The baseball playoffs are here, and the Yankees are picking up right where they left off.
After winning their first game against the Anaheim Angels last year, the pinstripes have lost four in a row and six out of their last seven playoff appearances. The Bronx Bombers don’t look like they did from 1996 to 2000, when they were virtually unstoppable.
While some have taken this as an opportunity to panic, let’s look at this logically. In 2001, the Yankees lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the bottom of the ninth inning in the World Series. That’s nothing for George Steinbrenner to get angry about.
Last year, depending on what newspaper you read, the Yankees lost a “debacle” or “disaster” of a series to the Angels. Let’s not forget that Anaheim steamrolled the Minnesota Twins on their way to winning it all. Losing to that squad was not as bitter a pill as Yankees fans made it out to be.
Everyone says Yankees fans got spoiled by winning, and everyone is right. Baseball is too fickle a game to dominate it for any longer than the Yankees did in the late 1990s, when they matched previous incarnations of the club as the best team of all time.
Now Bernie Williams is a step slower, David Wells is 40, Tino Martinez is gone and Scott Brosius has retired. This is Roger Clemens’ last go-around, Andy Pettitte is a free agent at the end of the year, and Mariano Rivera looks mortal. The new stars—Alfonso Soriano, Jason Giambi, Aaron Boone—can put up big numbers, but they can’t play together like the old teams could.
There is still hope. As long as Derek Jeter is around, there is someone to get the big hit. Nick Johnson is developing into one of the best young hitters in the game. And Hideki Matsui was the most important addition the Yankees made all year.
Still, it doesn’t take a genius to see that the Yankees aren’t as hungry as other playoff contenders. That’s what makes the Boston Red Sox so scary this year, even though they finished with a worse record than the Yanks. They’re clicking as a team as well as anyone, and they seem to be having the most fun. Just like the Angels last year, that counts for something.
I think the Yankees will come back and beat the Twins, but I think they’ll lose to Boston in the ALCS. The Red Sox need to win one game in Oakland to earn the right to finish the A’s off at home, and they’ll likely win in four. In the National League, the Cubs will beat the weary Braves, while the Giants should squish the fish down in Florida.
In the NLCS, as much as I would like to see the Cubs win, with their superior pitching, the Giants are going to prove to be too hard to defeat. I’ll take them in six. That would set up a Boston vs. San Francisco World Series for the first time in history.
The Red Sox have a hitting edge for eight batters, but the Giants have the best player in the game in Barry Bonds. The Giants definitely have the better pitching, but the Red Sox have the best pitcher in the game in Pedro Martinez. The teams are inverse images of one another, and it would be a heck of a series.
I can only hope it will come down to a seventh game in Fenway; the Sox trying to bury the curse of the Bambino in the ninth inning, up two runs with two outs, two men on, Bonds hitting, Pedro pitching, and the whole world watching and waiting.