Saturday, October 24, 2009

Thursday Could Have Been Worse?

There is always someone who says very sagely that there is always someone else in the world worse off than you are. Don't you hate that person? Really. Don't you just hate that person? Because they always show up at the height of a grand pity party to throw a wet blanket on even that. Right? Here you are having a miserable day and you start to grumble. Grumbling at least makes it feel a little better because it's getting some of the frustrations out and perhaps someone who cares about you is even giving a little much needed sympathy. Then along comes the preacher, teacher, mother, brother, husband, wife, best friend, boss, co-worker or construction worker who says gravely: "There's always someone else in the world worst off than you."

Drat that person. May he/she absentmindedly walk right into a water-filled pot hole and fill up their boots. You know why? Because the Fan is having one of those weeks and really wants to blow up at somebody or perhaps have a good cry. And yet, without that person even being around, that voice in the Fan's ear keeps whispering..."There always someone else..." Yeah, yeah, okay. But the Fan sure pities that poor person because they must be flat out miserable.

First of all, the Fan has caught one doozy of a cold. Yeah, you know the kind. The nose plugs up or drips constantly. The wheezing in the chest sounds like someone is sawing wood in there. Between the sneezes and blowing of noses, this old Fan just feels like someone rolled over him with a steam roller that has the New York Giants written on the side of it. And no, the Fan will never get over that Super Bowl.

So anyway, the Fan and his good wife settled down to watch the 3-1 Yankees to see if they can get in the World Series. The Fan has already decided, as usual, that the Yankees are going to lose. But at least he has been doing better on that old temper of his. The good wife of course is more optimistic and scolds the Fan for his lack of faith.

With plenty of tissues available and the garbage can right by the lounge chair available when needed, a coke can chilled to just the right temperature and a box of Wheat Thins at the ready, the game starts.

Oh. The Fan forgot to tell you that it snowed on Thursday. That's right. 6.5 inches of the blasted stuff fell on northern Maine on October 22, 2009. For cripes sake, the golf clubs aren't even out of the trunk of the car yet! The front garden hasn't been pruned for the winter yet. And we get 6.5 inches of the white, cold stuff.

Okay, back to the game. Jeter singles (man, is he the Man or what?). Damon singles. Okay, boys and girls, here we go. Then Teixeira comes up. Had he stunk up the CS up until that point or what? Well, he gets two quick strikes on him, including one in the dirt that made him look like a lefty-swinging Soriano. But he works the count back to 3-2. Lackey throws a curve that is at least six inches outside. "Yesss!" the Fan cries. Except the ump called him out on strikes. What!? Why the heck can't major league umpires call the strike zone anymore? Someone tried to rebut the Fan a week or so back by saying that the little strike zone they show on the telecasts are not accurate. Yeah, right. Then why would they have them then? That pitch went around the plate.

Well, if you saw the game, you know the rest. A-Rod wasn't ready for a really good pitch to hit (despite what the announcers said - heck, he hit that same pitch into the 40th row the other night) and popped out to the infield. Matsui then grounds weakly to first (instead of taking the pitch the other way like he usually does). See!? The good wife shushes and the Fan gets himself under control because we don't want another episode like earlier in this series.

Just then the Angels are coming up and...and...and...the power goes out. VVPPFFHHTTT goes the sound and then we are sitting in the dark. The power returns shortly, but good old Time Warner Cable is down for the count. No phone, no food no pets...we ain't got no cigarettes. There is no television signal, no phone signal and no Internet. It's all down. The good wife and the Fan looked at each other for a good long while. The Fan briefly thought about the bedroom, but that would be fun for her with phlegm all over eh?

So long story short. The Fan took his Nyquil, prayed for that good old Nyquil coma. Then the Fan walked his sorry body upstairs to bed, all the while with that awful person whispering, "Somewhere in the world someone has it much worse than you do." Yeah? Well, kiss my furry butt. Heh. But it figures they could have been correct all the while. Somewhere in New York, someone with a bad cold and a leak in the roof actually got to watch Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain throw away Game 5.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Dodgers Bite the Dust

Bud Selig and the television executives will not have their dream series of New York versus Los Angeles as the Phillies took care of the Dodgers on Wednesday night sending the Phillies to their second straight World Series. We've long expected Vincente Padilla to crash and burn and it didn't take long into the final game to see it happen. Jason Werth hit a three-run homer in the first and Feliz homered in the second and it was pretty much over.

The Phillies are either a team of destiny, or they just know how to win. Brad Lidge, who had been spectacularly awful all season did not give up a run in the NLCS and finished with a WHIP of 0.75. Rollins, who did not even have an On Base Percentage over .300 this season, won the game for the Phillies in Game 4. The team never looks great on paper except for Utley and Howard, but they find a way to beat you, especially if you keep them in the game.

In the end, a lot of people will put this series (and last year's) on Joe Torre, which is a bit unfair. They will say that he hasn't won the big one since 2000 and can't get his teams over the hump. But a manager's only job is to put the players on the field that he thinks will give him the best chance to win and it's their job to get it done. They didn't. Loney and Belliard were the only Dodgers' starters that batted over .263 for the series. The bullpen failed on a number of occasions and they simply got beat.

Torre uses pretty much the same tactics that won his four world titles. Get the game to the closer. But the Dodgers don't have Mariano Rivera. That was surely evident when Broxton tippytoed around Matt Stairs in Game 4 with two out. Do you think Rivera would have been afraid of a guy because he got beat one time by him? Heck no.

So the point is, Torre didn't have the horses he had in New York during those winning years. He didn't have a team of winners. He had a bunch of players who found a way to get beat. The Phillies, on the other hand, are winners. Darned if this writer knows how they do it, but you can't argue with the results.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

At Least McClellaned Manned Up...But...

Umpires sure have been a big story this post season. No doubt part of the problem for MLB umpires is that televised games now have a myriad of angles on every play so there is little wiggle room for the umpire who doesn't get it right. McClelland made two major gaffes last night in the Angels/Yankees game at third base. In the first play, catcher, Napoli, tagged both Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada as both were off the base. McClelland was screened by Posada and Figgins and didn't see that Cano was off the base. Only Posada was called out. Later, the Yankees hit a sacrifice fly with Nick Swisher on third. Replays showed that Swisher stayed on the base until Torii Hunter caught the ball. Again, McClelland didn't see it that way. He blew it again.

Watching the interview after the game with McClelland, you had to feel for the guy who had to admit in front of the entire sporting world that he missed both calls. At least he manned up about it. He didn't do what other umpires have done this post season and deny the error. That makes McClelland a stand up guy. It doesn't take him off the hook though. Stand up guy or not, the umpires are paid big bucks to get those calls correctly. And unfortunately for MLB, that wasn't the only missed calls. Nick Swisher was called safe on a pick off move when he was on second. Replays clearly show that he was successfully tagged out. But he was called safe nonetheless.

In the end, it wouldn't have mattered. Between the Yankees' offense and Sabathia's pitching, the Angels had no shot in the game and would have lost either way. But you hate to see a game so marred by poor umpiring.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Home Field Proves Big for Angels

As stated in a previous post, the biggest advantage of having a game played in your home field is "last ups." This is especially crucial in extra inning games as the Yankees showed in Game 2 when they were allowed to answer an 11th inning run with an Alex Rodriguez homer in the bottom of the eleventh. Game 3 again went into extra innings and this time the Angels had last ups and won the ballgame. But it wasn't just last ups that did it for the Yankees. There were a few questionable decisions by Joe Girardi and some horrible clutch hitting by anyone who did not hit a solo homer.

In this Fan's opinion, the Yankees gave the Angels several big breaks and should have won this game handily. They had first and second with no outs in the second inning. Cano, who seems to be one of the worst clutch hitters in baseball, grounded into a force out to make it first and third, one out. Nick Swisher, who is patient at the plate, except when men are in scoring position, swung wildly at a couple of pitches before popping up weakly to short left. And then Melky Cabrera finished the disappointing inning with a ground out.

Then in the fourth inning, after A-Rod's massive home run, Matsui walked and Posada singled. The Fan was thinking that Weaver was on the ropes. But the dream team of clutch trotted to the plate again: Cano, another force out. Swisher, struck himself out swinging at bad balls. Cabrera popped up. Cabrera again failed with men on first and second with one out as he struck out swinging, the last pitch in the dirt.

Cano finished the season batting .321, but did you know that he had a .567 OPS with runners in scoring position with a line of .207/.242/.332? Terrible. Nick Swisher batted .227 with runners in scoring position this year. Such situations to this observer, are the Yankees' Achilles Heel.

Several decisions made by Girardi backfired. It seemed at the time that Pettitte was laboring when he faced Vlad in the sixth. It seemed that Chamberlain would have been a better match up against Guerrero with two out in that situation. But Girardi kept Pettitte in there and Vlad hit it out. Tie game.

Later, Girardi replaced Johnny Damon in left field with Hairston, who was the DH at that point. The situation seemed to make that a good idea at the time because a sacrifice fly to left would have surely plated the winning run. But how many fly balls to left does Rivera ever give up? Not many that the Fan can remember. The move also meant that the Yankees lost the DH and that position was due up the next inning. Because of that, Rivera was limited to one inning. Truthfully, he couldn't have done worse at the plate than Cervelli who pinch hit for him. Cervelli swung at everything the pitcher threw, no matter where it was and struck himself out. Heck, Sabathia might have been a better pinch hitter.

The last gaffe of the night for Girardi was deadly. Robertson started the 11th for the Yankees and got two quick outs. For some reason, Girardi then brought in Aceves. Why? Aceves came in, gave up a single and a double, and the game was over. In this Fan's opinion, Girardi over-managed and tried to be overly brilliant. It backfired.

And so, the Angels have life. That's a scary thing.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Is There a Better Way to Lose?

The Angels had their guts ripped out on several occasions on Saturday night and finally had the emotionally deflating loss after thirteen innings when they had the chance to win on several occasions. Their closer blew the save. They left a million guys on base. And they lost the game on an error. The Dodgers on the other hand, knew they had lost after the first inning. Are both losses the same? Or is a blowout worse? Or is a gut-ripping game like Saturday night's worse?

The Fan got to pondering this after watching the drudging the Patriots put on the Tennessee Titans. The score was 52-0 at halftime. Is that better for the Titans than having a lead with 30 seconds to go and giving up a field goal with two seconds left on the clock? The Fan doesn't know. What do you think?

They call a lopsided win a "Laugher," sometimes spelled, "Laffer." During such a drubbing, which team is doing the laughing? The Fan would imagine that both teams could laugh at that point. Once a game is lopsided and all but over, both teams can relax and play it out stress free and wait to go at it again the next night. The Titans certainly looked pretty grim when the score was 59-0. But wouldn't you naturally relax after that and sort of play it like a free-for-all?

The Fan's instinct is that the Angels' loss was worse than the Dodgers' loss. After it was 8-0 by the fifth inning, couldn't the Dodgers conserve their energy and relax the rest of the game? The Angels on the other hand, played their hearts out for five hours and still came away with a loss. The former seems preferable than the latter. A blowout can be considered a fluke. A close loss can be indicative of a glaring weakness or two.

Many would say that both kinds of losses would be equally bad. In a seven game series, any loss is problematic and gets the other team closer to the ultimate goal. But the Fan still thinks he'd rather be in the Dodgers' shoes than the Angels.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Fan Out of Control

Perhaps it is a reflection of the stress in my life. Perhaps it is too many decades of watching games go in so many different directions. Perhaps it is just another moment to reflect and figure out how to find the center of gravity again. But the fact remains that this Fan is out of control and it has become impossible to watch a game. Lord knows the wife is fed up with the bad behavior and she is right. It's humbling and it needs to stop.

Sporting events are just that. They are entertainment that alter little in the circling of this planet and the plight of the people spinning around on this earthly ship. They don't affect global hunger or the nuclear threat. They don't stop terrorists from altering thousands of lives. They are a diversion that allow us fans to forget about all of that for a few hours. These events are just another set of competitors in a two-thousand year old evolution of competitions from the original Olympics to now. But when a Fan loses all rational perspective and control in his behavior watching those events to the point where there is actual fear in watching them, something has gone terribly wrong.

Last night was the straw that broke the camel's back. The Fan's behavior was so erratic and so over-the-top emotional, so disturbing for the woman in my life that it just has to end. To her, I apologize. She doesn't need that nor does she deserve it. And while she stayed up until well past one to watch the end results, the Fan took a PM version of a famous pain reliever and went to bed well before the drama was finished.

It happened this way. First, there is no denying in this space that the Yankees have been as big a part of my life as the Beatles, family and God. Many times, the order of those parts of my life have been a bit out of proper order, but they have been the revolving uber-themes of my existence. As a blogger, I try mightily to keep this space neutral. I attempt to cover all of Major League Baseball without my true love affair for this one team that is five decades old to predominate. But the fact remains that I have lived and died with the Yankees since I was a little kid and the team was horrible. I have lived through the early Steinbrenner saga and the Billy Martin fiascoes and the two championships in the 70s and the long drought that followed. I suffered along with Don Mattingly who played brilliantly all those years without a championship. I sorrowed for Dave Winfield who couldn't put any kind of post-season heroics on the field during his Yankee years. And I certainly gloried through 1996-2000.

And then 2001 happened and that sickening feeling that this Fan can still recognize as Rivera tried to get the force on a bunt and threw errantly followed by that horribly lucky, broken bat plop of Luis Gonzalez whose probably performance-enhanced abilities just allowed him to get the ball to the back edge of the infield behind Jeter. It was the beginning of where the Fan is now.

It was quickly followed by the Yankees signing just about every past-their-prime, thirty-five year old free agent that hit the market. Which allowed another sickening loss to the Marlins in the World Series and was followed by the awful events of the 2004 series against the Red Sox and then the quick exits in 2005 through 2007.

This Fan saw the reputation of Jeter thrown through the mud. He can't field you know. He was finished you know. Alex Rodriguez was a post-season flop. There was scandal and overblown hype at everything A-Rod and Clemens did. There was disgrace and this Fan was defeated and disillusioned.

And then improbably, the Yankees put it all together this year. The Red Sox stumbled which I never saw coming. The Yankees put together 103 wins and seemed to have fun doing it. The Yankees had fun? Who saw that coming? They laughed? They joked around? They did pies in the face? Huh? Jeter restored his reputation. He worked hard in the off-season on his lateral movement and became decent in the field again. He had his best year at the plate since 2005. He was back on top of his game.

And then the Yankees beat the Twins three straight. A-Rod was the hero. Say what? But the pressure built inside me. I can't watch. The desire to see Jeter, Mo and Jorge win one more title is so strong that it tilted my universe. But I did watch as Sabathia dismantled the Angels and the Angels stumbled around. The game was never in doubt and it was okay. The Fan was okay. Until last night. And I lost it.

It started by watching A. J. Burnett. Golly, the guy kills me. Watching him time after time getting two strikes and then try to get cute and throw four straight balls or hit some guy in the foot. He's terrible to watch and it was insufferable. So I went downstairs in my stressed out state and played Hearts while the wife sat up there alone keeping vigil. The fact that she has become such an avid Yankee fan is my fault. And she is much more loyal now than me. Because she can watch and root and hope for the best while I cringe and grovel and spit epitaphs.

Finally, the Fan thought it was safe to go back up and watch a little. I came just in time to watch Joba shut the door on Vlad with the bases loaded. Okay. I can do this. The Yankees get a base runner on a Swisher single. Gardner pinch runs. I know he's going to steal second and set up a rally. But he doesn't steal. He just stands there allowing himself to be doubled up. Why did he pinch run then? I started shouting at the television. The good wife tries a few soothing words. They fall deaf on the floor.

Then Hughes comes in for the Yankees, gets an out and then a base runner. A double-play ball is hit to Jeter, my redeemed hero who had hit a homer earlier. Okay, there it is! We're okay! Except that Jeter blew it and got no outs. The Fan totally lost it. And I mean lost it.

The slippers got thrown. The shouting started. The storming around the room. Finally, out of cowardice or just plain stress reduction, the Fan gave the wife a meaningless kiss and stormed off to bed. The wife looked pissed and there was guilt and self-loathing. But I was beyond redemption and the seething emotions carried me to my bed where I reclined in a heap of frustration and despair. What the hell, William? What has happened to you?

And as such, this Fan missed Mariano Rivera and another big-time performance: 2.1 innings of scoreless relief. I missed A-Rod's clutch homer in the 11th to tie the game back up. I missed the 13th inning where the Angels imploded like I expected the Yankees to do. I missed the celebration that my good wife got to watch because I made her a fan and she is the good kind of fan. All of this I missed because I have lost control of my emotions and it is brutal.

I just want this too badly and it has to stop. Perspective is needed and win or lose, I need to get back to simply rooting for my favorite team. If they win, then it will be unbelievable. If they lose, then it's just a game. Life will go on. Lord help me, I need to get this back in order. It's embarrassing and a bit scary to be living like this. It seems like a form of madness. Again, if you read this, my dear beloved wife, I'm sorry.

And I apologize to my faithful readers too. You didn't need this piece. But I needed to write it.