Posted at 9:32 AM on June 6, 2005
by Bob Collins
A couple of notes on Sunday's game with the Yankees as viewed from the Upper Deck.
* Let's see if I have this correct. Michael Ryan, just up from the minors, put a suicide squeeze play on with the bases loaded, without being told to do so, and without the runner at third knowing about it? I'm sorry, that's not a guy you want on your team.
* It makes for a romantic and gripping tale to observe that Kevin Brown's "problems" in the game started in that inning when he hit Torii Hunter with a pitch. I believe I saw one scribe say up until then, he was dominant.
Nice angle. If only it were true.
Brown was laboring, however, the inning before, as I observed to my oldest son -- a Yankee fan (born in White Plains) -- that his pitch count after 5 meant the 6th would certainly be his last inning.
Cuddyer singled to start the 5th on Brown's first pitch. It was then, I think, that Brown started becoming unglued because he developed a fascination with runners at first, and it was that not Hunter, that disrupted his rhythm. It took 8 pitches, if you include the pickoffs, to get Mike Redmond to strike out swinging.
It took two more (if you include another pickoff attempt) before Luis Rodriguez singled to A-Rod at third.
On the second pitch, Michael Ryan forced Rodriguez at second. And then in the AB of the game to that point -- which none of the scribes mentioned this morning, Brent Abernathy made Brown throw 15 pitches, including four more pickoff attempts, before fouling out to Tino Martinez for the final out.
The other thing I noticed about Brown yesterday -- if you can believe the radar again -- almost every pitch was 93 or 94 mph. That's fast, but compare that to Carlos Silva who ranged from 83 to 93. Brown got a couple of guys wayyyy out in front by throwing a fastball at 89 instead of 94. But not often.
And Joe Torre spit the bit in this game too in waiting so long to take Brown out in the 6th inning. Maybe he was reading the early accounts of the game from the local sportswriters and didn't realize what was really happening.
I disagree on Ryan. For too long now the Twins have tried to play like a batch of big fly hitters. The Twins (espescially the injury-addled club at the moment) need to win by hustle and pluck. Ryan's play pissed off Ron Gardenhire, which should tell you right away it was a good decision.
Add to that, with the Yankee defense, you are fine to force them to make plays, I would wager that 8 out of 10 times Arod doesn't come through there...
Then again, I think the Twins, and Gardenhire, wouldn't know actual strategy if it jumped up and bit them. Generally, they don't do the fundamentals as well anymore... and I fear come the fall, that it may end up being the downfall of the team.
I'm not disputing the value of the suicide squeeze. I agree with it entirely. Bobby Cox has made a chunk of change doing it.
I disagree with a batter deciding on his own that that was what he was going to do. There are many plays that are enhanced with the "go it alone" strategy, but the suicide squeeze isn't one of them given the fact that the runner on third is kind of an important facet.
Let's be clear here, a cleanly fielded ball and Cuddyer is out. I couldn't tell from where I was sitting whether the ball hit Cuddyer or whether Posada muffed it, but when Bobby Cox executed the suicide squeeze, there usually wasn't even a play at the plate. Why? Because the runner is coming on the play.
That would've been the case yesterday, too.
I'm no Gardenhire fan -- I don't dislike him either -- but in a team game, you can't have a go-t-alone strategy and that's pretty much what Ryan did. Torii Hunter? Jacques Jones? OK, maybe I give them the right to ignore the play and do what they want. But a kid just up from the minors?
Of course, if I were 28 years old and still in the minors, maybe I'd be desperate enough to try it too.
There's a pretty fair chance that play will end up being the highlight of Ryan's career in Major League Baseball.
You're right. Ryan shouldn't have dropped a bunt in that situation on his own. It's too easy to get a force-out at home if the runner doesn't have a good jump, and if the bunt isn't perfect there's a good chance of the Yankees executing an easy double play.
Cuddyer made it work anyway, by running on the inside of the baseline and shielding Posada from the throw. That was smart, and I believe the throw did glance off his back. If Newman had been paying attention, the Twins should've had 2 runs score on the play and another runner on 3rd, too. But Ryan's decision was like a basketball player's 40-foot heave with 4 seconds on the clock that makes you shout Nooooooooo!!! until you see it swish through the net.
It was a poor decision that helped the Twins greatly. I really liked his intentions, and it worked out to his benefit. Had it gone differently, Ryan (Terry) probably would have told Ryan (Mike) to hit the road.
On the other hand, I think that it fired the Twins up against a worthy opponent. The Yankees are struggling this year, but I don't see them keeping this pace. I'd love for them to not make the playoffs, but I don't see that happening.
The REd Sox are equally funk-laden, which I guess is opening the door for the Orioles. But, geez, how long can you ride Brian Roberts? For all the talk of the Central Division being weak, I don't see the AL East standing very tall.
Technically it was a safety squeeze as Cuddyer didn't start running until Ryan put the ball in play.
I agree with others that it wasn't the most strategically sound play that ended up working pretty good. I like the commenter who credited Cuddyer's baserunning as a key element of the play's success.