And That Happened: Division Series Edition


Giants 1, Braves 0: Congratulations, Major League Baseball: a playoff game was decided by a blown call. Sure, Tim Lincecum struck out 14 dudes — and I don’t want to detract from what was a clearly dominant performance on his part — but he would have been in the dugout with his very nice no-decision watching the bullpens battle in the 10th inning had the umpires made the correct call on Buster Posey’s stolen base in the fourth inning.  Posey admitted it after the game, going so far as to say “I guess it’s a good thing we don’t have instant replay right now.” That’s pretty much on the nose, is it not? Certainly we can’t change the outcome of baseball games that are in the books, but how Selig and the rest of the powers that be can continue to say everything is just dandy with umpiring and the state of replay is beyond me.

Setting that aside for now — and believe me, I’ll be saying more about it later — the Braves didn’t do themselves any favors whatsoever. Yes, Lincecum was good, but if the Braves had at any point in the game said “Hey, you know what? Maybe we should stop swinging at balls six inches out of the zone” it may have been a different game.  If Bobby Cox had not inexplicably intentionally walked Pablo Sandoval before the Cody Ross single that scored Posey, it may have been a different game.  But they didn’t and it wasn’t.

Ultimately, this was Tim Lincecum’s night. It was a fantastic performance by the guy, doing what he had to do to win a game in which his own offense wasn’t doing him any favors themselves. He went the distance, saving his pen for tonight’s game and putting the Giants in an excellent position to go up 2-0 before heading to Atlanta.

Yankees 5, Twins 2: More bad umpiring here, though this was balls-and-strikes bad, not calls-in-the-field bad. Maybe in a just world we have replay for disputed calls right now, but I don’t think any set of circumstances would have us living in a world with automated ball-and-strike umping at present. But jeez, look at Hunter Wendlestedt’s zone. Ick.  It all culminated, of course, in what should have been strike three to Lance Berkman
in the seventh. Instead, Wendlestedt called it a ball and Berkman
hit what ended up being the game-winning double on the next
pitch. He ended up scoring too, making it 4-2 ,and that was basically all she wrote.

But like with the Braves’ awful at-bats against Tim Lincecum, the Twins have a bigger issue to deal with here. Namely the fact that tattooed on the rear end of each and every Minnesota Twins player are the words “Property of the New York Yankees Baseball Club.”

Rangers 6, Rays 0: And for our third bad call of the day, we go to Tampa, where Michael Young’s three-run homer came one pitch after he stayed alive on a disputed — an ultimately incorrectly-called — check-swing.  Unlike the other two games, though, this wasn’t the deciding factor. James Shields was terrible, the Rays’ bats listless and Texas was never challenged.  Leave it to Mitch Williams of all people to correctly analyze the problem here: “there are three other guys who should have started that game over James Shields.” OK, maybe that overstates it a little — and I still don’t know that I’d want Shields starting in Texas — but Joe Maddon’s decision to go with him in Game 2 doesn’t look too spiffy at the moment. Not that he really had control over things . . .

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

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.