Friday, October 24, 2003

The Yankees of this current generation have never been in this position. The argument could be made that this is a generation away from the late 90's team that seemed invincible. The heart of the team is still in place: Jeter, Williams, Posada, Pettitte and Rivera. But that seems to be the trouble. This heart has all performed well--even spectacular. But with the exception of Matsui, the new pieces around this core have done little to help.

And so the Yankees are a game away from elimination. Second place in the World Championship doesn't count. Just ask the Braves who have only won the big show once in their incredible run. The Boss won't be happy but that matters little. What matters is that this proud core who have been champions four times can't stomach losing but probably have little choice.

The odds are strongly against the Yankees down 3-2 in the Series. Florida's pitching has been spectacular. Except for Redman, there hasn't been one falter by the Marlins' staff. The odds got tighter when McKeon tapped Beckett to start Game 6 on three days rest. To some that would seem like a risky call. But anyone who has seen Beckett pitch this post season would know the Yankees are in big trouble.

The only positive might be that Beckett won't be able to go as deep into the game and the Marlins' bullpen is less secure than the starting staff. The only other positive is Pettitte, who has rescued the Yankees on a number of occasions. Pettitte rarely has had two strong outings in a row but will need to pitch one of the best games of his life tomorrow.

The Yankee core has been let down by the new guys who haven't performed. Soriano, Giambi (though he shouldn't be faulted for being hurt), Boone, Garcia and others have played terribly. Soriano is completely lost and his struggles couldn't have come at a worse time. Right now, I wouldn't count on Soriano to hit the bench without lunging and missing it. Boone and Garcia have left countless rallies stranded on the bases.

In a way it's a shame that so much of the focus has been on the trouble of the mighty Yankees. A lot of focus should be on the Marlins who have scrapped and sweat and laughed their way to this improbable position. They have been the ones to play like champions and have come through in every instance. This just might end up being their series to the chagrin of a lot of Yankee fans. And after watching them since they started their run in August, this position the Marlins are in is no fluke. This is a damn good team.

Yup, the Yankees are in a lot of trouble. And in one ironic side note that defines how much trouble the Yankees are in, Blogger's spell check gave only one possible replacement for the supposed mispelling of "Giambi" and that word was, "gimpy."

Thursday, October 23, 2003

These late night games has the Fan whipped and since this game is well in Florida's hands, it's time for bed. Tough break for the Yankees to have Wells go down with a bad back after one very good inning.

The odds are really against the Yanks going back home down 3-2.

Goodnight everyone...
What an amazing game! Tied at three going into the Marlins' half of inning number twelve. In every one of these bottom halves, the Marlins can end the game with a single run. But Contreras was lights out and Jeff Weaver, of all people, had a one, two, three eleventh. Weaver is now into his second inning and the first batter, Alex Gonzalez, hit a walk off, Mark McGuire-like laser just over the left field wall to end the game. Weaver, the permanent Yankee dog house member, continued his unfortunate year for the loss.

The game started with what the Fan thought was going to be a sad sight. Clemens gave up three runs in the first and one more hit would have finished him off. It was going to be an incredibly sad end to his storied career. But he pulled it together and pitched six brilliant innings after that and kept the Yankees in the game. He struck out five in those final six innings and walked none in his seven innings. It was a gutty and fitting final start for one of the greatest pitchers ever.

Fittingly, the Yankees didn't let him get the loss and tied the game in the ninth for a Ugeth Urbina blown save. The Yankees could have won the game right there with one more hit and couldn't come up with it. The Yankees later had Chad Fox on the ropes with the bases loaded and only one out. Looper came out of the bullpen and the Yankees couldn't push a run home. The key at bat was Aaron Boone swinging at five balls inside to strike out for the second out. With some plate discipline, he would have walked and Rivera would have finished the game up.

But that's why the games are played and the Marlins showed why they belong here. They pitched terrific from start to end with the exception of Urbina and then got the game winning hit off the pitcher they should have hit. The Yankees had their chances, but the game goes to the Marlins.

Now we're tied at 2-2 and it's a three game series for the title. What a great World Series!

The odds are very much against Bud Selig reading these comments, but we've got to get these games started at least at 7pm instead of 8 so that it isn't 12:32 Eastern Time when the game ends. For those of us who work for a living, these late games are killers. And for a sport that wants to attract young fans, most of them are in bed when these exciting games could be the spark that makes them fans or players for life.

The glaring holes in the Yankees lineup, especially in the clutch are Soriano at lead off and Giambi at cleanup. One can understand Giambi as he is playing on bad wheels. But Giambi has always been a smart hitter who doesn't miss his pitch and doesn't swing at bad pitches. After Jeter doubled with two outs to give the Yankees a chance to win the game, Giambi let a hanging slider fall harmlessly into Ivan Rodriguez' hands, he then swung at two sliders way inside by his feet. What's happened to his eye?

Soriano has simply been pathetic. There is no hope of him ever getting untracked. He can't lay off of the slider a foot outside and he can't lay off of the high fastball. He isn't aggressive on hittable pitches and he's overly aggressive on balls out of the strike zone. One at bat seemed to say it all. Ball One. Ball Two. Swing at Ball Three (now 2-1). Swing at Ball Four (now 2-2). Weak fly out to centerfield.

Soriano is raising up out of his stance and that does not allow him to drive through the swing and so he is swinging with all arms and most of the time with his hips flailing helplessly toward third base. He has been terrible...absolutely terrible.

In this space the other day, I mentioned that Mike Mussina had not won a big game in the post season. And I was correct with that assessment. But his performance last night turned that around as he was masterful and an artist and deserved the win. Rivera was just as amazing in his two innings to save the game.

So does Wells pitch tomorrow? Must be. It's a big game and he is a gamer. We'll see Brad Penny pitching for the Marlins. Those are both pitchers who could be terrific or awful. Congratulations to Alex Gonzalez and the Marlins for a big win that changes the entire series.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Game 3 of the 2003 World Series is in a rain delay with the score tied 1-1. It will be interesting to see how the starting pitchers react to the time off the field. Both starting pitchers had pitched really well with Mussina shaky early and coming on strong and Beckett strong early and then becoming shaky. The field is being prepared and time will tell.

Much has been made of the difference of these two teams. The Yankees, it is pointed out, are the world class team with 26 World Championships. The Marlins have been around for ten years and have one championship. The Yankees are the $180 million team and the Marlins are the $50 million team. But baseball still boils down to the eight position players against the other team's eight and the two opposing pitchers.

The two teams actually have some similarities. Nine of the 25 men on the Yankee roster are home grown from their own system. The number would be eleven if you could include Matsui and Contreras but I wouldn't count them that way. The Florida Marlins have eight of their 25 man roster from their own system.

The two teams have masterfully crafted their teams with creative and intelligent signings. Both teams stress pitching with a mixture of power pitchers and crafty ones. Both teams have great fielding shortstops and clutch hitting, great fielding catchers. Both teams have older managers whose demeanor and treatment of players get the most out of their clubs.

With that said, the core of the Yankee home grown players are battle tested and have played in clutch situations most of their careers. The Marlins core has not been there before and only one or two were around in 1997 when the Marlins won it all. But to their credit, they believe they can win and they have the smarts and the talent to get the job done.

With the score 1-1 and the series 1-1, either team can win this World Series. It should be exciting.

Whew! A big jam goes by the boards for the Marlins as Mussina really got out of that inning well.

Monday, October 20, 2003

As the World Series takes a breather, the Fan will do so as well. The matchups for Game 3 do not favor the Yankees and the prediction is a 4-1 Marlin win.

I'll see you tomorrow night as we find out how it will all play out.
I heard with astonishment the other day as an announcer stated that Andy Pettitte's post season record was overrated. Overrated?? The man just tied a record for most post season victories and just look what he has done this post season: Win three Game 2 contests after the Yankees had lost Game 1. Andy Pettitte has consistently given the Yankees a strong outing whenever they really needed it in the post season.

Pettitte's outing tonight did all of these things:
- Shut down the Marlins momentum by ending their four game winning streak in the post season.
- Shut down the top of the order and their running game.
- Sent the Yankees to Florida with a split instead of being down 2-0.
- Saved Mariano Rivera and the rest of the bullpen by pitching well into the ninth.
- Kept the post season's most dangerous hitter, Ivan Rodriguez, quiet.
- Made a very hot Derek Lee look silly.
- Pitched on three days rest and therefore set up the Yankees rotation for the rest of the series.

It was a huge win and Pettitte has done that time after time.

Some World Series notes:
- Brad Penny looked sharp last night but Mark Redmon appears to be throwing darts and though he had a good year, will not fool post season batters.
- It will be interesting to see if Mussina can break into the win column this post season. He is 0-3 so far.
- Soriano finally had a big hit tonight with a two run homer and seemed to lay off more bad pitches than in previous games this post season.
- Aaron Boone made two mental mistakes as he lifted his eyes twice on slow rollers and made an error on them both.
- Nick Johnson went three for four tonight and will be rewarded by sitting when the series shifts to the National League site.
- Much has been made of the Yankees losing a batter because there is no DH in the National League park, but the Marlins have the same dilemma: Cabrera's inexperience in right field or Juan Encarcion at the expense of Cabrera's bat?

Sunday, October 19, 2003

The Yankees have the Florida Marlins right where they want them: In front by a game. The Yankees have lost the opening game of each series this postseason. In fact, the Yankees have lost the first game in many series in the last eight years and are the only team with a winning record after that event. And yet, this Florida Marlin team is a different opponent than any the Yankees have played in the past eight seasons.

The Marlins have great defense, pitching, relief pitching, speed and power. They are just starting to feel their strengths and it wouldn't be a stretch to see the Marlins pull off four in a row. And despite the Yankees' penchant for last minute heroics, there are glaring weaknesses in their ability to do so.

Alfonso Soriano is the worst post-season clutch hitter of all time. There hasn't been a rally yet that he has contributed to. And when he is up with men in scoring position, he has been absolutely terrible. Tonight, Soriano had a runner on second with no outs and grounded weakly to short. He reached out to an outside pitch and tried to pull the ball. That's a cardinal sin as you have to get that runner over.

Nick Johnson has been terrible in the clutch as has Giambi and Boone. The only consistent clutch hitters the Yankees have with men on base are Jeter, William and Posada.

If I were a Yankee, I'd be worried. I know this Fan is.