Results tagged ‘ Sabathia ’

A vintage Yankee playoff win

Sabathia-10-7-(3)-250.jpgOne down and two to go for the Yankees as they strive to escape the first round for the first time since Casey Stengel’s 1953 team made it to the Championship Series. Okay, okay, it was 2004, but who wants to remember that season with its crushing reversal of fortune against the Red Sox? I also don’t want to remember 2003 (ugly World Series loss), 2002 (rampaging Angels), or  2001 (Tony Womack? Come on), the 2000 team was one of the weaker champions you’ll see, and I resent 1999 because Derek Jeter should have won the MVP award that year but didn’t. The way things are going, I think it would be safest to go with 1953.

CC Sabathia did exactly what he was supposed to do, the thing he was paid the big money to do, which is reassuring after so many disappoints, both in terms of past Yankees signings and Sabathia’s own performance in recent postseasons. What most impressed about this start was that when the Twins were able to lay the bat on the ball, they were able to knock it for singles (six of ’em, plus two doubles), but Sabathia didn’t walk anyone and got eight strikeouts, al of them seemingly when they were most needed. It wasn’t Don Larsen ’56, but it was good enough.

With a big lead, Joe Girardi had the luxury to pull Sabathia after 113 pitches, not a high total for him. The on-off schedule of the first three games gave him the additional luxury of being able to get his mostly inexperienced relievers into the postseason in a relatively low-pressure situation. Using four relieves, including Mariano Rivera, in a 7-2 game seemed like a bit of overkill, but with Thursday off, Girardi can make changes like there’s no tomorrow, because, well, there isn’t.

The one disturbing aspect of the game was Jorge Posada’s bad night behind the plate. It was as if Old Man Jorge set out to confirm every paranoia that has been attributed (probably unfairly) to A.J. Burnett. Two passed balls and a wild pitch in one game is an extremely poor showing, regardless of if Sabathia might have crossed up his catcher on one of the three misses. Posada has always missed a lot of balls. He’s the active leader in passed balls, and his first next year will vault him into the top ten all time (fortunately, all-time leader Lance Parrish’s record of 192 seems out of reach). As he becomes older and more immobile, there are going to be ever more balls skipping past him. At the risk of overreacting to what could be one aberrant game, tonight might have been a preview of the moment, coming perhaps in 2010 or 2011, when Posada’s bat still plays but the sheer number of balls sailing by or rolling to the backstop make him an untenable catcher.

Those misses represent just one base given up and amount to nothing most of the time, but you can get into difficult psychological territory when pitchers feel they are not being properly supported. Mackey Sasser’s problem returning the ball to the pitcher with the Mets in the late 1980s didn’t necessarily lead directly to any runs scoring, but it definitely had the pitchers angry and distracted. One hopes that this day is farther off that it appears after tonight, because if it happens sooner then there will be a gap between Posada and Austin Romine or Jesus Montero or whoever the next catcher the Yankees produce who can hit with more authority than Jose Molina.

Yanks should not sit tight

cash.jpgShut up, he explained
Now that Mark Teixeira is in the fold, it feels as if the Yankees can settle back, burp loudly, and wait for spring training to begin. No one would blame them if they felt a sense of completion, having picked up the two best players on the free agent market in Teixeira and Sabathia, and clearly some owners would be happier if they took the rest of the winter off, but it would be a mistake. There is still more work to do.

Before we run down the list of items that should still be on the agenda, is it possible we can have a moratorium on owners calling for a salary cap because the Yankees just purchased a player on whom they weren’t seriously bidding? Sabathia could easily have gone to the Dodgers, Teixeira to the Red Sox or even the bleeding Nationals, and these captains of industry wouldn’t have made a peep. The playing field is not even. There are ways of fixing that have little to do with salary caps, which simply transfer dough from the players to the owners without changing the competitive balance even slightly. If redistribution of wealth meant that much, revenue sharing would have already done the job, but we know what those same owners do with the revenue sharing dough–they pocket it, or use it to pay down debt on their leveraged franchises.

Until such time as these owners are ready to truly address the issues of competitive balance, which will require revisions to basic assumptions about territoriality that go back to the business’s earliest days, they can stop trying to fool the public about the need for a cap and try to beat the Yankees, which we’ve seen can be done by virtue of just being smarter. The Yankees spend, they win regular season games, but they haven’t been to a World Series in five years, haven’t won one in eight, and the Joe Torre run of great teams is a little, glorious island in a long sea of trying and failing, despite enough money to keep Steve Kemp in comic books and champagne for his next several lifetimes.

Meanwhile, the Yankees go about the work of trying to craft a winning team.  I should stop there, but I won’t, and not just because I get paid to go on at great length. In a winter in which the Yankees have made great strides in pursuing the obvious, like an ace pitcher for a staff that needs an ace and a first baseman to play first base–as opposed to a designated hitter, or a catcher, or a singles-hitting left fielder, or Miguel Cairo–now are looking to get their outfield in order. They don’t have to trade Xavier Nady, but given that he’s not the hitter that Nick Swisher is, or was, given that he’s not the hitter that the average right fielder is, it makes sense to see what they can get for the overvalued corner-man. He’d make a nice reserve/injury insurance policy, but if they can get anything of long-term value for a player of his minor key skill set, arbitration eligibility, and impending free agency, they should certainly go for it. Current rumor has them doing just that. Again, it’s pursuit of the obvious. Do that often enough, and you’ll get better.

In other news…
The Red Sox signed Brad Penny, who had a truly unpleasant year with the Dodgers, concealing an injury before breaking down altogether. His strikeout rates and general career path don’t suggest that he gives the Red Sox much more than above-average depth, but that’s something. What’s most interesting in the signing is the vote of no-confidence it expresses in Clay Buchholz. One wonders if this is an effect of the Yankees’ aggressive work this offseason–it is more typical of this regime to give the tyro pitcher another shot, and just chalk up the fifth spot in their rotation to development. Given other uncertainties in their rotation, such as the health problems of Josh Beckett, the wildness of Daisuke Matsuzaka, the 42-ness of Tim Wakefield, they needed more certainty. They apparently preferred the younger Penny to old hand Derek Lowe, and one supposes that if anyone knows about Lowe they do, but Penny still seems like a gamble. One can see why they wouldn’t want another wild pitcher in Oliver Perez, but Ben Sheets would seem to have a higher upside. Perhaps the Red Sox, like the rest of us, are overleveraged.

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