Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Paul Byrd: Clutch God

I decided to start watching Game 4 of the Indians-Yankees series last night with my three year-old daughter. Every time there was a closeup of a player, she'd ask me who it was. When I'd say the player's name, she'd rechristen him with a new name, the sort of which your typical preschooler would find hilarious. Posada became Jorge Lasagna, Lofton became Kenny Lostman, and A-Rod became Alex Ramcone. That last one was only funny because there's a little boy in her preschool class named Alex Ramcone. "He's too little play in the baseball game, Daddy," she said no less than five times, followed by uproarious three year-old laughter.

It was going to be a long night.

Certainly a longer night than Chien-Ming Wang (Cinnimon Wang-Apple) had. So much talk there was yesterday about pitching Sabathia on three-days' rest, and so few who thought that Wang would have trouble. Funny how that works. Of course Wang had nothing, and he was relieved by a pitcher (Mikey Moosey) who was considered unsafe at any speed less than a month ago.

Not that Paul Byrd was a fabulous option for Cleveland. As BTF poster Dan Lee pointed out in a thread earlier in the day, Byrd is extremely mortal against left handed bats, to the tune of .322/.345/.459 in 2007. The Yankees have lefties in abundance. My view on this was that you have to give Byrd a shot over a less-than-fully-rested Sabathia and if things go sideways, Wedge can go to Johnny Wholestaff out of the pen to try to salvage things. If it's really ugly, hey, you still have Sabathia and Carmona fresh for game 5, and there's no way the Yankees are touching those guys.

ShysterDaughter was put to bed before she got a chance to give Franklin Gutierrez a new name, and I actually started to watch a bit more closely. What follows isn't a liveblog, really, because even if I'm writing in real time I'm not posting it in real time, but this feels like an important enough game that recording my thoughts as they happen seems like a good idea. No timestamps because I watched the game on DVR-delay due to an extended Shel Silverstein/Curious George nighttime story session with my girl. Hey, Posnanski isn't the only one with little kids at home.

Second inning: Between the HBP call with Shoppach up, the quick hook on Wang, and the non-call of the catcher's interference with Matsui up, this is, by far, the most agitated and animated Joe Torre I've seen since his days in St. Louis. Of course he wasn't Joe Torre yet then, so I suppose that doesn't count. Note to Paul Byrd: that double windup is ridiculous. I don't tend to agree with Tony Gwynn and Chip Caray that often, but they're right: don't piss off the Yankees or their fans. Winning in the Stadium is hard enough as it is.

Top of the third: I don't watch a lot of Yankees games, so somebody tell me: does the Stadium crowd always groan in agony when their pitchers miss a foot off the plate and it's correctly called a ball? That aside, Mikey Moose reached down a bit in striking out Gutierrez and Blake that inning. Odds of him maintaining that level of moxy for six more innings: really, really, low.

Bottom of the third: A-Rod looks at a called strike three. He can't help it; Scott Boras has been sending him so many real estate listings for Lake Forest, IL and Newport Beach that he hasn't had as much time in the cage lately.

Top of the fourth: You can't stop Kelly Shoppach, you can only hope to contain him. By the way -- I am perfectly willing to concede the superiority of the American League over the past few years, but I am willing to put up with the inferior National League product if it means games that last less than four hours. Meanwhile: the Yankees are walking Hafner to get to Martinez with one out to load the bases. Instant prediction: Martinez makes them pay dearly.

Result: Yep. It's 6-1 Indians.*

(*I swear on the life of my children that I predicted that before it happened and didn't change it after the fact.)

Bottom of the fourth: Did you know that that Eric Wedge isn't 40 yet? Wow. He should eschew the Brett Favre look.

Top of the fifth: Mikey Moose's strongest inning in months. I like Mussina, so it's nice to see, but that's looking like it's way too little way too late.

Bottom of the fifth: Byrd is cruising.

Top of the sixth: What happened on October 8, 1956 that never happened again? Um, my number one go-to source for all things 1950s Cleveland Indians, Bill Case, turned eight years old. Everyone knows that.

By the way: anyone who thought we'd see better 1B defense from Victor Martinez than Doug Mientkiewicz tonight, please raise your hand.

Moose is done. I know he has another year on his contract, but seeing him in the Yankee dugout next to Clemens makes me feel like we've seen the last of both of them.

Bottom of the Sixth: Cano goes yard, knocking Byrd out. My friends at BTF laughed earlier today when someone suggested that Byrd could go five strong innings tonight. Some even suggested that the Tribe was all but surrendering game four by starting Byrd. Well, he went five strong innings and has the Tribe poised to enter the ALCS with their rotation set up nicely. Let's give Byrd credit for rising to the occasion, and let's give Eric Wedge credit for not panicking and running C.C. out there on short rest.

Jon Bon Jovi moment: Something tells me that his "Tell your mom I said 'hi'" t-shirt would be more provocative on a younger rock star. I'm pretty sure he's old enough to have gone to Adlai Stevenson Elementary School with my mom, so there's no reason for me to be offended. He probably really does want me to say "hi" to her.

Derek "Captain Clutch" Jeter hits into a double play in a key situation. He's hitting for absolute shite in the postseason series that is likely going to get Joe Torre fired. If this score holds, the headlines on Tuesday morning will all be about how A-Rod is a choker and how he should opt out.

Top of the Seventh: Kyle Farnsworth wears glasses? How long has this gone on? Good inning from him, though, which I'm guessing no one really expected.

Bottom of the Seventh: A-Rod bomb. A True Yankee (tm) would have done it with someone on base. Rafael Perez looks shakey, so keeping New York to one run that inning is a victory of sorts. Of course, now Wedge is going to feel like he has to use Borowski if Cleveland doesn't extend the lead, and that's simply terrifying for Indians fans.

Top of the Eighth: After another extra base hit from Kelly Shoppach, doubles machine, Joe Torre is going to Rivera for what may very well be the last pitching change he ever makes. Ok, false start. He's letting Jose Veras do the intentional walk. You know, I'm kind of partial to Don Drysdale's approach to these sorts of things: why waste four pitches when one will do. If Veras is coming out, let Veras plunk Sizemore so this crowd can go home with something?

You know, they've been flashing Rivera's postseason stats every time he comes out of the pen for the past eleven years or so, and they never cease to amaze me.

Bottom of the Eighth: Betancourt is in. He's been amazing this year. He looks as sharp as a Ginsu knife tonight. If the Indians win, they have a couple of nights off until game 1 of the ALCS. If there was ever a case for the two-inning save using someone other than your closer, this is it, but we're going to probably see Joe "87 ERA+" Borowski in the ninth, which will make it far more interesting than it needs to be.

Seeing Don Mattingly without a moustache is like seeing a desecrated Old Master.

Top of the Ninth: Two on, none out. The Indians batters may as well be wearing "save Betancourt" buttons on their jerseys right now.

Bottom of the Ninth: And Borowski it is. Fasten your seat belts.

Jeter pops up. When does the clutch-god grace period expire?

Abreu hits one a mile. Uh-oh.

A-Rod flies out. Visible f-bombs from the dugout. Who says the man has no fire?

Posada hits one just as far as Abreu, but just foul. I think it's safe to say that JoeBo isn't fooling anyone.

Posada strikes out. Ballgame.

And that's that. Steinbrenner is all senile bluster at this point, but I have this feeling that we really did just watch Torre's last game as the Yankees' manager. If he isn't fired, he should quit given the shabby treatment he's gotten this week.

I don't think A-Rod opts out. By this point he has taken everything New York can give him -- and everything he can inflict upon himself -- and has survived, posting his best season ever. The "A-Rod is the problem" storyline is passe at this point, and I have this feeling he knows it. Change will certainly be coming to New York this winter, but I think the Yankees build around Rodriguez going forward rather than look for ways to scapegoat him.

As for Cleveland: Once again, kudos to Eric Wedge for keeping his head about him and sticking with Paul Byrd. Kudos to Byrd for that matter. The Indians are a strong, strong team, and Indians-Red Sox represents a battle of the two best teams in baseball this year. It will start with the best pitchers going head to head.

I can't wait.


Anonymous said...

As a huge Yankee fan, allow me to comment:

It's always a pleasure to read Shyster writing about baseball, even at a painful time like this.

Yes, the Red Sox-Indians are the best teams in baseball right now, and I'm hoping for a first Cleveland WS win since 1948. Maybe then they can get rid of that awful "mascot".

(Jeter killed the Yanks this series. There, I said it.)

Andrew said...

My 4 year old daughter likes to watch sports with me. She'll ask which teams are playing and who I want to win. She then chooses the other team as her favorite and cheers vigorously for them for 5 minutes or so. Then she asks if the game is over and can she watch Barbie yet.

Pete Toms said...

Before I had kids this sort of conversation made me nauseous but now I have young kids and they're pretty damn cute.

My boys, 6 & 4, refer to the BoSox as the Boston Red Smelly Sox.

Diesel said...

You really think A-Rod doesn't opt out? Something tells me Boras has been preparing him to opt out for the last seven years, even though it only became a story this year. This contract was intended to be a seven-year tender, and I can't imagine that changing now.

For the first time I can remember, I felt a little sorry for Torre last night. My doubts about his strategic acumen aside, no one deserves to be embarrassed by a senile man in the New York media.

Shyster said...

On A-Rod -- It's just a gut feeling. New York is going to have to get some offense somewhere, and I have this feeling that they will unload a money truck for him. Maybe the calculus would be different for him if he was coming off a subpar year, but he now knows that he can post all-time great numbers in New York, and his ego won't let him feel like he was running away.

Like everything else, I could be really wrong.

Agreed on Torre.

Pete Toms said...

Anybody remember Chad Ogea? Wasn't he a big post season hero for the Tribe one playoff? He had a much less accomplished career than Byrd has had ( by far I think, I haven't looked it up ).

The point is, the cliché is true, in a short series ( especially in baseball ) anything can happen. It's a very small sample as the seamheads would say.

The postseason is far too scrutinized, mostly it's bullshit luck.