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Orioles get “Sabathia’ed” — My final post-card from The Bronx

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Orioles get “Sabathia’ed” — My final post-card from The Bronx

Posted on 13 October 2012 by Drew Forrester

As I sat in the upper deck of Yankee Stadium on Friday night and watched Game 5, all I kept thinking about was how unbelievably thin the margin of quality was between the Orioles and Yankees in 2012.

They played 23 times.  New York won “the series” 12-games-to-11.  I assume if they started another 7-game playoff series today, the Yankees would win that one, 4-games-to-3.  It truly was “that close”.

Or was it?

Sure, the 5th and final game went right down to the final three outs for the Orioles, but a few things stood out over the last six days that clearly displayed the difference(s) between the two clubs.

Without sounding like I’m part of the TBS broadcast crew, let’s go ahead and give credit where credit is due for the victors.

Make no mistake about it, New York won the series because of one man: C.C. Sabathia.

It’s that simple.  He beat the Orioles twice.  The Yankees won three games total.  That says it all.

Some players get paid 20 or 25 million dollars and put up a season or two worthy of that kind of production before starting to show cracks in the armor.  Sabathia earns every penny of his $23 million salary.  He’s a horse.

With all due respect to what turned out to be an Orioles strength in 2012 – starting pitching – the biggest reason why the Orioles will be on the golf course this Monday and the Yankees will be flying to Detroit is because New York has a true, legitimate #1 starter and the Baltimore team does not.

No disrespect to Jason Hammel.  Or Wei-Yin Chen.  Or Joe Saunders.

Those guys are decent major league starters.  Good pitchers more often than not.

But they’re not even close to Sabathia.

And that’s the biggest reason why New York won the series.  Sabathia beat us.  And, I guess, for $23 million a year, he probably should beat us.

Lesson learned for the Orioles moving forward:  If you want to be a champion, especially coming out of the American League East, you need to spend big money on a #1 starter.   Or Dylan Bundy better wind up being awfully freakin’ good someday down the road.

The play Derek Jeter made in the 8th inning of Game 5 should be the one they show on a continuous video loop in Cooperstown when his bust gets bolted into place sometime around 2020.

He’s no longer even close to the best shortstop in baseball, but when he needed to make a difficult play – with the game and perhaps his team’s season on the line – #2 moved gracefully to the top of the infield grass and made one of the most stylish plays of the year to nip J.J. Hardy at first on the slow chopper that snuffed out the Birds’ 8th inning rally.

If Jeter doesn’t come up with that play, Lord only knows what kind of inning the Orioles wind up producing.  I might be sitting in a coffee shop in Detroit right now getting ready for Game 1 of the ALCS between the Birds and Tigers.  That play from Jeter was a monster.

The final piece of bragging I’ll do on the Yankees centers on Joe Girardi.  Because he manages the Yankees, everything he does gets magnified x 100.  He has his detractors, as nearly all managers do, but Girardi had a spectacular series, aided greatly by the fact that his team swept Boston at season’s end to help give his aging roster a rest and set up the possibility of having Sabathia pitch twice if the series went five games.

I don’t think it’s fair to say Girardi “out-managed” Buck Showalter in the five games.  Buck made nearly all the right moves as well, particularly with his stellar use of the bullpen.  But Girardi got an “A” on his report card.  The biggest move, of course, was his decision to sit Alex Rodriguez for Game 5.  I heard lots of Yankee fans on Friday night bemoaning the fact that Girardi sat A-Rod, but it was the right call.  The $30 million man was making Chris Davis look like Babe Ruth.  And it was clearly getting to him.  So Girardi did the right thing, as tough it was.  He went with his “best line-up” for Game 5.  That’s what you do when you want to win.  We might not ever know if Sabathia bucked Girardi late in Game 5 or whether the skipper himself decided C.C. was going to pitch the whole night, win or lose, but the manager won again when he his workhorse finished the game off with runners all over the place and the Orioles foaming at the mouth for one big hit in the 8th or 9th inning.

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Have you been nervous watching these Orioles games?  I haven’t…

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Have you been nervous watching these Orioles games? I haven’t…

Posted on 12 October 2012 by Drew Forrester

I’ve found a way to handle the stress and nail-biting nature of this Orioles-Yankees series.

I have to admit I started doing this about midway through Game 1 on Sunday night.  I wasn’t able to attend the game due to a previous golf-tournament-obligation, so when I got home from Philadelphia shortly after 7pm, I settled in and watched the rain delay for a while until the game started.  I wasn’t at all certain how I’d deal with this shocking playoff appearance by the Orioles.  Would I be nervous?  (I was)  Would I be like a 20-year old again, hopping around like Kevin Bacon in Footloose when the Birds did something big?  (Probably)

Sometime around the 4th inning of Game 1, I figured it out.

I started treating the at-bats, innings, ups, downs and the results just like Buck Showalter treats them.

In other words, now I just watch the events that transpire on the field and try to disconnect myself from all it as much as possible.

My expression never changes during the game, just like Buck.  I didn’t even get mad on Thursday night when the popcorn burned in the microwave in the 3rd inning.  I thought to myself, “What would Buck do here?”  So I just shrugged my shoulders, threw the burned popcorn away, and tossed in another bag.

On the field, I don’t let stuff get to me now.  When Lew Ford got picked off of first base, I didn’t flip out.  I just ate more popcorn, just like Buck would do.

I can’t do anything about any of the stuff going on between the lines.  No sense in getting pissed off when Mark Reynolds swings at another ball in the dirt or Adam Jones reaches across the plate and slashes at a pitch a Little Leaguer wouldn’t touch.

I’ve just been watching.

That’s it.

Hell, during Game 4 on Thursday night, I flipped over to the VP debate and watched those two nitwits ramble on about nothing for five minutes or so.  The only good news about the VP debate? Neither of them are running for President.  Those two guys make the two running for the top office look like Rhodes Scholars.

And do you know what happened in the five minutes of Game 4 that I missed?  Nothing.  It was still 1-1.  It’s like Earl Weaver going back to the dugout to sneak a smoke in the 1970′s.  The game’s still there when you get back.

I took out the trash during the 7th inning and stopped to chat with a neighbor for a minute or two.  I imagine if the trash needed to be taken out at Yankee Stadium (you can insert your own A-Rod joke here), Buck wouldn’t hesitate to say, “I’ll do it” and then he’d skip out for a minute or two and leave the team to manage itself.

When the Yankees had base runners all over the place, I wasn’t nervous.  I was just like Buck.  I watched it all and said to myself, “I’ll accept whatever happens here.”  And nothing ever happened.

I haven’t thrown anything at the TV once during this series.  When Raul Ibanez hit that HR in the 12th inning on Wednesday night, he wasn’t even at home plate when the room was dark and my head was on the pillow.

Nothing has bothered me at all in this series, just like nothing has bothered Buck. I love the winning, don’t get me wrong.  It sure as hell would be cool for Baltimore to come alive next week with a couple of home games in the – wait for it – AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES vs. the Tigers.  I’m reveling in this October theater like everyone else in town.

But if the Orioles don’t win tonight, I’ll get up tomorrow morning and go play golf at Mountain Branch and life will go on.

Just like it will for Buck Showalter.

And that’s what I’ve learned from Buck this week that’s made it a lot easier for me to watch these games.

Whatever happens, happens.

It’s fun to watch it that way.

And a lot easier on the nerves.

 

 

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If the Orioles lose tonight, I won’t be crushed…

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If the Orioles lose tonight, I won’t be crushed…

Posted on 11 October 2012 by Drew Forrester

I still think this series in New York is a long way from over.  It’s a best-of-5 for a reason.

And the Orioles have swatted away every nuisance that’s come their way in 2012, so why wouldn’t they stay alive tonight with a dramatic Game 4 victory?  I almost expect them to win tonight because that’s what they deserve.

But if the Yankees win tonight in the Bronx and that’s all she wrote for the Birds, I’ll be just fine.

Really.  I’ll sleep like a baby tonight if the Orioles lose in Game 4.

I’ve watched the first three games of the series with this peculiar “Lord only knows what’s going to happen tonight” sort of philosophy, which has served me well.  I didn’t go nuts when Ibanez beat Billy Cundiff Jim Johnson in the 9th inning, even though I assumed it was over when the team’s closer strolled to the mound to collect his nearly-automatic-save and give the Birds a 2-1 series lead.

It wasn’t over, unfortunately, when Ibanez drilled a pitch into the right field seats to tie it up at 2-2.

An hour later it WAS over – again unfortunately – when Ibanez popped Brian Matusz for the game-winning home run to put the Orioles into an “elimination game” for the second time in six days.

But make no mistake about it, my stomach didn’t start hurting last night the way it did in 1997 when Tony Fernandez ended our last playoff series with a home run in Baltimore.

I didn’t sleep well for a night or two after that loss to the Indians.

But this is much different now.  This is fun.  And I’ve enjoyed the living hell out of it.

No one expected this in March or April.  Hell, honestly, no one even expected this on Labor Day.

It’s just fun to see the team playing on national TV in October…so I’m good with anything that happens tonight.

If the Orioles win, I’ll be fired up for Game 5 tomorrow night.

If the Yankees win, we’ll do what we always do around here when baseball season ends.  We’ll turn our full attention to the Ravens.

Either way, it’s been a helluva run by the Orioles.

I sure have missed this since 1997.

And that’s why I’m good with any result.  Just getting back there and playing post-season baseball is enough to satisfy me.

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