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.

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.


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.)

Umpiring Assignments, Division Series 2009

NLDS- COL@PHI Wed 10.7.2009 2:37pm at Citizens Bank Park:
Gerry Davis (Crew Chief), Bob Davidson, Jerry Meals, Ron Kulpa, Angel Hernandez, Tim Timmons

NLDS- STL@LAD Wed 10.7.2009 10:07pm at Dodger Stadium:
Dana DeMuth (Crew Chief), Brian O’Nora, Mike Everitt, Jeff Nelson, Ed Rapuano, Tony Randazzo

ALDS- MIN@NYY Wed 10.7.2009 6:07pm at Yankee Stadium:
Tim Tschida (Crew Chief), Chuck Meriwether, Mark Wegner, Paul Emmel, Jim Joyce, Phil Cuzzi

ALDS- BOS@LAA Thur 10.8.2009 9:37pm at Angel Stadium:
Joe West (Crew Chief), C.B. Bucknor, Eric Cooper, Greg Gibson, Brian Gorman, Dan Lassogna

Experience of Crew Chiefs, in years:
Gerry Davis- 24, Dana Demuth- 26, Tim Tschida- 24, Joe West- 32

Source: ALDS, NLDS Umpire Crews Announced (by Mark Sheldon / MLB.com. Published 10/05/09 3:30 PM ET)

Questionable Calls – NLDS Game 1 COL@PHI, Wed 10.7.09 on TBS

Umpire Crew, NLDS Game 1 COL vs PHI, Wed. 10-7-09 2:07pm at Citizens Bank Park:
Umpires: HP: Gerry Davis (Crew Chief), 1B: Bob Davidson, 2B: Jerry Meals, 3B: Ron Kulpa, LF: Angel Hernandez, RF: Tim Timmons

Top 2
3B umpire Ron Culpa called-out Yorvit Torrealba (COL-C) on Jason Werth’s (PHI-RF) strong throw to Pedro Feliz (PHI-3B), ending the inning. TBS broadcasters said Torrealba, who had tagged-up at second on Clint Barmes’ (COL-2B) flyout, beat the tag.
Effect: Possible run scored + more pitches thrown by starter Cliff Lee (PHI-P).
With 2 outs and Torrealba at 3rd, Ubaldo Jimenez (COL-P), #9 hitter, would have needed to knock-in Torrealba or, more likely, coax a walk out of Cliff Lee (PHI-P) to bring up the leadoff batter Dexter Fowler (COL-CF), a switch-hitter who batted .500 off Lee in 4 at-bats against him this season.

Bottom 3
2B umpire ___ ruled that Cliff Lee (PHI-P) was back safe at 2B after Ubaldo Jimenez’s (COL-P) pickoff throw. (Lee had just stolen 2nd and taken a lead toward 3rd.) Jimenez had Lee picked-off at 2nd, according to TBS broadcasters, who said he ran into the tag.
Effect: 1 extra pitch thrown by Jimenez to Jimmy Rollins (PHI-SS) for the strikeout and 3rd out.

Of course, fans will wonder about the psychological effects of 2 bad calls favoring a home team in consecutive early innings. Did the Rockies lose momentum when Torrealba was wrongly called out at 3rd to end the 2nd inning just 90 feet from home? Were the Phillies energized by what looked to some like home field favoritism? Escaping the embarrassing 3rd out that he should have incurred by taking too big a lead during slugger Rollins’ at bat, and right on the heels of a successful steal – rarely attempted by a pitcher – was Lee able to ride an endorphin rush through 9 innings to his near-shutout of the Rockies? Because their pitcher was due up next for the Rockies with 2 outs in the 2nd, and because Rollins was down 2 strikes with 2 outs in the 3rd, I hesitate to draw this conclusion. But Lee did establish control of his game to dominate for remaining innings, whereas Jimenez began losing hold of his in the 5th before leaving in the 6th, and his offense could not pick him up to score against Lee until the 9th.

Twice-a-Yank, Miggy Makes Phillies’ Post-Season Roster!

Eric Bruntlett, no. Miguel Cairo, yes. Sophie’s choice, maybe. But I always saw it as telling that as a Yankee, Cairo wore #14, same as his fellow-Venezuelan and off-the-cuff World Series hero Luis Sojo, though I do not know if Sojo was his inspiration.

What I do know is that Cairo has a knack for -here comes the cliche- making things happen when it matters. I have seen it over and over. To those concerned that he spent most of the season in the minors and batted only .267 in 45 at-bats in the majors this year, I reiterate: Miggy’s heroics are seldom represented in his average. In 2006, Yankees’ WCBS Radio broadcaster John Sterling was fond of waxing that he was the best .239 hitter in the game. He will get on base, he will run, and he will score. He will also make some great defensive plays as a utility infielder, now playing shortstop for the Phillies.

This year, though, Cairo has strengthened his numbers and his power. According to MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, he has been batting .357 since August 29, getting hot when it matters most and hitting harder, with 2 doubles, a triple, and his first HR since 2005. As a AAA Iron Pig, he hit .287 in 296 at-bats with some key runs. Although his on-base percentage has not been in the gaudy upper 300’s for several years, it is his timing that has always impressed me. Clutch-performances, especially when they are walks, may be hard to quantify and impossible to depend on. Still, except at Yankee Stadium, where perhaps the tugs of rejection will sting, I would bet on him. Heck, why not at the Stadium too. The Yanks do not typically bring a player back twice, but if the Phillies play there in the Series, the audition may be as important for him as the Series itself. No, I am not confusing him with Ramiro Mendoza, who wanted to die a Yankee. But Miggy, like Mendoza, IS a Yankee, whatever the uniform.