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Mudville: May 22, 2024 12:31 am PDT
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David’s Slingshot

This is why I love baseball.

Slingshots are cheap and effective.

In 2017 Michael Dillon Brosseau went halfway around the world to play winter ball for Perth in the Australian Baseball League after a season in the minors for the Rays. Three years later he sends the Rays on a trip to the ALCS with one of the more dramatic home runs in history.

That 2017 season was when Aroldis Chapman signed back with the Yankees as a free agent.

Chapman came back to New York after winning a World Championship with the Cubs in 2016. Brosseau went undrafted after coming out of Oakland University in Michigan in 2016 and signed with the Rays for $1,000. On Dec. 15, 2016, Chapman signed with the Yankees for five years, $86 million, the largest contract given to a reliever.

Fast forward to September 1, 2020 when Chapman nearly took off Brosseau’s head, and let’s make this clear, everyone is saying the ball was over Brosseau’s head. That’s wrong.

The 101 MPH pitch was right at Brosseau’s head. He ducked.

Then 39 days later, Brosseau faced Chapman once again and took Chapman deep in the eighth inning to give the Rays a 2-1 victory Friday night over the Yankees and the ALDS, three games to two.

This was a phenomenal 10-pitch at-bat. True Grit.

It was the stuff of dreams and was the most unlikely and crushing late-inning home run against the Yankees since the Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski sent Yankee fans home crying 60 years ago, I know, I was one of those crying fans, just seven years old.

Sure, Jose Altuve sent Chapman and the Yankees home in 2019 with his walkoff home run for the Cheatin’ Astros (are you beginning to see a Chapman pattern here), but Altuve was an All-Star and as we all know the Astros at home had a way of sitting on pitches.

That home run was a bad slider from Chapman.

This time Chapman did not want to get beat with his second-best pitch.

Brosseau’s home run was his first ever in the postseason and was only the 12th of his career. It came on that 10th pitch from the left-handed Goliath. If you watch carefully, and I always do, David readied his slingshot on that 100.2 mph pitch with a quick toe tap he had not taken the previous nine pitches, making his lift and drop with his front foot much shorter.

As a result, his bat was quicker to the power zone.

It was a thing of beauty and not a fluke in any way. Brosseau crushed the low, inner-half fastball, sending it into the left field seats at lovely Petco Park at a speed of 105.2 mph, the hardest hit home run by any Ray in the Statcast Era.

“Brosseau went undrafted…  in 2016 and signed with the Rays for $1,000. On Dec. 15, 2016, Chapman signed with the Yankees for five years, $86 million”

You have to wonder why Chapman didn’t work the outer half of the plate.

These are the matchups that make baseball great.

The Rays with a minuscule payroll. The Yankees with gobs of money. The emotion after the home run was College World Series level. Before this season started, I wrote that without fans, teams will have to supply their own emotion and the Rays did just that.

After the emotional victory the celebrating Rays rightfully trolled the Yankees with “New York, New York’’ and “Empire State of Mind.’’

As Kevin Cash said, “Hands down the greatest moment I’ve been a part of in baseball.’’

If you are a Yankee fan and have been wisely following along here at BallNine, you can’t say you were not warned. Earlier this season I wrote about Yankees penchant for making excuses and their over-reliance on analytics to make weird decisions. I doubled down on that this past week in Baseball or Bust.

The Yankees keep making the same mistakes.

Meanwhile, the Rays keep being themselves. The Yankees tried to be too much like the Rays. GM Brian Cashman wants to show the Yankees are not only a money team, but a brainy team, like the Rays or low-budget A’s.

I have said it a thousand times, teams should use analytics but can’t be driven by analytics. In the end there is the human element and that cannot be overlooked.

The bait and switch pitching tactic cost the Yankees Game 2 – and the series – with Deivi Garcia pitching just one inning, with lefty J.A. Happ following and surrendering home runs to Mike Zunino and Manuel Margot, two right-handed batters.

That was Zunino’s only hit of the series.

That was Margot’s only hit of the series.

Manny Margot and Ji-Man Choi

Manuel Margot of the Rays had one hit in the ALDS, but it was a big one.

The Yankees put a lefty who was not completely committed to The Plan on a silver platter for those two right-handed hitters to do damage. In the end the Yankees were beaten by their own arrogance, trying to play someone else’s game, and here is the ultimate irony, also beaten at their own game in the series.

The Rays hit .202. The Yankees hit .243. And yes, batting average is important. The Rays scored  21 runs. The Yankees scored 24. The Rays struck out 49 times. The Yankees struck out 49 times.

The Yankees hit 10 home runs, and that is their game, they remind us of that all the time the importance of home runs.

The Rays hit 11 home runs. Winner.

That last home run from Brosseau, the undrafted kid who signed for $1,000, that home run with one out in the eighth inning against Chapman, was the difference in the series.

Baseball is amazing.

Mike Brosseau

The $1,000 Man, Mike Brosseau

“Mike Brosseau is the perfect example of why we feel our organization is so special,’’ Cash said.

He’s right.

In that 2016 draft 1,216 players were drafted. Brosseau, who starred for the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies, didn’t make the cut.

“No one wanted me,’’ Brosseau said. “That’s always a driving factor but I couldn’t have been luckier to have a team like the Rays take a chance on me.’’

The Rays took a chance, and this is the difference: The Rays gave Brosseau a chance.

It’s one thing to take a chance on a player. Good organizations give a player a chance.

The irony is that in Rob Manfred’s new draft and minor league world, there will be no room for the Mike Brosseau’s of the undrafted baseball world. Drafts are going to be fewer rounds and there are going to be fewer minor league teams and fewer spots for these kids with a dream to land.

All teams take chances, but having the wisdom, coaching and development people to make the most of that chance is the difference.

Every Ray plays his part. Brosseau didn’t enter the game until the sixth inning as a pinch-hitter for Ji-Man Choi. Choi saved the Rays in the first inning making two acrobatic catches at first base, saving starter Tyler Glasnow and then shortstop Willy Adames errors that could have been disastrous.

The Rays Way is different.

“We do what we do every day,’’ Brosseau said.

Revenge, he said, did not enter his mind. It’s about focus and with each of the 10 pitchers, Mike Brosseau, professional grinder, got a little more locked in until Chapman put the 10th pitch in a place where Brosseau, with the quick toe tap making the difference, could handle it.

The Power Zone.

Brosseau’s slingshot set the death blow to the Yankees.

The Yankees spent $324 million bringing Gerrit Cole to the Bronx and didn’t even get as far as they did last season when they lost in six games to the Astros in the ALCS. In the end, the Yankees were beaten by the better team, and I emphasize T-E-A-M.

The last six outs of Game 5 were collected by the fourth Rays pitcher of the night, Diego Castillo. Four of those six outs were strikeouts. Without a doubt the most impressive of those strikeouts was a knee-buckling strikeout looking of Giancarlo Stanton, who came into the night having bashed six home runs in the postseason and four in the series.

Diego Castillo

Diego Castillo shut down the Yankees when it mattered, unlike Aroldis Chapman - again.

That was the first out of the ninth and it was a pitching work of art.

Castillo pitched to Stanton’s weakness, not trying to beat him with fastballs and fool him with curve balls, but throwing two sliders at his front hip, causing Stanton to flinch and not be able to unleash his mighty swing. It was a brilliant move. But that’s what the Rays do. They use analytics and stress scouting and development like no other team.

They actually develop.

Castillo was signed for $64,000 by the Rays in 2014. That is the same year Stanton was given his $325 million contract that the Yankees took over when they traded for the slugger.

Funny how it all works out.

In 2014 reliever Nick Anderson was a 32nd round pick for the Brewers. Anderson went to Brainerd High School in Brainerd, Minnesota and then Mayville State University in North Dakota, all of that is Paul Bunyan/Fargo territory. He eventually made his way to the Rays in a trade from the Marlins. He was one of the pitchers Cash called on, following starter Glasnow, who was working on only two days rest but gave the Rays seven outs. Anderson gave up the opposite field home run to Aaron Judge in the fourth.

“The Rays Way is to switch things up,’’ Anderson said. “Do things differently.’’

The Yankees tried to keep up but couldn’t.

The Rays had the better bullpen. The Yankees made quite the splash about signing Adam Ottavino before the 2019 season to a three-year $27 million deal and his offseason high-tech pitching lab was a much too frequent topic for the media.

The real pitching lab is called the postseason.

Ottavino was a mess last postseason and basically was no longer trusted by the Yankees AIC (Analytics In Charge). He had no role this postseason and that shortened the depth of the Yankees staff, which suffered injury woes as well.

Cashman’s hand-picked pitching coach Matt Blake who replaced Larry Rothschild, could not solve the riddle.

Cole leaves the game

Gerrit Cole leaves the game after pitching on short rest, surrendering only one run.

When the Yankees tried their fast one in Game 2, they left out an important piece of the puzzle. When the Rays play musical pitching chairs, all their pitchers are in on the moves. Happ did not totally buy in to the plan where youngster Garcia got the start and the veteran had to do something completely different than he was used to doing for most of his career.

The Rays, though, are used to such pitching chaos.

Aaron Boone, who was the one told to implement the AIC plan, did not offer any regrets – and that is concerning – and also shows you that’s the way the Yankees do business. Don’t you dare criticize those tactics because Boone said, “it’s kind of ridiculous.’’

What’s really ridiculous is the Yankees and Boone going so early to Zack Britton and Chapman in Game 5. Not to bridge that gap was critical. And it must be noted that the banished Gary Sanchez was in the game catching Chapman that eighth inning because Kyle Higashioka, who did a great job defensively, especially blocking balls in the dirt, something Sanchez can’t do, was pinch-hit for by Boone in the top of the inning. In that curious move Boone sent Mike Ford to the plate. Ford had not had a hit since August 31.

Ford struck out looking and did what Yankees often do, show their displeasure with the umpire’s call. Not getting Clint Frazier an at-bat in that final game was a mistake by Boone.

Let me ask you this, if Garcia was on the Rays, with all his stuff, with that live young arm, don’t you think he would have pitched more than one inning that he pitched in the series with the Yankees?

Boone and the Yankees did not use their personnel and talent as well as the Rays, who squeezed every ounce of talent they could have from their roster.

At this stage, Sanchez should not be brought back by the Yankees. It’s time to move on and focus on signing a catcher like J.T. Realmuto or going much cheaper with James McCann. Enough with bringing in catching specialists to tutor Sanchez on framing and such.

It has to come from within with Sanchez. Not from someone else.

The Yankees need to reboot. Ex-Yankee Alex Rodriguez must have been reading my columns, because he took off on Cashman with some of the finer points I have been saying all year when A-Rod strongly criticized his former organization for being much too cute. Since 2003, the Yankees have won as many world championships as the Marlins – one. Their way is not working and even adding Cole, which should have made them AL East winners but didn’t, the Rays won the division and pushed them into at least the ALCS. Cole and all his talents were not enough to get past the Rays.

Urshela makes the final out

The Yankees' Gio Urshela walks off the field after making the final out in ALDS Game 5 as the Rays celebrate and the cardboard fans just sit there, because they're made of cardboard.

The Yankees should spend money like only the Yankees can and sign Trevor Bauer and hope that Bauer and Cole, former teammates at UCLA, can reside in the same dugout and get along. But the Yankees have cut back their spending.

Anyway, if they go the expensive route to win a championship – something that hasn’t happened since 2009, they will be accused again of buying a championship. With Bauer and Cole, maybe the Yankees can beat the Rays.

Maybe. Maybe not.

After all, I’m sure the Rays somewhere along the line, have spent another $1,000 wisely on another gamer like Mike Brosseau, a grinder that was overlooked by all of baseball. And that player will lift the Rays past the Yankees again.

This is why I love baseball. Slingshots are cheap and effective.

45+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

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