Monday -- Jays 4, Yankees 1: The hay's in the barn, but we'll enjoy Jesse Litsch chucking seven-plus innings of five-hit, one-run ball in a tidy two hours, 42 minutes. That's a nice respite from all the long-assed games.
To be honest, the jury is still out on whether he's the No. 5 starter next season. Joe Kennedy will have to get a long look, since he is a left-hander and has a good track record pitching at Rogers Centre.
Sunday -- Yankees 7, Jays 5: Paraphrasing a former Yankees employee,* we are officially out of conversation with the Jays, save for perhaps a 20th anniversary retrospective on the final-week collapse in 1987. The Jays are running out of players and we're running out of words.
There might be a rant coming about how the Yankees drag games out (average time 3 hours, 11 minutes compared to a league average of 2:54) to the point of flouting fan-friendliness, fair play and sportsmanship. Spare us the clichés about baseball being played without a clock. For its first 50, 60 years it did have a clock. It was called the sun.
Shaun Marcum has left to have knee surgery. When the Leafs were racked up last season, we took to calling them the MarLeafs; so does that mean the Jays are the Chays or the Jeefs?
Saturday -- Yankees 12, Jays 11 (10 innings): Oh, and a team using 10 pitchers in a game? Not too fond of that, either. When a team uses that many pitchers, it's not managing, it's mental masturbation. (Finally, something we care about.)
Friday -- Jays 5, Yankees 4 (14 innings): What's worse -- remembering the tagline from the criminally underappreciated Chris Elliott vehicle Cabin Boy -- "he's setting sail on the high seas, without a rudder, a compass or a clue" -- or having a favourite team's manager who seems to embody it?
The benefit of the doubt is that John Gibbons wanted it to go 14 innings so Joe Torre's bullpen would be tired heading into the playoffs. That's giving him way too much credit.
A manager has to put a team in a position for something good to happen, not just go on gut instinct. The latter is why the Jays couldn't get a runner home from third with none out, left the door open for the Yankees pull off a four-run rally to force extra innings and left smartaleck shut-ins to joke that we just knew the Jays would be OK if they could get Brian Bruney (a second-line reliever who gave up Gregg Zaun's game-winning homer) into the game.
This was frustrating before the Yankees wiped out a 4-0 lead in the ninth inning (and a W for Roy Halladay). Yesterday, John Brattain had an in-depth piece go up at Hardball Times detailing Jays' chronic futility scoring runs and put the onus right on the manager, something too few people outside the blogs have been willing to do this season. The crux of Brattain's case seems to be that, "Gibbons should have been more flexible and creative in his approach and realize what the talent on hand could or could not do."
More from J.B.: "It's bad enough that the offence is struggling, but the Jays also make it easy on the opposition’s defenders."
Talk about prescient. In the second inning, Aaron Hill ends up at third base with nobody out and doesn't score since three below league-average hitters coming up behind him -- Russ Adams (going off his more substantial '06 stats), Gregg Zaun and Adam Lind -- can't hit the ball out of the infield.
One run early in the game meant a lot in a low-hit game between two aces (Halladay and Chien-Ming Wang) and Gibbons treats it like a penny on the ground, not even worth picking up. Sure, small ball doesn't work as an overall philopsophy, but to piggyback on Brattain's point, when swinging away hasn't worked, why not try something?
It was much the same deal in the ninth. Halladay had only thrown 90 pitches, but it was the fourth time through the order against the best-hitting team in baseball. There's a pretty good chance that on the fourth crack, the top of the Yankees order might get to any pitcher. So why was Halladay allowed to face three more hitters after Johnny Damon got a leadoff double?
So don't go on about how the Jays still won. Teams do win with bad managers. Bob frigging Brenly got a World Series ring with the Diamondbacks six years ago. John McNamara won a pennant with the Red Sox once. Honestly, for a win winning like this is more teeth-gnashing than seeing the Jays lose 10-2. Knowing the team was just flat and that's a lot easier to digest than wondering why, oh why, the manager persists in causing games to become closer than they should have been. What would happen if the Jays ever got into a playoff race for real?
(Mea culpa on the Scott Downs conspiracy theory: He's up to 77 appearances, three shy of 80.)
* (George Costanza on Seinfeld.)
That's all for now. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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