Monday, November 2, 2009

The Damon play

The official journalistic storyline of this World Series — heck, of the entire two-month postseason — is The Redemption of Alex Rodriguez. Look — the $30 million man drives in runs! Night after night, series after series, A-Rod leads the stories. As in this case, the AP story from Sunday's Game Four, which put the Yankees up 3-1.

But the play we're going to remember was Sunday night's audacious two-base steal by Johnny Damon, which set up Rodriguez's double.

We've seen A-Rod double before. But stealing second and third on the same pitch? That's stuff right out of Negro League legends of Cool Papa Bell.

It was not that long ago that I was writing in this very corner of the Internet that these Yankees are successful in no small part because they avoid the over-aggressive play. You couldn't ask for a more aggressive play than Damon's — and he picked his spot perfectly.

This wasn't spur-of-the-moment. It's something he's been think about pretty much all season. He hits in front of Mark Teixeira, and everybody plays their infield in an overshift on Teixiera. The third baseman, Pedro Feliz, was essentially playing shortstop for that at-bat. So third base is unoccupied.

Which makes it the pitcher's responsibility to get over there on a steal, or at least start in that direction — because if Brad Lidge is even halfway there, Damon's not going to try it. But Lidge is a power pitcher, and very few of them are programmed to do anything but heave baseballs toward home plate. It never occurred to Lidge that he has any responsibilities other than pitch.

So it was the perfect storm – the perfect brainstorm. Feliz can't catch the aging Damon, and Lidge is in a fog, and Damon takes third. And the Yankees take the game.

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