Saturday, June 03, 2006

Fact Pattern

Here are the facts for the Saturday, June 3, 2006 game between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles:

1. Runs will be at a premium today: In addition to a spate of bad luck for Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui, both likely out for the season with wrist injuries, the Yankees enter today’s game without Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez, each suffering from a case of the flu. Besides Damon, Jeter, and Posada, the rest of the Yankees in the lineup are Melky Cabrera (LF), Kevin Thompson (RF), Andy Phillips (1B), Miguel Cairo (3B), and Bernie Williams (DH).

2. The bullpen is short today: The Yankees go into today’s game short three relievers. Mariano Rivera is day-to-day with back spasms, Kyle Farnsworth is unavailable after working three consecutive games, and Darrell Rasner, recently called up from Triple-A, was put on the DL after pitching only one inning in the big leagues.

3. Length is required from the starter: With a tired and undermanned bullpen for today’s game, the Yankees need a strong outing from their starter, Randy Johnson.

4. Joe Torre is a moron: Synthesizing the information from fact patterns 1, 2, and 3 above, the Yankees needed to grind out as many runs as they could and hope that the Big Unit could go deep into the game in order to save a temporarily short-staffed bullpen.

While it would be the utmost in hyperbole to say that Joe Torre is the worst manager in baseball (that distinction probably goes to Dusty Baker), it nevertheless annoys me beyond belief when I watch Torre fumble decisions turning winnable games into close contests or pathetic losses.

Case in point, today’s game, where the Yanks came back from a 3-1 deficit to take a 5-3 lead going into the bottom of the 8th inning. RJ did his job, going a strong 7 1/3 innings with 8 K’s and only 3 hits allowed. Instead of letting RJ work out of a one out walk in the 8th inning with the tying run coming to bat, Torre decides to go with setup man Scott Proctor for the final five outs. WHAT?! Torre wouldn’t go with Rivera for five outs on the road and Rivera’s a better pitcher than Scott Proctor. So why would Torre opt for a five out save with a guy who is far less reliable than his Hall of Fame closer? Predictably, Proctor allowed the inherited runner to score and then gave up the tying run to blow the save and Randy’s shot at a win. That’s Torre Blunder #1.

Fortunately for the Yankees, Johnny Damon leads off the top of the 10th inning with a solo homer to put the Yankees up 6-5. Torre replaces Scott Proctor with lefty specialist Mike Myers to open the bottom of the 10th inning. Here’s Torre Blunder #2: the O’s leadoff hitter is Brian Roberts, a right-handed batter. Torre gets lucky as Roberts lines out to Jeter on the first pitch.

Torre Blunders #3 and #4 come when he replaces Myers with starter Chien-Ming Wang. Not only is Wang scheduled to pitch on Tuesday vs. the Boston Red Sox, a game far more important to the standings than today’s game (Torre Blunder #3) but Torre inexplicably leaves lefty setup man Ron Villone in the bullpen (Torre Blunder #4). Why not have Villone, a reliever, come in to face Melvin Mora, Miguel Tejada, and Ramon Hernandez?

Torre Blunder #4 is predicated on his (and, in fairness, others’) slavish devotion to the lefty-righty matchup. This stupid development of managing by the numbers is a post I’ll save for another day. In the meantime, in case Torre was wondering, righties are only hitting .232 vs. Ron Villone. Not that Torre cares about such things, of course.

Wang gave up two singles but managed to hold down the game and the Yanks won 6-5.

The final Torre Blunder of the day is a general observation that demonstrates his screwy logic. If Torre is such a big fan of going with the righty pitcher to face righty hitters (hence the decision to go with Wang over Villone), then why bring Mike Myers in to face Brian Roberts? Why not just have Wang start the 10th inning? Torre Blunder #5 proves that Torre is a slave to routine, except when he isn't. The man is simply inept when it comes to the proper use of his bullpen and bench players.

In short, the Yankees had this game in the bag – up by two with five outs remaining – but nearly pissed it away. We can infer from Torre’s incessant nose-picking that he has indeed reached the cranial cavity with his index finger and wiped off gray matter along with his boogers on the dugout bench. How else to explain five brain farts of that magnitude in the span of 2 2/3 innings?

Fire that motherfucker. It’s time.

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Side notes:

-Much to the chagrin of Yankee-haters and ESPN, reports of Randy Johnson’s demise were greatly exaggerated. In his past two starts, RJ has posted a 2.70 ERA, a microscopic 0.825 WHIP, and a strikeout rate of 8.1 per 9 IP. In his past three starts, his K/9 is 10.3. I think this proves that RJ’s troubles are mechanical in nature and that his improvement demonstrates that he is still able to pitch at a high level in the big leagues. Peter Gammons, the jerk store called, they're all out of you...

-The Yanks TV and radio broadcast teams (Michael Kay/Ken Singleton on TV; John Sterling/Suzyn Waldman on radio) did an absolutely terrible job tonight. Not once did they mention that Ron Villone was available in the bullpen. While I don’t think they should openly criticize the manager (that’s my job) they certainly should point out to the fans that Torre left some bullets in the gun, so to speak.

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