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.
“The game was a tidy 3 hours and 48 minutes.” Straight, no sarcasm. (Yankees 6 @ Boston 4)
That’s how WCBS radio play-by-play man John Sterling presented the duration of tonight’s opening series-tying win by the Yankees in Boston. Sure, he and partner Suzyn Waldman joke about how long the games between the Yankees and Red Sox can be, but they are rarely exasperated. Sometimes they even sound like kids who can’t believe how late they get to stay up. By contrast, I can’t overestimate how many times I have heard Sterling’s TV counterpart on the YES Network say it differently:
“The game was an unmanageable ___ hours and ___ minutes.” I’ve even heard him complain about games in the 2 hour range. Such a balloon buster can Michael Kay be. I am not even curious if he repeated his mantra tonight.
Did John Sterling really say Neil Diamond was wearing a Boston hat? I get why he showed up to sing at Fenway, but did he have to wear the hat?
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.
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.
“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.
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.
We’ve all heard it said, but for the record (meaning, my memory), sinkerballers need to “get the ball down.” If balls are flying off the bat, chances are the sinker isn’t sinking. That’s from Suzyn Waldman, confirmed by John Sterling today as Yankee replacement starter Sergio Mitre gets hit for 2 in the 1st at the Stadium.
A lefty will throw a change-up to right-handed batters because it will drop away. It’s hard to execute to a lefty without going too far inside. That’s John.