Tagged: Whitey Ford

Sabathia sets an example

During last night’s chat, I made an off-hand comment that CC Sabathia had just pitched one of the best postseason games in Yankees history. This is undoubtedly true, but I had forgotten just how many Yankees had gone out and pitched shutouts in World Series play. Whitey Ford had three, Allie Reynolds two, and then there were one-offs by Waite Hoyt, Carl Mays, Vic Raschi, Ralph Terry, Spud Chandler, and (oh yeah) that Don Larsen guy. Going down to the League Championship level, there’s the nigh-obscene game Roger Clemens pitched against the Mariners in 2000, in which he held them to one hit, two walks and 15 strikeouts.

Still, if Sabathia’s night isn’t in the top echelon, it was close enough. The game lacked any tension once the Yankees took the lead, in large part because Sabathia didn’t allow them to build any momentum. He also set a terrific example for the occasionally twitchy A.J. Burnett to live up to in Game 2, assuming rain delays don’t knock him out after an inning or two.

I wish I had stats that showed how Burnett has fared pitching in freezing rain, but given that he spent most of his pre-Yankees career in the warmth of Miami or under a dome in Toronto, doubtless he hasn’t too much experience in that regard. Whatever the conditions, he’s made six starts against the Scioscia-men and has gone 2-2 with a 4.43 ERA. The overall line, 40.2 innings, 43 hits, 22 runs, 20 earned, five home runs, 11 walks, 39 strikeouts, doesn’t look all that bad; sometimes the little white ball just takes a funny bounce or two and things go all pear-shaped.

posada286_101709.jpgAs you know, Jose Molina is catching again today, while Mike Napoli is in the battery for the Angels, so shift a little offensive advantage the Angels’ way, at least for the at-bat or two that goes to Molina before Joe Girardi pulls him. He did so well with this in the last round that I don’t see the point in worrying about it. The only point to raise, as I did last time, is that the manager should be aggressive — if Molina bats in a key situation early, it might be worth sacrificing the defense for a chance to put some crooked numbers on the board. That’s Casey Stengel speaking through me on that one, and he got seven rings out of thinking that way so I believe him.

A couple of quick notes:
?    No matter how many times the announcers say that Bobby Abreu somehow turned the Angels into a team of Ed Yost-ian walking men, it just ain’t true. With the exception of Howie Kendrick, who was threatened with professional extinction if he didn’t get wise to himself and his impatient approach, most of the improvement shown by the Angels is down to Abreu himself. As with so many things, like the Angels “creating havoc” on the bases, it just ain’t true. They were third in the league in stolen bases and got caught more than anyone else. If this be havoc, the Yankees should say, let us have more of it. This should work to Burnett’s advantage. Note that even when the Angels beat him, it wasn’t because he went walk-crazy, as he sometimes does. In fact, his walk rate against the Angels is about half of what it is normally.

?    Second point about “havoc.” It’s just one bloody base. If Team A steals three bases and Team B hits three home runs, guess which team is going to win? As with the sacrifice bunt, the stolen base is a situational tool, and that’s all. Babe Ruth changed that in 1920. At the end of his career, after Lefty Gomez was let go by the Yankees, he had a tryout with a National League team. Asked the difference between the two leagues, Gomez said, “Over here they play like they don’t know John McGraw has been dead for ten years,” by which he meant that Dead Ball-era tactics were still being employed in the Senior Circuit. That Gomez was incorrect to cite McGraw notwithstanding — the Little Napoleon was among the first to realize the strategic implications of the lively ball and to change his ways — he was correct that many in baseball did not know that those old weapons had diminished in value, and even today there are many who do not know.

Sunday: Brunch and serious memories

…Which is not bragging, but the opposite: I ain’t complaining about the arduous work I have to do. Still, I was just chatting with my colleague Jon Lane about what time I have to get out to Yankee Stadium II to do my annual set of interviews on Old Timer’s Day, and he was speculating 9 a.m. This is depressing in that it takes me about two hours to get up to the ballpark, so it’s going to be an early Sunday morning. On the positive side, I’ll get to enjoy breakfast fare in the press dining room, which I am told includes Eggs Benedict a la Babe Ruth (poached egg on an English muffin and hollandaise sauce, topped with a broiled horse shank).

I’m already feeling my fatigue, but it should still be a fascinating time. The Yankees always do a terrific job of assembling a memorable roster for these occasions. The usual Hall of Famers will be in attendance — Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Goose Gossage, and Reggie Jackson — but I’m looking forward to talking to a couple of the first-timers, “Hit Man” Mike Easler and relief ace Lindy McDaniel. It’s fascinating that the former relief ace is making his first trip back at the age of 73. He played with many future Hall of Famers in a career that covered 21 seasons and three decades, and was an important part of the lost-years Yankees just before George Steinbrenner bought the club. He was then traded for Lou Piniella, which turned out to be one of the bigger robberies in franchise history. Luckily for me, most of the writers will be more concerned with more recent players who are returning for the first time, fellows like Chad Curtis and Charlie Hayes. I typically get the literal old timers to myself, and that’s the way I like it.

The Yankees had Babe Ruth for 15 seasons. They won seven pennants. 15-7=8. The Yankees had the best player in baseball by a country mile, and sometimes the two best players, but they still went home in October more than half the time. In 1920 they had Ruth and the best pitching staff in the league, but the non-Babe parts of the offense were weak. The same thing could be said of the 1924 offense, plus the pitching staff was just decent, not great, and the club got beaten by a Senators team that had one of the great pitching staffs of the period. Ruth missed half the season in 1925, the offense couldn’t pick up the slack (even with Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, and Earle Combs having good years), and the pitching staff was just mediocre. From 1929 to 1931, the Yankees were outclassed by a dominant A’s team that couldn’t hit with them but had by far the better pitching staff (there is no Lefty Grove in the history of the Yankees, nor, with the possible exception of Ron Guidry in 1978 and a couple of Lefty Gomez seasons, any starting pitcher who is even close). Weak pitching was again the problem in 1933. The staff began to come around in 1934, but not enough to win a pennant.


After the Angels’ sweep, I’m out of the prediction business for awhile…

Tigers 12-7 4.7 4.3 .260 .325 .444 9 5 1.1 3.7 7.7
Yankees 13-7 6.1 5.0 .285 .375 .465 13 7 1.2 3.1 7.3

The 2009 Yankees are not unlike those 1929-1931 Yankees that couldn’t beat out the A’s. They can scorch the ball anywhere, but their pitching staff does the same favor for the opposition. The Tigers do not have a good offense, and are hitting a tragically weak .245/.307/.395 on the road, averaging 4.1 runs a game while doing so. If they start blasting balls into outer space during this series, you not only have further proof of YS II’s pinball qualities, but also of the state of the pitching staff. .. Watch out for Curtis Granderson, a career .291/.408/.523 hitter against the Yankees.