...

"You can't let the inmates run the asylum," Zaun said. "The manager has to be clear on who the boss is, and what the manager says, goes. And if he wants to send a guy down or bench him to get his attention, then he has to be able to go the front office and say this is what he wants to do, and he has to have the backing of the front office. None of these kids have earned their stripes, but they're running around in a consequence-free environment. ... Someone needs to say this is not acceptable ..."
From Drunk Jays Fan:
Keith Law, October 9, Baseball Today podcast:

Farrell's an interesting one. I've had some people in the Red Sox organization who worked with him say he's actually really bright, he's very personable, he's very good with the pitchers, the players do like him, but he's a little stubborn on some of the old school in-game stuff.

Maybe he goes into that bucket with the Dusty Bakers or Ron Washington, where the players love him. What they say about Farrell is that he's actually a bright guy, and open-minded ...

Anyway, so Farrell's managing of the baserunning? He's been horrible. Absolutely awful. That's something I'd like to think you can work with if he's somebody who buys into your overall philosophy ... [T]here's value in what Farrell might bring to the table, especially if you think, at heart, you've got an intelligent guy who's open-minded.

That's really the biggest thing I would ask for a manager. If we sit down with you after a game and we say, "You know what? That bunt in that situation, we'd rather that you didn't do that, and here's the explanation of why" – you know, not a "I'm the GM and I'm telling you to never bunt again." That's really not how you want to run that relationship. If you get to that point with your manager, you probably need another manager. But to actually be able to have a regular conversation, where the manager might come back to you and say, "Look, here's why I did what I did – here's why I batted Joey Bagadonuts second tonight" – at least then it's a dialogue and you feel like over time you'll be able to get the manager to adapt a little bit more to the philosophy you and the front office are trying to put forth throughout the entire organization.

That's the sense that I've gotten from people who've worked with Farrell in Boston and Toronto – the sense that I've gotten, is that he's very intelligent, he's very personable, he is open-minded, he just gets a little stubborn, especially with the base stealing stuff. That seems to be a real blind spot for him ... [I]f I was in Boston, saying, alright, we want to bring you over, but you really have to stop trying to steal third base, because it doesn't work.

Andrew Stoeten, Drunk Jays Fan:

It all sounds about right, doesn't it? Granted, I wrote earlier in the week that the baserunning stuff is, in a lot of ways, overblown – the Jays' baserunning numbers weren't crazily out of line with the rest of the league, though they made the second most outs on the bases in MLB – but the third base stuff is tough to argue: they were tied with Baltimore for the most number of times caught stealing third base at eight, double the league average.

Still, what Law suggests about Farrell's intelligence and open-mindedness is pretty much exactly what we were sold when the Jays selected him as their manager, following an exhaustive search. And it's exactly why I don't mind giving him another kick at the cat, even if the folks who are dead set against it aren't exactly wrong that he truly hasn't shown much, either.
I also asked Craig, a Jays fan who works at the same law firm I do, what he thought of Farrell. He sent two emails:
Farrell is a player's manager. Players that like a manager who can be one of the guys will probably like him.

I found he wasn't very good at managing relievers who needed to be used in specific types of situations. Octavio Dotel was possibly the most obvious example. Farrell treated him like just another reliever ignoring very obvious splits, so Dotel ended up being used in situations where he was basically set up to fail.

Also, he was prone to bunting too often and attempting base stealing with power hitters at the plate. Example being he once had Rajai Davis attempt to steal 2B with Jose Bautista batting. This led to losing a run after Davis was caught stealing before Bautista hit one into the gap. Also, any bunt attempt in the first three innings is beyond stupid.

And of course there was the stupidity surrounding a lack of discipline within the team. It came from having too many young guys with all of the older players being injured, but Farrell didn't manage it well which led to very sloppy play on the field and the whole Yunel Escobar eye black thing.

Nobody here is upset that Farrell is leaving. Jays fans just hope he doesn't bring Brian Butterfield with him as he is a fantastic coach.
On Twitter we had a hash tag going for a while of #FarrellBall.

There was an overall philosophy of aggressive base running and small ball he was trying to push. Certainly part of it came from the roster. It's hard to not just let Rajai Davis steal bases since it's what he does. But Farrell would have the players do these things just for the sake of doing them rather than because it was the best decision at the time. The end result was that he often took the bat out of the hitter's hand.

Another example of him infuriating everyone was when there was a runner on third with no outs. JP Arencibia was due up, but instead Farrell had Omar Vizquel pinch-hit to try and lay down a sac bunt to score the run. This not only failed miserably when Omar couldn't execute, but Arencibia, who does hit well with RISP, was pretty pissed off about it.

Red Sox Have Played In Last Five ALCS Game 7s

Here is an odd tidbit.

Only five of the last 26 American League Championship Series have gone to seven games -- and the Red Sox have played in all five.
2008 - Rays beat Red Sox
2007 - Red Sox beat Cleveland
2004 - Red Sox beat Yankees
2003 - Yankees beat Red Sox
1986 - Red Sox beat Angels
The last seven-game ALCS without Boston? 1985, when the Royals beat the Blue Jays. That was also the first year the ALCS was increased from a best-of-five to a best-of-seven series.

October 22, 2012

World Series: Tigers/Giants

Marco Scutaro, Javier Lopez, and the rest of San Francisco Giants rallied from a 1-3 deficit to win the National League pennant Monday night, defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 9-0 in Game 7. (The Giants also came back from 0-2 to win the best-of-5 NLDS against the Reds.)

The Giants outscored the Cardinals 20-1 over the final three games, winning by scores of 5-0, 6-1, and 9-0.

NLCS MVP Scutaro batted .500 in the series, tying an LCS record with 14 hits and setting a record with six multi-hit games.

Game 1: Tigers at Giants, Wednesday, 8 PM.

The Giants won the 2010 World Series, beating the Rangers in five games. This is the first Series appearance for the Tigers since 2006, when they lost to St. Louis in five games. The Tigers' last championship came in 1984.

Farrell Says Managing Red Sox Was Always "Dream Job"

UPDATE: Gordon Edes has posted a sampling of press and blog reactions: here and here.


John Farrell asked Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos over Canada's Thanksgiving weekend (two weeks ago) about leaving his position as Toronto's manager because managing the Red Sox had always been his "dream job".

As John explained it to me, this was a dream job for him. It was an opportunity he really wanted to pursue, so if there was a deal that could make sense for our club as well, we were going to try ... knowing that this, for him, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity ...
I'm extremely excited to be returning to the Red Sox and to Boston. I love this organization. It's a great franchise in a special city and region, with great fans, and we want nothing more than to reward their faith in us.
There is something about John that they can see because they've been chasing John for the last couple of years. I love John. John is my main man, even when he was the pitching coach.

But I don't know if it's fair for him to walk into this situation that we are in right now. Hopefully everything goes well and he can change things around. He's up for the challenge and what he's going to bring to the table and hopefully everything goes great. I know things didn't go the way he expected in Toronto; hopefully it works out for him here.

When he was dealing with the pitchers, he kept them lined up. What was it? I don't know, but we're about to find out if we can go back to that because we need that. We needed something different. I think you're going to notice a difference. We need somebody to increase the way things are around here and John’s the guy. I'm excited.
Ortiz also said he hopes to work out a contract before the end of the World Series.

He helped mold me into the pitcher I am, the player I am. My work ethic, the work I do between starts, he really helped mold all of that. It will be good to have a familiar face and know what to expect coming into spring training. Last year we didn't know what to expect. I know John, and I'm excited to get back working with him.
Not everyone on the Red Sox is excited about Farrell's return, however. One unnamed position player told Mike Giardi of CSNNE that Farrell was "a hell of a pitching coach, but did you see Toronto play this year? They were as lost as we were."

CBS's Scott Miller is already second-guessing the move from the Red Sox's perspective: " If he's so good, why are the Toronto Blue Jays simply allowing him to walk?"

Jon Heyman quoted someone "with ties to Toronto" as saying, "The people there would charter a plane to get him out."

Sources say that bench coach Torey Lovullo will come with Farrell to Boston.

October 20, 2012

Red Sox Hire John Farrell, Send Aviles To Toronto

Sean McAdam, CSNNE:
Breaking: Red Sox have hired John Farrell as manager, signing him to multi-year deal. Official announcement coming soon.
ESPN Boston's Joe McDonald says he has received confirmation that the deal is complete. Will Carroll reports that it is a four-year contract.

Multiple reports have Mike Aviles going to the Blue Jays as compensation.

Check the SoSH thread for updates.

Red Sox Interview Four Managerial Candidates And Request To Speak To Farrell

The Red Sox have interviewed four managerial candidates - Dodgers coach Tim Wallach, Yankees coach Tony Pena, Padres special assistant Brad Ausmus, and Orioles third-base coach DeMarlo Hale - and are requesting permission from Toronto to speak directly to John Farrell, the current Blue Jays manager (and former Red Sox pitching coach).

WEEI's Full Count blog has posted short bios of all of the interviewed candidates: Wallach, Pena, Ausmus, Hale.

Alex Speier examines the Red Sox's approach to wooing Farrell. ... For what it's worth, Peter Gammons said on Friday that the team will decide between Farrell and Ausmus. ... Peter Abraham wonders what the possible compensation for Farrell might be.

Also: Dave Magadan, the Red Sox's hitting coach since 2006, has taken a job as the Rangers' hitting coach. A recent SoSH thread had some good charts showing the team's decreasing on-base percentage since 2007.. ... Current bench coach Tim Bogar recently turned down a bench coach position with the Houston Astros. Bogar is under contract with the Red Sox until the end of October.

October 18, 2012

Schadenfreude 149 (A Continuing Series)

UPDATED! - One Yankee player blames booing NY fans for causing ALCS sweep!!

Andrew Marchand, ESPN New York:
The Yankees' season is over. It ends in utter embarrassment. Forget about winning a game in this series, they never held a lead in the ALCS.
George A. King III, Post:
Ninety-five wins, an AL East title and an ALDS victory never looked this empty.

Not when all of that is followed by getting swept by the Tigers in four games of the ALCS.

Despite talk of how they would bravely fight their way out of a very deep ditch Thursday, the Yankees went quietly into the off-season with an 8-1 beating ...

The last time the Yankees were swept in a four-game series was by the Reds in the 1976 World Series. ...

Sabathia, who the Yankees firmly believed would get them to a Game 5 today, gave up six runs (five earned) and 11 hits (two homers) in 3.2 innings. ... The 3.2 innings were his shortest stint of the season. ...

[Alex] Rodriguez went 0-for-2 and finished the post-season 3-for-25 (.120).

Robinson Cano went 0-for-4 and ended on a dreadful 1-for-34 slide. For the postseason Cano batted a hard-to-believe .075 (3-for-40). ...

Eric Chavez ... finished the post-season hitless in 16 at-bats and struck out in half of them. ...

Nick Swisher went 1-for-4 and completed a fourth straight awful postseason hitting .167 (5-for-30).

And the Yankees scored six runs in four games. ...

Runs Scored:
000 000 004 000
000 000 000
000 000 001
000 001 000

John Harper, Daily News:
[One Yankee] player privately made a far more indicting observation: that the ballclub was affected by the hostility from the fans at Yankee Stadium last weekend.

“I really think the booing spooked a lot of guys," the player said. “A lot of guys hadn’t been booed before, and they couldn’t believe how nasty it got in the stands."

Obviously Nick Swisher admitted to being sensitive to such treatment after Game 2, but the player said Swisher was far from alone in his reaction.

“A lot of guys were talking about it in the clubhouse," he said. “I was surprised by how much it bothered them. I really don’t think they ever recovered."

If that's true, well, so much for the big, bad Yankees.

Joel Sherman, Post:
There is only wreckage now, the detritus of having every weakness exposed, of falling apart so completely as to make it difficult to see the outline of a major league team, much less the New York Yankees.

Over the coming days and weeks, Yankees management must assess the meaning of that wreckage, of a humiliating ALCS sweep by the Tigers. ...

The season ends, the huge questions are just beginning.
Mark Feinsand, Daily News:
Different October, same result.

The Yankees were ousted from the postseason by the Tigers for the second straight fall and the third time since 2006, falling 8-1 in Game 4 Thursday to complete an embarrassing four-game American League Championship Series sweep.

CC Sabathia was torched for six runs in 3.2 innings, recording the same number of outs - 11 - as hits allowed. His counterpart, Max Scherzer, no-hit the Yankees through five innings, then handed it off to Detroit's bullpen with two out in the sixth as the Tigers wrapped up their 11th AL pennant.

The offense completed one of the most anemic postseasons in history ...

The Yankees finished the series hitting .157, a new franchise record for futility that had stood since 1963, when the Bombers hit .171 in their World Series loss to the Dodgers. The Yankees hit .187 for the entire postseason, wasting a bevy of solid pitching performances.

The Yankees never held a lead during the four-game sweep, scoring five runs overall. They only scored in three of 39 innings during the ALCS ...

Curtis Granderson went 3-for-30 (.100) with 16 strikeouts ...
Bryan Hoch, MLB.com:
The Yankees' ice cold autumn will now give way to an uncertain winter, as their season concluded on Thursday with an 8-1 loss to the Tigers in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series at Comerica Park. ...

The positions of manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman appear to be secure, but hitting coach Kevin Long will be asked to answer for an anemic offense that hung zeros on the scoreboard in 36 of 39 innings during the ALCS.

New York never held a lead in the series and pushed runs across in just two ALCS frames -- the ninth innings of Games 1 and 3 -- before Nick Swisher doubled home Eduardo Nunez in the sixth inning on Thursday, breaking up Scherzer's shutout bid.

Daily News: "Yankees deny talking to Marlins about A-Rod"
Post: "Signs point to a costly divorce between A-Rod and Yankees"
Daily News: "Lupica: A-Rod continues to be damned Yankee"
Daily News: "The Donald takes more rips at A-Rod"

Today Is "David Ortiz Day"

It's been eight years - plenty of time for reality to sink in - but do you ever have moments when you think about what David Ortiz did in October 2004 and ask yourself: "Did that really happen?" Did he really do all that?"

I still do.

Eight years ago today, over a period of less than 24 hours, Ortiz and the Red Sox came back from the dead. When the clock struck midnight and Monday, October 18, 2004, began, the greatest comeback in baseball history was about to start.

In the first few minutes of that day, Dave Roberts stole second base and scored on a hard single to center by Bill Mueller. In the bottom of the 12th inning, Ortiz - who had failed to deliver a game-winning hit in the ninth inning - crushed a two-run home run to give the Red Sox a 6-4 win, keeping their slim ALCS hopes alive.

At the time, I was too overwhelmed (or tense or at a complete loss for words or something) and did not write very much. Two short posts - with a trip to the dentist in the middle!

In March 2005, I rewatched all (but one) of the post-season games and posted about what I saw. Here are some of those notes:

Game 4:

Bottom of the 9th: Boston is three outs from being swept and Fox is wrapping up the series. Rivera is on for his second inning. Millar:
93 inside, 1-0
93 over plate, fouled off 3b side, 1-1
93 inside, 2-1
93 inside, 3-1
up and in, ball four
Rivera's cutter usually goes down and away from a right-handed hitter, but almost all of the pitches to Millar are inside.

The crowd roars as Dave Roberts pops out of the dugout, fitting a helmet on his head, bumps fists with Millar coming off the field and stands on first base. It's about 40 degrees. Everyone in the universe knows Roberts will try to steal second base. Roberts immediately takes, as Fox correctly points out, "a huge lead."

Rivera throws over three times. On a replay of the last throw, you can see Roberts saying "Ooooooh" after he slid back in, knowing how close he came to being picked off. In subsequent interviews, Roberts said that after that third throw, he felt totally focused, as though he had been playing the entire game. (Actually, he had not been in a game in ten days – since ALDS 2).

More inside info: Since the sixth inning, Roberts had been in the clubhouse studying videotape of Rivera and Gordon, trying to memorize their moves to first in case he would be needed to pinch-run.

When Rivera finally pitched to Mueller, he was taking all the way. Roberts was off. Posada's throw was right on the money, but a hair late. Jeter was out in front of the bag, but Roberts slid in just before the tag. SAFE! Rivera's next pitch was right down the middle – was he thinking Mueller might bunt Roberts to third? – and Mueller lined it right through the box, knocking Rivera to the ground, and into center field. Roberts scored without a throw and the game was tied at 4-4.

Boston still had a chance to win it. Mientkiewicz moved Mueller to second and Damon reached on an error by Tony Clark, who bobbled his grounder to first. After Cabrera struck out, Damon took second uncontested. Boston had runners on second and third with Manny and Ortiz up. Rivera fell behind Ramirez 3-0, got the count full, then walked him. With the bases loaded, Ortiz popped out to second.

Top of the 11th: Embree in for his second inning. Cairo singled to right, Jeter bunted him over. Rodriguez then lined a ball to the shortstop hole. Cabrera, who had been cheating towards the bag to keep Jeter close, dove to his right, snagging the line drive just as it was about to hit the dirt. Two outs. After falling behind to Sheffield, Embree put him on. Myers came in for Matsui and walked him on four pitches. Damn.

Curtis Leskanic came in to face Williams with the bases loaded. He got a called strike -– and we got a shot of Wakefield warming up in the bullpen, the same Wakefield who had gone 3.1 innings and thrown 64 pitches the night before.

Boston went quietly in the 11th (Wakefield still throwing) and Leskanic came out for the 12th. He allowed a bloop single to Posada, but retired Sierra, Clark and Cairo. If the game went into the 13th, it looked like Wakefield would be in.

Bottom of the 12th: Quantrill took over after two solid innings from Gordon. Manny took a strike, then two balls, then lined a single to left. Ortiz got ahead 2-1 before launching a pitch into the visitors' bullpen in right, winning the game 6-4. In an interview about two minutes after he crossed the plate he said the pitch he hit was one Quantrill had gotten him out with before, so he was looking for it.

There would be no sweep. Lost in the exhilaration was the fact that the top arms in the pen had thrown a lot of pitches: Embree 30, Timlin 37, Foulke 50. And Game 5 would begin in 19 hours.

Yankees - 002 002 000 000 - 4 12  1
Red Sox - 000 030 001 002 - 6  8  0

Game 5:

Tim McCarver started off the broadcast with a pretty good quip: "Boy, these split doubleheaders are great, aren't they?"

Mussina was eight outs away from a perfect game in Game 1, but the Red Sox got to him early this time. With one out, Cabrera singled to left, Ramirez singled to right center, Ortiz singled to right (1-0), Millar walked, Nixon reached on a force at home, and Varitek walked to force in a run (2-0). ... After that inning – 34 pitches – Mussina pitched very well. Over the next five innings, he allowed only two hits (no walks) and no runs.

Pedro struck out Jeter and Sheffield in the first inning, both on three pitches, but he was intermittently sharp. Bernie Williams nailed his first pitch of the second into the right field seats for a home run. (If Joe Buck refers to Bernie Williams as the New York lineup's "forgotten man" every time he comes to the plate, how overlooked can he be?) Martinez allowed a walk and a hit with two outs in the third, a single and a walk to start the fourth, and a leadoff walk in the fifth – yet still kept the score at 2-1.

In the sixth, his luck ran out. With one out, Posada and Sierra singled. After Clark struck out, Pedro hit Cairo to load the bases. As Buck and McCarver pointed out how Pedro loses effectiveness after 100 pitches (he started the inning at 82), Jeter sliced a bases-clearing double down the right field line – on Pedro's 100th pitch. The Yankees took a 4-2 lead.

After a visit from Dave Wallace, Martinez hit Rodriguez (Myers and Timlin were up in the pen) and walked Sheffield. He got the third out thanks to Nixon's tumbling catch of Matsui's sinking liner to right.

Boston had four innings to score two runs. They went in order in the sixth. Bellhorn doubled to start the seventh (and chase Mussina) but Sturtze retired Damon and, after he walked Cabrera, Gordon came in and got Manny to ground into a 5-4-3 double play.

At the start of the eighth inning, Rivera was up in the New York pen. Ortiz hit an 0-1 Gordon offering into the Monster seats and Boston now trailed 4-3. Millar swung wildly at the first two pitches, then took the next four for another crucial walk. And there was Dave Roberts running at first base again. Nixon stepped in and there was an exceptional game of cat-and-mouse between Roberts and Gordon (who had now appeared in all five games of the series):
Gordon looks over, throws pitch (88), called strike, 0-1
Rivera ready, watching from bullpen
Roberts twitching off first Gordon looks over, steps off
Gordon throws over, an easy throw, Roberts dusts off
Gordon holds the ball, and holds it, and holds it, finally Roberts walks back to the bag
Crowd chanting "Gor-don! Gor-don!"
Gordon fakes a throw, Roberts gets back
Gordon throws over to first
Pitch (85) low/inside at knees, called 1-1
Pitch (91) low in dirt in front of plate, 2-1
Pitch (91) in dirt, 3-1
A-Rod to mound to talk
Roberts off with pitch, lined into right field, Roberts to third
After that, Rivera came in and Varitek lofted a fly ball to center. Roberts scored easily, the game was tied at 4-4, and Rivera had blown another save. It was the first time in Yankee history that the team had blown saves in consecutive post-season games.

In the Yankees 9th, the camera caught Schilling rushing to the dugout phone. The next time they showed him, he was sitting on the bench, holding his glove. ... McCarver: "What's he doing with his glove?" Buck: "Interesting question." ... There was a lot of activity in the dugout, Schilling then disappeared down the runway.

During the mid-inning break, Schilling, Lowe and Wakefield had walked from the dugout to the bullpen. The roar of the crowd was deafening. I don't think anything could have said "We will pitch anyone tonight" more than that defiant display.

Boston 9th against Rivera: Damon beat out a single to Cairo's right, but he was then thrown out trying to steal second, although a replay showed him being tagged by Jeter's left wrist instead of his glove. Cabrera grounded out to short and Ramirez flew to center.

The Red Sox had chances to win it in the tenth (Millar doubled over Sheffield's head with one out, but Quantrill got Nixon and Varitek) and eleventh (Mueller and Bellhorn singled with no out, but Damon popped out and (facing Loazia) Cabrera hit into a 6-4-3 DP. In the twelfth, Ortiz walked with one out and tried to steal second base. He may have been safe – some replays seem to show his hand in there – but he was called out.

The Yankees' best chance to score came in the thirteenth. Sheffield struck out against Wakefield, but reached on a passed ball. Matsui forced him at second and Williams flew out to Nixon for the second out. Wakefield's first pitch to Posada rolled away from Varitek (who had caught Wakefield for only two innings during the regular season). After a called strike, another passed ball put Matsui at second. Posada was walked intentionally. Facing Sierra, Varitek was charged with his third passed ball and the runners advanced to second and third. The next pitch was a knuckleball – Wakefield refused to not throw it - that squirted out of Varitek's glove, but it did not go far. Sierra struck out on the next pitch.

In the bottom of the fourteenth, Bellhorn struck out, Damon walked, Cabrera struck out and Ramirez walked. Ortiz then faced Loazia:
Fastball (91 mph), cutting away and down, 0-1
Way outside (90), 1-1
Big rip (88), fouled 3b side, 1-2
Fouled off (90), 3b side, 1-2
Clubbed deep to right, hooked foul, 1-2
Outside (90), 2-2
Pitch up (92), fouled back 3b side, 2-2
Pitch up (92), fouled back 3b side, 2-2
Pitch up (89), fouled back 3b side, 2-2
10th pitch (87) lined to center, single, Damon scores, Sox win 5-4
Buck on Damon: "…and he can keep on running to New York."
Yankees - 010 003 000 000 00 - 4 12  1
Red Sox - 200 000 020 000 01 - 5 13  1

At this point, I was pretty confident the Red Sox would win the pennant.

And so it came to pass ...

October 17, 2012

Schadenfreude 148 (A Continuing Series)

George A. King III, Post:
Robinson Cano stood in the middle of a Yankees' clubhouse so quiet you could hear the water pelting the shower floor harder than the Yankees have hit lately.

Cano and the Yankees had lost Game 3 of the ALCS, 2-1, to Justin Verlander and the Tigers before 42,970 at Comerica Park and fell into a 0-3 ditch that would be almost impossible to escape if they were hitting. Of course, they aren't.
Joel Sherman, Post:
The 2004 Red Sox? Stop, in this ALCS these Yankees more resemble the 2012 Red Sox — lifeless and hopeless.

There have been 30 innings. They have led in none. That's right, zero. They have scored in two innings. The ninth inning of Game 1 and the ninth inning of last night’s Game 3, all of the runs coming via homers.

So until they prove that they can score in another inning or in another way, or they can ever actually take a darn lead in an actual game, why don't we table comparisons to bloody socks and Idiots and the most improbable comeback in the history of the sport.
Bill Madden, Daily News:
The Yankees took their sorry postseason hitting act out of town Tuesday night, seeking long-distance redemption with their disgusted and disillusioned fan base against most formidable odds: Justin Verlander in the Tigers’ den.

It was a tall task they were once again not up to, a desperate ninth inning rally falling short when Mighty Raul Ibanez struck out to end the game, allowing the Tigers to put a 3-0 hammerlock on this best-of-seven ALCS.

And it is doubtful, at least right now, that the fed-up Yankee legions will find any consolation in the fact the Bombers finally showed some fight and grit, working Verlander and reliever Phil Coke for 43 pitches in the hairy ninth inning, and almost pulled this one out.