Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Yankees and Tigers-2012
The New York Yankees stormed into the 2012 playoffs this year sporting the best record in the second half of the season. They knocked the cover off the ball, slamming more home runs than any other team in baseball. More than 50% of their runs came as a result of round-trippers. Defense was solid. They put together a trade package to entice the Seattle Mariners to trade Ichiro.
Turn out the lights, baby. The party’s…..well, it was almost over.
They tripped, stumbled, and almost fell during the divisional playoffs. Ichiro and a very unlikely hero, Raul Ibanez, hit home runs to save the Yankee bacon. Ibanez had to emerge from the dugout on more than one occasion to acknowledge the cheers of the faithful at The Stadium.
Unfortunately for the Bronx Bombers, the momentum established during the regular season has been lost. Against the Detroit Tigers in the Championship Series for the pennant, there is nothing but gloom and doom. The Tigers are digging in at the plate, led by Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.
The usually reliable Robinson Cano has fallen from grace. He has gone hitless in his last 26 trips to the plate, a playoff record.
The Tigers’ Omar Infante was on first base in the eighth inning. He ran to second on Austin Jackson’s single, and rounded the base. He was gunned down trying to return to second base. The second base umpire was not in a position to make the correct call, and repented after the game. After watching the video, Jeff Nelson realized his error.
The Yankee skipper, Joe Girardi, argued the call. He had the advantage over Nelson, because he had quick access to the replay. Nick Swisher’s throw from right field was on the money, and Cano had clearly tagged the runner before the base was touched.
After the game, Girardi commented about the play: “It’s hard to let it go when it changes the complexity of the game.” The Yankees did lose, but only 3-0. The previous evening, they trailed 4-0 heading to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning. In the back of Girardi’s mind, a 3-0 Tiger lead was not insurmountable. But he knew that the call would not be changed, no matter how convincing his argument might be. After the game, he continued, “It’s got to change. There’s just too much at stake. The technology is available.”
The Yankees squandered another quality start from one of their pitchers. They have four good arms in their starting rotation: Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettite, and their ace, C. C. Sabathia. The Tigers more than adequately match with their ace, Justin Verlander, and his supporting chuckers: Sanchez, Fister, and Scherzer.
The Yankees are batting a collective .192 against the Tigers in the first two games. They have struck out 20 times, and have few walks. Nick Swisher is batting .154. Alex Rodrigeuz, often ridiculed by the faithful in New York, knows what’s at stake. “We have to find a way.”
Undoubtedly the biggest blow for the Yankees is the loss of team leader and captain Derek Jeter. In a rather simple play, which he has made hundreds of times over the years, he twisted his ankle fielding a ground ball. As he finished the play, he winced in pain. He will likely miss the rest of the playoffs, and may go under the knife this week. The Yankees will miss all of the things that Jeter takes to the ball park every single day: his determination, his love of the game, his skill, his leadership. Even “ A Rod” managed to describe the loss in his own humble way: “It would be more pleasant if it never happened”.
Tiger faithful already have visions of World Series triumphs of the past dancing in their heads. You can almost hear the muffled sounds of Cadillacs from Motor City preparing for the parade. Even Manager Jim Leyland knows, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over!”
October 15, 2012