Friday, September 30, 2011
Do The Yankees Have Enough To Go All The Way?
By Rich Mancuso
We get to October and post season baseball. The New York Yankees are there again as AL East champions, the 17th time which surpassed the Atlanta Braves. And for Yankees fans, the organization, and the networks it is not October baseball if the Yankees are not a part of it.
The journey to the World Series and championship number 28 begins Friday evening in the Bronx. The Yankees will host Detroit in the best of five ALDS for the first two games Friday and Saturday evening.
In fact, the Yankees, even with a share of injuries to players, and with a suspect pitching staff went beyond expectations even if they had the highest payroll in baseball. Because they utilized veterans Freddie Garcia and Bartolo Colon, at the backend of a rotation, they got more than expected and with the ineffectiveness of A.J. Burnett, Garcia and Colon made a difference on the mound. Though Colon, in the second half, showed age and innings got to him and was not that effective.
Despite the outspoken objections from GM Brian Cashman about spending $43 million on the contract of bullpen set-up man Rafael Soriano, who sat out two months with a shoulder injury, the pen is one of the strong points that favor New York in October. In the end, Soriano in the pen makes the Yankees tough to beat in later innings that are close. Manager Joe Girardi can get seven innings from his starter, and it is a perfect set up getting to Mariano Rivera baseball’s all-time saves leader after he reached a milestone 602 save in mid September. And there is David Robertson the one-out specialist who leads all American League relievers in earned run average.
Robinson Cano had a MVP type season, the captain Derek Jeter achieved a milestone 3,000 career hit, showing no signs of an aging veteran, and Alex Rodriguez with knee, hip and thumb ailments is still a viable threat in the lineup. A potent lineup that once again led baseball in home runs, maybe attributed to the friendly confines of the new Yankee Stadium.
Regardless of how far they go, networks that televise the baseball post season, Fox and TBS, are thrilled that the Yankees are playing in October again and hope that they go deep and advance to another World Series. Because the Yankees are a vital cog to baseball network coverage when it comes to the ratings and revenue, and fans will watch because most of America has that anti Yankees approach. They like to see the second most expensive sports franchise go out the window early.
But an early exit for the Yankees may not happen. If their ace on the mound, CC Sabathia goes deep into the ballgame, the pen will take over. Rivera, who had some struggles, a 42-year old arm will do that from time-to-time, is considered the best post season reliever in baseball history. The rotation is set with the rookie Ivan Nova making more of an impression with every start. A.J. Burnett could come out of the pen and Phil Hughes, questionable for the first round, in September showed some side effects from a bad shoulder that sidelined him most of the season.
Yes, there are questions and a first round best of five with Detroit could be trouble for New York. There could be an eventual showdown with the Boston Red Sox, the adversaries and a team New York had constant struggles with again in 2011, that is, until the Red Sox had a late season collapse. But that showdown would be ideal for the networks because New York and Boston is the rival series in sports. A best of seven and who goes to the World Series will be a ratings bonanza.
But what defines the 2011 Yankees is their versatility and awareness once again that they came up short in 2010. The veterans such as Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera, as well as the manager Joe Girardi know anything less than an appearance or winning of the World Series is a failure.
So the mission since leaving the field and losing to Texas in the ALCS last October was try and forget how close they got to defending championship number 27, and get number 28, back to the Bronx. Ownership, Cashman, Girardi and the Yankees believe they have the nucleus to do that, and saw a solid year from Jeter, MarkTeixeira, Curtis Granderson and possible MVP candidate Robinson Cano.
They may be older, this Yankees roster that begins the October part of their campaign, the second oldest in baseball. Though the wave of talented youngsters in the organization made some stops in the Bronx this season including rookie catcher Jesus Montero, considered one of their top prospects. And Eduardo Nunez, the 22-year old got a taste of the big club last season and is a versatile infield backup who filled in when Jeter and Rodriguez hit the disabled list.
Brett Gardner and Jeter, they get on base and what follows is a lot of runs scored again. In the end it comes down to that starting pitching. All in all, predicting the outcome of a short series in October is not easy. Good pitching will get you far in the post season.
But, will that pitching be enough for the Yankees to get championship number 28 and another parade down the Canyon of Heroes on Broadway? Time will tell as October baseball is here.
-email Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com