Like I’ve said before, I’m not a huge fan of indoor/domed stadiums for baseball. But I’m not using that as an excuse for today’s loss 5-1 against the Rays. Starting pitcher CC Sabathia has struggled with his velocity this season, after coming back from November surgery on a bone spur on his elbow. But today’s outing also demonstrated a long view I’ve had of Sabathia beginning when he was with the Indians — when Sabathia is on, he’s unstoppable, and when he’s not, we lose. Tonight was a loss. Sabathia gave up 7 hits and 5 runs (4 in the 1st inning and 3 of the total runs were home runs), walking 2 batters, and striking out 8.
The Rays pitcher, however, was strong tonight, allowing only 2 hits, both from Robinson Cano, one was a solo home run and the Yankees only score of the evening. It should be noted that Moore has won every start this year so far and has an ERA of 1.04. He is shaping up to be another strong pitcher for the Rays’ rotation, a rotation that shaped the careers of reigning Cy Young winner David Price (tomorrow’s starter for Tampa Bay) and James Shields (now with the Royals).
The Rays are really the story for the evening, with their 3 home runs and solid triple leading their offense and strong pitching for their defense. The Yankees really had a rather unimpressive outing all around today. Kevin Youkilis was scratched again on a caution to save his stiff back (replaced by Overbay at 1st, Nix at 3rd), and Travis Hafner wasn’t in the lineup tonight in favor of right-handed batter Ben Francisco. However, though Vernon Wells didn’t have any luck offensively, he continues to earn his keep defensively including a snazzy sliding catch in far left field in the 3rd inning.
The weirdest play tonight, and this I will blame on the oddity of indoor stadiums, happened in the 6th inning. After a nice double play, a Rays batter stepped up to the plate and smacked a high fly ball. Like usual, Nix (at 3rd), Overbay (at 1st), Sabathia (pitching), and Francisco Cervelli (catching) come in close to see who can catch it for the 3rd out. At first, it seems like everyone’s lost it in the lights, but then Cervelli waves the rest off and makes the catch. As the Yankees head into their dug out, the home plate umpire calls it a “dead ball” or foul ball. Everyone’s more than a little confused. Apparently, the Trop has a few rules regarding balls hitting the catwalks:
- A fair ball that hits the 2 lower catwalks, lights, or objects is ruled a “home run”
- A fair ball that hits the 2 top catwalks is ruled “in play”
- A fair ball that stays one of the 2 top catwalks is ruled a “ground rule double”
- A foul ball that hits any object is a dead ball or a foul ball.
So apparently, the ball was in foul territory and hit an object and thus ruled a dead ball. But 4 pitches later, Sabathia retired the batter with a swinging strikeout to earn that 3rd out of the inning. But it was probably the most interesting thing about tonight’s game.
And while I won’t go into any further reasons I don’t like domed stadiums, I’m guessing there’s a whole lot of Yankee fans tonight that are calling foul on these interesting, specialized rules. I don’t think it happens that often to make a huge issue out of it, but having to create specialized policies for hitting things like catwalks over a baseball diamond, just seems like it interferes with the spirit of the game. I guess I need to chalk it up to one of the many odd rules of baseball I’ll probably never get/agree with. On my list: the strike-out then run to first base thing that’s becoming more common, most balk calls (or should I say the lack of consistent enforcement), and the infield fly rule.
But all those nitpicking rules, and honestly the detailed focus on them, just further push away people from enjoying the true spirit of the game, the game that kids play every day with freedom and fun and without calling a balk or worrying about hit a catwalk for a foul ball or what might trigger a call for the infield fly rule. All of that might help keep the professional part of the game fair and even, but the heart of the game is old-fashioned competitive fun. And the moment it stops being so, we should reevaluate why we play the game in the first place.