It was an eventful six days for the New York Yankees in what amounted to baseball’s version of Rivalry Week. New York went up to Boston and lost all three, each defeat more heartbreaking than the last. The Yanks came back home to face their cross-town rivals and won a game they shouldn’t have, thanks to Louis Castillo and his Glove of Steel. They dropped a winnable game to a guy who hadn’t won in three years, and then took out their collective frustrations on Santana, handing the should-have-been-a-Yankee the worst loss of his career. I would have covered it earlier but my friend is joining the Peace Corps and moving to Ecuador for two years, so we had to send him off the right way this weekend. Mission Accomplished, I’m pleased to report. I’m still hung over, I’m not pleased to report.
Everyone knows the Yankees are 0-8 against the Sox this season, and it hurts. For 86 years the Yankees treated the Sox like the younger brother of the American League. New York let Boston hang around, play ball once and a while, and let them talk to their hot older girlfriends. The Yankees felt good about letting the Sox tag along, and Boston appreciated being included. But if the Sox ever stepped out of line, the Yankees were there to put them in their place. I grew up with a younger brother. It was great; if the brotherly wrestling ever got too serious, I knew I could win whenever I wanted. I was bigger and stronger and faster, and my brother knew it, too. Of course now he’s 21 and four inches taller than me, and I’m not so sure I could take him.
Similarly, the Yankees have lost their older brother status. Now they go into Boston thinking maybe we can get a couple of breaks, a few timely hits, and maybe steal a game. The Red Sox are officially in the Yankees heads. They are the hammer, we are the nail. It sucks, but that’s the way it is right now. The Yankees are still a very good team, probably the second best in the AL. I know it’s only mid June but they’re almost guaranteed a playoff spot, barring a huge surge from the Rays. If you want to throw out the Yankees abysmal 0-8 record against the Sox, the team is 36-19 and on a Dodger-like 106 win pace.
Unfortunately the Yankees have to play the Sox 10 more times, and if the Yankees plan on making the Word Series, they’ll most likely have to get by the Sox in October to get there. This is a reality that Yankee fans have to deal with. James Blunt gets girls, you always get in the wrong line at the grocery store, and the Red Sox are a better team than the Yankees. Facts of life. It’s hard to see the Yanks advancing in October if they can’t beat this team. Problem is, I don’t really have a solution except to pull Joba out of the rotation to help this abysmal bullpen. While I eventually want to see Joba as a starter, in 2009 he needs to be in the pen. Pray Wang works through his mess of a season, put Hughes back in the rotation, and let Joba go back to being a dominant set up man.
Here’s how bad the Yankees bullpen is: they blew the final game in Boston before any reliever entered the game. The only reason CC went out to pitch the eighth is because Girardi trusts no one to protect the lead. Sabathia had already thrown over 100 pitches and was clearly fatigued in the eighth, but Girardi waited until he gave up a run to pull him. The pen blew it anyway.
Okay, on to the Mets. First, a warm, hearty “thank you” to Louis Castillo. You provided hours of fodder this weekend, and officially coined the phrase “pulled a Castillo”. I played about 30 innings of wiffleball Friday and Saturday, and anytime someone dropped a pop up, they pulled a Castillo. Phenomenal. While it wasn’t on par Buckner or Bartman, he did get his own Jeremy Schaap piece on ESPN about memorable baseball goats. If only the Mets finish one game out of the playoffs. Again. The possibility alone makes me giddy. I have a Cheshire cat grin that I can’t control right now.
Second, it was nice to see the Yankees get some hits against a good pitcher. The Bombers are notoriously bad against aces and pitchers they’ve never seen before. After being mowed down by Beckett, the Yanks needed some confidence, and got it done against Santana. In Johann’s defense, he clearly wasn’t himself, but I’ll take nine runs anyday.
Third, the Mets are terrible. Sure, they have a ton of injuries, and we should have only won one game against them, but is there a more mentally fragile, cursed franchise in baseball besides the Cubs? It’s painful to watch. The Yankees have a mental hurdle to leap when it comes to Boston, but the Mets can’t get it done against ANYONE. This is why I’ll leave you with an email from my Mets buddy. I asked him to list three reasons why the Mets are better than the Yankees, and he came up with the following. It seems hilarious in retrospect:
1.Bullpen. These two teams are polar opposites in terms of strength of bullpen. The Yankees have absolutely no one to turn to in the later innings of a ball game, and even Mariano’s armor has started to crack a bit. If you are a Yankees fan you have to pray that your starters (and even most of them are questionable) last at least 7 innings or you offense puts up a ton of runs, because anything less could mean a loss. I know this feeling, because the bullpen was the reason we collapsed last year. I remember almost breaking my TV when Aaron Heilman would run out onto the field with a frown on his face, or when Scott Schoenweiss looked utterly complacent when he blew the last game of the season in ’08. But I don’t have to worry about that anymore. Even with JJ Putz’s injury, the Mets remain one of the top bullpens in the league. Parnell and Stokes are both young talents that throw heat. Feliciano (the sole survivor of last year’s bullpen purge) has had a resurgence, with left-handed hitters batting close to .100 against him. And when K-Rod comes into the game, you know it’s a done deal. It will be interesting for sure as he always gives up a hit or a walk, but in the end he shuts teams down, and then parades around the field like a madman which I love.
(YanksGoYard: This is mostly true, even though it didn’t play out that way this weekend)
2. The ability to play small ball. Yea I know Jordan, playing small ball means jack shit in the AL and especially in the ballpark that was built in a wind tunnel using legos and erector sets. But say Tex starts slumping again. Or Arod decides to take a “mental breather.” Or Johnny Damon realizes he’s Johnny Damon and he can’t really hit home runs like that because he has the worst swing I’ve ever seen, which includes little league softball. Generating runs using speed and singles is much more important than you think. And although we leave runners on base all the time, the Mets are damn good at playing small ball. Our luscious, beautiful park has forced us to adjust to a style of play that focuses on advancing the runner and stealing bases. And in the Playoffs, every run counts.
(YGY: Also true, but small ball also comes with the connotation that your team plays defense and doesn’t make mental errors. 0-2 this weekend in those departments)
3. Johan Santana. You guys really shit the bed with this one. CC is good, but Johan WINS GAMES BY HIMSELF. Like seriously, by himself. In the first game of the Philadelphia series, he pitched 7 innings, had 2 rbis, and made a gold glove play to double up the Phils and end what looked to be a late-game surge. Simply put, this guy is the best.