Yogi Berra passed last night at the age of 90. The man who famously said that “it’s never over til it’s over,” played his final inning. He was a hero of the Yankees. There could be no doubt about that. Casey Stengel said that he was his man, the guy he never played a game without having him on the field. He was a great tactical mind when it came to the game, and was easily one of the finest players to play the game. Although he stopped playing before I was born, and therefore way before I came to learn of the game, which only happened after watching the 86 world series in Ireland, it took no time for me to learn of the impact he had made on the success of the team.
But he was also as famous for his use of the English language, having the ability to twist the logic of a phrase better than his mentor and manager Casey Stengel. He even once famously said that ” you should always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.” That is an example of what you got with Yogi, a pithy phrase that belied a sort of wisdom based on simplicity, but expressed with great humour.
There have been many legends to have played for the Yankees, those who have lived in the mind of the fans. The Babe, Gherig, Di Maggio, Mantle, Munson, Mattingly, the Core four, and Williams. All of these guys carried the team to greatness, from the 1920s right up to the modern day. But none compete with the impact that Yogi had on the team. He is lauded as the back bone of the most successful dynasty in the Yankee history. He even called the famous perfect game of the 1956 World Series which was pitched by Don Larsen. While the pitcher was crucial, is crucial in winning games, the fact that Larsen was not a pitcher with the kind of stuff to pitch a perfect game shows just how great a catcher Berra was. Not that I want to put down what Larsen did. He still had to pitch. That he won ten world series rings tells you about his skill, and the teams he played on.
Yoggi Berra was a legend. It is that simple. He more than played his part in making the team a success. He will be mourned tonight, and when the Yanks play the White Sox he will be remembered in the Stadium the way he should, by the Yankees fans. He moves now from living legend to the pantheon of great players who one can imagine coming out of the cornfield to play on the Kinsella farm in Iowa. But perhaps the best way of remembering him will be to win number 28 this fall. It is the only fitting way to do so.
So that was some Subway Series. I cannot even gloat about it. How could I? I feel bad for the Mets fans. You could almost feel the air being sucked out of CitiField. Matt Harvey pitched 5 great innings. They were baying for a victory as he kept the Yankees off the board. But then it happened. Terry Collins had to pull him from the game, and the Yankees went on a scoring spree, driving all but the most devoted fans of the Mets from the stadium. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them. Despite being a Yankee fan, I like the players on the Mets. They have hung in there like their fans since 2006, the last time they went to the post season, just waiting for the chance to get back to the play offs. This season was shaping up to end that drought and you could feel it in way Mets fans were bragging and claiming that they were the kings of New York.
He pitched a fantastic five innings last night in the final game of the Subway Series giving up only one hit, and no runs. But the Yankees as well as the rest of the league are aware of the talk about his having a limit on the amount of innings he can pitch. While he was hailed at the start of the season as a hero for the Mets fans, last night will have soured his standing among the Mets fans. In fact there was a picture knocking around twitter of a batman costume ditched in the bin. I include it in this post because I think it sums up pretty much the despair the Mets fans are feeling while at the same time explaining the fallen hero status now attached to the pitcher.
I can get why they are furious about this. I would be too. Especially when you see guys like Wright and Murphy playing hurt. Heck Uribe even tried to play after he did a face plant into the dirt chasing down a ball to help Harvey out. It is too much to see these guys who are out there every night, or at least most nights, killing themselves to try to get to the post season and maybe even win the Fall Classic while a pitcher who gets to rest for most nights, complains about innings pitched and saying he only wants to pitch 170-180, the exact number escapes me right now and I am too lazy and not that bothered to look it up. Specifics don’t matter to me. I am not a Mets fan. But as a baseball fan I can see the weakness in the logic.
I can also see the problem for Mets fans as they watch their guy coming out of a game that he is pitching well and keeping his team in the driving seat, while a guy who is much older and using a knee brace to pitch goes deeper into the game. It must sicken even more to see them then blow the win and get hammered by their cross town rivals which really makes me happy of course. We needed that win. Especially as the Red Sox did us a great favour and beat the Blue Jays. All I can say though is that this nonsense with innings restrictions is that if I was a fan of that team I would be livid that our pitching ace, supposedly went and cost us a game. They have waited for the sky to fall in all season, let’s hope this will not be the sky falling down. I would enjoy seeing them get to the post season, maybe even the World Series… Then Harvey can pitch an inning or two, and the Yankees can beat them again. HoHo!!
The Yanks lost yet another game that they came close to winning. They had as much chance of winning. But their bullpen is weak when it goes beyond Miller and Betances. That is what cost the Yanks the game today. It was an infuriating loss, made worse by seeing two things that sickened me.
1: Yankees pitchers afraid of hitting the strike zone. Pitching outside all the time in the hope the batters would not do anything was a poor ploy because they began to expect it, and as we saw in the end the Toronto Blue Jays won not by hitting. Because in the inning when they got the four extra runs to win it, they had only one hit. The rest of the men on bases were down to walks and a hit batter. It was disgusting and the pitchers should have gone for the kill and trusted their position players to do the job for them. They didn’t and in the end they paid the price with another loss that moves is closer towards losing our wildcard spot.
2: I hate the kind of fans who vanish from the face of the planet when their team is doing badly. Toronto has been a team that has struggled too often over the years. Not since 1995 have they had a team to cheer for and look at what has happened. They are back in there, with let’s be honest some outstanding players who have put on quite a show. They are by far one of the most exciting teams in the league right now. But what I loathe are the fans who turn their noses up at the team, and look down on baseball, until all of a sudden their team starts to win and looks like they are going to the post season and next thing you know their fans are everywhere. They are loud and obnoxious. They are bragging in the streets. For the fans who are there through the lean times. For them, this is a time when they are entitled to cheer, and brag, and gloat. Why not? They have earned it. But when you see people who even just last year most likely took no interest in their team, in fact didn’t even give their team the least bit of notice. I hate that. Toronto is full of bandwagon fans at the moment. Not like the Red Sox, Orioles, Giants, Cubs, and Diamondback fans for example or indeed any fan who roots for their team when the wins are not there ( I include the genuine Toronto fans in that number). It is easy to be a Yankees fan if you love history. Not so much if you love the current moment. But that is okay. It proves that I am in it for the long haul. A real fan of the Yankees who loves the history, but loves the game and the team for all its highs and lows. That’s why it is the real fans I admire and feel sorry for. They have to share the good times with a bunch of people who not too long ago moaned about how much “their team” sucked. But it is these fair weather fans who will vanish into the ether again once a sup-par season comes along. They disgust me, especially when they are loud and obnoxious and know very little about the sport other than their local team is winning so it is time to dine out on it and party. But still you can’t shut them up. They were in abundant evidence today. But like winning seasons they are here today, gone tomorrow. Then the real fans can get back to enjoying the thrill of the game without annoying fair weather fans.
Argh!!! That was what I thought last night, and it was last night for me, because as I listened to the final humiliation of defeat for the Yankees, it had turned in or around half three in the morning. That is how one operates at that hour of the morning listening to their team getting smashed by their main rivals for the division. Time kind of merges into one blurred image. They eyes didn’t work. How I wished the ears didn’t. Especially after tying to lay down some thrash talk to an aunt from Toronto. I shouldn’t have been so stupid.
There has not been any reason why I should have pre-empted the make or break series with some thrash talk because while Toronto has been blazing hot and Josh Donaldson should be the American League MVP. If he isn’t then there is something wrong with how these things work. But while Toronto have been dominant all season, and especially since the trade deadline when their GM went out and got players that have added to the teams breathtaking performances, the Yankees have stumbled. They should have won the series against Baltimore.
They really ought to have done, the Orioles have been poor this season. They are listed among this season’s biggest busts. But the Yankees lost to them for the same reasons that they have lost most of their matches this year. Pitchers not pitching well and leaving the ball over the middle of the plate. Then the hitters have not hit well, and they have left men on the bases. Just not making the runs when they had the men on, it is unacceptable to do that. I keep hearing how the Yankees have been built for hitting out of the park home runs. But I see very little evidence of that at all. In fact for the most part the Yankees have seen home runs from the bat of a 40 year old player who had missed a whole season, and in the last while Didi Gregorius who was brought to the team for his fielding and not his hitting, has been the main man. That’s not to say that we have not had hits from the other batters of course McCann, Tex, and Gardner have contributed. But all too often the Yankees have failed to do it with the bat. The games that they have done it with the bat have been a case of flattering to deceive. They need to start thinking along the lines of in-the-park homers, manufacturing runs and getting clever outs that move men around the bases.
So when the big series began, for some reason I had hoped rather than believed that they would get off to a roaring start, and beat Toronto. Let’s face it, if they are to win the World Series they will first most likely have to find a way to get the better of the Blue Jays. That appears to be easier said that done.
Here is one reason why the Yankees have failed to get a firm grasp on the division’s first place position which we must remember was theirs in July when they had 5.5 game lead over the Blue Jays. So what happened to change all that? Here again it comes down to the difference between the Yanks and the Jays. The GMs. There I have said it. I know, it is easy to take a shot at the GM when things are going wrong in any sport. But in this case I think the condemnation is more than justified. The Toronto GM went out and got it done. He chased after players that would add to the team. They got Tulowitzki, Price, Revere, and other players who have been a big part in keeping the Torontonians’ drive for the division title going. While Cashman who has often signed the players with big reputations, old age, injury, who have a long career behind them rather than ahead of them, mostly snapping up players that come available between the seasons. This year he refused to trade away any prospects for players available that would have helped the team now. In the end the only trade he made was to bring in Dustin Ackley from Seattle. Giving two players for the sub par hitter. It later turned out that he had a herniated disk in his spine and would miss some time on the DL. How they hadn’t picked up the injury one cannot fathom but it raises serious questions about the front office who must surely answer for the fact that the team has tired out and fallen from the five and half game lead of July to being two and half games behind now in September.
If George was around now this kind of failure would be rewarded with the firings needed. Though I stand by Joe Girardi as a coach. He is good at his job and manages to keep the team going despite the front office’s failures. Just think though, Gene Michael was fired after 1995 despite the fact they got to the ALDS via the first American League Wildcard game. This being their first trip to the post season since 1981 when they lost to the Dodgers in the World Series. Surely this has to be the last chance saloon for Cashman who has stumbled along in a sort of sleep mode with a sense of security in his job that seems to say, “hey Hal isn’t bothered. Don’t worry about it.” Well Hal this season we have seen what a good GM can do to a team, just look at Toronto. This series already feels like it has been a long one, and we are only one game into it. The Yanks need to start winning again. If they do not start winning then they stand a chance of losing their place in the Wildcard game, and the home field advantage that being in the first wildcard spot entails. This is a time when consolation of where we are is important. They need to win as many games and not get bogged down in thinking about winning the division. If that happens then good enough. The Yanks must not fail to make the post season. If they do then it must be time to get rid of Cashman and bring in someone with better ideas and more willing to attack the trade market.
Tanaka will be glad to get this season over with. The sophomore slump I think is what they call it. He certainly has not been as sharp as he was last season before the injury and it can be said that it has fast become one of those things now that gives Girardi grounds for an eye roll or a head shake, the amount of times that he has been asked if there is something wrong with the star pitcher.
He had earned the starting spot on opening day, mostly because CC was not up to the same levels of intensity he had been in years gone by and so it fell to the guy who seemed to be the best choice. Now of course opening day is not a big deal, I mean if you lose it, it isn’t the end of anything. It isn’t even the beginning of anything. Look lets look at it like this. The Yanks lost to Cleveland on opening day of 2009. They got beat, and then they seemed to just, I dunno, not really do much until the season got going, and then… Well the story is well known. They went on to win the Fall Classic. Good times, good times.
So his getting beat by Toronto badly -the figures speak for themselves… 4 innings pitched. 5 hits, 5 runs, 1 homer. An ERA 9.00. 50 strikes from 82 pitches, isn’t really worth getting down about. They have beaten a lot of good pitchers severely this season. So while it was not a good showing at all. It was the first game of a long season. A season that saw the Toronto bats simply sizzling. Lava hot!! So let’s not get to hung up.
Tanaka is an infuriating. At least this season. He is infuriating because of the way one simply has no idea what kind of pitcher he is going to be when he gets to the mound. But we should be confident in him because he has won more games than he has lost so far for each month of the season. Let’s think about that… He has won more games each month. He is a winning pitcher, and should be recognised for that fact. He may give up hits, and runs. But he is not the only part of the problem in the Yankees. He is a pitcher that will win games only if he gets the back up from his hitters. Which cannot be said to be the case.
Look, this is the truth. Girardi is not a bunting coach. He seems to really dislike it. He seems to hate the idea of running a bunting play. But this is something that we need to get out of. The Yankees must not be sucked into a typecast mentality of “we must only score by hitting them out of the park.” That is nonsense. We need to remember that one of the best examples of the kind of plays we need to do more often was exemplified by Wee Willie Keeler. He was famous for saying that a batter should hit it “where they ain’t.” Yep that famous line, it goes all the way back to the early days of baseball. The early days of the Yankees too. Keeler was one of the best players of the dead ball era and one of the first stars to play for the Yankees back in the 1900s. He was one of those players who knew the value of trying to manufacture runs. This is a mindset that the Yankees needs to return to. Not throwing away the home run style of scoring, sure. But they need to think of trying to get the scores in when there are guys on the bases, because this has become the one big problem of the Yankees this year is their problem of leaving guys stranded when they could have got them home, if only they had only tried to play some good old fashioned dead ball. Tanaka will win tonight. But only if the Yanks can put runs on the board. There is too much at stake now. We are in the hunt, and every game counts now. We have to play as if we are in the post season now. Each game matters. It’s time for the Yanks to try and win every possible, legal way they can.