Friday, October 06, 2006

The Legend of Zumaya
(Or, the "Tell-Tale Heart" Edition)

Tigers fire-balling reliever Joel Zumaya just became the most compelling player in the MLB playoffs.

For that 100-plus MPH fastball...

For that SCARY-ASS EYE...

And for the way he protected a series-turning win for the Tigers in New York yesterday, ripping out the heart of the Yankees' order (and perhaps the Yankees' heart itself) in the 7th and 8th, recording 5 outs in 5 chances against:

Jeter: K
Abreu: GO
Sheffield: FO
Giambi: K
A-Rod: K

That's the heart of an order that many argued was the scariest lineup of hitters in MLB playoffs history (ESPN Era).

But not as scary as Zumaya, with his heat, his own heart and that freaking eye, which is straight out of Edgar Allen Poe -- and which just helped obliterate the Yankees' playoffs home-field advantage that took 162 games to create.

Speaking of Poe, there's another "Tell-Tale Heart" in this series besides Zumaya's: A-Rod's.

And the tale being told is even scarier than Zumaya's eye: A-Rod was 0-4 in Game 2 with 3 Ks, the last coming after facing Zumaya in the 8th. The symbolism couldn't have been more staggering:

The rookie pitcher making all of $327,000 this season having the best performance of his life when his team needed it most, blistering the highest-paid, uber-talented player of his era, having the (now-typical) worst performance of his life when his team needed it most.

(A-Rod looks even worse now than he did during his epic slump during the middle of the summer. Win or lose, the Yankees HAVE to trade him this winter, right?)

But punishing A-Rod takes a back-seat (at least for the morning) to praising Zumaya. (Is it too late to hand Zumaya the AL Rookie of the Year award? Yes... but it shouldn't be!)

Meanwhile, are bloodshot eyes are the new Thundersticks or Rally Monkey or "Cowboy Up" T-shirt, that postseason fad that catches on across the country as the symbol of a hot team's good fortune?

How many Detroit fans will arrive to the ballpark tonight with bloodshot eyes? And will it be a fashion statement, to honor Zumaya, or simply the effects of 24 hours of celebrating the revival of their team's fortunes in this series?

Comments Question(s): What's your analysis of the Yankees-Tigers series NOW? How do you rate the Tigers' chances, now that they control home-field advantage? Who's the most compelling player of the playoffs so far? Do you agree it's Zumaya?

-- D.S.

37 comments:

the scoop said...

Dan, it's been Zoom-Zoom (his nickname around here) all year that's been the difference. If he even stands up in the bullpin at CoPa people get excited. This team's motto is Gum Time for a rally too. No need for that bloodshot stuff. Watch them grab the big league chew if they need a rally.

RevScottDeMangeMD said...

A-Rod...are you ever going to get a clutch hit?

Quoth the Dan Shanoff...nevermore!

Geoff-Detroit said...

I really think Detroit can win tonight. Randy Johnson doesn't scare me at all and Kenny Rogers has been pitching well. I dunno, Detroit wins tonight and the Yankees are in some trouble.

FreKy J said...

Did you hear that A-Rod had to take his car into the shop? It dropped the clutch..

henry s said...

for anyone who doesn't think Detroit can win this series, remember how K-Rod propelled the Angels to their improbable title a few years back, and doesn't Zoom-Zoom have that same aura about him...

Tim said...

First of all, there is no defending A-Rod after yesterday. Zumaya has been impressive all year, and Im glad people are starting to notice him. (103 MPH!!! How could you not?)

That being said, I think the Yanks still have a better shot to win this series. Randy Johnson may be 57 years old, but he has always been a big game pitcher and if you dont think he will at least show up with a respectable performance tonight, you're crazy. It has yet to be seen how Rogers will do against his old team. There is obviously something there if they had to move his start so he wouldnt have to start in Yankee Stadium. Also, the Tigers were three games better on the road this year (49-32) than they were at home (46-35), so maybe they just gave the "advantage" to the Yanks.

My prediction (still): Yanks in 4.

Hende said...

I would like to think guys like Zumaya would finally get the recognition they deserve now that they're in the playoffs. However, the three major sports websites I looked at this morning all had the Mets winning as the big headline, while Detroit winning was tucked away in a sidebar. Maybe if all New York teams are eliminated guys like Zumaya will get their due, but more then likely the press will be about ARod failing.

Kurt said...

Tonight is probably the deciding game in the series. If the Yankees win tonight, the Tigers are pretty much done, it took their best pitchers and some clutch hitting (and unclutch by the Yankees) to hold on to a 4-3 win. If the Yankees lose tonight, who knows who the Yankees turn to in game 4, maybe Wright on a very short string with Lidle in the bullpen if needed. Something tells me Joe chewed those guys out after their weak performance in game 2 and they will put up 10+ runs in game 3 to show they arent f'in around.

Brian in Oxford said...

I thought the "Legend of Z..." and "Poe" comments were Nintendo-related. Like, will Detroit fans wear Zumaya "masks"? As for the bloodshot eyes, I think there's a way to do that naturally.

Good call by henry s, comparing his to the new K-Rod. Only real difference there is that Zumaya's not a late season call-up, he's been doing it all season. (And does he get Todd Jones' closer spot next year?)

What if Randy Johnson goes into labor now that the epidural has worn off?

Seriously though, if he can go, he's gonna give up 3 runs in 6.1 innings. If he can't go, then Torre's gotta send someone out there to take it for the team....better to lose 11-2 and only waste one bullpen pitcher for 5 innings, than to wear everyone down. Plus, it could give the Yanks a backs-against-the-wall sense of urgency that they usually do well in.

I could easily see this game as one of those 19-8 things where nobody pitches well.

How much will Fox play up the Kenny Rogers singer angle....above and beyond playing the Gambler? The over/under is hereby set at 1.5 songs.

jay said...

How about the other rookie pitcher in the game? Verlander threw very strong 5.1 innings, except for the 3-run 4th. For a rookie's first postseason start, in Yankee Stadium, he remained very poised and under control, especially when he got himeself in trouble (see 1st, 2nd Innings, et al.). How can you simply dismiss the K against A-Rod with the bases loaded in the 1st? The entire pitching staff was nothing but impressive.

Worldwide Reader said...

Kurt is right - tonight's game is the pivotal game of the series. In baseball, home field advantage really doesn't matter all that much, in my opinion - not nearly as much as it does in football, or even basketball, anyway.

That Zoom-Zoom guy really was throwing gas and looked great. Really fun to watch. But he faced, what, five batters?

As for the obligatory ARod bashing, yes, he played terribly. Especially in the first inning with the bases loaded - 3 straight pitches, inning & rally over.

But he's still the best player on that team, and he's probably the 2nd best player in the entire league (behind Pujols, obviously). Hitting 36 home runs and driving in 121 runs (or whatever the numbers are) ... man, he really sucks, huh?

Yankees in 4.

Anonymous said...

Guys, the Yankees could score 11 runs tonight and we'd all look really stupid for thinking the Tigers had a chance. And that's probably going to happen.

Geoff-Detroit said...

Yep, and the Tigers could score 11 tonight and everyone would look stupid for thinking they had no chance? What's the point?

Dan Shanoff said...

You've got to take these things one "instant history" moment at a time.

Sure, the Yankees could score 11 tonight. Or, the Tigers could win and really throw NYC into a freak-out.

You've gotta simply freak out over the latest thing that happens -- forward-looking speculation is totally cool, but it has to be done in the context of Instant History.

TF said...

That fast ball was 103 with left to right movement. I think some of the greatest hitters in history would have struggled to foul it off.


Joe (Dayton)

Anonymous said...

You both have good points. To reconcile my grievances with instant history, I will grant it this (very important) perk: the swinging of the pendulum that has put the Yankees in trouble and the Tigers on the offensive makes the series much more interesting. That being said, I know what I'll be watching tonight...

Dan Mega said...

Zoom has some SICK pitches. 103 mph heater? You better believe it. This, folks, is the next great future closer in the MLB. The guy is absolutely sick.

Declan said...

A middle reliever is your most compelling player in the playoffs? Rookie of the year? Didn't Justin Verlander retire 16 Yankees? Faced each batter at least twice? 5 in a row is impressive, but facing EVERYONE for the second and thrid time after they've seen your pitches is much more impressive.

Also, not to rain on your AL love parade, but Albert Pujols has gone 5-8 with 1HR, 2R and 3RBI including both of the game winning RBI's against the team you picked to sweep.

manninghamheisman said...

hey guys, I have an idea. Why not bat A Rod 8th? Why 8th? Because 9th would cause too many newspaper articles and is too low. Anyone agree????? It would completely shut out the pressure. Also, if things go okay then they could gradually promote him to the 7 spot. Baby steps for 13=success. He has a shrink. He must be familiar with the mindframe of taking things slow. Baby Steps, I repeat

adam said...

A-Rod and Buck Showalter are two guys I want for my favorite team for one year! Since as soon as both leave that team the next year the team becomes winners! We need a study on who else after leaving team makes it better!!

jen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jen said...

oops, comment was left on the wrong blog!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA

Anonymous said...

before we call him rookie of the year let's think for a second if that line up is the scary ever. I mean at this point I don't think A-Fraud cannot be considered scary, in fact I think Pitchers are relieved to see him on the line up more after you have two men down, botton of the eight with his team needed him the most. You know the guy will shock, he will either strike out or gets trown out at first base. Is a win win situation right there.

Keithsrk said...

Sorry - I don't buy the "whoever wins Game 3 wins the series" angle. Yanks have the edge tonight - Rodgers has been simply awful against the Yankees and in the playoffs in general.

But...

The Tigers have a big edge in Game 4 with Bonderman. No logical reason this shouldn't go to a game 5 - and we all know - Anything can happen in a deciding game.

As for the instant history, power pitchers win playoff games. Verlander + Zumaya > HOF Yankee Lineup.

Tim said...

I've been saying this for a while, but if I were Joe Torre, I would be batting A-Rod 4th. Ok, when you stop laughing, hear me out. Putting him between Abreu and Giambi ensures that the pitchers are going to be frustrated when they get to him (so they want to make good pitches after Abreu takes them through a 7 pitch at-bat), and that he will see better pitches to hit (no one wants to face Giambi either). As far as I know, they only tried this order 1 time this season and I dont know exactly what the numbers were, but it was in the middle of his slump and he was better than 2-4 and had at least 1 HR.

Batting 6th doesnt get him anywhere because pitchers can paint the corners and get him to chase the pitches and if they walk him, oh well, you're already through the toughest part of the lineup.

Perks said...

I wouldn't be surprised at all if Sheffield, Damon, Matsui,A-Rod, Jeter, Cano, Giambi, and (well maybe) Posada were all VOTED as all-stars if the All-Star game was played tomorrow.

And its 99% of the reason I'm hoping the Tigers take care of them all.

ndyanksfan05 said...

This is going to sound very bias coming from a yanks fan but...

Does anyone else think that while a five game format is nice for the fans and all by giving the wild card teams a shot, but isn't it a little unfair that the best team in baseball is put into a series in which luck and a couple bounces can decide the entire season. A seven game series is a much better barameter for showing who in fact is a better team and a five game series is much more dependent on your one dominant pitcher being able to win his games and then being able to eek out another. This is obviously good for the fan base in that wild card teams get a better shot of advancing (and in the process knocking out the best team in the league thereby making it easier for everyone for the rest of the playoffs) but doesn't that seem a little unfair for the best team in the league who played 162 games to get where they are? Why not simply switch to three seven game series and provide a clear winner rather than force the better team to beat an underdog for the sake of ratings? Thoughts?

The Sportsvixen said...

ndyanksfan, I'm glad you realize you sound bias, and really you guys just lost one game, it's a little early for the whining about the unfairness of a 5 game series. Remember NFL, College FB & Hoops only get one game to prove themselves.

On behalf of the schadenfreudists, just wanna say a big THANK YOU! to Verlander and Zoom-Zoom. The yankee fans walking around the city are a little less smug today.

Keithsrk said...

5 games has nothing to do with ratings. It's all about trying to squeeze in 3 rounds before it starts to snow in NY. The owners, and MLB, would prefer to have as many playoff games as possible - but the Mother Nature constraints would require shortening the season by 2 games to increase the first round to 7 games. And there's no way the owners would vote to reduce the regular season by 2 games (too much revenue lost).

Myles! said...

Are you seriously going to talk about fairness for the team that can go over $200 million in payroll, while only 2, maybe 3 others are even over 100? Not a criticism of the salary structure, necessarily, just pointing out that MLB isn't built around fairness. If you want that, go watch the NFL.

Even in the regular season, the absolute best teams win 2/3 of their games. Throw in the fact that they're playing a higher level of competition in the playoffs, and even with everything else held equal there's a very good chance that the best team doesn't make it through, either in a 5 or 7 game series.
Hell, if that one dominant pitcher is willing to go on short rest, he can pitch 3 out of 7 games, and you're still in the position of the team having to only eek out one more, except now they have 3 chances instead of 2.

Myles! said...

@ndyanksfan,

btw, you won't be complaining about the shortness of a 5 game series when Johan is anchoring your rotation.

Brian in Oxford said...

Also keep in mind, that the Yankees have a better record than the Tigers while playing Tampa and Baltimore all year long, while the Tigers played Minny, the White Sox, and Cleveland.

I'm not saying which division is better, but since the schedules are so different, one man's 100-62 isn't the same as someone else's 98-64.

It's also why if the Mets had gone 100-62, that would NOT mean they should get home field over the AL champ.

anonymous said...

are excited we about Zumaya in detroit or what?

i still have a chubby the day after.

move aside people... make some room on the bandwagon.

Russell said...

ndyanksfan05

Are you under the impression that the Yankees are that much better than the Tigers?

Do you realize that the Tigers ended the season on a six game losing streak, in the toughest division in baseball, and still were only 2 WHOLE GAMES behind the Yankees in overall record? There were only 3 teams in the majors with a better record than the Tigers. I'm pretty sure 5 games is plenty to showcase who deserves to move on. If the Tigers win, it has nothing to do with luck or bounces.

Marc W. Pepe said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Marc W. Pepe said...

I wasn't at the game, but I did hear the A-Rod boos at my office on the eastern end of Long Island. Actually, I heard other co-workers pounding their fists on their desks and punching their cubicle walls in frustration as they "watched" the game on SportsLine's GameCenter. Now there's a great way to watch a playoff game. It's like watching a baseball game being played on a Commadore 64. Anyway, we'll win Game 3 tonight, lose Saturday night, and take the series Sunday night with Wang back on the mound. Nothing says Yankees like a dramatic Game 5 victory, in front of a national audience.

Adam Hoff said...

For those doubting that a rookie middle reliever can be the most compelling, or even most important, player on a team or in a postseason, just think back to 2002 when Francisco Rodriguez proved to be the difference for the Angels game-in and game-out. We knew even less about him than Zumaya at the time, but to me, it feels like history might be repeating itself:

Upstart team reaches the playoffs for first time since the '80's, they face a heavily favorited Yankees squad in ALDS play, Oakland-Minnesota is the other divisional series (although we have a different winner this time around), the offense is filled with uber-aggressive hitters that don't take many walks but keep attacking at all times, the starting pitching is a mixture of crafty and old and young and talented (Appier/Washburn/Lackey), the closer is washed up and on his way out the door, and - finally - a rookie middle reliever is performing like Mo Rivera circa 1996 in the setup role and changing the face of the playoffs.

Does anyone else see this? The Tigers are so much like that Anaheim team that it is scary.

Of course, like an idiot, I predicted all of this ... except still took the Yankees in 4.