Saturday, October 08, 2005

Backs Against The Wall

I’m going to take this opportunity to be an optimist, since it my be my last chance this season. A lot of what I’m about to say may be a stretch, at best, but if it isn’t said now, it may never cross anyone’s eyes. There is no reason to believe that the Yankees are out of this series.

Okay, so there are plenty of reasons to believe that they’re just about broiled. But there are a few redeeming factors amidst a field of mud and standing water. Like the fact that their backs are against the wall, just like the last three weeks of the season. And what happened during those three weeks? We all witnessed the 2005 Yankees play like the 2005 Yankees.

Of course, that’s of little consolation to a team marred by inconsistent starting pitching and the complete lack of a bullpen before the ninth inning. Yes, this is a direct shot at Tom Gordon, who helped the Angels nail down the victory last night. Allow me a brief tangent on Flash.

While reading Now I Can Die In Peace, Bill Simmons’s book, I always read everything Yankee related with a sharper eye. This included his account of Tom Gordon’s service with the Red Sox from ’96 through ’99, where he was deposed by Derek Lowe as the closer (after converting from a starter). Simmons bashed Gordon for his inability to pitch in a big spot, which I quickly giggled at, thinking, “he’s the 8th inning guy. The 8th is a pretty big inning, Simmons.”

This thought only appeared in my head because of a memory blockage from last year. For some reason I didn’t remember, even when reading this account of Gordon, the six runs over 6.2 innings in last year’s ALCS. In 16 career postseason appearances before this year, Gordon has given up 20 hits, eight walks, and 15 earned runs over 17.1 innings. This only accents the dregs the Yanks bullpen is in, as they are down to one reliable piece.

While I’m on the subject of the bullpen (and Gordon), I’d like to know why Sturtze didn’t come out to start the seventh. Yes, this is a simple second-guessing, but I actually questioned it as it happened. We were down a run, and we’ve already been over Flash’s postseason track record. Why not let Sturtze, after coming into a big spot and executing, start the seventh? Yes, I know the Joe Torre strategy of keeping the game close. But all things considered, Sturtze definitely gave us the best shot at that juncture of the game.

And Leiter should only be facing a batter, maybe two at a time. In fact, Torre brought him into a perfect situation last night, with three lefties in a row – Erstad, Finley and Kennedy – coming up. But then he goes and leaves him in for the top of the eighth, with three righties – Figgins (switch), Cabrera and Vlad – due up. Have I mentioned Proctor’s success against righties? Isn’t that success the entire reason he’s on the postseason roster? Sure, Figgins would have turned around for him, but Cabrera and Vlad don’t have that option. I’d still rather risk Proctor against a lefty and two righties than Leiter against three righties.

As if the pitching didn’t pose enough of a problem, we had the future of Monument Park hitting 7-8-9, though Bernie came through with two hits and a big sac fly that put the Yanks up 6-5, giving me delusions of hope.

Hopefully today’s rainout gives the team time to step back, realize the spot they’re in and focus like they did over the last three weeks. I can’t decide if I’d rather see Washburn or Colon tomorrow, but I do think that if Chacon brings his A game, it shouldn’t matter. The con to Washburn is that Big Rube will be DHing. The con to Colon is that he’s the probably AL Cy Young winner. And the con to the whole thing: should there be a Game 5, we’re facing either Colon or Lackey. Wonderful.

And I managed to type that whole thing without mentioning the fact that Cano was avoiding being toppled, and the runner was definitely out. No question. Blown call. Not that it made a huge difference, anyway. The pitching sabotaged the team much more than the umps.