Page 2 staff

Wednesday, October 6
Second Guesses, First Ups
Eric Neel: I'll get us rolling with the classic question: What the heck was Ron Gardenhire thinking? How do you begin Joe Nathan's third inning of work (when he'd pitched about an inning an outing all year) without anyone up in the pen? I know Terry Mulholland is getting up there in years, and I know you don't want to risk a bout of arthritis with unnecessary pitches, but we're talking about a chance to go up 2-0 on the Yankees here.

David Schoenfield: Considering I'm the guy who predicted Gardenhire as the manager most likely to pull a Grady, I can't believe I'm about to defend him ...

Kevin Jackson: You're going to defend Gardenhire? Why stop there? Little, Mauch and McNamara need love, too. Hell, throw in George Karl while you're at it.

David: You have to manage differently in the playoffs. Joe Nathan is his best relief pitcher and asking a third inning from your best reliever is not wrong. I'd rather lose with my best guy out there than Terry Freakin' Washed-Up Mulholland, that's for sure.

Jim Caple: There's nothing wrong with trying to get another inning out of Nathan. One, he's a converted starter. Two, he's your best reliever. Three, you should manage differently in the postseason -- that's one reason Torre is so successful. But you have to have somebody ready in case Nathan starts showing obvious signs of tiring. And when you throw nine consecutive balls -- 11, since Olerud swung at a ball for strike three -- he's tiring. That was the mistake. Not having anyone warming up in the pen. I would have given Nathan one base runner, but then you have to get him out of there.

Eric: Granted, Mulholland is the leading candidate for the Tim Wakefield/Charlie Liebrandt Award, but still, you've got J.C. Romero in the pen, and you've got to be ready at the first sign of trouble. And a walk to Miguel Cairo is in the baseball dictionary next to "First sign of trouble."

David: Are you guys serious about bringing in J.C. Romero or Terry Mulholland -- lefties -- to face Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield? Gimme a break. Nathan was still the best choice. Live and die.

And the Twins died, but don't blame Gardenhire. (I am, however, second-guessing Jacque Jones' sleeping habits, because he sure was asleep on that last play.)

Jim: No, I never said bring them in, either. But there's a kid named Jesse Crain -- 3-0, 2.00 ERA -- I would have gone to. And yeah, I would have had those other guys warming up so they wouldn't have to rush to get ready to face Matsui.

Eric: He'd thrown 53 pitches. He was handing out balls like Britney Spears doles out glimpses of her belly button. I know Gardenhire felt he had to capitalize on the chance to go up 2-0, but I think not having anybody up in the pen was just one of those stupid, old-school, confidence-in-my-guy gestures, and it cost him.

David: Jim, you're just listing the kid's good numbers, leaving out the fact that his poor 14/12 SO/BB ratio hardly indicates he could step into Yankee Stadium and get Rodriguez out. Of course, we'll never know because the Yankees will wrap this one up in four.

Jim: Well, I'd take my chances over a pitcher I know is gassed. Better the unknown than the known in this case. But as far as the Yanks in four? I don't think so. A-Rod has had a good series, but they haven't been very impressive otherwise. And they've got Kevin Brown in Game 3 -- still recovering from smashing the clubhouse wall -- and they don't even know who their Game 4 starter is. Twins in four.

Eric: Maybe we're not having this conversation if Jones comes hard on Matsui's liner. I thought it was pretty damn bold of Jeter to go, and to look over his shoulder the way he did; I think he surprised Jones.

David: Jacque Jones not being ready to fire the ball to home plate is probably the single, dumbest play I've ever seen a player make in the postseason. Completely unacceptable.

Jim: I was shocked that Jeter was able to score on that fly. Good work from him, but a terrible throw by Jacque. It should have at least been close at the plate. I think he surprised him, too. But that doesn't excuse Jones. He shouldn't have been surprised.

Eric: Almost as big as the loss of Game 2 is Jones making a play that bolsters/reinforces the Jeter mystique. He owes his teammates and the fans of Minnesota for not being ready to make the play at the plate. He owes baseball fans everywhere for unleasing Jeter The Intangible Beast, Version 2004.

David: It will be interesting to see if Jones escapes the criticism. It was a great play by Jeter, but he's out by six feet if Jones is ready to throw home instead of lobbing the ball to the cutoff man. Ugh ...

Second Guesses, Second Helpings
We question ...

Every team that hasn't headhunted Leo Mazzone like one of Trump's apprentices. Jaret Wright? Come on, Leo should be the first million-dollar pitching coach.

Those Cealis commercials with the guy and his suddenly-randy wife sitting on a couch at the end of the pier. Does the stuff increase blood flow down there by taking it away from the brain? What's with the couch on the pier? We don't get it.

Leo the million-dollar pitching coach not telling Bobby that his best move when Wright blew up in the fourth would be to go get Smoltz and let him shut things down right then and there.

The Atlanta fan who threw the Beltran home run ball back onto the field and hit Braves outfielder Charles Thomas. The correct play there, Mr. Braves Fan Man, is to put a little something on the ball and nail Jaret Wright, thereby forcing Cox to bring in Smoltz, like we said.

And speaking of Atlanta fans, we have lots of questions for those who are staying home in droves. Word is, if you bought two tickets to today's game, the Braves gave you two tickets to tomorrow's game. Pathetic.

Why Lew Ford wasn't in Minnesota's lineup. We love Lew Ford at Page 2. But he's benched for Jason Kubel, who put up a few decent September numbers against the Tigers and Royals?

We question Jeter taking a curtain call after a first-inning home run. In fact, can we just put a hiatus on curtain calls until the Series, at least? Or a game-winning HR? This is getting silly (after all the bowing and nodding in St. Louis yesterday).

Frankie Rodriguez's goggles. Somehow, Eric Gagne pulls it off. But not Frankie. And he's too good to look so goofy.

Our own underestimation of Jon Lieber.

Pat Borders as your backup catcher? Is this possible? Mommas, you best let your babies grow up to be catchers, because there are jobs for the taking.

Vlad trying to run out that foul ball tonight. Who cares about his arm, when he has to take a Jazzy scooter to get to the ball ...

Wouldn't it be great if Trojan sponsored the Thunder Stix program?

Bellhorn getting caught off base with the bases loaded and Ortiz at the plate in the second inning. That sort of play deserves a name, maybe. Say we call it Bellhorn in the Belljar?

Vlad's refusal to clean the pine tar off his helmet even once this year. But we approve.

Who bought off the home-plate ump on that Glaus AB in the eighth. Was it Ben Affleck? Was it the SG?

Tuesday, Oct. 5
Second Guesses, First Ups
Jim Caple and Eric Neel get things rolling.

Eric: Weird first day, Jim. Two blowouts and a 2-0 game between the Twins and Yankees tonight that never really had a defining moment.

Jim: I thought we might have a moment in the eighth when the Twins took Santana out after seven innings but Torii Hunter took care of that. And after that win, the Twins will fulfill my Page 2 prediction by whipping the Yankees in four games.

Eric: Heck of a play by Hunter. He made two of them tonight. The throw to nail Posada in the second was terrific too. I guess we could question the Yanks sending him on that shallow fly ball, but you know they thought they had to be aggressive with any chance they got against Santana after the way he's owned them of late.

Jim: The Yankees are done. Sure, they rallied from a Game 1 loss to Santana and the Twins last year but the big difference is this time they don't have Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and David Wells waiting. And if you want to second-guess anyone, how about Steinbrenner for trading for a player they didn't need (no matter how good A-Rod is) while letting three-fifths of his rotation walk.

Eric: Right. Everyone talked about how the Twins had to win Santana's starts, about how they'd be dead in the water if the Yanks won Game 1. It's the other way around. The Yankees needed this win desperately. Tomorrow they go with Lieber? Then who? Three-finger Kevin Brown?

Jim: New York has a $190 million payroll and the Twins have a $54 million payroll but they have something the Yankees don't have -- pitching depth. And I'm not just talking about the rotations. The fact that Torre had to use Mariano Rivera when trailing 2-0 in the ninth just to keep things close shows you how thin New York's pen is.

Eric: I actually had no beef with the Rivera move. He'd only thrown two innings in the last week, and Torre often uses him for more than one inning come playoff time, and I think Rivera knows to expect it and is ready for it. In fact, I kind of like the way the move goes against the grain of conventional wisdom. Use your best pitcher not just to nail down a win but to keep open the possibility of a win. The Yanks had reason to hope they could get to Nathan in the ninth (they'd drilled him in two appearances this year). That said, you're right about New York being shallow as a two-day-old rain puddle when it comes to pitching. And the guys who've been strong -- Gordon, Quantrill, and Rivera -- have had to work a truckload of innings this year. My guess is, with the starters they have going the next couple of days, they could be very vulnerable to getting into situations where who they have in the pen and how they use them just won't matter.

Jim: I've learned not to second-guess Torre with the way he uses his pen in the postseason. It's not so much that he used Rivera there but that he felt he had to use him or risk a four-alarm blaze. Imagine him having to use his pen early against the Red Sox. Not that he has to worry about that, because the Twins are winning this one. Or have I mentioned that, already?

Eric: That's right. The second-guess is all on Steinbrenner tonight. Torre worked with what he had. And let's say, before we go too much further, that Mussina pitched like a lion tonight. It just wasn't quite good enough. But given all this, the Yanks are still the Yanks, and they CAN hit a might. What makes you so sure they're dead?

Jim: Because Radke has been at the top of his game lately and Silva quietly won as many games as anyone on the Yankees, and because the Twins head home after Game 2. But mostly because I don't see the Yankees pitching well enough to win the next three games before they would have to face Santana again.

Eric: Radke vs. Pettite, Silva vs. Wells ... now that's a series.

Jim: And probably a Yankees win.

Eric: But it sure doesn't look like it's going to break that way, and when it's over, when George goes looking for heads to roll, he'd better start with his own.

Second Guesses, Second Helpings (notes from the whole Page 2 baseball team)
We question ...

Odalis Perez working about as fast as Jabba the Hutt gets up off the couch. It sure took forever for this game to be over in a heartbeat.

Brent Mayne's Kool-Moe-Dee wraparound sunglasses. How we like ya' now, Brent? Not so much. You can't go changing who you are come playoff time, Baby. Not even if you're a .216 hitter with no pop.

Odalis Perez throwing a strike, of any kind, to Larry Walker in that second at-bat. The guy was 1-for-16 against you, O. He'd struck out looking like a swinging gate on pitches way down and out the first time up. What were you doing anywhere near the zone in the third?

Tommy Lasorda pitching to Jack Clark like maybe he wasn't actually Jack Clark. Still. And again.

Vlad Guerrero first-pitch swinging the first two times up. We know it's your style, Vlad, but Curt's an old man, and the game is in the heat of the day ... you've got to make him show you something, especially that second time, with two on and one out in the third.

Schilling's beady necklace dealio. We know it's nothing new, but we just want to go on record about it here and now.

The Twins releasing, releasing, David Ortiz last year, like he was a sick sturgeon they caught off the side of a boat or something. Still. And again.

Curt Schilling's mysterious presence on the mound in the seventh inning. Does Francona not understand that there are games this weekend? The guy was in trouble in the sixth and he damn near cracked open an ankle early in the seventh. If your bullpen can't protect a seven-run lead, we say, what the hell are you doing in the playoffs in the first place?

And speaking of mysterious presences, we question Gene Hackman's decision to be the voice of the Lowe's Home Improvement Center commercials. This is Popeye Doyle for crying out loud. Does anyone really want to buy a hammer or a window treatment from Popeye Doyle? The whole thing is humiliating, for Gene, for us, for everyone.

We also have problems with ...

Fox's switch to the blue lettering for team names on the scorebar at the top of the screen. Change for its own sake is just annoying.

The interminable, televised seventh-inning stretch. Can't they just show us a Lowe's Home Improvement Center ad and put us out of our misery? And while we're on the topic, we have to second-guess the 'God Bless America' singer's decision to mess around with the words. Subbing 'valley' for 'prairie.' Not once, but twice? Couldn't somebody write the words on his wristband or something?

The Yankees not thinking far enough ahead to buy Jeffrey Maier a ticket to tonight's game. If he's sitting out in left when Sierra goes deep down by the foul pole, he pulls that ball into fair territory. It's the little things, George. We thought you knew that.

The Giants giving up on Joe Nathan, closing with Dustin Hermanson, and depriving the world of more Barry Bonds postseason at-bats.

Anybody who forgets to mention Torii Hunter in the Andruw Jones-Jim Edmonds-Junior Griffey (in his prime) debate.

The way Vice President Cheney kept bringing his hands up to his chin as he spoke? Nothing says 'unfamiliar with the process' more than muffled sound in a debate.

Posada running on Hunter and sliding straight-up instead of down and dirty, the way he should have, with a belly flop and an outstretched arm.

And finally, and while we're at it, A-Rod's little two-step on the strike-em-out-throw-em-out DP, too -- may it be the most metrosexual play we see all series.