Thursday, April 8, 2021

It Shouldn't Bother Me This Much

I'm 51 years old. I've seen 11 Pennants and 7 World Series wins. I've seen Hall-of-Famers, legends, and historic moments.

I've been to 2 Opening Days, 8 Old-Timers' Days, and a Playoff game. I've seen Joe DiMaggio throw out a first pitch and Mickey Mantle wear his Number 7 uniform.

I've seen Bill Dickey, a Yankee who played as far back as 1928; and watched the actual regular-season game-play of Roy White, a Yankee who suited up as far back as 1965.

I've seen the Yankees win at Shea Stadium, Fenway Park, Veterans Stadium, Camden Yards, and whatever Cleveland is calling its ballpark this year. I've seen a Yankee's Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Cooperstown.

I've taken the Yankee fandom of my grandfather, who walked from his apartment in The Bronx to watch them build the original Yankee Stadium in 1922. And I've passed my fandom down to my nieces, who could still be watching the Yankees play in the year 2100.

I've seen Yankees grow too old to play, seen new players come up to replace them, and seen their career end due to advancing age as well. I've seen men raise themselves to the status of icon, and I've seen icons die. Okay, I haven't actually seen their deaths, but I've been around for the tributes.

I've seen the Yankees fall, and rise, and do both all over again.

Given all that I've seen from this team, a single game lost by the Yankees shouldn't bother me this much.

But it does. And there is a reason why. Because it really isn't a single loss.

It was like when something bad happens, like you're falling, or in a car crash. Everything is happening in slow motion. And it feels like you can reach out and do something to stop it. Except you can't. And it happens. It's inevitable. And even though you knew it would happen, the knowledge doesn't reduce the pain.


Last night, the conclusion of a 3-game home series with the Baltimore Orioles, was the regular-season Yankee debut of Jameson Taillon. The 29-year-old righthander from the Houston area had been a good pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2016, '17 and '18, but was limited by injury to 7 games in '19 and didn't pitch at all in '20. The Yankees took a big chance on him.

His start wasn't terrible. He didn't get out of the 5th inning, having thrown 74 pitches. He allowed 2 runs on 3 hits, 2 of them solo home runs in the 4th inning. But he didn't walk any batters, and struck out 7. So this was encouraging.

For the rest of the game, the Yankees used 6 pitchers, none for more than an inning and a third. That is stupid.

Nick Nelson finished the 5th and pitched the 6th. No baserunners. He threw 20 pitches, 13 for strikes.

Darren O'Day: Pitched the 7th. No baserunners. 12, 8.

Jonathan Loaisiga: Pitched the 8th. No baserunners. 11, 9.

Aroldis Chapman: Pitched the 9th. No baserunners. 16, 11 -- although his other 5 pitches, for some reason, were way too high. Definitely not the kind of pitcher you want on the mound in an inning that starts with an opposing team's runner on 2nd base.

No, the pitching is not the reason the Yankees lost the game. In the 1st 9 innings, it was 2 runs on 3 hits and no walks. Asking for better pitching than that is not reasonable.

But the offense. The night before, every player in the starting lineup got a hit except Clint Frazier. Tis time, there were hits, but not when it counted:

* 1st inning: Stranded 1st & 3rd.

* 2nd: 1-2-3.

* 3rd: Singles by Brett Gardner, DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Hicks got the Yankees a run, and put runners on 1st & 2nd with 1 out, but Giancarlo Stanton grounded into a double play to end the threat.

* 4th: Stranded 1st & 2nd.

* 5th: Same as 4th.

* 6th: Wasted a 1-out double by Gary Sanchez.

* 7th: Wasted a leadoff single by LeMahieu.

The bottom of the 8th is where the game should have been won. The Yankees came in trailing 2-1. Frazier and Jay Bruce grounded out. But Sanchez hit a drive to left. At first, it looked like it was going out. Then it looked like the Oriole left fielder, Ryan Mountcastle, would catch it. So Sanchez didn't run it out. But Mountcastle botched it. The official scorer generously gave Sanchez a hit, but he could only get to 1st base.

The failure to hustle ended up not mattering: Aaron Boone sent Mike Tauchman in to pinch-run for him. And Gio Urshela launched a double up the gap in left-center. Tauchman did hustle, and the play at the plate was close, but he was safe. Tie game.

Gardner singled Urshela over to 3rd, but he had to stop, and couldn't score the go-ahead run. And LeMahieu grounded out. If LeMaheiu had done something there, or had Gardner hit the ball a little harder -- or if somebody else had gotten the job done in an earlier inning -- it would have een no worse than 3-2 Yankees, and there never would have been extra innings.

But the Yankees went down 1-2-3 in the 9th, and there were. Chad Green began the 10th for the Yankees, and got the 1st 2 outs. But a ground ball by Pedro Severino (no relation to Luis) went to Gleyber Torres. There are only 2 people on Earth who haven't yet figured out that Torres shouldn't be playing shortstop. Unfortunately, those people are Torres himself and Brian Cashman. Torres threw it away, and the Orioles led 3-2.

Green got out of it. With Sanchez removed for a pinch-runner, Kyle Higashioka was now the catcher. And he had to bat in the bottom of the 10th. But the Aristophanes Rule -- Odd Couple fans will recognize that I call it that because it's ridiculous -- meant that Tyler Wade was on 2nd to start the inning, and Higgy singled him home to tie the game -- and to get Torres off the hook. But every other Yankee batter in the inning struck out.

With the Aristophanes Rule, the smart thing to do is bunt the runner over to 3rd. If it works, you've got a man on 3rd with less than 2 outs, and a fly ball should get him home. The Orioles did that to start the 11th, and it worked. Green then allowed an RBI single, and a walk, and (through little fault of his own, because the rule hurt him) was replaced by Luis Cessa. He walked the next better, but worked out of it.

The Yankees began the bottom of the 11th with Urshela on 2nd. Gardner bunted him over. So far, so good. But LeMahieu hit the ball right at Oriole right fielder Anthony Santander, and he threw home, and Urshela was out by a mile. Yankee 3rd base coach Phil Nevin, who showed such good judgment in sending Tauchman home in the 8th, blew this one.

Orioles 4, Yankees 3. WP: Cesar Valdez (1-0). SV: Paul Fry (1). LP: Green (0-1).

In 11 innings, Yankee pitchers allowed 4 runs, 3 of them earned, for an ERA of 1.64. There were 4 hits, only 2 walks, none over the 1st 10 innings. There were 17 strikeouts.

Fault for the loss: The Yankee hitters, who got only 1 run over the 1st 7 innings.

So, with 1 week's worth of games in the books for this season, let's review:

* In all 6 games, the Yankees have held the opposition to no more than 3 runs in the 1st 9 innings. We began the season with pitching as our biggest worry. So far, it has been our biggest strength.

* In 3 games, the Yankees have scored at least 5 runs. They've won all 3.

* In the other 3 games, the Yankees have scored no more than 2 runs in the 1st 9 innings. They've lost all 3.

Conclusion: Cashman's strategy of "Outhit the opposition" isn't working.

And that's why this one loss bothers me. It's the same thing I said after the Yankees lost on Opening Day: I quoted Mark Twain, "Life is one damn thing after another," and then I quoted Edna St. Vincent Millay's rebuttal: "It's the same damn thing over and over."

What bothers me is not this one preventable loss, it's that it seems like every loss is preventable for the same reason.

Twain did say the line quoted above. However, he gets a lot of quotes incorrectly attributed to him. So does Albert Einstein. This line didn't appear in public until over a quarter of a century after his death, but it applies to Cashman's baseball philosophy: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result."

The Yankees have a travel day today. Tomorrow, they begin a series in St. Petersburg against the Tampa Bay Rays.

A weekend in Florida? Seems like sufficient punishment. I hope they're all vaccinated.

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