November 2010

No reward to CC for 21 Ws

Yankees fans have reason to be upset that CC Sabathia did not win the American League Cy Young Award that was given instead by the Baseball Writers’ Association to the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez. Heck, the big guy didn’t even finish second as the Rays’ David Price was the runner-up.

One of the arguments made last year when the Royals’ Zack Greinke won in the AL with only 16 victories and the Giants’ Tim Lincecum in the National League with merely 15 was that there were no 20-game winners, so the field was much more open.

That was not the case this year. Sabathia was 21-7 and had plenty of other good numbers, too, including a 3.18 ERA, which is not shabby for a guy pitching in the AL East and hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. That Hernandez won despite posting a record of 13-12 seems absurd until you look a bit deeper into his season and not just at the statistics that a lot of people believe are too esoteric but to which the increasing numbers-conscious are devoted.

Hernandez led the league in ERA (2.27) and innings (249 2/3) and was second in strikeouts (232), only one behind league leader Jered Weaver of the Angels. These are not intangible stats. They are pretty tangible, one might even say traditional.

Think of how Hernandez felt last year. He went 19-5 and couldn’t beat out Greinke. Hernandez said Thursday from his home in Venezuela that he did not know how to gauge this year’s balloting after what happened last year. “Are they going to tell me that I didn’t win enough games this year but that I won too many last year?” he asked me.

I told him one year to the next is different, which I still believe even though the recent voting indicates a trend may be developing. I hope not. The day when victories aren’t considered the important part of the pitching equation is the day you might as well stop keeping score. I mean, if pitching victories don’t mean anything, why are they still kept? Imagine trying to tell the Major League Players Association that pitching victories won’t be totaled any more? Good luck explaining that to the union.

It is interesting that the list of pitchers who have 300 or more career victories are all in the Hall of Fame except for those not yet eligible, whose names are Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson. It would seem that winning a lot of games is a big deal, huh?

This is all coming from someone who thought Hernandez was the best pitcher he saw this year. No knock on CC, who I probably would have voted for had I been on the committee, but look what Hernandez did in his three starts against the Yankees: 3-0, 0.35 ERA. That is not a misprint. He allowed 1 run, 16 hits and 8 walks with 31 strikeouts in 26 innings.

The only reason he did not pitch 27 innings for a third complete game against the Yankees was that Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu did not let him finish the Aug. 20 game at the Stadium while working on a four-hit shutout with 11 Ks. Writers in the press box can recall my reaction to that. I was beside myself, howling that Wakamatsu’s move was akin to grabbing the brush from Picasso before he could complete his painting. It was absolute disregard for artistic endeavor, and the manager deserved to be fired, which he eventually was.

Remember, though, that was a night Hernandez won, not one of the many games in which he pitched splendidly and either lost or got hung with a no-decision because of such scant run support by an offense that scratched out an average of 3.2 runs per game. The Mariners’ run support for Hernandez was 2.4 per game. Seattle scored two runs or fewer in 15 of his 34 starts. He was 2-10 with a 2.84 ERA in those games. In his nine no decisions, Hernandez pitched to a 1.92 ERA.

I kept in mind that in 1972 Steve Carlton won the NL Cy Young Award with a 27-10 record for a Phillies club whose overall mark was 59-97 and also averaged only 3.2 runs per game. The point of view of Sabathia supporters, of which there were three who gave him first-place approval on the ballot, came Tuesday from none other than this year’s NL winner, Roy Halladay, who had the same victory total as CC.

“Obviously, Felix’s numbers are very, very impressive,” Doc said. “But I think, ultimately, you look at how guys are able to win games. Sometimes the run support isn’t there, but you sometimes just find ways to win games. I think the guys that are winning and helping their teams deserve a strong look, regardless of how good Felix’s numbers are. It definitely could go either way; it’s going to be interesting. But I think when teams bring guys over, they want them to, ultimately at the end of the day, help them win games.”

It is hard to argue with that logic.

Keep post-season out of awards mix

It has been suggested by some columnists that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America should allow its voters for the Manager of the Year Awards to include post-season play. Just as is the case with the Most Valuable Player, Cy Young and Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Awards in the BBWAA jurisdiction, voting is done prior to the start of post-season play and includes only the accomplishments during the regular season.

Some writers argue that while players, pitchers and rookies are eligible for separate awards related to post-season play, managers are not. Also, they add, steering a team throughout the post-season is a function worthy of being included in an honor that recognizes managerial skill.

In my view, the problem with that is that you would no longer need an election, would you? The heck with polling writers, just hand out the trophies to the two guys whose teams reached the World Series every year. I am sure there are some people who though the Giants’ Bruce Bochy and the Rangers’ Ron Washington were more deserving than the managers who won, the Twins’ Ron Gardenhire and the Padres’ Buddy Black.

You have probably read reports that Major League Baseball is toying with the idea of another round of playoffs by adding two more wild-card teams into the post-season mix. That’s just what we need; more November baseball with pitchers already overworked trying to keep their tongues off the mound.

All an additional round of playoffs would do is to continue to weaken the impact of the 162-game schedule, still the most demanding test in team sports. If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it a hundred times from managers, coaches and players that the post-season is a “crap shoot.” Why base an award that is supposed to honor achievement over the course of a year on a crap shoot?

Managing a team involves more than just what takes place three hours a night during games. It is the day-to-day handling of two dozen-plus players over six months upon which a manager is judged. By adding post-season to the Manager of the Year Award mix, the eight managers whose teams reach post-season play, maybe 10 by 2012, will get a distinct advantage. Isn’t the field already small enough? There are 16 managers in the National League and 14 in the American League.

Again, why bother to have an election if post-season inclusion would likely lead to eliminating nearly three-quarters of the field?

Gardenhire, who won the award for the first time after five second-place finishes in the voting, directed the Twins to a 94-68 record and their sixth AL Central title in his nine seasons at the helm despite the loss to injury of closer Joe Nathan for the whole season and slugging first baseman Justin Morneau for half the schedule. Yet all that good work might have been discarded by voters after the Twins were swept in the Division Series by the Yankees.

Black’s victory in the NL by merely one point over the Reds’ Dusty Baker was a testament to the overachievement of the Padres, whom many thought at season’s start to be a last-place club. In his fourth season in San Diego, Black got the Padres within one game of the NL West title with the fourth best record in franchise history. But if the post-season had been included, mightn’t Cincinnati’s quick exit have hurt Baker so that the vote would not have been so close?

What takes place over a period of less than three weeks should not hold the same weight as what transpires over six months. A manager who does the best job in the post-season will get the best award there is – a championship ring. That is reward enough.

Cy Young holiday for Halladay

No American League club was happier to see Roy Halladay cross over into the National League this year than the Yankees. The one bad thing for the Yanks about Halladay going from the Blue Jays to the Phillies was that it triggered Philadelphia trading Cliff Lee back to the AL with the Mariners.

But it was good riddance for Halladay, who regularly thumped the Yankees to the tune of 18-7 with a 2.98 ERA, seven complete games (including three shutouts) and 195 strikeouts in 38 appearances (36 starts) covering 253 1/3 innings. Halladay did not find the new Yankee Stadium to his liking. He was 1-1 with a 6.16 ERA there in 2009 after having gone 7-4 with a 2.97 ERA in the old Stadium.

Halladay had a remarkable first season in the NL this year and was rewarded Tuesday by winning the Cy Young Award. He became the fifth pitcher to win the award in both leagues, having won in the AL with Toronto in 2003, and the 16th multiple winner.

The righthander was in Mexico on vacation when he received word of his election. I had the opportunity to tell him how popular he is in press boxes throughout North America because it is an extremely pleasurable experience to watch him pitch. He is a pro’s pro with no wasted motion and a focus that is sadly lacking among starting pitchers of this period.

“That’s very satisfying to hear,” the man called “Doc” said. “I hope the fans feel the same way.”

Halladay was the 13th unanimous choice in NL voting as he received all 32 first-place votes from two writers in each league city to score a perfect 224 points, based on a tabulation system that rewards seven points for first place, four for second, three for third, two for fourth and one for fifth. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America expanded the Cy Young Award ballot from three to five pitchers this year.

Halladay, 33, posted a 21-10 record with a 2.44 ERA in 33 starts and led the league in victories, innings (250 2/3), complete games (9) and shutouts (4) and was second in strikeouts (219). He pitched a perfect game May 29 at Miami in a 1-0 victory over the Marlins. Balloting takes place prior to the start of post-season play, so his no-hitter over the Reds in Game 1 of the NL Division Series was not a factor in the voting.

Cardinals righthander Adam Wainwright (20-11, 2.42 ERA), who finished third in 2009, was the runner-up with 122 points based on 28 votes for second, three for third and one for fifth. Rockies righthander Ubaldo Jimenez (19-8, 2.88 ERA) was third with 90 points. Halladay, Wainwright and Jimenez were the only pitchers named on all the ballots. Righthanders Tim Hudson (17-9, 2.83 ERA) of the Braves and Josh Johnson (11-6, 2.30 ERA) of the Marlins rounded out the top five. In all, 11 pitchers received votes.

Halladay joined the company of Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Gaylord Perry as Cy Young Award winners in both leagues. Clemens won six in the AL (1986, ’87 and ’91 with the Red Sox; 1997 and ’98 with the Blue Jays; 2001 with the Yankees) and one in the NL (2004 with the Astros). Johnson won four in the NL (1999 through 2002 with the Diamondbacks) and one in the AL (1995 with the Mariners). Martinez won two in the AL (1999 and 2000 with the Red Sox) and one in the NL (1997 with the Expos). Perry won one in the AL (1972 with the Indians) and one in the NL (1978 with the Padres).

Unanimous winners in the NL were Sandy Koufax all three times he won and Greg Maddux twice among his four victories, along with Johnson, Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Rick Sutcliffe, Dwight Gooden, Orel Hershiser and Jake Peavy. There has been a unanimous winner in the AL eight times: Clemens, Martinez and Johan Santana twice each, Denny McLain and Ron Guidry.

It marked the seventh time a Phillies pitcher won the award, including Carlton four times. The other winners from Philadelphia were John Denny and Steve Bedrosian. In addition to Koufax, Maddux, Carlton, Clemens, Martinez, Johnson, Perry, Gibson, McLain and Santana, other pitchers to have won the award more than once were Tom Seaver and Jim Palmer three times each, Bret Saberhagen, Tom Glavine and Tim Lincecum twice apiece.

Halladay is in pretty heady company and deserves to be.

Former Yanks farmhand 2nd in Rookie voting

It turned out that the Yankees did not trade a future American League Rookie of the Year Award winner to get Curtis Granderson from the Tigers 11 months ago.

Austin Jackson, a highly-touted prospect in the Yankees’ system, went to Detroit along with relief pitcher Phil Coke in the three-team trade also involving the Diamondbacks Dec. 8, 2009 that brought Granderson to the Bronx and included sending pitcher Ian Kennedy to Arizona.

When Jackson got off to a smoking start for the Tigers as their center fielder and leadoff hitter, Rookie of the Year talk surrounded him for much of the first half. Jackson tailed off somewhat in the second half, although he still had a fine year. It just was not as good as that of Rangers closer Neftali Feliz, who set a rookie record with 40 saves and was the choice of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for the Jackie Robinson Award that was announced Monday.

Felix, 22, was listed first on 20 of the 28 ballots submitted by two writers in each league city, second on seven and third on one to amass 122 points, based on the 5-3-1 tabulation system. Feliz’s saves total broke the previous rookie mark of 37 by 2000 winner Kazuhiro Sasaki of the Mariners.

Feliz, who had a 4-3 record with a 2.73 ERA in 70 relief appearances, is the first Dominican pitcher to win the award and the third winner from the Dominican Republic overall, joining Alfredo Griffin and Angel Berroa. Dominican-born winners in the National League were Raul Mondesi, Rafael Furcal, Albert Pujols and Hanley Ramirez.

A closer has won the AL award three times in the past six years. Oakland’s Andrew Bailey won in 2009 and Huston Street in 2005. Feliz is the fifth closer honored. The first was the Orioles’ Gregg Olson in 1989. Yankees pitcher Dave Righetti, now the Giants’ pitching coach, was a starter when he won the award in 1981. Feliz is the second Rangers player to win the award. The other was first baseman Mike Hargrove in 1974.

Jackson, who received the other eight first-place votes and was the runner-up in the balloting with 98 points, led all AL rookies in runs (103), hits (151), doubles (34), triples (10), extra-base hits (48), stolen bases (27) and total bases (247). Jackson batted .293, stole 27 bases and scored 103 runs, but he struck out 170 times, a very high total for a player who hit only four home runs.

In the National League, Giants catcher Buster Posey beat out Braves right fielder Jason Heyward for the award. Posey, 23, was named first on 20 of the 32 ballots cast by two writers in each league city, second on nine and third on two to finish with 129 points. Posey hit .305 with 18 home runs and 67 RBI and handled a pitching staff that helped the Giants win the NL West title. His 21-game hitting streak from July 4-28 was the longest of the season by a rookie in either league.

Heyward (.273, 18 HR, 72 RBI) received nine first-place votes and was the runner-up with 107 points. Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia (13-8, 2.70 ERA) got one first-place vote and placed third with 24 points. The other two first-place votes went to Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez (.273, 19 HR, 85 RBI), who finished fourth with 18 points.

Posey was the sixth NL catcher honored, joining Johnny Bench, Earl Williams, Benito Santiago, Mike Piazza and Geovanny Soto. Catchers who won the award in the AL were Thurman Munson, Carlton Fisk and Sandy Alomar Jr. Other former Giants winners were Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, Gary Matthews and John Montefusco.

The victories by Feliz and Posey marked the third time since the award’s inception in 1947 that the winners were opponents in the World Series. The other years were 1981 when Righetti and the Dodgers’ Fernando Valenzuela started Game 3 at Dodger Stadium and 1951 when Mays and Yankees infielder Gil McDougald played in all six games of the Series.

It should have happened in 2003 with the Yankees’ Hideki Matsui and the Marlins’ Dontrelle Willis, but Matsui lost out to Berroa in a disputed election.

Teixeira honored at ALS Dinner

The Lou Gehrig Award that one of his successors at first base for the Yankees, Mark Teixeira, received Thursday night at the Marriott Marquis Hotel came with a bit of a surprise. Sportscaster Bob Costas was joined during the presentation by Kim and Trason Murray, the widow and son of George Murray, an ALS sufferer who Teixeira had met in July 2009 during the Yankees’ HOPE Week.

Murray, 38, a veteran of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne who no longer had use of his arms or legs due to ALS, fulfilled his dream of going to a Yankees game with Trason and Kim. The Yankees invited the family to Yankee Stadium July 22, 2009 for batting practice and the game, and then surprised the couple on their anniversary with a suite of 30 friends and family from home as well as several players, including Teixeira and Derek Jeter. George died of the disease two weeks after the trip.

“The main reason I’m here is because of George Murray and his family,” Teixeira said at the ALS Association’s 16th annual Lou Gehrig Sports Awards Benefit. “Tra and Kim, along with George, really made a big impression on me last year at the Stadium. Tra is a year older than my son. After visiting with George and realizing he was losing the battle with ALS, I went home and looked at my son, and just thought about growing up without his father, or me not being able to see my son grow up. We’re really here for George Murray and fathers everywhere, sons everywhere, and we need to find a cure for this disease.”

ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which has commonly been known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease since it ended his playing career in 1939 and his life in 1941. Another Yankees Hall of Famer, pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter, succumbed to the disease in 1999. ALS is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. There is no known cure. The Gehrig Awards Dinner, which this year also honored tennis great Pam Shriver, raised $1 million toward research.

“Lou Gehrig and Catfish Hunter, those two names will live forever in the Yankees’ family,” Teixeira said. “When you become a part of that family, ALS becomes a part of you as well. For me to be here and hopefully raise a little more awareness and a few more dollars, I’m all for it. Becoming part of the Yankees’ family is understanding how important ALS research and finding a cure for ALS is.”

More than just a holiday

On the train platform as I prepared to head into Manhattan early Thursday morning, a young boy was complaining to his mother about having to accompany her to work.

“You don’t think I like it any more than you, do you?” the woman said. “I can’t find a babysitter.”

I sure wasn’t going to volunteer. Yet when I got to the Bank of America Tower across from Bryant Park, I saw a scene for which the kid might have been ideal as 75 bank employees were busy assembling some 3,000 comfort kits for our soldiers overseas.

Thursday, of course, was Veterans Day, which kids know mostly because it is a holiday and means no school. But instead of just getting the day off, Veterans Day contains more of a meaning, especially with American military personnel fighting on two fronts.

The volunteers wore T-shirts with signs that read, “Veterans Day 2010: A Call to Serve.” They helped assemble the comfort packs that included cookies, crackers, bottled water, pens, I-Tunes gift certificates, stress balls bearing the Yankees’ inter-locking “NY” logo and other items that were placed in bags labeled “From the Big Apple” and then into Priority Mail cartons to be shipped to U.S. troops serving around the world.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was there for the event that also included volunteers from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Mariners and conveyed poignant thoughts about the importance of the day. Joe’s message was fitting for the event that was part of a national initiative led by Mission Serve in which Americans are rallying around the troops all week by volunteering support alongside veterans, active-duty military and their families.

Bank of America is a national sponsor of Mission Serve and has donated nearly $2 million in military support-related grants since 2008. After a welcome from Bank of America vice president Eric Seal and military affairs executive Jeff Cathey, Girardi gave a moving talk in which he swelled up with emotion several times.

“It’s important for us to provide our men and women in the military with comfort kits,” he said. “Think of all the comforts we have here at home that their service provides for us. We should serve them because they serve us.”

Girardi recalled two incidents in his life this year that brought Thursday’s message home. One was at the recent Army-Air Force football game at West Point where Joe took his son Dante as a birthday present.

“There we met a couple of wounded warriors,” Joe said. “One of them had this very deep scar from a cut on his leg. That gave me a chance to explain to my son the meaning of sacrifice; that it was more than giving up soda for Lent or something like that.”

Girardi also referred to an early-season Yankees trip to Baltimore where the team visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in nearby Washington, D.C.

“One of the soldiers I met had been shot in the head,” Girardi said. “The bullet went through his ear and out of the back of his head. He told me that he couldn’t wait to go back to be with his team in Iraq. Talk about commitment. That is total commitment. That is the spirit we honor today.”

With that, the Yankees manager rolled up his sleeves and began packing bags. “We need more cookies,” he said at one point.

What we really need is more of an attitude on a daily basis of the kind that was on display in the lobby of the Bank of America Tower Thursday.

How much did Lee lose?

Did Cliff Lee hurt his bargaining power with his two losses in the World Series? Although he pitched brilliantly for six innings Monday night, the three-run home run Lee allowed to Edgar Renteria in the seventh essentially lost the World Series for the Rangers, who will have to dig deep into their pockets, which aren’t exactly Texas size, to retain the lefthander bound for free agency.

The Yankees haven’t made any secret of their interest in Lee, who beat them twice in the 2009 World Series and again in Game 3 of this year’s American League Championship Series. General manager Brian Cashman tried to trade for Lee in July and almost had a deal in place before the Rangers swooped in and grabbed him from Seattle.

Lee was not exactly lights out for Texas during the regular season (4-6, 3.98 ERA) after a terrific start with the Mariners (8-3, 2.34 ERA). That’s a combined record of 12-9 with a 3.18 ERA, which is not all that imposing. Lee is looking for CC Sabathia-type money, but those statistics aren’t CC Sabathia-type numbers.

Speaking of numbers, Lee went from 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA in the 2009 World Series to 0-2 with a 6.94 ERA in the 2010 World Series. Now I’m not forgetting his two victories over the Rays on the road in the Division Series or his Game 3 gem against the Yankees in the ALCS, also on the road. In fact, Lee did not lose on the road or win in Texas in the post-season, so maybe Rangers Ballpark In Arlington is not the place for him.

One thing the Yankees have to be careful about is how they look at a pitcher who has been successful against them (9-4, 3.81 ERA, including post-season play). Not to pick on A.J. Burnett, but his attractiveness to the Yankees two off-seasons ago was based a lot on how he pitched against them. The problem is that if a player goes to his “cousin,” then he doesn’t have that “cousin” anymore.

Don’t get the idea that I’m ranking on Lee. He would be a great addition to the Yankees. I’m just saying his price tag may have to be re-arranged a bit.

For old-time Giants fans, the ones still sore at their leaving the Polo Grounds for San Francisco in 1958, you will have to admit that the Curse of Coogan’s Bluff is over now that the Giants have their first championship in the Bay Area. The 1962 Giants of Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal couldn’t do it. The 1989 Giants of Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell and Matt Williams couldn’t do it. The 2002 Giants of Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent and Robb Nen couldn’t do it. Managers as talented as Alvin Dark, Roger Craig and Dusty Baker couldn’t do it.

It came down to the Bruce Bochy-directed Giants of Renteria, Juan Uribe, Aubrey Huff and Cody Ross, plus a string of excellent young pitchers Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, plus an exceptional rookie catcher Buster Posey, plus a paint-it-black bearded closer Brian Wilson, not to be confused with the Beach Boy.

Lincecum outpitched Lee in Game 5, which was also characterized by Bochy out-managing Ron Washington. In the sixth inning, Mitch Moreland led off with a single for the Rangers in what was then a scoreless game. Instead of playing for one run against the overpowering Lincecum, Washington eschewed the sacrifice and had Elvis Andrus swing away on a hit-and-run play, but he lined out to center and Moreland had to scurry back to first base. Again, no bunt with one out, and Michael Young flied out to center as well.

In the seventh, when the Giants put their first two runners on with singles by Ross and Uribe on two-strike pitches, Bochy ordered the bunt from Huff, who did not have a sacrifice in a 13-season career.  A pro, Huff got the ball down and put the runners in scoring position. Lee got the second out by punching out Pat Burrell, who had a brutal Series (0-for13, 11 strikeouts).

Again, Washington blundered by not ordering Renteria walked intentionally and let Lee go after Aaron Rowand. Lee appeared to be pitching around Renteria, but why take the risk of a pitch going awry, such as the 2-0 cutter that the Giants shortstop clubbed for a three-run homer? Never mind that Lee didn’t want to walk Renteria; who’s running the club, the pitcher of the manager?

It was the second game-winning hit in a World Series clinching game for Renteria, who won the 1997 Series for the Marlins against the Indians with an 11th-inning single. Only two other players have done that in Series history, both Yankees – Lou Gehrig (Game 4 in 1928 against the Cardinals and Game 6 in 1936 against the Giants) and Yogi Berra (Game 4 in 1950 against the Phillies and Game 7 in 1956 against the Dodgers). Joe DiMaggio also had two game-winning RBI in Series clinching games (Game 4 in 1939 against the Reds and Game 5 in 1949 against the Dodgers), but the latter was not on a hit but a sacrifice fly.

Renteria’s were far more dramatic than the others because in each case the hits broke ties from the seventh inning on. The Giants simply shut down the Rangers after Texas got back into the Series by winning Game 3. The Rangers scored one run (on Nelson Cruz’s seventh inning solo homer off Lincecum) in the last 21 innings and did not get a single runner in scoring position in Game 5.

It was hard to believe this was the same team that had, in Cashman’s word, “manhandled” the Yankees.

Yanks-Rangers off-season heating up

The Yankees and the Rangers are likely to go head to head in the off-season for the services of post-season pitcher extraordinaire Cliff Lee, who was trying to keep Texas alive in the World Series Monday night.

Rangers owner Chuck Greenberg got the hot-stove season off to a sizzling start with remarks about Yankees fans on a Dallas radio station.

“I thought Yankee fans, frankly, were awful,” Greenberg said. “They were either violent or apathetic, neither of which is good. So I thought Yankee fans were by far the worst of any I’ve seen in the post-season. I thought they were an embarrassment.”

Greenberg’s comments followed those of Lee’s wife, Kristen, who was upset about beer thrown in the direction of Rangers family members at Yankee Stadium during the American League Championship Series games there. She also claimed fans in the upper deck spit down at them.

A big difference, however, is that Greenberg didn’t stick to his guns. He issued an apology later, saying “Earlier [Monday], in the course of praising the extraordinary support and enthusiasm of Texas Rangers fans, I unfairly and inaccurately disparaged fans of the New York Yankees. Those remarks were inappropriate. Yankees fans are among the most passionate and supportive in all of baseball.

“I have spoken directly to Hal Steinbrenner and Randy Levine to apologize for my intemperate comments. I would like to express again how proud we are of our fans and how remarkably they have supported the Rangers throughout lean times and now during this magical season.”

It remains to see if this is a truce or a call to arms.

As I was saying. . .

Travel difficulties Sunday spoiled my chance to see one of the best World Series games pitched by a rookie as Madison Bumgarner put the Giants on the verge of winning their first championship in San Francisco.

I was flying home from Dallas where I attended the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s annual meeting and blogged off Game 3. My original plan was to get back to New York to catch Game 4 on television, but the plane I was supposed to board was put out of service because of mechanical problems. We were finally given clearance to board another plane about three hours later. By the time I got back home, the game was over.

I had envisioned the 2010 post-season being one in which the Phillies would take revenge for last year’s loss in the World Series to the Yankees. The trade for Roy Halladay, the likely National League Cy Young Award winner, was part of that plan, along with the mid-season acquisition of Roy Oswalt of the Astros. With Cole Hamels, the Phillies created their H2O rotation that to me seemed head and shoulders over everyone else.

Two things happened that the Phillies didn’t count on, however. The big one was that the Giants stayed hot on the Padres’ tail and ended up winning the NL West. San Francisco’s rotation of Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez was so good that former American League Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito wasn’t even placed on the post-season roster.

The Giants out-pitched the Phillies to win the NL Championship Series in six games, holding slugger Ryan Howard without a run batted in.

And out of the AL emerged the Texas Rangers, who reached the World Series for the first time in the franchise’s 50th season and had in their holster one of the most impressive post-season pitchers of all time, Cliff Lee. He was the same guy who beat the Yankees twice in the Series last year for the Phillies, who traded him to Seattle after they got Halladay.

Lee helped Texas get to the Series with three victories in the first two playoff rounds but got roughed up in Game 1 by the Giants. The lefthander stood in their way in Game 5. Lee just could be making his last start for the Rangers if the Series ends Monday night and he bolts Arlington for free agency. A Texas victory Monday night may not be much more than a bump in the road for the Giants, who would return to San Francisco still with the upper hand.

Bumgarner saw to that with eight innings of shutout pitching, limiting the Rangers to three singles and two walks. Only one player, Josh Hamilton, got as far as second base, and he reached base initially on an error. The Giants got all the offense they needed in the third inning on a two-run home run by Aubrey Huff, who has the Yankees to thank for where he is today. Well, sort of.

Giants general manager Brian Sabean mentioned the other day that during the previous off-season the club was in need of a left-handed hitter, preferably a first baseman, and had targeted Nick Johnson, late of the Nationals. But Johnson signed instead with the Yankees, so the Giants decided to go after Huff, who grew up about 50 miles from Arlington as a Rangers fan and is now in position to end their dream of a title and help the Giants to their first since 1954 when they still played at the Polo Grounds.