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Archive for October, 2009

2009 World Series Game Two Recap

October 30, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Uncategorized

The moment Mark Teixeira’s home run left the field, the party atmosphere at Yankee Stadium was restored. Up until then the atmosphere was tense and the crowd, which had been largely clammed up by the cold weather and Cliff Lee’s dominant pitching the night before, continued to be uncharacteristically quiet in the face of Pedro Martinez. Only once had the “Who’s Your Daddy” chant greeted him in the first three innings.

I decided to start my night off right, which meant getting a good luck hug from Mickey Rivers outside Stan’s Sports World, where he was autographing. (more…)

2009 World Series Game One

October 29, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Yankee Fan Memories

Well, tonight’s game can be summarized in two words. Cliff Lee.

There, quickest game recap ever!

Well, okay, I suppose I can tell you some other things. There was soaking rain all day in New York, but it stopped around four o’clock and both teams were able to take batting practice outdoors. Worry about the weather pushed the planned Jay-Z/Alicia Keys duet to Game Two. I sought out Freddy the Fan and banged the pan for luck, but ultimately it was for naught.

The crowd was fired up at the start of the game, with the loudest, most intense Roll Call I have ever heard. Definitely the Bleacher Creatures have stepped up their game for the postseason. And the flashbulbs for the first pitch were positively blinding.

It was pretty much downhill from there, though. Lee’s complete dominance of the Yankees lineup (except for Derek Jeter, who went 3-for-4 with a double and a run scored) combined with CC Sabathia struggling with control took the crowd out of it early. So did Chase Utley’s first home run (of two), and the fact that in the bottom of the first a rather raw drizzle began to fall which kept up throughout the game. It lasted just as long as Lee, who pitched the complete 9 innings, giving up one unearned run in the ninth.

The bullpen continues to struggle. Matsui and Swisher also continue to struggle but then again so did everyone against Lee (except Jeter). A-Rod struck out three times, but hopefully that doesn’t get into his head. If he turns back into a pumpkin, the Yankees’ fairy tale is over.

I’m looking forward to a lively night tomorrow, though. No rain, and Pedro Martinez will be on the mound, which will surely rile the crowd into a frenzy. Here’s hoping for a better report tomorrow!

World Series Magic

October 27, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings, Yankee Fan Memories

It’s time to talk about signs and magic. In other words, do the Yankees have fate on their side? Every championship year seems to have its thread strung with some gems that presage special things happening.

In 1996 the magic moments were things like Dwight Gooden pitching a no-hitter after all the adversity he had gone through personally, and with his father on the verge of heart surgery. Of course, we have the perfect games in 1998 and 1999 from Wells and Cone.

This season had a plethora of special moments if we count the fifteen walk-off wins (which I certainly do!), and how about Melky hitting for the cycle? The first Yankee to do it since Tony Fernandez, who you may have forgotten but he was the starting shortstop before the arrival of a certain rookie named Derek Jeter. Jeter taking the lead in the all-time hits list certainly ranks up there, too.

And then there is New Stadium mojo to be taken into account. The Yankees were in the doldrums from 1965 until the renovation of the old Yankee Stadium, after which the Yankees returned to the postseason three straight years and won back to back World Series in 1977 and 1978. In 1996 they had a new stadium, too, in Tampa, as Legends Field debuted as a miniature of the big ballpark in the Bronx. And now, of course, we have the brand new cathedral. Will the ghosts come across the street?

And then we have the White House factor. Since the original Yankee Stadium was demolished, each time the Yankees have gone to the World Series, if a Republican was in office, they lost, but if a Democrat was in office, they won. Barack Obama is even an AL fan, a follower of the White Sox. Will the pattern keep up?

Only time will tell.

Year     Par  President
1976  L  Rep  Ford
1977  W  Dem  Carter
1978  W  Dem  Carter
1981  L  Rep  Reagan
1996  W  Dem  Clinton
1998  W  Dem  Clinton
1999  W  Dem  Clinton
2000  W  Dem  Clinton
2001  L  Rep  Bush II
2003  L  Rep  Bush II
2009  ?  Dem  Obama

ALCS Game 6: The 2009 Pennant is Won!

October 26, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

There was a party atmosphere in the Bronx prior to ALCS Game 6, as fans psyched themselves up to hopefully see their Yankees punch a ticket to the World Series for the first time in six years. “Tonight’s the night!” “Please let Pettitte have his stuff. Just let him have his stuff.” “The real fans are here tonight! The real Yankee people are here tonight!”

We arrived early to the game, two full days early, actually, given that Saturday night was a washout. We were a few blocks from the Stadium and just starting to look for a place to park when the announcement came over XM that the game had been called. We took a friend out to dinner instead, while torrential rains and lightning dominated the skies, and then this morning dawned clear and dry. There was a beautiful sunset just before we headed into El Molino Rojo, a Dominican Restaurant a few blocks from the Stadium, and by the time we came out, night had fallen and the crowds were thick on the streets heading for the game. There was no wind to speak of on a perfect autumn night.

“The real Yankee people” were chanting and cheering before the game even began. I’d never heard umpire introductions so lustily booed.

I was tickled to see Chuck Mangione play the National Anthem. After all, the last time I saw him play the anthem before a Yankees game, Dave Righetti went and pitched a no-hitter. (more…)

ALCS Game 5: Pitching, Pitching, Pitching

October 23, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings, Yankee Fan Memories

It was a game in which 280 pitches were thrown, but it was the very last one that decided it.

It was a game in which no pitcher was happy. In tonight’s game, Phil Hughes took the loss, and in postgame interviews put all the blame on his own shoulders, but the Yankees’ six-run uprising in the seventh inning was made necessary by A.J. Burnett’s dismal start out of the gate, and possible by Mike Scioscia yanking his protesting starter with two outs in the seventh only to see his bullpen melt down.

At first blush, it looks like Lackey was the one who was going to struggle. Derek Jeter, suffering from a cold but ever eager to play, singled on the first pitch of the game. Two pitches later, Johnny Damon pulled a ground ball to right for another base hit. But Lackey bore down, caught Teixeira looking, got A-Rod to pop up harmlessly, and then Matsui to ground weakly to first.

Then it was Burnett’s turn on the hill. He walked Chone Figgins on five pitches to start the game, then gave up four consecutive hits within the space of seven more pitches, and not a soft one in the bunch. That’s right, it took only 12 pitches for it to be 4-0 Angels. (more…)

ALCS Game 4: Yankees 10, Angels 1

October 21, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

He has homered in three straight postseason games.

He has now tied the record for consecutive postseason games with an RBI at eight. Sharing that record currently with Ryan Howard and Lou Gehrig.

He has 11 RBIs thus far this postseason and a combined ALDS/ALCS average of .407.

He is having the time of his life.

He is Alex Rodriguez, who has finally learned the Jeter knack of being a world beater, just going up there and relishing the chance to do something big.

Jeter is human. So are all the Yankees. Jeter himself got picked off first after a nice Jeterian hit into right to lead off the game. Oops. Jorge Posada forgot how many outs there were and ran off the field, leaving home plate unprotected with a man on third. Nick Swisher got picked off second, according to replays, although the umpire blew the call. The umpires are human, too. Tim McClelland, the veteran ump who called George Brett out for too much pine tar several decades ago, blew two calls at third base tonight, one for the Yankees (ruling only Posada out when both he and Cano had been tagged out) and one against them (Swisher for leaving the bag too early on a sac fly when he actually left right on time).

But right now Alex feels like Superman and the whole team is enjoying the ride on his cape.

One of the Yankees who was scuffling this October, Melky Cabrera, had a big game, going 3-for-3 with a walk, a run scored, and four RBIs. He got himself going with a bunt base hit in the third, then had a two-RBI single in the third, walked and scored on Damon’s homer in the 8th, and capped off the night with a two-RBI double in the ninth.

It’s nice to see Johnny break out with homers on back to back days, as well. Earlier in the postseason he didn’t seem to have his good swing going, but he stayed in the game by taking some balls the other way into left. Now he seems to be heating up. Now if only Teixeira will follow suit. He had only one hit tonight, after striking out twice against Kazmir, but in the first inning, the second to last pitch of the at bat he pulled deep into the left field seats, just foul.

Right now the only two players I am still worrying about are Swisher, who still doesn’t seem to be seeing the ball that well, despite working a walk in the third, and Posada, who still seems a little preoccupied, although he had a nice night at the plate, including a double and two walks, and a stolen base. Yes, you read that right, a stolen base… which makes me wonder if he missed a sign (or if Matsui did). Matsui was the only Yankee in tonight’s lineup who did not join the party, never reaching base in any fashion and ending up with the hat trick. He saw the ball well off John Lackey in Game 1, though, so hopefully he will again Thursday night.

I have tickets for the games this weekend should it come to that, but honestly I hope they just wrap things up in Anaheim on Thursday. The last trip to the World Series, in 2003, feels like a long time ago. Time to write some new history books, isn’t it, guys?

P.S. My full recap of tonight’s game will appear in the morning in the Baseball Early Bird newsletter. But it was an easy one to recap. Sabathia had it (8 IP, 1 solo homer, 5 Ks), and Kazmir didn’t (4+, 4 BB, 4 ER) and neither did anyone else in the La-La-Land bullpen, really, as the Yankees got at least one hit off each pitcher, and only Darren Oliver earned no runs. A-Rod and Damon hit homers, Melky had 4 RBIs, Jeter tallied two more hits, and what started out a tight game became a lopsided beating.

ALCS Game 2 Recap: Lucky Thirteen

October 18, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

Well, I jinxed myself when in my recap of Game 1 of the ALCS I mentioned that a low-scoring pitchers’ duel is so easy to summarize. So of course Game 2 had to be a crazy extra-innings classic full of missed opportunities and twists of fate.

It began with A. J. Burnett and lefty Joe Saunders. Burnett’s fastball was moving, and Saunders’ power sinker was getting ground balls. They each gave up two runs. Saunders blinked first, when Nick Swisher worked a two-out walk. It’s a good sign for the Yankees when Swisher walks, and perhaps it means he is getting back on track for the postseason. He came around to score immediately when Robinson Cano hit a triple that split Abreu and Hunter perfectly. The next inning Derek Jeter hit another postseason homer, another into the right field porch. Burnett’s armor cracked in the fifth. With the weather radar showing imminent pouring rain on the way, the Yankees wanted to get through the fifth with the lead, but Maicer Izturis led off with a double, then scored on a one-out single by Erick Aybar. Aybar himself came around as a result of Burnett’s struggles, first stealing a bag, then moving up on a walk, and scoring on a wild pitch.

The game would stay 2-2 for a long time. (more…)

ALCS Game 1: Angels at Yankees

October 16, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Yankee Fan Memories

The Yankees rode their big horse all the way to the ninth inning, and then handed the ball to the best postseason reliever of all time, while the Angels handed them two gift runs that would be all the ballclub from the Bronx would need to go up 1-0 in the ALCS. The rain stayed away, and although it was a cold weather game, only the wind was really a factor.

Jeter got the scoring started in the first, with one of his patented Jeterian hits to right field. He moved to third when Johnny Damon went the other way to drop a single into left in front of former Yankee Juan Rivera. Mike Scoscia looked like he wanted to bust a vein when Rivera threw the ball in badly, allowing Damon to go to second. John Lackey bore down and got a harmless pop off the bat of Teixeira, but then came Alex Rodriguez.

With his resurgent play this postseason, corwin and I have taken to saying “Here comes that man again,” every time he comes to the plate. Because more often than not, he does something good. This time it was a sac fly to center, scoring Jeter and bringing Matsui to the plate. Matsui popped up, too, but the wind was whipping, perhaps leading to some confusion as the ball dropped untouched on the infield. Damon scored all the way from second to make it 2-0.

The Angels got a run in the fourth when Vlad Guerrero cracked a ball that should have landed in the bullpen, but the wind knocked it down so that it fell on the warning track for a double instead. (My brother texted me from the cheesesteak line at the Stadium to say he thought it was blowing at least 20 mph.) Kendry Morales brought him in with a base hit, but that would be the only run that CC Sabathia would allow. By the end of the night, the Halos tallied only four hits total, Vlad’s double the only extra base hit. CC walked only one and struck out six.

Overall, the heart of the Angels’ order was 2 for 11 on the night with one walk, with Torii Hunter almost beating out a throw to first that had Scoscia out of the dugout to argue. The ball was fielded in front of the mound by Sabathia, who fired to Teixeira, who only got the ball by virtue of a textbook split stretch, where only his tippy toe was touching the bag. Replays on FOX showed the tippy toe. (Tippy toe is a technical term, you know.)

Lackey was good, too, but not as good with his defense faltering behind him. Damon led off the fifth with a double, another hit to the opposite field, and then Matsui knocked him in. In the sixth, with two outs, Melky worked a walk, then moved to second on Lackey’s own throwing error when he threw a pickoff away. Jeter brought him in right away with an RBI hit that ended Lackey’s night. He threw 114 pitches in 5.2 innings, 4 runs, 2 earned, striking out three and walking three.

Meanwhile, CC’s pitch count was at only 80 pitches after six, 98 pitches after seven. The Yankees had a long inning in the seventh, mounting a faux rally as pitcher Scott Bulger walked two and hit a batter to load the bases, only to come back and strike out Nick Swisher. (Swisher has looked off throughout this postseason so far, in that he seems to be swinging at bad pitches–ones he would normally take.) All through the long inning, CC stayed on the bench, his hands in his jacket pockets, waiting to go back out for the 8th. He had a 1-2-3 eighth, ending the night with 115 pitches.

The only reason I would question why it might have been better to go to Hughes in the eighth is that the Yankees plan to pitch Sabathia in game 4 on three days rest, so why push him to his limit? But perhaps it was better to just make sure this one was in the bag.

Which was what Mo Rivera did in his 80th postseason appearance. It took him a batter to shake off the rust, walking Torii Hunter to lead off the inning, but the next three batters went down relatively easily, in yet another postseason save.

Now if only the rain will hold off for Saturday’s game, too, and hopefully the Yankees will have the same result.

Bottom of the Ninth

October 13, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings

You could start a club this winter for elite closers whose blown saves sent their teams to early ends. Jonathan Papelbon, Huston Street, and Joe Nathan can start a therapy group. Or maybe they just need one more to make a golf foursome.

What people are forgetting is that Mariano Rivera could join that group. Rivera’s hall of fame credentials and consistency over so many years have softened the sharp facts that he, too, has several high profile blown saves in his career.

Take a look at 1997. It was his first year as closer. After spending 1996 being the 7th and 8th inning guy in the “Mo and Wett Show,” Mariano moved into the closing role when the Yankees let World Series hero John Wettland (who was always a heart-attack closer) move on. At that point, there was no dynasty yet, just a World Championship in 1996, the first since the 1970s, and the team could have faded back into the doldrums of mismanagement that had crippled them for so long. Instead, they managed to win the Wild Card and then faced Cleveland in the ALDS.

Going into game four, the Yankees held a 2-1 series lead and needed just one more win to advance, and they held a 2-1 lead in the game going into the 8th (more…)

ALDS Game 3: Yankees @ Twins Sweep

October 11, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

It’s over in Minnesota. The grounds crew is digging up home plate at the Metrodome to carry it over to Target Field, which will be the Twins’ new home come spring. But tonight it was Yankee cleats that crossed it most often.

In the end the only real surprise in the Yankees/Twins division series was that there were so few surprises. The biggest of them all was that the Twins, who are normally known for being such sound, fundamental baseball players, committed some baserunning gaffes. Tonight’s pivotal play involved Nick Punto.

Punto has been a revelation this series. He batted .444 and was a bulldog at taking pitches and working walks. But in this pitchers’ duel, in which Andy Pettitte and Carl Pavano traded zeroes for five full innings, every little thing could be big. In the sixth the Twins scored first, as they did in all three games in the series. This time it was the Twins who benefited from a blatantly bad umpiring call, when Orlando Cabrera stared at strike three right down Broadway, shown both on the WTBS Pitchtrax and MLB.com’s Gameday. But instead of watching the pitch, home plate umpire Mark Wegner was watching Denard Span run to second base. Jorge Posada held the pitch as long as he could without edging into outright protest, then lobbed it back to Pettitte, disgusted. A strikeout would have ended the inning. Instead Cabrera walked on the next pitch, and then Joe Mauer brought Span in on a single, before Michael Cuddyer struck out to end the inning.

But as in the previous two games in the series, as soon as the Twins scored, the Yankees answered. This time two Yankees in particular answered, as Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada both hit solo shots off Pavano in the seventh to make it 2-1 New York. In the end, Pavano pitched well, giving up only five hits (including the two homers), walking none and striking out nine in 7 innings. Pettitte went 6.1, striking out seven, giving up three hits and walking one. Pavano threw 95 pitches, 64 for strikes, while Pettitte threw 81 pitches, 58 for strikes.

Going into the eighth down a run, Punto led off the inning with a double in the left-center gap. If the Twins played small ball, their chance of tying the score with a runner in scoring position and no one out was very good. But Punto got greedy. When Denard Span hit a bounced up the middle, Punto rounded third as if he might score, despite his base coach emphatically trying to give him the stop sign. Derek Jeter snared the ball behind second and threw to Posada, and Punto frantically scrambled back to third. But Posada threw a strike to A-Rod who put the tag on the diving Punto to snuff the threat. WTBS captured the hair-pulling reactions in the Twins dugout.

It was the Twins’ last real threat, while New York tacked on two more insurance runs in the top of the ninth as Ron Mahay, Jon Rausch, and Sergio Mijares each walked a batter, and closer Joe Nathan was forced to come in and clean up the mess. He let up two singles, and two runs, before striking out Nick Swisher and Melky Cabrera.

After Mariano Rivera recorded a four out save to nail down the victory, the Yankees headed to their clubhouse for another round of champagne showers, while the Twins filtered out of their dugout one by one. The last man there was Nathan, but instead of heading to the clubhouse, he went to the mound and scooped up a handful of dirt to take home.

If I Voted for Manager of the Year

October 11, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings

As a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, I am putting in votes for season awards. You’ve already seen my vote for AL Cy Young Award (Zack Greinke), but for me the end votes are sometimes not as important to me as people’s reasons for voting, or not voting, for various candidates.

When it comes to manager of the year, there are several potential candidates in my book:

  • Honorable mention: Joe Girardi, NY Yankees
  • Third Don Wakatmatsu, Seattle
  • Second: Ron Washington, Texas
  • First: Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota

I’m discounting Mike Scioscia and Terry Francona, who are both just plain terrific. Props to Scioscia for leading his team through the Nick Adenhart tragedy (and overcoming their inability to beat the Sox when it counts… but this award is only for what happens in the regular season). And Francona has become a master at handling the rabid Boston media, weathering Big Papi’s woes and drug test upset, but it is old hat at this point.

When it comes to Joe Girardi, I give him credit for drawing together a club that could have been in rough waters all season, beginning with the February steroid news about A-Rod, the always tricky integration into the clubhouse of the “new guys”–both big money guys in Teixeira/Sabathia/Burnett and the fill-in guys like Nick Swisher. Girardi changed the feel of the club, allowing Swisher to crank up the boom box in the clubhouse (Joe Torre had mandated headphones), standing up to the veterans (allowing Molina to be Burnett’s personal catcher), and taking the whole team out for some fun in the spring with a pool tournament outing that set the tone for a year of energetic fun. This is a huge step and a great thing for the team and their fans, but ultimately hasn’t made him Manager of the Year for me, though I gave him serious consideration. If Alex had been hurt for longer, or if the loss of Wang had hurt them more, but they had still won, perhaps. I still wish there hadn’t been so much mystery around Joba Chamberlain, too.

The next two, Ron Washington and Don Wakamatsu, get major points for having done so much with so little. Wakamatsu’s team wasn’t expected to do anything, and they managed to put up a nice showing. And Washington’s Rangers hung in there for a long time, despite injuries and scandals and the usual problems that it’s so difficult to pitch in Arlington, TX.

But the award has to go to Ron Gardenhire of the Twins. He managed to lead his club to the postseason despite losing half the major power in his lineup when Justin Morneau was shut down for the season with a stress fracture in his back. His starting rotation was gutted by injury as well, but he turned Brian Duensing into a decent starter, and kept all his many fill-in parts clicking as they overtook the Tigers in the final month of the season. Gardenhire definitely squeezed every ounce out of every player to get them to October. Regardless what happens in the postseason, win or lose, Gardenhire gets my vote for AL Manager of the Year.

Classic Red Sox

October 11, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings

Well, so much for my postseason prediction that the Red Sox would manhandle the Angels. The Red Sox strengths and Angels weaknesses should have matched up entirely in Boston’s favor. But ultimately it was necessary for several key Sox to perform up to expectations for it to work.

David Ortiz’s oh-fer and Papelbon’s blown save combined to sink the Sox.

Ortiz had a terrific last two months of the season, but without Manny in the lineup hitting behind him, there was no reason for the Angels to give him anything good to hit. For a while it looked like it might be a wash, given that Vlad Guerrero was also coming up empty in the ALDS, as when he struck out with the bases loaded in game 2. But Guerrero came through with the big hit when LAA-la-land needed it most, after the intentional walk to Torii Hunter in the top of the ninth, bringing in the tying and go-ahead runs.

There were so many times this year that Papelbon seemed to walk a tightrope rather than just dominating in the ninth. Sometimes he needed 35 pitches to nail down that save. His walks were up. Early in the season the Sox put up a smokescreen, claiming Pap was working on new pitches, but as the season wore on, he continued to pitch in that style. The words “heart attack closer” were bandied about quite a lot here in Boston. Ultimately, the margin for error in the ninth inning of this game was too thin. He was one strike away from putting this game in the books as a W for the Sox, 0-2 on Erick Aybar, when Aybar singled.

Was he deflated when he then went 3-0 on Chone Figgins? He came back with two called strikes, then Figgins fouled one off, again one strike away from the win. And then came ball four.

So up came Bobby Abreu, a notoriously patient hitter, who took a ball, but then fouled off three straight fastballs, giving Pap his third opportunity to go one strike away… before doubling and bringing in a run. Then came the intentional walk to Hunter, and the Vladdy two-run single.

Not only did Papelbon blow the save and lose the game, his scoreless inning streak in the postseason is snapped as well. It’s going to be a long winter in the Papelbon household, I think.

It’s always sad when a great team has to go home early. The Sox and the Cardinals deserved to go deeper, but their opponents had other ideas.

The season is over, but it wasn’t without some great moments. Jacoby Ellsbury getting the franchise steals record, and stealing home against the Yankees, some great walk offs, but thinking about those bright moments right now is bittersweet now that they didn’t add up to more.

This did put a smile on my face, though. A tribute song to Joe Castiglione that they played for him on the broadcast:

http://weei.radiotown.com/soxbooth/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/joe-castiglione-song.mp3

See you next year, Red Sox.

ALDS Game 2: Twins at Yankees

October 10, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

There were so many twists and turns in this game that the only reasonable way for me to recap it is to tell it chronologically.

Let us begin with the weather, which was balmy and humid for October. With possible rain showers forecast, the fans had jackets but most were carrying them. The intense wind of game one had gone, and if anything the wind was blowing in just a bit, the big American flag beyond left field hanging limp much of the night.

The warmth added to the party atmosphere at the ballpark, where the beer was flowing freely if the people in our section of the upper deck were any indication. No one was feeling tense, except maybe the Twins.

The first seven pitches of the game were all strikes (or hit into play) before A.J. Burnett threw his first ball. He looked sharp and aggressive (except to Joe Mauer, but I get the feeling the Yankees corporate policy on Mauer is to never give him anything good to hit, so walking him sometimes is inevitable) but so did Nick Blackburn when he took the hill for Minnesota, retiring the Yankees quickly in the first. Jeter’s average was no longer a majestic 1.000. (more…)

2009 ALDS Game One: Twins at Yankees

October 08, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Games, Yankee Fan Memories

Everything went according to the Yankees’ script tonight at The Stadium. Derek Jeter added to his postseason resume, CC Sabathia was dominant, the Twins were a plucky but not overly troublesome opponent, the bullpen was a well-oiled machine, and Alex Rodriguez got off the schneid.

I drove to New York today from Boston to make it in time for the game. I met up with my friend Lori, leaving my bags at her apartment, and then we headed to the Stadium. Found parking and walked, and just made it to our seats in time to see the first batter, Denard Span.

Who doubled. And even moved to third on a passed ball. But CC struck out the next two men (more…)

If I Voted for the Cy Young Award

October 04, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings

Going into the final week of the season, I began to think about the major season awards. I’m a member of the recently formed Baseball Bloggers Alliance, and each member blog will be opining our picks for awards like MVP and so on, so I’ve been thinking about this more than usual.

As of a week ago, my finalists for the AL Cy Young Award were CC Sabathia, Zack Greinke, and Felix “The King” Hernandez.

In CC’s case, there was one thing which would have clinched my Yankee-centric vision of the world, which is if he won 20 games. There is a longstanding tradition regarding the specialness of the 20-game win season. I’m not one who believes that wins are a great measure of how good a pitcher is, since wins (and losses) depend so highly on the performance of other members of the team. However, I do believe that a certain amount of good fortune is always necessary to set one player’s season apart from his rivals. Call it the Mandate of Heaven, if you want… (more…)

Dodging a Rocky Road

October 03, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings, Great Games

Oh, this time of year is fun. I’ve been getting vicarious thrills by rooting for the Rockies to win the NL Wild Card, and all of a sudden they are in Los Angeles playing the Dodgers with a chance to actually grab the NL West crown. Cool, eh?

I like the Rockies for a number of “dumb” reasons, but you should know by now that liking/loving/rooting is not really a rational thought process. I love the Rockies for being the only team with purple in their uniform colors. And for Troy Tulowitzki, whom I love because he carries a Derek Jeter baseball card in his wallet. Tonight Charley Steiner repeatedly described Tulo’s “jump pass” move to the point of redundancy, yet never mentioned that Jeter holds the patent on that one. I get the feeling Steiner only mentions the Y-word when forced to (he being a former employee of the Yankees).

But what I love most, actually is an exciting race, and the Rockies and Dodgers are certainly giving us that.

Among the dramatic highlights of tonight’s game, which I listened to via MLB.com, Manny Ramirez, the 2004 World Series MVP, idiot savant of the batters box, supposedly immune to pressure and possessed of a “natural” swing and hitting ability that is matched only by guys enshrined in the Hall of Fame, at the plate with men on and the Dodgers having climbed to within 4-3 of the Rockies…

Strike out.

Not just strike out, but strike out for the 6th time in a row. The last time he put a ball in play was last Tuesday. And before tonight’s three-run outburst, the Dodgers had not scored more than a single run in any game. Their magic number has been stuck at one for five days.

All I can do is laugh hysterically when Charley Steiner announces that the pinch runner is named Who. (Hoo? I believe he’s Korean. The whole National League is like a foreign nation to us.) “Does he play first base?” corwin asked. “Oh, please tell me he does.”

As I write this, the Dodgers are batting in the bottom of the ninth, facing Huston Street. One out. They need a walk-off, come-from-behind win to clinch. For once it sounds like no one has left the park. Now two out, Furcal at the plate, and Andre Ethier on deck. There will surely be some pun about ether and floating to be made if he gets up and hits the game-winner.

“The Dodgers have not lost five games in a row all year,” Charley Steiner reminds us. Yes, Charley, but previous performance is no indication of future results.

Full count on Furcal. Of course. It’s like a law or something. Big dramatic moments have to go to full counts…

Game Over! Furcal lines right into an infielder’s glove, like so many infamous games of the past. Some even in California. Think Bobby Richardson.

Two games left in the season, and if the Rockies win tomorrow, the two teams will be tied with one game left. This is what great baseball is all about.

Do You SABR?

October 02, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings

SABR LOGOAs any regular reader of this blog knows, I have found my tribe in SABR. Did you know that it takes no special credentials or secret handshakes to be in SABR? Just a love of baseball. Whether you love the history, or the numbers, or the history of the numbers, or anything that helps you know, understand, or appreciate this great game of ours even more than you already do, then SABR has a place for you.

You don’t have to be an academic, you don’t have to be into fantasy baseball, you don’t have to like teams other than your own. You can be into baseball songs and poetry, the evolution of baseball’s rules, and just about any other thing you can think of relating to the game. If you want to, you can join a committee like the BioProject, and help research and write biographies of every player, manager, owner, umpire, or other personage involved with the game at any level. Or you can just sit back and enjoy the newsletters, local meetings, book publications, free perks on the Internet, and so on.

It was because of SABR I met Tommy Byrne, who passed recently, and who was a lefty pitcher for the Yankees in the 1950s. It was because of SABR I got to sit right behind the dugout in the Braves stadium on Easter Sunday (yes, they were playing at the time). It was because of SABR I found the site of Babe Ruth’s first home run as a professional player, in an intrasquad spring training game in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Need I go on?

As with most non-profit organizations, SABR’s membership rolls have shrunk during the recession. A new membership drive is on. So if, like me, you once thought you couldn’t join SABR because you had to be special, let me tell you right now that it ain’t so. And if you are thinking of joining? Well, now is the time. (Click here.)

Tell them Cecilia at Why I Like Baseball sent you, and I’ll teach you the secret handshake when I see you at the annual convention.

September 27, 2009: Long Distance Runaround

September 27, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Fans and Fandom, Baseball Musings, Yankee Fan Memories

It’s always tricky trying to follow one’s team while traveling. In recent years I have found myself tempted to miss airplanes while watching in airport bars, watching broadcasts while ON planes (thank you, JetBlue), watching just the ESPN TICKER on planes when the local broadcast wasn’t on, carrying a portable XM radio with me, cartuning (trying to pull in any station with the broadcast on a car radio), streaming audio and/or video from MLB.com, watching pitch by pitch on MLB.com or one of the other sites, etc. etc.

It’s been difficult for me to follow the Yankees the past few days since I am in Charlotte, North Carolina running a small convention here. And Friday night we could not get the Internet working, so I thought my only choice was to stare at my iPhone watching the pitch by pitch from MLB.com’s mobile site (which is quite snazzy). This was difficult because I was continually having to talk to people, do things, help people, et cetera.

But instead I found a whole new way to follow a long distance ballgame. As it turned out, I did stare at my iPhone, because corwin went off to watch the game at the Forest Cafe, our neighborhood baseball-loving watering hole, and he texted me the game play by play. Yes, this is the story of two people who love the Yankees, and are in love with each other.

It went like this:
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Berth Day

September 23, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Yankee Fan Memories

Today I plunked down about $3,000 for the full run of postseason tickets at Yankee Stadium. Four seats, eleven games, including game seven of the World Series, should they get that far. I have yet to attend a World Series game in my lifetime, and my fingers, toes, and imaginary appendages are all crossed that this is the year I finally get to one!

And today I know at the very least they will be making the postseason. They won a thriller in Anaheim, a stadium where they have the worst record of any spot in the majors, 0-5 this year until tonight, and 5-19 since 2005. For the past few days, all they needed was either a Rangers’ loss or to win one game for themselves, and it just hasn’t happened, until tonight.

Little things meant a lot in this game, as they always do in postseason play. For example, when Alex Rodriguez sent a 3-0 pitch (one of only 20 homers hit in the 2009 season on a 3-0 count, and that’s out of 4703 total homers hit in the big leagues this season) into the rock garden next to the batter’s eye, there was a man on base. The man was Hideki Matsui, who reached on catcher’s interference. He had grounded to shortstop, and he almost never grounds the ball that direction, so the moment it happened corwin and I turned to each other and said “what happened there?” But then the umpire ruled that Mathis’ glove had touched the bat, and replays confirmed it. In a game where one run was the difference, that’s huge.

So was A-Rod’s sac fly in the top of the ninth, the game-winner, which came on the first pitch he saw. No waiting around. He golfed a low strike on a line into center, which had it sliced or hooked might have gone in the gap. Instead Torii Hunter charged it and put a good throw to the plate, but Gardner was fast enough to beat it. Gardner is the only guy on the roster who would have been fast enough to beat it. How about the fact that Gardner swiped second on a pitch out? Good times.

Jeter probably had the funniest line off the night when after the game he said “We got the monkey off our back. No pun intended.” (Yes, the Rally Monkey did make an appearance, and the Angels did rally to tie the game, but the Yankees won it anyway.)

October, here we come.

The “Softer Side” of Jorge Posada

September 16, 2009 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Uncategorized

I got an email this morning with an amusing lead in:

“The Yankees had an interesting game last night, but to highlight the ‘softer side’ of Jorge Posada, I wanted to send over some information that may be of interest to some of your readers around Charitybuzz auctions that are ending tomorrow, September 17, 2009 benefiting The Jorge Posada Foundation.”

Last night, of course, was the night Jorge got into a fistfight with a relief pitcher from the Toronto Blue Jays. Jeter is the quiet one. Jorge is the fiery one. And I’m sure he was chapped that the Yankees were losing a game they should have been winning and not playing the way the Yankees should, even if they are close to having a postseason slot wrapped up. How can you put 12 men on base in 6 innings against Roy Halladay and only plate two of them?

But anyway, yes, Jorge has another side, whether one calls it ‘softer’ or not, like his wife Laura and he just wrote a book on family health and fitness, and of course his charity foundation which supports families of children with the condition that has afflicted Jorge Jr., craniosynostosis.

Anyway, check out the items being auctioned until tomorrow at http://charitybuzz.com/auctions/posada2009, including a Wilson Catcher’s Glove signed by Jorge Posada, Yogi Berra, Joe Girardi & Other Legendary Yankee Catchers or Two Tickets to the 2009 World Series.

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