Friday, October 05, 2007

MLB PLAYOFFS DAY 2: STEINBRENNER'S SLUGGARDS AIN'T SLUGGING

Cleveland leads 1-0: You've heard of the Bronx Bombers. These Yankees are Steinbrenner's Sluggards after taking two hours to get through the first 4 1/2 innings. Ridiculous. They deserved to lose.

There seems to be more to it than the Yankees being patient hitters who work counts, although that could be the tinfoil hat talking. It's almost like seems like a strategy of deliberate dragassery designed to wear down opponents mentally, to the point where it's not just poor sportsmanship, it's Bad For The Game. It's attention span-sapping, although people do receive baseball differently than ever before thanks to MLB.tv and the various GameChannels, so maybe it's not a big deal. Still, from a competitive standpoint, there has to come a point when the league and umpires tell the Yankees to stop lollygagging and play baseball. Their average game time was something like three hours, 11 minutes, which is ranging into NFL levels of arrogantly monopolizing fans' time.

Remember, this is coming from a baseball nut. You know us by our tendency toward being too lazy to go out and find something better to do rather than sit through nine innings of the Jays and Royals in the dog days of August, but not being lazy enough to apply for a job at the post office.

It's grating when two playoff teams can't play half a game in the time the Jays' Roy Halladay has been known to pitch a complete-game victory. With the 6:30 Eastern start, Doc would have that game well before The Office came on at 9. It can't just be assumed everyone has a DVR.

Of course, the last few innings went quickly, so the game was over in a mere 3:44. Cubs-Diamondbacks took the exact same amount of time (if it had gone extra innings, I would have been the only person still watching who doesn't speak Hawaiian). That takes some of the self-righteousness out of a good anti-Yankees rant. Damn it.

Diamondbacks down Cubs, take 2-0 lead: What, no one in the knee-jerk Canadian media tried to make hay out of a post-season pitching matchup of Jays castoffs Ted Lilly and Doug Davis? Mom's words come to mind like it was yesterday (actually, it was yesterday): "I'm not upset with you; I'm just disappointed."

Rockies go up 2-0: Rockies manager Clint Hurdle (pictured in his younger days) is definitely the breakout character of these playoffs.

His explanation for why he yanked his starting pitcher, Franklin Morales, for a pinch-hitter in just the fourth inning -- "We wanted to get a pitcher in there whose heart was beating a little slower" -- was all one needed to hear to love him just a little.* Hey, it's not always bad to cheer for something without caring or considering why. Everyone does it. Clint Hurdle gives a good soundbyte and his gambit paid off in a go-ahead grand slam home run. Throw in the backstory -- Sports Illustrated coverboy at the age of 20 who crashed and burned as a player -- and he's a great character in this TV show.

The Phillies' Charlie Manuel is managing desperate. Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink seems like required reading after watching Manuel send rookie Michael Bourn up to pinch-hit in the fifth inning of 6-3 game. It seemed like an awfully dumb move to use your faster player that early in the game. Bourn's speed wasn't likely to help the Phillies, since few teams steal when they're down by more than two runs. Jimmy Rollins, the next batter, is a leadoff guy, so he probably isn't used to executing a hit-and-run.

Lohse had just pitched a 1-2-3 inning, so why not let him bat for himself and hold the fort for another inning or two in the aim the Phillies, with that league-leading offence, would rally. It saves a pitcher, which is kinda important in a short series.

Instead, Bourn, who was 1-for-13 as a pinch-hitter, made a weak out. The Phillies didn't score and the Rockies tagged 41-year-old José Mesa (seriously, the Phillies bullpen has more washed-up acts than the bandstand at a state fair) in the sixth to put the game away.

Something else that we needed to get off our chest: It's hilarious how some people up here hailed Pat Gillick as a miracle man after the Phillies got in the playoffs. It's a nice device for implying Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi is a dunderhead, granted.

However, Philly won 88 games and missed the playoffs by one game in 2005, the year before Gillick became GM. They won 89 this year and made the playoffs by one game. Let's just say in terms of turnarounds, this wasn't quite the 2006 Tigers.

1 comment:

Pete Toms said...

N, I'm in your corner on the length of Yanks games ( and I'm not a Yankee hater ), it's just stupid. Same to a lesser degree for Red Sox. And Yanks vs. Red Sox is just really, really stupid.

There is mounting opinion amongst the chattering classes that umpiring needs to and can be better. Do the vets and superstars at the plate and on the mound get the benefit of " the call " more freqeuntly than the rank & file? In this era, because of Questec, we should know that.

MLB has loads of data - derived from Questec - on umpire performance ( I doubt we'll ever see a lot of it ) and I'd like to know if it reveals that there is a pro Yankees bias amongst the men in blue. I suspect yes. It's also time for MLB to start firing their most incompetent umps, Questec can also provide some empirical evidence as to whom are the most incompetent. The Tim Donaghy story ( what happened to that BTW? ) also provided insight into the vast amount of data that the NBA has on their officials' performance ( although Vegas figured out before Stern that something was up with Donaghy ).

Or, you can be old school and argue that the personal relationships between the players, managers and umps is part and parcel of the game.

I'm in the camp that thinks it's time to put the technology to better use, which isn't to say that we should remove the human element altogether but come on, MLB can do better.