Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Point (Or: On Team Chemistry)

The point of that entirely too long spiel? It’s a reminder of the emotional roller coaster that the Yankees have taken us on since last winning a World Series. So many expectations went unfulfilled, which went along with a plethora of transactions that defied all logic. I’d say we’re accumulating some baggage, but that would just further the notion that Yankees fans are the spoiled rich kids of baseball.

I’d try to debunk that reputation, but 1) the spoiled rich kid always says he’s not a spoiled rich kid and 2) it’s not exactly the furthest thing from the truth. I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. I enjoy the off-season parade of pitchers that audition for a gig in the Bronx, usually giving us the pick of the litter. And I can negative sentiment towards us. I’d be bitter, too, if I were a fan of another team and one of my favorite players bolted for New York because they offered him the biggest paycheck.

But there’s always the counter-argument: had Steinbrenner owned the Royals and turned them into the Evil Empire, you wouldn’t hear fans in the Kansas City area complaining about the lack of a salary cap. Any fan would appreciate an owner who keeps up a constant influx of star talent. Of course, that guarantees nothing in baseball, but it has kept the Yanks in the picture since ’95 (’94, really), which is more than any team other than the Braves can say. And for that we are appreciative.

Another nugget to be taken from the three-part epic: the teams from ’02 through ’04 weren’t exactly the most likeable. The Raul Mondesi Experience was a complete disaster, from his on field play to his derogatory clubhouse presence. As I pointed out earlier in the week, having Mondesi in right field was comparable to using Shane Spencer, save for Mondesi’s (empty) power threat.

Alfonso Soriano was fun at first for the sheer shock of seeing such a lanky fellow belting home runs at such a fantastic pace. But his novelty wore off fast, as his complete lack of plate discipline became so aggravating at times that it often overshadowed his bulky power numbers. By the time he was getting on a plane to Texas, I really didn’t care for Fonsy at all. And no, I’m not just saying that because he was being shipped out of town.

I had high expectations for Rondell White entering the ’02 season, and with good reason. It’s not like they just plucked a random outfielder from thin air; he had hit .300 for three straight years, and was coming off a .900 OPS season. But then he pulled the Great Bronx Choking Act. We all witnessed his average dip to a career-low .240, and couldn’t even manage a .300 OBP (.288). Add his mere 14 dingers, and you have a flat out bust. Mel Hall never even had a season this pitiful.

Thankfully, we were able to pawn him off on San Diego once we signed Matsui. And while the Yanks didn’t receive much in compensation, I think not having Rondell on the team was compensation enough.

Even as this season began, the team wasn’t very affable. A-Rod was a dick; Randy was too full of himself to understand the word humility; Bernie and Jorge were too old; Womack was a loser who anted up in a contract year; Sheffield was a distraction; Jaret Wright was an injury waiting to happen; Pavano was another loser who cruised through a contract year; Kevin Brown failed us in more than one instance in ’04; Giambi was a juicing bum. So it made sense that the team got off to a crawling start.

The team now, however, is much more likeable. And yet all the accusations in the previous paragraph are pretty much still true. It’s just that everyone seems to be putting their massive egos aside for the good of the team. That, my friends, is the definition of an affable squad.

This bodes well not only for the remainder of ’05, but it should set up the ’06 team nicely as well. The team has a good chunk of money coming off the payroll, and George gets to nix the luxury tax because he’s building a new stadium. This should equate to a decent splash in free agency and/or trades over the offseason. Hopefully the Yankees braintrust can figure out that bringing in a guy with a questionable personality could undo everything that the team has built this season.

Thankfully, there aren’t many turds on the free agent list, so the boys in Tampa might find this offseason tough to screw up. As far as trades go, the only name that should be remotely attractive to the Yanks at this point is Torii Hunter, who would bring not only his quick legs and nifty glove, but a boatload of intangibles should the Yanks pursue him. And no, I wouldn’t be opposed to shipping Melky as part of a Hunter deal. But I digress.

The Yanks should take note of exactly where they stand as a ballclub right now, because this kind of attitude over a 162-game season with this lineup can easily translate to a ‘98-esque run.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Finale, Kind Of

Oh yeah, that whole part about Pettite…I don’t particularly want to discuss that issue at the moment. That one was personal. Sure, O’Neill and Brosius had to retire. And they let Knoblauch try his luck in Kansas City while Tino was discarded in favor of the 2000 AL MVP. But those were acceptable moves. Knoblauch had been ineffective and Tino was aging. But there was absolutely no excuse to let Andy Pettite walk in the prime of his career.

And I’m arguing it like it happened two days ago. That’s how bitter I am. It breaks my heart to see him killing out in Houston, because he should be killing in the Bronx. And yes, I do kinda follow the Astros now. Well, at least once every five days. Twice if you count me jeering at Fat Roger.

17-9, 2.45 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, .234 BAA. Even if you adjust for the American League, he’s still a No. 2 starter. I know, I know, I shouldn’t be harping on this kinda stuff amidst a pennant race.

And just for the record, I don’t care that he had injured his elbow last year, or if the Yanks saw that one coming. If they saw it coming, they could have taken preemptive measures upon re-signing him. But they (i.e. Steinbrenner) largely ignored Pettite during the off-season, prompting him to accept an offer from Houston, leaving most fans aghast. There he was, the only pitcher left from the ’96 team, gone without a fight. Remember December 16, 2003.

Mind you, Pettitte’s stated reason for accepting Houston’s bid was because of the lack of attention he was receiving from The Boss. This feeling of neglect was surely amplified by the events of December 13, when Cashman turned one of the most ill advised trades since Jay Buhner was swapped for Ken Phelps. I just can’t see the logic in acquiring Kevin Brown. Sure, his back held up for a stellar 2003 season, but what were the chances that it wouldn’t go out two years in a row? I’d say they’re along the same lines as a director’s cut of The Godfather being released in which Sonny doesn’t get gunned down at the tollbooth.

Sure, we were desperate to unload Jeff Weaver. But the Dodgers were more than likely desperate to unload Brown and his ginormous deal. They got what they wanted out of him in ’03. And what do you do when you have a mammoth contract you need to unburden yourself of? That’s right, place a call to George Steinbrenner. (Aside: this seems to be a New York affliction, considering that’s how Isaiah Thomas rolls).

I still think we could have gotten more value elsewhere for Weaver. But, George wanted a marquee pitcher, and Brown presented that with his 2003 season. Lack for foresight further killed this deal, as we included Yhency Brazoban. Sure, he collapsed after being promoted to the closer role, but the kid still shows promise. And quality bullpen help can’t be overrated.

That would prove to be the starting point in what might be one of the most active seven days in Yankees history. Three days after acquiring Brown, they inked Tom Gordon as Mo’s set-up man, and pulled the deal – as they thought – of the year, dishing Nick Johnson and Juan Rivera (Randy Choate, too, but who counts him?) to Montreal for Javier Vazquez, once again vanquishing the Red Sox for a prized player.

For what Vazquez was worth at the time, the deal didn’t seem shoddy at all. Sure, we gave up Nick Johnson, a young stud who is frequently injured. But with Giambi wrapped up in his seven-year deal, Johnson was expendable to an extent. Coincidentally, this deal happened on the day Pettitte officially became an Astro, but we already knew he was gone by then. Plus, the Vazquez deal was ready to go, pending his contract extension, for a few days.

The very next day, we signed the final piece of the three-headed monster, putting Paul Quantrill in pinstripes and adding a bit more depth to the bullpen. This was much needed, considering the average age of our starters was 72.

December 18, dished the more than disappointing Chris Hammond to Oakland for Eduardo Sierra. I only mention this because Sierra ended up nabbing us Chacon in July. See, the little things do matter.

December 19. After weeks of negotiations, then the negotiations being terminated, then money being offered to Vladdy Daddy, Steinbrenner finally got his guy and inked Gary Sheffield to a three year deal. Not to nit-pick or anything here, but did anyone else think that we should have made a play for him after the ’01 season? You’re telling me we couldn’t offer a more competitive package than Odalis Perez and Brian Jordan? Who knows, maybe we made a run and failed. But I have no recollection of Sheffield ever being talked about as O’Neill’s replacement.

This was also the day we’d ink Miguel Cairo as ‘Fonso’s backup at second. Oh, the little things that we didn’t notice at the time. No one gave two shits about Cairo at the time, especially since the Sheffield signging was announced the same day. But wow, did that guy provide a spark that the 2004 Yanks desperately needed.

We then proceeded to ink Kenny Lofton, which led to the following exchange:
“We need a backup center fielder. Bernie turns 35 this year.”
“Oh, didn’t you hear? We got Kenny Lofton.”
“Kenny….Lofton? The same guy from the Indians team in ’97?”
“Right-o.”
“What is he, 50?”
“37”
And if you heard a sonic boom at that moment, it was me screaming at a decibel level never previously attained in human history. True story.

We fast forward to early February, 2004. Pitchers and catchers were about to report, which is always an exciting time of the year for me. Just a month and a half till baseball, baby! I was still living in the frat house at the time, which had one distinct advantage: I’d never miss a beat with sports. If something significant happened, the entire house would know within a half-hour. And if you weren’t home, you were more than likely to get a call from someone raving about Player X holding out, or Player Y being shipped out of town.

I strolled in from the gym, and heard Joe, who lived across the hall, muttering, “Holy shit. This is unreal. It can’t be true. But it’s on ESPN, so it must be.” Now, I don’t know if he knew it was me coming down the hall (we were the only Yankees fans living there at the time), but before I could unlock my door, his head popped out as he somehow composed himself to relay this message: “The Yanks got A-Rod.”

What? Naw! Why would we get A-Rod? We have Jeter at short. Why would you tease me like this, especially after Boone had gone down with a torn ACL?

“I’m dead serious, dude. It’s not official yet, but both sides agreed and they’re just waiting for the commissioner to approve it.”
“Who are we giving up?”
“Soriano.”
“That’s it?”
“That’s it.”

I had to sit down and breathe for a minute. We were receiving arguably the best player in baseball in exchange for a free-swinging second baseman who doesn’t hustle plays out and has an attitude problem? This can’t be right. It just makes no sense.

Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to get up from the silence of my room and sit down in Joe’s. He had ESPN News on, which was the A-Rod 24/7 channel for the next few days. This was cause for celebration. Not only did we just get the best player in baseball, not only do we not have to pay his entire salary, not only did we merely give up a guy I didn’t particularly care for anyway, but we trumped the Red Sox. They thought they had A-Rod. Thought they had dumped Manny’s contract and attitude and had agreed in principle with the White Sox to swap Nomar for Magglio Ordonez. But that deal fell through, and now we were the winners of the Unofficial A-Rod Sweepstakes.

We trumped them for Vazquez, for Contreras (though that was more of a burden than an achievement), for Mussina, for Bernie, and now for A-Rod. Okay, so they got Curt Schilling, but whoop dee freakin’ doo. Not like he was co-MVP of a team that beat us in the World Series, right?

The Yanks started the ’04 season shaky, actually trailing the Red Sox for much of April. Oh, but how things have a tendency to level out. By the end of June, the Yanks were solidly atop the AL East, with Boston wondering how the hell they were going to pull this one off. And then came The Game.

Yeah, you know what I mean by The Game. Jeter diving into the stands, nearly shattering his precious face. If that was the defining moment of the year, the Yanks would have easily won the Series. But it ended up just being a demoralizing loss for the Red Sox, especially considering Nomar was sulking on the bench throughout. Didn’t come in as a pinch hitter, just sat there, seemingly disinterested. No, this didn’t spark his trade at all.

Then, on the same day the Yanks found out that there was no way Randy Johnson was coming to town (which would have sent Cano packing), the Sox swapped their coveted shortstop for a pair of solid yet below Nomar level players. They received Orlando Cabrera to replace Nomar at short, and Doug Mientkiewicz (I’ve typed his name nearly 50 times this season, and I still need to look up the spelling every time) to beef up the D at first.

Ostensibly, this made no sense, considering the kind of player Nomar is/was. But considering the off-season in which he was thrown under a train on the T and his subsequent reaction, it was the smart move. With free agency looming combined with his lack of production, Theo Epstein should have been glad to have received that much for Nomar. I’m not saying this deal was the one that vaulted them over the top, but there’s plenty of evidence to support that case.

And so the Yanks entered September with a nine game lead, seemingly insurmountable. But then we lost a few, and Boston won a few, and all the sudden, we have seven games head to head with them and we’re only six up. I’d describe the tension for you, but I was in a state of denial at the time. “No way they can catch us,” I thought. Of course, this was just a front, and I was fretting just like the next guy. But my beloved Yankees proved that all was right with the world, and we took the division, leaving the scraps (i.e. Wild Card) for Boston.

As most Yanks die-hards, I wrote off Minnesota in the first round as a mere obstacle before we played Boston in the ALCS. Just a formality at this point, I was telling friends. And so I didn’t think much of missing the bulk of Game One to write a paper due the next day. Of course, I had it on ESPN GameCast in the computer lab as I plugged away at a paper on civil rights.

I must have been smoking crack at that time, because I didn’t take into consideration that Johan Santana was on the mound. Oops. Minor oversight on my part. I kept glancing at the GameCast, and I kept seeing zeros on the board for the Yanks.

Well, in the runs column, at least. We managed nine friggin’ hits off Johan, and couldn’t plate a single runner. Are you kidding me? This was actually the game that spawned the Double Play Machine moniker for Bernie, as he grounded into two in critical situations. Five double plays in all, and that was the killer. Twins 2, Yanks zip.

I wasn’t going to have any more of that crap for Game Two. Saddled into the best seat on our enormous leather couch, I think I went through 12 beers that night, all of which were provided by my roommates. No, I didn’t win a bet or anything. I just didn’t want to get up, so I waited until someone else was getting up to get me a beer. Asshole-ish, yes. Practical, also yes.

As we found out through the rest of the series, Minnesota just isn’t that good without Johan on the mound. After the pressure-filled Game Two, Game Three was in our column, and Mr. Santana could only last five in Game Four (hey, it was on three days rest. Even Johan Santana, though he may not seem it at times, is human).

So bring on the Red Sox, who made similar work of the Angels. I’ll be honest here. I was terrified heading into Game One. Curt Schilling, bad ankle or not, absolutely kills in the postseason. Want proof? Games One and Seven in 2001. Shut us down, completely. And now he has a new motivation, the only reason he came to Boston: to help a tortured franchise win a Championship.

And then we got news of the ankle. “Sweet, so he won’t be able to push off with force,” I optimistically quipped. “Dude, it’s Curt Schilling,” replied my buddy Andy. Touché.

Even though we hammered on him, the game was a lot closer than it needed to be. I’m not going into details here, because 1) you all remember it and D) I’m running way long here. I’ll fast forward to Games Four through Six.

I didn’t do any assignments those days. Yes, I went to class, but I mostly jotted down notes about the Yankees. I was a nervous wreck. Well, at least after we blew Game Four. I made up scenarios. I attempted to fathom who would start each game, and when I found that we didn’t have enough starters to go to Seven, I panicked even more.

Game Seven coincided with one of those tragically superb events. My good friend Ashley had finally broken things off with her ex-boyfriend Ray. I always liked Ray, but he was downright abusive towards Ashley. I don’t know if anyone’s been in that kind of situation, but it’s no fun. Not at all. So Ashley, wanting to get away from Rutgers for a night, tagged along as I drove back hom to my buddy Jon’s place. We, uh, calmed our nerves (yeah, that’s it) before the game, sat down, and watched history.

I know Red Sox fans say it took them forever to grasp the fact that they had beaten the Yankees. Not me, not Jon. No, we had that figured out at the precise second that Johnny Damon’s grand slam landed in the right field seats. It was over. Sure, we watched until the final out was made, but we knew it. Hell, I even faked some excitement when Bernie and Matsui banged up Pedro a bit, but I knew it was all for naught. We had been vanquished. I hung my head in shame, and actually vowed not to wear my Yankees hat until next season (I reneged on that deal and wore it the next week).

Now, there is a point to me retelling this story, but I’m going to wait for tomorrow to post it. I’ve already typed way too much, and I’m actually about to head out the door to catch the Yanks-Blue Jays game tonight. Free tickets rock.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Part Deux

So anyway, how good does it feel to say, “The Red Sox are a game behind Cleveland for the Wild Card?” Seriously, how good? Okay, back to the story.

But those thoughts would have to be put on hold, as the 2003 season was at bay. There were few changes to the lineup, though that might not have been the best of signs, considering Raul Mondesi was still part of the picture.

Thankfully, this wouldn’t last. After 98 miserable games, Mondesi was shipped to Arizona in July, his career never to be the same. Between familial emergencies and his sudden whims to not want to play for a team, Mondesi has found himself little employed since his Yankees departure.

Mondesi’s corner outfield counterpart Rondell White had been shown the door (for Bubba Trammell, who went MIA mid-season) in favor of Japanese slugging legend Hideki Matsui. There was a certain air of excitement surrounding the Matsui signing, though every Yanks fan with a memory was a bit uneasy in some way or another. This was the second “Hideki” being imported to the Yanks, and we all know how the first one turned out. Still, Hideki v.2 seemed like a safe bet.

Since the Yanks were “burdened” with six starters, they decided to flip El Duque (?????) to Chicago for, get this, Antonio Osuna. Yes, instead of getting value for Weaver while they could, they dealt a steady facet in the rotation. Oh, and as a side note, the Tigers got the best of the Lilly/Weaver deal, since they received Jeremy Bonderman from Oakland (if you’ve read Moneyball you know the story behind Bonderman and the A’s. I don’t care if you have a system where you don’t draft high school pitchers. You hang on to a kid like this. Period).

Before we get to the beginning of the season, I’d just like to point out that in December the Yanks hit on 18 with the dealer showing seven. Jon Lieber was signed. This was logical in one way, since he was coming off two notable seasons with the Cubbies (20-6, 3.80 – 6-8, 3.70). But, he had just undergone Tommy John surgery, and wouldn’t be available until Spring Training 2004 at the earliest. Still, you can never have too much pitching, and the Yanks were one team in a financial situation that would allow them to take such a risk on Lieber.

And here comes April. We had all the cards in place. That is until Jeter separated his shoulder. On Opening Day, no less. An omen? Probably not. Plus, if it had to happen, better it happen early on. There’s just nothing more debilitating than a stretch run sans a key player.

And it’s not as if Jeter’s return was all peaches and cream, either. The team was in the midst of their worst month in recent memory (what was eventually a 11-17 May). But we were lucky, because even though the Red Sox had a hot start in April, despite the absence of No-mah, they had a staggering May (13-14) followed by a solid (16-10) June and an equally flat (16-11) July. The Yanks, however, rebounded with a 20-7 June, vaulting us into a near insurmountable lead in the AL East.

As it turns out, it was insurmountable (Aside: Dan Shaughnessy, the infamous Boston writer, recently described the Yanks 3-0 series lead in the ’04 ALCS “insurmountable.” I thought editors were supposed to, you know, edit things that are egregiously false. Obviously it wasn’t insurmountable, Dan, because it was surmounted. Maybe it was “seemingly insurmountable” or “near insurmountable,” but it was surmountable nonetheless). The Sox made some noise though, rattling off a 17-9 September and sliding right into the AL Wild Card.

Things were going relatively smoothly for the Yanks, as they were rebounding nicely in June. And then we traded Marcus Thames for Rueben Sierra. D’oh. Sure, you can yell “hindsight!” as much as you want, but this was the problem at the time. We kept shipping prospects for aging vets. Sooner or later, this would catch up with us. Sure, there are worse things than trading Thames (like trading Cano). But it’s not even like we got full value for him (nothing against Rueben, it’s just that he’s old…and ineffective of late).

Then we dished Jason Anderson for Armando Benitez. Another move I was livid with, since video games had attached me to the young Anderson. And yes, this is the same Jason Anderson that you might have seen coming out of the bullpen earlier this year. In the same vein, he’s the same Jason Anderson that still hasn’t gotten a real shot.

Well, at least Benitez was gone less than a month later, dished to Seattle to bring back an old face, Jeff Nelson. Different guys, different styles, same result: ineffectiveness. But I guess we’d rather have Nelson as a shoddy bullpen component than Benitez. Nothing wrong with that.

I know I’m getting longwinded here, but I just wanted to point out that on July 25, 2003, the Yankees designated Al Reyes for assignment. Why do I find this noteworthy? He’s the guy who plunked No-Mah in the wrist in the 2002 season. Now, I’m not a guy who wishes for guys on rival teams to be injured, and it’s not even about the physical act of Reyes plunking Nomar. It was more that he was so incredibly hated in Boston. I wanted Reyes on the team just so we could warm him up as a decoy in the Fenway bullpen and listen to the deranged Sox fans shout obscenities. All in the name of entertainment, you know?

After Mondesi was shipped out on the 29th, THE trade(s) happened on the 31st as I was vacationing down on Long Beach Island. I picked up the morning paper there, and caught the news on the front page of the sports section: Ventura was gone, as we got two guys I’d never heard of in exchange (Bubba Crosby and Scott Proctor. That deal is looking better by the second), and we had roped in Aaron Boone from Cincinnati for Brandon Claussen. I hadn’t followed Claussen in the minors, so the only experience I had with him was his shaky performances for the ’03 Yanks, so I didn’t mind the deal in the slightest, despite his age (24). I was more relieved after I talked to my buddy Clay, who attended the University of Tennessee at the time. Said Clay: “Well, his last name is Claussen. And since I got to U Tenn, I know a lil somethin’ somethin’ about Claussens. You have nothing to worry about.”

Sure, Brandon isn’t related to the QB brothers from U Tenn, but his speech was consoling nonetheless. Some other smaller moves were made during the August waiver season, including picking up Felix Heredia (d’oh!), and somehow getting value for Jessie Orosco, sending him to Minnesota for Juan Padilla (who, in retrospect, we should have hung on to).

And then came the ALCS. Yes, I’m fast-forwarding a bit, but this was seriously one of the top five series I’ve witnessed in my life. I can say that I’d never been so nerve-wracked over seven baseball games ever, and that includes the 1996 World Series (I wasn’t as nerved wracked because I was convinced it was over after Game 2, and everything from there was icing…without the cake. Mmmmm. Icing).

Down 0-1 after Moose got beat in Game One, Andy Pettite was called upon to do exactly what it is Andy Pettite does: win a big game. And, more specifically, pick the team up and win a game following a loss. This was the most underrated aspect of Pettite: he always came out and won games following losses, which makes him perfect for the Ace slot. Sure, he may not be a dominant pitcher in the mold of Clemens or Unit in their primes, but if you wanted a guy to pick up for a lackadaisical start from your fifth guy, Pettite was the guy to do it.

Final line for Pettite: 6.2 IP, 9H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. Not dominating material, but he did his job, and the bats and Derek Lowe did the rest. This game was especially scary because of Lowe, who had a breakout 2002 season, his first as a full-time starter, going 21-8, followed by a 17-7 mark in ’03. But we prevailed in one of those “not really a must win, but Jeebus do we have to pull this one out” games. I couldn’t imagine what would have transpired had we gone into Fenway down 0-2. Pandemonium. Sheer pandemonium.

Does anyone not remember Game Three? Seriously, it was the match-up of the century. Roger v. Pedro. This one had Red Sox written all over it. They despised (and that’s a light term) Roger for his antics when he split after ’96, and they loved, and I mean LOVED Pedro. It’s like the city had one collective man-crush on him. And to put a cherry on it, the Yankees absolutely feared Pedro. The fact that Boston put up a two spot in the first didn’t help matters.

Enter the Captain, who silenced Fenway when he tied the score with a dinger in the third. And then the fourth. THE FOURTH! Obviously frustrated that Matsui got the better of him and put the Yanks in the lead, Pedro plunked the next batter, Karim Garcia (a/k/a Fat Giambi), which nearly cleared the benches in what would have been the greatest bench clearing brawl in playoff history.

Feeding off all this energy, Soriano stepped into the batters box…and yes, grounded into a friggin’ double play that thankfully plated a run. You take what you can, I guess. But I was already becoming impatient with Soriano’s lack of patience (hypocritical? I think not), so this was just sending me through the ceiling (and I was living in a frat house at the time that had a 15-foot ceiling on the ground floor. I was up there).

Oh, and then the bottom of the fourth. Manny leads off, and with Clemens on the mound, it’s know by all what’s going to happen. Up and in, clearing the benches again. Zim, knowing Pedro started this whole shebang, confronts him in the only manner he knows, head first. And Pedro, instead of just sticking his hand out and holding Zim at bay, tosses him to the ground. This is what the rivalry was coming to, and fans couldn't be happier. We wanted blood, and we were beginning to taste it.

Those four runs would hold up, despite Heredia giving up one run in zero innings pitched, leaving him with one of those INF ERAs that leaves you wanting to strangle a pitcher in fantasy baseball. Aside: Heredia had one function, and one only. Get Ortiz out. That’s all he could do, and he was actually decent at that task. Seriously, Torre should have been swapping his pitcher into the outfield and brought in Heredia to face Ortiz in a big spot, then swapping the pitcher back to the mound after the AB. Yeah, I know it sounds ridiculous, but when you have a guy on your roster who serves a singular purpose, you kinda want to use him any time that spot comes up.

Game Four was going to Boston, and we (well, I) knew it. This wasn’t going to be a cakewalk series. And it’s not like Moose was off or anything. His final line: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 10 K. Yes, Mussina struck out 10 in a game, and it didn’t hold up against Wakefield, who was indescribable. 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 8K. We almost got to Williamson in the ninth, but the Baseball Gods wanted a nail biter of a series, so they decided right then and there to send the series back to the Bronx.

The story in Game Five wasn’t David Wells, who pitched a stellar seven innings, but Mo Rivera, who showed his first signs of weakness against the Sawks, yielding a run in a two-inning save. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Big deal, one run, right? But this was Mariano Effing Rivera. The Sandman. Lights out when he enters the ballgame. Thankfully, that would be the only one he allowed all series. But still, it wasn’t pretty seeing the invincible Mo give up even one run to those stinkin’ Sox.

Back to New York for Game Six, the first big scoring game of the series. But we weren’t coming off a loss, and this wasn’t a must-win, though you always want to close out a team when they’re on the brink. This was a big game yes, but not big enough to put Pettite in “The Zone,” thus rendering him mortal, surrendering four runs in five innings of work and paving the way for Jose Contreras to make an appearance. And what did he do? Yes, he promptly gave up three more runs in an inning and a third, squandering the Yanks comeback efforts. Final score, Red Sox 9, Yanks 6. Game Seven awaits.

Thursday night. Game Seven. I remember talking to my buddy Andy on the phone prior to the first pitch, saying “Pedro v. Clemens, Take II. Is there anyone else you really want out on the mound?” He pondered Moose, but then threw that away after reviewing his series history. Clemens was our guy for the series, and we damn nearly embraced him for the game. It was as close as Yankees fans came to embracing Clemens during his tenure in New York.

I started the game with a 30 rack of Keystone light, sitting in front of a mobbed 54-inch TV. We had a split crowd, Yankees fans and Yankees haters. The beers were disappearing at a normal rate through the first, but during the top of the second, I must have sucked down four. 3-0 Sox. It would be 4-0 before Clemens was yanked in favor of Moose, and we had this sense of impending doom. The haters were reveling while the faithful continued the heavy drinking.

It was in the fifth, right after Giambi’s homer, when we had to go do our thing with the pledges. No, we weren’t one of those frats that made our pledges screw a donkey. It was more of a drinking thing, getting them all drunk and full from beer. I don’t know why, but at the time it was fun, watching them screw up and subsequently having to chug a few beers (sometimes with a hint of tequila). But I was so dejected that night, I couldn’t even say anything. I just sulked in the background, not even able to pound beers at the time.

I had called my buddy Andy before disappearing into the basement and told him that I was going to funnel a beer for every Yankees run after the Giambi homer. About 40 minutes after we went downstairs, I got a text message saying, “start funneling.” I couldn’t leave the basement at this point, no one could. You know, a tradition thing. So I sat, anxiously awaiting more texts. And yes, everyone thought I had four heads when they saw me go from sulking to funneling.

When we finally emerged, it was Sox 5, Yanks 3, and I realized that I had another beer to funnel. Bernie was standing on first, Matsui was up, and wham! Double to right-center. Second and third, one out, Jorge digging in. And to my amazement, Pedro was still in. In the eighth? With two on and one out? Are you kidding me?

Jorge followed in similar fashion, plating Matsui and Bernie. 5-5. My official reaction: “Okay, I’m only funneling one for that. Gotta pace myself.” I can’t emphasize how terribly slurred those words came out.

To the bottom of the ninth, where you could just feel the energy. Johnson, Jeter, and Bernie due up. Come on, we HAD to be able to squeak out a run with those three, right? Wrong. 1-2-3, and we’re headed for bonus cantos (thank you, Michael Kay).

The biggest surprise of the night: Mo’s arm didn’t fall off. After watching him go from Zeus to Hercules in Game Five, you didn’t know what to expect from this one. But he held them, and kept holding them all the way through the 11th. And then it happened.

I was on my way to take a much needed piss (15 some odd beers will do that to ya), when I heard the crack of the bat. Immediately, I was back to the couch, watching Boone’s shot drop into the seats. All the sudden, I didn’t need to piss anymore. In fact, I don’t think I could feel my bladder at that point. Or any other part of my body. Yanks 6, Boston 5, and it was OVER. O-v-e-r.

So what did I do? You got it, I bolted out of the house and began skipping – yes, skipping – down College Ave., screaming “The Yankees win! Thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Yankees win!” in my best drunken Sterling voice. I could have been hauled off in a straightjacket at that point, except I wasn’t the only one participating in such charades. I remember flying by the Phi Delta Theta house, watching a Red Sox flag burn on their porch. The line for Fat Sandwiches was riddled with borrachos like me, all craving a sandwich with chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, french fries, and marinara sauce and bubbling about the Yanks.

It didn’t matter that we lost the Series to the Marlins. Well, it did, but Yanks fans everywhere were vindicated by the ALCS. Not only did we beat Boston, but we let them get within two innings of victory, and then squashed them like bugs. It’s like the big brother letting his little bro get a few good shots in before laying him out. We defeated our rivals in dramatic fashion, and that apparently took everything the Yanks had. There wasn’t enough left in the tank – especially Wells’s tank – to finish the job.

But there was always next year. That’s the great thing about being a Yanks fan: next year is always a possibility. But we had a big off-season ahead of us. Vladdy Daddy was up for free agency, and he seemed a shoe-in for the Bronx. Pettite’s contract was up, and there was a lot of talk about him heading to Houston, but how could he? He’s a Yankee, dammit!

TBC…

Update
Yes, I realized that I spelled Pettitte's name wrong the entire time. Sorry.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Saga

Every game since Tuesday in Tampa Bay has been absolute torture. Here were the Yanks, the perennial AL East champs, running down a playoff dream in the final three weeks rather than fending off their coveted seat in first place. As I’ve said before, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Surely I’m not the first person to point out likeness of baseball to a soap opera or a movie (one of those dramatic comedies that hits the genre on the head, which is a rarity in Hollywood). The past three seasons have been the climax in the epic that commenced in 1996.

2003 was the Yanks’s year. We hadn’t won a World Series since 2000 (yeah, I know, boo hoo). There was absolute heartbreak in 2001, when until-then invincible Mariano Rivera surrendered two in the bottom of the ninth to morph sure victory into sullen defeat. I was listening to the game in my car, which was thankfully parked at the time, lest I might have wrapped it around a telephone pole.

Thanks to the four championships from ’96 to 2000, the heartache didn’t last too long. Soon enough, Yankees fans everywhere were gearing up for 2002, ready to come jolting back from such a painful loss. They had it won, and they lost it, so the only logical thing to do is go back and win the whole fucking thing, right?

Steinbrenner had the same thing in mind, effortlessly (putting a ridiculously inflated dollar amount on a piece of paper doesn’t require much effort, does it?) signing 2000 AL MVP Jason Giambi to take over for the aging Tino Martinez at first. Tino was an integral part of those four championship teams, and seeing him depart was like seeing your roommate move out because he was getting married. But it was time, and though many fans had a difficult time grasping that, there was nothing they could do about it.

Paul O’Neill, the most intense hitter possibly in the history of the game, decided to hang them up. This was a guy who threw his helmet, a bat, a Gatorade jug, anything in sight after every at bat in which he didn’t get a hit. And since he failed to hit .300 for the first time in his career in 2000 and repeated in ’01, it could have been the constant need for a new helmet or bat that caused him to retire.

Gone was Scott Brosius, the guy brought over for peanuts because, well, we needed a warm body at third base, and we chose a solid vet from Oakland rather than a scrub from the farm system. And while Brosius’s only big year at the plate was ’98, he still provided those clutch hits in the playoffs, and earned himself three rings in the process. A role player, a positive clubhouse presence, retired like his buddy O’Neill.

Gone was David Justice, who helped immeasurably since coming over from Cleveland. Hell, I don’t mind to this day that we dealt them Jake Westbrook for Justice, because Justice meant so much to the Yanks at the time.

Gone was Chuck Knoblauch, who despite his inexplicable throwing difficulties (all in his head), was a huge part of the championship run. And, inadvertently, we discovered Alfonso Soriano after moving Knobs to left field.

We’ve already established that Giambi was to replace Tino at first, which was a significant upgrade, all considered. The replacements for Brosius and Justice, Robin Ventura and Nick Johnson, were both positives. Brosius left graciously, retiring after attaining three rings rather than try his act in another circus. Justice headed to Oak Town, but there was no ill will there. Enter Ventura, a seasoned vet who had playoff experience in his days with the Mets. He wasn’t an overpriced superstar, nor a clubhouse cancer to be wary of. If he could hit clutch down the stretch, he’d bring the same value to the table Brosius did.

And swapping Justice out for Nick Johnson was an inevitable move, since lil Nicky was a mere 23 years old at the time and swung a red hot bat. Once tabbed as Tino’s successor, the Giambi signing relegated Johnson to part time 1B, most time DH status. Deep down, Yankees fans knew this kid was something special, which we knew meant he’d be shown the door once we got a reasonable offer for him.

Then there were the outfield replacements: Rondell White and Raul Mondesi. Jigga what?!? We lost Chuck Knoblauch and Paul O’Neill, and all we could finagle for replacements were White and Mondesi? Both were brought in with inexplicably high expectations that neither could possibly attain. Plus, it was a well documented fact that Mondesi was a clubhouse killer, exactly what the Yanks DIDN’T need following the 2001 World Series loss.

What I never understood is why Shane Spencer didn’t get the spot in right. I’m was never the biggest Spencer fan, even as he had that monster rookie September, but Raul Mondesi? Come on, guys, ya gotta do better than that. The lines for both players:

Mondesi: 270 AB, .241/.315/.430, 11 HR, 43 RBI, 28 BB, 46 K
Spencer: 288 AB, .247/.324/.375, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 31 BB, 62 K

Okay, so Spencer struck out a bit more and hit for less power. And I guess that was the reasoning for using Mondesi, since there seems to be no other evidence of his supremacy. But personally, I’d start Spencer every day rather than deal with a piece of shit like Mondesi.

And don’t even get me on Rondell White, whose season was so downright detrimental (.240/.288/.378) that he was ridden out of town following the season. Just another guy who couldn’t survive under the bright lights of Yankee Stadium. The signing made enough sense: he had hit .300 or better every year since ’98 and had a sparkle of power. And he was replacing Chuck Knoblauch, who despite early success in New York, had his average dwindle to .247 by 2001. Sometimes you just can’t see things like Rondell coming, but at least the Yanks were able to bail out after a year.

I remember being in New York at my sister’s dorm at Parsons School of Design the night the Yanks lost to the Angels in the ALDS. We were headed to some party in Brooklyn, and the news broke right before we headed out. I was rendered speechless and motionless for at least the next 20 minutes, letting the feeling that revenge wouldn’t be ours sink in. It was rough at the time, but looking back, how much could I have really expected from this team?

Maybe the All-Star pitching staff did it for me. Maybe I had too much faith in Mussina, Wells, Clemens, Pettite and El Duque. But look at that cast! How can you not win with those studs? Even with a dwindled one through nine and a clubhouse cancer like Mondesi, the five guys in the staff and Mo should have been able to slam the door on opponents. Alas, not even they could overcome the obstacle that was the 2002 season.

And I continued to watch in agony as the Angels cruised through the World Series. I can’t even think of a word to describe my hatred for the Rally Monkey, which is the single stupidest idea ever concocted. Rally Monkey? Are you friggin’ serious? I couldn’t understand how fans could use a Rally Monkey to support their team until I read Bill Simmons’s book and read accounts of how ridiculously retarded Angels fans are.

So the epic would continue into 2003. Lots of big talk heading into the off-season, like Clemens’s retirement and the possible departure of Andy Pettite. But this guy was true blue, a rare Yankee that made it all the way through the farm system. We had nothing to worry about, right? George would throw a few dollar signs on a piece of paper, and we’d have our prized lefty back and ready to go for ’03.

The saga continues tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Keepin' The Pace

There are just so many things to talk about, considering the happenings of last night. I was going to take one of two routes on this: pick one and fully elaborate or make a quick bullet list of all the points I wanted to make. Proving that I’m a charmer with the ladies, I’m going to compromise and pick a couple of points from last night and elaborate for a paragraph or two. Warning: there will be football involved here.

- Actually starting with football. Last night I realized something: it’s near impossible for someone who has no organized football experience to provide consistent commentary on the NFL. I can pick out trends, notice when someone’s consistently effing up, and pick up on generalities, but I’ll never know the intricacies of play calling and route running, no matter how much of a Madden stud I am. This is why I give credit to Bill Simmons for doing a football gambling column on Fridays. He makes his picks, but uses a fan’s perspective to ascertain his reasons. And yes, I’ve kinda ripped that idea off, but seriously, it’s the best idea for die-hards that have little on-field experience.

Anyway, a pat on the back to the Giants for their convincing win last night. I’d rather elaborate on the ‘Boys-‘Skins game, but I will say that after being at Giants Stadium for the opener and watching most of last night’s game, Eli to Plaxico is going to be one of “those” QB-WR connections. Maybe not a Montana-to-Rice combo, but a Peyton-to-Marvin combo at the very least.

If you watched only the first half of last night’s Dallas-Washington game, it would have seemed like the ‘Boys had all the momentum, and would surely expand on their 3-0 lead. They moved the ball better than the ‘Skins, and their D was looking rock solid. Combine the fact that the Redskins had a guy who peaked six years ago under center, and it’s a recipe for a Cowboys victory.

This notion is furthered because of Joe Gibbs’s reputation since rejoining the league of not stretching the field. Problem is, the Cowboy’s secondary is the shakiest part of their otherwise solid D. Sure, they have All-Pro Safety Roy Williams, but he can’t cover four guys himself. Newly acquired CB Anthony Henry was a quality free-agent signing, but he’s no No. 1 corner, nor is the actual No. 1 corner, Terrance Newman. Up front, however, the ‘Boys sport guys like La’Roi Glover, Greg Ellis, rookie DeMarcus Ware, the serviceable Dat Nguyen, Bradie James, and Al Singleton, all guys who can stop the run and run an effective short yardage cover scheme.

Finally, feeling the dregs of desperation late in the fourth quarter, Gibbs’s guys finally decided to go deep to their new target, former Jet Santana Moss. And lookee what happens when you exploit the Dallas secondary! The first pass was just a perfect lob into the end zone, but the second was the one worth noting. Brunell put the ball in a perfect spot, to a streaking speedy Moss, who got a world of help from Aaron Glenn, anther former Jet, who for some reason lined up on Moss on the play. Glenn frantically dove for the ball, but whiffed, allowing Moss to snatch it in stride and leave a trail of dust to the end zone.

So maybe, just maybe the ‘Skins will start going deep more often, especially against weaker secondaries, something they really didn’t do any of last year, prompting Lavernaeus Coles to force a trade back to the Jets. It just seems that this is where Moss thrives, and Brunell can supply the juice. Hey, you stick with what works, right?

- Finally, the D-Rays stick their thorn in someone else’s side. In a see-saw of a game, the Rays ended out on top of Boston, which combined with Bubba Crosby’s heroics, put us a mere half game behind those blasted Sox for the AL East, and we’re actually tied in the loss column. This would be a much more fulfilling feeling if we hadn’t shared first place for a day back in July (as I frantically swept through an airport in Hawaii searching for a sports bar).

This, of course, means that all the Yanks have to do is win when Boston wins, lose when they lose, and make sure they win Thursday’s game against Baltimore, which is Boston’s last day off of the season. That would bring us into the final series tied, metamorphosing it into a best of three preliminary playoff series. True, there is still a decent shot that both the Yankees and the Red Sox will make the playoffs, considering the stinker the Other Sox are pulling in the AL Central. Not that anything like that would demean the value of the final series.

And, in all reality, the loser of the Central will take the Wild Card. There is less than two weeks remaining, and the top two teams in the Central have less losses (Sox at 59, Injuns at 62) than the two guys atop the East (Boston and the Yanks both have 63). At this point in the season, it’s downright unhealthy to bank on help from anyone else, which is exactly what the Yanks (or Sox) will need to attain the Wild Card. AL East or bust, baby!

I do have a ton of thoughts on the whole Yanks-Sox chase down the stretch, but I think I’m going to save a lot of it for tomorrow. I’m about 50 pages from finishing Bill Simmons’s book, and I have a critique of it that I’m going to need an entire column to articulate. All I will say is yes, I’m nervous about the stretch, but in a confident way if that makes any sense.

Last 20 Game Mark: 6-1.

- I’m trying my hardest to not be hypocritical here, but I’m going to question one or two managerial decisions in the past 24 hours. Yes, I know I said just a day or so ago that I was sick of bashing the manager for his decisions, but I’m not exactly bashing Torre. I’m not going out on a message board and slamming him for making these moves, I’m just rationally stating that I don’t necessarily agree with him.

The first was in last night’s game when he brought Mo in for the top of the ninth in a tie game. I just can’t agree with using Mo in this situation. He’s going to be called upon plenty in the last two weeks of the season, and while he had two days off prior to last night, a third never hurt anyone. Plus, (and I don’t have a ton of statistical evidence to back this one up, but it’s just an observation) he’s not great coming into a tie game. I’ll throw quick evidence out with a game two weeks ago against the D-Rays, where he came into a 3-3 game, and a few minutes later it was 4-3 ‘Rays.

For a few more, I’ll throw in an August 10th game against the White Sox when he came into a 1-1 game in the ninth and gave up the winning run in the 10th, and an August 23rd game against the Blue Jays where he game in1 to a tie game, gave up a run to squander the lead, only to be bailed out in the bottom of the inning for a 5-4 win.

My argument isn’t quite based around that, however, though I thought it noteworthy to mention it. I’m actually a little miffed that Sturtze wasn’t brought in for this situation. When he begins an inning, the first batter is hitting .226 against him. I wish I could find his complete stats for when he comes in to start off an inning, but this is the best I could do. Point is, I don’t think Sturtze would be a terrible option in this situation. His worst outings are when he inherits runners. Combine this with the fact that Baltimore’s lineup looked awfully flat since the first inning, and you have a tailor-made Sturtze situation.

Once again, I’m not bashing Torre for the decision, since his intentions were obvious. And Bubba vindicated him with his lead-off walk-off, so all ended well. I’m just saying, he didn’t NEED to go to Mo in that spot. Yeah, I think that’s the best way to put it.

The second move I’m troubled by is the announcement that Leiter will be a lefty specialist for the remainder of the season. Well, I’m troubled if it means he’s only going to face lefties from here on out and no longer provide long relief. Then again, I guess the motive behind the move is also to state that Torre doesn’t think, with this crop of starters, that we’ll really need any more long relief. This is emphasized by Moose’s return on Thursday, pushing someone (i.e. Wang, though he did pitch good/great game last night) into the ‘pen, ostensibly for long relief work.

Considering Leiter’s splits against lefties (.247/.307/.333, .297/.430/.457 against righties), it makes a bit of sense. I guess I’m just not in favor of defining Leiter’s role as one batter lefty specialist, since he can bring more to the team out of the bullpen than facing just one batter.

Actually, the more I write about this, the more I’m warming up to it, especially if Proctor is used in the same manner against righties. This would round out our bullpen nicely, with Wang in there for long relief, Leiter for lefties, Proctor for righties, and Sturtze, Gordon, and Mo to lock up. I just have this sinking feeling that Proctor won’t be on the postseason roster because Joe will want to carry only 10 pitchers, and the second odd man out of the rotation (Small/Chacon) will take his spot in the bullpen. I urge Torre, however, to carry 11 pitchers if that’s the only way Proctor gets into the game. Come on, folks, wouldn’t you want a guy who’s .191/.258/.292 in 89 ABs against righties in your pen?

Until tomorrow.

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1 – I am hereby substituting the phrase “came into the game” with the abbreviated “game in.” So when Mo came into the game, he game in. Kinda like college kids like to say chillaxin to say that they’re chillin’ and relaxin’.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Tough One (Or: Why Proctor Should Be On The Postseason Roster)

Yankees fans can learn a lot from the saying, “you can’t win ‘em all.” Doesn’t mean we don’t have the right to be a bit perturbed after yesterday’s narrow loss to the ‘Jays. That puts the 20-Game Tracker at 5-1, which isn’t a debilitating pace. It just applies a bit more pressure as the team heads back home for the pitiful Orioles, which I’ll get to in a minute or so (depending on how quickly you read).

The story of the game, as has become commonplace every fifth game now: Wright and the first inning. I remember making analogy a few weeks ago about Jaret Wright’s first inning flirtations and picking up women at a bar. Of course, he hadn’t actually allowed a first inning run to that point. But now that he has in his last three starts, how does this change the analogy? Is that like taking home a woman with VD?

But before we got to Act II, where Wright settles down and works innings two through seven with little trouble, fate had her filthy way with him. After being whaled in the neck/shoulder area with a line drive a few weeks ago, Wright’s arm seemingly got clipped by the sharp end of a broken bat. The preliminary injury report, courtesy of Michael Kay’s fat ass, lists it as a contusion, which is fancy speak for a cut.

Enter Al Leiter, the obvious choice for Wright’s replacement. Proving that hindsight is 20/20, I bitched about Leiter not subbing for Randy following his ejection Friday night, but everything worked out for the better. What we can all learn from this: the baseball guys know best.

Allow me to elaborate on that point just a bit. Following Randy being tossed – legitimately, in my opinion, at least from what I’ve read – the obvious move is to bring in Leiter. But Torre had other plans, using Scott Proctor in an attempt to exploit the righty-heavy Toronto lineup. I understand the strategy behind that, but shouldn’t Torre be bringing in the guy that gives him the best chance to win that particular game? I mean, that was the whole reason behind overusing Mo (of the 18 days that have passed this month, he has appeared eight times).

Once again, I’m not vehemently arguing with Torre on this one. His idea was strategic: bring in the righty to face a lineup designed for a lefty, saving the lefty Leiter as insurance for the weekend starters Chacon and Wright. After starting off as hot as they come, Chacon had a few bad outings, and seemed like he could be one bad inning away from a breakdown. And we were all wondering for weeks when Wright’s first inning problems would become insurmountable.

So my main complain lies with Torre’s selective use of the term, “We play to win today.” I guess it should be, “We play to win today, unless there’s a strategy I’d like to exploit.”

But it all worked out in the end, even though Proctor surrendered a few runs Friday and Leiter was the victim of a string of hits that led to what proved to be an integral run for Toronto. But all in all, both of them were adequate at the very least in their relief performances.

The guy I have beef with is Alan Embree. He’s brought in solely because there are two lefties due up next in the order. And what does he do? Issues a walk and lets up a single, plating a Sturtze run. Of course, this one was the killer, negating a Robbie Cano RBI in the ninth.

I actually question the logic behind yanking Sturtze in favor of Embree, even considering the double-barrel lefty action due up at the plate. Though he hasn’t been the most consistent contributor this year, Sturtze numbers against lefties are .237/.310/.351 (.265/.331/.426 vs. righties). Embree’s breakdown against righties is .267/.318/.545. Against lefties, his supposed specialty, he’s .301/.343/.516.

Keeping this in mind, what does Embree bring to the table? A lefty specialist with a lefty BAA of .301 isn’t exactly a specialist. Hell, even F-Rod has better numbers against lefties (.286/.401/.390). If he just threw friggin’ strikes, he’d be the clear-cut better option than Embree against lefties.

This should all be at the forefront when the team makes a decision on which pitchers make the postseason roster. There really is no hope for the Yanks as far as having a lefty specialist in the ‘pen. They’re better off cutting their losses and leaving Embree off the roster, since he doesn’t bring anything to the table. F-Rod and Sturtze are better options against lefties and should be used as such, despite common baseball strategy.

Before I did this research, I had the Yanks ‘pen in the playoffs tabbed as such: Mo, Gordon, Sturtze, Leiter, Embree, and the starter or starters who don’t make the four-man rotation. This means Chacon, Wang, Wright or Small, depending on how the season ends and how Moose does in his return.

Notice how Emrbee is on that list? If this were Survivor, I’d be voting him off the island right now. This opens up the bullpen for another one of those left out starters, but I actually have another idea for who should get the slot.

Scott Proctor. And please, hear me out before you call me a bumbling moron. The Yanks are lacking a lefty specialist, and that may come back to haunt come playoff time. But has anyone heard of a righty specialist? Well, what if I told you that Proctor’s line against righties goes a lil’ something like this: .191/.258/.292. And no, I’m not friggin’ kidding you.

How invaluable could Proctor be in the late innings against righties? Think about this: seventh inning, three righties due up. Or two righties and a lefty. Proctor can start the inning, and leave the lefties to Sturtze. Or, if lefties are due up to start the inning, Sturtze starts the inning to face them, Proctor comes in to face the righties, and if he gets in trouble, Flash is always a solid guy to bring in with two out in the seventh.

The scenarios are numerous, and in each one I can conjure up, Embree doesn’t fit into the picture. He’s a lefty specialist who has a higher BAA against lefties than righties. He doesn’t get outs in big spots. In short, he brings nothing to the table.

Scott Proctor has pitched well this season when he’s been called upon to go above and beyond the call of duty, being that he’s normally a one or two inning guy. His numbers against righties are astounding, and they should earn him a spot on the postseason roster. Hopefully the coaching staff catches on to this and utilizes him in these righty-heavy situations down the stretch.

Oh yeah, I said I was going to get to the Orioles. I guess that’s for a different day.