Bengie Molina slams ESPN

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Bengie Molina angry.jpgLast week ESPN ran a slow-motion clip of Bengie Molina getting thrown out at the plate in a Giants-Marlins game as, bascially, the game’s only highlight on that night’s SportsCenter. What’s more, they slowed the clip down and set it to music meant to evoke “Chariots of Fire,” mocking Molina’s lack of speed.  As he was thrown out, the anchor yelled “get in there, slim!”  You can see the video here.

San Francisco Chronicle reporter Henry Schulman took great offense at this, writing a blog post slamming ESPN for the lack of respect shown to Molina. Yesterday Molina weighed in himself, slamming ESPN for its “cheap shot” and, while acknowledging that he’s perhaps the slowest player in baseball, saying that “ESPN’s intention was not to criticize but to humiliate.”

Molina closes by saying “All I can do is play the way I always have – with respect and
professionalism. It’s shame that ESPN, a once great network, won’t have
any idea what I’m talking about.”  It was a really well-done post, in my opinion, with Molina taking the high road while still making it clear that his feelings were hurt.

I take shots at players from time to time, and yes, I occasionally go a little too far, crossing the line that separates tough criticism and mockery.  I try hard to avoid it and I’m not proud of myself when I do it, but it happens, often as a result of a misguided attempt at humor.

I’m guessing that’s what happened with ESPN here too.  They do a zillion highlight reels a day, and you can’t blame them for wanting to go in a different direction with one for a change. I’m sure no one there had malice in their heart as they were putting it together, but the humor obviously fell flat, outweighed by mockery. It obviously hit Molina the wrong way.

They probably owe him an apology. In light of Molina’s blog post, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if one came as early as this morning.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.