At 2-outs in a scoreless tie at the bottom of the 15th — yes, you read that right — A-Rod swacked his bat to beat the Red Sox with a huge HR.
That same Friday night, but in Chicago, simultaneously screening on another cable station was one of those recently popularized Classic Games, full-length history from the vault. Guess which one competed with the Yanks hosting the Red Sox last night? You know you’ve got it! The Aaron Boone game! ALCS Game 7, 2003. (Do you remember where you were when you heard – or, like most of us, SAW it happen?) [Good news on Boone’s recovery from potentially career-ending open heart surgery, by the way. On schedule to rejoin the Astros on their expanded 40-man roster in September, he is set to play Monday with AA Corpus Christi and then move to AAA Round Rock for their homestand in the last week of August.]
Following Boone’s heroics, the Yanks unceremoniously moved him along, because, tyhe story goes, his off-the-field activities were interfering with his baseball readiness. Sound familiar? OK, so Boone hurt his knee in a pickup basketball game. A-Rod’s got some considerably more distracting extra-curricular routines!
So, now that he had his Aaron Boone Moment, might the Yankees move him along in the off-season?
As Mark Gremse would say, “That’s Baseball.”
PS It’s not that I don’t recognize the truth of what John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman point out almost every night: the huge improvement in the Yankee record and standings since he returned from the DL. Then again, one could easily counter, why was he ON the DL? What caused that injury? What’s my problem with him? I just don’t think he plays clean. And I’m not even talking about steroids. Remember the “Toronto ‘HA’“? (See A-Rod’s explanation on video) He plays as if his Captain were Jason Varitek, not Derek Jeter. It may play at Fenway, but not in Peoria, and certainly not right down Broadway to 161st and River Avenue.
Blue Jays 1 (57-49) @ Yankees 5 (62-41)
Nothing makes me remember that part of the world still makes sense like going to Yankee Stadium for a game. I’m on my way, will add later tonight. One plug for StubHub: Our Tier Reserved tickets accidentally were sold to someone else, and StubHub made good on their guarantee and replaced them at the same price — with Main Reserved MVP seats!
Floraine Kay and I agreed that this was an especially fun game to watch in person. Although homeruns are dramatic–and I will never turn one down–I am so glad that we have returned to the "small ball" style of play, which I find more strategically interesting and also more depenable than and the homerun style of game, in which we sit back and hope that someone expensive hits the ball out of the park. Frankly, I found that approach a bit demeaning to all our players during the year or two when we were acquiring sluggers with abandon. Runners gave up racing to base, fielding got sloppier (or was that my imaginaion?), etc. Anyway, now we have a lot of National League-style movement going-on on the basepaths, with swift basehits, double steals, and scoring. Nice. Even A-Rod and Giambi settled for basehits, and it was a good thing. A-Rod’s New York fans are determined to support him, even through strikeouts, and he got cheered in a big way when he connected for a single, and again when he stole second. Even when he was thrown out at home, the crowd was cool. The closest thing to a homerun by a Yankee was a roaring double by Miguel Cairo. Maybe he is strength training. He was fabulous. At bat, he got his own special Main Reserved MVP cheer. THAT was cool.
AJ Burnett seemed to burn out. Floraine thought the volume and intensity of the crowd might have worn him down toward the end of the 6th inning. Reliever Accardo kept us quiet for over an inning, but Tallet let in 1 more run. Jaret Wright let in only 1 run, in what would have been a bit of a pitching spectacle were it not for the tremendous infield assistance — especially the Jeter-Cairo-Giambi double plays. Outfield there were some big saves, too — one by Johnny Damon for Villone, one by Melky Cabrera, and a potentially damaging one in the 9th, for Farnsworth, by Bobby Abreu, with his bright orange glove, on his first day as a Yankee. Farnsworth closed out the 9th, once hitting 100mph. I had never seen that before. Wright pitched through the 5th allowing 1 run. Villone pitched the 6th and part of the 7th, Proctor finished the 7th and pitched the 8th, and Farnsworth got all 3 outs in the 9th. The relievers allowed no runs. What a cliche, relief.
Wed., July 26, 2006: Yankees 8 @ Rangers 7
I credit Mark Feinsand for choosing to center his article about this game around Shawn Chacon, who receives so little press, and whom the Yankees are reportedly — and, if true, regrettably — trying to trade. Quotations by players and Joe Torre are from Mr. Feinsand’s 7.27.06 article on MLB.com.
Someone get Shawn Chacon a BROOM! He swept those pesky Texans out of the way when no one else could. He re-ignited the GAME! Torre’s trusted team of relievers had just let the helium out of a heady homerun comeback by a headline-worthy "A-Bomb, from A-Rod," as John Sterling of WCBS never more aptly called the __ inning homerun by the slumping and much-maligned Alexander Rodriguez in the very ballpark he had abandoned 2 seasons ago for Yankee Stadium and the team everybody loves to hate. And it wasn’t just the A-Rod run….
It was the 8th, and we had been unable to score since the 1st, when Andy Phillips had singled-in Jeter and A-Rod. Despite reaching base 5 times that first inning, we paralyzed, Texas caught up then broke a tie to lead 4-2 in the 4th. Since that, nothing. Just that flat "When does Sheffield come back again" or "Gee, doesn’t Giambi look a little heavy and red about the eyes" kind of feeling. Not good.
So, nothing since the 1st and it’s the 8th and we’re down by 2. The man Marc Marc has called K-Rod and the master of the rally-killing homerun STARTS A RALLY. Well, first, he stepped to the plate and the earth shifted on its axis for a moment, from all those rolled eyes, you understand.
Chacon’s win in relief yesterday made tremendous, visceral sense of how a few tosses can constitute a genuinely meaningful "W" by virtue of turning the tide of a game. Here is A-Rod’s explanation of what Chacon did for the Yankees last night: "After Chacon got the double play, I had a good feeling. We were deflated, but we got some momentum back. When they didn’t score, we felt this was our game."
Even Torre gave it to him: "[Chacon] came in and was totally lights-out. He kept us in a position to do what we did. He’s the player of the game for me."
Before burying the point in what typically reads like shy self-effacement out of respect for what other players can do, even Chacon himself allowed himself to acknowledge the transformative power of his 3 8th inning outs: "After getting out of that jam, someone made a comment that we were going to win this game. It just felt like we were. They could have blown it open and they didn’t, and it wasn’t a game that was ever out of either team’s reach."
It was hard to know whom to root for in this afternoon’s Game 2 of the second Subway Series of 2006. On the one hand, the Yankees needed the win, and I am a Yankee fan. Should be cut and dried, right? The Mets did not need the win. Even simpler. But Steve Trachsel was pitching for the Mets against Randy Johnson and the Empire.
Forget the typical pleas for the so-called underdog. Please. The Yankees represent, among many things, my willing concession to the intertwining of power, money, and success. (I was recently gratified to find a similar sentiment expressed on the webpage of a politician I liked. I’ll have to look up his name.)
I started following Trachsel when he became a Met in 2001, as soon as Floraine Kay suggested that I keep an eye on him. She has a good eye. (Check out her Saddleshoe blog, linked to the right on my Blogroll.) Year after year, he threw pretty good games only to lose them either because the Mets’ line-up was on strike, or because the fielding behind him was anemic. Factoring in The Great Unravelling that followed the 2000 World Series, Trachsel — who already felt betrayed by the Cubs for letting him go to begin with (he split 2000 between Tampa Bay and Toronto) — walked into a clubhouse that was infected from top to bottom with mindgames, machinations, and backroom deals. What I remember is that the callers to the Joe Benigno WFAN show, which was on late nights back then, could say nothing good about this man. Sell him, get rid of him, he stinks, and much more colorful, less creative suggestions were made, and he wasn’t even bad. Good? No. But neither were the Mets as a whole. I’m not sure what they hit behind him that year, but he was 3rd in winning percentage among the 4 pitchers who earned decisions in 20 or more games (also Leiter, Appier, Rusch). From last in ERA in his first year with the Mets, he went to first in 2002, with 3.37, beating even Leiter who had 3.48. He and Leiter both posted .500 seasons, not bad in a season when the Mets won less than 47% of the time and had the worst fielding percentage as well as the highest number of errors commited in baseball.
Circling back to yesterday’s post, 2002 was when I first grew suspicious of some of those who call themselves "diehard Met fans" because they truly sound as if they hate the Mets. I may boo less than the average fan, but I can identify a [self] hater when I hear one. They are still calling-in to WFAN with the most insulting commentary on one of their steadiest pitchers, who never let himself get embroiled in the soap operas, even during the most turbulent years.
So, am I glad Trachsel won, holding the Yankees to 2 in front of Brian Cashman and George Steinbrenner for over 6 innings? YES. Did I hope the Mets’ bullpen would give up the game? YES. (In light of a post earlier this week, I must confess that I share in some guilt: As soon as A-Rod hit his 25th home run off Aaron Heilman in the 8th, I knew any hope of a comeback was futile. Is that backward logic, or what!)
I am, by the way, worried about Trachsel’s health. Willie Randolph saw something and pulled him immediately in the 7th. It turns out that his groin tightened after a fielding play, having aggravated an injury that has nagged at him for a couple weeks now, according to Marty Noble, the MLB.com Mets correspondent (Another article, with more detail about the injury, is here.)
OK, you A-Rod haters, remember where you were when the symbol of Yankee excess finally hit in the clutch and won a game, in dramatic fashion, at that. Starting June 28, 2006, you will have to find a different player to boo with such vehemence. I suspect most of you are Mets fans anyway. You just don’t know what to do with yourselves now that the Mets are doing so well, do you?
I mean no offense to fans of the Mets who genuinely feel for their team. In fact, I consider myself a fan of the Mets, and after a game at Shea, I frequently end up arguing with a "Met fan" on the 7 all the way back to Manhattan, defending the hometeam we just saw. Seems like the only team they hate more than their own is the Yankees.
I think there is a group of A-Rod haters from Shea. who comprise a sub-species of fan, an alleged "diehard Mets fan." As soon as Piazza went to the Padres and Beltran started hitting, they panicked, dove into the river, and started swimming uptown. By the time they got to The Bronx, poisoned by the chemicals and whateverelse they took in as they swam, A-Rod was too easy a shot to miss.
It’s not that the rest of us didn’t have anything to say about A-rod, by the way. I have revelled in the titles that Marc Marc has bestowed upon him, such as K-rod and E-rod. I am among the many who have chosen A-Rod’s 2-out at-bats to start for the concession stands. (We didn’t miss anything, did we, fellow comrades-in-line? Except those of us whose hubris tempted our attention away from the field on the 28th….) I shouldn’t be upset that he watched his winning homerun sail out of the park before running to first, right? He knew it was going. He needed to know. It won’t happen again. He’s no Soriano. Right?
If you must convince someone else or simply remind yourself that it is true, that A-rod won a Yankee game with a walk-off homerun, enjoy this video highlight from MLB.com, featuring Michael Kay’s famous "See ya!" to the homerun gone. Link: New York Yankees : Video : Yankees Top Plays Archive.