There were no insects this time, no Paul Quantrill making his 90th or so appearance of the season. A terrified Esteban Loaiza did not make an appearance in extra innings. Tom Gordon did not pitch with his arm hanging by a thread. Tanyon Sturtze was not called upon in a big spot. Alex Rodriguez did not hit .133 for the series and get demoted to eighth in the batting order. The starting ace, whoever it was, did not fold in the key game. Jaret Wright did not start, and Kyle Farnsworth could not be found in the bullpen. Randy Johnson did not pitch like a 42-year-old. An injured Gary Sheffield was not called upon in desperation. In short, aside from some compulsive pinch-running and pitching changes by the anxious manager, there were no Hail Mary passes, no fourth stringers dressed up as stars. There was, shockingly for the Yankees, NO WEIRDNESS. They played their games, played them well, and for the first time since 2003, they will return to the World Series. The 2009 Yankees have one of the deepest rosters in the history of the club and they played like it. Finally. Congratulations and good luck to the entire organization.
SOME NOTES ON GAME SIX
1. Even though he didn’t hit, Nick Swisher played his best defensive baseball in this series, culminating in his doubling Vladimir Guerrero off of first in the second inning. He also looked more relaxed at the plate in this game.
2. Jorge Posada was having a decent offensive series (.267/.450/.533, a home run and five walks) before Game 6, in which he had several chances to break the game open and failed miserably, going 0-for-5, hitting into two double plays and stranding 10 runners. Had the Yankees somehow lost the game, you would have had to point the finger his way.
3. Joe Girardi was fully in the grips of Coffee Joe mania when he went to Mariano Rivera for a two-inning save. Asking your closer to pitch two innings is normally a great idea — it’s always better to cut out the (pardon the expression) middle-man — and that’s the way it was done until Bruce Sutter and then Dennis Eckersley cemented the idea that closers could only be used one inning at a time. The truth was that THEY could be used one inning at a time, but not everyone was subject to the same limitation. The difficultly with asking Rivera to do it in Game 6 is: (a) He’s about four weeks from turning 40; and (b) He had been asked to get six outs just once all year, and that was during a tie on May 16; so (c) As a result, Rivera threw over 30 pitches (31 and 32) just twice all season, and between 20 and 30 pitches just 11 times. This meant that (d) when Rivera ended his difficult eighth inning having already thrown 21 pitches, he had already exceeded his pitch count for all but a handful of his appearances. By the time it was all over, Rivera had thrown 34 pitches, his high for the season, and that was after sitting through the long bottom of the eighth. It worked, but it was risky, and it did nothing to reestablish Phil Hughes, who is going to be needed.
4. I wonder if Dave Robertson is going to get dropped from the World Series roster on the basis of injury. Girardi said he pulled him from Game 3 because his velocity was down (though he had pitched well) and never went back to him again. It wouldn’t serve the Yankees to announce that Robertson was injured as long as the round continued given that they couldn’t do anything about it, and the idea that their bullpen was short a man could somehow impart a psychological or tactical advantage to the Angels. Perhaps we will see the triumphant return of Brian Bruney, though part of me thinks that with the Phillies’ left-leaning batting order, the Yankees would be better off pulling Mike Dunn out of the Arizona Fall League, thereby giving themselves a third bullpen southpaw. I’m half-kidding about that, but only half.
5. It’s amazing how badly one can mess themselves up by thinking about purely physical things. Normally, your hypothalamus controls your breathing. Start trying to control it with your conscious mind — you’ll be gasping for air directly. Similarly, pick up a baseball and simply throw it as you’ve known how to do all your life and you make the play. Think about it, aim it, and you’re going to toss it into short right field. Yes, I’m talking about Scott Kazmir, who could probably make a 40-foot throw to first base blindfolded. Under most conditions, you and I could (I would probably need an empty stadium and advance notice that all errors would be forgiven). Make things just a little tense and even a professional ballplayer can fumble away a key play. The Angels, normally a very together club, did it repeatedly in this series.
6. Why was Gary Matthews, Jr. allowed to make the last out of this series? Why was he allowed to make any outs this series? Why did Mike Scioscia keep pinch-hitting him for Mike Napoli and Howie Kendrick, who are both far better hitters than Matthews? I’ve been hard on Girardi, but Scioscia, normally a fine manager, had his own Coffee Mike problems during 30 Days of ALCS.
7. At least there were no umpiring controversies in the last game.
8. What is with the faux-stitch-style league championship caps? They’re terrible. From spring training, your team plays nearly 200 games to get to the World Series and then you’re forced to put something on your head that looks like it was cut from the backside of your overweight older brother’s hand-me-down jeans. I guess someone thinks the kids really like stitching this year.
9. I don’t know what’s going to happen when Andy Pettitte becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame. I imagine not much, just “thanks” and “no thanks.” Before the voters dismiss him, they ought to give him some outsized credit for his going 16-9 in 38 postseason starts.
10. Was their ever a time in history when players actually drank the champagne they were given upon winning? That must have been the original intention, and then somewhere in the TV era somebody started spraying champagne, and everyone watching thought that was pretty novel, and soon everyone was doing it. Now the original thing would be to have a decorous toast. If players know to bring goggles to the party, the celebration is no longer spontaneous.
We begin the Yankees-Phillies head to head comparisons.