Friday, April 22, 2005

On Edge

So, two straight wins and all is right with the Bombers' world. Still, Mariano Rivera provided another white-knuckle experience in the Yankees' 4-3 win over Gustavo Chacin and the Jays. With a one-run lead in the ninth--and some nice middle relief work by Buddy Groom, Felix Rodriguez, Mike Stanton and the much-maligned Tom Gordon to bridge between starter Mike Mussina and the Sandman--Rivera gave up two two-out hits to Vernon Wells and Eric Hinske.

Just as we were saying "Ugh, get the Rollaids, honey, here we go again!" the closer got a groundout from Alexis Rios to complete the victory.

Still, the feeling of vulnerability hasn't worn off of this team, yet. In the Daily News yesterday, Vic Ziegel was likening this squad to the 1965 Yanks, a team depleted by age and injuries, plummeting from the top of the division to go into an 11 year funk.

I don't quite think we're there yet. I wonder if Yankee fans were thinking the same thing in April of '65?

In other news, Gary Sheffield avoided punishment in the Fenway Slapgate scandal, unleashing a mini-tempest of cheerless indignation and undignified cheering.

First about the cheering: Sheffield didn't do anything noble last Thursday. It's nice that he didn't go rampaging into the Fenway stands like Godzilla (the other one) going after Tokyo; but that was only what he was supposed to do. As Chris Rock might say, "What do you want, a cookie?"

About the indignation, that's pretty overwrought as well. Sheff took a swipe at someone who reach out onto the field and took a swipe at him. No matter what the various fans who, in the words of Brother Joe "went Zapruder" on the video clip may think, Sheff convinced the powers that be that he only swung his arms toward the stands to make sure he wasn't hit again.

While many absolutists wanted the Commissioner's office to send a strong message that a player is never allowed to make contact with fans in the seats, that position is itself absurd. If a fan was trying to grab Sheffield's armor jersey in order to prevent him from making the play, I doubt there would have been much controversy about Sheffield trying to shake him off violently. Meanwhile, there would also be a worrisome precedent set if fans in the stands were allowed to physically provoke opposing players into suspensions. Imagine what would happen the next time Kevin Millar goes for a foul pop-up in Yankee Stadium.

It was a marginal call, but the right call, I think.

Elsewhere in Yankeeland, Ruben Sierra has landed on the DL on what is only being described right now as "a bad right arm". Ruben's going for MRIs and whatnot, in the meanwhile, Andy Phillips gets to reprise his role as the Invisible Man in the Yankee dugout.

If Phillips escapes this tour with the club without getting a single plate appearance (as he did until Kevin Brown was called up) Joe Torre is doing something wrong. Again, it isn't excessive puffery to say that Phillips may be a better bet than Martinez or Giambi against a lefthanded starter.

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