The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Friday, November 02, 2001


Déjà Vû All Over Again

On Wednesday night, Bob Brenly left his young closer in long enough to turn into a pumpkin, and the Yanks found some late treats in their Halloween bags. Last night the Diamondbacks' manager was still in the festive spirit; like Santa Claus, he delivered Byung Hyun Kim to the Yankees once again. It's like déjà vû all over again, or something.

Kim had thrown 61 pitches in Game 4 and yielded both the game-tying and game-winning home runs. Once again, the poor young closer allowed a two-out game-tying shot, this time to Scott Brosius. While Kim's combination of misfortune and bad timing has consigned him to the circle of Hell reserved for October goats--Mitch Williams, Bill Buckner, Mickey Owen, and Ralph Branca, please welcome your new roommate--the blame for all of this should fall squarely on the shoulders of Brenly. It's only slight hyperbole to call Brenly's decision to send Kim out there again "the single most stupid decision in the history of organized sport," as one post on Baseball Primer put it. The litany of Brenly's poor decisions in the World Series grows longer by the day--must we be subjected to more bunting? And just what the hell are you doing with a lineup that features a .307 OBP in the top spot and a .386 OBP in the eighth one?

The midnight madness of the past two nights has fried my brain, shredded my vocal cords, and probably shortened my life expectancy--those pork chops take a toll. So you'll have to forgive the piecemeal nature of the rest of this post as I point out a few things:

• Brenly's decisions fly in the face of rational analysis, but so does the Yanks' continued success in these situations. Since 1998, the Yanks have played 12 postseason games decided by 1 run. They've won all 12 (props to Rob Neyer, who pointed this out yesterday).

• ESPN ran this comparison of the Yanks bullpen and their opponents. It was late when I jotted these stats on a napkin; I think they go back to 1998, but it might be '96:
Yanks: 8-0, 2.30 ERA, 12 saves, 0 blown saves
Opponents: 1-7, 4.70 ERA, 1 save, 7 blown saves

Come playoff time there are two types of closers: Mariano Rivera, and Everybody Else.

• The Yanks have been outscored 19-10 in the series but are up 3-2. The Pythagorean Winning Percentage (one of Bill James' most trust formulas) of a team with that breakdown is .208, meaning their expected result over the five games is 1-4. Obviously, things haven't quite unfolded like that. They've been outscored 10-9 in the past four games but are 3-1 in that span.

• David Justice looks worse than any ballplayer I've ever seen right now. He has no business being in the Yankee lineup. A one-legged blind man wielding a toilet plunger during a tornado would have a better chance of getting a hit right now.

• Bernie Williams isn't winning any prizes either. He's been sleepwalking--three times this postseason he's gotten caught not running hard out of the batter's box. Last night, he hit a blooper which Tony Womack dropped in short left-centerfield, but only got a single out of it. Williams might not have made it into second safely, but he should have at least run hard and taken a wide turn at first base. Anything else, quite frankly, looks horseshit, given the high stakes.

• Alfonso Soriano has had some amazing highs and lows in this series. Brilliant, run-saving diving stops in two of the last three nights, and the game-winning hit last night. On the other hand, his "throw" home in the eighth inning of Game 4 could have been mistaken for a shot-put in the general vicinity of first base, and his ground out on a 3-0 pitch to snuff a potential rally in Game 3.

• I've been a big fan of Curt Schilling, but I've seen the ugly side of his gung-ho attitude over the past few days. Publicly lobbying his manager for the Game 4 start, second-guessing him after being removed, and the head-hiding in the dugout, as if to say, "The performance of my teammates is beneath me to watch." He clearly has no faith in his mates to get the job done, and as much as we admire those who want the ball in the crucial situations (think: Michael Jordan), that's a poisonous attitude on a baseball team. On the other hand, this is a man who watched Mitch Williams blow four saves in one postseason (including two of his own starts), so it's tough to blame him for his skepticism.

• Bill Simmons, the ESPN Page 2's Sports Guy, is hilarious today, with his piece on Red Sox fans considering conversion to being Yankee fans.

• My roommate, Issa Clubb, spends as much time combing the Mac user community online as I do the baseball one. He posted this to the Macintosh News Network board. It's too good not to share; the hyperbole is unfortunately not far from the truth. Here it is:

Nov 2, 2001 New York City -- Macintosh computer geek Macaddled suffered a fatal heart attack last night in apparent response to the New York Yankees' inability to win a normal game by scoring 3 runs in the 6th or something.

Witnesses say that he became particularly agitated when Yankee David Justice, who had one weak hit and 9 strikeouts in the Series, swung at a 3-0 pitch with a man on. Police are investigating a hole in the wall of Macaddled's apartment which appears to bear the outlines of his fist.

They add that he began hyperventilating when he saw Arizona closer Kim out to start the 9th after having thrown 62 pitches the night before, screaming in between breaths, "Has the world gone mad??" and "Up is down!! Black is white!!"

He was unconscious at the time of Scott Brosius' home run. He regained consciousness only to see that Mike Morgan, his great-grandcousin, was pitching in the 10th. He promptly fainted and was blissfully unaware of Mariano Rivera loading the bases in the bottom of the 10th. His family credit the grace of God with sparing him such unnecessary pain.

His last words were delirious: "Joe's got his earthly delights from that pact with the devil, now where's mine, dammit!!"

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