Everyone likes to point their fingers. (Photo from Newsday/Paul J. Bereswill)
When the dust finally settles in a few days, an era of Yankee baseball will end. How this drama plays out, though, will determine which era ends, and the end result could be something of a surprise.
In one corner, we have George Steinbrenner threatening the end of the Joe Torre Era. If you take the interview with Ian O’Connor at face value, Torre’s gone. The Yanks didn’t make it past the first round of the playoffs for the third year in a row, let alone win a World Series, and King George is not happy.
For now, the going school of belief seems to be that Steinbrenner’s threats were not idle and that Torre is gone. The Yankee skipper spoke of the team not as a “we” but as a “them” during the post-game press conference last night. Peter Abraham noted a few other indications concerning the imminent departure of Joe Torre, and Bill Madden at The Daily News speculates that the Tony La Russa-Dave Duncan team may be Bronx bound.
But what if? What if George Steinbrenner’s interview featured the words of an aging and nearly deposed dictator? What if Brian Cashman enlists the help of the heir-apparent Hal Steinbrenner to push for Torre’s return? What if the rumors of Tony La Russa’s arrival in the Bronx raises too many alarm bells among the Yankee decision-makers?
If the Torre faction within the Yankees can outlast those doubting him, another era will end in the Bronx. The Era of the Boss would officially be over. We know, thanks to Portfolio magazine, that george is not well these days. If Joe Torre keeps his job, Steinbrenner’s public words and Yankee clout are all but gone.
Right now, no one really knows what should happen. Joe Torre made a few bad managing mistakes this week that cost the Yankees at least game two and maybe game four. He has a history of mismanaging the bullpen, but he knows how to handle the Yankees. Furthermore, the players – such as free agents Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada – love him. If he goes, they may go too.
So it becomes a showdown yet again between the Boss and the only man more powerful than the Boss in the eyes of the New York sports media. In a few days or hours or minutes, someone will win and an era will end. Whatever the outcome, it will affect the Yankees for years to come.
A City Council member from Queens has asked the Department of Consumer Affairs to investigate the parking lots around Yankee Stadium that were charging $50 for playoff parking. My response: It’s a supply-and-demand issue. If people are going to drive and are willing to pay that much to park, then the garages will charge that much. If you don’t like it, take the subway. · (6) ·
HWB Honolulu (3-2 loss to North Shore in 10 innings, walk-off style)
Ajax: 1 for 5, 1 RBI, 3 K, 1 SB - 1 K every 2.42 AB in Hawaii after 1 every 4.55 AB during the regular season
Brad Suttle: 0 for 2, 2 K
Anthony Claggett: 1.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K – gave up a walk-off single
The AzFL kicks off tonight, so hopefully the players there put up some better numbers.
This photo, an Associated Press shot from Sunday night, could be one of the photos from the last October victory at Yankee Stadium. While I have to believe the Yanks will be back in the playoffs next year, tonight’s loss could be the last ever playoff game in a baseball cathedral that has seen many, many classic moments. The Yanks really have to win next year and send the House That Ruth Built off in style.
Derek Jeter and Chien-Ming Wang, the supposed ace of the Yankees, shoulder the load for a lot of the team’s troubles in this series. Joe Torre doesn’t get a free pass for the way he managed — or mismanaged — game 2 as well. More later. What a punch to the gut.
Update: One more thing: 128 days until pitchers and catchers.
Update by Mike: I just want to add one thing – to me, this was by far the most exciting and most enjoyable season to be a Yankee fan in some time. Sure things didn’t end how we all would have liked, but all year long the team dealt with adversity and battled back even after everyone wrote them off. I’m inclined to say that I feel more relieved than disappointed; it was such a stressful & difficult year that part of me is glad it’s over and in the past. Losing sucks, but I’m proud of my team and damn proud to be a Yankee fan.
In case you haven’t heard yet, Ron Villone has been added to the roster in place of Roger Clemens. This means Clemens won’t be available until the World Series at the earliest, and it likely signals the end of his career. We’ll put something together for the Rocket over the off-season. No, we won’t be going to get him down in Texas.
Got a few e-mails from friends lambasting the decision to bring in Villone over IPK. Guys. We don’t work for the team. We don’t know everything they know. IPK just got married on Saturday; perhaps he’s simply not ready to go on a moment’s notice. Maybe they’d like to have him work some more in the bullpen to confirm that his back is in pitching shape. But whatever it is, no one said “Ron Villone is better than Ian Kennedy.” So chill, please.
No complaints about tonight’s lineup. After watching Giambi’s two at bats last night, it’s tough to argue against leaving him on the bench. Yeah, you’d like to get him into a groove, but the team has painted itself into a corner in that regard. Turning back now would be counterproductive. Plus, as has been said many times, with Wang on the mound you want Minky at first. Couple that with Hideki looking solid at the plate last night (not just the results, but his swing was looking markedly better), and you have Giambi as the odd man out. He can always pinch-hit for Minky later in the game.
And on the mound, No. 40, Chien-Ming Wang.
We’re at about quarter to 5 right now, and game time is 7:30. If Eric Wedge is going to end up going with C.C., we’ll probably hear it within 45 minutes. It still wouldn’t surprise me.
I was surprised to read though the game comments from last night and find only one remark on Eric Wedge’s decision to intentionally walk Hideki Matsui in the sixth last night. I was further surprised to see no mention of it in a handful of Cleveland papers. So I’ll keep this brief, since most people either didn’t think it was important, or didn’t think it was a bad move.
With runners on second and third with one out and two lefties coming up, conventional strategy would dictate that you walk the first one and pitch to the second, with the hopes of him hitting into a double play. This is one area where I think conventional wisdom needs to be tossed out the window. Hideki Matsui hasn’t looked comfortable at the plate since early September. Yes, he was 2 for 2 at that point, and his second hit looked pretty. But walking him to get to Cano, in my opinion, was a terrible call, situation or not. Any of my friends watching the game with me can attest to my first-guessing of Wedge on that one.
I do like Eric Wedge, but he demonstrated a lack of critical thinking by walking Matsui; it was based entirely on a static situation: second and third, one out, down by two. You don’t want to play the infield in, because a flare would then be two runs. You don’t want to play back, because then a groundball or a long fly makes it a three-run game. But at some point, you have to consider the players involved. Cano has murdered lefties this year — .328/.374/.490 — and those numbers were surely inflated by bullpen arms like Fultz.
Anyone else feel strongly about this one way or another? I’m guessing not, but I really think the decision itself was an understated moment in the game.
Oh, and just for another talking point, here’s an excerpt from the AP game story:
Alex Rodriguez stopped his postseason hitless streak at 18 at-bats with a second-inning single and also beat out an infield single. But he remained in a 6-for-54 (.111) playoff funk with no RBIs dating to his Game 4 home run against Boston three years ago.
He could have gone 4 for 4 and he still would have had poor numbers in the long haul. Why the media continues to harp on A-Rod, even when he has a quality game, is beyond me. He went 2 for 4 and started the inning that blew the game open. Hopefully he can go 10 for 4 tonight and really break out of this slump.
When the seventh inning rolled around last night, I had developed a veritable man-crush on Phil Hughes. Those guts! That poise! That’s a True Yankee® in the making.
Hyperbole aside and fantastic pictures aside, what Phil Hughes did was nothing short of brilliant. In relief of the best pitcher of our generation who may have made his last start ever, Hughes came in and was dominant for 3.2 innings. He threw 63 pitches, 43 for strikes, while giving up 2 hits and striking out 4. At the ripe old age of 21, he recorded the biggest win of the Yankee season so far.
Even better, though, was his pitching. Hughes was mixing speeds and hitting his spots like we knew he could. His fastball was up around 93/94 while a few nasty breaking pitches.
It’s easy to imagine a 21-year-old feeling overwhelmed in Yankee Stadium. It’s a do-or-die game 3 in which the beloved manager’s job is on the line. It’s a relief appearance taking over for a visibly disappointed and emotional Roger Clemens who had to leave his potential last-ever start of his Hall of Fame career over a recurring injury.
Hughes, already dealing with what many — but not us — considered to be a disappointing first year, could have just folded. He could have burned the innings and delivered the Yankees to another long season. But instead, he emerged. He dominated. He was, in a word, amazing. While TBS gave Johnny Damon the Player of the Game Award, it’s very hard to argue against Phil Hughes as the real player of the game.
So now the Yankees and Joe Torre live another day. Chien-Ming Wang, on three days’ rest, will face Paul Byrd. Bring home another win. While yesterday’s game was all about the future and Phil Hughes, today’s game is all about today. Win today; play Wednesday. It’s that easy.