Game 158: Yankees 6, Blue Jays 1

The Yankees have missed strong starting pitching lately, but CC Sabathia put some fears to rest by dominating the Blue Jays’ lineup into the ninth inning.  New York used some small ball to pick up some early runs as Sabathia proved too much for Toronto.  At the end of the night, the Yankees had a 6-1 victory, but more importantly they had punched their ticket to the playoffs.

Derek Jeter got the game started for New York with a single to center.  Mark Teixeira singled to right, moving Jeter to third.  Alex Rodriguez drove a sac fly to right, bringing Jeter home for the first run of the game.

Jeter walked to start the third and moved to second on a wild pitch.  Nick Swisher moved Jeter on a sac bunt and Teixeira drove a sac fly to center as Jeter crossed the plate again, giving the Yankees a 2-0 lead. Travis Snider got Toronto on the board with a solo homer in the bottom of the third, but the Blue Jays were unable to do much else against the Yankees’ ace.

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Blame Thrown in Wrong Direction in Tampa

By now, I imagine you’ve heard about the controversy in Tampa. Trying to clinch a spot in the playoffs, David Price tweeted that it was embarrassing that only 12,000 fans showed up to watch, and Evan Longoria reiterated the same feeling later, though Price had apologized by that time. The media exploded, arguing about who should receive the blame—Price or the fans. Was Price being insensitive to the economic plight of the fans? Were the fans demonstrating how impassionate they actually are for their hometown team? And did Price need to apologize for his tweet? Wow, that’s a lot of stuff to cover, so let’s get to it.

Was Price being insensitive to the economic plight of the fans? Partially. It’s not news that the country is not doing so well economically, and Price, a multi-million dollar athlete, is fairly isolated from the middle-class fan. His comment wasn’t exactly PR-worthy, but I don’t know that it was blame-worthy. First of all, he’s a competitive athlete on a great team that is trying to knock off the vaunted Yankees, and while the game was against the Orioles, the moment should have overshadowed the match-up. You can’t really blame him for wanting more fans, as it seemed to make a huge difference (I said “seemed”) in the 2008 playoffs with all the cowbells. He wants that again. Second, the economy is doing better, and while Florida has been hit harder by the recession, no one has ever really shown up in Tampa anyway, though they showed up in September 2008 for Boston and New York (before the recession). This is just frustration, and with the season they’re having and how fans normally react to winning, you would expect different results. It’s not, and he’s frustrated. I don’t blame him.

But can you blame the fans? I’ll say partially again (don’t you hate it when people sit the fence? Just stay with me, but it sucks when both sides have an argument, doesn’t it?). The economy does suck, and it has hit Florida awfully hard. And while the Rays are trying to clinch a spot in the playoffs, it’s not exactly like their place in the playoffs is in jeopardy. Add in the Orioles, and there’s really not a great reason to show up, though Brian Matusz continues to be the best AL rookie no one wants to acknowledge. It’s hard to pay money for something that seems a bit meaningless, especially considering the “real-life” circumstances. Still, you have to wonder about the passion of the city for the team. There’s obviously a fan base there (and let me state that I don’t question the integrity of the fan base. I don’t question your fandom), but you have to wonder how big it is. Does the city care about the team? Teams often say they won the championship for the city, and you kind of get the feeling that the team is just trying to win for themselves and about 15-20,000 other people because everyone else couldn’t care less. But I don’t really blame the city. It’s hard to blame you for not spending money you don’t really have, and I can’t even blame you for not getting attached to a team that’s largely been a travesty since its inception.

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Playoffs!

And just like that, our long national nightmare is (kind of) over as, with a win in Toronto tonight, the New York Yankees have clinched a spot in the 2010 American League playoffs. The Rays won too, (as did the Reds in the NL) so the Yankees remain a half a game back in the A.L. East standings, effectively 1.5 games back considering the Rays would own the tiebreaker, so in all likelihood the Yankees will win the Wild Card and open the playoffs on the road with the Minnesota Twins next Wednesday.

Incredibly, in order to win the championship this year the Yankees may very well have to go through the Twins, the Rays, and the Philadelphia Phillies. Those are 3 very good teams, and every one of those series could be absolute epics. The next month may prove to be a very fun one in terms of watching baseball games. It’s sure to be very stressful anyway. But for now, enjoy the champagne! Continue reading Playoffs!

Overstating the Importance of a 4th Starter

Since AJ Burnett’s awful performance in last night’s game against the Blue Jays, the pundits have ramped up the “Yankees have no pitching” storyline. Of course, these articles tend to ignore the similar lack of depth in all of the AL contenders’ rotations, and make it seem like the Yankees have major pitching issues. As I showed yesterday, this is simply not the case. More on point, it seems that many writers and fans are overstating the importance of the 4th starter in the postseason. [image title=”Screen shot 2010-09-28 at 4.13.18 PM” size=”full” id=”21719″ align=”center” linkto=”full” ] [image title=”Screen shot Continue reading Overstating the Importance of a 4th Starter

Starting CC Tonight A Mistake

With 5 games left in the season and a 5.5 game lead over the Red Sox in the Wild Card race (Sox have 6 remaining), the Yankees have a playoff spot all but locked up. The Red Sox have a less than 1% chance of making the postseason, as they would need to win all of their remaining games while the Rays or Yankees would have to lose all of theirs for the Sox to earn a spot in a 1 game playoff. While the 3 game set with the Yankees this weekend might make it seem like Boston has Continue reading Starting CC Tonight A Mistake

Rays' Attendance Issue More Complicated Than It Seems

After last night’s 4-0 loss to the Orioles in which the Rays blew a chance to clinch a playoff spot, Evan Longoria and David Price lashed out at the Rays fanbase. Talking about a sparse crowd of 12,446 for a potential clincher, Price called the situation embarrassing while Longoria referred to it as disheartening. This set off a Twitter war in which many criticized the pair for ripping into a fanbase mired in the throes of an awful recession while others applauded them for noting an obvious problem. Yankees fans, at least the ones that I interacted, tended to be Continue reading Rays' Attendance Issue More Complicated Than It Seems

American League Postseason Preview: Baserunning and Situational Hitting

Last week we took a look at how the AL playoff field’s offenses, starting pitchers and bullpens stacked up, and today we’ll take a quick look at how these teams do when they have runners on base. I’d been wanting to do an analysis like this for a while, but wasn’t quite sure which numbers to use as I’ve been primarily leaning on Fangraphs for a lot of my analytical reasoning this season, and as wonderful as the site is, they haven’t delved into situational hitting and baserunning all that deeply yet, although I’m sure they will soon enough. However, Continue reading American League Postseason Preview: Baserunning and Situational Hitting

Tampa Bay Plans A Step Backwards (More On Why Revenue Sharing Is Dead)

Over the last month, we’ve focused here (and here, and here) on the future of baseball’s system of revenue sharing. The revenue sharing system moves about $450 million annually from baseball’s high-revenue teams like the Yankees and Red Sox to low-revenue teams like the Marlins and Pirates. The idea behind the system is to help low-revenue teams compete on the field. But as we’ve learned from confidential financial statements revealed by deadspin.com, some of the “poor” teams have instead used these payments to increase profits, rather than invest these payments to improve their ballclubs.

In our last installment of this series, we focused on the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that some think has used revenue sharing in the right way. No doubt, the current version of the Rays is a terrific baseball team. However, as I argued here in detail, the Rays’ need for revenue sharing is greatest right now: their current payroll cost is rising, and their local revenues cannot keep pace. But perversely, now that the Rays are achieving the kind of success that revenue sharing (supposedly) was designed to foster, the Rays receive less in revenue sharing than perpetual losers like the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Based on the data revealed by deadspin.com, I stated previously that the Rays probably lost money in 2009, and that they’ll probably lose even more money in 2010. I questioned previously how much longer the Rays could hold the current team together.

Now we have confirmation from Rays’ owner Stuart Sternberg: the Rays are going to cut payroll. The Rays’ current payroll? $72 million. The Rays’ projected 2011 payroll? $50 million. That’s a 31% cut.

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