• October 7th @ The Tigers

    Posted by on October 7th, 2006 · Comments (15)

    By the time that Lidle, in relief of Wright, was knocked out of this game in the 5th inning (with no one out), this game – and the Yankees season – was over.

    Not even pithy T-Shirts or select Pacino movies could get the Yankees to the ALCS this year.

    Five days ago, about this ALDS match-up, I wrote:

    I know that some might see this match-up as the 2003 World Series all over again – facing a young and care-free rags to riches team, with pitchers that throw hard, and they play in a big ballpark, with crafty manager, etc.

    But, the Marlins in 2003 were peaking towards the World Series. The Tigers limped into the post-season.

    That sounded smart. After all, the Tigers only won 19 of their final 50 games this season. I was wrong. I should have listened to a friend of mine, who told me (on that same day) that, according to the BP keys to post-season success, it would be the Tigers over the Yankees in the ALDS.

    In terms of recent Yankees post-season failures in the ALDS, this ALDS loss is not as painful as 1995 – but, it’s just as bad as 1997 or 2002. In terms of overall recent Yankees post-season failures, this series loss is not as painful as 2004 – but, it’s just as bad as 2003.

    Yup, in many ways, this Yankees October was 2003 all over again. The “no-names” beat the “big-names” and they stuffed it down their throats in the process.

    Watching Jeremy Bonderman cruise through the first 5 innings today, on only 40 pitches, against “Murderer’s Row & Cano,” really drilled the Yankees problem home, to me. Working the pitcher, playing for deep counts, etc., is only successful against bad-to-average pitching. It does not work against good, great, or hot pitching. When you face pitchers who can pound quality strike after quality strike, you better start stringing together some singles for a rally – because you’re not going to get that fat and/or cookie pitch to blast for extra bases. Go ask Sheffield, or Giambi, or A-Rod about that.

    Lastly, there will always be a part of me who will wonder if this game would have been different with Wang on the hill for New York – and Mussina pitching Game 5. At the least, if Wang could have kept the Tigers off the board for the first three innings, or so, maybe it would have kept the crowd out of the game for a while and their energy would have not been something for Bonderman and the Tigers to feed from in this contest. As it was, between the Yankees going down in the first on seven pitches, the Ordonez homer in the second, and the Pudge 2-out RBI in the fourth (after the A-Rod error), the Motown faithful were rocking before this game hit the fifth inning.

    On the whole, for those in Yankeeland, this game was as ugly as Jeanie Zelasko’s freckled cleavage.

    Congrats to the Tigers. They won, fair and square – and in convincing fashion. I hope they win the ALCS now – because I’m not interested in seeing the A’s win and then having to listen about how smart Billy Beane is, all winter. And, since it looks like the Mets have a good shot at making the World Series, I want the team that beat the Yankees to beat the Mets in the World Series. That will keep the Mets fans quiet after this October.

    Pretty sad that this is what’s left for a Yankee fan to root for, huh?

    Comments on October 7th @ The Tigers

    1. baileywalk
      October 7th, 2006 | 9:19 pm

      Only one good thing is going to come from this debacle: Torre will not be here next year. Even yesterday I was convinced that Torre would never get fired, but I’ve changed my mind after watching this game. This team had NOTHING tonight — no drive, no energy, no urgency. They were just zombies out there.

      I really felt that near-no-hitter that Daniel Cabrera threw was a very telling game. That was what the Yankees had become again. That waiting-for-one-guy-to-get-a-homer team they were the year before.

      Torre is the king of dumb decisions, especially when it comes to pitchers (Brown in game seven of the ALCS), and he made two really stupid decisions tonight: 1) he doesn’t start Wang, instead putting the season in the hands of Jaret Wright; 2) batting Sheffield cleanup (Sheff clearly doesn’t have his timing down and even if he HAS to be in the lineup, why fourth?). Torre is like a child — if something once was, he can’t comprehend that it’s changed, even if it’s obvious (it’s his veteran blindness).

      But the worst thing Torre did — and the Yankees did it as a whole — was to disrupt the team to shoehorn Sheffield and Matsui into the lineup. Instead of going into the playoffs with the team that cruised to a division win, they shoved Matsui and Sheffield back (and I don’t think Sheff was ready), and the entire rhythm of the team was thrown off.

      The reason the Yankees did so well is because they changed their philosophy. They were fresh and alive and didn’t depend on the home run. Everything changed when Sheffield was back in the lineup. The team just had a different feel.

      The team that lost to the Tigers is not the same one that beat them during the regular season. It’s just not. For once, Torre shouldn’t have cared about who got paid what and just left the team alone. The worst thing that happened was Sheffield coming back. What was a fun, easygoing team went back to its corporate, miserable ways, and we see the result tonight.

      The only thing I remotely care about now with this team is the development of Phil Hughes.

    2. festus
      October 7th, 2006 | 9:41 pm

      Maybe it’s the beers, or that we didn’t lose to the Red Sox, or that we didn’t almost beat a pesky light hitting Angels squad, and maybe even because I wasn’t too optimistic about this team just 5 months ago, for some reason this hurts less than any postseason series loss I can remember. We got flat out beat, six ways to Sunday. But I think the Yankees are learing why the late 90’s Texas Rangers never won anything. In a short series, you need to have a stacked pitching staff. And given the late-season Mussina swoon, Johnson’s old and herniated crappiness, relying on Jaret Wright for game 4, suspect bullpen, etc. etc., I’m not really surprised by this.

      One thing I disagree with in this post, is I don’t think at all these losses had to do with too much patience at the plate. Bonderman’s very good performance was a textbook “get the back-on-the heels team to swing early in the count at a pitcher’s pitch” performance. Too many 5-7 pitch innings. I felt like I was watching games 4-6 of the 2004 ALCS all over again. In fact, I knew this game was over in the first inning when Sheffield K’d with a check swing on a pitch 2 feet outside (although my mom was convinced they would lose after Jeter’s botched bunt in game 2).

      Finally, I also question the wisdom of Wright over Wang (although who knows if Wang was ready), but I REALLY question all of the enthusiasm about having Matsui and Sheffield back from wrist injuries starting (and playing the field!). Matsui looked borderline okay, but Sheffield looked terrible all series. I love Joe Torre, but think it’s time for someone new. This team looked flat.

      Anyway, all this disappointment is tempered by what was an unusually entertaining regular season. Thanks Steve for keeping it interesting.

    3. Ghostwheel
      October 7th, 2006 | 9:48 pm

      The better TEAM beat the all star group, the better Manager beat the Clubhouse PR guy.

      And A-Rod continued to set new records for futility.

      Shef shouldn’t have even been on the roster, let alone playing first base. What happened to Joe’s belief in pitching and Defense? Same goes for Matsui starting in front of Melky.

      Another season thrown away by the Torre led N.Y. Yankees. Fox or ESPN had the stat for all Yankee fans who hate saint Joe. Since the World Series Title in 2000, the Yanks are something like 28 and 31 in post season games(I should have written the stat down. They have a losing record by 3 or 4 games).

    4. festus
      October 7th, 2006 | 10:00 pm

      I wonder how much that stat of the Yanks’ record since 2000 postseason corresponds with the decline of their pitching. I find it hard to be bitter, though, I watched last night’s game in a room full of Cubs fans who were not hearing any of my moaning. Also, these best-of-five series are ridiculous, I am convinced that there is NO home field advantage in the division series for the team with the better record (with games 2 and 3 away). I think it would be better if the wildcard team had to play every game on the road. It wouldn’t be such a crapshoot and make the regular season more relevant.

    5. Jen
      October 7th, 2006 | 10:24 pm

      //Pretty sad that this is what’s left for a Yankee fan to root for, huh?//

      Well, for this Yankee fan, it’s officially hockey season now. Go Rangers!

    6. baileywalk
      October 7th, 2006 | 11:11 pm

      I don’t understand how you’re not upset. This looked like the year the Yankees would finally win number 27. The Angels and Red Sox were nowhere in sight, and we were playing a stumbling Tigers team we kicked the crap out of in the regular season. We were the favorites because we DESERVED to be. Everything was in order, and it all fell apart with a horrible suddenness. If this doesn’t upset you, then I don’t know what would. This was a horrendous and stunning collapse.

    7. October 7th, 2006 | 11:52 pm

      I’m upset. Stunned too.
      But, part of me sorta had a hunch not to have high expectations after 2002-2005.

    8. baileywalk
      October 8th, 2006 | 12:28 am

      I was thinking about this before. Go back to 2001. Yanks won three games — but had no right winning two of those games (two huge home runs in the ninth innings). So Torre hasn’t done squat — with good pitching and without — since 2000.

      But think about the way the team continues to get worse: 2001 — eliminated in the World Series in seven games; 2003 — eliminated in the World Series in six games; 2004 — lose in ALCS in seven games; 2005 — lose in the ALDS in five games; 2006 — lose in ALDS in four games.

      What’s next? Not even making the post-season?

      Aside from moving A-Rod and firing Torre, two things need to happen: Matsuzaka needs to arrive in America and don a Yankees’ jersey, and Philip Hughes needs to be with the team from spring training and take over the fifth-starter’s role.

      If that happens, this team is not dead; if those things don’t happen, and this team remains the same, we’re in trouble.

    9. JeremyM
      October 8th, 2006 | 12:55 am

      bailey, I agree with everything except that A-Rod needs to go. After this series, it’s clear (to me) that A-Rod and Torre do not get along–at the very least he’s not one of Torre’s guys. I think a new manager could possibly do wonders for A-Rod, and that new manager is of course Lou. I realize he quit on the Rays, but he won’t do that to the Yankees. I doubt that Jeter, Posada, Mo, etc. will have any problem playing for Lou either.

      Anyway, I’m hoping that Joe will graciously move up to some joke job in the front office and allow another manager to take charge.

    10. baileywalk
      October 8th, 2006 | 1:16 am

      I’m not sold on Lou, Jeremy. Everyone talks about how good Lou is, but what did he ever win? One ring. He had the winningest team in baseball history and didn’t even get to the World Series. (We beat the snot out of them that year, 4-1, with a staff of pitchers I think we all go to sleep dreaming about nowadays.)

      And hiring a manager simply to appease A-Rod is the LAST thing I think they should do. A-Rod being bigger than the team is one of its problems. It’s all A-Rod, all the time. More than anything I think the media attention he engenders gets on other players’ nerves and distracts them. The modern Yankees have always been about winning and not anything individual. A-Rod can’t help but stand out — negatively. I don’t really have anything against A-Rod, but he seems miserable here, and I just think it’s better for him and the Yanks to move on.

      Not to mention that it’ll be nice to get his and Sheffield’s contracts off the books, and the Yankees can actually get something for A-Rod in a trade. Many other teams have built their future around trading their superstars. The Yankees should do the same.

    11. October 8th, 2006 | 1:17 am

      Philip Hughes is going to skip Triple-A all together, pitch 200 innings in the Bronx, and help carry the Yankees to a ring? Really?

    12. brockdc
      October 8th, 2006 | 1:54 am

      I can see Hughes being called up after the All-Star break but probably not before, though it will be awfully tempting for them not to take him north come April.

      I like Joe, but he’s done. He’d make a nice pairing with Kenny up in the YES booth.

    13. baileywalk
      October 8th, 2006 | 12:34 pm

      Philip Hughes is going to skip Triple-A all together, pitch 200 innings in the Bronx, and help carry the Yankees to a ring? Really?

      I’m assuming that comment was directed at me. If you look at what I wrote, I didn’t say anything of the kind. What I said was: “Matsuzaka needs to arrive in America and don a Yankees’ jersey, and Philip Hughes needs to be with the team from spring training and take over the fifth-starter’s role.” Five-starters don’t normally throw 200 innings, and you don’t count on them to win you a ring. The guy who would do that in this scenario is Matsuzaka, who’s currently the ace of his team in Japan and struck out thirteen in a complete-game shutout in the first playoff game.

      The difference between AA and AAA is minimal. This team needs youth and power in its rotation. Mats and Hughes bring that. I sat a few feet away when Hughes struck out thirteen in six innings in the first game of Trenton’s playoffs. He has total command of his fastball, which he throws hard (91-95), and his curveball (the one he throws out of the zone that comes out looking just like his fastball) often looks unhittable. (Which is not to say he’s going to come to the bigs and dominate. Just that he’s very good.) I don’t really see the point of sticking him in AAA for half a year. He doesn’t need any more seasoning. But the Yankees do need him. The worst aspect of this team — and it has been for years — is the pitching.

      The only reason Hughes will start in AAA is because Johnson and Pavano has guaranteed contracts. If they can’t move/dump one of those guys, there just might not be room for Hughes.

      But if we went into the season with a rotation of Wang/Mats/Moose/Pavano (or Rasner)/Hughes, we’d finally have a rotation to match the lineup and we might actually get beyond the first round.

      Unless you’d rather have Wright and Johnson throwing with the season on the line.

    14. antone
      October 9th, 2006 | 8:08 am

      I don’t think Torre had much he could do in this series, the team just didn’t perform, point blank. I had higher hopes this year for this team then the past 2-3 years because the team just seemed different with Melky in there and Abreu, but something happened between the regular season and the playoffs, but Sheffield, Giambi, and AROD killed us in the middle of the lineup and the Yankees couldn’t move runners because Pudge was behind the plate which basically turned the Yanks into a HR hitting team again.

    15. Raf
      October 9th, 2006 | 9:45 am

      The only reason Hughes will start in AAA is because Johnson and Pavano has guaranteed contracts. If they can’t move/dump one of those guys, there just might not be room for Hughes.
      They managed to make room for Duque in ’98.

      Also, I don’t see any reason Hughes couldn’t start the year in the pen, eventually working his way into the rotation when someone gets hurt (and you know it’s going to happen with this staff)

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