Monday, June 18, 2012
Remembrance of Winning Streaks Past
As the Yankees congregated on the field following their tenth consecutive win last night, I had a moment that was pure Proust. Well, if television graphics and Proust could ever coexist. The graphic said that the Yankees had not won ten games straight since 2005. And it all came back, within that crevice of my memory where I see Robinson Cano throwing away a double play ball in Tropicana Field after getting called up, or Wayne Franklin pitching to Hank Blalock in the eighth inning.
Ten game winning streaks are certainly rare. It feels like a long time ago. I know my life was certainly different. Words such as ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’ would have registered zero meaning for me, the way batting average does for sabermetricians. How quaint. And they played at the old Stadium, back then.
These days, whenever my mind happens upon the old Stadium, it’s hard not to compare experiences. Shifting tides, different vibes. I remember Jaret Wright getting waffled around the yard by the Texas Rangers on a cold April day. The upper deck empties out. Two gentlemen in front of me light up a doob, or at least what I think is a doob. At the new place certain guardrails seem untouchable, for reasons known only to the hologram Emperor who signs setup men to monster contracts and constructs moats for box seats occupied by nobody. Doobs aren’t a necessity. But neither is unfriendliness. It’s pretty, the new place. Just different.
Then again, change is never one-dimensional. There were certainly shadow aspects to the Yankees’ four million fan drawing theatrical era that closed the old stadium. We all may have herbed the old guard of journalism for invoking Greek tragedies while summarizing the travails of Alex Rodriguez, but the comparison was close to reality. Every game felt immensely important. The best player on the team was consistently jeered, but with venomous intensity, not even remotely comparable to the occasional catcalls of the present tense. Nothing seemed to be in proper perspective. It was a different time. Just different.
If this brief, circuslike era of Yankees baseball could be properly summarized within one season, the 2005 edition would be the right choice. They were buried, resurrected, abandoned and lauded again, all within two months. Newspapers had headlines like “Jason Lives” when embattled first baseman Jason Giambi hit home runs. Giambi was nearly sent to the minor leagues, before finishing as the second most valuable offensive player on a team boasting Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui, and Jorge Posada. Aaron Small went 10-0.
That club’s ten game winning streak, which ran from May 7th through the 17th, should be interesting to look back upon.
May 7th: Yankees defeat the A’s 5-0: Tony Womack is hitting second. Andy Phillips gets a turn at designated hitter. Hitting behind Phillips is intriguing rookie second baseman Robinson Cano, who rode a scintillating April in Triple A to the Major Leagues. Tony Womack is playing leftfield. Hideki Matsui is playing centerfield. With that kind of defense, the Yankees shouldn’t exactly be shocked to be 11-19. It’s a steaming pile of a won-loss record, and they have earned it, with terrible starting pitching, a shaky bullpen, and that aforementioned reprehensible defense. Tino Martinez homers in the second inning. Mussina only has three strikeouts, but he goes the distance.
May 8th: Yankees defeat the A’s 6-0: Kevin Brown throws seven shutout innings. Jason Giambi bats eighth, ahead of Cano. Alex Rodriguez hits his eleventh home run off Rich Harden in the fourth inning. Tino Martinez and Jorge Posada circle the bases consecutively against Kiko Calero in the eighth inning. The Yankees are building momentum. Watch out.
May 9th: Yankees defeat the Seattle Mariners 4-3: Randy Johnson delivers the ball directly to Mariano Rivera. Tino Martinez hits another home run. Raul Ibanez bats sixth and plays designated hitter for the Mariners. Tony Womack is hitting second, again. Mariano Rivera strikes out Greg Dobbs to end the game. After struggling mightily against the Red Sox to open the season, it appears Rivera may defy time for another season or two.
May 10th: Yankees defeat the Seattle Mariners 7-4: Tino Martinez homers again, connecting off Aaron Sele in the third inning. Yankees rookies Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang lead the way. Cano has two hits. Wang wins his first Major League game, pitching into the eighth inning while allowing three runs. Mariano Rivera saves another game. Tony Womack bats second. Backup catcher John Flaherty has two hits. Bernie Williams, who had been previously phased out of the lineup, gets a start at designated hitter and chips in a knock.
May 11th: Yankees defeat the Seattle Mariners 13-9: Pivotal offseason addition Carl Pavano is mashed, allowing ten hits and nine runs in four innings. Five of those runs are earned. Tino Martinez hits another home run, off Matt Thornton in the fourth inning. Thornton had relieved Jamie Moyer, who somehow pitched worse than Pavano, surrendering ten hits and six runs in two and a third innings. Moyer is running out of steam. Paul Quantrill receives the win, as he and Tanyon Sturtze combine for four shutout innings of relief hurling. Torre gives Cano a day off against Moyer, opting for Rey Sanchez. Jeff Nelson makes an appearance for Seattle. Tony Womack hit second. He has two hits.
May 13th: Yankees defeat the Oakland A’s 9-4: Rookie Robinson Cano hits doubles against Rich Harden and Juan Cruz. Tony Womack hits second. He triples. Mike Mussina is strong again, going seven innings and allowing two runs, striking out nine. Gary Sheffield hits a first inning home run. Mike Stanton makes a ninth inning appearance and does not make it through the frame. Paul Quantrill retires Marco Scutaro on a line drive to Jeter to end the game. The Yanks are rolling.
May 14th: The Yankees defeat the Oakland A’s 15-6: Joe Blanton is a promising young starter, but he is battered by the Yankees offense for nine runs in under four innings. Kevin Brown wins again, though unimpressively. Buddy Groom throws two innings for the Yankees. The Yankees form a conga line around the bases. Home runs for Alex Rodriguez, Jeter, Martinez, and Posada. Two hits for that sweet swinging freshman, Cano. Giambi bats eighth. He has one hit. Womack? He hit second.
May 15th: Yankees defeat the Oakland A’s 6-4: It’s a glorious day to be a first baseman for the New York Yankees. Tino Martinez continues resembling a candidate for Most Valuable Player, cranking two home runs off novice Oakland starter Danny Haren. With the score tied at four in the seventh inning, maligned first baseman Jason Giambi launches a double down the right-field line against nasty lefty specialist Ricardo Rincon. The clout gives the Yankees a two run lead. Randy Johnson wins his fourth game. Mariano Rivera has his sixth save. The Yankees are back! Woo-hoo!
May 16th: Yankees defeat the Seattle Mariners 6-3: Chien-Ming Wang continues showing promise. While nailing down his second win, he has four strikeouts and zero walks in six innings. Bernie Williams hits a grand slam off J.J. Putz in the seventh.
May 17th: Yankees defeat the Seattle Mariners 6-0: Ghosts of guitar riffs echo through Seattle evenings. Jason Giambi, three hits. Carl Pavano, complete game shutout. His high point in pinstripes. A train rattling down tracks in the distance. One hit for Robinson Cano. It’s beautiful out and anything is possible. Where did you go, Andy Phillips? Tony Womack hits second.
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