Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Game Diary

It’s a Tuesday afternoon in July, and I’m unemployed. So what better to do than compile a game diary for this afternoon’s bout with the O’s? There’s a little bit on the line today, as it’s Johnson on three days rest after being trounced by the Tigers on Friday night, and a win puts us a mere ½ game behind these same Orioles for second place in the East. And with a little more help from the guys in Texas, we could be only down three on the Red Sox when the day is concluded.

Top of the 1st
Randy’s two recent horrible outings – against the Tigers and Devil Rays – have been deceptive in that he has had a strong first inning before the flood gates opened. So far be it from me to become overly elated when Randy made quick work of Brian Roberts with a slider breaking down and in. It may be breaking towards a right-handed hitter, but I’m convinced a lefty would have an easier time poking that pitch to the opposite field. A quick 1-2-3 brings us to the bottom of the inning.

Bottom of the 1st
If the first batters for the respective teams set the tone for this game, we’ll be clear victors in this one. Jeter just bounced one up the middle for a base hit. Not particularly hard hit, but it was a bouncer that Lopez would have had to reach across his body to snag.
Tough break for Cano, who makes solid contact on a low 1-2 pitch, but the defensive swing results in a fly out to center.
Shift on for Sheff, with Mora shading a bit to his right. And what does Sheff do? Scorches one in Mora’s vicinity, only to be misplayed and ruled an error. Definitely borderline, and you’d think the hometown scorer would dole out a hit for Sheff. First and second, one away.
Oh, wow! A successful double steal during A-Rod’s at bat. Fasano opts to try for Sheff at second instead of Jeter, who got a great jump, at third. Of course, all is for naught when A-Rod negates the sac fly by whiffing on a pitch under his hands. But we still have Godzilla…
Who flies out to mid-center, which would have scored Jeter with less than two outs. No runs, a hit, an error, and two stolen bases. After one full, we’re tied at zero.

Top of the 2nd
Judging by the length of the first inning, I may have to abbreviate the comments for the sake of readability. No one wants to read a 5,000 word piece on a 1-0 game. Anyway, Randy worked another quick 1-2-3 in the 2nd. I’d have more comments about it, but I stepped out to relieve myself right before the inning began and came back with two down. Great start, but I’m still not getting excited with Randy on the hill.

Bottom of the 2nd
Here’s Giambi, and he quickly goes down 0-2. I have to say, though, that no matter how well or how poorly Giambi is hitting, I never mind him going down 0-2. Despite a swing that is in it’s decline, he still has a hawkish eye at the plate. And sweet sassy molassey, he just pulverized that 2-2 pitch into the bleachers just to the right of center! And that’s what Lopez gets for leaving anything but a 97 m.p.h. pitch up in the zone for Giambi. 1-0 good guys.
Here’s Sierra, whom I don’t particularly like as a starter. Sure, he’s a threat when he steps into the batter’s box, but he just hasn’t been producing to his normal level. He has to inspire fear in the heart of a pitcher when he comes in late in a game as a pinch hitter, but as a DH or OF? Not so much. This is why the Yanks have room to add a bat before the trade deadline – not that it’s at all a top priority. Anyway, Lopez left a changeup over the outer half of the plate, and Sierra muscled it through the middle for a hit. Good job, Ruben; too bad Blowmack is batting behind you.
And he strikes out. Here’s a pat on the back for a guy that shouldn’t be starting. Seriously, Bubba Crosby plays a better defensive centerfield than Womack, and he’s no worse at the plate. You’re telling me you would rather have Womack in at this point? Not a chance.
Ooooh, John Flaherty. Ooooh, inning-ending double play. Nope, didn’t see that one coming. Maybe I’ll comment on Flaherty in an inning where I haven’t written nearly 300 words already.

Top of the 3rd
Being a believer in the “Randy only pitches well when he’s pissed, staring guys down and brushing them off the plate” theory, his smile during the inning following a botched pitch makes me uneasy. But, Randy helps alleviate that fear by finishing his perfect handling on the O’s once through the lineup.

Bottom of the 3rd
Jeter, being Jeter-esque, slaps a single to right. Two for two with two leadoff singles. Not too shabby, Jete. Cano up, and he makes first baseman Chris Gomez look like Mike Richter in 1995, sending a bouncer through his five hole. Kay aptly points out that if Randy isn’t on the hill, Gold-Glover Rafael Palmiero is at first and most likely makes that play. Jete takes 3rd.
This is exactly why Sheffield is the most exciting player to watch when you’re at a ballgame: he makes you hold your breath every time he makes solid contact, because the ball just takes off. Even on the foul balls, it’s just pure excitement when he makes contact. So after fouling one off a yard or so foul, he slaps one to Mora at third, which made me yell, “Jeter, you dumbass!” as the Captain was loitering too far off third. Thankfully, the Orioles aren’t learned in the art of the rundown. An overthrow and Tejada beaning Jeter in the leg later, and the Yanks are up 2-0.
A-Rod, seeing that Mora already has two errors on the day (he was charged with one on the preceding play), decides to test his mettle, but Mora holds on and forces Cano out at second for the first out of the inning.
Matsui takes the first pitch and lines a bullet past Tejada diving to his right, scoring Sheff from second. Singleton points out that Matsui has reached safely in 33 straight games now.
Talk about bang-bang. Giambi just RIPPED Lopez’s first pitch into right center, once again an off speed pitch up in the zone. So he plates A-Rod with an RBI double. 3-0.
I have to say that I’m impressed thus far. And Sierra adds to it by hitting one right between Tejada and Mora, who are playing in with Matsui at third. The best part is that he hit it just hard enough to get through the infield. The outfield grass slowed it down enough for even Giambi to score, who gets an 8.6 for his slide into home.
Uh oh, here comes rally killer incarnate, Tony Blowmack. And he whiffs on a pitch way up. Way to go, Tony!
Uh oh, here comes the other rally killer, John Flaherty. And he whiffs. Way to go, John.

Top of the 4th
Kay points out, after two quick outs and 2 strikes on Mora, that Randy looks sharp today. Excellent in-depth analysis. And he Ks Mora to end the inning. So maybe I’m becoming a bit more comfortable now. Then again, this is the 2k5 version of Randy…

Bottom of the 4th
Jete has a single to center and right thus far, and in his third at bat he pulls one. Can there be enough said about how good a hitter Jeter is?
And here’s the Robbie Cano that everyone is growing to love. First pitch double, Jeter to third. There are still spots on the Cano bandwagon, but act quickly, because it’s going to fill up fast.
Gotta love Sheff. The guy just affirmed what I was talking about earlier, but instead of putting one in the seats just a yard foul, he drills a pitch into the net over the bullpen, putting the good guys on top 9-0.
Typical A-Rod homer to add another run. Though, you can’t really knock A-Rod for hitting one out in this situation; Lopez definitely fumbled with the pitch while he was in his motion. Flat pitches to A-Rod will always end up in the seats.
And Lopez finally gets the hook. Steve Reed in, and Matsui doesn’t make it any easier for him, sending a pitch through the left side for his second consecutive opposite field base hit.
Here comes Giambi, who hits a hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh pop up foul, caught by Fasano. Giambi seems maybe a bit too eager to whale on the ball. Calm down, buddy. Tomrorow is another (more meaningful at this point) game.
Maybe Steve Reed wasn’t the best guy to bring in at this point. Sierra just tears into one, sending it off the base of the wall. Thankfully for the limping O’s, he hit it so hard that it held him to a single and Matsui at third. The O’s are also thankful for…
Tony Womack, who quickly hits into a predictable double play. You know, if he struck out, at least that would allow Flaherty to make the last out of the inning, slotting Jeter to lead off the 5th. But nooooo. Womack and Flaherty have now combined for seven of the Yanks 12 outs today.

Top of the 5th
Hate to give up your first hit like that. Tejada hit a dinky grounder, Jete had to charge and make a quick throw, which was wide of Giambi. Scored a hit, which pissed off just a few Yanks fans. Ouch: two infield singles in one inning, but Randy escapes unscathed.

Bottom of the 5th
Flaherty grounds out, making it eight of 13 outs recorded by the bottom two.
Jeter with a check swing, buntish chop down the first base side easily fielded by Gomez. Maybe ESPN.com will mistake that for an actual bunt, as they did with Bernie’s dink that rolled foul in the 8th yesterday, just before his blooper put the Yanks on top.
And Cano grounds out for the Yanks first 1-2-3 inning of the game. Thankfully, this lessens my word count and Michael Kay’s complaints about the game time.

Top of the 6th
After a Fasano single on Randy’s most hittable pitch of the game (uh oh), Brian Roberts takes a seat for the hat trick. Hey, someone has to bring this kid back to reality. But Randy causes more concern when he allows Chris Gomez to plop one into the bullpen in left. What is it with Randy and giving up homers to punch and judy hitters? After Tejada and Sosa threatened to further lengthen the inning, Randy finally pitched out of it. 10-2, good guys.

Bottom of the 6th
I figured this was as good a time to step away as any, since the Yanks can’t blow the game when they’re up at bat. And yes, I initially missed the Thrilla by Godzilla, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t catch every single replay of it. But I did catch ANOTHER double by Giambi, followed by a standing O after he was pulled for Bubba. Some advice for Jason: if you want the fans here in New York to like you, the most simple way is to make every weekend a 4th of July weekend.

Top of the 7th
Leadoff single given up by Johnson. Come on, buddy, just get us through this inning. Even our crap ass bullpen can finish this one off, though it’d be nice if Randall could finish this one and give the reinforcements a day off heading into a three game set with the Injuns. Then again, tomorrow is an off day, so Flash can get an inning in if he wants the work. A strikeout and a DP later, and we’re watching Randy hit the showers after he finally gives us a quality outing.

Bottom of the 7th
I’ll admit it: keeping a running diary of a 12-2 game isn’t exactly the most exciting thing in the world once you get to the 7th inning and the game is just winding down. I feel like Monty when he took over for whiskeyed up Harry Doyle:
Fly ball. Caught.

Top of the 8th
And here’s my buddy Groom out of the bullpen. Maybe he can put a dent in that 4.29 ERA. Yesssss! Golden Sombrero for Brian Roberts. My absolute favorite title in baseball, if for no other reason than you get to hear the commentators say “Golden Sombrero” a hundred times.

Bottom of the 8th
Ooh, Russ Johson ALMOST squeaks one up the middle, but Roberts is there to keep this 10 run deficit at bay. If there’s one way to make up for striking out four times in a game, it’s to make a great defensive play in the bottom of the 8th when you’re quite out of it. Kudos to Roberts.
And I’ll take this dreary inning to make my point about Flaherty. After Randy’s win against the Bucs, my buddy Andy and I were listening to the post-game show on the radio, and we heard an unfamiliar voice talking big. Andy thought it was Flaherty, but I brushed that notion aside, since I couldn’t fathom Flaherty talking about what the team is trying to do and what he’s doing to add to the team, especially after he went a hollow 2-4. Alas, it was Flaherty, and I haven’t been able to pretend to like him since. You’re a backup catcher, buddy, so play your damn role.

Top of the 9th
Bah, I’m not even going to commentate. Groom gives up a run, which ultimately lowered his ERA to 4.30. Keep plugging away, Groom.

Not Another Mid-Season Report Card

Tis the season for mid-season report cards and assessments. Fortunately, I’m already sick of reading them, and not because they’re posted on about every blog in existence. It’s for the simple reason that we give out these report cards EVERY DAY!

Why feel the need to post everyone’s batting average/on base percentage/slugging percentage when they’ve undoubtedly been posted within the last week, and surely will within the next one?

We grade these players on a daily basis, yet writers still think it’s appropriate to throw them all together in the middle of the season. So I’m going to dedicate this short piece to why this practice is pointless during this Yankees season.

1) This is the most heavily scrutinized Yankees season in recent memory. If you watch the games, you’ve surely heard a thousand times from the Mouth of Kay that the Yanks haven’t had such and such a record this late in the season since such and such a year (’95 has been the benchmark for the most part). And if you read the plethora of Yankees literature on the web, you’ve probably seen everyone on the team’s stats at least once a week, usually more.

2) There are plenty of other timely topics to discuss regarding this team. In years past, it’s been the Yanks on top at this point and throughout the rest of the season, so the report card angle was more excusable because it does get boring touting the team on a daily basis. Come on, was there really a cause for concern in ’98 (or even last year) like the variety we have this year? I think anyone would rather read an analysis on the new pitchers than read a general overview of half the season.

3) With anywhere from 13 (just the hitters) to 25 guys being rated, the descriptions and justifications for the grades seem to be abbreviated. This is acceptable for a general sports columnist like Bill Simmons when he ranks the trade value of 50 NBA players. This isn’t a topic he writes about on a daily basis, so it is a more acceptable practice. Yes, I know he writes about the NBA a lot, especially with the finals having just passed, but that is a far cry from writing general NBA articles on a daily basis. So why put up generalities regarding the first half performance of players you dissect daily?

4) This is more of a site-specific critique, but over at the Replacement Level Yankees Weblog, SG (whom I am not particularly a fan of) decided to use those damn obscure statistics such as Equivalent Average and Value Over Replacement Player. What does this tell us about the team? For one, it makes the average fan feel like a dolt for not knowing what in bloody hell these statistics mean, when in fact these stats matter so little. If you’re going in-depth with stats, why not post the splits rather than these funky stats? I think the average reader will be better off knowing that A-Rod is .329/.427/.622 against lefties with 6 homers and 16 RBI in 82 ABs and .315/.409/.554 against righties with 14 homers and 50 RBI in 222 ABs (or that he’s hitting .325 with 3 dingers and 22 RBI with runners in scoring position with 2 outs).

So this is a plea to all you writers out there: don’t keep feeding the readers more of what we already know. Boycott the report card.

Back with a game diary later today.