Monday, October 25, 2010

A Different Feel To A Playoff Exit

Since the Yankees were eliminated Friday night, I haven't been as upset as I usually am. Don't get me wrong, I was frustrated, particularly as I watched a 1-1 game turn into a borderline laugher in the middle innings due to more questionable managing (you would think that after getting beat just three days earlier by leaving his starter in with 2 outs and in major trouble in the middle innings Girardi might adjust, but of course not) and poor player execution. But it wasn't anywhere near '01-'07 levels, and it has only gotten better as a few more days have gone by.

This has a lot to do with 2009, no question. Winning last year, in the exciting and dominating fashion that they did, took some of the sting out of this year. It didn't make me want to win the 2010 World Series any less. As anyone who reads here even semi-regularly knows, I am constantly trumpeting the Yankees need to win while they still have Mariano Rivera being the best ever, because once they don't it is going to become much harder to win. Every year they don't win with him is a wasted opportunity, especially when they got as close as they did this year. To be honest with you, that is the only part about this playoff exit that really stings. Anyway, while 2009 doesn't make me want to win any less, it did take some of the edge off of it.

This also has a lot to do with an increased realization that you just can't win every year. Not in this sport. This particular postseason thus far has been a prime example of it. You can start with the Yankees. They played brutal baseball in September. Brutal. The Twins had the best record in baseball in the second half, and the best home record in the majors on the season. You could barely have two teams heading in more opposite directions entering the playoffs. The Yankees went right into Minnesota and too two games and ultimately swept the series. They could hardly have looked more dominant doing it. A week later they started a series against the Rangers, and looked like a totally different baseball team, and got dominated themselves in every facet of the game for most of the series. Over the course of the regular season, this stuff evens out. In the playoffs there is no time for that. The hottest team wins. This is true even when you have a team that is clearly better than everyone else, like the 2009 Yankees. When teams are as evenly matched as they are in these playoffs, it's even more true. The Yankees are probably a little bit better than the Twins, but for three games they looked a lot better than them. The Yankees and the Rangers are, at best, evenly matched. Over a full season the Yankees are probably slightly better, even with Cliff Lee, considering they won more games in a much tougher division. For six games the teams mostly looked like they were playing different sports.

You also have to look at the Phillies. They've been to the World Series two years in a row, and have by far the best pitching they've had in any of those runs in Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels (the '08 World Series MVP as the #3? Seriously?). They had a great offense again, and the back end of their bullpen in Madsen and Lidge were very hot entering the playoffs. They looked about as close to a lock as you could look, to at the very least, get out of the National League, and were also the favorite to win the World Series against a tough American League field. After sweeping the Reds in similarly dominant fashion to the way the Yankees swept the Twins, they got beat in 6 games by a team that was 17th in the majors in runs scored.

The Yankees won 95 games in the toughest division in baseball, and got to Game 6 of the ALCS. While the ALCS loss was not a particularly good one, considering the above, how upset can you really get about getting that far the year after winning a World Series? I am in no way an advocate of the thinking that when you win one it makes going after the next one any less exciting as a fan. Had the Yankees won 84 games and missed the playoffs, or gotten swept in the first round, that's one thing. I would not have been happy about that 2009 considered. But you can't win the World Series every year, and you can't get there every year either. Once you get to the playoffs in baseball, there is just too much that can happen. It is, as they say, too much of a crapshoot. Winning a lot of games in the regular season in a tough division, and getting within two wins of the World Series, is a pretty good effort despite that they did not do much well in the series they got eliminated in. They also ran into a team that was hotter and just played better.

8 comments:

Ross Kaplan said...

I have to admit that I've had similar feelings about this Yankees season. Maybe it was because they won last year and maybe it was because I wasn't as emotionally invested in this season having missed just about every game between May and August studying for the bar.

I think it's also that as Yankees fans we are seriously spoiled. Pat and I have witnessed 6 championships in our lifetime, triple more then 90 year old Sully from Lowell. Don't get me wrong, it's an awesome feeling witnessing your favorite team win a championship, but when that jubilation wears off within a few hours after you get home from the victory parade and you're already commenting about what moves need to be made for the next season, you have to ask yourself what's the point.

Then again I'm a guy who punched a hole through his bathroom door after the 2001 World Series and was miserable for weeks after and still refuses to acknowledge what transpired in the 2004 ALCS so maybe I've just grown up.

Anonymous said...

Ross

I'm trying to figure out where the number 6 comes from. In your lifetime the Yankees have won five championships. The Giants have won three (if you root for them--maybe you root for the Jets) and the Rangers have won one (if you root for them and not the Islanders). If you root for the Giants and Yankees that's eight championships. If you root for all three it's nine in your lifetime. But where the hell does six come from?

--the Gunn

Ross Kaplan said...

Thank you for the correction Gunn, I got a little overzealous there. The point I was trying to make is that the Yankees and as you have brought up, NY area teams have won many championships in my lifetime.

the gm at work said...

Gunn,

In the Tank's twisted world, 2004 continued the way it looked like it would continue after Game 3. Were you part of the horde trying to kick down his door after the ALCS when he locked himself in his dorm room? I know that me, Bandi, and the Oz were. I forget if you were.

While I think the Tank and Pat "growing up" and mellowing out a little bit might be part of this whole thing, as does the fact that they're still less than 12 months removed from a championship, I think perhaps the most deciding factor is expectations. Pat had been saying for much of the season that there's something not quite right about the 2010 Yankees team. It played complacent baseball, even early. There was no defining part of the season where they went about three weeks without losing a game, which happens with a lot of the good Yankee teams, even the ones in the last decade. The team's flaws may have been so evident to these two guys that they knew #28 wasn't to be, even early. I mean, if everything were roses all year and then they turned into another team in the last four games of the ALCS, I'm sure Pat would have blown a gasket and posted something up here at about 3:30 on Sunday morning.

But instead the disappointment and Pat's lamentations flowed out steadily instead of blowing up at one moment. The fiery Old Pat definitely showed up a few times, but not often. The fact that the team started to go south right around the time he was still relaxed from the "Where in the World" trip probably also helped him avoid becoming too emotionally invested toward the success and/or failure of the 2010 team.

This is a roundabout way of saying that the Yankees really only had a chance at this thing. Them getting bounced is not a complete upset, and if it was, they'd be calling for Girardi's, Cashman's, Hughes's, Arod's, Swisher's, Burnett's jobs. It was only a slight deviation from what was expected.

Similarly, nobody really expected the Red Sox to win the World Series, and I didn't expect them to make the playoffs. That's why I was not blowing anyone up when they didn't.

If I were a Seattle fan with high hopes before this season, you bet I'd be blowing people up. This was a serious variance from expectations. Ask Don Wakamatsu about that.

the gm at work said...

You're welcome for the comprehensive psychiatric evaluation, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Ross

It's everyone's job on this blog to bust your chops whenever possible.

DV

I was not knocking on Kaplan's door. In 2004 I was still convinced he was a tenured professor in the Jewish Studies department.

That said, I wish I had been. Instead, I was at Bowdoin College showing a large group of freshman exactly how to be social and consume alcohol. It was a lot like teaching English to new arriving immigrants--awkward, patronizing, and ultimately, unfulfilling.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

Gunn,

That sounds like an exaggeration (on Kaplan, that is). I'm pretty sure his primary medium of aggressive discourse in the year 2004 was the Colby Digest of Civil Discourse, and that's probably how you knew who Ross Kaplan was at that point. I don't think faculty were privy to the smut and garbage brought forth on the Digest until at least 2005, when they came aboard and completely missed the point by posting stuff that clearly should have been in the General Announcements digest instead.

"Please come to the Fat Acceptance Club meeting!!!11" was unacceptable material for the Digest. "Ross Kaplan is a racist and so is the student newspaper" was what the Digest was all about.

Anonymous said...

DV

I wasn't clear, sorry--the joke about Kaplan being a Jewish Studies professor was that my first class as a junior was Jewish History and Kaplan was in the class. He looked so damn old even back then that I thought he was a department chair sitting in on a new professor's class.

Let's go Celtics.

--the Gunn