Wednesday, October 5, 2011

MLB playoffs- Yankees, Rays; Question for Red Sox fans

I know I’ve said it here often but I really do love baseball. And the best thing about the first round of the playoffs is that they actually play afternoon and early evening games—the kind you can watch to conclusion without worrying about being tired the next morning. Of course if you are a fan of the New York Yankees only a rain out is going to give you the chance to see your team play in the afternoon because they are locked into that primetime slot at 8:37 p.m. every night.

(Am I the only one who has noticed that in the MLB promo about memories being made in postseason about 90 percent of those memories involve the Yankees? I’m convinced if there had been the kind of video available in 1951 that we have today we would have seen the Yankees WATCHING Bobby Thompson’s shot rather than the home run itself).

The Yankees do provide almost unique theater—I say almost unique because the soap opera that is always the Red Sox is right up there. As of this morning, A.J. Burnett is now worth the $82 million the Yankees paid him because he managed to deliver 5 and 1/3 innings of one run baseball in Detroit last night. Sandy Koufax or Bob Gibson would have retired in disgust if they ever came out after 5 and 1/3 innings in a postseason game, but these days any pitcher who can go five innings without getting shelled is a future Hall of Famer.

What’s funny about Burnett’s performance is that if Curtis Granderson doesn’t make a catch that DOES belong on next year’s October promo with the bases loaded in the first inning, he probably doesn’t get out of that inning and may never be able to pitch again in New York. Seriously. That’s how close it was. It sounds funny to say about anyone who plays for the Yankees, but Granderson (who made another terrific catch in the sixth inning) is underrated. In fact, he and Robinson Cano are both underrated because there’s so much focus on Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez and, to a lesser degree, Mark Teixeira.

Cano and Granderson are, without any doubt, the Yankees two best players—C.C. Sabathia and Mariano Rivera are in a different category as pitchers—and Granderson is, from what I can read and hear, the best talker in the clubhouse. Regardless, if the Yankees end up in The World Series, people can point to his catch as the reason. He saved their season.

One other Yankees note: I had to drive to Comcast SportsNet last night because Washington Post Live is now on at 10:30 p.m. (WAY past my bedtime) and, as I always do, I flipped on the Yankees broadcast because John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman crack me up. I like them both personally, but it is truly funny to hear the panic in their voices when the Yankees falter.

When Burnett gave up the home run to Victor Martinez in the fourth inning to close the gap to 2-1, Suzyn was semi-hysterical. “This is the problem with A.J. Burnett,” she said. “He’s like the little girl with the curl. When he’s good, he’s very good, when he’s bad, he’s very bad. In fact, he’s HORRID.” (The home run was the first hit Burnett had given up). Watching the replay, she added, “Uch, look at that. If you put it on a tee you couldn’t have laid it in there any better for him.”

She and Sterling spent the rest of the inning taking deep breaths as Burnett maneuvered through trouble. “Think he’s on a short lease?” Sterling said at one point. “You bet he’s on a short lease. This is an elimination game.”

Sadly, by the time I got back in the car after the show, the Yankees had the game in hand and Sterling was reduced to wondering if Joe Girardi might give, ‘Mariano,’ (he says it with about seven syllables and never uses a last name) an inning.

So, TBS gets a Yankees-Tiger game 5 and all the executives at Fox will be praying that the Yankees advance.

All four series have had some drama to this point—although I admit there was no way I could stay up for all of Milwaukee-Arizona last night.

I honestly don’t know how to feel about The Tampa Bay Rays. As Tyler Kepner, who writes so well about baseball for The New York Times, pointed out this morning, their seasons are almost always the same: they compete superbly because their front office is so good and because Joe Maddon is such a good manager, and they come up short at some point because they simply don’t spend enough money to get that extra key player—the way the Texas Rangers spent $80 million last winter to get Adrian Beltre.

The Rays have now been in the playoffs three of the last four years—truly remarkable given that they play in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox, each of whom probably spends more on its postgame clubhouse buffet budget than the Rays spend on players.

What’s sad is to see fewer than 30,000 fans in the ballpark for a postseason game. The Rays drew less than 1.6 million fans this year. The ballpark is absolutely awful and that’s a big part of the problem. The other problem is that there are more Yankee fans living in the Tampa Bay area than Rays fans.

Major League Baseball never should have put a team in Tampa—not without a promise to build a stadium with a retractable roof, the kind the Marlins are getting next year after almost 20 years of playing in a football stadium that’s ALMOST as awful as the dome in St. Petersburg.

And yet, somehow, the Rays, after being truly terrible for 10 years, have made it work the last four years. It’s just a shame almost no one down there cares.

Finally, I have a question for any of you out there who are Red Sox fans: As soon as the last day of the regular season concluded, I was convinced there was a book to be done that would focus strictly on that final day, arguably the most dramatic in regular season baseball history. I thought—think—that if you go back to the eight teams involved in those four deciding games, focusing on the four teams fighting for the playoffs but also including the other four teams and get players, managers, coaches, broadcasters to walk you through that day in detail, you have one hell of a story.

My agent, Esther Newberg, who is one of those Red Sox fans who is STILL mad at Bill Buckner, says the story might be good but no Red Sox fan will buy the book even if you get really good stuff from Theo Epstein, Terry Francona, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz et al.

I understand that feeling. In 2008 when my book on Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina came out, I got a really nice note during spring training from Gary Cohen, the Mets longtime play-by-play announcer who is a good friend. Gary wrote that he loved the book, in fact thought it was the best one I’d written.

I wrote back, thanked him and asked him if it might be possible to come on for an inning or two one night to talk about the book, the process of writing it, why I chose Glavine and Mussina—typical promo stuff.

Gary’s answer was to the point: “John, I loved the book and you know I’d love to help in any way. But after the way last season ended (Glavine getting shelled for seven runs in 1/3 of an inning with the season on the line on the last day) there’s not a Mets fan alive who wants to hear the name Tom Glavine again anytime soon.”

He was, of course, right.

So, Red Sox fans, is Esther right on this one too?


Dana King said...

I don't know. I'm a lapsed Red Sox fan, having lost a lot of the passion since they became Yankees Lite. Some Sox fans live to revel in their disappointments, at least until recently.

No offense to Ms. Newberg, but I also wonder if publishing people get too tied up in who might not read the book, and forget about who might read it. There are a lot more potential readers than just Red Sox fans.

Tony said...

That would be a book I would buy. It was a great day of baseball and I'd love to get all the different perspectives on that day.

Gunnar said...

John, If you haven't seen it yet, the bottom third of this short piece is really funny regarding Dan Snyder's recent yacht purchase. shutdown corner column;_ylt=Ao03AkgIxKksBZsQ2xbAKks5nYcB?urn=nfl-wp8713

Anonymous said...

Thanks for exposing the parochialism of TV's baseball coverage ... by writing almost exclusively about the Yankees and Red Sox.

This Justin Verlander guy is a story in the making. You should check him out sometime.

Ed Tracey said...

John, I would read it - but I'm such a fan of your work, it may not be a representative opinion. Also, I grew up as a Long Islander who loved the Mets, so I know where you're coming from. I loved the '67 Red Sox, and so when I relocated to New England 24 years ago, I merely had to reverse the polarity (from Mets #1, Red Sox #2) for my loyalty.

In answer to your question: I suppose that if (a) they are baseball fans (and not simply Sox fans), and (b) you spread out the focus amongst all of the contenders and finally (c) enough time passes .... why, I suspect you'll get enough sales in New England to warrant a book-signing in Boston, or Manchester, Vermont.

I'd say go for it.

Gunnar said...

John, When I read your blog this morning, I initially thought that it was a bit much to write a book on one day or one evening. However, I think about one of my favorite TV programs of the past 10 years, 24 with Jack Bauer, and I didn't understand how they were going to have a season long show that covers only one day of crime/terrorist fighting...fantastic show. The other example I was thinking about was the movie Training Day with Denzell and Ethan get to the end of the movie and have to remind yourself that was all in one day! With last Wednesday, there was lots of fallout too, as a result of that amazing night of baseball.

Just finished listening to you on the Gasman show. On your AAA Baseball book, look up Matt Tuiasasopo as a subject. Father was 1st round pick in the NFL out of UCLA and 10yr NFL player. First four kids (including Matt), played professional sports. Older brother Marques was 2nd round NFL pick, 8 yr NFL QB. Marques is still the only 300yd passing/200yd rushing player in NCAA history. Matt was the next great University of Washington QB, only to get a big offer from the Seattle Mariners to play baseball. After 7 years in the minors, lots of time in AAA, and some in MLB, the Mariners cut him. Great kid and great family. He is a 23-24 year old elite athelete. What now?

John M said...

John- As a lifelong Red Sox fan I know most Sox fans would buy the book if you really get the scoop on how the collapse happened. Sox fans know we are not getting the real story. There is so much more to it than what has been written to date and the background leading up to the final day would be fascinating to know.

Dan Bowen said...

No, this Red Sox fan would not read that book.

Anonymous said...

Unless you knew there were big stories as to why the scenario played out the way it did, I can't see what the hook is. It would make for a great long article, but a book? I don't know about that.

Anonymous said...

"What’s funny about Burnett’s performance is that if Curtis Granderson doesn’t make a catch that DOES belong on next year’s October promo with the bases loaded in the first inning, he probably doesn’t get out of that inning and may never be able to pitch again in New York. Seriously."

Come on, John. Please stop using the silly sports past tense. Seriously.

ajm said...

Am I the only one who has noticed that in the MLB promo about memories being made in postseason about 90 percent of those memories involve the Yankees?

Was I the only one to notice that one of the "postseason" clips they showed was Bucky F. Dent rounding the bases after his 1978 home run... in game 163 of the regular season?

Anonymous said...

There's absolutely a book to be written about the two collapses of this season. One focusing on the culminating day, with interviews, history and analysis integrated into it would make great reading if it was done well.

I'd buy it, but I'm not a Red Sox fan.

Dale Sams said...

As a Red Sox fan, allow me to say...tell your agent to get the eff over it. Buckner makes that play and there's no way anyone was beating Mookie to the bag.

as for the book, yes I'd buy it.

Howard Megdal said...

Hey John,

I think the difference between Glavine and Theo has to do with context of what came before it for Red Sox fans. Glavine didn't do anything to endear himself to Mets fans; Theo won a pair of championships, which had been in short supply in Boston.
I also think there's a fair amount of anti-Red Sox antipathy that will sell the book around the country. Not to mention the other teams. That night resonated with people at my Rosh Hashanah dinner who hadn't watched baseball in years.
I'm confused, though: don't people just buy your books, regardless of topic, because they are your books? That's what I do.
Hope you are well.

Howard Megdal

Anonymous said...

I'm a pretty big Sox fan. I'd buy the book, because I like your books.

I'd doubly buy it if you include the John Wooden story, maybe as an appendix.

Anonymous said...

John, As others said above, I think it would be a very interesting book, and I would definitely buy it. (Disclaimer, the fact I have bought every one of your other books might have something to do with that)

I have only been a casual follower of the game since 1994. Yes I'm one of the ones that drifted away during the strike and never fully came back. Matter of fact Game 7 of this years series is the first entire game I have watched in probably 2 or 3 years. I just have other interest (sports) that I allot my viewing time to.

That all said, I think the final night of the season was unlike anything the game has seen before.

One of the things that would make the book so interesting is the inside access you have earned that not many in your profession can claim. Imagine now that Epstein is no longer in Boston how open he might be.

While the crux of the book would focus on that final night, we all know the collapse of the Braves and Red Sox began 30 days prior (at least). It would make for great background to the main story.

I hope you decide to do it.

Rob C