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July 20, 2006

July 20th @ The Blue Jays

There's an episode of "All in the Family" where the character of Edith Bunker dents a car with a can of "cling peaches (in heavy syrup)."

At one point in the story, the character of Archie Bunker orders Edith to not say the words "cling peaches" again. So, later in the episode, when Edith has to again describe how she dented the car with the can, instead of saying "cling peaches," she refers to the can as "Mmmmmmmm, Mmmmmmmm - in heavy syrup!"

Based on the harsh feedback that I have received lately from many readers of WasWatching.com, any time that I mention the recent play Alex Rodriguez, over the last 6 or 7 weeks, I'm at the point now where I feel as if I've been ordered, albeit more implied than clearly expressed, to never say the words "Alex Rodriguez" here again.

Therefore, herein, I'm pulling an Edith - just to be safe.

Kim Jones, in the YES post-game tonight, was asking everyone about the error that "Mmmmmmmm, Mmmmmmmm," made in the bottom of the 6th tonight (and the impact that it had on the game) - including Torre, Mike Mussina, and "Mmmmmmmm, Mmmmmmmm," himself.

Torre and "Mmmmmmmm, Mmmmmmmm," had the responses to Jones' questioning that you would expect. But, Mike Mussina, when reflecting on the play of "Mmmmmmmm, Mmmmmmmm," had the following to say:

"We need him back the way he's supposed to be."

I think that comment speaks for itself - in volumes.

It's sad that, in a game like tonight, coming off a bad loss in New York where a win today on the road against a tough pitcher would have been a lift (and needed as Boston has won four-in-a-row), the main talking point is "Mmmmmmmm, Mmmmmmmm," again - when it should be anything ranging from the fine outing by Mussina to the funny shot YES had of Ron "Gator" Guidry drinking a cup of "Gator"-Ade in the Yankees dugout.

Sure, some may want to talk about Mariano Rivera. But, when you listen to the Yankees players in the post-game, they say that Wells just hit a good pitch. Tip your hat, and stuff like that. And, some might want to talk about Giambi and Phillips having somewhat rough nights at the plate today. And, maybe we should talk about that. But, after that comment by Mussina, well, expect another day where the focus is on "Mmmmmmmm, Mmmmmmmm," - whether it's fair or not, or, if you like it or not.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at July 20, 2006 11:21 PM



Posted by: Nick from Washington Heights [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2006 12:15 AM

So Steve, let's take your concerns about A-Rod as perfectly reasonable (regarding diminished performance this season). Did you think, though, that it was professional for Mussina to call out his teammate the way he did?

The funny thing is that the Yankees were the scrappy, fun, overacheiving team going into this series while the Jays were supposed to be in disarray with the Hillenbrand issues and falling further behind in the playoff race. Moose not only gave Toronto hope with his meltdown, but he effectively deflects attention away from the Blue Jay soap opera by creating a new one involving himself, his teammates and the most over-covered player in baseball outside of Barry Bonds.

I'm not too pleased with Moose as an individual right now, frankly, even if he spoke his thoughts and wasn't just ducking responsibility for his own failings.

Posted by: Max [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2006 12:17 AM

I think it was more a matter of Mussina "thinking out-loud" than "calling out his teammate" when he made that comment. I got no indication, seeing the comment made, that it was a premeditated and/or malicious effort from Moose.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2006 12:28 AM

Steve, the quote below is what's being reported on the main wire service story out there, which is a lot more damning than just the simple comment you've cited. Furthermore, people who watched the post game show on YES have indicated that Moose had a fair amount of derision in his voice when responding to questions about the error (unlike Torre's more measured, diplomatic response):

*"I know he's played better. I know he's disappointed in the way he's playing. It's just not him right now. We need him back the way he's supposed to be," Mussina said. "I thought he was going to throw to first and then I turn and saw him throw it to home. All he had to do was throw it on target and he was out by 20 feet."*

I just feel that commenting on a teammate's play, even if it is borne out of competitive frustration, is just not cool...especially when you consider that the guy is already getting it every single day from the press. This may all blow over as a hissy fit between two irascible (and highly disliked) players, but it's hard to put a positive spin on it, regardless.

Posted by: Max [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2006 12:35 AM

Max, call me when your spaceship lands. Mussina isn't a disliked player. He's actually a great teammate who goes out of his way to help his fellow pitchers (he works with the kids in spring training, too, and taught Phil Hughes a new grip on his curveball). You're making something out of nothing. Mussina was being honest, which is what we call for all the time from ballplayers. A-Rod HAS to make that play -- it was a simple play and his mistake cost the team the game.

Mussina didn't have a "meltdown." I'm not sure if this refers to his statements after the game or how he pitched in that inning, but it's wrong on both accounts. Mussina gave up two cheap hits and then a double, but the inning never should have gone on. If A-Rod makes that play to home the Blue Jays probably never would have even scored a run. It turned the game around.

As far as I'm concerned, A-Rod lost the game for them. It was stunning to see Mo give up a home run, but if not for A-Rod they never would have needed to go into extra innings.

A-Rod is in an offensive funk this year, but he has to be able to make plays at third. If he's not hitting AND he's making errors, exactly what's his worth?

I've often defended A-Rod, and I do think he's a great player, but I'm sick of him. I'm just tired of him. He comes off as a very weak person. He drags this team down. As good as he is, he's starting to become a burden. This year he seems to have been nothing but a negative for this team.

They might not be able to replace his stats, but I think the team might be better off without A-Rod. I've been a Yankee fan my entire life and I never used the "hate" word with anyone but the disgusting and useless Yankees (Tony Womack, etc.) but I used that word with A-Rod tonight. He threw that ball away and I said aloud, "God, I hate A-Rod..." He is negatively affecting this team. And I'm just sick of it and sick of him.

Posted by: baileywalk [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2006 01:22 AM

Yes, A-ROD screwed up and he knows it. Moose's comments do not help A-ROD or the team. This is not the first time Moose has expressed frustration with his teamates. His last memorable complaints was lamenting the lack of run support after losing game 4 at Fenway during the 2003 ALCS (he also lost game 1 after pitching well). He may be helpful to the youngsters but he is certainly demanding of the veterans. It just strikes me as weak. Part of being a good team is individuals picking up teammates during difficult times. Moose's stuff was good enough to do that tonight and he failed. By being brutally honest in a public forum he does a disservice to his team.

Posted by: raybender [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2006 02:06 AM

Mussina should have picked his team-mate up and gotten out of the inning at worst still ahead 3-2. He didn't.

Posted by: Don [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2006 02:33 AM

This all proves one thing, I see: people dislike A-Rod, but, boy, do they dislike Mussina more! Mussina is an innocent here, and yet people are treating him like he somehow is at fault. All he did was spin six innings of excellent pitching and then saw the game fall apart because of an errant throw by his third baseman. You cannot put the blame on Mussina. As I said in the earlier post, Mussina gave up two cheap hits after the error. You can't defend against a little fisted bloop shot.

Also, if you look at the quote, Mussina isn't killing A-Rod. He's just saying the guy has to start playing better. He has be the guy he's supposed to be. And I suppose you guys would rather Mussina just clamed up and played dumb like Posada did. Everyone knows that A-Rod threw the game away with that throw home. What's wrong with Mussina pointing out he thought the play was to first base?

I never understood the dislike toward Mussina by Yankee fans. I'm even more amazed that the dislike would shine so bright in this situation, since Moose has been a savior this year and A-Rod has been a dog.

Posted by: baileywalk [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2006 07:53 AM

Alex has been scuffling lately, I think it is ridiculous to pretend otherwise. I don't see Moose's comment as being anything more than that.

Baileywalk, I can't disagree more that "A-Rod lost the game" Yes the throw contributed to it, but Moose gave up hits and runs afterwards, to lay that at Alex's feet is unfair. Plus the offense took most of the rest of the night off after they scored 3 runs. The bottom of the line up gets on base, and then Damon and Jeter strike out. That's not Alex's fault.

Posted by: rbj [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2006 08:14 AM

I like Mussina generally, but in my galaxy, teammates don't say things that could be construed as a direct criticism of a teammate's play. Especially NOT in New York. I appreciate candor as much as anyone, but saying that a teammate and infielder would have had him out "by 20 feet" if he had just "thrown it on target" might be true, but it starts an unnecessary brushfire.

All this discussion proves is how difficult it is to discuss A-Rod's legitimate faults in a level-headed manner, because any mistake leads to him bearing the responsibility for everything. His mistake opened the door (just as it did in Game 2 of last year's ALDS), but "lost the game"? The game I followed, we came back to tie the score, but a certain star shortstop went hitless, and a certain star reliever gave up 2 hits for the fourth consecutive game, including the game winning home run.

Mussina is no doubt a decent teammate (at least with his fellow pitchers), and there's a reasonable argument to be made that he wasn't hit that hard. But he's gone through too many innings like this where he suddenly comes unraveled for me to let him off the hook.

Posted by: Max [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2006 08:34 AM

rbj, Alex didn't single-handedly lose the game, I GUESS. BUT sometimes one play changes a game. That bad throw changed the game.

The amazing thing is that Giambi, A-Rod and Posada actually scratched out a run against B.J. Ryan. A hit the opposite way, a walk, and a bloop base hit. This made it all the more heartbreaking when Mo gave up that home run. (It was shocking because Mo doesn't give up home runs and shocking because "Frankie the Yankee" had just been caught stealing and the next pitch was gone -- it happened so fast you couldn't even blink. Michael Kay sure loved it, though.)

This brings me to another point, one that doesn't involve A-Rod or Mussina (who, for the last time, is not to blame for what happened in that inning).

It's instead about someone people hate more than A-Rod and Mussina combined: Kyle Farnsworth. Is this the sign that Torre has no more faith in him? He used Proctor for two and then brought in Mo for two. After Proctor goes two why not bring in Farnsworth to pitch? Mo has been throwing a lot lately. Why wouldn't you save his arm? I guess Farnsworth was next up, but it really made little sense to have Mo throw two innings, as he did, because there's a save situation in extra innings on the road.

Posted by: baileywalk [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2006 08:36 AM

"[A]nd a certain star reliever gave up 2 hits for the fourth consecutive game, including the game winning home run."

Mo always gives up hits. Over that period, though, how many saves did he blow? How many times did he have to pitch more than one inning? The back-end of the bullpen, with Proctor and Farnsworth, has been scary. Mo has to work extra hard for this team this year. And he takes the burden without complaint.

I guess Mo technically "lost" the game, but it's hardly a tenable argument, considering what went on before he got there, to blame him. Mo has the most grace with Yankee fans, and for good reason.

Posted by: baileywalk [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2006 08:42 AM

Let's not forget that Johnny Damon got doubled off second early in the game -- clearly a baserunning error. Yet that doesn't get mentioned.

Posted by: rbj [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2006 10:17 AM

Buster Olney had an interesting comment on this situation in his blog today:

Mike Mussina's apparent frustration with Alex Rodriguez within Tyler Kepner's game story is telling: I covered Mussina for three seasons and I can almost guarantee you that he would not have been so pointed in his criticism of A-Rod unless he felt he spoke on behalf of others on the team. Mussina is smart and measured and specific in what he says, and isn't someone who haphazardly criticizes a teammate the way he did in this case. You get the sense that the other players just want A-Rod to get his stuff together.

I kind of get the same feeling about the situation. Maybe not the smartest thing to say to the press, but probably a sentiment shared by most of the players in the clubhouse.

Posted by: bfriley76 [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2006 10:35 AM

Bailey, I see your point about Farns. Obviously I can't peak into Torre's head here but I think last night was more a case of the team figuring that it had chased BJ Ryan and that they'd score a run before it came time to turn it over to Farns if it needed to go into the 12th or beyond. I don't think anyone expected that the Yanks' bats would go to sleep against Speier and whatever-his-name-is that pitched the top of the 11th.

Moreover, don't most people complain that Torre usually doesn't go to Rivera in games like this? The one time he does, it backfires a bit. I don't think we should read too much into what Torre thinks of Farnsworth.

Separate question - why Bernie batting 6th and playing RF against RHP Halladay?

2006 Bernie vs. RHP: .253/.281/.379
2006 Bernie vs. LHP: .333/.390/.495

Career Guiel vs. RHP: .256/.329/.438
Career Guiel vs. LHP: .219/.299/.346

Considering the fact that Toronto has something like 3 or 4 lefties in their bullpen, wouldn't saving Bernie for a PH situation vs. LHP be better than risking his defense and unlikely success vs. the AL's best RHP? I know he got a double and all but still...

Posted by: MJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2006 10:35 AM

I hate to bring up the old, Alex Rodriguez is the highest paid player in baseball thing, but he is. And, right now, he's not helping his team at all. The play in the sixth inning was routine, every thirdbaseman in baseball would tell you that that play had (and could) be made. The artificial grass made the ball get to Rodriguez faster, just giving him more time. Rodriguez has made that play before, dozens of times. There was no excuse for such a lousy throw ( followed by two lousy at-bats in the late innings).

As for Mussina's comments, I'd be frustrated too! Mike pitched beautifully, but was thrown out of rhythm by Rodriguez's error. He wasn't out of line when he said they need A-Rod to be what he's supposed to be. I's just the plain truth.

Posted by: mvyb [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2006 10:58 AM

A-Rod was great at third in his first year here. What happened to him? Remember that amazing play he made against the Red Sox in the famous 14-inning game where Jeter dived into the stands? I remember the place went berserk, he threw a runner out at home (on a really difficult throw) and he was so hopped-up that he thought he had a triple play. How is it possible that he's regressing as a third baseman? It's probably because he has so many "mental issues."

As Steve wrote in a post today, I was excited when A-Rod got here. I thought that with him and Sheffield -- plus the guys we had -- that we would romp our way to a world title (and we almost did). He didn't have the greatest of years, but then he came back and was unbelievable the next. This year it's been all A-Rod all the time and he's let it get to him and now it feels like it's dragging the team down. I wish he would stop worrying about the press and the fans and just play.

Posted by: baileywalk [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2006 01:46 PM