Friday, June 28, 2013

Hard Luck Hughes

Phil Hughes pitched 8 innings against the Texas Rangers last night. Just 2 runs, 5 hits, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts.  106 pitches, 72 of them strikes.  Very nice performance, from a guy who really could have used one.

And how did his Yankee teammates back him up?

* 1st inning: Ichiro Suzuki leads off with a single.  Jayson Nix flies out, and Robinson Cano grounds into a double play.

* 3rd: Austin Romine singles with 2 out.  Ichiro grounds into a force play.

* 4th: Nix leads off with a walk, and steals 2nd.  Cano and Vernon Wells strike out.  Zoilo Almonte grounds out -- has the bubble burst?

* 7th: Cano leads off with a walk.  He tries to steal 2nd and is thrown out.  Wells stirkes out.  Almonte flies out.

That's it.  Two hits, none after the 3rd.  Four baserunners.  Derek Holland (6-4) outpitched Hughes (3-7).  Rangers 2, Yankees 0.

You can't even give credit to the opposition here, because the Yankees just aren't hitting.  Nix, Wells, Almonte, Lyle Overbay, David Adams, Alberto Gonzalez? All 0-for-3.  Ichiro is the only one who even got 4 at-bats.

Almonte .318 (and he just came up)
Gardner .286 (pinch-hit late in the game)
Suzuki .277
Cano .276
Nix .241
Overbay .236
Wells .223
Gonzalez .205
Adams .179 (and some of us were fine with him taking A-Rod's place)
Romine .150

The way we're hitting do we even need the DH? Hughes could have batted for himself and done no worse.

Our pitchers have to be wondering, "What does a guy have to do?"

Maybe this weekend's 3-game set in the Baltimore bandbox is just what we need.

But it's supposed to rain all 3 days.  Who knows if we'll even get 3 games in.

Oy...

Presuming we get the games in, here's the pitching matchups:

Tonight, 7:05: David Phelps vs. T.J. McFarland.  Rookie lefthanded from Chicago suburbs, just turned 24, has made a grand total of 18 big-league appearances, all this season, and this is his first big-league start.  He's not quite the proverbial pitcher the Yankees have never seen before: He threw 2 relief innings against us in The Bronx on April 14, and didn't allow a run.  But this could be trouble.

Tomorrow night, 7:15: CC Sabathia vs. Zach Britton.  A more established pitcher, 25, from the Dallas suburbs, struggling at the moment.

Sunday night, the ESPN game, 8:05: Hiroki Kuroda vs. Chris Tillman.  26, from Anaheim, 9-3 2.93 last year, 9-2 but with a much higher 3.72 ERA this year.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

No Pitching Last Night, No Teix Message for Rest of Season

Let's just say that, last night, the Yankees and the Texas Rangers flew in the face of the cliche, and pitching was not 75 percent of baseball.

Andy Pettitte (5-6) did not have his good stuff, and, as much as we love the guy, it's becoming clear that he should hangup his cleats after this season.  He was betrayed by an unearned run, thanks to Brett Gardner dropping a fly ball.  But he still allowed too many baserunners.

And, in relief in the 7th inning, Joba Chamberlain yet again showed just how badly the Yankee brass messed him up, giving up 4 hits, including a 2-run homer to Nelson Cruz.  Shawn Kelly made things worse in the 9th inning, turning a 6-5 deficit into an 8-5 final score.

In fact, the only Yankee pitcher to do any good last night -- aside from Preston Claiborne, who got the last out when Joba melted down again -- was Boone Logan.  I saw him come in to start the 8th, and said, "Oh, sweet Lord, have mercy, and take me now." But he pitched to just 2 batters, David Murphy and Leonys Martin, and struck them both out.

The Yankees got some runs on Justin Grimm (7-5), including home runs by Lyle Overbay (his 9th) and Ichiro Suzuki (his 5th, and his 2nd in as many games).  Between them, Gardner and Ichiro got 5 hits.  But the rest of the Yankees combined only got 5, as Grimm and former Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan (with his 26th save) got the job done.

The series concludes this afternoon, weather permitting.  Phil Hughes goes against Derek Holland.  Come on you Pinstripes!

*

If the Yankees do come on, it will be without Mark Teixeira.  His wrist, which has kept him out of most of this season so far, now requires surgery, and it looks like he'll be out for the rest of the season.

It's worth asking if he'll ever play for the Yankees again.  Like Alex Rodriguez.  Although, in his case, only for an injury.  Those enormous contracts did get us a World Championship, which we should never, ever take for granted -- after all, New York's Other Team hasn't won one in 27 years -- but the money we're spending on injured players is money we can't spend on healthy players.

It now looks like the New York Jets are no longer having the most embarrassing offseason in the NFL, or even the AFC East.  In fact, the New England Patriots are having a killer offseason!

The New Jersey Devils re-signed Dainius Zubrus to a 3-year contract.  That helps.  So does the apparent fact that Adam Henrique, he who scored The Greatest Goal in Devils History, has received a qualifying offer, which may prevent him from becoming a restricted free agent.

But there are more important players to re-sign: Patrik Elias and David Clarkson.  And it's looking more and more like the Big Bald Cheapskate won't re-sign Clarkie.

*

Days until the Red Bulls play again: 3, this Sunday afternoon, home to the Houston Dynamo.  In their last 2 games, Metro have lost to derby opponents: Knocked out of the U.S. Open Cup (America's equivalent of England's FA Cup) by the New England Revolution, and beaten in league play by the Philadelphia Union.  They have got to step it up.

Days until the U.S. National Soccer Team plays again: 12, on Tuesday, July 9, vs. the Central American nation of Belize in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, at Jeld-Wen Field (fomrerly Civic Stadium) in Portland, Oregon.  Under 2 weeks.  Victories over Jamaica and Panama mean that we've come very close to qualifying for next year's World Cup.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 22, on Friday, July 19.  Just 3 weeks.  Due to the MLB office banjaxing the schedule with this 15-teams-in-each-League setup, this first series after the All-Star Break will be the first series between the teams at Fenway this season.  Then another series begins at Fenway on Friday, August 16.  Then another in The Bronx on Thursday, September 5, and another at Fenway on Friday, September 13.  Oh yeah, if you're a Red Sox fan, that's a day you want to play the Yankees: Friday the 13th!

Days until Arsenal play another competitive match: 51, on Saturday, August 17, home to Aston Villa of Birmingham.  A little over 7 weeks.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 63, on Thursday night, August 29, away to Fresno State University in California.  Just 9 weeks.  The first home game of the 2013 season will be on Saturday, September 7, vs. Norfolk State.

Days until the next North London Derby: 65, on Saturday, August 31, at New Highbury.  It is unusual for Arsenal and Tottenham to play each other so soon in the season, just the 3rd League game.  Usually, they wait until November, sometimes as early as October, for the first meeting of the season between the teams.  I have to remember to do a post on "St. Totteringham's Day."

Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby," against either the New England Revolution, the Philadelphia Union or D.C. United: 65, home to Washington's D.C. United.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 79, on September 12 -- on a Thursday due to Rosh Hoshanah, the Jewish New Year, falling on a weekend.  It's away to South Brunswick.  A little over 11 weeks.  It will be the first game they play without Marcus Borden as head coach since Thanksgiving Day 1982 (a loss to Colonia High of Woodbridge), as he has left the program.  (Did he jump, or was he pushed? I don't know.) A new coach has been named: Bob Molarz, who turned nearby Carteret High School, which couldn't buy a win while I was at EBHS, into a team that made the Playoffs 9 seasons in a row and won 3 Central Jersey Group II Championships.  He comes to us from the head job at one of our rivals, St. Joseph's of Metuchen, where he coached their first 2 seasons of varsity ball.  A great hire.

Days until the Devils play again: Unknown, as the 2013-14 NHL schedule has yet to be released.  Most likely, the new season will begin on the 1st Friday of October (October 4).  If so, and the Devils debut on opening night (rather than the next night, Saturday), that's 99 days.  A little over 3 months.

Days until the Devils play another local rival: See the previous answer.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 154 (November 28).  Just 5 months.

Days until the Devils play the Rangers at Yankee Stadium: 213 (January 26, 2014).  Just 7 months.

Days until Super Bowl XLVIII at the Meadowlands: 220 (February 2, 2014).  Of course, we have no idea who the opposing teams will be.  The possibility exists that either the Giants or the Jets could be in it -- or both.  To this day, no team has ever played a Super Bowl in its own stadium -- in spite of multiple hostings by Miami, New Orleans and various California teams.  Only 2 have done so in their home metro area: The 1979-80 Los Angeles Rams, whose home field was then the L.A. Coliseum, and they lost to Pittsburgh at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena; and the 1984-85 San Francisco 49ers, whose home field, then as now, was Candlestick Park, and they beat Miami at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, which had a much larger capacity than Candlestick.

Days until the next Winter Olympics, in Sochi, Russia: 225 (February 7, 2014).

Days until the next World Cup, in Brazil: 350 (June 12, 2014).  Under 1 year.

Days until Rutgers' first Big Ten Conference football game: 443, on Saturday, September 13, 2014 -- at home, against our most hated rival, now a league rival for the very first time: Penn State.  Yes, even before the 2013 college football season begins, the 2014 Big 10 sked has been released.  I guess that's the difference between the Big East and a real college football league.  Anyway, that's under 15 months.

Days until the next Summer Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 1,135 (August 5, 2016).  A little over 3 years.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Ichiro Hits Walkoff, Cashman Shoots Mouth Off

The late Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver used to say, "The Oriole Way is pitching, defense, and three-run homers." As in, not just hitting home runs, but doing it with men on base.

Which is a little odd, because, from 1978 to 1982, Weaver managed Gary Roenicke (who remained with the Orioles through 1985, and even played 1986 with the Yankees).  In 1979, with Roenicke platooning with John Lowenstein (a big Yankee Killer at the time) in left field, Weaver led the O's to the Pennant, and Roenicke, hitting in pitching-friendly Memorial Stadium, hit 25 home runs -- but only had 64 RBIs.  He hit so many homers with no one on base, he was nicknamed "Solo." (No, Lowenstein wasn't nicknamed "Chewbacca." Or "Kuryakin," for that matter.)

Last night, against the Texas Rangers, the Yankees hit no home runs with anyone on base.  But they hit 4 home runs, and won the game, 4-3.

Hiroki Kuroda pitched well into the 7th, Boone Logan somehow managed to finish the inning without starting a fire, David Robertson pitched a scoreless 8th and Mariano Rivera (1-1) pitched a scoreless 9th.

Travis Hafner hit his 12th home run of the season in the 4th, Brett Gardner his 7th in the 5th, and Jayson Nix his 2nd in the 6th, all off Ranger starter Yu Darvish.  But it was RISPfail again: 1-for-7.  The Yankees loaded the bases in the bottom of the 8th, and didn't score.

In the bottom of the 9th, Chris Stewart led off with a walk.  That's what you want to do in the bottom of the 9th: Get the leadoff man on.  But Gardner grounded into a force play for the 1st out, and then he got thrown out stealing 2nd for the 2nd out.  So nobody was on base when Ichiro Suzuki stepped up.

Tanner Scheppers (5-1) was on the mound for the Rangers.  He came into the game with an ERA of 0.95.  On a hot night, he was throwing some serious heat.  He threw Ichiro 4 pitches, all fastballs: 96 miles per hour for a called strike, 98 for a foul ball, 98 for a ball, and 97... and Ichiro hit it out to right field to win the ballgame.  (His 4th homer of the year.) Yankees 4, Rangers 3.

I know this isn't hockey, but I've got to say it: RANGERS SUCK! Actually, this is a case of both RANGERS SUCK and DALLAS SUCKS!

*

For most teams, a walkoff home run would be the biggest story of the day.  But we are the Yankees.  Things happen.

Alex Rodriguez is now officially on Twitter.  And @AROD said...

Visit from Dr. Kelly over the weekend, who gave me the best news - the green light to play games again!

Good to hear.  After all, one of two things is going to happen.  Either...

1. A-Rod will be able to play the way he used to, and we'll have hit bat in the lineup and his glove in the field.  Or...

2. He won't be able to play the way he used to, and we'll be no worse off than we are now, and might even have a better case for dumping him.

Personally, I would prefer Option 1.

Yankee general manager Brian Cashman has had some problems.  Including problems he shares with A-Rod: Saying the wrong thing in public, doing goofy things when he should be concentrating on his work, and fooling around with the wrong women.

Told by ESPN New York about A-Rod's tweet, Cashman said this:

You know what, when the Yankees want to announce something, we will.  Alex should just shut the fuck up."

Huh? I realize that, yesterday, the Supreme Court plunged a knife into the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  But since when does Brian Cashman get to decide that the First Amendment is now invalid? Neither the Yankee organization, nor any representative thereof, has the right to regulate the public statements of their players.

Freedom of speech (talking) and freedom of the press (writing, including the use of Twitter) are still in effect.  They're not absolute.  The classics examples of going too far are, for speech, yelling the word, "Fire!" in a crowded place when there is not actually a fire; and, for the press, publishing that someone is a crook without evidence.  As long as a person isn't causing harm with his or her speech or writing, they've got the right to say pretty much what they want, and no one should be able to stop them.

Especially Cashman, who's done a lousy job of regulating his own speech. He's not quite at Billy Martin level, but at least Billy's really bad behavior was away from prying eyes. 

As noted A-Rod defender Lisa Swan put it in today's Subway Squawkers:


Get your popcorn ready! It's always fun to hear a guy who jumped out of an airplane and broke his leg, who cheated on his wife with a stalker mistress who had 13 restraining orders against her, and who gave Kevin Youkilis $12 million this year, criticize somebody for bad judgment and tell him to shut the bleep up.

It would kind of be like Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, parents of baby daughter North West, getting in Gwyneth Paltrow's face about naming her child Apple.

(Side note: Right before the baby was born, Kanye released a song titled "I Am a God." No, Kanye, you're not.)

*

Can you imagine some of the Yankee Legends on Twitter?

Babe Ruth @SultanOfSwat
@Cubs I'm gonna hit one out off that kid you got pitching today. 5th inning. Straightaway center field.

Lou Gehrig @IronHorse4
Found a nickel! Lucky me!

Whitey Ford @ChairmanODaBoard
@Mick7 Where were you last night?

Mickey Mantle @Mick7
@ChairmanODaBoard There's 20 bucks in it for anybody who can tell me. Spent 2 hours throwing up. N' my knee hurts like hell. I'll only hit 1 out today.

Roger Maris @RogerMaris9
@Mick7 At least your hair's not falling out.

Joe Pepitone @JoePep25
@Mick7 @RogerMaris9 Me too Roger. Shit

Mickey Mantle @Mick7
@JoePep25 Maybe that's what ya git for bringing that hairdryer into the clubhouse. @RogerMaris9

Yogi Berra @Yogi8
@JoePep25 Your hair ain't as bad as mine. In my case, it's close to being over. If I had more hair, I wouldn't be this bald.

Thurman Munson @CatcherFromCanton
@BillyNumber1 Will you relax? We'll win today. I'll lead off the 9th with a hit, and the new guy with the big mouth will hit one out.

Billy Martin @BillyNumber1
@CatcherFromCanton Relax? Who can relax? Have you forgotten who our boss is?

George Steinbrenner @BigStein
@BillyNumber1 @CatcherFromCanton I haven't forgotten.

Phil Pepe @PepeDailyNews
@CatcherFromCanton Thurman, can I quote you on this? I'll have you listed as @ProminentYankee.

Phil Rizzuto @Scooter10
Holy Cow, this social media stuff is giving me agita. You huckleberries.

*

Joe DiMaggio wouldn't be on Twitter.  He valued his privacy too much.

The thought of Billy Martin actually being on Twitter is disturbing.

Then again, maybe A-Rod and Cashman are made for each other. One's a born liar, the other's conflicted - conflict of interest.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Top 10 Boston Sports Chokes

Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks, who won their 5th Stanley Cup last night: 1934, 1938, 1961, 2010 and 2013.

They led the Boston Bruins 3 games to 2, but trailed 2-1 with 1:16 left in regulation in Game 6 at TD Garden in Boston.  But Bryan Bickell scored, and then, just 17 seconds of ice time later, Dave Bolland scored the Cup-winning goal.

The Hawks are coached by Joel Quenneville.  After being an original 1982-83 member of the New Jersey Devils, he deserves these 2 Cups in 4 seasons.  Another former Devil, Johnny Oduya, provided one of the assists on Bolland's goal.

As for the Bruins... Ah, "Boston Strong" wasn't quite strong enough to beat "My Kind of Town."

Top 10 Boston Sports Chokes

10. June 24, 2013: Stanley Cup Finals, Game 6.  This one just happened, so, obviously, it hasn't stood the test of time.  However, as time goes by, and as Boston teams inevitably add to their litany of choking, this one may fall off the list.  After all, the Hawks were the best team in the NHL all season long.  Even if the Bruins had won, they still would have had to beat the Hawks in Chicago in Game 7.  Not impossible, but incredibly unlikely.

Granted, they won Game 6 at home and Game 7 on the road against the Vancouver Canucks in the 2011 Finals -- but that was against a Canadian team.  After the Montreal Canadiens won the Cup in Gary Bettman's first season as Commissioner, 1992-93, he has never let another Canadian team win: They're 0-5 in the Finals since (Vancouver 1994 & 2011, Calgary 2004, Edmonton 2006, Ottawa 2007, and all but Ottawa's 5-game exercise in stupidity look suspicious).  This time, however, both teams in the Finals were big-market U.S. teams: Whoever won would fit Bettman's demand that a big-market U.S. team win, and whoever lost would have been a team that had won the Cup within the last 3 years, so it wouldn't sting as much.  Bettman had no reason to fix this one.

9. August 23-October 2, 1974: American League Eastern Division.  This one tends to get forgotten, because it didn't occur in the postseason.  But the Red Sox led the New York Yankees by 7 games on August 23.  Being 7 up with 38 to go isn't a slam dunk (if you'll pardon me mixing my sports metaphors), but it seemed pretty likely that the Sox would win the AL East.

But then they went on an 8-game losing streak from August 30 to September 6.  And, at the same time, the Baltimore Orioles surged, to make it a 3-team race.  In the end, it was a 2-team race: The O's and the Yanks, and the O's took it by 2 games.

This one would probably be remembered a lot more if it had been the arch-enemy, the Yankees, who had beaten out the Sox.  But Sox fans don't hate the Orioles nearly as much -- mainly because, since O's fans also hate the Yankees, there's something of a kinship there.  Seeing the Yankees also blow a Division title they could well have won (they led by 2 1/2 games on September 15 and were only half a game out as late as September 29) surely helped heal Sox fans' wounds.  But 1974 did set the standard for the failures of '75, '77 and '78.

8. June 15-17, 2010: NBA Finals, Games 6-7.  Boston fans are used to chokes by the Red Sox, the Bruins, and the Patriots.  Not by the Celtics, whose 17 titles are the most in the NBA, and 3rd in all of North American sports, behind only the Yankees and the Canadiens.  But in 2010, they blew it, and against the closest (in terms of success, if not geography) thing they have to an arch-rival, the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Celtics, who had beaten the Lakers in the previous year's Finals -- leading Shaquille O'Neal to taunt ex-teammate Kobe Bryant with, "Kobe, tell me how my ass taste!" -- led 3 games to 2, and in all fairness Games 6 and 7 were in Los Angeles.  Game 6 was a blowout, the Lakers winning, 89-67.  But the Celtics had won Game 7s in Los Angeles in 1963 and 1969.  Then again, as Rick Pitino might have said, Bill Russell, Sam Jones and John Havlicek -- to say nothing of Larry Bird and his generation of Celtics -- were not walking through that door.  The Lakers won Game 7, 83-79, a close one, and Kobe was redeemed -- in the eyes of basketball fans, if not in the eyes of his wife, or women in general.

7. May 10, 1979: Stanley Cup Semifinals, Game 7.  The Bruins led the Canadiens 3-1 at the Montreal Forum, but the Habs showed why they were 3-time defending World Champions, tying it up, and sending their home crowd into a French frenzy.  Rick Middleton gave the B's back the lead, but with just 2:34 to go, the Bruins went through a line change too slowly, and were penalized for having too many men on the ice.

Bruins coach Don Cherry said, "It was my fault." It was worse than that.  When ESPN Classic reran this game, which I saw on NBC when it first aired when I was 9 years old, I ran the videotape back to see just who was the man who shouldn't have been on the ice.  Checking the roster for uniform numbers and positions, I saw that the Bruins had 2 left wings.  (I'm sure there are some of you thinking, "Typical Massachusetts, right? Too much left wing.") The one who shouldn't have been out there was Number 17, Stan Jonathan -- whom Cherry would later choose as his favorite player among those he coached, because Jonathan was the best fighter he ever coached.  Poetic justice, indeed.

With 1:14 left in regulation, Guy Lafleur, the best player in the game at the time, took a pass from Jacques Lemaire -- who scored the Cup-winning goal in overtime against the Bruins to complete a 4-game sweep in 1977, and would later coach the Devils to their first Cup in 1995 -- and slammed it home, tying it up.  It took 9:33 of overtime before Yvon Lambert scored for the Habs, sending them into the Finals against the New York Rangers, who had already completed an epic Semifinal (no "conference finals/semis/quarters" back then) with the New York Islanders.  The Rangers won Game 1, but the Canadiens took the next 4 straight to make it 4 straight Cups.

The Bruins had also lost to the Canadiens in the Finals in 1977 and '78, and to the Philadelphia Flyers in '74. They would lose in the Finals to the Edmonton Oilers in 1988 and '90.  After the Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito Cups of 1970 and 1972, and the disastrous loss to the Canadiens in between, it would be 2011 before they won the Cup again: 39 years.

6. May 7-14, 2010: NHL Eastern Conference Semifinals, Games 4-7.  2010 was not a good year for Boston sports, especially in the spring.  Only 3 times has an NHL team led a Playoff series 3 games to 0 and blown it.  The most recent was in 2010, the Bruins against the Flyers.  The B's lost Game 4 in overtime, got shut out in Game 5 in Boston, lost 2-1 in Game 6 in Philly, and then lost 4-3 in Game 7 in Boston.  As in 1979, they lost partly because, once again, they got called for too many men on the ice.

They used their anger over this collapse to win the Cup the next season, so this one can be shrugged off.  And it's too recent to be a canker sore on the sports memory of New England like some of these others.  But it's still embarrassing, especially since it had only been 6 years since a Boston team did it to their most hated rivals in another sport.

5. February 3, 2008: Super Bowl XLII.  Losing a Super Bowl with 35 seconds to go is bad enough, as the New England Patriots did to the New York Giants, 17-14, as Eli Manning showed Tom Brady how to be an elite quarterback without Bill Belichick cheating for you.  But being 18-0, having a shot at the first undefeated season in the NFL in 35 years, having the first-ever 19-0 season (the 1972 Miami Dolphins were 17-0 after Super Bowl VII), and talking it up all season long, being favored by 12 points going into the game, and having the promotional books already printed by your local newspaper (The Boston Globe), and then blowing it? Truly worthy of a Globe column by Red Sox chronicler Dan Shaughnessy, who did not invent the concept of The Curse of the Bambino, but did popularize it.

The funny part is, after the Pats won their first Super Bowl, 6 years earlier, before the Red Sox started steroiding their way to wins over the Yankees, a celebration was held at City Hall across from Faneuil Hall, and a Patriot scrub (I don't remember his name, and you don't have to, either) held up the Vince Lombardi Trophy and started a "Yankees suck!" chant.  Afterward, Shaughnessy said, "I guarantee you, if the Giants win the Super Bowl, nobody's going to start a 'Boston sucks!' chant." Well, maybe if the Jets were to beat the Patriots in the Playoffs (which has since happened) and then go on to win the Super Bowl (which hasn't).  Instead, outside City Hall in Lower Manhattan, Giants/Yankees fans chanted, "Eighteen and one!"

Dishonorable Mention.  February 6, 2012: Super Bowl XLVI.  This time, the Pats came in 15-3 rather than 18-0, and were favored by only 2 1/2 points.  The final was 21-17 Giants, scoring the winning touchdown with 2:49 left.  Not as bad, you say? How about this: The Pats led 17-9 with 4:37 left in the 3rd quarter.  If one is worthy of a Super Bowl win, one does not simply blow an 8-point 2nd-half lead in the Super Bowl.  It is folly.

4. July 20-October 2, 1978: American League Eastern Division, regular season and Playoff.  That this is only #4 on the list shows just how bad Boston's sports history can be.

As late as July 8, the Red Sox led the AL East by 10 games.  As late as July 20, they were 14 games ahead of the Yankees.  But injuries caught up with the Sox, and by July 27, they were just 4 1/2 games ahead.  A 2-game sweep of the Yankees on August 2 & 3 put them back up by 6, and they were 9 up on August 13.  But the Yankees slowly chipped away, until a 4-game series -- which was supposed to be 3, but a rainout on the 4th of July forced a postponement -- began on September 7.  It became known as the Boston Massacre: The Yankees won 15-3, 13-2, 7-0 and 7-4, and tied the Sox for first.

Another series the next weekend put the Yankees up by 3 1/2, but the Sox salvaged the Sunday game, and won their last 8 to forge a tie with the Yankees, resulting in a single-game Playoff.  No Wild Cards back then.  The game was played on a beautiful fall afternoon at Fenway Park, and the Sox were up 2-0 with 2 outs in the top of the 7th.  Then, well, Bucky Dent.  Or, as the Globe put it, "Destiny 5, Red Sox 4." This became the choke by which all other Boston chokes have been measured.

3. October 16, 2003: AL Championship Series, Game 7.  The Sox led 4-0.  They led 5-2 with 5 outs to go.  Then manager Grady Little forgot that the one supposedly great pitcher ever who should have had a pitch count, Pedro Martinez, was over it.  He allowed a double to Derek Jeter, and a single to Bernie Williams.  5-3.  Little went out to the mound, with the next 2 hitters being Hideki Matsui (lefty) and Jorge Posada (switch-hitter but noticeably weaker from the right side).  Lefty Alan Embree was ready to come out of the pen, and had pitched 6 2/3 innings in the postseason thus far, all of them scoreless, 4 hits, no walks.  A no-brainer.

And Little left Pedro in.  Hideki Matsui hit a ground-rule double.  Now, Little has to take Pedro out, right? Bring in Embree, turn Posada around to his weaker side? Nope, Little sits on his ass and lets Pedro face Posada.  (What happened between the two of them in Game 3 is, for the purpose of this post, irrelevant.) And Jorge doubled home the tying runs.  Three innings later, Aaron Blessed Boone.  The Yankees won the Pennant, and The Curse of the Bambino struck for one last time.

The next year, everything changed.  But since we now know the Red Sox were up to their necks in steroids -- or would have been, if the steroids hadn't left them with no necks -- that Yankee "choke" doesn't measure up to any of these.  It ain't a choke if the other team cheats.  (And I don't want to hear that the Yankees were "cheating" in 2003.  It's comparing jaywalking to first-degree murder.)

2. September 1-28, 2011: AL East.  As late as September 1, with 26 games to go, the Red Sox were in first place.  With the Wild Card in place, they had a 99 percent chance of at least making the Playoffs.  All they had to do, as it turned out, was win just 8 of their last 27 -- not even 1 out of every 3.  Just 8 out of 27.

They won 7 of their last 27.  That's losing 20 of 27.  That included 6 out of 7 against the team that was chasing them for the Wild Card, the Tampa Bay Rays.  That the Yankees went on a tear and won the AL East was, for once, irrelevant: The Sox had proven, in 2003, '04, '05 and '09 that they could make the Playoffs even when the Yanks won the Division.  But the Rays surged as well, including sweeping the Yankees in the last 3 games.  For once, the Yankees screwed the Red Sox by losing.

Dishonorable Mention. October 1-2, 1949: American League (old single-division format).  On July 4, the Sox split a doubleheader with the Yankees, completing a run of 5 losses in 6 games against the Bronx Bombers, and were 12 games back.  The Sox surged, and the Yanks' injuries caught up with him -- almost the opposite of what ended up happening in 1978.  On September 25, the Sox caught the Yankees.  On September 30, they were 1 game up with 2 to go.  Those 2 were at Yankee Stadium: If the Sox won either, they would have won the Pennant.  The Yankees had to take both.

On the Saturday, the Sox blew a 4-0 lead and lost, 5-4.  On the Sunday, the Sox were only 1-0 down in the  top of the 8th, when Joe McCarthy, previously the Yanks' great manager, pinch-hit for pitcher Ellis Kinder in a bid to get the all-important run he needed to at least keep the game alive.  It didn't work.  Then the Yanks made it 5-1 in the bottom of the inning.  But the Sox mounted a comeback in the 9th, making it 5-3, and had the tying runs on, before the Yanks got out of it.

How do you top blowing a 99-1 chance of making the Playoffs? By blowing a 320-1 chance of winning the World Series.

1. October 25-26, 1986: World Series Games 6 and 7.  Oddly, the biggest Boston choke ever did come in baseball, and it did come against New York -- but the Mets, not the Yankees.  The Sox led Game 6, 5-3 in the bottom of the 10th.  There were 13 separate pitches that could have ended the game in victory and a World Championship for the Sox.  The words "CONGRATULATIONS BOSTON RED SOX 1986 WORLD CHAMPIONS" were already on the Shea Stadium scoreboard.  In the Sox locker room, the champagne was on ice and in the room, the lockers were covered with plastic sheeting to protect their contents from the sprayed champagne, and Commissioner Peter Ueberroth was in the room with the Commissioner's Trophy, ready to present it to Sox owner Jean Yawkey.  For NBC, Bob Costas was all ready to interview Mrs. Yawkey, and anyone else, to discuss the team's first title in 68 years.

Shaughnessy, doing research for his book The Curse of the Bambino, asked someone to calculate the odds of the Sox going from that point, 1 pitch away from winning the World Series with a 2-run lead, and, even if they blew it, Game 7 still to win.  The answer he got: 320-1.  In other words, the Sox could have played nearly 2 full regular seasons' worth of games (162 in Year 1, and 157 in Year 2), and won them all, before losing one.  (Yeah, I know, it doesn't work that way.  But it does provide some illustration as to how bad this was.)

I don't need to rehash it, partly because the story is familiar, and partly because I hate the Mets.  (As much as I hate the Red Sox? Really, it depends upon the day.) But the Mets got a run back, and Costas, connected with the NBC control truck outside the stadium, says into his microphone, "What do I do if the Mets come back to tie this? Or win it?" In his earpiece, he hears, "You get the hell out of there, as quickly as you can."

What gets forgotten is that the Sox led Game 7, on the road, 3-0 in the bottom of the 6th.  They could have won the thing anyway.  Even as late as the bottom of the 8th, they were only down 6-5.  It was still possible.  As with the Chicago Cubs in the 2003 National League Championship Series, after the Steve Bartman Play in Game 6, they could have won Game 7 and made the Game 6 calamity just a rather embarrassing footnote.  But they didn't.

The most shocking thing of all is that this is no longer the greatest choke in World Series history.  In 1986, the Red Sox blew a 2-run lead in the 10th inning of Game 6 and lost that and Game 7.  In 2011, against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Texas Rangers blew a 2-run lead in the 9th inning of Game 6, and another in the 10th, before losing that game and Game 7.  So if the 2004 postseason didn't get the 1986 Red Sox off the hook, then 2011 World Series sure did.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Logan's Litany of Losing, As Of June 23, 2013

He did it again, yesterday.  So, time for an update.

Boone Logan is a bum.  Oh, he might be a decent human being, who still can't pitch and whose placement on the Yankee mound has resulted in blown leads and lost games, much like Scott Proctor.  Or he might not be one, who still can't pitch, much like Kyle Farnsworth.

At this point, I don't care whether Logan is a decent human being: He has to go.  He can't pitch.

I despise the very concept of the LOOGy, the Lefty One Out Guy.  If you can't be trusted to get a batter out, regardless of his hand or yours, when the advantage nearly always favors the pitcher, then I don't want you on my team.  And if your sole purpose in a game is to get one lefthanded hitter out, and you don't, then what the hell are you doing in the major leagues?

Boone Logan was born on August 13, 1984 in San Antonio.  He reached the majors with the Chicago White Sox in 2006.  They sent him to the Atlanta Braves in 2009, and on December 22, 2009, the Braves traded him and Javier Vazquez to the Yankees for Melky Cabrera and 2 guys who ended up not mattering.  This has become one of the worst trades in Yankee history, and not just because the second coming of Vazquez, a.k.a. Home Run Javy, was even worse than the first.

According to Baseball-Reference.com, the pitcher whose career statistics most resembles those of Logan is Pedro Borbon.  This seems unfair, as I remember Borbon as a good reliever.  But the pitcher whose career stats most resemble Logan's at the same age? Felix Heredia, who was so bad as a Yankee that I called him "the Meatball Sub," and whose name made me think of a nasty medical condition: "He's got an acute case of felixheredia."

As a Yankee, Logan is 16-7, a winning percentage of .696.  However, won-lost record and winning percentage are even less meaningful as stats for relievers than they are for starters.  Logan's career ERA is 4.40, which is absolutely unacceptable for a reliever; as a Yankee, it's 3.27, which is still way too high.  His WHIP (Walks + Hits, divided by Innings Pitched)? 1.502 overall, 1.347 as a Yankee.  This season, after 31 appearances, it's 1.271.

If Logan were a righthanded pitcher, he would be at Triple-A now.  But he's a lefty, so he's likely to stick in the major leagues, going from desperate team to desperate team, until his age matches his uniform number, 48.

And yet, Yankee manager Joe Girardi keeps consulting his Binder, and it keeps telling him to put Logan into the game.  Maybe we should start calling him "Binder Boy Boone."

Here now is a quantification of my reasoning that Boone Logan is a bum.  Here is the litany of games that he has blown for the Yankees:

1. April 27, 2010, Yankees at Baltimore Orioles.  Yankees lead 2-1.  Logan come in to relieve Phil Hughes in the 6th -- after Hughes has already gotten 2 outs in the inning, albeit on sharply-hit balls.  Logan faces Luke Scott, a lefthanded hitter.  He walks him.  Girardi, seeing Logan fail in his one and only task, immediately pulls him for David Robertson, who has not yet become the Yankees' trusted 8th-inning reliever.  D-Rob hits a batter, then allows 3 straight singles, before finally getting a strikeout to end the inning.  Yankees go on to lose 5-4, and it all started because Logan walked the one man he was supposed to get out.

2. May 10, 2010, Yankees at Detroit Tigers.  Yankees trail 4-2.  Logan comes in to relieve Robertson.  He walks Johnny Damon, but gets Magglio Ordonez to ground into a double play.  But he walks Miguel Cabrera, and allows a triple to Brennan Boesch (now, in 2013, his Yankee teammate).  Yankees now trail 5-2, and go on to lose 5-4.

3. May 19, 2010, Yankees host Tampa Bay Rays.  Yankees trail 6-2.  Logan comes in to relieve A.J. Burnett.  He needs 1 out to get out of the 7th, and he gets it.  But in the 8th, he allows a walk, and an RBI double.  That makes it 6-3.  Girardi pulls him 2 batters too late, and brings in Mark Melancon, who pours gasoline on the fire that Logan started, allowing an RBI single, a flyout, and RBI single, another single, and an RBI sacrifice fly.  Now it's 10-2 Rays, but the Yankees close to within 10-6.  Had Logan not pitched the 8th, the score could have been 6-6, but he did, so there was no chance.

4. September 19, 2010, Yankees at Baltimore.  Yankees lead 3-1.  Logan comes in to relieve Joba Chamberlain, who had come in to start the 7th in relief of Andy Pettitte, and struck out Adam Jones.  Instead of leaving in a pitcher who had just gotten a good out, Girardi brings in Logan to pitch to Scott.  Logan strikes Scott out, and then gets Ty Wigginton out.  Okay, Logan does the job.  But Girardi leaves Logan in to start the 8th, and Logan allows a leadoff single to Corey Patterson -- a lefty that Logan couldn't get out.  Girardi then replaces Logan with Kerry Wood, who allows back-to-back singles to make it 3-2 Yankees.  Wood gets out of it, and it's Mariano Rivera, of all people, who allows Scott to tie the game with a homer in the 9th, and Robertson allows a Scott double and a Wigginton single in the 11th to lose it 4-3.  But if Girardi had handled Logan right, the Yankees would not have blown the lead.

That's 4 games that Logan blew, or helped to blow, in 2010.  The Yankees finished 1 game out of 1st place in the American League Eastern Division that season.  Had they won just 2 of the 4, half of them, they would have had the best record in the AL, and would have been the 1st seed in the Playoffs, not the 4th.

5. October 18, 2010, Game 3 of American League Championship Series, Yankees host Texas Rangers.  Rangers lead 2-0, but, as Yankee broadcaster John Sterling taught us, "That's just a bloop and a blast." Logan comes in to relieve Kerry Wood, and Girardi has clearly brought him in to face just 1 batter, the dangerous lefty Josh Hamilton.  Logan allows a double.  Girardi pulls Logan for David Robertson -- who, at this point, was occupying a place in my mind that Logan does now, as a bum who doesn't belong in the majors.  Robertson straightened himself out in 2011; Logan never has.  The Rangers end up scoring 6 runs in the inning, and a 2-run deficit becomes 8-0 Rangers.  Logan set in motion the putting of the game out of reach.

6. October 19, 2010, Game 4 of ALCS, Yankees host Rangers.  Rangers lead 5-3, but that's just a bloop and a blast.  Logan comes in to relieve Robertson, who had just relieved Burnett with 2 outs.  Again, Girardi brings Logan in with the sole purpose of pitching to Hamilton.  Hamilton does not settle for 2 bases this time: He takes 4 on a mammoth home run.  6-3 Rangers.  Girardi replaces Logan with Joba, and he's got nothing: Double, walk, single, before getting a strikeout to end it.  Yankees lose 10-3.

If the Yankees had won either of those games, that ALCS would have at least gone to a Game 7, and proven postseason performer Andy Pettitte would almost certainly have been the starter.

7. April 5, 2011, Yankees host Minnesota Twins.  Game tied 4-4.  Logan comes in to relieve Mariano Rivera, who had pitched a scoreless 9th.  Walk, single, RBI single.  Yankees lose, 5-4.

8. May 7, 2011, Yankees at Rangers.  Rangers lead 5-4.  Logan comes in to relieve Bartolo Colon.  He gets through the 5th, and in the top of the 6th, the Yankees tie the game.  Girardi leaves Logan in for the bottom of the 6th.  Double, single, RBI sacrifice bunt.  Girardi brings in Robertson, who allows another run.  Yankees lose, 7-5.

9. May 27, 2011, Yankees at Seattle Mariners.  Yankees lead 3-2.  Logan comes in to relieve Burnett in the 6th.  He pitches to 1 batter, the lefthanded Adam Kennedy.  You never want to put the leadoff man on, but he does, with a single.  Girardi brings in Luis Ayala, who allows single, walk, RBI groundout, RBI groundout.  Yankees lose, 4-3.

10. July 6, 2011, Yankees at Cleveland Indians.  Indians lead 2-0.  Logan comes in to relieve Ayala with 2 outs in the 6th.  He hits Travis Hafner (now a Yankee), but gets Carlos Santana (not the guitarist) to ground out.  He stays in for the 7th, and gets the first 2 outs, then allows a home run to Lonnie Chisenhall.  3-0 Indians.  The Indians make it 5-0 before a Yankee comeback falls short in the 9th, 5-3.  If Logan hadn't allowed that home run to a banjo hitter, the Yankees might have won.  So I'm counting this one.

11. July 19, 2011, Yankees at Rays.  Yankees lead 2-1.  Logan comes in to relieve Colon in the 7th, after Colon started the 7th with a strikeout but had allowed back-to-back singles.  Logan allows a single to load the bases, a groundout error, and a sacrifice fly before getting a strikeout to end it.  3-2 Rays, and that's the final.

12. July 23, 2011, Yankees host Oakland Athletics.  A's lead 3-2.  Logan comes in to relieve Cory Wade to start the 7th.  The first batter he faces is a lefty, Hideki Matsui.  Our old friend hits it out.  4-2 A's.  Logan pitches 2 full innings with no further damage... and other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play? Yanks get a run in the bottom of the 9th, but that makes it 4-3, not 3-3.

13. July 27, 2011, Yankees host Mariners.  M's lead 2-1.  Logan comes in to relieve Wade, with 1 out, after Wade allowed a double and a single.  Logan got what should have been an inning-ending double play, but there was a throwing error.  Okay, can't blame him for the game now being 3-1, but then he loads the bases with a walk, gets the 2nd out on a strikeout, but allows a triple to make it 6-1.  Ayala comes in and allows a double to make it 7-1.  Yankees go on to lose 9-2.

14. August 23, 2011, Yankees host A's.  A's lead 3-0.  Logan comes in to relieve Colon in the 7th, with 1 out, but Colon has now allowed a single and a double.  Logan allows a double before getting 2 groundouts.  5-0 A's.  The A's make it 6-0 before a furious Yankee comeback falls just short, 6-5.  Had Logan not allowed that double, the Yankees would have won.

15. September 16, 2011, Yankees at those pesky Toronto Blue Jays.  Game tied 4-4.  Logan comes in to start the bottom of the 9th.  Double, intentional walk, bunt groundout.  Girardi brings in Cory Wade, game-winning single.  Jays 5, Yankees 4.

16. September 28, 2011, Yankees at Rays.  Yankees lead 7-0 in the bottom of the 7th.  Let me say that again: Yankees seven, Rays zero.  Surely, even Boone Logan can't cause the Yankees to blow a 7-run lead, right? Right? Wrong.  He gets a strikeout to end a 1st-and-2nd threat, but he stays in for the 8th, and allows a single to Johnny Damon, a double to Ben Zobrist, and hits Casey Kotchman, loading the bases.  Girardi takes him out for Ayala, and the dam bursts: RBI Walk, RBI hit-by-pitch, strikeout, RBI sacrifice fly, 3-run homer.  Wade allows a tying home run to Dan Johnson in the 9th, and Scott Proctor allows a winning homer to Evan Longoria in the 12th.  Rays 8, Yankees 7.  The Yankees had a 99 percent chance of winning when Logan started the bottom of the 8th, and lost.

That's 10 games Logan blew, or helped to blow, in 2011.  The Yankees finished with the best record in the AL anyway.

Incredibly, Logan made 3 appearances in the 2011 AL Division Series against Detroit, totaling 2 1/3 innings, and didn't allow a run.

17. April 8, 2012, Yankees at Tampa Bay.  Rays lead 2-0.  Logan comes in to relieve Hughes with 2 outs in the 5th, men on 1st and 2nd.  He gets a strikeout to end it, and gets the first 2 outs in the 6th.  But he allows a home run to make it 3-0 -- and no longer "a bloop and a blast." That was the final, and I'm counting it.

18. May 1, 2012, Yankees host Baltimore.  Orioles lead 3-1.  Logan comes in to relieve Hughes, who got the 1st 2 outs in the 6th, but hit a batter.  Logan allows 2 singles and a double, before Girardi gets the slightest of inklings that Logan is a bum and pulls him for Cory Wade, who walks the next better before getting out of it. 6-1 Orioles, and the O's win 7-1.  Again, Logan turned a deficit that was "just a bloop and a blast" into a wipeout.

19. May 20, 2012, Yankees host Cincinnati Reds.  Reds lead 3-2.  Logan comes in to relieve Wade, who'd gotten the 1st out in the 8th, because Girardi looked in That Damned Binder, which said, "Joey Votto is a lefthander with power, and you've got that short porch in right field.  Bring in Boone Logan, and ignore his past inability to get lefties with power out." It worked: Logan struck Votto out! So the Binder next said, "Now get that bum the hell out of there and put in a competent pitcher!" Right? Wrong, it said, "Leave him in." And Logan allows back-to-back singles, before Girardi pulls him, and brings in Rafael Soriano, who allows a 2-RBI double.  Reds win, 5-2.

20. July 2, 2012, Yankees at Tampa Bay.  Yankees lead 3-2.  Logan comes in to relief Cody Eppley, who'd gotten the 1st out in the 7th.  Walk, wild pitch, pop fly.  Girardi brings in Robertson.  Double, error.  Rays win 4-3.

21. July 7, 2012, Yankees at Boston Red Sox.  Sox lead 5-3.  Logan comes in to relieve Hughes with 1 out in the 6th, man on 2nd.  Flyout, back-to-back walks, strikeout.  End of that threat, but Girardi should have realized that, having already walked 2 batters, Logan shouldn't be kept in the game.  He leaves Logan in to start the 7th, and he allows a double.  Girardi brings in Wade, who turns that leadoff double (totally Logan's fault) into 4 runs (all of them partly Logan's fault).  Sox lead 9-4 instead of 5-4.  Yanks manage to make it 9-5, meaning if Logan doesn't allow that double, it's no worse than 5-5.  And this is against The Scum.  Granted, the Sox were awful in 2012, but you still want to beat them, and the Yanks were still in a Division title race.

22. July 24, 2012, Yankees at Seattle.  Mariners lead 3-2.  Logan comes in to relieve Chad Qualls with 2 out in the 8th, but bases loaded.  He allows a 2-run single and is immediately replaced.  Mariners win, 4-2.  This was in a streak of 6 straight games in which Logan appeared that the Yankees lost.

23. July 30, 2012, Yankees host Baltimore.  Orioles lead 3-2.  Remember, this is the team the Yankees are battling for the AL East title.  Logan comes in to relieve Freddy Garcia to start the 7th.  He strikes out the 1st 2 batters, then allows a walk and an RBI double, before David Phelps comes in and allows an RBI single.  Orioles lead 5-2.  The Yankees close to within 5-4, and would have won if Logan hadn't been a bum.

24. August 16, 2012, Yankees host Texas.  Yankees lead 5-4.  Logan comes in to relieve Eppley, who allowed a leadoff single in the 7th.  The first batter he has to face is... Josh Hamilton.  Oh no... Surprise, Logan struck him out.  But then he allowed a single to Adrian Beltre and an RBI double to David Murphy.  Girardi brings in Joba, who allows another run.  Yankees end up losing 10-6.

25. August 20, 2012, Yankees host Chicago White Sox.  Game tied 6-6.  Logan comes in to relieve Joba in the 6th, and gets through the inning.  He got the 1st out in the 7th, too.  But he allowed a single, a flyout, and then a home run.  ChiSox go on to win 9-6.

26. August 29, 2012, Yankees host Toronto.  Jays lead 5-4.  Derek Lowe relieves CC Sabathia, and allows a double and a single.  Logan comes in to relieve Lowe.  He got a strikeout, but allows an RBI sacrifice bunt.  Yanks lose 8-5.

27. September 25, 2012, Yankees at Minnesota.  Yankees lead 3-1.  Lowe comes in to relieve Hughes in the 7th.  Wild pitch, run scores.  Double, 2 runs score.  Walk.  Single, run scores.  Yanks trail 5-3, close to 5-4, but that's it.

That's 11 games that Logan blew, or helped to blow, in 2012.  The Yankees finished with the best record in the AL anyway, but the Division race came down to Game 162.  If just one-third of those games, 4 out of 11, had gone the other way, the Yankees would have gone into the final series of the season with the Division title wrapped up, and would have been a lot more relaxed going into the Playoffs.  Would it have made a difference? We'll never know.

Incredibly, Logan made 5 appearances in the 2012 postseason, 2 in the AL Division Series against Baltimore and 3 in the ALCS against Detroit, totaling 3 2/3 innings, and didn't allow a run.  Indeed, his career postseason ERA is 2.35, his WHIP 1.043.  This is what you would expect from a Yankee reliever in postseason play.  But what he's done in regular-season play shows he shouldn't be trusted on the postseason roster.  Or any roster.

28. April 5, 2013, Yankees at Detroit.  Yankees lead 3-2.  Logan comes in to relieve Ivan Nova with 2 outs in the 5th, men on 1st and 3rd.  The first batter Logan faces is a lefthander, Prince Fielder.  Home run.  Yankees trail 5-3, and go on to lose 8-3.

29. April 21, 2013, Yankees at Toronto.  Yankees lead 4-2.  Logan comes in to relieve Nova with none out in the 6th, men on 2nd and 3rd.  He allows a single to lefthander Cody Rasmus that ties the game.  Girardi immediately replaces him with David Phelps, and he does no better.  Yankees go on to lose 8-4.

30. May 5, 2013, Yankees host Oakland.  Game tied 4-4.  Logan comes in to relieve Preston Claiborne, who had pitched 2 shutout innings in relief of Andy Pettitte, to start the 8th inning.  Logan gets 1 out, then allows a home run to Josh Donaldson, a righthander -- who, apparently according to Joe Girardi's Binder, Logan shouldn't have been facing anyway.  Yankees go on to lose 5-4.

31. June 23, 2013, Yankees host Tampa Bay.  Game tied 1-1.  Logan comes in to relieve Shawn Kelley, who had pitched to 1 batter in relief of Ivan Nova.  Nova had gotten the 1st 2 outs in the top of the 7th, but hit 2 batters, and then Kelley walked the bases loaded.  Logan came in for the specific purpose of getting out Tampa's lefty-hitting 1st baseman, James Loney.  Instead, Loney singled home 2 runs.  Yankes go on to lose 3-1.

That's 4 games that Logan has blown, or helped to blow, thus far in 2013.  The Yankees go into tomorrow game 2 1/2 games out of 1st place.  If they had won 2 of the 4, they'd be half a game out, tied in the all-important loss column.

Thirty-one games.  Boone Logan has blown, or helped to blow, 31 games for the New York Yankees.

He might be a nice guy.  He might be a good person.

But when it comes to pitching...

Boone Logan is a bum.

Yankees Embarrass Old-Timers

The Yankees needed to break out of their Borg losing streak, 7 of 9, and beat those troublesome Tampa Bay Rays.

On Friday night, they did.  David Phelps pitched well into the 6th, and the bullpen went 4 1/3 innings allowing just 1 baserunner.  But the hitting? Zoilo Almonte got 3 hits, including his 1st major league home run in the 6th, and the Yankees won, 6-2.

WP: Phelps (5-4).  No save.  LP: Roberto Hernandez (4-8).

Saturday's game was a bit wild.  CC Sabathia cruised into the 6th with a 3-1 lead, and then just lost it, allowing 4 runs.  The Yankees went to the bottom of the 7th, trailing 5-3, and the way the Yankees have been hitting lately, their chances seemed grim.

But Robinson Cano led off with a walk.  Travis Hafner flew out, but Lyle Overbay doubled Cano over to 3rd.  Almonte came up, and it was the old "unintentional intentional walk." After a pitching change, Jayson Nix struck out.

Bases loaded, 1 out -- now bases loaded, 2 out.  Another wasted inning.  Another "Yankees RISPfail." Right?

Wrong! David Adams worked a bases-loaded walk.  5-4 Tampa.

And Vernon Wells, in a 9-for-90 slump, ripped a double to right-center field, clearing the bases.  7-5 Yankees, and CC was off the hook.

David Robertson pitched a perfect 8th, and Mariano Rivera slammed the door in the 9th.

WP: Sabathia (8-5).  SV: Rivera (26).  LP: Joel Peralta (1-4).

*

Yesterday was Old-Timers' Day.  The Yankees did something a little different with the introductions.  Usually, John Sterling and Michael Kay start with the guys who really shouldn't be there, the guys who played for the Yankees in bad seasons (like Brian Dorsett); then the ones who were scrubs on the great teams (like Homer Bush); then the starters on the great teams (it was good to see Lou Piniella in Pinstripes again); then the legends (great hand for Bernie Williams), then the Hall-of-Famers (Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!).  Then the widows (Kay Murcer, Helen Hunter, Diana Munson and Billy Martin's last wife, Jill came).  The ritual farewell to baseball figures who have died since last year's Old-Timers' Day (though, oddly, they only saluted those connected to the Yankees, like Bob Turley -- no mention of greatest from other teams, like Stan Musial and Earl Weaver).  And, finally, playing Robert Merrill's recording of "The Star-Spangled Banner," remembering how the great Brooklyn-born opera singer would wear uniform Number 1½ on Old-Timers' Day.

This time, they introduced Hall-of-Famers Rickey Henderson (who I still find it hard to accept as a Yankee, but he was great elsewhere), Goose Gossage and Reggie Jackson (no sign of Wade Boggs).  Then they announced a tribute to Yankees who had served in the armed forces.

Very few ex-Yankees served in the Vietnam era.  Probably the two most notable were Bobby Murcer, who missed the entire 1967 and '68 seasons in the Army, but died in 2008; and Tony Kubek, who missed most of the 1962 season (but returned for the end and the World Series) because his National Guard unit had been called up, but, disillusioned by the greed of the sport, hasn't even been to a big-league ballgame since the Strike of '94, and has only come to Old-Timers' Day once.  That was in 1986, the 25th Anniversary of the 1961 M&M Boys, and it included a tribute to Roger Maris, who died the previous December.  Kubek also had a book to promote about the 1961 season -- did he say "greed"?

So these veterans of both the Yankees and the armed forces were from World War II and the Korean War -- making them quite old, old enough to need golf carts.  Don Larsen, about to turn 84, Korea, perfect game in 1956 World Series.  Bobby Brown, 88, WWII and Korea, one of two surviving Yankees from the 1947 World Series, former President of the American League.  Jerry Coleman, 88, WWII and Korea, and while a few MLB players have served in 2 wars, he's the only one to serve in combat in 2, as a Marine pilot; drove in the Pennant-winning run as a rookie in 1949, and is in the Hall of Fame for his broadcasting with the San Diego Padres.

And, finally, brought out together, Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra.  Whitey, 84, was a surprise find of the 1950 World Championship season, then missed '51 and '52 serving in Korea, then returned in '53 and became the greatest Yankee pitcher ever.  Yogi, 88, is the only major leaguer to have served in the D-Day invasion in 1944, and, like Brown, goes back to 1947.  Yogi and Bobby were roommates, and legend has it that, one night, Yogi was reading a comic book, and medical student (later cardiologist) Bobby was reading one of his medical textbooks, and they finished at the same time, and Yogi said, "Mine was great, how'd yours turn out?"

Yogi and Whitey, judging by their facial expressions, are still with it.  But Yogi looks so frail now, and Edward Charles Ford, like his contemporary Richie Ashburn known as Whitey because his blond hair was so light even when young, is now so pale that, on a hot day, he didn't dare get out of the shaded golf cart.  It's a wonder anyone in the stands could see them.

The Yankees, of course, were playing the Rays, and I saw somebody on Twitter say, "The Rays had an Old-Timers' Day once.  It featured Jose Canseco and a dead devil ray, and no one showed up."

Actually, every day is Old-Timers' Day at Tropicana Field.  St. Petersburg is known as "Heaven's Waiting Room." It's the geezers who show up, not anybody under 70.  These are guys who still complain about "hippies" and the DH.

Here's some Old-Timers' Day footage.

They should have stopped there.  Alas, there was a regular game to play.  And Ivan Nova had returned from the minors.  Fasten your seatbelts, kids...

Actually, Nova pitched pretty well.  He got into the 7th inning, allowing just 3 runs.  Okay, 7 hits and 3 walks, but he also struck out 7.  Not a bad job, and with Joba Chamberlain and Preston Claiborne pitching solidly out of the pen, it should have been enough to win.

Actually, Nova only allowed 1 run, but 2 more were charged to him.  That's because Shawn Kelley and Boone Logan each pitched to only 1 batter in the top of the 7th.  Nova got the first 2 outs, but hit Desmond Jennings with a pitch, and then hit Ben Zobrist with one.  Clearly, neither was intentional.  Just as clearly, it was time to get him out of there.

But Kelley walked Evan Longoria to load the bases.  The batter was James Loney, a lefty hitter.  Naturally, Joe Girardi consulted his Binder Full of Strategies, and it said, "Lefty batter? Late in the game? Bring in Boone Logan, and watch the hilarity ensue."

Logan gave up a single that scored Jennings and Zobrist.  Time for me to update the post "Logan's Litany of Losing."

Because Nova deserved a better fate, but the Yankees just didn't hit.  Again.  Brett Gardner got 3 hits.  Almonte got 2 to continue his great start in the majors.  The rest of the Yankees combined? 2 hits: Singles by Hafner and Ichiro Suzuki.  RISPfail: 0-for-6.  The only run? A sacrifice fly by Cano in the 1st.

Rays 3, Yankees 1.  WP: Chris Archer (2-3).  SV: Fernando Rodney (15).  LP: Nova (2-2).

The old-timers must have been embarrassed by the Yankees' punchlessness.

But the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles also lost.  So, with 12 of the season's 26 weeks into the books, the Red Sox lead the AL East by 2 games over the Orioles, 2 1/2 over the Yankees, and 5 over both the Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays, who are surging, 11 straight wins, finally playing like the team everyone predicted they would be at the start of the season.  However, in the loss column, the Sox lead the Yanks & O's by only 1 game, the Jays by 3, and the Rays by 4.

The Yankees have today off.  Tomorrow night, they start a 3-game home series with the Texas Rangers, an all-Japanese starting pitching matchup of Hiroki Kuroda and Yu Darvish.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Borg Losing Streak: 7 of 9

It's official: The Yankees are now on a Borg losing streak: 7 of 9.

Last night, Andy Pettitte couldn't find the answer in the opener of a 4-game series with those annoying Tampa Bay Rays.  (Am I going to have to start calling them The Annoying Rays, the way I call the Toronto team The Pesky Blue Jays?) Andy got into the 7th, but allowed 5 runs (5-5).

In contrast, Matt Moore also got into the 7th, but allowed just 3 runs on 4 hits and 7 walks (9-3).  Even the entry of Kerosene Kyle Farnsworth in the 9th inning couldn't help the Yankees.  (Well, even Not a Darn's Worth couldn't blow a 5-run lead.  For them.)

1st: Brett Gardner led off the game with a single.  Robinson Cano grounded into a force play.  Stranded.

3rd: Chris Stewart led off with a walk.  Reid Brignac (who really does not belong in the major leagues) erased him with a double play.

5th: Ichiro Suzuki drew a one-out walk.  Stranded.

6th: Brignac led off with a single.  Gardner and Jayson Nix walked to lead the bases.  A wild pitch moved the runners up, scoring Brignac.  Cano hit a sacrifice fly, moving up the runners, scoring Gardner.  Travis Hafner grounded out to score Nix.  Vernon Wells grounded out to end the inning.  And that was all the runs the Yankees got.

7th: Lyle Overbay doubled with 1 out.  A fielders choice by Stewart got him out at 3rd, and Stewart was stranded at 1st.

8th: Gardner led off with a single.  Stranded.

9th: Rookie Zoilo Almonte (no relation to 2001 Little League fraud Danny) led off with a single.  Ichiro erased him with a fielder's choice.  Ichiro got to 2nd and then 3rd on defensive indifference.  Overbay walked.  Stewart grounded into a double play.

Rays 8, Yankees 3.  As my father would say (if he were a Yankee Fan, which he isn't), "Yitch."

The series continues tonight.  David Phelps starts against Roberto Hernandez (once a pretty good reliever), and we need a win.  Badly.

Not in terms of the standings: We're still only 3 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox, just 2 in the loss column.  But we need momentum.  Just to get us back in gear as summer begins.

Back-to-Back Titles in Major League Sports

Baseball
1872-75 Boston Red Stockings (4 straight, forerunners of Atlanta Braves)
1877-78 Boston Red Stockings
1880-82 Chicago White Stockings (3 straight, forerunners of Chicago Cubs)
1885-86 St. Louis Browns (forerunners of Cardinals)
1888-89 New York Giants (now in San Francisco)
1891-93 Boston Beaneaters (3 straight, forerunners of Atlanta Braves)
1894-96 Baltimore Orioles (defunct, no connection to the current team with the name)
1897-98 Boston Beaneaters
1899-1900 Brooklyn Superbas (forerunners of Los Angeles Dodgers)
1901-02 Pittsburgh Pirates
1903-04 Boston Pilgrims (soon to be Red Sox)
1907-08 Chicago Cubs
1910-11 Philadelphia Athletics (now in Oakland)
1915-16 Boston Red Sox
1921-22 New York Giants
1927-28 New York Yankees
1929-30 Philadelphia Athletics
1936-39 New York Yankees (4 straight)
1949-53 New York Yankees (5 straight)
1961-62 New York Yankees
1972-74 Oakland Athletics
1975-76 Cincinnati Reds
1977-78 New York Yankees
1992-93 Toronto Blue Jays
1998-2000 New York Yankees (3 straight)

Football
1922-24 Canton Bulldogs (3 straight, defunct)
1929-31 Green Bay Packers (3 straight)
1932-33 Chicago Bears
1940-41 Chicago Bears
1948-49 Philadelphia Eagles
1952-53 Detroit Lions
1954-55 Cleveland Browns
1958-59 Baltimore Colts (now in Indianapolis)
1960-61 Houston Oilers (AFL, forerunners of Tennessee Titans)
1961-62 Green Bay Packers
1964-65 Buffalo Bills (AFL)
1965-67 Green Bay Packers (3 straight)
1972-73 Miami Dolphins
1974-75 Pittsburgh Steelers
1978-79 Pittsburgh Steelers
1988-89 San Francisco 49ers
1992-93 Dallas Cowboys
1997-98 Denver Broncos
2003-04 New England Patriots

Basketball
1949-50 Minneapolis Lakers (now in Los Angeles)
1952-54 Minneapolis Lakers (3 straight)
1959-66 Boston Celtics (8 straight)
1968-69 Boston Celtics
1987-88 Los Angeles Lakers
1989-90 Detroit Pistons
1991-93 Chicago Bulls (3 straight)
1994-95 Houston Rockets
1996-98 Chicago Bulls (3 straight)
2000-02 Los Angeles Lakers (3 straight)
2009-10 Los Angeles Lakers
2012-13 Miami Heat (accomplished last night)

Hockey
1893-94 Montreal Hockey Club (sometimes listed as "Montreal AAA")
1897-98 Montreal Victorias
1899-1900 Montreal Shamrocks
1901-02 Winnipeg Victorias
1903-05 Ottawa Hockey Club (3 straight, forerunners of original Ottawa Senators, defunct)
1906-08 Montreal Wanderers (3 straight)
1912-13 Quebec Bulldogs
1920-21 Ottawa Senators
1930-31 Montreal Canadiens
1936-37 Detroit Red Wings
1947-49 Toronto Maple Leafs (3 straight)
1954-55 Detroit Red Wings
1956-60 Montreal Canadiens (5 straight)
1962-64 Toronto Maple Leafs (3 straight)
1965-66 Montreal Canadiens
1966-68 Montreal Canadiens
1974-75 Philadelphia Flyers
1976-79 Montreal Canadiens (4 straight)
1980-83 New York Islanders (4 straight)
1984-85 Edmonton Oilers
1987-88 Edmonton Oilers
1991-92 Pittsburgh Penguins
1997-98 Detroit Red Wings

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Yanks Split With Donnie Regular Season Baseball's Bums

Tuesday night's rainout forced a day-night doubleheader with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and their manager, Don Mattingly.  Yeah, him: Donnie Regular Season Baseball.

In the afternoon game, the Yankees took the field with an infield of Lyle Overbay, Robinson Cano, Jayson Nix and David Adams; an outfield of Vernon Wells, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki; rookie DH Thomas Neal; and a battery of Chris Stewart and Hiroki Kuroda.  Later in the game, Nix was moved to 3rd base, and Reid Brignac was put in at short.

This is a lineup capable of taking on a free-spending team like Magic Johnson's Dodgers?

Apparently, yes: Neal led off the bottom of the 2nd with a single to right.  Ichiro beat out an infield single to 2nd.  Adams bunted them over.  And Overbay doubled them home.  Ichiro hit one out to right in the 6th.  With 1 out in the 7th, Nix and Cano singled, and Wells reached on a throwing error that allowed Nix to score.  Neal was hit with a pitch, and Ichiro singled Cano and Wells home.

Kuroda pitched pretty well for 6 innings, but let in a couple of runs in the 7th.  Preston Claiborne allowed 2 more in the 8th, causing his career ERA to shoot up all the way to 1.69.  But Mariano Rivera nailed it down.

Yankees 6, Dodgers 4.  WP: Kuroda (7-5).  SV: Rivera (25).  LP: Hyun-Jin Ryu (6-3).

The nightcap didn't go so well.  Phil Hughes did not compwetewy impwode again, but he was bad enough, allowing 2 runs in the 1st, 1 in the 3rd, and 2 more in the 5th.

None of which made much difference, since the Yankees went back into "Hey, let's forget we're the Bronx Bombers and just not hit" mode.  Here's all the Yankee baserunners: An Overbay single in the 3rd, singles by Nix and Cano in the 4th (but Cano thrown out trying to stretch it to a double, killing the closest thing the team had to a rally), and Nix hit with a pitch in the 9th, getting to 2nd on defensive indifference.  That's it: 4 baserunners.

"Well, Mike," you may be thinking, "maybe you should give credit to the Dodger pitcher."

That would be the mature thing to do.  Except, in this case, the pitcher was Chris Capuano.  Decent pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers a few years back, but a bust as a Met in 2011.  Give him credit? Uh, that would be a no.

Dodgers 6, Yankees 0.  WP: Capuano (2-4).  No save.  LP: Hughes (3-6), who is looking more and more expendable all the time.

I still wouldn't have put him in a trade package for Johan Santana.  Since Santana became a Met, Hughes has won 50 games, Santana 46.  Hughes has a World Series ring; Santana has not appeared in a postseason game since 2006.

So the L.A. team, known as Dem Bums when they were in Brooklyn, but now just bums, heads out of town.  And the Yankees start a 4-game home series with the Tampa Bay Rays tonight.  Andy Pettitte starts against Matt Moore.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Curse of Donnie Baseball: Do You Now Believe?

Last night, a rainout postponed the start of an 2-game Interleague series between the Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Yankee Stadium II.  The result is a day-night doubleheader starting this afternoon.

These 2 teams have played each other many times, including in spring training (until the Dodgers' recent move from Grapefruit League Florida to Cactus League Arizona) and in 11 World Series -- 7 while the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn: 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955 and 1956, with the Dodgers winning in 1955 and the Yankees all the others.  Since moving to Los Angeles, the Dodgers have beaten the Yankees in World Series play in 1963 and 1981, and the Yankees have triumphed in 1977 and 1978.

Those 11 Series are easily the most-often-played World Series matchup.  The next-closest is the 5 between the Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals, although that hasn't happened since 1964, despite some close calls, including 1996, when the Cards were 1 win away from making it happen again.

The way Interleague play has worked out, the Yankees and Dodgers have played each other 6 times, all at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles: June 18-20, 2004, when the Dodgers took 2 out of 3; and June 25-27, 2010, when the Yankees returned the favor.  So the all-time regular-season matchup is 6-6.  If you count World Series play, then it's 18-16 in the Dodgers' favor.  If you count the Brooklyn version of the team, then it's 43-35 in the Yankees' favor.

Since 2011, when he succeeded the retiring Joe Torre, himself a Yankee Legend, the Dodgers' manager has been "Yankee Legend" Don Mattingly.

I put "Yankee Legend" in quotation marks because, to be a Yankee Legend, you have to have at least won a Pennant.  This allows Bobby Murcer and Dave Winfield to qualify.

Don Mattingly is not a Yankee Legend.  He is a curse.

The following is an update of a piece I've done before.

*

I have often said that I don't believe in curses, jinxes and ghosts... except when it comes to sports. I did not invent the Curse of Donnie Baseball, I am merely the prophet who brings its dark word to the nonbelievers, whether they like it or not.

As far as I know, I am the first person ever to write about it publicly. I even created a Wikipedia entry for it. I put it up in 2005, but it's long since been taken down. I guess the Wikimedia guys didn't think there was enough evidence for it. But a few scraps of it survive, cited by others who think there might be such a Curse.

There is a Cult of St. Donald Arthur of Evansville. You can go to Yankee Stadium and spew forth the vilest of imprecations at Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, even at the imperfect saint that is Thurman Munson. But say that Don Mattingly is not all that Yankee Fans claim him to be, and you will be subjected to the kind of abuse that usually only occurs, in this country without the intensity of club soccer hatreds, between college football fans during Rivalry Week.

Yankee broadcaster Michael Kay is the high priest of this cult. On a number of occasions, he has said of Mattingly, “He might be the most beloved athlete in the history of New York sports.”

Kay is usually smart, but this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard a sportscaster say. Has he never heard of Babe Ruth? Lou Gehrig? Joe DiMaggio? Mickey Mantle? Yogi Berra? Bobby Murcer (who at least won a Pennant in Pinstripes)? Thurman Munson? Reggie Jackson? Derek Jeter? Bernie Williams? Paul O’Neill? Mariano Rivera?

And that’s just on the Yankees. What about Tom Seaver? Dwight Gooden? Jackie Robinson? Duke Snider? Gil Hodges? Willie Mays? Christy Mathewson? Mel Ott? Buck Ewing?

And that’s just from baseball. What about Frank Gifford? Lawrence Taylor? Joe Namath? Walt Frazier? Patrick Ewing? Frank Boucher? Eddie Giacomin? Rod Gilbert? Mike Bossy? Denis Potvin? Mark Messier (though it pains me to admit it)? Brian Leetch? Martin Brodeur?

Most Yankee Fans, inside or outside of the Cult of St. Donald Arthur, don’t know about the Curse.  Those who do know about it refuse to admit it exists, for it means that Don Mattingly, their idol while growing up in the Eighties and Nineties, is a gigantic jinx.

*

Donald Arthur Mattingly, of Evansville, Indiana, now 52 years of age, was a very talented baseball player. From 1984 to 1989, he was arguably the best player in the game. Then a back injury struck. He decided to retire after the 1995 season – well, sort of: He announced he would take 1996 off, and then decide whether to resume playing; ultimately, he decided not to.

Between the ages of 23 and 28, he was wonderful; from 29 to 34, he was a hard-working, courageous player still capable of the occasional moment of greatness. At 35, he was done. That’s not a tragedy, but it is unfortunate.


He is respected around the game. A contemporary, Kirby Puckett, observed him taking extra batting practice, and gave him the nickname “Donnie Baseball.” It seemed to fit. He was Captain of the Yankees. And, by all accounts, he’s a good man.

Please understand something here: I do not seek to disparage the man’s character, nor deride his performance – when he was physically able to perform, that is.

But the record is clear: Don Mattingly is a loser, and any team that employs him is also a loser.

Facts can be interpreted any way you want, but their truths cannot be denied:

1981: The Yankees won the American League Pennant. This was their 4th Pennant, and 5th postseason berth, in the last 6 seasons.

1982: The Yankees called Mattingly up on September 6. He played his first game on September 8, a 10-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Mattingly was a defensive replacement in left field and did not bat. The Yankees finished 6th, winning only 79 games. True, they were well out of the race well before this, so the fact of Mattingly’s September callup at age 21 near the end of a wasted season is hardly enough on which to base an indictment. But the evidence continues.

1983: Mattingly had his first season of being more than a look-see at the end. The Yankees finished 3rd. No shame in that, as the Baltimore Orioles ran away with the AL Eastern Division and won the World Series.

1984: Mattingly won the AL batting title with a .343 average, the highest for a Yankee in 27 years. Teammate Dave Winfield is right behind him at .340. Mattingly had also become a spectacularly-fielding first baseman. The Yankees finished 3rd, as the Detroit Tigers ran away with the Division and won the World Series. So far, no reason to suspect Mattingly of anything; after all, this was only his first full season with the team.

1985: Mattingly put together a season that earned him the AL Most Valuable Player award. The Yankees had their best season between 1981 and 1996, and their 97 wins was the most they would get between 1980 and 1998. But it wasn't enough, as the Toronto Blue Jays clinched against them on the next-to-last day of the regular season. Still no big deal: Plenty of players fall short in their first attempt at a real Pennant race.

1986: Mattingly set a Yankee record with 238 hits in a season. But the Yankees finished 2nd again, 5½ games behind the hated Boston Red Sox. Finishing 2nd to the Red Sox is never a good thing.  But the Yanks had a lot of pitching problems the last 2 seasons. One more good starter in either would have made a world of difference, and this would have been a very different blog entry. (The Curse of Dennis Eckersley? The Eck punishing the Dodgers for the Kirk Gibson walkoff, and that’s why they haven’t won a Pennant since 1988?)

1987: Mattingly had a streak of hitting home runs in 8 consecutive games, tying a major league record. He also hit 6 grand slams in the season, setting a new record. (Each of those records has since been tied, but not broken.) But the Yankees finished 4th, 9 games behind the Tigers. Can’t blame Mattingly for that: The Yankees had injuries, and particularly damaging were those to Willie Randolph and, to a lesser extent, Winfield.

1988: Another terrific year for Mattingly, but the Yankees finished 5th. Fifth! And it was the Red Sox winning the Division again! True, the Yankees were only 3½ games behind in a wild race that saw the first 4 teams (Boston, Detroit, Toronto and the Milwaukee Brewers) all within 2 games. But this was the 4th straight season in which the Yanks were close late, and didn’t win. That had never happened before: Usually, the Yankees would either win the Pennant (or, from 1976 onward, the Division), or finish well behind the leaders. Of the 31 seasons between their first Pennant in 1921 and 1984 in which the Yankees did not win the Pennant, the Yankees were still in the race in mid-September in only 7 of them. Now they had 4 straight close calls, and nothing to show for them. As Darth Vader would have said if he’d been a baseball fan, “I find your lack of postseason play disturbing.”

1989: Another very good year for Mattingly, but the Yankees collapsed. Hardly any pitching. Winfield missed the entire season with a back injury. Another injury forced Ron Guidry to retire without appearing once this season.


The most frustrating decade in team history is over. Can Mattingly be blamed? Surely not. All the evidence seen so far is merely circumstantial. Right? Right?

1990, 1991, 1992: The beginning of Mattingly’s Captaincy, and all awful years for the Yankees, including what remains their only last-place finish in the last 47 years. They can’t see contention with binoculars. And Mattingly’s injuries rendered him pretty much useless. A great career appears to have been going down in flames.

1993: As ESPN college football analyst Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend!” The rebuilt Yankees put together a fine season, and were tied with the Toronto Blue Jays on September 8. But it all fell apart again, and they finished 7 games back. Not Mattingly’s fault? Sure doesn't look like it: He had his best season in 5 years, in terms of both personal statistics and team finish. Yet again, it seemed like the Yankees were one starting pitcher away. The bullpen needed some help, too. Mattingly was not the problem. Or, at least, he appeared not to be.

1994: This was the season it was all going to come together. At bat, Mattingly bat was partying like it’s 1985. Paul O’Neill was on his way to becoming the first Yankee since Mattingly that year to win the batting title. Bernie Williams was coming into his own. Even the pitching had improved. On August 11, not only were they in first place by 6½ games over the Orioles, but they had the best record in the AL. On August 12, the Major League Baseball Players Association went on strike. On September 15, with the strike still unresolved, Commissioner Bud Selig canceled the remainder of the regular season, and the postseason.


The Yankees were not the only team hurt by this: The Chicago White Sox had probably their best team in 75 years, the Cleveland Indians were in their first Pennant race in 35 years, the Texas Rangers were in first place that late in the season for the first time in their 23-year history, the Montreal Expos had the best record in baseball and a shot at their first full-season postseason berth in their 36-year history, and the Colorado Rockies, in only their second season of play, were just a game and a half behind the Dodgers for the National League West and a game behind the Houston Astros for the Wild Card. A lot of teams got screwed.

But there was a growing sense among Yankee Fans that this was Mattingly’s best chance, and that he might not get another one this good. Ever.

1995: A hard season for the Yankees. The Red Sox won the Division solidly. Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s Iron Man streak record. Mickey Mantle’s final illness and death hung over the team like a dark cloud. Being asked to broadcast a game rather than go to Mickey’s funeral led Phil Rizzuto to retire – as it turned out, an agreement was reached and he did one more season in ’96. And the Yankees had more injuries, including Mattingly’s bad back flaring up again. But they managed to win the Wild Card, and, in the Division Series against the Seattle Mariners, Mattingly’s first-ever postseason series in 14 years of trying, he batted .417 and hit 2 home runs, including one in Game 2 that sent the crowd at the original Yankee Stadium into an absolute frenzy. But when the Series went out to Seattle, the Mariners rode their own big crowds to come from 2 games to 0 back and win 3 straight and the series.

Mariner fans still like to brag about this series, partly because it inspired people to go to the polls next month and vote for the bond issue that funded the building of the hideous Kingdome’s replacement, the much-more baseball-friendly Safeco Field; but partly because they beat the Yankees. They cling to 1995 the way rednecks cling to their guns and their religion (in that order). Mariner fans do not like to be reminded that the Yankees have since beaten them, not once, but twice, in 2000 and 2001, and in the League Championship Series, not just the Division Series.

“I have a hard time feeling bad about it,” Mattingly said after the epic October 8, 1995 contest, the last in which he would ever play. A lot of Yankee Fans, however, still take this loss hard. It ensured that Don Mattingly would never play in a World Series. (And, in retrospect, it is hard to miss the parallel between Mattingly's "hard time feeling bad about it" resembles what Tom Glavine said after he bollixed up the Mets' chances in their 2007 regular season finale: "I'm not devastated.")

1996: Playing their first season without Mattingly since 1981, the last season in which they won the Pennant, the Yankees win the Pennant again, and the World Series. If it wasn’t for the ’95 ALDS, in which Mariner first baseman Tino Martinez hit well and reliever Jeff Nelson pitched well, the Yankees wouldn’t have sent third baseman Russ Davis and pitcher Sterling Hitchcock to the Mariners for Tino and Nellie. And if the Yankees had won that series, they probably still would have lost to the powerful Cleveland Indians in the ALCS. And it’s likely that manager Buck Showalter, who has never won a Pennant anywhere he’s managed (except in the minors), would have been kept. Joe Torre would never have managed the Yankees.

Put all that together, and do you think the Yankees would have won the World Series in 1996, ’98, ’99 and 2000? Isn’t 4 World Series wins and 6 Pennants without Donnie Baseball better than one World Series appearance with him?

As Brian Kenny used to say on the ESPN Classic show The Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame... , Have I begun to change your mind yet? Are you now beginning to believe that larger forces are at work? Do you now see that Mattingly’s presence did not help the Yankees win, and in fact hurt them?

No? You still ain't buyin' it? Okay, fine. Read on:

1997: On September 1, the Yankees retired Mattingly's uniform Number 23, and dedicated a Plaque in his honor to rest in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. After the dedication ceremony, the Yankees lost an Interleague game to the Montreal Expos, the team many of us suspected they would have played in the 1994 World Series if that Series had happened. The Yanks went on to finish 2nd to the Orioles, and it remained the last season in which the Yankees did not win at least the Division title until 2007.

1998: The Yankees begin a run of 5 Pennants in 6 seasons, ending with the Aaron Boone homer in the 2003 ALCS and the subsequent World Series defeat to the Florida Marlins. Through all of this, Mattingly was back home at his farm outside his home town of Evansville, Indiana, and had no active role with any baseball team, and appeared at Yankee Stadium once a season, on Old-Timers’ Day. Mattingly in uniform, no; October glory, yes.

2004: Mattingly decides to get back into baseball, and is hired as the Yankees’ hitting instructor. The Yankees get within 3 outs of completing an ALCS sweep of the Red Sox for the Pennant. You know how this part of the story ends: The Sox “reverse the curse,” the one involving Babe Ruth, and complete the greatest comeback in the history of baseball.

Can we blame Mattingly for this? Maybe, because the Yankee lineup seemed to lose a lot of steam after the 19-8 blowout in Game 3; after that, they barely hit at all. Five runs would have won Game 4, Game 5, or Game 6; instead, they got 4, 4 and 2, respectively. Game 7 was a blowout, more a pitching issue than a hitting one. But if Mattingly was such a good choice to be a hitting instructor, then he should have been able to give somebody the advice they needed to get that 5th run home in Game 4, 5 or 6.

Can we blame steroids? We know David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Bronson Arroyo were steroid users: The first two got caught (though it wasn’t revealed until July 30, 2009), and the last confessed. Many of us also suspect Curt Schilling, Jason Varitek, Trot Nixon, Mark Bellhorn, Bill Mueller and Kevin Millar of using them. This would seem to invalidate my Curse of Donnie Baseball theory, since it suggests that the Yankees would have won the Pennant without it, even with Mattingly in uniform. But the fact remains that the Yankees had Mattingly in uniform, and did not win the Pennant. So, even knowing what we know now, we have to accept the fact that the Yankees did not win.

2005: The Yankees win the Division, but lose the Division Series to the Anaheim Angels. And while the pitching wasn’t very good, they also didn’t hit much.

2006: The Yankees win the Division in a landslide, but lose the Division Series to the Detroit Tigers. And while the pitching wasn’t very good, they also didn’t hit much.

2007: The Yankees don’t win the Division, the Red Sox do. The Yanks do manage to gain the Wild Card, but, again, their hitting in the Division Series against the Indians is pathetic. And, remember, their hitting instructor is Don Mattingly.

Afterward, Joe Torre was offered a weak new contract to manage, and resigned. He was hired to manage the Dodgers, and offered to take Mattingly with him, and Mattingly accepted.


I was afraid that Mattingly would get the Yankee job, and continue the Curse.  And he would never, ever be fired, no matter how badly he did.  After all, George Steinbrenner nearly went down in history as the man who fired Yogi Berra.  Hank and Hal Steinbrenner would not have wanted to go down in history as the men who fired Don Mattingly.  There are some popularity contests that you just can't win.  Instead, Joe Girardi was hired; and, while he's driven me crazy sometimes, he has done much better as a manager than Mattingly.

*


There you have it. Between 1921 (their first Pennant) and 1981, and again from 1996 to 2003, a total of 69 seasons, the Yankees won 39 American League Pennants, or 56 percent of the available Pennants. In the 16 seasons in which Mattingly has been in a Yankee uniform (1982 to 1995 and 2004 to 2007), the Yankees have never won.

Even after the ’96 World Series, the pattern did not escape my notice. And when in 2004, their first season with Mattingly in uniform since 1995, they blew the Pennant so spectacularly, I began to start telling people that Mattingly was a jinx, that there is a Curse of Donnie Baseball. In the ensuing 3 seasons, it only got worse.

That's what happened when Mattingly was in a Yankee uniform. And what has happened to the Dodgers with Mattingly in uniform?


In 2008, they won the NL West, and swept the Chicago Cubs in 3 straight to win the NLDS, but got embarrassed by the Phillies in the NLCS. The Dodgers blew 6th-inning lead in Game 1 and an 8th-inning lead in Game 4. Rafael Furcal, with a 1.012 OPS in the regular season, dropped to .687 in the NLCS. Andre Ethier dropped from .885 to .534, future Yankee Russell Martin from .781 to .436, Blake DeWitt from .728 to .364 (a hopeless 1-for-13), and the veteran, near-Hall-of-Famer Jeff Kent from .745 to .000 – he went 0-for-8. Former Red Sox teammates Manny Ramirez and Nomar Garciaparra stepped their OPSs up, as did Matt Kemp and Juan Pierre. But the Dodgers had too many key guys stop hitting.

Credit the Phillies’ pitching for stopping the Dodgers? Their WHIP for the series was 1.545, but with a WHIP that high, they should have had a much higher ERA than 3.89. The Dodgers had their chances, and they blew it. This was almost as bad as the 1977 and ’78 NLCS were for the Phils, losing to the Dodgers in shocking, disgraceful moments. Now, just as they had done by benefiting from a September choke instead of perpetrating one, the Phils had turned the tables on the L.A. Bums.  So now, Mattingly had put a cloud over a second franchise.


In 2009, the Dodgers won the NL West and the NLDS again, setting up another NLCS against the Phillies.  The Phils trailed the Dodgers 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th in Game 4 at Citizens Bank Park. But a walk, a hit batsman, and Jimmy Rollins’ double up the gap won the game for the Fightin’ Phils, 5-4. The next night, the Phils won their 7th Pennant, and their first-ever back-to-back Pennants.

How could the Dodgers have blown this? They were one out away from evening the series at 2 apiece and going back to L.A. for Game 5. How? How? How?!?

Silly Dodger fans, did they not know of the Curse of Donnie Baseball?

2010: The Dodgers missed the postseason, and Torre retired as a manager.  Mattingly was named manager.

2011: The Dodgers won only 82 games, barely a winning season.  This can't all be put on Mattingly, as the team's ownership situation was a mess, as owner Frank McCourt was going through a divorce and stripped the Dodgers' assets to fund his legal defense.  But Earvin "Magic" Johnson, already an L.A. sports legend for what he did with the Lakers, and a man who may actually have achieved more in business since leaving the court, bought the team, and did what every sports team owner should do, but most don't: Decided to spend whatever it takes to win.  Whether Magic will ultimately succeed, I don't know; but at least he's trying, whereas other team owners with his resources don't increase the payroll, don't go after the best players, and don't try to hang onto the good ones they already have.

2012: The Ddogers won 86 games, and were in the race for one of the NL's Wild Card spots the whole way.  Should they have done better? Yes.  Would they have done better with a manager other than Mattingly? Maybe.  But it was just the first full year of Magicball.  Maybe they still needed time...

2013 thus far: The Dodgers come into today's doubleheader 29-39, well under .500, and are 11 1/2 games out of first place in the NL West.  They are also 11 1/2 games out of the NL's 2nd Wild Card spot.  And rumors are running rampant that Mattingly could be fired as manager, because he's not getting the job done.

So there's another team beset by this Curse.

*

Ladies and Gentlemen, Children of All Ages, read ye now the indictment:

There is a Curse of Donnie Baseball. No Major League Baseball team that has had Don Mattingly in uniform, in any capacity, has ever won a Pennant, and none ever will.

One season can be written off as, “Hey, that’s baseball, these things happen.” Maybe even several seasons, as factors like injuries, bad trades, problems between players and management cause teams that could win to not do so.

We now have 24 seasons of evidence for this Curse.  Nearly a quarter of a century.


Am I wrong? Am I exaggerating? Do you need further testimony? Okay, here goes.  On October 26, 1997, while Mattingly was being considered for the managerial vacancy after Torre left, Robert A. George wrote this in the New York Post

Don Mattingly would be the absolute worst choice to be Yankees manager. I'm glad that Brian Cashman appears to be wavering on this. Do I base my views on any sort of great baseball knowledge? Not really -- though the fact that he has NO experience as a manager should be a factor. 

No, my objection goes to a point I made once before: Mattingly IS the "curse" of the Yankees. He is the best player the Yankees have ever had WHO NEVER WON ANYTHING. I made this point in one of my earliest RT posts. Time has proven my point even more: The Yankees haven't gotten out of the first round of the playoffs since Mattingly returned to the team as a coach. 

And, circumstantial evidence suggests that this is not just a coincidence. Aside from starting pitching problems, what differentiates the Yankees of the last four seasons ('04-'07) from their dynastic brethren of '96-'03? The answer is patient clutch pitching. Failure to get that clutch two-strike, two-out hit has doomed the Yankees in recent years. Who was the hitting coach in three of those four years. Yep, Mr. Donnie Baseball -- the man who came up to the major leagues just when the Yankees concluded a four World Series/two championships-in-six-year-run. The team wouldn't make it back to the Fall Classic until the year after Mattingly's last year. 

He returned in '04. The rest is history.

In a game where superstition accounts for quite a lot, Don Mattingly is the black cat, the broken mirror and the crack in the sidewalk all rolled into one.


Okay, it's the Post.  But it is one of the New York Tri-State Area's major papers, behind the Times and the Daily News, but with a readership well ahead of Newsday, the Star-Ledger and the other Jersey papers, the Journal News and any other Hudson Valley paper, and the New Haven Register and any other Connecticut paper.

So someone from a major paper also takes it seriously.

You’ve heard my case. The prosecution rests. The defense may call whichever witnesses it chooses. I reserve the right to cross-examine them.

Do you now believe?

Call it a Curse. Call him Donnie Regular Season Baseball. He will never win a Pennant. Ever.

Ever.

As the late, great Phillies center fielder and broadcaster Richie Ashburn would say, "Bet your house on it, Harry."