Willie Mays did not say what Joe Buck said he said

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During the All-Star Game last night, Buck and McCarver brought up the topic of players who didn’t show up for the All-Star Game even though they were selected.  At that point, Buck referred to a Wall Street Journal article in which Willie Mays had something really pithy to say about the ballplayers who didn’t make it. Here were Buck’s comments:

“Willie Mays had some interesting quotes today in the Wall Street Journal with regard to guys not showing up for this All-Star Game. He said ‘I was rewarded 24 times as an All-Star, and I went 24 times. It’s not jury duty, guys should show up.’”

Except, as Larry Brown Sports points out, Willie Mays did not say it. It was the author of the article who said it, after which he fancifully imagined a bunch of conversations between current ballplayers and Mays, in which he presumed that Mays would disapprove of guys not coming to Phoenix.  Mays was not interviewed for the story and there was no effort by the WSJ writer to claim he had been. Just sloppiness by Buck and/or his production team as they looked for material to paint current ballplayers as lazy and entitled.

In Buck’s defense, he does work for a Rupert Murdoch property, and as we’ve seen in the news this week, Murdoch people are privy to non-public conversations all the time. So, yes, perhaps Mays did say the line about jury duty. Just that he said it on his cell phone to his brother-in-law or something.

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.