A few of us in the press box broached this subject as Game 4 slowly drew to a conclusion: Assuming the Yankees find a way to win one more game, who’s the MVP of the ALCS?
It’s Alex or CC. Or CC or Alex.
My gut reaction is Alex, who has singlehandedly changed both the ALDS and ALCS. Just ask Joe Nathan and Brian Fuentes. His remarkable numbers represent personal redemption that is almost incomprehensible in its completeness.
Will anyone ever label him “un-clutch” again?
I don’t love numbers but his in postseason are these: .407, 11-for-27, five home runs, 11 RBIs, four walks, four strikeouts. That’s the tangible part. The intangible part is that there isn’t a pitcher with a heartbeat who wants to see him at the plate right now. In any situation.
Meanwhile CC has been almost unhittable. Neither the Twins nor the Angels have had a chance when he’s been on the mound. And his best outing of the bunch arguably was last night’s, on three days rest. (He’s also saved Girardi from some of those shaky bullpen moves.)
His playoff stats, in winning all three of his starts: 22.2 innings, 1.19 ERA, 17 hits, three earned runs, 20 strikeouts, three walks. He’s thrown 327 pitches, meaning he is allowing an opponent to get a hit every 19 or 20 pitches. And he allows a baserunner every 16 or 17 pitches.
When you watch CC, he never, ever appears to lose control, of his stuff or his senses, even when he runs into a bit of trouble. He doesn’t ever seem even slightly out of sorts. It’s amazing.
So, who’s your ALCS MVP?
The (possible) World Series: Those CC vs. Cliff Lee starts could be incredible, no? And in Ryan Howard, the Phils have their version of Alex. Should be fun.
The best closer of all-time: So, on the team bus to Angel Stadium yesterday, Mariano asked me if I’d heard a story about him spitting on the ball. Yes, I said. Then he laughed.
We chatted about it briefly; he said a friend had just told him in a phone conversation about the “controversy.” Clearly, Mariano found the whole thing preposterous. (As did MLB and Mike Scioscia.)
I asked Mariano if I could repeat this story. He said yes. (Ordinarily, I consider happenings on the bus and charter to be off limits.) And I asked if I could report that he laughed.
“You can say whatever you want to,” he said, smiling. And then he laughed some more.
Mariano has the ability to dismiss the absurd, or a poor outing, as well as any athlete I’ve ever seen. His temperament is as important as his cutter in making him the closer, and competitor, he is. Maybe more so.
Seems like a lifetime ago when people were doubting him back in April and early May, doesn’t it?
The three hole: Before you lash out, here is a disclaimer: Mark Teixeira’s defense has absolutely, positively saved the Yankees’ bacon at important times this postseason. No doubt about it.
But it’s amazing how little production the Yankees and the Angels have gotten from the third spot in the order.
Teixeira is hitting .133 in the playoffs, Torii Hunter .222.
Neither Teixeira nor Hunter has an RBI in the ALCS. If Hunter could have managed a big hit in Game 2, this series might be tied.
The Angels won’t lie down; they’ve overcome too much for that. Scioscia says it’s a “one step at a time” deal at this point; of course he’s right. And it’ll start with free-agent-to-be John Lackey in Game 5. But at some point the Angels’ bats have to help out.
The umpires: Where to start? Their incompetence, even on the easiest of calls, is the story of the postseason. It’s been that bad, that obvious, that inexplicable.
And people are finally starting to pay attention.
Yankees fans aren’t obsessed with this, and understandably so, because their team has benefited from most of the calls.
But maybe the sheer volume of blatantly bad calls has exposed the umpires’ collective arrogance and will lead to changes. For example, most of them simply refuse to move physically – even a step or two – to get into better position to see a call properly. And it’s mind-boggling that they so rarely confer with each other when there is doubt. What in the world would be the harm in talking it out, to try to be sure?
At least in the NFL they attempt to get the calls right and, in a sport where the number of simultaneously moving parts is unparalleled, almost always succeed.
As you know, Tim McClelland – the crew chief in this series – blew two calls last night, one immediately after second base ump Dale Scott inexplicably went Phil Cuzzi on us by signaling Nick Swisher safe.
McClelland explained his makeup call by saying, “In my heart I thought (Swisher) left too soon” from third base.
In the next inning, McClelland had a “Three Stooges” moment. Afterward he had no choice but to admit the replay “showed that Cano was off the bag when he was tagged. I did not see that for whatever reason.”
(How the famously even-keeled Scioscia didn’t get thrown out there, I’ll never know. And Scioscia simply refuses to make the umpires part of the story in this series, which says a lot about him.)
Anyway, here’s the most troubling part to me. When an umpire, no less a crew chief, admits to making a bad, bad call because it was in his heart, that sounds like dangerous territory. Imagine arbitrators at any level relying on heartstrings over rule of law to make decisions. Yikes.
Thank you: Speaking of the inexplicable – given the lack of blog posts by me over the past month – this blog remains popular. Really popular. I’m shocked and deeply grateful. Here are the rankings. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And we’ll do another chat soon. I promise.
This Week in Football: After a 2-1 week, guess who’s out of the cellar? Me! Take that, Ross, Howard, Gary and Gordon! It helped that the Favres, my pick, beat the Ravens, Tucker’s pick, head-to-head. Here are my picks for this week, only slightly later than TWIF producer Jared Boshnack would like them: Giants will rebound against Cards, but the pass defense has to improve. Lots. Jets over Oakland, which isn’t an easy choice. They have to simplify for Sanchez, no? And Saints over Dolphins because Sean Payton is a creative genius.
Angela (from my chat), you were correct! Jesse Carlson was spotted by My9 cameras in the visiting dugout after he was ejected last night. Flaherty and Leiter say they were making the point during the broadcast that Carlson should not have been there. Nice catch, Ang!
“This Week in Football”: I’m required by producer Jared Boshnack to make NFL picks. Went 2-1 last week, hitting on Giants and Saints and missing the Jets. This week, I’ll take the Giants because of their pass rush. And the Patriots because they’re the Patriots. For my third pick, I’ll go with the Titans over the Texans because the Texans looked awful and somewhat disinterested.
Angels-Yankees: Yeah, it’s two days late, but Monday’s game yielded some interesting comments from the visiting clubhouse. Said pitcher Jered Weaver, who is having an outstanding season: “It’s pick your poison with anybody who comes up to the plate for them.” Said Mike Scioscia, who knows a thing or two about how much solid relief pitching can propel a team: “(The Yankees are) definitely not a team you want to get in a bullpen war with.”
Should be a fun three-game series in Anaheim, beginning Monday. And here’s a weekend highlight: CC against King Felix on Saturday night at Safeco Field.
A quiet Sunday morning in the clubhouse. The Yankees held optional batting practice. CC was hanging out with his 5-year-old son. Lil’ C watched his dad’s side session then took some hacks in the cage. Not surprisingly, Lil’ C can swing the bat.
A bunch of players were knee-deep in preparations for their fantasy football draft, scheduled for tonight. There were more fantasy football magazines in the clubhouse than there are at 7-Eleven. Rumor has it, Hinske is taking his job as league commissioner very, very seriously.
A day after wearing a Donovan McNabb jersey, Bruney sauntered to his locker wearing a Tony Romo jersey. He says he’s a lifelong Cowboys fan and wore the Eagles jersey because it was a gift from Damon. Hughes seemed disgusted by that. Hughes and Bruney have the first and second overall picks in the fantasy draft.
We’ll get you plenty of info on the fantasy football developments before the NFL season starts Sept. 10. Alex is part of the league. He was wearing a Bears hat yesterday. “I just like the hat,” he said. “It was a gift.”
What’s going on with all the NFL-themed gifts?
Joba Chamberlain: The Joba Rules are something. He’s out after three innings and 35 pitches. Aceves is in. Can’t wait to hear what Joba says about this outing after the game. One question looking ahead to next season: Will there be Hughes Rules?
George Martin: Two weeks from today, Sept. 13, the all-time great New York Giant will continue his Journey for 9/11 by walking from the George Washington Bridge to Giants Stadium. The 13-mile walk begins at 10 a.m. It ends in plenty of time for the Giants season opener at 4:15. Harry Carson and O.J. Anderson will join Martin, who walked across the country — 3,003 miles — on his original “Journey,” which benefits responders to 9/11 and helps with their healthcare needs. (We’d walk if we could; the Yankees have a 1 p.m. tilt against the Orioles that day.) For more information, go to ajourneyfor911.info.
The wild card: Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times does a great job breaking down the wild card battle. “It’s going to be interesting,” Joe Maddon said. “The Rangers are good, Boston’s good, we’re good. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a fun September.” The Red Sox visit the Rays Tuesday to begin a three-game series. Playing at home and behind in the three-team race, Tampa has to win two. At least.
Beautiful day here in Chicago. A surprising number of Yankees fans were dodging raindrops on Michigan Avenue yesterday. Maybe it shouldn’t surprise us.
Melky Cabrera: What is it about Melky that he seems to come up with a big hit just when the Yankees need one? Like his three-run homer off Buehrle in the second inning.
Jerry Hairston Jr.: Girardi loves his versatility. Girardi also loves Ransom. It’s hard to see the need for both.
Ozzie Guillen: We didn’t have to bleep him at all for pregame today. That might be a first. He is fun. He also promised a quick game today. Um, maybe not.
Jake Peavy: If his new team’s preferred timetable is correct, he’ll face the Red Sox and Yankees on a road trip that begins Aug. 24. Ozzie hopes Peavy, who threw in the bullpen today, could make his debut even before then.
Al Leiter and the Rev. Jesse Jackson: What do these gentlemen have in common? Both paid dinner tabs last night in one of Chicago’s most popular restaurants. Leiter left a 20 percent tip, picking up the sizable tab for a table of four. Thanks, Al. (Full disclosure: Kay picked up the bar tab and also left a 20 percent tip. Thanks, Michael.) Restaurant sources indicated the Rev. Jackson went the 8 percent route, leaving $31 on a tab of just over $28 dollars.
CC Sabathia and Mark Buerhle: Halfway through and there are 20 hits and 11 runs on the board. And Tony Pena, not the bench coach, has relieved Buerhle. That’s baseball, as they say.
Guess who paid a visit to the Yankees clubhouse before the game? George M. Steinbrenner III. He then moved upstairs to a suite where he is watching the game – believed to be the first time he’s seen the Yankees play in person since the season opener.
Mr. Steinbrenner visited in the manager’s office for about 45 minutes during and after batting practice. Players came in to shake hands and visit with him.
Michael Kay says Mr. Steinbrenner kiddingly asked Matsui why he doesn’t speak English yet. Matsui answered in English, saying he uses interpreter Roger Kahlon only for the media. Surely, everyone in the room got a kick out of that.
C.C. and CC: Nice job by Crawford and Sabathia today in answering questions, giving advice and offering batting and pitching tips to 300 kids from local Boys and Girls Clubs. Both also signed lots of autographs. CC signs with his right-handed, interestingly. Then again, Joba signs with his left.
Alfredo Aceves: He has a fatigued pitching shoulder, which is why he’s been on the mound for just one-third of an inning over the past eight days. For the past three days, he received treatment. He says he woke up this morning feeling “great.” Then he threw 20 fastballs off the mound before batting practice and said he felt “great.” Girardi says he’d be inclined to think about using Aceves tomorrow in Chicago.
Shelley Duncan: Assuming the bullpen is refreshed, the Yankees could add a right-handed bat for the White Sox series, when they’ll see lefty starters on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. If they stay in-house, Duncan is a possibility. Girardi said if they do go the call-up route, it wouldn’t necessarily be a permanent move; it could be something that simply makes sense for, say, a four-game series.
Joba Chamberlain: He looks so much better when gets the ball and throws it. No more shaking off Posada 100 times. It seems to work nicely.
Marissa of Central Jersey: She’s 15 and she’s a blog reader and she presented us with a box of Mike & Ike’s today at the Trop. Thank you, Marissa! Maybe we’ll save them for Chicago and share with Leiter. Maybe.
This is a series the Yankees want to win and the Rays have to win. As for tonight’s pitching matchup, this says a lot: A.J. hasn’t lost since June 20; James Shields hasn’t won since June 20.
Shields was the Rays opening day starter. He’s 6-6 with nine no-decisions. He closed the first half with one win in his last six starts.
A.J. has been, in a word, dominant. Since that disaster in Boston on June 9, he’s gone 5-1 in seven starts and allowed a total of 10 earned runs.
We’re not always into numbers telling the whole story, but the performance of these two has gone a long way in the respective seasons of their teams.
A.J. also has made a habit out of getting out of self-induced jams, whether it’s a couple of walks or what he just did in the first inning – after his throwing error allowed Crawford to go from first to third with one out, he struck out Longoria and got Zobrist to fly out. (Even if Swisher made it a bit of an adventure.)
Hideki Matsui: Wonder what they’d call that slide in Japan. It was almost a belly flop in reverse. Like a butt flop. At the very least, it’s something his teammates will make fun of. Of course, they’ll also appreciate that he busted it from first to score on the Posada double.
The Rays: According to Elias, Tampa Bay’s .524 combined winning percentage of the teams remaining on its schedule is second-highest, behind the Jays. It’s going to be almost impossible for the Rays to duplicate last season’s magic. They do have 36 of their remaining 63 games at home, including tonight’s.
Michael Kay: He went with chicken fingers and fries from the concession stand for dinner. Kenny ate in the dining room. We had some fries, added onto Kay’s order. Somehow there are peaches, bananas and cherries in the booth, which is much healthier than the usual fare. Where are the Snickers?
CC and CC: We’ll be there Wednesday for “Catching up with Carl Crawford,” when Sabathia joins him for an event to encourage more African-American youth to play baseball. Both CCs are excited about it. We’ll have coverage on the BP and pregame shows.
Update (9:42 p.m.): Another thing about A.J.-Shields: A.J. entered the game with a 3.74 ERA. Shields’ was 3.70. Shields, for whom run support obviously has been an issue, lost two games in April despite giving up three or fewer runs. But more recently, Shields hasn’t been as stingy. In his last four starts, including tonight, Shields has given up 17 runs. A.J. has given up 16 earned runs in his last 11 starts.
It really does come down to pitching (and defense), doesn’t it? The Yankees are getting big pitching performances and the Rays aren’t. That’s the difference between these teams.
Our feature on Polly Tompkins ran today during pregame and Polly texted to make sure we knew she appreciated it. Sometimes, that’s all that matters. This is one of those times.
Polly is such an inspiration, an example of how to stay positive — and keep smiling — when faced with extreme adversity. In her case, it’s the return of cancer. And we wish her well as she continues to fight and, hopefully, continues to get good news.
Brett Gardner: The Yankees will miss the instant offense and speed on the basepaths he provides, not to mention that he’s hit over .300 since mid-May. Gardner will be in a cast for two weeks and re-evaluated. He won’t be available for the series in Tampa, which starts tomorrow, or the upcoming one against Boston, beginning Aug. 6 at the Stadium. He’s the player in pinstripes who plays most like a Ray.
Rickey Henderson: The man who once said, “I’m a walking record” will make a speech that could be one for the ages at the Hall of Fame. We’ll have to catch the (many?) highlights.
Paul O’Neill: His kids are here today, so there are three pizzas in the booth. Or what’s left of them. “Another slice and some ice cream and I’ll be set,” Paul just said between innings.
Alfredo Aceves: He joined media relations czar Jason Zillo on “Batting Practice Today presented by Audi” to talk about HOPE Week. Ace made a big impact, playing guitar for the Camp Sundown children and young adults late Thursday night. He had as much fun as they did.
CC and CC: Still have to read the Sports Illustrated article on Carl Crawford. That’s on the to-do list during the flight. On Wednesday in Tampa, Crawford will be joined by CC Sabathia for an hour before the game for “Catching up with Carl Crawford,” an event to encourage more African-American youth to play baseball. They’ll tell stories to the kids. We’ll try to listen in.
Adam Jones: The Orioles center fielder is one of the best young players in the game. He also happens to share his name with the NFL cornerback nicknamed Pacman by his grandmother. Pacman Jones has had a hard time staying out of trouble, to put it charitably. Adam Jones, an All-Star, cleans his own cleats in the clubhouse. Where are we going here? Last night, while a sports wrap-up show was providing background noise, we heard an anchorman who thought he was very, very clever link the two, yelling “Pacman!” while some Orioles highlights played. That’s nice. And just wrong on a couple of different levels.
Meanwhile, Adam Jones the Oriole can’t stand being called Pacman. Can you blame him?
Just after our pregame pop, AJ and Wang walked into the dugout together. Wang was smiling and carrying a large cup of peanuts. He knows Wednesday is his last chance to show he should stay in the rotation; before Girardi told the media that, he told it to Wang.
So begins a life-altering six-day stretch for Wang, whose wife will have labor induced Tuesday, if necessary. They are expecting their first child, a son.
And then Wang will start the following night against the Nationals, a team that struggles mightily but can put runs on the board, to prove he still has it.
Given that some Yankees coaches and players are convinced Wang’s troubles stem from waning — or completely shot — confidence, it sets up this dynamic: He will take the mound knowing he has to perform but not necessarily believing he can perform.
As for what’s next if Wang doesn’t perform, it’s probably back to the bullpen, given he has no options left. Unless he winds up on the DL again.
“One of the nicest guys”: For what it’s worth, and that might be a lot, Wang has plenty of support among his teammates. Cano tells us that Wang is “a great guy, one of the nicest guys in this room,” meaning the visiting mini-clubhouse at Fenway. “I always tell him to keep his head up, but that’s hard to do when you’re not the player you expect yourself to be.”
Over the next few days, Mariano will seek out Wang for a heart-to-heart. It might not be a long conversation, but Mariano is putting thought into what he will say. Mariano will express to Wang, as he did to us, that “I expect him to turn it around, and that I want the best for him.”
His teammates can impart wisdom and faith, but it will ultimately be up to Wang to take the mound with the confidence of years past. At this point, he has no choice.
Tiger tale: Bruney, who will make a rehab appearance Saturday and could return Tuesday, currently has custody of the Tiger Woods figurine, having defeated Gardner in their regular Tiger Woods video game battles. “Now she’s going to blog that,” Gardner told Bruney and other teammates. Thanks for reading, Brett!
Good stuff: CC will visit with 8th-graders tomorrow at Elizabeth Barrett Browning Middle School in the Bronx. The school made dramatic improvement in NY state exams, and this is a reward. CC will take questions from the 170 students. No doubt he’s hoping one of them is, “How did you beat the Red Sox last night?”
And Gardner will return to NY-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital to reunite with 18-year-old heart transplant recipient Alyssa. When the two met May 15 at a hospital event, Alyssa gave Gardner a bracelet and told him he would hit a home run as long as he kept it. Hours later, he hit an inside-the-park home run. And Alyssa, who had been waiting 107 days for her transplant, received a lifesaving heart transplant the next day.
Is it June 11? Really? It’s cold again here in Boston. Kay just asked Anita the Stage Manager for a hot tea with two Sweet ‘N Lows. “I don’t make talent mix their own drinks,” Anita said, explaining why Kay receives the tea already sweetened.
Kay will order another tea or two before the game ends. He had pizza before the game; two full slices, not just the cheese.
We also had pizza, some salad, diet coke.
Flaherty is drinking coffee “with a little bit of milk,” Anita reports. “And Kenny has hot tea.” No Sweet ‘N Low? “Nothing,” Anita shrugs. “Straight up.”
Kenny just ordered tea with Sweet ‘N Low. Maybe Kay is rubbing off on him. Anita is appropriately shocked.
“This is the first time in three days,” she says.
Coming up: There’s been scarcely any Subway Series talk in the visiting clubhouse, given that most of the attention has been on the Red Sox series. But tomorrow should be fun. If it’s 80 degrees, it’ll be even more fun. Maybe Tino will be in town!
Hi there! Unlike this trip, this blog post is going to be short.
Lots going on today. Bad news for Xavier Nady, who is a good guy. His eyes watered as he talked about the initial diagnosis on his right elbow being “not great” and as he said he spent the morning making some difficult calls to family members and friends. He expects a final diagnosis tomorrow, when he will go on the DL, and is worried that he’ll need a second Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He initially had the procedure in September 2001 and said he was ready for the start of A ball the following spring.
This is why you don’t automatically trade an outfielder just because you have one too many.
Interesting approach with Chien-Ming Wang today. He threw his bullpen with Joe Girardi and Dave Eiland among the onlookers. Then he went to the pitcher’s mound and faced live batting practice, with Cody Ransom and Melky Cabrera taking swings. The goal is to have Wang translate his good bullpen sessions to the game, something he clearly hasn’t done through two starts. Wang said the issue has been balance-related, with his legs getting ahead of his arm.
We’ll see how it works Saturday, I guess.
Today’s lunch/dinner update: Kay and Cone ate in the press dining room – somewhat of an upset, to the betting public – as did I, though later. The buffet included meatballs, chicken parm, veggies and stuffed shells. Flaherty skipped ballpark food; he had a sandwich at the hotel.
The Yankees head home after the game and every single person in the traveling party is ecstatic about that. There are a million cowbells here at the Trop – today’s giveaway – so it’ll be a loud sendoff if the Rays get going.
Nice to see everyone wearing No. 42. CC Sabathia said one of the reasons he didn’t fly ahead of the team in anticipation of his start tomorrow is because he wanted to take part in Jackie Robinson Day.
I asked Mariano Rivera about the home opener being tomorrow. His response: “I love it.”
Almost forgot to mention how funny Lorenz was tonight, particularly before we went on the air.
He asked me what’s new, “besides those earrings.”
I was wearing silver hoops.
“They look like rims from a monster truck!” he said.
It was funny. Maybe it was partly Lorenz’s delivery, but it was really funny. We always laugh a lot — unless I’m in a bad mood 🙂 — before we go on the air. Hopefully that translates, when appropriate, when we are on the air.
CC is dealing! Who cares about the heating pad? You know, CC handled the past few days as well as he could have. The guy doesn’t act like the media is a bother. (Yes, it’s April 11, but he seems genuine). He was always available, and affably so, to discuss his awful Monday start. But, something tells me he’ll enjoy talking about this one more..hmmessage P