Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Yankees Lead Series, 1-0

We all watched last night—or have read the newspaper recap—so I’ll spare you the play-by-play. There isn’t too much to say for the game because it went exactly as expected. The Yanks mashed Robertson, benefited from a solid starting pitching performance, and labored through the bullpen to get to Rivera. All in all, a productive if not predictable Game One. I have a gripe, however, and I’m sure many of you share it.

In the top of the seventh, with two outs recorded and no base runners allowed that inning, Joe Torre decided to make a pitching change. Jigga-what? It’s not like Wang had thrown a ton of pitches (it was 96) or was showing signs of wearing down. The Tigers leadoff hitter, Curtis Granderson, was due up, and apparently Torre though this was the perfect time for a lefty-lefty match-up. Nevermind that Wang had settled down since allowing three runs in the fifth, recording two strikeouts and four groundouts since Sean Casey’s run-scoring double. This is exactly what I was thinking when this happened:

Strawberry: You're pinch-hitting for me?
Burns: Yes. You see, you're a left-hander and so is the pitcher. If I send up a right-handed batter it's called playing the percentages. It's what smart managers do to win ballgames.
Strawberry: But I hit nine home runs today.
Burns: You should be very proud of yourself.

This was a classic case of overmanagement. Some may call it hindsight and second-guessing the manager, but this hardly the case. My girlfriend (who routinely asks questions about the rules of the game) was aghast when Wang left the game (her: “You know what he’s thinking now, right? ‘Stupid Americans, won’t let me finish my game. You’re ruining it for me! Ruining it!!!’”).

What I least understand is the necessity to bring in a lefty specialist for Curtis Granderson. Yes, he’s a good player who poses multiple threats. But he’s no David Ortiz, Travis Hafner, Justin Morneau, or Jim Thome. Those are the guys for whom you bring in a lefty specialist. The Tigers, sadly, lack an overly threatening lefty. In fact, it may have been the smart move to leave Myers off the ALDS roster for that reason. And should the Yanks face the Athletics in the ALCS, he should be left off there as well. I hear a lot of complaints about his taking up a roster spot in general, and that’s magnified when his services aren’t really needed.

So yeah, anyway, the plan totally backfired on Torre, who was forced to go to Proctor to finish the frame. It took him a while to settle in, but he didn’t seem overly nervous, even after he had allowed two baserunners. With Farnsworth’s “I’m a pussy” treatment, Proctor will likely be the eighth inning guy tonight, should a setup man be necessary in that spot. I’m not overly confident in him at this point, but the Yanks have trotted out lesser arms in that spot in the recent past.

And what can we say about the Farns? The leadoff walk inspired my ire like none other, since that’s the first sign of an ineffective Farnsworth. When Pudge popped out to left, I thought he got all of it. Thankfully, he juuuuuust missed, and Farnsworth was able to fend off the next two hitters dutifully. My biggest gripe with Farns is that he’s had the same problems all year, and he seemingly refuses to correct them. The first is the overuse of his slider. His fastball is devastating and sliders hang. If the other team is going to beat you, have it be on a 98 m.p.h. heater rather than a hanging slider—unless your idol is Mark Wohlers.

On a closing note, here’s a big FUCK YOU to Chris Russo. I distinctly remember an exchange between he and Francessa back in late May or early June regarding Bobby Abreu. He said something to the effect of Bobby never coming up in a big spot—failing to note that Abreu had never been to the playoffs in a major capacity (yeah yeah, Houston in 1997). They may not have been the biggest of spots last night, but his four RBI kinda won the Yanks the game. Also take note that yesterday, Mr. Russo called Alex a weakness in the Yankees lineup. I’m hoping to shove that down his throat as well.