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Frankly Frankel: May 8, 2016

08 May

The Yankees finally get something to go their way, Rob Manfred needs to make an example out of John Farrell, Ron Kulpa is my new favorite umpire, and Fenway Park is the best place to watch sports in America.  This is Frankly Frankel on this Mother’s Day, May 8, 2016.

  • I have to start off with what went down during Friday night’s Yankees-Red Sox game.  The Yankees had a 3-2 lead entering the top of the ninth inning when Andrew Miller loaded the bases for David Ortiz and Miller fell behind Ortiz 3-1.  On the 3-1 pitch, Miller and catcher Brian McCann got crossed up making Ortiz think in his mind the pitch should have been called a ball, and Josh Rutledge should have scored to tie the game at three.
  • Ortiz proceeded to begin screaming at home plate umpire Ron Kulpa until Red Sox manager John Farrell intervened and was promptly thrown out of the game.  I was honestly shocked Ortiz wasn’t thrown out as well in that spot, but I’ll get to that shortly.
  • The 3-1 pitch was clearly a strike.  There’s no other way around it.  It was knee high and clipped the outside corner.  You can’t argue with facts.  Ortiz just assumed that because McCann and Miller were crossed up the pitch should have been called a ball, and NESN analyst and former Red Sox great Jim Rice echoed those same sentiments on the postgame show.  Rice said anytime a pitcher and catcher get crossed up on a pitch, the pitch should be called a ball no matter what.
  • Unfortunately, that is not how this works Jimmy.  Either a pitch is a strike or it isn’t, and in my non-biased opinion, a pitcher and catcher getting crossed up should have zero barring on a pitch being called a ball or a strike.  That’s the pitcher and catcher’s problem, not the umpire’s.
  • The 3-2 pitch was a completely different story.  That pitch was undoubtedly low and unquestionably should have been called a ball.  I have no idea why Kulpa rung Ortiz up in that spot.  It may have had a little something to do with Ortiz losing his mind on the prior pitch, which umpires (correctly or incorrectly) will sometimes hold against hitters, or it may have simply been a matter of that being the culmination of what was truly an atrocious night behind the plate for Kulpa.
  • After striking out on the 3-2 pitch, Ortiz walked somewhat calmly back to the Red Sox dugout, and I began to think he’s really just going to let that one go.  I should have known better.
  • I don’t know if he was provoked by Kulpa or not, but Ortiz shot out of the dugout like a cannon, was quickly ejected, and looked like he wanted to go all UFC on Kulpa.  Ortiz was held back and didn’t make contact, but if there was ever going to be a time where a Major League baseball player would ever intentionally strike an umpire, I thought that would have been the time.  The only other instances that come into my head of players/managers losing their minds and screaming at umpires like that were when George Brett was called out in the pine-tar game, and when Joe Girardi flipped out after Ryan Dempster wasn’t ejected for intentionally throwing at Alex Rodriguez in a game during the 2013 season.  Other than that, that’s as angry as you’ll ever see a baseball player get and I have zero recollections of Ortiz ever losing his cool like that.
  • What people seem to be overlooking when Ortiz got thrown out was John Farrell, who had just gotten thrown out of the game himself, ran back onto the field to hold Ortiz back.  How is that allowed?  If I’m Rob Manfred, you can’t not suspend Farrell for that just for the fact that he’d be setting a bad precedent.  You can’t have a player/manager get thrown out of the game and feel like they can still come back onto the field.  Manfred must make an example out of Farrell here.
  • The game did not end there believe it or not.  Hanley Ramirez had an opportunity to tie or put the Red Sox ahead, but struck out to end it (a swinging strike unfortunately).  There was legitimately never a chance Hanley was going to get a hit in that spot.  That’s just not how sports work.  The story of the game was going to be the Ortiz at-bat and no one would remember it was Hanley who struck out to end it.
  • Here’s how I rationalize everything if I’m the Yankees.  Up to that point in the season, nothing had gone right.  The team had one of the worst records in baseball, the offense was at the bottom of the league in runs scored, the starters were all atrocious and were giving the team zero length, even the bullpen which everyone thought would be the strength of the team was shaky at best.  Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia were just placed on the disabled list, and Jacoby Ellsbury, who had just started hitting, hurt his hip earlier in the game on Friday and was forced to leave.  It’s unclear how much time he will miss, but if history is any indication, Ellsbury will miss the rest of the season.
  • It was about time the Yankees got something to go there way in 2016, and David Ortiz getting called out on strikes was the break the Yankees so desperately needed.
  • The Yankees followed up Friday night’s victory with what I felt was their best game of the season on Saturday.  Nathan Eovaldi pitched eight innings of two-run ball (I was beginning to think the longest a Yankees starter would go this season would be seven innings), the offense provided eight runs (who woulda thunk it??), and for just the second time all season, neither Dellin Betances nor Andrew Miller came in to pitch.  Mind-boggling.
  • On a side note, of the Yankees’ eight runs on Saturday, six came off of David Price who couldn’t make it past the fifth inning.  After signing a record seven-year $217 million contract, Price has not come close to living up to expectations.  Although Saturday was his first loss of the season and his win-loss record stands at 4-1, Price’s ERA is at 6.75, no where close to where Sox fans and management had hoped, especially in year one of Price’s deal.  After his start on Saturday, Price has the third worst ERA among qualified pitchers.  Only Matt Cain and Wily Peralta have been worse.  Ouch.
  • Back to Miller and Betances.  They and the Yankees will be getting a much needed boost when Aroldis Chapman joins the team on Monday when his 30-game suspension concludes.  Joe Girardi was quick to say Chapman will replace Miller as the team’s closer and I vehemently disagree with this decision.  Miller has been so disgustingly good in the closer’s role, it doesn’t make any sense why you would want to mess that up.
  • Miller has been absolutely exceptional up to this point in the season.  In 11.2 innings pitched, he hasn’t allowed a run, has issued just one walk, has 20 strikeouts and has given up seven hits.  That’s as dominant as you could be.  Could Chapman be even more dominant than that?  Maybe.  But the only constant over the past season-plus with the Yankees was Miller locking down the ninth inning.  Since the beginning of the 2015 season, the Yankees haven’t lost a game when leading after eight innings.  There’s no need to mess with that.
  • My biggest concern with Chapman is he has a tendency to lose his command and the Yankees can’t afford to be blowing games in the ninth inning because Chapman can’t throw strikes.  This by the way is a first guess.  I really hope I’m wrong.
  • Speaking of decisions made by Joe Girardi that I first guessed, another one occurred last Sunday in Boston at a game I had the pleasure of attending.
  • The Yankees and Red Sox were tied in the bottom of the seventh inning when Brock Holt hit a ground ball to Chase Headley that should have resulted in an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.  However, Headley, who has been the worst player in baseball this season, couldn’t get the ball out of his glove quick enough to get two, so the Yankees had to settle just getting the force out at second.
  • After Holt reached on the fielders choice, Joe Girardi for whatever reason felt the need to take Nova out of the game and insert Betances to face Chistian Vazquez.  I could understand if the Yankees had the lead and Girardi wanted to get four outs from Betances to set up Miller to close it out in the ninth, but in a tie game on the road there is no justification for such a move.
  • And this wasn’t like there was some lefty-righty nonsense going on here.  Girardi took out Nova (a righty) and replaced him with Betances (another righty).  On the first pitch of the night from Betances, Vazquez crushed a two-run homer over the Monster to give Boston an 8-6 lead and they would go on to win the game 8-7.
  • I understand the Yankees’ roster isn’t very good and Joe Girardi is doing the best he can, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t made his fair share of awful decisions.  There was zero reason for taking Nova out in that spot in favor of Betances.
  • As I mentioned earlier, I had the pleasure of attending last Sunday’s Yankees-Red Sox game at Fenway Park, and since I haven’t been to Wrigley Field, I can’t speak for it, but I can’t imagine there being a better place to watch a sporting even in America than at Fenway.
  • It’s so refreshing to still see a stadium standing where fans can actually walk up to the closest seats to the field without being harassed by security or needing to go through a private entrance to get that close, as well as having the ability to experience that kind of atmosphere which is really becoming a lost art in live sporting events these days.  All these teams are so focused on luxury and gearing everything toward the people who want to go to the games the least.  Fenway Park, whatever you do, never change.
  • Make sure to tune in next time for another edition of Frankly Frankel and be sure to follow me on Twitter @lucasfrankel.  Have a wonderful Mother’s Day everyone!
 
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