MILWAUKEE — Following today’s game, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was fuming. He was so steamed that he is protesting the results and sent a videotape of two plays to league president Lee McPhail.
In other words, the Yankees lost and George needed someone to blame. The plays in question were of little consequence. Had they gone another way, there is little guarantee the Yankees could have found a way to score.
The truth is that had the Yankees taken advantage of a first inning opportunity, George would be happy. After nine pitches and no outs, New York had loaded the bases on Brewers starter Pete Vuckovich, who had thrown only two strikes. Somehow, some way, Vuke escaped that inning by only allowing a single run. It would be important in what would become a low scoring game.
Cecil Cooper quickly made the Yankees pay for failing to score more runs when he hit a booming two-run home run to right in the bottom of the first. The Yankees would tie it up on a Roy Smalley solo homer in the top of the second, but Marshall Edwards would give the Crew the lead for good in the bottom of the inning with a run-scoring, infield single.
That’s right. Each team scored at least one run in each of the first two innings, but that was it. Of course, that doesn’t mean the following innings lacked controversy.
Willie Randolph led off the top of the third with a bunt in front of the plate. Vuckovich made an athletic play to get to the ball and throw a bullet to first. Randolph was called out, and he showed his disapproval. George, too, griped about the call.
Ken Griffey would follow with a walk, but the Yankees would fail to get a hit that inning. So there is little reason to believe that a close call at first would have changed the game in the third.
In the eighth, Yankees left fielder Dave Collins popped up a foul behind the plate. Ted Simmons went back to the screen and made the catch. Steinbrenner claimed Simmons trapped the ball against the screen. This dispute borders on ridiculous. Had Simmons actually trapped the ball, Collins still needed to reach base. Vuke had retired the Yankees in order in the eighth, so this was far from a game-changing call.
What isn’t in dispute? Rollie Fingers‘ dominance. After Jerry Mumphrey singled to lead off the top of the ninth, Fingers was summoned from the bullpen. Eight pitches and two strikeouts later, the inning and game were over.
Covering his last two outings, Rollie has thrown 18 pitches, 17 for strikes. He’s retired all six batters he’s faced and five were via the strikeout.
The Brewers keep winning, and they’re having fun. “We were a squabbling, bickering bunch of guys for a while,” first baseman Cecil Cooper said of the days under former manager Buck Rodgers. “I think [Kuenn] deserves a lot of credit just for creating that type of atmosphere. It’s fun. I think that’s the way it should be. Come out and have fun.”
It’s this type of atmosphere that is lacking in New York. It’s why the Yankees are losing, and it’s why George Steinbrenner needs someone to blame.
Game Notes: It was the Brewers’ seventh straight win, remaining four games back of the Red Sox … At 23-6, Pete Vuckovich has won more games than any pitcher in baseball since the start of the 1981 season. He’s won eight straight, tying Mike Caldwell for the club record … Rollie Fingers recorded his 16th save … Yankees shortstop Bucky Dent announced after the game that if he is selected to start the All-Star Game that he would decline. Robin Yount is currently second in the balloting.