2, 2001: Texas Rangers at New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium
who surmised that a bad day fishing beats a good day working wasn't talking about
the time he watched his tackle box sink to the bottom of the pond before lunchtime.
Similarly, when I planned to carry out my annual Ditch Day by taking in an afternoon
game at Yankee Stadium rather than spending it at the office, I had no idea it
was the Yankees I would ditch before the last out was recorded.
My day off (scheduled,
I might add) looked promising at the outset, with a game-time temperature of 85¼
and nary a cloud in the sky. The Yanks came in having won 9 of 10, and were facing
the hapless Texas Rangers, a team whose season has existed as a cautionary
tale for Baseball Economics 101 (the lesson along the lines of "Thou
shalt not spend well over a quarter-billion dollars on contracts without addressing
thy horrific starting pitching."). The pitching matchup featured Mike Mussina
against Aaron Mylette, a rookie with a career ERA of 7.48 and zero big league
wins to his credit (a mere 158 behind Mussina). It should have been no contest,
and it wasn't.
A bit of scouting
on my part would have prepared me for what happened. The Rangers had won eight
of ten entering the game; they'd broken the Yankees' 8-game winning streak two
nights earlier, and were fresh off of their first winning month in over a year.
The Yankee lineup was missing two of its best hitters: Jorge Posada was sidelined
for the third straight game with a stomach virus, and Scott Brosius had been placed
on the disabled list with a hairline fracture in his left hand after being hit
by a pitch the night before. And
while Mussina has had some success this season, it hasn't come in my presence;
he was 0-2 with a 4.26 ERA in the three games I'd attended thus far.
Suffice it to say
that his trend continued. Like an Italian chef out of a bad metaphor, Mussina
was serving up meatballs from the outset. Frank Catalanatto doubled down the right
field line to lead off the game, and then Randy Velarde lined a single to left.
Catalanatto came around to score on Rafael Palmeiro's sacrifice fly, Palmeiro
effortlessly belting the first pitch to deep center field to plate the run. Mussina
semed to settle down with a 1-2-3 second inning, but he found doom in the third.
A leadoff walk to the #9 hitter (insert the head-shaking of a thousand managers
here) opened the door to a six-run inning which featured a pair of three-run blasts
by Pudge Rodriguez and Gabe Kapler. My sunscreen hadn't even absorbed, and the
Yanks were down by a touchdown.
The Moose was so
gopher-happy that he couldn't stop. A solo shot to Catalanatto in the fourth even
prompted me to singe the ears of those around me, shouting, "Take that weak shit
back to Baltimore!" It was the first time I'd booed a Yankee pitcher since one
of Roger Clemens' less-than-stellar outings last year, but then, I've always had
a rocky relationship with the Rocket. All
told, the Rangers pummelled Mussina for nine hits and eight runs in four innings.
Only a spectacular double-play, Alfonso Soriano to a counter-clockwise-spinning
Derek Jeter to Tino Martinez, spared Mussina from a mid-inning exit to a chorus
Mylette, on the
other hand, was nearly unhittable. Through five innings, he yielded only a single
to Soriano. But he walked Chuck Knoblauch to lead off the sixth, then hit Derek
Jeter, and both runs scored on a Bernie Williams double to deep center field.
That ended Mylette's day, and for the first time, the near-capacity crowd (which
featured some twenty different groups of day-campers, each in matching t-shirtsarmies
of prepubescent Jeter-shriekers) came alive. But Tino Martinez and a rusty David
Justice (back from two stints on the DL) stranded Williams, shutting down the
The Rangers weren't
done, however. Randy Choate, who had pitched two scoreless innings in relief of
Mussina, fell apart in the seventh, yielding two more runs. The last came on a
ground-rule double by ex-Yankee Rickey Ledee. As catcher Todd Greene strode to
the mound, the infield and Joe Torre closed in around Choate.
My friend Julie
and I decided we needed some relief from this trauma as well. Despite the defecity,
we planned to stay through the seventhI do not, as a rule, like to leave
games early; this Yankees team has put up far too many comebacks over the last
three and a half years for me to turn my back on them easily. But with a pitching
change and my old nemesis, "Cotton-Eyed Joe,"
looming on the horizon, we decided to cut our losses. This day off had turned
into an off daythe one that got away.
Rangers 12, Yankees 2. Zero beers, zero hot dogs, one frozen lemonade,
one lame Moose, two early departures, and one vacation day crying out for a mulligan.