Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Stick a fork in 'em

As this Larry Johnson cartoon from ESPN Page 2 shows, the Yankees (and Red Sox) have been knocked out of the playoffs, with Major League Baseball's front office cringing at the prospect of an Astros-Angels World Series. I'm disappointed that the Yanks just didn't seem to show up for the playoffs, with the exceptions of Mariano Rivera, Shawn Chacon, Derek Jeter and Gary Sheffield (Robinson Cano was brilliant sometimes and awful others).

While fellow Gannett employee Ian O'Connor makes good points in his column, I think it's unfair to place that much of the blame on A-Rod. As someone who has always considered David Ortiz to be this year's MVP, I am blaming the collapse on the entire team. Mike Mussina (who, I'll say again, is NOT a big-game pitcher) and Randy Johnson are most responsible for the collapse. They both looked timid in their starts for games 3 and 5. Wild can be explained and excused. Timid cannot.

My friend, Chambo, is a Sox fan who blamed A-Rod more than Big Unit for the series collapse. But while Johnson's pitching in Game 5 kept them in that game, he had multiple opportunities to come up in the clutch on his own terms -- Game 3. And he blew it. Unlike last year, A-Rod had a great regular season. This year, nearly everyone in the Yankee lineup faded in the clutch, too, so it's not just Rodriguez's fault. Even the normally dependable Hideki Matsui was invisible. And that hurts to say because he's usually one of the Yankees' top three clutch hitters (Sheff and Jeter being the others).

I have to blame Torre a bit, too. I don't understand why Chacon didn't pitch Game 2. He was only their best pitcher the entire year, with an American League ERA half-a-run lower than 10-0 Aaron Small's (something like 2.7 versus Small's 3.2). Firing Torre, however, would be a massive mistake, because anything short of a World Series title without him would be considered short-sighted and a public relations nightmare.

So, here's the thing that upsets me most: Although The Yankees deserved to lose -- and I'm not making excuses for them -- why the frig does home plate ump Joe West make a phantom outside-the-baseline call in such an important game and situation? At least with the Chuck Knoblauch play a few years ago, he was outside the baseline, but that's something that is almost never called. In this case, if Cano were outside the baseline, then about 95 percent of all runners are outside the baseline on any play running to first base. Just a stupid, inane call; Cano and Torre have every right to be upset. I'll be the first to say that the Yankees would have popped up harmlessly in the next at-bat, but at least give me that chance to blame the players instead of the umps. Normally an outstanding umpire, West should be suspended with pay for the remainder of the playoffs.

I'll be rooting for Houston the rest of the way. I dislike Ozzie Guillen (Have you ever seen so many sportswriters overcompensate for his "colorful" quotes?), am bored with the Angels, and don't want to give the Buck-McCarver tandem the chance to skew yet another broadcast in favor of the Cardinals. Plus, I love Andy Pettitte and the feel-good Houston vibe.

I'm more annoyed than angry at what should have been a phenomenal season, but at least now I can return to semi-normal sleep patterns.

Bonus thoughts! MLB should schedule an extra day between playoff series to compensate for rain; it is October, you know, and teams should not be penalized for Mother Nature's crankiness ... I want managers for the teams with the best league records to pick their opponent for the first round; it would make for awesome theater and give teams with the best record an additional advantage while giving the "chosen" team additional motivation.


Yes sir, I am pathetic said...

I just love me some Texans so I'll be rooting for Houston ... birthplace of who? Yep .... Hubba Hubba Bubba.

The Bourbon Samurai said...

Letting people pick opponents is an awesome idea...
I'm pulling for Houston too (normally an A's fan) but I don't see them beating St. Louis.