Saturday, April 16, 2005

Doldrums and Other Things...

As the Yanks try to close out Moose's nice, if stressful start (5 2/3, 7 H 3 BB, 2 R, at least a baserunner every inning), a few thoughts.

Can't blame Sheff for pushing off the Boston Slapper, and I can't quite push for the summary execution of the "fan" who it looks like accidentally made contact with the Yanks rightfielder in the Rubber Game of the Yanks/Sox series in Boston.

Still, they warn you before every game not to interfere with balls in play. When guys like Steve Bartman or the fellow that caught Sheff interfere with the fielders, you and I suffer. Even if the on Thursday didn't intentionally assault Sheffield, teams start thinking about preventing the trouble they've just had. Whenever I sit in the rightfield boxes, I look ruefully at the "Jeffrey Mayer bar" a railing that was put up after the 1996 playoffs, to keep anyone from reaching over the rightfield wall onto the field of play. It's just one more obstacle between the fans and the action on the field--an obstacle course I fear will someday include electrified fences and moats.

Folks blather endlessly about what a great ballpark Fenway is--and I like Fenway a lot--but when you come down to it, the big thing about Fenway is how close everyone is to the action. The Monster's nice, but the seats are uncomfortable, the seating areas look like they were arranged by a maniac on a Red Bull-and-Vodka bender (what's the next idea, string a bunch of harnesses on a giant cable between the Monster and the luxury boxes, and call them "prime, overhead seating"), and on occasion you have an obstructed view or seats that don't face the plate. The ballpark's "killer ap" is that a good percentage of the seats are right top of the action. For my money, Yankee Stadium is the more aesthetically-pleasing place to be, but the main section seats at Fenway might just have a better view of the field than field level seats at the Stadium. And that's what really matters.

While I was putting together that thought, the Yankee bullpen coughed up Mussina's 6-2 lead. Ugh. I think Joe Torre may just have pitched Tom Gordon's arm off last season. Flash's ERA is over seven since the playoffs started last year, and his stuff just doesn't have much life--I haven't seen his good curveball in 2005, and he's having a lot of trouble spotting the fastball. Sturtze, who looked like he was going to pick up some of the slack for the forgotten men (see Quantrill, P. and Karsay, S.) of the Yankee bullpen? That conceit lasted about a week.

You see, the nasty part about this Yankees team, is that every time they disappoint, you can reason: maybe this isn't just a slump. Maybe all these guys in the Yankee bullpen have just lost it. I mean, they're all in their mid-to-late 30's, and that's when ballplayers lose it, isn't it?

It's gonna be a long season.

OK, gotta think good thoughts...

The Daily News has details about the proposed new Yankee Stadium. The new structure is supposed to consist of an outer shell (literally, a facade, a word the article fusses over a lot), which will be a replica of the exterior of old Yankee Stadium, and a modern retropark within.

I don't know what's with this outer shell/inner stadium deal (if I recall correctly, the proposed Jets Stadium is also designed along similar lines)...

WHAT? OK, this is what happened: the Yanks threatened in the 8th, the O's brought in B.J. Ryan, who got Matsui. This I can deal with.

Then in the 9th, with 2 outs, the Yanks get 2 men on against Ryan. Someone is needed to bat for Tony Womack. Here are Joe Torre's options:

John Flaherty -- RHB and only other catcher on the roster
Bubba Crosby -- LHB and only defensive outfielder on the roster
Andy Phillips -- RHB and utility infielder, capable of handling 1B, 2B, and 3B

Obviously, the batter that Joe Torre turns to with the game on the line is Flaherty.

When I used to play strat-o-matic--a tabletop sim game in which each player had a card, and you rolled dice to see what the result of a given at-bat would be--I'd often hand the stack of cards that comprised my roster to Brother Joe for review.

Joe would rifle through the stack with the dexterity of a blackjack dealer, pulling cards out of the pile and putting them to one side. His comment, almost always, was "When on earth are you going to use this guy?" Sometimes I'd offer a bit of rebuttal, tell him what I was thinking when I drafted player X, justify the choice. Usually, I'd agree with Joe, and that player would go on my reseve roster, because what's the point of having a player on the roster if you're never going to use him?

Why is Flaherty in the game in that spot? If the Yanks score one run, you have to twist the Yankee defense in extra innings--likely with Rey Sanchez (who pinch hit for Tino Martinez) staying at 2B, Posada moving from behind the plate to 1B, and Flaherty taking over at catcher. Otherwise, Phillips has to come into the game anyway, and you've burned your backup catcher.

So what was on Torre's mind, here? Flaherty's 2 for 3 performance coming into this game against Ryan? Or was it simply that Torre will not use Phillips, under any circumstances?

Strikeout, end of game. A game the Yankees could've and should've won.

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