Cumberland Times-News

Mike Burke - Sports

April 11, 2014

Then again, he’s manager of the Yankees, and I’m not

I went to bed confused Wednesday night, which in itself is nothing new. But having

watched most of the Orioles-Yankees game, including the final three innings, earlier

in the evening, then watching the late Baseball Tonight before I turned in, I was under the impression that the Yankees had won the game when I was pretty sure before watching the show that the Orioles had won.

Masahiro Tanaka, the Japanese right-hander who signed a $155 million contract

with the Yankees in the offseason, made his Yankee Stadium debut and, based on the ESPN coverage, one could have easily been under the impression that Babe Ruth had come back to the twiceremoved house that he built to pitch a few innings himself. Frankly, I’d have been more impressed if Professor Toru Tanaka had shown up to Yankee Stadium to pitch.

After a good five minutes of swooning over the masterful pitching of Tanaka, the highlights guy and the anchor finally did get around to, “Oh, yeah, here’s Jonathan Schoop hitting one to Parsippany Township, New Jersey. Orioles win, 5-4.”

But how about that Tanaka?

It’s moments like this when even I root for Fox Sports 1, a division of Fox News no less, to be successful.

Truthfully, it does look as though Tanaka could be a first-rate pitcher for the  Yankees, as for the second straight start his stuff seemed to get better the longer he pitched. So good for him and good for Baseball Tonight, which remains the only nondocumentary show on ESPN worth watching.

Having said that, given said solid performance by Tanaka and given the comeback the Yankees made to tie the score after Tanaka put them in a 3-0 hole, I really felt the Orioles got a break when Yankees manager Joe Girardi took the bat out of  Derek Jeter’s hands in the bottom of the eighth inning.

With the score tied, the Yankees’ Brett Gardner led off the bottom of the eighth with a double to bring up Jeter, a first-ballot Hall of Famer and one of the best  opposite-field hitters in the past 20 years.

With nobody out, Jeter put down the sacrifice and successfully moved Gardner over

to third with one out. Orioles reliever Brian Matusz then got Jacoby Ellsbury to pop out to third and, after intentionally walking Carlos Beltran, got Brian McCann to fly out to center to end the inning and the threat.

The Orioles, in turn, rallied for two runs in the ninth, then held off a Yankees rally in the bottom half to win it.

This is not to second-guess Girardi, a man who has played on and managed a  combined four World Series champions. But with a runner on second with nobody out I can’t think of anything in the world that would induce me to take the bat out of Derek Jeter’s hands. Granted, I am a disciple of Earl Weaver, who lived by the words, “They only give me 27 outs, I’ll be damned if I’m going to give any back,”

but I do believe there are certain circumstances and certain players made for the sacrifice bunt. Derek Jeter with a runner on second and nobody out in the bottom of the eighth of a tie game is not one of them.

Jeter still gets his hands through the hitting zone as well as anybody does. Why not

have him shoot the ball to the right side of the infield? If the ball doesn’t get through, you still move the runner to third. But if the ball does get through you’ve got, at the very least, a single and possibly a run, and, still with nobody out, the makings of a big inning. Who knows?

You might even have a double in the corner, or maybe Jeffrey Maier is prowling the right-field stands again, although with replay now in effect that miserable dog won’t ever hunt again.

Oddly enough, the Orioles came through the following half-inning with their two runs after Schoop, for the second day in a row, couldn’t get a bunt down in the very

same circumstance.

It’s all subjective, of course, which is what makes baseball the greatest game of them all. And, frankly, the only questioning of Girardi’s tactics that I’ve heard is the  one we’re hearing here now. But as Weaver always said of the small-ball tactics employed by his managerial rival Gene Mauch, “Play for one (bleeping) run, lose by one (bleeping) run.”

On Wednesday, after their rookie infielder couldn’t get a bunt down, the Orioles scored two runs in the top of the ninth. The Yankees, whose sure-thing Hall of Famer did get the bunt down, lost by one (bleeping) run.

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at

Text Only
Mike Burke - Sports
  • Opposition and inclusion understood

    Those of you who have been here before know how I feel about the late great Len Bias, who I will remember foremost as Leonard Bias, the polite, spindly Bambi-eyed kid from Hyattsville’s Northwestern High School, who could throw a dunk through the floor, yet had the most beautiful jump shot I have ever seen.

    July 17, 2014

  • Further proof you should never bet on baseball

    Had you known in March that ...

    July 16, 2014

  • What have we learned this past month?

    Some serious soccer withdrawal is on the horizon for disciples of the Beautiful Game as the month of mania concludes Sunday with the World Cup final. Germany and Argentina, I believe?

    July 11, 2014

  • A man of the Midwest, of Cumberland, and a friend

    His obituary was neither extravagant nor trumpeting. Yet it was a fitting tribute to the man and the life he lived. It was succinct yet sincere. Like the man, it was gracious and understated, and it was filled with love and with warmth, and all of the names of his family and the things in his life that made him memorable.

    July 9, 2014

  • Reign of the entire planet is at stake

    I’ve given up my LeBron Hate. Don’t misunderstand, I have no LeBron Love or even LeBron Like. It’s more like LeBron Lethargy, although that’s probably too strong of a way to describe my indifference because, while I never root for his teams, it’s impossible to take your eyes off him when he’s playing.

    June 15, 2014

  • This German is one ugly American

    Our soccer friends are beside themselves because the World Cup began yesterday. Look to a watering hole near you for a large collection of soccer enthusiasts when the United States plays its first game (match?) Monday against Ghana.

    June 12, 2014

  • Terps look to the West, like what they see

    What a perfectly strange and wonderful weekend it was for area high school football, and we’re just a third of the way through June. Not strange in a negative way, mind you, but strange as in, boy, this doesn’t happen too often around here any more, much less twice in the same weekend.

    June 11, 2014

  • In the know are these Go-Go O’s

    They are a team that led the American League in home runs last season with 45 more than the league average. Then they add a player who currently leads the majors in homers and is on a pace to hit 58 for the season. They are third in the American League in batting average and sixth in slugging percentage. Yet they are 13th in runs scored because they believe in the double steal and try to steal home with a 53-home run hitter at the plate with two outs in extra innings. They continue to have a hitter who delivered 51 doubles last year put down sacrifice bunts, and they employ a third-base coach who is under the impression his job is to collect tolls on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge ...

    June 8, 2014

  • MIKE BURKE Ryan, we hardly knew ye ... at least at third base

    The best defensive third basemen I’ve been lucky to see play are (in no particular order after Brooks) Brooks Robinson, Mike Schmidt, Ron Santo, Graig Nettles, Adrian Beltre, Manny Machado and Ryan Zimmerman.

    June 5, 2014 1 Photo

  • WGW keeps the love home in Garrett Co.

    OAKLAND Friday, June 20 at Lodestone Golf Club in McHenry, and Saturday, June 21 at Oakland Golf Club, the third WGW Benefit Golf Tournament will take place. On the surface, the event, founded and operated by Bill Weissgerber and open to the public, is like no other because it provides two days of golf on two different courses under the same umbrella (okay, poor word choice for a golf event). But there is so much more to the WGW Benefit beneath the surface because its genesis and its purpose grips your heart, breaks your heart, warms and enriches your heart all at once.

    June 1, 2014