Monday, October 8, 2007

Yankees Playoffs Musings - Steinbrenner to A-rod

Late Sunday afternoon, as I drove back from Boston where I spent a ridiculous weekend with some of Red Sox nation's craziest, I had about nine hours to think about where the Yankees were as a team. First of all, I really want to comment on Steinbrenner's interview. I think Joe Torre is an incredible manager. He always deals with everything thrown at him with grace and integrity, and when dealing with the New York media and George Steinbrenner, that is absolutely necessary. With the exception of overworking his bullpen (mostly a result of a lack of quality pitchers), he is as good as they come when it comes to X's-and-O's baseball strategy. And he has an incredible ability to maintain an even keel - he's never too high during the good times and never too low during the bad.

This last quality may be his biggest fault as well. When the Yankees were winning World Series in the late '90's, they had guys on that team like Joe Girardi and Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez that were motivators. They were the ones that got people fired up for a game, that wouldn't accept the apathetic and effortless performances of the Yankees in the last few playoffs. They needed a manager that was even keel and could keep everything that happened in perspective. The Yankees don't have those guys right now. Sure, the young guys like Bobby Cano and Melky and Shelley Duncan and Joba bring a little excitement and enthusiam, but there isn't that one guy that will rip into the team when they need it. Even Derek Jeter, the captain of the Yankees, is more of a lead by example guy. Now I would never, ever call for someone to get fired unless I thought that I could do better in that position, but I'm saying that should the Yankees lose the series and Torre lose his job, a change might not be the worst thing in the world.

A few more things. First, I believe Steinbrenner's interview was an effort by the Boss to kick start some life into the Yankees. Everyone on the team loves playing for Torre, and what better way to light a fire under a player then to threaten to take their beloved manager away. Because when it comes down to it, the players - not the manager - decide the game. (I know i'm writing this after the Yankees already won game 3, but its tough to post on a blog from the Jersey Turnpike). Also, people need to get off A-rod's back for his playoff struggles. Before game 3, the Yankees had eight hits as a team and hadn't had two consecutive hits in the series. He may be 2-10 in the series right now, but other than Johnny Damon, has anyone else done anything in this series, or in the Tigers series last year for that matter? Other than maybe Cano, I'd say not really. Even Derek Jeter is clumped in that group. This series he is 1-12, has not played good defense, and in game 3 grounded into two rally-killing double plays. The last thing I want to say is that the Yankees game 2 loss was probably the MOST unlucky loss I've ever seen or heard if considering the situation. A swarm of bugs attack a 22-year old rookie pitcher in his first playoff appearance, during the eighth inning, when your team is down 0-1 in a best of 5 series, and as a result a pitcher with pinpoint control walks a guy and throws two wild pitches in one inning to allow a run to score without a hit. Crazy.

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