Sunshine in May

If only I could get this tilted umbrella to stop swirling around.  A minor malfunction, I think.  It’s late Sunday afternoon in Big Joe’s yard.  “The Fear” by Lily Allen is cranking on my iPhone, I’ve got an ice cold Coca-Cola next to me, and the Yankees are – yes- in first place.  For the first time in almost three years; through a manager change, the midges in Cleveland, the emergence of Joba, the retirement of Sean’s boy, the Moose, another playoff appearance by Joe Torre (just not here), the first playoff miss since I was in college, the birth of my baby boy – first name Donald, middle name Mattingly (just kidding), and the indignity of watching the Tampa Bay Rays playing in the World Series – the Yankees are in first place.  In fact, the interesting thing about today was that not only were the Yankees in sole possession of first place, they were assured of being in first place tonight, regardless of what happened around the league today.  Yeah, it’s a good day today, regardless of the fact that the tilted umbrella won’t stay put on it’s base, creating a crazy unintentional sunlight show around me as I type on the laptop.

So what did they do today?  They lost.  Oh well.  I understand you can’t win every game, but I wish they would finish these games off.  They tied the game, and then put the go ahead in scoring position with less than two outs twice, not getting it done.  At least they keep coming at you.  Cleveland had to pull everything they had out today, including what can only be considered a desperation move, bunting with two strikes and a man on first in the bottom of the ninth.  I think they figured they had no shot at the bottom of their lineup generating anything, so they had to try to get what they were going to get right there in the ninth.  Here’s a better strategy; as soon as the Yankee bullpen comes in, put the bats on your shoulders and don’t swing.  Because the Yankees have two Achilles heels, and one is that the bullpen is hilarious.  Just stand there.  They’ll either walk you or fall behind and serve up a nice fat ice cream cone.  Scoop of mint-chocolate chip, scoop of coffee, just like Acc likes it…  Today was both.  Thanks Dave Robertson.  One piece of good news.  Despite the fact that he pitched well, Carl Pavano got a no-decision.  No, Carl, you do not get to walk away with a win against the Yankees; the baseball gods and the lords of karma simply will not allow it.  Here’s an idea.  Why doesn’t Carl Pavano ask what he can do for the Yankees on the charity front.  Maybe something with Jeter’s foundation, or some sort of appearances.  I don’t care what it is.  All I know is I’d be looking to make somebody whole if I stole $40 million from them…
I was out in Jersey today at Nicky the Sack’s kid’s three-year old birthday party.  Brooklyn’s Own Mike Dantone and I were monitoring the game on the iPhones.  You take what you can get in life, sometimes…  
So we know the bullpen is one Achilles heel.  The other is that the Yankees are no longer the patient team they were in the late 90’s, early 2000’s.  That is a bygone era.  You’ll still hear people refer to them as a patient team that takes a lot of pitches, but the numbers don’t bear it out.  They invented it, basically, at least in terms of a philosophy.  People like to refer to the “Moneyball” influence, but most Yankee fans know the famous story of Gene Michael laying out the blueprint for the next Yankee era on the flight back from Seattle after the 1995 playoff loss.  The base was to be patient, smart hitters, who took a lot of pitches and a lot of walks.  The Wade Boggs mold.  That blueprint was to manifest itself in the acquisition of Chuck Knoblauch, Scott Brosius, and Tino Martinez, among others.  They basically perfected it, riding the formula to four championships in five years, and six pennants in eight years.  Baseball hasn’t seen a run like that since, well, the Yankees….  And they did it before Billy Beane was anywhere near Oakland.  So now the Red Sox have taken up the mantle, with everyone framing Theo Epstein as a “Moneyball” disciple.  Right.  Who was in second place all those years, when the Yankees were serving themselves the American League for the better part of a decade?  The Red Sox.  Every year.  Theo Epstein is no “Moneyball” disciple.  He was just an observant kid who knew how to play monkey-see, monkey-do.  But the fact remains that the Red Sox are the preeminent high-pitch-count team right now.  The Yankees aren’t even a high-pitch-count team, in fact.  They swing, swing, swing.  Jeter, Cano, Melky, Molina, and at times everybody else.  Good pitchers last a long time against them, because they’re swinging away.  I’m not saying it’s always a bad thing.  Teams have been successful by swinging away.  The Angels have done it very well the last few years, including a World Championship.  And the Yankees are having a lot of success right now by swinging away.  I just don’t like it as a formula when you’re in a hostile park against a premier pitcher.  Look what happened today as soon as they got Pavano out of the game.  If they hadn’t let Pavano stay on the mound until the eighth inning, it probably would have been bombs away much earlier.  Not my preference, this swinging early and often stuff, but I’ll deal, I guess.  It just makes me uncomfortable as a long-term strategy…
So here’s the problem if you’re the Red Sox or a Red Sox fan.  If you think that the Red Sox are going to continue their domination of the Yankees, there is no problem.  If you think that the fact that the Yankees and Red Sox have played to a statistical dead heat over the last ten years of head-to head play is a thing of the past, if you think that the Red Sox will continue to get the miracle two-out, bottom of the ninth comebacks against Mo without any reciprocity, that they will be able to continue to come back from six runs deep, that it didn’t make a difference that A-Rod was out of the lineup and Texeira was in no-man’s land in the five games they’ve played thus far, then you have no issue.  If you think it was a fluke that the last time the Red Sox started out 5-1 against the Yankees, in ’07, the Yankees ended up winning the season series anyway, and if you think that the Red Sox will end up with a season series record of 12-6 or better, then you have no problem.  Otherwise, you are like me.  You think that the possession arrow is squarely with the Yankees right now, and at some point the Yankees will get their wins against the Red Sox.  If the Red Sox go 7-6 in the remaining 13 games against the Yankees, they will end up 12-6 against the Yanks this year.  And it certainly could happen, don’t get me wrong.  In fact, if you want to argue in their favor, you could say that the Red Sox play their best games in band box, HR happy parks, and all 13 games will be just such.  So you’ve got a case.  But just know that it would be against every single rule of the last 10-15 years between these two teams.  When the Red Sox came back from three runs down in the ninth against Mo to start the year in ’07, A-Rod got Papelbon with a bomb later that year in the bottom of the ninth with two outs
.  And so on and so on…  So the bad news if you’re the Red Sox is that the Yanks will get their wins eventually.  And they’re already a game up in the loss column.  So what else do the Sox have to worry about.  Well, they can’t win on the road.  Again.  It cost them the division last year, and then it cost them the pennant.  And this year they’re just as bad.  And the Blue Jays are right next to them.  The only team in the AL East that wins on the road is the Yankees.  But then again that was true last year too.  Whoops…  And although I say boneheaded things all the time, it seems I wasn’t so far off on the Red Sox staff.  My points at the start of the year – everyone was thinking that Jon Lester, he of exactly one full season in baseball, would be an automatic stud this year (and for years to come).  I wanted to see him do it for two years, consistently.  Next – everyone was letting Dice K’s numbers last year wash over what everyone could have and should have seen with their naked eyes – that he wasn’t dominating anybody.  Eight wins when he didn’t make it past the fifth inning last year should have been a clue.  Well, I felt that this year it would come home to roost.  So where are we this year?  Lester and Dice K have been awful, with ERA’s of 5.6 and 9 as of today.  Beckett’s also struggled, but at least he’s got history on his side.  Lester and Dice K have one good year apiece.  Guys, you need more than that to anoint them a great staff.  The Red Sox even had to make up an injury for Dice K to try and get him right with some minor league starts, the same thing the Yankees did with Wang.  So the Red Sox have struggled just a tad with starting pitching.  Some seem to think Smoltz will be the answer.  Really?  Smoltz?  He’s spent his entire career pitching in the comfy, cozy National League, he’s coming off major arm surgery, and at times over the last five-six years has been absolutely abysmal.  You’re going to throw this guy in the middle of the AL East at the age of 67 and expect that he’s going to be the savior?  Okay…. 
Last thing on the Red Sox.  I got a big kick out of all of my Met fan friends pouring e-mails and texts to me after the inter-league series about what a-holes the Red Sox are.  Their big beef was Youkilis jawing at Santana after he leaned into a pitch with an 0-2 count and two outs (“Why would he jaw at him there??!!  It makes no sense that he was trying to hit him.  What a jack*ss!!) and the Papelbon incident (“Didn’t he notice that the guy who got thrown out – Youkilis, the biggest whiner of them all – didn’t even argue the call??!!  What was Papelbon doing charging out of the dugout??!!  I’ve never seen that before!  And Pedrioa was right behind him!  Unbelievable!!”).  I just laughed and laughed.  “Yup,” said I.  “That’s the Red Sox.”  It was therapeutic for me.  The Red Sox and Mets fans have always been kindred spirits, of course.  I get it.  Common enemy, etc.  Our boy Sean coined a great term for it – “Met Sox Nation.”  So it seemed to me that the Met fans felt a little betrayed when the Red Sox went all jack*ss on them.  Newsflash to Met fans – don’t be offended.  It’s not you.  They do it to everybody.  They are the whiniest sports team I have ever seen.  The Kobe Lakers come close, admittedly.  But this Red Sox team is number one.  And as I’ve said many times before, it all starts with their captain, Varitek.  At least I think he’s the captain.  It’s tough to tell…  Oh no wait…  He’s got that big ridiculous “C” on his uniform.  If you’re captain acts like a whiny a-hole, your team is going to act like whiny a-holes.  I loved that when Beckett was whining about balls and strikes the other night, and Varitek jumped in and got tossed, people tried to act like he “took one to protect his pitcher.”  They missed the point.  Why is his pitcher whining about balls and strikes in the first place?  First of all, the ball wasn’t a strike.  Second of all, who does that?  Seriously.  How many pitchers can you think of in Major League Baseball that consistently whine about balls and strike calls?  Beckett, Lester, and Papelbon are maybe the worst offenders.  If Varitek was any kind of captain, his team wouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place.  Met broadcaster Keith Hernandez said it best (speaking specifically to Papelbon, and with an incredulous tone in his voice); “Get back in the dugout!!”

Acc and I exchanged text messages last night.  Saying, basically, that it’s fun being a Yankee fan again.  They’re going to be there this year.  Even my Aunt May sent me an e-mail (yup, Aunt May is not afraid to be over 70 and sending e-mails) saying “The Yankees are playing great!”  Yes, Aunt May, the Yankees are playing great.  And for tonight, anyway, the breeze is cool, the sky is blue, the birds are chirping away, and the Yankees are in first place.  The world is finally right side up again… 



  1. joefromnewhampshire

    First, I don’t know that Beckett yelling had any solution behind it. But if you look at the link: Scroll down to the bottom of the 7th, Brendan Harris’ AB. You’ll see the first pitch was the bigger problem, as it was clearly a strike. That other pitch where Tek got ejected was the second pitch that could have been called a strike, although it was borderline. That first one was a very good first pitch strike, yet was called a ball.

  2. nycnav

    The Yankees are certainly playing well….just hoping they can keep it up and get some of those games back from the whiny ***** Red Sox next week. My take on yesterdays loss was that it was inevitable after all the walkoffs/come from beninds the Yankees have had this season….they were bound to have a few happen to them especially with the yankees bullpen. Let’s go Yanks!


    Just a suggestion – why not just shut this blog down, as it seems that Geoff can only post on Sundays, and nobody really replies ? I keep waiting for others to join in, but see only a very few replies….seems like wasted effort, Geoff (no offense – I really enjoy reading your posts, but it was so much better last year…..)

    Ras #45


    Curious to hear your thoughts on Wang. He has been awful and it sure hurts to see him pitch in a game. Hopefully CC comes through with a gem tonight to end this Sox streak.

  5. mushbone

    As a Sox fan in this fourth week of June, I found it an hilarious romp through recent history to re-read this agglomeration of errant predictions and false bravado. Kudos to you! So much error in so little space — this is COMEDY GOLD! I’ll pick out some highlights for you:

    “So the bad news if you’re the Red Sox is that the Yanks will get their wins eventually”

    This line and the paragraph that preceded it just made me grin. 8-0 and counting, Mr. Stripes. 8-0. Waiting patiently on “eventually”, as I’m sure you are.
    “And they’re already a game up in the loss column.”

    It’s been just a bit more than 3 weeks since this confident boast was made. Are we ready for a re-write? “And they’re only down 5 games in the loss column.” That sounds better, doesn’t it?
    “Well, they can’t win on the road. Again. It cost them the division last year, and then it cost them the pennant. And this year they’re just as bad. And the Blue Jays are right next to them. The only team in the AL East that wins on the road is the Yankees.”

    Current AL East road records: Red Sox (18-17), Yankees (17-18). That’s worth a chuckle or two, isn’t it, Mr. Stripes? Why can’t I hear you laughing?
    I won’t bother to quote your smug gloating over the early season struggles of Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, but if you need some ketchup or sugar to keep from gagging while you eat those words, just let me know. I’m here for you.

    Beckett in June: 3-1, 1.88, OppBA: .186; Lester in June: 1-1, 1.71, OppBA: .164

    That was a fun walk down memory lane, wasn’t it? Please, please, Mr. Stripes, write another blog entry about how the Yankees are in good shape and shouldn’t worry about the Red Sox. Tell me more about my “problems”. I dare you.

  6. kozmo

    Wow, mushmouth er, mushbone. Amazingly ironic that your post about what you considered “comedy gold” came to bite you and your team on the back side! Boston is 3 1/2 back, has a rotation in tatters, struggled for a good stretch in July offensively, and rapidly lost that lead to the Yanks. You’re a wizard.

    Jason from The Heartland

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