Something’s Different About Rafael Soriano and Other Thoughts

It’s the debut of Thursday Thoughts, which is my way of putting together things that didn’t end up in columns for the week and thoughts that were no more than a paragraph.

Thanks to the great invention of syndication I have the ability to watch Saved By The Bell reruns on MTV2 when I remember they’re on. Last week the episode was on where Kelly leaves Zack for Jeff, in what was the classic college-guy-dating-the-hot-high-school-girl move (I bet Jeff even told Kelly that he loves her), and Zack tries to get back at Kelly by going out with Screech’s smokeshow cousin. Slater asks Screech how he could possibly be related to her, and Screech answers, “She’s adopted,” and it all makes sense for the gang.

Well, I want to know how the Rafael Soriano that was the eighth-inning guy and then the seventh-inning guy and then the eighth-inning guy again could possibly be the same guy who is now pitching so well for the Yankees? The answer? He’s a closer again. It all makes sense.

Here are Soriano’s numbers since taking over as the closer.

8 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 1.13 ERA, .200 BAA, 0.875 WHIP.

Not only has Soriano pitched like a different pitcher since May 10, he looks like a different pitcher too. And on top of all this I feel confident when he comes into games. And on top of that, he’s oddly enough earning his $11 million this year. Here it comes … Is this real life?

Without Mariano Rivera and David Robertson, and with Cody Eppley, Clay Rapada and sometimes Boone Logan and Cory Wade, no one really knew what to make of the Yankees bullpen with the “A” relievers down, but Soriano has been as good as he was in Tampa Bay and Atlanta and as good as we hoped he would be as the setup man last season.

Do you think Brian Cashman has apologized to Soriano or Randy Levine yet now that Soriano might save the season from a bullpen standpoint, or is he still holding a grudge about losing that draft pick? Or maybe no apologies are needed for getting upset about giving a reliever $35 million and two opt-out clauses when no apology was given when $46 million was used for Kei Igawa on your watch?

– Tom Coughlin will be the Giants head coach for at least three more seasons and I couldn’t be happier. I have never had a more complicated love/hate relationship with anyone the way that I do with Tom Coughlin. I have changed my mind on how I feel about Coughlin more times than the Kings, Sabres, Panthers, Canucks and Coyotes have changed uniform colors combined. I know I used the words “second-half collapse” more than I wrote A.J. Burnett’s name in 2011, but I was never wrong about what I said regarding Coughin. I felt as though he would be fired if the Giants failed to make the playoffs again, and I felt that it would be the right move if he was unable to reach the postseason for a third straight season given everything that happened with the team since Plaxico went to the Latin Quarter nightclub in November 2008. But it’s good to know that Coughlin will be in charge of the Giants for at least three more years, so the Bill Cowher rumors can be put to rest and the team can focus on repeating as champions like Victor Cruz said on Wednesday night on the big screen at Yankee Stadium.

– I still haven’t done an end-of-the-year piece or anything for the Rangers yet (probably because the end of the season ended so abruptly after 102 games), but I plan on doing so next week, and hope to get WFAN extraordinaire Brian Monzo to join. But I did see a solid Bob Costas interview with John Tortorella on Monday night in which the two discussed Tortorella’s postseason postgame press conference tactics as well as his relationship with Marian Gaborik and his decision to bench him against the Devils in the conference finals. After seeing Tortorella answer challenging questions at length with the season over and wins and losses behind him, it’s remarkable how different of a person he can be outside the heat of the moment.

I said during the season that Tortorella had to get the team to the conference finals for me to finally jump on the John Tortorella bandwagon and for him to prove himself in New York and move away from banking on what he did in Tampa Bay. I have stayed true to my word. But I still wouldn’t have benched Gaborik.

– Through 57 games the 1998 Yankees were 44-13 and in the middle of a nine-game winning streak. Through 57 games the 2012 Rangers are 33-24 and are 2-5 in June after going 14-14 in May. The Yankees finished the season at 114-48 and won the World Series. The Rangers would have to go 80-24 to match that record and then win the World Series. So why do people insist on saying the 2012 Rangers are the best team since the 1998 Yankees? Am I missing something here? Because I feel like I’m taking crazy pills! I can only hope these comparisons end up the same way the 2011 Red Sox and 1927 Yankees comparisons did.

– The Heat-Celtics series is a win-win situation and a lose-lose situation for all New York fans. It’s a Catch 22 inside being stuck between a rock and a hard place. One of the two most hated NBA teams of New York fans will have their season end short of the Finals and the other will play the Thunder for the title. I haven’t been this torn on who to root for since trying to choose between Billy Costigan and Colin Sullivan in The Departed. It’s a terrible predicament, but there’s only one real way to look at it and that is to pull for the Heat to win the Eastern Conference as awful as that sounds.

If the Celtics win Game 6 or 7 they will be four wins away against a superior, but much less experienced Thunder team. And while no one wants to see LeBron James win a championship, there’s a good chance he will win at some point, so who cares if that some point is now? It’s way better than having Boston inch closer to a championship, which would relieve some of the pain of the Red Sox’ collapse and the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss, and no one wants that. The one downfall of the Heat winning is that it would take two more games, which is three more days (counting the off day) of my friend and Celtics fan Mike Hurley polluting my life with complaints about the officiating. And if the Heat are to win, there will likely be a lot of questionable and controversial fouls that were called or not called and that means days, maybe even weeks or months of Bostonians complaining about NBA refs. The idea of this is making me want the Celtics to win now, but I would never do such a thing.

– I’m happy the Subway Series is meaningful to both sides (at least for the first edition of it in 2012) as much as I don’t want the Mets to succeed. I love and enjoy the six meetings between the Yankees even if there are a lot of people that complain that it isn’t what it used to be in 1997 (these are the same people that complain about how much better things were back in the day or they are the people that will someday complain about how much better things were back in the day). Maybe the Subway Series has lost some of its luster since its inception 15 years ago, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still fun or entertaining. Most things lose their shine and the new-car smell after a while, but that doesn’t mean you need to get rid of it.

I know the schedules around the league are going to change in the future and there won’t be six Subway Series games anymore, and that’s disappointing. Because the only thing better than the Subway Series is a Subway Series that is lucky enough to get a split-stadium doubleheader.