Thursday, November 5, 2009

All’s Well in Yankeeland – Rivera is Difference Again; Great Answers Yesterday

And so, all is well in Yankeeland again. At least for a couple weeks.

There’s no doubting that the Yankees deserved their World Series win over the Phillies. They got a gutty performance from Andy Pettitte, whose postseason pitching may someday be the reason he gets into the Hall of Fame—although the steroids admissions two years ago may be the reason he DOESN’T get in the Hall.

They got Derek Jeter play from Derek Jeter, a remarkable performance from Hidecki Matsui and just enough from Mark Texeira and Alex Rodriguez to be champions for the first time in nine years.

In the end though, the difference was Mariano Rivera. It isn’t as if he’s been completely infallible as a postseason pitcher—he gave up the home run to Sandy Alomar in 1997 and the two runs in the ninth inning in Arizona in 2001—but all that does is prove he’s human. Sort of human anyway. What Rivera does for the Yankees is something no closer of this era has done: he makes the game seven innings for the both teams.

Everyone knows that if the game gets to the eighth inning with the Yankees in front, Rivera’s coming in and the odds are that’s it, he’s going to do what needs to be done and the Yankees will win the game. He now has FORTY saves in postseason. Think about that number. That’s a very good SEASON for a closer in saves in the games that matter the most.

What’s truly funny is to think back two years to when Joba Chamberlain first came up at mid-season. He was throwing 98—back then he actually threw strikes on a consistent basis—and within two weeks he’d become a cult figure in New York. There were actually people saying it was time to ease Rivera out of the closer’s role (he’s had his annual run of a couple bad outings about then) and give the ball to Chamberlain.

I know I bring up “Living on the Black,” a lot when writing about baseball but, if nothing else, Mike Mussina and Tom Glavine were two of the really smart guys I’ve met along the way in sports. I remember Mussina talking about the notion of replacing Rivera with Chamberlain.

 “People really make me laugh sometimes,” he said. “They just cannot understand what Mo does or how he does it and what it means to a team to look out at the bullpen and know he’s the guy coming in to finish off a game. Heck, he’s worth a few outs before he gets in there because guys are squeezing the bats knowing if they don’t get runs before he gets in the game’s over. Joba’s a great talent but we’ve all seen great talents come up in this game. You don’t even think about replacing Mariano Rivera until HE tells you it might be time.” He smiled. “And then you try to talk him out of it.”

Think about this too: The Yankees had three absolute lock Hall of Famers on the field last night: Rivera, Jeter and Rodriguez—whose bases loaded strike out in the third would have overshadowed everything else he’s done in postseason had Matsui not picked him up and had the Yankees not gone on to win.  Pettitte will be a very credible Hall of Fame possibility at some point and the Yankees have younger players like Texeira and CC Sabathia who may get to that level. Point being: they’re really good.

Of course the Phillies started a probably Hall of Famer last night too in Pedro Martinez. But it was clear from the start that he didn’t have it and it’s almost surprising it took the Yankees as long as it did to get to him.  In fact, he did a good job of keeping the game competitive. Philadelphia will be a force for a while: Cole Hamels had a bad year and so did Brad Lidge and the team was two wins from winning the whole thing again. They were, without doubt, the National League’s best team and with Cliff Lee there all season, they should enter 2010 as the favorites to win again—although who knows what the offseason will bring.

The first question that’s going to come up is what the Yankees will do with Matsui. The consensus all year was that this was his sayonara tour in New York. He’s 37 and his knees were so bad he didn’t play an inning in the field all year. But he got very hot the second half and was great in postseason. He is one of those guys everyone in the clubhouse likes and, beyond that, how do you not re-sign the World Series MVP who has done everything you’ve asked for seven years. The Yankees have more money than God, they should give him a two year deal and if he doesn’t produce it’s a thank-you present. Hell, A-Rod should offer to pay half of it if necessary.

I don’t know about you, but I always feel a certain melancholy the day after The World Series ends. It doesn’t matter who wins, I know there’s no baseball of any kind for four months and no real baseball for five months—even when the Series ends in November. I’m one of those people who always has the number of days until pitchers and catchers report (I also make it February 15th since it’s never more than a day or two off that each year). So, this morning as I read the paper I did the math: 102 days until pitchers and catchers report. Another two weeks until the exhibition season begins. And, if all goes well, I’ll get home from The Masters on April 12th and go to a ballgame the next day. And you wonder why people think I’m nuts.

I really enjoyed some of the posts and e-mails yesterday about favorite TV shows. Some of my favorites beyond ‘West Wing,’ came up—including ‘Hill Street Blues,’;  ‘Mash,’; WKRP in Cincinnati’ (where have you gone Bailey Quarters?) and ‘Seinfeld.’ Worth noting by the way that ‘The Wire,’ was written by a former newspaper guy. Some of those people DO have talent.

As I was reading the posts, I thought about another show I loved: “The Odd Couple,” with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. It had the greatest ending of any show ever (Newhart was a strong second). Felix gets re-married to Gloria and the wedding is in the apartment. As Felix is leaving he and Oscar share a handshake and a sincere thanks. Felix points his finger and says, “You know what I’m going to do JUST for you?”—and he walks over and dumps a garbage can on the rug.

Oscar looks at him and says, ‘you know what buddy, just for you, I’M going to clean that up.”

Another warm handshake. Felix leaves. Oscar turns to look at the garbage for a moment, then waves his hand and says, “I’m not cleaning it up,” and leaves the room.

Great ending you think. About 10 seconds go by. Finally, the door opens. It’s Felix. He looks at the garbage and says, “I KNEW he wouldn’t clean it up.” He cleans it up. Truly fall down funny great ending.

Let’s hear what your favorite TV ending was.


Anonymous said...


FOTB Staff - said...

Thanks of those mornings, we suppose!

FOTB Staff

dcsooner said...

Mary Tyler Moore Tipperary.

NOT the Sopranos.

Dana King said...

Probably NEWHART. Or THE WIRE. Definitely not THE SOPRANOS.

Bennettar said...


I share your sentiments about the closing of the baseball season. It seems crazy that we have had baseball for 7 months and in one night it's over. This day comes every year, but I am never prepared for it. I didn't have a strong rooting interest in last night's game, but I wish there was just one more day - especially since it would have been game 7. Now we are left to disparage the BCS and wait for the Super Bowl and March Madness to roll around...

Anonymous said...

158 days until outdoor baseball returns to Minnesota!


dcsooner said...

Oh, and the often forgotten end of Maude where Sandra Bernhard makes an appearance.

Anonymous said...

EXTRAS. Ricky Gervais solid show, brilliant ending.

love the blog. thanks.


Dave Berman said...

I still think that it's when Dr. Richard Kimball finally caught up with the one armed man.

By the way, stop by my tailgate on Saturday. I'll be in the Joyce lot, flying a huge yellow USNA blimp.

JJ said...

I miss baseball already....truly the most relaxing sport to watch in our ADD society. I hate to admit that I watch soccer for the same mindless replays of a 5 yard run from 5 different angles. I love football, but the media coverage and the network presentations wear on me. I remember when ESPN used to show an Ivy league game...players playing for the pure joy of it, not where they were going to be drafted.

Anonymous said...

Newhart, by far.

I was amazed that no one mentioned my favorite series. The stories were different, thought provoking and when you consider the conservative times in which the series was written, to me "The Twilight Zone" was the best series ever written. Some of the stories that Rod Serling actually got on the air would be considered controversial even today.

tom.hawley said...

I think the greatest endings to one of the funniest shows ever on television was for "Taxi", when the Sunshine Cab Co. goes out of business and all the characters have to go get real jobs. Louie ends up as a stockbroker, soliciting widows out of the obituaries in the paper, Reverend Jim gets a door-to-door sales job selling vacuum cleaners, only to find he's really selling Encyclopedias, etc. etc. Incredibly funny stuff.

Anonymous said...

Matsui is 35. McCarver was saying he'd either resign, maybe sign with Seattle (play with Ichiro) or go back and play in Japan.

We'll se...
Hope he stays. Love your idea of having ARod fund his salary.

Anonymous said...

The ending of "Six Feet Under" was great. The daughter is driving to New York to start a career and you see what happens to all the characters. Great soundtrack as well. The Wire was another great series from HBO.

kevingc said...

I- agree about missing baseball already. even with a son gettingready for his freshman year of High School basketball I am counting the days till April. And I'm a Cub and Mariner fan so you know it's not becaise of any expectations of success.

As for favorite endings for shows - The Shield ended with Vic compeletely alone having betrayed everybody and being abandoned by all those he loved. As the lights went down on the final scene he looked like a shark looking for prey. Perfect end to a great series.

Anonymous said...

Go Yankees!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!