Sunday, October 14, 2012

A High Level

  Major League Baseball has so far gotten everything they could have asked for in the 2012 playoffs. First there were the 2 one-and-done wild card games. Then every first round playoff series went to the maximum 5 games. This feat required 6 games to be won by the team facing elimination. Not only do the longer series lead to more revenue for the MLB broadcast partners, it allows the casual viewers the chance to get a good look at the playoff teams that will be competing for the chance to go to the World Series. This should lead to better ratings for the remainder of the postseason.

  The Yankees barely held off the surprising Baltimore Orioles for the division title and they barely managed to barely hold off the pesky Birds in the divisional playoff series. I didn’t expect runs to be as hard to come by as they were in this series. The Yankees averaged 5 runs a game and the Orioles 4.5 runs this year. But after the Yankees seven run outburst in the first game, no team scored 4 runs in any of the next 4 games (which included games of 12 and 13 innings).

  Aside from the stellar pitching on both sides, the biggest story of the Yankees-Orioles series was manager Joe Girardi pinch-hitting for Alex Rodriguez in game 3 of the series and benching him altogether in the decisive game 5. The game 3 decision made Girardi look like a genius when pinch hitter Raul Ibanez hit the game tying ninth inning home run and a game winning home run in the twelfth inning. In Game 4, Rodriguez was hitting in the eighth inning with one out and runners on second and third in a tie game against the Orioles underhand pitcher Darren O’Day. Rodriguez not only failed to drive the winning run home, he failed hit a fair ball, he failed to even hit a foul ball. He took 3 swings and failed to even come close to even hitting a ball and then he went back to the bench.

  If Rodriguez had driven in the run in the eighth inning, the Yankees would likely have won the series in four games and had a day off with a rested CC Sabathia to take on the Tigers last night. Instead, Andy Pettite had to take the hill for the Yankees. Pettite pitched well enough but the Yankees were still losing 4-0 going into the ninth. Rodriguez left 6 men on base before being taken out of the game for Eric Chavez, the same player who replaced him against the Orioles. Chavez hasn’t been an improvement, going 0-8 with 4 strikeouts in this year’s playoffs.

  The Yankees came back against Tiger closer Valverde to tie the score at 4, but that turned out to be a silver cloud with a very dark lining when Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter fractured his ankle in the 12th inning and the Yankees lot to the Tigers anyway.

  I think the Yankees can beat the Tigers even without Jeter. Jayson Nix is an adequate shortstop and hit the ball hard against the Orioles. If the Yankees can get any production from third base to make up for the loss of Jeter they can still take the series. Jeter’s replacement Eduardo Nunez is a poor fielder but is probably the best offensive option at this point.

  Rodriguez’s fall from grace has been stunning. His slugging percentage has decreased every year since 2007. 2 years ago he had 613 career home runs and at the age of 34 seemed like a lock to pass Barry Bonds 762 steroid-aided home run record (Rodriguez is an admitted steroid user). But he has only hit 34 homers in the last 2 years to sit at 647 and unless he gets back on the ‘roids again doesn’t seem to have a chance.

  Speaking of performance enhancing drugs, I wonder if it is only a coincidence that 2 of the high profile steroid suspensions in baseball this year had Yankee connections? Melky Cabrera was a Yankee from 2005 to 2009 and never hit more than .280. This year he was leading the National League with a .346 average when he was suspended for 50 games by testing positive for excessive testosterone.

  Bartolo Colon was out of baseball in 2010, but resurrected his career with the Yankees in 2011 at the age of 38, going 8-10 with a respectable 4.00 ERA with a 10 year high in strikeouts per 9 innings (7.4). Colon signed as a free agent with the Oakland A’s in 2012 and had a 10-9 record with a 3.43. Colon’s comeback was attributed to an unusual stem cell injection into his elbow and shoulder, but that theory was thrown into question when Colon was suspended for 50 games by major league baseball when a drug test revealed excessive testosterone in his system.

  I see a lot of ads on TV for how testosterone will make feel like I did when I was younger (Here is a sample), but none of them ever said they would help me lead the National League in hitting or land a contract as a pitcher with a major league baseball team. I haven’t tried any of these products and don’t know anyone who has, but I think that Yankee manager Joe Girardi may be a user. No matter how badly Alex Rodriguez has been playing, pinch hitting for a 30 million dollar player and then benching him in an elimination game is surely the sign of excessive testosterone!

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