Matsui carries Yankees to World Series victory

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Whether it was the remnants of a weekend cold or simply not having the extra day of rest he’s often been accustomed to, Pedro Martinez showed up Wednesday with far from his best stuff. He still managed to hold his own against eight of the Yankees’ nine hitters in two times through the order. Unfortunately, he had no answer for Hideki Matsui’s hot bat.
Matsui had a two-run homer in the first, a two-run single in third and a two-run double off J.A. Happ in the fifth to drive in six runs as the Yankees won 7-3 and clinched their 27th World Series.
Andy Pettitte, working on three days’ rest, got the win by allowing three runs over 5 2/3 innings in a gutsy performance. He walked five, but he largely stayed out of trouble until Ryan Howard homered in the sixth. Before that, Chase Utley, Howard and Raul Ibanez had been hitless against him for the series.
Martinez lasted only four innings, and he wouldn’t have made it that far if not for some poor at-bats from the bottom of the lineup. There was no way the Phillies could have scratched him before he took the mound, but they must have known from the start that he was going to struggle with his velocity clearly down from where it was in Game 2.
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That’s the story of the game, with a little Mariano Rivera mixed in. The story of the series should be the Phillies’ inability to put together rallies. Both teams had a two-run homer tonight. Both teams had two doubles. Both teams had exactly 10 singles+walks. Yet the Yankees scored seven runs and the Phillies three.
It was typical of the series. The Phillies had the higher OPS, yet they just couldn’t get multiple hits in a row. 10 of their 12 homers were solo shots. The Yankees were much better at hitting with men on base. Mark Teixeira had an awful series, but the rest of the top five was able to carry a bottom four that ended up doing little.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel never deviated from his plan at any point during the postseason. Cliff Lee didn’t start on three days’ rest during any of the first six months, so he wasn’t going to do it in October. Jayson Werth and Carlos Ruiz were red hot? It didn’t matter. They were going to keep hitting where they had in the regular season.
The Phillies needed to look for an edge or two in order to beat what was a superior Yankee team, but they just employed the same strategies that worked for them all year long. While it’s not the only reason they lost, the reluctance to adapt didn’t help matters.

Major League Baseball orders balls stored in climate controlled rooms for some reason

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Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reports that Major League Baseball will mandate that teams store baseballs in “an air-conditioned and enclosed room[s]” this season. He adds that the league will install climate sensors in each room to measure temperature and humidity during the 2018 season, with such data being used to determine if humidors — like the ones being used in Colorado and Arizona — are necessary for 2019.

This move comes a year after Major League Baseball’s single season, league-wide home run record was shattered, with 6,105 dingers being hit. It also comes after a year in which two different studies — one by Ben Lindbergh and Mitchel Lichtman for The Ringer, and another by FiveThirtyEight’s Rob Arthur — found evidence that baseballs were altered at some point around the middle of the 2015 season which coincided with home run numbers spiking in the middle of that year, quite suddenly.

Also coming last year: multiple player complaints about the baseball seeming different, with pitchers blaming a rash of blister problems stemming from what they believed to be lower seams on the baseballs currently in use than those in use in previous years. Players likewise complained about unusually smooth and/or juiced baseballs during the World Series, which some believe led to a spike of home runs in the Fall Classic.

To date, Major League Baseball has steadfastly denied that the balls are a problem, first issuing blatantly disingenuous denials,  and later using carefully chosen words to claim nothing was amiss. Specifically, Major League Baseball claimed that the balls were within league specifications but failed to acknowledge that league specifications are wide enough to encompass baseballs which could have radically different flight characteristics while still, technically, being within spec.

Based on Verducci’s report, it seems that MLB is at least past the denial stage and is attempting to understand and address the issues about which many players have complained and which have, without question, impacted offense in the game:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that MLB commissioned a research project after last season to study the composition, storage and handling of the baseballs. He said that investigation is not yet completed. “I’m not at the point to jump that gun right now,” he said about the findings.

The investigation is not yet completed, but the fact that the league is now ordering changes in the manner in which balls are handled before use suggests to me that the league has learned that there is at least something amiss about the composition or manufacture of the baseballs.

Major League Baseball is a lot of things, but quick to impose costs and changes of process on its clubs like this is not one of them. There is likely a good reason for it.