Results tagged ‘ Joba Chamberlain ’

This Just In…From 1894

You might not like the Wild Card, and you might not like the World Series extending into November, and you might promise you will not like this expanded version of the playoffs Bud Selig is hinting at. But your displeasure will be nothing compared to the most ill-fated of all of baseball’s post-season formats: The Temple Cup.

On the other hand, as of this blog post, you finally have some photographs of action from The Temple Cup.
The Temple Cup was an attempt to make the best of a monopoly. 19th Century Baseball is largely and arrogantly ignored by even the game’s historians, but nearly everything we have today was either established or contemplated then. The two-league system was up on its feet by 1882 and the World Series (literally called “The World’s Championship Series”) was  established by 1886 (and a championship trophy, “The Dauvray Cup,” was established a year later). There was also a powerful players’ union by 1890 which would have overtaken the game’s power structure had it not been betrayed by the businessmen with which it necessarily had to partner to form its own player-run league that season.
The 1890 season destroyed the still solidifying rivalry between the National League and the American Association. Most of the players of the established leagues jumped to the union-backed Players League, and even in a time of franchise fluidity and player relocation, it was too much confusion and too much betrayed loyalty and simply too much baseball for the fans to stand. The NL, AA, and probably the PL lost money, and the balance of power was so deranged that the Brooklyn Bridegrooms, who as American Association Champions had lost the 1889 World Series to the NL Champion New York Giants, themselves jumped to the NL in 1890. They won the league crown, while the AA’s Louisville Cyclones – virtually untouched by the player raids because their players were thought to be so bad - went from worst to first in the Association. 
5,600 Kentucky fans showed up to see Game One of that natural Brooklyn-Louisville rivalry on display in the 1890 World Series. But the crowd for the next game was half that. By the first game in Brooklyn just 1,050 showed up. As the weather and baseball both worsened, Game Six drew just 600, Game Seven only 300. And even though the Series was tied at three games apiece with one draw, the teams called the thing off – it was that bad.
The Players League went out of business that winter, and as its talent returned home the American Association and National League squabbled (that’s why the Pirates are called the Pirates; they grabbed second baseman Lou Bierbauer when the Philadelphia Athletics failed to put in a claim for him). Within a year the weaker AA was dead, and all that was left was the NL, with four of the stronger AA franchises tacked on. The twelve-team, no-division league was so unwieldy that seven of the teams finished at least 32 games out of first.
All of which brings us back to the Temple Cup. The National League monopoly had to come up with something to fill the void of the World Series, which had died with the two-league system when the American Association folded. In 1892 they tried a split season, matching the first-half winners from Boston against the second-half victors from Cleveland. It was just as dull a prospect as it would be when the owners returned to it 99 years later after the Strike of 1981, and it was abandoned. 
There was no post-season play at all in 1893, and that didn’t work either. That’s the exiting owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chase Temple (in a neat tie-in, one of the owners who signed away Lou Bierbauer from the A’s) offered a 30-inch tall, $800 trophy to the winners of some kind of post-season championship (a team would only get it if it won three seasons in a row). But what kind of post-season championship? Naturally, the first-place finisher versus the runner-up.
Hoo boy.
They actually thought this would work, that the fans of twelve cities, having watched a 154-game season decide who was best, would accept forcing that team to then play a best-of-seven against the club they just beat. No Divisional Play, no splitting up into Six-Team Leagues or Conferences. Winner Versus Runner-Up! That the concept was inherently flawed was underscored by the fact that at its outset, the Temple Cup was designed as a challenge. As Jerry Lansche wrote in The Forgotten Championships:

The team that won the pennant would play the team that finished second in a best-of-seven series. If the first-place team declined to play, the second-place and third-place teams would compete. If the second-place team declined to play, the pennant winner would play the third-place team. If the…well, you get the idea.
I do not think it coincidental that until last week I had never before seen a photograph from any of the only four Temple Cups that were played before the idea was abandoned in the winter of 1897. Only once did the Regular Season Champs seem to take it seriously. None of the Series went longer than five games. Gate receipts for the first Cup, in 1894, were supposed to be split 65/35 but the members of the pennant winning Baltimore Orioles and runner-up New York Giants secretly agreed to go halfies on the money.
How could that possibly go wrong?
And finally we get to the point of this post. I’m not saying these are the first photographs ever discovered of The Temple Cup. I’m just saying these are the first I’ve ever seen, and that there are none in the Noah’s Ark that is the Hall of Fame Photo Archive. 
Behold! The late highlights, just 116 years after the fact!
This is from a weekly magazine called “The Illustrated American” which was published from 1887 or so until, apparently, the day headquarters in Brooklyn burned down in 1898. There is no accompanying article, and as you can see from the scans, the photographic/printing process is understandably crude (it’s 1894!). They called them “halftone photo-mechanicals” and reproducing them usually creates that herringbone effect.
Still, they are extraordinary (and possibly unique) looks into what might have become baseball’s equivalent of the Stanley Cup. Let’s look at the shots one at a time and discover that the publishers fudged, more than once.
TemplePreGame.jpg
Well, they’re a long way away from their positions if they are in fact waiting for umpire Tim Hurst’s call of “Game.” These are the 1894 New York Giants lined up in right field at the Polo Grounds before the decisive game of their sweep of the Orioles. The guy holding the flag in the middle is back-up catcher Parke Wilson, and standing to his left (our right) is the unmistakable mustache of should-be Hall of Famer, centerfielder George Van Haltren. The fellow in the striped jacket could easily be Hall of Fame pitcher Amos Rusie. Certainly the man next to him in the dark sweater
with the big glove is catcher Duke Farrell, and, to his left, in the other sweater, is Game Four starting pitcher Jouett Meekin. At the far right of the picture, seemingly just ambling up to the line, is no less a figure than Hall of Famer John Montgomery Ward. Ward is not only the Giants’ second baseman and manager, but the organizer of that first players’ union that precipitated the end of the game as they knew it and made the Temple Cup necessary.
As Ward begat the Players League and Chase Temple offered up The Temple Cup, Mrs. John Ward had a hand in this, too. As the actress Helen Dauvray, she had been such a fan that the Dauvray Cup for the Winners of the World’s Championship Series from 1887 through 1890 – manufactured by Tiffany’s – had been her idea.
Between Meekin and Ward, if you think you see a horse, I don’t think you’re wrong. Keep reading. And those are three small engines perched outside the stadium. The 8th Avenue Elevated Line not only ran directly from downtown Manhattan to the Polo Grounds on 155th Street, but the precursor to the city’s subway system had a storage yard behind leftfield. The yards would still be there in the 1940’s, and the “El Train” until the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958.
TempleFarrell.jpg
Yeah, well, maybe.

I’m thinking Duke Farrell is actually acknowledging the photographer shouting at him. And he wasn’t the only one. That’s Van Haltren again at the far left, in his quilted pants (useful both for sliding and for warmth – it is October 8, 1894, after all). A little further back is, I believe, left fielder Eddie Burke. Farrell would later become the first coach for the Yankees (1909). At the far right, still holding his flag, is backup receiver Parke Wilson. And there’s the El Train in the background, along with the confirmation of the horse. This was not necessarily some precursor to the Phillies’ on-field mounted police brigade during the 9th Inning of their World Series win in 1980; for a small fee, season ticket holders could park their Broughams and other horse-drawn affairs in the outfield. 
TempleMeekin.jpg
George Jouett Meekin is not bowing, certainly not to the “rooters.”
But he took quite a few bows that season. After three mediocre years with Louisville and Washington (29-51), Meekin flourished in his first season in New York (33-9, 41 complete games, and this while striking out 137 and walking 176 in his 418 innings of work). Meekin was one of the new generation of fireballers who had been the impetus for the last great change in baseball just a year earlier – when the pitcher was moved back from a “box” fifty feet from the plate, to a mound located sixty feet, six inches away (his teammate Rusie, who won 36 games that year, and a fellow in Cleveland named Denton “Cyrus” or “Cyclone” or just plain “Cy” Young were the others). 
Relying on a side-arm delivery and absolutely no curveball, Jouett would twice again win 20 games, then get flipped to Boston in the middle of the 1899 pennant race in a controversial and some say smelly move by the Giants to try to secure Boston the crown. Though he’d give up two in the first to the Orioles today, he finished up with a five-hit victory, his second of the Series.
TempleTiernan.jpg
Oh come on! 
I have no doubt that this wonder of photo-mechanical reproduction fooled some of the readers of a general interest magazine in 1894, but you and I have seen quite a few more game-action shots and this isn’t one of them. Firstly, Giants’ right fielder Mike Tiernan does not appear to be exerting himself very much. Secondly, it’s doubtful that the shutter speeds of the day would have caught very much of him if he had been, say, running before his “great decisive throw.”
Also the game ended 16-3 New York, and the boxscore tells us none of the Giants’ outfielders got an assist that day. Tiernan also contributed only one hit and one putout to the New York cause (our friends Farrell, Meekin, and Van Haltren had three each). But Tiernan is surely worth being singled out by the photographer. In the days when almost no ballplayer lasted, Tiernan roamed that corner of the Polo Grounds for twelve and a half years until an injury abruptly ended his career in July of 1899. He had 1,838 career hits, batted .311 and slugged .462, stole 449 bases, and in that deadball era, he not only hit 105 homers but five times managed double digits in single seasons. And considering he was one of just 24 players to get 5,000 At Bats in National League play before 1900, I think he should be in the Hall of Fame.
Note, by the way, the ads behind “Silent Mike”: for the newspaper “The New York American,” The Pennsylvania Railroad, and “White’s Yucatan Gum.” In a time-travel short story by the late Jack Finney, the hero arrives in a just-slightly altered New York of 1962 where the top-selling auto brand is the Stutz, there was a President Coopernagel, the Giants never moved to San Francisco, and the most popular gum is…Yucatan.
TempleWilson.jpg
To borrow my friend Gary Cohen’s phrase: “And the ballgame is over!”

Obviously it isn’t. The other Giants are still warming up behind the pennant and the shadows are all the same as in the “pre-game” shots. 18 hits and 16 runs by the Giants and they sweep the Temple Cup and you missed getting a single shot of the entire game? I’m not even convinced that’s Parke Murphy holding the flag. Looks more like the pitcher, Meekin. And there is that same horse, just to the right of the flag.
Why do I keep mentioning the horse? Again, from Lansche’s The Forgotten Championships:
During the seventh inning, two horses escaped from the grasp of their owners behind the ropes in center field, delaying the game several minutes before they were caught.
And today, we get worked up about a loose squirrel on the field.
TempleVictory.jpgOf course, they would have had to have taken their farewell tour before the game.

Okay, I’ll stop being so picky. These are photos of the long-forgotten Temple Cup, and its long-forgotten winners, the ’94 Giants. Some of the player ID’s are clear now: the thin guy just to the left of flag-bearer Parke Wilson appears to be Mike Tiernan. On the other side, with the ‘stache, is George Van Haltren. Not sure who’s next, but the four furthest right are Amos Rusie (I believe), Duke Farrell, Jouett Meekin, and – his stride here confirms it – Johnny Ward. Somewhere in that group is one more Hall of Famer, Giants’ third baseman George Stacey Davis. It’s too bad the Orioles didn’t wander over to the “Illustrated American” photographer. John McGraw was the third baseman on that team, and among his teammates, Dan Brouthers, Hughie Jennings, Wee Willie Keeler, Joe Kelley and Wilbert Robinson all went to Cooperstown (as did non-playing manager Ned Hanlon).
In fact, if you’d attended Game Three the day before, you would have seen exactly 18 Orioles and Giants on the field, and with Rusie pitching for New York, fully half of them were to be Hall of Famers.
Of course, with these photos – you sort of did go to that game, didn’t you?
Ironically the Hall of Fame doesn’t have any Temple Cup photos, but stored in its refrigerated archives, just behind a beer vendor’s case from Arlington Stadium from the 1970’s, is…
IMG_0951.jpg
IMG_0954.jpg
…the Temple Cup. Complete with guy who broke it (not really – it’s supposed to do that).
And if you think anything has really changed from the baseball of 1894 and the Temple Cup, consider a detail from one of the magazine photos, with a detail of a shot I took after Game Six of the 2009 World Series, which took place literally the other side of the Harlem River, no more than a thousand yards from Game Four of the 1894 Temple Cup. Mr. Jouett Meekin on the left; Mr. Joba Chamberlain on the right.
TempleWilsonDetail.jpg

IMG_1402.JPG

Marian-No Saves?

My buddy and ex-colleague Rich Eisen of NFL Network asks a fascinating question. Apart from his meltdowns against Minnesota and Boston this week, Mariano Rivera has another startling skein in progress.

He’s gone nineteen days without a save.
Is that his personal record, at least since John Wetteland left and he inherited the closer’s role (so long ago that I was still working at ESPN)? My memory jumped to the last time we heard the “Mo’s Done” refrain, a terrible skid early in 2005. Retrosheet confirms he saved only one game between April 13 and May 9, and had none over the last seventeen days of that stretch.
I have not examiner Rivera’s full career but there’s an even longer skid, and it completely escaped my recall. Mo staggered out of the gate in 2007, not recording a save in his first eight appearances, the 26 days between the opener on April 2, and his first save on the 28th. The Yankees opened the season 8-13 and at that point Rivera had… none. That’ll be tough to beat.
The Necessity of Rivera underscores the Yankees’ critical problem. The age-to-depth ratio is not strong, and it is causing the team to sag. Posada, Granderson, Johnson, Swisher, Mo himself, to say nothing of the middle relievers or Javier Vazquez. Are you thinking Joba Chamberlain to close right now, if there’s another injury problem for 42?

Foul Balls; And 2010 Forecasts: NL East

Before we
wrap up the National League forecast, the Denard Span incident this afternoon
in Tampa (he hits his own mother with a foul ball – and she is wearing one of
his uniforms at the time) called to mind three equally unlikely events with
players and fans and balls flying into the stands:

1. August
17th, 1957. Richie Ashburn, who got to the Baseball Hall of Fame largely by
virtue of his ability to keep fouling off pitches he didn’t
like, until he got one he did like, fouled one off into the stands
at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia. It struck – of all people – Alice
Roth, the wife of the sports editor of the newspaper The Philadelphia Bulletin. They
had to carry Mrs. Roth (and her broken nose) off on a stretcher. While
they were so doing, Ashburn, who was still
at bat and still fouling pitches off, hit Mrs. Roth with another foul
ball.

2. Of
course, on June 17th, 2000, Chuck Knoblauch of the New York Yankees picked up a
ground ball and threw it wildly towards first base. It instead hit a fan
sitting behind the dugout, breaking her eyeglasses. The fan, of course, was my
mother.

3.
And perhaps the unlikeliest of the events: After Span got hit, the Associated
Press was reminded of the Bob Feller incident (reminded by Bob Feller, of
course). On May 14, 1939, when the Hall of Fame flamethrower was still just 20
years old, he threw a pitch at Comiskey Park which some member of the White Sox
fouled into the seats – striking Feller’s mother. May 14, 1939 was, of course,
Mother’s Day.

Now to
finish up the NL:

ATLANTA is
the obvious sleeper, if that’s not too much of an oxymoron. If Troy Glaus and
Jason Heyward produce as Atlanta expects them, Bobby Cox will have a
competitive final year. If they exceed expectations (and Heyward gives off the
vibe of a Pujolsian, From-Day-One-Superstar) the Braves might actually air out
the division. The rotation gets a little sketchy behind Hanson and Jurrjens,
and there is little or no room for injury (if Glaus gets profoundly hurt or
Heyward is Jordan Schafer
, Eric Hinske and Omar Infante will be playing nearly every
day). And of course it would not be the Braves without another new closer.
Here, updated from its first appearance in this space last summer, is the Bobby
Cox bullpen honor roll:

1. Joe
Boever, 1990

2. Mark
Grant and Kent Mercker, 1990

3. Mercker
and Juan Berenguer, 1991

4.
Alejandro Pena, 1991-92

5. Jeff
Reardon, 1992

6. Mike
Stanton, 1993

7. Greg
McMichael, 1994-95

8. Brad
Clontz, 1995

9. Mark
Wohlers, 1995-98

10. Kerry
Ligtenberg, 1998

11. John
Rocker, 1999

12.
Ligtenberg and Mike Remlinger, 2000

13.
Rocker, 2000-01

14. Steve
Karsay, 2001

15. John
Smoltz, 2001-04

16. Danny
Kolb, 2005

17. Chris
Reitsma, 2005

18. Kyle
Farnsworth, 2005

19.
Reitsma, 2006

20. Ken
Ray, 2006

21. Bob
Wickman, 2006-07

22. Rafael
Soriano, 2008

23. Manny
Acosta, 2008

24. John
Smoltz, 2008

25.
Soriano, 2008

26. Mike
Gonzalez, 2008-09

27.
Soriano, 2009

28. Billy
Wagner, 2010.

If FLORIDA
could make just two starters out of Anibal Sanchez, Nate Robertson, Andrew Miller, Sean West,
Ryan Tucker, Rick Vandenhurk, and Chris Volstad, the Marlins might be the
favorites. By mid-season this could be the most potent offense in the league,
because all Florida needs to produce seven house-wreckers in a row is for one
of the following three kids to live up to his promise: Logan Morrison, Gaby
Sanchez, Mike Stanton (if the Heyward-esque Stanton explodes to big league
quality, you put him in the outfield, you put the fabulous Chris Coghlan back at second or third,
and move either Jorge Cantu or Dan Uggla to first). Florida’s biggest question
mark is the bullpen, where Leo Nunez may or may not succeed.

All that
can be said about NEW YORK is: Sigh. I love the people who run this club, from
the ticket takers to the owners. But this year the wheels could fall off even
worse – and farther – than last. I think Jason Bay is a legitimate power
source, and I thought Jeff Francoeur a steal, but that begs the question of
what the Mets now expect from the guy who is still their top offensive
prospect, Fernando Martinez. If Bay, Beltran, and Francoeur are to be the
outfield for awhile, why is Martinez still there? Plus, the silence
about Beltran is ominous. The
ominousness of Daniel Murphy’s bat is silent. And there is nothing – nothing -
dependable in any of the three categories of pitchers, except for Johan
Santana, Pedro Feliciano, and Frankie Rodriguez, and the latter is just another
closer now. It is absolutely plausible that by June 1 the only questions will
be whether or not to give Ike Davis a taste of the majors, whether or not to
start screwing up Jenrry Mejia the way the Yankees messed with Joba
Chamberlain, and if some Japanese team will take Luis Castillo off their hands.

I’m not
the only person who believed Buster Olney’s story about PHILADELPHIA and Ryan
Howard – if not the plausibility of a swap for Pujols, then at least internal
musings about his decline against lefthanded pitchers and his decreasing
success against breaking pitches. When you are chewed up and spat out by Damaso
Marte, you are not exactly still in the same league as Pujols, or Adrian Gonzalez
for that matter. I’m a little suspicious of the assumed improvement in putting
Placido Polanco in at third (he’s 34, he fell off appreciably last year, he is
moving to a tougher position). Raul Ibanez seems to represent that Sword of
Damacles hanging over any team trying for three in a row (if you haven’t had a
significant position player injury in the first two seasons, you’re going to
in the third). I am not sold on the
rotation (Blanton, Contreras, Moyer, Kendrick – two of these guys must do well),
and the bullpen looks to be sketchier than a year ago.

There are
ways WASHINGTON can suddenly stop being a last-place team (the Ian Desmond
decision was superb – it needs to be followed by similar decisions involving Drew
Storen and Stephen Strasburg, and maybe new limbs grown by Jordan Zimmermann
and Chien-Ming Wang – quickly). Also, I think he’s a quality individual, but
the retention of Jim Riggleman as manager – after ten seasons that have produced
only one finish better than third (a weak second for the Cubs in 1998) – makes
little sense here. Unless Mike Rizzo is thinking of Pat Listach or Rick
Eckstein as a future big league manager, respectability for this club is going
to be the time it takes them to swap out Riggleman plus
the time it will take to break in his
replacement. Why not skip the first step?

DIVISION PREDICTIONS:
I’ll take the long odds that the Braves’ breaks fall the right way and Cox goes
out with a winner in a tight race over the Phillies. The Marlins will hit a ton
but waste the brilliance of Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco by using 11
different fifth starters and half a dozen closers. The Mets will have their
nightmare collapse and be wondering if they can unload not only Castillo, but
maybe Beltran and Reyes, too. They will finish a few games ahead of the
Nationals – but only a few.

Tillman1967.jpg

LEAGUE PREDICTIONS: As mentioned, I like the Braves, Reds and the Rockies for the division titles. The Wild Card would seem to be a battle between the Phillies and the Giants – I really like San Francisco’s rotation, and I really do not like Philadelphia’s chances of getting through another season without physical calamity. So let’s assume the Rockies finish with the best record – they should handle the Giants, and the Braves’ experience should make them favorites over the Reds. An Atlanta-Colorado NLCS? I think the Rockies win that one, as much as I’d be rooting for the man I always greet as the guy the Braves once traded to the Yankees for Bob Tillman, who had been traded to the Yankees for Elston Howard, meaning Coxy was as good as Elston Howard….

How To Lose The American League Championship Series

When Terry Francona managed the Red Sox to the 2007 World Series, his greatest contribution came two years ago this Friday. Down two games to one to the Indians in the ALCS and facing a fifth game in Cleveland, Francona resisted the temptation to start Josh Beckett on three days’ rest and instead stuck to his plan, and Game Four starter Tim Wakefield. Wakefield got lit up like Christmas, and much of Boston was ready for a new manager for their Nine. And then the Sox, buoyed by Beckett’s five-hitter over eight (with eleven strikeouts), won Game Five, and ran the table right through the World Series sweep of Colorado.

And yet Joe Girardi is mulling starting CC Sabathia on short rest in Game Four in Anaheim, then coming back with him on full rest for Game Seven. It is mighty tempting with a horse like Sabathia – as it was tempting for Francona two years ago. And the record book warns Girardi to dismiss the idea despite its obvious siren-like call, and its additional charms (like being able to keep Joba Chamberlain in the bullpen, and Chad Gaudin off the line-up card).
Like all men, Bobby Cox, who by rights should be elected to the Hall of Fame next winter if he goes through with his plan to retire after next season, has had one Achilles Heel that he’s never overcome. Coxy has always been convinced that when all the chips were on the table his starters could do the job on three days’ rest, even as the statistics accumulated, proving they could not.
During Atlanta’s unprecedented, probably unmatchable playoff run of 1991 through 2005, Cox tried the short-rest thing nineteen times. The Braves lost thirteen of those games.
Every defeat has a thousand parents, but at minimum, starting a pitcher prematurely is a very heavy straw meeting a very weak camel. More over, all Cox’s successes came before 1995, when Steve Avery and Tom Glavine and John Smoltz were all young and elastic. Cox would go on to try it six more times between 1996 and 2005, and the Braves didn’t win even one of the games. Tim Hudson couldn’t do it, nor Kevin Millwood, nor Greg Maddux, nor Smoltz, nor Glavine – and Glavine tried, twice.
If those stats aren’t a bright enough white line, there’s one more. Cox did it nine times in the World Series, and the Braves won only three of those games. You might get away with it – Beckett did once – but eventually the odds start mounting, and sooner or later it will cost you the playoff series, or the whole ball of wax.
Girardi can point, seemingly with confidence, to Sabathia and say that his personal track record is far more relevant than what Steve Avery did or didn’t do a generation ago. CC’s last three regular season starts of 2008 were each on short rest and all he did was go 2-1 (and give up just one earned run in the loss) and pitch the Brewers into the playoffs. The snag, of course, was that they decided to go to the well again in Game Two of those playoffs against Phillies – Sabathia’s fourth consecutive start on three days’ rest. And by the time Dale Sveum had to come get him with two outs in the fourth, he was out of gas, and the Brewers were essentially out of the post-season. His line was as bad as imaginable:

Milwaukee Brewers IP H R ER BB SO HR BFP

Sabathia L(0-1) 3.2 6 5 5 4 5 1 21


Would he necessarily repeat that in Game Four against the Angels? Nope, not necessarily. But what might the impact be on his Game Seven start? And what if there was no need for one, and Girardi was then faced with the scenario of opening the World Series with him, again bringing him back in Game Four on short rest, with the dream of having him ready for Game Seven?
The more often you try it, the less likely it is to keep working. The last month of 2008 might as well have been the post-season for the Brewers and Sabathia. The first three times, he either won, or pitched well enough to win. Then the fourth time, everything ended. Game Four of the ALCS will effectively be attempt Number Five. There could be a sixth in the Series.
The Braves’ fifteen-year record was six wins and thirteen losses. At one point, it was six wins and seven losses. The time of Lew Burdette shutting out the Yankees twice in four days is more than half a century ago. It might as well have happened before the invention of electricity. CC Sabathia on three days’ rest – a dramatic, romantic concept. And a recipe for dramatic, decisive failure.

Yankees-Red Sox 2

The last time Boston was here in the Bronx one of the franchises many great baseball minds nodded gravely at my contention that the Yankees might not be that great a team, then could contain his disbelief no longer, smiled broadly at me, and asked, in the way only friends who consider each other slightly nuts can ask, Really?

The Baseball Prospectus folks (sorry, subscription required, these are not plugs, I just really find their work useful) analyzed the nine possible playoff teams four-man rotations based on Support Neutral Winning Percentage, which I think I understand but probably dont. The Cards lead at .575 with the Tigers second, the Red Sox third (.561) and the Yankees, dragged down by Joba Chamberlain, eighth at .520. Thus – natch – Jon Lester has sputtered through a long first three innngs capped by a second-deck home run by Alex Rodriguez, while Chamberlain is perfect through three, havng struck out three of the bottom four Boston hitters and popped up the fourth (Varitek) behind the plate.

Red Sox-Yankees 1

Jason Varitek, who for my money is the only reason the head-to-head matchup between the teams offering us playoff previews tonight here in the Bronx end up 4-3-2 Yankees instead of 4-3-2 Red Sox, must have just tied some kind of dubious record. In the first inning he and Jon Lester were victimized by three stolen bases without a single throw. Two were on balls that popped away from the Boston veteran but the third was not. It was pointed out, in the Baseball Prospectus Annual I believe, that veterans who guide pitching staffs without contributing offense are not called catchers – theyre called coaches. If Varitek is not producing that vaunted glove and brainwork behind the plate the Stockings need to move him out, Victor Martinez in, and almost anybody to First.

The Sox sloppiness afield has cone in contrast to the unlikeliest of Yankee brilliance: a Joba Chamberlain barehanded pick-up of Ellsburys squib in the first, and a stop, slide, and hope grab by Nick Swisher to rob Ortiz just now in the second.

Joba Booed

The honeymoon is over, the bloom is off the rose, and the scales have fallen from the eyes. After nearly two years of abject and often undeserved adoration, Joba Chamberlain heard the unfamiliar sounds of booing here at Yankee Stadium. This fate that befalls them all filled the interval between the landing of the last of the nine hits Chamberlain surrendered in blowing a 4-0 lead to Toronto in just three and two-thirds innings, and his removal from the game. Though the carnage (five unearned) was largely enabled by a silly-looking error by Cody Ransom at third base, Chamberlain was hardly undeserving of the catcalls – having already given back three of the runs before the hideous fourth. Ironically, the end of the Joba Rules Era which had begun here on August 13, 2007, may ultimately be forgotten in the general lustiness of the swatting here in the Bronx; afforded the 8-4 lead, rookie Brett Cecil (without Beany) promptly gave up a three-run blast to Matsui. If not, Yankee fans may have to transfer their exuberant affections to Brett Tomko – although that somehow doesnt sound like quite the same thing.

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