Monday, July 18, 2005

First Place

What this season may lack in everything else, it makes up for in sheer confusion.

The Yankees are in first place, an entire half game ahead of the Boston Red Sox and the never-say-die Baltimore Orioles. They've done it on a combination of occasionally overwhelming offense and BS luck that you have to see to believe.

Friday was a smackdown at the hands of David Wells and the Red Sox, avenging the previous night's drubbing of the Bullpen Savior Curt Schilling. Tim Redding, called in for the emergency start, couldn't get an out in the second inning. On Saturday, Randy Johnson was good enough and Matt Clement wasn't, bringing the Yankees back to within a game and a half. So on Sunday the Yankees, whose pitching cupboard is completely bare, turned to Al Leiter, who had just a few days earlier been designated for assignment by the Florida Marlins.

Let's put this in perspective. With the Marlins, Leiter had a 3-7 record, with a 6.64 ERA. He'd walked 6o men in 80 innings, and had more walks than strikeouts. Jack McKeown basically stuck a fork in Alois Leiter, and declared him done.

So here's a "done" pitcher, 39 years old, facing not just any team, but the World Champion Red Sox, on ESPN's Sunday night game. All Al did was shut the Sox down: one run, three hits, three walks, eight strikeouts over six and a third innings. Meanwhile the Yanks rode the occasional batting practice pitch from Tim Wakefield to a home run derby-ish 5-3 victory.

Then tonight, in a game which I completely missed watching, the Yanks and Texas Rangers played another game of "swing from the heels," eventually won by the Yankees, 11-10. Not holding an early lead for the Yankees was whipping boy Kevin Brown. The attitude around Yankeeland would be to cut Brown, if only he weren't the #4 starter (and only one good Leiter start from being the #3 starter). Bleagh.

Still, what he did was still good enough--when taken in combination with some bad work out of the bullpen--for the Yanks to win. And the Red Sox got hoisted on their petard by Scott Kazmir and the Devil Rays, 3-1. And the Yanks are in first place.

So the question is, can this last? Or rather, will it last? It'd be hard to expect more of the same from Leiter in the future, harder still for the Yankees to fend off two pursuers rather than just the Bostonians. But sometimes baseball is an illogical game, and you're best off just trying to enjoy the ride.

Yeah, I doubt my philisophical stance will last anywhere near as long as the Yankees' stay in first place.


The Yanks officially put an end to the Melky Cabrera era before the game, sending the baby Bomber down to AAA. The writing was on the wall when Joe Torre benched Cabrera over the weekend. At some point, it must have occurred to the brass that getting overmatched by pitchers, and undressed by fly balls in the field, might not be the best thing for a 20 year-old's psyche. Ya think, maybe?

Here's hoping that Melky gets over his PTSD in Columbus, and comes back strong to the majors--whether this September, or next year.

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