Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Never Gets Old

I heard Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher say it after the game, and I'm sure a lot of other guys would too if asked. The Yankees clinching a playoff spot never gets old. If it doesn't for the players it sure shouldn't for the fans either. I'm not one of those fans for whom winning the World Series is the only thing that matters. That's too all or nothing for a sport that has 162 regular season games across six months. It's also why I think there is something special about winning the division even if you have the Wild Card to fall back on. I enjoy the process. Making the playoffs is the only thing that really matters in terms of regular season results, no matter how you do it, as you have to be in the dance to win it. The baseball playoffs is also the toughest to make out of the four major American professional sports, so I view it as an accomplishment all on its own. That the Yankees have made it 15 out of 16 years really is impressive, and as I mentioned it will not get tiresome.

I'd be remiss not to mention C.C. Sabathia tonight. This is just another example of him being in that elite percentage of athletes that have an extra gear that automatically kicks in on the big stage. At the first sign of panic that the Yankees might possibly collapse, he goes 8.1 innings allowing only one run on just three hits and two walks while striking out eight. Against a good hitting team, he completely squashes it, one of his most dominant starts of the season. We saw this from him last year, and we've seen him from it again this year. He has that gear that very few have. Michael Jordan had it. I'm not equating these two athletes in total obviously, but I use Jordan as the ultimate example of someone who was just wired to take over when it was winning time. That is what C.C. Sabathia does, and it is really pretty rare. I have a great admiration and appreciation for this.

Now all that remains are answers to a number of questions regarding the playoffs. The first is will the Yankees be playing at home against the Rangers as the champion of the East or on the road against the Twins as the Wild Card? This is an interesting question. With the way the Yankees have played lately, it just seems like they will be the Wild Card. But they are only 0.5 games back with four games remaining, 5 for Tampa. With the Yankees being on the short side of the column that matters (the loss column) it won't be particularly easy considering Tampa Bay has the head to head tiebreaker, so the Yankees have to be a game better to win it. If the Yankees go a very good 3-1, Tampa Bay would have to go 2-3 or worse for the Yankees to win. If Tampa goes 3-2, which is at least what you'd expect them to do, the Yankees would have to go 4-0. So it's possible, but it would take some help. I would say the one place you don't want to get caught right now is in a middle ground. That would be not resting your guys and not lining up for the playoffs to the extent you'd like in an effort to win the division, and not win it. You either want to win the division or have your guys rested and lined up for the playoffs. Considering the uncertainty involved with winning the division and the benefit received if you do win it, it will be interesting to see what Girardi does here. My guess is that he gets the guys rested who need to be rested, lines things up for the playoffs the way he wants it for the ALDS, but still goes after every game with the guys he is playing that day. We'll know a little bit more from tomorrow's lineup. Usually the day after you clinch is an off day for almost everyone. With the division still on the line, if Girardi does that then we'll know he's opting for rest and lining people up and the Yankees will only win the division if it falls in their lap. If we see a semi-regular lineup than maybe he's going for it a little bit. (Note: Girardi just said in the postgame that Pettitte will not start tomorrow as scheduled. This makes it pretty obvious that they will not be going all out for the division. To what extent they will or won't still remains to be seen, and again we should find out more tomorrow).

After that the question is playoff roster. And the Yankees really have some decisions to make here this year. I won't go into it in detail now, keeping the focus on clinching and the division race for tonight. But what they are doing with the rotation is a huge question, not just in terms of who pitches when but who comprises it. Who fills out the bullpen an who is on the bench are also key questions, especially if they decide to go with a three man rotation again, or a hybrid version of one, which I think is a distinct possibility. That will impact how many arms you take in the bullpen versus bodies on the bench. Neither of which is trivial, pinch hitters and pinch runners are far more important in short series than they are over the course of the regular season. So these will be big decisions, and I will cover them in more detail before next Wednesday.

For now, congrats to the Yankees on clinching a spot in the 2010 Playoffs. That is an accomplishment in itself, and more importantly, is step one towards winning the World Series. Teixeira said in the postgame that he and Swisher have a saying they've been using all year. "Two times." Last year they did everything once, now they want to do it all again twice. I love it. Let's go Yankees.


Ross Kaplan said...

To contradict the comments I made last week, I'm really not sure if it would be better to play the Twins over the Rangers in the 1st round at the expense of home field advantage. Both scenarios have their positives and negatives. What's irritating me is that Girardi doesn't seem to know what to do. If we're going to relinquish the division, fine rest the key starters, but if you want homefield advantage you have to play them. Pick a strategy and stick with it I don't want to see these panic moves like starting Hughes or CC before you had planned on doing so to set up the rotation for the post season.

Also what's the deal with y'all ignoring Pat's recent posts. Are we boycotting him now or do the Red Sox fans just not care about the Yankees making the playoffs.

Anonymous said...

Good job on the post Pat.


jason said...

id just like to point out that since august 14th the cardinals are the worst team in the league with a .314 winning percentage