Humiliation isn't binary. It's not that 1 = humiliated and 0 = not humiliated. Just like hot and cold, there are varying degrees of embarrassment. If you think you're dancing alone and somebody sees you, you're a little embarrassed. Slip and fall in front of a lot of people and you're moderately embarrassed. Get up to deliver a speech and have your pants fall down in the middle of the most moving passage and you're extremely embarrassed. There are levels, and the only consolation when you achieve one is that, were it a higher-level incident, it could've been worse.
Here's the thing, though - generally speaking, most humiliations are one-time events. You do something stupid, your face gets red, and you recover and move on. They're not things you repeat. Slip and fall once or twice and you're a klutz. Do it more often and you might be functionally retarded. It's like a whole new level of embarrassing behavior, the type that you can practically see coming ahead of time.
So imagine what was going through my head as I watched Darrell Rasner plow through bat after bat on his way to 5.2 shutout innings. It'd be one thing if this were a guy with good stuff, but Phil Hughes, Rasner isn't. No, Rasner's a guy who basically has two offerings - a deathly-straight 88mph fastball and a decent hook of which he has little command. And that's it. Already convinced that we had the advantage coming in, I saw Rasner's first few pitches and smiled comfortably, armed with the knowledge that any self-respecting Major League lineup would have him off the mound by the fourth. His repertoire sucked, and he didn't seem long for the game.
And that's when the bad feelings set in.
Biggest Contribution: Yuniesky Betancourt, +1.5%
Biggest Suckfest: Willie Ballgame, -9.8%
Most Important At Bat: Sexson groundout, -5.9%
Most Important Pitch: Jeter single, -14.2%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +2.2%
Total Contribution by Position Players: -52.2%
Total Contribution by Opposition: 0.0%
It's tough to pinpoint the exact moment when I knew things were going south, but I'm pretty sure it came in the top of the second, when Rasner used his offensively pathetic arsenal to strike out $19.2m of Mariner hitters. Getting Richie Sexson to watch strike three fly by his knees isn't much of an accomplishment by itself, since I'm pretty sure that's something Sexson practices on his own time, but whiffing Johjima too? It must've been then that I realized this would be another in a long line of horrible games against horrible pitchers, spanning the last several seasons. Doug Waechter, eat your heart out.
It was a shame, too, because at least for a little while, Jarrod Washburn was in control of his own half of the game. This wasn't a Chicago or Oakland outing where he could just put the ball over the plate and let bad hitters get themselves out; the Yankees had five potential All Stars out there today, along with a very underachieving Bobby Abreu, and Washburn kept them in check for as long as was humanly possible. He reached his peak in the fourth, when he got through A-Rod/Giambi/Matsui with two strikeouts and a grounder. It was the kind of inning that made you seriously consider the thought that maybe, just maybe, Washburn adapts his approach for each opponent, and that he can really turn it up when he needs to.
That thought lasted about seven minutes. After a mini Mariner rally in the top of the fifth was killed by Willie Ballgame, whose skin has gotten so white and translucent from sitting in the dugout all the time that you can literally see the dirt and ice in his veins, the Yankees sent their miserable 7-8-9 guys up against Washburn in the bottom half and lived to see the top of the order again before the end of the inning. A dying quail off the bat of Josh Phelps put a man aboard, and it looked like trouble when Washburn went to three balls on Wil Nieves (the latest example of Joe Torre's #2 catcher blind spot). He got a fly out, though, and went ahead of Damon 1-2 as it looked like we might make it scoreless into the sixth.
Then he missed. Three times, to be exact. With Damon aboard, Captain Intangibles slapped the most predictable single ever into center field, putting the Yankees ahead 1-0. The exclamation point on the go-ahead run was delivered by Phelps, who took it upon himself to barrel over a completely unsuspecting Kenji Johjima at home, who (1) wasn't blocking the plate, and (2) didn't have the ball. Being a former Devil Ray, you could kind of understand that maybe Phelps got a little too overexcited when he rounded third and wasn't thinking straight at the time, but nevertheless the objective of the game had changed in the blink of an eye. Where minutes earlier we wanted to beat the Yankees on the scoreboard, now all of a sudden hope towards that end was lost and we switched to wanting to beat Josh Phelps on the field. This point was driven home when Bobby Abreu made it 2-0 with a single.
At that point, with the Mariners rolling over against Rasner's girlish fastballs after having taken Hargrove's "don't hit women" speech too literally, two runs felt like a hundred. Not even when they got two aboard in the top of the sixth did it feel like they had a chance, because Richie Sexson was the only obstacle standing between Scott Proctor and a third out, and as any one of us would've done as well, Proctor decided that any of a variety of straight pitches between 50-100mph would be his best bet for escaping the inning unscathed. He threw one and Richie beat it into the ground. Sixth inning over.
Having long since abandoned the mission of getting back to two games over .500 themselves, the Mariners looked ahead to their next Josh Phelps encounter. He was due up third, but with this being a later inning in a game that was theoretically "close", it was possible that Torre would sub in Doug Mientkiewicz for defensive purposes, cockblocking our desired revenge. Raul Ibanez losing a Matsui fly ball in the sun (happy 2000th professional hit, Hideki! Truly a line drive for the ages) also lessened the chances of immediate retribution, since most managers would shy away from putting more men on base in a two-run game. But Jarrod Washburn wouldn't have any of it. After Torre decided to let Phelps hit away, Washburn promptly buzzed him with a fastball behind the head, and then drilled him in the shoulder with his next pitch. It was blatantly intentional, and even though there hadn't yet been any warnings, I would've understood if the umpire tossed Washburn out right then and there.
But he didn't. And, almost surprisingly, that looked like the end of it. The Mariners sent their message and Phelps jogged down to first without saying a word, as if even he knew he deserved the beaning. Some of the more fiery individuals among us were disappointed that no punches were thrown, but as deliberate beanballs go, that's how you draw them on the chalkboard. You deliver your point without getting anyone injured. Even YES announcer Michael Kay supported the Mariners' getting back at Phelps for his "unnecessary" collision. It was...it was nice, especially for those of us who didn't think the M's would have the huevos to stand up for themselves.
The Yankees would score another run in the inning (by the way, spectacular defense in the sixth - Kenji dropped a catchable foul pop-up, Ibanez lost Matsui's ball in the sun, Willie let a Cairo blooper bounce off the end of his glove, and Sexson bobbled a possible 3-2-3 DP ball), but it didn't matter; we'd already conceded the game, and all anyone wanted to do was get it over with in a timely fashion so we could enjoy the rest of our Sundays. Jose Guillen and Kenji Johjima cooperated with quick outs in the seventh, but then the damndest thing happened - Scott Proctor decided to take matters into his own hands with a fastball behind Betancourt. Before you could say "what the hell kind of fucked-up reason do the Yankees have to retaliate?" Betancourt was shouting and pointing at Proctor with his bat, and the dugouts emptied. Proctor himself gave no indication that the pitch was anything other than totally on purpose, gesturing for Betancourt to come after him and ignoring Jose Lopez's simultaneous verbal assault, but just as the bullpens arrived and Jose Vidro managed to roll himself off the bench and onto the field, the situation was defused, and the game continued with one less Yankee manager in the dugout, and one less Yankee douchebag on the mound.
The downside of it all was that we didn't even get the privilege of a baserunner, since Betancourt hadn't actually been hit by the pitch, but he went on to draw a walk, leading me to think that maybe we should get him pissed off more often. Any semblance of a possible two-out threat went out the window in an instant, though, as the regrettable seed of Daddy Bloomquist tapped a grounder to end the inning. That took us to the seventh inning stretch, and while I was thankful that YES cut away before we were forced to listen to God Bless America, they came back in time to show Roger Clemens announcing his return to the Yankees from Steinbrenner's press box, which - in the words of Elliot Reid - was pretty much the pickle on the giant crap sandwich that was my day. When the Mariners need a starter, they go to AAA and get Cha Baek. When the Yankees need a starter, they go to AAA and get Darrell Rasner, say "fuck this," and sign one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. I think Bud Selig has a different definition of "parity" than I do.
The Yankees scored more runs due to lousy defense, the Mariners didn't, and a little later the finishing touches were put on a completely unforgivable 5-0 shutout. This team has officially thrown away all the good graces they earned from Friday's shellacking. Tomorrow pits Miguel Batista against some assclown named Matt DeSalvo who's walked as many people as he's struck out over the last two years, but what reason do I have to be optimistic? If this lineup can't hit Darrell freaking Rasner, a guy who throws more balls might confuse them even more. So tune in tomorrow at 4:05pm PDT to watch us flail! Who knows, maybe we'll even get a guy to third this time. But I won't get ahead of myself.