The American League Division Series mirrored the regular season because in the end the Yankees were a game better than the Orioles.
The fact that the Bronx Bombers won the American League East title yet again in 2012 wasn’t unexpected. What was surprising was how the Orioles, long a laughingstock, gave the Yankees a run for their money in both the regular season and the first round of the playoffs.
What the Tigers have been doing to the Yanks is another story.
After years of looking for quick fixes and failing to develop young talent, the O’s farm system finally started to bear a lot of fruit. Talent is only one part of the story. The real reason for their success is that their manager, the taciturn Buck Showalter, who longtime Yankees fans remember as Joe Torre’s predecessor as manager, has changed the culture around Chesapeake Bay. Losing, which was routinely accepted by the Orioles organization, would never be tolerated by Showalter. Buck had even complained about the Orioles’ cap because it bears the face of a smiling bird, which, in his mind, is a wimpy mascot.
Mets fans have to understandably be envious of the Birds. Terry Collins has been managing the Mets longer than Showalter has had the Orioles job. Like Buck, Terry has a no-nonsense personality. He says the right things in his pre and postgame press conferences, but I don’t sense even the slightest shift in culture at Citi Field, on the part of the players or the ownership, since he became manager two years ago. Frankly, I think many players tuned him out as they endured their annual post-All Star Game descent in the standings.
From what I hear, Orioles General Manager Dan Duquette solicits input from Showalter on player personnel and doesn’t dare make a trade without consulting him. Buck is not reticent about approaching Duquette with a list of needs and expecting them to be addressed. I can’t picture Collins having that same kind of relationship with Mets GM Sandy Alderson.
Raul Ibanez has long been one of the best clutch hitters in baseball. Last year the Phillies let him walk when he became a free agent and Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman quickly signed him. That’s one reason why the Yankees got to play October baseball and the Phils didn’t this year.
Ibanez’s two home runs in the pivotal Game 3 of the ALDS made him the toast of New York. That was the nice part of the story. The unpleasant side was how the media seemed to openly celebrate the failures of the man Ibanez pinch hit for, Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod’s career may be in decline but he doesn’t deserve that kind of enmity.
Yankees fans have to be wondering if they would have been better off had Ibanez not hit that dramatic home run with two outs in the ninth inning to tie up Game 1 of their American League Championship Series with the Detroit Tigers, since their team would eventually lose in the 12th — and Derek Jeter would break his ankle lunging for a ground ball in that final frame. The Bombers’ captain has practically personified the team since the mid-’90s, and had another stellar season this year. His loss for the rest of the postseason is a crushing blow to the true blue.
The Jets finally gave their faithful a reason to smile as they annihilated the Indianapolis Colts 35-9 last Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Running back Shonn Greene, who has been a major disappointment this season, erupted for 161 rushing yards.
Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie did a fine job containing Colts receiver Reggie Wayne, who has long been regarded as one of the best wideouts in the NFL. Antonio got flagged four times by the referees for pass interference, however. Meeting with the media after the game, he conceded that he will have to improve on cutting down on those calls, though he did think the refs were a bit overzealous in at least two instances.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan was a bit more understanding of Cromartie’s predicament since he has to cover the best receiver on any opposing team for the rest of the season in light of the fact that his fellow cornerback, Darrelle Revis, is out of action until 2013 as he recovers from knee surgery. Ryan answered affirmatively when I asked him whether Cromartie’s pass interference penalties are a cost of doing business.
It’s safe to say that Giants head coach Tom Coughlin isn’t letting his team rest on their Super Bowl laurels, considering the team’s convincing 26-3 thrashing of the 49ers in San Francisco last Sunday.
These are heady times for the Brooklyn Nets. Point guard Deron Williams graces the cover of the current issue of Sports Illustrated while the team will be followed this season on NBA-TV’s “The Association,” pro hoops’ answer to HBO’s behind-the-scenes look at the NFL, “Hard Knocks,” and Showtime’s similar treatment of the baseball world few get to witness, “The Franchise.”
Drew Storen, the closer for the Washington Nationals, who is also an engineering student at Stanford, is one of the most thoughtful and pleasant athletes I’ve ever met. Apparently a lot of other sportswriters feel the same way. According to Washington Post columnist Mike Wise, many of the writers in the Nationals clubhouse were more concerned about Storen’s well-being than about the game itself after he gave up four runs to the Cardinals in the top of the ninth inning in the deciding Game 5 of the National League Division Series. That changed a Washington win into yet another heroic comeback for St. Louis. To their immense credit, every one of Storen’s teammates tried to cheer him up after the debacle.
The just held New York Comic Con has quietly overtaken its non-related San Diego namesake as the most attended costumed geek fest in America. While it does remain a comic book trade show open to the public as the name implies, it has become a key event for companies from all over the entertainment spectrum to showcase their wares. CBS brought in key cast members from its sophomore hit, “Person of Interest,” for a panel while ABC and the CW did the same thing for their new fall shows, “666 Park Avenue” and “Arrow,” respectively. Fox may have been the smartest TV network at the Javits Center last week as it brought in the cast from “The Following,” a show that will not debut until February. Advance buzz is crucial for films but it’s even more important for a new television show.
Former Detroit Lions linebacker Alex Karras, who passed away last week at age 77, was one of the first athletes to make a second career in entertainment. Onetime Giants linebacker Michael Strahan, who is now Kelly Ripa’s co-host, owes a great debt to Karras.
Wrestlers have always been live-action cartoon characters, and that’s why they perennially draw long lines of autograph seekers at comic book conventions such as this one. Among the former World Wrestling Entertainment stars who came to New York Comic Con last weekend were Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, Tito Santana, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and Booker T. Huffman, who was promoting his autobiography, “From Prison to Promise.” (Medallion Books).
If you are looking for golf resorts where you can play beautiful courses at bargain prices, be sure to visit South Carolina from Thanksgiving right through February, when off-season winter hotel rates and green fees kick in at both Hilton Head Island and Kiawah Island. Barring a strong cold snap, you can reasonably expect temperatures there to be in the 60s in late November and early December.
In a world of high-tech gizmos such as Apple’s iPhone 5 and Samsung’s Galaxy Note II, it’s nice to know that someone can still invent a delightfully simple but very much needed product. A company called Cleanlogic, which makes various soaps, lotions, loofas and exfoliating cloths, has come up with Fresh Drop. The company promises that if you place a drop of this liquid product into your toilet beforehand, it will eliminate all subsequent odors. This is indeed a great country!