Bill Simmons just printed and heartily endorsed an email
I'm not totally on board with. Take a look:Anyway, out of all the Yankee fans I heard from, the most rational argument came from Jonathan T., who sent along the following post-mortem:
"In 1996-2000, it wasn't just that they had great chemistry (which they did), they didn't have nearly as much offensive talent so they were forced to play true October baseball. The current Yankee lineup isn't built for the postseason. You just can't rely on three-run homers with the great pitching in the playoffs, while you can in much of the regular season (especially playing Tampa and Baltimore 38 times). With a great set of contact hitters and speed guys --Damon, Jeter, Abreu, Melky, Cano -- this team should be hit-and-running, stealing at every opportunity, taking extra bases, bunting, etc. However, with power hitters like Sheffield and A-Rod clogging up the end of the lineup (such as Game 4, when A-Rod hit eighth), they can't. There is actually TOO MUCH talent. Are you honestly going to bunt with runners on first and second and no one out with the 25-million-dollar man up? Of course not. But if former eighth-place-hitter Scott Brosius is up, it's a no-brainer. So it's not just their lack of chemistry but the fact that playoff teams thrive off role players. Even if you take a loaded team like the Mets, they still have guys like Endy Chavez, Jose Valentin and Paul Lo Duca. Baseball front offices, regardless of the payroll, should build their teams like baseball teams, not fantasy baseball teams."
(Note: The Yankees are NOT allowed to hire Jonathan T. as their VP of Common Sense. I'm never handing over his e-mail address. Ever.)
Huh. So Jonathan, your argument is that the Yankees had too much
offensive talent. Really.
I'll be charitable and throw out the obvious FJM-bait of "great chemistry" and "true October baseball." Let's examine what's really being put forth here. Jonathan is saying that postseason baseball is qualitatively different from regular season baseball. I'm listening. Why is it different? The only answer Jonathan gives is "great pitching." Okay. I'll accept that the pitching is probably, on average, better in the postseason than in the regular season (today's NLCS Game 7 notwithstanding). So far, so good. Now it gets tricky, though. It's Jonathan's claim that because the pitching is better, it is incumbent on all successful playoff teams to do the following: "hit-and-running, stealing at every opportunity, taking extra bases, bunting, etc." The "etc." stands for Ecksteining. Actually, everything in between the quotation marks stands for Ecksteining.
I'm not buying it. Is there any evidence that shows that the benefits of these strategies are increased against better pitching? That we should replace Alex Rodriguezes and Gary Sheffields with bunting Endy Chavezes and sacrificing Jose Valentins? Think about it. Seriously. If you play these games a hundred times, in what crazy nightmare simulacrum are you voluntarily going to war with Endy and Jose over Alex and Gary?
Basically: do you want shittier
hitters because you're facing better pitchers? Because that's what Jonathan is saying.
And let's move from the general to the specific. Did the Yankees lose to the Tigers because dozens of men were left on base, just begging to be sacrificed over? Nope. It was much simpler: they weren't on base enough to begin with. In Game 3
, they were held to five hits and two walks the whole game. To win the game in nine innings, they would've had to have gotten every single one of those guys in via the hit-and-run-and-steal-and-bunt method somehow. Game 4
was even worse. Nine innings: six hits, one walk. That's it. Not to mention the fact that by the time the Yankees got on base for the first time, they were already down 7-0. Remember Jeremy Bonderman's five perfect innings to start the game? Remember that, Jonathan? Game 2 was the only game the Yankees lost while getting a decent number of men on base. They lost that one 4-3. But you know why they were so close in that one? A goddamn three-run homer. No wonder they lost -- can't have those in the playoffs.
The Yankees' "greatest lineup in history" wasn't actually the greatest lineup in history for those four games because Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui were still coming back from injuries and Jason Giambi was pretty messed up, too. Joe Torre decided that those guys at 50 or 75% were still better than 100% mediocre Melky Cabrera or 100% terrible Andy Phillips. I think that's a perfectly defensible position. On top of that, for two games, Kenny Rogers and Jeremy Bonderman were lights out. Even those awesome hitters weren't getting on base against them.So it's not just their lack of chemistry but the fact that playoff teams thrive off role players.
That's right: in the playoffs, role players are more important than good players. That's just good ol' common sense.Even if you take a loaded team like the Mets, they still have guys like Endy Chavez, Jose Valentin and Paul Lo Duca.
How are Endy Chavez, Jose Valentin and Paul Lo Duca that different from Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada? Also, fuck you for suggesting that any of those guys are better than Gary Sheffield or Alex Rodriguez (or, I'm sorry -- more useful in the playoffs against great pitching because teams thrive off of role players in the postseason, like everybody knows). I mean, seriously. I've been civil for like nine hundred words. But that is just fucking ridiculous.
P.S. "Clogging up the end of the lineup"??? You win a goddamn Dusty Baker Award. Wear it with pride, my friend.
P.P.S. Let us never forget that Bill Simmons says this is the "most rational" argument he has heard and suggests that Jonathan would make an excellent "VP of Common Sense" for a baseball team. Never forget.
Labels: bill simmons