Saturday October 17th, 2009

NEW YORK -- It was cold, but not freezing, and it rained, but only a little and never hard.

Not so unusual for an October evening in New York.

Despite the big deal that was made of the rain and cold temperatures -- nearly every interview conducted this week discussed the expected playing conditions -- its most visible impact was in keeping some Yankee fans away from the premium seats, making the game appear on television to be far less attended than it was, a shame for the first American League Championship Series game played in the new Yankee Stadium, in which the home team beat the Angels 4-1.

The temperature for the first pitch in the Bronx was 45 degrees, with a drizzle and variable winds blowing regularly at 10 miles per hour and gusting higher. The announced attendance was 49,688, considered a sellout but short of the stadium's maximum capacity for games that included standing room tickets. The fans were lively, but never deafening, no doubt in part because the Yankees hit no home runs and didn't need a comeback to win.

The weather did impact the game, but more for the wind than the cold or rain. Angels centerfielder Torii Hunter called the outfield wind "howling." Two flyballs -- one for each team -- seemed to be destined for the bleachers but were blown back into the field of play. The Angels' Vladimir Guerrero hit what, off the bat, appeared to be a deep home run but instead landed off the left-centerfield wall for a fourth-inning double. In the sixth the Yankees' Robinson Cano scorched a ball deep to right, but instead of finding the short porch, it landed in Bobby Abreu's glove on the warning track.

And for all the questions asked and ink written about the weather, quite shockingly, not a single player confessed that the cold temperatures might affect him and, rather insightfully, each pointed out that both teams played in the same conditions. What did everyone expect? That a pitcher might actually say, "I can't get a good enough grip to throw my curveball in the cold -- figured I should tell you, the media, so that you in turn can inform the opposing hitters so they game plan accordingly." Yeah right.

About the only candid admission came from Angels third baseman Chone Figgins on Thursday, who said he takes pride in getting on base as the leadoff hitter, "whether it's a walk, hit or error," before adding with a laugh, "I don't want to get hit by no pitches in the cold weather, though."

Then again, it couldn't have been too bad: Angels starter -- and native Texan -- John Lackey didn't even wear long sleeves under his jersey.

The greatest beneficiary of the cold might have MLB's apparel manufacturers. There was so much variety of cold-weather gear worn by the players -- dozens of pregame sweatshirts, Erick Aybar's hood, Robinson Cano's ski mask, et al. -- that they looked like walking billboards for the mlb.com store.

(The best advice came from a player not on the Angels' playoff roster. Brandon Wood, a veteran of minor-league stops in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Salt Lake City, who recommended storing one or two camping handwarmers in the back pants pocket, where a player can place his throwing hand in-between pitches. He also noted that can keep one's backside nice and toasty, too. "You try to keep warm however you can," Wood said.)

Then again, Hunter had his own theory about the weather, when asked if the low temperatures hurt the Angels' offense.

"CC was the cold weather," Hunter said of Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia. "The guy pitched his butt off."

With the news that Irish tenor Ronan Tynan would no longer be singing his endless version of God Bless America, the Yankees lost a small, weather-related advantage. Charged with singing the patriotic hymn after the Sept. 11 attacks, Tynan sang a slow, extended version of the song during the playoffs, some three minutes longer than the recorded version the Yankees often use during the regular season, according to The New York Times in 2003.

A pitcher standing still for three additional minutes, with no refuge from the New York's October cold, may find that his arm stiffens, which can impact his effectiveness. In '03 Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire attributed a bad bottom half of the seventh inning to the length of the delay, and he had a point.

Following Tynan's notes, the Yankees were better offensively in the bottom of the seventh, particularly earlier this decade. In '03 not one of the four visiting starters who began that half-inning finished it. In their 15 home playoff games in 2003 and '04, the Yankees had their greatest success in the bottom of the seventh, scoring more often (7 of 15 games) and more total runs (12) than in any other inning. Their propensity to score in the bottom of the seventh tapered in their ALDS appearances of 2005, '06 and '07 -- they scored twice that inning in their six home games -- but so did their ability to win in those postseasons.

• The Yankees made a helpful -- but taunting gesture -- by broadcasting the Phillies-Dodgers NLCS game on their large centerfield scoreboard. It was nice, because fans could follow along, but it was taunting, because it was 93 degrees and sunny in L.A.

• The Yankees' no facial hair policy and reputation for a quiet, workmanlike clubhouse were points of serious concern for trade acquisition Nick Swisher. "I was pretty nervous when I got the call," he said earlier in the week. "Right after that, I went downstairs and shaved my face, just to see what it would feel like. As an outsider looking in to this organization, like myself before I got here, you look at this like it's a very corporate, up-and-down-like-six-o'clock type of team. Then you look at the 26 championships, and it's like, 'All right, I'm in.'"

• The prize for "least likely name to appear in the Yankees' postseason game notes" goes to Melido Perez, who was an undistinguished 33-39 with a 4.06 ERA in his four seasons in the Bronx from 1992-95, but who threw at least seven innings in 27 starts in '92. Sabathia completed at least seven innings in 24 starts this season, the most by a Yankee since Perez.

• Like many players, New York starter A.J. Burnett has pictures of his children posted in his locker, only he taped up his sons' Little League baseball cards. Their teams? Blue Jays and Red Sox.

• It's only been seven years, but only two Angels -- Figgins and Lackey -- remain from the 2002 World Series championship team.

• Asked on Thursday whether a possible rain delay would affect his pre-start routine, Sabathia replied that it wouldn't and, if anything, would "give me lot of time to play RBI [Baseball]." The 1987 Nintendo game was a mainstay in the 2007 Indians clubhouse, in which Sabathia finished third in the inaugural clubhouse tournament, losing a heartbreaking semifinal to Victor Martinez. The old, eight-bit Nintendo system is popular in the Bronx, too, though last week Eric Hinske bemoaned the fact that Super Nintendo's Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball is clubhouse king.

• Comprising a motley crew of autograph signers, Jim Leyritz and Joe Pepitone were both across the street before the game, stationed near many area sports bars. The third former player doting his John Hancock on memorabilia was Roy White, who, in contrast to the other players and their past legal difficulty, has dedicated his post-baseball career to his foundation, which provides financial assistance for those who cannot afford to attend college.

• Girardi noted that, as a player, the days off between series flew by, while time has moved much slower as a manager. Not to discount the possibility that the anticipation actually does seem longer, but it's worth noting that it actually is longer, with television's influence adding four additional off-days into the October schedule.

Follow Joe Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SI_JoeLemire.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.