Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Columnist: Javier Vazquez's win doesn't really count because it was against Baltimore

Javier Vazquez had a terrific game in front of the hometown Yankee crowd last night, and got his first Yankee win as a starter since August 2004. But one sports columnist doesn't think he deserves much credit for the victory.

"Keep Javy's performance in perspective: Javier Vazquez looked dominant against the Orioles on Tuesday -- but it's the Orioles" is the headline of Ian O'Connor's ESPN New York's piece on Vazquez. There are lots of times I think O'Connor does a good job in both keeping things in perspective, and writing about the Yankees with passion. Can't say I'm very crazy about this piece, though.

O'Connor takes pains to denigrate Javy's seven inning, four-hit, one-run performance because it was against the lowly O's:
Javy came. Javy saw.

Javy conquered a sorry excuse for a baseball team.

That's the fly ball in the ointment, the annoying burst of rain on this latest Yankees parade.

The Orioles are so dreadful, so painful on the eyes, it was impossible to pronounce Vazquez cured of whatever ills had prevented him from pitching the way he's paid $11.5 million to pitch.

Well, given that Vazquez hasn't pitched well at home at all this year as a starter, and hasn't pitched very well - period - as a Yankee until a few weeks ago, I think it's huge progress. This isn't a AA start, after all. The Orioles might be a lousy team, but you know what? A win is a win. And if Vazquez had lost again at home against the Orioles, things would be a heck of a lot worse for him right now.

What gets me about O'Connor's approach here, repeatedly denigrating and minimizing this victory, is that he never does the flip side. What about the fact that it took a throwing error by Miguel Tejada for the Yankees to take the lead? Going into last night's game, O's pitcher Brian Matusz had a 2-5 record, with a 5.78 ERA. Yet he only allowed one earned run against the vaunted Yankee lineup. Maybe we should denigrate the Bombers' offense for doing so little. Sheesh.

O'Connor continues with the negative tone:
This isn't meant to curb anyone's enthusiasm as a nod to the famous face in the Stadium crowd, Larry David. This is only meant to add perspective to a 24/7 sports culture often starving for it.

"When he's on," Curtis Granderson said of Vazquez, "he can be one of the best pitchers in the game."

Yeah, and if Ollie Perez ever had the chance to be "on" against the Orioles, he'd be Sandy Koufax, too.

Ouch! Why so harsh, dude! Some "perspective"!

As I've written over and over, I was against Brian Cashman trading for Javy in the first place. That being said, I hate the fans booing Vazquez. And I have to give the pitcher credit for hanging in there, and for improving a lot over the past month. Javy's pitching is better, his body language is better, and his confidence is better. Do I still worry about his pitching? Or course. But the more he can have outings last night, the more he can get the fans off his back, and the more he can have some breathing space.

Yet O'Connor keeps on downplaying the win, suggesting it's only the Orioles, saying "Baltimore didn't have the stomach for a fight." But if Vazquez had faced Baltimore earlier in the year, he probably would have been destroyed by them then. This time around, he was dominant. It's not just the opposition - it's him.

O'Connor ends his piece with this straw man notion: "...the angle that anyone can be cured of anything in the presence of these Orioles? That one's for the Birds."

Who said anything about Vazquez being "cured"? All that's being said by the Yankees, most other sportswriters, and many fans, is that Vazquez has improved his game since the disastrous first month of the year. And that him winning his first home start this year was a big step. Does that mean he's out of the water yet? No, but least he can see the shoreline.

What do you think? Tell us about it!


Riddering said...

If only baseball was as forgiving as sports writing, Javy could just remove his poor starts and look like he had not struggled at all this season!

But, alas, that only works for writers like O'Connor who can't stand behind their stuff, even when it's foolish in retrospect. This is the same writer who published an online article last spring reasoning that the Yankees were better off with Cody Ransom at third base instead of A-Rod. But it magically disappeared later on in the season.

Seriously, O'Connor is a poor analyst if he can't look at a pitcher's peripherals and career to get an idea of how he's going and to whom he should be compared. Vazquez is a career 37+ WAR pitcher. Perez? 6.4 WAR. Why doesn't he comment on Javier's start against the Tigers, a team at the time which was sporting one of the best offenses in the AL? Javy only gave up 2 runs in 7 innings. Comerica might be a "pitcher's park" but the next day CC couldn't seem to keep the ball inside that park when facing the same lineup.

No one's lining up the hand Javy's a Cy Young Award this season but a start like last night's is positive for him and the team no matter which team they were facing.

Rob Abruzzese said...

I can't even say that Vazquez pitched a good game today without somebody saying, 'well it was the Orioles.' As if that game didn't count.

I don't think anybody is saying that he's going to be great the rest of the year. Only that he was great last night.

People just hate Vazquez. Good game against the Tigers - they're not that good. Good game against the Mets - they're a national league team. Good game against the Orioles - well it was the Orioles.

How about - Vazquez pitched a good game.

- Rob from BBD-

Paul said...

Boy and I thought the Boston media was tough - okay they are, but at least I know its not just in Boston.

I love the "but it was the O's" argument; without reading your whole post I thought the same thing immediately - why did it take an error to move the Yanks ahead? I guess that's just how some writers are.

Paul from Boston

Uncle Mike said...

How far the Baltimore Birds have fallen. For a generation, roughly from 1964 to 1984, they were at least in the race just about every year. They had 8 first-place finishes, won 6 Pennants and 3 World Series in that stretch. They won 97 games in 1977 and 100 games in 1980, and didn't make the Playoffs either year because the Yankees won 100 and 103, respectively. They were 4 games down with 5 to play in 1982 and forged a tie going into the last day before Milwaukee finally finished them off. They fell apart after that, then had a near-miracle in 1989, and reached the Playoffs in back-to-back seasons in 1996-97.

The Orioles were a team that celebrated doing things right. Competence. According to their Hall of Fame manager, Earl Weaver, The Oriole Way (Capital T, Capital O, Capital W) was "pitching, defense, and three-run homers" -- not just home runs but hitting them with men on base. It was Brooks Robinson reinventing the position of third base and getting some big hits, too. It was Frank Robinson hitting the hell out of the ball, and breaking up double plays and almost breaking up infielders in the process.

It was sterling defense not just from Brooks, but from Mark Belanger, Paul Blair, Al Bumbry. It was Ken Singleton playing so smartly you're not surprised he's one of the game's best broadcasters now. It was Eddie Murray hitting 500 homers and collectig 3000 hits so fast you barely noticed. It was great pitching: Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally, Mike Flanagan, Scott McGregor, Mike Boddicker, and later... Mike Mussina.

It was Boog Powell smoking fastballs on 33rd Street and smoking meat on Eutaw Street. It was Cal Ripken playing not just every day for 16 years straight but superbly most of that time. It was pounding homers by Rafael Palmeiro, Bobby Bonilla and Brady Anderson... hmmmm... And it was 45,000 fans at Camden Yards every day. And it was Chuck Thompson and then Jon Miller describing it wonderfully for you.

And now... It's 23,000 fans at Camden Yards, half of them rooting for the other team if it's the Yanks or Red Sox (Michael Kay calls it "the REALLY South Bronx"), the Washington Nationals getting just as many down the Parkway with a team that's no better (or... are they now?) and has no history, and it's sportswriters making cheap jokes at their expense.

Where have you gone, Curt Blefary? The Chesapeake turns its lonely eyes to you. Woo woo woo.

MONDOAS said...

I never wanted Vazquez to ever don Yankee pinstripes again but Cashman brought him back. He comes back barking that the fans are "unfair"! Well, I think it's "unfair" that Jackasshman brought you back. O'Conner is just saying what we are all afraid to say but think all the time. We do not and probably will never trust him. When he pitches, you get that feeling inside like damn..Vazquez is pitching. If he wants this to change, I challenge him to make these feelings go away but until then...the win was against the Orioles and that DOES NOT impress me. Btw, the almost perfect game tonight had to also consist of a play that was remarkable and "Jackasshman" let him go too. It seems as Yankee fans, we are always going to have reminders thrown in our face after the great off-season our GM had!!

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