I watched very little baseball this year, since INHD stopped playing Yankees games. I just can’t stand watching baseball in anything less than HD any more. Come playoff, every single game is on Fox and ESPN HD. It’ll be a tough month for my ever-growing to-do list.

Game 1 is an archetypical Yankees game: Pitching is good with solid starter, sucker middle relief, and Mo-time for the win. Hitting is good with big bats, supreme Jeter, and sucker A-Rod. If they keep playing like this, they may actually have a chance this year to get back the rings.

Starter

王建民 is the first Chinese starter in MLB playoff. His high school teammate 郭泓志 will start for the Dodgers against the Mets on Friday. It’s incredible that two Chinese kids from the (relatively) small town of 台南 make it to MLB playoff in flying colors. Wouldn’t it be sensational if Taiwan wins the baseball gold medal at Beijing Olympics?

Wang is such a cool youngster. He has the rare poise and composure of a true ace, or great sports person in general. In contrast, Moose is a very good pitcher but he always looks uptight, especially in a jam, so you kind of expect him to crack under pressure.

Reliever

Middle relief is the most ridiculous thing in baseball. Suckers not good enough to be starters or closers become middle relievers, and it’s financially and practically impossible for teams to use good pitchers to relieve–there’d be no bad pitcher left, which is logically absurd. In sports, as well as anywhere in life, you get good ones and suckers. So the only thing a manager can do is to use the suckers as middle relievers and pray they don’t suck too much pond water, which they usually turn out to do, hence the appropriate condemnation “throw the whole Yankees bullpen, barring Mo, into the East River!” from Becky, a die-hard Yankees fan at my former company.

It is doubly paradoxical and excruciating when your starter isn’t doing well. Do you stick with a good pitcher who seems lost and exhausted, or do you try your luck with a bunch of suckers?

Closer

Mo is 37, same as Moose. At 413, he’s now 4th on the all-time save list, behind John Franco, Lee Smith, and San Diego’s Trevor Hoffman who just became the leader after their last regular season game. He’s 2 years older than Mo, so if Mo won’t retire at an age earlier than Hoffman, he has a shot at the top.

Hitter

The Yankees lineup card of this playoff would be quite a collectible, if they do win the World Series. People keep saying it may be the best ever–“Murderer’s Row and Cano” as Fox’s Joe Buck puts it. It’s a perfect left-right alternation:

  1. Johnny Damon: he wants to be “the missing piece” for the Yankees. I’m not sure about that–Bobby Abreu may be–but Boston surely finds a missing piece in him. I ain’t no Boston fan, but it’s just beyond me how they can let go Pedro and Johnny as if it’s actually their plan to wait another 86 years.
  2. Derek Jeter: 5 for 5 with a homer and 2 doubles. Can it get any better? Why not? It’s Jeter in October, what da ya expect?
  3. Bobby Abreu: I only got to know him after last year’s home run derby when he obliterated previous total and single-round records of 27-15 (Miguel Tejada in 2004) with 41-24. Home run derby is kind of stupid, but to hit 41 balls out of the park within a couple of hours is no mean feat. He turned out to be extremely solid. Money–$22 mil through 2007 (in contrast: Wang’s 2006 salary is a paltry $350k. The world is so unfair)–can indeed buy happiness in this case.
  4. Gary Sheffield: It’s scary to start the playoff with a 1st base man who’s only at it for a week. Chef hasn’t been tested at 1st base, but at least he seems more nimble than Giambi.
  5. Jason Giambi: Go Giambino Go! Now we don’t need to see your fat asses at first base, use them to hit the balls!
  6. Alex Rodriguez: the ultimate Jeter wannabe and wouldneverbe. People say that he’d probably be traded if Yankees lose again, I say trade him no matter what. Good looks don’t give you clutch hit, and he doesn’t even look as good as Jeter.
  7. Hideki Matsui: solid as forever, if only he gets some cool Ichiro look…
  8. Jorge Posada: one of the only 4 championship Yankees left in the team, he’s got most Yogi plays, some Yogi look (the flap ears), but none Yogi talk.
  9. Robinson Cano: they say no player with such a batting average (.342, 3rd in AL after Jeter .343 and Joe Mauer .347) has ever batted this low in the line up in playoff history. I never quite get this thing about batting order in AL. I actually think it’s better to interleave good hitters with bad ones so that the pitcher can’t get several easy outs in a row. In Yankees’ current lineup, though, there’re only good hitters and better ones (A-Rod often sucks but he’s still better than most players in other teams), so it’s up to Joe Torre to setup a good order.

UPDATE: A-Rod is 1-4 in Game 1 and 0-4 in the losing Game 2 with 3 KOs. Cano is 0-8 in two games. Oh well.

UPDATE2: It’s all over like a snap. A-Rod is 1-14 for the series, last year 2-15 in the lost to LA in ALDS, and in 2004 2-17 to Boston in the last 4 games of ALCS for the record-breaking, historical, monumental loss. So his total in the last 12 post season games is 5-46. That’s 0.109, people, a number you probably won’t even see in a 2nd-tier high school team.

It’s true, though, that Yankees lost primarily on pitching. Moose is uptight as usual. Unit should’ve retired 3 years ago. Wright doesn’t have anything right. And remember suckers like Kevin Brown and Carl Pavano? Cashman has to go. And Torre as well–he’s just too nice a guy. Those millionaire Yankees–barring Jeter–need someone to slap, spank, and spit them back to reality.

When I started to watch Yankees on YES a few years ago, Suzyn Waldman was the club house reporter and we loved her enthusiasm and emotions. I learned her amazing stories from Becky: grew up as Boston fan, a Broadway singer, converted to Yankees because Boston was mean to her as one of few female broadcasters, breast cancer survivor, etc. Last year she went to WCBS to broadcast Yankees games play-by-play along with John Sterling, and I just love to hear this dynamic duo. Who can forget Sterling’s “Theeeeeeeeeee Yankees Win!”

Today we were out shopping when the game was on. It’s pretty clear early on that the Yankees had no chance. Towards the end, John and Suzyn talked about how “unemotional” this series is. The Yankees have lost many more times than win. Everybody did. But it’s the way you lose that shows your true spirits.

Murder’s Row–yep, it’s a mass murder of all the Yankees fans. We have a new WMD in town: Weapon of Mass Disappointment/Disgrace/Disillusion/Dysfunction…


UPDATE3: What a tragic ending. Yesterday Cory Lidle and his flight instructor took off from Teterboro (we passed it by many times on Rt. 17 and Rt. 46) at 2:21pm to fly back to his home in California in a single engine Cirrus SR20. They took a detour to see the Statue of Liberty, and went up along East River. They probably took a U-turn before 96th, avoiding the restricted air space close to LaGuardia, but then lost sight/control in the bad weather and crashed into the north 30/31 floor of a high rise condo (the Belaire) at the east end of 72nd St at about 2:36pm. Lidle was 34.

It’s 5 years and 1 month from 9/11. And 28 years from Thurman Munson’s crash, which I learned about from an episode of Yankeeography on YES. Munson was a great player, the first Yankees captain in 30 years after the comparably tragic Lou Gehrig. He led the Yankee to 3 consecutive championships from 76 to 78 (ahh the incredible 78 season). Munson wanted to go back to his home in Canton, Ohio frequently so he took up flying lessons. On Aug 2, 1979 he crashed while practicing takeoff and landing. He was 32. The whole Yankee team went to his funeral on Aug 6, and flew back to beat the Orioles 5-4 that night. His best friend Bobby Murcer, a frequent YES commentator, drove in all runs, including a 3-run homer in 7th and a come-from-behind walk-off 2-run double in 9th. Murcer said very emotionally that the runs were for Munson and by Munson. Yankees didn’t win another championship until 1996.

Let’s hope that the Yankees regroup and remember and take inspiration from the great ones who perished untimely. Sport is not life, but it’s sometimes bigger than life.

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