Larry Mahnken and SG's

Replacement Level Yankees Weblog

"Hey, it's free!"

The Replacement Level Yankees Weblog has moved!  Our new home is:

Larry Mahnken
Sean McNally
Fabian McNally
John Brattain

This is an awesome FREE site, where you can win money and gift certificates with no skill involved! If you're bored, I HIGHLY recommend checking it out!


Disclaimer: If you think this is the official website of the New York Yankees, you're an idiot. Go away.

October 25, 2003

Last Dance
by Larry Mahnken

I look at tonight's Game Six with anticipation and dread. I don't feel confident that they'll win this game, or certain that they'll lose it, either. I know they can win, I know they should win, but they should also have won all five of these games, and they lost three of them. So much for should.

I dread defeat. I can visualize that moment in the postgame, where Bud Selig hands the World Series trophy over to Jeff Loria, and in that instant, as they both touch it, that trophy becomes a conduit through which so much evil passes that it explodes in a blinding flash of red light, and breaks open a vortex in the Visitors' Clubhouse, destroying all of civilization, and through which pass the terrible minions of Satan, bringing down 10 million years of darkness upon mankind for allowing such evil to not only exist, but triumph.

I could deal with the Cubs winning, I could even be willing to accept, eventually, a Red Sox victory. And I have nothing against the Florida Marlins or they're devoted fan(s). Jack McKeon is a man deserving of a title, and he should never have been cast aside by the Cincinnati Reds for Bob Boone. He has done an excellent job.

But Jeff Loria is evil. To non-Yankees fans, this series has been likened to the Eastern Front in World War II--who do you root for, Stalin or Hitler? It cannot be disputed that Steinbrenner is an egomaniacal asshole. He fires people for minor indiscretions, and is brutal in handing out blame for the team's on-field failures. But he tries to win, and that, above all else, is his motivation in running the team. He could make many millions more if he fielded consistently strong teams that didn't win titles, but still filled Yankee Stadium with fans, while costing tens of millions of dollars less in payroll (Connie Mack's stated desire for his teams). That tact would even have helped fend off Bud Selig's drastic revenue sharing demands, and perhaps saved him tens of millions more. But while he's a good businessman, and won't risk losing money, he also puts winning above maximizing his profit, and tries to put the best team on the field that he can.

Jeff Loria, on the other hand, destroyed baseball in Montreal. Taking advantage of the revenue sharing program in place, he invested as little money as possible in the team, instead collecting massive revenue sharing checks year after year--making the safe profit, or at worst taking a minimal loss. He maneuvered the rest of the Expos' ownership out of the way, taking over the majority of the team, then proceeded to destroy the fan base in Montreal, while simultaneously demanding that the taxpayers finance a brand new stadium for him to field crappy teams in. When MLB bought the team from him with the intention of contracting it before last season, he insisted on being allowed to purchase another team, and so MLB fixed the sale of the Red Sox to John Henry's group to free up the Marlins for him.

Now, I know what you're thinking, the Marlins won the pennant this season, Loria can't be that bad, he's obviously committed to winning. No, he's obviously committed to looking good to the public in South Florida, who he will press to buy him a new stadium, and is also trying to put forward a good image in defense of himself in the RICO suit brought against him and Bud Selig by Loria's former partners in Montreal. Have no fear, Marlins fans, in a few years--shiny new stadium or not--Loria will proceed to operate the Marlins in the same manner in which he did the Expos: don't spend money, and cash the big fat Yankees checks. Like anyone, he enjoys winning, but he enjoys money more.

But while I dread defeat, I can see victory. The Yankees go into the last game with the pitchers who recorded victories in both of their wins: Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina. Both were not just good, but dominant, and should be able to keep the Yankees in the game. Pettitte is streaky, and if he goes out and throws a clunker, the Yankees are dead. But I think Pettitte can give them the strong performance they need to survive.

What is comes down to is whether or not the Yankees can score off of Beckett and Pavano. McKeon is taking a tremendous gamble: Beckett is a fastball pitcher, and has never started on short rest. He is less likely to be dominant, and less likely to go deep (Florida's bullpen has a 5.29 ERA in this series), although he did throw 4 innings of 1-hit ball on two days' rest in Game Seven of the NLCS. Pavano was also excellent in Game Four, but will also be going on short rest coming off of 115 pitches. This strategy of using his two best pitchers on short rest would be an excellent one if the Marlins were facing elimination tonight, as it maximizes their chances of winning both games, but they're not facing elimination, and the strategy of using Beckett on full rest in Game 7, and Redman tonight maximizes their chances of winning one game.

Or does it? After all, Redman is not a particularly consistent pitcher, and he wasn't fooling the Yankees at all in Game Two. Redman might get torched if he starts tonight, and it won't matter how Pettitte pitches. Then it would be up to Beckett against Mussina, and even if Beckett totally shuts down the Yankees for nine innings, Moose is capable--perhaps more capable than Beckett--of shutting down the Marlins. The Marlins aren't facing Pedro Martinez in Game Seven, but they are viewing that matchup as if they were. They don't want to have to beat Mussina, and so their strategy is to do all they can to avoid a Game Seven, and win tonight. With Beckett and Pavano going in the two games, you increase your chances of winning tonight--it puts much more pressure on Pettitte right from the start, as he knows he has to be almost perfect, or he may be facing elimination, and if the Yankees do win, Pavano seems nearly as likely of outdueling Mussina as Beckett is.

There's no way to say that the Yankees have an advantage in tonight's game, or in this series. They don't, they're up against the wall, and the Marlins have to win only one game to be World Champions. If the Yankees start taking advantage of their opportunities, or at least work the pitch count to get Beckett out early, they should be able to score more than enough runs to win tonight, even if Petitte doesn't pitch well. And if they do win tonight, then they do have the advantage, as the Marlins are facing elimination against a superior pitcher and lineup.

But they have to win tonight, or it's literally over. They can, and they should, but like I said, should means nothing tonight. Either they do or they don't, there's no way to rationalize defeat.