Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fighting Chance

The Yankees clinched their 13th straight postseason appearance last night in Tampa Bay. It was perhaps their most difficult job to date. In 1995 they had to play almost flawless baseball down the stretch to make the playoffs, but that team didn't have the expectations that this team did. With a $200 million payroll and an All-Star at almost every position, the Yankees staggered out of the starting gate and sat 14-1/2 games out of first and eight games under .500 on May 29th. Many baseball "experts" at that time proclaimed that the Yankees string of playoff appearances was at an end. The Yankees were floundering and they didn't seem capable of playing at the level that would be necessary to carry them to a playoff berth. However since that day, the Yankees have the best record in baseball at 70-38 and have assured themselves of at least a chance to win their 27th World Championship. I'm not one to toot my own horn, but I'm pretty sure their turnaround can be traced to this article.

The Yankees righted the ship and have played inspired baseball for the past three months. They head into the playoffs as one of the favorites to win it all. Of course, this is an all too familiar scenario. The Yankees headed into last year's playoffs as the betting favorite to win it all and were summarily dismissed by the Detroit Tigers in four games. The Yankees have a seemingly favorable match up in the first round (as they did last year), and enough time to rest their players and get everyone healthy before the postseason begins. Nothing is guaranteed in the playoffs though. Last year the Yankees faced a Tiger team that limped into the playoffs after blowing a huge lead at the All-Star break. They didn't have many players on the team with playoff experience, they had been dominated by the Yankees during the regular season and they seemed a perfect first round match up for the Yankees. This year the Indians seem the most likely first round opponent for the Yankees. The Yankees once again dominated them during the regular season and they have few players on their team with playoff experience. Unlike the Tigers last year however, the Indians are playing very well and if they end up with the best record in the AL, they will have the choice of being able to use their two best pitchers twice in a 5 game series.

The playoffs really are a crapshoot. The Cardinals and Tigers limped into the playoffs last year and ended up in the World Series. The Cardinals won the Series despite winning only 83 games during the regular season and almost blowing a seven game lead with two weeks remaining. I can certainly see a scenario where the Yankees win it all (Arod gets hot/Rocket comes back/Joba & Mo are perfect), but I can just as easily imagine them being beaten in the first round. At this point of the season, I make no guarantees. The Yankees have done what they set out to do at the beginning of the season. As the old tag line for the NY Lotto used to say, "you've got to be in it to win it". Well, the Yankees are in it, it just remains to be seen whether they will have the good luck and skill to win it all.



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