All Things Bubba

Because how can you not love a baseball player named "Bubba"?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Flashback: Last Year's Finale

Bubba about to hit the first RBI of the game

October 10, 2005: L.A. Angels 5, N.Y. Yankees 3

I was planning to post this earlier this week, closer to the one-year anniversary, but, as the saying goes, it was overtaken by events.

A year ago this week, the Yankees season ended, when they lost Game 5 to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

It was a crazy game. All weekend long, there had been rumors that Colon, the Halos' ace, was injured. His start was pushed up to Game 5, further fueling the rumors.

They turned out to be true. Colon had some kind of inflammation in his arm, and was forced to leave the game in the 2nd inning. Santana took his place.

While many thought the Yankees lucked out, I did not. The Yankees never had much trouble with Colon; I'd rather have faced him than Santana.

Top of the second: Cano, off all people, worked a walk off Santana. With Bernie at the plate, Torre called for a hit and run. Unfortunately, Bernie missed the signal. He didn't swing, and Cano was hung out to dry. He was out by a mile.

Santana then walked Bernie and Posada. So Bubba came up with one out, Bernie on 2B, Posada on 1B. The first pitch was way inside. The second was a called strike, knee-high on the inside of the plate. With the count 1-1, Bubba hit a bloop single to right, moving Posada to 3B and scoring Bernie from 2B. First blood drawn by the bat of Bubba! (It would have been two RBIs if not for that botched hit and run. What was Joe thinking? Bernie is not used to being asked to hit and run. He missed a similar signal during the regular season, too.)

Jeter was up next. He flied out to CF. Posada scored from 3B, Bubba held at 1B.

Next up is A-Rod. On a 1-2 count, Bubba takes off for 2B. Uh-oh! It's a pitchout! But Bubba beats the throw anyway. He's safe at 2B.

Unfortunately, A-Rod strikes out swinging, stranding him.

The Yanks had the lead, but it would prove to be short-lived. In the bottom of the second came the play that became the defining moment of the game, maybe even of the series: the collision between Bubba and Sheff in center-right. What should have been the third out of the inning became a two-RBI triple. Which turned out to be the game.

For some inexplicable reason, a lot of people put the blame on Bubba. Probably because Sheff was a big star and Bubba was just a role player. Even the idiotic announcers were saying it was Bubba's fault, supposedly because with a lefty batting, the ball will tend to tail right, and therefore Bubba should have backed off. WTF? Is that the dumbest thing you've ever heard, or what?

Then there were the armchair quarterbacks who decreed that the problem was Bubba was too young and unsure of himself; a more experienced CFer would have "taken charge" of the outfield. Uh, yeah, sure.

The fact is, the ball fell in no-man's land. Neither could really call it, because neither was sure he could get to it. Even if Bubba did call for it, Sheff couldn't hear him, because there was so much noise. (Those dopey thundersticks should be illegal.)

The CFer is in charge of the outfield. Given the noise levels, it was Sheff's responsibility to check and see where Bubba was. He didn't, because he was used to Bernie, who would never have gotten there. (Joe later said he just laughed at the collision. He put Bubba out there because he could cover more ground. Well, he covered more ground.)

It was Bubba's ball all the way. If you watch the replay in slo-mo, you can see that Bubba got there in plenty of time. He was set up underneath the ball; if Sheff hadn't run into him, he'd have made the catch easily.

Sheff, OTOH, was on the move. It would have been one of his sideswiping catches...and he doesn't always make those. Indeed, if you watch the replay, the ball hits Sheff on the wrist of his glove hand, before he makes contact with Bubba. He botched the play even before the collision. (He also sat on his butt while Bubba jumped up immediately, chased down the ball, and threw it in. Otherwise, it would have been an inside-the-park home run.)

Blame Sheff; as a corner OFer, he's supposed to check to see where the CFer is. Blame Moose, for giving up that kind of hit to the #9 batter (not to mention a homer, a single, and a walk in the same inning). Blame Torre, for waiting until the end of the season to put Bubba in CF, giving Sheff no time to get used to his speed and aggressiveness. But don't blame Bubba. He did everything you could expect a CFer to do.

The Angels tacked on two more runs in the 3rd. Moose had nothing. First, he gave up two singles. Then, with runners at the corners, he gave up a sac fly to center left. Bubba ran a long way to get it. His throw to home was offline, and the runner scored, but Bernie would never have even gotten to that ball, nor would he have attempted to throw it home if he had.

Moose then gave up another single, and a fielder's choice that scored another run. Finally Randy Johnson came in and restored order. (Joe should have gone to the bullpen sooner.)

Bubba's next at-bat was in the top of the 4th. Bernie and Jorgie each grounded out, so he was up with two out, none on. He watched the first strike go by, then laid down a truly beautiful bunt.

The Angels were expecting it and were playing in, but they still couldn't get it. He hit it toward 3B; it reached the no-man's land between 3B, catcher, and pitcher, and just died on the grass. Figgins had no chance against Bubba's speed; he didn't even bother with a throw.

But it was all for nought. Jeter, up next, swung at the first pitch - a weak grounder to SS, getting Bubba on the force to end the inning.

Bubba got one more at-bat in the game, in the top of the sixth. Bernie and Jorgie had flied out, so Bubba once again game up with two outs and none on. He grounded out on the second pitch.

Bubba walks back to the dugout after grounding out.

After that, Bubba's evening was more or less done. He did make a couple of catches in CF. An easy one, and one he had to chase down. (He called Sheff off very early this time.)

When his turn came up again, Kelvim Escobar was pitching. It was the 8th inning; Cano struck out, Bernie flied out, and Posada walked. So there were two outs, one on. Joe decided to pinch-hit Ruben Sierra for Bubba. Great. Bubba was 2 for 3 for the night, and Joe decides to pull him for a 40-year-old guy hitting .229, who's got the range of a coatrack in the outfield. K-Rod was put in for Escobar; Sierra grounded out weakly on the fourth pitch.

The ninth inning was heartbreaking. Jeter singled to left, getting everyone's hopes up. Then A-Rod grounded into a double play, crushing them. Giambi hit a single, and Bellhorn was put in as a pinch-runner. Bellhorn took second on fielder's indifference, and Sheff hit an infield single to 3B. Womack pinch-ran for Sheffield. Once again, everyone had their hopes up. Matsui was the tying run at the plate. Unfortunately, he grounded out on the fourth pitch, breaking the hearts of Yankees fans everywhere.

This game bothered me a lot more than this year's final game. This year, we got blown out in the last two games, and didn't even take it to five. We didn't deserve to win, so I find it easier to accept the defeat.

But last was so close. There were so many what-ifs. What if Randy had pitched his start the way he pitched in relief in the last game? What if Moose hadn't pitched so poorly, or Joe had pulled him earlier? What if Sheff hadn't run into Bubba? What if Joe West hadn't made that goofy call against Cano, calling him out for running inside the line? What if A-Rod had gotten a hit or even just struck out, instead of hitting into a double play?

And the Angels have always been the toughest for us. If we got by them, anything was possible.

Too bad this game ended the way it did. It was really a pretty good game for Bubba. He went 2 for 3, with an RBI and a stolen base. He also made some nice plays on defense; the collision in the outfield was not his fault.

Watching this game again, I can't help but think we had a better team last year. They were exhausted after the grueling stretch run, but were not as one-dimensional as this year's team. In particular, Bubba added something the Yankees needed. Defense, speed, and the ability to bunt. There were a couple of situations in the Tigers series this season where those skills would have really come in handy.

posted by BubbaFan, 6:59 PM


Bubba had a chance of making the Cubbies until Pinella was named their manager. I really hope he doesn't have to rot in the minors next year.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, October 17, 2006 12:34 AM  

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