Saturday Night Open Thread

At least I can enjoy watching him now because he's not facing the Yanks. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Wow, was today not weird? Nice lazy Saturday with gorgeous weather … and no Yankees to watch. I kept looking at the clock to see if it was 1pm out of habit, but alas, no baseball to be watched. I hate this time of year, having to figure out a new routine after the end of the Yankees season. Oh well, it’s a necessary evil no matter how far they go in the postseason.

Anyway, Game One of the ALCS starts at 8:05pm ET and can be seen on FOX (Verlander vs. Wilson). I’m sure there’s plenty of college football going on as well, plus the Devils and Islanders start their season tonight. Talk about the ALCS or anything you want here. Enjoy.

Did the Short Porch Sink the Yankees?

Amount of parks this is a home run in: 1.

The “too many homers” narrative was one of the most common ones to the plague the Yankees this year, staring from game 1 (home runs from Granderson and Teixeira) and dragging all the way through the season. The Yankees eventually finished first in home runs with 222 and second in total runs with 867, meaning that roughly 25% of all the runs the Yankees scored were via the longball. While this seems like a lot, the fightin’ Baltimore Showalters had 191 home runs and 708 runs, pulling almost 30% of their runs from dingers. I guess that’s what happens when you employ Mark Reynolds. Yankees fans have spent most of the year making fun of this narrative and defending the team from it.

However, it was the long ball that both carried and sunk the Yankees in this short series. The right field short porch that has been so constantly vilified (but only when the Yankees hit homers in there), allowed Delmon Young, Miguel Cabrera, and Don Kelly to launch it out of the park. Two of those homers, Kelly’s in game 5 and Cabrera’s in game 2 would help sink the Bombers entirely. According to Hit Tracker Online, Delmon Young’s homer in the first part of game 1 would have been a homer in only one park: you guessed it, New Yankee Stadium. Cabrera’s was a homer in only two, while Don Kelly’s would have gone out in five different stadiums. Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson (Game 2) both would have left the park in seven different stadiums, while Delmon Young (a la game 5), and Robinson Cano (both times) hit it big enough to go out in every park.

It would have been nice if the Yankees could have take advantage of their own homer-friendly park (and Derek Jeter certainly tried), but in lieu of that, a clutch hit would have helped, in either Comerica or New York. Could the Yankees not get the hits with runners in scoring position at the most unfortunate time this year?

Game 1

Yankees: 2-for-12 w/ RISP, one homer (Cano)
Tigers: 4-for-7 w/RISP, one homer (Young)

Yankee Stadium Specials: one (Detroit)
Yankee hits w/ RISP that weren’t homers: (2: Cano, Gardner)

Game 2

Yankees: 0-for-7 w/ RISP, two homers (Swisher, Granderson)
Tigers: 3-for-10 w/ RISP, one homer (Cabrera)

Yankee Stadium Specials: one (Detroit)
Yankee hits /w RISP that weren’t homers: 0

Game 5

Yankees: 2-for-9 w/ RISP, one homer Cano)
Tigers: 1-for-9 w/ RISP, two homers (Kelly, Young)

Yankee Stadium Specials: 0 (You could argue Don Kelly’s was, but I’m going to say no.)
Yankees hits with RISP that weren’t homers: 1 (Cano, though this did not score a run)

It’s morbidly entertaining to me to see that another team can take advantage of a stadium feature that the team was constructed to use for their advantage, and then use it to thoroughly beat the Yankees. I’m not complaining about the short porch, just saying that it helps and harms in equal measure. The two runs Cabrera scored in game 2 were all that decided the game, and the tentative YS Special of Don Kelly’s dinger decided the series in the end. Plus, in Yankee Stadium, the Yankees went a total of 4-for-28 with runners in scoring position with a bases loaded walk, with only one of those hits being a home run (Cano), and one of them not scoring a hit at all. That really says it all.

PS: Does anyone have an official qualifier for what makes a Yankee Stadium Special? Footage? Exact row?

On realistic expectations

There was a time, in the not-so-distant past, that George Steinbrenner would have been furiously scrutinizing the Yankees organization had they been eliminated from the postseason in the ALDS round. His wrath would have probably begun by challenging the players’ performance (not to mention, their resolve), and ultimately wound its way through each level of management. After a few tension filled weeks of wondering who the latest casualty of the proverbial chopping block would be, decisions would be made and life in Yankeeland would continue.

After all, winning championships was second only to breathing in Steinbrenner’s book. Consequently, ever since Steinbrenner took charge, New York has experienced a culture shift like no other franchise had before (in my opinion). Winning became valued above all else; so much so, that anything short of a championship was deemed a failure — a failure deserving of immediate recourse. Of course, this model appealed to a large population of fans who sought immediate compensation every time they experienced “disappointment” (despite the fact that the Yankees enjoyed far more overall success than many other organizations).  Obviously, it frustrated many fans as well as organizational moves weren’t always well thought out.

Unfortunately, this mentality revolves around extremely lofty expectations that are nearly impossible to fulfill (which makes the Yankee dynasty years all the more incredible). It has also led to a lot of very shortsighted, reactionary decisions over the years. My generally-very-level-headed-colleagues were petitioning, on Friday, for the immediate removal of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Nick Swisher (because that’s simple!) since they “sucked and weren’t clutch.” Despite the fact that the pitching staff did a largely brilliant job, Girardi received more than his fair share of criticism as well.  How dare he pull Ivan Nova?  How dare Nova not show more grit and deal with a little arm discomfort?  It wasn’t just the knuckleheads at work though; a not-so-rational Twitterland was in full freak out mode the day after the Bombers stranded eleven on base and lost the game.

While Hal Steinbrenner’s recent comments weren’t quite as provocative as his father’s undoubtedly would have been back in the day, they still managed to reinforce the “win all or bust” mantra. Steinbrenner remarked, “I personally share in our fans’ disappointment that this season has ended without a championship. That is, and always will be, our singular goal every season. I assure you that this disappointment will strengthen our resolve to field a team in 2012 that can bring a twenty-eighth championship to the Bronx. That work starts now.”

Personally, I see this type of passion as something of a double-edged sword. Sure, as fans, we invest ourselves whole-heartedly. We love our team. We bleed pinstripes. When they win, we win. When they lose, we lose. Or, at least, that’s how it feels to us. It’s also great that the team constantly strives for success and is willing to improve each offseason; I think that’s what all successful organizations should do.  Perhaps, though, we may want to consider another shift in culture though. Maybe if we can shift our expectations slightly, we can once again appreciate how much effort it takes to simply have the opportunity to win a championship year in and year out. World Series are the ultimate thrill, but making the playoffs and witnessing a representative effort is still pretty exciting too.

Segedin starts at another position in the AzFL

Gus Molina has elected free agency, so say goodbye to this year’s Opening Day backup catcher.

AzFL Phoenix Desert Dogs (10-4 win over Peoria) this is actually yesterday’s game … they played the night game, so considering the time difference and all that, the game ended really late … they’re playing the night game again tonight, so I’ll update that game tomorrow
Corban Joseph, 2B: 0 for 5, 2 K – ouch
Rob Segedin, 3B: 1 for 3, 1 R, 2 BB, K – first game was in LF, second game at the hot corner

David Phelps will make his first start for Phoenix tomorrow, in case you’re wondering. Link goes to a pdf, by the way.

Open Thread: Max Ashton

We’ve been focusing on the Yankees and their ALDS matchup against the Tigers over the last week, but there’s some other really cool stuff going on elsewhere around the league. Take Arizona for example, they invited a kid named Max Ashton to throw out the first pitch before Game Four of NLDS on behalf of The Foundation for Blind Children. Max is completely blind, so how do you think he did? Just watch.

Once you’re done looking at that awesomeness, use this as your open thread. The Brewers and Diamondbacks are still wrapping up Game Five of their NLDS matchup on TBS, then the Cardinals and Phillies will play their Game Five a little later on (8:37pm ET on TBS). The NHL season started yesterday, so there’s probably a free preview of the NHL package or whatever it is on your local cable network. Talk about whatever you want here, go nuts.

(h/t Amazin’ Avenue)

Eric Chavez “leaning heavily” towards retirement

Via Joel Sherman, Eric Chavez is “leaning heavily” towards retirement. Nothing is official though, Sherman is just passing along what he heard, and his sources are usually rock solid.

Chavez, 34 in December, played surprisingly well as the Yankees backup corner infielder/sometimes DH this season (1.3 fWAR), though he did miss more than two months with a foot injury. That’s the story of the guy’s career, he just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. We have no idea if the Yankees had (or have, really) any interest in bringing him back next year, but either way I wish him luck and thank him for his work in 2011.

NLDS Game Thread: Diamondbacks @ Brewers

Now that the Yankees have been eliminated, I’m adopting the Brewers as my team for the remainder of the playoffs. Nothing serious, this is just a fall fling. Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke … it’s fun to watch those guys play. Anyway, it’s Game Five between these two teams. Former Yankee Ian Kennedy is on the bump against Gallardo. Game starts at 5:07pm ET and can be seen on TBS. Enjoy.