April 7, 2005

159 TO GO:

Opening series almost too much for us to take (Dan Shaughnessy, April 7, 2005, Boston Globe)

Three games into the season, some Red Sox fans no doubt are already emotionally spent. The opening series in New York was baseball in a blender and left everyone on both sides a little dizzy.

In addition to the hits, runs, errors, chants, fights in the stands, nonstop hype, and statistical oddities (Mark Bellhorn had five hits and seven strikeouts in 12 at-bats), there were some serious, real-life issues in yesterday afternoon's furious finale.

Sox manager Terry Francona and Yankees captain Derek Jeter were under observation in New York hospitals by the time the Sox walked off the field with a 7-3 win. Francona had been taken out of the stadium in midmorning because of chest pains and was en route to Boston for more tests last night. Jeter went to the hospital after getting hit in the shoulder and left ear flap of the helmet by a 92-mile-per-hour Mike Timlin fastball when the Yankees took a 3-2 lead in the eighth. Jeter underwent a CAT scan, which rendered normal readings.

The Sox rallied for five runs in the ninth (four unearned thanks to an error by none other than Alex Rodriguez) off the once-indomitable Mariano Rivera after losing the first two games of their title defense. Oh, and Rivera was booed when he was pulled by Joe Torre with two outs in the ninth. This would be like Larry Bird getting booed at Boston Garden.

Minutes after the emotional win, Sox bench coach Brad Mills, who filled in for Francona, sighed and said, "I might see if Terry's got a bed next to him."

Not to minimize chest pains, but the most serious medical condition looks like Mariano Rivera's elbow. If he can't throw his cutter they're in deep trouble.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 7, 2005 8:06 AM

Shaughnessy is such a Nattering Nabob of Negativity one wonders if he got his training in the Nixon era White House press corps.

Posted by: at April 7, 2005 10:26 AM

People talk about the Boston fans, but booing Rivera is really low-class. One of the big reasons for Yankee success over the last few years is that they only had to play seven defensive innings. If they have to play nine innings like everybody else, that could easily cost them 10 games over the course of the season, and the pennant.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 7, 2005 10:33 AM

If I were the Yanks I'd put Rivera and Kevin Brown in deep storage until about August.

They don't need either of them to make the playoffs -- Flash Gordon's a better closer than the vasst majority -- but they need them both healthy to win anything in October.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 7, 2005 10:42 AM

Let's see: Mussina, Wright, and Brown are the Yankees 3rd, 4th, and 5th starters! If you are right, and the Yanks' fate boils down to Rivera, who else is ever going to support the thesis that teams overpay for closers!

Posted by: Moe from NC at April 7, 2005 11:03 AM

Closers are overpaid, but they frequently determine playoff series.

Posted by: oj at April 7, 2005 11:11 AM

Rivera was in a different class. Knowing that you had a guy you could bring in for two innings every day and no runs would score is a huge advantage. Get to the eighth with a lead, and you win. Get to the eigth close behind, and you have a good chance of winning.

[And yes, I understand that this is hyperbolic, but not by much.]

Posted by: David Cohen at April 7, 2005 11:14 AM

Despite his denials, it's still hard to tell if it's Rivera's head more than his elbow thats giving him problems against the Red Sox. We'll see how he does this weekend against the Orioles before next week's series in Boston.

Posted by: John at April 7, 2005 11:40 AM

Maybe the tribe can trade Bob Wickman to the Yanks for Rivera.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at April 7, 2005 11:49 AM

Go Cubs!

Go Bears!

Posted by: Sandy P at April 7, 2005 11:53 AM

For us Yankee fans, this is technically called an "oh crap" moment...

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 7, 2005 12:09 PM

David Cohen:

Except he very occasionally screwed the pooch when it really counted. Diamondbacks in '01, Red Sox in '04.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 7, 2005 12:21 PM

Also Cleveland in '97.

Rivera's not perfect, but his problems have until last year been the occassional here and there blown save. His problems with the Red Sox have now become a pattern. Either he has arm trouble, in which case, his problems will continue in series like this weekend against Baltimore, or he has head trouble, where he gets overly cautious against the Red Sox and thinks himself into the sort of bases-loaded jam that set up Rodriguez' error on Thursday.

The latter's actually more probelmatic for the Yankees -- if his arm just needs rest, they can fill in while he recovers. But as the Cards' latest release of Rick Ankiel shows, once a problem gets inside a pitcher's head, it can ruin everything. A reliever who can beat all the other major league teams except for Boston might as well be swapped by the Yanks to a National League team for a reliever with a chance to have better success in the key games come September and October.

Posted by: John at April 7, 2005 3:10 PM

I suspect that the Sox have figured him out. Remember, they played NY 26 times last season. They see him all the time.

Generally, though, NY goes to the well too often. He appeared in 74 games last season, closed 69 and saved 53.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 7, 2005 4:24 PM

The key is that the Sox take pitches. Every guy goes up taking two strikes. Most other teams hack away and the inning is over on 5 pitches.

His pitches move a lot and if the ump isn't say, giving him the inside corner against lefties he gets into trouble.

Usually what happens with the Sox is the first guy up walks while barely taking the bat off his shoulders.

Throw in a couple of broken bat bloops, another walk or two, and a seeing-eye single through the infield, and voila, the Sox are his daddy.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 8, 2005 12:42 AM