Monday, June 04, 2007

Pot Luck

The Yankees had an interesting weekend in Boston. They managed to win 2 out of 3 and gain a game on the front running Red Sox. Arod quited the Boston crowd with a 9th inning home run off the seemingly invincible John Papplebon. The Yankees even managed to push across a run against the previously untouchable Okajima. There were a lot of good signs in the first (The Yankees continued their recent dominance of Tim Wakefield in the first game by knocking him out in the 4th inning)and third games of the series, but the Yankees had one of their worst innings of the year in game two. Bobby Abreu misplayed a ball in right field that he should have caught, the Yankees failed to complete two perfect inning ending double plays, Derek Jeter committed two errors and infielders were out of position on a base hit to left field. The Yankees squandered three separate leads in the game and eventually lost by a score of 12-6.

The Yankees also lost first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz for a couple of months after he suffered a concussion, a bruised spinal column and a concussion in a collision with Mike Lowell while trying to field and errant throw from Jeter. The weekend also included a bench clearing incident after a high and tight fastball from Scott Proctor in the ninth inning of the first game. All in all, the usual Yankees-Red Sox gathering. There was an incident that I think deserves some notice. Mike Lowell threw a cross body block on Robinson Cano as the second baseman attempted to tag him before completing a double play. Cano had come into the base path to field the grounder and as he attempted to tag Lowell, he was greeted with a block that would have make Bill Belicheck proud. Cano managed to complete the throw to first and was seemingly unhurt on the play. Tim McCarver went through great lengths to point out that it was a clean play. According to the rules, the base runner is entitled the base path, but, in my thirty years or so of watching baseball, I have never seen a runner try and take out an infielder on that kind of play. Most try to avoid the tag, but trying to run over the infielder is not something that happens on a regular basis. The only player who is generally subject to that kind of collision is the catcher. The reason I'm pointing this out is because I'm fairly sure that if Arod had done the same thing, the uproar would have been loud and lasting. Arod's yell last week in a game against the Blue Jays, has been the subject of ongoing debate since it happened. I will point out that the Yankees had already taken a two run lead and had Mariano Rivera on the mound. I'm not saying that the game was totally out of reach, but the odds were pretty good that the Yankees were going to win the game. Arod's "play" helped the Yankees tack on three more runs, but it was basically inconsequential to the outcome of the game. That did not stop the firestorm that followed, however. Arod cannot do anything these days without inviting an avalanche of criticism. I'm fairly sure that trying to take out an infielder, on what should have been a fairly routine double play ball would have led to the same.

Finally I saw that Lou Pinella was suspended by the commissioner's office for making contact with an umpire during an argument. There was a many a voice over the winter that called for Pinella to be hired as the manager of the Yankees. I just want to point out that his team has gotten off to an even worst start than the Yankees have. They are closer to the top of the standings because he plays in the very weak central division of the national league, but Lou has blown his top on many occasions this season, to seemingly little effect. His team is still playing like crap. It just goes to show two things: Yelling at your players doesn't always motivate them to play any better and Lou Pinella is not a great manager. I've always contended that there are very few managers who actually make a difference in the standings. Billy Martin was probably the best at turning a team around and stealing games with managing tactics. For the most part managers either benefit or are hurt by the talent around them. How much of a genius does Tony LaRussa look like this year? Albert Pujols has gotten off to a slow start and the Cardinals are 6 games under .500. Hell, they almost blew a 8 game lead with less than two weeks to go last year. The bottom line is that it's the players that win and lose games. Talented teams will win. End of story.

I just wanted to pat myself on the back again for something I wrote a few weeks ago. As Roger Clemens struggles with a groin injury and the Yankees apparently contemplate whether to terminate the deal before Clemens reaches the majors (and they are then obligated to pay him the full $18 million), I have to say that I could see this coming. Here's what I wrote back on May 7th:

The biggest problem with signing a 44 year old (He turns 45 in August) is that they are basically pitching on borrowed time. Nolan Ryan had the most remarkable pitching arm I have ever seen. He could basically dominate hitters with his fastball until the day he retired at age 46. Nolan would probably still be pitching if his legs didn't give out. The same can be said of Roger Clemens. He has never had any serious arm problems and will probably be able to pitch until his legs give out. When will that be? No one knows, including Roger. He will get himself into great pitching shape, but there comes a time when although the heart is willing the body is not. Roger wont' be felled by arm problems, but his demise will probably come through a series of lingering hamstring and groin pulls. We've already seen what hamstring problems have done to the Yankees pitching staff this season and Roger is certainly not immune to those issues.

So for all you faithful readers out there, I promise to do my best to keep coming up with that kind of insightful commentary. Of course the fact that I can come up with those kind of comments just means that instead of doing something productive with my life, I have wasted a huge chunk of it watching baseball. Oh well, no one ever accused me of being smart. A jackass, yes, but smart, not so much.

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