Thursday, April 14, 2005

Triple Playtime, Rubber Game

First, there's a new Yankees (and Marlins, and Pirates) Prospectus Triple Play up at the Baseball Prospectus website, in which I take on the Mystery of El Papi, the dominance of the Marlins' staff, and the concept of putting your light-hittin' centerfielder in the #3 slot. Take a look, and tell 'em I sent ya.

Second, after bombing in the Boston home opener/Ring Ceremony/musical extravaganza, the Bombers bombed Schilling in his 2005 debut. I was at the pool hall, as is my wont on Wednesdays, as all this is going on, so I caught the game in a strobe effect, wandering over between shots, or whenever the guys who were watching the game looked excited. My opponent last night was a Red Sox fan and/or Yankee hater, so beating him, and the Yanks beating Schill, was a double delight.

The big man last night was Bernabe Williams, hitting in the #9 hole (as the Tony Womack Fan Club will doubtless declare, finally, Torre got wise and put Tony in the leadoff spot!). I'm glad, because for the past 12 months I've been on the edge of a knife, balancing between the idea that Bernie might yet have a graceful decline phase (move to DH and spend 6 years hacking a la Hal Baines?) and the thought that maybe Bernie is completely done as a useful player, and should be on the bench, or rather, composing his next record at his house in Puerto Rico, tuning up for Bernie Williams Day at the Stadium. Lately, I've been resigned to the downward spiral concept of Williams' future. Bernie posts a .446 OPS in Spring Training, and while I don't take those stats too seriously...he wasn't even within whistling distance of the Mendoza line. As Leo DiCaprio would say "This is bad!"

So every time Bernie hits a big home run, I let myself hope. He's the player I most identify with turning around the Yankee franchise, and I want to enjoy his swan song--even if he's not going to be a great or even good player for the rest of his career.

The other thing about last night's game was the intense nervousness I felt watching Mariano Rivera take the mound at Fenway. I've probably expended as much energy as anyone downplaying this rivalry, but last night I was holding my breath on each pitch.

No, I don't think that if Rivera had blown the save last night, it would have meant anything other than he's still rounding into form, or maybe his shoulder is still hurting. But these things take on a life of their own. Enough people start writing that you can't hold the Red Sox down, and heaven knows, you just might start to believe it.

So tonight's the rubber match, Johnson versus Bronson. A win would put the Yanks ahead in the year-long series 4-2. Right now, that means nothing...and everything.

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