Thursday, September 21, 2006

Bubble, bubble...

The Yankees won their 9th AL east title in a row last night. They won by virtue of a Red Sox loss to Minnesota. They had a loud and wet celebration in the locker room after watching the final out of the Red Sox game. It's fantastic to have the Yankees win the division with a week and a half to go in the season. It should allow them to set up their rotation and give their starters some rest. But, of course, it wouldn't be the Yankees unless there was some controversy to go along with the celebration. The big story along with the championship was the Arod article in Sports Illustrated. I'm not going to turn this article into another one supporting Arod. Just suffice it to say that the team and Arod probably could have done without this one. Arod was criticized by some anonymous teammates as being out of touch and "not really part of the team". The timing of the article is bad but hopefully it will not linger because the story of the season is about more than just Arod.

The Yankees came into the season as the favorites to win the east again, but there were many in the press who were picking the Red Sox and some even the Blue Jays to end the Yankee run of titles. The early injuries to Sheffield and Matsui certainly didn't help matters and the 6 week absence of Robinson Cano was also a big blow. The Yankees managed to fight through those injuries however, as they should have considering the wealth of talent they have on the team. The injuries and the subsequent moves to combat them have given the team a sort of fighters mentality. They feel that they've overcome a lot to get to this point and it has certainly bolstered their confidence as they head into the playoffs.

So what looms ahead for this team? They still have to deal with the fact that Giambi hasn't hit at all since mid August because of his wrist injury. They certainly have enough talent to overcome the loss of Giambi, but they have to figure out his status in the next week and a half. Wang has blister problems at this point. Hopefully they don't become more of an issue, because it looks like he is going to open the playoffs on the mound at Yankee stadium. Mike Mussina still has a groin muscle issue that has the possibility of flaring up at any point. The health of Matsui and Sheffield is questionable. And and always there are the looming Arod issues. So while they enter the playoffs as prohibitive favorites in the AL, there are a number of problems which could once again cause and early exit, to say nothing of the opposing teams.

The Yankees have today off, which is probably a good thing considering the huge bottle of Jack Daniels that Giambi was sporting around the clubhouse last night. I'm sure that there are more than a few hangovers to deal with today. The Yankees are still in a dogfight for home field advantage, so let's hope that they get refocused on the goal at hand pretty quickly. They now head into Tampa Bay, where they have not had as much trouble as they did last year, but the Devil Rays always seem to put up a good fight. After the four game set in Tampa, they head home to finish off the season against Baltimore and Toronto. Baltimore has proved to be a tougher opponent than expected, given their record and Toronto is trying to overtake the Red Sox for second place, so no one will be rolling just because they are playing the Yankees. The magic number to clinch home field advantage is 9. The Yankees have 10 games remaining, so they have to play very well in order to get to that number. I hope they got all the celebrating out of their system last night, because they still have a pretty steep mountain to climb in order to assure that game 5 of the ALDS or game 7 of the ALCS is played at Yankee stadium.

Congratulations guys! Now get back to work.



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