THOUGHTS ON WATCHING A WORLD SERIES GAME AT THE NEW YANKEE STADIUM AND WHY DID TIM MCCARVER TRY TO MAKE CHARLIE MANUEL LOOK LIKE A FOOL?

                                                                                       Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

This writer was fortunate to be in the building for an exciting Game 2 of the 2009 World Series, a 3-1 Yankee win. We’ll skip the $15 program, $9 beer complaints (although we will point out the new absurdity – the $10 hot chocolate (seriously, it might have been in some kind of souvenir Yankee cup)) and discuss the game itself.

A-ROD HAS TO BLOCK THE BALL

Top 2, 2 out Raul Ibanez on second. Intro to baseball – infielders are “on their bellies” (thanks to Dan Gray of Pro Swing for that saying) to not let a grounder get through – i.e., keep the ball in the infield so the runner on second can’t score. Lefty Matt Stairs hits it hard, a one-hopper to A-Rod’s left. He takes a step, makes a weak stab at the ball and watches it go into the outfield. 1-0 Phillies.

The official scorer generously gives Stairs a hit but whether it’s a hit or an error is irrelevant – A-Rod has to catch the ball or, at least, knock it down. Dive if necessary. A very poor play.

MOLINA PICKS OFF WERTH

Top 4, Jayson Werth on first, one out, Ibanez up. Crowd getting nervous (will A.J. implode? — it looks like maybe). But Jose Molina EASILY picks off Werth (and remember, Ibanez is a lefty hitter, making it much more difficult). A stunning play. Could Jorge Posada do that? Very unlikely. Joe Girardi (and A.J.) right again.

Burnett gets out of the inning easily. A momentum-changing play by a weak-hitting catcher.

THE GREATNESS OF HIDEKI MATSUI

Yeah, the Yankees should let this guy walk at the end of the season. Good grief. Bottom 6. After Pedro (stunning with his off-speed stuff and a fastball only in the high 80s) makes both Teixeira and A-Rod look sick with off-speed stuff, Hideki Matsui looks at two fastballs (0-2) and a change (1-2). Then Pedro throws him a nasty curve (73 mph) and Matsui just fouls it off to stay alive. Of course, in the old days, Pedro then throws his 97 mph heater and (probably) Matsui (and virtually everyone else in baseball when Pedro was PEDRO) waves at it.

But that was then, this is now. Pedro comes back with ANOTHER 73 mph curve that is down but over the plate. Matsui hits it out (on the second of two back-to-back curves, a stunning piece of hitting), gives the Yankees the lead and, if the Yankees win the World Series, this will be the biggest hit of the Series – if anyone remembers it.

You can’t be more clutch than this guy. Bring him back next year (see Kallas Remarks, 9/29/09).

THE UMPIRE STRIKES – AGAIN (AND AGAIN)

Bottom 7, first and second, nobody out. Derek Jeter tries to bunt the runners over and fails not once, not twice, but three times (readers know I’m still a huge fan of the bunt – but Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizzuto and Rod Carew – three of the greatest bunters ever – have left and gone away). Jeter HAS to swing with two strikes. He’s just not that good at bunting, a lost art.

Now with one out, Damon hits a ball to first. It seemed pretty clear, even from up the leftfield foul line, that Ryan Howard didn’t catch the ball (plus, he threw to second). First base ump Brian Gorman immediately calls Damon out (there was no possible way he could have seen the play – he’s BEHIND Howard) and there’s a double play. Joe Girardi shouldn’t have argued with Gorman. He should have gone to the home plate ump, who HAD to see that the ball was trapped.

But that’s OK because top 8, first and second, 1 out, Chase Utley hits a ground ball to Cano’s left and the Yankees turn a nifty 4-6-3 double play to get out of the inning – except Utley beat the throw. Again, even from the leftfield foul line Utley looked safe.

Well, you know what they say – the ump giveth and the ump taketh away.

TIM MCCARVER, WITTINGLY OR UNWITTINGLY, WRONGLY TRIES TO MAKE CHARLIE MANUEL LOOK LIKE A FOOL

This is kind of second-level stuff, but when Tim McCarver speaks, people listen. Same situation as above, top 8, first and second, one out, Utley up. McCarver says absolutely that Manuel should send the runners. They don’t go, the double play that wasn’t is called and, as they go to commercial, Tim McCarver, greatest analyst ever, throws Charlie Manuel under the bus. McCarver says that he can’t understand why the runners didn’t go on the play. When they come back from commercial McCarver, as is his wont the last ten years or so (still an excellent, not great, analyst, don’t get me wrong), pats himself on the back by saying “we talked about it,” and repeats that if the runners had gone, there would have been no double play with Ryan Howard coming up.

Great reasoning, right? WRONG

How about these factors: In Manuel’s mind, he has two chances, right there, to WIN the game. If Utley hits one out or if Howard hits one out. If he sends the runners, there could be a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out. Many managers simply don’t like to send the runners when one is going to third. A much easier throw for the catcher and, in this instance, even easier because Utley’s a lefty hitter.

Paint this scenario. Utley strikes out, Rollins gets thrown out at third and Ryan Howard is in the on-deck circle, putting his bat down. What’s the reaction? Hopefully, you get the point.

But it gets better. When thinking about what McCarver said, I thought that maybe he was right because a good hitter like Utley probably almost always puts the ball in play. But (thanks baseball-reference.com) how many strikeouts did Chase Utley have in 2009 in the regular season? I thought about 50 or so.

Well, Chase Utley, in 2009, STRUCK OUT 110 TIMES. Seriously. In 2008, the number was 104.

So that’s why the runners didn’t go. And that’s why Charlie Manuel didn’t send them.

Just because you say something before a pitch and you “think” you’re “right” after the pitch, you need to dig a little deeper before you make statement after statement after statement. Say anything about Charlie Manuel but know this: he knows the game. And while his decision to try and give the home run king a chance to win the game turned out to be wrong, it was the right decision at the time.

THE CROWD, PART I

I’ve been disappointed in the new Stadium for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that my children’s children will never see where Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio and Mantle played (“those guys? Yeah, they played across the street”). But, bandbox aside, the crowd noise really isn’t what it was across the street. Maybe it’s the acoustics, but the place just isn’t raucous like it once was. In fact, the crowd at World Series Game 2 was quieter than the crowd during Twins-Yankees Game 2, a 4-3 Yankee win in 11.

That’s not a good sign.

THE CROWD, PART II

Even though he’s an all-time great (in this writer’s opinion, the best pitcher since Koufax), I’m no Pedro Martinez fan and it was disappointing the way Jamie Moyer, the Phillies leader in wins this year, was shunted to the side for Pedro. If you’re a Yankee fan, you’re probably not a Martinez fan either. But this guy, despite his weird press conferences and loss of velocity, pitched a great game in defeat. Losing as he left the mound in the seventh inning, he was roundly booed.

And that’s just wrong. Sitting in section 230, Rich Jacobson, Johnnie Kallas and this writer stood and applauded Pedro. A stunning effort while losing deserved a round of applause, even from Yankee fans, especially those who are supposed to “know the game.” I looked around and nobody else was applauding. It’s hard to chant “Who’s Your Daddy” when the guy just made the Yankees look like fools.

That just wasn’t right. We’ll see what happens

© Copyright 2009 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.

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