Baseball Toaster Mike's Baseball Rants
This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
Frozen Toast
Google Search
Mike's Baseball Rants


10  09  07 
06  05  04  03 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
Links to MBBR
Down the Wells
2003-10-24 12:53
by Mike Carminati

You know, Joe Torre is an all-or-nothing sort. Last year the Yankees squeezed every regular-season out of Jorge Posada's body leaving him enervated for the playoffs. They overworked a basically four-man bullpen with only one lefty (Rivera, Mike Stanton, Steve Karsay, and Ramiro Mendoza). In the process they overworked an old starting rotation, working Clemens, Wells, Mussina, Pettitte, and El Duque Hernandez deeper into games than any other major-league staff. The starters ended up breaking down in the first round of the 2002 playoffs.

This year was different. He used a caste of thousands in the bullpen and in right-field. He still leaned on the starting players but they responded and the overworked Jorge Posada has been playing well even into the playoffs. In the playoffs, Torre was making deft moves like triple-switches and seemed to be two steps ahead of McKeon throughout most of the first four games.

However, everything changed abruptly when Torre turned to Jeff Weaver in the eleventh inning of game four. Then Torre played yesterday's game like the Yankees were on the brink of elimination, and now guess where they are.

Soriano had been killing them at the top of the order. Giambi has had his problems and he's injured. Soriano had a .209 batting average, a .254 on-base percentage, a .284 slugging average, and a .537 OPS in the playoffs prior to yesterday's game. Since batting .368 with a .789 OPS in the first round, his numbers look especially poor: .143 BA, .208 OBP, .224 Slug, and .432 OPS (including yesterday's AB). And of course, he continues to establish a postseason strikeout record nearly every time he bats. Giambi didn't look much better: .246 BA, .358 OBP, .509 Slug, and .867 OPS (including yesterday's homer). OK.

But so has Aaron Boone, both offensively and defensively (5 errors in the playoffs), and yet he was in the game yesterday. Boone's numbers in the playoffs through last night's game: .173 BA, .200 OBP, .308 Slug, and .508 OPS. Well, Boone had to be in because of the cascading dominoes that resulted after Torre decided to bench Soriano and Giambi.

Well, maybe that's not fair. Torre probably decided that he needed more production in the top three spots. He could have moved Jeter to leadoff, but then what does he do with Soriano and who fills in behind Jeter? Well, Johnson had batted second a few times in the postseason, but Torre did not seem enamored of that move either. And if he put Soriano in the 7th or 8th spot, then the bottom of the order would be Boone, Soriano, and the pitcher, an unenviable threesome right now.

So he landed upon backup Enrique Wilson, who makes decent contact and has decent speed, as his second baseman and #2 hitter. The rest flowed. Wilson is the only backup infielder on the roster (Luis Sojo is apparently just a team mascot) along with a glut of rightfielders and useless left-handed relievers, so Boone had to play.

Giambi was as gimpy going into game 5 as he was in the first game without the DH. However, Torre was heckbent on resting him, too, of course in the same game. Who cares that Giambi and Soriano had almost 80 home runs together this season? Never mind that Giambi was 2-for-6 in the previous game and that he has had a .367 on-base percentage, a .561slugging percentage, and a .928 OPS in the last two rounds (including the homer yesterday).

The game seemed like an exercise in futility. It was like the scene in "Hooisers" (a film I am incapable of turning off once I happen upon it) when Gene Hackman asserts his hegemony over the high-schoolers by continuing to bench a star player who disobeyed orders earlier in the game, even after another player fouls out and the team is short one player. After the game he says something like:

"Those of you who were left on the floor at the end, I'm proud of you. You played your hearts out. All of you have the weekend. Decide whether or not you want to be a part of this team or not, under the following condition. What I say when it comes to this basketball team is the law, absolutely and without discussion."

OK, Joe. You're in charge. Entrust the Series to Jeff Weaver's and Enrique Wilson's trusty hands.

And even so, the Yankees could very easily won it if it weren't for Wells' back and a silly rundown mishap in which Wilson thought they were instead playing "hot potato". The Yankees out-hit the Marlins in game 5. The bulk of the Marlins runs came when Contreras hurriedly entered the game after Wells was forced to leave and after the Wilson error. Oh, sorry, David, you had to actually slog off the mound and evade your girth in order to field a bunt. Take the World Series off and go get drunk. I felt sorry for Contreras, who was asked to do something he probably never did before in his career, pitch an extremely long relief stint a day after pitching the ninth and tenth innings of a then tied ballgame. He was very wild and almost hit two Marlins in the head.

But even after Contreras exited the Yankees were just trailing 4-1 leading off the fifth. Then Torre went to Chris Hammond, who hasn't pitched the entire postseason, but, hey, at least it justified Hammond's pointless activation just before the Series. Then Hammond gets into a little trouble and is seemingly rescued by a great play by Boone getting Pudge Rodriguez caught between second and third. That is, until Enrique Wilson, in the ensuing rundown, throws to an empty base leading to two unearned runs. By the way, why are both runs unearned or even one? Had Wilson not made the ill-advised throw, it was unlikely that he would get Pudge given that Boone had rotated off the play and Jeter had not yet gotten into it. (Where was Jeter anyway?) Let's say, Wilson holds onto the ball, Pudge would then scurry off to third, and Conine would likely advance to second. Even if Jeter had been able to get into the play and they got Pudge, wouldn't Conine have been at second anyway? When Lowell singles at least Conine would have scored if not both of the runners.

Anyway, the Yankees then leave the bases loaded in the seventh but at least score one and stage an obligatory ninth-inning rally after Giambi's po'ed, pinch-hit home run. The ninth could be the Yankees' season in microcosm: trailing by two with a runner at second and one out, the tying run in Bernie Williams hits a ball to deep right-center that is caught by Juan Pierre (the third time in the series and he has just one HR to show for it). The Hideki Matsui hits a bullet that Derrek Lee one-hops guarding the line at first. End of game.

The Yankees have Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina while the Marlins are still cobbling a rotation together as the Series proceeds. They decided that Dontelle Willis won't be the game 6 starter after inserting him in relief in game 5. But then again, the Cubs had Prior and Wood going and were 5 outs from clinching before the Marlins won both games to advance to the Series. These Marlins have more lives than Freddy, Chuckie, and Jason all rolled into one.

I still think the Yankees will win it, but then again I thought the Giants would take the Marlins in 5, so what do I know. The Marlins at 91-71 would not be the worst team to win a world championship (my Phils in 1980 had the same record), but they're up there. The Yankees had just 87 wins in 2000 when they won it all, but the all-time worst is the '87 Twins at 85-77. In total there are just 7 World Series champs with a winning percentage no better that the '03 Marlins ('59 Dodgers, '74 A's, '80 Phils, '85 Royals. '87 Twins, '90 Reds, and 2000 Yankees).

What kind of staff do the Yankees have now anyway? Pettitte and Mussina will start. They have the three lefties in pen, two of whom Torre has ignored the entire Series and the third, Hammond, gave up two unearned runs yesterday, so he retreats back to the doghouse. Then there are the three righties in the pen, Rivera, Nelson, and Contreras, who probably gets excused for yesterday's bad outing due to being rushed into action. Then there's Weaver who may as well take a flight home instead of to the Bronx today. Wells could be available because he only pitched one inning, but who knows if his back will respond in time. Clemens is a possibility.
So that leaves the two starters and basically an all-righty four man bullpen including Clemens and maybe a situational lefty or two. I hope that Aaron Boone's "ghosts" have learned to pitch in the last week.

Comment status: comments have been closed. Baseball Toaster is now out of business.