An in-his-prime Cy Young Award winning pitcher was making the start in Game One of the World Series on the hill at Yankee Stadium (one of the few stadiums left that does not receive money for naming rights). He completely dominates the Bronx Bombers power laden lineup, and out dueled the Yankees ace left handed pitcher.
Having won the prior years World Series, his team was seeking to become the first National League team since the Big Red Machine in 1975-76 to repeat as a World Series Champions. The Yankees meanwhile, had not been to the Series in years and were looking to continue their comeback kid way of the prior playoff series.
However, on this Game One night only the Yankee shortstop and lead off hitter, Derek Jeter, crossed the plate, while a former Boston Red Sox hitter batting second for the Yankees had one of the few hits allowed by this veteran stud pitcher.
A young slugger for this pitcher's team hit two home runs, one a mammoth shot whose sound of bat meeting ball reverberated throughout the stadium, that is until the entire stadium went quiet. After the second home run in as many at bats, the way this starter was pitching, it was apparent to Yankee fans knew the game was likely out reach.
Even this Yankee fan predicted that the Yankees would win Game One.
And on this night, the Yankee bullpen put gasoline on the fire, doing their part to allow that loss to materialize.
This pitcher had the Yankees waving at pitches all night, continuing his utter dominance in the post season. Up to this game, the pitcher started Game One in both prior series, was undefeated with a ridiculously low ERA and WHIP, handily defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers along the way.
His great start and solid offense from his teams lineup gave the Yankees thoughts that the Series might not go as they expected. They knew that even if they won the next couple games, they would have to face this ace once again.
After Game One, a Yankee hitter lamented that the next time his team "might have to beat that guy 1-0 or 2-1 the next time they face him."
Could the Yankees beat this guy the second time around, likely going head to head again with that lefty Yankee ace on the hill?
Of course they can...and they already did! And that pitching rematch was one of the classic duels in World Series history, and the Yankees went on to win the World Series title.
Cliff Lee and 2009? Hardly.
We are talking about John Smoltz and 1996. He tore through the playoffs that season, and beat the Yankees in Game One , with Andruw Jones smacking the ball over the fence twice. Smoltz and Andy Pettitte both came back again in Game Five with masterful performances, only to see the Yankees win that duel 1-0.
And that was AFTER the Yankees lost Game Two at home to a magician on the mound named Greg Maddux, similar to a magician the Yankees face tonight in Pedro Martinez.
So, all those prognosticators who think this 2009 Series has already taken a bad turn for the Yankees because of Lee's dominance should look back at 1996. There was nobody better than Smoltz that season, and the Yankees beat him 1-0 the second time around.
Anytime a ball is hit in the air within the infield, it is the runners job to get back to the bag. If the ball drops, it is the batter's job to hustle down the first base line to beat a throw. Do your job and don't worry about the other guy.
No matter what happened to that mini-pop up hit by Robinson Cano last night, Hideki Matsui should have been on first base immediately after the ball was hit. He never would have been safe on second anyway! Cano hustled down the line and thought he beat the relay throw, but he was actually out on the catch. Matsui needed to be back to the bag (and not on the infield grass!).
And where was the first base coach during all of this? Why was he not yelling to Matsui to come back to first? Stupid play all around and it goes to show that some ballplayers live on talent, and not on brains.
Many times last night the Yankee hitters were consumed with home plate umpires Gerry Davis strike zone. Most of the times the strike zone was too tight as Cliff Lee, Phil Hughes and David Robertson were all severely pinched, but Cano and Melky Cabrera showed displeasure when strike calls were made.
Showing disgust toward the ump will get you no sympathy as the umps usually have long memories. As a hitter you will not get many calls your way after complaining.
Disgust on the field also takes the hitter out of his approach at the plate. While now a hitter is thinking about the SOB calling balls and strikes, the hitter should be concentrating on the pitcher and the count.
Don't ever let the umpire dictate how you approach the at bat. If the zone is bigger than you thought, don't swing at bad pitches early, but expand the zone with two strikes.
But players need to feel out the umpire and adjust accordingly. I would much rather see hitters voice displeasure than pitchers get squeezed. A bigger zone puts more balls in play. When I first began umpiring (now doing high school and college level baseball), I was told to start out thinking every pitch will be a strike, then after the ball is thrown find a good reason why it should not be.
WORKING THE COUNT - TAKING TOO MANY PITCHES
Rogers Horsnby was the greatest right handed hitter ever . His 1921-1925 seasons were absolutely sick. His first mantra was to GET A GOOD PITCH TO HIT. Ted Williams stuck to this mantra his entire career.
But now the game has changed to taking good pitches to hit. That is a bad move.
The Yankee hitters were taking too many fastballs down the middle early in the game. Do the Yankees really think they are going to pitch count Lee out of the game? This working the count is the biggest crock in baseball, especially the World Series game one. If the game was tight near the end, Charlie Manuel was NEVER going to pull Lee out of the game. He learned that lesson in the NLCS when he pulled Pedro too early and lost Game Two in Los Angeles.
The way to get Lee out of a game like that is to knock him around by spraying balls all round the field. And you do that by going after good pitches to hit early in the count.
You hear the announcers all the time saying, "So and so should be able to go another inning because he has a good pitch count." Go another inning?
How about demanding to you manager that you will go nine innings and then shove the ball down the oppositions throat. Intimidate the other lineup by letting your ace dominate. Tell the other team, you can't beat me and I won't let you ease your minds by allowing the bullpen to come in this game. Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa made that mistake in the NLDS by removing Adam Wainwright after eight brilliant innings against the Dodgers.
There was almost another umpire mistake on the Cano infield pop up, but the correct call was eventually made. But the real problem is not the lack of umpire knowledge, but that umpires do not like to break that cardinal rule of overruling another umpire, especially a veteran guy.
After the second base umpire called Cano out on Jimmy Rollins' catch he should have called Matsui out also when he saw Ryan Howard tag out Hideki. He should have rules on the out at first immediately EVEN IF IT IS NOT HIS CALL. he is the only one who clearly saw the catch made, so he should have the say on the first base call, too.
It appears these umps are too timid to make an immediate call, and replay on everything will only make that worse. Umpires should run the game and not worry about feelings or god forbid, worry about the media.
And in the next TV contract negotiations, Major League baseball should tell the networks that the strike zone F/x garbage shown on every pitch should be outlawed. It leads to too many psuedo-baseball fans complaining about every pitch.
I have read many pieces today that all the pressure is on AJ Burnett to live up to that $80 million contract and pitch the Yankees to victory.
Fans at the game should just let the guy pitch tonight without putting more pressure on him. He gets out of whack quickly and fans jumping down his throat will only aggravate the situation.
That is such garbage. Sports contracts are like investments and those disclaimers at the bottom of the prospectus or spoken really fast at the end of a commercial. These disclaimers say that "past performance is not indicative of future results."
Burnett was paid that money based upon what he did last season, pure and simple. It does not indicate how he will pitch in "big spots" or "pressure games."
Big contract's don’t force players to play better. If that was the case, would giving CC Sabathia another $100 million last winter forced him to pitch better last night?
SO, before Yankee fans boo every ball out of the strike zone thrown by AJ and boo every out Alex Rodriguez makes, just remember that these guys will be here many more years and as a fan, you are not making it any better or easier.
Let these guys play and leave them alone.
Yankees win tonight 7-3 as Pedro gets knocked around.