(enough with the screaming, already)
While doffing his cap to Kenny Rogers (“In the five boroughs, Kenny Rogers will always be the bum and choker who walked in Andruw Jones in 1999, but that doesn’t matter a whit to the rest of the world; he’s nails now.”), the New York Sun’s Andrew Marchman isn’t drinking the kool-aid where the playoffs’ other supposed breakthrough pitching performances are concerned.
Without meaning to be uncharitable toward any team or player, this postseason has featured the least impressive great pitching I can recall. It’s not so much that it’s the likes of Kenny Rogers, the similarly reviled Jeff Weaver and Jeff Suppan, effective enough but hardly overwhelming starters, who are doing so well, but it’s the nature of the way they’re doing it. Fastball inside, fastball away, fastball inside, changeup away, a slider or curveball every so often to keep hitters honest ” for 150 years it’s been how you get batters out, but one would expect one of these pitchers to get hammered sooner or later, and it just hasn’t happened. It’s thrilling to see the marginal pitcher who seems at every moment on the verge of falling off the wire continue the delicate balance of teasing and tempting the hitter with pitches just out of reach, but at some point you have to admit that it’s not all the pitching. A lineup that leaves 428 runners on base against Weaver, as the Tigers did last night, cannot just tip to the opposing dugout and say, “Heck of a game.” Their weaknesses ” a lack of left-handed power, general impatience, and a tendency to flail ” have been exposed the last two games.
Weaknesses don’t matter when you have Whitey Ford on the hill, though, and that’s exactly who Kenny Rogers has looked like to me the last few weeks. Granting that I never actually saw the legendary Yankees ace, I still have a perfect picture of him in my mind ” a smirking glare, a compact motion, a short fastball, a looping curve, a changeup that just stops at the plate, and a batter walking off the field just cursing at his bat, convinced a schoolgirl could have knocked the ball out of the yard. (Feel free to correct me.) Swap out the smirking glare for Rogers’s grizzled, trembly stare and that’s what you have, especially given last night’s gamesmanship involving some excess pine tar on Rogers’s pitching hand, a trick of which Ford would doubtless approve. Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa’s complaints about the dread foreign substance were just preposterous ” on a cold, dry night a pitcher needs a little something just to get a good grip on a cold, dry, and rockhard ball, and the unwritten rule is that ancient soft-tossers like Rogers can pull out a belt sander on the mound without anyone really caring ” and it was good to see his unsportsmanlike carping not pay off for him and his team, as the wily Rogers doubtless just went to his backup stashes of oily secretions.
UniWatch’s Paul Lukas has as solid a theory as any other regarding Rogers’ alleged chicanery ; to wit, “The Gambler” is an evil, gutless individual willing to take any shortcut neccessary to compensate for his primitive skills.
No, wait a minute, that was my theory. Paul’s involves the differences between New Era’s batting practice cap and their all-wool 5950. Sorry about that.