Friday, October 17, 2003

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My last baseball post for a while

Well, it looks like I'm going to have to follow my own advice. So....

Congratulations, New York Yankees. You showed a lot of grit in Game 7, coming back against the toughest pitcher in the American League. By the smallest, but most crucial of fractions, you were the better team last night.

[That's it?!! No venting about how the Sox choked?--ed. But they didn't choke, no matter what the Boston Globe says. They won Game 6 when everyone thought they would lose it. Pedro Martinez outpitched Roger Clemens in Game 7. The Sox committed no baserunning or fielding errors -- indeed, the much-maligned defense of Todd Walker kept the team in it for two innings. Even the New York Post said, "The Sox provided the heroics where they were needed." Yes, one can certainly question Grady Little for leaving Martinez in for so long. But remember that Little also had the guts to go against conventional wisdom and have Derek Lowe pitch to Adam Melhuse rather than walk him in the deciding game of the division series against Oakland. Had Little not done that, it's entirely possible that the Sox don't make it to the ALCS. No, the Sox played the 2003 regular season and playoffs with grit and poise. I'm proud to call myself a Red Sox fan.]

Even as the game ended, the impartial spectator in me was also pleased that baseball has had such a great playoff season, in terms of the increased TV ratings and, more important, the caliber of the games themselves.

Of course, the partial spectator in me found this to be cold comfort. But after the game was over, I turned off the television and lookied in on the parts of my life that matter in a more profound way than games played by boys in stadiums. And all was well.

Besides, there's always the football Giants. Oh, wait....

Well, there's always next year.

posted by Dan on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM


Everyone's gonna castigate Grady for leaving in Pedro too long (I've already read articles by Thomas Boswell, George Vecsey and Bob Ryan to that effect).

But, as you point out, it's ridiculous. Not only did he make the right call in the ALDS game 5, but (more importantly) think about how he managed the Red Sox bullpen in both series. Coming into the playoffs, the common wisdom was the the Sox relief pitching was their Achilles Heel. Instead: Embree, Timlin, Williamson and (occasionally) Lowe were.. incredible. Among the best relief pitching of all the teams still playing.

If you blame Little for Pedro last night, you gotta credit him for Timlin and the rest every other night.

posted by: BayesGuy on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

The worst part about the NY Football Giants' season? Parcells going 4-1 with the damned Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys!!! Oh, Tuna, how could you do that to us?

posted by: George on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

I have to agree with George's last paragraph - I could take Parcells with NE and even the Jets. But the COWBOYS??? I've lost respect for him... it's just another example that the folks who actually participate in these games - players and coaches - take these things much less seriously than us fans do...

So, yeah, it's pretty clear that the Giants aren't doing anything this year.

But look on the bright side - with nothing interesting in the sports world to talk about, maybe we get a post out of Dan on this whole Bolivia situation! (:-))

posted by: Al on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

Nah, I'm sorry. I'm not even a Red Sox fan but I was watching the game with my dad on the phone and we both smacked our heads when he left Pedro on the mound. Sure, he made the right calls other times, but he has made an awful lot of bad calls as well. Just read any Sports Guy column the past week. Of course he has gotten some calls right, that's what you expect of major league managers, but at least you expect them to make the obvious calls right. And he didn't last night. And not for the first time.

posted by: Javier on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

You're a good fan, but the outcome was a foregone conclusion. No, really, and it's more than just a 'curse'....there's maybe excellent human reason to be a fan of such futility. Your ability to shake off the defeat so quickly proves that. See here

posted by: Dan on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]


No offense, but you need to cut back on the prozac. Grady is %100 to blame for last night's loss; saying he coached well otherwise (which, I'm with Javier in believing is off the mark) is like saying the Union Army did pretty well at the First Battle of Bull Run, except that they didn't win and the Civil War dragged on four more bloody years in its aftermath. Details, details. Grady failed in the most basic managerial decision in baseball. He failed both because he didn't appreciate how tired his "ace" was (as did Dusty two days earlier) but because he had a bullpen with an ERA under 1 in the postseason (a luxury Dusty did NOT have) and he treated them like the losers they were in August. He choked and Joe Torre didn't.

Next stop, Florida, provided Jeb Bush grants him asylum and stumps for a beachfront condo (right next to Bartmann).

Oh, and you raised the question of parallels between baseball and politics the other day? Try this one on for size: Game 7 is the Florida Election of Baseball, both were lost on technicalities by the stupidity of a single official on the otherwise "winning" team.

You should be proud of the Red Sox, Dan. They did their job--even Pedro in innings 1-7. Grady didn't do his. Nuff said.

posted by: Kelli on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

Well, Grady made the wrong call.

Pedro lost his stuff in the 7th and didn't show a sign of getting it back in the 8th.

And now the Red Sox have to find a new manager.

posted by: SamAm on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

Speaking as a long suffering Cubs fan, and as someone who'd unashamedly root for the Red Sox in the world series, I can only say:

This means that I don't have to watch anything on Fox for another year.

And if this sounds like sour grapes, it is. (c:

posted by: uh_clem on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

Peterson is an overrated cornerback anyway. At least we know what we have in Ralph Brown. Namely, a sketchy cover man at best. Don't count out the Big Blue yet though. They have the ability to string together some wins and shock the world. They are best when everyone has forgotten about them.

posted by: Chris on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

This should put an end to all the ranting about conspiracies designed to put high profile teams in the WS in order to generate ratings. Can you imagine what the ratings would have been for a Cubs/Sox series?

Yankees/Marlins? Ugh. This one'll join the Yankees/Mets series in the 'won't watch but might follow in the papers' category.

posted by: sidereal on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

Baseball takes more out of the passionate fans then other sports. With each pitch being an instant of drama, it takes the a lot out of you when the game is close. That being said, I spoke with a fellow New Englander a couple of days ago. He mentioned how a mutual acquaintance, and long time fan, who, has terminal cancer. This was just before game six, and we both discussed putting our hopes in the team so that our mutual acquaintance "didn't become another statistic" (some one who was born, lived a full life and died without seeing the Red Sox win one).

I saw the spoke to the same friend today. He said the guy succumbed to cancer on the day of game six (before the game). We both agreed that it was merciful that he didn't have to see last night's game. I am not sure what that says about any of us. It is just a game, in the end.

posted by: dave on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

The thing is, any other year, and I would really like to watch this Marlin team play. Theser guys know how to play ball and they love doing it. And there's really not a whole lot better than watching I-Rod play great baseball. But I don't think I can watch another Yankee World Series, much less another Yankee win. I can't stand the pain. Maybe I'll watch intermitently just to check the score, but otherwise, I think I'll spare myself.

posted by: Javier on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

Angry about the World Series? I am! That makes this a great time to check out! C'mon, Gregg Easterbrook digs us.

By the way, did Grady Little WATCH the NLCS? Or read about it? Both the Cubs and Red Sox lost because of the same managing mistake (though, in the Cubs' case, it was really second to the Gonzalez error in blame).

posted by: Aaron on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

Of course, Nixon could've gotten a decent jump on Jeter's double that started the trouble in the 8th, and it all would have been different. And if the Sox score with men on first and third and nobody out when Mussina came in... but oh well.

Pedro really wanted to stay in, and talked Grady into letting him stay. Still, the manager has to know when to ignore his player and take him out anyway.

Torre did a horrible job managing his pitchers last night, if the Sox had made it through one more inning, then the Yanks were down to a tired Contreras, and the ineffective pair of Weaver and White. And don't get me started on Dusty Baker's repeated errors. Still, it's Sox fans that call for the head of their manager. (I'm just a little bitter since Grady is a personal friend of mine.)

posted by: John Thacker on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

Bad decision by Little. Pedro had lost it in the 7th, gave up consecutive, hard hits in the 8th. Should have brought in the left-hander to pitch to Matsui. I suspect the great, Hall of Fame pitcher said he was fine and the manager failed to do his job had override. The curse lives on.

posted by: Mark on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

Regardless of how wrong Grady Little is or isn't, he's not coming back next year. Listening to the people at work and on the sports radio station in Boston, the reaction is anonymous that Grady has to go. I can't see any way the Sox management can bring him back. Peter Gammons said they'll probably go after Bud Black for manager.

posted by: Hei Lun Chan on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

Yeah, the thing that just killed me was that I thought the mo was swinging, ever so slightly, back towards the Red Sox. Rivera was done, we had Wakefield, a pitcher who had been very good and he had gotten through his first inning. As I predicted in the 9th, "Wake will save us." Guess not.

But I'm not sure this will, when it's looked back on, have the same bite as 1986 or 1978. The team was on the upswing this year, no doubt, even if they are getting a little old. Theo did a great job, and now he'll have a chance to have his own manager. The Sox played the Yankees tougher than in any year I can remember. It really does come down to the small stuff (or, rather, the Little stuff). If they get some speed and 2 decent pitchers it's hard not to see them doing even better next year.

This was a loss, it wasn't a once in a lifetime thing. It wasn't as horrible as what happened to the Cubs. It was more horrible than what happened to the Braves, yeah, but it still wasn't as bad as 1986.

The game is grounded in reality, and I say that destiny comes down to the pitcher and the man with the bat, and nothing else. It can, heck, it will be Nomar next year, or David Highschooloutfielder in 2007.

This was the year the Red Sox stopped being the Cubs and became the Seattle Mariners.

And you know what, I'll take it.

posted by: SamAm on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]


It's bewildering why people argue that Pedro was "losing it," or that he gave us "two hard hits."

First, his fastball at the end was harder than it had been all night (~95 mph, compared to the 89-91 he started out with, so slow even Tim McCarver noticed).

Second, his control was still there. He made some good pitches, and hits were made off of him with 0-2 counts. His pitch to Posada was up and in: 9 times out 10 that's a foul ball or a strike, and Grady looks like a genius today. Instead, Posada gets a bloop single (that was only a double 'cause 2nd wasn't covered).

And anyone who relys on ESPN's sports-guy for analysis of *any* Red Sox game is nutso. He's a good writer, and funny... but he's also a die-hard Sox fan, and that means he's bitter, myopic, and ready to lash out at everyone who helped his team get where they got, as soon as they lose...

posted by: BayesGuy on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

I'm sorry, I just don't see by what standard you can say that Pedro was throwing at an acceptable level in the 8th. He got out of the 7th by thismuch, and he gave up multiple hits in the 8th while showing no sign of an ability to turn things around.

He was not reaching 95 mph with any regularity, and even if he was, Yankees were dealing with it pretty well.

Pedro didn't have it, and wasn't getting the outs.

posted by: SamAm on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

The pitching matchup was a dream for any Sox fan who has seen Pedro and Roger in big games throughout their careers. Clemens has always been the guy you want pitching in a big game.... for the other team. I was confident about the pitching, I was confident that the bats had finally come alive, even Vegas reportedly had the Sox favored. Nonetheless, there were ominous signs.

I dozed off yesterday afternoon, and woke up about an hour before the game. A picture came into my head... Yankee Stadium, glistening in the October night and full of proud fans. Same as it ever was, nothing different. Something or somebody told me, "Not tonight." I got depressed and thought about it, and I saw that image of Yankee Stadium again. So I said quetly, "Thanks for the warning, Babe."

True story.

posted by: Knows Better on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]


I disagree. The right decision was to pull Pedro. He should not have come out of the dugout in the eighth. The bullpen trio of Timlin, Embree, and Williamson had given up just one run in 13 innings of relief. There was not even the hint of a reason to leave Pedro in the game, other than to pamper his ego. Do you think Joe Torre leaves it up to his pitchers to decide when to make pitching changes? That's what Grady did. He left it up to Pedro. There are times when a manager has to take it upon himself to make a decision. That was one of them, but unfortunately for the Red Sox and their fans Grady refused to take on the responsibility.

posted by: Tom Bowler on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

There were two men down
And the score was tied
In the bottom of the eighth
When the pitcher died

And they laid his spikes
On the pitcher’s mound
And his uniform was torn
And his number was left on the ground

Then the night turned cold
Colder than the moon
The stars were white as bones
The stadium was old
Older than the screams
Older than the teams

There were three men down
And the season lost
And the tarpaulin was rolled
Upon the winter frost

Music · Paul Simon
Lyrics · Paul Simon
Title · Night Game
Album · Still Crazy After All These Years (1975)

posted by: Robert Schwartz on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

Was Pedro losing it? I think, if you look at the evidence, the answer has to be "yes, unequivocally".

I won't discuss pitch counts at any great length because I know plenty of folks put no stock in them -- but from 2000 through 2003, it's important to keep in mind that Pedro has been awesome for the first 90-100 pitches, and has been lit up afterward. Correlation doesn't imply causation, but in combination with the other evidence available it'd be foolish to ignore that he was reaching the point where he normally starts to run out of gas.

Nor do I put too much stock into the two-strike counts he was able to run up. Remember, these are the Yankees -- plate patience has been a big part of their success. With a few exceptions, they're willing to take a few pitches until they can get the pitch they want, or else take the walk.

Lastly, it's not a case of "just two hits". Look at the line score as far back as the 7th, and it becomes clear what's going on. Posada hit the ball hard in the 7th, but he hit it to Damon, so the Sox got the out. Giambi crushed a pitch into the seats. Wilson reached ... admittedly, on what looks in the box score like a cheap infield single, but remember what a great play by Millar it took to even come close. Garcia singled. It took Soriano, the most notorious free swinger on the Yankee team, coming to the plate for Pedro to get out of the 7th with /that/ little damage. You could make a strong argument that he should have been yanked for Timlin then -- I did, at the time.

But the 8th was worse. He got Johnson on a pop fly, followed by Jeter hitting the ball hard for a double, followed by Williams singling, followed by Matsui doubling.

At that point, Pedro's done. Of the last nine batters he'd faced, he'd retired exactly three of them -- one of whom was mired in a terrific slump and another of whom made solid contact in the process. You can argue about whether he should have been pulled before Matsui's at-bat, but when 2/3 of the batters you're facing are reaching base against you, it's time to sit down.

Little blew the call. I know fans tend to demand the manager's head for any arguably stupid move, and for that reason there's a natural tendency to believe it can't be as bad as it's made out to be, but in this case conventional wisdom is a hundred percent correct. Does he deserve to lose his job? Maybe, maybe not, but he almost certainly will.

posted by: cwp on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

Another brief note:

After Timlin came in, Walker had to make a tremendous play on Soriano's hit with the bases loaded and two outs to get the force at second and end the 8th. Walker could've easily failed to make that play, in which case the Yanks score at least two more runs, and the game looks even more like Game 6 of the Cubs-Marlins series.

If Walker had NOT made that play, and the Yanks had then won in nine innings, it's very possible that there would have been less criticism of Grady-- since the bullpen guys that everyone was screaming to put in would've blown the game as much as Pedro. After all, I don't hear the Cubs fans calling for Dusty Baker's head so much, and I think that Dusty was a much worse manager the entire postseason.

So partially it's Pedro's bad luck that Walker made a great defensive play for Timlin, but Nixon got a terrible jump on Jeter's hit.

posted by: John Thacker on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

I have to disagree that Walker not making the play would have saved Grady a lot of criticism. To a native New Englander, the game was basically over as soon as the Sox coughed up the tying runs -- at that point the only question in my mind was how long they'd string us along before going down.

By the time Timlin came in, I think people were basically accepting their fate. If Embree had come into the game to pitch to Matsui and given up an extra-base hit, then I think you'd have a much stronger case -- at that point, Little's made the move everybody wanted (a little late, but made it) and it's still blown up in his face.

If anything, I think criticism of Little might have been /harsher/ if Timlin had given up a hit; mostly for ordering the intentional walk to Sierra, which was then followed by the unintentional walk to Garcia. Right or wrong, conventional wisdom is that bringing a reliever in to give up the intentional walk tends to lead the control problems.

Maybe it's just hindsight, but I think Little was doomed by the time Timlin got into the game regardless; the move people wanted wasn't getting Pedro out of the game, it was getting him out of the game before he gave up the lead. I don't know if that would have worked out better or worse.

Dusty's escaped a lot of criticism, I think, for a couple of reasons (although there's been plenty of it): one is he has a reputation as a winner and a player's manager already. Another is that, while he did wait too long with Prior, Steve Bartman, Kyle Farnsworth and Alex Gonzalez made sure there were plenty of targets to spread the blame to.

I happen to think Dusty should be fired, too, though not so much for his specific errors in these cases as for his habit of working Wood and Prior like a couple of galley slaves, a habit which is hardly news (as Giants fans will ruefully admit). You don't work those two into the ground earlier in the season (or the postseason), and maybe Prior doesn't run out of gas like that at the worst possible time. But while he definitely made some bad calls, none of them seem (to a non-Cubs fan) as obviously and egregiously wrong as leaving Pedro in to get hammered in the eighth.

posted by: cwp on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

Hats off to all you Sox fans. Usually comment threads fizzle out on day two (and bring out the nutters on day three). Not here. CWP, I agree with most of your analysis, but have to add a personal note, not so much in defense of Dusty as to offer a bit of background. Back in June I saw Prior pitch in Wrigley--a stunning performance in which he struck out 16 guys, including all 3 batters in the 8th. When the bottom of the 9th rolled around, Prior didn't come back and the bullpen hack couldn't save the lead Prior handed him on a silver platter. In other words, Cubs relievers struggled all season, struggled MORE post season. I cut Dusty some slack. Little, none (0.81 ERA for the Sox bullpen postseason--that should be tattooed on his shaven head).

SamAm, you are 100% right. Now that I'm over the worst of my Friday angst, I'm thinking (no cliche here) we'll get'em next year. In the meantime, go Marlins!

posted by: Kelli on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

Yeah, I agree with that -- it's not like the Cubs had somebody like Timlin, who had been absolutely lights out the entire postseason, that they could turn to. Like I said, I think Dusty made some bad calls, but they were nowhere near as unambiguously bad as Little's Big Botch, where everybody on the planet knew what the right move was.

I do think he erred hugely in leaving Prior in to throw 116 pitches with an 11-run lead in Game Two, and I'll always wonder whether, had he been yanked after the fifth, Prior could have finished the 8th in Game Six. Even the Cubs' pen can't be that bad ... right?

posted by: cwp on 10.17.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]

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