Grumpy Young Men

Ok, deep breaths out there, Yankee Fans. Today was a good step, a big step, but not a final step. Before you go out and buy your World Series tickets, let’s look at a couple of facts/myths

1- The Red Sox won three straight elimination games in their last series
2- While John Burkett may not be Cy Young, I seem to remember a complete game victory he pitched against the Yankees in the 1996 playoffs.
3- Last time Andy Pettite had a chance to clinch a series, he pitched one of the worst games in post season history (Game 6 2001 WS)
4- While Game 6 is obviously a must win for the Sox, if they do win, wouldn’t they have momentum going into game 7?
5- No matter who wins this ALCS, they will most likely run into a Wood/Prior combo for at least 4 and maybe 5 of the World Series games. (Remind anyone of Johnson/Schilling?)

Ok, enough of the negative, some notes and observations from tonight’s game….
Fox Sucks. Glad they got us to Manny’s Home Run after he had rounded first (with the length of Manny’s Home Run trot, we should assume we missed at least two minutes of the game) but now the start time of tomorrow’s game is up in the air. Are you kidding me?? Fox decided to milk as much revenue as they could last week by simulcasting Game 2 of the NLCS and Game 1 of the ALCS, thus putting both of them in Prime Time. Now, they want two separate TV audiences. While Boston to NY is not an arduous trip, shouldn’t the Yankees and Red Sox get some accommodation for losing their travel day to rain? Now, they may have to play a game less than 21 hours after the end of their last game and with a trip in the middle to boot.

Joe Torre bringing in Mariano Rivera for the 8th and 9th inning drives me nuts. First, what does it say to everyone in the bullpen when you won’t bring them in for the 8th inning with a 3 run lead? Second, Rivera doesn’t always pitch as well in inning 2 as he did in inning 1. Third, Rivera threw 28 pitches, what if they need him tomorrow for a closer game?? I know that Torre was proved right tonight, but I still think a Contreras/White combo would have been the way to start the 8th tonight.
Also, why is Garcia in Right Field in the 8th inning? We know that Juan Rivera is the best OF on the roster and Mo had been brought in to close the game, so why didn’t Torre go with a defensive sub? I don’t think Rivera would have caught Walker’s Triple, but it may have only been a Double with him out there.

Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but why did Grady leave Lowe in for the 8th inning? The only conclusion I can draw is that he has less confidence in his bullpen than Torre does in his (excluding Mo)
Soriano’s flip from his glove to get a crucial out shows why he shouldn’t be moved from 2b. Sure, he makes bad errors, but he is improving (if you don’t believe me, look at a tape of the 2001 Yankees) and his offense at Second makes him one of the most valuable players in the game. Yes, he may not walk enough, but his combo of speed and power makes him dangerous in every at bat. He may never win a gold glove, but he should stay at second. Put him in Right Field and you reduce his value. That’s it for tonight, see you tomorrow!

Men Behaving Badly

Let’s get the lousy part of game 3 out of the way first. What should have been a great baseball game was hurt by a number of people who should be fined and suspended for their poor displays. A look at the “goats”

Pedro- It is bad enough that he felt the need to hit someone because he wasn’t pitching well, but to throw the ball BEHIND someone’s head is gutless. Pointing to his head to let the Yankees know where the next beanball would be is completely beyond the call of the game. Pedro has made a lot of noise about respect and people respecting him. He lost any respect I had for him on Saturday.

Garcia- Ok, I would imagine you are pretty rattled when a Pedro fastball goes behind your head, but take your “revenge” and move on. You took out Walker at second, shut up and go back to the dugout.

Ramirez- I think Harold Reynolds of ESPN was dead on, he didn’t want to hit against Clemens. He was looking for a reason to go off and took it on a pitch that could hardly be called inside. This set off the whole shooting match.

Zimmer- I appreciate his passion, but he should know better at his age than storming out of the dugout and trying to get into it with Pedro.

Nelson and the Groundskeeper. Still not sure what happened, but why did it have to? Not sure why a Groundskeeper would cheer for the Red Sox in the Yankee bullpen and not sure why Nelson couldn’t have just let security handle this.

Enough of the bad, now let’s look at some of the “heroes” in an ugly games.

MLB Secuirty- A great idea shutting the beer sales off in Fenway during the Fourth Inning. The last thing that crowd needed was more alcohol to fuel their anger.

The Umpires. Glad to see them use some discretion in a big game and not eject people. It would have been a shame for a playoff game to be decided because of players thrown out of the game.

Clemens- Can’t believe I can say this, but he actually kept his cool.

Ortiz, Pettite, Jeter, Nomar and countless others. The heartening thing when you look at the videotape from Saturday is the number of guys who DIDN’t get involved. Nice to see the cooler heads prevail.

Ok, enough of the junk, a few notes on the series. Is it me of is Jason Varitek giving away location on high pitches by standing up? I can’t believe that hitters aren’t keying on this one.

While the conventional wisdom says the rainout favors Boston, since they will get to pitch Wakefield, I disagree. I think the rainout will favor the Yankees since Mariano can go 2 innings tonight, they won game 3 and instead of Burkett going tonight they will have to pitch him in a possible game 6.

Nick Johnson’s diving catch in the 9th inning and Trot Nixon’s leaping catch in the 5th were two great defensive plays.

Lastly, according to ESPN, the payroll of Yankees currently on the roster (or DL) is $137,760,000. The Red Sox is $104,377,000. A gap to be sure, but nowhere near the 180 million dollar figure commonly used.

Initial Thoughts

What a difference a year makes! Last year, baseball’s “Final Four” all resided on the Western side of the Mississippi River and the World Series was contested entirely within the state of California. Now, baseball’s four remaining teams all play on the Eastern side of the country and California will have to be content with a recall election instead of a World Series.

For baseball purists, it doesn’t get any better than a Yankees-Red Sox series. While the rivalry has been somewhat one-sided, this year’s regular season games ended with the Yankees winning one more game than the Red Sox.

So, what can we expect for the upcoming ALCS? These are the 4 keys to a Yankee victory as I see it.

1- Take advantage of the early pitching matchups. While the Yankees will go into the series with their rotation well rested, the Red Sox will be forced to start their number 3 starter, Tim Wakefield in game one and will not get to start Pedro until game 3. In addition, Derek Lowe will most likely pitch game 2 at Yankee Stadium and he has been much less effective on the road this year. It is critical that the Yankees use their sizeable advantages and win the first two games of the series.
2- Keep the “bridge” to Mariano short. One of the keys to the Twins series was the fact that the starters pitched deep into the game and the Yankees didn’t have to rely on anyone besides Rivera at the end of ballgames. A continuation of this formula is vital for their success.
3- Get to the Red Sox bullpen. While the Red Sox bullpen pitched very well against the A’s, there are still a lot of questions down there. Principally, who is the closer? Derek Lowe saved game five vs. the A’s, but he will be expected to start and not close. Maybe it will be Timlin, maybe Williamson, either way, the Red Sox starters seem to be the more formidable part of their pitching.
4- Keep playing the aggressive baseball we saw against the Twins. The championship teams of the last 1990’s didn’t wait for the big homerun, they came at you with tough at bats and aggressive baserunning. We saw a return to this style of play in the Twins series and it is critical that this continues against the Red Sox.

All in all, these teams are very evenly matched and both have significant flaws. The team that can overcome these flaws will win the series.