I needed a day to settle down before I could write about the Yankees loss to the Red Sox on Tuesday night. I watched the game, one of the few that I’ve watched this season, and I went into it excited about the possibilities of the Yankees going all the way. They had a great finish to their final game of the season to make it to the wild card game. But within the first few minutes of Tuesday’s game, I had a strong hunch they weren’t going to win. None of the Yankee players, even the stars, had that hungry, driven look in their eyes. It showed in the game. Just two examples:
Down 2-0, Stanton hit a wicked shot off the Green Monster. He trotted down the first base line, watching the ball go, probably thinking it was a home run. It went off the wall, however, and what could easily have been a standup double ended up a single. Later, with Aaron Judge on first, Stanton hit another smash off the wall, that was played perfectly. Judge went from first to home, and was thrown out. It really Judge’s fault. He was waved home, and should have been held at third.
Whatever happened to running out every hit? Whatever happened to playing smart baseball? With one out and down by two, why risk a play at the plate when you could have had one out and two runners in scoring position? I was frustrated by the end of the game, which was usually short for a Yankees/Red Sox post season match-up. It took me a while before I finally settled down and fell asleep.
Baseball has changed a lot over the course of my life. The longest, most fun I ever had watching the game on TV was during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Since then, I’ve lost track of a lot of the players, and it is hard to keep up. About the only thing I’ve really kept up with are the changing measures of the game. Batting average is no longer a good measure of a hitter; it’s been supplanted by the superior OPS+. WAR and Runs Created allow for comparisons across eras of the game. WHIP tells you a lot more about a pitcher than ERA. Still, I had that little thrill in my gut that I always get at the outset of a game. And despite the Yankees loss, and the end to their season, I am looking forward to next season, and will try to pay more attention, and learn the newer players.
As I write this, the Dodgers are set to play the Cardinals for the National League wildcard. I’m not much of a fan of the wildcard concept. Baseball is a game of series. The entire season is made up of 3 or 4 game series; and the postseason is also series: best 3 out of 5, best 4 out of 7. But this relatively new wildcard playoff game is a sudden death, do-or-die thing. Not at all what baseball is about. In any case, if I can’t root for the Yankees anymore this season, then I’ll turn my attention to the Dodgers. It boggles my mind that a team that won 106 games in the regular season is a wildcard team. St. Louis, the other wildcard team had 90 wins by comparison. San Francisco, the team that won the NL West, had 107 wins, only one more than the Dodgers.
If I had my way, I’d get rid of the wildcard entirely. I’d also get rid of the designated hitter rule. And I’d play more day games. And I’d scout for announcers and color commentators who could talk about more than just stats; someone like Vin Scully, who really brought color to the games with his commentary. Of course, the game evolves. At least I can take comfort in the past, and the rich history of the game. At the moment, I’m having a blast reading Joe Posnanski’s The Baseball 100. It makes me want to be a baseball player, and sportswriter at the same time.
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