It’s all over for the Yankees. Chien-Ming Wang now has the Scarlet C branded on his forehead, forever known as a Proven Choker until he’s able to convincingly demonstrate otherwise. Whereas many brilliant analysts such as–just to choose one–myself declared with unquestionable authority that Paul Byrd was, no doubt about it, going to get rocked and the Yankees would win easily, after an inning and a half it was Wang staggering off the mound with a 4-0 deficit behind him.
Paul Byrd, you are the Man of the Day. If anybody reading this happens to know Paul Byrd, please do tell him on my behalf that he will forever have my respect for his uber-survivor performance yesterday. No, it wasn’t a perfect game, or even a 10-inning shutout, but everything I wrote about this match up yesterday is true: The Yankees lineup is designed to destroy pitchers just like Paul Byrd. It’s no surprise that Byrd yielded 8 hits in five innings, and no doubt the story’s going to become how the Yankees choked under pressure by failing to bring in all those baserunners, but Byrd fought like a bulldog, never backing down, hitting his spots, and he delivered his team exactly what they needed: A lead after five innings. And Cleveland’s powerhouse bullpen took care of things from there. Even Joe Borowski managed to not squander the three-run lead in the ninth inning, which I found genuinely surprising.
If you think I’m excessively harping on this, well, the New York media has thoroughly earned it:
3 for 17, 0 extra base hits, 0 walks, 4 strikeouts, 3 GIDP, .176/.176/.176. With bad defense that was obvious even to the untrained observer.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Clutchiest Clutch Player in the History of Clutchiness. If I hear one tiny peep out of anybody about Alex Rodriguez not being clutch, I am going to rip him a new one. Just so you know up front. Don’t do it. Cap’n Derek Jeter played as bad a Division Series as it’s possible to play.
Derek Jeter is and has been a great baseball player, and I will personally slap anyone that doesn’t vote for him in his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility. But if there is such a thing as clutch, Derek Jeter ain’t it. Let it go.
Last night marked the end of the magnificent career of Roger Clemens, who, for my money, is the greatest pitcher who ever played not named Satchel Paige. His run these past few years was eye-popping, but it had to end sometime, and at age 45, it ended, as his oak-trunk legs finally gave out on him. His arm never did, probably never would.
Last night also marked, in all probability, the end of the managerial career of Joe Torre. If you rewind the clock to 1995, you’ll recall Joe Torre as the guy who managed the Cardinals for a few years, unremarkably and without success, and then was sent on his way. Who knew what lay in store for him? Twelve years later, Torre is the most famous manager in baseball, owner of four World Series rings (won in the span of five years). His playing career was terrific, just on the wrong side of the Hall of Fame borderline, and there is no question he’ll be ushered into Cooperstown in short order based on his work as a manager. Torre wasn’t perfect, but he was perfect for the New York Yankees of the late 1990s, or as close to it as anyone could hope to be.
I wrote about this briefly before the playoffs started, but the Cleveland Indians are an extremely loaded team and particularly dangerous in the playoffs, because their calling card is suffocating pitching and defense, and to that they add a lineup full of punch. The Red Sox are going to have their work cut out for them, and I don’t think the Indians are much less than even-money to defeat them. As the Yankees discovered, they’re a terribly annoying team to have to try to defeat three times out of five or four times out of seven. Either way, the American League Championship Series promises to be a week and a half of exciting baseball.
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