Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rule Number 48: Never Bring Kyle Farnsworth In to Protect a Lead

Today is Tuesday. If this were the TV season, instead of its offseason, tonight there would be a new episode of NCIS.

For those of you not familiar with the show -- and what the hell is wrong with you? -- the letters stand for Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The real-life version investigates crimes where the perpetrators or the victims are active-duty personnel of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. The equivalent agency for the Army and the Air Force is the CID, the Criminal Investigation Division.

Mark Harmon, a former UCLA quarterback, star of the baseball-themed 1988 film Stealing Home, and son of legendary running back and sportscaster Tommy Harmon, stars as Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, a former Marine sniper who leads an NCIS team based in Washington, D.C. (That's former sniper; as Gibbs proves every week, there's no such thing as a former Marine -- only a discharged one.)

Gibbs has a series of Rules (always capitalized) that he expects the agents under his command to follow. Some of these rules work for civilians. Some don't: Rule Number 9 is "Never go anywhere without a knife"; as a sports fan, you should not attempt to go into a stadium or arena with one. There are a few Rules that begin with "Always," but a lot more that begin with "Never." Under most circumstances, the Rules make sense, although I disagree with Number 6: "Never apologize. It's a sign of weakness." Gibbs said, "I got that one from the Duke himself." He meant John Wayne, not Duke Snider. "Number 1 supersedes all the others: Never screw over your partner."

There are, as of the conclusion of the 2010-11 season, 51 Rules. According to the show's forensic scientist, Dr. Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette), Rules in the 40s don't come up very often. "And that's a good thing," she says, "The 40s are for emergency use only." Gibbs' 2nd-in-command, Special Agent Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly), says, "If the 40s are in play, it means something unspeakably bad is going down."

Rule Number 40, for example, shows that, sometimes, paranoia is justified: "If it seems like someone is out to get you... they are."

Rule Number 44 is definitely for emergencies only: "First things first: Hide the women and children."

Not all the Rules have been mentioned on-screen. One that has not is Rule Number 48. I have no idea what it is, although DiNozzo once gave a hint: "Gibbs has been divorced 3 times. He has 7 Rules involving lawyers, none of them pretty. You don't have to know them all, just Number 13. It's the Umbrella Rule." Rule Number 13 is "Never, ever involve a lawyer." For this reason, I suspect at least one Rule in the 40s is about the subject of lawyers. Possibly something along the lines of, "Never end up needing a lawyer more than your suspect does."

*

Kyle Farnsworth is a 35-year-old relief pitcher, born in Wichita, Kansas, and grew up (for want of a better choice of words) in the suburbs of Atlanta. He has been in the major leagues since 1999, and has reached the postseason with the Chicago Cubs (2003 and '04), Atlanta Braves (2005 and '10) and Yankees (2006 and '07).

None of these teams won a Pennant, most notably the '03 Cubs. Remember the Steve Bartman Game? Game 6 of the '03 NLCS? Farnsworth relieved Mark Prior and allowed 3, and ended up being responsible for 2 more, of the 8 runs the Florida Marlins scored in that treacherous 8th inning. Farnsworth's ERA for that series was 10.13.

The Braves' "dynasty" that began in 1991 ended in 2005. Pitching for his hometown team, Farnsworth's ERA for the '05 NLDS against the Houston Astros was 9.00.

Oddly, in neither the 2006 nor the '07 ALDS did Farnsworth pitch all that badly for the Yankees. But his 4.80 ERA and 1.450 WHIP in 2007 had a bit to do with the Yankees missing the AL East title by 2 games, and thus forcing them into a Wild Card slot where they had to play the Cleveland Indians, rather than winning the Division and allowing them to play the Los Angeles Angels of Katella Blvd., Anaheim, Orange County, etc., etc., etc.

Farnsworth has played for 6 different teams -- 2 of them, the Braves and the Detroit Tigers, twice. His career record is currently 37-56. His ERA, 4.28. His ERA+, 102. His WHIP, 1.370. These stats are all current up to and including last night's game between the Yankees and the Rays.

Remember, Farnsworth is a relief pitcher. Those stats get worse when you discover that he has pitched in more games, and pitched half again as many innings, in the NL (where pitchers bat, and relievers usually pitch to these pitchers' not-much-better options as pinch-hitters) than in the AL.

Farnsworth wears Number 43 on the Rays, but wore Number 48 with the Yankees. In fact, throughout his career (not surprisingly, since he is a pitcher), he has always worn a number in the 40s.

Maybe Farnsworth should only be brought in during an emergency situation. Except this man, nicknamed Kerosene Kyle by Subway Squawkers author Lisa Swan and Not a Darn's Worth by me, can turn any situation into an emergency situation.

If Gibbs were a baseball manager, Rule Number 48 might be: Never, ever bring Kyle Farnsworth in to protect a lead.

*

As former Yankee manager Joe Torre did many times in 2006 and '07, before his successor Joe Girardi finally had enough, causing general manager Brian Cashman to finally trade him away (causing me to say, "Great trade! Who'd we get?"), Rays manager Joe Maddon broke that rule last night.

A.J. Burnett started for the Yankees, and was Bad A.J., not getting out of the 6th inning. But, between them, Hector Noesi, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera pitched nearly perfect relief, giving the Yankee bats a chance.

The Yankees trailed 4-1 going into the top of the 5th, and 4-2 going into the top of the 8th. The Rays started Alex Cobb, a rookie that the Yankees had never seen before -- usually a recipe for a Yankee defeat.

The Rays had lost the day before, in 16 innings to the Red Sox. (Thanks for nothing, Strays!) So their bullpen was exhausted. So they called up Cobb and reliever Alexander Torres, the latter prepared to make his major league debut.

Robinson Cano began the 8th with a single to center. Nick Swisher drew a walk. Andruw Jones flew out, 1 out. Russell Martin came to the plate.

Maddon brought in Farnsworth.

I had seen Farnsworth pitch many times. I knew I couldn't trust him any further than I could throw him. (Well, with your bad knee, Mike, you shouldn't be throwing anybody!) Farnsworth is one of these pitchers who doesn't seem to care where the ball goes, only how fast it goes. He can throw close to 100 miles an hour, but he has less control than my niece Ashley -- and she's 4!

Farnsworth had blown so many games for the Yankees. Now, he was coming in to pitch against them. The words of football legend Chuck Bednarik came to my mind: "This fucking game is OVER!"

Martin singled to load the bases. Brett Gardner singled to score Cano. Eduardo Nunez hit a sure double play ball, but Gardner broke it up, allowing Nunez to reach first and Swisher to score.

Tie game.

The Yankees' signing of Rafael Soriano, the Rays' closer, to be Mariano's setup man, has hurt us, due to his injuries. But it appears to have hurt the Rays a lot more, for the simple reason that Kyle Farnsworth is now the Rays' closer: He has 18 of the team's 19 saves.

The freshly minted rookie Torres pitched the 9th. Curtis Granderson singled. Torres got the slumping Mark Teixeira to strike out. Granderson stole second. Cano grounded out, getting Granderson to 3rd. Torres was told to walk Swisher. But Jones walked unintentionally, to load the bases. And then Torres walked Martin unintentionally, and that was the ballgame.

Yankees 5, Rays 4. WP: Robertson (3-0). SV: Rivera (24). LP: Torres (0-1). Torres did not pitch well, but, really, it was Farnsworth who blew it for the Deviled Eggs.

The Baltimore Orioles let the Red Sox walk all over them last night, including an 8-run inning. The Sox won, 15-10.

So the Yanks still trail The Scum by a game and a half, 1 in the loss column; the Rays fall to 8 back, and trail the Yanks by 6 1/2 (7) for the Wild Card; the Toronto Blue Jays are 12 (13) back, and the Orioles 19 1/2 (19).

Game 2 of this series is tonight at 7:00, the suddenly-struggling Bartolo Colon against Jeremy Hellickson.

As they would say in England... Come on you Bombers!


Jeter hits 3008 DONE
Rivera saves 583 18
A-Rod homers 626 137
A-Rod hits 2762 238
Magic Number 69 (to eliminate Scum, 61 for Rays, 55 for Jays, 51 for O's)

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