Table Setting

This weekend’s series in Boston lacks the normal passion we normally see when the Yankees come to town. New York is dealing with one of its worst runs in years and things don’t seem to be getting much better.


There are a few story lines I thought I should discuss. First off, the ARod incident Wednesday night. For those that missed it MLB’s website has a link. Here is a description if you cannot get to the link:


Yankees up, men on 1st (ARod) and 2nd (Matsui), 2 outs. The batter hits a pop fly to the 3rd baseman. Because there are 2 outs, the runners are off on contact. ARod arrives at 3rd just when Howie Clark, the Blue Jays 3rd baseman, is about to catch the ball. ARod calls out "Mine" and Clark backs off thinking it is his teammate calling him off. The ball falls in and Matsui scores, inning still alive.


The play ended up to be insignificant from a game result standpoint as the Yankees walked away with it to a victory. The real drama came from so many people saying ARod pulled a "Bush League" play trying by trying to fool the Clark.


I could not disagree more. I think ARod’s play, while not normal or encouraged, is no different than many plays we see in baseball everyday.


Examples include: phantom tags, where a 2nd baseman never really touches 2nd for a force out on the first half of a double play. Runners faking towards home when an outfielder makes a catch in order to draw a throw. The idea being, perhaps the outfielder will airmail it over the catchers head allowing an easy score. Or, and in my opinion this is the best example, the middle infielder play where the fielder fakes catching a ball to induce a runner from 1st into a slide. This might prevent him from taking 3rd as it interrupts his progress.


Well, this last example, in my opinion, nullifies the argument that what ARod did might cause injury by forcing infielders to crashing into each other. Well, first off, when you are called off on a play, your first reaction is to lower your head, knowing roughly where the ball will land, and locate your teammate(s) to avoid a collision, no? No fielder, once called off, keeps his head up, eyes towards the heavens and runs off in hysteria. He locates obstacles and stays clear.


Going back to my last example of fielder deviousness (the fake the catch, to force the runner into a slide, we will call this the “fake catch”), I can sight 3 clear examples that forcing a runner to slide is FAR more dangerous than calling off a fielder:


Coco Crisp sliding into 2nd breaks a finger.
Manny Ramirez sliding into 3rd breaks a finger and then vacations in Pawtucket for 10 days.
And the worst, most devastating injury was Robin Ventura, March 21, 1997, sliding into home and breaking both his tibia and fibula all the while dislocating his ankle and causing a compound fracture of one or both of the aforementioned bones.


My point, sliding into a base can be very dangerous, especially when it is a non-routine slide. That is to say when a player is sliding thinking it might be a close call. If the “fake catch” is accepted and can cause a player to engage in an activity that is routine, but also potentially dangerous, especially when the stakes are raised, then why can’t ARod make fool a fielder into a mistake?


I believe this kind of thing happens more often than the Blue Jays will admit. The key point here is that most fielders don’t fall for it. When Clark fell for the fake out call from ARod, he and his teammates, especially shortstop John McDonald, felt really dumb and lashed out. Please don’t be insincere and tell me your favorite team or player, doesn’t do something to gain an extra advantage, be it faking a catch, faking a dash towards home, faking getting hit by a pitch, setting up in the batters box with a foot slightly outside said box, leaning into a pitch, claiming fan interference on a misplayed ball. The examples go on and on.


In this case, the Blue Jays fell for it and were embarrassed. I would be too, but you move on. Don’t be so naïve to think this kind of thing has been going on since baseball started. And, please tell me, what has baseball become, a non-contact chess match? Baseball is played at times at a painfully slow pace but can ramp up into an adrenaline pumping craze. Things happen quickly and players will often do what they can to get an edge.


I realize my opinion on this is probably the in the minority, but for all of ARod’s faults, and I believe he has many, I have no problem with his actions Wednesday night. Now, if I baseball like I think I know baseball, ARod will receive a nicely wrapped package under his ribs the next time he faces Toronto in the form of a fastball. Baseball polices itself and I expect that to happen here too. It is this retaliatory reason alone that we probably don’t see this play more often.


The other story line is why isn’t Roger Clemens facing Boston this weekend? If compensation is a gauge, Roger is the most important player on the Yankees. If that is true, why not stuff him into the fray as soon as possible? He last pitched this past Monday and would be able to go again Saturday. Why not start him?


My guess is that given what has happened to the Yankees since it was announced he was rejoining them, they fear what would happen if he were to struggle badly against Boston. What would that to do the morale of the team and fan base?


But most of all, I was really hoping Clemens would pitch in Boston if for no other reason, it would have been a really good game to watch.


Fri: 7:05pm – Wang (3-4, 4.13) v. Wakefield (5-5, 3.36)
Sat: 3:55pm – Mussina (2-3, 5.86) v. Schilling (5-2, 3.68)
Sun: 8:05pm – Pettitte (3-4, 2.51) v. Beckett (2.65, 8-0)


Update: In watching Baseball Tonight (Thursday 10pm edition), Dusty Baker, Orestes Destrade and Fernando Vina, all former players, sided with me that the play was NOT Bush League. Come on people, this isn’t ballet we are watching.