Billy-Ball Daily: 2006-6-7

6/7/2006
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Thurman Munson would have been 59 years old today.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Top of the 1st
IT’S SPELT MELKY
It seems to me that every Yankee-Red Sox game is a play or movie waiting to be made. I’m not talking about the rivalry in general, I’m talking specific games that seem to have drama, pathos, humor, and a morale. Rather than attempt to do that in this small space (I will wait for my talented playwright cousin, Steven Drukman, to take this not so subtle hint), I will simply attempt a conglomeration of typos about last night’s event.

I think that I am particularly intrigued by last night’s 2-1 Yankee victory at The Stadium, not because it was a well played game (which it was), but by the players who gave us moments to remember. Either with respect or disgust, when healthy, these two teams combined have purchased enough talent to field an All-Star team that would be competitive against a group of all-stars made up of all the 28 other teams combined.

That’s why this morning I write about Pauley and Melky. No, they are not two David Chase characters watched by Bobby Baccala; they were last night’s stars along with Chien-Ming Wang. These two teams have some of the highest-paid players in the game but I can tell you that Wang’s Kansas City Royal-like salary of $353,175 is the largest of the three. But this isn’t about money, it’s about belonging.

It’s about playing on the big stage with the big boys and proving to them and to yourself that you are now part of the same elite fraternity. That today their names are inscribed in the Baseball Encyclopedia just the same as their better paid, better known, teammates.

David Pauley is a member of the Boston Red Sox by necessity, not choice. Actually, that’s not entirely true. The Red Sox made a horrible choice trading pitcher Bronson Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena relying upon the health of David Wells (who looks like he may be finished) and the closing skill of Keith Foulke which perhaps would have allowed Jonathan Paplebon to join the rotation. Their assorted replacements of Lenny DiNardo and Abe Alvarez were only made more indefensible by the poor or inconsistent performances of the rest of the rotation.

$200 million and Melky Cabrera is your starting left fielder? He is when Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield both go down with potentially season-ending injuries. But, he has stepped up and done the job. That’s what his best friend on the team, Robinson Cano did last year at second base, as did the expressionless Chien Ming-Wang has done on the mound as his excessively paid cohorts, Jarret Wright and Carl Pavano have been battling injuries and high ERAs.

In his major league debut, Pauley was rocked by the Jays last week, but that is no badge of dishonor; those boys can hit. There he was in the dugout two nights ago watching Josh Beckett head to the showers, before the end of the 2nd inning, in search of a second pitch to go along with a very fast but straight fastball that every major leaguer can tee off on. For the second time Pauley looked like a deer caught in the headlights as he awaited the Yankee train aimed next at him.

But last night was a different story. Last night Pauley did what we all hope we are able to do – he put his fear behind him. He mustered up his courage and he pitched and he pitched very well. He left after 6.2 with the scored tied at 1-1 with the bases loaded and watched as Rudy Seanez walked home what proved to be the run that put the “L” next to Pauley’s name. Last week, after Pauley had been battered and was watching in the dugout his reliever in the 5th deal with the runners inherited from him, next to Pauley Mike Timlin, the Sox reliever on the DL (another belated WBC casualty?) consoled him. You could see Timlin offering advice and support to a 22-year old who was close to tears. Last night, as Pauley went to the dugout to the respectful cheers of the New York fans, Timlin was the first to greet him.

“Great, man, just great,” Big Papi, who hit a solo homer, said of Pauley. “Outstanding. He has great stuff, and he really used it tonight. When you have a young kid living all those moments, it’s going to do nothing but help him later in his career.”

Pauley’s last batter was Melky. He walked him on four pitches. That was critical but it was not yet Melky’s moment. In this new age of spending, middle relievers are now just starting to get overpaid. On the Red Sox, Julian Tavarez is making $3.3 million. For the Yankees, Kyle Farnsworth is making $5.4 million. Hey, it’s your world, I just live here.

Farnsworth came on in the 8th inning. Wang had escaped his own crisis in the 7th with runners on first and second and one out, two shots to Andy Phillips, the $331,150 first baseman, got him out of the jam, but he was toast, er, Peking ravioli. Farnsworth struck out the first two batters and up stepped Manny. Now Manny is paid a lot of money, $18,279,238 to be exact, to be Manny. Sometimes, Manny being Manny is a bad thing like when he hits a routine single to center and inexplicably decides to go for a double. Now Johnny Damon has a bad arm, but even his throw beat Manny by 40 feet. He returned to the dugout with the sheepish grin of someone who had been with a hand in the cookie jar and nothing more serious than that.

On this 06/06/06 day, speaking before the game, the prescient Sox manager Terry Francona said, “Manny has an extraordinary ability to put at-bats, plays behind him. We’ve all seen plays on `SportsCenter.’ He turns the page and hits a homer. Part of it is he knows he’s good.”

So, Manny turned on a Kyle Farnsworth pitch and sends it screaming in the Bronx sky toward the Promised Land over the left centerfield fence. Back goes Damon in center, he is nowhere near the ball, back goes Melky running full speed, one hand feeling for the fence. Announcers are beginning their home run call as the ball approaches the 399 foot sign. After the game, speaking through a translator, he said, “I was aware of the score and I followed the flight of the ball. I knew I had it all the way.” Sure, Melky, sure. Nevertheless, Melky calculated his takeoff, leaped, and grabs the ball as it hurtles over the fence. Melky, bounces off the wall and slides headfirst on the turf with the ball safely ensconced in his glove.

Pros don’t smile after a great play, but Melky was smiling as he was running in to the dugout. Ramirez watched in disbelief and mouthed “Wow!” and when he got back to the dugout he said to buddy David Ortiz, “No pop,” Ram