Random observations from Game Six

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You saw it, and even if you didn’t, Matthew has told you all of the details (any he missed can be found here). Now’s the time for some random impressions:

An obviously gutsy performance from Andy Pettitte on short rest. He didn’t seem to suffer much for it, which is amazing considering the mileage on that left arm of his.

A just as gutsy performance from Pedro, even in defeat. He certainly knew before anyone — and probably well before the game
started — that he had nothing last night. He’s Pedro, though, and he
did his vain best to figure out a way to work around it. It’s weird: for a
Hall of Famer, I’ve always thought that Pedro’s character as a
pitcher was better defined by his losses than his wins. In the 2003
ALCS, last night, and many other times, I’ve come away strangely more
impressed by him when he leaves a game in defeat, and I’m not sure why
that is. Your theories are welcome.

Matsui. What can you really say? For a guy who often looks like he’s in
pain when he’s hitting, he made it look rather easy last night. He was
as good an MVP choice as anyone else.

Nine years ago is when Jeter, Posada, Rivera and Pettitte last won it
all. I know that beyond them there has been massive roster turnover
since 1996, but I’m struggling to come up with an example of a team
with at least a handful of core players winning World Series outside
the context of a continuing dynasty. This would be like Mickey Mantle
and Whitey Ford hanging around to win one with the 1971 Yankees, or
Chipper, Maddux and Smoltz doing it in 2004. I suppose this is mostly a
function of them being so young when they were winning them back in the
90s, but it is kind of odd to think about it.

Factoid I found on ESPN: “Wednesday’s clincher marked the sixth time
New York has defeated the defending champ in the World Series.” Without looking it up, I’ll say the Phillies last night, the Braves
in 1996, the Braves in 1958, the Dodgers in 1956, Cardinals in 1943,
and, um . . . I’m blanking. First one to figure it out wins a fully paid subscription to Circling The Bases.

I, along with all of you, wait with great anticipation to hear what the “PHILLIES IN __! MARK MY WORDS!” guy writes in the comments today.  Don’t disappoint us, dude.

After an offseason of terrible predictions, I’m rather pleased with myself. I picked the Yankees in six based on the strength of their rotation, but noted that Cliff Lee will get his.  Hey, even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while, right?

151 days until Opening Day.  I wish it would hurry up already.

The Yankees were booed last night. Did they deserve it?

Masahiro Tanaka

The boos came raining down from the Yankee Stadium faithful last night. They started when Brett Gardner grounded out in the eighth inning. More came later. A lot of it was, no doubt, based on Gardner’s disappointing performance late in the season. A lot of it was because, around that time, it seemed like the Yankees had zero shot whatsoever to mount a comeback. Which, in fact, they didn’t. A lot of it was pent-up frustration, I assume, from a late season skid which saw the Yankees lose their lead in the AL East and wind up in the Wild Card Game in the first place.

Anyone who buys a ticket has a right to boo. Especially when they buy a ticket as expensive as Yankees tickets are. It’s obviously understandable to be disappointed when your team loses. Especially when your team is eliminated like the Yankees were. And last night’s game was particularly deflating, with that 3-0 Astros lead feeling more like 10-0 given how things were going.

But isn’t booing something more than a mere manifestation of disappointment? Isn’t a step beyond? Booing isn’t saying “I’m sad.” It’s saying “you suck!” It’s not saying “I’m disappointed,” it’s saying “you should be ashamed of yourselves!” And with all respect to Yankees fans, the 2015 Yankees have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

This was a club expected to miss the playoffs, full stop. Maybe some people allowed for an if-everything-breaks-right flight of fancy, but hardly anyone expected them to play meaningful games late in the year, let alone a playoff game. They were too old. Too injured. There weren’t enough young reinforcements to fill the gaps. Some even went so far as to claim that they were about to spend years in the wilderness.

But then A-Rod broke out of the gate strong. And Michael Pineda had a really nice first couple of months. And Mark Teixeira put up numbers that wouldn’t have been out of place for him several years ago. The bullpen did what it was supposed to do and more, Masahiro Tanaka held together somehow and, eventually, a couple of young players like Greg Bird and Luis Severino came in to reinforce things. The not-going-anywhere Yankees were contenders. And they led the division for a good while. Of course they stumbled late. And of course they lost last night, but by just about any reasonable measure, this was a good team — better than expected — and, unlike a lot of Yankees teams in the past, was pretty darn enjoyable to watch.

Then the boos. I just can’t see how this Yankees team deserved that.

I realize a lot of people in the media have duped a lot of people into thinking that a team with a high payroll is supposed to be dominant. And I realize George Steinbrenner duped a whole lot of people into thinking that anything less than a World Series championship for the New York Yankees is failure. But that’s rhetoric and branding, not reason. In the real world where baseball players play baseball games World Series titles are rare, even for the Yankees. At the end of the season all but one of 30 teams are either at home for the playoffs or went home after suffering a gut-wrenching playoff loss. The Yankees are the most dominant franchise in the history of American professional sports yet they still have finished their year without a title over 75% of the time.

With that as a given, fans are left to judge their team’s performance based on its talent, its health, its heart, its entertainment value and the strength of the opposition which ultimately vanquished it. The Yankees weren’t nearly as talented as many, yet made the playoffs anyway. They were a walking hospital ward, let limped on. They never quit and never got pulled down into the sort of muck a lot of New York teams find themselves in when things start to go sideways. And, ultimately, they were simply beat by a better team. By any reasonable measure the 2015 Yankees were a good story, a successful enterprise, a resilient bunch and no small amount of fun.

It’s OK to be sad that it ended as it did. But that doesn’t deserve to be booed. Not by a long shot.

Collin McHugh will start Game 1 of the ALDS for the Astros

Collin McHugh Astros
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After using ace left-hander Dallas Keuchel to get past the Yankees in the Wild Card game the Astros will turn to right-hander Collin McHugh in Game 1 of the ALDS versus the Royals.

McHugh had an up-and-down year, posting a 3.89 ERA compared to his 2.73 mark last season, but thanks to good teammate support he had a 19-7 record and his 171/53 K/BB ratio in 204 innings was solid. He was particularly good down the stretch, posting a 2.89 ERA and 69/20 K/BB ratio in 72 innings after August 1.

McHugh will match up against Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura in Game 1. Houston hasn’t named a starter for Game 2 yet, while Kansas City is going with Johnny Cueto. And then the Game 3 matchup figures to be Dallas Keuchel versus Edinson Volquez.