First of all, on behalf of those at the Village Voice who are Yankee fans, let me thank Roy Edroso for the headline on his piece, “Congratulations Douchebag Yankee Fans.” We accept your congratulations, and we assume you mean douchebag in the best possible sense.
And, yes, we are douchebags. We don’t care that we are, so long as we win. And we did win, and we will continue to win as long as there are douchebags.
Now I wish to take a bow for having predicted the Yankees win over the Angels and over the Phillies. In case you missed it yesterday, I wrote, “Andy Pettitte doesn’t have to give the Yankees seven or even six good innings. Girardi can ask him for five strong frames, load up on relievers to get through the sixth and seventh, then hand the ball to Mariano for the last two. Yes, the Yankee relievers are unreliable at this point, but what are the Phillies relievers? The Yanks have hammered everyone they’ve sent, and Philadelphians’ hearts will be in their mouths when Pedro starts to falter. Then, there is Hideki Matusi, who has hit two home runs already in the Series and is a better DH than anyone the Phillies have — and, as everyone knows, he has hit Pedro well.”
Please pause for ten seconds to appreciate the brilliance of that analysis before reading on.
That said, we must second the words of Mariano Rivera last night, “We must give credit to the team of Philly.” Yes, we must. Curiously absent from all the post-game talk – unless we missed it, which is unlikely — was any mention of how good and how competitive the Phillies were. I expect in their heart of hearts — and you don’t have to go too deep to find a Yankee fan’s heart because,, to borrow from Andy Warhol, deep down we’re very superficial — many of us suspect that the Phillies were the better team.
Not that much better, but a little. Better enough to win under normal circumstances. The Yankees out-hit them (.247 to .227) but Philadelphia had more home runs (11-6), more stolen bases (5-4), and a higher slugging average (.464 to .399). The Phils also had more walks (26-18) and struck out fewer times (50-56). All of that, of course, is relatively unimportant: the bottom line is that the Yankees scored more runs, and Rivera pitched 5.1 key innings without giving up a run.
By the way, while I’m on the subject, let me say that I think Mariano is overrated. I saw one sign last night in the bleachers that said “Mariano River is God.” No, he is not God, In 204 career opportunities, when he was give a lead of four runs or more, God succeeded 204 times for a perfect percentage of 1000. In his 204 four-runs or more opportunities, Mariano has succeeded just 203 times for a percentage of just 99.5%. How do you think the Phillies felt at the beginning of the ninth inning last night when someone relayed those numbers to them? I can just hear their media relations guy in the dugout saying “I just thought you guys would like to see those figures on Rivera with a four-run lead before you take your swings. The good news is that you have some chance …”)
My favorite line in all the post-game coverage came from Chris Berman, who, when he finished interviewing Mariano, said “Happy 25th birthday!”
Maybe the Yankees were the better team this year, but the Phillies, with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Pedro Feliz, Raoul Ibanez, Jayson Werth, et al, have the best nucleus of young talent in baseball and should be odds-on favorites to win the NL pennant and probably more next year. They definitely need one more outstanding pitcher, but who doesn’t? If Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge pitch in 2010 like they did in 2008, the Phillies won’t need any new pitchers to win it all.
The Yankees’ real MVP, though, wasn’t Matsui, Derek Jeter (who somehow managed to hit a quiet .407 with an on-base average of .429) or Johnny Damon (who scored six runs, drove in four, and had three-fourths of the Yankees stolen bases — which I guess includes that incredible game-turning dash from second to third in Game Three. The Yanks’ real MVP was the Baltimore Orioles’ Adam Jones, who, in the eighth inning of the All-Star game hit a sac fly which scored the winning run for the American League and gave the Yankees the home field advantage in the World Series. Without that, Game Six might not have been at Yankee Stadium and Matsui probably wouldn’t have been in the lineup.
I’m not sure why I never noticed this before, but the American League does, at least in theory, have a real advantage in the World Series as regards the DH. Because of the existence of the DH, the AL needs to have a professional hitter on their roster all season long; it’s unlikely any National League team is going to invest that much money in keeping that kind of hitter around just to pinch-hit. At any rate, I can’t recall the last time I saw a regular player sit out a couple of games of the World Series and still have the kind of impact that Matsui had in just 13 at-bats. Until I looked at the composite box score this morning, I hadn’t realized that HE WAS THE ONLY YANKEE WITH MORE THAN ONE HOME RUN.
— Who the F is Damaso Marte? This has got to be the first time in baseball history that a pitcher with an ERA of 9.45 in the regular season (21 games) became an unanticipated World Series star (four appearances, no hits, no runs, no walks, 5 Ks). And was it my imagination or did a guy named David Robertson — no runs, in fact zero runs allowed in 5.1 postseason innings — suddenly disappear after Game Two?
— Regarding A-Rod, this must also be the first time in baseball history that a player shattered the myth that he can’t hit in the clutch by batting .250 in the World Series. Albeit with a higher on-base plus slugging average, .973, than he had during the regular season (.933).
But, as I’ve been pointing out for the last couple of weeks, Rodriguez’s postseason performance was always as good or better than Reggie’s at similar points in their career and that Reggie’s only looked better because he played on better teams that had better pitching. Along those lines, let’s do a quick update:
Reggie played in 77 postseason games, A-Rod has now played in 54. Reggie’s BA was .278, A-Rod’s is .302. Reggie has more home runs, 18, to A-Rod’s 13 but got those five extra home runs in 23 additional games. Reggie’s postseason on-base average is .358 with a .627 slugging average; A-Rod’s numbers, respectively, are .409 and .568. A-Rod has scored 36 runs to Reggie’s 41 in 82 fewer at-bats. Hail the new Mr. October … make that Mr. Oct/Nov.
— The Yankees have now won three consecutive postseason series in which Kate Hudson has been in the box seats. There are those who scoff at this statistic, but they should be reminded of Kate’s strong baseball ties. Her stepfather, Kurt Russell, was a former minor league prospect who would have happily traded baseball for acting had it not been for a bad knee. His father, Bing Russell. Was a minor league ballplayer before he became a character actor in movies. As every Mets fan knows, former Met Matt Franco is Russell’s nephew.
— Finally, I want to say that I’m not against Robbie Cano being allowed to participate in the victory parade, despite his astonishing feat of having a lower on-base percentage (.130) than he did batting average (.136) in the Series. For the record Cano’s career OBP in 28 games is .217. I do think that he should be made to at least contribute something to the Yankees postseason by driving the float.