I'm not saying I buy this, or that I even necessarily want Ortiz in a Yankee lineup. But the psychological blow of that defection would be insane -- way more intense than Johnny "I'll never play for the Yankees" Damon.
Also, read this incredible Boston Globe story about the unravelling of the 2011 Red Sox. It's actually an unfair piece. As Terry Francona observes at one point, had the Sox actually lived up to expectations, accounts of how Josh Beckett blew off workouts for buckets of chicken would become hagiographies about how a three-time World Champion pitches too effortlessly for the minutiae of exercise. It wouldn't be about team laziness, it would be about how Papelbon showed up for optional training sessions.
The irony, the one that cuts Red Sox Nation to the quick, is that the Red Sox in 2011 are where the Yankees were from 2004 to 2007. An overpaid club addicted to overspending on marquee free agents in the hope of replicating an astonishing World Series run, burdened as the winningest manager in its history loses control, and unable to address its poisonous locker-room culture. And yet the club still contends every year, removing much of the incentive to change.
The 2006 ALDS hurt like a motherfucker. It wasn't just that the Tigers were the better team. Anyone who saw the 2006 regular season knew that, and I was lucky enough to check out an August matchup between -- as it happens -- the Tigers and the Rangers at Comerica to witness it up close.* It was because the Tigers so thoroughly outperformed the Yankees.
The outcome of the 2011 ALDS is, of course, the same. And I was pretty upset last night. But it's hard to be bitter about this one. These teams turned out to be evenly matched. My test for a good series is whether there's ever a moment where one team seems defeated. You couldn't say that for a single frame of these five games, even during the Yankees' sporadic hitting clinics. A five-game series that ends with a one-run differential in the bottom of the ninth is an exciting series. It happened to not break in the direction I wanted. Such is life.
Tyler Kepner has a smart article quantifying that perception, and arguing against the Yankee ethos that any season that doesn't end with a World Series title is a failure:
It was an odd series, tough to make much sense of it. The Yankees outscored the Tigers, 28-17. They reached base more often, had a better slugging percentage, hit for a higher average — .260 to the Tigers’ .228. The Yankees’ pitchers had a 3.27 earned run average, more than two runs better than the Tigers’ 5.73.
This was not the colossal beating the Yankees absorbed from the Rangers last fall. It was more like a compressed version of the 1960 World Series, against the Pittsburgh Pirates, when the Yankees won the blowouts and lost the close games.
You know what might be the best stat from the ALDS, from the perspective of a Yankee fan looking to the future? In his first postseason appearance, Jesus Montero, the next great homegrown Yankee, went 2 for 2 with an RBI. Even if the Yankees make no offseason adjustments, the 2012 team is in good shape. We're a few tweaks away. I refuse to accept that the winningest franchise in the history of sports is defined by the 81 seasons it didn't take the title.
Yes, I know. I have exactly one commenter who shares my fandom. But you guys know what you're going to get from me at this point. As a great man once said, if you don't like my lyrics, you can press fast-forward.
* My only non-Yankee sports memorabilia came from that trip: a Curtis Granderson t-shirt. Savor that.
I just watched Mariano Rivera earn his 602nd save. On a strikeout looking -- a third pitch, preceded by a broken-bat foul ball -- to Minnesota's Chris Parmalee. There isn't any real dispute over this proposition, but now there can't be: Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer who ever lived. There will never be another like him.
Someone will someday beat Mo's record. Joe Girardi said in his postgame press conference he will be "shocked" if someone does it in any of our lifetimes. And can anyone think someone will surpass Mo on the strength of only one pitch?
I can't criticize a thing about today. But I lost my shit when YES flashed on Jorge cheering for Mo at the top of the dugout. Couldn't Girardi have let Jorgie put on his gear and catch Mo's final out? Though while we're at it, maybe Joe coulda put his catcher gear on and caught the second out.
Whatever. No criticism. I'm so happy that one day I will get to tell my children that I saw Mariano Rivera pitch.
I had three goals for Japan. 1. Yomiuri Giants game. 2. Dawn visit to the world's greatest fish market. 3. A Bathing Ape. I left batting .666.
The Giants were on the road the week that we made it to Tokyo. But Japan's historic baseball madness ensured that its capitol wouldn't be stuck with merely one baseball club. So we headed to Jingu Stadium our second night in town to watch the Tokyo Yakult Swallows take on the Yokohama Bay Stars, who I think were favored. The scene outside the park, 30 minutes before first pitch:
One mistake I didn't know I was making: I bought us tickets along the third-base line. We quickly learned that was the visitors' fans section. Not that we were invested, but it felt uncharitable to Tokyo to spend all our time amongst the Yokohama supporters. And the culture of stadium fandom is a lot more like soccer than American baseball: there are customized chants for individual players when they step into the box or make impressive plays; lots of team-flag waving at important moments; and lots of cheap noisemakers to cheer on the club.
For instance: witness the passion play of an early-inning at bat by Yokohama's Norihiro Nakamura. I filmed him because a couple people seated in our section were wearing his 99 jersey. From his stats, he seems like a pretty-good journeyman whose best seasons are behind him, but he's got his diehards.
Make the fucking deal! If this report is accurate, Colorado has lowered its asking price for Ubaldo by now asking for only two out of the Yanks' three top prospects. Nova -- dude, I like the way you pitch and you have clear potential. But only a fool would value Nova over Jimenez. Montero had a disappointing season in the minors this year, and with Russell Martin calling such a good game and foiling the pitching staff's occasional wildness, there's no real place to put him. I won't front like I follow the farm teams very closely, but my father -- who does -- told me Mariano Rivera co-signed for Banuelos as the best prospect Mo has ever seen. But if the Rockies aren't insisting on Banuelos, send Nova, Betances and Montero on a plane to Denver yesterday.
I'm guessing Cashman is taking this thing down to the wire to maximize his leverage. It would be a debacle if deal falls through because of a disagreement on Jimenez's value. Jimenez has a career WHIP of 1.279. (C.C. Sabathia? 1.219. Justin Verlander? 1.207. Ervin "I just threw a no-hitter" Santana? 1.303.) The Yankees are overperforming despite their rotation weaknesses. This isn't a bad season by any stretch, but Ubaldo gives them depth and stamina that I'm not sure we possess moving into the postseason, knowing that the buzzsaw of Boston and especially Philadelphia awaits.