Oct 06

Talkin’ Baseball: Tigers at Twins (AL playoff)

The finality of these one-game playoffs breeds the tension and excitement. On the surface, the Twins carry all the momentum and the Tigers are reeling. It’s the second straight year in which the Twins needed a playoff, with last year saw them losing 1-0 at Chicago.

Twins roll into playoffs.

Twins roll into playoffs.

Few could see this happening a month ago when the Twins trailed Detroit by seven games. A week later, they lost All-Star Justin Morneau to a season-ending back injury and most thought their chances were cooked. And, just last week, they were three down with four to play.

While the Tigers went 11-15 down the stretch, the Twins won 16 of 20 and four straight to force the extra game. They are kind of like the roll the Colorado Rockies were on in 2007. The winner of today’s game gets the Yankees, who had the option of having until after today’s game to decide whether to open the ALDS Wednesday or Thursday.

Tigers stagger into playoffs.

Tigers stagger into playoffs.


Gamesmanship all the way, they chose tomorrow, giving today’s winner no chance to catch its breath.

“Everybody wrote off the Twins, it seems like, a long time ago, especially when Morneau went down,” said Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon. “A team needs to keep fighting and they’ve been one of those special teams for a long time. It seems like they don’t give up. That’s the great thing about baseball. You never know.”

The one thing we do know about today’s game is it will be loud.

My plan is to blog as much of the postseason as I can, and that begins today. I don’t have a favorite in this game. The consensus seems to be Detroit has a better chance to unseat the Yankees than Minnesota.

Oct 02

This Day in Baseball History …. Bucky Clears the Wall.

Yanks beat Sox in playoff game.

Yanks beat Sox in playoff game.

I knew exactly where I was on this day in 1978. I cut classes that day and was in my college apartment where I watched the Yankees complete their overtaking of the Boston Red Sox when Bucky Dent cleared the Green Monster in a one-game playoff at Fenway Park.

What a lot of people forget, is the Yankees not only erased a 14-game deficit, but actually moved ahead of Boston and it was the Red Sox who needed to come back to force the playoff. That only happened on the last day of the season when Cleveland’s Rick Waits beat New York at Yankee Stadium.

Dent’s homer came off Mike Torrez and Ron Guidry won his 25th game of the season. The game ends when Goose Gossage gets Carl Yastrzemski to pop out to third with two on.

Does anybody remember watching that game and what they were feeling that day?

Sep 18

About that vote of confidence ….

Supposedly, manager Jerry Manuel has been given a vote of confidence by management/ownership, but is that melting away?

For the longest time I thought Manuel would get a pass on this season because of the injuries that crippled this roster. I still think it might play out that way, but now I’m wondering if that’s the best way to go.

MANUEL: Is the inspiration there?

MANUEL: Is the inspiration there?


The Mets have responded with only four victories in September, which for the third straight season, has become a lost month. And, if you look back on it, September 2006 wasn’t so red hot, either.

Injuries are part of the game which must be overcome, but sometimes they understandably can’t be because no team – not even the Yankees – have the depth to withstand what happened to the Mets this season. However, is that any excuse for such shoddy play?

For all the talk of how the Mets were going to be a fundamentally sound team this season, and for all the work done in spring training, this team is horrible in that area. For example:

1) The baserunning has been terrible (21 nailed at the plate).
2) Too many at-bats are wasted.
3) The situational hitting is often not there, and their high average with RISP is a misnomer because they aren’t scoring the runs.
4) Defensively, too often the outfielders overthrow the cutoff man.
5) Way too many errors for a team that doesn’t have the power to overcome them.
6) The staff has walked well over 500 opposing batters and might push 600 for the season.

All that is a reflection on the manager and coaching staff. In addition, the team has no life right now, and their record is not an excuse for the lack of spark. Conversely, the lack of spark is a contributor to the record.

All this comes back to Manuel and the staff. If the Mets were playing smart, aggressive baseball, this wouldn’t even be an issue. Injuries are beyond a manager’s control, but the attitude and fundamental base of the team isn’t.

Sep 10

Doc back in baseball

There was a time when the nickname said it all. When you said “Doc,” everybody knew exactly who you were talking about. Dwight Gooden and the “K” corner was the best there was for several magical seasons at Shea Stadium.

Drugs took it all away, but he saved enough magic for one more night: A no-hitter while with the Yankees in 2006. The Mets’ franchise has never thrown one.

GOODEN: There was a time when he was special.

GOODEN: There was a time when he was special.

After bouncing around the Yankees and Mets in goodwill fashion the past few years, Gooden will now serve as a senior vice president of the Newark Bears, an Atlantic League franchise. Gooden will be the Bears’ community ambassador and work with youth baseball camps and leagues.

 

It is hoped Gooden’s story will sink in with more than a few kids.

I saw Gooden pitch several times and the feeling was always electric. The fastball sizzled and the curve fell off the table and there was always the feeling of utter domination.

Now is a good time to share some Doc moments.

Aug 26

My brush with greatness ….

The year was 1998, the season of the great home run race and when the Yankees steamrolled through Major League Baseball. It was also the year Cal Ripken’s streak came to an end.

KENNEDY: My brush with greatness.

KENNEDY: My brush with greatness.


That was also my first year on the Yankees beat and I’ll always remember a flight I took from Boston to Washington. I was sitting in the exit row by a window reading a magazine when this man plopped down in the aisle seat. I recognized him immediately, and a few minutes later he extended his hand and said, “I’m Ted Kennedy.”

I said, “I know,” and introduced myself. A few minutes later, I told him, “in all fairness, I should tell you I’m a newspaper reporter.” I didn’t think it would be right for him to be ambushed the next day in the papers by something he might have said or done.

He appreciated the gesture and we began to chat. When I told him I covered baseball, he responded with stories of how his father, Joseph, took him and his brothers to games in Fenway Park. He then spoke of the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run race and Ripken.

I told him I once wrote a term paper my freshman year in college about him. I was a big liberal at the time.

Not once did we talk of politics or social issues. I figured he gets that all the time. I did want to tell him how touched I was about the eulogy he gave for his brother, Robert, but wasn’t sure if it would strike a sad nerve. I always wonder what he might have said had I brought it up.

It was a pleasant conversation. After awhile, he started reading some files and I returned to my magazine. We started talking again before the end of the flight, and when we landed we shook hands and went our separate ways.

I was surprised nobody bothered him during the flight and nobody approached him at the gate when we left the plane. A few days later, I sent him a note telling him how I enjoyed our conversation.

I told my editor of the meeting, and his response was a curt, “What in the hell were you doing in first class?”