WTNYJune 21, 2004
Rashomon Monday
By Bryan Smith

So, if you havent seen it on the homepage, today is what we will call Rashomon Monday at All-Baseball. Last night, our ever-strict boss Christian, MADE us watch the Yankees-Dodgers game, and devote todays entry to it. Slave labor? Quite possibly.

Its no secret to readers of this site that Im one of the many Cub fans at A-B, so really this game meant nothing to me. But, since I havent been following baseball closely for too long, much of my fandom has been spent watching the Yankees play October after October. Because of that, Ive grown a deep hatred for the Yankees, and root against them every time they play the field. Its not working well.

If I was maybe thirty years older the Dodgers might have earned my same hatred, but as of now they dont bother me too much. I picked them to win the division each of the last three years (before 2004), and for some reason, they always let me down.

Being a huge fan of prospect watching, another reason these two teams have never gained a ton of my notice is that both systems are typically bare. The Dodgers has gotten much better of late, with Edwin Jackson and Greg Miller (now injured) both making my top 50 before the season. James Loney, Chuck Tiffany, Mike Megrew, Koyie Hill. There are a lot on the way, but there arent a lot currently on the Major League roster to reflect success. As for the Yankees, the best weve seen of late is Brad Halsey, who beat the Dodgers on Saturday night in his Major League debut. Its always hard to refer to someone as a Yankees prospect, because once they reach that status, they arent Yankees anymore.

But, these two teams are in first place, and with their history, the drama was sure to be there. While the Jose Contreras v. Jose Lima match-up doesnt seem too intriguing, Ive been a big Contreras fan since watching him dominate the White Sox last September. I think hes got a ton of potential, and was really excited to watch him pitch. During the game, ESPN showed the highlight of Contreras dominating the Orioles as a member of the Cuban National team, and Jose looked 100% more lean than he is today. Lima, if nothing else, is a very fun player to watch, showing emotions that are only overshadowed by Carlos Zambrano.

Reading the pitching lines today, you really wont get a great impression of how the pitchers played yesterday. This is especially true for Contreras, who was much better than his four runs and seven hits in six innings would suggest. Contreras gave up all four runs in the second inning, as well as five of the seven hits. In the other five innings, Contreras allowed two hits, zero runs, and stuck out four hitters. The second inning started off poorly, as Jose made his worst pitch of the day to Shawn Green, who pulled the ball just over the fence in right-center.

Next was Paul Lo Duca, who took a good outside pitch down the first base line for a double. The pitch and spot were perfect, but Paul showed a great piece of hitting, and went the other way for an extra-base hit. Then, Contreras made his second-worst pitch of the day to Adrian Beltre (akin to the Cubs Aramis Ramirez, IMO), who pulled a single between Jeter and A-Rod. It didnt score a run, another reason why Dave Studenmunds recent piece on Run Producers is so important. Instead of Beltre, it was Juan Encarnacion, who hit a deep fly ball to Kenny Lofton, who earned the RBI. Then, Contreras started to get very unlucky, as in two of the next three at-bats, both Alex Cora and Dave Roberts had bloops fall in between Jeter and Lofton. Roberts hit allowed both Beltre and Cora to score, and just like that, the Yankees were down 4-0.

The extent of Jose Limas bad pitching came in the next two at-bats, when he gave up back-to-back home runs to Hideki Matsui and Miguel Cairo. The first was a high and away fastball that Matsui took the other way, far over the fence in left-center. Hideki is a very good hitter, and the pitch wasnt even that bad, though Limas fastball simply lacks any luster. This was also apparent in the Cairo at-bat, as Miguel was able to turn on a fastball and knock it inches over the fence in left. After those at-bats, Lima calmed down and pitched four innings, allowing three hits and one run.

I say run hesitantly, as I dont think Lima deserved to have the run put to his name. To start off the seventh inning, Lima gave up a hit to Jason Giambi, to put him at 84 pitches overall. But for some reason, Jim Tracy decided it was time to pull the plug, and brought in Darren Dreifort to face Gary Sheffield. Even before the at-bat, I thought Tracy was over-managing, and should let Lima finish the inning, if at least not the next two batters. Dreifort immediately allowed a single to Gary Sheffield, and then managed to induce Jorge Posada into a double play. With Giambi on third, Tracy came off the bench again, bringing in southpaw Tom Martin to face Hideki Matsui. The Japanese outfielder made Tracy regret the move, as he tripled, obviously bringing in Giambi and narrowing the game to 4-3. Guillermo Mota then came in, and got pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra to fly out to left field. While a run may have scored regardless, charging the run to Jose Lima seems cheap to me.

To this second, I still dont quite understand the Dave Roberts at-bat against Paul Quantrill in the bottom half of the inning. With two outs, Roberts hit the ball to left field, where Hideki Matsui made a bad error, allowing Roberts to round the bases. This mistake would prove fatal, and more than made up for the triple Matsui had hit only minutes earlier. At this point Dodger Stadium was a madhouse, and the few Yankee fans were drained out by the 55,000 in Dodger blue. Jose Lima is a little like Zambrano, Beltre a bit like Ramirez, and Dodger Stadium is definitely similar to Wrigley Field.

Eric Gagne came in with two outs and a man on second to face Alex Rodriguez, in what turned to be an epic at-bat. The face-off reminded me of A-Rod vs. Schilling from last years All-Star Game, when Schilling promised to blow heat past the MVP, and did so. Gagne threw Rodriguez his best fastball, and dared the third basemen to catch up to it, but he couldnt. You definitely got an impression of Gagnes dominance, and at that point, I was ready to hang his plaque in upstate New York..

Jason Giambi helped make things interesting in the ninth, by leading the inning off with a home run. The now-81 long save streak is going to end at some point, and if not for Matsuis error, it may have been today. Giambi has been playing great of late, and I think he is an integral part of their hopes for a division title. The second epic battle came with two outs against Matsui, who had already taken two pitchers for extra-base hits earlier in the game. After getting up early in the count, Hideki fought back to make it a full count, before Gagne got Jeff Kellogg to pull the plug on the game.

Overall, it was a fun experience. Ive watched almost every Cubs game in the last week, so I think today was good for me to get a different view of baseball. Its hard for me to not watch a game and think of the Cubs, which leads me to relating things like Jose Lima, Adrian Beltre and Dodger Stadium to things Im used to. I never imagined I would be impressed by Lima, but I might actually agree with the team about not pulling the plug on Jose in the rotation quite yet.

I want to thank Christian for this idea, I think it was a great one. While the Reds, Cubs and Giants games might have been a bit more interesting, it was a cool game to watch.