Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
October 17, 2003
BASEBALL: The Dream Dies

Dreams do come true in life. David does beat Goliath. Hollywood endings do happen.

But not in the Bronx. The New York Yankees were put on this earth for one reason -- to remind us that Goliath usually wins, and that Hollywood endings are the stuff of dreams precisely because life so rarely works out that way. Cubs fans believed; Red Sox fans believed. Yankee fans just expect, and they are yet again rewarded. Yankee Stadium remains the place where dreams go to die.

Let's back up a bit, skipping around as I made notes . . .

Inning 1: You could tell this was a big one when Clemens got a standing O on the first pitch of the game.

Bravest guy in the house? Right behind the dugout on the 1B line, there's a guy in a Mets jersey. At a Yankee-Red Sox game. Only in New York.

Why is Soriano hitting leadoff, and Giambi hitting seventh? This is nuts. The lineup should be Johnson and Jeter 1 and 2 (either order has its advantages), then Giambi, Posada, Soriano, Bernie.

Pedro left his fastball at home. I've said in the past that at his peak, I'd rather have San Pedro de Fenway on the mound to pitch the big game than anyone else, ever. His peak looks gone, but I'd still take him over anyone today but Randy Johnson.

Inning 2: Enrique Wilson throws the ball away . . . bad sign for the Yanks. Defense can kill you in games like this.

Inning 3: Lots of full counts on both sides, it seems.

Doesn't Karim Garcia look like one of the Sheens? And David Ortiz definitely has the Mo Vaughn glare going.

Inning 4: Nixon does it again! I almost missed that one, it happened so fast.

I almost feel bad for Clemens at this point. Mussina comes in to relieve.

It occurs to me that if the Sox win, the two wild cards match up in the Series. But at least on the AL side, there's not much doubt that we're watching the two best teams in the league right now, is there?

Jeter rushes to the bag to turn the 6-3 double play; for the first time since I've watched Jeter, he looks desperate, less than 100% certain the Yankees will win.

Inning 5: Giambi has the solo homer. Solo homers in a game like this, you don't mind so much; let the Yanks keep hitting fly balls.

The announcers are talking about instability -- the Yanks have sure gone through some players this year.

Top 7: Nomar swings at Nelson's first pitch of the night. Jeff Nelson. Why?

Bottom 7: Pedro's thrown just 79 pitches through 6; maybe I was wrong about the deep counts. 9 outs to go. I'm thinking: maybe the Sox need to win this game -- what better way to get even the most jaded Sox fans' hopes up (only to dash them cruelly, at the hands of a fly-by-night franchise) than to vanquish the Yankees in the ALCS? It'd be like the US hockey team losing the gold medal match after beating the Russkies in 1980.

The announcers are officially in "Red Sox victory lap" mode, which proves George Santayana's point.

8 outs. Posada flies out deep to Damon. 7 outs.

Matsui is grimacing something fierce; for all of his face-of-stone look, Matsui can really wear his heart on his sleeve sometimes.

Pedro to Giambi, throwing 92, 93. His velocity's increasing. Giambi homers; Damon just misses catching it. 4-2 Sox. Sox still may need one more run to put this away.

Millar falls down, can't get to the bag, I write down, "uh oh . . . it's a game again . . . this is bad." Play has that kind of look to it.

Pedro starts out up and in on Soriano. Warning? I've got your warning right here. Is this the last inning for Pedro?

Rivera's up in the pen -- down 2, but Torre smells blood.

1-2 to Soriano, Pedro hits 94 on the gun. Jeter doesn't look worried anymore; none of the Yankees do. 2-2, Pedro goes outside, 95 mph.

Pedro throws one belt high, right in Soriano's happy zone -- but just outside. Whiff.

Top 8: Nelson's back. 2-0 pitch goes way inside to Manny . . .

Wells comes in; this is like the All-Star Game, one top starter after another. Ding dong; Ortiz goes deep off Wells, looks like Wells is buying the keg for the next game. So much for the tight game. 8 homers now, they say, in 26 games vs. Yankees; that works out to 50 on a full season.

Bottom 8: Pedro still has trouble throwing strikes to Nick Johnson (this may not be coincidental to Johnson's strike zone judgment).

5 outs.

Jeter doubles. Bernie drives him in. Grady sticks with Pedro to face Matsui, and Matsui doubles. Second and third, one out. Now, McCarver says they should have brought in Embree to face Matsui.

Posada up; gotta get Posada, Giambi's on deck and we'll see Embree to face Giambi.

My notes here: "tie game Damon can't throw . . . Sox doomed . . . Rivera will come in - can't win"

Embree saws off Giambi, Wilson comes up and is hit for. McCarver's still harping on Little leaving in Pedro to face Matsui and Posada, like Red Sox Nation won't do that tomorrow. McCarver: "Sometimes the manager has to overrule the superstar." I pointed out two years ago why this is BS coming from McCarver, who loves to recount the story of Bob Gibson demanding to keep the ball to finish Game 7 in 1964.

Timlin vs. Garcia, now; 2 on 2 out, 3-0 count. Timlin walks him. Will Soriano repeat Game 7 heroics from 2001? Walker wow! What a play to rob Soriano. On the replay it's like watching two separate games - Yankees whirling around the bases, fans starting to rise -- and there's Walker, snagging the ball.

Top 9: Need a base hit from Walker here to take the lead. 1-1. 1-2. Rivera has the hammer . . . a flair to Soriano . . . out.

Bottom 9: Jeter whunts - whiffs on the bunt, but it's not strike 3 yet; now it is. Timlin's still in; for some reason I'd thought they'd changed pitchers. He's been so good in this postseason and Bernie so bad, it's a question of whether something will give or momentum will hold. Walker wow! again, this time a leaping grab. So much for the iron glove reputation. So much for something giving.

Top 10: Ortiz chugs into second with a double, and this time they run for him. Ortiz just is Mike Easler, in a lot of ways - big, scary-looking guy, scary hitter, a bit of a late bloomer. Millar's too eager here, jumping at Rivera's first offering. Popup.

Bottom 10: Wakefield's in, not Williamson. Why? Bring in the closer; screw getting a lead, if somebody else gives up a run, the game's over. Plus, Wakefield brings Mirabelli with him, so Varitek (due up next inning) goes out, and Ortiz is already out.

Top 11: Nothing good can happen as long as Rivera's still out there. Contreras is probably next. Mirabelli looks . . . well, like a bad hitter up there.

Bottom 11: Torre won't warm up anyone else; he doesn't want the Sox to think they've got hope of outlasting Mariano.

Boone . . . TV turned off. Headed downstairs to blog. Not happy about how this season turned out. You suffer all year with a dreadful team, you get a little involved in the postseason, and at the end of the day it's the Fish and the Damn Yankees. That's just the way life is sometimes.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:25 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (1)
Comments

Pedro was clearly wearing down. Little left him in there at least two or three batters too long. This was either due to overconfidence in Pedro's stamina, which is his weakest point these days, or a lack of confidence in his bullpen. Either way, it was painful to watch.

As you mention in the other post above, the parallels between the Cubs and Red Sox here are eerie. Both five outs away from the World Series, both with three run leads, both with their ace on the mound...both aces get tired...both mangers stick with them too long...both teams, against all odds, blow it. Yikes.

Posted by: The Mad Hibernian at October 17, 2003 9:43 AM

After Bernie Williams got on base, I wanted Pedro gone, and in hindsight, it's clear that Grady should've pulled Pedro at that moment. But if we ignore what happened next, was Grady's decision defensible?

Let's look at the factors that weigh in favor of keeping Pedro in the game to face Matsui. Pedro's workload through seven was a little heavy but his velocity was still high and he seemed to be effective. The hits by Jeter and Williams weren't rockets or anything. I generally agree with the rule that in the key moments of the game you want to go with your best pitcher. Sure, Boston's bullpen had done well in the series to this point, but Pedro is one of the best pitchers on the planet. If's he's not too tired (and his velocity suggests that he wasn't), you want him in the game.

On the other hand, Pedro had thrown a lot of pitches by this point. At this stage in his career and at this point in the season, Pedro is basically a six or seven inning pitcher. He hasn't demonstrated that he can be consistently effective through eight or nine innings anymore. Even though his velocity was still up, the Yankees were starting to hit him. There were warning signs in the seventh even before Jeter and Williams got on base. Add to that the fact that Boston's bullpen (including particularly Timilin and Embree) had been lights out in this series. With the game and the series on the line, don't screw around, get Pedro out of the game.

I find the latter perspective to be more compelling (it's what I was thinking last night as the eighth inning unfolded), but I don't think Grady's decision was indefensible. Certainly, if Pedro had managed to get Matsui (and then Posada), everyone would be talking today about the 'guts' and 'heart' of Grady and Pedro and the rest of the Red Sox.

(By the way, I'm only talking about Grady's decision to let Pedro face Matusi. I can't and won't defend the decision to let him face Posada. I think that was just dumb.)

Posted by: Andrew at October 17, 2003 10:39 AM

Just one quick correction, Varitek was pinch run for with Damien Jackson in the top of the 9th after Varitek singled. So Mirabelli was already in the game when Wakefield came on to pitch in the 10th.

Posted by: mike Rich at October 17, 2003 1:35 PM

Agree that leaving Pedro in was not indefensible. He's their guy, if you're going to go down, there's something to be said with going down with him. Little was in kind of a lose-lose situation there. If he takes Pedro out and some relative no-name from the bullpen blows the game, he'd get ripped for that; if, as here, he leaves Pedro in, he gets ripped for not having yanked an obviously tired pitcher.

I definitely would've gotten him out of there, but I can see the logic of having stuck with him...

Posted by: The Mad Hibernian at October 17, 2003 1:56 PM

By the way, Baseball Prospectus has some great stuff (via ESPN, I think) charting Pedro's effectiveness versus his pitch count. For 2003 --

AB AVG OBP SLG
Pitches 61-75: 107 .215 .234 .355
Pitches 76-90: 93 .215 .276 .290
Pitches 91-105: 65 .231 .306 .354
Pitches 106-120: 27 .370 .419 .407
Pitches 120-135: 6 .333 .429 .500

From 2000-2002 --

AB AVG OBP SLG
Pitches 61-75: 281 .199 .243 .310
Pitches 76-90: 257 .195 .247 .268
Pitches 91-105: 180 .183 .236 .300
Pitches 106-120: 74 .297 .391 .338
Pitches 120-135: 12 .250 .400 .333

As Baseball Prospectus points out, these are small sample sizes because Grady knows (knew?) that Pedro Martinez can't handle more than 100 pitches. Why Grady changed how he handled Pedro last night, I don't know.

Posted by: Andrew at October 17, 2003 3:11 PM

Ah Hell,
Trot didn't make a play he should have on Jeter's line drive. He was positioned deep perfectly to cut off a double but came up on the ball when it was hit then turned the wrong way as he tried to recover. Pedro got a ball hit that should have been handled. Grady got them to the 8th. inning of game seven to go to the world series with a 5-2 lead and one out and they couldn't make the play on a routine lob type line drive that had hang time.
Same thing as Alex booting the double play ball for the Cubs in their eighth and that poor fan taking all the heat for their ruined chance.

Posted by: steve at October 18, 2003 12:00 AM
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