Yes, I am typing this while watching “Rookie of the Year,” because I obviously have not watched enough baseball this weekend (fireable). However, “Rookie of the Year” is a tremendous movie with a great soundtrack (Bill Conti of “Rocky” fame … at least I’m pretty sure it’s the same Bill Conti. The movie is not listed on his Wikipedia page, and that’s obviously the most reliable source of information for getting one’s facts correct), and while I would have liked for Josh Beckett to have pitched like Chet Steadman during the first half of that movie tonight, he instead looked like Henry Rowengartner during the second half (minus the floater, of course).
Now, most people have naturally compared Beckett’s performance tonight to how he pitched against the Yankees in the 2003 World Series, but the thing I found most impressive was the fact that, unlike then, when he was a fresh face to New York, tonight’s performance came in his 25th career start against the representatives of Pride, Power and Pinstripes. Beckett’s career stats against the Yanks — not including the World Series, of course — aren’t all that impressive (10-7, 6.26 ERA, 92 earned runs on 155 hits in 132 1/3 innings), which isn’t all that surprising (at least to me) because New York always has a loaded lineup and has faced him so many times. So to be as overpowering as he was tonight against a team that’s seen him a ton of times and has a strong lineup, even with A-Rod out (hell, A-Rod’s replacement, Eric Chavez, got one of the Yanks’ two hits off Beckett), sort of blew my mind. It’s one thing to blow away a team when they’ve never seen you before and you throw in the mid-90’s with a ridiculous 12-to-6 hook like Beckett does, but to dominate them when they’ve already seen you at your best … I begrudgingly (as a Yankees fan) tip my hat to Beckett (Pedroia gets no hat tip, even though he was piling up the big hits all weekend. Guy is clearly a dirtbag. Hate hate hate.).
Now, speaking of pitchers with overpowering stuff (at least at one point in the past), Joba (Joba Joba) Chamberlain had one of his performances tonight that hurt my head. I know young Kevin brought up Joba’s additional pounds in his post below this one, but that’s not what bothers me about Joba. A large belly didn’t stop David Wells, Bartolo Colon (Free Bartolo!) or Hideki Irabu from being top-notch pitchers (OK, Irabu was only a top-notch pitcher in my childhood fantasies … that sounds creepy). Joba’s problem, as always, is his lack of control (leadoff walk to Big Papi in the seventh) and dumb pitch selection (walking J.D. Drew that same inning on a 3-2 slider). Three of the four balls to Ortiz were fastballs: you can’t be an effective pitcher in the big leagues if you can’t control your fastball, and Joba’s tendency to throw 3-2 sliders is something that’s bothered me about him since the 2008 season.
So, decent first week for the Yanks — outside of some poor bullpen performances and whatever is going on with Phil Hughes’ right arm. And this upcoming week brings two more interesting matchups in the Orioles (are they for real?) and the Rangers (off to a red-hot start, and will they continue where they left off against the Yanks in the 2010 ALCS?). I also might head out to Citi Field tomorrow or Tuesday to give some support to Kev’s boy, Izzy. Funky buttloving.