(Long Island, NY) Maybe the winning has become so frequent that it is a shock when they lose. The New York Yankees have not been the most successful franchise in sports for nothing. 26 World Championships, countless post-season appearances and individual awards. You name it, they’ve done it. But sometimes things do not go your way. Take the American League Divisional Series versus the Detroit Tigers, for instance. After Game 1, it looked as if the Yanks were going to sweep the fading Tigers, who not only lost their final five regular season games, but were swept by the Kansas City Royals and blew a double-digit lead in the division. They had to go in to the playoffs as the American League Wild Card entry and drew the top-seeded Bronx Bombers.
The Yanks doubled up the Bengals, 8-4, in the opener at Yankee Stadium. Early in the next game, the Tigers trailed 3-1 and appeared to be poised for another defeat. Then they started chipping away at Mike Mussina and actually took a 4-3 lead. Their strong bullpen came in and shut down ‘Murderer’s Row and Cano.’ Gaining a split on the road was a major accomplishment for a team needing a boost.
The series shifted to Comerica Park in the Motor City, and in a short series, anything can happen. Not only did anything happen, but the impossible, too. Former Yankee Kenny Rogers pitched the game of his life versus his former mates to give the Tigers a two games to one edge and on the brink of knocking out the top team. A day later, the Yankees bats were once again cold as ice, and the Tigers Cinderella run was well on its way.
Now what? Will the wrath of George Steinbrenner be felt all over Yankee-land? He may have had the axe sharpened for his long-time manager, Joe Torre. But he apparently was swayed to put it aside. Torre will return for the final year of his contract in 2007, and one of the all-time great managers will make his exit gracefully.
And then there’s the Alex Rodriguez question. Keep him or try to convince him to waive his no-trade clause? This guy hasn’t looked fully comfortable in New York since he arrived. Changing positions, playing second fiddle to Derek Jeter, having that $252 million dollar contract hanging over his head. Whatever the reasons, A-Rod appears to be a shell of himself at times. And there was no worse time than the playoffs. Only getting one base hit throughout the four games and being jockeyed up and down the batting order could not have helped his cause. General Manager Brian Cashman has already publicly stated that he will not look to trade Rodriguez. But sharp GM’s don’t always show their cards.
Gary Sheffield appears to be a goner. Entering free agency, he was injured throughout most of the summer and didn’t hit when he came back. A failed experiment at first base to close out the season was just that.
The starting pitching needs to be overhauled. Old and fading is a kind way to put it. Randy Johnson is not the Big Unit New Yorkers were hoping for when he pushed that camera man in Manhattan. Moose has been a warrior, but he has seen his best days. The two big names the Yankees signed in 2004 to get younger have been a waste. Jaret Wright has been hurt and ineffective when he is in there. Carl Pavano is a joke and may turn out to be one of the worst free agent signings of all-time.
Is there work to do? Just like any other team, there is plenty to do in the off-season. But at least Steinbrenner didn’t over react and push Torre out. Maybe he didn’t do his best managerial job in the ALDS. But the team’s bats all going cold and pitching falling apart cannot be solely on the shoulders of the field boss.