The last two games strike me as evidence that the chickens that have been bedeviling the Yankees all season have finally come home to roost: the advanced age of the starting rotation; the ineffectiveness of the bullpen—if Jose Contreras gets the Marlins’ pitcher Brad Penny out in the second inning, the Yankees probably win the game; and the baffling inconsistency of so many of the hitters.
The Contreras implosion in the second was really strange. Two out, nobody on, facing the end of the Florida batting order, and suddenly he can’t control his pitches. ESPN’s Jeff Brantley suggested that the humidity had gotten to Contreras, and that he couldn’t grip the ball properly. The humidity? Contreras spent most of his life in Cuba. I find it hard to believe he’s never thrown in swampy conditions before.
As for Wells, everything his critics say is true. Bobby Valentine tore him a new one after the game—”He’s fat, out of shape, and 40, so this is no surprise.” I agree with Valentine on all three, but all of that was well known long before he took the mound. Really, in retrospect, the Yankees ought to be happy that they got as much out of Wells this year as they did.
That said, there really isn’t any mystery as to why this Series is going to a sixth game. The real problem for the Yankees is that Soriano, Giambi, Boone, and Posada have had a miserable World Series. Even the home runs by Boone and Giambi—and for that matter, Bernie Williams’ three-run homer in Game 3—didn’t have any real bearing on the outcome of the games. I have no idea what explains this kind of bad hitting, but the Yankees have had stretches of it all season long, pouring on runs in meaningless games and then having to scratch through nail-biters time and again because the hitters couldn’t make solid contact with the ball in key situations. If Aaron Boone had just hit a medium fly ball with bases loaded in Game 4, the Yankees are up three games to two right now.
Having given the Marlins a solid shot from the beginning, let me suggest that this isn’t over yet. Josh Beckett, as I noted when we began this exchange, could be on the verge of superstardom, but he’s not Sandy Koufax yet. Awesome as he looked on Tuesday night, he didn’t win, and let’s remember that he was just 9-8 during the regular season, and that Saturday he will not only be pitching on three days’ rest but coming off a game in which he had to throw an additional couple of innings after a 40-minute rain delay. I’m a big fan of McKeon—who comes from right down the road from me, by the way, in South Amboy, N.J.—but if the Marlins don’t win this series, Loria may ask him to give the keys back.
The situations with McKeon and Grady Little in Boston are a perfect illustration of how postseason-oriented baseball has become. It used to be that if a manager was perceived as having a good job over the course of the season, he would automatically be rewarded with a contract extension. Now it’s become a case of “What have you done yesterday?” Or, in McKeon’s case, “What will you do tomorrow?”
I couldn’t agree with you more about Loria. He is in the wrong sport. He ought to own a team in the NFL, where owners have a built-in economic system that practically demands the dismantling of a champion at the end of the season.