Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Land Of Hope And Dreams

For the thirteenth time in the last twenty two nights, there will be no Yankee baseball this evening. Right now the weather looks like it should cooperate tomorrow, when the Yankees are scheduled to play their first World Series game in six years and three days.

There was no major news coming out of the Yankees workout this afternoon. Their rotation is unannounced beyond Game Three. Chad Gaudin was slated to throw a 70 to 80 pitch bullpen session this afternoon in an effort to get him stretched out for a potential start. It likely would also leave him unavailable for Games One and Two, but given that he was used for just a single inning of mop up work in the Yanks' first nine post-season tilts that shouldn't be a big loss for them.

The Yankees have yet to announce any roster changes, but with Games Three, Four, and Five (if necessary) happening in Citizens Bank Park, it's a sure bet that Eric Hinske will be added back to the roster for pinch hitting purposes. Freddy Guzman, who replaced Hinske on the ALCS roster, would be the likely man to go. However, Joe Girardi has shown an affinity for using pinch runners this October. I wouldn't rule out the Yankees instead choosing to drop Francisco Cervelli. If the Yanks do go with a three man rotation, A.J. Burnett would start Game Five in Philly. I doubt the Yankees would want to lose Posada's bat in that game since they're already missing the DH, so the third catcher on the roster would lose a lot of his already limited usefulness. Lots of factors to consider here; and in some ways the eventual Hinske announcement may give insight to the Yankees' pitching plans for the Series.

In other news, earlier this week the story broke that the Yankees met with Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman during Game Six of the ALCS. While it's no surprise that the Yankees met with him, I am a little surprised about the manner in which it happened. Inviting Chapman to attend Game Six was likely a negotiation ploy by the Yankees, as it was reported just last Friday that a meeting with Chapman would have to wait until the ALCS wrapped. Perhaps the Chapman meeting explains Brian Cashman's conspicuous absence from the clubhouse celebration Sunday night.

Earlier today we took a look back at the only previous New York-Philadelphia World Series, but of course these 2009 teams met earlier this year. To refresh your memory here are the three previews from that series in May, and here are the three recaps. The Phils took two of three, and their fans took over the Stadium. Let's hope things are different this time around.

I watched the final game of that series from a bar on the Jersey shore, where the crowd was seemingly equally divided between Yankees and Phillies fans. Appropriately enough, our friend Rob Iracane over at Walkoff Walk sees this Series as the Garden State's own version of North and South, just without Patrick Swayze before he was dead, Kirstie Allie before she was fat, and David Carradine before he hung himself while beating it.

Deadspin took a look at a similar Jersey-centric North vs. South issue just last week. Thankfully, Phillies' South Jersey area was represented by the laughable hair band, while the Yankees' North Jersey territory was aligned with the classic Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. Just like in the World Series, I'll take my chances with the North Jersey side in that match up every time. Just 24 hours and four wins away from the Land of Hope and Dreams. See you in the morning Fackers.

1950 World Series: Games Three & Four

Game Three

Ahead two games to none, the Yankees returned to the Bronx. Game Three was Friday afternoon; no major TV contract and the short distance between our nation's first and second Capitol cities meant that no off day was necessary between Games Two and Three.

Philly made the interesting choice to turn to Ken Heintzelman. Eight days shy of his 35th birthday, Heintzelman had appeared in only 23 games in 1950, just 17 of them starts. He went 3-9 and is his 4.09 ERA was a just a tick below league average. He had gone 17-10 with a 3.02 ERA and a league leading 5 shutouts in 1949, but it was the only season of his career that he was remotely above average. But, Heintzelman, like Joe Saunders, was a lefty. And even more than it does today, Yankee Stadium in 1950 favored left handed pitchers.

The Yankees countered with a lefty of their own, Ed Lopat, the final member of the Big Three in their starting rotation. Like Reynolds, Lopat came to the Yankees via trade, in a deal with the White Sox prior to the 1948 season. Lopat went 18-8 for the Yankees in 1950 with a 124 ERA+ and a 1.31 WHIP, good for third best in the AL. He picked up a win in his only start of the '49 Series, but gave up 4 ER in 5.2 IP. He would turn in a better performance without the benefit of such a positive personal outcome in 1950.

The Yankees used a two out rally to take a one run lead in the third inning. Phil Rizzuto worked a walk, stole second, and moved to third on an errant throw. With a southpaw on the mound, platoon master Stengel had benched the lefty swinging Gene Woodling, so the hot bat of Jerry Coleman had been moved up to second from eighth in the batting order. Coleman rewarded Stengel by singling Rizzuto home for the game's first run.

The Phillies tied the score in the sixth with a two out rally of their own. Lopat fanned the inning's first two batters, then allowed a double to Del Ennis, who was singled home by Dick Sisler. They took the lead the following inning. Granny Hamner led of with a base hit and was sacrificed to second. Mike Goliat, who grounded into a double play when he had a chance to win Game Two, drove Hamner home to give the Phils their first lead of the Series.

Heintzelman retired the first two batters of the eighth, including Woodling, who pinch hit for Lopat. Then, Heintzelman unraveled, walking Coleman, Yogi Berra, and Joe DiMaggio in consecutive plate appearances. Despite having his number two, three, and four starters available, Philadelphia manager Eddie Sawyer called upon his relief ace, Jim Konstanty, who had thrown eight innings in Game One just two days earlier. Konstanty got Bobby Brown to bounce to short, but an error by Hamner allowed Coleman to score the tying run. Konstanty managed to strand the three baserunners after that, but the damage was done.

In the ninth, Stengel turned to Tom Ferrick, another interesting pitching choice. Ferrick, like Heintzelman, was a bit of a journeyman, though one with a better track record. He came to the Yankees from the Browns in a mid-season deal and went 8-4 with 9 saves and a 3.65 ERA in 56.2 innings of relief work. In tapping Ferrick, Stengel passed over former relief ace Joe Page, who like Brad Lidge had a miserable season, and number four starter Tommy Byrne.

Ferrick gave up a leadoff double to Hamner, who was then moved to third on Philadelphia's fourth sacrifice of the game. Ferrick then intentionally walked Goliat to set up a potential double play. Dick Whitman pinch hit for Konstanty and grounded to first. Joe Collins, who replaced Johnny Mize for defense at the start of the inning, came home and got Hamner for the second out. Ferrick then recorded a flyout to end the inning and escape the jam.

In the bottom of the inning, the Yankees made two quick outs before Woodling and Rizzuto struck back-to-back infield singles up the middle. That brought Coleman to the plate, and he came through once again, singling Woodling home with the winning run. He didn't get a pie in the face, but he did the give the Yankees a commanding three games to none lead despite having outscored Philly by just three runs over the course of the three games.

Konstany took the loss for Philadelphia. The Yankees picked him up off waivers late in 1954 and he spent parts of three seasons with them. Ferrick got the win for the Yankees. They traded him away to the Senators the next season, one year to the day after they acquired him. In return they received Bob Kuzava, who would come up big for the Yanks in the 1951 and '52 World Series. Ferrick's son, Tom Jr, just a year old during his father's Game Three win, would go on to be a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Game Four

In Game Four, Philly turned to one of their Whiz Kids, 24 year old Bob Miller. The rookie went 11-6 with a 114 ERA+ and two shutouts on his way to a second place finish in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.

The Yankees turned to a whiz kid of their own. Without the benefit of an off day at any point, Stengel couldn't go back to Game One starter Vic Raschi. As he did late in Game Three, Casey skipped over number four starter Tommy Byrne and his league leading 160 walks and this time gave the ball to rookie Eddie Ford. Cocksure and confident, Ford, like Game Three pitchers Ed Lopat and Tom Ferrick, was a New York City native. As the Yankees battled the Red Sox down the stretch in 1949, Ford, then just in A-ball, phoned Stengel to offer his services for the pennant drive. Stengel didn't take Ford up on his offer, but he didn't disappoint when he got the call in July of 1950. In twenty games, twelve starts, Ford went 9-1 with a 2.81 ERA (153 ERA+), 1.24 WHIP, two shutouts, and a save. Like Miller, he finished second in the RoY race for his league.

Ford worked around a bit of trouble in the top of the first, then the Yankees came out swinging in the bottom of the inning. Gene Woodling reached on an E4, then moved to second on a groundout by Phil Rizzuto. Yogi Berra singled Woodling home, then moved all the way to third on a wild pitch. Joe DiMaggio's double plated Berra and chased Miller. Once again, Konstanty got the call for Philadelphia, and managed to end the inning.

Staked to a two nothing lead, Ford settled down, retiring six of the next seven with just one runner advancing past first through the sixth. The Yankees added more runs in the bottom of the sixth, starting with a leadoff homer from Berra. DiMaggio was hit by a pitch, then scored on Bobby Brown's triple. Brown scored the Yankees fifth run on a sacrifice fly from Hank Bauer.

Ford tossed perfect frames in the seventh and eighth. In the ninth he surrendered a leadoff single, then hit a batter. A groundout moved the runners up, then Ford recorded a strikeout to get him within an out of complete game, Series clinching shutout. Ford induced a flyball from Andy Seminick. It went to left, Yankee Stadium's sun field, and Woodling lost in the low hanging sun of the autumn afternoon. Two runs scored and then Mike Goliat's single brought the tying run to the plate. Taking no chances, Stengel, as he often did, called Allie Reynolds in to close it out. The same late day sun that caused Woodling to lose the flyball also caused the Stadium's upper deck to cast shadows over home plate. Armed with one of the best fastballs in the league, the shadows made Reynolds nearly unhittable. Reynolds struck out Stan Lopata, ending the game and giving the Yankees their second straight championship and third in four years.

The Yankees received outstanding pitching from all five men they sent to the mound. DiMaggio, Brown, and Woodling all put up gaudy offensive numbers. But Jerry Coleman always seemed to be in the middle of the big innings. His three RBI led the team, and all came in big situations. As such, Coleman was named the Series MVP.

For Ford, Game Four was the final game he would pitch for two years, as he spent 1951 and '52 in the military. But without a doubt, his Game Four start was a changing of the guard. When he returned in 1953 Raschi, Reynolds, and Lopat were all two years older. Ford became the unquestioned ace for the remainder of the Stengel-Houk dynasty years. His victory in the clinching game of the 1950 World Series was the first of his record ten in World Series play.

1950 World Series: Games One & Two

Game One

Like this year, the 1950 World Series began on a Wednesday, October 4th. Philadelphia's Shibe Park, home to both the Phillies and the Athletics, hosted Games One and Two. Thanks to a late season slide coupled with a push from 1949 pennant winners Brooklyn, the Phillies had to pitch their ace, Robin Roberts on the regular season's final day in order to clinch the NL flag. As such, Philly skipper Eddie Sawyer gave the Game One start to relief ace Jim Konstanty, who would win the NL MVP that year. Konstanty had started just one game since the end of the 1944 season, but was the NL's premier reliever. He earned 16 wins, 22 saves, and posted a 152 ERA+ and a 1.04 WHIP in 152 innings of relief work.

Konstanty was opposed by Vic Raschi. Despite being 31 years old, thanks in part to his time at William and Mary and serving in World War II, Raschi was in just his third full Major League season. His ERA that year slipped a bit from his previous seasons, but the Yankees' prolific offense propelled him to 21 wins for the second consecutive season. He saw action for the Yanks in the 1947 and '49 Fall Classics, going 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in four appearances, two starts.

The teams matched zeros through the first third of the game. In the top of the fourth Yankee third baseman (and future cardiologist and AL President) Bobby Brown led off with a double, then moved to third on a Hank Bauer flyout. With Raschi waiting on deck, Konstanty elected not to walk number eight hitter Jerry Coleman. The Yankee second baseman came through with a deep flyball, scoring Brown.

It was the game's only run. Raschi went the distance, allowing just two hits, a walk, and striking out five. He was perfect through the first four and a third innings, with the two Phillie hits, both singles, coming in the fifth. He retired the last eleven men he faced and no baserunner made it past second base.

Game Two

Down a game, Thursday's Game Two allowed Philadelphia to bring back ace Robin Roberts. Roberts debuted in mid 1948 and enjoyed a breakout season in 1950. His 39 starts and five shutouts led the league. He went 21-11 with a 135 ERA+, a 1.18 WHIP, and recorded a save in his only relief appearance of the year.

Roberts would face the Yankees' Allie Reynolds. The Superchief came to the Yankees following the 1946 season, with future Hall of Famer Joe Gordon heading to Cleveland for him. Reynolds immediately became the Yankees' ace. His 16-12 mark in 1950 was his poorest winning percentage since donning Pinstripes, but his 115 ERA+ was his best, as were his 160 strikeouts, good for second in the AL. He appeared in four games, three starts, between the '47 and '49 World Series and went 2-0 with a save and a 2.28 ERA. According to Peter Golenbock's Dynasty, Casey Stengel held Reynolds back specifically to oppose Roberts. The two would engage in one of the World Series' greatest, if forgotten, pitching duels.

After stranding two runners in the first, the Yankees struck in the second inning. With two outs Jerry Coleman, who had the lone RBI in Game One, drew a walk. Reynolds was up next, and though he was a pitcher, he was a decent hitter and had gone 4 for 8 with a double and an RBI in his two previous World Series. Reynolds singled the other way, pushing Coleman to third, who then scored on an infield single by leftfielder Gene Woodling.

Reynolds worked around an extra base hit in each of the first three innings, and stranded a runner in scoring position in the fourth following a walk and a stolen base. He finally yielded a run in the fifth, as a pair of singles put runners at the corners and a Richie Ashburn sacrifice fly knotted the score at one.

It would remain that way into extra innings, but both teams would have one more good chance before then. In the top of the eighth, Bobby Brown and Hank Bauer hit back-to-back singles to left, giving the Yankees two on with one out. Coleman grounded to short for the second out, moving the runners up. Reynolds was due, with six outs to go and the go-ahead run just 90 feet away. Stengel, never shy to pinch hit when he sniffed an opportunity, let Reynolds, who was 1 for 2 with a walk, hit for himself. He went down looking, ending the threat.

Reynolds, who had allowed just a walk and a bunt single since the run in the fifth, faced a jam of his own in the bottom of the ninth. With one out, he surrendered a double to Granny Hamner. With the potential winning run in scoring position, Philly pinch hit for their catcher for the second time on the day. Reynolds intentionally walked pinch hitter Dick Whitman to set up a force at any base, then induced an inning ending 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Mike Goliat.

In the top of the tenth, Joe DiMaggio led off with a home run to left field to give the Yanks a 2-1 lead. Reynolds issued a lead off walk in the bottom half, and the runner was promptly sacrificed to second. With the tying run in scoring position, Reynolds got a foul out from Ashburn, then got number three hitter Dick Sisler looking to give the Yanks a 2-0 Series lead in a game that neither pitcher deserved to lose. Both starters went the distance. Reynolds surrendered seven hits and four walks in ten frames while striking out six. Roberts gave up ten hits and three walks while striking out three.

After going 1-10 with 5.08 ERA in 1961, the Phillies sold Roberts to the Yankees. He pitched well for them in Spring Training in 1962, but the Yankees cut him in favor of youngster Jim Bouton. Roberts landed with Baltimore, where he had three more good years. The '62 Yankees won the World Series, but couldn't get past the Dodgers in '63 or the Cardinals in '64. Perhaps Roberts could have helped.

Yanks & Phils Post-Season History

Prior to the start of the 1903 season, the Baltimore Orioles relocated to Manhattan, giving the fledgling American League a team in New York City, the Highlanders, who soon became known as the Yankees. That fall the first World Series was played, ushering in the modern era of Major League Baseball. While the Fall Classic would be skipped the next year (John McGraw's Giants refused to play against an American League team), by and large the format of Major League Baseball would be unchanged for 58 seasons. Both the American and National League consisted of eight clubs, playing a 154 game schedule, with the two league champions meeting in the World Series.

In the forty one seasons from 1921 through 1961 - the final pre-expansion season in the National League - the Yankees won twenty six American League pennants. In those World Series, the Yankees saw seven of the eight National League clubs at least twice. The only NL club they faced once was the Phillies, in the 1950 World Series. They haven't met in the post-season since.

The two clubs had several near misses in the late seventies and early eighties. While the Yankees won three straight AL pennants from 1976 through 1978, the Phillies lost in the NLCS in each of those years. In 1976 they were knocked out by the Reds, who then became the last National League club to win back-to-back championships, while '77 and'78 came at the hands of the Dodgers, who the Phillies have bounced from the NLCS two years running now.

In 1980 the Phillies advanced to the World Series for just the third time in their history. The Yankees had the best record in baseball that year, but were knocked out in the ALCS by the Royals (who like the Phillies, had lost in the LCS in 76, 77, and 78). The Phillies won that 1980 Series, which until last year was the only championship in their history. In the 1981 the Yankees returned to the Fall Classic, but the Phillies were knocked out in the Division Series round necessitated by that year's lengthy players' strike.

So, when the Yanks and Phils square off tomorrow night, it'll be the first World Series game between the two teams in more than 59 years. There will be some similarities between the two Series as well. Just as in 1950, the Yankees will enter the Series with a manager in his second season at the helm, and the Series will feature the defending World Champions. The difference is that in 1950 Casey Stengel and his Yankees were the defending champions; this year Joe Girardi will be facing the club looking to repeat.

The 1950 Phillies were known as the Whiz Kids. Four of their eight position players and five of their top six pitchers were twenty six or younger, including future Hall of Famers Richie Ashburn and Robin Roberts. They had finished 16 games off the pace in 1949 and weren't expected to contend in '50. But they moved into a tie for first place shortly after the All-Star break and never relinquished the lead, despite a late season push from defending NL champs Brooklyn, who forced an elimination game on the season's final day.

Meanwhile, the 1950 Yankees bettered Detroit for their second consecutive pennant and third in four years. Though 35 and past his prime, Joe DiMaggio had an outstanding season, posting a .301/.394/.585 line (151 OPS+) with 32 HRs, leading the league in slugging. Yogi Berra, in his fourth full season, posted his best line yet, with new career highs in every major offensive category. And veteran shortstop Phil Rizzuto had the finest season of his career, knocking 200 hits while batting .324/.418/.439 and playing his usual spectacular defense on his way to the AL MVP. The pitching staff was led by the old guard of Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi, and Eddie Lopat, with Tommy Byrne chipping in 15 wins and a rookie named Eddie Ford, later dubbed Whitey, going 9-1 after getting called up in July.

On paper, the Series was a bit of a mismatch. While Philly had the best pitching in the Majors, the Yanks were better than league average and had a wealth of World Series experience on their staff.

On offense, Philly was just below league average while the Yankees were second in baseball in runs and batting average, third in on base and slugging, and tied for the lead in OPS+. They outlasted Detroit, Boston, and Cleveland in the extremely tough American League, where the Phillies' 91 wins would have left them in fifth place.

The result of the Series was in line with what most expected entering the Fall Classic, but much like the ALDS and ALCS were for the 2009 Yankees, the games were much closer than final results of the series would indicate. We'll be back later on with a detailed look at that 1950 World Series.

Joe Buck Hates The Yankees

How many times have you heard someone say something similar to that headline? I've heard it a lot. Why do people think that announcers hate their team? Why Buck specifically?

First, I think it goes without saying that Buck is infinitely more competent than Chip Caray. Or as Craig Calcaterra said during the ALDS, "He's still basically terrible, but he's less offensive than the other terrible announcer who only has his job because of nepotism". Bill Simmons jokingly suggested that HBO create the "Chip Caray Show" and put it on before Buck's to make the latter look better by comparison.

Fro the record, I don't have a problem with Joe Buck and wouldn't say he's "terrible". I think he does an satisfactory job of calling the game and that's something most of us took for granted until Caray came on the scene. Say what you will about Buck, but he doesn't inaccurately describe what's happening on the field very often or repeatedly shove words like "fisted" up our... well, you know.

I think a big part of the reason that people don't like Buck and McCarver (aside from ol' Tim's sometimes nonsensical declarations) is the tone of Joe Buck's voice. He comes across as slightly smug and smarmy. People believe that Joe Buck thinks he's better than them. I don't know whether or not that is actually the case, or to what extent other announcers feel that way, but I think it oozes through the speakers from Buck to a much greater extent.

The other reasons that people dislike Buck are the same for all national broadcasters, especially in baseball. Most teams have home announcers that sound more folksy and are easy on the local nine. When a player fouls up, fans are going to be upset, and therefore much more likely to misdirect their anger towards the announcer. So Buck might point out the same thing that Michael Kay would, but the voice isn't as familiar, the tone a bit sharp. Sometimes it's not the message as much as it is the messenger.

Local broadcasters also know the team inside and out and tailor their calls to fans who know more about their guys. On the weekends during the season and all games in the playoffs, whether we like it or not, the marginal viewers that represent that giant increase in ratings are casual fans or supporters of other teams. We are the ones watching all the games regardless, so why are the networks going to cater to us? So if FOX wants to maximize its ratings, they have to kowtow to people who aren't intimately familiar with Robinson Cano's lack of production with runners in scoring position.

In the end, I think the most telling thing is that a certain section of fans from all over the country think the announcers hate their team. I've heard countless Red Sox fans say that Buck hates the Red Sox. The Angels blog we kept talking about during the ALCS thought Buck had a pro-Yankees bias. Is it possible that Buck and McCarver hate every team? I guess, but isn't it more likely that fans all hate the same announcers? I would have to agree with McCarver when he sad said, “Quite simply, the bias comes not from the voice, but from the ears”.

When it comes right down to it, which announcers are universally liked? Vin Scully. Anyone else? Would Vin Scully have been so widely revered if his career was beginning now and we could all bitch about his calls on Twitter?

Broadcasting is a tough job and due to the duration of time on the air and proximity to the fans, it's the one position in sports that might be more scrutinized than what happens on the field. Maybe there's someone in broadcasting school right now with a killer voice and background in sabermetrics who is going to universally beloved 15 or 20 years from now.

But I kinda doubt it. People are going to find something to hate about that guy too. We hold our announcers to impossibly high standards and sports fans are always going to find something to critique during the countless hours they are on the air. With the lines of communication now available on the internet, I think it's fair to wonder if any national broadcaster will ever be truly loved again.