Tagged: 2009

No Longer the Latter-Day Ramiro Mendoza

Yankees reliever Alfredo Aceves now IS Ramiro Mendoza. This is new this season, and tonight’s 2-inning no-hit performance was a fitting tribute to his predecessor in his first appearance as Mendoza himself. (Yankees 6 @ Red Sox 4) He was dubbed “the latter-day Ramiro Mendoza” last year by WCBS radio’s Yankees broadcaster John Sterling largely because of his ability to pitch effectively at any point in the game, especially in extended middle relief, and to execute a wide repertoire of pitches “that move,” as Sterling’s broadcast partner Suzyn Waldman says, and which emerge from a disconcerting variety of arm angles, much as Mendoza did for the Yanks during the late 1990’s before being unceremoniously cut and left for the Red Sox to pick up. (I should say “pick up the pieces. Mendoza so wanted to stay with his team that he said “I want to die a Yankee.”) I remember then-manager Joe Torre asserting that he had “ice in his veins.” Aceves’ moniker entered the airwaves last season after a conversation among Sterling, Waldman, and NY Daily News beat writer Mark Feinsand, during the “Daily News Fifth” inning segment. It soon took on a life of its own, and Waldman seems to find a charming way for Sterling to make the observation afresh each time Aceves comes to the mound, as she did tonight.

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Yankees Lackey-ing Pitching

God help the Yankees.

Before Boston just landed the Angels’ ace righty John Lackey, the Yankees needed to sign a major arm. We all watched New York strain through the postseason on 3 starters and the fumes of their fabled closer Mariano Rivera. Make that 2 starters and a Burnout. Having dropped tens of millions last year to acquire the top half of their rotation plus a first baseman who can field even better than he hits, the Yankees were nonetheless widely reported ready to take on another huge starting salary for one of 2 newly free agent righties: Toronto’s perennial phenom Doc Roy Halladay (RHP) or Bulldog John “It’s Mine” Lackey. This surprised me, and I could not take it for granted, especially after Detroit’s Curtis Granderson joined their outfield committee a few days ago.

When I heard that Boston was loosening its hold on their expensive left fielder Jason Bay, the quease started. What were they going to do with that money? Was it worth it to switch-up Matt Holliday for Bay? Or,…

Sure enough, early today I read the Twitter sighting: Lackey was seen at Fenway. I couldn’t eat for hours. Next thing I knew, the MLB Network was reporting a 3-way deal that would send Halladay to the reigning NL Pennant holders, the Phillies, whose recently-acquired World Series star lefty Cliff Lee would move to Seattle. Well, if a hunger strike could help the Yanks, well, by now I was losing my appetite the way some people lose keys. Good thing Guinness is food.

We are in trouble. And who knows how tired-out Sabathia and Pettite will be. While we are wondering, let us pray that God continues gracing Mo’s cutter with divine inevitability and ministerial conviction.

Amen

Questionable Call ALDS Game 1 MIN@NYY Wed 10-7-2009 on TBS/WCBS Radio

Umpire Assignments ALDS Game 1, MIN@NYY 6:37pm at Yankee Stadium:
HP: Tim Tschida (Crew Chief), 1B: Chuck Meriwether, 2B: Mark Wegner, 3B: Paul Emmel, LF: Jim Joyce, RF: Phil Cuzzi.

Top 3
CC Sabathia (NYY-P) lost a strike call on a 2-2 pitch to Orlando Cabrera (MIN-SS), opening a stream of 2-out baserunners. Cabrera advanced to 3rd on Joe Mauer’s (Joe Mauer-MIN-C) 4-pitch double and then scored on Michael Cuddyer’s (MIN-1B) single on the first pitch he saw. Mauer subsequently scored on Jorge Posada’s (NYY-C) second passed ball of the game – during Jason Kubel’s (MIN-RF) 5-pitch at-bat, which ended in a strikeout. This put the Yankees behind 2-0 in a game that they were widely favored to win. (The opposition played on little sleep after arriving in New York at 3.30am following a nail-biting 12-inning win over Detroit night for the right to fly into New York.)

The color commentator for WCBS Radio, Suzyn Waldman, at first seemed to chastise Sabathia for his evident disappointment at losing the strikeout, because he had already tried that pitch and failed to get the call. On review, however, Waldman said she could see why Sabathia – and the 50,000 in the stands – felt robbed. Characteristically disinclined to stir controversy, her partner, play-by-play man John Sterling, noncommittally stated that it looked very close.

Effect: Instead of getting out of the inning unscathed, Sabathia was hit-up for 2 runs and threw 11extra pitches – equivalent to a short inning – on a night when his pitch count was already running high with 4 strikeouts before the 3rd inning ended, and starting with Denard Span’s (MIN-CF) game-opening 7-pitch double. The Yankees failed to score first, losing the psychological advantage and comfort zone for their starter, and, significantly, they were facing a pitcher who, albeit inexperienced, was unknown to them, exactly the type of pitcher to stymie Yankee bats since late in the Joe Torre era, if I remember correctly. But Derek Jeter (NYY-SS) immediately pulled a HR to left (very unusual for him), scoring 2, and removing Sabathia’s deficit. In the 4th, Nick Swisher (NYY-RF) doubled-in Robinson Cano (NYY-2B), earning the lead for the Yankees, who held onto it and in fact built on it through the 7th inning. Sabathia was able to pitch through most of the 7th with no further scoring by Minnesota, having earned just the 1 run. (Minnesota’s second run was unearned, because it came in on a passed ball.) Joe Girardi (NYY-Manager) said Sabathia’s performance lived up to expectations, despite the effects of some miscommunication between the pitcher and catcher. Sabathia, who threw 113 pitches through 2 outs in the 7th, appeared to have shaken off any lingering effects of the questionable call after the 3rd inning and pitched a strong game, backed by consistent offense, despite commanding less than his very best , as he said himself.

It’s Official: “No one can predict baseball.”

“No one can predict baseball. No one. Ever.”
-John Sterling, WCBS Radio,
NLDS Game 1, MIN@NYY Top 7, 1 out
re: 2 unlikely runners let on by Sabathia, the second a routine double play turned askew when the ball hit the pitcher’s foot.

I see it is no longer just the listeners who cannot predict this game (as in, “You can’t predict baseball”). This is sounding serious, John! And, it is.

A Big CC Fan, I Worry about the Postseason

True he gets stronger as the regular season goes on, and he pitches well out of trouble. But he has been less than stellar in prior postseason appearances with Cleveland. I have avoided exploring these here. Let’s hope I don’t need to feel that need. He does seem to have filled-out his potential, paradoxically-speaking (I was so glad when, still in Cleveland, he told critics he was not going to focus on losing weight, just on aerobic conditioning. Funny how fellow big lefty David Wells addressed this issue differently! He is providing commentary on the TBS broadcast of this evening’s ALDS Game 1 vs Minnesota.)